Friday, July 25, 2014

Esprit de She: an incredibly motivating and inspiring night

Ever since I was in kindergarten, I aspired to be a talented runner. That perception changed from kindergarten, to middle school, to high school, to college, and post-college. My definition of "talented" meant many different things to me as I was going through these stages of my life, and the definition continues to change as I continue to grow.

I have always wanted to use my "talent" to help others, whether through advice, training, running with them, or even just simply reading my blog. To hear someone use the words "motivating" and "inspiring" to describe me truly brings tears to my eyes. I was fortunate enough to have another one of those experiences last night (Thursday, July 24).

For those who don't know, I am the "Run Coordinator" at Life Time Athletic in Vernon Hills. Basically, I organize our Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday runs and create training plans for both groups ("people training for the Chicago 1/2 marathon") and individuals (personalized coaching).

Our most recent group training plan concluded last night at the women's only Esprit de She 5k and 10k. This race is held at Montrose Harbor (for all you Chicago people) and put on by Life Time Athletic Events (and Life Time Run has a strong presence as well). I knew that 10-12 of my training groupers would be there, so was excited to see them run well with the perfect weather we had.

Setting up beforehand.

Life Time Run Coordinators: 
Deborah (Romeoville), Karie (Algonquin), me (Vernon Hills) and Ryan (Warrenville)

Some of the runners that come to our runs had teased me about never seeing me actually run a race, so I planned to run the Esprit de She 10k. I told Coach Jen not to modify my schedule in any way, that I just wanted to run the race, so I had a lovely 3800 swim workout beforehand (swimming is still not my favorite).

I arrived in the city after the longest drive ever to meet with the other Run Coordinators and then set things up for the race. We even had some Subway sandwiches for dinner (thankfully, since I was starving), and I didn't care that I was eating that close to the race. I truly was just going into this race to run it and cheer on my runners and the thousands of awesome ladies pushing themselves.

 Fun pre-race tattoos: "Dare you to chase me"
 Gooooooooooo Linda!!!!!!!!!

Well. My legs and brain clearly don't communicate since the outcome was much better than I had even imagined.

Coach Jen told me not to run too hard...give a good effort, but nothing that will keep me sore on Friday since we have a LONG hard ride in Madison on Sunday and some longer stuff Friday and Saturday as well.

The 5k runners went off 10 minutes before the 10k runners. Both courses were out and back loops, with the 10k turnaround being slightly further than the 5k turnaround. I checked with my friend Lynn to make sure there was no way I could get lost since there was a strong possibility I'd be leading this race (God help us all...girl with no sense of direction leading a race). She assured me I would have the lead biker as well to help, so I toed the line confidently.

The gun went off, and another lady was right next to me. My only focus was on the lead biker since I didn't really want to embarrass myself and make everyone go the wrong way. The lead biker was great: she was calling out to the 5k run/walkers, "Lead 10k runner coming through, stay to your right." And it worked for some people, but I did do a lot of weaving. The paths in the city of Chicago are only so big, after all!

My Garmin beeped just before the 1-mile mark (I'm reeeeally good at running the tangents?).

5:55. Hmm. This actually feels pretty comfortable. Let's see where this is going.

At some point (maybe 1.3miles?), the 5k runners turn right and the 10k runners go straight for a little bit before turning right, making a loop, and catching back up with the 5k runners. During this little extra loop, a LOT of the path is covered with sand. It was SUPER windy on Wednesday and a TON of sand covered this path. Like so much so that the lead biker had to get onto the grass because the sand was too hard to pedal through. So I immediately assumed my second mile would be slower. I didn't really care, since I wasn't planning (or supposed) to run hard.

5:50. Uh, what? 

At this point, we've reconnected with the 5k-ers who are finishing, and the lead cyclist is again shouting, "Lead 10k runner coming through, stay to your right!" All of the weaving didn't bother me since all of these runners were SO amazing. "Holy sh*t!" "You go girl!" "Oh my gosh, keep it up!" "Is she for real?" "That girl is flyin'!" Basically anything that you want to hear as you're running past people was said during this time. It definitely motivated me to push hard, despite knowing I had a decent gap on 2nd place.

And then I ran past one of the ladies in my training class. She went CRAZY for me, which of course made me tear up (it was windy?) and push harder. She was cheering, "Go Jacqui! That's my trainer!" and I just felt so amazing. Side note: she ROCKED her race, PR-ing in the process!!

At the Life Time Run aide station, the 10k-ers turned to do another loop and the 5k-ers went straight to finish. Fellow Run Coordinators/Leads were there cheering their heads off and it was awesome! The runners (and I!) just LOVED it! Thanks for the motivation, guys!:)

I figured after I hit mile 3 that I would just slow the pace since I didn't want to be tired on Friday.

5:50. Yep, definitely slowing down now. No one else is around, I know the loop, let's take it easy.

Remember when I said my legs and brain didn't communicate? Yeah:

Mile 4--5:52
Mile 5--5:56
Mile 6--5:58

I knew at mile 5 that breaking 36 was a real possibility. There was a lot of congestion in the last 0.5mile, though, and when the time came where I had the chance to sprint to the finish chute, I couldn't get myself to "blow by" other runners for my own selfish reasons. These ladies worked just as hard, if not harder, than I did, so I was not about to ruin their moment or make them feel silly by sprinting past them.

36:11...5:50 pace.
*Note: I ran an 8k on 4th of July at 5:49 pace and my legs were EXHAUSTED the next day. No soreness today must mean something good!
Life Time Run!

As soon as I finished, I was greeted my one of my training groupers and was SO excited to hear how she did. Another one of the "regulars" was there cheering for her sister and just said how much fun it was to actually see me race...which of course made me blush and get all teary-eyed. I'm such a softie sometimes!

I ran back to get mom, and was SO happy to see how excited she was. She was just CRUSHING it and was beyond thrilled with her finish. Super proud moment.
Running like the champ she is!
Linda Aubert: Rock. Star.

The rest of the night was spent socializing with the other amazing women who finished this race and accomplished some tough running goals. It was fun to connect with the other Life Time employees as well and just enjoy the positive vibe that the night brought.

I am so blessed to be part of such an amazing community in running (and triathlon). To hear the runners who go through my training be SO excited about their performances and thank me (they're the ones that put in the work, though!:)) just makes me so happy. I hope to continue to motivate and try to inspire throughout the next few months leading up to Kona. Thank you, ladies, for an incredible night!

Up next: triathlon return part 2--Steelhead (August 10th).
 Some of the *newest* runners to our group...they killed it!:)
 Mother daughter photo op <3 nbsp="" p="">
Awesome group of runners, even better people.

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