Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Iron Horse Half Marathon - Race Report

Originally, I had planned to do this race “for fun.”  Jay and I vacationed in the Midway, Kentucky area last year on our anniversary and loved it!  I had planned do this race to set a marker.   I would then train to better my time for the December Secret City Marathon. 
Somewhere along the way, I decided to train for this race.  Then my darling love decided to pass along the nasty virus he had, and my training took a major hit. While I was still getting my long runs in, I was only able to get a little over 2 weeks worth of quality work in.   
Going into the race, I knew this wouldn’t be a PR for me.  I was fairly confident it would be my slowest run of the year.  My major hang up was how to set a goal, I gave lip service to at least being faster than last year’s half but the goal really had no heart behind it.

The night before the race Kelly, Christal, and I had a chance to meet up with a twitter buddy Jay, his friend Chris, and their families.  The morning of the race, we met back up and got a bit of a warm up before the race started.

One thing I love about the area is the small town feel.  Unfortunately, that translates into small and crowded roads.  The race entry was capped at just over 1,000 people, but the first mile was very congested.  My pace was slow, but I was hopeful to make it up in later miles

Mile 1 - 10:00 

The congestion kept up and found myself getting frustrated.  This was a rolling course and I didn’t feel like I was full able to make use of the down hills.  Other runners were steady both up and down, while I’m slower up hill and faster down.    Working to pass them on the downs only for them to pass me on the ups felt a bit counter-productive, but I had to run my own race how I was comfortable. 

Mile 2 - 9:30

As the front runners made the turn, the roads became even more congested.  A lady runner who’d already made the turn around shouted angrily because people weren’t getting out of her way, but there really wasn’t much of any where to go to get out of the way.  Mostly though, this early out and back (around the 3.5 mile marker) made for a good way to pass the time cheering on the leaders.

Mile 3 - 9:19 

When I saw Kelly coming back, I realized I was pretty close to the turn and was excited to experience the downhill portion.  Most of the first out portion seemed uphill.  As it turned out, this course is up hill both ways.  Or all 4 ways given the double out and back layout.

Mile 4 - 9:19
In previous races, I’ve forgotten to take gels soon enough and felt energy slacking.  I took one before the start of the race, and then had planned to take another at the turn around. At 4.25, I realized I still hadn’t taken one.

I am a goofy person.  I very much enjoy my goofy nature.  So to make fun of myself, I started singing “I will remember goo, will you remember me?”
Mile 5 - 9:50
My plan going into the race was tackle the first out and back at a steady pace, then attack the next 2 portions strong, and then hard.  By this point, the hills were starting to make themselves known.  I was hoping my strong effort would translate into a strong pace. 

Mile 6 - 9:59
For all the challenges the course offered, it provided some good scenery.  I didn’t stop to take pictures along the way (although at some points it would have been tempting), so I was glad to have driven the course the day before to get several.
Mile 7 - 9:25
The portion of the race in the downtown Midway area had great crowd support.  For the start, a lady held a sign reading “We’re bananas for you” and had dressed her dog up in a banana costume.  As we finished the first out and back, the dog was dressed in a Santa costume and the lady was holding a sign reading “Congrats – You’re not slower than Christmas!”  Near the finish she changed the dog into an airplane costume with a sign that read “It’s a bird, it’s a play, it’s you & you’re flying!”  
Mile 8 - 9:35

Typically I find someone in the early portion of the race to chat with, making the miles go back.  That’s probably one of my few regrets for this race.  I never felt like I settled into a steady pace in order to run with someone.

Early on, however, I did play with my music a bit.  Rather than let it play continuously and allow it to grow monotonous, I limited myself to a song every mile or so.  This seemed to work well until I got into the later mileage.

Mile 9 - 10:22

The hills started to get tough at this point, but I consoled myself with the thoughts of going downhill on the way back.  Once again I got to see the front runners, followed by Kelly and Jay as they passed the 2nd turn around (I never did see Christal or Chris after the start.)

Mile 10 - 9:37

Mile 11 - 10:10

Around this point, I started doing math in my head.  The hills seemed relentless and my pace was slowing.  I knew this was my slowest race of the year – nothing I could do about it at this point. 

Mile 12 - 10:18

I was beating myself up.  However after a bit of figuring, I realized I could still best last year’s October race if I pushed it.  Given the difficulty of this race, if I managed to just hang on to the same pace I’d have improved.   

Mile 13 - 9:14
I kept looking for that nice downhill break, but I never saw it.  It is, however, reflected in my pace – the fastest of the race. 

Final 0:54 {8:43}

I saw the finish line, turned the corner, and ran it in. 

Chip time: 2:07:43
I’m very proud of this race.  I ran it essentially on 4 long runs and 2 ½ weeks of training.  AND I know (once again) I mentally beat myself in portions.  I feel like I can definitely build on this base and run strong for my next half. 

 bling + post race massage +some ice cream = win 


Friday, October 11, 2013

Journey into the National Park

This past weekend, Jay & I headed into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see if the place was shut up as tightly as the news would have us believe.  We kept everything legal, staying on the roads officially open. 

In our park, there are 3 roads considered major thoroughfares that are not to be closed:
  1. The Spur - the connector road between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg
  2. The Gatlinburg bypass
  3. Newfound Gap Road - connecting Gatlinburg and Cherokee, NC
We'd heard that even the pull-offs were closed.  On the TN side, that simply wasn't the case.  We had dinner last night with a couple who went on through to Cherokee, North Carolina and said the NC side was noticeably different from Tennessee.
That being said...erm...written, the trail heads (and their parking lots) were blocked off.  Including Chimney Tops & Alum Cave.  However we saw several different instances of people who decided to shout "Damn the Man!" with their actions.
Others made their protests a little less punishable by fine, opting with legal pictures and #governmentshutdown hash tags.
For the permanent enjoyment of the people - this park was given...
I was most surprised at the open parking lot when we got to Newfound Gap.  The lot was full, with people walking around enjoying the views.  Surprised again by the open restroom facilities, but not surprised at all by the "open" donation box.

We saw rangers in the general area, but they were far from harassing (as we've heard about in other parks).  I appreciate they have a job to do, and the respectfulness we found in our encounter.

Delayed response sounds better than no response!

With the changing of the colors, I'm very thankful to have at least a portion of the park open for our enjoyment!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Starting with Me...

Count this as yet another "Is October here already?" posts. 
Time to review my September goals and set more for (what's left) of this month. 

1.   Physical

Guilt free healthy eating - no calorie counting or food restriction.  Just good, nutritious foods in moderation. Splurges allowed.

Still meh on this one.  I find myself (out of exhaustion) falling back on old favorites.  I need to explore the world of food and find new, exciting, and healthy foods!

 For October - Try at least 1 new recipe each week. 


2. Mental/Emotional

 My internist suggested counseling might help with depression/anxiety issue better long-term than treating the symptoms with medicine. 

 Finally made it to my appointment.  First I had a virus and had to reschedule.  Then I was out of town for Jay's Pawpaw's funeral.  Third time was a charm.  She seemed just as confused about my Internist's desire for me to come off my medication. 

 For October - Set goals for sessions. 


3. Spiritual

 I'm joining a read along over at Marla's blog, and the book choice is concerning social justice.  This will take lots of prayer to stick with it, and seek out practical applications.

 I’m still reading along, but my participating is half-hearted.  I’ve got so many things in my head right now, and how to help others is last on my list.  *sigh*

 For October – Find a way to live it out, instead of just reading about ways to serve God. 


4.   Something fun

Reschedule mani/pedi/massage (Jay got me a gift certificate for my birthday I've yet to use).

FAIL – I tried to reschedule, but dude on the phone was less than helpful.  He seemed confused.  After 10 minutes on the phone, I gave up and decided to call back later.  Still haven’t done that.
For October – Just do it!


 5.   BONUS - Get out of your comfort zone!

Hair cut/donation – and done!

For October – Ragnar Relay

I love running.  I love being social. Ragnar is a perfect fit, right?  However, I’m terrified of dogs, and running through Podunk, Tennessee there is always the potential of being approached by one.  Time to punch fear in the face and kick booty!!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Learning to Love Again - The Running Edition

On my long run last weekend, the subject of my anniversary came up.  Those of you who've ran with a buddy before know how it goes - one topic leads to another which leads to another.  My 5th wedding anniversary is right around the corner.  I'm hoping the government gets back up and running by then - we were married in the National Park and would love to have a romantical picnic near "our" church.

Right...so any way, I was talking about running rabbit trails.  And my marriage.  I described us as being married such a short time we're still sappy but together long enough that we annoy the hell out of one another too. 

As I prepare for this weekend's half marathon (and the 7th anniversary of meeting my husband), I think this same description works for my relationship with running as well.  I love it - some of my favorite life moments are when I'm out on a run.  But running & I are familiar enough to drive me batty.

This weekend, I was reminded of my love for my darling love when he and I went for a drive into the National Park.  (Don't worry, we didn't break any federal laws - and I plan to blog about how the Government shutdown has affected the Great Smoky Mountains.)

Likewise, I plan on taking this coming weekend as a bit of a renewal of my running love.  I'll be traveling with a couple running buddies for the race.  While we're there, the plan is to meeting up with a twitter running buddy for the first time IRL.  The scenery should be beautiful, especially considering the time of year.  Kentucky's horse farms are gorgeous, especially with the assistance of the autumn leaf colors.

Here's where I need your help.  I need a Bible verse as my race verse to write on my arm.  What's your favorite verse or your life verse?  Also, when you're struggling to get out of your own head on a run, what are the most successful tactics you've used?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Twas the Week Before the Race - Training Tuesday

scheduled - 3.5 mile run
actual - 3.5 mile

This was my 2nd run of the new plan, and it felt great.  The new plan has a whole lotta "junk" miles, which are the miles I enjoy most.  Reinforced why I love running so much.

***Left work early Tuesday for a follow-up with my allergist.  He gave me a cortisone inhaler for the fall.  My lung function was down enough for the nurse to mention it.  Between the fall allergens and the virus earlier in the month I didn't have a chance!

scheduled - Total Body weights class
actual - Total Body

I haven't done this class in over a month (before I got sick) so I knew it'd be tough getting back.  I went down on my weights, but was still sore for days (even feeling it in Saturday's long run)

scheduled - 3 mile run
actual - 3 mile run

Only 2 days into my steroid inhaler, I already felt the benefit.  This was one of my strongest runs in a long time.  Felt good to go fast with little effort.

scheduled - rest
actual - rest
scheduled - 12 mile run/5 mile run
actual - 12 mile run/5 mile run

Met up with Johnny for my morning 12 and it felt great to long run with a buddy again.  I only took 2 gels instead of my standard 3.  Still felt good at this slow easy pace.
Saturday evening, my Ragnar team got together for a night run to test out our gear.  Legs were tired and the air was super humid, but overall it was a good run.
scheduled - rest
actual -rest
scheduled - 3.5 mile run
actual - 3.1 mile run
Due to the threat of rain, I left my music in my gym bag and ran this one with only the thoughts in my head.  At one point, I allowed them to get me down.  I planned to quit at mile 2, but by the time I circled back around, I had managed to overcome the negativity. 
My wellness assessment for work was done before this run, so I was running short on time.  After 5K I called it.
This weekend is 5th half marathon of the year, and I've got mixed feelings about it.  I'm still down on myself (useless as it may be) for the time I've lost training due to being sick.  I'm excited, however, about the prospect of cool race temperatures.  Also, the leaves are starting to turn a bit here.  Since we'll be traveling a bit north for the race, I have high hopes for the scenery to be beautiful.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Confessions of an emotional eater

I like soup when I'm sick.
I gravitate toward mac & cheese when I'm depressed.
I crave McDonalds when I'm feeling fat.

I've read articles about "feeling" your feelings, rather than eating them.
I've skimmed blogs written by emotional eaters, struggling to over come it.

Taking it all in, for now, I've come back to one truth:
I'm an emotional eater.

So what.

I'm rarely sick.
My depression is {mostly} under control.
I fueled this body to run its first marathon on fast food.

Sometimes I feel like eating like crap.
So I do.

Big deal.

I'm an emotional eater.
And I'm okay with that.

In releasing myself from the guilt which often accompanies these binges, and in turn I'm freeing myself from the cycle - engaging in emotional eating less.

And I'm very okay with that.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Revamp Time - Super Intermediate Boo

Gonna break out of the typical training Tuesday mold.  Last week I ditched my training plan - I hadn't been working it due to life & illness.  I couldn't expect to jump in at the end and see results.

My half is 2 weeks away, its too late in the game to make a significant improvement.  However, I've got my eye on another half marathon December 1st.  That's 10 weeks away.  Given the base I'm running on currently, I think I'll be able to end 2013 - the year of the half marathon - with a bang.

Yes, I know my "break" from a training plan didn't last very long.  I didn't expect it would.  What it allowed for was enough of a break to sit back and examine what I'm doing wrong, including but not limited to:
  • Missing training runs
  • Expecting to miss 3-4 weeks then pick up at an advanced part of the plan
  • Half-assing the plan
  • Picking an unrealistic plan
I don't blame myself for doing these things, but I would if I didn't learn from it.  Here's what I've learned and how I'm moving forward:

  • Appointment with my allergy/asthma doctor today
  • Starting a new plan this week
  • Picking a new plan/committing to it*
*Kelly & I had picked the Hal Hidgon advanced plan.  For me, the problem is I'm just not an advanced runner.  This has nothing to do with my skill or the number of miles under my feet.  I'm just not the kind of runner willing to put that kind of effort into a plan.  Kelly is, and the plan is working for her.

I'm more of an intermediate girl, and that's okay.  While I don't expect huge improvements in my time, I also know I won't put forth huge efforts in training.  I'd rather run less/easier and have enough of my day left for other parts of my life. 

I'd rather stay up watching TV with my husband than go to bed early.
I'd rather sleep "in" (till 6:16) than get up early for a run.
I'd rather go for a social run after work and enjoy the company, than to go off on my own for speed work.
I'd rather have a glass of wine in the hot tub than whatever it is serious runners do before a race.

None of those things are "good" or "bad."  Its just a matter of choosing what's better for me.  And that's what truly makes this Boo super.