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

 

 

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To Work with a Run Coach Again or Not?

 

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December 16 workout run

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

 ~ Unknown 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Michael Phelps

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

~ Anthony Robbins

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

~Unknown

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

~Zig Ziglar

Goodbye 2016 Bring it on 2017

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

 ~ Steve Prefontaine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feeling pretty frustrated with training. 

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

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

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

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

 

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

~ Steve Prefontaine

 

OUC Half Marathon 40th Anniversary: A Breakthrough Race

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“Run Your Heart Out”

  ~ Unknown 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ~ Lou Holtz

 

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

Training While Living With the In-laws

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“Believe in Yourself a Little More.”

 ~unknown

 Upon the sale of our place, my husband and I moved to his dad’s house. What we thought it would be a fast transition with an estimated stay of no more than 30-60 days, it turned out to be 3 long months. We were very grateful for his accommodation, but my training routine and body was getting very cranky by the end of the second month!

My scheduled was jammed six-day a week. Mondays and Wednesdays were designated for strength training; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were my typical running days, and Fridays was allocated for stretch/foam roll/rehab work. Sundays was my sleep-in day but not really a rest day to simply do nothing. And please, let’s not forget to add the 8-5, M-F work schedule as icing-on-the-cake because the bills got to get paid!

The only way to get these workouts in was to get up every single weekday at 5:00 a.m., otherwise it would not get it done. After work, the only time I had was to grab somewhat a decent dinner, go to the in-laws to unpack the day’s dirty laundry and dirty snack/lunch dishes only to pack a new set of cleaning clothes and snacks for the next day. Feeding my puppy was next, shower, then trying to go to bed by no later than 10:00 p.m. to get somewhat a decent sleep and recovery time.

Once we closed on our house, the renovation process begun. We didn’t have a major renovation project, but we certainly needed to hire a contractor to get the heavy projects done. To that end, a renovation project that should had only taken an average of 4-5 weeks ended up taking 10 long weeks! The contractor took his sweet-time, working whatever hours he wanted (like 4 hours a day on many occasions) and taking an entire week off due to what he said was a family emergency. My husband and I were stuck! We had already invested half of the money and time, so we really had to just make the best of the situation and keep the complaint double-digit pace to avoid any attitude by the contractor. God forbid getting on a contractor’s bad side, right!?

My training and energy was taking a hit and my body was asking for help. Not having my own space or the time to decompress from one activity to the next was getting draining. In one of the assigned treadmill speed workout in mid-August my quads and hamstrings let me know that something was off. At first, it occurred to me was a normal soreness, but in the follow run (a 12-miler run on Saturday), quads, hams and back let me know that it needed a lot of attention. I settled for a 9-miler on that day.

I rest up from running for a couple days, but the recovery process was slow at that point. My rehab routine wasn’t working so I had to schedule a few PT sessions with my physical therapist. I was really scared because the discomfort was affecting my hip and back – and hellooo – my husband just had back surgery. In the process of addressing this injury, I got an infection in one of my root canals. Sure, why not! Some bed rest was then mandatory but the hamstrings and quads were still not healed.

Throughout the month of September, I was only able to login 40 miles in comparison to 67.4 miles in August and 72.2 in July – right in the midst of moving and all the other shenanigans. But in September, my scheduled got even crazier since the thick of the renovation was about to get “done”; therefore, it was time for my husband and I to get our sweat equity in the bank. I don’t mind grabbing the paint roller and some other tools, but doing it after a workday or on Sundays when this is so supposed to be your rest day, it didn’t settled well for me, but it had to be done and my husband needed my help.

I really should not be complaining because whether I was training for a half marathon or just running for the fun of it, it’s totally my own free choice to do so. My husband on the other hand, he was still doing PT and healing from back surgery, and yet, he was doing what he could to help us get set to move-in.

My scheduled half marathon race was the Florida West Coast in Sarasota, FL on October 2. When I signed up, I was sure we would be done with renovation and settled in – wrong! I had no choice but to defer to next year, besides I wasn’t 100% healthy. My other option was to run the Lighthouse Loop Half marathon in Port Orange, FL on October 30 so I signed up for it. I was confident that therapy would help me be ready by then. My husband also had set the deadline for the contractor to turn-in our keys and expressed our expected move-in date.

We finally moved-in on the eve of hurricane Matthew’s landing through Florida’s east coast. The walls needed to be painted, the floor needed to be done, the kitchen needed its make-over, the backyard needed landscaping and the house needed all the little projects that comes with finishing touches. However, we could not be happier to start living in our own home and waking up to the sight a nice pool in the backyard.

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R2-D2 is ready to move-in!

Although we were living in our home, my training routine was far from being stable and I was still playing the multi-tasking game. There’s no short cut to training. And unless you plan on having a miserable race or taking the time to finish it, it’s hard to depend on half training. Through these experiences and trying to get “everything” done, my body and mind got burnt out. The body and mind need rest and we can only push so far before realizing the consequences of our actions. With caution and no PRs in sight, Lighthouse Loop, here I come!

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“Difficult Roads Often Lead to Beautiful Destinations.” 

~unknown