Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year of the Half

3 weeks ago, I ran my final half marathon of the year. "The Year of the Half" was officially over - my goal of the sub 2 hour half marathon was a {half} fail. Downhill at Dawn was the only 13.1 race with "1" in the hours column. On one hand, the vast majority of the miles were downhill. On the other I know people who haven't sub 2ed at a downhill race.

Mostly in my mind, where it truly counts, this year was a fail. I thought if I could train and get my time down to that fast of a pace, I could maintain it without much work.

I'll wait while you finish laughing at my ignorance.

I finished the year with my worst half time of the year, which came as a direct result of poor training and mental defeat. I'm learning. Perhaps slowly and painfully, but learning non-the-less.

A sub 2 half wasn't my only goal for the year though. I also wanted to PR (at least once) at each distance. The marathon distance wasn't included in this goal, given the year's focus on running faster rather than longer.  I raced a crazy amount, but did manage to meet this goal.  Let's review, shall we?

After not racing during the first 2 months of the year, I traveled to South Carolina to visit a friend and run the Famously Hot, Surprisingly Cool Columbia Half.  The race wasn't the sub 2 I was working toward, but I did get a new shiny PR out of the deal with a finishing time of 2:02:19. I definitely learned from this race pacing that would carry into my next half.

The next race of the year was Barley's St. Patrick's 5K. One of my favorite pub style restaurants hosting a race - complete with free beer!! I went out too fast and crashed at the end, but still managed a PR with a time of 26:10 and enjoy my 2 free post-race brews.

Race #3 of the year was my A race - Covenant Health Knoxville {half} Marathon. I'd been training for months. Despite my smiles, I was sorely disappointed with my new half PR 2:00:22. 23 seconds from the sub 2 I was hoping for. Once again, I knew exactly where I went wrong and had high hopes of correcting my errors in subsequent races.

The week following, I participated in my 2nd 5K of the year, and earned my 2nd 5K PR of the year with a time of 25:50. The Runnin' for Regan 5K not only scored me some cool A/G bling, but also went to support a local boy who is very ill.

who knew i'd be the girl to text a frustrated 'son of a bitch' in regards to a 2 hour finishing time?

A little less than a month after Covenant, I traveled to Columbus to {visit Jay's parents} and run the Capital City Half Marathon. 2013 was the 10th anniversary of the race, and the finisher's medal was nice, but my result was disappointing. I'd grown accustom to PRs this year, and this race was 25 seconds slower than CHKM - 2:00:47.

The last week in May, I ran my first official 10K race. Up until that point, my 10K PR was from a virtual race I ran with the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans. I was exited to run Expo 10,000 knowing I've vastly improved as a runner since the virtual race. My finishing time and new PR was 55:16!

The first of June found me traveling to North Carolina to race with my friend Jaime at the Downhill at Dawn half marathon.  This was one of the most beautiful race I've ever done - the scenery was very much like running in the our national park. 1:57:47 was my new half marathon time to beat.

Also in June, I ran the Summer Solstice 8K. My prep work for a hot, hill summer race sucked, but I got some of my best race pictures out of the deal - not to mention a killer after party. Finishing time 51:16

The month of July brought me 2 more attempts at the 8K distance, and 2 8K PRs!

Crazy 8s in Kingsport was the first of the two. I knew it was billed as the "world's fastest" so I assumed it would be flat (as the Kingsport Half is flat). Not so much, but I did enjoy it. Paced with a buddy for the majority of the race, then finished up the last mile on my own coming in at 45:10.

A couple weeks later, along with members of my running team, I ran another evening race - the Pigeon Forge Midnight 8K. I bit the pavement in the 1 mile pre-race warm up, but was able to get cleaned up and make it to the starting line. Ended up shaving another minute plus off my time for yet another PR of 44:05.

The Racing to Remember 5K is on my race calendar because my friend's father suffers from Alzheimer's.  26.32 wasn't good enough for a PR, but it was good enough for my first ever 1st place a/g win!!

Just looking at the picture, I can hear myself wheezing. Screaming WTF were you thinking? I ran the Hal Canfield Memorial Mile in the beginning stages of a virus. Asthma girl + infection + sprinting over 1 mile = UGLY! But also a mile PR of 7:49.

what's a girl to do when the cough towel is tucked into her pants & she needs to use the portapotty?

A week later, I showed up at the Townsend 15K with a cough towel, and delusions of grandeur. I enjoyed the early miles, but the later miles really showed me what I was made of. I dug deep, didn't die, and learned a few lessons along the way.

Since one mile races aren't easy to find, I was thankful when a Daily Mile buddy pointed me in the direction of the Douglas Dash. I was able to set a new mile PR of 7:26 (amazing what healthy lungs can do).

Thanks to the above-mentioned illness in combination with fall allergies, I just wasn't able to train for the Iron Horse Half Marathon like I wanted. This was never meant to be a PR race, so I tried to be okay with my 2:07:43 time. The scenery was gorgeous and it was a fun weekend with friends.

By the time the On Cosby Moonshine Run rolled around, I was having some hip pain. To save myself for Ragnar, I chose to walk this race with my family AND my grandfather won in the 80+ age group.

After the chiro got everything back in place, I participated in my first ever trail run, The Trail that Can't Be Concord. Oops! Guess I forgot to blog about this one. It was a prediction run, so no watches allowed. Just under 7 miles of trails without a way to know how long I had been out there or how much further I had to go. Not the best circumstances to start a trail run career under. I hated some parts and loved others. We'll see if 2014 holds any trail plans for me.

The Secret City Half Marathon was supposed to be my winter "A" race. Not sure why my preparation sucked, but it did. I've found my speed but hadn't trained well enough with the speed over distance. Morning of the race, I planned on a sub-2 race. Instead I went out to fast and crashed by mile 5, resulting in my slowest half of the year 2:11:55.

My final "race" of the year ended up being another participation walk. My van-mates from Ragnar and I walked the-Santa Hustle 5K. Nothing like a leisurely stroll to enjoy some candy and goofiness!

Events Participated: 19
Events Raced: 17
PRs Earned: 11

While this racing year wasn't the success I wanted it to be, it very clearly was a success. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas - The Aftermath

Lots of work goes into making Christmas the most joyous time of year. Stockings are hung.
Trees are decorated. Ribbons, lights, and garland work to make the day merry and bright.

For some, the shopping begins after Thanksgiving.
Others shop a little at a time all year long.
Still others wait until the last minute.

 Is it the 24th already?
Then there is the food prep - peeling, thawing, baking.
Different families have different traditions, but most all involve some sort of food. 
In my family, there is no shortage of food and dessert.  

But what happens when Christmas isn't all its cracked up to be?
When all the gifts are open, food is consumed,
and all that's left is the dread of dealing with the aftermath?
The trash bag full of ripped up paper, the dishes in the sink waiting to be scrubbed,
 the decorations that can't find their way back into the box without your help.

Whether its too high expectations, or too low effort, sometimes Christmas is a disappointment.
Right now I just want it to be over. I've asked Jay to take the decorations down while I'm at work.
I read a blog yesterday comparing distance running and Christmas.
(I'd share the link if I could find it.)
Using that comparison, I definitely have the post-race blues.
I hoped for a PR and didn't get it.
I wanted a magical memory, but instead felt let down.
Trust me, I know how good I have it.
 I understand this "less than" feeling is nothing more than a symptom of a charmed, first-world life.
People have real problems. Yet somehow I can get this nagging question out of my mind.
Christmas is over. Now what?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Santle Hustle in the Smokies - Van on the Walk

I feel like I'm writing part 2 of a novel before part 1, given that I've never blogged about my Ragnar Relay experience. Partly because the fun and excitement were over 2 months away and partly because I don't feel like I can do the experience justice.

For now, just know it was super-cool-awesome and I love all the girls from my van. Of course I knew a couple of them before Ragnar, but it was fun to get to know the other girls a bit better. Also the spontaneous mixed perfectly with the exacting/organized personalities meaning we had both googley eyes and prompt arrival times. Talk about win/win/win!

Since the relay, a few of us have gotten together here and there - the Halloween pub run, Saturday runs, and the KTC Socialite Christmas party. Unfortunately, all 6 of us haven't been able to get together...until this past weekend.

We decided several weeks ago to run the Santa Hustle 5K together. We all signed up and paid our registration fee (quite steep for that distance, although fun goodies are a part of the package). Then 2 of our van-mates were put on the DL for injuries. Our run became a walk, but the show went on!

We discussed matching socks (we all wore orange across the Ragnar finish line) but with temps in the low 30s, we decided it would be too cold for our socks to be seen.

Well at least some of us did! The first stop along the way was candy! Shot cups of mini m&ms. 

Cups up ladies!

The Cookie Monster made an appearance at the race as well. Some *cough Kelly cough* tried to eat all the cookies. Just know that Santa is watching!!

love the WTH look the lady on the far right is giving us
Saw a coworker at the turn around and gave him crap for not running. Oops, I mean participating...
Then it was time to hit the candy and cookies again!!
Certainly no PRs were set on Sunday, but fun was had by all. We even discussed our next outing - if our social coordinator would put down her cookies long enough to set up the Facebook invite.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

1,000 Gifts Updated

Although its been a while since I've posted my 1,000 Gifts list, but I have been keeping up with it. Sometimes not daily, but definitely on a weekly basis. I'm well over 2,000 right now, but plan on keeping up with the practice at least until my notebook fills up!

2000) Jay's beautiful photography
2010) Discovering the nature path in our neighborhood

2025) First Christmas gift purchases of the year
2032) Moonlit dance on our anniversary
2041) Daddy getting around without a walker post-surgery
2051) Incredible views ~ Charlie's Bunion/Jump-off trails

2064) Diva spa day
2070) Receiving the perfect amount of trade credit from selling books, to purchase the books I'd picked out
2082) Jay's Christmas decorating prep work

(we have a 9 foot tree, and my step ladder isn't quite high enough for the top. teamwork FTW!)
2092) MIL making ham for Thanksgiving (just for me)
2093) FIL rigging the basement for my Treadmill Turkey Trot 8K
2101) Catching Fire with (my sister) Kelly & BIL
2105) Hug to keep from the little man
2113) Jay making ramen noodles for lunch after the Secret City half
2119) Enough
2128) Afternoon dessert breaks (featuring MIL's pumpkin roll, pecan pie, and whoopee pies
2133) Creativity with Christmas gift tags (after misplacing the ones I purchased)
2145) Katy Perry red lipstick
What "gifts" have you already received this holiday season?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday


Showdown (A Paradise novel) by Ted Dekker

Love Dekker's books. This trilogy ties in with his Circle trilogy (Black, Red,  and White) but having read those books isn't pertinent to understanding the Paradise trilogy. The only confusing part is that Showdown, Sinner, and Saint were published in one order, yet he recommends reading them in another. Having followed the recommended path, I already know what happens to several of Showdown's characters. Still, I put the book down with 60 pages left last night - knowing if I didn't stop while I could, I'd stay up all night to finish.  His books are that good.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

I've been reading on this one for a while now. A book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, I'm using them as Lewis intended - reading it to quiet my mind before bed. I've been on a fiction kick lately, and reading my daytime book-of-choice at night. The goal is to finish this one before year's end.

Just Finished:

Through the Fire by Diane Noble

A light hearted mystery about a Pastor & his wife who agree to work at a new church in a new area. The day they arrive in town, they find the church engulfed in flames. I read this book over the Thanksgiving holiday and it was just the right amount of fluff needed in combination with a story line that actually advances. Reading the book in small snippets didn't hamper my enjoyment.


The Life-Changing Power of Prayer by T.W. Hunt

I've been reading this book a few pages at a time during my morning devotional. I'm about 10 pages from finishing and its mostly a meh. Nothing particularly wrong with it, but nothing I haven't read in other books by other authors. I think its time for me to stop reading about prayer and start doing it more.

Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just isn't Good Enough by Justin & Trish Davis

I'm in the early pages of this book. So far I've just read the basics - how they met and the early stages of their marriage. From what I understand, the book will cover troubles they have encountered along the way (which are fairly universal to most marriages) and how to overcome them. More on this one when I've gotten further along.

Just Finished:

The Exodus Road: One Wife's Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue by Laura Parker

As you can imagine, this was a tough read. Not in style, but rather in content. I'm a bit ashamed to admit I'm glad to be done with this short book. Now I can give them a bit of money and return to life with my head in the sand. (Totally not the path the book recommends.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

I made it disappear

I feel as if the Missional Minded Monday posts should make a comeback. One of the most difficult parts of living on-mission in everyday life is that everyday life gets in the way. Serving others takes thought and effort. Quite frankly, sometimes I barely have the energy to get through the day and finish all my standard tasks, much less seek out things to do for others.

A week or so ago, a friend sent a link about panhandlers in our nearby big City. It wasn't groundbreaking journalist, but rather a reminder of what we all know. Not all people asking for money are homeless. The money doesn't always go for food. They aren't always approaching with bad intentions.

The agreed upon best course of action (in the conversation that followed between my friend and I) was to keep a bag in our cars. Crackers, bottled water, and a rain poncho would make good items to have on hand to give out if approached. Also, these are things that would easily save if we weren't making frequent trips into the City.

If I'm honest, I didn't think about it again after the conversation. Since Jay and I moved, I'm further from the City and I don't make trips as often as I use to. I never made up the bag as discussed. Even if I had, it wouldn't have served me this weekend. HOWEVER that doesn't give me a free pass for my actions.

Dinner club with friends - the holiday edition - involved dinner in the Old City, followed by a Christmas play in a storefront downtown theater. Jay didn't go with me, and since the move its no longer practical to meet and carpool. This meant I walked from the parking lot (across the street and down just a hair) to the restaurant alone. In the dark.

So when I was approached by a woman asking for money, I freaked and did something I detest. I lied. Dressed in sparkly pants, a fancy jacket, carrying a designer bag, I told the lady I didn't have any cash on me. Truth be told, I have $13 cash in my Coach wallet.

I have no doubt I took the safe course of action. Stopping on a dark street alone isn't a smart idea. However, as a Christian "safe" shouldn't be my goal. Should it?

I encountered a woman who told me she had not eaten in 2 days. I turned a cold shoulder. And did nothing. Where was God's love?

How do you handle situations like this? What could I do differently? Should I always assume right motives and trust God to protect me? Do you have a game plan for addressing the need?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Treadmill Turkey Trot 8K - Recap

My darling love and I alternate holidays spent with the families. Last year we spent Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his. This year we are doing the opposite. Holidays with his family are spent in West Virginia (along the Ohio River) in a tiny town. The closest Turkey Trot race was over an hour away, so I committed with Bari & Jaime to do the mileage as a virtual run.

A snow storm altered our route and changed up our travel plans.  The weather report promised temperatures in the teens, something my lungs just weren't ready for. In years past, I've ran on an old school treadmill in the unfinished basement of Jay's grandfather's house. I emailed Jay's dad to make sure it was still available to use and to see if I need to bring any power cords.

Thursday morning FIL assured me he had everything set up for me. 5 miles was the plan, so unlike previous years, I didn't need a computer set up to play a DVD for me to watch. "Give us a holler if you need a change of scenery" he yelled as I headed into the garage and down to the basement. Little did I know, he'd prepared for me to have a little competition on my run.

While getting the cords plugged in, he found this bust. I'm really not sure who it is, or what he did to deserve being memorialized. Nor do I know why he currently finds his home in PawPaw's basement. At first it was funny. Especially with the West Virginia hat. Then it was just creepy.

Dude stared at me the whole time. Never blinked. Never looked away.

CREEPY.  They say no matter what your speed, you still lap everyone on the couch. While that may be true, I was never able to pass the dude on the water heater.

Try as I might, I wasn't able to pass him.  Tough blow losing first place when you very carefully didn't invite anyone to the race but yourself.

I guess I should be happy with my 2nd place rib. After all, there is always next time!
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 44:06

Monday, December 2, 2013

Secret City Race Report aka Learning Experience

This weekend’s Secret City Half Marathon was a failure race for me. I shot for the moon, but burnt up before leaving Earth’s atmosphere. To write a mile-by-mile race report would only serve to wallow in my feelings.
I won’t lie – I had a pity party for myself, but tried to keep it contained.  After crossing the finish line, I went behind the building and let myself cry.  Sob really, because I’m a loser like that. But like the walk breaks I’ve begun to allow myself to take, I limited it to 1 minute.  In that minute I let it all loose.  Then I counted down and dried it up in the last 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

Then I got up, dusted myself off, and went to celebrate with my running friends for their accomplishments.  For my Ragnar teammate Amy, this was her first ever half marathon.  She completed it in a stellar time! My buddy Jay S had the honor of running the relay with his wife – and completing the 2nd loop alongside her. 

I don’t want to have run 13 miles for nothing.  I mean the bling was okay, but nothing to write home about. Plus, they served foreos (faux oreos) at the post race buffet.  Instead, I want to learn from this experience. I want to become a better racer in 2014. Be more focused, but less short sighted with my goals. I want to enjoy racing again, not waking up with a sick belly full of nerves race morning.

What I did wrong
Lack of training – November was my 3rd lowest mileage month (behind May & June).  Between my last half marathon (October 13th) and yesterday, I only had 1 occurrence of mileage above 20 for a week.  Not sure that counts, since it happened the week of Ragnar – where I had 19 miles in 2 days.

Lack of mental preparation – I’m mentally weak. I too frequently (and early as in the case of this race) decide that I suck and give up.  Also, I had no real race strategy. Of course there was talk of the benefits of negative splits, but having never really tried I have no confidence in my ability to achieve them. Which led to…

Going out too fast – Seems to contradict the above, but I thought I had a sub 2 hour race in me.  My 2 training runs in the week prior were both great paces with little effort on my part.  I thought I was faster, and when my first 3 miles were in the 8:5X-9:10 range, I felt strong and thought I would be able to keep them up or get faster.  I thought wrong.

Not doing my homework – In my head, this was a flat course.  I remembered the double loop from racing it 3 years ago and didn’t bother to review the terrain and elevation gain. Turns out, I was remembering the wrong double loop course.  The Haunted Half in Kingsport really is flat.  While Secret City is flat, relative to Knoxville, it does have some gradual inclines that psyched me out.

The weather – My body isn’t adjusted to breathing cold air yet. My lungs hate fog. The temperature was a good 10 degrees colder than predicted. While these aren’t things I could have changed, I should have adjusted for them.

*My long runs were done in the afternoon hours thanks to the way life fell, but I should have made a point to do at least 1 early morning run. 
*I should have adjusted my pacing expectations with the fog, rather than attempting to push through.
*Morning of, I should have rechecked the weather and added layers (my thighs get cold easily then decide not to work properly).
Adjusting for the future

Training - I suck at training. Before you jump on me for being negative – facts are facts.  I very rarely follow a training plan. As a matter of fact, I only closely followed a plan for 2 of my 6 half marathons this year.  Both of those resulted in PRs, despite being within a month of one another.
More realistic goals – If I don’t have the opportunity to play with paces in training, I shouldn’t guesstimate a fast pace come race day. 

Focused racing – I participated in 18 races this past year, with 2 planned but didn’t happen. (Calhoun’s 10 miler due to snow. On Cosby walked w/Grandfather.) I need to be more selective about races and train accordingly. Right or wrong “to finish” has ceased to be a goal I shoot for in races.  Maybe that will change if I entertain the notion of Ultra Marathons, but for the distances I’m doing now completion (barring injury) shouldn’t be a question.
Cross training – 2013 has been the year of the neglect when it comes to doing other things. I opted out of triathlon training this summer, something I want to add back in next year. Life got complicated; I got burnt out, and gave up on weight training.

I want to get away from worrying about pace so much, and have all-but decided to run the 2014 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon.  I’m a stronger runner than 2 years ago, so a PR is highly likely without stressing over it.  No crazy goals (I’d entertained the idea of training so I could cut an hour off my PR), no pressure.  Just training, running, and enjoying. Kelly & Amy are both in for 26.2 and I can’t think of better company with whom I’d like to spend hours every Saturday morning training.

Secret City Half Marathon finishing time: 2:11:55