Bridge of Flowers 10K 2017

Morning came too quickly. I got up hoping to see a message from my friend, Michelle, informing me she couldn’t run that morning. It wasn’t there. The sun was out, but the air was cool. I knew we would be running. I have run the Bridge of Flowers 10K six times since 2010, missing only 2014 after injuring my Achilles. My heart and body did not feel in it this year. I began the summer killing my training plan. I was feeling amazing. I had a specific pace goal and I was nailing my training runs. Then it fell apart.

The downward spiral began with a dental procedure at the beginning of July. I needed to have skin removed from the roof of my mouth to graft to the gums below my two front bottom teeth. I am no stranger to dental surgery, and I pride myself on being able to tolerate discomfort and pain to a high degree. When my dentist described the aftermath as akin to what it feels like when you burn the roof of your mouth only much worse. Well that was an understatement.  For two weeks, I was unable to eat or drink anything except a well-blended smoothie and tepid water out of a straw while tipping my head to the left side. Even that  caused me to cry. After a week of excruciating pain, I returned to the dentist certain something was terribly wrong. He assured me I was healing well, but was experiencing heightened sensitivity due to the exposed nerve endings.

While this was going on, work issues escalated for the nursing team and we were put under an enormous amount of pressure to clean up messes that we did not create. I was hungry, exhausted, and frustrated. Some personal issues crept into the mix as well. My stomach was empty and tangled with worry. I worked sun up to sun down while trying to be sure my son’s summer vacation was not affected. Running all but stopped. I tried to run a few times, stupidly in the high heat of the day because it was the only time I could go, and inevitably the runs were demoralizing.

I emailed my coach and told her I had to stop.  Something had to give and this time it had to be my training. I didn’t want to stop moving my body. I just wanted to stop the structured training plan. I was walking daily and doing some yoga at home when I could fit it into the day. Instead of being tied to a schedule I began doing whatever I felt like with my own self-imposed goal of moving for at least an hour every day if not more. I took a Barre class, did two OrangeTheory classes while visiting family in Florida, ran without pace goals, walked, rode my bike, and I swam. It was refreshing. My mouth eventually healed. Work is still insane and a bit unhealthy. I don’t want to say too much because the obvious response from people seems to be “if it’s so bad maybe it’s time to find another job.” I can’t argue with that point, but it’s never quite that black and white. Personal matters ebb and flow, but through the teachings of Sharon Salzberg, meditation and self-reflection, I continue to grow, accept responsibility for my own short comings, and in the end I will emerge a stronger, better, and happier person. I know things will be ok, but my patience and ability to give space to the issues is being tested. Historically, I am not a patient person. I like quick resolve, but that will not help things this time. Deep breaths!

My training fell apart for Bridge of Flowers. In the week leading up to the race I had the most horrendous work week of the summer. My hormones were also wreaking havoc as I retained water and felt like my body had become as wide as the Goodyear Blimp. I was in absolutely no mood to conquer Crittendon Hill this year. My friend, Michelle, texted a few days before to make a plan for race day. I knew I would run the race, but I wouldn’t like it! Race day came and surprisingly I woke up feeling better than I had in previous days. I did all my pre-race rituals. The weather outside was perfect. I was relieved that we would not have to deal with the stifling heat and humidity we experienced at last year’s race.

We arrived in Shelburne Falls with 45 minutes to spare, but the road to the parking area was already closed for the short 3K race. We waited in a line of vehicles for the road to reopen.  People were getting antsy, but I felt calm. Even if the race started without us, and I knew it wouldn’t, we would be joined by everyone in the car line. We eventually parked, picked up our bibs, and used the bathrooms before walking about 5 minutes to the starting area. As we left the packet pick up area, I heard a volunteer signal to someone on her walky talky to hold the start 10 minutes.

We took our time to the start on the Iron Bridge.

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As soon as we settled into middle of the pack, the national anthem began, the gun sounded and we were off. I knew instantly that I would run the race with my heart and soul. This is my race. I know this course better than any other. I know the tangents. I know the hills. I know where I can let it all out and I know when to hold back. The old familiar feelings welled up inside and I knew I made the right choice to run.

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Bridge of Flowers is my current 10K PR though it is a pre-Achilles injury feat. I am far from running that kind of pace right now. I wanted to run it in under an hour and my A goal was to beat my 2015 time in an attempt to begin working towards getting back to that 10K PR pace and beyond. I ran hard and pushed pace more than I thought I would be able to, but it wasn’t enough to meet either goal. I finished in 1:00:23. I finished the last mile with gusto. My feet were on fire. I was neck and neck with another woman, and I made a private competition out of it, pushing myself above and beyond my comfort zone in the last half mile. I pulled ahead of her so far she couldn’t catch me. It was exhilarating. This was all in my head obviously, but it made for a fun and fast finish for me. As I rounded the corner back onto the Iron Bridge my feet felt as though they were lifted off the ground. I was beaming. The bridge is always lined with spectators cheering wildly. It’s my favorite part of the entire race. I paused my headphones so I could hear my name being announced as I crossed the finish line. I get a charge out of it every year.

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I’m not disappointed with my time or my performance. Running is not just a passing phase in my life. It’s a part of my life and has been for many years now. I love running. It brings me peace and clarity.  I also love training for races. I enjoy the challenges running goals create. However, one crucial thing I learned after being injured a few years ago is that when my body or mind signal that I need a break it’s imperative I listen. I have come to trust that taking a break from running does not mean it’s the end. When I am ready to return, I do it gently and from a place of love. I don’t watch my pace or the minutes I’m out running. I simply run.

This won’t be my last Bridge of Flowers. It is my race. The course may be the same each year, but it challenges me in a different way every single time. It frustrates me sometimes. It makes me smile too. It takes me out of my comfort zone. No matter what my time is at the end, I have always run my best race and each finish makes me proud. Until next year!

Hartford Marathon Training – Week 5 – Phase 2

My training is broken up into blocks. Phase 2 is a 5 week block. Phase 2 of training is also preparation for the Bridge of Flowers 10K on August 8th. This phase went by very quickly.

  • Monday, 8/3 – Warm up 10 minutes, long hill repeats: find a 3-5 minute climb, run up 4-5 times, jog back down (the side street Chapel Hill Drive is a good on for this)

I chose to sleep a little longer rather than get up early to run because we got home much later than expected from Pennsylvania. Therefore I had to sneak this run in just before picking Carlos up from camp. It was blazing hot, about 92 degrees, and extremely humid. I did the warmup and then headed over to Chapel Hill Drive. Holy hell that hill was ridiculous. I ran it 5 times. On my last trip up a friend drove by and told me to pop over for a glass of ice water. I stopped and chatted for a bit. I didn’t bother to shut off Map My Run so my pause is reflected in my overall time. I ran 5.04 miles in 54:08 (avg pace 10:45 min/mile).

  • Tuesday, 8/4 – 45 to 60 minute Easy Run

I ran 4.80 miles in 50:25 (avg pace 10:29 min/mile). This was a horrible run. I felt sluggish and weighed down. My legs were heavy. I just wasn’t feeling great on this run.

  • Wednesday, 8/5 – Warm up 10 minutes, 8-10 by 1:30 minute hard running/30 seconds easy running. Get the legs moving and work on a rolling hill course to prep for the ups and downs of the first couple of miles of Bridge of Flowers.

I ran 5.30 miles in 50:11 (avg pace 9:27 min/mile). Now this was a great run. I felt so much. What a difference a day makes! Later in the evening I did a leisurely jog with my friend while our boys were at their cross country practice. We did 2.22 miles in 34:31.

  • Thursday, 8/6 – Cross train or Yoga

I took the day off. I was insanely busy with multiple work issues. I also worked the night before at the hospital. That always throws me off kilter. It’s much different working a night shift and coming home to work all day than when I used to only work nights. I actually miss doing nights full time.

  • Friday, 8/7 – 30 to 40 minute Easy Run

After being up for almost 2 days before finally going to bed Thursday night, the last thing I wanted to do was get up at 4:30 in the morning so I didn’t. My friend brought Carlos and her son to camp in the morning so I went for a quick run as soon as they left. I ran 3.2 miles in 30:21 (avg pace 9:19 min/mile). This run was quite a surprise. I wasn’t planning on moving that quickly, but apparently my legs were.

  • Saturday, 8/8 – Bridge of Flowers 10K

This is my favorite race and favorite weekend of the summer. Prior to last summer when I was out of commission with the Achilles injury, I had run this race for 4 consecutive years.

Bridge of Flowers 2010 – no blog post as I hadn’t started the blog yet. Time – 1:07:36 (10:52 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2011 – Time – 1:04:16 (10:21 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2012 – Time – 1:01:53 (9:58 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2013 – Time – 56:01 (9:01 pace) **Currently my 10K PR

The weekend of Bridge of Flowers it has become tradition for my close friend and former UMass Amherst college roommate, Colleen to come for a visit. She has been one of my biggest supporters since I embarked on this running journey. She is a two time Boston Marathoner and avid runner and hiker. She has been unable to run until recently due to knee issues, but she is beginning to build up her mileage and hopes to join me for BOF 10K next year. The beautiful photos below from Shelburne Falls, MA are compliments of Colleen.

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Orlando and I both ran the race while Colleen and Carlos spectated. Initially Orlando was planning to pace me to a sub-1 hour finish. I wasn’t shooting for a PR, but I was really hopeful that I could finish the race in under an hour despite the mega hill at mile 2. Orlando took off and I lost sight of him at mile 1! I could tell he was itching to move at his own pace  and honestly it was ok. I knew from the moment the race started I had to run this race myself, my way.

I know this course and I was well prepared for the race. The weather was ideal, sunny in the 70s and blessedly not humid. I started out at a steady pace, but I knew I had to go a little faster in the first two miles because I would lose time on the hill. Crittendon Hill is impossible for most to run because it’s so steep. The hill comes after mile 2 and it climbs sharply until just before mile 3. I power walked up the hill as fast as I possibly could and as I neared the mile 3 marker my time was a little over 31 minutes. If I was going to finish in under an hour I knew I had to attack the downhill. Fortunately the downhill is not as sharp as the uphill. It’s a shaded dirt road and it is a steady decline that levels a bit here and there which is not too hard on the knees so I let myself fly!

Heading into the last mile I was on target for a sub-1 hour finish as long as I didn’t ease up on my pace. Thankfully the back half of this race is mostly flat with just a few rolling hills. The spectators are awesome at the end of the Bridge of Flowers 10K and that got my engines revved up. Running over the iron bridge to the finish line never gets old. My eyes welled up as I saw the 59:30 on the time clock. I picked up the pace determined to sneak in under an hour.

Official time: 58:51!!! (avg pace 9:29 min/mile)

Orlando ran an incredible race especially considering he hasn’t run in months. He finished in 50:59. I am really proud of him, but admittedly a little jealous that he can just jump into a fairly challenging course and run it in a very respectable time with absolutely no training. Some things in life are simply unfair!!!

Looking all happy before BOF 10K!
My favorite race spectator
Handsome guys!
  • Sunday 8/9 – 150 minutes long run

I  was still riding the high of my race the day before. I got up very early and hit the road for my long run. Despite the energy my legs were tired. I ran 14.52 miles in 2:31:40 (avg pace 10:26 min/mile)

Later in the morning Colleen, Carlos and I went for a great hike up Mt. Holyoke. The Summit House was open and they were offering a tour just as we reached the summit. It was so interesting. We learned that it used to operate as a hotel and was once the 2nd most popular tourist attraction in North America behind Niagra Falls. It was a spectacular day and the views were stunning.

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Overall it was a great training week. Total mileage for the week = 41.28