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. ūüćÄ #triathlon #running #roadtoironman

A post shared by Amara Hulslander (@amarahulslander) on

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 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.

Tick, Tock

As someone who runs fairly slow, I need something to keep me company on the treadmill as the miles draaaaagggg by. I rely a lot on podcasts for my shorter runs and audiobooks on my longer runs to keep me entertained. I also figure that with all of that free time, I might as well make good use of that time. I could use it to entertain myself, learn something new, pick up a new skill — that’s the beauty of reading, right?

I’ve been enjoying a new audiobook,¬†No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline for Success in Your Life. It’s honestly been such a great read because it has motivated me to take action on a few things that I’ve felt a bit stuck on.¬†Some of it is my personal life, some of it is my professional life. I’m feeling a bit listless about my running goals as well.

This comes on the heels of a recent visit to the ER, which was really an escalation from a visit to the urgent care clinic. I spent the better part of an evening with some chest pain, shortness of breath, and neck pain, and when the symptoms didn’t subside I visited the doctor. The shortness of breath got so bad that I was winded walking down the hallway. Walking the length of a few parking spots sucked the life out of me. This was alarming, especially since I run so many races and this has never been a problem for me.

The urgent care clinic stuck a bunch of electrodes all over my body and the resulting EKG didn’t look too hot so they referred me over to the emergency room. After a chest x-ray and some blood work, everything checked out okay. I was still having the same symptoms but since they deemed that I definitely was not going to die anytime soon, they sent me home. I spent the rest of the day pretty much sleeping and woke up the following Monday feeling strangely fine. (Semisonic reference, anyone?)

As I sat in the hospital bed — I wasn’t quite laying down — I felt strange. I felt too young to be there. I was a bit incredulous actually. I felt like I had done everything correctly. I knew early on that I had high cholesterol and that I was in poor physical shape, so I had corrected for it as best as I could by going pescetarian and by trying to get regular exercise. Since 2011 I’ve been running and for a stint I raced triathlons. Most of my stress comes from work but I try to offset that by pursuing a career that I truly enjoy and by transferring into projects and teams that I find truly gratifying. However, I sat there in that hospital bed knowing that if my days were indeed numbered or cut short that I had lived my life to the fullest and would lean in smiling to those single-digit numbers as best as I could.

It’s been two weeks since the incident and I’ve felt fine. My running has been fine. I added some strength training, although I’ve slacked off this past week.¬†Everything seems mostly normal. It seems like nothing actually happened.

Back to the book, though.¬†Since Dopey, things have been pretty relaxed. That’s not a bad thing, I suppose. I’ve considered using the rest of the year to relax into half marathons. I know that I had a goal of running three marathons this year, but that was because I already had one in the bag (Disney World Marathon), and then I had two in the Rock n Roll series that fit my time limit. The part of the book that I got through today says to re-write goals every day. Although I want to still run a Rock n Roll marathon, I’m considering re-writing the goal and trying for a 50K this summer instead – perhaps that would be more fulfilling because it’s a new distance, it’s a trail race (albeit flat), and it’ll be here in Colorado. It’s also a fundraiser and organized by a local ultrarunner, so it may be a nice local race to run this summer.

Race Recap: Rock n Roll San Francisco Half Marathon 2017

Stop #3: Sam Clams Disco!

I can’t believe I hadn’t done this race sooner. What took me so long to do a race in northern California? I’ve gone up the coast for plenty of work trips, but very rarely for fun trips.¬†Such a travesty…I’ve seen so much under the guise of work, but this was the one trip where it all came together nicely.

We escaped the blizzard (again) and caught up with some friends, old and new. After packet pickup, I met with a friend that I hadn’t seen in years. In fact, the last time I sat in the same room with him I had just started running and had registered for the Athens Classic Marathon. He was incredibly supportive of my running endeavors. (Yes, it’d been¬†that long!) We then met up with another very close friend who just relocated there from Seattle and enjoyed a day around the city before resting our legs for the big race.

We lucked out the morning of the race. We were staying with a friend who was also a runner, and he was kind enough to drive us to the start line. This particular race was much smaller than the other Rock n Roll races I’ve done in the past. It also started much earlier, at 6:15am, which I assume is because of the road closures and potential impact on the city.

There were few bands on the early part of the course until almost the end. It didn’t get too interesting until after the Golden Gate bridge, which meant we were out of the residential areas. It made complete sense since the race started so early anyways. However, the course itself was very¬†scenic, so it made up for the lack of bands.¬†I also noticed that there were parts of the course at the beginning and the end where the course would split and merge, probably because I’m a back of packer and due to the race cutoff times.

My favorite part of the race was definitely the Golden Gate bridge, the weather, and the views of the coast. I enjoyed running into the city and all the sightseeing we did afterwards. It was a nice change of pace. My favorite part was posing with our finisher medals in front of the cable car turnaround!

Overall, it was great seeing my friends again, and seeing a familiar city in a new light. I’m really looking forward to our next race…Nashville!

Race Recap: 2017 Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon

This was my first new race destination in quite awhile! It was¬†nice escaping Denver for a long weekend in the nation’s capital. (Well, it was part exciting and part depressing all at the same time, given the political climate…)

Before heading out of town, I enjoyed some birthday cake and rang in my 33rd year with my friends, students, and co-workers. It was significantly more quiet than years past when I threw parties. Maybe I’ll get there again soon but 32 seemed to have hit me upside the head so quickly and 33 came screaming by that I had no clue that it was even around the corner until the week before.

My besties flew into town for the weekend before, which was great. As I packed for my trip to DC, I paired my newly gifted Sparkle Skirt with a bright idea: Why not (try to) run as Lady Liberty? I threw some pieces together, made a torch, and voila!

I took the Friday off of work and we flew in. It was fairly chilly, as the weather reports and folks on social media reported. I packed layers and layers and layers, and thankfully it was more than enough to keep me warm. However, we picked up some hand warmers and foot warmers just in case.

The race expo was just down the street from our AirBNB, and was a stone’s throw from the metro line. Such a great location!

The race itself was quite beautiful and scenic. The first few miles of the course ran around several monuments and I stopped for photos along the way. I was surprised that more people didn’t stop. Perhaps they were all locals. This was definitely not a race for time!

There was one giant hill somewhere around mile 5 or 6. It was dedicated to one of the charities of the race, and was dedicated to veterans. As touching as it was, the hill was certainly difficult! They even had sandwich boards of all the photos and names of the veterans they were honoring, along with volunteers or service men/women who were there honoring their peers. It was quite touching. Because I was so tired of the hill I didn’t snap any photos, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This race was a bit more emotional for me than anticipated. I thought a lot about how long it took for me to come out to DC on my own, and what a shame it was that I had come out at such a tumultuous time. We skipped a race a month before due to a death in the family, and I thought a lot about that and what it meant to my husband. I thought a lot about my own family during this run too, since the last time I had been in DC was with my parents and my brother. I thought about the time I was in the USCG and wondered how all of my peers were faring. I thought about how life was drastically different compared to my middle school self, my high school graduate self, and my current self, and how all of those expectations were also completely different. I thought a lot about the privileges I’ve had (and lacked) in growing up in the places I have.

I used to think that I didn’t have to think about what was going on in Washington DC. I used to think that outsourcing those “big decisions” to others would be more than sufficient. It seems to be abundantly clear that if you expect something to be done right, that you actually have to keep your eye(s) on it and to consistently audit its progress. You’ll also have to make your voice heard in all the ways that you can. If you don’t think you have to care much about politics or if you don’t think it’ll have much of an effect on your everyday life, then you must be living a pretty privileged life.

As you can see, I did a lot of thinking overall over the course of 13.1 miles. It was probably because I stopped for so many photos…

It was definitely one of my favorite courses. I definitely plan on returning again to DC. Hopefully it’ll be a bit more joyous in the future and I’ll get a chance to do more sightseeing. We stayed a few days to enjoy the National Air and Space Museum. Next time I’d like to see some of the other museums and make more time to visit the monuments during the daytime, and perhaps have a more productive trip.

Finish line selfie!

Very special thanks to Jill Corral for her generous donation to my Planned Parenthood fundraiser!

Next stop: San Francisco!!

10 Races for Planned Parenthood! on Crowdrise

Race Recap: 2017 Rock n Roll Arizona Half Marathon

We flew into Phoenix¬†for our cool-down race, just a mere 3 days after returning from Orlando. By the time we got home, we didn’t bother unpacking at all – in fact, while packing up in Orlando, we decided to pack for Phoenix since we were doing laundry anyways. What has become of my life?

I’ve finally hit elite status for Frontier Airlines, which means that I’m flying like a normal human being, except I’m paying Frontier Airlines prices. It’s awesome. I’ve grown accustomed to packing light anyways, but with all of the race and work traveling I’ll be doing, it’s nice to be able to have a small gym bag with me.

The nice thing about racing in Phoenix was the flat course, and of course, In-N-Out. The last time I had it was in Dallas (only a few months ago), but I decided to load up on it since it would be a long while until I was able to have it again.

We didn’t plan on buying much at the expo, but alas, it turned out that we needed more than anticipated. I was going to the Women’s March the following week and would need some supplies, and Erik needed something for his knee. We picked up a few items and high-tailed it out of there before we could do too much damage to our wallets. I had ordered a Timex watch on Amazon to arrive via locker nearby so that I could run via Galloway intervals, just to see if I could keep up my momentum from the Disney World Marathon.

The race itself went smoothly, and the intervals worked quite well. Training at elevation has really worked to my advantage, and those intervals are really a secret weapon, aren’t they?

I definitely performed better than expected. Being in Phoenix again reminded me a lot of my last race there. The last time I traveled there, I had learned of my friend’s passing and I PR’d because I was so upset at what had happened. I had also come off of a month of HIIT training. I guess it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what changed. Nonetheless, here is my change between my last formal (aka timed) half marathon:

10 minutes and 27¬†seconds. I’ll take it. It’s too bad that I can’t just double it for my marathon time, huh? Mile 13-26 is nothing like mile 0-13.

Nonetheless, it was a scenic route and I was really happy about my performance. I thought a lot about the races I had ahead of me and was excited about the upcoming year. I¬†was fairly optimistic at what the year¬†would bring. The last few weeks have definitely been difficult, and it’s taken a bit of effort for me to come around to even writing this recap entry. It almost seems silly, since this seems so unimportant compared to all of the other things that are going on. I do recognize that there must be some things that must remain constant in my life, though.

15 races around the US (and with one abroad) is no joke I suppose, so that is something worth looking forward to. It’s a privilege really, something that not everyone is in a position to afford or complete. I remember hearing about this challenge just a few years ago when I first moved to Seattle and thinking that it was crazy and so far out of reach…and now, here I am, doing it alongside Erik.

Despite our recent hardships with our families, we still have it pretty good. It’s been difficult getting myself out of the house to do the smallest tasks, but I know there’s a lot of people who depend on me, so nevertheless I do what every other woman before me has done…I get up and I do the things I’m supposed to do to the best of my ability, even if I don’t necessarily feel like it that day. And then¬†I go to sleep hoping that the next day things are a little better.

The Future is Female: In Memory of Phyllis and Ruby

I had spent the previous evening in Seattle at the bedside of a woman who had worked tirelessly to provide for her family. As the monitors showed her vital signs declining, her children gathered close by. The moment the monitor signaled her departure, I could feel my husband gasp and hold his breath for what felt like an eternity.

I came home from class on Monday to the news that another woman I knew had passed away. She had been battling the same demons I had. As with all friends I lose, I immediately think if there was anything I could’ve done to prevent what had happened. The grief ripples through our mutual groups of friends.

In our final communications, between myself and Phyllis and myself and Ruby, we’ve all shared a bit of ourselves. Phyllis and I spoke about our last moments – not quite sure how we came to that topic, but nonetheless we did. I had said that if I were to pass away that day, that I would have been satisfied with how I lived my life. Later that evening I was put in a life/death situation (if you read my blog or know me, I was almost hit by a car that evening in Seattle). She reached out to me the next day. With Ruby, we emailed back and forth a bit. I penned an article for her blog on PTSD and depression, but I feel that I wrote it more for her than anyone else. We exchanged more emails and messages on occasion before I heard the news from my friend on Monday evening.

I posit that the future is female, not only because of the political climate but in the fact that women have had to fight an unfair fight their entire lives: having to put on brave faces; working 150% harder than anyone else to be shown the same consideration; dealing with unfair scrutiny and bias. Phyllis and Ruby in particular embodied genuine strength in their silent determination and perseverance.

Returning from Seattle on Monday evening, I sat in a WeWork conference room in LoHi as I watched my design students present their final projects. It was nine weeks in the making. Out of the 11 students, 10 of them were female. 90% of them were spending their evenings and weekends advancing their careers. These women too were persevering throughout all odds…working against a system that was’t built¬†for them, breaking into a male-dominated field, and so forth.

I could only hope that I had done my duty and channeled my inner Phyllis/Ruby to help them along their journey.

Phyllis Hulslander
Ruby Pipes

 

Race Recap: Disney World Dopey Challenge 2017

Ahhhh — For once, I’ve finally arrived at my A-race intact! Not only that, I’ve also followed my entire training plan. This entire training season has been quite the ride, and it would turn out that race weekend would still have a few tricks up its sleeve…Only in Florida.

Packing and preparation

Preparation for a 4-day race was no easy feat. It turned out that this was almost more complicated than packing for an out-of-state triathlon. 4 sets of running clothes, contingency cold and hot weather running gear, race nutrition, toiletries, first aid kits, recovery items, theme park gear…you name it, we packed it. However, since I was flying Frontier Airlines, all I got was one carry on bag. I had to make it count. I also only packed one mini-costume, which was just a tutu (see below). If I actually had legit costumes, I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off at all.

It starts off with lots of quart-sized plastic baggies, and rolling clothes into them. And then rolling those bags until all the air is out of them. And then you repeat over and over until everything fits.

And that’s how you get a week’s worth of running gear into a single rolling carry-on suitcase!

Race expo

Not too much to see here – I picked up a bunch of swag since this was my A-race, and stood in a bunch of lines. This was an excellent primer for what I had in store for the rest of my week. (Just more lines.)

Race corrals and fireworks galore!

So, the thing with Disney races is that you have to get up insanely early. The races begin at 5am or so. The resort shuttles begin at 2:30am, and the last one you can hop to make it on time is 3:30am (or so). Sometimes, you’ll also stand around and wait for races longer than the actual running time too. For instance, I stood around about 2 hours for the 5K (from the time I got off the bus until I began running), even though the 5K took me about 40-something minutes. Ridiculous, yes, but I still did it.

Anywho, the pre-race festivities are somewhat mandatory – they lock you out of the corrals if you don’t show up by a certain time anyways, so it’s in your best interest to show up to drink the kool aid. There’s plenty of entertainment (DJs, announcers, characters) and other runners to keep you company, so it’s not exactly boring. It can get chilly though. This year I noticed that they actually had coffee/food tents, something that I’ve neglected to notice at other runDisney events. Maybe I was always too nervous at past events to pay attention. Downing coffee and/or hot cocoa meant a lot of porta-potty stops for the longer distances but it was worth the sacrifice.

What they also had were character photo stops. The lines were really long for them (probably 150-200 runners for each character?) so Erik and I tried to selfie one with Dopey. Luckily he was playing along…

Also, the start of each race begins with lots of fireworks. I wonder what it’s like to work as a pyrotechnic for Disney. It must be really fun to design these shows. The¬†runners don’t all begin at once – since there are so many of them, we run in waves. I’m slower, so I’m one of the last waves. For the 5K, Erik actually finished¬†right before I began my run. For the 10K I think he finished right when I started too. Anyways, here’s some of my footage of the fanfare.

The 5K (3.1 miles)

I used the 5K as a warmup. Technically this was a fun run since it was untimed for everyone else. For Dopey runners, we were still held to our time limit. It was great seeing everyone out there running through the parks — people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, all having a great time.

After I collected my bling, I got washed up and headed out to Hollywood Studios. I had a full day out at the park to shake out my legs!

The 10K (6.2 miles)

This morning was incredibly humid. It was significantly warmer and wetter than the day before. I regretted wearing my base layer about a mile into my run. Here, I was maybe three miles in and the sun began gleaming down on me.

I make my way to the Epcot parking lot again, where it smells like overturned porta-potties and rotten eggs. However, based on the smiles of these¬†dudes on stilts, they probably don’t smell it, so I stop to take a quick picture with them before scuttling on my way.

I keep running and somehow I end up in a fake Chinatown. Huh?

Golden hour is still upon us. But, flame-y fire torch-y thing!

Mile marker with childhood heroine who loved reading books? Yes please!

Photos of the boardwalk. It’s so hot that I wish I could just swim to the other side. However, this is a duathlon or a triathlon so swimming doesn’t count and is probably frowned upon. I continue running.

The finish line is at the Epcot parking lot. That’s why I keep checking in to a parking lot on Facebook. However, I see Spaceship Earth. It’s so close! When do you think it’ll take off for outer space?

I whipped out my phone for this picture. I also took it while running so that I wouldn’t knock anyone down. Stopping at the finish line abruptly is rude and unsafe (and you’ll find out why here pretty soon).

Ta-da! New shiny bling for 6.2 more miles!

The Half Marathon (13.1 miles)

This was the dramatic morning that struck the entire running community. The dreaded cancelled race. Thunderstorms rolled in through the night and the morning so Disney did the right thing and pulled the plug. They even gave refunds, race transfers, and some other optional concessions, which I thought was awfully generous. I didn’t mind the cancellation — I mean, I would’ve preferred to run the race. I paid for it. However, I did not pay to risk getting struck by lightning while running. According to the route and timing of the storms, it would’ve happened¬†just around the time my corral hit mile 8 or 9 anyways. So, in the face of the cancellation, most of the Dopeys in the Facebook group did what any other runners would’ve done when faced with news they didn’t want to hear…

They channeled their inner Jyn Erso and rebelled!

Some even went as far as to call it the Inaugural Grumpy Challenge. Hilarious! (5K + 10K + 26.2)

Some people opted for outside runs (still) around different resorts. While that sounded tempting, I opted for an indoor treadmill run. Not sexy, and definitely not as fun. I spent six months training for Dopey on a treadmill. I didn’t foresee having to do any part of my Dopey Challenge on a treadmill, but here we were. At least I got a good pre-finish line (????) picture at my hotel.

This is technically my finish line photo. Notice my slump. This is what 13.1 miles on a treadmill does to your posture and morale.

What’s not pictured here is the luscious hot tub soak I enjoyed after my run. ūüôā

The Marathon (26.2 miles)

The marathon was a beast. I was still shaking off the disappointment of my training marathon a few weeks prior. However, the conditions this particular morning were different, and for the better. Rather than being too warm, it was too cold. For some reason, Orlando finally decided to participate in winter, and this was day 2 (the day before was day 1). It was in the high 30s, and I had thankfully packed enough cold weather gear to make it bearable. I had enough rest and sleep for this race, unlike my training marathon when I was stacked with work/training and very little sleep.

As I lined up in my corral I noticed a Galloway run/walk pacer group and settled in nearby. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to try anything new on race day.¬†Was following a pacer going to count as something new? Traditionally I never really have a strategy for races. I tend to trot along until I get tired. I then walk a bit to recover, and then I begin trotting again. I continue until I’m a mile or two out from the finish. I then “empty the tank” (as my coach used to tell me). I’ll take in some Gu/Clif gels, about one an hour, generally caffeinated ones. If there is Gatorade or Powerade, I’ll stop for it at the aid stations. However, I’ll always carry a Camelbak of water with me.

After some quick (sometimes extemporaneous) cost/benefit analyses, I went ahead with some of these new things on race day.

So, what were some of the things I did that were completely new on race day?
-Well, I wore that new Mickey beanie for the first time that day. (The trade off was cold ears, and honestly, the risk was minimal.)
-I joined the run/walk/run group and did :15/:30 intervals for the first time in my life. (Turns out it was awesome and I’m a convert!)
-I ate two whole bananas on the race course. (Not in succession, but I also never eat solid food on a race. It turns out that I can run after eat a banana, so long that I don’t run at an all-out speed and if I keep the :15/:30 pace.)
-I ran with my tutu for the first time. (I didn’t order it in time to practice with it.)
-I ran with my hat for the first time. (Same deal as above)
-I ran with my purple shirt for the first time. (Same…I know! I know!! Bad!!! Seriously…and on a 26.2 too! I really wanted to wear Dopey colors for the marathon and just ran out of time.)

Those ended up being the only two photos I snapped during the marathon. I was so exhausted. Somewhere after Animal Kingdom and before ESPN Wide World of Sports, there was a hairpin turn and cutoff point where the course turned on itself. I could see the sweeper buses and the fabled balloon ladies. I saw race security and buses close in on some people behind the balloon ladies and bikers. Those racers looked devastated. It must’ve been 5-7 miles in to the marathon already. Some of them were crying. I would be too, to see my race cut short. It definitely wasn’t for lack of trying. Everyone’s got a different story as to why they get swept. I’m not one to judge. I’ve finished dead last at a race before. I’ve never been swept but I know what it’s like to be last, and what it’s like to be tailed by security. Obvious news flash: It sucks.

Also, remember earlier how I  mentioned that stopping abruptly at the finish line could be dangerous? I almost railroaded this guy who jumped in front of me and then struck a pose for his photo finish:

I think I’ve made a pact with myself that when and if someone ever gets in my way again I’m going to make awesome faces and gestures at the camera. That way, it’s just as much my photo as it is theirs.

Anyways, back to my marathon. After 2 bathroom stops, 2 eaten bananas, and dozens¬†of Gatorade stops, I finally reached the finish line. Do you know what it takes to run a marathon with me? Apparently it takes running it 15 seconds at a time, over and over again, until you have to stop for the bathroom. And then you start again, running it 15 seconds at a time, until you get to the finish line. What happened when I ran my marathon 15 seconds at a time was that I cut off an hour and 15 minutes from my previous marathon time. I mean, really???? My feet weren’t burning like they were in Dallas, I wasn’t demoralized, my legs didn’t feel like lead, and my time was better. This was something new I could get behind.

I was fairly elated at the finish line given my new finish time. This was now my 2nd best marathon time, which doesn’t say much given that this is my 4th marathon and two of them ended¬†catastrophically with me in tears. However, this one was a joyous occasion, and in the few times I was almost brought to tears on the course, it was for happy reasons only. No sadness allowed!

The aftermath

Every mile is indeed magic here, and they never let you forget it. Erik met with me after the finish line. We struck a quick pose before carrying our stiff legs aboard our bus back to the resort.

From there, we snapped some quick photos next to the giant floppy disk by the pool of our snazzy medals. So many medals!

I laid in the tub for awhile. I brought along some suds and salts and enjoyed a hot bath for what felt like an hour. I also ate my tortilla chips and cheese thing in the tub and I didn’t care about anything because I was too tired to care. I’m pretty sure I heard Erik snoring all the way from the tub. By the time the evening rolled around, we boarded a shuttle to Disney Springs for dinner. First, we stopped by Starbucks for a quick refreshment, and I treated myself to my usual long run treat: a venti (in this case, a trenta) Very Berry Hibiscus! (Along with a sammich, since I was ravenous.)

Now what?

Well, with Dopey under my belt, I’m pretty happy with my progress. I’d say I’ve bounced back from my injuries in 2014 pretty well. It seemed like 2015 was rehabilitative and 2016 was reconditioning. Hopefully I can get in some really good training in 2017!

A few days after Dopey, I emailed my Disney travel agent and asked her when registration was going to open up for 2018. It looks like we’ll be going back next year! We have a small Dopey in our home as a reminder.

Until Dopey 2018, I’ll be working on getting into the Rock n Roll Marathon Series Hall of Fame.

That means I need to run a mix of 15 half or full marathons during the 2017 calendar year.¬†I’ll be using them as training runs for Dopey but I’m really still trying to figure out what kind of goals to set for 2017 outside of just finishing the races.

The Dopey Challenge was really special to me — it took a lot for me to accomplish it, despite all of the difficulties and setbacks I had. I look back on my journey¬†and all of the other major A-races I’ve trained for — Athens, Louisville (that eventually became Palm Springs), and now Dopey — and I would say that this completely dismantles Athens. This may even dismantle Palm Springs. It would take something by orders of magnitude to exceed this¬†experience. I’m really looking forward to Dopey next year.

On to the next challenge (whenever I figure out what that is)!

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 —