Your Pace or Mine (And Why You Shouldn’t Care)

comparisonOne of the best pieces of advice I have ever received as a runner…was to stop posting my Garmin face post-run with distance and time.  Stop putting my splits up on social media for others to see.  While a lot of times, this garnishes so many LIKES and compliments…it also, honestly, is no one’s business what my run looked like that day.  And, sometimes, it can also bring about negativity…or pressure to perform.

How often do we do this to ourselves?  We go for a run.  We feel good during the run.  Or maybe we don’t.  Maybe the run feels hard, but we’re pushing.  And we’re just giving it all we have (I don’t recommend doing this for every run you do, btw).  And when we’re done, we click that stop button on our watch and check our time…

And how often does that time…or overall pace…determine for YOU…whether that run was a “good run” or a “bad run?”

Hey…I’ve been guilty of this myself.

When a run feels hard and it should be easy…guess what…you’re probably running too hard.

When you feel good through your entire run, but then stop your watch and are disappointed with your overall pace…guess what…you have forgotten the golden rule of…easy runs should be easyhard runs should be hard…and BOTH are important.  You probably did this run perfectly…you felt good…but your Garmin spouts off an average that makes you feel inadequate.

Why?

So many people play that social media comparison game.  Just because one person can easily crack off 7 minute (or less) minute miles, everyday, for most distances….doesn’t mean that you have to be able to do that too.  That’s the great thing about being a human being.

WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT.  And guess what?!  OUR ABILITIES ARE ALL DIFFERENT!!

Am I screaming at you?  Yes!!  Because I often get told that someone doesn’t think they need to recover as much as I do because I run so much faster than them.  Well, my 8 minute mile might be just as hard to me as their 10 minute mile is to them.  The effort is equal…the paces are different.  But someone’s slow will always be someone else’s fast.  And it’s a serious problem if you are judging your worth and your fitness or your place in the running community based off of how fast your legs move to propel you forward.

And social media has done nothing more than take all of this insecurity and elevated the comparison game to new heights.  It is great to motivate people…but your paces and your miles logged don’t really do that.  WORDS do that. Examples do that.  Just because you can run that 6:XX mile tempo, doesn’t mean that I can.  And expecting me to be able to isn’t right too.  Telling me that you’re an extreme runner, or getting it done right, doesn’t make me feel good about my 8:xx tempo of the same distance that day…probably less consistent than yours.  Your Garmin watch face…your split times…your average pace…that does have the power to motivate…and inspire…but it also can really get into people’s heads.

And let’s talk about burnout.  So many times…these “extreme” runners that consistently post these fast times in training often burnout or hit a wall…when it counts most.  On race day.

Sure, it might seem fun to post your 7:XX mile runs during training, every day, no rest days, no days off, but when you end up sidelined with an injury, or your marathon times don’t match up to your training runs, or you hit a wall…hard…at Mile 21, those social media brags and posts will have been in vain.

Let’s face it…an 8:20 pace is not easy if your marathon pace is an 8:30.

IT. IS. THAT. SIMPLE.

Whether you consider yourself a speed demon, a middle-of-the-packer, or a back-of-the-packer…ultimately…the comparison game will only bring you unnecessary stress.

And that’s why, my friends, my Instagram posts don’t show off my pace, my distance, my stats, my splits…because that is for me to know and for me to work on.  Not for anyone else to cast judgement on or to compare themselves to.  We’re all different.  We all run different.  We all train different.  But in the end…I’m not here to set a precedent for anyone but myself.

Comparison is the thief of joy…and I’m not looking for anything but happiness out on the roads right now.  Don’t get me wrong, I certainly have my goals and am actively pursuing them the best I know how to.  After all, happiness is definitely a goal worth pursuing.

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Quality Over Quantity

44425106_10100467243748681_8763605971185434624_oTwo weeks ago…I ran a marathon.

I haven’t blogged on it yet…but it’s coming. I just need more time in my days to get my thoughts down.

Two weeks ago.  And I have been taking my time returning to my training.

I’m not forcing myself to go out there for double-digit runs at the moment.  I’m not forcing speed work on myself.  I’m running by feel, fewer days a week than normal, not worrying over how long I’m out there or how far I go.

I’m recovering.

So many of my friends are shining in races.  Some of them also had hard efforts in marathons.  But, to me, it’s not about how many races I do…it’s about being able to do the number of races I register for…comfortably, without pain, without injury, without burnout…

I don’t wear race volume around my neck as a bragging right.  I don’t care how many races I have run or of what distance each one was.  Every finish is a victory.  Every race is a victory lap for the training I put into it.  And part of training…is taking the necessary time off to get my body strong, rested, and prepped for the next training cycle.  I’ve done the whole rush into the next thing route before…and we all know how that turned out for me.  So many people overlook the downtime and recovery…and I used to be one of them.

NOT. ANYMORE.

It’s so hard, these days, to keep this in perspective.  Social media has a funny way of making you feel inadequate.  Someone is always running more, running faster, running further, hitting goals you’ve dreamed of but have fallen short of for months/years.  But, in the end, we can only do what is best for ourselves.  No one else.

This past weekend, I was in Columbus, Ohio, visiting my friend Jenn and seeing Phil Collins in concert on Friday night.  I had some late nights…I slept in each morning.  And…I put in some miles each morning.  One was mild and windy, the other was frigid and also windy (but less windy, I guess).  I never once looked at my Garmin to check my pace.  I just counted each mile beep until I hit the miles in my made-up plan.

Each run was solid and strong and amazing.  I mean, I was having fun, even when the headwind felt like it was pushing me back.  I got inspired when I hit up the Columbus Marathon expo, purchasing more things than I should of from the booth, and stopping by Noxgear to say HI to the people there…and get my hands on their new product, which hasn’t launched to the public yet.  Watch my social media for more on that.

I ate well.  I stretched.  I foam rolled.  All the self-care stuff that comes with recovering from a hard effort.

So while others are stocking up on medals and miles, I’m cheering them on, but not rushing to join them.  I never want to be out for as long as I was in the past.  And with these solid recovery runs coming so easy…I’m proud to say, I think this time, I’m doing it right.

The number of races I do is nothing compared to the number of races I will continue to do, simply by respecting this body.

Being a runner isn’t about the number of races I finish.  I know plenty of real runners who aren’t even interested in racing.  I love racing.  It’s fun.  But I don’t care if I’ve run 1 or 100 races…as long as I’m still enjoying it and listening to my body so I can continue to do it.

You do you!

Real Talk About Disappointment

I heard it so many times…

“You’ve got this in the bag.”

“There is no way you’re not going to Boston Qualify.”

“The only way you won’t BQ is if you get hit by a car.”

“Look at what you did at Dopey…this one will be easy!”

ALL. THE. WORDS.

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And while I appreciate that people have confidence and faith in me…there were a few things I was contending with…

I didn’t have a coach or…technically…a plan starting in August, when marathon training was really getting heavy.  I figured it out by turning back to an old training plan from 2013 and making adjustments.

I didn’t feel like I was in shape, personally, for my goal.  After all, my longest run in my training plan didn’t go well at all.  It ended with me walking my last 1.3 miles of it to hit the mileage and almost passing out thanks to the heat.  Let me tell you, that really did little to boost my confidence at all going into the taper and the race itself.

I still feel out of shape.

And…disappointed.

With myself.  With letting those who believed in me down.  For not doing what others did that day.  For feeling like an absolute failure every time I hear the success stories of those who ran the same race at me…but achieved their goals.  For letting myself down.

Maybe I didn’t want it enough.  Maybe running without my watch telling me pace and distance was a mistake.  Maybe I didn’t spend enough time off my feet the day before.  Maybe I didn’t fuel right that day or at dinner the night before.  Maybe I didn’t wear the right thing for the weather.  Maybe I didn’t fuel enough during.  Maybe…maybe…maybe.

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Excuses?  Reasons?  Justifications?

It doesn’t undo how much it hurt to know that I didn’t achieve a goal that I was told was going to be so easy for me to get this time.  It doesn’t undo the fact that I ran a marathon in January an entire minute faster after running a 5K, 10K, and half marathon in the 3 days leading up to it.  It stings.  It hurts.

I am very proud of my finish, please don’t get me wrong.  But it feels like such a let down because, while I wasn’t actively proclaiming my goals from the rooftops…I carried all these high hopes with me.  They drove me.  They pushed me.  And in the end…I still came up short.  By a bigger margin than it should have been.

And that’s a hard pill to swallow at times.

Still.

Even today.

I am okay with how my race turned out…but I’m not satisfied.  And I’m not happy.  I know, just like everyone who told me, that I have at least one more BQ in me.  It just wasn’t this race.  It wasn’t my time.  And it’s okay for me to not be okay with it.  But it’s not okay for me to dwell on it.  Or to let disappointment hold me back.

After all…I still have goals to meet.

I am proud of every finish line because, ultimately, my goal is always to finish.  Sometimes it feels easy…and sometimes it’s a struggle.  I still believe every struggle and every shortcoming is a learning experience and something to grow from and improve on.  So, while it didn’t happen this time…and perhaps might not happen next time, I’m driven and striving to get there and make it happen.  I know it will.  I’ll chip away until I reach that goal.

For everyone who believed in me then…believe in me now.  I’m not done yet.

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Ch-Ch-Changes…

Nothing is ever a perfect fit for everyone.  Nothing.  Just because something suits one person doesn’t mean it will work for someone else.  That’s just life.  No two people are exactly the same…and that means not everything will work the same for every body.

And that, my friends…is only the beginning of the changes that have been spinning through my life.

Let’s start with the biggie…

In a time where everyday runners…and weekend warriors are seeking out help through means of a coach…my coach and I have parted ways.

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It was a mutual thing…in the end.  I was extremely unhappy with the way her plan had me running and the lack of mileage that I was putting into my training.  Running for time instead of distance is not something I enjoy doing.  When I marathon train, I want my 20 mile runs so I know…I can get there and then…hit that last 10K.  And I just wasn’t anywhere near that.  Halfway through training and I never once got over 13 miles.  And it was eating at me.  And the volume and length of the speed work days was overwhelming…where I’d have to get up at 2:30 am just to fit it in and, honestly, every Sunday night, I’d end up in tears over it.  And no training plan is worth that sort of misery and unhappiness.  I’m not an elite athlete…I don’t win cash prizes for running…I’m not a sponsored athlete…I run because I enjoy it.  Because it’s fun.  And it wasn’t fun anymore. And I wasn’t enjoying it.  It was stressing me out more than it was helping me to decompress.  And that means…it’s totally upside down.

I value what I learned from her in the years I had her as my coach, and while I respect that the plan she had me on got her the BQ she really wanted…it wasn’t working for me.  My body wasn’t reacting well to it.  I wasn’t getting better with it.  In fact, I felt it was only breaking down the progress I had made prior to starting it.

And so…she called me…and we decided it was better for both of us…to just be friends.

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It’s so much better now.

So…where does this leave me with my training?  That’s a very, very good question.  This was NOT an easy transition to make.  And I’m still adjusting while trying to convince myself that I’m not too far behind on my fall marathon training.  That fall marathon is coming up fast and I’m still just…uneasy over it all.  I feel unprepared, undertrained, and just…lost sometimes.

My roommate had me dig out my first ever training plan for the marathon distance, from 2013, when I was training for Chicago.  She made a few adjustments to it, loaded it up on my Google Calendar…and that’s it.  That’s what I got for the next 7.5 weeks.  No pace requirements (although I’m focusing on keeping those long runs at a slower pace to not break down my body and also…to get me used to long periods of time on my feet).  I do the speed sessions, which are broken down into intervals I believe I can nail and not stress over.  I just go and do it…and whatever is my best that day is what I can give.  And without the stress…I usually do better than anticipated.  As for long runs…my roommate gives me only one bit of advice…

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HAHA.  Well…sort of.  Basically this schedule was worked up to help me grow in confidence, in endurance, and, eventually, in speed.  So…her advice is always…just go run.  However I feel.

And my only goal at the moment is to get through it all…uninjured.  Because when I’m usually working on this sport alone…that’s what happens.

So…fingers crossed.

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Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, KY (July 4, 2018)

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Me after finishing the Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, Kentucky

Race: Bluegrass 10,000

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: July 4, 2018

Time: 48:47

It seems like this race has become the July 4th tradition for the moment, as this is the second year in a row that I have run it.  I actually felt like I was in good shape leading into this race, but you might note (had you gone back to look at last year’s Bluegrass 10,000 race review) that this was run 2 minutes slower.

And that, friends, seems to be the story of my life this year.  Big effort with no payoff.

I know…not every race can be a PR…but guess what?  I haven’t had a PR in any distance since either 2013 or 2014.  They all still stand.  None have fallen and these days I’m starting to come to the realization that they just might never be beaten.

And I’m not exactly okay with that.

But, that’s a rant for another post.  Going into the Bluegrass 10,000, I was aware that this was not to be treated as a goal race, nor was I to run it like one.  In fact, my coach’s specific instructions was to stick with the 8 minute pacer for the first part of the race (that part is the uphill part) and then run it in at the end.  It seemed like a good plan of action, especially since the heat and humidity going into the July 4th holiday was insane.  We were in heat advisories and warnings.  Physical activity in such conditions was pretty much frowned upon.  But this is basically a 42 year tradition in Lexington.

Adjust goals and plans and roll with it.

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The weather on the 4th of July in Lexington: check out that humidity and dew point!

My friend, Melissa, was lining up as a pacer that morning, so she had to be in Lexington at some ungodly time of the morning to get her Pacer shirt, her pace stick, and instructions from Linda (our coach).  Last year, we all rode down together and then spent the afternoon around Lexington…so we did the same this time around.  Just at an earlier hour in the morning.

She and her husband headed our way before the crack of dawn that morning.  En route, I got a text message regarding Sharpie markers.  She wanted to write the paces on her wrist.  So, Cathy went back up to the apartment and returned just as they were pulling into the complex to pick us up.  We got into the car, said good morning, and began our journey down to Lexington, Kentucky.

The drive down was filled with conversation with our upcoming journeys/travels (we’re like travel BFFs now too).  We hashed out a few things, discussed options, and just overall got excited about it.  When we got into Lexington, Melissa made her way to the parking lot that Linda directed her to park in.  We pulled up in a shady spot (this was the best parking spot, ever!) and piled out of the car.  Melissa needed to meet up with Linda, so she and I hustled that way, me toting my Owyn Vanilla Protein Shake to have as fuel since I had nothing else with me for that and breakfast at 4 am wasn’t happening.

We found Linda and got our race packets and shirts sorted.  Melissa was handed her pacer tank and she changed into that and went to stand with the group of pacers for the official photo!

The start of the race was still a little while off, so we just sort of stood around and talked.  Cathy got Melissa taped to help with the Achilles pain she had been dealing with and she ran off to get in the line for the bathroom.  Linda grabbed her pace stick to stand in the road so people aiming for that pace could start lining up.  Cathy and I moved further up and she left me with, as the plan said, the 8 minute/mile pacer.

But this is where it got a little crazy.  Yes.  Before the start.  I’m minding my own business and doing a few dynamic warm-up moves when some women slid in just ahead of me.  I heard them call a friend over and say, “We’re not running an 8 minute mile, but if we start back there, we’ll get boxed in.”

And this is the downside of not having a good corral system because I ended up moving further ahead of the pacer just to be ahead of people who had that mindset.  The National Anthem was sung beautifully and I squeezed into a spot and got ready for the cannon fire to send us off.  And as we made our way to the start line…the crowd began to do that slow jog thing until the start mat was there.  And as I went to hit the button on my Garmin to start it, the person directly in front of me stopped the little shuffle and immediately began to walk.  I ducked around them without running into them, only to have this happen four more times.  I was beyond frustrated.  I did manage a small wave at Cathy as I passed by…but then I needed to focus because the 8 minute pacer took off and I was getting left behind.

The street was crowded so my dodging and weaving to try to catch back up to the pacer I was supposed to hang with.  It was chaotic and stressful…but I caught up…and managed to weave through the first few turns that happen within the first mile of the race.  I pulled slightly ahead and stayed there, figuring on the hill that I would be overtaken (wow, do I have confidence in myself or what? HA!).  That being said, I had said I would use the water stops in this race instead of carrying water with me.  I normally don’t during a 10K, but with the heat advisories in effect, I had considered it.  Guess what.  I came up a hill and rounded a corner, and totally didn’t see the first water stop until I was already past it.  I decided then I would do my best not to miss another one.

Herein was the beginning of the climb.  From about Mile 1.25 through 2.88…you’re on a steady uphill.  I took it for what it was…a hill…and I’m trying to get more comfortable on hills.  So, I just pushed it.  If there were water stops…I took a sip and poured the rest over my head.  It was all about trying to stay cool.  I remember, at one point, thinking, “Had I run the Buffalo Chase 5K, I’d be almost done.”  That was the state of mind I was in at this point.  And it was early.  This climb did eventually lead into a short downhill to the turn around point…which meant…uphill to start going into Mile 4.  I kept on with my sip and pour water when it came to staying hydrated and cool.  It was working, despite knowing my pace wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.

That being said, heading into Mile 5…everything is downhill.  So that’s a nice way to finish up.  I hit the last water stop heading into the finish and immediately poured water over my head.  My immediate thought was, “I should have drank some of that first.”  But I was close enough to the finish that I didn’t let it weigh on me too much.  I ran past the start point and headed down to the finish line.  I felt like I couldn’t push myself any harder and felt relieved to cross the finish line and be done with it.

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Melissa pacing it into the finish of the Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, Kentucky

I snagged a couple bottles of water and slowly meandered out of the finisher’s chute to go and find Cathy, who was sitting on the bleachers near the finish line.  We were going to cheer in people and then, of course, cheer in Melissa as she led her pace group to their finish.  It was hot and I was a sweaty mess, so I stood for much of in the shade until Melissa was due to arrive.

We spotted her and cheered loudly.  She was eagerly encouraging a little girl to cross the finish line ahead of her.  It was super amazing and I think that finish really made her race.

She hung out in the finisher’s chute with the other pacers…and I tried to get back in there, but was denied.  It’s fine.  The signs said “No Re-Entry,” so I didn’t fight it.  I just went and sat on a bench until they made their way out.  We found a table to sit for a moment, was given some free roasted corn, and then made the hike back to the car.

Linda met up with us again there, where I handed her the jar of jam that I had brought for her (I made some homemade blueberry jam with some local blueberries a friend picked for me).  We stood around and talked for a little bit, but then she went to get on the road and we went to head to Half Price Books, change, shop, and then head to lunch at Bella Notte.

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Spending the 4th of July with friends is the best way to spend the 4th of July!

For those of you keeping score…yes…I ordered what I always order.  A House Salad and the Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata, as always.  And it was super delicious.  We stopped off at one more Half Price Books before heading home for the day to get the rest of the stuff accomplished on a Wednesday afternoon before returning to work the following morning.  Holiday over.

So, the official results of the Bluegrass 10,000 are that I finished in 48:47…once again in humid conditions…once again with walk breaks at the water stops.  Pure survival there. I’d really like to make my 10K PR topple one day…but this was a good 4 minutes slower so I’m not feeling too confident about that happening anytime soon. I was 343/2877 finishers overall. I was the 59/1435 female finishers. And I was 5/242 in my age division.  Ironically, I was 5th (out of a slightly smaller group) last year too.  Weird.  I mean, I’ll take it.

Marengo Underground 5K (aka: Firecracker 5K) – Marengo, IN (June 30, 2018)

Melissa, Debra, Cathy and Me after finishing the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) – Marengo, Indiana

Race: Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K)

Place: Marengo, Indiana

Date: June 30, 2018

Time: 23:53

Want to know what is fun to do on a very hot, summer morning?  How about run through a cave?  A nice, chilly 56 degree cave?  Sound like heaven?  Well…it definitely is.  I promise you that.

I was talked into doing this race by my good friend, Melissa.  Her husband was out of town on a trip and they had run this one the year prior to this one and had a lot of fun.  I figured it was something new and different…and I had nothing else going on that afternoon…so why not?  Bonus: Melissa’s mom was going to walk it and I talked Cathy into signing up to walk it as well.  HA!

Melissa made plans to come and pick Cathy and I up around 6:15-ish so we could make the drive to Georgetown to pick up her mom and then head out to the caves to get our packets, use the bathroom, and get ready to run.  In the years prior to this one, this race usually hosted around 500 people.  This year…1700 signed up and almost 1500 people finished.  You know a race is a good one when it pretty much triples in size.

I had actually looked at a few of the previous year results and it looked like, if I had a good day, I could be an overall female finisher.  But when I heard about how many people were turning up this year…that thought immediately got pushed to the wayside. Which was fine by me.  No pressure.  Just go have some fun.

I think the morning was a comedy of errors.  Melissa left the house without her inhaler (and she has asthma, so that is kind of necessary).  I thought I had forgotten my sunglasses (I realize that 2 of the miles I was covering was INSIDE A CAVE), but it turned our I did actually have them.  I mean…we were hot messes.  The ride to pick up her mom and to get to the caves was just a lot of talking (this is usual for us) and joking around, and listening, because friends sometimes just need to be heard.  It was a relaxing morning overall.  When we arrived at Crawford County Middle School, we were directed into the parking lot and then onto the grass near the school.  We parked and went to go pick up our packets inside the school.

After we snagged our bibs (mine was weirdly a much lower number than the other 3 people with me) and even chatted with the race director about the race (this is how we discovered how big it had gotten), we went over to the bleachers to pin each other up.  Once we were numbered, we went to get into the (at the moment) small line to use the flushing bathroom inside the gym before taking our stuff back out to the car and sitting down inside the car for a little while…to rest our legs, stay cool, and relax before the race.

We did get out about 30 minutes before to eat something small (fuel your runs, friends!), and hopefully get back into the bathroom line.  The line for the port-a-potties and the line for the flushing toilets were CRAZY long.  We stood in line inside and Melissa even went on a hunt for another bathroom (because a school HAS to have more than one, right?).  But after 20 minutes, announcements to get to the start and line up were being made and Cathy came and, being the good race mom she is, ushered us out of the bathroom line and toward the start line.

On the way, my friend Wendy spotted me and called me over.  Her daughter was running it (and she kicked some butt too), and we started talking.  I know her from my spin classes and we were just catching up.  HA!  Cathy eventually wandered back over and told me that I really needed to get to the start line if I was going to get a good spot in the crowd.  So, I caught up with Melissa and her mom and we all hugged and wished each other luck.

After a short wait at the start line, where there were children up front (which is usually not a good idea…but some can hang, I get it…but still…for safety, it’s often asked that kids move back so as not to get trampled), a lot of red white and blue tutus, and a lot of people running together (you could tell…they were dressed alike), I made myself comfortable a few rows back from the timing block at the start and eagerly awaited the start.  Melissa came up to wish me luck and move a traffic cone back further for my own safety (see Dopey Challenge – Disney World 5K story for that)…and I wished her luck…gave her a hug…and prepared to make a sprint (and we all know…sprinting is not my thing).

It was a HOT morning.  Humidity was high.  Dewpoint was high.  And it was close to 80 degrees at 9 am, which is definitely a late starting time for a summer race.  The air was thick and heavy, but the mood was excited and so alive.  The race announcements were made, discussing how the cave was a comfortable 56 degrees inside, but we had a mile outside the cave, and then we were inside for 2 miles of it and then back out for the dash to the finish (probably about .25 miles).  Simple enough.  After a few moments, and the lead car in place…we were off.

The Entrance to the cave we run through (Photo: WHAS11)

The first mile was a scorcher.  There were small rollers to go up and down, and I actually pressed pretty hard in this mile (it felt harder than it was thanks to that heat and humidity).  I passed a lot of the kids that had lined up at the start.  I got passed by a few women and that didn’t surprise me at all.  But I also passed a few too.  We rounded a corner onto E Pleasant Avenue.  As you near the end of this road and go to turn left to head toward the cave, you pass by the finish line area.  So you know…that’s how far you have to come back when you emerge from the cave.  I crossed the railroad tracks and pressed on, my watch alerting me of the first mile just before I hit the entrance of the cave.  I didn’t check it…I dove into the darkness.

And was hit with the cold.  It was like entering a refrigerator.  But after the heavy humidity outside, it was actually very refreshing.  I was expecting to hit this part of the race hard…however…I failed to account for the darkness.

I know what you might say…”But you run in the dark all the time!” And…you’re not wrong.  The difference is…when I run in the dark…I know those roads and sidewalks.  I know where there are holes and potholes and dips and lifts in the pavement and cement.  I didn’t know anything about the cave…except that it might have this dusty, loose gravely sort of layer to run on.  For the next mile…it was solid.  But the twists and turns we went through were dark and at times, it was hard to see the runners doubling back.  That being said…LOVED that temperature.  Even in my cute little crop top.

So, I pushed it cautiously.  When in training and not running a goal race, you don’t do anything stupid.  Injuries, as I know, can take you out for the rest of the season, so I pulled back on the pace enough to feel comfortable in the dark cavern.  But I kept moving.  And I kept picking people to try to chase down.  This lasted as long as it took to get just past Mile 2 inside the cave when that loose gravel dusty and uneven ground…became a reality.

The inside of the cave we run through for the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) – Marengo, Indiana (Photo: RunSignUp)

I think the words, “Not today, Satan!” actually exited my lips as I really eased back and took each step with a bit more caution and care.  No twisted ankles or busted up knees or broken bones.  Nope.  Not on my watch.  So, this meant I had quite a few people pass me up, but I felt good, and safe, and when I got back to the solid ground, picked it up again.

The exit of the cave was in sight, and I popped out, just as Melissa’s mom was about to head in!  She gave me a cheer.  I went to lower my sunglasses, but they had fogged up, so squinting was now happening.  My watch hit Mile 3, so it was the final stretch to the finish line.  But this is when that cool air from the cave dissipates and you get the heat of the day back.  It was like an oven…a slow burn that just got hotter and it made it very hard to get back to pushing that pace.  I headed over the railroad tracks and there was Wendy, and she gave me a cheer as I headed through the finishing chute.  I could hear people coming in fast behind me, so I kicked it as much as I could (I have no kick)…and crossed the finish line.

There was water soaking in some kids pools so I went and snagged a bottle.  It was still warm, but it was wet and I was grateful for it.  I went and stood with Wendy and we cheered in her daughter.  She went to go and find her and I waited there, cheering, and soon, Melissa was on her way in.  I gave her loud shouts of encouragement and she went into the finish line.  She returned and brought me more water (which I needed) and we chatted a bit about the race, standing in the shade, until she spotted Cathy.

As Cathy crossed the railroad tracks, we cheered her in and she picked up her pace to jog it into a strong finish of 48:15…for her first officially timed 5K.  WOOHOO!!  Cathy snagged herself some water and I went to gather her up so we could cheer in Melissa’s mom.  At one point, a train came through and cut off some people heading into the finish.  Some even thought about trying to beat the train, but thankfully didn’t take that risk.

Soon after that, Debra was on her way to the finish line.  She finished and we went to meet her and find some spot in the shade to wait to hear the overall and age group winners.  I knew I was out for those, but award ceremonies are fun.  We cooled off with waters and cheered the super fast winners.  Now that this race has grown, perhaps they will consider going to the standard 5 year age group divisions, instead of the 10 year range they are currently using.  When your race is 500 people, that makes sense.  When it’s almost 2000, not as much.

Afterwards, we went to take photos with the giant flag before making our way back to the car to head home and get on with the day.  THIS…friends…was a totally different and fun 5K to run.  We all had a blast.  And we really loved the reprieve from the hot day by running through a dark, chilly cave.

So, the official results of the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) are that I finished in 23:53. I actually thought I would have been able to do better.  But my splits were 6:54, 7:53, and 8:13…which is actually laughable.  My fastest mile was actually in the heat.  I think the darkness and then the uneven and soft/rocky surface through me off.  Or…maybe I’m just not a good 5K runner.  It’s frustrating…but this was not a goal race.  That first mile though!!  If only I hadn’t slowed down so much in the cave.  Safety first. I was 90/1463 finishers overall. I was 25/928 female runners.  And I was 10/250 in my age group.

Running in a cave on a super hot day is fun…and challenging.  And this little race is starting to go places.  I hope to be back.

Also…not a lot of photos for this one.  We were all running so there was nothing for that finish line.  And no official photos of me at the end.

The Filly Women’s Half Marathon – Louisville, KY (June 10, 2018)

Me crossing the finish line of The Filly Women’s Half Marathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, KY

Date: June 10, 2018

Time: 1:59:09*

The running community has given me a lot over the years.  Honestly.  Locally and nationally.  I’ve met some amazing people through races and events and I’m forever grateful for the support.  So, when my coach, Linda, offered me the opportunity to act as an official pacer for The Filly Women’s Half Marathon in Louisville, I jumped at the chance.  Because this is a great way for me to not only help other women/runners meet their goals…but also it’s a way to give back to the running community.  Since I had already planned on running it…I told her I would be more than happy to do it.

And so…the anxiety began.

Because here is the thing with pacing…the race is not yours.  It’s now your job to get your people to the finish line in a certain amount of time.  And I was selected to be the 2 hour pacer…which was perfectly fine with me.  That meant running around a 9 minute mile evenly to get in ahead of the 2 hour.

First time as an official pacer!

The problem is…it’s really difficult for me to dial back pace in practice…when I’m running alone.  I set my watch to a certain range to buzz at me should I go over or under said pace range…but it was a challenge.  And it was stressful.  And I was so certain that I was just going to be terrible…but I kept on keeping on and working on it.

I just wanted to be a good pacer.  I wanted to get these women to their 2 hour half marathon.  And I wanted to do it without being all over the place like the hot mess I am at times.  HA!

I did both of the training runs that were offered.  The first one, I did the entire course, and with a few walk breaks, I cam in relatively close to time.  Still too fast.  The second time, i only ran 8 miles…so it was hard to gauge, but I felt like I was a little closer to the range.  It didn’t hurt that now the weather was starting to get swampy and pretty much unbearable once the sun was officially up.  This would make for an interesting race day.

Official pacing shirt!

As would the predicted weather, which had originally been calling for rain and storms at race time.  I literally wasn’t sure what would be waiting for me at the start line when I got up that morning, because the weather was juts all over the place all week…and thunderstorms had gone through the night before.

That morning, I ate my cereal and got my Honey Stinger Gel tucked into the zipper pocket of my shorts.  As it was humid out, I drank down 20 ounces of water, and prepped 16 more to take with me in the car with a NUUN tablet in it for extra electrolytes.  I tucked my Owyn Dark Chocolate Protein Shake into a cooler to keep it cool so I could have it about 30 minutes before the start of the race…and Cathy got up and got ready and we were out the door and being picked up by our friends Melissa and Paul to head to the Parklands.  The race started at the Egg Lawn, and I was a bundle of nerves, let me tell you.

This was my first time as an official pacer.  I’ve paced friends before, trying to help them achieve their goals…and ultimately, that has never worked out.  And I was terrified that I would end up alone out there…or that I would go to fast, go to slow…be late into the finish line.  Things I never worried about before because I only had to run for me.  If it was hot and I needed to slow down, I could.  If it was perfect and I could speed up…I would.  But this time…I was set to strictly run about a 9 min mile with even splits to get to the finish line at 1:59:00 or just slightly before that 2 hour mark.  That’s a lot of stress.  At least for me.  Because…hello perfectionist.

We arrived and the parking situation was already a mess.  We were told that if we got there early, we’d be able to park at the start line.  We actually did get their early, but they wouldn’t let us go that way.  So, we ended up parking in a field and having to make the hike to the pavilion where everyone was meeting.  It was annoying in that we all had thought we’d have access to the vehicle for before and after the race…and being a pacer, that was sort of important.  Needless to say, we made the walk and I met up with Linda and put on my ForWord Running Pacer tank.  I was wearing the T-shirt, but when I was doing one of the training runs with Linda, asked about tank tops…she made it happen.  And now I won’t die.  She could tell I was nervous, so she said really nice reassuring things to me, helped me tape my paces onto my pace stick.  Which, reminded me that I have always hated carrying things while running…so this was going to be fun.  Last time I carried something during a race was the Indy Women’s Half Marathon in 2012…and it was a water bottle that I really, really just wanted to toss and never see again.  HA!

The ladies of the ForWord Running Pace Team at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

We took some pictures of the pacers and I made sure I was fueled, hydrated, and ready to run.  I went to use the bathroom because…we had to get here early and I was NOT going to be dehydrated when I could potentially have others counting on me to see them in.

There was a lot of confusion about the start of the Filly Women’s Half Marathon.  The start gate wasn’t on the road proper, but sort of off to the side.  And at the time, a truck was still parked in front of it.  We were getting dangerously close to start time and none of us could see a start mat…and anyone holding a pacer sign was getting asked about it.  No one seemed to have answers…until the emcee had us all move over to the side road with the start gate.  Still no sign of anything that would catch the official start of the race.  There was a couple of race announcements and talks…but soon we were all asked to move forward for the race to get underway.

Leading some ladies out for a 2 hour half marathon at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Linda was pacing the lead on her bike…so at her ready…the announcement was given…and we were off.  I crossed through the start gate and hoped for the best.  As I settled into position on the road around the Egg Lawn, I did notice that I had a small group of ladies running with me.  So…conversation time!

“Are you guys my 2-hour group?”  They all said yes. So, I introduced myself and we were cruising through that first mile.  One of the ladies started up some tunes, all of which I was enjoying.  And at Mile 1 I checked my watch and we were definitely going too fast.  I announced that now that we found our space, we were backing off and settling in.

Some women continued on ahead at the original pace, but some fell back with me.  As we entered the second mile, I also knew that Damien…the hill of DOOOOOOM was coming up.  It is a pretty steep monster there in the Parklands (the MRTT/SRTT group named it Damien because it makes devil horns on your elevation chart when it’s included in the beginning and end of your runs there.  As we neared it, I was chatting with some of the ladies still with me.  One had just gotten back from Sydney, Australia.  She had raced there and said the temperatures were much better there (Australia is in their winter and we were heading into summer).  At the hill, as I was trying to keep on pace, I climbed it with power (realistically, this is the only way I know how to do hills as I’ve always climbed them for races and hill repeats…all of which make you drive up them hard).  Some women started walking up it (when I race here, this is what I do because it’s too early to expend that kind of energy) but I couldn’t this time.  Some ladies got to the top and took a walk break.  Some continued on with me.

Hydrating while pacing through the MRTT/SRTT hydration station!

I know this course like the back of my hand. The sun was fierce that day, and it was hot and humid.  It normally is in this area.  But as we got onto the narrow path and out of the road, I was keeping some spirits high.  “We’re almost into a shaded downhill, ladies!”  I glanced at my watch to check my pace and someone asked if we were behind.  I told her that we weren’t…we were actually just slightly ahead and this downhill would be good because after we turned around, we’d have to come back UP this hill (and in the two training runs, this hill slowed me down EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. on the way back).  We cruised down the hill, and crossed over to enter Pope Lick Park Park.  I knew that at the soccer fields, the amazing ladies of the local MRTT/SRTT group would be there cheering and bringing refreshments.  As I was not carrying fuel with me…I was going to try to make it on the Sword (I have never fueled on Sword) and water at the water stops.  This meant a few walk breaks at each one as necessary.  I paced myself accordingly.  At this point, I had one runner with me.  She was super nice and we talked about other races we had done.  She said she was starting to feel the humidity fatigue her and after we went through the cheer zone, where ladies were kind enough to ask if they needed to slow me down (I have a reputation)…she said she was falling back and would try to catch up.  I told her she would…and I’d see her soon.

And now…my dear friends…let me tell you a tale of a 2 hour pacer…who was left alone.  There were runners ahead…and I could hear some runners behind…but there was no one with me from about Mile 5 through…Mile 12.  I wish I could say I was joking.  I’m not.  But I made sure I kept my pace going and took walk breaks regardless.  Just in case some women fell back and needed me to see them in to their Goal B instead of Goal A.  I passed Linda, who was guiding the lead runner (who didn’t even look winded) back to the Egg Lawn to finish.  I cheered for the ladies who were already on their way back, telling them they were doing awesome.  Originally we were told we’d be turning around before the bridge, but that had changed.  We now were heading over the bridge to the final water stop before turning around.  I just assumed that this was actually where we turned around (there was a sign there that had the loop…so that’s what I did.  And…I headed back.  At first my watch beeped ahead of time for Mile 7…but it all settled back into the correct numbers as I got past that.  I think it was just because there was a convenient spot on the bridge to put that mile marker.  After the turn around, I was still alone, so I set my task on cheering for and encouraging all the women making their way toward the turn around point.  It was a miserable day and I could tell a log of women were not hitting paces or expectations that they had set for themselves.

The loneliness of the 2 hour pacer…

Funny how just a little bit of encouragement can turn that around.  I gave a lot of “Looking Strong!”, “You’re doing great!”, “GO LADIES!” as I ran my way back through the course, enjoying the moments of shade, and dreading those open sunny paths at times.  As I passed more of the pacers they all kindly asked me if they needed to stop me or slow me down.  I told you I have a reputation. I would check and tell them I was doing good!  And I was!

At the stand-alone water stop that was out there (Hydration Station 4A)…I popped my Honey Stinger gel (I didn’t feel like I needed it, but I wanted to be sure I had the energy to finish this, even if I remained alone).  I downed some water and carried on, picking it back up to get back on pace.  All the while…shouting more words of encouragement along the way.  Soon the steady stream of ladies going the other way dwindled and I was back to just pacing it in.

I hit the MRTT/SRTT station again, and took a Sword and a walk…and made sure they knew that I didn’t need to be slowed down.  Seriously, every time I heard that phrase it made me laugh and smile.  And not pay attention to the heat and humidity.  I remained alone as I came out of Pope Lick and headed back toward Beckley Creek Park, where the finish line was waiting.  The hill I was dreading, I now was facing on my own.  So…I started the climb…and I could tell I was behind on the pace going up. But I knew I had a small bit of cushioning to allow for that.  Even with the water stops I walked through to fuel and hydrate.  I did my best to push it enough so that when I hit Mile 11 just after hitting the top of the winding, shaded path, I could make sure I was still right on pace.  And it worked.  Despite being alone, I kept the proper pace and worked hard to maintain it.  You just never know when someone might turn up and rely on you to get them to the finish. Even those ahead of you.

Me after finishing my pacing duties at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Just after Mile 11, it was back down Damien.  That was a nice relief, but I had to make myself pull back so as not to tear up my quads (this is a STEEP hill)…and to not get too far ahead of the pace.  I continue on the road and at one of the bridges, I see two women hop up onto the sidewalk and start to take the path, not the road, back to the finish line.  I remembered Bob, the race director saying that the last portion and the first portion of the race would be on the roads, so while this did cause me to second-guess it…I kept on the road.  And then Linda was ahead on her bike shouting, “FOLLOW ME!”

She let me catch up and I asked about the women on the path and she shouted over to them to let them know that they should be on the road.  They cut across a parking lot at the final water stop to catch up.  I got my water and prepped to run the last mile in.  I stayed behind these two ladies, shouting words like, “Last mile, ladies!  Let’s do this!”  And as we hit Mile 13 and prepped to make the turn to run toward the finish line, I began shouting, “TWO HOUR PACER BEHIND.  BEAT ME IN!  BEAT ME IN!  DON’T LET ME PASS YOU!”

Me and Melissa after The Filly Women’s Half Marathon & 4-Miler

And they crossed and then…I followed right behind them.  Clocking in at 1:59:09…which, my coach, Linda, would say…was perfect.

They announced my name as the pacer and I went to step out of the way of anyone who might be right behind me.  No one was immediately there.  My friend, Pam, who I met in the MRTT/SRTT coffee run came over to give me a medal and a cold towel, which was put around my neck.  That was heaven.  The after party had treats and snacks galore…but I went over to see how Melissa did on the 4-Miler and relax.  My job here was done.

While I was unwinding, Cathy looked up results and said I had won an age group award.  I wasn’t sure what the process was when you’re a pacer, but when the person who came in after me was 7 minutes behind…I was given the okay to claim it.

Brunch was a Gluten Free Pop’s Poppin’ Egg Salad Sandwich at Wild Eggs!

There is something so amazing and empowering about all women races.  I love doing them…and this time…I loved being a part of the team that was there to help others reach their goals.  And I fell in love with the job of being a pacer.  I might have been alone with it, but it challenged me to slow down, to take it in, to help others, and to get out of my comfort zone.  I got my medal engraved with my name, finishing time, and the word “PACER” underneath it.  And then, Melissa, Paul, Cathy and I went out to Wild Eggs for a celebratory brunch, before hitting Costco and heading home.

So, the official results of The Filly Women’s Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:59:09, perfect timing for the 2 hour pacer, yes?  *FIST PUMP*  I was 14/184 finishers overall.  And I was 2/29 women in my age division.

If this race returns next year, I’ll definitely be signing up again.  It was a total blast and I loved seeing all the ladies come out to run their best and be their best.  And that, my friends, is what an all female race is about.

OH…and that pacing stick…I forgot I was carrying it.  Never once felt annoyed by it.

With my Age Group Award from The Filly Half Marathon