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26.2 with Donna - 13.1 race report

"It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts. " - Robert H. Schuller

For most of us, we will never set a world record, receive an award for acting or singing, change laws or make a discovery that will change the world. For most of us, we are just living life to the best of our ability, trying to manage life, work, environment and training.

Knowing that most of us will never be "famous" for our passionate pursuits, it's an individual effort to do things that you will want to remember. Knowing that you have control over your life, are you living your life to the fulleset?

When laying in bed on Saturday evening, I heard the news about Whitney Houston. As an amazingly accomplished singer, what affected me the most was her age. 48 yrs young. As I turned off the TV and thought about my upcoming race, I once again thought to myself how lucky I am to have a tomorrow.

As an athlete, it goes without saying that I love training and I love healthy competition. More than anything, I love competing against myself...thoughts in my head that ask me to stop, muscles that scream for me to rest and the many "what if's" when trying to execute a race day plan.

In my own journey of life, I've learned to embrace competition with a healthy mind. As much as I am willing to take chances and put it all out on the course, I also realize that there will always be another race. My ability to create a great memory of my race day performance has nothing to do with achieving a PR or winning my age group. I want to get more out of a race than what I put in...and often, that can be tough when you are competitive within yourself and among others.

Far too many athletes put so much pressure on themselves to perform perfectly on race day. Pressure is simply a perceived expectation of the want to perform well- often placing in age group, receiving an award, qualifying for another event or reaching a personal best time. In other words, all that time training for one day (not to mention money) and when race day comes, we (as athletes) put so much pressure on ourselves to perform at our best.

But when you think about it, when the race is over, the pressure comes off and you get yourself ready (and recovered) for tomorrow. For with every race the best thing you can do for yourself is reflect and get excited for tomorrow. Another day to move closer to another goal. Successful performances are created from consistent actions. For on race day, we don't remember all the missed or bad workouts but the awesome, amazing and ground-breaking training sessions that give us the confidence (and data) to execute a fantastic race day performance.

Even though most of us will never set a world record or break any record times, we all aspire to be our best, do our best and most of all, create memories for a quality life. Successful race performance are far beyond finish times, places or comparing yourself to others. The beauty in racing is that we all have our own ways of defining success and that is what is worth remembering. For your worst day may be someone's best day.

13.1 mile race report - 26.2 with Donna

My alarm went off at 4:05am on Sunday morning and I was quick to get out of bed, put on my race day outfit (CEP compression tri shorts, CEP Pink compression socks and my Oakley long-sleeve top). After I put on my race day outfit, I put on a few more layers to brave the fridged temps as I walked Campy (and his best friend Bman who was staying with me over the weekend). Karel raced near my parents this weekend for the San Antonio Road Race on Sat and the Dade City Crit on Sunday.

(My amazing hubby breaking away from the Pro 1,2 field in lap 3 of the crit)

After walking the doggies, I sipped on my coffee w/ milk and warmed up oatmeal w/ sunflower seeds and peanut butter. By 4:45am I was out the door and drove to UNF to wait for the shuttle.

Keeping a positive attitude, I covered my ears and grabbed my gloves and waited in line for about 20 minutes (outside) with the wind blowing hard, right to my bones. With the wind chill around 20 degrees, I started to shiver. I could not control my shaking and I tried to hide my face in my Louis Garneau cycling jacket as well as keeping my fingers warm with two pairs of gloves. Some people were wrapped in blankets (what a great idea) whereas others were relying on body warmth and were in tight circles with their friends.

Finally, the line moved close enough to raise my confidence that I would get on the next bus. Around 5:35am, I moved my cold toes inches foward and finally stepped on a semi-warm school bus...this was one of those times when I actually wanted to stay on the bus and I didn't really care how long it took to get there.

After the quick 10 minute drive to the Mayo Clinic, I sipped on 1 scoop Hammer Heed in a sport bottle as I made my way (still shivering) to the bag drop. I removed one pair of gloves and my jacket, as well as my sweat pants. I took one last gulp of my sport drink and kept on my ear warmer, gloves and long sleeve Oakley shirt. I put on my Oakley Commit sunglasses on my head and grabbed my gel flask filled with 1/2 hammer vanilla gel and 1/4 water.

I tried to jog to the port-o-potty but my feet were not cooperating. Now dressed in less layers than before, my shaking was uncontrollable but I had convinced myself early this morning that I was determined to keep a positive attitude. It only took a few looks up at the Mayo Clinic hospital for me to be reminded how lucky I am to have a choice to be outside and run this event.

As I was waiting in line for one last potty stop, you could hear voices of others talking about how cold it was. But not once did I hear anyone complain. Sure, perhaps some of the comments could have been classified as complaining but I constantly heard positive comments such as "you will warm up, it could be worse if it was raining, this is a great cause, look at all the pink on the guys, etc".

It was nearing the start of the race and I was cutting it close to getting to the finish on time. Luckily, at 6:25am after I left the port-o-potty, the announcer mentioned about delaying the start to 6:40am rather than 6:30am due to a few late buses.

Never doing this race before, I wasn't quite sure where to go for the start so I started jogging among the masses. I weaved my way through the crowds and ended up in the front corral for the race. With marathoners and half marathoners combined at the race start, I positioned myself around the 3 hour and 3:20 marathon pacers and continued to think positive thoughts.

Without a doubt, I am most vulnerable when I am cold. Without Karel by my side and a crowd of strangers around me, I really had no choice but to remain positive - for no person is going to want to hear me complain, especially when they are likely thinking the same thing.

As my feet began to go numb, I completely broke down with tears in my eyes. Perhaps this was because I was so cold but I just had no idea how I was going to be able to run 13.1 miles in these conditions. Certainly my coldest race of my life, I started talking with the lady next to me who had a wonderful smile on her face. We started laughing about the weather and that it was going to be an interesting day for racing and I asked her "are your feet frozen like mine?" She said "Oh yes! But don't worry, they will thaw out around mile 2." It was at that point that I was ready to get the race started and oddly enough, I believed this stranger. Funny thing, when you are at races, strangers suddenly become your friend for you can be having a bad moment or the worst race of your life and someone can say something to unexpected that it can lift you up to the most positive place. I swear that I have wanted to quit almost every race that I have done in my life but somewhere in every race, I am convinced that quitting is never the answer to anything.

I wished the lady good luck and off we went!

Up the bridge, right from the gun. 2 long miles up and down the bridge and sure enough, my feet got warm around mile 2.5. Sadly, however, my gel flask that I sipped on at the start of the race (10 min before the start) didn't close and ended up pouring all over my gloves. I knew the weather was cold but I couldn't figure out why my hands were stone cold. I couldn't move my fingers or even feel them and around mile 2 when I tried to grab some water, I realized that my gel flask was empty and my gloves were pretty much like ice.

Off went the gloves and I tossed the gel flask and rather than looking at my garmin to pace myself, my race strategy changed and my new plan was "the quicker I run, the quicker I finish". It was going to be a gatorade type of day with sport drinks every 3 miles and water stops every mile. I covered my hands in the sleeves of my shirt and just kept on running.

It was around mile 3 when I saw Karel's boss Jeff Kopp and our friend Sean C. and when they said hello, I was stunned to find my mouth completely numb. I wasn't sure if I was smiling or not but I think I was able to mumble "Oh my, it's cold!" as I ran on by. I also tried to give them a thumbs up but not sure as to which finger I was able to get up at that time. Hopefully they got a good laugh out of it as I couldn't help but laugh at the cold temps in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

I was finally able to get into a groove around mile 4 and with the beach section approaching, I was constantly being lifted up by the crowds. Yes - the crowds in these CRAZY cold temps were amazing! Signs for "FREE MAMOGRAMS" by guys dressed in bras and more pink than I could ever imagine. There were dogs, young kids and lots of volunteers, all cheering loud and making us feel like we were the coolest runners (no pun intended) in the world.

When entering the beach, I was instantly hit by a forceful headwind. It was like I was running up a steep hill but rather on flat sand with the wind howling at my face. The ocean looked pretty and I couldn't help but think about the beauty in running on the beach. Painful conditions - sure. But the beauty was not taken away from this race day.

At the turn around on the beach, I counted the women ahead of me and surprised myself that I was in the top 20 of the women. I believe that within every race, no matter how the race day plan is being executed, you have to find reasons to remain competitive. I believe we all have a fire inside of us that wants us to compete against ourselves but there's nothing wrong with competition and often it allows us to achieve things that we never once thought were possible.

Running back towards the bridge, I was excited to run back up the bridge. With my run/walk strategy out the window and no idea as to my overall pace or HR, I was simply running this race by feel....something I haven't done in several years. I can't say that it was a bad thing for this race day (and perhaps a good thing considering the conditions) but I'm the type of athlete who likes to execute my race day plan.

Kinda bummed that the day was not turning out like I had planned, I approached mile 9 without any walk breaks and knew that even though bridges/hills are my strength, the anticipated thought of head wind and my body finally feeling a little warmer (although mouth was still numb) made me a bit concerned about these last 4 miles. I knew I could do it but still feeling competitive, I needed to find something inside of myself to keep me digging deep.

4 miles. On Tuesday morning I did my last "long" run of 9 miles (with intervals) and started the workout off the bike, with 4 miles with Campy. I told myself "If Campy can do 4 miles, I can do 4 miles!"

Then, I thought about my 13.1 dedications. All the people who were cheering for me and the runners ahead of me, telling us how great we looked. When running up the bridge, I saw my friend Jo Shoot as she was running with a girl a minute or two in front of me. I was so excited to reach the top of the bridge and reach the Lululemon crowd. Hoping that JO would turn around at the top of the bridge, she did just that I spotted me in the crowd. Thankful that she found me, this was just the last "lift" that I needed to finish strong to the finish. Remembering all of my dedications as well as hearing the positive words from the crowd, I was running with another girl in the last mile and we both said to each other "Cold day...but so grateful to be running".

Running off the bridge, I made a turn to the finish line. Once again, that crazy wind made it feel like I was running up another bridge. With a smooth stride and feeling a major sense of accomplishment for one of my hardest racing conditions of my life, I crossed the line in 1:35. A few minutes off my best, but hey - this was a race to be remembered and I am proud that I didn't count myself out before the race had started.

Truth be told...I wanted really badly to just stay in my car when I was about to stand in line for the bus. I never imagined it would be so cold and what I would have to do to make my mind and legs work together with these tough "Florida" racing conditions. But thankfully, knowing that we can't control the weather but we can control our attitude and racing plan, I feel as if this was one of the best racing experiences. Hey, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm lucky I survived :)

After crossing the line, I grabbed a water as I knew I didn't drink as much I needed to during the race. I made my way to the 110% gear recovery tent and couldn't wait to put on my 110% Clutch Tights....without the ice as my body was still trying to get warm even after 13.1 miles. The sun was finally shinning and I called Karel to tell him about the race as I was hidding under a heat lamp in the tent. The 110% tent was amazing with blow-up chairs, free compression and ice calf sleeves for the runners to wear for a few minutes after the race and plenty of food to snack on after the race.

“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” -Orison Swett Marden

I was quickly reminded by Karel that this is the beginning of my tri-season and despite not breaking my best time of 1:31 (which I did in Nov), training is built on many training sessions. For if we all peaked right before every race or in the early parts of our season, it would be likely that we would be burnt out before that big key race. Knowing what the day brought to all the runners, I felt accomplished that I was able to share this experience with survivors and passionate individuals, who all had something in common.....
We all like to finish what we start and regardless of excuses, the mind is a powerful thing if you know how to use it correctly.

Finishing time 1:35.3
Pace: 7:18 min/mile
Average HR 149 beats
20th overall female
5th age group (25-29)
60th overall athlete

Mile 1: 7:42 (134 HR)
Mile 2: 7:02 (140 HR)
Mile 3: 7:16 (144 HR)
Mile 4: 6:59 (144 HR)
Mile 5: 7:03 (150 HR)
Mile 6: 7:22 (155 HR)
Mile 7: 7:25 (154 HR)
Mile 8: 7:08 (153 HR)
Mile 9: 7:11 (154 HR)
Mile 10: 7:13 (156 HR)
Mile 11: 7:24 (156 HR)
Mile 12: 7:37 (155 HR)
Mile 13: 7:18 (154 HR)

(wow - those splits were all over the place! Looking forward to going back to my run/walk strategy in my future races...with hopefully warmer weather :)