Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cooper River Bridge Run Race Recap

Back in early April, I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina with my friend Brick and her husband G to take part in a race in a new state and a bucket list race for Brick and I - the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K. This race is the 3rd largest 10K in the world (with the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta being #1... we Googled it.) There are about 44,000 people that run every year and we have heard lots of good things about the experience.

We had made plans to run this race and signed up back in the fall, but then life happened and we put together our trip somewhat last minute. Things have a way of working out though and despite not a ton of research going into our planning, it ended up working out perfectly. The race took on a lot of different meanings and motivations throughout the months from when we signed up to when we actually went to go run. It was something I am so proud of Brick for accomplishing and a fun weekend all around so I wanted to be sure to recap it all on the blog.

We left Atlanta midday on Friday, April 6 and drove across Atlanta into South Carolina, about 6 hours in total for the drive I'd say. We planned to go right to the expo since we were arriving with about 30 minutes to spare before the end of the event. 

Arriving at the expo was pretty easy, since I think most people had made it through already. The location was only a bit busy (and more colorful!) due to a Jimmy Buffet concert taking place right next door. We walked the Expo with high expectations of free samples and vendors to explore (we are both NOT the in-and-out type of expo attendees.) However, the race expo was already shutting down and a number of the booths had already packed up or were in the process of packing up. A little bit of a let down, but it was okay. We were tired from the drive and knew we had a long day ahead of us. Plus, we hadn't had dinner yet. We snapped some pics and figured out where we needed to be in the morning and then head over to our hotel.

By some stroke of luck, our hotel was actually right in the same complex as the race expo... literally just 2 minutes down the road. What made this really lucky was that the expo spot was one of the locations for bus pickups the next morning. Since it is a point-to-point race, you need to take a shuttle to the race start, very similar to the New York City Marathon. By total coincidence, we ended up having an incredibly logistically easy morning ahead of us, which took a lot of weight off our shoulders.

After having some pizza at a delicious spot right by the hotel and expo, we head to bed just to get up in the morning and walk over to the shuttle bus pickup. Our hotel was awesome and had breakfast bags with fruit, muffins, granola bars and water for runners and the pickup was extremely organized and very smooth. There were a few ITL ladies who were also in town from Atlanta to run the race and I had made plans to meet up with them in the morning at the race start. Again, by pure coincidence, even with 44,000 people at the start, we were able to find them really easily.

Brick and G were going to be walking the race, so we all hung out together at the start and made our way to the corrals but then I moved forward with some of the girls who we all planned to run the race together. None of us had any goal paces and all were planning to run for fun and take it easy, enjoying the experience of this large race!

The run itself actually starts in Mount Pleasant, and at about 2 miles in, you start to head over the bridge. The portion on the bridge itself is about 2 miles, before you enter in to Charleston and finish right in the historic and beautiful downtown area of King Street. The race start was pretty uneventful. I had no hype up dancing and no nerves, it was not a goal race for me so I was just planning on running it like I would a regular weekend run.

The first thing that I noticed when the race started was that there weren't a lot of spectators. Given that a large portion of the race is on a bridge, there of course are not spectators along that portion, but overall I was a little surprised at the fact that there weren't more people out spectating. As we got into Charleston, there were more crowds. However, races with similar numbers of runners (NYC Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Peachtree Road Race, etc.) have people lined all along either sides of the street rows and rows deep. This was less crowded but still lots to look at with the beachy towns, music along the route, and lots of runners in costume along the course. Plus, I was running with my friends, which is not something I have done in a race environment in a long time. We stopped to take some pictures along the route and were continually checking around for one another.

I personally felt like I was having a hard time maintaining what should have been a comfortable pace. I have been having a hard time running in general since my marathon and even though this was only a 10K and it wasn't at any record setting speeds, it felt hard for me. I was happy to see the miles ticking by but at the same time tried to enjoy the experience since I knew it was a bucket list race.

As we head into Charleston and King Street I tried to take in all of the different restaurants and shops. I hadn't been to the Charleston downtown area yet so it was my first time scoping out everything around us and take in the cuteness of the area. I hadn't been to the coast in a while or a coastal town in the south, so I was enjoying seeing the palm looking trees and the cute beach-y feel of the town.

We made two left turns into the finish line and just like that the race was done! Unlike any of the races I've ever done there was no rushing to stop my watch and see what my time was. There was no gasping for air and feeling of excitement or disappointment at how I did. It was just done and I stopped running and laughed and took some pictures with my friends.

There was a great finish line and as we made our way through we got medals, water, and then were dumped into the finish line festival area. There was BBQ, watermelon, muffins, fruit, Gatorade, water, etc. and we tried to stock up on snacks and also hopped into a Panera to use the restroom and get coffee before heading back out to the race course to see our friends who had walked make their way in to the finish.

When Brick and G came through, I jumped back into the race and walked the last .25 miles with them, hopping out of the race before they went through the finish and took pictures as they crossed. I was really proud of Brick for starting and finishing this race, despite seemingly the odds being stacked against her. This race was a goal of hers and the reason I signed up and it wasn't about time for either of us but the experience. She always impresses me!

The one thing I will say about the race is that the finish line party was not well prepared for the people who finished at the end of the race. By the time that Brick came through there was no BBQ, watermelon, or good snacks left. I don't like when races only cater to the people who come in first and don't have enough supplies for everyone. Everyone paid and participated so they should plan to have watermelon for all 44,000 runners in my opinion!

We didn't stay long in the finish party not surprisingly... there wasn't a ton left to do and Brick was ready to be off her feet. With everything sort of crazy and busy in the finish area, we stopped at a cookie shop and grabbed some cookies before making our way back to the hotel to shower and figure out a plan for the day.

The weather had held out for the time that we were at the race, but unfortunately the rest of our Saturday was filled with on and off TORRENTIAL downpour thunderstorms.

We proudly wore our medals around the city and explored the food and sights of Charleston, SC for the rest of Saturday. We tried food and sweets from numerous restaurants and enjoyed some drinks as well before falling asleep early and getting up to make our way back to Atlanta. It was a fun weekend exploring and running in a new city and state and with some of my favorite people. I have no idea what my time was at the Cooper River Bridge Run and I am A-OK with that. I highly recommend it for a fun race experience!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Proud moments

Despite my last post about some of the challenges I am working to overcome as far as eating is concerned, I wanted to share a bit about some of the fun stuff from the past few weeks as I have gotten back into the swing of things with training. It's been a really busy time of year and despite lots of weekend trips, a little bit of work travel, and various work and social commitments, I have been maintaining a full schedule of training and starting to remember what it's like to balance three different sports! I really have not trained for a triathlon in about a year since the only major triathlon that was on my schedule last year was Chattanooga 70.3 in May. After that I did some more biking and swimming, and raced an Olympic distance race in June. But it was all running focused training from June 2017 until about a month ago in March/April 2018 after Berlin and Albany Marathons.

I have been proud of myself for getting back on the trainer. And in a big way! Now, I still cannot (and have not had to) force myself to do multiple hours on the bike trainer, but I have lately been spending more time working myself into a full on sweaty mess and my legs into Jello with tough workouts on the trainer. Right before I went to Chicago in mid-April (more on that later!) I did three days in a row of really tough trainer rides, plus swims, plus some strength work all mixed in. After the Wednesday-Thursday-Friday trainer combination, my legs were TOAST. But it felt, and continues to feel, really good to push through a challenging workout on the trainer. I have been dreading these workouts less and enjoying the sweat sessions. I told my coach that I can feel the muscles growing in my legs after these workouts!

I have been proud of myself for getting back to swim practice. Now, this is another little "gimme" of something I am proud of, but it has been a change in habit to return to going to swim practice not for it to be a recovery set from running, but for it to be a workout. All winter long I (and my coach) was giving myself permission not to push too hard at swim practice, leave early if I wanted, and use it primarily as a means of recovery instead of fitness. It was a change in habit to get in the pool at 6:00 a.m. and not get out until 7:30 when I started back going to the full sessions. I have really been loving it though and am proud of myself for getting back into it. The first few weeks when I first was recovering from Albany and couldn't really bike or run hard, I did a few swims of 3600-4000M, just because. I actually stayed longer at swim practice, adding to the workout, instead of dropping out early. I am looking forward to open water swims starting as well!

I have been proud of myself for recognizing that it is okay to skip some workouts. So, this might sound crazy but it has been an important thing for me. As many people might be able to tell, I can be pretty type A and nutty about not wanting to skip things. I have written about this before and it is a point of pride for me - I do not skip workouts. Since training for my first marathon where I did every single mile on the Hal Higdon plan, except for TWO that still eat away at me, until now. It's just something that doesn't sit well with me and so I just don't do it. Sometimes that can be to my detriment though when travel, injury, fatigue, and life come up. I will drive myself crazy and anxious to get in workouts, lose sleep and stress to get it all in - sometimes hurting myself in the process.

As I ramp up for Ironman, I have already come to the conclusion that I need to be better about sometimes letting something go by and go red in TrainingPeaks. I spoke with my coach about this and he agreed and encouraged me to listen to my body at times. He said he had no problem telling me this because he knows my work ethic is not one to allow myself to skip all the time. But if I am feeling exhausted and stressed, he said he'd much rather me get more sleep and feel better and skip a swim than drive myself nuts over it. In reality, my Ironman race isn't going to be made or broken by one single workout. It's a long term training of consistency and building week over week, so remembering to be good to myself and listen to my body throughout the journey will be important.

I have been proud of myself for remembering I can say no. In my first week or so since having my wake up call and refocusing meeting with the nutritionist, it's been a lot of "first's" for me in terms of resisting the food and indulgences that I had gotten into the habit of just saying yes to. Just like with staying the full set at swim practice... it's not that I didn't think I could do it... but sometimes you have to reset your habits, and those first few times can be hard.

I was in a habit of every time I went to the grocery store, going to the bulk food section first and making myself a bag of "snacks" to eat while I shopped. Chocolate and yogurt covered pretzels, nuts, cranberries and blueberries. Gummy candies, jelly beans, and sour watermelons. It became my habit and it is hard to snap yourself out of that. But once you do it once, it becomes easier the next time. I have been working to reset other habits and remind myself - I can say no to getting a drink, even though I am attending a happy hour. I can eat my own salad that I brought in for lunch, even though the office ordered pizza. I can pass on the cookies, cupcakes and donuts that are at the work conference. I can choose the egg white omelet with veggies and dry toast over the bacon and buttered biscuits while going out for breakfast. I have been proud of myself on more than one occasion lately as I "say no" and move on to a number of temptations.

I was proud of myself for how I rode at the Up the Creek bike ride. On April 28 I did my first long bike ride of the year at the Up the Creek 71 Mile Ride. It was in Rome, GA and I went out with a number of friends as I had heard great things about the route. This ride is the same day as the John Tanner sprint triathlon that I did last year. However, not having any triathlons until later in the year, I didn't feel the need to do a sprint this year and knew a long supported ride would be better for me.

I was a bit nervous going into this because the longest I had ridden this year up to that point was 36 miles. I was about doubling my distance and that made me nervous! Plus, I'd had some issues with my bike the last time I had ridden it that didn't have me feeling too confident.

Well, I ended up having an awesome day at Up the Creek. I felt like I got stronger as the day went on and I loved every minute of the ride. It was a gorgeous route, great friends, lots of laughs, and I couldn't believe how strong I felt all the way in through the finish. Now, I know these numbers aren't setting any records for speed, but I averaged 16.8 mph for the 71 miles, which is a really strong training ride for me. Even at the peak of my strength last year, I would be really happy with that, so to average that speed just getting back into my first long ride, I was thrilled and really proud.

And the day was just so fun!

I was proud of myself for how I rode at the VeloCity 100 Mile Century bike ride. The week after the Up the Creek ride, I decided to go out and add to what had already been double the furthest distance I'd ridden this year by another 30 miles and do my first century (100 mile) of the year. Last year, one of my goals for the entire year was to ride a century bike ride and after months and months of training, I built up to it and rode 100 miles at the end of July. It is so weird to me that this year in the first weekend of May, after doing much less cycling leading up to this, I just rode 100 miles for the second time ever - this time with it not being "the" goal, but just a stepping stone on the way to Ironman. Saturday was just the first of many 100+ mile rides I will get in this year. Oh and because it was a city ride, it started a little less than 2.5 miles from my house. I actually rode TO and FROM the ride, for a total of the day of around 106 miles.

The ride was different from the week before as I could feel the fatigue in my legs early on and unlike the feeling of getting stronger all day long, after about 25 miles, I felt like I was just getting slower. Miles seemed to be crawling by and I was afraid I was just going to crash and bonk. I dropped my chain 2x around mile 50 and after a long stop at mile 54, when starting back up again my legs just felt dead. However somewhere around mile 60 I came back to life and started to feel strong again. I focused on 5 miles at a time and pushed through to the next rest stop at mile 80. The last 20 miles in were really challenging with lots of terrible hills. We were going through neighborhoods where it felt like every time we had a downhill it was met with a stop sign or a red light that caused us to start the next steep incline from a dead stop or slowed pace. It was tough, but I still felt strong through to the end. I ended the day with an average speed of 16.7 mph, which I was really happy with. I had been thrilled with 16.8 mph the weekend before, so for my speed to be about the same on a route with double the elevation (+5000 ft) and 30 more miles of riding - it was a really nice surprise after not feeling so strong for parts of it.

And again, it was an all around really fun day with friends.

I have been proud of myself for staying positive. I wanted to share the things I am proud of as part of this effort to continue to stay positive. Because to be honest, not every aspect of the beginning weeks of training has felt perfect (shocking, right?!) Most notably, my running has been really struggling. I think I really burnt out my mind and my body with the running that I had done throughout the winter. Plus a little weight gain. Plus using and tiring out a bunch of muscles in my legs that I haven't used in a year. And yah, running probably will suck a little. But it's been hard because I have been getting slower and slower (after a year of focusing on just getting faster and faster), feeling terrible, and just something I have been struggling to get the motivation to do. However, I try to find positives in all my runs. Whether it be running in a fun different city like on my recent trip to San Francisco, the beautiful weather we've been having, ability to wear tank tops, being consistent in pace (whatever it may be) or running with friends. I am working to stay positive.

And not just on my runs, but on my bikes as well. I spent a lot of the century ride biking along and even during the tough portions where I felt like I was going to bonk, I tried to focus on the positives and enjoy the day. During the challenging hilly portion of the last 15 miles of the ride, I told myself all the starting and stopping was just going to make me stronger. I am working to stay true to the first part of the goal I had set for myself when I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga, which is just to have fun with the training. Staying positive is not always easy, but it is a choice. And I am proud of myself for the times that I have chosen to be positive in the past few weeks.

It is something I will continue to work on and choose every day. Hope you are having a great start to your week!

Friday, May 4, 2018

New goals - an honest post

Lately I have been really feeling the itch to write and have been missing having this space as an outlet. I am going to make an effort to spend more time here and write more. I have continued to come back to the blog after 9 years now because I have come to find that writing is good for me mentally. It helps me process things and sort through my thoughts. I have missed the routine and ritual that I have often had of sitting down with my laptop at the end of the day; digesting and analyzing the things I felt and did as they related to training, eating, and life.

As I get ready for Ironman Chattanooga, I know finding free time in the day is going to become even harder than it is now, but I am hoping to continue to carve space in my life to dedicate towards writing and reflecting and sharing my journey on this blog.

Over the past few weeks my training has begun to ramp up. I doubled the furthest mileage I had gone on a bike last weekend, ramping up to 71 miles, and tomorrow I am jumping yet again. I am riding 100 miles with some friends - my first century of the year, and second ever bike ride of that distance!

I am going to write another post soon about both some of the things that I have been struggling with right now with training and some of the things I have been most proud of. However, today I wanted to open up a little about another important aspect of healthy living overall and the topic that this entire blog was originally founded on, before the days of me ever even running a 5K, and that is food and eating.

As winter dragged on, I found myself so much looking forward to the warmer weather and outdoor bike rides with my friends. However, one aspect of that I had been beginning to dread, was pulling out my triathlon and cycling kits from last season and squeezing back into to tight shorts, lycra (or whatever this stuff is made of), and no ability to hide stomach rolls and excess body fat. Now, I had become very comfortable with this all last season, but throughout the winter my body has changed a bit and I have put on some weight. As happens with a lot of people when you pull out your spring/summer clothing, everything fits a bit snugger and tighter than when you had packed those boxes away.

And while endurance sports has taught me to love and feel comfortable in my body for how strong it is, no matter what the scale says, I have been stressed out about the weight due to the habits that have come along with it. The tighter clothing meant I could no longer deny the weight, which means I could no longer deny the habits, which, for me, could best be described as binge eating. And was something I have felt really out of control with as of late.

I was hesitant about whether or not to really open up on the blog about this, but I thought that by sharing openly, it would help to hold me accountable to the changes I want to make. And in essence, stop the process in its track, because for me, binging also comes along with hiding these habits, the shame around it when it does happen, and discarding evidence to those around me. In addition, I was reminded that - Katelyn, you actually have written about this exact topic on the blog before! This post from May 2013, I literally could have written last week. Almost every word of it. Except now I know to label my habits as falling under "disordered eating" (which is different from having an eating disorder, I should add) and not just eating in secret.

So what exactly does that mean?

For me, binge eating is eating without thinking. It is letting the lizard brain win and giving in whenever I think to myself "I want that" despite another part of my brain telling me no. It is also the shame that goes along with it when I do indulge. Almost always alone, without telling anyone, and hide the evidence before anyone can see the candy bar wrappers in my trash can, the empty box where the donuts once were on my counter, or the empty frozen yogurt container in the backseat of my car. Sometimes I might be with someone when I buy the cookie or the candy or the food - but you won't see me eat it until I am alone (because then I can still leave that doubt in your mind.) It is eating without really enjoying it, feeling satisfied, and often is hidden afterwards, or referenced in a joking way, where in fact, I feel horrible and embarrassed about it.

Now logically, over the past months as I have been feeling out of control, I have *known* the things that I needed to do. And mentally I *wanted* to be doing them. But I haven't been able to get myself to do them. And I didn't know why.

I can pinpoint when these habits started to become an issue, and that was following the holidays and the passing of my grandmother. It continued as I returned to Atlanta and even in the months leading up to my marathon in Albany. Usually when I have a really important to me training goal that I am working on, I am more focused than ever with my diet. I recognized in the moment that the behavior wasn't smart or healthy, but at the same time, I was running 50-60 miles a week and training harder than I ever had in my life. It wasn't showing up on my waistline the binging didn't seem that detrimental to me. It felt like I could get away with going out just to buy the special Groundhog Day donutS (multiple) from the place down the street after seeing them across my Instagram feed. I mean, it was Groundhog Day exclusive donuts... I couldn't pass those up, right?!

I make a joke out of it, but in reality, I ate them alone, at my apartment, not telling anyone it happened, and feeling ashamed about it later.

Healthy eating has always been a balance for me where I have never been so restrictive as to say, "You can never eat a donut!" or completely cutting out pizza, ice cream, candy, and other things that - in reality - I love! I have been incredibly successful in the past with plans like Weight Watchers that don't restrict any foods, or eating the way that I was taught by my nutritionist a couple of years ago. So don't get me wrong in that sense, I think a donut can be okay every now and then as part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Especially when exercising to extreme amounts, I think treating now and then is perfectly normal and warranted. But, when they are incorporated into a healthy way, they don't come with that shame and embarrassment and feeling of being out of control.

Lately I have felt out of control and I haven't known what to do. And in the months that have followed Albany Marathon and my training dropped way down and I wasn't burning as many calories... it became really apparent really quickly that I couldn't hide this, and other bad eating habits I have picked up over the past months.

So, last week I met with that same nutritionist. I have joked sometimes I am not sure if I need a nutritionist or a psychiatrist, but I feel lucky that I have found one who I feel I have a little bit of both. Meeting with her, we didn't talk about food. Like, at all. I did show her a log I had started with the food I have been eating, binges included. But I think that was just because I had to admit and come clean to someone what I had been doing.

Instead of talking about food - because I honestly knew the things I *should* have been doing and what works for me, we talked about what might be causing the disordered eating behaviors I had been engaging in. It had been confusing to me and hadn't made sense because I felt like I was happy. I felt like things were going well. But we uncovered and talked through some things that I hadn't necessarily realized I was working through mentally. We discussed things I could do to help manage what I was feeling, stop the binging, change other bad habits I have formed, and ultimately, get myself back to a weight where I felt strongest and most confident.

This was a week ago and it was a scary step for me to make that appointment but I am really glad I did. I set some clear goals for myself in the last week and in the next few weeks and am working away at them. I had some challenging situations to manage through off the get go, with a work trip to San Francisco, which, travel is always challenging for me.

I didn't eat perfectly over the past week by any means - I think I have had a piece of chocolate every single day - but I don't feel guilty about it. I feel in control and determined, and balanced. I feel excited to continue the streak of feeling in control with my eating and I feel a weight off of me a bit that I have opened up about some of these things to people in my life (figuratively, but hopefully literally too.)

Given the fact that I wrote a post extremely similar to this almost exactly five years ago... I'd say that this is something that is going to challenge me for a long time to come. But I feel good knowing that I am strong, I have supportive people in my corner, resources available to me, and a super strong will and determination to keep working at it.