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The Long Road To A Sub-2 Half

I ran the Huntsville Half Marathon in 2006 – my FIRST half marathon. Don’t let this finish line picture fool you. I hated it. I was happy because it was over.

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That was the year I tried to become a runner on my own (without a group) and didn’t train super-consistently. Also? It was raining. And cold. And the race was a lot smaller back then. So even though my finish time wasn’t too bad (2:33) I was super alone and was depressed and at one point saw my family in the race at mile 10 and started crying and wanted to quit. It was so hard. My race report is here.

Yesterday was my 15th half marathon and my 6th go at the Huntsville Half. 5 times in a row since I actually started running for real (with groups) and consistently in 2011. And yesterday? COULD NOT HAVE GONE BETTER. As evidenced by this picture taken around the halfway point. I AM SO GOOFY. (Edited to add this because I LEFT IT OFF: Official Time: 1:56:04.)

2015 HSV Half Grway (804 of 1743)-L

Let’s back track 2 years first…

2 years ago I spent my season focused on my attempt at 50 miles at a 12-hour race in the Spring. I did well/PRd on all of my 50Ks and marathons that year, and did a half marathon (Oak Barrel Half) where my friend Kevin really pulled me to breaking my 2:05 PR with a 2:01. I knew that entire day I could not have done it without him talking to me the whole time and pushing me. He got me a 4 minute PR and I was BEYOND AMAZED AT MYSELF. I also PR’d a local 10K and finally got below a 25-minute 5K that season. IT WAS THE SEASON OF THE PR’s.

When my friend pulled me to a 2:01 that year though – even though it was a 4-minute PR – I still couldn’t help but think “That’s SOOO CLOSE to a sub-2 hour…” which I never thought possible in my skill set.

Last year I got zero PRs. Last year I was focused on just grand slamming and I was not training well during the week and things were just a mess. I put on weight because I was stressing about selling our house and it just was not the year to break time goals. I grand slammed which is great, but no PRs. AND OF COURSE THAT’S THE YEAR SOMEONE MADE THE PR GONG. And I didn’t get to hit it ONCE.

SO NOW…this year’s Huntsville Half. I had been considering trying to break 2 hours here for awhile. But I knew my big race weekend was the next week and I didn’t want to be sore for that. Also? I needed a pacer. If there was anything I learned the race I got my 2:01, it was that I need someone to pull me to my goals. I can’t do it alone. Also? WEATHER. So much depends on the weather.

Up until last week I still hadn’t found anyone to pace me. BUT THE WEATHER WAS GOING TO BE AMAZING. And I had been doing “speed work” on the treadmill so I knew I was getting faster. I hate speed work, and really all I do is negative splits on the treadmill, but that’s still work to get faster so I call it “speed work”. I was still considering it but I had NO PACER, and I was worried.

Then my friend said her husband signed up last minute and he was probably shooting for a casual (for him) 2 hour. Obviously I’d be working hard for my 2 hours but doing it alongside someone who can talk at that speed is the way to go because I knew I wouldn’t be able to.

I felt GREAT on miles 1-9. We were keeping sub-9s pretty easily. I was even talking a little bit here and there. It was hard, for sure, but I felt good and I didn’t have to think too much about holding the pace. I felt I could hold it for 2 hours.

But then we got to that dreaded 10th mile again where you lose your shade and you just have a long stretch of road in the sun and it suddenly became harder. It didn’t get bad, I was never considering quitting or giving up my goal, but I was doing math in my head and realizing we had banked some good time under 2 hours and maybe I could slow down a little bit and still make my sub-2 goal.

So I focused my energy on ignoring that voice and just holding steady. AND IT TOOK ALL OF MY ENERGY. I stopped talking and just focused in on the reports my friend was giving me. Luckily he counts down things exactly like I do. “Quarter mile until we hit that 10-mile point” and “6 laps until the finish line” and “Just this one more hill and then its downhill” – so he was vocalizing everything I needed to tick all of those things off so I could just go one mile at a time, or even one quarter-mile at a time, and not think too far ahead. When you’re running outside of your “happy pace” then every half of a mile is hard. My happy pace takes me 30 miles, yesterday’s pace? 13.1 ONLY.

The funny thing is that our fastest mile? Was mile 12. We did that sucker in like 8:18 I think. We killed it. I was so ready to be done!

And at the finish line my friend learned that I’m a hugger because that was my first instinct when I saw my time at the finish line.

I’m a sub-2 hour half marathon hugger, I can’t help it.

I FINALLY GOT TO HIT THE PR GONG!

I FINALLY GOT TO HIT THE PR GONG!

All in all? The perfect day. I don’t feel terrible this morning, just stiff, so taper week is still on track. I’ve got 9 trail miles on the books today but they’ll be easy ones and should feel good on the old legs. I’m happy. I’m happiest because I can die with that PR and not be disappointed so NEXT YEAR, next year I’m going to finally volunteer at the race. I owe them that!

So, when someone asks me what training plan I used to finally get a sub-2hour half? I have to say, “Um…a 100K training plan. With some negative split treadmill training.”

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My Anniversary Race.

379171_10150527516128496_2004057617_n (1)According to Facebook, I ran the Huntsville Half Marathon on this day in 2011. On Saturday I’ll run it again for the 5th time in a row. It’s a sentimental race to me because it was my first half marathon back in 2006 when I first attempted to become a runner and then my first half marathon in 2011 when I successfully became a runner. I failed miserably in 2006 because I tried to do it on my own and after 2 decent half marathons and one almost 8-hour marathon (that’s how long it takes if you walk 18 miles of it) I swore off running FOREVER. “I am not a runner! I hate it!” Is something I actually said. Which, if you are new here, you probably wouldn’t believe.

A year after my almost 8-hour marathon I was pregnant with Wes and wrote this:

I think the half-marathon is the distance for me. For now. I won’t train for another marathon until I’m done having kids and the ones I have are all at least potty trained. Until then, I want to try to at least run one half-marathon a year. Because that’s also a distance I feel proud about, but not one that takes me away from my family an unreasonable amount of time.

In 2011 I signed up for the Fleet Feet half marathon training course, making my first attempt back at running since that first go in 2006. That was the best decision I’ve ever made and I’ve not stopped running since. Small injuries and one failed pregnancy and miscarriage kept me out for small chunks of time…but I think the longest “break” was 2 months. I’ve completed 33 half-marathons or longer since I wrote about maybe doing one 13.1 a year. I’ve run 2 stage races (3 days in a row of racing), 7 50Ks, and 3 12-hour runs where once I ran 52 miles. In less than 2 weeks I’m doing my first back-to-back (50K on Saturday, Marathon on Sunday) and then I’m signed up for my first 100K in January.

All of that change in 4 years.

I had originally wanted to try to PR this race on Saturday, since it’s my sentimental favorite. I was hoping to try for a sub-2hour as my current PR is 2:01, but then I decided that “racing” a race instead of just “running” it one week before my 57-mile race weekend would probably be stupid. So, I’m going to show up and have fun. Period. I’m going to enjoy the race that started my career and I’m going to reflect on how much one person can change in 4 years. My only regret – if you can call it that – is that I didn’t start this journey while Dad was still alive. He was there for my almost-8 hour marathon in 2007 and I’m certain he thought I’d never do the things I’m doing now.

But…it was his death and the depression that followed and the unbearable grief that pushed me out of my comfort zone in 2010 to join boot camp and again in 2011 to join that training class. So, I guess there’s really no way he could have seen it since it was his death that pushed me down the path to begin with.

The day I ran that Huntsville Half Marathon in 2011 to complete my Fleet Feet training…I had just started considering maybe the next year doing a full marathon. I had learned what proper training could do and thought maybe I’d give it a go. There was no part of me considering triathlons though, and I’ve done a few of those in the 4 years too. I think surprising yourself once is something that ripples across your life. Signing up for the training class to begin with, then hurdling my social anxieties which made me skip some of the early weeks, then crossing the finish line with my friends? All of those things surprised me, so my self-imposed limits have stretched out further and further to where they basically don’t exist anymore. It’s all just a factor of time now.

That’s what happened to me training for the Huntsville Half Marathon in 2011, my nevers became ifs and then crossing that finish line? They turned into whens.

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Boob Chafing Is The New Boob Sweat

My last trimester of my pregnancy with Nikki fell over the summer and I was driving a car without air-conditioning working a job with a long commute.

It was as terrible as it sounds.

That was the summer I really spent a lot of time thinking and writing about boob sweat. How uncomfortable it made me. How gross it was. And how hard it was to deny it’s existence when there were constantly BOOB SWEAT marks on my shirt. ALL DAY EVERY DAY WITH THE BOOB SWEAT.

I was still driving that car several summers in a row and I discovered boob sweat is also terrible when you’re not pregnant. But since you are no longer pregnant, it seems a lot less cute and definitely not something people are willing to ignore.

I finally bought a minivan after Wes was born and it had air conditioning! The boob sweat entries faded into history. Until I started running.

I sweat a lot when I run. Especially if it’s humid. I put on a pair of pajama pants OVER my running capris on Sunday after my run because I was going by someone’s house to let out their dog. When I got home I realized I had actually soaked through my pajama pants with my sweat. THAT IS A LOT OF SWEAT.

With sweat and running comes chafing and I have to REALLY be diligent about putting Aquaphor all over my bra lines or else I’ll chafe something terrible. I actually have an outline of my sports bra in slightly discolored skin where I’ve chafed so much it’s like a layer of scar tissue. It does fade eventually if I’m good about remembering the Aquaphor for an extended period of time and that skin can finally heal…but sometimes I forget.

IMG_0766I forgot on a long run last weekend and THEN I forgot on two longer weekday runs so I had TERRIBLE chafing along the bottom of where my sports bra sits and around my neckline. TERRIBLE. Like…THERE WAS BLOOD and when I would sit still for too long the oozing fluids (YUM!) would dry onto my shirt so when I moved again the shirt would rip free and I would audibly wince because MY BOOBS WERE ON FIRE.

(“BOOBS ON FIRE” – the title of my memoirs.)

So…for the first time last week I sought out assistance for how to quickly HEAL chafing. I love aquaphor for prevention, and it’s okay to heal when it’s just one layer/spot of chafed skin, but this was TERRIBLE and I needed something much faster. So you know what my friends told me? DIAPER CREAM.

So I bought diaper cream last week. For my boobs.

I was told to get white not clear because clear stings, so I got your basic generic Desitin type cream and rubbed it all over my bra line and it was THEN that I officially claimed my title of: Sexiest Lady Ever.

Haven’t forgotten the aquaphor since, in case you’re wondering.

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NaBloPoMo Is Here!

For those of you new to this spot on the interwebs, November is National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) where participants try to challenge themselves to write a blog post every day. Some years I’ve succeeded gloriously, other years I’ve failed before the first week was done.

BUT EVERY YEAR I TRY.

So today is the first day! And I’m going to do a short wrap-up about my training in October. I completed 250 miles this month! THAT IS INSANE. I did two 60+ mile weeks! I’m tired and sore but I feel GREAT mentally. I’ve had my eating and my exercise on track and those two things help my mood enough that I can control my anxieties and my depression with my own resources. Training has given me the focus I wasn’t expecting and this month has just been great all around.

Of course, I can’t really walk right now because one knee gave me problems yesterday so I weighed heavier on the other leg causing me a shin splint but…BUT…MENTALLY I’M KILLING IT.

I’m hoping November will kick JUST AS MUCH ASS. Both with my training, and with my blogging.

Here’s to NaBloPoMo 2016!

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Sometimes the First Mile Isn’t The Hardest.

I’ve said many times that the first mile of any run is the hardest. I mean this in two ways: 1) Because you have to convince yourself to start the run to begin with…you have to get dressed and get out the door. and 2) The older you get the stiffer you are so it takes mile or two (or four in my case) to even loosen up or warm up to settle into a run.

But this weekend? It wasn’t the first mile.

I really love trail running and since I am always meeting friends for the trail runs (there’s always someone needing trail miles this time of year) it’s no problem getting out the door to start the run. It’s easy! Trail running is fun! I get to see my friends and spend time in the woods and for X amount of hours the only thing I can think of is: Where Do I Put My Foot To Keep From Tripping? So the first mile of a trail run is EASY!

But as soon as you’re around 75% in on your desired distance? It gets much harder. Whatever distance that is! If you’re going for a 5-mile run? Everything after 3 starts to be daunting. 10-mile run? Mile 7 starts to get ugly. If you’re going for 20? It’s mile 14. You find that your legs are getting tired and maybe you’re stumbling more because you’re not picking them up as high and sometimes you’re cold and wet and you just want to be DONE.

The course my friend and I had planned for Saturday was 23 miles and when we got to the bottom of our last climb of the day we stopped to stretch and I said, “Okay. I have to be honest now that we’re finally to the bottom of this climb. I spent several miles trying to stop myself from suggesting another climb out so we could cut the run short.”

And do you know what she said? “Me too.”

Turns out we both spent a few miles after that 75% was done, considering a quicker way out and back to our cars. But we both kinda knew that if we suggested it OUT LOUD, we’d both end up cutting the run short so we were trying to convince ourselves to not even pose it as a possibility. It wouldn’t have cut too much off the run and it would have had us doing another terrible climb out, so it wasn’t too hard to resist the urge to take that “shortcut” – but either way. WE WERE BOTH DOING IT. We were both fighting that internal struggle to bail out earlier than we had intended.

Miles 1-17 were easy. It was those last miles where it took all sorts of mental gymnastics to keep from cutting the run short.

Sunday I had a similar issue. I wanted at least 13 miles for the day, but would have loved 16. This was going to mean I’d have to take on some miles after the big group was done and that’s always tough to do. But then I got a panicked text from Donnie that Nikki’s slumber party had run out of donuts, so I had to just leave when everyone else did. This meant I still needed 3-6 miles even AFTER I got home. So, I decided I’d do it on the treadmill where I could at least zone out to a podcast to make it through. I kept moving at home so as not to get too stiff, I got all of the girls fed and then sent home and then I headed to the YMCA where all 6 miles took mental push to crank out.

BUT I DID IT.

featuredTwo days where getting out the door was easy. The first 75% of the miles needed were easy. But both days I had to really dig deep to stick with the plan and get the full day’s miles in. I did 40 miles in 2 days and while I’m hurting and sore today in ways I’ve never been sore before (I did 64 miles for the whole week) – I’m super proud because I pushed past those VERY STRONG urges to bail and got all of the miles in that I needed.

But it’s hard. Every part of me was giving me every excuse to cut the miles back…and good excuses too! We had slumber parties and family dinners this weekend. I already had a good high-mile week but was exhausted from wedding and travel stuff from the last week. I NEEDED A NAP. But I stuck it out. I pushed through. And I’m more proud of the last few miles of both days than I am of a lot of running accomplishments.

I guess Dad’s favorite saying applies to race training as well as live: The Journey is the Reward. I know I’ll be proud of myself come race day(s) – but it’s the training days along the way that were hard that are much more of a reward than the race day itself.