Friday, November 20, 2015

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon

Getting my 4th Boston Qualifying Time in 4 Months
The Chickamauga Marathon was on the one year anniversary of my surgery. I spent a lot of time reflecting back to last November--the people who supported me, the mental struggle of staying positive through adversity and the physical struggle to walk down the hospital hall exactly one year ago.

This year has been a year of blessings. I wanted to celebrate my one year anniversary to my surgery by running a marathon. There just so happened to be a marathon only two hours from home in the Chattanooga, TN area with rave reviews on their organization and course beauty. Just as has happened this year with many aspects of my life post surgery, things came together with timing and training to run the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon.

I had intended to run only a sub four hour marathon as I had read this beautiful course taking runners through the history of the Chickamauga Civil War battle had a few rolling hills. As the race began, I realized I was two hours North of Atlanta and should have worn gloves. I was regretting not bring my gloves. I was too cold to focus on pace.My focus was predominately on staying warm and specifically keeping my hands warm. A few miles in, I realized I was running with the half 1:50 pace group which would put me in reach of another Boston qualifying time.  It was a comfortable pace.  I slowly pulled ahead at about the 10k split. I came through the half at 1:49 or a 3:38 pace. 

On the second half of the course I remained ahead of the 3:40 pace group. The course is beautiful and is a double loop course. I noticed the scenery more on the second loop. There were deer and historical monuments to take my mind off of the miles. On a hill around mile 21 which was the last of three hills in a mile and a half span on the course, the 3:40 pace leader ran alongside me and pulled ahead of me as he crest the hill. 

I had to make a decision at mile 2.  My mind briefly debated...push for a BQ or settle into my current pace which had slowed with the three hills? The three hills known as the three sisters had taken that mental edge off of me.  I lost a few minutes but was still on 3:40 pace.  Doing a gut check, I remembered where I was exactly one year ago--in the hospital recovering from surgery unsure of pathology results which would dictate my future. I said to myself, "nothing is worse than that--dig deep and get the BQ."

Approaching the final miles, I knew it would be close. I focused on closing fast and passing runners to gain momentum. I was able to chase down a few ponytails and a total of ten to fifteen runners as I chased down the BQ the final three miles. I honestly know I lost count of how many runners I caught as my focus was more on time. That time I wanted--3:39.  It was going to be close. I wanted to look at my watch with .2 to go but reminded myself every second would count. I kept digging and pushing. I finished in 3:38:30. My splits were 1:49.30  and 1:49. I secured my fourth BQ in four months and won another age group award. What a difference a year makes! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Silver Comet Trail Marathon

Some days you show up to the starting line with low expectations. Perhaps it was because I am more focused on coaching more than my own training at the moment or because I consider myself I high mileage runner who has not gotten in my usual 60 plus mile weeks in October due to a busy work schedule. I came off a successful fourth place finish at the Fast Pace 15K and an overall age group win but still had self doubt I could extend that 7:35 pace out for another 17 miles.

The weather was perfect. It was a beautiful autumn day with crisp air, sunny skies and cool racing conditions. Fall was at its peak on this Halloween day. I love racing during my favorite time of the year and there is no better place to experience fall than on the Silver Comet Trail which takes you 13.1 miles down and 13.1 miles back on a trail canopied in fall leaves. It was a picturesque run. I maintained my pace and never hit the wall. Having raced five marathons in four months has allowed my body to adjust to the distance. I could not have asked for a better race on Halloween. I accomplished want I wanted to on a beautiful fall day. Silver Comet Trail was my third Boston Qualifying time in four months. I finished fifth female and won my age group--not a bad Halloween at all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Duke City Marathon: New Mexico

Saturday was another early morning as I coached the last cross country regular season race of the 2015 season. It was a rather large meet in Georgia and one in which teams must qualify for based on their season's performance. It is the Georgia equivalent to Mt. SAC in California for those of you who follow cross country. For the first time the FCHS boys would go against most of the AAAAAA schools in the championship division and our ladies moved up to a more competitive race this season. As soon as the meet was finished, I attempted to catch an earlier flight to Albuquerque. It looked promising that I might get on the flight until the entire Hawaii football team decked out in emerald and yellow got on the oversold flight to Albuquerque. I took the second flight and arrived to New Mexico around 9:30, retrieved my rental car and drove to the hotel around 10:00 pm. It was an exhausting day as I transitioned from coach to athlete.

Running the Paseo del Bosque
When the race began, I settled into a 7:55 pace with Chad for the first two miles.  The race starts in downtown Albuquerque and quickly makes a right onto Route 66 which I have not raced on since running the Route 66 Marathon in Oklahoma in 2011. Around mile one we ran past the Huning Castle neighborhood where scenes from the show, Breaking Bad were filmed. The remainder of the course was on the Paseo del Bosque Trail.  Chad decided once we reached the Paseo del Bosque Trail to get in a workout for an upcoming ultra marathon.  I was feeling great until mile four when I started to feel stomach cramps. Having only stopped once out of 70 marathons due to stomach problems during a race, I was uncertain if this was going to lead to me slowing down or even worse---a DNF. I began searching for a place to go to the restroom but there were no porta-potties. We were racing in the middle of the desert. There were no trees or leaves--only a few bushes. Although Paseo del Bosque means scenic forest path, there was no real forest or trees. There was a drop off close to the path so I ran down the hill and was certain I would feel better after taking a short break. Unfortunately, that sick feeling came back again in route to the turnaround at mile 13.1.  The course did have a few distractions from my stomach problems. The highlight of the race was the hot air balloons lining the sunrise floating across the Sandia Mountains.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Omaha Marathon Turn A New Leaf Over Somewhere In The Middle of America

The Omaha Marathon 

Getting it right this time in Nebraska!

Race Week: 

Somewhere in the middle of America. Get right to the heart of matters. It's the heart that matters more.  Omaha--Counting Crows

Things were not going in my favor leading up to the Omaha Marathon. I started feeling sick on Wednesday and things went downhill from there. As I became sick, life would get busier with teaching and coaching. Rest was limited due to my busy schedule and not being able to breathe led to even less sleep. I coached cross country on Saturday morning as FCHS cross country boys finished first among 30 teams. The ladies ran fast enough to move them up to a top ten state ranking along with a national elite qualification. I left the meet happy but anxious about the work I had ahead of me in Omaha on Sunday. Driving to Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport for my flight to Omaha via Dallas, I tried to change my focus from coach to athlete. It was time to get to the heart of matters. In route, I focused on hydration and relaxing. After picking up my rental car and checking into the hotel, it was 11:30 pm. I got roughly five hours of sleep and woke up feeling congested but knew this was no time for excuses--I had 26.2 miles of work to do.

First Half 13.1 Miles Of Omaha and The Missouri River

Run past the heather and down to the old road. Start turning the grain into the ground. Roll a new leaf over. Omaha--Counting Crows

I drove to the TD Ameritrade Stadium, picked up my packet and napped in my car. I quickly did a few plyometric drills and lined up at the start just in time for the singing of the national anthem. A couple of runners asked me how I wanted to finish and I told them 3:39 but I knew that would be tough to sustain. My breathing was heavy the first 5k because of my congested state and I knew this past week's busy schedule would catch up with me sooner or later. Other than breathing issues, I could not believe how great I felt for 13.1 miles. The course had us running three miles in downtown Omaha before it took us to a beautiful bike path adjacent to the Missouri River and along a few grain mills. It was perfect weather mixed with wind. When I ran in Lincoln and Valentine, Nebraska it was upper 80s to low 90s. I did not take this beautiful day for granted. We left the scenic bike path along the Misouri River and toured through a few suburban neighborhoods before turning around to head back to the TD Ameritrade Stadium in downtown Omaha.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Two Half Marathons & A 15K PR

Week 1 Post Boston Qualifying in South Dakota: Hotlanta Half Tempo Run

A week after earning my second Boston qualifying time in one month in Colorado and later in South Dakota I decided to get in a tempo run in Atlanta at the Hotlanta Half Marathon practicing my race pace for the Omaha Marathon. I finished 4th in my division on a hilly course and top 20 female with my marathon target pace of 8:10. The Hotlanta Half is the second largest half marathon in Atlanta behind the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon so I was pleased with how I placed with marathon legs from the previous Saturday and with using the race as a tempo run. I was racing at about 85% effort. Although the race is known to be a hot race in the summer it rained for most of the 13.1 miles this year. The course is one of the best designed courses in Atlanta in terms of ATL sightseeing but it is in no way a fast course.

Week 2 Post Boston Qualifying Time In South Dakota: Iron Horse 15k Podium Finish & 15K PR

The following week I raced the Iron Horse 15K. I finished on the podium at the Iron Horse 15k. I ran a 7:37 pace on hills for the 15k which turned out to be a solid effort. My coach and I decided to use the first four miles as a tempo and then race the final five miles. Once again, it was a hilly course with most of the hills coming on the second half of the course. I enjoyed the tempo to race strategy.

Week 3 Post Boston Qualifying In South Dakota: Labor Day Half Marathon Podium Finish

I actually raced this half marathon which turned out to be 13.3 miles instead of 13.1.  The race directors verified this was the case. My pace for the 13.3 miles was a 7:53 which was good enough for third female overall. It was a typical humid morning in Atlanta in early September but I still ran eleven minutes faster on the same course (although a little longer course) than I did on the same course in April of this year five months after my surgery. Within five months I have taken over eleven minutes off of my 13.1 time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Leading Ladies Marathon--South Dakota "Cowgirl Up"

Pre-race high five from Jimmy
The Leading Ladies Marathon has been a bucket list marathon for me for years. The Leading Ladies Marathon is not only a beautiful course through Spearfish Canyon among the Black Hills of South Dakota but it is also all about the ladies. This was my first time running a female only marathon out of my 69 marathons. On Friday night, I flew into Rapid City after work, rented a Mustang, and checked into my hotel. The next morning I discovered a quaint city with a presidential vibe, a street covered in art known as Art Ally, and a friendly community in Rapid City. I loved the presidential statues on each street corner, the vibe of the town and the people I encountered. It was a brief visit before I began my adventure to Spearfish, South Dakota. I got a pre-race high-five from Jimmy Carter and had Starbucks with George Washington before heading to the expo in Spearfish.

The race director of the Leading Ladies Marathon
While at the expo, I met the race director, Elaine who has run 125 marathons herself. Elaine is such a strong woman (7 children) who has really lived life through running, survived cancer and several marriages due to an unfaithful husband and death. She is an example for all of us to be strong ladies through the storms of life.  As the race slogan suggest "Cowgirl Up" both in running and in life. I really respect the strong women among us. After chatting with Elaine a few runners suggested I take a road trip to Wyoming's Devils Tower.

Dinner With Amy Yanni

I returned from my Wyoming day-trip to meet Amy Yanni (another amazing lady) for dinner who was my inspiration for running my 24 sub four hour marathons in 2011. She is the only lady to have ran more than 24 sub four hour marathons in 24 states in a year. Needless to say, Amy is a role model but not just in running.  Amy, has a Ph.d in EDU and spent most of her life being a service oriented attorney who retired to participate in the Teach For America Program to help educate children in the poverty stricken areas of Mississippi while racing really fast marathons around the US. We had so much in common as we discussed not only marathons but the challenges of being an educator. Amy Yanni is also a cancer survivor who discovered she had cancer through a benign tumor just as I did. After dinner, we returned to our respective hotels and set our alarms for 3:30 am. I went to sleep inspired and empowered from our dinner conversation.
Devils Tower, Wyoming

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Revel Rockies Marathon--Colorado. Comeback Complete.

Revel Rockies Marathon--Colorado
Reflecting on the journey. I had already fought and trained my
way back to the top. It was time to fight my way down
the Rockies.
Three years, three months, and two weeks. That's how long it had been since I ran a sub four hour marathon in a new state. Since my last sub four marathon my life has changed drastically. I sold a house. Bought a new house. Left Peachtree Ridge High School to build another cross country program. Had surgery for a tumor. Discovered I had cancer. Overcame the largest setback of my life. My life has changed drastically since I ran the Ocean Drive Marathon in New Jersey in March of 2012. Since my last sub four hour state--New Jersey I had been unsuccessful in Nebraska by a few seconds of hitting a sub four hour marathon, a DNF in Colorado with a wrong turn, and three minutes short of a sub four hour marathon in South Dakota at Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon. Unknowingly, I was very sick and did not know why my body was working against me. Getting the answers did not make things easier. Getting the news I had a large tumor that looks like cancer on an MRI was one of the most frightening moments of my life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I am not obsessed with running...okay maybe a little obsessed

"As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." -- Bill Gates

It may seem like my entire life revolves around running or perhaps that I don't really have a life outside of running at all. Most would be surprised to know that running is just one small aspect of my life but the one I enjoying sharing with others the most. I am very private about a lot of things but running is not one of them. I want people to know where I come from with sharing on this blog, my constant social media updates with inspirational running post, running pictures and running videos. Here is the Cliff Notes version....

For two years I traded in racing bibs for hospital wrist bands. It was two years of MRIs, blood test, ultrasounds and doctor's visits. I didn't give up on my running goals or my dreams but my body temporarily gave up on me. I pushed through 67 marathons with low ferritin for years, I struggled with the occasional running tweaks from plantar issues to uncooperative IT Bands, I balanced multiple jobs with my training while earning three degrees with little to no energy. These are things we can balance in our lives and overcome. However, sometimes life hits us so hard we have no choice but to take a step back. That is precisely what happened to me from 2012-2014. Unknowingly I had a fast growing tumor and cancer simultaneously.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The 37th Possum Trot 10k In Preperation For 26.2 In Colorado

There were a couple of goals for this Atlanta tradition--The Possum Trot 10k which takes place in the beautiful Chattahoochee Nature Reserve in Roswell, Georgia. I am racing through these shorter distances to prepare my body for 26.2 in Colorado. I "tapered" the day before the race with a 15 mile run. Needless to say, I am training through these shorter races as they are a means to accomplish a marathon goal. I went into this 10k with tired legs that put in 90 miles the week prior to this 10k which has been an Atlanta tradition for 37 years.  I had two goals going into the race: (1) to get my personal best time in the 10k which is still nothing to write home about  and (2) to make the said goal happen over the last three miles with a fast finish. I have been training to finish faster in my races. I am happy to report I got everything I wanted out of this race. With that said, I would have loved to have chased down a few more ponytails but with the two hills the last mile and the humidity taking a toll on my body, it didn't happen. I finished top ten overall which with all things considering (my weekly mileage and that my target training is for 26.2) I will take those results and move forward.  I did manage to win my third age group award post surgery.

Looking ahead to 26.2 in Colorado in July, I would say I am getting close to being able to race a Boston qualifying time again. I had seven Boston qualifying times in 2011 before my health went downhill in 2012. My body knows this Boston qualifying pace as my average pace in 2011 when I ran 24 marathons was only three minutes over the Boston qualifying time. I was registered for the 2012 Boston Marathon but could not run it due to my health. It would be great to return to racing 26.2 with a BQ! The reality is that I am only seven months out from my surgery which took a toll on my body and only a few months into marathon training. My doctor said it would be a complete year until my body was fully recovered. My ferritin levels have increased from a four to a ten. Although I am excited to see double digits for the first time since 2009,  a ten is not close to where I need my ferritin to be for training. To get my iron stores which is stored in bone marrow in the normal range, I am taking iron supplements.

You can watch the race highlights here:
Below is a video of my Workout Wednesday after the 10k on Sunday. The workout started with a seven mile warm-up. I completed five mile repeats. I hit pace on the first four and was 10 seconds slow on the fifth. The goal was to do three and keep going as long as I could hit my target pace.  It was 94 degrees the evening of the workout. I am satisfied I held onto pace for four of the five miles. Summer training in Hotlanta is a challenge when targeting a specific pace!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Marathon Training: "Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don't wish it were easier; wish you were better."

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." -- Arthur Ashe

An inside look into a few of my workouts as I prepare to return to 26.2 post surgery.