Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Race Report: Hot Chocolate 15K Atlanta

Sorry for the delay in this race report! I had planned to write in on Sunday afternoon, but fatigue took over! I knew I was under-trained for this race, but I think the ridiculously cold weather was the straw that broke the camel's back and I was so wiped out that whole evening and into the next day! It was completely crazy!

This was my first experience with the Hot Chocolate race series. I wasn't able to do it the first year and I read all of the reports of the Expo being a disaster and the parking on race day being a nightmare and the sweatshirts being too small and decided to skip it the next year. I considered doing it last year but the price was pretty high so I skipped it - but then I saw my friend's medal (that was the 1st year for the 15K medal, I think) and hoodie and decided I would definitely do it in 2016!

A friend picked up my packet at the Expo so I cannot say anything about the process of the Expo but she told me that it went very smoothly, especially considering she was picking up 6 packets (which included race bibs, jackets, parking passes, etc)! Also, winter weather was expected for Friday night and into Saturday, so people who would normally have gone to the Expo that day rushed to come on Friday. But I heard no terrible stories so I assume they had it all under control!

I didn't sleep well Saturday night and I'm not sure why. But when my alarm went off, the adrenaline kicked in and I didn't feel tired at all. The promised frigid cold weather did arrive (though the inches of snow and ice that were expected did not materialize). I packed more layers than I thought I needed. It's been a long time since I've run in such conditions.

Feels like 12?? That's just dumb!
I had purchased a parking pass and the lot closed at 6:30 so I wanted to make sure I arrived in plenty of time. I left my house around 5AM and made it by 5:45. I was pretty aggravated that nobody checked or collected the parking passes. I'm not sure if that was due to the cold or what, but anyone could have pulled up and parked and nobody would have known. I could have saved that $10!

I wasn't sure where the best place to park would be, but I got very lucky! I parked directly across from a row of porta potties and the stairs that led down to the start area! I was able to sit in my warm(ish) car and zip over to the porta potties real quick and not have to deal with all of my stuff in my pockets. I felt like a VIP! LOL

The Moms Run This Town picture was set for 7 AM so I put on all of my layers and set out for the picture. This is what I looked like:

I thought I was so well-layered! Ha ha!
 I was wearing fleece-lined tights, a sparkle skirt, my sport bra, an Under Armor Heat Gear layer, a C9 quarter zip, a Bondi hat, a C9 buff pulled up over my head, mittens with hand warmers, and my compression socks with another pair of socks on top.

I was still SO cold!

I had brought a warm fleece jacket that I purchased at Goodwill for a throw away layer for MCM/Soldier but didn't need. My plan was to wear it and then toss it at the start. But when I learned that they wouldn't be passing out mylar blankets at the finish, I decided to keep it in the car to warm myself up post-race. So I really could have used another layer - BJ brought an old rD mylar blanket which was very smart. I am pretty sure I have one somewhere. I'll have to remember that!

Corral B - see the ice?
I couldn't find the picture being taken so I just walked over to the Corral/Start area. The sun was starting to come up and it was so quite and peaceful and cold! Very cold! I pulled up my buff over my face and did some active movement to try to warm up. I think one of the photographers got a picture of me. I hope it turns out! LOL

BJ and I were in the same corral so we met up - I was wearing my new bright green top so I was easy to spot! Since I wasn't prepared for this race and she had just run 20 miles a few days before, we decided to stick together and have some fun in the cold. We did intervals and stuck pretty close to 4/1. The water/food stops were spaced well and my favorite one was the M&Ms because they were COLD and tasted yummy! The water and Nuun were pretty much slushies and there was ice on the ground from spills so we carefully walked through those so as not to fall.

I was feel surprisingly great until the big hills came in miles 7-8. My right foot was starting to bother me again. I had run 3 and 5 miles during the week and hadn't had any trouble, so I was annoyed. But I think it was the hills and the cold that did it to me. We did more of a 1/1 interval through those bad hills and then decided to run it in for the last mile - even up a pretty good hill. We had a fantastic pace at the finish so I think we did pretty well!

BJ's husband had told her to come to the very far end of the lines for the Hot Chocolate and he was right - we waited maybe 2 minutes for our finisher bowls!

Me and my medal and my bowl!
Not the best picture but I honestly thought I was smiling very big! I guess I couldn't feel my face!

I was very impressed with the finisher bowl - the Hot Chocolate was delicious and the dipping chocolate was a very good quality! I was expecting something cheap tasting and it wasn't at all! Kudos to them for that!

BJ and her hubby and I walked back to our cars and said goodbye and I headed home! I put on the fleece jacket and it helped a good bit, but I swear it took hours to warm up. I actually thought that my seat warmers weren't working because it didn't even feel warm on my legs! They were just that cold!

So my overall opinion of the Hot Chocolate Atlanta race is very positive! The course was good! The volunteers were fantastic (and had a much harder job standing out in the cold than we did running)! And the hot chocolate was yummy! For myself, I should have done the 5K since I was not at all prepared for the hills and my legs and foot have suffered for it. I'm finally starting to feel better 3 days later!

If the budget allows for it, I will definitely do this race again in the future. It is rather pricey due to getting a jacket/hoodie instead of a tee shirt. But I think it's worth it!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Now, what's next?!?!

So, you may be asking yourself, "It's almost the end of January! I wonder what Niffercoo has lined up for her big goal in 2016!?!"

That's a great question!

My goals for the last 2 years have been big ones, to say the least.

2014 - I decided to tackle the Half Ironman - and the Olympic distance triathlon on the way. (And my daughter joined a pre-professional dance company which ramped up my Dance Taxi duties to the extreme)

2015 - I decided to overcome the Marathon Maniac monster that had been hanging over my head since 2011's failed attempt. I also rode my first full Century bike ride. (And my son graduated high school)

I'm proud to say that I have reached those goals! I worked hard! I trained hard! My family graciously put up with the long hours of training and with me being away.

So where do you go from there? The next logical step would be the Full Ironman, wouldn't you think? Absolutely!

Unless it's not.

I definitely desire to complete the 140.6 distance, don't get me wrong. But this is not the right time. Not just yet. Almost. Getting there!

So what are my goals for 2016?!

I think the best way to sum it up is "Enjoyment"!

In 2016, I want to do lots of training and try lots of classes and do lots of fun things. And I want it to be low-stress. Low-key! I want to have fun with my friends and see them at the start lines and finish lines and cheer them on and run or ride or swim with them and do yoga and try Barre class and just enjoy myself this year!

I want to run over a scary bridge and I want to do an inaugural RunDisney race and I want to enjoy every minute and not have the fear in the back of my head that I won't be able to do it. I just need a break from pressure! I've had a lot of pressure the last two years. Some self-imposed and some placed upon me and some completely imaginary, but regardless it was still pressure.

And this next year and a half is going to be big for our family - in just a few days my daughter will get her driver's license which will simultaneously present me with a lot of free time and also give me reason to be concerned and worried. I will have more freedom to train than I ever have! She will no longer be homeschooled by me starting in the fall because she will be taking all of her classes as a Dual Enrollment student. Again, more freedom for me! She will be graduating high school in a mere 17 months. Then I'll just have one student!

At the very moment when I'm seeing everything open up and getting easier, I'm realizing that it's getting more complicated. And then in a few more years, it will be all done and I'll move on to a new season of my life! A season filled with swim, bike, run - and as much pressure as I want to place on myself to compete! (And for my husband who will read this: a job! Yes, I promise I will get a job, too! LOL)

For 2016, however, I need to kick it down a notch and just focus on enjoyment!

So that's what I'm going to do! :)

I am not signing up for anything that, if I were to get sick or hurt or if something came up in my family's schedule, it would break my heart to miss it. I have already signed up for 2 half marathons, and that bridge race I mentioned earlier (10K), and the RunDisney inaugural event, and an Olympic distance tri. Sounds like a lot, and it is! But it's all fun! And I'm going to enjoy every bit of it!

Starting with tomorrow's Hot Chocolate 15K where I'm going to freeze my rear end off while the hills of Atlanta remind me that I haven't been doing any hill work for the last 6 months! :D And then I shall have chocolate!


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

It's almost the end of January?? And it's 2016?!

I cannot believe it's been more than 2 months since I last wrote a blog post. I knew it had been a long time, but I didn't realize it had been that long! I'm really sorry! I can't believe how crazy things have been.

My plan for November and December was to take some time off and recover. My dancer had Nutcracker over Thanksgiving weekend and this year I decided to take off that whole week. It made things go much, much more smoothly and I was much less stressed out. It took about 4 weeks until my heart rate would go down easily during my walk breaks in my runs. But after that, my workouts started feeling a lot better.

And then I dropped a full family size bottle of shampoo on my right foot while I was in the shower - two days before we were scheduled to go to Disneyland. OUCH! I made it through the airports and the theme parks (my daughter's app said that we walked 35 miles in those 5 days) and then I took off the next week to recover my foot.

I was starting to get worried because it just wasn't getting any better, but after about 5 days, it was noticeably better. I took a full week off, though, just to be safe. I did swim twice that week, but I stayed off the foot!

So that means that I ran on Sunday and Wednesday (today) and now I have the Hot Chocolate 15K this coming Sunday! I am terribly under-trained and those Atlanta hills are going to KICK. MY. BUTT!!! :D

But there will be chocolate. So it won't be ALL bad anyway, right?! :D


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Race Report: Soldier Marathon 2015

This was such an amazing weekend and I'm not sure how I will ever describe it in words! I'm going to give it my best shot, though!

I had been very nervous and anxious about this 2nd attempt at Marathon Maniacs since last Saturday's 6 mile run. Around mile 4 I started feeling knee/ITB pain, and it continued off and on for the rest of the day and into Sunday. My next run was scheduled for Tuesday (4 miles) and I did that one and there was some pain from the beginning. I tried wearing my IT Band strap and it didn't change anything so I took it off in the last mile. I was supposed to run 2 miles the next day but I skipped it. I figured 3 days of rest before the race was better for me physically and emotionally. But the anxiety was something that I struggled with over the next few days. I think if I hadn't been riding and staying with Jill, I may have skipped it altogether - that's how nervous I was!

Friday morning arrived at last and I took my daughter to chemistry class, came back to pick up my bags, and ran a couple of errands before heading down to Jill's house. I was feeling much, much better. Still nervous but the anxiety part of it was gone. Jill and I started off our adventure with donuts from a great little shop that she loves! It was fantastic! I think every adventure is better when you start it with donuts! :)

We arrived at the hotel in the middle of the afternoon. It's the Hampton Inn and Suites and it shares a parking lot with the National Infantry Museum, the location of the expo and the Start/Finish line. The hotel was very nice and the staff were friendly and helpful! We checked in, put our bags up, and headed to the expo. As I do at every race now, I laid out all of my stuff before I went to the expo to make sure I had everything I needed. And I did! Please remember this statement as it will become important later on! :D

We picked up our packets - race bibs, very nice clear plastic sling bags, and a tech shirt. The shirt was very small but I was able to exchange it for a bigger size! The museum was open and I have heard it was nice. I took a couple of pictures and decided that it was a destination for my husband, son, and hopefully myself one day - they will LOVE it!

The Avenue of the Flags - my finish line will be there tomorrow! (and start line)

National Infantry Museum - beautiful!

The entrance!

One look and I knew my hubby needed to see this place!

Got my bib! 
The expo was small but a local running store had a nice sized shop set up and I was able to find a pair of the shoes Riley likes and a pair of shoes I like for almost 50% off! We stopped off at the hotel room again and that's when I realized that I had brought the holders for my hydration belt - but no water bottles. Much to my surprise, I did not panic. I just set about trying to figure out what to do. Jill had a small water bottle with her that I could use and it fit into my holder just fine, so that was my initial plan.

We took a drive around to check out as much of the race route as we could. The first part of the course is on Fort Benning (which we obviously couldn't access) and most of the rest of the course runs on the Riverwalk  - a paved trail that follows the riverfront. But we drove into the downtown area and saw as much of that we could! It was nice to get a feel for where we would be running and I really appreciated that the next day!

Pre-race dinner always means pizza and Jill suggested Mellow Mushroom! It had been so long since I've been there and it was yummy!
Yep, we ate it all - plus Cinnamon/Honey pretzels for dessert! They don't call it carb-loading for nothing! 
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Publix so I could pick up some more of the little water bottles. I really needed to have two - one for UCAN and one for Nuun. Back at the hotel, I saw posts from two of the ladies from my MRTT group offering up the very bottles that I needed for my belt. They had brought them with them but weren't going to use them! But I didn't get a response back from either of them either that night or the next morning before we left the room. So I went ahead and prepared the small water bottles that I had purchased at the store and refilled with my fuel. Remember that, it will be important later! :)

Jill and I were both ready for the race and in bed by around 8:15! We are real party animals, huh? I just hadn't gotten ANY sleep all week and I was so nervous. I fell right to sleep and woke up at 12:15 thinking I was up for the day, but I actually went back to sleep until 4:15. My alarm was set for 5, so I consider that a great night of sleep for a race night!

We got ready by 6 to go down to the hotel-provided breakfast which was fantastic! They had my oatmeal but I had already brought/eaten half a bagel since I hadn't realized they would have such an extensive breakfast open in time for the race! Went back up to eat and make use of the real bathroom we had access to! Nothing better than a real toilet before the race! As we left to go to the start, we ran into some friends, including one of the MRTT friends who had volunteered her bottles! She got my attention and asked if I wanted them! YES!! She went back into the room to get them and I filled them up and dumped the other bottles. I was SO happy - the other bottles were really not stable when you put the in and out of holders. It would have been a pain. My day was already getting better!

And then I stepped outside. And into weather that felt more like a Georgia August than November. I was so glad I had thrown my one remaining Sparkle Skirt into my bag at the last minute. I hadn't worn it for a long run since the Hotlanta Half Marathon and I had no idea if I was going to chafe miserably in the longer weather, but I was afraid that wearing the capris I had planned on wearing would be dangerous. My friend Tracy had some issues a few years ago with heat and racing and she told me that the legs being covered is actually more important than the arms, torso, etc. I decided that the risk of chafing was better than the risk of passing out. That was a smart move because the weather proved to be unbelievable!

Speaking of the race, I should get on to the actual race in this Race Report! LOL There was a 15 minute delay in the start due to parking issues. That made me really mad. We were trying to beat storms that were forecast to start around noon. 15 minutes could make the difference in finishing and in the race being cancelled. Why punish the rest of us when we got there early as you should always plan to do for a race?! It was chip timed so they could just start when they got there and the directors could leave the finish line open an additional 15 minutes to accommodate them! Anyway, I was aggravated - but probably that was a result of my building nerves!

The view of the start from my friend, Susan! We came towards the camera for the start and finished going the opposite direction! It was fantastic!
A cannon sounded the start of the race and we took off. I had decided to do 3/1 intervals rather than 4/1 that we had done for most of MCM. But my only goal was to finish - and my secondary goal was to finish feeling positive and having an enjoyable experience - so I knew that the 3/1 interval was merely a starting point!

This course is mostly flat, with the exception of one massive hill in the 2nd-3rd mile, and it was infinitely less crowded than MCM. So our pace was excellent! We had decided to run that massive hill because there would be drill instructors on the hill "encouraging" us up it as if we were soldiers! They were fantastic! I loved it! We had a great pace going and my legs were feeling pretty good! I had twinges come up in either knee, but it wasn't ever anything that made me feel really badly. The only problem was the humidity and heat. I was fading fast. I simply hadn't trained or raced in those conditions this year. I mean, I did some training runs that were in the low to mid 70s for temps but that was back in July and August. My two "hot" races ended up being cool wash-outs. My body was just not ready for these conditions!

The biggest indicator that things weren't "right" was my heart rate. Thanks to my heart rate training in the summer, I had gotten used to judging my heart rate zone. I wasn't wearing the monitor for the race, but I could tell that my HR was not coming down during the 1 minute walk break. That was concerning, especially because we were not even half way done and the temps were still going up! We decided to switch the intervals for a bit around mile 10. We did a few sets of running 1 minute and walking 3 and that worked great! My HR came back down nicely! We decided to do this switch-up again at mile 15 and mile 20. We started running again and my knees protested more than they had before. But it wasn't ever a 'giving out' feeling so I didn't worry about it too much. What I did worry about was my HR. After a few more of the 3/1 intervals, it started not coming back down again, so we decided to do some more flip-flopped intervals after the halfway point. I texted my mom just to let her know that we would be slowing down - at the halfway mat, we were right around 2:26 (a few seconds faster than our MCM pace, which was with more running! Incredible!). But I knew I could not keep this pace up safely. I didn't want her to be worried.

After trying a few 2/3 intervals, we decided to settle in with the 1/3 and no worry about it. Our walk pace was nice and brisk and our run pace was very strong, even until the end (our last 3 runs were 8:30, 8:31, and 8:27!) but the weather just made it harder and harder to run. I was soaking wet as if it had actually been raining! I even developed 2 blisters on my left foot, but not on the bottom of my foot so they didn't bother me when I was running or walking. At one point I stopped to put some glide on them to avoid a bigger problem and I took a couple of pictures of the beautiful downtown Columbus Riverwalk!

Such a lovely area! 

The view across the river into Alabama! We crossed the river and ran into AL briefly!
Once we crossed the bridge back into Alabama, we started heading back towards the finish line! I joked that I would like to jump into the river and just float/swim my way back! LOL There are triathlons in Columbus, so now that I'm familiar with the area, I'll have to see where they get into the water!

It was nice to know that we were heading back! There weren't very many full marathoners so there were times where it appeared that we were the only ones out on the course! I was so glad to have Jill there with me! It would have been very, very lonely without her!

One thing I need to note here is the friendliness of all of the volunteers! The soldiers and civilians both - and really every single person who was out on the course - cheered us on personally! They were encouraging and helpful and made the conditions much better (if that's possible LOL).

Once we hit mile 24, I was confident that we were going to make it. And I felt myself starting to get choked up. I didn't want to be crying as I crossed the finish line so I kept pushing it back! I am not pretty when I cry! We had decided that coming in under 5:30 was probably doable, which is amazing to me considering how much walking we had been doing! So that pushed us to keep up with the run interval even when we didn't want to, and to keep our walk pace brisk when we really didn't want to! But let me tell you, that one minute of running started turning into the LONGEST. MINUTE. EVER. Literally. Ever. In the history of time.

We made the turn onto the Avenue of the Flags and started to run! My friend, Anna, who had rocked the Half Marathon was waiting at the finish and took this fantastic picture of me and Jill heading to that finish line!

I'm sort of in love with my form! 
BTW, Jill and I did not plan to be wearing coordinating skirts/shorts! It just sort of happened!

We crossed that fantastic finish line with a time of 5:27:07! Less than 30 minutes slower than MCM - and my 2nd fastest marathon ever!

Soldier Marathon Finisher! Love the medal!
Once I realized that I had done it, I burst into tears! I hugged Jill and sobbed on her shoulder - I was so grateful to her for all of her encouragement not just the last few weeks but in these last 4 years. When I was saying that I couldn't do another marathon, or I couldn't achieve Marathon Maniac status, she would encourage me that I could! And she stayed with me for all 52.4 miles of this journey! She also had a sign for me and my first piece of Maniac Gear!

I finally did it!!! 
It's been a long 4 years since my first attempt, but I can finally say that I am Marathon Maniac #11915, and Double Agent #1880!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Marine Corps Marathon, Part 2

To read up on the expo and my activities leading up to race day, please read Part 1 of this post here.


I didn't sleep very well the night before the race, but I was expecting that. I woke up at 2:30 AM (meaning I got about 4 hours of sleep). I guess my brain thought I was supposed to get up "Disney early". Since I was meeting my ROTE friends at their hotel, I didn't actually have to get going as early as I would have if I had to go through the Pentagon entrance. So I lay in bed for about another hour or so, then I heard my aunt up and decided to go ahead and get up. I did my rolling and some gentle yoga and then made my oatmeal and ate it while talking with my aunt. It was raining (as it had been most of the night) and that was disappointing. But it wasn't cold. I can handle rain or cold, but prefer not to have both.

I finished breakfast, got dressed, finished packing up my stuff, and posed for a pre-race picture!

Not too bad for 4:15 AM!
The plan was for my aunt to drop me off at the train station, where I would ride down to the Rosslyn station and walk to the hotel. I arrived just as the earlier train was leaving and didn't feel the need to rush to it so I picked a spot on the bench and waited for the next train. Of course, I had to take a selfie!

Not too bad for 4:35 AM!
I tried to start up conversations with those around me but I didn't get very far. I wonder if everyone was too tired because there were lots of grumpy reactions around! The rain had pretty much stopped, though, and that was good. And I wasn't freezing, and that was good! The train came on time, though they were announcing that other lines were having trouble due to a deer that was hit on the tracks. :( I was able to get a seat and sat the entire ride to Rosslyn. I got off and headed to Jill's hotel, thankful that my aunt had insisted we take the time to walk the route during the day because it was different in the dark and I would have had more trouble!

I arrived at the hotel room and thankfully I checked the room number on my text because I had the wrong room number in my head - wouldn't have been nice to wake up the wrong people! I hit the bathroom and dropped off my bag in the room. We checked weather one last time and saw nothing on the radar so I left my poncho. I would regret that decision later.

Met up with the crew in the lobby and walked towards the start line. We got to the entrance for the military base (and I knew this from my aunt's tour the day before) and we stopped. Huge crowds and nobody was moving.  This was different according to my friends who run MCM year in and year out. But we weren't moving. And the rain was starting to really come down. And it was dark. My nerves were a bit on edge and I'm glad I had friends around me!

The line was caused by security checking bags and having to walk through the metal detectors - and there were only 4 or 5. But apparently we had it good compared to folks coming through the Pentagon side who were in line for an hour or more. Lots of racers missed the start completely. We made it through, hit the potties, and then went to the start line. And before I knew what was happening, it was time to start.

The start as seen by my aunt and uncle on the hill!
Jill and I were planning to run together and I had us doing a 4/1 interval. I had all these plans of enjoying the race and making all these memories and remembering every single detail, but my mind had other plans. Almost immediately, my brain started playing horrible games with me. And it did not let up until the very, very end. I'm not sure what happened because I hadn't had any of those problems during training, not even when I ran 20 miles in the pouring rain! But it got ugly. I did a very good job talking back to myself, in my mind... but it was exhausting me emotionally. Looking back, I should have prayed more and I think that would have brought peace to my mind, but in the moment and the surprise at having such an issue, I didn't do it. I was probably really quiet in places and I think I even said something to Jill about it at one point but I was so busy talking to myself that I didn't have time to talk out loud! LOL

As a result of all of the mind games, the details of the race are a bit fuzzy. It's a shame, but it is what it is. The course was fantastic and Jill is wonderful to run with! I had told her - and everyone that would listen - that I wanted to come in under 5 hours for my finish time. I'm not exactly why I chose 5 hours, but I did. I knew that it wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't come in under 5 hours but I was hopeful! Jill stuck with me all through the race and really pushed me towards the end. She wasn't ugly about it at all, but she said that we were close to making my time goal! So for many of the end miles, I just settled in behind her and focused on her feet and her turnover. It really helped!

I felt pretty good through the majority of the race! My right ITB started to make noise around the 16th mile but it wasn't horrible. However, after the bridge while we were running through Crystal City, my left knee started to feel like it was giving out. I tried to keep up with Jill but lost her when the course turned around. I had to walk because it hurt so badly. But once I started to walk, it felt fine! So we switched from our regular intervals and I would run until it started to twinge and then we would walk! I was thinking of the next race I had coming up in two weeks and the reminder from Jeff Galloway that I needed to keep under the threshold of irritation. During the run intervals I would focus on keeping good form, and the walking felt very good. Once we hit that mile 24 marker, I knew that we would make it and that I would finish running! I can't even begin to describe that feeling! There is no way on earth I would have been able to do that without Jill's support and encouragement!

I will always remember as we started to run up the hill to the finish, she called out, "Remember, this hill isn't any worse that what we run at home!" and she was right! I pushed out the last bit of energy I had and watched my Garmin tick away the seconds to the finish to make sure that I came in under 5 hours! And I did - with 35 seconds to spare!! Incredible!!

Happy Runner Girl!

Finisher!! I did it!!

Official time was 4:59:25! So excited! 

Jill is a Titanium Marathon Maniac and my personal marathon angel! :)
There was another line to get the food boxes and these neat jackets that took the place of the warming blankets! We didn't need the jackets but I took it to use at a future race! Then we waited to get out of the finish line area. Lots of standing and barely walking. Not good for the legs, I'm sure!

Hugs from my aunt!
We were able to connect with my aunt and uncle, who had been along the course spectating in various areas - despite the rain! I was so happy to get a hug from her! I can't believe I was able to see them in all the crowd. My uncle is nice and tall and was wearing a bright yellow jacket! It was perfect!

The Metro ride home was crazy - saw someone being carried out of the crowds at the Roslyn station by medics! We ended up getting on the first train that was going in the right direction and getting off at a station closer to home to switch to the correct line, just to get out of the scary crowds! It was worth it for sure! We actually ended up making it home in good time. And I was physically feeling good but was completely emotionally drained. My original plan had been to stay in the finish line area and cheer my other friends across the finish line, and have my aunt pick me up at the metro station later, but I was so emotionally spent that I just needed to get back to their house and decompress.

As the night went on and we went out for dinner, my knees were definitely hurting a lot worse. But then I came home and took an epsom salts and felt much better, and the next morning I felt surprisingly very good! My aunt had to work on Monday so we went in late and she took me around to see the 9-11 memorial at the Pentagon and then I got on the metro and went sight seeing! I ended up doing a lot more walking than I had intended to do but I felt fine throughout. I was a bit nervous about sitting in the plane for 2 hours, but I stood up after my flight and felt really good!

It's now a week since the race and it has been a very busy week for me and my family. I have 6 more days until my Marathon Maniac Qualifier! I have had 2 runs in this last week, a 3 miler and a 6 miler. The 3 miler was first and was horrific! It was as if I had never run before! Yesterday the 6 miler felt MUCH better, but then my left knee hurt afterwards. I think despite doing a 2/1 intervals, I was doing the actual running too fast because it felt better. I have to remember that I am still in recovery mode and any runs that I am doing need to be very easy! It's not like I'm trying to maintain fitness!  I stretched and rolled frequently yesterday, and this morning I woke up feeling just fine. I will do epsom salts bath again tonight (didn't have time to yesterday with the whole Halloween thing) and I'm sure that will help.

My only goals for Saturday's race are to get to the finish line. I have NO time goal and I do not mind going slowly and walking a lot! I guess if I had ANY goal, it will be to see if I can actually run a marathon and finish feeling good. I was able to do that the Disney marathon but that was mostly walking. I would like to discover if I have a "sweet spot" pace that will allow me to run the marathon and not feel pain at any point!

Sorry it took so long to get this posted - and I apologize for the lack of details! Oh! I remember something: I was quite disappointed in Rock Creek Park! I had been wanting to run there because it's on NCIS and it was not very exciting. LOL But now when Gibbs says, "Dead Marine found in Rock Creek Park" I can say, "I ran there!" :)

Anyway, sorry for the delays! Hopefully I'll have more details next week after the Soldier Marathon where I qualify - FINALLY - for the Marathon Maniacs! :D

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Marine Corps Marathon, Part 1

I had a simply fantastic weekend and I cannot wait to share it! I don't have nearly the time that I need to write a post that will do the events of the weekend justice, but if I don't write soon then I'm going to end up forgetting all the details and that will be worse! So I may leave some things out, but I can always go back and add some more things if I need to!

I flew up to DC on Thursday afternoon.

Check out this fantastic picture I took with my phone from the aisle seat of the plane! Probably the best picture I've ever taken! LOL
I was staying with my aunt and uncle who live in a suburb of DC on the Metro lines. It was fantastic staying with them! They are the most gracious hosts and I haven't seen them since the last time I ran MCM in 2011! The weather was gorgeous for most of the weekend - excepting race morning - and we spent a good bit of time rocking in a chair on the back porch talking with my aunt! My aunt picked me up at the airport - then we dropped off my bags at her house and hit the grocery store to get some food for me to have around the house while I was there! My aunt is as picky of an eater as I am so that is very helpful to have someone who gets it! We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant that night and then came back to the house. I was beat so I fell right to sleep!

Back Porch Rockin'
Friday was going to be my busy day - Expo and then meeting up with my Disney running friends from Running of the Ears, most of whom I hadn't seen in close to 3 years! We planned to get to the Expo after the big opening rush was over, but we would learn later that we were unsuccessful in our planning! LOL My aunt works at the Pentagon so we parked there and took the Metro to the Convention Center. I was able to meet my aunt's co-workers that morning before we left and it was so nice to see where she works. You can tell how much they like her and how important she is to the staff!

The Metro ride was uneventful, once we figured out how to use the machine to purchase a SmartCard for me to use for my stay in DC. I'm not sure why we had such difficulty! LOL We had to wait in a long line that we later discovered was for bag check and wanding of our bodies! My aunt even had to throw away a lighter that was in her purse. Found out that folks who came later didn't get wanded and barely had their bags looked in. Oh, well! Once we got through that point, there was no line at all to get in and get my bib!

Oorah!! Mission Ready!
After getting my bib and shirt, we walked into the Brooks official merchandise section and saw the massive check out line! My aunt suggested that she could get in line while I browsed. That worked for me and I went to shopping. I knew I had to get a hat because my 2011 MCM hat is one of my favorites and I wear it all the time! I immediately fell in love with a hat, and then I found a couple of short sleeve shirts. There was so much gear I could have bought but I had a strict $100 budget, and prices were as crazy as the line!

This isn't even HALF of the line! 
I got a text from my ROTE friends that they had arrived and were in the crazy merch line! I went to find them and then my aunt decided she had had enough of the crazy runner expo and headed home. I stood in the line again with them and then we made our way to lunch, being very hungry runners by this time! Lunch was a fantastic, sort of fancy Mexican place near Chinatown. I was very impressed! After lunch we headed over to meet more running friends for Happy Hour! I had not really been able to do any of the meet-ups like this before, so it was nice that it worked out this time!

I left before most everyone else was ready to go, and Jill walked me to the nearest Metro station so I could make my way by train back to my aunt's house. It was dark and I was a bit intimidated but the DC Metro system is very easy to navigate and feels very secure. The only problem was when I got off the train, I was afraid I was in the wrong place because it all looked very different from the last time I was there. Apparently they have totally built up around this station and it's simply gorgeous! It reminded me a lot of the Atlantic Station area of Atlanta!

I slept very well again on Friday night - great to be banking some sleep since I likely wouldn't be sleeping much on Saturday. I had planned to hang out and rest up my legs on Saturday and that's what I did. We ran a couple of errands on Saturday morning with my aunt, including driving down to the start area to find my way from the Metro station to the hotel where I was going to meet up with my ROTE friends to walk to the start line. My aunt is a planner extraordinaire and wanted to make sure that I was familiar with my surroundings since it would be dark when I did that on Sunday. I'm so glad that we did this because it made it easy on race day - one less thing to worry about!

After errands we came home the scenic way where I got to see the finish line area and all of the beautiful fall foliage and watched college football while I rested my legs. I got some snuggle time with one of her three kitties! The other two boys were not as willing to snuggle, but were still very loving and affectionate to me!

Cozy with Dexter! 
Stanley checking my form during yoga

Maxwell striking a pose 
Saturday night dinner was pizza, of course, at a fun place called BJ's - which is a neat chain that is not in GA. Then I went back home to get packed up for the race morning!

Flat Niffercoo - ready for race day!
Time for bed... please check back tomorrow for Part 2 of my race report (aka the actual race LOL)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Just Like Last Time?

Nearly a month since I've blogged. This is definitely not the way to get my blog noticed so I can become a sponsored athlete and get to test cool gear and participate in all the fun races for free! LOL

Oh, well!

Actually, the worst part about not blogging is that there have been so many emotions running through me and so many really deep and meaningful thoughts - but then I don't write them down so I forget them. And truly that's the purpose for this blog. As much as becoming a sponsored athlete would be fantastic, and as much as I would love to be the source of inspiration for other adult-onset athletes, the main reason that I blog is so that I don't forget any of this journey. So when I don't have the time to write it down, then it's gone forever. And that is a shame.

So, let's see where I left off in my training logs - Week #13? That's a shame. I just finished up Week #18!

In the last month I have done 18 mile and 20 mile training runs. I had a lot of aches and pains after both of them. In fact, during last Saturday's 20 mile training run, I felt my IT Band flare up again in the last two miles. It's been very discouraging. Last year when I was training for the Half Ironman, I felt fantastic! No aches. No pains. Rarely even a twinge. Even with several 16 mile runs! But this year, I cut down my cycling and swimming to 30-60 minutes each twice a week and have been feeling random aches and pains since August. I really don't understand it and, personally, I do not think it's fair.

What's that saying about life not being fair? Yeah, great.

I started thinking to myself, "This is just like last time." It's hard not to feel that way. I'm not sure why I get surprised when things don't go the way I want them to or expect them to. Surely I have lived long enough to realize that it's just the way it works. Perhaps I should have been more grateful last year when nothing went wrong during 70.3 training, instead of just assuming it was because I was doing "all the right things"?

In other words, why do I continually think that I can control the outcomes in my life by following what I perceive to be the 'right plan' or taking the 'right steps'?

So, since that obviously doesn't work, what can I do? Is there anything to be learned from the last 5 weeks of marathon training? Or is this "Just Like Last Time"?

I can choose how to respond. I typed "react" at first and then came back and changed it to "respond" because that word better represents what I want to do. React seems more immediate and spur of the moment. Respond implies deliberate and thoughtful execution. Here is I how I responded:

1. Focus more on rolling and stretching.
2. Drop down the pace and increase the run/walk intervals.
3. Epsom salts baths twice per week instead of only after the long run.
4. Make hydration a priority.
5. When the twinges went from random spots after the 18 miler to the IT Band during the 20 miler, I resumed the IT Band Rehab routine from StrengthRunning.com. I also focused on my form and activating my glutes. I know where my own IT Band issues come from so I spent my time on those areas.
6. Dropped cycling since I was feeling the twinges more during and after rides on the trainer.
7. I was also able to find a massage therapist who works in a local PT office so I went to see her and had her work on my hamstrings and hips - the tight spots that cause my IT Band problems.

It sounds like a lot of change but it really wasn't that dramatic. It was just a way of adjusting what I was already doing to accommodate the changes in my training. Training isn't a static process. I can't focus on the training I WISH I had, but only on the training as it really happened. I wish I wasn't feeling aches and pains and IT Band problems. But I did, so I have to take action.

So even though the IT Band flare-up is Just Like Last Time, my reaction to it is not. I learned so much from that time in my life and I was able to apply it! And this week, UNLIKE last time, I was able to complete both a 40 minute training run and a 10 mile training run (and a few gentle swims, and 8 hours on my feet at a rock concert LOL).

I'm 15 days away from race day now, and feeling positive! I skipped my run today, not because I was feeling badly but because it was thunderstorming and I do not want to get struck by lightning! I did my 20 miler last week in the pouring rain and most of my runs in the last few months have been in the rain. I decided yesterday that if it were raining today, I'd be skipping the run! I am OVER running in the rain. But if it's raining on race day, I shall be well prepared! :D

So I guess I'm pretty much caught up on my thoughts to this point. I am having a hard time getting focused on the excitement of the race but only because there is so much else that has to happen first. Nutcracker rehearsals for one girl. Solo audition results for the other girl. Last driver's ed class. Drama and dance performance. Meeting with the dance company director to discuss career options. PSAT. And THAT is just between now and Wednesday!  Is it any wonder I'm having trouble focusing on something that's 15 days away?

Thanks for continuing to follow along on this journey, even when I am not doing a very good job with posting! I hope your training is going well this fall!