I didn’t listen to you guys. . .

You guys told me I was going to be faster, that my fitness would come back, and I’d be even stronger than I was before I got pregnant. I didn’t believe you, nor did I listen. Everyone said there’s this thing called “mom power” and I just shook it off because, yea right I’m going to be sleep deprived and will I ever run again? Serious question. I just didn’t know. Being pregnant was really hard on me. I didn’t handle it well, and I know I’ve said that before, but I want to continue to say it in case someone’s reading this and they are not all roses while pregnant. I didn’t bond with Emerson until she arrived. I don’t know why, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way than with Jon and my two pups. Now, I wake up and I can’t wait to see what she is going to do that day. Having her has totally wrecked my world in the best way.
With that said, you can imagine my shock when I crossed the finish line of last week’s off-road XC 5k in second place and with a 30 second improvement on my lifetime best. My previous 5k cross country PR was 19:34 and I ran a 19:01 in Los Angeles at Griffith Park. I won’t say I executed the race perfectly, but I gave it my best, and I walked away happy. I still opened up with the first mile in 5:54….ha when will I learn? But when I started to fade at mile 2.5 and a girl passed me, I matched her pace and held her off. I’m proud of my effort, but more importantly, just so amazed at how my fitness has returned, even stronger than before. I hope I make Emerson proud. Being a mom to her is one of my greatest joys in this life. Looking forward to racing a few more 5ks this training cycle. Onward!



Oops, it’s been since March

I honestly don’t know what happened. Oh yea, I got pregnant. Let’s try that again. I got pregnant! (can you tell it was a bit of a shock and a little bit hard to swallow at first? More on that later…We’re having a BABY! It still blows my mind that I will be in charge of a tiny human soon.) But, that’s not really an excuse for my absence during April and May. April and May were actually pretty decent months running wise. How do you catch back up when you haven’t blogged in nearly a year? My husband keeps telling me he’s waiting to see a post in his inbox, so I promised him I’d catch up the blogging world. These past 9 months have been a whirlwind. I really love reading blogs, so it puzzles me why I’ve had such a hard time writing. I think about this space often, but I suppose I felt like I lost my identity as a runner when I got pregnant. I know that feeling isn’t logical, because pregnancy isn’t a disease, and I won’t be pregnant forever (despite feeling that way at 37 weeks currently). Nonetheless, I really became dormant fairly quickly. It might be because with pregnancy, your running truly can change overnight. I had no idea of this. One day I ran 7 miles, and the next I decided that would be the last run. Of course, I was wrong. Some running days truly feel like a fairytale, while others are miserable, just picking up my feet, trying not to feel like my uterus is falling out of my body. #dramatic

While it may seem a bit narcissistic (aren’t all blogs a little, though?), I’m going to attempt to recap the months of April + May in this post, and then I’ll follow up with the first trimester. YAY, ALL ABOUT ME! I promise (SCOUTS HONOR) I will not leave you high and dry, and I’ll also follow up with second and third trimester posts. I know if anything, I’ll appreciate reading them down the road. Honestly, it’s probably best I waited this long to recap, because like I said, I was quite literally ALL.OVER.THE.PLACE in my brain (actually, I still am) during this pregnancy, so looking at everything from a birds-eye-view rather than in the moment will make me seem less like a hormonal psycho. #forrealz pregnancy is no joke. I’ve cried and laughed in the same sentence way too many times the last 8 months. Here we go.

April

I had just PR’d in the 5k after months of rehab and cross training from my IT band issue. I don’t know how. I still don’t know how I did that on such low mileage, except that cross training really does work. You guys, I can swim now! Here’s what my training looked like during April.

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Jeni was training for her first triathlon, so we swam a ton together.

4/13/2015 Mon 6 min easy, 6-10 minutes @ threshold (about 6:45 pace), 6 minutes easy. No joke. That’s it. I would supplement with swimming in the AM.
4/14/2015 Tue 8-10×1:30 @ 5k with 1:00 min walk recovery
4/15/2015 Wed cross train (either swimming or biking)
4/16/2015 Thu same as monday (6 min easy, 6-10 min moderate, 6 min easy)
4/17/2015 Fri 8-10x:30 sec @ 800m with 1:00 min walk recovery
4/18/2015 Sat cross train or complete day off
4/19/2015 Sun 30 min very easy on trails

During April, despite my low mileage, I started to string together some great workouts, and my confidence was coming back. Knowing I was in good shape after running a 18:35 5k at the end of March, I was ready to tackle some more races, and see if I could snag some more PRs. I mean, If I can do well on 20 miles a week and stay injury free, heck I am one happy girl! I emailed the coach at University of Memphis to see if I could jump into the 3k at their upcoming invitational.IMG_5297

May

The word for May was consistency. I told myself to just stay consistent and keep rehabbing the IT band to make sure that nasty injury doesn’t come back. It worked. I raced in the 3k at U of M like I had hoped, and even though it was my first 3k ever (automatic PR 😉 ), if it had been a full 2 miles, I would have PRd by 20 seconds! Despite not feeling great during the race (had no idea I was pregnant at the time, but that explains why I needed to puke up my lunch the entire 7.5 laps, woof), I ran the 3k in 10:37, and snagged 7th place in a division 1 college meet! It was a really great day, and it was so fun to have some great friends there cheering for me.

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How ironic. Celebrating after my 3k while carrying a friend’s baby. Had no idea I was 5 weeks pregnant.

The next, and final “race” I would run in 2015 would be the Knoxville, TN Expo 10k over Memorial Day weekend. Every year, we go to East TN during this weekend to visit friends, and I look forward to this race. Even though I felt terrible during the 3k a few weeks prior, I knew I was fit, and I was looking to go under 40 minutes this year. I did this same race in 2014, and knew it would be HARD. Hills in East TN are no joke. I was ready to have a great day and work the hills, though. Well, what happened? I felt terrible again! I went out with the lead pack of females at around 6:15 pace, and totally bonked. I was really disappointed. Why did I feel so terrible? Was I dehydrated? Did the hills get the best of me? It was after this race + sleeping literally all weekend + drinking all the water I could get my hands on that I realized maybe something was up. I took a pregnancy test on Memorial Day when we got home. Everything changed so fast.

Stay tuned! I’ve already got a reminder on my calendar to publish the first trimester post. No getting around it.

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Knoxville 10k.

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Post race meal. Hadn’t eaten meat in years! All of a sudden craving #allthebacon

How running fast can win you a year supply of free Chick-Fil-A 5k

I am still wading through summer race recaps. If you asked me in May about racing a lot this summer, my response probably would have been, “Hmm. Probably not. It’s too hot in the summer!” Well, I guess moving to a new city where there are races literally every weekend makes it more feasible.  The Chick-fil-A 5k is a Memphis race in its 12th year. I was planning on spending my Labor Day weekend floating on the Tennessee river with a beer in hand, but when I found out the winner of the race receives free chick-fil-a for an entire year (!!), I might have altered my plans a little bit to up my annie of winning, if you will. He he. I did still go to the river that weekend, and I did still relax on the boat, but I kept in the back of my head that I miiiiight have to head home early to see if I can win this crazy race. So, after a fun-filled two days at my parents’ cabin, Jon told me he “reallllllyyy wanted free chicken,” and that we should go. Wanting to see what I was made of in the 5k after not racing that distance since May, I definitely was on board ☺IMG_9085.JPG

I will admit, this was a spur of the moment race. I had no idea what to expect. People advised me it would be hot, but honestly, I still thought I could PR because I felt I was in better shape than the last time I PRd in May. The race was on Monday morning (Labor Day), and I talked my friend Jennie into going downtown with me to race it.

As I try to recap this race, it’s difficult! 5ks are so short! But wow, CAN WE ALL JUST AGREE THIS DISTANCE HURTS MORE THAN ALL THE REST?!

At about the ½ mile mark, I took the lead as first female. I honestly felt so strong, and although I wasn’t wearing a watch, I really felt I was going pretty fast. I raced smart, didn’t start off too fast, and passed a few guys the last half of the race. Overall, if you would have asked me how the race went, I would say, “Great!”

I remember it being terribly hot, but not so much so that I felt it affected my speed. Well, something affected my speed, because I crossed the line in 19:30. Wooooof, was I shocked. My previous PR was 19:07, and I literally was just tempoing that day! I for real raced a 5k and was almost 30 seconds slower during a time I’m supposed to be more fit!? I was perplexed and disappointed. Although I was happy to get free chick-fil-a for a year for the hubz, I really didn’t understand how that just happened. I walked to the finishers’ tent and waited for my friend Jennie to finish. When she crossed, she informed me her Garmin said the course was super long. Okay, Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Katie, please don’t be THAT runner who makes excuses for course length.” But, really, I am going to be that runner because I need some consolidation.IMG_9084.JPG

Okay, so what if the course wasn’t long? What else could I blame my slow time on?

Well, for one, I didn’t give enough credit to the heat. The race didn’t start until 9am, and there was NO course shade. it.was.HOT 93 degrees F. I think it’s incredibly fascinating how our bodies adapt. I completely relied off perceived effort, which I’ve learned is pretty spot on. I felt I was going as fast as I could, so I can’t really ask for more than that.IMG_7014.JPG

Here’s to more days of giving it my all, and enjoying the process. I don’t want to get bogged down with constantly wishing I was there, or running that time. I’m thankful for legs to run and a heart to compete and always wanting to get better.

Another 5 mile race in the books and learning you’re actually strong.

Well, guys. Fall is finally here. I never thought I’d be able to say that. I had doubts the heat would EVER leave, but like all the years prior, it comes and goes as promised. I know that sounds all poetic and mushy, but think about it. How amazing are the seasons? Every year we get to experience a re-birth of color, smell and temperature. I think if we took a vote, fall would win for everyone’s favorite season.

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aren’t we all excited for hot coffee again?!? PS: this recipe for these pancakes coming soon!

Despite wanting to talk about how great the cooler weather is and rave with everyone and their mother about pumpkin spice lattes, I’m going to live in the past for a few more posts (or at least until I catch up with race recaps).

Let’s go back a few weeks to the Memphis Road Race Series 5 mile.

LAWDDDD IT WAS HOT.

Dead of August and minimal course shade.

Let’s do this.

I was coming off a win and big PR at the Overton Park 5 mile classic a few weeks prior, so there’s always the pressure to better that time. Knowing Overton Park was half on trails, and this was all on road and less hilly, I thought surely I could grab another PR.

Since racing garmin-less, I’ve felt less expectation to hit a certain “time” or “pace”. My plan? Go for a win and be brave. Alright, here we go, I can try to do that! I don’t ever have a difficult time competing against those around me, but the tough part of this race came two days prior.

On Thursday before the race (race was on Sunday), I had a great workout with a training bud. Let me give you a little background info on my training plan. My coach will sometimes give me a “general” range of reps for intervals. For example, Thursday’s workout was “18-24x 8 seconds at 200meter pace with 1 minute rest between each”. Okay okay, I know what you’re thinking. 8 SECONDS?!? I promise, if you run these correctly, 8 seconds is difficult. My coach gives us a range because we need to be in tune with our bodies. If my legs are only able to give me 18 reps in a given day, I do not need to feel the pressure to run all 24. I really like this style. I know some people would always run the maximum given amount, but really, you have to listen. That day, I’ll be honest, I didn’t listen. This workout was tough. By the time we got to number 16 in this workout, my legs were screaming. I knew it would be a good day if I made it to 18. If I were running this by myself, I would have stopped at 18. Then there’s that competitive side of me again…shoot. Always sneaks in. Before I knew it we completed all 24, and I could barely jog home my legs were shaking so bad!

IMG_8347.JPGThe next day I was kicking myself for being stubborn, knowing I had a race in 2 days and I needed to recover! I took an ice bath, stretched, foam rolled, everything I could to try and recover. Well, the soreness was still present on race day. Stiff legs and far from poppy, but my coach advised me to still run it, and just treat it as a tempo. That completely took the pressure off, so I obliged and planned to still run.

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Also, what else was present on race day involves Mother Nature. Dang it! Despite feeling like everything was against me for this race, I took an ibuprofen for those Mother Nature cramps, and decided I’d still give it my all despite feeling sluggish and fat. (If you’re a woman you can understand).

Just as the name of the race implies, this is a series, meaning you’ll usually find the same people at each of the races. I didn’t sign up for the entire series, but I was fully aware there were some fast girls running all the races. When I got to the starting line, I made my way to the front, and noticed only one other girl lined up at the front. I figured that’s who I would be up against.

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Welllll, come to find out, homegirl ran division 1 track and cross country a few short years ago, and wellll, she went out with the 2 lead guys from the get-go. Shoot. I kept her in sight, and promised myself I’d try to reel her in after mile two.

The first few miles were relatively uneventful. I had no watch, and the miles weren’t marked, so I had to estimate where the 2 mile was by the water stations. I figured they probably put them every other mile, so when I came to the first stop, I guessed that was about mile 2. I kept division 1 homegirl in sight, and went to go catch her, but she must have had the same idea as me with the men in front of her, because she sped up, too.

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I grabbed a swig of water at the aid station, and I don’t know if I forgot to breath or what, but after grabbing that water, the infamous diaphragm side cramp came on. Shoooot. I knew it would be a long 3 miles, but I decided, “hey, I already have a million factors against me this race, what’s one more pain?” So, I dug deep and tried to keep homegirl within visible distance, although I could tell she was pulling away little by little.

Like I said, there weren’t any mile markers, or maybe I was too distracted by my legs being on fire and my side cramp coming through my rib-cage, but I had no idea how much distance we still had to cover before the finish. This was probably a good thing, to be honest. If I knew I still had half of the race left, I think mentally I would have given up then.

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It’s so amazing how our brains work. I swear I thought I still had at least 2 miles to go in this awful race, and then I hear someone say, “Mile 4! One mile to go!” WAIT ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I can hang on for another mile!

So I did.

I stayed with the pack of guys I ran with most of the race. As much as I wanted to pull away from them like I normally would try to do, I just couldn’t. I was giving everything I had to stick with them.

IMG_8462.JPGThe last little bit of the course winds around a huge park during which you can see the finish line the entire time. Can we all agree these are the WORST courses? Seriously, I was like, “Can I just cut across that baseball field and finish, pleassseeee?”

The finish chute is somewhat on an incline, so I pushed up the hill. My body hurt and I felt nowhere near a PR, but when I saw the finish-line clock, I was pleasantly surprised! 15 Second PR!
31:58. Barely got under 32! 6:23 average pace.

Not incredible, but we all know a new personal best is better than no personal best, and for what my body gave me that day, I can’t complain one bit. Hot weather, course with a million turns, stiff competition, and tired legs were what I had to work with, and I made it work. It wasn’t pretty, but I made it work.

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I learned that day you’re capable of probably more than you think you are. Not wearing a watch further solidified my previous thoughts that it can hold you back. If I had set a time goal or even a pace goal, I probably would have been super conservative for fear of not being able to get a PR with my tired legs. I’m glad I didn’t wear a watch, and I’m glad I was able to push through when it wasn’t my best day.

As for homegirl, she beat me by about 40 seconds, and I kept her in visible distance the entire time. I found out some of her other times from races, and she really is a phenomenal runner, so I’m pleased with being in relatively close proximity even! Ha!

Now, back to autumn. I am soooo glad the temperatures are no longer as hot as that race! Stay tuned for more race recaps from this summer! I’m slowly getting through them, and look forward to sharing more race days and insights I learn from this crazy journey.

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Winning the oldest foot race in Memphis and wedding photos!

Less than a week after the dreadful experience that was the Chicago Rock’n’Roll ½ Marathon, Jon and I got married! Wahoo! Honestly, it was the greatest week and weekend, so as you can imagine, the disappointment from the race quickly disappeared. We had a wedding to attend, and it was OURS!IMG_8373.JPGIMG_8497

Following our blissful wedding (No honeymoon; booo 😦 ) we were kind of jolted back into real life. Jon started classes two days later, and I was back at work the following Monday as well. Additionally, I had the attitude that if we had to be back in real life, why shouldn’t I keep training? Despite giving myself grace the week and few weeks after the wedding with training, I honestly didn’t miss a workout, and I think it was partly because with everything going on and all the changes, training was something consistent in my life full of so many new things. For example, when I had to talk to a million people at the rehearsal dinner with zero alone time (#introvertprobz), I actually wanted to wake up on my wedding day and do a workout. Beth joined me at the local track, and we pounded out a ladder workout at 3k pace. It was refreshing, and just what I needed. I am thankful she was willing to wake up. True friend right there.IMG_8498

Jumping right into training after the wedding had its perks, but like I said, I gave and I’m still giving myself wiggle room. In a perfect world I would wake up early before work (5am ish) and get the workout done. Lately, though, I find myself wanting to sleep in and relax with the hubz in the morning, drinking coffee, and talking about our plans for the day. Would I have a better workout if I woke up and got it done in the morning?  Probably.  But, spending this morning time together when we don’t have a lot of time at night is really valuable to me, and ultimately that life-long relationship is more important than getting a workout done in the morning. So there’s that.

IMG_8004As I give myself grace on getting morning workouts done and going to bed a little later than I prefer, I think it’s ironic I’ve actually had a really great last month of training and racing. And that’s what brings me to my post for today: winning the oldest footrace in Memphis.

This year was the 41st annual Overton park 5 miler. This race is known for being really tough and HOTT. It’s August in the South!

Following Rock’n’Roll Chicago, for good reason I believe, I decided to race without a watch for the first time in years.  For my running confidence, I needed to do this. I knew I was fit enough to run sub 1:30 at Chicago, and I decided to approach this race with a clean slate. It is known for being really hilly, half on trails and grass, and lots of turns. I had no idea what to expect, but I told myself I would dig deep and work hard and most importantly not start my watch or look at a race clock.

So that’s what I did, and following suit with the last few posts: this is the story of that morning.

The race started at 8am less than 2 miles from our apartment, so it was perfect to use that as a warm-up. When I arrived at the park, I realized how cool of a tradition this race is! 41 years is a long time! There were guys running this race for their 30th year in a row. I’m not even 30 years old. I felt humbled to be there.

Like I said, I knew this was a tough course. The director told me beforehand he re-did the course this year to make it as difficult as possible?!! OH GOOD! Ha. For some reason I wasn’t nervous, though. I knew it would be hard, but it would be hard for everyone. Everyone would have to run the same course as me. Solidarity.

I gave Jon a kiss before heading to the starting line, and before I knew it we were off!

IMG_7942Because I run almost daily in this park, I know it like the back of my hand. I know when there is a slight uphill or a downhill, and I know about how far points to points are. Like previous races, I promised I wouldn’t start “racing” until the half-way point. Within the first mile, I found myself in a group of men a little older than me, and I was first female. It made me giggle a little when two guys (obviously training partners/friends) were going back and forth about the “pace” we were holding.

“Okay, *Bob, you’re a little ambitious right now. We are a little ahead of pace!”

IMG_7988.JPGI obviously had no idea what pace we were at because remember I didn’t have my watch turned on!

It was a freeing moment 🙂 I felt strong, and for once I didn’t even care about the pace.

When I got to mile 2.5 (or what I presumed to be), I picked it up and started to “race” as I promised myself. I broke away from that pack of guys and really dialed into a hard effort.

Around mile 3, we hit the trails! With it being single track, I solely concentrated on not falling LOLL. (I very rarely run trails).

I passed my coach and a water station at mile 4, and with one mile to go, still having zero clue where I was pace wise, I felt strong and HAPPY! Can you tell? 😉

IMG_7947.JPGThe last mile seemed like eternity, and with it being an uphill, it was tough! I tried super hard to catch the guy in front of me, but couldn’t quite make it.

Regardless, I ended up 1st female overall, and when I crossed the finish line seeing the clock, boy was I pretty shocked. 32:14!

IMG_7979.JPGI did the math and realized I just ran 6:27 pace on a super tough course. I persevered and I finally felt confident about my training again after the disappointing Chicago experience.

We all have peaks and troughs in our training. That’s part of it. I’ve had a really good summer, but I know there absolutely has to be troughs and valleys in order to appreciate the peaks. This race was a peak, and I’m thankful for that. I don’t take days like this lightly; I know this is a gift I’ve been given for a short time, even if for a lifetime. Life is short.

Why getting back on the oval is fun and shattering my high school records.

As runners and even as humans, I believe there is something inside each of us that makes us fearful of trying to conquer a past personal best because we are afraid of not living up to the previous standard we set. It’s part of our human nature to fear. Of course, when you read “personal best”, I know you probably think of PRs and races and records, but I mean personal bests in other aspects of life, too.

It’s that whole pseudo-mentality we all have that says somehow age makes us incapable of bettering previous moments in our life. Do you have that, too? In running, I think about races or certain distances or even courses at which I’ve done really well, and something in me is a little bit afraid to go back and try it again because I’m afraid I won’t do as well or better. And who wants to get worse in life, anyway? So we avoid them. We avoid hard situations and places and people.

This post is about facing hard situations head on rather than turning from them. I could list a lot of moments in my life when I either decided not to face something, or didn’t want to because the fear of failure is oftentimes stronger than the will to try it.
Babe Ruth said, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

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Let’s take a look at my high school records on the track. I was by no means phenomenal, but for my small town and small school, you could say I was a big fish in a little pond. So, even though a 12 minute 2 mile is probably average for most well-trained high school girls in large cities and schools, to me, it seemed blazing, and the one time I broke 12 minutes (11:56) in 2006, I thought I was flying. After my track career ended in high school and I was no longer training at “that level”, breaking 12 minutes in the 2 mile ever again seemed so farfetched.
When I stepped on the oval this summer at a dinky little free community track meet, I had very little confidence I would actually be able to break 12 minutes. I tried it a few summers ago and could barely muster sub 13. I know I’ve put in a lot of work since then, and my fitness has improved drastically, but sub 12? Really? It was one of those decisions to face my fears of failing. I told myself, “So what if I don’t break 12! It.will.be.okay. Stop putting so many expectations and boundaries on yourself, Katie. Have a great time and see what you can do.” So that’s what I did.

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ohhhh, the high school days

I got to the track for the Memphis All-comers meet on a Thursday after work, and was surprised at how cool it was for being dead-of-summer in Memphis. I did my typical warm-up of about 2 miles, with dynamic stretching and form drills. I felt good and calm! Let’s do this!
And thennnn I saw some girls warming up around my age that looked super fit, sports bras and spandex and all, and I was like, “grreeaatttt.” Haha. I walked over to my coach and said, “Soooo, umm am I going to come in last in this race? Like, how fast are those girls?” Haha, typical Katie question. His response? “Just worry about Katie. You’re fine. You’re going to do great. Now, I want you to only look at your watch at the 200 meter mark of the first lap. After that, don’t look at it again. Dial in to what feels right, and crank down the last mile. You’re fit. You’re going to do great.”
I trusted him. So, as scary as it may seem, I did exactly what he said, and this is the story of what happened:

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I don’t even remember my split on that first 200. I remember going out and after the first lap, I was in third place overall, and 1st for the females. “WHAT!? What about those girls with 6 packs? Where are they?” I don’t know where they were but I was in front and I couldn’t believe it. I dialed into what felt comfortable and let loose. The first mile I just kept saying to myself, “Don’t race yet. Get into a groove and then the last mile let’er’rip.” I came in through the first mile and I heard the race director say, “5:52, first female, Go get those guys!” “Wait what?! I just ran a sub 6 minute mile…okay, hold on, please don’t let the wheels fall off. 4 laps to go, here we go!”I would hear my coach yell at me each lap, “Katie, you’re doing great. You look strong.”

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Then, with 2 laps to go he said, “You’re going to break 12 minutes. Just crank it down!”
From a distance I heard Jon (my husband) say, “GOOO KATIEEEE; THAT’S MY GIRL!” (Which is the greatest thing ever, btw)
With a lap to go, I literally just ran as hard as I could. 400 meters! Anyone can run hard for 400 meters.
I came through, stopped my watch and looked at it for the first time.
11:37.

I couldn’t believe it. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” I was in shock. I just broke an 8 year record of mine by 20 seconds??
It was a great night for sure. Who doesn’t love winning and running fast? However, more so than that, I truly believe I learned more about facing my fears than anything else. What if I decided not to race the 2 mile because I was afraid I could never break 12 minutes again? We now know that’s silly, but at the time, my own boundaries I put upon myself could have held me back.
Glad they didn’t.

My first win with prize $ and why tying for first place is fun.

A friend told me about a “Twilight” 5k race literally 2 blocks from my apartment. “Seriously?! I’m in.” I had already raced two 10ks over the last 3 weeks, with one being a 4 minute PR, so I wasn’t expecting to knock this out of the park or anything.

Furthermore, my good pal and training partner, Beth, whom you’ve all heard about, said, “Let’s run this one together–we can tempo it and it will be a good gauge of our fitness.” I said, “Sure! Sounds good.” I didn’t think twice about it, and the day of the race, jogged over from my apartment to register. I wasn’t nervous, because, “We were just going to tempo it, right??!” Beth and I even were super cheesy and matched for the race 😉 IMG_5725.JPG

We lined up for the race actually in a parking garage. Of course, if you’re a gps wearer you immediately know what this means. The “Oh shoot. Garmin’s bout to lose satellites!” moment. And yep, it did. We said we would start the race off at a comfortable 6:45 pace, and just try to work down from there, shaving hopefully 5-10 seconds off per mile. Honestly, at the time, that’s where I felt my fitness was and what a good tempo effort would be. I didn’t even do the math or calculate in my head what the final time for a 5k at that pace would be, but going into this race, my current 5k PR was 19:23 on a course about 15 seconds short. You can imagine my shock when we rounded the corner for the finish line and saw this . . .

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I don’t know what it was about that night, but the miles clicked by. Beth and I settled into the first/second place positions overall for both male and female (it was a small race, but I’m not complaining! 😉 ), and because my watch lost satellite, I honestly had no idea our pace. I saw Beth look down at her watch a few times, but in her sneaky manner, she never said anything. The course was a little hilly, too, but you know those races when everything comes together and even the hills don’t seem to phase you? That was that night for me. When we ran under the bridge you see below, and were about 100 meters from the finish line, I grabbed Beth’s hand so we could finish together hand-in-hand. That was the deal. Besides, it was my last race in Jackson, before making the big move to Memphis. It was sentimental for us.

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We worked together that last sprint to the finish. It reminded me of all those early mornings running a lot of miles together. That night was a good night in our neighborhood. Her hubz and kiddos were at mile two right at the corner of her house cheering “Go Mommy and Katie!”, and my fiance was at the finish-line with our running friend Tiffany (in the blue shirt below) yelling loud, too. Guess what else? We didn’t even realize we won $75 until the end! That was just the icing. A fun summer night with fun people, indeed.

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Full Race Recap: Andrew Jackson 1/2 Marathon

Technically speaking, this was really only my second half-marathon to “race” . . . I ran my first half in 2009, after being in India for a few weeks (Read: not much training), I was 30 lbs heavier than I am now, and it felt awesome! You think I’m kidding. Really, I finished and literally thought, “wow! Sign me up for another one!” Maybe it was because I didn’t expect to do well, or I just let loose and didn’t care. Who knows. I loved it, and finished in 1.50, which in my eyes, was great, considering I hadn’t trained much and my goal was simply to complete it. It was a great feeling. To be honest, I was totally clueless as to what my pace even was. I didn’t wear a watch. I didn’t race it. I didn’t “compete” with myself or those around me. I just ran.

My second half was 3 years later. I was much more fit, but I had no idea how to race a half. IM A MILER FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. So, I raced the half like I would race a mile, it’s all the same, right? LOLLLLZZ. Wellll, let’s just say the last 7 miles of the race I cried the entire time, and my “goal” of running 7:30 per mile went out the window when I got the chills/cramps ALL over my body. I could barely pick my feet up, and swore off running the rest of my life. So dramatic. Wait, you mean to tell me drinking coffee instead of water the entire week leading up to the race is going to affect my performance?! Yeaaa. I really don’t wish that 1/2 marathon experience on anyone, even the girl who bullied me in 6th grade. Terrible. I ran a 1:43.

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Fayetteville, AR. December 2012.  100% fake smile

My third half occurred on accident last November during the middle of a normal long run. I said to my friend Beth, “Hey! I think I am on target to get a 1/2 Marathon PR.” We cruised to a 1.39, which was a 4 minute PR for me. Unexpected, fun, but not “official.”

There you have it. Although, I only had 1 experience “racing” a 1/2 marathon under my belt, I knew I was way more capable than what my times show. So, I went for it. Let’s take a look at how all that played out in last Saturday’s Andrew Jackson 1/2 Marathon in Jackson, TN. 20140322-192514.jpgFrom my first disastrous experience racing the half, are you shocked to hear me say the race last Saturday SUCKED?  You shouldn’t be. Well, it sucked. I hurt the entire 13.1 miles.

FRIDAY, March 21. The race was in my hometown. In my opinion, this is a huge advantage. No major schedule changes. I worked on Friday, did my normal routine, yada yada.  Friday evening was marked by packet pickup, taking care of my parent’s zoo while they were out of town (5 dogs in 1 tiny house. yes, it’s NUTS. Love you, Mom and Jeff!), and driving past the town carnival. Trust me, the town carnival was not as magical as this filter makes it look. (Read: creepy old men at the ticket booth), BUT, I do love a good funnel cake. (I didn’t eat a funnel cake, promise). Moving on. 20140322-192459.jpg I laid out my racing kit for the next morning. Wasn’t sure whether I would need the arm warmers at 45 degrees, but they ARE JUST SO CUTE! (I didn’t end up wearing them. Good decision). Also, let me say something about that Nike sports bra: it is one of the best things to happen to me (exaggeration, but really). Hold’s the girls in like a glove. Great for high impact, and no chafing. If you have any sort of blessing in the form of breasts (read: larger than a B cup), go for this bra20140322-191938.jpg SATURDAY, March 22: RACE DAY!
I don’t eat before races. I realize I need some substance. But, I just can’t stomach it. I feel sloshy (you know that feeling I’m talking about–everything inside you is on a roller coaster ride), and will 100% get a cramp. Doesn’t matter if I eat 4 hours before the race. Also, my training runs start at 5:30a.m. every day, so I’m used to training on an empty stomach. I’m not opposed to pre-race meals by any means, but for now, this is what we are going with.

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Got to the race at 7:00 am just in time to see the gun go off for the full marathon. I wished Beth and Audrey (my training partners) good luck, and made my way to the starting line.  My worry going into this race was that I wouldn’t be able to sustain the goal pace for the entire 13 miles. “HOW THE HECK AM I SUPPOSED TO RUN 13 MILES AT 6.52 PACE?!” My nerves were ALL over the place. I didn’t do much of a running warm up, mostly because I was about to have to run 13 miles, and was scared I wouldn’t be able to finish (DUMB. I should have warmed up at least a little bit.) I did my normal dynamic stretching warm-up, though, and before I knew it, we were off.

Miles 1-3 (Splits: 6:50, 7:06, 6:52)
WEllllll, as fate would have it, the satellites on my watch were lost exactly 5 seconds before the gun went off. HAA. Not the end of the world by any means, but, I couldn’t start the watch until close to a mile into the race.

Felt a side stitch cramp almost immediately. “GREEEATTT. This is going to be a looonggg morning.” Instead of breathing deep and trying to relax to make it go away, I lost all form of logic and just decided to embrace it. The cramp would continue the rest of the race. Besides a couple decent climbs, the first four miles are actually downhill a bit. I knew the familiarity I had with the course would help. It did.

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Miles 4-6 (Splits: 6:53, 6:47, 6:56)
By mile 4, the cramp really started to get in my head, but I was in second place for the females (!). We all know that competitiveness kicks in and sometimes we do crazy things. So, I kept at it, despite feeling absolutely awful.  And then….something magical happened right as we got to aid station numero dos.  This angel by the name of Rob reached me, started to pass me, and I went with him. I held on for dear life, and uttered “I’m hurting,” to a man I had never met. His response was, “I can tell. Breathe, put your hands over your head, and let’s go catch that girl.” So that’s what we did.

We passed the first place female during mile 5. My cramp subsided a little bit. During the minor climb between mile 5 and 6, I decided it would be a good time for the gel. Heck, if my stomach cramp wasn’t going away, it’s not like a gel is going to make it worse. I sipped on the gel between mile 5 and 8…haha, I have no idea why I couldn’t just down the whole thing (it’s not like it’s very big), but I liked taking little sips every half mile or so. Weird.

Here’s Rob. Literally, he was my saving grace. We ran together from miles 4-10. He’s from Chicago, and was down in TN visiting friends. Can’t thank him enough. He went on to run a sub 1:30!

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Miles 7-9 (Splits: 6:51, 6:50, 7:08 [big climb])
I knew these miles were going to be tough. It’s basically a steady 3-mile climb with no break, and I was ready. I kept my focus on the aid station that would be at mile 9, as well as seeing my fiance and his mom. Mile 9 was going to be good in the sense that I could get a mental break. Rob was still by my side, and from what I could see when I looked back, we had a pretty big lead on the second place female.

Seeing them and grabbing a sip of water felt great, and at that point, although we slowed a little coming up the hill, I felt strong (even with the omnipresent cramp still lingering). And then….it hit me. 20140324-082123.jpg

Miles 10-13 (splits: 6:53, 7:14, 7:13, 7:10)
My fear going into this race was that I would get to the last four miles (the most challenging of the race), and bonk. I’d get off track and start running 8 minute miles because I was dead. This was part of my reason for contemplating going out slower (7:15 pace), but in the end, I stuck with my game plan of running 6:50-7, and being BOLD. I don’t regret that decision at all, but I definitely paid for it in the last few miles.

They. were. tough.

We winded through some residential neighborhoods, I still had a lead on the second place girl by a lot (couldn’t see her at this point), and my cramp was all over the place. Hurt so bad. “C’mon Katie. You can do this. 3 miles. Make it up this hill,” was my mantra. Rob pushed on at the pace we sustained for the first 9, and I fell back a little. I knew at the mile 11 aid-station I would see my old teammates volunteering, so I kept that in mind and focused on making it to mile 11. It was not easy.

I got to the mile 11 aid station, and for the first time in the race, I stopped running and talked to my team and college coach for a few seconds. He said, “You look so strong!” HA. My response: ” Good Lord, I feel terrible.”  I sipped some water, and said to myself, “Just 2 more rolling hills of miles.”  Look at the elevation below of the last mile. You can see it’s the opposite of mile 1. We got the joy of the downhill in the beginning, but what goes down must come up, so the last mile was pure hell. I shuffled my feet up the hill, just wanting to get to the finish line. I didn’t even look at my watch going up the hill. It was sloooow. 20140325-095343.jpg

I came through in 1:31.23. First place female, and honestly, a little surprised. My ultimate goal this spring is 1:30, but I didn’t think I would get that close at this race. I didn’t taper, and it wasn’t the easiest of courses. It was a phenomenal test of strength (helooooo 13.1 mile stomach cramp), and I learned a lot during this race. The half-marathon is an animal I’m trying to figure out. It’s an ongoing process of trial and error, and although it seems like I’ve had a lot of error, I’m keeping at it, not backing down. Looking forward to another half here in a month in Missouri. I’ll toe the line and test my strength again. I’ll change what I believe didn’t work last weekend, and tweak it to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s a process full of changes and adaptations to trials, as is life. 20140324-082053.jpg

quick re-cap: 8 MIN PR AND I WON THE 1/2 MARATHON!

IMG_3694Here is what you need to know in numbers:

4: number of 1/2 marathons I now have under my belt. (my average p.r between each is seven minutes. LOLZZ)

1: my place today (female).

8: the number of minutes I took off today from my last 1/2 in November of 2013

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13: how many miles during the race I felt absolutely turrrrible.

Look, this was a small race, and my time wasn’t incredibly fast, but let’s all be honest, a win is a win, and it feels pretty dang good, especially in my hometown. I’ll do a race re-cap here soon, but for now I’ll leave you with three solid photos from today.IMG_3798

Also, please note my 84 year-old grandmother in photo above doing the flex while sporting my medal. Win photo of the day without a doubt.

Have a great saturday night! I’m off to get froyo.