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

 

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Post-race blues: Is it worth the effort?

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“Effort is the best indicator of interest.”

 ~unknown

 After running Lighthouse Loop I was still feeling unsettled. I knew I had put my 110% effort, I knew the circumstances of the training cycle and race day were indisputable to expect better results. So why am I being so hard on myself?

We live in an environment where we tend to always asks for more and more and hardly ever pause to appreciate what we already have. We compare ourselves with other’s successes, looks, haves and have nots instead of looking deep inside ourselves to appreciate the true essence of what makes us. It’s very easy to get carried away trying to play catch up with the latest on social media and be like the people in the web world. But it’s also an inspiring tool if used to our own enrichment instead of downgrading ourselves. Again, it’s up to us to choose what is good for us or to choose what is not so productive to the body and soul.

As soon as I got home from running Lighthouse Loop, I started to feel the mental and physical drain from the race. Having already nourished my body with a yummy meal I had prepared to eat right after the race, I just went straight to bed for a long nap. After a 3-hour heavy nap, I woke up in tears. I was just feeling so emotional about it and I started to question if everything I had been doing was even worth continuing. I never hold tears back because letting it go allows me an opportunity for physical and spiritual cleansing.

Although feeling depressed, I still had the energy to approach the following day as recovery day by doing some light stretch, massaging, foam rolling my calves and update my coach on the day’s activity. I also focused on nutrition – lots of live food and chugging some beet smoothie with tons of  ginger and turmeric. I wasn’t sure what to do next other than trying to get my calf to heal, but I knew that I had no desire to run for this entire week. I was out!

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My very own recipe of fresh beet juice/smoothie with plenty of ginger, turmeric, blueberries, mango, tart cherry juice, olive oil and pepper. Yummy!

The IG running community shows tremendous support to one another. Posting daily workouts serves as encouragement and ideas for other followers as well as an accountability tool for doing our own workouts. So far, I still had some motivation to post some shots in the week following the race, but at the same time I didn’t want to feel obligated to to so. On the other hand, I was very glad I did because the support I got from the IG running community was priceless and caring. By no means had I forgot how grateful I was in having finished the race and for such an experience; therefore, I made sure to express it.

My next move was to schedule an appointment to see my physical therapist. Ed is a super talented runner (who is also a member and group leader of Marathon Fest group with Track and Shack) and PT. There’s no better PT in Central Florida area better than Ed in my book. We went over the problem I was having and over my frustration. Ed gave me hope when I needed the most because I was starting to think that perhaps my body was not really made for a faster pace. However, I didn’t feel the desire to run that week, but I was slightly hopeful to restart on my terms on the following week.

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The BEST physical therapist in Central Florida, Ed Dullmeyer with Pro Form PT in Maitland, FL

As the days passed, peace started to settle in. I came to the realization that I needed a time out. Unfortunately, I could not just unplug everything such as work, house chores, etc, but I unplugged from whatever I could such as from social media, checking e-mails less often, worrying less and taking the time to simply observe. Yes, call it a meditation retreat of some short. Since my running life had little sparkle, it only made sense to put a pause on my run coaching services. It was a hard decision, but it felt right until I could figure out exactly what I needed if I were to decide to keep moving forward. There was only one thing I knew for sure. If I were to continue to run and have any hope of improving my time, I had to focus on strength training, get professional help and meditate.

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The desire to run started to come back by the end of a zero mile week. In the back of my mind, I knew that I should at least give it a try and see how it feels. Tuesday morning came and I had to no energy to get up for a run. I spent the day pondering if should run when I get back home from work. I finally decided to run. My motivation was to run for the first time around our new neighborhood.

The weather was a nice 73 degree and only 57% humidity. I laced up my shoes and just ran like Forrest. I ran without a purpose and without a pace in mind. I felt free from pressure to perform and I just did what my body was comfortable with. I ran around the neighborhood for a mile and headed to the middle school track’s to finish up the rest before returning back home. At mile 3’ish I cried and by then I was already picking at my Garmin (aka as MAsshole – really, who doesn’t name their running gadgets?!) in shock at my pace. My crying episode didn’t last long because it really takes a lot effort to run and cry at the same, but I was so happy that my calves were holding up well and that my quads and hammies were a little more powerful this time around. My mind was set to run just 4 miles and I was surprised with my pace. My splits were 9:24, 9:29, 9:48 and 9:35 with an average of 9:34. I had never ran this fast before.

I was in shock with this run’s performance, but I kept it low key without making such a big deal out of it. I continued the week with the scheduled PT exercises, core workout and calves stretch. I was also curious to know if my next run would be in this pace range. Due to lack of energy for an early morning run, I decided to run after work in the downtown Orlando neighborhood. Again, I was just focused on a 4-miler and I ended up with very good splits at 9:04, 10:25, 9:50 and 9:24 with an average of 9:41. The weather started at 70 degree, but by midway through my run it dropped around 68, so I’m sure it has a lot to do with a better performance.

Since I started to feel better both physically and mentally, I decided to run long on Saturday with my group. It was nice to run with them, but for this 10-miler run, it felt somewhat hard but doable at 11:05 average pace. A 10-miler in the bank without feeling crippled gave me a slight glimpse that running the OUC half marathon in three weeks might just be possible. Running the OUC half marathon has become a tradition for me and I would love to keep the running streak going for a third year in a row.

My next run was another 4-miler which I made it to be a tempo run with 8:49, 9:50, 9:08 and 8:48 splits at an average of 9:08 pace. Next run was for a friend’s wedding day 5K celebration with our running family which I took it as a relaxing run with an average of 10:51 pace and I did skip Saturday’s long run due to lack of preparation and sleep.

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I was still thinking if this out-of-the-blue single-digit pace was a fluke. Strangely enough, from Monday to Tuesday morning, I woke up with some puffiness on the ball of my right foot and a strange discomfort between big and middle toe. I opted to run after work since I didn’t get enough hours of sleep. What appeared to be an inflammation was kinda of visible and the pain was noticeable when pressure was placed on the foot, but I thought that perhaps it was some phantom pain because I didn’t run in the past Saturday.

With OUC approaching in less than 1 week, I needed to run at least 5 miles. I ran this 5-miler with 1 mile worth of 40 seconds pickups without problems as my splits showed as 9:10, 10:19, 0.50 mile at 10:20; my pickups average at the 8’ish with my best being at 7:36, and a cool down mile at 8:50 to give me an average pace of 9:50. Voila! But minutes after the run, I started feeling a heartbeat on my foot and at that point, there was no ignoring or thinking this to be a phantom pain.

I asked my husband for his input on the pain and he said it had to with the way my middle toe is uneven with all the other toes, meaning, it’s elevating on top of the toe therefore creating pressure on the ball of the foot. I am like….here I go again with another injury and of course it had to happen 10 days before OUC and on Thanksgiving week.

The next day, I called Dr. Christopher Mason’s office (he’s the best podiatrist ever and a runner too) for an appointment on the same day. The only availability was for Monday after Thanksgiving so I took the spot. I was not settling for a Monday appointment as I had planned my long run on Thanksgiving Day. So I called again and asked to be seen on this same day. I’ve got the same unwilling-to-help answer. Minutes passed by and called the office for the third time and requested to speak with Kathy. I’m not sure what superpowers Kathy has, but she helped me with a same-day appointment before. She was not available so I left a voice-mail and begged for her to call me back.

In less than 30-minutes later, she called me back, I explained my urgent situation, and she booked me to see Dr. Mason at 2:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving eve! I was thrilled and so grateful. I practice gratitude every day, but during Thanksgiving week, it was even more special to feel more grateful and share the joy. I was happy to see Dr. Mason and to find out that there was no sign of stress fracture, but it was the case of Capsulitis an inflammation of a joint capsule between toes. Now that I knew what I was dealing with, cortisone shot, meds and rest for two days was on the tap. Yay!!! Seriously, YAY!!!

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Thanks for Dr. Christopher Mason healing was in progress!

The worst that could happen at this point was to postpone pre OUC long run for Saturday. I proceeded with strength training, core and upper body workouts on the next day. On Friday, I focused on upper body and played some racket ball with my hubby. Saturday’s long run results at 9:45 average pace with splits of 9:49, 10:04, 9:50, 10:15, 9:59, 9;52, 9:36, 9:42, 9:28 and 9:01 was very promising that running OUC was within reach. If I a sub-2 was not possible, I certainly had the possibility on my side for a PR (anything better than 2:08:25). I couldn’t be happier with this run!

Taper week approached very quickly and I kept on doing my thing by staying calm, getting the sleep I needed and adjusting my workout according to my energy level. Tuesday’s tempo ran ended up with a 4-miler at average pace of 9:25. For Thursday, I had PT scheduled at my usual time at 6:15 a.m., so it was a 5:00 a.m. run for me which I chose to make it a 5K. I didn’t want to run the risk of getting stuck in my thoughts about pace, effort or even running the risk of a last-minute injury. I ended up with 9:30 average pace and I was happy with it. Friday before the race was my usual pre-race day routine with lots of stretch, some core workout, foam rolling and massage/stretch by my husband.

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I was ready to go and I had never felt so excited and ready for a race like this one. And the IG community wished me some good positive vibes. It was up to me to bring home the negative splits.

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Packet pick up at Track Shack

“Today is another day to make yourself proud.”

 ~ Unknown