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Archive for January, 2010

I’ve Got the Spark

Sunday, January 31st, 2010


Feeling a bit charged up and happy as I sit to write this one.  I often wonder how bizarre I look when I sit down to write because I know my face shows all of my emotions as I am thinking, smiling, trying to remember, and figuring out the right words to use.


Anyway, I started the last day of January getting up at 5:30 a.m. for a quick breakfast of Sharkies, a little caffeine, and lots of water while I checked facebook (of course!).  I read the funniest essay that one of the high school girls I coach wrote for a scholarship.  I mean, I laughed out loud on this one.  She’s so creative and while I say it was funny, it was also very good and I’m sure it made her stand out from the rest of the applicants.  My husband and I were then off to Alafia State Park for the Florida Challenge Trail Run 5K.


I was definitely looking forward to this race.  All of the TampaRaces.com events that I have done have been so great.  They are well organized events in such nice parks.  They hand out the awards quickly, offer good post race snacks and drinks, and have some of my favorite types of awards – campfire mugs and the overall and masters trophies are some of the best I have ever seen.


Anyway, we arrived in plenty of time and I did my usual warm up.  The race started on time and while I was a little nervous, I wasn’t overly nervous because I wasn’t expecting too much.  I guess mainly because I have not felt that spark for my training or racing since the Disney Marathon three weeks ago.  Post marathon funk can really get you down.  My training has been decent in the past three weeks but nothing to write home about.  At the start I knew I had to get out quickly because it was a single track course.  I did not know the course because I am not that familiar with Alafia Park and the map was not easy for me to understand.  So other than what I had heard and read about it, I really did not know what to expect.  Then this young guy in front of me turned around and told me that he rode the course yesterday on his mountain bike and it was really rough.  He said “just be sure to pick up your feet.”  The older guy next to him turned to me and said “that’s what you want to hear, right?”  We both chuckled and the race was on.


I started out a lot faster than I normally would, but I figured I had to in order to avoid getting stuck behind people on the single track course.  There were two women ahead of me going in to the single track path.  I was sucking wind by the first mile.  There were no mile markers on the course – this is cross country, baby!  Trail races are absolutely not about pace and splits.  This was my opportunity to just race.  I cherish opportunities like that.  Luckily I had my Garmin and it beeped at every mile so I knew how far I was in the race but I never looked at my splits.  There really was no point, besides if I did, I probably would have tripped.  This course was incredible.  Hard core road runners would hate it.  I absolutely loved it!  The 5K course was almost like a flashback to high school.  Our home course at Monson High was just as uneven and loaded with rocks and roots but we had major hills in Massachusetts.


The course is a mountain bike course at the park that they closed just for us to use this beautiful Sunday morning.  It had so few straight sections that I do not remember them.  It was narrow (one person wide); it twisted and turned; it had so many quick ups and downs (mini hills to this former northerner); it was loaded with rocks, roots, leaves, and a little mud just for fun.  It was incredibly difficult to pass.  I had to run up a little closer than was comfortable on the person in front of me and then when a slightly wider turn presented itself, had to accelerate by.  It was challenging, tactical, and liberating.  Once I passed the two women in front of me about halfway through the race, I thought I was the first female, but was not 100% sure.  So I kept running as hard as I could for the last mile.  When I came out of the trail and headed for the finish, a couple of spectators yelled out that I was the first female.  After a quick sprint on the grass to the finish, I walked out of the chute exhilarated and quite out of breath.  Add another cool campfire mug to the collection.  ;)


I love that my husband is always right there to greet me out of the chute.  Sharing that joy and exhaustion with him makes it feel more amazing.  I had barely caught my breath but I could not wait to tell him how tough the race was and what the trails were like.  I know he could see the joy.  I could see it in his face too.  I set off to do a cool down jog and on my way back I heard the awards being announced.  I didn’t quite make it to collect my overall female winner trophy, but my husband picked it up for me.  These are the most unique trophies, made of a rock slab base and a laser cut metal girl running with a pony tail (a RunnerGirl perhaps) and a name plate with the race and award name.

Overall Female Winner Trophy


After a couple of award photos, I talked to several people who approached us and mentioned that they were fans of RunnerGirl and readers of my blog.  As we walked to the car, I don’t know who was more excited (my husband or me) or what we were more excited about (winning overall female or meeting people who read my blog and are fans of RunnerGirl).  Talk about a confidence boosting day!


The race alone had renewed my spark for racing and training.  I am all set to prepare my training plan for the next few months.  I needed a little inspiration to get me back on track after my post marathon funk.  It’s funny because a few years ago I had a similar situation where I had lost that spark and the Picnic Island Adventure Run had renewed it for me.  Trail races do amazing things for me.  Thank you TampaRaces.com!  Now I’ve got the spark…

I Did It. Now What?

Friday, January 22nd, 2010


The 2010 Disney Marathon was quite the experience.  The weekend as a whole was amazing and fun.  I was fortunate to share it with many of my favorite people.  But why did it have to be so COLD?!!!


My last marathon was in 2001 so I definitely forgot what it would feel like during the race.  I figured I was prepared.  My training had gone well and I had raced many half marathons since 2001, including two pretty speedy ones just a few months ago in November and December 2009.  I had been training in the cold, getting used to running in those winter running clothes – tights, long sleeves, jackets, hats, and gloves – but not liking it.  I moved to Florida to get away from all that!


I had forgotten how easy it is to let the pace get away from you during the first half of the race when you’re feeling good.  I knew I had to keep my goal pace no matter how good I felt or how easy it felt early on.  Part of me thought about going after my PR (3:18) but I was smart enough to stick to my race plan…even pace through 20 miles then pick it up if I felt good.  After all, my goal was a BQ (Boston Qualifier), not to PR.  I did not let myself get caught up in the moment or caught up in someone else’s race.  I stuck to my goal of 3:45.


I never used to be a “techie” runner but having a Garmin definitely helped keep me on my correct pace.  I am so glad I had it!  I probably checked it more than I needed to, but I felt almost like a “newbie” for this marathon.  So I stuck to my pace and only visited a few of the hydration stations since I was not sweating as much with the freezing temperatures.  I did have to slow through all of the water stops due to ice on the ground.  The spilled water and sports drink was actually freezing on the ground during the race.  For Florida, that is COLD.


Although I prefer running and racing in the usual hot, sunny Florida weather, I figured cooler would be better for the marathon.  Cool would have been nice.  Freezing was not so nice.  My quad muscles actually hurt during the race and it was not the normal pain, soreness, or stiffness I felt on a long run, but a cold, aching, tightness that would not let up.  Once I felt that, I knew I would have to work hard to run evenly, maintain my pace, and then once I hit 20 miles, I could pick it up if I felt okay.


Mile 20 ended up being my slowest mile of the day, but the last six miles were the fastest, which felt great.  I finished in 3:33:35.  I qualified for Boston.


After exiting the finish chute with mylar blanket, Mickey finisher medal, drinks, and snacks, I met my husband (my #1 fan) and two girls from the high school cross country/track team I coach.  It was great sharing the experience with them.  I know one of them will do her own marathon one day.  Once I told them about the race and they told me about their spectator excursions on the monorail and dealing with the freezing cold, I put on all the layers I had in my bag and I was ready to go.  I did not care to hang around the finisher hospitality area.


On the way back to our hotel, we stopped for breakfast around 10:30 a.m.  We were all so tired.  We had already been up for 7.5 hours.  One of the girls commented that she couldn’t wait to read the blog entries about that day.


It has been 12 days since the Disney Marathon.  I have not been able to write.  My sleep pattern has been off.  I feel like I have been in a bit of a fog; definitely lacking focus.  I remember back about 12 years ago when I was running marathons more frequently that the night or two after the race I would have trouble sleeping.  It was as if all those months of training and thinking about the marathon were suddenly over and my body and mind did not know what to do.


So, I did it.  Now what?


My training calendar has a few items on it, but it is not completely filled out like it usually is.  I have some races on there but no training plan to take me there.  The marathon can become such a big thing in our lives that we not only need to plan for physical recovery after it is over, but we need to plan for the mental recovery.  That is something I have not yet mastered.


This marathon hurt so much that when I was finished I was thinking that I might not run Boston in 2011.  I mean, why would I want to do this to myself again?  But now that a couple of weeks have passed and that vivid memory of what it felt like has faded, I have decided that I will run the Boston Marathon in 2011.  It will most likely be my last marathon, unless somehow that is an amazing and pain free experience.


I am so glad I ran the Disney Marathon because it was the right time for me to do another one.  I am so excited that I was so far under the qualifying time I needed.  I called Grandma to tell her about it and that I would be running Boston again next year.  [I grew up in Massachusetts where Boston Marathon Monday, well Patriot’s Day, is a holiday, so it has always been a big deal in our family.]  She was happy for me, of course, but in that worried tone she voiced her concerns about me running so far and on such a tough course.  I mean, I am getting older, I’m already 36.  But I smile because I know she remembers how out of it I was after running the Boston Marathon many years ago when it took me quite a long time to find my way back to the hotel where she and Bepa waited for me.  They were proud of me then and I know they are now.  Grandparents are the best.


When my muscles were aching during the race and a glance at my Garmin showed my pace slowing, I thought about what I was doing and why I was out there.  I kept telling myself that maintaining my pace and reaching my goal was how I could honor Bepa’s memory.  By doing my best I could honor God and thank him for my healthy body, the ability to run, and the strong spirit to push myself.  In the past I had always run for myself.  This time was different.  I am not sure exactly when that changed for me, but this marathon was definitely more meaningful.


I will end with two great quotes from the movie Chariots of Fire (1981).


Eric Liddell:  “You came to see a race today.  To see someone win.  It happened to be me.  But I want you to do more than just watch a race.  I want you to take part in it.  I want to compare faith to running in a race.  It’s hard.  It requires concentration of will, energy of soul.  You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape – especially if you’ve got a bet on it.  But how long does that last?  You go home.  Maybe your dinner is burnt.  Maybe you haven’t got a job.  So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities?  I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way.  I have no formula for winning the race.  Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way.  And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end?  From within.  Jesus said, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.  If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me.”  If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.”


Eric Liddell:  “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast.  And when I run I feel His pleasure.”


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