Runners Tell All: My Proudest Moment

I've always considered hitting a new distance to be proud running moments. Under that definition, I have too many proudest moments to count. Every distance PR I've ever hit, all the way from .25 up to 26.2 miles, all fall under that category. I remember each and every one of them and, even as I continued to increase in distance, none of those new moments of pride ever overshadowed the previous ones.

Running has never been easy for me, but looking back, increasing distance wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. N.B.As I thought it would be. It was still freakin' hard. Running faster has been a completely different story. As a new Couch to 5k graduate, I could run steadily, but my comfortable pace was 12+ minute miles. I might as well have been in the Olympics if I ran an 11 minute pace. Over the years, my pace has improved naturally, but I still never really pushed myself to run fast.

Until recently. Since the beginning of this year, I've started incorporating some speed work into my running. Nothing fancy, nothing too specific, and sometimes infrequent, but I figure some is better than none.

A few weeks ago I lined up at the start line of a 10k. It was a low-key race, in my neighborhood (on much of my same running route, in fact), no big deal. I had PR'ed the last 10k I ran in October (57 minutes on the dot/ 9:10 average page), and I wanted to PR this one. But when I looked at my splits from that race in October, hoping to feel better about my chances, I actually felt worse. I had no idea how I had managed to run those times. I knew that if I had any shot of PRing this race, I had to run fast, and I had to do it for the whole time.

When I started the race, I immediately pushed my pace. I had planned to start out slower, but the race day nerves got to me. I had planned to try to run intervals (since that's how I do my speed work, and it works out really well), but after the first one I felt burnt out. I was never going to make it doing that for the whole race. I scrapped the interval plan and ran steadily. I ran hard. I ran aggressively, something I'd only ever really done once (it didn't go so well). The whole race I watched my average pace continue to drop. Every mile marker I'd look at my watch and do mental math - if I dropped back to a 10 minute pace, could I still PR?

Somehow I managed to keep my pace up. I was getting tired so I dropped my pace by a few seconds during Mile 5. I wanted to conserve some energy so that when I got to 5.2 miles, I'd have enough gas left in the tank to really bust it out at the end. I didn't look at my watch very much at the end. By that point I knew I had the PR in the bag - now the question was, if I run like hell, just how big of a PR could I pull off?

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 55:12 (8:54 average pace). Not only was it a big PR, but it was the longest I'd ever run a sub-9 minute pace. I even finished 5th in my age group out of 39 people!
Accidentally pressed the lap button a couple times - oops
I've run almost 40 races, including 2 marathons and a handful of triathlons. Because of my obsession with distance, I never thought my proudest running moment would come in a 10k. I'm not just proud of my numbers in this race, but I'm proud that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to get there. I can truly say I ran a smart race, and that is something I'm really proud of.

Day in the Life: Triathlon Edition

On Saturday, I completed my first triathlon of the season, the Jamestown International Triathlon. International sounds fancy but it's not, it just refers to the distance - 1500m swim (=.9 mile), 40k bike (=24.8 miles), 10k run (=6.2 miles). So, what is it really like to compete in a triathlon? I'm here to give you the play-by-play:

4:00am: The alarm goes off. OMG it's early. 

4:10am: Get ready. Apply liberal amounts of sunscreen. 

4:21am: Make breakfast but be too nervous to eat it. 

4:22am: Where's my peanut butter, mom? He knows the sound the jar makes when I open it and comes running every time.

 4:25am: Ready to go! Spandex is a really flattering look, in case you didn't know.

4:27am: I think I'm forgetting's my Sweaty Band! It's right there waiting for me when I open the dryer. I take that as a good omen.

4:30am: Check to see if my ride is here. Not yet. Still dark outside. 

4:32am: Legs up the wall while I wait.

4:35am: Ride's here, time to go!

4:56am: Arrive at my dad's house. Load bikes onto his car - our friend's is in front, my dad's is behind it but it's black and still dark outside so you can't see it #triathleteprobs, and mine is in the back of the car.

5:55am: Arrive at triathlon location. Pump tires, double check bags, get ready to head to transition.

Tri term #1: Transition - Designated area for gear needed for all 3 events. This is where the bike, shoes, and anything else you need stay while you're out on the course. You come back to it after the swim to - you guessed it - transition to the bike, then again after the bike to transition to the run.

6:15am: All ready!

6:20am: Get to check-in area, present ID and USAT card, and pick up packet.

Tri term #2: USAT - USA Triathlon, the official governing body for triathlon. Everyone competing must be covered by USAT and can do so by either purchasing an annual membership for $45 or a one-day membership for the event for $12. If doing the one-day option, that's an additional cost added to registration. Triathlons are expensive, y'all. 

Tri term #3: Packet - Like a running race, the packet includes the bib and SWAG (including t-shirt). Triathlon packets also have 2 stickers with your number on them. One goes on the middle bar of the bike and one goes on the front of the helmet. 

6:25am: Get body marked. Feel badass.

Tri term #4: Body marking - Race number Sharpied onto your upper arms and age onto the back of your calf. I don't actually know the reason for this but I think it's to serve as your "bib" for the swim, for identification purposes. No one I know knows the real reason why your age has to be on your calf, except that it makes it easy to identify the people in your age group to pass them on the bike and run ;)

6:27am: Almost forgot my timing chip! Run back to get it and now I'm ready. 

6:30am: Transition area all set up! The time spent in transition is added into your overall time, so the goal is to set everything up logically so you can get out of there as quickly as possible! 

6:35am: Squeeze into my wetsuit

6:40am: Pre-race porta potty visit, the most important part of any race!

6:45am: Transition closes, which means my phone is no longer accessible, so no pictures for a few hours!

6:50am: Notice that one side of my goggles is broken. Awesome. Hope they last for the swim.

6:52am: Walk down to the beach where the swim starts. 

7:00am: The race starts! Still have 8 minutes before it's my turn, though.

7:05am: Get into the water and wait for my wave's turn. Some races have you start on the beach at the edge of the water, some have you start in the water.

Tri term #5: Wave - also like running races, not everyone starts at once. Instead, there are waves/corrals that start at different times. Unlike running races, where the corrals are based on pace, triathlon waves are broken up according to gender, age, or both. This was a fairly small race so all the women were in one wave.

7:08am: The horn sounds for my wave to start!

~7:10am: Spend the first couple of minutes trying not to get hit or kicked in the face. Successful.

~7:13am: Make it to the first buoy and make the first turn. There are several large, inflatable buoys to help guide swimmers in the right direction, and even larger buoys in a different color to signify where to turn.

~7:23am: Halfway. Make the turn to head back in the other direction. Water is slowly leaking into the left side of my goggles. Now that I've turned, every time I breathe I have to look right at the sun. Try breathing on the other side and just end up swallowing some water. Obviously that's not going to work.  I keep trying to sight but I can't see anything. Suck it up and resign myself to not being able to see anything for the remainder of the swim.

Tri term #6: Sighting: Looking up every  few strokes to look for buoys and make sure you aren't swimming off to the other side of the river. 

~7:27am: I can see the buoy marking the final turn! My left goggle is continuing to fill with water so I have to close my left eye for the remainder of the swim.

~7:30am: That buoy is NOT getting any closer!

~7:32am: Finally at the buoy, make the last turn to head toward the shore. Can't see the shore because the sun is beaming right into my face and off the water.

~7:34am: Can't see anything. I hope I'm swimming the right way. I can see splashing a few feet in front of my so I'm going to assume that's the right direction.

~7:36am: I notice people around me starting to stand up so I must be close. Put my foot down - yep, I can definitely touch here. Stand up and look at my watch for the first time. I'm shocked (in a good way) to see that it's just over 28 minutes. Start wading toward the shore to end the swim. Sometimes I'll keep swimming until it's too shallow to swim anymore, but at this point I'm over the swim.

~7:38am: Hit the timing mat on the beach and clock myself at 30 minutes 2 seconds. My goal for the swim was 32 minutes!

~7:41am: Finally make it back to transition. This race has one of the longest runs back to transition, probably a quarter mile total from the beach to where my bike is racked.

~7:43am: Out of transition and onto the bike. I'm always nervous about mounting at the right place but luckily there are a handful of volunteers near the mount/dismount line telling us to wait until AFTER the line to mount.

Tri term #7: Mount/Dismount line - Line at the beginning/end of the bike course that dictates when you can get on and off the bike. You have to cross it before you can get on the bike to start, and get off the bike before you cross it when you finish. Otherwise you will get a 2 minute penalty added to your time. This is probably the most stressful part of the whole race for me!

~8:15am: I feel GREAT on the bike. This doesn't usually happen. The bike is my least favorite part. I attribute it to the fact that there is virtually no wind.

~8:30am: I'm past the turnaround and about 45 minutes into the bike. This is usually the time when I'm ready to be done. I still feel pretty good and even though I want to be done, it passes.

~9:05am: The bike is over! My goal was 1 hour 25 minutes and I clock in at 1 hour 22 minutes!

~9:07am: Finally out on the run. I can tell pretty much immediately that this is going to be a slow one. Sometimes my legs feel great off the bike but today they feel like bricks.

~9:17am: A mile into the run and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make my goal time of 1 hour. I'm cool with that. I'm taking my time and I'm not mad about it.

~9:43am: I've just passed the turnaround and I see my dad heading toward it.

~10:00am: I've traveled over 30 miles today by land and sea with just my legs and arms. One mile left to go!

~10:05am: I'm just not feeling the run today. I slow down to walk for a few seconds with about half a mile left and my dad yells from behind me. I tell him I'm just slowing down waiting for him ;)

~10:11am: Cross the finish line! Get my medal, a bottle of water, and a cold towel.

~10:12am: Post-race party time! Pizza + Beer = Breakfast of Champions.

~11:30am: Pack up and leave transition

11:45am: More post-race goodies. I didn't get to celebrate National Donut Day on Friday, so I made up for it with 2 donuts on Saturday.

2:19pm: Finally home. Admire shorts tan.

2:27pm: Kitty snuggles and nap time! Pass out for 3 hours.

7:26pm: Dinner date! A selfie is definitely necessary because I just learned how to curl my hair correctly for the first time in my almost 27 years.

9:35pm: End the night with fireworks!