Monday, October 24, 2016

New York City Marathon Training Update - 2 weeks out!

The past months I have had very little desire to come here and post. I've been doing lots of other things besides writing here, which was sort of what I was expecting to happen at the end of training for and racing, Half Ironman World Championships.  This year wore me out. I've been tired.

Tired of being focused. Tired of training. Tired of having to say no to friends in order to go to bed early to get up and workout. I've just been tired of it all and going through a little rebellion period.

However, as a now 30 year old who has made fitness a part of her life... my "rebellion" period still consists of training and preparing for the New York City marathon. My routine has consisted of one easy run a week, one tempo run, swim practice, some biking, a little weight training and weekend long runs. Then there has also been a lot of meeting friends for drinks, trying to date more, sleeping in when I am tired, fried foods, pizza, beer, and way too much sugar in the form of ice cream, candy, and cookies. Way too much.

While I do not like how squishy I have gotten or how tight my pants are right now, I'm okay with it. I am enjoying the flexibility and am still making smart choices as much as possible. Lately I have been bingeing a bit more than I would like, which I need to reign in and get under control. But I am allowing myself some moderation right now in my life.

I'm feeling good about where I am heading into New York City Marathon, which is a little under 2 weeks away. I am not in marathon PR shape and I am not expecting to beat my time at Chicago next year. I haven't been eating or working out in a way that would have me prepared for that and I knew that this wouldn't be a race to race for a while. New York City is an iconic race and I have had an amazing year of training. Unlike any of the other marathons I have done, this is a race in a city I have a connection to. I have lived in. I have friends in. And that I feel at home in. I am excited to race NYC for the love of marathon and not for the hopes of a personal best. I still get a high and feeling of disbelief when I think of my race in Chicago last year. Maybe I'll go after beating that time in the future, but I didn't have it in me for this year.

That being said, I am honestly pretty happy with how my body is holding up through training and I think I will run a decent race, if all goes well. My times for my long runs are just a bit slower than the paces I was running last year leading up to Chicago Marathon. And honestly, my body has made it through all of training with no injury or pain or weird aches. During my long runs I couldn't help but think back to last year and how I injured myself during my 18 mile run, which really made my 20 mile run and last weeks of training a challenge.

Through all of my longer runs... 18 miles and 20 miles, the main challenge has been mental. My body has felt great and I have finished the runs feeling strong and with consistent paces throughout. During my 18 mile run, I actually extended it a half mile to 18.5 and my average  pace was 9:46 min/miles but my last 3 miles were the fastest of the whole run with 9:27/9:26/9:23 miles and the final half mile at 9:04.  My 18 mile run last year was at a 9:33 pace (which, holy cow, that was a good run!), but there I slowed as my run progressed.

This year's 20-mile run I did at a 10:13 pace, running the first 10 miles slower than what I normally would have run to pace with a friend. My 20-mile run last year was at a 9:57 min/mile. Figuring that my long runs have been about 15 seconds slower per mile than last training cycle, and that New York City is a more challenging course that Chicago... I will estimate that I will run about 20 seconds slower than Chicago. My pace for Chicago was 9:06 min/mile so if I ran 9:26 min/miles in New York, that would be a 4:07 marathon. I would love to be under 4:10 so I believe that's around where I will set my sights but who knows how race day will go!

Every training run that I have gone out for in the past couple months as I have been just focused on marathon training - whether it is 14, 18, 10 or 20 miles - I have told myself "just get through it." I've told myself it is okay if I walk, as long as I get the miles on my watch to hit whatever my goal distance is for the day. Then, multiple times, I have felt better than expected going out on the runs, and end up finish strong (for the most part - I have had a few crappy runs thrown in there, that's for sure!)

The weather has started to finally feel a bit cooler in Atlanta, which has led to some more comfortable running for this northern girl. The days are longer and the sun is rising later, so morning runs are darker and I've had to break out the head lamp a few times.

I also made my way up to New York and New Hampshire for some work and personal trips, which has truly given me a taste of chillier weather and a better feel for what race day will be like. For that I am grateful. The beautiful fall foliage that has graced my runs the past week hasn't been terrible either!

It's been a fun couple of months getting ready for this marathon and it is definitely a different attitude that I have had going into any of my races so far. I feel like I have barely talked about this race with my friends, family, coworkers, and certainly on this blog. It's hard to believe that this will be my 4th (!!!) marathon and as much as I can hardly believe it, I also can see that in my strength on my runs and my mentality going into the race. The countdown is on until November 6th!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Wrapping up my Australian adventure

The rest of my trip to Australia was really wonderful. The highlight was for sure the race experience and the trip to Fraser Island, but I don't want to miss out on posting about the rest of the vacation!

Following the race, we went back to the hotel room and I spent some time laying on the floor and eating whatever food I could find, before taking a shower and putting on some fresh clothes. One of the things I was nervous about going into the race was the salt water swim and if I would feel salty and gross all day long. During the race itself, it actually didn't bother me too much. But when we got back to the hotel I realized that I was quite a salty little racer and had the stains all over to prove it!

I also had quite the distinct tan line after that sunscreen-less bike ride through the Australian hinterlands.

Sondra and Debbie were kind enough to go pick up our bikes and transition bags for Kristin and I, so I literally felt like a queen just getting to relax and soak everything in. I returned to the Ironman store for a bit and then Kristin and I went off in search of some post race grub. Which, we found in the form of chicken wings, french fries and beer. Not my usual post-race burger, but it sufficed!

It was a pretty chill evening with an early bedtime but lots of fun. I walked over and checked out the post race party, then met up with the girls for another drink before heading back to the hotel and going to bed.  We all had to be up early as a couple of the ladies where checking out and heading to their next destination, and Kristin and I needed to change hotel rooms and check out of our amazing apartment!

On Monday morning, I attempted to break down my bike by myself and get it into the bike box I had but within 10 minutes of trying and being exhausted, I said screw it, and brought it back to the bike shop that had assembled it for me to pay them to break it apart. It was a lot of back and forth and a bit hectic for a bit but eventually, we checked out of our race hotel and into a new AirBnB.

There was a lot of eating and race recap on Monday as well wherever we went.  Kristin and I had a big breakfast and then we went to the mid-morning race awards ceremony and lunch, which provided us with lots of opportunity to chat with other races.  As I mentioned before, a lot of people were unhappy with their times and there was a lot of grumbling about about the bike, but I still felt really good about what I had accomplished - despite having had to walk up a hill!

The post-race ceremony was sort of boring but cool to watch all the awards given out and the recap video of the day.  We left towards the end of the age group awards, because it was getting tedious, so I was a little bummed to have missed hearing the pros talk, but there was really no need to stick around.

Instead, we filled up our World Championships race water bottles with wine, took a box of Tim Tams, our finisher clothes, and went to the beach to relax a bit and just enjoy the world around us.

It was a bit chilly and windy so when the wine and snacks weren't enough, we packed up and did a quick change of clothes, then went back to watching the waves crash. However from one of the surf clubs that overlooked the water and that we had run by 4 times the day before! There was also more wine, Charlie and his wife joined us, and we made friends.

For some reason everything in Mooloolaba closes around 9pm, but we were tired anyways so we didn't stay out too late. It was fun to catch up with everyone the day after and a great last day relaxing and enjoying the views before heading out of the Sunshine Coast.

It was raining when I left on Tuesday morning and jumped on a plane to Sydney. However, luckily, Sydney had bright sunshine skies! I had originally wanted to spend more time there, but I ended up booking an amazingly good flight with points and found one with a 24 hour layover in Sydney. It didn't give me much time to explore this amazing city, but at least I did get to have a little time there!

Once I landed, I dropped my bags at an AirBnB and head towards the downtown area where I did two back to back walking tours with an ice cream break in between. It was a good way to get some movement in my legs before the long trip back to the U.S.!  I also was able to learn a lot about the history of Sydney, and met back up with Sondra and Debbie for extra fun.  Sydney is an incredible city! And I carried my medal around with me specifically for that photo at the bottom.

The trip home was pretty horrendous, not going to lie. I made the mistake of giving in to my exhaustion (still from the race and everything) and going to bed at about 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night. My flight was at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning so I boarded the long flight from Sydney to L.A. without any need to sleep. I watched a zillion movies on the plane and tried to distract myself but it felt like forever without the excitement of the trip and with zero hours sleeping. I was really tired as the 13-ish hour flight landed... at about 1:00 a.m. Australia time, which was about 6:00 a.m. local time. I had to keep myself occupied until my 3:00 p.m. flight and also lug a junk load of luggage through customs.

I rarely complain about travel times because to me it's just part of the adventure. I try not to look at a 14 hour flight as a delay in starting or finishing a vacation or as "travel time" but as part of the vacation. It's a time to disconnect, relax, drink cheap free wine, watch movies, etc. and airport time you can use the little overpriced spas or drink and hang out and meet people at the bars. But I had a hard time getting into that mentality. I didn't want to drink or hang out at a bar at 8:00 a.m. (local time) and I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I was sweaty and greasy from the flight and just wanted to be home. I curled up in a ball in an airport lounge and snoozed for a few hours before groggily boarding my flight from L.A. to Atlanta.

I'd been upgraded on that flight so even had a few celebrity sightings in first class from LA to Atlanta!

Despite the travel coming home, it was a wonderful trip that feels surreal. In my first year of competing in Half Ironman distance races, I was able to race in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and travel to Australia with good friends for a race. It was an adventure I am so happy I was able to start my 30th year with and a story I will be telling for decades to come!