Monday, February 14, 2011

Race Report: Mercedes Half Marathon

The Mercedes 1/2 Marathon was my very first half one year ago and there was no question in my mind that I would be running it again this year. After my marathon, just 2 months ago (!) while enjoying recovery and no pressure runs, I decided to set a goal to go after a 1/2 Marathon PR at this event. I missed a PR by just SECONDS at the Disney Wine and Dine back in October in the midst of marathon training and I KNOW I am a stronger runner than I was at this time last year but with a 7 week training plan, coming off recovery, I wasn't sure what was realistically within my grasp. I nailed my assigned speed sessions, conquered my local hills and even managed to work a weekly yoga back into my schedule but life got in the way towards the end of the cycle and my longest run since the marathon had only been 11 miles (I had planned to get in at least 1 15-miler) so I really had no idea what my day would hold though I knew I would give it my best shot.
Finishing 10x400 at the gym, tough and sweaty post-work speed session

So without further adieu:

"A" Goal (STRETCH goal): sub 2:20
"B" Goal: sub 2:30
"C" Goal: PR (anything sub 2:38:09, for the record)

Since the expo was close to my office, I picked up my packet Friday afternoon. Pick up was easy, perused the booths and picked up a couple of freebies. I was actually intending to run this evening since the race was on Sunday but I ended up getting stuck at work until 7:30 so I deferred until Saturday.

Saturday, I got a text from my best friend from grad school, Lee Ann, who I knew was planning on running the race (she lives in Nashville now). She was in town and invited me to to join her and her co-worker, Jenny, and Jenny's husband, Greg (they were also running) to "carb up" at dinner...of course I said yes! My neck was actually really stiff which had me worried but I trekked over to the gym and ran a couple of miles in the morning, hopped on the bike for 15 minutes or so and called it a day. I was feeling really great and spent the better part of the afternoon relaxing...manicure, getting my eyebrows threaded, etc etc. We met up at a local Italian place for dinner at 6:30 and had THE best time. I had not seen Lee Ann in years and Jenny and Greg were hilarious and such great people. Carbed and hydrated, I headed home to add a few new tunes to my playlist and had no problem falling asleep.

The 4 of us decided to meet near the start between 6:15 and 6:30. Jenny and Greg were going to run together and I was going to run with Lee Ann...we were planning to stay together as long as the wheels did not fall off for either of us. This was Lee Ann's 1st half and I was so excited to be part of her experience.

Me, Lee Ann, Greg and Jenny before the start

It was a BEAUTIFUL morning for running, just above freezing with little wind and not a cloud in the sky. The sun can be both a blessing and a curse and I was a little nervous about the sleeveless base layer I had on (would I get too hot?), but it turned out to be OK. Before we knew it, the gun was fired and we were off. They reported that there were around 7,000 runners in the full and half combined this morning and while there were pace "corrals", there was no wave start so it only took a couple of minutes before we crossed the starting mat.

Lee Ann does not run with a Garmin, so I told her I would watch our pace to keep us honest. The first few miles clicked by effortlessly. My former "big boss" tapped me on the shoulder around mile 3 and then he and another of our colleagues were off ahead of us. Lee Ann and I chatted most of the time, pulling and pushing each other along. "Monster hills" I remembered from last year didn't seem nearly as daunting this time around and I could not believe how quickly the morning was going. There were a couple of EXTREMELY interesting sights on the course and we had fun pointing these out and eventually picking off the selected individuals. Having had absolutely HORRID race photos from last year that shall never be shared I made sure to point out the photogs for Lee Ann and we tried to pose for all that we saw. I told her if nothing else, I would save her from bad race photos :)

Jenny and Greg remained a few steps ahead and there were times we would catch up and run with them, and play mini-leapfrog. I usually walk through the water stops to catch my breath and use the time to lower my heart rate, but Lee Ann was running through them and so I was right next to her every step. There were a couple of times (non-water stop) where I felt TIRED and wanted to walk so badly but the wheels were not falling off so I zoned in on the task at hand or even started a conversation to distract myself. We hit the 10 mile mark at just over 1:51:xx and I knew that truly unless something horrible happened, I was going to make my "C" goal at the very least. We were kicking ass and I was having a blast.

Just before the finisher's chute, I hugged Lee Ann...we were going to DO this. We sprinted around the curve, just behind Greg and Jenny. "Hands up" I called out just as we were crossing the mat. Running. Every single step of the way.

Needless to say, I smashed my PR: 2:26:30 (official time) for an 11:11 avg pace. I am THRILLED. My "A" goal was a HUGE stretch so I am not disappointed with the "B" goal at all. Hello? I knocked nearly 12 minutes off my PR. So.very.happy.

I didn't run with my phone and Lee Ann's phone clouded over b/c of sweat, so we'll have to wait for Brightroom to come through with the good stuff. For now:

Home with my Bling :)

Take home: Gender-specific tech shirt, running hat and medal

Close up of the "hood ornament"...LOVE this medal

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

All is NOT quiet on the Southern Front

Warning: This has not been the greatest of weeks. I started drafting this a couple of days ago at the lowest of low and hesitated to share but this is real, so why should I censor?

I don't know how to even begin this post. I am having a horrible time stringing two thoughts together and earlier this week in a lunch meeting I was asked to give an elevator speech for THE project that has consumed my efforts at work for the last year....I could give this elevator speech IN MY SLEEP IN MULTIPLE FOREIGN LANGUAGES (okay, not really but you get the point)...and I had ZERO words. Could not string a sentence together. Had to stop and even say that I had to gather my thoughts!! (Embarrassing and certainly NOT my caliber of least this was just to a group of students) But seriously. Distracted is not even the word for it. It's distracted coupled with exhaustion and then add in a twist of "funk" and that is me.

My uncle passed away on Saturday at the age of 48 after a very fast decline in his battle with colon cancer. He had been at home and was actively receiving treatment when he took a turn for the worse and ended up in the hospital last Tuesday. The doctors essentially came in and told my aunt "I'm sorry" and suggested that she make sure their affairs were in order. He went into a coma shortly afterwards and went in and out of consciousness until he died peacefully Saturday morning. I have mentioned before I am so very close to my aunt and cousin (quasi-nephew) and was close to my uncle. Our "nuclear" family was on pins and needles all last week and I would jump every time the phone rang though I did not travel "home" until Saturday at the advice of family members. (Probably good advice in hindsight and Matt and I said our final goodbyes via my mom which I am totally fine with) Really nice family time this weekend as we celebrated the life of my uncle (late nights though) with a graveside service on Monday morning followed by a luncheon and then receiving guests at my aunt's house. Drove back to Birmingham late Monday night and was at work at 6:30am Tuesday in prep for a 7:00 meeting. Le sigh. It's also bad when your boss tells you he is worried and thinks I am came back from the funeral/my family too soon. But what's a girl to do? My responsibilities/deadlines don't go on break just b/c I do not to mention that we don't get bereavement for aunts/uncles so I am also zapping through vacation/holiday time in the meanwhile.

Looking at what I wrote I can see why I am tired and foggy but I think my funk goes deeper than that, although I can't pinpoint exactly what is up. I'll get in these funks once or twice a year and sometimes I just need to sleep/wallow in my own depression and I will magically come out of it. However, this time I have been trying to force myself into social interaction since Matt was in the land of fruzen tundra this week (Minnesota) and it would be way too easy to otherwise sit on the couch and eat chocolate chip cookies and pass out. (He was also unable to be at the funeral and all of the activites over the weekend b/c of his travel schedule) So... I was hoping on Wednesday that a combination of yoga along with having a friend over that night would help. (She and I are co-hosting a "couple's Bunco" at my house later this month and we thought we would be "crafty" and create cute invites even though our Bunco group was involved with setting the date and we already have RSVPs)

Well, yoga was simply awesome. It's usually a modified "flow" class but our instructor detected a "low energy room" that night and we did an awesome restorative class with lots of opening of hips and back and very very deep stretching. Not so great for working up a sweat, but truthfully so very needed. Amanda came over, we went to Target for what ended up more than just invites (ALWAYS happens that way) and picked up a simple dinner of rotisserie chicken and some vegetables to eat at my house. All of the food was safely (or so I thought) on the counter and we left the room for a few minutes. I came back in and realized the ENTIRE CHICKEN (minus what we ate) was GONE. Every last scrap including ALL OF THE BONES and when I finally located the container, noticed holes in the bottom of that as well. Bali's poor stomach was distended and Roxy was growling at her as if to tattle.

Hysterical was not even the word for it. I frantically phoned Matt (who didn't answer) and then the emergency vet. We were instructed to stay at home and I was to watch the two of them like a hawk for any behavior changes throughout the night. I was up every hour on the hour checking for breathing and generally watching over both dogs. The emergency vet had recommended I take them in for observation at my regular vet but I had an early meeting (same time as my vet opens) so I crated them, drove downtown and then promptly back home to the 'burbs and then to the vet's office.

My vet was much more reassuring and examined both dogs (I was 99% sure it was Bali but would rather be on the safe side) The physical exams went well but she decided to do an x-ray on Bali to get the status of things. Let's just say when the x-rays came back the vet assured me that "mother's instinct" was correct. All sorts of chicken bones in Bali's stomach, most of the pieces small enough that they will be easily absorbed but some larger ones that may or may not be a problem. For now, Bali is on a high fiber diet (pumpkin with her regular food) and I am on puke and poop watch through Sunday. Good thing I am not squeamish!! We have a fenced in back yard so we usually just let them outside to do their business "in private" but now I have to follow her and examine it and also watch out for "phantom poop" (if that happens she will have to get re-x-rayed and likely have an times!)

The whole situation is so NOT funny but now that I think she is likely to be OK, I can't help but laugh. (especially at myself). And here's an image for you: last night, Bali decided she needed to poop at 11:30 pm so I followed her into the rain/ice with a flashlight. She kept getting freaked out by me shining the light on her butt and was moving around in circles. I went to chase after her and ended up with my foot in an "invisible" chipmunk hole, stubbing my (bruised) toe(nail) and getting completely covered in mud. At least I was scraping mud out from under the toenail (I went outside wearing flip flops) and not poop! (And at least I didn't seriously hurt myself!) But seriously my right toe has been throbbing all day today. I'm destined to lose this's just a matter of time.

Roxy and Bali a few years ago, Bali was still a puppy but she's not much bigger than that now. So you can see what size "glutton" we have! (Also, this was not "posed"; they would just lay on their little bed like that)

To say that training hasn't gone as planned this week would be an undertstatement. On a positive note would you believe that I actually ran both Saturday and Sunday for a total of 10 miles? I had 14 total on the schedule but still not too shabby considering it would have been VERY easy to log ZERO miles. However, since then, other than a 75 minute yoga class I haven't done jack. I was going to run last night but the ice had made the roads a wreck after work and our rec center was closed b/c of the bad weather/driving conditions. Plan B was 30 day shred but I ended up passing out on my couch around 8:00 only to wake up again at about 11:00. I'm thinking the Shred is on order for tonight; I've also moved my running date with Amy from Sunday to tomorrow so that I can A. further social interaction B. Sleep a little later (we always meet around 9) and I've moved my long run of 12 miles to Sunday. I feel so woefully underprepared for the half marathon NEXT WEEKEND. I've done really well with keeping my runs during the week on track between 4-5 miles and even worked my way through the "400s" series and completed 10x400 last week. However, it's been a mental struggle with the long runs. I think I need to find some longer distance running partners and join up with the Birmingham Track Club. It was on my list of "things to do" in 2011 and I think that time is here.