Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Looking Ahead.


So, by now most of you know that the Trials Marathon was pure carnage. The weather was brutal and the course was maddening, but the racers were tough. I had battled with a bit of knee pain going into my last two weeks of training, but I thought I had put that behind me. At about mile 6 I was having to back off because I was already feeling like I was over heating. By doing that, I think I sat back a bit, changing my gate, and aggravating my knee. By mile 10 I was dizzy and limping already. I knew it was not my day. But, just because it hurt didn't mean I was going to quit. Everyone has their reasons for dropping out of the race, but I couldn't justify it. So I just adjusted, I slowed way down, I took in the crowds and all of my FANTASTIC triathlon friends, family, boyfriend, and tons of surprise face I saw out on the course. I found other women struggling and we worked together to get through it and finish. Actually, I got one woman who was walking to start running with me and one woman who was about to drop out and walk to the med tent to start running again and they ended up beating me, haha. Kind of a funny predicament, but it was amazing what a community I felt with these women. We were all there because we earned it and finishing was the only way, in my mind, we could honor ourselves for this achievement. And you know what, my friends and my family and everyone loves me all the same, no matter how fast or slow I finished the race. It just blows my mind how much love I have in my life; unconditional love. I am so lucky. 

Many people have talked about the race and events from the weekend in terms of how the race was put on, the accommodations we had, the support on the course and off the course, etc. I think its really good for all of us to speak openly about the things we want and could improve upon. I found myself trying to avoid all things associated with the race, partially because I didn't want to stress out and partially because I had already realized that this was going to be the end of something for me. It was going to cap off this journey from surprise marathon winner in 2013 to OTQ 4 months later to Team USA Minnesota to the Trials. 

What I struggled with most this cycle was my mental drive. I have had about a year and a half where racing just hasn't worked out well. I give workouts my all and sometimes even see improvement, but then the races are where I fall flat. It's really a blow to my confidence when I can't seem to hold onto the pack in a race or can't even maintain a pace I have tempo-run at before. Around thanksgiving I found myself bawling, feeling like I didn't want to go out for a run, didn't want to workout, actually desiring for a day off. That wasn't like me. So, was I over trained? was 90-100 miles a week too much? Most likely. This time, my mind copped out before my body did, opposite of the last time I was over trained. I backed off on my miles and workouts began to come around, but still, even after successful workouts, I found myself unhappy and feeling unsure. It is a strange and unwelcome sensation to complete a workout successfully and still find myself bawling. It takes a lot to admit that to the world. I know I am not alone, and used this opportunity to reach out to my friends, boyfriend, and family for support. 

I was reminded by my loved ones that I have an incredible will, strong work ethic, and determination, too. I was reminded about what an opportunity it is to be able to train full time. I was reminded what some people have sacrificed for me or given to me to allow this race to be possible. I was also reminded that there are 246 women in the whole nation who qualified to race the Trials race. I'm one of the lucky few who get to toe the line with the best of the best in this distance. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, or unsure of my potential, I had a defining moment in choking tears in Houston which forced me to realize that being positive is the best thing I can do and the only thing I can do to be sane. That's what I did, I ran with my heart and didn't give up on completing the journey I started two years ago. I know in my core that I want to run, I love to run. But, looking now at what is ahead of me, I am not sure if running full time is how I am going to find that happiness. 

I have decided recently, after speaking closely with Dennis and Pat, that I am stepping away from Team USA Minnesota. It is an incredible team and association filled with passion and support. I am so grateful for the time, energy, money, and love they have both put into me and my training in the past year an a half. I am thankful for my teammates working with me, pushing me, and speaking from their hearts when trying to help me be my best. I know that I have found friends that will last a lifetime and I know I will continue to run with them and follow their successes. 

I will keep running, I AM A RUNNER. But instead of racing and working out with the intentions of making this a money-making endeavor and a way of make a World team, Olympic team, or even finding fame, I want to do it because it brings me unfaltering joy. How that is achieved, I don't know yet. What I do know is that I want to play around with trail racing, I want to try some new distances, I want to get on my bike again, I want to take days off, I want to gain some healthy weight, I want to do a marathon where I run with my friends and make memories, maybe wear a costume or two. I want to run fast, but I can't decide at the moment if competition and winning are really at the top of my list, at least not right now. 

                                                             My post race food shrine 

One amazing thing about Minnesota is the depth of the running community. I will not be without running buddies, understanding friends, and fun opportunities to run with a smile on my face (even if its because my lips are frozen like that). I hope to get involved with the team circuit here, which has low levels of pressure, which is what I need. I have just finished interviewing with Aerotek Staffing, a third party staffing agency which will be helping me find contract work in the Food and Beverage industry here in the Twin Cities as a Laboratory Technician. That will take some time though, so in the mean time I am loving working full-time hours at TC Running Company with my family there and studying for the GRE. I am almost ready to pay for the test which I will take in the month of April. 


It has been so nice to return to Minnesota, this is my home now. I spend a great evening catching up with Jillian, had dinner at Lucia's for MPLS Restaurant Week with their whole household, which I have missed so much. I forgot how much I laugh when I am around all of these people, I've missed it more than I thought I would. Ryan took me for a tour of the cities, just to see everything I haven't in the past three months. It all looks the same, besides being sprinkled with patches of snow here and there. I am excited for the future here in Minneapolis and St. Paul, some great things are up ahead. 

I want to thank my sponsors for keeping me on my feet and for supporting me through it all. Bonk Breaker and Genucan and San Franola Granola will still me staples of my fueling. Balega will still keep my toes warm and I jaunt around this icy, but recently mildly weathered, tundra. I want to thank every single person who has supported me along this journey. It isn't over, its just changing trajectory. 

the day after the marathon, Ryan, my Mom, and I were waking to lunch in Santa Monica, near where the LA Marathon was finishing. Two women walked by with matching shirts with the saying "It's just a bad day, not a bad life" written on them. That really hit home for me. My races have been bad days, some workouts have been bad days, but when I step back, I really have a good life. A Great life. So here is to enjoying it and turning over a new leaf. Who knows what is to come, but that's sometimes the best part. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Olympic Trials is THIS WEEKEND!

Five days. FIVE! Man, less than a week until the Olympic Trials. Two years ago this weekend I qualified for this race at the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, California. I had just turned 21 years old and I had nothing to lose, nothing on the line but a shot at an awesome opportunity. And here it is, six days away. Things have changed quite bit since that day and I am grateful every day to be healthy and running and able to continue to pursue this incredible opportunity.

This training cycle has thankfully been really solid physically. I have been without injury, save a bit of a knee thing bothering me around the Santa to the Sea Half in December which had me cross training for two days and a brief unrelated knee thing bothering me a little over a week ago. Since July, I have put in base work, run many miles and many workouts, and then the marathon specific 10 weeks of training I have done have resulted in 100% completed workouts. Sometimes, the paces were slower than desired, but sometimes, it all felt effortless. I figure that comes with the territory, which is something I am still learning. I was able to race the Houston Half Marathon on January 17th, which is an incredible event. The race takes really good care of the elites and puts on a flawless weekend of races. The weather was beautiful, but unfortunately I didn't have the race Dennis and I wanted. Also unfortunately, a number of elites got food poisoning after the race, me included, and I am sure that didn't do anything to help my performance either. We put the race and day off with sickness behind me with a 25 miler, followed by a solid marathon workout the following week, acting as a solid confidence booster. 

I occasionally struggled with mental drive, but thankfully I had supportive friends and family (thanks Jillian, Katie, Mark, Kate, Megan, Mom, Dad, Jackie, etc.), an incredibly positive boyfriend, and a wonderful support system from my sponsors and Team USA Minnesota, all of which helped get me through the times I questioned my potential in this upcoming Olympic Trials marathon race. 

As I mentioned before, I have been down in Houston for about five weeks now and I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. The weather has been beautiful, although a bit humid at times, and has been a needed environment for some of the big training days for which MinneSNOWta would be challenging. I’ve had a number of opportunities to do outreach with the Houston Marathon Foundation while down here, as well. While going into detail about all of them would turn this into quite the “long read,” I did want to mention a few of them. Each experience had me pause, allowing me to take some time to be thankful for the health, support, and opportunity I have. The kids that I met and ran with have incredible positivity, strength, and courage. It’s pretty awesome that the Houston Marathon Foundation not only facilitates We Run Houston groups, but also lets us all get involved in making a positive impact on the young generation of runners. Here are a few of the highlights: 

--> Meet the Elites, Houston Half Marathon weekend : an hour of Q and A with the KSR and We Run Houston groups which either had just completed the 5k on Saturday, or were going to run the Armco Houston Half the following day. The Middle School and High School groups all had such great questions and great spirit for this sport! 
--> Ortiz Middle School, We Run Houston after school running program 
We got to spend the afternoon running a workout  with the after school running program at this at risk middle school. The kids were so positive and its so cool to hear what an impact this running group has on the kids success in and out of school!

--> Houston Children's Hospital Visit
Josh, Biya, and I joined Becky Wade and Jarrett LeBlanc at the Houston Children's Hospital to meet with kids on two of the floors. The kids had such good spirit and positivity about being strong. This opportunity definitely helped me realize how much I take my basic health for granted. It's so inspiring to see these little ones smile and fight and they will all be on my mind during this weekends race. 

   --> Katy Middle School XC team assembly

Just today, Ally and Erin of the Houston Marathon Foundation took us to do a Q and A with the 6th through 8th grade XC teams at Katy High School. Talking to kids about how I got started and what keeps me driven is always a good way to remind myself of it, too.

Lisa Thompson has also been an great facilitator of fun for Biya, Katy, Josh, and I. She took us to a number of group runs, a delicious brunch with the HARRA running group, and even got us in for a special NASA visit! Lisa has an amazing soul and I will be so sad to leave. It will take far more than a million thank-yous for me to express really what an amazing experience she has made this training cycle for me. 

Lastly, I want to thank the Houston Marathon Foundation for connecting us with the Ironman Human Performance Center in the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Building. Kevin, a super helpful PT there, worked on Josh and I using dry needling and functional therapy to make our pains go away. He and I worked through some poor tracking in my patella but doing a massive number of step ups and he helped me learn how to activate my glutes on my own, so that I could easily set my posterior chain up for success on all of my runs and workouts. It bows me away how helpful people are, all we had to do was reach out and ask for the help.

I am now in taper mode, feeling rested and a bit bored, which is good. I have had lots of time to drink coffee (I have a problem) and study for the GRE (1/2 way through my study book!) and read (on book 7 since Thanksgiving + tons of Digg news articles). My body and mind will be ready at 10:22am on Saturday February 13th 2016. I promise no matter what, I will have a smile on my face at that finish line. A PR or not, I have succeeded by making it to this race and giving it all I've got. As the 6th or 7th youngest racing female on the course on Saturday, I want to make sure to show everyone that it’s only the beginning for me — a spectacular beginning! 

I want to thank my sponsors Team USA Minnesota, Bonk Breaker, GENUCAN, San Franola Granola, and Balega International (my newest one! I will talk socks in a future blog) for believing in me and giving me the things I need to be successful. I want to thank Jillian, Mark, Kate, Ryan, my parents, and my teammates (and many, many more people) for being my sounding board and encouraging me exhaustively. I promise not a day goes by that I don't express gratitude for everything you do for me.

I will touch base after the race, while I am on my two weeks of NO RUNNING (seriously, I need it more than you know) to go over the race and looking into my racing future. The evening and Sunday after the race will be spent with my family and friends all coming out to support me at the race. Then, Ryan and I will be taking a vacation to sunny San Diego before I finally head back to Minnesota after almost 11 weeks away. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Houston, my new home away from home in preparation for the Olympic Trials Marathon 2016

I arrive in Houston, Texas on Monday, January 4th and I will be here until February 10th, when I fly to LA to prepare for the Trials Marathon happening on Saturday the 13th. So, 5 weeks to go until the big dance and Pat Goodwin, Team USA Minnesota founder, Dennis, and some of our sponsors decided it was cruel to have us prepare in the cold Minnesota winter and instead relocated us to a warm climate. We chose Houston for a few reasons, including the temperature, but also because the amazing, fantastic, helpful, etc Houston Marathon Foundation offered to help us fund room, board, and more while we are here. The Armco Houston Half Marathon takes place here while we are training in town, so we will all be able to race in that without traveling too far to the race hotel. Additionally, Houston happens to be quite humid, and is a great alternative to altitude training.

Humidity, or relative humidity, is the amount of moisture in the air. When humidity is high, the volume of water in the air is closer to its maximum capacity. When we are running, our body temperature increases and we attempt to sweat to cool down. But, the evaporation rate of the sweat goes down, leaving us sticky with sweat and over heating. It is another method of stressing the body in order to force it to adapt. Then, when we head off to races, we can push harder and run faster (ideally) in humid conditions or just be extra efficient with racing in dryer conditions. So, as strange as it is to be running in my sports bra on January 7th, it is forcing me to work a little harder now in order to not work as hard in races to come. But let me just tell you how THANKFUL I am to have my GenUCan Hydrate electrolyte mix available in the 30 serving tub, because I sure need it after each outing.

I arrived in the afternoon on Monday and Biya, my teammate, and his cousin met me at my baggage claim and got me to the Modern B&B. This bed and breakfast is pretty great. It's less like your mental picture of a B&B which is quiet, homey, and frilly, and is instead trendy and modern (go figure). There are three buildings, a main building with 4 floors and an additional building with three floors. There is a main kitchen where we are welcomed each morning by Roxanne, the talented chef, and a table full of brightly colored napkins, bowls of fresh fruit, a daily smoothie, and much much more. The buildings also have their own private, fully-equipped kitchens with fridge space, pots and pans, and cooking elements. Each of the room has a queen bed, its own bathroom, and good closet space. We have helpful house cleaners who come each day and tidy up the place and Lisa, the owner, is always around with a great story, helpful tip, organizing a game night, and more. I am so thankful to be so well taken care of here.

In addition to the great space she has created, Lisa also had a strong connection with the amazing running community here. She knows everyone and everyone knows her. I have talked to a dozens of new runners about how great this place is to run and I have heard about all the best places to go. Wednesday morning I needed to do a track workout, but didn't have any idea of which track to access, where they were, and if I was going to have to trespass to get onto it. I talked to Lisa and her boyfriend and they were ON IT. they got me in contact with the head coach at Rice, I texted Becky Wade myself who the Houston Marathon Foundation connected me with, Subbu (a local runner who knows Lisa that found all of us on Facebook) texted me 3 different tracks and multiple people who could answer my questions about access. It was so warming to know that people so genuinely wanted to help me out. I ended up at the Rice track in the downpour, but happy to be able to run on a track without the fear of being kicked off or yelled at (all of us track athletes know exactly what I mean).

Then, this Friday morning I got prescribed a 22 miler workout for Saturday including some paced sections. Ryan, my fantastic boyfriend who arrived yesterday for almost a full week visit, is not in the position to be able to complete that workout with me, so we ran through some options. Lisa was at breakfast and before 9 am she had us a bike for Ryan to use to ride with me, a workout location with 50+ other runners prepping for the Houston Marathon, a workout partner for 18 of the miles, and a ride to and from the workout. I am so lucky to be in this place and I am grateful to get to be so involved in the community of runners here. The weekend before a big marathon is a really defining time. Everyone has been doing long runs on the weekends and this weekend they won't be. They have been doing workouts and paced stuff, and this weekend they won't. This is where the taper starts to really hit home and the magic of the marathon starts to soak in. I can't wait to chat with some of these awesome people about the journey and adventure that lies ahead. Also, it takes a village to prepare for a marathon and I am so lucky to have Katy, another teammate, Ryan, and the help of all of these other runners to get me through this monster workout. The workout went well, with the busy traffic of the running path and the soft surface affecting our pace slightly, but in the end I felt really strong.

Sunday morning, Lisa invited Katy, Biya, and I to attend the BCRR group run which started at 630am from the same Memorial Parkway path. They have a tradition of running the last 6 miles of the marathon course (which included the last 2ish miles of the half marathon course) and back. Running nice and easy, we were able to meet more of the running team and talk a lot about the Houston Half and Full Marathons coming up this weekend. I am excited and nervous to race on Sunday. The weather will be beautiful, hopefully it won't be too windy, and the temperatures will be moderate. I know it is going to be a tough effort, but I hope to tuck into the great elite field and let my legs and fitness carry me.

Hoover the resident cat at Modern B&B

In my first two days here, I embraced the down time. I read an 400 page book in three days, easily, and was able to do core, glute exercises, nap, and recovery consistently. I broke up my days with second runs, exploring the neighborhoods, and cooking. Anyone who knows me well knows I like to eat often, on a schedule. I am flexible, and was especially in California during the holidays because of all of the eating out, with family, big meals at weird times, etc. It is nice, though, to be back to my routine. I notice I sleep better and my energy levels are better when I am able to eat every 2-3 hours in the volumes I desire.

Well, this morning I woke up, had breakfast with Ryan, Lisa, and some others, and then wanted to wait to run. I had only a single run and I wanted to break the day apart with it. But by 10:20am I was bored to tears. I started a new book but I couldn't focus and social media is boring at that time of day. Thankfully now Ryan is here, so we took a trek out to Starbucks together and we meet his aunt and uncle for dinner a few evenings this week to add some excitement to my life. I know that these five weeks are about recovering, resting, and preforming well in my workouts, so this boredom must be embraced. I thankfully have a huge GRE workbook, this blog, more books, and some teammates here to help break it apart. Plus, the surrounding area had a lot of cool little shops and restaurants meant for exploring. I am really looking forward to getting to know the area more. The Bike Barn of Houston graciously donated road bikes to all of us for transportation and exploring and we have every intention of making the most of them!

Ryan and I took a trip out to Galveston Bay Sunday afternoon and finished up at a tasty Mexican restaurant west of Rice University. We decided to take a walk from the car out around Hermann Park and through the University campus. It was 45-50 degrees with the wind and people were talking a lot about how cold it was. There was a chill in the air from the gusty wind, but man, if they only spend a bit of time in 0 degrees (the high in Minnesota that day), they would appreciate the balmy 50 here. I know I am thankful for the Houston Marathon Foundation and Team USA Minnesota for getting us to Houston and taking such good care of us here.

Biya being interviewed for the Houston Chronicle, The press and the mascots at the Chevron Houston Marathon media event

Today I am celebrating my 23rd birthday! Another year of running and another year of experience. I was so happy to start it with a surprise gift from Lisa, Biya, and Katy, some family cards, and media day with the Houston Marathon Foundation. We chatted with the local newspaper and two local news stations about why we were in town and about the race coming up this weekend. We even were entertained by the local sports teams mascots that are preparing to run relay legs in the marathon in FULL COSTUME for charity. And of course, I am so thankful to get to spend this special day with Ryan and I am looking forward to spending more birthdays with him in the future.