Reaching High and Falling Short {Houston Half Marathon 2016 Recap}

I’m not really sure when the idea entered my head. Perhaps sometime in November when I ran my first four sub-11 minute miles around the block in my neighborhood. Or that one time I missed a group long run and did eight miles on my own…in under 12 minute miles and feeling strong. Certainly when I realized I could do a 10k without walk intervals and shattered that PR.

My “A” goal for the Houston Half Marathon became 2 hours and 30 minutes.

aramco

As an endurance running coach I advise my trainees to choose an A, B, and C goal time for their main race. The C goal for a first time half or full marathoner is just to finish. Hopefully uninjured. The B goal is somewhat based on the pace you kept during training. The A goal is a stretch, possibly attainable if everything comes together right and you really push yourself.

Two years ago I set my half marathon PR (personal record) at the Houston Half in 2 hours 39 minutes. That was using 5:1 walk/run intervals and following a strong pacer. That was pretty unexpected at the time.

I’ve run a few half and a full marathon since then but all were slower. This year I was coaching a 5:1 interval group with a few first time half marathoners, so we take it “easy” on long training runs. It’s about distance, not speed. But I changed my diet this fall and lost about twenty pounds. And I did more hill training, more yoga, some high impact aerobics and faster mid-week runs. I watched my pace drop and started to believe.

Setting my sights on this 2:30 goal made me nervous for weeks. I’m not gonna lie, I frequently thought about forgetting it, using some injury or illness as self-justification for not going all in. Because I knew deep down it was probably achievable but I knew it would take everything from me and I knew it would likely hurt. It would be less “fun” than the social half marathons I have run before.

But I also know the incredible fulfillment of aiming high, working hard, and reaching a big goal. I know it means more if I go all in, hold nothing back.

I quietly told a few people about my goal. Saying it out loud makes it more real.

I started to strategize. I could probably run 7:1 intervals, even though I never had before. That would mean averaging about 11:05 running, with quick walks. My friend Manny said he thought a 2:30 half would be a good goal for him, so I asked if he’d want to run with me. He usually talks my ear off, a very pleasant distraction. He agreed to try and hang with me at 7:1s. I picked up my 2:30 pace band tattoo at the race expo and got serious.

Mike kept asking why I was so anxious the days before. He knew I’d been training hard and had run this race many times before. I kept telling myself that anything better than 2:39 would be a new PR and a great race. But 2:30 was my goal and I wanted it.

A couple of my friends noticed how quiet and serious I was on race morning. My running group were all conferring with me but I kept telling them to run their own race, do not try to stay with me. I had no doubt they could finish strong without me.

prerace

The 5:1 group I coached ready to race!

I lined up with all my friends around the 12 minute mile pace signs. That turned out to be probably not the best idea, because I ended up continuously weaving around crowds of much slower runners and walkers for the. entire. race.  I swear I have never passed so many people in my life.

Manny stayed right with me as we sailed down Washington Avenue enjoying the gorgeous blue skies and crisp cool air. He sounded like he was breathing hard and maybe having trouble but he kept assuring me he felt good. We had an agreement if one of us fell behind it didn’t matter and the other would just go. I ditched my sweatshirt around mile three and checked my pace band at each mile marker. We were right on pace.

Neither of us talked much at all the whole race. A few words here or there, the occasional burst of energy to wave to excited spectators. I tried to stay between 10:40 and 11:05 as much as I could, and the first 6 miles sailed by. I took some Gu around mile 6 and then somewhere around mile 8 I got my first hint of discomfort. I was just starting to tire a little and breathing harder when a wave of nausea crept up. It became much more of a mental game once we turned onto Montrose Blvd. We were falling very slightly behind pace now, about a minute, but I thought there was still time to make it up. The crowds which I enjoyed so much in the past became just a distraction.

Coursemap

Somewhere around mile 10, Manny said he needed to stop for water. I was becoming really fatigued, my eyes were watering so I couldn’t see as clearly and I wanted to walk. So I stopped with him for a sip of gatorade and then refilled one of my bottles with water. I started up again before he did but I knew he’d catch up and he did. Then a few hundred feet later he suddenly tripped and fell down hard. I stopped and asked if he was ok as he slowly got back up. He said he hand mostly was hurt but he started walking again. He looked like he was in pain but could continue on, so I decided I needed to go. I turned and ran off, realizing I was now on my own. I put my other earbud in, and looked forward, letting gravity carry me downhill slightly to the turn onto Allen Parkway. I saw my friend Leo cheering on the side and ran over to high five him. He is truly an inspiration to me and was a big pick-me-up.

Allen Parkway really is a bit like a death march. You can see the downtown skyline but it feels so far away. LOADS of people are walking at that point, very few are still running. Spectators line the sides of the road screaming at you, which can be good but also can be  annoying. A guy called my name and offered me a can of beer. I smiled and waved him off. This was the point where more and more people started cheering for me by name (which was on my bib). I slowed down a bit, realizing I probably wasn’t going to make 2:30 but I was going to be way ahead of my PR. But my watch and my Runkeeper didn’t seem to agree on my average pace so I hoped one of them was wrong and determined not to give up. I knew I could suffer through two more miles of running, even if it had to be 30 seconds a mile slower. The last two miles or so really was hard. I dug deep. My left foot felt a blister forming. My legs were ok but my breathing was much harder. I just wanted to be done. The loud cheering as I came into the finish gave me anxiety, isn’t that weird? I usually love the encouragement but this time I could have done without it.

medals

My awesome partner Manny!

2:32:32. That’s my official time, however my GPS says I ran well over 13.1, so really my pace was pretty much right on. But I fell just short of my goal. I blew my PR away by 7 minutes, which is a huge accomplishment itself. It feels really good.

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5:1 group runners finished!

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More 5:1 group. Babu’s first half marathon!


 

 

 

 

And so I will leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which served as my inspiration to go all in. Till next year.

Roosevelt

 

Ragnar Trail Relay Hill Country, TX Recap

First of all, let’s just pretend that it hasn’t been a year since I blogged. Good, now that’s out of the way.

In the past year I have had all kind of new and wonderful adventures and athletic endeavors. It’s very hard to believe sometimes that I only started running about five years ago. It’s true though, my journey from slug to avid runner is all documented right here on this blog!

This has been a year of trying even more new things, including a full marathon, triathlons and last week I did my first trail race…an overnight relay no less! The proposal to join my running friends from church on a 120 mile all day and all night relay race came many months ago. I first heard about it from my friend Becky and thought it sounded crazy. Running alone, in the woods, at night? With only a headlamp to guide your way? Plus camping…something I have not done since I was a kid and even then it was only a couple times.
Ragnar Hill CountryBut the crazy, adventurous nature of it sounded fun. Doing it as a team with my friends sounded like a great time. When I heard my friend Carla had committed, that sealed the deal for me. I lined up my parents to fly in to watch the kids and sent in my money. I knew this was just the challenge I needed to keep me training hard over the summer too.

Our team, Ragnar Schmagnar, had a few drop outs so I was able to recruit my Katy Fit friend, Walter, and my neighbor, Carrie, to join us. That only added to the fun. Carrie contributed a bunch of camping gear and tents which we sent ahead on Thursday with my friend Glenn, who helped set some of it up with the help of Walter and Josh. Glenn and Josh were part of a second team of Fellowshippers and friends, Running on Empty. Team Ragnar Schmagnar

Carrie and I rode out to Flat Rock Ranch in Comfort, TX with Ashley, Carol and David. We left Katy at 5am and rolled into the Ranch somewhere around 8:30 in the morning, grateful that the predicted deluge of rain was holding off. In fact, Friday turned out to be a beautiful day! We hauled all our stuff down and up the hill to our campsite that Josh had chosen on the highest ground, to avoid the potential flooding we knew was coming. I helped Carrie set up our little two man tent…a first for me and not hard at all. We greeted all our teammates as they arrived and wandered around the Ragnar Village…an area of large tents with various food and merchandise as well as the race starting line and transition area.

Ragnar Hill Country Campsite

We watched the required safety video and I bought a yummy chicken wrap for lunch, knowing I would need fuel for my first leg, the Red (hardest) loop…7.6 miles of climbing and rocky terrain. We took team photos and then our first runners started at noon with their Green loops. Josh started for our team and Glenn started for his team. They were both done their three miles pretty quickly but both remarked at how hard it was to run on the rocky trails. According to the course maps the Yellow loop was shorter but much steeper climbing than the long Red loop, but I would soon find out how wrong that was.

Ragnar Elevation

At approximately 1:30 in the afternoon, David came in from his Yellow loop and handed the bib off to me to start my first leg. Silly me almost ran straight down the wrong trail but Walter was there to see me off and yelled at me to go right down the well marked Red path, which crossed a small stream, then the main road, and then proceeded up, up, up an extremely rocky path. I was thrilled that it wasn’t raining and pumped up on adrenaline so I started my run bounding and bouncing along, enjoying the natural beauty of the landscape.

Ragnar Hill Country

It was curvy. It was up and up, maybe down a little and then up and up some more. I was huffing and puffing in no time. I know I was smiling just from being out in nature, alone, and taking on obstacle after obstacle, but at some point the sun came out and I started to get tired and I looked down at my watch…not even two miles. Dang. That’s a bad sign when you know you have six miles to go and you’re still climbing. I kept an eye out for cows or goats but saw none. At some point I reached what felt like a peak and I decided to stop and soak it in a minute…I even took this photo. Ragnar Red Loop

Even when I seemed to be going back downhill, there were always little inclines ahead. I kept drinking from my water bottles, knowing there was a water station somewhere on the trail. I had to walk some sections that were super narrow and rocky but I would run every chance I got, slow and steady…ignoring the interval settings on my watch. This definitely felt much harder than the practice trail run we had done in Bastrop two weeks earlier. 12049520_757759867683745_8600784481785521593_n

The only wildlife I would see on that run was a small green snake I encountered on the trail, head raised up in full alert mode. I happily jumped right over it, never missing a beat and congratulating myself on my bravery. Finally just after the four mile mark I saw the water station, and a heavy set girl who was actually just walking the trail stopped for a drink. The water was ice cold and perfect and it was nice to finally see and talk to another person. She said “it’s hot out here but we should be getting pretty close to done, huh?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her we still had 3.5 miles to go. That’s nowhere near done in my book. I took off running past her and marked my first Roadkill.

The last two miles I probably walked more than I ran. My legs just gave up. Not even my Gu was helping. I was so disappointed in what would surely be a pitiful time. As I came up out of a big dry creek bed my Red trail combined with the Green trail and I saw a photographer waiting ahead so I mustered up my energy, stood tall, ran and smiled at him. I hustled down the last stretch into the tent and handed off my bib to Carrie, and was greeted by lots of team members wanting to know how the Red loop was. “Awful” I think I said. “Crazy hard. Maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” I didn’t want to scare everybody but I was whooped. I sat down while Walter got me water. Funny thing though, I swear less than an hour later I was smiling again, thrilled that I had tackled that trail and beat it. Glad to be done my longest leg of the race.

Sarah Hubbell

The evening was fun, hanging out back at the campsite and in the Ragnar Village. I bought two awesome shirts and ate the pasta dinner they provided. I got to know the new folks a little bit. They had yoga and an air guitar contest but I mostly just relaxed. Walter took off on his Red loop and then finished right around sunset as they were lighting the bonfire. Here’s a cool photo someone captured with Walter sitting down, completely wasted after his first leg. Ragnar TX sunset

My second leg started somewhere around 10:30 at night and it was considerably cooler by then. I was worried about what appeared to be a very steep climb, so I was totally surprised to find the initial path pretty flat, open, hard packed dirt and much more runnable than my previous loop. I ran quickly and comfortably, having fun dodging giant cow paddies along the way. My headlamp was plenty bright enough to light my way and the trail was marked with tiny LEDs that made it easy to see where I was headed. Even as the trail curved narrowly around along a rock ledge with a steep drop off I was still able to run and I was enjoying every minute. My Runkeeper had refused to turn on when I started so I had no music, only silence and my footsteps. The path sloped gradually upward but I still had no issue running it in the cool of the night. A couple people passed me but eventually I came upon a girl walking and as I passed her she fell in line running directly behind me.

Knowing that almost everyone out there is faster than I, I asked her “Do you want to pass me? I don’t mind.” And she replied “Oh no, you’re fine, this is a nice pace. I’m tired and I think I’ll just follow you awhile.”  It turned out she was on an ultra team, a team of four that runs twice the distance. Another guy ran up behind us but instead of passing, he fell in line behind us too. He was also on an ultra team and liked me slow and steady pace. So the two of them mostly chatted back and forth for awhile while I listened and led the way, happy for the company. After a couple miles I slowed down to walk some particularly rocky parts and they finally opted to run past me and take off. So the last couple of miles I ran in quiet, rapidly downhill with drizzling rain cooling my face. It was honestly bliss. I heard a cow “moo” off to the right of me at one point, but I could not see him in the dark. I actually ran past a couple of women in the last mile, and finished with a big smile to hand off to Carrie again.

As I finished I headed straight to the s’mores tent to get my much desired snack, roasting a marshmallow over a mini fire pit with Ashley as the rain started to fall harder. I walked back up to the campsite and shared my joy with Walter and whoever else was there. Who would have ever imagined that I would love running trails in the dark so much?

Poor Carrie was off on the Red loop when the rain really started coming down hard. I felt bad for her but I know how tough she is. Eventually I climbed into my tent to try to sleep, but too many nearby voices and the rain kept me awake. When Carrie finally joined me in the tent she handed me a set of earplugs and that’s when I really knocked out for a couple of hours. Until around 5:30am when I massive gust of wind nearly blew our tent over with us in it and woke me right up. It was so loud and windy and raining so hard at that point I did get a touch nervous. I knew I wasn’t going to sleep any more so I got in my running clothes for my next run, trying to avoid the leak in the tent roof the whole time.

So glad I brought my wellies, I walked out to sit under the canopy and snack on the cinnamon rolls I found. I grabbed a golf umbrella and hiked down to the port-o-potties and back…the road was rapidly turning into a river. After awhile the team captains, Glenn and Becky, decided to call the race for our teams. The conditions were becoming dangerous. We sat around till daybreak and then hurriedly packed up camp, hauling our gear and taking down tents in the pouring down deluge. We got our medals so I had mixed feelings about not finishing but overall I was glad to be getting done and out early. Many many cars and trucks got stuck in the mud and we waited and waited in the pouring rain for everyone to get out. Finally we left in Ashley’s truck and headed to the first Whataburger for dry clothes and breakfast. 1653570_10208217348730934_6378532866588612476_n

Ragnar Trail was an experience I will not soon forget. Despite the cold, rainy end to the weekend, I had an amazingly awesome time. I learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know or had not realized before…namely that I love love love being out in nature. I even love camping! In a tent! Who knew? I love running up mountains and over rocks and roots! I love running in the dark and the quiet! I already knew I loved spending time with awesome people, but a shared experience like Ragnar Relay can not be beat.

I will do it again next year. 

Sarah Hubbell Ragnar

 

 

 

 

Houston Half Marathon 2014 Recap!

Here we are on January 20th and my second half-marathon is officially one for the (personal) record books! I am seriously still basking in the afterglow of an AMAZING weekend of running. I run for the glory of God and it’s He who makes it possible, but I can’t help feeling darn proud of what I accomplished yesterday.

I am a very social runner, so when my Katy Fit friends all decided to run the ABB 5k the day before the Houston Half, I gladly signed up. The whole point is to get three medals! I’m all about the bling, baby.

So on Saturday morning I woke up before the crack of dawn and drove downtown with my awesome friend Monica and her friend, Jody. It was chilly! We met up with lots of other friends and took off down the streets. I was pretty concerned about wearing myself out before the half marathon so I let Monica and Jody leave me in the dust. But then I ended up leaving my friend John in the dust and eventually I caught up to Walter and Robin. I ran faster than I really wanted to, given my goal of NOT overdoing it.

Katy TX Moms Run This Town

Katy Moms Run This Town

ABB 5k Houston

My BRFF Monica

ABB 5k

Lin, John and III freezing on Discovery Green.

Houston ABB 5k

Walter and I ready to 5k it.

I realized later that I don’t think I have ever actually run a 5k race before. So my time of 37:48 is a PR. That’s 12:10 min/mile while doing 5:1 run/walk intervals. A few friends made comments on my time being fast (for me). Not my intention. Then Monica and Jody and I walked the marathon expo and picked up our half marathon packets. I bought sunglasses for running and shoe charms. By the time we left my legs were officially tired.

I tried to nap when I got home but it was restless and filled with the sounds of two boys and one husband playing Minecraft right outside my bedroom door. I insisted on my favorite meal, Pei Wei kung pow chicken and brown rice, for dinner. I figured that should be the right balance of low fat carbs and protein to not cause any last minute G.I. distress. Turns out I was right.

I finally fell asleep around 9:15 and slept soundly until 2:55 am when I woke and couldn’t fall back asleep before my 3:30 alarm. So I got an early start on trying to make 100% sure every drop of liquid was out of my bladder before the race. I did NOT want to lose time at the port-o-potties. I really would not have been nervous AT ALL before this race, except for the fact that I set a rather ambitious “A” time goal for myself: 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Last year for my very first half marathon I ran 3:1 intervals and finished in 2:55:32 in freezing cold, sideways rain. My “B” goal would be to beat that. My “A” goal was 2:45 which would be about 12:34 min/mile. With 5:1 intervals I figured I’d need to run about 12:05 min/mile. That’s not impossible, but significantly faster than ANY of my very long runs this training season. So this self-imposed pressure made me jittery. What if I went out too fast and bonked? What if I had to waste five minutes waiting in line at a potty?

Thankfully, my friend Walter had the same goal and as luck would have it, he had a friend who was an official pace-setter for the Dallas marathon coming to run Houston with him. I knew I could just do my best to stick with them and if it didn’t work out, it would still be fun.

Before the race with Tanya.

Before the race with Tanya.

So proud of Cintia for tackling her first full marathon!

So proud of Cintia for tackling her first full marathon!

The weather could not have been more perfect. The new course was absolutely amazing.  The crowds of spectators were phenomenal. It was one hundred times better than last year in every way possible for me. I was smiling while bopping to the music in corral D and I smiled ear to ear as I crossed that start line.

At the start in Corral D with Kevin and Stella running their first half marathons!

At the start in Corral D with Kevin and Stella running their first half marathons!

I smiled all the way down Washington Avenue, running with my friends Kevin and Angela who were both doing their first half. I passed Catalina Coffee, a wonderful little java spot I’ve been to before. Scene of my friend Ryan’s amazing Serial Box video of David Ramirez. I yelled and waved as I ran passed my friend Brent Torrey who was coaching a high school student with Katy Students Run. I saw the abc13 news van and spotted the camera man in the middle of the road, so I made a BIG scene for the camera, waving and grinning as big as I could. I’m a dork, what can I say.

As we made a few zig zags and got closer to West Gray, I knew to start looking for my friend Jen Evans among the spectators. Sure enough, just as we rounded the corner I heard her yelling my name, so I threw up my hands and yelled “Hey!” right back. She caught this shot:

My dorky self making a scene on West Gray.

My dorky self making a scene on West Gray.

At this point I was really starting to wonder if we weren’t going a little too fast. Every time I glanced at my watch I saw a pace in the elevens. I was ok, but worried that I would not be able to sustain 11 minute miles for 13.1 miles. According to the pace band tattooed on my arm, we were already a minute or so ahead of where we had to be to hit 2:45. Unfortunately around mile 5, Walter dropped off to use the port-o-potties when the stomach virus he had battled the day before returned with a vengeance. His pace-setting friend, Alyson, kept on trucking so our small band of Katy Fitizens followed her religiously. Kevin surged forward around that time and we never saw him again…he finished nearly twenty minutes ahead of us!

I got a text from Mike telling me that he and the boys were camped out on Kirby at Westheimer waiting for me, which gave me something to look forward to for awhile. I cut through the crowd to the side of the road and high fived my smiling little boys. I was so intensely grateful that my family cared enough to come out and support me. I bragged about it quite a bit to anyone who would listen around me.

Passing under highway 59 was something of a milestone marker for me…it meant we were halfway home and turning back in the direction of the finish. The smoke from the bbq pit at  Goode’s made me gag. I carried three bottles of water on my belt and never stopped for any extra water along the race. It turned out to be exactly the right amount. I consumed three Accel Gels in strawberry kiwi, one before we started and two mid-course. Definitely better than the sport beans I tried using last year.

I LOVED running down Bissonet in Southhampton. The crowds were out in force and the streets are lined with live oaks on both sides. After the marathoners split off we turned up Montrose…it was fun running the bridge over highway 59. There were several bands along this part of the route and tons of fun signs. I saw my family and a friend again at Richmond Ave, but started to get a little more tired as Montrose seemed to continue on forever. I knew we were on pace to hit 2:45 with plenty of buffer so I was tempted to slow down a bit, but I stuck to Alyson like glue. Sometimes a bit ahead of her, sometimes a bit behind.

Half-marathon Houston

Mike captured me flying down Montrose in the hot sunshine.

The turn onto Allen Parkway was completely different than how I remember it last year. It is narrow and steep downhill at first, then a long gradual uphill climb into downtown. The road was JAMMED with people screaming my name and making me smile and wave. The sun was shining brightly here and I had to keep my head down a bit and focus more on pushing ahead up the hill. Alyson decided she would extend our walk intervals by 30 seconds because she “hadn’t factored the humidity” into her plan. I was honestly like “what humidity? You call THIS humidity?”  She’s from Dallas, this is Houston. I was barely sweating. I was just remembering how badly I had to pee at this point last year and how happy I was NOT to have to this year. All I remember of Allen Parkway last year is pain…desolate, lonely, bonking. Not this year. The uphill was the hardest part of the race, but I still felt on top of the world.

Then it really hit me as we entered downtown…the crowd noise. It was LOUD! I didn’t remember that from last year at all either. The street was crammed with people cheering for us…it was almost embarrassing feeling like the center of all that attention!

Oh and I forgot to mention the whole passing people thing.  For the last three miles of the race, all we did was pass people…lots and lots of people walking. According to my stats I passed 644 runners over the second half of the race. How d’ya like them apples?! I felt strong coming into the finish…tired and ready to be done, but NOT hurting or dying. We slowed a bit and took a few extra seconds of walking and I still CRUSHED my “A” goal time.

2 hours 39 minutes and 5 seconds!!!

That may not seem that fast, but it was a PR of 16:27 minutes for me. I beat a ton of my friends that I never would have expected to. I am sailing on that time. Never in a million years expected that. Now I know I am capable of so much more than I thought I was.

Ok so, here are a few more photos.

We're done!!

We’re done!!

Lora and I showing off our medals.

Lora and I showing off our medals.

Kandi, Julie, me, Sarah, Angela and Alyson our awesome pace-setter.

Kandi, Julie, me, Sarah, Angela and Alyson our awesome pace-setter.

I just want to say how grateful I am to God for giving me a body that can run, for my family for supporting me, and for my Katy Fit friends and coaches who journeyed with me this year. Here’s to taking on huge challenges in 2014!

Punching Fear In The Face, While Running

sarah-hubbell-half-marathon

This is me at mile ten of the 2013 Houston Half Marathon, high fiving my kid.

This past weekend I got nervous. I started to feel an undercurrent of anxiety on Friday that increased to a more noticeable level Saturday evening. I attended a conference here in Houston all day Friday and Saturday called Empowered to Connect, about parenting kids from “hard places”, meaning adopted and foster kids. But that wasn’t what made me nervous at all, that was encouraging and exceptionally helpful.

Why was I nervous? Because my marathon training schedule called for me to run ten miles that weekend and I couldn’t do it with my usual group at my usual time due to the conference. I asked around to see if someone would run with me on Sunday at 5am, but so far I had no takers. I was facing the prospect of running all ten miles alone.

Nevermind the fact that I’ve done exactly that before. Last year during training I had to run one ten mile run on my own, in my own neighborhood. I got it done and felt amazing for accomplishing that. But it was cooler weather and I was running during the day. This will be at 5am, in the dark, at 80 degrees and 95% humidity (as it is every day before dawn, at which time it heats up to 95 degrees).

Nevermind the fact that I ran 9.5 miles just two weeks ago. Forget the fact that I ran ten miles or more MANY times last training season. Forget that I ran my fastest 10k ever last weekend and a very fast (for me) tempo run just a few days ago. Suddenly all my progress was being drowned out by one voice in my head: fear.

I kept thinking of ways to get out of doing this run. I kept thinking maybe I’d just end up cutting it short. I was afraid I’d be late for church. But I knew that Sunday morning was the only time I’d realistically be able to get it done, alone or not. I knew the following weekend I had a conference again and the week after that is my ten mile race.

So how did I drive back the voices of fear and doubt? Well, first I took some necessary baby steps. I skipped the alcohol the night before. I reluctantly filled my water bottles and popped them in the fridge and freezer. I set out my hydration belt, my headlamp, my Garmin, my oatmeal for breakfast, my running shoes and clothes. I forced myself to go to bed at 9:30, and I set my alarm for 4am.

So when that alarm went off? I knew it was time to run. Luckily a friend of mine, Carla, was also running ten miles at 5am with her much speedier running partners, so I chose to at least start with them. When I arrived Carla asked if I wanted her to run with me. I knew she was used to going faster and I told her I’d be doing 5:1 intervals and left the choice up to her. She said she’d start with me and see how it went.

ten mile run in cinco ranch

We started off faster than I normally would for such a long run, and I worried I might pay for it later. Her running friends took off and were out of sight pretty quickly, but Carla stayed with me. We had plenty to talk about and I didn’t even listen to my music. I kept my pace strong and she did my intervals with me. Five miles clicked by like it was nothing. We tried to stop at McD’s for me to use the bathroom but it wasn’t open yet, so we backtracked a little to Denny’s. I noticed her breathing harder than I was, but she didn’t seem to be struggling too much. I tried a new kind of gel, which wasn’t bad but made my hands incredibly sticky. She didn’t use any nutrition.

At about eight miles I noticed I was pulling ahead of her just a bit so I backed off our pace a tiny bit. She wasn’t carrying much water so we stopped at a gas station and bought some more. For the last two miles she struggled but I still felt amazingly strong. I talked her ear off and slowed up a bit, and when we hit ten miles she was done even though we weren’t back to our cars yet so we just walked the rest of the way.

I am SO glad she ran with me. It might have been completely different if I’d been alone, but it ended up being one of my best runs yet. All the training I’ve been doing paid off in spades. Having someone to talk to makes all the difference in the world for me. But if I hadn’t fought back the voice of fear, I never would have even showed up and I never would have experienced the huge surge of energy and accomplishment I felt that lasted the entire day.

So don’t listen to those voices of fear in your head! Punch fear in the face and just do it!

 

 

The Brotherhood of Running

Today I am bringing you a guest post from John Mckinzie, a friend from my running group, Katy Fit. I ran behind John many times last summer in my very slow start to marathon training with the Red group. (Red = slow, btw.) John is, like me, a late-in-life athlete, who has now inspired his sister and his young son to run as well. He originally posted this on his Facebook page last September. 

So I get up this morning for what I plan on being an 8 mile run.

John at Run 4 the Children, photo
by Carter Anderson Fine Portraiture

6:00 at the cop shop on a Friday is pretty desolate. There is only one other runner, and he is coming in from a “God only knows how long” run. He is the typical Elite runner…skinny, not an ounce of fat, no hydration. He makes a pit stop as I start my run, but soon is breezing by me.

I’m pooped. I feel like I’ve been working out all week long… running, hill work, gym, Body Pump. But I need to get a long run in cuz Saturday it’s WPS!!!

After a mile I wanna quit. After two I realize how slow I’m going but forge ahead. At three miles, I’m pissed and I turn around. My 8 miler is now a six.

I’m walking off my frustration, when all of a sudden I hear in an English? accent. “Hey, you are not supposed to be walking!!” I thought, WTF!! leave me the F alone!!! But I said, “Yeah, I really should be running.” He said “Well start running and I’ll run you in!!”

Yeah right!! No way I was running it in, much less keeping up with him. But I did. Yeah, he slowed down, ALOT. I knew he did. We talked for the remainder. My “story”, his anguish over getting his 2:50 marathon pace again, other running topics, runs we had recently done.

What I didn’t realize is that I was speeding up…ALOT. We blazed across the park gate and onto the bball courts. We shook hands, I thanked him and asked his name. “Elias from South Africa…and the next time I see you, you had better not be walking!!” I smiled and we parted ways.

Then it hit me like a brick wall. Why was this elite runner slowing down to acknowledge me? I meant nothing to him, nor him to me. I suddenly realized that my thinking had gone all askew.

Running is a brotherhood. We all cross the same finish line, start at the same gun, and none of us is satisfied completely with our time. It’s so mental. I was not tired. I was not sore. But I had decided that day that I was. He made me remember that which I had forgotten. The motivation has to come from within.

Don’t wait for your Elias to come by. He might not. Great if he does, but we will probably never see each other again. He took time out of his training regimen to help a fellow runner. But that fellow runner must have his inner Elias with him at all times. Now I do. Whenever I slow down and I think it’s just too damn hard, I will think of Elias. A complete and total stranger. Helping me when I thought I couldn’t help myself. Anyone struggling, just find your inner Elias, he is there.