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 —

Race Recap/Week 25 Dopey Challenge: Whine Not A Marathon 2016

Week 26 was an absolute doozy!

It was a finals week for my students, along with a Dopey simulation week. It also happened to be the week of my wedding anniversary. Timelines were squashed on top of one another, so I had to squeeze in my training in some funky ways.

We were planning to travel to Dallas for our training races. I carefully watched the weekend weather reports to see how our simulation race would go. I had a half marathon planned for Saturday and a full marathon planned for Sunday. With the revelation that I would have to run in below-freezing temps, I decided to slide up all of my events by one day. It required losing some sleep but I made it happen.

So, my week went something like this:

Work – teach – go to bed on Monday night – work – administer my final exam – go to bed on Tuesday night – squeeze in a morning run – have my anniversary brunch – work – teach – go to bed on Wednesday night – work – watch Rogue One – run 5 miles after the movie – sleep for a few hours on Thursday night – run a half marathon – hop on a work call – work – head to the airport – carb feast – bank as much sleep as I can on Friday night – run a full marathon – get a massage – sleep it off on Saturday night – wake up to crew Erik’s race – get stuck at DFW for 5 hours – alternatively succumb to 5 hours of catch-up grading – fly back to Denver – get stuck on the runway for another hour – get home at 4am Monday – go to bed.

So, how did the marathon go?

Well, it was a full 26.2 mile marathon, so it went. Did it go well? Not really. Did it go poorly? Not as much as it could’ve, I suppose.

  • I didn’t really make the 7-hour Disney World Marathon cutoff (I was using this as a trial run, so to speak), but a few things were stacked against me. There’s a lot for me to consider for race weekend.
  • If the weather is as wonky in Orlando as it was for me all weekend between Denver and Dallas, then I should be somewhat prepared. Weather increased by 10 degrees and then dropped 13 degrees during the course of my marathon. Winds were fairly gusty. Humidity was at 90% all day.
  • I should definitely take it significantly easier on the first three days so that I can do well enough during the marathon to not get swept.
  • Carrying water is a good idea, regardless of conditions, since I’ll be out there longer.
  • External battery packs are my lifeblood.
  • My shoes worked out great but I still have a second pair that I need to break in. I’ll be spending all of next week doing that.
  • I’m still not sure why my feet feel like they are on fire after 15 or so miles.

So, all in all I finished the full distance (which was a goal), but I didn’t quite finish as strong as I had wanted. Physically, I was fine. Mentally, I could’ve been better. The marathon was 8 loops around Bachman Lake, and by lap 7 I saw that I was nearing the 7 hour mark. At that point I figured that I could pretty much just stop since Disney had a 7-hour time limit anyways – why not save my legs for the actual race week? I then thought to myself that I came all that way to do a marathon, and that it was only a couple more miles around the lake…so I continued on. Plus, Erik was already there at the timing mat and he would be there again when I finished up my victory lap.

That last lap around was the hardest for me – I thought a lot about my training season. I had been pretty diligent about sticking to my training, watching what I eat, getting enough sleep, trying to keep my stress to a minimum, and so forth. There was a possibility that I had come all this way, train for this long, and still not make the cut-off. It reminded me of when I was training for the Ironman. The 140.6 miles seemed daunting then. The 48.6 miles seem pretty daunting now. I’ve never really cried during a training run but during that last lap, I managed to shed a a significant amount of tears of disappointment. I wracked my brain, thinking about all the decisions I’ve made during this training season. I feel like I’ve done all that I could’ve done. I’d like to think my best will be good enough but who knows? By the time I came around my final lap, what should’ve been a fairly joyous occasion (I mean, YAY, my third marathon…!) was fairly downtrodden.

After the race, I picked up my medal, got a few nibbles, and headed back to the car. I felt physically fine but was mostly disappointed in my performance. I spent about 20 minutes in the car crying until I finally calmed down. During the rest of the weekend I thought a lot about that disappointment, and all of the reasons why I’ve ran. One of the reasons why I run is because I am not really good at it. Like, at all. Putting yourself out there is difficult. Willfully pushing ourselves beyond our limits every now and then is one of the only true ways to level the playing field, in my opinion. It’s humbling. In this case, I can try really hard at something in which I have no natural talent and still miss the mark. Does it mean I should quit? No, not really. Should I find some way to get better so I don’t feel so disappointed in the future? Probably. Does it help to talk to myself in such a self-defeating way between miles 23-26.2? Absolutely not. I think these occasional grave disappointments keep me grounded and level-headed. Not everything can be amazingly peachy all of the time. Some parts of your life just have to be in the shitter. For me, this happens to be it. But, I keep showing up and I keep trying.

I learn a lot about myself during a marathon…I learned a lot during Athens, in LA, and now in Dallas. At the end of my marathon in Athens, I was disappointed that I had no one with whom to share my finish line victory. I was half a world away from everyone I knew. No one had stayed up to follow my progress or to wait for my call. I had crossed the finish line alone, but even in that personal victory, I felt that twinge of disappointment. It felt like a healthy dose of adult life, I suppose. Then came the LA Marathon. That too came with some heavy handed lessons about being underprepared for changing conditions, and putting too much hope into coasting by on previous experience. (That’s where I really learned what “respect the distance” means.) And now…here we are.

I think it might be time to look into a coach again. I’ve gone coach-less for some time now. I’ve been browsing around for quite some time but I’m thinking that I will go with an e-coaching arrangement with Jeff Galloway. The cost seems pretty reasonable. His turn-key plan for Dopey worked fairly well for me. I can only imagine what it would be like if he actually looked at my training history, got an idea of my goals, and then put something together for me. I can really use the help in getting over my double-digit mileage training hump. I still find that to be one of the more challenging parts of any training plan. I have lots of races planned this coming year but it seems like a mostly disorganized effort. I am going for volume over quality? I’m not sure yet. Maybe I should just focus on getting Dopey checked off my list first.

Thankfully, week 27 and 28 promise low, low mileage. After that we will be off to Orlando…

We’re near the end of the season. The race is upon us!

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!)

 

Race Recap: Jackson Hole Half Marathon 2016

My race in Jackson was my 30th. The Tetons were a beautiful backdrop to a particularly meaningful day.

We drove in to Jackson from Denver the day before. I think this was the farthest I’ve ever traveled — by car –for a race. It was really scenic and allowed us to explore a bit. (We didn’t get a chance to really do that during our move since our cats were in a hurry to get home.)

The open road allowed us to catch up a bit. The hubbub of school, work, freelancing, and teaching have all interfered with my capabilities to have a normal human conversation without incessantly complaining or crying about my lot in life. This was the first time in a long time that I was genuinely smiling and cheerful. Erik took notice (and has been doing so since I’ve last reported in to work).

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It started off as any other race — my alarm clock went off way too early. I could hear the people in the room next to us shuffle about. They were out the door in about 15 minutes flat, whereas I took my sweet time getting ready. (It would turn out that we would run into these runners again over the course of the weekend.)

I laid out my race kit the night before. Crumpled my race bib, like I always do. I read about a pro runner doing it early on when I was running, and now I can’t remember the story but I always do it regardless.

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It was to be a colder race. Since all of my training is done on the treadmill, I thought back to my outdoor running days and thankfully remembered to pull some base layers. My shoes still have some miles on them. The new addition to this race was my headband (I’d been training with it and it hasn’t slipped off yet!), along with a handheld water bottle. I had lost the one that Dress for Success gifted me in 2011 for my fundraising efforts during my last move to Seattle, and this was my first replacement. I’ve used hydration belts for running but I’ve felt that they were more suitable for triathlons. I’m not even sure if I can find mine right now, but I bought one for my husband so I figured I’d buy one for myself. Jackson Hole’s race was a cup-free race, and I thought it was a really noble and respectable initiative. I wish that more races were like that, but I can see how it would be more feasible during a smaller race. (Imagine having to fight 20,000 other runners for a refill!)

On my way out the door, I managed to twist my ankle on some uneven pavement right outside of my hotel room. I got really upset to have gotten this far uninjured only to have painfully rolled my ankle at the eleventh hour. I decided to play it by ear and see how I feel at the start, knowing that I could hitch a ride back to the start.

The race shuttles picked us up at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. It brought back a flood of memories to the week I spent there a few years ago learning how to ski. It was a magical week for me. I spent a significant amount of time during the day alone, despite traveling there with my then-boyfriend. Nevermind that at the end of the trip it ended with me getting dumped…a month later I met my future husband anyways, so all in all it all worked out. Everything was as I remembered it to be, without the snow. I thought about how we could sneak in a trip later in the year when they opened up again. Maybe sometime after the Dopey Challenge, if our legs aren’t completely trashed.

After a 20-minute or so ride, we were dropped off at the start line. Having driven up the mountains, it only got colder. I was thankful for my base layers, but not very thankful for my ankle. I kept stretching and massaging it, hoping for the best. I thought about walking the entire way down the mountain, but even walking on it was very painful. At that point, I figured that I could try to make it to the first aid station and then see how I felt.

The race started and we were off. I lightly jogged on it and it felt better than walking on it. Oddly enough it didn’t hurt at all. I’m not sure if it’s the “racing effect” but I went with it, hoping that I wouldn’t incur any sort of physical debt for this later on. I still  have a few tune-up races this season before the Dopey Challenge and I didn’t want to put them in jeopardy. I jogged along knowing that my pace would be slower and telling myself to be okay with it.

It turns out that the elevation change between Denver and Jackson — only 1,300 feet or so — made a big difference. I found myself a lot more tired early on. My breathing was slightly more labored. It was better for me than the other folks who flew in from places at sea level though. I’m sure that they struggled a lot more, unless they all trained on insane hills and in saunas. (That’s not out of the realm of possibility…I know plenty of Ironman athletes who have done that.)

As I ran, I tried to soak up the scenery as much as possible. It was an absolutely gorgeous race. Since the field was so small — 200+ runners or so — it allowed me plenty of space to pull off to the side to snap some photos without interfering with someone else’s race. I felt really lucky to be privy to the views — having an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, and being able to run, even if on a bum ankle.

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I continued along the race. It was mostly uncovered so it eventually warmed up. I didn’t wear any sunscreen except for on my face, so I didn’t take off my base layers. I ended up trying to stay cool by drinking as much water as I could and refilling with cold water during each aid station. I also had a cooling headband that I could activate at any time, but I never had to. Walk breaks in between also helped a lot.

I spent a lot of the race reflecting on the last two years. The transition between two cities and two very different companies. Having completed grad school and getting married and beginning to teach. I thought a lot about my co-workers at Sphero and how hard everyone had worked on the product launch. I hoped that they weren’t toiling away during this holiday weekend and that they had been able to steal the weekend for themselves. I thought a lot about some old coworkers at Amazon, especially some of the younger ones that had joined my teams right out of college. I knew some of them were still sticking it out. I thought about some of my mentors who had left the company and how they mentioned that the doggedness that was required there came back to haunt them at their future companies. I wondered if I had fallen prey to that. I thought about my mentors and wondered if they were happy with where they currently were — one is on sabbatical, two are working at completely new companies, and the other one is still on my old team. I thought about my students toiling away on their projects over the weekend because I had set a benchmark deadline to prevent them from procrastinating until the last minute, because the worst thing is trying to deliver something that might end up in your portfolio under negative pressure. I also thought about my fundraiser for Best Friends Animal Society and if it really made any kind of difference. I know it does, but I want to do so much more. At the moment, I lack a support network here in Denver. I lack a circle of friends or community mostly because I’ve buried myself in work and school during this first year, something that I had not done in the absence of friends and acquaintances in other cities. I thought about my fundraisers in LA and Seattle and the people who’ve helped contribute to my journey. I thought about my parents and wondered how they were doing and if I should take a few days to go visit them in between teaching, interviewing, and freelancing.

So, in other words, I thought a lot about a lot of other people, but it was a typical amount of thinking that I would do over the course of three hours anyways.

The results came in and I was fairly happy with them. I’m not a stellar athlete but at least I’m out there. I didn’t fare too poorly between mile zero and 8.5:

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Post-race, I was pretty satisfied with myself. I thought I’d be able to break three hours, but alas my ankle and the elevation got the best of me. There’s always next time.

We got back to our hotel. I commenced the most elaborate recovery routine ever. My ankle was fine for awhile but it had began swelling up with the lack of activity. I tried RICE and we acquired an ankle brace. It eventually swelled up to the size of a baseball. We were both pretty exhausted and slept the day away. It was really nice. I consider that quality time. 🙂

The next day, we topped off our vacation — and I delivered the last portion of his birthday gift — with a trip to the nearby hot springs.

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All in all, it was a great race-cation. I’m looking to some more great ones this season…hopefully with a lot less ankle injuries.

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.