Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Last Minute Decisions

I'm a pretty big planner. I like to know what's coming next. Surprises are fun, but they can really stress me out. That doesn't mean I can't relax when I'm on vacation, because I'm really good at that too. But when it comes to day to day life, I like to have an agenda. But last minute races..? I live for that shit. 

So when I clicked "submit" around noon on April 28th for the May 1st Palos Heights Half Marathon when registration officially closed later that day, I was as excited as a teenage girl about to enter a Justin Bieber concert. Add on the fact that I convinced my brother to run and that our Speedy coach had also signed up at the last minute? It was going to be a Sunday Morning Party!

The First Midwest Bank Southwest Half Marathon (mouthful, better known as the Palos Half Marathon) is a small hike from Crystal Lake. So Mark and I hit the road at 5:15am on a Sunday morning to meet Ryan and Jacqui in time for packet pick-up. Because Mark was so willing to join me without any major convincing, I offered to drive us. I had woken up semi-stiff and sore from a not so nice week of workouts from coach Speedy, on top of the almost 3 hour ride I had done on the trainer on Saturday. And the hour and 15 minute drive to the race site didn't help. Welp, this is gonna be one of those days. Get through it and just have fun. 

Jacqui took off for an 11 mile long run shortly before the start of the race and Mark, Ryan and I snuck into the corrals just as the National Anthem ended. Less than 5 minutes later, the gun went off and we were cruisin'. Did I mention that this race is extremely flat? And fast? It literally goes 6.5 miles out on Route 83 and then you turn around and head back on the same 6.5 mile route. So when I say cruise, we cruised. Mile 1 was over before I knew it and it was WAY to fast considering I had 12 miles to go on tired legs. Mile 2 was much better but still to fast to hang onto for the rest of the race. But then I started to... settle at that same pace. The temps were... perfect. The wind was... minimal. There was no sun. I had made it to the turnaround when I realized I was well ahead of PR pace and with the perfect conditions, I wasn't going to let this opportunity slip away. 

By the time I hit Mile 10 I was ready to be done running. My legs were screaming for me to stop. I was tired. So tired. But with only a 5K to go and over 2 minutes banked to guarantee a PR, my legs were gonna have to wait for that precious RnR. I tried to "relax" a little for miles 11 and 12 so I could have a fast last mile. With 1 mile to go, there was a small group of women on the road cheering on the runners. I happened to be a few strides behind a man who I was playing Cat & Mouse with all morning. (There's always one at every race.) One women yelled out, "Beat him! You can beat him!" I thought to myself, "Not today lady. If only you knew how badly I hurt right now." 

Well, I crossed that finish line about 15 seconds behind my Mouse friend. And with a new PR of 1:38:35. I have no idea where I found the speed, but I'll take it. I reunited with Ryan and Jacqui to learn that Ryan had won and Jacqui had a successful double digit long run! (More on that later.) We only had one more success story to finish off the morning: Mark! I grabbed warm clothes and headed back to the finish line to wait for Mark who showed up with over a minute to spare and PR'ed himself! 1:57:39 was officially clocked and the Hode kids were 2 things: happy and tired. 

Mark coming across the finish line with a new PR!

Post-race PR selfie ;)

This group had a GREAT day all around!

So what's next? Well, speaking of last minute decisions...

Back in October, only a few short days after I had finished Ironman Maryland, I completed an online survey. One of those, "Fill out the survey for a chance to win" surveys. I always do the surveys if I can, or if I remember. And I try to be honest. I'm sure the race director wants any feedback they can get to make the event that much better next year, right? Well the next day... I received an email. I HAD WON. I WON THE SURVEY! I never win ANYTHING! But what did I win? Oh you know, just a free Ironman entry for 2016. 


I kid you not. Ironman was GIVING me a free entry. Anyone who has dipped their toes into the triathlon world knows that this prize is worth a pretty penny. I had one small problem, I was already signed up for Ironman Lake Placid in July 2016 with a slew of awesome friends and my brother. That was supposed to be my "A" race of the year. As far as I was concerned, my year of big races was planned! But now with this curve ball, I had to rethink a couple of things. One Ironman a year is a huge undertaking, but was my body prepared for 2? Not only that, but was my bank account prepared for all the extras that come with an Ironman? Outside of the entry free (which in my case was now non-existent) you always have to consider travel, lodging, and who was going to be my travel buddy?  My world had just been turned upside down, and I was presented with my biggest "Last Minute Race Decision" yet. 

I was just about to hunker down for the winter and pack on my off season weight over the next few months. I was going to stay up later on Friday nights and sleep in a little on Sunday mornings. Instead, I signed myself up for Ironman Texas, the North American Championship. Reasons why: Jacqui and Ryan were racing this Ironman and immediately asked me to tag along. So, I'd automatically have travel partners in case any of my family or Rob couldn't come. Ryan was planning on driving down while Jacqui flew down. Therefore, I wouldn't have to put my bike on an airplane and I could fly with Jacqui in an effort to take minimal time off of work. And, lodging costs split with 2 other racers is right up my alley. JUST KIDDING. Long story short, Jacqui and I have a mutual friend from high school who lives in The Woodlands only 5 MILES FROM THE RACE START and ever so graciously invited us into her home for the week. 

Was I dreaming? Did I really just sign myself up for another Ironman for the lovely price of a Spirit Airline ticket? I had won the triathlon lottery. And I wasn't about to take advantage of it. So needless to say, it's been a long winter. Full of 4 hour computrainer rides & Netflix (my version of "Netflix & Chill"), the occasional long run on the treadmill when the snow and temps were a bit TO wintry for my liking, and enough laps in the pool to make someone dizzy. 

And now we're officially 10 days away from race day. And somehow I have a crew of followers. Rob. My lucky charm. Who didn't even hesitate when I mentioned to him, "Would you maybe wanna sorta kinda come with me for ANOTHER Ironman?" My dad. He had his flight booked before I did. His least favorite city to travel to might be Houston, Texas. But he jumped on this opportunity. And as of 72 hours ago, 2 of the best friends a girl could ask for, Ian and Lindsey, booked their flights {MDW-->HOU} to watch me take on the Texas heat. 

Ready or not, here we go.

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