Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Being My Best

Even though I am an Ironman, there are times when I doubt myself.

 This photo isn't related to this post, but today is the 2 year anniversary of this moment

I have these high expectations and when little things "get in the way" of those, it starts to tear me down.

This past weekend, after a few weeks off from the trails, Mike and I ventured out to Mendon Ponds for some trail running. I had done my two other runs during the week on the indoor track, so I knew that it was going to be tough regardless of anything else. I was excited about the change in scenery and the "warm" weather (since when is 10 degrees warm?)

We met up with some other runners, friends and new friends, and hit the trails. The next 2.5 hours of training were some of the hardest that I have done so far. The snow was really deep in spots and the uneven terrain made footing almost impossible. I got behind the rest of the group because I had 16 miles planned and needed to go slower, luckily, Mike stayed with me.

I was disappointed in myself for only getting 10 miles in when I was supposed to do 16 miles. My pace was above 14 minutes per mile, and even though I know it was because of the snow, I felt like a failure. I said to Mike that I just want to make him proud, and even though he told me that I always make him proud regardless of the outcome, I was still extremely frustrated with how that run went.

I wanted redemption, so the next day we went back to Mendon Ponds for more trail miles. Since I didn't do as many miles as I wanted on Saturday, I went out there with the idea that I would aim for 10 miles (but I would be happy with anything between 7-13 miles).

The snow was better in some spots, but waist deep in others. We had to hike in lots of spots because the snow was so deep that even if I tried to run I would take two steps and fall through the snow immediately.

I mentally gave up.

I have this idea of what I am capable of and even in the most ridiculous conditions, I can't cut myself some slack. Most other people would laugh it off and just get in what they could (which in the end is what I did, at least I got in 7.5 more miles in tough conditions).

 Obviously not from this past weekend, but the same place and another time my mental toughness was tested

Both days I kept saying that I am not going to be able to finish a 50K, and Mike kept telling me that other people finish that distance after training a lot less than I will. Being self-coached, I don't give myself the "easy" way out. I don't do the least amount of distance, the easiest brick sets or give myself many opportunities to cut out workouts. I push myself - hard and to the limits.

I have to remind myself that I have only been doing this since April 2011, we are only coming up on our four year running anniversary. We started this journey with the Couch-to-5K and we have done so much in such a short amount of time.

 This seems so long ago, maybe because it was

I need to let go of "letting people down". I do this for me - to test my limits, set goals and achieve them. I know I am capable of so much more than a 50K, and potentially even more than an Ironman. As long as I am being my best in the moment, regardless of the outcome, that's all that matters.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Surviving Winter

I guess you could say that I'm still hanging in there. I am not one to wish my life away, but I am counting down the days until winter is over.

 -6 degrees this morning, yuck. That's why the four of us are planning a warm getaway next winter!

We haven't seen the ground since December or the beginning of January. It's been so long that I can't even remember. I feel like I am constantly living in a black and white film, since Rochester is typically pretty grey most of the time anyway. We've probably only had two or three days that have been above freezing, and with the windchill I bet it has only been one day.

 The Bern checking out all of the snow

The piles of snow at the end of our driveway are getting to be so high that I can't even see when I am backing out, I just hope that no one is coming when I pull into the road!

However, I am still getting in the majority of my training runs. I did "skip" my first run of this 50K training plan yesterday. It was close to -30 degrees with the windchill and Mike and I don't have appropriate gear for running in those conditions. The roads were iffy, so we decided against driving to our gym (which I think was a good decision, based on my drive into work this morning).

 30 mile ride and some strength

I ended up riding 30 miles on the trainer. Cycling and running aren't the same thing, they use muscles in different ways, but my legs still got in a good workout. I had about 82 miles between swimming, cycling and running last week - so in the end it was still a great week.

 We've been getting in a lot of snuggles on the couch

This is the last week of "just" 50K training. Starting next week, Mike and I will start training for our two 70.3 triathlons that we have in June and July. While it will be a bit more daunting for me, I'm ready to get in some more consistent swimming and cycling!

Thankfully, looking ahead to this weekend the temperatures are looking a bit better. We are going to get some more snow, which doesn't surprise me at this point, but I'm looking forward to getting in some good trail miles!

I know that training in and persevering through these conditions will benefit me when I toe the line at my 50K in May. I am working on my mental toughness this winter, that's for sure!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Evolution of this Blog

I was curious what I was up to around this time last year, and that's when I realized it was right around the time when I was coming off of my injury. I DNS'd Cast a Shadow and had started to build my mileage up, slowly, so that I could run the Half at the Hamptons.

I then took a peek at 2013 and what I was doing. I noticed that this blog has changed a lot. I had some product reviews (I don't do those anymore) and random posts just to fill up my little space on the internet.

Where else would you find something like this but my blog?

All of that is fine, but that isn't how I handle my blog anymore. 

My blog has always been for me. There were times when I was a part of Ambassador programs and I did some posts through those avenues (technically, I am still a part of these groups but I do not do anything through them anymore). Companies have stopped contacting me for product reviews, for the most part, and that's fine with me. Unless you are offering me a product that I actually use - I'm not going to review it.

 When you have nothing to say, sometimes this is all you can do

I also realized that sometimes, I just don't have anything to say. Last year with Ironman training, this blog basically became my training log. I did have a few random posts sprinkled throughout here and there, but the majority of posts were Ironman training recaps and race recaps.

This also means that I have lost some readers. That's alright too. As I said, this blog has always been for me. I still like my little space on the internet, and I hope that some of you still do too!

Evolution, or change, isn't always a bad thing. And it is a natural part of life. I'm sure glad that I am not the same person that I was 5 or 10 years ago - and I can say the same thing about this blog.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mental Defeat

Where is this person? I'd like to know.

I've already mentioned how I struggle with winter, and this year it seems like my mental toughness/motivation is suffering as well. I don't even feel like that person who completed an Ironman or even the person who ran a sub-4 hour marathon. 

I know I was the person who did those things, but I'm wondering if I still am that person. 

I find myself questioning if I am still capable of running a fast marathon time, or if I am going to be able to complete my 50K in May, or if I am going to be able to finish another Ironman.

Deep down inside, I know that I am capable of doing all of those things, and more (I'm even contemplating a 50 miler in November). But for some reason, my mental toughness is severely lacking right now. 

I put off running until tomorrow and rode on the trainer tonight instead. At least I did something, I could just be skipping workouts completely. I could have gone for a run, Mike and I were planning on it, but then I got home and I just let my mind get the best of me. It wasn't even that bad outside, alright fine it was 18 degrees and wherever we ended up running would have been snow-covered but at least the sun was shining. 

Part of my lack of motivation (even though I am getting all of my run workouts, at least one swim and bike workout and two strength workouts done) is the fact that we don't have any races until March 29th. It just seems so far away and makes winter feel like it is never-ending.

The good news? I still LOVE swimming, biking and running. It is still who I am. I know that this sport, just like life, comes with ups, downs, plateaus and everything in between. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Winter "Blahs"

It is about that time of year, maybe even a little bit earlier than normal, when I am feeling "blah". For someone who grew up in Maine and has lived in Western New York for more than 10 years, you would think that I would have a handle on this thing we call winter. Unfortunately, I don't.

The past week was a bit rough, with some really low temps, and I wasn't exactly the happiest person during all of my runs. I am getting sick of running on snow (and it just started), and I let it ruin part of both of my long runs this weekend.

Running on some more snowy trails

50K training officially started this past week, and I am trying not to think about the fact that we still have at least two months left of winter.

I guess it is a good thing that I swim, bike and run as much as I do, because if I didn't I would hibernate until April or May. While staying inside, drinking hot chocolate or coffee and watching movies sounds like a good time, I think I would get sick of it after awhile.

 Winter trails

So, I bundle up and head outside (or to the indoor track if I really need to). Even if they aren't always the most enjoyable runs, an unpleasant run is better than no run. And the endorphin rush helps me feel a little less "blah" than I did before.

But don't get me wrong, I am counting down the days until I don't need to wear 2-3 layers of clothes just to go run!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Weekend of Unofficial 50K Training

My 50K training starts tomorrow. Technically, tomorrow is an off day (good thing since I accidentally haven't had an off day since last Sunday), so training starts Tuesday. I also go back to work tomorrow, with a few vacation days over the next two weeks, so it's really time to get back into the groove.

I figured that even though I wasn't officially training for Pineland yet, that didn't mean I couldn't get in some "unofficial" training. My training plan is going to "only" be four run days a week, with two "long" runs on the weekend of varying distances. At the end of February, Mike and I will start 70.3 training which means that I will be training for both races simultaneously. It's not the preferred option, but it isn't something I haven't done before either.

Our tracks in the snow

Yesterday, Mike and I braved the cold temperatures and ran a 10K along the canal path. We wore trail shoes because we weren't sure how the conditions would be, in the end it was a good thing that we did! There was a bunch of snow on the path and the well traveled areas were harder to navigate through because of the tracks in the snow.

 Snow covered trails

 Great Brook Bridge

This morning, we met up with some old and new friends for a trail half marathon-ish run. Our friend, Todd, and new friends, Prem and Michelle, joined us on the Seneca Trail. One of my goals this year is to run the entire length of the Seneca Trail (out and back) at one time. Before today, Mike and I hadn't run approximately 3.9 miles of the trail. I wanted to run the entire trail, at different times, before attempting to run the entire thing at once.

 Group selfie!

Even though the trails were snowy, the footing wasn't too bad (I didn't even wear spikes or extra traction). We took it relatively easy and it was an enjoyable run with even more enjoyable conversation. I had a lot of fun getting to know Prem and Michelle.

Even though this trail has some challenging parts (definitely not as many as other trails in the area), I love it. It is my favorite trail by far and I am excited to try to attempt to run the 28 miles in April.

 50K training? I've got this!

And I guess now it is time to say - let the 50K training begin!

Monday, January 5, 2015

CJ's Resolution Challenge Race Recap

This past weekend, Mike and I went to Pennsylvania to run and help out at the second annual CJ's Resolution Challenge. Our friend, Janell, is the race director and she does an amazing job putting this entire event together. Her family and friends work really hard to make sure that everything is perfect for the runners and after last year's race, we knew we wanted to be a part of it again this year.

Mike and I knew we would be going to the race, we just didn't know in what capacity. Mike eventually decided that he wasn't going to race and that he would just volunteer. Since I have my 50K in May this year, I figured that racing would be in my best interest. Our friend, Isaac, ended up registering as well!

On Friday we dropped Bernie off at boarding and then made the 3ish hour drive to the race location. Janell, her husband, Aaron, and her family were already setting things up for the next day. When we got there, Isaac was already there and the four of us set out to make sure the course markings were in order (Mike found a few spots that needed more markings).

 Me and Janell, trying not to freeze

Mike and Isaac ran the loop a few times. Mike got in a few more miles than Isaac, seeing how Isaac ran the Boston Marathon course the day before - in 3:15. I'm glad Mike was able to run since he wouldn't be racing the next day.

 A big selfie with Crystal!

After everything was set at the race location, we all went back to Janell and Aaron's house to hang out. Isaac brought out his surprise that he had made for the race, a huge photo of Crystal! We knew we would need to take a selfie with her since she was sad that she wasn't going to be there for the race.

Even though the race started at 9am the next morning, Isaac and I decided that we would go with Mike in the morning who needed to be there at 7am to start his volunteering duties. We all went to bed excited for the next day!

After an early-ish wake-up, we got ready quickly and made the fifteen minute drive to the park. The race takes place in R.B. Winter State Park and it is a really nice location! I'd love to go there and explore more of the trails sometime.

Isaac with Crystal

 I wish the wind didn't knock this down, I was planning on high-fiving her every loop!

When we got there, Mike started out his volunteering duties at the registration table. Janell asked me and Isaac if we wouldn't mind putting out the two sponsor signs out on the trail, and of course we didn't mind! We made the walk through the woods and the weather was still holding out. When we got back to the race start a few more runners had started to arrive.

At that point, I started to get ready for the race. We still had about an hour until the start, so I took my time getting ready.

Right before 9am, Janell made a few pre-race announcements and then we were off!

 You can see me and Isaac in the middle, photo courtesy of See PA Run

Isaac and I weren't doing the same race format, but we were able to run the first loop together. I decided to do RC Revolutions, run as many loops in the 3 hour time frame as you can, and Isaac decided to do the Last Man Standing (what Mike did last year). Last Man Standing participants have a specific amount of time to finish each loop and as the race continues the time allowed decreases (for example, the first loop the runners have 20 minutes to finish, then 19, then 18, and so on). The loop is approximately 1.6 miles and is half trails and half paved road through the park.

We took the first loop easy, since Isaac had 20 minutes to finish the loop, and we were closer to the back of the runners. We did pick up the pace once we hit the road portion and after jumping back on the trail to get back to the start/finish area Isaac and I said our goodbyes. I thought we may see each other again, at least briefly, during the race but we never did. I had forgotten to change my watch to manual lap, instead of auto-lap, so I was unable to see my pace for each loop. Oh well! According to Isaac's watch, we ran the first loop (1.6 miles) at 9:40 pace, not bad for being stuck in the back and taking it easy.

Sometime during the race, photo courtesy of See PA Run

I used the same race strategy that I did last year, I would run two loops (approximately 3.2 miles) without stopping. After two loops, I would stop at the aid station and drink some water (before my last loop I only took in Gatorade). Then I would walk, less than a tenth of a mile, while eating my energy chews. This worked out really well for me both years, and I think I will do something similar for my 50K.

Since Mike and I haven't been running as much lately, I wasn't sure how many miles/loops that I wanted to do. The longest we had run since the Philly Marathon was 10 miles on trails (2 hours) and I didn't want to push it too much. The weather was also predicted to deteriorate as the race went on (and right as the race started, it started to snow) and I knew that if it became too slippery that I would stop.

The first few loops were uneventful. The terrain and footing were a lot better than last year since there wasn't any snow on the ground, so I was able to run the entire loop (except when I ate my energy chews).

Right when I finished my third loop, Mike (who was now manning the RC Revolution check-in for the women) made a big deal about me coming in. I later learned that he had "missed" me during the first few loops. At first I thought this meant that he didn't mark me coming in (even though I heard people yelling out my number), but he just meant that he hadn't seen me run by him. After that, he would always make a big deal when I ran by the start/finish area.

 Floating on the trails, photo courtesy of See PA Run

About an hour in to the race, it started to "rain" ice pellets. Combined with the wind, this made for less than desirable conditions. I just kept chugging along, though, and we did get a little bit of a break from the ice before it started up again.

I told Crystal the day before that I thought I wanted to get 15 miles, but then I realized that wasn't possible with how the loops worked out. I would either need to do 9 loops (approximately 14.4 miles) or 10 loops (approximately 16 miles). Last year I had run 10 loops, so I decided I would go for that amount as long as I felt good.

 This picture is hilarious, photo courtesy of See PA Run

As Mike said - over the river and through the woods

I was amazed at how good I felt, considering the lack of miles we put in during December. I knew that I couldn't push it, but I decided that I would try for one more loop than last year when I saw how much time I would have left if I stopped at 10 loops. At that point, I had 5 more loops to go. One of the last times that I stopped at the aid station, I did say, "I don't know how many more of these I want to do". The ice pellets were getting worse, and as a result, the paved road portion was getting tougher to run on. I just kept on going and even though I slowed down a little bit, I didn't slow down a lot.

 Right before my final loop

I made it back after my 10th loop and I told Mike, "just one more!" and after some Gatorade, I hit the trail one more time. I still hadn't seen Isaac, but I knew that the Last Man Standing people would be starting soon since I heard the two minute warning air horn. Pretty soon after that, the six people who had made that loop (not Isaac) ran blazing by me! They were crazy!

I started talking with a woman running near me and she said that she was on her 11th loop too. She said she was going to go for 12 and I told her I was done after the 11th loop.

As I neared the end of the paved road section, I saw Isaac walking toward me. As I approached him, he started running with me. I told him I was done after this loop, and he said that I wouldn't have time for another loop anyway (there was some confusion between the two of us on when you could start/finish your final loop, it turned out you just had to START your final loop before the 3 hours were up).

 Finishing up with Isaac

After crossing the finish line and getting my medal, I was so happy to be done! I did realize that if I had done a 12th loop, and stayed in front of the woman I had been talking to, that I would have come in 3rd overall for the women in RC Revolutions. That would have put me at 19.2ish miles, so it is probably a good thing that I just stopped at 11 loops.

I finished 11 loops in 2:54:33 and got in 17.56 miles (according to my watch), which wasn't a bad way to start the new year!

We also made sure to bring Crystal to the finish line

After changing clothes, eating some soup and trying to warm up, we helped break down some of the race stuff and then went back to Janell and Aaron's to take showers.

This race is a great way to start the year and I hope that we are able to be a part of it, in some fashion, every year that it takes place. Janell does an amazing job and makes sure that everyone is happy at the end of the race. The love and care put into this event is obvious, and the fact that it benefits an amazing cause (autism research and awareness) is just a bonus.