Thursday, April 25, 2013

Operation Beautiful with Girls on the Run

 A few weeks ago my friend Pauline invited me to attend the Girls on the Run annual fundraising luncheon.  She is a volunteer leader for GOTR and filled her table with friends and co-workers that had answered her call for volunteers back in November when GOTR hosted their annual race events.

I was really excited to attend the luncheon because the guest speaker was a blogger that I have been following for 2-3 years.  Caitlin Boyle founded Operation Beautiful after experiencing a negative self talk experience.  Caitlin, like many of us, had a horrible boss who was constantly yelling at her and basically draining her or as she puts it "it was a soul-sucking job."  Her husband made the simple suggestion to get another job and that led Caitlin to return to school for a career change.  One day after receiving a particularly bad test score, she ran into the bathroom and had a momentary pity party.  We've all had them...but for some reason this day she pulled out a Post-It Note and wrote "You Are Beautiful" which she placed on the mirror and left it there.  She captured this story on her blog and it started a movement which became Operation Beautiful.
STOP negative thoughts now. You are Beautiful. 

To this day, she has received notes from all continents by all ages and in all languages.  She posts all the notes on the website.  Anyone can participate...just leave a positive message in a public place for others to find.  It is a simple concept that can have huge impact.  She spoke of people that have contacted her after seeing a note and the change that it made in their lives.  As a society, we tend to value action but action is the result of our thoughts.  Words impact our thoughts and you never know what a impact a kind word or positive message will have on the person who sees your note.
It was so fun to meet a Twitter friend in real life! Me and Caitlin

I love the message of the power of positive thinking.  I have been finding success in my races lately by focusing on others whether through a smile or a happy cheer during a race.  It keeps me out of my head and the negative self talk that I have been known to have during a race.  One thing that Caitlin touched on that really spoke to me was that you help yourself as much as you help others by being positive through the notes you leave.  Your thoughts become your actions and we all need to have positive thoughts and words for ourselves and others.

Girls on the Run in Northwest Arkansas started with just a few girls at one school and has grown to 1300 participants this past year.  The program in NWA is unique in that it is free to participate compared to around $150 in some parts of the country.  The purpose of GOTR is more than training girls to run a is about providing tools and strategies for a lifetime of healthy living and self respect.  One strategy example is to Stop, Breathe, Listen, Respond.  What awesome advice! I sometimes catch myself reacting before fully understanding the situation so even I found I could learn something by using their tools.  You have to breathe and take a second before responding!
My goodie box...You Rock! 

The luncheon was one of the key fundraisers for GOTR...raising funds in order to continue to offer the program free of charge.  They offered fun goodie boxes for purchase and each one came with it's own Operation Beautiful note.  I have my note up near my desk at work for that positive pick me up that I sometimes need when tackling a tough project! The boxes contained fun samples from the event sponsors and some even contained prizes! I won a Starbucks gift card in mine! We also received tons of Post-It notes to spread our own positive messages around town.  I can't wait to post some of my own.

Here's my challenge to all of you...spread your own positive thought or message to be eligible to win a copy of Caitlin's book Operation Beautiful.  Simply tweet or Instagram a photo of your Post-It and tag me in it.  I'll select a random winner in the next week to win a copy of the book...and you are in luck because Caitlin autographed it for you! Tweet me @runningwhit or on Instagram at I look forward to seeing how we can spread some positive words with each other over the next week.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Neosho Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

A few weeks ago I was updating my race calendar and was on the USA Triathlon website where I saw a sprint triathlon available in my area on March 30th.  I decided to sign up for the race to test out my fitness and whether my foot was healed.

The race was called the Neosho Sprint Triathlon and was a fundraiser for their local animal shelter.  The race was held at the Neosho YMCA located near the Crowder College campus.  It included a 300 yard indoor pool swim, 13 mile bike, and 5K run.  I drove the 30 minutes to Neosho on Friday night to complete packet pick up.  I got a course map at the pickup table and decided to drive the bike course before leaving.  I checked the roads and noticed that they were a little rough in spots.

Race morning dawned and it wasn't pretty.  Pretty much the entire area was in the path of rainstorms and the temps were chilly at just 54 degrees (perfect running temps but not so much for the bike.)  The rain was just a drizzle as I left my house but the closer I got to the race site the more the rain picked up.  There was even lightening off in the distance...not a good sign.  I got out my umbrella and headed to the athlete check in to get body marked.  The volunteers were all huddled under the set up tents trying to stay dry as best they could.

After body marking, I returned to the car to get all my gear for transition set up.  I had a shocking my haste to leave the house I had forgotten my tire pump.  Luckily another racer nearby had one and let me borrow.  Way to save the day!  After pumping up the tires, I headed into transition and made a rack selection.  I had packed some trash bags and used those to cover my running shoes and socks to try and keep them dry.  I also covered my entire tri bag with a big trash bag so that it would stay dry.

Set up didn't take long so I headed inside to check out the pool.  The pool was a six lane, 25 yard pool.  We would be swimming in a snake formation and then exiting through the play area of the pool via a handicap ramp.  There was a door near the ramp that led outdoors for the run into transition.

The race director provided an update that due to lightening the pool was closed and warm up would be delayed.  This was going to push back the start time by at least 30 minutes.  The race would be further delayed another 30 minutes to allow a strong storm cell to pass by.  I hung around with some athletes from the Springfield area and chatted to pass the time.  About 10 minutes before the new start time, I hopped in the water and did an easy 100 yards for a warmup.  Then I got in the lineup for the swim start.

The swim was a self-seeded time trial start.  I normally can hit 1:30 per 100 yds in my workouts so I decided to seed myself in the 4:30 - 5:00 group.  There weren't very many racers ahead of me...I think maybe 7 or so.  The timing group provided instruction to each racer for the start.  They were giving about 15-20 seconds between each racer which was great for my pace because it meant there was about 1 length between each swimmer.  I finished the swim strong and felt like I pushed my pace throughout.

I eased myself out of the pool and began to move towards transition.  I took it easy because the floor was wet and once outside the ground was wet and muddy.  Once I got to my spot, I picked up my helmet to put on and the water just poured out of it.  I put on my sunglasses and they quickly fogged up so I discarded them.  Next was the tri shoes and a lightweight running jacket.  I struggled getting the jacket on my wet arms but I knew that it would be beneficial on the bike.

I ran out of transition and hit the line to get on the bike.  Not only was this my first ride outdoors since August, it was also raining.  I hate to ride in the rain so I took my time to get clipped in and get started.  I took the first turn nice and easy to gauge the slipperiness of the roads.  My entire time on the bike I was focused on riding within my heart rate and taking things safe with the rain and wet roads.  I knew the roads were sketchy from my preview and the rain made it worse.  There were so many potholes and cracks in the road hidden by the puddles and standing water.  I just took my time and did my best to avoid the bad spots. I won't lie...I said a few choice words on a couple spots of the course.  The course was two loops so I felt better on the second loop since I knew where some of the roughest spots on the course were at.

I was super happy to make the final turn after the second loop and return to transition.  Let the running fun begin.  I had stored my running shoes in a plastic bag and thankfully they were still super dry.  I ran into troubles trying to get my socks on since my feet were so wet and cold from being on the bike.  I finally got them on and headed out on the run.  I took it slow and talked to myself about running steady.  My foot felt a little stiff but once I got warmed up the stiffness went away.  There were volunteers at all the turns and they were great.  I smiled and cheered on all the runners that were on the return trip of the out and back course and soon I was at the turn around myself.  I really wanted to walk during the return but I fought through it and kept running.  I found a little steam left and managed a very strong finish.
You can tell by the puddles just how rainy it was during the race. 

I was super cold at the finish and very thankful that the YMCA was allowing racers to use the locker room facilities.  I cleaned up my transition area and returned my gear to the car and then took a nice hot shower and put on dry clothes.  Shockingly by the time I got outside the sun was out and shining in full force.  How unfair! They had a great spread of post-race food including hot pizza.  It was great! The awards ceremony was fun since there were so many first time triathletes competing and many had done really well.

My time was 1:26:34 which was good enough for second place in my age group.  I was racing in a new age group with this race.  That's right... I aged up to the 35-39 year old age group this year.  Oh the joys of triathlon and having to race a year older for pretty much the entire triathlon season.
I'm on the right rocking my Tough Chik Gear Love Hoodie. 
This is the earliest start to my triathlon season and it felt good to get back out there.  I have a lot of races planned this year and it was good to see where my fitness is at already.

Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 Bentonville Half Marathon Race Recap

The last two months have been rough for my running as I have navigated recovery from a foot injury.  I injured my foot on January 26th after a 13.1 training run leading up to what was supposed to be my first 25K.  I couldn't identify anything in the training run that would have resulted in the injury and my x-rays came back clear so the official diagnosis was Peroneal Tendinitis.  If you remember, I took off just shy of 2 weeks and then raced an 8K and was in pain from the start of that race. I scrapped the 25K and took another 3 weeks off and then eased back into running with some easy runs.  In mid-March I tackled an 8 miler and my foot was tender afterwards.  Yep, another 2 weeks of rest just to be safe!  Last weekend I did a sprint triathlon to test things out. (Race report to come this week!)

All week I debated on what to do for the Bentonville Half Marathon.  I have done this race every year and I didn't want to miss a year.  The race had posted photos of the race medal and it was huge...and you know I love bling!  Around Wednesday I decided that I was doing the race for sure.  I talked it over with friends and debated on what strategy to use for the race.  One 8-miler in the 8 weeks leading up to a half marathon isn't exactly the best training plan.

Race morning dawned and the temps were perfect for running in the mid-50's.  I got a text during the night from my friend Mike Rush who was the race director requesting tutu assistance.  My first order of business on race morning was delivering a tutu to him at the finish line.
I'm lucky to call this crazy man my friend and running coach! 

This task threw off my plans for meeting with my friends.  I headed to the porta potty line and then set about trying to find them.  I wandered around the start line looking for them and should have known that they would be running late! I ran into my sister and her running group and wished them good luck.  Finally I found my friends and we had just a few minutes to snap a picture before the crowd started moving forward with the starting gun.

Cathy, me, Rhonda, and Maja

We wished each other luck and split up based on our paces.  Rhonda and I were together and talking about our friend Renee who we couldn't find before the start.  All of sudden she ran up behind us and found us, said hi and then dropped back to her pace!  The first 1/2 mile of the course is a sight to see...the crowd of runners is just amazing for our small town.  There were over 2500 runners signed up for the race!

Before we knew it we had passed the first mile marker.  My foot was feeling fine and we were just taking things easy.  Near the church between mile 1 and 2 we watched the crowd ahead part and move to the side.  One of the runners had fallen and was having a seizure.  It was a very scary sight but the runners around were providing him with emergency assistance as best they could.  (The runner was taken to the hospital and ended up okay just really scraped up from the fall.)  One runner was on her phone calling 911 as we passed and I was thankful that I was running with my phone too.  You just never know what will happen in a race and I will be ordering a new RoadID after this.

Rhonda and I talked about the incident for a minute and then began a set of rolling hills over the next 1/2 mile.  We talked with some other runners around us and encouraged them that soon we would be in the flat section of the course.  At this point in the race, everyone was in good spirits! The next few miles were very uneventful and we just kept trucking along until just before mile 5.  We were passing by our office building and it was a flat section of road and I naturally picked up the pace.  Rhonda called me out on my little giddy up moment!  We were expecting to see her boyfriend around mile 5 and our race partnership split up there.  We thought we saw his car pulling into a lot that we had just passed so she wanted to stop and let him know we were passed that point.  Turns out it wasn't him and he was in a different spot from the previous year.

I was sad to be without my running buddy so I started to make new friends along the route.  I became that super annoying girl in the race talking to everyone.  I was so nervous that my legs would fall apart on me so talking to other people helped me focus outward and not on myself and lack of training.  I talked to several first timers, complimented another runner on their Balega socks, chatted with a fellow Rush Runner's mom, high fived the race volunteer coordinator Mark, and just had fun running along.  I didn't pay much attention to my watch or my pace.  I was running by feel and running strong for as long as I could.

Around mile 7 we passed by the local cemetery and I swear they were playing Thriller.  They also had some funny signs up advertising plots available...yes runners have a sick sense of humor! I kept chatting with those around me and before I knew it was near mile 8.  I got the biggest blast from my friend Kyla who was working a water stop there.  It was so much fun to have my own personal cheerleader! It was just the thing I needed since I was entering uncharted territory from mile 8 on.  It had been over 2 months since I had run more than 8 miles and I had to trust my heart to make it through the next 5 miles.
I called out to Mark before he realized it was me so this was a very fast response photo! \
I was still smiling even though this was near mile 9.5.  

I reminded myself several times to Run with Heart...that was my motto over the last few miles.  This race was about heart for me...I knew it wouldn't be fast but I knew I could do it.  My goal was to go as far as I could before exploding and then trust my stubbornness to carry me over the finish line. I passed by mile 9 and I still felt good.  I ran through the PowerBar zone and mile 10 and still felt good.  The inclines started and  my pace slowed slightly but I still felt okay.  I told myself that I had to run to see my friends at mile 11 and 11.8 water stops.  I cheered for the band along the trail and joked with some of the other runners near me about who was whose rabbit.  I got a huge kick running through the F5 water stop and kept telling myself to run with heart.
Photo by Podium Images

I hit the base of Crystal Bridges hill and my pace slowed considerably BUT I kept running.  I'm going to own that hill this's my goal for 2013!  I took my only walk break after that hill and walked about .15 until I got my head back into the game.  Other than walking through water stops this was my only walk break on the course.  I caught up to a co-worker running her first half marathon and chatted with her for a bit.  There is a second sneaky hill at the top of the trail system and I put my head down and tackled it before making the turn to finish the race.

In these photos, I had no clue that Mark was at the finish taking them. And he couldn't get a clear shot because this lady  in front of me thought he was an official photographer for the race. 

I couldn't believe that I had made it through the race without exploding.  Bentonville knows how to put on a finish.  I felt like a Tour de France cyclist as I was running through a tunnel of people cheering in the street.  Mike Rush was yelling out my name and I was running as fast as I could to pass those last few people possible.  It hurt but it was worth it!  My finish time was 2:24:23 which turned out to be my best time on the Bentonville Half course.

I walked back down the finish chute to watch for Rhonda to finish.  As soon as I stopped moving and stopped to cheer my legs seized up and my calves got really cramped.  It was painful and had me worried.  I drank some Gatorade recovery shake and did some toe touches and that seemed to help.  After all my friends had finished, we grouped up for a photo and then enjoyed the rest of the race festivities.  Everyone had great runs and did really well.

Photos from Rhonda's sweety Mark Frentz and

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Against the Odds - Book Review

I was very fortunate to be contacted by John Pendergrass author of Against the Odds recently.  John is an everyday athlete - an ophthalmologist living in Mississippi who is not just a runner but also a triathlete.  Against the Odds is his story of pursuing six Ironman races on six Continents in his Sixties.  That's his sixties!

I really enjoyed reading John's story as he navigated the globe tackling Ironman events.  This book is as much a travelogue as an inspiring story.  It is full of optimism and possibility and that is motivating no matter what your age.  First, there is something that book is not...and that's okay.  This book is not a detailed training plan for completing an Ironman.  If you are hoping to get the nuts and bolts of how to train for an Ironman then you will need to add another book to your shopping cart with John's book!

In this book, John shares quite openly about the challenges and joys of being an Ironman athlete. John speaks candidly about the time challenges that this puts on you as an individual, professional, and family member.  One of the aspects of his story that I liked is that he turns his destination race events into family travel time when possible.  As he shared the story of his race in Switzerland I wanted to join his wife and daughter in their adventures discovering chocolate! Even though I'm a triathlete...chocolate still trumps triathlon!

John's book takes the reader along to Brazil, Switzerland, South Africa, New Zealand, Arizona, and finally China.  I really enjoyed that John spends as much time talking about his travels around these places as he does talking about the races in each.  His travel experiences made me want to travel more just to see the sights.  I'm more excited now for my trip with friends later this year to do the SeaWheeze half marathon in Vancouver!
"Every Ironman story is interesting. I love and admire everyone who competes in one of these events, the details are always fascinating.  There are few dilettantes in the world of this incredible race.  There's no sense of entitlement, no room for whining or victimhood, no place for laziness.  It's just a hard, time-consuming goal to reach, and that's what makes it so worthwhile."  

It's hard to capture and explain why we love triathlon but with the sample above John does a great job of explaining why we pursue triathlon.  It's an addictive sport and the challenges we endure are worth it for the triumphs we experience every time we cross that finish line.

Altogether in the book, one of my favorite passages speaks to experience of triathlon - especially post-race.  "It never fails, memories improve with time, the pain and suffering disappear while the high points grow and endure."  Isn't that the truth! Just think about how you recount a race or even just a training run or ride to friends.  That hill becomes steeper with each story telling until you have climbed Mont Tremblanc in your ride! That final sprint to the finish against a relive it in slow motion.  And that is why, without fail, we forget the pain and suffering and we keep signing up for more races.

I really enjoyed reading John's story and it has me ready for triathlon season! Pick up your copy today at Amazon.