Questioning my (running) decisions

Yesterday’s 10 mile run in Chestertown was hot, humid, slightly hilly, beautiful, and HARD. I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis for at least six months. I think I had the beginnings of it going into the Philly Marathon in November and didn’t let it rest after that.

After months of alternately treating it and trying to pretend like it doesn’t exist, it flared up big time in the middle of a run, which normally doesn’t happen.

I had a long drawn out (obviously drawn out.. Got nothing but time on a long run) conversation with myself about my running goals for the year.

After Philly I swore I wasn’t going to run a marathon this year. Two years in a row I had mediocre training and got through a marathon by the seat of my pants. Working full time with all the other things I like to do really doesn’t lend itself to a schedule conducive for training to be competitive (with myself).

It’s time I’m honest with myself and realize that yes, I love running but no, I have no huge desire to run anything longer than about 6-8 miles right now. It’s okay to not sign up for all the races. It’s okay to not be constantly training for a half or full. Just because I’ve done marathons in the past doesn’t mean I have to keep doing them.

Like my husband (and therapist) tell me, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. That includes all the other things I like to be involved in.

Over the past several months through tracking my food and calories, I have proven to myself that I don’t need to be running an obscene amount of miles in order to stay fit or lose weight. In fact, I’d say my eating is better when I’m not burning ridiculous amounts of calories on long runs.

Summer is not usually a time of introspection for me, but the tough run yesterday has prompted me to reevaluate my running goals and become honest with myself. I look forward to the rest of 2018 as a year when I stop doing things I don’t want to do, and I rest when needed. Easier said than done, right?

Grit and Grime

Running, specifically long distance running, has a way of stripping a person down to the inner grit and grime of who she is. The effects of using all the body’s energy and breaking down muscle only to be rebuilt stronger don’t discriminate between man, woman, young, old, affluent, poor, elite, not elite (read: me).

Today’s long run was more of a mental feat than a physical one. I’ve had this habit of doubting myself lately and what my body can accomplish. It’s still probably leftover from feeling an ultimate betrayal from my body, but what can I do besides keep pushing through it?

It wasn’t the number of miles that got to me today. It was the utter horrible, bitter, angry thoughts that found their way into my head during the last third of my run. For about 7 miles, I saw who I really can be sometimes at my core – jealous, envious, certainly not well-wishing. Something I realized though is that while I don’t generally feel that way anymore, it brought to light some interesting or surprising revelations about myself that are hard to confront.

I think God wants to reveal these things to me so I can be forgiven, but I push it down most of the time. It’s only on a 20-mile run that I’m a captive audience with little distraction but passing cars and music.

The truth is, I need redemption and love and to not feel lonely in the world. I need to feel like my life matters and that I can do something that counts. I need reassurance that the decisions I’ve made in my life have brought me to this place for a reason. I need to know that any and all hurts I’ve experienced haven’t been in vain. I need to know that even as a broken, hurting soul I still have love to give.

This morning I was mad, angry, jealous, upset. Those emotions felt to my soul like brushing off rough salt felt on my sweaty face. I felt exposed to every person I painfully strode by, not wanting to meet their eyes because I knew I couldn’t muster a fake smile. Surely they could see how grimey and gritty my soul really was.

Today’s run was wholly about the journey, not for one second about the destination. In life the destination is death, and then the afterlife.

But I’m not living (running) to die – I’m living (running) to live.

 

Charm City 20-Miler, Take 2

I’m enjoying the AC on this apparently ‘fall’ day, wearing my newly earned race shirt and curled up under my blanket. Actually, my legs are resting on the ottoman because ouch. I just ran, or killed, 20 miles through the beautiful woods of central Maryland. You can read last year’s report here. You’ll also read a lot of “last year”s because the comparison is quite interesting.

I wasn’t quite as impulsive about signing up for this race as I was last year, but I was more apprehensive. The marathon I’m training for (Philadelphia) doesn’t happen until November 19, a full 3-4 weeks later than the Marine Corps Marathon I did last year. Naturally, I have less training behind me this year, and that made me nervous. I feel like I’ve been more consistent with training, but the longest run I’d done up until today was 15 miles. Just 5 more, right? That’s what I told myself. Until I saw the weather forecast.

Last year it was a cool and lovely 46*. This year we started with 67* with forecast highs into the high 80s, low 90s. Fortunately the vast majority of the trail is shaded and we begin in a valley, so it definitely could have been worse conditions. I knew that hydrating was even more important that usual with those temps. I drank probably 50 oz of Nuun (plus whatever water and Gatorade I got at water stops) and still downed a 16 oz bottle of water at the finish.

My pace overall this year was 11:54, only 5 seconds faster than last year’s pace of 11:59. Strava tells a different story (11:31) as well as Fitbit (11:39), but around mile 17-18 I lost GPS so that could have messed with the numbers.

Mentally I was in the game the whole time. I never felt like I wouldn’t finish or do well. I encouraged others on the trail, too, not something I normally do, to be honest. I usually just keep my head down and plodding away. But like I learned at Marine Corps last year, there’s something that happens physiologically when you encourage others, high five, or let out any exclamation of positivity.

I ran without music the first 10 miles and then rocked from 10 until the end. Miles 8-13 were the toughest mentally, but looking at my paces I was pretty steady and staying within my long run training range of 11:18-11:48.

My plan now is to have another peak run of 20 miles sometime in late October, and then taper for Philadelphia on November 19!

 

Running with the Marines

On Sunday, October 30, 2016, I toed the line for my third ever marathon. I ran Illinois in 2011 and Bataan Memorial Death March in 2012. This marathon had been on my mind since I won entry via the lottery back in March.

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Sign my colleague put on our office door

 

My training was pretty solid as far as long runs go. I had started out this training cycle with high hopes of using Hansons’ marathon method, but since I started my new full-time teaching job and had other commitments, that wasn’t going to happen. So I backed down to a Higdon Novice marathon plan. I’m glad I did because I had just enough time in my week to get my runs in.

I came into this marathon having almost 3 months of 100+ mile months, the most mileage I’ve completed when training for any race. I had done a 17, 18, 20, and final 18-miler for my super-long runs. My paces were right about 12:00. It’s slow for me.. but I’m also still about 10 lbs heavier than I was 4-5 years ago. During this cycle (since May), I’ve lost about 20 pounds, and aimed to keep my weight steady during taper. I had some tendonitis in my left leg, but thankfully I had zero issues with it on Sunday.

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National Harbor, where packet pickup was hosted

I had been feeling under the weather last week, which I knew was going to happen eventually. It’s inevitable when you work with young children (kindergarten to fifth grade). I didn’t feel too hot on Saturday when we drove down to DC for packet pickup. My appetite wasn’t normal, so I just ate whatever sounded good. For Saturday, it was a Big Mac with fries.

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At packet pickup

While we were in town on Saturday, we (my husband and I) did a super short shakeout run and a little sightseeing.

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I didn’t sleep well Friday or Saturday nights, and was worried I would feel awful come Sunday morning. However, after getting to DC Sunday morning, parking, and getting to Runner’s Village near the start, I began to feel better and my headache subsided.

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Ready to roll. At the Wear Blue expo booth on Saturday, I adopted a fallen Airman to run for on Sunday.

I dropped off my bag and ran over to the Wear Blue circle of remembrance. I FINALLY got to meet my lovely friend Natalie after years of knowing her.

It took less time to cross the start line than I anticipated.We were off under a beautiful sunrise. It was warm even before we started running, and I knew to anticipate a warm day. I stayed hydrated and fueled for the entire race. Anytime I felt the slightest pang of hunger, I ate the Gatorade chews I’d packed. There were some awesome food stations giving out oranges, energy gels, sport beans, and even spectators with Halloween candy.

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Around mile 10

All in all, I had an awesome race. I enjoyed most miles, even the tough ones (21-25). I had made a decision prior to race day that there’s no reason to not enjoy myself because how amazing was it that I got to run through one of the coolest cities in America? I had pushed through so many hurdles during training that I was more than mentally ready for the marathon.

I wish I’d had pictures from the Wear Blue mile, where pictures of fallen military were lined up in remembrance of their sacrifice. I saw Natalie’s brother’s picture as well as my friend Rachel’s husband’s photo. I touched them both as I ran by and said a prayer.

I never hit the wall, and I attribute this to continually fueling and hydrating throughout. Around mile 20, my legs and feet just started to hurt.. pretty typical for a marathon if you ask me. Lots of people were walking, and it was tempting to join them. However, I tried to reason as logically as I could, and reasoned that it was going to hurt whether I walked or ran, so I might as well run and get done faster. So run I did.

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Around mile 17-18, and yes, that is the US Capitol in the background. ‘Murica.

Around mile 22 or 23 when we got to Crystal City, we were running out and backs. So, in order to distract myself and provide some encouragement, I started to call out other Wear Blue runners on the other side of the cones. It helped! I felt better, I got smiles from them, and those miles went by.

The finish was going to be uphill – I had looked at the elevation profile. I saw Aaron about 1/4 mile away from the finish, and that was an awesome boost. I crossed the finish line and made my way to the chute to get my medal from a Marine. I met up with Aaron at the Finisher’s Festival, got my obligatory (and free) beer, downed some Gatorade, and tried my best to hobble my way to pick up my drop bag.

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All smiles after a strong finish

We got to the Rosslyn Metro station and rode the blue line back to Federal Triangle, not too far from where we parked at the Reagan building. Then we drove home. (How cool is it that we live in driving distance of DC?!)

My overall time was 5:34:53, and my pace was 12:46. It was 12:32 according to my Garmin, where it says I ran 26.65 actual miles. I was happy with that pace. The course itself wasn’t very hilly, but after 18 or so miles, hills start to feel like mountains. But I didn’t ever walk a hill. It was warm – on the way home, the temp was around 82*. On my longest run during training, I ran a 12:00 pace on completely flat ground.

I’d say that this was an awesome way to ‘come back’ to long distance running. I will still work on losing about 10 more lbs to get down to where I maintained my weight for several years. With this race, I felt I truly overcame any mental hurdles to long distance running. There was a point when nothing was going to make me keep running except for me. Not music, not a breeze, not the energy of spectators. I had to just decide to do it and follow through.

I highly recommend the MCM – it’s extremely well-organized, from packet pickup to riding the Metro around. The sights are gorgeous, and fall in Maryland is beautiful.

What’s next? I’m looking ahead to a spring half and the Philadelphia Marathon next fall. Must run all the East Coast marathons!

 

 

 

Foundation = Built

I’m less than two weeks away from racing the Maryland Half Marathon. I haven’t officially trained (well) for a race since the Transmountain Challenge Half Marathon in October 2013. For the past two years, I took it easy with running and exercising, and depression and busyness prevented me from keeping up well with working out and eating to nourish my body.

When we moved to Maryland four months ago, I thought it was a good opportunity to start over… in a lot of ways. So I found a spring half marathon, wrote up my training plan, and got to work.

Total miles since January: 203.54 miles

  • January: 12.7 miles/pace unknown. Slow!
  • February: 56.98 miles / 12:12 average pace
  • March: 51.17 miles / 11:49 average pace
  • April: 82.69 miles / 12:32 average pace

In general, my plan calls for three runs per week: a speed workout, regular run, and long run. For the past few weeks, my long runs have been alternating between increasing mileage (9, 10, 11, 12) and an 8-miler on the alternating weeks. I followed a similar plan in 2013 and saw great success.

Over the past few months, I’ve missed quite a few mid-week runs, but I’ve never missed a long run. Most of my running has been on hills. It doesn’t matter which direction I head when I leave my house to run, or even if I drive somewhere to run – it’s hilly.

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Elevation Profile from my 12-miler on Saturday

Two weeks ago I did an 11-miler where the average pace was 12:16, and Saturday I did the same route and added a mile and my average pace was 11:40, and I didn’t walk any of the hills. The half has a total elevation gain/loss of 1029 ft, so I’d say I’m ready for that. Today at the gym I did a speed workout, and I shaved five minutes off my time since I did the same workout in March. Pretty darn proud of that.

It seems that I’ve built up a good base, and just in time for the half. At the end of June, I’ll be starting training for the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30. I’m so excited about this race as it’s been on my running bucket list for awhile. I spent some time this weekend writing out the plan. I’ll be using Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 plan, which calls for 4 runs per week, one day of cross training, and 2 days of rest. I think after building this base and staying ‘half marathon ready’ until the end of June, I’ll be ready to tackle the higher mileage.

 

Seven miles.

Seven miles of clouds

Seven miles of cold

Seven miles of humidity

Seven miles of hills

Seven miles started with ‘it’s too cold’

Seven miles ended with ‘the cold is refreshing’

Seven miles started with ‘this view is boring’

Seven miles ended with ‘this view is home’

Seven miles started with ‘I can’t do this’

Seven miles ended with ‘I can do anything’

Seven miles started with ‘I’m hungry’

Seven miles ended with ‘I’m satisfied’

Seven miles started with ‘I’m weak’

Seven miles ended with ‘I’m strong’

Seven miles started with sadness

Seven miles ended with elation

Seven miles started with ‘this hurts’

Seven miles ended with ‘this heals’

 

 

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March 5 | Focus

Focus

The ability to focus on one thing for a long period of time is glorified in our society. A Lenten promise to focus on for six weeks. A plan for a half marathon that lasts 12 weeks. A new eating plan that is supposed to last… forever? If you stick with it, you’re a hero, and if you fall off the wagon, you failed.

I’ve tried all these types of intense focus, from marathon training plans, to Lenten/Advent habits or rituals, eating plans.. and to be honest, I always fail somewhere along the way. I miss a day, have one too many cheat meals, just don’t feel like running that weekend. And I feel down about it.

So in order to have more focus in my life, I’ve tried setting more measurable and specific goals. Instead of saying, okay, I’m going to commit 100% to this half marathon plan, I’m going to look at the plan for every day. Narrow the scope a bit so it feels much more doable. Sure, I’ll probably hit 90% of the runs for the plan because if I don’t,  I won’t have a good race, but I also allow some leeway in there just in case.

This is not to discourage wholehearted attempts at creating new patterns or habits, especially if they’re healthy or good ones. I just refuse to look at it as a do-or-die thing. I keep my focus by getting to the heart of it: I see the benefits it has for my life, whether it’s keeping up with a daily devotional, running 3-4 times a week, or eating less ice cream (sad!). I’m much more motivated and focused when I’m not a slave to whatever plan I ascribe to, but rather a willing and involved participant.

Running update.

I haven’t posted here about my running in a really long time. I’ve posted about running getting me through infertility, but I think this was the last real post about training. We (my husband and I) had signed up for the IMS Arizona Marathon because it was super cheap, and relatively close to where we used to live. Well, Valentine’s Day weekend came and went without us running that race, mostly because we live in Maryland now. So there’s that.

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View from a neighborhood run

I decided after the move that I needed to get back into training. For my body, for my mind, for fun. I don’t want this to be a post about infertility because honestly I’m sick of talking and thinking about it, but I gained 25 lbs in the past two years due to stress, taking time off of hard workouts, overeating, etc. I was starting to wallow… anyone who’s dealt with depression/anxiety knows how this works… and I was close to signing up for therapy again.

But, I’m happy to report that I’m out of my funk, thanks to running and a change of life circumstances, and God. Aaron’s no longer leaving for months on end, or working unexpected nights or 24-hour CQ shifts because now he has a ‘regular’ job. It’s fantastic. And amazing. And I’m so glad we got through the past 6.5 years with the Army for him to have this opportunity. I’m also working, but part time, and really enjoying the time it allows me to have to clean, cook, take care of things, but also to use my ESOL expertise. At first, moving to Maryland in the middle of the academic year was not my first choice, but it’s turned out to be a wonderful decision.

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Trails at Susquehanna State Park

So, with all that said, I’m running the Maryland Half Marathon in May. Not officially, as I haven’t signed up yet, but it’s on my calendar. Last week was week 3 of training, I think, and I ran 15 miles total. A Yasso 800’s workout, just a plain old run, and a long run of 6 miles. We bought new shoes this weekend so hopefully that’ll help some of the stiffness I’ve had in the first couple miles of my runs. Overall, I’ve been happy with my paces and my motivation to do each run. And the endorphins, you can’t forget the endorphins!

After the half, I’d like to train for a fall marathon, and then set my sights on a spring 50K. I’ve had this goal for most of my 20’s to do a 31-mile (50K) race before my 31st birthday, which will be next April. Barring injury or other crazy life circumstances, I don’t see why that can’t happen. And the Mid-Atlantic area is full of wonderful races to choose from.

Jemez Mtn 50K Training: Week 1

Welcome to my chronicles of 50K training, the craziest and longest race I will run so far. I wrote weekly updates when I ran the Illinois Marathon in 2011 (three years already?!) and it gave me something to look back at and see how I was progressing more than just looking at my Nike+ app.

This week was hard. I took about two weeks off of scheduled, ordered running. I gave blood at the beginning of January, and I knew that it would take me weeks to feel good running again. I won’t give again until this race is over. I’ve kept up my fitness for the most part, and so I can still run 10+ miles without any major issues.

The training schedule, which is mostly time-based, calls for 5 runs during the week:

-45-60 min easy run

-hill run (either just time on a hilly route or hill repeats)

-1:15-1:30 easy run

-long run

-60:00 easy run the day after the long run.

Whew. That’s a lot. I’m still trying to figure out when to do all my runs. I really enjoy doing a long run on Sunday before church. I got in the habit while training for Transmountain.The streets are quieter, and I have to get up on Sunday anyway so I might as well do that and then sleep in on Saturday. I’m also trying to think about what it’ll be like when I get to train with my husband (yay!!!). Some of the super long runs we’ll have to do on Saturday, unless we start a 26-miler super super early on Sunday.

Okay, so this week I ran a total of 25 miles out of a total 40 miles for February.

Monday 4 miles with Elizabeth. We kept a pretty good pace. It felt great. I went to gym and had “leg day,” which for me right now is some squats and lunges. I’m still getting used to the weight room, and I didn’t go heavy at all. I’m still using dumbbells. Not sure how heavy I’ll be able to go so that I can still run all these miles.

TuesdayRest. I take my rest days seriously.

Wednesday 4 miles in the canyon. I got my weeks mixed up, so I ended up doing hill repeats. It called for 3x600m hill repeats, which means you find a hill approximately .37 miles long, run up it at a fast pace (yeah right!) and then jog or walk down. Um, if I work my butt off to run up a hill, I sure ain’t walkin’ down it. My hill ended up being .25 mi and it was HARD. By the second and third time, I was just focused on getting up the hill without stopping and with good form, bringing back memories from running over Transmountain. These hills were sandwiched in between a 1.25 mi warm up and cool down.

Thursday – Rest. I probably could have done some yoga or something, but meh. I was still kind of sore from weights on Monday and my glutes hurt from those hills. When I say a workout kicked my butt, I mean that literally.

Friday7 miles. Technically anywhere between 1:15-1:30 is okay, but I just did an even 7. I took Missy with me for the first 4 miles because she doesn’t get out nearly enough, and then I did 3 more. They were slow. And arduous. And kinda sucky. But I got them done. How’s that for fasted cardio, eh?

Saturday Rest. Ehh. I fell while cleaning up the yard and knocked my head into none other than a huge trash can. That gave me a nice mark on my forehead and also messed up my neck and shoulders. All around I feel better today but dang. I sure am klutzy.

Sunday 10 miles. I. Got. It. Done!!! I tried to make up excuses to not go, as I usually do. It’s too late (I woke up at 6:15, not too late). My neck hurts from yesterday. I can do it tomorrow. I should just sleep more. It’s only Week 1! Lies, lies, lies. I got up, ate a cheesestick and a couple dried apricots and headed out the door. I immediately regretted not getting up earlier; I love meeting the sunrise. The weather was perfect: sunny (of course), not too warm (49*) and hardly any wind. I started out slow and had a lot of negative splits as I went. I hardly checked my pace.. I was just concerned with covering the miles.

If I can just take it week by week and trust the training, I’m going to be fine. Where I get all messed up in my head is when I think, “Man, my pace is slow and I’m hurting at mile 8… how am I going to run 31 miles? This isn’t even a third of what I need to do on race day…” I’ve been through this process before. That’s what training is for; I wouldn’t need a 16-week training plan if I could do it already!

The running will come; I’m not concerned about that. My current issue is nutrition. I can’t eat much before a long run, nor can I eat a full meal afterward. I just feel sick. I try to drink water on my run in little sips, and take a couple of GUs. I haven’t figured out if these cause me issues or if it’s something else. But I still have a whole box so I’m using them up. After my runs I try to get protein right away, usually in a protein coffee drink (almond milk, protein powder, coffee, creamer, ice) or in a smoothie. But then later in the morning I’m starving sitting in church. So I need to figure something out, especially when I couple that with being stressed. My appetite is the first thing to go when I’m stressed. Right now the runs aren’t so long so I don’t have much to worry about, but when they start getting past about 14-15 miles, I need to have a better plan for nutrition before and after the run.

Hydration is also another issue, especially as it starts to warm up over the next couple of months. I’ve had some heart palpitations recently, which could be related to so many factors.. but I’m willing to bet hydration is one of them.

Here’s to a new week of training beginning tomorrow (no day of rest after the long run!) and only a couple weeks until my man is back on US soil.

Back from running sabbatical

I ran a total of 42.2 miles in January. After some high-mileage months (for me) with 80, 90, even 100 miles, I really needed a break. I was mentally exhausted from training and final exams and just stuff, and realized that “sleeping in” (ahem, 7:30 am) and enjoying coffee in the morning was all it was cracked up to be. Amazing. Folgers or Starbucks, it really didn’t matter. I don’t know if I put on any pudge during my “sabbatical”… if I can call it that. I only took a true and complete break from running for nine days. Nueve. I’ve also been relishing in the fact that although this is my last semester of grad school, it’s way less demanding than others. And we’re also down to the last little bit of deployment, so it’s been a nice break over all. Thank God.

This week I ran 15 miles, which is 15 more than I ran last week. I meet up with my twin Elizabeth and we ran twice in what is left of winter in the desert. This morning I really didn’t want to get up and run, but 50K (!!!!!) training starts next week and I wanted to have something going into it.

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Shoot. This is gonna be intense. However, I am loving the timed runs. My goal is to finish the 31 miles. To get up and over those mountains. Most likely during the week I’ll run out the door having a mileage goal, but the time guidelines put it all in perspective.

I think the differences of this training plan versus a novice-intermediate marathon plan are that I have an hour-long run the day AFTER the long run. Usually the day after a long run is like FREEDOM!! and rolling, icing, whatever. The other difference is that the long runs go up to a marathon. I have no doubt that these differences are for making your body get used to running on tired legs. I like the hill workout in the middle of the week; I can easily incorporate that into my schedule by hitting up McKelligon Canyon or other choice locations on the other side of town. Heck, even the treadmill will get ‘er done.

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Jemez Mtn Trail 50K Map

The hands-down greatest thing about this race is that my husband and I are training (mostly) together. Not sure about runs during the week, but long runs will be attacked in full force by the W’s. It’ll be great. I’m excited to show him some of the routes I’ve been running around town, and share in chasing down the sunrise. We’ll also be able to hit the trails on a regular basis; I tend not to go out there on my own. We are already planning on a couple of training weekends in the mountains of Ruidoso. 🙂

2013 was a great year for running, just downright fantastic. Probably my best yet. I was at the peak of my physical running fitness at the Turkey Trot 5K. It felt so good to be at that point after months of training and pushing myself out the door before the sunrise. But I undoubtedly needed a break from the rise-and-grind.

Consequently, I dropped down to the half from the full (coming up on February 23), and with 50K training starting this week, I’ll use the race as a training run. My 13.1 PR is 2:19:17, which was achieved after doing about the same amount of “training”, so we’ll see what happens. I can’t really compare the El Paso Half to the Transmountain Half… I won’t be running over any mountains this time.

I never ever thought that when I started my running journey four years ago that I’d really be able to run an ultra before I turned 30. It was a goal that was so crazy but here we are, two years before 30 (I’ll be 28 in April) and it looks like I’ll be able to cross this off the list! I’m gonna take it day by day and not get down on myself about pace. I’m just gonna trust the training and then enjoy the results of my labor.