Jack + Jill 26.2: Halfway Point Thoughts

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This past week marked halfway to the big shot at trying to get a BQ.  8 weeks under my feet, 8 more to go.  As I’ve been running this week, I’ve been reflecting on how I think it’s going and will continue to go until we get to Washington.   Generally, some days I feel like I’ve got a really good shot.  And other days I think there’s no way I can run that fast for that long.IMG_9477

Stuff That Makes Me Feel Confident:

  1. I haven’t missed a track workout.  I’m really proud of this!  Even on the cruise ship.  Even on days when I couldn’t do it in the mornings and I had to hit the treadmill or run in the heat of the afternoon.  I’m logging those fast paced miles and I know that it’s keeping me strong.
  2. Strong long runs.  Until recently, I’ve logged some relatively fast, not too painful long runs.  I try to keep those in mind as they’ve gotten harder in the past week or two.
  3. No major injuries.  Aside from falling down on a hike in Alaska and jamming up my back (fixed by Dr. B), I’ve had a relatively pain-free training cycle thus far.  This has never been the case in my past three rounds of marathoning.  I give credit to strength training, yoga, and regular chiropractic care.
  4. Race conditions.  It will be cooler.  It’ll be downhill.  I’ll have lots of people around me.  And it’ll be game day.

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Stuff That Makes Me Worry:

  1. I haven’t run long enough.  I wanted to have at least one or two 20 milers under my belt by now but the most I’ve done is 18 twice.  I’m glad that these runs don’t leave me too sore or tired the next day but I still want to hit that 20 mark.  Because there’s being conditioned for that long AND having to hit it at goal pace.
  2. I miss my running partner.   I’ve been logging some of these longer runs on my own because M has been battling her own injuries and our schedules just don’t match up well.  It makes getting those longer miles in super boring even with playlists and podcasts out the wazoo.
  3. It’s f*cking hot.  I did a 16 miler last weekend and was soaking wet hair to bra to shorts to shoes and it didn’t even rain.  I wish it would have rained – I would have been just as soaked but cooler.  It makes hitting the distances hard, and the paces harder.  And it’s only going to get worse.
  4. There’s only 7 weeks left.  That’s all.

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Yesterday, I tried to go out for a simple six miler.  One mile easy, 4 miles hard, one mile easy.  I quit at 2.5.  I’m not one to give up mid-training run but it was in the afternoon.  It was hot.  My legs were shaking and felt like I was running sub 7s but I was barely even in the low 8s.  I sat down on the west side of the Tulsa bridge and cried for a minute while I thought about what I was gonna do.  I decided that probably not enough rest, and not enough food (I really have a mental block with later in the day runs.  I don’t want to eat too much and get a cramp so I usually end up not eating enough) and the heat contributed to how I was feeling.  I threw in the towel because I really want tomorrow to go well.  I want to feel strong and rested when I hit the pavement at 5am.

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I’m feeling pretty discouraged.  And I have to come to terms with now the thought of what if we don’t get it?  This is classic Sprenkel.  I always like to think of the worst possible outcome to something, and how I’ll handle it.  So, I’ll keep lacing up and doing the best I can these next seven weeks with a huge emphasis on proper rest. Then come Sunday, July 30, I’ll give Jack and Jill my best shot. But if I don’t get that 3:30, I’m betting that I’ll hit a massive marathon PR in the process and have a breathtaking new state to cross off my list.

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Photos by Kayla Tandoc.

Jack + Jill 26.2: Week 14 Recap

I’m going to (try to) start doing a weekly review of the training for the week before.  This will likely be pretty dry for most of you out there (unless Michelle and I continue to have long run adventures like the one this weekend!).  But, I want to highlight the ups and downs of a training cycle this long and intense mostly for myself but also so that those of you who want to go for it can see what it’s like and maybe, hopefully be inspired.

So.  14 weeks to go.  3.5 months.  Seems far away still.

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Monday: Mondays are a circuit day for me.  I also want to make them a yoga day, but I’m not waking up early enough to go to the 6am class at StudiOne.  It’s a weekly struggle.  I did get in 3 rounds of full body circuits, and a little bit of yoga simply from teaching to my class.

Tuesday: Track day!  I ran a descending ladder today with the StudiOne track group.  My target track pace for Boston is really fast (to me).  I aim for under 7 min average on every track interval.  I hit it today and felt really strong!  Tried the Run Fast Eat Slow Beet Smoothie after and almost loved it.

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Track day

Wednesday: More circuits.  And I went to Rachel’s 5:30pm flow class at StudiOne.  I want to make Wednesday a yoga and circuit day too.  Nailed it this week!    I had my first appointment with Dr. Brandon Washatka DC that Michelle recommended to me.  My shoulder has been hurting, feeling a little bit like tendonitis, my low back feels compressed and my left hip is very tight.  I always have to very carefully open up into Warrior 2 from Warrior 1.  I told him all of this and went over other health history things.  He cracked me a few times, and I felt like a completely new person when I left.  My neck and shoulder muscles relaxed, which released some of the pressure on my shoulder, my low back felt like it had space again and my hip is bothering me less.  I’m going to keep going to him on his recommendation throughout the training.

Thursday: This is a buddy run day.  Michelle and I get together around 8:30 after my first two classes to crank through a tempo run.  Sometimes we follow the template and sometimes we just run hard.  Today we went for 1 mile easy, 5 miles hard and 1 mile easy.  We made it but both almost puked at the end of that 5 mile interval.  I could feel a difference from the adjustment and think I ran stronger because of it.

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Tempo

Friday: Rest day for me.

Saturday: Taught yoga class so got a little bit of a stretch.  Ideally we’ll run long on Saturdays but an actual monsoon descended on Tulsa today so we didn’t run.  I did my third circuit in the afternoon at the Studio so that I can practice running long on tired legs.

Sunday: Long run.  Went 17 miles!  This is the farthest I’ve run in over 4 years.  I was surprised how easy it felt not only to go that far but to maintain our pace.  We strategically drove to southwest Tulsa so we could have the northeast wind at our back most of the way.  It was a beautiful morning and we enjoyed adventuring along the river and on the backroads of Jenks.  We encountered flooded roads to wade through, 20+mph winds and a little sleet storm on our cooldown.  All kinds of crazy weather.  And then, we brunched.

Overall, this was a great week for me.  I feel healthy and strong in my bones and muscles and we hit all our target pace times.  Maybe I can do this after all…..

State 20: Garmin Half Marathon, KS

On this journey to run in all the states, sometimes I just pick a race that works with my schedule and budget, and sometimes I have a specific race in mind.  Kansas had a specific race.

The Wizard of Oz has long been a favorite story of mine.  I wanted to be Dorothy so badly when I was young that I dubbed my then-crawling little brother “Toto” and only responded to my parents if they addressed me as “Dorothy”.  My mama, being the superwoman she was, put together a homemade Dorothy costume out of a blue overall dress and patent red shoes from Walmart.  It was perfect, except for the reluctancy of “Toto” to actually follow along.

So of course I wanted to run in a Wizard of Oz themed race.  And of course I would dress up as Dorothy.  Due to conflicts the first two years I lived in Tulsa I couldn’t make the race but last April, I set an intention to get it this year.

I recruited Chap to drive with me through the pouring rain up to Olathe.  I managed to keep him company for the first two hours of our late Friday night drive and then gave in to the ZZZs somewhere in the flatlands of Kansas.   Since we weren’t planning to stay to tour around Olathe, I booked a last minute Priceline hotel pretty close to the start.   Once we arrived, I looked up the closest Starbucks for my morning fuel, plugged in my watch to charge and set an alarm.

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Flat Dorothy

I woke up, but not to my alarm.  Simply from the habit of having to be up around 6am most days of the week.  The clock said 6:07 (start time 6:45).  Shit.  I scrambled into my outfit and my running shoes, grabbed my watch and forced Chap awake.  Thank goodness I packed several Superhero Muffins from the Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbook because my extra sleep threw the chance of oatmeal and coffee out the window.  I chowed down on two of those muffins while carefully dressing up as Dorothy.

Being an out of town race, I hadn’t picked up my packet yet so that was the first order of business but every single route we tried was jam packed with traffic.  When we tried to get onto the interstate, the merging lane and the on ramp were bumper to bumper and not moving.  I thought about getting out right there and warmup running to the start.  Chap suggested we just backup in the shoulder lane off the on-ramp and take a backroad.  I’d blindly trust that man to go anywhere so I let him call the shots.  We found the backroad and he got me as close as he could to the start before the roads were blocked off.  Thanks babe.

As I was running down the road towards packet pickup, I got wind that the start of the race was postponed.  Probably because of all the trouble getting to the start.  So, I relaxed a little, grabbed my bib number and had time to revel in the fact that it was in the low 50s and not raining.

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The skirt is flared from the incredible headwind, not from my blazing speed.

I knew to expect a hilly race and had no plans to PR.  I just wanted to log some miles in pursuit of our marathon race in July, dressed up as Dorothy.  And I got exactly that.  The hills just rolled and rolled.  But I kept a steady pace through most of the race.  A lot of that is due to a fellow states-chaser and new running pal Jon.  We fell into step early on and started chatting about running (duh) and from there just hung together the rest of the race.  We saw other characters from the movie, fell into the 1:50 pace group led by a guy Jon dubbed “Drill Sergeant” who rattled off random facts as we crossed each mile (Did you know that there is a 5 year old boy who has run over 48 marathons?!  And the oldest person to ever complete one was 101 years old!).

When we got into the back miles it leveled off a little bit but the wind really started picking up.  At this point we had passed the Sarge and his group but could still hear his chants.  I heard him yell up to us, “Dorothy, get behind that guy and draft off of him.”  So I did.  For the rest of the race.

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There’s no place like the finish….

The last hill was brutal.  It comes at about 3/4 of a mile to go.  But I told Jon I wouldn’t quit on him and he stayed close enough for me to stick with him.  A few other runners joined conversation about different races and the hills.  This is definitely one of the chattiest runs I’ve done.  Maybe it was my costume 🙂

The course finally leveled off to a strong finish.  Chap found me and I posed for some pictures with some fans of the costume.  This was one of the best post-race parties I’ve ever seen.  They had a beer buffet of craft and less crafty beers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and margaritas from Chuy’s.  I had two more miles to log for training so Chap joined me on two loops around Garmin’s campus and then we had our party.

This was a wonderful race.  Aside from the trouble getting to the start, it was very well run, very friendly and a challenging but fun course.  I won’t be doing it again (no repeat states except home until the country is finished) but would definitely recommend it to friends.  And I highly recommend wearing a costume.  The “Go Dorothy” cheers definitely kept me going.  So much that I might become a costumed runner!

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Also, how do people wear these costumes without pants underneath?!

J&J: Week 17 Long Run

Today is the start of being 16 weeks of training away from my fourth marathon.  The Jack and Jill (J&J) in Washington state.  I would just like to say that all of you who promised to never let me run another one have failed miserably.  16 weeks is a pretty standard marathon training calendar and since I’ve got a solid base it should be plenty of time.  I had my half PR last weekend which was super encouraging.  I rested most of the week following the race (last week), and was ready to hit the pavement for 10 by Sunday.

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Here we go

Meteorologist Michelle figured we should start south and run our way  north (due to 2o mph winds).  We started at Turkey Mountain and ran our way home.  It sounds like a simple enough plan but there was lots of planning that went into this route.  Weather, outfits, mileage, cars, etc.

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We got there by 7:20 and had perfect weather to start running.  Here are the things I want to remember from this run:

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See him?

  1. We saw a bald eagle!
  2. I had some funny heart racing moments whenever we would stop for water.  One was around mile 5 at a water fountain on the west side.  The next was when we first got back across the bridge to the east side.  I stopped to rest and my vision went pretty white.  I found a street sign to hold onto and just took deep breaths until I felt steady again.  We walked to a water fountain and pressed on as soon as my vision was clear again.  I ran/walked the rest of the way home.
  3. Some guy stopped me in Owen Park who appeared to be lost.  I tried to help him the best I could but honestly didn’t know where he was trying to go.
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Just one short

I made it 9 of our planned 10 miles.  It was a rough start to official training but it’s a start.   I find that when I have countdowns and calendars like this, I can keep momentum going well.  For example, I got up and did my circuits this morning!  I’m excited and also not excited about these next 16 weeks.  Excited for the challenge, and not excited because I know (x3) how hard this can be.  But, I’m glad to have someone by my side (or a little bit in front of me) through the next several hundred+ miles.

Thirty Thursdays: Break My Half Marathon PR

Hi friends!  The big 3-0 gets closer every day and I’m still working on checking things off my fun 30 before 30 list.   Today’s story came completely unexpectedly.  One of my fitness goals for this year (and really, if any runner is being honest, a goal since the last time I set a PR) was to set a new PR in my half marathon distance.  My previous best time is 1:47:36, set on the St. Jude course in Memphis, TN one December morning over 5 years ago.  I was young, I was coaching running and I had a pace mate Russ who leisurely jogged along beside me taking all the shots of beer offered while keeping me company and dragging me through the last two miles.

This racing season has been so rewarding to me.  I trained specifically for the 5k distance and finally nailed some PRs down in the St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Fling races.  I did not at all feel trained or ready for the half marathon distance.  Rather, I chose this race because it was local, free to me because of Oklahoma Sports and Fitness membership and it was a good time to start building mileage up before the July marathon.  I was absolutely not expecting to PR or even try for one.  Right up to the start line.

IMG_7375On race day I was all on my own.  It’s not often that I race alone but I don’t mind it either.  I run this sport for me and while it’s so wonderful to have company and share the miles, going alone will never stop me from doing a race.  I worked late the night before again, and was up way earlier than I normally would have been to take Chap to the airport.  This completely threw off my rest, my eating schedule and my coffee plans.  But, I wasn’t worried about it because I just wanted to enjoy the race.

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I waited until the last minute to trot on over to the start line.  I was so glad I did because it was freezing in the high 40s in just my shorts and a tank top.  I’m pretty sure my teeth chattered the first two miles.   I got my app all set to track (Strava), Maren’s Deluxe album pulled up on Spotify (country music to keep me from going too fast), and stuck my phone in my beloved side pocket.  Got the GPS started on my watch, waved to some friends and waited for the gun.  We were off and I still had no plan.  Since it was a smaller race, I was near the front.  I felt myself getting swept up into the lead runners and made a mental note to slow down.  It was a beautiful day, I was loving my side-pocketed-shorts and the basking in the anticipation of a new flat course.

Eventually my app talked to me and said, previous mile in 7:45.  WHAT?  Way faster than I felt like I was going, and way too fast to maintain for 12 more miles.  The next mile ticked by in the neighborhoods of Jenks: 7:32.  DAMN!  Still way faster than I thought I should be going.  But, it wasn’t hard.  I was in a good rhythm and hanging stride for stride with a fellow OKSandF teammate so I thought I’ll just keep this pace as long as I can.

I expected to hold it maybe to halfway, or just a little past.  I remember texting M saying “I’m running 7:30s!”.  And texting my dad, “racing a half this morning, just did 5 in 37:45”.  I like these longer races because they allow more time to really hang around a group of runners.  I had several women that hung around me (or me around them) for many of the middle miles.  Miles 3-6 I hung behind a duo that were super chatty.  I didn’t listen to them but stayed one stride behind.  Then I passed and was passed, passed and was passed another gal for a few more miles.  Every time I shifted positions with any of these people, there was also a positive energy transfer.

Finally we made it to the turn around on the riverside trail, just a little over halfway.  I was ready to slow down but was also in my favorite part of the race – the heavy-traffic part of an out and back.  I cheered for everyone that I could as they passed.  Sometimes I ran out of breath but it’s fun scanning the lines of runners for friends and Insta running buddies.  I really started to slow down a mile or so into this turn around and my friends I drafted on for a while passed me again.  One gal said, “come on you can hang with us” and I just waved them on.

The last three miles were a struggle.  Between doing the math in my head of the average minute per mile I needed to run to break 1:40, then to PR, then to stay below 1:43 and trying to actually stay moving, my brain and body were hurting.  I noticed the fatigue in my arms (yes, still), and a blister forming under the ball and big toe of my right foot.  My right knee was getting stiff and tight and my lungs and ribs were tired of breathing.  But the road was flat and the weather perfect so I tried to keep moving.  I thought about my Fit Camp girls, my running girls, Teresa and Steve and my family.  Thought about mimosas later in the day and a nice nap.

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Sprinting and crawling to the finish

I am not ashamed to say that I walked a good part of the last three miles.  I tried to take 100 deep yoga breaths running to every 6 deep yoga breaths walking.  Not sure how the numbers fell that way but they did.  I was walking along when a gal I’d been behind for a while earlier came up behind me.  “We’re so close, let’s go”  This got me running again, but I couldn’t stay with her even though she was so encouraging.  We were able to quickly talk about our sub 1:45 goals and she powered in to a strong finish.  I did not have such a strong finish but I got there!  I ran it in too but man did it feel like I was running fast and not going anywhere!  But I made it.  I killed my PR and beat 1:45.  I was so, so surprised (even though that math back towards mile 10 pretty much secured a PR in my head).  My official time was 1:43:38.  I was so surprised because even though I’d been training fast for the 5k distance, I had only done one long run since the last half in October.  That partially explains why I bonked out at mile 10, but it doesn’t explain to me how I was so strong for 10 miles.  I’m pumped though!

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PR for me!

I would have loved to hang around and search down my new friends from the race but instead had to jet off to teach.  I could not have asked for a better day to run and ease into the routine of weekend long runs.  I’d highly recommend this race to local Tulsans!

Next up on the race calendar: Boston 5k on April 15 (have decided to run for fun, not race), Garmin Half Marathon on April 22 (not trying to PR, but guess I know how that can go now!) and that’s it for April.  Next main focus is the big mileage increase for July, and then will target another September PR.

 

 

StudiOne Story: Choosing Tulsa

Hi there!  This post is the third story from an undetermined number of pieces to make up the book that is “running my own little kingdom of StudiOne”.  A friend and reader asked me to talk about what it’s like to run our Studio and I decided to take several posts to show the evolution of this dream come true.  It’s been an interesting road to get here and I wanted to be able to portray that

even if you’re not doing in the immediate moment what you believe is your passion and your end game, you can still be well on your road to getting there.

If you missed either of the first two stories you can read about the race that changed my life, and the gym that made me a personal trainer.  Now I’m going to talk about how I went from being so heartset on returning to Memphis and ended up in Tulsa.

When I left the story last, I had just pulled away from Memphis for a summer at home taking summer school classes that were pre-requisites to my graduate studies at the University of Texas.  Yep, 24 years old and living with my (gracious) parents.  It was a mostly uneventful summer as I prepared for a move to Texas.  I can’t remember what sparked this thought but as I was mapping out my route from Indy to Austin I thought, I should swing through Oklahoma and say hi to my friend Katie.  (I really didn’t want to go to Austin and honestly think I was just postponing my arrival there).

 

Katie and I grew up as best friends and basically sisters in our small town WASPish childhood home.  We played basketball together, dated the same boys and I think she spent the night at my house more than her own.  We went our separate ways for college, she to Wheaton in Chicago and me to Rhodes in Memphis.  For a taste of how different our experiences were : when she called me to tell me she was engaged, I was buying tequila for the jello shots at my 21st birthday party.  I went to her wedding in January of 2010 to watch my beautiful friend marry this jockey football player I’d met only once and just remember thinking why would they quit college early?

Flash forward to 2012.  I planned a quick two night stay in Tulsa on my way southwest.  Katie and Justin were living with his folks while they did the buildout for their cafe.  We went to Fat Guys and Andolini’s, Old School Bagel and Brookside.  I got a tour of the under construction Foolish Things which was just the greatest and most inspiring thing that could probably have happened on this trip.  We had a great time catching up and I promised I would come back to see the finished cafe before I graduated.

I don’t write much about Austin because it just wasn’t a place I connected with.  This surprised me as much as it surprised anyone.  A warm, active city with beautiful parks, live music and plenty of options for running trails?  Sounds like my heaven.  I might have needed a massive attitude adjustment my first semester (I was on academic probation for bad grades and didn’t even know it until they told me I was removed from the list…..).  I think it was a combination of feeling like I left something great in Memphis, being massively disappointed in this “high ranking graduate program” I had chosen and generally annoyed at the ever present traffic.  I survived, I made some great friends, some poor decisions and adopted a sweet little puppy.  Now that I’m on the other side of the period of life that is 24-26 I would like to say to those approaching it, watch out!  There will be times of massive self-doubt, depression, confusion and carelessness.  Obviously this will not be the case for everyone but I certainly (and I have friends who agree) would have appreciated a little warning that this hurricane of a two years was even a possibility.

I made good on my promise and returned to Tulsa, Katie and Justin in November of 2015 to run the Route 66 Half Marathon.  I drove up on a Saturday, stayed that night, ran Sunday and left Monday morning.  They had moved into their own house and opened the cafe, all while I was floundering about in my Austin hurricane.  I don’t know if it was the nice toll booth lady who paid for my toll when I had absolutely no change coming into OK, or the majestic deco-inspired Tulsa skyline but as I drove into downtown Tulsa that night, coming north on 75 across the river, I just thought, I could move here.  As soon as I uttered those words to my hosts it was over.  If the coffee and floral business don’t work out for these two, they can be professional Tulsa recruiters.

We didn’t have much time that weekend to keep exploring Tulsa but I’m pretty sure we went back to Andolini’s and went over all the great things about Tulsa over and over on their couch.  Katie had started her own business since I was gone and the cafe was so cool to see finally open.  Another inspiring moment and I just thought, I want to be where people are living out their dreams.  And I drove off, making no promises this time but also kind of knowing what was going to happen.

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Majestic skyline

I had devised a plan that in March or April of my second year, I would visit Memphis and visit Tulsa while maybe still considering the possibility of staying in Austin, to really pick where I wanted to go next.  But first, I had a trip to New Orleans with Sharon (my friend and fellow blogger who inspired this series), and Erin my then-roommate.  We were running a race but the part of New Orleans that is relevant to this story is: I decided to have my fortune read in Jackson Square.  The lady I picked was a card reader and after talking for a while she said she would place three cards in front of me and then interpret their meaning to my life.  She laid three cards face down on her table.  In my head I assigned a city to each card: Austin, Tulsa and Memphis.  Here is how she talked about the cards and the cities they matched in my head.  Austin:  this card is chaos.  It represents an unsettled and difficult time.  Tulsa: this card is all rainbows and unicorns and new beginnings.  Memphis:  this card represents being inside out and upside down.  It’s really good and it’s really bad.  You’ll have a good ride but you better hang on.

Spot on.  But also kind of tossed aside, because come on.

I returned to Tulsa mid-spring of my graduating year.  It followed a trip to Memphis and my intention was to really think about each place and what my life would look like with each as a backdrop.  In my mind I really just had two choices: Memphis (familiar and home sweet home), Tulsa (fun and full of new opportunities).  The details of each trip are a little hazy but I remember sitting at Foolish Things with Justin and Katie, helping to host an event (sitting where I am this second actually) and I just decided.  It was a peaceful and exhilarating feeling.  I still had a few months until I would make my move but I just knew this would be it.  I told Katie and Justin that night and the next day Katie took me out to look at houses.  We looked at one over by TU, and two in Owen Park.  The third one we looked at in Owen Park is now my home!

I called my parents to tell them I was thinking about moving to Tulsa and that it was probably a good time to buy a house.  They agreed.  But I think also thought I jumped the gun a little bit on picking a house.  My mom joined me on yet another trip to T-town to see the house, and I think try to (unsuccessfully) talk me out of it.  But I know me.  And I know that when I find something I like, I’m not going to keep looking for something that could maybe be better.  I’m sure it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people from the outside that the third house I ever considered buying was the one but it doesn’t surprise me at all 😉

And that is how I got to Tulsa.  A deeply rooted friendship, the lure of a fun and growing city and a chance to try something I’ve never tried before.  I still love and will always miss Memphis, my first home away from home but I also knew what life looked like there.  I was ready for a new adventure and creating a life on my terms.  Stay tuned for the next installment which will be the story of the two years spent in Tulsa working while I dreamt of the studio.

 

Race: Spring Fling for a Cause 5k

Many of you know that a small piece of my heart and life lives in Muskogee.  This opens up an entirely new willingness and radar for additional races.

Chap watched me struggle to break my long-standing 5k PR for nearly a year when he suggested this Spring Fling for a Cause 5k in Fort Gibson.  It’s flat, it’s an out an back (my favorite for short runs) and it’s during the time of year when temperatures are likely tolerable.  I put it on the calendar thinking it could be a backup race in case the St Patrick’s 5k wasn’t a PR.

This race rolled around and I so wasn’t into it.  I worked late the night before, had to drive out to Muskogee and got in around 11pm only to wake up to 16 mph winds and rain (thanks Michelle for teaching me to read the windometers).  And I lost my running partner.  A broken nose injury benched Chap so I was facing the out and back on my own.

Even as we sat in the car at the start line and I watched maybe 100 people scurry about, I didn’t want to go.  The rain had just picked up, it was in the low 50s and the winds were crazy.  But Chap said, “You won’t regret it.”

With 2 minutes to start I scurried to the start line, turned on my watch and Strava app and bounced around to stay warm.  Then we were off.  I had a goal to try for sub 7s the whole time which would get me my sub 22 target.   It was raining and windy but I couldn’t really tell which way the wind was blowing.  We were running down a paved, flat road that would eventually wind us around a corner before we turned around.  I had about ten people in front of me, mostly males and one female, before I just zoned out.  I tried to keep my pace around my track workout pace and as close to the 7 minute mark as I could.  For this I use my Garmin and keep the display on the elapsed time and pace screen.

I remember beginning to slowly pass the tail end of the pack in front of me.  The lead pack is normally far out of my reach but small town races are a different story.  I started ticking past them one at a time.  First the gal, then two fellas running together and then one guy on his own.  The first mile marker went off on my app and I checked my watch – mile 1 was under 7.

I was banking time as my dad would say.  I kept my pace as close as I could to that until the turn around.  That’s where I met the wind and realized that before when I didn’t know what direction it was coming from, it definitely wasn’t blowing against me.  But now, when I’m halfway in and pretty tired, I can feel it.  I fought through it the best I could to mile 2, also under 7 minutes.   A guy pushing a baby in a stroller motivated me to stay on pace.  I just kept chasing him, we caught the same pace for a little bit and then I pulled on past.

The last mile was the toughest.  I was feeling similar fatigue in my arms that I felt in the St. Patrick’s Day 5k.  (Which Chap later attributed to me moving my arms too much in my stride.  True statement, and good observation.)  I wanted to walk.  So much.  But I just kept refocusing my mind on my breath, on the strength I knew I had from weeks and months of consistent track and circuit work, and on the finish line which was just a flat road ahead (ok, and maybe on the donuts and fella at the finish).

When that third mile time went off on my app, I checked my watch and the distance to the finish line and pushed it.  I thought for sure I could beat the 22 minute mark.  I was running as fast as I thought I could to the finish and just as I’m about to cross the line, the guy with the stroller comes blazing past me.  Talk about a strong finish.

I was just relieved to be done and so happy to have another PR even though I was only 4 seconds off that 22.  They handed me a water bottle instead of a medal at the finish and my arms were so weak I threw it right at Chap’s broken nose (on accident!) so I didn’t have to hold it.  There’s more work to be done, and I am thrilled with the progress made this season!

We stuck around for the awards ceremony which gave me plenty of time to eat a few donuts ;).  Chap knew some people so he was chatty and I just tried to stay warm.  For the first time ever I placed as the first female in a race.  I still can’t really believe it.  And fourth overall.  Sure, it’s a smaller race but come on, me?  The girl who had to be bribed in to running over 10 years ago.  I’m not sure I’ll ever place first in that division or top 5 overall again so I tried to soak it in.  I’ve got some pretty cool hardware to show for it, and a lot of motivation and inspiration to set up the next training cycle (time to drag out the distance by 10-23 miles!)

If you don’t mind making the drive from Tulsa to Ft. Gibson the morning of a run, I’d highly recommend this race.  Flat course, reasonable registration fee, excellent cause (Special Olympics), well organized, small, great food after and great trophies!

It’s easy to get caught up in missed goals.  At the end of each race, PR or not, I try to reflect on the “fun” of the training, the will to race and the spirit of the sport.  I like how strong being fast makes me feel,  and the reward for the work put in.   It doesn’t come easy, and it certainly hasn’t come quickly but with consistency, I’m chipping off those seconds of my PRs.