NV Games Race Recap Part 2 of 2- “Remember why you do this”

Part 2 of 2
I am not just an athlete who knows Heart Rate training works, but a Coach who trains athletes on Heart Rate training, so of all people, I trust the process. And one day, the process clicked over. My walk breaks were less. I was running continuously longer times. My base was returning. Push-ups came off the knees and back to traditional. My strength was returning.

I took a deep breath and smiled one day when I realized that the reason all of this happened was so I would go back to the real ground zero of my running. Back to the relationship I had with running when I first started, I loved it, and I couldn’t wait to run. It wasn’t how far or how fast I could run; it was because I could run.

The Nevada State Games are near and dear to my heart. I competed in the games for the first time in 2012. I won a Gold Medal. I cannot tell you how great it felt. It is an event I hope to participate in as long as I can. It is crazy competitive, but with a twist. The competitors are not there to “pick each other off” but to cheer each other on and reunite like old friends.

The Games were fast approaching. How was I to know that this would be my first race of the year? I was supposed to have a couple Sprints, an Olympic, a Duathlon, a ½ marathon all under by belt well before this “little” 5k just thrown in the mix.

For the record, there is nothing “little” about a 5k.

I had a time goal. I knew where my training was. It was realistic. I also knew I would come nowhere near where I finished last year. I had hoped to medal again, but at this point I was so giddy that I was able to race and see my old friends. I didn’t care.

I know this course. I have run it many times. I know every turn. Every hill. Every point where I have had a success or a challenge, I KNOW this course.

Race week. Taper repeats were hitting my goal time. Mind you I trained, indoors. On a treadmill. The race would be outside in 100+ degrees with false flats.

Race morning I woke up, without the alarm. Funny how no matter the time of a race, I always wake up WELL before I need to, without the help of the alarm? But really, don’t all runners do this?

I had set everything out the night before. Getting dressed was uneventful, I was prepared. I made a cup of coffee and had some GenUCAN protein mixed with almond milk (1 scoop w/ 10 oz. unsweetened almond milk- drank ½). My husband gave me a hug and a good luck kiss and I was on my way out the door. The temperature gauge on the car read 85 degrees until I pulled out of the garage. 99. At 6:15 am. That is ok. This is MY house. Heat, is normal.

This race is unique. There are 2 local races that go on at the same time. A 10k starts first, and then the games run along “inside” another 5k. It is interesting because you really do not know who all you are racing against. As I was pulling into the parking lot…the 10k winner was screaming past behind the motorcycle escort headed to the finish line.

Not many people knew I was racing. I kept it private due to my struggles this year. But some close friends and my teammates knew. I received overwhelming messages of support. One message in particular, lit my fire. They know who they are, because I told them their words were just what I needed. “Remember why you do this….”

I took a deep breath and said out loud in the car “Remember why you do this” looked at the temp of 100 glaring at me and started walking to the start line. Within seconds there were arms around me, hugging. Old friends from the last race. More hugs as I approached. Hugs from those I met at packet pick up. Just all warmth and smiles.

I took a quick trip to the porta john and warmed up. My mind was blank on the warm up. I was watching the 10k finishers come in. The announcement rang out for those in the 5k to gather at the start. I lined up. Shook hands, high fived, then….game face on, face forward.

“Remember why you do this”

I do this so Cancer will have to chase me to catch me again

I do this for those who can’t

I do this for my son

I do this for my husband

I do this for my family and friends

I do this for my athletes I coach who inspire me each and every day

I do this, for me

The gun (air horn) went off and out we all went. I looked at my Garmin and said “Whoa CRANFORD too fast too fast” darn it…that was going to hurt at about 2 ½ miles expending that energy too soon by coming out of the gate too fast.

I hit the first mile marker, was even in stride. Heart rate was right where it needed to be. My pace was a good 20 seconds faster than I needed. I looked up to see a truck pulling in as we were exiting to hit the streets. Back window rolls down “GO MOMMY GO!!!!!!” My husband and my son were there, perfect timing.

Things were going smoothly. I took water at the aid station, not to drink, but to pour on my wrists, neck and top of my head. I could feel the heat radiating off the pavement. The course is a clockwise loop out and back counter clockwise. On the way back, it is a false flat. One of those nice Vegas gradual uphill inclines. Folks, Vegas is not flat. I made the turnaround and at the aid station again I took water to pour on me to cool.

I could hear people around me, breathing labored. Some cussing. Some whining. I started high fiving people who were coming down on their first lap “Remember why you do this”. I made the turn to the counter clockwise loop back, where I have struggled in the past. Even heart rate, even pace, still well ahead of what I needed to meet my time goal.

Then it got hard, really hard. I looked at my Garmin, and laughed out loud to myself “good call Coach” it was 2 ½ miles, I called it from when I came out of the gate too fast. So I set my jaw and kept on. Focus.

Ok, so maybe I focused too much, instead of taking a first left around a loop I snapped out of my deep focus when I realized I was headed the wrong way….OOOOPS! Double back and get back on the course. I laughed at myself. I looked back at those behind me and they had been yelling at me trying to keep me from going off course. It is just funny because I have run this course so many times I can do it in my sleep.

I could see the final left turn to the finish. Mentally reminded myself that I ALWAYS drop the hammer WAY TOO SOON and die off and have to crawl to the finish. The finish line is a lot further away than you think. I did a mental check, took a deep breath and rounded the corner.

The finish was in the distance. I was alone. The people in front of me were far ahead enough I really couldn’t see them, and no one behind me. I had a point in the distance where I would drop it and sprint to the finish. I was struggling. It was HOT, my legs were burning, and my lungs were burning. I was happy, thrilled. I was having, F U N. “Remember why you do this”. I had executed (aside from a slight detour and coming out of the gate too fast) an excellent race. I could hear my dear friend and Coach Rebecca in my head “Smoke it” so I dropped the hammer, and finished with my fastest sprint EVER and my time was 91 seconds ahead of goal.

YAHOOOOwhoa…dry heaves…..ok…hold on…give me a minute…..

I was walking it out after I crossed the finish. I heard feet behind me fast approaching then arms flung around me, my son. He was giddy. He is everything to me. My husband caught up to us, having him there, means more to me than he will ever know.

Then time came when they called all of us in the games for medal presentations. I could have looked at the results, but I didn’t. I had no clue what was to come. We cheered for each other and yelled until we had no voices. My age group was called. They started announcing “In third place, the Bronze Medal goes to Kristie….” I was THRILLED, ELATED, wait….different last name. Oops. Not me. The silver was given out.

“And in first place with a time of ….the GOLD MEDAL goes to Kristie Cranford”. I think the tears were pretty much instant. I won my second Gold. Later I would find out I was 12th overall.

I stuck around, hung out with old and new friends. Sweaty hugs everywhere. My son was taking great pleasure in the “buffet” at the finish. My husband had left to go to work; his boss had let him come in late so he could be there. Again, he and my son being there mean so much to me.

The race, was fun. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt. But that is a 5k. Have I told you how much I hate 5k’s? But it was fun. I smiled so much my face hurt.

And above all the one thing that I did learn from this race: absolutely without a doubt do I ever “Remember why (I) do this”.

NV Games Race Recap- Part 1 of 2- Before the Race-Getting Oxygen

Woman Wearing Oxygen Mask
Take something for granted, typically what happens. It goes or gets taken away.

That is exactly what happened to me. I was stronger and getting faster than I have ever been, and then….unexpected surgery in February (an outpatient fairly routine surgery mind you) resulted in my body, going on strike. I will not go into details, but leading up to and after surgery my running was put from fast forward, to ground zero. I was starting over.

Running was no longer easy. It was hard. My strength was gone. Training was mental kick in the teeth. Every workout was hard. Trying to remain positive and upbeat was difficult. I have a fantastic Coach (yes Coaches need a Coach too), loving family, good friends, and supportive teammates, but I kept my misery quiet. I had to fight this battle, my way, privately.

This was to be a big year of firsts for me. Instead it started out to be the big year of DNS’s.

The biggest thing that happened to me during this time after surgery was an attitude or well, “life”, adjustment. A big one. I was stressed, to the max. Everyone and everything wanted more and more of me and I had increasingly less of me to give due to the increased demands. I was burning the candle at all 6 ends.

Someone one day asked me how I was, and for the first time, this was someone who asked the question and sincerely wanted to hear the answer, not just a canned “fine”. Not to hear me say “fine” and then turn me into their personal therapist, but someone, who truly wanted to know and truly, listened. I unloaded. Boy did I ever unload. They told me something that I will never forget “you have to put your oxygen mask on yourself, before you help someone else with theirs”. She said “you can’t breathe because you are giving all your air to everyone else”. I heard what she said, but didn’t take it in. She also told me “people will never respect you until you respect yourself first, you are basically letting people disrespect you, and it is ok. No, it is not ok”. I heard her but it didn’t hit or sink in for a while.

I got up one morning, came downstairs, and poured a cup of coffee. Checked my phone just as a text message came across. Went to the bathroom (TMI here, but for the first time didn’t take my phone with me). When I came out of the bathroom I had a text message, a private message on Facebook, and a Twitter direct message all blasting me for the lack of response to the text that was sent. The span of time had been….18 seconds. Seconds. Bear in mind the nature of the text was a general greeting, not a 911 emergency. Wow. And this isn’t the first time this happened, and it happens from different people. All. The. Time. It stressed me completely out. It was happening daily. And sadly, I did this to myself. I allowed people to have unrealistic expectations. It was ok to demand my undivided attention 24/7/365. I worried too much about being available and making others happy, that I myself, had become completely miserable.

So I stepped back and day by day started giving myself some oxygen. It wasn’t easy. My family supported me. A lot of people didn’t like it. They still don’t.

The irony, one result of my surgery was for me to be able to breathe, my oxygen intake would be so much better. My doctor’s said my athletic performance was going to show dramatic improvement with this. Funny. It didn’t improve from the surgery as we had all thought. It didn’t start happening, until the one morning I got up and the first thing I did was put my oxygen mask on first.

Stay tuned for Part 2: NV Games 5k Race Recap

Considering a Treadmill?

treadmillguyA treadmill is an investment. Prices range from $500 to over $3000. Before you buy one, ask yourself some questions first:

What is your budget? Set a budget. This will tell you how much treadmill you can purchase.

Where is it going to go? Measure the area where it will be placed for use. When not in use, do you need a folding version or will a flat deck fit? Do not find out it doesn’t fit, when you bring it home.

How often will you use it and what for? Will it be used few minutes for general exercise, or hours training for a marathon? The amount and type of use may depend on if a basic or higher end commercial model is best for you.

What features do you want? Incline? iPod doc? Built in fan? Some treadmills have programs where you can run simulated actual routes. Example: the Boston Marathon, complete with heartbreak hill.

How much maintenance are you willing to do yourself and/or pay for? Deck lube, belt maintenance, etc.

Other points worth considering:

Direct Current (DC) motors are quieter- if close to living spaces, noise may be a factor.

Buy the warranty. Ask anyone in treadmill sales, warranties do not generate income, they typically generate a loss. It is worth it.

The motor should be a minimum 1.5 horsepower. Typical range is 1.5-2.5hp. Look for a “continuous-duty” motor rating. This rates the horse power literally, for continuous duty over a 24 hour period. Be wary of other descriptions like “treadmill-duty”.

Try it out wearing the clothes and shoes you would wear while on a treadmill. Make sure the length fits your stride, handles are sturdy and far enough away not to interfere with your arms, and you can reach the display easily. Make sure motion is smooth, never jerky.

Write out a checklist with budget at the top followed by needs, then wants. Take the list with you shopping. You may have to cross off some wants to meet the needs, but in the end, you’ll have the best treadmill for you.

*this article can also be seen where originally published in Health Your Way Online Magazine:


I am Me

I am not selfish. I live my life around others. I find out their schedule and work mine around theirs. I get up early, stay up late, work through or run errands on breaks, I multi task like no other. I work, pack lunches, make sure laundry is done, homework is done, clean the house, coordinate play dates, cook dinners, carpool, shuttle to soccer games, and work hard. My wants and needs come last. In the wee hours of the morning when no one needs me, when others are sleeping…I am…me.

The runner, the triathlete, the athlete. I swim, I bike, I run, I lift weights….I do this because it is my passion. Not because I am a freak. Because outside of everything I am, a wife, a mother, and a friend, I am…a woman, a woman who is an athlete. Would I rather sleep in? Yes! But if I did, I would be sacrificing myself. I live myself around others, so in order to be myself I have to do what I have to do, even if that means getting up at 3am, or going to bed and waking up and running 20 miles in the middle of the night while my family sleeps (and yes, I have done this, more than once).

I am not a martyr, nor am I trying to be, I am just stating the facts. I am a wife, coach, friend, Aunt, Sister, Mom, etc. Myself as a woman comes last. But I’ll be damned if I will let that part of me go. That is why I train, and race with all I have. Because, that is, all I have. Me. Without me, there is….no me.