Monday, May 27, 2013

"Local Celebrity:" Soldier Field 10mile recap

I got my first job weeks after turning 16.  LifeTime Fitness in Algonquin had just been built and it only seemed natural for me to work in a fitness setting.  For those unfamiliar with LifeTime, it's basically a health club that has everything: indoor pool, outdoor pool, free weights, cardio equipment, group fitness classes, basketball courts, rock wall climbing, cafe, hair salon, child car...everything.  My job was to work the front desk: greet people, set them up with the Membership Advisors, and make sure they get a nice "have a good day!" on the way out.

One of my favorite Membership Advisors I ever worked with was named Kurt.  He was as sarcastic as me and was just getting into running, so really actually enjoyed hearing about my high school racing (as opposed to others who just chatted to chat).  After a few months of working together, he gave me the nickname of "Local Celebrity" as he had seen my name in the paper in the Prep section a few times.

Being 16/17, I thought this was the coolest thing ever...I mean, who doesn't want to be some sort of celebrity?  (again, I'm 16/17 here)  But that phrase stuck with me even when I'd come home for college breaks.  

And Saturday, May 25th I found out the meaning of "local celebrity."

At 7am on Saturday, May 25, 2013, I took off for the craziest 10miles of running I have ever experienced.  But let's back track just a tiny bit as this race almost didn't happen...

On Monday, May 21st, I decided to ask Coach Bill if running the Soldier Field 10mile would be okay with my BIG 70.3 just weeks away (June 9th).  Given how well I've been able to recover, Bill said, "let's DO this" and I proceeded to sign up.  Long story short, Ryan picked up my bib on Wednesday but it was not an Elite Athlete Start, so I was a little concerned as awards are based off of gun time and not chip time (trust me, this can make a HUGE difference in a tight race as I knew this one would be).  I emailed the race director with help from a few friends and was told to pick up my new Elite bib on Friday.

I went to pick up my bib and was asked in a rude tone, "YOU'RE an elite athlete?"  I do sometimes overreact to things, but this time I promise you the tone was just as I present it.  I was looked at up and down when the lady said this, so I felt really stupid.  I showed the email correspondence to prove that I wasn't just some Joe Schmoe claiming to be an Elite, but really just felt humiliated.

Don't get me wrong.  I know that I do not have the standard running body (I honestly never have)...I enjoy eating way too much...but for whatever reason, that really hurt.  I texted Ryan as soon as I got my packet, telling him, "I'm giving it everything I have to win tomorrow.  I'll show them I'm an elite gosh darn it."  

**The reason I mention this is because I plan on blogging about running misconceptions soon, as SO many close to me have had their running suffer due to stereotypes and trying to fit them.  Stay tuned for that.

Back to Soldier Field.

I stayed at my brother's place on Friday night since his roommate was pacing a friend the next day.  Nic gave me his set of keys so that I could go out and get some food on my own time.  I went to Jak's Tap for a burger and beer (pre-race ritual), watched the Cubs game and headed to bed.  Somewhere throughout the night, Nic and his roommate separated so Nic called me to get into his place.  When I woke up for the actual race, I felt exhausted.  Not good.  Ryan had commented that maybe I should use Saturday as a "sleep in" day since I rarely get those, but being the stubborn person I am, I signed up for SF10 instead.  At 5:30am on Saturday, I was really regretting that decision.

Nic drove me to Soldier Field and I weeded my way through the crowd of runners.  I spotted Mary and Andres while plowing through the bathroom line, said a quick hello and had barely enough time to get a 5min jog in.  I was a little nervous until I spotted Coach Bill, who told me to, "Just use the first few miles to get in your groove, treat it as your warmup."  Probably the best thing he could have told me as I was a little nervous about my legs at this point.

At 6:55, the Elite Corral opened up and we did a few strides before the gun went off.  When the gun went off, a sea of green passed by me (Fleet Feet Women's team) and I latched onto the pack. I settled in and began feeling pretty darn good, just like I had at U of I for the 1/2 marathon a month earlier.  

Mile 1- 5:54.  I felt pretty relaxed, and we had a pretty darn good pack: my Saucony teammate Columba Montes, Fleet Feet runners Pam Staton, Melissa Hardesty, Rachel Velarde and New Balance team runner Kristen Heckert.  All of these girls are phenomenal runners and I had raced each one except for Melissa, so I knew we would have a tight group for quite some time (I predicted at Mile 5 we'd cut our group down a little, and by Mile 7 we'd be looking at the top 3).

Mile 2- 5:57.  Dave Schaefers, Mick Brown and Joe Vukits (DPFT teammates) were all right by us, pulling us through.  Staying tight.

Mile 3- 5:53.  Rachel and Kristen were leading us with the pack of guys, but it was hard to get around or reposition at this point.

Mile 4-5:57.  I planned on taking my gel at Mile 6...and had to open it now.  I don't know what was going on with my legs, but I just wasn't feeling it.  Mind over matter.  Stop over thinking things.  GET MOVING. Start taking your gel and get over it.

Mile 5-5:49. OOPS.  Well, as predicted, this is where we lost a few of our pack.  Crossing the timing mat at Mile 5, Kristen and Melissa and I were starting to run 3 across with guys behind us and in front of us.  Teammate Rich Siok was a great target and super positive throughout (thanks:)).

Mile 6-5:55.  I sipped more of my gel before throwing it away at this point.  I know it's 100% mental, but MAN did my legs start feeling better after each sip I took.

Mile 7-5:56.  Just before we hit mile 8, I got clipped and thought I was for sure falling.  Luckily, I was on the outside on the right so didn't interfere with Kristen or Melissa, but I was seriously close to falling.  My stride altered a bit, which made me nervous for the remaining few miles.

Mile 8-5:59.  This mile was one of the bigger struggles.  At the beginning of this race, I had planned on staying in a pack and trying to take off after mile 8 if I had felt okay.  I knew at this point that I couldn't take off and that it would probably be a sprint finish, which scared me a bit.  I told myself to not stress, let the other girls dictate the pace, and just BELIEVE.
Our pack just after mile 9.  I'm pretty sure our faces say it all.

Mile 9- 6:05.  Our only mile over 6.  Clearly we were all starting to feel it at this point (combined with the lovely shift in wind that we had been dealing with ever since the turnaround just before mile 5).  I knew that at 9.5, if not sooner, things would be getting ugly.

At 9.3 miles, Melissa took off.  Crap. Do I stay and hope I can out kick at the end or do I just go now? With no time to waste, I went with her.  I knew we were going at a much faster pace--sub 5:50 for sure.  I just wasn't sure if I could maintain this for the last .7miles.  The cheers kept getting louder and louder, which only motivated me to push harder and harder.  Melissa and I kept bumping into each other--THAT'S how hard we were running.  

I could see where we would be turning in to go into the stadium before being dumped onto the 50 yard line and knew what I had to do.  I sprinted just slightly ahead, took off once we got into the tunnel, and just ran like it was the last race of my life until I hit the 50 yard line.

And I did it.  I broke the tape.  Melissa finished 3 seconds behind me (gun time, 1 second, and that's what results/awards are based off of), that's how hard we worked.

Our last mile was a 5:47.  This was the same exact last mile I ran at the CARA Lakefront 10 earlier in April, but boy did it hurt much more this time around!

59:31.  The top three females all broke 60--it was unbelievable.

This race has the best prizes ever (if you're a Bears fan): personalized Bears jersey and a flag that's flown over Soldier Field.
 Top 5 men and women.
 LOVE this picture with Mark!
 High school classmates Megan and Amy ran too--it was so fun to catch up!!!
 Personalized jersey.
 Thanks for a great cool down, ladies:)
 4 of the award winners were Illini alum!!!
 Running buddy Joe:)
Pretty much sums up the race.

To tie in my beginning (Local Celebrity thing)... after the race, I swear I was talking to people until my ride called me to say it was time to go.  I met so many new people and caught up with so many others.  It was incredible and time just flew by.  I felt like a celebrity with everyone wanting to talk to me and hang was such a cool feeling.  

Everyone had such kind words to say and I seriously left in tears of happiness for such an incredible day.  THANK YOU to everyone for all of the sweet messages and for making me feel so great.  I am such a lucky girl:)  Congrats again to everyone who ran this race!  And congrats to my husband who was in Elgin, winning his own 10mile race:)

One of the best parts of this race had to be the medals.  We were given medals from active service men and women.  Seriously gave me chills and made me remember the reason we are celebrating this weekend.

On that note, HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY everyone.  Let's celebrate those who keep our country safe!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

2013 Debut (outdoor) Triathlon: Galena.

At some point, I figured I should probably actually do a race that involves swimming, biking and running since that's all I've been doing since January.  Saturday, May 18th was that day.

Ryan and I left after I was done with school on Friday for the 2.5hour drive to Galena.  I swear, this drive always seems so much longer than it actually is.  For some reason, we never seem to think Galena is that far away....until we are in the car at hour 2 and realize we still have over 20miles to go.  

In any case, we made it to Galena and picked up our packets with a few hours of sunlight to spare.  We decided to ride our bikes for a bit just to make sure things were working okay.  Good thing we did.  Ryan pumped up our tires and less than a minute later, his popped.  We joked how hopefully this meant it wouldn't happen to us on race day before heading out for an easy 15minute ride.  

When I say "easy 15minute ride," I'm referring to it how Ryan would.  There was nothing easy about it for me.  My legs felt so incredibly tired and sore.  My IT bands never loosened and my hamstring (yeah, the one that crushed my marathon dreams in 2012) was tight throughout the ride.  Ryan joked with me that I was finally sore because I hadn't raced last weekend....which I actually think could be true.  I have done a race every weekend since mid-April and had never been this sore, so it was strange to think that after not racing last weekend, I now felt like I had been "run over by a truck."  

I was confident in my swim and run, but in almost any triathlon, it's about the bike...which I clearly was not ready for.  I had tears in my eyes during that "easy 15minute ride" just thinking about how all of this hard work wasn't going to pay off, but also telling myself that this race is just an outdoor triathlon experience to get ready for the REAL race on June 9th.

In retrospect, I should have realized that I was on Hard Week #3 of 3 and just completed the hardest bike workout of my life on Wednesday followed by a hard tempo on Thursday, so SHOULD have been as sore as I was, but all I kept thinking was how badly I wanted Galena to be a good "debut" race for me.

In any case, I stopped my sadness and got in the car to ride the course with Ryan before heading to dinner.  The course hadn't changed too much in terms of the roads we ride on, but we did avoid one of the biggest and most challenging downhills thankfully.  Ryan got up to 60mph on this hill two years ago and it has a decently sharp turn that could really cause an accident.  Luckily, they changed this part of the course....and we ran down it instead. More on that later.

We went to our favorite pre-race place, Spike's in Eagle Ridge, where Ryan had the pasta bar and I had my standard bison burger...and some delicious raspberry beer.  We headed to our cute hotel, Stoney Creek, and met up with John and Oscar before crashing for the night.

This year, the Galena Triathlon changed the course so that it now had TWO transitions.  Yep, you swim in the normal lake, grab your bike after throwing all of your stuff (wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, etc) into a bag labeled with your bib number, and ride your bike 17.5miles to Transition 2, where your running shoes are at.  This caused a LOT of headache for not only us, but many other triathletes on race morning.

PowerBar was a sponsor of this race, so despite the late (9am) start time, Ryan and I still had to be at the finish line by 7am to get his stuff set up.  We saw the shuttle bus (as promised) at the finish line when we arrived, and were told there'd be another one coming in about 30minutes.  7:30am catch the bus, arrive at the water at 8am, Ryan take off at 9am....sounds perfect, right?

If the bus was on time, it would have been.  However, we waited from 7:20-8am for a bus.  We saw at least 10 pass us as they headed to Remote Parking, and never came back for us.  Our friend Alejandra (and the three others who we met waiting for the bus) still had to drop their shoes off at T2, so we were getting pretty nervous.  Luckily, the volunteer that was with us got real mean after 30minutes of us waiting and called the race director to yell at her.  A bus was stopped in front of us 5minutes later.

We arrived at the race site at time to test out our bikes (we left them overnight) or do much of anything besides get body marked and put on our wetsuits.  My wave wouldn't start until 9:30, but I just felt so awful for Ryan.

After seeing him come out of the water in a pack of 5 (6th/7th overall) and do an awesome flying mount on his bike to immediately take the lead out of transition, I chatted with a few friends, met my teammate Emma (coached by Bill as well) and headed to the water with my Sammy's teammate Dani.  

I never really get nervous for races, except for when they're triathlons.  My heart was beating a million miles per hour and I just wanted to get this thing over with.  Luckily, when the gun went off, I rushed into the water and was immediately in the middle of the pack (good for me, considering I would start at the back in previous years with my slow swim).  

I surprised myself and kind of got angry in the water.  Girls were hitting me and kicking me (all part of the sport), so I'd speed up and go around them. Many girls kept going off course, so I made sure to stay on the inside and make a line closest from buoy to buoy.  This strategy seemed to pay off as I came out of the water with only 5 girls ahead of me, and in a time of 9:44 (for me, for a 660, that's really good).

Transition 1 was full of large rocks and gravel.  I literally walked to my bike because I was almost crying in pain.  My feet are really sensitive, so this was pretty tough.  I learned from Jen Harrison (PHENOMENAL local triathlete) that I can just put a pair of slip on shoes out by the water and slip into those.  This will be SO beneficial and save me at least 30seconds I bet.  *always a learning experience*

I came out of transition surprisingly fast for walking, and only had 2 girls ahead of me.  I passed one (who I would continue switching places with throughout the bike; I'll call her Gatorade Girl as she wore a Gatorade uniform) right away and eventually got around another girl by mile 5.  My teammate Dani also passed me around this time, which was frustrating but motivating.  We later talked after the race and she gave me valuable advice, so I'm thankful for how things worked out during the bike.

I'm not sure we ever had a "flat" section on this bike.  It felt like we were either going up a hill or down a hill the entire time, and I was struggling as bad as I had been on Friday.  2012 Jacqui would have given up.  Thrown the towel in and be content with hopefully placing in my age group.  2013 Jacqui is tough. And doesn't give up.  I kept telling myself that everyone was struggling and that I was doing fine (not looking at my mph as I'm sure that would have just caused me unnecessary stress and panic).  My power was where it was at in Alabama, so I had to be doing okay.  Going into T2, I knew Dani was probably 60-90seconds in front, and Gatorade Girl was just in front of me.  It was now MY TIME to race.

T2 wasn't pretty.  My left shoe just wouldn't get on, and the insole kept flopping around every time I tried to put my shoe on.  I grunted in frustration, which made someone chuckle (I would have too--why am I getting upset???).  I was so frustrated that I took off FLYING out of transition and almost completely face planted going up the first grass hill.  

I could see Gatorade Girl just in front of me, but she looked like she was flying.  Granted, she was easily 3 inches taller than me, so she obviously looked like she was running faster, but in my frustrated mind, this did not help.  The first mile has a GINORMOUS uphill that many peopled walked up.  John was right there, banging his drum and yelling at me to GOOOOOO.  Dani was only 90 seconds ahead of me and John was determined that I could catch up.  

When someone gives me a goal or tells me I can/can't do something, I go after it like no other.  I passed Gatorade Girl during that uphill and surprisingly ran a 6:49 first mile (if you've done Galena, you know how challenging that hill is).  

Mile 2 had that HUGE downhill that was part of the bike course in previous years, so I was not surprised when I clocked a 5:47.  I passed Jen Garrison (the eventual winner) at this point, but since triathlons have wave starts, she ended up beating me by 4minutes!  I was in the first wave, so knew I had to haul the entire time as there were girls behind me that could bike faster and my run was my only saving option.

Mile 3 came and went uneventfully in a 6:01.  It was getting pretty hot out, and I was feeling discouraged that I couldn't see Dani yet.  Just before mile 4, I saw her.  When she passed me on the bike, she was so encouraging that I can only hope I was the same around mile 4.  I split a 5:58 and sprinted the last half mile to the finish with the support of the crowd.

I met up with Ryan and talked with his grandparents (who had come to watch!) for a bit before heading over to talk with Jen Harrison and her friends.  She gave us some good pointers and helped me feel a little more confident for Eagleman.  She's racing it as well, and has done it many times, so it was nice to kind of prepare myself.

Ryan, John, Oscar, Dani, Alex (her fiance and fellow Sammy's teammate), Nate, Trina, Alejandra and I hung out under the PowerBar tent and relaxed and just had fun before heading to get our bikes.  What a  headache this turned into.  Long story short, I don't think Galena will be having two transition areas next year with as many complaints as I heard.  It was such a mess.

After picking up our awards (free 2night stay at Eagle Ridge!!!!), we strolled around in downtown Galena before calling it a day.  Galena sure is relaxing, but it's good to be home:)
 The gang post race.
 Sammy's represents!
 My stud of a husband with his award:)
Sammy's Tri Team: Alex (1st male Du), Dani (3rd female Tri), me (2nd), Ryan (1st)

This race helped me put things in perspective.  This race had a lot of good females in the field, and I held my own.  I now know I need some work on transitions and my bike (although a small taper might help that as well), and am more prepared than ever to get after it at Eagleman.


I hope everyone was able to enjoy this beautiful weekend (running a race or otherwise) and am SO glad it's finally past winter!:)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Double race weekend part 2: PRs. (Race That's Good for Life 5k recap)

To follow up from my last posting, 90% of this running thing has to be mental.  I truly have no other explanation.

I've been racing the Oak Park Race That's Good for Life 5k for probably 5 years now.  Ryan's cousin and his wife (two of our good friends) live in Oak Park, so it started out as more of a fun get together the night before.  Then we started doing the mother/daughter and father/son competitions and, well, now we're hooked.

This race is one of the fastest 5k's in the Chicagoland area.  Flat, fast, and draws great competition.  Many of my friends and teammates have their 5k PR's on this course, so it's hard to say no to it.  Unfortunately, this race had to take back seat to the Shamrock Shuffle this year....every year this 5k is the first Sunday of April, but with Shamrock screwing with everyone always changing their race date, Race That's Good for Life chose to make their date the last Sunday in April.  This would have been okay for us...except for the fact that we had tentatively planned on racing U of I 1/2 marathon.  We sign up for it every year in hopes of actually going down, and FINALLY pulled through and went this year (see previous blog post).

Ryan and I talked on the way back and decided that we were going to suck it up and run the 5k.  Would we be sore from the 1/2?  Probably.  But would it be fun to see if we could help our parents pull off a mother/daughter father/son victory? Absolutely.

I knew my mom and I had a chance at placing top three based on last year's results when I raced with bronchitis and we finished 4th.  I also knew the top spot was virtually impossible to reach since mom had been unable to train for the past two weeks with taking care of my dad (long story short, he had foot surgery, it got infected, and every spare minute she had, she spent taking care of my dad.  He's a tough guy, but it's VERY hard for him not to be able to move around much--he's the guy you see riding his bike to the train station, yep that's my active dad!).

Anyway, I told my mom I had no idea what to expect, but would be going for as fast of a time that I could run to help us out the best I could.

This is the part when I refer to my first sentence: running is a mental sport.  I put it in my head that I raced many of the girls doing Race That's Good for Life a few weeks ago on DEAD legs at Shamrock Shuffle (Ryan and I raced the Double Oak Duathlon in Alabama the day before, drove back, raced on 2hours of sleep).  If I could compete decently at an 8k, a 5k should be no problem.  I told myself to stop being a wimp and just push as hard as I could so mom and I could be top 3.

And it worked!

We had a pretty good group for the first mile or so.  We went through the mile at 5:42, which was much slower than 2 years ago, but also was something I was okay with.

Just before the halfway point, Pam and I opened up our gap a bit (I could hear the lady in the lead vehicle saying that) and we went through the 2mile in 5:47.  I didn't have any idea what pace we were running and didn't look at my watch until the end.  I saw our time on the clock, but didn't even compute our mile split (which is weird, since I am SO into that normally--it's the nerdy math teacher side in me).

With 3/4 of a mile to go, I decided to take off as I know Pam can kick.  I figured, worse case, I would break 18 and best case I could maybe win this thing!

I definitely underestimated myself.  Looking through my watch splits, I closed in a 5:33 and ran the last 0.1 at a 5:17 pace.  I truly attribute that to my crazy encouraging teammates.  It was UNREAL to see SO many guys in orange/yellow/grey singlets cheering for me (in addition to the spectators).  Imagine running through a giant crowd and EVERY single person calling your name.  That's what it was like.  I have goosebumps just thinking about that moment as I felt like I was a celebrity.

I ended up running a 17:40, a 5second PR.

However, that wasn't even CLOSE to being the best part of my day.  I shook the other females' hands until the clock hit 19minutes and went running back to find my mom.  I cheered her in and pushed her to a sub-26 finish, which was what she was going for.  She really started pushing hard when I told her we had a quarter mile to go and to kick it in, and that helped her get her goal time.  Truly an amazing feeling.  And one of my lovely teammates captured that moment:
Seriously in love with this picture.
 Top three ladies.
 Females finish.
 Total no-no in racing.  I failed.
 The start of the race.
Check out that sea of red! and I ended up getting 3rd.  She is more motivated now than ever to get her butt back into running shape and wants to even win next year! It is incredibly fun for me to watch my mom get excited about racing again and truly made this race my favorite one to date.