A couple of weeks have passed since my last blog entry and it has been a whirlwind. I had to get over an upper respiratory infection/bronchitis (that required two rounds of antibiotics), I had to keep up with training (which took a huge hit due to being sick), was in a fashion show, had a photo shoot, two races, an awards banquet and then just general day to day life events. All of these things left very little time to sit down and write. It took me longer than expected to get over being sick as my RA medications reduces my body’s ability to fight off infections. And having asthma always complicates any upper respiratory infection. However, I am happy to say that I made a full recovery and am back to training. My fashion show was so much fun and I am relieved to report that I still remember how to walk in heels. However, I much prefer running shoes and am planning on never giving them up. I also managed to squeeze in two races, which I will recap below. One of them was the last race in a series. I ended up 3rd in the series and got to attend an amazing banquet with all of my running friends. I was quite shocked how amazing the food was since the banquet was held at the hospital. It always makes me chuckle when I see my fellow runners dressed up. You are so used to seeing your friends and training buddies sweaty, stinky, no makeup, hair pulled back or baseball hats on that you can barely recognize the people you run with when they are all cleaned up. I loved the banquet and spending time with everyone on that level and I hope they continue to do it. I feel as though it is a nice community service that brings people together and rewards us for running and being healthy. So that is a recap of my hectic and glorious past few weeks. I am always blessed that I can do the things that I do given certain obstacles and I will never take that for granted. So, without further ado my race recaps for my last two races are below.
Healthwave 5k (10/10/15)
The Healthwave 5k is a small race that was the final race in the Start It, Stanly race series. It is about an hour and 20 minute drive for me to get to Albemarle, but I truly love the people and the race atmosphere there. Plus, I have made so many friends there that it is always worth the drive. It was pouring rain as I made the commute. The entire time I was driving I was hoping that the rain would break and we would get to run without it pelting us. For some reason, I always get nervous about 5k’s and this one was no exception. I had won the last 3 races in the series and wanted to make it 4. However, I am not the best 5k runner and I was still dealing with a ton of chest congestion. So, I had no idea what to expect. I did a very quick warm up because it was pouring and I decided that a quick warm up was going to have to be good enough. We lined up and one of the fast local guys, Joe, gives me turn by turn instructions as I had never ran the course before (which was extremely helpful). When the gun goes off we take off and I tuck in behind a few guys. I knew they were faster and I wanted to draft as long as I could. Mile 1 was rollers. Just rolling hills most of the way, then again that was pretty much the entire course, but mile 1 was by far the worst. I came through mile 1 in 6:32 and was sitting in 4th overall and 1st female. Mile 2 was pretty uneventful, it just felt like more of an uphill than any downs. I managed to pull into 3rd overall and 1st female somewhere during this mile. But the 1st overall male (Joe) and 2nd overall male (Stan) were too far ahead for me to catch. I was just focused on trying to keep my 1st overall female standing. Mile 2 was 6:38. By mile 3 I had done a couple of quick glances over my shoulder and realized the 3rd male had dropped further back, so I knew I could relax a little on this mile. I had a good momentum going downhill, but was soon met with an uphill for the last half mile. Who does that when planning out a 5k?! I came through that mile at 6:44. The last .1 was a 5:11 pace. My official time was 20:23. I was elated to be done. I had captured 4 wins in a row for the series and that was win number 11 for the year. It was probably one of my slowest 5k’s this year, but I didn’t even care, I was just happy to have put down a decent time with just coming back from being so sick. I had several friends running, so I stood in the rain and cheered them on as they came in. It was a very tough course and several of my friends were lucky enough to nab a PR. I was elated for them. We shared some high fives and waited to get our medals. We later celebrated at a local placed called the Donut Diner which has some amazing grits and waffles. All in all this was a pretty incredible day. Filled with a win, friends, PR’s and food.
Danville Half-Marathon (10/17/15)
I had ran this half-marathon in 2014 and it was horrible run for me because the torrential downpour the night before the race really made the course slippery and difficult to navigate. Every bridge you had to cross was so slick you were pretty much ice skating to get across it, trees were down along the greenway and the greenway wasn’t marked very well because the storms had washed away some of the markings. I almost went into a full on split at the zig zag bridge right at mile 13! Plus, I was pretty much running without anyone ahead of me to follow. I won the race, but felt like I wasn’t able to run it to my full potential given all of the obstacles. You never want to feel like you left something on the course. You always want to finish knowing you gave it all you had. I had no intentions of racing it again this year until my friend, Tara, sent me a pic she had taken of me holding my 1st place trophy from 2014. I checked my current training schedule and it called for a 15 miler. Perfect! I love it when things just fall into place like that. It is very easy to tack on 2 extra miles at the end of a race. I signed up and anxiously checked the weather daily. I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be another downpour for days leading into the race. I was relieved as it was calling for perfect weather all week and a 37* start with sunshine. You can’t get any better than that!
Making the drive up to Danville was peaceful, not much traffic and no rain. I felt like this was going to be an amazing day, I had Steve (one of the guys I am coaching and also a friend) coming up to race, the weather forecast was perfect, my chest congestion seemed to be cleared out and I had fueled well all week. Not to mention, races are ALWAYS better when you have a friend join you. It makes it seem more like a social event and less like a race with a lot of pressure. Steve agreed to this race as a last minute deal, he had never broken 2 hours on a half-marathon and I knew he was in perfect shape to do it and it was a great course. So I tapered him back in his training and made it his A race. Even though his real A race isn’t until November. He had always wanted to go sub 1:55. There were a lot of local races, but they were just too pricey and too hilly so this was a perfect fit. It was inexpensive, flat, had a medal, a tech tee and was within driving distance without needing a hotel stay.
I arrived a little later than anticipated, but I don’t really warm up for a half-marathon so it wasn’t a big deal to me that I was running a little behind. I grabbed my bib, hit the port-o-potty and then hopped back in my car and enjoyed the heated seats. Being late had its advantages as I literally parked about 30 steps from the start line. I just stayed in the car until I saw everyone lining up. Therefore saving me from shivering for about 20 minutes. Once we lined up the awesome and laid back race director gave us a few tips about the course and announced anyone running 6 minute miles to get on the start line. I lined up immediately behind about 5 really tall (Ok. Fine. Everyone is tall compared to me) fast looking guys. There was a female that lined up right beside me and I thought, “oh wow this is going to be interesting.” He did the countdown and we were off. The lead guy took off like there was a lifetime supply of free running shoes dipped in chocolate at the finish line. I was sure he was confused and thought he was running a 5k. Alas, he would go on to SCORCH the course in a blazing fast 1:08. He had plenty of time to eat all of the free bananas and protein bars he wanted.
Once we took off we all spread out. I knew I needed to keep someone in sight, but I wanted to run as even splits as possible. And I will have to say that I did just that. It was one of my most even paced half-marathons to date. I never felt like I got a really good breakthrough like I normally do in the first few miles, it took me a long time to find a rhythm. But, I just keep hammering because I knew that I could run sub 7’s for at least 8 miles without any problems. The course is beautiful and serene. The first 3 miles is a little interesting with a few twists and turns that involves parking lots, but once you get onto the greenway there is a peacefulness that surrounds you and the natural beauty almost takes your breath away. The trees are every shade of fall and you get an incredible view of the river. The people who live and train there have a beautiful oasis right in their backyards. The other advantage is the greenway is nice and flat. Right around mile 9 you go into this huge loop and you can see where you are in the race and how close others are to you. It makes you naturally try to pick up the pace and you know you are coming into the home stretch at that point. I saw a female come into the loop and knew I had to hold onto pace if I wanted to win. Since we were on the return back, we started passing people and so many runners were saying “great job” and “lead female” and “you go girl” that it made me keep pushing harder. For a girl who never thought she would even win an age group award it puts a smile on my face every single time someone encourages me. I kept pushing and wouldn’t let up at that point. I knew I could do it. A repeat win at another half was staring me in the face, I just had to hold on and not slow up. I started to find my rhythm and I fed off of all the encouraging runners. As each person I passed I told myself I was running for them and I couldn’t let them down. That push at the end is just what I needed to stay on pace. As I came upon the last bridge it had a lot of sand on it and I lost a little traction, but it was not nearly as bad as the previous year. So I pushed hard through the finish line and ended up being 1st Overall Female and 5th Overall. Official time was 1:29:59. Considering the previous year was 1:33:11, I was elated! My splits: 6:42, 6:50, 6:46, 6:50, 6:50, 6:49, 6:55, 6:51, 7:02, 7:01, 7:01, 7:03, 7:05,5:25 (last .1). I am incredibly proud of my splits from this race. I kept them even and steady. I didn’t drop off anywhere drastically and it made me feel like I had finally nailed the even pacing thing that everyone raves about. Win #12 for 2015! I am so beyond grateful to even get one win, so to have 12 of them so far this year makes me want to pinch myself!
I grabbed a bottle of water and congratulated a few runners and then ran back out to get Steve. I only made it about half a mile out before I found him. I ran beside him and tried to encourage him and anyone within earshot to keep pushing. I said my favorite, “don’t talk, just breathe” and just tried to keep him focused on pushing through the pain and fatigue. I had no idea where he was on his time and didn’t want to bother asking him as I just wanted him to give it everything he had at that point. I knew it would be a sub 2 hour finish and therefore a PR. We came upon the last quarter-mile and he kicked like his life depended on it and crossed the finish line in 1:48!! A 15 minute PR! I was ecstatic for him. There is truly nothing better at a race than having your friend grab a PR and getting to celebrate that moment with them. I was so proud. He ended up placing in his age group and winning his very first trophy. That is another thing I love about the Danville race. They give trophies to all winners, overall and age groups. I feel as though it is a nice touch for such a long distance. It was such a memorable day. We ended up talking to the 1st Overall Male (Matthew) and he was incredibly nice. That is one of the things I love the most about runners. One could assume that this amazingly fast runner, who was obviously leaps and bounds faster than everyone else there, took time out to chat it up with other runners. He made you feel like he was just a normal guy. I hope he got his chocolate dipped shoes or at least his fill of free bananas. I made Steve run 2 extra miles with me so I ended up getting in 16 total for the day. Then we went and celebrated with some Biscuitville. Do you know how amazing a chicken biscuit tastes after 16 miles? Pretty amazing!
So that is life for the past few weeks. Living, training and getting one step closer to my marathon. My last 21 mile run for Richmond was this morning. I am very lucky to have amazing ladies to run and train with. We all push each other to be and to give our best. If I succeed in getting a PR in Richmond I owe a lot of it to Rebecca and Allison, who have paced me through so many of my long runs this cycle. They never let me down and are always there. We share miles, smiles, stories and always make sure we pull each other through. I used to dread the really long runs just because they are mentally and physically taxing, but now it is something I look forward to every week. My running friends make up my family and I can’t imagine life without them. So now that my last really long run is done, it is taper time! I know most people go crazy during this time, but I love tapering! It’s the time in your training where you know you have done all you can do and it is time to give your body the break it deserves. I am planning to run a half-marathon (just for fun) next weekend and see how close I can get to marathon race pace just by feel. I am looking forward to not having any pressure to hit a certain time goal or to win. Just to get out there and run and experience the fun of a half-marathon again.
I hope everyone has a great week and happy training!