Keeping it steady

Two of my running girlfriends and I were chosen as Pacers for the Lake Michigan Half Marathon this weekend. The race goes along Muskegon Lake and takes a jaunt along Lake Michigan.

Running this race as a pacer is perfect timing for me. While I would love to do another race, I’m not mentally ready to challenge myself for that level of exertion. Pacing is giving me some time to run easy and think about what went wrong at Bayshore and how to better prepare for the next race. I’m hoping that I can also line up at the start of this race without the emotional anxiety that I experienced at the marathon. There’s no pressure to push myself to a PR or a Boston Qualifier. I get to run with some very cool people  and help them achieve their goals.

 

Being a pacer comes with its own challenges. If everything is going well, I’m not too bad at keeping a consistent pace. As a pacer, I need to keep a consistent pace that is a specific pace. Our assigned group pace is about a minute and a half slower than my average, everyday pace. I shouldn’t have to worry about falling off pace or going too slow and disappointing the runners who are seeking personal bests. I’ll be able to encourage people, chat with other runners, and carry the pace sign.

What I’m struggling with is that slower pace and not getting carried away by the race atmosphere. Sometimes while talking (especially if it is about something irritating) I start pushing harder and suddenly I’m running a minute faster than my normal pace. Once I get into the groove of that pace, it’s difficult to slow down. I don’t want ruin another runner’s race by not sticking to the pace they need.

I’ve tried some treadmill runs at the desired pace so I can get a feel for the turnover rate. I plan to wear my GPS so I can check and correct our pace frequently. Certain conversation topics are off limits.

What tips do you have for being a pacer?

If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I ran the Bayshore Marathon. It promises a flat and fast course along the picturesque Old Mission Peninsula in the Leelanau Bay.

My training had gone pretty well, but I was ready for the race to be over. The months of thinking about my A goals, B goals, and C goals were taking their toll. I needed mental relief.

During May I anxiously watched the weather. A month out, sunny and 80 degrees was predicted. Being a bit of a weather geek, I calmed myself that predictions a month out were never right. It could change a dozen times over the next few weeks. And it did. Temperatures at race time fluctuated between 50 and 70; sky cover moved from clouds to partly sunny to thunderstorms.

 

Then Race Day came. It was 70 degrees and sticky at 7 am. I’m not a hot weather runner, but figured I could stick it out as long as it remained cloudy as the weather app promised. And perhaps, the peninsula would be cooler because it was surrounded by the cool lake water.

But my stomach was churning in anticipation. I hoped that once I started running the nerves would dissipate and I could deal with the temperatures and humidity.

Once we were moving, the nerves eased and it was such a relief, I was almost in tears. I didn’t have to sort over what would happen anymore, I could just run.

 

But the heat and humidity were a factor. By mile 6, I was feeling empty and dizzy. I opted to walk on the theory that going easy now would give me more strength later. Probably a good decision.

My husband met me at mile 11 and walked with me for a bit. I was ready to quit, but he made it sound like I could finish. Time goals jumped in the bay as I focused on the turnaround. At 13.1 miles, it would be a new race. I could forget about the miserable first half and start over.

 

Well, I was completely soaked, so I shed my tank top (sorry onlookers!) and forced myself to keep going. Somehow spots on my sports bra were still dry. I ran and walked. It probably would have been easier to keep running. Each time I switched, my stomach cramped for a few seconds.

While the sun stayed hidden, the heat was affecting more people. More people took walking breaks. We played leapfrog as we switched. I chatted with a man who tore his IT band. He was still walking, claiming the hot and humid weather was his favorite racing weather, proving I wasn’t the craziest one out there.

The spectators were awesome. Many people came to their front yards to cheer. Some had make shift water (or beer) stations. Some played music (although that made me feel old since I didn’t recognize many of the pop songs.) And there was one guy in a too-small wool sweater, a crazy wig, ringing a cowbell. Thank you all for giving me something to smile about.

Throughout the race, I contemplated whether this was my last marathon. Five is a nice number. I’ve run two that were reasonably tough, two that induced tears, and one that was spectacular. Maybe this wasn’t my distance.

I gritted my teeth and pushed through the last mile. After I crossed the finish line, I gratefully kicked off my shoes, happy to not have to run for a few days.

Despite it being a brutal experience, I have some take-aways:
-I need to find better gluten-free ways to carb load.
-I need to do more strength/cross training workouts.
-I need to keep my head in the race. I lost that battle too early.
-Body glide rules! Despite sweating half my bodyweight, I didn’t have any chaffing and only one small blister.
-I got to run with my college roommate for a bit which was really cool.
-It probably isn’t my last marathon. I’m considering a fall one–late fall when there’s no chance of it being 70-plus degrees (although we are talking about Michigan where anything can happen).
What have you learned from a tough race?

Inspiring Running Friends – Jodi South

Please welcome fellow Michigan runner, Jodi South

1. Favorite shoes (please include a picture):

I don’t really have a favorite shoe. I have found New Balance and Nike work well for me. I don’t spend a fortune on running shoes but I do replace them about every 4 months. I still have the silver pair of Nikes I wore in my first Boston marathon in 2010.

2. Favorite race/distance/Bucket-list race:

My favorite race distance is a 25K. More than a 1/2 marathon but not as brutal as a full. My 3 Bostons are the highlight of racing for me. My favorite race was the T-Rex 10 Mile Trail race I ran the last 4th of July and plan to do again. The trail was rigorous and entailed going over, under, across, through rocks, trees, creeks, steep hills you name it. It was very fun and adventurous. Bucket List: Great Turtle 1/2 Marathon on Mackinaw Island, Yellow Stone 1/2 Marathon, Ragnar Relay to name a few.

3. Trails, streets, or treadmill:

I do the majority of my running on the street. A true street runner. But I also love trails and feel trail racing calling out to me….I see more trail races in my future. It’s extremely rare for me to utilize the treadmill for a run.

4. Why did you start running?

I’ve been running for over 20 years. Running is just natural for me. I’ve always been into health and fitness and nothing gives me the workout that running does. Some people have coffee…I run. I feel most alive and free when I run. Running helps me work through stress, keep things in perspective, it’s my time to think, pray or just enjoy music and nature. When I don’t run my day feels “off”. I was born to run.

5. What keeps you motivated?

Keeping motivated is never a problem, I wake up…I run. Different races motivate different types of training and long runs. People tell me my running inspires them so that too provides motivation, it’s a cycle…I motivate you, you motivate me. I consider all who support me to be part of my team as their support pushes me even beyond what I push myself. It’s important to me to help others be fit, I believe in them and I want to help them to believe in themselves. I like the feeling of being healthy and fit and keeping the level of fitness I’ve achieved also motivates me. I hope to help people find a healthy balance for themselves as I truly believe fitness brings and maintains quality to life. #Be fit. #Be healthy. Be happy.

Inspiring Runner Friends – Tom Francis

Please welcome Tom Francis as he shares some of his running motivations!

1. Favorite shoes:

Newton is my favorite racing shoe.

2. Favorite race/distance/Bucket-list race:

5/3 River Bank Run is a 25k in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Spectators form a gauntlet at the six mile turn and line the finishing blocks. It’s pretty cool. My favorite distance is a 10k. You can make up for a bad mile and the distance is not that popular any more. Moab Trail Marathon is currently at the top of my bucket list.

3. Trails, streets, or treadmill:

I prefer trails to roads but in northern Indiana trails are rather tame.

4. Why did you start running?

When I first started running it was all about finding out how fast that I could go relative to other people. After several decades of not running, it became about getting back outside and feeling the the changing seasons.

5. What keeps you motivated?

Motivation comes from my friends from college that run. Surprising I am also driven by FaceBook groups. Before I down my first cup of coffee I find out that I’m losing ground to people I’ve never met. So I find myself adding mileage to catch up. Understanding that I’m lucky to still be running with friends keeps me on the roads.

Friendly Motivation

In the last year, I’ve been able to connect with runners through social media. It’s a great way to keep motivated and encouraged. I met Ray through a FaceBook group and he is wonderful with an encouraging word when you are going through a tough workout.

I asked Ray to share a little about his running experience.

1. Favorite shoes : I have two types of favorite shoes. For my long run training runs I use the New Balance 1080 Fresh Foam’s. They seem to have the most cushions without compromising rebound and feel. During races (of any distance) I use the Asics Gel Nimbus 17’s. They are lighter and more responsive than all the other shoes that I’ve used. During my other training runs I rotate between three other pair (Asics Kayano 22, Saucony ISO 2, and Asics Gel Cumulus 16 for the treadmill)

2. Favorite race/distance/Bucket-list race: Favorite Distance: I have two. The Half Marathon because I can go pretty much run at 90% effort the entire way and currently that’s the distance I seem to have the most success at it. My other is the full marathon because of the challenge it possesses. There is something about hitting that “wall” thinking your don’t have anything left, ready to just quit and then being able to break through it, continuing on to the end…depleted, exhausted, and victorious. My bucket-list/thorn in my side race is Boston. I’m going to keep trying to qualify (currently unsuccessful twice) until I get to run it or it kills me.

3. Trails, streets, or treadmill: Right now I prefer street running, mostly because that’s what I’ve been racing and that is the type of race that Boston (see bucket list) is. I have run on all surfaces and I do love the serenity of trail running, but it comes with an increased risk of injury that has me currently avoiding primitive trails. (You do not even want to get me going on the treadmill aka: Satan’s Sidewalk)

4. Why did you start running? I originally started running to lose weight. I had joined a gym but got bored pretty quickly. I had never been the weightlifting type (nor was I a runner type, I quit track in high school) and wanted to try something different. Truth be told, I hated running at first….I mean REALLY hated it. I convinced myself, because all everyone was talking about was 5K this and Couch to 5K, so I was going to get to the 3.1 miles and be done with running, but when I hit that plateau something happened when I got there…something just clicked and I haven’t stopped since. It has become a part of me like nothing else has. It’s hard to explain to some people and impossible to explain to non runner but it has ignited a fire in me like nothing else ever has. In addition to the marathons, I’m currently training for a 50 and 100 mile race.

5. What keeps you motivated? What keeps me motivated is the pure passion to run. Running is no longer a want to, or a feel like doing, nor even a weight loss activity…it’s a have to, a must, a need to. Running truly give me the experience of growing physically, mentally, and spiritually. It provides me with a internal “buzz” that no substance or activity has ever come close to.

Ray is also testing for his running coach certification in two weeks. He gets to run in the NYC Marathon in November 2016…How cool is that? You can email him questions at Ray.Jerauld @ gmail.com.

Flashbacks

Last weekend I did a half marathon on the course where I did my first marathon in thirteen years. While I was prepared for the distance, I wasn’t prepared for the memories that would find me along the course.
The course followed the bike path around the lake. One lap for 13 miles, two laps for 26. When I did the marathon (my first in 13 years), I expected there would be less people on that second lap and that I would probably be running by myself for most of it. I could handle that. I did most of my training runs alone. It wouldn’t be much different. Right?
Wrong.
The first lap went well. There were lots of runners. The course was beautiful. The weather was perfect. There were spectators everywhere. My husband was biking around to take pictures and fill my water bottle, catching me every mile or so. It was great!
At mile 13, the majority of my running companions siphoned off the course to the finish line and I had to keep going.
In two miles, my kids would be cheering, so I had some motivation to keep going. I was also working on my caffeinated energy gels. Got to keep fueled up and the caffeine gives you an extra boost, right?
Wrong. Well, maybe for you.
I’m not a coffee drinker. In fact, I turn into a carsick hummingbird after a dose of caffeine. Unfortunately, I hadn’t made this connection with my energy gels. I figured my woozy stomach was from lack of fuel and water. (Let’s just say it took months to make this connection rather than days.) So I swallowed more gels. Those last miles were more unpleasant than they should have been. My husband missed me at one of his stops and didn’t catch up until I was 6 miles past him.
As I ran this past weekend, flashes of this race triggered in my head. Seeing the crowds cheering as we came around a corner and tackled a hill. Walking by a house. Walking by another house. Nobody cheering at that corner. The hill where I leap-frogged with another runner who had also adopted a run/walk strategy.  Walked by that house too. This stretch by the park, yes, this is where the swearing started.
As I came through the final mile, I remembered watching the half-marathoners veer to the right and the finish as I turned left and headed for the second lap. Their cheering sections were meeting them to celebrate.  This course ended at a different place. Again I had to keep going. I had lost sight of the runners in front of me and was once again running on my own.
But not really running on my own, I was running with the memories. As I came through that final stretch of the marathon course, some fellow runners who had completed their half were cheering me to the finish. I took that support with me through the last mile of this year’s half.

Loving my running group

I’ve been running since junior high. Catching, throwing, flexibility, or jumping side-to-side to hit a tennis ball aren’t in my areas of coordination, so running is naturally the sport for me. One foot in front of the other, no sudden movements, and no complex play strategies.
Much of my time with runners since then has been with people who are similarly-abled or who have chosen to run competitively. Some of them are very good, even flirting with elite competition. It’s been inspiring to see how hard they work and the levels they achieve. They are using their talents to see how much they can do with it.
I’m similarly inspired by Saturday morning running group. The people there run for many different reasons. They may be chasing a time on the finish clock, but their weekly miles are about more than making themselves a better runner and a healthier person.
They are logging miles or minutes to make their body healthier in response to a family history of heart disease or diabetes. They are there to lose weight that puts them at risk for a host of health problems. They didn’t start running in junior high or high school; they laced up their running shoes for the first time at forty or fifty.
It’s amazing to see how hard they are working to make their lives healthier and how far they have come because they chose to take control of their health and make their lives different.