Recalibrating + Hitting the Reset Button

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After I finished Ironman Wisconsin in September, I was on an absolute high. I had finally accomplished the ‘Holy Grail’ of dreams – the one that I had fantasized about for nearly six years, and had once deemed impossible. It was done and dusted, and it felt indescribable.

It essentially felt like I was riding a giant endorphin wave afterward, and I was 100% ready to dive headfirst into training for another Ironman in 2017.

It appeared as if I had temporarily blacked out and forgotten how many sacrifices were made, and how much work –the two-a-days, long, endless bike rides on Saturdays, and 4:30 AM alarms, as well as the hundreds of training hours it had taken me to get to the start line of my first Ironman. In my endorphin-filled mind, the work and sacrifices clearly didn’t matter, only the end result did.

I was hungry for more.

I talked to my coach, Teresa and told her about my (not-so-surprising) dreams of qualifying for Kona (the Ironman World Championships), and she told me what it would essentially take to achieve that goal.

My eyes got noticeably wider, and my throat got dry as she was explaining to me what the girls who were qualifying for Kona were typically doing on a weekly basis. They were biking more than I was swimming, biking and running combined. They were doing this, and that, and it was just insane to try and even wrap my head around it.

Teresa, who is incredibly optimistic and always seems to know the perfect thing to say to calm my worried mind, said that I was a very strong athlete, and I do have a good chance to qualify for Kona, someday.

However, she also pointed out an incredibly valid point: I trained as much as I possibly could last year to get to the finish line, and I didn’t do much beyond that. Why? Well, I have a full-time job, a 6-year-old, and a husband who works 100+ hours a week. It’s also incredibly important to me to be an attentive and loving mom and wife, and dependable, reliable and hard-working employee.

Riding my bike for 15-20 hours per week is just not feasible for me, nor is training for 30 hours.

Triathlon is my hobby. Plain and simple, and I couldn’t honestly fathom spending MORE time away from my family than I already did last year.

I mulled over our conversation for about a week before I e-mailed Teresa back and said, “Forget it. I can’t chase Kona. I can’t even do another Ironman next year. I need to hit the reset button and re-calibrate.”

(Disclaimer: I’m not saying that my Ironman-racing and Kona-qualifying dreaming days are completely over. They’re just going to be put on the highest shelf until further notice. Spending time with Miss Lauren while she’s still young is much more valuable than a KQ, and I know it’s a decision I’ll never regret.)

Anyway, making the decision to not do another Ironman this year has honestly been the decision I could have ever made.

For the past 4 years, I’ve chased this goal – PRs, podiums, or that goal – Age Group Nationals, 70.3 World Championships, and Kona, and it’s totally sucked all the fun out of the journey.

If I placed 5th and made the podium, I was upset because I didn’t win and I’d write the whole thing off as a failure. I’d average a 7:20 mile in a 10K and PR, but I’d be upset because it wasn’t closer to 7-minutes flat. I’d make progress but it was never fast enough.

None of it was ever enough.

Having goals is a truly wonderful thing. They keep you focused and on track. But, it also can be a dangerous, slippery slope when you’re so Type-A, like me. You start to have tunnel vision, and you only focus on the goal in front of you. You don’t let anything get in the way of it, and it practically becomes an obsession.

When you do accomplish the goal, you find yourself not even celebrating it because you’re already focused on the next one.

I was constantly trying to one-up myself. But, I guess after Ironman Wisconsin, I just sort of snapped out of it. After 4 years, I was physically exhausted and mentally drained beyond comprehension. I forgot all the reasons why I was even training or what exactly I was chasing, so I knew it was definitely time to reassess.

Therefore, I’ve decided to do things completely differently this year – because, honestly – nothing is ever going to change if I don’t change behavior patterns, the decisions I make, and how I approach certain situations.

So, here’s my new plan for 2017 —

  • I don’t have a set, clear race schedule.
  • I’m focusing on my ‘happy place,’ which is riding and racing my bike.
  • I don’t have an ‘A,’ ‘B’ or ‘C’ race.
  • I don’t hope or wish to qualify for any particular championships races.
  • I made a list of 2017 goals, and they only include new experiences (My first gravel road race and riding a Mountain bike for the first time!) and HAVING FUN!

I’ve finally realized that the big goal is not to achieve something over here or the journey over there, but the fun you have along the way.

So, here we go! 2017, I promise to fill you with adventure, smiles, FUN, new experiences, as well as love and appreciation for every up and down you bring my way.

xoxo

2016 race season recap.

It’s been over six weeks since Ironman Wisconsin, and I’ve finally sat down to jot down my thoughts on the race as well as my entire race season.

I typically produce a lengthy, detailed race report rather quickly, which features everything I was feeling and experiencing at various times throughout the race.

But, I just haven’t felt like doing that for this race. I feel like everything I want to say has already been said a million times before by a million different people.

I cried, a lot – during the National Anthem, every time I saw my family, at the finish line, etc., I smiled bigger and wider than I ever knew was possible, I made my dreams come true. The crowd support at Ironman Wisconsin is electrifying. Pure magic. Yada, yada, yada….

See? You’ve heard it all before.

I figured it would be more interesting to discuss all the incredible things I learned and gained from this entire race season. Because, man. This year was NOT easy. It was knock-you-to-your-knees, punch-you-in-the-gut, hard.

And it wasn’t just the sheer volume in training that made it difficult. It was all the adversity – disappointments, heartbreak — that I encountered over the past twelve months.

Every season has ups and downs. However, 2016 seemingly had exceptionally more downs than ups. It was full of grit and a rollercoaster of emotions. But, I’m proud to say that the fire in my belly never, ever went away, despite all the misfortune and frustration that was thrown in my general direction.

Every time I got knocked down or pushed back, I had this attitude like, ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ And I’d dust myself off, put back on my goggles, bike or running shoes, and try again.

I was absolutely relentless in my pursuit, and I refused to back down, even though it often broke my heart in the process.

The biggest thing I learned this year is that so much of this sport is left to fate. You can train all you want, but sometimes things happen that are beyond your control – mechanical on bike (which resulted in my first DNF at Grand Rapids 70.3 this year) as well as a partially torn Achilles tendon at mile 9 of a marathon (Ironman Wisconsin).

You can also hit all your workouts, but your legs can decide not to show up for race day (Cherry Roubaix), or you can blow last year’s winning time out of the water but still place fifth THIS year, due to who decided to show up on race day (Michigan Mountain Mayhem).

I also learned that you have to sacrifice some speed to go long (Every single running race I did this year), and the experience is so much more important than the finishing time.

Going into Ironman Wisconsin, I told everyone that I wanted to go sub-12 and place top 10 in my age group. Secretly, I wanted more though. I wanted to podium. I wanted that highly coveted Kona slot. I wanted to go sub-11:30. I wanted it all.

The reality though is that I placed 20th in my age group. I went 12:17.

I was nowhere near any of my goals.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting – to put it all out there – my goals, training, etc. – to have so many people whispering in my ear that I would achieve this and do that – and fall short on all of it.

I’d also be lying if I didn’t say the knife has been turned several times since the race – as I’ve had to sit back and watch so many others have the race that I so desperately wanted – the race that I spent twelve months dreaming about – and watched slowly slip away on September 11.

But, whenever I find myself spiraling and focusing on the negative, I do my best to reel myself back in and keep things in perspective.

Because Ironman Wisconsin was a totally surreal, send-shivers-down-your-spine experience. Every single nano-second of it.

And when it all comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if I placed 20th, 15th, or 5th or what the clock said when I crossed the finish line – what truly matters is that I finished – that while I was doing the race, my daughter, Lauren looked at me the entire day like I was a damn superhero. And now that the race is over, she will go up to random strangers, without any rhyme or reason, and proudly announce that her mom is an Ironman.

What matters is that I made her proud. 

As mentioned earlier, this past year was all about adversity. I’ve learned that setbacks are not bad. It’s all part of the journey. They just redirect you. Give a higher purpose. Provide you with a new perspective and more opportunity to grow.

Taking a step back, I’ve learned that all of the challenges this past year have allowed me to grow as a person, to learn about the type of person I am, and to see what I am truly made of – which is a strong mind & heart as well as a relentless spirit.

At the end of the day, there’s truly nothing more beautiful than when you prove to yourself just how strong you truly are.

So, I’ll happily walk away from this season equipped with new life lessons, and a new sense of self, which is so much brighter and more beautiful than any trophy that could ever be placed on my mantel.

currently // 8.18.16

Hi friends. It’s been a while (4 months, to be exact — eek!) since I’ve written one of these, or even a blog post for that matter. Ironman training, work, and a move to a new house + town consumed every single nanosecond of free time that I’ve had this summer.

However, now that I’m officially “tapering” for Ironman Wisconsin, we’ve been moved and settled into our new house for nearly two months, and work is starting to simmer down a bit, I officially have no excuse. So, here it is…

Reflecting // This past Sunday, I wobbled up the front stairs of my house after my 3-hour bike ride and 1.5-hour run, closed the door behind me, immediately sat down on the ground, put my head in my hands and started crying.

I rarely cry, but I was completely overcome with emotion.

This workout was officially the last long + hard workout before Ironman Wisconsin, and it seemingly marked the end of the most grueling, albeit incredibly rewarding journey of my life to-date.

It all started last September when I very nervously and timidly signed up for the race.

“I’ve never run a marathon,” I thought as I submitted payment and looked blankly at my computer screen. “How am I ever going to do this? I’ll never be good enough to do this.” I just kept repeating to myself over and over again.

Since then, I’ve ran in the snow, bitter cold, pouring rain, and when the temperature outside was a mixture of swamp-like conditions and the surface of the sun. I’ve ridden more miles on my bike in a single weekend than most people drive in their cars over the course of two weeks. I’ve jumped into the cold, dark swimming pool more times than I can count and swam for hours on end before the sun even popped up over the horizon.

I’ve experienced countless disappointments, including my first DNF. I’ve also finished nearly every race I’ve entered this year much slower than I did in previous years, which has led to frustration and thoughts of, “Why the hell am I even doing this?!” as well as grappling with feelings of inadequacy.

I’ve also struggled numerous times with self-doubt, and questioned during long runs or rides whether or not I’d ever be strong enough to even finish this race.

However, I’ve also discovered things about myself during this entire process that I never even knew existed. Raw, rare, magical things that I would have never found had I not taken my body and mind to its limits, and on this crazy-long and demanding journey.

With every workout I completed and every doubt I’ve managed to silence, I’ve slowly but surely gained confidence in myself.

People always seem to look at me blankly after I tell them how many miles I’ve swam, biked or ran on that particular day, and ask, “Dear God, why do you do that to yourself?”

As someone who has spent a majority of her life dealing with anxiety and body image issues, triathlon is the one thing that has allowed me to let go and just be. Wholly and completely. Without hesitation or worry.

Whenever doubt, negative or anxious feelings start to creep in, I always find myself pedaling a little harder, I hit the ground with my two feet a little faster, and I pull deeper in the water.

I combat whatever negative feelings I’m experiencing, and I make sure to shrink and strike them down with feelings of strength and confidence.

In the past eleven months, whenever I’ve seen a big workout on the schedule, or I’ve encountered a larger-than-life hill on a bike ride or run, I’ve simply leaned into it instead of shy away from it. I’ve grit my teeth, put my head down and told myself on repeat that whatever I have inside of me is always going to be bigger than whatever has been put in front of me.

And as I move forward, and the day count on my ‘Days to Ironman Wisconsin’ calendar app continues to get smaller and smaller, my faith in myself in my abilities seemingly just gets bigger and bigger and my doubts and fears continue to get smaller – because I know with every inch of my body and every ounce of my soul that I can do this. I’ve already proved to myself in a million different ways that I can and I will.  

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Adapting // Life without 15+ hours of training is a little odd. The best way I can describe it is… it feels like I’ve been on the Tilt-A-Whirl for the past six months and I just got thrown off of it. My body is essentially like, “Am I still moving? Am I standing still? WTF is going on here, exactly?” It’s just a little odd to go from such a crazy intensity and high volume to virtually nothing at all. It’s a welcome change, for sure. And I’m finally enjoying the slower pace of life, which has included sleeping in, dinner with friends, and happy hours with co-workers. However, my body oddly still craves and misses the training and long hours.

Enjoying // The extra time with my friends and family! TAPER, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!

The second you push “submit payment” on the Ironman website, you sort of sign your social life away for a year. Well, at least for the three solid months leading up to the race. I’ve spent every single morning and night training as well as every weekend, which has left zero room for anything else. Even when I’m not training, I’m doing my best to recover – whether it’s sleeping, laying down or eating.

I feel horrible because I feel as if my friends and family have essentially gotten “whatever’s leftover.” In other words, they get the exhausted, cranky, tired, and hungry version of me. And that’s not fair to them at all, nor is it any fun. They’ve sacrificed so much to help make my dream a reality, and I’m beyond grateful.

I’m excited to spend more time with Lauren these next three weeks as well as catch up on all of the other things I have missed this summer while I was out swimming, biking and running.

Listening to //

  • “Here’s to Us” by Ellie Goulding
  • “Bird Set Free” by Sia
  • “Fire Meet Gasoline” by Sia
  • “Eye of the Needle” by Sia
  • “Wild” by Troye Sivan feat. Alessia Cara
  • “Freedom” by Beyonce feat. Kendrick Lamar
  • “I Can Be Somebody” by Erin McCarley

 

Reading //

Someone posted this on the IM Wisconsin Facebook page two years ago, and I saved it. It honestly makes me choke up whenever I read it – especially now because I’m living all of the things they’re describing below. It’s a little long, but it’s definitely worth the read. It paints a beautiful picture of some of the emotions you go through throughout training as well as on race day.

“Taper”

Right now you’ve all entered the taper. Perhaps you’ve been at this a few months, perhaps you’ve been at this a few years. For some of you this is your first IM, for others, a long-overdue welcome back to a race that few can match.

You’ve been following your schedule to the letter. You’ve been piling on the mileage, piling up the laundry, and getting a set of tan lines that will take until November to erase. Long rides were followed by long runs, which both were preceded by long swims, all of which were followed by recovery naps that were longer than you slept for any given night during college.

You ran in the snow.
You rode in the rain.
You ran in the heat.
You ran in the cold.

You went out when others stayed home.
You rode the trainer when others pulled the covers over their heads.

You have survived the Darwinian progression that is an Ironman summer, and now the hardest days are behind you. Like a climber in the Tour de France coming over the summit of the penultimate climb on an alpine stage, you’ve already covered so much ground…there’s just one more climb to go. You shift up, you take a drink, you zip up the jersey; the descent lays before you…and it will be a fast one.

Time that used to be filled with never-ending work will now be filling with silent muscles, taking their final, well-earned rest. While this taper is something your body desperately needs, your mind, cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to you.

It won’t be pretty.

It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure, and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren’t ready. It will try and make one last stand to stop you, because your brain doesn’t know what the body already does. Your body knows the truth:

You are ready.

Your brain won’t believe it. It will use the taper to convince you that this is foolish – that there is too much that can go wrong.

You are ready.

Finishing an Ironman is never an accident. It’s the result of dedication, focus, hard work, and belief that all the long runs in January, long rides in April, and long swims every damn weekend will be worth it. It comes from getting on the bike, day in, day out. It comes from long, solo runs. From that first long run where you wondered, “How will I ever be ready?” to the last long run where you smiled to yourself with one mile to go…knowing that you’d found the answer.

It is worth it. Now that you’re at the taper, you know it will be worth it. The workload becomes less. The body winds up and prepares, and you just need to quiet your worried mind. Not easy, but you can do it.

You are ready.

You will walk into the water with 2500 other wide-open sets of eyes. You will look upon the sea of humanity, and know that you belong. You’ll feel the chill of the water crawl into your wetsuit, and shiver like everyone else, but smile because the day you have waited for so VERY long is finally here.

You will tear up in your goggles. Everyone does. The helicopters will roar overhead. The splashing will surround you.

You’ll stop thinking about Ironman, because you’re now racing one.

The swim will be long – it’s long for everyone, but you’ll make it. You’ll watch as the shoreline grows and grows, and soon you’ll hear the end. You’ll come up the beach and head for the wetsuit strippers. Three people will get that sucker off before you know what’s happening, then you’ll head for the bike.

The voices, the cowbells, and the curb-to-curb chalk giving you a hero’s sendoff. You won’t wipe the smile off your face for. You’ll settle down to your race. The crowds will spread out on the road. You’ll soon be on your bike, eating your food on your schedule, controlling your Ironman.

You’ll start to feel that morning sun turn to afternoon sun. It’s warmer now. Maybe it’s hot. Maybe you’re not feeling so good now. You’ll keep riding. You’ll keep drinking. You’ll keep moving. After all,
this is just a long training day with valet parking and catering, right?

You’ll put on your game face, fighting the urge to feel down as you ride for what seems like hours. You reach special needs, fuel up, and head out.

By now it’ll be hot. You’ll be tired. Doubts will fight for your focus. Everyone struggles here. You’ve been on that bike for a few hours, and stopping would be nice, but you won’t – not here. Not today.

You’ll grind the false flats to the climb. You’ll know you’re almost there. You’ll fight for every inch of road. The crowd will come back to you here. Let their energy push you. Let them see your eyes. Smile when they cheer for you – your body will get just that little bit lighter.

Grind.
Fight.
Suffer.
Persevere.

You’ll plunge down the road, swooping from corner to corner, chaining together the turns, tucking on the straights, letting your legs recover for the run to come – soon! You’ll roll back – you’ll see people running out. You’ll think to yourself, “Wasn’t I just here?” The noise will grow. The chalk dust will hang in the air – you’re back, with only 26.2 miles to go. You’ll relax a little bit, knowing that even if you get a flat tire or something breaks here, you can run the damn bike into T2.

You’ll roll into transition. 100 volunteers will fight for your bike. You’ll give it up and not look back. You’ll have your bag handed to you, and into the tent you’ll go. You’ll change. You’ll load up your pockets, and open the door to the last long run of your Ironman summer – the one that
counts.

You’ll take that first step of a thousand…and you’ll smile. You’ll know that the bike won’t let you down now – the race is down to your own two feet. The same crowd that cheered for you in the shadows of the morning will cheer for you in the brilliant sunshine of a summer Sunday. High-five people on the way out. Smile. Enjoy it. This is what you’ve worked for all year long.

That first mile will feel great. So will the second. By mile 3, you probably won’t feel so good.

That’s okay. You knew it couldn’t all be that easy. You’ll settle down just like you did on the bike, and get down to your pace. You’ll see the leaders coming back the other way. Some will look great – some won’t. You might feel great, you might not. No matter how you feel, don’t panic – this
is the part of the day where whatever you’re feeling, you can be sure it won’t last.

You’ll keep moving. You’ll keep drinking. You’ll keep eating. Maybe you’ll be right on plan – maybe you won’t. If you’re ahead of schedule, don’t worry – believe. If you’re behind, don’t panic – roll with it.
Everyone comes up with a brilliant race plan for Ironman, and then everyone has to deal with the reality that planning for something like Ironman is like trying to land a man on the moon. By remote control. Blindfolded.

How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day. Don’t waste energy worrying about things – just do what you have to when you have to, and keep moving. Keep eating. Keep drinking. Just don’t sit down – don’t EVER sit down.

You’ll make it to halfway point. You’ll load up on special needs. Some of what you packed will look good, some won’t. Eat what looks good, toss the rest. Keep moving. Start looking for people you know. Cheer for people you don’t. You’re headed in – they’re not. They want to be where you are,
just like you wanted to be when you saw all those fast people headed into town. Share some energy – you’ll get it right back.

Run if you can.
Walk if you have to.
Just keep moving.

The miles will drag on. The brilliant sunshine will yawn. You’ll be coming up to those aid stations fully alive with people, music, and chicken soup. TAKE THE SOUP. Keep moving.

You’ll soon only have a few miles to go. You’ll start to believe that you’re going to make it. You’ll start to imagine how good it’s going to feel when you get there. Let those feelings drive you on. When your legs just don’t want to move anymore, think about what it’s going to be like when someone catches you…puts a medal over your head…

….all you have to do is get there.

You’ll start to hear town. People you can’t see in the twilight will cheer for you. They’ll call out your name. Smile and thank them. They were there when you left on the bike, and when you came back, when you left on the run, and now when you’ve come back.

You’ll enter town. You’ll start to realize that the day is almost over. You’ll be exhausted, wiped out, barely able to run a 10-minute mile (if you’re lucky), but you’ll ask yourself, “Where did the whole day go?”
You’ll be standing on the edge of two feelings – the desire to finally stop, and the desire to take these last moments and make them last as long as possible.

You’ll hit mile 25. Your Ironman will have 1.2 miles – just 2KM left in it.

You’ll run. You’ll find your legs. You’ll fly. You won’t know how, but you will run. The lights will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter. Soon you’ll be able to hear the music again. This time, it’ll be for keeps.

Soon they’ll see you. Soon, everyone will see you. You’ll run towards the lights, between the fences, and into the night sun made just for you.

They’ll say your name.
You’ll keep running.
Nothing will hurt.

The moment will be yours – for one moment, the entire world will be looking at you and only you.

You’ll break the tape. The flash will go off.

You’ll stop. You’ll finally stop. Your legs will wobble their last, and suddenly…be capable of nothing more.

Someone will catch you.
You’ll lean into them.

It will suddenly hit you.
You will be an Ironman.

You are ready.

 

Have a wonderful weekend!

xo,

Ash

 

race report // gazelle girl half marathon

Going into the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, I felt so great. I felt confident, refreshed. My legs felt somewhat springy. I felt more rested than I had been in years.

I was honestly in a pre-race mindset that I hadn’t been in for a really long time.

Prior to the gun going off, my friend, Shannon asked me what my goals were for the race. I just shrugged it off, not really giving her a definite answer. In all honesty, I just wanted to execute. I just wanted to have a strong, solid race. Sure, I was determined to show up and crush my course PR. I also had my sights on besting my half marathon PR, which I had set the previous year in Chicago.

At the end of the day though, I just wanted to have a solid race. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t even remember what it felt like to have a good race from start to finish. It was something I desperately craved. I wanted to cross the finish line with a smile on my face, knowing that all of the hard work I had put in over the past few weeks and months had gone towards something. The fitness wasn’t seemingly lost, which is what it has felt like the past few months as I’ve crossed finish lines minutes slower than in previous years.

When I toed the line on Sunday, I confidently lined up with the 8:30 pacers with the intention of dropping them after mile 3. They would help me warm up, I thought.

The first two miles felt amazing. The air was somewhat cool. I ran directly behind the lady holding the 8:30 sign. Right after my watch beeped at mile 2, I pushed the pace just a little. I felt great, so I figured it was time to go. I dropped it down to 8:24. But, things started to feel hard almost immediately. It was as if my body was stuck in one gear. It could comfortably hold an 8:30 pace but anything faster than that set my body into a tailspin. I scaled back and ran 8:27 for mile 4. Mile 5 felt ok, but my watch clocked a 8:38 pace. Whoa. Not what I had wanted nor planned for the day.

I shook it off, and kept telling myself it was going to be the slowest mile of my race. Things would only go up from here.

Mile 6 was 8:25 and mile 7 was 8:28. It wasn’t the paces I wanted to see during this point of the race, but I kept telling myself to stay strong. I was doing everything I possibly could within that moment.

Shortly after mile 7, I saw Jim on the course and waved. It was starting to get really hot and my body was really starting to fatigue and hurt. I smiled and thanked him repeatedly for being there. It meant so much to me.

Mile 8 was 8:27. It really crushed me when I saw the 8:30 pacers start to creep up on me again. Prior to the race, I had envisioned dropping them so many times and steadily making my up towards the 8:00 pacers. I had painted a picture of a perfectly executed race in my head, and things were not going according to plan at all.

As I was running along, my back started to tighten up a bit. But, I shook it off. I tried to focus on my stride. Count my steps. Change my arm position. I did whatever I possibly could to take my mind off of it.

But, it progressively got worse. Mile 9 was 8:30, and I was running with the pacer group again. I kept telling myself that if I could hang with them until the finish line, my day wouldn’t honestly be that bad. A 8:30 half marathon is still a pretty respectable time, I kept telling myself.

But, my back got worse and tighter and more and more painful. It was spasming at this point, and I was fighting back tears and questioning whether or not I would even be able to finish.

In my four years of racing, I’ve never been in the position before. I’ve always known that someway, somehow, I’d get myself to the finish line. However, I was in so much pain I was nearly hyperventilating.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the 8:30 pacers run past me and they kept going farther and farther ahead of me while I was seemingly running in place.

I thought about how I wished I had my phone with me, so I could call Jim and have him come get me. I thought about how I could stop at the next aid station and ask someone for their phone to call Jim. I thought about sitting down on every single curb I ran past.

The pain worsened with every single step. My back got tighter and tighter. It got so bad that I honestly went on auto pilot. Tunnel vision. I couldn’t think about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. Everything else disappeared. I didn’t have the energy to wave to fans or take water from the aid stations. I just kept the focus on moving forward.

Mile 10 – 8:50

Mile 11 – 9:02

Mile 12 – 9:21

At mile 12, I kept looking backwards because I was certain the 9:00 pacers would catch up with me. I kept thinking about how crushing that would feel — to run the same pace as my FIRST half marathon four years ago. To be in the same place I was when I first started.

Those thoughts were completely debilitating, crushing, and so hard to stomach.

All those runs in the snow, rain, heat. All of the track sessions, long runs. Thousands of miles logged over the past four years, and I was almost in the same place I was when I started. It was the lowest point of my day.

But, I kept moving and thinking about how great it would feel to see my friends and family at the finish line. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t think about anything else at that point. I didn’t even have the energy to care anymore. I just wanted to collapse on the other side of the finish line.

During the last quarter mile, my friend, Kelly ran out to me and started cheering for me like a crazy person. I felt so bad because I gave her the death stare. I couldn’t muster up anything else. I felt so defeated at that point. (I later apologized and told her how much pain I was in, and how thankful I was for her cheers and encouragement).

I saw Jim near the finish line. I waved as he was furiously taking photos. A few yards later, I crossed the finish line and immediately slumped over in pain. Shannon came to my rescue and started rubbing my back. I could barely breathe as she pushed into my back. It was a giant ball of knots.

Everyone had amazing races, so I tried my best to be happy for them. Really, I was so happy for them. However, I was so heartbroken. Yet another race with abysmal results. Another disappointment. Another day of standing on the sidelines and watching everyone else have success.

I’ve been working so hard, I thought. I deserved to have a good day. I deserve to have one good race this year.

But, it just wasn’t my day. To be perfectly honest, I feel like I’ve written this same race report nine different times already this year. Toe the line full of ambition, hope. Cross the finish line with disappointment. It’s a total gut check, I will admit. But, I keep putting my head down with more determination and more fire in my belly than before.

I’m not sure what exactly happened last Sunday and why my body reacted the way that I did. I don’t know if it was lack of salt, the heat, tip hips, legs or something-or-other. I still have no clue, which kind of sucks because I don’t know how to prevent it from happening next time.

My back was an absolute mess until Monday afternoon. I had to take a muscle relaxer and lay on a heating pad for several hours before I started to finally human again.

Going forward, I know there are areas where I could improve though. Things that are in my control. For starters, I need to practice more positive self talk. There were so many moments during this race when I tried talk myself into quitting or told myself I wasn’t good enough nor strong enough to achieve my goals.

Yes, I did ultimately manage to talk myself to the finish line. Honestly, that’s the only way I got there. And, yes. That is an accomplishment in and of itself. However, there were so many moments on the course when I could have done better and stayed more positive.

The same can be said during my workouts leading up to the race. I need to talk myself into believing I can accomplish certain things instead of simply making excuses as to why I can’t.

At the end of the day, races are just learning lessons. They teach us so much about ourselves. Bad races may suck, yes….but they are invaluable in terms of what you can learn from them.

As always, onward and upward!

xoxo