You never forget your first: Pistol 50K Ultramarathon Race Recap

The Pistol Ultra

March 17, 2018

I am five days post-race and I am still having difficulty writing how I FEEL about this race.  My first ultramarathon is in the books.  It was amazing. It was incredible. It exceeded my expectations in most every way.

As most of you know if you follow me here or on Instagram, my training had its ups and downs. I ran most of my training runs alone. It wasn’t on purpose or because I wanted to; the schedule I have just doesn’t work out for most of my running buddies.  I don’t like to run alone all of the time, but this training cycle it turned out running alone allowed me to process many of the stressors I was under during training. It was good for me. It was my therapy. There were days I ran with joy, but there were days I ran and cried; not out of pain or sorrow, but because I was dealing with more this training cycle than I had others.  The stress was personal stuff, professional stuff, internal stuff.  I had never trained for this distance, so there was also this creeping doubt and insecurity that comes with training for a “new” thing.  Some training days were heavy, I am not going to lie. But enough about that, you came for the race report…so here it is. If you want to know what running your first 50K on the road might be like, well, here is my take…

Pre-race day

My husband and I headed down to Alcoa, Tennesse the day before the race. We arrived late afternoon to a beautiful day of sun and mild temps (a perfect race day), but that would soon change.  We checked into the hotel and my husband gave me a care package from some of my biggest mother runner supporters–there were notes filled with encouragement, fuel, homemade treats, a CTM Band, bath bombs, and ultrarunner swag-I was blown away! The cards and notes were my favorites and I carried several with me on race day. I will treasure them always!

Gifts from my running tribe.

Once I collected myself, we went to packet pick-up. The first person to greet me was Mary Beth, the assistant race director. She greeted us warmly, pointed me towards check-in and wished me the best as she raced off to her next duty.  Pick-up was quick and painless…I was the only one in my line! We picked up my bib and then was ushered through the lines of swag pick-up.  I couldn’t believe all of the nice things we were showered with (see pic below). We then went to the “mandatory” pre-race meeting where we were briefed on all of the details for the next day. The amount of detail was amazing; you can tell the Race Directors put so much time into this event! Then, they started the Pistol Squat contest– anyone present was invited up on the stage to participate–whichever male and female participant completed the most pistol squats in 2 minutes received their race registration back in cash on the spot! It was amazing to watch!  Then, they gave away several discounts and prizes. I won a free t-shirt and gift card just for being there! It was a very generous pre-race meeting.

Another highlight of this race: every year there is a guest/celebrity speaker that talks at the pre-race event and this year it was Catra Corbett – I was so amazed! If you don’t know who she is, google her, she’s a bad@ss. After the meeting, we went to eat and then back to the hotel so that I could prep and get in bed at a decent time.

Race Day

I woke up an hour before we had to leave for the race. The hotels that are a part of the race are very convenient-only a mile away from the event!  Everything went smoothly except with my nerves that morning, I tried to put my husband’s contacts in when I woke up instead of my own! He had to point out why I was panicking because I couldn’t see! Nothing like a little pre-race laughter to lighten the mood a little.  I checked my hydration vest one more time and then we were off!

The weather was warm at 7 a.m. I had been training in mostly 30 or 40-degree weather but it was already 42 degrees before the start. I chose to wear a tank and shorts because I knew it was only going to get warmer-there was a predicted high of 72 with a chance of thunderstorms so I didn’t want to overheat. We arrived to find a lovely spread of coffee and Panera bagels. I had already eaten but nibbled on a piece of a bagel while we waited.

Then, it happened — it was time!  Now, this is where many people will learn something new about me.  I have a severe anxiety of toeing a start line.  I’ve run so many races and I’ve made sure every time I started way in the back (sometimes behind the walkers and strollers).  It makes me want to vomit. Mainly because when I was very, very young (around 5), I toed the line at my very first kids run (the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon Kids Race).  When the gun went off, all of the kids behind me started but I froze.  I subsequently was knocked down and trampled! I still remember my aunt and mom running over to check on me and I was crying and just a mess.  So, what do I do at my first ultramarathon surrounded by a bunch of runners I don’t know…? Well, I go straight up to the start line right in front and yelled at my husband to take a photo.  I am certain he thought I looked like a lunatic, but I didn’t care! Today was redemption day and I was not going to allow myself to fall or get trampled!  And I did! The gun went off and I went flying out of the start line.  I smiled and waved to my husband like, “Look at me! I didn’t fall! Noone is stepping on me!”.  It was the first of many amazing feelings on this day.

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So, the Pistol is a 10-mile looped course. It is billed as flat. It might be flat to trail runners, but to roadrunners, I would describe it as rolling hills.  I took off faster than what I wanted (totally worth it though) but pulled up and fell into my planned pace within mile 2.  The course was beautiful! It was so GREEN and lush and beautiful. The course is paved and winds through parklands and alongside the Pistol Creek.  Rain started to fall during the first loop, but it was a light mist and felt good. I knew my husband would be at the mile 10 mark with dry clothes if I wanted them. I was prepared and not worried.  As I came into mile 10 he was there waiting for me yelling, “You look strong!  Great job!”. And I kept running. My pack was full of liquid and solid nutrition and I was happy with my work on the first loop.

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The second loop. That’s where I started to question my choices in life.

Why was I doing a looped course? I liked point to point courses.

Why did I pack so many damn waffles? It was too hot to eat at this point and I just wanted ice! 

Why wouldn’t my headphones work, I might need them? Oh, wait, my phone died around mile 12.  Geez, I didn’t plan this.

Was that bacon on a donut sandwich that I just saw at an aid station?

Didn’t I pass that Leprechaun once already?

Then, I saw my running friend Abbi on the course. She didn’t stop to talk to me but smiled, waved and yelled as she passed, “ARE YOU ON PACE?!?”.  Shoot, better speed up a bit because she’s watching! Other people also smiled, waved and yelled out my IRun4 running buddy’s name as I passed, “Go! Run for Jessica”! That always helps me get some pep in my step!

I decided to talk to people on the course at this point. There were 100K and 100 Milers on the same course, so I thought they might need company and it would pass the time. And it did. As I neared mile 20, I sped up. I could see my husband waiting for me and I could hear the crowd cheering. I reminded myself I had been at mile 20 many times; no big deal.  And then I heard my husband yell, “You are STILL on pace! You look strong! What do you need?”.  I smiled because he sounded surprised and pleased with my progress. I told him to meet me with my waist pack and ice. Lots of ice. And he did. I threw my hydration vest at him and took my waist pack filled with icy water. I took a huge block of ice and stuffed it in my sports bra. And I kissed him good-bye and kept running!

At this point, it was so hot. The sun was out beating down on us.  People were shedding clothes and slowing down. I kept on my pace plan. At around mile 23 I decided to slow down a bit; I was on pace to beat my own marathon PR and thought, “That can’t be good! I will have 5 more miles to go after that!”.  And then at mile 26 when I realized I PR’d, I stopped at the aid station and asked for ice and a lovely volunteer said, “Sure! Do you want a popsicle, too?” and right then, she looked just like an angel and I said yes and took a banana popsicle. It was the best popsicle I’ve had in my whole life.  And I walked and ate it. Carefree, in the middle of a race, I just walked and ate my popsicle like I was done.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but at that moment, I could see and smell everything so well. I wanted to remember that moment, so I just took it all in. And, I yelled out to other people passing me, “THEY HAVE POPSICLES!” like a deranged person.  It cracks me up thinking about it now.

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So happy to see my friend Abbi on the course! (Photo cred: Abbi A.)

And, then I ran. It was a clumsy, lumbering feeling, this running. I worked hard to get my legs going again.  At a little over 27 miles, I slowed to a stop to fuel while I walked. Then, I saw Abbi running towards me again.  I was so happy to see her-she smiled and stopped to say hello and asked me if I needed anything. We took a selfie because that is what BAMRs do. I said I was fine and asked her how she was and she smiled and said great and told me to go! So off I ran.  As I started to run again, I realized, I had less than 3 miles and I would be an ultrarunner.I started to cry a little and then pulled myself together remembering I still had 3 hard miles to go, most of them uphill. I felt like I barely passed anyone at this point; I wondered if I was one of the last 50K runners out on the course.  And I remember good advice my BAMR friends gave me a long time ago, “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other” and so I did just that.

As I neared mile 29, I sped up.  I ran towards the point I knew my husband would be and there he was running towards me.  He was waving and carrying a large diet fountain coke and a bag of salty french fries! What can I say, he knows me too well. I smiled and he smiled and he said, “I have these for you when you are done!” and I told him I didn’t want to run up that last hill again. And, I told him he better be at that finish line to get photos when I did get up that last hill again!  I did not stop. I ran as hard as my legs could go and I made that last hill.  As I came into the finisher’s shoot, people were yelling and I could hear my husband yell, “Run, Steph, Run!”. I didn’t know why he was yelling at me but I started sprinting; I would only find out later that he was trying to push me to a certain time.

As I crossed the finish line, there was a young lady offering me water and also my husband smiling gleefully. They walked me inside and it was everything I could do to hold in all of the tears, but walking and crying at the same time seemed too difficult, so I just walked. I was stopped at the timetable and was told there was an issue with my time print out. I was confused but happy to take my medal. I wasn’t clear on why they wouldn’t let me move forward and then my husband said, “You placed!”.  I was astounded.  Apparently, the time was such that they had to discern my place in age group–it turns out I was the 4th woman to finish AND I won 1st in my age division (F, 40-49).  When they told me that, it was everything I could do to stand up. I figured I was one of the last women to finish! The volunteers and assistant race director all congratulated me and were so kind. I was so grateful to have them there and so happy that my husband was there! He helped me get back to the showers and change out of my wet, sweaty clothes. I had a sunburn (note to self: stop to reapply sunscreen after 20 miles) and I was starving but you couldn’t peel the goofy grin off of my face.  All of my hard training had paid off and I was now officially an ultramarathoner!  I cannot say enough about this race-from the swag to the aide stations to the volunteers to the scenery-it all blew me away!

Let me be clear when I started this running journey five years ago, I never had my eyes set on this goal. But, with the help of so many people, this idea became a goal that became a reality. If you want something bad enough, you will do it. It may not begin or finish the way you expect or plan, but it can happen. I think the key for me was to surround myself with people who believe in me as much if sometimes more than I believe in myself.

 

 

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My official time!

 

 

**Acknowledgements**

A special thanks to all of my family and friends who put up with me during this training. I was determined not to fail and in that path, I was relentless in my training.  I may have seemed absent to some, but I did my best to fulfill my obligations as a mother, wife, daughter, friend, and colleague.  I hope I did not let you all down, but still know I probably owe some of you a solid.
To my husband Chris, I cannot tell you how lucky I feel to have you as a spouse. You’ve been my birth coach twice and marathon coach previous…you can now add ultramarathon coach to your resume!  You helped me fine tune my nutrition, recovery methods and pushed me out the door on the days I did not want to run. You are the best friend and partner in this wonderful and crazy thing called life that we navigate together. You know me better than anyone else; thank you for not giving up on me at any point in our time together and I love you to the moon and back.
To all of the mother runners some of my best female friends who supported this crazy idea from before I  thought it was possible, thank you. Thank you for inspiring me, motivating me, teaching me and always being there for me. You are some of the most amazing women I will ever know and I love you all.
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On dealing with my own inner critic…30 more days until my first 50K!

Yikes! I’ve been so busy training for the next race that I have neglected my blog!   While slogging through my last 3 long training runs in the crappiest of conditions, I had lots of opportunities to slow down and think about this whole crazy idea of running a 50K.

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First, I cannot believe that I have less than 5 weeks left of training! When I mapped out a 16-week training plan months ago, it seemed like forever before this day would come.  And, now here I am panicking like any good runner might do.  This weekend is my longest training run (and last LONG training run) before I scale back and then taper.  Lesson learned:  training will go by fast! Have a great plan and know that you can be flexible with it and still have a great training experience.

Second, I still cannot believe I signed up for this distance! *nervous grin*! Probably two years ago I was inspired by some other mother runners signed up for ultra distances (they have since gone on to complete several trail ultras) and they encouraged me to do the same.  It took many more training miles before I decided to sign up for a 50K. I knew I wanted it to be road/non-trail race and finding one close to me is difficult.  The Pistol Ultra was highly recommended by many people in a TAUR group and the Women for Tri group I belong to AND it is within driving distance, so those were major factors in my decision to try this paved “urban trail” ultra.  The race is a 10-mile loop course on a paved path through a park, much like the Parklands here where I live, so I figured I had an optimal place to train at home as well.

Third, I cannot believe how fortunate I have been to have a family and friends that wholly support me. They may not always understand what I am doing, but they show me unconditional love by saying “go run”, “how far are you going today?”, etc.  And, it is a huge source of joy for me to see my children excited about this new adventure.  When I told them I had signed up for an ultramarathon, their eyes were wide with excitement. The first question was, “How far is that?” and then the statement of “Wow, even dad has never done that before!’.  I consider that a compliment for multiple reasons,  realizing my husband has completed many more marathons and tris than I have and so they understand the magnitude of the endeavor I am about to take on with this race.

For my friends and people who don’t understand the life of a runner, they often ask why am I running this distance. I thought a lot about that on my last run and it really comes down to the ideas relayed to me through an inspirational podcast (Sparta Chicks – check it out if you haven’t already!) I listened to recently.   It is about dealing with my own inner critic.  I made the decision, without knowing it, to “play big” with this one. Training for a triathlon was more about facing fears, but training for an ultra marathon is about going big for me.  I need to do this for myself – it is the culmination of many fears and insecurities and putting myself down for years coming to a head.  You see, my professional life took a hard left turn a few years ago. I had what I thought was my dream job, an executive level position in higher ed-something I had worked hard for quite awhile but I had to let it go for really two huge reasons.  Resigning from that position really put me back for a bit and I remember for the first time feeling like, “wow, I really can’t have it all.” I felt as though I had let people down, that I wasn’t as smart or as capable as I thought and it put me in a huge “imposter” red zone. So, I took a step back from my professional life and incorporated running and fitness into my daily life.  This has all led me to sign up for this race.  It is time for me to shake that inner critic and take myself for what I am worth.  It is time to shake the self-doubt put on me by others or by myself.  I don’t need to be more confident or believe in myself (I have plenty of that, hence the reason for toeing this line in the first place).  What I do need is to stop “playing small” and start “playing bigger” in many areas of my life, and I am going to start in Alcoa, Tennessee.  Thank you to all of my friends, especially the women in my life, who have supported me thus far.  30 more days…

 

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2017 Best of Nine -My Racing Year in Review

**SPOILER ALERT**

This is NOT a post about what I accomplished this year.

It IS a walk down memory lane.

It IS an admission that if you want it bad enough, you will do it.

It IS an invitation to join me in running/racing adventures in 2018. 

So, I put together my 2017 Best of Nine on Instagram today and realized 9 photos wasn’t really a good summary of the year–so many amazing things happened! I completed the most races I’ve ever attempted in one year. I made some amazing friends along the way. When I started thinking about all of my fitness goals for this year and all of the things I was able to accomplish, here are some of my favorite racing things from 2017:

I completed a Ragnar Trail Relay with a team of 7 other amazing friends and surrounded by 7 other Mom RunThis Town teams– Moms owned Kentuckiana Ragnar Trail Relay this year.

I ran another marathon, this time with a friend!

I raced my first duathlon.

I completed a triathlon for my 41st birthday with my husband and one of my closest friends!

I ran my first 10-miler and placed in my age group.

I put in my application for a few racing teams and while I was declined to Team Couer (I need more tris under my belt), I was accepted to Savage Multisport Team. However, I declined Team Savage when I received news late in the year that I am on the pending roster to run the TCS New York City Marathon in 2018 with Every Mother Counts! A DREAM COME TRUE!

I signed up and started training for my first UltraMarathon – The Pistol 50K!

I ran over 800 miles for Jessica, my IRun4Michael Running Buddy, this year.

As always, my Moms Run This Town (MRTT) chapter was a huge part of my success! After more than 3 years of being active in the group, I stepped into a Chapter Leader role mid-year, which upped my motivation and inspiration! These women are so supportive and encouraging; I cannot imagine not being a part of this running tribe.

When I started running only a few short years ago, I would have never imagined I could do these things, much less all of them in one year.  I had many people helping me set these goals and training with me, which I think was a huge key to my successes. I look forward to doing some things on my own in 2018 but also training and racing with my husband and friends again.

If this year is any indication, 2018 should be quite a ride! Stay tuned for more adventures from this Kentucky Mother Runner.

 

 

The Turkey Sandwich Duathlon – a new holiday tradition!

At our house, the weekend after the big turkey day is usually spent visiting with friends and family, watching football, and maybe raking some leaves. This year, however, we added in a new tradition- the Turkey Sandwich Duathlon. Some of my friends and I were chatting one night about the lack of duathlons in our area. We are part of a large women’s only running group and many of the ladies in the group like to bike and/or swim. We started talking about the overall lack of duathlon options in our area, which jump-started the idea: “Why don’t we just run our own self-supported duathlon in November?”.  My friend quickly came up with the concept- a 12-mile bike out and then back, with a 10K run (at Turkey Run Park) sandwiched in between.  And, voila, the Turkey Sandwich Duathlon was born! We settled on a start time and then put out the call for other ladies in our group to join us.

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The morning of the race, the weather was great-a sunny 45 degrees with a slight breeze. We gathered at the trailhead start with a little chatter and bike check and then we were off!  The 12-mile bike out to our transition area is mainly flat with a few smaller ascents and one larger descent.  Our members broke up into packs of 2 or 3 and chatted as we made the ride out.  One long, flat part of this route is called “The Strand”, personally one of my favorite parts of the park to run in, and we took in all of the beautiful scenery this portion of the ride had to offer as we made our way through.

At the transition area, everyone waited for the last rider to come in, we racked our bikes and then took off for the 10K portion in Turkey Run.  This part of the course had the most elevation change and our legs were feeling it! I took off with the lead pack at a swift pace but ended up pulling back after the first major hill to a more comfortable pace.  The sun was out and it started to get warm, so I took off my buff, gloves, and jacket to get more comfortable.  At this point, I was running by myself and it was nice to have some quiet time in the sun, just running and enjoying the morning.  At the 3 mile turnaround, I caught sight of the runners in front and back of me (thanks, hills) and made a detour to the Silo at the top of the hill–I climbed the silo and yelled out to my fellow runners below. The view was stunning!  On the run back to the bike racks, I ran back with my husband and we saw several large deer.  We both agreed it was a beautiful day to be out at the park.

 

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This is me at the top of the Silo at mile 3.
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A gorgeous silo top view of our 10K run course.
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Wonderful bridges and landscape views during our run.

 

Once back at the bike racks, we waited for all runners to come in, and then we jumped back on our bikes for the 12-mile return ride.  At this point,  my legs were getting tired and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the ride back!  I reminded myself that it was mostly flat and I had done harder things and off we went.  Little did I realize, when we were in the hills running, the wind picked up.  I was glad I put my gloves back on before we started the windy ride back-it seemed we were riding with a cross-wind now. Then we hit the first larger ascent! The lady I was riding with and I were laughing so hard because we were having so much difficulty getting up that hill! I think we were slightly delirious because it was no laughing matter–it was some hard work, for sure.  We did make it up the hill and then only had 6 miles or so to go, thank goodness. Our last half mile, we hit the second larger hill and promised ourselves we would not walk the hill. And we didn’t! I was very proud of both of us, considering this was my first “longer” ride in 2 months, I had completed a two-hour spin class two days prior, and this was the first duathlon my friend had completed!

 

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Our elevation on the ride back…that last half mile was a doozy.

 

Our finish line party was quite the soiree, complete with pizza, beverages and finisher medals! I look forward to making this an annual tradition.  Not only was it a great way to get out and challenge ourselves after the holiday, but also it was great to do this with such an amazing group of women and athletes.  (Oh, and we forgot to pack leftover turkey sandwiches as part of the finish line party, but there is always next year!)

 

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Showing off our medals.
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Proud finishers of the 1st Annual Turkey Sandwich Duathlon!

 

It is time to make 2018 running plans! How do you decide?

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Have you ever been at that point in your running journey where you cannot decide what is next?  Recently, I and a good running friend realized we had such great race experiences in 2017, we were not sure how we could top them in 2018! Where to start? What do I focus on–there are so many options including, roads, trails, duathlons, and tris!  I sat down several weeks ago and started looking at my 2018 calendar, wondering just how I could fit it all in…In 2017, my race calendar filled up quickly as I signed up to train/race with friends or because I decided to give triathlons a try.   While I did them all of these races with glee, I really felt like my training was scattered and I was not focused at all. I needed to settle down and get serious about 2018 goals!  So, I did what every MotherRunner would do; I sent my Fairy God Mother Runner a text asking for help! After I explained my dilemma and heard her advice, I came out of that conversation knowing that I would plan to train for two major races in 2018.

Ultimately, I have decided to give my first ultramarathon distance a go.  I love long distances! There is something about running all of those miles that makes me giddy.  So, here we go, I have already signed up for the Pistol Ultra 50K in the Spring and am researching other options for the Fall. I hope to also keep up my cross-training in the attempt to throw in a few sprint tris in for fun along the way!

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So,  I am curious how do you decide which races to sign up for in any given calendar year? Do you plan it out well in advance or register for things as you see them pop up?  Do you have an “A” race that you set a max goal for or do you sign up for several races without a predetermined goal?  I am always interested to hear how other athletes set their plans and create training schedules, so if you have any wisdom to pass along, I am grateful.

Here is to happy running for the rest of 2017 as we look to the future and what 2018 holds!

 

 

What is your “why”?

After 7 months of training for races, I found myself not signed up for one race for the rest of the year. I have to admit, 2017 has been epic in terms of race experiences– I’ve already completed a half marathon, Ragnar Trail Relay, a full marathon, my first duathlon AND my first triathon, along with a few others thrown in the mix for fun! I was able to run with friends, run happy, and run injury free. But now, here I sat, running maybe 40 miles a month and wondering which direction to go next…I needed to make some decisions and start to build my running base again.

Without clear direction, I did what every mother runner does, I sent my Fairy God Mother Runner a text message and asked her what I should do next. I told her I may have lost my running mojo and wasn’t sure which direction to turn or what race to set my sights on next…and maybe, just maybe, I had lost my passion for running. Her immediate response back to me:

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I was stunned. I was upset. My inner dialogue kicked in: “Why is she asking me this? Maybe she thinks I have lost my running mojo, too! *gulp* I have plenty of reasons to run! Dozens! Is she doubting me?” I had to stop and think–> don’t be defensive. She is asking you this for a reason. Tell her why! So, I immediately started making a list of the reasons why I run on my phone note pad. Here is the abbreviated version:

Top 10 reasons why I run:

  1. I run for my health (physical, mental, and emotional).
  2. I run to model a healthy lifestyle in the hopes that my children pay attention and maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives.
  3. Running is a way for me to think without interruption; some days it is my only quiet time.
  4. Running makes me feel strong.
  5. I run for Jessica.
  6. Running has allowed me to meet amazing people who help support and motivate me.
  7. I run to help motivate other women in my running group. I want them to see they can set and reach goals they once never thought they could.
  8. I love to learn. Running is a teacher. I am the student.
  9. Running allows me to set (and crush) new goals. Nothing better than checking off an item most people would never attempt to even write down on their list in the first place.
  10. Running links me to a place in my mind I’ve only ever been twice before in my life–during the labor and birth of my children. Nothing else gives me that feeling! It is the adrenaline rush and I am a junkie.

I typed out more than this, but decided to only include 10 here. My point is, my Fairy God Mother Runner knew what she was doing when she asked me this question. Certainly, I cannot get on with the what or how before I know the why!

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I challenge you to write down your whys and put them in a place you can see daily or easily reference. When you start to doubt yourself or question your direction, read the list. Remember why you run. It is only then that you can light the fire to set new goals and start the next leg of your running journey.

For the love of running,

BluegrassBAMR

What makes a “good” runner?

I am part of a local running club in my town. I LOVE it. It is a group for women ONLY and their running experience varies from novice to seasoned veteran.  I love the group for so many reasons, but one of my favorite things about this group is the enthusiasm the runners have for one another.  There is a sisterhood present and so steeped in the desire to motivate, encourage, and see other women meet their goals — it makes me so happy!  I revel in the goals these ladies meet each week — running without stopping for a mile, hitting a PR, completing a first 5k (or 50k!). Let me tell you, these women are amazing.

BUT, let me tell you about the crazy day that made me write this post in the first place.  I was going for a 4 mile run and started thinking about how LONG it felt to run 4 miles. I thought, “Why is this so hard?”.  The first four months of the year, I had ran over 100 miles each month. I ran a marathon in April, for Pete’s sake. So, what was I doing out here feeling like I was running ten times farther than my actual distance…? And as I pushed forward, I started thinking all I want to do is be a “good” runner.  

Wait. What?

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Being a “good” runner – What does that even mean? 

So, for the rest of my run, I pondered this idea-what makes a “good” runner.

Oftentimes, I will hear runners emphasize their pace or distance.  By that, I mean, “faster” or “longer” runs are “better” or define a “good” runner (yes I am using a lot of quotation marks here, I know).  But I started thinking about that more. My pace is fair and I’ve ran two marathons at this point. Maybe that makes me a good runner. Maybe not. But, I do know that I always want to improve and find new challenges.  I started thinking about other runners I know.  Some are not as fast as me; some have run distances far past 26.2 miles; some run happy every time they run; some never give up, even through injury or personal conflicts.  And that is when I realized, there is no singular definition of a good runner.  But, based upon my experiences with my local running community, I think there are some key elements that one should possess to be a “good” runner. Here is the attributes list I came up with while running; I made it from the main attributes of people I know here in my local running community that I would place in the GREAT runner category.

  • Heart – Running  isn’t for the faint of heart. If running was easy, everyone would do it.  We all start out as new runners; oftentimes out of shape or inexperience. If your heart isn’t in it, it is easy to make excuses and stop.
  • Determination/Courage – Running makes you face your fears. It can take you places you never thought you could go.  There are days you can doubt yourself or think you can’t do it, but good runners still lace up and get out there, despite the odds.
  • Goal-setter – The goal is always based upon the individual runner, but always there is a end goal. The good runners are stating their goals, making a plan, and meeting the end goal.  Oftentimes, they are encouraging others to do the same.
  • Finds joy in the process – Some of the best runners I know that have been running for years can still find joy in the process.  Part of that is probably because they are always setting new goals, but the other part may be that they can appreciate running for what it is.  If you are running, at any pace or distance, it means you are healthy and able–certainly there is JOY in that!

So, if you can see any of these attributes in yourself, then you can guarantee I think you’ve made the list when it comes to what defines a “good” runner. Running as a sport is a fluid concept, much like life. There are times we will have good running days, and there are times when we will have not so good running days. The point is to enjoy each day as it comes and know that you are worth the challenge.  

every day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women and the hats they wear…

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So, the photo is just to get your attention. Sort of.  But it is also illustrates the juggling I do every day–as a woman, mother, wife, and daughter.  I am a runner, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an employee, a student, a care taker, a mentor….the list goes on and on. Think about it. If I asked you right now how many roles you played (“hats you wear”) in a day, what would your “hat count” be in total?

I really started thinking about this “hat count” when I saw a conversation recently in a Women For Tri group.  The original post was from an athlete talking about finding, and losing, a balance of her roles when training for an Ironman.   She poured her heart out on camera, in the middle of her living room floor with piles of laundry, a dirty floor and  mounds of back to school paperwork surrounding her. She had just returned home from her race the day before and was exhausted.  Instead of eating, resting, recovering, this woman was faced with the task of picking back up where she had left off weeks, probably even months, ago.  She broke down on the camera and said she just wanted to revel in the one thing she had ever done in her life for herself–train and complete an Ironman–and she could not because, well, life was calling.  She was very frustrated, but at the same time, she was very proud to have accomplished a life-long dream, all while being a single mom, raising a child with special needs, and working full-time during her training.

The comments that poured in to her were amazing and supportive. Women who did not have children, women who had supportive families, women who were going through the same things she was–they were all there saying “Keep your head up.  If you can do that, you can do anything.” “You are amazing.” “You are inspiring.”  “Let the laundry wait.” “Who can help you with the paperwork?”  “Stay strong.”  It gave me hope. Hope for this woman to eventually get her child enrolled in a new school, find her living room floor again, and even rest eventually.

strong women

The other thought I had when reading this woman’s story and the comments, was “Wow. These women are amazing.”  The women coming to her support were all different levels of athletes, but they were surrounding her and lifting her up in a way that I personally don’t see women do enough.  We are talking women with MANY hats. They didn’t have to be there supporting this woman, but here they were, telling her she CAN do it. Telling her she WILL do it.  Telling her to BE KIND TO HERSELF.  Telling her to STOP and REVEL in this one thing, even just for a moment. These women are the kind of women I want to be like; the kind of women I try to surround myself with for so many reasons.  They were not saving her by telling her to take off some of her hats (i.e. giving up something she loves being), they were gently reminding her how to balance her hats.

Her post reminded me that even on the days when I might struggle to balance training with all of the other things life hands me, I can do what I need to do to meet my goals and not necessarily have to give up any of my roles. 

So many times we are busy taking care of everyone else, we put ourselves last. I am grateful I have a supportive family, but I am also grateful for the women I have met through my local running group.  The ladies of Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town in Louisville GET ME. They know what I am trying to do and they have my back on the days when I am having the hardest time keeping all of my hats balanced.

Ladies, if you are struggling and don’t have women like this in your life, go find them. They are out there waiting for you. They will understand and appreciate you far more than you realize.  And, they will help push your hats back up on top of your head when they see them leaning a little too far to one side.   

 

successful woman

Trying in Indy- my first sprint triathlon!

If you’ve been following my journey this summer, you know that my first attempt at a triathlon was unsuccessful (due to weather the swim portion was cancelled-read more about MingoMan Triathlon here)! So, I decided to give it another “tri” and headed to Indianapolis for TRI Indy.  I signed up for the sprint distance again as this was my first attempt and I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew!  Turns out, I surprised myself in a few ways…

 

My husband I arrived in Indianapolis and headed straight to packet pick-up, which was a breeze. We snuck into the 101 course for newbies and listened to race organizers give last minute tips and tricks and tell us about the course. I recommend if you are new to the sport or aren’t familiar to the course to attend a clinic if they offer it at your race. You will learn at least one thing that is helpful for your race day!  After the beginner’s clinic, we headed to find my training partner and her husband and walked the course to get familiar with the swim portion and the transition area.  The swim is in the canal through downtown and both Transition 1 (T1) and Transition 2 (T2) are in the same grassy area of the park. The course is actually quite beautiful! After walking the course, my training partner and I were a little sad we didn’t sign up for the Olympic option as my husband did.  After walking the course, we went back to our hotel to get some rest.

Race day morning was uneventful in terms of logistics–parking was a breeze and getting our bikes racked only took minutes.  We had read that the swim start was a walk so we made it there early and took our time. I walked my husband to the Olympic swim start, said good luck, and headed back to find my training partner as we did not start for another hour.  We were able to watch the Olympic racers swim by, which was exciting!

 

The weekend had been cool and the water temp for that morning was around 72 degrees at 7:30 am, making it wet suit legal. For the swim portion, you corral yourself in a line and then every 2 seconds, someone jumps from the platform into the canal, so it took us a good 20 minutes to get into the water. As you are in the line waiting, you were given the option to get in the water to warm up. Neither my training partner nor I had on a wet suit, so we declined the warm-up as people were in the water with teeth chattering.  Looking back, this could have been my first mistake!  Finally, it was our turn to take to the platform and jump in-my friend went first and I quickly followed suit behind her.  As my body hit the water, I immediately realized I was not prepared for how cold the water actually was and it immediately took my breath away. For the next 250-300 meters I struggled to find my breath and swim correctly – it was HORRIBLE.  My friend’s husband was walking along the canal and could see that I was not happy and came back to walk along beside me and talk to me.  I was so grateful for his support and his encouragement to keep going forward.  I stopped twice to flip over onto my back and catch my breath: once I even stood up in the canal to try to calm my heart rate down! Finally after what seemed like 40 minutes, I got it together and swam correctly the remainder of the way, but it was still slower than I wanted.  I am not a fast swimmer, but was hoping to do my swim in less than 15 minutes. Instead I got out of the water in a little over 19 minutes! Regardless, I was done with the swim and ecstatic to move on to the bike and warm up.

My T1 time was at two minutes and then I was off on the bike!  I loved this bike course, mainly because after my last race my friend helped me make a minor adjustment to my gears, which made a huge difference this time! The bike course is a 12 mile loop and it is quite rough.  They do warn you about this, so mentally, I was prepared and just hoped I didn’t pop a tire.  I smiled most of the bike, knowing that the swim was behind me and I was one leg away from finishing my first tri!  I said hello to people on the course, thanked the volunteers and police officers (they had a great presence on the course) as I rode by, and cheered on the runners as I came back into the transition area.  My bike time was at 39 minutes, totally smashing my average pace and speed from my last race!

In transition, I jumped off of the bike and threw my visor on and went for it!  I did not take any nutrition during the race up to this point, so I did take advantage of the aid stations during the run portion (one each mile with lots of smiling faces).  It was hot and I wanted to make sure my strongest event stayed that way! The 3.1 mile loop was beautiful, although a little tight in the beginning.  After the first mile, I got through some of the Olympic racers on their second loop and felt more comfortable.  The run was not my PR for a 5K, but it was certainly right where I wanted it to be for race day, thanks to my brick work-outs.  A respectable 26 minutes and smiling the whole time due to the exhilaration of knowing I was finishing my first triathlon-it was an amazing feeling for sure.  My friend and her husband were waiting for me at the finish line. We had done it and we couldn’t stop grinning!

 

Lessons learned from this race:  I think I should have taken the option of warm-up prior to swim start. Looking back, if I did get in for warm-up, I might have given my body time to adjust to the water and it would not have shocked my body so badly when I jumped in to swim.  I need to think about investing in a wet suit if I am going to do other races with open water swim.  I also need more practice in OWS, which I already knew, but this race was a good reminder to get out there during training and put myself in conditions similar to race day.  I might also consider taking some nutrition on the bike portion of the race so that I don’t need to worry about that during the run portion of the race, especially if it is a hot day.

Most importantly, I have learned that triathlons are really about the individual athlete.  It is different than a single event race!  I had women in front of me that dusted me on the swim, but I passed them on the run. I had men behind me on the swim that passed me on the bike. You cannot compare yourself to another athlete in these cases; everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but one thing is for sure, we are all there to improve in the ways that we can during race day.  Overall, I placed 5th in my age group with a time of 1:42:46.9 and I am happy with the outcome. Moreover, I am ready to take on more races like this with hopes to take what I’ve learned and apply it for an even better finish.

 

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