Sunday October 25, 2015

8:17:50 was my official time for the Door County Fall 50 National Championship solo race. Technically I am the 7th fastest woman in the country in the 50 mile road race. Did I meet my goal? No. Did I do what I thought was possible? No. Did I do my best? yes.

Those No’s aren’t meaning that much to me this time around. I am choosing to focus on the positive. I trained hard (yes I could have trained harder) and I took the time that I thought was necessary to accomplish my goal. I came into this race positive, without stress, and with a mantra.

“I am strong, I am confident, I can, and I will”

That is what I told myself when I started to doubt myself, or when the second bout of rain that came sideways threatened to derail me.

I feel like I need to back up a bit. Like I mentioned, I took a whole new approach to this years race and I have to thank the experience of the weekend before for that.

As soon as I DNF’ed last years race I knew that I would be back and that I would never let that happen to me again. I vowed to train harder, train smarter, and recover better. I got a running coach, I became a part of a weekly speed group, I got a personal trainer, I got a running journal, and I tried to immerse myself into all of it.  I found out early in the year that I was being offered free entry into this years race because of my DNF last year. Like there was any doubt that I was going to do it again!

I started to become more familiar with the clothing brand Oiselle, and of course started following everyone on social media. I became aware of the Oiselle Volee and I wanted in, but how? To my surprise they opened it up to anyone for a short time. I got on that fast, because at this point I was already starting to own much of the clothing and wanted to race with them. Around that same time there was a camp announced that would be held in Duluth, and with none other than Kara Goucher! They mentioned some other accomplished athletes, but truthfully I had never heard of them. What was even better was that this camp was being held the weekend before my big race, of course I had to go.
In my opinion If you aren’t prepared mentally for a race then you shouldn’t be racing. I feel I had given up mentally last year way before my body gave out. So this seemed to be the last piece of the puzzle.

How could you not feel refreshed with a view on a run like this?

I could go on and on about the retreat but this post is about the race so you get the cliff notes version.

By joining the Oiselle team I had gained so many friends that I didn’t know I had. In my running life back home I lack the network essential for my running to flourish in the way I want. To meet these women was so much more than I could have hoped for. I gained a massive community and friends who understand. Understand the injury, the pain, the hope, the mental defeat, the training, the sacrifice, and the joy. Walking into this retreat with literally knowing no one I quickly became friends with other Oiselle teammates and knew that these ladies will be life long friends.

Those “other” coaches that I didn’t know existed turned out to be very important indeed.  The Kleckers. If you don’t know who they are, you should look them up. They are both amazing athletes and pillars in the running world. But beyond that, they are amazing people. Barney holds the American record in the 50 mile road distance of 4:51. 4:51!!!!  Janis was a part of the first Olympic marathon trials for women in 1984. Both have had beyond amazing running careers while raising 6 kids.

Janis has an effect on people. She has a calm demeanor and pretty much makes you cry when she opens her mouth. I was gravitating toward her. Needless to say we had a conversation and I cried (like always) she changed my life in 10 minutes. I felt lighter than I have in along time and I knew that the next weekend was nothing to worry about.

Fast forward to race day. My anxiety was pretty much non-existent and I was ready to tackle this race. As a runner you know that you cannot control the weather so you race in the conditions that you are given even if they are not ideal. Rain. Wind. Cold. Those three nasty words when combined together make for an interesting race.

That feeling of weightlessness followed me into race day and throughout the race. I felt strong and I had the unwavering support of my husband and daughter, what else did I really need?

I had set an aggressive goal for myself and about 30 miles in after changing shoes and socks and getting poured on again I realized I was going to miss that goal. I could still knock out a stellar performance so I pushed on. At around mile 40 I had a woman come up behind me asking if I was Nora. Surprised and wondering how this stranger knew my name I said yes. She showed me her Oiselle tank under her raincoat and said how proud she was of me and said I was her hero. She told me I looked strong and to keep going. This woman has no idea that I had to fight back the tears as she passed me (she was a part of the relay). Its hard to run and cry. I had passed the point where I had to drop out last year and was emotional already.( I had to choke down tears many times by this point). To me, I had a score to settle within myself and to be considered a hero to someone else was inconceivable.

From around that same time my right calf began to tighten. It felt like it was fully constricted and no matter how hard I pushed I could not go much faster.

When you are doing a race of that length the last miles are so welcoming. Trying to explain that to someone who has never ran that far is thinking “10 miles, that is so far,” but when you have already ran 40, 10 is a piece of cake. As I was approaching the finish a group of women ran in with me. I have never seen these women before and still have no idea who they were. Because of this my husband and daughter didn’t see me coming in and therefore did not get to see me crossing the finish line.  Maybe that was for the best. Remember when I said I had to choke back the tears during the race, well this time I let them flow. All the emotions overtook me. I was so happy to have finished, to prove to myself that I can do it and that last year was a fluke. I was exhausted, cold, and mentally spent.
I cannot give a detailed account of the race because as I finished I gave Roger a hug and accidentally my race got deleted. Yes the whole race! Being so emotionally fragile at that moment I flipped out on him when he was just trying to comfort me. But I don’t NEED a watch to tell me that I ran 50 miles, I don’t NEED a watch to tell me how I felt during that race. What I NEEDED was right there in front of me.

I ended up placing 7th overall woman and got another big medal.

This time around there was no disappointment in myself, there wasn’t a bunch of “if I only did this,” I was simply content. I gave all that I was capable of giving that day. I only walked two hills that I knew going in I was going to walk. I felt stronger than ever on the other hills and my overall fitness was better than ever. My recovery and strength training proved its worth in the days after. I am marginally sore and not in the areas that I have previously been.

It is safe to say that my running turned a corner this year and climbed the hill in the past two weeks. I will be back next year to chase the goal.

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