The Bitch I’m Always Trying to Beat

I always feel awkward when someone tells me I’m a great runner.  I smile and thank them and mention about how it’s just a matter of putting in a lot of work; but in the back of mind, I want to tell them I’m not a great runner.

When one of my friends tries to tell me I’m a great runner, my common reply is, “No, I’m not.  I get the job done.”

Just me finishing on the struggle bus but getting the job done.

This past weekend at a 5k, one of my friends even said I made running look effortless.  I thanked her, but assured her that it felt like anything but.  Most of the time I feel like a water buffalo huffing and puffing and crazily careening around the course just trying to stay upright.  Struggle bus city over here.

That being said. my time last weekend was way better than the previous week – the 8 a.m. start time (which is way more normal and common in the summer than 9 a.m.) and cooler temp with a nice breeze had something to do with me hitting 27:17 for an 8:45 average. But effortless?  Nothing about hitting that time was effortless! It must been the sunglasses I was wearing; they’ve must’ve concealed the look of pain, determination, and the physical struggle that was taking place to finish.

Still I did manage a 2nd place finish in my age group…apparently all the ladies faster than me slept in today! LOL

Now I get that below-average or mediocre runners don’t try to run marathons.  Good runners train for and run marathons.  Great runners finish faster than good runners – at least that’s how my competitive brain sees things for me.  My speed-struggles aside, even one year ago when I averaged 26:30 for 5ks, I still didn’t consider myself a great runner.

Going back even farther – to the gymnastics years – I knew I was a great bar worker.  Even the year I lost bars by one-tenth of a point, I knew I was still the best bar worker in the state.  The only reason I lost that year was because I had too much zip on my dismount and took two steps.  One step would’ve tied me for the podium, the stick would’ve put me up there by myself.  My two steps didn’t take away from what I had achieved all season, what I achieved during that bar routine up until the landing.  Was I mad at myself?  Duh.  But did I think less of myself for those two stupid steps?  No.  I knew my capabilities.

To me, the great runners are most of my friends who run faster than me.  I would love, love, love, love, love to finish a 5k in under 25 minutes.  Some of my friends finish in under 22 minutes – even when it’s hot, sunny AF, and I’m struggling to maintain a 9 min/mile average during a race.

June 2017: Another finish line photo at the Tony Gwynn 5.5k in San Diego. I finished in an 8:30 average.

I would love to beat these ladies one day.  Not because I secretly dislike them or because I’m some competitive, crazy bitch, but because I look up to them.  They’ve worked hard to get where they are in their running lives.  I want to be we they are!  I want to see myself getting better; setting new PRs for myself.  But these ladies aren’t my biggest competition.

More importantly, I want to beat Erin of 2017.  Erin of 2017 was good, but I know Erin in the future can be better.

That bitch right there – she’s my biggest competition.  She’s who I’m trying to beat every time I post up at a starting line.

November 2017: Running down the finishers chute to finish my 2nd marathon – a time that was a huge PR for me!

If hard work is what it takes, I am trying!  I run 5 times a week (sometimes twice a day).  I do slow steady runs, tempo runs, speed work outs for either 400m or 800m repeats, and long runs (note to self: you need to start building to 15 to be over-trained for your half in October), but despite my hard work, I’m just not there.

It’s annoying that I’m not where I want to be with all of this work.  However, I wasn’t born to give up when things don’t go my way.  Goals are meant to be chased even when they feel unattainable and far out of reach.

Goals are one of the few many reasons why I lace my shoes up and head out the door.  Of course let not forget that I like to eat, don’t want to go to jail for assaulting people, love the endorphins, do it for my dog…blah, blah, blah…

The strange thing is though, I run so much better during training runs than I do during races.  This is completely opposite to my career as a gymnast where I trained like shit, but hit everything during competitions like I’d was born doing it from day one.

Maybe me not getting that coveted 25-minute finish yet is more in head my than anything (Honestly, I think this is it, so any idea how to stop living in my head would be appreciated).

My head case aside, never getting under 25 minutes doesn’t bother me near as much as thinking that 2017 Erin might be the best Erin.  Age arguments aside, I know I have to have better in me.

Always all smiles before races!

Looking up to my friends and wanting to be where they are, to finish with them or ahead of them, it’s really just another tool to help me beat my real competition – Me.

2017 Erin, you may have been good, but every year, I’m aiming to be better!

Despite this getting a little weird what with my talking in third person and all like some nutter, does anyone else think this way?  Do you use competition like me?  Or perhaps is running all about winning or is it maybe just getting out there and enjoying.  Please tell all your thoughts!

But I’m Better Than That

I really wanted to hate myself after my race on Saturday.  I ran a 5k that started at 9 a.m. in 28:37.  This is my slowest time for a 5k since September 25, 2016 when I finished Race for the Cure in 30:49.

In 2017, I felt like I was on such a hot steak!  After a hilly 5k in February (which I still set a course PR for until this past year), I didn’t run a single race over a 9-min/mile average until this summer.  In the past two months, I’ve finished two 5k’s in over 28 minutes.

Smiles before…OF COURSE!

As a goal-oriented person who refuses to accept anything less than 100% from herselfself, it’s really hard to not get frustrated.  I hear my friends, family, and even myself cite things like the weather, the blistering humidity, the lack of breeze or shade, and while I know that running in high heat and high humidity is virtually running death for me, I still don’t want to accept the results when it comes to running a race.

I feel like I should be better than that.

But honestly, how can I live with this pressure that I put on myself?

I know people make mistakes.  I know not every race is going to be a PR.  Yet I hold myself to this impossible (And yes, I know what the word impossible means) ideal that I’m above mistakes and bad races.

I’m not going to lie; Saturday was hot.  My Garmin says it was 82°F at race time, but doesn’t record the humidity or dew point.  If the heat index wasn’t over 90°F, then I know it was close.  Never mind the fact that the out-and-back course was all slow steady inclines from miles 0.5-1.0, 1.5-2.0, and 2.5-3.12 miles.  Sure, there were declines, but the declines weren’t steep enough to really help me recover the speed I lost from going upwards.

Also, I like to play games with myself when I am this hot while running.  I’ll try to run fast from shade spot to shade spot, but will slow my speed and soak in the absence of the sun for the few seconds I’m shaded.  This was a new race path, and there were no trees or other obstacles to block me from the sun.  It was just me and the hot sun beating down on me without a cloud to rescue me for 3.12 miles.

Just. Get. Me. Water.

A part of me really wanted to hate myself after I crossed the finish line. 

The same part of me that signed up for this race knowing I was going to be less than stellar still refused to see my effort as anything but a failure.

However, I’m getting better at drowning that part of me out.  I did it.  It doesn’t matter how sloppy or disgusting or lackluster and slow it was, I still did it.  Then I chugged four 16.9 ounce bottles of water in less than 45 minutes.

My thirst was killer after the race – in fact, I had dry mouth before I finished a mile of the 5k.  I’m normally not a huge drinker or eater before anything longer than a half marathon, but I did drink about half of my 30 ounce water bottle before the race.  I still couldn’t escape this dry-mouth sensation during the race, and it was a new experience.  I probably should’ve grabbed at a water that was located at the halfway point, but I pushed on and made it across the finish line before literally diving to grab my first bottle.  I had tunnel vision finishing the race, and I think it was mainly for the water, not to get this hot, exhausting, and icky experience over with.

The best part finishing the race was seeing my niece Carly and nephew Keegan.  My sister-in-law came to walk with Carly (4 y/o) and Keegan (almost 2 and in a stroller).  Despite my unquenchable need for water, Carly was adamant about getting a photo in the photo booth with me.  Her mom was able to stop her while I drank my first bottle of water.  Then she pulled me along for face painting, balloon animals, and to push her on the swings.

Photobooth fun with this crazy crew!  I enjoyed time on the playground with Car – she’s a little stinker!

All in all, I’m trying really hard not dwell on this race, but it’s just so hard.  My drive, determination, and goals are why I’ve been able to transition from someone who hated running to someone who has finished 2 marathons.  But those same characteristics that pushed me to get up at 2 a.m. and run my training runs, to keep going during races when my hips were a mess, those same characteristics try to crucify me when I run badly.  If that’s not a catch-22 then I don’t know what is.

As I stated above, I know mileage-wise I’m pushing myself really hard this year.  I know that covering the distance is just as hard as running fast.  I’m not going to stop, but I am going to have to weather these feelings of self-loathing.  While I do feel like it’s getting easier to ignore them, it still hurts.

So in closing, I’d like to ask you this:  Do you also place nearly unattainable goals on yourself as well?  What do you do when the negative voices start entering your head and questioning your output?

Summer + Running in a Cave = Amazing!

The entrance and exit into the caves.  We had a blast and will definitely go back next year!

I run outdoors all year.  Since January, I’ve easily running 4-5 days a week.  The only exception would be weather related.  Call me a wimp, but snow (honestly, I’m not running on the sidewalks when there’s 4+ inches of snow on the ground…not fun) and rain (although a summer shower to cool me down isn’t bad) send me to a gym.

Still, I’m never prepared for the summer meltdown that always occurs in this sticky, humid AF area of the Midwest that I call home.  I swear that there’s never this gradual warm-up in the area.  I don’t think I broke out my running shorts until the beginning of May, and even the beginning of May was still cool – my mom was worried we would all freeze at her Derby party.  And then two weeks later, it was as if the gates of hell opened up and swallowed up the Midwest.

Nothing to see here…just some crazies ready to race!

I’m not kidding either.  When I looked at the temperature data on my Garmin morning runs, the average temperature from April 28th through May 17th was 61°F.  For those days, I had one run where the temperature was over 70° and I had two runs where the temperature was under 50°.  Then mid-May hit.  From May 19th through the end of the month, the average temperature was 72°.  The coolest run I recorded was 64° and there was only one other run with the temperature under 70°.

The other thing that really sucks once the average temperatures got above 70° is the humidity and dew point.  The humidity is almost always over 85% and the dew point is well over 70° most mornings.  I could talk more about these two weather variables, but I already have a post about them complete with another link at the bottom to give more explanation on how the dew point can affect performance.

But this post isn’t to talk about my amazing summer performance fade once the temp and humidity conspire together; it’s to talk about this amazing race that I ran this past weekend!

And we all survived!

We have quite a few limestone caves within driving distance of home.  Last year, I heard about this race that ran through one of the caves and thought it sounded like fun.  However, we heard about it late, and Chris was unable to get off work.  Since I’d need to leave before six in the morning and drive about 90 minutes, I decided not to go last year, but to keep an eye out for in the coming year – this year.

Not only was Chris able to go, but my ginger bestie (who works retail) asked off to experience this race as well.  So, Chris, Aubrey, Derek (Aubrey’s manfriend), and I all carpooled together.

We had an hour before the race started, and the temperature started heating up as it is wont to do in Indiana in nearly July.  Thoughts of the cave were dancing through my mind as I internally gave myself a pep-talk to survive outside of the caves.

I’d read online that you had to run about a mile before you got into the caves, but we were unsure how long we were in the caves.  With as hot as it was getting, we knew the worse part would be transitioning from inside the cave to out.  I hoped we’d get to run at least one mile inside the cave before appearing topside and dying of heat radiation.

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I wasn’t prepared for the caves to be as enormous as they were, but it was nice at how well-lit they were!

The race begins and all reports were right – the first mile was to get into the cave.  I saw the opening of the cave, and then I saw someone toss their cookies onto the side of the road.  Now, I’m aware that things happen, but people – it’s Indiana in the summer!  Know your limitations!  I looked to the cave to take my mind off the retching, and before I knew it, I could feel the cool air – gloriously, marvelously, deliciously, cool air – cocooning my summer heat-hating body and pulling me into the cave.

While my Garmin lost the GPS signal, I noticed about a half-mile into the cave (I used my music library to time and pace myself), that my Garmin still was noting my “mileage” by counting my steps.  Since I use this feature on the treadmill and the indoor track at the gym, I knew it wouldn’t be 100% accurate, but it was way better than nothing.

So about the caves – I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect with the cave other than the temperature would feel like paradise.  I expected to see limestone stalactites and uneven footing.  Unsure of the lighting, I combed over the information, but didn’t see that I needed to bring a light – even so with over 1,000 people signed up, I was sure I could at least follow close enough to another runner to use their light – Pardon me, I’m not a stalker!  My mom also told me about the underwater rivers in the cave and the fish that have evolved without eyes – the fish have a layer of skin covering where their eyes would appear.

The Ginger Bestie!  She’s so cute!

Now all my questions were answered.  While not as scenic as I pictured the actual cave tours, it was still beautiful.  Nearly 2 miles of the course were ran in the limestone distribution warehouse.  The caves were huge – wide and tall and fairly well lit.  I think we basically ran in a circle.  Once we finished, we heard someone say that we didn’t even explore 10% of the cave system which is pretty crazy.

After I saw my Garmin tick over at 1.5 miles, I knew my wonderful run in this underground paradise was coming to an end soon…The thought that was on my mind was that transition from cool 50’s to hot, humid, sticky AF upper 80’s.

The exit was brutal.  I pulled my sunglasses down onto my head in anticipation of the sun’s brilliant rays, but the temperature caused them to fog up.  I ran with them in my hand about 1/4 of a mile to the finish line.  Thank goodness it was so close to the exit (on our way into the cave, we basically passed by the finish) because it would’ve been hard on my body to run any farther (ok, that’s a lie, but still).

After the race there were food and drink vendors and even a band playing.  The only bad thing was that our car was parked about 1/2 mile away, and we had no cash on us.  Next year I will definitely remember to put a debit card or something in my cell phone case, so I can enjoy some delicious snacks!

The monastery gorgeous and the ground were immaculate.  I’d love to go back for a tour and more beer!

Afterwards, we stopped a monastery right off the interstate that opened a brewery 2 years ago.  The beer was delicious and the pizza was the perfect way to refuel after the race!

Can’t take us anywhere!

Sorting Out My Thoughts on This Year’s Mileage

It’s been awhile.  I know that, and I apologize.  I think what’s going on with my brain is the same thing that’s going on with my running in a sense.  Despite incorporating speed work, tempo runs, I just feel like I’m regressing a bit with my pace.

There’s a part of me that is really frustrated by this, but also a part of me that knows everything will be fine.  And looking at my race history, I have set course PRs for several races this year.  It’s funny though because the courses I’m PRing on are really hilly.  So while I’m setting course PRs, I’m nowhere near my 25-minute 5k goal due to the courses, and still nowhere near my all-time 5k goal.  And when I move to flatter surfaces – that maybe have small, rolling hills – I’m having trouble beating my times on the hillier courses.  My body is SO weird.

I got 3rd place in my age group at St. Wendel Grililin’ and Chillin’ and saw my friend Darice’s (of Boston-fame) mom and aunt.  I’ve got my lotus on in beer yoga (so great for my IT Band).  And Chris and I enjoyed a Popsicle together of after a Memorial Day run.  Maris wasn’t around to give us evil glares either!

I’ve never considered myself to a Hill Runner, but there’s something about big hills.  It’s knowing that the faster I get up the big hill, the easier it will be on the way down.  With the flat(ish) courses you just don’t get that good downhill pull.

So there’s this part of me that is at peace with my (oh, which word to use? Slowness? Lack of speed progress?  Pace stagnation?) average runner pace because of the work I’m putting in right now.  Since we’re almost halfway through the year, let’s compare 2018 to 2017.

2017 2018
January 23.14 85.98
February 36.23 114.21
March 45.54 85.98
April 49.36 85.16
May 50.7 100.05
June 69.45 95.14
Total 272.42 566.52

I know my numbers for 2017 look bad, but the days in the first six months only include the days I ran and only ran.  There were two days a week that I did running and walking and intervals with the run being 3 minutes of running as fast as I could and trying to cover at least 0.36 miles in that time period.  When you combine all the running and walking I’ve done the first six month of 2017 (1,026.82) compared to 2017 and (962.84), you can see for total miles I’m a little behind.  While there are four more days left this month, the gap between the two years will close a little bit (I’ll probably pick up 25 extra miles easily), but I’ll still be behind my total miles ran or walked for the year.

Run Victoria with my Goodr girls!  Jill, Aubrey, and I love Goodr glasses and had to take a pic before this hilly, beast of a course that takes place all on cart paths at a local country club.  It’s gorgeous, but it’s also death! And I’ve still ran it every year.

That being said, I’m much more proud of this year than I am last year.  I feel like my miles this year are of a far greater quality than last year’s miles.  This year, I’m definitely on track to hit my goal of 1,000 miles ran.  Also, in the past years, I’ve ran 3-4 times a week and walked 2-3 times a week.  This time I’m running five days a week (even doing two extra miles after work sometimes too) and only walking 1 day a week.  Not only that, but I’m doing yoga at least once a week, and I feel like that is helping to keep me body tuned-up for these additional miles.

10-Miler with the Princess.  My girl is so photogenic and looks so great and strong at Mile 6.  That evening, she went all nutty on a tennis ball in the backyard.  Her energy is endless!

However, I have to say that despite my mileage, building hasn’t been a strong point of mine this year.  Last year, I built up to 12 miles in April to run a 10 mile race at the beginning of May.  This year, I hurt my ribs in March and my building got put on hold until after Boston (which was a three weeks later) and I didn’t get to build for my 10-mile race on April 28th.  However, I did have a great time running that race, and somehow beat my 10-mile PR by 11 seconds.  Who would’ve known!  The weather was perfect and I also took Princess with me.  We had a solid 5-mile base, and I knew I could expect to get 7-8 quality miles with her before I figured she would want to walk.  My girl totally didn’t walk, she kept on pretty much at my side (unless she saw a bunny, squirrel, or goose that she wanted to play with) the whole race until we finished.  Afterwards, she got to enjoy a Popsicle of her own too for her hard work (and she gave me the evil eye while I ate my own Popsicle because Lord knows I give her absolutely nothing).

Peace, Run, Harmony with my babe!  He ran the 5k and got in 3rd in his age group while I ran the 12k.  He watched for me and tried to hustle my tired, sweaty, rear across the finish line!  This course was a beast, but we will be back for next year!

And just like that, 5k season was upon us, and I do enjoy running 5k’s on Saturday with Chris.  Since April I’ve ran six races.  Four were 5k’s, one was a 12k, and one was a 50k relay with three other people (I ran 15k that day).  I had two off Saturdays early in May, and while I ran those days, I didn’t increase my mileage until this past Saturday.

I’m not going to say I haven’t worried about it – I know I need to start increasing soon(ish).  My goal is to build to 15-miles at the end of September so I’m over-trained for the October half marathon in my town.  Then, once that is over, I’ll have a nice 15-mile base to start marathon training with.

The pic on the left is from Laufenfest.  Despite what I consider a slow time for me, I still set a course PR on this hot, humid morning.  It was 86 degree when the race started.  Top right is me finishing with Chris.  We both survived to drink some beer afterwards.  Bottom right is my relay team.  First place coeds for the 50k trail relay.

Yes, I said marathon training.

Yes, after the Monumental last November, I said I would take at least a year off before running another marathon.

But with the excitement of Boston, and my feeling like a stronger runner (It’s true, I do feel stronger despite my stagnation/regression with speed) that I decided to do another marathon.

Look out, Baton Rouge, this crazy ginger is coming for you!

My beautiful princess!  She was with me for 7 of my 10 mile run on Saturday, June 23rd.  The other two pics of photo shoots from our Sunday walks around the one the local colleges.  Pretty sure she thinks she need to take acting classes to perfect her begging abilities (so we took a pic in front of the theater – right).

Anyway, despite basically doubling mileage on Saturday, I knew I could do it.  Obviously, I wasn’t going to break any PRs, but I knew my body was strong enough to get the job done.  For one, two weeks before, I ran about 9 miles (for the relay, I ran a 5k then would get an hour break).  In May, I ran 7.5 hilly miles in crazy heat and humidity.  Plus, I’m doing (attempting more like) one tempo run and one speed workout (alternating between 1:45 400m or 3:45 800m).  Monday-Thursday mornings, I’m conquering 5 miles before as the sun comes up.  2 nights a week, I go out and run an additional 2 miles to get my body used to the heat (guess what, it’s still not used to the heat).  That’s how I knew my body was strong enough to cover 10 miles.

The key wold be to keep it easy and maintain.  I did my first seven miles with Maris on Saturday.  At miles 2 and 3, she got prissy on me and tried to cop out of running.  However, it was a cool day for Southern Indiana, and I knew she could get at least 5 done with me.  I coaxed her to keep up running and decreased our speed for our 4th mile.  I was prepared to cut our time short, but then we saw fellow runners and Maris wanted to show off.  Brat.  I reined her in on mile 5 (which was a slow mile simply from fighting her to keep from pulling me), but miles 6-7 felt good.

More beer yoga and outtakes and finishing the last lap for my relay team

Once I deposited her at the house, I slurped up some water and blueberries and went back out by myself.  I knew from the get-go that my miles with Maris would be slow because of the build in distance.  I wanted to keep it slow so she could finish and not be completely overheated even though I knew I could push myself more solo.  Still, running with her is more enjoyable, so I waited until she was inside and getting spoiled by daddy until I kicked it.  Miles 8, 9, and 10 were ran in 9:40, 9:40, and 9:22 to finish.

In April after a 10-mile race, I was stiff and sore for 3 days afterwards.  This time, I was fine the next day.  I even got up at 5 a.m. to do yoga with the sunrise at a state park on top of a 44-foot mound.  It was so amazing to do sun salutations with the sun rising and the morning sounds to fill my ears.  This practice happens once a year and this year I decided to partake (with the help of my favorite ginger b/c it’s always easier to get up earlier when you know someone else will be waiting on you).  In April, that practice – while beneficial – would’ve felt like absolute murder.  On Sunday, it felt like it was just what the doctor ordered after 10 enjoyable miles on Saturday.

Yoga in these surroundings was so therapeutic and amazing.  Doing sun salutations as the sun rose high in the skies and the sounds of crickets turned to chirping birds was wonderful and connective.  I had to get up early, but I will definitely look for this class again next year.  Thanks for making my get my butt up so early, Aubrey!

In closing, do I wish I was faster right now?  That’s a big, ecstatic YES!  But I’m at peace with my running.  I’m conquering the pavement and pushing myself to be the strongest version of myself.  If speed is going to happen, it will.  I’m trying to take the necessary steps to get myself faster.  But if the speed I want doesn’t come, I’m confident that I’ll become a better distance runner in the end.  I’m confident in my body’s ability to conquer the miles!  Building up to fifteen in next 3 months and then (fingers crossed) increasing my speed is completely do-able in the next 14-weeks, it just takes work.

Run 10 miles in the morning, recovered, and went to help some save dogs!  Furbabies have both of our hearts!