Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So long 2013!

13 in '13
Today is the last day of 2013 and boy was it a great year!  I ended up racing 13 times (I was signed up for 14 but ended up canceling my trip to Fort Worth so didn't get to race there) in 2013.  Whew!  No wonder I'm tired.

I had a year full of awesome races. Well, 10 for Texas wasn't so awesome but it taught me a lot so I'm going to choose to look at it as a positive experience.  I couldn't have been more pleased with how I performed this year.  I felt stronger than ever mentally and physically AND I was having lots of fun.  

I've been thinking about my goals for next year and as always, I immediately start thinking about time goals.  I want to break 2hrs in the half marathon (current PR is 2:02 so I'm so close).  I want to break 6hrs in a half Ironman.  I want to finish an Ironman in less than 15 hours (way less).  It's great to have time goals but at the same time, you can get so caught up with a completely arbitrary time or number.  So instead, I'm going to work very hard on focusing on execution rather than a time.  I'm going to focus on training smarter than ever before.  I'm going to build on everything I did in 2013 and see if 2014 can't be just a little better!  I'm so excited. 

So what's on the calendar so far?  Not much!  I'll be doing the Houston Half Marathon in January.  This will not be a PR race for me as I've really dialed back training since the marathon.  I'm going to focus on enjoying the race though.  I'm super excited to be running it for the 7th time!  In March I'll be racing The Woodlands Half Marathon and assuming the weather cooperates, I will likely be chasing a PR there.  Other than those two races and IMAZ, my calendar is clear.  There are a few races in my head I'd like to do but I want to make sure everything makes sense for IMAZ.  Remember, I'm training smarter in 2014.  ;)

In other news, the end of 2013 brought me a new sister (Regan) and a new niece!  Miss Olivia Rose Hernandez came about a month early and is as cute as she can be!!!  We already love her to pieces.  Keith & I just got back from an awesome trip to San Diego where we got to visit with the Buttenob family.  Addison & Morgan are the cutest little girls and are so fun to play with.  Mike & Heather are awesome parents and it's so cool to see them in this phase of their life.  

Before heading to San Diego, we got to spend quality time with the rest of the Chalfant gang as well as my family.  I'm already looking forward to Christmas 2014!!  

Doug & Regan's Wedding

Family fun at GenuWine

Hannah & Keith at Kirby's

Miss Olivia Rose going home

Christmas Eve fun

The Buttenob family at Del Mar

Papa & Nana Jenny with the girls

Friday, November 29, 2013

Race #13 of 2013 = Success!

Here in the 11th month of 2013, I've just completed my 13th race of the year. 13 in '13.  I didn't even plan that!  Thanksgiving morning, I joined Caitlin & Hannah for the GE Run Thru the Woods here in The Woodlands.  This was their first 5 mile race (they're training for the Houston Half Marathon).  Once again, Keith was our awesome sherpa as he was asked to carry gear for not one, but three ladies.  

Race morning we were greeted with temps below 40 degrees.  This is COLD for Texas folks.  The night before the race I decided to have some wine & pizza with Keith and just figured I would see what happened.  I felt fine race morning....not hungover but not super speedy.  

We headed to the race site at 7am following a stop at Starbucks for Keith.  The race packed said to arrive by like 6:45am but I made that mistake a few years ago when Emily ran this race and we ended up standing around very cold for way too long.  Nope, this year we would be rebels and show up after the recommended time.  

We had no issue finding a sweet parking spot right off Lake Robbins and then walked the very short distance to Market Street.  We were bundled up and wanted to wait until the last second to ditch our clothes.  We watched the 1 mile race start....all the kiddos.  Oh my gosh.  They were too cute!  Maybe I will sign my niece and nephew up next year.  :)

Before we knew it, the call for the 5 milers to line up came.  We toyed with putting ourselves on the front line but decided it was best no to get run over.  Lol.  Keith headed over near the 1 mile marker so he could get pictures of us heading out.  

The plan for the three of us was the same....run hard but not quite sprinting.  Push and see what happens.  I was confident we were all going to be happy with the outcome of our races.  

I've done this race twice before and forgot how much I liked it.  It's funny because I used to think it was hilly but after doing the New York City Marathon, this seemed flat as a pancake...which it pretty much is with the exception of an overpass.  I remember feeling like I was going slow between mile 1 & 2 and glanced at my trusty Garmin to see I was hitting an 8:15 min/mile pace.  Huh? I didn't feel like I was running that fast.  Just another reason you can't always go by feel. 

At mile 4 I slowed a tiny bit but nothing to be concerned by.  After having the first 3 miles be so fast, there was no doubt I would have a PR.  The only question now was how big of one.  Oh how I love those kinds of questions.  Going into the race, I knew best case scenario would be me finishing in under 43 minutes.  But now I found myself wondering how close to 41 minutes could I get.  I pushed the gas a tiny bit more after grabbing water at the last aid station and made the left turn on to Six Pines.  I could see Keith once I passed Market Street and just tried to push a little more.  My final time was 41:58 which was good for an 8:24min/mile average.  YES!!!!!!!  I was absolutely thrilled with this time.  Coming off a marathon and having been only running for fitness since just before my Birthday, I wasn't sure I could run like that.  Maybe pizza and wine should be my new pre race meal?  

I made my way through the crowd to Keith after running into my friend Lynn.  It was time to cheer Caitlin & Hannah in.  Before we knew it, Caitlin was making her way to the turn for the finish and was right on pace with where we thought she would be.  A few minutes later, Hannah was making her turn!  Caitlin & Hannah posted very respectable 5 mile times and it was so fun to see how proud they were.  The additional bonus for Hannah was getting a nice little medal as we didn't think this run gave them out.  Now we could all enjoy our Turkey dinner knowing we got our workout for the day done & done!

I don't have any more races on the schedule for the rest of the year but am definitely toying with fining a 5k as I would really like to PR that distance.  My best time is 27:44 (I think) and I would LOVE to post something in the 25 minute neighborhood (well really, I'd love 24 and change but i don't want to be greedy). 

2013 has turned out to be a truly awesome year for me.  I've had one solid race after another and I've finally got some confidence that I really lacked  before.  I know I'm not the fastest at anything and that's totally fine by me.  I just love the fact that I've improved so much and I'm not afraid to hurt a little bit.  I'm going to need to remember this on 11/16/14.   :)

There's been a change of plans......

Here are a few blog posts I've jotted down since November 18th.....

Leading up to the NYC Marathon, I had been thinking hard about the 2014 race calendar.  I was very tempted to sign up for IMTX again but at the same time, thought a break might be good.  Once I finished the marathon though, I knew I wanted a break.  I knew I needed a break.

 I just kept thinking about the progress I’ve made this year and I thought about how I wasn’t quite ready to take a break.  But then I thought about all the stuff I miss because of training and reminded myself that a short break wasn’t bad.  I emailed Ana and let her know that my plan was to do IMTX 2015.
Then something happened.  I started looking at other Ironman races.  I had always thought if I did an Ironman outside of Texas, it would be Florida or Arizona.  And then it happened. I saw the date for IMAZ…my 40th birthday.  To me, this was a sign that I had to do it.  But I’ve already told Keith, my sister and my coach I would take a break.  I asked Keith what he thought and he of course gave me his blessing.  I asked if it was ok to tell Ana and he agreed.  He knew that once I told her, there was no turning back which is why I wanted his permission.  Well, needless to say, Ana was thrilled.  And that’s how I went from taking a break in 2014 to signing up for Ironman #3 all in the course of 6 days.  

It’s barely been 4 days since signing up for IMAZ and I’m already annoying myself.  But in a good way.  I’ve been searching for places to stay while there and have already lost the place I really wanted to someone who is staying “far longer” according to the VRBO homeowner.  Whatever.  I’ve also been debating driving vs flying so I can bring the dogs.  Yeah, I’m serious.  I don’t want to leave them.  I also don’t want to ship my bike.  I’ve got some time to decide of course. 

I caught myself visualizing this race yesterday.  Umm, seriously?  Ok, it’s a little too early for that nonsense.  I even caught myself looking at race results for the 40-44 a/g, my new a/g as of 1/1/14 and was starting to crunch numbers.  Ok, stop it!  There will be plenty of time for obsessing later.  For now, I need to enjoy the few races I’m signed up for and enjoy some down time. 

So next week I’m going the GE Run Thru The Woods up here in The Woodlands.  It’s a fun 5 mile race followed by a pancake breakfast.  Caitlin & Hannah will be joining me as they’re scheduled for a 5 miler that day as part of their training for the Houston Half Marathon.  This will be the longest race for both of them and I’m SUPER excited to be there with them.  It looks like the weather will be on our side and we’ll have cool temps.  I haven’t done this race in a few years and was just looking at my previous PR for this distance and am of course toying with the idea of trying to beat it.  I haven’t really been doing much speed work the past few weeks but I have been running.  My previous best time was 47:22 so I feel like a PR should be pretty easy given I’ve been running better than I ever have.  We’ll see.  I also want to have fun the next few months before IMAZ training kicks in.  Maybe I’ll just play it by ear (yeah right). 

So part of doing IMAZ means I have the opportunity to do a half ironman right in the heat of the Texas summer.  Yay!  My plan is to sign up for Prarieman Half Ironman which should be in early September.  I was warned by my coach this is a tough race where a PR is not likely.  No problem…I can handle that!  I looked up the 2013 race results and O M G! I have never seen run splits so slow for folks who were on the podium.  So does this scare me?  Shockingly, no.  This is how I know I’m a changed athlete.  A few years ago, I would’ve been terrified of a race like this in the summer.  But now, I’m looking forward to it.  I told my coach that it sounded miserable in the most amazing way.  She has created an absolute monster.  What kind of psycho is giddy and eager to sign up for a race where it will be easily over 90 degrees and maybe even in to the 100’s with the humidity factored in?  What kind of psycho thinks a 4 loop bike course that had 20mph winds in the past sounds fun? And what kind of psycho is excited because this will be the race she finally vomits at?  Yeah, that would be me.  My coach LOVES it too.  Like LOVES the fact that she has created this creature.  I actually believe that if I sent her a picture of me post-race with vomit on my tri kit, she would put it on her refrigerator like a proud sibling (my coach is my age so I will not dare compare her to a proud mama…lol). 
When I think back to where I was in 2005 after my first race or even my first race with Ana as my coach, I shake my head and laugh.  I have come such a long, long way.  It’s crazy to me to think about how much I struggled in the past.  I’m not saying I don’t struggle anymore because I definitely do. I’ve just finally learned to embrace the suck.  Something I am confident I’ll be doing a lot at Praireman!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

NYC Marathon - Part 2

Yes!!  I did it!!!

Daylight savings was the weekend of the race and luckily, we were getting to “fall backward” and gained an hour of sleep.  I woke up just before 6am and got up and got ready for the day.  I knew the temps would get to the mid 50’s while I was running so settled on shorts instead of running crops.  I had 4 layers on top (not counting my sports bra) as I knew it would be chilly on Staten Island where we would stage before the race.  My bus was leaving the Midtown Manhattan Library at 7:15am but for some inexplicable reason, I had us out the door by 6:20am.  Kevin stayed in bed while Keith walked the short distance to the bus.  I was nice and stopped at Starbucks so he could get a much needed coffee though….something I often deprive him of on race mornings.  We rolled up to the library around 6:40am and there was a line already but it was moving very quickly.  So quickly that I was getting on way earlier than expected.  Keith gave me a hug & kiss and wished me luck and then I headed on the bus all by my lonesome.

I get emotional before big races and I knew this one had potential for epic waterworks given how much I’ve wanted to do this race. I put my earphones in and listened to Eminem and Katy Perry several times (my go to songs of course).  As we approached the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, I took out the earphones and just was in awe.  The bridge is a lot longer looking in person than in pictures.  And then I looked across the water to see the Manhattan skyline WAY too far off in the distance.  Holy crap!  I’m going to run over there. 
As we approached Fort Wadsworth where the staging area was, I noticed the long lines to get in.  This was due to the extra security as a result of the Boston Marathon bombings.  I didn’t mind though.  It gave me that much more time to take in the whole experience.  After getting in, I made my way to the Blue village where I would wait for the next 3.5 hours (give or take).  I went straight to the porta potty line where a nice man gave me an extra Dunkin Donuts hat he picked up.  He could tell I was cold and didn’t mind parting ways as he picked up 4!  I pulled the cap down over my ears and felt instantly warmer.  

After getting through the line, I found a tiny spot that was somewhat protected from the wind. I had meant to pack an old towel or blanket to bring with me but forgot.  While waiting, I met a man who recently visited The Woodlands as his daughter lives here with her family (she works at The Container Store so he told me to go in and ask for Chelsea).  I also met a lady wearing an Ironman visor (like me).  We got to chatting and I learned she did Ironman Lake Placid so we traded stories.  She was also from my hometown of Buffalo, New York!  I looked at my watch and it was now 9:40am.  The corral for my wave would open at 10:15am.  Damn, time flew by!  I told her goodbye, wished her luck and then went to the potty one more time. 

At 10:15 I made my way to the blue corral and specifically, my little area.  I was looking for the 4:30 pace group as I had planned to run with them but couldn’t find them anywhere.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just do this on my own.  The corral closed at 10:40am and that’s when I shed my first layer…goodbye ugly Victoria Secret sweats!  At 10:50 I shed my old black fleece.  I decided to keep on my tank and two other shirt though.  I got my camera phone out and started snapping pictures.  OMG, I was about to start.  The cannon sounded and so did “New York, New York”.  I had fully anticipated it taking 10 or more minutes to get across the start line but it didn’t.  With the addition of a 4th wave, it was far less crowded than I expected.  Don’t get me wrong, there were a shit-ton of people up there but it wasn’t terrible.  I was on the top deck of the bridge (right where I hoped to be) and couldn’t believe how windy it was…I almost lost my hat!  I ditched my new Try Andy’s Tri tshirt after about a mile and also ditched the cute Dunkin’ Donuts hat. 

After getting off the bridge, you see the 2 mile marker and hit Brooklyn.  O M G.  The crowds were unbelieveable.  This race was already everything I could have hoped for.  I checked my watch more frequently than I normally do only because I wanted to make sure I didn’t get caught up in the excitement and go out to hard.  10 for Texas was not a good race for me and I was determined to not let history repeat itself.  Before I knew it, we hit the 5k mark and I was exactly where I needed to be. 

Gee, I wonder how I missed the boys in Brooklyn?

I was taking in everything.  I am confident I wasted a lot of energy scanning the crowds constantly.  But how could I not?  I mean, it was crazy.  The miles clicked away and as I crossed the 10k mat, I glanced at my pace bracelet and saw I was doing very well.  Nice!  As I approached mile 8, I started paying attention for Kevin & Keith as this was a spot they were trying to make it to.  This area of the course must be popular for spectators as it was packed.  I knew there was no hope of me seeing them. As it turns out, they were standing  near a church I remember very well.  I also remember that area I never looked to the opposite side of the street where they were standing.  They waited there until they got the notification I had crossed the 15k mat and then headed out.  Bummer!!

Time was speeding by.  I was approaching the half way point and as I crossed that mat, saw I was at 2:11.  Had this been “just” a half marathon, I would’ve posted my 5th best ½ marathon time.  Woo hoo!  This day was going well. 
As we approached the Queensboro Bridge, I had a little chat with myself. I knew this would be a tough spot in the race but I also knew I could handle it.  The bridge was steeper and longer than I remembered reading about and felt myself getting fatigued just as I was approaching the end of it.  I heard a sound toward the end of the bridge and it kept getting louder and louder.  I had read about this…it was the sound of the spectators lining the streets of Manhattan who were waiting for us.  Oh my gosh, this was amazing!  For the 30th time of the day, I felt tears in my eyes.  This race continued to energize me.  What an awesome day!  One of my favorite signs around mile 16 was something like, “if you call 10 miles easy, then welcome to the easy part”.  I had to laugh because that’s exactly what went through my head. 

The Wills Avenue Bridge ended up being the one that really kicked my ass.  I think that by this point, I couldn’t deny the fact that my quads had been pushed to their limits by the first 3 bridges.  I knew I would need to walk for a little bit but was careful to not let myself walk for more than one minute.  Walking actually hurt more than running and I could feel everything tightening up. I decided to pop a couple of salt tabs even though it was before my planned “eating” time.  I knew I was slowing down a bit but not terribly. Not enough to worry.  Yet.  

As we got into Harlem, I heard one of my favorite guilty pleasures, “Space Jam”.  I fought the urge to dance as I didn’t want to be THAT girl.  J  I was happy because thanks to my Ironman background, the “wall” never really came for me. I mean don’t get me wrong, I got tired and I was hurting but I knew I was ok.  I knew I was doing fine. 

The Madison Avenue Bridge put a smile on my face only because I knew it was bridge number 5 and so, the final bridge of the race.  Thank you!  I was getting closer.  Wait a minute, I’m getting closer!  This means I’m almost done.  No!!!  It’s crazy, I totally didn’t want to be done.  But then at the same time, I did want to be done.  I just didn’t want this experience to end.

There was one last steady climb before entering Central Park and it was a beast.  I knew this was  coming and knew it would hurt because I read about it.  I willed myself past this point and just like that, I saw the entrance to Central Park. Oh.  My.  God.  I am almost done.

Ahh, ,Central Park...the final 5k of the race!

As I turned into the park, I felt fantastic.  Cardio wise, I was in great shape.  My quads were starting to go on strike though.  I think I have pretty strong legs but they were put to the test that day.  Right around mile 25 I spotted Kevin & Keith!!!  Yay!!!!!  I was soooo happy to see them before I finished.  I could tell by Keith’s face that he knew I was having a good race and he could tell by my face that I was happy with my race.  The other treat for me here was that I was expecting to see the 24 mile marker when I saw 25.  I don’t know if I fell asleep or what but somehow, I thought I was one mile behind.  So you can imagine how excited I was to see 25!!!  1.2 miles to go. That’s it!!!

I remember passing the boys, thinking how glad I was to finally see them.  

At mile 26 I was choking up.  The crowd was so loud!  They were so happy.  Everyone was giving out high 5’s. I felt like a rock star!  800 meters to go.  Ok, while I don’t want it to end, I’m ready for it to end.  I want my medal.  Where the heck is the finish line.  The next sign…400 meters to go.  WHERE IS THE FINISH LINE?  I was trying to push myself some more.  I made a slight turn and there it was.  I threw my arms up and smiled, laughed, cheered and fought back more tears.  I crossed the finish line and squealed.  I DID IT!!!! 

I opted for the early exit by not checking baggage at the start so had to make my way to the area that was giving out the mylar blankets and then the ponchos for those of us who didn’t have clothes to pick up.  Well, I got my medal first.  I called Keith to let him know where I was and then my coach to let her know how I did.  She was SO happy for me.  She knew I was going to be happy with my time.  Obivously my main goal was to finish but I knew that I wanted to be between 4:30 and 4:45. 4:38:18 was my final time and I couldn’t have been happier.  There would not be any picking apart for this race.  I didn’t care if there was anything I could’ve/should’ve/would’ve done differently.  This was my first stand-alone marathon.  It was my first NYC marathon.  I enjoyed the hell out of every single step.  For me, this was the highlight of my races this year. 

It took me quite some time to find Keith & Kevin due to street closures but I finally found them in Dunkin’ Donuts where Kevin had hot chocolate waiting for me.  I also had a couple of awesome post race presents from my super sweet boyfriend!  I was on cloud 9.  Maybe even cloud 10 if there is such a thing. 
The icing on the cake for me?  I beat Pamela Anderson, former Baywatch babe.  Take that! 

For those of you thinking about running NYC, do it.  If you can qualify for it, more power to you.  I will enter the lottery again someday.  I can’t say it enough, this race was EVERYTHING I hope it would be.  It lived up to the hype.  The volunteers, the spectators, everyone and everything about it was first class.  If you told me I could only participate in one race a year the rest of my life, this would be it.  It was amazing.  I’m sitting here typing this and my eyes are filliing with tears again because I’m just that excited.  I can’t imagine a race being better than this one.  If there is, tell me and I’ll sign up!

A million thank you's go to everyone who supported me.  Honestly, everyone I talked to was so excited for me to do this race.  Like sincerely excited.  Keith is my #1 supporter and having him there meant the world to me.  Getting to spend several days with my brother Kevin was also an added bonus.  We had a blast on our trip.  We laughed a lot!  And of course, my coach Ana deserves so many thanks.  We've gotten to know each well over the past few years and she knows how to push me and I am learning how to take her abuse.  Just kidding! She's an amazing coach and an amazing athlete too!  She has helped me build my confidence up and has really helped me believe in myself and believe I can make times I NEVER thought I could hit.  I love my coach!!!!

I know this was long and not very well written but thank you for reading the whole thing!  I can’t possibly do this race justice on this blog.  You HAVE to run it for yourself.  And maybe I’ll even run it with you.  

NYC Marathon - Part 1

LaGuardia bound.  Let's board already!!!!

Where do I even start to blog about a race like the NYC Marathon?  For the sake of my sanity and trying to remember every small detail, I’m going to break this into two updates.  You would think this race was a big deal or something.

We're here!!!!
Keith, Kevin and I landed in NYC on Friday right around lunch.  We went directly to the hotel and checked in. Kevin decided to catch some zzz’s while Keith & I walked to the convention center for packet pickup.  Well, we tried to take the free shuttle but it never came so we walked.  When we got to packet pickup, I was so pumped.  People were everywhere and everyone seemed to be speaking a different language.  Unlike packet pickup at Ironman races where I’m in awe of how in shape everyone is, I didn’t feel out of place at all.  I felt like I belonged!  The line to get the race number was short and the volunteers were awesome.  After checking my bib and getting my participant shirt that states I’m a “marathoner” on the back, we headed into the expo.  Yes,we bought some pre-race gear but didn’t go too over the top. A few cute shirts and a pace bracelet and I was good to go. 

We took the shuttle back to the hotel and then Keith took a nap while Kevin and I walked to Times Square.  Kev had never been to NYC and to see his face when we hit Times Square was awesome.  Sensory overload!  We weren’t there too long and headed back to the hotel after a pit stop at a liquor store where Kev picked up the always trusty bottle of Crown. 

Dinner Friday night was at Serendipity 3, a restaurant I have wanted to go to ever since watching Serendipity. Much to our surprise, we learned they don’t serve alcohol there.  This wouldn’t have been so terrible if the place wasn’t so much like a tearoom.  I caught a lot of crap for this dinner selection, trust me.  The meal itself was ok, not great.  I was there for the dessert though and trust me when I tell you that it didn’t disappoint.  Keith and I shared the Frozen Hot Chocolate and it was everything I had hoped.  For those of you who have this restaurant on your list to check out, I would recommend only going for dessert vs dinner.

I started Saturday with my pre-race run at around 6:30am.  The streets were relatively empty by NY standards.  There were a lot of runners doing what I was doing and that was super cool to see.  I saw a huge group from Brazil taking a picture in Times Square and then another big group from Australia running together.  Very, very cool.

This space was actually bigger than our hotel room.   Kidding!

Following my run, the 3 Musketeers made their way to the Intrepid Museum.  This is a must see if you’re going to NYC!  The museum was awesome.  We got to go on a submarine (the Growler) and then of course check out the Intrepid.  We also got to see the Space Shuttle Enterprise.  Props to Kevin for putting this on our itinerary.  It was a blast!  After the museum I took the boys to Shake Shack as Kevin had this as a “must eat at” place for this visit.  The line was out the door of course (lunch time on a Saturday in Times Square) but we waited anyway. We took the food back to our hotel since we couldn’t find a place to sit. 

Now THAT'S a meatball!!!!
Dinner that night was in Little Italy at Il Cortile with several friends and the boys.  I had penne with sauce and a giant meatball…the perfect pre race meal in my book!  We had to eat early given the race was the next day.  At this point, I was getting super anxious for my race.  Thinking about my plan, wondering if there was anything I was forgetting and hoping for a smart race. I did let myself enjoy a glass or two of wine to help me relax my nerves.  Don’t worry, I skipped on dessert! After dinner, we hopped on the subway back to the hotel where it was lights out for this girl!