Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NYC Half Marathon- Running My Own Race

NYC Half -Marathon -March 18th

When David Monti from the New York Road Runners Association emailed us the "Invited Elite Athlete" list for the NYC Half Marathon on March 18th, I quickly realized that I was truly just happy to be on the list!!! Top Marathoners and Half Marathoners from Kenya, Ethiopia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Mexico and of course the USA were just SOME of the countries that would be represented in this event. For sure the highest caliber race I have ever been in.  Celebrity-like names in the runner world (Kara Goucher, Kim Smith, Caroline Rotich, Desi Davilla) would be at the top of the field as well as at least 7 other Olympians in events ranging from the 5k to Marathon! And ....the Men's side was just as strong!

Now I'm as competitive as they come, but I'm not stupid or delusional!! So being that this would be my 3rd Half Marathon and first real competitive one, I knew from the beginning that the goal for this race was simple: Run a personal record by beating my last half-marathon time of 1:13:12.
 To do this, I would have to run my own race and not get caught up with the top leaders.
I read some key Bible verses leading up to Sunday that helped me put into perspective how comparing yourselves to others, different than being inspired by others, is not always the wisest thing whether it's in sport or in life.  I try to believe that confidence is found in doing the best we can with what we have to work with. For some races, this means I can and should go for the win, but for others, it's about going for the win against myself:)

Galatians 6:4(Amplified version)
"But let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test their own conduct and their own work.  They can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable without resorting to boastful comparison with their neighbor."

I like that thought, so on race morning, my attitude was "I will run my own race!!!".....(well for this one anyway:)
 Anyhow, it was a perfect temperature to run a half-marathon and an awesome scene in Central Park!  I started out the first 3 miles a little faster than I wanted (5:23, 5:28, 5:23), but it was tempting not to go out even faster to try to stay with the top group.  I have to continually remind myself in these long distance races that 13 miles is a lot different than a 3k Steeplechase or a 5k!
In any case, the first 10k in Central Park went pretty well. One of my Penn State soccer teammates was at mile 5 cheering her brains out and it was amazing I could even spot her with all the people!!  I went through the 10k in 34:25, which was actually the same exact time I ran at the 10k National Championships in October.  Only in that race, it wasn't as hilly and I didn't have 7 more miles to run!!! I had some positive thoughts for awhile like "wow I am fitter now than back then" and "I really like these Newton Shoes"!!!!  But positive thoughts can quickly turn sour when the fatigue really starts to set in.  Miles 7, 8 and 9 on 7th avenue were harder than I thought they would be.  Even though there were no more major hills to deal with, the strong head-wind was present. Wind was something I did not have to deal with much in my last few races, and as hard as I tried to pump and fight, my miles slowed a bit. The funny part was that Julie Culley and I would battle and switch leads about a hundred times during this stretch f the race. I would pass her, she would pass me and sometimes we just ran together, but it was a tough battle!

A glimmer of hope came up again at the 15k mark. In the past couple 15k's I have done, I was in the 52 through 53 minute range, so when I saw 51:52 At the 15k mark in this race, I  thought, "Yes! another P.R. I wish I could stop right now and bask in my glory!"   Seeing that time was good on one hand, but on the other hand, reminded me that I still had 4 more miles to go and that I would have to speed up if I wanted to break 1:13.  And then... my right glute started to tug a bit and my whole body started to tighten. By mile 10, doing math in my head went out the window and I  just wanted to finish the race.
In fact, both Miles 10 and 11 were really hard.  I  tried to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, but my stride and pace were slowed dramatically. I think anyways? My garmin had stopped getting splits at mile 8 because the database was full....oooops!(one of many things I probably didn't prepare enough for)!
 I didn't know for sure how fast I was running at this point and the negative thoughts can really start to dominate at the end of any race. Things like "You shouldn't be here"....."you're not really an elite runner" or "you will not finish where you want" will pop into my head briefly, but I have learned to block those thoughts out and just keep going.  I pray for strength and for God's will, and sometimes I wonder "why didn't I just stick to soccer?":)  BUT MOSTLY I try to surrender the thoughts and remind myself how blessed I am to run and engage in any physical activity at all!! 

And what do you know?  I did feel better the last 2 miles.  I pushed off my toes as much as possible, thanks to the Light Weight Performance Trainer Newton's,  and was able to close my last 2 miles faster than the previous 2:) Thankfully the last 2 mile surge lead me to finish 5th American and 20th overall, which was a little better than I was expecting. It also balanced out my time to be 1:13:14, less than 2 seconds off my Naples time of 1:13:12.  So not a personal record but a much better effort seeing that that time was in a completely flat race. 

All in all, the whole experience was truly great.  I come away knowing I can, and will run faster in the Half- Marathon event; and that is encouraging!
Also, staying in the city, the fancy hotel, the great food, the organization of the race itself and the Elite Dinner were all top notch experiences that the New York Road Runner staff go out of their way to make happen.  At the end of it all, coach asked if I would I do it again?....Hell yea I would!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pressing On !!! On board with Newton and TEAM ALCHEMY!!!

Words cannot explain  how long and how much I've wanted to represent Newton Running!!  There have been soo many reasons, and good ones at that, of why it has been such a tough situation for a small, yet growing company to sponsor Elite Runners.  But since the moment I tried them on, I knew that the shoes and the premise behind them, (natural midfoot/forefoot running) would continue to catch on in the world of road and trail racing!  For the last 3 years I thought if only I could  be patient yet persistent, ...very persistent, something would pop up? And thankfully it did!!!
I am so honored to now be a part of Team Alchemy, an elite Colorado-based running group supported by Newton Running. Its is made up of an unbelievable mix of runners of all ages and specialties who race at an elite level. To be part of their group as a satellite athlete in Charlotte, is such a great boost for my career and is a huge answer to prayer, as I transition into being primarily a Road Racer in 2012.
Most people who know me, know that running and competition may be a big part of my life, but that it is not my WHOLE life. I think this aspect of an individual  goes hand in hand with the mission of Team Alchemy.  Sure,... I desire to do well and be the best athlete that God created me to be, but there are many other aspects of my life that I want to continue to pursue. I like how it says in the mission of  Team Alchemy that "the true test of an athlete is their dedication not only to their sport, but also to their profession, family and community."  Recently I have had the opportunity to devote more of my life to training and resting. I am enjoying it and seeing good results, ....but I know it's only for a season.  The most IMPORTANT things for me even during this crazy stage in my life, are my relationships to God and people.

With all that said, I do have a lot coming up in the next few months regarding running, and I want to be prepared!!:)
Some of my main focuses are the NYC Half -Marathon on March 18thand also the Olympic Trials on the track in June. Today I ran in the USATF South Carolina Reedy River 10k Championship and it was a chance to learn a couple of "painful lessons" as my new teammate Kara Henry put it in her last blog:)
 Unfortunately, I learned in my run from the day before and in my warm-up for today's race, that I did not quite taper enough for this one. My legs felt like they were filled with a mixture of sticky glue and cement.  It was a good thing I wore the MV2 Racers, or I might not have been able to lift them at all!:)
We didn't think I was going to feel totally fantastic, as I've been  putting in a lot of miles to get ready for the NYC half-marathon. However, you never know how you will feel on any given day in this sport, which is why I think racing is such a cool endeavor!  You can constantly learn and experiment with things even as an elite or experienced runner.
It was a muggy but overall nice day in Greenville, SC and Sara Porter and I ran at a pretty solid 5:25 pace for the first 3 miles or so. We both slowed a bit going up the hillier miles and she pushed through after about 5 to take the lead and keep it. The fatigue in my legs and steep hills put a dent in my usual more chipper form, so I had to settle for second, or bust!  Not a good feeling!  Thankfully, Sarah  is a very accomplished and talented runner, who happens to run for a very accomplished and talented group in Zap Elite:).... so I didn't  feel sooo bad about not winning, and  was at least happy to win some money and use the race as a great workout for what lies ahead.
This verse in Phillipians always helps me to regain perspective after a tough race.
"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what's ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus!!"
phil. 3:14
I love this verse, because even when things don't always go exactly how we want while in pursuit of our goals, I believe that the main prize is to trust in God's will and His plan. Yes, ...I try to be proactive and do everything I can in the natural to accomplish my goals, but I believe that His perfect plan can be better than anything I desire on my own anyway!  That may not make sense to everyone, and is obviously not something everyone believes in. But I guess to keep things from getting too deep, all I am trying to say is as an athlete    you learn from your competitions, you move on, and you use every experience to get ready for the next!  Thank goodness I don't have  a 50 miler coming up like some of the members of Team Alchemy!

p.s.- official results and pictures coming!