Friday, January 20, 2017

Time to Start Over

This is a photo of one of the best days of my life so far. It was just hours before I qualified for the Olympic Trials at the age of 16,and the 2 people with me, well those are my parents. They are 2 people who mean the world to me.  We have your typical young adult - parent relationship, where we love each other but don’t always see eye to eye and we do have our arguments. They are the people who first introduced me to this wonderful world of running.  It was our special thing growing up, sharing the joy of running and being able to go on runs and talk about anything my heart desired during it. I lived for those moments when growing up. They are also my biggest supporters; no matter what i decide to do with my life they will always love me and support me. It’s a thought that makes you feel lighter.  They won’t always agree with what I decide to do but I know they will still give me their full support.  My mom is that person who will talk me through my decisions and give me encouragement all throughout my journey.  My dad is the one who will just dive right on into what I want to do and find out all the information he can in order to help me accomplish my goal or dream. They each show their support differently and I love them for it because I need both types of support. I don’t know what I would have done or who I would be today if I didn’t have my parents around so much when  I was younger.  They are my backbone and they people I’ll call crying or frustrated after a bad test or a rough day at work.  They talk me through everything and give me the advise I need or just simply say words I already know but need to hear come from their voice.

One thing I can always rely on is if I want to accomplish something but am unsure as to how to get there my dad is always right there with the information; he learns anything and everything he can to be the wealth of knowledge I need.  I believe that’s part of what makes him such a good coach.  He saw my passion and want to be a runner and so he learned everything about running he could get his hands on, books after books, articles everywhere; all so he could help me. And yet by doing so has put himself in the hot seat in the eyes of naysayers. My running career thus far has been anything but typical, I ran in my first collegiate track meet before my first middle school meet. I forwent high school running to pursue half marathons and marathons because the mile was too short for me.  I ran my first marathon when I was 16 and qualified for the Olympic Trials 5 months later. I chose to break out of the box of the typical running progression and like a great parents they supported my decision and my dad started designing training programs to get me where I wanted to go. But suddenly that made my parents the bad guys. People started posting and commenting about how terrible my parents are for “forcing” me to run longer; that just because my dad was a marathon coach he was pushing me to follow his dream and not mine. No one ever stopped to think that maybe he became a marathon coach to help me become a marathoner.  No one ever stopped to ask my opinion of things. Everyone just assumed it was ludicrous for a teenager to actually like running distance and would actually want to run a marathon.  

Posts on message boards and comments on my own social media had people screaming their opinions at my dad and I.  My parents tried to hide it from me but I would still go on late at night and find pages and pages of posts about how my father was a terrible person, that he was forcing me to do all this running, and even some threats of calling child services on him.  All of this from anonymous users, people who talk such a big talk but too cowardly to actually claim their opinions as their own.  All my father wanted to do was be a good dad and help me meet my goals and by doing so people began to hate him.  All because I decided to go outside the box and follow my own path. No person no matter what age should have to read people hating on their parents all because their parent was trying to help them accomplish their dream.  After those posts came the ones about me specifically, people who have enough free time to tear apart a teenager trying to go after their dream on the internet.  I would read posts about how stupid I was for going professional at 16, people telling me I wouldn’t make it to 20 running marathons, people saying I’ve ruined my life forever.  Who goes out of their way to tell someone they are waiting to see them fail, that they already know it's going to happen, that I should quit now while I still have use of my legs.

I’ve always prided myself on not letting what people say get to me.  But I’ll be completely honest, your teenage and young adult years are very vulnerable years, you can’t help but be insecure about yourself and what you do.  And after you have been hearing people telling you you will fail year after year it starts to become that little voice in the back of your head that you hear whenever things get hard. Running was my sanctuary, it’s what I would do when I was stressed or angry or just super emotional that would help me to feel better. I used to get so excited for 800s and long runs, I would racing to get out the door to go to races with my family. I would have an okay race and it wouldn’t be a big deal because there was always the next one. Then suddenly it began, all it took was one bad race and seeing all the I told you so's people would comment with. I slowly began to dread races and with more dread came more bad races. Then I saw it happen, every time I ran a bad race the posts about my dad started to increase and a slight drop in my dad’s coaching business would happen. Then came dropping out of races and such bad anxiety that I made myself sick. I became terrified to race not wanting to do badly and give people more fuel for the fire they used against my dad. All I could think about how those people were right, that I wasn’t cut out to be a marathoner, that I wasn’t good enough to accomplish my goal.  Eventually I had enough, I was constantly sick and always on edge and so I stopped running after the Akron Marathon in 2016.  I was done, I didn’t find joy in running anymore and wanted to get myself put back together. Something that my dad had shown me, a love that we shared together was utterly destroyed by a bunch of people who use their free time to destroy people and tear them down. People who are cowards and do even have the balls to post with their own name.

Well I’m done with it. I’m done with letting those people rule my thoughts and dictate how I feel about myself as a runner and as a person.  I’m taking a stand against them and anyone else who fears change. Just because someone does something differently than you doesn’t mean their way is wrong.  There is never just one path towards success, everyone has their own path they have to follow to get to where they want to go as no 2 people are the same. These single-minded people have destroyed my sanctuary of running and now I’m taking it back. I’ve hit as low as I can go and all I can do is go up from here. I refuse to let people bully me and talk bad about my parents any longer. It will be a long journey for me to get back into the shape I was in before but I am stronger mentally than I’ve been before with this new attitude.  I’m tired of being broken and I’m tired of hating something I used to love all because of some jerks on the internet who think it’s okay to tear people apart and crush their dreams, all because they fear change and people who think outside the box.

I am writing this blog as my stand against people who think it is okay to tell people they will never succeed. To put out the truth about my running struggles and to let everyone know just how wonderful my parents are. I refuse to let my parents be hated any longer all because they support me on following my dream. No one should be hated and talked down to just because they support those that they love. If you have a goal or dream go after it, chase it down, no matter what anyone says. Because it is your life to live not theirs and if people spend their time tearing down someone else’s dream it’s because they are too scared to go after their own.

It’s time to spread you wings and fly. Be free to chase your dream, no matter what path you take to get there.

I'm getting back into running and I'm honestly not sure where it will take me, if I'll go back to marathons or just stick with some shorter races. I just want to go back to that time when I was excited to go to the track with my dad and have long chats with my mom on long runs. While my parents maybe in Oregon now and I'm still in Charlotte I can't wait to go home over spring break and once again share with them the joy of running in which they showed me all those years ago.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Summer of Finding Myself

Hi everyone! It’s been a little while since I have written a blog. Honestly all my different types of social media have been pretty unstable since the start of the year. And it is time for me to come clean and explain what is going on with my running lately as I know people have been having questions on what I’m training for and if I am even training for anything.  I am here today to open myself up and let you know what has actually been going on with my running lately and where I’m at physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I’m going to just get the ball rolling by coming out and saying that I am currently dealing with anxiety in my running.  This anxiety was brought upon losing confidence in myself and my running.  The stress of following my own path in running to follow my passion for the long distances and having people constantly wish for me to fail made me doubt that I was actually cut out to run marathons.  I started losing my passion for my running and training quickly became something I had to do rather than something that I wanted to do.  With this anxiety came panic attacks during hard workouts where I felt like I couldn't breath, even though logically I knew my breathing wasn’t increasing, and all I could think of  is “I can’t do this”.  I eventually had enough of the stress and during last semester of school I took off an 8 week period of time and only ran when I felt like it in order to try to figure out what was going on with me and get myself into a better mental state.

Coming to the realization that my anxiety was caused by self doubt and loss of confidence wasn’t any easy one to accept.  It finally came to head this summer after many conversation with my parents.  I was in denial for the longest time subconsciously knowing the root cause of my anxiety but not wanting to admit it to myself or anyone else as then it becomes reality, I always responded in my default “I don’t know” when my parents would ask me questions to try to help me.  It was hard on them to keep seeing me falling down little by little until I pretty much hit rock bottom and just gave up on hard workouts for those 8 weeks.  Once summer started it was time to take a step back and figure out what I wanted in my life.  With the set back on my running I found myself in a tough financial situation when it came to paying for college and I ended up getting a full time job at a Early Childhood Development Center near my house and currently work 40 hour weeks to be able to pay for next year.  Once I got my job I quickly realized the position I had but myself in with me refusing to admit to anyone what was going on with my running.  It took a bunch of crying but once I finally admitted to my parents that I really did want to be a professional marathon runner but didn’t feel like I was good enough to accomplish that I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt so much lighter after that.

After that pivotal talk my parents and I got into making a plan to turn my dreams back into goals and figured out where I am and where I want to be.  This summer is all about finding myself again, physically and mentally. I definitely got really out of shape during that 8 week period of time and this summer is about gaining as much fitness as I can back before I start school again and trying to figure out how to deal with my anxiety.  We have broken the summer up into 3 different segments and instead of running races this summer at the end of each segment I am doing a half marathon time trial to be able to see the improvement in my fitness and to work on dealing with my anxiety before I run another race.  Since that talk I have completed my first of the 3 segments and last Sunday completed my first time trial.  I will admit that I had a panic attack before the time trail where I honestly didn’t want to even start it and kept thinking that I wasn’t ready for it and that I wouldn’t be able to follow the race plan my dad had given me.  I was panicking to the point that I was actually shaking the last half an hour before I started.  I was able to talk myself out of it and remind myself that this time trial was a fitness marker to see where I was, I had to remind myself that my dad would never give me a race plan that he didn’t believe 100% that I was able to accomplish.  Since my self confidence was still shot I ran that time trial based on the confidence I had in my dad, and I ended up coming out on top; of the 1 minute target zone my dad gave me I hit it right in the middle and that feeling after I finished was an amazing one.  I got the feeling of accomplishment back, the feeling you have after a race you're proud of, a feeling I hadn’t had in such a long time and that helped to make  that fire of my passion burn a little brighter.  After this summer of training and my time trials I plan on completing a fall marathon to get myself back to where I want to be, I’m not sure which marathon it’ll be or any other races I will do this fall but I know that I want to get back into racing.

Now I am nowhere near close to having my self confidence all the way back nor is my anxiety close to be completely gone but I am on the path of recovery and working hard at getting my fitness and mental aspect back to where it was when I qualified for the Olympic Trials as a 16 year old.  Anxiety is something that doesn’t go away in the blink of an eye, it takes a lot of time, effort, and support to get over, it’s a lot of arguing with myself and convincing myself that I CAN do this and that I AM good enough. The important part is I have come to accept the fact that I do have anxiety and that I had lost all confidence in myself and in my running.  I’m building myself back up and I have all the support of my family and friends behind me helping me on this hard journey.

By reevaluating everything I have also come to realize, with the help of my parents of course ;), that I have not utilized all my social media accounts and have kept all of my supporters in the dark of what has been happening in my running.  When you keep hearing the negativity of the loud minority it can be difficult to focus on the positivity of others who do support and believe in you.  That is something I want to work on fixing  so I have created a social media plan that I will be trying to implement this summer as well.  In the coming weekends I hope to be reconfiguring my website/blog and really start utilizing all my accounts such as Twitter, Facebook Athlete Page, Instagram, LinkedIn, and AthleteBiz.

I really want to thank all of you for all the support you have been giving me no matter what, words can’t describe how much I appreciate it.  I will be working on keeping everyone in the loop of the going on’s of Alana and learning to not shut everyone out when I struggle with my running.  Have an amazing summer, it’s flying by. :)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ringing in 2016

Well 2015 has finally come to an end.  I’ll be honest I’m glad its over. Racing wise this has been a really tough year for me and I’m ready for the new year so I can focus on the brightness of the present and the future rather than the gloom of the past.  Like every negative thing that happens there is a positive side that is often hidden in the cracks that you have to dig to find.  You can learn from everything you do no matter good or bad.  While 2015 has been a rough year I have taken a lot away from it and feel like I have learned a ton about myself, both personally as well as running wise. 

Pushing aside the old year let us look toward 2016!! So much is going on in the beginning of the year.  In the beginning of January I’ll be turning 19 and in just 44 days it will be the US Olympic Marathon Trials in LA! Crazy how fast that has approached.  I am all healthy and in the swing of training; working on my fitness both physically and mentally.

My big news for the year though is that I have signed with a shoe sponsor!! I am now sponsored by On, which is a Swiss Performance Running Shoe Company. After everything that happened with New York to have this opportunity means a lot to me and I am excited to represent On this year. :) :) :)  

People always like to go with the saying "New Year, New Me" during this time and I feel like this is appropriate for right now.  Now that I have had a semester to transition to college life I will be trying to update my blog more as well as my different social media accounts to keep everyone informed on whats happening in the strange (a good strange ;P) life of Alana.

Happy New Year everyone, may your runs be fun!

-Alana <3

Monday, October 12, 2015

NYC training update

Hey everyone!

Only 3 weeks left until the TCS NYC Marathon!!!! AHHHHHHH!! With it on to the final countdown I want to give you all an update on how marathon training is going.

Unfortunately due to weather the half marathon I had planned on doing on October 3rd got postponed until the 31st so I will not be able to run that.  Instead I ended up getting in a great hill workout and 20 mile steady state long run that weekend.

So far during this training cycle I have been hitting some of my fastest workouts ever and am super excited for this build up to NYC.  I am currently starting on those final workouts leading up to the race.  Only 1 more tempo, speed workout, long run, and then my final 3 x 3 mile workout between now and the marathon.

These are the weeks where all the excitement comes out and I hope I will be able to focus in my classes lol!

New York get ready its marathon time.

~Alana <3

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hokie Half Marathon Video Diary

My Flotrack video diary from the 2015 Hokie Half Marathon:

I ran the Hokie Half Marathon in Blacksburg, VA a week and half ago (Sep 20) as one of my 2 prep races for the TCS NYC Marathon.  It is a fun race if you ever get the chance to do it.  It was pretty much a solo effort but I got off to a good solid start (28:59 at 5 miles) which I was happy about, and then the course gets very hilly between 6-10 miles, which was great, so I could practice for the NYC Bridges (VN, Pulaski, Queensboro) and 5th Ave.  Then I coasted in the last 3-4 miles with a comfortable lead (sort of mad at myself for not pushing that) to save legs for a 112 miles a 24 mile long run and a very good speed workout last week as marathon prep continues.  I ended up as the 1st place overall woman and 4th place person and collected some much needed money (college and running shoe bills pile up quickly) in the process.  Not a quick overall time (I knew it wouldn't be) but some good parts to build from and I left Blacksburg healthy and strong.  

I am racing again this coming weekend (Oct 3rd) in Cherokee, NC in the Cherokee Harvest Half Marathon with, you guessed it, a big monster hill in the middle (bigger than then Queensboro Bridge) for more NYC practice.  Hopefully all this crazy rain doesn't wash us all away in that one. :)   I'll report back after that one as well. 

Happy Running & Racing :)


Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Heeeeyyyy guys!! I'm am absolutely so excited to finally be able to share my awesome news! I am very proud and happy to announce that I will be apart of the elite field at the TCS New York City Marathon on November 1st.

I am super excited to have this opportunity to race in the elite field of the TCS NYC Marathon, something I have dreamed of doing for years.  I believe it will be a tremendous opportunity for me to test myself in NYC and race with the best runners on the planet, as well as provide me with invaluable experience before racing in the Olympic Trials in February.

To help me get ready, I tentatively have plans to run 2 half marathon between now and NYC.  More on those as they approach.

2 weeks ago I moved on campus at UNC Charlotte as I began college, and have made the transition to doing many of my runs around campus, which is actually a pretty hilly campus, good for helping prepare me for the hills and bridges in New York City! :)  My Dad/coach drives up (my family lives 30 miles away from campus) 3 times a week to be there to coach and support me for my stress workouts. :)  

So much is happening in the next 6 months. I am starting college at UNC Charlotte, I will be running the NYC Marathon in November, and I will be running the U.S. Olympic Trials in February.  This next half a year is going to be an awesome experience, opportunity and adventure that I can not wait to continue to dive into!! :D

I will be keeping you all updated on preparations for and my journey to New York City!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Beat The Heat 5k

Hey Everyone!  This past Saturday night I competed in the Beat The Heat 5k in Winston Salem, NC which is also the NC USATF 5k Road Championship.  It always draws a great field of runners from across the state and this year was no exception.

I drove up with my Mom and Dad and little brother and sister (gotta bring my cheering squad) late Saturday afternoon as the race was set to start at 7:00 PM.  The weather was pretty typical for this race and for NC in late July.  The weather app on my phone showed a temperature of 86F and dew point of 64F at the race start, pretty warm and sticky, but not bad by NC standards and it didn't feel too bad.

On Friday, my Dad and I sat down and came up with a game plan for the race.  I haven't done that much speed work so far this cycle, coming off of Grandma's Marathon last month, so I wasn't sure how I'd do in a 5k race, but I knew I was plenty strong.  We wanted to be sure I didn't start off too quick with my lack of speed work so far, but we figured I could close well the second half of the race with my strength.  So we turned my Garmin to the kilometer setting and came up with a target pace range for each km.  This is the way I have been doing my workouts recently so I felt confident with this approach.

After adjusting for the course here was our plan:

1st km:  3:20-3:25  (slight up-hill)
2nd km:  3:15-3:20 (downhill)
3rd km:  3:35-3:40 (long uphill)
4th km:  3:25-3:30 (first part uphill)
5th km:  3:15-3:20 (downhill)
Target time:  16:45 to 17:15

By 7:00 PM all the competitors were on the starting line and we were off!

Here is a video of the start:

It was crowded but I worked to get in my rhythm and made it the 1st kilometer in 3:20 - right on the fast end of my target range - awesome - but that put me in 5th place, a little further back than I had hoped.

Here I am coming through the 1 mile marker:

The second kilometer is downhill so I let it roll some and came through in 3:16 for that km and 6:36 overall. and had moved up into 3rd place.

The 3rd kilometer is a long gradual uphill and so I knew this would be a tough one.   I stay focused and powered my way up and my watch beeped 3k in 10:13 / 3:37 for the 3rd KM - right in range.  At this point I had started to close in 2nd place and made it my mission to catch her by the 4k point.  It was hard as the first half of the km is uphill but I managed to catch her and take over 2nd right as my watch beeped again.  The 4th km was 3:32 and 13:45 overall.  I was 2 seconds out of range that km but knew I had worked hard and hit several of the early splits on the low end of the range so I wasn't worried.

I knew several of the girls I was racing had collegiate middle distance backgrounds, so now I had to keep pushing the pace so that I didn't find myself in a kick with a college 1500 runner.  That last kilometer is downhill so I worked hard and hit my fastest split of the night with a 3:11, 4 seconds faster than my plan.  :)

This put me at 5k in 16:56 and the faster half of my goal range. WooHoo!  But the problem with pacing by your Garmin is that the course may measure differently and that was the case today.  It ended up being 5.13k on my watch so when my watch beeped for 5k, I still had 130 meters to run.  That took me 24 seconds so my official time was 17:20 and 2nd place female.  I know the course is accurate, so that is my time, and I am sure my Garmin was off because of not being able to run the tangents because of the crowded race and maybe because of a few big sweeping turns that Garmin's usually has accuracy issues on.  But I am OK with that.  I trained by my Garmin, we used that training to set-up my race plan and I was able to execute my plan as I wanted.  While I would have liked a faster official time, I am happy with the way I executed the race and being able to hit my pace targets, especially on a warm summer evening.

Here is a video of me in the final 100 meters:

Congratulations to Andie Cozzarelli (former NC State runner and current Oiselle elite team runner) on getting the overall win.  She ran a strong race from start to finish and hit a road PR of 16:53.  This is my 3rd time finishing 2nd in the NC USATF State 5k Champs - hopefully I'll get to win it one year. ;P

Here is a picture of the top 6 women at the awards ceremony afterwards (Andie and I are the 2 shortest)

I got an extra special award though from my little sister in the form of a ginormous hug! :)  Rosie hugs are the best!!

I have a couple more races planned before a fall marathon.  I am beyond excited about my fall marathon but can't announce which one quite yet.  Hopefully soon.

And then it is on to the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials / U.S. Marathon Championships in Feb 2016.   I am officially signed-up and looking forward to the opportunity to race against the best in the country in the distance I specialize in.

I had a meeting with my parents this week and am making a few tweaks to my training (adding in more quality) to help me be as competitive as possible in these upcoming marathons.

Stay tuned for more on my fall marathon and for training updates.

Happy Running!

Alana :)