Thursday, March 23, 2017

Atlanta Georgia Publix Half Marathon 2017 Race Recap

On Sunday morning I ran the Atlanta Publix Half Marathon for the third time and I am happy to say that it was a redemption year from last year's race and a truly awesome day. It is the only big race I have done multiple times and every year it continues to be really memorable. I was really looking forward to the Publix race weekend as it is a our big hometown race and really brings out all of the different running and triathlon groups to race or spectate. I ran into friends from every different group and every different club both on the course and off, which really made it so enjoyable. In addition, now that I live in the city, I know the neighborhood and route much better (we run by where I live!)

As much as I was looking forward to it, I was also a bit nervous as the past two years of running this race had been two very different experiences for me, with the most recent, being a not so good one. In 2015, Publix was a target race for me - I trained with a group with the goal of breaking 2 hours and I succeeded, finishing in 1:57:52.  This time has remained just about my half marathon PR, having only broken 2 hours one other time, which was a year later at the Miami Half Marathon where I ran 4 seconds faster in 1:57:48.

In 2016, the not so good experience, was in the middle of training for my first Half Ironman, I ran this race and felt terrible. I finished in about 2:13, felt in so much pain, had to walk some of the hills, and was really demoralized and upset at the end of the race. It scared me a lot as I realized how much I felt like I still needed to do in order to prepare for Chattanooga and really gave me a lot of anxiety leading up to that race.

Leading up to Publix this year, I have been working hard and know that I am in good shape - but I did not know what to expect as far as a time goes for the race. Outside of the track workouts I do each week, I haven't been running fast. My easy runs are around 10:00 minute miles and the only recent long runs I have done have been on the trails, where my pace is more around 10:40. On top of that I've been dealing with hip pain at times, and due to that have only really gotten my long runs up to 9 miles or so. I knew that it would be a confidence boost if I could redeem myself from last year and run a strong race at Publix, but I honestly didn't know if I had it in me. And I also didn't want to cut back on any of my training in order to taper for Publix.

As I was trying to decide what to do last week, the main coaches from the group I am training with called and asked what my goal was for the race. He said that he thought I had been running really strong at the track workouts and suggested we run together and he would pace me for whatever I was trying to accomplish. At the time I still wasn't sure entirely what I wanted to do as I was debating whether or not to participate in a big group bike ride that was taking place the day BEFORE Publix. However, after talking it through with my personal coach, I decided on my plan for the weekend -which was to bike 65 miles on Saturday at an organized group ride called the Tour de Pike and THEN do my best to run a strong race on Sunday, aiming for around 2 hours. I decided to take Adam up on his offer to pace me.

The ride on Saturday ended up being a really tough day - it was my longest bike ride this season by 20 miles, and it also downpoured rain. It was cold and rainy for the first few hours and then when the rain dropped down, the wind picked up. We had head winds and cross winds and it was really difficult to ride in aero position and sometimes I felt like I was getting blown off the road in a way that I hadn't experienced on the bike before. I ended up finishing in a little over 4 hours, with an average speed of 15.5 which is a decent speed for such a long ride for me and my fastest speed at that distance ever. I have only done 65 mile rides a few times and never ridden in the rain so it was a big accomplishment!

But I still had the half marathon on Sunday ahead of me and on Saturday evening I was feeling pretty nervous. My legs felt okay, but my whole body was tired. So I knew that I needed to do the best to take care of myself and focus on my mental strength for the race. I reread my blogs from the past two years of Publix, I lay out my clothing and prepped my nutrition the night before, and went to bed early. Getting up in the morning and Ubering to the race (note to self for next year: it was surge pricing in the morning, so maybe plan for something else!)

I met up with the ITL group at their tent. I was given a blue tank to wear over my shirt, which would make it my first time running in ITL gear. I felt a little nervous about that if I am being honest... all the ITL athletes I know are really fast and impressive. Just putting on the team gear for the first time and representing them in this big race, I have to say intimidated me a little bit. It felt like there was something to uphold by running in the ITL brand. It felt good knowing that for this first time doing it, I would have the head of the organization running with me. Despite feeling so welcomed by everyone, I still often have to get over intimidation that creeps up in my own mind and the fact that Adam was running this race with me really made me feel like I belonged.

Last year before Publix started I hung out by myself in Starbucks. The year before I sat in my car. Both times I met up with a few people or said hello to either Movers + Pacers or Running Nerds, but this year felt like a totally different thing. I was a part of a team.

I went over to the start line with Adam, my coach Jerome, my friend Kristin, and a few other individuals from our group. I jumped up and down a bit to warm up, got my watch ready, and before we knew it we were off. The first miles were really crowded. There was a lot of dodging around people and I was just doing my best to not trip over others and keep Adam’s blue shirt in my sights. From the very start we were seeing people that we knew in the crowd of runners. We passed a number of other ITL runners and I saw my friends Ayanna and Diana cheering, as well as others from various running groups I know throughout Atlanta early on.

Once we cleared the herd a bit, we got into a rhythm and Adam was in charge of keeping pace and my job was to just stick with him. We started talking and continued to say hello to people that we knew, as I saw my friend Shawn and my nutritionist Ilana on the course. Adam told me stories about the early days of ITL and how he got to know the other coaches in the group. I told about my running friends and the various groups I had been a part of.

I never looked at my watch once and never questioned what pace we were running. I was just very much enjoying the run and was feeling good.  He could tell I was feeling good and commented on that, every now and then reminding me, “Easy… easy…” in order to not go out too fast. Aside from commenting that our first mile was around 10:30 and that we hit one of the hills at 8:30, I didn't ask or question what our pace was and Adam didn't share much. I honestly wasn't even tempted to look at my own watch. I was just enjoying the sun shining, running and chatting with friends, and the atmosphere and crowd all over. The picture below is how I feel like I was for the majority of the race! Just waving hello to people and doing my thing.

When we went through some of the aid stations, I took some of my Gu Chomps, with Adam actually volunteering to navigate the water stations and grabbing what I needed for me. My legs started to feel a little heavy as we entered into Little Five Points but I didn't acknowledge it out loud. Adam has run this race more times than me and had told me we could pick up some time on some of the downhill coming out of L5P and I think the change of pace recharged my legs. As did running into more people that we knew, including 3 ITL athlete and friends who were pushing a wheelchair athlete - smiling and laughing the whole time.

We made it through Freedom Park Trail and into Virginia Highlands and then into Piedmont Park. This race really does give you an amazing tour of what Atlanta has to offer. More memories came back from the years running prior, more running into people along the course we knew, and still I felt good. My legs definitely were starting to fatigue a bit, which I may have said out loud at this point, but we were still talking and running as we had been the whole time.

As we rounded out towards the exit to Piedmont Park, I asked Adam how he was doing. I felt selfish not asking earlier and having this race be so much about me. I knew it was a meaningful weekend and race for him as well and wanted to be sure he was doing good. He's been recovering from injury and we had discussed that he'd take me as far as he could. At around mile 9 before exiting the park, Adam tasked one of other ITL athletes, Zach, who had been running with us as well how he was feeling. Zach said he was feeling good, so Adam told him to take me to the finish and said he was going to drop back. He told Zach, "She is on pace to PR. Well on track to PR. Just keep going."

It happened really quick that Adam dropped back and we were on our own and I shouted thank you to Adam and ran on for a second as what he said then registered with me, "Huh? Did he say I was WELL on track to PR? How fast were we running??"

I literally hadn't thought to look at my watch once and still did not want to look down and actually see where we were as far as pace goes. I just wanted to stay steady. I was getting super nervous that I would somehow mentally psych myself out or mess up now that I had this awareness of how I was doing. Plus, there are a lot of hills packed into the last 4 miles of this route!

Zach started chatting with me right away and although it was getting harder to breathe up the hills, I talked back. We passed more friends of mine cheering and I just did my best to keep at the pace we were running. As we headed through Midtown, over the highway and into the Georgia Tech campus,I knew my least favorite hill was coming and warned Zach of it. He was a super champ and continued supporting me throughout, doing what Adam had done for me as well, and grabbing water at the stops so I could keep going.

As we finished the race, I could hear the finish before I saw it and was willing it to be as close as possible. I hadn't seen mile markers in a while but knew the route well enough to know we were nearly there. Throughout the whole race I hadn't felt any pain in my hip, but a slight twinge in that last mile. I kept running steady and didn't try to sprint much, not wanting to aggravate it as we rounded the last corner and to the finish line, I hit my watch and glanced down at it for the first time since I turned it on. 1:56 was what I saw. I didn't know my official time, but like Adam said, I was well under a PR!

I didn't really react right away, just kept walking with Zach, who said his watch was 1:55-something, caught my breathe and grabbed the post-race items that they were handing out. I felt good and not in pain or like I was going to collapse/die/pass-out as I have at the end of some races with really tough efforts. And I also didn't have that immediate feeling of accomplishment and excitement of getting a PR. It almost felt like I was in a bit of disbelief. And I also don't think it hit me right away of how to react because it wasn't something that I had been trying for in this race - it just sort of happened without me expecting it!

We watched some ITL people come through the finish and then returned over to the tent where some of the athletes who had already finished were hanging out. I heard someone say "Oh! Here comes Katelyn!" as we walked up. Adam was there already and they were waiting to hear how it went. It was a great feeling to tell the group that I had PR-ed by about two minutes and everyone cheered for me. Adam gave me a hug and congratulated me and it was an awesome feeling. It hit me for the first time at that moment how well I did and every minute and hour from that point on in the day, I got more and more excited and happy about how the race went. My mile splits for the race were: 9:47 / 8:55 / 9:03 / 8:55 / 8:42 / 7:39 / 8:28 / 8:38 / 8:09 / 8:34 / 8:36 / 8:44 / 8:37 / 7:28.

Now, a few days post race, I am still so happy. I had such a fun day on Saturday. And this entire weekend. Honestly, the fact that I got a personal best time in the half marathon was just a cherry on top of a really positive weekend for me. Looking back at it, the support I received throughout the whole weekend - start to finish - from the coaches and other athletes within the group, as well as my friends and people I know from other groups, made me feel so good. And I loved the progress I was able to see in myself. To run a best time by 2 minutes the day after a tough 65 mile bike? And to do it feeling as good as I did? Really shows me that I have been making improvements and getting stronger.

It was so incredible to feel the support of this community. Throughout the weekend, my coach Jerome listened to me as I stressed about what to do, told me that he was confident in me, checked in with me, gave me advice and recommendations, and supported me throughout everything. I was so excited to see him after the race and tell him how I did. I felt really grateful that Adam reached out, offered to run with me, and chose to spend what is a special race weekend for him, helping me achieve something. Something that I didn't even think to reach for on my own but that he had seen in me! Whether it was inviting me to join that Saturday group bike ride itself, carpooling, sharing of clothing, or keeping me going for the last 4 miles of the race (!!!), all of the other athletes in ITL, who have only known me a few months, all made this weekend so special and fun to me because I really felt like a part of the team. The support, generosity and welcoming attitudes are something that I have found in some of my friendships in Atlanta but has been mostly lacking for me within the triathlon community.

There were so many inspiring elements to the race this year also. The organization I ran with for the Thanksgiving Half Marathon, Walking with K-Peasey, had around 40 athletes being pushed in wheelchairs for the half marathon. My little buddy, Grant, who I had pushed, was there with his mom, who I ran into after the race. And my continual inspiration, Cougar, I got to say hello to before and cheer for him on the course. I loved seeing everyone out there and that organization and the people involved are truly inspiring. And in addition, people from all over the world came to Atlanta for "Team Take Down Publix" in an attempt to have the largest number of black marathoners in one race. I heard afterwards that a normal marathon is usually about 2% black runners, but this one was 25% due to the work of Heather King to promote and recruit runners to take on the challenge.

There were also so many fun portions about the weekend. It started on Friday during the day when I met up for a work date with Ayanna and Brick. Friday night I spent St. Patrick's Day having a couple drinks with India and Nikki and enjoying the nice weather. We had ridiculous conversation and laughed a lot and I'm so thankful to have them in my life. There was an ITL pasta party in between the bike ride and the run. And on Sunday after my own race, I went out to the last mile of the marathon with Ayanna, India and Nikki to cheer on many of my friends who took on the full 26.2  of Atlanta hills. At that point in time my happiness from the race had fully washed over me and my cheering and jumping up and down was mixed in with dancing and being completely silly in the middle of the  street. Thinking back I am still laughing at one comment from Ayanna that even the police officer patrolling traffic around the race couldn't hold back and burst out laughing at. Then Sunday in the evening, I went for a celebratory burger and beer with Shelby, who dropped her own meal prep when I reached out and asked if she was interested.

It was a really fun race and a really fun weekend overall. The Publix half marathon continues to be a memorable one for me and today I registered online for the race to run it again in 2018. Looking forward already to year 4 of this race and thankful to everyone who made this year's run so much fun and a great experience for me. 1:55:55 is the time to beat!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

First Part of March Training Update

It's been a good month so far. I am back to feeling strong, managing through any pain in my hip, and trying new things that push me outside of my comfort zone and hopefully to being a better athlete. I'm writing today after a weekend high of a long, tough bike ride and a fast half marathon time with the whole city of Atlanta. I am feeling really optimistic for the next part of training and thankful for all the people that I have in my corner.

Wednesday, March 1 - AM 3200 m swim + PM 1:10 trainer ride

Wednesdays have tended to be my workout of the week with long days and doubles. This one was no exception! The swim workout in the morning involved a lot of drill work and in the evening I did a ride on the trainer that was tough for me mentally. I didn't really feel like doing it and it was a struggle to get myself to focus so I was proud that I even did the ride at all. I'm not one to skip things but sometimes I am really tempted.

I rode next to the open door while there was a thunderstorm outside and listened to podcasts about real life murders. Good times in the life of training.

Thursday, March 2 - AM 4 mile run + PM 1:15 trainer ride

The morning run was great and I ran with my friend Heather who lives in the same building as I do. It was pretty awesome to just meet someone right outside our front doors and go for a morning run on the beltline, chatting the whole time and return to the same place. Super easy and fun! We've been running together in groups for a while but my first time really running and chatting with Heather, so I enjoyed that. My pace felt slow and not super fast but with a tough effort, so I was disappointed with that but happy with the run overall.

In the evening, I was back on the trainer and had a hard time getting focused but just stuck it out and got it done. I felt off both nights on the trainer this week but oh well. It's still amazing to me that I am able to get myself to spend so much time on the dang thing!

I also was able to find a way to squeeze in some midday extra workout while doing a wall sit waiting for the microwave to heat up my food. It's the little things!

Friday, March 3 - PM 3000m swim + 30 minutes strength

Since I was feeling tired from the past two days, I let myself sleep in on Friday morning. Instead of getting up for swim practice, I went to the gym in the evening and did a short strength workout and then did my swim workout on my own. It was a really tough workout and I had to modify it a bit but was proud of myself for getting it done and pushing hard - even while working out in the pool solo.

Part of the reason I moved my swim to the evening was also because I was attending an event there in the evening. We had a party at the gym and so I actually was there way into the evening that night.I love my gym and all the things that they do for the members there! I felt really strong and good about myself this evening and enjoyed taking not-the-normal-gym-selfies that I usually take.

Saturday, March 4 - Bike ride for 2:45 at Stone Mountain

You guys know the stories here. I had a tough bike doing loops at Stone Mountain for a total of 39.3 miles. I was proud of myself for mentally turning it around and changing my attitude, but it was a tough day!

Sunday, March 5 - Trail run for 1:30 at Kennesaw Mountain

This was my second time returning to Kennesaw Mountain for trail run and it went so much better. I pulled back on pace, went in better prepared, and enjoyed the moment I was in. Such a better time and was proud of myself for turning a tough experience into a good one.

Monday, March 6 - AM 4000m swim + PM 50 minute trainer ride

Monday started out tough with a long morning swim and a trainer ride in the evening. Planning ahead that I wouldn't be able to do much working out in the coming weekend, we kept a loaded week of workouts on the agenda. I felt good in the water but was exhausted by the end. There was a lot of pulling and drillwork involved so it was a lot of time in the water, but I was proud to have hit a milestone of 4000m.

In the evening, I felt strong on the trainer ride and wiped some of that exhaustion from the morning and the week before away. My legs felt heavy at the end but it went by fast. I was a sweaty mess at the end which means it is a good ride to me!

Tuesday, March 7 - AM Track workout (4.88 miles) + PM 45 minutes trainer ride

I started the morning at the track for the ITL Track Tuesday workout and I really enjoyed it and felt like I crushed the workout. The group running the Publix Half Marathon were told to run 3x1600 with a 400 recovery in between. You were to do the first at tempo pace, then 10K pace, then 5K pace. I felt like I really crushed the workout and did my miles in 8:00/7:42/7:23 and was so proud! I also loved that pre-daylight saving day, it was light out at the end of the track workout and I could actually see people around me.

In the evening, my workout seemed to take forever, even though it was only 45 minutes. It dragged on and on and I was worried I would crash but didn't too hard I don't think. Still was able to push a bit but was definitely feeling the fatigue from the double workouts after the tough weekend workouts.

Wednesday, March 8 - 2700 M morning swim

Not much to say here. Just got it done on a tired body.

Thursday, March 9 - 8 mile run

Since I was traveling home that evening, I did my longer run for the weekend on Thursday. It was my last workout in Atlanta before heading home. The goal was to take it super easy so I ran a number of the miles with my coach and with a few other friends in Brookhaven on Thursday morning. I enjoyed exploring a new route and finishing with Starbucks had me feeling very nostalgic for the days of running with Jess, Aubrey, Carley and Daniella in New York!

Friday, March 10 - 1 hour Peloton ride

I flew to New Hampshire the day before and had the day off of work to spend with my sister and her kids. Before spending the weekend wrangling babies, I was able to get in a 1 hour Peloton ride on my mom's bike. She had recommended a new trainer for me to try whose name was Jen and she went to Syracuse! I did one of her pre-recorded rides which was fun as she had good music to sing-a-long to and referenced my favorite school a number of times.

When I finished, I felt really proud of myself of the work I have been putting in and the dedication I've shown to my goals. My plan for the year was to "Focus" on my goals and I really feel like I have been, and having fun and balance with it. I felt good in my tri shorts this morning.

Saturday, March 11 - Rest day

Much needed!!! Although maybe I should have tracked the laps I ran around my sisters house chasing around my niece and nephew while babysitting!

Sunday, March 12 - 45 minutes strength

Another light day with just a 45 minute body weight workout in the basement that I stole while the babies slept. I was nervous about taking a full weekend off but after how this weekend went, I feel like it did me well and was happy for the break.

Monday, March 13 - PM 3800M swim + 30 minute run

After flying back to Atlanta on Monday morning, I headed into the office, then from the office to the gym. I was tired but it turned out that the workout was exactly what I needed. I was able to work out some frustration and anxiety in the pool and the 30 minute run flew by. I had to hold myself back because my coach's instructions were to take it very easy. I felt great in the water, was breathing heavy even after doing the workout alone, and the run was a fun mixup to go right from the pool to the treadmill. I felt very thankful to have fitness on this day!

Tuesday, March 14 - ITL Track Tuesday (3.58 miles)

This was a shorter track workout than usually since the group is tapering down for the Publix Half and Full Marathon this weekend. It felt strange to have a shorter workout but gave me time to do my stretching right away after the workout. I started to feel a bit nervous for the Publix Half Marathon on Tuesday and spent portions of the rest of the day trying to figure out a plan for it with my coach. I was unsure if I should taper down or keep going with tough workouts. I wanted to run the race well but also didn't want to skimp on other workouts for the week. I was unsure of what to do.

Oh and because of the time change, I was back to not being able to see anyone in the morning!

Wednesday, March 15 - AM 3300M swim + PM 50 minute trainer ride

I really liked the swim workout we did this morning with some fast 100s in the mix. Not a lot of the super fast people were at the pool this morning so it was just me and one other person who were doing them on the tougher time set. I was proud of myself for sticking with it and pushing it with the guys in the pool.

In the evening I had a 50 minute trainer ride that was pretty uneventful.  It included a pyramid workout and went by pretty fast. Besides that it was odd to be on the trainer with the sun out, it was a fairly normal workout Wednesday for me!

Thursday, March 16 - 4 mile easy run

I attended the Brookhaven morning run with ITL and had a great 4 mile run with one of the other athletes. I held back keeping it truly easy and enjoyed the conversation.  Following the run I did "strides" in the parking lot with some of the others finishing their workout.  These easy runs are usually between 10:00-10:30 pace for me and this one was no different!

Friday, March 17 - Rest day!

Felt a little odd to have a week with so many rest days, but I had a big weekend ahead!

Saturday, March 18 - 65 mile bike ride at Tour de Pike

Cold, rainy, windy - but so proud! I rode 65 miles at the Tour de Pike, which was an organized group ride in Concord, GA. Apparently half the people didn't even show up because of the weather forecast and others dropped out of the longer distance rides when the rain started.

This was my first real experience riding in the rain. I had a really hard time shifting my gears on my left side because my fingers were numb and slipping on the gear. I was nervous going into aero because the wind was bad and the roads were slippery. Plus, a lot of the roads we rode on had heavy car traffic and I just didn't feel comfortable. I was alone for a majority of the ride and it was tough mentally as I have been riding based off of time lately and the switch back to distance threw me off a bit. However, I got it done and I was super proud of myself.

I broke the ride into chunks based off of time. I tried to stay in the moment and comfortable on the bike. I enjoyed that I was riding in a new place with different scenery and it was actually quite beautiful when you could see through the rain. I distracted myself by trying to wiggle my toes and see if I could feel them. And I broke up the time by the number of different rest stops they had throughout the route. I found to keep pace with anyone I would see in my path and I rode for a while with one of the other ITL women who was about my pace.

For a while, I thought about dropping down but convinced myself to keep going knowing how good I would feel at the end of the weekend. I was really proud that I stuck it out and it was a really fun day. I carpooled with a friend, there was food and warm bathrooms at the end, and I had great conversation and got to know people better and at a different level. It was a tough but awesome training day!

Sunday, March 19 - 13.1 miles at Publix Half Marathon

A new PR!!! So, so happy. Such a fun day and one of my favorite races of the year that brings out the entire Atlanta running community. I ran the 13.1 miles in 1:55:55 and couldn't be happier. Full blog to come on the race!

I am feeling so positive going into the next part of training and could not have been happier with the past weekend. (I guess I could have done without that rain...)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Turning it around

I mentioned to one of my friends today that I feel like my Instagram posts have been really preachy/emotional lately and asked her if she thought it was weird. As much as I try to just post what inspires me and what I feel moved to share, I sometimes get self conscious about what I post. One of the reasons that I post things there and here, is because I love looking back at my evolution and I use the posts as a way to track my own progress and look back. Both my physical progress and my mental progress with training, body image, goals, etc. and my evolution as a runner.

This morning I also spent time talking to a different friend and giving her advice on her first half marathon. It's getting to a point for me where I have to stop and put myself back in the place of being a beginner runner as I know I have evolved so much over the years. I love the fact that I have that documented. And I love the fact that years into this journey, I am still learning and evolving and growing mentally through a physical sport.

This past weekend was one where I felt like I learned a lot and was as much a challenge mentally for me as it was physically. I finished the weekend feeling really proud of myself, not for the paces or speeds that I had on my run or bike ride, but for some of the mental aspects of my weekend of training.

First, on Saturday, I joined the ITL group bike ride in the morning which was taking place at Stone Mountain. This is literally, as the name describes, a stone mountain about 30 minutes from Atlanta that I have been to a few times - a couple times to go up to the top and once to run around the mountain on a 5-mile loop around. I had never been there to ride my bike there before, but I was not particularly looking forward to the ride for a couple reasons.

First, because I knew that it would just consist of a bunch of 5-mile loops. And on a day where I was planning more than 40 miles, that didn't seem too exciting to me. Second, the weather dropped back to being cooler in the mornings and after being spoiled with warm weather rides in shorts the past couple weeks, it was back down to the 30s for the start of the ride. In addition, a number of the people whom I have come to expect to see at the rides I knew wouldn't be there since lots of people were out of town this weekend. When I arrived, I grumbled a bit to myself even more having to pay to park. Which in reality, isn't a huge deal, but I was just in a bad mind space already and almost just looking for things to complain about since I did not want to be there and riding that morning.

We started at 9:00 a.m. and all went out as a group on the first loop. Quickly, I was in the back and then lost the group all together as it takes me a while to warm up, especially on hills, which I am not super strong at to begin with. And the loop around Stone Mountain is hilly all around. After the first loop around, the group turned and reversed the other way so I was able to see the group pass and wave, and one person who was not too far ahead of me waited for me before turning herself. But then I dropped behind her pretty quick again.

And for the next hour, I was riding by myself. I've gotten used to having some company on the ITL rides, which I really enjoy, so as I did these 3 loops around and around, I found myself in a really bad mental state. I found myself mentally complaining about everything and couldn't get out of my mind that I just didn't want to be there doing what I was doing. I was too warm when I was climbing and then too cold when I was going downhill. My toes were numb. There were too many walkers/runners in the bike path. The path was covered in these weird hard spiky things from the trees that I had to avoid. It was hilly. It was repetitive. There were bumps in the road. Everything was annoying to me and I was just not having it.

However, at some point I recognized this and I remember some of what I have been learning about mindfulness. I have been working really hard lately learning and practicing mindfulness and living in the moment. People who live in the moment and practice mindfulness tend to be happier because they are not living with anxiety and worry over the future or stress and regret over the past. Time is spent appreciating the exact moment you are living in in the world and not wishing your time away. And a key elements to mindfulness is recognizing that you are in control of your thoughts and how you react/respond to the world around you. I know all this may sound a little more hokey than I usually am, but it is something that I have been studying and practicing a lot over the past few months and it really resonates with me.

I've even been using it while in traffic! Instead of wishing I was whereever I am trying to get to, I focus on the music, the sky, the lights and colors around me, the peace inside my car, the forced slow down in an otherwise busy life, etc. And believe it or not, it actually works and I feel happier rather than getting angry and everything around me.

So I recognized I was in a bad mental space and decided I needed to turn it around. I flipped a switch for myself and decided to apply this lesson to my bike ride.

I focused on the feeling of the cold air on me as I went downhill, the noises of the people walking and running, the views of the trees and the lake, the feel of the sunshine on my body, and I focused on appreciating that I have the means and ability to be out exercising. That I am healthy and able to be active and have the funds/means to be spending my Saturday mornings out riding.

I stopped thinking about the fact my speed or how much further I had to go but thought about all of these things and focused on being in the moment and enjoying it for what it was. I also decided to turn around literally as well and looped backwards to try and run into some of the other riders in my group. I came across two of the women who I usually am around the same pace with, and turned back around when I crossed them, to try and hang behind them for a little bit. Riding with friends makes such a difference to me in terms of enjoyment and I also usually push myself a bit harder having someone to chase.

And you know what? Making these changes made all of the difference in my ride. The second half of the bike ride was so much more enjoyable and although my pace was the slowest it has been in a while, I was so proud of myself when I finished. It was a big accomplishment for me and not just my triathlon training but in my mindfulness practice to be able to recognize and reverse this mindset, truly turning it completely around mid-ride.

The mental victories during training continued into Sunday, when I had a 90 minute run on the trails at Kennesaw Mountain scheduled. I had run on the trails for the first time the weekend before and was so nervous to go back this week because I now had the awareness of how hard it was! The week before I finished the run feeling totally beaten up and exhausted. It was really tough to run at the mountain and it caught me by surprise a bit. Although I had been nervous going for the first time, it was because I didn't know what to expect. Now I was nervous because I knew to expect a tough run!

So, I decided to change my mindset about the run. I decided not to make it about my pace or time and totally drop any ego or expectations I had there. I made the goal to just enjoy the workout and feel good during the run, so also decided to pay extra attention to the details such as nutrition. The week before I had eaten a smaller pre-run breakfast than what I normally do, so I went back to my traditional breakfast of cereal. I also hadn't brought any water or Gu Chews with me the week before, so I was sure to bring my hydration belt with water, Gatorade and my nutrition-of-choice, Gu Chews.

I also applied the reminder I had from the day before of how much more enjoyable things are when I exercise with someone and stuck with one of the other girls whose pace was similar to mine. I didn't look at my watch the whole time, just enjoyed the conversation and ran at a pace where we could chat and converse easily. I had a great time and the first half of my run where we stuck together went by so fast. We had different workout plans so I turned back earlier than she did and I already knew that I was feeling so much better than I was the week before at this point.

On the way back I enjoyed the solitude. I worked to keep my HR and breathing under control. I paid attention to the colors and the sounds and how I was feeling. I ate my nutrition and I drank my water. I took off a layer when I started to feel too warm. I felt strong and I felt energized and I felt thrilled that I felt both of those ways! I finished the run feeling literally 100 times better than the week before. I felt like I could have kept going and was tempted to do so, but stopped at what my coach had advised me to do. I was so happy though at how good I felt and was amazed at what a difference it was from the week before.

My pace was slower than it has been lately on both the bike and the run. But I felt so proud of my weekend. As a runner and an athlete, a lot of what we do is based off of time - always wanting to go faster or harder and chasing PRs and average paces, etc. I always advise others just starting out not to worry about pace - to slow down - focus on the basics - drop your ego - etc. But I sometimes forget that in my own running as I work towards a goal and want to be able to measure progress.

I was reminded this weekend that sometimes progress doesn't come in the form of numbers. I was reminded how much it matters to have proper nutrition before and during (as well as after) a workout. I was reminded of what got me hooked on running regularly and made training fun for me - which was doing it with friends. And how enjoyable it is to run/ride and get to know someone at the same time, and how much easier words seem to flow while exercising. I was reminded that just because something scares you doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it or try it again if it was hard the first time. And of course, I was reminded of just how much you control your own mindset and the thoughts in your own head.

On Saturday I was more tempted than I have been in a while to just give up on the ride and call it quits, figuring "This is good enough for today!"

I really wanted to. But I didn't.

Instead I turned it around. Literally and figuratively. And I am really proud of myself for that.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

End of February training recap

We are officially into March, guys! I can't believe how fast the first two months of the year went by. I know people say that all the time but it feels like time is speeding towards my first race of the year, Chattanooga Half Ironman. I have two more full months of training before we enter into May and race month. It's exciting and a bit daunting because I feel like I have more work to do. March will fly by I am sure and then it will just me one more month until the race! In addition to wondering if I have enough time to improve before Chattanooga, I am also already now starting to think, "What other triathlons should I put on my calendar?" I want to try and stay focused on this race and this goal and keeping my mind in the game.

Tuesday, February 21 - Morning 45 minute run (4.5 miles at 10:03 min/mile)

I started my Tuesday with a solo run from my apartment on the Beltline. The weather was nice and made me excited for the coming spring. I also am anxious for brighter mornings so I don't have to run with a flashlight in my hand! I felt particularly frustrated at the end of this run because I felt like I was running at a faster pace than 10:00 minute miles, but that was in fact what I ended up with.

Wednesday, February 22 - Morning 3400 swim + 1 hour trainer ride

Wednesdays tend to be my longer workouts of the week with a morning and an evening workout. I started the day at the pool and I had a great morning in the water. Swimming felt smooth and easy and my mind zoned out and just got the workout done. I felt like I could have swum forever and wanted to get even more laps in but had to get out to get to work for an in-person meeting that started at 8:00 a.m.

In the evening, I spent an hour on the bike trainer doing an interval workout from my coach that had me drenched in sweat. Not that I am ever not sweaty on the trainer, but this day I felt like I pushed myself particularly hard and my HR was high and it was a sweaty ride! While my hip has been recovering, my coach had stopped giving me single leg drills on the bike but today they returned and were just as frustratingly tough as they have been all along!

Just because I haven't written about Syracuse on the blog much - I must say that after the workout, I went out to watch the amazing Syracuse win against Duke. It was SO GOOD and totally loved every moment of it.

Thurs., February 23 - AM 50 minutes strength + PM 1 hr bike ride outdoors (16.55 mph)

Thursday ended up being a day of doubles as well, and tiring in a different way. Since I have been trying to focus more on strength training, I have been pulling in help from all over to build up some good workouts that I can do. I spent Thursday morning working through a series of exercises that had been put together for me by one of the trainers at my gym who I used to do a small group training with. The workout included lunges, squats, leg press, chest press, bicep curls, rows, and planks. I proudly, proudly wore my Syracuse gear to the gym in the morning!!

In the evening, I moved my bike ride outdoors for my first outdoor weeknight ride of the year. We had some unseasonably warm weather with a 75 degree day, so I met with my friend Kristin at the Silver Comet Trail to do an hour long ride. We chatted throughout the bike ride and it was a great way to enjoy a nice evening. We ended up doing 17.36 miles in 1:02:55 for an average pace of 16.55 mph. One random thing that happened while on the ride was that a couple of older men at one point rode up really close behind us to draft off of us for a bit. This is common for cyclists, but for triathletes who are not allowed to draft, it is not a normal thing to practice and therefore something I am not used to. It made me so uncomfortable to have them riding so close behind me and as we came up to some walkers we all needed to go around, the men dinged their little bell, which caught me off guard and I almost rode off the road, not sure where to go.

I slowed down a bit to let the men get ahead of us because I was feeling really skirmish afterwards and didn't want to be riding closeby to anyone. I was happy to have gotten in time with my friend and a good workout in one evening. The pace I was happy about as well because it made me feel like maybe last Sunday's ride wasn't a complete fluke!

Friday, February 24 - 3200 M swim

I was the only person in the pool this morning and the actual workout plan ended at 2500 M. I decided to keep it going and did an extra set of the workout and an extra 200 cool down. Unlike Wednesday, I didn't feel like I could swim forever. After two days of doubles I was tired. I forced myself to do the extra work and get a little more in because I figured, why not?

Saturday, February 25 - 2:30 hour bike ride (42.06 miles at 16.69 mph)

I went out to Cartersville with the ITL group this morning again and was a little nervous because the weather was chillier than it has been lately and because I wanted to see if I could maintain the same speeds I had been riding. The first hour I felt good and my pace averaged 17.3 mph!!

But from there on the morning got tougher and I felt really tired and hard to pedal.

Apparently the wind picked up and that's what made it a lot harder, but man I struggled through the second half and was just so happy to be done! At the very end of the bike ride, there is an out-and-back portion that we do and it was so windy! I am never really sure if it wind or not that I am feeling, which may sound stupid. I usually just assume I am a weak rider, but there were cross winds that even the strongest people and coaches were complaining about. And at one point at the end I was riding downhill and felt like I was riding uphill the wind was blowing so hard. I was very happy to be done and very happy to see a pace in the high 16s!! Even with the wind!! At some points I felt like I was going so slow, so I was still really happy with that number!  I swear, if I ever see an average pace in the 18s, I would freak out.

After the bike ride on Saturday, I went from there right to do a few errands. I first went to a local triathlon store to try on some of their kits so I could learn what size I should order. I have SUCH a hard time trying to decide what sizes to get for these things. I know that you are supposed to order them tight but I just can't handle them tighter past a certain point. This year I decided that I want to race in the team tri kit for the group I have been training with for the first two months of the year. Even though it's only been 2 months, I already feel very much a part of the organization. I tested out some sizes before placing my order.

Sunday, February 26 - 1:30 hour trail run at Kennesaw Mountain (8.5 miles at 10:38 min/mile)

This morning I joined one of the group runs with the group I am now coaching with, ITL. Every Sunday they do their long runs as trail runs at Kennesaw Mountain. I have avoided going so far because I have never done a trail run and that intimidated me, and also because their Sunday runs are at 7:30 a.m. and with the winter temperatures, I haven't seen the need to get myself out of bed that early on a Sunday for a run yet! However, today I made it happen and joined the group.

Man. Nobody told me how hard these trail runs were. It really wore me out! I only was supposed to do a 75 minute run but ended up going 90 minutes because I was pushing to get through a hill before turning around. I was on an uphill climb when I was halfway through my allotted time and figured "Let me just get to the top and then I will turn around." But man, that top never seemed to come! I eventually hit a sign that served as my turnaround point and then the entire way back was brutal.

My whole body felt tired and that it was taking every ounce of energy to go every step. The smile I have in the picture above is my pain face smile. I ended up walking up a few of the hills when my body was moving so slow it was basically crawling and walking anyways. It was a tough run but I can see how doing it over and over will make you stronger. For me, at the end of this workout, all I wanted was to lay on my couch the rest of the day! The weather had dropped back down after the few warm days we had and I was cold, in need of food, and dead tired. Was proud of myself for getting over the fear and making my way out to the trail!

I celebrated with food with some of my training partners.

Monday, February 27 - 30 minute core power class + 40 minutes strength

I went to the gym after work and started by joining the 30 minute core power class that one of the trainers offers. I have been a couple times before and it is almost like a joke for me to go because I can barely accomplish anything that they do in the class. However, my 2017 goals are to do more of the things I don't like - which include this type of core work. And I am not going to get better at it if I don't keep working at it, right?  I spent way too many years of my life just saying "Oh I can't run."

So I did the 30 minutes of core class then went into the workout my coach had given me that included some burpees, lunges, planks, and a number of exercises to strengthen the muscles around my hip. He increased the number of lunges that he gave me to me from when he'd been giving me this type of work the past couple of weeks and I was cursing him while I was doing the workout!!  By the time I finished the lunges my legs were shaking.

As hard as this type of stuff is for me to force myself to do, I really do love it and I am happy that I am working this into my routine for training. I think it is going to make a lot of difference for me if I can continue it throughout all of my training. Moving forward, I may want to write a blog about all the "extra" stuff I've been doing and trying to focus on more lately.

The other most exciting part of my workout is that I had a new cute workout top. I have been wanting a top like this for forever, but never found one that I felt looked cute or had the right support. I picked this up from Target clearance a couple weeks ago and was excited to test it out and see if in addition to being cute, it was supportive and able to do its job during a workout. I fully loved everything about this top and it is my new favorite for non-running workouts!

I felt really strong and cute at the gym on Monday and felt so good about that. I posted a picture to Instagram even though it was a bit outside my comfort zone to post a pic just because I felt like I looked cute (and strong) but wanted to practice a bit more self love lately.

Tuesday, February 28 - ITL Track Tuesday (yay!) for 5.12 miles @ 9:01 average pace

Tuesday morning I returned back to the ITL Tuesday morning track workouts for the first time since the day I had really hurt my hip and had to stop! It was really, really nice to be back! I had used the analogy that I felt like when I was running/working out that I was doing it on "egg shells" and just trying to be careful not to hurt something. The few runs I did I held back a lot.

This morning was the first time I tried to put a little more power behind my run and did some intervals of 1200s where I pushed a bit harder the first 400 then eased into tempo pace. I felt good about my paces at the end of the workout.  For the 4 1200s I did they were at 8:10, 8:14, 8:06, 8:04 paces. I know it isn't where I need to be, but it is decent for me.  AND I DIDN'T HAVE ANY PAIN!

It felt good to be able to put a little oomph behind my runs and I was excited to be back at track. I can't wait to do more of this and see how it improves my running.

And that is February for you!! I hope you had a great month. I am entering into March feeling healthy and strong and hoping to give it my best. Hope you have a great start to your month!