7 Things

The lovely Lynne of LGSMASH  (a fellow FitFluential Ambassador) and Larissa of Larissa Milano Fitness (a fellow Tough Chik) both tagged me in “getting to know you” posts.  So, I decided to be a rule breaker and combine them! Rules … Continue reading

Race Recap: Liberty Half Marathon

First, let’s talk numbers. Today, I ran my 1st race of 2012, the Liberty Half Marathon. It was also my 5th half marathon, 13th race overall and the 1st long run of training for Marathon #2.

In it’s 2nd year, the Liberty Half is a small, local race in western Ohio. Last year, the race consisted of about 12 people who said, “Hey! Let’s run a half marathon!” So, they threw a bag of food under a bridge, and set off. Turns out the course was more like 13.6 miles, and there was no medal at the finish, but it sure was a heck of a run, from the stories they tell.

This year, it was a little different. There were a little over 100 runners, the course was shortened appropriately, and instead of a bag of food under a bridge, there were donuts, bagels, bananas, and water in a warehouse about .3 miles from the “finish line,” which was little more than a cone and a guy with a stop watch.

This was the anti-Rock N Roll. If you’re into screaming crowds, a closed course controlled by sheriffs, music and aid stations at every mile, and fancy t-shirts and medals, the Liberty Half is not your race. There were no bib numbers, no chip timing, little fanfare, and minimal “crowd support.”

But, it had a few things that were better. Gumption. Spirit. Passion. Community.

the "start line" in West Liberty

The race began at a Subway in West Liberty, a small town in Western Ohio. From there, we ran up a country road that cuts through a valley carved out by the glacier millions of years ago. As you might imagine with a race this small, the crowd thinned out pretty quickly once the race got underway. I ran the entire 13.1 miles almost entirely alone. As a “lone wolf” sort of runner, I really enjoyed this. It was a unique experience for me to be able to feel the pressure of racing without being surrounded by tons of people. It was truly me and road, battling it out. No crowd support to lean on, no fellow runners to commiserate with… just me and my determination to continue onward despite it all.

The first half of the race was full of gently rolling hills that provided mini-challenges followed by nice easy downhills. I took the first couple miles a bit too fast, so miles 3-6 were a bit slower, but I also went into this race thinking of it as a training run, and fought the urge to push it hard and get a good race time.

The race crew had marked each mile the night before, but unfortunately experienced some vandalism, so the markers for miles 3 – 7 weren’t up anymore. My shiny new Garmin Forerunner 305, a Christmas gift from my in-laws, definitely came in handy during those miles. I cruised along during those miles, enjoying the perfect running weather – mid-40s and dry. I hit the second and last aid station at the end of mile 7, but I had my Honey Stinger Waffle and water bottle, so I cruised on by, turned a corner… and blurted out, “Oh, $h!t!”

an "oh, $h!t!" moment if I've ever seen one...

It may be a little hard to make out in this cell phone photo, but the behemoth hill I had heard so much made it’s appearance right at mile 8. 6-8% grade for 1.5 miles. Oh, $h!t indeed. This may make it a bit more clear…

ouch.

Umm, yeah. I braced myself for some hurt, and trudged onward. I made it up about half of the hill you see in that picture before walking. What that photo doesn’t show is that this massive hill levels off for a short distance before climbing upward yet again. I’d estimate that I ran 1/2 to 3/4 of it total, which I am more than pleased with.

speedbump my @$$...

Thankfully after climbing for almost 2 miles, the course then levels off for about a mile before plunging downhill for the final 2 miles.

I caught my breath after the hill, just in time for what seemed like freak monsoon-like weather to hit. Like I mentioned, I experienced perfect running conditions for the first 10 miles, but suddenly the wind kicked up to a fairly constant 20 mph with 40+ mph gusts, and a few minutes later, hard rain joined the party. Within 2 minutes, my right side was soaked, thanks to the wind driving the rain sideways.

A few times, the wind gusts were so strong, they blew me right off the side of the road and into the grass. At some point, they changed direction – I remember very clearly a wind gust coming from behind me, and it literally felt like someone was shoving me forward.

slightly bummed but also slightly glad that the rain had stopped...

I thanked my lucky stars that it was a tailwind and not a headwind, hunkered down, and soared down that 2 mile hill at an average pace of 9:12 min/mile for a finish time of 2:14:47, an average pace of 10:19/mile! Despite the uncomfortable combination of wet and wind, I’m pretty sure I was grinning from ear to ear during those last 2 miles. I felt completely alive, stripped bare to the elements, and I loved every miserable, cold, wet second of it.

This is adventure.

... and to be at the finish!

After I crossed the “finish line,” my time was written down on a piece of paper with my name and age on it, and handed over to the race volunteers to be tabulated. Ian & I made our way via shuttle to the post-race Par-Tay, and I shivered a lot until the overall winners and age group winners were announced, and they handed out our finishers beer steins. I suspected that I finished in the top of my age group – the winner finished in 2:05 and change, and I didn’t notice too many of my fellow 20-29ers ahead of me. I’ll have to double-check the results when they’re posted, but I think I may have been 2nd or 3rd! I have to say, it was a speedy group overall. The winners of the other age groups, male and female, smoked the 10-19 and 20-29ers!

you better believe i celebrated appropriately...

This was by far my favorite half marathon to date. I really loved the fact that my entry fee (only $15, by the way!) went to supporting a small, local running club that was clearly very passionate about the sport. I also thoroughly enjoyed the challenging course, and I loved the minimalist, grass roots approach to racing. After the race, I thought back to my bigger half marathons, and for me, they don’t hold a candle to this kind of intimate race, where everyone is there for the pure enjoyment of running. I will definitely be seeking out smaller races!

I have to give a HUGE thanks to all the volunteers who made the Liberty Half Marathon possible – what an awesome new tradition, and I can’t think of a more perfect way to ring 2012!

2012 Goals

I’ve always had a weird relationship with New Year’s resolutions. They always seem to be big, nebulous ideas that were nice thoughts, but didn’t have much planning, foresight or realism to them. At this time last year, I was 20 pounds overweight, pretty miserable with myself, and wanting change. Instead of making resolutions, I set me some goals, made a plan, and made it happen. 6 months into 2011, I had dropped 25 pounds, run a half marathon, grown into being happy with myself, and started training for the whole shebang. It might seem silly, but the idea of  “goals”  vs. “resolutions” worked for me.

This year, I’ve decided to make different sets of goals for the New Year. One set for the spring training cycle, a second set to be determined based on the outcomes of my spring races, and a third set of overarching goals for the year as a whole. I’m sure I’ll revisit and reevaluate these goals pretty often as I kick off and settle into marathon training in January, but here’s what I have for now…

Spring 2012 Training Cycle Goals:

  • Run a 4:30 marathon.
  • Run a sub-2:00 half marathon.
  • Run 1, maybe 2,  spring marathons – Athens and/or Flying Pig

Fall 2012 Training Cycle Goals:

  • Run an early fall marathon – TBD, probably the Air Force Marathon.
  • Based on early fall marathon experience, decide whether I want to run a late fall marathon (November/December).
  • Half Marathon PR – based on spring PR, somewhere around 1:50, maybe?

Goals for the Year:

  • PR in a 5k – 23 and change / 7:30 pace
  • Run 1,200 miles for the year – average of about 23 miles/week
  • Run 3 – 4 marathons and 6 – 8 half marathons.
  • Run at least 12 races total.

These are pretty lofty goals for me, but if I learned anything in 2011 it’s that I underestimate myself and that I need big goals to keep me pushing forward. Playing it safe never brought anyone amazing results, and I’m looking to do amazing things in the next few years!

Bring it, 2012!!

Race Recap: St Jude Memphis Half Marathon!

What a weekend!

The Inaugural Annual MJ Reunion Half Marathon, also known as the St Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend  involved lots of driving (try 18+ hours round trip for EACH of us!), lots of running, and lots of eating our way down Beale Street.

Mel and I met back in 2008 in grad school. We were both proud members of what we called the wRECking crew cohort, and had our fair share of shenanigans. Ours is one of those friendships that was solidified in times of crisis – namely while stuck on the side of the road for 4 hours one cold, December evening in Southeastern Ohio and then being picked up by a tow truck at 1 am and taken to a very Batesian hotel in the boonies. Over those 4 hours, we did everything to entertain ourselves and keep warm, including mooning what little oncoming traffic there was. Yep, our friendship was sealed with butt prints on a car window.

We both graduated in 2010, and then Mel moved all the way to Houston. Since then we’ve only had Facebook and Daily Mile to keep in touch. Back when we lived in the same city, neither of us were runners, but somehow we kept each other up to date on our separate but eerily similar running journeys, and decided back in January that a great way for us to keep in touch would be to meet up each year for a half marathon. Quality girl time, racing, and a weekend vacation? Um, yeah!

We stayed with a family friend of Mel’s, who just so happened to live within a few blocks of the Expo, the start/finish, AND Beale Street – quite possibly the most ideal location ever. On top of that, he was an amazing host, and showed us all the best places in Memphis.

the view from our home for the weekend...

Mel is currently training for her first marathon, and I’m at the end of a looooong training cycle, so our goals for the race were very relaxed and flexible. As much as I would have loved to PR again, I’ve been on fire for the last few races, and have been feeling pretty overtrained in the past few weeks, so I decided to go with the flow and run according to how I felt in the moment. Mel wanted to stay as fresh as possible for her pending 16 mile run next weekend.

Overall, I have to say that this wasn’t what I would call a “good” race day for me. I was running pretty consistently around 10:00 minute miles with Mel until about mile 5, when I went ahead a bit. Miles 5 – 8 were clocking in around 9:30, with some faster spurts, but it felt much more difficult than it should have, and I just didn’t have the same fire in me that I had in Indy when I PRed. The tank just felt empty – classic overtraining, if you ask me.

Just after mile 8, Mel caught up with me, and we ran 2 smoking miles around 8:30. Those miles really took it out of me, so around mile 10, I set Mel loose, and slowed it down a bit. Someone conveniently forget to mention the rolling hills in the last 5k of the race, and they beat me up properly. For the first time since the marathon in September, I walked in a race. It felt like I walked a lot in miles 10 & 11, but my pace for those miles was still around 10:30, so I must not have walked as much as I thought.

At mile 12, I kicked it into a higher gear, knowing that I was so close. The race finished in AutoZone Park, the baseball stadium, and I could almost see the finish line when the woman in front of me tripped in a pothole and went chin first into the street. I stopped to make sure she was okay, and thankfully she was – she earned some hardcore road rash on her chin, but seemed fine, so I pushed ahead. I remember thinking that if I hit a pothole. I’d be face first, too, after almost 13 miles!

looking a little rough toward the finish

Not even a few hundred yards later, I noticed people crowding around something, or as I realized when I got closer – someone. A man had collapsed within sight of the finish, and there were about 8 people helping him, asking “can you hear me?! can you hear me?!” After hearing about all these marathon deaths in the past few months, the whole situation sent chills up and down my body and a queasy feeling  spread all throughout my gut. I sent some good thoughts to the runner and his family and thought about him as I crossed the finish line. Thankfully, he seems to have come through it alright and should be going home soon.

I mentioned earlier that this race wasn’t a “good” race for me, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. I finished in 2:11:24, for an average pace of almost exactly 10:00 minutes per mile. The fact that 10:00 minute miles is now a “bad” day honestly had me over the moon! Having to climb up though the stands in the stadium, not so cool. I just kept thinking “man, if I’m having this hard of a time after a half, those poor marathoners will have an awful time with these!” I reunited with Mel, who PRed by about 7 minutes and met her goal of running negative splits for the first time in a race!

My GOTR good luck charm!

After the race, Mel and I meandered back to our generous host’s apartment, showered, lounged, and hit Beale Street for an evening of… well, mostly eating. Fried chicken, BBQ, fried pickles, gumbo… all the Memphis must-eats. It was so awesome to see Mel and catch up with her – we haven’t seen each other since she graduated last spring, and had a ton to talk about. This past year has taught me that nothing is more important than the people you love, and I’m so excited for our adventure in running and racing in the years to come. It’s always better to share an amazing journey with an amazing person – 50 half marathons in 50 states, baby!

Mel & our amazing host on Beale Street

All in all, it was the perfect weekend – nothing beats running and eating your way through a new city with a friend as awesome as this one!

( Stay tuned – more photos to come of this epic weekend! )

2011

This year was a doozy. I mean, really – a doozy. I see it as the year of extremes. In these 365 er, 335 days, I experienced both the highest highs and lowest lows of my short life: Finishing my first half marathon, and then 3 more. Moving my Dad into a nursing home and starting hospice care. Losing Dad. Finishing my first full marathon. Raising $1000 for hospice care. Marrying my best friend.

Back when I set my goals for the new year, I knew that 2011 would be a big one. After some thought, I settled on these goals for the year:

  1. Worry less, laugh more. (It was a challenging year for this, but I somehow succeeded)
  2. Lots of quality time, especially with family and friends. (Check!)
  3. Volunteer more (GIRLS ON THE RUN!) (Check!)
  4. At least 10 races specifically…  (Check! In fact, I ran 11 races in 2011!)
  5. 13.1 – Flying Pig, May 1st. (Check!)
  6. 26.2 –  Air Force Marathon, Sept 17th. (Check, and check!)
  7. Warrior Dash – Logan, Jun 5th.  (Check!)
  8. Swimming & biking.
  9. Travel! (Check! San Francisco bachelorette party and hopefully another NorCal adventure for New Years!)

So, that leaves me with just #8 – swimming & biking. While I originally wanted to mix in some swim and bike workouts in the hopes of attempting a small triathlon, I’ve decided that at least for the foreseeable future, triathlons aren’t for me. I still hope to start swimming as soon as a gym membership can be a part of our budget, but right now, it’s just not in the cards. As for biking, I just plain and simple don’t like it as much as running. I do it every now and then, but that’s about it.

So, of my 9 goals for 2011, I accomplished 8 of them, and the only one I didn’t meet turned out to be a non-goal anyway.

Yep, 2011 was a big year. But, I have a feeling that 2012 will give it a run for the money…

Race Recap: Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon!

The morning came early, earlier even than it usually comes on race day. You see, I had decided that my “stomach issues” come as the result of not taking part in my normal daily ritual of coffee and “morning constitutional.” So, I woke up at 4:00 am, trudged downstairs, switched on the news, and dutifully ate my toast with peanut butter, banana, and slurped my coffee.

I’ve never been more relaxed before a race… I think it had something to do with not rushing around, and of course, partaking in my usual ritual. I think it also had something to do with the fact that my Mama was there – this would be the first time she’d see me run. Isn’t she cute?!

We made our way to the parking lot right by the starting line and found a spot with no problem before seeking refuge from the cold in the Indiana Convention Center. I casually made my way to the start with just a few minutes til the gun was to go off, and said goodbye to Ian and my Mama.

Going into the race, I planned to race for a PR, knowing that although I had just set a PR at the Nationwide Columbus half marathon, I had a lot more in me. For me, this race was the perfect example of flexible goal setting. In my mind, I was hoping for anywhere around 2:10 – 2:15.

The gun went off, and just before I passed the start line, I saw my Mama and Ian, yelling and laughing, and I gotta say… it was the perfect jump start. The first mile passed by in just over 10 minutes – about 10:01. I thought to myself, “hmm, that may be too fast, Janene.”

Then the second mile passed in another 10 minutes, and the third in just under 10 minutes…. and I felt great. No horrible feelings in the tummy, fresh legs, and lungs that barely even felt like they were getting worked. It was at this point that I realized 2:10 was absolutely possible.

A few miles later, I passed the 10k mark in just under 1:01 and change, faster than my week-old 10k PR. I hit mile 7 in 1:08, and with faulty mathematical logic, though that perhaps even 1:58 was in my grasp, thinking that I only had 5 miles left. Math fail. But still, it was then that I realized sub-2:10 was in the cards, assuming no blow-ups.

As a side note, I found it kinda hilarious that I ended up calling Ian a few times during the race, to make sure he and my mom were in places where she could actually see me… I was WAY ahead of schedule, so much so that Ian was pretty skeptical… boy, did I show him. At this point, I knew that Ian and Mom were just after mile 12, and I decided that I would stay the course until about miles 10 -11, and then pick up the pace for a strong finish.

Around mile 11, I started to feel the fatigue of sub-10 minute miles, but knowing that they were so close kept me going. Then, just after mile 12, I saw Ian standing on a street corner, and my Mom running up behind him, yelling my name, beaming and telling me I looked great!

It’s amazing how much of a burst in energy you get from seeing your family! Having them at mile 12 was perfect timing… just as my legs were getting tired, I had that surge of energy to carry me through to the finish. At this point, I realized that if I pushed it, I could go sub 2:08…!!!

So that’s what I decided to do… I kept up the pace, turned a few corners, picked it up as I saw the finish…and VOILA –I didn’t think that a half marathon at a sub-10 pace was in the cards this year…. but I was so wrong. It’s amazing how fast I can run when I’m not afraid I’m going to poop my pants with every step!

And of course, a HUGE thanks to Ian and my Mama – without their amazing support, this would not have been  such an amazing race. And, my Mama LOVED it! I was worried she’d get bored, or too cold, but I should have known better – she loves people & crowds, and Ian said she was just chatting up a storm with all the other spectators, and cheering on other runners… I think she’s hooked, too!

The day after the race, Ian and I took the dog for a walk, and I chatted his ear off about it all – the race, my hopes for future races, and running in general. I think this was a huge breakthrough for me, both simply in figuring out my digestive issues and pre-race ritual, and in terms of what I’m actually capable of. I see BIG things in my running future… I can’t wait to share them with you, but for just a little while longer, I’d like to keep them as my (not-so-little) secrets… stay tuned!

Thanks To You…

We reached our goal of raising $1000 for Hospice Care!

Yep, that’s right. $500 will go to the National Hospice Foundation, and $500 to Hospice of Southwest Ohio.

The Hospice of SW Ohio website perfectly describes what hospice means to me and so many other families:

We believe that hospice is more than just end-of-life medical care. We believe there is celebration in life’s most simple moments, and we want to show you how to honor the unique and special lives of your loved ones.

Ian and I have been honored to run this race in memory of Dad, and are so humbled and thankful to have been able to help these vital services… but of course, the thanks goes mostly to all of you.

Many of our donations came from family, but many also came from total strangers who live across the country, but who gave some of their hard-earned money to help patients and families in need.

Some came from Dad’s former students – I heard a few stories that truly warmed my heart and confirmed that he had a huge impact on many people, and will continue to live in their spirit. One commented that she loved having him for a teacher, because she was a new student, and he was always so nice to her. Her donation was especially remarkable to me, because she also reached out to share that little tidbit.

It’s been 6 months, almost to the day, since our lives changed forever. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, but most days it seems like years since I last heard him laugh, saw that mischievous smile curve the corners of his lips, and watched the pride beam in his eyes as he held my first half marathon medal in his hands and looked up at me, beaming.

Even though it hurts just as much today as it did 6 months ago, I’m finding solace in small ways – and being a part of Run to Remember is one of those small ways.

Let’s just say this certainly wasn’t my last Run to Remember...

Race Recap: Nationwide Columbus Half Marathon!

The Nationwide Columbus Half was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend – our wedding weekend, in case you can’t tell from the photos…

In the whirlwind that started Thursday morning, I was exhausted by the time Saturday afternoon rolled around. We partied hard at the rehearsal dinner Thursday and obviously Friday evening at the wedding, so by the time we arrived back in Columbus on Saturday afternoon to head to the expo, we were beat! A few of our awesome wedding party were also running, and trickled in Saturday night, so we did what made the most sense – pigged out on pizza and beer at HoundDog’s, the best pizza joint in the city. Seriously. Go get some Smokin’ Joes crust, NOW. After pizza, I rudely announced that if I didn’t go to bed NOW, I would turn into even more of a raging bi-yotch.

The morning came early, as it always does on race day, and the apartment was abuzz by 6 am. Our amazing spectators dropped us off about 30 minutes before race time, and we dashed to find Carrie. We had perfect timing – we shouted “CARRIE!!!” among the crowd of almost 20,000 and found her with just a few minutes to spare!

The first few miles flew by, and Ian and I got tons of laughs, high fives, and congratulations! thanks to our awesome outfits. We must have gotten at least 50 congrats and best wishes, and heard lots of “Awww, look at that bride and groom, how adorable!!” Here’s a tip: want LOTS of support and attention? Dress up. It’s as simple as that. The first few miles flew by, and before we knew it we were at mile 5 – where I lost my groom to a massively long port-o-potty, and my outfit became significantly less cute. Thankfully, I had the always awesome Carrie to keep me company, and we had some business to attend to.This was Carrie’s first half marathon, you see, and her goal was to hit 2:30. We ran somewhere in the 12s for the first mile or two, thanks to the congestion of 20,000 runners, and settled into a pace around the high 11:00s. We agreed that once we hit mile 10, we’d pick it up and finish strong.

Finish strong we did!! We ran miles 12 & 13 in the 9:50s, and crossed the finish line in…

2:28:47!

An AWESOME time for Carrie’s first half, surpassing her goal, and a new PR for me!

It was awesome to run a race for the fun of it – as a celebration, of sorts. Of the 5 of us in our group, 2 successfully finished their first half marathon, and the rest of us set new PRs!

Showing off all our new bling…

Lessons from a Half Marathon

1. Expect more. You can do so much more than you think. I’ve learned that I enjoy pushing myself. I’ve learned that I’m not me if I don’t have some lofty goal that I’m chasing. Underestimating yourself does no one any favors. Own your ability, and always strive to expand your limits however possible, however slight the change may seem.

2. Just because it’s impossible now, does NOT mean it always will be. 9 months ago, running a half marathon was impossible. Now, I can sign up for any 5k, 10k, or half marathon at a moment’s notice, and run 15 miles without blinking. While a marathon may be impossible for the runner I am at this very moment, I know that with hard work and a few short weeks, what is now impossible will be inevitable.

3. Make your own training plan. My half marathon training plan was a jumble of Hal Higdon, Runner’s World, and my own machinations. My first attempt at the half marathon distance last year was unsuccessful for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I tried to follow a pre-set plan that just plain didn’t work for me. I came up with a plan of my own, taking into account my ability and the lessons I’d learned about my body. Throughout these 5 months, I also tinkered with it each week until it did work for me. If you’re new to running and don’t feel comfortable making your own, start with a pre-set plan or consult an experienced runner – you can learn what works and what doesn’t as you go.

4. Trust in it. Once you have a training plan, trust that it will get you there – why? Because it will. YOU made it, so trust that you know yourself and that you know how far you can stretch your limits. If you miss a run, remember that one run doesn’t make or break a training plan. Acknowledge it and move on to the next.

5. Every run counts… even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones. Pushing through the bad runs is what it’s all about. Continuing when things are peachy keen is not a challenge; pushing through the difficult times is when you become stronger – a stronger runner, and a stronger person. Again, one run does not a marathon make, but every single time you take a step forward, it’s one step closer to your goal.

6. Run without distraction as often as possible. No watch, no iPod. I never run with an iPod anymore, because I’ve found that I run better without it, but I also try to run without a watch at least once a week. Pace is obviously a part of running, but so is taking the time to enjoy every moment. Since I started running, I take the time to enjoy so many more things in life.

7. The power of positive thinking is infinitely productive. Enough said.

8. Be grateful. Getting injured made me feel grateful for every single step I can run. Mine was by no means a serious injury, but it made me infinitely grateful for the ability to run at all. I’m thankful for every sunny, 60* day, and I’m thankful for every rainy day run, as I stomp my way through, puddle by puddle. I’m thankful for a warm breeze on my cheek, and a cool water fountain to quench my thirst. The little things, really.

9. I have so much more to learn. What I learned in the journey to 13.1 was immense, but I also feel like I learned just enough to realize that this is only the beginning. Every single run has something to teach me, and if finishing a half marathon is enlightening, then finishing twice that has lessons at least four-fold in store for me.