Blog

Race, Training

Running Cal International (My First Marathon!)

Two weeks later, and I’m finally writing about the race! I needed some time for everything to sink in. I wanted to first enjoy the experience and then my time off of training to relax and reset after a long season. Now, I’ve taken two weeks to chill out and am ready to get back to the grind. I’m not sure of my exact plans for 2019, but I’m excited to work towards new goals after a very positive first marathon.

Preparing for the Race

Thursday

I completed my last tune-up workout (8×200 with 60 second rest). My legs felt awkward, and for the first time probably ever, I ran the first rep too slow (in college especially, my coach was always getting after me about going out too hard the first rep. I’ve finally learned! Thank you, marathon training). The whole week I kept waiting to feel fresh and ready, but I just felt weird! I didn’t have that “pop” that I thought I would have when mileage came down, but I told myself it didn’t matter. I had no idea how I was “supposed to feel” anyway, this being my first marathon ever.  I trusted that when the gun went off, I would be rested and ready to do what I thought I could do.

Friday

Even on the flight there, I avoided thinking too much about the race weekend ahead. I still had two more days to relax and get myself mentally prepped for the task ahead. I didn’t want to overthink it and wear myself out with nerves before I got to the start line. After arriving in Sacramento, I found a cute little coffee shop called The Mill, got a waffle and a cortado, and hung out by myself for a few hours before going for a shakeout run. It felt amazing to see fall leaves still on the trees and feel THE SUN.

 

 

 

Saturday

Friday and Saturday I mostly kept to myself and chilled out as much as possible. This mostly meant Peaky Blinders and The Office binge-watching while snacking on a multitude of carbs all day. Once Daryl got to town, he helped me decorate and prep my bottles in full fashion. (Of course, I had waited to order my bottles in until the week of the race, and I didn’t give myself time to decorate them before leaving. Honestly, this was pretty fun and I was glad for something to do during my downtime!)

 

The rest of the day was pretty chill; we went to the athlete dinner, watched some more Office, and I took a dreaded ice bath (not fun, but my legs always feel fresher the day after ice-bathing! A good hoodie and some tea does wonders).

 

I went to bed at 9:30pm that night, which is absolutely unheard of for me. I woke up in a panic–I missed the bus!!! *looks at the clock* 10:30pm. This continued about every hour until 3:15am when I finally said screw it and got out of bed.

Sunday

I had everything ready to go, for once. I had packed my flats, snack, and warm-ups already, but I checked my bag about 29 times before leaving the room to walk to the elite bus. I had gotten 4 shots of espresso at Starbucks the night before, and brewed some hot water to make an americano. I like to drink half right away in the morning with my oatmeal, and half as I’m getting ready to warm up. I made SURE to grab that espresso before leaving the room, and walked out into the dark.

I sat next to Emma on the bus, and we chatted the whole 50 minute drive to the start line. Driving all that way to the start was definitely strange. Some people put headphones in, some stare out the window silently, some sleep. Once we got to the athlete tent, we all nervously stretch, sip on coffee, pass time. Emma and I had warmed up together before, so it was nice to have someone familiar to get ready with. In the pitch black early morning, I could hardly see my feet shuffling in front of me.

The Race

When I got to the start line, I was calm. I didn’t know if I would have a great race, but I knew there was nothing else I could possible do at this point to get more ready than I already was. I knew I couldn’t force anything, and that gave me a sense of peace. I took a few deep breaths, said a quick prayer: God, help me to run for more than me. Help me to run in a way that honors you and everyone who believes in me. Help me to get the most out of myself. The end. The gun went off, and we began.

img_9561

I immediately could tell we were out quick. Of course everyone is trying to get off the line, but the last thing I wanted to do was go out to fast and die. My coach and I had talked a zillion times about targeting a realistic pace and sticking to it, not letting my mind and emotions take over just because “I feel like I can do it.” Beth, someone I’d raced quite a few times before, appeared next to me and zapped me into reality:

“How fast are you trying to run?”

“About 5:57.”

“Cool, I’m trying to run 5:50-6.”

“Awesome.”

A sense of relief washed over me… I thought I had found someone to run with. I also noted how weird it was to have a conversation during a race! Within about 10 seconds, I looked down at my watch and realized we were running under 5:40 pace and I put the brakes on. Not for me today! She pulled ahead and disappeared into the crowd, and went on to absolutely crush it with a 2:31! I, on the other hand, spent seemingly endless miles letting hundreds of people blow by me. I recognized lots of familiar faces and questioned whether I knew what I was doing. Am I sacrificing my race by going out too slow? What if I never catch back up? I pushed those thoughts away and stuck to the plan, a steady unwavering effort.

img_6249

I spent the next 20 miles just chipping away. Miles 8-12 felt the worst: “This feels too hard for this early in the race. I won’t be able to make it at this pace.” And then, “Calm down, if I run a few seconds slower, it’s okay. Just relax. Keep breathing.” The miles continued to go by at the same pace. I didn’t need to slow down, I just needed to stay steady. I didn’t charge up the hills or sprint down them, I kept my effort even. That meant that although my 5k splits were dead on pace, I had some miles that were in the 5:40s and some that were just over 6:00.

When I got to 19 miles, I started to tear up. I realized, My God, holy sh#!, I’m actually going to finish this thing. I had spent such a long time thinking about my first marathon, and it seemed that everything was going according to plan, something that so rarely happens. Then, my right hamstring tightened up. My right side had been sore and tight for the last few days before the race, even though I was hardly running. I hadn’t been able to loosen it up, and I was definitely worried that it would flare up in the race. Until mile 19, I had all but forgotten that my leg had ever hurt. Suddenly, a wave up nerves crept into my throat. What if THIS is the reason I don’t finish today?! All this way! I felt so good! And now this! I again told myself to stay calm and not pick it up. Just keep running 5:57, and I’m going to get the A standard. If it gets bad and I’m forced to slow down, I can keep it together to run the B standard. I know I can. I know I can. And then it never got any worse. At mile 21, a group of guys and a few women caught up to me, and that was everything I needed to pull me back into “race mode.” I had spent 21 miles basically running in a bubble surrounded by hundreds of people, but now I was finally running WITH people! Without even thinking or changing effort, my pace started to drop. The course flattened out, and we started clipping away at 5:50, 5:40, and I felt great, effortless. I thought of one of my favorite books, The Perks of Being a Wallflower–“In that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

img_6248

The day before, I had jogged the course finish so I would know what to expect as I approached the final miles. I had taken mental pictures of a few key buildings so even if I was totally out of it, I would remember that the finish line was getting close. I started counting down the blocks. So close! I saw a man walking, his goal race obviously extinct. I had another flash of realization… a mile is still a mile. The race isn’t over. Stay in it. Then I saw my husband, Daryl. SCREAMING. So excited, jumping up and down, telling me I was doing it, to run faster, to finish it up. I turned left with just 300 or so meters to go, and THREW UP. Threw up and kept running. Saw the 2:35 on the clock and kept running. Crossed the line and… threw up again. Then I was fine! It was over! I did it!

img_9562

Daryl was convinced that I was going to be in the medical tent (I’ve been in much worse places after much shorter races) but I felt like I could just go for a jog. When he found me he was in shock… “Can you look tired or something? Sweat? Mess your hair up a little?” I laughed. Now that the race was over, I felt light, free. The marathon was MY race, and to know that I loved it as much as I thought I would was an immeasurable relief. I couldn’t wait to try it all over again.

 

 

We spent the next few days exploring California, visiting endless coffee shops and hiking around beautiful places. It never felt so good to finish a season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Training

Getting ready for the MARATHON.

My last post, “Sometimes I am a Fox, Sometimes I am a Lion” was about what I do to get race ready. Coincidentally, I published this post at the beginning of a very busy summer/fall racing season, so outside of my journal, I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus. The last many days can be simplified to: Eat, run, work, run, eat, sleep. In the last six months, I’ve built up from an injury in the spring to my highest mileage week ever (the big 100+!) this November. I raced in Iowa, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Nevada anywhere from 1 Mile to the Half Marathon.

20k
The most memorable week of the fall season was probably racing a brutally hot and humid 20k on a Monday…
minnesotamile
…and the Minnesota Mile on Friday.

I’ve had good days, I’ve had bad days, but the long term goal since I’ve been able to train hard again was to get ready for my first marathon at the US Marathon Championships hosted by California International Marathon in Sacramento. Now, it’s only THREE DAYS AWAY.

In getting ready for the marathon, I’ve tried to just shut my brain off and do the training, no questions asked. I’ve found this has been easier to do than ever before because I’ve never run a marathon. I tend to overthink things, which is often to my detriment. Trying something new and listening with overwhelming trust in my coach has been freeing and has allowed me to focus on completing each day with diligence. I’ve been able to focus solely on this one goal race more than I ever have before. I’m sure after the race we’ll have lots of takeaways for next time, but right now I know I’ve done everything I can do to prepare myself for this one.

My treadmill corner where I did all my marathon-pace workouts. I have one bolt in the wall that I stare at for every workout 😛 This one was 3x5mi with the first 5 miles downhill and the last 5 miles faster than marathon pace. This was one of my favorite sessions that gave me a lot of confidence!

Am I at my best? I don’t know. I know I can run 24 miles. I know I can still close a workout in a 64 second 400 (even though I still get dropped by Andrew). But who knows what mile 20 of a marathon brings (lots of pain and mental struggle, to be sure)?! I can tell you I feel good, I feel positive, I have confidence in my preparation and training, and I know I’m ready to give it the best I have and find out what that means.

Even though our training is different, it always inspires me to see the Bison distance squad get after their own goals
🤘

One thing I’ve struggled with in the last two years is always looking back at what I’ve been able to do and wondering how long it will take me to get back. I try to stay positive and remind myself it takes patience, time, and a lot of hard work. I remind myself I don’t want to “get back,” I want to move forward. I hope to God that eventually the work pays off, but you just never really know. Sometimes you do everything you possibly can, and your hopes are still just hopes. KEEP HOPING!

Regardless of result, the best part about the last few months has been preparing for an event that is a huge unknown for me and learning more about myself. Everything is new. I can’t compare workouts or paces because I have yet to find out what a marathon is really like. I know I still love running, I’ve enjoyed the training grind, and I’ve learned more about what my body can handle. For a few more days, I’m going to enjoy this sense of newness, the unknown of an event I’ve never done, and try to remember what it feels like to have big dreams without any real certainty of what my ceiling is.

CaptureLast big workout done. It’s race week!

🦁

One last thing my coach told me that I know I’ll be thinking as I approach the start line, “At the end of the day, this is really just running. It’s not the javelin. It’s not the long jump. This is something you know how to do.”
Training

Sometimes I am a Fox; Sometimes I am a Lion

img_6407
How do you get the most out of yourself when it counts? You train hard, eat right, go to bed, hydrate, recover, refuel, and you want your race result at the end of all this hard work to match up with what you’ve done in preparation. It’s something I’ve struggled with, and I’m sure a lot of runners feel the same way. I find that I’m able to crush workouts and push myself past my limits even when I’m by myself in less-than-ideal conditions. But when it comes to race day, I’ve had very few that align with what I think I can do based on my race preparation. I suppose a bit of that is luck on a day where you’re rested, fueled correctly, in the right race at the right time and the stars align. The days that everything comes together is rare, but the point is to give yourself a chance for success. I do my best to train and prepare to make a great day possible.

Sometimes I am a Fox

In hiding

Resting

Waiting

Inconspicuous/Subtle

Quick thinking/Adaptability

 

Sometimes I am a Lion

Fierce

Unafraid

Confident

Ready to pounce when opportunity arises

 

I’m still learning how to get the most out of myself on race day, but here are the things I’ve done to prepare when a race is coming up.

  1. Trust the training; don’t overthink it! Now is not the time to question the build-up. Do the easy runs, fuel properly, and get your body feeling ready to fight.
  2. Write down fears/truths: I’ve done this a few times this year and it’s really helped me get in a calmer mindset. Even when the race results weren’t ideal or the workout felt like a disaster, writing this stuff down helped me remain calm during times of stress or pain. Example from my training journal this winter:
    Fears: I’m not ready. I’m not good enough. It will hurt.
    Truths: I prepared the best I could. I’m fit and I’ll find out what I can do. It will hurt, but it won’t kill me.
  3. Do things that make you feel good (…within reason, of course): I like to cook, bake, read, hang with my dogs, and watch Netflix to take my mind off the race. Pictured below are extremely rare moments of both Hazel and I chilling hard.
     

  4. Treat yourself: Get a massage! This always helps me relax the week before a race. Training is hard on your body; you deserve to treat yourself after all those miles!
  5. Extra attention on recovery modalities: As race day approaches, I’m running less miles and don’t do as much strength work. The focus shifts to more foam rolling, icing daily, stretching, and rest. I write down daily goals to keep myself accountable. Example from my training journal: Don’t get too high or too low. Train SMART. Prep meals the day before. 96 oz water EVERY DAY. Read something daily. Foam roll 5min each morning. Stretch 5min each night. Ice every day this week. Relentless positivity.
    img_6409.jpg
  6. Feel fierce: Plan your race outfit! It seems dumb, but being comfortable and confident goes a long way! I always save my favorites for big workouts or race day, and I get a fresh cut before I leave town. (Try to look cool at home; always photobombed by pets).
     

     

  7. Eat good, feel good. Focus on foods that make you feel strong and healthy. Don’t make any big changes in diet close to your race, and avoid stress eating by keeping healthy snacks around that you LIKE.
  8. Hydration: Track that water intake! It can be tough to stay hydrated when I’m traveling, so I’m really intentional about how much fluid I take in. Make sure you balance water with electrolytes; my fave is Skratch Passion Fruit Anytime Hydration.
  9. Travel Day Planning: I wear compression socks on travel day to keep my legs feeling fresh. I carry my foam roller and Roll Recovery R8 in my bag so I can loosen up during any down time. I’m ALWAYS prepared with snacks, so I won’t ever go hungry! I’ve had enough travel delays and hang-ups to make sure I’m never without a good snack. Example: This year I checked my bag on my way back from Seattle, but I missed my flight (100% my fault… I was at the wrong gate) and had to spend the night in the airport with only my backpack. Survived!
    I like to make granola or bars to bring with me on trips. I just made On-the-go Rice Balls for the first time, and they might be my new favorite!
  10. Motivation: Find the little things that get you psyched and mentally prepped for your big day. I drink out of coffee cups from favorite races, look for inspirational quotes that I connect with, and find a mantra for the week/race. Example: Race smart first, race heart when it counts.

Everyone is different in their approach, but these are the things that have helped me prep for my best day. I’m always learning and adjusting, and I can’t wait for the next chance to see what I’ve got. I plan to keep this quote in mind for my next one:

Bravery is acknowledging your fear and doing it anyway. 

Happy running, happy racing!

 

 

Food

M.V.Eats #2: Purple Pizza Eater

img_3446

This blog is all about PIZZA and SWEET POTATOES. Just two of the best foods on the planet.

Sweet potatoes have always been my fave at Thanksgiving (with plenty of marshmallows), but now I’ve found use for them as an absolute staple in my diet. They’re full of good carbs/nutrients, are easy to make, and go great with just about anything!!

I’m also a pizza lover (who isn’t?!), but pizza sometimes gets a bad rap for being unhealthy. It doesn’t have to be! There was for sure a time in my life that I ate frozen pizza several times a week, and let’s just say it wasn’t the optimal choice. Years later, I’m armed with all this fueling knowledge to make delicious and GOOD-for-you pizza. Since DVB is also a fan, this is a major win for our weekly dinners!

Props to Canadian Olympian (and my best bud) Erin Teschuk for teaching me how to make pizza in the first place! She taught me this easy recipe for crust:

2/3 cup white flour

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

2/3 warm water

1 packet yeast

I usually experiment with recipes because I’m typically unprepared when I start cooking, and I always have a lot of random ingredients in my house that COULD make good combinations. I first tweaked ET’s pizza crust by subbing half the flour for oats because I was out of whole wheat flour, which gave the crust a heartier texture. I stuck with this until one day, I decided to forget the flour and try a sweet potato! When you use sweet potato, you don’t need water or yeast, so it’s a great way to keep it simple. Now that I started making pizza like this, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back!

Daryl and I have been making sweet potato pizza seriously twice a week. I usually bake the sweet potato in the morning while I’m running (350 degrees for 30-45 min depending on size), and then I just throw it in the fridge. That makes the prep in the evening a LOT quicker/easier, which is super important at our house since I have very little time at home.

Note on the crust: I don’t get too fancy. I basically use an equal amount of sweet potato/oats (eyeball it). Blend the sweet potato, stir in the oats, and add a little water if it seems dry. Boom! Perfect crust.

Here are a few of my favorite sweet potato pizzas I’ve made in the last couple weeks.

Purple Sweet Potato Pizza

 

Crust

  • 1 Large Purple Sweet Potato
  • 2 Cups oats
  • A little water if it seems dry

Toppings

  • Avocado (spread on crust before the sauce)
  • Red sauce
  • Mozzarella
  • LOADS of Peppers
  • Chicken Sausage (brown before putting on the pizza)

Spread out the crust, stack all that good stuff on top, and throw it in the oven at 425 degrees for however long you can wait until you get to eat this thang! We usually only leave it in the oven for around 15 min, which means the crust is still soft and you eat it with a fork. If you have more patience than me (not difficult to beat), then 20-25min will get you a firmer crust.

Peanutty Eggy Goodness (this is the best description, I swear)

 

Toppings

  • Peanut Sauce (if you have Run Fast. Eat Slow. that peanut sauce is perfect! Otherwise any peanut satay sauce works great).
  • Spinach
  • Goat Cheese
  • Red Peppers
  • Eggs

Fennel Sausage (my personal favorite)

img_3445

Toppings:

  • Red sauce
  • Gouda
  • Sausage
  • Fennel
  • Kale

Spicy Cashew

img_4689

Toppings

  • Teriyaki
  • Sriracha
  • White Cheddar
  • Peppers
  • Cashews

When I’m looking for new pizza ideas (or any dinner recipes) I focus on using real ingredients, lots of veggies, and make sure that my meal includes carbs, protein, and healthy fats to keep my body fueled and running strong!

I’d love to see your pizza combos! If you try sweet potato pizza, send me your recipe and a photo of your pizza to my contact page!

Happy pizza eating!

Training

Lessons Learned in a Rough (#*$!) Year

25kmtraining
Focused up before the 2017 25k Champs
  1. You CAN run through a stress fracture. It’s just highly recommended you don’t.
  2. Not running sucks.
  3. Denial helps no one, especially YOU.
  4. Better to take the time off early than spend 6 months in pain (and running like crap).
  5. COMMUNICATE with your coach. Your coach can’t feel what you’re feeling, so you need to be honest. Then at least you can make the best decisions possible as a team.
  6. Seek support from the people important to you. Your loved ones might not understand what you’re going through, but don’t let yourself sink into misery alone.
  7. Taking a break CAN be good for you. You just have to accept it (which is hard).
  8. Eventually you will get better. It just feels like forever.
  9. Look for inspiration. Others deal with this. You’re not alone.

First of all, EVERYONE GETS INJURED AT SOME POINT. I’m not special. But when I was on the couch this summer wishing I was competing, I drew a lot of hope reading about others’ experiences coming back from injury. I hope that someone else can read this and know that while injury undoubtedly sucks, it’s not the end. You will TAKE A BREAK. Keep breathing. Cross train. Work. Try to have some fun. Challenge yourself in new ways. And eventually, you will run again.

In 14 years of running, I had never been injured. Did I deal with pain? Absolutely. Most days, running is not perfect. There’s always SOMETHING that’s sore, tight, pulling, stiff. I prided myself in being able to run through pain and yet take care of myself. My coaches had always drilled that there’s a difference between something hurting and being hurt. I still totally agree with this, as part of being a runner is handling your body and being tough, but last year I took it too far. I wasn’t hurting, I was hurt.

January: Foot starts hurting. Run on it for two weeks, gets a lot worse and moves into my shin. I finally tell AC and we decide I shouldn’t do the track workout coming up the next day.

January/February: Random days off, trying a million different things to get my shin feeling better. Taping myself together and pretending that ice and ibuprofen are the gods of healing. Run a PR in the Mile and 5k, head set on crushing the upcoming 15k.

March: Withdraw from the 15k. Take a few weeks off, get started again when I think my leg is getting better.

April: Limp through a horrific 5k at Mt. Sac. Decide I definitely need to take time off until my leg is better.

April, days later: Encouraged that I can just run on the Alter G until my leg heals up. Jump at the chance to keep training, eyes ahead on the 25k Champs.

 

Training on the Alter G. Thanks, Pro Rehab!

May: Run 25k, one of the most painful races of my life. Call to Coach AC:

Me: Well, it wasn’t great. But I have to start somewhere.

AC: Is this a start to a season or an end?

Me: *pissed off* hang up, determined to prove him wrong. Stand up, realize I can hardly walk, much less cool down, even less continue training/racing.

Finally shell out the money for an MRI, definite stress fracture. Equal amounts anger and relief.

MVBinjured

Attempting to bike with a boot. Upped my balance game, big time.

June-July: Took a real and much needed break. Biked a lot, sweated a lot, watched a lot of bad movies. Challenged myself to max out on push-ups (136) and pull-ups (19). Looking back, I don’t know how I ran on an injury that long. There were runs that I stopped running and started crying, but I was convinced I could get my leg to heal and keep competing. I wanted to be healthy so badly (and was in total denial that I had my first real injury) that I ended up making things way worse than they needed to be.

July: First non-running related trip with Daryl. Like, EVER. We went to Duluth for a few days, hiked, ate good food, drank good lattes, and enjoyed doing whatever the hell we wanted. This is my favorite memory from being injured.

 

August: Start of training, which began with 10x1min jog, 1min walk. I spent WEEKS of walk/jogging, which I at first thought was ridiculous (I’m in shape, duh) but I quickly learned that running is HARD and even though I was cross-training daily, my body needed a gradual return to running.

September-December: Basically racing HELL.

Expectations: Unreasonably high.

Workouts: Crushing.

Start of race: PR pace.

Mid-race: Panic.

Late-race: Death.

Post-race: Sad.

Turns out running yourself into the ground isn’t the most effective way to get back into racing. Eventually, I realized (more like AC pounded into my head) that I needed to adjust my goals. I was setting my sights too high and always comparing myself to my peak fitness. I wanted to be where I wasn’t, but I had no way to get there.

After a terrible race at Club XC, I sat in a bathtub for three hours and stared at the wall. It wasn’t just one bad race; it was a year of feeling like garbage crushing the life out of me. I cried. I called my mom. I talked to Andrew, who is one of the best encouragers in times like these because he knows from personal experience that nothing really makes you feel better about a bad race. He knew that I wasn’t in a spot to feel any better, but we were able to have a good conversation about how to move forward. One thing I remember very clearly was him telling me that if I kept doing the same thing I would NEVER get myself out of this. From then on, I was determined to accept where I was at, train at my current race fitness, and make a REACHABLE goal. This was really hard for me, but I’m convinced that mindset change and willingness to adjust helped me dig my way out of a very dark hole. I sat in silence for another 30min, bought myself a giant beer, a bag of chips and salsa, and hit RESET.

My next race was Houston Half. My original dreams of my first half marathon were of running much faster than I did, achieving the Olympic Qualifying Standard, shocking the world, etc., but that day I felt better than I had in a whole year. 1:14:09 was not outwardly impressive in a race that was won in 1:06:39 and included American Record Holder (1:07:25), Molly Huddle (freaking AMAZING), but 20th place and feeling strong that day was a victory for me.

Houston

Houston Half Marathon: 1:14:09

I like to think that injury DID teach me to have a better life balance (even though at the time I was an emotional wreck), and I know that there are other things in my life that bring me fulfillment besides just running. I’m still not satisfied with where I’m at, but I’m stacking healthy weeks that have turned into healthy months and trusting that eventually the work will show itself in a race. This has been a positive start to 2018, and my goal is to keep looking forward.

[Read my 2018 Race Recaps HERE if you want to check out how things are going!]