Tomoka Half Marathon No More

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“The pain of training is nothing compared to the pain of not reaching your potential.”

~Josh Cox, US 50k Record Holder

It appears that my push for a PR in Swamp House 5K and a surprisingly second place age group award came with a price. It was not a wonder that my calves took a beating on that race and that my legs were tired after logging 90.1 miles for the month of February. However, I was confident and feeling strong that with a few days of rest from running and some general rest, I’d be able to pull it off and gear up in the upcoming weeks for Tomoka Half marathon. After some rest, miles and hours of strength training later, my left adductor told me otherwise.

It was such a beautiful Saturday morning for a short-long run on the West Orange Trail with the fam. Kurt was getting his exercise on wheels with his rollerblades, R2-D2 was enjoying his 10:10 interval – 10 run: 10 ride on his stroller (yes, he has a baby stroller), and I was happy as I could be running an easy 7-miler on my own feet until I felt a sharp pain traveling from my the bottom of my leg all the way to my hamstring reaching the groin area. What in the world was that? I told Kurt about it, but we didn’t put much thought because pain is part of running.

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At West Orange Trail on the way back around mile 6 pushing to get it done

My pace slowed down during mile 5 and 6, but I was able to pick it up back at mile 7 but I slowed down for the last .50 and used as my cool down. I ended the run with a brief walk and a quick stretched sesh. The stretch was very uncomfortable and every step was getting stiffed by the second. Getting out of the car after seating for a 10-minute drive home was horrifying. I haven’t felt pain and stiffness like that in a very long time – not even when I finished a half marathon race or my 20-miler last year training for Tomoka marathon. It was super sore after Tomoka, but again, nothing like after this 7-miler run. Having realized the state of pain, I went on for a real stretch and foam rolling sesh before eating.

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I sat down for breakfast and I felt like I should not had done so. The pain again was sharp with every body movement I took. At that point, I decided that I really needed to take an ibuprofen and go to the pool for some cool water therapy since the water was a cold enough (68 degrees) as a short-cut to an ice bath. I spent about one-hour standing/walking in the pool in hopes that the discomfort would diminish with every passing hour. I suppose I can only hope but not ignore the fact that DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) was yet to come, right?!

I hardly ever take naps. First of all, I can’t afford naps since I work an eight-hour shift Monday-Friday. Second, I avoid creation such habit. And third, I use naps as a reference point to know when my body is really tired and in need of rest rather than being lazy for a nap. This Saturday, unfortunately, was a day that my body was telling me it was super tired and a nap was needed. After taking two more ibuprofen, I napped for almost two hours, but the soreness was still present with every movement I made and step I took.

The following Monday, I had a 3-miler easy run on the scheduled. I did run, but it was brutal. My pace and strides were off as the discomfort was still present. At that point, I decided to see Dr. Brad at Orlando Sports Chiropractor. Dr. Brad diagnosed the injury to be a strained adductor muscle, some heat therapy, lots of stretch and rest. Going through gastron technique performed in the left inner thigh was ridiculous painful. I’ll take calf soreness if I had to choose.

Physical therapy, rest, spinning, heat and cold therapies, and strength training workouts was the priority at this point. After Monday’s chiropractor visit, I started to feel better. Kurt (he’s a licensed massage therapist specializing in sports massage and AIS) worked on me on Tuesday for a 25-minute session of AIS (Active Isolated Stretching technique) and it has helped a great deal. By Wednesday, I was hopeful that it was healed. I didn’t feel any major discomfort when moving, I was more stable in doing my Bosu ball stability workouts; therefore, I was ready to give a test-run on Thursday morning and find out for sure if racing Tomoka half was even possible.

Comes Thursday morning and I felt a little stiffness on the injured leg. I did drills warm up as usual but as soon as I started to run, the discomfort let me know that it hadn’t gone away just yet. I estimated to be foreseeable to feel some discomfort. Because the discomfort was a lot lesser than on Monday’s run, I kept going. At some point at mile 2, I had to pause and I wished I had not. The pain wanted to settle in, so I restarted the run to complete the scheduled 3-mile run. I was able to pick up pace to finish the run with negative splits at 11:32, 10:35 and 9:59.

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It was hard even to pose for a picture! Ughh! Ouch!

I haven’t felt anything worse than an angry adductor after a run until now, and I thought that Saturday’s run was bad! Oh my goodness… the pain was excruciating, my left leg was stiffed as a wood board; it hurt to bend, it hurt to stretch, it hurt to raise my leg, it hurt to put pressure on, and it hurt to walk. Some slow movements of stretch was the only thing that it appeared to alleviate the pain I was feeling, but still, it was hurting as hell. I got scared at that point. Getting in the car to go the gym for a more decent stretching and shower was becoming a hard and scary task. I was barely walking and it felt like I needed crutch. I was thinking, what am I doing to myself? But I needed this test-run to see where I was in this injury. With only nine days shy from race day, I was certain that I could go ahead pull out of the race and cancel all travel plans.

Since the mind-opening and body-painful experience I had in Lighthouse Loop half marathon in October 2016, I promised myself that I would never put myself in such situation again. I’ve learned to respect my body and mind more after this experience. No race (unless it is the Boston marathon) is worth pushing through pain when clearly I am not 100% healthy or confident. Logistically, there was no reasonable explanation or indication that I would have a comfortable and fun race; most importantly, there was not a possible outcome for a sub-2 result. Before Lighthouse Loop, I didn’t realize how mentally draining a race can be. There’s a fine line of pushing mental fitness boundaries for a goal and pushing it out of greed or ignorance. I will pick my battles wisely from now on.

Although it is frustrating to be on the shelf for a few days, there’s a part of recovery or rehab period that it is gratifying. We have to at least try to find the good in a not so favorable situation. It is part of the growth of being a better person and a better athlete. And in this phase, it is where practice of mental toughness and fitness plays a great deal on whether we stay on the path to our goals or take the short cut path which is to give up, because the reality is, there is no short cut. Either we do the work or we don’t. Either you learn to adapt or not.

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The first twelve days of rehab/recovery consisted of a straight-forward routine of physical therapy, strength training, cold and hot therapy, and a mental break as well on the days that I felt that I needed to give some rest while practicing not feeling guilty for not doing a workout.

Day 1
Epson Salt Bath Heat Therapy Pool Therapy

3 x
10 bird dog
5 forward lunges
10 step up
10 inverted flyers
10 front squat (2 sets on Bosu)
10 Bosu, side, front and back lift
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 single leg bridge
10 fire hydrant
10 triceps dip
Stretch

Day 2 3 x
10 bird dog
10 forward lunges
10 step up
10 inverted flyers
10 front squat
10 each – Bosu side, lateral, front and back kick
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance

30:00 Heat Therapy

Day 3

Easy 3-miler run – It was a no-go for Tomoka half.

Dry Sauna session

AIS session w/ Kurt – lower body, focus on hip for range of motion and sports massage

30:00 Heat Therapy

Day 4

Rest day

30:00 Heat Therapy

Day 5

2000 meters Rowing 55:00 Spin Class 1:40 Strength Training

3 x
10 bird dog
10 forward lunges (2 sets on Bosu)
10 step up
10 inverted flyers
10 front squat (2 sets on Bosu)
10 Bosu, side, front and back lift
10 Bosu side lunges
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 single leg bridge
10 fire hydrant
10 triceps dip
10 stability ball sit up
10 single leg dumbbell dead lift
10 Dumbbell Upright Row
Stretch

Heat Therapy

Day 6

5 miles Outdoor Bike ride Stretch / Foam Roll

Day 7

Stretch / Foam Roll

1 x
10 bird dog
10 inverted flyers
10 Bosu squat
10 Bosu side, front and back leg kick
10 Bosu side lunges
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 fire hydrant
10 triceps dip
10 Dumbbell Upright Row
10 Dumbbell bicep curl
Foam Roll
Stretch

Day 8

15:00 Spinning Heat Therapy Pool Therapy

3 x
Reverse Crunch (10 reps)
Toe Touches (10 reps)
Plank Hip Twist (10 reps each side)
10 One Arm Dumbbell Row
10 Dumbbell Upright Row
10 squat (2 sets on Bosu)
10 Bosu, side, front and back leg kick
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Resistance band clam shell

Day 9

Rest Day

Stretch / Foam Roll

Day 10

2-miler Test Run – Great progress, but more recovery/rehab work required. 2.01 miles, 9:44 pace with negative splits – 10:10 & 9:18

Dry Sauna Stretch
Static stretch (focus on calves, hip, back)
Yoga Movements
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
2x 10 Resistance band clam shell

Day 11

Rest Day

Pool Therapy

Day 12

Rest Day

Stretch / Foam Roll Resistance Band PT workout

 

On day-10 it was time for me to do a test-run and see how far I have progressed. I was confident and eager to go out for run. I spent a little more extra time doing warm up drill, in part because I knew I had to focus more on that, and in part because I was getting a little nervous about it. As soon as I hit the start bottom, the feeling of being able to run again was exhilarating. I felt in peace and so grateful. I felt like a bird being able to freely fly again.

I was very conservative on my comeback test-run and made sure to go easy. Nothing really bothered me during the run and it was a solid 2-miler until the end. My heart rate averaged at 163 bpm. It’s in the aerobic capacity and a little higher than my recommended easy pace of under 155-150, but I’m excited to know spinning sessions and rowing sessions has helped keep my cardio going. After the run, my leg was a little thigh indicating me that stretch was a MUST and that more PT work was most certainly needed. The routine will remain until I feel 100% healed, and even then, I’ll be putting a lot more focus on hip flexor and legs strength training.

It is a bummer to miss this year’s Tomoka half marathon. It has become a tradition to run a Tomoka event for the past two years, and I was so eager to see how my performance would be since starting to work with Coach Victoria. However, I have nothing but gratitude for being where I am today with my progress in running. I’ve reached goals that I never thought possible. I know that despite this set back, my body is much stronger than it was a year ago. I am counting my blessings today and every day and I will continue to become an even stronger runner than I was yesterday. Giving up is not an option, not now.

I wish all runners a successful and fun race!

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“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

Swamp House 5K: Stuck in the Mud by a Second

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                 Swamp House 5K and Half Marathon Event                   DeBary, FL March 5, 2017

“The faster you run, the sooner you’re done.”

~Unknown

Yes, I know this post is a little late, sorry guys, but I finally got a chance to post it. Yay!

At the time I registered for Swamp House, the intention was to run the half marathon distance because, how could I pass on a $30 registration fee to run a half marathon? It turns out that after working with Coach Victoria with Run4PRS, the answer to that question is, yes I sure can and should!

Based on my end goal and doing what’s best for my body, I turned a half marathon registration into a 5K race registration without any regrets. Having raced Shark Bite 5K back in January reminded me how hard 5K races can be if the goal is to PR. Training based on speed and distance is so different, but that’s what I asked for from the moment I committed to one day qualifying and running the Boston Marathon. The only catch is that eventually I will be training for speed and distance all together. Well, better not talk so much about it because the brain cannot know what’s really coming, lol!

It has been an interesting cycle after running Shark Bite 5K and logging the most monthly mileage I have ever logged so far for the 28-day month of February with 90.1 miles in the run bank. In anticipation for Tomoka half marathon, an out-back route with bridge, I asked coach for some hill training. So I did a 3-time up-and-down bridge workout a week before Swamp House 5K which included a 2-time 1 mile tempo run at HMGP (8:45) in the same workout (executed at 8:20 and 8:33 pace) and closed the workout with 8 miles at 9:44 average pace. To say that my legs were tired afterwards would be an understatement, but they are also getting much stronger.

Therefore going into the Swamp House 5K, my legs were tired but my calves were angry, very angry. I could not stop drinking my healer beet smoothie. I implemented dry sauna sessions after my runs, more foam rolling, icing, compression, elevation, stretch, sports massage by my hubby and using the pool for cool water therapy which averaged at about 68-72 degrees depending on the FL weather this time of the year.

For the past 3 weeks, my warm ups had been so uncomfortable due to calf tightness. It was a stop-go-run-walk-run festival until they felt like it was time to loosen up. It was no mystery that a quick warm up before the race and a cool down after the race was a must. During my shake out run of 1.5 miles, I had to stop with only .60 into the run to stretch my calves. I tried not to panic and though that I would be doing the same since on race day I had a .50 mile warm up. That gave me a sense of easy. After stretch, I proceeded to the final mileage and it was a okay with .25 mile at a faster pace and the last .25 with strides.

I had done everything I could have done in prep for Swamp House. On the eve of the race, my husband helped with a session of sports massage and active isolated stretch. I stretched, foam rolled, and spent 1-hour in the pool resting my legs in a 72 degree water. Nutrition was also on point!

For the past two 5K races, I had two goals: a PR and an age group award. I knew that my legs were tired so an age group award was a bit of a high goal to be achieved. I am thankful that the morning of the race the weather did cooperate for a 5K race with temperatures in the low 60’s. I was debating whether run on my tank top or just sports bra. After spending some time waiting for race organizers to figure out the starting line, I went with the sports bra choice. I am glad I did and I am not sure why I even contemplate on that.

Once again, I was on the very front with all the other fast runners. Unfortunately, I started way too fast and soon started to slow down closing mile 1 at 8:04. The second mile was really tough. The negative thoughts started to show up and remind me how hard it is to run a 5K and how heavy my legs were. I had my Momentum Jewelry “Never Give Up” bracelet in the same wrist I use Masshole (my Garmin). It did help a lot to shut up those negative thoughts because the Never Give Up reminds me the time I was on the 25th miler of Tomoka going onto a bridge. I saw the bridge, I took a few running steps, but I gave up on running. I had to walk at that point and I missed my sub-5 goal by 00:1:49.  So now, every time I am on a race and I think about walking, I think about my Never Give Up bracelet.

The second mile was not pretty, but I didn’t stop. I slowed down the pace to 8:39. All of the sudden there were so many women passing or running next to me that could be in my 35-39 age group. For a moment I was worried; however, I let go of that feeling and started to focus on what I could control – securing a PR. I have been working so hard to earn another PR. Whether my legs were heavy or not, I needed to push and show to myself that I was getting better and faster. More importantly, that my mental fitness was catching up with my physical fitness.

I started to pick up pace not long after I hit mile 2 and from that point on, there was not slowing down. It was hard, but I wanted to finish the discomfort and earn a PR. Seeing the finish line was a relief. At that point, I was not focused on the age group award but to cross the finish line with a sweaty new PR. My husband was cheerfully waiting for me at the finish line and took some pictures. This time I saw him nearby and heard him yelling for me to run. And I did run a little harder but not hard enough to secure a first place in my age group. Say what?!

I was very happy with a Garmin 25:38 time (my previous PR was a 26:20). I ran a .50 mile cool down and the stiffness and discomfort was real. I really had pushed my legs to the limit on this race. The post-race festivities was very nice, actually. They had Dunkin Donuts, a local brewery, clothing vendors and a PR bell. Kurt did enjoy some coffee and donuts but he really liked the two free beers he got.

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It didn’t take too long for race organizers to post the results for the 5K as it became available. We were on the very front of the race results board display when it was getting ready to be posted. Once up, it didn’t take long for Kurt to loudly speak that I had won second place. I was like, seriously! Kurt’s eyes works faster than mine so when were looking at the picture he took of the result, he soon realized that I had missed first place by just 1 second!  My time was 25:40, that’s a 40 seconds PR. I was thrilled and in shock for missing first place by just 1 second.  And that’s the 1 second difference, right on camera!

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Swamp House 5K, like many 5Ks did not award a finisher medal. But because I had won second place in my age group, I was able to bring a bling home and meet a city’s mayor. Yes, the city of DeBary Mayor Garcia was awarding the winners with the medal! I thought it was super clever and a warm gesture of the city to welcome so many runners that came from close and as far as Pennsylvania to run Swamp House 5K and half marathon events. And for the first time, I rang the PR bell. It was a fun moment for me and for Kurt too. He has been my witness in seeing how hard I’ve been working to become a faster and a more efficient runner. My happiness becomes his happiness and he had a blast. It is a pleasure to always put a race medal around his neck. And this time he too was part of ringing the PR bell.

May many more occasions like this happen in the near future.

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I’m eating a banana but holding one of Kurt’s two beers. Greedy Kurt, lol =)

 

“Never Give Up. Great things takes time.”

~Dhiren Prajapati

 

 

Cheers to Beet Smoothie

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“No matter how much it gets abused, the body can restore balance. The first rule is to stop interfering with nature.”

 ~Deepak Chopra

Who doesn’t love beet roots? Seriously, this is not a trick question. Well, I am sure a few hands will go up to represent the dislike for beets. On the other hand,  I can’t live without beets. I remember when my mom used to make us beet salad; it was the first item I served myself to make sure I got my fair share. My mom used to cook beets, but never would cut it before cooking so that the red color and nutrients would not fade away in the boiling water.  As time passed and I had to take care of my own cooking, I learned not to cook beets to preserve its nutrients to the maximum.

When I started to learn more about nutrition in order to help me become a more efficient runner and assist my body with the healing process due to the demands of training, I was very intrigued to know that beet roots is rich in betalains, a class of potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that battle free radicals and inflammation-related chronic disease. Beets are also valuable in providing the body with the everyday nutrients like B vitamins, iron, manganese (good for bones, liver, kidneys and pancreas), copper, magnesium and potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function). That’s a huge plus for me since I’m a vegetarian and I need all the iron, Bs vitamins and daily vitamins I can get from a natural source.

In addition, beet roots is known to contain rich nutrients that may help lower blood pressure, fight cancer and inflammation, boost stamina and support detoxification (supports phase 2 of the body’s detoxification helping purify the blood and liver). Beet greens is also rich in nutrients and it should not be thrown away. It helps strengthen the immune system, support brain and bone health and it can be eaten as much as one wants. Beet roots on the other hand, it is recommended with moderation because of its high content level of sugar, the most of all vegetables.

Turns out that my favorite veggie is full of nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide – a compound that relaxes and dilates blood vessels, turning them into superhighways for nutrient and oxygen-rich blood. That is, it improves circulation and possibly lower blood pressure. On top of that, because nitrates turn into nitric oxide, it helps with stamina if you drink beet juice prior to a workout. I say hello oxygen to my muscles and low HR!!! Please give me more and thank you! However, I have to say that I have not yet drunk beet juice or beet smoothie prior to my workouts because I try to not deviate from my pre-workout meals. I truly can’t afford an upset stomach, but I do drink beet smoothie afterwards.

Whether I drink beet smoothie before or post a workout, I believe that it is a win-win not matter what. Beet contains many phytonutrients that have been shown to function as anti-inflammatory and presents a unique source of betaine which helps protect cells, proteins and enzymes from environmental stress fighting inflammation, protecting internal organs and improving vascular risk factors.

Now that we have a healthy idea of the benefits of beet roots, here’s my beet smoothie recipe.

The same can be followed if you choose to substitute beet for kale or spinach.

  • 1 small beet – cut into small pieces to better blend
  • 2 or 3 cups of water or milk alternative (depending on how soupy or thick you prefer)
  • ½ cup of frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup of frozen pineapple
  • ½ cup of frozen dark cherries
  • ½ cup of chopped dates
  • ½ thumb size of ginger root – this will help gives an extra kick to help with inflammation and balance out the taste of beet. It also helps when making spinach or kale smoothie
  • Thumb size of turmeric root
  • 1 table spoon of olive oil
  • A pinch of black pepper – pepper and olive oil will help activate the fighting nutrients contained in the turmeric root that helps with inflammation
  • Add ice cubes
  • Add protein if you would like
  • Blend well in a power blender – my favorite blender is Blendtec blender

Cheers and enjoy!

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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

 ~Hippocrates

Shark Bite 5K: A PR and a Bite in the AG Award

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“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

  ~ Steve Prefontaine

I am so glad for Coach Victoria’s suggestion in focusing on training and forgo of Shark Bite Half Marathon scheduled just six weeks after the OUC Half marathon. Making this decision allowed me to easy the mind, body and to focus on parts of training that I never thought about it, but that has made a significant difference physiologically.

It had been two years since I had ran a 5K race. It was the Treasure Chest Bucs 5K in Tampa, FL in 2015; six days after running Jacksonville Marine Corps Half marathon. As you can imagine, my legs were still super tired, but my husband and I could not pass on running a 5K with a complimentary Bucs football game ticket and halftime on-field experience. No way! So running Shark Bite 5K after all those months seemed like a very good idea.

Coach Victoria planned the week of the Shark Bite 5K like any race deserve its respect. I had a taper week, made sure to rest and Coach Christina with Strength2Run focused on upper body strength training. I was assigned a rest day on Friday and Saturday, but because at this time of year it is NFL football playoffs time, there was no way I could sit down Saturday and wait for Sunday’s game day and race day. Besides, it’s customary for me to run a shake out run no matter what. So I went for a nice and easy 1-miler shake out run at 9:16 pace. As if it wasn’t enough, I headed to LA Fitness for a 20-minute core workout and 10-minute dry sauna session. I felt ready – both for the game and for the race.

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It was a busy pre-race day and I didn’t get to really chill out as much as I wanted to, but I did the best I could to stay calm, positive and to have fun. Because of the playoff game, I didn’t go to bed until 11:55 p.m. and my alarm was set for 4:15 a.m., yikes! But I got up, went on with my pre-race routine as usual, and focused a little more than usual on stretching and foam rolling. To my surprise, I found a tight spot on my right calf, and that, got me a little nervous. With such a short time, there wasn’t much to be done. I applied Bengay on the location, massaged and put on my CEP compression sleeves.

A few days earlier in the week, Kurt and I watched the movie Prefontaine on Netflix. I had never heard about Steve Prefontaine and his success on 5,000 meters and some long-distance running. The story brought me tears and it really stuck with me. Since Kurt was driving this time, I took the time to get myself in the zone and read some information on Pre. I also remembered what Coach Victoria had said that the harder I pushed, the more uncomfortable it would get. But I was ready to embrace the discomfort. I was ready to bring my two goals into materialization with pain or no pain.

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In honor of the legend, Happy Birthday, Pre!  January 25, 1951

The weather was somewhat a comfortable 63 degrees, but humidity was high at 100% which is hot enough not to question whether I’d wear a running top or flat out sports bra. The 5K field had 525 runners which 333 consisted of women runners and 32 women in my age group of 35-39 years old. This time I made sure to be on the front line with all the other faster runners. I set myself on the left corner of the start line with maybe two or three other runners in front of me and there I went.

Unfortunately, I started the pace way too fast. After Coach Victoria brought to my attention and looking the data on TrainingPeaks training application, I ran the first two minutes at 6:58 pace – yeah, a 6:xx pace!!! Never in my mind I thought I’d be running this fast. The first mile of the race ended up at 7:57 pace – my fastest mile so far!

As it comes to no surprise, my second mile wasn’t as fast, but it still was fast enough for me at 8:43 pace. At mile 2 water stop, I walked for a couple of seconds to drink some water and picked up the pace right back. At this point in the race, I was feeling very hot and sweating like I was in the sauna. The intensity of my discomfort was growing with each step forward, the feeling of lack of leg power was starting to show, my breathing and heart rate (180 AVG HR) felt like they were going through the roof, and yes, challenging thoughts started to creeping in.

I was present to the distance and to the discomfort. All of the sudden an innocent 5K distance felt longer than 3.10 miles. So I started to focus on the distance left and telling myself I just needed another track lap and that 0.25 was nothing, and another one, and so forth. I thought about Prefontaine and believe it or not, I asked him for strength to get me through because I really wanted to earn an age group award that day. I was pushing myself so hard, and yet, there were so many people in front of me. I was analyzing the field and trying to get a glance of how many women could be within my age group range. It was hard to tell, but I still had some hope that crossing at the finish line with a 26:00’ish minute would give me an opportunity to take a bite at the third place.

I kept pushing myself and put in some strides and pickups towards the end because I just didn’t have much of energy for a steady burst. I saw the finish line banner, but it seemed like a mirage. I wish I had managed by running economy and speed better to give the fast push towards the end. I crossed the finish line at 26:20 with a PR! I finished my last mile at 8:36 pace and 7:43 for the last .14 miles (these are Garmin splits stats. Per race stats it’s an 8:29 avg pace for this race)

I walked from the moment I crossed the finish line trying to grasp as much air as I could and bring my heart rate to a comfortable bpm. In the final mile, my heart rate average was a 184 bpm and the last .14 mile was a 191 bpm. I didn’t see my husband and R2-D2 waiting for me so I kept walking a straight line to a nearby palm tree to stretch. They soon found me and I hugged and kissed my husband as he said, “good job, Babe! You’re getting faster!” I was still getting myself to a normal and rest state, but I was so happy to have it done and accomplishing my goal of a sub-27:00 5K. The only question was on whether my time was enough for the age group award.

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The age group award ceremony was scheduled for 9:15 a.m., but got postponed until 9:30 a.m. I was really hoping to bring something home besides my PR. In addition, the race organizers didn’t get the finisher medal to arrive on-time for the race due to some release issue in Customs. When I looked at the results, I saw my name in third place out of the 32 female runners in my age group. I was stunned so asked my husband to double-check my results. I waited and as he started to come towards me, I saw his face lighten up as he said that I got third place. I was so happy! My time placed me at 69th of 525 overall and 28th of 333 all female. Not too shabby!

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The award ceremony was very simple and they started with the older groups first, so I had to wait even longer. I thought they would have a podium, but there was nothing like that. They simply announced the age group and called the winners’ name starting with the third place. R2-D2 barked almost every time for each time that people’s name were called and applauses were clapped. It took a while until my name was called and by then, R2-D2 got accustomed to it and didn’t bark anymore. When I stepped forward as my name was called, it felt like my own Olympic moment. I was happy and proud of my hard work. And for the first time, I posed for an award picture showing off my plaque award.

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I never really cared to earn any race award other than earning a finisher medal. However, I do have other ambitions now and an award confirms that my hard work to become a faster runner is paying off. There’s a lot more work to be done, but each day I am getting a step closer to my ultimate goal and with Coach Victoria’s with Run4PRS professional guidance, knowledge and strategy,  I know that I can do it. And like my husband says, “the future is bright”.

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“I run best when I run free.”
~Steve Prefontraine

 

 

To Work with a Run Coach Again or Not?

 

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December 16 workout run

“If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again.”

 ~ Unknown 

To work with a run coach again or not? That’s the question. Part of me was excited to work again with a run coach and part of me was intimated by the thought of inviting such responsibility and discipline into my running again. I was scared of failing and getting my hopes crushed. But I was curious to try a different approach in training with focus on heart rate training.

It had been a few months ago since I first read about heart rate training, but somehow I could not rationalize how running slow was going to get me running faster. It almost made sense, but it did not intrigue me too much to actually put some energy and research into it. After my burnt out with running, I put everything about running aside for a week, gave myself some space to meditate, observe and analyze the feedback the Universe was giving me. The messages and signs that came to mind started to appear about heart rate training and that’s when I  decided that I wanted to work with a run coach again, explore heart rate training and stay optimistic that I can become a faster runner.

All of these information and contact with a run coach were brewing, but it was the OUC race results that gave me hope and courage to continue chase that elusive unicorn. Time was still a part of the unknown, but this time there was a light present ready to radiate in my vast universe. It was really a matter of time which simply depended on how smarter I was going to train and trust myself.

I tried to avoid thinking about limitations, especially when it pertains to money. But I can’t deny about the fact that my husband and I are new homeowners and there has been so many other priorities which requires a great balance. At this point I knew I wanted to work with a run coach and most importantly, I knew that I needed to pick up pace strengthening my body.

Signing up for a membership at LA Fitness was nice, but the price charged to work with a personal trainer wasn’t very flattering. It was one or the other and I could not have both. A few weeks passed and my IG friend Christina shared the news that she was offering personal training and strength training coaching online services. There was no contract, budget-friendly, top-notch services and her app provides a video of all planned exercises so this way I know I’m doing the correct form. Challenge number 1 was solved!

One of most enlightening lessons I’ve received from all of these experiences (training, running, my husband’s surgeries, and everything else in between) was the expression of gratitude. I feel the need to share about it because gratitude has transformed my life and opened up new opportunities for me, perhaps others will feel inspired too. The Universe provided me with an opportunity to be able to work with a strength coach to get the energy flowing and with a run coach at the same time. I signed up to work with both coaches for the next four weeks, after that, I’d figured out how to make it work. However, my main priority was to make sure that my body was okay with both training plans and that I got accustomed to the strength training routine before jumping to other workouts. Because no matter how awesome a coach is, if the athlete’s body is not ready, there’s no magic in making it work.

I designated one-week for recovery from OUC before starting with both training. My run coach is Victoria with Run4PRs. She is an 11-time BQ and she runs the run! She started planning my training with some basic but effective workouts. Upon her recommendations and input, I decided to not run Shark Bite Half Marathon in January which was just six weeks after running the OUC. But instead, I swapped for the 5k and my training plan was designed for this particular race.

As expected, my training plan had some significant changes. My run scheduled was the same as Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays allocated for strength training. An interesting difference was that occasionally I had a run scheduled on Mondays something I hardly ever did, but these runs are low mileage run (think of a warm up/recovery mileage) and the focus is on keeping my HR under 155-150. Other easy runs (usually 4 miles) included some strides during the last mile at 4 x 20 seconds at 7:30 pace with 90 seconds jog in between. Based on statistics, my easy pace should be within 10:45 and 9:45, but I find hard to sync the pace range with a low HR. Of course that are many variables to consider such discrepancy, but overall, it has been an interesting practice and perspective. I can certainly feel the difference in every run whether it is easy run, tempo run or speed run.

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Strength training with Christina has been so fun and such a compliment to my run. Christina is truly an expert in strength training. She is so passionate about it and that is one of the reason why she has created Strength2Run. She is also a unicorn chaser, and there’s no doubt in mind that she will catch it soon. Some of the workouts were familiar to me and some absolutely new. I love how she incorporates weights, some of my PT routines and the feeling of doing high intensity interval training. She asks what you want and what you need, and bam – she delivers some killer workout plans that truly engages every inch of your body. My focus is on assuring that my core, hammies, quads and calves are strong. But the fact of the matter is, her plan really works the entire body with focus on whatever area you need.

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It’s exciting to work with Coach Victoria and Christina. Their professional support has made a huge difference in my life and running. I highly recommend you to hire them if you are truly serious in chasing your dreams or simply obtaining knowledge in running and strength training. In one of my run workout, 5.50 mile speed workout, it entailed of 1 mile warm up and cool down and 3 times 1 mile at 8:30 pace. I was beyond thrilled in crushing this run. My splits were: 9:55 warm up, 8:38, 8:31 and 8:12, and 9:36 for cool down. I never thought in my life that I would be able to hit a decent 8ish pace for one steady mile. There’s no doubt that such improvement is a result from taking a break from running, meditating on what I wanted and needed, and seeking Victoria and Christina for help and change.

At the end of the day, it is about trying to figure out what you want and need, especially what you need. The Universe will show you the way. All there is left to do is to roll up the sleeve, grab the opportunity and say thank you!

“You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.”

~ Michael Phelps

“When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.”

~ Anthony Robbins

“It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

~Unknown

“Doing your best is more important than being the best.”

~Zig Ziglar

Goodbye 2016 Bring it on 2017

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“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”

 ~ Steve Prefontaine

There is no doubt that 2016 has been a year to remember. It has been a year filled with challenges, triumphs, happiness, some unhappy moments, but most importantly, another year which was fully lived, day in and day out. We made count each of the 365 days like a boss!

There were times in which we didn’t know how we were going to make to another day. But you know what, you just do it! There is no right or wrong answer as to how we make it happen as long as we are in peace with ourselves and as long as there’s no harm to others. We just make it happen and believe that the Universe will show the way because all we need to do is to trust that the Universe got our back, believe we can do it and take action everyday.

It sounds easy, but sometimes living through challenges does not appear to be this way. It takes time and sometimes a step back to see how we can handle certain situations in the eye of the observer. Like many other aspects of life, this is how running goes. Months of training, day in and day out, we don’t think about how to get the miles in the bank because if we were to do think about it, it would not get it done. I mean, seriously? Getting up in the dark early hours of the morning to run some crazy long miles, go to work, take care of life, take care of ourselves and loved ones, and spent more time doing strength training or cross training to run more miles and spend even more time doing recovery work to fix the damage.. Well, you know the drill.

In January I came into realization that there is no feasible short cut if I want to run Boston. If I can’t came up with $5,000 in fund raising for a charity of my like under the B.A.A., it is just not going to happen. If I want this badly, I will need to be patient and earn every single mile, sweat and breaths to achieve a 3:40 qualifying time under my age group category. So January was my big moment in which I committed to put the hard work to chase the unicorn as I run one day at a time and race one race at a time.

January was also the month in which I ran the inaugural Shark Bite half marathon in New Smyrna. It was a fun race and my best half marathon at 2:08:25. A week later, my training to run Tomoka started and I could not be happier to have Coach Chris, our MarathonFest group leader, guiding and encouraging throughout the way. She provided me with a training plan, planned our long run routes, she put on the Gatorade and water on our routes. She did more than she had to. And for that, I am forever grateful for her love and help.

Running a marathon for the second time after six years was epic. It really takes a bunch of determination to even register for such an event and I could not be happier in getting it done in 5:01:48, just shy of a sub-4 goal, but such a great effort shedding 1:45:01 from my first marathon in 2010.

Training must go on and never in my life had I ever thought that I would be hiring a run coach. Growing up I only exercised because of PE classes. I never really cared to dig in deep into sports or workouts, but I did really enjoy playing volleyball. Later in life, working out was not a thought because my time was consumed with work and studies. So the fact I hired a run coach was out of the world! It was my stamp to show how serious I was in chasing this illusive unicorn.

In the middle of everything, my husband had two surgeries, we sold our place, bought a house, lived with his dad, went through a hell of renovation and kept life moving forward. It has been quite a year! A year that has thought me more than I could possibly image, in a sense, it has been a year of physical, mental and spiritual cleansing. Our experiences dictate what enlightenment process we receive after our acceptance. I can say that mine would probably not be the same if running was not part of my life.

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Feeling pretty frustrated with training. 

Through Lighthouse Loop half marathon, I was awakened by such enlightenment. The interesting part of it is that the learning was not over at the crossing of the finish line at 2:28:17. It continued for weeks after the race. It was an experience that allowed me to pause and observe my inner self which has helped me to reflect on what I really want and need – not just on the running lifestyle aspect, but on a creative aspect of life which brings our natural sparkly and bright light. It is still an on-going process which I am learning everyday.

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“Life was [is] like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”  But if we do put the effort in, it is only certain to reap from its benefits if we are just patient and grateful enough to see and receive it. After months of setbacks, patience and gratitude, I finally started to see some results from my hard effort. Running a single-digit pace felt so good and liberating; it felt natural and somewhat effortless. It feels like a sudden energy takes over and all the body wants to do is to run faster. It was and has been my magical moment in running in which I finally have crossed a line in another dimension. My moment of magic came in weeks prior to running the OUC half marathon and while running the OUC just 54 seconds shy of my goal of a sub-2 at 2:00:54. That’s a 9:13 pace! YESS!!!

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Wrapping it all up in a nutshell, I close 2016 with 764.58 miles in the bank! That is a 102% improvement in comparison to 2015’s mileage. A lot of these miles were harder miles (speed work) than I am used to, but most importantly, these miles were earned not given miles. And for that, I could not be more grateful to earn and own it. It is beyond gratefulness to have a body that allows me to do this and to have my husband’s support allowing me to enjoy and to be prepared for my runs. Running might look like a solitary sports, but  behind a successful result, it is a representation of team effort.  Somewhere down the line, there is an army that has helped you get where you are. Be humble and never forget that.

But to get up, lace up the shoes and cover the distance – well, that’s all on YOU! And for that, be proud of your effort!

 

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”

~ Steve Prefontaine

 

OUC Half Marathon 40th Anniversary: A Breakthrough Race

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“Run Your Heart Out”

  ~ Unknown 

 The quote above express a profound statement and it is not only powerful from a sports competition perspective, but also for life in general. We live in a competitive world and whether we think that we don’t care about it, it really doesn’t matter – we’re sucked in competitiveness be it against somebody else or with ourselves. And when logistics or muscles find a glimpse of limitation, you better run your heart out and proof otherwise!

Running the OUC half marathon 40th anniversary race was more than just a race for me. It was an opportunity to be part of the Orlando’s historical race for the third consecutive year, running in my adopted city’s neighborhood and exchanging hellos with other members of the running community composed mostly of Track Shack runners.

After a difficult training cycle with ups and downs, with more downs than ups – at least it seemed to be this way, I was ready to redeem myself, bring on the positive energy and close the last race of the year on a good note. I wanted my last race of the year to be the start of a new beginning of a training cycle, and I wanted to bring a result that would give me hope to work on. The possibility of working with a coach again was intriguing and exciting.

There are no words to describe my experience after Lighthouse Loop half marathon. It was days of depression and hopeless, and weeks of uncertainty on whether I was really capable of running anything faster than a double-digit pace and still feel as if it was like a walk in the park. I finally understood what Julie Isphording meant about her quote: Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running.

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I put all those feelings and darkness behind. I learned to deal with an obstacle at time while seeking a solution of a clear path. I surrounded myself with positive-minded people that would up lift my vibes and help me. There was no getting out of this loomy-gloomy alone, but it was up to me to believe in myself and be with people that enforced my own believe or that showed me the way to make my believe a reality. I started to soak-in Jen Sincero’s audiobook You are a Badass and reading Elizabeth Clor’s book Boston Bound  including contacting her via Instagram for one or two words of advice.

My favorite athlete of all times is Tom Brady. I admire everything about him. His expertise in the game of football, his demeanor, attitude, and competitiveness. His positive state of mind and calmness is an attribute that mesmerize me. It’s interesting that when I planned the OUC race, I chose a Tom Brady picture to be the cover of my Days Event calendar app for the December 3 date. Our subconscious is always in harmony with our desires and dreams, but it doesn’t sync if we choose to live in a negative state of mind or lack expressing gratitude. Hello to the Law of Attraction! And if Tom Brady’s badass attitude gives me motivation to do my best and be my best in the face of adversity, so be it! You got to do what works for you and nobody else.

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My pre-race routine didn’t change a bit. Okay, perhaps the only change was that I was grounded and calmer than previous races. A high 50’s degree in the early morning of the race was welcomed and I’m sure it helped me stay calm and excited to run. I intended to run between the 1:55 and 2:00 hour pace group, but I could not reach the corral. There were over 2,700 runners and somehow I was stuck way back with the 2:45 group pace. I just stayed calm and maneuver my way around looking for some clear path. Once I hit mile 1, the path started to clear and my pace was decent at 9:18 close to target pace (9:05). I sure didn’t want to go too fast and ran out of fuel by mid-way.

I ran with a disposable Açaí juice bottle and mixed a concoction of water and Huma Gel for fuel. I don’t use anything else besides Huma Gel. I figured that having it ready for consumption, it would save me some time at the water stations instead of having to walk/stop to consume. Loosing precious time to drink water and Gatorade was costly enough already.

Buy mile 2, I was getting hot (hot by my standard is anything over 65 degrees) and had to remove my tank top. Running on sports bra is my thing and I do whatever it helps to keep me from overheating. I was happy to see that my pace was a steady 9:18, and by removing my tank top, I knew that I’d feel much lighter. I was just hoping that the weather would cooperate throughout the race.

This was my second race running without music. I’m starting to feel I really don’t need it. I don’t run with music during training for safety reasons since mostly of my runs are done around 5:00 a.m., and quite frankly, I can’t imagine running with music now. I’ve learned to be in tuned with my body, breathing, mind and spirit. I am a runner with more focus without music. It has become my mediation and observation time thanks to reading Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s book Running with the Mind of Meditation.

Things started to look good for me. I had energy, the weather was somewhat cool and I was driven to own this race. If a su-2 half marathon for some reason was not possible, a PR would be the next target. At mile 3, my pace decreased to a 9:04. I was so grateful and in shock at the same time as I had never ran this fast in a race before with some negative splits in sight. Mile 4, it fluctuate to a 9:06 pace, 9:07 for mile 5 and 9:01 for mile 6. Bam, I was flying! Mile 7 brought me up to 9:07 and a slight crash at mile 8 with a 9:09 and 9:20 for mile 9. At this point, the weather started to warm up way too quickly and I was starting to get concern if I had pushed too much too soon.

The thought of bunking in another half marathon was starting to creep in since it’s kinda of customary for to start to loose energy at the most crucial point of the race. So I gathered my thoughts and pick up my feet to bring my pace down to a 9:06 for miles 10 and 11. At mile 12, the course started to get tough with a good portion of bricks and some elevation. The weather was also getting hotter to my taste. My pace went up to 9:22 and I realized that if I were not to be able to make a sub-2, it would have been by seconds.

I am not sure where I got the energy and drive to pick up my pace to 8:55 for mile 13. I breathed so hard and tried to pump as much blood in my muscles as I could. I kept focus on and aiming to that finish line. I saw that Garmin was showing me a 1:59 and something seconds, but I still had probably another 88 yards to the finish line. I lost some momentum thinking it was useless to continue running that fast. Suddenly, I realized that even without a sub-2 PR, every second was still counting. Also, one of the two professors I work with who was a spectator cheering on their son, yelled my name encouraging me to go, go, GO CELIA!!!!

I burst with whatever energy I had left to I cross the finish line with a jump of epic joy! I had never felt anything like it. I heard coach Chis yelling my name, but I didn’t see her because I was still wearing an invisible horse visor, lol. Next, I was searching for my husband. Last year’s race, he was by the sideline, this time, I didn’t hear or see him nearby. A race organizer blocked him from entering the runners’ exit from the course, but he came to my path anyways. As usual, he kissed me and I hugged him. Putting my medal around his neck first is a now a tradition and he loves it!

Illy and Kathy stopped by, we chatted a little bit and took time for some picture. My two speedsters, Julie and Pasley, saw me and came over to congratulate me on a great race. And of course, we chatted and took pictures.

As usual my husband is so supportive of my running, so he carried my change of clothes and my post-workout protein drink. We headed to the post-party event to check my official time. I could not believe that I was only 54 seconds shy from hitting my sub-2 goal.

A 2:00:54 half marathon at 9:13 pace was epic for me. Hope is alive. The dream is in the process of transformation and materialization with one step at a time. Right foot. Left foot. Here I come!

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 “Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do.  Attitude determines how well you do it.”

 ~ Lou Holtz