Thursday, January 23, 2014

USATF Half Marathon Championship

Well, the 2014 USATF road racing series has begun!  I'm pumped.  Let's do this.  Unfortunately it started in January with the Half Marathon Championship.  Arguably my favorite and best distance, the half marathon was a race I ran well at last year in Duluth in June.  However, because of world competition considerations instead of having until June to get in shape, the race took place this past weekend.'s been almost six months since I've raced over 7.5 miles.  This was going to be tricky.

The good news is that I have been feeling much better, in general, without gluten in my life.  See ya later, gluten!  I thought, given the shape I was in, shooting for a 1:15 in Houston (the site of the race) would be realistic.  Then somehow I was able to whip out a near personal best of 4:57 in the mile at a recent indoor track meet.  Given this development, I felt optimistic that I might be able to drop a 1:12:00 or small feat, but within my reach.  You see, before my "break-through performance" of last year, 1:18 was my best half, and I felt super human at that!  So to be sitting and having a conversation with Coach Ron about realistically running a 72-73 was kind of surreal, but that was the plan.

The race took place in Houston, and let me tell you, it was wonderful.  It was January and in this magical place called "the south," winter wasn't miserable!  I walked around the streets the day before the race in amazement that there was no snow or ice to deal with, the sun had warmth, and I was comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt!  Jeans and t-shirt?!  I did a shake out run and I actually broke a sweat that didn't immediately turn into frost on my skin.  Glorious!  But I digress...

Race day recap:
4:15am - Wake for a quick shake out mile.  It is pure fog/mist in the air.  The humidity is basically 100%.  This magical weather could be problematic...

4:30am - Breakfast and ready myself.  Fashion choices for the day include sweet New Balance warm-up and race gear, and a spectacularly neon yellow Twin Cities Track Club jersey.
                                                 Only photo from the weekend...

5:30am - Board the elite bus for the shuttle to the start. 

6:00am - Warm up time, which was a bit absurd.  Basically the race officials had this great tent area blocked off for elites, but then only allowed us to run about 1/4 mile up and down the start area for warm up.  We were not allowed to leave that area.  My TCTC teammate, Stephanie Price, and I must have done about 20 "laps" of this ridiculously short and crowded warm-up corral.  Everything else about the race and race organization was great, but they totally dropped the ball on this.

6:55am - Go time!  The men and women started together, but within about a minute, the dudes were gone.  They are so darn fast.  Ridic.  I settled in with a lead pack of about 10 women and felt like I was jogging.  That 4:57 mile on Monday had given me a new perspective on speed and pace.  The bad thing about that is that I went out faster than I probably should have.  I have been doing decent mileage, but not enough and at a high enough intensity to support the way I started the race.  But I don't regret it.  This was a great test of my fitness and it was a golden racing/learning opportunity. 

Back to the mile 3 I knew I wasn't going to be able to stay with the lead pack.  The fact that I threw up in my mouth was a good reminder that this was no regular field of competitors.  They were putting me in the hurt locker and my body was letting me know.  I backed off a bit and got passed by a handful of solo ladies.  Each time one went by, I tested for a few steps to see if I could hang, and it just wasn't happening.  I spent miles 3 to 7 convincing myself that I would make it to the finish.  It wasn't going to be a day of glory and a PR, but darn it, I was going to give whatever I had.

At mile 7 a group of about 6 ladies came up on me and I forced myself to get pulled along.  I knew I was over half-way to the finish, and if I kept letting people pass me by the result could get real ugly, real fast.  This was a field of pros.  Not many of them were going to fade as the race neared the finish.  If anything, they were going to turn on the after-burners.  From miles 7-10 I hung on for dear life to my pack which was good, but required a lot of effort.  At mile 10, the pack made a little move and I had no response.  My legs were dead. 

Miles 10-13 were a grind.  Saw only one other woman and we had a bit of back and forth, which was good to keep me engaged in the race, but in the final 1/2 mile when she re-passed me, every fiber in my brain was screaming, "GO WITH HER," but every fiber in my body was like, "mehhh...." 

I crossed the line in 1:15:05, 21st place.  Not bad, but not good.  Mediocre.  And to be honest, it's a bit of a kick in the pants because 1:15 is a benchmark in the running community.  There are more race opportunities and perks if you can say you've run sub 1:15...grrrrrr.  I was disappointed, of course, but I'm trying not to beat myself up too much (good luck with that).  No excuses, I didn't have the talent this past weekend, but there's a lot of time left in the season and I'm ready to work smarter and harder than ever...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Syonara 2013!

2013 recap.  I'll try keep this fairly short.  It's mostly my running stuff with just a few fun side notes.

January - started off with a bang!  H1N1 flu and pneumonia.  Most of the month was spent in a miserable state of sickness and confusion on the couch (the photo is not me, but it's basically what I felt like)... Side notes:  I also cut a sweet, one-year sponsorship deal with LUNA (yummmmmm), and enlisted the help of both Coach Ron Byland ( and Luke Carlson, the owner of Discover Strength ( to get me to the cliche "next level" in running. 

February - shook off the sicky ickies and headed to Osaka, Japan to run the Senshu International Marathon as part of the Bloomington Sister City Organization runner exchange program.  Not a stellar run, 3:04, but an amazing cultural experience!

March - made an attempt to tune up for the Boston Marathon (in April) by doing a couple of local races.  The Irish Run 8k, where I learned that in short races, you should run faster (who knew?!).  Then had a better day at the MDRA 7-miler, I believe setting a new women's course record on a challenging (hilly) course (40:51).

 April - my first Boston Marathon.  Wow.  What to say about this experience?  Got to run as an elite woman = pretty unbelievable.  The explosions at the finish line = even more and tragically unbelievable.  Didn't have a great run (2:50), but appreciative that everyone I knew made it through the ordeal safe and sound.  Also did one of my only adventure races of the year.  Headed to Boone, IA for the 12-hour Boonecrusher race with the GearJunkie/WEDALI crew.  Had a blast, but adventure racing will be taking a back seat to running for a while.

May - after a horrible winter and a lackluster spring, the tides started to turn for me in May.  I bought a house, obviously not running related, but I was pumped about it.  And I started my summer racing schedule with a huge PR and women's course record at the Brian Kraft Memorial 5k (16:03).

June - a banner month!  Finished my MBA program, moved into my new house, and cranked out a few of my best races ever.  Started with Dam to Dam 20k in Iowa (1:10:02 - fourth fastest female time in the race's history), then a fun run 8k in my hometown (26:33), and finally 3rd place at the USA Track & Field Half Marathon Championship (1:11:32).  Somebody pinch me, because I still don't believe that happened.

July - things started getting funky and not in the good James Brown kind of way.  Started going to the doctor with symptoms of fatigue, headaches, body aches, and tummy issues.  Kept trying to compete and turned in a couple of decent, but declining performances.  First, a meager 1:17 at the April Sorenson Memorial Half Marathon in a monsoon (seriously, this was rain unlike anything I had ever seen before at a race, or ever really).  And then a 52:15 at the 15k state championship. 

August - the only thing on the agenda was a fundraiser 5k (no official clock and/or results) for one of my good friend's daughter who was born with cystic fibrosis.  Pretty cool to run for a good cause and my prize of getting to go on the field and meet the Twins during batting practice wasn't too shabby either.   

September - "sickness" reached an all-time unbearable point. After ruling out all of the regular runner maladies:  low iron, low hemoglobin, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, low vitamin D, even auto-immune diseases, I skeptically decided to go gluten-free to see what would happen.  In the meantime, I tried to race at the USA Track & Field 20k Championship and had one of the worst races of my life.  In the scope of world problems, a bad race ranks pretty low, but for a competitive runner the performance I turned in was a big embarrassment and the proverbial final straw...I had to figure out what was going on with my body.  

October - well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!  After about 5 weeks of being g-free, I started feeling like my old self, yippee!  Gone were the headaches, gone was the constant and overwhelming fatigue, and my stomach wasn't in constant turmoil anymore.  It didn't really make much sense (I tested negative for Celiac's disease), but the proof was in the pudding for me.  With gluten, I felt like garbage.  Without gluten, I felt like my old self.  So syonara delicious gluten!  It was the g-free lifestyle for me from now on.  Had planned to run the Twin Cities Marathon but was forced to bow out due the previous few months of health issues.

November - switched running clubs, from MN RED to Twin Cities Track Club, started getting back into the swing of things training-wise, and ran my first cross-country race since college.  I had to test out my xc legs because I was going to be joining the TCTC crew for the club cross-country nationals in Bend, OR in December.  I also ran in the first-ever USA Track & Field Road Racing Championship 12k.  I didn't have my best race ever (41:31), but I was happy just to feel "normal" out there again.  The Comeback was on! 

December - first race with the TCTC crew:  USA Track & Field Club Cross-Country Nationals 6k. Ran unexpectedly well (22:29) on a pretty technical course (by roadie standards). 15th place which meant I was invited to two different world championship cross-country races IF anyone in the top 9 couldn't/didn't want to go.  Unfortunately I missed the chance to represent the US in international competition by THIS MUCH, but I have my eyes on that prize for next year.  

And to end the year on a high note:  I was named USA Track & Field MN female runner of the year!  Boomyah.