Monday, April 29, 2013

My "Not so Boston" Race Report (AKA Tri Charleston 1/2 IM)

Erik Erikson developed a theory that assumes that as people age, they enter different stages of life.  If you have ever taken any basic psychology class, you will be familiar with him.  If you have not, look him up and see where you fit. For about six or so months, I have felt myself going from one stage to another.  When you start to enter a different stage of your life, you can feel it, and I have to admit, it is a bit painful and exciting all at the same time. 
This has changed how I view my family, my job, and mostly....My running!
Go back several months and three marathons.  
Thunder Road Marathon 2011!  My goal was to qualify for Boston 2013 with another 3:45.  Hey, I have done it before, so it should be easy....Right?  Wrong!  I get up that morning and just don't feel right.  However, I choose to run the marathon anyway.  My running partner, Michelle Larson, and I line up with Ed and the 3:45 pace group.  By mile 7, I was still on pace but not feeling well.  By mile 13, still on pace, I finally confess my issues to my running buddies and here is where everything falls apart. I finish this marathon with a disappointing 4:02.  Seventeen minutes from my Boston Qualifying time.  I was angry!  I was disappointed! I was embarrassed!
Fast forward to Boston 2012!  I was prepared to qualify for Boston 2013 at Boston 2012!  How cool would that be.  Well, there was nothing cool about it.  We started with temps around 88 degrees and my plan was modified.  I had a blast at Boston, but no 3:45 today.  It was out of my control.
After Boston, I decided to cut my miles back a few notches and just enjoy myself and refocus.  I decided to run Thunder Road 2012 and just see what plays out.  I vowed that if I did not break 4 hours, I would look into changing up my goals a bit and do something new.  I came in again at here it is.  I will hang up my marathon goals and look into something else.  I lost that loving feeling for running and needed something big to help get it back.
My buddy Holly Townsend had finished two 1/2 Iron Man races.  For anyone who does not know what a 1/2 IM is... here is the breakdown: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run.
On November of 2012, I signed up for the Charleston 1/2 IM. I was also able to persuade Holly to do the same.  I knew if I didn't go ahead and sign up and get Holly on board, I would chicken out.
She wrote up a plan and 12 weeks before the race, we started said plan.  The weather obviously did not care about our training though.... Holly and I have trained in wind, rain and bitter cold.  It was brutal.  All the while, I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I was not training for a marathon.  I felt very conflicted about this.  On one hand, I was very excited about this new challenge where there is no pressure on me to reach a certain time goal.  Then on the other, I was saddened and guilty that I had "stepped out" on running.  Weird, I know.
The Monday before my inaugural half Iron Man, I found myself tracking all my friends at The Boston Marathon.  I worked a very busy 12 hour day, but took time to personally celebrate for each friend who crossed the finish line.  I was so excited and so wanted to be running with them, alas, it was not to be.  Then it happened.  Holly texts me that everyone was fine from our running group, but there has been an explosion at the finish line.  I was with someone at that point, but noticed my phone started going crazy.  I finished up, saw the message, went to my computer and sat there in stunned silence while I looked at the live pictures.  I had run there last year and had planned to do it again this year.  It is amazing how fast excitement can turn into that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Sometimes I try to fight God like an ignorant child fighting a wise and loving parent.  In that moment, looking at the chaos, I remembered how upset I was that I had not qualified again for Boston.  I apologized to Him.  Not because I was ever angry at God, but because I thought my poor performance in a race defined who I was.  I had carried around something I thought was a failure, when in fact it was God's hand of protection.  
So now to the report.
I went into this race very calm.  I wasn't sure I could finish it, but I was determined that whatever happened, I would have a great day.  And I did.  This was 6 hours and 16 minutes of pure fun.
The set up:  Holly and I drove down, picked up our packets, and went to look over the race site.  We decided not to leave our bikes in transition 1 because a huge storm was being forecasted.  So we had to set up everything the morning of..... in the pouring down rain.  Well we got everything sat up, however everything was still in baggies because I had no intention of starting each leg of the race with soaking wet gear.
The Swim:  Right off, let me say that I AM NOT A SWIMMER! So keep that in mind as I celebrate my very slow swim time.
Right before we start the swim, the rain stops.  I am a bit chilly but once I get into the water and it seeps into my wetsuit, I feel fine.  The gun goes off and we start swimming.  My goggles immediately fog up, my heart rate goes up, and I cannot breath.  The magnitude of this race hits me in the face and, for the first time, I am paralyzed with fear about the race as a whole. So this is what a panic attack feels like.  OK.  I tell Holly I cannot see to site, I cannot breath, and my heart is about to I'm quiting.  She wouldn't have it.  She said some motivating words to me (that I cannot repeat) and I decided to swim to the first buoy. I will not think too far ahead in the race.  At this point, I will swim buoy to buoy.  I had to stop ever 200 or so yards to "defog" my goggles, but other than that, not too much else happened.  Because I stink as a swimmer, my goal for the swim was 1 hour.  I completed the 1.2 miles in 52 minutes.  I know this is slow, but all my panicking is included.
T1: I get to T1 and have to dig through all my packed up gear.  This took forever... I hear someone say there are 12 people behind me.  That does not set well with me.
The Bike: I jump on my bike and I'm off.  I only think about riding 10 miles at a time.  My heart rate goes up again, but I figure this was sort of normal and would happen each time I changed sports.  I decided to wait about 20 minutes then I get to start on my buffet of Sports Beans and Stinger Waffles.  Not one person passes me on the bike, I feel great the whole time, and I'm actually having fun.  At mile 46, I realize I only have 10 more miles to go.  I really start eating the rest of my stuff.  I know once I start running, it will be harder to eat because my stomach will not like me.  My goal was 3:30 but it only took me 3:10 to complete 56 miles.
T2: I get into my 2nd transition area and everything is rearranged.  A guy reads my number and directs me to the location he thinks my stuff is in.  I thought it looked wrong, but the thought occurred to me that I could be delusional. So I go where he tells me and do not see my stuff.  I go to where I thought it was...and I was correct... but this costs me precious time.  
The Run:  I have been waiting all day for this, I feel great, and I only have 13.1 more miles to go.  Ive got this.  It is a 3.5 mile out, 3.5 mile back, double loop.  There is standing water at least 4 inches deep on most of the course. But no one passes me on the run and I finish feeling good and knowing I will do this again.  My running goal was under 2 hours.  I did it in 1:59.
So as I move into a new era of my life, I embrace it.  I morn for the ones who lost their lives or their dreams at Boston.  I celebrate my friends who ran and finished and are back home safe.  And I look forward to the future and I know I will someday have the courage and strength to run a marathon and qualify for Boston.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

When Life Shows up With a Vengeance

Due to a crazy work schedule, my oldest starting high school, and a BIG lack of motivation, I haven't posted in a while.  Even though Boston was all I ever dreamed it would be, I have not had the goal to requalify.  I have done more biking, swimming and now I find myself in the middle of marathon training again.  How did that happen?
However, Thursday, September 6th, 2012, life showed up with a vengeance and stopped me and my family in our tracks.  Isn't ironic that when tragedy strikes, all the "important" stuff ceases to matter.  We drop everything and focus on what is really important.
September 6th, Gwen Phelps beat cancer.  She beat it by receiving the ultimate healing from God.  She had lived with Primary peritoneal cancer (also known as primary peritoneal carcinoma) for some time.  Her body finally said "enough" and she let go. She is now singing with the Angels and praising our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Gwen is my sister's mother-in-law.  However, this family is part of my family.  We vacation with them, care about them, and now grieve with them.  We grieve not because she is in Heaven, but because we are left here without her.
So here we are..... left without her, trying to figure out how to go on.....
So I decided to do what will keep me out of therapy.
I run!
I run to forget.
I run to make since of it all.
I run to remember.
I run in her memory.  This next marathon I run, I will run for Gwen.  She has blessed my life in so many ways.  She gave freely without expecting anything in return so the least I can do is run a race for her.
The Thunder Road Marathon is the next race on my list.  This is the same race I qualified for Boston on.  However, this time the run will not be about qualifying, it will be about Gwen's memory.

To find out more and how you can join the fight, go to
I hope to help raise awareness and some money.
I hope to honor Gwen's memory!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

No Looking Back - Thunder Road Marathon 11/12/2011

After a week of searching and trying to figure some things out...running wise, I have decided to write a race report. More to close the race out in my mind than anything, however, I know there is much to learn through the struggle of not meeting a goal.
I trained hard for this race and wanted to go strong. I needed this race to show me that last years BQ was not a fluke. I needed to know I could pull off another 3:45 marathon. I needed this to prove to myself that I could go the distance and not falter. However, this was not to be. Now I sit and deal with all the "what if's" and "I should of's".
The day started uneventful. Just like every training run. I got up at 0500 and met with the one who created me, who understands me, who knew what my day would hold, and who would be with me every step of the way. I read my Bible and prayed for a glorious day for me, Michelle, and all my friends who would run.
Michelle and I left for the race and both of us were in agreement that we were calm. I had not told anyone what I wanted to do in this race. I had just said I would line up with Ed and the 3:45 pace group and see what happened. That is what I did....
The gun went off and we were running....
Mile 1 - 5 came and went. I just focused on staying with Ed. I noticed that my stomach was starting to feel weird and my legs were not turning over. However, I felt like I would bounce back after I took a gel.
mile 1 - 5: 8:36, 8:35, 8:16, 8:19, 8:25
Around mile 5.5 I took my first gel just like I did every training run. But I noticed it was not working well with my stomach. Mark Ulrich joined us and I felt like this would push me on. During mile 6 - 7, I started playing the I want to turn off at the half point game in my head...WHAT! No!
I promised myself I would run with the pace group to the half turnoff then if I did not feel any better, I would just turn off and run the half. I noticed I was now 1 step behind Michelle. I was having a hard time keeping it together. And I would have turned off at the half point, if I had remembered passing it.
I really should have quit. I cannot recall mile 11 to just past turning onto Morehead. I remember thinking, "How did we get here?"
Mile 6 - 13 splits: 8:22, 8:30, 8:32, 8:23, 8:26, 8:25, 8:24, 8:45
Then Mark asks me if I'm OK. This jolts me back into reality. I try to figure out where I am, why I'm doing this, and why I haven't stopped yet. I told him I wasn't doing well so he suggests just slowing down for a few miles. After I admitted I was feeling bad, my times start going up...up...up. Mark was wonderful and encouraging. However, I could not pull it together enough to get back on pace.
Mile 17 I see my wonderful family. I hear my husband yelling at me to get on pace. I see my sweet children yelling for me to finish. My oldest daughter, Abigayle had written me a note the night before. She had expressed how proud she felt every time I crossed the finish line of a marathon. So I decided I would finish. I knew I would not meet my goal, but for my children, I would finish what I started.... no matter how messy it would be.
Mile 14 - 19: 8:54, 8:56, 9:03, 9:22, 9:43, 9:16
At mile 20 I saw 2 angels waiting to run the last 10k... Holly and Denise! They looked so fresh and cute! I would have cried but I was too dehydrated. No tears would come out. I do remembering going through the wall at NoDa and wishing it would have fallen on me.... I could have stopped then!
At mile 21, I saw my family again. My mom and dad had joined Matt and my girls. Funny how even at my age, I just wanted my mom! She is a 2x cancer survivor and the strongest person I know. This gave me a small boost. I had upped the pace to a 9:09! =)
However, I soon was reminded how much time it took when you have to stop on the side of the road to throw up.
I would run, stop, run, stop, run stop. Somewhere along the Plaza, Theoden passed me. He said something encouraging but I honestly would not have known it was him, except that Holly said his name. I remember thinking that a really cute girl was running with him but I could not figure out who she was.... It was Kara. I didn't know it was her until I read her race report.
Mile 20-26: 9:09, 10:38, 10:01, 10:30, 10:48, 12:34, 9:08
As Holly and I turned the corner and ran I saw my family! My Maggie (who HATES running) got on the course and ran me in. This made all my pain worth it.
After it was finally over, all us girls got a picture!
After this race, I have to admit my ego took a blow. I felt like I showed a side of me to everyone that I don't like to show. I don't want to appear weak or unable. But that is what I felt like I showed to everyone. However, as I read the reports from others and talked to everyone, I soon noticed they did not think this. They understood... Some have been where I am!
All my non-running friends keep saying..."Hey, you finished!" But finishing isn't enough anymore. I feel like I need to finish well. But maybe it is enough. Maybe I should be glad that I was able to finish, even with the way I felt and the stopping to try to puke and the pain. Maybe I should be satisfied...but I'm not! I need to know I can do a 3:45 again. Not to requalify, but for principle.
This race is now behind me and I will not speak of it again.
Now I look toward Boston!
Let the training begin!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Maggie's First 5k 5/13/11

Last year at this time, I posted about my oldest daughter running her first 5k. This year, at the same 5k, my youngest daughter decided to run. We, as a family, entered the "Twilight 5k". Maggie had completed a few shorter runs to train for this. She was rather nervous. However, I assured her that I would stay with her to the bitter end.
We got to the starting line and waited to start. I had warned her to start out slow and we would pick up the pace as the race went on. We started out and she was doing great.... The first 400 yards.
Now a few things one needs to realize about Maggie:
1) She is a princess.
2) She doesn't like to sweat.
3) Her favorite thing to do is lay around and chill!
So this was totally out of her comfort zone. At this point, we went to walk a lot/run a little. That was ok with me. Her older sister stayed with us the first half mile then took off. Abigayle ended up doing great. In fact, it was a road race PR.
So Maggie and I continued on.
We got to mile 1 and started playing a game where we act like we are running to different rides at Disney World. This worked until the 2nd mile. Then we poured water over her head. She loved this.
Her last mile was a sufferfest at first, but somewhere in the middle of this mile, I watched my little princess of lounging dig deep inside of herself and start running. She turned the corner and saw the finish line. She darted toward the finish and her big sister joined her. We all came across the finish line together.
After the race, when the pain is gone and only the glory remains, Maggie let me know she was very proud of herself and had decided to try another race.
That is another story.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My name is Christa...and I'm a Boston qualifier!

On the 11th day of December, 2010, I qualified for Boston! That sounds so good. Almost too good to be true. It has been a long journey. A hard journey. Something I really did not know I was capable of.
Last December (the 12th to be exact) I started the Thunder Road marathon with the intent to qualify for Boston. However, somewhere along that 26.2 mile journey, my dreams were torn into. As I got sick along the course and could not even break 4 hours. I pulled out a 4:05 and signed up to run Myrtle Beach. The weekend of the marathon came, February 13th, but snow was in the forecast. It snowed, and in great southern form, everything shut down.... Including the Myrtle Beach Marathon. Boston was not in the in my future at this point in time.
Fast forward to summer of 2010..... My daughter started cross country with her school.... her assistant coach was none other than Michelle Larson. Michelle made the fatal mistake of asking me to come run with her group. There I met the UCRRs!
The Bible talks about a friend sticking closer than a brother. This team surrounded me, trained me, and on occasion (Dee, Holly, and Michelle) even dressed me. =-) Without the support of this group, I don't think I could have even made it to the starting line. Michelle and I did every long run together. She pushed me when I wanted to give up. I saw a strength in her that made me become a better runner.
The Race.....
My Church also had a group representing the half marathon... this included my sister and husband. They stayed till the bitter end (after finishing the half) and supported me. Thanks guys!
As we lined up at the starting line, Michelle reminded me that I was hers until mile 21...then I could do whatever I want. Ed was one of the UCRR members we had roped into pacing us. The engines sounded then we were off. The first few miles were a blur and I noticed they were ticking off quickly. This course had always beasted me in the past, but this time, with my running friends running with me and screaming for us, it was almost easy.
Mile 9, Michelle and I are still having fun. My brother-in-law snapped this picture of us. We ran on.... I remember thinking, wow, this is easy! The half marathon people turned off.... this is normally when I am done, but not today. We hit mile 13.1 around 1:52... feeling good! Mile 14, 15, 16...I look at Michelle and say, "Only 10 more miles!"
Around mile 17, Ed asks how I am doing. I am surprised to say fine. Now I'm not going to lie, I am tired, but doing pretty good. Then mile starts getting hard...mile 19 I am starting to be over this.....mile 20! I am so happy to see mile 20 but now I know the marathon begins. This is make or break time! Hit mile 21 at 3:00 and we see Holly and Dee. Dee starts running with us but then I notice I am all alone. Michelle is yelling for me to go on. She had been feeling sick for a few miles...not that I could tell. She is a solid runner and I can never tell when she is hurting. But she stops. She tells me to keep Ed in sight. I am now on my own and start to have a pity party for myself. I have been running a long time, I deserve to walk and rest, I can't do this by myself. This lasted from mile 21 to mile 22... then the song "The Climb" came on. It starts out by saying:
I can almost see it,
that dream I'm dreaming.
But there's a voice inside my head that says,
you'll never reach it.
Every step I'm taking,
every move I make feels lost with no direction.
My faith is shake'n. But I, I gotta keep try'n.
Gotta keep my head held high.
Then it hit me.... I have no choice but to do this. Michelle has introduced me to too many people as a Boston Qualifier, My friends and family are at the finish line waiting to see me cross at 3:45, I have run too far to give up, and I really don't want to start this journey over. So I get real serious with God.... I ask Him to help me "man up" and run this in.... and he does. I pick up my fallen pace and start to run. It hurts...oh, it hurts...but I can see myself going across that line and reaching my goal.
I get to where mile 25 is supposed to be and there is NO marker. But I know this course. I put in what little kick I have left. I cross the bridge on Central and see the city. My favorite part! I turn on 7th and hear Jonathan's words of wisdom in running down hills. I turn onto McDowell and run....I see the turn up MLK! And I see my husband... he yells for me to run! I do! I see the clock, hear people yelling for me, but I cannot take the energy to look at anything but that clock counting up....up...up! I cross over the line at 3:45.48 clock time, 3:45.22 chip time.
I did it! I cannot even put the thoughts together...
Hey y'all look at me, I Boston qualified....right after I finished.
Me, Hubby, Bree (who I ran my 1st marathon with), and Leigh! - I'm the Evil Queen of this group! They loved seeing Michelle telling me what to do... =-)
My girls - Michelle (in pink) Holly (back turned) Dee (blond and pink sorta out of the picture)... I could not have even started this journey without these girls!
Me and Leigh!

My real sis! Me and Matt (my hubby) They both PRed today at the half!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

This Is The Air I Breathe

As most of you know, I am in training for my next marathon. I run between 30 and 50 miles a week. My running happens on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. So what do I do for the rest of the week.
Thursday is a total rest day from physical activity. This is to get ready for the double long runs. They are not as easy as one may think.
However, Sunday and Tuesday is active recovery. This means I cross train. Sunday, I do a show at my church (at 2 different campuses) called "The Big Attic". Don't be deceived, this is about 3 hours of mayhem. By the time I am finished, I want to lay down and die!
Tuesdays (and Fridays after my pace run), I swim.
I have a love/hate relationship with swimming.
I love the fact it is easy on my joints.
I love that it helps keep me loose.
I love the coolness of the pool that helps with recovery.
I love that it makes me stronger.
I love how it makes my arms look and helps me look like I have (at least) small guns.;-)
However, I have a small issue with swimming.
I cannot breathe under water.
So when I get out of breath, it does not work well for me. I'm really not good at swimming. Not kidding. Pregnant women and 85 year old men pass me. I timed my 100 yard swim the other day and it was around 2:30. That is embarrassing. I plod along, doing drills and such, to get around 2000 yards. Then I pull my tired and hungry body out of the water and smell of chlorine the rest of the day.
So what's the point?
Well, about 2 weeks ago, I was doing my "fast" swimming and working on breathing on both sides. As I turned to my right and gulped down a huge amount of air, I had a few thoughts.
First, I thought that I was going to die because I was not getting enough air at each breath.
Second, I thought about just standing up, quiting, and breathing.
Third, I thought about how much I needed this air and wanted it.
Fourth, I thought about this is how I need to want God.
I need to want God as much as I wanted the next breath of air. Is that how I long for Him?
The Bible talks about this in Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for Thee, O God
The picture in this Psalm is that of a deer longing for water in the midst of a prolonged drought.
But God had to show me physically what this verse means. So the picture in my life at that moment was me gasping for my next breath while swimming.
Needless to say, that has stuck with me. I think it is easy to say that we need God and want to have a relationship with Him. However, it is very difficult to really want Him like we want air. There are so many distractions. Distractions that don't matter.
So next time you are gasping for breath (due to physical exercise, having a cold, or just walking up the stairs) think about wanting God like you want your next breath.
This is the air I breathe!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mind Over Matter!

Boston is in my sights.
I have started my marathon training to qualify for Boston.
I plan on qualifying at the Thunder Road Marathon on December 11, 2010.
If I run this race in 3:45 (and the Boston race is still open) I will run Boston in April 2011.
If I run this race in 3:50, I will have to wait until April 2012.
I want 2011!
I am on week 6 of Hal Higdon's Advanced I training plan. This plan has me do speedwork, hillwork, long runs, pace runs and tempo runs. On Friday and Saturday, I do back to back long runs to prepare my body to go the 26.2 miles in the time I need.
However, this is not enough........
To qualify for Boston, I have to change my mindset. Instead of fearing running up Morehead, I have to embrace it. Instead of thinking about pain as weakness...think about it as fresh bread that I will eat for breakfast. Everything that morning will have to come together perfectly race morning to insure success. To say the least, a marathon is as much mental as it is physical.
I have to do more than train physically. So what will I do different this year to insure success.
  1. First and foremost, I am confessing success. I tell people I have such and such days before I qualify. I look at myself as a runner. A runner who can hold the 8:34 pace I need for 26.2 miles.
  2. I have also found a group to do my long runs with. The University City Road Runners. We meet on Saturdays at 0700 and run. They run all distances from 100 milers to 10ks and they are fast. I just hang on and keep up. They are a wonderful encouragement to me. Last week, my 14 mile run went by so fast.
  3. I will run with a pace team. Several of the UCRR members are running Thunder Road and I plan to run with them. Some said they may even pace me. WOOT!
  4. I have several girls from the group who do my Monday runs and faster runs with me.
  5. I cross train! Very important! Instead of doing recovery runs as the plan calls for, I swim and or bike. This helps me recover without getting hurt....and it makes me stronger.
  6. Weight/core training......This hurts so good! And makes me a stronger runner! Core training helps me hold good form even in the later miles. This is important as I get tired.

All this has helped me get faster, gain confidence, and made running fun!

So anyone want to join on the race and help pace me?