Monday, February 17, 2014

Running with Love and Joy (Austin Marathon 2014 Race Report)

Finally, the race report I've been wanting to write for 4 years: I have a new marathon PR! Another reason to LOVE the Austin marathon.

I have lots of history with this race, and I feel like walking down memory lane for a minute. In 2005, I ran my first half marathon here in San Antonio. I hated it, cried, and said I'd never do another one. I continued running, but didn't race. Two years later, I started a new job and met my super bff Shelly. We started running together, and in 2008, we decided to do the Austin half marathon for fun. We ran it together and I had more fun than I imagined possible. (What! You can have fun running in a race??)

Post-race joy! Also, evidence that matchy matchy started with our very first race - ha!
Austin was the race of choice for our first marathon in 2009 and although Shelly and I "ran" it together, we did not have fun and clocked a miserable 6:01.

Filled with high hopes before the race. Ouch.
In 2010, we raced Austin together again, and that's where I got the PR (4:46) that I've been unable to break until now.

Walking to the start in perfect race conditions, ready for redemption, which we both earned.
In 2011, we returned to Austin and I got exactly the same time (4:46). Well, actually 3 seconds slower.

Lost in the crowd - running together in Tri-Sition orange.
Then I tried twice at the San Antonio marathon to get "anything better than 4:46," and failed. After the last one in November 2013, I asked, "WHY IS MARATHON SO DIFFICULT??" and, yes please, sign me up for another one. And why not make it the Austin marathon, the one that I've had so much history with?

But first of all, a change of mindset, which didn't happen overnight. At the marathon in November, I set a goal of holding a relentlessly positive attitude throughout the race. And although it didn't result in a faster time, I learned a valuable lesson - that running with joy and love is way better/easier than running with fear and doubt.

I learned these lessons over and over again during training. On one training run, I should have had a fun, easy time running the last 5 miles of the run downhill with a tailwind. Instead, my mind wandered and I started thinking about something that had been bothering me, an argument with a friend that I'd had a couple days before, and I started to get angry. I thought, oh good, being angry will make me run faster, but instead I noticed that running angry, for me, means running slower. So I forced myself to let it go. It worked.

About a week ago, Michelle Simmons, one of the baddest ass age group athletes I know, wrote this gem on her blog, which hammered it home for me. "You gotta love it. And not fear failure." Dawn has told me this before, and I've parroted it to my training buddies as if I know what I'm talking about. Why fear failure? It's not like my result at this marathon is going to change the course of the universe, or even matter to anyone besides me. But I've gone to the last 4 marathons afraid to fail. Fearing 4:46. Ok, Kris, time to get over it.

I started this race with goals in mind beyond time goals: run with joy and love, and don't be afraid to fail. I ran out with the goal of holding a 9:30 pace or better. And I did - for about 15 miles. At mile 16, I saw Shelly on the course, spectating, and as she screamed at me "OMG you are doing so great, your pace is amazing!!" At this point, I was feeling pain in both quads that I haven't felt before - not the usual cramping, but just a soreness, and I was considering purposefully slowing down to try to relieve the pain. I yelled back at Shelly, "I don't know what to do!" and without knowing at all what I was asking her, she replied, "Keep running." So I did. My legs started to slow down, but not because I was letting them. I didn't walk, I didn't give up. I just kept running as fast as I could. Marathons are supposed to hurt, right?

With 2 miles left, I was certain I'd be getting a new PR, but I wanted a round number, and 4:30 would be difficult to hit, but was in sight. I picked up the pace (even with a net downhill, "picking up the pace" meant sub-11 at this point). I kept leapfrogging with this positive little girl that I'd been running with since mile 16. She'd pass me, and I'd pass her back. We had probably done this 10 times. With a mile to go, I decided to have some fun and pushed past her, hopefully one last time. She passed me back. I passed her again.

At half a mile to go, I felt someone come up on my right shoulder, and I thought, here she is again. But it wasn't her. It was Orissa, who had paced herself evenly throughout the race and caught up with me. She barked at me to "come on" and she took off. I don't know where the energy came from, but I pulled up alongside her, and legs flying, both of us picked up the pace. We ran up the one hill that I've always walked at this race. We flew around the corner and down the last stretch to the finish. One of us would pull ahead, and then the other would catch her and go. Neither of us was going to let the other leave her behind.

We ran past our spectator friends who were yelling and snapping pictures; we were so focused that we were completely unaware of their presence. Screaming at each other to "go go go!" we crossed the finish line together, hugged, screamed, filled with joy and love! A new PR for both of us (16 minutes for me - 38 minutes for her!). Freakishly, although our chip time was 4:30, our gun time was 4:46 - I'm just going to have to start thinking of that as a lucky number.

Averaged an 8:07 pace for the last half-mile, pushed by this little roadrunner to the right of me.
And after all that, we didn't even see the PR gong at the end of the race that we'd been so excited to bang. :(

Pre-race with Orissa, Brian, and Aixa, (who had their own epic race day 5 minutes up the road from us). This weekend's photos by Herb, who raced the half.
I continue to be so grateful for what running/triathlon has given me. All the life lessons I'm learning through sport - let go of anger, don't be afraid to fail, don't be afraid to try your best at something. Have fun. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. It all sounds so cliche but it's so cool. And the friends I've made - I love how we push each other to excel and how we've grown together. I love looking back and seeing how far we've come.

I've crossed every marathon finish line before this one cursing the sport and screeching that I'll never do another one. That didn't happen this time, probably because I've already registered for the San Antonio Rock n Roll marathon in the fall. I'm looking forward to racing it with my friends, including Shelly! Yippee!

**I plucked all of the previous years' photos from my amazing hubby's Flickr site - Robert's photos have always been awesome but I think they are coming along year by year just like my running has. :) :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Small Victories

This is probably about the time of year that the "resolutioners" start filtering out of the gyms. Something about the cold weather seems to enhance a weakening of resolve. Here's what's happened with me: in December, I had the awesome "beat my own numbers from last year" challenge to keep me going. I started strong in January, adding yoga and extra core sessions at lunch, feeling really proud of myself. Then it got cold, and I stopped going to the pool. And then my motivated friends who go to the gym at lunch started going out to lunch at delicious places instead.

 Ok, I didn't really stop going to the pool, but I've skipped more than one or two swim workouts in the past few weeks. My usual gorgeous pristine outdoor pool is COLD, which I love after the first few laps, but when it's below 50 outside I just can't force myself to do it. The alternative is a warm indoor pool that is more frequently used for water aerobics than lap swimming. If you want to swim laps at a reasonable time of day, you're fighting old ladies who don't want to wet their hair and little kids for space in the pool. So those are the excuses about swimming.

A few months back, when I was going to PT for my hamstring/adductor, I was told to do core strengthening exercises. So I started doing them and of course I almost immediately felt stronger on my bike and started swimming faster. I attributed both of these things to the additional core strength. I've been doing core workouts a few times a week since then, but it's getting harder and harder to motivate myself to go to the gym and do it. WHY!? I know it works. It's not that big a deal, and it makes me feel better than sitting and surfing the Internet while eating at my desk. So why is it so hard to talk myself into going? I hate that.

So I decided that a new challenge would help me with motivation. I joined the Biggest Loser weight loss challenge at work. I paid $40 with the intent of getting it back in April when I lose the appropriate amount of weight. Maybe this is the motivation I need. Luckily, the end of the challenge is one week before my first tri of the season - New Orleans 70.3. Getting down to race weight = bonus!

In the meantime, 2 weeks away from the Austin marathon, I'm feeling strong about running and looking forward to toeing the line and seeing what I can do. Once this race is done, I just know I'll be back to laser focus on tri and will have no difficulty at all making it to the pool. ;)

Until then, it will be about small victories. Today, I wrote my workout down and packed my swim bag. Next step, putting it in the car. Next step, driving to the pool after I run today...wish me luck.