Race goals for the reluctant runner

I’m racing, er, running — maybe jogging — an 8K tomorrow. I’m feeling a bit reluctant about it and I wish I was in a better mindset.

After all, I have three other friends who will be running, and Bryce will be coming out to cheer for us.

So, why the reluctance?

I have an ingrown toenail situation that had been affecting my running earlier in the week. It’s gotten better (i.e., it no longer hurts to wear close-toed shoes). But, because of that, I haven’t run much recently. And, when I have, my knee has been “acting up.”

With all that being said, I’m still going to do the race. And, here are my race goals:

  1. Have fun.
  2. Finish with a smile on my face.
  3. Do not worry about time/pace.
  4. Beat the bridge (but do not get mad if I do not).

I know, I know. Goal #3 and #4 are in direct conflict with one another. In order to “beat the bridge,” I think one needs to maintain 10 minute/mile pace. Or, a bit faster?

For those who are confused by this whole beating the bridge thing, this course has two bridge crossings and the second one is around the 2-mile mark. The bridge will go up at a specified time so a lot of runners’ goal is to beat the bridge from going up. If you get caught at the bridge while it is up, you will have to wait for a minute or so — and then continue on with the rest of your race.

But, my main goal is just to have fun.

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Running but not running

I’m running again but I haven’t really been running much lately.

After a pretty successful 10K race last month, I haven’t been running as much as I have wanted to in preparation for my “real comeback race” — Beat The Bridge 8K.

I guess since I know I can run a 10K, I know I’ll be able to complete an 8K.

It’s just, running doesn’t feel completely the same since I still continue to have off and on knee pain and aches.

I ran into a former coworker last week and she enthusiastically said “You’re running again!” Yes, I guess based on my social media posts, I am in fact running again.

But, I still don’t feel like a runner.

I’ll take this upcoming 8K easy. After all, I also have this ingrown toenail situation I am trying to fix. Yesterday it hurt so bad that I couldn’t even run! I went back home after 30 seconds of running — yes, less than one minute! I immediately soaked my feet so that the nail would be softer to cut, and I attempted to “undo” the ingrown toenail.

Well, I made it worse. So, now I’m walking around my office in my Birkenstocks since it’s a bit uncomfortable to wear close-toed shoes.

Anyway, enough about my gross nail.

That’s the update for now … running, but not running, but sort of running.

I’ll be back to a runner when …

I’m still waiting for that moment when everything clicks and my knee is 100 percent pain/ache-free and I’m done worrying about whether or not I’m still injured.

It hasn’t happened yet. But, I’m very close to it.

I thought it would happen after my first race back. But, it was a trail race. So, even after I conquered that, I felt that I was not fully back.

About a month ago, I started doing short run-commutes. From work to the eye doctor. From work to downtown to meet up with a friend. Both of these equated to about two miles. I still haven’t built up the confidence to run from the office back home — which is five miles all up hill.

Two weeks ago I ran my first road race back and it went as perfectly as it could have!

But, I still don’t feel 100 percent back to normal. I’m still waiting for my knee to feel 100 percent ache/pain-free. Because if I were to be truly honest, sometimes my knee aches even when just sitting at my desk at work.

Is this the new normal?

Will I be a worried forever now?

When do I stop calling myself an injured runner and merely a runner?

Back to racing: Tenacious 10K

I couldn’t have asked for better weather. I couldn’t have wished for better company. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better race result.

For those of you who do not read this blog religiously, I signed up for a 10K just two days before the race, without any real 10K training.

Sure, I’ve been running again. I now have about two months worth of running under my belt. This means running anywhere from three to five times a week. But, prior to the race, my longest run had been about five miles. My plan all along had been for the Beat the Bridge 8K in May to be my “comeback” road race.

But, I got anxious and antsy. I was also getting major FOMO as the excitement of race week built for Tenacious Ten. I wasn’t going to miss out this year like I did list year (due to my knee injury).

My Oiselle teammate and friend, Rebecca, and I carpooled together to Gas Works Park early on race morning. I was feeling super excited. A little tired, but super excited. It was cold and windy while we waited for the race to start. But, I ran into some other teammates, whom I haven’t seen in quite some time so that was fun!

Even though I wasn’t planning to “full on race the thing,” I still wore my Oiselle singlet and shorts. As I waited in the crowd of runners waiting for the race to officially start, I was questioning my wardrobe choice. I was cold.

Once we started running, my legs felt light. I had a huge sense of warmth and happiness: I was road racing! After nearly two long and hard years since my last road race, I was back again!

Although I was wearing my GPS watch, I paid no attention to it. (Also, I haven’t figured out all the settings on my “new” Suunto so it doesn’t beep at mile marks, which I guess is a good thing for now). I trotted along, with lots of smiling runners around me. Or, I was smiling so I just figured everyone else was too!

But then some thoughts started popping in my head.

This feels a little slow. 

I started making my way past other runners as we ran up a short incline to get on the University Bridge. It was from that point on that I continued passing runners … for the duration of the race.

Every time I’d settle into another pack of runners and feel like I was at a good pace, I’d think to myself “I can go faster.” So, I did.

My knee felt off-and-on achy but nothing new and nothing painful. I kept on running. In the final two miles, I really started picking up the pace. Even though I wasn’t racing for time, now I wanted to definitely beat one hour.

(At one short point, I was running 7:27 pace!)

Within the last mile, I looked at my watch and told myself I had a good chance of breaking 55 minutes.

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After crossing the Fremont Bridge, I dug deep. I started breathing harder.

I’m actually racing now!

The sun was shining brightly. Since I hit that part of racing where things are feeling uncomfortable, I even had a moment of “When will this be over?”

Once I was back at Gas Works Park and about to leave the Burke Gilman Trail, it was all or nothing. I saw a handful of people in front of me, and I began chipped away at them.

I full-on sprinted into the finish — so fast and mindless, might I add, that I didn’t even notice Lauren Fleshman or Sally giving high-fives to finishers.

I did it!

Rebecca greeted me right at the finish line and said, “OK, ready to go?” (I had told her earlier that I wouldn’t have time to hang out after the race since I had a bridal shower to go to. Actually, I had my bridal shower to go to).

I reached for a cowbell medal from a nearby table, since I also somehow managed to sprint right by the volunteers handing them out.  I also grabbed a water bottle. Despite half the race thinking I had to pee, now I no longer had to and was extremely thirsty.

My official time was 54:21.

I couldn’t be happier.

The return to road racing

I did it!

And, I did it faster than I thought I could!

And, it was sunny and I got to see many familiar faces!

The Tenacious 10K last Saturday was great.

I’ll get to a full race report in the next day or so — sorry, life has been super busy — but know that after nearly two years, I finally was able to do a road race for the first time.

And, it was glorious.

Motivated by Boston

When I arrived at work Monday morning, I frantically searched for a free live-steam of the Boston Marathon. Nothing was working. I either needed to have a TV provider log-in or pay for a subscription of this or that. I was ready to give up and just read the live-Tweets of the race when a friend responded to my  “urgent” text and gave me his log-in info for an account that had access to view the race.

Des was making moves.

At first I watched with no sound. I am at work after all, and I have two monitors so I was trying to get through my emails while keeping an eye on the race. Eventually I plugged my headphones in to hear the commentary.

She had placed second at Boston in 2011 by a mere TWO SECONDS. Earlier in this race, she slowed down and “waited” for her U.S. teammate, Shalane, to use the porta-potty!

Who is this kind, badass, determined runner?

When she crossed the finish line with no other runners in sight, I felt the sense of accomplishment as if I did something to contribute to this momentous moment. 

Not only did Des Linden come in first at the Boston Marathon for the first time, she was the first American woman to do so in 30+ years!

Her time was now. In the pouring, windy Boston weather, she did it.

All the years, and she never gave up. The commentators called her a “blue collar runner” which I guess is a compliment since she worked hard and won the whole thing.

It makes me feel inspired to one day face the road marathon again. My goal has always been to break four hours at the marathon. I was so close at Eugene but ever since being out of commission from running for more than a year, my goal started diminishing.

Maybe I’m not cut out to run road marathons. Maybe I should just focus on “running for fun.” Maybe I should convert to solely being a trail runner. 

These have been my thoughts for the last six months to year.

But, let’s backtrack a bit …

In December 2015, as that year came to a close, I started setting goals for the new year. I used Year Compass — a free goal-setting booklet — that not only opens up your mind for goal setting for the new year, but also beyond.

There was a section in that booklet that prompted you to dream big. I had written “Boston?”

As a current 4:01 marathoner, I’d need to cut at least 30-35-minutes from my marathon time to qualify for Boston. This seems outrageous. And, just because I’m hyped and inspired by Des, does not mean I am going to go immediately chase this goal.

However, I am ready to start thinking about tackling a road marathon again. I’m not saying I will run one this year. Because, mentally and physically — and just with my I’m-so-busy-because-I’m-getting-married schedule — I’m not prepared to train and race a marathon this year.

Next year? Probably.

Boston? Who knows.

Maybe one day.

Onward to racing!

You may recall that last month I participated in my first race after being injured for 20 months. It was great, it helped build up some confidence. But, it was a trail race.

There’s nothing wrong with trail running. I love it. However, what knocked me out from running to begin with was the Anchorage (road) Marathon. Until I have raced roads again, I’ll remain feeling a bit — weak.

So, I registered for Beat the Bridge, which is a road 8K in May. I have lots of time to work up towards it and 8 kilometers is just under five miles so that doesn’t seem too daunting.

This is a race I’ve done a few times in the past. (Although, upon re-reading my 2011 race recap, I seemed to have not liked it too much?) The course will more or less be the same (since it needs to incorporate the bridges) and I’ll have a few friends who will be racing it as well. It’ll be a fun party, right?

As I type this, I’m excited for the race but I’m sure as it gets closer I will be more nervous. You all just need to keep me in check, OK? OK then!

(And, if anyone has any good 8K training plans, holler at yer girl!)