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.

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:
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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.


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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.