Monday, December 14, 2015

Rocket City Marathon 2015 Race Report

It's always such a full-circle experience to return to the Rocket City Marathon, as it was my first one 14 years ago!  On Saturday, December 12, 2015, it was also my 33rd marathon!  I was co-leader of the 4:00 pace group with friend and fellow Fleet Feet Racing teammate, Christy Scott.

Our expo is held at the VBC in the South Hall.  I headed over there around noon on Friday, December 11 to get my race packet and pace sign.  Everyone was talking about the record breaking warm temperatures.  The temperature was expected to start in the 50's and get up to the 70's during the race.  

Saturday morning began for me at 2:30 a.m., when I woke up and could not go back to sleep!  Rick had to get up at 3:00 to get ready for his course sentry responsibilities, so I lay in the bed listening for him to wake up and then listening to him as he got ready and left.  At 4:00 a.m., after tossing and turning forever, I decided to just get up.  I showered, ate a FigBar and drank some Gatorade.  My stomach was in knots and upset.  I took Tums and Pepto chewables and hoped for the best.

I got my baby up and nursed her (at 18 months, she still nurses in the mornings).  I left at 5:40 to bring her to my sister's house (the older 2 kids were already there sleeping).  I handed her off, picked up friends Alison and Susan (both first time marathoners!), and headed to the race.  We arrived around 6:30 a.m., not leaving too much time for bathroom visits with a 7:00 a.m. start!  The race begins at the VBC, so there are tons of bathrooms inside to use.  I much prefer them to port-a-potties!

The Race
I found my friend, Christy Scott, and we held up our pace signs and chatted with runners.  A common question was whether or not the signs are heavy.  After pacing for 5 years, I can honestly say that carrying the sign is not a problem; however, this year the dowels were larger.  Simply carrying the sign lower for most of the race solved that problem, though I made sure to raise it up for spectators and photographers!  FF teammate Marty Clark joined our pace group with his friend.  Marty was planning to pace his friend for a 4:00 time.  

Off We Go!  First Half--Easy Going: 9:16, 8:57, 9:03, 9:11, 8:58, 9:08, 8:56, 9:04, 9:12, 9:00, 18:19 (Miles 11 and 12), 9:15

We were aiming to finish around 3:59 (a 9:06 mile).  We didn't focus too much on getting exactly 9:06 for each mile.  In fact, we were pretty relaxed about the whole thing.  Seasoned.  Before the start, one girl asked us how we keep the pace, and we both had trouble verbalizing it right away.  You just know.  You can feel it (and of course, you rely on watches and Garmins!).  Our half split was right on at 1:59:26.

During the first half, I chatted with 3 of my neighbors who were also running today--and they all started with our group!  We also made conversation with the other runners.  Runners like to know if we are on pace, so we made sure we announced that at every mile marker.  The first half of the course is mostly run in neighborhoods, some of them in our historic downtown.  Then at the halfway point, the course takes you back to the VBC, so we enjoyed a large cheering section and the satisfaction that we were halfway to our goal.  

Photos courtesy of We Run Huntsville

Second Half--Quick Changes: 9:04, 9:09, 9:00, 8:52, 9:06, 9:05, 9:01, 9:11, 8:48, 8:51, 9:02, 11:52 (Mile 26 and .2)

Mile 15 takes you on a long straight section on 9th Avenue, parallel to Interstate I-565 and close enough to see the cars whizzing by.  This section is pretty boring, but I like it because I know my favorite spot--the Space and Rocket Center--is coming up.  As I was running this section next to Christy she suddenly said, "Katie, I'm going to have to walk for a bit."  Before I knew what was happening, she had fallen back and I was the only pacer.  This is the hard part of pacing--you have to stay on pace.  I couldn't wait on her or stop and ask her if she was okay.  I had to go on.  I'm realizing all of this in my head and holding up my pacer sign high, hoping she could see it from where she was, when I felt someone hit my sign.  It was Marty, holding Christy's sign!  I was relieved that he had taken her sign but disappointed because I knew that meant she wasn't coming back with us.

As we headed into the Space and Rocket Center (you go around their parking lot and then through the Rocket Park behind the museum), I distracted myself with some songs in my head (I liked "Eye of the Tiger" by Katy Perry and "I Know I Can" by Nas today!).  I was more concerned about pace than I was before because Christy wasn't with me and she had a Garmin (I only had my stop watch).  It's easy to feel a pace when you are fresh, but as you tire it gets harder to judge pace based on feel alone!  I made sure to look for photographers near the rockets--they make great backdrops for the Rocket City Marathon!

I loved the section where we run behind the Space and Rocket Center on a gravel trail, and I love the Botanical Gardens (we were welcomed into this section by a lady in a huge butterfly costume who was dancing--awesome!).  As I left the Gardens, I was given a baggie filled with ice water which felt so good and cool.  I held it in my hand, put it on my head and face, and then poured it into my water bottle to drink.  I'm holding the baggie in the picture below.

I had been eating Gu (they offered it at several aid stations along the course--not just the 3 places listed at packet pickup), some chews, orange slices, and a pretzel offered to me along the course.  I'd also had lots of water and Gatorade.  Taking my second dose of Advil around Mile 15 was a crucial move for me since I'd had lots of leg pain/cramping in Columbus.  

The last 5K of the race went well, and it was hard to hold back from running faster.  Marty and I still wanted to be on pace.  He and his friend plus a few people here and there were the only ones still at our pace.  We passed many people walking by this point and left many people too.  I don't normally drink while I run, but I took a beer offered around Mile 23 and enjoyed the excited cheers from the Hashers.

I knew we were well under pace as we approached the finish line, so I slowed for the last mile + .2 though Marty went ahead.  I wanted to be close to 3:59.  This picture shows how wet my hair was--from sweat and the water I'd been throwing on my head at every aid station!  I am in the finisher's tunnel here, only feet away from the finish inside the VBC.

I love our finish line!  I could hear and see the people cheering.  If you enlarge this picture, I like how there is a man in the background just smiling at me as I finish.  People were saying, "Good job, right on pace."  My official time was 3:58:29 (chip).


I grabbed my mylar blanket and medal from the volunteers and headed to get food.  Three people came up to thank me for pacing them at the end!  Chicken noodle soup sounded delicious and salty so I took some.  I sat down to watch the finishers and eat a little.  I knew I didn't have long because I needed to get back to my kids.  

Only 5 weeks after my last marathon which was a real low for me, I ran right on pace today and felt good for the entire race.  Since the weather conditions were similar, I think the experience I had at Columbus helped prepare me for today.  I dealt with the warm temperatures better than I might have without my Columbus race.

My fellow pacer, Christy, finished in 4:10 and did amazing dealing with nausea but still pressing on.  Seeing Marty take her sign left me with a feeling of appreciation for our team and for what we do for each other.  Our Huntsville community of runners is like no other!

I learned about pacing and came to a new appreciation for this task.  Feeling responsible for the pace group helped me to stay on pace through some of my lower points towards the end of the marathon.  I felt an obligation to the runners who were counting on us.

I also learned not to be so hard on myself about the past years' pacing experiences.  We all are doing the best we can, learning and running and pacing.  Today things came together for me, but I know that it would have been okay if they hadn't. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

In the News

A friend shared this link with me and said she recognized me!  It's an article about The 50 Best Races in America.  Rocket City is listed and has a picture of Rick and me at Rocket City in 2012, the year we paced together.   Here's the picture:

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pacer Recaps: I've Learned LOTS

Rocket City Marathon Pacer Years and Paces

2010 4:15 pacer

2011 3:55 pacer

2012 3:45 pacer

2014 4:10 pacer

2015 4:00 pacer--this Saturday!

This Saturday, I'll be attempting the task of pacer for my 5th time.  Pacing is all about when you finish.  It is best to be right under pace (15-30 seconds under) and never over even by 1 second!  In 2010 I finished too slow, and in 2011 I was too fast.  Pacing was new and challenging to me.  Plus I was running alone (now we have 2 pacers per group which helps me a lot).  I wasn't using my key tool that I recommend to anyone wanting to run a certain pace: a pace bracelet.  The bracelet (I tape mine to my pacer sign) will tell you the pace you should have for each mile.  This is crucial!  If only I had known this.  I mistakenly thought that the Garmin (with overall and lap pace) would be all I needed. Wrong.  You will probably run OVER the marathon distance, so over relying on the Garmin will only mess you up.

With Rick's help in 2012, we ran an awesome race and finished perfectly.  In 2014, I also repeated a well-paced run (I never did the race recap for that marathon, oh well).

I liked rereading these because I can see how far I've come.  This task should feel easy to me on Saturday.  I'm trained, I know how to pace, and I've got a fellow teammate to help me with the group.
More later!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Family Fun at the Krispy Kreme Challenge, 2 Pi K, Autumn Chase, and Monte Sano 5 and 10 K

Running is a sport for our entire family.  We don't push our kids to participate in runs, but the older 2 (9 and 8 years old) are beginning to really enjoy it and ask to run races!  The baby is doing great just tagging along too.  Here are some of the things we've all been up to lately.

Krispy Kreme Challenge

My family participated in the UCP Krispy Kreme Challenge on Saturday, November 21.  This was our first year to go as a team.  Our challenge was to run 2 miles to Krispy Kreme, together finish a dozen donuts, and run back 2 miles to the finish.  

Since my daughter is only 8, she hadn't run 4 miles in a race yet.  This was her first time.  She told me she wanted to try it, so I went ahead and signed her up.  She was so cute and was coming up with a time goal before the race (by multiplying her 1 mile time by 4, which I told her is not how it works!).  We were not concerned about our times today, but she seems very goal-driven.  She doesn't like to eat and run, so for fun we called the baby her "sub" for the eating part of the challenge.  

My son who's 9 has run this race the last 2 years with me.  After carefully reading about the prohibited items and not seeing anything about a jogging stroller, my husband and I agreed that the baby could come and be pushed by Rick during the race.

The kids sprinted ahead of us at the start.  We were in the back with the stroller.

My son and I finished the first 2 mile run and waited for Rick and the girls to come to the KK parking lot.  We had our box of doughnuts waiting.  

We ate all the doughnuts!  What an fun way to bond as a family!
Our doughnut totals:
Rick: 5, Our son: 4, me: almost 3, the baby: 4 bites of mine  

Then we ran back to the finish line.  All of us ran the entire race!  The baby doesn't look fazed at all about the run.  She loves the stroller!  We received green finisher's shirts and were happy to accept another couple of boxes of doughnuts to take home as the race ended (if you do this race, they give away lots of boxes of doughnuts after the Doughnut Eating Contest, so stay and claim some if you haven't had your fill yet!).

2 Pi K Race

Here is a picture from back on October 7 at the 2 Pi K Race.  This is a small race on the Redstone Arsenal one day after work.  My son and I ran this race together while the rest of our family watched.  He did great and ran the entire thing (2 Pi K is 6.3 K which is just about 4 miles).  I finished first place female and then put the baby (who was missing her Mommy) on my back.  She and I came up to receive my award.  

Autumn Chase

This is a family picture from the Autumn Chase races.  We always have fun at these races.  My kids run, and Rick and I volunteer.  They chose to use this picture as the cover of the HTC newsletter for this quarter.  It was such a special surprise for all of us!

Monte Sano 5 and 10 K

We all volunteered at the Monte Sano 5 and 10 K back on September 5.  
I love the picture of all of us!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Soldier Marathon 2015 Race Report

Friday, November 6, 2015

My family left Madison, AL and headed to Columbus, GA at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, November 6, 2015.  The drive was about 4 hours (but we lost an hour on the way).  We arrived at the packet pickup at the National Infantry Museum right around 5:00 p.m. their time.  The museum was closed, but we were able to look around outside and to see the Avenue of Flags and their Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall.  We watched a kids' marathon there that looked like a lot of fun.  We headed to our hotel (about 15 minutes away) and grabbed Panda Express for dinner on the way.

 I am standing in the Avenue of Flags.  The start/finish area is behind me.  
The Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall is to the far left in this picture.

Saturday, November 7

We woke up early (I was up at 5:45 a.m., which felt like 4:45 our time).  Well, I was actually up most of the night.  Our baby was in a pack and play for the first time ever (she's 16.5 months and this is her first overnight trip).  She did well until 4 a.m. when she woke up crying.  I was already up tossing and turning, so I nursed her and kept her in our bed.  At 5:45, I was relieved to be able to finally get up, shower, and prepare for the race.  We woke up the kids at 6:15 and were in the car around 6:35 a.m.

Traffic to get to the marathon was heavy and at an almost standstill.  The race started at 7:30, and at 7:15 I was still in the car a 1/2 mile away and not moving!  Finally, we pulled into a parking lot and I raced to the start.  Rick ran up behind me with the kids as I was walking and trying to scarf down a Honey Stringer waffle.  He served as my "gear check," so no need for a checked bag!  When I think of Rick, I am reminded of this quote by Daniel Bennett from the Soldier Marathon FB page:  "I encourage you to play an active role in enhancing someone else's participatory experience."  Rick, who is usually at my side as a fellow runner, was injured and unable to run today, so instead he was my biggest fan and supporter.  For someone who's used to not having any support on my marathons, knowing that Rick and the kids were there meant so much to me.

I tucked in with the runners at the 8:00 pace sign and waited about 10 minutes until the race began.  It was a close call, but I'd made it!  As I waited for the start, I looked down and noticed a mosquito bite on my leg.  The conditions here today were humid and warm (70's).  The area was swamp-like, with Spanish moss on the trees and even an alligator habitat along the course near the river!  With a cannon's loud "BOOM!," the race began.

First Half: Right on Pace

7:36, 7:42, 8:04, 7:52, 8:04, 8:10, 8:06, 7:54, 8:06, 8:14, 8:14, 8:03, 8:08

I saw the 3:25 pacer ahead of me as the race began, and our first couple of miles were a tad fast.  No congestion at the start was nice (The marathon had around 500 finishers, but the half started with us with almost 1,000 finishers.  There was also a 5K which started right after our start).  I was running with only a stopwatch and no Garmin, so I had trouble judging my pace at the beginning but was aiming to stay at 8:00 the entire race.  Mile 2 held Drill Hill, complete with a drill sergeant barking at us to go faster up the hill!  

This part of the course led us around Fort Benning, so we saw lots of the army housing and soldiers stationed at frequent intervals.  I felt pretty warm, but I was still feeling like the running was easy.  I had a chocolate Gu offered in Mile 6 and a salted caramel one at Mile 10, and I poured water on my head at every water station, hoping to cool off a bit.  I made it through the first half perfectly paced for a 3:30 (half split was 1:45).

Photo courtesy of FB Soldier Marathon site
Second Half: Let the Excuses Begin

8:45, 8:49, 9:33, 9;04, 9:12, 10:33, 17:51 (OUCH!), 10:14, 9:07, 12:15, 9:17, 9:33, 10:49 (1+.2)

We ran a lot of miles on the Riverwalk by the Chattahoochee River.  It was so pretty with all of the water and the changing leaves.  It was such a relief to not have rain (they'd predicted thunderstorms and even posted a severe weather policy on their FB site in case a delay or cancellation was needed).  I told myself to enjoy this day and the opportunity I had to run.  It was a little lonely for the early teens and I began to wish I had brought music (something I never use in marathons).  

I began to know that I would not be able to get the 3:30 right after I finished Mile 13.  I just knew I didn't have it in me today.  It was easy to list the odds stacked up against me in this race: stomach bug over the last 2 weeks and no appetite or energy, Rick being on travel while I cared for all of the kids while they were sick, not well hydrated since my stomach had still not been taking liquids well, more frequent nursing from my sick baby, lack of sleep the night before the race, endless chaffing along my bra seams that I cannot seem to stop, and warm conditions.  I'd also gotten this weird feeling in my right ear, just like what you get when you swim and water gets in your ear.  I've had this happen only once before, on a hot long run.  This wasn't good.  But this was my chance!  Couldn't I push through all of this?  Wasn't I tougher?

Seeing Rick and the kids at Mile 15 was a highlight of my race, but it also made me want to stop and quit.  I wanted Rick to drive me back to the hotel and just call it a day.  

Here I am when Rick and kids saw me at Mile 15.

What Rick didn't see was me crouching down on the grass near the street shortly after I'd left him.  I knew I could not hold my pace anymore, and I looked back at them longingly, wanting to go back to them and drop out.  When I finally made it to Mile 16, I was surprised that even with my stop that mile was only 9:33.  

We passed some type of barbecue festival to our right as we ran near the city, and we ran through a marching band at one point!  I'm not sure why they were on our course?  I also remember running through lots of parking lots with uneven footing and feeling a little confused about where to go for some of the course.  I was struggling to maintain 9:00 miles.  

When I saw Rick at Mile 20, it was another surprise for me!  I didn't except to see him at either place along the course.  How I wanted to just stop!  I shouted, "Expect me in 3:45 or slower!"  He knew what this meant.  I was now just running to finish.  I had officially tossed my goal out of the window.

After I left my cheering crew, I just gave up.  I stopped, crouched to relieve some of my legs' soreness, and began to walk.  Mile 20 was 17:51--one of my slowest marathon miles ever.  I texted Rick, "Talk me out of the DNF," to which he wrote back a flurry of inspiration and also started tracking me with my phone.  He wrote, "You aren't a quitter.  That is not who you are.  You are tough!  You finish what you start.  Finish this thing!"  

Shortly after that, I came to an aid station that some man had set up (I don't think it was an official one).  He had all sorts of stuff, and I stopped to fill up my water bottle (which I carried because of the warm conditions).  I asked if he had Advil, and he did!  So I took 2.  I told him my legs were really tight, so he offered me some pretzels to give me the salt I would need to hopefully avoid cramping.  I continued on, thankful for that wonderful stop.  I ate some caffeinated Sportsbeans and did some walking over the next few miles, knowing that now even the 3:45 time was gone.  Then the 3:50.  When I got to Mile 23, I knew I had 32 minutes left to get a sub 4, so I ran as much as I could for those 3 miles, and they were all sub 10 which felt like a victory for me.

Finally, we were on the last mile, a long, straight stretch on Lumpkin Road (the same road we drove in on that morning in the standstill traffic).  So I knew I had a long way to go as I chugged along.  Then, I got to turn the corner and could see the finish!  I knew I was almost done.  I heard a guy shouting about finishing sub 4, and I sprinted to the finish line.  I saw my family cheering for me!  I finished in 3:59:26 (chip time), 81/523.

I grabbed food and immediately went to lay down in the field behind the finish line.  The Planet Pop they gave me was delicious!  I also had water and a Diet Coke!  After cleaning up a little, I walked through the National Infantry Museum (seemed odd that they were letting us walk through it all sweaty, but this was our chance so we took it).

From a news article I found online, which validated my thoughts that the warm conditions played a part in the way my race turned out today:

More than 2,000 runners participated in the Sixth Annual Soldier Marathon on Saturday.  Race director Cecil Cheves said this marathon is an opportunity for the community to give back to the military community.
This year, the humidity was the highest it has ever been during a Soldier Marathon, which experts said added 10 to 15 minutes to a runner’s time.  
My feet were so water-logged when I got back to the hotel, so I had one of the kids snap this picture.

And where do you put smelly, wet shoes when your toddler wants to wear everyone's shoes?  Why, on the lamp way up high over her head, of course.

We headed back to the Chattahoochee River to see the urban whitewater rapids at this place called the Island, shopped at a mall briefly, ate Firehouse subs for a late lunch/early dinner, watched lots of cable t.v. (luxury to us non-cable people!), and grabbed more popsicles at Planet Pop that night.  The next day, we headed to Auburn to tour my alma mater.  The rain they had forecasted for race day came a day late, and we all ended up wet.

Final Thoughts

Even though I did not get my time at this race, it still marked the return of something I love to do: traveling the country and running marathons.  As I do more and more of these and get older and older, I am sure I will have many more races that don't go my way---and hopefully a few that do.  It is the hope of these "mountain-top" marathon moments that keeps us coming back for more.  I am so thankful to be able to race, and I have to take the good with the bad.  No, it was not my day out there, but I pray that there will be other opportunities.  

I plan to pace the 4:00 group at the Rocket City Marathon next month.  I will hopefully be able to get within seconds of the time I got in the Soldier Marathon, with a much differently paced race, of course.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Soldier Marathon Quick Update

So this is not the time I wanted, but I am still pretty happy with the finish.  I had a lot of negative self-talk in this race and honestly almost dropped out several times.  It's why I love the marathon so much---it takes you to your highest highs in some races and your lowest lows in others.  It's such a roller coaster and you never know what you will find when you start the race.  I'm done with Marathon #32 and still have much to learn about me AND this distance.  More later!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tapering--Marathon this Saturday!

Well, as they say, the hay's in the barn.  I finished Hal Higdon's Advanced 1 Marathon Training Program for this Saturday's marathon!  I only have 2 rest days and a Friday 2 miler to go!  I guess I'd give myself a grade of a B for this training.  I dug deep for dark solo long runs starting at 3:30 a.m., and I ran 10 mile pace runs with the stroller.  But I got to where I could not do the middle of the week "hard" run (either hills, tempo, or speedwork), so I started to skip it.  I did that at least 4 times for various reasons (isn't it easy to find an excuse when you really don't want to do something?).  I did finish the last speedwork today and nailed it (4x400s), but the thoughts of doubt still loom in my head from the missed workouts.

Then this past week my whole family has had the stomach bug!  I was planning on doing some core work with Jillian Michael's DVDs, but when the bug hit me a week ago I lost my appetite for days and had no energy.  I played around with some of the mileage for the first week of the taper, fitting in short runs when I felt well enough to do them, skipping them when I did not.  I could not even look at the healthy food I had bought to eat and instead ate Saltines and drank Gatorade.  Now with only 4 days to go, I am trying to hydrate and resume eating.

Then there's the weather report--lots of rain forecast for Columbus, GA the morning of the marathon.  Time for me to start mentally preparing for running in the rain.  I remain hopeful that I can meet my goal, but I also know that there are a lot of things I can't control, and this is one of them.

More after the race!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Taper Time is Here!

Picture from the Autumn Chase Run (free one mile races for elementary kids).  Our team paces these races each year.

Today was my last 20 miler in this marathon training cycle.  It went very well (best of the 3 I've done--8:40ish pace and was aiming for 9:00s) and yesterday's 10 mile pace run did also.  I will be running in the Soldier Marathon in 3 weeks.  Starting at 3:30 a.m. is really not fun but I kept telling myself that I get to reap the benefits when it's over.  And no more long runs now! 

I used today's run to think about a big test I will take tomorrow for elementary teaching (reinstating my certificate).  I broke the run into 4 5-mile segments and kind of "pep talked" myself for each of the four segments of the test (English, Math, Science, Social Studies).  It gave me something to do and reminded me that visualization is good for testing but especially for marathoning.  Now I plan to do the same thing to get myself ready for the marathon.  I'll picture myself being successful race day, go back and reread previous blog entries, and remind myself of all of the training I've done to get here.  Back to some last minute studying now!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Marathon Training Update

I'm on Week 12 of training, and it's still going okay.  Yesterday I ran the 6 pace miles (8:00 pace) while pushing the single stroller with my baby.  It felt hard, but I expected it to since I'm not used to pushing her.  Today was a 12 mile run, and I ran it with some friends.  Next week is another high mileage week, one of the toughest in the plan.  My last 20 miler was sub-9:00, but it felt super hard for me and I was so tired afterwards.  I can tell that I am getting stronger, but each run is still hard and tiring.  The early morning runs are getting to me too; for the last 20 miler a friend met me at 3:20 a.m. to start running.  It's peaceful at that hour and okay with a headlamp, but it's also so crazy!

I don't have a marathon anymore though!  My husband and running partner is injured.  I feel NO motivation without him training side by side with me (We don't actually train together, but I always like knowing he is doing nearly identical training to me)!  I keep training, but now I am second-guessing doing a marathon in November.  We had not actually registered for the one we wanted to do in IN.  I may do one in Columbus, GA since it is closer than IN.  Or I may just hold off training and then resume training for Rocket City in mid-December.  

Later this afternoon, my kids will run the annual fun run here in town that is free for all elementary students.  I grew up going and love taking them to it too.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Hal Higdon Advanced 1 Training Weeks 1-6

I am training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 6, 2015, and I am 6 weeks into the program.  It feels wonderful to be pushing myself for the first time since becoming pregnant with the baby (who is now almost 14 months).  I picked Hal Higdon's Advanced 1 training program since I've used it before with good results.

I found it hard to select a time goal.  I paced a 4:10 group last December for the Rocket City Marathon which felt very hard at the time.  Before that, I had run the 2013 Monumental Marathon at 7.5 weeks pregnant in 3:32.  It seemed more logical to go with that time even though the 4:10 was more recent.  So based on my time in this race 2 years ago, I plan to train for a 3:30 time this year.  This time is still nearly 20 minutes off of my PR, but I feel that it will be a realistic time goal given my current physical state.

I finished Week 6 this week with a few challenges.  Fitting in the early morning runs before getting my shower, nursing the baby, and now walking the big kids to school at 7:20 a.m. (they started back on August 5--so early!) is tricky.  Plus my husband, Rick, is also training, so I have to fit my runs around his.  Some days I have only exactly enough time to run my distance, so we pass each other at our garage door, he heading in and me heading out.  Some days when he's out running, I run laps around the front of my house (these are usually my 3-4 mile runs).  I've also started waking up much earlier (as early as 3:30 a.m.), but I anticipate I may have to get up even earlier as the weeks go on in order to fit in the long runs.  I'm sure these things aren't really anything new to most of you too.  It's just an adjustment for me to be taking training more seriously now.

Another challenge is trying to fit in group long runs (which I enjoy) with my solo pace runs.  Hal frequently calls for a pace run before the long run. The purpose of the pace runs is to get used to running the pace you will be maintaining race day--holding the pace consistently through a series of miles.  These runs start at 5 miles and go up to 10 miles.  The long run follows the next day so that you are running on somewhat fatigued legs.  The long run is 30-90 seconds off of your goal pace time.  It starts at 10 miles and builds to 3 20-mile runs during the 18 weeks of training.  I normally complete these on Thursday (pace) and Friday (long).

This week it worked best for me to do my long run with my group on Thursday, meaning Friday (today) was left for a pace run.  The group did 13 miles yesterday.  My plan only called for 10 miles, but I ran the whole distance with them at just under a 9:00 pace.  Today I had to run 7 miles at an 8:00 pace (my goal pace for a 3:30 marathon).  I struggled through these miles and saw the reason for the order of these 2 runs!  Trying to hold the challenging 8:00 pace was much harder with my tired legs from yesterday's long run!  Remember, I am still getting back from pregnancy.  I feel much weaker where I once felt strength.  Today's run reminded me that I am not back yet.

Something that helped me today was the Apollo 13 quote, "Failure is not an option."  I don't know why I thought of it today, but thankfully I did.  I had started my run with an 8:26 mile, feeling so tired and needing a warm up (but not having left time in my morning for a proper one).  I played a mental game of trying to "make back" the extra 26 seconds over the next 6 miles.  I don't have my data in front of me, but I think the rest of the miles were 8:00, 7:58, 7:59, 7:48, 8:00, and 7:34, so I easily made up for the slower first mile to finish under 8:00 for the entire run.  Thinking that "failure is not an option" pushed me to keep each mile on pace even though I was so tired.  You might think that one run in an 18 week plan doesn't matter, but I beg to differ.  Once you start letting yourself "cheat," you are only really cheating yourself!  I also learned this week to really trust the training plan.  There is a reason for the specific order of each run.  Do your best to stick with that order if possible.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I Love America 5K

5K Improvement!
I got a 21:23 at the Cotton Row Run 5K back on May 25.  That was the exact same time I had gotten back in October at the Spooktacular 5K.  I was a little bummed that I hadn't improved at all since then, but honestly I should not expect more right now.  I haven't been doing any speedwork or any type of 5K training.  Getting back to sub 20 is going to take some work. 
I decided to push myself and try for a sub-21 at the I Love America 5K.  I had a comp entry for the race, and most of my team was at another Fourth of July race.  No reason not to just go for it even though these 5K races are HARD for me right now.  We had a nice cooler day with some rain in the morning, and fellow teammate Alison and I set up the finish line arch before the race.  
I was able to a get a first place female finish and a time of 20:59 (sub-21, I'll take it!).  I didn't record my splits, but I did use a Garmin since I've been starting too fast in 5Ks and can't hold my pace.  Today I went for sub 7 miles, trying to stay a little more consistent for all 3 miles.  A high school girl was right behind me and finished only seconds behind me!
It felt so good to break that barrier of 21 minutes--with a time of 20:59 which would once be "slow" for me!  I have a long way to go, but this race did wonders for my self confidence. 
I am now in marathon training mode!  4 weeks into Hal Higdon's Advanced 1 going for a 3:30 in the Indianapolis Marathon in November.  I did a 6 mile pace run today (8:00 pace, last mile was 7:30!).  Faster runs are starting to feel good, and I am so happy about that!  I'm also working on dropping the last of the baby weight.  I will write more about that later if I find the time!
The race start 
Nearing the finish!
*Note: The results say I finished in 20:17, but that is not my time.  Something messed up with the timing. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Running and Nursing: We Made it to One Year!

Our 2015 Fleet Feet Huntsville Racing Team (I am bottom row, second from left)

After Cotton Row May 25, 2015

See my post here to read about Months One-Seven (how I trained for and ran a marathon and an ultramarathon while exclusively nursing).

I just recently made it to one year of nursing my little one--no formula to supplement the whole year!  Let me just say that if you can make it to 6 months, the rest seems pretty easy.  They start solid foods and the feedings start to spread out.  They're sleeping well, and you're getting rest too.  I continued to drink a lot of water, ate oatmeal daily, and pumped whenever I missed a feeding (except after my long races).  I also joined an on-line support group that gave lots of advice on how to increase your supply.  I tried lactation cookies (around month 9 or 10) that many on the site recommended.  I don't know if they helped, but it can't hurt!

Here's how we made it through the rest of her first year:

Month Eight (January 22-February 22): nursing 4-5 times a day (30-38 oz.)*, ran Mountain Mist 50K (left 15 oz. frozen milk, baby took 10 oz. and nursed when I finished race, I pumped when I got home but only got a couple of oz.), took it easy after MM, long run weekly of up to 13 miles

Month Nine (February 22-March 22): nursing 4-5 times a day (30-38 oz.)*, ran the Scottsboro Half (nursed afterwards during awards ceremony), baby eating baby food twice a day

Month Ten (March 22-April 22): nursing 4-5 times a day (20-32 oz.), ran McKay Hollow Madness without any trail runs since MM --cold day and my family did not come up to the finish line, baby was given pumped milk from frozen stash during missed feedings (around 6 oz. a feeding), I honestly can't remember if I pumped or not when I got home!?, that's the good thing about a freezer stash--you can allow your body time to recover and not pump if you don't feel like it!, baby eating baby food twice a day

Month Eleven (April 22-May 22): nursing 3-4 times a day (20-32 oz.), running 6 times a week, up to a 13 mile long run, normal runs around 4-6 miles, no races, baby eating baby food and table food 2-3 times a day, freezer supply almost expiring! Mostly milk from December-January is left (6 month shelf life in an ordinary freezer--not a deep freezer), began restocking the stash by pumping once a day (3 oz. a time) IF she skips a feeding (she's going down from 4 to 3 feedings most days now)

Month Twelve (May 22-June 22): nursing 3-4 times a day (20-32 oz.), ran the Cotton Row 5K, up to a 13 mile long run, baby eating baby food and table food 2-3 times a day, baby drank the milk pumped from Mountain Mist in January this month!, baby taking water from sippy cup, have finished creating a freezer stash of extra milk (about 60 oz. or so), can be on cows' milk now!

*Information on amount of milk found from Cornerstone Pediatrics Infant Feeding Schedule.

I am not done nursing and plan to continue a little longer.  I was worried about my supply at the 9 month doctor visit since my older daughter's weight percentile plummeted at her 9 month visit, but this baby was doing well--still at 40%.  At her one year visit she was at 50%.  Running and nursing is definitely doable with a little extra effort to plan your runs and races!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fleet Feet Racing Team Meeting

I just have a quick story to share about our Fleet Fleet Racing team meeting on March 8, 2015.  They usually hold our orientation meetings on Sunday nights, which is also the night our babysitter has church.  So we usually just end up bringing the kids.  We're the only "husband-wife with children" couple on the team.  It's never been too much of a problem, and I am so happy that Rick is on the team with me. But it is hard to attend these annual meetings!

So we brought the kids tonight to the store after hours for the meeting.  We told the big kids to find a spot to sit quietly and read or draw, and the baby was being good.  Our team leaders had us do a group activity where we had to pair up and make posters for the Bridgestreet half marathon.  Rick had the baby.  I got paired with Rob Youngren, and we got so busy thinking of motivational sayings that I didn't think of what the big kids were doing.  When it got time to share the posters, I discovered that my big kids had been asked to help Susi with her poster!

It meant a lot that she'd included them.  Then the team went on to give out an award for best poster, and they chose my kids' poster to win (if you know my daughter, she is so competitive so she just lit up when they announced this).  Just the fact that they'd included my family and made them feel welcome and not unwanted was so touching.  It makes me so thankful for these teammates.  They are an amazing group of runners.  My kids have grown up in this community and don't think anything about it, but I know how special it is that they are being influenced by them all.  

Susi with my big kids

Julia and Rick's poster 

Rob's and my poster

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

McKay Hollow 25K

 Saturday, March 28, 2015
I got up at 5 a.m. and showered and nursed the baby.  I was actually a little sad that this will be my last long race while having a nursling.  I've gotten used to the routine of our pre-race snuggles.  They calm me.

I headed up to the mountain at 6 a.m. and arrived around 6:30.  I parked on the field where they were directing us and headed to the bathrooms.  It was near freezing, but I was pressed for time (7:00 a.m. start), so I went ahead and left my warm up stuff in the car.  I wasn't too cold in compression socks, arm sleeves, a hat, and gloves.

Afterwards, I headed to the pavilion to gather around the fire with the other racers.  I chatted a little with the eventual race winner, Josh Whitehead, as we headed to the start line.

The Race 
As the race began I had NO expectations for me.  Ever since Mountain Mist, my left ankle gets a little tender at times.  I wasn't sure how it would do today.  I also hadn't been on trails since Mountain Mist, and I hadn't run this course in 2 years!  I had one thing going for me--I had run a half marathon two weeks ago.  I knew I could handle the distance, but trail races are not the same as road races!

As far as pace goes, I didn't even wear a Garmin.  I was thinking that I'd finish around 3 hours, and I didn't want to start too fast.  I ended up running alongside Christy Scott for the first few miles and we just chatted.  It felt SO good to be on the trails again!  They were muddy and lots of fun!  We noticed some girls ahead of us, but the 12K starts with the 25K, so we figured they were 12K runners.

Here I am with Christy right behind me.

I warmed up very quickly and had to take off my gloves and hat and pull my arm sleeves down.  I made it to the first aid station (5.1 miles), and we started a steep descent on the McKay Hollow Trail (NOTE: See here for a much better course description than I can give!).  I heard Christy call out, "Let's go get 'em, Katie!" or something like that, and I just took off down the descent.  It felt so amazing to just fly down the mountain.  I was loving it.

I ended up alone for most of the rest of the race.  I made it into the 2nd aid station (around 9.8 miles) and got peanut butter filled pretzels, Mello Yello, and more Gatorade in my bottle.  As I started back on the trails, I knew there was a girl ahead of me, but I saw her on Natural Well Trail sitting down.  She'd twisted her knee.  I passed her and knew I was in first place, but I kept thinking that Christy would catch me any second!  

I crossed the S.O.B. Ditch with Gregg taking pictures of my clumsiness!

The last few miles I was very tired but giving it my all.  A girl passed me and became the eventual winner and Christy almost caught me!  The last climb is so tough (go read the link I shared for a good description) and you are so spent by this point.  I just love being brought to this point though--sheer exhaustion!  It's an incredible feeling.  Finally, I made it to the finish!  Gregg  took more pictures as I came in.

I finished in 2:58:09.  Right under 3 hours!  I was given a coupon for free shoes and a free Road ID, a transition towel, and a finisher's glass.  I headed over to the aid station but got VERY cold quickly.  So I added clothes in my car and went back to the pavilion to grab food and chat with other finishers.

Here are the top 3 women: me (2nd), Chai-Chi Kuo (1st) and Christy Scott (3rd).

Closing Thoughts
I am feeling better and better each race I do.  Today I ended up with blisters on the bottom of both feet, but they hardly bothered me.  I feel good about how I am coming back and am looking forward now to 5Ks and 10Ks this summer.