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.

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. 🙂

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 —

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 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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Race Recap: 2016 Breckenridge Road (Half) Marathon

Running at 10,000 feet is no joke. This race bills itself as America’s highest road race and it did not disappoint. I was winded for most of the race. I don’t know how anyone lives and trains and bikes out in Breckenridge without dying. Seriously.

This was also a somewhat disappointing race. It had nothing to do with my times. Instead, it had everything to do with the race course. It was partially my fault and partially a well-intentioned volunteer. My race was accidentally cut short when I was directed to turn around at the marathon/half-marathon split, instead of continuing on the marathon course. (I was told to turn around at the T-intersection below, rather than continue north on the road and then loop back around on the western road.)

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I lost 1.34 miles. It seems like a lot less when I type it out, and I “made up” for my distance by running extra during my training session on Monday. But still, I feel a bit bad for still accepting my finisher’s medal knowing (after the fact) that I had accidentally cut the course. It was my first time ever and I felt so so soooo guilty!

Here are the stats for the race:

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15-minute miles. Yikes! I could’ve power-walked. Trying to run at that elevation completely winded me. It was a gorgeous fall race though. I’m not sure if I would do it again without a significant amount of elevation training or hiking.

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Getting ready for race morning wasn’t too bad. We stayed at an Airbnb right next to the start line! However, we had to drive down to Main Street in order to take the shuttle back up since it was a point-to-point course. I’d been really good with both of my ankles so they were in tip-top shape for the race. Woo!

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The race start line was right up against some running and hiking trails. I was immediately jealous of everyone who lived in Breckenridge. Maybe in my golden years I can return and live the amazing life. I too can spend my time enjoying the great outdoors.

Right around this time I think to myself that if I ever adopt a dog bigger than corgi I would name it Walden. We’d go hiking and running and swimming. And maybe biking if I can get a little trailer or sidecar.

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The first few miles of the route were a bit treacherous, seeing as though it was directly on the road. The road wasn’t closed off to automobiles, and being at the back of the pack I did not have the luxury of running with a group. I stayed as far right as possible and whenever I could, I ran on the shoulder. I also tried not to take photos in really vulnerable spots. Getting run over is no fun.

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Running into town was also nice. It was strange to see Breck without all of the snow. I’ve only seen it in the wintertime for skiing. You can make out all of the ski runs on the left. The downtown area is at the base of the hill.

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The fall colors were just starting to peek through. For now there’s only golds. I hope to be able to catch the few days of reds and oranges before it’s too late!

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The medals at the finish were handmade and hand-pressed. They weren’t made on the spot or anything. I thought it was very nice and very Colorado. 🙂 It was a great first race in my state. I’m still debating whether or not to count this race towards my half marathon count but my husband is trying to help me not feel so guilty about it. I guess since I made up for my miles the next day I’ll take it. (I’m still contemplating making up with another half marathon this weekend though.)

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All in all a tough race. Beautiful, but tough. (Reminds me of my mom!)

 

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 6+7+8+9: Getting Unstuck

Week 6, 7, 8, and 9 of training has been mostly a blur because of the constant flurry of work. The miles are increasing but at a fairly slow pace — they’ve been alternating short and long run weekends: Week 6 was 7 miles, week 7 was 3 miles, week 8 was 9 miles, week 9 is supposed to be 3 miles, if I can motivate myself out the door tonight. (Running in the evenings tend to be a weakness for me, since I am mostly paranoid about getting an upset stomach because of having to time my eating.)

Now that I am coming into some time off before my next venture, I’m looking forward to incorporating yoga, some weight training, and maybe even swimming into my routine. It would be nice to decompress a bit before my next venture.

Training on my broken foot has been okay. It hasn’t been much of a nuisance lately, with exception of my morning run and a walk around town yesterday. It’s mostly been my stress level eating me up and tiring me out, so I’m really looking forward to my vacation. I have a ton of books I would love to catch up on. I also need to put my teaching materials together. I’m already putting together a to-do list for my time off so that I make the best use of my time off. Is that weird?

I’ve been toying around with the idea of hiring a running coach or joining a running group. A few months ago I cancelled my membership to Orangetheory, mostly to focus on my running. Since then I have done exactly that, but I’d like to do some more focused work on it. I think hiring a running coach would be a nice idea if I actually had some real tangible goals in mind though. My goals are always somewhat vague, mostly dealing with finishing a race but not really focusing on performance. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take my favorite past-time to that level yet.

I feel like I am so performance-driven elsewhere in my life that there should at least be one thing — that thing being running — that I don’t really beat myself up over to do particularly well in. One foot in front of the other, and try not to injure myself — how much more complicated should I make it, right? That was pretty much how I approached my other two marathons. I didn’t focus on performance too much. I think I was more concerned about performance in the 5K, 10K, and 13.1 range, even though I never did particularly spectacular. I think my best 5K time was 27:11 (8:40 min/mi), 10K was 1:00:15 (9:34 min/mi), and 13.1 was 2:26:49 (11:12 min/mi). I suppose it would be nice to work myself up to those times again.

I’ve also looked at a few running groups — it would be nice to meet some new folks, but making the time for it would also be challenging.  The Rocky Mountain Road Runners group looks like it would be a good fit, but I also have a pretty full training calendar already through the end of the year. Maybe it’s something to look into for next year.

Speaking of next year, I’m already peeking at a few races for my calendar. The Colfax Half Marathon is swinging around after the spring semester, and since they’re still pre-registering, the race is really cheap. I’m also peeking at some races abroad for our potential honeymoon, although we’ve yet to settle on a location, date, and race yet. I can put that on my list of to-dos for these next few weeks.

Speaking of the next few weeks, here’s what I have in store…

  • Next weekend: Mystery vacation weekend for my husband
  • Following weekend: Weekend trip to Seattle
  • Following weekend: Breckenridge film festival and half marathon
  • Following weekend: A break from traveling
  • Following weekend: Back to Seattle for a wedding and for the 15M training race
  • 10 weekends from there: the half + full marathon race weekend before Dopey

With all of the changes ensuing, this will be my mantra for the upcoming month:

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I’ve spent a bit of time planning for and dismantling some of the negativity around me. It’s time for me to focus more on myself: what I am looking to accomplish and what will really make me happy. I’ve spent the last few months fairly unhappy, and a few months is really a few months too long. Life is short — depending on how you look at it, I’m most likely more than 33% done with my life and I’m not about to spend it completely miserable. The bounty is high on my time and my happiness, and if I will be spending my precious life hours on something it’d better be worth my time.

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Hopefully I’ll be updating this more often now Amara-Dopey-Fundraiserthat I’ll have some free time.

And yes, I am still fundraising for Best Friends Animal Society! 

I’m donating $1 for every mile I’m running while training for the Dopey Challenge. If you can spare any dollars, I’m sure the kitties and puppies will love you furrrrever.

Happy training!