Race racap: Heart of Ghent 10k

Many months ago, in the middle of my running middle life crisis, my friend and running coach told me that I just need to show up to some races unplanned, unannounced, and have fun. I’m finally listening. It’s exactly what I did this weekend. As I’m slowly increasing mileage for two half marathons this fall, the idea of running a 10k as part of my training run sounded fun. Water stops. Entertainment. Supportive spectators. And the course is a walk down memory lane. So many of my heart whispers started here.

The Heart of Ghent 10k didn’t disappoint. It was the perfect neighborhood race. Wonderfully organized and supported. I loved the course (even if we missed a block this year).

Laura picked me up before the sun was up so we could run a few miles before the start of the race. Our early arrival made parking easy. We ran nearly 2.5 easy miles before the race started hoping we had left some racing ability in them for the race.

Warm up Miles: 2.47 @ 9:46 pace

As we started, I vowed to not look at my garmin. We were running and talking. The course is filled with lots of turns which I love mentally.

Mile 1: 9:14

Mile 2: 9:07

Mile 3: 8:51

At mile 3, I gave in and glanced at my watch. The 8 in the front of my pace shocked me. While my legs were starting to feel heavy, the effort felt easy. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope for some speedier miles this fall.

Laura started having cramping in her back at this point and encouraged me to leave her, but racing wasn’t my objective for this run. I was there to increase my mileage and enjoy time with friends. We walked a few blocks and ran many more.

Mile 4: 10:23

Mile 5: 10:45

Mile 6: 9:53

The finish line showed up just as my watch hit six miles. While the course ran short, my total mileage for the day is my longest run since spring. Confidence in my running is starting to creep back into my thinking. It’s funny how that happens as soon as I remember why I run.

I learned a lot on the road yesterday. Happy miles are what I need right now. Sharing miles with friends is what I need right now. This is the first run in a long time when my brain turned off, panic mode didn’t take over, and I simply ran.

Garmin Time: 6.00, 57:42, 9:37 pace

Race Time: 57:40, 9:17 pace

Almost 8.5 miles for the day! Heart of Ghent, I’ll be back next year. You have become my new favorite 10k.

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Chasing the Sunset

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

As I pulled into my driveway after a busy day at work and a last-minute visit to the doctor (that trumped my plans to go to my first boot camp class), I could see the sun beginning to flirt with the tree line. The thought of seeing the sunset over the river is all it takes these days to get me out the door in my running shoes. Cole, home with a clean bill of health, had an art project to tackle. Christian was grilling. Chet and I decided to chase the sunset. I ran as fast as I could to catch the setting sun. The river is less than a mile from our front door, but leaving for a run with a two-year old never happens quickly. Running while pushing a two-year old never happens quickly. We made it to the river just as the gorgeous reds were leaving the sky.

My running buddy

My running buddy

We missed the sunset, but the river was still waiting. I always let Chet run with me for the few blocks along the river. We bird watch. We check out the crane that is building the new boat ramp. After some begging and pleading (and protesting), he returns to his stroller (or tractor or lawn mower or dinosaur – whatever his imagination determines each night) to take the long way home.

This is why I run. My reasons for why I run change with the seasons of my life. During this season, I run for the sunset and the sunrise. I run to see the world wake up and fall asleep. It refreshes my soul. It hits the reset button.

Running has become less about pace and personal bests and more about connecting with my body. It’s become my way to keep my body, my mind, and my spirit free. It has become a time to explore the wild imagination of a two-year old and to listen to the rambles of a ten-year old. It’s become my way to catch up on conversation with my husband. There are nights the whole family joins me on their bikes. My running can be selfish at times. I run for myself, but my evening hours at home are limited. My time with my boys is limited. So I selfishly bring them with on my runs. I don’t think they mind.

Everything in life has a season. Right now is my season to bask in the glow of sunshine. I want to take in as many sunrises and sunsets as I can. I want to celebrate the promise of new beginnings, and I want to celebrate what has been offered as each day ends. I’m excited about running again for no other reason than I love to run. It’s something I hope I never take for granted.

Fall race season is just around the corner. I won’t be trying to run my fastest times or to push myself to new levels. This season I want to carry sunshine with me on to the race course. I just want to run. I just want to shine.

Chasing the sunset

Chasing the sunset

Whole Hearted.

“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.” — Lisa Bu

Over coffee last week, my running coach and I redefined my relationship with running. We chose a new lense for my view of my training plan. I want to run. I need to run. I love to run. But every time I have put on my running shoes lately, I wonder if my run will be a success. I cross my fingers and hope that it turns out to be a good run. Every time I put on my running shoes lately, I feel a little broken.

For the past two years, I have used running to repair the broken things in my life. After having Chet, I used running as a way to reclaim my identity. After I went back to a job I didn’t love, I used running as a way to fix a long work day. After my father-in-law and my aunt passed away, I used running to heal my broken heart. When marriage hits a rough spot, I use running to heal my frustration. When the boys become too much, I use running to fix my sanity. Running has always fixed my broken spots.

As my life heals itself, running has become the broken piece. It’s time to heal my relationship with running.

The only way to heal what is broken is to highlight and enhance all the aspects that I love.

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Last Thursday, my first run back after my stitches were removed, I joined two friends near and dear to my heart for an evening boardwalk run. We ran our favorite route – over the Rudee Inlet bridge straight into the crowd of tourists on the boardwalk. When our feet hit the boardwalk, it felt like the start of summer. We haven’t done this in two years! Three miles into the run, we made a happy hour pit stop for orange crushes and lots of girl talk. The run back to the car was filled with laughter and happiness.

On Sunday, I headed out for my long run. I headed to my favorite running route. I left my garmin at home. I just ran. I ran the Cape Henry Trail into our State Park to some of my favorite back trails. It’s been a while since my running shoes had real trails underneath them. I ran up and down sand downs. I ran alongside water. I skipped over tree roots. I don’t know how far I ran or how fast, but when my feet finally hit pavement again I felt like I was flying.

As I ran down the trails, trails that have held so many of my tears and so much of my laughter, I felt myself picking up all the pieces I had left scattered over the years. I ran these trails, the day the world said goodbye to my aunt. In the middle of a winter storm advisor, I found my refuge in the tree-lined path. On these trails, I spent an entire summer running with my friend Heidi as we both tried to figure out how to be new moms again. Every time I ran with a broken heart down these trails, I left some of myself behind. Every time I ran filled with hope, I left some of myself behind.

Sunday’s run was a declaration. Sunday’s run put an end to broken running. Sunday’s run reclaimed my favorite place.

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There was no stop button to hit when I got back to my car so the run continued. My heart was filled to the brim, and it followed me home.

Last week’s run and all my runs going forward need to be a reflection of my life right now. I’m bring my heart, my whole heart, back to my running. Life is constantly changing. There will be more phases of heart ache, but right now, my whole heart needs a chance to shine. My whole heart needs a chance to run.

rooted

 

 

Open

Round and round we ran: 800 repeats on Tuesday evening. It was my first speed workout in a month. My legs weren’t used to the request to go faster. My hips held on tight. Speed work felt foreign. The mental stubbornness to not give in didn’t come naturally. It was an exercise at quieting my brain instead of pushing my body.

This run would have never been a success if I was running solo. My brain’s natural response to pushing my limits on a hot summer night with humidity hanging in the air is to quit. My brain would have won if I wasn’t surrounded by friends who silenced my head. My support system held on for me. I chased them. Stay with them. Stay with them. Hold on.

It was during the fourth 800 that my friend Bridgette said to me, “Open up.” She was offering words of encouragement to help pull me forward. Her words were simple yet they spotlighted my struggle for the season. I had reverted back to old habits. I wasn’t trusting my body. I wasn’t opening my stride. I was timid. I was ridged. I was closed in and guarded. The tightness in my hips was a reflection of my lack of trust in my body. They are a reflection of my lack of trust in myself.

Timidness. Lack of trust. My protective barrier. It creeps in whenever I lose my awareness of myself.

The last month has been full of change. It’s capitulated me out of my comfort zone in the most amazing way.  Yet I’ve apprehensively approached the shift in my daily schedule with fear that it would negatively impact it my family. It hasn’t. I’ve worried that my boys would feel my absences in the one hour I’m now missing in the evening while losing sight that they gained that hour in the morning hours. My new job is stretching me. It’s allowing me to expand into my potential. This is what my boys will feel. At the end of the day, I am full. This is what I want my boys to witness. This is what I want them to learn.

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” ~Jane Austen

I know exactly what I need. Open Heart. Open Stride. These were the words that carried me through 26.2 miles last November. These are the words that carried through a hugely emotional time of my life. Those are the words I’m going to hold on to right now.

I’m bringing my awareness back to myself. I’m trusting the vulnerable spaces of new, the spaces of the unknown, the spaces out of my comfort zone. I’m opening back up. My heart, those tiny whispers I’ve learned to hear, know exactly where I belong. It’s running that allows me to hear them. It’s running that gives me the gift of knowing who I am. Now I have to learn to trust it and to grow into it.

Elizabeth River Run

 

Elizabeth River Run 10k Race Report

The past two weeks I’ve done very little running. This was intentional. I wanted to give my head and my body a chance to adapt to all the changes that come with starting a new job. I knew when I lined up on the start line with a few close friends on Saturday morning, I wasn’t in race condition. I’m no where close to my peak condition. My race plan was simple: have fun.

I could have run the race in cruise control, but running solo has lost its appeal lately. I wanted to run with my friends who are also fast and also in great running condition. I’d hang on as long as I could.

Part of my race plan was to also run without my garmin. Numbers didn’t matter for this race. As I left for the race, I grabbed it anyway. What if I had a great race and wanted to know my times?

Damn Ryan (my running coach). He rigged my watch.

I never got a connection during the race. There was no cheating on my race plan.

At the Start (photo credit: @thefitpetite)

At the Start (photo credit: @thefitpetite)

I hung with my friends until just past the three mile marker. My hips were tired. They didn’t want to open up. I wasn’t having fun anymore. I let them slowly slip away, and I took in the gorgeous views on the race course: historic downtown and riverfront streets.

Around mile 4.5, I remembered why running solo (on a crappy run day) isn’t fun anymore. Maybe I should have fought to hold on instead of giving up? I had settled into cruise control mode, and I was now running solo. Just when I started to think this is not fun. Running slow and solo sucks. a smiling face was waiting for me on the side of the road. Jess, The Fit Petite, was waiting for me. We start the race together. We finish the race together. I could have hugged her, but I was tired at this point.

Being rejoined by a friend on the course gave me an extra boost of energy. I may have mumbled and grumbled that I didn’t feel like going faster, I’m pretty sure I speed up significantly when she joined me.

My finish time: 58:25. Five minutes slower than my PR, but significantly faster than a fun (lazy, crappy) run a year ago. ( read my report from Elizabeth River Run in 2012)

The race was exactly what I needed. Racing slow isn’t fun anymore. I’m ready to pick back up my training plan to get myself out of my comfort zone. The day was also filled with lessons of trust but I’ll save that thought process for another post.

Always learning. Always growing. Always smiling. It’s the only requirement I have for myself.

(photo credit: @thefitpetite)

(photo credit: @thefitpetite)

Flying Pirate Half Marathon, Race Report

The goal: sub 2 hours

The result: 2:18:29

I did everything right going into this race. I only missed one training run. I was hydrated. I was relaxed. I rested my legs. I wrote down my goal times the night before the race, and it felt like a no brainer. There wasn’t a doubt in my head that I was coming home with a 1:xx finish time.

Race morning went smooth. I was joined by friends JP and Meagan, and Christian dropped us off at the start. Everything went according to plan. I had my goal times written on my hand. I was ready to run.

As I crossed the start line, I focused on staying controlled. By mile two, my stomach was telling me it had other plans for today. My mind shifted from running to finding a portapotty.

Mile 3 goal time: 28 minutes but no faster than 27:15

Mile 3 results: 27:25

Just after mile 3, I found a portapotty. A quick stop and my stomach felt better. I was back to running. Christian was up ahead at mile 5 so I shifted my focus to finding him. By the time I saw him, my stomach was rebelling again. I took some Gatorade from him in hopes of some relief but no luck.

Mile 5 goal time: 46:30

Mile 5 results: 46:15

Another portapotty stop at the mile 6, and I knew my race plan wasn’t happening. It didn’t feel any better after my bathroom visit. I walked ahead, and found my running coach just in front of the 10k marker. We chatted for a few minutes. I considered dropping out, but after only a moments hesitation, I knew I needed to finish.

Christian stuck with me at this point. I ran walked. We chatted. He kept my spirit light with lots of inappropriate humor about my race turning to crap.

Mile 8 goal time: 1:13:30

Mile 8 results: 1:21:11

As we approached the Wright Brothers Memorial, sadness took over. I was disappointed, but I felt even worse that I let people down. Lots of people made sacrifices for me so I could run my perfect race. I still feel guilty. I cried which is not an easy thing to do while running and battling stomach cramps.

At this point, I came across another local blogger Reading Runner Girl. She saved me from feeling too bad about my race. We chatted for a while before she went ahead.

Mile 10 goal: 1:31:30

Mile 10 result: 1:41:47

I said goodbye to Christian just before mile 10 when the roads turned to trails. The whole time I was running (and walking. And using the bathroom), I told myself I would still race the last 5k. I could at least push myself there. When I hit he trails, I tried but my stomach didn’t respond well. I was back to run walking. Fortunately the trails were beautiful. Seriously, the trees were gorgeous. If I had my phone with me, I would have taken photos and finished 10 minutes later.

Finish line goal: 1:59:20

Finish line result: 2:18:29

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With friends surrounding me post race, there was no need to feel disappointed in my run. Bad runs happen. Shamrock half was a huge success. Cherry blossom 10-miler was another surprise success. The Flying Pirate half just didn’t workout. When you run races year round, some of them won’t go according to plan. They all can’t be perfect. I know that one bad race doesn’t define me as a runner, and it certainly doesn’t impact my goals for the future.

Am I disappointed the day after the race? Yes and no. It’s hard to run a race below my potential. I want a do-over. My “fight for your race” attitude disappeared at mile 6. I do wonder what I could have accomplished if I had stayed engaged with my run instead of giving in to my stomach issues. These are all lessons learned for another race. I am glad that I wasn’t stupid on the race course. I finished healthy, and now I get to start my summer race season. It’s time to focus on speed and short races, and I’m starting the summer healthy! That’s a huge win for me!

On to the next race!

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Flying Pirate Half Marathon, Time to Fly

“I don’t know where you rightfully live, but I know that there’s something in this world that you love more than you love yourself. Something worthy, by the way, so addiction and infatuation don’t count, because we all know that those are not safe places to live. Right? The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it. And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next. You just do that, and keep doing that again and again and again, and I can absolutely promise you, from long personal experience in every direction, I can assure you that it’s all going to be okay.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

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Tomorrow is race day. Everything that I love has come together for this race. When I start my 13 mile race tomorrow, I am building a home on top of foundation I have always struggled to build.

I have a race plan. I have race goals. But I’m not worried about this race. I haven’t analyzed or scrutinized every work out (too much). Maybe it’s because it’s my tenth half marathon. Maybe my head is finally catching up to my heart and body. Maybe it’s because I’ve done nothing today but sit on the beach. My parents kept my boys so I could have a stress free weekend. Maybe it’s because I finally have a foundation. Maybe it’s because I have absolutely nothing to lose by trying. I just feel ready and relaxed.

The race plan: Run smart until mile 8. Change gears between mile 8 and mile 10. The last three miles of this race are on trail. When I hit the trail, I plan on taking a risk. I plan on leaving the safe zone I always run in during these middle distance races. If it’s going to hurt, I might as well finish faster. A teammate of mine shared her mantra the other day: when the miles get hard, run harder. That is my plan for the last three miles.

The race goal: If I hit the times my coach wrote down on paper for me, I’ll finish in 1:59:20. It’s time to say goodbye to the two hour half marathon. My personal goal is to see how much further I can push that time once I hit mile 8.

As I’ve watched the waves crash on shore today, I’ve had plenty of time to visualize my run. My thoughts keep taking me back to how extremely grateful I am for right now. I have a lot to celebrate tomorrow. A wedding anniversary (four years on May 1st), two awesome boys, a supportive family, great friendships, and a dream job. These are the things I love more than myself. Life is as close to perfect as it gets right now.

This moment, this point in my life, it all feels like a starting point. This is my beginning. I am ready to fly.

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After all, I am running on a course that passes by the birthplace of aviation. The Wright Brothers created flight here!

The flying pirate half marathon kicks off at 7am tomorrow morning!