Race Recap: Rock n Roll Denver Remix Challenge 2017

This was the second time I’ve ran the Rock n Roll Denver. It was very much a different experience running this city, now that we’re going on our third year here, and now that we’ve been heavily training for races for at least two years here. Although still not familiar, they certainly didn’t seem as foreign as they did this time last year. Maybe I’m starting to take a liking to this place after all. It took me awhile to warm up to Seattle. In fact, it takes me awhile really to feel like I’m not hoteling in any new city.

The 5K starts a bit later – I think it was 8am, which feels a bit late to me. The sun is overhead and its quite bright out. It’s early enough that people could ditch us for brunch and I wouldn’t be mad.

The start line looks really small, and the corrals are tiny. The 5Ks usually are pretty small for the Rock n Roll races. I hope they keep them though, because it’s really nice being able to do the Remix Challenges!

I didn’t take as many pics once the race starts, since it’s a 5K and the race was over pretty quickly! 🙂 The medal was pretty nice though. Fancy fancy!

We headed over to the expo. I kept going back and forth between going to the expo or not, but since the t-shirts were pretty boring, I really wanted to personalize them this year. I also bought a city-specific Brooks tank, which is not something I’m prone to doing. Since Denver is now my home city (for awhile I guess), I suppose I’ll rep it. Why not?

Denver is my 12th tour stop in the Rock n Roll series. It’s one of my lazy stops because the start line is just a few blocks away from my apartment.

The next morning, the sky was golden and we were all ready to go. It had gotten pretty chilly in the morning, so I wore my cold weather gear. Things were set to warm up later, but I opted for warmth anyways. I tend to get cold easily.

I debated a lot about whether or not to stop for pictures. After all, I see a lot of these places on my way to work. It’s odd playing a tourist in my own town. However, what’s interesting is that I rarely do take pictures here, even though I’m still new around here…and when do I ever get the opportunity to take pictures at these angles, anyways? I might as well do it while I still have the chance.

This particular bookstore and coffee shop holds significance to me – Erik and I signed our apartment lease there when we first decided to move to Denver. <3

I work right by Union Station!

After downtown, the run got reeeeeeaaalllllly long so I put away my phone. I recognized a lot of the sights from last year, and from my jaunts around town. I think a downside of running cities that I’m familiar with is that distances feel a lot farther when you can anticipate every landmark in view. When you’re somewhere new, everything is a surprise to you and there’s not much to expect so it’s novel.

Once in the park, you could see the leaves turning for autumn, and they had some cute photo sets up.

Such a clear gorgeous day. You can see the mountains if you squint really hard.

This is probably true.

The finish line came and went. Victory meals were consumed (Hapa Sushi). We enjoyed Blade Runner and I may have fallen asleep for part of it.

Overall, it was a great race! Since it is a local hometown race, I look forward to doing it again next year. Hopefully I can improve my time – it took a real nosedive compared to my previous year. I suspect it was because I was sick, and because of all the races I’ve done this year. With less races and more focused training on my calendar for 2018 maybe I can focus on performance.

See you in Los Angeles for race #13. The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame is near!

Race Recap: Rock n Roll Philadelphia Remix Challenge 2017

When I first started running Rock n Roll races, I remember seeing the Hall of Fame status set at 10 races. I remember wondering to myself how someone could have the stamina and the means to accomplish 10 half marathons, let alone find the time to travel to different races around the country or the world within one calendar year.

Well, 6 years later, my time had finally come.

I had sandwiched this trip in between a few other work commitments, as I have done with most of my other runs. I had arrived in the dead of night into Philadelphia like I had for Chicago a few months prior, getting dropped off by a very kind Lyft driver. I stayed a few short blocks away from the start line at an AirBnb and made myself boxed mac and cheese on both nights, preferring to keep things low key and frugal. This pretty much sums up my journey to ten Rock n Roll races, and then some…

With only a few hours of sleep, I showed up to the 5K start line to pick up my bib and other goodies. The air was heavy with humidity. It wasn’t warm, nor was it cool. It just…was.

The 5K was an out and back. It was simple, fairly sunny, with plenty of walkers and runners and cheery faces.

After the 5K, I headed back to my AirBnB to grab a few winks of sleep before heading out to the convention center for my half marathon bib and to wander the city. It was fairly easy to get around town using the bus and on foot. The day heated up a bit, and when coupled with the humidity, made me feel like a cased sausage. I must be getting used to the dry weather in Denver.

I started noticing that they’ve completely given up on customizing the shirts for each city, so I’ve made it a point to hit the Toyota booth at each expo to get the arm badge affixed. So far I’ve made things like “I run for pie” and “I run for fries” and other silly things. Maybe in LA I can make “I run for hot pot.”

When I was done with expo things, I went to check out some historical things, like the Liberty Bell. It was a lot smaller in person. How come the Liberty Bell in history books made it look so much bigger?

Most of Independence Hall was closed by the time I got there, and tickets were required, so I snapped some photos and walked around. Hopefully next time I can plan ahead.

I noticed Chinatown and popped by for some yummy food. I hadn’t really had breakfast and it was nearly the late afternoon…time for lunch!

I stopped into a poke restaurant for a quick healthy bite to eat. Very yummy!

Afterwards, I met up with a girlfriend at the Edgar Allen Poe historical museum.

There were too many places to eat, and so many places to see. I really do have to come back another year to enjoy everything!

 

The next day, I set out for the half marathon. It was one of the most beautiful race starts I’ve seen, to be honest! Also, by the time my corral started, the pros had already completed their 5K lap. Just…wow!

I think this was the race’s 40th anniversary. From what I found it boasted 29 legacy runners. I can’t imagine doing something for 40 years straight, except for eating, breathing, and sleeping, but only because those are automatic and required for life.

This shot reminded me of running through Liverpool!

My namesake?

This was in the Fairmount neighborhood, which was really close to my Airbnb.

This was one of the prisons, which was guarded by gargoyles. There’s tours daily, but I didn’t get a chance to go. Next time!

Lucky number seven!

Perhaps I wasn’t at work, but later that day I’d have to board a plane to Seattle to head to work.

At this point I was at mile 9 and I would’ve preferred the couch, to be honest.

This rocker dude greets me at almost every race.

There were a lot of cyclists bandit-ing the course, which was annoying. However, this guy was wearing an Incredibles costume and riding along the racers cheering us on.

I was more than thrilled when I saw the finish line. Never happier! Really though, I was never happier because I had reflected on my 10-race journey during this race. It’s been awhile since I’ve been emotional during a race, but this was a special one for me. So many times during this year I had felt like throwing in the towel on this goal, but here I was. I’m only 2/3 of the way there, but this still feels like a good accomplishment to me.

Here I am, with my gold record for race #10 of the year!

My friend and I even ran up the Rocky steps!

Winner winner chicken dinner!

Here’s the results and map of my race:

From there, I hopped on a plane to work…

I added a few more medals to my collection, including a remix medal. So much bling!

Next stop: Disneyland Paris!

July 2017 Training Recap: 138.8 Total Miles, Zero Outdoor Riding

I used to be able to do week-by-week recaps for my events. Now I suppose monthly recaps will have to do!

Depending on the regularity at which you talk to me, visit my blog, or how much I decide to share with you at any given time, you may know that I’ve been toying with the idea of heading back into triathlons again. I loaded a few training plans into my calendar, enough to get me to the start line of Ironman Boulder. Although I’m still unsure if I want to do that specific event — Cozumel, Copenhagen, and Barcelona still call me — I’ve been essentially putting myself to the test, figuring out if I indeed want it or if it was just a nagging thought. From time to time I get those, especially with my bipolar disorder (which gets exacerbated with my ADHD), so I always find that it’s best to prove to myself that I indeed actually want to do something as taxing and onerous as this. (For instance, I had to prove to myself that I wanted to go to grad school the first time by reading *all* of the books on marketing at the library. Yeah…)

Anywho, my first month, as defined as July 4th to 31st:
-138.8 total miles
-56.7 miles running (13.1 of them being the RNR Chicago)
-71.5 miles cycling (all indoors)
-3.67 miles swimming
-6.93 miles rowing (for days I couldn’t make it to the pool)
-Missed two swims and cut one run a few miles short

All in all, not too bad I suppose. I got some new tubes on my bike last month but haven’t really taken my bikes outside. I’ve made excuses, like “well, the trail is pretty busy during rush hour” (well, it is, because of bike commuters!), and then mid-day it’s “well it’s really hot and I’ll get sunburned” or “well, there’s a thunderstorm advisory and I don’t want to die.” I was going to go on a quick morning ride this morning but I got sucked into a fruitless internet discussion about women in cycling. My energy would’ve been better spent…you guessed it…cycling. Oh well. My day is fairly open, and if I can coerce myself to get on my bike for a lunchtime ride when the trail is clear and the weather is nice, I can re-learn how to use my gears again. I’m tired of pumping my tires and then going nowhere!

One of my goals for the end of summer was to find a short, local triathlon. Alas, the summer is quickly coming to a close. I’ve looked for something that would work with my schedule it is proving to be a challenge. School starts in a few weeks. There’s a sprint tri this coming weekend in Vail, but I’ve done zero outdoor riding, so it’s practically out of the question. The next one I could do is the 26th but it’s sandwiched between two shows (Depeche Mode and TJ Miller), and I have friends coming into town. The week after that we’re heading out to Virginia Beach. The week after that, I do have something on the calendar mysteriously called ‘Desert’s Edge Sprint/Oly Tri’…Hmm…That’ll probably be only only choice if I want to do it this fall before my slew of fall half marathons begin in rapid succession.

What I should do is actually rewrite my end of summer goal as “ride my road bike outside.” That would most likely be more productive and then be conducive to registering for a sprint. Or maybe just taking my bike outside into the hallway. Or wearing my cycling kit around the house. Kaizen – small steps, right?

Overall, things are going okay. Things at work have been looking up considerably. I’ve been looking forward to getting back into the classroom. I wish I spent more time this summer reading, but I’ve been focusing a lot on my training, traveling, and work. At this point my only reading is done through Blinkist and through audiobooks/podcasts. I suppose that it’s still been a fairly productive summer, all things considered.

Lesson of the month:

Reviving Old Ambitions

There’s something to be said about chasing old ambitions that never quite died. After the Dopey Challenge, I’ve been searching for the next big thing and I haven’t quite found it yet. I’ve come full circle from time goals, distance goals, and now I think I’m back to triathlons again. At some point, I wonder if it’s just one of those nagging things I need to do once in my life before I can move on to the next thing. For some people it’s getting married, or moving abroad, or skydiving. (I suppose I’ve done all of those things…?)

I’ve given a lot of thought into what constitutes a worthy goal to me.
-Is it challenging enough?
-Does it scare me?
-Will it require a significant enough commitment that causes me pause?
-Will its potential for greatness outweigh its potential for harm?
-Is it flexible enough?

The last triathlon I completed was a sprint distance in Tacoma on 6/28/14 called the Five Mile Lake Triathlon. I was woefully underprepared for it —  mostly underprepared for the open water swim, but I did well enough. Well, it’s actually a bit difficult to compare them against one another since the swim and bike distances can get a bit inconsistent. I did well enough given the preparation I completed since I had come off of a fractured leg, an Ironman DNS, a major family event, and two catastrophic breakups. So, in all fairness, I was a human disaster trying to piece my life back together and I barely finished my sixth triathlon. All I wanted was to desperately feel like things were back to normal.

#TBT: Three years ago, I raced a sprint triathlon after having recovered from a slew of emotional and physical injuries. I was so undertrained that a few minutes into my swim, I clung onto a safety kayak and was ready to get pulled out of the water. The kayaker told me to hang on for a bit and catch my breath. It took awhile, but I finally did and continued around the array of buoys and went on to finish the race. // Honestly, I still feel like I’m catching my breath. Never let these social media highlight reels, LinkedIn profiles, or portfolios fool you. Sure, I work hard most of the time. Some days suck, some days are awesome, but most days I’m just lucky to be where I am and so are you. Really. ? #triathlon #running #roadtoironman

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Racing felt normal. I feel at home in the start corrals of a running race, or wading the waters before my swim wave is called. I feel at home when I’m called upon to start. I love to execute the plan of action I’ve rehearsed day in, day out, morning, day, and night, for weeks on end. Of all the uncontrollable things in my life — the world around me, work drama, text messages left unanswered, family aggressions left unresolved, promotions left unfulfilled, to-do lists left incomplete — this was the one thing I still had some control over.

* * * * * * *

I’ve fielded a lot of questions from close friends about when I’d try my hand at the full-length triathlon again (2.4 mile swim + 112 mile bike + 26.2 mile run). Ironman Louisville never came to be, and I went for the HITS 70.3 instead in 2013. I’ve checked out my training plans again in TrainingPeaks and when looking between my run training on runCoach, Ironman base training, and between the 13- and 16- week full distance training plans it doesn’t seem that insurmountable. It will wholly depend on the race I settle on and the time of year on which it falls. Ironman Boulder has especially bad timing because all of the peak training weeks fall around particularly busy weeks for my students, which means it’ll be busy grading and advising weeks for me, depending on how I schedule my classes or manage my time (which is negotiable and totally up to me, to be honest). There’s Ironman 70.3 Boulder which falls much later in the summer too, which would be more manageable. The downside of a full 140.6 is losing weekends to long training runs and rides, which cuts into quite a bit of travel. Granted, we haven’t planned our travel yet, and could preemptively look at that I suppose before we hammer the nail into the coffin.

I’ve also contemplated other races outside of North America, like Ironman Australia, Ironman Cozumel, Ironman Austria, Ironman Copenhagen, or Ironman Barcelona. After all, why not treat my first Ironman the same way like I did my first marathon…go big, and then go home?

First things first: I’ll need to focus on my weakest sport, cycling. I’ve finally cleaned off my bike, but now I need to replace the trainer I gave away when I moved to Denver. It’d be great to get some summer riding in too. All of my riding, aside from riding to and from work, has been indoors. I’ll also need to figure out how to gently re-lay out the living room, especially now that I live with someone! Maybe I can make a home for myself on the balcony without getting struck by lightning? I haven’t been out in open water for three years now, so getting out there with a group or making some swimming friends will be key. I’ve been hitting the lap pool at the gym again. My upper body is pretty weak since I do zero strength training. Maybe some rowing on dry days?

It’ll be a fun journey. I’m already plotting the work I’ve got ahead…

Race Recap: Rock n Roll Seattle Remix Challenge 2017

For the eighth city of the year I headed back to my favorite race city, Seattle! Seeing as though my office is based out of Seattle (well, sort of), I mixed work and fun. I flew in to the city and headed in to the office for some meetings, and then at the end of the day headed out to the expo to pick up my bibs for the weekend. After lots of consternation I picked up my half marathon bib, rather than a full marathon…even though I would continue to ruminate over it the entire weekend. Ugh.

The inaugural Rock n Roll Seattle 5K started and finished at the Museum of Flight. Running along Marginal Way, the views of the airplanes were fantastic. We even had impromptu corral waves that corresponded with airplane takeoffs!  Since Alaska Airlines was the sponsor, they even had a small little plane arch. Look at the cute little plane! It’s so little!

Since Erik had a shakeout run before his marathon, he did the unthinkable…he jogged the 5K with me, side by side. It was really nice starting and finishing a race with him. I’ve always wanted to do that!

The 5K field was much smaller than I thought it would be, given the lead time and the popularity of running in the city of Seattle. Since we ran the first one, I suppose this sets us up to be legacy runners for this race. I suppose that’s something I’d be okay with.

The 5K run was a very flat course. It was north on Marginal Way from the Museum of Flight, 1.5 miles from the start, with a turnaround and back. We ran on both lanes of the street since they were completely shut down. There was definitely a band and a water station along this route…much better than Liverpool!

After the race, we ran a few errands before heading back to the Museum of Flight.

The finish line was celebratory as expected. Lots of families and charity runners finished alongside one another, and lots of folks headed in to the museum. I thought that it was a fantastic venue for the race. I really look forward to doing it again next year.

After a day of running around, we settled in to an evening of spaghetti dinner at our Airbnb and rested up for our big day.

On Sunday morning, I woke up and got ready for my half marathon. I woke up still fairly tired from the marathon — something that felt pretty familiar from the week, to be honest — and I was glad that many people talked me out of running the full marathon. We walked over to Husky Stadium, which was the start of the new race course. It was a really nice race morning, not too cool but definitely a bit more humid than I remembered for Seattle.

Seattle tends to be a fairly popular race, and since the half and full begin together, the corrals end up blending together. After they called a dozen or so, I finally got to begin my race!

This new course was really interesting. I thought I would like it more, to be honest. So many of the miles wind through my old race stomping grounds. The first 1/10th of a mile runs on the Montlake Bridge, which was an absolute pain. Having to run on the bridge meant that we had to run on the medal grading, which was really difficult and potentially hazardous if you run clumsily like I do.

From there, the course winds through neighborhoods that I’ve ridden through during my triathlon training days. As I dripped from the humidity, I notice that the course comes up along the Kurt Cobain bench:

As the race progresses along the Lake Washington waterfront, it’s difficult to miss the Seattle skyline. The clouds were hanging fairly low that morning, but I still find it beautiful nonetheless.

While running on the course, I kept running and catching up to the guy dressed up as an airplane. I wondered if he was someone who particularly loved Alaskan Airlines? Or maybe he worked for them and really loved the company?

The costume was awesome, but he looked pretty warm while running. He also looked tired because he was hauling the thing around the entire time. I would run into him again and again on the course though, so he kept a fairly good pace given the costume! I hope to be able to run with such an awesome costume someday. 🙂

My legs were feeling particularly fatigued, especially by mile 9. The marathon in San Diego really did a number on me. Even now I still don’t feel like I’ve quite recovered yet. At this point we’re about a mile past the marathon/half marathon split. This sign was here to remind me that my bling was around the corner. Just a few more miles left to go.

We’re winding our way through Rainier Valley. It’s not a very nice part of Rainier Valley, but a few years ago I was part of a painting project that met in a secret warehouse to paint portraits over the weekend. I remembered some of the side streets. I thought a lot about those times of my life, these streets, and how far I had come. I never thought that I’d leave Seattle, let alone live in Denver, yet here I was. After a few miles, we turned the corner in the International District and I could see Century Link stadium.

The finish chute narrowed as the marathoners joined us back near the finish line. By the time I finished I was completely drenched and exhausted. It reminded me of how I felt after finishing Nashville, except it wasn’t hot.

After some stretching and changing, I went back for my other medals and then headed back to the finish line to enjoy the festivities.

I’m now on race 7 towards 15 to my Hall of Fame status this year. I really need to focus on taking care of my body, stretching, strength training, getting massages, and not overextending my training.

My next stop…24 hours, start to finish, in Chicago!

 

Race Recap: Rock n Roll San Diego Remix Challenge 2017

While in Liverpool, I peeked at the race calendar for the Rock n Roll series. I knew that there was a marathon in San Diego the weekend we returned from our trip, and that it was the only 7-hour finish cutoff until the end of the year (others being Savannah or San Antonio). I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t get a finishers jacket from San Antonio since I planned on being at the Cal International Marathon for my husband’s big BQ effort that weekend, so this was a neat opportunity. That, and on our trip we met a nice gal that also lived in San Diego who was also running it, and she was a 2-time Hall of Fame’r! How amazing is that?

I flew in to Denver from Liverpool in the evening on Thursday and was back out again to San Diego on Friday. I enjoyed sleeping in my bed for a few hours before hopping back out on the plane. Sun-drenched San Diego greeted me with open arms and I hurried over to the expo, mainly so that I could quickly get back to a coffee shop somewhere to get some work done. Armed with two race bibs, the weekend was off to a good start.

My plan for the 5K was just to have fun and to warm up. I had not ran for a week — since the race in Liverpool — so this was really meant to just shake things out. Overall things were pretty humid, but not hot, which was a really nice change from all of the weather issues I’ve been encountering.

After the race, we caught up with my bestie for brunch, and headed to the expo to grab some last minute supplies.

For the rest of the day, I ate and relaxed and got my race gear ready for the big 26.2. It would be my fifth!

My plan was to do my best, but mostly to finish the marathon under the 7-hour cutoff. It was a major concern because my longest training run was on April 15th or so, which was almost 6 weeks prior. I had learned too late that Seattle had a 6-hour cutoff, so I quit training for the full distance and began focusing on the half distance. Now is the time I would put the adage to the test…is it truly better to show up at the race slightly undertrained? Between being slightly undertrained, at having my sleep cycles on and off because of the time change, I had a pretty hefty base so perhaps I would be okay. I would do my best, sticking to my race intervals that I learned from the WDW marathon. Instead of 30-second run-walk intervals, I increased it to 45-second run-walk intervals. My plan also included running through the intervals on the downhills as safely as possible, trotting the uphills if my intervals called for it, and keeping my intervals on flats no matter what.

Thanks to the jetlag and a big bowl of pasta, I was asleep pretty early and got an amazing nights sleep. I awoke at 4am feeling pretty good and headed over to the race start.

I was super excited — this being my very first Rock n Roll full marathon, I was excited to see how different it would be. The big box races seem to bring their own flare to the marathon distance. The bands were placed towards the harder points of the race after the half distance. The motivational banners and posters more helpful. The cheer stations a bit more enthusiastic where needed. I did see some of the water stations being packed up, which is slightly demotivating, but I kept going.

The first portion of the race is always a party, because that’s where the bulk of the racers are I suppose. The photo stops are great.

Some people wonder if you can still run a race for time if you stop for pictures? I personally don’t see why not. It’s your race after all. What was cute was that I even saw a TARDIS, which was like a throwback to my last racecation!

I eventually came up on the half/full split. I’ve seen this in other races where I’ve split off to the half marathon route, and I’ve always wanted to be on the marathon end. This was finally my year. At the 8 mile mark, I still felt good, so I went with it.

After making my way on the marathon route, the party got noticeably more quiet. However, I started noticing that restaurants and coffee shops were opening. People were inside, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. The scent of cinnamon buns were filling the air. It was very unfair.

I made my way down to the freeway. I’ve always wanted to take a selfie pic next to the freeway without getting mistaken for a hoodlum! Now I get to take a selfie and THEN run on the freeway. A cyclist tried to come down the freeway with us and a cop stopped them. I suppose it seemed like a faster way to get around that day so I don’t blame them.

So, running on the freeway seems like it would be a faster way to get around during a race. NOT SO. Freeways are graded so that cars can zip up and down those curves quickly, but not humans. So when humans like myself try to slowly run up and down those curves, we do it slowly and at an angle. My ankles went crunch, crunch, crunch, of which my massage therapist and my chiro (later today) will be working out.

I ran through neighborhoods, both real and imagined. Okay, well, “imagined.”

Apparently insurance companies can also set up drinking bars along marathon routes, which is interesting. In most cases they would probably deter things like that.

At the halfway mark I took a screenshot of Runkeeper to save my time – I wanted to have this as a benchmark from my past half marathons to see my pacing and how I was doing. It would be nice if Runkeeper had a lap timer button, or a view that allowed me to see “if she kept going at this pace she will finish a 26.2 in XXXXXX or a 50K in XXXXXX.” Maybe I can put in a feature request?

After this mark I pretty much put my phone away and went to work. It’s where the race began getting difficult. If I were to get truly honest, the race really got difficult somewhere between 18 and 21…sometime around Sea World and getting back on the freeway. I was hurting but not as bad as I thought I would be. I didn’t think I could’ve pushed any harder, but maybe in hindsight I had a little more in me? Probably not. My toes, neck, and back are still recovering and it’s been a few days.

I can rarely muster a smile at mile 25, so I decided to give it a try. It worked, sort of. I kept going. Notice the lack of parallel lines everywhere! My ankles are super angry at me.

I ran through mile 25-26.2. As I whizzed past the 26th mile marker I snapped this because I couldn’t bother stopping for it. I had a PR I was gunning for!

After the finish, I was elated. My finish time was 6:17:02.

I had beat my 6-year old marathon PR by 6 minutes 23 seconds.

I beat my last marathon time (WDW in January, 6 months old) by 18 minutes 10 seconds.

I worked for it, and I’m thankful for that little raspberry watch on my right wrist that helped get me there.

I’m also very thankful for the support of my husband, Erik, and my new friend Arlene, who both peer pressured me into taking on the race and the 7-hour time limit, even though I thought I’d be cutting it a bit too close. For once, peer pressure for good!

All in all, a happy ending. I know that knocking off this much time off of consecutive races is really hard. My goal time for Rock n Roll Arizona is 5:40, which is pretty much another 40 minutes off my now best time. It’ll be a lot of work, but let’s see if I can’t do it again. I have 6 months to focus on nutrition, sleep, and to be more mindful of my speed training, so we shall see!

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.

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):

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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.