Olympic Tri (My Way) and Race Recap: Athleta Iron Girl 10K

So sometime last night, when I was tossing and turning because I couldn’t fall asleep, I came up with this plan…

I’ve been really annoyed lately that I can’t find a nearby triathlon that works with my schedule so i decided to do my own thing. (Story of my life.) I decided that since my 10K was going to be timed, I might as well take a stab at doing an Olympic-distance triathlon on my own terms before trying an actual Olympic-distance race. Or perhaps eliminating the need or desire to register for races in general. I wanted to see if I was on to something, so I decided to do a reverse Olympic triathlon.

So, with a few winks of sleep and some terrible GI issues, I showed up to Green Lake Park for the Athleta Iron Girl 10K start line.

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It was cold (by my standards)! It was also windy! I was sad that I didn’t follow through with my thought to bring my arm warmers. I figured that I I would warm up anyways during the run, so I tried to cozy up to hundreds of other runners to stay warm. By the time I was at mile 1, I was glad I didn’t have my arm warmers.

In terms of the race, there was one big issue right off the bat: It was a 2-loop run for 10k’ers. I hate HATE hate loops. I hate knowing what I’ll have to experience again. That’s one thing that bothers me about a lot of Ironman races is that they end up looping around multiple times. I’m not sure why but I just find it demoralizing. I much prefer a point-to-point course and I’d rather deal with the hassle of shuttles than looping during a race.

The first 5K was fun. We had the road to ourselves. There were a lot of walkers and for the most part, they had studied up on runner’s etiquette and knew to stay to the right of the road. I started out with the 11:00min/mile corral but it proved very slow for me, so I weaved around until I settled in with a pack at the 3 mile mark. The rest of the ladies who were continuing on to round 2 for the 10K all seemed to keep a good pace. I was massively hurting because of stomach distress issues — I didn’t need to stop, but everything felt crampy and tight. Something about this liquid diet just isn’t sitting well with me so I’m trying to re-introduce less mushy foods into my diet as my gums/teeth/pain will allow.

Because of this, the second 5K was particularly difficult. I kept wanting to aim for negative splits. I wanted to outdo myself at run the 10K at an hour, or at least under my fastest 10K time. It wasn’t in the books this time but I’ll know what to do differently next time. (The biggest thing will be NOT scheduling major dental surgeries in the middle of training seasons!) I finished with a surge, something that I don’t remember doing since the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas last year. It felt great to finish strong.

As I waited in line with my complimentary meal kit for a free cowbell, the oldest runner made her way past the finish chute — she was 82. Amazing.

Now that I have another medal, I really want to figure out a nice way to hang all of them in my apartment. I’d also like to start a bib collage. I think it’d add a bit more personality to my space.

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I was pretty exhausted after the 10K, especially with all of the digestive issues. I just also felt a bit tired, but I chalked that up to nutrition issues. I fueled up as much as I could so that I could continue with my diabolical plan of 25 more miles on the bike and 1500m in the pool. I set up my bike trainer, put on a movie, and got to work.

The longest ride I’ve ever done was probably a little over 15 miles, so 25 was a bit of a stretch. I gave myself permission to take stretch breaks, to grab water, and to have a GU when it was necessary. The movie ended about 40 minutes before I reached 25 miles, so I relied on my iPod to keep me company. A part of me wanted to hop on a video call but I had no clue who would actually want to chat with me in the middle of a workout. Plus, if I were able to chat, one could argue that I probably not working hard enough anyways.

In the same fashion as the 10K I surged my final mile and a half and felt good…exhausted, but good. I hopped in the shower for the third time of the day (once before the 10K to wake me up, one after the 10K to clean myself off, and now to clean myself off from the ride).

I tried to set my expectations for my swim. I was insanely exhausted and very stiff. I downed a shake (my general sustenance of choice these days) and took a nice long shower. I stretched and sat down for a bit, tried to bring my heart rate down and just relax. What I really wanted to do was lay down, but I knew that if I did, I would fall asleep.

And then I just said to myself, F it! It’s MY tri and I’ll do it in whatever way suits me. So I took a nap and it was glorious. The only contingency with this nap was that I could NOT skip my swim, no matter what. As insurance against this I wore my swimsuit underneath all of my clothes.

I woke up on my own and felt refreshed. I was still a bit groggy, but I combed my hair back, grabbed my swim bag, and headed out to the bus to get to the gym.

The pool was completely empty when I first started. It was also freezing. On Sundays, apparently they shut off the heat since they clean the pool late at night. I guess perhaps they also don’t get too many guests either, so it makes sense from an energy perspective. I had prepared for the cold with a nice cold shower beforehand. I began to do a few laps (backstroke to start) and eventually people started to fill up the pool.

It seems like the evening dynamic is much different than the morning. In the morning you get a mix of 50% women and 50% men. This evening, I was the only female. There were probably about 20 men in the pool area in general — about 7 or so swimming (one shared a lane with me) and the others were in the hot tub, sauna, and steam room. I got a few gross looky-loos from creepy old men but kept pushing forward anyways. If anything it gave me an incentive to swim faster and harder.

A guy had jumped into my lane and began sharing it with me (without asking!) but I found him to be a nice companion. He wasn’t too fast or too slow. He was right around my speed, so we were able to alternate laps around the pool. At any given time we would pass each other in the lane, so it really kept me swimming freestyle rather than resting with the backstroke. Whenever I share a lane and backstroke, I usually end up with a nose full of water. At least this way I could be incentivized to freestyle and finish my distance at a good pace.

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The last 800 meters was the hardest, but again in similar fashion I tried to surge in my last 200 meters. After I finished I was so elated that I didn’t even feel tired. I rinsed off, pulled on my clothes, grabbed the next bus and headed home. I ate a bit and treated myself to some Thai food delivery. (It was decent-to-awful, but it’s the thought that counts.)

All in all, a good day. I’ve quite literally never did this before, so I’m happy to check this off of my to-do list, even if I didn’t technically race. I know what it feels like (albeit with a nap in between sports) but now, for sure, I know exactly how hard the 70.3 can be.

The 10K Sweet Spot: My Varied History

6.2 miles. I’m not exactly sure what makes it my sweet spot but it is. I’ve clocked some decent times relative to my other distances. Speed is relative but for some reason, a 10K doesn’t psych me out nearly as much as a 5K, 13.1, or 26.2. For some reason, I feel most at ease with this particular distance. It’s just long enough where I know I could crawl it if I had to…and it’s short enough that I can go all out without fear of turning into jello at the end.

The 5K is a rude awakening for my body. I don’t even realize what’s going on until it’s over. A 13.1 is a great distance too — I generally finish with a smile on my face. A 26.2 smile? I’m still working on that but I’m hoping RnRAZ will fix that.

In usual fashion, the night before a race I like to go over some of my previous races and runs to get an overall gauge of how well I’ve done and how well I’m capable of doing. It looks like, at one time, I was fairly capable of running a 60-minute 10K. Here were some of my wins from 2011:

April 2011 – Victory for Victims 10K – Splits
May 2011 – Santa Monica Classic 10K – Splits
June 2011 – Union Bank 10K – Splits

My only fair conclusion is that I’m really slacking on my usual short runs if I’m capable of shaving off 2-3 minutes/mile from my pace. It might be time to join the local running meetup group once a week or so to get some speed work in if I don’t have the discipline to do it solo. There’s a 5:30am Monday morning track workout. Can I even get out of bed that early? Will by body even cooperate?

Regardless, I’m prepped and ready to go for tomorrow!

Here’s to a good start (AND my first personalized bib!). I spent the evening watching the women’s Olympic triathlon…the finish was definitely awesome. So tomorrow, when I *think* I’m spent after 5 miles, I’ll just remember this and all of my other 26.2 finishes and remember what that felt like.

And, if YOU don’t feel like running a 10K tomorrow, how about throwing $10 at my marathon fundraiser?! 🙂

Kicking Off The First Race Of The Season

Man, what a week that was. A lot of stress coupled with not enough sleep or nutrition makes for a very cranky Amara. I hope to get some of that on track in the upcoming week.

So my diet has primarily consisted of mushy things, like shakes, scrambled eggs, yogurt, pudding, soup, etc. I’ve grown quite tired of soup and mashed potatoes so this week is a dairy rotation. I’m a few days in and already sick of it. I wish I could juice but the acidic components of any food I eat really hurts my mouth.

Because of my adjusted dietary habits, I’ve also noticed a bit of a downturn in my training. The olympic-distance triathlon is definitely out of the picture now, when coupled with the inability to fully train along with the impending race date, in addition to all of the travel fees. I see that there’s a local sprint triathlon in Kirkland scheduled for the end of the month if I still want to get a race in before the season is over. I don’t know if I can attempt another open water swim with no lake training but I feel like it should be easier than ocean swimming. Oh well. If I decide to register, it will be pretty close to the race date. Maybe I can join a meetup group for a weekend refresher course in open water before I consider it.

Speaking of races, I have a 10K on Sunday that kicks off my season — the Athleta Iron Girl 10K at Green Lake. It’ll be my first time running at Green Lake, my first 10K race in more than a year, and my first race in general since the LA Marathon.

I’m really looking forward to toeing the start line again. I’ve been trying to implement some of the things I’ve learned from the Chi Marathon book. I’m viewing this race as more of a tuneup since my first half marathon of the season is next Saturday! (Yup, that’s two races in 7 days!) I’m definitely ready for the 13.1…my last long run was 11 miles a few weeks ago, so I can consider getting in a 12 miler this weekend or just laying low. I guess I’ll play it by ear.

And on that note, I had one win of the week…I wrapped up my 100-mile goal. I did it while on vacation in Vegas, moving to a new city, and getting settled in to my new job. I think that these little incremental goals (run 50 miles, run 100 miles) really got me back into my groove.

Now if there were only a way I could get into the pool more regularly…I really need to create a schedule and just stick to it! For some reason, everytime I put together a schedule, it takes me two weeks to revamp it from scratch for some other plan. I found some swim clinics in the area, so maybe that’s something I can get involved with sooner than later.

Another win of the week: I received my first (external) donation for my marathon fundraiser! I haven’t done a lot to promote it yet — I’m thinking of sending out emails on the 1st and 15th of every month, and definitely doing more heavy fundraising during the holidays. I’ll probably give up Christmas again as well. It’s too bad that this race doesn’t overlap with my birthday…I was really able to take advantage of that time for my last fundraiser. If you have the means to donate a few dollars, please consider donating! Maybe for my next plea I’ll do a video blog about my employment journey and what Dress for Success means to me…that should be interesting.

Desert Double Down with Dress For Success

So after a bit of debate, and even a bit of opinion crowdsourcing, I’ve decided to go ahead with the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Arizona. Although not as grandiose as the Disney Goofy Challenge, I figure that can wait for another year (maybe next) when I’m a bit more prepared both physically and financially. It’d also be nice to get some friends and family in on that trip!

So, even though this race is all the way in Arizona, it still feels like a local race. Probably because the proximity of Arizona to California. Probably also because I’ve been there a few times. I may be missing out on the triathlon in November so this will be a nice way to still make it to the Grand Canyon State in the upcoming months. (After working out the numbers for it, it doesn’t make sense for me to go out to the triathlon unless I can comfortably race the Olympic distance…which I won’t be prepared for, unfortunately.)

I toyed with the idea of a few different charity teams…Team in Training and DetermiNation, specifically. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I still care very deeply for the mission of Dress for Success. Not to mention, havingbeen a volunteer for a number of years has made me rather well versed in its mission and value. It seems like the Seattle office needs quite some help in terms of exposure so I’m hoping this can help it along.

Therefore, in honor of Labor Day and all the women who are down and out of work, for all the women who need a helping hand, I’m launching my fundraiser to once again help out the most awesomely fantastic organization on the planet: Dress for Success! If you are gainfully employed and can spare a $5 or $50 or $500, please donate here so that we can help other people get the help they need to re-enter the workforce. 

• With a small gift of $10 you can ensure that a deserving woman receives the perfect suit for her first interview!

• A donation of $25 allows one women to benefit from 5 sessions in the Career Center where she will meet with a career counselor and receive tips on how to sharpen her interview skills and perfect her résumé.

• Your $50 gift enables a woman to participate in two of our financial literacy sessions where she will learn valuable skills such as balancing a check book, online banking, and how to apply for a mortgage!

• A donation of $150 will provide one woman with a year’s membership in the Professional Women’s Group, giving her access to monthly workshops and information on financial literacy, health and wellness, workplace issues and more!

With all the politics now surrounding unemployment, it is not up to the government to solve the unemployment crisis — it is up to us individuals, and organizations like Dress for Success and its partner agencies to create an employable and prepared workforce ready to assume new careers.

I can be the first person to attest to the fact that no one has ever really gone broke by donating to a good cause. So, if you can afford it, please donate! Thanks, and wish me luck: there’s only 142 days left…

Let's Be Honest…I Could've Done Better.

There was nothing easy about the LA Marathon for me. It was only last week that I crossed the finish line but I’m still thinking about it.

All of my classmates asked me about how well I did. I had the same blanket answer for everyone. “I finished, but I was really really slow.” Am I dwelling on the negative? Yes, sort of…but there are a lot of bright sides to it all.

Let’s start with the whining and get it out of the way.

Negative (a.k.a. complaints and whining)

1. My pace was very slow for the last 13.1 miles.

2. I don’t think I stretched adequately for the race since I had a lot of pain still in my flexors, IT band, and piriformis/glute area for a few days after the race. (I’m completely healed up now with exception of random cramps here and there.)

3. I wish my overall time in LA was faster than the one in Greece. Greece was hilly and more difficult! LA was all downhill. What was the problem again?! (My GPS time was different than my chip time, so who knows when I really finished?!)

4. The wind drove me crazy! It literally drove me crazy. As I mentioned to someone else I think I began hallucinating and maybe even swearing at the wind. I also began getting incredibly weepy…on the inside at first, but then on the outside when I saw Shant at the finish line.

Positive (a.k.a. it wasn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be)

1. I undertrained, which can explain the reason why my time got slower. (Not sure why this is positive)

2. I finished it under the time limit.

3. This race was mainly about my leading my team to the finish line and not so much about myself. Most of the time I dragged myself out of bed at 7am to get to my group races on time. It wasn’t a race for me…it was a race for my teammates and for the charity.

So, all in all…the LA Marathon was a success. I hope to actually follow my training regimen next time so that I can finish faster!

Race Recap: The 2012 LA Marathon

I survived…but man oh man I am definitely feeling the pain of undertraining.

The course was great. It was the best foot tour of LA I’ve ever taken. What got me most excited about this race was that I’ve been to every part of the city, but I’ve yet to actually go through it in one trip. Well, yesterday I did!

Race weekend started with a 2-hour massage and grabbing a ton of last minute supplies. I decided to put together an LA Marathon survival kit for my teammates. It included some baggies, Biofreeze, cough drops, Emergen-C, a rain poncho, gel blasts, anti-cramping gel, and blister bandages. After the races I’ve ran, I figured that it was time to aggregate all of my hard-earned lessons into one small resealable bag. The forecast predicted rain and I wanted my runners and walkers to stay happy and healthy!

We carbo-loaded at the charity director of operations house. Lots of pasta and food was there for the taking and everyone looked really nervous and excited. We all got our goody bags, which included our fundraising incentives. I’ve never been more excited to earn an iPod shuffle! I also got a running water bottle, a team t-shirt, and a few other goodies. So excited to put all of it to good use. It was great to finally see the entire team under one roof. Most of the time, when I hosted group runs, only a few would turn out…and the few would always shuffle around, so I never did get a chance to see everyone at the same time. It was nice to see their personal transformations and to share this experience with them. It was only last summer when they handed me their registrations rather reluctantly. Now they were all ready to tackle the big 26.2!! I’ve never been more proud to say that the team raised almost $6,000 as of today.

As for the race…I can remember a few important parts — like the hill between mile 4-5 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (which also took a grand stance during the LA Triathlon last year), running through Thai Town (memories of all my childhood grocery shopping), Hollywood + Vine (right outside the Dress for Success offices), West Hollywood (loved the cheerleaders!), and then the never ending road of San Vicente. And the ripples in the Pacific Ocean. Oh, the ripples! The course support was fantastic. Every aid station was well stocked. All of the volunteers were incredibly helpful. Every inch of the LA Marathon was covered with supporters cheering their hearts out. It was definitely one of the best races I have ever ran….nothing like the Rock n Roll Las Vegas. I would definitely consider running this again next year!

What I can remember feeling is the heaviness in my legs setting in around mile 20 or so. I definitely hit the proverbial wall by mile 22. Mile 22, 23, 24, 25 seemed to drag on forever and ever and ever. It was never ending until I hit 26, got a glimpse of the beach and the Santa Monica Pier, and made it across the finish line!

It was a great experience running with a charity. Not only do I finally get to cross something off my bucket list but now I’d like to put together a plan so that next year we are even more successful. Hey, maybe this time I can stick to my own training plan!

Marathon Countdown: 15 Days, 60-hour Workweeks

Woah, where did February go?!

There’s only 15 more days until the LA Marathon. Good news is that I wrapped up my fundraising. I can’t believe that I was able to reach the $1,000 fundraising requirement. Honestly, that seemed more out of reach than the actual 26.2 miles! Special thanks to the landslide of friends who helped me reach that goal. It means a lot to me to think that you believe in my abilities enough to sink some cash to help out disadvantaged women in Los Angeles reach their career goals.

Speaking of career goals and running and the like…I’ve only logged, like, a handful of runs from January until now. I think it’s a single digit number. That can spell trouble BUT I’m confident that I’ll still be able to finish within the 8-hour time limit. Lately I’ve been telling myself that running marathons is more of a mental feat than it is a physical one. After all, my last marathon was more brains than brawn. I mean, even when the hallucinations started settling in I kept pushing, not because my muscles could but because I told my brain to keep on going.

My days have been insanely long. When you work for yourself, you work an insane amount of hours. Combine that with working for tech startups (more than one) at one time, under different length contracts, and don’t be surprised if your calendar explodes before your very eyes. I can barely remember the month of February and it’s already gone. Insane! On some days I was clocking 20 hours a day of straight UX/design work. On other days I was pulling 12 hour days at school. On others I was working 7-8 hours at my clinical internship. I barely had time to sleep but thankfully I was so stressed out and so pumped with adrenaline and cortisone (yay stress hormones!) that I could barely stay asleep anyways. My dreams were a cross of anatomy review and design iterations. Seems a bit nutty to combine the two.

Despite the two divergent paths I’m finding a lot of harmony between the two fields. A lot of my design feels a bit more inspired now that I’m returning to my healing roots. It seems like an unlikely combination — sort of like chicken and waffles — but they go surprisingly well together. Nature has always inspired my work, in such a way that a weekend camping trip to the great outdoors can renew my perspective just as much as a two-hour tough-as-nails deep tissue massage does. It’s fascinating that the human body has been built with the capacity to self heal, and that all of the answers are right in front of us…it is a matter of re-presenting the problem to the body so that nature can present the solution. Something that I learned this week that was absolutely fascinating was that during cramping, short effleurage from tendons to the muscle belly helps reset the proprioceptors and relieve cramping. So instead of gripping, digging, ignoring, etc., something as simple as light massage can make it go away.

Something that has also came to me while drilling through a few 20-hour workdays this week…if I can’t take a 20 hour day, 15 hour day, 12 hour day, 8 hour marathon…then I won’t be able to take on the Ironman! So I better get used to these long days, because 140.6 miles is a long way to go while complaining. The mental exercise is exhausting. UX design isn’t easy and requires a lot of mental energy, but it’s worth it, much in the same way that running 26.2 or racing triathlons is tough on the body. The journey is worth it!

Anyways, with 4 days left until the big 2-8…I’d have to say that I definitely squeezed the life out of 27. Started running, resolved to take a vacation, flew to Europe for the ultimate running vacation, switching careers — it’s all a day in the life, right? Sometimes when you’re down in the trenches, it’s miserable and awful and all you feel like doing is complaining and crying. I’ve had so much emotional support this last month from my boyfriend, BFFs, running buddies, and more that it’s hard to put into words. I’m looking forward to what my next year has to bring. Definitely less races but they’ll definitely be more meaningful. Still incredibly antsy about the 70.3 but I think that after the LA Marathon I will be able to re-shift my focus back on some more balanced training. I just need to get better at balancing my energy, not my time…because clearly, I’m a time-management master!

My Christmas Wish List for 2011

A lot of people talk about the things they want for Christmas. Nothing’s wrong with wanting stuff for Christmas, I suppose. However, what people usually don’t talk about are some of the more obvious needs of the people around them for the holidays.

For me, Christmas is more like Thanksgiving…it’s more of a time to reflect on all of the year’s changes. It’s also a time to give thanks and to pay it forward. So, my Christmas wish list is rather short —

  1. I want everyone I know to donate at least $10 to my Dress for Success fundraiser. Everyone who donates from me will receive a wonderful thank-you gift in the mail. (Just make sure to send me your mailing address.)
  2. If you aren’t doing something you love, I hope you vow to change it in 2012. Your life is too short (and precious) to waste it on something you aren’t passionate about.
That pretty much concludes it. If you get me a physical gift without actually donating to my cause, I might cry a little. On the inside.

Fitness Friday: Someone Busier Than You Is Running Right Now

Getting started with a running program can be challenging, especially for people who is strapped for time.

However, something you have to realize is that everyone has a busy life, a demanding family, and lots of time commitments. However, what separates runners from non-runners is that a runner makes the time for them.

Health and fitness is important to your well being. No one should have to remind you that you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else’s problems, whether it’s at work or at home. Take control of your life and tell yourself that you’re worth 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour today.

Give yourself a fighting chance to be the person you want to be — healthy, happy, and full of life.

What I find most promising is my charity training team — Team Dress for Success. We’re all working towards finishing the LA Marathon in 2012 all the while fundraising $1,000 along the way. It’s no small feat but the rewards are indescribable. I was gone for a few weeks and everyone trained on their own. I shot off an email last night and already, people who signed up for the team never having ran a mile in their lives are now up to 8 or 9 miles in their training.

I’m so proud of them. They made a commitment and are seeing it all of the way through. These people have time commitments that could undermine their training and fitness regimen. However, they decide to prioritize their needs so that they can better serve others. So inspirational!

What are you so busy doing that you haven’t made time for yourself yet? Let me know below. I’ll probably be able to help you rationalize yourself out of your excuse!

 

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Who Dares to Brave the Stiletto Dash?

At this weekend’s Zappos Rock n Roll Marathon weekend, they hosted a few other events…including their very own Stiletto Dash!

 

The Stiletto Dash was a 50-yard race in (a minimum of) 3 inch heels on a fancy red carpet. Dashers sprinted through The Palazzo‘s Casino and raised money for charity while racing for a purse prize of $5,000! Amazing idea. (I hope no one got hurt.)

I passed by the event while on my way to the Rock n Roll Marathon expo on Saturday to pick up my swag bag, bib, and check out some cool vendors. Check out my video of the dash below!

Would you ever participate in a stiletto dash?