2015: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Initially, I wasn’t going to write the obligatory end of the year summary.  As the year winds to a close, however, I naturally started thinking about where the year had taken me, and I wanted to document it – if only just for me.  It’s been A year!  I have had some heart-stopping, stellar moments.  I’ve also had some heart-stopping, heartbreaking moments.

2015 Word of the Year

Last year, I chose a word of the year: Balance.  I felt everything in my life was OUT of balance and I desperately needed to get control of things.  My running was clearly out of control – I was prone to over-training and terrible at supplementing my fitness with cross-training and strength.  I was over-scheduled in almost every area of my life – there were some things over which I had control of scheduling and many things that I did not.  I’m not going to lie….I still struggle with balancing all of life’s demands.  But, I am better at the balancing act now than I was 365 days ago.  Truth be told, this is an ongoing challenge, but I’m up for it!

The Bad and The Ugly

I’m lumping “The Bad” and “The Ugly” together because I simply want to be DONE with all this negativity! LOL

  • Started the year with an ITB injury that stole the first 4 weeks of the year from me.  I was finally able to s-l-o-w-l-y return to running the last week of January.
  • Battled another injury – stress fracture in my heel – in July.  This hiccup took another month of running away from me and in the setback I wondered if I would be fit enough to run the full at Dallas.IMG_4598
  • The entire year felt like a battle.  I was battling to beat my ITB.  Then I was battling to recover from my heel.  Recovering from injury takes a lot of time, patience that I don’t have, and mental fortitude.
  • My biggest battle was in my mind.  It isn’t a secret (or at least I don’t think it is a secret) that I don’t have a lot of faith in my abilities – unless you count my ability to injure myself, in which case I have full faith in that!  Spending basically an entire year injured caused me to doubt myself.  I didn’t believe that my body could recover enough to ever run long distances again.  I didn’t believe that I could run smart enough to stay uninjured.  I just didn’t believe in me at all.  This was, hands down, the biggest tragedy of the year.

The Transformation

When I looked back at some of my earlier blog posts, I realize how much I had to learn….and how much I have learned!  I can’t believe how much I have matured as a runner.  I know there are still many lessons to be learned, but I have been able to find a peace with running that I never had before.  Some things I learned on my own.  Some lessons were taught to me by John, my partner for part of the year until he moved, and others I learned from my current coach, Brent.

  • I started the year with the intent to train by heart rate, but that change didn’t happen fully until I started working with my current coach in October.  The beauty of this is that all things prepare us for what will happen in the future.  Since I had been monitoring my heart rate all year, I knew how my heart would react in certain situations. Since my training with Brent is set up almost exclusively by heart rate, I was ahead of the curve, in a sense, because I already “knew” my heart.  This type of training has been very good for my running!
  • My partner, John, taught me the importance of running slower (which, ties right into the heart rate training).  With his guidance, I learned how to pace myself (which is something that I COULD NOT do before running with him).  Developing this discipline in my running certainly laid the groundwork for great things to come and made it much more easy for me to execute workouts properly.
  • I finally learned to listen to my body, even though I didn’t always act upon it.  I hope that will come as I continue maturing as a runner.  The fact that I now notice those little things is a huge victory.
  • I gave up running with music.  BEST.  DECISION.  EVER.  Taking away the distraction of the music opened up so many amazing things.  First, I can listen to my footsteps to see if there are any imbalances.  I am more aware of my breathing.  I don’t get lost in songs and beats, which formerly meant I would end up running too fast.  In addition, during those tough spots in a run, I had to rely on myself to get through it rather than finding a song to distract me though it.  BIG difference.  I think that helped my confidence A LOT.
  • The most beautiful thing happened when I started believing in myself.  By the time Dallas rolled around, I began to have a quiet confidence and somehow learned to have peace with what would come – good or bad.  I honestly didn’t fret over that race, which, if you know me, is a MIRACLE.  I am carrying that peace and confidence with me into 2016!

Cycling helped me through the rough patches

I love to bike….outdoors.  I dislike riding on the trainer, but I did a lot of that early in the year because I knew how much the cross-training would help my recovery.  Cycling also saved me during my heel fracture, because I was given the green light to ride as much as I wanted as long as I didn’t suffer discomfort.  I biked A LOT in July!

This year, I transitioned from a hybrid to a road bike, and with that came clip-ins.  Most people know how clumsy I am, and so you can imagine the number of falls I had because I would forget to twist my foot out….all of them happened in my drive-way!  I still laugh about it.

I do love any time that I get on the bike, however, and who knows – there may be a tri in my future.

The Good, Running-wise

Despite the setbacks, I had lots of victories on the roads this year.

  • Ran Skyline HM in May, even though it might have been too close to rehab and recovery.  I was 8 minutes off my PR, but the important thing is that I was able to run a fairly strong race, and it felt like a HUGE victory.Medal
  • I ran Rock the Block 10k at the end of May because I wanted to focus on some shorter distances to help bring down my HM time.  I was able to PR this race by about a minute @ 57:46.

    Start line selfie with my favorite oldest daughter :)

    Start line selfie with my favorite oldest daughter 🙂

  • Even though Plano Balloon HM was the WORST race of the year for me, it was a victory.  I ran this race after being back from my heel injury only 7 weeks.  I realize (now) that I was being to aggressive, but thankfully it all worked out in the end.

    Maybe my favorite race sign ever :)

    Maybe my favorite race sign ever 🙂

  • I joined Renegade Endurance and love having the support of the athletes in the club.  It is so much fun to hear about their successes and lift them up, and racing is much more fun when your teammates are there racing as well!

    My RE team members are the BEST!

    My RE team members are the BEST!

  • Rock n Roll St. Louis was one of the highlights of my year.  I went into this race just wanting to finish strong, plus the main reason I went was to socialize with my group of Twitter friends.  At this point, I had run Plano Balloon just a month earlier and missed an entire week of workouts afterward because my body wasn’t ready to run that race.  I had just started working with Brent and the main goal was Dallas Marathon.  I was completely shocked and surprised when I ended up with a PR 2:13:17 (by 43 seconds! LOL).
    Pood paced me to an awesome finish!

    Pood paced me to an awesome finish!

    My Sole Sister Jenn

    My Sole Sister Jenn

  • Believe 10k was the first 10k I ever ran.  Every year, I want to get down to McKinney to run it again but it never seems to work out.  When I asked my coach if I could run it instead of the 8 mile training run, he gave the green light and I immediately signed up.  But then, the monsoons of Thanksgiving  nearly washed away my hopes of running the race.  The race went on as scheduled, and I went, prepared for a wet, cold race.  I ended up with another PR 56:15 (1:30 better than May) and first in my age group!
  • I knew that I would have to run a TERRIBLE race to not PR at Dallas Marathon this year.  2014 was the race of the bum ITB and it took me wayyyyyyy too long.  This race was to be the highlight of my year, plus I felt I had something to prove on that course.  I was somehow able to run the most perfect race ever…for me anyway…and ended up with 4:15:12, considerably faster than the 2014 bum ITB marathon. Plus, I beat my time goal by 15 minutes!  My biggest fear is that I have now peaked.  Even so, I’ll take it, because so many runners never have a race experience as good as the one I had!  This is the race that made me feel like a real runner; like a real marathoner.

Here are just a few of the well wishes I got from my friends, near and far during and after Dallas:img_6754


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This one had to call me at the finish line ;)

This one had to call me at the finish line 😉

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The Non-Running Stories

So many non-running things happened in 2015.  As I look back, it probably seems that I am going through a mid-life crisis, but I think I decided that I am too old to care what anyone thinks, plus I’m running out of time to do all the fun stuff!

  • I lost my tattoo virginity.  By the end of the year, I had already gotten my second tattoo!  Be looking for a 3rd after Ragnar….I’m forcing myself to wait until then!BraceletIMG_6173
  • I jumped out of a plane.  SO.  MUCH.  FUN.  I will go again in 2016, to take Logan when he turns 18 years old!Jennifer_Kirkpatrick 034
  • Taylor went to Thailand, lost her passport in Tokyo and lived to tell the tale.
  • Taylor graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas Woman’s University.147
  • Alli’s team, Madfrog 10 National, was the highest placing American team at AAU Nationals, placing 7th in the nation.  The top 6 teams were Puerto Rican.rainforest
  • While in Orlando for AAUs, I rode in a helicopter!Takeoff
  • Logan made a 34 on his ACT, which was supposed to be “just a practice”.

Looking back, 2015 was a very good year!  I look forward to continuing this progress in 2016!

Happy 2016!!

Jen

 

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All the things I’ve been too busy to blog about

Training and running Dallas took most of my attention and focus until just recently, but our family has experienced some amazing and notable events as well!

I am the mom of a college graduate

Let me say that again.  I am the mom of a college graduate!  I have always been beyond proud of Taylor.  She worked so hard and graduated Magna Cum Laude and only missed Summa Cum Laude by .10%…..and she is mildly dyslexic (although she has NEVER let that get in her way).

My math major in front of the Mathematics banner

My math major in front of the Mathematics banner

She has decided to go ahead and get her Masters, and will be starting that journey in January at Texas Tech!  She is already and amazing coach and I know that she will be just as amazing in her teaching career.147

We ate at LSA Burger in downtown Denton after the ceremony. What Texan wouldn't use the billowing flag in the background for a photo opp?

We ate at LSA Burger in downtown Denton after the ceremony. What Texan wouldn’t use the billowing flag in the background for a photo opp?

Checking items off the bucket list

Taylor, Alli and I LOVE to go to the NCAA DI Volleyball Championships.  We have settled into a pattern of going every other year.  Two years ago we went to Seattle, and that city still stands out as one of my favorite places of all time!

This year, the championships were held in Omaha.  Going to a Nebraska game has been on my bucket list for quite some time.  Honestly, I still want to go to one in Lincoln, but I was happy to attend a Nebraska game in any part of the state!  I am a fan of the Huskers (and Coach Cook)!  Plus, I love the way that their fans wholly support the program.  Oh, and I love the way their fans are so knowledgeable about the sport of volleyball – you definitely can’t find that everywhere!

My friend, Mark, lives in Nebraska, and by extension, is a HUGE Huskers fan.  We discuss volleyball quite a bit…OK….ALL THE TIME.  When I learned the championships were to be in Omaha, I immediately asked if he planned to go.  We decided to buy tickets together so that we could enjoy the games together!

I REALLY wanted Nebraska to made the Final Four, so that I could see them play in person.  Of course, I am a Texas fan first and foremost, but I questioned their ability to win Regionals this year….and they barely did in a thrilling 5 set match with another of my favorite teams, the Florida Gators.  (Side note: I love Mary Wise!!!  She is always the last woman coach standing in the tournament.  I sooooo badly want her team to make it to the Final Four so that SHE can make it to the Final Four!)  I get so side-tracked when discussing volleyball!

Texas made it to the semifinals as well as Nebraska.  I honestly thought Texas would get knocked out my Minnesota in the semis (OK…..Hugh McCutcheon….ANOTHER of my favorite coaches!) but Minnesota played worse than Texas passed on serve-receive, so Texas was on to the finals.

Nebraska rolled over Kansas fairly easily and the Longhorn – Husker final was set.  I was torn.  At this point, I knew Texas had NO CHANCE of beating Nebraska, despite their 5-set win over the Huskers at the beginning of the season.  I could go into all the reasons, but I would bore all but one reader and you would all be confused anyway.  Plus, Huskers had home court advantage and their fans are INSANE!!

My dad played football at Kansas, so I was hoping they could give Nebraska a run for their money in their first Final Four appearance.

Kansas vs. Nebraska semi-final match.  My dad played football at Kansas, so I was hoping they could give Nebraska a run for their money in their first Final Four appearance.

Horns Up!

Horns Up!

The finals match was very close during the first couple of sets, with Nebraska edging a 2 point win over Texas in both sets.  (Again, I could comment about how we were in the same terrible rotation at the end of each of those sets, but I’ll refrain.)  In set 3, Nebraska hit their stride, Texas started shutting down and it was all over except the roar from the Nebraska fans.  They really are amazing fans.img_6618

While in Omaha, we visited the zoo, which thankfully had several indoor exhibits because it was COLD!!

Taylor and Alli did not do well getting close to the peacock

Taylor and Alli did not do well getting close to the peacock

Saturday morning, we went to Union Station, which is now a museum.  It also lays claim to housing the largest indoor live Christmas tree.  This tree was apparently planted some 40 years ago locally, and had long ago outgrown this woman’s yard.  There was also a large train exhibit as well as a cool photography exhibit.img_6592

I ate like this THE ENTIRE TIME.

I ate like this THE ENTIRE TIME.

I can’t blog without discussing running

Last week, I took recovery VERY seriously.  I didn’t do ANYTHING….not even foam rolling or stretching….and I enjoyed every minute of it!  I wasn’t that sore after the marathon, actually.  My left quad and one of my left hamstrings were cranky, but otherwise things felt really good.  I could tell, though, that it would have hurt if I had gone running (it actually DID hurt when I had to run back to my car at the airport on Thursday).

My first scheduled outing was a 30 minute easy run on Tuesday.  All went well (except for the technical difficulties that were all my fault) and my legs felt sooooo good!  Now the problem is that I am antsy and I don’t run again until Sunday!  I’ve been filling my time playing with Logan’s weights, trying to figure out what I’m going to do for weight training going forward.  (Can you believe I didn’t add it during taper?!?  Me either.  Miracles never cease.)  I have also gotten back on my yoga and foam roll schedule.  Doing my stability routine for the first time was…..disheartening.  It’s amazing how much you lose in 10 days.  But day 2 the hips were much less wobbly and I know I’ll be stronger by Cowtown than I was at Dallas, so no worries there.

My wish to everyone is for you to have a wonderful time with your family during this holiday season!

Jen

Dallas Marathon Race Recap…Drink the Beer at Mile 20!!!

Doing the prep work

In the weeks leading up to the race, I slowly began to realize that I might be able run the race strong and injury-free, thanks to my awesome coach, Brent.  Runners always say, “Trust your training”, but I stand by my assertion that if your training is crap then you are smart to question it.  Well, folks, my solo training was crap, which is why I didn’t trust it.  But when I started working with my coach, I was finally completing workouts that were appropriate for me.  Several things happened as a result: my body was allowed to heal and gain strength, my fitness improved and, maybe the most important, I gained confidence again.  Having that confidence in my coach, my workouts and my body put me into a good place to mentally begin the work of the race.  One of the most beautiful things to come from this was that…..I finally, truly trusted my training.

Generally speaking, I fret over all things racing (OK….I fret over EVERYTHING) – especially things I can’t control.  SIT DOWN NOW.  I decided I wasn’t going to fret over those things.  I had no control over the weather, so I didn’t fret over it.  I had no control over what the course would throw at me on race day, so I didn’t fret over it.  I really didn’t have much control over the end result of the day – there are SO MANY factors in 26.2 miles.  I resolved that I would simply have to work around any challenges that race day had to offer and accept the results.

I could have easily shot myself in the foot obsessing over my goal time.  But I didn’t.  Somehow, I was able to push that to the back of my mind each and every time it popped into my thoughts.  I wanted more than anything to run a smart race and keep my ego out of it.  I may not seem egotistical on the surface (I really don’t know if I come across as egotistical or not), but my ego gets in the way of my running A LOT (another reason having a coach is a plus).  Again, I think the confidence gained during training was a big help tackling the mental game.

The actual race

I know all you runners are chomping at the bit, yelling at me to get to the recap already!  Here it goes…

I woke up with a headache, which was likely due to sleeping on an unfamiliar pillow.  I DID NOT PANIC.  (Last year, Jen would have totally panicked.)  Of course, I didn’t bring any Ibuprofen with me, because I rarely take it and I don’t believe in taking pain meds before any workout. Headaches tend to change one’s mind about these things, so I asked my teammate, Aubrun, if she had any…she did and was willing to share!!  (Aubrun to the rescue!!)

Several of the Renegade Endurance team members running Dallas were able to meet in the lobby of our hotel for take a team pic before heading out to the corrals.  Then we were off to the start!

My RE team members are the BEST! +

My RE team members are the BEST!

Race day weather was misty with scattered light rain early on.  Temps were in the 50s and cloudy for the time I was on the course….pretty much perfect!

Then….after what seemed like forever, my corral was off and I had finally started the race!

The challenge for every runner is not to start out too fast.  I was to stay in zone 2 for the first 4 miles, then kick it up to zone 3 as long as things were feeling OK.  I was so afraid I started out too fast, but I kept my heart rate in the prescribed zone, around 150, for those first 4 miles.  I tried to maintain focus on my heart rate without regard to pace.  The first miles came in at: 10:38, 10:15, 10:16, 10:04.  After 4 miles, I kicked it up a notch, staying at the high-end of zone 2 and keeping my HR steady at around 160.  My pace was much faster, though, and I wondered how long I would be able to maintain it.  I quickly diverted my attention back to my HR.  I HAD to maintain my focus, stay in my zone, not allow doubts to creep in and definitely not get caught up in the pace!

I kept my heart rate around 160 for the next several miles, and up to the half my pace per mile varied from 9:22 to 10:04.  Most of the difference came from whether or not the mile was mostly uphill or downhill.  I adjusted my effort on the uphills just to keep it from spiking.  I balanced the downhills by speeding up and using gravity to my advantage, but holding back just enough that my heart rate could come down a few beats.

My time when I crossed the mat at the half was 2:09:51, which was a PR….by about 4 minutes!  I was excited and terrified at the same time!  I grouched at myself for a moment, thinking that I had just DOOMED the second half of the race.  Instead of letting Negative Nelly take over, I tried something new.  I decided to stay the course, run the mile I was in and manage my fuel and heart rate as best as I could.  I did become a little concerned, because I started feeling some fatigue around White Rock Lake (miles 14-17) which caused me to wonder if I might be about to hit the wall.  But mile 18 came and went, and I was still maintaining my pace and heart rate and although I wasn’t feeling as feisty as I had in the first miles….I was hanging in there and there was NO suffering going on.  LOL

It was at mile 18 that I started doing the math in my head and realized that if I could maintain my pace through the end of the race, then I had a shot at 4:15.  I quickly dismissed those thoughts, reminded myself that there was still A LOT of race to run and that the dreaded mile 20 would be coming up soon.  I had to prepare myself mentally for when I hit the wall, and I couldn’t allow myself to get caught up in lofty time goals.  I had to remind myself that running the marathon this well up to this point was a victory in itself.  Miles 14-20 ranged in pace from 9:18-9:51 – again largely dictated by the terrain on the course.

Mile 20 came and I drank the beer.  IT TASTED SO GOOD.  Aaaaaand I got an instant boost from it.  It was almost like a runner’s high – I felt like I could fly.  But I had to keep my heart rate under control!  I knew that after 22, the course was basically a downhill slope to the finish, so making it to 22 still running strong was now my new goal.  At mile 22, I was still feeling incredibly strong.  I toyed with the idea of kicking it up a notch at 5k to go.  However, when I got to 23, my heart rate had been inching up to 165-170s and, 5k is still A LOT of race to go.  I decided to hold steady and made it to mile 24.  At 24.5, when I actually decided that I would kick it up, I could tell that my legs were starting to get tired.  I’m pretty sure my quads might have been screaming at me but I told them to shut up.  At this point, I decided that I would attempt to maintain my pace and attempt a boost after 25, however, looking back at the splits it seems that was all in my head and I had upped the intensity at mile 23.  I missed the 26 mile marker sign then felt a little ticked that I wasn’t exactly sure how far I had to go.  At that point, I was fairly certain that my watch was .30 off from the course, so I knew within .10. (I DID NOT run the tangents well!)  As soon as I saw the finish, I put all I had into it, and thank goodness it was all downhill!  My last 6 mile splits were: 9:46, 9:12, 9:05, 9:07, 9:21 & 9:16.  I took advantage of that downhill and ran as hard as I could.  And I am so proud to say that I had something to give that late in the race!

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I stopped my watch and realized that I had actually run a 4:15 marathon!  Official time: 4:15:12.  BEST.  RACE.  EVER.  Epic shit.  Oh, and I PR’d the half AGAIN in the second half with a 2:05:21!  HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?!?!

All I can say for this race is that the stars aligned for me.  My coach obviously played a HUGE part in planning the right workouts for me….don’t forget that I was still hobbling around, recovering from injury less than 3 months ago.  I fueled early and often. The combination and timing of my fuel apparently worked, because I did not experience any nausea or other stomach issues.  I used EVERY water stop.  Every. Single. One.  The beer at mile 20 was better than a gel, by a long shot!  Mentally, I brought my “A” game and never let myself loose focus (not for long, anyway).  I wanted to stay in the moment instead of looking too far ahead.  I squashed negative thoughts.  And…..I NEVER HIT THE WALL!!!  I still can’t believe it.

Something else happened.  I finally felt like a marathoner.  A REAL marathoner.  Some people will be upset that I said that.  And I DO NOT discount anyone else’s marathon finish….goodness knows that is the last thing I want to do.  It’s just that intellectually I know that I finished the race last year and that act does, in fact make me a marathoner, but I personally never truly felt worthy of the title of marathoner.  I finally earned it!IMG_6487

Support systems mean so much on race day

This was the first race that I was able to run with teammates from Renegade Endurance.  Seeing them on the course and their family members cheering you on is such a mental boost!  I also had a good friend stand and wait for me for goodness knows how long and the energy I got from that was amazing!

Nothing beats seeing your family, though.  Last year, they struggled to find me.  Not knowing the ins and outs of maneuvering the course, either missing me or not realizing they were ahead of me because they hadn’t gotten a tracking update in quite some time made things difficult.  Bobby wore boots last year and said that he was worn out by walking by the time they found me at mile 22!  LOL

This year, I had the idea to send them an e-crumb via my RoadID app.  The app sends a link which allows the recipient to track your movements on a map.  Taylor said that resource was invaluable to them finding me (and this year, keeping up with me).  (Taylor also said that they couldn’t believe how fast I was moving on the course. 🙂  Instead of catching me at mile 22, I was able to see them at mile 8, 14, 22 and the finish this year!  It was WONDERFUL!  I am one lucky girl!IMG_6461

All the well wishes from friends and family on Facebook and Twitter absolutely blew me away after the race.  I wish I could thank every person in this setting, but there are far too many!!  I also have a very special online group of friends.  We all ran RnR St. Louis together and we keep up with each other via a group chat.  I had so much fun reading all the comments that were made during my race…about my race!

When I had just BARELY had time to get my phone out after crossing the finish line, my sole sister, Jenn, was calling me!  I answered the phone and could barely understand what she was saying because she was SO EXCITED!  Of course, I was on cloud 9 right there with her!  I cherished that phone call and appreciate her so much!  Yup, that phone in my hand?  Jenn was waiting for me the family to take my pic!IMG_6462

Honestly, I wonder if I will ever be able to run another race as well as I ran this one.  Some days the stars align, and some days things just don’t work out.  But even if things never work out that well again, I have this experience to cherish for a lifetime!

For now, it’s time for rest and recovery and a trip to Omaha this weekend with my girls to experience the NCAA DI Volleyball Championships!

Keep moving forward,

Jen

When you need to beat the course

Running is 99% mental

For those of you who don’t know – the Dallas Marathon course is my rival, of sorts.  I trained for it but didn’t get to run it in 2013 because of an unbelievable ice storm (aka Ice-mageddon) that caused cancellation of the race.  Then in 2014, I trained really stupidly and ended up with massive IT issues which put a cramp in my race….literally.  So this year is kind-of like a redemption – 3rd time is a charm.  I hope.IMG_6393

However, wanting something too badly can cause problems, mentally.  I’ve seen it time and time again on the volleyball court.  Those rivalries…sometimes the rivalries are between teams and sometimes can be between individual players.  In any case, when one team or individual is trying to “prove” themselves, it ALWAYS ends badly because they usually end up playing to impress instead of playing their game.  Even Alli is looking forward to facing some former teammates – a former coach, really – and I have already started cautioning her that if we do face them at some point in the season – she needs to just PLAY her game, without concern about who is on the other side of the net.

How does this all relate to me?  I REALLY want to beat that Dallas Marathon course.  I NEED to beat that course.  But I know that focusing on beating the course rather than actually racing this Sunday will spell disaster.  I’ve been using this taper as a time to get my mind right so that I am mentally prepared for the race.  Right now, two days before the race, I think I am in a good place.  Of course, an onset of taper madness could happen at a moment’s notice and I could have a mental breakdown! LOL

As I write this, I have an overwhelming sense of peace.  (Race jitters would have prevented me saying that two days ago!)  Maybe some of the pressure is taken off, because I finished last year under TERRIBLE and PAINFUL conditions.  I now know I have the resolve to make it to the finish line.  (I’ve joked that I could crawl and finish better than last year, which, sadly, isn’t much of a joke.)  I have an amazing coach, who, despite the weaknesses I have coming back from recent injuries, has delivered me to the start line stronger than I could ever have hoped.  I feel like I am in a good position to come close to my goal.  But if I miss my goal, I miss my goal.  Things will happen on race day that are out of my control and I am ready to adjust to handle whatever comes my way.  I will be satisfied (I hope) by running a strong race and finding a way to overcome the challenges of the day.

My only wish is that I owned a time-turner, so that I could fast-forward to race day already!

Supportive friends make all the difference

It means SO MUCH when friends take the time to wish you well on your race.  The support of my running community is overwhelming.  And they are the ones that understand my type of  crazy and the challenges that race day can bring….heck, even the challenges that training brought to get me to the start line!

But then there are my non-running friends.  The ones who just shake their heads at me when I get so excited about a track workout or the fact that I get to run 20 miles on my long run this weekend.  These are ones who don’t understand my type of crazy but choose to love me anyway.  I can’t even describe the wonderful feeling I get every time they wish me good luck, because they do it even though they don’t understand why I do it.

One of my dear friends, Carmen, ALWAYS sends me inspirational memes leading up to my races.  It boggles my mind that she can even remember to do this every time!

Who could be nervous about their race with support like this??IMG_6398

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TWO.  MORE.  DAYS.

But now, I need to go get ready for my Taylor’s college graduation this afternoon!

Happy Friday!

Jen

Post-Thanksgiving/Land of Thai Recovery

Believe it or not, I do actually have a life outside of running, and I do discuss non-running things from time to time.

Return to Reality is Tough

really needed Thanksgiving Break, because I was terribly exhausted.  I turned off my 4:45 AM alarm for the entire week and slept until 6:00-6:30 most days.  I know that sounds early to regular people, but by the end of the week, I felt like a slug!

I didn’t get much accomplished during Thanksgiving break, but my body and mind relished the much-needed break.  I was able to run whenever my heart desired.  I even had time to add a little weight training to my routine (thanks to my hubby for getting the equipment set up!).

Probably the most fun was getting my new tattoo!IMG_6173

I think everyone can relate when I say that I was NOT ready to go back to work/reality/hectic schedule on Monday morning.  I was SO unprepared that I got myself ready Monday morning, gathered my things, hopped into my car and headed out to stop at my mom’s house to pick up Alli for school.  (Alli spends the night with my mom about half the time.  I let her, because I know how much it means both of them.  Plus, I want her to spend as much time with my mom as she wants because, well, my mom is almost 82 years old!)  Long story short…..I forgot that Alli was at HOME!  I had to rush back home, wake her up and tell her to hurry and get ready!  Alli and Memo have both enjoyed my mix-up far too much this week!!

Journey Home from the Land of Thai

Taylor started making her way home from Thailand on Sunday.  It was actually Monday in Thailand, but that area of the world is a half-day ahead of Texas folk.  The time difference kept me utterly confused.

There are no direct flights from Thailand to DFW, so Taylor’s route back was Bangkok to Tokyo.  Switch AIRPORTS in Tokyo, then fly to Chicago, then DFW.

The trip to Thailand was such a breeze, all of us should have expected something to happen.  All seemed well, until Taylor arrived in Tokyo.  She had a several-hour layover, during which required the airport switch, so I wasn’t expecting to hear from her often. When she actually called me, I knew something was off.  I answered the phone to Taylor saying, “Mom, I have a little ‘situation’, but don’t worry….it’s all handled.”  Then Taylor explained that she had somehow LOST her passport.  She told me that she had already called the Embassy and that they would issue an emergency passport, but it would require actually going to the Embassy.  This was going to cause her to miss her connecting flight back to the states.  Since she is the cheapest, most frugal person alive, she bought the cheapest tickets she could find so this mishap caused her to spend more money as her flight was not refundable nor could it be changed.

Ultimately, she did get her emergency passport and after shelling out quite a bit of money on the return flight home, this little “hiccup” delayed her return by about 24 hours.  I was uneasy about the passport situation, but not worried – as much as Taylor has travelled, I rarely “worry”.  That is, until Taylor actually got on the flight from Tokyo to Shanghai.  As the flight was boarding, she messaged me to tell me it was late (so much so that she was afraid it might be cancelled).  I used a flight tracking app, but the flight never took off (on the app anyway).  Rationally, I knew that if the flight was still on the ground, she would have let me know.  As the time passed, I became more and more anxious, so I turned to a dear ref friend for help.  My friend, Price, works at DFW, so I asked him to check his sources for the flight.  I was so relieved when he told me it was actually in the air with an hour of flight time left!  He even tracked it until landing and let me know when the plane was reported on the ground.

The plane landed around 10:30 PM Texas time on Monday evening.  I finally went to bed, but didn’t sleep much because I woke up to check my phone so often.  I didn’t hear from Taylor all night.  For the first time, I actually became worried!  Rationally, I knew that things were probably OK.  I knew her iMessage wasn’t working and that if she couldn’t find free Wi-Fi, that she wouldn’t pay for wireless access.  I was so relieved and surprised to hear from her around 6 AM Tuesday morning – she was on the flight HOME and she had sprung for Wi-Fi!  She FINALLY landed in Dallas just before 6 PM.  When she made contact on the flight home, I didn’t think I could be any more relieved.  Actually, I was MUCH more relieved when I knew that she was safely back on Texas soil!

In all seriousness, Taylor is amazing.  She is so brave to travel alone, and she keeps such a cool head when scary situations arise.  I am so proud of her, scatterbrain and all!

My niece, Laura, with Taylor in beautiful Thailand

My niece, Laura, with Taylor in beautiful Thailand

UPDATE:  Taylor came home before I actually posted this and shared her Tokyo experience.  She said outside the airport NO ONE speaks English and nothing is in English.  The airport was helpful in giving her a map (in English) and which busses/trains to take, but she couldn’t figure it out because everything outside the airport was in Japanese!  She found a Starbucks, then happened upon a British guy who was kind enough to walk her to the Embassy.  After the Embassy, on her way to find her hotel, she realized that she didn’t have her suitcase and that she had left it in Starbucks!  So she had to backtrack and was lucky enough to find the Starbucks (for the second time).  I am so thankful that she was able to keep her wits about her and especially thankful for the Brit who helped her find the Embassy, but I am most thankful that she is HOME!

I can’t help but talk about running, or things related to running

About 2 weeks ago, the cat caused a dish to break in the kitchen.  I “thought” I swept up all the pieces of glass, but the very next morning I stepped on a little sliver.  Of course, I was running on NO coffee at that point, so my brain was a little foggy.  In my lack-of-coffee-induced-brain-fog, I quickly pulled it out with my fingernails.  Errrrr, I pulled half of it out.  Glass.  Stuck in my foot.  During marathon training.  After those initial thoughts faded, I decided that the location would be a the best case scenario.  It was just at the base of my 4th toe.  Five minutes after all this happened, I completely forgot about it.

Fast forward about 10 days after my long run on the treadmill on Sunday….

In the hours after the run, my foot was really sore.  Of course, being a person who NEVER jumps to conclusions (I’m not a hypochondriac runner AT ALL, EVER), I just assumed that my foot was imploding.  Later on that evening, I decided to throw some Kinesio Tape on it, to see if I could bring some relief to the area.  It worked for a couple of days, then I noticed it again after my track session on Tuesday.  Naturally, this time I began to PANIC.  I seriously thought my foot was collapsing.

Luckily, a cooler head prevailed and I began rubbing around my foot to see if I could figure out exactly where the problem was. That’s when I noticed a bump on my foot.  When I looked at the bump on my foot, it all came flooding back – I HAD GLASS IN MY FOOT!

I did minor surgery on my foot, fished the teeny-tiny piece of glass out and now my foot feels great!

And now, off for shopping, running and cleaning the house!

Happy Saturday, everyone!!

8 DAYS UNTIL DALLAS! <gasp>

Let’s talk about Dallas

Before we talk about Dallas, let’s talk training…and racing.

Believe 10K

This past weekend, my training called for 8 miles on Saturday and 20 on Sunday.  However, there is a local 10K (which happens to be the first 10K that I ever ran) that I really wanted to run.  I got coach approval, registered and all was set……until the monsoons began on Thanksgiving day.

It was COLD and it was WET…….I HATE to be cold!  But race or no race, I had to run some miles and running a race – even in wet, cold rain –  was certain to be more fun than a regular training run.  Luckily, the rain stopped just as the race started….for the entirety of the race!

My body felt really good during the race.  I was supposed to keep my heart rate in Zone 2 for the first 4 miles, but I struggled with that because there were SO MANY HILLS.  After some reflection I feel that I could have pushed a little harder on the last couple miles, but I was being a bit cautious…..because of the HILLS.  I was afraid that if I pushed too hard, too early, that I would lose steam and slow down at the end.  I’m still trying to find that magical race exertion balance.  In the end, it worked out, because I PR’d by 1:30 (my last PR was in the Spring) and I won my age group!!  Miracles never cease to happen! Let this be a lesson to all of you to always run in cruddy weather because a lot of people don’t show up!  I didn’t stay for the awards, because I NEVER expected to win my age group.  It was so cold plus the announcing of the winners was so slow that I opted for Starbucks after the overall winners were announced for the 5K.

My Major Award

My Major Award

Another cool thing about this race was that I finally got to wear my race shirt from my run club, Renegade Endurance.  The jerseys came in the week after I got back from St. Louis and I haven’t raced since then, so it was fun to break it in with a PR and an age group win!  (I was too cold to have any pics made at the race site and barely remembered to take the pic when I got home.)  #ADHDprobsIMG_6239

Last Long Run

Because the monsoons over Thanksgiving break caused some flooding in my area, I had to run my last long run on the treadmill. <sad violin music>

Honestly, I didn’t think I could do it.  My longest run on the treadmill prior to Sunday was 5 miles.  I dreaded this run on several levels.  This run was my last chance to work on fueling and hydration before the race.  The conditions on a treadmill are just no match for being outside.  I did tweak my fueling a bit and I won’t truly know if it will work until race day.  Terrain was my another issue.  There is no preparation for a road race like running on a road!  Finally, and I suspect this was highly influenced by terrain (or lack thereof), my heart rate was SO LOW.  I try to keep my heart rate low on long runs, but my heart rate was about 15 beats per minute below where it usually is.  (If you’re confused – it’s just one more way that my treadmill run differed from a road run.)   I could have sped up to increase my heart rate, but then it wouldn’t have been a long SLOW run.  During the run, I focused on the fact that, at the most basic level, long runs are about time spent on your feet.

Mentally, I battled boredom.  I watched movies, but I am convinced that was not a good thing.  As I got into the movie, I paid less attention to what I was doing on the run.  This is the precise reason that I stopped running with music – I do not need any additional distractions!

In the end, a run is a run and when I was done, I felt VERY accomplished!IMG_62539 Days and Counting

Soooooooo, Dallas is 9 days and counting.  This time last year, I was a nervous wreck.  I knew that the race was going to be hard and terrible and painful, but I tried to hold on to that hope that my ITB would behave.  It didn’t.  I’m still shaking my head over it.

This taper is different.  Even though I spent a ridiculous amount of time recovering from injuries in 2015, I’ve also gained an unbelievable amount of fitness and strength over the past two months.  The difference is that I have been working with a new coach since the beginning of October.  In the words of one of my running buddies, “He attacked my weaknesses” and, as a result, I am running stronger and faster than ever.  In the beginning, he told me he would get me to Dallas injury-free and strong.  I didn’t believe him because at that point, I was still injured – mentally and physically.  I had spent SO much time on injury that it was becoming hard to believe that I would ever get over that hump.  I honestly didn’t believe that I could be strong enough to run the full at Dallas.  But guess what?  My coach delivered.

I am more than strong enough to run Dallas.  More importantly, I have transitioned mentally from seeing myself as weak and injured to strong and healthy.  Instead of a taper filled with anxiety and apprehension, I am filled with energy and excitement because I can’t wait to run this race!!

Happy Friday!

Jen