Saturday, June 11, 2011

Finally breaking 18!!!

Ever have a goal that you were just DYING to reach no matter how hard it would be?

That was me with the 5k this year. Let me start by recalling prior years of my 5k goals....

In 2008, I was running 19s. In fact, THREE races in a row I posted a 19:01-19:04. Frustrating to be 5 seconds away from breaking 19? you bet. Motivational? Absolutely. Unfortunately, 2008 never saw that sub 19.

2009 rolls around and I start focusing more on duathlons. Well, luckily for me duathlons generally have shorter distances, so I did more speed work. I didn't do too many 5ks, but when I did, I was cursed with the 19:04. I finally broke it unexpectedly.

My workout, while just using the same plan as my coach, for the marathon was 3miles/2miles/1mile. Well, there was a 5k that night in Geneva (the Viking Sunset 5k), so I figured, "Why not run my first 3 miles as the 5k?" Guess what... I BROKE 19!!!!! 18:40. CRAZY. I was so excited I didn't even care about the rest of the workout! Of course, I finished it, but man, breaking 19 was so unreal that I was just so excited (and may have went a little too quickly for the 2mile and 1 mile, oops).

So, 2010 comes along and I'm again just focusing on duathlon and triathlon. Yeah, the marathon is a goal, but I don't start training for it until July after most of my dus/tris are done. So no real stellar 5ks this year, but I do finish the year off with an 18:39.

2011. The year of PRs (for post-hs/college). I make it my goal to break 18. I mean, if my goal is to run sub-2:50 (hopefully even a 2:45!), I need to be breaking 18.

In the Race That's Good For Life 5k in April, Cari had told me to go out hard that first mile. This is the race that the males and females run separately, so it's super competitive. Well, Columba went out in a 5:30 and Jessica, Suzanne and I were just a tad behind in 5:38. Cari told me just to hang on for as long as I could. I ran a 5:50 and 6:00 to finish in an 18:04. 36 second PR from my previous best, yet so close to breaking 18 that I was wanting to do another 5k!

So, I used that experience to help me run the LaGrange Rocks for Youth 5k last night. It's a fast, flat course, so I knew we'd be going out hard. Fortunately for me, my wonderful boyfriend decided to run it with me as he knew it could be a PR day at the least. Little did he know that my confidence levels were high (rare for me prior to finally getting a job last week!) and I KNEW I'd be breaking 18.

We started off and I was almost leading the race. Yes, you read that correctly. I, a female, was almost leading the race. We went through the first mile in 5:29. Ryan told me after that he was FREAKING out that I was setting myself up for a disaster. He told me to slow it down the second mile and got in front of me to help me do so. I kept telling him to speed up as I knew what my race plan was. We went through the second mile in 5:55. I knew all I had to do was run that same mile time for mile 3 and breaking 18 would be done. However, probably at 2.25 there is a slight incline. I used the "downhill" part of that to just really focus on my leg turnover and catching up to the person in front of me.

I had run mile 3 to mile 2 and back as my warmup, so I knew there were 5 blocks before we turned to go back in to the finish area. I started counting and it really took my mind off things. As we turned, one of the DJs (younger kids, probably 14?) said "Go Party Rock!" as we had requested that LMFAO "Party Rock" song (whatever the name of it is) as it's just such a pump-up type of song. That silly little phrase just motivated me and I kicked it into a higher gear.

We went through mile 3 at 17:25. Crap. I have to run .1 in less than 35 seconds if I want to break 18. How is the finish so far away? Ryan is just SCREAMING at me at this point. He KNOWS I can do this and I'm not one to disappoint. I keep thinking back to Sunday and how I didn't allow myself any ice cream because I didn't break 18. That was NOT happening again.


PR by 6 seconds from April, PR by 49 seconds from last years race. YES! Finally! I collapse at the finish as I truly gave it my all.

Funny thing is, even though he was only running it with me, Ryan still got 2nd place in his age group!!! His 13-year-old brother Jason was 2nd in his age group as well with just over 20minutes. His 10-year-old brother Alex was 2nd in his age group with another sub-22 and his dad, right behind Alex, was 2nd in his age group as well! How often can you say your family went to a race and everyone brought home awards? My family, for one, has not been able to say this for years. Those Giuliano genes, I tell ya...

This week has taught me a lot...

1. Always listen to your coach. Cari and I talked on Monday, and we decided based on my 5k/10k on Sunday's Zoo run that I had reached my plateau. My body was just done with this cycle of training and ready for a break. Now if Ryan had told me that, I probably would have argued. Not because he doesn't know what he's talking about (Cari is a GENIUS when it comes to running and the science and everything that goes into it), but because I'd be mad that he didn't "believe in me." Well, after we had that conversation, I told myself that I'm going to break 18. I just have to now. And I did. My coach definitely knows how to motivate me! :)

2. PowerBar Recover + PowerBar Vanilla Protein Powder = best recovery drink ever. After my first workout with the Saucony Dick Pond Fast Track team ( in years, Ryan had his mixed drink for us to take. We did 4 progressive 800s (they had done 4 progressive 400s and a previous set of 4 progressive 800s before I hopped in) and 4 200s, so having this drink after definitely helped in recovery.

3. Ice Baths totally work. Ryan and I took an ice bath after the workout and I felt SO good the next day.

4. Dave Davis is the best person to go to for a massage if you are a runner. He worked on both Ryan and I on Tuesday morning. Yes, I was SO SORE the next day. But I still hit my workout splits for the 800s/200s and PRd in my 5k three days later. This guy knows what he's doing:)

5. Saucony AMP PRO2 tights ROCK. ( I wore these after my workout on Wednesday (after the ice bath) and I felt awesome on Thursday.

Something else worth noting: As a part of being on the Saucony Hurricane Team, Ryan and I (well everyone on the team, we just do things together when we are able to) have to help out at some events. Being that I'm pretty much obsessed with running, this really isn't asking much at all. So, one of these events was to run with the running group at The Runner's Edge in Chicago as part of Saucony month. We did this on Thursday night and kind of split up to run with the runners. I ran with a lady named Angelique (spelling?) and it is just SO inspirational and fun to learn about other runners and their backgrounds and goals.

I haven't really told too many people this, but I applied for the Saucony Tech Rep position awhile ago. It would basically be a dream job for me. I LOVE Saucony products--I have yet to have any sort of injury from the shoes (which is rare for me considering I've had 4 stress fractures throughout my college years while running in three different brands of shoes) and their clothing is top of the line. After we worked the event on Thursday, I left feeling like, "I could do this every day and truly have the best job in the world." So, if you read this, I'm going to selfishly ask that you pray with me that things work out. I'm sure that there are hundreds of applicants, many who have repped with other companies before so have more experience, but I truly believe I'd be an excellent fit for this position. Thanks friends and family:)

Finally, next race: Batavia Triathlon on June 12th. Ryan's racing, I'm encouraging.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend: Ridge Run 5k

Last year, Ryan and I ran both the 5k and the 10k as there was money in both. I won the 10k and was third in the 5k; Ryan won and got second. This year, Ryan had the same goal and I just wanted to run a good tempo.

Yep, I said it. My plan was to use this race as a tempo. Was it tough knowing that money was involved? You betcha. Especially since I was jobless at the time, I was seriously contemplating just racing. However, I know that I have big goals ahead, so racing this one wouldn't really do much for me in the long run.

Unfortunately, the 10k goes first, and it was already 80 degrees when they went off. I knew it'd be a hot one, so only did 1.25mile warmup (and drills). My plan was to run 6:10, 6:00, 5:50 to keep it at a 6:00 tempo pace but also negative split it just so I know that I can actually do that (I rarely negative split)!

Well, Columba Montes (phenomenal runner; had already won the 10k earlier this day) and another female started off at what seemed like a slower pace, so I stayed with them. We went through the mile at 6:01. Well, I figured, I'll just run 6:10 for the next mile and still plan on the 5:50. The pace slowed when we encountered a slight incline and we went through the 2mile at 6:27. I decided I would push the pace just a little, especially after seeing that there was one female in front of us.

Top three make money in this race, and I figured I might as well push a bit now and see if anyone drops. Worst case, I still finish my tempo under goal time. Best case, I get 3rd place and am $50 richer. Well, Columba did come with me when I pushed a bit and I told her that there was another girl ahead and to go get her. To me, again, it was about the tempo and not the money, so I knew I had secured third, but wanted to make Columba aware that she could catch the girls ahead of us (last year's winner as well). She didn't understand or hear me (I'm not sure which), so we finished just with each other--5:51 final mile:)

18:57. Do you have any idea how happy I would have been with that time last year, and here I just ran it as a TEMPO?! It's unreal what a difference having a coach and concentrating on solely running makes.

Hopefully, my next 5k will be under 18. Based on workouts, it should happen, but it's been pretty hot and humid lately. I guess we'll see where my training takes me!

Back at E.I.U

Eastern Illinois University has always stood for one thing in my mind: State track meet.

This year, EIU had an even bigger impact on me than in years past. After going to state Freshman year, I had just assumed that it's what you do to end the season. I never realized how difficult it was to qualify for State until I started coaching.

Last year, my distance stud missed qualifying by 3 seconds. It was the most devastating race I have ever watched in my life: 300m to go, on pace; 200m to go, 45 seconds to finish; 100m to go, 22 seconds to finish. Those 22 seconds turned into 25 and was the most agonizing 25seconds of my life. It was as if my runner had hit a gust of wind that was just holding her back. She had no idea how close she was to qualifying. She literally gave EVERYTHING she had; collapsing at the finish line, she grabbed the watch from my neck and saw the time. She burst into tears and we had to carry her off the track. I promised her that if she worked hard this summer, she would qualify for State in Cross Country and Track (although I was not the XC coach, I did trust that he could keep her in the shape she was in--he did and she qualified for State in XC).

This year, she had many setbacks and obstacles in her way: her knee cap randomly doubled in size over Spring Break, causing her to miss 10 days of running and she got Laryngitus the week of Conference. However, this year there was another distance stud as well.

My Junior used to be a soccer player, but decided to go out for track this year. In her first meet, she actually ran against Ryan's freshman cousin in the pouring rain. They were neck and neck and literally ran the same overall 5:54, but I knew that I had a lot of talent that I was working with. She continually improved her times throughout the season: when I finally put her into a meet completely fresh, she ran a 5:40 (on Monday). The next time she was put into a meet fresh (Thursday of the same week) was Conference, where she ran a 5:32. After Conference, I told her dad how close she was for qualifying for State (time standard is 5:25). This runner has a "whatever" kind of attitude, in a good way. She never puts pressure on herself and just listens to you-- the most coachable athlete I've ever had. I could tell her "get up with the girl in green" and she'd be up there in less than 5 seconds. She is just incredible.

Up next: Sectionals. My Junior tells me she has a game plan: 1:24, 2:37, 4:02, 5:24. Her first lap was a 1:24, second was 2:38 ("you need to get up with the girl in green" and she does), 4:01 ("you have to get around x, x, and x if you want to go to State, GO, GO, GO!!")... 5:23. Incredible. 10 second PR. Who does that in a 1600m race?!

In addition to our 1600m runner that qualified for State, we also qualified a Discus girl. I remember last year when I started coaching track at Woodstock North, her dad called me to tell me that his daughter is state-qualifier material and will be there, if not this year, next for sure. Unfortunately, throwing isn't my specialty, but we did have a throwing coach on the boys side. He worked hard with this girl and she did end up qualifying for State this year. She just continuously improved this year and always had a good attitude; she was fun to watch when I was actually able to!

So, at the State meet.... After driving the 4.5 hours to EIU from Woodstock, we warmed up on the track/disc area. The girls seemed pretty pumped to be there. When we went to check in at the hotel, I ran out to get my license and the female receptionist says to the male, "Make sure it shows she's 21." Why being 21 was relevant, I am still unsure, but the girls got a kick out of the fact that, despite JUST turning 25 the week before, I was being questioned as to if I was old enough to drink?

The hotel that we were staying at was THE SAME ONE I STAYED AT MY FRESHMAN YEAR. Definitely had tears in my eyes when making that realization. I told the girls that there was a Dollar General behind our hotel (there still was) and that we used to decorate our rooms with streamers and such in celebration of being at State. Well, my assistant coach wasn't there yet, so they asked if we could decorate his we went to Dollar General and had a good time putting streamers up in his room.

We then went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant, the girls' choice. A sign on the table said something about a Buffet, I thought it was "Birthday Buffet" and it actually said "Sunday Buffet".... I apparently can't read. But next thing I know, the freshman that we brought along for experience had told the waitor that it was my 21st birthday and they are bringing me a sombrero, shot of tequila and singing! CRAZY! We poured the tequila into the salsa (I hate looking like I don't appreciate things, but I was NOT going to drink any sort of alcohol on a school related function, despite how much crap my family and friends gave me!).

I really enjoyed spending time with the girls in a different setting than as a coach. We ended our night verifying that my assistant would be taking down our wonderful streamers (he thought it was funny and appreciated the hard work). The only reason I even mention this is because we actually got charged a "repainting the ceiling" fee from the staff taking down the streamers and paint being pulled off. None of us believe this but when it's their word against yours, what can you do.

Back to State. Well, as usual, it was a HOT one. My 1600 girl was not used to the heat, or starting out fast (I told her they'd go out in a 1:14/15 since she was in Heat 1; they went in 1:14) and it really hurt her in the final lap. She was still on pace to make Finals in the third lap, but the fast start (or the 80some degree weather!) really hurt her final lap. The disc girl did qualify for Finals--she hadn't really expected to I don't think, and wasn't prepared for it as she was Valedictorian and graduation was Saturday at 7pm!

That night (Friday night), there was a coach's race (open to any non-competing athlete or coach)that the girls had wanted to wach me do. The meet was supposed to start at 8pm. Order of events: girls 100, boys 100, girls 400, boys 400, girls 800, boys 800, combined 1600, girls 300hurdles, boys 300hurdles. Well, the first (of four) head of the girls 100 didn't start until 8:15, so I was already all warmed up for my 1600. I tried staying loose but it was hard. The 1600 was going to start at 9:15....the FIRST heat started then. Figured that I was NOT one of the 20 in that heat. Oh well. I tried my best to be patient and not get mad. Afterall, this was for fun (but I just kept thinking that the girls needed to get dinner and I was holding them back!). I finally ran close to 9:30. I ran a 5:24, which for all things considered (being outside coaching and watching the meet all day, warming up an hour prior) wasn't bad. hey, at least I still qualified for the 2A state track meet!

Saturday, my disc girl threw placed at her seed place for the finals (11th) and made it back just in time to give her Valedictorian speech. Also on Saturday, Kayla Beattie (one of the best female high school distance runners EVER) dominated in the 3200 (9:56) and 1600 (4:46 or 4:43-- I can't remember now after the crazy weekend).

Overall, what a difference being a coach versus athlete makes. I really enjoyed myself and am so glad that my girls had a good time as well. Hopefully, they'll be making the trip again next year too!