Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hello Awesome: Finding the Courage to Believe

February in Texas is always a little unpredictable. One week you have highs in the 80's and the next week you are hit with Thundersleet and mass school closures. So when you sign up for a February race you just have to be prepared that Mother Nature might not be on her meds that week and you could have basically any extreme.

As many of you know I had been working my tail off training for this year's Cowtown Half Marathon. It was going to be my PR race and if everything went just right I was going to run my first sub 3 hour half.  While that seems so slow compared to many of my running friends, this was a BIG deal for me.

I can honestly say I put more heart and soul into my training than I have ever had, with maybe the exception of my first half marathon. For so long I had just accepted the fact that I was a slow runner I never really tried to get any faster, finishing was all that really mattered. When I finally decided that I wanted to get faster I hired a coach and went all in. In order to really tell my race day story, I have to give you a little back story as well! :)

My sweet (and super fast!!) friend Little Amy would always tell me, "You are faster than you think. You can run faster."  Her encouragement is part of what got me to the point of wanting to get faster but I didn't truly believe those words. Even though I was getting faster and seeing results each workout, in the back of my mind I was still that slow girl I had come to identify with. Then one day that all changed.

AJ, Jen, Kipper and I all signed up to run the Hot Chocolate 15k in Dallas the first weekend of February. It was COLD, but thankfully sunny. In order to avoid standing in the wind any longer we jumped up several corrals so we could just get started.

For the first mile I knew was going too fast. I was keeping up with AJ but I wanted to get through the crowd so I could set into my pace. The course had quite a few more hills than I expected but I was feeling really good. I use Map My Run and each mile a voice come on and tells you your pace for the last mile, as well as your overall average pace. At Mile 7 I started to panic!! I ran 12:45 mile and was averaging right around 13:00. I started to slow up a bit telling myself "I don't run that fast! I better slow down or I won't make it!" Then something clicked. I do run that fast, I had just gone 7 miles that fast and still felt really, really good!! I will never forget that moment. At Mile 7 everything changed.

Fast forward a few weeks to the week of Cowtown. It is expected to be cold and rainy both Saturday for the 5k and Sunday for the Half.  Naturally I started to panic about the rain.  If it was bad on Saturday I wasn't going to risk slipping on wet roads and would just hold off for the Half on Sunday. Little did I know that rain was going to be the least of my concerns.

Come Thursday the sleet and snow from the week before decided to make a reappearance. I was glued to the Cowtown Marathon Facebook, page waiting for updates.

Friday morning came the first announcement: Expo was not opening on Friday and Saturday's races were canceled. At that point I was fine. We were only doing the 5k for fun and to earn the challenge medal. We would have to wait till Saturday to see what would happen so Kipper and I settled in for a fun snow day.

Saturday morning we got word that the Expo would open at 1:00 p.m. so we all planned to meet up there that afternoon. Kipper had a 3 hour ride scheduled on the CompuTrainer at Trident so I packed some snacks and my iPad to tag along so we could go to the Expo afterwards.  The roads were bad and had not melted nearly as much as I had hoped.

By the time we finally made it to the Expo the parking lot was like an ice skating rink and lines were longer than I have ever seen them. Some people waited up to an hour to get their packets! I felt so bad for the volunteers and staff. While most people where very kind some were down right rude, especially on social media. As someone who used to plan outdoor events for 10,000-15,000 people (that typically fell during hurricane season with crazy thunderstorms) I knew exactly what they were going through. I always try to thank volunteers and race workers, but this year I made a point to be overly appreciative to them.

Late that afternoon they canceled the Full and Ultra Marathons, but the Half Marathon was still a go with a later start time. Given that the back half of the Full and Ultra courses were on many less traveled residential streets and the trails, this call made plenty of sense. They could focus on clearing the major roads and those runners were invited to run the Half if they wanted. AJ and I still planned to run, but poor Jen was stuck in her neighborhood due to ice. As the evening went on friends started withdrawing left and right. I was in full blown panic.  They had crews who would be working through the night to make the roads ready and given some photos being posted on the Facebook page, they had a lot of work to do!  At that point I had given up on the idea of my PR race and decided I would make the final call if I would run once I got there in the morning. Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well that night.

Come Sunday morning Kipper started to feel really uneasy about me running. The roads going to pick up AJ were still bad. After he dropped us off at the Start Line he drove to look at some of the course. The bridges were still really icy and at this point I could tell he didn't want me to run. I started to call it but AJ and Tim helped talk me into it. For the first time ever I was excited to be in the last corral because there would be at least 45 minutes of people running in front of me, helping clear the roads more. I promised Kipper that I would check in with him every few miles and if I got to a place where I felt unsafe I would call him to come get me.

AJ and I headed out to get in our corral. At this point our goal was to not freeze to death, finish and just have fun. On a side note the new corral system is awesome! I felt much more relaxed getting ready to start, which says a lot given the situation.  One last photo at the start line and we were off.

The first mile was great. While the roads still had quite a bit of slush if you followed the tire tracks they were clear. I suddenly felt much better...until I hit the park. The road in front of the Duck Pond was terrible. Taking my time I made sure to watch every step and didn't try to get out of the tire tracks to pass anyone. I'm pretty sure I held my breath until I got to 7th Street!

I checked in with Kipper after Mile 2 and was making crazy good time. I could tell he was still a little nervous so I decided not to fill him in on the Duck Pond experience. lol. At this point I started to settle into my pace and just ran. I saw several friends along the way and was just enjoying myself. Along the way Kipper texted me that I was tracking to set a PR but I tried not to get my hopes up because it was still early on.

Around Mile 7 I finally got to see Kipper which is always boost. It was also at this point (my lucky number 7 seems to be paying off for me this year) I realized that the race I had planned for was still possible. Instead of playing mind games with myself, at that moment I committed - I was going to do what I had trained for and I was going to get my Half Marathon PR. I put on my favorite Chris Tomlin song (yes, one song on repeat) and dug in.

Over the next few miles I was so focused on the words of my music I don't remember all the little details I normally do. I do remember being happy to see Katy at the top of the Main Street bridge and running into my co-worker Phillip as I came into downtown. And somewhere right after that my left butt check got so cold I thought maybe my pants ripped. Seriously. Then I freaked out that I could have peed on myself and it had frozen. I am happy to announce neither of those things happened...I was just really freaking cold and wet!!

Coming into Mile 12 my left leg started to hurt. I was so worried about re-injuring my right ankle I know I must have over compensated with my left leg because this had never happened before. A few times I had to stop for just a second to shake it out/stretch it a little so I could turn it on when I rounded the corner to the finish.  As I was coming into Will Rogers I knew I had my PR in the bag. When I saw my coach, Monica, I knew I was soooo close to my Sub 3 race I just couldn't let up.

As bad as my leg was hurting a mile before, it all suddenly went away as I ran that last stretch to the finish line. As I got a little closer I was finally able to make out the time on the clock and I knew. At that point I didn't even try to fight back the tears.

By the grace of God I crossed the finish line at 2:58:55. A Sub 3 race and a 22 minute PR!!  And to think just a few hours earlier I nearly gave into my fears and backed out of the whole thing. (to my credit it was mainly the fear of re-injuring myself but still) 

I will never forget crossing that finish line and seeing Kipper just off to the side. Walking over to him I was bawling and I call could say was "I did it! I did it!" And he keep asking "What did you do?" and laughing. He knew I had set a PR but he wasn't sure if I had made it under the 3 hour mark.  He was maybe as giddy as I was. And I will never forgot the look on his face when he showed me the text message with my official time.

Needless to say, I am incredibly blessed with a super supportive husband. I love that we both support each others races and find so much joy in seeing each other succeed. I assumed that Kipper would have been taking photos all day, like I normally do for him. When I asked him to send me photos from today he also sent me a picture of his pancakes from when he was waiting for me so I could have "a full scope of today's events!" So I have no picture with him, my coach or my mom, but I do have this. I think this is an "area of opportunity" for him as a Sherpa. Lol.

Even though I have been running for nearly 4 years it feels new again.  This is my journey. Reaching this milestone is only the beginning. I know there will be moments where it harder than others. I know there will be moments I will doubt myself. Heck it is hard not to sometimes compare myself to our list of friends who are super fast.  I might never be able to get to where they are and that is completely okay.

In closing I want to say thank you to the those who believed in me before I believed in myself. You gently nudged me (or in some cases gave be a big shove) to push past my comfort zone. You are there to hold my hand when I need support to make the next step. You listen when I hit a wall and you are there to celebrate when I break through it. It takes a village and I couldn't have done it without you.  Cheers to more adventures!