Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Week Eleven: Styling in the Big Girl Panties

What a week! I am giddy. I wasn't sure exactly how this week was going to end when last Monday rolled around to start it. I was still hobbling on one foot as my cellulitic toe was pretty tender and sore. I only managed to get one four mile run in since the infection started over a week ago, and that run left me doubting that I would even attempt the half-marathon that was fast approaching on the upcoming Sunday. I accepted even more red on my schedule this week and dealt with the replacement of runs with swims. I managed to sit on my trainer and spin in endless circles, going nowhere, for two days in a row. The last of those spins was for 3.5 hours of misery. That was the day before the half-marathon.

I surprised myself this week and I learned more about myself in the process. I was pressed to make some tough decisions regarding my training. In doing so I realized that I could rely on my intuition, that I had the inner strength to do what needed to be done, and that I had again seen a jump in my confidence.

Challenge of the Week:

Deciding whether to race in the half marathon. I went back and forth all week long and had pretty much decided against racing by Thursday. I wanted to have a good training camp and not risk more injury that would affect my training when I got to Tampa the following week. What was my struggle? It was going to be a beautiful day. And I actually love to run now. And I wanted to race. But I didn't know if I could pull out of the race if I needed to. I had been instructed by my coach to not let my pain go above a 5/10. I was told not to start the race unless I knew I could pull out if I had to. I didn't know if I could.

I thought about it long and hard and finally decided that because I had to run that day whether it was in the race or on my own (as a run was still on my program), I figured it would be a lot more fun in a group of 17,000 people than alone. In New Orleans there would be food and beer after, and I'd claim my technical race shirt that I had paid for. I was in.

I made it to NOLA Saturday afternoon, picked up my packet and did a short walk of the expo. By the time we got back to the car, my foot was hurting enough to make me question my decision. I decided to stick with the program and see how far I could get, knowing I'd have to pull out if it got to be too much. I ran my pre-race facilitation that evening and carbo-loaded with Lizzard, FBI, and our husbands. After a lemon drop at the SYC, I wolfed down an entire pizza and then topped it off with some pastries from the doughnut store across the street. I love pre-race meals....

Coug and the Lizzard at the SYC

My Pre-Race De-Hydration
View from the SYC
Early to bed, early to rise. Lizzard and Kevin were gracious enough to allow us to stay in the boathouse with them. We got a good night's rest, popped a bagel and some water for breakfast, and rushed to the start line. I was eager by the time I got to my corral. I found myself standing in a long line for the last minute port-o-johners and watched my corral move ahead without me. Priority one - Port-O-John. Priority 2 - catch up to my corral. I managed to catch them just in time to start my Garmin and cross the timing line to begin the race. I had planned ahead just in case my race was cut short by carrying 40$ for cab fare (and for drinks to numb the frustration), and my cell phone to notify my finish line observers if I wasn't going to be there as planned. Figuring I had enough challenges I gave myself a break and broke a cardinal training rule... I listened to my music while I ran. I had enough going against me, I decided I'd at least be comfortable.

My coach had called me the night before to wish me luck... and to tell me to go out fast and strong because I probably wouldn't make it past 3 or maybe 6 miles. I gave her a hard time for her "negativity", but looking back at it during the race, I'm glad she laid it out there for me like that. It took the pressure off of having to complete it. It was just a training race, and I had to remember that. Knowing that I wouldn't be viewed as a "quitter" made it okay to walk away if I needed to.

I did what I was told and started out with a pace that I usually save for short distance testing. I felt great. I looked around this year. I looked up and not at the ground. I enjoyed running with a mass of people. I realized that sooner than expected I had crossed over the mat at the 3 mile mark... then the six mile mark. I threw my jacket to Lizzard's husband as I ran by smiling. I was passing people this year and not breathing hard at all. My foot felt great. I kept moving. Nine miles in I was getting tired, but still running hard, still not breathing labored. My legs were getting heavy. The long bike ride the day before was taking its toll. I slowed at the water stations but kept moving. Esplanade. Only 3-4 miles left. I knew I could do it, but I said a prayer that either I finished strong, or if suddenly the foot kicked in that God would give me the strength to walk off the course when I was so close to finishing.

Mile eleven was hell. I tried not to think. I just kept my legs going. I was looking at the ground now. Eminem started playing "Like a Soldier" in my ear and that got me going a bit faster. I wanted to stop so badly but I couldn't. I knew my pace was better than last year and I wanted to finish ahead of my time. I wanted it.

Mile twelve. I slowed and almost stopped but forced my legs to keep going. And then out of nowhere it happened. I stopped to walk. I was whipped. It wasn't long - at most - five seconds of walking passed before I felt someone grab my arm and pull me forward. I looked up to see Grace running beside me now. We didn't say anything to each other but I thanked God for putting her there at that moment. It was all I needed to get moving again. It was a struggle. I still wanted to walk, but I was afraid that if I did Grace would slow down to get me moving again. We trudged together towards the finish and I found a little bit left in my engine to speed up at the very end. I was ecstatic. I had finished with a new Personal Best. I dropped my time by over 3 minutes and ran a 10:03 pace.

Saving Grace and Coug

Lessons Learned:
  • Never say Never. Where there's a Will there's a Way. Just Do It. Mind Over Matter. (Or whatever over-used cliche you want to fill in here). 
  • Believe in Yourself.
Grace, Lizzard, Coug, Ellen, FBI (not pictured Koko)

So what's next? Training camp in Tampa, Florida is this week. I am excited, nervous, and ready.

To all of my Fitbird teammates that will be joining me I want to say this: I will NOT be earning the Put Your Big Girl Panties On Award this time at camp. I'm already wearing mine. Someone else can have that honor bestowed upon them...

Bring it Coach.


  1. Thanks for being there with me for the last hard HELL mile, you beautiful monster you.

  2. Mighty sexy big girl panties Coug! You give wearing the big girl panties a GOOD name!

    I'll have a pedicure in your honor this weekend while you are at training camp!

  3. Believe in Yourself Coug!!! (uh...speaking of training camp big girl panties!)