Tuesday, January 31, 2012

First Workout Back

Light 5 Mile Progression Tempo on Feel

2.5 miles warmup
5 mile Progression in 635, 630, 625, 605, 558 (6:18 ave)
2.2 miles cool down for 9.72 total in 1:09:02

The legs are finally starting to feel normal again, so I felt ambitious enough to actually start this light workout back today.  Granted, my times above were definitely not stellar, but I achieved all of the goals of the workout...which were really just to run on feel and to get that fire back into the legs.

In the warm January temperature of 62 degrees, I set foot out my door and straight onto the Sugar Creek Greenway.  Not much later, I unexpectedly ran into Meghan Fillnow and we were able to enjoy a mile of conversation before she peeled off for the Dowd.  I continued to make my way to meet Eric halfway in Freedom Park. We stopped to stretch and take a bio break before embarking on what could very well have been a disastrous workout.  Alas, it wasn't disastrous; instead, the workout was quite lovely.

My legs felt surprisingly fresh from the marathon followed by two weeks of minimal mileage.  Eric and I chatted away, letting our bodies do the work effortlessly.  Conversation was easy and breathing wasn't an issue.  In fact, our conversation only slowed once we hit the fifth mile, which makes sense considering we  had finally dipped under a 6:00/min pace per mile.  Eric pulled away from me slightly in the final 300 meters, but I held my pace, perfectly content to maintain my ease of effort.  After all, it's just the first workout back.

With this workout complete, my motivation, held strong by the culmination of the Trials and my eagerness to run the Philly Marathon with three of my closest Charlotte friends, is higher than ever!  The Philly Marathon is very far away, and I have a lot of goals to accomplish in between now and then, but it's definitely still something to get fired up about.

Up next:  minuters on Friday!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Week in Review

44 Miles
2 Lifting Sessions
5 Ab Sessions
0 Doubles
0 Days Off
0 Workouts

Each run this week was better than the run the day before.  My body felt rather confused and angry at me for making it run when every single muscle and tissue seemed to scream at me to turn back around and stop running.  After 20 minutes, my runs immediately feel much better and more bearable.  By the end of this week, I was even enjoying the art of running again as I could tell my muscles were beginning to finally fire fairly normally.  I hit the one-hour mark on both Saturday and Sunday and fought the urge to add on more miles since the weather has been sunny and in the 60s.  Fortunately, I know that I can wait to put the longer runs on my legs until next week.

Volunteering at Saturday's Inaugural CRC Winter Flight 8k early in the morning didn't prevent me from logging some fun miles with Heidi Hullinger, a former Duke star who is in residency for Spinal surgery stuff in New York, but applying for Fellowships in Charlotte.  The CRC race went off without a hitch that I can think of and the Club even made some money from the small race!  Hopefully we can turn this race into a tradition that people continue to participate in.  I was also really impressed with all the CRC members who dedicated their time to volunteering for the event, even if it was 30 degrees and dark when they arrived.  The true camaraderie of the Club was showcased on Saturday at McAlpine, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

As part of the post marathon symptoms, I've noticed a weakness in my left side of my hip flexor and glute.  I've been focusing on a consistent lifting and ab regime, but I knew that something else was missing.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to have Dr. Greenapple of Greenapple Sports & Wellness take a look at my marathon-wrecked body on Friday.  Everybody in Charlotte knows who Greenapple is because he works on many high school athletes and is very involved with the running and triathlon communities.  We spent the first ten minutes getting to know each other before he took me into an assessment room to test the strength (or lack thereof) in various parts of my body.  He found that my left gluteus medeus is very weak and that my psoas is tight.  We went over some light exercises for me to add to my lifting program (donkey kicks, bridge, bridge with marches, clam shells until I can't do them anymore, single leg squats on a stool, etc).  To help increase the flexibility of my psoas and to focus on other body corrections, Greenaple prescribed ART, mobilizations and possible acupuncture for future sessions.   I'm excited to work with Greenapple and know that performing these corrective, strengthening exercises will be the key to helping me achieve my goals in 2012.

Coming up next week, I will continue to run purely on feel and, if I feel up for it, attempt two low-key workouts:  minuters and a progression tempo with no goal pace target.  I don't want to push my body too far too fast, so I'm taking things slowly so that I can be fully ready to set new PRs later this year.

Oh, and for your own enjoyment, I included a photo of my recently healed blisters!  You can notice the dead pieces of skin that I cut off and where the new skin has formed under my big toe and also on my third toe.  Yum!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week in Review

7 Miles
1 Weight Lifting Session

I spent more time this week running than I probably should have.  That is correct. I'm saying I shouldn't have run 7 miles this past week, but I did.  After five whole days off from running combined with five whole days of eating terribly delicious, unhealthy meals, my body started to feel quite gross.  If you don't believe me about eating unhealthy, here's a meal that I had for lunch on Thursday:   grilled mozzarella sandwich, individual bag of potato chips, big cookie, two brownies, and three mint chocolates.  I should note that I did not pay for a single part of this meal since I was at an offsite for Bank of America, which was the main contributor to the inordinate amount of food that I consumed. 

Needless to say, that insatiable desire to get out the door was undeniable and my blisters had finally healed, so I accepted Carolyn's request for a run on Friday.  As soon as I got out the door, my entire body immediately regretted the decision to run.  I didn't turn around though because I wanted to run with Carolyn and to socialize with her.  Mind over matter, right?  I desperately gasped for pocketed breaths between words and was very aware of the fact that she was four-stepping me and that I had no real power, intention, let alone ability, to catch back up and match her stride. 

After that fail of a run, I determined that for all future marathons, under no circumstances shall I run a step for an entire week.  Now that I've run two marathons, I've gained more wisdom (albeit a little), but I'm smart enough to make decisions based on how my body felt after each marathon.  Indeed, after Twin Cities, the same pre-marathon runner in me did not resurface until almost three months after the race, meaning that I felt sluggish for the entirety of those three months.  I'm hoping I can find that bounce back in my legs a little quicker than that since I'm already thinking about what's in store for 2012.

I have had time to think about what's next for me during this year of the Dragon, but the fall is still uncertain.  For the Spring, I will incorporate a consistency into my routine that has been non-existent in the past.  Some actions that will be incorporated regularly are:
  1. Lifting every Monday and Thursday.  Garrett made me a lifting plan and showed both David Willis and I how to perform all of the exercises.  I'm already on track.
  2. Performing an Ab Circuit all days except Sunday:  Stir the Pot, Mountain Climber, Side Star Plank, Dead Bug, Clam shells will all be included. 
  3. Working out always on Tuesdays, Friday, and Sundays.
  4. Rolling every, freaking day.  This one is annoying, but important.
This list is kind of boring, but these small things today are going to help me achieve my goals tomorrow.  For the Spring, I will focus on running as many local road races possible (without sacrificing the quality or quantity of my workouts) to win prize money.  So far, the Tobacco Road Half Marathon and Cherry Blossom Ten Miler are on the list.  I desperately need to lower my half marathon PR, so it's likely that I'll travel to the USA Half Marathon Champs in Duluth, MN in June.  The fall is not set in stone yet, but Meagan, Aaron and I are toying with the idea of a Fall Marathon, with the intent to work together to run a sub-2:40.  It may be a little ridiculous that I am already thinking of how and where to PR in a marathon again, but the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon is now over, and it's time to transfer that focus and dedication to another pursuit of excellence. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Olympic Trials Marathon: The Race

Give it All I've Got
Placer greater than 72nd
2:41:53 or faster

Gave it All I Had
66th Place in 2:44:04 (guessing the half split around 1:20:33, 2nd half 1:23:27)
Results here

Thirty-six hours after the race of a lifetime, I can confidently tell you that I gave my best effort.  Even if my best effort on Saturday was not my personal record or the highest place, it was the best I could bring out of myself, my body, my mind that day.  I am proud of my journey to the Olympic Trials.   I am proud to have toed the line without any injuries.  I am proud for finishing a race where almost a fifth of the field dropped out - a testament to the grueling nature of the marathon.

Race morning dawned perfectly calm and clear, with temperatures in the high 40s, and predicted to reach the mid-to-upper 50s by the end of the race.  My sister Vanessa and I woke up around 5:15am to get ready for the morning's events; while she got all dolled up for the cheering party, I performed my pre-race feeding rituals of Trader Joe's oatmeal and a PB Bonk Breaker.  I recognized that temperatures in the upper 50s would feel way too hot to me, so I alternated drinking between water, Gatorade and Nuun to ensure I would be hydrated enough to survive 26.2 miles with the sun beating down on my pale skin.

By 630AM, Jordan, Meagan, and Garrett had arrived in the room to begin our trek over to the GRB Convention Center, where the athletes would have access to bathrooms and indoor warm up facilities.  Before heading out, I put Meagan's number on her chest and back and, to be honest, I was quite honored that she chose me to pin the bib on her instead of Jordan.   Perhaps it's a girl thing, or maybe it further cemented our commitment to work together during the race. After we had used the hotel bathroom one last time, I said my farewell to Vanessa, grabbed my sunscreen, and headed out the door with the crew.

Unlike the Army Ten Miler, where Meagan and I barely had enough time to gulp down some water, there was plenty of time to situate ourselves in a hall and to take multiple bathroom breaks in the Convention Center.  Meagan and I just sat together with a calm confidence, while I randomly voiced our game plan out loud. Ben and Megan Hovis stopped by before Megan went off for a warm up.  Mark Hadley spotted us as well and came by every now and then to provide support.

In the meantime, Garrett and Jordan came to us intermittently to check in and to see if we needed anything from them.  I can only imagine what they were doing when they weren't with us.  I'm assuming that Jordan was talking to people he knew or just tweeting on his iPhone while Garrett was scoping out the food options in case he needed a second breakfast to tide him over through 140 minutes of cheering.  The guys disappeared to give us the space they knew we needed to perform our typical mental preparations in the final hour before the race.  After seeing so many friends, it was clear to me that this Charlotte crew had so many people here that believed in us and our goals.

The hour seemed to go by slowly, and I utilized the hour to envision the race plan and to repeat to myself words of affirmation about the training I've put in and the workouts I've completed to prepare me for this race.  Emotionally and mentally, I knew that I was ready to run this race.

By 7:40, the women were gathered near the exit of our warm up room.  It was time to head down to the holding area on the street and to say goodbye to our Athlete Support people / significant others.  Meagan, Megan, and Allison Macsas (Meagan's roommate from the 2011 Houston Marathon who had the same goal as us) grouped together to ensure that we didn't lose each other on the way.

The bubble of excitement burst into a nervous frenzy just as doors to the Convention Center opened, exposing the men in the midst of their final preparations for their race.  It felt as though at that very moment, time began moving very, very fast and all the women reacted with the same panicked motions to prepare - dropping our bags haphazardly on the sidewalk, frantically looking for water, rushing to the port-a-cans (that's what they call them in Texas).  Within a minute, however, the excitement died down as everyone realized we had another fifteen minutes to jog around and get that calm back again.  During this time, our crew split apart as each performed our own unique drills and strides.   I jogged a couple of laps, re-tied my shoelaces four times, and performed my final drills and strides before stripping down.

I'm the girl in the middle of the picture in the blue jacket 
The next five minutes were a blur as we were herded to the start corral.  All I know is that when they let us loose, I did a stride but seemed to be the only other person that decided to take a fast stride with the Olympic hopefuls.  Meagan and I situated ourselves near the right side of the course and waited for the command.  The gun sounded at an unknown time, signaling the beginning of what I hoped would be a memorable journey through the streets of downtown Houston with 200 women who were just as good  as me or better.  In case you don't know - the course started with a 2.2 mile loop downtown, then featured three identical 8-mile loops that incorporated the 2.2 downtown loop.

If you look closely on the left, you'll find Meagan and I
I settled into a comfortable pace with Meagan and Allison right beside me.  There were probably 150 women surrounding us and the pace felt like it was crawling.  Fortunately for us, the lead pack had gone out at a snail's pace, which forced the 2:35-2:40 runners to go out right on pace.  Somehow Meagan, Allison and I managed to stick together as we navigated our way through the sea of runners in the first downtown loop.  Not only was this loop of the race packed with runners, but the streets were cluttered with friends, family, and super running fans who were cheering their hearts out for all of us.  It would be an understatement to say it was crazy; it was a blur!  The crowd was electric, but somehow I managed to hear my own cheering squad - Mom, Dad, Vanessa, Ben, Rebecca, Holda, Jamie Dodge.  What an incredible way to start a marathon.

My Garmin was completely inaccurate during the downtown segments, and it claimed that our current pace was 5:45 for the first mile, which was entirely false.  Unfortunately, there was a clock positioned before the mile marker, so there was a brief panic as everyone thought we had shot out in 5:15 pace. We came through the mile in 6:19, and my Garmin was horribly off so I decided to ignore it since it was presenting an inaccurate measure of my performance after only 6 minutes into the race.

The first 10 miles of the race went by surprisingly quickly as Meagan, Allison and I found a small pack to run with once we exited the downtown fan frenzy.  At first, Meagan locked in with a girl from the BAA - Brett Ely - and took us through the 5th mile in 601.  In the middle of that mile, I hung back a little because I was worried about hitting too quick of a pace too early on.  After we passed the split, Meagan said almost sheepishly, "that was a little too quick" and fell back into step with me.  After that, we locked in at a comfortable clip of 6:07.
leading the pack
During this segment, Meagan and I probably shouldn't have lead as much as we did.  Meagan and I did a lot of the work for the group during that first loop as we ran stride for stride alongside each other.  Every now and then we exchanged words of encouragement for the group.  Fans during the outer loop told us that our pack was strong.  Looking at the pictures, we were strong.  All of us look so relaxed and comfortable at the pace.  Those first 10 miles passed almost effortlessly as I had little thinking to do and just ran based on what my body (and the pack) was telling me to do. During the outer section, Jordan, Holda, Shane, Jill, Garrett and Matt had scattered throughout the park to cheer us on, which helped tremendously.

Effortless Running While Chewing Gum
As expected, the race thinned out quite a bit once we began the second loop (miles 10-18).  We caught some people during this segment, and they either attached themselves to us or faded slowly back to a different pack.  At this point, our group included about 6-8 people, with either Allison, Meagan or myself leading.  Finally, a girl told Meagan and I to step back and let her do the work.  While I appreciated her teamwork, we went through in one of slowest splits of the day - 6:21 - and as soon as we saw that split, the trio burst ahead, with Allison taking the lead to get the pace back on track.

Side View
At mile 14 during the race, my body began to feel the first signs of fatigue and pain.  Blisters on my feet were throbbing and parts of my foot felt numb from the concrete.  Every single physical weakness I've ever had awakened out of hibernation and clawed at my body.  My achilles, IT Band, hip flexors all were on fire.  Suddenly I felt like a mechanical engine that was beginning to rust.  I needed oil to keep my gears going, but that wasn't an option.  Simply put, the presence of Meagan and Allison was invaluable during miles 15-18.  While my body was faltering, my mind contemplated the possibilities.  I had two options:  (1) Drop off the pace at mile 15 and struggle for 11+ miles alone or (2) fight my way to mile 18 with Meagan and company and see what I can do for the final 8 miles.  Rather than give in to my deteriorating body too quickly, I chose option (2).    The discomfort was made easier knowing that I had a pack of women surrounding me.  During these miles, I would drop off the pack slightly, but then find the resolve to pick it back up to tuck back in right behind Meagan.  Meagan checked back twice to see where I was going, and those checks gave me the strength to push forward again.  In the picture below, I'm struggling to stay tucked in with this pack, but I made it to 18 and then began to fade slowly.

My final strides with the pack of Meagan and Allison
After 18.2, the pack slowly began to pull away from me, and I struggled to ignore my blisters and aching body.  I was alone for the next 4 miles, and the strength of the pack was evident in my slipping times; all alone, I didn't have nearly as much motivation to keep my pace strong.  As I doubted my own physical ability to finish the race, my legs slowed.  18 - 6:09, 19 - 6:16, 20 - 6:24, 21 - 6:29, 22 - 6:43. I was completely and totally alone, and it was all I could do within my own willpower to keep going.  My body was shutting down and my mind was fighting so hard to keep it going.

During these miles, I realized the true meaning of hitting the wall.  Ironically enough, I never once thought of why I was feeling that way.  I didn't question my training leading up to the race, or the fact that I had been sick, or that I had missed two weeks of higher mileage due to low iron.  I just accepted it as my reality right then and there.  I just thought about what I needed to do to finish, not about what was causing this terrible physical weakness.  During mile 23, I decided walking through a water stop was what I needed to do in order to finish.

I'll tell you right now - the Gallowalk method is extremely successful.  Jeff Galloway should receive a Nobel Prize for this ingenious invention because it gave me just the rest I needed to get back on track.  When I walked for 20 meters, the pressure from my blisters disappeared, and I began to run again and the pain stayed away for the next mile, which I was able to bring back down to 6:28. For the final water stop - at mile 24.6 - I walked through again, but apparently I had already mastered the Walk/Run method, because my split for this mile (6:42) was considerably faster than the other mile I had walked (6:55).  I should also note that I planned my walks at the perfect moments, which were when the crowds were thin and, therefore, less intimidating.  I didn't want to walk when I was in downtown Houston for fear of seeing someone I knew.  Fortunately, the water stop volunteers clapped and told me that I could do it.  And I did!

Somehow only one girl had managed to pass me during my walk, but I passed her right back once I started running again.  By the completion of mile 25, I only had 1.2 more miles, so I pressed on, in hopes of looking somewhat fast for the finish.  As we rounded a turn, my blisters probably burst puss and blood into my sock, but I ignored it because someone just shouted to another girl that she was in 72nd place.  I need to place higher than 70th, so I got my rear in gear.  There were 5 girls ahead of me, and they were fading fast.  I forced my blisters to cooperate, and passed all 5 of them, and then some more with a split of 6:16 for my final mile.  The crowd in the final 400 meters was deafening, and I made my last turn toward the finish line with a grimace on my face.  I decided I might as well make it look like I'm just fine and so happy to be finishing my very first Olympic Trials Marathon, so I smiled in the final straightaway.

I crossed through the line, and Meagan was waiting for me.  She waited three whole minutes to see me finish (she finished in an amazing 49th place in 2:41:04), and I couldn't cry sentimental tears of gratitude because I didn't have enough energy to muster them.  I walked just enough to not break 2:44, but I ran just enough to finish well under the Trials qualifying time.
Meagan giving me a high five after the race
Meagan and I walked through the crowd of supporters, where I guzzled a bottle of water thoughtlessly and mumbled sweet nothings to Meagan that she probably missed.  I went from feeling relieved and alive to immediately feeling weak and numb.  I was conscious enough to register that Garrett's parents should be in the crowd, waiting for me, to give me a hug. I was seeking them out, searching the crowd.  Nothing.  Instead, Meagan's parents hopped out of the crowd and escorted her and I to the second floor.  In the two escalator rides, my energy levels faded fast.

After Meagan's parents were asked to leave because they didn't have a credential, I started sputtering and Meagan started leading.  She held onto me and asked volunteers to get medical.  Medical was all the way back down stairs, so she got me gatorade instead, which seemed to do the trick.  Megan and Ben came up and informed me that she unfortunately had to drop out due to stomach cramps.  I was proud of her for gutting it out and putting herself out there.

Soon, Garrett came up to the elite area and I didn't realize how empty my tank was until he informed me that apparently his mom spoke to me right after the race.  She even put her hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eyes and talked to me, face to face.  That interaction never registered in my brain because I still don't have a recollection of ever seeing her.  After that interaction, she called Garrett immediately and told him to get to me as soon as reasonably possible.  I blacked out?  Not sure.  I was out of it.

Afterwards was a blur as I waited in line for the massage and Garrett held me up.  I was very appreciative of his large, muscular frame after the race because I felt really safe and secure.  I knew that if I passed out, he would make sure that my skull didn't hit the floor by catching me in his arms.  In my dazed state, he already wanted to analyze my race and hear my perspective on why I wasn't able maintain a pace with Meagan or why I had to resort to walking.  Even right now, I am not entirely certain if there is a reason.

On Saturday, I learned how to hurt.  I learned how to persevere through pain and weakness.  I learned how to finish with heart.  Most importantly, I learned how to love even more - my parents, my soon-to-be future in-laws, my coaches (past and present), my running partners in Charlotte, my fellow Demon Deacons, and all those people who have believed in me over the past 12 months and whose support has helped me realize this dream.  I did it - but with the help of so many countless others along the way and for that I am eternally grateful and humbled.

Of course, the perfectionist in me wishes that I had stayed with Meagan so that I could have at least had to option to hold hands with her through the finish line.  I've got a lot more marathons in my future, which are just opportunities for me to continue to perfect my marathon running skills to better prepare me for 2016.  Two days later, it seems surreal that it's over now, but I'm already looking ahead for 2016 and thinking about what I need to do to place in the top 30.  I'm excited to plan a marathon - perhaps with Meagan - with the goal of breaking 2:40 in the months or years to come.  Regardless, I'm proud to have had this opportunity to race with some of the best marathoners in the country and to be part of a historic event.  Now, it's time to take some time off from doing anything remotely active.

Many thanks to my Official Fan Club for making the trip!!
And that is my tale of pain, glory, and sweat.  There is a lot to be happy about and I forever cherish this memory.  I am an Olympic Trials Finisher!

Mile Split Total Time Average
1 0:06:19 0:06:19 0:06:19
2 0:06:00 0:12:19 0:06:09
3 0:06:05 0:18:24 0:06:08
4 0:06:04 0:24:28 0:06:07
5 0:06:01 0:30:29 0:06:06
6 0:06:12 0:36:41 0:06:07
7 0:06:11 0:42:52 0:06:07
8 0:06:01 0:48:53 0:06:07
9 0:06:08 0:55:01 0:06:07
10 0:06:07 1:01:08 0:06:07
11 0:06:07 1:07:15 0:06:07
12 0:06:08 1:13:23 0:06:07
13 0:06:08 1:19:31 0:06:07
14 0:06:21 1:25:52 0:06:08
15 0:06:14 1:32:06 0:06:08
16 0:06:05 1:38:11 0:06:08
17 0:06:12 1:44:23 0:06:08
18 0:06:09 1:50:32 0:06:08
19 0:06:16 1:56:48 0:06:09
20 0:06:24 2:03:12 0:06:10
21 0:06:29 2:09:41 0:06:11
22 0:06:43 2:16:24 0:06:12
23 0:06:55 2:23:19 0:06:14
24 0:06:28 2:29:47 0:06:14
25 0:06:42 2:36:29 0:06:16
26 0:06:16 2:42:45 0:06:16
26.2 0:01:15 2:44:00 0:06:16
2:44:00 0:06:16

Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 Olympic Trials Marathon: Friday

35 Minutes of Running for 4.4-ish miles
Strides + Drills

If you haven't noticed, there's been a common theme for each of these days leading up to the Trials...as each day passes, the flurry of activity increases dramatically. On Friday, there was not much down time as there was a lot of information that the Houston Marathon Committee had to share with us and there was a lot of food to be consumed. As I walked to the lobby to meet Jordan and Meagan for a run, there was a certain buzz of excitement that you could feel in the air. Lots of runners were also making their way onto the streets in their warmup gear, to simulate the start of the race at 8 or 8:15AM.

We ran through the first mile of the course before jumping on the greenway in the park outside of the city. My legs felt great, and I could tell that my nasal congestion had improved from yesterday. The head still felt heavy, but I figured it wouldn't affect me too much in the race tomorrow. Meagan and Jordan went on to run a bit further, so I turned around early and ran into Esther Erb and Alissa McKaig from Zap Fitness. I really like Esther and enjoyed the time running with her. She sang the national anthem before the race on Saturday!

The three of the Charlotte women met in the Massage Room in the late morning to get our final rub down before the big day. It's the little things that count, and these massages were the best 20 minutes of rubbing that I've ever had!

The rest of the day was spent trying to eat the right portions of food, the right amount of water, and getting the right amount of time off of my feet. I also wanted to spend some time with my support crew, so I opted out of the free lunch to dine with my crew at Whole Foods. My brother Ben surprised me and flew in to watch at the Trials, so when I went to my parents room to leave, he jumped out of the bathroom. I was very happy he came to watch since we didn't see each other over Christmas. It was also nice to enjoy lunch with the people who spent time and money to make this trip to support me. In fact, I felt bad because the days' events didn't allow for much time with family and friends, so I tried my best to be with my supporters as much as possible.

In the afternoon, all 300 of the runners, plus their athlete support person, crowded into a conference room of the George R. Brown Convention Center to attend the Elite Technical Meeting. A lot of information was shared during this meeting, but fortunately the Houston Marathon Committee did a lot of work (and explaining) to ensure that everything was manageable.

A woman presented to us with a PowerPoint Deck related to the pre-race information (be at the warmup area no later than 7AM), the water bottle stops (don't grab two water bottles, but you can grab one water bottle and share it with runners), the holding area logistics (women are to start as soon as the last man runs through the start line), the u-turn (there is cattle fencing there, so don't cut yourself), and the bag check (you get two bags, make sure to put your bag check number on the bag). The questions asked were comical - "How many ounces of water are in the cups?" "Do you have extra numbers so if I want to shed clothing, I can?"

During the presentation, everything seemed so real, especially the feeling of nervous excitement that just had amplified. Fortunately, Meagan and Megan were sitting right beside me, and I knew they were probably sharing the same feeling as me. After the hour of information overload, all of the runners crammed to the back of the room to pick up our bibs and chips. It definitely was not a very organized method of pick up since the lines were haphazardly formed, zig-zagging past chairs that were in the way, and cutting into the lines for a person with a different last name. Either way, we were all able to get our bibs eventually. 

After some slight down time with my sister Vanessa, I explored the Trials Town on the lawn outside of the Hilton with Matt and Garrett. There was an Opening Ceremonies for the Olympic Trials, which I naturally avoided because I wanted to eat dinner at 530PM. Any misgivings about not attending the Opening Ceremony were immediately dissolved when I walked into the Elite Dining Tent and saw Kara and Shalane eating early. Further affirming my decision not to attend was the fact that at 6PM, all of the athletes who had attended the Ceremony all arrived in the Dining Tent at the same time and had to wait almost 30 minutes in line for food. Jordan, Meagan, Garrett and I all ate while they stood waiting.

After dinner, Vanessa braided Megan's hair and then mine. Ben chatted with Garrett in the room while Garrett rolled out his IT and Quads with the Trigger Point Performance Quadroller. It was relaxing to get the hair braided, ready to shine tomorrow morning.

The Sign before the Elite Dining Tent
Where we Buy our Gear
Matt Jaskot and I

Dream Big, right?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 Olympic Trials Marathon: Thursday

39 Minutes of Running for 5-ish Miles
5 Strides

Compared to Wednesday, Thursday was much livelier and action packed because over 300 elite marathoners finally arrived in Houston to participate in the pre-race festivities. During an early morning breakfast, the Hospitality Suite was buzzing with all sorts of energy, and runners continued to come in, eager to eat. Obviously, I had been impressed with the Houston Marathon Committee from the treatment I received yesterday, but today showed just how much hard work and dedication these people committed to make this event one to remember for the athletes.  The food was always stocked full and there was always enough water and gatorade to feed a small army.

Since my entourage of support had yet to arrive and since Megan and Meagan were both on later flights, I had the morning to myself.  To pass the time, I settled myself at the hotel room desk, creating a makeshift workstation to finalize the decorations on my water bottles for the big race. I utilized the CRC stickers, hello kitty valentine stickers, and silver wands with stars on the end. As you can see, the final result came out much more "girly" than I actually am, but at least I won't confuse my bottle with the other 206 out there on the course.

By 10am, it was time for my massage and I was lucky enough to land the same guy who massaged me last year, Ed. He massaged my body for 45 minutes and it was quite possibly the best 45 minute massage I've ever gotten. I encouraged him to open his own practice so that he could solely work on athletes, which is where his true passion lies. I think that if I come back next year, he will have done so!

By eleven, my parents and high school coach Holda had completed their all night, fourteen hour drive from Carbondale, Illinois to the Hilton Americas Houston. I rushed them into dressing for a run with Rebecca and I, and we were out the door by 11:45am to run a couple of laps around Minute Maid Park and then for the first 2.2 miles of the course. Since Sunday, I'd been dealing with a sore throat and a nasty cold, but the run made me feel much better than when I had woken up, where my head just felt heavy and congested. The snot rockets I shot out of my nose during the run helped clear my system slightly, but my head was still heavy.

After my run, I didn't shower. Instead, I went to lunch, ran into Ruth at the very end, but had to leave her much too soon to meet Rebecca in the official merchandise tent. Rebecca and Corbett joined me while I bought a sweet Nike jacket and shirt with the Trials logo on it. Completely worth the $120 spent because I can show my grandkids in thirty years, and they will think I am much cooler than I actually am.

Mom and I in the hotel room, with the view of the Finish Line
Afterwards, since my parents and Holda were napping to gain some of the hours of sleep back that they had lost, the Thomasons and I plopped ourselves in the lobby to catch up...and to people watch / try not to stare at running celebrities like Kara, Desi, and Shalane. We admired their tiny, muscled legs and I debated whether or not my body could ever look that fit, and decided that it was unlikely, but was perfectly content with my conclusion. I'm here, after all. I may not be as fast as the stars, but I earned a spot to participate in Houston too and, as I realized this sitting in the lobby with Rebecca, an immense feeling of pride overcame me.  Pride not only for myself, but for all the other men and women who put in the hard work and dedication to be here this weekend.  Obviously, the majority of the people here are on a different level of elite than I am, but no matter where I finish tomorrow, it puts me on a list of the top US Marathoners for 2012.

By later afternoon, Meagan and Jordan still hadn't arrived, so Megan, Ben, Garrett, Mark Hadley and I all made our way over to the Elite Dining Tent to get some grub.  After parting ways with Rebecca, Athletes were only allowed to bring one guest to dinner, so my entourage of my family, Garrett's family and Holda had to dine without me.

The elite dining tent was a runners dream. There was a salad bar, followed by fifteen trays of heated food varying from quinoa, brown rice, white rice, steamed vegetables, black beans, whole wheat pasta, marinara sauce, meat sauce, and then your standard selection of meats. Once you moved past the heated food, you found an assortment of rolls, along with Udi's brand of gluten free breads.  Then there was a cookie stand, along with all bottled drinks except for alcohol (they are saving that for Saturday night).

Garrett and I at dinner
Megan and Ben at Dinner
The Charlotte crew of Megan, Ben, Mark, Garrett and I enjoyed conversation ranging from standard runner gossip to the latest updates in the CRC. I even waited around extra long to ensure that Meagan and Jordan arrived in time for food. If they hadn't, I was planning on filling up two plates with food to deliver to them.  Fortunately for them, they arrived in the nick of time.

After dinner, Garrett massaged Meagan's sore foot on my hotel bed before calling it a night.  We discussed our race strategy as we waited for Jordan to return from his run in the Mexican Barrio.  All in all, Meagan and I had to same race plan.  I figured if we didn't, then one of us would have compromised and met in the middle anyways.  Meagan even stated that no matter what, the plan should be for us to stick together through at least 18, and after that, it's every women for herself.

All in all, it was definitely a successful day, full of positive energy and countless reunions with other phenomenal runners. I've already seen so many women that I met along the way, and it was so inspiring to see them here, with the exact same excitement gleaming in their eyes as my own. I cannot express how grateful I was to have two close friends here to share the entire experience with because it makes it that much less intimidating and that much more exciting to share some of the same memories.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012 Olympic Trials: Wednesday 

I hope to post something every night about my detailed experiences on each day leading up to the Big Race. This is mainly for me to document every little detail so I can remember it forever, but I want to share with my Blog audience too since you all have been so supportive.
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Last night I suppose my dreams, not the ones you remember but the millions that vanish into oblivion like flies, are what kept me from fully falling asleep. I was in that semi-awake, semi-asleep mode where I was bordering just enough consciousness to feel like total crap on Wednesday morning at 6am when my alarm went off for my flight. Fortunately, I was able to push all negative thoughts aside once I realized that I was officially on my way to Houston!

Matt picked me up and dropped me off at the airport, and I made my way through the security line with a pat down and two searched bags - they didn't like the muscle trac massager that Melissa Bell gave me as a good luck gift nor the clementines. Fortunately they let me keep both.

After a oatmeal breakfast courtesy of Starbucks, I was boarding my US Airways flight to Houston. On the plane, I wish I had a smoothie because about half way through I got REALLY hungry and I knew that I wouldn't be able to satisfy my growling stomach for about another three hours. A think thin white chocolate protein bar just doesn't do enough.

Regardless, I arrived in Houston, approached a man holding an Olympic trials sign, informed him that Caitlin Chrisman is here,  and called the Elite Transportation "captain" named Bert. Once I set foot in Houston, the rush of excitement, nervousness, anxiety, exhilaration and disbelief all hit me at one time, and I was a little thrown aback at the strength of all these emotions rolled into one. So much buildup has been put into this race, and now that I was finally there, it was hard to believe it was finally a reality.

 While waiting for Bert, I decided to do the unthinkable. In my so-tight-I-almost-can't-breathe $10 skinny jeans and long boots, I propped my leg up on the baggage carousel and began rolling the muscle trac massager over my legs. To quote the Adidas ad campaign from 99...runners. Yeah, we're different.

This was me at the airport, but on the baggage claim

I was vaguely aware of the prim southerners who stopped their conversations to take a glance my way, but I kept massaging my legs. After all, what was a better way to make the time go by? Soon, I put the stick down because Bert had arrived, and I hopped into the front seat of a ten passenger van to drive to the Hilton Americas hotel. We were the only two people in the van, so I was able to learn some gossip about the weekend.  Apparently I was one of the first to arrive this week!  I found out from Bert that the super stars like Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher are getting picked up in BMWs. I liked the van just fine; it was free!

I checked into the Hilton at 10am, and walked into an amazing room that looks outs on the start line for the race on Saturday. I immediately unpacked all of my stuff and folded it nicely into drawers before heading out for a run on the first three miles on the course. Other than having to stop at nearly every intersection for the first two miles, the run was nice and I was clicking off 720s the whole way. The course is fairly flat, but not like Kiawah Island flat. It has some gently rolling hills once we get outside of the city.

My stomach was growling uncontrollably, so I ended the run at Jason's deli, where I enjoyed a salad at a table all by myself (family and friends don't get in until tomorrow). I couldn't pick up my Elite credentials until 2pm, so I even took the extra time to buy some jam at a grocery store. I arrived promptly at the elite athlete checkin only to realize that I was the first one there and that they hadn't received the list of athletes yet and so therefore I couldn't sign in yet.

Fortunately for me, all of the USATF representatives were there and one of them took me on a tour of all the Elite rooms - elite massage, elite hospitality suite, elite quiet room with laptops for our use, elite friends and family lounge, and the elite bathrooms. All of these amenities are located on the fourth floor of the Hilton, a floor that is comprised solely of ballrooms. Essentially, the US Olympic committee has taken over the whole floor.

By the time I got back from my tour, I was introduced to another USATF official, who introduced me to Mo Trafeh, one of the favorites to place in the top five. We chatted for some time as I pretended to not know that I had just read this article on him a couple days ago. In the end, all of these athletes are just normal people like you or me. They just might get paid to run while we do not.

Everyone in the Elite area was so very nice. I was so grateful to be surrounded by so many officials who share the same passion for running as I do. I couldn't help but wonder if some of the officials used to be Olympic trials qualifiers themselves, but I never found the right moment to ask.  They kept telling me to let them know if there was anything I needed that wasn't already available in the food selection.  So far, it seemed like they had everything covered (including soy milk).

Soon, I got my race credentials and race bag, which included a nice plastic cup with the trials logo on it, a Nike running hat with the logo, and sunscreen.  I grabbed my "to-go" box of elite water bottles and spent the next hour decorating them with CRC stickers and hello kitty. I also determined which ones to put gels, Gatorade, or water in. By this time, it was 4pm and I decided I needed to do nothing for a little while, so I finished a book by Johnathon Tropper before heading to a grocery store for dinner.

After dinner, there really isn't much more to report other than checking out Facebook, watching a snippet of a movie, and, after I finish writing this, turning out the lights at 8pm.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week in Review

75 Miles
2 Doubles
2 workouts
13.1 Mile long run
2 lifting sessions
1 Surprise Party

With a lot of hype and nervous energy, I've completed my last full week of taper before the Trials.  It's hard to believe that in just six days all the hard work and dedication will come to fruition as soon as I cross the finish line on Saturday.  This week's mileage was quite similar to the week before, but I felt like less time was committed, oddly enough.  I got back into the full swing of work in a cubicle with ease, but struggled to get back on my normal sleep schedule after our return from California.  Fortunately enough, the weather in Charlotte has been uncharacteristically warm, making it easy to get out of the door every day.  I even found time to do some ancillary stuff with Garrett at the gym because I wanted to spend as much time as possible with him.

While my workouts went exactly as planned, my social life didn't - and I mean this in a good way.  Kelly and Meghan Fillnow teamed up with all the other runner ladies in Charlotte to host a suprise party for Megan Hovis and I (and Meagan Nedlo in spirit).  While I tried to make plans for Garrett and I to go out with my co-worker, he was trying to tell me that we had a double date planned with John and Kelly.  I knew we didn't, so I called Kelly who said that she had a friend in town but that she really wanted to give me a birthday present tonight. John confirmed that she wanted to me to come over at 730 to pick up my birthday present, so I agreed. 

When I walked into the house, Meghan and Kelly were acting really awkward (Kelly literally just turned around and walked away from me because I'm pretty sure she was trying to tell everyone to jump out) and then Dalena, Michelle, Danielle, Anna, Carolyn, Jocelyn, Pezz, Emily, Mo, and Alice all jumped out from the kitchen with a huge SURPRISE!  In addition to having all of my favorite ladies in one place at one time, the Fillnows had baked lots of yummy breads and even bought vegan cake pops!  This gesture of kindness was the best way to really start getting excited about the Trials.  I enjoyed chatting with all the girls, talking about upcoming races, and hearing about everyone's goals for 2012. No matter what happens at the Trials in just six days, I know that these women will be proud of the Charlotte trio for just making it to the start line.  I am so grateful to have such supportive and phenomenal friends.  It would have only been better if we could have flown Meagan Nedlo out to share in the excitement!

Now that this week has winded down, there are only two more days left for me to spend in Charlotte before I head to Houston on Wednesday morning, where a flurry of activity begins!  Activities include reuniting with friends that I've met throughout the journey, picking up my race packet, signing Meagan, Megan and me up for pre-race massages, elite technical meetings, and grabbing as much free food from the Elite Hospitality Suite as possible.  I've listed my athlete support person to be Garrett, who will join Jordan and Ben to create an entourage of support for the Charlotte ladies.  I'm depending on Rebecca Thomason and Matt Jaskot to make the Saturday post-race festitivities as memorable as they come (which could very mean that I don't actually remember the epic night).

Since running Twin Cities in October 2010, I have been counting down for this Saturday's race, quite possibly the biggest race of my career. As I've stated before, the key is to soak up the entire experience, and run with everything I have in the tank on that day.  The best part is that I am going into the Trials knowing that I've done everything I could have (given that I have a full time job) to prepare for this race. 

Unlike Meagan, I don't have a PR Assistant named Jordan Kinley, so I've got to give my out shout outs... 

Thanks so Theoden for posting an article in the Charlotte Obvserver. 
Thanks to Brandan Laan of RunnersFeed for interviewing quite possibly ALL of the Olympic Trials Qualifiers.  You can read my interview here

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2x3 Miles

8 mile tempo at 610-600

2 miles warmup
3 miles in 17:31 (559, 550, 542), 2 min jog rest, 3 miles in 17:44 (5:55, 5:55, 5:54)
2 miles cool down for 10+ miles cool down

Last year before Twin Cities, I did an 8 mile tempo at McAlpine.  This time around, I was still feeling run down from my travel back to Charlotte from California.  I only got five hours of sleep on Saturday night, and woke up at 6AM to get a long run in with Spada on Sunday.  This felt like 3AM to my body, which was still on West Coast time.  Since then, it's been very difficult for me to fall asleep before 11PM, meaning that I'm getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, which is not enough for me.  With that being said, I asked Nedlo what her workout was and she did this, so I figured it was a safe alternative to the 8 mile tempo.

I slept in, so there was no one to run with.  I opted to run this workout at 430PM with Garrett along on the bike.  We began the workout and I felt really good after the warmup.  Slightly pressed for time, I started the workout by just jogging into it and already took off faster than I had planned.  Instead of coming through in 610, I was right below 6 and the pace kept dropping.  This part felt like a total breeze.  We ended near the pond in Freedom Park, Garrett handed me some water, and soon we were off again. 

During the second set, there was a u-turn so that I could practice my turning skills for the big race.  I noted that the u-turns could be mentally debilitating and vowed to make sure I focus on that in my mental preparations this week.  I wanted to slow it down in this set, so I ran perfectly even 555s.  Right on target for what I'd like to run in the last 10k of my race in just 9 days. 

I'm pleased with this workout and looking forward to the next set of workouts that are really more focused on just keeping the legs fresh and ready to go for next Saturday.  I've got a simple fartlek on Friday, a 13-miler on Saturday, and then 3x1 mile at MP on Tuesday.  After that, it's all about staying calm and confident...and stress free!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Week in Review

78 Miles
1 Double
2 Workouts
16 mile long run
6 days in California

Only 13 more days to Trials, and I just finished up my last big week of training.  It's hard to believe that over 52 weeks of hard work, endless miles, and countless conversations have been geared towards this one goal for so long.  I am so grateful that I was able to spend almost two weeks with my family in California and also to run in some of the best weather in the country.  The Cal Coast Track Club members kept me company for one of my workouts this week and a couple of easy runs.  This helped me stay motivated and encouraged while I was away from my nest of Charlotte running partners.

I am gradually decreasing my weekly mileage in a slow taper so that my legs will still be sharp, but slightly rested for the Big Day.  Next week will be fairly low key with a 50-60 minute tempo and a light fartlek of sorts.   The focus will be to keep my mind in tune with the smallest of things - nutrition, stretching, rolling, sleep, water...the list goes on.