The Highs and The Lows

Training for a marathon has not been easy, and there are a lot of days I wonder if I can even finish a marathon. Although I have a love/hate relationship I can proudly say that I can now run a half marathon distance and not feel like complete crap after, and I can still walk around the next day, that at least is a big improvement for me. I want to share with you my highs and lows and honest thoughts of training and running. Motivation is still a big struggle for me, there’s definitely days that I drag my feet before slipping on my running shoes, so I’m grateful to have the BF that is also on the same plan to motivate me. I always need to remind myself that there is never a day that I regret working out or going for a run.

Since I’ve been so focused on finishing the marathon I’ve looked to build endurance rather than speed. I don’t consider myself a fast runner in any way, I’m quite comfortable chipping away at a 9:00 – 9:30 pace for the majority of my shortertraining runs, however the competitive athlete in me would beg to differ. It’s been a bit of a struggle to balance these two “sides” of me out. On one hand, I’m thinking  “just keep moving for 26.2 miles and you’ll accomplish something you’ve never done before!” On the other, I’m thinking “sorry girlfriend, slowing down to a 15:00 mile and walking on your long run isn’t going to cut it!” I have to constantly tell myself that my goal is to FINISH the marathon, not shatter any records. Even my goal of finishing the marathon seems out of reach and impossible on my horrible training days, because believe me they haven’t all been great. It’s been a bit hard to figure out the whole pacing thing when I’ve never run a marathon, also, I chose a wonderful marathon course with a lot of hills for my first go round (why didn’t I choose a flat one like SD or LA?) geez, great decision making! Oh well, I figure if I can finish 26.2 on hills, I can definitely look to improve pace on a flat course in the future, that is of course if I want to resume training again at some point in the future.

The Highs

The other day I was looking at my runs on my Strava account, trying to see if I could notice if my times have been improving. It looks like although my averages have remained pretty constant, I have been able to increase mileage at the same pace,  meaning I can run farther and maintain a certain pace. One of my recent training “highs” was a 7 mile run at Shoreline last week. I’ve never run out there before so getting to know a new trail was nice. Pro’s to shoreline: soft dirt/gravel, zero elevation (no hills!!), new things to look at, and it was pretty populated so I wasn’t afraid to run on my own. Cons: none really, except it smelled awful: It smelled like bird poop and other icky things. I guess the area where Shoreline is located used to be a dump for  San Francisco’s trash until the city of Mountain View bought it from them and turned it into a park in the late 1960’s. I don’t know, maybe I’m being dramatic and high maintenance, but it still smelled like poop and trash to me. J Regardless of the smell, I had an awesome run and broke a few of my PR’s! I ran the 7 miles at average pace of 8:08, PR’d at my 10k pace in 50:20, and PR’d on my 5k in 24:56. I was honestly surprised when I looked down at my garmin and saw that I ran my 5th mile in 7:53, I don’t even remember the last time I ran a mile sub 8, especially one smack in the middle/towards the end of my run. I was also pretty stoked that I ran mile 8 in 7:56. Although I don’t run that pace often it was nice to know that my training has helped my endurance and I was happy that I didn’t feel like I overexerted myself to get there.

The Lows

If you know me, you know that I have pretty awful allergies. I never had them as a kid, but I started to develop them during college. They’ve recently gotten a lot worse, so bad that I had to see an allergy doctor and be tested for my allergies. Turns out I’m allergic to a whole bunch of different grasses, pollens, mold, dust, and dog dander!!! (Oh no, Luna and Lucky!). My allergies affect me in different ways, I have sensitive skin and will scratch if I don’t take my daily zyrtec, my nose and throat itch constantly and I have a difficult time breathing when it gets really bad. I have this big ol air purifier that we placed right next to my bed to help me breathe easier while I sleep. Even with all my modifications and allergy meds my allergies found a new way to be pain in life, they resurfaced as ear pain! I’ve been dealing with ear pain/pressure for the last month, I’ve had my ear washed out, I’ve been prescribed drops, and still have had painful pressure in my ear and head. The doctor said that when pressure from my allergies in my sinuses builds up it sometimes has nowhere to go but into the ear canals. Gross right? Well I have to say it has been a painful experience. I’ve had muffled hearing and pain on the right side of my ear for two weeks. I felt like half of my head was underwater and I when I ran, I heard each foot step reverberate in my head. Not fun. Last Saturday Dave and I had an 18 mile run planned. We headed down to Morgan Hill to run a portion of the race course to give us a better idea of what things would be like on race day. We started really early, before the heat kicked in and I was good for about the first 8 miles, then slowed to a trot and fought to mile 10. Once I hit 10, I was done, I couldn’t even power walk. Dave walked the next 3 miles with me as I tried to recover and gather the strength to finish the last 5 of planned run but I just couldn’t do it. It was the first time that I gave up and abandoned a run. I found a shady spot off the road near Uvas Rd. and waited for Dave to run back to the car and pick me up. Ugh. Fail. I was so overwhelmed, felt nauseous, but most of all, I felt defeated. The run was definitely a huge blow to my confidence, I mean, if I ran the course and failed at the 10 mile mark, how could I possibly finish the full distance? I’ve honestly thought more than once to switch my registration to the half instead.

I’ve taken it “easy” this week. I’ve had 8 miles scheduled for M/W/F but because of my ear/head pain, I’ve had to cut back. I ran 5 miles (slow) on the treadmill on Monday and Tuesday this week because I wanted to be in a more controlled environment (treadmills have a steady pace, it’s climate controlled, and there are no hills or bumps in the road). I felt better yesterday after yet another trip to the doctor so I decided to head out for a 6 mile run. Verdict after the run: I feel at about 75%, very much improved from this weekend. I’ll probably rest tonight then try to complete the scheduled 8 mile run on Friday morning and look to a 20 miler on Saturday.

Cheers to getting better!

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The Long Run

Okay, things are getting a bit scary. It’s already September and my race is next month!!! I know I’ve been training for a while, but I can’t believe I’m only about 6 weeks out from the run, time flies by!

As the mileage has ramped up, the schedule has adjusted a bit. I’ve been averaging mileage near 40 for the past couple of weeks. The daily runs are now 7 miles each, three times a week with one long Saturday run. The past couple Sunday’s have been rest days as opposed to training days to help recover after the long runs. My current week’s schedule looks like this:

Monday: 7 miles

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 7 miles

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 7 miles

Saturday: 18 miles

Sunday: Rest

TOTAL: 39 miles

Next week the daily runs increase to 8 miles M/W/F and I think the long run is 20 miles. Eeek! Since the days have been getting shorter and my runs are longer I’ve also had to adjust when I run, which means…. MORNING RUNS! Oh yes, it’s true. Dave and I have been getting up at 4:30 am three times a week to get our runs in! Crazy right? To be honest, it’s not all that bad. I’m pretty conditioned to early morning workouts, in college I rowed for SCU and we practiced at 5:45 am at Lexington Reservoir. I actually find comfort in the set schedule, the consistency is definitely a positive point for me. If you’re planning on training for a run I highly suggest you plan it out, from start to finish. It helps keep you accountable and there are no “surprise” days, you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. We have a calendar hanging in our door way with each daily workout listed. It’s nice to see what we have in store for us, and it’s also nice seeing how far we’ve come!

Our first long run was 16 miles a couple weekends ago. To find open space and soft ground we headed out to Rancho San Antonio, right off of 280. 16 miles was huge for me, I had never run any distance longer than a half marathon. Benefits to trail running: soft dirt, open space, new scenery, hills. Cons to trail running: bugs, getting lost, hills. In my first long trail run, I encountered all of the aforementioned. I got stung by something on my calf during mile 2, which made my leg feel as if it was on fire (note to self, bring mini first aid kit next time just in case). I was able to run the majority of the time, but some of the hills were way too steep to run. I don’t have a problem stopping to walk up a hill, I figure I don’t want to be spending valuable energy to power myself up a hill I could probably walk up at the same pace. I usually try to walk up the steep hills, run the even flats, and try to extend my stride on downhill. I feel like I still need to work on my hill speed though so I think I’m going to try to incorporate some hill repeats soon (basically just sprint up the face of hill over and over again). Average pace for the 16 miler was 13:48.

Our second long run was this past Saturday. We ran 19 miles at Mt. Madonna in Gilroy. This run took forever, just right under 5 hours. I walked a lot more of this run I’m thinking about 5 or 6 miles of it, I wasn’t feeling too great and Dave and I had to share my camelback so I was conscious of our water intake the whole time. Although it took a while (averaged a 14:55 mile pace) it was good to know what it feels like to be on my feet for such a long period of time. Also, the 19 miles was a bit of a mental accomplishment. If I can finish 19 miles, I’m pretty confident I can last 7 more miles to finish a marathon distance.

Things I’ve learned on my long runs:

1) Make sure you have enough water. I bought a hydration belt that I use on runs from ranging from 7 miles to 13. I use my camelback on any run longer than 13 miles. I always mix Gatorade and water into my camelback so I can make sure I have enough sugar and carbs to keep me going. I also throw in a few ice cubes to make sure it stays cool during my run.

2) If you’re trail running, you might want to consider investing in a pair of trail running shoes. I recently picked up a pair of the Brooks Cascadia 8’s. I bought them a full size bigger to ensure there was enough room in the toe box for my little piggies on the downhill descents. They also have a different sole from normal running shoes for added traction on uneven surfaces. Another huge reason why I bought the trail running shoes is that I didn’t want to mess up my normal shoes, the ones that I plan on running the marathon in. I’m already putting significant mileage on those, I’d hate to wear them out early on the trails.

3) Fuel. My 19 miler was the first time I actually finished a Gu gel. In fact, I ate two! I usually just take down half of the gel and end up tossing it out because it’s so much, I felt like I needed to eat the whole thing this time. I ate one gel about every 90 minutes. All the running books say you’re supposed to consume about 30g of carbs per hour to keep your glycogen levels up but that’s a lot of gel for me (about 1 gel per hour). Maybe I’ll try that on my next run.

4) Take in the sights. I’m usually so caught up in my run that I don’t take the time to take in the sights. I’ve noticed if I take the effort to look around, take a deep breath and sort of re-center myself and my thoughts, I feel a lot better moving forward!

#VanSweaty

I’m finally positing about my trip to Vancouver earlier this month. As the mileage ramps up I’ve definitely noticed I’ve had to re-prioritize my day and unfortunately the blog has dropped on the list recently. To my credit, I did write my Lulu post a while ago, but I’m just posting it now!

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I ran the Lululemon Half Marathon in Vancouver BC this past weekend with a couple girlfriends from college and had a BLAST. If you’ve never been to Vancouver, you NEED to go, ASAP, and I’m not even halfway kidding about that. Vancouver is such a beautiful city, it’s located along the waterfront and surrounded by the most beautiful mountains. Dave and I went there in 2010 during the Winter Olympics and we fell in love with the city, I’m so happy I was able to return after a few years. The weather was very warm and humid, it actually reminded me of Austin, well Austin in the Spring time anyway. I flew in on Friday and Brianna and I waited in the long lines to shop at the expo that afternoon, we ate lunch then returned to pick up our race packet. If you’re interested in the kind of goods we received, Lulu gave each participant a pair of their signature Seawheeze running shorts (which are actually god awful to run in because of the chafing). Each finisher also received a canvas swag bag, skull candy ear buds, cooling gels for sore muscles, and a wooden finishers “medal” which was actually a photo frame. Much love to Lulu for providing the cool swag, but according to Kat and Bri they think participants got shafted in the swag department this year. Regardless I still had a blast and came away with a PR! My goal was to finish under 2:00 hours (succeeded) and to average an 8:45 pace (did not) but I still walked away with a PR so I’m happy with that. I ended up finishing in 1:57:23, with an 8:58 average pace. I ran the first 6 miles sub 8:45, then jumped to 9:37 for the seventh mile. I think I ran mile 7 slower because I was busy taking my GU gel, I figured I was about half way done at about that point and wanted to “fuel up” for the rest of the race. It’s hard for me to breathe and take the GU gel down at the same time, I’m definitely going to need to practice eating and running for my marathon. I was able to work my pace down to 8:42 for the 9th mile but struggled with the last 4 miles. I don’t know if I hit “the wall” or if I just had bladder issues, maybe it was a combo of both. I stopped at each aid station during the race, which I usually don’t do, but it was so warm I just wanted to drink! I had to pee for the last bit and that’s basically the only thing I could think about. I figured I could hold it and did not want to waste precious time in the port-o’s. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the race was long. My garmin ended up clocking a total distance of 13.4 , therefore my time on the Seawheeze site differs from my watch. A lot of participants said the race was long last year too, so Lulu needs to step it up next year and get the measuring up to par! After the race, we drove down to Seattle and stayed the night at Kat and Clayton’s. We did a quick Ballard tour the next day (pedi included) and then I was off to the airport!!

Just Keep Running

I just posted a recipe for Pesto Pizza on my “Eats” page, be sure to check it out!

It’s safe to say that I’m fully immersed in my marathon training. I’ve been running 5 days a week consistently for the last month and half and my typical weekdays look like this: wake, eat, travel to work, work, travel home, run, eat, sleep. Repeat 5 times.  I add in my travel time because I’m currently commuting 2 hours door to door each way to SF from San Jose, that’s 4 hours each day. Definitely finding the motivation to run after my long day has been the toughest part of my training. What I would do with an extra 4 hours each day!!  Since quitting my job to become a full time runner isn’t part of my career path, I’ve had to make it work. Luckily since it’s summer there’s a lot more sunlight in the late evenings so I get my week day runs done after I get home. Recently the sun has been setting earlier so I will need to adjust accordingly, most likely this means morning runs. I’ve also done a few runs during my lunch break in SF, helps with stress relief and I get some new scenery. Speaking of scenery I’ve been getting tired of the same running trail, I’m starting to run different portions from different start points to vary it up. Also, since my long weekly runs now climb to 12 plus miles, I will most likely need to find more trail space. I ran St. Joe’s trail in Los Gatos and then headed around Lexington Reservoir this past weekend, the change of view was refreshing. Although I spend roughly 4 hours on public transportation it gives me plenty of time to do other things: napping, reading, facebooking, candy crushing and netflixing. I’ve already finished Friday Night Lights, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, House of Cards, Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black and I don’t know what to watch next. Since I haven’t found a new series to watch I’ve been reading lately. I usually always bring my current issue of Runner’s World and Food & Wine magazine on the train with me. I can’t read Food & Wine on my commute back because I’d be starving by the time I reach SJ so I’ve been reading my two new books: “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide” by Hal Higdon and “The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition” by Matt Fitzgerald. Both are great, I suggest them both if you are interested. The latter book is mostly about the proper nutrition needed to be an efficient runner and avoid “the wall”, and yes, pasta is a great pre-race meal when you are carbo-loading (your muscles need that extra glycogen). If you don’t want to read a training specific book, I suggest “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. Dave and I bought the audiobook and listened to it on our move back from Austin to the Bay Area. After reading it I was inspired to be an ultra runner, well maybe not, they’re crazy, but I did buy my vibrams after reading that book and I am still fascinated with ultra running, I’ll have to get through my marathon first

Weekend Warriors

On Friday Dave and I drove down to San Diego for the weekend for my niece’s baptism. She is such a doll, I’m so happy to be her god mother!

We hit the I-5 early Friday morning and headed down to Aliso Viejo to visit Dave’s sister and family, we only saw his niece a few months ago and it’s amazing how much she’s grown! We spent the evening with them before heading to San Diego to our hotel. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to our 4 mile workout; it was a very long day.  Although I kinda felt “bad” about not doing the workout for the day, I quickly got over it, not sure if that’s a good thing or not. I enjoyed the extra rest day. Dave and I were committed to doing our long weekly tempo run on Saturday though! We woke up early and headed down to Mission Bay to run our 6 miles, it was nice to be back in SD, it’s actually Dave’s old stomping grounds from his days at USD. We ran along the beach and even ran by Dave’s old place! The weather was pretty warm for being so early, and we kept cool because of the ocean mist. I don’t think I’d mind training down there, the scenery is just so beautiful!

Check out my photos in the right hand column for the stats on my run. The first 5 miles were extremely flat,  but for the last mile, we headed up, down (and back up and down) one of the bridges along the bay. The flat portions were relatively easy, but the little bridge/hill was extremely tough, definitely a pain since it was during the last mile. The first few weeks I’ve worked to build endurance and stamina, now that I have somewhat of a baseline it’s time to get the legs ready for some hills!

We drove back on Sunday morning and ended up spending the afternoon in Gilroy. Since it was getting late and I didn’t want to run in the dark once we got home to SJ, Dave and I ran Mantelli for our 3 miler (run stats will be posted in my photos to the right). If you’ve ever done Mantelli, you know it’s a pretty killer hill. My goal was to keep moving up (no walking). I succeeded at that and was pleasantly surprised that the evil little voices in my head that are always telling me to stop and walk were silent! Success by all standards in my book.

We bring up the mileage this week, 28 total. Our weekly pace runs (Mon/Wed/Fri) are up from 4 miles to 5. Bring on the sweat!

How do you eat …

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I first heard this the other day and thought it was funny but it got me thinking. What is the elephant in my life?

I think we’ve all got our own elephants. I like to picture mine in a cute little pink tutu and a polka dot bow. I figure if my elephant is going to be hanging around for a while it might as well be cute. Yours doesn’t look like that? What? It’s not even an elephant? Well whatever it is, I’m pretty sure we all have one. The elephant is that large, looming task or goal that we all have in our lives. It may cleaning out the garage, painting that room, even saving for a future expense!

Step One: Identify your elephant.

My elephant is 26.2 miles long, my first full marathon.

Step Two: Commit.

If you’re anything like me, there’s a lot that you would like to do, but for some reason or another you chicken out. I’ve always wanted to run a marathon, but never really had the guts to do it. I pushed the negative thoughts aside and decided to go for it. Luckily for me, I have a great supportive boyfriend, Dave, who wanted to do it with me.

Step Three: Ladies and Gentleman, it’s time to eat your elephant.

So now what? You’ve got this elephant and you don’t know what to do. The answer is piece by piece. Need to clean that garage? Start with a little section. Nothing too much, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself, just do something you can manage. Grab a couple boxes and start sorting stuff out. Do this every couple days or even every weekend. After a while, your elephant will get smaller and smaller until one day, you may be able to eat your elephant in one fell swoop.

Once we decided we wanted to run a marathon, Dave and I found a race and then developed a 20 week training plan. Our date of reckoning is October 20, 2013. We just finished our 7th week and logged a total of 25 miles for the week, our longest bout so far in the program. We’re currently in a “slow week” only 21 miles. After our long runs last week (did a killer10 miler on Saturday), I can’t even imagine increasing the mileage! We jump to 28 miles next week and eventually work our way up to 44 miles!! I keep picturing my cute elephant in a pink tutu and keep telling myself, “just one mile at a time, just one day at a time.” Thinking about all those miles just freaks me out, but if I approach each run separately each day, I know I can handle it. If it’s a long run, I don’t get myself down if I can’t run it all, I’m okay with walking, just so long as I finish, that’s the important part.

What’s your elephant?