Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Once a month at work we have divisional safety meetings. Some of these people who attend the meeting I do not know very well since they aren't in my direct department. Our monthly meeting was last Wednesday. I happened to have a sleeveless blouse on. While we were waiting for the meeting to start, the lady sitting next to me says "Wow, you have big arms." She immediately must have noticed by blank stare and/or what the hell look because she followed up with "Oh, that came out wrong. I don't mean fat. I mean really muscular."
Wow. Then it got even better. I'm still a little speechless at this point. What do I say? Is this a compliment (I actually took it that way, well because I'd rather have muscular arms than flabby arms). Anyway, I just kind of smiled. She then asks "What do you do. Aerobics or something?"
Now, no offense to anyone who does aerobics, but it was all I could do not to fall over laughing. Definitely not aerobics, and especially not the Jane Fonda leotard and leg warmer wearing aerobics that I know this lady was picturing.
I told her I swim a lot, and also do a lot of push-ups and planks. I'm pretty sure she had no idea what a plank was, but anyway, end of conversation...
Speaking of the office, I've realized that the more I run the more my fashion suffers. I'm lucky that my office attire is business casual, with more emphasis on the casual part (jeans are acceptable every day). I realized how much I lean toward the casual when I dressed up the other day and Dan said "You look nice. You have a meeting today?" BUSTED. I did have a meeting. And, that tends to be the only time I pull out the nice slacks and blouse (even though I have a closet full of nice business attire).
Let's not even talk about my hair or (lack of) make-up at the office. Since most days I work out again at lunch, there is no use fixing my hair for a few hours, when it's just going to get messed up again. So, I just got with the wet hair in a bun look on a daily basis...hot, I know.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
A little bit of background: Growing up we often spent the evenings watching television as a family. Systematically my father would fall asleep on the couch and start snoring at 8 pm. Once the snoring started we would yell at him to go on up to bed because we couldn't hear the TV above his snoring. In which he would suddenly jerk awake and claim he's awake and wasn't sleeping or snoring. He would stay awake for a few minutes then fall back asleep, start snoring again and we'd repeat the process.
Fast forward 15 years. Now, I don't snore (I don't Dan!), but I've become a habitual early-to-bed, early-to-riser like my father. I tell people I go to bed at 9 pm, but in reality I'm in bed by 8:30. Sometimes I read for 20 minutes or so, but most of the time the lights are out before 9 pm. I don't vary from this on the weekends either. If I'm lucky, I'll stay up to 10 pm on the weekends, but most weekends I still go to bed by 9 pm. In my defense, I'm up most mornings by 4:45 - 5:00 am, and I consider 5:30 am to be sleeping in. On the weekends sometimes I'll sleep as late as 7:00, but often I'm up earlier (having two whiny bassets helps with this).
Last night, however, I hit a new low. I went to bed at 7:30 pm and the lights were out by 7:45 pm (and, it was still light outside). After two tough workouts yesterday, I came home and I was BEAT. I could barely muster to courage to go out to dinner (Dan's headed out of town so we planned a dinner date. We went to the Southwestern University cafeteria upon my request. Story for another time).
We got home around 7 pm, and I starting reading on the couch. By 7:30 pm, I was nodding off. I told Dan I was going to bed. His response: "Are you kidding me? It's 7:30 pm." Nope, no kidding here. Off to bed I went.
I was up at 5:00 am rocking and ready to workout.
OMG I've become my father (love you Dad!)...
Monday, April 18, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
- Start Slow: Starting slow is the best investment you can make for a PR.
- Race Day Temp: Low 50s is perfect for a PR. The higher it gets, the more minutes you need to add.
- Positive Attitude: Having a goal and envisioning success can be just as important as the actual training itself. As the lactic acid pours into your legs and your brain floods you with reasons to stop, a reassuring phrase, goal or vision can pull you through.
- The good outweighs the bad: A marathon is no walk in the park. I have experienced some extreme pain in marathons. While I might have been miserable at the time, the pride and excitement I felt at the finish far outweighed the pain.
- Lose weight: run faster: As much as I would like to say that weight doesn't matter for a runner, it does. It simply takes less energy to move a 124-pound runner across 26 miles, especially up hills, than it takes to move a 128-pound runner along the same course.
- Mental tricks do not overcome lack of physical preparation: I learned this lesson during my second marathon (San Diego) where I had no business being out there.As tempting as it might be to believe that the mind can completely overcome the body, if you are not adequately prepared physically to complete a marathon or to complete it within a specific duration, then there is very likely no mental trick that will overcome this lack of physical preparation.
- I enjoy silence. Some marathoners like to run listening to music. I thought I did too – until the first time I ran without it. I soon began to love the quietness. I was able to listen to my body and focus on the run. In addition, my mind was freed up to think about my life and evaluate it. Some people enjoy running with noise. But I have grown to love the silence.
- Run with your head up. Not just as an instruction for proper running technique, but as a metaphor for life. Stay positive and confident. Look where you are going. And soak in as much of life as possible.
- Training Intensity: Intervals, hills, and tempo runs are tough…but they make you faster…period.
- Never, ever underestimate the importance of support. Particularly during those last draining miles, crowd and family support can take you far! Support and love from friends, family, fellow runners and random folks has helped me succeed at marathons. I definitely put in all the work, but it would be foolish to think that what I have accomplished was all on me.
- Thank. Marathons give me an opportunity to share my gratitude with a group of people who do mostly-thankless work — the volunteers.
- Smile throughout the race. I always try to run with a smile on my face. People take notice. Plus, it makes your race pictures turn out much better.
- Compete Less. Encourage More. Marathon runners are notorious for offering encouragement to one another. They understand an important race principle: there is room at the finish line for all of us. It isn’t all about winning or losing, it’s about the experience and being in it together.
- Appreciate what you have. Sunday, I saw a blind runner compete. He seemed to have twice my energy, and really made me thankful for what I have.
- Pain is temporary, pride is forever. The origins of this statement are debatable, but it's true.
- Just Keep Moving. I am always amazed at the surge of energy I get while running the last stretch of my marathons. I always think that my legs have given me all the energy they have left, but in the last quarter mile as I see the finish line in the distance, I always pick up the pace considerably and give it all I have. In a marathon, as in life, the key is just to keep moving, even if that means going slowly. No matter how hard things get, there is usually an end in sight, if we just keep moving forward.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Marathon #14. 3:23:41, 2nd female, 14th overall. Wow, I don’t even know where to begin with this one. This was hands down one of the toughest marathons I’ve ever run due to the weather, probably only behind my Ironman marathon. It was close 91 degrees when I finished, sun blazing down, humid, and oh yeah – the 25+ mph winds.
I woke up feeling strong, prepared, and ready to run a great race. The race director warned us on his PA that the temp was about 15 degrees hotter than it usually is this time of year. But, I was feeling pretty confident and decided to shoot for a 3:12-3:15. I felt that was conservative given the weather. I’m tough, right? Surely the weather won’t affect me that much. So I planned to set out at a 7:21 pace with the plan of dropping the pace back if things went to hell. And off to hell they went.
But before we discuss the scenic route to hell, the Big D Marathon itself: pretty much well run from start to finish and a good deal for the money. I can be quite the irritating nit-picky ass at times, but the race entry fee was very reasonable and we got two shirts (one tech), nice medal, nice awards, good food at the end, and portable showers available at the finish. They also had a shuttle from the host hotel, where I stayed, to and from the race start (thank God because I never want to drive in Downtown Dallas EVER again). Okay, there’s the late 8:00 am start and not enough water stops, but I’m trying really hard to forgive them for that.
The shuttles left the hotel at 6:00 am and it was a 20 minute drive to the race start (Cotton Bowl), so I arrived with plenty of time. We were able to go inside the Cotton Bowl, and they had tables/chairs set up, so I sat down, listened to my tunes, ate and tried to inconspicuously scout out the competition.
At 7 am I checked my bag and headed out for a 20 min warm-up. Did some stretching and then headed to the start line. The half marathon and marathon started together but the half marathoners were wearing yellow bibs so I did some more scouting of my competition. I heard one girl (the eventual female overall winner) say in conditions like today she was going to run a conservative 3:06. Well, damn. Looks like I won’t be keeping up with her (she ran a 3:15).
Got to meet fellow DMer Paul at the start, which was awesome!! A huge congrats to him for rocking his first marathon in those conditions. If that had been my first marathon, you would have found me on the side of the road crying somewhere. I promised him they are not all that tough!! Way to go Paul (who also won his age group!)
So, the race itself. This will probably sound bitter. It is not meant that way. I have no regrets for my approach to this race. I was patient. I went from 5th female at Mile 8, to 2nd female by Mile 13, and did not get passed by anyone – male or female – after that point. I had hoped patience in the first half would provide for negative splits on the second half, and that didn’t happen, but I don’t know that I could have done anything different.
Mile 1 - Feelin’ good, feelin’ strong, feelin’ well, yeah, cocky. The pace felt easy and comfortable. Somehow I still did a 6:58 mile. Oops.
Miles 2-4 – The course winds through a neighborhood. I slow it down and am averaging around a 7:19 pace. There were some hills, but it kind of blinked by without notice. Reinforce false sense of preparedness for what is to come: check.
The marathoners and half-marathon splits at Mile 4, and the marathoners head for a loop around White Rock Lake. After the courses split, things thinned out a lot. At that point the wind around the lake was not that bad. Little did I know we would return to the lake around Mile 16 and the wind would be pure HELL.
It’s starting to get pretty damn hot around Mile 5. The water stops were pretty inconsistent. I’ve been spoiled I guess by races that provide water at every mile, but there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the placement of the water spots in this race. Sometimes there was a water stop two miles in a row, then you would go several miles without water. On a cooler day, that would have been okay. Not okay for a day like this one.
Saw Lance and his brother running around the lake around Mile 6 which was cool! Always nice to see a familiar face, and I appreciated his encouragement.
Around Mile 7, I slow down some. I’m feeling dehydrated and I’ve still got many more miles to go. Try to keep my average around 7:22. I’m told I’m 4th woman right now. Then another woman passes me. I’m now 5th woman. Damn. I’m frustrated because I really wanted a top 3 overall finish among women and now it feels out of reach. I try to remember patience. Patience is key. I’ve got time to catch them.
At Mile 8 we leave the lake and head back through some neighborhoods. At this point, I’m really wishing for some shade. While I appreciate the nice sun tan I’m getting, the sun is slowly sucking the life out of me.
Worst spectator sign: “Your half way there, Ashley!” Ashley, I hate to break it to you, but your friends don’t know “you’re” from “your” and unless you’re running the 16 mile version of this race, they suck at math too. At least they used the right “there.” I know, I’m such a bitch.
Mile 9 and 10 come and go. I’m just trying to stay consistent. I catch one of the women ahead of me. We run together for a little bit. She was very nice, mostly because she thought I was a lot younger than I am (she called me ‘Little One’ – awesome.). She falls back and I now see two more women in my horizon. I catch one at Mile 12, and another at the halfway point. I’m now 2nd woman, but we’ve got a long way to go.
I actually felt really strong from around Mile 13-16. I wasn’t speeding up, but I wasn’t slowing down either. I was averaging around a 7:24 pace, which was on target for a 3:15 race.
I don’t remember exactly when we returned to White Rock Lake – otherwise known as hell – but I think it was around Mile 16.
The return to White Rock Lake – 4 miles of hell. Not only was it miserably hot at the point, but it was so windy that the lake now looked like an ocean with waves and whitecaps. No joke. We were running into the wind around the lake and it was just brutal. I felt like I had energy but the legs wouldn’t make a running motion. Everyone was really spread out at this point, and I was running alone. It was all I could do to keep one leg moving in front of the other. I didn’t know how long we would be running around the lake, but I just wanted to get away from the damn lake and its evil wind. I trudged on, clocking around 8:15 miles.
Finally, around Mile 20, we leave the lake. I pushed as best I could to make up the lost time, but it just wasn’t happening. The wind is still blowing, it’s hot and I need water. I caught up with a fellow Marathon Maniac who was looking as miserable as I was. I tried to cheer him up and remind him that all he has to do was finish. I also accidentally lied to him and told him we’ve only got six miles left and there shouldn’t be any hills. Apparently there was one more long evil hill at Mile 21. Oops.
Miles 20-25 – The race directors, though organized and skilled at their jobs, are cruel, cruel people. While I appreciate that the course was flat the last 5 miles, there was NO shade whatsoever. Just sun blazing down on the asphalt. Suckfest. I was giving it all I could but still hovering over 8 minute miles, unable to bring the pace back down.
On the less depressing side, at this point the marathon and half marathon courses had remerged. I got to book it past all the back pack half-marathoners, which was quite a chore given the fact that they didn’t know I was coming. I felt like a hyena flying past a herd of grazing buffalo. No offense intended to anyone at the grazing buffalo pace. I am 100% of the any pace is an awesome pace mentality.
The last six miles heading back to the Cotton Bowl were quiet. There were no crowds. The only people out were volunteers running solo corner duty or the occasional somewhat confused looking citizen sitting on their porch.
At Mile 25, there was a guy screaming at me at the top of his lungs like a drill instructor.The typical “you’re almost there” speech, but with all sorts of motivational “kick it in to high gear” and “give it everything you’ve got – and then some” and hand gestures and volume that made me fear for my life if I didn’t obey. So it was maybe a little early to start pushing, but push I did.
Mile 26+ –I pushed as hard as my body would let me. Something in my leg started poking from the inside (is that bad?) and every muscle in my legs burned, but that only pushed me to finish faster. I was dodging a lot of half marathon walkers, and I made up some time and finished just under 3:24. About 9 minutes slower than my moderately realistic back-up plan goal.
Definitely not my best race – in fact, one of my worst marathon times in the last few years – but it I fought hard for it and I’m proud.
Took a shower to cool off. A local church provided portable shower facilities, which was awesome. They provided everything – towels, soap, shampoo, conditioner – I was so thankful. Also, got to talk to Paul again after the race and meet his great family!!
Dan texted me to see if I was planning to head home soon (my favorite race Sherpa couldn’t make the trip with me due to work. Missed having him there), and I told him I was waiting around for awards. My exact words were “I don’t care if the award is made of dog shit, I’m waiting for it. I earned that sucker.” Nice, I know.
Glad I waited - the awards were nice – then hopped on the shuttle and headed back to the hotel.
One of the worst parts of the day was the 2.5 hour drive home post-marathon. Did wonders for my legs. Ouch.
Thanks everyone for the support. You all rock.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
We have been told time and again we were born to success, but a truly run marathon convinces us of that truth. – George Sheehan
This quote of the day was delivered into my Inbox this morning and reminded me that it’s
This marathon will be a little different for me than most. I’m traveling to
I’m also managing my expectations regarding this race- this is not a huge profit-making conglomerate like Rock N Roll. There are no pace leaders, low levels of spectator support from what I’ve heard, no energy gels on course. No clocks at the Mile Markers. No frills. It appears there is about 4,600 in this race, spread about 1000 in full, 2800 in half, 800 in 5K. From the course elevation posted on-line it appears there is a good amount of hills in the second half but nothing unreasonable - nice rolling ones. It looks like the marathoners and half-marathoners split off pretty early in the course (Mile 4) and then re-convene the last few miles (potential CLUSTER-F). There is a good chance I will be running alone for most of this race.
Since this is not a wave start, I need to make sure I start as close to the front as possible (Aside: The race website says even though there was chip timing, age group awards would be determined by gun/clock time. Anyone concerned with the awards should start in the first 20 rows. I’m always concerned with awards J.)
The race doesn’t start until 8:00 am, which is a pretty late start for an April Marathon in
First 5 miles, I will relax and loosen up, the next 10 miles, I will press it a little and get my overall pace down, and the final 11.2 miles I will finish with whatever I have left.
You won’t be able to track me on-line on Sunday, but I’ll be posting results as soon as I can!
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
Hells Hills is a local race, just an hour east of Austin in Smithville. The race started at Rocky Hill Ranch. I knew nothing about the place.
Hells Hills is an appropriate name for the winding, rocky, rooty and eternal small and sometimes large ups and downs at the Rocky Hill Ranch. I definitely didn't give the course the respect it deserved beforehand. But don't know how I could have prepared differently for it other than having more trail experience. How does one prepare for Hell, anyway?
The race started at 7:00 am. I got there at 6:00 am with the plan of doing a few warm-up miles like I do before road races. But the race start was at a ranch in the middle of nowhere and it was DARK. Like, really dark. This is where a head lamp would have come in handy – most everyone had them. I decided there would be no warm-up miles and used my Iphone as a flashlight so I could use the port-a-potty. Sat in my car and took a nap until about 10 minutes before the race was about to start, then walked over to the start line. The race director said “Are you all ready to get this shit started?” and off we went. Super laid back.
I started off running in a group of 3 guys. I promised Dan I wouldn’t “race” this race – he didn’t want me to get hurt for my upcoming marathon. But out of the gate, I was the first female. My competitive juices kicked in. I decided to try and stick with the 3 guys. But, the course was extremely technical, and my breathing started to get labored a little over 1 mile into it. So, I let the guys go.
I pulled back, settled in, enjoyed the morning (with all its 90% humidity, but cloudy, so at least no sun) and the scenery.
I should also note that I became a little worried when I lined up at the start and noticed everyone else was running with a hand held water bottle. I did not carry water with me, and only one Gu. I assumed the aid stations would be like the aid stations in road races – volunteers holding out cups of water, Gatorade, etc for us to grab on the run. Nope. The first water station was at Mile 2.5 and it was unmanned. I should have stopped for water there, but I didn’t want to stop running (again the competitive juices kicking in) so I passed it up. The next water station didn’t come until around mile 7.5. Until then, I was hurting. My quads were extremely sore from all the roots and rocks and hills. I was feeling dehydrated. And it seemed like the miles were going by very slowly. I was running completely by myself and concentrating hard on not falling or getting lost.
Took a Gu at Mile 7 and came upon another aid station at Mile 7.5 Two of the three guys I was running with earlier were stopped at the aid station. This station was manned, so I quickly grabbed 2 cups of Gatorade and decided to try to keep up with the two guys as they took off. This ended up being the turning point of the race for me. After 10 minutes, I felt great again.
Maybe the coolest part of trail runs is the people you meet. I ran with the two guys – one from Houston and one from Austin – both super nice and provided some great trail running tips which helped me navigate the trail more efficiently. At this point we began catching runners from the 50K (they started at 6 am, running two loops of the course). Everyone was so nice!! As we would approach them from behind on the single track trail, they would automatically move to the right so we could pass to the left and cheered us on like they had known us forever. I loved the camaraderie that this event provided.
We approached the last aid station at Mile 10.5. I grabbed two more cups of water, and still feeling good, decided to try and really pick it up the last 5 miles. By this point I was starting to feel a lot more comfortable on the trails and wanted to give it all I could. Leaving the aid station we wound through pine forest with the trail alternating between firm and sandy sections. The sand wasn't deep, but it was soft enough to slow you down. I did my best to avoid the soft portions by running alongside the established trail.
At Mile 11 I bid adieu to my two running friends and continued the last four miles on my own. They finished the race not too far behind me.
The last 2.5 miles were pretty challenging. I learned what the “Wall” and the “Grind” that everyone talked about were pretty quickly. A series of very steep up and down hills, and the terrain was covered in big rocks that just plain hurt your feet.
After getting through the Wall and Grind, I started to see the finish line in the distance. At this point I knew I was the first female and really couldn’t believe it. I gave it one final kick and crossed the finish line in 2:17:59. I later learned that I was 13th overall and the next closest woman ran 2:30:11. For my win, I got a very unique butterfly wind chime and a medal. Super cool.
What did I learn? Technical trail running and plain old running are two different animals (but I have learned that before). I ran 15 miles, but felt like I ran a marathon. My trail racing pace is about 2 min per mile slower than my road racing pace, but it feels ten times harder. Next time bring my own water and more nutrition. Trail running requires a lot of concentration, but it also provides an inner peace that you don’t get from the road. I loved it. And, I’ll be back for more.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Learned two lessons for next time: 1) Bring a head lamp - it's really dark in the middle of nowhere before the sun comes up; and 2) next time run with a hand held water bottle. The aid stations aren't like they are in road races.
More to come!