Hold on longer

Girl you can hold on longer. Long as you want.”

“Hold on longer” by John Legend has been on each of my race day playlists since it came out in 2013. It’s not a bop but those lyrics are everything to me and the song has a way of coming up in the shuffle at the exact time I need it.

For this year’s Monumental half, that moment came in mile 10. For anyone familiar with the course, this is when the half really begins. Up until that point, you’ve been winding and weaving your way through downtown Indianapolis and the near northside, and it goes by relatively fast. After The Children’s Museum though, it’s a straight shot for about 2.5 miles on Meridian. You can see Monument Circle in the distance but the final turns onto New York, Capitol, and Washington feel like they will never come.

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This was my fourth time running the Monumental half and my mantra over the years has become “get to The Children’s Museum then hold on.” It’s tempting to go out fast but I remind myself how much energy (more mental than physical, really) is required in those last three miles. I also get a good sense of what my final time will be based on how I feel turning to stare down Meridian.

I didn’t have a particular goal in mind for this race. I’m competitive so I always hope to PR. I thought I had a chance to get close based on how my 10 mile training run went but knew I would have to start out faster than normal. By mile 3 I was already down to a 9:46 pace and panicked a bit.

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I did a mental scan of my body and decided to just settle in and see if I could hold on. There was a chance it could come back to bite me in that final stretch but I had such a sense of calmness and I was genuinely having a lot of fun. I had awesome friends in a few spots spectating, the weather was perfect for me, and I love this course and this city so much.

Once I reached the Children’s Museum, I was at a 9:32 pace and confident I could stick with it and crush the homestretch. My final time was 2:06:28 for a 9:39 average pace — a 2 minute and 21 second PR. UNREAL.

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In April, I left a piece of my soul on the streets of Louisville in the last few miles to get my previous PR. It was the hardest running I’ve ever done and I didn’t think it would be possible to top that time. But I did, and I felt so much stronger and calmer doing it.

Girl you can hold on longer. Long as you want.”

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Pushing through to a PR

For the fourth and final year (for awhile at least), I participated in the Kentucky Derby Festival half marathon. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs at this race over the years, including powering through pouring rain, dodging frat guys with footballs, and battling bronchitis. This year proved to be no different, but ended on the uppest of ups with a new PR of 2:08:49 (9:50 average)!

My training season got off to a slow start with a major work project consuming my life in January and February. I finally hit a groove in March only to start developing plantar fasciitis in my right foot. It was fine during some runs but very painful during others. I set weekly appointments with Carolyn at Myo-Fit Therapy to stay on top of it. She is the real MVP! There’s no way I would have felt as good as I did on race day without her help and expertise.

Because of all that, I had very low expectations. I didn’t set any pace goals but instead wanted to enjoy every inch of the course. I’ve gotten to know this race almost as well as the Monumental and I got a little nostalgic. The city of Louisville has showed up every year, rain or shine, to cheer us on. The churches, senior homes, girls academy, drum band, U of L students…and this year two of my good friends who saw me at mile 6 and 10. All of their support is incredible.

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Mile 6. Photo cred: Solomon Parker (http://solomonjparker.blogspot.com/)

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Mile 8 inside Churchill Downs. Photo cred: MarathonFoto

My first mile was slow but that was fine; my heel didn’t hurt and that was all that mattered. I kept getting faster with each mile split though. I was excited to be running better than expected but also worried I would crash and burn later. There was so much race left, especially on this course which doesn’t feel like it really starts until you leave Churchill Downs in mile 8.

At mile 10, my heel was still pain-free (though my right hip was hurting) and my pace continued to pick up. I realized I had a chance to come close to my PR, which was so insane. My competitive side kicked in and I decided to risk it and go all in. I remembering saying to my friends “I’m feeling really good. I have no idea what’s happening right now!”

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Mile 10. Photo cred: Solomon Parker (http://solomonjparker.blogspot.com/)

The last three miles were miserable and the hardest I have ever worked in any race, especially the last mile when I wanted to quit so badly. No one can make you go faster or push harder. It’s all on you. You have to want it. You have to fight for it. You have to shut down all doubt in your mind and just grind.

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Final stretch. Photo cred: MarathonFoto

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Final stretch. Photo cred: MarathonFoto

I crossed the finish line, checked my watch, and immediately broke down crying. Going into the race, I was just trying to get through 13.1 miles and not be slower than my slowest time. I didn’t think a PR was even remotely possible. But I fought for it with every ounce of physical and mental energy I had left. So many emotions came pouring out: Surprise, relief, shock, pain, and immense pride.  

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Just after the finish line. Photo cred: MarathonFoto

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This was half marathon #10 for me and I still have a bad habit of saying “I’m a runner, but I know it doesn’t look like it” or “I run, but I know you can’t tell.” Here’s the thing about running though: It doesn’t matter what you look like, what your pace is, or how far you go. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you are a runner.

Being part of history in Boston

Last weekend my love for running and traveling to new places came together with a trip to Boston to cheer on my badass, speedy friend who ran the marathon. It was an experience I’ll never forget!

The 5k
I never realized how much else goes on during the Boston Marathon weekend, including a 5k run that close to 9,000 people participated in. Luckily the weather was great that morning, the spectators were out in full, and I got to experience running across the marathon finish line. There really is something special about running in Boston and I’m so glad I got a chance to do it (and make Massachusetts state #23 I’ve ran in!).

 

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The marathon
I was so excited to witness this historic race in person. Much has been written about the conditions so I won’t waste space here, but I can tell you it didn’t stop spectators from showing up. I can’t imagine what it would look like on a nice day based on how packed the course was in the shittiest of conditions. This city truly embraces this race!

I did a ton of spectator research before the trip. The logistics are a little insane for this point-to-point course, but we had a solid plan and it ended up working out well. I referenced the 2018 spectator guide and MBTA course viewing map a lot and could probably write a whole separate post on spectating tips. Feel free to reach out if you want more details.

My crew took the Green Line B branch to Chestnut Hill around mile 22. Our home base was Mary Ann’s, a cash-only bar we could easily dip in and out of. On a better weather day, I would have stayed outside the whole time. But with the crazy conditions, I popped out to watch the elites, my friends in Wave 1, and the main runner we traveled with who was in Wave 3. The app came in handy here since I could go out right before they hit our section of the course.

 

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We were inside Mary Ann’s when Des crossed the finish line and everyone went wild. Again, this city is all in on the marathon and it was so awesome to be part of it.

 

 

Everything else
I didn’t fit in as much sightseeing as I normally would have, but I had a great time eating and bar hopping my way through Boston. Some of the highlights:

We did have a brief cultural respite at the Museum of Fine Art. Unfortunately the lines were crazy long for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum next door so we skipped it. I also have to give a shout out to the totally clutch, locally owned store Trend on Newbury. I bought rain boots that were so necessary on marathon day and the owner was super nice and helpful.

 

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Return to being monumental

The Monumental is my favorite race for a few reasons. In 2012, it was the first half I ever did. In 2015, it was my first (only?) full. And I know the course intimately since it loops through downtown Indy, including Mass Ave. I had to miss it last year due to travel so I was really excited to return this year. I also had a super shitty spring race after battling bronchitis for over six weeks leading up to the Derby half. Redemption was on my mind!

Going into this race, I felt much healthier and more prepared. As early as October, I started thinking I might even be able to PR. My last long-ish run solidified my confidence to push the pace. I knew I would have to go out strong and hold on for dear life but I was ready for it.

I tend to go through the same mental cycle in the days before the race: I get super hyped and then doubt everything, only to wake up dancing and smiling on race day. The forecast was a little toasty for me but it promised to be a great morning.

My first mile felt fast but ended up being a 10:30 pace. I panicked a little but reminded myself to chill out since there was a lot of race left. During miles 2 and 3, I got my pace down but my left step was feeling off and I had some serious doubts that I would be able to hit my goal.

A funny thing happens the longer you run though. Your body calms down and you settle in to a groove. With each mile, I got faster and was feeling really good. It’s always a gamble to know how early to really starting pushing so I tried to stay somewhat conservative until the infamous Meridian stretch, which is where the race truly begins for me.

Once I turned at the Children’s Museum and stared down those final miles, I knew I had it. In mile 11, I saw two of my friends and shouted at them with a big grin that I thought I was going to PR.

And I just barely did with a 2:09:07 finish (9:52 average pace), 8 seconds faster than my previous PR!

In my post-race Instagram, I wrote about embracing the badassness of what I had just done, which sounds simple but is tough for me. This is the heaviest I’ve been in a long time and the shadow of fat!Melanie haunts me every time I look in the mirror. But my “heavy” body carried me through 13.1 miles faster than it ever has before. And just a month before that, I hit one rep max PRs on back squat at 200#, front squat at 175# and deadlift at 285#. So today, I’m choosing to love me and be proud of this body.

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Indy Half race recap

Since I started running five years ago, my big fall race has always been the Monumental, which is my favorite race. This year I will be out of town though so I took the chance to check out the Indy Half.

My training season, if you can even call it that, was the shittiest I’ve ever had. My schedule has been insane. I didn’t run nearly as much as I should have. And when I did, it definitely wasn’t fast. This is also the heaviest I’ve been in a long time so that’s literally been weighing me down. Oh and did I mention this course is super hilly (relative to Indiana) and everywhere I normally run is super flat?!

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Heading into race day, I was mentally preparing for the worst but also trying to relax and enjoy it. The weather was perfect and the course was beautiful, winding through Fort Ben on a mix of roads and trails. I started out a little faster than planned with my first mile at 10:18. I decided to go with it but faced my first challenge in mile three. Some people walked up the giant hill but I knew I had to keep moving, even if it was super slow. There’s something mentally for me about walking in those situations. It feels like it would be too easy to never start running again.

I was so glad when the road started evening out. I made it! Now I just had to calm my breathing and pick up my pace. I was really happy with how quickly I recovered and got back in a groove. I panicked a little after mile 6 when my watch told me I was under a 10:00 pace. There was no way I could maintain that until the end, I thought. But I felt really good and my competitive drive wanted to see how long I could hold on to it.

There were some smaller hills sprinkled throughout the course but I grew more confident with each one. I kept my pace under 10:00 and knew I was going to finish strong. Then mile 11 almost crushed my soul. That damn mile was entirely uphill (or at least felt like it) but I kept fighting and only slowed down to a 10:18 split.

In the final push, I felt like I was moving so slow but posted a 9:31 split on the last mile and crossed the finish line almost in disbelief. I conquered the toughest course I’ve ever raced and finished in 2:12:09, my third fastest half (of seven).

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I expected the worst and instead left with a complete runner’s high and huge sense of pride. I worked hard for my 2:09:15 PR in April, but this race was a different accomplishment and yet another reminder that I need to believe in myself more.

2016 Derby half recap: Fastest filly on the track

In my last post, I mentioned the marathon burnout was so real and I was enjoying focusing on crossfit for awhile. That continued through the 2016 Crossfit Open, during which I pushed myself really hard and hit multiple PRs.

That theme would carry over into my running as I ramped up training for the Derby half. This is by far the least amount of training I’ve ever done for a race. I don’t necessarily recommend it but luckily everything else I was doing kept me in decent enough shape that I was able to work up to 10 miles with relative ease. Based on the times I was posting, I thought I might have a PR performance in me, which was crazy to think about.

For the second year in a row, the Derby forecast called for rain. I was much more mentally prepared for it since I survived 13.1 miles of rain last year. And once you’re wet, you’re wet. There’s not much you can do but keep moving.

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I didn’t necessarily have a game plan for this race but I knew I would have to work really hard to maintain the pace needed to PR. My first mile was a lot slower than I intended, mainly due to dodging traffic and finding my lane as the field settled. I told myself I had 12 more miles to make up that time and not to freak out too early.

I was quickly reminded how awesome the crowd is in Louisville. They came out in huge numbers all throughout the course, despite the rain. It was amazing! Until it wasn’t… In mile 11, there was a huge group of guys cheering. As I passed them, one guy threw a football and it hit me in the head and knocked my hat off. He apparently thought it would be fun to play catch. With runners. In the middle of a race. In the pouring rain.

After screaming “what the fuck?!?” I grabbed my hat and took off. I was worried about how much time it would cost me since I was on track to PR. Once again I was telling myself to stay calm and just get refocused. I wasn’t about to let a dumbass ruin the hard work I had put in so far – and still had left to do.

Derby half 2016

This was the first race where I felt like I was actually racing. I pushed myself harder for longer than ever before. It was work. It hurt. There was no smiling during these race photos. And I wanted to stop so many times in those last few miles. But I pushed through and it paid off in a big way.

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My time was 4:00 faster than last year on this course and about 2:00 faster than my previous best half. In some ways, I’m more proud of this race than the full marathon. Or at least proud in a different way given everything I faced that morning.

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What’s next?
I’m hoping to ride the runner’s high that came with this PR and maintain a better base than I did after the full. And I’ll continue crossfit, of course.

As far as races go, I need to figure out a new fall half to try. For the first time since I started running, I’m missing the Monumental. That race will always have a special meaning for me since it was the first half and full I did. It also feels like my home court race since I know the streets so well and I love the course.

What fall race should I sign up for? What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you during a race? Drop a note in the comments below!

 

**Also want to note I emailed the race director about the football incident and they were very responsive and are contacting the group. This is a great race overall and I’d hate for that one instance to deter anyone from signing up.

Rowing is the new running

Confession: I’ve only ran a couple time since that one thing happened in November. A bit of burnout is to be expected after four months of dedicated training. But it’s also been nice to shift my focus back to crossfit. So, here’s an update on what’s been going on since the marathon.

Row’d Royalty
Last year Crossfit Naptown participated in Row’d Royalty and placed first worldwide. They encouraged everyone to sign up this year to test their fitness and help defend our title (top four male and female scores count for the team). We did the first workout in class, a 2k row for time, and I finished in 7:51:10. I didn’t think much of it but later in the day they posted that I was one of the top four females (up to that point).

I’ve been going to crossfit for three years and while I’ve made a lot of #gainz, there’s still so much I can’t do. Placing that high on a workout felt pretty badass, especially since the top females in our gym include an Olympic rower and an Olympian-in-training (pictured with me below). I signed up that day and pushed myself hard through five more workouts.

Rowing with olympians

I don’t think any of my scores ended up being good enough to count for our team, but I had a ton of fun going after it. Overall, I placed 34th out of over 200 females in the tall division (5’6” and up). And our team placed first again!

Rowd Royalty final

Naptown Triple Crown
Last year’s Naptown Smackdown expanded into this year’s Naptown Triple Crown, with each day at a different location. Members could sign up for one day or multiple days and I chose all three.

Day 1 – Monon location
I started my day knocking out the final Row’d Royalty workout in the morning to give myself some recovery time before the evening’s events.

Event 1-2

I was first off the bike in my heat but struggled hardcore (again…) on the backward jumps. For the second event, I made a strategic decision to go for the row since it was scored separately from the shuttle runs. It paid off and I ended up winning the rowing portion of the event with 1321 meters! My score was actually good enough to place fifth among the guys. Such an awesome feeling!! On the flip side, my shuttle run score was super low. Overall, I placed 11th out of 18 for day one.

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Day 2 – Delaware location

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The one rep max event was set up so only three people lifted at once, making it an “all eyes on you” atmosphere. I hit a 10# PR at 155#! If the second event looks brutal, that’s because it was. But it was a great example of how I’m capable of more than I think and how the competition atmosphere can push you harder. I did so much better than I thought I would, finishing in 12:09 (8th out of 22)!

The final event was one of my favorite styles: Barbell complex. We did the same rep scheme each round but went up in weight. My goal was to get as far in the 105# round as I could and I ended at 7 hang power cleans before the time cap. All in all a very successful day two with an overall placing of 7th out of 22!

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Day 3 – Capitol location

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The balance test was kind of hilarious to watch. Several people impressively made it all 3:00 on each leg but I stumbled at 1:31 (right) and 1:03 (left) – crushing my dream to be on Survivor. The second event was a shot at redemption for me. We did this WOD in class a week ago and I finished a minute over the time cap. This time I snuck in just under at 9:56! The final event was interesting since we had to see how far we could get through the workout in 2:00, then 5:00. I finished the day 15th out of 23.

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This weekend was the epitome of why I love my gym so much. It was awesome meeting members of the other locations and watching everyone kick ass and push themselves. Our community is the most supportive, encouraging group of people I’ve ever been around. And personally, I was super proud of surviving nine workouts over three days, and even winning one! It was equally exhausting and energizing. I’m so grateful for this place that challenges me to believe in myself, try harder, and be kind to others.

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So, what’s next?
I will have to start running again soon since I signed up for a couple shorter races and have the Derby half in April. Luckily half training isn’t as intense so I can hopefully keep up my consistent crossfit schedule of late. Also around the corner is the Crossfit Open which kicks off the 2016 Crossfit Games season!