Sunday, May 15, 2016

Call me Cranky Pants - IMNC Training Week 5

I had a successful, although tiring, training week.  I completed all the workouts on my plan, plus one extra easy bike ride that I'd skipped a previous week.  What I've learned this week is that I was totally wrong about how I thought training would impact my life.  I trained for a 70.3 last year and thought it would be similar, except my weekly workouts might be a little longer and, of course, my long bike rides and runs would be longer.  I was accurate on the lengths of the workouts, but actually doing the workouts has proved to be much harder than I imagined.  The toll it takes on the body is nothing like I've ever experienced before.  All the hard work will only make the finish line that much sweeter.

When I was training for Muncie 70.3 last year I was off for summer break when I hit my peak training.  The workouts were hard and I was tired, but it wasn't nearly as exhausting as it is right now.  Currently, the amount of time spent training is similar to the peak training for the 70.3, except after my workouts I have to go to work!  Sometimes I have to workout again after I get off work.  For me, it's been intense.  This week was especially hard because even though I go to bed early, I didn't sleep well.  If I don't sleep well it makes it really hard to get up by 5am and complete a workout.  I had to do several double workouts after work (3 doubles). Basically every day this week felt like this: go to work, work out, eat dinner, workout again and go to bed.  I had zero free time to relax and it made me very cranky.  My students were the ones who had to deal with the wrath.  The smart classes learned to cool it and not test my patience.  Hopefully this next week won't be a repeat of that.  I don't like being Ms. Cranky Pants.
Yesterday I participated in a Virginia/Maryland Tri Series Event, the Kinetic 70.3.  I didn't do the entire race and registered as an aquabike participant, which means I just did the swim and bike portion.  It was awesome not to have to run a half marathon there because that course is 3 loops and it's got some steep hills to run up.  I did have to run 3 miles as part of my workout, but that wasn't too bad.  I had two other friends also do the aquabike and our coach and her husband, came out to cheer us on.  It's so fun to do races with friends.  It also makes longer workouts less lonely because there's lots of other people doing it with you.  It's motivating.

I stayed at my friends house because she's local.  I could drive to Lake Anna from my house on race morning, but it's about 1.5 hours in the car and the race started at 7am.  It would have meant a very early wake up time and I have already been cranky.  I didn't need to add to that with more lack of sleep.  We left the house at 5am so we could check in and get to transition when it opened.  I like to be early so I can attempt to get my bike racked on a good spot, preferably the end of the rack.  When we went into transition I was thrilled to not only be the first bike there, but my rack was at the end of the row.  It was prime real estate.  I was very excited for that and even took a picture so I could write about it here.  We dropped our bikes off and then went to go get the rest of our stuff.  When I returned to my bike I was a very disheartened.
Left pic - How I racked my bike when I entered transition
Right pic - How my bike was racked when I returned to set up
As you can see by the photos my bike was moved and the girl next to me took my spot.  I understand why she did because it meant my bike would have been racked wrong (handles facing the wrong direction).  However, when the rack isn't marked it's first come, first served.  The rest of the bikes are supposed to rack based off of how the first bike racked.  I would have been perfectly happy to turn my bike around when I returned.  In an instance like this the proper protocol would have been to rack their bikes, then seek out a race referee/official and then they would make an announcement for me to re-rack my bike since mine would have been the one that ended up being off.  Or, they could have started setting up and waited for me to return.  I didn't have anything set up aside from my bike so it should have been obvious I was returning.  

Swim start
I was taken aback and not sure what to do.  Once upon a time I would have completely let it go, but the older I get the more I've learned how valuable it is to stick up for yourself.  I asked the person who took my spot if she moved my bike and she said she did.  At the time of the incident I didn't realize it was grounds for a disqualification.  I listened to her silly reasoning and she didn't offer to switch back right away so I begrudgingly started to set up my stuff.  The people around me were looking at me like I was crazy and in the wrong, which is not the case.  In my obvious grumpiness, she eventually said, "If it means that much to you I can switch with you."  She had a snarky tone and I had already started getting my stuff out so I said it was fine.  I wish I would have followed through and made her switch.  I shared the incident with a few other tri friends and found out that is a major faux pas.  You don't touch other people's equipment and you can be disqualified for doing so.  It was really frustrating and I'm a little disappointed in myself for how I handled it, but it was a good lesson learned.  If someone does that to me again I will definitely be getting my spot back or it will get reported to the race officials.  Needless to say, it was not the best way to start my day.

The water temperature at Lake Anna was 65 degrees so it was wetsuit legal.  I haven't used my wetsuit since last year, which was probably a mistake.  I should have practiced with it earlier this week because I knew it was going to be wetsuit legal.  I expected to PR my 1.2 mile swim because my times in the pool lately have been pretty good.  Unfortunately, I did not.  I seem to swim better without a wetsuit, which is not common.  During the swim I had some issues with vertigo.  I've had the issue with open water swims before, but only after coming out of the water.  It was a very disconcerting to have it happen while in the water so I treaded water until the feeling passed.  It didn't feel like I stopped for that long, but who knows.  When I was telling a friend about it later they helped me figure out it was probably because of water getting into my ear.  In the pool I always use ear plugs.  I'm fairly certain that is what caused it. During the swim I also stopped to talk to a friend who was lifeguarding.  I felt like I swam the best in all my open water swims, because I didn't stop to take as many breaks as I did at Muncie last year, but I was slower than my time there.  I was a little bummed about that.  I signed up for the event as practice for Eagleman 70.3 in 4 weeks so it's not the end of the world.  It would have been awesome to PR, but I learned a valuable lesson during the swim: wear ear plugs!

The bike was hard for me.  I have a decent amount of elevation gain where I train at home, but there are no significant hills for me to practice climbing.  There were a couple of larger hills on the course and it really slowed me down.  I wasn't sure I would make it up one of the hills, but thankfully I was able to make it up without walking or falling.  That would have been embarrassing.  The first 11 miles involved a lot of elevation gain too and my time was so slow at first.  I was really starting to get down about it and doubting my ability to do an Ironman later this year.  The course involved going out of the Lake Anna park and then onto a bunch of country rounds until we hit the main course, which was 2 loops before going back down to transition.  It was a lollipop shape.  Once I made it to the main loop I picked up some speed and was able to maintain that.  I was still slower than I wanted, but overall I was happy with how I did on a hilly course and so thrilled when I gained speed after mile 11.  If I had stayed that at the slow speed the whole time I'm sure I would have cried.  The ride started to get quite uncomfortable after mile 30 so I'll have to make some adjustments to my fit again and also remember to better apply body glide or chamois butter for my next long ride.  

Unfortunately, chafing is one major side effect of endurance sports.  So many random places on your body can chafe. If seams hit your skin in the wrong place it can cause chafing, sports bras cause it, seams on chamois' on bike shorts cause it, collars on shirts cause it (I've totally had spots that look like hickeys before and it makes going to work really awkward), wetsuits cause it, etc.  It only takes one long run/ride in clothing to know where you need to apply anti-chafing cream. I prefer to use bag balm because it's thicker, stays on through the swim and bike and is cheaper than Body Glide or Chamois Butter.  I ran out of it and didn't really think it would a big deal since I didn't have to run a half marathon after.  I'll just say it would have been nice to have :)

I think I had a pretty good fuel combination worked out.  I ate a gel before the swim, used caffeinated Tailwind in my water and I ate a Bonk Breaker bar on the bike.  I was able to maintain my energy level throughout the 56 miles.  When I came back to transition I very slowly switched to running gear  and ran 3 miles. I really didn't want to, but I want to do the best I can at Ironman North Carolina and I won't if I skip workouts.  I didn't eat a gel or anything and did get a little hungry in the last mile, but it wasn't a big deal since I was basically done.  When I do the 70.3 in a month I'll definitely have to make sure I fuel well for the run.  When it was all over I was ready to chow down.  The VMTS has very good post race food and I was a very happy finisher.
At the end of the race I got my own personal pizza
from Papa John's and I was very excited by it!

Lessons learned this week:
1. Stand up for yourself more!
2. Wear ear plugs on the swim
3. Body glide your neck when wearing a wetsuit...I have some lovely wetsuit hickeys on the back of my neck :)
4. Apply chamois butter/lube VERY liberally (even if you have a seamless chamois on your tri shorts).  I learned this the hard way. Ouch!
5. Don't wear a watch racing...I usually don't, but did this time because it was training and it ends up stressing me out and causes me to dwell on the negative.  I might have had a faster bike ride if I didn't have my slow time glaring at me the whole time.

Stats for Week 5: 
Swim - 4.11 miles
Bike - 93.28 miles
Run - 23.01 miles
Total Mileage = 120.55
Total Time =  13:36:49 hours
*This is my first week over 100 miles this year :)

PS - I didn't have any time to work on my dissertation.  I need to get my sleep habits back on track or I'm never going to get it done. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Workout, Eat, Sleep, Repeat... - IMNC Training Week 3 & 4

Roxy has done a few
short runs with me
Tri training is no joke!  I already had experience with it because I trained for Muncie 70.3 last year, but I guess I forgot just how hard it was.  The mileage that I'm doing now is similar to the peak training that I was doing for Muncie, except I was off for the summer.  When I hit the high mile workouts it wasn't so bad because all I had to do during the day was workout.  It's even more challenging this training cycle because I'm also actively trying to work on my dissertation.  Needless to say, my time is extremely limited.

It has been pretty exhausting and I'm looking forward to my summer vacation.  I am also terrified of my peak training weeks because I'll be back at work when those hit.  The last 2 months of training will be brutal though.  Yikes!  I'm trying to take it one week at a time, sometimes one day at a time, and have to actively try to not worry about peak training yet.

Love my pool!
Lately, I feel like all I do is wake up early, workout, go to work, workout again, eat and then go to bed. Seriously though, that's my life.  I am getting to bed extremely early most 8-9pm early.  If I don't then there's no way I will wake up by 5am to workout.  If I don't wake up to work out then the motivation struggle hits me hard after work.   If I don't get my workout in before I go to work it's really difficult for me to make it happen after work. If I have a double scheduled for than then it makes it worse because doing 2 workouts after work is not always possible.  It's very important that I get my sleep so I can get up and complete my scheduled workouts.

Halfway through a 50 mile
bike ride...that awful helmet
has been retired!
My priority to sleep has resulted in giving up a lot of social time.  I kind of needed a break from that anyway so it's been nice.  But, as a single girl everyone expects me to be out and about so I can find that special someone.  All I have to say to that right now is "Meh."  I've received some push back from friends because I'm "not putting myself out there enough."  Completing an Ironman is a lot more important than dating is to me, at least for right now.  I have to believe that the right person would be understanding and supportive during this time and want me to complete this goal as much as I do.  If they don't, I'm not interested.  Honestly, I'd rather be single than in a relationship with someone who isn't going to support this very huge goal of mine.  I realize it's a lot to ask of another person and sometimes requires sacrifices as a result.  The right person would get it, I think.  I'm pretty happy with where I'm at though and don't lose any sleep over it.  It only even comes up because my friends ask about my dating...ALL THE TIME!  Enough about that though!  I did have to throw in a quick a plug because this blog does happen to be titled "The Single Girl."

I'm still fighting my natural urge to be lazy and did not complete every single workout on my schedule.  I don't know why it's so hard for me.  Week 3 was hard for me.  I struggled to hit all my workouts and am disappointed in myself for that.  While I was struggling with motivation, I came across the video below.  It was the perfect reminder for why I'm doing this and helped me finish the week stronger than I started.

Week 4 was rest week.  I love rest week!  Because of slothfulness in week 3, I was extra diligent in week 4 and made sure I completed everything I needed to.  It felt great to know I could follow through.  My runs during rest week were sluggish, but all the workouts are dramatically shortened.  It's always a welcome change of pace.  I did run a little more than was on my plan for week 4 because I cut my long run short on week 3 short.  That's not ideal, but I wanted to get the miles in.  Overall I feel like I'm doing well.  I've seen some gradual improvements in my fitness and am able to hit some of the speeds I did last summer.  That made me extremely happy.

Roxy and me walking
after a run
Stats for Week 3: 
Swim - 2.61 miles
Bike - 50 miles
Run - 17.01 miles
Total Mileage = 69.62 
Total Time =  8:35:21 hours

Stats for Week 4:
Swim - 1.99 miles
Bike - 38.31 miles
Run - 19.02 miles
Total Mileage - 59.32
Total Time = 7:26:00 hours

Grad School update:
I made a little progress with my dissertation too.  It wasn't as much as I hoped, but any progress forward is a success.  I finally locked in all the members of my committee, which is something I'd been dragging my feet on.  I met with my methodologist and she gave me some great tips that have been really helpful.  I think I'll be able to get a lot done in the next few weeks with those tips.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ironman NC - Training Week 1 & 2

The beginning of this year was a little rough for me when it came to training.  I've basically been on a constant training plan since 2013 and I was feeling a little burned out from it all.  I have also struggled to motivate myself to finish my PhD dissertation (something I should have finished a couple years ago).  Although I had the goal to complete an Ironman since 2012, signing up and realizing training was approaching was very overwhelming and stressed me out.  Instead of tackling things one day at a time I pretty much crawled back into my shell and became the queen of procrastination.  I started to read a 40+ books a lot :)  My "training" became sporadic and inconsistent.  I would run here and there, which made my first half marathon this year really hard, and I did almost no biking and swimming.  In March I went to Europe for 2 weeks and was sick before, during and after the trip.  I found out after my trip I had bronchitis and that was causing exercise induced asthma the few times I did attempt to workout. I missed two races because of that and had complete rest the 2 weeks before I started my Ironman training plan.  I was sick for a total of 6 weeks.  It sucked!  I write all this so you know where my starting point was.  I lost all of the fitness I built up training for my first half Ironman.  It would have been ideal to base build leading up to my IM training plan, but mentally I needed the break. It's made it harder to get started and it's frustrating to see how much I lost, but there's nothing I can do to get it back.  All I can do is move forward.  

Week One:
My hiatus in training resulted in a rough start to training.  I am out of the habit of working out consistently so diving into training two weeks ago was a shock to my system.  My first week of training was also impacted by a trip up to Boston to cheer on my uncle at the Boston Marathon.  It was a really fun weekend, but the trip caused a change in the normal schedule of my workouts.  I had to do my long bike ride after work.  I have been having a really hard time convincing myself to workout after work so having to knock out a long bike ride after teaching all day was really challenging.  I did get out and do it, but it didn't quite go like I wanted.  I did all of my workouts scheduled, with the exception of one swim.  Considering how wishy-washy I'd been with exercise the last 2 months I'm pretty happy with that.  All of my paces and times were slow, but getting it done was an accomplishment, at least for me. In a week or two when I've adjusted I'll focus more on the paces.

The most difficult thing to adjust to has been the cycling.  In some deluded part of my brain I thought I could just hop on my bike again and it would be no issue.  I knew it would hurt because you have to get used to the bike seat and position in the beginning, but I forgot how much it hurts to sit on a bike for an extended period of time.  It was PAINFUL!  I'm still not totally used to it, but I'm getting more comfortable.  Hopefully the sit bones will be broken in by next week.  The pain caused me to cut one of my bike workouts short.  I was supposed to do a 40 mile long ride, but my body was screaming at me to stop and the sun was setting so I let the mind win and stopped at 34.  My discomfort resulted in some ridiculously slow times too.  I hope I'm able to recover some speed as I get deeper into training.  I also really to get a proper fit on my bike because I'm dealing with aches and pains that shouldn't be there.  
Stats for the week:
Swim - 1 mile
Bike - 47.32 miles
Run - 15 miles
Total Mileage = 63.32 miles
Total Time Training = 6:51:04 hours

My friend Stacey and I have the same bike, (mine is a 2014 model
 and hers a 2015). We did the RTC Sprint last Saturday and I had to 
get a picture of the bike buddies.
Week Two:
Week two went a little better than week one, but my body is definitely struggling to adjust.  I was able to complete my long ride of 45 miles.  It was uncomfortable, but I managed.  I am also pleased to report that I completed every single workout on my plan!  That is something I haven't done in quite some time so it's a big deal for me.  I am determined to keep that streak up and hit all of my workouts on my plan.  I know I've lost fitness, but I trust my coach and the plan she made for me.  If I stick with it and take it one day at a time I will be read on race day.

I had two races this weekend as well and that made training a little more fun.  The first race was the Richmond Sprint Triathlon.  It was nice to open the tri season with, but it was a pool swim and a lot more aggressive and brutal than I expected and I ended up being slower than I thought I would be.  I've done less than 10 tris, but to date, that's the most I've every been kicked or hit in a race.  Overall, I ended up doing a little better than expected, despite the swim, and had a great day.  The next day I ran the George Washington Parkway Classic 10 miler with my brother.  It was a beautiful course and a great way to get a long run in.  

Stats for the week:
Swim - 2.42 miles
Bike - 67.62 miles
Run - 17.11 miles
Total Mileage = 87.15 miles
Total Time Training = 9:54:01 hours

Odds and Ends:
All the training made me tired!  I've been in the habit of going to bed early so that was really helpful to the start of training.  I was able to get up between 5-6am fairly easy to get my workouts done.  One morning I woke up really early and was at the gym by 4:30am to swim.  It was so awesome to get the workout done and out of the way for the day. I need to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep to feel refreshed and ready for the day.  Others might need less, but that's what my body needs and I'm making it a priority to get at least 8 hours during my training, maybe even more when my mileage is higher and I'm in peak training.  Even with the proper sleep, I have a feeling I'm going to be feeling tired for the next six months.  

Unfortunately, I didn't make much progress on my dissertation the last 2 weeks.  I read a few articles, but that's about it.  I sent some work into my advisor to review and didn't hear anything back.  Instead of following up with her like I should have I just let it slide and enjoyed my trip.  I don't have any trips for a while though so getting into a good routine should get a lot easier this point forward.  My goal this week is to finish up my second chapter, or at least finish a full draft to send to my advisor.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Start of a Journey - Ironman North Carolina

It has been quite some time since I've updated this blog.  My last post was 2 years ago in April 2014.  A quick scan of my blog made me realize it's a smorgasbord of posts.  This started as a travel blog, which I used to do a lot more, then morphed into a running/exercise/race re-cap blog.  Either way, it's still about Amy, the single girl, and my travels through the world.  It just so happens my travels these days aren't abroad as much and tend to be more on foot or bike.

I'm not sure what inspired me to update this today, but I'm getting ready to take on a big challenge and I want to keep a record of the journey.  It's mostly for myself, but perhaps some friends will want to follow it as well so I'm making it public.

I am going to participate in Ironman North Carolina in October!!  For those of you who don't know, IMNC is a 140.6 mile triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles on a bike and ends with a 26.2 mile run.  Ironman is often synonymous with the distance, but that is  just the brand/company that puts on the race.  There are a few other companies that stage 140.6 mile events, but Ironman is the largest and most recognized.  Unfortunately, because of that it's also the most expensive.  From what I hear they do put on a good event and bring out all the bells and whistles.  As a first-timer I thought I'd go with a well-known company who knows how to run a good event.  There will be plenty to stress about getting ready for IMNC and wondering if it will be run well isn't something I want to think about.

This is an enormous task for me.  I am not a natural athlete and I am quite terrified, but I have been building up to this for a couple of years and am excited for the journey to start.  Time flies though!  It feels like just yesterday I still had over a year to think about this and now the time has come to start training.  I can't believe it.  Technically, the journey isn't officially starting now, but the final stretch is beginning tomorrow.  I have always admired my friends that participated in endurance events, such as marathons, and triathlons and for many years always thought it was something I could never do. I even envied those doing 5ks.  I couldn't even run a mile so 3.1 miles seemed like a long way to me.  However, right before I turned 28 I decided to give running a try and did a 10k.  It was a game-changer.  Before I knew it I was running a marathon and have now done 8!  It's crazy and I still don't believe I've done them sometimes.  

My decision to do an Ironman came 4 years ago.  I was in an online running group and many of the members were very active and frequently posted and I did as well.  One day one of our members was participating in her first Ironman.  I had never personally met her, but other members of the group had been posting a lot about her race and her progress.  It was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of it all.  So many people were following her and showing support.  Someone mentioned you could watch the live feed of the finish line so I decided to tune in and see her finish.  I watched the feed for at least a half an hour and was amazed.  Each time a participant came through the finisher chute, the announcer would personally say, "(their name) you are an Ironman."  That sentence was given a lot of emphasis and I felt so happy for each one of the finishers.  I knew that had worked so hard to get to that point.  Some of them literally gave it all they had and collapsed at the finish line.  It was so inspiring to see so many people cross the line after completing 140.6 miles, in one day!  When our group member came through I was officially inspired.  In that moment I had an overwhelming desire to complete an Ironman one day.  It was more than a goal.  It felt almost like a need.  The only problem was I had never done a triathlon and I didn't know how to swim, well at least not freestyle swim.  I also didn't own a bike.  I knew it would take some time to get to that.

My first step of this journey started with me borrowing my sister/s road bike. Road and triathlon bikes are very expensive and I didn't want to spend the money unless I knew it's something I was going to commit to and enjoy.  My sister wasn't using her bike so it was a logical start.  I highly suggest borrowing a bike if you're considering tris, but don't know if you'd like it.  Anyway, the summer of 2013 I signed up for my first triathlon, the Life is a Beach tri.  It included a 200 yard swim, a 5 mile bike ride and a 2 mile run.  It was short and I knew if I did that and hated it then triathlons weren't for me and I would just admire my friends who tri from a distance.  I didn't really train for the race and didn't really need to because it was so short.  I did the breast stroke through the swim and made it through the race with no issues.  It was incredibly fun and I knew I wanted to try a more serious event.

In 2014 I signed up for two sprint triathlons and an olympic triathlon.  I paid for a few swimming lessons to learn the proper technique for freestyle swimming, hired a triathlon coach (Nicole, she's awesome) and trained for them.  It was a major shift from marathon training and wore me out!  I successfully completed those races and still loved the sport.  At that point I decided to take on a half Ironman (70.3) the following summer in 2015.  For that race I knew I had to get my own bike.  As much as I appreciated my sister's bike, we aren't the same height or build and it just wouldn't work for the longer rides.  I saved some cash, bought a tri bike and lots of other tri essentials (this is a money sucking sport) and started training.  I had a Coach Nicole help me along the way again and I completed Ironman Muncie 70.3 last summer.  It was so hard, but it felt so good to finish.  I distinctly remember saying to my uncle that day that I didn't want to do a full Ironman and he said he didn't either.  Both of us had just finished the race and we're both signed up for Ironmans in the fall! Never trust a runner/triathlete who says they will never do a particular race.  That's almost a guarantee that they'll end up doing it.

Four years later I am taking the final step.  Training starts tomorrow.  Yikes!  I'm terrified to take on this challenge, but I'm looking forward to it too.  I have invested a lot to get to this point and tomorrow the journey begins.  I won't post specific workouts (I paid good money for those), but will post my mileage, progress and thoughts along the way.  I know there will be many highs and lows and I am sure it will be life-changing too.  I can't wait to hear Mike Reilly say, "Amy, you are an Ironman!"  It will be one of the best cherries on top I've ever had.  Oh yeah, and the entire time I'm training I'll also be working on my PhD dissertation so there might be some graduate school things worked into the updates too.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Team in Training - Nike Women's Half Marathon - Race Re-Cap

I haven't been so good with blogging these days, but I have to write about my experience running for Team in Training.  Last weekend at the Nike Women's Half Marathon I ran as a TNT participant.  TNT is an organization that helps train athletes for endurance events while also helping them raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I ran for TNT last year and had a phenomenal experience and really wanted to do it again this year.  I have to admit that I was hesitant because it required that I fund-raise $1,800 and I felt like I tapped out my networks last year when I ran it and had to raise the same amount.  I was worried I wouldn't reach my goal and would not be able to raise that much money again.

One of the TNT coordinators contacted me and asked if I would be interested in forming a community team and be their captain.  It involved recruiting other participants and mentoring them through the fundraising and training process.  TNT assigns coaches to help us train and each person has a TNT mentor, but I knew I would need to help with that as well.  Again, I was hesitant because I'm already very busy and didn't want to add more stress to my plate.  Jenny (TNT rep) assured me I'd have help along the way so I went for it.  I had a great time last year and figured it would be equally as good, if not better this time around.  My goal was to form a team of teachers from the county I teach in.  I got permission to email all the staff in the county and I held an interest meeting.  I also emailed the parents at my school and Team LCPS was formed.  My original goal was to get 5 other girls to join me.  I actually got 15 girls to join me and surprisingly won the TNT recruiting competition.  It was very happenstance and very cool.  Our team started with 15 ladies, but injuries and life happened and we ended with 10 team members.  Most of the members work with me at my school, but I had one of my student's parents, a teacher from another school, a friend from my running club and a TNT participant that wanted to be added to a team.  Team LCPS rocks!

Fundraising went very well this year.  Each team member had raise at least $1,800 individually and as a whole we had to hit at least $18,000.  I was very fortunate to hit my initial fundraising in January, before the training season officially kicked off.  I had some very generous friends.  It was awesome and also a HUGE relief because I was then able to focus my attention to my teammates and help them with their fundraising goals.  I continued to fund-raise, and was able to raise $3,085 for LLS!!  I am so thankful to all the many generous supporters through this process.  I remember in March one of the TNT reps asked me to encourage my team to push our team goal to $25,000.  I told her I wasn't even going to ask that.  Haha!  I knew a lot of the girls were overwhelmed just with the $1800 so I didn't want to ask them and cause more stress.  I am happy to report that as a team, we were able to raise $24,677!!

Every single one of my teammates raised more than the minimum goal for LLS and I know that together we made a difference.  Many blood cancer patients will benefit from our efforts and that makes me so happy.  In addition to our team, there were over 1,000 other ladies (and a few men) running Nike for TNT and as so far have raised $4.7 million dollars for LLS from that event alone.  It is incredible to be part of something that is making a difference.  We will be able to continue to fund-raise after the event so that number may continue to grow.

The pies :)

In case you're wondering what I did to raise money . . . Last season I used email.  This season I used Facebook a lot.  I messaged many friends and then posted about it frequently.  I also sent out some emails to a few close friends and just made it known I was fundraising.  I'm sure there were some people who may have been annoyed to see me post about it so much, but it's an important cause to me and I wanted to share it.  Some days I got nothing, some days I was able to receive a lot of donations.  I also helped organize my school's faculty vs. student basketball game.  That was definitely a little stressful, but it went very well.  All proceeds went toward our Team LCPS's fundraiser for LLS.  We were able to raise $1504 for that event and it was divided between the team.  It was fun.  One of the many things we did to raise money at the game was sell raffle tickets to students to pie some teachers in the face.  I took a pie in the face like a champ!  It was kind of gross, but a lot of fun.

This is a picture of me getting pied in the face

When you get a pie in the face you have to just go with it and have fun!
I am so very appreciative of all my donors.  I feel like a thank you isn't even enough to express my gratitude.  Not only have my generous donors helped me raise money for an amazing cause that I know makes a difference in the world, but they have given me more than money.  They have given me tremendous support and encouragement.  They put their faith in me.  They believed in me.  They made me see how good people really are.  On top of it all, through their donations, I was able to complete this journey for TNT.  I am a better person today because of this experience and all my donors were the stepping stones.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to all those who supported me on this journey!

Inspiration Dinner:
TNT provides a dinner the night before the race to connect with other TNT participants, celebrate the season, and hear from a few speakers.  I've attended two previous TNT dinners and always left feeling inspired and shed a few tears.  This dinner was no different.  After celebrating all the accomplishments with fundraising, we were privileged to hear from Elizabeth Stone.  I heard her speak earlier in the season at our honored team picnic.  She shared her story with us.  She was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2012 at the age of 24.  She said it didn't fit into her life plan, but she wasn't worried.  People beat cancer all the time and she would beat it too.  She went through her treatments like a champ and went into remission.  Her remission was short-lived and she relapsed in February 2013.  She spent the next 8 months going through treatments and was cleared at the end of the year.  I heard her tell the same story back in February, but was happy to hear it again.  Although, this time was different.
Elizabeth and me after the dinner

While Elizabeth was speaking and telling her story she was very funny and it was obvious that she had a good perspective on life, despite her obstacles.  I am always amazed when people can face such hard trials in life, yet find ways to be grateful and enjoy their life.  It can be so hard to do that without major health scares or huge obstacles and here she was, finding ways to smile and be grateful.  Elizabeth found ways to entertain us while telling her story and I thought we were getting to a happy ending like we did in February.  I was wrong and she had more to share since the last time I heard her speak.  Elizabeth shared with us that she went in for her 6-month scan and found out that her Hodgkins has returned with a vengeance for a third time. Stupid cancer!!  As she continued to speak I just couldn't hold the tears back.  My heart reached out to hers and I was so grateful that I made the decision to join TNT again and raise money to fight Hodgkins and other blood cancers for people like Elizabeth Stone.  It reminded me why I was on this journey.

Elizabeth is an amazing woman.  She is 26 years old and has learned some valuable lessons.  After she told us that her cancer has returned for a 3rd time and the prognosis is not as good as it was the 1st time she found out, she still held on to hope, and she should!  One thing that she said that really stuck with me is, "Tomorrow I'll run this race and it will probably be my only TNT event, but you can do more." (I paraphrased a little because I forgot her exact wording).  She encouraged us to keep doing this and do something good to help others.  She said that before she was diagnosed she lived in her little "white, suburban, privileged bubble," and didn't do anything for others and she wished that she had done more. She didn't want us to live with that same regret.  She said to continue to work with TNT and LLS or pick another charity if we want.  She said we didn't even have to do charity work, we just have to do something that we can be proud of that helps others.  Don't always focus inward.  I truly do feel inspired by her words and will continue to help others in any way I can.  I'm sure I will participate with TNT again in some capacity as well as fund-raise for other charities.  It's very rewarding.  I love being able to meet people like Elizabeth who help remind me to be grateful for what I have.  I am very blessed in my life and can only hope to be as positive and grateful when things aren't going so well.  If you like to read more about Elizabeth's story, you read check out her blog.
Team LCPS ladies at the inspiration dinner

Race Day:
The Nike Women's half marathon was on Sunday, April 27th at 7:00am.  I love early race starts, especially on Sunday because it gives me time to run and still make it to church.  I stayed in the Washington Hilton hotel the night before the race with my running friend and TNT teammate, Stacey.  It was the host hotel for TNT participants and it was so convenient to be downtown.  I still had to wake up at 3:30am, but it was nice to be much closer to the start line.  I like getting up at least 1.5 hours before I need to meet anyone because it gives me time to eat and get ready and just sort of calm myself for the task ahead.  I planned to meet some girls in the lobby at 5:15am and be at the starting area to meet others from my team and a few friends at 6:00am.  The morning did not go according to plan and we were late to the meetup.  I was definitely bummed I didn't get to connect with a few friends before the start, but it was okay.  I still had plenty of time to get to my starting corral and have time to relax before the start of the race.  I do not like to be rushed before a race.  That is no fun!

Compared to last year, the race was more organized than last year.  Last year was the inaugural year for the event so there were some kinks and it was really nice to see the changes.  This year instead of basically starting all 15,000 runners at the same time, they did a wave start with a few corrals in each wave.  That helped clear a lot of congestion at the start of the race.  I remember weaving through people for at least half the race last year so it was so nice to just be able to start running this year.  I was in a slightly faster corral than where I should have been for my goal, but I was happy with my placement.  There was no weaving for me!

Half of my team at the hotel before the race:
(L to R) Kim, Emily, me, Nguyet & Stacey
This was not a goal race for me.  It was considered a training run, meaning I run at my long run pace in my training plan, which is slower than race pace.  Goal races I run faster than my training pace.  I did have a goal, which was to complete the race in 2:30 or less.  I secretly hoped to PR or come close to it, which would have been a 2:19, but it didn't take very long once I started to figure out that wasn't going to happen.  The Nike race was the 5th weekend in a row of me doing a race and my body was tired.  I did the Reston half marathon, Cherry Blossom 10-miler, MCM 17.75k (a hilly 11 miles) and the Salt Lake City half marathon in the 4 weeks leading up to this race so a PR was extremely unlikely.  I never planned to PR and wanted to run it and enjoy it.  Running for time is often very stressful and I didn't want that for this race, but it's still hard to fight the urge to beat your best time time.

One thing I decided to do different for this race was to run without my Garmin GPS watch.  I LOVE my Garmin, but I look at it way too much to check my pace and see how far I have left.  I just wanted to go and run so I could truly enjoy the experience.  It definitely made me anxious to ditch the watch at first, but it was also really nice to just run by feel.  I wanted to run under 2:30, but without my watch I didn't know if I could do it.  Thankfully, there were a few running timers at some of the mile markers.  I was sure to pay close attention to the time of the clock when I crossed the start line in case they did have clocks so I could do a time check during the course.  Although, doing math while running is never any easy thing for me :)  I didn't do a perfect job, but I was able to get a feel for how I was doing.
My race big with ribbons of all the people I was running for

It was a beautiful morning for running.  As soon as I started the race, I tried to run a nice, easy pace.  I wanted to start slow and get faster (negative splits).  Running faster at the end than I ran when I started is my favorite race strategy.  To me, it means I ran smart.  I had hoped to run around an 11:27 per mile pace at the start and gradually get faster.  When I hit the first mile I was right on track.  When I hit the 5k mark I had slowed down.  My pace at that point was 11:50ish per mile.  It was at that point I knew a PR was not going to happen.  I had to tell myself it was okay because this was not a goal race and I ran the last 4 weeks. Sometimes self talk is a very good thing.  I do it a lot when I run.  At that point I decided I wanted to run an easy pace because I knew my body couldn't handle pushing the pace anymore.  This is where the "running by feel" came in handy.  If I had my Garmin I probably would have been bummed out that my time wasn't better.  Not having a watch made me relax a lot more during the run so I really could just enjoy it.  I found my "happy" pace for the day, which was a pace that I felt like I could run for a while comfortably.

Kim and me at the finish line
In addition to changing the starting area this year, Nike also changed the course.  It was less hilly than last year (not that it was that hilly last year), which was nice.  It was a beautiful course and a beautiful day.  I loved seeing all the sea of women pushing toward their goals.  I had music in ears and was pretty much in my own head, but because I was relaxed and not worried about my own time, I was able to look around and enjoy the scenery and interact with the crowds more.  There were lots of husbands and boyfriends on the sidelines cheering on their girls.  It was so cute to see.  There were also a lot of TNT coaches along the course to provide encouragement and support.  I think that's one way TNT stands apart from running with other charities.  The fundraising minimum is much higher than other charities, but they provide a lot of support throughout the entire journey.  I'm sure other charities do as well, but I don't see other charities with coaches along the course helping their runners to the same extent as TNT.  If someone is new to endurance events, TNT is an awesome organization to work with.  I didn't join them for my first half marathon, but think I would have had a better experience in my first half marathon if I had been running with TNT :)

There were a couple of people in my running club that had come to cheer on their girlfriends at the race.  I was told they'd be around mile 7 and when I crossed mile 6 I was really looking forward to seeing them and getting a hug.  Although I was running an easy pace, I was tired.  It was more mental than anything and I was a little bummed because I didn't think I was going to break 2:30.  I really wanted a hug!  Haha!  Running turns me into a softie.  Normally I try to be a tough chick and brush stuff off, but I get very emotional when I run.  It's a good thing.  When I run I have moments of gratitude and clarity and it can make me teary eyed.  I feel important and strong and valued now that I run.  I didn't feel that way in my life before and it's one reason I cling to it so much.  It's made me a girl who is happy with who I am.  I do also have moments where I'll really be pushing myself and cry because it's hard, but the happy tears are more frequent.  (True story. Haha!).  Anyway, I was just having a mental roadblock during the race and wanted to see a familiar face for some encouragement.  Mile 7 came and went and I wasn't able to find my friends.  I just kept on going and knew the moment would pass.  It did.

The beautiful Tiffany's necklace we earned at the
finish line.  It's true runner bling and I absolutely love it!
The best, yet hardest part of the race was not having my watch.  It was very freeing and I liked it, but it was really hard to be in the dark the whole time.  I never knew my pace or how far I'd run or how far I had left to go.  Around mile 10.5 the 2:20 pace group came up behind me.  I knew they started after me so it scared me.  I knew I was slowing down and didn't want to wuss out in the end.  I went up to them and asked them what time the clock was at when they started and found out I started about 4ish minutes before them and they were on track for 2:18 or so.  I ran a 2:19 at Shamrock half marathon and knew they would be running my tempo pace (10:40/mile), which is a pace I knew I could do.  I decided to hang with them the last 2.5 miles.  It was a little tough to push it at the end, but I'm so grateful I did because I came into the finish line at 2:27:08!!  I was so proud of myself. It is not my fastest time ever, but it was a fairly easy pace and I was able to break 2:30!!  I have come a lot way.

Breaking 2:30 is a big deal to me because I was chasing that time last year and no matter how hard I pushed it, I could never quite get it.  It was amazing to come in under that time and do so at a comfortable pace.  It made all the hard work I've been doing in training worth it and it's so awesome to see how far I've come.  The trick is consistency and speed work.  I have a running coach and she's taken all the guess work out for me.  She creates training plans for me and clearly they are working.  My first half marathon time was 3:11:07 and it was rough.  It's not easy, but I've almost cut an hour from my half time.  I'm confident that I'll be running half marathons in less than 2 hours in the not so distant future...maybe even as soon as this time next year :)

At the finish line I was able to find Kim, one of my teammates, and we walked back to the TNT tent to meet up with the other girls who were finished.  It was really nice to have the tent to go back to and a place to wait comfortably for everyone.  Three of the girls on my team were finishing their first half marathon.  I was so excited to see them and so proud of them.  Once all of the girls were finished we took the metro to the hotel, packed up and went home.  It was a great day and I'm really happy that I made the decision to run this race for TNT.  It proved to be a phenomenal experience again.

From the beginning I was uncomfortable to recruit a team.  I didn't think anyone would want to join me and raise so much money.  On top of raising the money, they would have to run 13.1 miles!  I am still in awe that 9 other ladies made the decision to join me.  I hope they had a great time too.  There were a few moments of stress raising the money, but it wasn't too bad.  Also, I wanted to make sure everyone had a good experience so I was worried about that.  I think everyone had a pretty good experience so I feel it was a success.  I know I had an amazing experience yet again and finished the race a better girl than when I started.  It taught me that just because things are uncomfortable doesn't mean that's a good reason to avoid it.  We have to do hard things that take us out of our comfort zone!  After this journey I have even more things to be grateful for every day.  Even if I don't have all that I want, in this moment I have all that I need and that is something to be thankful for.  I love running and all the joy and meaning it has brought to my life.  I can only hope and pray that I will be able to run for many years to come.  

Emily, Denise, Kim and me after the race.  I'm so proud of these girls! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lessons from running

Here are some lessons I've learned about life from distance running:

1. You can't do it if you're not willing to take the first step - Too often I hear people say "I could never do that." The truth is, you can't if you're not willing to try. If you want it, you can accomplish it and that's the bottom line. 

2. You probably won't win, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do/try it - This is so applicable to life. There will always be someone smarter, faster, thinner, etc. Don't let that be an excuse for not fulfilling your dreams.

3. Our bodies are capable to do a lot more than we think. - If you're willing to test and push your body, you'll be amazed at what it can do. Put it to the test!

4. Consistent, hard work produces really great results and rewards. - If you're willing to put in a lot of hard work, great things happen. I never thought I could do a marathon until one day I decided to give it a try and I did it. After I finished I wanted to do better so a year later, I ran one again, but this time over an hour faster than my first. 

5. Do hard things.  - Running/life is really hard.  Don't stop even when it's hard because if you keep at it, you'll have some precious moments that make it all worth it. It doesn't always get easier, but your ability to overcome and withstand grows stronger.

6. Hidden inside all of us is an incredible inner strength and mental toughness. - If you're willing to harness that strength you will amaze yourself often by what you're capable of.

7. You'll fall down sometimes, but get back up and keep going. - Sometimes the greatest gifts/moments come after we've fallen hard.

8. A good support system makes things a lot easier. - It helps a lot to have family and friends who stick by your side, but if you don't have that you can still accomplish great things and you'll find cheerleaders eventually. 

9. The things you work the hardest for mean the most. - This comes from one of my favorite quotes from Thomas Paine, "What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly."

My favorite lesson of all:
10. Once you believe in yourself great things happen. - When you put yourself to the test you'll amaze yourself and you'll find a new confidence you never knew was there. Once you truly believe in yourself, all the negativity around you just doesn't matter much anymore. 

Go after your dreams. Enjoy your life and be happy! And remember, happiness is a choice 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Juneathon: Day 23, 24 & 25

Day 23:
Sunday was a rest day, but we did manage to walk to "The Pie," which was a mile away.  I'm sure our food counteracted the mile walk there and back, but I was moving and that's all that matters.

The Pie was delicious.  I don't eat meat and my friends wanted meat so we compromised and ordered half meat, half veggie.  My friend's husband called it, "The Dichotomy."  It was pretty funny to see a pizza like that.
The Dichotomy Pizza

Day 24:
Monday was a cross training day and I am still trying to acclimate so I went on a long walk.  I walked 2.5 miles to Starbucks and then 2 miles back to Megan's house.  It was nice.  I really love being able to walk everywhere.

Day 25:
Today I did my 2.5 mile tempo run for a total of 4.5 miles.  I did a 1 mile warmup and a 1 mile cool down.  I was able to make my tempo for 1 mile so I was happy with that.  Running out here is starting to get slightly better, but I think in another week I'll be able to get to the tempo I want for the entire distance.  I'm also excited to get home and see how all this elevation running has helped with my speed.