Sunday, July 29, 2012

Overcoming my running obstacles

Okay, I have to take a moment to admit something that is very hard for me to admit. Over the past few months I've really been struggling with my running. I go out to run a short (for me) hour run and end up walking SEVERAL times during the run. What used to be so easy for me has become a point of dissatisfaction and (emotional) pain.

Let me back up for a minute so you'll see where I came from...

When I started running REGULARLY back in 2002 I was running 6 miles 4x/week. I NEVER stopped unless I had to cross the street or something silly like that. When I trained for my first marathon in 2004, I was able to run 24 miles non-stop (never quite made it to 26.2 miles non-stop). So, what the heck happened???? Why is it so difficult for me to hammer out an hour run these days???

Is it because I'm 10 years older? Probably not. I mean, I've gotten stronger in the past ten years (overall), not weaker. Is it because of my weight? Although I've recently gained a bit of weight I still weigh 50+ lbs LESS today then I did when I first started running.

So, I started looking for that perfect excuse. I created a list (in my head) of Possible vs Probable reasons why I'm struggling so much.

Emotional Stress
Physical Stress (Ironman training coming to an end)
Racing a marathon at the beginning of my Ironman training
Incorrect (daily and workout) Nutrition
New running form
Running in the evening rather than the morning
Continually forgetting my ear buds to listen to music
Need new running shoes
Trying to run too fast for my new running form

Not doing well at self-motivation/self-talk
Running solo (i.e. nobody kicking me in the butt to help me move along)

Although some of those "possible" excuses are my current reality, none of them will truly keep me from running an hour without stopping. What I came to realize is I'm at a point in my running "career" where my self-motivation/self-talk is really keeping me from reaching my goals. Some of those "possible" excuses might be playing a role in that, too. I mean, when you're trying to change your running form and muscles in your body start aching that you've never felt before you just want to stop! When your new form quickens your pace and you start hyperventilating, you want to stop. But, the reality is I just wasn't emotionally strong enough to tell myself to JUST KEEP SWIMMING (oh...wait...that's that OTHER sport!). But, you get what I mean.

I came close to leaving my Garmin behind today (you know, that little "watch" that tells you how far you've run and how horribly slow you are running). But, I put it on anyway. I just tried really hard not to look at it. There were times today that my run was so slow that walkers could have passed me but I was NOT going to give up and stop. I kept telling myself to continue on (and kept thinking I'd have a great story to tell if I did!). I struggled with my run for sure but I NEVER.GAVE.UP!!! And, for the first time in months I can honestly say I finished an hour run without walking!

So, what do I do from here on out so this doesn't happen again? Well, I'm already starting to line up running buddies that can help push me through this time. See, if I'm running with other people I won't typically stop and walk because I don't want to be one to hold them back. I'm also going to start running in the morning again. That will hopefully knock out two of my "possible" issues (second being the heat/humidity). I'm going to get new running shoes and continue working on my new running form/pace. Those are just some starting points but I think that'll help!

For those of you that are struggling - I'm right there with you. And I hope this little article will be something to motivate you to move forward, push through those struggles, and run happy!!!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Race: General Smallwood Olympic
Date: July 7, 2012
Location: General Smallwood State Park, Indian Head, MD 
Race Type: Olympic: 1500 meter bay swim, 24 mi bike, 6.2 mi run
Division: Age Group 45-49
Time: 3:41:58
Place: 134th female; 18th in age group 

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Race Report:
I'm in love with the Setup Events races! That's the first thing I need to say! These folks have got it going on. I'm always impressed by the ease of packet pickup, the way the event is organized, the swag, the post-race food...pretty much everything! I would highly recommend races in this series to anyone!

This race, unfortunately, would not be my best race. I knew it going into the race with temperatures soaring to 104 degrees and a heat index somewhere between OMG and WTH! (i.e. 112 degrees!). Three days earlier I had run the worst (time-wise) 5k in years and my thighs were still yelling at me the night before this race. On top of that, I wanted to treat this race more like a long workout rather than going full guns blazing to the end. I had to focus my mind VERY differently for this race because of that and keep my end-goal A-race in mind.

Swim (1500 Meters): 45:54 - 145th female
Today was a first for me in many ways in the swim. I had my different focus from the beginning of the race but I knew the swim would be a little difficult in that regard.

I started the swim in wave 6 of 7. That is always intimidating to me because I'm always one of the slowest swimmers out there. I knew people in the last wave would catch up to me and I would be one of the very last out of the water. Of course, that is typically never true but it's always my fear - particularly when I'm in one of the last waves. But, my focus on this day would be to stay in Zone 2 (easy pace/breathing) for the entire swim knowing that I would have more energy for the remainder of the race once I got out of the water. I had to not lose focus of Zone 2 even when swimmers in the wave behind me would begin passing me. I was excited, however, when I started passing folks in the waves ahead of me. In my mind it was huge - I wouldn't be last! 

Another first in the swim was the fact I didn't get off course. I tend to do that a lot! I don't always see the buoy's (hello old age eye sight!) and get way off. But, I stayed on course on this day - so much so that I got a little too close to the last buoy and got tangled up in the "anchor" line attached to it. It was the only time I had to stop during the swim.

I had heard "horror" stories about the swim portion of this race before. Mattawoman Bay is known for having an abundance of hydrilla (see pic) and folks had told me about feeling like a swamp monster coming out of the water having to peel hydrilla off their bodies. 

After going through the first two buoys I thought: "Hey, this isn't bad. What's all the hydrilla hype about!" Then, I turned after the third buoy and realized there was hydrilla all around me! It was sometimes tough to muddle through the stuff. It was hitting me in the face, getting stuck on my goggles, I was pulling it out of the water with each stroke. It was just yuck. But, I figured the first 3/4 of the swim was pretty decent so I'd deal with the last 1/4 of the swim muddling through the hydrilla.

T1: 2:48 - 72nd female
As I headed out of the water into T1 I heard lots of cheers from my new tri team - Team Z. It was really refreshing to have such support from a big team like Z. It was a new experience for me. I felt like a pro athlete that everyone knew! LOL

I'm always pretty quick in transition but on this day I took the time to get out of my tri top and put on a t-shirt because I had a sunburn I didn't want to worsen. I was pleased I did this because now my team could see I was one of their own and I would, from this point on, be cheered on by a sea of Team Z green!

Bike (24 mi): 1:26:11 (16.7 mph) 101st female
I was a little surprised by the many rolling hills in this course. I guess that's what I get for having never looked at the course maps. Because of this, my time went up and my mph went way down. That was okay, though. I needed to save my legs for the run so I didn't push anything hard. Plus, again...temps were in the 100's!!!

I took in 1 bottle of water and 1 bottle of Gu Roctane during my ride plus one gel and a small bite of Bonk Breaker (my new favorite). I felt that was probably a little too much fluid for only a 24 mile ride but I wanted to be prepared for the run.

T2: 1:21 - 35th female 
Not much to do here. Finished it pretty quickly with no incidents. 
Run (6.2 miles): 1:25:46 (13:49 min/mile)- 153rd female

I knew going into the run it was going to be kinda horrific. So, instead of focusing on how bad I was going to feel, I channeled that into cheering for others. One spectator even commented I had two jobs "racing and being a cheerleader." That was exactly what I was going for! The first mile had a pretty substantial hill and I decided that, instead of killing myself in the first mile I would go ahead and walk that hill. And, since it was in the direct sunlight I think that was a wise choice. 

After the hill, I picked up the pace but then around mile two I started feeling a little dizzy. I did NOT want to DNF (did not finish). I would have CRAWLED across the finish line if I had to but I would NOT DNF! So, I stopped and walked again. This would continue to be my M.O. throughout the remainder of the run. I'd get a little energy, feel dizzy, walk. Get energy, feel dizzy, walk. I ended up walking most of the 10k and would finish with my worst 10k time to date. But, I didn't get carried away in the ambulance, my children still have a mother and I was actually able to run the last (SHADED) mile without incident. I truly think the heat was the cause of my entire problem. My thighs weren't aching (like I anticipated they would be after my 5k run days before) but my body was starting to crash for sure. I was thankful for another 40-something dude to help me out in the last mile and we kept a similar pace to the end...although he picked up the pace when spectators came into view and left me! LOL

Summary and lessons learned 
I may have been completely nuts to have raced in these temperatures. But, being able to say I finished it was refreshing. I definitely had a lot left in my tank by the end of the race but that was really kinda how I wanted to feel. I hydrated like crazy after the race and can say I had no pain/problems that day or the day after. 

I'd love to race another Olympic distance before my Ironman in September only this time in some normal weather conditions just to see how my training is really coming along. 

Zone 2 swims rock! Must do that again! :)