Saturday, October 27, 2012

marathon eve - getting ready to celebrate

This week has been a little (ok, maybe a lot) crazy for me.

My emotions have been all over the place.  I've been sleeping more than I have in a long time, yet at times I've felt absolutely restless and anxious and have found myself staring up at the dark ceiling in the middle of the night, unable to doze back into a slumber for a little while.  My thoughts aren't totally coherent when it comes to my pre-race anxiety, they sort of bounce all over the place.  If I start to doubt myself or feel nervous about the race, within seconds those feelings are replaced with sheer excitement and giddiness, certainty that I can and will do what I am setting out to do, and a powerful sense of calm and peacefulness about it.

I am SO grateful to be arriving at the start line of my 10th marathon feeling the way that I am.  Having made it through some pretty incredible months of training uninjured, stronger than ever, passionate about my sport and about my life.  And totally and completely happy.

This training cycle has been about discovery.  I have discovered a strength within myself that I never imagined could exist.  I have also realized that there is just this tremendous amount of love all around me - love from the truest of friends and from my beautiful family.  I will be running with a grateful heart tomorrow.

It is Marathon Eve.  Tomorrow will be a celebration.  A celebration of the many gifts I have been given in life.  A celebration of where I am in this very moment.  A celebration of who I am.  A celebration of my family, my friends, and my health. A celebration of all of life's gifts.

Yesterday I went to the Expo to get my race bib.  I had a friend who SO kindly offered to pick it up for me on Thursday (because she is awesome) so I wouldn't have to drive across the city on a busy day to get it.  It would have made my day ten million times easier if I had avoided the Expo.  But there were two reasons I REALLY wanted to go:

(1) I wanted to be a part of the pre-race excitement.  Expos are fun and there is so much energy buzzing all around in that room.  I wanted to feel that and experience it.

(2) I wanted to go because my dear friend and AfterNuun Delight van mate, Kim, was going to be there.  And I really NEEDED a hug from Kim.  If you have ever met this woman, then you for sure know exactly what I am talking about.  It was worth the drive and the time to get that hug.  Seeing Kim and talking with her was EXACTLY what I needed yesterday.  She looked me straight in the eyes and told me to relax, to not worry about what anyone else around me is doing, to remember that I am doing something that I LOVE tomorrow, and to think of this race as one big giant present.  And, of course, to have FUN.  She said - "just go for a run" - and there was so much wisdom in her words.

Kim is good with advice and she does not hesitate to share what is in her heart.  She has amazing perspective.  SHE is a gift - love, gratitude, kindness - a true, true friend.  I have known her a short time, but I am telling you there is this tremendous amount of trust I have in her, and in so many of the amazing people I met when I ran Hood to Coast with Nuun this summer.

The heart doesn't need time to love someone - it just happens.  Sometimes in an instant.  I trust my heart.  It has always led me to good places and to good people, when I REALLY listen to it.

Tomorrow, I will let my heart lead me.  And my legs will follow.

Late yesterday afternoon I opened the mail and was so surprised to find a letter from my sweet friend Molly who I shared a room (and bed!) with in Seattle before we went to Hood to Coast.  I haven't gotten "real" mail like this in a long long time, and it just made me so happy to hear from her.

It was another reminder of how blessed I am in life.  A reminder that I get to decide how I choose to live.  My perspective, my attitude, my happiness, my gratitude - this is up to me.

from molly
Tomorrow I am going to keep all of this in mind.  I am going to think about all of the colors in my life.  The people in my life.  The choices I make and the gifts I have been given and what I choose to do with them.

And I will celebrate all of it with one awesome, beautiful, 26.2 mile long run.

Marine Corps Marathon, here I come!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

a different kind of but

It's 4am and I've been up for a while.  Sometimes this happens - I'll get up in the middle of the night but I am usually able to fall back asleep with no problem.  Not today.  Today I woke up and my eyes were not closing, my mind was busy and I knew that if I stayed in bed I would just stare up at the darkness and THINK.  In a totally unproductive way.  Not good.  So instead, I got dressed for my long run early, made a hot cup of coffee and sat down with my Believe I Am training journal and got it allllll out.  I feel incredibly at peace right now after that.  It was just what I needed.  To sit alone with my thoughts and write them out on paper with pen in hand.  Come to terms with what's bugging me.  Let it go and get to the bottom of it.  To build myself up from the inside out.

To remind myself to have faith in who I am and in what I believe I can do.

The thing is, I know that I have the fitness to run a strong, really-amazing-for-me marathon, in one week.  I do.  I have earned it.  I have seen it and I have felt it.  Why then, do I keep hearing the word "BUT" in my head?

I have the fitness, BUT anything can happen in a marathon. I could get my heart broken.
I have the courage, BUT who knows how I will feel on race day.  Maybe I just will feel off.
I have the strength, BUT two of my kids are sick and maybe my immune system will fail me.
I have the determination, BUT my stomach could blow up on me and I could spend many minutes running in and out of port o potties along the course.
I have the experience, after 9 marathons, BUT who has the kind of year I've had, PRing in the marathon by an hour+ and then wants to chop off another 25 minutes in just one cycle??

I am so sick and tired of hearing the BUTS in my head!  I've decided that if I'm compelled to use that word, I am going to have to use it in a better, more positive, way.

Sure, I cannot predict the outcome of my race BUT I can decide how I feel about it!  This is my story to tell.  I get to decide what colors are in it.

Sure there are so many things that may be out of my control on race day - that is the nature of the marathon! - BUT I can control how I handle them.  I CAN control my attitude and I CAN control my perspective.  It truly is up to me and THAT is a beautiful, amazing thing!

People always talk about the heartbreak of the marathon and there is sooo much truth to that.  I have felt it many times over - BUT there is so much beauty to it and this is one of the reasons why I keep coming back for more.  I'm sure you know this quote "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."  I live my life by this quote!!  I would so much rather love and live passionately and purely, and get my heart broken and shattered, than to never feel those amazing feelings that love brings to me.  It is the way I am built and may be one of the reasons that marathoning resonates so well with my spirit.  My heart may get broken on race day, that is a simple truth I must accept - BUT it will be worth it a million times over.  And I will pick up the pieces and build myself back up no matter what.  It is never the end, only the beginning of something new.  Every single marathon teaches me something about myself - every single one - and I am so looking forward to what awaits me on race day no matter what the time on the clock says.  THIS fact excites me and soothes me - and gives me so much hope.  It reminds me of why I am even doing this - not for some time on a clock but for self improvement and self love and passion and joy and living.  I feel so ALIVE in the throes of a marathon.  So very alive and grateful.

So, no more bad buts.  No more.  I am done with them.  I am going to check myself every time I go to say that word.

In one week from today I will get ready to spread my wings.

And FLY.

With a HAPPY heart.

Friday, October 19, 2012

tapped out and filled up

With just 9 days to go until my 10th marathon, I am getting REALLY excited. 

This week I'm logging around 45 miles - half as many as I did at the peak of my training a little over a week ago.  I find it totally mind-blowing that for this same race one year ago, the peak of my training was just shy of 50 miles.

I have come a long, long way over the last year.

My body is feeling good and strong.  It is enjoying the extra rest.  I can almost feel the energy building up in my legs.  The tightness that kind of lingers in certain spots is gradually loosening.  My mind is adapting ... I would be lying if I said I don't feel like a crazy person much of the time.  Because I DO really feel like a pretty major kook.  But in my heart - I trust the taper.  I believe there is magic in it and I know that when it's time to run my race I will be able to spread my wings and fly.

Each week during this training cycle the honey badgers and I have met at the local high school track on Wednesday mornings.  As a result, Wednesday is possibly the hardest day of the week for me - and therefor the most rewarding.  This week was the last HARD track workout of the training cycle because next week we will just run a couple of goal race pace miles around the track - more an exercise of controlling our energy and pace and holding back when we want to go fast than it is working to get faster.  At this point, the hay is in the barn and we are not making gains in speed or fitness.  We are making gains in confidence and saving our energy for the big day.

This week's workout was the following (with a 1 mile warm up, 2 minutes of active rest between each interval, and a 1 mile cool down):


3:00, 2:58

1:23, 1:22, 1:26, 1:24

I ran these all by feel, which is so awesome because with each passing week I'm really learning how to dial into listening to my body while I run and especially when I push myself.  I felt so elated when the workout was done - so completely satisfied.  I finish these workouts feeling as though I've simultaneously tapped myself out and filled myself up.  I know I could keep going if I had to, that I am always reserving some bit of heart and energy for myself.  And I am doing more than I ever would have dreamed I could possibly do.

Yesterday I checked in with the McMillan calculator and was really surprised to see that my paces were all in the range for a 3:05 marathon.  What!?!  I haven't decided yet what I'm going to shoot for exactly on race day - I know without a doubt that I'm going to listen to my body and to my heart, that I am going to give it all that I've got and that I'm going to run a SMART race.  I want to come across that finish line knowing that I gave it everything I had, yet completely spilling over with happiness and gratitude.

One more long run to get in the books - 12 miles on Sunday.  And a few more miles to go after that, before I line up at the start line on October 28th.  I cannot wait for this race!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

time to start believing

The other morning I set out very early with the Honey Badgers for our first long run of the taper - 16 miles.  We left when it was still dark out, before the world was waking up.  The temperature was near freezing - I had not felt that type of chilled-to-the-bone feeling in many, many months.  We ran the first 8 miles together, holding a strong pace yet talking and telling stories and just being grateful to have one another to share the trail with.  My sister Jodi came with us on her bike and as she pedaled behind us she joined in the conversations ... and the miles just ticked by.  I had no idea how fast or how slow we were running - it was so dark and I was feeling good and I didn't want to worry about my pace.  It felt good and easy and my heart was happy.  Towards the turnaround point the sun came up and started to warm my skin - my fingers and feet finally began to thaw and there was a warmth that radiated from deep within me.  We reached the halfway point and the plan was to turn up the jets from there - I wanted to test out my legs and see what my goal race pace would feel like for the second half of the run.

~ Chris, Maddie & Me ~

Miles 1-8:
8:09, 7:59, 7:54, 8:04, 7:55, 8:00, 7:41, 7:55

Last week I started thinking about my goal for Marine Corps Marathon.  I started realizing that my original dream of running a 3:20 was actually going to be selling myself short this time around - as hard as that was for me to believe at first it is simply now a FACT that I have come to terms with and am grateful for.  I am capable of faster.  I am stronger than that right now - it scares me - but it is awesome.  So I started thinking.  I looked at my training in my Believe I Am journal and at my Garmin stats - I told myself to dream bigger.  I remembered all the workouts, all the dedication and heart and hard work, all the bad days and tough runs that I overcame, all the amazing feelings I have had, all the self-doubt I have surmounted - this training cycle has been incredible.  I have done the work to get myself here.  Maybe a 3:15.  This would be a 7:15 pace.  I made a deal with myself that if I could run close to a 7:15 pace for the last 8 miles of my 16 mile run, I would attempt a 3:15 marathon on race day.  If I could do that then, I would allow myself to believe I could do it on race day.

I started running faster for mile 9.  Picking up my pace and easing into a groove.  My feet were beneath me like wheels and I wanted to keep them there, but let my heart lead the way.  Listen to my footsteps.  Be aware of all that was around me and within me.  Not fight anything.  Just go.  Just do what I love.  Just feel happy and enjoy it and see where I am at and be grateful to be there.

Occasionally I looked at my watch and freaked out a little bit.  I was running much faster than a 7:15 at times.  And I felt so good.  So strong.  So grateful.  So in my element.  So present.  So capable.  And yes, SO HAPPY.

Miles 9-16:
7:29, 7:10, 7:02, 6:49, 7:02, 7:05, 7:43, 7:32

The last two miles were both hilly and I knew that I would slow down unless I increased the effort.  But I didn't want to increase the effort, I wanted to keep my effort steady and even.  It wasn't about pushing my pace - I knew I could do if I asked my body to.  This run was about holding my effort steady and letting this just happen.  Feeling good.  Letting myself feel strong.  Letting myself feel that if I had to, I could run another 10 miles and pick up my pace and my effort when it was necessary to do so.  I wanted to listen to my body and be REAL with myself about how hard this was.  And it just wasn't so terribly hard.  I felt exactly how I wanted to feel.

I finished 16.25 miles with an average pace of 7:35.  When the run was over I did not feel spent or drained or wiped out.  I felt filled up.  Filled up with hope and joy and gratitude.  Filled up with courage and confidence.  Filled up with happiness.

I believe that I can run a 3:15 marathon on October 28th.  It is time now to start believing that I WILL.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Believe I Am Training Journal - Sisters in Sport

Writing things down, and I mean really writing them down - like on paper with a pen, pencil or marker - is the way I keep myself organized.  I do have an iPhone and a computer and I use them (constantly, probably too much to be honest), but the real recording is done the old fashioned way for me - pen and ink and sweet, beautiful, awesome paper. There is just something about putting things in ink that makes me feel good.

When it comes to keeping track of my training schedule, I make a spreadsheet for myself and color code the runs when they are done.  It is always changing so having a soft copy of it is key for me.  But the information that is captured there is really just the numbers, and there is SO much more to every run than "just the numbers."  There is a bigger picture that needs to be seen - there are more details beneath the numbers - and a spreadsheet with miles and paces just doesn't cut it for me.

I was so excited when I discovered the Believe I Am training journal at the beginning of 2011.  I have used mine since January to set my goals and keep track of my progress.  I love looking through it and seeing how I was feeling, what I was thinking, what paces I was running and so much more ... it really has helped me in so many ways.  I love it.

Recently I was given the amazing opportunity to be a part of a fun group of female bloggers ("Sisters in Sport") to try out the newly updated version of this awesome training journal!  While most of it is the same as the original, there are some REALLY great updates to it that make a journal that I already loved even that much more amazing.  I started using my new one at the beginning of October to track my progress towards MCM (which is less than 2 weeks away now!) and beyond, in the year ahead.

day by day
October is looking to be the biggest month of my running in all of my life.  I set my goals for the month - to "stay injury free, balanced and happy, to ROCK MCM, and to keep smiling".  I want to keep all of these things in mind each time I lace up my shoes for a run.  I run because I love it, because it makes me feel good inside and out, and because it helps me to be the best version of myself I can possibly be.

This journal is amazing for me - I love that it is a place I can "ink" my runs and record whatever I feel is important about each one.  I love adding up my mileage and seeing how far I have come this year.  Most importantly though, I love seeing what was in my heart, what was inspiring me or troubling me, what was speaking to me.

I am setting goals for myself in this journal - goals that go far beyond just running and setting PRs - I am setting intentions and claiming dreams here.  And I am not just saying WHAT I want to do, but I am looking deeper into my heart to discover WHY and HOW I want to get there.

goal setting
This journal is truly a gift for me.  In such a short time it has helped me find a new perspective.  It has helped me seek things inside my heart - through running - that I never imagined I would or could find.  It has inspired me to BELIEVE in myself in a whole new way.  I am so grateful to have it, and I look forward to using it each and every day.

the only thing stopping me...is me
Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be facing some fears, setting some intentions and putting my heart out on the line to accomplish something that terrifies me yet is something I truly believe I am capable of doing.  But the fact is that after Marine Corps Marathon, I will not cease to dream or strive to be the best me I can be.  I will continue to move forward, to dream and to enjoy the journey along the way.  I am excited to continue to use my Believe I Am journal to keep track of my progress and what is going on inside my heart.  And as part of the "Sisters in Sport" project, I will be checking back with monthly posts to share with you guys how I use the journal to help me with my training and my goals.

How do you keep track of your training and your goals?  Have you ever used the Believe I Am training journal?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

a killer track workout and dreaming bigger

Yesterday was an important track workout for the honey badgers.  With our marathon just a little over 2 weeks away, this was going to be one of the last really challenging track workouts on our training schedule.  We needed to make it count yesterday.  We needed to step up to the daunting task and hang outside our comfort zone for a while.  I think all of us were dreading it, just like we dread every other track workout before we get started.  They are HARD.  But they are always worth it.  Every single time.

Yesterday's workout was as much about testing our fitness as it was about renewing our faith in ourselves and in our training.  It was about reminding us that we are where we are for a reason.  We've done the work to bring us to this point.  We've earned it.  We've shown up each and every week for run after run AFTER RUN - no matter the weather or the time of day or how badly we didn't feel like showing up.  Or what was going on in our lives.  We've put in the time and the energy and the work.  Now we need to own it.  We need to believe that we can and we WILL do what we are setting out to do.  Everything is falling into place now as we begin our taper ... and it is so cool to witness, in myself as well as in each one of my incredible friends.

Perseverance (aka, Dora)
The plan - 10 sets of 800s at a controlled - yet fast - pace.  Also known as "Yasso 800s," this workout is KILLER and is a fantastic gauge of both physical and mental stamina.  Ten repeats is a lot, and 800s (two laps around the track) are FAST.  But you cannot make them too fast at first, or you will regret it then feel drained and heavy for the later sets.  Running on the track teaches you to push yourself in a controlled way.  You must learn to listen to your body, otherwise you will fizzle out or worse - hurt yourself.  When you practice pushing through discomfort, you come to realize that you can go even farther and are capable of so much more than you thought possible.  The track teaches you to embrace your own edges and the discomfort that exists there.  It shows you that you are the one in charge - perspective is a CHOICE and the track is great place to practice this.

Track workouts are different from the marathon in so many ways - the workouts are shorter, the paces are faster, the PAIN is different - yet the mental strength and self awareness they require are one and the same if you ask me.  What I learn about myself on the track, I know I can and will apply to my racing on marathon day.  Start out strong and determined, push myself - yet hold back in the beginning because I have a LONG way to go.  And when the end is near, when I know it is safe to do so, I will give it everything I've got and finish fast and strong.

Before heading to the track yesterday, I checked out what paces McMillan recommended I try to hit for a 3:15 marathon.  He suggests a range of 3:04-3:10 for 800s.  I wasn't sure how it would feel, so I just dialed in and went with it.  I am pretty certain that I was right where I needed to be.

10x800 with 2 minutes active rest between each:
3:10, 3:04, 3:07, 3:07, 3:06, 3:05, 3:04, 3:04, 3:02, 2:55

The last few weeks of my training have inspired me to DREAM BIGGER than a 3:20 marathon.  At first this thought really scared me.  My PR (set this spring) is a 3:34.  Fourteen minutes is a LOT to try to shave off in one cycle, especially after making such huge leaps this past year.  BUT it is what it is and I am so grateful.  I know that I am capable of more.  I have earned it.  I truly believe that.  So in the next couple of weeks I am going to be putting my heart out on the line, setting goals for this race and dreaming very very very BIG dreams.

Monday, October 8, 2012

the perfect start to the taper

Overcome the notion that you must be regular. 
It robs you of the chance to be EXTRAORDINARY.
- Uta Hagen

I entered into this training cycle a few months ago believing that I was capable of MORE.  More growth.  More speed.  More strength.  More courage.  More JOY.  More heart.  More gratitude.  More passion.


But I was scared and unsure just as much as I was confident and excited.

I knew that in order to grow, I would need to attempt to do things that I never had before.  I would need to try harder, push further, let go of my fears and hold onto my faith.  But that I would also have to keep myself in check.  Take myself to the edge, yes, but also be so smart about it.

You guys, it has been so scary for me.  But it has also been so amazing.  So wonderful.  I am a heart-on-my-sleeve type of person.  Every little emotion - happy sad angry grateful scared excited passionate - it is all SO right there for me.  So big and just impossible to contain.  I am not helter-skelter out of control about it (I don't think...well maybe sometimes I am), but whatever I am feeling if you are around me you probably feel it too.  Coming off of my skin like steam, radiating out of me, whatever - I cannot seem to hide my feelings.  It is just the way I am built.

So last week as I was in the midst of the biggest week of my training -- you can imagine I was sort of pretty much all over the place emotionally.  I was excited - I was running more than ever before and feeling GOOD and just amazed, astounded really, by that.  And I was scared.  What if the wheels just fall off out of the blue?  Is this too good to be true?  How is my body able to run so many miles and not feel like it is falling apart?  But both my mind and my heart told me to relax about it.  The reason I was feeling good is because I built myself a super smart training plan and I adapted it all along the way.  I worked my way towards this mileage, always listening to my body.  Always.  On Saturday night as I prepared for my last really long run, I was nervous but told myself I had to let go of that.

Sunday morning arrived and we went on a field trip further west, to a beautiful part of Virginia called Leesburg.  My closest running friends were with me, and at the last minute Dorothy decided to join us.  The only time I have ever run with Dorothy was when we were both pregnant with our third babies - about two years ago - so this was an extra special treat.

We were all nervous at the start.  The weather was cold and it was raining.  But we were in it together.  And the miles just ticked by...

We talked about anything and everything.  We laughed.  A lot.  We shared.  A lot.  We vented.  A lot.  For more than three hours, we ran along the most beautiful path covered in a canopy of trees with a light rain washing over us.  I hardly checked my watch to see how fast we were moving, though each time I did look at it I thought to myself "this is a little faster than I planned on running at this point" ... but I felt SO good and we all seemed to be in a groove and were happy and comfortable and smiling.

I simply didn't want the run to end.

But it had to.  We logged 23 miles yesterday.  The longest training run of my life.  If I had kept going for 3.2 more miles, which I know I could have done, I would have set a pretty sweet PR in the marathon.

I know I am capable of something MORE on October 28th.
I just know it.

Splits from our 23 mile run.  Average pace, 7:53/mile.

Mile 1 - 8:19
Mile 2 - 8:15
Mile 3 - 8:07
Mile 4 - 7:75
Mile 5 - 8:04
Mile 6 - 8:02
Mile 7 - 7:54
Mile 8 - 8:14
Mile 9 - 7:56
Mile 10 - 7:56
Mile 11 - 7:44
Mile 12 - 7:31
Mile 13 - 7:42
Mile 14 - 7:56
Mile 15 - 7:45
Mile 16 - 8:08
Mile 17 - 7:31
Mile 18 - 7:46
Mile 19 - 7:31
Mile 20 - 7:39
Mile 21 - 7:55
Mile 22 - 7:43
Mile 23 - 7:47

Me, Dorothy and Maddie.  So HAPPY.
When we got back to our starting place, it was equally exhilarating and peaceful to me to be with my friends, all of us together.  Celebrating what was an amazing accomplishment for all of us.  I felt so at peace.  So grateful.  So very happy.

Each one of us has seriously rocked this training cycle.  I want to bottle up this feeling - this excitement and joy I have over what I am doing, what my friends are doing.  What WE are doing. Together.  I am so proud and thankful.

Last week I ran 92.35 miles.  More weekly mileage than ever before.  And I feel good.  I feel strong.  I feel hopeful.

I am starting a 3 week taper today.  It is time to coast.  I am welcoming this taper period with open arms though I know I will have my moments of crazy.  The thing is, I feel so good.  I don't feel overspent or like my body is screaming for rest or a break of any kind.  But I am going to ease into this taper and take time every day to remind myself of how far I have come.  And how far I believe I can go.

20 days until Marine Corps Marathon.  It will be #10 for me.

I am so excited.  There is no hiding it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

peak week happiness and gratitude

I can't believe it but I am in the middle of my peak week of this amazing cycle of marathon training.

If all goes well, I think I will hit 90 miles or possibly even a few more than that.

Did I just say that?

I did not enter this cycle expecting to hit 90 miles.  But as things progressed and as my body has adapted so amazingly well, I have realized that this is simply and truly where I am.

Yesterday morning I went to the track with my buddies.  We warmed up for two miles and then did 5 x 1 mile repeats with 2:00 of active rest between each.  I nailed them.


And I felt amazing.  Strong.  Like I wanted to run forever and ever.  These paces were faster than I expected them to be, yet I was totally in control and sure that I was doing it right and I was honoring my body.

I do not know what is happening here.  But I am literally running with it.  Chasing a dream.  Enjoying the moment, soaking it in and filling it up with all that is in my heart.

We ran two miles home to cool down and a few hours later it was time for my second run of the day.  11 miles with my buddy Gus in the running stroller.  My legs felt good - relaxed and strong - and I held a very conservative pace of around a 9/9:30 mile as I sang and chatted with my baby along the way.  It was beautiful.  I love running with him.

Over 20 miles for the day and I could have kept going.

I don't know why, but I feel like crying right now as I write this.  My heart just wants to SPILL over.  It's not a bad kind of cry, it's a grateful kind of cry.  Not because I am running faster than I ever have before or more miles than I than I ever have before ... it honestly has nothing really to do with any of that at all.  I just feel so blessed.  So blessed to love an activity that is so soul quenchingly good for me - for my body, for my mind and for my spirit.  So grateful to have people in my life who love me and who I love so truly - people who understand that this is a part of who I am.  I am so grateful to be able to move my body, to be able to run and to absolutely and passionately love doing it.  So grateful for these legs, for this heart of mine and for all that is in it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

giving myself reasons to believe

Last week was a BIG week for me in the world of marathon training.

I have seriously been stepping outside of my comfort zone, testing the waters carefully to see what I am capable of.  Last week that came in the form of my second week of higher-than-ever mileage (clocked in at 83.49 miles - this is majorly gigantic for me!), running a timed mile on the track (also majorly gigantic for me!) and doing my 18 mile long run with the last 10 miles of it run in a local race, at or faster than my marathon goal pace (HUGE).

I went into all of it with the attitude that I was attempting to do it because I believed I could, that I would grow for trying and that I would be strengthened in both mind and spirit because I was stepping up to face my fears in light of a strong faith that I could do it ... no matter the actual outcome.  But I also knew that I would not risk everything to accomplish these running goals -- that I would listen to my body as well as my heart and if in ANY way whatsoever I felt this was dangerous, I would pull back and keep the BIGGER picture in mind.

Because no matter what, the big picture is always the most important thing to me.

So ... how do I feel after two weeks at over 80 miles?  GOOD.  Really really really good.  Strong.  Hopeful!  My body is adapting to this build so nicely and I am incredibly grateful for that.

How did 18 miles go with the last 10 at marathon goal pace?

Three words: It. was. amazing.

What is my goal pace anyways??  Well, at the beginning of this training cycle I really believed I could finish somewhere in the 3:20-3:25 range (this would be average pace somewhere between a 7:40-7:50/mile) if all went well with my training.  I designed my training plan and decided to attempt to train at paces for a 3:20 marathon.  My body was handling it so well - my times on the track and my endurance on long runs as well as my strength in tempos sort of amazed me.

And then I started to DREAM BIGGER.

This past week in particular I found myself wondering ... maybe I can attempt to break 3:20 in my marathon this fall.  The doubter in me said HOLD UP -- you already went from a 4:35 to a 3:34 in a year's time, Jess ... don't be all crazy thinking you can chomp off tons more time this cycle!  But the thing is, I DO know it sounds crazy, but I am not being clueless about this.  I am believing I can do this because in many ways, I am already doing it.

I spoke with a couple of dearly awesome friends who also happen to be incredible runners (one of them is this girl) - friends who really know their stuff and who are also friends who would never feed me B.S. just to sugarcoat me. Friends who I can trust whole-heartedly.  Friends who would tell me STRAIGHT UP if I am crazy.  And they told me they believe in me.  That they are certain I can do even MORE than I think I can.  This means SO MUCH to me.

It really helps to have people in your corner who you can trust.  People who believe in you and people who can completely relate to where you have been and where you want to go - even though you are completely different and on your own unique journeys.  I have a really amazing crew of people like that in my life.  We just GET each other.  It is awesome and we are beyond blessed.

So when I woke up on Sunday morning to run 8 miles with the Honey Badgers before toeing the line for a local (hilly) 10 miler, I was as ready as I could be to test myself.  All of us were.  We were each going to go out there and test ourselves, test our training -- **face our fears** -- and find some COURAGE to do what we believe we are capable of doing.

It went as good as or better than we could have hoped.

Miles 1-8 on the trail (trying to approach this like I would the beginning of any long run, start slower and build):
8:42, 8:32, 8:03, 8:09, 7:52, 7:55, 8:22, 8:14.

After finishing our 8 miles Dora, Chris, Maddie and I quickly got ourselves race-ready and drove down the street to the Start.  We parked the car and hopped out with 10 minutes to go.  We arrived at the Start line and all felt truly crazy, but in a good way.  And then I looked over and saw one of my dearest friends who had given me the pep talk earlier in the week!!  Dorothy was running this race too - and she was going to truly test what she had and go for her fastest 10 miler ever on a super hilly and tough course (I am not kidding about this!).  I was so excited to see her before the start!  It was a real treat for both of us and just what I think we both needed.

There I was, standing there with people who I so completely believe in, lined up at the start of this little local race ready to do something BIG.  I look at my friends and the people around me and I see nothing but strength and grace.  I KNOW right down to my very core that they will accomplish whatever they set out to do.  I just know it and I believe in them with all of my heart.  And I know that they feel that same way about me - we have the power to lift one another up in running.  We really do.  It's like fresh wind under our wings, faith from a friend.  I am so grateful.

I truly was not sure how I would feel when the gun went off - my legs were tired from the week and the 8 miles beforehand.  Yet, I found myself holding back, talking myself into running slower so that I could test out my race pace.  This race is very hilly with some pretty major climbs and some seriously steep declines.  My goal was to run strong and to be in control and to come out of it with a time somewhere between 7:20-7:30 average per mile.  My dear friend (and fellow honey badger) Maddie ran with me and we both felt amazing.  We were reminding one another constantly to HOLD BACK.  It wasn't a race to try to PR or see how fast we could run 10 miles.  It was a race to see if we could run our marathon goal pace on tired legs, and finish feeling strong and as though we had more in our tanks.

Miles 9-18 racing marathon goal pace through my town of Reston (I heart Reston, by the way):
7:17, 7:29, 7:29, 7:40, 7:06, 7:26, 7:34, 7:22, 6:55, 6:52

My time at the finish was 1:13:35, which was a 7:22/mile average.  This is only a little over a minute slower than my current 10 Miler PR which was run on a MUCH less challenging course about 5 months ago.  And I could have kept running.  I am sure I had 8 or so more miles of fight in me.

I surprised myself yesterday.  I did what I set out to do - and I showed myself that I am indeed truly capable of achieving my dreams on marathon day.

The average pace for all 18 miles was 7:43.  The fastest I have ever run a long run.  And arguably the BEST I have ever felt.

And to put icing on this already deliciously sweet running cake, I came in second in my age group! Maddie placed first in her's and Dorothy ran a wicked awesome PR and won first in her age group!!!!  Awesomeness all around.  I'm telling you it was a GOOD day.

Yayyy US!
PLUS - all of the Honey Badgers rocked the race and ran the 10 miles at or faster than goal marathon pace!  I am so amazingly proud of each one of us.  Our hard work is TRULY paying off.

happy honey b's
In addition to that, yesterday's race also had a 10k and there were so many runners there who I helped coach through the Reston Runners 10 Weeks to a 10k program -- it was amazing to see them looking so strong and happy.

My family was there - my husband plus all three kids.  The race ran through my awesome town and finished on the local high school track - OUR TRACK - how perfect was that!?

I was in RUNNING HEAVEN all morning.

me chris and maddie - photo thanks to brian kent!
There are less than 4 weeks left until Marine Corps Marathon.  I am trying to use these next few weeks to give myself no reason to doubt my capabilities on race day.  To give myself reasons to BELIEVE in ME, in the beauty and strength of my own dreams, and in the hard work I have put in to get myself there.  To continue to fill myself up with positive thoughts and surround myself with amazing friends.

And I am telling you this:


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