Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Race Report - North Face Endurance Challenge 50K

You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
I successfully completed my 1st ultra marathon on December 3rd: the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K. It was an incredible experience, and something that I would do again. When I blogged prior to the race, I had doubt that I would be able to finish which seems odd to me now because it was always within our reach: we were prepared. Yet even during the race, when my legs were fresh and I was feeling good, I wondered if I would be able to keep it up and finish, because I knew we were running into uncharted territory, pushing our bodies beyond what we had ever experienced. 


We woke up at 5am and attacked our respective piles of running-related stuff that had been laid out the night before, and started getting ready. Mom called to wish me luck, as she always does, and read me my horoscope: You and a friend -- or maybe a colleague -- are on the same path, even though it might not seem that way at first. See if the two of you can brainstorm ways to work together toward common goals. Neither one of us believe in horoscopes, but had to admit, this one was spot on! We were definitely about to set out on the same path! A path we would remain on, together, for 9 hours and 48 minutes.


Tim picked us up at our hotel and already had Jeff and Gabby in the car. We drove to a school, where we left his car and hopped on the school-bus shuttle. It was cold, and it was dark. We used the bathroom when we were dropped off, at the Marin Headlands in Golden Gate Recreational Park and walked to the start. There was a lot of activity. We had an official race photo taken with the North Face Endurance Challenge logo in the background, dropped off our bag of stuff to have at the finish, and spotted Dean Karnazes, a celebrity in the running world.  I snapped a picture of Delia with him in between trying to get my Garmin to work. We lined up at the start, which would also be our finish, just as the sun was rising and were off!


After about a mile of running, we hit a steep uphill that went on for about two miles. We walked, along with everyone else in front of and behind us. I've made the mistake of going out too fast in plenty of marathons, and have paid the price and regretted it around mile 18. We were determined not to make that same mistake, though it did remain a temptation as we looked back and realized there weren't too many people behind us.


The first aid station was 4 miles from the start, near some horse stables. I was so excited to see the snacks because they had quite the spread: boiled potatoes in salt, M&Ms, pb&j sandwich squares and chips. I made some kind of comment about how awesome it was while shoving a boiled, salted red-skinned potato into my mouth. "This isn't our first rodeo" said one of the aid-station workers. I smiled and looked at her, responding with an exuberant "It's my first rodeo!" before ducking into a port-a-potty. Good sign, I'm hydrated, keep it up I thought. 


What goes down, must go back up again!

Muir Beach
Leaving that aid station, it was relatively flat and then we experienced the first of many climbs. Delia noticed we had cell coverage, and we stopped for a photo which I uploaded along with an update: 7.5 miles in and feeling great! As I uploaded it, in the back of my mind I thought but what if we don't finish? 


From this point, we had a lot of dramatic, sweeping views of this coast and steep downhills. The view of Muir Beach took our breath away, and we stopped for even more photos. It was around this time that I noticed were were definitely in the back - with only a few people behind us. We decided to take less pictures, and spend less time at the aid stations.


After we passed Stinson Beach and more climbing, we arrived at aid station #4 - just outside of the Muir woods, which we entered with a winding difficult descent before getting on the famous Dipsea Trail. I had taken two cups of coke at the aid station and it was like jet fuel for me! I'm actually surprised that I didn't fall during this part of the course because the trail had soft wood chips and bark covering uneven ground and tree roots and I almost rolled my ankle several times. I called my Mom, and had her on speaker phone as I let her know that we would 'definitely finish!' Again, just like the mobile upload/update, my next thought was one of lingering doubt: but you're not even half way there! You still have a lot of the race to run! From mile 15-20 ish I was on the closest thing to a runner's high that I have ever experienced. I remember actually feeling like I could run forever. I put on JAY_Z and Kanye's Watch the Throne and the miles flew by. Normally friendly to other active people when I come across them, I remember passing casual runners or walkers out there on that trail and being so focused - so into the moment - that I didn't even acknowledge them. I also remember feeling that we were pretty bad-ass.
Looking back on what we've already ran and thinking about all we still have to run.


That floaty feeling of euphoria only lasted so long. Before we knew it, we found ourselves back on the familiar trail that we had taken out and my I-can-run-forever feeling dissipated. We stopped at an aid station by Stinson beach to use the bathrooms, and I laid on my back on a bench. A passerby asked me "How far did you run?" My response followed a long pause: "Ummm...we've gone 23 I think but we still have about 10 more." I wish I had a picture of the expression on her face to post here. I'm not sure if she believed me.


Golden Gate peaking out between the hills.
From here, we had miles and miles of uphill. We walked all of it, and ran when we could. We had some beautiful views of downtown San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, that we didn't notice on our way out. 


With two miles to go, we were determined to finish strong, and run the last bit. If I hadn't been with Delia I'm not sure if I would have been able to. The sun was setting, and it really hit us that we had literally been running all day. Running from sunrise to sunset was not what I imagined when we set out that day, but that's only because the days are shorter now and I'm bad at math. Of course it was going to take the entire day...I just never calculated it, which is probably a good thing. 
  






I took this as we neared the finish line.
Crossing the finish line was an amazing feeling...a feeling that is hard to describe. Relief, and a sense of accomplishment swept over me. We found our group and ate the free meal that was there for all finishers at the end. I remember loading up my plate thinking there would be no way I could eat it all, but 10 minutes later, it was gone and I didn't even feel full. We burned 3,700 calories out there. Because the sun had set were so cold as we walked to the shuttle and waited. 
When we were finally on the bus, I remember that I had never felt that exhausted. Or, that proud. 


We had completed something that we weren't sure we would be able to do.  My Dad has always told me that I can do anything that I set my mind to. It's one thing to be told that; to think or believe that, and another to actually test it by setting out to accomplish something you really aren't sure you can complete! Months of training had gone into preparing for that day...we had been in training since August, with all of our weekends since then taken up with a long run on every Saturday, and a shorter, but still long, run every Sunday. It was the most difficult thing I had ever done...and it had taken so much out of us for months prior and on the day of. But for that reason, completing it meant so much to both of us. This ultra gave back so much more than it took, beyond the sense of accomplishment, solidifying what was already an amazing friendship with Delia through this shared experience, and making me believe that I really can do anything that I want, with enough preparation, determination and hard work. It's a day that I will remember as long as I live. 



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ready or not, here it comes: My 1st ultra marathon

When my alarm went off on Saturday and I hit my snooze for another 10 minutes it hit me: this is the last time, other than race day, that I will have to get up early to run until February! An ultra marathon is anything beyond the distance of a marathon. This weekend, I will attempt my first at the North Face Endurance Challenge on trails on the Marin side of San Francisco. It's a 50K, so it's what I consider a 'baby' ultra when compared to the 50 or 100 milers that "real" ultra runners do. But, it still counts! Although it is the shortest distance as far as ultras go (33 miles), here's what really has me nervous: the 6,000 foot elevation gain, resulting in a 5 out of 5 difficulty rating. Especially since El Morro Canyon, where we did the majority of our hill and trail training, only has about 1,000 feet of total elevation gain.


Maximum Elevation - 1,360 ft
Eleavtion Gain - 6,331 ft
Elevation Change - 9,750





COURSE OVERVIEW:

Situated in the visually stunning Marin Headlands just north of the city, The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship course has surprised runners with both its scenery and amount of elevation change. Participants are encouraged to train for repeated uphills and downhills of several hundred feet at a time. A majority of the course covers a runable fire road (very little technical single track) overlooking the Pacific Ocean with occasional glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Elevation Change: 5

Technical Terrain: 2

Overall Difficulty: 5

Scenery: 5


There will be aid stations approximately every 5 miles. For this reason, I'm not bringing anything new with me - just my normal 1 water bottle pack that I carry with me during most marathons.


Here's the aid station menu:

The following food and beverage items will be provided:
• Salty Snacks (Chips, Crackers, and/or Pretzels)
• Cookies and/or Brownies
• Assorted Candy
• Chicken Broth
• Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
• Potatoes
• GU Energy Gels (Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Outrage, Strawberry Banana, Jet Blackberry)
• GU Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Gels (Roctane Blueberry Pomegranate)
• GU Electrolyte Brew (Lemon Lime, Raspberry)
• nuun Electrolyte Tabs
• Soft Drinks
• Water
• Salt
• Assorted Fruit


Some of the aid stations are unmanned, so I hope they don't run out of food or water! I'm bringing at least 5 GU packs just in case.



I'm also really nervous about getting lost on the course, which is marked by different colored ribbons.Although Delia and I plan to stick together, I bought a case to clip my cell phone onto the belt of my running pack...in case I get lost. While I may not have cell reception, they should be able to find me based on cell tower pings. Get lost??? It can happen on ultra runs. I actually run with a girl who got lost, along with several other runners, while attempting an ultra. They were following what they thought was a trail, and it dead-ended into a stream. Unsure if they were supposed to cross, they back-tracked and saw a ribbon tied to a tree, a signal to go a different way. This ultra is sponsored by North Face, and should be both better supported, and better staffed. But I can get turned around on our normal runs in the hills above Irvine, so I'm not taking any chances! I really don't want to end up on that show I Shouldn't Be Alive.


From the website:
COURSE MARKING:


Ribbons: At The North Face Endurance Challenge, each distance will follow a unique color of marking ribbons. The color of the ribbon your course follows will match the color of your race bib. The colors associated with each course are as follows:
Gore-Tex 50 Mile: ORANGE
50K: BLUE
Marathon: PINK
Marathon Relay: RED
Half Marathon: YELLOW
10K: RED
5K: PURPLE
Images 1 and 2 show an example of the ribbon used to mark the courses, and typical placement of ribbons. In this example, the runners in 50 Mile (orange), 50K (blue), Half Marathon (yellow) and 10K (red) races would be following the trails marked with these ribbons. If the course was only for 10K and Half Marathon, only red and yellow ribbon would be placed. Anytime runners do not see their race color among the ribbons hung on the trails, they should take it as an indication that they are no longer on their race course. They should return to the last place they saw ribbon matching their race.



Image 1


Image 2

I imagine us out there, any mile after mile 20, not noticing the ribbons! I get spacey when I run farther than 20 miles, and the photos above are from their website! Can't they make them bigger? I could easily miss the ribbons shown here!


The last major thing I'm worried about is making the 10 hour cut-off time. I just want to finish. Our 'easy' 10 mile taper run on Saturday wasn't easy, and this has been playing on my mind all week. Part of that was due to the almost 80 degree heat, and it will be much cooler outside of San Francisco (expected high of 60), but it was still more difficult than I expected, given how high our mileage has been. You would think it would get easier, but those 10 miles still felt like 10 miles. If I don't finish, all that training since August - all those back-to-back weekend runs have been for a good attempt, a good try, but not a finish. At this point, I've done all I can. We finished our last run - a short 3.7 miles tonight with a beautiful sunset and now it's time to rest and carbo load. And stay away from sick people! There's a lot riding on this, and I desperately want to finish, so I can cross doing an ultra off my list! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Santa Barbara Marathon Recap

When Mom, Dad, Glen and I left for Santa Barbara on Friday afternoon, rain was looming. By the time we got to the very small expo to pick up our bib numbers, it was sprinkling. After we did our food shop at Vons and were headed to dinner, the sky opened up and it was pouring down rain. The kind of rain that an umbrella doesn't really protect you from because it comes at you sideways.


Having all just completed the Surf City Distance Derby the previous Sunday in the freezing cold rain, we were all worried what Saturday morning would bring. After dinner, we went to CVS and bought the last two emergency ponchos. But I knew that these wouldn't work for very long if the rain continued. I have never ran a marathon in the rain, but have heard horror stories of blisters and falling. And, I worried about Dad and Glen, feeling somewhat responsible for encouraging them to sign up. We had fun at dinner, as we always do, but it was definitely overshadowed by worry of what tomorrow would bring.
Dinner, the night before.



















I dropped Mom, Dad and Glen off at their place, and headed to my bed and breakfast. I fell asleep to the sound of rain, and just knew that when I woke up, it would still be raining. I didn't sleep well, afraid I would oversleep and woke up several times during the night.


To my surprise, I didn't hear any rain when my wake-up call came. I downed a red bull, ate a clif bar, and called mom for the weather report because they were staying closer to the start, 10 miles away. No rain there either! But it wasn't light out yet, so I didn't know if it was still going to rain. I got dressed and left to pick up Dad and Glen (Mom was to take a cab to the finish later). We headed to UCSB for our shuttles and met Delia in the parking garage. We snapped some pictures, and said goodbye to Glen and Dad, who were taking different shuttles to their 1/2 marathon start. The sun was rising, and there were dark clouds in the distance. Still, I worried about the rain.


In the gym, before the start.
We were dropped off at a high school  and met up with the rest of our running group: Tim, Gabby, Jeff, Kathy and Andra. Finishing touches: stretching, banana, sunscreen borrowed off someone we didn't know, group photos and bathroom. When we left the gym and headed to the start, we could see that the threat of rain was almost gone. 
Much smaller marathon.


Delia, Andra and I started together and ran for a mile or two before Andra asked "Are you Megan?" It was then that I realized she was the one person who I had never met who donated quite a bit to my NAMI walk. "Oh, you're Andra!" was my response and the conversation flowed. With marathon running as the common denominator, you almost have instant friends, across any age, gender and occupation. But I found that Andra and I had a lot of other real-world, non-running things in common too. Around this same time, Delia picked up the pace, (or we slowed a bit) and it was just the two of us running. The miles flew by as we chatted and got to know each other.


Until about mile 7, when I noticed that my legs were already starting to feel a little bit heavy. That's an unsettling feeling, when you have 19 more left. I took a gu and continued on, realizing that I should have brought my own and taken it much sooner. Talking to Andra helped the time pass and I have to say it was one of the most interesting conversations I've ever had during a run. Around mile 15 or so I felt good; floaty and even a bit giddy. Not the elusive runner's high that I've read about, but pretty close. I saw a caterpillar crossing the bike path we were on, the most unusual one I've ever seen: short, fuzzy and black/bright yellow. I imagined that it would turn into a bumble bee, not a butterfly, and I bent down to pick it up before it got squashed. This put me behind, and I lengthened my stride to catch up to Andra.


We were commenting on the beautiful weather and how lucky we were to not have the rain that all the weather reports said we were sure to get. It was right about this time that it hit me: I had spent all that time and energy worrying about something I couldn't control: the weather. I was spending time worrying about rain, when we were going to have beautiful weather anyway! How completely useless that worry was...and how it robbed me of being in the moment and enjoying my time with my family to the fullest extent. It sounds silly, and even a bit trite as I sit here now writing it: but in that moment, I actually felt what I've always known to be true: worry doesn't help, prevent, or change anything. I had been so worried about the rain; how it would affect my performance, my Dad and brother walking the half, and my Mom waiting at the finish. In fact, I hadn't just been thinking about it the night before, but the entire week before...ever since I knew it was in the forecast! When there really wasn't any rain in the cards for us.


Looking at the bigger picture of life, I started thinking about those things that I periodically worry about while we continued our 10-ish minute per mile pace, talking less now because that same pace was becoming more difficult to maintain. I started thinking of those re-occuring things I worry about and imaging that, just like this rain, maybe I really don't have any reason to worry: my Dad's health, not finding someone in time to have children, even death. Just like perfect weather was really in the forecast on the day of the marathon, what if my Dad's leukemia never needs treatment and never gets worse? What if I will definitely be a mother someday? And, the big one: what if there really is something, anything, after this life? And, even if there isn't...does worry ever help? It was going to rain that day or it wasn't, plain and simple. So, why did thinking about it even matter? I felt a calmness and a peace about everything I have ever worried about in life. I felt like I now knew that just like that day, everything was going to work out just fine. Maybe I was experiencing a little bit of that runner's high, but even now, almost a week later I still feel that that calmness and comfort is with me.


Her pace remained steady, and I felt myself start to slow. We were almost at mile 20 when it became even more difficult, which is usually when it happens. I remember reaching mile 20 in my 1st marathon back in 2003 and I was so excited to only have 6 more miles left. But then, my next thought was 'oh wait...that's over an hour more of running.' Sharing this with Andra, she helped me re-frame it by pointing out that we really only had 3 more miles to go, because the last three would be so exciting. That helped me a lot, and as she continued on and I walked a bit because my fingers were tingling (electrolyte imbalance?), I kept telling myself that. There was a fairly steep hill at mile 23 and I decided to walk the whole thing, telling myself that I would need to walk a lot in the upcoming North Face Endurance Challenge 50K.


After that walk break, it was hard to get going again...mentally as much as physically. I didn't have my iPod, because I thought it would rain, and that is usually the time when I rely heavily on Lil Wayne. My hip flexors were sore and tired, and my feet didn't seem to come very far off the ground. I rescued another cute bumblebee caterpillar headed into traffic and certain death, and thought of how beautiful and precious life is. I thought of my brother, Dad and Mom waiting for me at the finish line and how I was now on the same path that they had just been on for their race. I felt so proud of my brother for completing his first 1/2 marathon and I felt so lucky to be there with him. Concerns from the past, of the health of him and my Dad melted away. I started smiling.


At mile 24 I saw a woman shuffling along like me, struggling. This was a small marathon with only a few thousand participants, so there weren't runners all around me like in Chicago or LA. I asked her what number marathon this was for her, and she said it was her first. "How exctiting!" I said, and we struck up a conversation. She had a thick accent, and I asked where she was from. She was from Ethiopia, and came here for a better life. Now enjoying an ocean view, and the finish within our reach, I asked who was waiting for her at the finish; her husband, and three children. I told her that she could put her iPod back in if she wanted, and that I was missing mine, but she said our conversation was exactly what she needed. It was what I needed too. About a mile out, her husband and children appeared, and started running alongside us. Her husband was videoing us, and her excitement and energy were contagious.

By this time, I realized my face was actually hurting from smiling so much. As we ran into the finish line together, I heard my Mom yell my name and went over to give her a kiss. Less than 100 yards from the finish, I heard Glen say my name and made a sharp right turn, over to him. I stopped and hugged him, telling him how proud I was of his accomplishment.
Smile







































An observer called out 'don't forget to finish!' because my chip time was still ticking, and I crossed over the finish, with an official time of 4 hours, 46 minutes and 12 seconds... an average pace of 10:55. I met up with everyone from my running group, and my family. We sat on the football field of Santa Barbara City College and compared stories, and shared our experiences.


In all, this marathon was one of the best I've done. Not because of my time, or the course, but because of the experience. Maybe if I had been sitting at home I could have had the same revelation and shifted my perceptive, but I doubt it. It seems to only be when we push our physical limits and boundaries that we get some distance and out of our head enough to gain true insight into ourselves. I hope to carry the experience of that day with me for a long time and use it as a point of reference...remembering that tomorrow may or not bring rain, but today, it is sunny. 
Glen, finishing strong!


Second 1/2 marathon for Daddy!

Andra and I, at the finish.

Delia

We've bonded over many long training runs.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

October Mileage

October
Run distance:      150.6 miles
Run time:      28 hours, 25 minutes, 32 seconds

Sticker in my office: Running is a Love/Hate relationship.
My monthly mileage is up from 104 miles in September and 80 miles in August. The biggest change in this ultra training (when compared to marathon training) has been the back-to-back long runs, which will continue all through November. In marathon training, I never run the day after a long training run, so this has been a completely new experience for me. At first, I dreaded the second day, because running on tired legs 1.) isn't fun and 2.) seems counter intuitive: it is during rest/recovery that your body rebuilds and becomes stronger. But, the ultra training plan states that they're necessary, and so it began.

At the start of this month, I was worried that doing this would be too much. When I ran 16 miles on Oct. 8th before the Long Beach 1/2 marathon on Oct. 9th, I was worried that my annoying, lingering, hip-flexor injury would get worse. I remember being at mile 4 in the race thinking  'if I weren't in an official race, I would stop. Right now.' Fast forward to two weeks later, and I'm running 20 miles of hard trails with Delia through beautiful El Moro Canyon on Saturday, and right back out there on Sunday for 10 more. Surprisingly, I wasn't injured after this. Sore, yes - the steep inclines and drastic downhills were new for me...but injured, no. My annoying hip flexor pain has even almost disappeared. My body seems to be adapting and responding well to the higher demands I'm placing on it, supporting the idea that the more you do, the more you realize you can do! This upcoming weekend is a bit of a taper because I have the Santa Barbara marathon on November 12th. And the day after the marathon? Back out there for 10 miles!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tomorrow's 20 mile trail run!

Tomorrow will be one of my most important training runs to date. Here's what's planned, emailed to us by another runner in our group:
__________________________________________________

What: 20 miles of trails - ridge park down bommer ridge, moro ridge, I think I can/east cut across to the ranger station, up no name to ridge park - twice.

Why: because hills are hidden speedwork/interval training, prep for Santa Barbara & North Face 50k.

Where: Ridge Park (corner of east coastal peak and ridge park road (meet near the parking lot/bathrooms).
Directions: Newport Coast Drive to Ridge Park road to the end - turn right - park.

When: 6:45 is about sunrise.  If we can get there by 6:30 and leave by 6:45 that would be great.
Water & bathrooms: ranger station at the school house at the bottom of the hill (near crystal cove) and at the top (ridge park).

Expect this to be about a 4.5-5 hour run.  Bring plenty of salt/electrolytes, perhaps a clif bar or snack, and 1 or 2 handheld water bottles, and trail shoes.  Because this is such a long tough run we need to start early, especially if the weather warms up.

If you are running and you miss the start try to catch up (take bommer ridge about 3 miles to the sign/painting - turn right to catch us).  Cell reception is poor at ridge park and we probably won't be able to wait.  Try texting if you are running late.

Thanks.  See you tomorrow.


__________________________________________________

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fog Happiness

I was at a high school football game a few weeks ago with my friend Ann-Marie, a teacher at our school who is a triathlete and also runs. We started talking to another teacher, who knew we were runners. She said "I wish I ran more...but, I don't like running." Neither do we! we answered, almost in unison. Knowing that we ran frequently, yet didn't enjoy it, seemed to perplex her...as it would most people. She stared at us in apparent disbelief, almost expecting us to say "Just kidding! We love to run! Can't get enough of it actually, especially those long runs!"

The idea that people who run actually love it seems to be common because...well, it doesn't make sense that someone would spend so much time doing something they didn't enjoy! The average American watched over 17 hours of television per week last year according to this. But no one goes around saying "Ugh...I have to watch Dancing with the Stars for 2 hours straight tonight." (At least my Mom doesn't; she loves that show!) So, people who don't run may assume those of us who log a lot of miles just can't wait to get home, kick off our high heels and lace those up our running shoes! I can't speak for all other runners, maybe there are some weird ones out there who love it, but I'm here to tell you: I don't!

On days like yesterday when I have a long run planned (14 as soon as I finished work) it's looming all day. I do not, in any way, look forward to it; what I do look forward to is it being over with! Even while running, I'm wanting to it be done. "Only four more miles" we'll say, convincing ourselves we're almost there.

So, just why the h-e-double-hockey-stick do I spend so much time doing an activity that I don't enjoy? In a nutshell: The good outweighs the bad, and it makes me happy, if only when I'm not doing it.

In The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin writes about a thing she calls fog happiness.
Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don't really seem to bring much happiness at all - yet somehow, they do...When I stop to analyze my emotions during the various stages of these activities, I see procrastination, dread, anxiety, nervousness, annoyance...yet these activities undoubtedly make me "happy."
Surrounded by some major fog happiness on last night's run through Crystal Cove.
While she was using this term to describe raising children, planning parties, writing and giving a performance, it's exactly how I feel about marathon training! Especially, this ultra training! I don't mind some of the shorter runs, and don't mean to imply that I actually hate running, but I never 'enjoy' my long runs. And after about mile 14 (sometimes, even by mile 4 when I've had a long run the day prior) it becomes really tough to keep moving...not just physically, but mentally. But it is for this very reason that I feel so good when I'm done. Anyone who has worked really hard on attaining something knows it is much more rewarding than when something comes easy.

Not only do I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when get through a brutal training run, but I really enjoy working toward that end goal: the marathon. I enjoy signing up, and planning a trip around it, and training with my friends, crossing the finish line, sharing our experiences and eating whatever I want. And after the event, in retrospect, I think I even enjoy the nervousness, excitement and pressure that lead up to race day, although while I'm in it - in that fog - I would swear to you that I don't like it.

I guess another reason I train is because it forces me to live a certain lifestyle. I would not run consistently and that far if I didn't have to. And when I'm signed up for a marathon, I have to! I guess I sort of enjoy being forced to be dedicated to something that's good for me; forced to forgo nights out with friends in favor of early mornings with friends on the trail. I like having a common denominator with fellow marathoners...a certain level of understanding because they're doing the same thing, making similar sacrifices for a greater good too: life!

But, to be fair, it's not always just fog happiness that running brings me. There is the occasional day that the sun shines through, the fog is lifted, and I find myself enjoying, or even looking forward to, a run. Like an after work run around the Back Bay, talking the whole way while catching up with Delia. Or, a track workout so hard that I feel like I'll puke, but leaves me completely energized and enthused afterwards. Or, a run with our cross country kids in the rain that leaves us laughing after being drenched in a sheet of water by a passing car. I live for those runs, though few and far between they may be. It's in moments like those that I truly feel alive, and make secret promises to myself that I will run as long as I'm able.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ultra Training vs. Megan

Ultra training: 0
 Megan: 1

The biggest difference between ultra training and normal marathon training is, of course, the back-to-back long runs. I seriously underestimated how hard these would be, and have found myself knee deep into my training, wondering what the heck I'm doing. I used to have flexibility on when I did my long run over the weekend: it could be Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Now, my long run must be on Saturday because I have another long (albeit shorter) run on Sunday.

Balancing everything is proving to be a lot more challenging than I anticipated. For example, few weekends ago, we had a Cross Country Invitational and left the high school at 5:30am. Being an assistant coach is something I find immensely rewarding and an opportunity that I am very lucky to have. But our Saturday meets take up half the day, leaving me on my own for my 20 miles around the Back Bay.
Normally, I would have just switched my run to Sunday morning. Everyone who does distance running knows that the hardest part of a run like that is mental, and when you're by yourself the mental part is even harder! Not being able to run with my training group (they were doing the same mileage, but meeting at 7:30) and being faced with all those miles by myself was difficult. To stave off the monotony, I listened to Once a Runner for the first 13 miles of the run (it's a much better book than Murkami's book on running). But, just like Gatorade can only sustain you for so long before you need something more substantial, I can only run to an audio book for so long and then the words all blur together; I'm no longer paying attention and my pace has slowed. When I'm really tired, I need music and switched to Watch the Throne by JAY Z and Kanye for the last seven miles. I was out there for 3 1/2 hours and during that time, did a lot of self-talk, and had a lot of doubt. Not doubt about this run...but doubt about
the training...and the next 8 weeks of it. 

And, then October 1st, I participated in the NAMI Walk with my family and friend, Elizabeth. Participation in this with my family was really important to me but, again, I missed running with my group. I also had to cut my visit with Elizabeth short...forgoing dinner with her in favor of another run alone. I hadn't seen Elizabeth in months, and was really enjoying my time with her. When you're with a good friend you haven't seen in a long time, it goes by too quickly. But, I didn't have a choice and headed out around 5pm as I walked her to her car. I finished just after dark eking out a 11:09 total pace. I forgot how much I enjoy walking/running at night when you pass by people's homes and have a little glimpse into their lives. I almost enjoyed that, but it was the only part.

See, all this running has had me a bit burned out. I'm running tomorrow has turned into I have to run tomorrow and I've caught myself starting to complain about my long runs to just different people on several occasions! When you find yourself complaining to your mailman and cat, you kow you're in troble.

But just when I thought I wasn't going to make it through, I had a pretty awesome weekend last week, running-wise. You might even say I enjoyed it. And, my double run was my highest mileage to date: 16 miles on Saturday and 13.1 in the Long Beach 1/2 marathon on Sunday for a total of 29.1 miles in 24 hours. I ran with Candace and Justin (who just completed 64 miles the previous weekend in an ultra) on Saturday, and on Sunday had a group of my running friends to carpool with and start the race together. Finally, I didn't have to run alone! The 16 miles were tough, which usually isn't the case when I've gone higher in my mileage the week before. We ran 12 together, and then I headed out for another 4 miles. I was exhausted when I returned, and the half marathon the next morning was on my mind as I layed on the couch that afternoon watching Toddlers and Tiaras. See, it's not just the time spent while running, but also the fact that it sometimes wipes me out for the rest of the day. It's a huge time sink! I set my alarm for 4am, and went to bed early.
Snapped this walking to the start.
The was the usual pre-race excitement that morning as we drove to the start line before sunrise. But there was also the uncertainty of the uncharted territory of my longest back-to-back runs. Around mile 4 of the Long Beach 1/2 I actually thought to myself 'If I weren't in this race, I would stop now.' But, when you're in a race you can't drop out and that's one of the main reasons I sign up!

My pace has slowed by about 2 minutes per mile, and it was a bit humbling being passed by people I seemed fitter than, but I got through it. And actually, now that it's over and I'm sitting here writing about it ... I can say that I did enjoy it. And I may even be looking forward to 16-18 miles of El Moro trails with Delia this weekend. I guess that's part of what keeps me coming back for more - something Gretchen Rubin calls fog happiness. More about that in my next blog.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School - Crockpot Lentil Soup!

Now that Labor Day has come and gone and the new school year is here, crock pot season is upon us! I love coming home from a busy day (and nothing is busier than the first day of school!) to an already-prepared, healthy meal! The sodium content in this recipe was pretty high, so I modifyed it by using the low sodium vegetable broth and tomatoes. I also added a lot more fresh veggies: corn, zuchini, squash, bell peppers, chayote, daikon radish and white zuchinni. The last three (two of which I've never heard of) were recommended by employee at Grower's Direct. I prepared everything last night, so now all I need to do is switch it on!  Also, instead of cooking it on medium for 8-10 hours, I am setting it on low for 12-14 because I will be working later than normal today...

Crockpot Lentil Soup Recipe
Vegetarian Crockpot Lentil Soup Recipe
Vegetarian lentil soup is very easy to make in your crockpot or slow cooker
This is a super-easy vegetarian crock pot recipe - just put all the ingredients in your slow cooker in the morning and forget about it until the end of the day. Lentil soup is hearty enough for a main dish, but you could always add extra veggies to make it even more filling.
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

Preparation:

Pre-soak the lentils in water for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Stir together all ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on medium heat in the crockpot for 8 to 10 hours. Enjoy your crockpot lentil soup!
Makes 6 servings of crockpot lentil soup.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Asian Chopped Salad

Über-inspired by my parents, who are now following a plant-based, whole food diet à la Forks Over Knives. This documentary (check out Ebert's review of it here) presents strong evidence and research linking our Western animal-based diets to cancer, obesity and many chronic illnesses. 

Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.
-Hippocrates

My parents started it 6 weeks ago, and I hadn't seen them in 3 weeks. Quite honestly, I could not believe how much weight they lost; they have never looked better. Not big meat-eaters to begin with, the main change they made was cutting out all forms of processed food. More about that in a future blog post, but in the meantime, here's a delicious recipe (thanks Krista!) that I made for dinner tonight, and will take to work over the next few days. I've also dusted off my crock pot for the morning...stay tuned!

Asian Chopped Salad

I made some modifications to this recipe from Vegetarian Times.

Ingredient List
Serves 6
  • 2 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 8 oz. teriyaki-style baked tofu, diced (Trader Joe's)
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 cup cooked shelled edamame
  • 1/2 cup wasabi-seasoned peas
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger, or more to taste
  • Sesame-soy vinaigrette (also Trader Joe's)


Directions

  1. Chop it up and throw it all together in a bowl! (I also modified the directions).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

If at first you don't succeed...


...tri and tri again! Sorry, a cheesy play on words was too hard to resist! When I signed up for my 1st triathlon last year (sprint distance) I had no idea just how hard a half-mile swim was going to be with no formal swim training. Nor did I have any idea how hard "only running 3 miles" would be without having done any brick workouts

I ran 20 miles to train for Chicago the day before my tri, thinking the race would be a nice short distance; a good recovery to help work out my lactic acid and aid in my recovery. I couldn't believe I was paying so much money to go such a short distance! Boy, was I wrong! It was a humbling experience, to say the least. When I got into that water in the Long Beach bay in a borrowed wetsuit that foggy morning, I had no idea what I was in for. But I soon realized when I couldn't breath and freaked out even putting my face in the water. People surrounded me, and thoughts that I could just go under and no one would realize (this is likely true!) came into my mind. I searched for a life guard, and flagged him down by wildly waving my arm. He swam over to me on his surf board and asked if I needed to be brought in. How's that for a confidence-killer? Clearly, I looked like I wasn't going to make it.

My first thought was that I couldn't give up - people knew I was doing this; I posted it on facebook! I caught my breath, asked him to keep an eye one me, and continued on, still afraid to put my face in the water. I was doing something resembling a doggie paddle. Not surprisingly, everyone in my wave (age group) was passing me. I looked back at the trusty lifeguard and he was looking the other direction...so much for keeping an eye on me. So again, I panicked...and flagged a different one down. I ended up doing this three times total, while almost everyone in the next wave also passed me.

It took me an hour to go that 1/2 mile. When I got out of the water, I walked to transition, not running like all the others. And then, the 11 miles on my bike were extremely difficult. Then, when I finally ditched the bike and started running, I could not believe how hard even that was! Running was my strongest area of the three, yet I felt like I was running in quicksand.

Here are my results: Athlinks.

It would have been so easy to write off triathlons as not my thing. And I did consider that. But a few months after that horrible experience, I signed up for a half ironman, skipping the olympic distance usually used to prepare. And when I was pulled from the water in that race (read my blog about that experience here) I countered that defeated feeling by signing up for an Olympic distance as soon as I returned from Napa. Finally, that was a triathlon I finished and felt good about (blog here) thanks to the support and encouragement from my friends Delia and Darra, who came out that day to cheer me on. My .93 mile swim in Lake Mission Viejo took me the same amount of time the .5 mile swim in Long Beach took me.

Those of you who have tried a new workout routine, race or sport and struggled or failed at first will agree: it doesn't mean that it's not for you! It just means you need to stick with it a little longer, work a little harder, train a little more, and you will get it! Being good at something that comes naturally isn't nearly as rewarding anyway! The things that truly hold meaning in life, that really hold value and satisfaction, are the same things that we have worked hard to obtain. The same things that we didn't think we could do, but pushed through that doubt and conquered.