Monday, December 12, 2011

Three half marathons, three months, three states?!

OMG! OMG! OMG!  Okay, I'm not normally a giddy school girl type of OMGer, but this is kinda warranted.  I just got this in my email today: 

Dear Tammy Bumgarner:

Congratulations! This e-mail serves as your confirmation into the Canyonlands Half Marathon on March 17, 2012.

Oh, wow.  Ever since we started running, we talked about running this half marathon.  It's through beautiful Castle Valley right outside of Moab, Utah.  Moab is a special place for Shane and me.  We've visited there nearly a dozen times on vacation.  We have dreamed of owning a retirement home there one day.  We thought running in this half marathon would be so awesome, but never really thought we would get a chance.  It's a very popular race, so there is a lottery to get in. 

Last week, I saw on Facebook that the deadline for entering the lottery was ending at midnight.  When I read the information, it said that we could register as a "group".  That way, if one of us got in, we both got it.  So, we registered and didn't think much more about it. 

Then we got the emails this morning.  Shane got his first and called me.  He asked me if we won the lottery.  Since the half marathon lottery was already out of my head, all sorts of thoughts entered my mind.  What is he talking about?  Is there extra money in our bank account?  I don't remember playing the lottery?

Then he brought me back to reality by asking if I received the email yet.  I checked my email and saw it.  I can't believe it!  We got in!

Well, this should be interesting.  I am already registered for the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati in May.  I was planning to do Springfield's Lincoln Presidential Half in April.  Now, the Canyonlands Half in March.  Three half marathons, three states, three months.  No problem, right? 

I'd better start training already!  That's just 12 weeks away!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Frostbite Festival (10 miles) 2011 - My first repeat race

So, I thought my racing season was over.  I even wrote my end-of-season blog (read it here).  What happened, you ask?  I have NO idea.  There I was all allowing my season to be over, and someone asks me two days before the race, "Are you running the Frostbite this weekend?" 

Hmmmm, I hadn't thought about it.  Why hadn't I thought about it?  Top five reasons:
  1. It's a freaking hard race!  The course has tons of hills.  Hills in the beginning.  Hills in the middle.  Hills at the end.  I'm sure I've mentioned before....I hate hills.
  2. I already ran it last year, and I kind of thought of it as a "been there, done that" kind of a race.  I did it once, now I can call it "done", right? 
  3. I didn't train for it.
  4. It's December. 
  5. It's cold.
For all the reasons listed above, the top one that should keep me from running it is #3:  I didn't train for it.  At the mere mention of the race though, I was suddenly and unexplainably salivating like Pavlov's dog to run it.  Why?  The best I can figure out is to see how much I've improved in a year.  I have not repeated the same race or course since I started running in September 2010.  I have a baseline, but no comparison.

For the next 24 hours, I thought about registering.  I stalked the results from last year.  Third place in my division last year paced at 8:35.  I could do that.  Maybe.  Probability would have gone up had I been training for it.  I still looked at my recent race results (10K @ 8:36 and 5 mile @ 8:01 pace), and thought maybe I could pull it off?  I'm not sure why I allowing "placing" to dictate my thought process on this.  I think since I'm so goal oriented, to have an actual "thing" to represent accomplishment, it just motivates me.

I pulled up the registration page on Friday to discover that I missed the online registration deadline--ended Thursday at midnight.  Okay, that gives me until Sunday morning onsite registration to figure this out.  In the back of my mind, I already knew that I would be registering.  The weather that day was being forecasted with a high of 47 degrees!  That gets rid of argument #5.  It's not cold until it's under 30 degrees for me.  Last year, as of race time, it was 11 degrees with the wind chill.

It was right about that time that an online friend from messaged me and asked me how I was doing since I hadn't been posting much lately.  I told her I was doing okay, and for some strange reason, thinking about running the Frostbite on Sunday.  She messaged me back that due to sickness and injury that she wouldn't be running and offered me to run in her place.  I thanked her for the offer, but I was sure they wouldn't allow transfers. 

However, out of curiosity, I checked the local Springfield Road Runners Club page and the online registration page.  Neither of them said anything about no transfers.  So I emailed the race director, not expecting much.  Imagine my surprise when I had an email sitting there Saturday morning saying they will allow the transfer!  I think this sealed the deal.  I messaged Tara and coordinated getting her bib number and chip from her.

I wake up the morning of the race, and I'm just ready to go.  This will be the first race that Shane is not running with me (except for the women's biathlon--self-explanatory).  It's kind of weird.  I'm going solo.  I'm okay with that since I've ran the race before.  Normally, that idea would weigh heavily on me--doing something new by myself.  I'm weird like that.  Don't judge me.

At the race location, I find Tara who not only gives me her number and chip, she gives me her whole registration packet including the sweatshirt!  I'm floored by her generosity because I've already offered her money--at the very least to split the registration (when I thought I was just getting the number and chip)--and she turned it down. It's an early Christmas present she tells me.  We've never met in person until that moment, and she's giving me all her stuff with no strings attached.  That just doesn't happen in this world often anymore.  I think that I thank her so much that I'm getting annoying, but I go on anyways. 

After running the bag back to the car, I run inside to the 20 person line in the women's bathroom.  I remember this from last year.  The race will be starting in 25 minutes. I am thinking about heading outside to do some warm up runs, and I run into Rick Snow.  Rick has been running with us at many different races this year.  Our after-race picture from last year's Frostbite Festival includes Rick as well.  We talk about pace goals and ours seem similar, so we decide that we are going to start off together and see how that goes.  I had settled on an 8:30 goal pace.  It seems reasonable. 

After a warm up run down the street, Rick and I head to the starting area.  We run into Natalie there.  She just recently started running, and is running the two mile race this morning.  She just ran her first 5K a few weeks ago, and she's coming back for more!  I love when that happens to someone.  That means they are starting to "get it".  Soon they will be addicted too! <evil laugh>

The moment of truth has arrived.  They count it down, and we are off in a sea of people.

Sure, we are smiling now. Just wait...
We are checking our GPS constantly to try to find that right pace, and we are hovering close to 8:10-8:15.  I'm actually liking that pace right now.  Yeah, only 9.5 miles left to go, I'm sure I can maintain it based on the first mile that's mostly downhill.  Ha!  We are able to talk a lot the first mile, and my breathing feels good.  I feel pretty darn good right now!  The first mile consists of getting out of the neighborhood, down a hill and up a slight (in comparison to the others) hill to the first mile marker. This is the point the two milers turn back. 

Mile 1 done:  8:27 pace.  It felt good to me.  I'm hoping to maintain this, but we haven't even gotten into the challenge of this course yet.

This mile of the course is pretty boring.  There are some ups and downs through subdivision areas down West Washington.  We are still able to hold a decent conversation, but I feel like we are slowing down the pace.  Through discussion and re-evaluation, the new goal pace seems to be somewhere in between 8:30 and 8:40 now.  That's where we are pace-wise.  As we finish up the subdivisions and head toward the country roads (and the huge hills), the wind blocks we had with houses are dropping away.  It is blowing out of the west and in our faces.  Thankfully, it's really not that bad, and it's a pretty nice temperature for December, so I'm not complaining.

Mile 2 done:  8:35 pace.  If I can stay here, I won't be disappointed.  However, I see hills.  Big hills.

As we start the (unarguably) worst mile of this route, I'm still feeling okay.  We are passing a few people as others are settling into their paces.  We head down the first big, long hill.  The pounding this puts on my knees is bad.  I'm thinking a lot about form and how to cushion those blows.  We get to the bottom, and DAMN, wouldn't you know it--we have to go back up.  I put my head down and push through.  We've got another big hill after this one.  Back down.  Back up.  Surprisingly, we get through those feeling fairly well.  At least I am feeling okay for now.  I don't even think our paced dropped too bad.  We hit mile three, and the GPS confirms our pace.

Mile 3 done:  8:34 pace.  We are right on it!  I'd like to stay here.

We start into the fourth mile which begins fairly flat over a bridge, but then it heads uphill on a slow incline.  I'm thinking I need to make up some pace on the flats so that I can lose some time on the hills.  Rick tells me that he's just not feeling that pace at the moment, and tells me to go ahead if I feel like it.  I totally understand.  It's hard to run a full race with someone else.  Sometimes people are feeling better and sometimes it's worse.  There are so many factors to lead into whether or not you're going to have a good race day.  Since I was still feeling pretty good at this point, I wish him well, and move ahead.  It's time for some music!  Thank goodness, it will help me shut out this slow incline for the next quarter mile. 

The top of the incline at the corner is about the place we saw the lead runner on his way back last year.  I'm happy to report that I don't see a runner heading back yet.  That means I've gotten farther faster this year, if I ever had a doubt. 

Mile 4 done:  8:40 pace.  I know we dropped off for a while.  I need to watch the pace better.

Coming up to the last waterstop heading this direction, I remember that I brought fruit chews with me to give me some fast carbs. I open the package and start eating a few. My mouth is dry, so they aren't going down well. Thanks goodness for the waterstop! I take a cup and walk a few seconds while making sure every drop counts. If I'm going to get through this, I'd better hydrate, because I'm feeling thirsty--which means I'm probably already dehydrated. I start running again, and I know the end is getting close.

Just past the waterstop, I see the lead runner heading back.  I count several men before the first female.  After her, I start counting how many females are in front of me.  It occupies my mind for a while, at least.  I see several girls who look about 14 years old.  By the time I hit the turn-around, I think I've counted 26 females in front of me.

Mile 5:  8:45 pace.  My slowest mile so far even though it was mostly flat.  Probably due to the walk-through on the waterstop and fumbling with fruit chews. 

Almost immediately after the turn, I see Rick not far behind me.  I give a little cheer for the halfway point and run on.  I am enjoying seeing all the people running.  They are people of all shapes, sizes, and ages.  They all got up on a December morning to run 10 miles, and it's just awesome.  My favorite is a group of white haired ladies all running together--not doing too bad on pace either.  Simply inspiring!

Heading back, I watch my pace better, and I seem to be gaining on people.  I pass a couple that passed me earlier in the race.  They are walking now.  One of them must have hit a wall.  Next I move up behind a younger guy.  He says "good job" as I pass, and I manage to mumble something back, but my brain wasn't ready for conversation, so mostly it was an incoherent grunt.  I'm still feeling okay, still dry, so I grab more water again back through the waterstop.  Hopefully, it will loosen some of the fruit chews still stuck in my teeth.  I think in a normal situation, saliva would help dissolve them.  No saliva equals fruit chews stuck on teeth.  I don't walk through this stop, but I've decided to take some water in each time it's available on the way back.

Mile 6:  8:34 pace.  Better.  This is where I would like to stay for the rest of the race.

I see the Memorial Sportcare vehicle following the final participants during this mile.  Also, the younger guy I grunted at earlier starts to pass me.  I look at my pace, and I've slowed again.  Time to pay attention.  It was like I was daydreaming for a minute or something.  I end up running along side the guy for a while just making sure I keep ahead of him.  I am using him for motivation to stay on pace when an older lady races by me.  I try to keep up with her, but she's pacing fairly fast and starts widening the gap.  Then another guy blows by.  Where are these people coming from?!  We start heading down the gradual slope to the next mile marker.  I feel like I'm stomping my feel down the hill, so I try to step with the least impact as possible.  My knees and back are starting to feel the effects of the day.  I remind myself that I have a mere 5K race to go.  I'm getting closer!

Mile 7:  8:32 pace.  Good pace.  Happy with that one.

Just after the mile marker, I turn the corner and see the hills coming.  I get passed by another female.  She's going at a pretty good pace as well.  Seriously, where are these people coming from?!  Down the hills.  Up the hills.  I'm trying my hill mantra ("Kill the hills"), and it's just not working.  I feel like I'm doing a slow trot up the hills.  I am seriously shocked that no one is passing me now.  There must be a big gap between that last girl and the next person behind us.  I am fully expecting the guy I passed earlier to pass me back up.  I don't turn to look though, and he doesn't pass me.  I keep my head down.  I push through the hills.  Each step is excruciatingly tough.  I feel like walking.  I pass a guy who decided to walk up.  Not far now!  When I finally reach the top of the biggest hill, I am exhausted!  I feel like I just emptied my tank completely.  Uh-oh.  I try to psyche myself up by reminding myself that I'm approaching the next mile marker.  Only two miles left.  Two freaking miles!  That's it! You can do this!

Mile 8:  9:18 pace.  No comment.

I think this is the closest I've come to hitting a wall.  It isn't a total wall because I am still moving, but I feel like I need to just slow down and recover.  I am looking for inspiration anywhere, so I start skipping through songs on the iPod.  I hit a couple that energize me a little.  I crank the volume.  I hope that I don't drop off pace too much.  I get passed by another guy.  Sigh.  I trudge through, aching and tired.  This is where training (and maybe a recent run longer than eight miles) would have helped.  I haven't run more than eight since the half marathon back in April.  Blah.

I see the final mile marker ahead.  I see the cop car in the road not too far from the turn onto Koke Mill.  I see the last hill on Washington Street.  Sigh--hills again.

Mile 9:  8:56 pace.  I'm not surprised.  Not happy about it either, but what can I do?

Not a happy camper!
Come on, Tammy.  All you have is ONE little mile left to go.  Less than 10 minutes and you'll be done.  You have one last crappy hill to conquer.  That's it.  You can do this, right?  Perfect time to get your picture taken, right?  NOT!  I can't protest though. Not enough energy. 

I turn onto Koke Mill.  I see the turn into the neighborhood.  I see the hill.  I guess I'd rather the hill be steep and quick instead of the long a drawn out one on Washington Street.  Kill the hill!  I head into it and push as hard as I can.  I tell myself that I'm almost done.  I tell myself that this is the last big challenge.  I tell myself that I have about a half mile left.  I can do this!  I get to the top, and even though I'm aching, I find a little bit left.  I take the two turns in the neighborhood to get to the straight-away that leads to the finish line. 

Once I reach the straight-away, there is no one near me to race to the finish like I've done on other races.  The last guy who passed me is too far ahead.  I'm going to settle for not allowing myself to get passed, but there's no one right behind me either.  I cruise toward the finish line, and I may have increased my pace a little for the last 50 feet or so, but not much.  I was pretty much all out of gas a mile ago.  I crossed the finish line on sheer will, and other than the triathlon, I have not been so happy to be done with a race.

Mile 10:  8:53 pace.  Whatever.  I'm done, and that's all that counts.  Woo-hoo!

I didn't stop my GPS right away.  My final time on my watch was 1:27:58.  It should be close to that.  At least I know it was probably 1:27 something.  That would make my pace right around 8:42ish?  In the grand scheme of things, I am very happy with that time.  Last year's third place in my division paced just seven seconds per mile faster.  It's respectable.  Again I say:  I'm done, and that's all that counts.  Rick comes in right behind me.  We both improved our times from last year tremendously.  My improvement is roughly 15 minutes faster than last year.

Final official time:  1:27:48 (8:47 pace), 5/13 in my division, 33/106 women, 83/194 finishers.
We're done!!

Even though I didn't even come close to placing in my division, I'm okay with that.  My division (F35-39) seems to be one of the most competitive for women, and it got even faster this year.  The third place finisher came in more than five minutes before me.  These are some fast women for sure!

As I reflect on my race experience, I am so glad I did this race.  I am so thankful to Tara who gave me her spot.  I am grateful for the opportunity to measure how far I've come in a year's time.  I am also very anxious to see where I can go one day when I am able to get in quality training runs as opposed to just running when I can fit it in here and there.  Training for this race would have made a world of difference on those last two miles, I'm sure of it.

Well, this should be my last post of the year.  There's no more races that I'd possibly run and things will get crazy soon with the holiday approaching.  So, as the year closes, I'm thankful a great 2011 and hoping for an even better 2012!   May all your runs be good ones and may you stay injury free!  Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and have a wonderful new year!  Until next time....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thoughts about this racing season - 2011

As my first full racing season is winding down, I have been reflecting on what I've accomplished this year and I am amazed.  I have reached things I didn't dream that I could accomplish.  This is not a pat on my own back, but this is me urging you that you can become a runner even if you don't think you can!  You can push further and become something you didn't believe you could be if only you could get out of your own way.

I was recently told that maybe I need to change the name of my blog.  With my recent first place finish and new PR, maybe I wasn't such a "newbie" anymore.  The naming issue crossed my mind earlier this year, but when I really think about it, I am still very much a newbie.  Somehow, God has graced me with some physical abilities that are beyond my comprehension, and for that I am thankful.  However,  I am not only referring to physical abilities, but the journey as a whole.  My mind and my body are still growing and learning the rules of this new journey I am on.  I am still a newbie, don't let the veneer fool you.

I look back at my mental state a year ago.  I was hating some runs.  I was thrown off by the end of daylight savings time.  I wasn't running enough.  My brain told me that the Frostbite Festival 10 mile run was a crazy thing to sign up for, not to mention the half marathon that I would eventually run in the spring. 

All of these things put seeds of doubt in my head.  Any one of these could have derailed me.  I could have said this is just too hard.  It's just not worth it.  Oh, thank goodness I didn't allow myself to get in my own way!  Here are the things I would have missed this year:
  • Two 5K personal records (PRs) in May (25:15), and again in October (23:41).
  • Completing a half marathon in 10 minutes less than I anticipated (2:01:00).
  • Lost 15 pounds.
  • A first place medal in my age division for a 5K.
  • Long runs with amazing talks with my husband!
What if I told myself this was too hard?  What if I told myself that I didn't have the time?  What if I told myself I couldn't do it?  Simply stated, I would have been so very wrong.  I would have missed out on some amazing things and amazing feelings that I just can't replicate.  Pulling on these memories now, they still make me smile.

So, you don't think you can run?  You are trying to run, but still hate it?  You can't find the time to run?  I've been there.  Believe me, I understand.  I used to refer to the negative little voice in my head a lot at the beginning of this blog.  One day, I told that voice to shut up.  I took control of the situation.

Sometimes you have to recognize the little voice and tell it to shut up.  Whatever it takes.  Get mad at it!  PROVE IT WRONG!  If you've never been one for confrontation, there's no one better to confront besides that annoying voice in your own head telling you that you can't do something.

If you are not running now but want to, find a couch-to-5K program and follow it.  Go slow, and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.  Find a race to register in the spring, and don't back down! 

If you've fallen off the wagon, get back on with a vengence.  Don't let life pass you by and don't make excuses. 

If you are regularly running, go farther and/or faster by changing up your running plan.  Find some new running buddies if things are getting stale.  Keep it new and it will renew you!

Just get out there.  Just run...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Run for Hungry Children - 5K

I've been waiting for this race for a while.  I haven't done a 5K since May--the Fat Ass 5K--and that one was just a mess!  It was too laid back, too weird of a course, we didn't know where the start or finish was, and I didn't have my GPS.  I wanted a new PR--a good PR--and one that I didn't have any doubt that I gave it my all.

The Run for Hungry Children was a race that I signed up for in May of 2009.  It was supposed to motivate me to run again and to be my first 5K race ever.  Jocelyn was 10 months old.  I signed up, then I failed miserably at even attempting to train for it.  I ending up walking the 3K and pushing Jocey in a stroller. 

I signed up for the race again in the spring of 2010, only to find out the the Springfield location race site was not happening.  So that year, I was a fundraiser only.  I don't know if I would have ran the 5K then either.  If I remember correctly, really thought I would "try" to run it, but I didn't even seriously attempt running until August of 2010.

Then comes 2011.  They announced the race at church, and I was excited.  Excited because this race had alluded me for two years.  Excited because this is such a worthwhile cause.  Excited because my church is hosting and a lot of people I knew would be running it with me.  Excited because I am actually ready to race it for once!

The morning of the race, I am feeling good.  I haven't ran all week though.  My last run was the five mile race  last weekend.  I'm hoping that the recovery time will just help my pace today.  I had no question in my mind about my race goal today.  This is probably the most clear I have ever been with a race goal:  goal pace will be 7:40 with a goal time to finish under 24 minutes.  My last race was 25:15.  I know it's a big jump, but I've been running well this year.  Every race has felt great, and I've pretty much hit or exceeded my goals each time.  I'm going to stretch myself today. 

We arrive at the church, and it's pretty cold and windy.  I forgot my gloves at home.  Boo!  I can't decide if I want to keep the fleece on or not.  Shane and I take a warm-up run around the park and head up the hill at Centennial Park.  It's a beautiful day, but just so chilly!  We get into the starting line crowd and listen to a few announcements.  There's 10 minutes to race time, and that is when I realize that I've left my iPod in the car which is parked more than a quarter mile away.  Bummer.  Do I run back to the car and get it?  Do I run without it?  I know I CAN run without it, but I love my music.  I want perfect conditions for a perfect race, so I run back to the car.  The whole time I wonder if this run might help or hurt me in the race .  I peek down at my pace and I'm not over doing it.  I'm keeping it reasonable, but worried I won't make it back in time for the start.

I get back to the starting line in the middle of the national anthem.  Just in time!  I check my watch and there is less than two minutes to start time.  Now I am warm.  I take my fleece off and look around for someone, anyone, that I can hand it to.  The race is about to begin.  Yikes.  There's Jeff!  I hand it off to him and 3-2-1 go!  The race has started!

We race down to the road, turn the corner and get on the Sangamon Valley Trail.  This will be a straight, flat course; great for a PR run.  I'm following the group of fast lead runners while trying to keep some semblance of my goal pace.  As always, fast off the line.  I can't help it!  I force myself to slow down.  I check my GPS, and force myself to slow down again.  I hate being passed, but I know it's early in the race.

I settle into my goal pace range fairly easy today.  If I can remember correctly, there's only one female in front of me.  She is fast though.  She's running with the big boys.  I won't be able to catch her.  If I can just stay in front of the rest of them, that would be awesome.  I check myself before mile one, and I'm feeling good.  Breathing is steady and strong.  Legs feel great.  Pace is good.

Mile 1:  7:30, ten seconds faster than goal pace.

I start to analyze my pace on mile one.  I think the first quarter of a mile made that a fast mile for me, so I'm going to try to stay at my current pace.  So far, it feels okay.  I will just stay here, hovering between 7:30 and 7:40.  During this mile, I pass a few of the guys who started ahead of me.  As I get closer to the turn-around, I see the leader coming back at me.  I am seeing all the pack leaders heading back the other way including Shane.  He looks like he's doing good!  Go Shane!

As I round the cone to head back, I evaluate who is right behind me.  There are two females that are right there behind me, they are the next two runners.  I will really have to keep at it if I want to stay in second place.  As I get closer to the two mile mark, I am starting to feel the effects of the pace.  I feel like I'm starting to run low on energy.  My legs are feeling a heavier. 

Mile 2:  7:35, still good for my goal pace. Even if I slow down now, I'm probably still going to make it.

This last mile and a tenth is going to be a challenge for me.  I know it already.  As I'm pushing through my slowly setting fatigue, I hear footsteps behind me getting closer.  Then I see her in my peripheral vision.  It's the girl running right behind me.  Then she's next to me.  Then she's in front of me.  She looks about 13--darn you, with your young legs!!  I urge my legs to keep up with her.  I think if I can stay behind her, I could catch her at the end straight-away to the finish line.  Unfortunately, that plan crumbles quickly before my eyes as she gets further and further ahead of me.  I get passed again by a guy who was just behind me at the turn around as well.  I'm begging my legs to go faster, but they aren't cooperating.  I think this might be all I have to give. 

I forget about the other runners and start thinking about my goal pace again.  I look down and see that I'm all over the place with my pace.  I'm starting to hear my breathing sound a bit labored--more so than I've really ever heard it before.  I focus on steady breathing.  I focus on my form.  I relax my shoulders and arms.  I thank God for the beautiful day, and I just keep running. 

The end of the trail, and the final quarter of a mile is in my sights.  I am careful to not get too excited because I still have a ways to go before I can empty the tank.  I check my GPS, and I see my time is 22 minutes and some change.  The GPS chimes out that mile three is done. 

Mile 3: 7:50, I'm not surprised at all.  I just couldn't maintain it.  I know I'm on the edge of my abilities.  I'm just glad that I have room for the slow down.

Almost to the finish line!
I realize that I am just over 23 minutes now and have less than a 10th of a mile to go.  It looks like I can reach my overall time goal.  At least, I think so (I'm always so bad with calculating this stuff while running).  I make the final turn onto the short stretch before the finish line.  The girl and guy who passed me earlier are too far ahead to catch again, so I don't worry too much about them, but I am going to make sure I get my time goal.  I push hard and slowly increase my pace.  My legs just don't want to shift gears any faster, but I get up to a decent sprint at the end.  I see Shane cheering me on near the finish line.  I run all the way through, get handed a bottle of water, and I stop my watch a few seconds later. 

I look down and I see that my GPS says 23:45!  I did it!  I got my goal of under 24 minutes for a 5K!  I am so happy that I exceeded my goal.  I walk away from the finish line taking deep breaths, trying to get it under control.  I am done with the race, and I feel awesome!  I get so many encouraging words from friends and fellow runners, that I'm just on a total high.

Final 0.12 miles:  6:49 pace.  That helped my overall time a bit.  I guess I still had a little something left at the end.

At this point, I know that I am third overall female.  The first place female might be in my age group, so I don't know if I got first in my division.  I know the second place girl is way younger than me.  I'm sure she's young enough to be my daughter (if I was a VERY young mother!  Ha!). 

I am watching my other friends finish.  I am so proud of many of my friends who ran this race today.  Chenoa started the Couch to 5K program not too long ago.  Rick is running with her and coaching her through it.  Rachel has been running on and off for a while, but today is her first "official" 5K.  Dustie is running her first 5K in more than a year due to pregnancy and giving birth five months ago.  Shannon started running again after time off and has been training hard and losing weight for the past couple of months.  They are all crossing that finish line with their heads held high today!

I see Shannon, Rachel and Dustie finish, and I cheer them on!  I walk back to the trail to find Chenoa on the way to the finish line.  Shane and Rick are running with her.  She's got just about a quarter of a mile left.  We all run together offering her encouraging words.  She's about to complete her first 5K, and I'm blessed to be able to witness it!

Chenoa crosses the finish line, and she's so emotional about it she makes me want to cry too!  Awesome.  There is great stuff happened here today.  Not only the money raised for Bright Hope, but the sense of accomplishment that is going on in all these individuals.  The power of positive is just surrounding us!

We head back to the church after the race for snacks and to see the kids' races.  Let me tell you, that is about the cutest thing I've ever seen!  The little girl who won the 50 yard dash was so determined to win.  You could see it all over her face, and she was pretty fast!  I can't wait for Jocelyn to run in one of these.  Seriously adorable.

I look at the results posted and see my official time was 23:41.  I am so happy with that.  I feel great, and I'm sure I'm smiling from ear to ear.  Dustie comes by me and asks me if I saw that I won my division.  I didn't even realize that it was on the results, somehow I missed that.  We head into the auditorium for the awards ceremony, and I'm excited and nervous at the same time.  Even though Dustie just told me that I won my division, I don't really believe it.  Why I don't believe it, I don't know.  I was the third female overall.  What is so unbelieveable about being first in my division? 

They are annoucing the awards, and they actually call my name!  First place in the 30-39 female category.  I'm just amazed!  Wow!  This is my first medal, and it's a first place medal.  This has been the perfect race day for me.  Words can't even convey how I feel right now.  It's pretty awesome though.

I get a lot of congratulations from people, and it's overwhelming for me.  I love the accomplishment, but I am not as comfortable with the attention.  I guess I shouldn't have posted it on Facebook if I didn't want the attention, right?  My fault.  That's my dilemma sometimes.  I feel so good that I want to shout it from the mountaintops, but I don't necessarily want people to respond back.  My dumb social anxiety!!  I'm okay with the Facebook comments.  I guess I just have to deal with the repercussions of posting it for the world to see. 

It has been a year since my first 5K race in 2010.  It was also on Halloween weekend.  I clearly remember my goal from a year ago was to finish under 29 minutes, and I did it in 28:58.  I have increased that goal time now by more than five minutes.  Things can happen when you set your mind to something and put in the work to achieve it.  Seriously, never stop reaching for something you previously never imagined you could get.  There is nothing that a whole bunch of determination and a little bit of skills or knowledge can't overcome!

Until next time, signing off from Cloud 9.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Red Ribbon Run - 5 Miles

Yes, that says 5 MILES, not 5K.  It's not a hugely popular race distance; more than a 5K, but not quite a 10K.  I've never raced this distance before, so I was struggling to set a goal pace.  I ran the two mile race in August at 7:51 pace.  I ran a 10K (with hills), the following week at 8:36 pace.  I've done some speed work and tempo runs around 8:15, which was my last pace at a 5K race back in May.  Hmmmm, what is a reasonable pace without setting the bar too low?

I decide on 8:10, even though I want to go faster.  I want to run the 5K the following week at 7:40.  I don't know what I'm doing!  I'll just go out there and figure it out as I go.  I know it's not good to not have a plan.

The morning of the race, we show up at the park where the finish line is.  This is the first point-to-point race I've registered for.  It starts at the other end of a bike trail that runs between Springfield and Rochester.  We load ourselves on school buses that are shuttling people to the starting line.  The bus is rather quiet as we head down the road.

The war- up run.
As we arrive at the starting line, I see that there are hundreds of people already there.  Some running, some milling about trying to stay warm.  It's cool out, but not cold.  Perfect conditions for a run.  Sunny and in the fifties.  It might still be in the upper 40's right now though. 

We get off the bus and take a lap around the parking lot and around the building.  During the run, we see Dave Anderson who has volunteered to take race pictures.  We chat for a bit, but the race is going to begin in just a few minutes.  He takes one more pre-race photo of us, and we head back to the starting line. 

Before the race.  What a beautiful morning!
It's such a beautiful day for a run!  The fall colors have peaked, but leaves are still on the trees and still looking like a glorious fall morning.  We get into the starting line crowd and move toward the front of the pack.  I don't want to be too far up front, but enough that I don't have to run around too many people before we get to the bike path.  The race goes about a half mile through a parking lot before we hit the actual bike trail.  I am imagining a bottleneck happening if we don't get properly spaced out before we get there.

After a few announcements and thank yous, ready, set, go, and we are off!  Hello, starting line adreneline!  I am trying hard to force myself to lag behind Shane, but staying with him feels so natural.  I look at the GPS and it's telling me that I'm pacing around 7:30.  That is Shane's goal pace, not mine.  I slow down.  I get passed.  I don't like it, but I deal with it. 
Cheesy smile for the camera!
<--Photo by Dave, Perfect Concept Photography, taken at the beginning of the trail.  Boy, am I cheesing!  I keep forgetting my own very clear rule about ignoring the camera and trying to act candid and natural.

By the time we enter the trail, we are spaced fairly well.  For the next half mile or so, I keep getting passed.  It's irritating.  I look at my GPS to check my pace.  I'm not going too slow, am I?  No, I'm staying between 8:00 and 8:15, but I'm still bouncing around a lot trying to settle into a pace while people are still passing and being passed.  My GPS rings out.

Mile 1:  8:05 pace.  Faster than goal pace but I know it's because I ran the first quarter mile around 7:30.

Two guys running together pass me right as we turn onto the straight-away of the trail.  They are big guys, and they don't look like runners (sorry, I'm stereotyping--but I know I'm right!).  I decide to speed up a bit and hang out behind them.  There's no way they are going to keep up this pace!  And if they do, I want to see it to prove myself wrong.  Another guy passes me and gets between me and the big guys.  This guy looks more like a runner though.  After another half mile or so, the runner-looking guy decides to pass.  I check my GPS, and at least for now, it's saying 8:40ish.  No way!  Too slow!  I follow the guy around the two other guys, and check my GPS again.  Once it settles down from passing gear pace, I see that I'm still hovering way too slow, even following the runner-looking guy.  I decide to kick it in and pass him as well.

The long, straight race trail on a beautiful day!
With that done, I don't have too many people too close in front of me.  I settle into my happy pace, and cruise for a while.  Watch rings out that mile two is done.

Mile 2: 8:13 pace.  Oops.  That's a little slow.  A least the faster first mile will average it all out better than goal pace.

During this next mile, I get passed by three distinct people that I can remember.  One is a guy that I've seen at races before.  He's going a faster than I am, so I try to latch on to him.  I stay behind him a while with a slowly growing gap.  I check my GPS from time to time, and I'm consistently hovering below 8:00 pace.  I don't care that it's faster than my goal.  It feels good! 

The second memorable person who passes me is the only female to pass me after the initial start of the race.  Where has she been hiding out?!  She's cruising at a fairly good pace, and after speeding up a bit, I realize that if I try to keep up with her that I will most definitely hit a wall.  I don't even attempt it, and her bright yellow shirt gets farther away as she races off down the trail.  Now I'm just hoping she's not in my age group. 

The third person I remember mostly because we would pass and a re-pass each other a few times before the race is over.  I didn't count how many times in all, but a distinctly remember a few of them.  The watch chimes, and mile three is done!

Mile 3:  7:58 pace.  See what happens when you latch on to someone faster?

As we continue down the trail, I am still following the third runner who passed me--I shall call him "pacer-guy", but I'm close behind.  Either he's slowing down or I'm speeding up.  I'm starting to feel the effects of the pace.  I feel a little heavy in my legs.  I find myself watching my GPS a lot in this mile to make sure I don't slip down into slower territory.  I have to correct my pace again and again.  I flip through a few songs on my iPod hoping for some motivation.  A song by Muse allows me to rejuvenate a little.  I pass pacer-guy.

Mile 4:  8:13 pace for the second time this race.
Pacer-guy lurking behind me, about to pass me!

As I start mile five, I know it's the last mile left.  I know that there's only about eight minutes left to go.  We near the turn on the trail and the last water stop (where the picture to the right is taken).  I am still passing some people now and then.  I know I have to finish strong here.  As we go into the big turn to leave the bike trail and head into the park, I get passed by pacer-guy again.  He literally blows by me on the turn.  It irks me, so I hang out behind him making sure I stay close.  He's got some kind of renewed energy or something!  I struggle to stay close, and I think that I might be feeling something close to the runner's wall that I've heard about.  I've never really pushed myself long or hard enough to hit any kind of wall.  My legs want me to quit, but obviously it's not an option.  Pacer-guy is getting further away.

I keep hoping that the route cuts through the parking lot in the middle of the park, but I know better.  I am pushing hard to maintain my pace.  Right before the final stretch (about a quarter mile straight-away), I pass a clump of about five runners.  Once I see the blue finish line carpets in the distance, I start my "empty the tank" pace. 

Pacer-guy finishing right before me.
I feel my stride lengthen, and I pass a few more runners.  I am slowly closing ground on pacer-guy!  I pass one last person, and I'm right behind him.  We're just yards from the finish line now.  I slowly creep up on him to his left.  He sees me in his peripheral view and kicks it up another notch and pulls away.  I never catch him again, but I cross the finish line with a very respectable overall time.

Yay!  I'm done!
Mile 5:  7:41 pace.  I'm pretty proud I could do that pace after running four miles already.

I'm pretty happy with my results today.  I picked a good pace for myself and exceeded it.  I find myself doing that a lot.  Maybe next race, I pick a pace, and then up it by 10 seconds per mile.  That seems to be what I do most times anyways.  I still fear failure too much and always set my paces too cautiously.  Maybe I am afraid of setting my bar so high that I won't reach it.  I need to stop that.  I need to reach higher.  Who cares if I don't quite reach it, I'll get it the next time, right?  Right!

Overall results:  40:19, 14th female, 3rd in my division, 45th overall out of 337 finishers.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Memorial SportsCare Women's Biathlon 2011

Pre-race thoughts:  Going into this race, I was having a hard time figuring my goal paces.  I ran after biking in the triathlon two months ago for the first time, and it was just awful.  That was also after swimming for 20 minutes. 

Two weeks before the biathlon, Shane and I did a brick run.  A brick is a bike/run combo, simulating race conditions.  It can be shorter than the race, but since the race is a sprint, we did the whole thing:  12 miles on a bike and a 5K run.  It didn't go that bad.  As usual, I hated the biking part.  I was struggling to keep up with Shane who had gotten used to riding while pulling Jocelyn in a bike trailer.  The first couple of miles averaged over 17 mph, and that is way fast for me.  My usual biking runs average around 15.5 mph.  I felt a bit demoralized, but Shane slowed up and started coaching me a little. 

After the biking, we took off running.  I forgot how awful my legs would feel!  I've learned that the sensation of these heavy stumps is caused from the blood still going to the muscles that I used to bike while using different muscles to run.  It will take several minutes for the blood to redirect to the correct muscles.  Until then, I'm stuck feeling like I'm stomping my feet on the pavement with legs seemingly filled with concrete.  However, when it was all said and done, at the end of the run, I had extra in me to finish strong.  I averaged a respectable pace.  I can do this!

Unfortunately, I barely got on the bike again for the following two weeks.  That wasn't smart. 

After much deliberation, I set goal paces:  biking at or above 17 mph (doable, right?) and running at an 8:30 pace.  I think I can, I think I can!

Race Day

I got up and looked outside.  I couldn't see much further than 10 feet away.  A thick fog had moved in.  This should make for an intesting bike ride.  I checked the weather, and it was 42 degrees outside.  The humidity is probably 99%.  I wasn't even sure how to dress.  I knew what I would wear for running only, but I think it will be cold on that bike!

I settle on layers that I know I can strip off easily once the biking is done.  I gather my things, get my bike strapped to the car, and we head off.  Shane drops me off at the race location and then takes Jocelyn to my mom's house.  Mom's going to watch her so Shane can practice his sports photography and document this thing for me.

I pick up my timing chip, get my number written on my leg and continue to the bike rack.  I set up my bike and walk around to look for anyone I know.  At first I see no one, which is so strange because I know about ten people who participated last year.  I end up only seeing one person I know.   Someone I used to work with years ago.

We see Josh Hester, a talented photographer/videographer we know from church.  He works for Memorial and is covering the event.  We also run into Dave Anderson who is also taking some photos for his freelance work, Perfect Concept Photography.  Dave is talented as well.  Shane is going to work with him to pick up some pointers.

Starting line:  off we go!
After the national anthem, we all head to the transition area and the first group is called.  I am in wave three.  I nervously stand near my bike and chat with a few of the other ladies.  We hear the cheers for the first wave.  My stomach jumps a little.  The second wave is setting up, so we take our bikes off the racks and head out of transition. 

We line up on Koke Mill Road.  They count down to starting, and we are off!  I start near the front of the pack on the right side.  I pass several ladies, and several others are passing me.  I try to settle into a rhythm, check my GPS, and realize I forgot to start it.  I hit the start button.  I probably only got about a quarter of a mile down the road.  I felt like I was going fast, and my watch showed my speed above 17 mph.  Nice.  This is my goal pace! 

Then a funny thing happens--I realize that the same starting line adrenaline and speed rush I get at the start of running races just occured.  As I enter into the second mile, I am struggling to maintain a speed anywhere near 17 mph.  I don't have any type of rhythm and my breathing is all over the place.  The fog is still very thick on the country roads and processing oxygen seems to a struggle as well.  My lungs are working harder to take the moisture out of the air.

So far the course has been fairly flat, but the hills are coming.  We are beginning to run into the congestion of slower bikers from the waves before us.  Right before the first hill, someone from my wave passes me.  She's on a mountain bike, and it kind of irks me.  I'm on a road bike (so much lighter and meant for racing!) and I'm in decent shape, so I think that I should be able to keep up with anyone who is not on a road bike.  Wrong.  I pass her back up later.  She passes me up again.  We would do this several times through the ups and downs of the hills and turns that make up this course.  Did I tell you that I HATE hills while biking?  And that I HATE this biking course?!  This is killing me!

I keep pushing the hardest I feel I can go, but I keep finding my pace well below my goal pace of 17 mph.  Actually, I am rarely hitting a pace faster than 15 mph.  I feel frustrated because I usually average over 15 mph on my regular evening bike rides.  This is a race!  I should be able to go faster!

At times, the congestion of bikers on the narrow country roads have me hitting the brakes and coming to a near stand-still.  I applaud each and every one of these ladies for getting out here and doing this.  I know that for many of them, finishing the race is the only goal.  I just wish I didn't feel so rude weaving through them.  There's also cars driving on the course since it's not closed to traffic.  Most of the drivers were extremely courteous and stayed very slow.  However, some went roaring by, as if they were annoyed by the bike traffic.  A minvan from hell forces me to pass another biker on the right shoulder, which could have easily caused an accident.

After several frustrating miles, the final frustration arrives--West Washington Street.  I know these hills from running them last year during the Frostbite Festival (to read that experience, click here).  Big hills.  Massive hills.  There are several of them right in a row with each one getting successively larger.  The last one is a KILLER.  I push as hard as I can while trying to find the right gears.  I'm being passed.  I'm passing others.  I'm winded.  I'm struggling.  I'm in pain.  I'm hating every second of this.  I'm praying that God gets me to the top of this hill without falling over off my bike from going too slow. 

I made it!  I finally make it to the top! I know that was the worst of the hills. I can't remember how many more there would be.  My legs are hurting.  My lungs are hurting.  I feel like cruising around eight mph pace or so, but I can't.  I'm not done yet.  There's still two miles to go!

There's a few more modest hills on West Washington.  I see my friend Karen on the side of the road at the entrance of her subdivision ringing her cow bell and supporting everyone going by.  I yell hi to her, and she cheers for me.  Almost at this very moment, my left calf seizes up in a cramp.  It was like I quit pushing for a minute and the tendons tightened up.  It was as bad of a cramp as I can remember.  I push through it.  I had just passed a couple of ladies, but the cramp forced me to slow way down, and then I was just in their way.  I yell "sorry" as they pass me right back up.  Oh, it hurts so bad!

I continue on, looking at my watch which tells me I don't have far to go.  We turn on to Koke Mill Road, and I'm staring at the last hill.  I push as hard as my sore calf would take me.  There's also a ligament on the back of that knee that hates me as well.  I keep pushing and make it to the top.  A volunteer yells out that it's all downhill from here.  I pray he's not joking!

The transition area comes into sight!  Volunteers are directing traffic.  I get to the dismount area grateful that I am able to get off the bike. 

Official biking results:  Time 49:02.45. Average speed 14.7 mph. 60th place.

I walk my bike into the transition area.  It isn't too crowded.  My legs are feeling like jello--very heavy jello.  I feel like I'm walking in slow motion, so I pick it up to a slow trot with my bike.  I park it in my spot, take off my helmet, fleece, and I'm off!

Transition:  00:44.50.  19th place in transition.  =)

The running is bittersweet.  It is my strongest event, yet I feel so awkwardly unprepared due to my biking legs.  I stomp (it feels like stomps, at least) my way down Koke Mill.  The run begins on a sidewalk--a very narrow sidewalk.  There is a lot of people traffic.  There are walkers and runners of all paces heading down the walk.  It's way too crowded, and I think I'm going to twist an ankle while trying to pass on the grass.  I still feel like I have "sea" legs.  I could trip on my own feet at this moment very easily without the extra help of switching between grass and sidewalk.  A few others and I move out into the street, running down the side of the road.  This gives us a little more room to go a comfortable pace without feeling like we are runing someone down.

Mile 1: 8:36 pace, respectable.

I am counting the seconds as they tick by so slow.  I want my legs to feel better soon!  I look at my GPS and I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm hovering around my goal pace already.  It's so hard to judge your pace when you just got off a bike going 15 mph and your legs don't feel normal.  I keep my pace up the best I can.  My legs are really tired, but at least they are starting to feel more normal.

I'm feeling the spring come back in my step and begin passing people.  I check on my pace from time to time, and I'm staying on goal.  When my GPS finally chimes out mile 2, I feel like I have an eternity to go.  That can't just be two miles.  Come on, Tammy.  Just 1.1 miles left.  You can do it!

Mile 2: 8:37 pace.

I'm starting to feel weak in this last mile.  I find myself wishing I had my music.  This is when I would crank my iPod to push me through.  Most biathlons and triathlons prohibit having them on the course for safety reasons.  I miss my music!  I keep pushing past my mom's house, down to the corner and back around to Old Jacksonville Road.  I know that I'm close now! 

Photo courtesy of
We're back on a skinny sidewalk for a short distance before we hit the parking lot of the Koke Mill Medical Center.  The finish line is in the parking lot just up ahead.  My watch rings out mile three is done, and I start to run with everything I have left.  I can push hard for a 10th of a mile.

Mile 3:  8:28 pace

I turn the corner in the parking lot toward the finish line and run as fast as I can.  My legs still have a little left in them, and I feel like I finish strong.  I run across that finish line through a crowd of people. 

I am done!  Hallelujah!

Official 5K time:  26:13.85, 8:27 pace, 24th place.

Overall Finish:  1 hour and 16 minutes on the nose.  28th place overall.

While I am disappointed with my biking time, I am happy with my overall performance and my run.  My running pace was three seconds per mile faster than my goal.  I can handle that.  So, my post-race thought is if I want to do this again, I seriously need to work on my biking.  I bought that pretty bike, and it really needs to do more than lean up against a wall in my living room.  I need to learn how to spin.  I need to get past loathing the biking, and start to enjoy the experience. 

Look, I'm smiling (kind of).

This time a year ago, I felt the same way about running as I do biking right now.  I didn't enjoy running a year ago.  It was a challenge and a means to an end.  Now, I love the experience of running.  I love the feeling that I get during and after a great run.  Hopefully in time, I'll feel the same way about biking. 

The rest of the day, when I should have been recovering, I was spending time on my feet with my daughter at an apple orchard. By bedtime, I was walking funny and had severe pains in my legs and calves.  My left achilles was aching.  I also had a wet cough for hours as my lungs tried to get rid of the water I breathed in all morning.  I felt rough, but I would recover eventually.  I spent the evening on the couch with my husband fixing dinner and pampering me.  I'm one lucky girl.  ;)

This was a fun event regardless of my whining about things. I'm glad I did it and set the bar for improvement when I do it again next year!

Click here to watch Memorial's video montage of the event.  I didn't make the final cut.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Beautiful morning "run-rises"

I've been pretty faithful about my morning runs.  It's hard to believe I've been running regularly for a little over a year now.  This time last year, I was hating 50% or more of my runs.  I hadn't quite figured it all out yet.  What a huge difference a year can make! 

My Facebook status from one year ago:  "I ran 2.89 mi on Sep. 13, time: 00:28:59. Getting there...slowly. Need to increase the mileage. Those hillls kick my butt though!" (10:02 pace).  Pace on this morning's four mile run, 8:55/mile.  I'd say that's a decent improvement! 

If you are not running now, take the first step and you will be able to see how far you've come in a year as well. It's very rewarding.  One of the other rewards of getting up early to run is the sunrises (a/k/a "run-rises") that I get to see.  It may be hard to get my butt out of bed each morning, but I always enjoy the morning view!

Just look at what you are missing:

September 1, 2011

September 8, 2011

September 13, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Abe's Amble 10K - 2011

It's bright and early, and my alarm goes off.  Time to make the doughnuts.... No, it's time to run!  I lay there deciding that I would much rather sleep in.  I feel like I could sleep another five hours. 

Last night, we went to the Muni to see the Wizard of Oz.  It seemed like it would be a laid back enough thing to do on the night before a race.  Unfortunately, it got out after 11:00 p.m., and we didn't get in to bed until after midnight.  I don't know why I'm mentioning this, if we didn't go to the show, we probably wouldn't have been in bed before midnight anyways.  And if we were, we wouldn't have slept well.  It was race night eve, after all!

So after talking myself in to getting up, everything after that is okay.  That's the hardest part is getting the first foot out of bed.  It's funny (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha) that I haven't had any race nervousness.  I'm not feeling the butterflies, and that's strange for me.  We drive out to the fairgrounds and wait in line for the other hundreds of cars to park--other runners and walkers.  They are everywhere.  At the grandstand, we talk to some friends and then head to the front gate for a warm-up mile.

My legs feel fairly good.  I feel a little tired in my quads, but that will go away as soon as I hear "Go!".  After the run, some short sprints and a few stretches, we pile into the starting area corral.  Our friend Rick asks me what pace I'm shooting for.  When I tell him between 8:30 and 8:40, he says it's about the pace he thinks he will run as well.  It's 7:30 a.m.--time to "Ready. Set. Go!"

And we're off!  The crowd surges forward, and I move to the left side of the street next to Rick to stay out of the crowd.  As we head up Grandstand Boulevard and turn on to Main Street of the fairgrounds, I keep checking my GPS.  It shows that we are pacing between 8:00 and 8:20.  I tell Rick that I'm pretty sure I can't maintain that, so I'm dropping back.  He pulls forward, and I feel better settling into my 8:30ish pace.
We head out of the fairgrounds and turn onto Sangamon Avenue.  There's one hill on Sangamon.  It's not too bad.  We head down, I pick up the pace and pass a few runners.  I keep to the far left. 

My dad said he would be there by Frannie's on Sangamon.  I see his truck as we get closer.  I see a couple of people sitting on chairs in the area, but I don't see my dad.  Right as I am wondering where he could be, I hear, "Hi, Tammy."  He's on the right side of the road, not the left.  He gets a few nice pictures of the side and back of my head looking over at Frannie's.  You can tell I'm looking for him.  Nice picture (see below).  GPS rings out.

Mile 1 completed:  8:25 pace.  I knew I was pacing a little fast.

I think it's time for the iPod.  I pull out my Shuffle and ear buds which have become tangled like crazy.  I spend a couple minutes trying to unknot and unravel them.  Finally, I get them on and crank the music.  I love music. 

We continue into Lincoln Park for a short amount of time.  I know it's just minutes before we hit the Black Avenue hill going the "easy" direction (note: sarcasm).  I head down the hill trying to keep my footfalls light to not jar my knees or twist anything.  I'm being passed, but I just don't care.  We reach the bottom and then slowly start the ascent.  Mountain climbing terms are the only thing that seem appropriate for these hills. I'm being passed by a lot of people.  I find this weird because at the half marathon in April, I was passing other people on this very hill heading the other direction.  I don't think much of it until I pass a couple of those people walking soon after the hill is done.  Too much, too fast.

I am recovering from the hill on my way down Third Street.  I look at my watch and I'm doing about 9:00.  I give myself some time to recover, but I don't want to slow too much below my goal pace.  After a minute or two, I'm ready to go again.  I turn on Eastman Avenue and head toward Monument Drive.  A police car--the pace car--passes me going the other way.  I see Emily K. hanging out the window with a camera.  I'm sure that if she got a picture of me I look like I'm giving the camera a dirty look.  My mind wasn't working right. It was difficult to figure out that someone was taking pictures out the passenger side window!  Right behind that car is Bryan Glass--and no one else for quite sometime.  Dang, he's fast!

I head into Oak Ridge Cemetery and start looking for Shane in the returning runners.  Down the hill.  Up the hill.  Around the corner.  Water.  Back down the hill.  Back up the hill.  Done with Oak Ridge.  Never saw Shane.

Mile 3 done:  8:43 pace.  All those hills and recovery, I'm glad it's not too far off target!

Back to the Black Avenue hill.  One last time, and the hardest part of this race is over.  I'm trying to pick a runner ahead of me and stay with them, but it's not working out well this race.  Sometimes, I just can't keep up.  This is letting me know that I am running to the edge of my abilities today.  As we approach the descent, I scroll through a couple of songs on my iPod.  I need something really pumping to keep me going strong.  I hear the beginning beats of "Lose Yourself" by Eminem, and I know I got this hill.  Something about that song just gets me moving--driving me right up the hill.  I'm passing a couple of people that just do not have it in them to keep running.  I hit the volume a couple of times, and before I know it, I'm at the top and turning back into Lincoln Park. 

I round the corner, and I've got new found energy.  I begin to pass a few people.  I'm using this flat portion of the course and my rejuvenation to move ahead.  "Lose Yourself" ends, but I hit repeat because I know that I could use another dose.  It never seems to get old when I'm pushing myself. 

Mile 5 done: 8:45 pace.  Slower than my goal, but I'm not complaining.
We head back out of Lincoln Park onto Sangamon Avenue heading back to the fairgrounds.  This time running past Frannie's, I look at both sides of the road.  I see me dad with the camera, and he takes a few of me.  Then I make a silly face for good measure--see, I went against my own advice on trying to not "pose" for running pictures.  We all know how that turns out.  Not good.  --->

Heading back into the fair, I keep checking my watch.  There's less than a mile to go, but I know I'm still not ready or able to really kick it in.  I try to speed up, but it's just not there.  I feel like I'm biding my time to the finish line, and I hate it.  At the same time though, I know that I have nearly a mile left, and if I speed up too much now, I doubt if I would be able to finish strong.  I'm almost to Grandstand Boulevard!

I turn the corner and I can see the grandstand building and the crowds lining the road.  I start to lengthen my stride.  I'm running behind this guy who is picking up the pace nearly at the same exact pace as me.  Actually, he passed me just a few seconds ago, but now I'm doing all I can do to keep up with him.  About halfway to the grandstand, my watch lets me know the last full mile is done.

Mile 6 done:  8:35 pace.  There's my goal pace.

Oh, the last stretch.  How I love you!  When I see those blue mats across the road, something comes over me.  I really pull together everything I have left in me, and go as fast as I can.  I run through the crowd, scanning for people I know.  I see Shane at the last minute and wave.  Then I cross the finish.  I hit my GPS to stop.

Last two-tenths of a mile:  7:17 pace.  I always love my final stretch pace! 

Overall official time:  53:43 (8:39 pace). 189/822 total runners.  10/74 age/gender.  43/491 women. 

I did not hit the 8:36 pace SmartCoach had me running, but I was close.  SmartCoach didn't factor in the hills that are in Abe's Amble--it's a tough course.  No excuses though, I'm still extremely happy with my run.  I ran hard and pretty much left it all out there.  Judging how my legs felt afterwards, I may have left a little more than had out there.  I need to remember, before the race, I had doubts I could get anywhere near that pace for 6.2 miles. 

I can't wait to see how another year of running under my belt will change how I run this race next year.  It's almost been a year since I started running.  Maybe I'm not so much a newbie anymore.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pre-race thoughts: Abe's Amble 10K

This morning, I did my last training run prior to Abe's Amble 10K on Sunday morning.  My SmartCoach application had me doing a one mile warmup, three miles at 8:59, one mile cool down.  Due to not being able to drag my tired butt out of bed on time, I had to shorten the actual tempo part to two miles.  I'm hoping it's enough though. 

The SmartCoach has me running the 10K at a 8:36 pace.  I don't know what to think about this pace.  I ran a half marathon just months ago at 9:14 per mile.  I ran a 5K in May at 8:07.  I ran 2 miles last Thursday at 7:51.  I don't know if I'm trying to convince you I can do it, or myself.  Running is so mental.  These are good reminders for me.

The run this morning felt decent.  The warmup mile, my achilles felt tight and stiff.  It was 6:30 in the morning though.  I'm allowed to be stiff that early.  I'm no spring chicken after all.  After the first mile, I tried to pace myself at 8:59.  I felt like I was all over the place. I want to download my GPS information to see how bad it was.  Sometimes the watch said 7:50ish, other times it said 9:30ish.  However, when the GPS chimed another mile done, it read 9:00 on the nose for mile #2. 

I keep running and zone out.  I forget I'm trying to stay at 8:59.  I look down and see that my pace is 10:03.  Oops.  Lazy running.  I pick it up again.  I forget again.  I pick it up again.  I'm just not with it this morning.  Ring--mile #3 done.  I look down and it says 8:58.  Not bad staying on overall target while being all over the place! 

I cool down with a last mile at 10:00.  Talk about precise!  So, am I ready for Abe's Amble?  Check back in on Sunday! 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Illinois State Fair Parade Run - 2 miles

This short, fast race is a favorite of many local and not-so-local racers.  It's a 2-mile out and back starting from the main drag of the state fair, out the fair, down the parade route with tons of spectators lining the road waiting for the parade to pass.  It's relatively flat, so you see some fast times.

I had never run this race or anything less than 3.1 miles.  So, I was trying to come up with the right goal pace for myself.  I have decided to never run a race without a goal pace again.  I tend to sell myself short if I don't set a goal.  My last 5K back in May, I paced around 8:09 per mile.  Even though I have not put in quality training since that race, I decided that I wanted to beat 8:00 per mile, a total goal of finishing in less than 16 minutes.  It's totally doable, right?  Maybe, I'm certainly not confident.

As the race time got close, the pre-race butterflies kick in.  It feels very similar to the way I feel right before I have to do public speaking.  I take deep breaths and hope that they are just helping with adrenaline that I'll need for the race.

We get to the fair and see runners everywhere warming up.  We walk through the Ethnic Village to see if we know anyone since we are a little early.  About 20 minutes before the race start, we take a warm-up jog down the road and back.  My achilles are stiff and tight.  I'm hoping that works itself out before the race.  We return to the starting line area and the crowds are getting thick now.  We find some water and stretch a little.  All of a sudden, it seems, the announcer says "Ready. Set. Go." and we're off!

The crowd of runners surges toward the main gate of the fairgrounds and out to the streets.  I see Shane ahead of me for the first quarter or half a mile.  I'm constantly checking my GPS to try to keep my pace under control.  At one point I look down and see 6:23.  I back down.  Shane moves ahead.  The pace actually feels comfortable, but I know my mind, adrenaline and the crowd is tricking me.  I spend nearly the first three-quarters of a mile trying to find my pace.  Sometimes I look and I'm going faster than my goal.  Other times, I see a pace over 9:00.  Either the watch or I am jumping all over the place!

It's warm out (about 81 degrees), but about as nice of weather we could ask for at 5:30 p.m. on an August afternoon!  Last year, it was about 20 degrees hotter during the race.  We approach the turn-around and my throat is about as dry as it can be!  Thankfully they are handing out water.  I take one, even though I know it will slow me down a bit.  I drink about as much as I drip down the front of my shirt, but I don't mind.

The GPS rings out, I look at my first mile pace, and I finished in 7:48.  Wow, faster than I thought and faster than my goal.  However, I can't slow down now.  I have to keep a decent pace, but now I know that I have a 12 second wiggle room in my second mile.  I seem like I am running in my own little world.  It might be the music from my iPod or I'm just zoning out.  I'm not sure which one.

I don't see the crowd lining the roads, but I know they are there.  Some people are cheering for runners as they go by, especially the teenage boys in superhero capes.  Mostly I know because of the cigarette smoke we are running through.  Even as an ex-smoker, this is totally disgusting and so hard to deal with while running.  I am pushing myself to the edge of my abilities including my heart, lungs and legs.  My lungs need clean air to process at its peak capacity!  I feel sick trying to breathe.  My lungs are definitely feeling it.

We turn the corner to head back on to the straight-away that leads into the fair.  I am starting to feel my legs protest the pace.  I look at my watch and we are at 1.58 miles.  A little less than a half mile to go.  I can do this!  I can maintain this pace!  (I'm trying to convince myself, so please bare with me.)  I pray for the main gates to miraculously get closer.  The time and distance is creeping by.

I see them!  We approach the main gate.  My legs just want to give up, but I don't let them.  There's a slight down and up a hill before the finish line.  I try to lengthen my stride to speed up and finish strong.  My efforts feel useless!  I don't notice any difference in my pace.  However, I pass a couple of people heading up the hill.  As I get close to the milkshake stand that I'm supposed to meet Carrie after the race with Jocelyn, I see them sitting on the side of the road.  I yell for Jocelyn and wave to her.  She sees me!  They all wave back, and I feel so proud to be a healthy example for my daughter!

The blue finish line mats are in my sights!  I give it everything I have left through the last couple hundred feet.
I see the timing clock as I cross the finish line and it says 15:45.  I push the stop button on my GPS and it says the same.  I did it!!  I am totally wasted and spent, and I can barely catch my breath as I stop to get my timing chip cut off.  I walk out of the chute trying to get my breath under control.  That was rough!

I stand there are try to recover while feeling nauseous.  If I thought about it too long, I would hurl.  For real.  This was probably the race that I best gauged my physical abilities and then met them.  There have been so many races that I had so much left in the tank when the race was over.  Today, I left it all out on the road.  Every little bit of it.  And I feel good (except for that pesky pukey feeling).

Official time:  15:45.69.  156th overall.  36th female. 4th place in my division.  Ah, just missed a bronze award finish!  There's always next year. 

2012 goal = 14:59 or less.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stoneman Triathlon

A few days before the Stoneman Triathlon, I tried to gauge my overall fitness in two foreign sports to determine if I could or should register.  Shane found a bike for me to borrow from a friend of a friend.  He picked up the bike for me on Wednesday evening; two and a half days before the triathlon.  One day before online registration closed.

I went on a six mile ride on a loop around our house.  I did it in 26 minutes.  Ugh.  That means 52 minutes for 12 miles.  Looking at the race results from last year, I would need to be closer to 40 minutes to be competitive at all. Shane gave me a few good excuses like the hilly route I took and the fact that I wasn't going "all out" because I wasn't racing.  I happily agreed, even though in the back of my mind, I knew that wasn't the case.  I wasn't sure I'd do much better in a race.  I pushed those thoughts out of my head, even though I knew I could not make up the time I needed to be happy with my performance.

On Thursday morning (the deadline day for registration), I planned to go to Eisenhower pool to see how I could do swimming.  I used to swim all the time as a kid--literally every single day of my summer for a decade was spent at Colony West pool.  So I thought, maybe it will come back to me quickly?  Maybe I'd be able to pull this off?  Unfortunately, Eisenhower pool changed its summer hours, and they were not open to public lap swims on Thursday morning, only Thursday night.  I had volleyball on Thursday night.  So, I guess I'm not going to be able to swim.

Even though I was unable to swim and did not feel good about my biking time, I registered anyways.  I just don't understand my thought process sometimes.  I somehow think that it will be just fine.  I'm registering for a triathlon with absolutely no training, and I think I will be okay.  There is a fine line between courage and stupidity in decision making sometimes. 

I can't believe I am doing this.  Sure, the 5K run is no problem. I have been running for nearly a year now with a half marathon completed just a few months ago.  I haven't swam more than a few feet at a time in a couple of decades. I never ride my bike. What could go wrong, really?  Don't answer that.

So here it is!  It's the morning of the triathlon.  We get up, throw on our stuff, grab our bags and go.  The starting line is just a couple miles from our house.  There are so many people here!  We park and walk our bikes to the transition area.  They write our bib numbers on our arms and legs.  We take our bikes and set them up in our appropriate "wave".  The different waves are determined by gender and age.  I'm with 39 and under.

The bike rack for my wave is nearly full, so I take a spot at the very end.  I watch other people to see how they are setting things up.  I set my towel down, and lay out my running shoes with a sock in each shoe so I won't be fumbling with them after the swim.  I also lay out my shirt, shorts, biking helmet and a bag of gummy bears.  I attach the GPS to the handle bars and turn it on so it's ready to go when I'm done with the swim.  Oh man, I'm getting nervous!

We walk down to the lake for announcements and stretching.  Shortly after that, the Iron Abe contestants start their swims.  The Iron Abe route is twice as long, not for the faint of heart!  We watch as the first four waves go.  They are going every three minutes.  I am in wave six.  Shane is in seven.  Oh jeeze, it's my turn!  I put on the swimcap and goggles and slowly walk into the lake.  The water is a warm 89 degrees.  Ewwwww, did I tell you that I absolutely hate lake water and the feeling of the algae all over the boat ramp is making me want to hurl?!  Gross! Gross! Gross!  All right Tammy, suck it up girl!

I look out 250 yards to a yellow marker in the lake.  That is my destination.  It doesn't really look so bad from here.  It's the moment of truth.  They count down for our wave to begin, and we are OFF!  I pretty much let everyone go in front of me, but I'm still being bumped by the others who had the same plan.  I start with a slow freestyle stroke.  I come up for my first breath and it just doesn't feel long enough to take in the amount of air I need.  I try breathing on every third stroke.  Still  not enough.  I have a minor panic attack and begin to do a breast stroke.  At first I allow my face to go under, then I start feeling like I don't want my face to go under at all.  I just can't get my breathing under control.  My heart is racing.  I'm not processing air well, and I'm going SO SLOW! I swallow lake water several times as I gasp for air.  The lake is so disgusting...and I'm drinking it while trying to stay alive.

About two-thirds of the way out to the turn around, I stop at at a one of the surfboards manned by a lifeguard to rest.  I am so happy to stop for a moment because I'm absolutely winded and exhausted.  I can barely believe how I feel.  I look back to see how far I've come so far, and the other way to see how far I still have to go.  I really start questioning whether or not I'm going to make it.  There are two other people resting on the surfboard with me, so I don't feel so bad about that.  I think, it's now or never.  I push off and start swimming again.  Immediately, I'm tired and winded.  I severely underestimated how hard this would be.  The panic really starts to set it now.  I'm not sure I can make it, and I feel a bit of terror come over me.  I can't quit, but I really doubt I can keep this up for another 300 yards!

At this moment, almost as if it was on cue, one of the other people who stopped at the surf board with me starts calling for help.  I see the jet ski turn around and head behind me, but I don't know what happened to her.  I'm guessing they pulled her out of the water.  This doesn't help my state of mind at all.  At this point, I'm being passed and ran into by people from the wave that started three minutes after mine.  This is the wave Shane is in.  I roll over onto my back and start doing a backstroke.  This is the only way that I can keep my head out of the water to breathe and not expend too much energy.  My goal now is just to make it back to shore.

I'm mostly just using my legs, but work my arms and hands into it occasionally.  I wonder how slow I'm actually going because it's very hard to tell with no point of reference except the sky.  I stop and pop my head up every so often to make sure I'm not getting in anyone's way, and that I'm not veering wildly off course.  I have no idea while I'm on my back which way I'm facing.  I look up and the lines of clouds and try to focus on following one.  I'm fairly relaxed while doing this, I should have done it from the start instead of stopping at that board.  If it wasn't for people running in to me and smacking me in the face every now and then, I'd be perfect!

Then I hear, "Tam, is that you?"  It's Shane, and he's caught up to me.  I tell him I am so tired, but doing okay.  I try to reassure him with my voice.  I now know I could stay on my back indefinitely kicking toward the shore.  I tell him I am fine, and he swims on ahead.  I'm getting closer.  Dear God, let this swim end soon!

I look up to see how much farther it is and it seems just within my reach.  I return to the breast stroke and side stroke to make sure I'm heading in the right direction.  Our friend, Dave (Perfect Concept Photography) is cheering me on from the dock.  I know he's here to take pictures, but I seriously can't imagine having this moment documented.  I continue to side stoke intentionally facing away from the camera--easier than trying to tell him no pictures please.  Then finally, I make it to the ramp!  Oh sweet Jesus, thank you for keeping me safe! 

Swim results:  20:46.8 - Amazingly awful, but I'm alive!  Next time, train for it, idiot!

I run to the transition area, completely winded and exhausted.  I pass a couple of older triathletes who lapped me during the swim.  They kicked my butt!  One of their friends snaps a picture, and I run right in front of the camera.  Oops!  (A mutual friend from Facebook shares the picture with me later, see left.)  I am so wiped out that I consider walking, but I know I have so much time to make up.

I enter the first transition by trying to dry off a little, but it doesn't seem to matter because I'm so soaking wet.  I grab my socks and put the first one on after drying my foot a little.  Worthless, still so wet.  I put on my shoe.  I don't even try to dry off my other foot.  I pull the sock on, put on my shoe, look over at the stack of items still sitting there, and realize I haven't put on my shorts yet.  Aw, man!  I try to pull my shorts on over my shoes, and I almost fall over.  I catch my balance, and hope no one is watching me.  It's pretty deserted around here.  Most people are already on their bikes, thank goodness.

I finally get my socks, shoes, shorts, shirt and helmet on, grab my bike off the rack and head out.  I fumble with the GPS, trying to get it on my wrist, but my fine motor skills seem to have completely disappeared after a swim like that.  I get on the bike and start riding. 

Transition #1:  2:46.8.  Again, not good at all.  Nearly three minutes!

For the first mile or two, I'm still trying to catch my breath.  I'm trying to get my legs to work properly.  I'm trying to adjust the gears on the bike.  I'm trying to get this damn watch on!!  It's a quarter of a mile in to the bike portion when I realize that I haven't started the GPS.  Finally, I'm situated, and I settle into my ride. 

I am being passed by people every once and a while.  On rare occasion, I pass someone, but not often.  I try to drink some Gatorade to rehydrate before I have to run.  As I put the bottle back in the holder on the bike, I nearly drop it.  Yikes!  I need to be more careful next time.  Just about that time, I pass the first water bottle on the side of the road.  I would see several that day.

I'm riding along and finally start feeling better around the Pawnee Road turn off.  I pass someone and try to push harder than I have been for the first couple of miles.  I hate riding uphill, but I try my "Kill the Hill" mantra from the half marathon.  Just get through this I keep telling myself.  Every once and a while, someone passes me and tells me "great job".  I love the camaraderie that comes with these types of sports.  It always seems like it's just the time that I need encouragement too.

As I approach the turn-around at the halfway mark, I slow down considerably and allow the Iron Abe bikers to have the full right of way merging through.  I start to head back, and I feel much better now.  I'm still not going really fast, but I feel respectable.  I remember that I stashed gummy bears for a quick sugar fix during the race.  I pull them out and start downing them.  If I had a glass of cold water right now, it would be heaven!  I have to settle for lukewarm orange Gatorade. 

I also remember the gel pack that I stashed with the gummies.  They gave them out with the registration packets.  I know you are not supposed to do anything new on race day, but I don't have that much longer to go.  If it gives me some energy, then great.  I rip off the top and take a little bit in.  It is absolutely disgusting!  It's like warm jelly that doesn't even taste that good.  If it was cold, I could have possibly tolerated it, but this was just plain gross.  I stash the rest of the pack on my handlebars and go back to eating the gummy bears.

 © Perfect Concept Photography 2011
I finally reach the turn by the zoo, and I can't believe I'm almost done with this ride.  The final stretch along Center Park had people cheering, and Dave was there for a picture.  For some stupid reason, I try to force a smile.  It comes off very much as a grimace.  Lovely.  Helpful hint:  unless you are highly photogenic, it is best to just ignore the camera and act natural.  I have no business trying to "pose" for a picture at this point in my day.

Bike results:  48:13.2. Sigh.

I approach the transition area, get off the bike and walk it in.  Since I biked with my running shoes on, I don't have much to do except put my bike back and take the helmet off.  I wonder how many people run out with their helmets still on?  I feel like I'm forgetting something.  Could it be that easy?  Oh well, I take off for my run.

Transition #2:  49.7 seconds.  Not bad.  Good thing I didn't have to change shoes.

OH. MY. GOODNESS.  My legs HATE me!  The initial part of the run is uphill: up from Lindsay Bridge boat ramp parking lot to the beach house area.  My calves are seizing up and cramping.  I keep thinking, just run through it.  It will stop.  I keep going, past the finish line area, where tons of people are lining the course to watch the finishers coming in.  I still have about 30 minutes to go before I'll be back here.  I glance at the GPS which says I'm going about 9:40ish.  I'm dying!  So I slow it down.

I push through the first mile in hopes that my legs will feel better and they don't.  I don't want to walk, but my legs are begging me to.  I run out onto East Lake Drive, cross the road and decide to walk for a minute.  I just can't take it!  As soon as I go to walk, someone runs by me and says, "let's go!", urging me to run again.  I answer back that I'm trying.  It's enough encouragement to get my legs moving again.  I decide that I'm going to walk through a couple of the water stations, but try to run for the rest.  The strategy works okay for me, and by the turn around, my legs are feeling much better.  The guy right in front of me is doing a reasonable pace, so I decide to latch on to him for the rest of the run.  I walk through one last water station, keeping my pacer in my sights.  The large cup of ice water that I'm holding is amazing!  I keep running, I'm back into Center Park now.  The end is in sight!

My watch rings out an alert:  three miles done.  With only a tenth of a mile left, I call on everything I have left from my legs.  I lengthen my stride and push through to the finish.  My pacer has also picked up his pace.  I never catch up to him until the moment that I run into the back of him when he stops to take off his timing bracelet after crossing the finish line.  I apologize and then step to the side to have mine taken off. My final tenth of a mile was done at a 7:42 pace.  If I still had that in me, why couldn't I do better on that run?

5K results: 31:50.1.  This is my slowest 5K time ever. Okay, so it was the toughest 5K I have ever ran!

© Perfect Concept Photography 2011
I'm done.  I survived!  I can't even believe it!  I signed up for a sprint triathlon with no training and lived to tell about it.

Overall time:  1:44:26.6.

A few things I have learned from this experience: (1) I need to do another one of these; (2) I need to actually train for it; (3) I need to get a better bike; and (4) I need to learn how to swim!  In my overall results, I had the 8th slowest swim time and 18th slowest biking time.  For a competitive person like me, it is horrible to see my name so low on a list.  Out of 220 participants, I finished at 203.  I hate even admitting that.  I was beat by 70 year olds, and probably an 80 year old or two as well.  Nothing against them, they are amazing warriors, but I should be able to at least hang with the 70 year olds, right?

In hindsight, I'm kind of glad Eisenhower pool wasn't open for a lap swim that morning.  Had I been able to get into the pool, I would have realized that I was amazingly unprepared for a 500 yard swim.  I probably wouldn't have signed up.  I do not regret signing up at all.  This was an awesome experience that I hope to repeat with a little better outcome in the future.  So, time to start figuring out a training plan for another triathlon, as well as how to run faster in the meantime.  I've got a year until I can do this one again.  I can't let this be my one and only showing at a triathlon.  I have no choice but to train.  Until next time...