Race Recap: Skunk Cabbage Classic Half Marathon, Ithaca NY 4/12/15

“…talent means nothing, while experience, acquired in humility and with hard work, means everything.”
Patrick Süskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

   

 

Well, I did it!  I finished my second racing half marathon!  It wasn’t at all as I had planned–this was supposed to be the race I would PR in and where I finally hit sub 2:30, but that didn’t happen and I am okay with it.

Training for this half was touch and go and there were times where I wasn’t sure if I should stick with it.  At the end of February shortly after a 10K training run I was hit with the worse case of flu/bronchitis that I’ve experienced since college.  It hit really hard and took me out of training mode for 3 weeks.  Three weeks might not seem like a huge chunk of time, but it was and it left me with just 4 weeks to retrain my body to run 13.1 miles.

I went in without high expectations and accepted the fact that this would not be the race I had initially hoped for.  What I didn’t account for was how mentally challenging it would be.  This race was probably one of the most difficult ones to date.  I was (and still am) fighting yet another cold with a cough and the medication I take does wonders, but it also dries me out.  By mile 4 I was regretting my decision to stick with the half–I kept wishing I had just downgraded to the 10k.  I was parched and my lungs burned as I sputtered out dry coughs.

The inner dialogue I had with myself was at times comical, but mostly I kept repeating, “FUCK! Why is this so hard?  What am I doing here.  Why didn’t I downgrade.  9 more miles?!  What in the actual fuck?  How will I make it through”.

I am a slow runner, but this is the first time I’ve truly experienced true back of the pack racing.  It adds to the mental challenge.  You find yourself racing solo and the walk breaks are so much more tempting.  The urge to quit is that much greater and every ounce of pain is magnified.  I had no music to distract me and no friends to push me forward.  It was hard.  I felt like I was failing.

The rolling hills didn’t feel like rolling hills, they felt more like a constant gradual incline with the occasional downhill.  With the steeper hills I found myself walking and fighting so hard not to lose momentum.  I’m not typically a run/walker–I would much rather keep a slow and steady pace than break and restart.  This is the first race (aside from the full marathon) where I continually needed to walk and it was frustrating.

Though I spent a lot of time running alone, I was sandwiched between a couple of runners, yellow shirt guy and neon shirt lady.  Both had pulled ahead of me at various points during the race and my goal was to stick with them.  I didn’t want to finish behind them so I did my best to conserve my energy for a strong finish.  I took advantage of the downward hills and used them to catch up, but they still remained ahead of me until mile 11-12.

Having the finish on one of my regular routes was definitely beneficial for my final stretch.  I knew after mile 12 that the remainder of the course was on a slight downhill.  I knew that I’ve run down that same path on Tower road and that I would always finish my lunch runs strong.  I knew that I already had 11 miles behind me and that giving up in the last mile would have been for someone weaker than myself.  I knew that my heavy legs still had some life in them.

I powered through and pulled ahead.  I passed both yellow shirt guy and neon shirt lady.  I know it probably didn’t mean much as far as boosting my finish time, but I dragged myself across the finish at 2:55:30.  It was 21 minutes past my PR and I was legit 592/598.  It almost embarrasses me to post that time and place, but what can I do?  Why be embarrassed?

It’s these moments of humility that strengthen us.  It’s these moments where we wanted to quit but didn’t that show us we are capable of greater things. I know I will do better and that this race doesn’t define me as runner.  If anything it has taught me a lesson about perseverance and pride.  Pride for those back of the pack runners.  No one knows true strength and determination until you’ve experienced running a race at the back of the pack.   It’s an experience every runner should feel.  I know it’s opened my eyes for appreciation of what our bodies and minds can achieve.

Did you race this past weekend?  Were you at Skunk Cabbage?  Have you ever experience a lesson in humility during one of your races?

Marathon Training Review: Weeks 1-3

A few weeks ago I decided to switch over from my 3x/week running plan to a more intense 5 day running plan, Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2. The first week went fantastic!  I only missed one short run and was able to stay on track for my other longer runs.

I was also killing those runs!  My 10 miler was a new PR and my shorter runs were getting more speedy.

Hal Higdon Intermidiate 2 Training Schedule

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Sadly, week 2 is when I began to slack.  It was mainly because I was completely and utterly wiped out.  We shot a double wedding that weekend and after two 12 hour days of shooting the last thing I wanted to do on my first day off was go out and run 11 miles.  Let’s not forget to mention that I could also feel myself getting sick.  I know my body and know that I made a wise choice in staying in that day.

My cold was very mild and passed quickly and I was able to get back on track in week 3, BUT I still missed two of the longer runs.  We were out of town that weekend shooting in Buffalo and I wasn’t about to get up early and run 6 miles in an unfamiliar city.  The following day I was far too exhausted from the 12 hour day of shooting so I decided to skip yet another long run.

I know this is bad.

They say to never skip a long run.  They say that if you’re going to miss any runs try to make it those short ones.  But, we’re still fairly early on in the training and I think I will be okay.  You see, I always have the Intermediate 1 plan to fall back on.  When I look at that schedule and think about my current fitness level I know that I am well ahead of the curve.

Screen shot 2014-10-01 at 1.25.15 PM

 

I only opted for the higher schedule to begin with because my longest training run from my prior 28 week plan was 9+ miles.  I knew that my body was already fully capable of going the 10 mile distance and saw no problem with the increased mileage.

So far, the training has been going well.  I don’t feel like it’s burning me out and I don’t feel like it’s too much too soon.  The only conflict I have had been due to a ridiculously busy schedule and illness.

It will get better now that wedding season is dying down and I do plan to work hard to stay on track for week 4.  It’s my goal to have a full week of training under me for this coming week.  So far, I am doing my best to stay on track and plan to do the same for the weekend.  It’s not always easy finding the time or getting up early, but I know it’s going to be a necessity.  I want to push myself harder so that I can PR this next marathon and even hope to run a half at the end of this month (10/19) so I can PR that distance as well.

I can feel both my mind and body getting stronger and know that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. How are your training plans going?  Have you ever change things up during training?  What plan are you following?

Sickness and the Bitter Cold

I’ve been MIA on here for the past month and that’s mostly because my running has slacked.  I logged a meager 13.1 miles last month.  I was a tad burnt out with running post marathon, but I definitely didn’t imagine myself taking such a long break.  It was not my intention AT ALL.

Post Disney I did get back out there right away and tried my best to stay on track, but then I got sick.  I had a horrible upper respiratory infection and didn’t do much of anything physical for a week.  It worked out fairly well because it was ridiculously cold out here and no one wants to run in that.

After a week of feeling miserable I was on the upswing.  I took a few extra days to feel well and then decided to give it a go.  The weather had warmed a touch and the sun was shining.  It was a great day to put in an easy 3 miler. I felt like I was ready to get back on track with my 3-4 runs per week.  NOPE. My body had other things in mind.

I woke up the next day feeling quite miserable and just like that I was sick again.  This time I didn’t do any running or major cardio for a full week and a half.  By the time I felt fully recovered it felt like a month had passed.  Back to back sicknesses are the worst!

I’m finally back on track though!  I’ve only put in 7.7 miles so far this month, but the numbers will start to climb before the week is up.  I’m even contemplating braving another half marathon on April 6th.  It might be a little bit much, but I think I still have enough of my training endurance left from the marathon so I think I should be able to handle it.  It won’t be a PR race or anything, but it’ll be something to help get me back into the spirit of running.  I do also have the option of a 10K if I find the task too extreme.  I’ll see how I feel in a few weeks.

How I Came To Love Running

I’m not a runner.  I hate running.

That used to be my stance on the sport.  I detested running and pulled out every excuse to find ways around it when it was required for team sports.

I blamed bad knees (which I genuinely had) and exercise induced asthma.  When team runs were required, I was always the one huffing and puffing at the back of the pack and trying my best to keep up.  I could run one mile at a 9 minute pace, but after that I didn’t want to have anything to do with running.  I was ready to quit.  I was constantly suffering from patellar tendonitis and IT band syndrome.  Rather than run, I’d get my cardio in by erging or biking, but it wasn’t really enough to improve my athleticism.

I always figured running just wasn’t for me.  I had thick, heavy thighs and weak knees.  I would gasp and cough after every run.  What I didn’t realize was that I was never going at MY own pace and that was the number one reason I was suffering.

Running is a sport that you can’t rush until you and your body are ready.

Inevitably, you will be out of breath, panting, cramping and in pain if you try to go at a pace that is not your own.  I learned this when I began training for my first 5k in December of 2010.

I had signed up for the 5K because I needed another push to get me through my wedding weight loss goals.  I had noticed a few friends signing up for the short races and thought it might be something I could do.  I had been working out steadily for some time, but per usual was avoiding the treadmill like the plague.

In my efforts I came across the Couch to 5K program and began my own modified version of it.  Since I was already in fairly decent aerobic shape (through biking and erg work), I decided to push myself a little bit harder and go a little longer on the days that I felt I could.

I still remember the feeling of being able to go for 5 minutes, then 10, then 20, and so on.  It wasn’t until the week before the 5K that I was able to finish the full distance without a walk break, but I did it.  I was so confident and proud of myself.  I had never run anything further than the distance before and it was a huge accomplishment.  I finished my first race at around 34 minutes and made it the entire way through without stopping.  It was at that point that I realized I was capable of more than I gave myself credit for.

I had hoped to continue the trend and planned to keep at it, but I didn’t.  It wasn’t until this past year that I decided to hop back into it.  I started off with intervals of sprinting/walking, but I made the mistake of doing too much too soon.  I was already doing P90X and the plyo-X workout is tough on your body in itself and when you add running with 30 lbs of extra weight to it you set yourself up for injury.

I developed anterior shin splints and they were the worse. I had never in my life experienced this type of injury.  I knew part of it was because I was wearing the wrong sneakers for my overweight frame so I made the decision to invest in a new pair with added support. I also knew that over training was to blame so I slowed things down and took it easy.  The pain soon subsided and my mileage increased.

With every run I felt stronger and more confident in my abilities as a runner.  In June the experience drove me to sign up for my first marathon and I began training for it in July.  The first training runs were tough, but with every passing week I learned that most of my limitations were mental and that if I didn’t go too crazy I could go further distances without getting hurt.

Running has become a routine that I now crave.  On my rest days I miss it and wish I didn’t need the break.  Training for this marathon has taught me so much about what I am capable of.  The biggest surprise is that I’ve learned that I am capable of so much more than I can imagine.

Never would I have thought I could complete a 10k, or a half marathon, or a 20 mile run, but I did it.  I’ve learned that I am a runner.  I just needed to find MY pace.  It may be slow now, but I will keep working towards PRs and getting faster.

I love running because it reminds me that my biggest obstacle is my own mind.

Getting Started: The How

In March of 2013 I was at my wit’s end.  I had finally reached the “I’m ready to make a change” phase and was tired of the talk.  It was time to do the walk so I signed up for an 8-week weight loss challenge through my employer and used it as something to hold me accountable.

The first weeks I started out by watching my diet and by going to the gym on my lunch breaks.  In the first week I was happy to have lost 4 lbs!! I couldn’t believe that my body was actually responding to my efforts.  I then decided to amp things up and double up my efforts by doing P90X in the evenings.  I could feel myself getting stronger with each workout and loved the fire that had been lit inside of me.

I lost a total of 18lbs during those 8 weeks, but still had a way to go to meet my goals. I felt like I could do anything and at the end of the challenge I didn’t want to stop.   I continued on with the P90X program and soon decided to incorporate running.  I was hoping to sign-up for a few fun summer 5k races to keep me on track.

Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 4.26.44 PMResults from the early phases of running/p90x

I’ve never been a runner, but I have always had it in my mind that one day I would complete a full marathon.  It’s something that I had long dismissed and placed at the bottom of a very long bucket list, but something happened that reminded me of my goal.  My best friend decided that she would be signing up for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January of 2014 and that she would begin training for it soon.

I’d already been “running” for a couple of months and realized that I had no reason not to sign up.  In June of 2013, I bit the bullet and registered myself for my first ever marathon.  I was thrilled and nervous all at the same time, but mostly I was proud of myself for committing to accomplish such an incredible task.

Training wise, I continued on with P90X and began the 28 week training plan (provided by Disney via Jeff Galloway) in July.  Since the start of my training, I’ve logged close to 300 miles, completed one half marathon, lost nearly 30 lbs, and run distances I never knew were possible.

Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 4.22.19 PMResults from P90X/Marathon Training

I’m still training with P90X and 3 runs/week, but I’m more mindful of what I’m doing to my body.  I’m really trying to avoid any injuries and exhaustion and do take breaks when I need them,  BUT I always make sure to complete my runs for the week.  The P90X workouts get put on the back burner if I begin to feel burnt out or overworked.

It’s been a long journey and I still have many miles to go, but firmly believe that “you can do anything you put your mind to””.

Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 4.43.54 PMleft January 2013, right October 2013 after finishing my first half marathon