EPIC weekend: amazing running friends and the best race ever!

St. Louis with friends

For months, a group of my running friends from Twitter have been planning racing Rock ‘n Roll St. Louis.  Luckily, none of us had to do anything except register and book our flights and hotel as our Type-A Canadian friend planned every single minute for us and was over-the-top organized nice enough to create an itinerary with all our events about 6 weeks in advance!  She even made dinner reservations for us.  We did have to purchase our tickets to the Arch and Riverboat on our own (oh, the horror! LOL!!), but a 5 year-old couldn’t have messed it up because her instructions were complete with screen shots.  IT.  WAS.  AWESOME!!!

Words can’t describe how excited I was to meet these people in person, and they did not disappoint!  I’m not going to go into great detail about our weekend, because my Type-A Canadian friend beat me to the recap and hers is better than I could have managed anyway. 🙂 (Plus, she had the selfie stick and is a great at photo documentation.)

I arrived Saturday and was blessed that my St. Louis-area friend Carli offered to pick me (and Mark, who arrived just before me) up from the airport.  She was so gracious and took us to check-in to our hotel then drove us to the expo for packet pick-up.  I picked up a long sleeve shirt at the expo to race in after near hypothermia coming off the plane……all I brought for the race was a tank (#TexanProblems)!

We then rushed to meet Jane, Pood and Jenn for the Riverboat cruise.  After the cruise, we walked the 1.5-2 miles back to hour hotel, then 45 min later walked the same distance back to the Arch area to eat – Chrissi and Carli, both from St. Louis joined with their families – and then back to the hotel!  LOL  I wanted to look less slobbish than usual, so I wore boots.  (Can I just say now that was a bad idea?)  By the time the evening was over, my shins were sore!  I NEVER have shin issues…..and I should learn to never say never.

I shared a room with my Sole Sister, Jenn, who is a New Yorker by way of California and we had the best time!  I swear we must have been separated at birth…except for our hair, which I will discuss later.  We got to bed as quickly as we could, but it was well after 10 when my head hit the pillow.

Best.  Race.  Ever.  

I actually got up late on race day.  HOW that was even possible, I’ll never know – especially when you consider that I woke up at 3 AM every morning the 5 days prior.  I had my Fitbit alarm set for 5:00 and 5:15 as a back up and woke up to Jenn’s alarm at 5:30.  Contrary to my usual obsessive-worrying self, I took it in stride, got ready quickly without rushing too much and headed down for breakfast.

Jane generally likes to get to the corrals an hour ahead of time.  Yes. An HOUR.  And it isn’t like she has to jockey for a place because she is ALWAYS in corral 1 (we don’t call her the Ottawa Cheetah for nothing)!  This time, though, the corrals didn’t open until 30 minutes prior to start and since Jane was “taking this one easy” (I suspect it was mostly because it was cold), Jane wanted to wait a bit before heading down to the corrals.  We were well after 6:30 before we made it down to the start.

The breathtaking view as we walked from our hotel to the start line.

The breathtaking view as we walked from our hotel to the start line.

I actually wasn’t nervous at all.  Somehow, I managed to let go of all the stress and decided that I would accept what I could get.  I could tell the weather was going to be perfect and my last few runs prior had been nothing short of amazing, so I was hoping to come in around 2:20.  I couldn’t have high expectations, because I was still working through the heel injury and had not “trained” for a half AND I didn’t even taper!  As we were parting ways, Pood asked if he could hang with me for a while, since he didn’t feel like running his usual 1:58.  It’s hard for me to type that without giggling.  I made it very clear that I had to stay in my heart rate zone but that my coach had given me permission to open up at mile 9, “if I was feeling it.” (In other words, Pood, prepare to run S L O W.)

The race finally started with this beautiful view of the sun beginning to rise behind the Arch.

Another gorgeous Arch pic!

Another gorgeous Arch pic!

And now, for the miracle.  I DID NOT START OUT TOO FAST.  (Go ahead, read that again.)  I even told Pood that we had to slow down!  What runners EVER say that about their race??  I knew that I had to keep my heart rate in check for the next 9 miles.  I also knew what my heart rate would do over the next 9 miles, and that there were some “hills” sprinkled in that would make things interesting.

Pood and I laughed, talked and joked through the first part of the race.  I told him at mile 4 that I was feeling REALLY good and if things continued, I would crank it up at mile 9.  At mile 7, I told him that I was definitely going to push on at mile 9.  Somewhere around mile 8, a woman started gagging as I was passing her.  Thank goodness it was a dry heave, because otherwise I would have been covered in someone else’s bodily fluids.  GAG

Around mile 8, I began to realize I had a shot at getting close to my PR.  I had to be mentally strong for this part of the race, because at this point, it took a lot to hold back until I reached mile 9.  It’s ALWAYS easier to push yourself.

Pood ran ahead of me at one point to get in line with a bunch of cheerleaders to give me a high-five.  How awesome is that?!?

At mile 9 I opened up the pace by about :45/mile.  I really felt that I could push it quite a bit more, but I knew that I would tank if I tried to run 4 miles at a pace much faster than where I was.  Mile 10 was a tad bit faster and I managed to kick it up a little bit more in mile 11.  Even though I could feel that my quads were getting fatigued, I felt that I could push myself harder those last 2 miles.  I was motivated, because I knew how close it would be for me to cross that finish line with a PR.  While I did not feel that the race was hilly at all, the inclines on that last mile were excruciating.  There was one last “hill” at mile 13, then thank goodness it was downhill to the finish!

I NEVER divulge my pace info, but that is changing today.  The splits for my last few miles were: 9: 10:24, 10: 9:44, 11: 9:38, 12: 9:09, 13: 8:40.  I’m really proud of those last 4 miles. 🙂  This is the first time I’ve ever managed to finish that strong at a race.  It felt so good, and I managed a PR!  My time was 2:13:17, beating my old PR by a whopping :43 seconds! LOL  I’ll gladly take it, as I NEVER expected to run this race that well!!

Pood and I after the race!

Pood and I after the race!

Fun always comes to an end

After the race, we found Jane (who had to wait an eternity for us to cross the finish after her 1:38 LOL) and some other local St. Louis twitter peeps.  We stood around talking and joking until all our crew had caught up with us and then we talked some more!  We finally started making our way back to the hotel to shower and grab a bite to eat.

Since I have the thickest hair West of the Mississippi, I showered first so that I could start the drying and straightening while Jenn showered and got ready.  She was able to shower, get dressed, dry her hair, straighten her hair and put on make-up before I finished straightening mine.  #thickhairproblems

My Sole Sister Jenn

My Sole Sister Jenn

Carli and Mr Carli (Greg) met us for lunch at the hotel restaurant (which was actually quite good) and we laughed and talked some more before realizing we needed to get moving if we wanted to catch the tour of Anheuser-Busch AND make it to the Arch tour on time.

The Budweiser tour was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip.  We toured the stables, which are immaculate and house a chandelier (yes, a chandelier in the horse stables) that apparently has a twin somewhere in Dallas.  We were given a sample of Budweiser during the tour but afterward we were able to choose a full glass from a much larger selection.  I ended up with an Apple Ale, which may have turned me into a beer drinker!

I am now on a quest to locate this chandelier's Dallas twin

I am now on a quest to locate this chandelier’s Dallas twin

Apple Ale....my new favorite!

Apple Ale….my new favorite!

After the Bud tour, we rushed to our Arch tour.  Another highlight of the trip.  I think the ride up in the little 1960’s pod elevator was the best part!  We then headed to meet the Carli, Mr. Carli (Greg), Chrissi and Mr. Chrissi (Jeff) for dinner, but stopped first for a drink!

The Arch's shadow revealed by the setting sun.

The Arch’s shadow revealed by the setting sun.

Sadly, all good things must come to and end and I was back on Texas soil Monday morning, but not before a Jen moment….. I printed my boarding pass at the airport so I didn’t notice that I had achieved the allusive and lofty TSA pre-check status until the screener pointed it out for me.  He told me that I could go to the pre-check line, but I was already there so I decided to continue on my fake-security path.  I regretted that choice almost immediately, however, when I was randomly chosen for an extended search.  The worst part was waiting for the screener to come to our line.  He simply asked if I had a cell phone, then he took a swab and tested it.  Luckily, I passed!!

Can’t wait until our next adventure!

Happy Friday!

Jen

 

 

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Rituals come and go but runners will always be quirky

Runners are a funny bunch.  I recently found myself thinking about rituals that have come and gone during my time as a runner and some of them make me scratch my head.

  • There was a time when I would not run if I didn’t have “Quench” gum to chew.  I was convinced that I could not run without it!  This habit quickly changed after I started consistently running longer distances.  Gum doesn’t taste good after 5 miles.  LOL
  • Another crutch was music.  Music was bad for me.  My cadence and pace were too affected by the beat of the music, which generally had me running too fast.  I ditched the music for good early this year and I haven’t missed it at all!  In fact, it has helped me become more in tune with what is going on in my body during the run.  I am more aware of changes in terrain, pace, heart rate, breathing, and most importantly – any signals that my body gives me about things being “off”.  Now if I could just learn to act on these signals quickly enough…  Never say never, but I can’t see myself ever running with music again.
  • Even though when I started running I ran on my own, I ended up with a partner when I was a fairly new runner.  I came to depend on her for all things running.  When the time came for us to part ways, I wasn’t sure that I could do it without her….I didn’t think I could manage mentally without her by my side.  Sometimes I miss having another person out there with me on the road, but I wouldn’t trade the solo experience for anything.  I proved that I can rely on myself and push through whatever comes my way.  And that is empowering.
  • Compressions.  If you had told me 5 years ago that I would go to Wal-Mart post-run in my compression shorts, I would have labeled you a crazy person.  NEVER did I ever think I would have a reason to wear compressions.  Let’s just say once you cross over to compressions, you never go back! LOL
  • Believe it or not, there was a time when I had NO idea that chafing could (or would) actually occur!  Vaseline has become one of my best friends on the long run.
  • Negative splits: I was once under the misguided reasoning that ALL runs needed to be run in negative splits.  That’s a terrible way to train and I paid for it dearly.
  • Distance versus timed runs:  I only recently began running timed runs.  Not always running a specific mileage has actually been freeing.  When I ran for distance, I would not have been able to stop my GPS at 4.98 miles….that would have sent my OCD into overdrive!  My run log isn’t as ‘well-rounded’, but I have found that I now focus more on the purpose of the run rather than details that won’t ultimately improve my fitness.

Ready for St. Louis!

If you had told me 3 weeks ago I would be feeling as healthy as I feel today, I would have attempted to have you committed.  My heel – actually my entire foot – felt terrible.  It took a full week after Plano before I could get through the day without pain. I could not see myself being able to run 13.1 miles, much less attempting to run it competitively.  I am still not supposed to try to compete as much as I am to focus on my heart rate zones.  My focus has to remain on Dallas Marathon, which is now less than 2 months away.  I don’t have time for another setback!

Change-up

I have known for sometime that my Newtons needed to go, but I hoped that by strengthening my calves and ankles I would be able to rehab the problem without changing shoes.

This week, at the suggestion of my new coach, I started running in On Running shoes.  They.  Are.  Ahhhhhmazing!  They are sooooo good for my feet!  I am running in the Clouds and they are very lightweight.  You almost feel as though you aren’t even wearing shoes!  The thing that sold me, though, was the ease of my foot strike in them.  I wore them on Monday to test them out and things felt pretty good.  I wore them last night on my Fartlek workout and I am really hooked!  NO heel issues whatsoever, during or after.  (Imagine me dancing and singing, “I’m So Excited”)

My On Running shoes.  They are awesome!

My On Running shoes. They are awesome!

All in all, I’m feeling strong going into this weekend, and I am beyond thankful for it!

Happy Thursday!

Jen

 

Testing my limits in freezing and fitness

Training

Many of you know that I have a new coach.  What you may not know is that he is making me work hard at some kick-ass workouts…..and I am loving it!  Saturday he had planned a cycle workout, which looking at beforehand I NEVER thought I could complete…..but I did! 🙂  I absolutely love pushing my limits to see what my body can do.  And I’m excited to have someone pushing me that can see the big picture (I am NOT a big picture person when it comes to my running), which means my workouts should help me get over this injury hump and hopefully stay on the not-injured side of life.

Yesterday I ran my “long” run, which I understand was conservative as a result of where I’ve been since running Plano 3 weeks ago.  It was a timed run (90 min) versus running a specific distance.  I am training almost exclusively by heart rate, which is probably the best way for me to train.  I tend to get caught up in splits (odd, I know, because I’m so S-L-O-W), but running by HR I can simply change the screen on my Garmin and I never have to see my pace! (Out of sight, out of mind….kind of)  The long run was hands down the best run I have had in months.  It was effortless.  My legs felt so fresh and my heel behaved quite nicely.  Don’t get me wrong, I am still fighting to put this injury to bed for good, but when I look back from where I’ve come I realize how much progress I have made.  At this point, I feel that I am working to keep reinjury from happening rather that working through the injury, if that makes any sense.

The beautiful sunrise on my way out for my run. God is good.

The beautiful sunrise on my way out for my run. God is good.

When your friends are named Elsa

We all have that ONE friend that continually talks us into things we probably would never do otherwise.  For me, that friend is Elsa the Ice Queen….I mean, Erica.  Erica has been trying to talk me into cryo for weeks.  In reality, I did want to try it, but I live in the sticks, people, plus I have 3 kids which results in me having a hard time just trying to fit my workouts in!  Saturday, Alli and I went shopping and I had cupcakes to deliver to Erica.  As we were trying to decide where we would connect, she *remembered* that she had a cryo appointment.  Alli and I were able to break away and meet her at the cryo place.  Since she was the only one there at the time, she graciously asked if they could fit me in…..OF COURSE they could!  LOL

I arrived with the cupcakes just as she was getting finished and she was wayyyyy too excited about me getting in to freeze my bum off.  The dude suggested that I limit myself to 90 seconds and since it was my first time, and I gladly agreed.

Perhaps my brain should have sounded an alarm when I was instructed to put 2 layers of gloves on my hands and these huge furry slippers on my feet – I’m assuming to avoid frostbite.

If only I had known how COLD I would be!

If only I had known how COLD I would be!

When I got in, the attendant raised the platform just enough so that my head was exposed and then the torture session began.  Before 30 seconds had even passed, my teeth were chattering and I was shaking all over.  So, so cold!!  (Have I mentioned how I HATE being cold?)  It seemed like an eternity, but at the same time it went by quickly, thank goodness!

My teeth were chattering! (OK...it doesn't take much to make my teeth chatter but it really was cold!)

My teeth were chattering! (OK…it doesn’t take much to make my teeth chatter but it really was cold!)

You do feel invigorated when you are finally out of the chamber.  The guy that was working said that it was because I had more oxygen in my blood.  Maybe that is true, or maybe it is because I was absolutely freezing and my body wanted me to get moving to combat the cold.  In any case, I did feel refreshed afterward and it was MUCH less painful than an ice bath!

Elsa, I mean Erica, had just completed a hilly half-marathon and swears that it helped her recovery.

Rock ‘n Roll St. Louis, baby!

My next race, <cough> I mean training run, is this coming Sunday.  I am flying out Saturday morning and can’t wait to spend the weekend with my favorite Twitter runners!  I know my heel isn’t ready for a race, so I am going to have to be happy with a training run.  But Crazy Jen is always lurking just around the corner and she wants to run this as a race realllllly badly!

How can I be disappointed when I get the opportunity to spend the weekend with some great people from across the country, even one from outside the country?!?  And this is just one more milestone in my coming back strong for Dallas Marathon, which is now a mere 2 months away. <GASP>

Happy Monday, all!

Jen

 

Blogging Milestones: Post #101

Blogger Fail

If I were to win a blogging award, it would be for the suckiest blogger alive.  Because I am so incredibly UNobservant, my 100th post came and went before I even knew I had posted the big 1-0-0.  If I cared about such things, my OCD would likely be in overdrive.  Luckily I don’t care about blogging statistics the way I care about my run data.   🙂

Sophie Update

Moving right along….I mentioned a few weeks ago that our Doxie, Sophie, was under the weather and needed to be crated for a ruptured disk in her back.  The poor thing barely had any strength or control of her back legs and it was obvious that she was in quite a bit of pain.  Trust me when I say it was utterly heartbreaking to watch.

Obviously she didn’t sleep with us, as she normally does, during this period of time.  I didn’t think that it affected me much…..until she was well enough to sleep with me again!  I could tell last week that she was feeling better every day.  She looked better, moved better and was clearly tired of that crate!  Saturday evening was her first night back in our bed and she curled up right next to me just like old times.  It felt so good to have her with me again!

Training Is Ahhhh-mazing!

Training is going well.  In fact, since having the ART last week (going again today!!!) and becoming more consistent with my strength training and yoga, running is feeling better and better.  I ran Sunday but didn’t have another run scheduled until Wednesday night, and I was ITCHING to run!  I haven’t had that feeling for a really long while….that feeling in your gut that you think you might actually die if you don’t get to run.  An injured runner doesn’t get that feeling, because your body knows when it needs to rest.  This tells me that even though my ankle is still a wee bit cranky here and there, healing is happening!

Last night, I had an AMAZING workout!! The workout was to run 800s on the track, but first I was instructed to run one lap barefoot (after the warm-up, of course).  I have to say that I was apprehensive about the barefoot lap, simply because it had never even crossed my mind and it pushed me outside of my comfort zone a bit.  I actually enjoyed it!  It forced me to focus on my foot strike and I could tell that I had made adjustments before the end of the lap.  Actually, running with shoes on felt a little weird afterward.  😉

IMG_5722

The running of the 800s went better than I expected.  I was shooting to run them at 5k pace and ended up under on each one of them!  The heel was a little cranky at the end, but after icing it at home and a night of good rest, it is actually feeling fairly normal today.  I expected it to be more irritated than it actually is, and that is REALLY EXCITING!!

Happy Thursday, all!

Jen

State Fair of Texas, Y’all

Everything is bigger and better in Texas, especially the State Fair!

I’m sure that other states have state fairs, but none are as famous and amazing as the State Fair of Texas.  For one, I think we have cornered the market on original food creations that are battered and fried.  Yes, in Texas we want your fair experience to contribute to your heart disease and eventual demise.  Seriously, though, it takes creative people to dream up these creations and talent to make them taste good!  I never did get my Fletcher’s Corn Dog because the lines were too long, but I did get to try a couple of the top 10 new foods this year.  Neither one disappointed, especially in the artery-clogging department!

Alli and I LOVED the Holy Moly Carrot Cake Roly!

Alli and I LOVED the Holy Moly Carrot Cake Roly!

Cowboy Corn Crunch in a corn husk container.

Cowboy Corn Crunch – corn, cheese, jalapeno and onion –  in a corn husk container.

Texans LOVE Texas and there is no better place to witness this than at our State Fair.  At least 50% of the fair-goers had some sort of clothing that represented Texas.  It was AWESOME!

I’m going to try to just hit the highlights:

We started the day with breakfast at IHOP, and I took a picture because I knew that my bacon, meat-loving Canadian friend, Jane would NEVER believe that I ate this.  And yes, I did eat sausage.  Mark it down as a Red Letter Day!IMG_5617

Our first stop at the fair was the Chainsaw Carver….Bobby was excited about this one!  It was interesting but I can honestly say I will never become a chainsaw carver.  He carved a raccoon out of a stump right before our eyes in the span of about 30 minutes, which was pretty incredible.IMG_5622

Our favorite carving that he displayed was the Doxie, of course!

Too bad it wasn't a Piebald Doxie!

Too bad it wasn’t a Piebald Doxie!

Next stop was Big Tex for the cliche State Fair pic.  This is as necessary as taking a pic in front of the castle at Magic Kingdom.IMG_5632

At this point, Taylor and Logan went off on their own while Bobby and I took Alli and her friend to ride rides.  The Texas Star provides a great view of Dallas.  I was so relieved that I didn’t drop my phone!IMG_5637

IMG_5640

After we spent more time that I cared to spend riding rides, we were off to the Lone Star Horse Show.  It was broken down into the different stages of Texas history and was entertaining to watch.  My favorite part of this show, however, was at the end when a performer started singing Deep in the Heart of Texas…..of course everyone started clapping and singing along, because, well, Texas y’all.

A Vaquero showing off his lasso skills. Of course I didn't take a pic of the lady singing Deep in the Heart of Texas....I was singing and clapping!

A Vaquero showing off his lasso skills. Of course I didn’t take a pic of the lady singing Deep in the Heart of Texas….I was singing and clapping!

The most rewarding performance was given by the Marine Drum and Bugle Corp.  It was deeply moving and I left with a renewed patriotism, plus a reminder of the sacrifices that the men in the Armed Services make for our country.IMG_5663

We ended the day with the Pig Races.  Sooooo cute and entertaining!  I had trouble moving on from the giant 1200+ lb. pig they brought out before the races….that could be a lot of bacon for Jane!IMG_5669

Training update:

The last couple weeks have been tough.  Running Plano was a bad decision.  I wish I had listened to my gut.  I always regret not listening to my gut.  My run last Monday was terrible….it was a mere two miles, but every step was filled with pain.  At the time, I was certain that I was doomed.  (Sometimes I’m a little dramatic.)

Tuesday I had an appointment with a guy that does ART (Active Release Technique).  I was actually looking for ART when I found my myofascia guy and when he moved to Colorado I started the search again.  All I can say is: I LOVE it!  I felt immediate relief in my ankle and by the next morning I could barely tell that there were any problems.

Oh, and I have a new coach.  I don’t have enough sense to do this on my own and I’m really excited about this new partnership.  He is fully aware of the issues that I need to overcome, but I feel confident that he can navigate me to a strong finish at Dallas.  I know I may not be strong enough to run the time I had hoped, but I’ll have to be OK with that (maybe).

Of course, he wanted me to run a threshold test to see where I stand fitness-wise.  He told me ahead of time to immediately stop if I had any pain.  I ran this workout without ANY pain!  I actually did better than I expected, considering my point in recovery and the fact that I never, ever get to run anything as hard as I can.  Naturally, my ankle was irritated afterwards, but with ice, foam rolling, stretching and KT Tape it recovered nicely and behaved on my “long” run yesterday.  Even though it was a little uncomfortable during the run, I didn’t experience ANY post-run issues.  This tells me 2 things: the workouts are appropriate for me and the ankle is healing!

Make the best of this beautiful Monday!

Jen