Runners Tell All: My Proudest Running Moment

I’m mixing things up over here today by participating in a link-up. Not my usual schtick, but y’all know I’m trying to be more of a joiner these days, and that extends to Blogland, too. For the link-up, participants write about a specific running-related topic once a month and share their posts on Amanda’s blog. This month’s topic: my proudest running moment.

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In the four and a half years that I’ve been running, I’ve had lots of great moments. A new year’s resolution took me from not running at all to completing my first 5k. I worked my way up to a 10k, half marathon, and full marathon by the end of that year. There are over 40 races to my name now. I hit the ground running and never stopped! But even when I think about some of my big achievements  and challenging races, pride isn’t the emotion that comes to mind. There’s really only one that makes me feel proud – The Big D Half Marathon in 2013.

It wasn’t a personal record or a new distance for me. In fact, I ran it in 2011 (as the first half I ran by myself) and the full in 2012 (as my first solo full), but the 2013 race makes me swell with pride because it was my best friend Mary Beth’s first half marathon. (You can read the recap I wrote right afterwards here.)

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Running came into our lives at the same time, and we completed our first 5k together in the spring of 2010. I kept on running while Mary Beth focused on other goals. After becoming a mommy, earning her doctorate, and while working full time, she decided that she wanted to run her first half marathon. (See! Total badass!) Even with everything going on in her life, she got serious about running. For months, she pounded the pavement working her way up to being half marathon ready.

Stephen and I made the trip from El Paso to Dallas just for the race. He ran the race on his own, while Mary Beth, her life-long friend Charlotte, and I ran together at MB’s pace.

Half a mile from the finish!

Half a mile from the finish!

Since this was my third time on this course and my tenth half marathon, I felt like an old pro. In my mind, I was the sage old running coach. Truthfully though, Mary Beth didn’t need any running wisdom from me. She was so well-trained and so determined. I felt more like a witness to her big achievement than anything else.

Thinking back on the race now, I remember most of it as being mostly laughs with the final mile or two being a slog.

We had been on our feet for a while, it was heating up outside, the hills were taking a toll. We were tired! Mary Beth never quit on herself. She was smart and took walk breaks, and she was steadfast. I’m getting verklempt over here thinking about watching Mary Beth run across the finish line! Being there for the moment that she became a half marathoner. It was awesome and inspiring. She had a million good reasons to not even attempt this goal or to give up along the way, but she busted her ass. She earned it. She’s setting a great example for her girls about what it means to chase your dreams.

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{From 5k (2010) to half marathon (2013).}

I’ve got a pretty amazing best friend. I’m so proud of her.

Want vs. Will to Work

Let’s go back to the fall of 2001, the beginning of my junior year of high school. I was driving a 1999 Honda CRV, rocking some platform sandals, and trying to grow out my hair.

Me & Stephen at a Christmas party back in '01. (I purposely chose a picture of us all cleaned up; all the others were too embarrassing to share.)

Me & Stephen at a Christmas party back in ’01. (I purposely chose a picture of us all cleaned up; all the others were too embarrassing to share.)

One of my goals that year was to learn Spanish. I distinctly remember telling myself that I was really going to focus in class, and that “This will be the year that it sticks!” Well, the Spanish phrase I most often use these days is, “Mi Espanol es muy mal.” I don’t even know if that’s correct, but I figure the listener has a pretty good idea of what I mean when I say it. Even moving to a foreign country wasn’t enough to get me to learn another language. (I was always too afraid of how awful my German was to attempt to say it to a native speaker even though I would occasionally practice at home.) Sure, I wanted to learn a new language, I genuinely did, but that goal languished in the want stage.

When it comes to athletic pursuits, a lot of it is wants. That sure is the truth when it comes to running: I want to run faster. I want to run farther. I want to run certain races. I want, want, want… I am not anti-want. That little want is the seed, the beginning of what you’ll {hopefully} eventually achieve. When I started running, all I wanted to do was complete a 5k. Four years later, it has blossomed into something so much more, with a box full of medals and bragging rights to go with it.

With Mary Beth! First 5k (2010) on the left, Big D Half (2013) on the right.

With Mary Beth! First 5k (2010) on the left, Big D Half (2013) on the right.

But want isn’t enough. Your wants won’t propel you across the finish line. They might not even get you to the start.

In fact, that want is pretty useless unless it drives you to action.

There are some wants that you can’t get out of your head, that you are so driven that nothing will stop you. Not achieving that goal isn’t even on the table. That’s how I felt when I trained for the Big D Marathon in 2012. I never wondered if I’d complete a long run, I never considered skipping an important workout, everything I ate, so much of what I thought about, even my social calendar all revolved around preparing for that race. I was single-minded.

In that case, it wasn’t just about wanting it; it was about being willing to work for what I wanted.

This is where I’m stalling out right now.

I want to run a faster 5k, but I’m not quite sure it’s a goal I’m motivated to work for it. Considering the fact that I have to cut off 2.5 minutes (that’s a lot for a race that’s only 3.1 miles), it’s going to take effort, time, focus. I’ve been doing the speed workouts but halfheartedly. I’m not excited to run mile repeats; I dread it. I could improve my speed by including cross training and cleaning up my diet. Instead of being excited to do whatever it takes to see growth, I feel annoyed, even resentful. Most days I’d rather sleep in and procrastinate my run. That’s not going to get me to a sub 24:21.

The official photo of me at the Hope For Health 5k last month.

The official photo of me at the Hope For Health 5k last month.

Where does that leave me?

I’m not giving up yet. It could just be that what I’m feeling is a natural dip in my motivation to exercise in general. That’s pretty normal for me coming off of a big goal, and the two marathons I completed earlier this year were mighty big. Perhaps this is part of deployment malaise. Maybe it’s seasonal. (Summer has never been my season.) Whatever it is, right now I’m trying to push through. I’m going to continue to go through the motions with the hope that things will click.

If, in a few weeks, I’m still feeling like this is a goal that I’m not willing to go the distance for, then I’m going to call it quits and focus my energy elsewhere. It’s not very glamorous or inspiring or impressive, but it is realistic. I know that wanting it isn’t enough, you have to be willing to work. I have to be willing to work. I’m not sure yet if I am.

PR-less

2012 was the golden era of my running. If you click on the little running tab up there ^ you will see that in 2012 I earned a PR (personal record) in every distance that I ran. Let me break it down for you:

Took this picture, answered a phone call, and still managed to PR during this race.

Took this picture, answered a phone call, and still managed to PR during this race.

That’s a PR in February, March, April, and May. In the case of some of those distances, the PRs were flying at me left and right. PRing was my schtick. I was good at it, and I liked it.

Alas, the Dash and Dine 5k in May 2012 was the last PR to grace my Garmin. That was almost two years ago, people! TWO! In all fairness, my racing saw a sharp decline following the golden era. I spent 8 months in the racing wasteland that was rural Germany. Even after moving back stateside, the number of races I’ve participated in is nowhere near 2012 proportions. My most recent races (the El Paso Marathon and Bataan) took months to train for. I pinned my PR hopes to the EP full. It didn’t work out to be a new record for me, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it; I fully intend to take another stab at a full marathon PR in due time.

Selfie taken during Big D, April 2012, smashing my previous full marathon finish time.

Selfie taken during Big D, April 2012, smashing my previous full marathon finish time.

Besides, it’s not all about age group placing and PRing. I’d be happy to never PR again if every time I laced up, I felt as good as I did last week. That amazing running perfection only happens once in a while, though. And PRing is fun. I remember walking around after the Austin half marathon (my fastest half to date) feeling victorious! I even talked to strangers. (Y’all know that means I must have been feeling out-of-this-world elation for that to happen.)

I feel like my best chance for a new PR would be in the 10k. I’ve only run four 10ks, and I don’t feel like I topped out in that distance yet. Even though I’d have to run faster than 8:40 for 6 miles, I think a little bit of regular speed work would  push me over the edge. Granted, I have no idea how fast I could run a 10k these days, but I feel like I have a 10k PR still in me.

Unfortunately, it’s not a very popular of a race distance around here. The soonest upcoming 10k isn’t until June, which would give me time to train, but running in June sounds not fun. Plus, it’s two hours away. Four hours of driving for a 1 hour race? Not going to happen.

The scenery at my lightening fast 5k PR. Not pretty to look at, but it sure was flat.

The scenery at my lightening fast 5k PR. Not pretty to look at, but it sure was flat.

My second choice for a PR distance would the half marathon. At the EP full, I ran the first half in 2:07. That would be 10 minutes too slow to PR, but I was trying to pace myself (sort of). Had that been the entire race, I would have pushed myself more. I also happen to think that half marathons are a great distance. I’d love to aim for a sub 1:55.

However, I have no intention of doing that any time soon. We are quickly entering the time of year when the entire state of Texas turns into a frying pan. Even if there was a half around here, and I can’t find any coming up, it’d be miserable. That PR will have to wait.

The secret to my fast finish at the Austin Half, February 2012.

The secret to my fast finish at the Austin Half, February 2012.

Sigh. So I guess it’s you and me, 5k. I love 5ks. That’s probably why I’ve run so many of them. But 5ks are also scary. My PR was run at a 7:50 pace. Even for a mere 3 miles, that sounds really fast to me these days. I’m not sure I could even run 1 mile at that speed. The upside is that 5ks are a dime a dozen around here, so I’ve got options. Not to mention, the short length of the race makes heat less of a factor.

I’m not saying I’m going to go for it. Instead, I’m saying that I’m willing to consider it. I want to see if a 5k PR is even in the realm of possibility and if I’m up for the challenge. A few fast runs around the neighborhood might give me some insight on the possibility of a 5k PR. Who knows, I might scrap it all and just do yoga until fall rolls around.

What is your favorite racing distance? Got any good PR stories? Or advice for throwing up a big 5k PR?

PS Apologies to those of you who read the unfinished version of this post that I accidentally published last night! Zoinks! I guess now you get an inside look at the types of edits I make.

Goooooooooals: EP Marathon

It’s race week, race week, race week. (Not quite as catchy as the “Friday” song, is it?) I’ve had goals in mind during the many months that I’ve been training, but I generally like to wait until the big day gets closer before I make those goals public. You know, so my utter shame in not even being able to attempt certain goals is only witnessed by me and not all of Internetsville. Now that training is mostly over, I might as well spill the beans.

Time Goals

Sprint to the finish! (One of the photos I took at the aquathlon last year.)

Sprint to the finish! (One of the photos I took at the aquathlon last year.)

  1. Finish before the cut-off. This is the cheesy part where I tell you that I respect the distance. I do. If it’s crazy hot (oh, please, no) or windy or typhooning, if I trip at mile 2 (new fear), if I get a stomach virus, if the stars don’t align, then I just want to complete the race. Marathons are hard. Finishing is a big deal.
  2. 4:22 (a PR). I ran Big D two years ago in 4:24. The Run Less, Run Faster plan that I’ve been using has me finishing in just over 4:22. I’m not feeling super confident, but I did follow the plan pretty closely. Plus, a PR after months of training would be so sweet.
  3. Sub-4:15. It’s only a little bit faster than 4:22, but it means each mile needs to be 15 seconds faster. That seems so fast in my mind! This goal is definitely a stretch, but I’m going to go for it anyway.

Strategy

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  1. Control what I can, let go of the rest. That means hydrating and eating well all week. Completing my final runs and keeping my legs fresh. It also means, taking a deep breath and accepting things like weather. All I can do is take care of the things I have control over.
  2. Use the hills. I’ve been thinking about the elevation chart the entire time I’ve been training. There’s no point in being conservative when you are given the gift of running downhill. I’m going to gauge my perceived effort so that I don’t go too fast, but my aim is to go fast downhill.
  3. Push myself. In most of my previous races, I’ve aimed to “run smart.” (Makes sense. Who wants to run stupid?) This time around, I want to be less cautious and more daring. I run the risk of bonking. I also run the risk of earning an awesome finish time. I’ve got to push myself to get it.

Attitude

Still smiling at the end of Big D. I'd like a repeat of that!

Still smiling at the end of Big D. I’d like a repeat of that!

  1. Be thankful. I always feel better when I thank the volunteers out on the course. I also want to take the time to recognize how lucky I am that my body cooperates with my dreams. Especially if I don’t make my time goal, I don’t want to get hung up on what didn’t happen; I want to be thankful that I can at least try.
  2. Have fun. There’s no point in torturing myself for 4+ hours; I need to enjoy it. I want to high five people, cheer on my fellow runners, sing (in my head only – I won’t inflict that on others), and smile.
  3. Remember that it’s not just about me. Sure, it’s mostly about me (isn’t it always?), but I’ve trained with other people in mind. I’m going to be thinking of those people on race day, and I hope I do them justice.

Did I miss anything? Any other goals I should include?

The Best of ’13

I usually do a review at the end of the year of all the things that happened in the preceeding months. This year, I’m switching it up. (Besides, I know most of y’all have been reading along as things happened and/or you are capable of searching the blog for the dirt.) I decided I’d rather highlight some of the year’s best. Best what, you ask. Best of everything!

Best race: Big D

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It wasn’t the race course, the swag, or the finish time that made this race so special. It was getting to run it with my best friend. This was Mary Beth’s first half marathon and a huge goal for her. We ran every step of the way together, and it was awesome to get to witness her cross the finish line. She earned it.

Best vacation: White Sands

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We didn’t travel nearly as much this year as last, but even if we had, White Sands still might have won. It was breathtakingly beautiful, unique, hot as hell, and so fun.

I started the year as a housewife, got hired to work at the gym, and spent the last six months as a library tech. Well all those are good and fun, getting my first paid writing gig was the most fullfilling. I’m aiming for a lot more of that in 2014.

I read a lot of books this year, and a lot of them were good, but this one was the best. (I’ll be doing a recap of my reading challenge later in the week; I’m trying to hurry up and finish one more book before the new year.)

Best Kitchen Creation: Green Salsa

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My mother-in-law’s green salsa recipe is to die for. If I made a gallon of it, I’d eat a gallon of it. (Hence, the reason I only make it in small batches or when we have guests coming over!) Other good eats this year: lasagna rolls, stacked veggie enchiladas, anything involving zoodles.

Best Anniversary: 1 year post-deployment

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This picture never gets old.

Everyone’s reintegration experience is different. Ours was difficult. It took us an entire year of hard work to get back to where we wanted our relationship to be. It was worth it, and the anniversary was so sweet.

It wasn’t all good. 2013 was a tough one. Not quite as bad as 2005, lovingly known as “The Year We Got Crapped On,” but it was up there. Moving stress, painful goodbyes, professional issues, emotional hurdles and hardships – this year had it all. Some days, I felt like I was treading water, and it would just take one more wave to do me in. While I don’t think that I’m better for my struggles (oh, how I would gladly have skipped the struggles!), I think I’m in a better place. I’m ready to make 2014 a fantastic year. I’m ready to put in the work. I’m ready for the good. I’m ready.

Race Calendar – Finally!

*Thanks for your support this week. It’s definitely been a tough one for me. I’m ready get back into the swing of things around here with some running talk.*

For months now, I’ve been wanting to run more and race more, but it just hasn’t happened. Contributing factors:

  • Moving
  • Being undertrained for spring races
  • A lack of summer races nearby
  • Summer heat
  • Work

Now fall is getting nearer, there is the promise of cooler weather ahead, my work hours are better, and dammit, I really want to race already! I picked out my fall and spring races a while back and even made the training calendar in June, but I was waiting until training actually got closer to share what I had in mind.

My tentative race schedule:

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This race is part of a Dia De Los Muertos race series. They are offering 4 half and full marathons on 4 consecutive days. (One of the races is being held in El Paso, but it’s on a Thursday and it’s a 1.4 mile loop that you run over and over and over again. Pass.) I plan to use Hal Higdon’s half marathon plan and take training really easy. No big time goals, no PRs. I just want to run another 13.1.

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I was really disappointed that when we moved in April, and I had missed prime racing season in El Paso. This year I’m taking full advantage by running the town’s biggest race. I’m going to train in the fall (cool weather!) using Run Less, Run Faster. Right now, this is my goal race. I’d love to PR (my current full PR is 4:24:54), but February is a long way off. I guess it will depend on how training goes.

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When a reader initially suggested this to me, my reaction was, “eeeeeffffff noooooooo.” And yet, I could not get this race out of my head. After visiting White Sands and seeing how beautiful it is, I knew I had to do this race. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be hot, the terrain will suck and the elevation blows, but I’m going to do it anyway. Luckily, I think I’ve convinced Julie to do it with me! The goal will be to finish without passing out.

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I have run Big D for the last three years in a row, and I’d love to go four for four. Every time I’ve run this race, it means more to me than the time before. The way my race calendar is shaping up, participating in this would be really ambitious from a travel/time off work perspective and (of more concern) a physical perspective. If I do this race, I will most likely walk it. The chances of me doing it right now really depend on how the other races go. I just love it so much that I don’t want to count it out yet.

I’d love to add in another race in December and there’s the possibility that some of the spring races will get cut, but for now, this is the plan! Anyone care to join me?

Big D Half Marathon Race Recap

Sunday was a fantastic day! Not only did I get to race for the first time in months, but I to combine my love of running with my love of my friends! (Isn’t everything better with friends?) Totally worth the trip to Dallas.

Pre-race festivities started the night before when Stephen’s mom created a delicious home-cooked meal of pasta, salad, brisket, asparagus, and appetizers. After all the time we’ve spent in hotels lately (two weeks straight!) a home-cooked meal was just what the doctor ordered and perfect for the night before a race.

Race day started early early early.

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Some of our crew. From left: Charlotte (MB’s life-long friend), LeAnn (MB’s training partner – she ran the race in 2:00:35!), MB, Me!

Stephen and I managed to get dressed, fed, and hydrated in plenty of time. We had no trouble at Fair Park getting our race bibs and spent a good hour chatting with friends getting excited for the race to start.

A few minutes before go-time, we lined up in the back of the starting herd. I was running with my best friend, Mary Beth, and her life-long friend, Charlotte. Our plan was to stick together and enjoy the miles. MB had a loose time goal in mind. We talked about starting out on pace and aiming for an evenly run race.
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  • Mile 1: 12:27
  • Mile 2: 12:3
  • Mile 3: 11:59

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We lucked out with great weather. (Last year was humid and drizzly – yuck!) It was cool and breezy with plenty of cloud cover at the start. We managed to get right in the target pace the first few miles. (Mile 3 had some downhill, thus the speed!) It served as a great warm-up. All three of us felt strong and were having fun right from the start.

  • Mile 4: 12:10
  • Mile 5: 12:48
  • Mile 6: 12:54

Another strong three miles. I walked through the water stops, but MB and Charlotte ran these all non-stop. We swung by White Rock Lake and got a nice breeze and some great views.

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Mile 7!

  • Mile 7: 13:06
  • Mile 8: 13:29

It started to get harder in these miles. The course is deceptively hilly (and billed as not hilly at all). Those hills had started to take their toll. MB’s knee was giving her some trouble, but her lungs felt good and she wasn’t tired. We kept on pushing.

  • Mile 9: 13:14
  • Mile 10: 13:14
  • Mile 11: 14:27

We started taking walk breaks as needed. Sometimes they were a mile or half mile apart, other times they were closer together. I encouraged Mary Beth to listen to her body, which she’s great at doing. She had no problem saying when she needed a break. I don’t know about Charlotte, but my body was talking to me, too. (I felt some minor joint pain.) We took it slow and easy, which I think is the best approach.
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  • Mile 12: 13:33
  • Mile 13: 13:51
  • Last .1: 11:47 pace

Those last few miles were the toughest. The sun had come out, making us all feel tired and dehydrated. Little aches and pains were hurting more. Walking breaks were longer and stretches of running were shorter. We were emotionally ready to finish, but still had to push through those last miles.

  • 13.1 mile finish time: 2:53:22
  • Average pace: 13:02

Charlotte was feeling good, and took off for the finish with half a mile to go. I stayed with Mary Beth, and we finished together. It was the highlight of the day! She was hurting, but she still managed to finish strong, with her head held high, and beating her goal! We had a big hug after crossing the finish and having our names announced and there were definitely some tears. I couldn’t help but think about how hard she had worked (she had a baby 13 months ago and works a full time nursing job) and how far she had come. I was so proud of her and so thankful that I got to share in the moment with her!

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On left: the two of us at our first 5k in March of 2010.
On right: at the start of Big D, MB’s first half marathon!

At the finish we found the incredible Bianca! Big D was also her first half, and she had a great day out on the course. Stephen ran the race, too! He had talked about running with us, but he has long legs and natural speed, so he took off at the beginning. (He ended up finishing around 2:15 with absolutely no training! What a beast!)

The day’s successes were celebrated at Ihop. We got the chance to relax and eat – two things we all needed at that point.

Stephen and I went back to his mom’s house where we ate some more and showered. Then it was back to El Paso with our butts! I’m really glad I got to run Big D. It’s a very special race to me, and it is even more dear now that it is MB’s first half and the first long race we ran together! I have every intention of running again next year. See you in April 2014!