Professional athlete and 3-time Ironman champion

Hell Hath Frozen Over at the Frozen Shamrock

Well shut the front door! I actually won a race that had no swim. No bike. And didn’t involve chugging a beer! I won a RUNNING RACE! I think Hell might have just frozen over!

We returned from our family vacation (aka, training camp aboard a cruise ship) on late Saturday afternoon. While uneventful, our trip was LONG. We’d gotten up at 5am, and were anxious to set foot on dry land (for good). We opted for "expedited departure", willing to carry our own luggage, and may have been the 2nd and 3rd people off the boat. A curious choice, as our car service wasn’t scheduled to pick us up to take us to the airport until 8:30. Still, standing in a parking lot seemed better than hitting the buffet line one last time.

Once our driver came and brought us to the airport, more chaos ensued. Travel during school vacation week? Don’t recommend it. EVER! We were standing in the security lines, and heard "9:55 to San Juan? 9:55 to San Juan?" A few frantic people raised their hands and were whisked to the front on the line. I swear, at least ONCE, I’d love for the response to be, instead, "Yeah…..9:55 to San Juan….you all should have gotten to the airport earlier. You are going to miss your flight." I digress.

We got home, and were reasonably exhausted from the hassles of travel. I decided it was time for the "Hail Mary".

As I dialed the phone, I had a well thought out, logically planned, systematic way of getting out of the next day’s race. If I’ve learned nothing in the past year of working with Coach Jesse, it’s that NONE of the tactics that worked with Smyers work with Jesse.

With Smyers, you see, I could get her chatting about something else entirely. We’d chat chat chat until she realized she was late for something, and then I’d ask real quick, "Oh, say, you wouldn’t mind if I didn’t do that XXX, would you?" Which would usually provoke at least some debate until she realized she was really, REALLY late for something. The hope was, of course, that she’d cave under time pressure. Come to think of it….my strategy rarely worked, but at least she always made me feel like I had a fighting chance.

Jesse though….well, he’s not real chatty. Rather, he prefers the bullet points. Clear. Concise. Well planned. Cleanly presented. No frills.

"Be brave. Don’t hesitate. Be confident," I told myself as I hit "send call".

"Here’s why I think I shouldn’t race tomorrow. 1) A 3 mile race isn’t really relevant to my eventual goals. 2) I am out of sorts from all the travel. 3) We had to push things around because of the cruise, so I think physiologically, I’d be better served by a 5 hour compu trainer ride (suddenly, I felt myself losing the battle, despite the fact he hadn’t uttered a word yet. You see, "physiologically" was a poor word choice because physiologically, I had no clue what was best for me. And what’s worse? He knew it. But it was out of my mouth and there was no taking it back, so I pressed on, knowing that my 4th and final bullet point better be a good one). 4) I’ll do whatever you think is best, but I just think YOU should know that I think that a solid training day would be better. (Good one, Deed. Let him know he’s still the boss, but in a point blank, an unemotional way, state your preference).

Without so much as even a second to ponder my well thought out, cleanly presented and logical argument, he said, simply, "Nah. We’re gonna leave it as planned."

So at 1PM the next day, there I stood, ankle deep in 4 inches of fresh snow, lined up to race the Frozen Shamrock 3-miler. Without much fanfare, we were off. I was less concerned with finding race pace, and more concerned with finding my stride after running on a treadmill on a boat for a week. I glanced down a few hundred yards in. "Too fast. Slow down." A few hundred more, "Too fast. Slow down. Find a groove. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be." By about 1/3 of a mile, I found my pace and was pleased. It felt, strangely, comfortable.

When suddenly, I looked up the road ahead, and we were banking hard right and up a hill that just went, and went, and went, and went. OK – well HR hadn’t hit a level yet, so I couldn’t use that as a guide for how to pace the hill. "Race pace" was certainly out the window, so my Garmin was of little help. OK, what’s left? Perceived exertion. Well, pretty much any time I am running, my perception of my exertion is usually somewhere north of "this sucks" and just south of "I think I might die". Given that this was a race, I decided, "OK, take it to ’I think I might die’ status, but stay clear of ’I am definitely going to die’ status." Right. Good.

I passed 3 or 4 guys on the hill. By the ¾ mile mark, we were running not only straight uphill, but also on completely snow packed roads. Maybe the Saucony A4 race flats weren’t the best call. Snow shoes would have been better!

My watched clicked my split at the mile mark, but since we’d been running uphill for well over a half mile, I decided not to look. Bad karma. Why get depressed before the halfway point.

The second mile felt equally "comfortable" (for ’oh my God, I think I might die’ pace) and I was starting to feel, dare I say? Confident?

But then we got to the last mile which hurt like hell. Hands went numb. Thought I might vomit my applesauce everywhere. "Come on legs. Keep turning over. Fast feet. Relax. Fast feet. Oh, God, please don’t let me vomit." The last turn, "OK, less than 2 minutes." Then there it was. The finish line.

I crossed, and quickly surveyed the area, looking for the girl who must have gotten away to come over and say "Nice job." I looked. And looked. Instead, the race director walked over, and handed an award. "Frozen Shamrock 3 Mile Run. First Place Overall Female."

Well shut the front door!

Now this was no Boston Marathon. In fact, my strategy was a good one; pick a small little road race in a ’not obvious’ place. If you are lucky, plan it for a day when the weather is going to be crappy. Oh, and be sure that the race you pick is on the same day as another really big and popular road race. Preferably one with prize money, so that all the other really talented local runners go there instead.

Worked for me!

Kidding aside, it was a good, hard effort. And a better result on a hillier, tougher course that I had anticipated. And it shows that my running is coming along. Thank God for small miracles.

Persistence. Determination. Love. The Journey!

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