Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year

I am going to be a little bit busy this weekend so I wanted to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

I could not have asked for a better year than 2011. I am truly blessed to be able to do the things I love, to see our beautiful country, and to meet so many amazing, wonderful people. Life is damn good for me right now!!!

I'm not making any sporty resolutions this year. 2012 is all about fun for me. No pressure, just run & ride however much I want, whenever I want. I plan to race but not taper for anything and just go with it. You know? I'm sure I'll throw in some fartleks here or there and some tempos, of course, because I enjoy them. But no intervals for me. Okay, maybe hill repeats. Gotta love them hills! But I'm not going to do anything I don't want to do. So there. ;)

Personally, I plan to stay in a size 4 (woo! doing the Snoopy dance), pay off my car by summer, save more, travel more, and take my Nikon out at least once a month. I am having some serious air show/car show/botanical garden withdrawals. I also need to corral the M&Ms, whether they like it or not, for updated portraits of them. It was so much easier when they were younger...not!

Anyway, my wish for you is that 2012 be filled with happiness, health, love, and lots of fun. Have a great weekend and good luck to everyone running! Especially all of you doing the New Years Double. I'll be thinking of you all while I run. :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

3 Days From Now

3 Days from now, I will be San Francisco in the midst of running my first 12 Hour race at the New Years One Day!

Part of me still can't believe that I signed up for this. What was I thinking? Ever had those days when you are in the middle of an adventure gone awry and thought "Why do I always get myself into these messes?" I've had a couple of those...this one night in New Orleans (which we won't talk about!) and then a century ride I did on my own a couple of summers ago that I thought would never end or just might kill me. But I made it through both adventures. I'm not sure I'm smarter because of them but at least I have some stories to tell. ;)

Anyway, I signed up for the 12 Hour because one of my goals this year was to become an ultrarunner. I'd hoped to do it earlier in the year but because I had to drop to the Half at Seattle and then signed up for Santa Rosa in August, I didn't see how I could train for one in time. Then I found this 12 Hour and I knew I had to do it.

I also knew that running a 12 Hour would be different than anything I'd done before. With a half or a marathon, you have to cover a certain distance, usually by a certain time - the cut-off. But not with a 12 Hour. It's more relaxed. Whatever you do in that time is up to you and your legs so there isn't any pressure.

Of course, I can't be that "relaxed" person. I should be happy with anything over 50K but no, I had to set a goal of 50 miles for my 12 Hour. Do I think it's doable? Sure. Probably. Oh hell, I don't know but I have to have some goal to keep me focused and moving during it, right? So I put my goal out there in twitterverse and now I'll be accountable for it! Yikes!

But honestly, I'm not that nervous. A lot less so than my first marathon which was a complete unknown to me. Sure, I want to hit my goal but I also plan to have fun, meet my fellow runners, enjoy the sights, and just enjoy running.

Hell, I remember when I couldn't run 12 minutes straight and now I'm going for 12 HOURS! :) What's not to be happy and excited about?

So, here's the plan:

Run/walk (probably a 5/1 ratio until my body says otherwise) for 48 laps. At least. The loop is 1.06 miles and you have to complete a full lap by midnight in order for it to count so 48 is the magic number.

I should wear one of my Jimmie Johnson #48 shirts for this. That would be fun since he's fast and races in circles too, right? :) But I'm going to wear my Run It Fast shirt. It's so soft and comfy and I know it will bring me luck. I also plan to wear capris, and have arm coolers for the day time and arm warmers for the night time. And gloves and a jacket in case it gets cold. Oh, and extra socks and shoes.

I will take my own Gu and Gu Brew but will probably drink water during and take advantage of the foods at the aid stations (including pizza!). We can set up a chair in the park for our gear but since I'm flying, I might bring a towel to put my stuff on.

This is the link to the website for the New Years One Day:
If you want to check on my progress, they'll be posting hourly updates on it. And they also have a link if you'd like to send me an email during it. Please! :)(my bib # is 1220) I'll have my phone with me but don't know how I'll often I'll post updates to Twitter.

So that's it. All that's left to do is pack and in just 2 days I'll be flying up to the bay!

I hope you know how much all your support and your well wishes mean to me. Frankly, I've been floored by them. I'll be at the race alone but I won't be running alone. No, I'll be running with thoughts of all of you that day. Good, happy, warm fuzzy thoughts that will make me lighter than air. I hope. :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Favorite Things of 2011

There's just 5 days left in 2011. Less than 5 days til I begin my journey to become an ultrarunner. Well, I guess the journey started back when I signed up for the 12HR, didn't it? 2011 was quite a journey for me and it had some awesome moments in it. These are a few of my favorite things from 2011:

My 5 favorite runs:
1. The Lost Dutchman Marathon - Because it was the first marathon I ran without having to walk.
2. Day 2 of the Love Me Two Times Challenge - Because I raced smart, didn't slow down when it hurt, and gave it everything I had. Because I got major props from the guys there, I won the women's race, and went sub2. Yeah, that was a good day! If I smoked, I would have had a cigarette after.
3. The Tour of California Mt. Baldy Stage - Because I got to spend the day hiking and running with my friend Kylie on a mountain while watching fast boys on sexy bikes race in the Tour of California. Oh, baby! Serious fun that day. I put in 25 miles of hiking/running that day. Kylie ran more than I did because she was training for the Nanny Goat 24HR. She's the one who planted the idea of a 12HR in my head. :)
4. Christmas 2011 - Because I had so much fun running through the town I grew up in, chasing down Santa, going by the places I use to haunt as a kid w/some fun memories.
5. My Saturday Long Runs - This is kind of cheating but my favorite thing about Saturday long runs is starting out with the stars and watching the day break. I've seen shooting stars, a lunar eclipse, and some glorious sunrises. Way better than tv!

My 5 favorite celebrity moments:
1. Meeting Macca! - Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. Seriously, I become a 13 yr old girl when I think about that day. He was so incredibly nice, giving, funny, and humble. Plus, he has a great accent. I could have listened to him all day ;)(signed: bib)
2. Meeting Scott Jurek - One of the stars of THE book that changed the way I thought about running and running Again, super, super nice. (signed: bib)
3. Meeting Marshall Ulrich - He has done some amazing things and had some crazy adventures and reading about them was/is very inspiring. Plus, he signed my copy of his book. (signed: book)
4. Meeting The FatCyclist - Totally wild that I finally met him after reading his blog for years. (signed: book)
5. Meeting the infamous Joshua Holmes - Saved the best for last. Hey, he was the only one who bought me dinner. No, really, I have to say that watching Joshua run the Vol State 500 was incredible and he was another inspiration in signing up for the 12HR so it was great fun to meet him. Although...he didn't sign anything for me. Hmmm...
Honorable Mentions - Mario Fraioli and Josh Cox replied to my tweets! (I know, I'm a geek :) )

My 5 favorite running related adventures:
1. Visiting the Charles Schulz museum & Snoopy Store in Santa Rosa. One of my staff asked if I had a shrine to Snoopy at home and she's not far off! But when Snoopy is your nickname, you get a lot of Snoopy gifts.
2. Meeting my friend Toni in Seattle and our whirlwind tour of the City - including the underground, the Troll, the Born To Run store, and a hike on Cougar Mountain.
3. Hiking through Zion with my family - totally gorgeous, got to break out my camera, and spend time with my family on a road trip - a total blast!
4. Taking the ferry out to Catalina Island - a beautiful sunrise, dolphins swimming next to us, hadn't been since I was a kid, the possibilities of the day.
5. My running shoe adventure - not a journey to a place but a journey into lighter, more minimal shoes. I've really enjoyed being able to run in really light shoes and so glad I took the leap away from big, cushioned shoes.

My 5 favorite things about Twitter:
1. The running community is amazingly supportive.
2. I'm inspired daily by what others are doing.
3. Someone is always posting links to great videos & articles about running.
4. It makes me feel...normal. :)
5. Best of all...I've made some awesome friends!

Okay, that's it for today. Just a few of my favorite runs/adventures/moments/things from the past year. I KNOW 2012 is going to be even better and I can't wait!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

This is going to be a quiet Christmas for me. I don't get to spend it with the M&Ms (my nieces & nephew - Morgan Marie, Madison Michelle, & Maxwell Michael - hence the M&Ms). It makes me sad but I guess I do have to share them with their dad's family. I'll miss making & decorating cookies for Santa with them, putting out food for the reindeer, and seeing their faces on Christmas morning when they come downstairs. Sigh.

So, it will just be me, my mom, my grandpa, and Rocky (my grandpa's crazy Jack Russell) on Christmas. But we're going to have tamales & enchiladas! Mmmm...tamales! Quiet, but good.

I'm spending Christmas Eve at my mom's so I can do my Christmas run in La Verne. My grandma, my parents, and I all grew up in La Verne and it was a pretty cool town to grow up in. Lot of Hometown America memories there. Christmas is fun because Santa and the Fire Department visit every street in town on Christmas morning and they hand out bags with candy, peanuts, and fruit to all the kids. I have pictures from when I was little w/Santa on Christmas morning. As soon as we heard the sirens getting closer, we'd grab our jackets, put on our slippers and run outside to wait. This is a photo from when the M&Ms were little as they waited for Santa to come by my mom's.

I love all the different expressions in this photo. The happy smiles of my mom & sister, the excitement/anticipation of little Maddie, Morgan's skepticism (why, oh why do they have to grow up and stop believing!), and little Max's wary, "I'm not sure about this" one. Just so you know, Max was thrilled to see Santa when he arrived, even more so because he was on old Engine #1 - that kid loves cars/trucks/etc. :)

So running on Christmas morning is awesome because families are out in droves, most still in their PJs, kids with new toys or bikes and everyone is waving and saying Merry Christmas. It's a sense of community that you don't often get these days with everyone always in a hurry to get somewhere. I just follow the sound of the sirens until I find him. Huh, I guess you could say I'm stalking him! But dang it, I've been good this year and I want him to bring me 50 miles (at least) for my 12 HR! Cross your fingers! ;)

I'm looking forward to a nice long weekend, Christmas, my run and spending time with my family. I just have to buy Rocky his present (he loves getting presents!) and I'll be ready!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Confessions of a Runner

As you know, 2011 was my Year of Running. The motto I picked for 2011 was Leap Fearlessly. My goal was to take a leap of faith any time I wasn't sure if I could do something. Run back to back half marathons? Leap! Run a back-to-back marathon/half? Leap! Run 12 Hours? Leap! No Fear!

But the truth is I was/am a little afraid.

You see, 2011 didn't exactly start off all rosy. Back in January I ran the Buffalo Half Marathon on Catalina Island. It was all climbing for the first half which was a little intimidating. I ended up having a really good, strong run that day. I think I was just a minute or so off my half marathon PR but was really happy considering it had the most climbing I'd ever done.
What I didn't tell anyone is that when I was waiting for the ferry to go home a couple of hours after the race, I passed out. Just a few seconds and I was more embarrassed than anything. Especially because someone called 911 and I had some very cute firefighters giving me lots of unwanted attention on the ferry. Seriously, if you only knew how much I hate being the center of attention! And I was holding up the ferry too, no less. Sigh. But they were cute. ;)

Anyway, they took all my vitals, blood sugar, etc. and everything was fine so they let me go ahead and take the ferry home. I think they thought it was running the half marathon that caused me to pass out but I didn't believe that. I'd had Fish & Chips for lunch after wandering around town for a while. I love Fish & Chips but never have it because I always seem to get sick after. But I was on Catalina and I was craving them so I went for it. Well, I ended up getting sick. Psychological? I don’t know. Anyway, I pretty much lost my lunch before getting in line to get on the ferry. Then, we were standing in the sun and it started to get really warm and I just kept feeling worse. The last thing I remember thinking was “oh god, if they don't hurry up, I'm going to lose it again” and the next thing you know, I'm on the ground and people are helping me up and asking me if I'm okay. Weirdly, after that, I wasn't nauseous anymore.

So I knew it was my lunch that caused me to pass out. But still a part of me wondered if I had pushed too hard on the run. I've thought about that day every time I sign up for a race, especially when I know I'll be traveling alone. I think that's why I was so happy my family came to my races this year. It was a little comforting to know that if anything happened, I wouldn't be alone.

Of course, nothing like that has happened at any of my other races. I've run good and hard since then…harder even…and been fine. Still, the Death Valley/Vegas weekend…worried. And the 12 Hour race…worried. But I'm not letting that worry keep me from taking the leap! I am going after what I want and I'm not letting fear hold me back.

I think the one good thing that came out of that day is that I do pay much more attention to my body and how I'm feeling while I'm running. I think I've raced and run smart this year because of that. I KNOW what I’m capable of. I KNOW what my body can do and how it reacts and what it likes/doesn't like. So maybe passing out that day was a good thing.

I read an awesome blog yesterday by Ashley (@UltraChixUnite). She is an amazing ultrarunner and she’s had some challenges this year, dealt with a lot of really bad stuff. But in her post she said:
Running Ancient Oaks 100 taught me a couple things. One is that I should always trust my gut. As long as I am in line with my thinking, I should never listen to anyone else’s negative opinion about my running. I spent far too much time in my young life worrying about what other people think of me. This year taught me that nobody else’s opinion really matters but my own. I knew I could run 100 miles, and despite what anyone else thought: I was right. When people say that I’m obsessive, crazy, and stupid for running so much, I just laugh it off. Running is a huge part of who I am, and I will own that from here on out.
And that really resonated with me. I am lucky that I haven't had too many doubters in my life when it comes to my running but there have been some. I've been called crazy and obsessive. But I KNOW what I can do so don't tell me I can't do it. I know because I'm listening and I'm running smart. I know I can do this 12 Hour run. Oh sure, it's gonna hurt. But in a good way.

New Years One Day…I'm coming for you. Watch out!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Favorite Music to Run/Ride To

I just downloaded Good Feeling by Flo Rida (video is a little wild). I have a good feeling this will become a fave. ;)

I don't always run with music. In fact, I probably ride with music more than run with it. By the way, if I do, it's only with one earphone in unless I'm on the PET (Pacific Electric Trail - a bike/hiking trail that connects our local communities).

But sometimes, I use music as a bribe when I run - when I'm tired or it's really cold out or when it's windy. I also like to listen to music before a race to get pumped up.

My criteria for my favorite songs is easy. My favorite songs either make me want to dance or they make me want to strut or they have lyrics that mean something to me. A lot of them are oldies, but goodies.

Without further ado and in no particular fave running/riding songs:

1. Around The World / Harder Better Faster Stronger by Daft Punk from Alive 2007

This is my favorite part:
"Work It Harder
Make It Better
Do It Faster,
Makes Us stronger".

I love the cheering crowd and the energy in this song!

2. Running Up That Hill by Placebo

Kate Bush did this originally but I like this version better. My favorite part is:

"And if I only could,
Make a deal with God,
And get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems"

Even if I'm not listening to this song while running a hill, I think of "with no problems". It makes hills seem a little easier.

3. Dissolved Girl by Massive Attack

Sadly, I think if I had a theme song, this would be it. Still, when I listen to this song, it makes me feel like this:

It's a reminder that I need to put on my leather boots and kick some a$$ because now I know I'm ready to take on anything. Because I still want more...but more for ME...more running, more travel, more adventure...more life!

4. & 5. Stars & Not So Manic Now by Dubstar (both Way Out West mixes)

I couldn't find the exact version of Stars on youtube but this one is pretty close. Anyway, you get the gist of it. Both of these I like because they are so fast. Great when I want to pick up the pace!

6. Motivation by Kelly Rowland (Rebel Rock Remix)

This is my favorite part:

"And you’re almost there
You can do it, I believe in you baby
So close from here"

Just another fast, fun song to run to, plus it has a great title.

7. No One Lives Forever by Oingo Boingo

Come on, it's a classic. Love them! I also like to run to Just Another Day but this one is my favorite. Don't forget:

"So celebrate while you still can
'Cause any second it may end.
And when it's all been said and done . . .
Better that you had some fun"

8. When They Come For Me - Linkin Park (explicit)

This is another song that makes me feel bad a$$. Great beat and makes me "tough" it out when I feel like slacking.

9. Heartlines by Florence & The Machine

There are quite a few songs from Ceremonials that I like to run to but this one is my favorite. I also like Strangeness & Charm, Spectrum, and Bedroom Hymns. All of them have quick beats. And I like to sing to them while I run. Yes, I'm THAT girl! :)

10. Walk The Walk by Poe

I love, love, love Poe. I wish she had done more than 2 albums. This is my favorite Poe song to run to. It reminds me that I can't just talk the talk, I have to walk the walk! My favorite part:

"You got no sense of nothing not even a time or a place
Then suddenly you hear it it’s the beat of your heart
And for the first time in your life you know your life is about to start
Oh yeah, bring it on"

Bonus - Ok, everyone has at least one song on their playlist that they are embarrassed about or don't want to admit to. My guilty secret...I listen to Can't Be Tamed by Miley Cyrus on the run. Sad, but true. Coyotes can't be caged though. We have to be free!

"I wanna fly,
I wanna drive,
I wanna go
I wanna be a part of something I don't know
And if you try to hold me back I might explode
Baby, by now you should know
I can't be tamed"

Shh, don't tell anyone. Okay?

So there you have it. My 10 favorite songs (and one guilty secret) to run to. I have a lot more in my playlist, of course, but these have become my staples. If you see a runner girl stopped at a light, dancing and singing, it's probably me listening to one of these songs. :) It's okay, you can pretend like you don't know me! I would. ;)

What are your favorite running songs? Any guilty secret songs? You can tell me. I won't tell a soul.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Support Team - My Friends

In my last post, I wrote about the support my family gave me during my Year of Running. They aren't my only support network though. The people listed below have helped and encouraged me all year and I am lucky to have them in my circle.

I am very grateful for:

Jason – I have to start this off with Jason (@jasonfitz1), of course. Hiring him as my coach last December was one of the best running decisions I ever made! I couldn't be more thrilled with how he developed me as a complete runner: stronger, more endurable, faster! Not only that, but he had to put up with some crazy curveballs I threw at him this year: the back-to-back half marathons, my bike crash, the whole Death Valley Trail Marathon/Vegas Rock & Roll Half weekend. It seemed every time he turned around, I was signing up for another race! He gave me advice when I needed it but let me do my thing. Who knows how crazy I would have been if he hadn't been the voice of reason a few times. So a big THANK YOU to Jason. If you haven't visited his site, you should. Lots of great info there.

My friends - Kylie, Libor, Toni, Amber, Mondi – because they've been with me through thick & thin, literally and figuratively. They remind me how far I've come when I get frustrated and are the best cheerleaders a girl could have. Their unending support and encouragement is just what I needed this year. Especially Kylie & Libor who are crazy endurance athletes (multiple Ironmans, 100 milers, insanely long bike trips). They push me to do more with their adventures.

The Comp Edge guys (Mark, John, & Roc) – My LBS guys get a shout out because they keep my bikes smooth & rolling and I know that cycling has helped my endurance and recovery this year. Plus, they are easily impressed with my running (since they don't run) and often brag about it to other customers. :) And…they are like a rolling cheering section since I often see them out riding while on my long runs and they yell, cheer, and whistle and make me laugh (and that always gives me something to look forward to on the long runs…not to mention I am crushing on Roc ;) ).

My staff – who put up with my daily running/cycling talk (and learned a whole new language so they could understand me!) and still ask me if I ran that morning or how my long runs were or celebrate my races with me. They cover for me while I’m out of town for races and I know that they have my back while I’m gone so I can have fun!

My boss - who lets me take time off to race and also covers for me while I’m gone.

My twitter community - these tweeps make me: laugh, want to RUN more, want to BE more, and get faster so I can keep up with them. I couldn't list everyone but I really appreciate all of the daily love/encouragement/laughs I get reading your tweets.
@bmleub <--my chocolate/peanut butter twin
@heidiruns <--hardcore MARATHONER
@lifeisarun <--hardcore MARATHONERS
@dimunitiverunr <--determined runner across the pond
@bayou <--super speedy and his appropriately named site - Run It Fast)
@smithbend <--also super speedy!
@naturalrunstore <--they also make my feet very happy - Natural Running Store)

I'm probably forgetting lots of tweeps and for that I apologize. Just know that I am inspired daily by all the runners, cyclists and triathletes on twitter. One of the most important things I learned this year is that if you can dream it, you can do it. And reading all the tweets by runners who are running PRs, qualifying for Boston, setting records, running ultras, and surviving less than ideal running conditions (DWR & LVR&R) has sparked all kinds of dreams and ideas for me. Thanks for that!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Support Team - My Family

2011 was/is my Year of Running. I know there are still 18 days left in the year (12HR in 18 days!!!) but it's been a fantastic running year for me. So good, in fact, that I am going to start posting the things I'm thankful for during the rest of December. Yes, it's going to take that long. One post won't cover it. Well, I could do it in one post but I doubt anyone would stick with me through the end! :)

My first post is about the most important people in my life – my family.

Up until the end of 2010, I think they thought running was just something I did to lose weight and stay in shape. They didn't realize how much I came to love it and how much I needed it. I think that changed when I told them I was hiring a coach so I could see how much I could improve in 2011. I told them I wanted to concentrate on running in 2011 and make it a priority.

My family does not have a lot of money. Everything we have, we've worked for. So when we spend our money on something, you know it's important to us. They knew when I hired Jason that I meant business. I think that's when it moved from something they “tolerated” to something they supported. Not that they weren't supportive before but after I told them, they would rearrange their schedules around my long runs/races or ask me what/when I needed to eat before/after them. They got the whole picture.

Even better, they came to some of my races this year and travelled to do it!

Last February, my sister and my niece, Madison, went with me to Apache Junction to watch me run the Lost Dutchman Marathon. It was so fun having them on the course and at the finish. We had a great weekend and it still makes me smile to think about it. We had dinner at a "Mining Camp" and we were talking about ghosts while we were there. On the way home, there was a lull and we heard faint, haunting humming. My sister and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows and then realized it was Madison in the back seat being her 10 year old ghostly self! Sorry, but it still cracks me up to see her smiling back there when she realized she got us. Love that kid.

This past October, my sister, all the kids, my dad & stepmom went with me to Zion to watch me run the Hurricane Jem. And even though I was battling an injury, they never put pressure on me to run and fully supported whatever decision I made: to run or not run it. I ran it, of course, and it was so fun to have Madison run with me the last bit and have the rest of them waiting for me at the finish. I was tired, dirty, and aching when I finished and I just crossed the line and ran straight to my dad and gave me a big, comforting hug. That weekend was a blast: hiking, exploring, just being the road trips we used to take when we were kids.

Probably the best example is my mom. She never said but I always felt like I disappointed her in so many ways. I was a total screw up: obese, major debt, didn't finish college, high blood pressure, never married, no grandkids. I know she loved me and that she's happy I paid off my debt, lost the weight, etc. but I never really gave her that MOM moment, you know? Well, there was the time I won an award for one of my photographs but I think she was more happy with how happy that made my grandmother feel.

Anyway, she came to see my second race in the Lovell Canyon Love Me Two times challenge in Vegas. I was nervous that she was driving out to see the 2nd of back-to-back half marathons. What if I blew up on the 2nd day and couldn't finish? But I ended up winning that race (Women's race-Woo!!!) and she was so excited she immediately started she immediately started texting family & friends. That was the MOM moment I'd always wanted to give her. I'll always remember her jumping up and down and cheering at the finish line and how it gave me that little extra boost up that last little hill and the fun we had celebrating on the Strip that night. And my mom, bless her heart, told me that if I qualified for Boston, she would would come see that race too. I told her she would have a few years for that one! (notice I haven't ruled out that possibility?) Now, I find out from all kinds of people that she brags about my running. :) And she hasn't utter a peep about being single all year. ;) That right there is gravy!

But seriously...this year would not have been so fun or so amazing without my family's support and for that, I am very, very grateful.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Random Thoughts From The Desert

It's been a few days since I had my epic running weekend and the farther I get away from it, the happier I am about it. Oh sure, it didn't all go according to plan and there were some low points but all in all, I think it went pretty well...running wise anyway. But isn't that all that counts? ;)

Random Thought #1
The one thing I am happiest about is that I am recovering extremely well from my long runs. I expected some soreness and some sluggishness on my runs this week but that never happened. My runs on Wednesday and Thursday were 2 of the best I've had since my bike accident back in October. I felt fluid and light. And happy. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to twirl in circles!

Random Thought #2
It's really hard on the ego to not "race" a race. You almost feel like you have to explain to others that you could run faster if you wanted to. But I was updating the side bars on my blog and my PR section reminded me that I have improved at all distances this year and that's not something to sneeze at. In fact, I reminded myself that 1 year ago, my Half Marathon PR was 2:14. I ran that on Sunday without a taper, after running a marathon the day before, in minimal shoes, and finished feeling I could do more instead of walking around in zombie mode like I did in that 1st 2:14 Half. THAT makes me very, very happy. One of my goals this year was to get stronger and I think I've accomplished that.

Random Thought #3
I feel like I got my 15 minutes of fame this week! In Part 1 of my weekend recap, I mentioned that I met the FatCyclist (@fatcyclist), right? Well, he mentioned me in his blog post about the race! In it he said "She’s also kind of an insane athletic powerhouse" which made me laugh because I don't think of myself like that. I just run. But it was cool to think that he thought so considering he's done Leadville and an Ironman and countless other endurance events. I have got to start giving myself more credit for what I do but honestly, it doesn't feel that special or extraordinary. I think anyone can do this. You just have to realize there are no limits to what we can do and build towards your goals.

Random Thought #4
#3 was about 7 1/2 minutes of the 15 minutes of fame I mentioned. The other half of that was when Joshua (@bayou) put my Part 1 recap on Run It Fast here. <--This made me feel really good because he puts up recaps from some incredible runners who've done amazing runs. It makes me feel legit to be in such cool company.

Random Thought #5
I was very disappointed that the Death Valley Trail Marathon was cancelled. I tried not to dwell on it since I couldn't change anything about that but it did leave a bad taste in my mouth. I picked up the shirt and bib at check-in but wasn't going to wear it. I thought I would give it to my niece for a sleep shirt. But after talking to my friends, they told me I should wear it since I did my own marathon anyway (I'm wearing it at work today - gotta love casual Fridays). That's why I decided to ask the race director to send me a medal too. They said they would and I'm really curious to see what it looks like.

Random Thought #6
I don't know if it's a good thing that I lost 3 pounds over the weekend. I've never lost weight before after a marathon. I also, um, should have been PMSing on Tuesday when I weighed myself and I usually GAIN 1-2 pounds during that time so I might have lost even more. I had wanted to lose 5-10 pounds by my 12 HR race but didn't expect to do most of it in one weekend. I think I might have finally broken through the plateau I was at. Or all the running I'm doing is really making a difference. Though I thought I had increased my calorie intake enough.

Random Thought #7
This is kind of off topic but it's something I've been thinking about since Friday...The old Lisa...she would never have introduced herself to Joshua when she saw him. She would have just left registration. And that's not because I didn't want to meet him. But because I would have felt like I didn't have anything to say. I'd have been too shy. Same thing with introducing myself to Fatty (on a side note - it sure was a good thing it was Fatty because if it hadn't been, he would have been insulted when I asked if he was Fatty!). There was some hesitation there in both instances still but I swallowed it down because the desire to meet them outweighed the "discomfort" of possible embarrassment or tongue-tiedness. I think that it will always be there, that shyness but the more I expose myself to meeting new people, the easier it gets. Running helps a lot with that because I'm always meeting people at races now and having fun doing it. :)

Random Thought #8
Totally off topic on this one too...I am totally loving what my body can do right now. I love how strong it is and how far it can take me and all the adventures I'm having because I run. But I do still have insecurities about how I look. When Joshua and I were walking into the cafe to our table, I saw a few women turn to look at him (sorry Josh if you're reading this, but you are kind of easy on the eyes! ;) ) and the first thought that entered my mind was "They are probably wondering what he's doing with me." Sigh. This makes me sad that I have still have thoughts like this even all this time after losing the weight. How the EFF do I get over that? Will I ever get that fat girl out of my head? It's not really about being thought of as beautiful either. It's more that I used to be embarrassed about how overweight I was and it kind of ate at my inside. But you know, I never feel insecure as a woman while I'm running or riding now so maybe it will eventually fade?

Random Thought #9
Let's end this on a positive note! I ran 41.47 miles (26.22 on Sat & a 2 mile warm up + 13.27 miles on Sun) in 2 days! I remember when I ran 40 miles in a WEEK and I was ecstatic. I did that in 2 DAYS! 2 Days! I feel like twirling again. :) <--And this is why I love running so much. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get from running. Knowing that I've worked my ass off to get stronger and go farther and faster and seeing the results is completely satisfying. It makes me feel alive and powerful. That's not something you can buy. Thank god I gave myself the gift of running. :)

So that's it. Just a few, mostly good, random thoughts that were triggered from my time in Death Valley and Las Vegas. Happy Friday! Enjoy your weekend! I know I will since I'm doing a 20 miler on Saturday and a 10 miler on Sunday. :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Desert Racing Part 2 – The Strip at Night

So where did I leave off from Part 1? Oh, yeah. I'd just kicked back in the hotel on Saturday night. I was tired but not really sleepy so I watched TV for a while. I don’t watch TV at home so it's kind of a “treat” but really it's more of a reminder to myself that I'm not missing anything. I ended up watching Despicable Me (which I love! Especially ”It's so fluffy, I'm gonna *die*!” and “WHAAAAT?” – HA! They crack me up every time and 2 of my favorite quotes to use. Remarkably, they fit many, many situations! ;) ).

Ok, back to my weekend… I slept like a baby that night and hoped to sleep in but woke up around 6. I, um, don't know how to put this delicately but…I didn't have to go to the bathroom. Let's say irregularity is not one of my problems so I knew that meant I hadn't eaten enough yesterday. So I eventually went down to the buffet and loaded up on eggs, 2 pancakes, 1 slice of French toast, and 1 biscuit. Not a lot but I thought that would do for carbo replacement/loading.

I spent the rest of the morning reading and writing my blog in my hotel room. At lunch, I got a turkey sandwich and had some pretzels. Then at 2, I got ready to go down to the race to watch the pre-race festivities and watch the start of the marathon. I decided to wear my new Run It Fast shirt that Joshua had given me on Friday instead of the tank I brought because the forecast was low 50s at the start to 30s at the finish. I also decided on capris instead of shorts, and arm sleeves & knee high socks & my pirate buff. I packed a jacket and gloves in my gear bag for after the race along with a Clif Bar and some pretzels. I left the room at 2:30 to walk down to Mandalay Bay and had a Clif bar on the way.

By the time I got to Mandalay Bay, it was starting to fill up with people and the first act was on stage. I wandered around for a while trying to figure out where gear bag drop was and checked out everything. It was already starting to get cool so I decided to keep my gloves with me and dropped off the rest of my stuff at gear check.

I wormed my way thru the crowd until I was a few hundred feet past the start line and a nice couple let me squeeze in beside them when they saw I was standing on my tip toes to see. This is the first start of a race I got to watch (from that side anyway) and it was fun to watch the fast people go out. I yelled Go Josh when I thought he might be going by and one guy that was running recognized my shirt.

After that, I wandered around a little more trying to stay warm and then decided to do a little warm up to see how my legs were feeling. Ok, I was checking to see how much pep they had in them for the race. :) I did a nice easy one mile and it felt so good to be running and warm that I did another mile too. I decided my legs felt good but my feet were a little achy so I wouldn't push it. Just run relaxed. I was wearing my Altra Eves and questioned how they would feel after 13 more miles of asphalt but decided it was too late to change them and just go with the flow. If anything, it would make me run more aware and that's a good thing.

I was in corral 7 and I got in the back. I was going to move back a corral or two but then I saw I was the only 7 around. The rest were all from higher corral numbers, even some upper 20s. That can't be good. And then I don't know what happened but they had the 7 corral squeeze into the 6 corral. I was like, whatever, let's just get this started because I was freezing!

Finally, it was race time and we were off! The corral I was in started at about 5:36 and even if I'd wanted to, I couldn't go fast. There were even people walking right off the bat. But I wasn't looking for a PR so I told myself to just go with the flow and hope it thinned out in a mile or two. I tried not to weave around too many people but you really couldn't help it.

My first 2 miles were about 10 min miles and I was feeling good. I got a little breathing room after that and I must have sped up because I looked down and my Garmin said I was running at 8:50 pace. Let me tell you, I thought about keeping up that pace and seeing if I could hit 2 hrs. (Is it just me, or does everyone calculate finish times like that while running?) But that wasn't the goal of this race so I slowed it down a little. I'd told Jason that I wanted to run this between 2:15 and 2:30 and he agreed time on my feet was more important for the 12 HR coming up. I was pretty sure I wouldn't run slow enough to do 2:30 but I wanted to at least do 2:10 or 2:15. So miles 3, 4, & 5 were 9:25, 9:35, and 9:40. After that they were mostly between 9:45 and 10. Things went pretty well until I hit mile 9 and then for some reason (though I'd only been drinking water), my stomach decided it needed to complain. The next couple of miles were my slowest but I knew it would be over soon so tried not to think about it.

Then I had just 2 miles to go and I burped (sorry!) which helped my stomach and then I ran by the Japanese Drummers (love them) and it gave me a kick of energy and I picked it up to finish strong. The last 2 miles flew by and suddenly I was at the finish line in 2:14:24 per my Garmin. Woo! I did it! I ran a back-to-back marathon & half marathon! I stuck to my plan both days and got plenty of time on my feet and I felt good. I felt like I could have run the marathon both days. In fact, I know I could have.

So the fun was over as soon as I finished. I literally stepped on the finish line and came to an abrupt halt. There was a wall of runners ahead of me and nowhere to go! They kept yelling at us to keep moving but where? Someone asked what the bottleneck was and I said they were probably taking finisher photos in the chute again and they were. Why they do it there, I'll never know. Finally, I was able to squeeze by them and grab a water and a space blanket. I was already starting to cool down and it was freezing so I skipped the food and headed for my gear bag.

The runners were supposed to meet their families outside in the parking lot but everyone was inside because it was so cold. Still I was able to make my way in and luckily there weren't too many people with last names similar to mine so I got my bag quickly. I immediately put on my jacket and grabbed the Clif Bar and pretzels. I sat down for a bit to update the family & twitter and eat. My stomach decided food wasn't a good thing so I felt I better head to my hotel while the getting was good. I walked outside to walk to the hotel and it was so cold and windy, I thought I would take the tram back to Excalibur. Big mistake. Big. Huge! (can you guess what that quote is from?) If I'd thought it was crowded before it was even more insane inside Mandalay Bay. It took forever to get to the tram! I thought about giving up and walking outside but there were no exits and I'd have to go back against the crowd so I kept moving forward. The trams themselves were even more packed. It was like one of those clown cars where you can't believe how many fit in there. We were packed so tight, one man joked "I think I just got pregnant". Which was pretty funny. :) Someone asked if he was the man who'd run in the Borat outfit (glad I missed that one!). Finally, finally, we made it to the hotel (I had my doubts about the tram making it since I'm sure we were WAY over capacity) and I got up to the room. And promptly got sick. :( I don't know where that came from. I wasn't racing hard. I didn't have anything but a gu right before and water during. So what was that about? Not a fun way to end the night! I lost 3 pounds this weekend and I think this was part of it. I thought I ate enough but guess not. :(

Now, as I'm sure you've all heard...the Vegas Rock & Roll was a mess. It was. I think, though, that I didn't have such a bad time for a few reasons:

1. I wasn't racing for a PR.
2. I was self-sufficient (didn't need to use the shuttles, aid stations, or finish line food).
3. I was expecting it to be ridiculously crowded.
4. I like to people watch and I got a kick out of seeing all the Running Elvi and the costumes & lights some of the runners were wearing.

What I thought was bad:
1. It was so crowded I don't really remember "seeing" any of the Strip except the Venetian (which I knew had a Christmas Tree and I wanted to see it lit up) because I was too busy trying not to run over anyone, get run over by anyone, and dodging elbows. I thought for sure I'd get a black eye a couple of times. There were some very tall dudes running with huge arm swings!
2. The aid stations were scary with people dodging left and right and the ground was slippery. I slipped twice and was super glad I was carrying my own water.
3. I know it was at night but I have an overall feeling of darkness about the race: dark spots on the course, dark aid stations, dark mile markers, dark finish line. I just couldn't see any of that stuff.
4. They really need to control corrals better. Having some kid at the entrance to them won't cut it. There's no way in hell they will be able to stop "adults". If you aren't going to enforce them, why bother?
5. I feel like they expanded the race on a whim without thought to how much more people that actually meant. You could see they weren't prepared at the expo and before and after the race.
6. I know that half marathoners were getting in the way of the marathoners. No excuse but there really weren't any cones to keep us on our side. And so many runners were running with music/headphones that I'm not sure they heard anyone yelling to get out of the way. They needed to have cones with tape or ropes separating us because I think the half marathoners were just looking for a little room themselves.
7. I was disappointed in most of the bands. They never seemed to be playing when I went by except for one band that was kind of scary. I almost wish I'd had my mp3 player.

There's probably more I'm missing but you can get a better idea of the bad on this post from Run It Fast. I'm tired and this is too long already! I have some random thoughts about this weekend that I'll post in a couple of days. If you got this far, thanks for reading and sorry about the ramble!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Desert Racing Part 1 - Unofficial Marathon

This was supposed to be an epic running weekend for me. It didn't turn out quite like I'd hoped and I'm still a little unsure of how I feel about it.

I didn't work on Friday so I'd planned on leaving around noon so I wouldn't have to drive in the dark through Death Valley and I could see what the landscape looked like. Well, that didn't work out because my apartment complex decided to change my flooring on Friday and they didn't finish until after 1 so I didn't leave until 1:30. When I left my refrigerator and stove were still in the living room and I'm hoping they moved them back otherwise all my food will be bad. :(

There wasn't much traffic so I was making good time. Then I saw flashing lights in my mirror. Damn it. Yes, I got a ticket and I never drive fast usually. So I ended up being even later and I was hoping this wasn't a sign of how things were going to go for the weekend. Ha!

The desert was pitch black and the rode was just a two lane road so it was a little scary and I was nervous about breaking down or getting lost but I eventually made it to the hotel and checked-in. As I was leaving registration, I turned around and I recognized someone in line behind me. It was Joshua Holmes from Run It Fast (@bayou and @runitfast on Twitter and here on Facebook). I introduced myself to him and then left to put my stuff in the room. As I was carrying my stuff in, Joshua came by and we made plans to eat dinner together. So I dropped off my stuff, notified the family that I'd made it and headed back down.

The Furnace Creek Ranch has a restaurant, saloon, and a cafe. We decided to eat at the cafe. We had a 20 minute wait and sat outside. The night was beautiful and clean and a little cold. When we got to our table, we ordered (black bean burger for me) and talked while we waited. I noticed the man at the table next to us was wearing a Leadville jacket and looked closer and realized it was the FatCyclist! (@fatcyclist). When they got up to leave, I asked if he was Fatty and introduced myself. A little later, he came back and asked to take a picture with me. So last weekend, I got to meet Macca and this weekend I got to meet Joshua and Fatty. I am a total running geek, I know, but is that not cool or what! :)

So dinner was good. Good food and good company. Later that night I was thinking how if my day hadn't gone awry, I probably would have gotten there early, grabbed a sandwich to eat in the room, and not met some very fun & inspiring people. Things were looking up!

I set the alarm for 4:30 and went to bed about 9:30. I slept pretty well that night. I woke up on time, ate, and started getting ready. I checked Twitter first and then finally checked my email. That's when the things really went south. There was an email from the director that the race was cancelled. Cancelled! I swear I thought it was a mistake or a bad joke. How could it be cancelled? The director said it was because of extreme high winds along the route. It hadn't seemed windy the night before so I couldn't wrap my brain around it. I got ready anyway and headed down at 6 to check in to see what was going on.

At check in, we found out it was true. It was cancelled. We still got shirts and bibs but it wasn't happening. I immediately started thinking about what I should do. I'd planned on running a marathon and that's what I intended to do. I just didn't know how or where. I finally decided to just head out from the hotel and run on the roads. It wasn't the race I'd planned and certainly not the views I'd planned but I needed to get in 26.2 miles. I figured if I ran out 6.5 miles and then came back, I could refill my water bottle and hit the restroom at the hotel if I needed to. But that meant I had to be back before check out at 12 so I hit the road.

The run out wasn't a whole lot fun. It was pretty windy and it tried to steal my hat quite a few times and there were a couple times when it blew from the side and pushed me so I was running diagonally but it wasn't too bad. I did get to see the sun rise over the valley and that was beautiful. The road wasn't very well traveled which I liked but also made me a little nervous. That was another reason I didn't want to go too far from the hotel. If something happened, I didn't want to be too far from help. Or get lost. Which I've been known to do. After I turned around on the first loop, I heard chimes. I thought "Oh my god it's not even hot and I'm hallucinating in the desert!". Then I realized it was my new phone telling me I had a message. Ha! It was a message from Joshua saying that some of the runners where going to go ahead and run a modified version of the race. Dang it! But I was too far to get back in time. I saw the caravan of runners go by me and some of them waved and honked. I waved back and kept running.

The run back after the turnaround for me was pretty nice because I had a great tailwind. Sometimes, it was even pushing me along. I figure the winds were about 30-40 mile per hour headwinds with some higher gusts. I still think they could have had the race though. As I got closer to the hotel, I heard bells and I thought it must be my phone again so I ignored it but it turned out it was a cyclist and I had to apologize for being clueless! Doh! Anyway, I made it back to the hotel, dropped off my jacket, refilled my water bottle, hit the restroom and headed back out. I was feeling pretty good but I have to tell you that I was thinking of calling it quits at 13.1 miles. I thought why not? I could so an easy run and then race hard at the R&R. But no, I signed up to run a marathon, I was going to run one! So out on the road again and back in to the wind.

I felt good as I started out for my second lap. It was still cool and the wind felt good but my head was playing mind games with me. You don't have to run a marathon today. People will understand if you bag it at 15 miles. No one's watching you, just walk a little. Seriously, what nut runs a marathon on her own? I gotta be honest and say that I almost gave in and quit at 15, then again at 20, and...I was seriously considering stopping at 22 miles. But once I hit 22, I thought "What's 4 more?" and I kept going. My legs felt good. My left foot was bothering me a little because of the road camber I think but otherwise all other systems were good.

So I made it back to the hotel and my watch said 26.05 and I had to run around the parking lot til I reached a marathon. I looked down and it said 26.22 so I crossed my "finish line". My first unofficial, unsupported marathon. I had my own mini celebration but it cut it short so I could shower and pack before check out time.

After, I checked out, I sat in the lounge chairs in the sun on the patio for a while, grabbed a bite to eat in the cafe (comfort food - meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn, and a roll...yummy) and headed out to Vegas and the expo to pick up my bib for the R&R. The whole drive to Vegas I debated whether or not to bump up to the marathon for Sunday's race. I still hadn't thought to much about the race cancellation but I was bummed not to have one more official marathon for the year. Dang it.

The Expo was CRAZY. So many people and it felt like I had to walk forever to get there. I got my bib & shirt and got in line to switch to the marathon. But I eventually decided to stick to the Half and left to explore the Expo. The only thing I really wanted to see in there was if they had any bibfolios and to stop by the Altra booth (@altrazerodrop). I saw Jeremy there and talked with him for a bit which was a lot of fun. I never found any bibfolios so I actually made it out of the expo without spending a dime! Miracle!

After the walk back to the car, I was pretty tired and ready to get to the hotel but it took me over an hour to get out of the parking garage. Insane! Made it to the hotel, checked in, went out to find some food, and then finally kicked back about 8.

Long, long day. Not the day I'd planned but not a total loss. I have some regrets but it is what it is. One good thing about the day was that the run wasn't as fun as a real race and there was nothing to keep me from quitting, I DID NOT QUIT. I did not walk. I did what I planned to do. I think that was a good training run for the 12 HR. At least I'm hoping it was. :)

Part 2 - The Strip At Night will follow soon!