On Moonshot Goals and Training Plans

Having followed Nike’s Breaking2 story for awhile now, as well as Runners World editor David Willey’s BQ efforts, has had me thinking about my own moonshot goals, especially since I’m not currently registered for an A-race. Dopey was my own moonshot goal for 2017, and maybe those only come around once every few years. My last true moonshot was Ironman Louisville, which ended up being downgraded to the HITS 70.3 Palm Springs that winter (2013). The last moonshot before that was the Athens Classic Marathon (2011). What’s next?

In my first year of running, I was really into time-based goals, and I found it a bit disappointing. I didn’t hit the goals I wanted to, as quickly as I thought I could, especially when it came to pacing. I never hit my race goals, especially when it came to marathon times. (In fact, I was way off…) Ever since what I considered a disastrous LA Marathon finish time, I swore off time goals to focus mostly on distance goals and fear-based goals. I have a few distance-based goals left, but they don’t seem as appealing right now, so my focus is a bit shifty. It turns back now to the quintessential “What’s next?”, which leads me back to the road of time goals, which is something I’ve been avoiding for 5 years now.

So, there are SMART goals, and then there are worthwhile goals. I’ve found it really difficult to discern the difference, and I think because with the latter there is a bit of a value judgement. What makes one goal more worthy of my pursuit over the other? If it were my last goal to ever pursue, would I be happy? If I were to die pursuing it, would it have been worth it? I’ve been grappling with these questions since I finished Dopey, in search for the next big goal, mostly because without that north star, it’s hard for me to focus my efforts. While yes, it’s all about the journey, and yes, some goals are so lofty that they are perpetually missed, it’s nice having that carrot there that is so almost-attainable that you can almost taste it.

I’ve been practicing my daily sevens since the last week of April, where every morning I write out my goals and my to-dos for the day, and a few quick thoughts of whatever’s on my mind. My goals have changed, week over week. The first week they focused heavily on deciding between an end-of-summer sprint triathlon, an early-summer ultramarathon, or an early 2018 goal marathon. My second week focused on deciding between the 50K and the marathon. My third week focused on breaking down time goals for a marathon or half marathon finish. This was the week that I learned that I wouldn’t be able to finish the Rock n Roll Seattle under the time limit, so I toyed with the idea of cutting down to halves completely. Then I took a break from running goals and focused on some personal finance goals for a few weeks and now I’ve completely circled back to running goals. In addition to goals, I also write down some to-dos for the day, which end up being a mile long. I find that on some days they map 1:1 to my goals. On days where they don’t it makes me question where my priorities fall on my schedule, and I try to reprioritize my time around them. I’ve recently added an area to account for gratitude, which has helped add a bit of reflection, which has been good for me.

I’ve tinkered over and over again with my training plan, but the more I look at the distances and my time goal, and when I run by feel or by dictation, I feel like I’m capable of a lot more. Perhaps on my hard days I’m not pushing myself as hard as I can and I should adjust my speed to see if that helps, before I increase volume. Perhaps I should find a coach. That was one of my New Years resolutions and I’m about five months behind on that one. However, when the inevitable question comes up — What are you looking to achieve? — what will be my answer? I think perhaps I also need someone to look over my past numbers or my current numbers to tell me what I’m capable of. Or, I could use the Galloway magic mile calculations, which have been pretty accurate too. Maybe that’s a good place to start.

Anyways, the first few runs back after my week-long cold haven’t been too brutal. Sleep has been escaping me for awhile now, and even with the increased melatonin that hasn’t been helping. I have two races coming up, both Rock n Roll remixes (5K + half marathons in succession) in Liverpool and Seattle. I’m not sure if they will be stellar performances, but they certainly will be….something, especially since they will be at sea level. I’ll have 11 weeks until Virginia Beach or 14 until Paris if I want to work with a coach or find a plan that I can stick with.

Until then, I’ve been working with my plan (one I’ve created myself based on my experience), and have been mostly waffling between 26.2 and 13.1. Maybe I could start with the Runners World run streak (where you run at least one mile a day between Memorial Day and Labor Day). I know I should add in strength training and have been doing it in bits and pieces. It would be great to have a coach that could provide some workouts in that arena too.

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 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.

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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):

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Happy training!

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. 

Dopey Challenge Week 3 + 4: Fund-running for Best Friends Animal Society again!

Guess what? I’ve finally got my charity picked out for the Dopey Challenge! All of you who know me know that I really enjoy fund-running for my big yearly A-races. My charities over the years have varied a bit, but it took some time for me to really hone in on the one that I wanted to focus on this time. The one that I chose for this race is…………..Best Friends Animal Society again.

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I chose this charity again because of all the amazing work that my friend Kaylee does with this organization — she has persevered through so much so that so many lives are saved every day. She has to deal with work trips to tacky Las Vegas, hot days in endless LA traffic, and other travesties (like when people think it’s better to buy pets than adopt them). All that aside, BFAS does some amazing work for other rescues around the country too! They even hooked me up with one of my furever friends, Dexter. When you begin donating to my fundraising campaign, you’ll start getting thank you notes from him! I plan on donating $1 for every training mile I complete during the Dopey Challenge, so I hope you’ll join me for my virtual (or real life!) miles.

Won’t you consider donating a few dollars to their fine organization? Help keep a few kitties and pups off the streets this summer. They’ll be furever thankful that you did!

On another note, I’m really glad that I’m sticking to such a conservative race training plan. If this plan were any more stringent right now, I think I’d already be discouraged.

The Internet has also been out all weekend at home, and this afternoon I cracked open the ultra-running book I was reading through a few years ago. Romancing those thoughts after slogging through a 5.5-mile run seems a bit foolish, but strangely appropriate. It’s funny how even the shortest of runs seem to do that to you. I wonder if the Dopey Challenge counts as an ultra, since it spans over the course of a few days. It doesn’t matter too much, I suppose.

This week, we’ve also sent in our passport renewals, and thus I’ve renewed my efforts in planning out my worldwide, 7-continent marathon tour. We began looking over races to research. Some of them included the Mt. Kilimanjaro Marathon, Victoria Falls Marathon, Rio Marathon, and some other ones. Antarctica is still on my list and its an unwavering desire of mine, so that’ll probably happen soon after the Dopey Challenge. There’s a race in Australia that we were looking at that is a 45km race, so I suppose that qualifies as one! 🙂

So the miles haven’t been too bad over the last few weeks. For week 3, it was 3 runs: 2 45-minute runs, followed by a 3 mile run. What that came out to were three 3.1 mile runs at 45 minutes each for week 3. For this week, it was 3 runs again: 2 45-minute runs, followed by a 5.5 mile run. This week’s work schedule was also similarly intense (although not nearly as bad as last week’s), but I wasn’t able to keep up with my run schedule so I had to cram my runs off-cadence unfortunately. I got them in though.

Today’s 5.5 mile run was a bit difficult since I got up really early (5am or so) but we didn’t get started until 9am. By then I was already really hungry, but generally when I eat I tend to get really sick when I run. So a rungry run it was. The run went well, seeing as though it was a treadmill run. I really would like to get outside sometime. It’d be nice to get out to Sloan Lake to run around a bit, but that requires more logistics. We have some upcoming warm-up races scheduled that I can look forward to 🙂 I really do enjoy running outside, but I guess I ended up being a bit more weary of running along Cherry Creek than I originally thought. And I ended up being a lot more fed up by traffic lights now than I used to be than when I first began running.

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I missed last week’s recap post because of work. WORK. Work? Work! All the work. My energy was zapped for most of the week. The meeting schedules got shifted around and with my sleep issues bad enough as it is, I am really struggling to keep up with the new work call time. 8:30am meetings have been wreaking havoc on my body, especially when they necessitate a very early call time, with an even earlier marathon training schedule, with an unwavering launch schedule and teaching schedule. There isn’t a whole lot of flexibility to work with, unfortunately.

I wish there were some sort of nap room at work, or that the weather was nicer so that I could nap in the car midday. Right now it’s a blistering 90-100 degrees out, so I’d probably die (literally) if I were to do that. I’m sure things will slow down here in a bit (maybe?!) so I’ll try to take it a day at a time. I see some of my coworkers heading out for runs during lunch and I wonder how crazy they are, but mostly really how far they are going. I mean, how far can you go during lunch? Maybe the Boulder Creek Trail is shaded enough where it stays somewhat cool? I’ve biked along it and it’s already pretty hot during the mornings. I don’t think I could steal any time during the weekday to do any training runs — that, and Erik and I do all of our weekday training runs together — but maybe it’d be nice to venture out for a head-clearing walk sometimes. But probably when it’s not 100 degrees out. For now I’ll drive down to the local Jamba Juice 🙂

My mantra for the upcoming week:

Go Run

Happy training! Until next time…

Dopey Challenge Week 2: Planning the Season

Dopey Challenge update: Two weeks down, 27 more to go.

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Training has been going well. Nothing is off-track yet, although my workload is kicking up into high gear. My stress levels have been negatively affecting my training, but I’ve been aiming to at least get 6-7 hours of sleep in a night. On the nights I achieve that, training isn’t so bad so long that I’m not reading emails in between intervals. It also helps if I’m not ruminating over the amount of work I have on my plate.

I’ve been planning some warm up races for the long road ahead. There are some nice ones in the fall, so I signed up for the Breckenridge Half Marathon in September. It’s at 10,000 feet above sea level. My lungs will probably explode, but luckily there’s a 4-hour time limit.

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In December, when the miles pile up, I was able to find a two-day race in Dallas (called the Texas Double) that will allow me to get in my half-marathon and full marathon over the weekend for my training plan. It’ll be nice to run in the outdoors, rather than slogging out 39 miles on a treadmill. I can’t even begin to imagine what that is like.

In addition to those races, I have a few virtual races in progress too. I love races in general, but over the years I’ve found that they are fairly expensive, since I really enjoy the larger races. I’m now saving the big races for a few times a year at most, and I imagine that when I begin taking up triathlons again my pocketbook will suffer once more. Perhaps when I finish paying off my student loans (another 3 years/$110K later, if I follow my financial planner’s schedule), I can celebrate with an Ironman! Or an international race! Or an international Ironman! 😀

So, the Pacific Coast Highway virtual race is about halfway complete. I’m really enjoying the email notifications I get for the landmark mile markers! It’s such a neat little service.

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Another challenging race I’ve signed up for is the Amerithon Challenge. I’m using my FitBit to log all of my miles and so far in the first week I’ve logged a little over 25. Not bad!

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There’s a few other virtual races I want to sign up for. The Appalachian Trail series looks pretty neat. I’ve always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. There’s a schoolteacher in my parents’ town who hikes it regularly, and the local paper always covers it. Regardless, in the absence of being able to do the trail in person, it’s a nice substitute.

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My treadmill doesn’t afford a very nice view, but it allows me to run with my husband, who runs considerably faster than me. I’m currently trying to convince him to train to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but one goal at a time he says. (He’s also training for the Dopey Challenge.)

This is my mantra for the upcoming week:

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Since I try to run first thing in the morning, it can get pretty difficult. I usually want to jump right in to my design work, or grading student assignments. However, I know that by taking care of myself first, I can be the best version of me for everyone who depends on me.

Happy training! Until next time…

Slowly warming up

A month or so ago, I downloaded an audiobook on kaizen, the idea of continuous improvement through small incremental steps. I listened to it on the car ride back to the airport from my parents’ house, and have listened to it here and there during my commute to work. One of the key takeaways from kaizen is that in order to take the first step towards any goal, you must break down the goal into the smallest incremental action item possible. It’s akin to flossing one tooth a night when you’re trying to build a flossing habit, or wearing your running gear to bed (like how I used to!) to be dressed and ready to go the next morning.

Since I’ve began listening to that audiobook, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how I could incorporate the concept of kaizen in my training. Oftentimes I give myself monumental goals that seem insurmountable and intimidating. That’s part of the thrill — attempting something that I feel that I mostly can’t do, but somehow might be able to pull off with enough work and determination. These are things like the Ironman (still haven’t checked that one off my list…), and some of my other lofty goals.

The idea of kaizen reminds me a lot of this:

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In an attempt to employ this concept in my life, I bit off the 21-day run streak again that originally got me into the running habit. I was doing really well for a bit, until I managed to get myself sick a week ago and while I’ve been nose-trumpeting, it’s been tough getting my daily run in.

I’m trying not to come down too hard on myself seeing as though I really couldn’t help catching the cold, nor was it the lack of willpower or motivation that kept me from running — it was legitimately because I could not get myself out of bed to run, let alone to the office to work. (I did manage to work from home a lot last week in between some in-town travel, which was nice).

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It’s still a pretty impressive graph to me at least! I’m knocking off the distance a few miles at a time, but it’s been awhile since I’ve really been back on my feet in this way. These small incremental goals have been refreshing. All of this will serve as a warm up for the Dopey Challenge training plan, which is something that I’m trying to get set up on my calendar. 29 weeks of run training! Where will I fit in my HIIT? What about tune-up races? So many questions!

So, in classic Amara fashion, here’s what I’m thinking: warm up races, cross-training, and back to a more regimented training style may be in order. I’m also longing for laps in the pool and have been doing tons of research into which 24 Hour Fitness gyms around me have a clean enough pool to my liking. It’d be great to get in a few short sessions a week. Being in the water has a calming effect on me, at least when it’s just me and the lane markers. I miss my solitary midnight swims, happy hour swims, early morning swims…I guess you can just say that I really miss swimming. Being completely landlocked in Colorado doesn’t really help. However, getting back on a 30-minute swim practice, a couple of times a week, could help me brush up on some pool techniques so that when I’m ready to consider triathlons again, I can be mentally prepared for the water.

With grad school wrapped up, I wonder what is next though. What is my next big thing? I suppose the Dopey Challenge is a pretty big thing, but it still seems like a stepping stone on my way to an Ironman one day. I suppose only time will tell. I’m slowly warming up to the idea of racing again, and I’ll have plenty of things to do on my list until I get into the throes of my season. I am excited to venture down this journey again. It’s about time for a new medal rack anyways.

medalrack

Reviving the blog

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten the chance to sit down to reflect about all the change and upheaval in my life over the last year. I finally feel like I’m a point where I’ve settled in to my new city, Denver. I am wrapping up my final WEEK of grad school. Work is all over the place but when isn’t it? Life is moving pretty quickly and I’m getting married in a few weeks, and I’m pretty excited about that.

There has been an intense sense of irony in my move to Denver in that this has been the least active I’ve ever been. I was really excited to move to Denver because I thought I’d get out (as in, outside into the wilderness!) a lot more often, and I’d be able to focus a lot more on my training. That hasn’t quite been the case since I’ve moved here. The first month or so I was able to get quite a bit of time in, mostly because I was here a month before I was set to begin working and before Mr. was permanently moved in. I spent that month detoxing from prior work stress, only to slide in to another rinse-repeat cycle. It has since been compounded and relieved a few times over, mostly due to the ebb and flow of my work and the types of opportunities come my way. I’m trying my best not to overcommit but it is easier said than done.

That said, I am really looking forward to striking a better balance between all of my competing priorities. When grad school took over the scene, a lot of my training time disappeared. How, with grad school practically out of the picture, that should open up a little more time for training. The amount of training I’ll be able to do will depend on how much teaching work I’m taking on outside of my normal 9-5 (if you can call it that). I think that this is the typical story of the average adult though — we all have aspirations, and we’re all overextended. No part of this struggle makes me particularly special. However, in articulating this, I hope to find some sort of clarity in how I’ve structured my time and how I will go about my training in the future. I’ve failed miserably at having a regimented schedule, and I’ve also failed when having nothing on the calendar too. What’s seemed to have worked in the past is a mix of having a goal, having a semblance of a plan, and having some wiggle room along the way for training augmentation, rewards, rest, and the like.

What I’ve found to be the biggest barrier to my training over the last two years since I’ve been in grad school, and while exiting my position in Seattle, and while launching my first product at my current job and now working on the second launch, is that the cognitive stress from my work really does take a physical toll on my body and my energy level. I’ve spent countless weekends trying to recover from them. It feels very similar to having raced without the proper amount of training. I have the mental strength to pull myself through those prolonged periods of stress but it’s in no way healthy to continue to do so.

There are a few changes that I am making…

For one, I’ve switched out the domain — from Ironwoman in Training to Amara in Training. I’m not quite sure if I’ve completely shelved the idea of completing an Ironman. At the moment it’s hard to fathom being able to find the time to commit to that kind of training again. I don’t necessarily feel that my window has passed, but perhaps my motivation has. Maybe it’ll one day return. Nonetheless, the domain address didn’t seem as fitting anymore, so I switched it out to something that was a little more enduring. It seems as though I will always be in training, so this one seemed to have fit the bill.

Second, I’m on day 13 of a 21-day run streak. (I had to take one day off this weekend because I was at the height of my cold, unfortunately.) My goal has been to get at least 30 minutes of running in a day. I’ve identified a lot of false obstacles in my way, one in particular being a HIIT gym schedule that I try to adhere to. When I haven’t been able to make my classes, I tended to write off that day completely. Now, I’ve been prioritizing my runs and I haven’t been trying to schedule any days at the gym. (A part of me is still torn about whether or not to keep the membership, but that’s another discussion completely.)

Third, I’m trying to be somewhat more conservative with my race calendar. I’ve historically registered for lots of races up front, only not to make it to the start line for a myriad of reasons. By being a little more methodical up front, I think I can probably save myself a lot of money and a lot of disappointment. I’ve committed to a fairly large goal in early 2017 — the Disney’s Dopey Challenge — so there will be plenty of warm-up races and training pains to discuss!

A Week in Niseko

After being flogged at work and school for about six weeks straight, I was able to score a week or so off to hit up the slopes in Japan. It was my first international trip since I left LA, and my first trip to Japan, and it was awesome! The groomed beginner runs were challenging enough to break me into a sweat, and when I got tired of the narrow hairpin turns I tried out a short blue run a few times which took me forever but alas, I survived.

I’ve learned enough about myself out there to know that I psych myself out way too much. Half of the time my mind is in panic mode and the other half is in lala-land. If I keep reminding myself that I can pizza my way down a hill then I keep my bearings and manage down fine. It’s when I watch the other skiers zoom down the hill gracefully and effortlessly that I eat a mouthful of pow.

I’ve gotten pretty decent use out of my Epic ski pass this year already. 3 days in Vail + 5 days in Niseko so far. It’ll be nice to head back to Vail (or Breckenridge or Beaver Creek) before the season is up, but I have a ton of summertime activities to prep for. Thanks to my diligence at Orangetheory, I was fairly strong for this season’s ski vacay. I’ve been adding in some running over the last month so I have some base miles under me now.

It’s time to turn my attention to my race schedule for the rest of the year. I have a half marathon in March, a full marathon in June, and an ultramarathon in July. I have a sprint triathlon trifecta this summer as well (an excuse to keep me on the bike and in the pool during my rest days). I’m still wondering how I’ll squeeze in some open water swim training. In October I plan on celebrating a season well done with a half marathon trifecta in beautiful Lake Tahoe! Squeeeeee! It feels like the odd-numbered years are my overzealous years and my even numbered years are my rest years…so let’s see if the tradition continues on.

This year is already off to a pretty good start. Granted it’s already late February but I could’ve sworn that it was just the new year. Regardless, I’m pretty happy how things have turned out so far. I’m never going to forget this trip and I am definitely coming back!

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Looking forward to being stateside again in a day or so. My birthday festivities are coming up and I need to find a place that has enough snow for skiing in early March!