Thursday, February 27, 2014

Running "Death" Face

The free photos, which is really amazing for this blogger, from the Half at the Hamptons came out today.

Some are pretty good, like this one.

Other than the fact that I need to shower, I look pretty good

And then, there are the photos from the last half mile of the race. When I was searching just my photos, this is the only one that came up. 

Not horrible

Then, I went to search Mike's photos, and what I found was pretty special. 

Let's set the scene first. As we rounded the corner back into town and toward the finish of the race, I saw Isaac running extra miles. He had already crushed his race and ran a 1:25 half marathon, yes he is crazy fast, and went back and found everyone in our group and ran us into the finish line. 

As he bounded toward us with seemingly endless energy, he said, "the finish is just at those blue lights". The last half mile of the race brings you around a bend in the road near the ocean. So these "blue lights" were ACROSS the ocean!!

I don't even know what Mike and Isaac were so giddy about, I was in no laughing shape, but I just thought, "Isaac, I hate you. The blue lights are really, really far away" and apparently I looked at them longingly willing them to get closer to me. 

The progression of photos, that I found in Mike's photo results, had me in tears in my office because I was laughing so hard. Mike and Isaac are just bounding along, laughing without a care in the world. While I, on the other hand, am not. In fact, my running "death" face gets worse and worse with each photo.

And since I like all of you enough, here is the progression. Enjoy, and try not to laugh too hard! (You should click on the photo in order to appreciate it in its full glory).

I think that they were secretly laughing at my suffering

I still can't look at those photos without laughing!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Music and Memories

I don't listen to music while I run. It's just something that I have never done, ever.

When we started the Couch-to-5K program, our runs were so short and alternated with walking that it wasn't really necessary to listen to music. Also, I have piercings inside of my ears (specifically my daith, you can look that up haha) which makes it impossible for me to wear earbuds without them falling out.

As we started working our way up in distance, from the half marathon to the marathon, I still never listened to music. I don't need it and it comes in handy that I am not dependent on it because of triathlons. It is against USAT rules to wear headphones of any kind during USAT-sanctioned events, including duathlons.

That doesn't mean that music doesn't have an impact on my life as an athlete. One benefit of not "being in my own world" during races is that I get to hear what is going on around me.

At the start of the Half at the Hamptons on Sunday, "Best Day of My Life" by American Authors was played. Whenever I hear this song from now on I will forever think of the race, and smile because I was there with so many friends.

I will always associate "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC with the Mount Desert Island Marathon because it was played at the start.

We wore these jackets on Sunday too

This isn't the only sport that I have done where it is almost impossible to listen to music. I was a swimmer growing up, from the time that I was 8 years old until I was a 20-year old college student.

I did listen to music while on the bus riding to swim meets and on the pool deck while waiting for my turn to swim for 19 minutes at the most (the 1,650). As I've already mentioned, rap was my genre of choice. You could usually catch me dancing behind the starting blocks before my race, unless it was States then I was all serious (maybe that's why I rarely did well at the end of the season, too serious).

One memory I have that includes music while swimming, is when I swam my fastest 500 free time of 5:31. Interestingly, it does not include a rap song. During the ENTIRE race, I had LeAnn Rimes' "Can't Fight the Moonlight" stuck in my head. Not even the entire song, maybe one or two lines over and over again. I can't hear that song and not think of that race.

There are other songs I hear that make me think of people, places, events and I can't help but smile when I hear them. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Half at the Hamptons Race Recap

When I became injured a month ago, I knew that the likelihood of racing Cast a Shadow was almost non-existent. However, I didn't know how I would feel for the Half at the Hamptons in New Hampshire.

Last weekend I ran an 8.5 miler in an attempt to "ramp up" for yesterday's half marathon. While I probably ramped up in mileage too quickly, as the race approached I knew I was going to run. I wasn't going to race, but rather I was going to have fun and just use it as a training run.

We got into New Hampshire Saturday afternoon and found Isaac. We drove most of the course, we got lost and didn't find a turn and then just went back to our hotel after, and there was HUGE puddle at mile 1. This thing almost could be called a pond.

 Said "puddle"

After hanging out at the hotel with Crystal and Joe for awhile, we all went out to dinner. It was a relaxing and fun evening, but most of us were saying how we weren't really feeling the race.

We went to bed and woke up early on race morning. The one negative of this race was that they only had packet pickup on the morning of the race from 8-10am. I think that this was somewhat out of their control because they had a packet pickup time on their website for Saturday originally.

Joe dropped me, Crystal and Mike off, and we found Isaac instantly. We had no problem getting our bibs and then we found a wall to sit at while we waited for the start. All of a sudden Eric and Sara found us! This was our "friendiversary" because we had all met last year at the Hyannis Marathon. Luckily, this year we had better weather!

After waiting in the really long line for the bathroom, I went back to our group of friends and Andy was there! He came out with his kids to cheer us on. I haven't decided which twin is better yet (Eric and Andy are twins), but I'm happy to have finally met both of them!

 Crystal matched both of us!

The group

We took some group photos and then walked the 5-10 minutes to the start. Isaac lined up first, then Sara, then Crystal and finally Mike and I made our way to right in front of the 9:00 pacer. Mike had decided to run with me because he wasn't really feeling the race, and I really appreciated that.

My goal going into the race was to not have this be my worst half marathon time ever (not including Musselman). I figured I would aim for 9:30-9:45 pace and see what happened. I was also planning on taking walk breaks as necessary. My main goal was to come out of the race without further damage to my foot.

After the National Anthem, the race started and we were off. Sort of. We were so far back that it took a little while to get to the start (about a minute or two). Once we got going it was easy to settle in to a good pace. We were going faster than I had intended (about 9:17 pace), but it felt easy enough.

I did comment that my foot hurt a little bit, before the first mile even, and this other runner said "we're almost there". I laughed and told him I was injured and he just told me to run smart. Then he asked if I was training for Boston, at which I laughed. I did tell him that we were going to be doing Ironman Louisville. We chatted for awhile, but Mike and I eventually pulled away from him.

Luckily, when we came across the huge puddle it was gone! They must have drained it somehow.

The first few miles went along easy enough. The one other thing I didn't like about this race was that you had to go by the start/finish two times in the race. Although it did mean that we got to see Andy and his kids twice!

The first 7 miles had most of the elevation gain, but it really wasn't bad at all considering when I was running before I got injured it was on trails. Mike and I did get stuck around these two woman who were chatting the entire time, and for whatever reason their conversation was really annoying me. On one of the hills Mike asked if I wanted to go around them, and at that point I couldn't. We did go by them on one of the downhills, though (unfortunately they passed us again later at a water stop).

I like to break my long runs and races up into chunks, so I had told myself to just get to mile 6.5. Then I thought, "just get to Joe". He was supposed to be at mile 8, but we saw him at mile 7! I was happy to see him, but I changed my new goal to mile 10. 

The course was really reminscent of the Hyannis marathon and a few other races that we have run. Mike and I weren't really talking a lot, but when we were an hour and 20-something minutes into it Mike said, "Isaac is probably done" (he finished in 1:25:51).

The only time I walked during the race was at the last water stop around mile 10.5. I said out loud, "I think walking was a bad idea" because I wasn't sure if I could get myself going. I hadn't run double digits in over a month, but luckily I got going again.

The final 3 miles were along the ocean and the headwind was horrible! All I kept thinking was, "get to mile 11.5", then "get to mile 12". Around mile 12.5, we saw Isaac. He ran us into the finish, which if I was racing would have annoyed me because you could see it for. ev. er. It kind of annoyed me anyway because I just wanted to be done.

We made it to the finish, ahead of those two chatty women who we had passed toward the end, and we saw our friends on the sidelines cheering us on. We crossed the finish line in 2:03:36, which is actually my third fastest half marathon time ever.

Overall, I am really happy with how this race went. I know that if I hadn't have gotten injured this race could have potentially given me a new PR (the course was perfect for that), but I accomplished all of my goals. This was my 11th stand alone half marathon (12th including the half at the end of Musselman) and my 7th state that I have raced in with Crystal.

 Jump, jump!

I don't think I have any reason to be disappointed, at all.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why Do I Do This?

It's Friday, the Friday before a race, and even though I'm not "racing" I still get all sentimental on a race weekend.

 This is where I was last year at this time

Also, we're only 6 months away from Ironman Louisville.

In 6 months and 3 days, I will be jumping into the Ohio River and starting an all day adventure. An adventure that will take me between 14 to 17 hours to complete. An adventure that not many people actually attempt, let alone finish.

Why would I want to attempt something that is going to put me in so much pain that I won't even know if I will make it to the finish line?

I know that there will be times when I question my sanity, curse myself for thinking that doing an Ironman was a good idea and want to quit. But, I won't. I won't quit, because that's not what I do.

 Somewhere out on the run course of Musselman

During our 70.3, the only time that I felt like not moving anymore in the entire 7 hours that I was out there in the unrelenting heat and sun was the last mile. The LAST mile of a 70.3 mile race. Sure, I was thinking that I was so dumb for being out there, wondering why I put myself through such pain and for what?

What do I get out of doing these kinds of things?

Quite a lot actually. The pain reminds me that I am alive. It reminds me of what I am capable of and how much work I put into what I am trying to accomplish.

 Saying hi to Miss Kiva, Sarah and Mark's dog

Even though I was in pain and could only think "one foot in front of the other" as I dumped bottle after bottle of water on myself in a feeble attempt to actually cool down during our 70.3 (all while doing horrible math to calculate how much time I had left out there), I never thought about quitting. Even though I might have been a bit dehydrated and slightly delirious toward the end (it took me a few minutes to recognize Sarah and Mark), my sights were only on that finish line.

I think the same thing will happen at Ironman Louisville.

Even if I am one of those people who is given a glow in the dark necklace (because it is getting close to midnight) stumbling to the finish line (let's hope that isn't the case), I will finish.

So I guess if you asked me why I do this, I would have to say because I don't know any other way of living.

And, I really want to hear those four words more than anything in the entire world.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Post-Injury Update

It has been a month since my last double digit run, a 13.3 mile trail run on January 18th to be exact. That week I ran 28.3 miles.

In the weeks following that run, I ran 4.1 miles (the week I knew I was injured), 0 miles, 5.2 miles and 15.5 miles this past week. 

I know that I have to come back slowly, but I am getting impatient. There are times I feel like I am never going to be back to where I was before. I think about how I ran a half marathon at 8:43 pace, and I feel like I will never do better than that. Then I think about how I ran a marathon at 9:49 pace and I feel like my dream of a sub-4 hour marathon is completely out of reach at this point.

I'm not sure when this will happen again

I know that isn't true, but this wasn't how I wanted the beginning of 2014 to go.

I am a completely competitive person, more so with myself than with others, and to see my distance and, possibly even, my time goals slipping away from me is tough. I should probably remove my pace bunny on RunningAHEAD because it is frustrating to see that based on my current mileage, I am projected to run less than 800 miles this year.

It could be worse, and thankfully I am running again. I only had the one DNS during the time that I was injured and this weekend I will get to run at the Half at the Hamptons.

I'm not going to say that I am racing, because unfortunately I will have to stop and walk here and there and take it a lot slower than I would if I had never been injured (my plan was to aim for a sub-1:50 half marathon if everything had worked out).

Luckily, I know I am strong and capable of so much more than I have already accomplished. Also, I am not jeopardizing my biggest goal to date, and maybe of my life, my Ironman in August.

Overall, I feel like I have handled this setback pretty well (there may have been a few pity parties here and there) and even though it doesn't feel like it now, I know I will be back to where I was before I became injured.

I just have to be patient, which isn't easy for me.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Day I was Humbled

I consider myself to be a pretty athletic person and since we live in Western New York (aka the tundra) I thought we should try cross country skiing. In fact, I made it one of my 2014 goals to go cross country skiing with friends.

Our friends, Sarah and Mark, love to go cross country skiing and after they went last weekend, Sarah said that we should all go this weekend. Mike and I had to rent skis, which was really easy to do, and we decided on a pretty tough course. Mendon Ponds is a tough park to run in, let alone cross country ski, but we were up for the challenge.

 On part of the green trail

Let me just say, I fell. A lot. So did Mike, but he was braver than me and went up and down all of the hills on his skis. I actually ended up taking my skis off to get up a few of the hills (I couldn't side step or "pizza" my way up, haha) and a few of the downhills scared me (after I had fallen so much) and I walked down them.

 At the highest point in the park

The route we picked was challenging, so I am really proud of myself for sticking with it and not giving up completely. I even went down two of the last hills and made it down one without falling, and got down the other one relatively easily (after falling twice and sliding down on my butt with Sarah).

 Thankful for our patient teachers!

The 4.4 miles that we skied were some of the hardest miles I have ever moved in my life. I know that with more practice that I will get the hang of it and feel more confident, just like with swimming, biking and running.  Which is why, most likely, we will go again next winter!

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Letter to Myself

This blog post was inspired by a friend's Facebook status talking about how she wished she could go back and give advice to her younger self. I have talked about my teenage years a bit on the blog before, but with my final "20-something" birthday approaching I feel that I maybe, finally have things figured out (I'm sure I really don't).

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Jamie,

If I know you, and I think I do, you are probably driving around Bar Harbor right now, with your music way too loud (don't worry you still do that almost 13 years later).  Although, you do have some pretty great taste in music, if I do say so myself.

I know that high school hasn't been everything that you wanted it to be and there have been times when you wondered, "what am I even doing here?" Well, I'd say that your 28-year-old self is the reason that you are here. I know that you are pretty stubborn (that doesn't go away, sadly) and you probably think that most of what I am going to say isn't true, but believe me it is.

Food is your friend. You need it to become the smart, athletic person that you are meant to be. I know it is hard hanging out with people who don't eat and act like food isn't a good thing, and you will go through a lot of phases before you truly understand the importance of eating. Actually, you may just end up eating more than most people.

Don't change your values, or diminish the importance of them, just because people don't agree with what you believe in (or try to make you feel bad for what you do and don't believe). You can be friends with people who have different values than you, and they may become some of your greatest friends, but never change who you are because that's what you think that they want you to do.

Swimming will always be your first love, but that doesn't mean you are always going to love it. I know you say that you will always be a swimmer, no matter what, but some time apart will make the heart grow fonder. And, you may just use swimming in a way that you didn't even imagine was possible.

You are strong, smart and, yes, beautiful. It may take you awhile to believe all of those statements but they are true.

People come into your life for a reason (just like things happen for a reason, yes your mom is right). Your core group of friends may change over the years, but you are going to come across some amazing people who love and accept you for who you are.

And finally, try to have some fun every once in awhile. Life isn't always so serious and if you stop and breathe you may just find out that it is a crazy, wonderful world out there.


An older and, maybe, wiser Jamie

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cast a Shadow Race Recap

Or, "The Race I Did Not Run".

That's right, I had my first DNS. I guess technically, I didn't since I found a replacement but it still felt like one in my heart.

Even though I ran twice this past week, I knew that it wasn't enough to be ready for a 6-hour 3-person snowshoe relay. Friday morning, at 6am, I messaged the race director to make sure that I could find a replacement and once he gave me the green light, I asked one of our friends if he wanted my spot. At about 2pm on Friday, I was officially no longer a member of team "Beat Me, Shme and Thee" (our team name was a joke between another co-ed team with the name "Me, Shme and Thee").

The race started at 2pm on Saturday, but we were told we should get there around 12:45pm or so to get a good spot to set up. I still went to the race to cheer on my team and our other friends who were racing on relay teams and as individual runners.

 The new team!

And they're off!

I wish I had been better about taking photos, but it was FREEZING outside and I only went out there for the start and one other time during the day. My one responsibility as the team "cheerleader" was to keep track of the time that the guys had before they should start to get ready for their next loop. The course was approximately 2.4 miles long and the guys were running their loops in 22-25 minutes depending on when during the day they were running.

There are no official results yet, but Mike ran 6 loops (since he went first) and Rob and Matt both ran 5 loops for a total of 16 loops. You can read how Mike felt about the race, here.

This obviously isn't a normal race report for me to write, since I have never missed a race before and have only had one DNF in my racing career.

All day some of the runners were joking that I was lucky that I wasn't out there in the mostly miserable conditions. I know that they meant well, but I would have given anything to be out there with my team doing what I love (even if I had never snowshoed before in my life). I know it was the right/smart decision, but that doesn't mean that the decision didn't hurt a bit.

Oh well, there's always next year! Right, Rob and Mike?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Love the Run

One of the things that scared me the most about being injured wasn't the fact that I was unable to run for a few weeks, it was that once I would be able to start running again would I still love it the same way I did before?

At first I was angry for not being able to run, but then anger turned into frustration.

As the days went on, it got easier to not run. And even though I missed it, I wasn't going as crazy as I was when I first became injured (I know I did not have an injury that required multiple months off, but two weeks is a long time for me to not run). Then I thought, does this mean that I don't love running as much as I used to since it is "easy" to not do it?

You are probably thinking that I am crazy, but it's something that I think about. What if I fall out of love with running and triathlon? What am I going to do then?

I think about the dreams that I have, to complete an Ironman, to run an Ultra, to maybe someday do an Ultra Triathlon. I won't be able to accomplish any of those things if I lose the love I have for swimming, biking and running. 

On Sunday and Monday, my foot started to feel better. I had no pain while walking and I knew that I would be able to run sometime this week. I wanted to try on Tuesday but some people convinced me to wait another day or so. We got slammed with another winter storm yesterday so I decided to run on the indoor track at our gym.

I was nervous. First, I didn't want to feel any pain. Second, what if I didn't love it anymore? I almost didn't even run yesterday because I didn't want any disappointment, but I knew that it was time.

It wasn't the most amazing run I have ever had, I don't even really know which run that would be to be honest, but I didn't feel any pain. I did have some discomfort but that was expected.

I only ran 2 miles at about 9 minute average pace, but I was running again! The first mile went by and then as I approached the final two laps around the track (the last .25 miles), I thought to myself, "I need to savor this because this run is going to be over soon".

I still love the run, and I hope that I will for a long, long time.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Never Give Up

This weekend I got to experience something pretty amazing and it reminded me why I love being a part of the running community.

I've talked about our friend who was diagnosed with cancer before, and this Saturday was a day that was all about her.

A few months ago, I planned a 20 mile trail run. It was just going to be another one of our typical group runs, with maybe 10-15 people running different distances. I was approached about turning the training run into a fundraiser for our friend and I thought it was a great idea.

With the help of friends, near and far, the event turned into something more than I could have ever imagined. I can't say that I was truly shocked though because that's the kind of impact our friend has on the world. Her friends from every facet of her life came out in full force to support her and celebrate life with her.

Unfortunately, being injured, I was unable to actually participate in the run but I think that turned out for the best. I didn't even get to sit down the entire time that we were there because SO MANY people had showed up, but I didn't care it was worth it.

The entire day was full of laughter, happiness and love.

I am honored to have this person in my life, and I hope that the day brought her enough happiness to help her get through the rest of this. I know that this proved, beyond a doubt, that she has so many people in her life that would do anything for her. I was overwhelmed by the support, and this day wasn't even about me.