Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018 Rollin' Straight into 2019

I'm behind. I know.

I owe you some words. I'm working on it.

The truth is, the holidays and wedding planning and training (gasp!) hit me in full force the month of December and now that one variable is removed (holidays) I can breathe a little better. 

I hate that I wasn't able to sit down and write down reflections on the 2018 season before the New Year. Reflecting is such an important part of the growing process. How can you expect to improve without taking a deeper look at your habits with a microscope?

The truth is, I've had a lot of time to mentally reflect on my 2018.

2018, in a nutshell 🏃

I'd first like to state, after the SLEW of races I put my body through in 2017, these 9 races were it for me in 2018 (with the exception of S-NO-W fun run 😉, but who really counts that as a "race"?). I wanted to devote 2018 to one goal. BQ or bust. I entered myself into Grandma's Marathon in June and refused to schedule ANY race after that until I crossed that finish line in Duluth. We all know how that turned out. But let's go into each race a tad further, shall we? Starting with the top left.

This was 100% a last minute race decision. The 10 day weather forecast was lookin' mighty fine on the Chicago Lakefront and I had a hard time passing up a 50 degree Saturday in January with my RyBread Crew. I toed the line, eager to see where my fitness sat. Lesson learned: the body reacts to all sorts of stress. The bad and good kind. My engagement to Rob 10 days prior did little for my performance that day. I was on top of the world, carrying around the shiny new rock on my left ring finger. You couldn't wipe that smile off my face. But when it came time to race, it was clear my body was low on energy and adrenaline. I raced fair, but could have easily pulled off better on a "fresh" mind & body. As Ryan stated, "Next time, save your engagements for AFTER the race!" Noted, Speedy. 

My most favorite of races. Closest to home. A damn challenging course. Always a promised brunch afterwards. This course was designed by the devil himself, and I have continually improved on this course, year after year that I've raced it. It takes time. Patience. Knowledge. Push here. Reserve here. I've had my sites set on a sub 1:40 half marathon on this course for a few years now and this year I got the job done. 1:39:47. Lesson Learned: Head down. Stay focused. Trust your training. 

I went back to my Alma Mater, riding the high of March Madness and the rest of my spring training. I was certain this would be one of my best days. Until it wasn't. Lesson Learned: The highest of highs in running also bring the lowest of lows. Mentally, you need to be tough as nails. I woke up and raced on lifeless legs. I got emotional as I hoped to feel a sense of nostalgia running through parts of campus. Instead, I felt as shitty as they come. I swallowed back a lump in my throat as I willed my body forward. I crossed the finish line and sobbed. I hid my sorrows as my friends crossed the finish line.. until Beth caught me crying on the side of her house later that day. Megan, it's only a race. Why so many tears? I had some serious goals I was hoping to attain and I was second guessing whether or not I had made some untouchable goals for the 2018 season. It took me a while to get my head on straight after this race. But damn, this one definitely reminded me that triathlon and running are 2 TOTALLY different sports. 

I totally wanted to toe the line of Grandma's Marathon after a successful half marathon in April, proving that my training and fitness were right where I needed it to qualify for Boston. But I also 100% believe that everything happens for a reason. Because I totally think that I was meant to "fail" at the Illinois Half Marathon in order to put my head in the space I needed it most. You know what I'm talking about. The "I ain't going through that again" space. The "this shit is gettin' DONE TODAY" space. And I did just that. Lesson Learned: Dedicating myself to one goal this season was totally what I needed to succeed. Boston here I come!

I'm just gonna go straight into the Lesson Learned: your body is not meant to race 10K kills 3 weeks post BQ marathon that happened to be an 11 minute PR. Part of this comes from my stubborn ways. I love this race. It's fun, local, and a great way to start the 4th of July holiday. I knew I wouldn't perform well {even though I told myself "your legs have been feeling good, this might go well for you!" Ha. Not to mention it was hotter than Hades that day. Pretty sure I sweated more lbs than miles ran. Another lesson learned: always have all the fun. Do the things that make you happy and don't look back. 

The 2nd half of 2018 was 100% up in the air until about mid July. I've never had the freedom to totally choose what I want to do with the rest of my season, mid season. I knew one thing was for sure.. I wanted to give my run legs a break. I missed Matilda, my TT bike. I wanted to reconnect with her, the country roads, and all the moo-moos. When I came to the conclusion that my bike legs were recovering well, I decided I wanted to join my RyBread crew and race IMWI {that also happened to be on my 31st birthday}. This wasn't a hard decision. Madison Wisconsin gives me all the chills and I enter complete nostalgia whenever I see the exit for John Nolan Dr. I had 0 expectations for race day. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to spend my birthday weekend with my friends. And I did all of that. However, Lesson Learned: a marathon trained body is NOT ready to race a HILLY Ironman less than 3 months post marathon. I had damn near sacrificed my left hamstring when I qualified for Boston. 100+ miles of climbing on my bike didn't help. And when it came time to run a marathon, I quickly remembered that I had *just* done this less than 3 months ago, without the 112 mile hilly bike ride before it. I finished IMWI, but it wasn't pretty. I was certain I did some major damage to my hamstring that day, but I've since proved otherwise. Regardless, I wouldn't take this day back for anything. 

***************BOSTON DISCLAIMER******************

It was a short week after IMWI that I was given the chance to apply for entry into the Boston Marathon. I was 4 minutes and 33 seconds under my qualifying time. No one had any doubts about my entry. Until I received this daunting email and I was forced to spread the word to my family and friends, Boston 2019 was officially off of my race calendar. 

A bum hamstring. A Boston Marathon rejection. Can you say "defeated?" I ate myself into a hole that night. I cried at the drop of a hat. This was something I wanted terribly. I had earned the right, fair and square. And it was taken away from me. But at this point, Rob was just as invested as me. We were ready to kick off Spring 2019 together with The Boston Marathon and end it together as Mr. & Mrs. Sloan. The shock in his voice when I told him the bad news, I'll never forget it. It was that moment I knew, my 2019 racing goals were about to be altered, drastically. 

I still owe you all the juicy details on the treatment that I took for my hamstring, and I promise it's coming. But just know that it's a work in progress and something I'm never going to truly be "done" with. But I took plenty of time for myself. I rested as instructed. When I felt decent I jogged. I rolled the dice when I decided to run a 5K with my work family. It wasn't until that morning that I decided to race it. Lesson Learned: when the body is on, GO. Something clicked when I was warming up that day. I had a feeling, today was going to be worth it if I pushed it. And that it was. A shiny new 5K PR, 6 weeks after one of the hardest physical days of my racing life. Damn, the body is something amazing. 

As long as I celebrate Thanksgiving in Crystal Lake, this is something I will probably always do (assuming all body parts are attached and functioning). I never race this one. It's on a trail and trails aren't my friend. This is more of a "calorie burner" before I gorge myself all day. This year was no different. It's always fun and promises some memories with friends before a day of celebration with family. Lesson Learned: continue this tradition always. 

This is another race I have a hard time saying no to. Knowing that I'm apart of 100's of Santa's running through Downtown Crystal Lake, how could I want to sleep in this first Sunday of December? This year, the body wasn't exactly feelin' the speed. I had been running well lately. But the pieces didn't fit on race day. I didn't push anything, I wasn't about to take steps backwards after working so hard with progress on my left leg. Lesson Learned: progress isn't always forward, so you gotta roll with the punches when they come.

I don't think it's any secret, BQ or Bust 2018 has turned into BQ or Bust 2019. This time, I can't be fearful. Many will tell you that after you are defeated, it's easy to hide. But that's the last thing on my agenda. I need to be seen. I need to be held accountable. I will always be grateful for the miles, fast or slow, confident or not. The goals I have set for myself are risky and putting them in writing for the world to see is bold and scary. I lay my heart on the line everytime I race, allowing myself to be vulnerable in the event of failure. My motivation comes from many sources, but watching my peers succeed AND struggle is one of my greatest sources. "If she can come back from that, I can re-qualify for Boston." I have always thrived on a good hearted running conversation with a fellow runner. We're a different breed and we know it. But our spirit is one to be reckoned with and the drive in our hearts is something you won't find stronger elsewhere. 

Boston qualification the 2nd time around is only getting harder. The BAA lowered the qualification standards this year by 5 minutes per age group. That means I'm looking at a 3:29:59 to even qualify. Most likely a sub 3:25 even consider entry to the race. I didn't imagine I'd be planning a wedding and training to run a sub 3:30 marathon at the same time. But here I am. Once again, proving that life never goes as planned. My first attempt takes place in April 2019, the same weekend as the Boston Marathon. I'll be racing a marathon called BQ.2 series in Geneva, IL. It's a marathon designed specifically for people like me. Those who are within the skin of the of their teeth of qualifying for Boston or gaining entry. It's pancake flat and boring, 8 laps along the Fox River in Geneva, IL. But at this point, I'm over the scenery while I run. All I want to see right now is this: 

My journey with Boston isn't over yet. Stay tuned. Cheers.