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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A New Destination

History sure has a way of repeating itself. Four weeks out from IMAC 70.3 and I’m filing a claim for reimbursement. This has been a really hard decision because I’m trying to convince myself that things are ok and I can keep going. But in reality, they aren’t. And they haven’t been for a while now.

Since my back injection in May, I’ve had a pretty consistent climb in discomfort. The source definitely seems to be coming from the bike. The longer I’m on the bike and/or the harder I push on the bike. What’s frustrating is that my coach and I have kept my rides to a minimum, doing only what is absolutely necessary to get me ready. And by minimum, I mean, like two rides a week. So it’s not like I’ve been going crazy on the bike. But ever since we switched gears from marathon training to tri training, with the biggest difference being bike efforts, the back hasn’t been happy.

It all came to a head after Tri AC a few weeks ago. In addition to being in discomfort, my body “shifted” which is what happened when things were really bad last year. It’s pretty hard to ignore a physical sign that something isn’t right but I tried to reason it away. Then after my 50 mile ride last week, I shifted again. The writing on the wall was getting clearer.

my beautiful, sexy shift

So the process of questioning everything began. It went something like this: “Am I chickening out? Am I just scared that I’m not going to have a good day and I’m using my back as an excuse? But I can’t make this shift up, I can’t make it happen. I don’t want to be sidelined but I want to do this race so badly. I fought hard to get back here. Nothing is worth me not being able to run. Is the pain bad enough? Am I overreacting? I can get through this, I’ll be ok. But the shift…”

My brain was literally firing all over the place for days. I talked to my coach, to Andy, my parents…and one thing was very clear; I don’t want to be out for an extended period of time like I was in 2016. The thought of being down and out is way worse than the thought of not doing IMAC. The thought of not being able to run brings me to tears. The thought of another surgery, pain meds, pain…I can’t go back there. If staying off the bike for a while and sitting out in 4 weeks keeps me swimming and running, that’s what I need to do. So there we have it. Decision made. I reached out to the race to see if I could switch to a relay team and have someone do the bike leg for me but since the race is sold out, I couldn’t switch. I wanted to be a part of this race in any way I could but now it seems I’ll be cheering from the side just like I did last year.

I’m not going to lie; I’m pretty devastated. I feel like my spirit is broken. There have been a lot of tears out of frustration and sadness. But I’ve been down this road before and I know I can come back. My coach reminded me to see that my journey isn’t ending because IMAC isn't happening, I’m just skipping it for another destination. Hopefully this new destination is even better. :-)

I see my pain doctor tomorrow and we’ll go from there. But I’ll leave you with this…so many people complain about working out, training, the hard work it takes, etc. Keep in mind that this is a path you chose and you are so lucky to be physically able to do it. Do it with gratitude.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Atlantic City Tri Race Report

I signed up for Tri AC Olympic in 2016 and was unable to race due to my back. Since this is pretty much the course for IMAC 70.3, it was a must do on my schedule for this year. I normally always look at previous year results before going into a race. I like to know what people in my age group have done, the overall winning time, number of participants, etc. This time around, I did none of this. I wanted to truly go into this race with no pressure, no expectations, nothing. The only thing I checked a few days before I left town was what time it started and I reviewed the bike course map. Rather than worrying about my performance and finish time, I had one goal and that was to execute my race plan. I think ignoring all the chatter I usually introduce to myself really helped. The day before I was calm, I slept really well (which is huge considering I wasn’t in my own bed and I just suck at sleeping in general), and I didn’t have any butterflies waiting for the race to start. I was cool, calm, collected and excited!

I spent the night in Ocean City to make my drive on race day shorter. We were scheduled to enter the water at 630am so it was an early start to the day. The morning was a little stressful because I got on the road later than I would have liked and arrived to the race site with about an hour until we got in the water. I had to check in, set up and hit the bathroom, which had a long line, so I was a little frantic. I kept taking deep breaths and made sure I went through transition set up slowly so I didn’t miss anything. I got in line for the bathroom about 6am and waited a good 20 minutes. After that I hustled over to the swim start right as they announced a 15 minute delayed start. We had some serious black clouds rolling in and they were concerned about putting us in the water in case there was lightening. Surprisingly, the clouds passed by fairly quickly and just sprinkled us with rain. I actually welcomed the delayed start because it gave me some time to chill and focus before things got going.

The 1 mile swim was a rolling start, self-seeded. I knew I did not want to be caught up in the back of the pack so I let a minute go by and then made my way on to the dock. I was in the water within 3 minutes of the start. Water temperature was 82 degrees so not wet suit legal. I did wear a swim skin that I borrowed and I have to say, I loved it! Really made a difference not having the drag from the tri kit back pockets. My goal for the swim was to be steady and pick up effort after I warmed up for a few hundred yards. On the way out to the turn around, I got a little too far out to the side and had to work my way back in. After that, it was smooth sailing on the way out with a little current pushing us along. After the turn around, a bit more effort was needed to get back. Definitely some current but nothing a quicker catch and turnover couldn’t work through. I hit the dock and clocked a 30 minute swim which immediately made me smile. I felt great out there and the effort was perfect, I was warmed up for the bike. I swam about 100 yards long which was probably me trying to get back along the buoy line and averaged 1:38/100 yards.

T1: Racked far away from bike out. 2:51

The bike was 2 loops on the Atlantic City expressway with the exit ramps leading to the turnaround points being the only elevation change on the course. First loop of the bike was nice, not congested at all. I got down in aero and just focused on my power and heart rate targets and didn’t get caught up in anyone around me. My heart rate target at times held me back and my coach and I are going to play with this a bit; was it a good thing it held me back so I was set up for good run or did I have a little more to push without sacrificing anything and blowing myself up? Second loop of the bike we met up with the sprint athletes and the course was crowded. I spent the entire second loop yelling “left.” Lots of newbies out there who weren’t sure how to navigate a busy course. I finished the bike in 1:08:33, average 19.6mph. I didn’t have speed displayed on my watch because I didn’t want to get caught up in that number but man, would it have killed me to average at least 20mph!?!

T2: Bike in the same as bike out so another long run to where I was racked. Opted to wear socks. 2:20

My plan for the run was to settle in during the first 5 minutes then start to build my effort. That’s exactly what I did and I felt good; legs felt good, effort good; I was smiling. Then we hit the sand. I think Delmo puts on a great race but seriously, having to go down a few steps and then run through sand just sucks. A lot of Delmo lovers find it cute, I find it totally annoying. My back had been bothering me all morning and my first step on the sand I felt a bad twinge in my back and hamstring. I immediately pulled back my pace because I didn’t want to push off hard on a soft surface. Even though I was carrying water with me, I was so thirsty. Near the end of mile 3, I walked the water stop to drink some cold water and poured a bunch over my head. At this point, the course had separated from the sprint and it was really quiet. Not many athletes running my direction but I saw the front men and first woman heading back. I started losing my mental game just before the 4 mile mark. I just wanted to get to the turnaround to get more water. So thirsty. When I made it there, I again took another short walk and saw I had about 4 women coming up on me. I started back towards the finish when the one lady passed me. She looked awesome. Then two more came by and I was on their heels. Totally had them but then I took a short walk break. WTF Denise! My head wasn’t cooperating and I didn't shut the voices up. I felt like I was kinda wimping out but not pushing harder but that last bit of drive just wasn't there. The final mile I just kept telling myself, less than 8 minutes to go and eventually I pulled my shit together and got it done. Finished run in 50:24, average 8:08min/mi.

Final thoughts…really nice going into this race without any expectations. I was really happy with my swim, especially since I wasn’t in a wet suit. Bike, aside from my back feeling it, I was happy with how I executed. I stuck to my plan and exhibited control. The run, I wish I fought a bit harder. My pace was slower than what I would have liked and I let my head get weak towards the end. I definitely needed more water on the bike and another gel on the run. Lesson learned. Overall, this race served its purpose; great tune up for IMAC next month. 

5th in AG
28/247 females
127/610 total finishers

Breakfast: honey stinger waffle, coffee, Ensure
6:15am: Hammer espresso gel before swim start
Bike: 1x bottle Hammer perpetuem (did not drink it all) and water with Hammer grape fizz (needed more water on bike)
Run: water with Hammer grape fizz and Hammer tropical gel

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Stafford Tri Race Report

After Independence triathlon and a not so great swim, I knew I needed to shake that off and get back into open water STAT. If I was going to race again, I wanted something with a bike course that I could push a bit and not worry about how my back would feel if the course was hilly. I choose Stafford Triathlon at Manahawkin Lake, NJ which had a super flat bike course and a lake swim.

The downside to this race was that it was 1.5 hours away so that made for a very early wakeup call: 3:15am. And since I’m a terrible sleeper, the stress of having to be up so early essentially kept me up past midnight. Not ideal getting so little sleep but I woke up fairly refreshed and excited to race.

Super easy access to the race and you could park literally across the street from transition. It was open racking so I made sure to rack my bike right near bike out. I hate running in bike shoes so the less time I have them on my feet, the quicker my transition times. After setting everything up, I went over to warm up in the water. An announcement was made that the water temperature was 76 degrees but there is no way it was that warm. The entrance to the water was a ways from the pre-race meeting when the temperature announcement was made so I didn’t wear a wetsuit thinking it wouldn’t be needed. The water had pockets of really cold and really warm water so I’m guessing they took the temp in one of the warm spots. A wet suit may have been nice since I was shivering after my warm up. I tried to keep moving and splashing myself so the reentry into the water wouldn’t be a shock.

After two waves of men went, all the women then started. I lined myself up a little outside of the buoy start, where it was crowed, and stared the turnaround buoy down. It was a little congested when the gun went off but the bumping and elbows didn’t bother me and it quickly thinned out. I held that buoy line I wanted in sight and sighted every few strokes to keep me on track. The water felt great, was really clean, and I felt so good. Not once did I panic or feel off and I was able to bilateral breathe which keeps my breathing in check and nice and even. I also swam right on course, never veering off, and had great turns around the buoys. I came out of the water in 7:18. (swim place 23/102 total)

It was a long run back to transition but I kind of like that. It gives me some time to shake off the dizziness I feel coming out of the water. Once I was back into transition, I moved quickly and had only a few feet to run before I mounted my bike. I swear I never have any issues mounting my bike unless I’m racing. I’m in such a hurry that if feels like an eternity trying to get myself clipped in. When I missed it the first time I tried, I paused, told myself to take a deep breath then clipped in and took off. The course was a short out and then 3 loops before you turned and headed back a short way to transition. It was pancake flat but had 6 U-turns total. Tight turns like that aren’t my favorite but I used them as an opportunity to drink and come up out of aero to stretch my back. I tried to keep an eye on my competition during the bike and at times let myself get ahead of myself, not thinking about the run to follow. Finished the bike in 36:40 (20pmh). (bike place 27/102)

T2 was nice and quick, under a minute, but I didn’t feel super heading out for the run. I quickly settled into a 7:30 pace but right away I felt like that wasn’t sustainable. My legs didn’t have much kick so I sucked down a gel hoping that would help. When I knew I couldn’t hit my paces, I decided my goal was to at least negative split. Better than pushing too hard and slowing down at the end I pulled back that first mile with a goal to build from there. I was able to do it but still finished slower than I expected. 5k time was 23:49 (7:41). (run place 29/102)

I dropped placement a bit during the race and I saw the 2 women who took me on the run. They looked great and while one was only a few feet in front of me, I just couldn’t chase her down. I was 22nd overall, 6th female overall, and 2nd in AG missing first by 27 seconds. Gosh, I could have shaved 30 seconds off somewhere…but it’s all good! I did this race to prove to myself that I’m ok in open water and Independence was a fluke. And I proved it was. Then on top of that, I had a bike that I’m happy with and I was pleased with my transition times. I haven’t run off a hard bike so the run was a test in hanging on and executing it right. I did both in my opinion. Very happy I did this race and I left just wanting to race more!!!

Next up…Tri AC (unless I add something else into the mix!)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Independence Tri Race Report 2017

A month or so ago I had a minor setback with my back. What started as infrequent aches through the winter became daily aches and then a constant pain in my lower back and left butt check. Same issue I had that blew up and caused me to lose feeling in my leg and ultimately have back surgery. Needless to say, this really rattled and scared me. I headed in to see my pain doc and he felt the best course of action was an injection to calm things down. I went in later that week to have the injection and took a few days off from training with an easy week to follow. This all happened the week before Bassman Triathlon, which was going to be my come back race. Based on how I responded to the injection, my coach and I decided that sitting Bassman out was the best decision. While I knew it was the right call, it left me feeling completed defeated and wondering if I’d ever get back out there.

Once I started feeling better from the injection, we decided that it was time for me to do a short race. Something to get me out there and clear out the cobwebs. No expectations, no goals…just go through the motions, race at my current fitness, and learn something along the way. I signed up for Independence which happened to be the first triathlon I ever did back in 2011.

This past Sunday I headed back to the race venue where it all started remembering how petrified I was that morning 6 years ago. I didn’t set any goals for myself this race but I was hoping to see improvement from the first time I did it. I totally didn’t take into account that I’ve spent very little time on the bike, that I haven’t been in open water since my last tri 2 full years ago or that I’ve been dealing with back issues. I just assumed I could do better and unknowingly put that pressure on myself.

It was in the low 50s and the water temperature was about 67 degrees. For such a short distance I didn’t really think the wet suit was necessary, but I wore it anyway. I warmed up prior to the race and felt great in the water. Aside from the lake grass, which was really thick and everywhere, I was excited to swim. This is where I felt I could show the most improvement from past years and was looking forward to doing just that. Feeling calm and ready after the warm up, I lined up right at the front of the swim.

The RD yelled “go” and off I went. Well, within about 50 yards, I started to freak. My breathing was off and I was forced to same side breathe which I never do. I think that triggered my panic button and next thing I knew I wanted to rip my wet suit off. I seriously considered going over to a paddle boat and telling them to unzip me. I’ve only panicked once in open water and it was at this race in 2011. Since then I’ve done a mass start IM ocean swim, lake swims, etc and have been fine so I was so pissed it was happening. It took about half way through the swim for me to calm down and even then, I never really found my groove.

I exited the swim pissed off and headed out on the bike. The bike went fine; I was hoping to be faster but having not been riding much and having not done hills in, um, forever, it was what it was. I definitely didn’t have much in me on the hills and instead of being kind and understanding to myself about this, I got down at myself for feeling weak. I had 2 females pass me and while I wanted to push to stay with them, I knew enough to not do it figuring I could try to catch them on the run. Part of me was thinking clearly.

Back in from the bike I had a frustrating T2 when I couldn’t get my shoes on to run. My feet were so cold and numb I couldn’t feel them into my shoes while trying to do 3 other things at the same time. I cursed a little to myself, took a deep breath and shoved them in the best I could. As soon as the run started, it hit me how negative I was being to myself. I actually said “this is such a disappointment.” When I heard myself say that, I couldn’t believe it. I am all about being positive when racing, mental toughness, etc and here I was beating myself up. Once I realized it, I switched my focus. I told myself to let it hurt, suffer through the 2 miles and to get those 2 females. I passed one around the .75mi mark, the other just past the mile turn around. From there, I picked off a few more and then the short run was over. What an hour that all was!

I finished 1st in AG, 12th female overall and left with a few lessons learned.   
  • Even though I believed I had no expectations going in, I did. I should have raced only caring about where I am at the present moment and not caring what I did 2 years ago or 6 years ago. I’m in a very different place right now and I just want to be back out there. I shouldn’t have been comparing the old me to the current me. We are two very different people.
  •  When I left the water, I should have left that part of the race right there and moved on to the next part. Instead, I carried that frustration with me the entire race and it absolutely impacted how things went.
  • Being successful is managing the bad spots, dealing with them and moving on. I didn’t do that this race, I let them get the best of me.
  •  I need more open water swim time before my “A” race. Just because you did a race and didn’t panic clearly doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
  • Racing is the best way to improve. You can train and train but when you are racing, you are forced to deal with obstacles as they come and keep going. You can’t shut down and head home hoping for a better workout tomorrow. You deal with the day and learn how to cope and keep going until you finish.

When I went through the race with my coach, the rational me knew I did what I could with the fitness I have now. It’s the irrational me that wanted to do better with really nothing to back that up except my competitive nature. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the AG win, very happy. I was just humbled at how far I am from where I want to be. But I will get there and I’m ready to work for it. Comebacks aren’t easy, but they are so gratifying. I am so grateful to have successfully finished this race since a few weeks ago there were lots of tears wondering if I’d ever do triathlon again.

Biggest lesson learned, never give up and keep fighting for what you want.

Fueled by Hammer Espresso gel #howihammer

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shamrock Race Report

On Saturday it was pretty certain that we were going to have nasty weather for the race on Sunday. Rather than stress about it, I hovered over a jigsaw puzzle trying to keep myself calm and occupied.* After dinner I went through my routine of setting everything up for the morning and was in bed watching TV around 8pm. Lights were off by 10 and while I woke up several times, I actually got a fair amount of sleep.

Woke up Sunday morning to rain…a lot of rain. And wind. Close to 30mph winds that picked up through the morning and gusts up to 40mph. Oh and real feel temperature in the 20’s. So not what I had hoped the weather would be. We were a short walk to the start so I hung at the house as long as possible. The half started at 7am but the full marathon didn’t start until 8:30am. It was really hard sitting around waiting for such a late start but I thought it may give the rain a chance to clear out. No such luck though.

When we left town for VA the forecast was not calling for such cold temps but thankfully I packed a crazy amount of clothes and had tights, long sleeve shirts and gloves. I also packed an old space blanket which kept me dry and somewhat warm on the walk up to the start. I headed up around 8:10 with just enough time to hit the bathroom before I got in my corral. People were already so wet that some girls were holding their socks up to the hand dryer in the bathroom. Wasn’t sure what the point of that was because we were all going to be soaked in a matter of minutes.

I was in corral 1 and placed myself right between the 3:25 and then 3:35 pace groups. I knew the place in between these 2 groups would be lonely without a pace group for 3:30 but 3:25 was too aggressive and I knew I had more in me than 3:35. Right from the get go, I felt good. I was shocked at how quickly my legs settled into pace. The start of the race headed south so we had the wind at our back and it would stay this way until just after mile 5. My splits were right where I wanted them for these first few miles: 8:06, 7:59, 8:02, 8:02, 8:05. My heart rate was higher than I wanted but the effort was where it should be. I felt great, was easily able to talk, was not breathing hard, etc. I was just cold and my body was working to warm me up.

Just after mile 5 we hit the turn around and oh mamma! Wham! The wind was hard. My pace immediately dropped to around an 8:11 and I held that for a few miles. As we were going through the military base, I knew I would not be able to fight the wind and maintain this pace alone through mile 16. Yes, we had head wind from mile 5 to 16. I made the decision around mile 8 to pull back and wait for the 3:35 pace group. I typically do not like to run with pace groups but I knew it was the smartest thing to do given the conditions. When they reached me, I tucked myself right in the middle of the pack and let the pacers fight the wind. This worked great and was the best way to handle the boardwalk where I thought the wind would be the fiercest. Once off the boardwalk, my plan was to stay with the group until mile 20 when we would start heading straight south to the finish or if things weren't as bad on the street, I'd leave them even earlier. My plan was working well until…

Around mile 15 we hit a water stop. I had my cap off my water bottle and tried to run ahead a bit to get a head start. I asked several volunteers to refill my bottle and they literally stood there. This had actually happened at 2 earlier water stops, too so I really needed to get water at this one. They just stood there with their arm out, almost like they didn’t know what I was asking. After getting one cup poured in, I took off trying to catch up to the back of the pack again. But I couldn’t get them. The wind on this stretch was horrific and it was now sleeting and snowing. Outside of the pace group, there were no small groups to catch on with so I just had to put my head down and fight alone. I didn’t give up but that one mile did me in and my pace slipped to an 8:21 then my next mile, 9:07. Ugh.

When we turned northwest at mile 16 and had some shelter from the trees, I tried so hard to regroup and get back down to pace. I could not feel from the waist down and felt like I was running on stumps. My feet hurt so badly every time I landed. I was able to get my pace back under 9 minute miles for the next 4 miles but then we had an open stretch where the wind was brutal again. Coming at me sideways, I was pelted with sand and literally was pushed around. I was tired from fighting against the gusts and knew there was no PR happening so I pulled back.  

At mile 20 the wind was now a strong wind at our back but it wasn’t enough for me to make up any time. My last 6 miles were anywhere from 9-9:20 and I had resorted to some walk breaks to give my feet a break because of the pain. Turning onto the boardwalk for the final stretch to the finish was a welcome site and I crossed the finish line in 3:43, 6th in age group. No PR and not what I wanted, but it did quality me for Boston 2018.

There were tears as soon as I saw Andy and Katie. Tears of frustration. You work so hard and then shit like this happens and there’s no easy second chance. They immediately got me to the post-race tent and I stripped down. Yes, right there I took it all off with a small towel as coverage. I could not wait to get the cold wet clothes off. I shivered like I never have before, biting my own tongue a few times! I even went as far as putting my hands in the post-race Irish stew to warm them up. Gross, I know. But so necessary.

Once things settled down, I smiled. I was happy I finished. I wasn’t thrilled with the finish time but I ran smart and I executed the best I could. My nutrition and hydration was spot on. I had fun even though it was miserable out and I never, ever got negative or in my own head. I thanked all the volunteers and cheered on other runners. We were all suffering together and being negative about it wouldn’t have helped a thing. I kept in the forefront of my mind the entire race that being out there was a gift and I was so grateful being able to run long again. I didn't realize just how much I missed racing until this weekend. I'm so happy to be back!

On Monday we woke up to sunny skies, 40 degrees and no wind. What a difference a day makes. When I finished on Sunday I swore Shamrock off. But this course will not beat me and I have a strong feeling I’ll be back next year to attempt my revenge…once again.

*I finished that 1000 piece puzzle J

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Time for revenge

The hay is in the barn.
The work is done.
You are ready.

I know it’s true but there’s this little voice deep inside my head that whispers, “Did I do enough?” “Can I hold this pace?” As I go through the motions this week leading up to the race, my job has been to quiet any negative thoughts. When I start to wander and go to that place, I immediately change directions and think about all the quality runs I did to prepare. All the runs that I ran at race pace or below. All the times I pushed myself, embraced the suffering, and let it hurt so it wouldn’t hurt as badly on race day. I reflect on all the tangible evidence that has set me up to race well on Sunday and think about all the reasons I want this.

I haven’t run a standalone marathon since Shamrock marathon in 2011 (my marathons since have been during Ironman races) and I’ve missed it. A lot. In 2011 I was going for the same goal time but came down with the flu a few days prior to the race. I gave it my all on race day but came up 5 minutes short of my goal and relapsed with the flu horribly. I was crushed; I had worked so hard and wanted it so badly and then it was all out of my control. I promised myself that I would be back to the Shamrock course to get my revenge someday.

My plan was to get my revenge last year but instead I walked the 8k sporting my back brace just 5 weeks out from back surgery. I was told before surgery “you’ll never run a half marathon again” and “you’ll never run competitively again.” This made race weekend last year that much harder. Being on the side line is never easy, but being there and not being sure if you’ll ever get off it, is petrifying. Especially when you love something so much and have built a career around it. I never believed the doctors, but deep inside I was scared that they were going to be right. Thankfully, it turns out they were wrong. Very, very wrong.

In 3 short days I’ll toe the line at Shamrock and prove just how wrong they were. I have 3 goals which I’m putting out there:

A – sub 3:30
B – sub 3:35 (new PR)
C – smile and be grateful for every single step

I can already tell you that “C” is in the bag! No matter what happens on Sunday, I am so thankful to be back out there running and I am not taking this for granted. Yes, I want that “A” goal, badly, but this race is about more than a finish time. Yes, I am nervous. I am excited. And on Saturday, I’ll be emotional (I always am the day before a big race). But on Sunday, a confident calm will come over me and I’ll fight with all I have to get my revenge and smile along the way because being able to do this is, well, it's awesome.

So, as my coach said to me earlier this week, “It’s time to burn this mother down.” 

Monday, February 20, 2017

What It Takes

During my 20 miler last week, I was thinking about what it takes to reach a goal and how I got to this point of feeling trained, confident and prepared. A few things stuck out in my mind, which are not secrets by any stretch, but worth noting. I think a lot of athletes pick goals but don’t realize just how much goes into achieving them. Here are a few things I think are key to supporting a race goal:

Commitment – I am 100% committed to my goal. It’s not a goal my coach set for me. Nor is it one she needs to push or motivate me to achieve. It’s my goal and I want it badly enough that I am willing to do whatever it takes during training to set me up for success on race day. I don’t care if it hurts, I don’t care if I miss out on things (see next point), I made the commitment and I’m going to see it through.

Sacrifice – With racing comes a lot of sacrifices. If you’re truly committed, you’ll make the sacrifice. It’s that simple, really. It’s not always easy to do this but you can’t always have your cake and eat it, too. Over the past few months I’ve turned down nights out, went to bed early instead of unwinding in front of the tv, spent even more time in my dreaded car to drive to locations that mimic race day terrain, etc. Sure it sucked at times but I’m willing to do it because I want my goal…badly.

Execution – I execute exactly how my coach instructs me to in the workouts. Meaning, if I have an easy zone 1 run, I run in only zone 1. Even if the slower pace is boring and I feel like a million bucks and know I can run faster, I stick to what the plan says. If I have a hard workout, I try my hardest to hit the numbers and paces. Sometimes I nail it, others I struggle. But I try my hardest to execute as per the plan. This also goes for rest days. If it’s on the schedule, I do it and resist the urge of adding in any additional workouts.

My own thing – I run my workouts, not anyone else’s. The only time I’ve run with someone over the past few months is because they adapted to my workout. This happened twice so I was out there alone pretty much all the time. Only running my workout may sound selfish but running someone else’s or adjusting mine so I could have company doesn’t get me closer to my goal. There also won’t be anyone out there on race day pulling me along when it gets tough so doing my own thing has me prepared for that.

Preparation – Before hard efforts and long runs, I prep. I make sure nutrition is spot on, that I get enough sleep, that I get off my feet (which is pretty much impossible for me) whenever I can. Every day I’m thinking about how my decisions today will affect my workout in the days to come.

Excuses – This one is easy…I don’t make them.

As I near the end of this training cycle, I’m feeling really prepared and ready for Shamrock. I finished my long run last week knowing I’ve done what I needed to do to get me to my goal. On race day, it will come down to the race gods and my body showing up to race. I didn’t magically get to this point, I’m not a naturally gifted runner. I worked really hard to prepare for this race. I had good days and bad days, both teaching me something that will come in handy on race day. And when I toe the line in a few weeks, I’ll know I was committed to my goal. I made sacrifices for it. I pushed myself and executed to the best of my ability. I’ll know all the hard work was worth it and that I’m ready.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Negative Thoughts

It was raining and windy and cold as anything. For those that know me, it was a perfect day for napping. But instead I snuck my way on to the track and started warming up. Just thinking about this workout in the days leading up to it made me a little anxious. Not so much about hitting my paces but about how it would feel hitting the paces. I was going to have to embrace being uncomfortable.

The main set of the workout consisted of 400's followed by a mile. Then 800's followed by a mile. Then back to 400's. My goal was to run the 400's and 800's sub 7:00min/mi and to maintain the pace across all intervals. During the warm up I felt good and kept telling myself that one or two times hard around the track "is nothing!" I spent the entire warm up mentally preparing myself and psyching myself up. And it worked; during the first few 400's I felt awesome! I was nailing my paces with ease and having fun running in the crappy weather. Then came the 800's which were a little bit more difficult since I was starting to get tired. By the time I got to my last 800 and knew I still had 400's to do, the thoughts started to creep in...

"I could tell my coach I got kicked off the track"
"Sorry coach, my watch died, workout went great"
"Track was slippery and I didn't want to take any chances"

I literally thought every one of those things. But with every one of the negative thoughts, I came back with: "Shut up! Suffer now so you won't at Shamrock!"

These negative thoughts are so common among many of us. I mean, yesterday while I was swimming (and I was having a good swim) I thought it would be nice if the pool closed mid work out due to lightening and I was forced out of the pool. It's not that I don't like what I'm doing or that I can't handle it, it's that the mind wants to flee rather than fight. It's a natural instinct we all have...when things hurt, you want it to stop hurting. I tell my athletes all the time that they need to be prepared to be uncomfortable and know how to push through the hard times. This doesn't only apply to race day but in training as well. All the hard efforts we endure and fight through during training will pay dividends on race day. If we don't fight now, we'll suffer when it counts.

Another example: I suffered big time during the last 6 miles of my long run the other day. The last 6 miles were to be at my marathon race pace, 8:00min/mi. Well, when it came time to run those miles, my body wasn't too happy about it. My heart rate wasn't rising and my legs were working! The effort did not equate to the pace I was running and I felt like I was giving it my all and getting no where. Tell tale sign of fatigue but that's another post. I could have easily pulled back, said that it wasn't happening today and finished the run up easy. But instead I told myself  "this is how the the final miles of Shamrock will feel. Suck it up, suffer and finish."

The point of all this is that it happens to all of us and we need to be prepared for it. If we don't teach ourselves how to handle being uncomfortable then we'll never reach out goals. You have to develop tools and tricks to get you through the tough times when all your mind is telling you to do is quit. Maybe it's a mantra or thinking of your favorite vacation spot. It can be anything that pushes the negative thoughts aside and helps you embrace being uncomfortable.