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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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

 

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