I ran twice during the month of February, both adventures while I was in Las Vegas, taking in the warmth and sunshine and mostly the lack of snow.
Winter has been BRUTAL here and early on I made a promise to Nick that I wouldn’t run outside unless the temperature was over 30 degrees and that running space wasn’t icy or extremely dangerous. I’m pretty sure the only days that this has happened in Scotia since I first made the statement in January were while I was westward.
On top of normal winterness of CDNY, it has seemed extra windy and doubly snowy this time around, making the idea of winter running completely laughable. I see a group of running bad-asses in their neon orange and yellow tops, making their way through the roads of the park I work in and I am baffled at their ability to log miles during the past several weeks.
Then again, every time I have thought “I could go for a short run now” weather-wise has been in the middle of the work day and therefore not conducive to actual “lace up and go” time. And every time I’ve seen said bad-asses has been in the middle of the work day, so maybe I should cut myself some slack.
I’m just starting to think about 2015 race plans, though most of my internet running friends are already in the depth of training for their big races.
The idea of a 50 mile trail relay has been floating around the office, which would be a completely knew experience considering I’ve done “trail running” one half of a time if you count my getting lost on a short cut through wooded parts and still keeping myself at jog when trying to find my way back to a neighborhood.
I also know that instead of rereading thousands of words I wrote before and after training last year, I could be holding plank for thousands of seconds to become a better runner. There’s a list of intentions I’ve set for myself for the month of March to set myself up to be a stronger runner, and core work is, as always, on the list.
Another activity to get myself set for spring running is organize and prep my gear. As I cleaned out my running drawer and storage areas, I put items I never wear for any number of excuses in a donate pile and only kept the pieces I really love. There’s no use holding on to something that makes me feel uncomfortable when on a run. Plus, now I’ve made a bit of room for me to restock on my favorite running gear.
1.BAMR Bands. I have a handful of headbands I like to wear, but BAMR Bands are my favorite headbands for running, without a doubt. I’ve never had a problem with them staying on my head no matter how long I’m running, or how sweaty I get. These bands have great patterns – including sparkle! – and do a great job of keeping my hair and sweat out of my eyes as I’m logging miles. Made by a member of the HLB Community, Katie Heddleston of Healthy Heddleston, BAMR bands supports Every Mother Counts with every purchase made!
2.Prescription sunglasses for cheap, from Zenni. Are you familiar with Zenni Optical? It’s one of the handful of websites I now know about that sell prescription eye glasses for REASONABLE PRICES. So reasonable, that I didn’t think twice about ordering a pair of sunglasses when my prescription got updated. Because I bought them during a BOG2 deal, Including shipping they cost me less than $10 total, which means I’m not afraid to lose them, break them, or decide I need better ones when the time comes. I have ordered glasses from this site NUMEROUS times now, and hbave been really happy with the experience. I recommend the service in real life on the regular, especially for prescription sunglasses!
3. GymBoss Interval Timer. I love this little gadget for keeping track of run:walk intervals, timing circuit workouts, and adding timed sprints to my runs. I’ve had my Gymboss for years and the products available have really upgraded since I first bought mine. There are SO many colors and a MAX option, now! I also use my timer for non-fitness stuff, too – like setting focused task sessions at the office or rewarding myself with a break after 90 minutes of writing.
4. C9 by Champion Performance Tee. This is the classic short sleeved performance top sold at Target, which means I can often find them on clearance as the seasons and fitness trend colors and necklines change. I have a lot of race and event performance t-shirts, but I like to purchase these when I can find them at a good price in a BRIGHT color. Since I do a lot of road running, I can never have enough neon running gear.
5. Cambelbak Water Packs. I bought my Cambelbak used through a friend and then purchased a new mouth piece set from EMS online. This water pack system was a great tool to have when half marathon training last summer. I know there are lots of different sizes available and I’m really happy with mine, which I believe is an older version of the HydroBak. It holds just enough water for long runs and the pocket comes in handy for holding fuel.
6. Spark Energy Drink Mix. Yup, I’m on that bandwagon. I’ve been ordering these pouches to use before workouts [and after late bar trips] for the past several months from several of my friends who are reps. There are a BUNCH of HLB members out there who are selling this stuff along with other Advocare products if you are interested in learning more. I’m digging the Pink Lemonade, Pomegrante, and Fruit Punch flavors best so far, but I still have several more to try!
7. Mizuno Wave Riders. I’m toying with the idea of buying myself new ones right now, because I mean – LOOK AT THEM: Mizuno Wave Rider 18’s. The 17’s have been so good to me, and they are nearing the end of their safe and healthy mileage, for sure. And I love the minty color scheme for certain! Though… then I start thinking about braining out and trying other Mizuno’s… if I’m going for looks 100%, I dig the style of the white Wave Sayonara 2s, but I know better than to choose a running shoe based on looks alone. No matter what I decide, when it comes to new running shoes, I think I’ll set some fitness goals to reach in the next several weeks to EARN those new running shoes.
8. EMS Women’s Fast Mountain Lightweight Coolmax and Wool QuarterSocks. These are my favorite socks for running and honestly, for just wearing around the house, too. They are comfortable and thick without being over poweringly warm. I like that they cover my ankles and they fit my foot nicely. I end up buying a few pairs just about every time I shop at EMS. [Though I do want to notes that Feetures are another favorite running sock that I plan to buy more of ASAP! I wore them for my half marathon and didn’t have any blisters post race!]
9. Lands’ End Women’s Polartec Aircore 100 EZ Touch Gloves. I bought a few pairs when certain patterns were marked down on clearance and they are terrific for when I am running. The touch screen finger tips make iPod and phone usage easy and when my hands get too warm and I want to remove them, I clip them together and attach them to my SpiBelt. No need to hold them as I jog or keep room for them in a pocket or in the belt itself. I’ve noticed that these gloves often go on sale for $5 a pair, so be sure to check out L:andsEnd.com if you are interested!
What are your running gear favorites? What items do you take on EVERY long run? What do you swear by?
Since the last time we’ve talked running, I’ve found myself throwing in the hat with my once bright-idea of winter race training. I was craving something fresh and new in terms of fitness goals. I signed up for Run to the Finish & Sweet Guru’s Holiday Sweat Challenge, but I was struggling last week to make fitness a priority. I did a bit here and there, but I continued to find myself comparing my lifestyle to the one I was living several months ago – in the depths of half marathon training – and feeling lazy and somehow…guilty?
I don’t want health and fitness to be something that gets me down, ever again, but I know by now that sometimes I need a goal to focus on in order to find the fun in fit-time. I know that it’s natural to have less-fitness-heavy seasons in life, and I know by now that the holidays and wintery months always tend that way for me.
That being said, I want to do enough to keep myself feeling happy about my progress over the past year. There’s no reason I haven’t been working out more lately other than the fact that I’ve been choosing napping, Netflix, and general relaxation-mode over at home sweat sessions or mile logging. My intentions for winter fitness are to make it a priority by focusing on short-and-simple sessions rather than long workouts and rewarding workout time with favorite podcasts.
Run 16 miles. That’s 2 miles a week, on average, or a handful of 3-5 milers. As I type this, I’m planning to aim for two 1-mile runs a week. I’ve made it no secret that I don’t like running in poor wintery conditions, but I’m willing to set out for 10-15 minutes a couple of times a week in order to keep feeling confident in my ability to run a 5K on a whim. In 1-mile streaks of past I’ve found myself running a few extra miles every week and if the weather happens to be gentle, I’d love to see that happen over the winter months. These runs will likely be on the weekends or days I leave the office early, because running the dark is so not on my priority list right now.
Complete 10 Yoga Podcasts. I would love to practice at home more regularly [especially after reading this post on Love Life Surf: Why Runners Should Do Yoga] and I think setting an appointment with myself once a week to get on the mat would be the way to take baby steps to get there. I’m scheduling it on my calendar and making it HAPPEN. I added 2 additional sessions to my overall goal because yoga by snow-fall and Christmas light is totally on my Winter To Do List.
Focus on Strength Improvement. I haven’t seriously spent time working to increase the weights I’m using or focused on building endurance on a strength exercise since my high school Strength Training class. I want to pinpoint a specific, short list of goals for now because I know taking on too much could cause me to give up on my work-out schedule after one extra stressful day at the office. Here’s what I’m focusing on strength-wise:
Work my way up to a 90 second plank. Today I timed myself at held good form for 53 seconds.
Start by continuing to use my smaller set of weights, and work way up to completing 3 full sets of 10 using my largest dumbbells in three standing exercises: bicep curls, shoulder presses, and lateral raises.
For both of these improvement goals I’ve set up some tracking spreadsheets which list out my goal prescribed workouts that can take me from my current fitness level to my goal level in a slow and steady increase schedule. Cheers to getting it done!
What goals are you setting for the the winter months? Are you making fitness a priority?
This is more than a race recap. This is a race weekend recap in which I try to capture every detail down on paper internet for future reading [and rereading] to remind myself of ALL the feelings I experienced during the weekend in which I ran my first half marathon.
PreRace Fun on Saturday:
The day before the race, Alicia and I took a trip to the Expo with her friend Sherry.
I dropped off a bag of food and personal items to the food bank table and we headed in to get our packets. I was really excited to see my bib number – 2868. 6 and 8 have been my favorite numbers since high school and I always seem to have great race experiences when both digits show up on my race bib.
After picking up our bags and shirts from the registration tables, we spent a short amount of time walking through the booth area. We made two short stops throughout the aisles. First, the Hannaford table which was handing out granola bars and water for snacking, and shoe wallets for holding belongings secure during runs. We also took a few minutes at the Athleta table which was offering freebie ouch-less hair ties [with the mantra “power of the she” printed on them] and hosted a fun activity board where race participants were asked to answer the question “What Moves You?” Alicia and I read the board over and saw several motivations written by others that we agreed with, so we added some +1’s and “Yes!” to our favorites.
After leaving the expo we were heading for a quick shopping trip at Colonie Center and decided to stop at the recently opened Whole Foods for a hot bar lunch. I made a ridiculously delicious salad I’ve been day dreaming about since – mixed greens, mushrooms, cucumbers, red quinoa, sliced almonds and the most perfectly medium-rare bite size pieces of steak. I was debating on the dressing for several minutes when I finally decided on a tangerine vinaigrette which was AMAZING. The perfect amount of sweet and tangy!
To accompany my salad I had filled a small soup container with a scoop of brown rice and delicious chicken and vegetable curry that Alicia pointed me towards. I was super pleased with my selection and especially happy that I kept my meal, paired with a Tazo tea from the beverage case, under $10 – which often seems impossible when talking Whole Foods Hot Bar!
After lunch and our shopping were completed, we went to see Gone Girl at the theater. I snacked on a bit of popcorn and half a bag of peanut M&M’s while trying to keep my mind focused on the movie [dark and moody with impressive acting by several co-stars] and not on the anxiousness I started to feel about the race. Alicia and I had been reminding each other to drink our water all day long and I managed to finish off my large bottle during the 149 minutes of movie. Hydration achieved!
The anxious/eagerness continued as we drove home after the film and continued to chat about life through dinner, made with love by Alicia – delicious grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches. After dinner we put together Flat Heather and Flat Alicia, making sure everything we wanted to come with us on race day was laid out and ready.
After reading Jen’s 2013 recap from this race about a dozen times over the past month, I decided that my Camelbak was going to be joining me for the race. The last thing I wanted was to feel thirsty or to come across a water station with very little liquid when I wanted to take my fuel. During training I ran with my Camelbak for all of my runs over 9 miles, so I knew that I would be comfortable with it on during the race.
Other gear worth noting that accompanied me on race day:
On my feet: Mizuno Wave Rider 17 [which I purchased after reading several great reviews including this one from Ari’s Menu] and Feetures Socks
On my waist: SpiBelt filled with fuel, my iPod, and a couple of folded paper towels
On my head: grey chevron BAMR band; These are my favorite headbands for running! I chose this pattern for race day because I know my BFF Danielle has the same one and I wanted to carry a part of her with me during the race!
I also had a throw away long sleeved cotton shirt and pair of gloves to keep me warm as long as I needed.
I woke up at 4:00 AM and tried to force myself back to slumber for an hour. I dozed in and out but never quite fell back asleep, springing out of bed at 5:00 to get ready for the day.
I turned Flat Heather into actual Race Day Heather by putting my gear on and met Alicia and Buddy downstairs for coffee [which she sweetly prepared for me saying “You are getting your PR mug, today!”] and breakfast. I forced down half a whole wheat bagel with a small smear of PB; it felt impossible to eat but I just kept chewing and swallowing until it was consumed, taking the second half of the bagel with me in the car to eat later.
We were out the door and on the road by 5:45, heading to the finish line parking lot to hitch a ride on the buses taking runners to the start. The sun was starting to rise on our drive and when we pulled onto the top of the lot, it was just starting to peak over the top of the other roofs nearby. We marched our way over to the buses [I ditched the other half of my bagel on the way over – eating that was NOT going to happen] and took the front seat for the 20 minute ride over to Colonie Town Park.
Once we reached the park around 7:00 AM, Alicia and I made a trip to the locker room area and port-a-potty line. After standing outside and chatting for a bit, we decided to take the suggestion of one of the volunteers who said some of the buses were going to be hanging out for a bit to give us a place to keep warm until closer to start time, which was over an hour away.
A few minutes before 8:00 AM, we hopped off the bus in our throw-away long sleeved shirts to keep warm and immediately found our pal Jen who had offered to pace us for the race. Jen is running the Marine Corps marathon this coming weekend and was planning on running the race as a training run. She’s also super speedy, so running at our goal pace was a welcomed slow-down for the start of her tapering time.
We marched into the locker rooms together to get in line for the indoor ladies room. The line moved fairly quickly as we talked about how excited we were to be running this race. Jen asked if we had a plan in terms of walking breaks, and I admitted to her that I hadn’t really been thinking about it. I was sure I would take some walking breaks along the way – the furthest I’ve ever run without stopping at this point was 5 miles – but I just wanted to start the race, see how I feel and make that decision as we go. Alicia and Jen both seemed a-okay with that plan and after taking our time to pee, we headed back outside to count down until go-time. We passed the time by chatting about other races we’d run together over the years and catching up on life-stuff, too.
With about 20 minutes until race time, Alicia and I made another trip indoors to pee one last time before we started running. The lines were long, but we made it out with a few minutes to go, reunited with Jen and walked over to the start line with the other runners.
I took my first fuel – a double espresso Clif gel – and ditched the trash. I’ve been abiding by the 15 minutes before endurance exercise [anything over 9 miles for me] rule printed on all the fuel packaging all training long, and it has worked well for me.
Alicia ditched her throw away hoodie right away, but I knew I would be too cool and uncomfortable if I got rid of mine right away and decided to start running with it on. I was wearing my Camelbak under my long sleeved shirt, giving me a fun Quasimodo look to boot.
Ready, Set, RUN!
There was no fanfare at the beginning of the race. No count down or even a gun; at least not that I heard. We simply all started moving forward.
I knew from reading recaps of this race in previous years that the first couple of miles can be pretty congested since we’re running on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path, and the first mile proved this true. Though everyone around me had started jogging, I walked at the same pace as my running neighbors for about the first 10th of mile 1 or so. After we made the first turn to go through the park, we were able to pick up the pace slightly and I finally started running. It was slow going as we all trudged on together – it felt like the largest group run of all times!
Mile 1 – 11:26
We had planned on pacing between 10:15 and 10:45 for the entire race, if possible, and due to the congestion that clearly didn’t happen with mile 1. However, I wasn’t at all upset about the slower first mile. It was an unexpected delight to be forced to start the race slow and steady.
ALL of my long runs during training had the same flaw – a SUPER SPEEDY first mile. I would aim for an 11:00 minute per mile pace and look down when I heard the beep and see 9:20-9:40 on my Garmin. This often caused me to struggle through miles 3 and 4, especially on two certain long-run routes I repeated throughout training which had large climbs during these miles.
Being bottlenecked at the top of the race forced me to hold back a little from the start, allowing us to push into gear for the next several miles.
Mile 2 – 10:14
Once the crowd of runners started to thin out a bit, we took advantage of space as we started to pick-up pace. We bobbed and weaved around groups of people and often had to remind each other to slow it down. Many many times throughout the next couple of miles we heard Jen say “yo! You’re running 9:30! Slow down.”
I ditched my long sleeved shirt not long after the 1 mile marker, knowing that I wanted to get rid of it when I still felt comfortable and not when I felt too warm. I figured if the goal with fuel was to take it before I felt like I needed it, ditching clothing before it was bugging me was probably a good bet, too.
Mile 3 – 10:04
As we continued running, I could not believe how AWESOME everything felt. My body felt like it was doing exactly what it should be doing. The weather felt perfectly cool and sunny. Running through the fall trees of many colors felt magical. And having two of my dear friends who I have experienced so many special running moments with felt really extraordinary and special.
Alicia and Jen have seen me conquer new distances and crush personal records. They’ve given me high fives as I struggle through the toughest courses and cheered my name as I crossed finished lines with tears streaming down my face. They’ve encouraged me on my training reports, responded to all sorts of running questions via email, Gchat, and text, and toasted accomplishments and nice-tries with adult beverages at the finish line and during post-race brunch.
Mile 4 – 10:02
As we were running these early miles, picking off one group of people after the next in front of us, reminding one another to dial it back a bit, we chatted about races we’d ran together before a bit more. This part of the course was part of the last 15K we all ran together in May 2012, and we pointed out landmarks from that race as we went along, talking about what we remembered most.
It was hot. Heat wave hot. It was uphill. Like, almost entirely uphill. And I remember feeling weak and miserable and like running was impossible.
It was amazing to be running on that same path, in that same town, and feel not only strong but so flipping happy.
Mile 5 – 9:55
The fact that the uphill battles we faced during that 2012 15K were now downhill moments of bliss managed to bring us a sub-10 mile. As we zoomed down that hill our focus was to make up some time from our bottlenecked mile 1, and simply enjoy the pick-up. We didn’t sprint, but we didn’t pull back at all, and it felt wonderful.
Another burst of inspiration hit me during the 5th mile when we were approaching the first “viewing area” of the half marathon and I heard people shouting my name. My boss and dear friend Jenn and her husband Jeff had TOTALLY surprised me! I had no idea they were going to come be spectators at the race and to see them there on the side of the road cheering and clapping away was SUCH a boost to my self-confidence. I felt really great up until this point, but now I was feeling a boost of encouragement I didn’t see coming, too! I was BLOWN AWAY that Jenn and Jeff had [sneakily] traveled to see me run and reach this little goal of mine. [EVERYBODY! This little goal of mine; I’m gonna let it shine!]
Mile 6 – 10:18
The next viewing area wasn’t that much further ahead, and before I knew it I saw my friends Tia and Zack just up ahead. I ran off onto the curb to get a high-five from my girl Tia and was SO STOKED to see them there! Not too much longer, as they were moving on to their next destination they drove by us and honked and cheered as they went by. Having so much love and encouragement on this course really meant a lot to me and I was so thankful for my friends willing to be my very own cheering section. Tia has seen me [act a fool] after many training runs this summer and always takes the time to ask about my running and my goals; she has been such a wonderful support and I’m lucky to have her in my life!
Seeing my two little [but mighty!] cheering sections back to back really carried me into smile-town for the next several miles. Clearly… [No. Really. I was THAT happy for many, many miles.]
When training, I took my first mid-run fuel at about 35 minutes each run. This time I was feeling so comfortable running, that I didn’t reach for it until a bit later. I split up a package of Honey Stinger Chews [orange blossom is my favorite flavor] and ate a few at about 45 minutes, and a few more at about 70 minutes.
At one point during these middle miles, one of my running partners stopped to walk while she take fuel and out of habit I stopped to walk with her. This lasted about four steps before I decided to start jogging again and instead of waking I decided to just slow down my pace a bit so that she had a chance to catch up when she was ready.
Mile 8 – 10:28
It felt awesome to want to keep running at this point. It wasn’t because I was concerned about time, or even thinking about my finish-by goals very much. It was simply because I was loving every step of the run, and I didn’t want to stop. I liked how this run was making me feel, and I didn’t want to stop those feelings; not mentally, emotionally, or physically.
As my Garmin beeped at the completion of Mile 8, I remember being surprised by how strong I felt. I was still loving every step. I was still RUNNING; through every water stop and up every incline. [Granted, at this point in the race all of the inclines were very tiny…] When we passed through the water stop after the 8 mile marker, I tossed my DIY arm warmers in the trash and breathed in deep as I felt the sun on my now-bare arms.
Mile 9 – 10:51
Not long after the mile 9 marker, we turned back onto the bike path. We had been running alongside I-787 for the past couple of miles and I believe we were all excited to be back on the path, running under trees with the smell of freshly fallen leaves all around us.
Though I’m rarely without my iPod when running, I hardly ever listen to music; I’m a podcast addict and love to save new episodes of my favorite podcasts for training runs as a “treat” for getting out there to complete my workout. When I run races with friends though, I almost always listen to tunes. I’d rather let my mind wander or be active in any conversation without feeling like I’m missing part of the conversation or performance happening in my ear-buds.
During this particular race, as our mileage increased towards the finish line our chatting decreased. We were never chit-chatting along the course to begin with, but the comments to one another had definitely reduced to a minimum as we were approaching double-digit-land, and I was especially thankful for my playlist during these less-talkative times.
A few weeks before the half, I made a playlist using JogFM’s beats per minute catalog to search for songs in my goal pace range. It did take a little bit of work: scroll through the “artists” in my iTunes library, typing the artists I was interested in into the JogFM search bar, identifying songs by said artist that both showed up on JogFM within my goal pace and existed in my iTunes library, and adding the winners to the “Half Marathon Goal BPM” playlist.
By the end of this exercise I had a 4 hour playlist; way more than enough content to burn through during our running. There are a few songs that played during the race that really stick out in my memory, most of which played during miles 8-11 when we dialed back the chatter and turned up the focus. I had “Back in the USSR” in my head for DAYS following the race, and I am sure that hearing it from this point forward will always bring my mind back to race day.
Mile 10 – 10:21
Near the end of the 9th mile, Alicia asked if we could stop to take a walking break at the 10-mile mark. “Sure!” I said with a smile, “I want to take some GU soon and that will be the perfect time!”
We all sped up a bit until we heard the beep of Mile 10 hit our Garmins and we slowed to walk together for the first time all race. I took a blueberry pomegranate Roctane GU and several sips of water from my Camelbak.
We walked until Garmins said 10.10 and then started to run again. After all of my feelings of AWESOME for the previous miles, I knew within seconds of my starting to jog that my stopping to walk was the biggest mistake of the day. I instantly felt a bit crushed in my soul, but I continued on.
I recently read a tip on A Healthy Happier Bear about not counting down the miles and instead ENJOYING the miles and I really tried to put my focus in that direction. It was really helpful to know we had done so well at the start of the race and I felt confident I WOULD finish, I just didn’t really want to anymore.
Mile 11 – 10:57
On Monday of race week, I received some wonderful text message love from my sweet friend Ari. I can’t begin to tell you how much Ari’s support, encouragement and long distance [unofficial] coaching has influenced my running journey this year! Though I’ve only ever run with Ari by my side once, back in 2013 [and it was so monumental for me at the time that I wrote this post: I Run, Therefore I Am,] I often feel like she’s “with me” on my training runs as I think about the conversations we’ve had about training and racing over the past several months.
The advice that hit my phone Monday morning, welcoming Race Week to my life, was a huge focus of my thoughts in the days leading up to race day.
I kept a long, lined post-in near my computer with “how will you pull yourself out of the bad miles?” scribbled on the top and any time I had a new thought of how I could help myself push past the struggles that were sure to find me on race day, I jotted it down.
Now, in the last 5K of the half marathon, I needed to rely on all of those notes I had taken. I needed to rely on the visualization of success. I had to remember that I had the power to get past the bad miles.
I had prepared a list of 13 people to think about and pray for and send positive energy and thoughts toward. Originally my intent was to think about 1 person during each mile, but I am so thankful I carried these names with me into the finish. The 13 people I thought about were all folks who have helped me get to the finish line of this race. I thought about these loved-ones and all the times I heard “Atta-Girl!” and “You can do it!” over the course of the past several months in one form or another. I thought about their supportive texts and comments and conversations about training runs and new running gear.
All sorts of people supported me on this path to the finish line – people who have run many more miles than I have, some who have just started their own running journey, and others who would never choose to run unless they were being chased by a zombie. I thought about all of the support I’ve felt from my family, and co-workers, and friends, both “in real life” and internet friends, too. Thinking about all of YOU helped get me to the finish line; one step at a time, one happy thought at a time.
Mile 12 – 11:31
I also spent time running my finger over the blue sparkly band I wore on my right wrist. I had decided late in the week that if I needed to distract myself from feeling bad, I would start thinking about all the happy high school memories that I could dig out of my memory. I’d start my freshmen year fall and move forward, focusing my thoughts on the good times that existed back in the corner of my mind in a box labeled “Lodi High School.” I didn’t allow myself to think about any of the less-fun memories from Lo-town [come on – we ALL have some less-fun high school memories, right?] and I pressed on forward, forcing myself to run after every time I stopped to walk or catch my breath. I thought a lot about the word tenacity and how my high school soccer coaches and many high school athlete friends of mine taught me to keep on fighting, often just in humbly leading by example. This helped me to keep on moving towards that finish line.
I also relied on Jen A LOT in the last mile. The last half of mile I HATED running. I had forgotten all about how spectacular the first ten miles felt and all I wanted to do was stop fighting and start crying. Moving felt impossible, yet I knew we were SO CLOSE. Jen helped me power through; she reminded me that tears would lead to hyperventilating and in order to finish this race and reach my goal, I needed to keep breathing.
She told me to keep my head up. She told me we only had a bit more to go. She told me to avoid looking at the people with medals who were walking in the other direction towards their cars. She told me “we are going to beat that old guy” and “no more walking until the finish line” and most importantly, she told me “you CAN do this.”
Jen is an angel.
The Extra .22 – 9:05 pace
As the finish line came into sight, we started running faster. I knew it would be over soon, and the faster I got myself over that line, the faster I could stop running.
I heard Jenn and Jeff cheering my name again as I ran by them.
I lifted my arms in victory as I crossed the finish line.
I high fived Jen and thanked her for helping to make it happen.
The sweetest volunteers in all the land placed my first ever race medal over my neck and congratulated me on the finish.
I was handed a bottle of water and bottle of Gatorade.
I walked forward through the shoot and high fived Alicia, who finished 10 seconds and 3 people ahead of us.
I did not fall over and I did not cry [though, in a move that shocks no one, I am crying right now as I type this… over a week later.]
Garmin Time: 2:19:23 // Chip Time: 2:19:22
I really believe in the A-B-C goal setting technique I’ve started using for races, and a couple of weeks ago I set the following goals for the 2014 Hannaford Mohawk Hudson Half Marathon:
Goal A, achievable goal: cross that damn finish line.
Goal B, stretch goal: 2:20:XX.
Goal C, kicking butt and taking names goals: sub 2:15.
Though I was super happy to reach my stretch goal, I couldn’t help but spend time thinking about what I would do differently, if I could start the race over from the very beginning and do it all again. Ever since finishing the race, there is one thing I keep coming back to as I reflect: I wouldn’t stop running. I really think stopping to take walk breaks, especially at the mile 10 mark, hurt me mentally in ways in which I was not prepared.
What’s funny about this hang-up I’m having [no seriously, WHY do I keep mulling over it?] is that during this race, I ran longer without stopping than I ever have before. BY FIVE MILES. I increased my running without stopping 200%! That is a HUGE [and somewhat shocking] accomplishment worthy of it’s own medal!
Which reminds me, I have to tell you about my other race day medal.
I bought the above pictured bama + ry necklace for myself at the very beginning of my half marathon training. I mean the VERY beginning; the sweet spot between registering for a race and actually running any miles in preparation for a race. I’m pretty sure there was still snow on the ground. Anyway…
I didn’t let myself wear it, or even take it out of the packaging. It sat on the dresser next to my jewelry box as a little tease-filled reminder to work for the success of putting it on after conquering my first half marathon.
When I grabbed a hair tie or bracelet while getting ready for work, I saw that box. When I was procrastinating by playing laser tag with the cats, I saw that box. When I was putting on a BAMRBand in the mirror before running, I saw that box. When I chose yoga pants and Netflix over yoga pants and yoga, I saw that box. When I got ready for LIFE, I saw that box.
And at the same time that box saw ME.
It saw me lacing up my shoes and turning on my iPod. It saw me charging my Garmin and locating satellites in the windowsill. It saw me choosing a BAMRband to match my running gear. It saw me returning home and going straight to the computer, logging my miles more consistently than ever before. It saw me loading online shopping carts with one of every kind of fuel to test during long runs so I’d have the best experience on race day. It saw me reading Runner’s World and following running bloggers on social media, and using the #THS13point1 hashtag like a boss. It saw me choose success and become a better person in the long run. And during the long run. Because of the long run.
I surprised myself in so many ways through this half marathon training. I would definitely say I’m more proud of my accomplishment of training well than of racing well. The race experience was AMAZING and monumental for my journey’s tale, no doubt about it. But my choosing to spend my “free” time preparing for this race, and by dedicating myself to becoming a better runner, and the amount I grew to enjoy my time spent logging miles – these are gifts I never expected to give myself. It may sound dramatic – hell, it may BE dramatic – but I feel like I have stepped into the next threshold of my running and that I truly feel like a RUNNER; something I’ve previously felt semi-foolish saying.
I surprised myself by knocking my training plan out of the park and learning to run by effort and submerge myself in the benefits that varied training can have on your performance. Did I mention that this is the third time I’ve “started training for a half marathon,” but only the first time I actually ran a half marathon? No? Well, now you know. Third time’s a charm. I’m a walking running cliché.
I surprised myself by setting a 5K PR and yet still KNOWING I can do better. And willing myself to do better. And I promise you I WILL DO BETTER.
I surprised myself by having true “race paces” that naturally fell into place. I didn’t push too hard every training run. I learned how to run easy. I learned how to rest, actively and actually. I stretched. I did yoga. And when it came time for it, I didn’t hold back when I raced. I found a balance I have never found before, proven by the fact that I was rarely sore during training, even after long runs, but after racing I’d be perfectly sore for 2 days. I feel like I got something right there.
I surprised myself by getting to know myself more. And learning what I need to move past no and get to yes.
OH. And I surprised myself by losing 15+ pounds in the process. Bringing my total weight loss [since my highest weigh-in back when I lived in Texas] to 75 pounds. Which seems outrageous, and impossible but also kind of understandable because none of my pants fit, except for two pair of pants I bought when I was in high school and a pair of cords I recently bought from ThredUp.
Which is totally a conversation for another day, because this is already a novella, but quickly: OH MY WORD! ThredUp! If you aren’t already, get ready – to fall in looooooooooove! And full disclosure: if you do fall in love through that link and find something to purchase, I will save money on a future purchase. But then you get a link to share with your friends too, because word of mouth is the internet’s shop local, right?
I know myself well enough to know that I may gain a few pounds over the winter. I’ve come to accept [and not entirely hate] this about myself and my body. But I do feel myself leaning closer and closer to dedicating myself to a “no. seriously. weight loss or at least maintenance!” plan for the snowy months.
No matter what happens, I want to document this separation from old, less healthy Heather here, so that future Heather [same vein Heather, rereading her old posts, no doubt.] can come see this here and be motivated to keep making one healthy decision at a time.
But this is about running, not weight loss, right? Right.
There were two mantras I repeated over and over through the struggle of the last couple of miles of this race, trying to focus my attention on the power these words carried with them.
The first is Trust the Training.Mindy, another great friend and strong running influence in my life, had been reminding me to “trust the taper” when I was doubtful of my abilities to run long after 17 days passed since my last long run. I knew she was right and that tapering was a part of training smart, and that I trained WELL for this race. I needed to trust in my training and know that I could do this!
The other is the message on the necklace I put on the moment we got to the car after the race; Running is My Superpower. [and yes, of course I brought it with.] Running changed me. I am a better person because I am a runner. Running helped me find control when I felt like I reached my deepest, darkest point. Twice. Running is what I turned to five years ago when I was dealing with a broken engagement and a cancelled wedding head on. Running is what I turned to this summer when I was feeling so many similar emotions, albeit for different reasons in my professional and personal life. I’m still turning to running.
I’m not stopping with the running just yet! I mean, after all that – how could I?
I have a 15K I’m planning to run on November 9th – the Stockade-athon! I’m planning to PR my heart out on this course, which covers many of the same roads that I ran during half training. [My fastest 15K road race to date is 1:51:37 and during half training I recently ran 9.3 miles in 1:41 and change.]
I have a training plan written out for the next few weeks leading up the race, and once that goal is completed, I’m not really sure what my plans will be in-terms of fitness. I want to keep running until the ground is covered in snow and ice. I’ve found a personal-peace while logging miles out there on the open road. Running is my church* and I plan to keep seeking that magic as often as possible.
Thank you for reading. You deserve a cookie. You can read two much shorter [read: less rambly] recaps from Jen and Alicia here:
*Alicia pointed me to this great blog post today, after hearing me wax poetic about Running being my church and what church means to me, and it’s darn near perfection: What is Your *Church from Yes and Yes