Big Fat Scary Goals: My 2016 Race Plans

Just like a runner needs rest days, sometimes runners need a “rest year.” No, not necessarily taking the whole year off, but scaling back. in 2015 I scaled back, but 2016 is here (well, it’s been here for 2 months already) and I’m ready again for a Big Fat Scary Goal (BFSG).

While races aren’t the sole motivation for me to run, I’m very goal-oriented (teacher, yo) and when I can work bit by bit toward something I enjoy, such as racing, it’s the extra kick in the pants I need to make the training happen.

I’ve got all of my races planned (and most are paid for) for this year. One advantage of entering early is not only to put the goal on the calendar, but the race fees are cheaper! (Again, teacher, yo) Here are my races for 2016:

2/21/16: Big Chili 5k, Danbury, CT  I signed up for this in January, then later booked my daughter’s birthday party for the same morning. OOPSIE. There was no way I was going to skip her Star Wars/Peanuts/Shopkins-themed movie party. I was also needed to help put assemble the totally rando favor bags, which contained a Shopkin and a whoopee cushion. Take that, Pinterest suckas! Anyway, last year’s Big Chili was the one where I won an Age Group award because I showed up. While I wasn’t there to defend my “title”,  watching my daughter teach nine 2nd-grade girls how to use a whoopee cushion was totally worth it.

3/20/16: New York City Half Marathon, NY, NY  Back in December, my bank alerted me that this would be my spring running goal. How? Entry for this race was via lottery, and I’d forgotten I entered (what can I say? Mom Memory). Turns out I not only entered, but won a slot, when the alert from my bank app let me know that New York Road Runners charged me for the race. That’s what happens when you “put things out to the universe” and then forget about them.

This race will be an interesting experiment, as I had fairly major sinus surgery in January, and I’m not back to full fitness yet. I’m tempted to Galloway myself (run/walk intervals) through this race and aim for a sub 2:00-hour time. We shall see. Might be pie-in-the-sky. Another post on that later. I ran this race in 2013, and it’s in my “Top 5 Most Fun” races list (in my head). Before that 2013 race I was on the road to recovery from illness (pneumonia) and I vowed to have fun instead of gunning for a PR. I will most definitely have fun again this year. Here’s a pic from 2013:

NYC Half Marathon

Times Square

 

5/1/16: Redding Road Race/The Run For the Cows Half Marathon, Redding, CT  This race sells out every year, as it’s gaining in popularity because it’s super challenging/hilly and very well directed, with nice swag and prizes. Not to mention gorgeous scenery. Luckily, it’s just a 10 minute drive from my house, so I can train on those very same hills. Since NYC will be an experiment-slash-training run, this became my A-goal race. I’m not sure what my A-goal is at the moment, though. Stay tuned.

5/8/16: Run Like a Mother 5k (Volunteering) Ridgefield, CT This hometown race is just a hop, skip, and a jump from my house, too (sleep, yo). I’m volunteering again as  The Run Fairy: Coming In Last So You Don’t Have To. I get to see tons of friends (sometimes it’s their 1st race!) and cheer them on. It’s super fun and uplifting, and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’m going to up my costume game this year, too. PREPARE YOUR EYES. Here’s last year!

5k, mother's day, run like a mother

The start of the kids’ race. You can’t see the wings, but they’re there! (Photo by Lisa Cousins Photography)

 

6/5/16: Tri-Ridgefield Sprint Triathlon, Ridgefield, CT I can practically just roll out of bed and be there for this one (again, sleep, yo!) This will be my 3rd time racing Tri-Ridgefield, having done it in 2013 and 2014. I skipped 2015, as I did the Brooklyn Half Marathon around that time last year instead. This tri is an 800 yd (maybe meters? not sure) swim, 12.5 mile bike, and 5k run, because triathlons like to make life harder by measuring in both metric and US units. I’m looking forward to the (almost) annual triathlon date with my husband as the run course is out-and-back and we get to slap hands when we pass each other, how romantic. I’m not looking forward to potential freezing lake water (open water panic attacks) or potential high pollen counts (wheezing). But I’ll be there to kick off the triathlon part of my Year of the Big Fat Scary Goals.

wetsuit triathlon Ridgefield

This was 2014’s swim exit. Gotta dust off the ole ripplesuit, er, wetsuit. Oh the humanity.

So far, any of the races or distances I’ve listed, I’ve done before. Next I’m bracing myself for some new Big Fat Scary Goals (BFSG’s).

7/17/16: Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon, New Hartford, CT  An Olympic-length triathlon is just about double-length of a sprint: 0.9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike ride, and a 10k (6.2 miles) run. This race will be at a nice, calm lake in central Connecticut, with rolling hills on the bike ride. But this is just a mere tune-up for the big enchilada…

9/4/16: Big George Half-Iron Distance Triathlon, Lake George, NY!!!!!   1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run! Logically, I can do this. I know I can run 13.1 miles. A couple of years ago, I worked up to a mile in the pool, so I can do that again. But 56 miles on the bike? Don’t tell my butt; it will freak out. Emotionally, I will focus on the positives and not the scaries: I purposely choose a fall tri so that I could train over the summer, when I have more time. My family and I are making a vacation weekend out of it. Lake George, NY is positively gorgeous, and no matter what happens, I get to do this race with one of my BRF’s, Lori. I can’t remember who roped who into this, but we’re in it together.

Big George Triathlon

WOWZA
(From their website)

Also on my radar:

I want volunteer for the NYC Marathon again this year, in early November. Last year I was a finish line marshal, and it was amazing. It was like riding along with others’ highs. If my schedule will allow I will volunteer again.

I feel like I need a late-fall goal, since Big George is pretty early in September. I’m thinking possibly the Richmond (Half) Marathon, as it’s a three-day weekend allowing for travel time, and my dear cousin lives there!

There you have my Big Fat Scary Goals for the year. Please tell me I’m not alone in my craziness of having BRSG’s, but they give me joy, anxiety (in a good way), and ultimately remind me that I am alive. Tell me your BFSG, right now. Even if it’s not endurance-related. Here’s to all of our BFSG’s in 2016!

 

 

 

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Mingoman Triathlon: Calm the Heck Down

This is a very tardy race report. Since school started in late-ish August, I’m busier than a mosquito at a nudist colony.

The Mingoman Triathlon was pretty great for an inaugural race – one could tell this company has put on other tris before. Just some tiny little tweaks I would change, but no major issues. You can read about my pre-race tri-anxiety here.

So how was it? Short version: Pretty darn good.

Pre-event: We had over an hour drive to get up to Delaware, OH, a cute little town just north of Columbus. Dan was doing the Olympic version of the tri, and my friend Janet was doing her first sprint tri.

The point-to-point course complicated things a bit. We drove to the swim/transition #1 and set up our bikes in the dark. Then we drove to the finish/transition #2 and parked, and took the shuttle back to the swim start. I know, I’m confused too.

Once we were back at the reservoir for the start, it was daylight (albeit overcast) and I entered the water to warm up a bit. The water was 68 degrees, which meant it was wetsuit legal. When I got in, the water clarity was so poor that I COULD NOT SEE MY HAND EXTENDED IN FRONT OF MY FACE. Talk about sensory deprivation! That could definitely set off an Open Water Panic Attack. I told myself to calm the heck down, and continued my half-blind warmup.

Swim: After a delayed start (the prior waves did not go off on time), I ran into the water, and a little voice inside me told me that today would be a good day to try and dolphin dive to gain momentum. I should’ve told that voice to shut up. I dove a couple of times, bumped into a few people because I couldn’t see a damn thing underwater, started to freestyle, and immediately lost my breathing rhythm. After a few sputters and head pop-ups, and a brief chat with myself to calm the heck down, I was able to get some momentum. I knew I had to get used to being under-water-blind. Normally I sight (sighting is popping your head up and forward on a breath to make sure you’re going where you want to go) every 12th stroke, but this time, I did every 8th. After a couple of hundred yards, I finally found a rhythm. I wasn’t ever fully “calm and smooth” like my mantra was in last year’s TriFitness race, and I about crashed into other swimmers many times, because I couldn’t even see their wake of bubbles until it was too late. I almost got smashed in the nose with a foot —again with the water blindness. I finally reached the shore, climbed out, and breathed my usual big sigh of relief.

Transition 1: Due to this being a point-to-point tri, I avoided the dreaded DERP DANCE of INDECISION, (which is when one is so adrenaline-fueled that you can’t remember what you need next), and I was able to strip out of my wetsuit, hop on my bike and go. I did, however, need to make sure that all of my swim stuff was packed into the provided race bag, as it would be transported back to the finish line for me. Lost a few seconds there. Trying to pack a wet wetsuit into a small plastic bag is hard and silly, but it had to be done. Off I go!

Bike: Flat road. Corn. Soybeans. Sang to myself. Found a zen place in my mind. More corn. Sun came out. More soybeans. Kept telling myself to calm the heck down and enjoy it. Saw my shadow and thought, Who the heck IS that person? Marty McFly performed wonderfully. It was a lovely ride – I think this was my favorite part of the race. 21 miles…done!

Transition 2: Easy-peasy. Rack bike, change shoes, eat a GU, and go.

Run: The first half mile was a decent-sized hill. The sun was out, and it was hot, but I managed to pass a few people. I was working pretty hard, harder than I wanted, and I was trying to save some for the last mile. So I calmed the heck down, dialed back my pace a little, and just tried to keep in motion. There were some rolling hills, playing the part of equalizers, as many central Ohio triathletes don’t have many hills to train on but back in Connecticut I sure do! The run course was in town, so there were quite a few spectators, and the Delaware High School cheering squads were out in full force. As I came into the last 1/2 mile, I passed Dan as he headed out on his second lap. I stepped on the gas…

mingoman triathlon

“Two thumbs up!” appears to be my new thing.

My lungs were burning, and after I crossed the finish line in 2:03:22, I received a finisher’s medal that quickly rose to up to being in my top 3 of race medals:

Mingoman triathlon

Clever!

That’s bike chain encircling it, folks. And, it’s not big and gaudy. LOVE IT.

I got to spectate and cheer for Dan and Janet when they came in. I’m so proud of Jan.

mingoman triathlon

You go girl!

mingoman triathlon

Me nd the hubs on yet another tri-date.

Sooooo…did I meet my goals?

Swim: A dreamy result would have been 18:00 or under. I hit 18:09! (It felt a little short, though, I have to admit. Or maybe I just swam straighter? I’ll take straighter.)

Bike: I had no idea what my goal should’ve been for this, as 21 miles is an odd distance. I had hoped for 1h 20m or less. With an average of 17.2 miles per hour, I smoked a 1:13:04!

Run: Was really hoping to break 26:00 on this one, but the heat got me and I’m happy with the 27:41 I was able to pull off.

I found out later that was good enough for second place in my age group! WAA-HOO!

mingoman triathlon

It’s real plaque that I can hang on my wall and lord over my minions. #lookatallthesportssayings

My husband won 1st in his age group for the Olympic distance. IT’S A FAMILY SWEEP! (Kinda.)

So much for keeping calm.

can-t-keep-calm-i-just-placed-in-my-age-group

NEXT: New York City Marathon training continues…stay tuned!

The Too Bad, So Sad, Your Granddad Marathon, Part II: The Race

Here’s my race report of my very first marathon, the Lehigh Delaware Heritage Marathon. In Part I, explained how I came to run this race instead of the ING NYC Marathon, and left off where I’m freezing my hiney off at the start line.

marathon

Freezing.

And then the gun goes off!

We did a little loop around the race start, which was nice because the runners got to see the people cheering for them.

Lehigh marathon

My daughter and my mother in dueling pink coats.

My mom and brother had to get on the road back to Ohio, so I didn’t get to seem them again for the rest of the race. Sad face. 😦

We ran a couple of loops through Northhampton roads,

marathon lehigh

This woman made a shrug from an old race shirt. Brilliant.

and I held back, not wanting to take off too fast. I stayed with the 4:30 finish pacer gal. After the first 3-4 miles, we headed north onto a rail trail next to the Lehigh River. It was hard-packed cinders, and it was a trail…a trail-run marathon!

lehigh marathon

The Lehigh River.

It was quite pretty. The sun was starting to peek out. The trail, while cinder-ed up, was wide, with a gradual elevation gain (aka a “false flat” – it looks flat, but it’s just fooling you).

Lehigh marathon

Endless.

Saw some nice signage…

lehigh marathon

Bart Simpson and his buddy. Cracking me up!

I felt good for the first 7-8 miles. Then the wind, which had been a polite breeze before, roared into a brisk headwind. At times I had to hold onto my hat to keep it from blowing away. The wind cut through my running pants and slapped my cheeks. The 4:30 pacer girl was starting to slip ahead a little further. Oh boy. I found a couple of ladies to pace with, and we chit-chatted for a while. Both just happen to be teachers. (Teachers make the best runners. We’re so goal-oriented.)

It was right about then that every ache and malady I’ve ever had running, even some that I’ve not had in years, popped up by mile 10. Achilles? Hadn’t felt it in 3 years, until then. IT band? Tightened up like a rope. Of course, the plantar fasciitis (heel pain) in both feet that I’ve been successfully able to corral into “maintenance mode” this entire training period was SCREAMING at me by mile 12. Eeew-boy. And I hadn’t even finished a half-marathon yet.

Coming up on Mile 13, though, I saw a lovely sight: my husband and two kids yelling and waving, and MARY!!

lehigh marathon

Spotting Mary and her daughter Miss B (in the red glasses).

After saying hello and a quick hug, I headed off on paved track away from the river, for a 3 mile loop that would take us back past where the family/friends were. I was dying for a bathroom. My lungs were tight, as it was the first really cold run I’ve had this season. I love running in the cold weather, but I don’t think my lungs were acclimated and I ended up taking a few puffs of my inhaler during the race (that’s a first). I felt immediate relief, BUT STILL.

I headed back toward mile 17 and Mary’s husband Michael caught these pics of spectators doing The Wave for the runners:

lehigh marathon

Pre-wave…

lehigh marathon

The Wave: Not just for stadiums.

I finished the loop and met up with the family and Mary again. I had to give Mary a great big hug…

lehigh marathon

I was hoping desperately that a hug would make the foot pain go away.

Obviously it was so great and uplifting to see Mary on the course. But maybe that was another thing that just threw me off. I’m used to having Mary next to me for races…even on the long runs she would run part of it with me. Seeing her on the sidelines felt weird, and lonely. I know that sounds silly, of course I know that it’s me, and only me that can get myself over the finish line, but after the hugs at mile 13 and mile 17, I felt a huge pang of missing her. She’s like a sister to me. After the race she told me it felt weird being on the sidelines and not out there too. Sigh.

lehigh marathon

Only Mary could make a port-a-potty background look good.

I had to take a bathroom break. Luckily no lines, but with all the crap I had to carry with me, it took a while to get re-situated. I lost about 5 minutes, I’d say. Not that it really mattered at this point, as the 4:30 pacer girl was long gone. I kissed the fam, and took off. Lordy, 9 more miles. It might as well have been 20 more. My son took this photo of me, and really, there’s not much exaggeration in my facial expression:

lehigh marathon

That about sums up how it felt.

Miles 17-19 I tried my best to get into Run-Forrest-Run mode. I couldn’t believe I was feeling that much pain when all of my long training runs had been good runs. I had to do a couple of walk breaks. My achilles was inexplicably painful again. Wait – there IS an explanation – I was back on cinders going gradually uphill. Great.

Around mile 19, I pass the finish line on the other side.

lehigh marathon

Just such a tease!

I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be motivating: “Hey, there’s the finish line, you’ll be here soon!” or demoralizing: “Hey, there’s the finish line, you’ve got 6 more miles, sucka!” In-Training Nancy would’ve picked the first. Marathon Nancy selected the latter.

We entered some sort of parkland, which in my mind resembled some sort of Death Valley.

lehigh marathon

Death Valley?

Runners heading in the opposite direction were passing by.

lehigh marathon

I might have looked like a green-eyed monster right about then.

Somehow, it got colder and windier. I was just starting to fall into a numb-footed rhythm, when suddenly around a bend at mile 20, seemingly out of nowhere, they send us on a hiking trail, 200 feet STRAIGHT UP.

lehigh marathon

NO JOKE.

The gal in black in the photo above and I blurted out “Holy Crap!” at the same time, and look around incredulously, like it couldn’t possibly be the way to go. But it was.

lehigh valley

Remind me to bring my hiking boots next time.

Not one person ran up the hill. I couldn’t have run up it even if I wanted to – I was afraid I’d REALLY pop my achilles. The expletives started entering my head.

At the top of the hill,

lehigh marathon

The view was the only nice thing about that hill.

it flattened out a tiny bit…and just kept climbing for the next 2 miles.

lehigh marathon

Good god, make it stop.

At this point the trail had large sections of giant, ankle-twisting gravel…

lehigh marathon

Pure torture. It might as well have been loose sand.

…and I just kept saying to myself, “Don’t face plant, pick up your feet,” over and over again. This was when I wanted to quit.

I’ve never, ever wanted to quit a race before. Wanted it to be over? Yes. Quit? No.

This was a new and highly unpleasant place to be. I was losing the mind game. My mantras weren’t working. Thinking of my Gramma wasn’t working. My music was making me all pissy (No, I’m Not On Top Of the World, Imagine Dragons). All I could think was, “What am I doing to myself? This is torture!” I started tearing up.

By the time I got down the mountain at about mile 23, I was shuffling, barely lifting my feet off the ground. I was walking waaaay more than I cared to. I was fighting constant tears. It was friggin’ cold. THIS WAS NOT FUN ANYMORE. Then a glimmer of fun peeked around the corner with about 1/2 mile to go. The glimmer was tiny and cute and has my eyes:

lehigh marathon

Sometimes we call him Bub. He’s the best.

My 7 y.o. son  was waiting for me, and he started running on down the empty parking lot parallel to the trail – running with me! It certainly put a little spring into my step. I didn’t want him to see me cry/walk/fail. We smiled and giggled and we ran into the finish chute together holding hands – a first. We never would have been able to do that in NYC. Bub and I have been knocking heads a little lately, so it was a soul-boosting moment, despite the physical hurt.

lehigh marathon

Smiling.

I squeaked in under 5 hours. I honestly couldn’t believe it. After mile 20, I thought for sure 5+ hours was my destiny. Under ideal conditions, I wanted 4:30. Under these less-than-ideal conditions, I guess I’ll take what I can get.

So here’s my grand analogy: It’s like you’ve been planning for your big wedding for months upon months, and for logistical reasons, you have to cancel the wedding 2 days beforehand. So, you decide to go elope in the boonies with just a couple of friends/family. The end result is still the same (you’re married), but you didn’t get to wear the white dress or have that first dance and it’s just…not…quite…how you pictured it happening.

So if that holds true, then I need to be satisfied with the marriage, not the wedding. I need to be proud to be a marathoner, even if it wasn’t NYC. Because in the end, it’s the journey, not the destination, right?

lehigh marathon

Why I run.

I’m going to mull that over while I go soak my feet for a million years or so.

First Time Finishers: Erica and Chris

It’s really fun being a spectator when your friends are running a race for the first time. But it’s really fun when you get to spectate AND hang out with this guy:

first time finisher 5k

“Dude, this looks like fun.”

My friends Chris and Erica tackled the Candace Lee WIlliams Run To Remember 5k this fall. Baby J and I hung out and cheered.

We couldn’t have been more proud. Chris had run in a prior life, but it had been a while. Erica hadn’t run consistently before training. Baby J isn’t a year old yet, so suffice to say and even getting out for a walk is hard, let alone training for a 5k. AND YET THEY ROCKED IT.

5k first time training

No, you cannot have my favorite race hat, J.

The last half mile is completely uphill. You know I like hills, but this hill was impressive – like the type you avoid in the snow because you know you’ll just spin your wheels and go backward.

No going backward here. Check out Chris and his cousin Mark coming in for the finish:

first time 5k training

Chris (L), with a look of pure, steely focus. Or he’s thinking about that post-run homebrew. Probably both.

And Erica finishing her first 5k, uphill, less than a year after having a baby, stomping out a sub-40 minute finish. I seriously got teary.

5k first time training

That is a runner!

There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you set a goal and cross that finish line. I have a feeling there will be more of these in their future!

5k first time finish training

And J and I will be there to root them on.

Congrats my friends!

5k training first time finish

Love these guys.

Shout Out To First Time Finishers: Dr. M

I just want to give a shout out to Dr. M, my former principal, who recently finished his first half marathon. He recently informed me that he is planning on doing 2-3 more this fall. Can you say HOOKED??!!

First Half Marathon Fairfield

Myself, Dr. M, and Mary after finishing the Fairfield Half Marathon. Huzzah for Edu-Runners!

Seeing him after the race so happy, elated and proud was amazing. There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get after you see how you can push your body (and your mind – let’s face it, much of running is a mind game) and see all the hard work you’ve done pay off.

I reminded me of my first race – The Weston Memorial Day 5k in 2010, and really pushing myself to finish those 3.1 miles…exhausted but exhilarated. My first long race – the Capital City Half Marathon in 2011 – was straight-up electrifying. Running with 14,000 runners in a well-run race was thrilling beyond my expectations. How did I feel when I finished? Check out the photo at the top of this blog.

So cheers to Dr. M! May you have many more smiling post-race photos ahead of you.

I want to hear about your first race (or a significant one). Tell me about it in the comments!

P.S. Hopefully I will have a non-stumbling, coherent first marathon finish in November. Help me help a great cause by donating to my LitWorld Marathon fundraiser. Thanks!