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Archive for the ‘2016 races’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Not too shabby…

Fun with running numbers. After my SFO parking lot experience, got curious last night about where I placed in Nashville because it was a tough race but had received some feedback that my finish time was still pretty damn fast. So went to my favorite race time site athlinks.com to check out my stats. I get pretty excited if I place in the top 5 or 10% of division, gender or overall (top 15% isn’t anything to sneeze at and it’s the single digits that really get me.) Well, I about fell over looking at my Nashville numbers. Happily surprised. So I checked out the last seven races (starting with hemithon™ #40) and am pretty happy. Amazing what looking at those numbers – and I don’t run to run against anyone but my own time and if I’ve run that course before – did to boost a tough training run last night! ‪#‎motivationformore‬ ‪#‎gettingwiser‬ ‪#‎stillgoingstrong‬

*Nashville: top 3.2% of my division, top 4.4% of ALL females, top 8.2% of ALL runners (17,631 of them)
*DC: top 8.8% of my division
*Arizona: top 4.1% of my divison, top 4.5% of ALL females, top 9.3% of ALL runners (10,604 of them)
*Philly: top 5.4% of my division, top 6.1% of ALL females
*Denver (which was a herculean effort due to a race 1 week prior and the altitude): top 10% in my division, top 10% of ALL females
*Brooklyn: top 6.5% in my division top 9.9% of ALL females
*San Jose: top 8.7% of my division, top 7.6% of ALL females (this was a week after I hiked Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon)

Shocked. Shocked I tell you. I struggle and effort and strain and wince and wheeze, and dig deep, in most of these races (and limp into a finish line or two.) And it makes me really realize what is still possible.

PostHeaderIcon Never thought I’d run 46 half marathons…

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Nashville and #46. How about that? A good reminder of why I’m doing this all.

This is the one race mom goes to. Last year I got super excited about going to Philadlephia for a race, cause I was born there and ran it five years ago. And since I was born there, thought it would be cool to go with the woman who gave birth to me. I completely ignored the lack of excitement on her part, so was a bit surprised when we met up at the Philly airport and riding in a cab to the hotel to hear her say she never really liked living there. Oh snap! While I enjoyed the revitalized Phil on the weekend and can’t wait to go back, it was a tough trip for her. I felt bad so I gave her the entire list of 2016 RocknRoll cities, without indicating which ones I’d do, and said “you pick what city you want” and she picked Nashville. So here we are! While she may occasionally get lost in the chaos and focus of my race weekend, I’m super grateful for her support in this journey.

I ran this race too for Chris. He lived here for a few years after we were first roommates. And we lost touch a bit in those years, me (to his chagrin) on a seemingly stable path, he moving back to the South, eventually to Arkansas and back to SF. I have a hundred questions for you I can’t ask. So I ran through these streets, trying to see what Chris saw. And I saw a fascinating town built on music (no wonder he liked it) and beautiful neighborhood and homes, small town sights to see and an endless array of truly kind people.

Ran into Andreas at the Expo – he reps for a runners multivitamin I really like. And then I fell into my own frustration. It came up that the race for me was my 46th half. And he said “Oh my God, that’s AMAZING!” with great enthusiasm. And then, not sure he understood me, I said “oh, well, they’re all halfs not fulls.” And he looked at me and he said “I know. And. THAT’S AMAZING!” and then me, still shocked he was this enthusiastic said “oh, well, not in one year, it’s been six.” And he smiled and said “doesn’t matter, it’s still AMAZING!” all in a Swedish accent. All the time I’m thinking “this guy’s a hard core competitive triathlete. And he thinks it’s AMAZING?” Thank you Andreas. Perspective shift needed. (it’s a combo of feeling excited to get to #50, doing the “not-enough” thing when I see folks walking around in their 100 Halfs Club shirts, and a friend’s recent post about her excitment about training for her 3rd half and people commenting telling her to do a full…and no fuzzy math saying 46 halfs is like 23 full)

Crappy pre race day, a day I usually try to make happen a certain way. And I recognize it can’t always be a precious, perfect, protected day. My mind and energy were no where near where they needed to be. Top 3 bad preps. And special shout out to my friend Dawn who so sees me and knows how much this all means in all it’s many ways. She recognizes this is far more than a hobby and supports the overarching goal of it all. Gave me a quick re-set and took my pre race day seriously (I was about to give up and assume I should just barrel through – yes, life sometimes happens AND I can recalibrate) to the point of me actually able to refocus at least for a few hours before bed so that I might wake up in the right frame of mind. It is, in fact, a mindset thing, and I can’t thank you enough.
Rain delay. That’s a first! There was talk of calling the race on account of lightening and thunderstorms but instead it was a 40 minute delay. Could only think of Judy and that November Orlando race that got called at 7 miles. A fire was sure lit and I knew it would be for me to if they had to do that. And I was also kind of excited to channel the Bishop from Caddyshack! I wanted to run in a crazy storm shouting “I don’t think the heavy stuff’s coming down for a while!”! ☺ Instead, it was a funky delay. Had all my pre-race nutrition SET and in me and ready to go and walking to the corral and they call for a delay. Thankfully I was near the hotel and walked back to the room, dried off and put my feet up. But I had to re-load on fuel and then it felt like a little bit too much and everything was just a bit off. It happens and you readjust. Add it to the bank of experiences – crazy downpour delays, race by 40 minutes, feels like a stop short and then, you go!

Speaking of stop short, first four miles was a whole lot of that that I’ll explain another time, something about runners etiquette and corrals and all sorts of fun things that do affect experience of race day.

Holy Hills and Holy Humidity – which means this one was Hardfought for. Really pretty hilly throughout. Sure, I could call them rolling hills but it was more than that and I know there was some wheezing on my end AND I’m proud I got through them all. And ultimately the rain delay was perfectly timed as the little sprinkles here and there were refreshing as they cut through the humidity at times.
Always amazed how no one is ever in the hotel gym in the morning, warming up. Which is super great for me cause I get to run around doing grapevines and leg swings and half-pigeons like a fool listening to “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky.

Gotta admit, having a professional German running team start following me on Instagram on race morning was kind of cool.
Another admission – mindset was really struggling this race. SO many times I didn’t think I could do it. This was tough or that was. And then I’d check in, what hurts? Nothing hurt. Just tired. Or wheezing a bit from the hills. Or not feeling “it”. I mean, at times I felt “it”, the “this feels good, I feel good and light, this can be a great race.” It would be brief. And most of the time, I didn’t feel that. I felt good to be running, but not that it would be a strong race, by any measure. And when I would realize nothing was truly wrong, nothing needed to be adjusted or halted or taken care of, I was able to keep running, keep it up and thinking “ok, however you finish, you’re finishing – that finish line is yours.” It’s been a while since I’ve had a race like this. I think you need them occasionally to even more deeply appreciate the races that go super well.

And it definitely helped having an Elvis impersonator towards the end on a megaphone see my shirt and say “There she is, team red white and blue, go get’ girl!” and give me a high five. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Finally, yes, the left ankle and foot. Rolled it at mile 9 in a mini pothole. It’s probably come close to happening at least a dozen times over all these races. And I’ve avoided anything major (and stopped skydiving cause I got nervous about landings) all this time. And then this. It rolled and I felt it shoot through my foot. Felt like I could run it off. And then a stinger went up my left leg and I really felt that loop through my lower back. Ok. So I start negotiating with myself, about walking the last four miles, or last three or last two or something. And wondering if I’m doing more harm running. It’s not the worst it could be so I keep going. Knowing full well if I have to friggin crawl over that finish line or hop on one foot I will. And I do, I make it across and the adrenaline that got me there suddenly drains out of my body and I get a bit wobbly and woozy. I find a med tent and they wrap the ankle in ice as I’m downing water, Gatorade and chocolate milk (not in the same cup!) Talking with the volunteer there as two guys are wrapping my foot, he says, in a pretty southern drawl, “you kept running? Dang, you’re a stubborn thing, ain’t ya?” with a big smile. Yes, sir, I am. 10 minutes later I needed a rewrap on the ice (awkward place) and found a new med tent (still no gear bag) to get that done – and there they offered that for after the ice melts, come back and they will wrap it for me. So I sat with it up, the ice melted, and I went back for a wrap. Truly believe that if those medical tents weren’t there and I wasn’t aggressive in getting care (and their TLC), I wouldn’t be able to hobble around right now. I have a big goal of getting to 50 finish lines this year, and wouldn’t want to upend this journey by half-assing this all.
Now to some healing to get ready for a big June: #47 in San Diego and #48 in Seattle! I am on a mission.

P.S. Still managed to get well-under 2 hours for this hobbling finish time. ‪#‎thisiswhatdeterminationlookslike‬

PostHeaderIcon #45? Shut the Front Door! Yup, #45!

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Race report #45. Amazing race. And it has nada to do with my finish time. Which is fine, didn’t hit my goal and frankly, I don’t care (much.)

*All of this is special, every step I take. Coming into DC and hitting my last training run on Tuesday, recognizing I was doing #45, I burst into tears, bent over at the waist, deeply grateful for all of it, yet again amazed by all that has unfolded and what it means to me. And then to start the DC trip with an awesome day at Georgetown – what a kickoff!

*It’s now my official pre-race song: ‘Gonna Fly Now’ from Rocky. I must’ve looked like a full fledged dork goofily walking down Pennsylvania Avenue with a grin listening to that song. If you ever see me with headphones on and shadow boxing while giggling, you know what I’m listening to.

*FIRST TIME EVER: standing in the coral after the usual pre race chaos of gear check and porta potties and taking a moment to appreciate what’s about to unfold and what’s led to this, and saying a prayer to let go. I hear “Gretchen?” and look to my left, completely pleasantly startled to see my friend Adam, who lives in DC. Last Fall we “chatted” on FB about doing this race, but lost touch about it. To be standing in a corral with 50 thousand people and he’s standing right next to me? What are the odds? Seriously, we kept trying to figure it out! And it was glorious. Not only has that never happened before, but we ran 12.5 miles together! I rarely if ever run with someone, and certainly have never for a race. I usually try to run too fast to talk so I just do my solo thing. And wow did 12.5 miles just fly by. SUCH a different experience to not count miles in my normal way and to be so present with another, a friend, and laugh and compare notes, and catch up and truly enjoy each other’s company. He was doing the full 26.2 miles so I felt a consciousness of not wanting to go 125% effort because I knew he essentially had a whole other half race to run after we parted. It was brilliant, our strides were comparable (yay tall people!) and it lifted me up and then some. It was a delightful experience, one that I will treasure always. Plus, I stuck around and got to cheer him in at his finish line, and chat with him while he got his finisher’s jacket, hang out with him and his girlfriend and do the post race download. Thank you Adam, such a great experience to share! Truly my honor. Congratulations on your race!!! ‪#‎playingpacman‬

*ANOTHER FIRST: my dear friend Sara not only agreed to take my race sign and find a place to hold it to cheer me on, but she was right at the bottom of THE hill at Rock Creek Park and I saw her immediately, she cheered us AND ran up the dang hill with us! What? Amazing, totally helped me get up it (you’re a great coach Sara!) and over it and I could not have felt more supported and cheered. Thank you love!

*ANOTHER FIRST: Wait, two friends on the course? My friend Bryan was just a half mile or so later on the street with his dog Cosmo, waiting for me and thankfully he saw me and starting yelling and jumping up and down. Another opportunity for a big grin on my face. Thank you Bryan, such a treat to see you there and spend time afterwards too. How lucky am I that I had two friends who came out along the course to cheer for me?

*Realization: ask for help and ask for support and ask for people to cheer you on. I haven’t normally done that. Don’t want to burden anyone or bother. Plus, hey, I’m tough, I can do this on my own, I am fine. Oh. Right. Ask for help and people are happy to! It’s so easy to give. I can do this on my own, yes, AND I don’t have to do it alone. Plus it’s WAY more fun! Even got to meet Adam’s girlfriend Philippa who was also on the course to cheer him on, and went to cheer him on later on during the full multiple times. People rock.

*Time to adjust my training a bit, I have some goals for my next few races and I haven’t been on top of my game, coasting/trusting/resting on a good foundation. And. To achieve my goals, I need to make some adjustments in nutrition, breathing (bless you little lungs) and training. That’s another thing I love about these races, about running, is it’s not a switch to flip and say “all good, I’m done!” but yet another amazing metaphor for life, to keep going, adjust the sails, and chart another course. ‪#‎mixed metaphor‬

*Texting with a friend on Friday night, pre race, about my nerves and wonder and all. And he said, in compassionate (as opposed to dismissive) way, “You’ll be fine. You’re an athlete.” I stared at the words, almost wanting to argue with him. What? Now, it may seem strange to some that I would even question that statement. But. I have always wanted to be an athlete (more on that in a blog post) and have never thought of myself as an athlete (more on that in another blog post) for many reasons (one, I’ve always had partners who ran, hiked, swam, biked ahead of me, me unable to keep up or always a step or 10 behind. That and I’ve felt gawky and uncoordinated till about a year ago ;)) and so to have someone I barely know make such an unequivocal statement was pleasantly jarring. A perspective shift for me. I took it in and am rolling around with it. ‪#‎iamenoughasiam‬

*Running through the iconic streets and neighborhoods of DC, so steeped in history, is my idea of an awesome course. Feeling super blessed to have the opportunity. (Just a wee early for the cherry blossom gorgeousness)

*And I got to see my incredibly inspiring friend Steve again at the finish! I LOVE this ritual we have when we’re both at a race together and get to coordinate afterwards. To have met Steve when he first broke (which he does regularly now) 3 hours (2:59:59 I will never forget) and then to see him multiple times a year for the last few years is such a true delight. (yes, I will make a collage of all our photos together!) Just the day or two before the race, Steve was name Trooper of the Year in Arizona and now he’s finished one of his dozens of half marathons (getting ready for a full in ONE week!) Steve, you rock, I’m so proud of you, Congratulations on another finish and on being recognized for your service. See you in a couple months in San Diego!

*Again, understanding I don’t have anything to prove, don’t need to be tough or be alone, got to enjoy dinner at my friend Mike’s house with his family. Such a great way to come off a race and be with friends (and to laugh one’s butt off!) So lucky to have a couple of incredible human beings as my friends here in DC. And there’s more I want to see next time I’m in town!

*Now on to Nashville… Admittedly, I’m nervous as the hill(s) reputation for this course precede the race and then some. And, I can see how my approach is a big part of it and I don’t have to be so nervous of the hills so much as I can recognize I actually prefer hills to all flat, am good on up and down hills and can refocus my energy at home to doing hill repeats. And then just be open to see whatever Nashville unfolds to be. The amazing-ness of DC and ALL it generated in terms of a phenomenal experience will be tough to beat! 😉

*Grateful

PostHeaderIcon Bird Set Free

Sia, you rock!

Clipped wings, I was a broken thing
Had a voice, had a voice but I could not sing
You would wind me down
I struggled on the ground
So lost, the line had been crossed
Had a voice, had a voice but I could not talk
You held me down
I struggle to fly now

But there’s a scream inside that we all try to hide
We hold on so tight, we cannot deny
Eats us alive, oh it eats us alive
Yes, there’s a scream inside that we all try to hide
We hold on so tight, but I don’t wanna die, no
I don’t wanna die, I don’t wanna die

And I don’t care if I sing off key
I find myself in my melodies
I sing for love, I sing for me
I shout it out like a bird set free
No I don’t care if I sing off key
I find myself in my melodies
I sing for love, I sing for me
I’ll shout it out like a bird set free

Now I fly, hit the high notes
I have a voice, have a voice, hear me roar tonight
You held me down
But I fought back loud

But there’s a scream inside that we all try to hide
We hold on so tight, we cannot deny
Eats us alive, oh it eats us alive
Yes, there’s a scream inside that we all try to hide
We hold on so tight, but I don’t wanna die, no
I don’t wanna die, I don’t wanna die

And I don’t care if I sing off key
I find myself in my melodies
I sing for love, I sing for me
I shout it out like a bird set free
No I don’t care if I sing off key
I find myself in my melodies
I sing for love, I sing for me
I’ll shout it out like a bird set free

PostHeaderIcon Giddy and Purposeful Run

Giddy and purposeful run. Upon named to the Rock n Blog 2016 Team, I initially sat in disbelief. I mean, who, me? I applied back in December and was both hopeful and cautious in my hope. I’ve applied to a number of things before, wanting to get the recognition that becomes motivation and momentum so that others may share in this journey and perhaps even get something out of it themselves. And suddenly something feels different, that someone wants to know more. That this journey means something. I’ve been sying for a while that I cannot believe that all these races and all this writing and inspiration is solely just a hobby for me. That there is something more to it, something more to be derived from it and something more to be shared through all of it.

And to be part of a Team of bloggers who get to do two of their favorite things – run and write – and not feel quite so alone in it all – well, that’s just about the best news of the day. When I saw the email Tuesday morning, I clicked on it not even knowing what it was. And then read it. And read it again. And a third time I read it. And perfect timing that it was, my mom was in town and scheduled to leave in a half hour – so I got to dance crazily around my house with her bearing wtienss and sharing in the excitement and cheering me on and able to get excited for me as well. She kept saying how glad she was that she was there to share in the joy.

All I wanted to do, in the space of feeling fear and excitement, was go for a run. I had a zillion things to do, including attempting to check out all the aspects of this team and what I’ve just signed up for. But I really wanted to go for a run. To see what this run would feel like with this news, this knowledge of next steps – literally and figuratively.

Able to finally take a break just before the sun set, I got my feet out the door. And sure enough, this run felt a little different. It felt a little giddy, it felt purposeful, it felt bigger than me. And, it felt reassuring. To the people that picked the Team of #RocknBloggers, I was enough. I am enough. I run enough, I write enough, and what I share through all of it is enough. There is no more they need me to be, or to be different. There is an exhale in that I didn’t know I needed to take. To the team overall, I hope this stamp of validation carries through. I am enough, I have enough. Been running alone, on my own for a long time. Suddenly, and for the first time in a while, I don’t feel like I’m doing this alone. I know I can, and I don’t have to.

This sense of accomplishment – as well as inspiration to keep going, if anything to reach higher – is incredible. The hard work, consistent commitment, possibility of it all is paying off. I cannot wait to see where this journey takes me, takes us all.

PostHeaderIcon Race #1 of 2016

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Well that’s a way to start! I first ran a Phoenix Rock n Roll in January of 2011. When I was starting the 11 races in ’11 project. And getting pretty fast for only my 6th half. This is the 4th time I’ve run Phoenix. #44. And wow if it weren’t an experience of lessons and trust. To cut to the punchline: 1:47:12. I am proud of that. Only 8 seconds slower than *5 years* ago. And only 30 seconds slower than THE Philly finish Halloween a few months ago.

*I didn’t expect this. Sure, I’d hoped to break 1:50 based on living the last three weeks at mile-high altitude in Colorado and just 36 hours later running at more than 4K feet lower in elevation. Oxygen. But you never know when your training is very different for a month pre-race than you’re used to, the routine unfamiliar (and a bout of stomach flu in the middle of the CO country on your own doesn’t help.) And then there’s a few things I did and didn’t do pre-race that I expected to impact my race. Some did, some didn’t.

*On my feet all day on Saturday, day before race. Facilitating for an incredible group of women. I’ve done that once before, in heels, also for work and the race the next day was one of the least physically enjoyable I’ve run (SF, 4/15) because of extraordinarily tired legs. So this time, knowing I’d be on my feet, I wore flats. But that only helped the feet, not the legs so much. I would facilitate and work all day again as it was tremendously inspiring and rewarding, and, I felt it nearly every step of the 25,000 or so I took on Sunday. Oh, and I have found a shot or two of tequila for lunch the day before the race seems to make me go faster the next day. Of course, working, I did not do that. I swear. smile emoticon

*Don’t normally eat a big dinner the night before, I do that for lunch (with said tequila) but ended up having a lovely, healthy meal with my friend and colleague, Katie, who was also running (and also worked all day Saturday) and nope, it didn’t keep me up nor did it affect me adversely the next day. Plus going with Katie to the start and connecting with her afterwards and seeing her so happy with her results and how she was feeling made a wonderful happy experience. How can you not feel excited seeing someone so thrilled with their happiness?

*F’d up C7 at the moment. ow. Makes turning my head/neck a wee difficult, tight upper shoulders too. Caddywampus start too. Couldn’t find where I was supposed to be and some signs weren’t clear. We were there on time no problem, but I got lost at some point. And that panicked feel is what every racer wants to avoid right as they’re getting into the coral. And so, as I’m in a different coral finally, out of my comfort zone and then some, I remember “I love this. I love running. Let go what I can’t control now, courage to control what I can, whatever comes up. And enjoy this race. I run because I GET TO!” I choose to run. And the nerves settle out. And then the whole race feels like it’s pretty much uphill for most of it.

*Seeing all the signs for “Go Mommy” along the way, little kids holding those signs with their dads. There’s something about that that really gets me, in a variety of ways. It’s beautiful, the support those women receive. And cheering SeaHAWKS to a couple of kids wearing #24 and #3 was kind of fun too, in a high-fiving sort of way (sorry bout that loss, Hawks…)

*And yes, I had a Penske truck sighting, to give me a boost. (Thank you Chris Knight) This one wasn’t even parked, it was heading away from the bottom of a hill I was running down, so if I’d run a little slower, I never would’ve seen it.

*Taiko drumming. Every race needs this.

*Asked my dad and Chris to join me at mile 10 or so. They did. I felt a boost for sure. And then it felt like they rode bikes instead cause neither are runners.

*Running is my happy place. Nobody judging me, telling me I’m doing it wrong or should do it like them or that it’s not enough or nobody expecting different or doing tough love because it will ‘benefit’ me or my playing small – the only person who does that to me is me when I’m running. And so I don’t. I go to a best version of myself, celebrating and relishing every step I get to take. The sense of belonging I crave, I find it in running.

*Tired but happy body. I’m beginning to realize that the extreme cautious tapering I used to do leading up to a race may not have served me as well as I thought. Or, it served me then, and now my body says different. I used to avoid at all costs any body part feeling stiff or sore in any way by race day. And while being on my feet all day isn’t the kind of sore that works well, working my body and my foundation hard does. I had never expected to run Philly so fast, after running three halfs just prior, plus the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike – all within six weeks. I thought I’d get slower, but I kept getting faster, last one fastest of all. So perhaps I’m hitting my stride or my prime or something is shifting, the foundation so strong that’s it’s allowing me to push further, higher, deeper than before.

*And staying at Dana’s house for race weekend, a *two-time* Ironman (WOW!), is inspiring to the spirit. smile emoticon

*And knowing I get to meet up with Steve (pictured) to congratulate him on his *34th race*, and meet his Sergeant and friend Alan, running his FIRST half race, is motivating.

*And meeting up with Jennifer, a Team in Training coach, and her coachee Jackie, running in her FIRST half – being able to cheer her as they’re heading to their coral and then also lucky enough to see them after and congratulate Jackie and see the smile on her face is beautiful and heartwarming.

*And seeing the staff at the Bigelow Tea Truck in the post-race area give a homeless woman another cup of tea, 6 granola bars after she asked for “one extra one”, and long sleeve t-shirt to go with the short sleeve one “because you looked cold this morning, sweetie” he said, was incredibly heartwarming and inspiring. Thanks, Chris (who was the same guy that saved me with warm tea at the 23 degree Seattle half in November 2014) for seeing and treating ALL people at that park with dignity, not just runners. And if I hadn’t meandered around for longer than I planned, I wouldn’t have been blessed to witness this.

And so I get re-inspired for this journey, for the next six races. Knowing I can prepare as much as I can, work hard, and then let it go and enjoy whatever experience race weekend unfolds to be. Washington DC and #45, cannot wait to see what you serve up in March! ‪#‎crushinggoals‬