Monday, March 28, 2016

Syracuse basketball forever.

The last time I boarded a plane to Mexico, it was the day after the New England Patriots won the Superbowl.  Today I am about to board a plane to Mexico and it is the day after one of the greatest Syracuse wins I have witnessed. And I've witnessed some pretty amazing wins.

The 2014 season in particular was filled with a thrilling undefeated streak that included so many gut wrenching games and buzzer beater wins. And the 2009 Syracuse vs. UCONN game that went into 6 overtimes during the Big East tournament is another that will go down in history. And last night's Elite 8 match-up against the #1 seed University of Virginia during the ongoing March Madness tournament was one of the craziest games ever and one that I am sure I remember for a lifetime along with those others.

So, let's talk basketball.

And if you don't care about NCAA basketball, you can move on. OR, if you are UVA fan (as I know some of my readers are), you can move on as well if you don't want to read about this game from my point of view. However, I have to take a moment to gush about this game because I still am sore in my throat from screaming and in somewhat disbelief that we won.

I have been less vocal this year than I have other years about my Syracuse basketball team. This season was the first season since I attended Syracuse that I have not gone to a basketball game. Being in Albany, NY just down the road, I was always able to go back for games the 6 years I was living there. And last year, Syracuse played against Georgia Tech right here in Albany so I was able to go to the game. I also fought hard to try and find a Syracuse bar in Albany last year but struck out a few times. So it was a bit of an uneventful season for me from 2014-2015, especially with the "self imposed sanctions" that had us sitting out of the tournament at the end of the year.

This season, with the addition of some friends who went to Syracuse who live here in Atlanta, I was able to track the team a bit closer and watched a number of games. I have gotten involved with the alumni association in Atlanta, and went to one of the game watches with Brick and some friends one weekend. However, we didn't really have a stellar season. As March Madness tournament came around, I wasn't expecting much out of a bid to the big dance. Until, on Selection Sunday, I received a text message from a friend saying that we were in.

I was ecstatic just at getting a spot in the tournament! We ended up a #10 seed and up against Dayton, so I immediately blocked off my calendar for the whole day when I heard that it was a Friday game. A noontime game meant finding a location with WiFi to set up shop while I "worked from home." Brick joined me and we watched Syracuse coast through their first round game against Dayton.

Following that Friday game, we played again on Sunday evening, where I got together with Brick, Ayanna, and 6 or so other Syracuse fans to watch us beat Middle Tennessee. Middle Tennessee had pulled one of the biggest upsets early in the tournament, as a #15 seed beating #2 Michigan State.

This past Friday, we all got together again, however, this time joining the Syracuse alumni association for their game watch - which happened to be the same bar that the New England Patriots Fan Club in Atlanta uses as their hometown bar.

The game was a struggle for a bit with Syracuse not shooting well, but we somehow slipped by Gonzaga to make it into the Elite 8. This game involved lots of rowdiness, yelling, foot stomping, and all around excitement by the entire bar. I really could not believe that we had made it this far into the tournament that many said we never should have been a part of in the first place.

Especially after this game, the hate messages and complaints on Syracuse's "easy" and "lucky" ride into the Elite 8 were in full effect. Everyone said that we were "gifted" these easy double digit games to play. The Nunes Magician site was a constant source of great articles fighting back against all the Syracuse haters, defending the Orange. We didn't cause Michigan State to lose to Middle Tennessee! We didn't design the way that the tournament works! We just were playing the game. And one of the things that makes March Madness the great sporting event that it is -is that ANYTHING can happen. Once brackets are formed, your regular season play doesn't matter. Teams get hot. Teams choke. You see incredible "Cinderalla stories" from schools that nobody has ever heard of and you see some of the great have bad years and stumble early.

Syracuse this year, came into the tournament with a losing streak at the end of the year, but have been making it happen.

They didn't get the nickname "Cardiac Cuse" for nothing. The team has a way of playing clutch basketball and pulling through in the last moment. Or choking after being hot for a whole season. Or totally shocking everyone and becoming the FIRST 10-seed EVER to make it into the Final Four.

And mind you, I am just talking about the Men's Basketball team. This year, the Syracuse women's team are in the Final Four as well! It's seriously been SO FUN to follow and watch these past two weeks.

Going into last night's game against University of Virginia, the alma mater of one of my best friends and a team that has had two great seasons in a row, I really did not expect to win the game. To be totally honest and I hope I don't sound like I didn't have faith in my team... but... I really, had no expectations of winning that basketball game last night. Virginia was ranked #1, playing great, has a team full of seniors, two 23-year old players who look like grown men, and Syracuse barely ekked by Gonzaga, spending half the game missing layups and what should have been easy shots.

We started the game against Virginia getting a short early lead, but then slowly dropped back. We were not playing well and UVA was pulling away. The highlight of the first half was when Tyler Lydon's shoe fell off mid-play, but he was passed the ball and hit a 3-point shot anyways. This had me screaming at the TV to keep his shoe off for the rest of the game. This happened just a few minutes before halftime and my college roommates and I were texting back and forth to have Boeheim's halftime adjustments be to take off one of everyone's shoes. Someone else suggested going Tonya Harding on the UVA player who seemed to be hitting 3-point shot after 3-point shot from way behind the line and Syracuse seemingly unwilling to do anything to stop him (okay that may have been me who suggested that.)

The cocky attitude of the UVA players was driving me crazy as they clearly thought their 21-35 lead at the halftime to have been a sealed deal on the game. They were celebrating after shot and one bench-warmer had me SWEARING at the screen to wipe the smug look off his face.

I was also wondering where all of the Newhouse kids were who should have been running the TV cameras behind the scenes because after every UVA shot they would show their band, fans, or players celebrating. I felt like they were not having equal treatment for the Syracuse celebrations (when there was something to celebrate...) It just felt like the predicted was happening, but that nothing at all was going in our favor.

Coming out of the half, UVA had a quick slam dunk and my friends and I were defeated just begging the boys to keep the score tight and at least not make this embarrassing on ourselves. I kept getting angry when they'd miss shots but just told myself to calm down, you expected this, and it's been an amazing season. I ordered some homemade potato chips as condolence food to alleviate the pain of losing a bit.

I'm not going to recap the whole end of the second half but at about 9:30 left, UVA hit another 3-point shot, bringing the score to 39-54.

And then slowly after that, something started to happen. Syracuse woke up. Trevor Cooney started playing like he wanted to make it to the Final Four. Malachi Richardson went HAM and carried the team. The entire thing was amazing to watch. As UVA's lead got smaller and smaller, the entire bar we were in went nuts. By the time we were down a point, everyone was standing and screaming. When we went ahead for the first time, everyone went nuts.

The last few minutes of the game were a hear attack in the making. My hands were literally shaking. I sweat through my t-shirt. And my anxiety was through the roof. I couldn't believe this was actually happening. We were jumping up and down, screaming to keep UVA away from the 3-point line and making as much noise as possible anytime anything went positive for the Orange.

I couldn't breathe as the game came towards the end and when it became apparent we were going to win, it literally didn't seem like it could be possible from where the game had been just a few minutes before. This was one of the biggest roller coaster games I have ever watched and in the words of Jim Boeheim, the best comeback the team has ever pulled. My condolence potato chips sat untouched.

We jumped up and down and screamed and yelled in the middle of a bar when the score flashed to FINAL. I legit thought I was going to cry or my heart was going to jump out of my chest and my body was shaking. HOW DOES SPORTS DO THIS TO YOU!?!?

The Syracuse crowd on Sunday night - Easter Sunday - wasn't as large as it was on Friday night, but man, we were all in the same boat. It wasn't as if this was a buzzer beater and we had been with them the whole time and had hope. What little hope people had going into the game, was gone. And then we won it. It was so amazing to be Orange last night.

I love this team.

I love these players. I fell in love with Malachi Richardson last night with the way he took control in the second half of the game and am so happy he is only a freshman. Gbinije. Cooney. Roberson. Gah, I love them.

 And say what you want about our coach. But Jimmy B, you're Syracuse basketball through and through.

This is how hard I was smiling at the end of the night last night. I couldn't breathe for what felt like hours. My heart was racing and my adrenaline was so high.

I had to pack for my trip to Mexico but all I could do was refresh my Facebook and Instagram news feeds and "Like" every Syracuse post I saw. All I could do was read everything I could possibly see. And then the Memes started. Throughout this whole tournament, it's been fun to see the posts and excitement from the past Syracuse players, including Carmelo Anthony, who helped us win the championship in 2003. He only attended Syracuse for one year but once a Cuse fan, always a Cuse fan.

And I won't get too much into it beyond this, because some of my best friends went to UVA and I don't like to trash talk other people's teams. I have never really been into antagonizing or trash talking. I am not a crazy sports fan in that way and I don't think it does anything to bash other people's teams. I don't like when people do it to mine and we all have teams that are near and dear to our heart. To the "hater" text messages I have been receiving... I responded back last night with a simple orange emoji and a "x2."  However, that being said... I got a lot of joy out of seeing this pop up over the internet.

Sorry bud, better keep your celebrations and smug faces and taunting til the very end when you are playing Syracuse.  I LOVE THIS TEAM.

I started this post by telling you that I am about jump on a plane. And we're boarding as we speak so I have to hit publish. I'm on my way to my first international vacation that I have had in a couple years. Yes, you read that right. Despite all my traveling, I haven't traveled internationally for a solely personal trip in a couple years and I couldn't be more excited for the week ahead.

Here we come Final Four and here I come Mexico!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Workout Recap: 8 Weeks out from Chattanooga Half Ironman

Trying to be better at getting these done by the week, so I will TRY and do a regular Sunday post for the next few weeks as I finalize training. I know the next 8 weeks are going to fly by and am getting excited for race day to come already!

Monday 3/21 - Rest Day

When I ran the Publix Half Marathon last Sunday, it was a mental struggle to get myself through the race and I could tell how tired my body was. One of the things I bargained with myself was, "If you finish this race, you can "sleep in" on Monday morning!" I allowed myself a rest morning, which my body needed, and told myself I would go to yoga in the evening. However, I ended up skipping that too. When I go to the yoga class I like after work, I don't get home until at least 8:00 p.m. and I just wanted to be home earlier to get other things done. My main activity this evening was getting signed up at the library and doing a bunch of food prep and laundry that I hadn't done on Sunday.

Tuesday 3/22 - Morning 3 mile run (9:40 min/mile) and upper body weight workout

I ran 3 miles on the treadmill this morning because a) it was still cold outside and I've become a baby and b) I wanted the extra time at the gym to get a weight workout in. I have been missing weight training lately, as it is always a first thing to get cut for me when things get busy. And the challenge I was doing at the gym has wrapped up, so I haven't had the discipline to focus on it yet. I am trying to get it in whenever I can because I love how I feel when I have been doing weight training regularly!

Wednesday 3/23 - AM Swim practice (2800 M) + PM 1 hour bike ride (15.5 mph average) + 2 mile run (9:01 min/mile)

This whole training cycle, Wednesdays have been my midweek heavy workout day. I decided to keep that going with a morning swim, replacing my Monday swim. The swim was a lot of fun and a lot more challenging than I thought it would be. I should have taken a picture of it because it is hard to describe.

Warmup: 4x200
25 on :25
25 on :35
2x25 on :25
25 on :40
3x25 on :25
50 easy
[Repeat the above]
150 Rest 5 seconds
2x100 R10
3x50 R20
[Repeat the whole workout... for the recovery portion, first time through pull only, second time with fins and paddles]

The workout was so much harder than I thought it was going to be when I first read it through on the board. It was a small group of swimmers this morning so the coach put together a workout he knew that we could all stay together on because we were regulars and he knew our paces. It was fun because for a portion of the workout I was the only girl and I really challenged myself to beat the boys on all of the sprint sets. I felt really strong in the water and proud of myself for how I did in the workout. After my pep talk on Tuesday, I knew that I wanted to make every workout count.

In the evening wanted to get a bike ride in. Since I decided all my bikes should be brick workouts from now on, I ran 2 miles.

How awful and heavy my legs felt on Sunday after biking on Saturday was sufficient to scare me enough into wanting to focus more on those transitions. I need my legs to be used to running after biking. So I am going to run 1-2 miles minimum following all of my bike rides. This workout of a bike followed by a run is referred to as a "brick" workout in the triathlon world.

I was really proud of how I did on the bike, knowing I wanted to do an hour ride and maintain or do better than what my overall average has been of around 15 mph. On the way out, I was a little under 7.5 miles when I got 30 minutes out on the Silver Comet Trail so I pushed myself to ride harder on the way back. There were a few guys riding up above me a bit, so I pushed myself to keep up with them. When I finished, I jumped off the bike and did a 2 mile run with an average page of 9:01 miles.

I was super proud and spotted a muscle peaking through after my workout :) I actually texted this to a friend with the question - "Is that a muscle?!"

Thursday 3/24 - AM 4 mile run (10:13 min/mile average) + weights

Thursday morning I got back out to the beltline for a 4 mile run pacing Ayanna but also letting my legs recover a bit from the day before. We talked the whole time and it was a really fun morning workout. I was proud of how my friend did and felt great myself.

When I got to the gym, I did a small weight workout before hitting the showers.

Friday 3/25 - AM Swim Workout (2200M) + PM 11 mile bike ride (14 mph average) + 1 mile run (9:01 min/mile)

I started the morning with a swim workout, which consisted of broken 200s. I forgot to write down the warm up but it was a longer warmup consisting of some pulls, some kicks, etc. The main set was a series of broken 200s, where we mimic the strategy that you would use if you were to race a 200.

50m - Build up your pace
75m - Hold on and maintain at a strong/steady pace
50m - Race hard
25m - All out sprint to the finish

I was definitely feeling tired by the end of the week and was finishing at the back of the pack for every set but I told myself to just keep at it. There was lots of rest so I knew I could get through it if I just decided to and not let my mind give up. I was tempted to use fins, but did them all on my own and felt really good at the end.

My original plan for the weekend wasn't to ride my bike until Sunday so I had planned my week to go out for a Friday evening bike ride. I still was unsure at that point if I was going to ride my bike on Saturday or on Sunday, but not wanting to skip out on the ride, I still went out for an easy paced bike ride, just committing to spending time in the saddle. I biked 11 miles at a 14 mph pace, enjoying the evening, and then since I committed to doing these bricks, jumped off the bike for a 1 mile run.

I spotted some beautiful flowers, first with my nose, while on the bike and then on the run. One of my goals every time I have been heading out on the bike has been to just enjoy my ride. Not worry about pace, not worry about time, just enjoy it and relax and have fun. The flowers were symbolic of that to me so I stopped to grab a picture.

Saturday 3/26 - 46 mile bike ride (14 mph average) + 2 mile run (8:53 min/mile)

When I originally thought about my week of training, I thought I would take Saturday off and then do a long bike immediately followed by a long run on Sunday. However, I had the opportunity to join a group ride (my first one ever) that a number of friends were doing that took place on Saturday. And I knew I had some friends running on Sunday, so I decided to split it up. I am going to write a whole post about this ride to give more detail - but I officially have a new bike PR of 46 miles. Just 10 miles under the distance I need to ride for the race. I feel like I officially have line of sight to what I am going to need to do in order to get the bike done on May 22nd and although it is super challenging and I am intimidated - I can see it in my grasps!

Sunday 3/27 - 10 mile run (9:26 min/mile)

Since I changed up my weekend to run Sunday, I had the opportunity to meet up with Ayanna and India who were both setting out to do 8 miles. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do exactly yet and when I arrived at the Silver Comet Trail, I had in my mind to run 8-10 miles.

I wore my Easter colors to celebrate the holiday, and India had the same thought as well :)

I set off running and felt good off the start, my first mile was around 9:00 minutes and I told myself many times throughout the run to pull back on pace. I knew my legs, and my whole body, were tired, and I wasn't proving anything to anybody by trying to run fast. The Silver Comet has a slight incline and decline throughout the run, but overall, it is a pretty flat course. No major hills or anything, so it isn't the best for training. I made the mental decision to do less Silver Comet training in the future. I have been spending a lot of time there and I need to switch it up to get my legs ready for the hilly course in Chattanooga.

I listened to music during this run and zoned out as much as possible. I also made the run a little bit more of a mental challenge to myself. I wasn't sure of the distance I wanted to run, but I knew in my mind it would be nice to be at the heavier end of the 8-10 miles and push myself. I also knew that I didn't want to run 5 miles out and then turn back on the trail. Why didn't I want to do that, you might ask?

Running on the trail is an out-and-back. If I were to just run out 5 miles and turn around, I would be making the decision about 1/2 way through my workout, when I wasn't yet totally fatigued, to do 10 miles. If I ran OUT 5, I would have to run BACK 5 miles. Sometimes that is a good thing, to force yourself to make that decision early.

However, to me, it is a little bit of a different mental trick I play on myself to force myself to make the decision when I get back to the start of the run. It is a tease to yourself to see your car, the finish line, your "end" point, and then force yourself to turn back out and run more. To me, it takes almost more determination and willpower to make the decision at THAT point to keep on running.

So I ran out 4.4 miles and then turned around. Pretty much the whole way back, I would pick something in the distance and tell myself, "Run to that." and focus on that tree, or portion of the trail, or sign, and then move forward. I told myself to pull back, because I know it is easy to speed up on the way back because the overall return has a slight decline.

I knew I would get back to the start at 8.8 miles and knew I would then mentally be able to get myself to 9 miles easily, so I decided to try and focus on pushing myself to 9.5 miles. I ran past the start .25 miles and returned back so I was passing my car at 9.5, which I had told myself it was okay to stop at. So I decided to try and keep moving and get myself to 10 miles, which I did.

I immediately chugged ALL MY WATER and then waited for my friends to return from their 8 miles. We talked a bit and then I was getting chilly, so we packed up and returned home.  I am seriously, really, really proud of this weekend's workouts.

In my mopey post earlier this week, I complained about how my friend said to me that a long bike and a long run was now my new "weekend normal." It frustrated me at the time, but after this weekend... I can see how that is true. I had a great weekend and I worked really hard. Despite how tired I was, I did a happy dance when I got home. For me. Solo in my apartment.

Happy Easter everyone! Hope you had an active and healthy weekend :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Whatever Wednesday: 10 Random Things

Okay gang, I'm feeling a bit better today and want to dive into a list of random happenings and things going on in my life. I don't really have a theme, so we're just calling this "whatever" Wednesday and let's go with it.

1. First off, Syracuse is in the Sweet Sixteen!!!! Gahhhh -- this has been SO fun to watch!

For those of you who have been around here a while, you know I am a huge Syracuse basketball fan, considering that's where I went to school. Last season was a bit of a bust and moving to Atlanta made it difficult for me to watch a lot of the games so it was hard for me to watch a lot. I tried checking out a lot of the "Syracuse bars" I heard about and none seemed all that great. But luckily, I have made a few Syracuse friends while living here and March Madness has been so much fun to watch.

Last Friday we played Dayton, and I set up shop to work remotely from a location with WiFi where I could watch the game.

Then on Sunday evening when we played against Middle Tennessee, a bunch of Syracuse fans/friends all got together to watch the game also. They had a different game playing on the big screen when we arrived and I pretty much asked every employee in the place if they could change the channel until someone finally did!

I cannot wait for the rest of the basketball tournament and I have been beyond excited at how we've been doing so far. I didn't even think we would make it into the tournament until a couple weeks ago so this has been such a fun week to watch my favorite school in the big dance! Haters, back off. Sweet Sixteen, here we come!

2. On Sunday, before going to watch the basketball game, I went out to do some volunteering with my friend Brick's nonprofit organization. A number of my friends are very into volunteerism in Atlanta and participate in an regular event that cooks and feeds meals to the homeless. They've done really cool events in the past, such as a pop up three course meal served on candled tables with white tablecloths to give a great experience. This past Sunday was the annual Easter dinner that the group cooks and serves, along with Easter egg hunt, Easter candy, and other activities for the kids. Brick paired up with a local photographer to have family photos taken, and then having the kids decorate frames to put the pictures in. I went to help out and it was tons of fun and a great event. I was very proud of my friends for all that they do for the community!

A simple thing like a family photo may not seem like a huge deal for those of us with iPhones who take 100 pictures a day. But for families who are homeless and living in a shelter, it might not be something that they have and a single photo could become a cherished momento. I loved the concept, was inspired by my friends, and even made some photo frames myself!

3. Speaking of volunteerism and charity work - on Friday night of last weekend, I attended another charity event with a friend. I attended a dinner with my friend Janet that she got to go to due to her job, which celebrated women of achievement in the world of volunteerism. They were raising money for battered women's shelters and domestic violence support and there were some incredibly moving speakers a part of the event. I felt very lucky to be able to attend, and it was great to see my friend who I usually see at 6:00 a.m. and in running clothes, dolled up nice and out on a Friday evening :)

4. Last week when I was in Wilmington, North Carolina for work, we did a team event of going to out to laser tag. To be honest, I totally wasn't looking forward to it because laser tag really isn't my thing. However, the place we went to totally blew me away. They had all these different types of guns, it was really sophisticated in the the way that you had to shoot, charge, and reload your guns. And I am not a huge gun person, so even beyond that, I wasn't looking forward to the idea of just trying to shoot as many people as possible. However, this place had a ton of different games that involved strategy and teamwork and I totally love it. I would absolutely do this again!

5. A few months ago, a friend of a friend, and fellow runner (although much more advanced than me) started a blog called Athlettuce to write about her efforts to run a marathon in each state. She is totally rocking both the running and the blogging. I am always impressed when bloggers just come out of nowhere and totally just knock it out of the park. She is building a great following!

One of the cool things is that she even made t-shirts for her blog and was nice enough to mail me one. I grabbed it out of the mail when heading out on a work trip so I tried it on in my hotel room. Excuse my Alladin PJ pants and check out the cool shirt. Thank you Athlettuce!!

6. Snapchat filters have been really fun lately. I just wanted to share this ridiculous picture from when my flight is delayed. I love that Snapchat is a social media site that I can just use when I am bored and not think about the lasting impression so much.

7.  I've been on a reading kick lately and have gotten through some pretty great books. I just finished up the book Shantaram, which I thought was fantastic. The stories within it were incredible and the language and detail with which the author described everything was incredible. It was really beautifully written and there were many, many quotes that I bookmarked for myself to remember because they were really beautiful and insightful. It was a long book, but I got through it really fast.

This week I did something that I haven't done since I was in high school and I joined the public library in Atlanta!  I am excited to read more and am taking recommendations if you have any!

8. Last night Brick and I went to an event taking place in downtown Atlanta that discussed Google Fiber coming to Atlanta and what that means for social justice issues. I arrived there first and went up to a random group of people who were also just all there for the event and started talking to the group and joined their conversation. There were two men and one woman in the group.

When Brick arrived, she walked over, gave me a hug, and then walked over to the table with snacks to grab a plate of food. At that same time, the woman who had been talking with our group apparently turned and walked over to the snack table.  She stopped Brick and said, "Who was that that you hugged over there?"

Brick replied, "My friend Katelyn? And... who are you?"

We both thought it was incredibly random that this woman who didn't introduce herself to Brick or say anything to me when I was talking to the group, went up to her and just asked who I was. That is all.

9. I really love the "On this day..." posts on Facebook that bring up old memories. Because I posted SO much years ago, I always get really interesting and meaningful posts. I recently shared when I received a notification about when I started a Couch to 5K program for the first time, and then last week I received a notification from when I reached the weight loss goal I had set for myself. When I started losing weight I was over 210 pounds. I always had the goal of weighing under 150, which is what is technically a "healthy" BMI for myself.

I think I only managed to be under 150 for a week or so back in 2012. And then I reached that goal for the first time again this past summer. Right now I am about 10 pounds above that at 160 and would love to be able to work towards that again. I've been really focused this past week on eating healthy and trying to remotivate myself to not just eat everything I can get my hands on.

10. And finally, after my moody posts from the other day, my pep talk is sinking in and I have decided to just give the next two months the absolute best that I can. Today I am really proud of my workouts and everything I did to take care of my body.

I started this morning with swim practice, which had a really fun and different workout. We did a lot of 25s on tight intervals and it was a small group. I pushed myself to keep up with the boys in the group (I was the only girl) and really made the most of a tougher than I thought it would be workout.

This evening, I brought my bike over to the Silver Comet trail after work and rode for an hour. I know that I have been averaging about 15 mph so I wanted to get in at least 15 miles during the ride. I ended up after riding 30 minutes being a little under 7.5 so I challenged myself on the way back to beat my time and make it back in under an hour. There were a few other bikers that I used as motivation to keep up with/race on the way back and hit my goal of beating my first half split.

I then switched shoes and gear, and returned back out for a quick 2 mile run that ended up being 9:00 minute miles. I know it is only 2 miles but I was really happy with that! From now on out, I want to run at least a mile after my bike rides. I need to get better at that transition from being on the bike to running. This evening was absolutely gorgeous and the kind of night that you just feel happy to be outside. I felt really happy when I finished up my workouts for the day, came home and foam rolled, stretched, ate a healthy dinner, took and epsom salt bath, and got myself ready for the next day. Right now, I'm feeling very inspired :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Doubting that Ironman life

Full disclosure: I wrote this post on Monday evening. And Tuesday evening, I am already feeling a bit better and have picked myself up a bit, but wanted to share the post anyways. This blog has always been a place to capture how I feel in a moment and time and that's what this is. A lot of these feelings have been reoccurring and building so it makes sense to share them. Emo post, commence:

I keep having this reoccurring thought go through my head that maybe this Ironman life just isn't for me. Maybe I took on too much trying to think I could do this and do this on my own. Perhaps I am having rosy colored hindsight or whatever you call it... but I don't remember having this much doubt when I went about half marathon training or marathon training the first time around.

However, I guess when I did those things, I didn't really have any expectations for myself. I didn't know or believe that I could do them, so I saw anything as a success. Right now, I am training for something new to me, but not TOTALLY new to me. Right? I did a sprint triathlon before I ever getting into distance running. My first sprint triathlon was in 2012 and that was the first major race that I worked and trained for. Bought a bike, built up to a 5K, swam some laps, etc. So I have done this stuff before. And now, not only am I an "endurance athlete" but I am not only a coming off of a year of really big accomplishments. I started last year by setting three goals for myself and I crushed them one by one, doing way better than I even imagined I could. I broke 2 hours in a half marathon last March. I did an Olympic triathlon over the summer and placed in my age group. And then I finished my goals for the year by breaking 4:00 hours in a marathon - something that wasn't even a goal, but just happened! I've come to the point where I feel like my goals should be more than just "to finish" and because I am "experienced" - this should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong.

This is a lot. Mentally as well as physically. And I don't know that it is for me. I have been struggling so much lately mentally. And it freaked me out that it felt so hard to run on Sunday. And that my paces have been dropping.

When I talk to my friends who have been doing Ironman races for a while, they tell me that my thoughts and anxieties are normal - and that one of the benefits of working with a coach or with a group is to help with that. I understand the reasoning behind why everyone works with coaches or groups, and I knew that going into this and making the decision to do it on my own too. I still just can't justify the expense of it all right now for something that is just recreational to me. I have never had to pay for a running group or a running training plan before, so it frustrates me that you have to do that with triathlon world.

Then again, part of the anxieties that I have is that the other people I know who do these things - have done a lot of them. So when I compare myself to them, we aren't going through the same thing at the same time and it makes me doubt myself. I wonder if I would be better off just completely isolated without knowing what other people are doing or what their workouts are or how they are feeling after them.

This weekend I had a new distance PR on my bike - I biked more than 40 miles. I biked for 2 hours and 40 minutes! The most I had ridden before that was 35 miles, once, back in November. But when I wrote about the bike distance PR on the blog Sunday, I just breezed through that in a post I wrote yesterday about 100 other workouts. Shouldn't I be celebrating that more!

And you know what I did the day after I did that - something that was a new personal BEST for me on the bike? Well, I went and I ran an extremely hilly half marathon. What?! Who does that?! And what happened to the former lazy girl who used to think these things were amazing accomplishments?? Because, hey, news flash - that's pretty damn cool.

Yet, I felt disappointed after the run and I still felt disappointed through to Monday. Those 13.1 miles were a struggle. From the very first 3 miles of the race, I felt like crap and my legs just were not having it. I felt tight and I felt stiff and I felt tired and I couldn't at all get myself to run at the paces I have gotten accustomed to running lately.

I ran the race at a 10:10 pace, in 2:13:44. A time that in the past, I would have been totally happy with. A time that, for most people, is a great time! A time that I felt disappointed in. Not because of the time necessarily, but because of the fact that it took A LOT of effort to run that time! Just a month ago I ran in New Orleans at 2:04 but it wasn't as strenuous as this race. It was a relaxed 2:04, which was what I was expecting out of myself for the run this past weekend. Even during all of my long runs during marathon training last year, I was consistently (well) under 10 minute miles at a comfortable pace all through the fall and spring. I knew I wanted to run the race yesterday relaxed, but I didn't know that relaxed would feel so hard and be at that pace.

So what does this mean for me? Why am I doubting this whole Ironman life thing? I worked so hard to get my running paces to be regularly under 10 minute miles. I was so proud of each and every long run I did last year with the paces that I was able to maintain, and the fact that I have kept those paces through to this year has been a huge accomplishment for me.

To see my times drop down as I have gotten into triathlon training is hard. I ran a half marathon at the end of January in 1:57. At the end of February in 2:04. And at the end of March, now at 2:13. This same exact race is the race that last year I ran at 1:57 for the first time. I am pushing new boundaries with biking, but I don't like that it is sacrificing my running.

And let me just mention again it felt SO HARD to run that 2:13. I cried at the end because I was so happy to just get through it - both mentally and physically - because it was a fight!

I should be proud of myself for just doing it but then I look at my other friends who are training for similar races and it doesn't seem like it is so hard for them. I talked to an Ironman friend at work yesterday and told her about my weekend. She also ran the race on Sunday (9 minutes faster than I did) and then casually mentioned that she had gotten back on the bike for the first time in a while for a 30 mile ride on Saturday. And, she just took 8 weeks off of running due to injury. Another friend also used the half marathon on Sunday as a training run for a 70.3 - and had biked 60 miles on Saturday then ran a 1:28 half marathon. Now I know I am not out to run a 1:28 half marathon, but it doesn't seem like anyone else struggled the way that I did at this race after biking the day before!

This weekend exhausted me. But it turns out it is just a "normal" weekend for triathletes. My friend said to me today, "it is your new normal!" But I don't know about that. I don't know if this triathlon life is for me. I don't want my run times to get slower and I don't want to run more training runs like the one I ran on Sunday.

I think I have had more emo-y posts than I have in any other training cycle before and I still have two months to go before the race.

SO. Here is where I tell myself to stop whining. To put things in perspective. To focus. And to get out there and just WORK.  Here is where I give myself a pep talk.

Katelyn, you are doing something NEW. You've never done this before. All those people who are doing more than you or who are doing the same as you and aren't getting winded - they've done this before. You need to cut yourself some slack because you are setting out for something that you haven't done before - so you aren't going to be great at it right away.

As you are struggling and doubting yourself mentally and stressing about paces and analyzing online race calculators, remember that you are training for something you have never done before. Think back and adjust my mindset to when you were training for running distances for the first time.

Yes, you've done sprint distance races before and an Olympic - but this is different level. And when doing something new, the goal is to finish. Do not worry about paces. Do not worry about times. Just focus on doing the mileage and the time and effort you are putting in.

You don't want more training runs like the one on Sunday? Well, put in the work. Run more when you get off the bike. Push yourself. Nothings changes without you first making a change.

Your body will learn the more you train and the more you do something. You've gone through this before! You give people this advice ALL the time! How many times have you told people about the first day that you ran 10 miles without stopping? A lot. Because what happened? The first day you ran 10 miles without stopping you spent the ENTIRE rest of the day LAYING ON THE FLOOR because you were so tired. And then what happened the next time you ran 10 miles during a training cycle? You went to a party and danced all night. Your first half marathon took you a MONTH to recover from. Your body will get better at this too if you keep working at it and keep doing it more. That's how this works.

So the first time that you do 40 miles on the bike paired with 13 hilly miles running, yes you should be on the floor! But it will change. This isn't forever. If you want to get better, just keep working.

Also, on Friday you ran 3 miles at a 9 minute pace. it's not like you CAN'T run faster. This one was one run. And you decided to run this race like - a week ago! So just calm down about it.

Again I will repeat: Katelyn - if you want to get better - just keep working.

So with that being said - you've got two months left. Today is March 22nd and the race is May 22nd. Two months. You either do or you don't. You either train or you don't. You either put in the work - both in the pool, on the bike, or on the pavement - or you don't. You either clean up your eating and get into better shape - or you don't. You will be prepared come May 22 or you won't. There is no "try" in "tri" training. Just do it.

The next couple months in addition to my workouts, my training will be mental. To boost my confidence. To tell remind myself that I'm badass on a regular basis. To ignore what everyone else is doing around me and just focus on doing the best that I can do. TWO MONTHS TO GO PEOPLE.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Publix Atlanta Half Marathon 2016 Recap

So, I snuck another race in on you this year!

And if you are wondering why you didn't hear anything about it, it is because I just decided to run this race about a week or so ago. This past Sunday was the Atlanta Publix Half Marathon. The race that I ran last March that I had trained for with the Running Nerds, that took place right when I got back from Nigeria, that rained the whole time, and that I sobbed at the finish when I broke 2:00 hours for the first time!

I was not planning to run that race this year, as I only had committed to the Miami and New Orleans races, then was focusing the rest of the spring on the Chattanooga Half Ironman. My original plan for this weekend was to run 9 or 10 miles on Sunday, and then next weekend was going to try and run 13. Then, I saw a post on Facebook from a friend who was giving away his bib for the Publix Half Marathon, and I said I would take it. I figured, why not run a supported 13 miles rather than a solo 9 miles?

So without much ado, I was running the Publix Half Marathon this weekend. Although, it was not a "race" in my mind whatsoever and here are just a few key indicators for you to let you know where my mind really was at:

- On Wednesday of last week, while running with my friend in Wilmington, North Carolina, he said to me, "So what races do you have next?" and I said, "Nothing until the Ironman!" and then a few moments later said, "Oh crap - wait - I am running a half marathon this weekend."

- When I went to the expo, I took ZERO PHOTOS. You guys know I live for race expos and love those things. I never leave without at least 50 pictures on my camera, but I took none. Well, actually one, which was this photo I posted the other day. Which I took because as I was about to leave I thought, "You didn't take any pictures!"

- I did not do any "night before the race" rituals. Not that I have a ton. But I usually have a beer. And I usually at least make sure I have everything planned and put out before a race. My outfit, my nutrition, my music (if I am running with it), etc. But this night I did nothing - I just went to bed and set an alarm.

- I did not have any pre-race jitters.

- I didn't sign up for runner tracking or even have the thought cross my mind.

- I didn't do any pre-race rituals of getting hyped, having a solo dance party, or anything like that. It was cold, so I huddled in Starbucks until I saw the corrals moving forward and then I just hopped into one of them.

- I didn't stick around after to celebrate and I didn't have a post race beer. THIS IS MY FIRST TIME EVER not having a beer the night after running a race.

So what did I do? Well, I went to the race expo at about 5:30 p.m. the evening before the race, and went in and out pretty quickly grabbing the bib and some free samples, before jumping back in my car. I was still in spandex and sweaty clothes having just immediately finished my 40 mile bike, so I wasn't sticking around to run into anyone. Plus, there was a young girls cheerleading competition going on in the same convention hall where the race expo was and 10 year old girls with fake eyelashes and makeup and hair spray freak me out.

I ate some pasta with Brick for dinner that night and hung out at home, heading to bed pretty early - both for the race and because I was tired in general.

In the morning I head down to the Centennial Olympic Park area but then hung out in my car until about 30 minutes before the race. After having some spring/summer like weather in Atlanta for the past couple of weeks, winter came back on Sunday morning and it was about 40-45 degrees out. I huddled in my car for as long as possible before walking to the start of the race.  I didn't try and meet up with any friends and didn't really take many prerace pictures either. I stopped by the Running Nerds tent to say hi to a few people, then went to the start, where I stood in a Starbucks for another 10 minutes and only jumped out into the cold when I saw the corrals moving forward.

The first few miles of the race, I had no idea where we were. I kept trying to visualize in Atlanta where I was but was really struggling. When I ran this race last year, I was still fairly new to Atlanta and I figured that a year later, I would absolutely know my way around the city streets and neighborhoods much better than I had the year before.

This was also the first time in my life that I ran a half marathon race a second time. I kept trying to picture myself running these streets the year before but think I blacked out the first half of the race last year because I have no recollection of it as I was trying to rack my brain.

I felt like crap from the very beginning. I felt tight and I felt sore. My legs felt TIRED.

At around mile 3 I saw my friends Diana and Melana who are also triathletes (you remember them...). She is my hero and jumped out onto the course and started running with me a little. I told her I felt awful and that I had biked yesterday. She told me I was doing great and distracted me for a bit before she dropped back to return to cheering.

I told myself to get through each 5K at a time and willed myself to 6 miles. I knew my pace was slower than what I was used to running lately but I still felt strained and reminded myself that I was not racing and to back off whenever I felt like I was going hard. I told myself, "Run this race as slow as possible." Which - was not hard to follow through on because even just moving was hard at this point!

At some point in the run things started to get familiar and I realized the route and where I was at around mile 5. This course is a hilly course that I seriously somehow blacked out last year and as I hit hill after hill on the course I just kept thinking to myself, "How the hell did I run this so fast last year?!" I kept trying to put myself in the shoes (mentally) that I was in last year and I just couldn't get there. The hills were a challenge and I wanted to quit almost the whole race. I had to go to the bathroom from like mile 5 on and I kept telling myself, "Next mile you can go to the bathroom." but never did during the race.

One of the things I was joking about before the race started was that I might just drop out after I get to 9 or 10 miles since that is really all I needed out of this race. I never totally thought I would actually do that, because it is just not me - but I did think I might ease back a bit after mile 9. I knew that I would have friends cheering at that point so I had told myself I would stop with them for a bit and then finish up.

I saw Shereese around Mile 4. I saw India at about mile 8 and nearly caused a crash on the course. I knew she didn't see me and I tried to get her attention and reach out to her and somehow stumbled and fell forward onto a runner nearly tripping both of us. I had originally told myself that seeing India would be a reward and I was too shaken up to stop running so I just kept going and actually with a bit of adrenaline after the commotion I caused.

It kept me going for the next mile or so until I knew the next point I would see my friends and I ran over to give Ayanna and Jemima a hug. This was at about mile 9.5 and Ayanna told me finish it up and I just remember telling her "I don't wanna!" and them pushing me on.

Every single mile I had to talk myself through.

To just get from 7 to 8. From 8 to 9. From 9 to 10.

I told myself after I got to 10 that I could walk for a little if I wanted since I finished my mileage and I gladly allowed myself that luxury. I actually had been yo-yo-ing another runner that I knew in Atlanta, although we never actually spoke in the race, and he was walk running from the very beginning. I told myself if he could do it, I could do it too and then walked portions of miles 10-12. I never did go to the bathroom though and that was a struggle throughout the whole race of fighting those urges.

We ran through Georgia Tech and through a number of more hills. I did remember from last year that there were hills up until the last mile because I distinctly remembered fighting uphill that last mile in so much pain and in the rain so I knew to prepare myself for that. I also love the last mile of a race and never ever will walk the last mile so at about 11.75 I started running again and knew I wouldn't stop until 13.1.

I crossed the finish line SOOOO happy to be done that I started crying and getting choked up. I had no reason to be choked up besides that I was so happy to be done and frankly so proud of myself for pushing through this race. It was an extremely tough race mentally and physically.

My whole body was tired from the training the day before. I think mentally, I was out of the game a little because I knew it wasn't a race and I knew I didn't need all the miles. I wanted to quit and I wanted to give up and I just did not want to being that race from the first few miles in. My whole body didn't want to be a part of that race. But I finished and I did it by pushing myself through mentally. I just fought and fought hard to get through it.

When I crossed and started crying I immediately pulled back the tears when I saw and heard my friends yelling for me. Just like last year, I saw some of the Movers and Pacers waiting and cheering - some of the most supportive people that I know!

I said hi to them, walked through, got my food and water and chocolate milk and little paper shirt thing that is supposed to somehow keep me warm, and then went back to my friends. We took some pictures and then I felt exhausted and needed to go home.

I was cold and tired and mentally exhausted from that race with nothing to even celebrate. My time was by no means good for me. I didn't enjoy the race. I didn't feel happy with how I did. I just wanted to get out of there. It sucks to feel so physically drained and have nothing to celebrate. For the first time, my celebratory social media post I did not post a picture of myself. Just the medal.

Originally, I wasn't even going to hang it on my medal board but I decided I liked it and I decided that I earned it, so it deserved to be up there. This was a really hard fought race for me.

Tomorrow I will post more about my feelings the days after this race. It's been a little bit of a mental struggle. I pushed myself hard this weekend with training, and I am proud of that. But somehow still feel down. Hoping to give myself a pep talk and shake those feelings away!