The Mental Struggle

Last month, I registered for my first full marathon.  I’ll be running the 2015 SLO Marathon in San Luis Obispo, CA, my home town.  I can’t express how excited I am for this race and to finally get to run where my family has an opportunity to watch and cheer me on.

That said, I’ve started to become absolutely terrified.  Terrified of the course.  I know it well.  There are long stretches where it’s straight.  There are long, steep hills, most notably the one you hit at mile 3.  At mile 20, you’re still out in winery country, nowhere near the downtown finish. And to top it off, I won’t know a single person racing the marathon.

That’s the scariest part.

Up until now,  I’ve been able to count on seeing someone I know in a race.  If I struggle or hit the mental dark place, there’s going to be someone to pull me out of it.  I feel like in a marathon, it’s just a given that’s going to happen.  It won’t be the same to have people supporting me on the course.  They won’t be able to run me in the last six miles.  That makes me incredibly nervous.  Not the training, not the distance.  The fact that if I struggle, I’m alone.

I’m so ready for this.  I’m excited to kick off training and start logging those high miles and just experience it all.  But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering moving up my first full to a race where I will know people out on the course.  I’m not sure the course would be any easier (Little Rock, for those who know that course) but I at least would have someone there to drag me if I needed it.

A New PR!

Since I started trail running, I became pretty laxed on including actual speed work in my training plan.  Normally I include one day per week where I focus on my tempo and run faster.  During my Dogwood training, I ran a 15K road race and smashed my previous PR by something like 10 minutes.  Granted, I had only ever done one 15K before, but that’s pretty significant.  The weekend after Dogwood, I dominated a 5K and an 8K (double day, crazy, I know) and ran my first sub-28 minute 5K and smoked a hilly 8K course in the heat.  3 new PRs made me start to think: can I PR the Bass Pro half marathon?

My road runs were getting faster and more comfortable.  I started to really think I could do it.  But it was one of those things that I didn’t want to announce.  It seems like any time I announce wanting to PR a race, something happens and I crash and burn.  I told a close friend about wanting to try for sub 2:15, which would best my time by 3 or so minutes.  She was confident in me.  But I figured I would wait until race day get my head in the game.

Race day came.  It was cold.  Sleeting just a bit.  Wind.  But I felt amazing.  I felt confident.  My first few miles felt fast and I

was passing people.  I felt so strong.  I refused to look at my watch.  I didn’t want to know how fast I was running.  I started catching people that I knew started out with the 2:00 pace group.  I still refused to look at my watch.  I had no idea until I rounded the corner and came up on the finish line.  The clock read 2:09:30.  I knew I had to haul mail if I wanted to cross at 2:10 and hope for a sub 2:10 official.

I did.  2:09:28.  A 9 minute PR from last year.  Crushed.  It’s amazing what you can do with a little confidence.  I’m still riding so high from this amazing race.

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Get wet. Get dirty. Run Dogwood.

Yesterday was THE day.  The day I had been waiting for.  The day I had been training for.  The day I sacrificed blood and sweat for.  The day I spent the last 12 Saturday mornings on the trails for.  It was Dogwood.  And it was amazing.

I haven’t been this jacked for a race in a long time.  Part of it was the fact that it was a new challenge: 25K and a trail race.  Part of it was this amazing running family I’ve discovered.  I felt so ready.  I was ready.  Even now, feeling how my body responded after the race, I KNOW I was ready.  I’m not sure I could have trained any harder.  I was prepared.  And I am so thankful for that because this race is NOT the kind you want to jump into unprepared.  Think I’m exaggerating?  Here’s an elevation snapshot:

Dogwood Elevation

The course: beautiful.  Picturesque.  Stunning.  There aren’t enough words to describe how the leaves looked and how well maintained it was.  Perfect.

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I didn’t stop to take many pictures, mostly because I was too busy feeling amazing.  It’s been a while since I felt THAT prepped for a race and that good in general.  Eventually my glutes started to get tired and my shoulders started to tense but after 16.5 miles, I feel like that’s to be expected.

The event directors were amazing.  The volunteers were amazing.  The course aide was amazing.  Everything was top notch.  I can’t wait to do this again.  I may take on the challenge (15K and 25K on back to back days) but I haven’t decided yet.  I do know that I’m going to be there again next year and I’ll be counting the days!

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Two. More. Weeks.

I’m now (less than) two weeks out from my FIRST trail race.  It’s also my longest race ever.  To celebrate, I took a week off from my trail training to participate in my FAVORITE race of the year, the Panther Run.  Three distances to choose from, naturally, I went with the 15K.

It was an EPIC race.  Cool temps meant PR weather!  I fell into a comfortable pace early, running alongside a woman from my running group.  We didn’t speak at all.  I think we were each racing the other the entire time.  Trail running has encouraged me to power down the hills, even on the road now.  So once we started hitting hills, I pulled away, but was never too far ahead. Eventually we ended up right back together and raced it out for the last mile.  At the end, we exchanged a high five.  I hit a PR by 14 minutes.  Maybe it’s not as big of a deal, considering my only previous 15K was over a year and a half ago, but I’m still celebrating besting my time.

As for trail racing…I now have three trail races on my schedule between now and Thanksgiving.  One 15K, one 25K and a half marathon.  I’m super excited.  Although the elevation chart for the 25K is just a little bit intimidating.  I’ll leave you with this:

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Lessons from the trail

3 weeks.  That’s how far out I am from Dogwood.  I’ve been struggling mentally, wondering how on earth I was going to complete it.  My fuel has been messing with my stomach, my will power is tanking.  But I’ve still gotten out there every weekend so at least there’s that.

Saturday morning when my alarm went off at 4:45am, I wasn’t feeling it.  I had my coffee and my breakfast but just felt “meh”.  I kissed fiance goodbye and he told me he was proud of me.  My drive down to Busiek that’s what I thought about.  That he’s proud of me.

Not proud of my speeds or distance.  Proud of ME.  The work I’m putting in.  ME.  I made a resolve to leave it out there and run MY run.  Not anyone else’s.  MINE.

I felt awesome.  Strong and focused.  I CRUSHED it.  It didn’t and still doesn’t matter that my pace was much faster than my previous 14 mile run (this weekend was 15 miles).  I proved to myself that I have much more in me that I think I do.  Before when I thought I couldn’t go any further, I stopped.  I rested.  And it didn’t do me any favors.  This week I kept moving.  I dug deep and trudged on.

It paid off.

I’ve got so much more in me than I thought I did before that run.  And now I know.  I just have to keep moving.

Ten Toes, Nine Toenails

Guys!  I became a REAL runner today!  I lost my first toenail.  It’s been hanging on by a thread now for a couple of days and I just didn’t have the mental fortitude to rip it off.  But it started snagging on my socks and I tell you what, wearing Vibrams with a half ripped off nail just isn’t fun.  So I made it happen.

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What do you do with your first ripped off toenail?  I have thought about giving it a name and keeping it in a box.  Bronzing it and putting it on a necklace.  I’m actually really excited about this.  I’m sure people think I’m insane and incredibly weird but I trained hard and earned this!

It feels weird.  It’s bleeding a little where I had to give it a little extra “umph” to encourage it coming off.  Guess I should take care of that…

Were you this excited when you lost your first nail?  Am I really that weird?

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