Race Recap: Rock n Roll San Francisco Half Marathon 2017

Stop #3: Sam Clams Disco!

I can’t believe I hadn’t done this race sooner. What took me so long to do a race in northern California? I’ve gone up the coast for plenty of work trips, but very rarely for fun trips. Such a travesty…I’ve seen so much under the guise of work, but this was the one trip where it all came together nicely.

We escaped the blizzard (again) and caught up with some friends, old and new. After packet pickup, I met with a friend that I hadn’t seen in years. In fact, the last time I sat in the same room with him I had just started running and had registered for the Athens Classic Marathon. He was incredibly supportive of my running endeavors. (Yes, it’d been that long!) We then met up with another very close friend who just relocated there from Seattle and enjoyed a day around the city before resting our legs for the big race.

We lucked out the morning of the race. We were staying with a friend who was also a runner, and he was kind enough to drive us to the start line. This particular race was much smaller than the other Rock n Roll races I’ve done in the past. It also started much earlier, at 6:15am, which I assume is because of the road closures and potential impact on the city.

There were few bands on the early part of the course until almost the end. It didn’t get too interesting until after the Golden Gate bridge, which meant we were out of the residential areas. It made complete sense since the race started so early anyways. However, the course itself was very scenic, so it made up for the lack of bands. I also noticed that there were parts of the course at the beginning and the end where the course would split and merge, probably because I’m a back of packer and due to the race cutoff times.

My favorite part of the race was definitely the Golden Gate bridge, the weather, and the views of the coast. I enjoyed running into the city and all the sightseeing we did afterwards. It was a nice change of pace. My favorite part was posing with our finisher medals in front of the cable car turnaround!

Overall, it was great seeing my friends again, and seeing a familiar city in a new light. I’m really looking forward to our next race…Nashville!

Race Recap: Disney World Dopey Challenge 2017

Ahhhh — For once, I’ve finally arrived at my A-race intact! Not only that, I’ve also followed my entire training plan. This entire training season has been quite the ride, and it would turn out that race weekend would still have a few tricks up its sleeve…Only in Florida.

Packing and preparation

Preparation for a 4-day race was no easy feat. It turned out that this was almost more complicated than packing for an out-of-state triathlon. 4 sets of running clothes, contingency cold and hot weather running gear, race nutrition, toiletries, first aid kits, recovery items, theme park gear…you name it, we packed it. However, since I was flying Frontier Airlines, all I got was one carry on bag. I had to make it count. I also only packed one mini-costume, which was just a tutu (see below). If I actually had legit costumes, I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off at all.

It starts off with lots of quart-sized plastic baggies, and rolling clothes into them. And then rolling those bags until all the air is out of them. And then you repeat over and over until everything fits.

And that’s how you get a week’s worth of running gear into a single rolling carry-on suitcase!

Race expo

Not too much to see here – I picked up a bunch of swag since this was my A-race, and stood in a bunch of lines. This was an excellent primer for what I had in store for the rest of my week. (Just more lines.)

Race corrals and fireworks galore!

So, the thing with Disney races is that you have to get up insanely early. The races begin at 5am or so. The resort shuttles begin at 2:30am, and the last one you can hop to make it on time is 3:30am (or so). Sometimes, you’ll also stand around and wait for races longer than the actual running time too. For instance, I stood around about 2 hours for the 5K (from the time I got off the bus until I began running), even though the 5K took me about 40-something minutes. Ridiculous, yes, but I still did it.

Anywho, the pre-race festivities are somewhat mandatory – they lock you out of the corrals if you don’t show up by a certain time anyways, so it’s in your best interest to show up to drink the kool aid. There’s plenty of entertainment (DJs, announcers, characters) and other runners to keep you company, so it’s not exactly boring. It can get chilly though. This year I noticed that they actually had coffee/food tents, something that I’ve neglected to notice at other runDisney events. Maybe I was always too nervous at past events to pay attention. Downing coffee and/or hot cocoa meant a lot of porta-potty stops for the longer distances but it was worth the sacrifice.

What they also had were character photo stops. The lines were really long for them (probably 150-200 runners for each character?) so Erik and I tried to selfie one with Dopey. Luckily he was playing along…

Also, the start of each race begins with lots of fireworks. I wonder what it’s like to work as a pyrotechnic for Disney. It must be really fun to design these shows. The runners don’t all begin at once – since there are so many of them, we run in waves. I’m slower, so I’m one of the last waves. For the 5K, Erik actually finished right before I began my run. For the 10K I think he finished right when I started too. Anyways, here’s some of my footage of the fanfare.

The 5K (3.1 miles)

I used the 5K as a warmup. Technically this was a fun run since it was untimed for everyone else. For Dopey runners, we were still held to our time limit. It was great seeing everyone out there running through the parks — people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, all having a great time.

After I collected my bling, I got washed up and headed out to Hollywood Studios. I had a full day out at the park to shake out my legs!

The 10K (6.2 miles)

This morning was incredibly humid. It was significantly warmer and wetter than the day before. I regretted wearing my base layer about a mile into my run. Here, I was maybe three miles in and the sun began gleaming down on me.

I make my way to the Epcot parking lot again, where it smells like overturned porta-potties and rotten eggs. However, based on the smiles of these dudes on stilts, they probably don’t smell it, so I stop to take a quick picture with them before scuttling on my way.

I keep running and somehow I end up in a fake Chinatown. Huh?

Golden hour is still upon us. But, flame-y fire torch-y thing!

Mile marker with childhood heroine who loved reading books? Yes please!

Photos of the boardwalk. It’s so hot that I wish I could just swim to the other side. However, this is a duathlon or a triathlon so swimming doesn’t count and is probably frowned upon. I continue running.

The finish line is at the Epcot parking lot. That’s why I keep checking in to a parking lot on Facebook. However, I see Spaceship Earth. It’s so close! When do you think it’ll take off for outer space?

I whipped out my phone for this picture. I also took it while running so that I wouldn’t knock anyone down. Stopping at the finish line abruptly is rude and unsafe (and you’ll find out why here pretty soon).

Ta-da! New shiny bling for 6.2 more miles!

The Half Marathon (13.1 miles)

This was the dramatic morning that struck the entire running community. The dreaded cancelled race. Thunderstorms rolled in through the night and the morning so Disney did the right thing and pulled the plug. They even gave refunds, race transfers, and some other optional concessions, which I thought was awfully generous. I didn’t mind the cancellation — I mean, I would’ve preferred to run the race. I paid for it. However, I did not pay to risk getting struck by lightning while running. According to the route and timing of the storms, it would’ve happened just around the time my corral hit mile 8 or 9 anyways. So, in the face of the cancellation, most of the Dopeys in the Facebook group did what any other runners would’ve done when faced with news they didn’t want to hear…

They channeled their inner Jyn Erso and rebelled!

Some even went as far as to call it the Inaugural Grumpy Challenge. Hilarious! (5K + 10K + 26.2)

Some people opted for outside runs (still) around different resorts. While that sounded tempting, I opted for an indoor treadmill run. Not sexy, and definitely not as fun. I spent six months training for Dopey on a treadmill. I didn’t foresee having to do any part of my Dopey Challenge on a treadmill, but here we were. At least I got a good pre-finish line (????) picture at my hotel.

This is technically my finish line photo. Notice my slump. This is what 13.1 miles on a treadmill does to your posture and morale.

What’s not pictured here is the luscious hot tub soak I enjoyed after my run. 🙂

The Marathon (26.2 miles)

The marathon was a beast. I was still shaking off the disappointment of my training marathon a few weeks prior. However, the conditions this particular morning were different, and for the better. Rather than being too warm, it was too cold. For some reason, Orlando finally decided to participate in winter, and this was day 2 (the day before was day 1). It was in the high 30s, and I had thankfully packed enough cold weather gear to make it bearable. I had enough rest and sleep for this race, unlike my training marathon when I was stacked with work/training and very little sleep.

As I lined up in my corral I noticed a Galloway run/walk pacer group and settled in nearby. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to try anything new on race day. Was following a pacer going to count as something new? Traditionally I never really have a strategy for races. I tend to trot along until I get tired. I then walk a bit to recover, and then I begin trotting again. I continue until I’m a mile or two out from the finish. I then “empty the tank” (as my coach used to tell me). I’ll take in some Gu/Clif gels, about one an hour, generally caffeinated ones. If there is Gatorade or Powerade, I’ll stop for it at the aid stations. However, I’ll always carry a Camelbak of water with me.

After some quick (sometimes extemporaneous) cost/benefit analyses, I went ahead with some of these new things on race day.

So, what were some of the things I did that were completely new on race day?
-Well, I wore that new Mickey beanie for the first time that day. (The trade off was cold ears, and honestly, the risk was minimal.)
-I joined the run/walk/run group and did :15/:30 intervals for the first time in my life. (Turns out it was awesome and I’m a convert!)
-I ate two whole bananas on the race course. (Not in succession, but I also never eat solid food on a race. It turns out that I can run after eat a banana, so long that I don’t run at an all-out speed and if I keep the :15/:30 pace.)
-I ran with my tutu for the first time. (I didn’t order it in time to practice with it.)
-I ran with my hat for the first time. (Same deal as above)
-I ran with my purple shirt for the first time. (Same…I know! I know!! Bad!!! Seriously…and on a 26.2 too! I really wanted to wear Dopey colors for the marathon and just ran out of time.)

Those ended up being the only two photos I snapped during the marathon. I was so exhausted. Somewhere after Animal Kingdom and before ESPN Wide World of Sports, there was a hairpin turn and cutoff point where the course turned on itself. I could see the sweeper buses and the fabled balloon ladies. I saw race security and buses close in on some people behind the balloon ladies and bikers. Those racers looked devastated. It must’ve been 5-7 miles in to the marathon already. Some of them were crying. I would be too, to see my race cut short. It definitely wasn’t for lack of trying. Everyone’s got a different story as to why they get swept. I’m not one to judge. I’ve finished dead last at a race before. I’ve never been swept but I know what it’s like to be last, and what it’s like to be tailed by security. Obvious news flash: It sucks.

Also, remember earlier how I  mentioned that stopping abruptly at the finish line could be dangerous? I almost railroaded this guy who jumped in front of me and then struck a pose for his photo finish:

I think I’ve made a pact with myself that when and if someone ever gets in my way again I’m going to make awesome faces and gestures at the camera. That way, it’s just as much my photo as it is theirs.

Anyways, back to my marathon. After 2 bathroom stops, 2 eaten bananas, and dozens of Gatorade stops, I finally reached the finish line. Do you know what it takes to run a marathon with me? Apparently it takes running it 15 seconds at a time, over and over again, until you have to stop for the bathroom. And then you start again, running it 15 seconds at a time, until you get to the finish line. What happened when I ran my marathon 15 seconds at a time was that I cut off an hour and 15 minutes from my previous marathon time. I mean, really???? My feet weren’t burning like they were in Dallas, I wasn’t demoralized, my legs didn’t feel like lead, and my time was better. This was something new I could get behind.

I was fairly elated at the finish line given my new finish time. This was now my 2nd best marathon time, which doesn’t say much given that this is my 4th marathon and two of them ended catastrophically with me in tears. However, this one was a joyous occasion, and in the few times I was almost brought to tears on the course, it was for happy reasons only. No sadness allowed!

The aftermath

Every mile is indeed magic here, and they never let you forget it. Erik met with me after the finish line. We struck a quick pose before carrying our stiff legs aboard our bus back to the resort.

From there, we snapped some quick photos next to the giant floppy disk by the pool of our snazzy medals. So many medals!

I laid in the tub for awhile. I brought along some suds and salts and enjoyed a hot bath for what felt like an hour. I also ate my tortilla chips and cheese thing in the tub and I didn’t care about anything because I was too tired to care. I’m pretty sure I heard Erik snoring all the way from the tub. By the time the evening rolled around, we boarded a shuttle to Disney Springs for dinner. First, we stopped by Starbucks for a quick refreshment, and I treated myself to my usual long run treat: a venti (in this case, a trenta) Very Berry Hibiscus! (Along with a sammich, since I was ravenous.)

Now what?

Well, with Dopey under my belt, I’m pretty happy with my progress. I’d say I’ve bounced back from my injuries in 2014 pretty well. It seemed like 2015 was rehabilitative and 2016 was reconditioning. Hopefully I can get in some really good training in 2017!

A few days after Dopey, I emailed my Disney travel agent and asked her when registration was going to open up for 2018. It looks like we’ll be going back next year! We have a small Dopey in our home as a reminder.

Until Dopey 2018, I’ll be working on getting into the Rock n Roll Marathon Series Hall of Fame.

That means I need to run a mix of 15 half or full marathons during the 2017 calendar year. I’ll be using them as training runs for Dopey but I’m really still trying to figure out what kind of goals to set for 2017 outside of just finishing the races.

The Dopey Challenge was really special to me — it took a lot for me to accomplish it, despite all of the difficulties and setbacks I had. I look back on my journey and all of the other major A-races I’ve trained for — Athens, Louisville (that eventually became Palm Springs), and now Dopey — and I would say that this completely dismantles Athens. This may even dismantle Palm Springs. It would take something by orders of magnitude to exceed this experience. I’m really looking forward to Dopey next year.

On to the next challenge (whenever I figure out what that is)!

2016 Retrospective: The Best Thing I Ever Did Was Believe In Myself

2016 was an interesting year, one full of ups and downs. It was filled with lots of love and accomplishments. There were a few low points, but they certainly don’t overshadow all of the high points. I’m grateful to have been able to share my happy moments with my husband, my friends, my parents (when things were still going well), and my students!

Running-related victories:

  • Ran 9 races (2 10Ks, 6 half marathons, 1 full marathon)
  • Ran my highest-elevation half marathon
  • Ran my first Disney Coast-to-Coast challenge
  • Registered for my most challenging race to date
  • Stuck with a 26-week training plan (I’ve always fizzled out early)
  • Completed every long run in my training plan (I’ve always skipped a few here and there)
  • Ran 567.1 miles (122.1 miles in 2015, 234.5 in 2014, 454.9 in 2013, 495.4 in 2012, 962.6 in 2011)

Life-related victories:

  • I fulfilled a lifelong dream of teaching
  • I fulfilled a lifelong dream of finishing grad school
  • I got married
  • The Star Wars Force Band launched
  • Amazon Go launched
  • I found myself back at Amazon
  • I established boundaries in my personal and professional life
  • Taught my best friend how to ski down the bunny hill

Some low points:

  • My resignation from Sphero
  • The passing of my uncle
  • A (hopefully) temporary fissure in my relationship with my parents

In the midst of the good and the bad, I’m hopeful for the new year. I have a lot of opportunities ahead to get involved in bigger-picture initiatives at the university and in the community. I look forward to applying my skill sets across teams at work. I’m excited to get my friends out here to Colorado to visit me (and my students, when they’re in school). I’m excited for our Rock n Roll Marathon Series tour next year (15 stops!). It’s going to be a good one.

My 2017 running resolutions:

  1. Get a running coach
  2. Run in least two race costumes
  3. Run three marathons
  4. Snap four photos per race (one being a selfie!)
  5. Run the year I’m in – focus on what I can do better in 2017 by building from my Disney World races, rather than my previous years’ races
  6. Get into the Rock n Roll Marathon Series hall of fame! (by finishing at least 15 races)

I found four athletes most inspirational this year:

#4: Joseph Schooling, the Singaporean swimmer who beat Michael Phelps, his childhood idol. Amazing.

#3. Almaz Ayana, the woman who broke the world record for a <30 minute 10K. Breathtaking.

#2. Morolake Akinosun, the woman who stopped at nothing to achieve her dream. Stunning.

#1. Erik Hulslander, my husband. He overcame his demons, survived a stroke, pulled a 4.0 GPA, and still managed to train for the Dopey Challenge. The love of my life.

So, on that note, let’s give 2017 a run for its money —

Week 18-24 Dopey Challenge: Too Busy to Blog

I’ve been meaning to update but my schedule has been rough! Teaching four nights a week has taken more of a toll on my work/rest/training schedule than I thought it would. Disruptive current events have also taken a toll on family life, and I needed some time to re-calibrate. I’ve also had some work travel thrown into the minestrone. I’m trying to keep it all together, which has been an interesting challenge but certainly not something I would wish on my worst enemy! The month or so I’ve been gone, I’ve also been fighting some sort of cold. It’s finally cleared up last week with the help of antibiotics, but being down for 30+ days through a grueling work/teaching schedule with a heaping of marathon miles certainly didn’t help.

So, what’s my training schedule been like? The short recovery weeks have been 45 minutes-45 minutes-6 or 7 mile runs. The long weeks are Dopey simulations: there is a short run on Friday, a 10+ run on Saturday, and a 20+ run on Sunday. These weeks are the harshest.

For these Dopey simulations, we’ve taken those runs outdoors. Erik was a little luckier that he had a cross country team where he got some outdoor runs in. I did most of my runs inside for a number of reasons of which I won’t go into here. However, with our first Dopey simulation, we plotted some routes to see how we could get in those challenging miles without hogging the treadmill all weekend long.

On the Dopey simulation Saturday long run, we ran around Sloan Lake, which is a small 2.5-mile loop here in Denver. It’s a paved path and has lots of foot traffic. The next day, Erik had a race near Bear Creek, which was roughly 20 miles away from home. He decided to run the race and then run the entire way home. After I dropped him off, I drove myself to Sloan Lake to run around the lake until I got my 20 miles in.

On the second Dopey simulation, we had a little more struggle. It was a 13 mile + 23 mile weekend. Our first one went fine, but the 23 mile one was difficult. Erik did not eat nearly enough the day before after our 13-miler, which affected him very badly near the end of his 23-miler. Luckily we weren’t too far from one another when I saw him “Caspering” (wobbling back and forth on the footpath, pale as a ghost). I gave him some of my gels (he finished his) and gave him some water (he was out of his!) and we headed home. I still had 7 or 8 miles left to go, but I figured I could get him home safely and get him eating and then get the rest of the miles done on the treadmill. So, the 23 mile run for me was not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but I got the miles in and it hurt like any other long run.

This weekend I’m coming up on another Dopey simulation: 2 45-minutes, a 5-miler, a 13-miler, and then a 26-miler. It’s freezing cold and snowing here in Denver as I predicted it would many many months ago, so thankfully we have tickets out of town to run back-to-back races in Dallas. It’s also a big weekend for me since it’s our first wedding anniversary, and Rogue One is also coming out. So three big things in the span of seven days. My legs may just fall off. Overall it’s a very, very special weekend for me!

There’s about three weeks left to go until Dopey. I still can’t believe I’ve managed to mostly stick to the training plan. At 3-4 runs a week, I suppose it’s pretty hard to fall off. I’ve began to plan my race schedule for next year. I’m looking at maybe two marathons next year – one in June and one in December. I think I can manage it if I repurpose some of these low-mileage training plans. I was interested in a 50K but that one falls around Thanksgiving in Seattle. I suppose I can play that one by ear, since that’s an extra race registration that I’d have to pay for in addition to my Rock n Roll Global Tour Pass. It seems like I’m really going to get great use out of it next year. Erik and I may potentially go for 10 races. The Hall of Fame requires 15 but I have no clue how I could work it into my schedule and still leave some races for a future calendar.

Here are some photos from the last 7 weeks. Apparently I’ve been gone a long time!

My mantra for the upcoming weekend:

Week 16+17 Dopey Challenge: Push A Little Harder

Week 16 was a tough one: 45 minute + 45 minute + 7 mile + 17 mile training runs. This was also the week where I began incorporating some strength training into my routine. I tried to keep it not interruptive as possible to my running routine. I toyed around with a few ideas — maybe I could go to some classes at 24 (I have a lifetime membership), use one of the million apps that I subscribe to, or look up some workouts. I took the latter approach and found an app to simply log my reps.

App: Simple Lift Log. I chose it because it syncs easily with RunKeeper.

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sll-pngSo it’s pretty simple: you put in the name of your exercise. If it matches with something in its database, it’ll even give you a figure and highlight what part of the body you’re working out. You add the weight and reps and sets. Rinse and repeat. Post to RunKeeper. And you’re done! You can easily create new workouts and copy old ones for new days. Easy peasy.

(Not a screenshot from my actual workout!)

So far, I’ve made it three workouts deep in the last two weeks. Three is more than zero, so I count it as a win! This seems to be the least overwhelming for me given all of the options I’ve looked at and have subscribed to. I’ve paid for FitStar and for Runtivity. For some reason they both feel like they require such a high level of commitment from me. I’m already maxed out on my commitment to the Dopey Challenge and to teaching and to sleeping. I don’t know if I can spare any more.

Anywho, based on just the few sessions that I had, I already felt much more stronger during my long run (aka the Rock n Roll Denver Half Marathon) on Sunday October 16th. Yeah, I only had two sessions but it reminded me of a time when I strength trained with my last coached and shaved something like 15 minutes off of my half marathon time. I didn’t even do any extra running. Just strength training. Soooooooo, fingers crossed that I can replicate some sort of wild success like that again in the future.

Running training only, no strength training – RNR Las Vegas 2012
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No change in running training + added strength training – RNR Arizona 2013

Anyways, I digress. Back to week 16 and 17.

Week 16 went well. In addition to strength training, the runs went pretty smoothly. My 7 mile run was outdoors…yay! Erik was running a 10k that day, so I took that opportunity to run outside during his race. It was a nice morning in Broomfield. On my route I encountered only one or two creepers I think, but otherwise it was a pleasant morning. I didn’t put enough sunscreen on, and it reminded me that I should wear my running hats more often. At the end of my run I giggled a bit since I accidentally drew an E. Or maybe I subconsciously did it. Who knows?

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Afterwards, we headed to packet pickup! Rock n Roll races are always fun. I’ve missed running them. I look forward to a lot more of them in the near future. We got to walk around the expo a bit before we realized that this was our first legitimate home race in Colorado…no traveling, no packing. Just leisure!

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The start line was just a few blocks from my apartment. We didn’t have to wake up insanely early. It was quite literally going to be a normal training run for us. I kept with my usual routine of prepping all of my stuff the night before. Really, the worst thing is having to scramble around in the morning. As a homage to my RNR roots I decided to wear the shirt from my first ever RNR race, which was subsequently my half marathon PR time that I’ve never quite hit ever again.

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The walk over to the start line was quite short. The corrals were easy to pop in and out of. It was a bit chilly but I knew that it would warm up not too long after the race started. The fall colors have already been changing, so the scenery was quite nice. The course winded through the downtown corridor for a significant chunk of the beginning, which I found to be quite nice, despite a lot of the uneven terrain and rail tracks.

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The course was tough, most likely because running at elevation is still quite hard for me. There were mini-hills — or what I considered mini-hills. Temperatures fluctuated a bit, depending where you were on the course. The last portion of the race ran through City Park, which was absolutely gorgeous. The course was notably festive, and it looked like everyone was having a great time. Somewhere around mile 10 or 11 I decide to book it and not look back, and it seems as though my splits reflected that.

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My goal was to break 3 hours, which was something I struggled with immensely at the Jackson Hole Half Marathon. I’m happy to say that I was able to do that here!

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It was the best time I’ve had on record since the Rock ‘n Roll Portland race in May 2013. That time was 2:36:58. Sure, quite a ways off from 2:59:29, but after PDX I had to deal with things like wisdom teeth surgery and potentially popping sutures in my mouth, breaking my leg, breaking my foot, tendinitis, and probably something else that I forgot.

A few decent finish line photos:

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All I can remember is how tired I was.

Week 17 was the start of non-short short weeks, meaning that my weekend run would no longer be 3 miles but would be double or more. So, my short week now looked something like 45 minute + 45 minute + 5 miles. It didn’t break the bank but I went beyond it by a little bit. The two days on my own were pretty easily.

With work being pretty flexible, I headed out to visit my folks in CA for the weekend. My parents are pretty active now, so we hit the gym together a few days. On my first day with them I ran my 5 mile without much of an issue.

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(Now imagine if I could keep up that pace, I could run a 2:41:47 half marathon!)

The next day I decided to go a bit longer with strength training, something that I had not quite done before. I used my run as a warmup so I stuck to 30 minutes, which I ran at an easy pace. I then proceeded to complete a 1 hour strength training set.

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All in all, two solid weeks of training! I’m quite happy with how things are going. Now to get a good night’s sleep so that I can set the stage to slog out another good week or two…

And with that, my mantra for the upcoming week(s):

push-harder

Happy training!

Week 14+15 Dopey Challenge: Train Like a Survivor

Where do I even begin?

Week 14+15 started with a quick run in Bear Creek Lake Park here in Denver. It was a quick extra run that I did while Erik was racing with his cross country team. Why have I waited so long to do any trail running here in Denver?

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Oh right. Women getting kidnapped and killed while running all alone while on trails. For now, the mile or so was really nice. I also figured it was a Sunday morning and there were so many people here at the park. I wish that I could find a running buddy who runs my pace (10:30-12:30 min/mile) who would like to run with me. Maybe one of these days.

(I also did some trail running when I lived in LA. I ran into a secluded area and ended up seeing a coyote and it saw me. Ever since then I stopped running trails.)

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That evening, I boarded a plane and headed to Seattle to start my job at Amazon for the second first time! It was great being back in Seattle for the week.

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Although I didn’t get any outdoor miles in during the week, I ran a few races during the weekend. The bad news was that I had to complete my 5 mile + 15 mile back-to-back weekend runs during the same week. This was the beginning of the alternate long training weeks. The pain is coming. We can see it in our training calendars. From here on out it just gets worse.

Week 14 started with a work trip. It was my first week back at Amazon. I had to pack for quite a few things — an intensive training week, 5 days of work, as many on-the-go meals as I could squeeze in, and a friend’s wedding. All of this had to fit into one carry-on because I was too impatient to check in luggage.

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In the mornings I tried to squeeze in some workouts. I would try to make breakfast in my hotel rooms. Sometimes I would be successful, and other times I would run out of time and have to jet. Sometimes those breakfasts became lunches, and sometimes I’d forget to also eat lunch and become ravenous at dinner. By the time Thursday rolled around I began consuming more oatmeal and carby meals so that I could top off my stores.

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I accidentally left my bus pass at home and opted to hold off on buying one. My mornings were fairly hectic so I ended up taking a lyft to work anyways, but in the evenings I would walk back to my hotel. It was great being able to get some actual walking in, on top of my training. It’s a luxury that was not afforded to me with my commute to Boulder each morning. The views were great and I was finally able to keep up with the weekday challenges that I initiate.

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I was really good at incorporating strength training into my routine during that week using FitStar. (The week I got back, not so much. I think I was way too tired and sore from all of the miles…excuses!) Working out in my hotel room is kind of nice because it eliminates that embarrassing factor of working out in front of people, doing moves that make you a bit clownish and sheepish. The only thing that possibly makes me meek is making enough of a ruckus to annoy or wake up the person on the floor beneath me.

My work week was really nice. I really enjoyed being back in the city again. It reminded me of all of my training fiascos and all of the things I got caught up in when I last lived there. If I had more time, I would’ve done more running outside rather than using the hotel treadmills. Alas, that’s what the weekend was for.

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By the time the weekend rolled around, I left the comforts of my lovely downtown hotel to a dumpy motel in Tukwila. In hindsight, I should’ve sprung for a nicer place, especially because of the two races I was running. Friday night consisted of a dinner with a friend, along with shuttling my stuff via lyft to the airport car rental place to pick up a car, to then drive to said dumpy motel. I was checked in quite rudely and walked in to one of the scariest motel rooms I’d ever stayed in. I’d rather not remember it so I won’t bother writing about it.

The next morning I grabbed some breakfast from the lobby and then drove up to Bellingham for my 10K. The run was a fundraiser for a local chapter of Run Like a Girl. I had a friend years ago who was a volunteer coach for this organization in LA, and I had looked into being a coach or running companion at the local chapter here in Denver. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out with my work and teaching schedule. I showed up on race day to a park in Bellingham, an hour and a half north of Seattle. It was a nice overcast Pacific Northwest morning…perfect running weather, as usual. I had chosen my pink running base layer as my pullover of choice. I hadn’t realized that pink would be the race color of choice, so I ended up fitting in quite well. The race was beautiful since half of it ran through trails. I was slightly terrified — okay, very terrified — because of my overall clumsiness. I was extra judicious and watched every single step and looked at how every single person in front of me hop-skipped the roots and rocks ahead of me. The trail reminded me a lot of Rattlesnake Trail. I ended up slowing down quite a bit. I nixed my plan to take pictures, even though it was an absolutely stunning race, just to make sure that I wouldn’t injure myself over any of the unstable wet soil, rocks, or roots. The ones that I did manage though, I snapped in some safe areas:

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My time wasn’t great but hey, I finished and I didn’t injure my ankles. A win!

Afterwards I head back to my hotel to get cleaned up for my friend’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony. I then headed over to have dinner with my in-laws. I left a little later than anticipated and took a wrong turn back to the hotel and almost died. Since I don’t really want to recount the whole incident here, I’ll just post the screenshot from my Facebook post that night:

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Here were some screenshots of the traffic reports I found that night:

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On Sunday, I had my 15 mile training run. I headed south to University Place to a place called Chambers Bay for a half marathon. It was my second time running the Sporty Diva’s half marathon. The morning was a bit rough given the events from the evening more. I really felt like canceling but I figured that I could always cut my run short. I also knew it was a bad idea to cut my run short since my long training runs were crucial to my Dopey Challenge training…48.6 miles is a long way to go in January. When I’m out there, I’ll be glad that I did all of my training.

As usual, the scenery was beautiful. The 15 miles though, were treacherous. The first 14 were acceptable. Between mile 14 and 15 I was especially mopey and tired. My feet felt like they were on fire. Somehow I was walking on coals. Those arches were on firrrrrrrreeeee. I need to get a handle on it. I tried to focus on my surroundings but no, the fire was too distracting. Nonetheless I finished out my 15 miles exactly — no more, no less.

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Yes, look at those hills!

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I did take a screenshot of when I finished my 13.1, just so that I could log my race time:

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Week 15 wasn’t bad either. The light weeks are 45 minutes + 45 minutes + 3 miles. I took a cue from my tired legs and feet…and I thought to get some more training time. I don’t want to overdo it and go beyond my training too much, but perhaps my light training is too light? So, when I can, I try to bump up my short runs to 5 miles. If I want to add in strength training, then I’ll keep my runs around 3-4 miles. I’m into my second week and so far it’s not so bad.

Another thing I’ve found motivating for training: I got my blood lipid panel back, and my cholesterol has risen 25% in the last 2 years. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but at this point it’s been ebbing and flowing over the last 10 years.

Again…it’s been busy! Well, week 14 and 15 are done and in the books.

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Dopey Challenge Week 10+11+12+13: One Foot In Front Of The Other

Aside from racing — well, faux racing, since I’m considering them training runs — the last month of training has been going okay. I tend to have hiccups during my rest weeks because I deem them to be less serious training weeks. I need to stop doing that.

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Week 9 doldrums: I skipped my last 3 mile run. That was the day I officially resigned from work. I came back home from my goodbye lunch in a pretty dumpy mood, and my best friend came into town to visit. Her timing was great, but life timing was pretty demoralizing in terms of training. It was an easy 3-miler and honestly, it wouldn’t have taken much effort. We probably walked that much that weekend anyways.

Week 11 conundrum: I twisted my right ankle at the end of week 10 and my left ankle at the beginning of week 11. Towards the end of the week I was in Seattle for my interview. My ankles had rehabbed enough where I could walk around with ankle supports, and do my training at least on ellipticals. I also happened to forget my running shoes, which really bummed me out since I was staying at a hotel with a workout room. Ugh! Erik was pretty worried about my ankle anyways since walking around town was rough on me, so I stuck to the recumbent bike. It worked glute muscles that I forgot I had since my triathlon training days. On the bike I romanced the idea of getting back into tris again. Being in Seattle also contributed to that I think.

Week 13 stoicism: After having cut my half marathon short by accident, and with my time off coming to an end, I’ve found myself in a more reflective and downtrodden mood. There’s been a lot of change in my life over the last year — some good, some bad — and it’s been a lot to process. Over the last few days I’ve also lost my first rescue cat, Stewie. He was put to sleep due to multiple organ failure. It came on pretty suddenly. I had learned about his health decline on Tuesday, and since then my week has been pretty ho hum. I ran a 10K on Thursday before calling the vet to go over his lab results, which was double the time and distance my training plan called for. I mostly wanted to keep running so that I could put off the inevitable, but I knew that there was no escaping it.

Good and bad times, they all come to an end. I’ve spent some quality time decompressing over the last four weeks, taking care of myself. I’ve also spent it injuring myself and rehabbing my injuries. My rescue’s death is too recent and I’m still comprehending it. In searching for old photos of him I’ve come across a lot of old photos of myself during my early running and racing days. It was an interesting stroll down memory lane.

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The theme of the season still remains, though — I will continue racing to raise money for Best Friends Animal Society. I suppose now there is even more meaning to why I run. I didn’t rescue Stewie from an official charity or sanctuary. I found him in an abandoned, unused barbeque grill in my then-boyfriend’s backyard. He was cute and small and hungry so I took him to the vet for some shots and a flea bath, got him a collar, and brought him home when my parents weren’t around. My parents eventually returned from their trip abroad — they were spending time with my ailing grandmother, who had passed during their trip unfortunately. My parents took Stewie in as their own and as they moved, he moved with them. They stayed together when I moved back into the city for work, and eventually away to Seattle and then to Denver.

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I obviously continued adopting other cats but Stewie was always my first true (feline) love. I’ll miss him lots. In a sense, I grew up with him: I graduated college with him, got my first “big girl” job with him. He was around when my family went through some very rough times. He was there for my dad quite a bit. Some people say that cats are heartless, but I’m not particularly convinced they know what they are talking about. They certainly haven’t met my cats at least.

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As a natural deflection point, I’ve also decided that I really miss strength training. I’m not quite sure what to do about that yet. I’ve canceled my Orangetheory membership and I have a ton of other apps I’ve looked at. I also have a lifetime 24 Hour Fitness membership and I’ve yet to check out any of the locations in my area. I know that I need to focus on strengthening my ankles and legs in general. Road running has been really hard on my legs, as evidenced by the two Disney races and the recent road races I’ve done. Having exclusively trained on a treadmill the last year, I’ve certainly lost touch with dressing for the right weather, watching my step, and having overall strength in my legs when dealing with the road in general. I need to get to fixing that.

It feels like there’s a lot to tackle all at once. Oh well. One day at a time.

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Tomorrow I will wake up and the first thing I will do is get out for my run. And I will just keep going until I feel like stopping.
Amara-Dopey-FundraiserIf you feel like donating to Best Friends Animal Society in Stewie’s memory, you can do so here. 

Race Recap: 2016 Breckenridge Road (Half) Marathon

Running at 10,000 feet is no joke. This race bills itself as America’s highest road race and it did not disappoint. I was winded for most of the race. I don’t know how anyone lives and trains and bikes out in Breckenridge without dying. Seriously.

This was also a somewhat disappointing race. It had nothing to do with my times. Instead, it had everything to do with the race course. It was partially my fault and partially a well-intentioned volunteer. My race was accidentally cut short when I was directed to turn around at the marathon/half-marathon split, instead of continuing on the marathon course. (I was told to turn around at the T-intersection below, rather than continue north on the road and then loop back around on the western road.)

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I lost 1.34 miles. It seems like a lot less when I type it out, and I “made up” for my distance by running extra during my training session on Monday. But still, I feel a bit bad for still accepting my finisher’s medal knowing (after the fact) that I had accidentally cut the course. It was my first time ever and I felt so so soooo guilty!

Here are the stats for the race:

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15-minute miles. Yikes! I could’ve power-walked. Trying to run at that elevation completely winded me. It was a gorgeous fall race though. I’m not sure if I would do it again without a significant amount of elevation training or hiking.

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Getting ready for race morning wasn’t too bad. We stayed at an Airbnb right next to the start line! However, we had to drive down to Main Street in order to take the shuttle back up since it was a point-to-point course. I’d been really good with both of my ankles so they were in tip-top shape for the race. Woo!

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The race start line was right up against some running and hiking trails. I was immediately jealous of everyone who lived in Breckenridge. Maybe in my golden years I can return and live the amazing life. I too can spend my time enjoying the great outdoors.

Right around this time I think to myself that if I ever adopt a dog bigger than corgi I would name it Walden. We’d go hiking and running and swimming. And maybe biking if I can get a little trailer or sidecar.

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The first few miles of the route were a bit treacherous, seeing as though it was directly on the road. The road wasn’t closed off to automobiles, and being at the back of the pack I did not have the luxury of running with a group. I stayed as far right as possible and whenever I could, I ran on the shoulder. I also tried not to take photos in really vulnerable spots. Getting run over is no fun.

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Running into town was also nice. It was strange to see Breck without all of the snow. I’ve only seen it in the wintertime for skiing. You can make out all of the ski runs on the left. The downtown area is at the base of the hill.

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The fall colors were just starting to peek through. For now there’s only golds. I hope to be able to catch the few days of reds and oranges before it’s too late!

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The medals at the finish were handmade and hand-pressed. They weren’t made on the spot or anything. I thought it was very nice and very Colorado. 🙂 It was a great first race in my state. I’m still debating whether or not to count this race towards my half marathon count but my husband is trying to help me not feel so guilty about it. I guess since I made up for my miles the next day I’ll take it. (I’m still contemplating making up with another half marathon this weekend though.)

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All in all a tough race. Beautiful, but tough. (Reminds me of my mom!)

 

Dopey Challenge Week 6+7+8+9: Getting Unstuck

Week 6, 7, 8, and 9 of training has been mostly a blur because of the constant flurry of work. The miles are increasing but at a fairly slow pace — they’ve been alternating short and long run weekends: Week 6 was 7 miles, week 7 was 3 miles, week 8 was 9 miles, week 9 is supposed to be 3 miles, if I can motivate myself out the door tonight. (Running in the evenings tend to be a weakness for me, since I am mostly paranoid about getting an upset stomach because of having to time my eating.)

Now that I am coming into some time off before my next venture, I’m looking forward to incorporating yoga, some weight training, and maybe even swimming into my routine. It would be nice to decompress a bit before my next venture.

Training on my broken foot has been okay. It hasn’t been much of a nuisance lately, with exception of my morning run and a walk around town yesterday. It’s mostly been my stress level eating me up and tiring me out, so I’m really looking forward to my vacation. I have a ton of books I would love to catch up on. I also need to put my teaching materials together. I’m already putting together a to-do list for my time off so that I make the best use of my time off. Is that weird?

I’ve been toying around with the idea of hiring a running coach or joining a running group. A few months ago I cancelled my membership to Orangetheory, mostly to focus on my running. Since then I have done exactly that, but I’d like to do some more focused work on it. I think hiring a running coach would be a nice idea if I actually had some real tangible goals in mind though. My goals are always somewhat vague, mostly dealing with finishing a race but not really focusing on performance. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take my favorite past-time to that level yet.

I feel like I am so performance-driven elsewhere in my life that there should at least be one thing — that thing being running — that I don’t really beat myself up over to do particularly well in. One foot in front of the other, and try not to injure myself — how much more complicated should I make it, right? That was pretty much how I approached my other two marathons. I didn’t focus on performance too much. I think I was more concerned about performance in the 5K, 10K, and 13.1 range, even though I never did particularly spectacular. I think my best 5K time was 27:11 (8:40 min/mi), 10K was 1:00:15 (9:34 min/mi), and 13.1 was 2:26:49 (11:12 min/mi). I suppose it would be nice to work myself up to those times again.

I’ve also looked at a few running groups — it would be nice to meet some new folks, but making the time for it would also be challenging.  The Rocky Mountain Road Runners group looks like it would be a good fit, but I also have a pretty full training calendar already through the end of the year. Maybe it’s something to look into for next year.

Speaking of next year, I’m already peeking at a few races for my calendar. The Colfax Half Marathon is swinging around after the spring semester, and since they’re still pre-registering, the race is really cheap. I’m also peeking at some races abroad for our potential honeymoon, although we’ve yet to settle on a location, date, and race yet. I can put that on my list of to-dos for these next few weeks.

Speaking of the next few weeks, here’s what I have in store…

  • Next weekend: Mystery vacation weekend for my husband
  • Following weekend: Weekend trip to Seattle
  • Following weekend: Breckenridge film festival and half marathon
  • Following weekend: A break from traveling
  • Following weekend: Back to Seattle for a wedding and for the 15M training race
  • 10 weekends from there: the half + full marathon race weekend before Dopey

With all of the changes ensuing, this will be my mantra for the upcoming month:

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I’ve spent a bit of time planning for and dismantling some of the negativity around me. It’s time for me to focus more on myself: what I am looking to accomplish and what will really make me happy. I’ve spent the last few months fairly unhappy, and a few months is really a few months too long. Life is short — depending on how you look at it, I’m most likely more than 33% done with my life and I’m not about to spend it completely miserable. The bounty is high on my time and my happiness, and if I will be spending my precious life hours on something it’d better be worth my time.

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Hopefully I’ll be updating this more often now Amara-Dopey-Fundraiserthat I’ll have some free time.

And yes, I am still fundraising for Best Friends Animal Society! 

I’m donating $1 for every mile I’m running while training for the Dopey Challenge. If you can spare any dollars, I’m sure the kitties and puppies will love you furrrrever.

Happy training!

Dopey Challenge Week 5: The Mystery of My Broken Footsie

My foot is broken! Well, not the whole thing, just one of the many bones that comprise a foot:

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Not my actual foot

The 2nd bone that is labeled there is pretty much split into 2 pieces, hamburger style. The two halves have conveniently aligned themselves into a tendon and have healed themselves into such a position. Well, “healed” is a bit of a loaded word, since that presupposes that the 2 broken pieces have fused back together. Each time I press down on my foot, it stretches the tendon and creates this sensation of painful pressure, which is what I am misinterpreting as a foot cramp. And, based on the current location of the broken bones in my foot, they may just stay apart, like separated Siamese twins.

This pain in my right foot has been lingering for at least a year. My feet have generally caused consternation over the last few years based on my blog and training history, and even when I went in to the doctor’s office on Monday I mistook it for the tendinitis I had in my left foot at the end of 2013.

//begin said tendinitis story//

It was a November, my second year living in Seattle. I remember it as a gray morning, sometime around 6:45am. My really good friend Alex and I were running around the Seattle Center, up towards the Space Needle, when I said “Ow.”

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10426694_10154721857175504_94570704112427741_nI thought that my toe was cramping up. I thought it was quite weird and annoying. I paused right in front of the Pacific Science Center to check my shoe and stretch out my foot a bit and then continued on my way. And since then, I’ve thought that this strange, weird toe cramp has been very annoying. I went to the orthopedic and they took some x-rays, and he said to take ibuprofen everyday and to get slippered up. That was three years ago…

//end said tendinitis story//

Between then and now, my injuries have somehow mysteriously migrated from one side of the body to another, as evidenced to me here in Denver that now resulted in a fracture in my right foot. After combing through my training logs, I’m not seeing a pattern of when this could’ve settled in. There was not a major race where I was having any severe pain from my foot due to some sort of injury. I can remember it being there last year, because I remember being fitted for an insert at RoadRunner Sports…

The bone is broken, no matter how much denial I am in 😐

During last week’s training, it bothered me a little bit. There was some discomfort here and there but I assumed it was because I now know that it is broken. I tried to run more carefully and land a little softer on my feet and that has helped a bit.

It didn’t get too bad when I was pacing around in the classroom. I spend most of my time standing while I teach. When it got really bad I leaned against the wall, desk, or podium, or I tried to shift my weight. While running, I’m also trying to shift my weight a bit which I’m sure will have a impact on me (good? bad?) in the near future.

This week’s running (and overall life) mantra:

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Maybe I could buy some bone glue…? Full-body bubble-wrap suit?


Amara-Dopey-FundraiserDon’t forget to donate to my fundraiser for Best Friend’s Animal Society! I am running 48.6 miles and raising money along the way. BFAS is a national animal welfare organization working to end the killing in America’s shelters with the goal of placing all adoptable animals in loving and compassionate homes.