The Un-Race Report

I’m nervous before every single race. It doesn’t matter if I’m trying to PR or if I’m just running for fun with my family. I’m nervous every single time.

I’ve tried a lot of different things. Mantras. Meditation. Warming-up a lot. Warming-up a little. Nothing works. I’m crazy nervous waiting for that gun to go off.

I put a lot of pressure on myself for Chisholm Trail Half Marathon. I knew the weather would give me a good chance to PR. Of course, PRing in a half marathon for me means breaking 2 hours. And I knew I hadn’t trained right to break 2 hours. I had gotten the distance in. I was ready to run 13.1 miles…no problem. But I had skipped too many speed days. I had missed too much strength work. I wasn’t ready to run 13.1 miles FAST.

But I’m stubborn, so I gave it a try. I told Mr. Neon that I wasn’t going to worry about where he was. I wasn’t going to worry about the 2-hour pace group. I wasn’t going to wear a pacing band. I knew the pace I needed to run.

The gun went off, I pushed the nerves away, and I moved forward. I ticked the first mile off at a 9:09. Perfect. I kept my head down and just got to work. The sun was beating into our faces, and we could barely see ahead anyway. Mile two was a 9:09. Ok…maybe I can do this. Mile 3 has the biggest hill of the course. I didn’t let that get to me. I gave myself license to slow down a tad. 9:30. Not the end of the world, but not where it should be. I still had 10 miles to make up time.

Mile 4 was a 9:07. Back on track. I tried to pick up the pace, but my body revolted. And not in the normal ways…my stomach felt fine, my legs still had pep, my mind was still sharp. I just didn’t want to try and run nine more fast miles and come up short. I knew a sub-2 just wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t trust the training because I hadn’t done it.

I decided to just run and enjoy the course. I took a deep breath and turned my watch to clock mode. I didn’t know that I ran a 9:13, 9:16, 9:26, 9:50, and a 9:45. I do know that at mile 7 there’s a Krispy Kreme. And the hot sign was on. I laughed and imagined Mr. Neon stopping for a free donut. I wondered how far behind me he was. He had to pull out of half marathon training at the beginning of February with an Achilles injury. He was hoping to run with the 2:15 pace group and get a good long run done in the midst of gravel bike training for a 50 mile race series.

Imagine my surprise at mile 9 when a shadow pops out on my right side and says, “See! I told you we’d run right past my school.” I could have cried. There he was. My handsome bearded man. I pulled up to a walk for the first time all race. Mr. Neon just grinned at me and said, “I’ve been watching your butt for the last 9 miles.”

We ran walked the remaining 4 miles. My left IT band started giving me trouble, so I’d run a few minutes and walk a few minutes. We finished with a 10:16, 9:48, 10:13, 9:51.

At mile 12, I got choked up. I had those existential thoughts I always have at the end of races. Mom isn’t at the finish line. She’ll never be at the finish line again. Am I supposed to ever break 2 hours without her there? And then the completely random thought of “maybe I should run a marathon again?” It’s nice to slow down. Could I slow down for another 13.1 miles on top of this one? Mr. Neon knew what my brain was doing, so when we turned the last corner towards the finish line he hollered at me to stay on his hip. We finished the last half mile with a sub-9 min pace. I’m not sure what he was trying to get me to, but he got me to a 2:05:59. A time I was good with.

Exactly 5 minutes slower than my PR and exactly 6 minutes slower than I wanted to be.

Now I’m sitting here contemplating doing something crazy. Should I try again SOON? Based on my data, I’m peaking. I’ve run once since Sunday and those 3 easy miles didn’t feel ridiculous like they often do after a big race. My legs feel good. I’m ready to throw down some speed workouts. I had my IT band released right after the race, and it doesn’t hurt at all.

Stay tuned and…

Go for it…

Tomorrow is race day. Nerves are at an all time high. I feel the least ready as I’ve ever been for a fast half marathon. This will be attempt #3 at a sub-2 half. I’ve gotten all but one of my long runs done, but I’ve missed a lot of speed days. At this point, I think I’ll go out and give it a shot. If I bonk, I bonk, but at least I tried again.

I’m trying so hard to relax. Maybe if I just enjoy the experience and not worry about the pace, not worry about the distance, just enjoy being outside running through the streets. I’ve spent so much of my training on the treadmill that it will be a dream to run outside in ideal temperatures. Thank you, weather gods. You smiled on us.

I need to get some other posts up. I’ve got a new team to announce. And of course, there’s always the what’s next for racing for the Neon Runner household. The grad school graduation countdown has begun, and I anticipate all that spare time being devoted to all things NRG. And reading books that don’t talk about metadata and library theory.

Good luck to all runners of the inaugural Chisholm Trail Marathon. It’s gonna be a good time!

FEAR

I think FEAR has been keeping me from posting.

I was really making awesome progress with my running. The Hanson training plan was working. I was running more miles than I ever had before. I had my biggest month ever with 138 miles.

And then we discovered that our treadmill was broken. Specifically the deck was broken…cracked, but not all the way through. So what did I do? I kept running on it. My calves ached. My shins started getting nagging little pains in them. And then my left foot started hurting. It felt like I had rolled my ankle, except I don’t remember doing it.

Except I did. When you run on a broken treadmill deck for almost a month, you essentially roll your ankle slowly over time.

I took two weeks off. I was afraid to post that I was injured yet again. I did yoga. I stretched all the things. I did every PT exercise I could find. I retired both pairs of active running shoes and got new ones.

And the pains subsided. Running became good again. Easy again. And yet the FEAR morphed into something else.

Did I miss too much training? Can I still break 2? We are about four weeks out from race day. I had my first tempo run in almost a month this morning that felt good, but the paces weren’t quite where they need to be.

FEAR. I want to break 2 so badly. I’ve ever said out loud that I might take a break from half marathons if and when I break 2. Fear of letting myself down. Fear that I’m doing the wrong thing, making my body do something it’s not ready for.

Passion Reignited

The benefit of being a data junkie who has only ever worn a Garmin for running? Stuff like this…

Notice anything special about 2019?

Data like this tells a story. These are the six full years that I’ve been a runner…the first two weeks of each year. (2013 data starts in July.) I can see what happened with my paces and where I made mistakes in training.

2018 started with the flu. 2017 was a comeback from injury and a triathlon year. 2016 started with an injury. 2015 saw me as an overzealous beginner. 2014 was my first full year running.

2019 started with a gamble. I already had my training plan written, short easy runs with some tempo speed mixed in with lots of bike XT and one swim per week scheduled. But I was sucked into the FREE training plans offered by First Gear for the Chisholm Trail half and full marathons. I stopped by to grab a copy of the plans. It was explained that this was Hanson’s training plan. Initially I rolled my eyes.

I knew the Hanson plans. Back in March 2016, I ordered their half marathon book. I bought a lot of running books in 2016 when I was sidelined with bad hip bursitis. I wanted to fix whatever I was doing wrong. I skimmed through the Hanson book when it arrived. I saw the mileage expected for half marathon training and immediately shelved it and didn’t even bother reading it. No way could I put down that kind of mileage and not end up injured or burnt out within a matter of days.

But speaking with Raquel at First Gear, my eyes were opened. Most new runners, specifically those who pick up the sport as adults, run their easy miles way too fast. And I think it’s for various reasons: slower running takes too much time, running fast is fun, the way to get faster is to run fast. Or new runners skip the easy runs all together, assuming the speedwork and the long runs will get them to their goal.

The seed was planted. Could I really run 30-40 miles each week? If my pace was slow enough, I just might be able to.

And after two weeks, I think I can! My legs are catching up. My shin splints from 2018 are gone. I have more energy than ever before. I feel like myself again. And more than that, I have fallen 100% head over heels in love with running.

Passion reignited!

Motivation?

I’m good at waking up. I’m bad at waking up and getting moving. I woke up at 4:55 a.m. when the dog alarm went off. My real alarm wasn’t set to go off for 5 more minutes. Sigh…our dogs are lucky they are cute.

All dogs like broccoli and brussel sprouts more than treats, right?

I went back to bed after letting them out and breakfasting them, but I just laid there and checked my email. I should have gotten up and hopped on the trainer. But I hadn’t set it up the night before. It takes less than 5 minutes to set up, but I was so lazy and warm in my blankets.

I think I need to start setting the coffee pot in the morning. I was hungry this morning and opted for breakfast and iPhone staring instead of training. I think if I drink a little coffee and eat half a Picky Bar, I might be more motivated to work out.

I set her up at lunch so I have to get on her when I get home. I’m planning on making BBQ chicken in the instant pot for dinner which should let me get in the 45 minute bike I have on the schedule for the day. Remember…I said I would XT. I can’t let MYSELF down!

Stay neon!

Time to break out the Body Glide

Training plan started today. I was supposed to do my first official easy 3, but my body had other ideas. Being a girl is stupid, by the way.

So what am I training for? What happened to my fall half marathon? The answer…no fall half marathon. As hard as it was to admit, my shin splints completely sidelined the second half of my year. I had to abandon a fall half marathon and completing 1000 miles in a year. 2018 was a wash. In so many ways.

So what’s next? I signed up for the inaugural Chisholm Trail Half Marathon. It’s a new race in Wichita, and I’m looking forward to the course.

How cool is their logo?

So the good news:
1. I have a plan. I used a combination of all of my favorite running plans. I’m focusing on heart rate and making sure the easy runs are EASY.
2. I am going to XT. I have a duathlon and at least one or two triathlons on the plan for the summer. This will force me to swim once a week and bike at least twice. No excuses.
3. Nutrition will play a role in my success. I am determined this time to get rid of the grief weight. I don’t need to treat my runs with food. I can treat myself with yoga, stretching, or some time with my family. Changing the mindset.
4. MEDITATION! Mindfulness is key to successful running. I’ve lost a bit of the passion for running, and I think it’s because I think TOO MUCH about it. I need to get back to the basics and run for the love of it, which means zenning out during the easy stuff.

2019’s Mantra.

Stay neon!

Mom Loved to Read

I’m a librarian. I love to read. This is no secret.

I’m an avid GoodReads user. I track the number of books I’ve read and have participated in their yearly reading challenge since 2013. Back then I would try to be ambitios and read 50-100 books in a year. The most I ever managed was 71.

This year I decided to be conservative. I set my goal at 24 books, knowing that two books per month in addition to grad school was more than enough for my brain to handle.

After Mom was gone, I found comfort in scrolling through her social media. I stumbled upon her GoodReads account. It was a stab right to the gut. Most people don’t realize how quickly she went in the end. In January, she set a goal to read 12 books in 2018. She still had a book in her currently reading status, American Gods by Neil Gaiman. She was on page 44. Back then, she didn’t know she would leave us in March and would never finish that book.

I decided that I would read her 12 books for her. I’m sitting at 35 for my year with number 36 in my hands. Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare. A favorite series to end the most challenging and hardest year of my life. I read my books and I read hers too.

I love you, Mom. Thank you for teaching me to love reading and for saying to me, “It was about time!” for me to pursue my Masters in Library Science. You’ll be there when I walk and get hooded in May 2019 and when I finish up my last course in August. I think of you each day I walk into work and can picture you sitting in your papasan chair reading a book in the sunshine.