Saturday, March 15th: the night before the March Madness 1/2 marathon. Also, the day that the formerly forgotten idea of the Olympic Trials would pop back into my head.
Growing up as the daughter of two Boston Qualifying marathon runners, the idea of the Olympics was always in my head as I was passionate about running since I entered my first race in Kindergarten. Granted, up until probably college I had no real concept of what qualifying for the Olympic Trials even meant. I just knew that it would be cool to have enough talent to get to compete with the girls that would be representing our country at the Olympics.
Then, I actually started running in college, had two full-blown stress fractures (the first stress fracture was almost a broken bone) and multiple stress reactions. It wasn't until my now-husband started coaching me, once I "retired" from collegiate running, that the dreams of the Olympic Trials even came back to mind.
The 2009 Chicago Marathon was the first marathon where I broke the 3-hour barrier. Ironically enough, it was with the littlest amount of support I've ever had at a race. Ryan was competing in his own race in Dallas, my parents were with my sister on a college visit, and my brother was a college kid recovering from a night out (though he did run a little to keep me motivated!). It was after this race that my first post-college, non-husband coach said to me that I should attempt to qualify for the Trials.
While the thought was entertaining, I didn't actually start working with Coach Cari for quite some time after our conversation. By then, looking back on it, it was too late to get me ready for the Trials. The 2012 "B" standard was a 2:46:59. This is 6:22 pace for a marathon...yet 10 minutes faster than what I had run at Chicago 2009. After a few months of deciding what to do, I met with Coach Cari and we came up with my plan.
The 2011 Milwaukee Marathon, where I would have little pressure since it is a week prior to Chicago, would be my attempt. I had a lot of good workouts going into the marathon. Shoot, even the first ten miles into the marathon were really freaking awesome and I felt fresh and confident. And then my hips felt "paralyzed." That's the only way I can describe it. I saw my mom and brother on course and told them, and they just looked at me, wondering what they were supposed to do to help my situation out. Long story short, I partially tore my hamstring. Luckily, Cari was good friends with a Physical Therapist named Earl who helped repair me in no time (RMS Physical Therapy) and I signed up for the California International Marathon....along with a bunch of other girls trying to get that OTQ.
Strangely enough, those first ten miles felt awesome. Mile 11 has a HUGE downhill. Unfortunately for me, that huge downhill triggered my hamstring and I made the decision to pull out of the marathon at mile 13. Ryan was there with our rental car and comforted me, and talked me out of wanting to go back into the race. There were also a few former OTQ girls who reassured me I was doing the right thing, that I was young and could attempt for many other years, that I needed to be smart now.
After Ryan and I qualified for Kona, I told Coach Cari I still wanted that OTQ and that after Kona, we needed to get right back at my running attempt. Well, after Kona happened, I decided I kind of liked this Ironman stuff and signed up for IM Cabo, again pushing those OTQ dreams aside.
And then March Madness happened.
And then IM Cabo, specifically the marathon within the Ironman, happened.
The night before March Madness, I had been texting back and forth with local triathlete Jen Harrison. She and I had talked many times about my quest for Kona, my OTQ dreams, what I should focus on, etc. The night before March Madness, she reminded me that the window for running is much shorter than the window for triathlon (specifically Kona qualifying).
After running a 1:22 feeling strong and having no post-race soreness, I decided to contact a running coach who worked with Jen and is well-known in the running community: Dave Walters. I told him that I wanted to talk with him if things went well in Cabo, but not until after the race as I was 100% focused on Kona qualifying first.
One of the first emails I had after my race in Cabo was from Dave, simply titled "WOW." He told me he was ready to talk when I was, but that running a 3:10 after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles should definitely tell me something about my running potential.
Reasons I had pushed aside the OTQ dream:
-love of Ironman: I really enjoyed these races, and felt that Kona was kind of like the OTQ experience but for triathlon in a sense.
-potential triathlon suffering: my bike has improved a lot over the past two years of actually focusing on triathlon, and I didn't want to lose that. The swim has slightly improved, but the bike is what makes a bigger difference so I was concerned about losing that fitness.
-disappointing my teammates: as part of the EGO p/b Sammy's Bikes racing team, I had signed up for Leon's Triathlon in the Team division. EGO p/b Sammy's is our sponsor and have given us so much, I didn't want to disappoint anyone by not racing Leon's. Turns out, Dave is friends with Sammy and they had a good talk about me pushing Leon's aside to focus on a potential OTQ.
-risk of not qualifying: what if I put in all this time toward just running and then didn't even qualify?
-risk of injury: running post-high school was miserable with consistently being injured. Ryan introducing me to triathlon training (as cross training) kept me injury free until I focused on my 2012 semi-attempt at the Trials.
-fear of the unknown: we all have this. No one knows if I am in good enough shape or could get into good enough shape to qualify for the Trials. With the much lower standard of 2:42:59 (that's a blazing 6:12.9 pace!), I'd have to shave 10 minutes off of my personal best.
Reasons I decided to commit and attempt the OTQ dream:
-potential: so many people have commented that if I can run a 3:10 off the bike of an Ironman, my potential has got to be big in terms of running. With the 2013 year being full of PRs in every distance but the marathon (by default: I didn't run a marathon in 2013 except for in my Ironman), why not see what my potential is?
-belief: Coach Dave has mentioned to me multiple times that he has watched my running from afar and noticed my potential. While we have a limited amount of time to make this attempt happen, he believes in me and the workouts he is having me do and believes I can get there
-support: I know that I need the positive mindsets of others around me and the support to keep me going and help me out so that I can get the proper sleep, nutrition, recovery, etc., and I am lucky enough to have that in my life
How I'll get there:
The first step was meeting with Coach Dave. I did this on Saturday and we ran 3x2miles in Busse Woods. He gave me a bunch of articles that I think will really help me stay focused on what it will take to make this happen. It was also incredible to run not only with my coach, but to have him pushing me while we were running the workout. Did I mention that Dave is one of the best Masters runners, like in the NATION? Yep, that's my coach. So to have that knowledge and talent working with me is huge in my mind.
There are a few things that I desperately need to change in my life if I am going to make this a realistic attempt. Not all will be easy changes, but they are all necessary.
The Little Things:
-Over racing: One of the first things Dave and I discussed was my over-racing. While I never ended up injured from racing so much, he was 100% correct in stating that the amount of racing I am doing is not the best if I want to have really phenomenal key races. Between now and my OTQ attempt, I only have two races on the agenda...which normally would kill me, but I know it's important so that come OTQ attempt time, I am fresh and ready to perform.
-Nutrition: Here's the second hardest piece of the puzzle. Ryan and I used MyFitnessPal (app) to track our calories and make sure we were eating enough, but not too much, while Ironman training. We did a pretty good job of this, but with my focus on just running now, the calorie intake will be decreased significantly as I will not be putting in as many hours of training. This will be challenging since I have been used to my "Ironman diet" for awhile. I also plan on eating better foods for me. As much as I LOVE carbs, specifically crackers and the likes, the calories could be better used from other sources. I've been reading blogs of some elite female marathoners and plan to use some of their nutrition ideas since many of them are going through what I am, and most of them are going through it at an even more intense level. Basically, I want the food that I am putting into my body to aid in fueling me and in recovering my body.
-Sleep: my biggest issue. I am 100% my mother's daughter and "burn the candle at both ends." Since I'm a morning person, I like to do my workouts before school...partly too because it's hard to predict what will happen after school, so I'd rather have my workouts done so I don't have to stress. I usually wake up at 4:xx, workout, shower, drive my 45-60min to school, teach 7a-3p, current coach track until 4:45 on non-meet days (usually 7pm on meet days), and then head home to do grad school or real school work. Every Tuesday I head to Life Time to lead the Run program and rarely get home from that before 9pm. By the time I'm actually in bed, it's usually past 10pm. 6ish hours of sleep is NOT conducive to allowing my body to fully recover and repair. To "fix" this issue, I have my alarm set for 8:30pm so that I drop whatever I'm doing and get ready for bed so that I'm in bed by 9, hopefully asleep by 9:15.
-Massage/Foam Roll/Stick: Every other week, I'd go see Dave Davis for massages during my Ironman training. Now that I'll be hitting higher mileage, I plan on seeing him weekly to really flush my legs and help them recover. Coach Dave is also very adamant about foam rolling and using The Stick often...so much so that I brought our spare one to school and use that when I can!
The Next Chapter:
After all these details, you're probably wondering what this will all lead up to.
The answer: Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN on Saturday, June 21st.
Today was the first test as to how committed I am to this goal. Not only did I pass up participating in the Life Time Fitness Indoor Triathlon Championships, but I also passed up on pancakes at breakfast. Former Jacqui would have thought nothing of competing in the Tri or eating the pancakes, but OTQ-mindset Jacqui knows both of those things could have negative effects with training for Grandma's and are simply not worth it. I did have some explaining to do about my choice for not participating, and the people I told this whole story to have been truly beyond supportive. To hear people say that they have thought I had this potential truly just blows my mind and makes me so happy. I am so lucky to have such incredible people in my life that support me and believe in me, even more than I do myself.
While this is a huge change in my life, I will be going back to triathlon training (for Kona) after Grandma's is over. Whether I qualify or not, I am extremely excited about this opportunity and hope to recap the journey here. Thank you to all who have supported me thus far, and I am ready to make you proud in June!