Prepare to Fail if You Fail to Prepare

My boyfriend never lets me forget that I’m a J. (First search result: “ISFJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability.”)

I have a pretty set routine when it comes to my running. Not necessarily with routes, although I have a tendency to run the same one again and again out of habit. My routine of preparation has been key to my success. In this case, success is loosely defined as: “showing up on time and running my personal best” and is not locked to a timed performance.

Last week I failed to prepare for my 15K. Hence I essentially prepared to fail. My nutrition and hydration the days leading up to it were off. I was exerting myself in ways that were foreign to me. I didn’t sleep well, nor did I sleep in my own bed. (Aside from traveling to races, which I’ll be doing towards the end of the year, that has been my cardinal rule!) I wasn’t sticking to any semblance of a training schedule but really just training whenever I felt like it and whatever I felt like doing. A ton of no-nos!

I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself. I showed up just a few minutes after the race started. It was a small race, so there weren’t any route signs nor were there street closures. I was half a mile in to the course (or at least what I thought was the course) and couldn’t find any of the runners. I stopped, on a residential street somewhere in Santa Barbara, after a long weekend of anticipation, and started jogging back the way I came in with tears streaming down my face. I was completely disappointed in myself that I hadn’t prepared fully and that I had allowed myself to come that close to a race start again. That’s right, again. I’ve done it a few times before but lucked out. Not this time!

I was very disappointed and disheartened. Spent a few moments that morning with my boyfriend moping around and tearing up but for the most part I’m now over it. He bought me these little silver eagle earrings from a little knick knack shop somewhere on State Street in Santa Barbara and I’ve been wearing them ever since. They remind me that I can be as fast and on top of my game as much as I want to be. All I need to do is take a bird’s eye view and assess the situation.

So, if I must disclose…this is my pre-race routine. I’ll have to be pretty flexible when I go abroad or travel for races but it’s pretty much solid and has worked for me so far.

My 12 steps to successful race/long run preparation:

1. Sleep in my own bed, the night before. Try to sleep for a whole eight hours. I usually only manage 6 since I get nervous and I wake up a few times before the alarm is set to go off.

2. Sleep in some of my race clothes. That way all I have to do is pull on a few items and head out the door.

3. Prepare only 1 serving of Muscle Milk. If I drink 2 I generally have an upset stomach early on in the race.

4. For runs longer than 6 miles, I’ll consume half or one packet of Power Bar Energy Gel Blasts. I’ll also pack out a full Camelbak of water with another energy gel and a bar, just in case I get hungry en route.

5. For runs longer than 6 miles, I wear cushioned running socks. For anything shorter, I’ll wear thin running socks.

6. My hair must be out of my face. One strong elastic band and two bobby pins. Nothing more or my head hurts!

7. Fully charge my iPod shuffle the night before so I’m not bummed if my music quits out halfway. (I’m trying to wean off of the iPod but for now it’s a necessary evil.)

8. Do a very small morning warmup. I usually park a few blocks away from my apartment so the jog to my car is about 3/10ths of a mile. It’s a nice jaunt in the morning before things get hot.

9. Charge my phone during the car ride to the race. Nothing bums me out more than not being able to use RunKeeper while I run!!

10. Wear running clothes that I feel comfortable in running in that day. Being a woman means having to deal with fluctuating sizes during different times of the month, so I make a point not to squeeze into anything too constricting. Function over form prevails.

11. Hydrate on the way to my race…but always making a point to go to the bathroom before the race starts! (Otherwise it’s a disaster…)

12. Never mess with the lacing on my shoes. (I never untie/retie my shoelaces once I get the right fit.) If I find that my shins start hurting the week of the race I’ll order a replacement pair from Zappos since they’ll overnight them to me.

What’s your routine? How do you prepare for your long runs or an important race? Let’s swap some tips!

In the Spirit of Independence…

My longest race EVER is tomorrow morning at 8am in Santa Barbara! I registered for the Santa Barbara Semana Nautical 15K about three months ago hoping to find a midsummer race to keep me motivated through the season. It’s my last mini-race (and by mini I mean magnitude AND cost) until September…which is pretty much the month when everything will be splitting sideways and not stopping until after Thanksgiving, maybe even Christmas.

Independence Day has always been bittersweet for me. I’ve either spent it alone, coercing people into doing things with me, or being coerced into doing things. This year I’ll be spending it running! (I made plans well in advance to prevent the spending it alone, being coerced, or coercing others.) I’m looking forward to running my first 15K in beautiful Santa Barbara, a gorgeous college town I had not ventured into for almost a year now. There’s a few spots I would love to hit before I skip town since I’m doing a turnaround trip — The Blue Agave for dessert, maybe Pierre Lafonde Wine Bistro for breakfast, that cute little game shop on State Street where I found a pint-sized version of Family Business. For sure I want to spend some time near/on the water. Ideally I’d get some open water swimming but that might not be in my cards this time, unless I can rationalize an ocean swim as some sort of post-run shower!

I think that this run is going to be great — it’s so close to the ocean that I’m positive that I’ll be able to catch a glimpse of an ocean vista sometime during the 9.3 miles. This will be my longest race to date, but not quite my longest run. I’ve ran longer, but I’ve been in cross-training mode and have been tapering off my running so that I could add in more cycling and swimming. I miss running but I guess I’m cutting down so that I can balance my training out a bit. Missing my running time makes me tackle my cycling and swimming with more gusto.

In the spirit of Independence Day I hope everyone finds something to celebrate. I hope that somewhere, deep inside, we can all remain independent of the forces around us that we cannot control. I hope that we all find some sort of inner peace that we can rely on to guide us during hard times. Most of all, I hope that we all find motivation to do things that we *wish* we could do. Most of the things we seek are well within reach if we can recognize the willpower and desire within. For me it’s simultaneously tackling my marathon training with more serious dedication, while focusing and balancing my triathlon training. Why I do it is a completely different story, although freeing in of itself!

My Social Media Day Commitment for 2011

I’ve been lucky to have been able to make quite the career out of social media.

Frankly, I was quite astute when I saw the connection between social media, design, and marketing. Who knew that in due time I’d be running my own shop, working on user experience design for two kick-ass web apps called Glass and Retrollect, volunteering my skills for an awesome (startup-by-situation) non-profit in town (Dress for Success), and going on awesome roadtrips sponsored by Chevy with my SXSWAngels? I even met my boyfriend at Social Media week. Go figure — I hit the jackpot in my twenties with social media.

Last year I hosted Social Media Day here in Los Angeles. This year I opted out of it for personal reasons, as well as time constraints. (I’m a bit overbooked at the moment.) However, after coming back from SXSW I really began to examine my participation in social media. I was Twitter-stalking (as I have a tendency to do) and came across my friend’s really neat bio, which pretty much plucked the thoughts right out of my own brain.

Gabe is absolutely right. THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY. We can’t keep lurking or shouting and expect to communicate. It’s a two way street, and right now it seems like most people are talking at each other and no one is really listening or engaging.

So, me being the type of person I am, I try to find a way to address this solution on a small scale. I believe that change is more effective and sustainable if it’s done in small steps on a personal level. We can’t overhaul a system overnight. It takes time to make it stick.

The first thing I did was give up blogging daily. I had taken the Post a Day 2011 challenge but found it 1) challenging and 2) fruitless. It wasn’t because I had trouble writing — I have plenty to say — but it was because I wasn’t as confident that what I had to say was really all that important. To be consistent is one thing. To be meaningful is another. If I didn’t feel like posting something that day and just forced myself to write something for the sake of pushing it out the door, have I really done the Internet a service? I don’t think so. I’ve actually contributed to the problem.

Secondly, in giving up blogging, I decided to do the opposite — I unplugged (slightly). Instead of blogging everyday, I went for a run. That run always got broadcasted through Twitter and Facebook, and of course I blogged about it quite a bit too, but instead of using social media to talk about social media (completely useless and mostly redundant, a la “preaching to the crowd”) I used social media for what it was truly intended for: to connect with other people.

With Social Media Day 2011 I’ve come to take a long hard look at how it plays a role in my daily life.

My social media resolutions are as such:

  • I plan to participate when I have something of value to say.
  • I vow to keep my personal safety an absolute priority, therefore going on a Foursquare diet effective as of last week.
  • I plan on speaking my mind with as much conviction in person as I would online.
  • I vow to bridge the gap between my sometimes online life and my mostly offline life.
  • I will not allow the web to get in the way of honest communication.
  • I will follow/friend only people that I find valuable in my life and defriend people who I don’t want to actually keep up with.
  • I will not allow online connections to replace the face-to-face experience.

How about you? What are your thoughts on Social Media Day and my resolutions? Do you have any of your own?

Finally Wrapped the Triple Crown Race Series!

Today I wrapped up a three-part race series in Orange County called the Triple Crown. It was a sequence of three back-to-back races that all benefited different charities: Miles 4 Melanoma, Project YES, and the Villa Park Library. For my stick-to-it-iveness I got some nifty, long awaited medals for my efforts:

  • Triple Crown Race Series medal for having ran all three races
  • A 10K finishers medal (even after my cramp/side stitch in mile 2)
  • A progressive marathon medal (for having completed 20 miles prior to my 6.2 this morning)

Pretty neat idea and the proceeds benefit charity…everything I like in life! (Well, almost.) I would definitely recommend this race series for anyone local to LA/Orange County, who is looking to test their limits and train consistently, and to also give back to the community. The 5k/5k/10k series every other weekend is pretty manageable if you build up a decent running schedule about three-four months beforehand. I’ll be looking forward to it next year for sure!

I also finally came across Be The Match, the national bone marrow donor registry program. Got my cheeks swabbed and I’m hoping to be entered into the database in the case that my bones can offer any sort of help to someone in need. Ever since I’ve heard of the program I’ve been wanting to add myself to the list but just haven’t had the chance. It was a great idea to have them table at this race.

Adding some photos courtesy of Shant Kiraz, whom I dragged out of bed at 6am to join me. What a trooper! I think I also might have convinced him to do a duathlon with me but I suppose we will see. Enjoy the pics! I finally got some shots of me that don’t look like I’m dying. Awesome!

Also, I’ve managed to improve quite a bit from my first 10K race in April. Nice to see that in two months time you can see an improvement with consistent training and eating right.

 

 

Q+A: What are you running from?

 

Good question, although I have a feeling that the question was half serious and half playing around.

So, what exactly am I running from when I’m running?

I’ve read a few articles about people running from their former selves…perhaps a more plump, depressed, chaotic, stressed, or unhappy version of themselves. Others are running from their problems or their past.

What am I running from?

  • I’m running away from my stresses and problems. Most of my problems are solved on my runs, so they are a lot more therapeutic than physical.
  • I’m running away from my negative thoughts. There’s something peaceful that comes from (temporary) physical exhaustion and knowing I gave it my all.
  • I’m running away from inconsistency. Knowing that I can keep at something for longer than I am comfortable with makes me feel like I will be able to transfer that will power into other areas of my life.
  • I’m running away from a bad past. There are some things that I prefer to forget, but running calms and pacifies the anger and angst I used to hold very close to me.
  • I’m running away from my computer. It’s one thing to work on it all day, but it’s another thing to spend all of my free time on it too. Just an hour or two away helps refresh my thoughts since a lot of my design problems are solved when I feel more connected with nature.
  • I’m running away from lethargy. Sometimes running makes me really tired, but most of the time I’m energized from the experience.
  • I’m running away from inefficient communication. When I’m in tune with how I really feel — and whether or not I’m making excuses for myself or others — I’m helping clarify whatever issues are at hand.
  • I’m running away from my inability to change. Running is relatively new to me and has brought great meaning, new friendships, and a different outlook. Every step I take helps me realize that change (for the better) is possible for someone who definitively makes the choice to improve themselves.

What are some things that you run away from?

The Journey of Me

I spent some time lamenting these photos and I think I’m finally over it.

So last week I was interviewed for Fitbie, an MSN/Rodale joint venture. It’s a great website to help people get tips on exercising and to keep them motivated. I noticed that they popped up after the new year and have been following them. With any luck we connected and they interviewed me for an article that’s due to come out sometime this week. I’ll make sure to post the link to it so you guys can check it out.

Until then, you guys can check out these photos of my journey. I’ve titled them with my weight and year. As you can see it took a number of years, a lot of disappointments, and waning motivations.

If someone had to ask me for “my secret” I would say – Eat less, move more. Make goals outside of yourself. Think of helping others or improving yourself, not about reaching a goal weight or fitting into some silly (or slutty) outfit. Have fun with it — your health shouldn’t be a chore but something you look forward to improving everyday. Challenge yourself!

Mindfulness and Running…Among Other Things

I spent most of my morning rather exhausted and asleep, not so much from any particularly strenuous physical activity but from mostly the electrical activity in between my ears. Although I’ve been in relatively high spirits as of late — not to mention, relaxed (as my friend kept saying yesterday, over and over) — I’ve been really hung up on my swimming lately.

When I’m not really sure what I’m doing, I have a tendency to sit back and observe. It’s something I do quite well actually — observe and mimic. And, what I’ve noticed is that there are really two types of swimmers at the gym: there are super hardcore swimmers (people who know what they’re doing and can shoot off walls like torpedoes) and then people who spend a LOT of energy with their heads above water and essentially swimming at a 45 degree angle (people like me!). After watching what makes swimmers efficient — staying as parallel as they can with the surface of the water, coming up for air on every third/fourth stroke, exhaling and making room for air in the water instead of outside of it — I tried to mimic it as best I can. Once I did that (last night, as a matter of fact), I had enough air to actually make it to one side of the pool instead of halfway.

Seems like a really silly thing to be down on, but I think in the face of something difficult we all question our abilities a bit. If I can just learn to enjoy it and be in the moment, and to learn from others instead of comparing myself to them, I’m sure I’ll be a much happier camper. I think I was also down on myself a bit since I didn’t make it in to practice on the loose schedule I committed to — twice a week. I think instead of giving myself such leeway I should really just designate days so that I can’t trip up or give myself any excuses.

At some point I think I can be in the moment. With running, I think I feel comfortable enough with it now that I’m not too focused on being tired, hot, sweaty, etc., and I just run. Yesterday, on my 6-mile run, I didn’t break through until mile 3, but when I did it felt great. The last three miles of my run was a complete breeze. I barely noticed the time going by. I was even sad that the run was over! (I suppose I could’ve just kept going.)  However, biking and swimming still requires a lot of concentration for me since I don’t yet feel that I am proficient at it. I am sure when I jump these mental and physical hurdles it’ll be great.

In the meantime, I came across two posts that really inspired me to think about being more mindful while training for the triathlon and less negative. Check them out! The first one is about the Buddhist philosophy on meditation and mindfulness, and a Tibetan lama speaks to how running mindfully can help you improve the mind-body connection. The second one is a blog post by Ryan Hall, a professional runner, and he speaks to the most athletic year of his life in an effort to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

I know that I do a lot better when I stop listening to myself. Self deprecation is such an easy way out. It’s much harder to challenge yourself and break through. Here’s to less worrying and plan-paralysis and more doing.

 

 

 

Q+A: "Isn't Running an Inefficient Way to Spend Your Energy?"

Running seems pretty counterintuitive to nature, right? After all, the human body is essentially built to be self-regulating at all times — you push too hard, your body makes you lay off a bit. Your system gets stressed or taxed a bit, and suddenly you’re forced to recover. Running, on first glance, seems to burn off more energy than it creates. After thousands of years of evolutionary anthropology, why would we want to expend our energy when we don’t have to? Clearly the couch potatoes have it right….right?

 

WRONG.

I believe that there is a level of efficiency that is achieved with repeated motion. For instance, a programmer doesn’t really become adept until they go through the motions and actually program a few applications or websites. A dancer doesn’t learn to perform overnight, but instead takes years to perfect their form and presentation. Much in the same way, our body can’t possibly become as efficient as it can without some sort of practice. And that’s where running comes in to play.

I find that through running, I’m able to solve a lot more design and communications problems than without it. It’s almost as if the act of doing something physical stimulates the mental processes while making them more efficient. I read somewhere once that if you couldn’t solve a problem on a run then it probably wasn’t worth your energy to begin with.

Also, it seems as though that people who expend more energy exercising seem to have ample amounts of it. They are able to juggle more tasks, handle stress well, stay positive, eat better, and radiate vibrance. If the answer seems so easy, why isn’t everyone on the bandwagon?

Most of the time it seems as though “life gets in the way,” or people “get too busy to exercise,” or they “don’t enjoy it.” It seems as though people are setting themselves for failure by making excuses for themselves or not taking the time to really explore their interests. It makes me wonder what they are really busy doing — whether it’s working, dealing with family commitments, or helping others, are they really able to function at their best without taking at least a few minutes to themselves a day? What do you think?

I found this great quote that sums up my opinion quite nicely — It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you decide you can’t be stopped.

Q+A: "Why Do You Keep Running?"

I received a blog request from Elijah this week on my running habit —

“You should do a post on why you kept running after you started, even on those days that you didn’t want to.”

 

Lately, it’s been harder and harder for me to keep the momentum going.

I’ve been running between 4-6 days a week for 4 months now. I can’t actually remember the last time I was this diligent about something. But, then again, I can’t remember the last time I continuously did ONE THING that helped me in all aspects of my life.

In hindsight, running seemed to have been the silver bullet that fixed a lot of problems in my life. If I had a bad day, I’d go on a run. If I had a great day, I’d go on a run. If I got into a fight with someone, I’d go on a run. If I wanted some time alone, I’d go on a run. Heck, if I wanted to pig out that night, I’d go on a run.

So, why am I still running?

There’s a part of me that has made room for this in my life. I made the choice that I was no longer going to be held prisoner to my own mind and body. The extra weight, sluggishness, decreased productivity, and lack of mental focus was really just a manifestation of my unhappiness. That isn’t to say that being skinny is the key to happiness — it isn’t — but when there’s one less thing for you to worry about it frees up your mind to concentrate on the things that matter.

To be honest, I’m still running because I’ve found so much inspiration in a lot of other people…the NPO director who manages a thriving career with spinlates every week. The aspiring triathlete who decided to take baby steps with her training program. The coworker who decides to lace up his running shoes to join me for a few miles around town. The friend who decides to take charge of her life. The significant other who keeps trying to find ways to live a healthier lifestyle, no matter what obstacles life throws in his way. There are people out there who I know that try a thousand times harder than I do to be the best that they can be. If all I have to do is throw on some workout gear and run around town a bit to keep up with them, it seems well worth it. It makes me feel like I’m chasing their successes and supporting their aspirations too.

In addition to that, I think I’ve also been getting better at playing mind games with myself. By always dangling yet another carrot in front of me that is *just* out of reach for now, it makes me work harder to achieve those goals. For instance, I’ve registered my races as far in advance as 6 months. I know that I’ll always have something to work towards. My first 5K was in March, 10K in April, 15K in July, half marathon in September, sprint triathlon in September, and marathon in November.

Living life to the fullest is not about setting it on auto-pilot. It’s about challenging yourself to be the very best self you can be. That’s why, when I get comfortable doing one thing (like running), I try to switch it up a bit (like deciding to train for a triathlon). I had not even been on the saddle of a bike for almost five years before I got back on it again. It took me a few weeks to get comfortable riding around a block at a time. When I got comfortable, I decided to challenge myself to ride it to work about a mile away. When I got comfortable doing that for a bit, I decided to increase my mileage 200% and to get comfortable doing that. And, you can bet that when I am comfortable making that ride I will keep the momentum going.

When I get tired — as in, fatigued from my daily life, bicycling around town, or mentally taxed from an inundation of emails — I know when to lay off. Sometimes, though, my body tricks me into modes of conservation. It tells me when I’m tired when I’ve actually still got some gas left in the tank. What I’ve learned at races is when to hold back — such as in the cases of fatigue in training — and when to leave it all out on the road and to come home empty. At my two best races thus far, I’ve had complete strangers help pace me when I nearly wanted to throw in the towel. My first experience was actually in my first race — about halfway through I was exhausted and tired. I trained primarily on flat roads and this course was hilly. I wasn’t prepared at all and my body was screaming at me to start walking. However, the minute that I began to doubt my abilities, a much older man — probably in his sixties or so — came right up behind me and (literally) gave me the extra push and words of confidence that I needed to hear to keep on going. I still get chills thinking about that kind man’s gesture to this day.

Similarly at my last race in Santa Monica, I was so very close to the finish line that I could see it. I could hear the crowd cheering on runners as they crossed the timing mats. I could feel myself pretty darned tired from the course (uphill grade again), and pretty tired from the four weeks that preceded the race (I just wrapped the planning and execution of a 5K event the day before). He saw me about half a mile from the finish and he began pacing — and I tried to keep up with him. When he noticed what I was doing, he kept speeding up a bit, here and there, to see if I could keep up. I did, and we crossed the finish line together. Afterwards he beamed a huge smile and told me that I kept up a great pace and that he’d see me at the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon in the fall. (I wonder if I’ll be able to keep up with him then!)

Lastly, nothing — honestly, nothing — gives me more joy than knowing that I was able to help someone else reach their goals. (Beware that if you ever divulge some sort of secret hidden goal you have that I will probably try to concoct a way for you to achieve it…and I’ll probably pester you in some fashion as to why you are not yet actively trying to do it on your own.) Being able to cheer a friend on at the finish line or give my two cents on how they should approach a problem makes me happy. And, since running seems to be facilitating that conversation, I think I’ll just lace up my shoes and keep on running!

Q+A: "Why Running?"

I’ve been getting some of the same questions over and over again, so I’ve decided to just blog about some of these typical questions I get. First and foremost a lot of people have questioned (in a good way!) why I chose running as opposed to some other sport.

So…”Why running?”

Well, I chose running for a few reasons.

1. The barrier to entry is pretty low. All you need are some decent workout clothes — preferably the sweat-wicking kind, and some shoes to go for a run. With other sports you need equipment, some training, some prep time, but most humans are equipped with everything they’ll ever need to run.

2. I can do it anytime I want. In theory, you can do whatever you want at anytime you want. With running specifically, I can put on my shoes and leave for a run whenever I feel like. I don’t have to arrive an hour early to put my name on a wait list for a class to start — like the spin class at the gym — and I don’t have to rely on a teammate to work out with. The minute I feel like doing it, I can go about my business on my own. It works out pretty nicely since I have a tendency to be a bit sporadic with the times of day that I feel like running. I also like to vary my distance, and not everyone’s schedule can accomodate such fleeting desires. Thus, when I chose running, I knew that I’d be able to be flexible enough with my own schedule where I’d be able to do it whenever I felt like it.

3. I needed very little training to get started. Running seems almost instinctual. I mean, you can read up on running tips, best stretches, how to better your stride, etc., but for the most part you are born with a body that can fine tune itself. Nature has built our bodies in such a way that we run as efficiently as possible (for us at least). We can improve upon it with training but we are born with the tools, at the very least, to get started on our own.

4. I could feel results from it quickly. After one run I felt accomplished. After a few runs I began noticing changes in my body. By the time I logged 100 I felt like a different person. I have a tendency to be impatient — who isn’t? — so running was the quickest way to satiate my desire for change.

5. I have people in my life who are runners. When I decided to take up running, I knew of a few people who ran regularly. One of my clients had finished the San Francisco triathlon…I had a friend who was training for the LA marathon, and another friend who seemed to run pretty regularly. I admired these three people since they seemed to have their life figured out — they were organized, upbeat, positive, and I wanted to be like them. I figured that imitation was the best form of flattery, so instead of picking their brains I just copied their lifestyle and began running. Apparently it works!

So, I suppose I can ask you the same question — “Why running?” If you’re not yet a runner, what’s holding you back?