"Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it's all about."
-PattiSue Plumer, U.S. Olympian
While driving back from our 100 mile bike ride at the Horrible Hundred in Clermont, Florida on Sunday, Karel told me that he was thinking about doing the 1/2 marathon on Thursday. I didn't say anything to him because I was tired from our 5 1/2 hours in the saddle and was thinking to myself "would I be able to recover in 3 days in order to race the half marathon???" After several years of being a stubborn athlete, focused on the miles, I pride myself in NOW being a SMART athlete. I do not like to make excuses when it comes to racing so I always try my hardest to think before I act so that I am being as consistent as possible with my training.
Sometimes I never know what to expect from Karel because he is super talented (both in his personal life and with sports) and he is always seeking a new adventure. But one thing we both have in common is that we love to compete. Competition allows us to focus on the quality aspect of training, for we both enjoy pushing our body to the limit with the least amount of training stress.
To prioritize sleep and to encourage the quickest recover possible, I made us of all of my go-to "things" to help me recover as quick as possible.
2 tissue rejuvinator (Hammer) a day
1 massage from Marjorie (Monday late afternoon)
Daily, low fat dairy (for protein and calcium) and whey protein
Eating balanced meals and snacks, every few hours
1 Hammer Fizz on Monday and Tuesday (Sunday 100 mile ride was SUPER hot!)
Adequate water throughout the day
Compression socks during the day (I work at the hospital all this week, except for today)
I took off training on Mon and Tues so that I could sleep well and allow time before work to stretching/yoga. I was moving a bit slow in the hospital on Mon and Tues (thankfully my brain was in great shape due to the amino's in my morning whey protein drink) but by Wednesday I was feeling a bit "more normal".
With two great nights of sleep, I set my alarm for 4:40am for an early morning workout on Wednesday. I did a light 15 min strength session (circuit-style) to warm up my hips, back and legs and did a quick 3 mile run outside the YMCA. I then finished my workout with a welcomed 3000 yrd swim, and then headed to the hospital. I felt SO much better after my workout and it was nice to wake up my body after feeling almost fully recovered with 3 quality days of respecting my body.
I rarely sign up for races until the week (or day before) of the race because I do not like to feel pressure to do the race. Again, being SMART. After I finished seeing my patients on Wed, my friend Susan (from the hospital, another clinical dietitian) and I went to First Place Sports to (register) pick up our stuff for the race. I received a text from Karel around 3pm that he did the same, near the San Jose Trek Store.
Karel and I woke up at 4:50am and had a light pre-race breakfast. I had 1/4 cup cooked oats with sliced almonds and a small spoonful of PB, alongside water and coffee. Karel wasn't sure what to eat as this was his first half marathon (and longest run since his 50 minute run on Mon) so he had coffee, water, a Mix 1 and 2 fig newtons.
We both filled up a flask with about 3-4 ounces of gel (Hammer vanilla for me) mixed with water for the race. We also sipped on hammer heed w/ water prior to the race.
We arrived to the Trek store around 615am and did a quick warm-up while waiting for our friends James and Jennifer S. Around 6:45 we headed to the start (about .25 miles down the road) and gathered on the starting line with around 2000 other athletes.
It was great to see so many familiar faces and to feel alive and well at my first half marathon since last Dec. Even more so....I couldn't wait to see what Karel would do!
My current racing strategy allows me to put some change in the bank in the case that my rt leg begins to give out on me and I have to do a quick walk just to relieve the tightness. Although I have made great progress since then and have created some great habits in my training routine to allow me to race "injury free", this is all due from residual "injury" of racing injured at Kona in 2007.
My training has been great since I resumed a low-volume, high intensity running + cross training plan on Nov 5th (after a relaxing un-structured exercise routine after Kona). With a goal of sub 1:30, I knew what I needed to hold as an average pace (6:50) but I wasn't sure how the day would turn out.
I ran a bit fast for the first few miles but Karel encouraged me to just see what would happen. Hesitant at first, I feel that one of my struggles as an Ironman athlete is dealing with the "suffering" that occurs in "short" races. Although very comfortable for the first half of the race, I did experience a few down moments which I think are very normal..."I really want to quit"...when you are pushing hard.
I took a quick stretch break around mile 5 because I could feel my leg starting to get tight. By mile 7, my leg was getting really stiff so I decided to walk at the aid station. It was a quick walk but really needed. Because I am use to walking with my run training, I felt as if the walk break was just what I needed to push hard for the rest of the race.
The next 3-4 miles were tough. By mile 9 I was really struggling with my pace. It was a weird feeling because my breathing wasn't labored (as it was in the 10K 2 weeks ago) and my muscles weren't necessarily hurting. I just didn't have the next gear.
Thank goodness for my gel flask because I feel this allowed me to feel great during the entire race. I was experiencing ups and downs throughout this entire race but by mile 10, when I hear my name from an experienced runner, Dan Domingo, I started to pick up the pace. Oddly enough...guess who was running with Dan (as he was pushing his child in a baby jogger!).....
Karel told me to keep up the pace and that I was looking great. I smiled at him and couldn't believe the pace that he was holding. I kinda got upset at myself for starting too fast but I truely believe that racing allows us to learn and to continually improve as athletes. For sometimes we have "that" race and other times we are just happy to be finished at the line. As long as I respect my body, I know that there will always be another race, another opportunity and another experience.
With Karel in my sight, although running away and looking super smooth and comfortable, I looked at my garmin and gave it everything I had for the last 2 miles.
Somehow, I managed to get into a groove and with 1 mile to go, I pushed and pushed as hard as I could.
With .25 miles to go, my entire body was hurting but I told myself that I did not train so hard just to finish. Although me and sprinting don't belong in the same sentence, I dug super deep and crossed the finish line in 1:31.51.
Not knowing what the day would bring, I was super happy that I set a new PR and placed 4th in my age group. It was a lot of fun feeling like a runner and running alongside some amazingly fast women!
Then I spotted Karel...waiting for me :)
Karel told me that he too sprinted the last mile and for good reason....
Karel's finishing time: 1:29.44!!!!
The funniest part about Karel's spoken race report is that when he got to mile 7, he said to himself "well, this is all unknown territory from here on out".
I am thankful for my second PR in 2 weeks as well as a body that is allowing me to challenge myself, reach new limits and to set new goals. I am thankful for the many spectators on the course who were cheering for us (and volunteering) as well as for my friends and family who inspire, encourage and believe in me. Lastly (but not least), I am thankful that I have Karel in my life. I have never asked Karel to do a triathlon or to enter a running race. I continue to fall more and more in love with Karel because we share similar lifestyles, but have different passions. I don't believe it is necessary that Karel and I do triathlons together, do cycling together or do running races together but I am forever grateful that Karel lives an active and healthy lifestyle.
When it comes to sports, it's not about setting personal bests or even trying to be the best. Toughness doesn't come from pushing through injury but rather respecting the body. Success is not about a finishing time or how much mileage is done in a week. By finding the right balance between life and training/exercise, quality of life will be improved and you will find yourself truely living life to the fullest.
My splits from the race:
Average pace: 7:01 min/mile
Mile 1: 6:34
Thumbs up for Karel!
Typical picture pose for me :)