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

 

 

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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