Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Excuses, excuses...

Okay, so, I know I've had problems remembering to update my blog in the past, but this has gotten pretty ridiculous. I've gone through a variety of excuses since my last post in June. First, I was running rather poorly because of an IT band injury, and I also had a rough time getting back into training and getting myself focused. On top of all the running stuff, I was also working 2 jobs: front desk at a climbing gym, and working for a pet care company.

Approaching the second water crossing
I haven't done much racing at all in the past several months. The IT band started flaring up right before a few road miles and track meets I was planning on running, so I had to scratch those plans. I've been really curious about trail racing (I have a half-written post about trail running that I'll try to finish soon!), and one of my former coworkers from RoadRunner Sports was the race director for a trail half marathon in August, so I decided to jump in and give it a try. Starting at an elevation of over 8000ft and climbing (and descending) a total of about 2400ft over the course of the race, and crossing knee-deep water twice, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But it was SO. MUCH. FUN! I was very tempted to take the turn-off to finish the 10k, but I decided to just go ahead and do the whole thing. Not knowing how far behind me the 2nd woman was, and being forced to speed hike some of the really technical hills, I was running scared. I crossed the finish line as the first woman, just a few minutes behind the first man, in what was probably the slowest half marathon time I will ever run - well, at least for the next few decades. And, it turned out I had no reason to be running so scared, as the 2nd place woman was 45 minutes back. It was a really small field, and kind of lonely running the majority of the race alone, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I absolutely adore trail running. Any time it started to really hurt, all I had to do to forget the pain was look up at what a gorgeous place Red Feather Lakes, CO is!

After 6 weeks of easy running to reset physically and mentally, it was time to dive headfirst back into real training. My coach, Brad, didn't hesitate to throw me straight into the deep end. Every time he sent me a weekly training schedule, I thought he was nuts. Every workout sounded impossible to me. I thought there was no way I could make it through even a week of this training. But, I guess the break from serious training was exactly what I needed. I decided to just trust Brad and give my best effort, and I started to really surprise myself by nailing workouts I never would've even attempted just a year ago. I really don't know where it came from. But I felt so much stronger and more confident after a few weeks of great workouts with my amazing and fast teammates.

About 4 miles in, crossing the Charles
Addie, Maggie, Kara and me, Post-race
About 2 weeks ago, we went out to Boston to run the Tufts 10k for Women, which was serving as the USATF Women's Team 10k Championships. We didn't know what other teams would be attending, but we thought we had a chance to contend for one of the top spots. As I often do when coming down from altitude, I misjudged my effort level and started out way too fast. I felt really comfortable running the first mile in 5:35, but I knew it was probably a big mistake, and tried to back off a bit, running 5:45 for each of the next 2 miles. I still felt pretty strong at 4 miles, and still not terrible at 5 miles (1:25 under my 8km race time from the Chicago Shamrock Shuffle in April). But I really fell apart in the last 2k, and finished 50th in 36:23. That was 14 seconds faster than my PR, but I believe I could've run a better time if I had been able to start the race more conservatively. It was another good learning experience. We also finished 4th as a team behind Team USA Arizona, Boulder Running Co - Adidas, and the Hansons-Brooks Project. That's not too shabby for our first race together as a team!

Me, Maggie, Molly, Kara, and Addie receiving our team award

We're running a small 4k cross country race in Boulder in a few weeks, and our next major race is the USATF Club Cross Country Championships (a 6km) in Bend, OR in December, and it's looking like we might have 2 very strong women's teams going! :-)

Well, that's it for now. I'll try to get my trail post / trail shoe review up soon!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Spring Racing Recaps

I realize I've gotten pretty far behind on updating my blog. I normally go into a lot of detail about races, but I've let so much time pass from a few of them that I don't really remember all the little details. So, I'll save you some of the boredom and just hit the big points of what's happened since I returned from mono just over 2 months ago...

  • Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago: Since I had been running for less than 2 weeks before this race, I knew I had to dial back my expectations. I figured a reasonable goal would be to run around 30:00. I made a plan with my friend Jenny to try to run at least the first mile in a controlled pace together, and then adjust based on how it felt. Since it was my first bit of "faster" running since returning from mono, it felt really strange, but not terrible. The two major obstacles were getting tripped up by one of the wheelchair racers and having to come to a complete stop, and then the rough hill near the end. My official time was 30:07, but it took me several seconds to get across the start line, so I had myself on my watch at 30:02. Not too bad, given how sick I'd been 2 weeks prior!

  • Lincoln Half Marathon: Before I had gotten mono, this was supposed to be my "goal race" of the spring. Since I had already paid for entry and it was my birthday weekend, I decided to still go and treat it as a good longer effort. I foolishly thought it would be an easy payday. Having just come down from altitude, I had a really hard time judging my pace and went out WAY too hard. I felt smooth through about 6 miles and was even chatting with the guys around me, and then I hit the wall harder than I imagined possible in a half marathon. I went from 6:03 for the 7th mile to 6:40+. I'm also pretty sure that they built a mountain at Mile 9 that Lincoln didn't have before. Ouch! I ended up in a very painful place, where my bike escort had to remind me, "Amanda, you have arms. Use them!" and I only knew my name because spectators were reading it off my bib. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other and get myself across that finish line in 5th in 1:23. Yikes. At least the small check I earned covered my gas money for the trip...

  • Colorado School of Mines Last Chance Meet 1500m: The idea behind me doing this race was just to get comfortable back on the track again. Brad tried to convince me to run steeple, but I told him there was no way my first steeple in over a year was going to be at altitude. Steeple is hard enough without adding altitude into the mix! It felt a little silly racing a half marathon one weekend and a 1500 the next, but it was also fun to get back on the oval. I ran 4:59.7, which the NCAA altitude conversion calculator says is worth a 4:51.66, a slight improvement on my PR from last spring. It was a bit of a frustrating race, since I felt pretty good, but just couldn't get my legs to turn over any faster. I almost jumped into the 400 hurdles for fun and an instant PR, but decided against it.

  • BolderBoulder 10k:We almost decided to scrap this race, since my focus right now is on steeple, but I'd heard so many good things about the atmosphere at the BolderBoulder that I couldn't pass it up. With a trip to Boston just a few days later, the plan was to run this race conservatively as a workout. I'm so glad I did it! It was so much fun to be running easier and taking in all the spectators' shenanigans! Along the course, I saw a slip 'n' slide, Irish dancers, a pole dancer, and many other interesting sights. And, finishing as the 32nd woman in 39:19 (just a bit ahead of former high school phenom Melody Fairchild, who made many mid-race detours to hug spectators), I got a good tempo run in. So worth it!

  • New Balance Boston Twilight Steeple: Ah, the race that I was simultaneously dreading and looking forward to... Steeple is my baby. I absolutely love everything about this event! But, after 13 months away from it (and the memories of having to DNF my last race because the heat and humidity were too much for me), I was more than a little nervous, especially when I saw that the forecast predicted high temps and humidity. I stayed with a friend I hadn't seen in about 2 years, and he even helped me crush a workout a few days before the race. Thanks so much, Steve, for always being there for me! Brad and I both were pretty confident that I'm in PR shape, but when the temperature was 92 just a few hours before the race, we decided to kind of throw my time goal out the window. I didn't want to kill myself trying to hit that time and completely blow up. So, I shifted my focus to 1. not falling, 2. enjoying the race, 3. running strong and confident. While my 2nd place finish in 11:01.2 was pretty darn far from the time I wanted, I accomplished all 3 of my adjusted goals. I had a blast out there and I can't wait to do it again and lower my time! I'm so grateful to New Balance Boston for running such a great meet and having such stellar people on their team. I feel like Joanna, the winner of my race, and I would probably be "partners in crime" if we didn't live 1800 miles apart. I had so much fun getting to know her on our cooldown, and I wish her the best of luck in her next attempt to get a qualifying time for USAs!

Elite women's meeting with Benji Durden
  • West End 3k: For anyone who has been keeping track, the West End 3k was my 3rd race in 9 days. Needless to say, I didn't have very lofty expectations for this one. It was a hilly course at altitude, so I just wanted to get a strong effort in and run faster than I had in that steeple race. I must have looked nervous, because Brad told me about 4 times beforehand not to stress about it. Honestly, I had no idea how this race was going to go down, so I just wanted to take things as they came. The course consisted of 2 laps of a 1500m loop, the first half of which was uphill, and then we went back down. It was hard, yes, but I think the 3 hairpin turns were much worse than the hills because they slowed us so much and caused a few traffic jams. I was really surprised to be right in the lead pack of 8 women at the end of the first loop in 5:12-5:13. The second time up the hill was when the race really started. Some struggled as we fought to hold pace and position. By the turnaround at the top of the hill, I found myself in 4th, not far behind 3rd. I quickly learned that I really need to work on my downhill running weakness, as the other 3 just
    Thank you, Todd Straka, for this finishline photo of me and Colleen!
    kept pulling away. My training partner Nicole went on to win in 10:11, while I was just passed at the end by 4-time South African Olympian Colleen DeReuck (10:29) to finish 5th in 10:30. It's always a little annoying to finish a race feeling like maybe you could've run a few seconds faster, but I'm really pleased with my race and I had a lot of fun! The added bonus to this one was that Frank Shorter was the announcer, which I think is pretty awesome. 

So, I'm not sure what my next race will be - Brad and I still need to figure that out. I'm tossing around various ideas. But I've learned something important in the past couple races: I run better when I actually let myself enjoy running! I know that sounds like such an obvious statement, but it's something I had forgotten. No matter what we decide is next on my schedule, I'm thinking I need to put the "have fun" goal on the top of my priority list, since that's when I run my best races.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Growing a new human

Today I went for my first run since being sidelined with mono. I can honestly say it was harder than the first run back after any of my injuries, and possibly one of the most difficult runs I've ever completed. There was nothing glamorous about this run. It wasn't crazy fast or super long. In fact, I only ran 2 miles at 8:11/mi pace.

Exactly 9 months ago, I moved to Boulder. On June 19th, I bet I wouldn't have imagined that 9 months later I'd be running just 2 miles (normally, Tuesday means around 11 miles). And on June 19th, I never would have imagined that I would be okay with that. But, over the past 9 months, while several of my runner friends have produced beautiful infants, I've been growing a person too: a new me.

The old me would be really upset about only being able to run such a short distance and would be panicking about trying to scrap together something resembling fitness in time for my next planned race, which just happens to be 19 days from now. Actually, the old me would probably cancel the trip.

But the new me has found a new respect for my body. Sure, 2 miles is a lot shorter of a run than I normally do, but it's 2 miles further than I was able to run yesterday. Or any day in the past 2 weeks. I no longer see a 2 mile run as a failure. Rather, it's a successful first step that I'll be able to build upon a little more each day until I'm stronger and faster than I ever have been. And I'll be able to look back on "that one day when I had to stop after 2 miles because I felt like death" and it'll help me appreciate how far I've come.

As for cancelling my trip to Chicago... I would probably consider it if my only reason for going was to run fast. Of course I'd like to run fast, but there are other things drawing me there. I know that, realistically, I'm probably going to be running more of a tempo run than a race, but the trip is still more than worth it because my parents will get to see me run, I'll get to see my friend Jenny, and I'll get a few days with extra oxygen. Maybe it seems like the expense isn't worth it, but it's what my heart needs right now and I'm hoping that I'll come back to Boulder refreshed and ready to start working back into regular training.

So, here's to that first, humbling step I took today. And tomorrow I'll keep moving forward. And the new me is excited for the journey.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dial "M" for...


I have it. I was in denial and tried to train through it until last Tuesday, when my throat was too swollen to swallow food or drink and my fever hovered around 102. In the preceding three weeks, I had been to Urgent Care twice. Both times, they tested me for strep. And both times, it was negative. The second time, they also tested me for mono. That also came back negative. I was told there was no way I had an ear infection because: "You're not 5 years old." They also said that, at 23, I was probably "too old to have mono" because it's most common in the 18-22 age range. How does being one year outside that range guarantee that I don't have mono? I don't know. I didn't really understand their logic. But, last Thursday, I went to a different doctor, who immediately diagnosed me with an ear infection and ordered another mono test because my glands were so swollen it looked like I was trying to hide marbles in my neck. Please don't try to picture that. It was gross.

Sidenote: When the nurse was drawing my blood, everything was going well and then my blood just stopped flowing completely. She had to massage my vein to get things moving again. Has anyone else ever had that happen? Is it a low blood pressure thing? Weird.

Anyway... After just a few days on the antibiotics for my ear infection, my ear pain was gone and my sore throat was cured. Hallelujah! I figured that everything was fine and that I could start back to training again today. That was the plan, anyway, until I got a call from the doctor's office this morning informing me that I do, in fact, have mono.

As glad as I am to finally have an answer to why I was so deeply fatigued the past few weeks (rough workouts weren't just me being slow!), this obviously throws a wrench into my racing plans for spring. For now, I'm supposed to avoid contact sports -- so, that probably means no track racing :-P -- but I can do some easy running as long as I feel okay. Hard workouts are out for at least a couple weeks, though. I won't make any definitive plan until I'm fully healthy, but my hope is to still be able to head to Chicago for the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in a little under 4 weeks even though I will be pretty far from "race ready" at that point. Assuming I'm healthy by then, I can use it as a time trial to figure out where my starting point is and hopefully give us an idea of what kind of timeline we'll be looking at in picking a new goal race. I will still run the Lincoln half marathon on 5/5 as a long workout, but my goal will probably be something in the 10k-half range in June.

Usually, I use Saucony's slogan of "Find Your Strong" as a mantra to get me through hard workouts, but this illness is requiring me to find my Strong in a different way. I'm going to need to respect my body and listen to what it's telling me instead of being so freaking stubborn about pushing through it. There is certainly a time to soldier through and get it done, but there's also a time to rest and let your body heal itself. For the time being, finding my strong means learning to tell the difference between the two.

Since I'm going to be doing a lot of resting for a bit, and I've already gotten caught up on Doctor Who and How I Met Your Mother, I'd really appreciate suggestions on other ways to pass the time while I'm recovering from mono. Any TV shows I must watch? Any tips on how to recover more quickly from mono? Any requests for blog posts on particular topics? Want to share your story about you're finding your Strong? I want to hear it all!

**Note: I've never seen the movie "Dial M for Murder" but I thought it made for a more fun post title than the straightforward "I have mono."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Hardest Part of Love

The song I've embedded below has been popping into my head frequently over the past few days. Most of the lyrics don't really fit my situation, but I'm including the whole song just because it's a good one. 


The part that does fit? "The hardest part of love is the letting go."

For about the past year and a half, I've been very blessed to be a member of the Oiselle Team. The support and love I've felt from them has been incredible. When I joined the team, I was just an unsure baby bird, trying to figure things out. I was welcomed to the flock with open arms and encouraged to "Go fast. Take chances." While I didn't always go fast, I've definitely grown a lot as a person and a runner, and I've taken some pretty big chances. I've moved to Boulder, where I hardly knew anyone, quit a job I hated without a backup plan because life is too short to be miserable, and started working with an amazing coach. It's been pretty hard and scary at times; but, with the support of my fellow birds, I've worked to always keep my head up and my wings out.

The women I've met through Oiselle are friends I will keep for life. I love these women and will be forever grateful to them for helping me grow. Yet it's time for me to leave the nest. My heart is broken at the thought of leaving this amazing team, but I'm sure it's not really a "goodbye." Once a bird, always a bird! And the same goes for the people at 110%. I have had to forfeit my spot on the Playmaker roster because of sponsor competition, but they were very understanding and I look forward to growing in friendship with them as well. In fact, my running "family" is just growing... 

I'm excited to announce that I've been selected as a member of Saucony's 2013 Hurricane Team. Starting with my next race (the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago on 4/7), I'll be representing Saucony and spreading the "Find Your Strong" message. I'll definitely share more about this exciting change soon! Congratulations to all my new Saucony Hurricane teammates, including my HTS teammate Kara!

And, I can't say it enough... Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the women at Oiselle (especially Sally and Kristin) for believing in me and supporting me for the past year and a half! You will never know just how much your love meant to me and I'm so excited to watch you all continue to fly!