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

Week 26 was an absolute doozy!

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

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

So, my week went something like this:

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

So, how did the marathon go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 18-24 Dopey Challenge: Too Busy to Blog

I’ve been meaning to update but my schedule has been rough! Teaching four nights a week has taken more of a toll on my work/rest/training schedule than I thought it would. Disruptive current events have also taken a toll on family life, and I needed some time to re-calibrate. I’ve also had some work travel thrown into the minestrone. I’m trying to keep it all together, which has been an interesting challenge but certainly not something I would wish on my worst enemy! The month or so I’ve been gone, I’ve also been fighting some sort of cold. It’s finally cleared up last week with the help of antibiotics, but being down for 30+ days through a grueling work/teaching schedule with a heaping of marathon miles certainly didn’t help.

So, what’s my training schedule been like? The short recovery weeks have been 45 minutes-45 minutes-6 or 7 mile runs. The long weeks are Dopey simulations: there is a short run on Friday, a 10+ run on Saturday, and a 20+ run on Sunday. These weeks are the harshest.

For these Dopey simulations, we’ve taken those runs outdoors. Erik was a little luckier that he had a cross country team where he got some outdoor runs in. I did most of my runs inside for a number of reasons of which I won’t go into here. However, with our first Dopey simulation, we plotted some routes to see how we could get in those challenging miles without hogging the treadmill all weekend long.

On the Dopey simulation Saturday long run, we ran around Sloan Lake, which is a small 2.5-mile loop here in Denver. It’s a paved path and has lots of foot traffic. The next day, Erik had a race near Bear Creek, which was roughly 20 miles away from home. He decided to run the race and then run the entire way home. After I dropped him off, I drove myself to Sloan Lake to run around the lake until I got my 20 miles in.

On the second Dopey simulation, we had a little more struggle. It was a 13 mile + 23 mile weekend. Our first one went fine, but the 23 mile one was difficult. Erik did not eat nearly enough the day before after our 13-miler, which affected him very badly near the end of his 23-miler. Luckily we weren’t too far from one another when I saw him “Caspering” (wobbling back and forth on the footpath, pale as a ghost). I gave him some of my gels (he finished his) and gave him some water (he was out of his!) and we headed home. I still had 7 or 8 miles left to go, but I figured I could get him home safely and get him eating and then get the rest of the miles done on the treadmill. So, the 23 mile run for me was not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but I got the miles in and it hurt like any other long run.

This weekend I’m coming up on another Dopey simulation: 2 45-minutes, a 5-miler, a 13-miler, and then a 26-miler. It’s freezing cold and snowing here in Denver as I predicted it would many many months ago, so thankfully we have tickets out of town to run back-to-back races in Dallas. It’s also a big weekend for me since it’s our first wedding anniversary, and Rogue One is also coming out. So three big things in the span of seven days. My legs may just fall off. Overall it’s a very, very special weekend for me!

There’s about three weeks left to go until Dopey. I still can’t believe I’ve managed to mostly stick to the training plan. At 3-4 runs a week, I suppose it’s pretty hard to fall off. I’ve began to plan my race schedule for next year. I’m looking at maybe two marathons next year – one in June and one in December. I think I can manage it if I repurpose some of these low-mileage training plans. I was interested in a 50K but that one falls around Thanksgiving in Seattle. I suppose I can play that one by ear, since that’s an extra race registration that I’d have to pay for in addition to my Rock n Roll Global Tour Pass. It seems like I’m really going to get great use out of it next year. Erik and I may potentially go for 10 races. The Hall of Fame requires 15 but I have no clue how I could work it into my schedule and still leave some races for a future calendar.

Here are some photos from the last 7 weeks. Apparently I’ve been gone a long time!

My mantra for the upcoming weekend:

Week 16+17 Dopey Challenge: Push A Little Harder

Week 16 was a tough one: 45 minute + 45 minute + 7 mile + 17 mile training runs. This was also the week where I began incorporating some strength training into my routine. I tried to keep it not interruptive as possible to my running routine. I toyed around with a few ideas — maybe I could go to some classes at 24 (I have a lifetime membership), use one of the million apps that I subscribe to, or look up some workouts. I took the latter approach and found an app to simply log my reps.

App: Simple Lift Log. I chose it because it syncs easily with RunKeeper.

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sll-pngSo it’s pretty simple: you put in the name of your exercise. If it matches with something in its database, it’ll even give you a figure and highlight what part of the body you’re working out. You add the weight and reps and sets. Rinse and repeat. Post to RunKeeper. And you’re done! You can easily create new workouts and copy old ones for new days. Easy peasy.

(Not a screenshot from my actual workout!)

So far, I’ve made it three workouts deep in the last two weeks. Three is more than zero, so I count it as a win! This seems to be the least overwhelming for me given all of the options I’ve looked at and have subscribed to. I’ve paid for FitStar and for Runtivity. For some reason they both feel like they require such a high level of commitment from me. I’m already maxed out on my commitment to the Dopey Challenge and to teaching and to sleeping. I don’t know if I can spare any more.

Anywho, based on just the few sessions that I had, I already felt much more stronger during my long run (aka the Rock n Roll Denver Half Marathon) on Sunday October 16th. Yeah, I only had two sessions but it reminded me of a time when I strength trained with my last coached and shaved something like 15 minutes off of my half marathon time. I didn’t even do any extra running. Just strength training. Soooooooo, fingers crossed that I can replicate some sort of wild success like that again in the future.

Running training only, no strength training – RNR Las Vegas 2012
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No change in running training + added strength training – RNR Arizona 2013

Anyways, I digress. Back to week 16 and 17.

Week 16 went well. In addition to strength training, the runs went pretty smoothly. My 7 mile run was outdoors…yay! Erik was running a 10k that day, so I took that opportunity to run outside during his race. It was a nice morning in Broomfield. On my route I encountered only one or two creepers I think, but otherwise it was a pleasant morning. I didn’t put enough sunscreen on, and it reminded me that I should wear my running hats more often. At the end of my run I giggled a bit since I accidentally drew an E. Or maybe I subconsciously did it. Who knows?

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Afterwards, we headed to packet pickup! Rock n Roll races are always fun. I’ve missed running them. I look forward to a lot more of them in the near future. We got to walk around the expo a bit before we realized that this was our first legitimate home race in Colorado…no traveling, no packing. Just leisure!

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The start line was just a few blocks from my apartment. We didn’t have to wake up insanely early. It was quite literally going to be a normal training run for us. I kept with my usual routine of prepping all of my stuff the night before. Really, the worst thing is having to scramble around in the morning. As a homage to my RNR roots I decided to wear the shirt from my first ever RNR race, which was subsequently my half marathon PR time that I’ve never quite hit ever again.

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The walk over to the start line was quite short. The corrals were easy to pop in and out of. It was a bit chilly but I knew that it would warm up not too long after the race started. The fall colors have already been changing, so the scenery was quite nice. The course winded through the downtown corridor for a significant chunk of the beginning, which I found to be quite nice, despite a lot of the uneven terrain and rail tracks.

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The course was tough, most likely because running at elevation is still quite hard for me. There were mini-hills — or what I considered mini-hills. Temperatures fluctuated a bit, depending where you were on the course. The last portion of the race ran through City Park, which was absolutely gorgeous. The course was notably festive, and it looked like everyone was having a great time. Somewhere around mile 10 or 11 I decide to book it and not look back, and it seems as though my splits reflected that.

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My goal was to break 3 hours, which was something I struggled with immensely at the Jackson Hole Half Marathon. I’m happy to say that I was able to do that here!

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It was the best time I’ve had on record since the Rock ‘n Roll Portland race in May 2013. That time was 2:36:58. Sure, quite a ways off from 2:59:29, but after PDX I had to deal with things like wisdom teeth surgery and potentially popping sutures in my mouth, breaking my leg, breaking my foot, tendinitis, and probably something else that I forgot.

A few decent finish line photos:

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All I can remember is how tired I was.

Week 17 was the start of non-short short weeks, meaning that my weekend run would no longer be 3 miles but would be double or more. So, my short week now looked something like 45 minute + 45 minute + 5 miles. It didn’t break the bank but I went beyond it by a little bit. The two days on my own were pretty easily.

With work being pretty flexible, I headed out to visit my folks in CA for the weekend. My parents are pretty active now, so we hit the gym together a few days. On my first day with them I ran my 5 mile without much of an issue.

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(Now imagine if I could keep up that pace, I could run a 2:41:47 half marathon!)

The next day I decided to go a bit longer with strength training, something that I had not quite done before. I used my run as a warmup so I stuck to 30 minutes, which I ran at an easy pace. I then proceeded to complete a 1 hour strength training set.

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All in all, two solid weeks of training! I’m quite happy with how things are going. Now to get a good night’s sleep so that I can set the stage to slog out another good week or two…

And with that, my mantra for the upcoming week(s):

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Happy training!

Week 14+15 Dopey Challenge: Train Like a Survivor

Where do I even begin?

Week 14+15 started with a quick run in Bear Creek Lake Park here in Denver. It was a quick extra run that I did while Erik was racing with his cross country team. Why have I waited so long to do any trail running here in Denver?

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Oh right. Women getting kidnapped and killed while running all alone while on trails. For now, the mile or so was really nice. I also figured it was a Sunday morning and there were so many people here at the park. I wish that I could find a running buddy who runs my pace (10:30-12:30 min/mile) who would like to run with me. Maybe one of these days.

(I also did some trail running when I lived in LA. I ran into a secluded area and ended up seeing a coyote and it saw me. Ever since then I stopped running trails.)

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That evening, I boarded a plane and headed to Seattle to start my job at Amazon for the second first time! It was great being back in Seattle for the week.

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Although I didn’t get any outdoor miles in during the week, I ran a few races during the weekend. The bad news was that I had to complete my 5 mile + 15 mile back-to-back weekend runs during the same week. This was the beginning of the alternate long training weeks. The pain is coming. We can see it in our training calendars. From here on out it just gets worse.

Week 14 started with a work trip. It was my first week back at Amazon. I had to pack for quite a few things — an intensive training week, 5 days of work, as many on-the-go meals as I could squeeze in, and a friend’s wedding. All of this had to fit into one carry-on because I was too impatient to check in luggage.

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In the mornings I tried to squeeze in some workouts. I would try to make breakfast in my hotel rooms. Sometimes I would be successful, and other times I would run out of time and have to jet. Sometimes those breakfasts became lunches, and sometimes I’d forget to also eat lunch and become ravenous at dinner. By the time Thursday rolled around I began consuming more oatmeal and carby meals so that I could top off my stores.

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I accidentally left my bus pass at home and opted to hold off on buying one. My mornings were fairly hectic so I ended up taking a lyft to work anyways, but in the evenings I would walk back to my hotel. It was great being able to get some actual walking in, on top of my training. It’s a luxury that was not afforded to me with my commute to Boulder each morning. The views were great and I was finally able to keep up with the weekday challenges that I initiate.

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I was really good at incorporating strength training into my routine during that week using FitStar. (The week I got back, not so much. I think I was way too tired and sore from all of the miles…excuses!) Working out in my hotel room is kind of nice because it eliminates that embarrassing factor of working out in front of people, doing moves that make you a bit clownish and sheepish. The only thing that possibly makes me meek is making enough of a ruckus to annoy or wake up the person on the floor beneath me.

My work week was really nice. I really enjoyed being back in the city again. It reminded me of all of my training fiascos and all of the things I got caught up in when I last lived there. If I had more time, I would’ve done more running outside rather than using the hotel treadmills. Alas, that’s what the weekend was for.

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By the time the weekend rolled around, I left the comforts of my lovely downtown hotel to a dumpy motel in Tukwila. In hindsight, I should’ve sprung for a nicer place, especially because of the two races I was running. Friday night consisted of a dinner with a friend, along with shuttling my stuff via lyft to the airport car rental place to pick up a car, to then drive to said dumpy motel. I was checked in quite rudely and walked in to one of the scariest motel rooms I’d ever stayed in. I’d rather not remember it so I won’t bother writing about it.

The next morning I grabbed some breakfast from the lobby and then drove up to Bellingham for my 10K. The run was a fundraiser for a local chapter of Run Like a Girl. I had a friend years ago who was a volunteer coach for this organization in LA, and I had looked into being a coach or running companion at the local chapter here in Denver. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out with my work and teaching schedule. I showed up on race day to a park in Bellingham, an hour and a half north of Seattle. It was a nice overcast Pacific Northwest morning…perfect running weather, as usual. I had chosen my pink running base layer as my pullover of choice. I hadn’t realized that pink would be the race color of choice, so I ended up fitting in quite well. The race was beautiful since half of it ran through trails. I was slightly terrified — okay, very terrified — because of my overall clumsiness. I was extra judicious and watched every single step and looked at how every single person in front of me hop-skipped the roots and rocks ahead of me. The trail reminded me a lot of Rattlesnake Trail. I ended up slowing down quite a bit. I nixed my plan to take pictures, even though it was an absolutely stunning race, just to make sure that I wouldn’t injure myself over any of the unstable wet soil, rocks, or roots. The ones that I did manage though, I snapped in some safe areas:

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My time wasn’t great but hey, I finished and I didn’t injure my ankles. A win!

Afterwards I head back to my hotel to get cleaned up for my friend’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony. I then headed over to have dinner with my in-laws. I left a little later than anticipated and took a wrong turn back to the hotel and almost died. Since I don’t really want to recount the whole incident here, I’ll just post the screenshot from my Facebook post that night:

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Here were some screenshots of the traffic reports I found that night:

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On Sunday, I had my 15 mile training run. I headed south to University Place to a place called Chambers Bay for a half marathon. It was my second time running the Sporty Diva’s half marathon. The morning was a bit rough given the events from the evening more. I really felt like canceling but I figured that I could always cut my run short. I also knew it was a bad idea to cut my run short since my long training runs were crucial to my Dopey Challenge training…48.6 miles is a long way to go in January. When I’m out there, I’ll be glad that I did all of my training.

As usual, the scenery was beautiful. The 15 miles though, were treacherous. The first 14 were acceptable. Between mile 14 and 15 I was especially mopey and tired. My feet felt like they were on fire. Somehow I was walking on coals. Those arches were on firrrrrrrreeeee. I need to get a handle on it. I tried to focus on my surroundings but no, the fire was too distracting. Nonetheless I finished out my 15 miles exactly — no more, no less.

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Yes, look at those hills!

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I did take a screenshot of when I finished my 13.1, just so that I could log my race time:

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Week 15 wasn’t bad either. The light weeks are 45 minutes + 45 minutes + 3 miles. I took a cue from my tired legs and feet…and I thought to get some more training time. I don’t want to overdo it and go beyond my training too much, but perhaps my light training is too light? So, when I can, I try to bump up my short runs to 5 miles. If I want to add in strength training, then I’ll keep my runs around 3-4 miles. I’m into my second week and so far it’s not so bad.

Another thing I’ve found motivating for training: I got my blood lipid panel back, and my cholesterol has risen 25% in the last 2 years. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but at this point it’s been ebbing and flowing over the last 10 years.

Again…it’s been busy! Well, week 14 and 15 are done and in the books.

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Dopey Challenge Week 10+11+12+13: One Foot In Front Of The Other

Aside from racing — well, faux racing, since I’m considering them training runs — the last month of training has been going okay. I tend to have hiccups during my rest weeks because I deem them to be less serious training weeks. I need to stop doing that.

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Week 9 doldrums: I skipped my last 3 mile run. That was the day I officially resigned from work. I came back home from my goodbye lunch in a pretty dumpy mood, and my best friend came into town to visit. Her timing was great, but life timing was pretty demoralizing in terms of training. It was an easy 3-miler and honestly, it wouldn’t have taken much effort. We probably walked that much that weekend anyways.

Week 11 conundrum: I twisted my right ankle at the end of week 10 and my left ankle at the beginning of week 11. Towards the end of the week I was in Seattle for my interview. My ankles had rehabbed enough where I could walk around with ankle supports, and do my training at least on ellipticals. I also happened to forget my running shoes, which really bummed me out since I was staying at a hotel with a workout room. Ugh! Erik was pretty worried about my ankle anyways since walking around town was rough on me, so I stuck to the recumbent bike. It worked glute muscles that I forgot I had since my triathlon training days. On the bike I romanced the idea of getting back into tris again. Being in Seattle also contributed to that I think.

Week 13 stoicism: After having cut my half marathon short by accident, and with my time off coming to an end, I’ve found myself in a more reflective and downtrodden mood. There’s been a lot of change in my life over the last year — some good, some bad — and it’s been a lot to process. Over the last few days I’ve also lost my first rescue cat, Stewie. He was put to sleep due to multiple organ failure. It came on pretty suddenly. I had learned about his health decline on Tuesday, and since then my week has been pretty ho hum. I ran a 10K on Thursday before calling the vet to go over his lab results, which was double the time and distance my training plan called for. I mostly wanted to keep running so that I could put off the inevitable, but I knew that there was no escaping it.

Good and bad times, they all come to an end. I’ve spent some quality time decompressing over the last four weeks, taking care of myself. I’ve also spent it injuring myself and rehabbing my injuries. My rescue’s death is too recent and I’m still comprehending it. In searching for old photos of him I’ve come across a lot of old photos of myself during my early running and racing days. It was an interesting stroll down memory lane.

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The theme of the season still remains, though — I will continue racing to raise money for Best Friends Animal Society. I suppose now there is even more meaning to why I run. I didn’t rescue Stewie from an official charity or sanctuary. I found him in an abandoned, unused barbeque grill in my then-boyfriend’s backyard. He was cute and small and hungry so I took him to the vet for some shots and a flea bath, got him a collar, and brought him home when my parents weren’t around. My parents eventually returned from their trip abroad — they were spending time with my ailing grandmother, who had passed during their trip unfortunately. My parents took Stewie in as their own and as they moved, he moved with them. They stayed together when I moved back into the city for work, and eventually away to Seattle and then to Denver.

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I obviously continued adopting other cats but Stewie was always my first true (feline) love. I’ll miss him lots. In a sense, I grew up with him: I graduated college with him, got my first “big girl” job with him. He was around when my family went through some very rough times. He was there for my dad quite a bit. Some people say that cats are heartless, but I’m not particularly convinced they know what they are talking about. They certainly haven’t met my cats at least.

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As a natural deflection point, I’ve also decided that I really miss strength training. I’m not quite sure what to do about that yet. I’ve canceled my Orangetheory membership and I have a ton of other apps I’ve looked at. I also have a lifetime 24 Hour Fitness membership and I’ve yet to check out any of the locations in my area. I know that I need to focus on strengthening my ankles and legs in general. Road running has been really hard on my legs, as evidenced by the two Disney races and the recent road races I’ve done. Having exclusively trained on a treadmill the last year, I’ve certainly lost touch with dressing for the right weather, watching my step, and having overall strength in my legs when dealing with the road in general. I need to get to fixing that.

It feels like there’s a lot to tackle all at once. Oh well. One day at a time.

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Tomorrow I will wake up and the first thing I will do is get out for my run. And I will just keep going until I feel like stopping.
Amara-Dopey-FundraiserIf you feel like donating to Best Friends Animal Society in Stewie’s memory, you can do so here. 

Race Recap: Jackson Hole Half Marathon 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dopey Challenge Week 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…

When the unthinkable happens

For most of my adult life, I’ve lived with the motto memento mori etched at the back of my head where it meets my neck. I traced the letters from Andy Warhol’s various illustrations — someone who was rebellious and poked fun at conventional living. The placement of my tattoo is particularly symbolic in that this idea is something that I keep in the back of my mind every day.

Memento mori and Andy Warhol come together in an interesting way. Memento mori is a statement that literally translates to “remember that you have to die,” which is a phrase that helps one reflect on personal mortality and what it means in regards to vanity, earthly life, and the transient nature of the people and things that surround us. One of my favorite quotes by Andy Warhol is, “Sometimes the little times you don’t think are anything while they’re happening turn out to be what marks a whole period of your life.” These two elements came together in a natural way for me, and as the idea hit me, I ditched class to work on the design of the tattoo during the daytime and had it etched into my skin later that evening.

On Saturday, one of my esteemed colleagues lost his life on a major Seattle freeway to a young 20 year old man who decided that his phone was more important than anyone else’s safety or life. Granted, maybe he was getting a very important message or call, or perhaps he had just learned some very bad news and was distracted. It is worthless to speculate the what-could-have-beens, but regardless of that young man’s circumstances, he should’ve prioritized life over whatever communications were coming his way.

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As a human being in general, we have a certain amount of responsibilities to ourselves and other people to not put them in harms way. I give this young man the benefit of the doubt that whatever he was distracted by was important enough to him that he needed to take his eyes off the road. Given the outcome, I hope that he would’ve done things differently.

Not a lot of good can come from someone’s death in such a tragic way. However, I hope this lesson reverberates with this particular young man, his family, and his extended circle of friends. I hope that this is a lesson that others will learn from, so that my friend’s death was not in vain.

With regards to Sohel Ahuja, I met him in 2012 when I first considered moving to Seattle to work at Amazon. During my interview, he grilled me on how I would work on improving the team’s current product suite. When I was eventually hired, Sohel helped me feel at home, often swinging by my desk to reminisce about In-N-Out and the now-defunct Chano’s Mexican Food joint right outside of USC. Over happy hour, he oftentimes recounted the story of how he and his wife met. I’ve probably heard that story a dozen times. Every time he told that story, it was as if he was falling in love with her all over again. He also had a penchant for appletinis (of which the team relentlessly made fun of him) and whirlyball (something that became an annual team tradition).

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On a small design project, he and I tag-teamed on a few different tasks as our other engineers were busy launching another product. He was earnestly learning from our senior managers what it meant to truly lead a team. Learning as you go, you make a lot of mistakes, but then again, who’s perfect anyways? His efforts did not go unnoticed because no matter what he worked on, he never half-assed anything. Even if he weren’t 100% perfect at what he did, he gave 100% of himself to it. That was the Sohel I knew first-hand.

In early 2014, I had made the difficult decision to transition to another team at Amazon. Sohel took some time out of his insane work schedule to write out an 8-point bullet list that outlined all the reasons why I should stay. The first four were about my career as a designer and how I was a valued person on my team. The last four were, “5. The team really likes you. 6. Steve really likes you. 7. Katie really likes you. 8. I really like you.” I still ended up transferring out but would run into him every once in awhile around South Lake Union. We would quickly exchange pleasantries but dash off to another meeting. Such is life at Amazon.

Sohel played a supporting role during a huge phase of my life. He and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye on things, and eventually my focus (and reporting structure) was moved over to other people and projects. However, it is was the little ways in which he participated during this phase of my life that stays with me. He left us in the most tragic of ways, but I’ll try to remember the ways in which he genuinely tried to make someone feel like a part of the family.

A Week in Niseko

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

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

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

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

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

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