BMO Phoenix Half Marathon Race Report

It’s been a crazy few months as I noted in my previous post. I’ve been coping with all the change by focusing my energy on training for another half marathon PR. My trusty running buddy Allison and I picked out a flat race that was likely to have pretty decent race weather, and begged our running mentor Steve to help us come up with a PR-worthy training plan. The training was challenging and confidence-building, as I was able to complete workouts that were harder and faster than I thought I could handle. I’m pretty sure I was adaptively funneling all of my anxiety about my job and my (lack of) money situation into running, and that turned out to be a great place to work through some of what came up around not having my life neatly following a plan that I set for it.

Fast forward to the day before the race. The forecast for race morning? 100 percent chance of rain, 15 mph winds with 25 mph gusts. This created a flurry of panic for the Sole Sisters and Oiselle team women running the race. Ponchos were purchased (thanks Jenn!), and I obsessively checked the weather up until I finally went to bed at 10 p.m. When the alarm went off at 3:30 am, I could hear the wind howling, but made myself shrug it off. The weather changes quickly in the southwest and besides, there were still three more hours till the race started!

I went into the race feeling confident in my training but nervous about the idea of actually executing a race plan that had me running a pace that I had as recently as September considered my 5k pace…only for 13.1 miles. When it started pouring a few minutes before 6:30 a.m., I relaxed, recognizing this as cue to let go of the things I couldn’t control (the weather), and take charge of what I could (my mental state). I enjoyed running the first few miles in the rain and only looked at my watch to make sure I wasn’t running too fast. By mile 6, I had settled into a groove and was doing a good job of maintaining a positive state of mind and not focusing too much on things that I couldn’t change, like the headwind and the somewhat slick footing due to the rain. It was around mile 7 that I was aware that I was working decently hard to keep my pace. Instead of freaking out like I often do and going into a spiral of “Oh my gosh! How am I going to run SIX MORE MILES at this pace if I’m already tired??” I just monitored my pace and reminded myself that I had been training consistently and had the mental and physical strength to run the race at this pace. At mile 10, I started working on increasing my pace. This was a great learning experience, because by mile 10, I was really fighting the urge to slow down drastically and/or walk. I felt tired, it was starting to feel like work to keep to an 8:38 pace, and 3 miles seemed like a long way to go feeling this way. I didn’t dwell on this feeling, and instead slowly picked up the pace. What was interesting was that running a little bit faster actually didn’t feel much more difficult than trying to keep the same pace. Finally, the Oiselle mantra, “go fast, take chances,” clicked. I knew that my best friend Melissa was going to try and meet me at mile 12.5 to run a half mile with me at the end, and I kept telling myself to keep up a good pace until I saw her. Once she joined me, I picked up the pace even more, partially to impress her with what a badass her best friend was, and partially because finally I knew that I was almost done and I was going to finish strong. I’ll admit, I almost tripped her when she picked up the pace even a little bit more and told me, “You got this.” I didn’t have a finishing kick in me, but I kept up the pace and finished feeling great.

The result? 1:51:57. Faster than my B goal of 1:55, faster than my A goal of 1:53 based on what the McMillan calculator predicted from my recent 10k race, and faster than I had actually believed I would ever race a half marathon. I was pretty pleased when I looked at my Garmin file for the race and saw that my last mile was sub 8-minute-mile pace.

Pretty sweet bling.

Pretty sweet bling.

The icing on the cake was that my running buddy also hit her crazy-fast goal of a 1:35, our birthday girl Sole Sister Kellie came within 3 seconds of her half marathon PR (after racing two back to back half marathons the previous weekend, no big deal), and Sole Sisters Jenn, Gwen, and Natasha all had PRs as well. The rain and wind were no match for our determination! I have a newfound appreciation for the mental aspects of running after this race- I went into it confident that with the right conditions, I could hit my goal. I knew I had trained hard and nailed key workouts, so when my race pace felt difficult, instead of doubting myself, I just focused on letting my body run the race I had trained for.

Post-race, it was great to celebrate with an Oiselle team dinner with 4 other Volee members plus family and friends. It was great to reconnect with some of the Phoenix area birds I had met before, and to meet other members of the flock for the first time. Here’s our demon-eyed crew (photo courtesy of Nicole) post-dinner.

Allison, Dana, yours truly, Ashley, and Nicole

Allison, Dana, yours truly, Ashley, and Nicole

As for what’s next…who knows. After two fairly intense training cycles for CIM and Phoenix and two big PRs, I’m planning to relax and run for fun for a few weeks. I did sign up for the North Fork 50 miler in Colorado for the end of June during a moment of temporary insanity on a whim, so we’ll see what happens with that!

Hiatus

It’s been a while since I last updated this blog, not for lack of events in my life. Suffice it to say, the latter half of 2013 was not without its professional and personal challenges, including getting laid off from my job for the first (and I hope last) time in my life. This setback made me realize how much of my sanity and security comes from having a plan and the illusion of control over said plan. I suppose the silver lining is I’m learning how to roll with the punches (or hugs- sometimes life throws you hugs mixed in with the punches), like it or not. In the midst of this darkness, running was the bright spot that kept me somewhat together. Focusing on training was a way to funnel all the frustration about the things I couldn’t control into an area where I could at least have some semblance of control. And dealing with a significant amount of stress and emotional distress made it seem less terrifying to embrace the discomfort of a difficult workout or a faster pace. So, even as one area of my life seemed to fall to pieces, my running finally came together in a way that it hasn’t ever before.

A quick rundown of some running highlights that I wish I’d blogged about:

Joining the Albuquerque Sole Sisters, an absolutely beautiful and inspiring community of women runners who have consistently pushed me to run further, faster, and enjoy doing it. I hope to do a separate post about this soon. The Sole Sisters embody the spirit of Oiselle, and it’s been nice to have a supportive and encouraging community of women runners in my everyday running life.

Image

A small sampling of our fast fierce Sole Sisters

Finally hitting my sub-2 hour half goal at the Buffalo Thunder Half Marathon in September with a healthy margin.

Image

My trusty speedy running buddy Allison & I both PR’d at Buffalo Thunder.

Running the Ragnar Trail Relay in Arizona with fellow Oiselle teammates Paulette and Sophia as well as repeat-relay buddies Trisha and Susan and some of their friends. I would love to do another Ragnar Trail Relay. It was a spectacular adventure!

Image

Rockstar Ragnar Trail AZ team after we finished! Such a blast. I can’t wait to do another trail relay!

Running a crazy 5k PR at a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. I can’t count the time as official (it was a 23something) since the course was short, but the pace was what shocked me. I don’t think I ever imagined that I would be able to race even a 5k at under an 8 minute mile pace.

Image

5K PR: 24:32!

A huge marathon PR at CIM after losing my job 2 weeks before. This race was like a 4 hour therapy session. I ran the last 3 miles of the race at a pace that I had not so recently considered my 5k race pace, and learned that the mental toughness that I have built in other areas of my life does indeed translate to running. I ran this race looking to find myself, and I emerged with the realization that I am strong, resilient, and capable of not just surviving but thriving in the face of adversity.

Image

4:08:55 at CIM. Smashed my goal of 4:15 or under!

My first 10k race, the same race where I had completed my first 5k a year earlier. I ran well and faster than I thought I could.

Image

My first ever 10k: 51:05! I was shooting for 55 or under!

I still haven’t regained my footing career-wise, but I am so thankful to have running as a place to work through life’s challenges. And so grateful to have a loving partner who tolerates the 4:15 am alarms, knowing that I’ll be better equipped to handle whatever the day throws at me with my running therapy under my belt.