Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Building Mental Toughness...

Not everyday can be a great one in training, but there is something to get out of everyday; right?

Yesterday was one of those. I had actually been looking forward to my hill repeats. Powerwalk/easy run up and sprint down for 8 miles with a warm-up and cooldown to give me 10...easy enough. It was supposed to be 75 and sunny, but by time I got out to the hills it was quite windy and cooler than I would have wanted. I know, I know no complaining as it is freezing and raining elsewhere, but I was really hoping for a warm one.

These workouts are always great because they not only prepare my legs, but also my head. Up and down and up and down the same hills might seem soooo boring but then when you actually insert beautiful scenery on raceday you are golden. I know the value of the workouts, but...

Yesterday I was distracted from the beginning. My head was spinning with something else, and I couldn't get focused. Right when I started the workout I tried to sell myself that I could stop, "you don't need to run today, you ran almost 50 miles this weekend." It got so bad at 2.5 miles into the hills that I contemplated stopping and going to get a pedicure...seriously! Now that I have toenails, and all of them...thanks Drymax, I love having my toenails painted. I started thinking, "I could finish this repeat, go get my toes done, and go to dinner." Then I would convince myself to just do one more, just one more...

Before I knew it, I was at the top of my final repeat and heading off to cooldown. I was laughing to myself for the thoughts that crossed my mind.

I will admit that these were not my fastest downhills, but they were all solid and the climbs were a good balance of powerwalking and running. Note: I am not a great powerwalker so when I get bored or frustrated I end up just running up, which ruins the purpose of the workout...to practice powerwalking too.

While I still will go get a pedicure, it will be much more fullfilling and rewarding than had I quit the workout to do it. I know that. I know that come raceday when I get distracted or negative I can use this day, "remember when you wanted to quit the workout at 2.5 miles..."

In the end, this workout was priceless and I am thankful for it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

First Race (long run) of the New Year

It was a great weekend in Bandera, Texas this past weekend! So many friends to share the trails with.

It was also a great time for our "family" to have an adventure together, and an adventure we had. Paul and I decided that we would camp at Bandera before the race. Now, I will admit that I am a hardy girl but pre-race camping I wasn't sure about. I told Paul that I would sleep in the back of the truck, and that I would bring my laptop so that we could watch a movie.
The wonderful thing about everyone being on the same page is that after socializing and catching up, everyone was to their tents/rvs/cars by around 7:30. Paul and I got cozy in the car with Flyer and watched Miracle...one of my favorites. It was actually really cozy and fun. After the movie my super tough husband went out to sleep on his cot. Yes, we have a tent, and, yes, there was room for him in the car but he wanted to sleep outside. Flyer and I slept, and I will use that word loosely, in the car. Flyer wanted to sleep on top of anywhere I moved, which made for a restless night.

We woke up and got ready for the race. The wind was strong to say the least, but fortunately it wasn't freezing and windy. I was just fine with my tank, thin long-sleeve, skirt, and gloves. After hitting the woods one final time, we headed out to the start. Side note, 6 porta-potties for 500+ people...not quite enough.

We got to the starting line and all of a sudden Mike and I are standing at the front. We were kind of hoping people who get in ahead of us. Ken also joined us, as well as Kyle (my friend, Meredith's husband). Before too long, off we went. My legs were definitely cold and I could tell it was going to take a while for them to warm-up. Mike, Ken, Kyle, and I kind of took off in a little pack together. I knew that Ken was planning to take it easy, so I was not surprised when he backed off to his comfortable pace. This was a fun run, of sorts, for us all (and their first trail 50K) and I knew none of us wanted to come out of it sore. Mike and Kyle got a bit in front of me, but I was just settling into my pace. Behind me, now, were a lady and man from New Mexico. Our little group stayed together definitely through the first aid station.

Somewhere heading to the next aid station Kyle fell back a little and Mike stayed ahead. I was now running with Kurt and Jean. They were super people to run with. I knew who Jean was because she has won the 50K at Bandera before and is super strong. I could tell she was holding back, and then she told me that she was running the whole race with Kurt. I knew that the only way I would end up in front of her was if Kurt slowed. On the way to Chapas aid station, the 3rd aid station, Mike had pulled away out of sight and Jean and Kurt were doing the same. I was feeling good, or at least my legs were, but the wind was taking it's toll on my head. I wanted to curse the wind but as I went by the 100k runners all I could think about was that they would have to do this all again.

One of the wonderful pieces of this race is that we all start on different sections of the course. So, as a 50K runner you get to catch some of the 100k runners, and get passed by a few of the 25K runners. We were only passed by like 5 25K runners. The first was our friend, James, who caught and passed us in the first 4 miles, ridiculous. Then we got passed by my husband, which was fun :) Starting after the 2nd aid station, I caught many of the 100K runners. It was so fun to cheer them on, and to chat with friends on the course. I would slow for a moment to say hi, and then move on my way.

While many dread the almost 10 mile stretch from Nachos to Chapas and then Chapas to Crossroads, I typically love it. I love being able to pick up some speed and move through those sections. Even though the wind was definitely slowing me down, I would take that any day over when the course is wet. When it is raining or wet, that entire section is stick-to-your-shoes mud.

By the time I hit Crossroads, I was ready to be out of the wind. Fortunately, Mike had to change his shoes and he was there. There was some confusion over the in and out way to go, and so it took a minute for me to head out the correct way. It is very obvious when the tents are open a little, but the tents were closed all around so it was hard to tell. Next time, I will just skip the tent if I can. As we head out, I don't have a chance to talk to Mike but have to stop for a second to get my salt out. I think, well actually I know, Mike took this as I wanted to be on my own and he ran on ahead. I didn't have the where-with-all to yell at him to wait up, and before I knew it he was up ahead moving right along. This section, the 3 sisters, for whatever reason is always my worst. So I continue on just waiting for it to end. I had looked at my watch at Crossroads and saw that if I covered the last 10 miles in 2 hours I would have the 5:30 I had been planning on.

Let me back up for a moment. Prior to the race I had taken a look at my time from last year, 5:47, and figured that I could fairly easily go 5:30. That's about what Mike was thinking for himself, too.

Anyway, I finally finish the Crossroads section and tell myself that this wind can't beat me and that I have to run everything but Lucky Peak. There was no good reason for this, but it worked. Before I knew it I was climbing Lucky Peak and running toward the last bit. There was a guy on the trail who said that I had about a mile and a half to go. I looked down at my watch again. This time I was very pleasantly surprised at the thought that if I wanted 5:30 I could get there by walking backwards. So I ran, and picked it up a little. About a mile out Paul and Flyer were waiting for me. I kept running, and finished in 5:14:40.

I was pretty excited for my time, and easy effort. BUT, I was more excited to find out that Mike had broken 5hrs. Just incredible on that course and not racing. Even more...Melissa's fiancee, Mike, ran his first 50K in 5:27, Moogy had a great run after just getting back overseas, and Ken had an awesome run after having to get a ride out to redo the Crossroads loop. (I can TOTALLY see how it happened!!!)

While the 100K beast of a run did some in, others conquered the day and course with flying colors. John R. had an incredible day, even though he was moving so fast I never saw him on the course. And, Mel, so awesome. I was crewing for her when she came around from the 50K and she just looked and said that she wasn't having the best day. I quickly walked her out of the aid station, and then Paul and I went to see her at the Chapas aid station. Again, she was ok, but just not her usual bubbly I am having a party self. Well there was a reason for that...she was moving so quickly!! She ended up coming in under 12 hours. WOW!!

I don't know that I will ever run the 100K at Bandera, and I don't know if this will ever be a run I try to race, but Joe sure does create a fantastic weekend and enviroment for whatever you are looking for. I am so fortunate that Paul and I got to enjoy it together, that I could use it as a long training weekend, and that I got to share the fun with my friends.

Thanks for the great start to the New Year...off and running!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Great Start to the New Year!

Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I am back and raring to go...

2008 has been filled with the most incredible highs:
- Runs in amazing places
- Runs with amazing friends
- Tons of Happiness and Good Health
- Welcoming Flyer to our house
- Paul finishing his MBA
- AND Paul Qualifying for the Hawaii Ironman at Ironman Arizona

2008 has also been filled with devastating lows:
- Daisy getting sick
- My sister getting sick
- Us making the very hard decision to put Daisy to peaceful rest
- Seeing the effects of my sister's illness on her and my family

Even with the lows of the year, and the heart break and worry that came with, I also got to see the depth of love that surrounds me and my family. On the day we put Daisy down, a beautiful warm day in December, our incredible vet honored Daisy's love for the outdoors by setting up blankets in the grass under a tree so that she could take her very last breath in my arms outside vs. in an office. My friends, while we were at the vet, covered our home with fresh daisy's and left food in the refridgerator for us. As if that wasn't enough, as days passed the daisy's continued to pour in. It was just magical to feel the love and have the bright daisy's fill the silence of our home. For as much as the sunshine makes me happy, there is just nothing like a fresh daisy, in any and every color, to warm my heart.

And just when you wonder how great people can be, when I went to pick up Daisy's ashes, reopening all the heart-ache, there was another box that came with it. The lady at the front desk said, "oh Dr. Boston must have done this." I wasn't sure what she had done until I got home. She had ordered a stepping stone with Daisy's name and the date of her death and had put her paw prints in it. It has sea glass and daisy's in it. I was and continue to be so speechless for what she did for us...

As I continue to pray and think of my sister's struggle and journey, I can only piece it all together with the web that is family. I feel so very fortunate to have a family that is willing to be there in ways that sometimes seem inhumanly possible, with such silent sacrifice. My parents have shown selflessness to a depth I didn't know could ever exist and an unconditional love in the midst of challenge I hope noone ever has to experience first hand.

I have also had friends who have stood by me during these difficult days in ways I could have never dreamed possible. Whether in their words, prayers, or unwavering guidance. It gave me faith, hope, and oftentimes clarity I might not have had otherwise.

It is so easy to reflect on all of the wonderful things that happen over the course of a year...it's like writing a Christmas letter to strangers telling them just how bright and sunny life has been (I know EVERYONE received at least one of those). But it is the reality of the hard days, the ones that make us stronger, that actually shape the year past and make us better for the new year.

In these past few months, particularly these last two of 2008, I have felt so loved, so supported, and so inspired by selflessness (my family, my friends, my vet, and on and on) that I can only see positive hope for 2009!!

Almost every week for the past two years my friends, our dogs, and I have run at the same track. When my friend found out that we were having to make the final decision for Daisy, she called the school and got permission for us to plant a tree in Daisy's honor. We planted the tree, and I so look forward to watching it grow. It is the most incredible symbol of an amazing life :)

Happy New Year! May you take ALL the good and bad from last year to shape your best year yet!!
Credit for wonderful pics of us with Daisy...Steve Marek of Marek Photography.