Saturday, March 25, 2017

Marathon personal best 5 years in the making

So I've decided to update this blog because someone called me a Grandma.

No, that's not why, but I appreciate the motivation. It's been a year since I've blogged, but I've still been running a lot, and I've been pretty active on Strava. If I remember correctly I logged somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500 miles of running in 2016, and I hope to log more than that in 2017 if my legs allow it. By the way, I'm also on Instagram, too.
NACAC Mountain Running CHampionships 2016

So to summarize my running in 2016 (because after all, this is a blog about running) I believe that 2016 was a pretty good year.  After New Orleans, I attempted a few half marathons and 10ks that went terribly, so I decided to quit road racing for a while and train primarily for mountain running. I did well on the mountain circuit; I finished 2nd at Canadian Mountain Running Nationals in Squamish B.C., and then went on the finish 3rd at NACAC Mountain Running Championships in Tepatitlan, Jalisco, Mexico. After a few weeks of contemplation, I eventually decided to defer my spot on the World Team. It was a hard decision, but I fell like I still made the right one. My daughter was starting Kindergarten, my husband was in Rio, and I was at home with both kids just trying to keep our life in order. I also had plans to start training again for a fall marathon, so I decided to apply for an elite bib at Canadian Marathon Championships, in Toronto Ontario. 
The Podium at NACAC Mountain Running Championships

When Houston put my plan together for Toronto,  I knew I was going to be about two weeks short of a full training load. But deep down I really wanted to run nationals, and I felt like I was in good enough shape to PR. And, I really was. It just didn't turn out that way.

Toronto Marathon, October 2016

I had a pretty good race up until the 35km point where I went to reach for my bottle, and I got cut off by another athlete who sped up to pass at that exact moment. It forced me to stop short, and tense up because I was trying to keep myself from falling. It was only about a second or two, but it was enough to make my legs locked up completely. When I went to take a step forward, I could not get my legs going, so I panicked. I totally panicked. The panic caused a horrible stitch in my chest that I could not to get it to go away. I went from being on pace to running nearly a 4 minute PR, to jogging, walking and making myself throw up. In the last 4 miles of the race, I added 3 min 45 seconds to my final time.

I finished in 2:50:51. I was angry about it for a long time. But, I was having bigger problems. My pre-race and travel anxiety was getting so bad that I could barely leave Starkville city limits. I had a mini panic attack every time I got onto an airplane or traveled out of town for a race. I was also tired of not sleeping the night before every race, which is something I had been dealing with for a few years.

I had a total meltdown in the airport on the way home to Mississippi. It was a full-blown panic attack. I decided that I needed to find out what was wrong with me, so I decided to get help, like real professional help.
Toronto when things were going well
At first, I felt like a total bum, going into someone's office and talking about how my entire day might get derailed over being 5 minutes late for work. I also had this little voice inside my head that tells me the worst case scenario in every situation, and that it was seriously making me unstable. Surprisingly, taking about these crazy thoughts over some weeks, and then months, things started to improve. I felt like I was starting to pull myself back together.

The regular sessions at the Psychology Clinic, and a light workload made me start to feel good about my training and my running again. I decided that I wanted to give 2:45 another shot before I trained for anything else. I also didn't feel drained or tired from Toronto, and I had some weeks over Christmas break where I could really get some good training. Eventually, I signed up for Mercedes in Birmingham mid-February.

Mercedes Marathon

My training for Mercedes could not have been more perfect. Though I wasn't flying through my interval work as I was before Toronto, my long runs were better and I had a few really long tempos that were positive and I helped give my confidence. Just one problem: Mother Freakin Nature.

Feeling fresh off a few hours sleep, I woke up on race morning in less than ideal conditions. It was warm, borderline hot, and extremely humid and the little voice in my head told me, "this is not a good idea."

I gave it a go anyway.

I felt good for the first 6 miles, and even found someone willing to run with me through the first half. However, as soon as we hit the hills, my calves felt heavy and tight. I thought things would get better, but they didn't. By the time I hit the 11-mile mark, I was completely alone, running into the wind in 2nd place, 1 place nowhere in sight. Worst of all,  I was going to split about 1:24, which was 2 minutes slower than I wanted. As hot, humid and windy as it was that day, I knew I couldn't run the second loop 4 minutes faster than I ran the first loop. With 2nd place clearly in the bag, I made a really hard decision. I dropped out.
Racing a 5km with Emma during Fall marathon prep. Finished 2nd in 17:16, which is my new 5k road PB by 9 seconds.

Ouch, right? I was actually pretty ok with it. I knew if I wanted to run a fast spring marathon I needed to give myself an honest shot. I've won marathons and I've been second before, and prize money is not that important to me either. Reaching my running goals is, however.

After a few days of easy running, I realized my legs still felt pretty good. I had been struggling with a sinus infection for over a month, so I had tapered for Mercedes much longer than I normally would, which made me a bit uncomfortable. I knew that if I was going to try to run 2:45 again this winter, I was going to have to do it very soon.

Backup Plan

I found two races that I could potentially try for a fast time. Pheonix and New Albany. When looking at the courses and the quality of the elite field, I felt like Phoenix was my best option. I was so late in registering, that I had to enter with a charity bib, and the hotel room that I found ended up being more than I would have paid for my airline ticket. However, I wanted that 2:45 BAD, really REALLY BAD. At this point, the cost was irrelevant.

My trip to Pheonix was a good experience for me for multiple reasons. Because I had been going to the Psychology Clinic for my anxiety and constant worry, I had to face all my worry and anxiety and instead of just pushing it aside and hoping it would go away, I had to force myself to recognize my fears and deal with them each individually. And because one of my biggest worries is not sleeping the night before the race, I just decided to go to bed hours earlier than normal. As a result, I actually got a decent amount of sleep. I woke up on race morning feeling more race ready than I had in years.

Phoenix Marathon

Because the race was point to point, I had to Uber to the catch the race transportation, and then spend another 35 minutes riding a bus out to the race start. It was then I was able to relax, eat my breakfast, and reflect on all the training I had put in over the last 16 weeks. When I finally got to the start, I was able to warm-up quietly with the other elites while most runners huddled around heaters to keep warm. 

It was 55 degrees. Perfect.

Race Start

When the gun went off the majority of the elite female field took off in front of me. I was in 6th place (or maybe even 7th?) less than a mile into the race. Because Phoenix has a net elevation drop, I was told to be really cautious in the first half. So I did just that. In fact, I found the down and up in the first half of the race to be extremely uncomfortable. 

Like every marathon I have ever run, I didn't start to feel really relaxed until about mile 12. At that point, I decided to make my first move. I crossed half way in 1:22:15. I had barely looked at my watch during the first half, but I knew the whole time I was running a good pace. I decided to take a chance and go for it.

For the last few months of training, I have been fortunate to run a lot of my long runs with MSU's cross country team, which finished the season ranked 15th in the nation. Running regularly with Olympians and NCAA Champions, I have learned that if you happen to glance down for any reason and see what pace we are running, you might start to doubt your ability. So, when I started to push in Phoenix, I told myself to stop looking at my watch.

This year I also became Rock and Roll Marathon's new poster girl. What do you think? And yes I'm only kidding.

I started to feel tired at about 16 miles. but I didn't doubt myself. I didn't think about how much I had left, I just thought about weathering each storm as it came. Then 16 became 17, 17-18, and eventually, I reached 21 miles still on pace.

I had found someone to run with right after half-way, and we took turns pushing the pace for the remainder of the race. At one point he pulled out a bag of salt (I'm serious, table salt in a bag he carried in his shorts) and started eating it. I quickly realized I wanted some. We had sort of befriended each other, so I felt comfortable enough asking him, which he never even hesitated and was gracious enough to hand me the bag. It was enough to perk me up a bit for the remaining miles basking in the Phoenix sun.

Things were going pretty well for us until about mile 22 when we ran right into the back of the half-marathon and spend the next 3 miles dodging walkers all over the road. In their defense, they didn't hear us coming, but it was still frustrating because it was slowing us down significantly. I started to worry about my pace, but I still felt like I was running PR effort, and before I knew it, the road opened up, and I hit mile 25.

I felt the excitement rise up in my stomach. I realized that I was really going to do it this time.

The last 1.2 miles was dreamy. I felt sort of out of it. I was running, but I wasn't sure it was even real life. I turned a corner to see a sign for 26 miles, and I started kicking. I watch the clock tick into the 2:44....I was going to run my 2:45...

I kicked like crazy. In disbelief but also giving it one last push to run as fast as possible. I crossed the line in 3rd place running 2:44:53 (later learning the clock was off by 10 seconds, and I actually ran 2:45:04)...finally running a 4 minute PR, and time I had been chasing for 4 years. I was in total. shock.

The next 30 minutes I spent sitting on a curb balling my eyes. It was good tears, but my stomach hurt and when I tried to walk, I felt dizzy. Fortunately, a muscle milk volunteer didn't recognize the fact that he had already handed 3 chocolate MM on 3 separate occasions, so when I stomached about two and a half of them, I got up enough energy to go stand near the awards. It was success like I had not felt with my running in a really, really long time.

I have felt that I was capable of running 2:45 for years, but I didn't fully believe in my ability to do it until recently. I  finally did it. I ran a 2:45 marathon.

I am a 2:45 marathoner.


"Never give up on a dream. Never sell yourself short. Never say you can't. Never say you're not worth it. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. You can. You always can. I just did. All the tears..." 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Don't call it a comeback... but I won New Orleans Rock n Roll Marathon

New Orleans Rock N Roll Marathon: 1st female: 2:51:50!! 6:33/mile

Don't think for one second that I am anything but proud of that. Regardless of what pace I trained for, or of what I expected going into this race, I am very pleased with the results. It was a pretty warm day.

I have trained hard in the past, but I've never trained this hard juggling so much, with so little free time. I've also never been so conflicted or so emotionally torn between hard training and not wanted to train at all. I've just got way too much in my life to truly enjoy putting so many eggs in one basket.

It's been a while since I updated this blog, so here is a short summary. After the stress fracture, I struggled with Achilles tendinitis. I was also tired, irritable, and my hair was falling out in clumps. I felt like total crap all the time. I went in for blood work and found that my ferritin was low, and probably had been low for some time. I had been taking liquid iron since my pregnancy, but apparently it wasn't enough. I did some internet searches and came across an iron/B complex combination supplement and within a few weeks started feeling better. I also changed up my shoes and found that my Achilles issues slowly went away. I was then able to put in about 10 weeks of solid running to run a 1:22 half marathon win in Meridian, MS. and a 2:58 marathon in pouring rain at BCS Marathon (2nd).

Disappointed with the conditions at BCS, I made a quick turn around and start prepping for New Orleans Rock in Roll. Heading into the spring semester, my workload increased tremendously. Not only was I working an additional two evenings a week,  my husband would be traveling every week for 6 weeks straight in January and February. I knew training was going to be a challenge, and it was, physically, mentally and all that.

Training for New Orleans I maintained 80-90 miles per week. I ran twice a day most days, and long weekend long runs of 18-20 miles. Mornings I woke up at 4:15-4:30 am, to run anywhere from 8-12 miles. On my lunch break, I would go out again from 4-8 miles. My regular work schedule is 8am-5pm, but two nights a week I work until 6 pm or 6:15 pm. Monday nights I also help coach my daughter's soccer team with my husband until 7:00 pm. Because My husband was traveling pretty much every weekend, I splurged and paid a babysitter nearly every week. And, because I really didn't have the time, I only raced once, and it was marathon effort.

About 2.5 weeks out from the race I started to really get tired of maintaining such a tight schedule. I was also getting very confident in my training and I knew I was fit, I started having trouble just maintaining the bear minimum. Training for this marathon helped me find that tipping point.

I worked so hard for this race that I can't be disappointing in any part of it. Sure, it was warm, and my last 4 miles were a little slow, but I finally won a marathon again after 2 years of struggling to run anything close to fast. I am happy with it and ready to put the marathon aside to train for something else a little less mind numbing. Maybe some mountain running :)

Anyone interested seeing what it is like to train like a sub-elite with two kids and a 50hr work week, you can follow me on Strava. For anyone in the same boat, I would love to connect with you on Strava also.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Just a tired mom rambling

I've been completely stuck (with my running) for about a year now. Even though I was still progressing before I became pregnant with baby #2, I was losing heart.

My life is very full, and putting everything into my running doesn't bring me the joy that it used to. I would much rather put more energy into my kids and my work. It is absolute pure joy watching them grow, play and laugh at the silly things they do. I'd much rather fix peanut butter sandwiches and clean up sticky finger prints then get in an afternoon run. I'm more likely to take a day off then shuffle through a 6 miler just to make a mark in my training log. I'm a parent first, and my mortgage doesn't pay for it's work must come second.

The world needs people to give it their all to reach their goals others may have thought impossible. But, that is just not me.

Quality of quantity. Maximizing hard days. Listening to my coach every step of the way.

I'd rather take baby steps then no steps at all.

Follow my life in color on Instagram or my training (all the details!) on Strava.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Follow me on Strava

I'm not into blogging much lately, but I've recently joined the Strava world and you can follow me:

I'm dealing with a nagging Achilles and running minimal miles for a marathon in December. I also have like 7 friends on Strava so I would love some more company.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Qualifying for Duathlon World AG Champs & other things busy moms do

Bracebridge Duathlon Results: 1st in Age Group, 4th Overall (World AG Qualifier)

RUN 1 00:41:36.2 4:09/km 10 km
BIKE 42 km 01:24:08.1 29.95km/h
RUN 2 5 km   00:22:07.04:25/km
FINISH    2:31:23.0
T1 00:02:03
T2 00:01:30

Before the Bracebridge Duathlon I had been running (on the ground) for 5 weeks. I though I was in shape, but running on the AlterG is not the same as running on the ground and I found this out the hard way. I had also been dealing with a nagging achilles and had to pull out of a few workouts and long runs in the weeks leading up. I thought I was in decent running shape going in.

Two weeks prior to the race I decided to purchase a tri bike; a Specialized Transition. I've been riding a road bike heavily since I was diagnosed with the stress fracture in late May. I didn't realize how different a road bike was from a tri bike...
Finishing Bracebridge in my PowerBar Kit #PBTE

The Thursday before I left for Ontario, I was riding my new bike for the 2nd time and I crashed it. I was at the MSU research park and a shuttle bus did a u-turn in front of me (it didn't see me.) I crashed my bike to avoid hitting the shuttle and hit my knee on the shaft. My knee immediately swelled up to the size of an orange. I called my husband who picked me up and he took me directly to the ER. I didn't break anything but I definitely had a bad hematoma. I eventually ended up with a horrible bruise from my knee to my ankle. I took one day off and jumped back into training.

It is taking a very long time to heal.

It looked sorta like this right after the accident.

The bruising is almost gone now, but the Achilles issues have gotten worse. Going into Bracebridge I had not ran over 9 miles in about two weeks. I was not setting myself up for success.

Because I was heading into a very busy month of work, I flew to Toronto on a Saturday and back on Sunday. I had given myself a few hours up and back that I could drive to a bike shop and get my bike reassembled/disassembled. Due to heavy traffic, I ended up with only minutes to spare. Traveling with a bike was extremely stressful.

I ended up finishing 4th overall, and 1st in my age group, qualifying for World Duathlon Age Group Championships next June in Spain. I was disappointing in my performance (bad run, the worst transitions, slow bike, and horrible 5km) but I finished about what I thought I was capable of. I still don't understand why I am so disappointed.

Originally, I had planned on running Bracebridge and then Canadian Nationals in Montreal, 5 weeks later. I trained hard, running 15 miles hard on Saturday, and upwards to 60 miles of cycling on Sunday. Then, during the week I would have a brick, a hard bike session, and a speed workout. In the end, I messed up my Achilles so bad that I had to cut the race. Instead, I plan to take a few weeks recovery before training for Rocket City Marathon in December.

There is a fine line between training hard and over training and I have repeatedly blown past since Patrick has been born. The running means a lot to me, so to be sitting on the side lines once again is extremely frustrating. This past year has been the perfect definition of one step forward, two steps back. SMH. Words of encouragement are welcomed.

Friday, July 3, 2015

And then you get back running

Crossing my fingers as I type this, but I feel like it was a short turn around with the stress fracture. For about 6-8 weeks I cycled or ran in the pool (without a belt) twice a day (for a total of 1hr40min-2 hours) then road my bike for 3+ hours on the weekend. After about 4 weeks, I was also able to add the arc trainer, where I would kill myself doing hill intervals. Every day I would work as hard as I could until I couldn't go hard anymore. Looking back I really don't think I could have worked any harder.

I've also been able to workout on the AlterG which has really helped my overall running fitness. Last week I had a session of 5x1 mile progressive at 80% body weight and 2-3% incline. I've been able to gradually increase my mileage with no pain and very little far so good.

I had the chance to compete in a 23 mile bike race recently, and actually posted the faster time for the women, and the 3rd fastest time overall. 
State Games of Mississippi. 1st female.
I'm hoping that all the cross training and rehab will help me in the long run. I am VERY happy to be back running. Even though I enjoyed the cycling, I would take running over cycling any day.

#RunHappy #PBTE

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

When you break your back

On May 18th I went in for an MRI and discovered that I had a stress fracture in my sacrum. I had not been able to run more than a minute or two since May 2, so I knew something was up.

Looking back at the two weeks prior it's no wonder I broke myself. Workouts in the two weeks leading up to the break included 20 miles w/ 10 at marathon pace, 10x800m, 3x3mile, and let's not forget the final straw, 16x400m on the road. I wasn't recovering in between the hard stuff, and though I had gotten in pretty good shape right before the break, I wasn't communicating with Houston (Husband/Coach) on just how trashed my body was feeling.
Getting better! Its hard to average over 18mph because of stop lights, etc. Averaging over 18mph for a casual (solo) ride is showing a huge improvement from where I was in the beginning!

For about four weeks now I've been cycling quite a bit, upwards to 220 miles per week. Before I knew it was a fracture I was also using the arc trainer on my lunch break and riding in the morning, for a total of about 110-130 min of cardio most days. Now I'm pretty much on the bike everyday twice a day, all but Saturday, where I'll ride anywhere from 40-50+ miles. This Saturday I'm actually contemplating a 60 mile ride.
PowerBar provided me with some legit cycling gear! I'm still getting used to eating on the bike. The last long ride I had I ate a Performance Energy Wafer mid way through.
I was able to ride this Jackson-Baldwin Rail Trail 2.5 times when I was in Jacksonville for NCAA T&F Nationals (First Round) for about 75 miles total.

This week I'm actually cleared to get on the alterG, not for long but it's something. I've also started physio therapy. As of today, it looks like I may be able to run my first step outdoors on June 26th.
My longest ride so far, 51 miles out past Bevill Hill and back home. The refuge is an excellent place to ride.
So what have I learned from the whole experience? Not much, really. I worked my butt off getting in shape after Patrick and I don't regret it. I guess I'll have to be more careful next time.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

That video of the very pregnant runner.........

My sister posted this on facebook when I was 40.5 weeks pregnant. I didn't know it at the time but Patrick was already over 9lbs....
At first it was embarrassing, but now I think its AWESOME.


Soooo yes we are still waiting for baby to make an appearance.. But meggy is getting a little annoyed at everyone telling her that a good long walk brings on labour... As she is still able to do this at 4 days overdue I think she needs other suggestions
Posted by Andrea Bowman on Sunday, August 24, 2014