Monday, February 28, 2011

It Takes a Village

We have different points in a marathon where we breakdown. It's that time in the race where you don't really know if it's mental or physical. Your body hurts. You wrestle with your head because you know it's supposed to hurt now. You fight off every urge to slow down, to keep from walking.

Then the Lord Voldemort of marathons visits your head. You look at your watch and realize, I don't have this goal today. You let him convince yourself it's ok to not give it your all. He tells you it's ok, there's another race. And at the time, he comforts you. But when you get to the finish line, you're pissed. All that training, all that work, I could have pushed harder. What if I didn't start walking at mile 17? What if I just took it slower in the beginning? What if? What if? What if?

It's hard to focus when you're that tired. You're not sure when you had electrolytes last. You're not sure when you fueled. Hell, you don't really even know what city you are in or what marathon you are running today.

My dear friend Corina has had the Cowtown Marathon monkey on her back for a few years. She told me, "Mile 17, I just lose it." It was her Cowtown Curse. I wanted to help her break that curse. I volunteered to pace her, with a goal of a sub 5 hour marathon.

Feb. 28, 2011 - Hills, Heat and Humidity

As all marathoners do, even if you are pacing, I started obsessing over the weather for 10 days before the race. This Texas weather was driving us all crazy -- 30s, 70s, 40s, 80s, we had it all over the past 10 days. I was worried. The forecast kept getting hotter. It was like my Chicago all over again. And I did not want that for Corina.

Race morning, it's already in the mid 60s and 80% humidity. And let's not forget the wind. After a late arrival due to traffic, I started to panic that I couldn't find Corina in the corral. I wore my bright green singlet and kept looking for her lemon shirt. Then I hear her scream my name. And I ran over and gave her a hug. And also found Fiona and Greg. Our corral made it's way to the start and we were off.

The course at the beginning was pretty flat. The issue was no electrolytes after the first water stop. And it was hot. We were a little ahead of our goal pace for first 6 miles to the Stockyards. And then we both needed a potty break. We lost about 3 minutes, but with the time we made up, we were ok.

I knew the dreaded mile 9 hill was coming up. It was a doozy. I realized I needed to keep talking to Corina to keep her focused on getting up this hill and not on the pain. I saw the lamp posts and said, "Look, we have 5 lamp posts. I'm going to count them off for you one, by one...5...4...3...2...1." She did amazing up the hill. She was spent, but I told her, hey, you ran up that at 10:47 pace! I saw a smile.

We said goodbye to the half marathoners and took the turn after the downtown area. I thought that the hills were over. Um, no. We kept hitting hill after hill after hill. Mile 17, I honestly thought this was the highest point of the course. Corina is tired. She attacked those hills and I could tell it was taking it's toll on her. And the heat and the humidity. She tried to walk and I told her it was mental, not physical. She agreed and pressed on. I told her two more water stops and you see your posse. Greg and Michelle are waiting. I told her that what kept me going at Fort Worth Marathon was when she told me at mile 16 that she would see me at mile 20. I kept holding on to that thought.

We made it to 20 and sitting on the curb was Greg and Michelle. I said, I think that's them. She didn't believe me at first and then they stood up. I got all excited and said, "look that is them!" Tears came to her eyes. So there we were the four of us at mile 20. Encouraging her to keep going. Michelle took off after a few miles and Greg and I stuck with Corina.

Crap more hills. Really? You have got to be kidding me. Greg called the rest of the posse and said, they are at the country club. Ok, top of the hill is Colonial. Honey, we are here. You will see the girls in less than a mile. She was tired. We came down the hill from the country club and I said, "I think that's them." I don't think she believed me at first, but then all the screams and she knew it was them -- Marci, Kris, Fiona and Mel -- hollering for Mama C!

Marci, Kris, Fiona, Mel, Greg, me all surrounding our Mama C. Like little ducklings huddled around our mama.

I stopped talking about splits or time because I didn't want her to think about it. I wanted her to just give it her all. I thought at 20, we still had a shot, but when we kept climbing those hills, I just got so worried. I wanted that sub 5 for her so badly. I kept thinking about my race in Chicago and how I didn't want to disappoint Steve, who was pacing me.

I pulled out front and ran with Marci and asked her what Corina's PR was. She didn't know exactly, but thought 5:15. Ok, we can do this. We can PR this. I pulled Kris aside and said, I need her to push hard. We are too close, we can still PR this. Kris was pushing her up the hill, Marci was smacking her ass, we were all pulling as a team.

The posse veered off before the finish chutes and I kept screaming at Corina to sprint. She ran hard. She pushed. She gave that marathon her all. She called me names.

5:14:47 - we missed her PR by 20 seconds. I showed her my watch at the end. I didn't want to. It's like telling someone their dog died. She said, "I'm ok with that." I had to rush off to get Steve to the airport, but I texted her as soon as I could to make sure she was ok. She was in great spirits. Did she want a sub 5? Hell yeah she did. Was she ok with her race? Hell yeah she was. She had a great group of friends there for her every step of the way.

Sometimes it takes a village to run a marathon. It's a hell of a lot more fun that way anyway.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My First Duathlon

On a whim, I decided to do a duathlon. My friend Chris posted on Facebook, "Who's doing TMS Duathlon this Sunday?" Duathlon? Sunday? I have no plans. I need to get on my bike anyway. I need the experience. Why the hell not? So within minutes, I signed up for the Texas Motor Speedway Duathlon on Feb. 20, 2011 -- 2 mile run, 16 mile bike, 2 mile run.

My first thought as I pulled into the parking lot was, "I bet there is a million dollars worth of bikes here." Oh, the bike porn. So sexy. You can't help but stare.

It was a blustery day! The wind was fierce. It can always be windy at the speedway, but today was really windy. I knew I would have a hard time out there on that bike.

Run 1 - 2 Miles: 15:48, average pace 7:54
Women started in the final wave. The run was 2 loops on the inner track at TMS. I started in the middle of the pack. I wanted to take the first mile a little slower. I finished in 8:06 and felt really good. So I kicked it up for a 7:35 pace for mile 2.
TMS Duathlon Run by smlundsberg at Garmin Connect - Details

T1 - :54 seconds
I wasn't too worried about T1. Grabbed my bike, and off to battle the wind.

Bike - 16 miles: 58:27, average page 16.4 mph
The wind was really rough here. There were times I was gripping my bike so tight just to stay on it. I wanted to ride faster, but that wind was so rough at the front of the speedway.
TMS Duathlon Bike by smlundsberg at Garmin Connect - Details

T2 - :58 seconds
This was the transition I was worried about. Not having been on my bike for 2 months, I knew my legs would feel like Jell-O. I couldn't run to rack my bike, I was worried I would trip and fall. Happy to report, I did not fall!

Run 2 - 2 miles, 16:44, average pace 8:22
OMG, I can't feel my legs? I feel like I'm running through water. My first mile was rough, I just couldn't seem to shake that feeling. First mile was a 8:54 pace. I started getting excited about all the people I was passing. One guy made fun of his friend for being passed by a "girl."

With about .3 mile left, way up front I see an age grouper. I can take her. So I kicked up the pace. I'm on her tail and she doesn't know it. I pass her. She picks it up and I can hear here footsteps right behind me. Oh no, not today, honey. Let's go legs. A volunteer says, "100M for this point." Full out sprint and I'm off. Running at a 6:20 pace, I crossed that finish line 4 seconds ahead of her.
TMS Duathlon Run 2 by smlundsberg at Garmin Connect - Details

And in 1:32:53, I finished my first duathlon. Placed 5th in my age group. If I bike about 1 mph faster, I would have placed. The bike is my weak point, as I just have not spent enough time on it. However, with spring nearly here, there will be more rides in my future.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

By Learning You Will Teach, By Teaching You Will Learn

I've never really been a team sport kind of gal. I swam in high school. I liked to ski. Maybe it's my only child syndrome, but I've always been attracted to individual sports. Maybe it was because I was in charge of my goals. I got to set them and if they weren't achieved, I had no one to blame but myself.

However, I've come to learn running is not an individual sport. Yeah, I put in the time and the training, and I set my own goals. But I would be ignorant to think I did this on my own. I have help. A lot of help. My friends give me advice, encouragement and are there for my downfalls and successes too.

It's now my turn to help. I have the honor to pace my friend Corina this Sunday at the Cowtown Marathon. Her goal is a sub 5 hour marathon.

A few weeks ago, Corina and I ran a 20-mile training run. It wasn't her day. With two weeks of ice-a-pa-looza, both of us had to cut back our training, against our will. Lord, I have been there. You want that training run to go well because in your mind you are thinking this is a dress rehearsal. But it's not. This is the place to rest for 30 seconds to get your heart rate down. Take a few minutes longer at a water stop. This is not a race. It's building endurance and getting time on your feet. I could tell she was fighting herself. Because I think as runners we all have to fight that urge to treat our longest training run as a dress rehearsal for what will happen on race day.

She kept thanking me for talking her through the rough patches. But I don't think she realized that by helping her, I learned more about myself.

My last two marathons, I was blessed to have someone running by my side pulling me through my rough patches. I felt guilty. This is an individual sport, I should be able to do this on my own. These guys have got to be bored and frustrated running at a pace that is slow for them.

They weren't bored. The three hours and 49 minutes that I was out there with Corina was fun. For the first time in a marathon training cycle, I didn't feel stressed, injured, tired, exhausted and scared. I was having fun.

At one point in the run, we talked about how there have been too many times where we have taken our races too seriously. Flogged ourselves for goals that weren't achieved. Felt embarrassed about our performance. But we also talked about how those goals are individual goals and self-driven punishment for not attaining them. No one cares what our times were. They care that we did it, learned from it and had fun. It was reassuring for me to have someone to talk to about all the frustrations that I have had lately about not meeting my goals.

On Sunday, we'll be running Cowtown together, not as individuals, but as a team. And I bet we will both learn a lot about ourselves while we are out there.