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.

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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. 

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:

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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.

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