Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Update

A fun crew hanging out at the Zap Social event
There are no words to describe the awesomeness of being in Boston last week for marathon Monday.  I ran in the Elite 5k on Saturday, but was truly blessed to be able to stay through Monday, attend some of the Zap Social Events, and meet some great people. And to be able to hang out with, and cheer on many of my friends  who were in the Marathon, was really a unique opportunity that I don't get to do often.  The Boston Marathon, being a "Major" marathon is special every year, but obviously this year was probably one of the most emotionally charged ever. I wrote a blog about the awful events that transpired at last years race,(  and continue to believe that the only way such evil could be overcome, is with  the goodness of humankind. And WOW!..., has "good" been displayed this past year in Boston and in the Running Communities throughout the country.  The weekend theme was filled with stories of  passionate, positive minded people who have persevered through a tough life changing year. There were so many people behind the scenes of the "Boston Strong" cause who might not have even been there,.. but who obviously played a huge role for such an amazing comeback event to take place.  And it filled me with absolute awe to see the faces of the actual runners race for a different purpose this year.  They showed up and kept  plugging, no matter how they felt on that day. 

With that said, in my last blog, "Purpose and Plugging"..(  I was pretty honest about my own personal running experiences of late. I said that even though a few of my races in February and  March had not gone well, that I was going to try and keep plugging through this season and cling to the good races and workouts that had already been successful. Over the years, I've come to the point that even when confidence is low and discouragement high, the desire to compete again is usually stronger than ever.  And so in this season, I've tried really hard to focus on the big picture plan that Pete has laid out and not let the "Bonker" races roam around in my mind too much.  As I mentioned in my last blog, sometimes you have to change what you can and just keep plugging.  So....naturally, my next race in April SOMEHOW came a little quicker than originally planned!!.:)
Beautiful day at Charlotte Racefest 10k!

On April 12th, I got the chance to run in the Charlotte RaceFest 10k as a supplement for a 6 mile tempo run that I was supposed to do on that day anyway.  The one condition that Pete gave me to able to run it, was that I had to do a pretty extensive workout within the race. My mind definitely got a little confused from trying to do the math and keep up with the prescribed "90 sec.x2,60x4, 30x4, 15x4 with Half rest" ,.  In fact, it kinda confuses me just writing it out right now!... but my body felt much more energetic than it had been in the last 2 races and I guess that's what matters most?:)The goal wasn't to completely crush it, with the BAA 5k the following week, but still, I was happy to win in 34:13  while not have to leave the city for once! 
Hanging out with some Charlotte friends b4 their Boston Marathon
The following weekend in Boston,  I took another mini step forward.  I ran 16:09 in a majorly competitive International field for the BAA 5k.  It was not a road  P.R., and of course I wanted a better result, but it was definitely a step in the right direction in getting my legs turning over for more shorter type races.  Unlike my last 2 spring seasons, the rest of this season is filled with Tier 1(very competitive) road races all 12k distances or shorter.  I am hoping that this type of training and racing will help in my ultimate  goals of running faster marathons and do believe that at times, it's beneficial to focus on shorter type races for all runners.  Even if your forte' or your main goals are in  the longer races, working different energy systems is so good for running mechanics and increased anaerobic capacity. Not to mention, it gives your body a shock and is a different feel from the long and steady paces that come with marathon training.  

Anyhow, next race on the schedule is the Lilac Bloomsday 12k in Spokane Washington. Just looking at the elevation chart will make your stomach turn!  But tough races or not,  my attitude in moving forward has got to be; One race at time. One workout at a time. One run  at time. One day at a time. 
"Why worry too much about tomorrow when today has enough trouble of it's own?".... Yea I got that from a pretty well known book, (Matthew 6;34)..... and I'm taking HIS advice!
Dr. Scott Greenapple supporting one of his athletes at the Charlotte race Fest,... The guy knows his stuff!!)

 The sign was a little over the top, but very expected to see with Melissa Voguel the elementary school teacher.!!:) Loved seeing her and Emily Hanson at the 5k!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Purpose and Plugging!!

I have to admit, I contemplated  making this Blog  title coincide with how some of my last few races have went. You know maybe a title like "Riding on the Struggle Bus" or "Bonking when it Counts" or even something like "Racing into Unknown Walls". haha!!... Not that funny actually.
Of course I came to my senses and I know that focusing on thoughts like that and JUST focusing on that, doesn’t  help to change anything.  Sure, not racing well, makes things complicated, especially when you are trying to make a living.  There is no candy coating bad races. But really there has been way too many positive things going on these last few months that outweigh the negative, I settled on the Title; "Purpose and Plugging!"

As I mentioned in my last blog from way too long ago in December, I started working with Coach Pete Rea again from ZAP FITNESS in Blowing, Rock, NC. And then in January,  I made the decision to be an official Zap athlete again. And Man!... its been a whirlwind ever since!  I have truly enjoyed rejoining Zap Fitness on many accounts. It's been so good to get to know and hang out with the new Zap crew which is a completely different team from when I was here back in 2006- 2007.  And then having the opportunity to train in Tallahassee, Florida, and Greenville, SC throughout the months of January to March was like being a kid in a candy store. (or a “Pezz” in a candy store actually:))The variety of parks, trails and greenways to run on was soooo refreshing and the living accommodations were phenomenal. I was only there for about half the time, commuting back and forth between races and Charlotte commitments, but it was clear that wherever I was, one thing was consistent. All my workouts were going really well and I felt good.

 By the beginning of February,  I for the most part, had felt stronger, refreshed and  physically healthier than I had in a while.  And I had a couple races throughout that time, that signaled some good fitness. The problem was just that though. A COUPLE races....As for the other 3 races,.( shuddering just to think about them), they have been beyond what you would call even descent:(
 How is it that even while training weeks and workouts remained successful, I felt like I was running in quicksand when it came to race day. And so after my last race, a 5k on the track in Raleigh, where I felt like a bear jumped on my back from the beginning of the race,  it became VERY clear that something is wrong?  Things were not translating!

I never wanted to be that runner who is constantly obsessing about things and always evaluating what is going on with my mind and body. But going through what I've gone through the last few races, and struggling like I did last summer/fall in a few races, has really forced me to evaluate just that;  MY MIND and MY BODY!!!  You know the thoughts....."Did I eat enough before that race?"....Did I eat too much?... Was I warmed up enough before that one or did I warm up too much? Or the big one for me, was I hydrated enough given my abnormally disgusting, massive sweat rate??!  And then there is the training aspect of things.  “Have we been overtraining, undertraining or not timing hard workouts right?”.. “Am I going too fast on my easy days or maybe not fast enough?”  or “maybe this isn't physical, maybe its mental.” Maybe I lost the mental edge, maybe I don't believe in my ability. Maybe I just suck. Blah.. Blah....Blah

 I think any struggling athlete does have to figure out some of the answers to these type of questions.  Believe me, I am working on the physical side of things as much as possible. However,.. I do think that if it goes too far, these obsessive thought patterns can run people right out of the sport. Actually...Out of any sport, or job, or endeavor. So what do you do? Where is the balance of thought pattern when things aren't clicking for people who really want to be the best they can be in anything?? I'm still in the process of learning. But a good place to start may be to take the bad race or outcome, and change everything you know that needs to change.  And then you fix everything you think that needs to be fixed, but yet still know, that at the end of the day, there are some things you just cannot control. And so I'm choosing to go back  to the Purpose and just keep Plugging!

Why did I start competitive running in the first place?   I think the reasons are different for many athletes. But  the main reason I started competitive running back in 2006 is because I have a  desire to see how fast I can be. I want to see how much I can get out of the body that God made.  And that's a pretty simple concept. .BUT who said that if I kept running, that I would never get hurt, struggle, fail, or run REALLY slow at times?? And  who said that the journey to see what I m capable of, wouldn't come without changes, adjustments and massive doubts?

For some reason, after every race that has “not translated” so far this season, I still REALLY can’t wait for the next race??  In fact, it’s always been that way for most of my athletic career. I always couldn't wait for the next game or the next race no matter how painful and troubling the last one was. Maybe I have failed so much, that I'm just not afraid of it anymore:)....but who knows for sure? I just think that it is good to keep plugging.  Because even though the travel is tough, the interrupted training is annoying and the pre-competition nerves are high, I love the idea that I can try again.  Or actually that I am BLESSED to try again. That ultimately, no matter  how disappointing  the last attempt was, there is a chance for something better or more satisfying in the next.
 Caution:  Now if you are seriously injured, not performing in workouts or just not feeling good the majority of the time, than there are times to be smart and pull the plug.  And there have been a few times in the past for myself where I should have and did not:(... But seeing that this is not the case, Pete and I both agreed there is no reason to call the season off just yet.  So I'm going to just keep plugging!.
In conclusion, my friend Susan Black always jokes with me about hard things that come up in life.  She’ll say “ I don’t know if you know this Pezz, but life is not always easy.”Haha  And after everything my support system and I have been through to keep me somewhat sane;), I know she is being VERY sarcastic.  But she’s right.  Life is NOT easy. I love this verse in the Bible that can be applied to  every hard situation that life brings and put into a different perspective.

In John 16:33, Jesus is saying, “In this world YOU WILL have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the World.”
I am hoping that if I go back to the purpose and keep plugging that these small troubles will be overcome.  But thankfully, even if not, it’s JUST running.  And there is so much more to life!:)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 Recap

 I’m excited to start the New Year with some changes.  I don't think there is ever one single path to staying 100% healthy and fresh as a long distance runner, but I do recommend changing things up every once in awhile for runners of any ability. So I have been very proactive in analyzing the things that I can change, with the biggest one being going back to my old Coach Pete Rea from Zap Fitness.  

Working with Pete over the last couple months has really given me a renewed sense of energy. Seeing he had already known me so well, and is the reason I started the sport of Elite running, it had always been my hope that I could have the chance to work with him again someday. Training a few days a week like I did back in 2006 on the beautiful trails and roads near Zap Fitness in Boone, NC has REALLY been refreshing. Incorporating different types of workouts into the schedule including A LOT more hill work, has already made me feel stronger and balanced. 
Also,  I have been adamant about figuring out what had recently been going on in my running gait to make my glute/hip lock up in a few races and workouts. I think taking some time off, attaining professional opinions from Charlotte’s best, and going through a 3D running gait analysis, have all been good solutions to minimize the imbalances that come from running hard with a dysfunctional ankle and old soccer injuries.  And with other changes like taking iron consistently, staying hydrated better and being religious about doing certain activation exercises, I think I can call these last couple months after the Chicago Marathon nothing more than a total rebuilding phase!! 

On an emotional and spiritual side, there’s not much more to say except that I’m Thankful.  I'm thankful that the Newton Running Elite team has been a fantastic company to be a part of and that Newton Running itself, has come so far in such a small amount of time.  I am thankful that somehow as painful as finishing my second marathon attempt in Chicago was, that I still qualified for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials with a 2:38. I know I will have the chance to attack the distance again sometime, but for now, I am thankful that I can still take some positive things out of a race that did not go ideal for me.  More importantly, I'm Thankful for my friends and Charlotte "families” who continue to support and care even though I am not blood.  I’m thankful for my family in RI who I love dearly.  And I am thankful that there always seems to be certain people who come out of nowhere to give me the encouragement and hope I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. (And I don’t just mean in running!) 
Lastly, I am thankful that I am in a better position now to do the same for other people and encourage them with my own experiences. 

And so to everyone who asks, No, I don't know exactly what my future holds as far as living conditions, running, sponsorship, career paths, relationships and MANY more things. But I do know that every day we are given 24 hours and that within each day, all you can do is your best with the tasks at hand.  I may not be doing things that many other people my age have done and I may not yet have accomplished what society sees as the "normal life".  But as one of my favorite preachers who has had a very similar background to mine always likes to say, "I may not be where I want to be, but THANK GOD, I am not where I used to be. I'm ok and I'm on my way!" Thanks for the encouragement Joyce Meyers.  I hope that all my friends can take this advice to heart as they move forward into 2014!!