Monday, September 26, 2016

CHECK IN: HALF MARATHON DRESS REHEARSAL

I signed up for Bellingham Bay before I was accepted into the NYC Marathon. I've wanted a new half marathon PR for awhile and thought why not try. But that plan was replaced a few times after being accepted to NYC. I thought about scratching it. Then wondered if I could still race it? Or should it be a workout?

Steph made the call. We’d do 10 miles at marathon pace or a bit slower (around 6:15s) then I could burn a bit the last 3. That plan made me nervous that I wouldn’t be in contention to place at all, and didn’t want to leave PJ for the weekend if I couldn’t place. So we made an ultimatum plan. I could go out in 5:55s, hopefully scaring off a few people, then settle into 8 miles of marathon pace and then try to finish back at 5:55s.

After we talked, I was more convinced that the race dress rehearsal was worth it. It’s good to practice that out-of-your-element race night and race morning, remember all the things you can’t forget on marathon weekend, get those antsy nerves of weird hotels and broken heating units. The whole circus minimized for practice.

On Saturday I ran 8.5 miles through Point Defiance. Threw my suitcase together and I wiped a few a tears away as PJ gave me the biggest hug she’s ever given me. The drive to Bellingham took forever (thanks Seattle) and I was cranky about it. But I put on some podcasts and tried to enjoy it for what it was.

I arrived to Bellingham in the late afternoon and checked into the super posh Days Inn. My room smelled like grilled red peppers and the smell only got stronger over the night. It was … interesting. I watched some bad TV then headed out to grab my bib at the expo and Whole Foods hot bar for dinner. Got back to the hotel, did Jasyoga, shakeout, strides, and ice bath. Ate dinner in bed, trolled social media, and suffered through the Sex in the City movie out of desperation. Oh and we FaceTimed like 4 times in under 24 hours.


My stomach was feeling really sour, I still wasn't over my sore throat and I had just started a horrible period. Spoiler alert: your period is so much worse after kids. Anyway, I made a point of relaxing to the max and turning in early. The silver lining of PJ’s 14 month sleep strike is that I don’t really have race night insomnia anymore! Aside from Olympic Trials eve…and Olympic Trials eve eve… when I literally laid awake sweating all night.

The race started at 9am. I woke long before my alarm. Sat around the room drinking coffee and reading in bed. Heated up some oats, but didn’t eat much because my stomach was still being weird. Drove over with lots of time, did a two mile shake out and changed into my flats at the car. Left everything there. Standing in any lines within :30 of the start stresses me out like wild, so when I can I avoid bag check. My motto: work with your weirdness, don’t fight it.

Actually the whole warm-up and shoe change really stresses me out, not matter how often I race. I have a bad sense of time, like how long things take, and under any pressure it just gets worse. So this was a good reminder to really pin down my race morning schedule like I do for my daily schedules. Working backwards from gun time (or bus leaving) and penciling in every step and how long it will take.

Got to the start, did strides, talked to a Oiselle VolĂ©e teammate and the gun went off. Two girls started blazing. One fell off right away. The other, in a bright Saucony outfit, was stride for stride with me. My 5:55 plan wasn’t working on her. I put in little corner surges and tried to listen to her breathing. She was running strong, but not great at running the tangents and wouldn't tuck behind me ever. So I wondered if it might be a first road race, she looked really young like right out of college. At 3 miles she was still stride for stride, so I tucked behind her and slowed to my prescribed pace. She drifted away.

La, la, la. I ran 8 miles alone at marathon pace. I couldn’t see her through most of the race and when I could she was very far ahead. But I reminded myself she wasn’t the point of the race, I didn’t know her story. Maybe this is her A race, maybe she’s fresh and tapered. Maybe she’d get tired and I could catch her later. But none of that mattered, I needed to do my own workout. I almost missed a turn (thanks boys on cell phones, really manning that turn). Apparently both lead bikes needed to be with her, leaving me in no mans land. I actually had to almost stop when someone let a car turn in front of me. Otherwise I zoned.
Photo credit: Joemarie (@slowsprintjoe)

Around mile 6 or 7 my side stab showed up and gave me something to work on. This is another great reason to practice racing, because side stab (or other specific oddities) only show up on race days because of nerves or weird diet or whatever. I worked on my breathing and stride. Worked through my nerves and panic about side stab. (It remained through the end of the race and is still sore today.)

Then we were on the gravel downhill, and my Garmin beeped letting me know I was at the miles where I could let myself go faster. This starts the part of the course that’s always harder than I remember, but I knew she was feeling it too. Every hill in the mile before she came back to me a little bit. After gravel is three hairpin turns, boat ramp hill, and another sharp hill. Then rolling hills to the finish. 

With less than a mile to go I finally was on her, and needed to get my tired legs onto the pain train. I evened out my breathing and pushed past, we said good job to each other and I started going hard while reminding myself to look effortless. She looked like a girl with a kick so I needed to get a solid gap. I have 0 kick on a fresh day and my legs were tired from the past weeks of training. This was apparent when I tried to find another gear just before the line and couldn’t. But I held on and got the W.

Just a note, this race was won in 1:17:09 last year. This year I won in 1:19:45. So it also all depends on who shows up obviously. I had assumed I'd be fighting for 2nd, so I was very happy to be fighting for 1st.

Overall, I was very grateful for a good day and workout. It was the first half I’ve ever done without tapering at all, and that was interesting in its own right. The race also showed me I have work to do before New York. And that it’s time to think about side stab again and try to get in for body work.

And to be very honest, my inner race thoughts showed me that my mental game has atrophied. I believe mental game is huge part of success, it’s also a huge part of being able to even enjoy success. And maybe that’s actually same thing.

During the race I was finding ways to beat myself up, rather than encourage myself. This shows up as comparison talk the most. Like “the other girls racing NYC can run over 100 miles a week AND a half marathon seven minutes faster than you” or “you qualified for the Olympic Trials and still might not win a local half marathon, you’re a huge fake” or “so-and-so literally just had a baby and is faster and running more miles than you already”.

These are all ugly reasons to run. And they steal all of the joy in the process. And if there’s not joy in the process, there’s no point for me. The joy in the process, and the process in general is what makes this pastime worthwhile to me. I won’t magically get faster or fitter by beating myself up with comparison. The times will remain the same, the work I do will remain the same, I can only be the best me I can be. But I can change how I talk to myself about it. I can remind myself to enjoy the workouts, and remind myself that I am getting stronger. I didn’t even run one 70 mile leading into CIM. Yesterday I ran a sub 1:20 after three weeks over 70 miles and followed the plan (almost) to a T. I’m going to celebrate that. Because that’s an accomplishment for me.


Thanks, as always, to my sponsor Oiselle! And the support team on Twitter and IG and Snapchat, and at home... I feel all the encouragement. And to Bellingham Bay Marathon for another great event. third time's the charm. Thank you so much! 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

LESSONS FROM FORCED BED REST

I think I speak for most humans (women?) when I say, I have a hard time actually listening to my body. I have a hard time slowing down because I don't even know when I'm going too fast. There are things to do and days to meet and miles to run and people to take care of and .... then I'm staring at the hills of Yakima through the back two windows of an ambulance. Okay THAT'S dramatic, but it happened. 

Nobody can really pin down exactly why I fainted. My potassium was a little low. I have a very low heart rate and blood pressure. I was driving and so couldn't put my head between my knees to stop the faint. No red flags on any heart tests and actually no Wenckebach on the overnight monitoring. And to be clear that condition is benign and medically speaking not really supposed to cause fainting. But let's just say it's nearly caused it for me before and I've had others say the same thing.

But after spending a forced nearly 24 hours laying down doing nothing, I feel better than I have in weeks...maybe months. And that gave me the pause to examine the last weeks and see there were times my body was trying to get through to me. 

I loathe admitting low energy or any weakness. I push through with stubborn blinders on. Wake up at 4:55 to run 16 miles, load up two cars and throw a toddler party on a 95° day. Forgetting to eat enough or drink enough water until hours later because ...I have to set everything up! And then party time and all of that! There was no way around either the run or the party. But I could have drank more water, and refueled more strategically. I could have napped after, instead of inviting friends over. I could have found ways to make the life stuff less hard on my body.
Obviously my cake decorating skills really took a lot out of me ;)

Another lesson learned was that while we all know the facts, like it takes your body a full two weeks to recover from a long run, we don't often really physically see the full picture. For instance one of my tests was coming back out of range slightly, showing that my heart had been through something 'stressful'. Turns out that something was my 16 mile run. It had brought my ST (?) level .100th something out of range and came back to normal within 24 hours. My body was repairing itself from that run. My heart, everything was recovering and repairing. So easy days should be easy. Let your body repair for real. 

I'm not saying these things led to the fainting, no one knows, I'm just saying that taking the time to rest and think about ways I need to create balance is the silver lining I'm taking away from the experience. 
Lesson one: don't be bullheaded

LESSONS FROM MY HOSPITAL BED
  • Can't only act and think like an elite athlete when running, other lifestyle shifts need to happen (have a strategic fuel plan, a dedicated recovery plan, commit to sleep). 
  • Plan and pre-prepare nutrition especially for after big workouts and especially if the rest of the day is busy.
  • Recovery/sleep takes priority over fun or other things that can wait (staying up late binge watching Netflix, going OCD on the kitchen...).
  • Learn to manage stress levels, find techniques that work to lower stress. Jasyoga meditation FTW. (DYK stress can impair and slow recovery time?)
  • Just say no when possible/needed in these weeks leading up to NYC.
The cardiologist at Yakima was very thorough and patient in all explanations. He admitted the overnight was probably overkill after talking to me and understanding why some numbers had been elevated. But was a good full checkup, and good to have the heart on a 24 hour monitor. I asked if there was anything I should be changing in my lifestyle and aside from getting more electrolytes after hot long runs, nothing he could see. I was sent away with a clean bill of health. I'll be following up with my physician. But I feel great and with implementation of the life lessons hope to stay upright. ;) 
To do: install open air tubs for stress relief (Cherrywood B&B)


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I'M RACING NYC MARATHON!


I'm thrilled to announce I'm racing the New York City Marathon this November! This is a HUGE, huge, HUGE bucket list life experience for me and I cannot wait to toe the line. Except that I can because of that whole getting in fighting shape thing...


Honestly though, that's the muted version of my excitement. Hard to do it justice. When I heard I'd been added to the lineup, I didn't stop shaking for hours. I had to verify three times it wasn't some late April Fools' joke. It's not! I am beyond honored and thrilled to be racing in November. 

And hello? You've seen the American line up, right? NYCM 16 just might be the cure to your Olympic hangover.
 
Kim Conley! (debut) 
Kellyn Taylor
Sara Hall!
Conley, Taylor and Hall all in the NYCM line up! (photo cred: image of sport)
Neely Spence Gracey!  


Molly Huddle! (debut)


Janet Bawcom  
(But wait, there's more! Read full line up here, minus my late addition. Get on it LetsRun: Sarah Mac Robinson 2:42:36.)

American only prize money for the first time in a decade should bring out a great race!

My training is going well, all detours aside. In reference to my previous blog I will say I was reminded that life and my body is to be respected...but not feared. I'm listening to my body and looking ahead - #mac2nyc to follow along! And of course, follow the blog for more to come as I gear up for November 6

Who else is in?! See you in November!   

Monday, August 22, 2016

ALL ABOUT HEART


I couldn't not post this complete story before moving on and continuing marathon training like, "oh yeah that whole ER thing, whatever." 



First of all some brief backstory. In the summer of 2003 I was training hard for XC season. Mileage around 80. As I finished up a hard 13 late on a really hot day I had to pause to cross a street and my heart just blitzed. It was the strangest feeling, like it was beating as fast as a hummingbird's wings. Then suddenly like it would never start beating again. I got on my hands and knees and put my head down. My heart found its rhythm. I walked home. 

All the tests were done, wires and treadmill stuff. I wore a full monitor for 24 hours. It came back that I have something called Wenckebach. They told me to just get down/lay down whatever when I feel "an episode" like the one I'd had. Likely exacerbated by my very low HR. That was the summer my afternoon resting HR was 35 at my physical.

So I've had this for years. I notice it when I get fit. I always have managed to keep things okay with the advice to get myself low when I feel the empty chest hummingbird bird wing feeling. 

When I first moved in with Owen years ago (after I'd stopped running for a year or two) it was more frequent at night when my HR would dip. He got me a pillow with a heart beat inside that could hold until my heart settled on a beat.

Flash forward to yesterday. I woke up super early because I was so excited for our overnight adventure in Zillah. Made oatmeal, blogged, then hit a easy run and core. Got in the shower, had a breakfast bar, packed the car, got a big PJ kiss and cried a little watching her wave with my mom from the window.

We were off. Coffee stop and busted out the Macrina GF biscuits I saved for trip. Stopped midway for water and snacks. Got to Yakima in time for lunch and found an amazing Mexican place hidden away. Had tacos and a bottled Coke. Then I offered to make the final drive to Owen Roe. Our first winery. 

I started to feel clammy, like I needed to throw up. I cursed the sick checker at Metro Market who kept touching her nose and then my food as she bagged. I better not be getting the flu I said as I merged onto the highway. Then I felt worse. I thought I better tell Owen we need to go straight to lay down. Then worse. I pulled off the next exit. My ears buzzing, clammy, I saw a gas station, pulled in. The last thing I remember is Owen saying, Ummm the parking is over there...and I was like he doesn't get it ... I can't...

Out cold. I woke to him on 911 hitting me on the chest. I was under waves trying to breathe. I could see the surface. The dry hills came into focus. It looked like the moon. I didn't know where I was. The steering wheel in front of me jarred me. I tried to put my head between my legs. My heart was a hummingbird. I opened the door to hot sun. I could hear sirens and kept hoping they'd make it time. 

And then it started to calm, my heart was beating. Soaked with sweat and still scared, but I was feeling more like a person alive. 

I felt to embarrassed to ride in the ambulance. Owen was having done of that. So stretcher to ER. To tell doctors and nurses the story. They told me I had to stay the night and I cried for the first time. I was confused and scared. 

Hearing Owen's side of it was awful. I was rigid, upright, eyes rolled back, he couldn't tell if I was breathing. He couldn't wake me for :30-:60 seconds, when I came to I felt like I'd been asleep for hours and days.

Finally the cardiologist was able to see me. As I explained the past few days and my history (stomach stuff yesterday, hard hot weather running, low HR, previous experiences...) the test numbers he saw started to look much less alarming. I relaxed for the first time in hours. He told us we'd be out in the AM no problem and on our way. 

I'm waiting now for a final test. Ultrasound of my heart. And I have a lot of questions about what I can do to make sure I'm living as healthy as possible. I'm still shaken by how it presented itself out of seemingly nowhere. It was a powerful reminder at the very least to actually listen to my body. And remember I'm a 33 year old human not a 23 year old or an invincible machine.  

I Tweeted about it yesterday after hours of boredom and another runner has it! And she's an ER nurse. I'm going to email Qs her way, and will publish here if of interest. 

Hoping to make my escape soon. The monitor all night has been normal, blood work coming back normal. The night nurse just came in to say bye as his shift ended and good luck in the marathon. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

WELCOME BACK WORKOUT WEDNESDAY

Tuesday, midday, I peeked ahead to see what was on deck for Wednesday's workout. My first training block with a goal race in months. Just a peek and I shut that screen fast. I knew I'll need a good dinner and an early bedtime. My knees were still bugging me from pushing it too hard with the stroller last Thursday so I also focused some roller time on my calves and hammies that night after my strides. 
 

Here's what this first Workout Wednesday looked like in real life...

9PM
Melatonin and bed, fell asleep hard. I've been sleeping 6 hours a night too many nights/weeks in a row. I'm trying to play catch up.

MIDNIGHT 
Screams of mama, mama, mama from PJ's room. I stumble down the hall to find her drenched in her jammies, shaking. She starts saying, "it's okay, it's okay" mimicking my comforting words before I can even say them. Pee and poop all over her and the sheets. Too many berries the day before?

Lights on, wipe down, new jammies, new sheets, sniff test all the animals in bed, load the washer, get her milk to calm back down. We attempt to cuddle in my bed so her mattress can dry. She asks for story after story. 

1AM
I find a new sheet and make her crib back up, cuddle her in the rocking chair in the dark. Tell more stories. More milk. Lay her down with the stuffed animals that escaped pooplosion. And stumble back to my bed. 

So much for extra sleep. 

6AM
The PJ alarm is going off, yelling mama, mama!! We're up for the day. At least we both got an extra hour in the morning. 

I have a launch for a client, so it's Sarah & Duck for PJ while I push the assets live. Make her a smoothie, make coffee and oatmeal for me.  

7AM 
Get her ready for a day at her grandparents, play, pack bags, get dressed. 

8AM
Ship her off to the grandparents for the day. Wednesday is my only full day of childcare. Finally eat the oatmeal cold and clean the kitchen. 

8:20AM
Finally look at the workout for real and map the route on Google Maps. Still getting a feel for my new city. Workout is 2 mile WU, 5 mile tempo (6:05s), 4 mins rest, 6x :30/:60 on/offs, 2 mile CD. Gulp, feels over my head. Try to convince my nerves that they are excitement. Decide to run down to Ruston Way to get on the flat, the hills in my 'hood have been beating up my legs

Take some time to digest oatmeal, drink water, plan the day, do laundry...and some fear based dragging of feet. 

9:30AM - 9:45AM
A shot of espresso and Jasyoga Align your Stride

9:50AM 

Out the door. 

The warmup is pretty much straight down hill, I run the steepest grades backwards. Get to Ruston Way path and have another .5 before I need to start. Legs are feeling heavy, and beat up. Remind myself that doesn't mean much. 

Garmin beeps the 2nd mile, and I start dropping the pace. Trying to settle into the 6:05 goal pace for the 5 miles. 

6:00, 6:09, 5:59, 6:00, 5:59

Still learning how to feel out the right pace, I don't like looking at my watch every millisecond so run mostly based on feel and check in occasionally.

The :30 pickups feel awkward at first, but then like a nice relief. And the cool down is straight up hill. Oomph. 


11:30AM
Done with workout, time to make like Rihanna and work, work, work, work. 

4PM 
Pick PJ up, make dinner. 

6PM 
Owen is home and I leave for second run, 4 mile shuffle

6:30PM
Jasyoga Booty Lock Mitigation. I'm off PJ bedtime duty because Owen works late tomorrow. Trade!

7PM 
More work, work, work, work and a huge helping of Risotto and steamed kale (+ ice cream bar). 
 
10PM 
Bed.