Saturday, October 30, 2010

Moving Meditation

My perspective on running has changed so much. And the long run, it's a meditation. The pace,the focus, the thoughts, the breathing, ... it's really very interesting to me. I will not give up the long run after my big race. In fact, it doesn't look like I'll even give up on racing. I'm going to try to do a short trail race at least once a month next year. And a couple half marathons... and we'll see what I decide on the full. I'm really looking forward to combining the long run with the trails... I have a few mapped out already!

In the meantime, I am truly enjoying running like I never have before! It feels so good.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.
John Hanc, running writer

Splish Slash!

Before: Last chance to drive home and stay dry!

Our weather turned quite wet over the weekend and after an extra day off for my 12 miler it was time to get back on track on Sunday. Usually I hike but those plans got derailed because of the rain. Inspired by two of the other runners in our group that were out doing their long run in the rain, I decided to suit up, grab the dog and go to one of my favorite trail runs!...

As I began the 3.5 mile loop a guy came down the trail soaking wet. I sensed a different kind of acknowledgment between us, out there in the rain. We didn't come across too many more people or dogs, but there seemed to be a kind of kinship for those of out there braving the elements. It kinda made me feel like part of 'the club'... a 'real' runner...

Lola wasn't real thrilled about the weather but she did good. At times it was like running in a stream as the water washed down the trail. Lots of mud. The saving grace was that it wasn't too cold. Just wet, very wet. I'm sure we looked as drenched as the guy we first saw... As I returned to the car there was a guy at his car wringing out his shirt. Made me realize that although I had brought a towel and brushes for the dog, I hadn't prepared anything for myself! Ah... lesson learned!

After: Very muddy. Very wet. But an awesome trail run in the rain!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Milestones and Crazy Ideas

Half way and almost there!...

Today I ran my longest training run, 12 miles! I'm happy to report that it went much, much better than last week's 11 mile run. I decided not to push the speed too much, to avoid injury, but the splits are still negative so my last mile was the fastest. Hard to describe running through fatigue pain and saying 'I felt strong' in the end... That was my longest training run and now I taper down and hopefully come back strong for the big day!

It feels strange to say that I now actually believe I can make it through the 13.1 distance of a half marathon. Just a few months ago I never would have said that, or believed it possible. I have already run so much farther that I imagined possible, I have learned so much about running, health and nutrition. Recently I was talking with a friend that is in training for a full marathon and he was very impressed with my progress. When I tried to discount it (especially in comparison to his abilities) he reminded me that I have tripled my mileage in just a few weeks. Hearing it said like that was shocking. It sounds so impressive. It made me step back and realize that what I have already done is actually pretty impressive. I did my research, I made a training program, I was dedicated and have come this far without injury. Pretty cool!

Last week I was looking at the upcoming races on Coastal Trail Runs and ended up looking through one runner's photos of the recent Bizz Johnson Marathon up in Susanville. The photos really spoke to me... I want to be there... I want to run there... then the strangest thought came into my head... could I possibly train for a full marathon? There are a gazillion full marathons out there to choose from, but this race really made me feel that if I was going to attempt that distance it would be this one, ... Who are you and what have you done to my thoughts?!... Was that me pondering this crazy notion?!... sigh... I have decided that I should first see how the half marathon goes... then I have a few months to run some other short distance races (in trails! whoo hoo!)... I have a few months to make an actual decision... and I honestly can NOT believe that this thought has even been entertained ... The Bizz is follows an old rail trail in the mountains in October... Just sayin....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Stepping outside the comfort zone is the price I pay to find out how good I can be. If I planned on backing off every time running got difficult I would hang up my shoes and take up knitting.
Desiree Davila, marathoner and member of the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project

Monday, October 18, 2010


Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.
George Sheehan

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Take a Hike!

Sunday is a 'cross-training' day, it's a good transition after the long run on Friday. I'm usually still pretty tired. Typically I go on a hike with a buddy in Briones Regional Park. I just LOVE the place! The vistas from the top are amazing! Today we hit a 360 degree vista. Makes it all worth while. I just loved these dramatic clouds... even though we got rained on for the last 20 minutes. Note to self: start bringing towels to clean of the dogs before they get back in the car!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wobbly Wagons and Flat Tires...

Metaphorically speaking, of course. Ugh. I really regret not writing about my 10 mile long run last Friday... I felt GREAT! I did negative splits and had my fastest mile ever (on mile ten even!)... But I didn't bask in the glory and now here I am a week later and all I can say is 11 long ass slow and painful miles later, I'm here to tell ya... it sucked, but I did it!

Yesterday I fell off the wagon... the food wagon that is. It may be one of my worst food days in history!
Well, not really I used to eat like this all the time. Yes, on a regular basis! Now, I'm horrified if it happens. Does this sound nutritious and healthy to you?: cereal, mac 'n cheese, ice-cream, more cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and more mac 'n cheese!!... OMG!!! No wonder my body was feeling it, the wrong fuel was in the tank!

The wagon wasn't the only problem or perhaps it was a symptom of the combination of elements. But today I felt like a deflated flat tire! I abandoned any notion of negative splits before even leaving the house. It was one of those days that I just knew it was all going to be miserable (do ya think there is any kind of self-fulfilling prophecy going on here?!). Just cover the miles, I don't care how slow. So off I went, before the sun had hit the trail. It was hard from the beginning. At the 5.5 mile turnaround mark I would have been happy to be done. I was already sore. On the way back it was hard not to stop and just walk. To be honest, I'm not even sure what kept me going. Everything hurt! But I kept going. The splits were still negative (except one, but it was close). I can't explain that.

At one point, I thought my run felt like a meditation gone bad. My thoughts felt so discouraging and were all over the place. I had to keep reeling them in. Re-focus. Engage in the run, don't shuffle (I have a personal theory that it's when I am lazy and shuffling that injury will occur. So I try to keep my body and mind engaged and run with intention).

I started slow. I ended slow. But I did it.

Are we done yet?! Nope, only half way!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy...It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.
Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon champ

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I am not a Morning Person but....

I've always said "I love being up early, but I hate getting up early!"... So it's hard to believe that it is early in the morning that I choose to go out on my adventures. Part of it has to do with the fact that I am a huge procrastinator! So if I don't just get it all overwith then the odds are stacked against me getting any exercise later in the day.

The sun is rising later and later each morning and soon we will be turning those clocks back. But mornings like today just make it all worthwhile. Wow. I've run around Lake Merritt several times in my training but today was something else...

I'm not alone...

No... I mean, I'm not the only one hearing the voices... I came upon this article after my last post! Go figure...

Can You Hear Me Now? - Alisha Cooper/Runner's World

and this one!....

Racing The Gremlin - By John Bingham/Runner's World


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Who Said That?!...

One of the most fascinating discoveries on this adventure was found within. It's me! Or shall I say, my mind. I will admit that I did not fully realize the power of the mind - or at least the trickery. When I first broke through the "I can't" barrier I was aware that it was the mind in play, but I didn't know that it was just the beginning of a long friendship. Luckily early on in my initial research I came across some very interesting articles about this subject so when it started happening I was aware - and prepared.

Let's say that my first awareness was the belief that I could not run a half marathon. It was huge to break through that. Then what I noticed was the constant pop ups of apparent barriers, or "reasons" that I couldn't. When I would start a training run there would be all kinds of reasons that I should not go, should slow down or should stop.

The thought patterns have such clear personality that they have become a voice. I call it the mind-voice and it is so convincing...
You can't run that far.
You're too out of shape.
You run too slow.
You're too old.
Everyone can tell you're not really a runner because you're heavy. You should stop.
This is too hard, you should stop.
How will you ever run 13 miles when you're struggling with 2 miles.
You're hungry, you're going to get faint, you should stop.
Why do you even want to run a half marathon, it's stupid.
It's way to early to be awake, go back to bed.
It's hard to breath, you should stop.
This sucks.
That stitch could be the sign of a heart attack! You should stop.

That last one, by the way, is by far my favorite. It actually made me laugh out loud!

Luckily, I also have a coach-voice! Coach-voice is calm, quiet and steady. Not loud, not even pushy. Just a voice that says...
Maybe you can.
You can stop if it really is a heart attack, but keep going and see if the stitch goes away.
Just keep running for now.
It is hard, but it is possible.
You're doing the right thing.
Keep going, for now.
Of course it's hard, you've never gone this far before, good job.
It's okay to slow down, but don't stop, yet.
If you need to you can stop, but for now keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Run Strong.

One of the articles said that the mind will not let the body give an all out 100% effort. That's it's job, to protect. And that we must, on purpose, train into discomfort. Otherwise the power of the mind will be too strong on race day. Author Dawn Dais talks about how she listens to music (and even books on tape!) on her long runs just to keep the mind occupied. I do certain things in training to teach my body, but I now realize that I am also training my mind.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like muscles of the body.
Lynn Jennings, Nine-time champion of the USA Cross Country Championships

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Low sun in the hills on an early run makes for some cool shadows!

Training Programs

When I was first invited by my friend to run a half marathon - 13.1 long miles - I truly did not believe it was possible. Once I accepted that at the very least I could walk the distance I began to do research. What I found surprised me.

Me: "The longest I've ever run is 3.5 miles"
Research: "If you can run 30 minutes without stopping you can train to run a half marathon in 12 weeks"

In fact, they said that even if you can not run 30 minutes without stopping you can still successfully train for a half. It just takes more time. Well, those 3.5 miles took me a good 50 minutes so that must count. There were 13 weeks before the race. Perfect timing.

You know the internet, there are endless possibilities! I spent many obsessive hours looking at various sites with different training programs. There are sites that offer training programs for fees and there are sites that offer their training programs for free. There are hundreds of books on the subjects of not just training for a half marathon, but for 5k's, 10k's, marathon's and just plain ol' running. Endless. A bit overwhelming for a newbie!

I decided to go the free route and make up my own based on what I found. I delved into the quest for the common thread in all these training programs. What I learned is that there is a training program for just about any goal (time goals, weight loss goals, 'just finish' goals, etc). My personal goal has nothing to do with running a certain time or beating my PR (personal record, it took me a bit to figure out this runner's world lingo). No my goal would be simply to cover the entire 13.1 miles in one outing. I stumbled across what seemed to be the perfect site for me; - I mean, does the title not say it all?!

I want to emphasize that originally I honestly did not think I would ever actually be able to run 13.1 miles. It was the sensible and pragmatic approach of this training program that allowed me to even accept this challenge. My own naive intuition told me that if I was planning on running 13 miles, 9.5 more than I'd ever covered, then I needed to go out and run more. And more. And more. That felt daunting. In reality my intuition was wrong, it was exactly the opposite of what is true. My eyes were opened through thorough research. Here's some of what I first learned;

Recovery is key. Running (all exercise) breaks down muscle fibers. When the fibers rebuild they are slightly stronger than before. This is why rest days are not just important, but critical to success. In the two months prior to my research I was running 6 days a week and my body was hurting. Especially my knees. I didn't realize it but I was over-training. Since being in training, my knee issues are gone, even though I'm running farther than ever before.

Don't increase weekly mileage by more than 10%. The schedule I follow has one cross training day (I hike in the hills), two short runs and one long run. The short runs stay 3-4 miles during most of the 12 weeks of training. The long run increases by only one mile each week. I used to feel guilty on non-running days, like I was doing nothing. Now I say "I'm rebuilding to be stronger next week". This explains the last mile phenomenon that I talked about in post Number 9. The last mile is always hard, but the difficulty level is not increasing as the mileage increases. Because each week I push myself just a little extra through that last mile, and then I have a rest (rebuilding) day the day after. So when I come back to the next long run I am just a little bit stronger, and ready, for that next 'last mile'. As you get stronger in the training you're going to want to push it and run an extra mile, research says don't do it.

Don't run more than two consecutive days. Give it a rest. Rebuild.

Hydration! I'll address this one more fully in another post.

and finally, Nutrition. This also deserves a post all unto itself. Several posts actually!

The point here is that I am far enough into the training to see that it actually works! In the beginning I felt disbelief. The program said You can do it! I said Really? We'll see. But I put myself in the hands of those who know, and low and behold, I think they might actually be right!


Monday, October 4, 2010

My First Race... Ever!

I scheduled the 10k as training for my half marathon. I just found a local race that fit into my schedule and signed up. I wanted to go through a dry run. It may sound silly but I wasn't really sure how to put on the race number bib properly. Would I have jitters. Those kinds of little things.

Saturday I ran the YMCA Home Front Run 10k. The 6.2 mile course went along the Richmond Bay Trail shoreline, a lovely meandering path with views of the bay and San Francisco. As I waited in the crowd pre-race I realized that we were right next to Miller Knox Park in Pt. Richmond. It seems fitting that my first race would be adjacent to the park that got me inspired to get back into shape!

So how was it? That's what everyone wants to know. Well, it was hard. And it was great. And as I look back it seems like there were two separate experiences. As a race rookie I got there nice and early (even after getting a little lost on the way). I got my race bib and attached it with the safety pins. Seems simple enough. As I waited for 9am I scanned the crowd taking it all in. Sizing everyone up. The crowd of 250 runners consisted of all sorts of people, not just the obvious runners. Families, kids, couples. I realized that I was one of the few people there alone and I felt like the first day in a new school (having attended four high schools I'm familiar with being the new kid).

When they called for everyone to gather to start the adrenaline kicked in. Yup. Little nervous, gonna admit it. When the horn blew it was like a wave, everyone sped past me. The coach voice reminded me of the oft repeated advice I have come across; "run your own race, keep your own pace" and "don't start too fast" (a super common rookie mistake). It was a little embarrassing at first but I held to my own slow pace. Approximately a half mile out I started passing many of those same people as they walked. I felt a little better. But now I was in pace with some annoying people. A young boy running with his parents that kept flying past me in his noisy sweats and grabbing his mom and telling her to 'calm down' (this never made any sense to me but luckily we soon drifted apart. Then came the girl with the headphones super loud. You know the sound, annoying. Again, we drifted apart.

The first mile or two it seemed that everyone filtered to find their own pace. I passed walkers. I got passed by runners. Somewhere between miles two and four it really thinned out and as I approached those returning from the turnaround point I thought I might actually be the last person! But when I reached the turnaround point I got to see that there were actually plenty of people behind me. Then from miles four through six I thought I was running the race solo or perhaps had run off course. No one around. Very strange. But there they were, the volunteers "good job 230!"... should I admit that when the first person yelled that out I spent the next minute or so trying to figure out what it meant? Probably not. Once the second volunteer called out a similar support cheer I looked down and realized it was my race bib number! Ahh, to be a race rookie. My pace felt good. My splits were negative. My plan, as is in training runs, was to amp up the pace during the last mile. As I entered the last mile I could see the runners ahead of me, including the woman that I had told myself to keep up with, but she was just too far out of reach. "Just run your own race". So back to concentrating on my pace, amp it up but make sure to keep enough in the tank to make it across the finish line. As I rounded the corner of the Ford Building in the last quarter mile I saw my opportunity to overtake two runners. I had enough in the tank to push past them! That felt really good (we will not go into the details that one was a very large man and the other was a woman pushing a stroller. Nope. Let's just stay with the fact that I passed two people. The only two other runners I came across in the second half of the race). Okay, here it is; the home stretch! But just like in a dream it seemed so far! Way farther than I remembered! "Run Strong". Then I noticed my boyfriend right near the finish line! Yeay!... I could barely breath but I pushed to the finish line in 1:09.

That's the first experience. I am proud of that. I finished faster that I had anticipated. I ran an average of 11:11 minute miles. Way faster that I'd planned (I thought I would be around 12:30). I didn't walk and I didn't stop.

Then the second experience. We stuck around for the raffle and awards ceremony. The first three finishers from each age group (men and women) get a medal. Now I was very curious to see how I did in comparison to others. The guy who won the 'masters' medal doesn't count, I mean who can run 6.2 miles in 34 minutes besides him?! Okay, let's focus on the women 40-49. I don't know how many of my age group were in the race so I don't know where I place. But I can tell you that the medal winners in my age group were all a good 20 minutes faster than me! And, yes, even the winners of the 70+ age group were 10 minutes faster then me!...

This second experience was a little hard to swallow. At first. I thought about it and realized that the medal winners of all age groups are most likely serious, lifelong runners (their bodies reflect this!). In all reality I've only been in training for six weeks! And two months ago I didn't think I could run further than 3.5 miles! So I decide to take away motivation and inspiration from the awards ceremony! I ran my race. I exceeded my personal expectations. My boyfriend is proud of me and so am I. I done good!

Now, I want to do this race again next year and see how I improve! I'm inspired.

Here I come down the home stretch! (notice the crooked bib!)

I was happy to see the "high five" lady

Right after, still haven't caught my breath

Trying to blend in with all the other runners with my bag-o-schwag