A PR and A Crossroad

HCRP and I joined another couple we’re friends with running a 5K Race this morning.
As 5K races go this one was relatively small (I’m guessing under 200).  Of course earlier in the week I’d heard someone say there were FIVE 5Ks in our area today.
Which I still find puzzling for a city that consistently ranks among “America’s Fattest/Least Fit Cities”.  I digress . . .

Given the small number of runners there was this little imp in the back of my brain elbowing me and whispering “You might actually medal in your age group!”
I didn’t.
I came in fourth (I think – no Official Results yet) in Women 45 – 49.
And I’m good with that.
No, I don’t know the answer to “Fourth out of how many Julianne?” I placed way ahead of the me who was happily, complacently, and sedentarily on my couch two years ago and in my book that falls under “W” for WIN!

What I did do is PR* this race!
My previous 5K PR was 34:35 in November 2011.
Today the clock read 33:50 when I planted my foot across the Finish Line.
So in eleven months I’ve taken 45 seconds off my 5K time.
Not bad for someone who really hasn’t been working on speed or to reduce race time.

Which brings me to The Crossroads.  Not that Crossroads, although I live within a couple hours’ drive of that Crossroads, that’s not the one I’m talking about.
No, I have reached a Training Crossroads.

Here’s the deal:
I can run a 5K in a respectable amount of time.  I have run several 5Ks and fully intend to run several more.
I have run a 10K in a somewhat less respectable time.  But still, I’ve run one and I know what to do better for the next one (in three weeks actually).
I have trained for and completed a Half Marathon in what I consider a respectable time.  And in a time that HCRP and my Runner Friends said was a respectable time for a first Half.

The Crossroads I stand at is this:
I can continue to train as I’ve been training, focusing on consistency and endurance, and be content with my consistent 35 minute-ish finishes.
OR
I can begin using my short (3 – 4 mile) runs to do speed training to reduce those 5K and 10K finish times; continue using the mid and long runs to work on endurance and consistency in Halfs; and start looking towards the really long runs** that will be required next year when I begin training for the 2013 St. Jude Full Marathon.

*le sigh*
And so it begins.
Goal Setting.
Running Goals.
Training Goals.
Dear Sweet Asics, what fresh h*ll of life lessons is this going to bring?!

Lexicon for my non-running reader(s): (Hey!  There could be more than one!)
*PR = Personal Record
Sometimes called a ‘PB’ or Personal Best.
This is a runner’s personal competition with the runner in their own shoes.
Often more important than finishing “First” or “Last”. It’s all about Better!

**”really long runs” being defined as 15 – 20 miles or possibly further.
Yes, I really am just that crazy.

Not sure why . . .

I have plenty of thoughts on my first Half Marathon.

Starting, of course, with: I DID IT!!  I FREAKIN’ DID IT!!

And I have come here several times to share them all.

But for some reason I just couldn’t put the words down.

No matter how much I wanted to come here and talk about so many things about the race.
To talk about how the entire first mile was spent getting my legs and lungs to remember that they have, in fact, worked well together.
To talk about The World’s Best Total Stranger Running Buddy Ever.  Erin.  Who understood when, after ‘warning’ her before we started that “I’m not a talker when I run”, I suddenly became a Chatty Cathy with my string pulled during every walking interval after about Mile 5.
To share my admiration for Robert, the easily 400 pound man we met at the start of the race, who was planning to walk the Half in 4:00:00 as part of his ongoing fitness efforts to insure that he’ll be around and able to keep up with his ten month old daughter.
To marvel at the completely barefoot Marathoner who whizzed past Erin and me at about our Mile 12 which was like his Mile 25.
To feel pretty dang good about the fact that I wasn’t the woman who ended up flat on her back with her legs cramping, screaming in pain because she never stopped at any water stops and wasn’t carrying her own water at about the same Mile 12.  I felt bad for her, but was so grateful I wasn’t her.
To tell you about the 80-something year old man wearing the singlet that said “I’m running on a donated heart valve.”
And the people running with shirts screen-printed with the pictures of family members who had served our country in the same United States Air Force as my father and husband.
To share the pictures of the Finisher’s Medal, my bib number that had my name on it, of me and Erin with our FMs.
To express my gratitude to Erin for keeping me going those couple times when I wanted to just stop and walk the rest of the way.  Even if a tiny little bit of that did come from my ego commanding “We will not let this twenty-something year old girl see us quit!”
To brag on HCRP for beating his own Goal Time!

To say “Thank You!” to every runner who has given me counsel, advice, slowed up their own pace to run with me, encouraged me when they saw me struggling along the trail.  And especially to Terri Lee, DJ, Marian, and Donnie.  They know why.
To give a shout-out to my dear friend Tonia who sent me a message via The Endomondo Lady encouraging me at Mile 10 JUST when she knew I’d need it!
To thank my dear friend Tina who came down to be there at the Finish Line to cheer for me whether I heard her or not and who didn’t mind the sweaty-runner post-race hug one bit!

And to tell you what I told my dad before the race:
The first 6.5 miles were for my father who served from 1959 through 1979.
The second 6.5 miles were for my husband who served from 1989 through 2009.
But that last 0.1? That right there, that was for me!
And that’s how I ran it!

It’s probably the same reason I haven’t felt overly pushed to get a run in any evening this week – despite the Oh My Starz! perfect running weather we’ve had all week for the first time in forever.
I think part of me is still enjoying The Magic of running that race exactly the way I’d pictured it.
Successful.
Feeling really pretty damn good at the end.
Feeling zero pain from either of The Knees or any of my 2,000 other parts.
Dancin’ with the ones that brung me: Pace and Intervals.
Feeling the triumph of the fruition All Those Miles put in training.
All that precautionary icing of the aforementioned knees.
The runs I cut short “just in case”.
The wisdom of listening to my body (finally got that little lesson).

I ran – successfully and enjoying (just about) every step of every mile – a freakin’ Half Marathon!
And I’m more excited about running the next one on December 2nd.
And.  I am really beginning to think I’m going to be able to run twice that far in December 2013.

I’ll be back in a day or two to provide the review of SnuggBuds Headsets that I was asked to write here on my blog!
Spoiler Alert: It will not be a bad review…

The cards might lie . . .

. . . but the numbers never do! (Thank you Mary Chapin Carpenter!)

Stated Goal Time for my first Half Marathon: 3:00:00

Official Finish Time for my first Half Marathon: 2:54:29

I finished a full 5:31 UNDER my Stated Goal Time.

I’m still a little shocked.
I’m also still putting my thoughts together about the whole thing.

I learned many things.

I learned that The Right Running Partner will find you in a field of 5,447.

I learned to trust what got you there – your training.

I learned that more experienced runners are more experienced runners for many reasons and listening to their advice is the best possible thing to do.
(Unless they advise you to eat paint chips or jump up and go out and run twenty miles all at once one day, but I never heard that from anyone anywhere ever so I stick with that “listening to their advice is the best possible thing to do” thing.)

I learned to hold to what got you there – pace and intervals.

I learned that a middle-aged, overweight, sedentary woman can decide – “out of nowhere – to “take up running” one year and finish a half marathon the next.

IF, and only if, she does all those things I listed up there.
And maybe believes in herself just the tiniest little bit along the way.

 

 

 

This is it!

 

 

2 Days – 10 Hours – 14 Minutes – Ever-Changing Seconds until the start of my first ever Half-Marathon.

It isn’t the first one I have set out to do.
That was back in March.
But apparently it was the first one I was intended to do.
And I am, finally, okay with that.

I have butterflies in my stomach.
They’ve gone from stomping around in combat boots in formation to running wind sprints.
I can live with wind sprints.

I have a cadre of Runner Friends who have given me support, encouragement, congratulations, and one consistent bit of advice: Have fun!

I have HCRP who is being his ever-tolerant, patient self with my newbie nerves and nattering on and on about which tech shirt I should take as a back-up if the race shirt is sleeveless (sleeveless t-shirts freak me out a little bit).

Several weeks ago one of the RFs commented on one of my (many, many, many) Facebook posts about this upcoming race that this race is my “victory lap”.  It’s the celebration of all the miles I’ve put in training.  And while I appreciated the sentiment it really didn’t make sense to me at the time.
I mean the Half was The Whole Point of all the miles and training and . . . and . . . and well all the miles and training!
Wasn’t it?
She was just trying to keep me from getting too worked up and possibly attempting to prevent the combat boot wearing, formation marching butterflies.
Right?
I just didn’t quite get what she meant.

Until Monday evening when I was doing the last Coaching Run with the Beginning Runners in the Women’s Running Training Program that was the start of this whole Running Thing for me.  I was running along with one of the other Coaches and three of the Beginning Runners (a mother and her two daughters which I think is just so cool!) and we (the other Coach and I) were answering questions and Out Of Nowhere it hit me: The Race really is The Celebration.  It is The Victory Lap!  The miles and the training really were The Point.

Now The Marching/Sprinting Butterflies are still around.
And every time I look at the picture of where the Finish Line is going to be I get choked up.

Wanna see?
How freakin’ cool is that?!
And I know I’m gonna bawl if not actually crossing the Finish Line, because really who wants their Ugly Cry Face as that picture, but a few steps thereafter.
And the crying won’t be (completely) because “I did it!” but also because “I did everything that made me able to did it!”

Earlier this week (also on Facebook) I posted a status to the effect that this Half was the single most significant accomplishment of my life.
I left out that it was more significant than graduating high school or college, more significant than marriage, more significant than even childbirth.  I left that out because I really didn’t feel like being judged for including the birth of my one-and-only “I brought you into this world, I can take you out” child.  (I tried for others before him, but that didn’t work out so well.)
 Aaaaanywho . . . this isn’t my Therapy Blog so back to The Running Stuff . . .

Crap.
Where was I?
Not The Point . . .
The Victory Lap . . .
Single most signific . . .  There I was!

Okay so this Half Marathon is the single most significant accomplishment of my life for one reason and one reason only: It is the one thing I’ve done that never in a million years would I have ever imagined myself capable of.
All those other milestones up there?  Please.  Those were givens.
knew I would graduate high school and college.
knew I would get married.  Hadn’t counted on married, divorced, married, divorced, married but hey I get HCRP out of that so I’m good.
knew I would have a baby.  I had planned on three or four, but the one I managed to bring successfully (if surgically assisted) into the world is a pretty good kid so I’ll keep him.  Besides I don’t think they take back almost twenty-four year olds.
Running a Half Marathon?  All in one day?  Yeah sooooo not on my radar like ever.
Until Saturday, October 11th when I heard the words “we” and “half marathon” falling out of my face all in one sentence.

So I really need to be getting to bed/sleep because we have to get up early tomorrow to get in our last pre-race quick, short run before going to work.

But before I go I have to point out the single most beautiful piece of synchronicity about this whole thing.
This time last year I was a little over two days from the Start Time for doing my first 5K as A Runner on the third Saturday of September.
This time this year I am a little over two days from the Start Time for doing my first Half Marathon as anything on the third Saturday of September.
HOW freakin’ cool is that?!

2 Days – 9 Hours – 25 Minutes – Ever-Changing Seconds until the start of my first ever Half-Marathon.

 

 

 

 

 

This is what I wanted to say here

One of my favorite Fan Pages on Facebook is I ❤ to run. They post great inspirational pictures, quotes, and in general great running related stuff.

Earlier this week they posted this picture

with the following text that had me in tears by the end.
Hey, Fat Girl.

Yes, you. The one feigning to not see me when we cross paths on the running track. The one not even wearing sports gear, breathing heavy. You’re slow, you breathe hard and your efforts at moving forward make you cringe.

You cling shyly to the furthest corridor, sometimes making larger loops on the gravel ring by the track just so you’re not on it. You sweat so much that your hair is all wet. You rarely stay for more than 20 minutes at a time, and you look exhausted when you leave to go back home. You never talk to anyone. I’ve got something I’d like to say to you.

You are awesome. If you’d look me in the eye only for an instant, you would notice the reverence and respect I have for you. The adventure you have started is tremendous; it leads to a better health, to renewed confidence and to a brand new kind of freedom. The gifts you will receive from running will far exceed the gigantic effort it takes you to show up here, to face your fears and to bravely set yourself in motion, in front of others.

You have already begun your transformation. You no longer accept this physical state of numbness and passivity. You have taken a difficult decision, but one that holds so much promise. Every hard breath you take is actually a tad easier than the one before, and every step is ever so slightly lighter. Each push forward leaves the former person you were in your wake, creating room for an improved version, one that is stronger, healthier and forward-looking, one who knows that anything is possible.

You’re a hero to me. And, if you’d take off the blaring headphones and put your head up for more than a second or two, you would notice that the other runners you cross, the ones that probably make you feel so inadequate, stare in awe at your determination. They, of all people, know best where you are coming from. They heard the resolutions of so many others, who vowed to pick up running and improve their health, “starting next week”. Yet, it is YOU who runs alongside, who digs from deep inside to find the strength to come here, and to come back again.

You are a runner, and no one can take that away from you. You are relentlessly moving forward. You are stronger than even you think, and you are about to be amazed by what you can do. One day, very soon, maybe tomorrow, you’ll step outside and marvel at your capabilities. You will not believe your own body, you will realize that you can do this. And a new horizon will open up for you. You are a true inspiration.

I bow to you.

Once I stopped blubbering, I “Shared” it and added the following comment of my own:
Totally worth it to read ALL the words and not just get pissed off and stop at the first three.

I was just having this conversation with a younger, more experienced, and better-than-me runner on Saturday (Monday, it was Monday). When I first started running I assumed that more experienced, better-than-me runners resented my fat ass being out there on ‘their’ trail taking up space and giving them an obstacle to avoid. Right up until the day that I ‘jokingly’ commented something to that effect to one of those more experienced, better-than-me runners who looked me dead in the face and in all seriousness said “Actually, Julianne, I admire you for doing what you are doing in beginning running and getting out here and putting in the miles!”

That, ladies and gentlemen, was one of my life’s great “Aha”moments.
I felt inferior not because of them, but because I chose to. And I short-changed other people in the process.

Whether your “thing” is running or whatever it is – there will always be someone who is more experienced and ‘better-than-you’. But realize one thing: The only one seeing that “betterness” is generally you. What they are seeing is your effort and that you are Doing It.

And that, my friends, is the truth of the best thing about running.
It’s the community.
It’s having people ask “Hey, where are you running today? Can I join you?”
It’s having those ‘better’, more experienced runners tell you that they are inspired by you.
It’s running into people on the trail and not just getting “The Runner’s Wave” but getting the “Hey! I know you, we’ve run/volunteered at races/coached together” Wave!
It is, to be honest, being one of The Cool Kids at races. The people who Know Each Other.
It’s walking into the local running store and knowing (within 10 – 20 miles) how many miles are on your current pair of shoes and being able to discuss the reasons you suspect it’s time to get a new pair.

Speaking of shoes.
That pair you see up there at the top of these posts aren’t my current running shoes. They’re not even my most recently replaced pair of running shoes. They are, as of last Sunday, two pairs back. They’re my ‘knock around’ shoes. And I’ll probably always keep them at the top of this blog, even if I end up donating them to the shoe recycling program at our local running store, because those were the shoes that were on my feet when I crossed my first Finish Line as A Runner.

These are my new shoes (the ones on the left) alongside my most recently replaced pair. You have to love a sport that gives you a reason to buy new shoes every few hundred miles!

The heel/sole wear is the reason for the replacement.
You learn a lot about shoes when you run!

I have another post to write about my last Long Run in preparation for next weekend’s Half Marathon, but that one’s still percolating in my brain.  It was an ugly, ugly run and I know precisely why.  You’ll just have to come back to find out!

What’s short today was once really long

Not my hair.
Although that’s true too.

No.
I’m talking distance.

Tonight HCRP and I ran “a quick five miles” A) because it was time to run; and B) because I went to bed last night wanting to get a run in tonight.  That second part is a little new to me.  I mean I’m good with days I know I “have to” run to stay in shape or continue training/conditioning.  But this is the first time I’ve actually looked forward to a running day the night before.

Another bit of Running Newness for me was having the run start feeling good just past the half mile mark.
Normally I’m a good mile-and-a-half in before I hit what I call my Sweet Spot.  It’s that point in the run when it really almost doesn’t feel like effort.  Everything is working perfectly and in sync.  The lungs feel great, the legs feel awesome, the feet are very nearly not even touching the pavement, even the sweating feels refreshing and (dare I say?) athletic, and nothing twinges or hurts or otherwise doesn’t do its job.
But tonight just after the half mile marker I realized I Was There.  And it lasted until about mile 4.25 when some invisible force filled my legs with lead.  Oh and the gale force (okay 7 mph according to my Weatherbug App but still) headwind that came not only from out of nowhere but from due east.  But until then it was a really great run!

And somewhere around mile three I realized that this time last year running five miles was not only not a “short run” but was a distance I couldn’t ever have imagined myself running. And tonight it was “just a quick, short run”.
That felt good.

Between going out of town for my dad’s birthday Saturday (they live in a pretty small town that isn’t very running/distance running friendly), and the weather potentially heading our way courtesy of Isaac, we’re putting off this weekend’s Long Run until Monday.
Eleven Miles.
Then we begin our taper before the Half Marathon on September 15th.

That’s right.  Right?
Saturday, September 1st: 3 miles.
Monday, September 3rd: 11 miles.

Wednesday, September 5th: 5 miles.
Saturday, September 8th: 6 – 8 miles.
Monday, September 10th: 3 miles Coaching Run.
Wednesday, September 12th: 3 – 4 miles.
Saturday, September 15th: Race Day!
Yeah, that’s right.

Holy Crap Batman!
That’s right!

And now you get to step inside my head while I talk to myself . . .
Just remember Julianne: Tonight’s Short Run was last year’s “I’ll never run that far”.  You’ve got this.  You have totally got this!

It really is a numbers game

It’s the number of times you run at the beginning because you said you were going to do this thing.

It’s the number of times going up and down the same stretch of access road you think you’re never going to see the other end of.

It’s the number of times a volunteer Coach tells you “You’re A Runner!” and you half-heartedly repeat after them “I’m a runner” whether it feels true or not.

It’s the number on the time clock when you cross your First Finish Line Running, not walking.

It’s the number of layers you pile on – and pull off because who knew you got THAT hot when it’s THAT cold out – running on cold winter evenings.  In the dark.

It’s the number of times you get to That Mile Marker on the trail until the one day you get to it realizing that you’re thinking “Already?!” instead of “Who freakin’ moved it?!?!”

It’s the number of times Hollaback Gurrrrl comes on your playlist at Just The Right Moment to keep you going when some part of your brain is thinking “We really don’t have to do this you know…”  Thank you Gwen Stefani!

It’s the number of walkers you pass thinking “Yes, we really are racing and I just totally lapped you!”

It’s hours sitting with ice packs and rolling various parts of your body on foam rollers and with your newly acquired little blue handball.

It’s the (arguably more enjoyable) hours spent soaking in the tub with Epsom Salts.

It’s the miles run in The Sweet Spot when everything – and I mean everything – is Absolute Perfection.  The birds sing sweeter, the skies are bluer, your legs move effortlessly, your feet barely touch the ground, and your lungs are just made of air itself.

It’s the Epic Superman Sprawl First Fall.  That you survive.  And finish the run it came in the middle of.  And get to show off the Battle Scars.

It’s the absolutely craptastic day at work that suddenly no longer matters when you realize you really did feel like putting in those miles.

It’s the number of runs (and miles) you missed, truly missed, running while rehabbing an injury.  And the race you had to pull out of before you even started it.

It’s the runs that suuuuuuuuuccckkkk….kkk…kkkk…K!

It’s the runs that go from Sweet Spot to suuuuuuuuuccckkkk….kkk…kkkk…K in less time than it takes Usain Bolt to win a medal.

It’s the other runners you pass along the trail who pass you again later and then you see each other over and over and over again because you’re both out there again and again.

And it’s the runs like tonight when it wasn’t perfect but it didn’t suck and at the end of the run you just feel good and you’re glad you ran.

That’s when the numbers add up and you know they’re going to keep on adding.  Right up to 13.1 and crossing That Finish Line!