Monday, March 17, 2014

New Bedford Half 2014

As I waited for the train on yet another sub-30 degree March day, I wanted to be someone else. The type of person who, like the group of 20-somethings dressed in neon green socks and headbands standing nearby, ran 5Ks for fun. Instead, I was off to race a half marathon. And unlike a 5K for fun, I knew it was going to hurt.

The weather forecast for the race had been slowly dipping lower, starting with a promising high of 40 early in the week and ending with the real thing...high of 32. And windy. Woof. Dragging my tights out for a race in mid-March was not an enjoyable experience. I had my now-traditional pre race Finagle Bagel and met up with Joy and Briana for our annual pilgrimage to New Bedford. We made it to number pickup, where security was crazy. Guess these are the times we live in. I looked up my number and got REALLY excited for a minute because it started with a 14. 14 is my favorite/lucky number and somehow despite how many races I've run this was only the second time I've had it appear on my bib. So I figured today had to be a good day. I knew I was fit. That wasn't the issue. The problem was that I had run out of my mind to a 3 1/2 minute PR at this race last year off of virtually nonexistent training. So, with multiple 50-60 mile training weeks under me, it was going to be quite a blow to my confidence if I didn't PR. But my pace of 7:15 from 2013 already seemed crazy, even as fit as I was. It definitely didn't feel like a given, and that was what was in my mind heading up to the line.

After finding the "secret" YMCA bathroom with the door that locked from the inside, we warmed up a bit and then headed to the corral. After the singing of the national anthem, it was time to get underway. New Bedford is a HUGE race and as a New England Grand Prix race it draws a lot of fast runners from the various clubs. Also cool was that Kim Smith had jumped in the race last minute (apparently doing a tempo run...which still meant she beat all but 2 of our men's team. Pro runners are amazing.) I came off the line with Briana and Taylor and tried to get into flying V formation..and off we went. Taylor immediately took off, and I decided to just relax into it for a bit. My legs had felt rough all week, so I wasn't sure how things were going to go. I feel like I know the course at New Bedford well, and I pretty much knew even splits were out of the question. Mile 1 is downhill, similar to Boston actually, and I came through at 6:48. The second mile continues in a general downhill direction but I usually slow a bit there. Then comes a mile-long set of rolling hills. I was leapfrogging with Briana and several other people at this point, and interestingly I was actually passing on the uphills!! I honestly am not sure if I've managed that before...it was a strange feeling to actually feel strong heading up a hill. I knew I had slowed a bit with the hills, but I felt strong and in control, and I also knew that coming up next was possibly my favorite 4 mile stretch of any race. My split at mile 4 was a bit slower than expected...I think like 7:20? I can't actually take splits on my current watch so I had to do math. I wasn't feeling amazing, so I had a little moment of panic there for a second...not nearly as bad as last year, but still, the doubts were there. But then I remembered where I was, and how I never run even splits on this course. And I decided to fly.


From miles 4-7.5 you run through essentially a long, gradual downhill, and I knew if I was going to put time in the bank, this was where it would happen. So I started thinking about covering more ground, pushing off, and most importantly, passing people. And next thing I knew, I wad clicking off 6:55-7:00 splits like nothing. If you had ever told me I'd see a sub-7 mile beyond the first crazy mile of a half, I would have laughed in your face. And yet. My biggest concern was actually that I now felt massively overdressed...my underarmor long sleeve was feeling stifling and I was seriously jealous of a girl I saw up ahead of me who tossed her over shirt and gloves to someone on the sidelines.  Around mile 6 I picked up a group of 2 girls in red singlets, girl in orange shorts, and a tall guy. I was seriously excited, because I almost always seem to find myself running alone in races...so a pack! It was so exciting! We ran together for a mile or so, and it was just the stimulus I needed to not back off the pace even as I was getting just the tiniest bit fatigued. Eventually I passed through and was on my own again, but thinking about those 3 girls behind me kept me pushing.

We made the turn onto the ocean, and at first, miraculously, there was a TAILWIND. I was feeling pumped on life at this point, and passing people left and right. I took my Gu and it was just delightful. I saw a camera and I actually smiled at it. I smiled at the spectators. I smiled at myself. Why would I ever want to casually run a 5K when I could do THIS?
Smiling! In a half marathon! Just feeling so, so great.

I was still hitting 7ish splits, although the fatigue was starting to sneak in a little bit....annnd then we turned into the most cruel headwind ever. I pretty much immediately felt my pace go downhill and life got decidedly less fun.  Suddenly everything was really, really hard. I was also running kind of alone again so I didn't have anyone to draft off of. The rest of the race was full of mental and physical ups and downs. The Irish water stop at mile 10 was a joy, but then I just wanted to be done. I finally caught a pack, and then it disintegrated. We turned into town, and my brain couldn't do math any more so I had no idea how much I slowed down. And I just wanted to be DONE. We came to the hill at mile 12, which actually was not as bad as I remembered. Then I almost got taken out by a woman with a giant stroller crossing the course and I just couldn't handle it anymore. We made the turn towards the finish. I looked at my watch, saw 1:32 something, and suddenly the haze I had been in for the last 3 miles lifted, and all I could think was "oh, shit! I've gotta GO!" And I absolutely sprinted down that hill, passing a ton of people in the process. And finally I crossed the finish line in 1:34:05. An almost 1 min PR.

Home stretch. Photo by Krissy Kozlosky.

Now I will be honest: I was a teeny bit disappointed that I couldn't pull out a 1:33:xx. BUT in the end, it didn't matter. Because I finally ran a PR where I put in the work and I truly deserved it. And that feeling - to work hard, to race hard, and to have it all pay off in running faster than you ever have before - is worth everything.

Next stop, Boston...

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Black Cat 20 Mile Race Report

The short story: The best distance race I've ever run. Had a plan, executed better than expected, never let my brain get the better of me. 2:30:32.

The long story:
The week leading up to this race was not one of my better ones this training cycle. I had a phenomenal long run on Sunday, but had been nursing some niggles ever since. Combine that with several commitments during the week and fitting in the miles was definitely feeling like a chore. I actually took the day before the race completely off in an attempt to calm things down. This race was really my first big test of this training cycle; a sort of 'where the hell is my fitness anyway?' type thing.  I would say that training has been going pretty well, but nothing overly spectacular has happened to make be believe that I'm in PR marathon shape. So...that's the leadup to this story.

I woke up on Saturday with absolutely no desire to race. So early, so groggy, so hyperaware of the twinges in my knee and SO unhappy to be dealing with yet another blustery sub-20 degree day. I headed off to Salem with some of the GBTC crew. We arrived early to the race, got our shirts, etc, and had a dance party near the porta potties for a bit before going back to the car to attempt to stay warm. Everyone's phone was giving a different reading of the temps ranging from 3-15 degrees but regardless of what the actual temperature was, the way it felt was pretty obvious: effing cold. We finally managed to drag ourselves away from the warmth of the car, and after one last porta potty stop we were huddled together on the starting line. I never really got nervous before the race because I kept telling myself that I was just going to do a long run. I believe I announced to my teammates before the race that "I have no intention of racing this thing". That, as it turns out, would be a big fat lie.

Without any fanfare the horn blew and we were off for 20 miles. I watched my teammates blow by me immediately and I thought to myself, nope. Relax, relax, relax. I calmed down and watched them go. My plan was to go out feeling relaxed and relatively comfortable, and then reassess. I definitely succeeded in feeling relaxed, and was actually pretty shocked when I went through the first mile at 7:25. Somewhere around mile 2, I realized that I had lost one of my gels...the safety pin holding it to my shirt must have broken or something. As I was frantically feeling myself up trying to figure out where it could have fallen, and meanwhile trying to reassess my fueling plan now that I only had one gel, a magical thing happened. I heard a voice behind me: "Did you lose a gel?" A guy ran up next to me. "I saw that you dropped it a little ways back, but it went so fast I couldn't grab it for you. I have an extra gel, do you want it?" This man became my new favorite person in all of time and space. I happily took the gel, thanked him profusely, and wished him good luck. I didn't catch his name or number, but guy in the black and yellow jacket with the extra espresso Gu - YOU ARE MY HERO.

The next few miles passed uneventfully. I didn't take splits but kept an eye on my watch at each mile marker and was steady on right around 7:25 pace. The course is a double out and back, which was fun because you get to see everyone throughout the race. I yelled for all of my teammates as they passed and then made the turnaround myself. I took some water at this point which had frozen in the cup...love you, New England winter. Back towards Salem we went, with some nice downhills scattered throughout this portion of the course. I was still feeling nice and comfy at this 7:25 pace but wasn't yet allowing myself to think about the possibility that I would be able to hold it for the entire race. Around mile 5 I passed my teammate Briana, and we chatted for a second about our plan for the rest of the race. I wished her good luck and moved onward. I could see my friend Joy maybe 300 meters ahead and started to begin thinking, just a little bit, about closing the gap. Not adding any significant effort, not consciously speeding up, but just pulling the line, bit by bit.

After the out and back the course heads into a little loop around the city, where I began passing a few more people. There's sort of a long, drawn out stretch of empty street and I thought to myself how this part of the race might not be so enjoyable the second time around. Right around mile 8 I passed Joy, the last teammate within my reach. No more red singlets to reel in anymore...I was on my own. I passed mile 9, still sticking with my pace, still feeling peachy, and I literally thought to myself "not bad, Zaferos, not bad at all". So far things were going extremely well, and the thoughts started to creep into my mind: so, maybe, you could try to hold this pace?  I came through the 10 mile at 1:14:30ish, still right on schedule. At this point in the race I had "Hey Baby" as played by the Wisconsin Marching Band in my head, and all I could think of as I went out for the second loop was "ONE MORE TIME". So I did the logical thing and yelled that to the guy who was directing the 20 milers back out onto the course, and he proceeded to repeat it over the microphone. A few moments later, I passed a man who gave me a funny look, and then screamed "WISCONSIN! BADGERS! YEAH!" (I was wearing a Wisconsin hat.) I was so taken aback and excited by this development that I put my arms in the air and screamed. WOOO! There are so few moments in my distance racing life when I have the chance to experience pure joy during a race, and this was certainly one of them.

The pack had thinned out considerably as we headed out for the second loop since we had lost the 10 milers who seemed to make up the majority of the field. I latched on to 2 older men for a bit, but my real focus was a girl maybe 200 meters ahead in a Reach the Beach shirt. That logo was like a target for the next few miles. I eventually caught up to her around mile 12, and the two of us spent the next 2 miles cheering for every single person we saw coming back on the opposite side of the course. I had to giggle a little bit at the fact that here I was, running a race that I never would have imagined, and I had the energy to be cheering for my teammates while cruising along at 7:25 pace at mile 14. I mean, who am I? I passed RtB for a bit between 13 and 14, then she got back in front of me after the turnaround. I paced off of her from 14-15 and finally passed her again around 16. Between the distraction of the cheering and leapfrogging with this girl, those awful middle miles went by incredibly fast. By the time I realized what was happening there were 4 miles to go. I was definitely starting to feel the fatigue at this point, but I was still staying on pace and I started to feel the confidence that my legs would hold for 4 more miles.

Back into the town, I was basically running alone. There were a couple people who I could see vaguely up ahead but they weren't close enough to make contact yet. With 3 miles to go, I finally came to the realization that even if some disaster occurred over the next 25 minutes, I was going to run a whole lot faster than I expected. The miles had seemed to be clicking off pretty quickly until after passing the 18 mile mark. At that point, it started to seem like mile 19 would never come. But it did, and then HOLY SHIT one more mile. This was the longest mile EVER. Probably because, as we came to discover later, it was actually 1.2 miles. But I am not sure I have ever dug down so deep to finish a race hard in my life. I passed this woman who said something to the effect of "Alright Greater Boston, looking strong." And I was looking strong. Looking and feeling and just generally being strong, which was not something I ever expected to feel in the last half mile of a 20 mile race. But here I was: strong. And fighting to the end. There was this girl in a pink shirt that I kept getting closer, and closer, and closer to as the blocks ticked by and by God, I was going to pass her. As we finally approached the last turn leading to the finish line, I found some other gear that I didn't even know existed and pushed by her. And that was it. This was just the best. Ever.

So once upon a time, I thought that my marathon PR was a fluke. And I thought that I never could be that successful at longer distances again, that I was doomed to mediocrity. I think that this race, and the whole performance of it - the mental game, the hunger to fight to hold pace and to pass people, the ability to stay relaxed and execute a race plan - completely proves that wrong. I don't think I've ever been so happy to be wrong in my life. And, no pressure, but I might have to at least consider the possibility of a PR at Boston. If I can relax into it like I did today, when you add in the crowd support and the fact that it's BOSTON, I can't count it out anymore. After all...I still have 7 weeks of training to get even stronger...

And for pure entertainment, here's a list of the songs that I had in my head during the race:
-Let It Go
-Hey Baby (marching band version)
-Answer the Phone by Sugar Ray (...what?)
-Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard (...also...what?)
-Keep Holding On

Saturday, February 22, 2014

First race of 2014

Yesterday I headed down to Foxboro with my teammates Joy and Briana to run the Old Fashioned Ten Miler. Boston training has been going pretty decently thus far (aside from 2 weeks where pretty much no running occurred due to dance obligations - but I was dancing, so didn't lose too much fitness) and this race was supposed to be my first "test" to kind of see where my fitness is. That...did not turn out to be totally the case. We had the most recent snowstorm in this insane winter we've been having on Saturday night - no worries, said the race director, the roads should be clear by race time. Then, just before my alarm went off on Sunday morning, I got a text from Joy saying that the race had been postponed until 1. Also totally fine by me, since that meant extra sleep and Olympics watching time (ICE DANCING! I regret all those years I thought it was boring) before heading off to the race.

While I did intend this race to be some sort of fitness barometer, I wasn't stressing about it too much on race morning. My biggest concern was what type of hat to wear to make wearing my hair in braids not seem ridiculous (inspired by the US snowboarders...I have definitely been watching an excessive amount of Olympics). And then we finally got to the race...and found out just kidding! We were going to be running 2 laps of the 5K course for a 10K...or as we later found out on the starting line, closer to a 5 mile than a 10 mile. Apparently the town of Foxborough had not gotten their shit together and had run out of salt (??) or something similar, so the roads wouldn't be passable for the 10 mile route. Needless to say, there were a lot of pretty angry runners around the place, myself included to some degree. The majority of the people who were running the 10 mile were using it as part of Boston training, and a 5 mile just did not suit that purpose at all. Well, at this point we were already there so we decided to make the best of it. The whole thing sort of became a big joke and we basically were like "woo hoo, we're just going to run 4 laps of the course! Mystery race! YAY!"

This photo accurately sums up the hilarity of the situation...you can see that I am laughing as I start the race. Also notice the surface that we are running on.

Things finally got started, and we took off down a completely snow covered road. This was foreshadowing, as 80-90% of the race was run on slippery packed snow. Pace was completely irrelevant, so I decided I would go for a "mystery race PR on packed snow", aka, I would try to race the people around me and see what happened. I never really went to the red zone on a cardiovascular level, but my legs, whoo boy. Trying to continue moving forward at a relatively fast pace while sliding backwards with every step is NOT EASY. I felt like I was running with some kind of bizarre marching gait, picking up my feet and putting them down without ever truly getting a pushoff.  I probably added a ridiculous amount of distance weaving back and forth trying to find a good line on the snow, looking for a place with just a little less slush. I made it through the first lap, and it wasn't so much that I was tired as that I was just sick of trying to find purchase with my feet on this ridiculous terrain. By that point I was incredibly glad that we weren't running 10 miles because the thought of 3 more laps of this ridiculousness was just too much. I made a couple of solid passes over the last two miles and felt pretty relaxed overall. I ended up wearing my Packers sideline hat, and did hear some pretty great comments from spectators ("she's from Wisconsin, she should be wearing a t-shirt and shorts!" Or my personal favorite "WHY is she wearing a Packers hat?" Har har)   Briana came up on me with about a half a mile to go, which suddenly renewed my competitive spirit and made me push it in through the finish. Like the rest of the race, I didn't finish even close to total exhaustion; while my legs were spent the rest of me felt like I'd barely done anything at all.

And yet, I still can't manage to take a good looking finish photo. At least there was some pavement showing at this point...

I finished in 37:42...of course, I had no idea what that meant as I had no idea how long the race was! I figured worst case scenario I hit 7:30 pace for a sort of GMP-esque run on snow.  I reconvened with my teammated and we headed back to the start house to grab my gloves, which I had ditched in a snowbank on the first lap, and drop off our medals before beginning the longest, saddest 7 mile cooldown ever. You know you've got problems when your cooldown is longer than the race. In the process I happened to drift over to check out the results, and discovered that I had actually placed 2nd in my age group. SURPRISE! I found this pretty hilarious and it basically cemented the fact that I can only win awards in ridiculous scenarios. Don't get me wrong, I feel like I ran a strong race, but I think this was more about how well I could handle the conditions vs. how fast I could run, and in that I guess I prevailed (thanks, Wisconsin upbringing!). Hilariously Briana had accidentally entered herself as a 15 year old, so she was listed as 1st in the 0-19 age group. Ooops. 

So all in all, not exactly the day I had planned, but not a bad day. I still got in 14 miles, including 5 of it run at under HM pace in tough conditions, and I felt pretty strong/relaxed at that pace. I still have no clue where my fitness is as far as longer distances go, but I suppose I'll find that out at Black Cat 20 soon enough. My first 20 miler of the cycle and it's a race...should be interesting, to say the least. 

Old Fashioned Ten Miler (5.25 miles)
30s, sunny, snowy terrain
51/409 overall, 10/212 women, 2/31 F20-29

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

On 2013, to 2014

2013 was a great, great year.

I ran 15 races, which is more than I raced in 2011 and 2012 combined, and the most races I've run in a year since college. I ran 2 track miles, 2 miles in a relay, a 2.5 mile trail race with Andrew, 6 5Ks, a 6K, a 10 mile, a 15K, a half marathon, and a marathon. I ran a race with my dog. I placed in my AG/overall women in 2 races. I raced in 25 degree weather with snow and 85 degrees with humidity. I set 2 PRs (15K and HM) and one technical PR (10M, as it was my first outing at the distance). I remembered that I still hate cross country. I was humbled by the marathon and shocked by a stellar performance in the half. I remembered that 5Ks are HARD and the track is a whole lot of fun.  I ran from Cambridge to Concord, not without a few mishaps along the way. I road tripped to Pennsylvania for an attempt at a last chance BQ.  I became great friends with my teammates and remembered that half the fun of running is the people you do it with.
Racing the mile at GBTC Invite in January, a chilly XC race with my running bestie in October, captured by a roving newspaper photog with another GBTC teammate before Lehigh Valley Marathon in September


Outside of running, I lived the dream as a semi-professional dancer throughout 2013. I joined a modern dance company, choreographed a solo for NACHMO, and began rehearsals for what would become the show of my life, Heartbeat. In March, and then again in November, I got to live out my dream dancing a lead role surrounded by the most talented people I've ever had the chance to work with. I got to take classes in Washington DC which challenged me to my limits and made me grow as a dancer. I performed on a small stage in Arlington, in a dance studio in Cambridge, on a catwalk in Harvard Square, and in a grassy field in Concord. I stayed up for 24 hours straight creating a piece. I returned to dancing en pointe after far too long away. And I realized that my life was not complete without this, my original passion.
On stage at the Oberon in Heartbeat in November (photo from Boston.com, EEK), hippy dippy dancing in a field with Intimations in June, flying for NACHMO in January

I spent wonderful times ranging from unremarkable to extraordinary with my love and my pup. I climbed a mountain in Vermont and sampled beers all along the east coast. I got to be in my city at the moment when Boston Strong became even more of a reality than it already was. I graduated with my doctorate and began my life in a profession I love, truly making a difference every day. I spent wondrous Saturday mornings (and some Saturday evenings too) with my Boston Badgers, who continue to bring the Wisconsin spirit to the East coast. I spent time with family and with friends new and old. And I loved every single minute of it.
With my love and my pup after the Doggy 5K in October, Badger ladies at the Baseball Tavern in January (technically 2014, but whatever), Wisconsin BUPT loves in our doctoral robes in May

When I thought of my "resolutions" for 2013, I thought of a few - cooking new recipes, reading new books, the usual. But the phrase that stuck with me as my true resolution was this: live with passion, intention, and joy. I certainly think I accomplished that in 2013. Now onward to 2014, to continue to be present, to continue to pursue my passions, and to find the joy in each and every day. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

My heartbeat

Welcome to the first post ever on this blog that isn't running related! Welcome to my other passion...dance.

Almost a year ago now, Andrew and I got into probably one of the biggest fights we've ever had in the 6 years we've been dating because I wanted to go to an audition. The project sounded ridiculously cool - a collaboration of dance and a live band to tell a love story - and with the opportunity for leads, no less. I went to the George Woods Band website and literally within 5 seconds of hearing the opening strains of Overture/Rewind I knew: I HAD to be in this show.

And so things worked out, Andrew and I compromised, and I danced my heart out at the audition, and a few days later, I got an email that damn near reduced me to tears, offering me one of the leading roles, the role of The Sun. And hours upon hours went into that first singular performance - stolen shoes, girls nights out where we shared our own love stories and had our own personal freak-outs about the state of the show and whether or not this crazy thing would be ready to put on the stage. But of course, when the day came we rose to the challenge, and we rocked it. And then seemingly as soon as it had started, all of that work that we had put in evaporated - it had been wonderful, and beautiful, but suddenly it was over.

Heartbeat I cast, pre-show (photo by Zachary Stephens)

So when I found out that we got to do it all again, and this time not just once but 3 TIMES, I felt like I was potentially going to explode with happiness. This show, and the music and people who surround it, have attached themselves to my heart and soul, and the opportunity to be a part of that again was just beyond thrilling. Things were slow to start - the apprehension of having to find chemistry with a new dance partner, drastically fewer rehearsals than the previous run, a new location, and actually having a real person job all led to there being times when I questioned whether I was good enough to reprise the role, and how we would ever manage to pull the entire show together. But little by little, the pieces fell into place. The 'meet-cute' song which had originally been - well, cute - became a sassy romp that involved taking shots and ended with a little Center Stage style bedroom innuendo. The addition of one of the most gorgeous songs I've ever been lucky to dance to fleshed out the emotional struggle of leaving someone who you know you still love. And suddenly, my character, which previously been sort of a flat stand in for a human being, because someone and something real. And better yet - it felt like me. 

As much as the camaradarie of running is incredible, there is something about the mutual experience of being involved in a production that is just magical and indescribable. I remember laying on the floor of the studio at 11:30 pm while the male lead ran around in a bizarre Halloween mask while in the background, 3 of the ensemble dancers were being drilled in the world's craziest turn sequence. We were just over halfway through our second full run of the show of the night, and everybody was going just a little bit crazy. On our second run through of "Stock In The Stars", my character's introduction and one of my big pieces of the night, I was so overtired that I couldn't stop laughing - at the way my dance partner was looking at me, at the fact that I was dancing at 11:30 in the evening, I don't know. As ridiculous as they were, those moments are the ones that you look back on fondly as something utterly ridiculous that you all did together.

The dress rehearsal was, to put it lightly, a disaster. As they say in theatre, a bad dress rehearsal means a good show, and thank goodness that old adage has never led me astray. I fell nearly on my face running up a spiral staircase, got kicked in the head, fell out of every turn humanly possible, and went from giddy to grumpy in about 5 seconds flat due to overtiredness (again) and hunger. The "You Are The Sun" dancers stood giggling in the curtain, thinking that we would be called onstage any second, only to find that everyone else had taken 5 for food...only that 5 was already over. It's challenging to describe in words the bond that develops when you share something like that...but it does. 

Dress rehearsal ridiculousness

And then, finally, it was here. With a call time of 3 pm on Thursday, there was infinite time to get ready. Time to run through every piece, remember what the balcony feels like one last time, run through that solo again.  Backstage, between bear hugs and endless love, finding a moment to run through the preshow ritual. As I lay on the floor, "Common Threads" flowing through my headphones (Tosa West theater tradition, one that I loved more than anything...some traditions stay with you.), I looked up at the stage lights, feeling the pulse of the opening band flow through me, and I knew: this is where I was meant to be.  And this - to dance, to be on stage, to perform - is truly what I was meant to do.

That first night, of course, things weren't perfect. The crowd was small, and no one seemed to entirely understand where they were supposed to go or what they were supposed to do. But no matter - 20 people or 200, the show was on, and no matter what happened, it was wonderful. But Friday - that was where the magic really began. The entire day at work, all I could think about was how lucky I was to have the perfect day job by day, but to live my dream by night. There are so many small moments that happened backstage that I wish I could relive forever, but to summarize, there was love. So, so much love. Everyone stretching, warming up, in their own worlds, but also inextricably connected, knowing that something special was about to happen. And was it ever special.  It just so happened that this performance, where I got to dance out a love story, fell on the 6 year anniversary of being with the one who I just happen to love the most...and this performance, from start to finish, was for him. Curled in a ball on stage for "The Wedding Song", I found myself near tears thinking about just how damn lucky I am to be here, on stage, doing what I love, surrounded by people who I love, and being cheered on by people who I love. Truly, does it get any better than that?

Dipping with my real life love after the show :)

Saturday, off day, brought the absurd excitement of seeing my own name and face splashed on Boston.com (dream come true? You betcha.) And then there was Sunday.

There are certain moments of clarity in life where you look around and just think to yourself: this is where I belong. This, right here and right now, is me being my most perfect, truest self.  And performing this show on Sunday night, from start to finish, was truly one of those moments of clarity for me. The moment the lights came up on Overture/Rewind, I was nearly in tears. And then came the Stock/Marry Me combo, during which I became so caught up in the moment that afterwards I couldn't even remember doing parts of the piece, Jen missed a cue because she was so enthralled with how amazingly we were performing, and 3 bars of the song got skipped and yet somehow, without missing a beat, Keil and I looked at each other and perfectly in sync, started off right into the exact same moment in the dance. During Marry Me, the only thought in my mind was "this is perfect. I am having SO MUCH FUN right now." And that was it - it was beautiful, it was fun, it was joy. It was me at my best, happiest, me.

The show continued - sure, there were issues (ripped monitor cables, crazy exes, slow music paces) but I was in some place beyond it all. I nearly fell of my damn cube during Trying to Get Back because I was just so INTO it. And then - holy shit - Never Gonna Bet The Same. I knew - KNEW that if there was one dance that was going to leave me in tears tonight, this was going to be it. And the emotion that I felt during that piece was more than anything I've ever felt while dancing before, but I held the tears back. Until. I threw myself into the final turn in the piece, and without a thought or a question, I nailed the most perfect triple pirouette I have ever done in my life. Ever. I have NEVER done a triple in performance before. It tends to be when I'm dicking around in the studio or wearing socks on carpet or something ridiculous. But tonight, in this perfect show, it happened so naturally and yet so unexpectedly that as soon as I finished it I burst into what must have been the ugliest laugh/crying that has ever been seen. I was overwhelmed with joy.

Before I knew it, it was over, and I was enveloped in bear hugs from friends and castmates alike. The only emotion I could feel was love - for my friends, for everyone involved with this show, and for being able to follow my passion. Too many people give up on doing things that they love because life gets in the way, there's to time, it's too hard to find people to do with it. I was one of those people for 3 years of my life. But God, I would not give up this feeling, the chance for that one moment where suddenly you get to step back and allow yourself to experience pure joy, for anything, ever again. When I first became a part of this show, I was excited because I was the lead; because I had proved everyone wrong who thought I wasn't enough. I was doing it for them. This time, I did it for me. Because it is what I love. Because it is where I belong - on the stage, with the lights slowly coming up on something beautiful. And being where you belong, well, it doesn't get any better than that. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lehigh Valley Marathon Race Report

This is not exactly the race recap I hoped I would be writing, but it kind of is the race report I was expecting to write. Is that strange? I went into this race from such a different place than any marathon that I've done previously, and I like to think I've come out the other side in a different place too.  The short story is this: I ran a 3:45, I did not BQ, which was the entire point of doing the race from the start. Weather, humidity specifically, was definitely a major factor, but when I dig down to the nitty gritty part of myself that knows the things that I don't always want to admit, I also know this know this: my training wasn't adequate, and I ran the race that I deserved. And strangely enough, after all of the whining and hatred of every second I spent training for this marathon, knowing that makes me want to do it again, and do it right.

But back up the analysis bus because first we need a race report.  The journey began on Saturday when I met up with my teammate Aly to drive down to the race. We really only became friends over the past few months but I would like to think that we bonded on the 5+ hour journey to PA, which included one stop at the 7th largest mall in the US! It has a ferris wheel. And lazer tag. And a ropes course. That's not a mall, that's an amusement park.  We eventually made it to the expo, which was at this sort of bizarre place called the Steel Stacks - basically what appeared to be an old mining (?) operation that had been converted into an entertainment complex...it was interesting. The entire time I had been training for this race, my brain had never fully made the connection that I was actually attempting to run a fast marathon, but suddenly holding my number in my hand forced me to realize that I was doing something ridiculous.

Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day, and we actually ended up relaxing with a beer outside of the expo center before heading over to the hotel.  I don't know what it is, but whenever I'm staying in a hotel and I'm not on vacation (aka, whenever I travel for races which is almost never) I automatically connect it with dance/pom competitions, which were some of the most exciting times in my young life, and it doesn't matter that now I'm 26 years old and I'm running a marathon, being where I am just becomes the most exciting experience ever. I suddenly feel special and like every action I do is meaningful in the context of this big event that I'm doing that's the reason that I'm at this hotel. (If those last sentences made no sense to you, I completely understand, because they don't make much sense to me either, but that's the best I can do to verbalize the way staying in a hotel the night before a competition makes me feel.) I headed out for a quick 10 minute shakeout around the various parking lots surrounding our hotel, and after a brief drive through some sketchy areas of Allentown Aly and I found our way to dinner at a Bravo at the Allentown mall, where the servers were exceptionally cheery, the salad was covered with bacon bits, but the pasta was actually really good.

Carb loading complete, we headed back to the hotel to get into the zone before our 4 am wakeup call. I watched the Notre Dame-Michigan game for a bit, as there is truly nothing more calming to me than a football game which I'm really not invested in. I drifted off at about 9:30 and actually slept remarkably well given the circumstances - I'm pretty sure I was actually awake before my alarm went off on Sunday morning which is fairly unbelievable. I got up pretty quickly and was into the prerace routine: 2 pieces of bread, one with peanut butter, choked down even though I have no desire to eat it, washed down with Gatorade. Aly had been asking me about what I ate before races since she had bad stomach issues with her last marathon, and so she followed my lead - I think I have a new convert to my pre-marathon breakfast! We were out the door by 5 am to head over to Lehigh Valley Hospital for the start. Unfortunately, there is more than one Lehigh Valley Hospital...and the one that comes up when you enter that into your GPS is not the one where the race start was being held. Luckily we had left early enough that it wasn't a big deal, and finally made it to the actual start with over an hour to spare (I found out later that the traffic situation turned into a disaster close to the start and people were jumping out of their cars to run to the line, so retrospectively I'm EXTRA glad that I'm ridiculous about getting to races early.) Highlights of the drive were listening to techno and a very bright billboard with a man on it who appeared to be staring into your soul...it was 5 am, we were a little loopy.

The start was pretty low key, although they were pumping early 2000s jams such as the Evanescence song "Bring Me To Life" and also "1985" by Bowling for Soup. We chatted briefly with a guy who noticed Aly's Greater Boston jacket and was also from Boston - I do think one of my favorite parts about this race was that, as the LAST CHANCE TO BQ, there were people from literally everywhere converging on these random towns in eastern Pennsylvania to run a marathon.  The weather was not as cool as I had wanted or anticipated, and I was concerned about the 80% humidity, but I tried not to worry about it as I went through my prerace routine. Stretch, leg swings, a few downward dogs for good measure, GNB on the hand (long story), drink water, munch on Gu chomps, hit the porta potty, etc. At one point Aly and I had what felt like our own personal paparazzi as this guy from (I assume) a local newspaper hovered around us taking action shots of us warming up and stretching. I was trying to stay focused but it was also difficult to keep from laughing as this guy circled us trying to get that perfect shot. [Edit: I discovered the photos, but I will not be posting them here. They are hilarious, however.]

I decided to hit the porta potty one last time, and man, the line was rough. It was probably 6:35 at this point, with the race starting at 7, but I figured I was still in OK shape, and I really needed to get in there. Opening ceremonies began...line barely moving. It was 6:45...line barely moving. The fear of a bathroom related emergency kept me in line for quite awhile, but all of a sudden I came to the panicked realization that there were 5 minutes until race start and I was still in my sweats, hadn't checked my bag, and was not at the start line. Cue near panic attack, sprinting over to my bag (during the national anthem no less, gah, I felt bad about that after the fact), desperately trying to find the bag check, and squeezing into the start. I couldn't find Aly, but managed to immediately find my friend Jen and started talking at her - "oh my god, I really have to pee...but the porta potty line was so long...omg, I'm just going to go pee in that park over there. I'll be right back." And so I popped a squat behind a tree with 2 minutes to go until the start. Not my most dignified hour, but I'll be damned if I didn't start that race feeling comfortable and ready to go. The next thing I knew I was back next to Jen and holy shit, they were counting down, and suddenly we were running and this was just...happening.

Actual race report time

The first mile was a bit of a cluster and was more crowded than I expected, but true to my ONE goal for myself I stayed relaxed and just let myself be moved along by the crowd. I had sworn that I would not under any circumstances allow myself to be sucked in by any sort of desire to go out fast, and although I missed the 1 mile mark so I can't say for sure, I'm pretty sure I succeeded. We headed through a short neighborhood loop and then we were off on the point to point. Now, a word of warning for anyone considering running this race: it's advertised as a net downhill, and I'm sure that it is. What they don't tell you is, that net downhill? Like, 90% of it happens over the course of one ENORMOUS downhill in the first mile of the race. So I definitely would not consider this a downhill course by any stretch. The first 6-7 miles of the race are on roads, and I felt like I was doing a good job of staying relaxed and just moving myself along. I had chosen "calm as still water" (oh Arya, I heart) as my mantra for this race because I felt that above all else, not getting ahead of myself would be what would save me. This turned out to be fitting as the entire course runs along a river, which, due to the lack of wind on Sunday, was actually incredibly calm.

I didn't actually take any splits during the race, just kind of stayed aware of my watch, and throughout the first stretch I was clocking in nicely between 7:50-7:55s and feeling very relaxed doing it. I started to notice the humidity pretty early and started taking water from the get go, because if there's one way for me to crash and burn in any race, it's dehydration. FORESHADOWING.  I had a little bit of a down time as we went uphill over a bridge around mile 6, but took a Gu and we headed into the forest and it passed. I/the volunteer trying to hand me water botched the handoff twice at that particular water stop, so I didn't get any water with my gel, which was...unfortunate. As we began running on our first trail section of the race, I felt AMAZING. I was proud of myself for picking a pace that seemed to be reasonable, kept repeating "calm as still water" in my head whenever I felt myself start to tense up, and honestly - I was really enjoying myself. The trail along the water was lovely, although rocky and root covered in many spots, but mostly I just allowed myself to kind of enjoy the moment for a little while. At one point a group of guys running just behind me burst out singing "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" and I couldn't help but smile. I just remember thinking to myself "oh my gosh, this so much more fun than I thought it would be!"

I hit mile 10 and I was still sticking to my slightly sub-8 pace, still feeling really good, and the ideas were starting to hatch that maybe I could make this work after all. My one problem at this point was that there hadn't been a water stop in a LONG time. Like 3-4 miles long. I was starting to come down from my post-Gu high and was starting to feel that dehydrated sensation creeping in. Everything else was smooth sailing, so I didn't worry about it too much, but I definitely wanted to get myself to a water stop, and stat. The miles ticked by, still on this legitimate trail by the river. At mile 12 I noticed a Gu on the ground, thought it was empty, and so didn't worry about trying to avoid it. As it turned out, it was full, so when I stomped on it it exploded all over my legs. It was disgusting. This was the first in a series of several unfortunate events that would befall me before the end of the race, but for the time being things were still going well. Soon after the Gu incident, we came off of the trail and back onto the roads for a rather obnoxious loop around the parking lot that finished at the halfway mark before dipping back down onto the trail. Since the beginning of the race I had been able to see Jen in my sights up ahead, but kept quelling the urge to chase her down because, as I kept telling myself, "you need to run your race, not Jen's". But as we approached the half, I found myself in a bit of another low, and closing the gap between the two of us seemed to be the best way to break out of it. It seemed to work, because I passed her right around the half and managed to have the energy to cheerfully be like "stay relaxed! We're halfway there! Have a great race!". If only I knew what was going to happen a few miles down the road, I certainly wouldn't have been so chipper, but for the moment, I was loving life a surprising amount and just allowed myself to enjoy some signs (this one woman, who I saw like 6 times, had a sign that said something like "Run faster! There's a fire! Ain't nobody got time for that!" I didn't really...understand it, but I liked it.)

I took another Gu just before the 14 mile mark as we dipped back down onto the river trail, which I would grow to deeply hate in the hours to come. I had to stop briefly to readjust my left sock, which had decided to bunch up and roll down into my shoe - I picked the ONE pair of socks which have never given me a problem with this, and of course they decided to fail on me come race day. I was irritated, but I would say it cost me 15-20 seconds at most, which didn't turn out to matter in the grand scheme of things. But let's be honest, if I had somehow managed to miss a BQ by just 15-30 seconds, I probably would have gone Hulk style on that sock. After the sock debacle, things started to get a little dicey. I was still doing...okay pace-wise, but it no longer felt relaxed and I was starting to really resent the fact that we were still running on this stupid dirt trail. And then all of a sudden, around mile 15 or 16, I don't even know how to explain it, but everything just imploded. My legs still felt pretty acceptable given what I had run so far, but I was nauseous and feeling more lightheaded and dizzy by the second. I sprang into action at the next water stop, grabbing water and a Gatorade and walking through the station to make sure I got to drink it all, but unfortunately it seemed to be too little, too late.

Miles 16-20 were some of the worst miles I have ever run in my life. It suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks how awful I was feeling at the moment and how far I actually still had to go. My legs began feeling the way I feel when I'm dehydrated, which is to say, bad. I continued to take water/Gatorade every chance I got but the aid stations just couldn't seem to come fast enough. Right around mile 17 I kind of got overwhelmed and decided I got 10 seconds to walk and compose myself...and as soon as I stopped running, I literally felt like I was going to pass out. I had a similar vertigo problem about a mile later, when I was focusing on a girl running directly in front of me who was wearing shorts with zig zags on them and I started feeling lightheaded just looking at the pattern. The sun filtering in and out of the trees wasn't helping my cause. I was just feeling shitball awful, and I couldn't seem to do anything about it.

It was around 18 or 19 that I realized that I had fallen dramatically off pace, and given the events that were currently happening, any shot at a sub 3:35, let alone sub 3:30, was out the window. And then I did something that I am actually quite proud of, and that I know the Audrey of 3 years ago would have been unable to do - I acknowledged this fact, I accepted my current situation, and I resolved myself to finish the race as fast as I could given what was happening. That's it. There was very little beating myself up or berating myself for sucking, there were no tears, and I think only one swear escaped my lips. I won't say I was happy about what was going on...I felt like death. But I wasn't going to just give up and die just because my goal wasn't going to happen today.

At long last I reached mile 20, feeling less like I was going to pass out but still having a pretty rough go of it between water stations. I was so unbelievably thirsty that nothing was enough, and I wasn't necessarily hot but it was so humid that my singlet was drenched. We were STILL running on this god-forsaken trail - another note to anyone interested in signing up for this race: while the course is really pretty, the narrow, rocky trails do not make for what I would call a "fast" course. The mile markers seemed to be getting further and further apart as I trudged along. I kept telling myself that I had almost an hour to run 6 miles to come in around 3:45, which was the new goal that my brain had selected.  It's interesting trying to write about this part of the race right now because I'm pretty sure my brain has blocked it out. I hated it. I wanted my super caffeinated Gu but I thought I had lost it (I found out hours after the race that I had not, because I'm an idiot). I popped a blister on the tip of my toe which stung like a beyotch. Everything hurt and nothing was beautiful. These are pretty typical feelings for those post mile-20 miles of a marathon, but they seemed to be worse than I remembered.

Mile 22 finally arrived, and as I began to process the fact that I had only 4 miles to go, a change came over me. Maybe it was my aggressive hydration from the past several miles kicking in a bit, or maybe it was just delirium, but I suddenly said to myself: you know what, you need to man up. I doubt that I truly picked up the pace by much, but at least I felt like I was moving forwards instead of scrambling futilely in place. I started passing some people who were walking. I continued to walk through the water stops long enough to get some fluids down, but forced myself to start running again as soon as the cup was empty. I hated the trail and my legs and the sun and the weather and I hated everything, and all I had left to not hate was the fact that soon I was going to be finished, one way or another.

I feel like every time I run a marathon I say that the last 2-3 miles were "THE HARDEST MILES I HAVE EVER RUN". But no, seriously, these were the hardest. I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and 3:45 seemed like it was going to happen, which was cool, because back a few miles ago I had seriously thought I was looking at another 4+ hour finish which would have been significantly less OK. But dear lord, mile 26 of this race. So we had barely passed the 25 mile mark when we started to go up this hill, and I just lost it. I told myself I got 10 seconds to get my shit together. But no sooner had I begun to slow than this old dude comes running past me and no joke, YELLS in my face "HALF A MILE TO GO YOU DO NOT GET TO STOP". I was ridiculously taken aback but I thanked him because seriously, I needed that. And I ran it in. It was the cruelest thing in the world. You could see the finish line on the other side of the river when you were almost a mile away from it, but first you had to run out, run back uphill, run over a bridge, and then run down the longest straightaway in the history of humanity.  That final .2 miles felt like it lasted 17 hours. I was running completely alone, too far from the woman in front of me to catch her with whatever pathetic attempt at a kick I could summon, and with no one coming up on me from behind. I could see the clock clicking around 3:44, and I basically was just like I don't even care, I am getting there before it hits 3:46, and I can be OK with myself.  And I did.

I staggered over the line and shortly after yelling guy (who I had apparently passed, no recollection of that happening) came up behind me and was like "nice finish, sorry I lied, it was more like a mile to go". I thanked him anyway for the kick in the ass and was about to wander away to find a place to lay down when I heard Jen's name being announced at the finish. We slowly made the journey to the beer tent, with several seated rest breaks. My lower back was cramping really badly, and I just felt generally unpleasant. We finally located Aly, who had done REALLY well, and the 3 of us lay in the grass and enjoyed our free beers. At that point, my only emotion was just relief. I was so unbelievably happy that it was over, and I could stop stressing about it. I had made it through relatively unscathed, albeit not exactly in the way I had hoped, and for that I was glad.

After awhile we decided to try to find the shuttle buses back to the start to attempt to get back to the hotel in time to shower before hitting the road back to Boston. This is where things got...well...interesting from a logistical standpoint. Everything else about the race thus far had been really well put together, but these shuttles were just a nightmare. First of all, we waiting in line for literally an hour and 45 minutes to get on a bus...and there was a long line of runners snaking behind us. We all kind of agreed that we were too tired to care, but it wasn't terribly enjoyable. Hilariously, there was a native Easton-ian who decided he wanted to make a quick buck in his sketchy blue windowless van with an eagle painted on the side by offering rides back to Allentown for $10...shockingly, several runners took him up on his offer. Finally, the bus arrived - hooray! Except then we boarded the bus, and entered into the most hellish 25 minutes I have ever experienced in a vehicle. Do you know what doesn't sound good after running a really humid, dehydrating marathon? A bus, filled with sweaty, hot runners, with no air conditioning. Not joking, I felt like I was in a hot yoga class. The one moment of levity was seeing the aforementioned blue bus of creepiness....broken down on the side of the road. So at least someone was having a worse time than we were on the bus of doom.

So that is the story of how I didn't BQ, but didn't beat myself up over it. I was actually surprised to learn that I ran about a minute faster than Boston 2010, when I trained for a 3:30 like it was all I had in the world and was left devastated when things didn't go my way. I think the difference in my reactions from then to now is a testament to me being more mature as a runner and as a person at this point in my life. (And also, apparently, eff shooting for a 3:30. 3:29 or bust!)  This is my 3rd best out of 5 marathons, and with my PR and Boston 2012 being major outliers, the middle 3 have actually been not that far apart. I'm not sure what that says about me - does it mean I'm actually kind of mediocre, and my 3:22 was a fluke? Does it mean that I haven't quite figured out how to dial in my training or how to execute on race day? It's hard to say. All I know is that next time I race a marathon, I mean to do it for real. For how slackadoodle I was about my training for this race, quite frankly, I knew I wasn't going to qualify. I think in a way I set myself up for a feedback loop of bad: not having enough of a base/enough time to put together a proper training cycle --> feeling overwhelmed by training --> "well, I'm not going to qualify anyway"--> slacking off because "it doesn't matter, I'm not going to qualify anyway", etc. But amazingly, for how much this race sucked, it had the opposite effect as I expected: it made me want to do another one, and do it right.

It's hard for me in this particular scenario to tease out how much difference would have been made by better training and how much was due to the weather/race conditions. Even with perfect training, could I have PRed with that type of humidity and on trails? I honestly don't think so. How much of feeling awful in the late stages of the race was undertraining, and how much was dehydration, or lack of mental toughness, or fueling, or humidity, or any number of other factors? I suppose that's always the question that you could ask in any race. And looking back on it a few days later, I am a little disappointed, not about the way I performed on race day, but about the fact that I couldn't suck it up to make more of the training time I had. But of course it has me questioning...if I could do what I did on Sunday with what I consider to be quite sub-par training...what could I do with excellent training? And that is the question that I hope to answer at some point in the future, whether it's somehow at Boston 2014 (goddamn it, I really want a number), or at a fall 2014 marathon.

And finally, I apparently can say I am a true runner now, because I realized after the race that the skin under my right second toenail had been replaced by a giant blood blister. I will spare you the details of my impromptu self-surgery, but let's just say I don't think I'm going to have a toenail to worry about for quite some time...you win, marathon. You always do. And that pretty much sums it up.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In which some stuff happened, and I'm a terrible marathon trainer

Stuff that's happened:
-I have done 2 20+ mile runs...and then basically just decided that long runs were for the birds, and haven't done one since. I am hoping to get a 22 in at some point this week. Did I mention my marathon is in 2 weeks? Yeah. That's happening...I guess. I've never been so apathetic about a race before in my life. I think this might go along over all with my sudden realization that running, as it turns out, is something I do for FUN, and I'm not going to be thrown off of a cliff if I don't run that well. This attitude has not been particularly beneficial for my training, but then again, neither has the hot/humid weather, the fact that I'm dancing as well as running, or the fact that my plantar fasciitis has been acting up.

-I have, however, done quite a few days of 10-12 miles, some with speedwork thrown in the middle for good measure, and I also went on a 17 day streak with no rest days. So there's that. I've been going to GBTC with remarkable consistency, even though we've been trekking out to a park to do XC work, which I basically hate. Clearly I am not the joyous XC runner that I was in college. I just don't like running on sand/gravel, OK??

-Some races happened!
Yankee Homecoming 10M -
The 10 miler was on a random Tuesday night, and also happened to be my first race at the distance. It did NOT go well...and by that I mean I ran a slower pace than my marathon PR. Woof. I hadn't been feeling well all day, and looking back I wouldn't be surprised if I was running with a low grade fever, because I can't remember my face/head ever feeling SO. HOT. in a race. Granted, it was relatively warm/humid out, but I just felt like I was burning up. Definitely just one of those days where everything feels bad from the start. I actually considered taking the 5K cutoff at mile 2.5...of course, I didn't, and so I just struggled on through the rest of the race.
I decided to wear sunglasses for this race, but I quickly realized that they were making my face feel even hotter than it already was. Here I am attempting to throw them at my sister, then realizing I was on the opposite side in the road. Approximately mile 3, and already hating life. 

To add insult to injury, I ended up spending the entire race about 100m behind my friend Joy...who had RUN A MARATHON 4 DAYS BEFORE. Ouch. Aside from just feeling like crap, I think the race itself was great, and definitely one I would do again. The crowd support was incredible - it's one of those delightful New England races where this race is a HUGE deal for the city and everyone comes out to support. The course, while hilly, was quite nice, with parts being run by the ocean, through the cute downtown area, and a nice long downhill through a state park.
Thank goodness it's about to be over. 

One good thing did come out of this, which was that as a team, we got 2nd, winning some money for our club! Hooray. Not that I was much of a contributor to that, but whatever, sometimes the important thing is just showing up!
I am literally soaking wet in this picture. Also I should probably get a GBTC sports bra. 

4 x 1600m Relay, aka will run for beer
This was the most low key, ridiculous thing I've ever done and it was awesome. We basically showed up, ran the relay, and then went off to drink. I think there was a total of one other women's team (although we DID set the meet record, so that's something). I actually pleasantly surprised myself by running a 6:13, which really didn't feel all that hard - I mean, it's hard running a hard mile, but I wouldn't say I was really killing myself racing it, which makes me think I maybe am in better shape than I realized. 
Our reward for our team victory was a case of beer. So basically, this was the best use of my time on a random Thursday night EVER. 10/10 would run again (although something tells me that now that the secret's out that you get beer if you win, there might be more competition next year!)

I'm also running a 6K XC race this weekend....so that should be entertaining. Also, and perhaps most importantly, I GOT A JOB. So now I have to be a normal person and fit my training in around working 9-5. Might be an adjustment from my current lifestyle of being able to run literally whenever I want...but also will hopefully snap me out of some of my laziness that comes with just being able to run whenever I want. It's going to be an exciting fall!