Steeplechase Dreams and Jumping at an Opportunity

My blogging has been a little slim the past few months – but I’m back (if you ever miss out just follow my Instagram -I update just about daily). This is basically a personal journal I’m willing to share, so no offense taken if you have zero interest to read a book on my recent training and racing!

This past weekend I got more attention than it deserved – when I set a (pending) Guinness World Record at Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago half marathon (1:22:57). A last minute decision to race, but really just seizing an opportunity to showcase fitness from months of grinding chasing after fast track goals.Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 12.06.17 PM

The past year, I set sights on the steeplechase. My hopes were to get a spot on the Olympic Trials starting line (sub 9:52-which is 3.5 seconds faster than my post-Joanie PR from 2013). Unfortunately, no fairytale ending to my track season. I hit some major road blocks starting in mid-March after getting greedy. I raced back to back 10000m track/15K road races in an extremely sleep deprived state, with work and kids hindering my ability to recover. Then (I’m blaming Chuck E Cheese)- catching what would be a string of hard illnesses to break. Why I stayed sick – my stubbornness of insisting to my coach that I was “ok enough” to train. My husband got hit just as hard though, despite not being in training period. It was a nasty bad sickness.

Back in January I ran 9:46 in my first track race (a flat 3K) hopeful with 4 months of training I could possibly run that adding barriers. By mid April, my health had returned, but I felt like I was a shell of my former self.

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Another factor- in April I quit breastfeeding (7.5 months postpartum), only to feel worse and my hormones completely out of whack. It was as if I almost lost my “super-mom post baby powers”. (Note to moms- you CAN still breastfeed and perform well!). Running was not the main reason I stopped, but it was a contributing factor in the decision making, which ended up backfiring.

Early June, training was turning around and workouts looking like low 10’s were possible. On Alan’s college graduation day (June 11), I was planning to race at Portland Track Festival. Days earlier Joanie got sick again and I was feeling stressed out. That morning I woke up feeling like death. Another sickness, not worth being stupid so I didn’t compete. That left one race – Stumptown Twilight. I actually felt phenomenal all week and very hopeful I could run 10:10 (or better). You never know. I entered my 10:21 time into USATF Trials website (the deadline to enter was before the race). It would be a slim slim chance to crack a PR, but how bad would that be to NOT enter if I ended up running out of my mind. When you get it right, steeple is a race you can drop a lot of time. I typically have a 30-45 second swing from my season opener to my final race in just 2-3 months time.

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Carrie and I in our first water jump in over 2 years. It was a little rough! Video captured for all to see by Runnerspace

Clouds were brewing all day, forecast called for a chance of rain, but when doesn’t it rain in Portland? As I began my warm up with Carrie Dimoff – my favorite person in the entire world to steeple with (she’s literally my good luck charm – her race day demeanor just puts you at ease), it began to drizzle. Then as we headed down to the track, final call..

I grabbed my spikes and it began to dump. Comically raining harder than I’ve EVER seen it in Portland. My race plans basically went out the window- shifting my brain into cross country survival mindset. My body began to cool as I struggled to get my spikes triple tied before I strided off to the start.  30 minutes ago I had been feeling exceptionally awesomeness, now I was just really cold and tight.

The race was a blur. I ran a 10:17 and I was almost giddy I had fought the rain and came out alive (with a season best). Aside from the last lap of getting a little inside my head and stuttering, it wasn’t awful. But I knew it COULD have been better (which is the WORST feeling to end a season).

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Wet and happy- post race with friend (nanny) Jan!

This was the final race (within driving distance) to qualify. Steeplechasing myself to qualifying for my first Olympic Trials were over (for now). Pretty amazing but not surprising, 38 women made the standard (3 heats of prelims!- normally there are only 2) and 2 of the Bowerman Girls made it on the team to Rio!! So much respect to all the athletes who were there competing.

Both 2008 and 2016 I had hopes to get on the Trials starting line (2012 I was giving birth that week). Both years I ran only a 10:17 – far from my original hopes and far north of my PR. Moral of story – don’t consciously attempt to run at anything with the title “Olympic Trials” again – the pressure build up apparently killed me!! I’m sure had this been the calendar year 2017, I would have ran great!

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TrueForm Runner – huge asset in helping me find my stride

2016 Steeplechase Season Progression
April 14 – Oregon Relays – 10:30.12

April 29- OSU High Performance Meet – 10:36.31**

May 19 – UWL Qualifier – 10:21.12 (happy to beat my 10:22 college PR back at my college, then come back to race my little sis in the 400 hurdles!– 69.38 for the win)

June 23 – Stumptown Twilight – 10:17.46

 

**OSU race was a disaster. I thought my Oregon Relays 10:30 was an underperformance. My plan to was to go out relaxed and only focus on closing last 3 laps… I succeeded in going out slow, surged for 200m and ended slow. I was EXTREMELY upset with myself post race and for the first time in (ever?!) I was questioning running- my post on social. A few days later all was well, but just had to reset and look at reality and why I run (because I love it- not to have a result define me as a person)!

 

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Steeplechasing a long long time ago… sights set on the ’08 Trials

The day after my final season’s steeplechase I was featured on the Kaizen Running Podcast– I highly recommend listening. This gives much more than just a race recap- but all the wisdom I wanted to pass along from what I had learned from my failings of the entire season.

Instead of calling it a season to rest and reset, I was not content in stopping, just as I was now feeling healthy, motivated and energized to do something fun with the fitness I had gained. I looked at a different challenge which was picking up other unfinished business after the pregnancy of my 2nd daughter….IMG_6040

That whole “stroller running” record chasing business.

Guinness World Record stroller titles I will have to add – MUCH MUCH simpler tasks for myself than running 5:15 pace over 7 water jumps and 28 stationary barriers for just about 2 miles.

More blogging to come in the very near future (I have ammo ready to post). Thanks for reading, I applaud your attention span …

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Alexi Pappas- Rio bound movie maker and stroller pushing friend

2 comments

  1. Congratulations on the World Record!! 🙂

  2. I’ll be honest with you- I have never even read a blog before but as I progress on social media it was bound to happen at some point! I am blessed that the first one was yours. Thank you so much for sharing this vulnerable moment; you are an amazing athlete, and a genuine person. Your honesty is what makes you so relatable in so many ways. I am in no way preparing for the Olympic trials (which is just crazy!) – but I am definately motivated now for my Monday fun-day of “living the work/ life balance dream!” Thanks for keeping it real, you rock!

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