Chill Out and Call It Whatever You Want It

 

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New year, new day, new goals, new race, new training cycle…. so let’s bring a whole new different mentality, shall we?

Yes, I am starting 2020 with a bang! I don’t do resolutions. I don’t believe it. I believe in SETTING INTENTIONS each day and every day. This is what works for me and drives me forward. However, that’s not to say I don’t have a big goal in mind. I always have a big goal in mind, but I don’t dwell on it. I dissect it and work each layer on its own time.

To proceed to this next big goal, there is nothing better than starting with a 5K race to get the nervous out. Was I nervous? Heck yes! And that’s why I signed up for it and went with the flow. I think we all tend to get nervous for a race, but I think that the nervousness is little more intense after a major race because the entire cycle starts again. The mindset functions get a jump-start which is not always easy. But I will tell you this: getting the first race of the year out of the way and sooner than later, is the best thing you can for yourself!

And here’s the thing: the mindset that you used before might not work, so get ready to re-create a new one. For this race, especially now that I’m being self-coached due to personal reasons, I had to re-create by associating a 5K race as a routine workout. Yes, it is nothing more than a workout. The goal here is to show up, to go into the routine of getting ready for race week, race day and all that entails about racing. If you bring this mentality to race day, things will line-up a little easier. If the preparation has been done, then there is nothing to fear.

Here’s how I did it:

2 mile warm up  / Stretch / Strides / 5K sandwich / 2 mile cool down

This is it!

Now, preparing for this whole fiasco is where the fun really starts because this being a workout or a race, you know deep down that it is a race setting. This is where the beauty of mindset plays into action into believing whatever it is that you said to yourself that it is in order to calm the F! down and manage anxiety which is basically fear.

Park Avenue 5K was the first race of 2019 for me and it is again the first race of year this year. Truth to be hold, I’d be damned to make the same mistakes again. Voila, I made similar mistakes!

The anxiety level rose to an upset stomach which made me late. Running late meant less parking spots available which consumed a lot of my time finding one. After parking, I was determined to get my 2 miles warm up no matter what. But wait! Bathroom first 😊

All of this to say that once again I started this race on the back of the pack. I waited a few minutes since the start, but that didn’t help much. So yes, the first two miles were wasted in veering off from people as if this was an obstacle race, or workout, whatever you want to call it.

Mile 1…….8:16 = veering off from people

Mile 2…….8:11 = more veering off from people, back-and-forth from the road to the sidewalk; seeking clear path,

Mile 3…….7:39 = breaking through clear path, focus on breathing, form, engaging muscles, picking off runners, drawing energy from the crowd and whoever was in front of me, eyeing the finish line.

Official Time: 24:52

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The point is to work with you’ve got, stop the F! blaming/excuse games, and get it done. It was not the time I envisioned, but it was how I handled the situation that mattered the most. I raced calmly, focused, embraced the uncertainties and opportunities, with one objective: have fun crossing the finish line knowing that I can deal the cards myself.

Every race teaches a life lesson. For me was learning that I can handle my own emotions, coach myself to stay grounded, and that in the process, I have the impact of inspiring others. I just did my thing as I normally do, but for two other female runners, what I did was inspiring to them. The first one who congratulated me as I was stretching post-race, was the same runner who I was drawing energy from in front of me; clearly, I passed her. She said that I looked strong and determined. The second female runner asked me if she could shake my hand as we were both standing in line to take a picture by the race banner. I was surprised, and I asked, why as I extended my hand to her. She expressed how astonished she was to know that I was the last to start the race and still be able to finish with most of the runners who started up front. She was inspired to see my effort and grit and we took a picture together to add the icing on the cake.

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At the end of the day, if you pursue your goals with love, grit, and gratitude, your will surprise yourself and inspire many in the process. As a runner, we can all relate to each other’s struggle and success. But success does not happen without going through a mental strength workout.

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“What you think you become. What you feel you attract.
What you imagine you create.”
Buddha

A Two-Year Love Affair with BAE

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“I don’t know where the limits are, but I would like to go there.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

Marathon WR holder, First sub-2-hour marathoner

It has been a long time preparing for Baystate Marathon in Lowell, MA. I felt in love with BAE from the moment I knew of its existence. I dreamt of racing it, feeling the cool brisk air of this picturesque-cozy town of Lowell, MA, and crossing the finish line with the biggest smile I could possibly give. I was in love with it. I would do anything to make this dream come true.

I was preparing to race BAE in 2018. But training got derailed due to a tibia stress fracture. I was devastated, of course. But the temporary setback only fueled the fire inside. I learned so much about myself and about running. I value running more than ever before and my WHY is more meaningful than any race or medal. Nevertheless, I will push myself with care.

After 12 weeks of rehab, I started working with Ame For It run coach Dave Ames. Dave is a phenomenal coach. Because of him, I had the best workouts I ever dreamt of, hit paces I thought it was never possible, became ballzy enough to race in the middle of marathon training, trained the entire summer hitting the pavement under extreme heat and humidity levels, and I felt the thrill of earning AGs awards. My training was on point, and most importantly, my mental game has transformed tremendously. I knew I had the fire in me, but it was Dave who added wood to the fire.

My mindset was ready for BAE, my body was gearing up and adapting well to training. I had outside motivational energy that I like to tap-in but don’t necessarily depend on it. The reason is because I believe it is important to have my own WHY.  As much as I prepared my body for BAE, I invested just as much, if not more, in mental fitness. I listened to podcast, audiobooks, watched races, practiced visualization, meditation, yoga, and worked with a sports psychologist Adrienne Langelier – a contributor to Kara Goucher’s book Strong and sports psychologist to many other Olympic athletes.

Listening to audiobook Atomic Habits by James Clear (a must if you ask me), he said: “We imitate the habits of three groups in particular: The close. The many. The powerful.”. This is exactly one of the main components of my mental training and one that made the biggest difference on whether I was mentally ready for BAE or not.

In my sport, one of the athletes I look up to is Eliud Kipchoge. Eliud is the whole package in the sport of running and in my opinion, on the realm of sports and life. Period. He is the zen master of running and living. He is the world record holder in the marathon set in the Berlin 2018 at 2:01:39. He is also the first man to ever run a marathon under two hours with a time of 1:59:40 a pace of 4:34 per mile. It is beyond incredible and hard to comprehend how this is even possible. Eliud accomplished this challenge on October 12. It was a week before my race day. In my heart, I felt that I was training with Eliud. The time frame could not had been more perfect, and as James Clear mentioned, I imitated Eliud. I imitated his mannerism, his attitude towards life and training, his body language and calmness on the face of such pressure.

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Every run and every workout were a mental challenge which I had to bring a different mental attitude every single time. However, the bottom line of every run and workout was to do the best I could for that workout or run on that specific day. The process was about eliminating distractions and learning how to handle them. That was the epitome of my mental fitness – one that separated a breakthrough from a breakdown.

As the law of gravity does not lie, everything that goes up must come down at some point. I felt riding the high for a great portion of my training. My mentality was dealing with the problem when the problem happens but doing the best to prevent such by paying close attention to my body’s recovery turnover. I raised a concern that a 50-miler week after racing Craft Classic Atlanta half was pushing my limits. I was naive enough to allow the ego to take control on that choice, doubted my intuition and disrespected running. I proceeded with training focusing on a run at a time as I preached throughout this training cycle. All the miles were easy miles up to Saturday’s freakin 22 miler.  Let me be clear that it was not “just” a 22 miler. It was a 6-mile warm up and 16 at MRP to close the week at 50; something I had never done it before. EVER.

It got it done and I paid the price. I proceeded with intense recovery, taper week (which was a joke!) and upkeep runs while paying close attention to how my body felt; needless to say, horrible.  As intuitively as I am, I should had known better that my left quad – the one that literally spoke to me during that massive downhill at mile 11 of Craft Classic Atlanta, was the one that would get angry.

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My attitude and mental fortitude towards running and training cycle has been to focus on the positive, be mindful of potential problems AND eliminate drama. I hate drama just as much as I hate laziness. Instead, I worked with the problem I was facing with only 20 days to go to Baystate. I can never thank my husband enough, who is a sports massage therapist specializing in Muscle Release Technique and Active Isolated Stretching, for bringing me back to health as fast as it was possible in such short time. Of all the recovery methods I did (cupping, tens units, stretch, ice bath, Epson salt bath, physical therapy and ibuprofens) my husband’s WORK was what allowed me to run Baystate.

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I don’t think there is anything worse than toeing line knowing that your leg might not hold up and having  to consider to the possibility of earning a DNF. My legs would either cooperate or breakdown BUT mentally I was ready for either scenario. I know better that as an athlete my attention must go to focusing my energy on a positive outcome. That was all I had in mind. ONE. DAY. AT. A. TIME. ONE. MILE. AT. A. TIME.

The morning of October 20th was magical. It was 36 degrees, sunny, no wind, no humidity just a beautiful day to run or race. Although in my case the opportunity turned out to run and race if my leg permitted. I remembered crossing the start line with a big smile already. It was surreal to be there and feel the entire Universe’s energy coming together for this moment for me.

In my mind, I had all figured out to as much perfection as I could. I coated my skin with Vaseline to protect me from the environment and keep me warm. I wore shorts, a singlet, arm sleeves, gloves, headband, a throw away hoodie and my #badass attitude sunglass. I didn’t throw away my hoodie until the halfway marker. My pre-race nutrition was on point with extra servings of mash potatoes, oatmeal, bread, a donut, and fruits. I fueled on Maurteen 320, Gel 100 and Caf Gel 100.

I was lucky enough that my husband was able to cheer me on and provide me with my bottles at miles 3, 13 and 22. I used my energy well and was being patient with the process. There were a few miles that my legs wanted to pick up the pace to the high 8’s but could not sustained. It was all about going by feel and let it happen. Entering miles 18 forward, I started to feel the heaviness of my legs. Trying to pick up pace was not possible; trying to maintain the 9’s pace was becoming a challenge. At one point, I felt my legs wanting to buckle and I had to give in into walking. The monotony of the continuous movement of one foot in front of the other was getting exhausting and hard. I could see my goal of a sub-4 slipping away second by second. It was just another distraction which I needed to Recognize, Release, Refocus. (thanks to Adrienne for teaching how to work with distractions).

I continued to run and take some walk breaks along the way as I tried to speed up the process to see my hubby at mile 22 and get a spray of biofreeze. As I got near him, I cried and frantically yelled biofreeze as he desperately took it out of his backpack. I stopped and he sprayed it on my left hip/glute/back and quad area. I moved on forward and regained by #badass runner attitude for as long as I could disguise it.

I felt stuck at mile 24 and that’s where everything really felt apart. It was not an energy crash, but legs were done here and the only thing moving me forward was the will to see that finish line and guts. Time didn’t matter but it did because I still wanted that huge PR and end this exhaustion. I literally had a conversation with my legs and begged for them to please hold on for a little longer. I promised to give them rest but that we needed to get this done first.

Once again, I switched my mental fitness gear but to the maximum this time. I remembered how Eliud draws the energy from the crowd when the tough gets tougher. I remembered my coaches and friends telling me to get the crowd involved. I remembered all the loving and supporting messages from my husband, friends; especially the IG friends. I’ve been remembering them all along this journey; however, it was from mile 24 to the finish that they became more vivid and stronger. There was no stopping me.

I felt strong as I engaged with the crowd. I felt an immense sense of gratitude for being able to do what was about to become another dream come true. The suffering ended when gratitude became the light and closure of this chapter. This is what I wanted. This is the opportunity I’ve been working so hard for. This is my pure effort, sweat, tears, pain, joy and energy manifesting into a reality for me to see, feel, experience, and for others to see it too.

At the finish line of my second marathon, the Tomoka marathon, the first thought that came to mind was, “that’s it?”. Who thinks that? I clearly did. But as I was approaching the finish line of Baystate, I couldn’t help but have the biggest smile I could possibly give. The feeling was overwhelming and contradictory in itself. I remember feeling a transitioning moment, if ever there’s a way of explaining something I haven’t practically  experienced.

I was happy to cross the finish line and I was sad to put a close to this hard-fought and beautiful journey at the same time. If there is way to explain life and transitioning but still be here, I’d say this was as close to the transitioning moment I got. I was born at the start line,  lived through the 26.2 miles, transitioned at the finish line, and reborned again from the moment my feet passed that line. I left everything behind me and I gained so much as I head forward.  The cycle continues if I choose so. I choose to continue.

 

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My husband missed seeing me crossing the finish line due to parking issues. It took almost thirty minutes for us to meet. When he found me wandering around by the post-race food stands, I walked as fast as I could to give him a hug. I cried. He cried. I said as I sobbed: “it was so hard.”

Marathon training reality hits when one takes on the distance against time. It is only when the element of time is added to the distance that growth can truly takes its transform. As Bobby Doyle said: “You can’t teach guts.”

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Final Score:

4:09:01 – PR’ed by 0:52:47

And this quote by Geoffrey Kamworor, sums up EVERYTHING!

“Work Hard. But not everyday.”
~ Geoffrey Kamworor

Half Marathon WR holder, 58:01, 2019 NYC Marathon Winner 2:08:13

Craft Classic Atlanta Half Mary Bang!

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“Being specific about what you want and how you will achieve it helps you say no to things that derail progress, distract your attention, and pull you off course”.

~James Clear, Atomic Habits

After a year and a half drought from racing half marys, I was ready to race Craft Classic in Atlanta. I was ready to put into a test the fitness buildup I’ve worked on so hard with Coach Dave and to have a glimpse of what was possible for Baystate in the upcoming month.

Every race has a purpose and I chose them carefully. There’s the analytical approach of selecting a race, and most importantly, an energy connection of why I choose a certain race. Craft Classic Atlanta was the perfect race for my timing. It was an out of state race, it lined up well with my marathon date and training schedule; the weather was slightly manageable to race, and the course appeared to be hilly. It was hard to detect how challenging the course was on paper or from the images of the course preview. However, it still provided an idea that I would have to work. How much work? Well, that became clear only on my way to Atlanta and while touring Atlanta with a runner’s eye.

Months after months I have been putting in the work on the track, pavement and on the dirt roads of the Serengeti (Clermont Clay Loop). The amount of physical effort I have worked on can be seen through my data. However, the amount of mental effort and work I have been developing is still a work-in-progress and yet, cannot be quantified. In anticipation of Craft Classic and Baystate, I worked with sports psychologist, Adrienne Langelier, a contributor to Kara Goucher’s book Strong, who has also worked with many other athletes and Olympians. I wanted to work with the best and do my very best on this journey. I was ready to play hard.

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I did the work. I studied the course to the best of my abilities with what I had. I was ready to play and have fun. It was party-on-the-pavement day, as my friend Leah says. As every race goes, peeing minutes before the gun goes off is a must. It isn’t a surprise that the potty line was a mile long; therefore, I crossed the start line by myself. No biggy.

From the get-go I was faced with a downhill, and of course, the uphill is right around the corner. Perhaps with half mile in, I saw my hubby cheering me on which helped me a little bit to remain calm. But the enthusiasm was short lived because right after waving at him, I was faced with another uphill. It was steep and I was analyzing how to maintain the pace my coach assigned for this race. This is where MENTAL FITNESS started to payoff and getting put into practice. As my coach said, the first 5K is about feeling it and getting into the flow. My psych coach said to be aware of distractions and work with them, while my philosophical and gut instinct is to breathe, stay calm, work with the problem to find a solution.

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After 3.1 miles of feeling it out and seeing nothing but hills and downhills, and cuts after cuts, I realized that, THAT IS IT! THAT IS IT, Celia. This is what you got. The entire course will be composed of uphill, downhill, curves and cuts. There was a sense of tranquility after acknowledging this distraction. I knew what I needed to do, and that is, work with the course. This has been the staple of my runs, daily trainings and life. I work with what I have; I take pride on that, I don’t force anything; I’ll take what is given to me, and I will find a way to get it done to the best of my abilities given a particular circumstance.

At the 10K mark, the goal still had not changed. My focus was still on managing my energy, my race and focusing on a PR. However, another distraction showed up and now I was facing the “pace chart” distraction. I was off the pace that my coach assigned. I start to feel concerned and noticed my breathing trying to get out of control. So, guess, what? I worked with it and I eliminated it. I stopped looking at my watch for the pace. I had to precisely focus on feel while knowing that I had to push and embrace discomfort a little kinder.

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By mile 10, the pounding, the cuts, the ups and downs started to take its toll. By mile 11 my left quad was feeling the pounding of the massive downhill I was running on. I looked at it and I could sense that there could be consequences. It was then that my mental fitness shifted to the next gear. The power of meditation practice and visualization techniques were being presented to me. I could hear my coach telling me how great it would be to race a hilly course. At this point, I felt an immense sense of gratitude and the struggle shifted to enjoyment instead of pain. This next level of gratitude allowed me to relate and visualize my favorite athlete’s struggle while doing the same thing I was doing. I imagined Eliud Kipchoge’s mannerism and eloquent form at the 40km marker of his race. I felt fortitude in his strength and created the same for me.

I carried this feeling with me to the finish line and crossing it strong as if I had done this before. This race is so special to me on so many levels. It is the first race I have ever won a first place in AG. However, it is the mental strength I brought in today and how I handled distractions that made extra special.  I was mesmerized by the hills and its difficulty. Hills are a matter of perception. It is subjective from person to person. Love or hate them, I choose to love them.

Final Score:

1:49:31 – PR – 1st AG – my very first AG on any race!

“Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from an indomitable will.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

Fast Forward to Baystate

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“You gotta know who you are.”

~Demone Harris

It has been a busy year. Marathon training consumed all the energy and time I had, and life is happening at the speed of light. But in a nutshell, here are some of things that happened in between the big day at the Baystate Marathon in Lowell, MA.

Training. Training. Do I need to say more?

Orlando Runner’s Club 5K – June 22 (Orlando, FL)

OMG! What was I thinking? A 5k in the middle of Central Florida summer? Yes!!! If it wasn’t for Coach Dave, I’d never had the craziness to take on upon a 5K in the middle of summer. The warmup shenanigans revealed all that I need to know. It was hot and sweaty, so get ready to suffer for the next 3.1 miles.

I lined up where I belonged, and that is, the front row. The first mile was faster than I should had ran at 7:32; faded at mile 2 to 8:02 and tried to decrease to a decent pace for mile 3 at 7:48 and closing the next .10 mile at 6:56. It was painful. It was extremely hot. It was #badass. It was a PR. It was a place at the podium.

Final score:

24:05 PR – 2nd Place AG – mental fortitude gained

Baby Goat 5K – July 27 (Tampa, FL)

After having a blast at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp kick off the day before, including meeting OLB Demone Harris and taking a selfie with WR Chris Godwin, it was time to show to my own party. Again, it’s July in Central Florida, the heat and humidity are off the charts. Summer in Florida is guaranteed to rain and rain heavily. This week and the day before the race, it was no different. It rained a lot!

Nothing new here again as far as prepping and doing my warmup. But today, things felt different. My warmup simply felt horribly hot, exhausting, uncomfortable and heavy. The race didn’t start until 8:00 a.m. which might as well consider a 12:00 p.m. start time.

Right off the bat the race organizer disclosed the potential danger on the course. A puddle. There was a puddle within the first quarter of a mile from the start line. I didn’t make a big deal of it.

Gun went off, here I go, feeling ok but somewhat heavy but still in pace for another PR until I saw the puddle. It was a swamp. Literally. I was scared to run on it and misplace my footing. The water was dark like a lake. I walked through an ankle-high puddle as I internally cried feeling sorry for brand new Adidas Adios 3.

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I tried to pick up the pace, but my legs had nothing to give.  All I could feel was the wetness of my shoes, hear the squish-squish sound, and feel my legs heavy as a brick. By mile two, I knew this was how the race was going to go. It was not my day. The mental strength was there but the physical strength was not responding to it.

Bottom line: learn from it, have fun and get to the finish line!

Final score:

25:29 – 2nd Place AG (but award only for the first place)

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Track Shack Celebration of Running 5K – August 17 (Orlando)

You know it is still a furnace in Central Florida this time of the year. It literally feels that we’re just starting summer. The only difference is that I now have a good mental and physical memory of what it feels like to race a 5K in the summer.

The only elephant in the room was the internal pressure I felt to PR. I mean, Baby Goat 5K had to be a fluke and an off day because I can certainly do better than that! The good indication, besides the heat and humidity is that I felt so much better during the 2 miles warmup as opposed to the previous race.

As usual, I lined up in the front and went for it. At one point my pace was a 6:47. But it didn’t last long as the course started to pick up some steady elevation. I finished mile one at 7:32. There was more baby hills along the route and of course, I was overheating since mile 1. That brings me to close mile 2 at 7:43 and mile 3 at 7:47 with the last .14 at 6:36. By a miracle it was an 8 seconds PR. I can say that I am done with 5K’s for this summer AND still pursuing that perfect 5K negative split.

Final Score:

23:58 – PR Redemption – no AG because there were way too many people.

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Craft Classic Atlanta Half Mary – September 7

You know what? This race was too good and special. It deserves its own post.

Racing 5Ks are hard. There is very little to no time for adjustments. The race can go your way or against you in matters of minutes. It teaches perseverance. It teaches grit. It teaches patience. It teaches figuring out, learning, reshaping, recreating who you are!

During my brief interaction with Demone Harris as he autographed my hat, I asked him: what do you do to keep your mental toughness sharp? Without hesitation he responded: “you gotta know who you are.”

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BDR 5K – Sure, why not?

Courage Above Fear

~unknown

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After Park Ave 5K I was sure I’d kill the next 5k and execute from beginning to finish without mercy. Yeah, I was that driven and had the means to back it up. Except that the unforeseeable developed before I had that chance.

Injuries, setbacks, forced pause, rest, regroup…whatever TF one wants to call it, are part of the risk we take as an athlete. Sooner or later, it will show up. Sooner or later that menace that makes us stronger in the process, although it’s hard to believe while in it, will find a host to sneak into the weak spot of the body. And it will say, hello… I am here, stop!

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So yes, I kinda of nailed that Wednesday’s fartlek –

2 mi up * 5 x 3’ at 7:29 w/ 2’ recovery in between * 4 x 2’ at 7:29 w/ 1’ recovery in between * 6 x 1’ at 7:29 w/ 1’ recovery in between * 2 mi down

Kinda of nailed it because I was up at 4 o’clock in the morning, did my pre run routine, warmed up on the spin bike, defied the cold, darkness and rain – not necessarily that I hit all the paces. It rained the entire time I was out there on the track. It is a cheap public-school track that is more used for the school buses to do laps before kids are boarded in, rather than actually for kids/students and tax payers who want to reach their dreams one day. With that being said, I was also dodging puddles because of course, that track isn’t rock star track. There’s more elevation and uneven areas than Mt. Everest.

This workout totaled to 9 sweet miles. That’s like a long run for me, but Saturday’s long run would be 12. Counting with strength training, miles, poor rest and life, my poor legs were taking the beating and by the following week, it said enough. Here I go dealing with a sore right calf just a week out from BDR 5K.

Rest didn’t work fast enough. The test run on the following week told me that my leg wasn’t ready yet. All the sudden, there was no plan for BDR. But my awesome coach suggested to play-by-ear, and if all goes well, just run BDR. I liked the idea. There was no pressure. I would be there just to really tested out my legs, avoid the waste of money I had paid for registration and still somewhat utilize the anticipation hype I had build up for BDR.

RACE PLAN:

  • Do the regular shenanigans I do for every workout. Nothing new here.
  • MILE 1 – Run without pain
  • MILE 2 – Run nicely
  • MILE 3 – Don’t cause damage and go get your bling.

That’s exactly what I did. Have a nice and easy run to test out your legs and have fun. There’s no shame if I needed to stop for a break. Just do me with the reserves my body had.

Ohhhh my goodness… it was a hot day too! And let me say that BDR 5K start time was at 9 o’clock. This is the equivalent of a noon start for a Florida race. By then it was 71 degrees with the humidity in the getting to mid-80s. So here goes nothing…

MILE 1 – 8:03 = Whaaat??? 8:03 pace? Needless to say that I was running on pure feel right here. I had no business in pushing the pace because my leg simply was not in the mood for it. But hey… I’ll take this since it wasn’t screaming yet.

MILE 2 – 8:15 = Yup, shit is getting real. The freakin heat and humidity is real too. I am thinking… I’m lucky to even be here and ran a 8:xx pace. I was also thinking, where’s the finish line?

MILE 3 – 8:18 = dang it! Part of me wanted to stay in the 8:15 or get a little closer to a round 8. But really, I was exhausted from the heat and humidity. My poor legs were done and needed TLC. The last .10, which my Garmin detected .17, took forever and ever to exist, but it [finish line] was there waiting for me at 25:56 / 8:22. Most certainly not a PR performance. However, based on the state of my leg, this was a sweet victory. And afterwards, my leg felt way better than I expected – for this speedy pace at least.

Well… now I can chill out, enjoy the festivities, visiting vendors tents, trying free goodies, searching who else is here, walked a lot as a cool down, and slowly went to the get my time slip – just to have an ideal of the official damage. To my surprise it read: AG position 2 of 88. [updated later to 2 of 92]

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Whaaaat??? My eyes were bigger than an orange and I had to ask the volunteer, does this entitled to a reward? She replies, yes, I think so. You can check with the volunteers at the reward table.

To say that I was in shock and overwhelmed with gratitude is an understatement. My expectation coming to this race wasn’t even to race but to run. I wanted to enjoy my run, run without pain and cross the finish line. I never even thought it was possible to take the podium without a PR.

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Life is damn good and a bitch, sometimes, but mostly great! Thank you!!

25:56 / 2nd in AG

“It’s about what we do with opportunities revoked or presented to us that determine how a story ends.” 

~David Goggins

Bring it On Pre Vibes – Park Ave 5K

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”

Brene Brown

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Hubby and I at my fav place to run – My Kenya in FL!

Hello 2019!!! How’s that new year’s resolution going?

I can tell you that mine isn’t going. I don’t necessarily do new year’s resolution. I go one day at a time; creating new goals as I go along and as I see fit – a day, a week, a month, a semester – at a time. But I have the big picture in mind!

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First things first with the new coach, or should I say, THE COACH! Yes, Dave is THE COACH! His philosophy – the more you do something the better you will become. That means, more racing in my calendar. So let’s see where we are at with a quick-EZ 5K and go from there.

I chose to race Park Avenue 5K. It’s s local race, simple, small and relatively cheap. I heard it was nice, great post-race goodies from Seasons 52 and a medal. Of course, I would not race that doesn’t do chip time.

RACE PLAN:

  • Do the regular shenanigans I do for every workout. Nothing new here.
  • MILE 1 – 7:40 = settle in and relax
  • MILE 2 – 7:30 – 7:35 = focus on the mile I am in.
  • MILE 3 – sub 7:30 = let’s go, get tough!

Based on my previous workouts, the splits are doable. I didn’t think I could not hit these splits. However, on race day, things turned out very different.

My last race was March 2018. Then I got injured. This was my first race of the year, first post injury, first 5K in 2 years, and first with a new coach. I didn’t think that anxiety would get to me, but the sucker did. I was nervous. I was late. I was looking for a bathroom with 15-minutes to start the race. I made it to the start line but not to the START where I should be lined up. Yup, in the back of the pack with the people that want to walk, walk/race with their dogs and moms with the strollers – that’s where I was. I am going to stop right here because you know where I am going with this.

MILE 1 – 8:48 = Gee, I am lucky I even got a sub-9 pace for the first mile after dodging people back-and-forth and wasting energy.

MILE 2 – 8:00 = WOHOO, 8:00 even! Ahhh… but the effort going into this, it was not fair! It wasn’t fair I felt as if I was holding my heart and lungs on my hands for just an 8:00 pace. At this point, the entire race turned into a survival-mode; wishing for it to be over soon and, for making sure that I didn’t make a fool of myself. And by making a fool of myself I meant, get that damn PR by all means.

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Really trying not make a full of myself – a PR by all means is a must!

MILE 3 – 7:44 = Where’s that finish line? Where??? I pushed and I pushed, but it didn’t feel I had energy in me. My legs felt heavy, my heart and lungs were burning, and my legs were begging to stop. But my ego wasn’t about to allow this to happen. No freakin way! I focused on breathing. With perhaps .40 mile to the finish, I heard this guy encouraging his friend to push and to pick up pace. I said: let’s go, let’s do this, I need help too! His friend didn’t respond to any of the pleading, but he ended up joining me and eventually pacing me to the finish. It was so nice to find a stranger that actually helped me to focus on my breathing and pick up my pace. He stepped back with less than .10 of mile of crossing the finish line to help his friend. Crossing the finish line never felt so good!

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.12 – 6:43 It’s done. It’s over. Thank goodness I didn’t make a fool of myself. Never, Never give up! It’s a 20 seconds PR, I know I can do lot better than this, but for today, this was the best I could give.

25:20 / 8:07 / / 10th in AG

Next, please!

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”

Brene Brown

And the Winner is….

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“That thing we call intuition?

It’s your soul.

You can trust it.”

~Unknown

I thought hard and cautiously as to which marathon race I’d like to be my third, and one that will give me the best chance to come close to a BQ or possibly a BQ.

I was aiming to run Revel Series Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, AZ. It’s in mid-November, temperatures could be favorable and it’s gradually downhill. I’d have to focus on some hill/downhill training, which I could get some done here in Clermont, FL.

But then I started doing a little bit of more of research and I came to read a Runner’s World article which listed the top 10 great marathons that will help to BQ. Surprisingly, a runner I know, suggested the one I was more inclined to consider. At number 5 of the Runner’s World list, and out of gut instinct and intuition, I chose Baystate Marathon in Lowell, MA.

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The more I read about it, the reviews, the course, the location, the scheduled time of the year, the average temperature; and yessssss, did I mention the location?? How could I not fall in love with a marathon raced in the state of Massachusetts! It’s my dear state and place. I cannot help but to think that the stars might be aligning just right that I actually earn a BQ (dreaming is allowed) in the state of MA to run Boston!

It’s a midsized marathon that features two loops along the Merrimack River. It is described as “mostly flat”, but with enough variation that will not overtax one muscle group. From some of the reviews I’ve read, it is not really a “flat” course. Also, from my analysis of the course elevation, it compares to an elevation similar to Clay Loop. Yes, the 10-mile of rolling hills loop that I’ve came to love since I first ran in Clermont. Actually, Clay Loop is slightly more challenging than the elevation displayed on the website. So here I am thinking, Clay Loop will be the bread-and-butter of my training!

So far, this is one of my favorite review of Baystate marathon from marathon Guide:

Great Race to Qualify for Boston (about: 2015)
Course: 5 Organization: 5 Fans: 3
K. L. from Needham, MA (10/21/15)
11-50 previous marathons

This was my 37th marathon and 1st Baystate. If you want to qualify for Boston, this is the race for you. Course if flat but has enough rolling hills to mix it up a little and give certain muscle groups a break. Water/Gatorade stops were great with fantastic volunteers. I was worried about the traffic before the start so got there in the recommended 90 minutes before and was able to find plenty of parking super close. They even let you in the Tsongas Center which was great since the start was 30 degrees. All in all one of my top 5 favorite marathons!

I allowed all of this information sink-in for a few weeks before actually making the commitment. On Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 16, and Boston Marathon day, this was the day I registered for Baystate. The registration day was no coincidence. It was purposely orchestrated. I knew this had to be the day to register for Baystate. And how fun was that to have Desi Linden winning the Boston marathon!! All the feels, babe!

I will do my very best, as I always do, to make this my “beautiful race”.

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#keepshowingup

“Intuition does not come to an unprepared mind.

~Albert Einstein

“When your intuition is roaring loud,

Follow it.”

~Unknown

 

Best Damn Race: Yes and No, but Yes

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“When falling short on a race goal, peace is found knowing and feeling you never gave up, not matter what the odds, and by giving your all.”

~Celia Westbrook

February was a hard month of training and a hard month dealing with health issues. My mom was here visiting us from Brazil, and although I (we) made it work, it was hard to balance out family time and training. Had not been for health issues, I think I’d had done a better job at that.

Despite losing one week of training, I did the best I could to control what I could control. I’d say that for this race I nailed on nutrition because I was already prepping to race without my husband’s assistance carrying my fuel and meeting me at a certain mile marker. I also nailed mental toughness. Hours of mental strength training listening to audiobooks – my last one before this race was Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover, a MUST listen/read to anyone – watching marathons and Kenyans running documentaries, all paid off.

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This race has taught me how to best deal with race technicalities and to really consider the challenges that the course brings. I knew there would be cobblestone/brick roads, I just didn’t think that while running it would feel THIS overwhelming. I ran OUC last year which includes a similar route to Best Damn Race, but this was the worse. OUC counts for 2 miles of cobblestone/brick roads, this one is probably 4 miles worth of it. I PR’ed at OUC (1:50:54) and I ran on the course the whole race. Hence, I was out of running for two weeks after the race due to a horrible case of tendinitis on my left foot that had signs of stress reaction. Yeah, that’s horrible. Whereas at BDR, I minimized this terrain, but it cost me time AND no injury!

It took me a while to see the good things about this race’s performance. Gratitude is everything to me and it enriches my perspective. I could not be happier than knowing that my mom was there waiting for me to cross the finish line and that she would be wearing my medal. That was the best gift of all and I will be forever grateful. Without further ado, let’s run with me in this recap!

MILE 1-5 = 8:57 / 8:50 / 8:37 / 8:41 / 8:43

The weather was a nice 53 degrees; my mom could not believe I was removing my jacket and singlet. I finished my GU mix of water, did a last-minute potty stop to empty the bladder (I’d only pee in my pants if a BQ was at stake), grabbed my mix of GenUcan 10oz disposable bottle, and an overcrowded starting got me in the back of the pack. Hence, dodging through runners and running on the sidewalk trying to minimize running on brick/cobblestone road for the first .50 mi of the race already! More bricks and more sidewalk to come plus getting stuck behind a pack at the entrance of Lake Underhill Park. I tried to keep my cool and a lot of the negative thoughts shut. It was a hard.

MILE 6-10 = 8:25 / 8:21 / 8:21 / 8:15 / 8:20

From mile 6 forward it felt like I saw green pasture. I tried my best to stay below 8:25 pace, but the tough route with more cobblestone road in sight made tough. By mile 10 I had already finished my mix of GenUcan and I felt a steady flow of energy but my legs were definitely about to get tired.

MILE 11-13.1 = 8:30 / 8:31 / 7:53 / .10 @  7:24

Yup, my legs were getting tired and for some reason it felt that I was running a 8:10 pace to only realize it was 8:30/8:31 ughh. From the get go of this race, it felt out of my control and playing catch up in doing the best I could to adjust to where I wanted to be and feel. I’m still trying to figure out why miles 10-12 are the hardest for me. I didn’t feel a crash; otherwise I’d not had ran a 7:53 for mile 13.  At mile 11 I knew my chances to PR was non-existent, but I guess denial or persistence won because I never gave up giving my all.

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I am thrilled and grateful!

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“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not the attainment. Full effort is full victory.” 

Mahatma Gandhi

A Thousand Miles Year

“Once you make the decision that you will not fail, the heart and the body will follow.”

~Kara Goucher

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What a year 2017 was!!! It was a great year, it was a majestic year, it was a PR year – and if you had ever told me that I could run the massive miles I did, I’d have a hard time believing it. The good news is, I made the decision that I CAN run all the miles. I CAN and I WILL succeed!

There’s no short cut to BQ. I have to face the distance and time challenge, and I am doing it with love, grace, perseverance and with a wicked smaht attitude! Without further ado, let’s get to the point!!

  • December 2016 – I made the smaht-a$$ decision to work with Run4Prs, Coach Victoria. The best decision evah!
  • Trimmed down Race Schedule – Coach V knows what’s best! I had a bunch of races scheduled for 2017 and she recommended that I let go of many. In January, Shark Bite half marathon became a 5K; in March, Swamp House half marathon became another 5K, and the scheduled March’s Tomoka half marathon was still on the menu.
  • Turns out that I totally forgot how difficult a 5K can be. I had never trained for a 5K before, and I noticed how excruciating and glorious a 5K can be. But I got it done in 26:20 and I took a bite of the third place AG award. Not too shabby!!

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JANUARY MILES = 75.8

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  • The training continued in February – building up mileage, working on speed and heading to a PR month on a short month!

FEBRUARY MILES = 90.1

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  • After building up some mileage and speed work, I was gearing up for my second 5K of the year. My legs were feeling trashy, but I knew I could get Swamp House 5K done. Sure enough, 25:40, and I missed first place AG by 1 freaking second! Or should I say, by 1 freaking stride!
  • And here comes the good stuff when a PR is crushed: THERE’S NO PAIN WITHOUT A PR! Got it??
  • I pushed my body like never before, and unfortunately, I got to experience what most football players go through at some point in their career: GROIN injury. It is a pain in the butt. It is not to be taken lightly. It does not forgive! It took me a good 6 weeks to start to feel normal again. It was hard to do anything and don’t get me started trying to get weight workouts done – just not a good idea.

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  • I felt the pinch right after the race, but it didn’t really flared up until two weeks later when I was gearing up to race Tomoka half during a 7 miler run and it only got worst within hours. Tomoka was a no go.  Want to know what my rehab routine was? Check it out my blog entry.

MARCH MILES = 40

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  • By end of April, I was starting to feel a lot better. Easy runs, low mileage and a lot of strength training going. I was heading on my way up even though the mileage does not seem to reflect so. And Christmas arrived in April for me as my husband surprised me with an awesome treadmill. YES!!!

APRIL MILES = 34.2

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  • The month of May was all about building up again in a much healthier and smarter way. I started doing cryotherapy and chiropractor adjustments which later became a mandatory thing once a month. PT and strength training was part of the routine and the Roll Recovery, aka R8, was my life saver rolling on that groin area, glutes, hammies and quads.

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MAY MILES = 60.4

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  • With the month of June comes the hot and humid days and running in tough conditions required a more strategic approach – treadmill miles! It was the best purchase evah!!! I was able to increase mileage without beating up my body. Training for a BQ and running Boston had become more real than I could have ever imagined as I reach my first evah 100+ miles for the month!

JUNE MILES = 102.1

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  • June Miles got me really high, and entering my birthday month, I really had to make a splash and celebrate all month long. July was hot and humid as hell. Cryotherapy never felt so good – and don’t get me started with the ice baths! From June forward, the build-up for half marathon training was on full gear.

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JULY MILES = 107.39

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  • Oh August…. such a long and hot month! I continued to do the work, strength training, mileage logged, and all shorts of recovery methods with special attention to meal-prep, anti-inflammatory diet and naps after runs over 10 miles. Say YES to Gluten free, ginger and turmeric people!! AND for a second sesh of Cryo for the month! BAM!!! AND for a 4-hour nap after a LR (6 miles) during my cut-back week! Yes, I was drained.

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AUGUST MILES = 120 (58 MILES ON TREADMILL)

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  • September was just as hot as June, July and August, but the work still needed to get done. By now, I was already starting to feel the drain of training for so long, even though cut-back weeks was a big part of my training scheduled. My debut half marathon with Coach Victoria was the Jacksonville Marine Corps half marathon on October 14. I knew there was a chance the weather would be very hot for me, so my expectation for a sub-2 was dependentable on the weather conditions.

SEPTEMBER MILES = 121.3

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  • It’s finally October and time to race. I was a nervous wreck and I strategized every detail of this race to help increase my chances of a sub-2. I could not have done it without my loving husband’s support. JAX Marine Corps was pure grit and determination like no other! Time: 1:59:35 – down to the wire.

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            OCTOBER MILES = 78.3

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  • I was excited for November. First of all, there is hope that the weather will cool off down here in FL. Second, it’s Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season which I love! Thank goodness I have the OUC half marathon right after Thanksgiving to keep me trained by eating healthier. This month was simply a rollover from JAX Marine Corps training – just 6 weeks between these two races.

            NOVEMBER MILES = 118

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  • Bring it on December! I love this month and I love running OUC half marathon. What I don’t love is the 2.5 miles of brick road. I was distracted with so many things that I totally forgot about it. I found the perfect shoes in Asics DS Trainer 22 for tempo, speed and race. I didn’t think or trained with it on brick roads. I just wanted to PR and PR big because OUC is my fav race and it is the last race of the year for me. The race was a success. I PR’d by 8:41 and crossed the finished line at 1:50:54. That’s exactly a 10:00 PR from previous year. As I told you, THERE’S NO PR WITHOUT PAIN! My left foot didn’t like the beating and it responded with the worst tendinitis I’ve ever felt. Anti-inflammatory, a MRI and two weeks of no running was my rehab. AND…. I was back in business to finish the year strong!

DECEMBER MILES = 81.1

And just like that…. 1,028 MILES for 2017!

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The joy and gratitude I feel is immense. These numbers were hard to get and I could not have done it without my husband’s love and support. I’m grateful for the team behind my success in this journey: my coach, my podiatrist, my chiropractor, my massage therapist, my physical therapist, my run squad, my friends, my family and my IG friends. I feel so grateful for all of you.

I am so ready for 2018. It will be a big year!

“Be unrelenting. If you don’t believe, then who will”.

~Kara Goucher

Breaking2 13.1: Piece of Cake Recovery

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“No Rest is worth anything. Except the rest that is earned.”

~Unknown

JAX Marine Corps half marathon is in the books and it will be one to remember. The hard training, the mental challenge, and the climate adaptation to the minor details – it has all paid off. It’s not one thing I did, it was everything I did under my control.

After 12-weeks of training for a total of 307 miles for the cycle, 13.1 (Garmin stats 13.26) in 1:59:35, I am fortunate to exit this cycle and finish a race 100% healthy! I never thought that my body would be able to hold on to such a demand – miles and speed training. And that’s exactly what I need my body and mind to do in order to keep moving forward to attain my dream – to adapt, grow and recover.

If you dig in deeper in my blog, you’ll see previous posting on recovery methods (stretching, rolling, tens units, chiro adjustments, cryo therapy, ice baths, Epsom salt baths, nutrition, etc) sharing what I have been doing, my routine and focus to avoid setbacks. The result of this race and thereafter has shown me that what I’m doing is working for me, and it’s possible that it could work for you too! My post-race issue: sore calves. That’s it!

As soon as we got in the hotel after the race, Kurt was kind to give me a sesh of active isolate stretching on both of my calves and also some pliability work as Tom Brady uses daily and explains in his TB12 Method book. I could feel the release of lactic acid immediately and also the flexibility back.

Leading up to recovery week, I did not rush the recovery process. I allowed rest on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before I went back to running. It the meantime, my recovery days were like this:

SUNDAY (day after the race)

  • 20-minute Spin Sesh – 21:33 / 6.5 miles

5:00 low resistance – warm up

5:00 moderate resistance

5:00 hard resistance (hill)

5:00 low resistance – cool down

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

  • Tens Units Sesh – 1:00:00

It’s Sunday afternoon football, so I got to use the time wise J

MONDAY

  • 20-minute Spin Sesh – 20:45 / 7.0 miles

5:00 low resistance – warm up

5:00 moderate resistance

5:00 hard resistance (hill)

5:00 low resistance – cool down

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

  • Tens Units Sesh – 50:00

TUESDAY

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

WEDNESDAY

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Yes to Mental Break Day!

  • Mental Break Day – off from everything including stretching! I used this day to allow my body to soak in everything I have been doing up to this day. My mind clearly needed a day-off as well in order to regroup from training, race and recovery.

THURSDAY

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Back at it!

  • First recovery run – 5.0 miles / 52:33 / 10:30 / AVG HEART RATE / 156
  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

FRIDAY

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

SATURDAY

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Super fun run with Krista!

  • Mid-Run Recovery Run – 8.0 miles / 1:16:01 / 9:30

SPLITS: 9:55 / 9:43 / 9:42 / 9:26 / 9:19 / 9:24 / 9: 13 / 9:17

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 30:00

Extra focus on calves

SUNDAY

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

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NUTRITION

Nutrition is just as important to me as stretching, rolling and strength training after a race and whether it is for rehab or pre-rehab. You know that I was chugging all week on beet/ginger/turmeric smoothie, added some extra plant-based protein (yummy to red lentils and Ripple pea milk) to my diet and amplified on foods high in anti-inflammatory nutrients. Two weeks before the race, I started to give my body an extra dose of anti-inflammatory natural remedies. It has paid off big time! This time I purchased a tart cherry concentrate; used two TBSP mixed with 6 oz of water every day and I continued doing so from now on. Of course my calves were still sore, but the fact that it only took 3-4 days to heal is remarkable to me. It’s proof that my methods of recovery are working for me.

It has been an enlightening process and I’m eager to take this learning and work-in-progress to my next half marathon – the OUC half marathon in December here in Orlando. It will be my fourth consecutive OUC and I can’t wait to PR and have tons of fun in my neighborhood. #ontoOUChalfmarathon

“Let yourself rest.”

~Unknown

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Chasing My Breaking 2 Half Marathon

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          Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon                          October 14, 2017

“Look in the mirror…That’s your competition.”

~Unknown

It has been a long journey in the quest for a breaking 2 half marathon. I’ve given all I’ve got to shed 55 seconds of my previous half marathon PR. I’d say it has been worth every single second, minute, hours, and days of hard work. I will forever cheer my first sub-2 half marathon.

Taper week was as crazy as it got. A combination of runner’s crazy and PMS symptoms made the week interesting to say the least. However, I was grateful I didn’t have to deal with it on race week, so that was a huge plus, lol! On race week, I ran Monday and did a last fartlek run on Tuesday, which I considered a success. At that point, I was done physically and mentally and all I could think was to rest my legs and do a final tune up on core and some PT workouts for legs and hip. My shakeout run on Friday went well, but I couldn’t believe that my legs felt heavy even after a Wednesday and Thursday rest day from running. But Coach Victoria calmed me down by sharing that the body goes through some crazy reactions from tapering. Thank goodness I am not crazy!

My husband has been so supportive throughout my entire training cycle, and of course, since I restarted running back in 2014. Our last half marathon running together was the Jacksonville Marine Corps in 2015. He left me eating dust in the last 3 miles to reach a PR of 2:16 and I was so happy for him. This time, he was my “manager”, riding on his bike along the course to provide me with positive vibes, ice and nutrition. It makes a huge difference not having to run with a disposable bottle of UCan mix.

On race morning I was feeling more nervous and excited than previous races. There’s a different level of expectation since I’ve been busting my booty and it would not be normal not to bring the results based on the work done. However, nothing is guaranteed, especially on race day. The weather was what it’s expected in FL, hot and humid at 76 degrees and 78% humidity at 5:00 a.m. If I had an enemy precluding me from reaching my goals, it would have been the heat and humidity. But I was also confident because that’s the weather I’ve been training on for the past 6 months.

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My husband kept me calm, he did everything to help me get settled at the start line and gave some positive advice: stay calm, focused and keep a relaxed breathing. These words were so valuable to me more than he can ever know. From the moment the gun went off, I ran calmed, focused on a relaxed breathing state. I was then body, mind and spirit going through the streets of Jacksonville on a quest to break 2.

Race Recap

  • Mile 1- 3 (8:59, 9:03, 9:15) = started out a bit too fast and followed my husband’s advice to stay calm, focused and a relaxed breathing throughout. Breathing technique really paid off, especially on the steep overpass at mile 3 & 12. Never missed a water station and used some water to pour on my head. Next time, I need to do a better job in avoiding water go run down my legs. I realized how soaked my feet were at mile 13 – no cool! I was able to avoid a blister big time!

  • Mile 4-6 (9:02, 9:01, 9:04) = got into a steady rhythm and used the 2:00 Pacer group as a guidance. Body started to get acclimated to the heat & humidity. I knew then, this was an okay pace to stay in but I needed ice asap (to put inside my sports bra) at mile 5 and UCan drink if I were to sustain this pace. Kurt got ice from a 7-Eleven as he was on his bike following my journey & providing support – positive energy, ice and nutrition.

  • Mile 7-10 (8:57, 8:56, 9:12, 8:58) = UCan at mile 5 and GU at mile 6 started to kicked in, I tested out to see if I could leave the 2:00 pacer group, but with a slight road elevation and a sudden feel of energy going up and down, I decided to keep the pace at 9:00’ish as I slowly consumed GU with chunks of ice – a second round of cup of ice at mile 9 provided by Kurt.
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Probably approaching mile 10 or 11, I can’t remember too well.

  • Mile 11 -13 (9:09, 9:16, 8:40) = Kurt handed my second serving of UCan (used a 8 oz disposable bottle but only fill up about 4 oz of UCan as I didn’t want to upset my stomach on larger dose) at mile 11. Really had to start talking to myself here, put on the effort to bring pace down, but at mile 12 going over the overpass, the 2:00 pacer group caught up to me. Out of about 25 people in that group, there were only about 4 of us left. By halfway of mile 12, I finished my serving of UCan with a Kipchoge’s attitude like he did at the last lap of Breaking2; I tossed the bottle away and hauled ass to the end. That was hard! I asked Kurt to stay close and to talk to me because I was getting disoriented as the sun was shining bright on my face. I don’t even remember feeling my legs at this point; I felt all upper body moving me forward. Finally after my Garmin registered 13.1, I then saw the finish line that never seemed to be anywhere near. 1:59:35 and that’s that! Kurt gets to wear the medal, every time!

 

  • Mile .26 (7:59)

2 Goals accomplished:

  • 1) breaking 2
  • 2) PR
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It was a feeling like no other! 1:59:35 PR by 0:1:19

Another runner also got more than 13.1 registered in her watch, because I swear it looked like they had the course longer even though their official measurement marks 13.19 on the website. My Garmin stats were 13.26 / 1:59:36 / 9:01 pace. By Training Peak application which I use with my coach, it had me at 1:58:14 for a 13.1, so yes, that’s a huge difference which I could have almost missed my goal due to course technicality. The good thing is, I know that I did perform much better. There’s no doubt my average pace was at 9:01.

RACE STATS: 13.1 / 1:59:35 / 9:07

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Bib # 1059, coincidence?

Crossing the finish line was a relief and happiness all mixed together. It was an honor to earn the 2017 Jacksonville Marine Corps Half marathon and to receive it from a Marine. Running is easy in comparison to what they do and go through. My hard work paid off today. I couldn’t have done it without the expertise and kind support I receive from Coach Victoria. Since starting working with her in December 2017, I’ve reached paces and goals I never thought possible. She’s ahhhhhmazing!! Her philosophy works and she could not had chosen a better brand name – Run4Prs. So far, every race – 2 5K s; third and second in AG; and a half marathon, placed 16th in my AG, have been a PR for me.

And the best part for me was meeting my husband at the finish, hugging, thanking him, and of course, placing the medal on him. He is my hero!

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“With a strong heart and a good mind, you can do it.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

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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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

Lighthouse Loop Half Marathon: A scare at Mile 8

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“Run with your heart instead of your mind. When you think with your mind, you think of the things you can and can’t do. But when you run with your heart you forget about what you can’t do, and you just go out and do it.”

~Gerry Lindgren

It’s a very strange feeling of training your heart out day in and day out, and yet, feeling untrained for the day you’ve been anticipating for. That’s what I was experiencing leading up to Lighthouse Loop half marathon. I was excited, I was nervous, I was pretending to stay calm, but the voice inside my mind was not 100% confident. Of course it had to do with my nagging hamstring/quads injuries and lack of adequate recovery for the past 3 months, but I tried to focus on letting the anticipation energy out and really go out there to have a fun race.

Even though I tried not to, I couldn’t help but to feel an obligation that I needed to ran better than my last half marathon (2:08:25) because I had been working with a run coach since April. But my kind-self also made aware that it was very unfair to put so much pressure on myself in light of all the circumstances I had been living in for the past months. Let’s face it, I didn’t have a perfect training cycle under a stable condition for training.

My husband’s support throughout my training cycle has been priceless. His patience, his understanding, his words of encouragement and his time, are gifts that makes my running life easier and happier. His company during my shake out mile at the middle school’s track by our new home gave me confidence that I would not have any problems running Lighthouse Loop on the next day. I felt great running a 1-miler on the track at 8:57 pace. We headed home and he worked on me for one hour and half doing his specialty in Active Isolated Stretch and some light massage. I’m so lucky he’s a massage therapist!

There was nothing out of the ordinary on race day. The same routine, nutrition and focus was applied because we runners know better: nothing new only tried-and-true! My husband dropped me off at the start line and went to park at the finish location because it was a 30-minute walk from the starting to the finish. As usual, he wished me a great run, and that’s really all I needed to hear. It makes me feel so much better about a run whether it’s a training run or a race.

The gun went off, the race started and I there I went on another 13.1 mile journey. I kept myself calm throughout the run. I started slow (nothing new there, lol) and gradually started to get a better feel about the race, the weather and my body’s response to a list of stimulation. The first noticeable challenge that this race would be a challenge was the heat and humidity. I tried to focus on the beautiful scenery of the coast line and the settle breeze coming from the ocean. Well, that soon disappeared and we were left with a 64F degree weather and 100% humidity.

Training on summer months and intense humidity does pay off on race day because if the weather is similar as on training day, it really is not a surprise. You would only have to adjust your pace and comform that a chance to PR would be slimmed. But in my case, there was no expectation of a PR here, just to get it done and crossing the finish line.

Tightness on my calves was not a surprise either. Lately, it had been taking between 2-3 miles into a run before they felt loose and allowing me to get some rhythm going. Therefore, with a pace in the first 4 miles as 10:46, 11:03, 10:51 and 11:09 wasn’t something for me to be alarmed. Going into mile 5, I started to push a little more to a 10:25 pace as my calves finally started to like the run. At this point, Jesse called my attention and we ran together for the next 2 miles at 10:30 and 10:26 pace.

Unfortunately, somewhere at mile 8ish I felt a rare knot and tightness below my left calf and near the Achilles. I had to stop on the course several times to massage the area, but it didn’t help much. I walked and the pain didn’t feel any better either. I ran and it felt that at any given moment something was going to tear up. By then my pace went up to 11:53. I had never felt so scared during a race and I had never felt that there was a possibility that I would not be able to finish a race. Seeing a runner sitting down on the side-walk surrounded by other people waiting for the ambulance didn’t help either, but it reinforced  me to get moving while hoping that she was just feeling heat exhaustion and needed a rest.

The pain was getting unpleasantly painful with each step forward. At times I felt like crying, but the pain I was feeling was nothing in comparison to the pain my husband went through days/hours before his surgery and during post-surgery recovery. Absolutely nothing like it! Witnessing him going through months of ordeal and still keeping his head high with positivism and optimism when some doors were getting slammed on the face, it was humbling to say the least. His struggles became my struggles. His perseverance and optimism because my (our) strength. We lived those challenging moments by ourselves and with no help from family or friends. It was just us, my mom’s prayers sent out way and God.

I kept running. It was a slow pace, but I kept running because walking was just making it worse. My pace for the last 4 miles were at 12:36, 11:13, 11:53 and 12:08. Crossing the finish line and hugging my husband was all I wanted and desired at that moment. It was a very emotional race for me. It was also the first race that I didn’t use music as a distraction. I felt a lot more connected with my surroundings, my body and soul. It was an enlightening experience which perhaps I was not ready yet to handle the emotional and physical residue from it.

I was grateful, a little upset with my time (well that’s my ego telling) and I was happy all at the same time in crossing another finish line in 2:28:17. I received the finish medal from a beautiful girl with such a pretty smile on her face. I couldn’t help but to smile bigger. I gratefully grabbed the lighthouse shaped medal and I started walking looking for my husband. As usual I have a hard time finding him when on a crowd, so he found me as I gathered with other members or our running family who had grabbed my attention.

I hugged him, and of course that my first words was how horrible my time was before realizing how happy I was to see him and to share how hard the race felt. I immediately placed the race medal around his neck. This medal was for him. Although I ran the 13.1 miles, but he is the one who deserves.

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There was a lot going on around us and I needed to find a calm corner to settle myself. We headed to a less crowded spot in the parking lot and I was finally able to just look at him in the eye and say how proud I was of him for enduring such challenging times with a tremendous positive attitude. Some tears rolled out, but it didn’t take long for Kurt to start showing his goofy side by taking some silly pictures of me and distracting me from my cranky calf before we head out to our car for food.

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Every race is special in its own way. But some races have a stronger power in changing a runner’s perspective. It’s up to the individual to thankfully receive its gift or ponder on it. I choose to receive and learn from it.

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“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100%.”

 ~Arnold Schwarzenegger

Run Pack Rest Repeat

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“Happiness doesn’t have just one address.”

~unknown

We can all relate to the saying ‘when it rains it pours’ at some point in our lives. I’d say that we got soaked this summer, but in a good way.

Before my husband’s unexpected surgery, we knew and were in the process of moving from our old place and buying a new place. We just didn’t expect that a lot of events were going to happen almost at the same time. Weeks prior to finding out that he needed surgery, we got a signed offer to sell our place. We were thrilled as we’ve been waiting for that moment for quite a while. But the excitement took second place when we found out that he needed surgery. All the “what ifs” and anxiety started to loom around our minds. We decided that we would not let fear dictate our fate and choice. Three weeks after the surgery, we were practically homeless and living with my father-in-law.

I was running like a chicken-without-a-head in the midst of this messy transition. It would not have been so challenging if my husband wasn’t recovering from surgery and if were to have some family or friends’ help. Packing, packing and more packing – it felt like a never ending process. He did help as much as he could when it was time for him to stand up and take a walk break. I’d put some items on the counter for him to box or he would help me holding a box for taping.

Ahhh yes, you must be wondering, how my training was moving along? It amazes me how I was able to manage most of the scheduled workout and runs during these weeks. If I didn’t make the time for a run at 5:30 a.m. or to go to a 6:00 a.m. gym session, it would not had happen! And to tell you the truth, there were some days that it was impossible trying to get workout done, packing, cooking, being a caretaker and having enough time for rest. Rest… what is rest?

These are personal matters that one might think that it has nothing to do with running or blogging about running. I will defer on that. It was one of the most challenging moments in our lives. The stress of dealing with health care bureaucracy, his recovery, selling and buying negotiations, figuring out where our two cats would live in the meantime, looking for a new place (yes, thank goodness we had already found our dream house and we were in the process of placing an offer) – everything takes tons of energy and running performance does diminish.

Having ran two marathons (my husband ran one), it helped give me some mental toughness edge that otherwise would have been difficult to keep focus during trying times. As a runner, we commit to crossing that finish line not matter how hard and painful the path becomes. I (we) just could not stop now at half-way point of our own special marathon event.

We kept moving and packing forward. And when it was time to move out, we were out the door ready for our next adventure, even though some uncertainty was still in the air of where life would take us. It was a fine line of being in control and not having control of a situation. It was like riding a rollercoaster – it will stop when the ride is over. Running is like that. Every time we lace up our shoes, we never know what will be ahead of us, but we know to keep going until we cross the finish line or arrive at our desired destination. What happens in between, it’s up to us to choose on how to handle and adapt.

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“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” 

~Unknown

 

 

 

2016 Tomoka Marathon: Is this it?!

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“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you have imagined.” ~Henry David Thoreau

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

  ~ T.S. Eliot

It has been many months, many training runs and many mornings of anticipation for one morning of running. I was ready for Tomoka and nothing was going to stop me from finishing it – not even the weather.

The typical Florida weather did its thing as usual – toying with us on whether it was going to rain or not and on whether it was going to get hot like furnace or not. Considering its unpredictability, it could have been worse. At the start of the race at 6:30 a.m. and still dark, it was a stuffy 66°F and 94% humidity. I didn’t take chances in relying on water stops every other 1.5 mile so I carried my own fluids. I was stocked with nutrition – my favorite Sweet Potato & Sea Salt Cliff nutrition, Mango Huma gel and Chia peanut butter chocolate bar. I also had two electrolyte and two ibuprofen pills – just in case.

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Huma gels are my favs – and it’s 100% vegan!

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Yummy stuff!

The 1-miler mark came pretty quick, actually, and I was greeted by a faint, and yet, a powerful tone of voice saying: 25 more miles to go!” It was my husband. It was great seeing him, but not being reminded of the mileage ahead of me. I was getting hot already, and the fact that the sun was not out, wasn’t very optimistic. I stopped to remove my running top. It felt better and lighter, but I was still hot and my heart rate higher than I wanted. On the next water stop, I made sure to grab the half-filled-tiny-cup-of-water and poured it over my head.

The beauty of the Tomoka course filled with mature trees, beautiful architecture, and the fragrance of water from the marsh and the Halifax River helped distract my mind from the heat. I decided that the weather and my body would serve as a guide towards the best way to approach this journey. I did my best to cover as many miles as I could before the sunlight was full out. I was grateful that my body was somewhat okay with that strategy since calves and shin discomfort had been an issue.

By the 10-miler, I felt an unusual right knee discomfort, and by then, day light was out, but a little cloudy with possibility of rain. I acknowledged the discomfort while asking my knee to stay strong and let go of the pain. Again, the beauty of the course grabbed my attention to the nature surround me. The anticipation of meeting my husband at the 13-miler helped me to refocus and the information on the Pose Method of Running book kept me mindful of my running form. The pain went away and I felt like I could run strong.

At mile 10ish

At mile 10ish

At about the 11-miler, raindrops started to fall. It felt refreshing while I wished to stay that way instead of becoming a heavy rainfall. Having it finished my sweet potato/sea salt Cliff nutrition, I decided to take the two ibuprofen pills and one electrolyte pill at the 12-miler. I wanted to be pro-active and assure that it was a fun race.

I mistaken my husband thinking he was one of the race personnel camera guy taking my picture at the 13-miler water/Gatorade stop – all I noticed was the camera. I kept going and only slowed down when I heard him calling my name. It was encouraging to see him. He provided me with my during-activity drink and ice. It was so hot that I used the ice to put it inside my sports bra. Whether it was the sports drink placebo effect or not, I felt confident and reenergize. Knowing that I would see my husband again at the 16, 19 and 21-miler was also exciting. His support helped breakdown the long distance and solitude.

My husband's support and encouragement made a HUGE difference!

My husband’s support and encouragement made a HUGE difference!

Despite of having the luxury of such support (not everyone is as lucky as I am); the truth of the matter was that my pace was all over the place. The best pace came at the 17-miler as 10:19 min/mi, the medium pace at the 23-miler as 11:38 min/mi and the worst pace at the 26-miler a “yippee” 13:41 min/mi. Right off the start, I felt this race was going to be one that I had to do everything I could that was under my control not to go sour.

I wished for a sub-5 marathon, but the “wall” raised up around mile 23ish with the sight of the bridge on W. Granada Blvd. I kept pushing through. When I made the turn to climb the bridge, the will power to move my legs was non-existent. I only had the energy to walk through the highest point of the bridge. I picked up pace again at the top of the bridge only to take a quick walk at the end of the bridge. I decided to just go ahead and finish it, and somehow, I found the power to run towards the finish line.

Bridge view

Ugh!

I wanted nothing more than to finish and to put an end to my husband’s and my coach’s wait. When I saw the rug that covered the timer and crossed the finished line, a quick thought came to mind: “is this it?” It felt unreal. I saw my husband on the side line and in a split of a second, I saw Coach Chris holding my medal. She gracefully put it around my neck. I started crying immediately; gave her a “sweaty” hug (she didn’t mind), and soon after, my husband as he made his way through the volunteers giving out medals to other marathoners. I was hugging my husband in tears. Coach Chris’ husband, Steve, was there too. He had the thoughtful idea of suggesting that she award me with the medal. For that, I am very grateful. It was so unexpected and the days of training came all together in that moment.

Is this it? - that's the thought it came to mind as I saw the blue rug on the finish line.

Is this it? – that’s the thought it came to mind as I saw the blue rug on the finish line.

Six years ago I struggled to finish my first marathon at 6:46:48. This time, I finished with a little more grace, smiles and relatively pain free with a timing of 5:01:48. I only had a one-stop potty break at mile 15ish – and that was a real bathroom (no lines) inside the state park. Yippee!

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Kurt was exhausted! 🙂

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Coach Chris PR’ed!

It’s a big step forward for which I am grateful. This accomplishment would not be possible without the caring and support of my husband, my family, my running family and friends. The journey has only began. I am so happy!K&C Selfie
Tomoka Medal

“A marathoner is a marathoner regardless of time. Virtually everyone who tries the marathon has put in training over months, and it is that exercise and that commitment, physical and mental that gives meaning to the medal, not just the day’s effort, be it fast or slow. It’s all in conquering the challenge.”

~Mary R. Wittenberg