Seizing life's joys and challenges physically, mentally, and emotionally.

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That Pre-Race Feeling

Pre-race nerves are something that does not go away regardless of how many races I have run. I actually thought that my first race after triathlon season wouldn’t be too bad. There are no fears of drowning, getting a flat tire, or crashing my bike. All I have to do is run. So much for that thought. Today by 4:00 in the afternoon I felt myself start to tighten up and my stomach start to flutter. At first I thought it was just emotions of nostalgia. My home town is Akron, Ohio and the race winds through many areas I am so familiar with. Within a half hour I knew it was race nerves, my mind was wandering to thoughts of what to wear, how to prepare for the weather (cool enough for short sleeves or wear a tank?) and I was strategizing on how to get everything done and be in bed early tonight.

My day did not start off with a concern at all, thankfully. I slept in and took my time getting dressed. I drove down to the expo to pick up my race packet and peruse the displays. In the end I did what I always do at local race expos – check out what all of the vendors have and then go to my running store’s tent (Fleet Feet) and buy things there. Since I was so close, I stopped in to visit with my dad too. The marathon course crosses the street I grew up on and where he lives to this day. When I ran the full marathon in 2003, my parents were at the corner cheering me on. I didn’t think to tell them not to expect a chipper, fresh runner – it is just past the mile 20 marker. My mother wanted to know if I wanted to go home and rest. With six miles to go, I told her to hop in the car and meet me at the finish, no way was I stopping. That memory crept up today while I was visiting my dad, right about when my pre-race nerves kicked in.

With this race being (only!) a half marathon and I am at home, I can only imagine what I will be dealing with in December when I fly across the country to run a full marathon. But for now, nerves included, I enjoyed today. Going to my hometown, seeing some of my old stomping grounds, spending time with my dad – all part of my roots. And in order to grow – in wisdom, strength, and confidence – strong roots are very helpful. Now to put all of my training to the test and show Akron what I’ve got…


Woo Hoo!

Not everything during a race weekend goes perfectly. Fortunately the only problem we encountered was the shuttle bus to the start (18 miles away) never made it to our hotel – the host hotel. Fortunately we found a cab and made it there with plenty of time left before the start. The race began at 6:30AM, a good 40 minutes before the sun rose, and the 32 degree temperature was, um, invigorating.

I felt great throughout the race. With each mile I checked my time split and was happy to be on track for a personal record. The sun came up, although the temperature didn’t rise as much with the sun. Miles 6 and 7 run on the beach. I think I actually saw some ice by the shore line and seagulls looking at the foreign objects with wonder. The race was well organized and the people of Jacksonville made outstanding crowd supporters. To think they stood out in the cold for hours for the race was impressive. At least we runners were moving to create heat. While Jacksonville is flat, the race does cross over the Intracoastal, which involves bridges. And the one at the end of mile 12 is a good sized hill. Just what a runner wants with only a mile to go… The best crowd support was here, what seemed like thousands of teenagers (probably 30) formed a channel on both sides for the runners to ascend to the summit of the hill all the while they cheered us on. From there it truly was all down hill.

As I approached the 13 mile marker, I knew I had a PR in the bag. The subtle cramp in my right foot that started at that moment did not deter my pace. It would not be a huge PR, but a record is a record. I crossed the line at 13.1, hit my watch, and took in the moment. 2:19:21 – a three minute improvement over my best time set 14 months ago. My training partner also PR’d breaking 2:00, which was a hurdle she wanted to cross. A perfect race for both of us. We did it, enjoyed the moment and seized the day.

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The Day Before

The day before a big race is one of my favorite days of race weekend. First, I get to sleep in. Today we actually slept until 10. As my friend said, I can’t remember the last time I slept that late. Next we got out and ran 2.5 miles to losen our legs. We are staying right by the St. Johns River and walked along the river after our run.

Along our walk we met two women who are running the full marathon tomorrow. We shared stories of the course and learned they are also triathletes. One woman has a history of breast cancer in her family. Meeting other runners and learning why they chose this race has been a great experience. So many are survivors, people touched by breast cancer, or here with friends that are survivors.

Running (and triathlon) can be a selfish sport. We train for hours a week, arrange vacations around races, go to sleep early and get up in the wee hours. Not to mention the odd food items we store in our pantry. When we are able to give back, encourage others and share experiences – we break down the selfish side of the sport and reach out.


Think Pink – Save the Tatas

We arrived in Jacksonville today and were eager to get to the race expo after lunch. Race expos are always a fun experience. So much to see, running and racing gear to purchase, and free SWAG to sort through. The expo for the Finish Breast Cancer Marathon is extra special. And Pink. No where else is it so cool for athletic men to walk proudly with a pink bag on their shoulder. Racing clothes, headbands, socks, jewelry, water bottles, and bumper stickers in pink and proudly stating “Save the Tatas!”

Getting the message out is essential and the color pink is a marketing genius to bring awareness to such a good cause. I purchased several items today and all of the clothing I bought from the official race gear area because the proceeds go to the race cause – The Mayo Clinic and Women Living with Breast Cancer. So many times we go to expos and spend hundreds of dollars profiting the retailers at the expo. No complaints to free commerce. But when the same dollars can help such a great cause, count me in. Two friends who have greatly impacted my life are breast cancer survivors. My training partner and one of my best friends since I was a teenager. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and men are not immune either. It is much more rare, but one in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. We can do simple things for early diagnosis which increases survival rates – self breast exams and regular mammograms.

This is my second year participating in the event which is celebrating the 5th year. An interactive display is made up of messages boards each displaying a motivational word and people sign the boards for display in the finish area. We went to the Believe board and wrote in green. If you look closely at the picture above under the second “e” I wrote “All things are possible!” And reaffirming my mantra – believe, believe in myself – my training partner wrote below the “B” that she believes in me. How blessed am I – an amazing woman, mother, friend and eleven year breast cancer survivor believes in me. I am in the Pink.

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The last few days before a big race are filled with so many mixed emotions for me. The excitement for the up coming event, the stress that comes with packing, concern over if I trained enough, and suppressing the inner voice that fears gaining weight while I carbo load and tapper training. Today was kick off to all of the above.

This morning I swam 2,600 meters in an endurance workout. I focused on extending my arms while turning my shoulders more to get that extra reach. I did notice a little improvement in my pace, my 100’s were 2:05 fairly consistently. My strokes per length also came down one or two strokes. This I know thanks to the life guard who has helped me with flip turns counted AND my new Garmin was keeping track too. A very cool tool that is proving to be worth the investment. This evening I ran 3 miles – only 3 miles. It was an easy run and I felt great. My runs lately have really been feeling good, I can only hope it carries over to my race on Sunday.

Tomorrow I will swim and then the rest period begins. We are traveling Friday and plan on running 2 easy miles on Saturday. My favorite part about the day before a big race is I sleep in as long as possible. Fortunately my training partner likes the idea too because when we travel we share a room. The expo is a half mile from our hotel and we get in early enough on Friday to go and beat the crowds. Expos are always fun – so much to see, browse by, and maybe purchase a few things.

I keep reminding myself to not forget the important things about this weekend. First I am running, a sport I love and am grateful to be able to travel to fun places to run. Second, it is for such a great cause – The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer. Seventy percent of proceeds go to the Mayo Clinic for  breast cancer research—thirty percent go to The Donna Foundation to assist breast cancer patients and families with critical financial needs. And third – enjoy every moment and take it all in. What a great way to seize the day.


A Mindful Day

Today was a day to exercise my mind as well as my body. I had planned by last night to run my long run today because the weather tomorrow is expected to be snowy all day and today was supposed to be in the upper 30’s. I started the day off by meeting the life guard at the pool at 7 for a flip turn lesson. I am getting better, in fact my imperfect roll that leans left may actually help me flip and roll over. More to come as the week progresses.

When I left the pool I was welcomed outside by snow – and wind. It was not feeling like a great day to run outside, but I know more of the same is on the way tomorrow. I had a few errands to take care of and by early afternoon I listened to my own common sense. Last weekend when the weather was clear, my SUV spun out on a patch of snow three houses down from my own. It startled me and made me realize no matter how careful I am running, cars can slip or lose control in my path. Today was not clear at all and there was enough snow on the roads that I decided to run my 12 mile long run on my treadmill. That is a long time for anyone, but especially when my race pace is hopefully going to be 10:15 – that means I will be running around 11:40 per mile… For 12 miles. In my basement.

I put on a movie and kept the remote near by and got through it. I had moments of shear boredom, but they passed. My body feels good, I have some tightness from the run, but I didn’t have to tackle hills, wind, or cold. My mind had to focus more than if I were outside, which was challenging. My time was good, faster actually than my 11 mile run outside on Sunday. Despite the mind games I had to play to stay focused, it actually was a good run. I prefer outside by far, but sometimes what we want and what we get are not the same. I kept reminding myself why I was doing it, I am training for a race and I am training to improve my speed. I am not running aimlessly.

Two weeks from tomorrow I will be running the half marathon race in Jacksonville. It may be cold at the start, but I can be fairly confident there won’t be snow. And if I am able to run well and have a good day, then these days of training will have all paid off.

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Don’t Stop Believin’

Looks can be very deceiving. From outside my window it is a beautiful sunny winter day. Stress the word winter.  The forecast was for a warmer day than yesterday, however the wind changed all that. When I started out on my 11 mile long run it was 28 degrees with a windchill of 19. I dressed in layers and even put two Hot Hands heating packets in my gloves. After the first mile I noticed a few things – first my body was not in the mood for a good run. I was feeling sluggish, my pace was slower than usual and my heart rate was a little higher than usual. Second – the Hot Hands were too much so I put them in my pocket with my Gu and lip balm. Third – my brain kept looking for a way to make the run easier. It is hilly where I run and I was thinking of different paths to take to avoid the hills.

I ended up running the same out and back loop I usually do, but at mile 8 my lower back was screaming at me and now I was thinking of cutting it short and heading home. The way I can rationalize with myself to cut a bad run short is better than rationalizing a reason to go shopping. Once again at mile 9, like my last long run, a motivational song came on that changed my mind. Journey was singing Don’t Stop Believin’ ,  I had to chuckle. As bad as I felt, I knew I was able to complete the run. Believing in myself to reach my goals is something I can not stop doing. While I don’t want to hold on to the feeling of the pain I was in, I do want to remember it is the tough courses that I finish that are the most meaningful.

I also discovered two things from today’s run – the Hot Hands kept the Gu warm and my vanilla Gu tasted like warm vanilla pudding – yum. Second – put the lip balm in the other pocket. It was pure liquid when I took the cap off.  Now I have an excuse to go shopping.