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The Physiological and Psychological Changes of Masters Athletes

Just because I haven’t been blogging, doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. 🙂 Here is a paper I’ve been working on over the last weekend for on master’s athletes for my Kinesiology course and Sports Psychology graduate program. I view this paper as a very brief overview of the changes within Master’s athletes and am very curious as to how master’s runners can work to sustain their performances in spite of inevitable physiological changes that will unfold. If race performance is a great deal mental focus and dermination can master’s athletes use this to their advantage by focusing more on developing mental fitness later in life to overcome physical deterioration? Will they even want to continue to race and train or do their racing goals shift along with their physical thresholds?

Enjoy!

 

A Review of the Physiological and Psychological Changes of Master’s Athletes

Ed Whitlock represents the first person over the age of 70 to run a marathon in less than three hours. Furthermore, he remains the oldest person to run a marathon in less than four hours at 85 years old. His accomplishments are extraordinary and his physical limitations have been thus far unmatched, however participation in endurance events in later life is growing. Master’s runners are broadly defined as athletes who continue to train and race in their sport in years beyond their peak physical performance. In marathon and road running this is generally defined as after age 40 years old, however research studies on masters athletes often examine runners in their 50’s, 60’s and beyond to truly comprehend psychological changes in performance due to lifelong training.

The past two decades of endurance sports has witnessed increases in master’s participation across the marathon (Leppers & Cattagini, 2012) and half marathon distance (Leyk et al., 2007). Tanaka and Seals (2008) reveal this increase in master’s athletics may be related to changes in the age related make-up of the world population at large. In 2000 6.9% of the world population was classified as elderly, however this number is projected to grow to 19.3% of the population by 2050 (Tanaka & Seals).  Physical changes to the cardiovascular, muscular, skeletal, neurological systems throughout the life-span are inevitable, however masters athletes’ sustained performances in spite of these physical declines have researchers pondering if and to what capacity age-related decline can be abated (Raeburn & Dascombe, 2007; Raeburn & Dascombe, 2009).

 

Literature Review

Physiological Factors

Physiological changes to the human bodily systems throughout the lifespan are well documented. Mitchell’s (2013) work provides a thorough description of what typical changes aging individuals will experience in regards to the cardiovascular, muscular and skeletal systems. Mitchell highlights how after 30 years old in both men and women there is a decline in bone mineral mass making the skeletal system more brittle and susceptible to breaking. Additionally the muscular system shows signs of decay in that both the number and size of muscle cells are reduced in older adults; a reduction in muscle mass inherently decreasing the amount of force the muscle can produce thereby often limiting older adults speed and power during short distance road races. Additionally, the cardiovascular system of an older adult yields several key changes from youth: the major blood vessels become more rigid, fatty deposits within these vessels increase, and the stroke volume, heart rate and maximum oxygen update (VO2 max) show clear declines with each successive decade of aging.

Even though physiological changes are ultimately inescapable in an aging body research examining master’s athletes reveals that the physical deficits in the aerobic and anaerobic systems may be attenuated and performance levels relatively sustained with ongoing training in later life.  Trappe’s (2007) longitudinal study of marathoners closely examines the connection between the cardiovascular system, skeletal muscle and running performance throughout the lifespan across runners who stopped running (now sedentary), runners who continue to run socially and athletes who continue to follow a training plan in later life. Trappe’s analysis reveals that continuing to run and train at a high level into later life can mediate but not wholly prevent a decline in aerobic capacity. Athletes who continued to intensely train had the highest performance and power outputs of all participants. Interestingly skeletal muscle of middle-aged fit runners seem to have adapted to lifelong running as their single muscle fibers are smaller, weaker, contract faster and produce less power than those who have lead sedentary lives (Trappe). While this may seem like a disadvantage, Trappe describes that these physiological adaptations have evolved due the low power and high endurance demands of long distance running.

Masters athletes’ endurance performances yield inevitable, albeit inconsistent, declines throughout the lifespan and correlated with declines in athlete’s levels of VO2 max (Raeburn & Dascombe, 2008). The research reveals a 10% decrease in VO2 max per decade after 25-30 years old in healthy adults. However, Raeburn and Dascombe highlight that endurance athletes who continue to train in their late 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s will be able to maintain their exercise performance during these decades. More specifically, even though an athlete’s lactate threshold and ultimately their speed/power will decline, these levels can increase relative to the VO2 max when training is sustained in throughout the lifespan. Similar to Trappe (2007), Raeburn and Dascombe’s findings (2008, 2009) on aerobic and anaerobic performance note that consistent high intensity endurance training and run volume throughout the lifespan can mediate the rate of age-related decline in VO2 max, stroke volume, muscle mass and blood volume.

Gender specific changes in running performance throughout the lifespan are highlighted in research specific to post-menopausal female master’s athletes. Menopause represents a series of changes that gradually occur (typically) in a woman’s 50’s and 60’s that lead to various physical and psychological changes. Sims (2016) discusses these changes in her book, Roar, which is dedicated to the unique training demands of female athletes. Hormonal changes during menopause cause a variety of changes for the woman athlete. As levels of progesterone (an antianxiety hormone with sedative effects) drop during menopause, sleep disturbances rise.  Additionally estrogen levels have been linked to REM sleep and has been shown to decrease how long it takes for you to fall asleep. Menopause is accompanied with a drop in estrogen and not surprisingly a reduction in restful sleep. Sims highlights how postmenopausal master’s athletes use protein less effectively; she noted these athletes should aim to both avoid soy protein and take in 15 g of whey isolate about 30 min before training and 25 grams of whey isolate and casein within 30 min after exercising. Female master’s athletes have gender specific training modifications to incorporate later in life to promote maximum athletic performance.

Even those individuals who do not sustain endurance training throughout the lifespan are able to make age-specific improvements in muscular strength, endurance and flexibility when they return to training (Mitchell, 2013). While these individuals are past their peak performance age, the human body is able to make gains relative to its starting point with safe progressive resistance training. It is likely that similar gains can be made within endurance performance during a reintroduction to running later in life.

Training Injuries

              While the human body is an amazing machine capable of making adaptations throughout training to be able to sustain activity over 24 hours, the complex machine does have its limitations that leads many masters athletes injured.  Knobloch, Yoon and Yogt (2008) reveal that master’s athletes are more likely to sustain overuse injuries, rather than acute injuries during training. Even more, the research highlights Achilles tendinopathy, anterior knee pain and shin splints as the most common overuse injuries of master’s athletes with Achilles tendinopathy being the predominant injury.

At first it seems that master’s athletes who sustain high levels of training are able to mediate the effects of aging (i.e. sustained performances and slowed declines in decreases in heart rate, cardiac output, power, etc.), however master’s athletes adjust their training to avoid injury. Knoblock, Yoon and Yogt (2008) identify master’s runners who run more than 4x a week are at the highest risk of an overuse injury. Master’s athletes who train more than 65 km/week, have more than 10 years of experience running or those who train on sand (vs. traditional asphalt) are also at a significantly increased risk for injury. There is common trend for master’s endurance runners to add cycling and swimming cross training activities to their weekly regime in an effort to maintain aerobic fitness and decrease the amount of physical pounding incurred from running alone. Randsell, Vener, and Huberty (2009) closely examine the rise of triathlon across master’s athletes and note a significant decrease in overuse injuries across triathletes than in master’s runners. Under closer inspection it seems that master’s athletes who sustain high performances are able to do so by making compromises within their training approach to stay injury-free and physiologically strong.

 

 

Psychological Factors

The mind-body connection is powerful, deep and undeniable. Hutchinson (2016) dedicates an entire book entitled Endure to examine the critical role the mind can play in maximizing an athlete’s performance and race experience. Schuler and Langen’s research (2007) reveals how positive self-talk and mantras can be used as an effective strategy to maintain motivation and focus and to buffer against the negative impact of psychological crisis (i.e. fear, doubt, mental fatigue, race distractions) that often impact race performance after the 30K. No matter what age of the endurance athlete mental preparation and the use of the mind as a training tool and motivator is essential in race performance.

One may argue that master’s runners can use their powerful mind to reach new performance limits beyond their seemingly physical capabilities. However aging also leads to neurological and cognitive declines in brain functioning (Mitchell, 2013). Then again, if master’s athletes who sustain high levels of training throughout the lifespan attenuate many of the physiological effects of aging, could this mean that these master’s athletes are able to sustain their neurological and cognitive functioning (and thereby their athletic performance) beyond that of the average sedentary adult?

Master’s athletes not only make adjustments to their physical training plan, but also their psychological approach to training and racing. Many master’s athletes acknowledge a clear shift away from competition and achievement towards social enjoyment and maintaining a sense of self (Dionigi, Horton, & Baker, 2013). At some point master’s athletes are forced to acknowledge the physical changes that slow their reflexes, flexibility and endurance and need to be willing to adapt or modify their training to compensate for their limitations (Dionigi, Horton, & Baker). Mental training consultants should incorporate this age-related shift away from competing for accomplishment and towards participating in endurance events for health management, social enjoyment and maintaining a sense of self should be into athletes’ training plan. Mental training consultants should thoroughly investigate masters athletes’ goals and training motivation before establishing an approach to training together. The mental training consultant may assist the master’s athletes in creating positive self-verbalizations around their unique goals (i.e. possibly to finish the race with their training partner, to celebrate post-race with their team, etc.)

Conclusions

The machine that is the human body has the ability to maintain high levels of performance functioning into the 40’s and 50’s and in some early 60’s when modifications are integrated into training. Master’s athletes who sustain high levels of exercise throughout the lifespan have the ability to attenuate but not wholly escape the physiological and psychological effects of aging. Changes in the cardiovascular, skeletal, neurological and cognitive domains may ultimately slow all masters athlete’s performances, however these racing beings are in a category of their own as they push the body and the mind to adapt to meet their relentless physical and emotional need to move.

 

 

References

Dionigi, R. A., Horton, S., & Baker, J. (2013). How do older masters athletes account for their performance preservation? A qualitative analysis. Ageing and Society, 33(2), 297-319. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X11001140 Retrieved from http://ncc1701.libprox.jfku.edu:8080/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1266142430?accountid=25307

Hutchinson, A. (2018). Endure: Mind, body and the curiously elastic limits of human performance. New York, NY: William Morrow.  

Knoblock, K., Yoon, U., & Vogt, P. (2008). Acute and overuse injuries correlated to hours of training in master’s running athletes. Foot & Ankle International, 6, 671-676. DOI: 10.3113/FAI.2008.0671

Leppers, R. & Cattagni, T. (2012). Do older athletes reach limits in their performance during marathon running? Age, 34, 773-781. DOI 10.1007/s11357-011-9271-z

Leyk, D., Erley, O., Ridder, D., Leurs, M., Ruther, T., Wunderlich, M., Sievert, A., Baum, K., & Essfeld, D. (2007). Aged-related changes in marathon and half marathon performances. International Journal of Sports Medicine 28, 513-527

Mitchell, Marilyn. (2013). Introduction to kinesiology: The science of human physical activity. San Diego, CA: Cognella

Raeburn, P. & Dascombe, B. (2008). Endurance performance in master’s athletes. European Review of Aging Physiology, 5, 31-42. DOI 10.1007/s11556-008-0029-2

Raeburn, P. & Dascombe, B. (2009). Anaerobic performance in master’s athletes. European Review of Aging Physiology, 6, 39-53. DOI 10.1007/s11556-008-0041-6

Ransdell, L. B., Vener, J., & Huberty, J. (2009). Master’s athletes: An analysis of running, swimming and cycling performance by age and gender. Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness, 7(2), S61-S63.

Schüler, J. & Langens, T. A. (2007), Psychological Crisis in a Marathon and the Buffering Effects of Self-Verbalizations. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37, 2319–2344. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2007.00260.x

Shaw, K. L. & Ostrow, A. (2005). Motivation and psychological skills in the senior athlete. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act, 2, 22-34

Sims, S. (2016). Roar: How to match your foot and fitness to your female physiology for optimum performance, great health and a strong, lean body for life. New York, NY: Rodale.

Tanaka, H. & Seals, D. R. (2008). Endurance exercise performance in master’s athletes: age-associated changes and underlying physiological mechanisms. Journal of Physiology, 55-63.

Trappe, S. (2007). Marathon runners: How do they age? Sports Medicine, 37(4-5), 302-305.

Love this book!

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Operation Get Your Shit Together.

It should be no surprise to you that I am extremely interested in identity development and formation throughout the lifespan. That’s what this blog has really become, hasn’t it? A raw account of how I’m making my way through this world as I continually strive for the ups and learn to navigate the downs. Week in, week out that’s what I’m doing: I’m working hard to create the life I want to live (and create for my daughter) and tackling whatever unanticipated chaos comes my way.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record I was completely blindsided last October and I’m feel as if I’m still healing. If any of you readers out there have gone through a difficult break up or divorce maybe you share some insight into this process. Some days I’m completely in the moment, creating anew and enjoying my daughter, my job, my run; I’m just gleefully living my life. But then a song comes on or a feeling of doubt washes over me and I get pulled back into the squall. I fight the waves to find my way back to the relaxing moment I’m in but I can’t. I’m left feeling unsettled and distracted.  Will I ever truly be healed? Will I ever truly trust again? Does anything actually last forever? I deeply want to believe so. I have hope, the irrevocably complicated minx of an emotion. What am I hoping for? Some days its someone to share my life with. Other days it’s just a partner to laugh with in the moment. But most days I’m focusing on wanting to know that I can tackle with world on my own, well…. or at least with the help of my friends and family.

Last winter I wrote a post entitled Two Feet and I set some goals… resolutions I suppose… for myself. I even bought myself a white board for my bedroom and wrote “Get your shit together Kass” on the top. Have no fear, my shit isn’t a complete mess, however it’s undeniable that there’s room for improvement. On the white board I initially listed the my version of steps I want to take to get my life together and become an independent, self-sufficient woman and mother. A few of the steps included:

  1. Prioritize Lilly. Make sure she knows she is loved. Work hard to create the life I want her to live. Laugh and love.
  2. No boys allowed: no serious relationships for now.
  3. Career- Register for Sports Psychology Certificate program and keep your eye out for job opportunities.
  4. Cook- Learn to cook actual meals and consider (gasp) actually meal prepping on Sundays.
  5. Running- Prepare for Sugarloaf 26.2 in May and start to think about the plan for next fall.
  6. Social- Fill free time with family and friends who will fill your heart and make you laugh.
  7. Eat all the cookies. 🙂 Continue to seek out balance with nutrition.

I call it “happiness in a bowl.”

So how am I doing ? Well I’m nailing #7 like a boss.

I’m just living life. Some days feel totally balanced, happy and effortless. Other days have me getting a flat tire while driving the 2 miles from my parents to my sisters house. Yup, $250 down the drain. Sending out a special thank you to the pothole on Sussex Turnpike in New Jersey. Other days have had me getting sick with a stomach virus at work…in front of a client… FUUUUUCK… (quite possibly the most embarrassing day in my liiiiiiiiiiiife). Cheers to spending an entire day writing training plans in bed while watching episodes of New Girl. (Note: Greys Anatomy made me cry too often, damn tv dramas, so I have switched to New Girl about the affable, awkward chaos that ensues within the dating scene. It’s totes approps for me now.). I’m doing ok though- seriously. Most days I feel calm, rested and present. I get lonely, sure. But not as often. I’m filling my life with things that I want to do, people I want to surround myself with and memories that I want to make. I’m getting there. Just have to keep moving forward.

I finished Friday’s run at the Hingham waterfront.  <3

 

Running: My training for Sugarloaf has been a mild shit show. While I’m feeling much much better these days the swollen knee/weak hip from a few weeks back put my speed workouts on hold. I’m getting in a solid weekly volume of 50-60 mpw with a long run at 18 miles, but I haven’t done any of the traditional workouts that push my threshold into the gaining speed. My mental focus has been lacking. I’ve been feeling very distracted and mildly uninspired this cycle. I’m getting in the runs and I love racing, but something feels different. Well shit, something is different. I don’t have my running partner anymore. I don’t have a coach. It’s just me, myself and I on the road day in, day out. Hmmm. I’m processing this as I’m writing it- since I’ve sworn off silly boys and serious relationships I’m questioning whether or not I want to invest in getting a coach again to help me refocus for a new adventure when I’m ready. I’ve been bopping around the idea of doing an ultra next fall. Maybe I’m all talk, maybe not. I haven’t decided anything concrete. What I do know is that I’m looking to be inspired, to be challenged by someone or something and I’ll know it when it hits me.

 

Kass, Our love for you has been reassigned to other worthy beings. Please sit elsewhere. Our condolences, Mom and Dad.

 

I’ve been leaning on friends and family a lot over the past few months. After MV I headed down to New Jersey to spend time with my family. There I realized that my parent’s love for me now goes directly to their dogs, Ranger and Lilac.

 

 

Then again, my mom did bake me a Christmas ham in February so she is forgiven!! I haven’t had a ham in probably three years. Does anyone else get a hankerin’ for a good ham or is that just me?? ‘Tis okay. I’m comfortable with myself and the amount of ham, pineapple and sweet potatoes consumated that evening.

 

 

Cooking: While in Jersey I cooked my parents dinner, One-pan BBQ Chicken. The recipe calls for chicken thighs, bacon, peppers and onions, diced tomatoes and BBQ sauce. It is idiot-proof and only requires one pan, hence I LOVE IT!!  The recipe is originally from Carrot’s n Cake’s blog and can be found HERE.  I paired this with Trader Joe’s cornbread and string beans, although you could also serve it with rice. I have made it several times and it consistently comes out delicious, but that could also be because I’ve never cooked with chicken thighs before. Drool. I’m telling you- I’m determined to get better at this cooking thing!! I think I’m off to a solid start. I mean, mom and dad actually ate it. That’s gotta count for something.

Career: Two months ago I was accepted into a Sports Psychology Certificate program. It’s the first step towards integrating my passions of counseling and run coaching. On nights and weekends I have been completing Kinesiology coursework. I am one test and one paper away from finishing my first of six courses for this certificate. Most of my weekend will be devoted to completing my  research paper on the physiological changes that occur throughout the life span that impact marathon training in Master’s marathoners. Furthermore, I’m interested in how these physiological changes impact how Master’s athletes should alter their mental training for race day. This weekend’s gonna be off the hoooooooook with research and journal articles. After Kinesiology wraps up I will shift gears for my next class which starts in early April: Performance Enhancement. So far I’m enjoying the coursework and it’s healthily and begrudgingly keeping me busy.

 

 

Approaching the weekend like….

So it’s now nearly 10 am and I kinda want to run. Sorry this post was so disjointed. My mind feels scattered lately. Speaking of scattered here are some of my random thoughts to get you thinking.

Random Thoughts. I’ve had some random thoughts over the past week and I can’t help but wonder… Does anyone else…

 

* Put clean running clothes in drier to warm them up before a winter run?

* Give each leg a mere 3 flicks of the razor and think, “yeaaaa that’ll do just fine.”

* Ever go to bed before 9 pm and think “ahhhhhhhhhhhh yes, this is living?”

* Wish you could shower sitting down? No, I don’t mean a bath, I really mean shower sitting down after a LONG run when your legs are turned to jello and they’re all floopsy.

*  HAVE TO eat a scoop of ice cream immediately upon purchase no matter the time of day?

* Make up completely random songs that are really just sentences but are more fun when said to a jingly tune? Do you ever think that this is the reason you actually had a child so that you could do just this without it being weird :). Yay social norms.

 

* Put your damp smelly running jacket in the drier to  do a “quick wash n’ dry” in the morning?

* Like to eat dried figs as a snack AND aren’t presently collecting social security ? Please please please say yes!!

* Suspect that kleenex is secretly laced with a substance that makes you need to use more keenex???

New shoes that will make me feel like a pretty pretty princess.

And on that note I’m off to run….

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

The Lone Runner

 

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Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler 2018

 

My worlds collided at the MV 20 miler that left me feeling exhilarated, relieved and I’ll admit it- overwhelmed. I was faced with an angry knee that had debunked my recent training, two athletes racing with goals of their own, a friend who I hadn’t seen in 3 years and an ex I hadn’t seen since well… the last time. Oh, and I had 20 miles to race. Why do I put myself in these situations? I’m a masochist. It’s the only damn explanation. Well, that and I’m addicted to running.

The MV 20 miler is a race of pride for many who are brave enough to go to Martha’s Vineyard in February and run 20 miles. The weather this time of year is a complete crapshoot. It could be 50 degrees and sunny with a light breeze, freezing rain and 40 degrees or 10 degrees and a blizzard. And not to mention the inevitable gusts of wind that lift you up and move you across the course when you run on that tiny strip of pavement that leads the way from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown. So who wants to run it next year??? I do. Why? Cause why the hell not!

This year mother nature must have decided to punish and torture engender mental fitness within runners in some others part of the world as the 2018 MV20 miler hopefuls faced a day of light winds, 35 degrees and sun. Dare I say that it was near perfect running conditions? Yes, technically there was a strong headwind from miles 5-7 and 17-20 but I’m pretty sure that’s inevitable when you’re running on an island.

My athletes (Sarah and Mary Beth) and I arrived at the start around 10 am for an 11 am race start. I was a complete ball of nerves with a resting heart rate of 90 (when its usually 38-42). Don’t you love how technology can confirm that you are losing your shit? I know I do. Deep breath… and now another. I was worried about running 20 miles on a knee/ hip that while getting better had been giving me some serious grief in the previous two weeks. I was nervous about my athletes running their own races and achieving the performance they had trained for (mamas always worry). And yes, I was mildly freaking out about seeing my ex for the first time since October. The whole morning I felt like an overstimulated toddler who had stayed up past her bedtime: if you even looked at me the wrong way there was a strong chance I was going to burst into tears. There were simply too many feelings in my midst and I was having trouble processing them so quickly.

I retreated into myself and tried to simplify the quiet chaos that surrounded me, “You’re here to run. Just run.”

At the race start I joined up with my friend, Sarah Slater. An ultramarathoner who races (and often wins) 50 and 100 miles much more frequently than road races Sarah made an exception to hop in on the MV20 miler. Weeks ago my goal was try like hell to run 7:15s for all 20, but then my hip and knee started acting like jerks so my goal… umm…evolved to run with Sarah as fast as I could until my legs told me otherwise. I smart runner. 🙂 At the start we agreed to run 7:40-7:50 pace together for the first 12-13 miles and then empty the tank. We griped like mamas. We chitter chatted like girls. We ran like runners. The miles ticked away at a comfortable 7:30-7:35 pace (faster than we discussed, but it felt goooooood). We started to settle into the race and the paces dropped into the 720’s. Sarah kept saying, “too fast” but she was still conversational and her breathing wasn’t labored. I’m going to go out on a line and say that it was faster than Miss. Ultramarathoner thought she could run, but right in her wheelhouse of her current level of fitness. Sarah’s used to running 50+ miles of technical trails at a slower pace, but that doesn’t mean that she’s not strong enough to hit quick paces on the road.

Sarah and I

At mile 14 our girl talk went from conversational to quiet. The race had just begun. My body was holding up and with six miles to go I was willing to start throwing down to see what my legs and mind could do. Miles 11, 12 and 13 were completed at a 7:19, 7:21 and 7:19 pace, respectively; these paces were far from comfortable, but manageable. My mental goal was to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Somewhere in mile 14 my mind flashed to a study described within the book I’m reading, Endure. It described two groups of athletes who either engage in low or high intensity workouts. The study revealed that pain tolerance increased by 41% with the group of athletes who engaged in high intensity athletics. Furthermore, athletes who set goals on the road and who are willing to tolerate pain for longer are subject to faster race results. During the race I translated this information as such: You are going to be uncomfortable. Discomfort doesn’t mean that you CAN’T. YOU CAN. So start believing. Embrace the discomfort and keep running. Fatigue is a state of mind. 

I can’t emphasize enough the level of discomfort I experienced from mile 14 through 20. I was holding a 7:20 give/take pace and if I wanted to I could slow down. I could ease the discomfort at any moment if I wanted to. But the fact of the matter is that I didn’t want to. I was no longer running; I was racing. I used my mind to push through the final 6 miles of the race. My legs were tired. My body was beyond uncomfortable. But my mind was on point. I left Sarah (or so I thought) and I leaned into my pace to throw a 7:10 down for mile 14. I turned my attention to the athletes on the road ahead and started picking them off. Close the gap. Lean in, Kass. Focus on the mile you are in. Get to the next mile. Just get to the next mile. I chose to ignore the discomfort enveloping my body and focused on getting to the next mile, then then next mile. I saw another female runner ahead of me and told myself, She looks tired. She has run 15 miles too and she’s slowing down. Close the gap. Lean in. Was she tired? I have not a clue. Didn’t matter. I told myself that she was tired. Heck, I was physically tired. I silently pushed onward with an encouraging inner monologue at my side You have a 5k to go. Three miles, 21 minutes, about 5 songs. Focus. Hold the pace. Push. The final 5 miles were a series of rolling hills and I held on to a sub 7:20 as best as possible: 7:22, 7:15, 7:18, 7:13, 7:18 and 6:52.

During the final mile I noticed a female runner wearing bunny ears ahead of me. My personal self thought it was hilarious, but my runner-self was annoyed. I refused to be beat by a bunny-eared maven. PUSH LIKE HELL. YOU GET TO STOP IN 4 LAPS AROUND A TRACK, 3 LAPS, less than 4 minutes of running left. I did it. I caught the damn pink bunny and miraculously managed a 6:52 in the final mile. I crossed the finish line with a final time of 2:28:18 (7:25 splits) and nailed 6th place woman (2nds in my AG). Mere seconds after I finished Miss Slater rolled in!! SHE HELD ON LIKE A BOSS! I am so insanely proud of her. She told me she was maxing out her fitness at 7:30s. Liar! Haha. She has some serious fight in her. Sarah and I are currently in negotiations for future races … it’s possible I’ll do a few ultras with her if she does some road races with me :). I’m pretty sure we just want to hurt each other on our own turf. Muhahaha.

 

 

Inundated with so many emotions pre-race I am incredibly happy with the race results and the day. I had a blast hanging out with Sarah, survived coming face to face with the ex, am proud of my athlete’s efforts on the road and best of yet- my body didn’t blow up! Horray! In fact every day since the race my knee/hip has felt a little bit stronger. Maybe it’s the PT or the reduction in weekly mileage. All I can say is that I am starting to feel like myself on the road again. Phew!

Post-race, post-shower, post- shoving cookies into our mouths.

 

If I learned anything during this race it is that the mind is an incredibly powerful muscle. In the final 6 miles I passed 5 other runners, three of whom were female and one within the final .25 of the race. I couldn’t have done that without being willing to be uncomfortable. I find it affable how willing I am to be uncomfortable on the road and yet not in life. Life’s uncertainty overwhelms me and yet the uncertainty during a race doesn’t seem uncertain at all. Rather, the uncertainty ins a race feels like a challenge. My runner self loves challenges. My other self not so much.

 

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- why can’t we always be running? Life feels simple on the open road.

Cant stop, won’t stop.

Kass

Post race relaxxxxx with a glass of wine. 🙂