Tuesday, February 24, 2015

... February Races Continue ...

I decided in 2014 that I would try to run regardless of the environmental conditions. This is why I ran in -33C (with windchill) in Canada ... and this is what I looked like:

 

 

For some reason the frigid temperatures felt refreshing. I loved it!

***

I love running races on dates/holidays, any holiday, really. They have to fall on the specific date, and this was the case of the Polar Plunge and 5K at the U.S. National White Water Center.

I am not a trail runner, so you can imagine my surprise when I realized it was a road race. What a bonus!

I love the races at the USNWC. The atmosphere is friendly and low key.

The day started cold as could be ... How could I feel cold after a week in Canada!!! However the cold was made better by the prescience of fire pits. I was actually worried that I was getting too close to the fire.

We lined up leisurely at the start line. We got the countdown. The start line was a mess and I almost fell as another runner tried to move to the front.

I ran a PR! My time was a great improvement, don't know if I'll easily repeat the feat. Second in my age group. I was happy. And finished with the plunge into the lake. I would say that my Saturday was perfect.

***

My last February race was the Charlotte 10 Miler on an incredibly cold day. It didn't feel that bad before the race. During the race I didn't feel my strongest ... but I was happy with my performance.

 

One minute improvement over last year and the same hard course with the worst hill at mile 9!

Next on the agenda. A Half Marathon.

... a dopo ... J

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

.. Super Bowl 4 Miler ...

On February 1st, I ran the first annual Super Bowl 4 Miler benefitting RunningWorks As you know this is a program I volunteer with. It is a harsh reality to face while on the program, so much homelessness, but I believe in it.

I believe that really RunningWorks! Dedication and commitment translated to any area of your life. I hope I have been able to have an impact with those that I have had the pleasure to be with during my volunteering.


Yes! I was sure Seattle would win.

My fellow volunteer and friend.


The day before the race I volunteered on behalf of RunningWorks at packet pickup on Saturday ... a lot harder than I expected. Hard work!!!

It was a great turnout for a new local race ... about 1200 runners started Super Bowl Sunday with this wonderful race.

The course was unbelievable ... challenging but fun. The first mile was at 7:22 ... too fast I thought ... but it felt great ... until I felt my shoe laces become untied. Hands all bundled up and half frozen I decided to just tuck them in ... not a good idea.

 

Meeting up with friends!



A few feet after my shoe laces were flying all over the place ... I saw a couple standing on the side of the road and asked them to tie my shoe laces. And so he did ... as I kept seeing everyone pass on by.

 

My Garmin auto-pauses and brought me in at 8:10 average pace. According to my watch I was going to come in at 7:54 min/mile. I could have had a 7 something mile had I not had to stop twice for my shoe laces.


Regardless, of that I am ecstatic that my Achilles did not hurt, I felt strong and happy ... and my time was not half bad.

 

Keep running ...

 

A dopo,


J

Monday, February 9, 2015

... repeating races ...

I have only been a few races that I have run more than once. I have run the Komen 5K, for example, more than once in honour of my friend Julie, and last year in her memory. This particular race I hold close to my heart because of her, but other than that I have run very few races more than once.

My thoughts on this are as follows.

Afraid of tainting the memory = do not repeat ... I obtained my current Half Marathon PR in Athens, GA in the Ath Half. This was a half that was not even on my race calendar. With my Achilles still hurting and what seemed a never ending series of hills, this race was just supposed to be a fun race with friends. No PR in mind.

The truth is that from the first step I felt amazing. It was a glorious day in a beautiful city. My legs cooperated even up the hills. I probably could have pushed myself a little more, but was worried about slowing down during the last 5K. (See Thunder Road below).

I would recommend this race to anyone, however I am afraid to attempt it myself again.

Why? As much as I hate to admit it, I would be afraid of being disappointed. You can't have the same race twice ... In good and in bad. But this one was really good ... so I want to keep that memory intact.

Wanting to "show" the course = repeat ... I have had, fortunately only a handful of races where I have felt horrible. Once such race was the Brixx 10K and 5K. Here too, I knew from the first step how bad it was going to be.

I am not the fastest of runners, but I'm not too slow either, so I position myself accordingly. Towards the front without being a nuisance to the fast runners.

On this particular day my friend needed to visit the restroom prior to the start. I had her keys and her water as the crowd assembled at the start line. I waited and waited and finally when she arrived we were stuck in the back, forcing us to weave through the crowd to gain some space to move. My friend went up the sidewalk to gain this ground, however this is something I really don't do, as I like to respect the race course. In hindsight I think I should have.

Humidity was at 96%, the late start, and the excessive crowd left me drained. On top of that the water stations were past their usual points and I felt I needed the water. Not a good feeling. Waiting to reach the 4 mile water station I spoke up out loud about how thirsty I was ... I must have sounded really desperate because a fellow runner kindly handed me her water bottle.

My time was horrible and during the race I thought of just giving up. I'm glad I didn't ... but I was exhausted. To top it all off, we missed the start of the 5K that followed. I didn't touch the mat, so I only had a clock time. I had recovered somewhat after putting some fluids in my body, but going out when they pick up the mat is not a good feeling. My friend decided not to run. I'm glad I did.

I swore that day that I would never do it again ... However I signed up again this year ... However, I double booked this race with another Half I had mistakenly dated in my calendar. But ... I will be back in 2016!

Another race I want to repeat is Thunder Road Half. It was supposed to be my second Half in 2010, only to be sidelined by injury. The year after a hard recovery, I changed it to a 5K and then deferred it again in 2012. Do t know why this race made me uneasy.

I finally decided I was going to run it. People had been warning me about its difficulty, however I felt I had to run it.

Untrained I ran the first 10 miles with ease. (By ease I mean a challenge that felt good, because it is a tough course). I remember thinking I only have a 5K ... and after that thought ... I fell apart. Hardest 5K of my life.

Funny thing is I fell in love with the course, and signed up to come back the following year and show the course.

I was on track, but my boss decided to run the Half with the office and I was chosen as a running mentor. My intent to show the course had to be put in the back burner.

I loved the coaching experience, and my group of new runners did wonderfully. The goal was start together and finish together. And that I did. I crossed the line after everyone had crossed. However ... I still haven't shown the course. I intend to, come next November.

Summarizing: I will most likely repeat a race if there is unfinished business or of it is an iconic race like Boston. Running races that benefit a cause that I hold dear will grant a repeat, but other than that I will leave my races touched once. At least, that is how I feel today.

Happy running.

A dopo,

J

Friday, January 30, 2015

... Atlanta Hot Chocolate 15K ...

Sunday January 25th I ran my last race of January. Due to the fact that my Achilles is not completely healed, I find myself trying to excuse my performance prior to actually running. Not one for excuses, I am not liking this new need I have to put myself down even prior to an event being completed. I guess I'm just afraid of what my body will do. Now that January is almost done, I will make it a February priority just to embrace the race, no matter the outcome.


It took me three hours and a half to get to Atlanta on a sunny glorious day. It took me one hour to get from the highway exit to the Expo parking. Apparently there were three other important events that made downtown Atlanta a mess. I was flustered, but happy I decided to go straight to the Expo after leaving relatively early as well.

 
I missed the $15 dollar parking entrance, so I decided to park on the street. Fortunately, the Atlanta Hot Chocolate 15K is a well organized race. They sent many emails with helpful information and instructions, that I was able to zoom by the Expo as the bib distribution was fast and effective. The Expo was small and I decided to forego it as I was afraid that my car would get towed. I was surprised to find such a small expo. I must admit I'm not much of an expo kind of girl, so I was not too disappointed.



Once the packet pick up was completed, I proceeded to go back to the places I remembered. I graduated from Emory University in1990 and had not been back since.
 

Basically the only thing I recognized was the university entrance. Emory has grown so much. I went to fraternity row that now houses even sorority houses. I went up and down looking for Pi Kappa Alpha and Tau Epsilon Phi ... I was unable to find either. Those were my hangout places and it was surreal to see other fraternities in their place. I know that Pike is still at Emory .. I just could not find it. I was highly surprised to find that my sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi, (I deactivated), was banned two years ago as a punishment for hazing.

 
Next stop was the bookstore to buy a sweatshirt. I still have and wear the sweatshirt I bought on the first day of school back in 1986. Unfortunately, I missed the opening hours for 15 minutes. OK. Maybe next time.

I then proceeded to try to find my apartment. Another fail. I found myself not remembering much, or rather not recognizing much. Only the street names were familiar to me after all these years.

I finally made it back to the hotel. Walked all the way to Legal Seafoods only to find it was closed for renovations. It was a beautiful night and being close to Centennial Park and the Aquarium made my walk pleasant, as the streets were busy and alive, so I was able not to feel disappointed and enjoyed the starry night.

In the end I opted for a Papa Johns pizza - delivery, of course, and went to bed early. PERFECT!

 
Original time of arrival suggested for race time was 6:30 AM, however due to the additional events they asked us to arrive earlier. And so I did. 5:40AM, earlier. I know. I'm exaggerated. I proceeded to the merchandise tent to see if I could shield myself from the cold with a few other runners.

At 7:00 AM I proceed to the gear check. I was feeling cold at the merchandise tent, but oh ... once I stepped outside I really felt the chill. After I left my bag, I continued onto my corral to warm-up.

I felt my left Achilles and was a little nervous about it. They were strict with the corrals which I actually like. A million porta potties, and all organizational areas - seamless. It was so cold that Sunday morning. I literally could not feel my toes. And I didn't for at least two miles into the race.

After a 3 min wait after the wheelchair and Corral A start, they let my corral go. I had prepared myself not to go out too fast, as I frequently do. I don't think that I could have gone any faster with my feet feeling frozen. I didn't want to risk injury, so my initial miles slower than I wanted them to be.

I trotted along fortunately with not much pain from the Achilles. I only really felt my left Achilles around mile 6. I was happy. I was feeling good, except for my breathing, as it was labored because of my cold.

I was surprised that there was almost no crowd support. I don't know if it was due to its downtown location or due to the weather, however with 7000 plus runners, I really didn't miss it. The stations were fun, (chocolate and marshmallows), and the volunteers superb.

The course was tough, especially the really long hill at mile 8ish. Rolling hills, that even if tough, seem to be the type of course preferred by my legs.

On another note ...

One thing I couldn't and can't stand in races is when people run with music. I normally don't run with music. I just did it for a month at the beginning of my running career. After that original month, I started realizing that I loved the sound of my feet pounding the pavement, and never used music again.

So back to the music. The wheelchair division got a head start, but with all the hills a few runners caught up to them. More than once the companion bike had to actually tap the person on the shoulder in order to have them move for the safety of the wheelchair and the runners, because all the alerts were in vain. All of them used both earphones, and listened to the music too loud. What happened with enjoying the race and leaving the music at home? I felt annoyed.
The announcer was funny and I couldn't help but laugh at all his little tid bits of conversation as we crossed the finish line.


I crossed the line happy and healthy.


In summary. It's a well organized race with a yummy Hot Chocolate Fondue and goodies upon arrival. Here again. No wait. Pretty medal. Great organization.
 
This being said, I do not do many themed or novelty races and even though I liked the course, I don't think I will be repeating it. This is just me. If someone is more lenient in this aspect, it would be a good race to repeat.

I'm looking forward to February and continuing my journey and quest for injury semi-pain free running.

A dopo,

J

Saturday, January 17, 2015

... sometimes things do happen for a reason ...

During trying times those who love us are quick to give us pearls of wisdom, often in times in the shape of a well-known cliché.  It easy to secretly say a choice word or two in your head because you know they mean well.  It is hard to hear really any type of advice or thoughts as you are going through life's challenges.

As I sit here thinking of the year ahead and what my life has been since during this past year ... I realize that yes, things do happen for a reason.


Divorce - 21 years of a life together, there were many beautiful years and we had a beautiful family for many of those 21 years, thankfully. But, things changed ... and here I am divorced.  Though it saddens me that my marriage didn't last forever ... as I had dreamt and expected since I was a little girl .. I am serene and happy, in my new life. 

I need only take care of my needs and this is not half bad - my time! My number one worry, concern, and thoughts, of course are always my girls, but as they embark into a true life of their own, I find myself grateful to have this new life.

Work - Where to begin ... I love to work ... I always have ... however it was hard to deal with some changes in my role that happened last year. I guess any change is difficult.

One significant change has been my travelling.  Now instead of travelling what seemed every other week, I find myself not travelling at all. 

I have always travelled in all my jobs and now that I don't have to.  I am actually so surprised that I love not having travel.  I have my time back!  There are no trips to recoup from, no miles to skip, no organizing Dante at the dog sitter! Another added benefit is that I can fit any race when I want to, because all my time is my own.  I think I have 14 races on the schedule.

And how does this tie in with the cliché? Well, because back then as all these changes were occurring, I just could not see that things were happening for a reason.

I've had a full week at work, full of problems, tons to do. This week I should be in Italy for a show, as I used to be every year.  This year I am not there, and though I miss my co-workers, my international co-workers, seeing the novelties first-hand and seeing all our vendors and customers in the same place, I am relieved that I was able to deal with all these things/problems at work here at my desk and not oversees with texts and emails over a horrible internet connection.

As I reflect on the new year and all that happened last year ... I see now that things do happen for a reason. I see it, I understand it ... I didn't understand it then ... I was probably not ready to internalize this wonderful - overused - completely accurate cliché .. things happen for a reason ...

***

I ran today ... it was tough ... a 4 miler race that my running club organized.  I am happy because my right Achilles felt good and my left felt better.  My breathing was horrible, as I am still recuperating from my cold.

I should stop ... I don't want it to seem I am excusing my performance.  I won 3rd in the Masters category.  :) Yes, I said, Masters.

Turchese turned 21! So ask me if I feel old and the answer will be ... yes, yes I feel old. :)

New monthly race recap and running stats to come next week!

Stay tuned, a dopo ... J