Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The hardest week and a turning point

The past 9 days have been one of the longest and hardest stretches of training I have ever done. The hardest? Maybe, I'm not sure. On paper it certainly is the hardest, but your expectations also change over the years so in relative terms, I am not sure. My peak week of training for Paris Marathon was one of the most challenging I ever had to navigate and execute on, as it landed the same week as a trade show I was attending in Barcelona. I fly to Europe on Saturday, ran 14 miles on Sunday then another 40 throughout the week, all while having to work long days at the trade show on my feet and attend dinners in the evening. Plus, it was my first marathon so first ever time doing that mileage!

So looking back on THIS week, yes, it was insanely difficult. So much so that when my coach and I originally sat down and mapped it out, I felt physically ill thinking about it and looking at it. However, I think I knew from the beginning I was going to get through it without skimping. Because I know I can at this point and I know that's just what I do.

That doesn't change that I am really proud though. And this week marks a little bit of a turning point for me.

Before this past week, before this past Saturday to be exact, I didn't actually believe I could run what I had set as my goal marathon pace. When asked about it, I would say, "Well this is what my coach thinks, but who knows? A goal is a goal for a reason, right!" I didn't realize until I talked with my coach on Monday night - but I had never really fully believed it.

However, on Saturday while I ran the ATL Relay as part of my training, I felt really really good being in the race environment. I ran 12.5 miles at my goal marathon pace, without even intending to, while telling myself to ease off, and feeling really good the whole time! The course was hilly and I was running with fatigue of having done 4 days in a row of running 7-9 miles each day (and some tough effort runs) before that. Granted, 12.5 miles is a lot less than 26 miles, but I felt good and didn't even realize the pace I was running. Afterwards, when I looked through my times and realized that if I had kept going at the same pace to hit 13.1 miles, it would have been a MASSIVE personal best half marathon time for me, I was SHOCKED. I felt like I had done the math wrong. I couldn't believe it.

And for the first time, in that exact moment, it was like a wave washed over me and I felt like "Holy crap. I might actually be able to do this!"

It hit me at once and all of a sudden my mindset for this race was totally different. All of a sudden the excitement and the nerves and the adrenaline hit me. My mind started buzzing and I started thinking about Berlin in a different way, wanting to focus on making sure I had all the details right because now they feel like they could really make a difference.

What am I wearing for race day? How much nutrition do I need and how will I carry it? Music or no music? What should be on my playlist? What nutrition are they distributing on the course? What mile markers will they have it? Will they have mile markers? Should I track the race on kilometers or miles? Should I run with a pace team? Should I have my watch pace me? Should I start to practice that? Which sneakers should I wear? Should I get a new pair of sneakers? Do I have time to get a new pair of sneakers?

I am one month out and the race nerves I felt before Chicago Marathon are here. I mentioned before that I remembered not being able to sleep I was so nervous with my time goal in my mind before Chicago. I was thinking of it all the time. Well, I'm there now for Berlin. The emotions feel intensified for me because before this past week it felt like something so lofty to just aim for. Whereas now, I feel like it is within reach. It feels close. It is like a whole different race at this point.

This past week was big volume and intensity wise. Big big. I have gotten more and more self conscious of posting my numbers and stats here but in the last 9 days (from last Tuesday 8/22 to today, Wednesday 8/30) I ran 86.4 miles with one day off. I don't like to share the details anymore because I have suddenly had this feeling that people are watching and judging, which is a weird thought to have considering I blog about my life. However, I've come to not really enjoy people offering opinions about my training or what I am doing. And I don't like the judgments and questioning I can have if I think too much about what other people are doing. I trust my coach and I give him feedback on how I am feeling and we work together. We make a good team, so I try to just go with that and take his opinion and not others. With that has come greater privacy outside of him. Not secretive at all, but just private, and that's okay. Part of it might also be me not feeling totally comfortable with the changes in the way I train and unsure of what people will think who have known me and gotten close to me at earlier phases of my running evolution. I am still adjusting to where I am as a running and accepting myself how much I put into this.

I started this blog by appealing to other people like me, who were just trying to get off the couch and talking my way through my insecurities and attempts to run my first half marathons and marathons. Not doing anything fancy or fast or taking it too seriously, but just having fun and pushing yourself to do things you never thought possible. I don't know how my friends and my audience will relate to what I am doing now. Sometimes I don't know how to relate myself. But this is still me, still doing things I never thought possible. This past week? Never imagined I could have done this. Which is why, I want to post it, for future Katelyn to come back and see and remember and be proud of.  So let me share a little of my hardest week and turning point week. I am so looking forward to the next few lighter days :)

Tuesday 8/22 was track workout that totaled 7 miles and included 200 lunges.

Wednesday 8/23 was an 8 mile run with 5 miles at marathon/tempo pace. I ran on the Beltline with a friend and it was the first time that I did all 5 miles under my goal marathon pace. I immediately got home and jumped into the pool at my apartment complex to cool off.

Thursday 8/24 (my birthday!) ended up at about 8.5 miles and included mile repeats that got progressively faster by 10 seconds each. After my warmup I did miles at 8:20, 8:10, 8:00, 7:50, 7:40, and 7:30 with each mile repeat ending with a series of 31 exercises (situps, lunges, pushups, etc.) The last mile ended with 31 burpees and I don't think I have ever been closer to wanting to puke after a workout! But I nailed each of those miles and was so happy with that.

Friday 8/25 was another 8 miles. This time easy, and was joined by good friends and good conversation.

Saturday was the ATL Relay - a 20K relay I did with some friends, but I had volunteered for the first leg of the 5K which I ran hard, and then settled into an easy pace to just finish out the rest of the 15K as a long run. I ran from my apartment to the race, about 2.5 miles, for a total of the day of about 15 miles.

Sunday I had 2:30 hours of easy running, that was a major struggle run. I finished about 14.5 miles on the Silver Comet that included a stop at a gas station to pick up some petroleum jelly to deal with a major chafing issue.

Monday was a much needed rest day. Followed by Tuesday morning return to track workout where I did a little over 7 miles in total. And in the evening I had the first running double I think I have done in years. At the Cochran Shoals trail I ran for an hour, finishing a little over 6 miles for a daily total of 13.7 miles.

This morning, I had another major struggle run with a pre-work easy 2:00 hour run that finished at about 12.5 miles. I felt like I was barely moving at the end but pushed through knowing that I've got some recovery time built ahead. I worked from home today and took my first call of the day from my balcony, stretching and eating breakfast.

And there you have it. My hardest week (so far) and a turning point week in terms of mindset. I am going to do a full recap of the ATL Relay shortly because it was such a fun day and fun race. So stay tuned. In the meantime, happy running everyone. Here goes nothing!

Monday, August 14, 2017

When we don't know what to say

There are moments in life when things come up and it is hard to know what the right thing to say is. A friend is diagnosed with cancer, someones beloved pet passes away, someone expresses feelings for you that you don't reciprocate. I often find it hard to find the right thing to say in these situations and struggle to put together the right string of words that will comfort and soothe the other party. What words are appropriate? What will help the situation? How do I say something that will ease the heartache that others are feeling? That is not cliche?

Especially in situations where I have never been through what the other party is facing, it is hard to know what to say.

However, you say something. You try. Could you imagine standing there in silence, never saying anything at all about what has just happened? Turning conversation to whatever was next or going on in your own life, ignoring it completely because it is not a situation that affects your immediate life? You don't turn silent on those that you care about and you don't say nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing. You approach it with empathy and honesty and you try. You say something.

Lately, I feel like we are living through a time in history that is just one prolonged moment of "I am feeling a lot for you right now but don't know the right thing to say." And just as I would never stand in the face of a friend who brought forth a troubling moment in their life to me and go silent - I don't want to go silent to what I am seeing happen in our country.

This weekend the events that took place in Charlottesville left me feeling heartbroken. And partially speechless because I don't know what to say that hasn't been said by someone more eloquent than me. I don't know what is appropriate. I don't know what I could say that would help vs. just rile up more angry or painful feelings. However, not wanting to be silent, although I don't know the right thing to say, let me just try and say something.

I hate what happened this weekend. I hate that it is happening more and more. I hate that we are living in a moment in American history in 2017 where Nazis and White Supremacists aren't even ashamed to cover their faces when they go out to rally. The images out of Charlottesville this weekend were powerful and shocking. How people can proudly wear and show swastikas is beyond me. And the person who holds the position of supposedly "leading" this country cannot outright name the groups that caused some of the violence - such as driving a car into a group of protesters, killing a woman, is painful. It is painful because we know the hypocrisy behind it, if things had been the other way around.

I feel such anger toward the fact this person was elected because we knew this was coming. We saw it. He indicated this in the way he campaigned, his indifference or support of violent actions through his words, and the beliefs of the people he surrounds himself with. I have had discussions with the people in my circles that had different beliefs than me throughout the past year. Many people smarter than I had documented concern and predictions of the type of culture we were deeming "okay" by supporting and empowering a man like our current "leader" and now we are here. I don't know what to say and I don't know what to do and that frustrates me. I know that the person I am directing a lot of my anger towards did not personally participate in what happened in Charlottesville this weekend. So my anger might seem misdirected. And trust me, I don't for a moment, take away the blame of the individuals who actually committed these actions, but I believe the climate for something like this to take place was due to politics. However, I remind myself to put blame where blame is and to embrace others with love because there is no other way out.

I'm trying to find other ways to get involved as well. I am exploring local politics. I continue to read the news and publications of the parties that are different than me. I work to learn about how people who have different beliefs than me think. I continue to have those conversations. More often than not I end up frustrated and angry. I have more than once disengaged for my own sanity but I need to get better at figuring out a way to stay involved and I need (and will) to continue to find ways to channel that into positive actions.

My skin is white and I am in a majority group in almost all ways. Shocking, I know, right? But with that, I am afforded the privilege that my frustrations and my anger is at least not also mixed with fear based just off of who I am. My skin color affords me that.

This weekend in my personal life was a joyous one. We celebrated love with events for the upcoming wedding of one of my best friends. The discussion of what was going on throughout the weekend in Charlottesville didn't come up much except for a small moment on Sunday afternoon. Two of my friends, both black, were talking about another friend, also black, who had happened to be out of town in Charlottesville over the weekend as these events broke out. She had posted about how despite being in the midst of this national terror, she went out for a run while there, not letting fear and terror stop her from doing what she loved. The comment was made in person on Sunday, "I can't believe she did that - I wouldn't have left the house if I were there!"

The response was, "Right?!" and incredulous laughter before conversation moved on. But I couldn't get it out of my head.

When was the last time that I had to worry about leaving the house for fear just because of what I look like? I couldn't get this exchange out of my head it just hurts me that people that I love feel this way.

I get mad at myself because for not being a stronger advocate. I feel helpless to be able to actually affect any change. I feel ashamed for my country to the rest of the world. I feel scared for what is going to happen next. I feel sickened for Heather Heyer, who was hit by a car while protesting against the white supremacy rally. And for the others who have lost their lives, such as Srinivas Kuchibhotla, due to people emboldened by our current political landscape. We can't forget these people, their names, or what led to their deaths.

We all need to keep learning about the lives and experiences of people different than us. We need to approach one another with love and kindness. We need to surround ourselves with people different then us, not push them away or approach with hate. I write these things as a reminder for myself, because I do feel angry. And I write these things also feeling privilege to even be able to write it. I am white and that alone makes it slightly easier. Black men and women in America, my friends included who I have either bare witness to or have heard stories from, have been having to live with this mindset for so much longer than I have. They've had to think and interact and pay attention to things differently than myself or other white Americans have had to.

This weekend, I reposted on Facebook a post from Senator Cory Booker that resonated with me. I didn't add any commentary around it because I didn't know what to say. But regardless, one single person liked it. I typically get more engagement than that and I think it goes back to what I said at the beginning. So many of us don't know what to say or what to do. Maybe people read it but didn't engage with it because they thought it would be easier to not get involved, to be participate in the dialogue themselves. Who knows? Before the elections, I remember having conversations with people who supported the Republican candidate urging them to reconsider and that I was confident that they were standing on the wrong side of history. Cory Booker finished his post on social media over the weekend by saying, "May we all rise to meet the urgent demands of our moment in history."

I hope that more and more people are seeing that this is our moment in history and following what is happening. Reading articles. Having conversations. Learning about others. Embracing people with positivity, empathy, and curiosity. Let's everyone pay attention a bit more and start talking and doing more, even when we don't know what to say or do. Let's channel the outrage we may feel and do something with it. Let's turn it into positivity.

That's it for tonight from me.

From Cory Booker:

The evil of hatred isn’t just the overt torch-bearing bigots in Virginia. The evil of hate is also the ignorance that breeds it, the apathy that sustains it and the Trump-like rhetoric that gives it license to flourish. 

When speaking about so called “radical Islamic terrorists” last year, President Trump said, “Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country.” 

On Saturday, President Trump demonstrated a hateful hypocrisy in failing to name the Neo-Nazi, white supremacist, Alt-Right hate for what it is: not only the cause of the horrific violence in Virginia, but the evil enemy of our Nation’s hope and promise. 

President Trump’s words in his statement -- “hatred, bigotry and violence that's on many sides” -- not only fuels a misleading account of what actually happened but shamefully puts the counter-protestors on the same moral level and as those carrying Nazi flags and chanting vile racist rants. 

I mourn today’s loss of life. I celebrate the peaceful activists who would not be silent in the face of hate. And for those of us watching these events unfold, simply condemning the violence and hate of today is not enough. 

Martin Luther King, Jr., aptly said, “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people.” 

It is up to us to do more than just look upon the violence and hate on display in Virginia with disapproval. There is serious work to do in our nation from addressing the growing hate and hate crimes in the United States to dealing with persistent systemic injustices in our criminal justice system. 

Condemnation is expected. Anger is understood. But only action, work, sacrifice and struggle will yield progress. The focus should not just be about what “they” did in Virginia, but what we will do where we are to advance our nation toward greater justice. 

I believe in love.

I believe that love can indeed conquer hate. 

But love is not passive. Love doesn’t just sit back and hope that things will change.

Love demands us confronting our own ignorance or complicity in injustice or our own biases and humbly working to change ourselves and our community.

Love is courageous and relentless and it is indeed what our nation needs now.

I believe in love.

I believe in us.

May we all rise to meet the urgent demands of our moment in history.

[Side note: yes, I know that there was another statement made today. This was written by Cory Booker before that occurred and besides, the speech today was not much better.]

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Berlin nerves, marathon nostalgia, and growing up

Well we are about 7 weeks away from what will be my 5th (!!!) marathon - the route that dreams are made of - Berlin Marathon. I coined that phrase myself (TM?), because it seems like everyone who goes to Berlin to run, goes to run a personal best time. At least that is what it seems like from all the blog recaps I have been reading. And my own personal experience.

The course is known for being flat and fast and holds some of the world record times in the marathon. Just this weekend I started reading blog entries with recaps of the race and almost every one I read started something along the lines of "If I got into Berlin Marathon, I knew I was going to train to race it..."

It sounded familiar. Primarily because that's exactly what I said all along when I first entered the lottery for Berlin. I set my PR in the marathon at Chicago Marathon in 2015 at 3:58, in one was one of the most amazing races of my life. I loved everything about that race - including all of the training leading up to it. I felt like it was the most perfect equation of everything going my way in order to achieve that time. Great friends that I trained with all summer, great support leading up to the race, great course, great weather, friends along the route, etc. I went into the day wanting to run fast and through all of that coming together, I did, running faster than I could hardly believe. I proved something to myself (and to others) on that day.

Then in 2016, I ran New York City Marathon, one I knew all along would be about the experience and not the time. I enjoyed it and am glad that I did that race that way, but wanted to go back to a year of racing a marathon. So, here we are in 2017, as I head into another world major and back into the mindset of racing with a time in mind.

This really scares me. Part of me is thinking, "Wait, why did I want to do this again?!"

It scares me for a number of reasons. It scares me because I set an aggressive goal and time for myself that I don't know if I can actually do. It scares me because as much as I remember how wonderful that day was at Chicago Marathon, I also remember how hard it was. How everything had gone perfectly for me to hit that goal and I don't know if I will have that same experience again. I reread my blog entry from the Chicago Marathon last week and found myself sobbing at the end of it, reliving that day over in my mind. However, part of the reason that I think I was crying also wasn't just the happiness from the day but it also reminded me a little bit of the loss of the person that I once was.

The common theme throughout this year for me has been improvement and growth. I have been getting faster and stronger and smarter and fitter. I know this. I can see this. And although they still surprise me sometimes, the paces of my runs and races don't lie.

Mentally I am growing as an athlete as well and that becomes SO apparent to me especially when I go back and read my blog entries from one or two years ago as I train for races. I am training with really strong, impressive athletes, I have invested in resources to help me - not just with the actual training but with nutrition, recovery, etc.  I have even done a number of things throughout the year to improve my own personal education... such as taking a course to get certified as a running coach myself! Part of the reason I don't even write as much anymore is because this used to be my place to think out loud, pose questions, record and track my training, post my struggles with weight loss and training, and things along those lines.

I didn't really know anyone else to talk to about the things I was facing as I "grew up" in this sport and this was my place to do that. Sometimes rereading my old blogs makes me a little sad because I almost don't really need that anymore...

Part of "growing up" (transition from HungryTwenties to HungryThirties if you will!) is that I have a coach and TrainingPeaks and all of these tools and resources as my fingertips. I train with people who are faster and stronger and more experienced then me. And I am taking advantage of all of these things, soaking up as much as I can, and utilizing all of them. And they're working! I am not just becoming stronger physically but I am becoming smarter about my training and more confident.

But rereading my Chicago blog, the race I am comparing every other race to at this point, and rereading some of my old posts from when I trained for it, I feel a little sad. A little bit of longing for that naive girl who was just out running with her friends every day and excited to fit it all in.

I have a more aggressive goal this time. And a more aggressive training plan. I am still having fun and learning and loving this sport, but it has definitely changed for me. Maybe slowly at first. But now I look around and it is like I am a completely different person. Part of me wonders... will it feel as good to hit my goal at Berlin Marathon as it felt to break 4 hours that day? Maybe it will. Maybe it won't.

It's funny. As I write this right now, I remember thinking the exact same thing after my FIRST marathon, the Paris Marathon. How could ANYTHING beat this? Would anything EVER feel as good as it did to run my first marathon?!

And now, that marathon isn't even in my mind as I sit here and write about marathon nostalgia. The girl who ran Chicago was so different than the girl who ran Paris. And I guess the girl who runs Berlin will be different than all of those. I used to have one of those "one-a-day" calendars that had quotes about running and I remember one that I had on my refrigerator for a long time that said "The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes the race" and maybe that's the exact conclusion I am coming to right now.

One of the most obvious changes (to me) that I've realized in myself is my ability to set and talk about goals. Earlier this year I would never have told you the time that was in my mind for the Berlin Marathon. Well, if I am even being honest, I didn't even set the time for myself, my coach did. In the second conversation we ever had together about what I wanted out of the year and my races. I suggested a time, and he threw back a time that was 10 minutes faster than that asking, "Why not this?" Ummm... because that time is really, really fast?

For months if people asked me about goals if I answered at all, I would say, "Ha. Well, Jerome thinks this... but that's insane."

Eight months of training with him and I am getting faster. I can see that and I am proud of that. I have set personal best times in the half marathon and 10K this year, and my 5K splits from those races and from training breaking any 5K race personal best I had. In addition to PR-ing those distances in standalone races, I have set personal best or near personal best times for myself in both of those distances as part of triathlons as well! I still can't wrap my head around that I ran 1:56 half marathon during my half ironman this year.

Training regularly this year with a group, others have noticed it as well and have commented to me about it. I love this support and the fact that I have all these people around me who are fellow athletes who are cheering for me. It is also a little bit new to me. And intimidates me a bit.

I've always shared aspects of training on social media or posted my workouts on the blog. But I never have been super detailed with all of my training times or paces or speeds. And that's been purposeful. I know how I am when I see other people's times and paces posted to social media and I have never wanted to do that myself. I like sharing the workout itself... but my actual statistics from training I generally keep to myself. I am not on Strava and I am not connected with others on any form of app or connected tools. You'll see me post actual times following races or every once in a while after a milestone workout as part of training where I am really proud of something.

Otherwise, that information I am more private about. I've always loved to come out and surprise people on race day, not during training! So the fact that people are taking notice of my paces during training is new to me.

Over the past few months, my language has changed as to how I talk about upcoming goals. This has been one of the biggest signs of my growth in confidence I have noticed in myself. If you ask me now, I will confidently tell you what my goal is for the Berlin Marathon and what even more longer term goals I am considering. I NEVER did this before. Ever. I had been thinking it is a good thing and as I mentioned earlier, a sign of "growing up" in the sport. However, lately, this, as well as the fact that people have been noticing my improvements, I am starting to freak myself out a bit.

It feels like in the past when I used to be able to surprise myself and others and be thrilled with that, I feel like there might be expectations. Expectations from myself, from others who I have shared my goals with (which is anyone who asks) and expectations from the people who have noticed my improvements. These mental changes make me nervous going into my race. What if I can't live up to all of this?

In rereading my blog entry to the Chicago Marathon and remembered the feelings I had leading up to the race. I didn't get a time goal stuck into my head until the end of my training cycle. Once I did I was fixated on it and couldn't sleep I was thinking of it so much. I remember crying to my mom on the phone because I was so nervous. I told maybe 3 or 4 really close friends what my time goal was before the race because I was afraid I couldn't do it.

That day was so special because I shocked myself and a lot of other people. I came back to Atlanta and people were literally talking about it. "Did you see what Katelyn ran in Chicago?!" People were honestly in disbelief. I was a bit as well.

I've run enough races now that have really shocked people that I feel a little bit like the cat's out of the bag and we've moved on to a place where there is a different type of pressure on me and I am not sure how to handle it. My coach keeps asking me when I am going to stop writing in my comments after my workouts "I can't believe I ran that fast!!" but part of me hopes I don't even lose that shock. I don't want running fast to ever be an expectation for myself. The surprise and excitement of being assigned a specific workout to try and achieve has become what is fun for me now in my growth. I never did this before this year.

Honestly, sometimes I miss the mornings of running casually through Midtown Atlanta with my friends or the Hudson-Mohawk Bike Path in Schenectady and talking while I ran... not worrying about pace or time or anything. It was simpler. It was easier. It was a different kind of high to my morning routine. There has been a lot of change this year and growing out of this type of running has been hard on me.  It's something that I don't always talk about but lately I've been feeling a bit nostalgic for those days. On the other hand, I am SO PROUD of where I have come and love the high of nailing a hard workout or seeing a fast time. It is so exciting to me. Yet it is a weird feeling to feel both nostalgic about and miss something but at the same time be happy with where you are. Our morning run crew is all in different places than where we were that summer as well, but that doesn't mean those weren't some of the most fun mornings running. Or my old morning runs while I lived in Albany either.

July 2015 in Atlanta
April 2014 in Schenectady
Although it feels a little sad at the same time it's not something that I am really wishing to go back to training wise (but I could always go for more time with my friends!) I enjoy where I am right now with training and life. I don't think I would have the same fulfillment if I was still doing that for all my runs or still in the same place I was 2 or 3 years ago. It would mean I wasn't growing or evolving or challenging myself in the sport at all. At the time, just getting in the runs was the challenge and I've moved beyond that. It is hard, but finding the right balance.

And I think it's okay to feel a sense of sadness for something that has changed with time. I will end things on a non-running related note with a story that made me smile and feel a similar sense of nostalgia this week. In November I have a trip planned to go to Chicago with my childhood girl friends (KO, Teenie, Meag, and E) as the first in our group is having a baby girl. This is wild to me on a whole other level - I love these girls so much and it feels like we were just little girls ourselves not too long ago.

The Fab Five <3 td="">
I was laughing to myself as we coordinated our flights - I arrive a few hours after everyone else and in our discussion the girls replied "Great, we'll get food and cook dinner for when you land Katie!" Which, sounds about perfect to me. Whereas about 5 or 6 years ago, the same exact group went to Chicago to get together and I flew in a few hours after everyone.  However they had all been out drinking at happy hour and the conversation was around how do I catch up to everyone on the drink scale! Times change. People change. It's part of life. I think back to leisurely running the same way I think back to chugging a few drinks to catch up with my friends - I miss it, it was fun - but I don't need to be in that same place still.

The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes. Here is to more race finishes and continual growth as a runner and a person!

Monday, August 7, 2017

My first century ride

A couple weeks ago I achieved a goal that had been in my mind prominently since this past April, which was to do my first century ride, or 100 miles, on the bike. You may recall back in April when I threw a little fit to my coach about wanting to ride 100 miles at the Tony Serrano ride. I was interested in doing it then for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time, however, I settled on knowing that I wanted to do one this year. I knew it would be a cool accomplishment and give me confidence to know I had done one this year (as I think ahead to NEXT year where I would like to do a full Ironman.)

I had started scoping out rides and also looked at some dates with my friend Lauren, who I knew still had some long bike rides ahead of her for the year as her first Ironman is in September! We decided to do one together because we've become really compatible riding partners and I just have a lot of fun with her. I knew it would mean a lot to do my first 100 mile ride with her and was really excited when we settled on the Covington Century ride at the end of July. I had the full support of my coach as well :)

The week of the ride, I was up in New Hampshire with my family and was not on my bike for 2 weeks before doing the ride. This made me feel a bit anxious - especially as the last bike ride that I had been on had turned into a bit of a cluster when I had my first, and second, flat tires while riding.  The Saturday before heading out on vacation, I had a two hour bike ride that ended up being pretty stressful. About an hour in, I got my first flat and changed it with the help of a fellow member of the ITL group. However, after having that first flat, I was way behind the overall group and therefore when I got my second flat, nobody was around. Plus, I had used all of my spare repair kit items the first time!

Luckily, two of my friends had realized I wasn't behind them fairly quickly and turned back for me. However, none of us had experience changing a flat and were about to do our best to have at it when (luckily) two men from Atlanta Triathlon Club came upon us and (thankfully) stopped to help. They identified the culprit - a piece of glass deep in my tire that we hadn't noticed before - and helped to repair the flat.

I was pretty nervous the rest of the day thinking it was going to happen again and I didn't feel relaxed on the bike the rest of that day. Thinking ahead knowing that the next ride I would have outdoors would be the century, I stopped on my way home from that bike ride at my beloved Atlanta Cycling to have them check out the tire. I was assured by the techs that the second repair looked good, my bike was fine, and I restocked my spare tire repair kit (as well buying replacements for my friend whose I had used the second time!) The next day I rode my bike on the trainer at home and all was fine. I left for vacation with my bike still on the trainer, back wheel suspended in the air.

Fast forward to the day I return home, which is also the night before the Covington Century. As I worked to get all my gear together the night before and took my bike off the trainer, I realized that my back tire was dead flat. It hadn't even been sitting with any pressure on it, and it had somehow over the week and a half had gotten down to about 20 psi (whereas I usually ride at 100.) I know that tire pressure can drop when sitting over time, but the front wheel was only down to about 60 so the big drop for the back tire - the same one that had just flat-ed twice - was really concerning to me and tipped me over the edge with nerves.

I started to full on panic, which I know was a result of my feelings for the whole next day but I was so scared that my bike ride was going to turn into another day like the one I had on my last ride. I was worried I would be getting flat after flat, not have enough supplies to change it multiple times, would struggle doing it by myself, and worse that I would hold up Lauren and ruin her day as well, which was also a training day for her. I didn't want to have to deal with that when I would need my energy to get through the day. That evening I was crying and texting my coach, but afraid to text Lauren as I didn't want to worry her about it. I was assured over and over that it - and the ride - would be fine, and I put air in the tire the night before with the plan to check it in the morning.

When I tell you - as soon as my alarm went off the next morning, I jumped out of bed to run and feel my back tire air pressure. Luckily, it was fine. So I hoped it would remain that way throughout the day.

In addition to my issue with the bike tire, the week before while I was away, my TomTom Multisport watch that I had been wearing for about 2 years mysteriously went haywire on me. I had gone for an open water swim in the lake and when I returned to the shore and went to turn off my watch, it simply would not turn off. Eventually I was able to get the activity to end, but it wasn't really anything I did. The watch just started to freak out and do whatever it wanted. A factory reset and all the online help tutorials later, it was still making its own decisions and somehow had turned its default language into Polish, which limited my ability to even troubleshoot. This wasn't the first time I had problems with a TomTom watch malfunctioning and it was the motivation I needed to start to consider more seriously an investment into a new watch. That being said, I wasn't ready to purchase right away, despite two trips to REI on the day I returned to Atlanta. The thought of being watch-less for 100 miles made me really nervous!

Before heading to Covington, three friends met at my apartment and we drove together, and I was graciously able to borrow a spare watch from a friend - which was a huge comfort for me. With a watch and a tire with air, I felt somewhat ready to go, although a bit nervous about the feeling of my gear all seemingly failing on me.

As soon as we started riding, I began to feel better and the nerves slipped away and my confidence grew. My bike was having no issues and the watch was working. I was having fun and we were on our way!

I am not going to break the ride down mile by mile or anything like that. But overall, moral of the story... I had such a fun experience and such a good day doing this ride.

We started as a group with a lot of the ITL people all starting off a few minutes before the mass start to avoid any craziness with large peloton groups at the beginning causing accidents. It was a fun decision as there were quite a few riders from our group there, so we were able to all chat a little bit as we made our way out of town and onto the main portion of the ride as a group.

It wasn't too long into the ride that Lauren and I were on our own riding together but I seriously had such a great time with her. She had done her first century ride the weekend before and gave me such helpful advice from the beginning like an old pro ("Don't count!") and cheered me on through the whole thing -- despite the fact that this was probably harder on her, doing back to back weekends of century rides!! We caught up about what had been going on in our lives. We stopped at every rest stop. We snacked. We laughed. We made friends with random drivers who stopped to shout at (encourage?) us. We pushed ourselves. We enjoyed the scenery. And we just kept on damn pedaling.

I was really, really thankful to have her with me and it made the whole experience such a great one. My only goal for the day was to finish. I didn't care about speed or time or anything like that but just wanted to see 100. Lauren shared her goal with me and although it scared me a bit, I wanted to help her realize that so took it on myself to try and help get her there the best I could. We've I think both gotten good at knowing when the other one needs a push so I did my best to keep motivating her too at some of her tougher points in the ride.

One of the things that surprised me was that I honestly felt good throughout the whole thing. I did have some hip pain that made me feel a bit uneasy throughout the ride, but I never vocalized it or tried to think about it much because it wasn't going to stop me or change the effort I was putting into the day. And towards the end the balls of my feet starting to really bother me as well. It felt almost as if it were that weird feeling before you get a charley horse, but it never came. I think it was just the nonstop push-pull for hours that was bothering me. My seat bones got sore and I was of course tired at the end, but physically, besides those things, I felt good! There were no major issues and I didn't crash or feel overwhelmingly fatigued during the ride. And mentally - I was with it the whole thing.

Afterwards thinking about it, I feel like I was mentally "in it" and positive the whole time because this event, this day, this moment - this was my goal! Before we started the ride a number of people asked the question around "What are you training for?" or essentially... "What is this century ride a stepping stone for you for?"  For most triathletes, these events are part of a training program. But for me, this was it. This was the ride and the day I had been continuing to bike for throughout the summer. I felt determined and happy and grateful to be able to be there and enjoying it with good friends. Aside from riding with Lauren, we ran into others with the group at the various check points and a few times on the course and it was always fun to catch up with them.

There were definitely points that were harder than others as well. And one of the things I said to Lauren when it got a bit hard was "Focus and find the place where you feel strong."

I don't know where that came from, but as I said it aloud to her, I was saying it to myself as well (which is often what I do when I am cheering on others in an event I am doing myself.) For some reason I liked that and I want to remember it for the future. A lot of times in the middle of an event when things get tough or aren't going our way you can start to doubt yourself and question "Can I do this?" or worse you talk yourself out of it "I'm never going to hit my goal - I should just back off."

However, I want to remember that piece of advice for Berlin Marathon and my own races to find the place where I feel strong when those thoughts come. Push them away by channeling memories and emotions and mantras that remind myself how strong I am. Remember the times I pushed through something tough, channel that, and find my strong. Find the mental place where I feel strong and stay there.

I finished the ride at 102 miles and 6 hours and 5 minutes. I hit 100 miles on the watch just seconds under 6 hours for an average speed throughout the ride of about 16.7 mph. I was really, really proud of that and proud of how I did mentally and physically throughout the day. There was definitely a bit of a "woohoo!" that occurred when I hit 100 and also a feeling of "Okay I'm done" and was ready to be off the bike, ha. It had gotten hot and was feeling a bit clammy in my biking gear. I had gone through a ton of liquids that day and still couldn't get enough in me. I never went to the bathroom and think I definitely needed salt as well.

Luckily, the ride had a catered meal afterwards so after a change of clothes we head over for plates of food. But not before a photo shoot! I was so thrilled to have hit this milestone and to have had such wonderful, supportive friends by my side. From having Lauren to encourage me and cheer me on and hang out with all day, to Jaclyn for loaning me her watch, and Whitney for carpooling, and everyone else who was a part of the day. It really meant a lot to me and was a big milestone for me. I am looking forward to riding more centuries in the future and grow in experience and strength - as well as grow in memories and fun throughout the journey.

One thing I will say is that at the end of this day, I was DEAD. I was so tired, ha. I came home and spent the rest of the day exactly where I wanted to be... which was in the t-shirt they had given me from the ride and on the couch!

In true awkwardness though, I did waddle over to Krog Street Market which is near where I live (okay I drove there, even though it is just a couple blocks away) to pick up dinner (and a bottle of wine.) I was in the race t-shirt, flip flops, with air dried hair after having taken a shower earlier, and no makeup... and OF COURSE I run into people that I know there! Not only did I run into someone I know, but someone who had also done the century ride that morning. She'd done the same ride yet had managed to put herself together looking so cute, out with friends, socializing as if she'd done nothing strenuous the morning earlier. I was a mess and ready for bed and not in a state to socialize or be seen in public. So yeah. Gotta love it!

Hopefully this is similar to me in my journey with running. I remember vividly the day I ran 10 miles for the first stop and spent the rest of the day laying on the floor. Now I go about normal business after doing that distance. Maybe someday I'll get there with these long bike rides.

This was also a new thing for me to have a goal that was not a race. It was just something that I did because I wanted to do it to feel strong. A milestone that meant a lot to me. I'm happy I did this when I did and proud to have a century ride under my belt in 2017!

P.S. Holding that bike up is tiring after 100 miles!!!