Race Recap: Allen Stone 5k

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.” ~Haruki Murakami


The truth is I’ve been in a bit of a funk the past few weeks – a summer fog. It happens every summer. I wilt. My head and heart struggle. I feel slightly disengaged and slightly overwhelmed. I can’t tell you what causes is it, but I can tell you it’s become way too familiar when the summer heat becomes prevelant. 

The only thing I know to do is to move through it. 

The Allen Stone 5k was the race I was looking forward to all summer. It was supposed to be the finish line after an intense focus on speed for twelve weeks. The training plan I created (with the help of Run Less Run Faster) is still taped to my fridge without one workout completed. 

Life has seasons, and I knew this wasn’t my season to focus on training. I’ve run when I’ve felt like it. I’ve slept in. I’ve taken afternoon naps. I’ve prioritized strength training over running miles. I know this is what I needed. I know this will reward me in the fall. 

But today was race day. I almost didn’t sign up because I knew it wouldn’t be the race I had envisioned. On Thursday I finally signed up. The only way to combat my summer blues is to move through it. I’d feel worse if I didn’t show up. 

“This is not the moment to wilt into the underbrush of your insecurities. You’ve earned the right to grow.” ~Cheryl Strayed

I had one goal for this race: fight. 

After walking in my last 5k, that wasn’t an option. Regardless of pace, I needed to fight for my potential. 

Mile 1: 8:18

This mile felt like it lasted forever. The fog I’ve been feeling followed me on to the race course. My quiet mantra for the rest of the race emerged: fight for it. Don’t give in. Fight to hang on. 

Mile 2: 8:48

Mile 3: 9:02

Final kick: 7:15 pace

The race felt overwhelmingly quiet. I ran by myself for most of the race. While I looked for someone to race, I seemed to be stuck in no mans land the whole race. 

Official finish: 27:02, 4th in my age group


The finish line was neither disappointing or satisfying. While I’m proud of my ability to hang on when I just wasn’t feeling it, I’m more than ready for this fog to move on. I’m ready for my next season. 

It’s only July, and I’m already craving fall temperatures and running. 

I’ll keep plugging away. I’ll keeping pushing through. Because I’m determined to not get stuck in this middle. 

I’ve got my eyes on another 5k before our fall training team kicks off Harbor Lights Half Marathon training on August 16th. One more race to help build a solid foundation for fall. 

Challenging Why

When you surround yourself with the right people, conversations you need to have find you.

Last Wednesday morning, I dragged Chet out of bed to run an early morning 5k on the boardwalk. It was hot. He is getting heavy. As I made my way to the start line, I dragged my feet a little. As my friend walked beside me, she laughed. Why wouldn’t I go out there and have fun? Why wouldn’t I enjoy pushing Chet in the stroller knowing our days of running together may slowly disappear? Why wouldn’t I make the best of the day and the experience? 

It was the smack I needed to change mental gears for this 5k. Racing wasn’t invited. Running and smiling was encouraged. 

Official time: 33:22, 10:45 pace


Thursday night was a similar story. Our training team was hosting a happy hour run to build excitement for the fall training team. As a pacer, I’d be leading a group of runners. It was hot. The air was thick. A 9 minute mile felt nearly impossible for the summer. 

I gave myself the same peptalk I received the morning before. Why wouldn’t I make the best of the scenario? Why wouldn’t I embrace pacing? Why wouldn’t I enjoy the heat with so many new and familiar faces?

Four steamy miles later, we all celebrated with beers and fish tacos. 

Garmin run time: 36:36, 9:09 pace 


This slight shift in mentality is working for me. When the negative self talk kicks in, I’m no longer trying to silence it. I’m challenging it. 

I read an article recently by Devon Yanko (read it HERE). As she described her journey to be a better runner, I found myself nodding along. Then she wrote something, I can’t stop thinking about. 

“Slowly, gently and almost imperceptible over the month that I have been training in Tahoe, I challenged my habit of self-deprication, self-loathing, chronic self-doubt and hurt. Thoughts would come up and instead of indulging them, I would crush them with a sometime audible, WHY? There was never a good reason. And I found peace and maybe some love for myself, possible for the first time ever.”

During this period of transition in my life, I’ve thought a lot about my why. What motivates me. What inspires me. What makes me feel alive. Why does all of this matter. These thoughts have always brought me to the place I belong. 

While I know I’ve grown tremendously in so many aspects of my life, I’m still waiting for my breakthrough race. I know I’m still sitting on the edge of my potential. 

The only thing holding me back is me. WHY?

I have a few weeks before fall training begins (and I start a new job. More details soon!). These next few weeks will be a celebration. Running and smiling is welcomed. When those pesky moments of self doubt creep in, you may hear me ask why out loud. 

Everything I’ve learned about myself this year needs to shine through my running. I’ve said it so many times, it is time for me to embrace it. These legs have so much to give if I’d quit holding myself back! 

CXB Low Rent 5k – Race Recap

Simply put, I loved this race. I loved the course. I loved the neighborhood feel. I loved the camaraderie. I loved the start and finish at Commonwealth Brewing. 

And I loved my approach. 

I went into this race wanting a PR. The last two 5ks have left me satisfied, but this race I wanted more. I was going to go after that dusty 5k. Sub 8 pace or bust. 

Bust won this race. The story is probably told best in numbers. 

Mile 1 – 7:55

Mile 2 – 8:38

Mile 3 – 9:07

Final push – 6:49 pace

Walk breaks – 3

Official Results – 5k, 25:56, 8:21 average pace

Bust may have won this race over a personal best, but I’m walking away the real winner. 

I went for it. I finished with my 2nd best 5k time, and I walked 3 times. Normally I’d be mad at those walk breaks. Not this time. This time all I see and feel is potential. I just needed to clean up my race, and I’ll come home with a new gold star. 

It’s in me. I have a personal best and so much more ready for me to claim it. 

Next up: Allen Stone 5k on July 16th (unless I get impatient) 

ODU Big Blue 5k – Trust my Legs 

“Life isn’t as serious as my mind makes it out to be.” ~Eckhart Tolle 

As soon as the Shamrock Half Marathon was over, I was ready to switch gears. My body was pretty banged up after the race, so I happily entered into recovery mode. I made a plan to aim for a 5k PR (current PR: 24:50) for the summer. My plan is simple: less running, more strength training. When it became clear that my right side from my hip down to my foot wasn’t happy about running, I turned all my energy to my new found love: my gym. For the past two weeks, I have attended class every day Monday through Friday, and I’m becoming slightly addicted. 

Evofit has been my greatest surprise in my fitness journey. I’ve never felt comfortable in a gym. Weights have always intimidated me. I’ve never felt strong. While I’ve tip toed into this new space over the past few months, the past two weeks I’ve dove in head first. 

 

working out beside my hubby
 
I signed up for the ODU Big Blue 5k as part of Evofit. As race day approached, I was incredibly nervous. Since April 1st, I’ve run twice. The first run was a disaster. The second run was nice and easy to prove that I could breathe while running. My running fitness seemed to be slipping further and further away. 

All week was a mental battle. Am I healthy enough to run? Can I let my ego go and run hard regardless of pace? My biggest fear was that hard effort would result in a slow (for me) pace. 

Race morning arrived, and I was still battling my ego. The last thing I wanted from this race was to walk away disappointed. I laid on my couch (thanks to a 10:30am start time) and had to will myself to get ready. As I put on my Evofit tank top, I reminded myself I owe it to myself and to everyone who supports me to run hard. Pace doesn’t matter. It’s an outcome, but effort I can control. 

My one and only goal: run hard. 

 

Evofit Family
 
I know I’m not in PR shape so that was never part of my thought process. I had hoped I would run 8s. I really didn’t want to be slower than shamrock. I really really wanted my body to feel engaged. 

As I lined up in corral two I found two teammates from J&A Racing that I knew would have a good day. We all agreed that a great day would be under 27 minutes, but would be happy with 28 minutes. None of us wanted to see above 30 (and in my moments of doubt, I thought this could be my reality). 

Janet pulled us out fast. Stay with her. Breath. Relax. It’s a 5k. It should feel fast. Don’t look at your garmin. Today isn’t about pace. It’s about effort. You’re working hard. 

Mile 1: 8:28

Relax. Relax. Don’t panic. Just run. Get to mile 2. 

Mile 2: 8:23

Get to the water stop. Drink. Move. Relax. Relax. Relax. 

Mile 3: 8:48

Holy crap this is hard. 

Final push: 8:18 pace 

Official Results: 26:44, average pace 8:37

 

Finishing on the 50 yard line of the football field
 
Today’s course covered 3.1 miles around my college campus. While I expected to take a walk down memory lane, I don’t remember any of the course with the exception of the fountain. I was so focused on running and remaining relaxed, I don’t think I looked up more than once or twice. 

Once again race day delivered exactly what I needed. While I have a few physical goals I’d like to meet by end of summer, my mental game has been on point this year. As someone who has mentally struggled with racing for a good two years, I can’t help but smile. Knowing I brought my best (even relucantly) gives me a nice dose of confidence that I can preform on race day even if everything isn’t ideal. My legs know how to run. My heads back in the game. It’s time to start trusting them. 

A 26:44 5k and a strong mental game is the perfect kick off to a summer of speed and strength. 

 

#runawayweekend

 

Chet and Christian joined me on race day too. Chet was thrilled to see a football field. When I asked him what he thought of my race, he responded in true Chet fashion: everyone beat you. You came in last.  Another lesson learned. Next time I’m making Chet stay to watch the real last finisher. 

 

Chet Monster
 
Actual results:

Overall: 295 of 1960

Female: 76 of 1146

Female age group: 14 of 150

Focused and Free, Shamrock Half Marathon 2016 

In a million ways yesterday was a perfect race. I ran to my potential based on what race day had to offer.  I felt strong and engaged. Mentally I found my sweet spot. 

In one way yesterday’s race fell a little flat. The race clock doesn’t match my potential. 

The story of the race clock goes back long before this race. My quest for a sub 2 hour half marathon started two and a half years ago. At the crawlin crab half marathon in 2013 (Read it here). I lined up ready to break two hours. I failed miserably. When my miles started to fall off pace a few miles into the race, I threw in the towel. I quit, and I finished the race feeling miserable about my ability. 

My second focused attempt at breaking two hours was at the Flying Pirate Half Marathon (Read it here), I showed up more than ready. Again I failed miserably. When my paces fell off, I gave up on the race. I gave up on myself. 

A few injuries, a few marathons, and a few life changes have happened over the last two and a half years, but the one thing that has remained consistent was my quest for sub 2. My training runs resulted in sub 2 13.1 miles, but it’s never translated to race day. This year felt like a no brainer. I showed up at the start line with three goals in my head:

A Goal: 8:xx pace overall 

B Goal: Sub 2 

C Goal: Do not give up on my race. 

For most, the C goal would have been a PR. For most there would be a drastic difference between Goal B and C but for me, it’s what I needed. My head tends to be all or nothing. I knew if I saw sub 2 fading away, my biggest challenge would be to keep my head in the game. Could I fight for a finish that had nothing to do with the time clock? 

Sunday delivered a day that was the perfect test of my strength. A Nor’easter by the name of Winter Storm Regis showed up on the first day of spring. It poured until about half way into the race. The winds fought back with gusts averaging 35mph. This was the day we were given to run, and I embraced it. Everyone was running the same race. 

I started the race with a few of the runners from our training team and the 2 hour pacers. For the first 4 miles I sat comfortably at the back of the pack (note to self: race day pace groups are not for me). There was way too much nervous energy and anticipation in the large pace group for me to feel comfortable settling into my own run. I could feel everyone’s emotions but my own. 

8:56, 9:18, 9:14, 9:16

By mile 5 I knew I needed to let the group go. I was using too much energy to stay attached to their pacing signs. I also needed to adjust my sock since my foot had started to bleed. I used the waterstop to adjust both my sock and my place on the race course. 

9:49

I let the pacers go knowing they would come back to me when the wind was at my back. I kept running north embracing the wind, and I finally felt myself mentally settle. 

9:19

Fort story can be a beast. The winds blow hard, and there were many times I felt myself stumble. I focused on the little things for the next three miles. Get to the water stop. Find the lighthouse. Get off the base. Go see my husband. 

9:20

9:34

9:44

I didn’t look at my watch once during the race for many reasons, but I knew this race was a race that wouldn’t be defined by the race clock. I knew I needed to focus on my C Goal. I needed to fight for my finish regardless of time. I needed to fight just for me. 

As I made the turn back on to Atlantic Avenue, I knew Christian would be there. Having just mentally conquered the hardest part of the course, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was proud of me. I knew at this point the 2 hour group wasn’t coming back to me. No excuses. No reasons to quit. I arrived to Christian a puddle of tears. I mumbled a quick “I’m okay,” and I kept running. He biked beside me for a block or two. He updated me on my friends. I then sent him on his way to the final turn. I needed to own my mental space on this run. I needed this race to belong to me. 

9:09

9:36

10:13 

I ran as fast as my legs would let. After a long stretch of focusing on one block at a time, I made it to the boardwalk. The finish line was waiting for me. 

Focused and free, I fully embraced the last mile of this race. As the finish line got closer and closer, my sweet friend Catrina popped out with open arms ready to support me. It was the best surprise of the day, and I welcomed a congratulatory embrace. 

Without a doubt, I had just finished one of my best mental races. 

Official finish time – 2:04:03

“Ask nothing from your running, and you’ll get more than you ever imagined!” ~Christophet McDougall

  

A Shamrock Story 

It’s race week. The lead up to this race has had its own story to tell just like every other race except this one feels different. This one belongs only to me. 

With a brand new blank slate to write my own story, I’ve been left with only my wants, my passion, my desire and my fears. It’s been a tug-of-war battle between all the voices in my head. 

With five days until race day, today may forever be marked as the day I wrote the draft for the next phase of my life. Of all days, today should be the day. 

At 7:13 this morning the sun rose. At 7:13 tonight the sun will set. Today is the day that my tiny piece of the world is perfectly balanced.  To celebrate, I went for a run. Three easy miles down a favorite trail and up and over a bridge that’s crosses the point where the Chesapeake bay meets the waterways inland. I was surrounded by beauty and balance. The trail is becoming green as spring makes itself know to our coastal city. 

 

pleasure house point
 
 Today is the day that there is equal amounts of light and dark. Tomorrow the light takes over. 

The run felt fluid. My legs felt strong. 

 

view from the top
 
 After my run, I indulged in a lunch date with two powerhouse ladies. We discussed race plans and dreams. We shared fears and life stories. During the three hour lunch, my brain ran circles around possibilities. This race is different than any other race I’ve run for one simple reason. 

Running has always healed me. It’s always pieced me back together. Every single time I’ve run shamrock, I was piecing myself back together. 

2010 – the year I ran to prove I was capable

2011 – the year I cheered from the sidelines with a stress fracture 

2012 – the year I ran to prove I could be more than a newborn mom

2013 – the year I ran my first marathon with a grieving heart (cancer sucks!)

2014 – the year I ran to prove I could come back from injury 

2015 – the year I ran to fall in love with racing again 

I always perceived myself to be broken. 

2016 is different. 2016 is the year I write my own story. This blank slate is giving me the opportunity to launch myself down whatever path I choose. There is no heartache to overcome. There is nothing to heal, fix or piece together. I am whole. 

All I have to do on race day is show up, silence the fears in my head, and run myself to finish line. Every year I’ve ran broken and got to the finished feeling healed. This year I’m showing up to the finish line whole, and I will finish the race whole. 

This year I’m giving myself permission to be unbreakable. 

tonight’s sunset

Equinox 

In less than two weeks the world approaches the small moment of time  when everything is in balance. Here along the Atlantic Ocean, the sun will rise. Twelve hours later it will set. Dark and light find harmony as our beach town begins to bloom. Spring will arrive. The equinox is approaching. 

As we transition out of winter’s hibernation, I can feel the ache of winter in my bones. My muscles are fatigued from fighting to stay warm all winter. My skin craves the warmth of sunshine. This is a new chapter in my life. The ache and the fatigue that is leaving my body is as much physical as it is emotional. The craving of warmth is as much my skin as it is my heart. As the world wakes up, I feel like I’m finding my harmony within myself and nature. 

My life is finding harmony. 

In less than two weeks on the same day as the spring equinox, I will line up with 180 teammates and thousands of other runners to run the Shamrock half marathon. The ache in my legs is proof of a season of hard training. The craving of warmth is evidence of running through many frozen morning. Shamrock weekend is just the beginning of my bloom. 

 

if you can’t find me, i’m here
 
I never expected to be here. Stripped of all career responsibilities, I have an amazing opportunity to fully examine my aspirations. My roots are rich. I’ve had nearly 36 years to create the perfect soil to encouraging proper growth. I’m seeing the strength in trusting my heart whispers.  As the winter cold drifts away, I feel myself reaching. I feel myself breathing deeply growing in the direction of the sun. 

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ~John Muir

The plan for race day is a simple as the plan for this new season. Let my roots anchor me. Let the warmth of the sun guide me. Let my spirit bloom. Let the compassion of others push and pull me. This season belongs to me. 

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” ~John Muir

Tonight on our evening bike ride, an osprey flew over the river as the sunset. The osprey have returned. The air hints of summer. Nature is reminding us that spring is here to stay. 

This season will transition to summer, winter will return, but the changes cultivated will become part of who I am for every season of my life. 

“the sunset is your favorite color” ~Chet

Confession of a Pacer

I have a confession to make. I wasn’t sure if I could do this. I wasn’t sure if would measure up or hit the paces my team needed me to hit. When I was asked to be a pacer for the J&A Racing Training Team, I knew my heart was committed but could my legs preform. 

The first training team meet up resulted in a lot of anxiety. It felt like race day eve. I didn’t sleep. I had a nervous stomach. When I was introduced to the group, I felt like an imposter. I was a new face in the crowd. I had a lot I wanted to prove. I had a lot of self induced pressure. 

We ran that day, and our paces were exactly where they needed to be. I’ve never felt more relieved. 

 

Family
 
For the past 12 weeks, Friday nights have all been the same. I’ve been nervous. I’ve been afraid this would be the weekend I’d have a terrible run. When you’re pacing at your race pace, you can’t hide. There is no room for a bad run. I needed to be my best every Saturday. I wanted to be my best every Saturday. 

Confession: I wasn’t confident that a 9 minute mile was my comfort zone. 

Confession: I put a lot of pressure on myself to bring my A Game every weekend. 

Confession: I’ve never wanted to be successful at something as much as I wanted this. 

Every Saturday, I’ve got out of bed, my body alive with excitement. Each week my doubts have grown a little more quiet. Each week my heart has beat louder. It’s become more clear. It’s become more vibrant. I can do this. I am doing this. 

This past weekend our team had its furthest run to date. Everyone in my 9 minute group set out to accomplish 14 miles. After the first few miles, it was clear each runner in our pack was having a different day. Two were feeling strong and were ready to soar. Two were struggling with illness and need to preserve. I sent the two healthy teammates free. Go run. We will catch up. For the other two, we ran miles that felt good. For one that meant cutting the run short. For the other, we ran walked the final few. 

 

Starting Strong
 
Every single person on our team is race ready. Saturday was a formality. For everyone it proved what they already know about themselves. Their goals are waiting for them to achieve them. For the next nineteen days, our legs will become fresh again. Our spirit will continue to shine. 

Confession: I’m more excited about their race than my own. 

Confession: I’m more excited about them discovering their potential than what I can do on race day. 

I have my own personal goals for race day, but this entire training cycle has been my reward. I’ve erased every doubt my head was creating back in December. 

Confession: I hope I’m chasing them all on the race course.  

Confession: Every single runner on this team is the reason I will give my all on race day. It’s to honor them. 

“…there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love *running*. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you’ve got, being patient and forgiving and… undemanding…maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.” ~Christopher McDougall

Confession: Seeing potential in my teammates had allowed me to see my potential. 

Confession: This team has healed my heart. 

Confession: This team has made my love more vibrant. 

Confession: I don’t want this season to end. 

“Running is the heart of what it means to be human.” ~Christopher McDougall

Confession: This team has brought me back to life. 

Finishing up Saturdays Mock Race
 
Thank you doesn’t feel like the right words. They aren’t strong enough. The only way I can think of to express my gratitude for this journey is to let my heart run this race, to pour everything I have into race day, and to leave every ounce of energy I have on the race course. 

I owe it to them, and I owe it to myself. 

19 days until race day! 

chalkmaster Josh inspires again

Finding Magic

Today I unrolled my yoga mat while Chet indulged in a nearly extinct nap. The moment of quiet was a rare treat after a freezing cold weekend kept us bundled up inside all weekend. My heart needed quiet, and my body needed a good stretch. My body is still recovering from the 100k relay. It was harder on my body then I ever anticipated. As I move through the opening sun salutations, my body felt heavy. In Warrior II my arms felt like they weighed a ton each. Everything was being pulled down by gravity. 

Saturday’s running was a mirror image of today’s yoga practice. My legs felt heavy. My body resisted. I forgot that it was well below freezing and that the north wind was whipping  in off the ocean and the bay. I forgot that the streets were frozen. Every step I took was a reminder that I have been working hard, and my body is feeling it. 

 

Every Saturday (and every day) i know i they are there for me
 
Physical my body’s is that space I’ve come to recognize and know so well. I’m in the middle

“The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens. ~Brene Brown

I used to fear this middle space. I used to see it and runaway in fear. It is hard. It is ugly. While my entire body feels weighted and like it sinking, every doubt and insecurity is floating to the surface. 

But I’ve been here before. I know this space well. Instead of collapsing on my yoga mat in defeat, I kept moving. My body loosened. My heart lightened. I returned to myself. On Saturday I kept running. Surrounded by my running family, my heart stayed engaged. A tough run was a badge of courage instead of sign of defeat. 

 

Conquering miles and fun
 
The middle isn’t winning anymore. I’m not giving in or giving up anymore. I’m plowing ahead. 

When you’ve done something so many times, you start to see the pattern. Now that my runs are hitting double digits again, I’ve felt depleted at mile 9 every single time. I’ve been tempted to give up. I’ve been tempted to quit. Instead I keep running, I let my running partners pull me, and a half mile later I find a new gear. My energy comes back. My strength is renewed. 

While I am grateful to have this awareness as part of my running, I am even more thankful to have this awareness as part of my life. There isn’t a lot of life to live in beginning and ending. Life is lived in the middle. 

Eight years ago today I started an amazing new beginning. I meet Christian for margaritas on a Friday night, and I fell in love with him before we even said hello. The beginning was amazing, but now we are in the middle. It can be tough. I run out of energy. Somedays I feel like I have nothing left to give. But I keep going because my love for him is always renewed. I’ve asked a lot of him the past few months. I needed him to be my anchor. 

Three weeks ago I closed a door on a dream. Another door is about to open, but I’m living in the middle of the transition. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve doubted myself. I’ve questioned my next steps. I’ve searched for answers and strength outside of myself. My entire body has felt heavy. The answers won’t be found anywhere but inside of me. The answers are mine to find. It’s for me to discover. 

The only way to find the magic in the middle is to keep returning to me. As I finished my yoga practice with my forehead placed on the mat, I made a simple promise to myself. I will trust my strength. I will trust my ambition. I will trust my ability to move forward gracefully and courageously. 

“The truth is that falling hurts. The dare is to keep being brave and feel your way back up.” ~Brene Brown

With every day that passes in this transition period, with every run I complete, with every gym workout that is accompished, and every time I unroll my yoga mat, I feel more alive. I feel more engaged. I feel my strength and my strengths rising to the surface. With an open heart, I’m moving (or running) forward. This next chapter is already a good one. 

Wednesday’s 8 miler: literally stuck in the middle of no where

Saturday’s run: 12 miles at a 9:30ish pace (my garmin turned off in the middle somewhere)