Life Update! How did I get started in running??

As opposed to writing up a race report, I am here to announce that I will be finally working toward achieving a life goal soon: becoming a coach for running and later for triathlon (Xterra too). I have wanted to do this for a while but did not feel I had the proper experience necessary. I have accomplished much in the past few years of running, and have made all the mistakes and learned from each and every one of them. I think what gives me an edge are my travels and having started running in one of the most basic of ways: without the internet.

I will be pursing certification in early 2018 (as soon as I can based on the unreleased schedule of classes to be posted on the USTAF site). I will now start accepting athletes under my wing. Here is a brief view of my race experience…I have run races ranging from 1 mile (on a beach in the sand!) through 50k (in the mountains!), I have done on road and off road, on every terrain. I have completed Ironman and competed in Xterra World championships in triathlon. I am slow and have worked on speed with success. Where did I come from, how did this running thing happen?

I played soccer from age 5 to age 25. I have been on a team and active in something since age 5, whether it was soccer, tennis, track, basketball, cheerleading (bleh, sorry but wasn’t my style), softball, and now dance games? I played NCAA Division III Soccer and Tennis, 8 season college athlete. I grew up on farms and in the woods, back when we didn’t have video games that’s where I was…I blame my trail running bug on this. I stopped playing soccer after I was out of grad school, after I had torn my left meniscus twice and partially torn my ACL and PCL (right knee with that one).

I never had surgery to fix these things, and do NOT regret it! Running and triathlon have helped me be stronger than that. So where did I get the idea running was good?

When I was in college, we typically had to run somewhat in soccer and tennis.

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Top of Monument Hill

In tennis, we often had to run Monument Hill (2 miles round trip or thereabouts) and back and serve a basket of balls “tired”.11026094_806199386100825_464110527202866118_n Wasn’t too bad. In soccer, we had 2 mile track speed tests during preseason. But it’s 2 miles, this wasn’t even a 5k! So one day in college, when it was approaching 90°F with humidity bearing down with the pressure of the sun one Saturday I had off from practice, I decided to go do the Dairy Loop (about 3 miles). I started at my dorm, and just went out with just my music in hand. About half way through, I came to a crossroads…the roads on campus were all gravel, so they all kind of looked the same. The Dairy Loop connected with the section we ran in tennis to Monument Hill, so at some point, this would look familiar (I was running it backwards essentially). But I went the wrong way. I had only a watch for time, no garmin or fancy equipment, and this was before smart phones, so no GPS. I kept going thinking I would just end up at the back of campus! Nope. After about 30 minutes after the cross roads, no cell phone, I had to make a decision to either keep going forward or turn back. I knew I was a long way from going “back” and thought “hey every road goes SOMEWHERE, this has to lead someWHERE?!” So I kept going. It was so hot, I had no water, and water was all I could think about. After I don’t even know how long, I ended up on a freaking highway outside of school grounds…this was near the nearby town even (Amherst, VA). Just now tracked it on garmin (the route I took by accident) and it was roughly 8.5 miles. I had never run more than 3 miles. A professor found me on the side of the road trying to make it back to campus and drove me back. Best AC car I’ve ever been in. I hated running.

I hated it so much that I did it again. But with a purpose, sort of. When I was in grad school, I occasionally did the 1.33 mile loop around the school (this is now in New Mexico) a few times for fitness reasons. I was also doing club soccer during this time. And one thing the club soccer team did was run the Owl Bar run because “we could”. It was a challenge. I had no idea what it was or how long. Well, I knew it was long. So one year I decided to not be a loser and do it like everyone else to “prove” myself. I took along a friend from the team, Victoria. We needed to be back by a certain time, so we started a little early…but not that early (there was no set start time, but there were shuttles that went from the “finish line”, the Owl Bar, back to the school, the “starting line” in front of the gates). Your reward for finishing was a free non alcoholic drink and green chili burger. So short race report: it was the desert, it was September (I think), it was hot and dry, not a cloud in the sky per usual. We went out from the school gates and went along the road trying to get to the service road that would take us to the city south of us where the Owl Bar was, San Antonio, which was supposed to be 13 miles away. Needless to say we got lost and ended up going to the edge of town instead, calling the gym and asking where to go. We backtracked and ended up on the right road (which was gravel!) and finished. The first water stop (which was a one table barrel with cone paper cup dispenser) was at mile 4 on the “course”, which of course we didn’t reach until almost mile 7 on our journey…not so fun in the desert. By the time I had reached the service road (which was supposed to be mile 2.5, but our mile 5), I already had bad blisters. I had just worn old shoes I had, a skimpy spaghetti strap top and little runner shorts, and NO sunscreen (may my skin rest in peace). No choice but to keep going.

The next water stop was like mile 6, then 8, and 10 and every mile after that. Each stop felt like it took the longest to get there. Victoria was having shin splints and couldn’t go slow (walking was ok, but she was freaked out she wasn’t going to make it back to class on time, and on that note, WHY did you make this run on a FRIDAY when there were classes New Mexico Tech?!), and she left me. I struggled every step the rest of the way, walking where there were trees to shade me (there weren’t many hint hint, desert climate), and on top of that, my mp3 player (yes, you read that right) didn’t even work from the start. I had no experience, no gels, no extra anything, and certain no formal training. When I got to the bar, I had run 15.5 miles (just got this off of the garmin site retracing my run from back then on a map), was out there almost 4 hours, and I NEVER wanted to do anything like that AGAIN! I was in so much pain. My skin was on fire and burnt to the point of skin poisoning.

My skin blistered every time I showered for two weeks and my blisters were so bad, they got infected and I was on crutches for a few days afterwards. I felt truly pathetic. The actual distance from the gates of the school to the Owl Bar was exactly 13.1 miles. I had no idea what a half marathon was.

SO the next year, after I said I would never do THAT again, another friend, Anika, wanted to do it. I couldn’t let her do it alone. So 3 weeks out we decided to “train up” for it, and run every morning. Yeah, that lasted all of a week. We did make it up to 5 miles or thereabouts, that counts right? Right?!

Anyway, THIS TIME, after not reading up on any advice on how to tackle it, we went to the grocery store beforehand and picked up these G-Sport (by Gatorade) chew things…they said it would give you energy in sports! So we went out, and this time did NOT get lost! (w00t) I wore TWO pairs of socks and good-er running shoes AND sunscreen!! Yay me! I was doing GREAT! I even  brought along my mp3 player………

That did not work again. Sad face.

Oh well. We ran until we couldn’t run, and then we did the whole system of “let’s run to that bush/shadow and walk to that tree/rock”. We took the chews about half way through. Can’t say it did much? No clue what happened to be honest. We even planned to have our own car at the end so we could leave when we finished! Anyway we finished, and since it was still on a Friday, I had to get back and teach. I remember we finished roughly 2 hours and 35 minutes after we started. Then I was in pain for the next 2 weeks solid easily.

Grad school ended and I was out with my first job and decided to randomly run when I felt like it. I ran into an ad for a 5k at the grocery store, now back in Virginia again. I decided to sign up since it was like 1/2 a mile from my rental. Race morning: instant cold day just for me, low 50s and cloudy and humid. I walked to the race site, and I knew it was going to be hilly, but no clue of how hard that would be. First hill: passed by a 70-something year old telling me “keep going! Don’t give up!” I felt horrible and out of shape. I struggle bused my way through the 3.1 miles. 1394471_575644189156347_367886275_nI was so disappointed in my finish time (31 some odd minutes) that I left angrily and walked home after finishing. I later looked up the results and found out I had somehow gotten 3rd place age group. I went to get my medal and was hooked. I wanted another.

So of course, to continue on with my personality so far, I didn’t train. I just raced 5ks. I wanted a finisher medal at least. So for my 4th race, I signed up for a half marathon in the hills around Crozet, VA. I DID prepare for that, and in my mind that meant making sure I knew I could run the 13.1 miles (now knowing what that actually was), so I ran 13.1 miles one day just on water, in the mid 80s Virginia heat, on a flat bike path, in August. The race was in mid November. I did all the things wrong. I don’t really recall running after doing the 13 mile training run, and I didn’t really struggle that bad. To be fair, I did run 8 miles some time before trying the 13 mile training run to “prepare”.

Race day: it’s cold again. It was in the 40s, cloudy and overall moody weather. I can’t have good race weather! Well, it was November to be fair. I got new shoes for the race too! …BRAND. NEW. SHOES. Blisters.

I wore everything. I wore three layers and pants, head warmer. I never got hot. It’s just me, I know it. It was very hilly. But by this time, I was kind of used to it. I lived near the Blue Ridge Mountains, flat wasn’t really ever flat (but I thought I was running where it was “flat” until I moved away lol). I ran to the first aid station, around mile 4, where they were handing out these packet of stuff…They said it would give me energy! I accepted their advertisement and opened the little silver packaging and ate what was inside. I GAGGED. WHAT THE CRAP WAS THIS STUFF, THIS IS DISGUSTING AND THE TEXTURE IS GAAAAAG. I didn’t know what to do, my mouth was dry from trying to eat it, and it tasted something awful, and I only got down about half or less of the thing, and it was leaking all over my hand (gloves now gone), and the aid station was long past…no trash cans. This is the one time I have ever littered on purpose. I ditched the awful evil little package of doom flavored yuck. I later found out this was GU and almost everyone in distance racing used some form of it.905544_758551624198935_4487571563073134721_o

I ran and ran the best I could until…I couldn’t. I couldn’t really run, and I started run-walking. Not knowing anything back then, I didn’t realize I had run out of carb stores and hit the wall. Mile 11. Come on, just 2 freaking miles left. I pushed but really couldn’t. The end was all uphill too. I sprinted to the finish after seeing the finish line and got 2:15:01. I wasn’t able to beat that time for 2 years. I was the most sore I had ever been in my life after that race. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I realized, “what, a marathon is TWICE this?! That means this is basically half way?! Wot? Why would anyone do this?”

Then the post race depression set it. I needed something else. Oh look, a race! I signed up for my first marathon a month after, figuring I could use my half marathon as a starting point to training for it (instead of starting from square one). That seemed like a good idea and all, but then I didn’t train, per usual of myself, until January. But I didn’t sign up for just any marathon. NO. I had signed up for America’s Toughest Road Marathon: The Blue Ridge Marathon, with roughly 4k feet of elevation gain over 3 mountains. But hey, at least I could train on the actual course right? Then I realized again I hate the cold and that meant training when it was cold outside. I had to get over myself for once in my life.

I had gotten a garmin by this point. I knew I needed something to track miles, and not just use google maps (very inaccurate using the walk feature). I started out on January 14, 2015 with 4 miles. That was fine, let’s do 6.3 miles Jan. 18. That was also fine, let’s bump it up to TEN MILES, January 25th. Ooook that kind of sucked a little. Mountains are hard to train on and snow sucks, gotta fit in runs when there isn’t bad weather. January 30th: half marathon, went about the same as the 10 miles. Ok, we can proceed.

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I was dating Rich pretty seriously by this point and was visiting him up in State College, PA. It was SOOO much colder there! In fact, my long run landed on a day I was there and I had to get in 15 miles that weekend. It was a high of 6 that day. I layered up so much I could barely move. I bought a fancy buff (and now I know fancy buffs don’t protect you any better than cheap buffs), and the little fuzzies ended up freezing and scratching up my face during the run. The wind was so bitter. I had to duck inside an academic building half way to thaw a bit. I got all the prickles associated with your body getting warm blood again in my extremities. Not fun. I made it to 13 miles and no longer. I couldn’t be outside anymore. What’s worse is I passed other runners that day who wore skinny/tight running tights and just a 1/4 zip shirt. I WAS DYING! How am I so bad at adapting to cold? It wasn’t even hilly there, but my pace was dismal. It took me hours after to warm up. I started to freak because in my own marathon plan I had not built in extra time if I missed a long workout. At this point, at least I knew I was supposed to be testing out energy gels and such. I stuck with Honey Stinger chews. I still couldn’t take the texture of gels…too traumatized.

I’d like to add that in no way did I know about foam rolling. I also did not know about cross training and how important it was. I did not know about consuming protein to recover. I did not recover well. I spent every day between long runs resting because I was always too sore to do anything else. So yeah, I ran one day a week, for one long run that I never truly recovered from.

March 1, I decided to do my 2nd half marathon. It iced that morning, so very few people showed up, but the race was well managed. It was 13.1 Run Roanoke or something like that. It was a south east series as far as I know. I did terrible. I expected myself to finish like I had back in November, but I finished just under 2:30. Why was I so bad? It never dawned on me that I was not recovered from doing long runs, nor had I done any speed workouts or run on anything but mountains for the past two months. I was fatigued. But I handled the distance fine, and went to work after that actually. I was just COLD (and threatening to ice again). It was around 34 degrees that day. I can’t catch a break with temperatures can I?? After that, I managed a good (for me) 17 mile run, was very successful!

That was March 8th. I took a break to go to a dance game tournament for two weeks. I returned to do my longest run (which I was not supposed to be the last), a 20 miler on March 22nd.

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This was from a different tournament but you get the idea.

It was ok, I was my slowest yet. Then spring hit Virginia and I pick up on my yearly sinus infection. I was knocked out of commission. I tried two more runs, which were pretty unsuccessful and stopped both because I was still sick. Race day was April 18th. I was wildly unprepared from being sick, but I was mostly recovered (from a muscular standpoint), but I was still on antibiotics (it was my last day on them at least). I was determined to not let all my hard work go to waste. That day was very different from what it had been– it topped out at 86°F that day, full sun, and 60% humidity at least. It was a HOT one. I’ll recap the race quickly: I had emailed the race direction to make sure there would be nutrition on course, they said yes at mile blah blah blah, race day comes and there is nothing to be found at any aid station. I did not carry any. Lesson learned. Bonked at mile 14, and pushed for 6 hours and 12 minutes to barely finish my first marathon. To seek revenge, I signed up for another in the fall in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. My hormone issue hit me hard during these months and I was not able to really train. I managed a few days in a row of 8-9 mile runs but could go no further. Race day came, and I managed to run the whole marathon. I was so happy then. You can check out those short race reports from way back when here: Blue Ridge Marathon, 2015 and Outer Banks Marathon and 8k Challenge – 2015.

After that, I dedicated myself to learning all I could do for myself about the sport. I made many more mistake and have learned more than I wanted from all of them. But yes, that is my wild story of running and how I started and how disastrous it was. Had I not had a background in sports, I don’t know if the outcome would have been the same. One of the things I did not have were people that I knew who ran. I now surround myself with supportive friends whom I have met through running. Social media can be a powerful thing! And I am thankful to those who I have ran with in races. Thank you to all those I have run with in the past, and I know more now that I can connect on social media. I hope to continue that trend and help people out with their goals and dreams now. No one needs to struggle on their journey unless it’s up a hill, that’s always gonna be a struggle 😉

Feel free to reach out to me, even if I do not end up coaching you. Finding someone who fits your needs as an athlete is so important.

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