Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 in review...

2012.  Where do I begin?  This is likely to be a long post, so grab some popcorn and a comfy seat. 

This is part 2 of the last post.

I knew going into 2012 that I had something totally crazy that I was planning to do.  THE marathon.  I knew that it was likely to be one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I remembered from running my first marathon that everything was about perspective. 

So on a slight whim, I signed up for Bandera (50k).  I'd heard good things about this race.

Yeah.  About that.

Bandera stands as the most painful race I've ever done (for me).  Hills, cactus that I was holding my hands over my head to keep from getting stuck (because it was as tall as me), rocks, steep slopes, and trail running.  *Shudder* 

I know someday I'll do longer running races, but I'm not sure if I'm prepared for Bandera again.  But I accomplished what I set out to do.  I set out to learn to hurt.  I set out to find out how bad it could get, so come February and a marathon, I could put that hurt in perspective and keep going.

February rolled around, and I thought I was ready. Ten days before the marathon, I rolled my ankle and wound up with a sprain. But I wasn't going to be "the woman who WAS going to run a marathon in firefighting gear." So I sucked it up, buttercup, and did it.  I'd been watching the weather for weeks, and it promised to be a beautiful warm day.  Not a great day to be running in firefighting gear.  But, with the help of a random stranger from the internet (who is now a great friend, with a super awesome wife that puts pavement runners like me to shame on the trails), I finished.

I met some great people through that process.  A fellow blogger, and initially a member of the media (whom firefighters trust about as far as they can throw them) has become a good friend.  I definitely don't get out to ride with her as much as I should.

In March I was invited to join Team Firefighter, a non-profit group of firefighters, nationally based, that race and train for a cause.  These guys are all in different places in their athletic careers but they are all great guys that work hard, train hard, and help each other out.  I've found my place with them and look forward to seeing where the team goes from here.  There are some really amazing people on the team, experience in all levels, and passion for firefighting and racing.

I'd have to call January and February "perspective setting" months.  What followed was a whirlwind of "oh crap" moments and "I can't believe it."

March 17, I drove down to ride the Ironman Texas course to be familiar with it ahead of time.  I officially had my first "I-didn't-just-fall-over-because-I-didn't-unclip-fast-enough" wreck.  I took a concrete ledge wrong and got a pavement sandwich as a result.  At mile 3.  Of 100.  The next 97 miles were miserable, but I wasn't going to make the friend that I had driven three hours down with waste his day and the trip.  Keeping up was another story though, and it hurt my confidence.  Two days later I found myself getting my right side x-rayed to rule out any breaks.  I sprained my right shoulder, and bruised my right femur.  And left a small amount of skin on the pavement.

Two weeks later, I was racing Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston.  I almost bonked during the ride because I hadn't prepared appropriately and wasn't as familiar with my nutrition as I should be.  But the worst was that my hip started hurting during the ride, and every step on the run was painful.  I came away not having realized the effect that my wreck had on that race, and was pretty frustrated with the result, even though I did get a slightly better time for the distance.

I met someone at Galveston that has become a really great friend and mentor.  She's about a year or two ahead of me in racing, and in the same age group.   She's given me some really great advice, and been there when I've been clueless.

Finally, the injuries healed, just in time for Ironman Texas in the middle of May.  After everything that had happened during the Spring, it really did seem like a really long training day. A long training day that may have been mentally hard, but wasn't nearly as painful as some of what I'd done previously.

But I did run into Michelle again, and she put me in touch with her coach, Jeff, at Apex Endurance.

This is when the magic started happening.  Jeff agreed to coach me, and he started teaching me all the things that I'd been guessing at when I was coaching myself.  All of a sudden, I started learning the things I was capable of doing, rather than guess at what I might do, and I started to have confidence in myself.  I was learning how to pace better, what pace to run specific distances at where I could hold it for the entire distance, and most importantly, to trust myself.

Under his guidance, I started to see some big changes where I'd been nearly stagnant before.

Race after race I started to see major PR's.  Tri season culminated with a 3rd place AG win at a half iron distance race, and the last running race of 2012 was a half marathon with a 3rd place AG finish.   The last race is a well known race on the Austin circuit.

I've also completed my first stand alone bike race and swim race.

To really think about it, I'd have to break 2012 up into two parts.  The first, leading up to, and including Ironman Texas, and the second, beginning about a month after.

The time leading up to and including the Ironman taught me a lot about myself, about others, and about relationships.  I've met some really great people, online and in person.  People talk about the Ironman - and in training it's about the race, the race, the race.  But after the race, at some point, you realize it was the journey.  For me, the journey brought a group of kindred souls into my life.

After the Ironman...  I would say I've started to push my limits, but I haven't found those yet.  So instead, I'll say I'm pushing ME. 

I do have my husband and kids to thank for such a great year.  They've been patient with me and my crazy racing/training schedule, listened to me when I was trying to figure things out and needed to bounce things off of someone, and been my cheering section the whole time.  I can't imagine a cuter cheering section than my beautiful kids.

Best moment of the entire Ironman
2013 is a mystery. But I look forward to what this year will bring.

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