Let it go

She told me to think about Fruit Loops.  The red ones especially.  I guess it’s a thing.

I had gone back to the Crossfit gym for the first time in two months since rehabbing a couple injuries and was excited (and nervous) to get strong again.  We had an 8 minute EMOM of 3 power cleans today.  An EMOM for those of you who don’t know stands for “Every Minute On the Minute”.  It means you do a movement or series of movements at the start of every minute.  Your rest is the remaining time you have before the minute starts again.  A power clean for those of you who do not know is a movement where you pick the barbell off the ground, thrust your hips forward to propel the barbell up and it ends in a front rack position with bent knees, but without dipping into a full squat in the catch position.  Stand up, repeat.  Go ahead and imagine me THIS amazing.

Anyways, I was on about minute 6 when it happened.  I wasn’t cleaning that much weight.  It was ridiculously light actually.  But it happened, the mental block.  When this happens, it’s called Fruit Loops, as in, you’re supposed to think about Fruit Loops, something totally ridiculous and off-topic that your mind can free itself.  Like THIS.  I was told it works.  It didn’t.  I was stuck in Fruit Loops land and just stood there, looking at my near empty barbell and laughing my way through the last set.  I couldn’t even pick the darn thing up without freaking out.  I know what you’re thinking…I’m absolutely nuts.  First off, why all the crossfit talk?  And second, just do the damn movement, it’s barely 30 pounds and you’ve cleaned much heavier weight than that.  But that’s the thing, it was all in my head and sometimes, the mind is the muscle that when it fails, all else follows.

Back to running.  I fell off the wagon a bit after the Berkeley Half Marathon back in November.  It was supposed to be a good training run, a confidence booster heading into the meat of my LA Marathon training.  Instead it mimicked the anatomy of a complete race blow up pretty well.  I was moving fast and strong through the early hilly miles and when I got to the last downhill descending to the waterfront, something didn’t feel right, I wasn’t crushing that negative grade quite as fast as I had planned, or I could.  I was just letting gravity take me.  And then I hit the flats and the headwinds and all hope was lost.  I was a shuffling fool and then everything started to fall apart, my stomach started to hurt, my legs got incredibly stiff with the change in gait, my breathing was labored against the wind, the late morning heat started to settle in and I was running along this straight, flat path, my nemesis.  By the time the last mile of uphill arrived I was done.  So done I barely cared about my finishing time, let alone my morale.  I had already been mentally punishing myself for the past three miles.  This wasn’t the race I wanted, wasn’t the race I needed and wasn’t the race I was capable of.  In my heart of hearts I know I just made some mistakes and was capable of PR-ing that day instead of completely imploding in on myself, but that race got to me.  Fruit Loops.

For the next couple of weeks, I wallowed in my own self pity, trying to shake off the stale odor of a bad race by pretending like it was no biggie.  But it was, and maybe I wasn’t even aware of it at the time.  I gave myself a hall pass and quit running roads and doing speed work for a couple of weeks while I “regrouped” and “refocused” with some time enjoying miles on the trails with Chris and my friends.  Then I enjoyed Thanksgiving, then I enjoyed more trail time, less speed work, less tempo runs, less structure.  It’s exactly how I like my training, fun and free-form.  It got my mind off of Berkeley, which I thought was a good thing.  And then just like the dark clouds approaching across the horizon, someone mentioned there was only a month and a half left till LA.  SHIT!  Where did all that precious time go?!  Ok, time to re-refocus.  Hit the roads again.  Except this time, I was not so speedy.  I was downright sloth-like after taking 3 weeks off any kind of road training.  And then Berkeley got to me again.  And then my slowness hit an all-time low.  My body wasn’t cooperating.  So I did what anyone in my position would do, I forced it to cooperate with a series of back to back training weeks and long runs that I wasn’t nearly ready for.  I was punishing myself for a lack-luster half marathon long after that race had ended.  Long story short, this caused an injury in my lower leg which I panicked myself into thinking was a stress fracture.  Took more time off, got slower.  Tried to get back into shape, found out I was even slower.  And LA Marathon didn’t happen.

Most sport psychologists will tell you that there’s good news and bad news.  The good news is, it’s all in your head.  The bad news is, it’s all in your head.  Ever try to convince yourself NOT to think about an ex-boyfriend after a breakup, a curling iron you might have left on and plugged in right next to a pile of decorative hay, a typo that made it into your final draft of a soon to be published article?  The mind is a powerful thing and can be a powerful tool, but also a formidable enemy.  Reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book, How Bad Do You Want It goes into the nitty gritty of why we create these mental blocks and how the best athletes in the world get through them in order to reach their goals.  It’s incredible how common Fruit Loops is.  And how much harder you have to work to get your mind free than just repeat the mantra “Fruit Loops”.  It takes some athletes years to work themselves out of the quagmire they’ve been slowly sinking in.  Sometimes, it’s like a tar pit or quicksand, the more you struggle and the more overworked you see things, the deeper you sink.  I’m learning to let go.  Learning to let go of a bad day, learning to let go of the thought that my house might be burning down or I might have left the door to my car unlocked.  Learning to let go of a bad race, a bad workout and equally learning to not totally lean on the confidence that a good day, a good race, a good workout can give.  What’s done is done and each day is a new one.  A bad day today doesn’t mean a bad day tomorrow and a good day today doesn’t guarantee one tomorrow either.

Watching the Olympic Trials for marathon in LA this weekend (more on this later), I was so incredibly inspired–not at the performances that wow-ed us.  Not the Meb’s and Rupp’s and Desi’s.  I was inspired by Kara Goucher, who ran her heart out for 4th place, falling short of a team spot by one minute.  I was inspired by that guy in the white cotton tee shirt and basketball shorts that was running because he qualified somewhere, apparently, but ended up running closer to 4 hours that brutally hot day in LA, still managing to finish in a field where many dropped out due to the conditions.  He was still running long after the crowds left and security picked up all the trash cans and cleaned up the barricades.  They opened the street to allow cars though and he was forced on the sidewalk.  That guy was having a rough day.  Except he was running in the Olympic Trials, and finished.  So maybe he was having a great day too.  In the end, we all have those days: the days where you fall apart and don’t meet a goal, the days where your performance is in no way indicative of your capabilities, and the days when your best just isn’t good enough.  I’m still learning that just because you get through the tough days doesn’t mean they don’t take a toll on you long after the day is over.

It takes a lot of strength and mental will power to hold on when you’re running your heart out.  It takes a lot to stay on pace, to just keep holding on for one more mile.  I’m also learning it takes a lot of strength and mental will power to also let go.

Saturday night after the Olympic Trials race, Kara Goucher addressed a room full of her friends and Oiselle teammates (and totally random people like me who happened to get invited).  After a few niceties about it being an honor to run, she broke down and cried.  Overcome by emotion, she barely got the words out, “Today sucked”.  She was laughing and crying at the same time as she brought the crowd to tears.  Because regardless of whether we are an elite athlete or someone just trying to qualify for their first Boston, we know, these days suck, and it was the most honest and sincere thing she could have said in that moment.  I think this was her letting go of a bad day.  Fruit Loops doesn’t work for everyone, after all.

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More than a buckle

 

I am a pretty sentimental person.  I’ve kept every single one of my race bibs–most of them are hanging, pegged on a cork board in my room.  I don’t keep them because the pieces of muddy paper mean anything.  I keep them because each one of them brings back a flood of memories–a PR, a time when I helped a friend through their first ultra, a lesson learned the hard way, the time when I fought through something really tough to finish, a time when I didn’t finish at all and a reminder of how that felt, a win and how that felt too.  Maybe I’ll get rid of them one day, most likely I won’t.  If they get lost or stolen or burned to the ground, in the end, they are just pieces of paper.  I won’t cry over them and it’s not the end of the world.  But until that time comes, they are also experiences, memories, accomplishments.  Anyone who sees them as pieces of paper doesn’t see their true value.  Same goes for buckles.

I failed to get to the start line of not one, but two 100-milers last year.  Anyone who thinks just finishing a 100-miler is hard doesn’t know the half of it.  I respect anyone who got to the start line and took that first step, it’s a lot more than I was capable of doing last year.  And to those of you that finished?  Major kudos.  While I’m in no particular rush, I can only imagine the feeling I’ll have when I cross that finish line after 100 long painful miles and someone puts a heavy ole belt buckle in my clammy, swollen, dirty hands.  I’ll probably cry  and that belt buckle will be the most valuable thing I’ll ever own–because it’s something I earned, in the most impossible way, and something that can’t be purchased.  Owning one means you went through hours, maybe days of blisters and chafing and nausea and sore muscles and screaming feet.  It means you worked for months, gave up hours each day to train, sacrifice to accomplish a goal.  Seeing someone wear one means they went through all of that and maybe more that you aren’t even aware of.  Maybe they thought they would never be able to do it, maybe they were told they would never be able to do it.  Maybe they tried numerous times before they finished one.  Maybe that buckle means more to them than just finishing a 100-miler, even.  Maybe it means being the person they’ve always wanted to be.

Every day, I meet someone through my work at SFRC who is training for their first 100.  I talk to people on a daily basis who look up at Ann Trason’s Western States cougar trophy, or Alex Varner’s CR-setting black Kigers, or the epic photo of Mike Wolfe’s blood spattered singlet en route to his win at North Face 50 and wonder if they’ll ever be able to get into Western States, finish a Quad Dipsea, get injured in a 50-miler and keep on going…  The Leadville trophy, the USATF championship banner, the signed jerseys…  they’re all more than just objects, they symbolize the best in our sport.  Not just the fastest, but the spirit of what trail and ultra running is all about–the best it has to offer.  Every June, parents come in to SFRC to show their kids the line of Dipsea trophies behind the counter at SFRC.  They look at those shiny cups and think, one day, I want one of those.  It’s the same look I see in customers’ eyes when Jorge (or Stephen or Brett) wears one of his shiny buckles, “one day, I want one of those”.  And it’s not the buckle, they want the experience.  Not one of those people would buy a buckle if we sold them at SFRC, a dime-a-dozen commodity.  Because they don’t just want it, they want to earn it.  Those who know its true value also know that its priceless.

It’s not JUST a buckle.  It’s so so much more than that.  Owning a buckle means more than the buckle itself.  Anyone that has overcome odds (lottery odds or real odds), worked hard through training, fought hard for a finish, knows.  One of my friends finally finished her first 100-miler in under 24 hours (after two painful DNFs).  The race didn’t have a buckle at the end of it.  She didn’t just run it for a buckle.  But of course, none of us do.

The buckle isn’t just a buckle.  It’s more than a buckle.  Duh.

–Jenny

 

It’s NOT about this…

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Not at all.  Just like it’s definitely NOT about this…

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Or this.

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Can we please talk about the f*cking weather?

Weather is usually filler talk.  No one has strong opinions about it, you really can’t offend anyone, and even a person as smart as a bran muffin has something to contribute to the conversation.  Well, this is me, talking about the weather.  I have plenty to say about other things besides the weather too.  As a matter of fact, in my time away from the blog I have started (and not finished) 8 entries.  And now this is the 9th and it’s one I feel strongly enough about that I will finish it and it will get posted.  And it’s about the weather, shocker.

The weather is like that quiet guy in the office who no one really pays attention to.  He gets overlooked.  He gets taken for granted.  On sunny days, he gets praise for a few hours and then people get bored again and start posting about happy hour instead.  Weather goes home, maybe reads a book, goes to bed by 9pm…  Then one day it goes apeshit postal and now everyone is talking about the f*cking weather.  And they should, because it’s f*cking cold outside, and in the Bay Area, where there isn’t proper heating or insulation in 50% of the older homes here, it’s pretty f*cking cold inside too.  Everywhere.  Except for Starbucks and senior centers.  Those are still kept at a toasty 70 degrees.

And I get it, this is not cold compared to places like Alaska and Siberia and suburban Minnesota.  I get it.  But even the most hardcore of us have to admit, it’s not just cold for San Francisco, it’s cold.  Period.  I used an ice scraper on my windshield the other day before leaving for my morning run.  Telling this to a friend they were surprised I owned an ice scraper.  I told them I didn’t and that I used a credit card like a real Californian.  Do you know why I don’t own an ice scraper anymore?  Because I live in f*cking California where you don’t need one 99.9% of your lifetime.  I don’t own one because I moved away from the East Coast, and then the mountains of Colorado for a reason–because I never want to use an ice scraper again.  I have childhood memories of starting the car ten minutes before we had to leave for school to “warm up the engine”, and then my mother, putting her hand in one of those Edward Scissor Hands-looking ice scraper puppet mitts with fur on the inside.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  I’m talking about this:

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Crazy, right?  Not so much.  See, you need the mitt so your entire hand doesn’t freeze off when you’re scraping the ice from your windshield.  It’s not a gadget, it’s a survival tool.  And it’s not one I ever thought I would use again.  I’ve spent much of my adult life being cold and spent much of my life thinking about how to not be cold.  Moving to California was in direct correlation to my need to not be cold all the time but still be close to the mountains so I could dip my toe into the icebox but get out before I froze to death.  Much to my dismay, the Bay Area is actually quite cold (or “mild” as everyone else likes to call it).  Cold as in, there are no seasons–or there are but not yearly ones, only daily cycles.  It is autumn/springtime in the morning as the fog burns off into the early afternoon summer, then the fog rolls in and we skip right into winter around 3pm, as the fog rolls out, we have autumn/springtime again until the next morning.  In TV-land, the wardrobe and staging people like to call this “perpetual autumn” or “eternal spring”, so that the actors can always wear a variety of things without indicating what season it actually is causing discrepancies and conflict in the continuity of the plot line. I wear puffy jackets in the summertime and light sweaters in the winter.  I barely need an umbrella and I didn’t realize the heat in my apartment didn’t work because I haven’t even tried to turn it on the past two years.  I found a photograph of my friend Holly and I standing on a roof.  There were fireworks in the background and we were in puffy jackets.  I still, to this day have no idea whether it was New Year’s Eve or 4th of July.  

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Taken in North Beach, San Francisco in 2006–not quite sure whether it was January 1 or July 4.  Leaning towards July 4.

So about a month ago when it started to cool down, we got all excited.  Winter is here!  Blow the dust off the Hunter’s rain boots.  The problem is, winter was actually here for real and none of us really knew what that meant–especially those California residents who have moved here in the past 5 years.  To them, winters meant 55 and overcast, not 34 and hail.  Call it El Nino if you want, but Mother Nature is pissed off.  It’s not only California.  On the East Coast, Christmas Day was a mild 64 and flowers started to bloom, only to be killed by frost two days later.  In Texas, Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana dozens of people are being killed by tornadoes and flash floods.  Meanwhile over here, all us fragile Californians are freezing in million dollar homes with no insulation.  And forced to use credit cards to scrape ice off their cars.   And yes, I’m exaggerating a little since of course, it’s NOT THAT BAD, PEOPLE! But then again, as I sit in my home with a space heater on full blast wearing two sets of sweatpants and a down blanket over me, laptop on my lap just for the heat it provides, I cautiously check the ten day forecast for the third time today and wonder if puffy jackets will ever go on sale again.

Extra Credit:

One of these was taken in January, the other one was taken in June….

How about this?

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One time, last year, it actually did get cold.  We all freaked out and took novelty pictures of this crazy frozen water phenomenon and started buying peppermint mochas and fleece lined running tights like our lives depended on it.  It lasted for a week.

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It can get hot too.  At this temperature, Bay Area folk start cooking from the inside out.

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But let’s not kid ourselves, most of the time summer looks like this.  Except this wasn’t summertime.

And we love you anyways, you crazy confused beauty…

Hello, stranger.

It’s been a while since we’ve talked.  I have no excuse other than I’ve been busy–busy working, busy running, busy living, and I hope the same goes for you.  But I’ve missed you.  Hope you’ve missed me too!  There’s no better time like the present to catch up with each other.  I’ll go first…

Berkeley Half Marathon: I’ll do the whole race recap thing later, but in short, I blew up.  I have no excuse to lean on and no lack of training to blame.  I’ve been on top of my game and it just didn’t come together on race day.  These things happen sometimes.  I had a loose goal of 1:42, which would be a PR for me.  I ended up running a 1:47.  In shorter race language, 5 minutes is a LOT.  And it felt like a lot.  I can look back and think of at least ten times I could have dug deeper, run faster, fought harder, and just as many times that I didn’t.  I think the true test starts now–how do I deal with this “failure”? How do I learn from it? Is there a way to fix what happened so that it doesn’t happen in LA in a couple months?  Which brings me to….

How Bad Do You Want It?: I’ve been reading this book by Matt Fitzgerald after it was recommended to me by a friend after she CRUSHED the course record at Javelina 100 last month.  Mental strength has always been a component in endurance racing.  You cannot run an ultra marathon or finish an ironman without that mental fortitude–your body only takes you so far and it is up to your mind to take you to the finish line.  Sometimes, it is the difference between winning and losing, but more often, it’s the difference in finishing and not finishing when it comes to longer endurance endeavors.  I think it also can be applied with equal importance into my own marathon training.  Knowing that I had some issues already with mental strength going into the BHM, I started reading the book.  Maybe I should have finished more than 40 pages before I raced, but I am hoping it will given me some insight as to my own weaknesses and how I can improve my chances of a successful marathon in LA.  I asked myself “How bad do you want it?” around mile 9 of the BHM, and I answered, almost audibly “Not that bad”.  It’s a little bit of chicken and the egg, but the answer was either indicative of my state of mind or my state of mind verbalized caused a physical decline in my performance after that moment.  Either way, I wish I knew why I didn’t want it that bad that day.  I had trained specifically for this half marathon and was ready to run what I needed.  I am physically capable of running a 1:42.  I know I am.  But there was a reason why I couldn’t that day.  It had nothing to do with the hills on the course or the fact I was sick in the days prior to the race.  It had everything to do with my mental attitude on race day.  I hope that when I ask myself that same question in a couple months and in the training leading up to LA, I can answer it differently.

I’ve also been using what I’ve learned in the book as applied to my (physical) strength training at the crossfit gym as well.  Often, hesitation means the difference between bailing on an attempt and succeeding.  It can also mean the difference between hurting yourself and staying safe during your workout.  Hesitation is that moment of doubt and if you can eliminate that doubt, you also eliminate the chance that the split second will sabotage your efforts.  Specifically, I was working on a move called the “split jerk””.  You start off with the barbell in a front rack position (sitting on your collar bones/shoulders).  You dip down and drive the bar up as you drop quickly under the bar, pushing it to a lock-ed out overhead position with your legs split in a lunge position.  That drive up and the drop under the bar needs to happen quickly–so quickly you often have to rely on muscle memory and can’t think about your movement as it happens–it just has to happen.  Often, athletes can’t push more weight in a split jerk because they cannot drop below the bar fast enough, meaning they end up using too much upper body strength to push the bar up instead of dropping their body down and this becomes a limiting factor.  I’ve been working on technique and working on eliminating hesitation in this move and I’ve been able to move up 5kg without increasing strength requirements in the past couple of weeks.

The Morning Shakeout: Speaking of new reading material, Mario Fraioli, a friend who is equal parts phenomenal runner and writer has started a new e-newsletter called “The Morning Shakeout”.  Pretty clever, huh?  Mario, whois also the Senior Editor at Competitor Magazine, discusses everything from the latest controversy in USATF to the Beer Mile as a growing phenomenon.  But best of all, it’s a way to start your day with a succinct but thoughtful digest of everything you (as a runner) find interesting.  Click here to subscribe.

 

 

Ten Things

The Top Ten Things Every Runner Can Do To Improve Their Running:

  1. Make sure you have the right gear for the job.  Whether that be a good headlamp for confident running at dawn or dusk, the right shoes for your feet, or tools for recovery–spend the time and the money making sure you set yourself up for success.  Running in a pair of shoes with 600 miles on them and shorts that chafe are only going to make you truly dislike the running experience.
  2. Pay attention to what you eat.  No, no no, I’m not advocating going on a diet and I’m not advocating one sort of diet over another.  I AM advocating paying more attention to what you eat so that you can figure out what your body responds best to and when.  Maybe you’re the kind of person who can’t run on an empty stomach.  Maybe the residual effects of a few glasses of wine at dinner linger a little longer than they used to.  Maybe you feel great after a run if you follow it up with a burger and a milkshake.  Whatever formula works for you, try to figure out what that is and fine tune it for best results.
  3. Train with people better than you.  Want to be faster, train with faster people.  Taking on a race or an adventure well beyond your comfort zone, train with people who’ve done something similar.  Want to know the key of success to run a 100-miler, run with a veteran buckle holder.  Want to be stronger, train with people who are focused on strength.  It sounds simple, but pushing yourself to try to meet the level of those around you makes you…better.  Mentally go into it prepared to be humbled and check your ego at the door.
  4. Constantly create goals, but not just any goals.  First create big ones, ones that might take a while to achieve.  Then make a series of smaller goals that would be stepping stones to that larger goal.  And finally, create a series of extremely attainable goals that help you get to those stepping stones.  An example of this would be my personal goal of wanting to achieve a handstand pushup by next summer.  Stepping stone goals would be to hold a freestanding handstand and long intervals of piked handstand pushups.  An achievable goal would be doing shoulder mobility exercises three times a week and holding a handstand against wall for one minute.  Another achievable goal would be to work on increasing weight for the shoulder press.  Be specific in your goal setting and give yourself a reasonable time frame to achieve them.  And most importantly, be willing and able to put the work in.
  5. Recover like an elite.  Maybe you aren’t qualifying for the Olympic Trials, or winning any hundred mile trail races, but that doesn’t meant that you aren’t putting out an equivalent effort to get first in your age group, or run a Boston Qualifying marathon time, or even gutting it out in your first ultra.  You may think just because you don’t train like an elite you shouldn’t recover like one, but that would be a mistake.  Do what you can with the resources you have.  Get a post-race massage.  Get semi-regular ART or chiropractic work on trouble spots during peak training times.  Foam roll, ice, compress, do what you an after a hard training day.  Sleep as much as you can during and after high peak training days.  For some people, that could just mean the standard 8 hours, just make sure it is quality sleep.  Quality means as much as quantity when it comes to both training and recovery.  There are other things you can do to if you have the resources available.  Getting a shakeout massage a few days before a race can help loosen up muscles that get tight and cranky during taper periods.  Places like Recharge Sport exist where you can use motorized compression boots or other gadgets to help you target and accelerate your recovery, and if you’re in the market, you can even purchase these things to have in your home.  I recently invested in a Marc Pro Plus electrical muscle stimulation device to help with post-workout fatigue and minor injury maintenance.  It was definitely an expensive investment, but with monthly payments, it made it very affordable and I use it on a regular basis.  Just because you aren’t an elite doesn’t mean your body did less work than one when you trained for your event.  it doesn’t know what your finishing time was, it only knows it worked as hard as it could on race day.
  6. Track your data.  I’ve never been a data-head, I could never stay on top of the stats.  But there have been several times when my data has told me a great deal about my training looking back on events and the months leading up to them.  Often, we wander through these training blocks and end up with a big event and then get amnesia about how much or how little we worked training up to that event.  Often, looking back on training can be revealing as to what you did right and what you did wrong, helping you improve the next time around.
  7. Do one workout each week that you can look forward to.  Maybe you enjoy an easy run out on the trails catching up with friends.  Maybe you really love rock climbing.  Maybe yoga helps you center your mind for the week.  Maybe you have this insane crush on one of the guys on your soccer team and you wouldn’t miss a chance to interact with them for the world.  There are often things that don’t fit perfectly into our training schedule.  As long as they aren’t deleterious or harmful to your training, take the time to think about what you can look forward to that might be supplemental or tangential to your training and make sure you can fit it in.  It keeps you from saying half way through your training block, “training keeps me from things I enjoy” and gets you to actually enjoy the training process itself.
  8. Be selfish.  Training and training seriously can take up a lot of your time and energy.  If it’s something that’s important to you, others will understand that you only have so many hours in a day.  Just remember to keep perspective and to be there for others in their life when they need to be selfish too.
  9. Keep the hard days hard and the easy days easy.  If it’s a hard day, don’t go “medium-hard”, if it’s an easy day, don’t go “tempo easy”.  Make sure you respect your training plan and with that variation creates depth as an athlete.
  10. Give back.  Whether it’s volunteering at a race or offering to drive a friend to track practice, donating your used gear to a local training group or non-profit, or maybe reaching the level where you feel comfortable advising and coaching others, give back.  It’s such a rewarding experience to help others reach their goals somehow, and using your own training experience to do that also empowers you to see your own training in a different way.  It’s a way to do some good and connect with others in an important way.  And if you’re racing, always thank your volunteers…no one paid them to be out there and they’re the most important component to a successful race.  Be a part of the community, whether you’re pinning a bib on that day or not.

Why the day my car got broken into was one of the best days I’ve had in a while.

Every Wednesday, I park my car at Kezar Stadium in the city at 4:30 and start my workout before I coach later that evening.  Each Wednesday, my trainees from RUN365 work their butts off through my tough workouts, strength exercises, wind tunnels, rain, heat and fog.  Last Wednesday, I had my trainees do a time trial.  For many of them, this was their second time trial this season, the first was back in August.  At their first attempt, I promised them that if they came to track consistently, took the workouts and their training seriously and followed the plan provided to them by their coaches, they WILL improve their mile time trial time, which will lead to faster times on race day for whatever event they are training for.  I’m not sure if they believed me but I was so confident, I told them they could put me through some hellish workout if I was wrong.  I truly did and still do believe that if you put the work in, you will see results.

So last Wednesday, I said “ready, set, go” and they were off, four laps around the track at an all out effort.  It takes a lot to do a time trial.  Physically, you’re giving it all you’ve got in the tank.  Mentally, your constantly battling the demons telling you that you can’t hold on.  In the past two months, my trainees have worked so hard and their hard work has paid off in a big way.  Each of them improved their mile time trial.  I couldn’t believe it but many of them improved it by close to or over a minute.  The progress was overwhelmingly evident and I was beaming with pride.  Many of them thanked me for pushing them at track each week.  But I take no credit in this scenario.  As a coach, you can put a workout on the schedule and show up each week.  As a trainee though, you have a choice.  You can show up and just go through the motions, or you can show up and do the work in a real way–push yourself for just one hour.  It’s those people who really work towards their goals who end up reaching them in the end, and I am so incredibly proud of each of my trainees for really show up and give 100% every Wednesday.  It makes me feel like my time spent commuting into the city and coaching is really worthwhile.

Last Wednesday, the trainees did a time trial then a shortened workout before we went over to Kezar Pub for a celebratory beer.  Everyone was in a great mood and I felt like the day couldn’t have gone better.  Walking back to my car around 9pm, I noticed some glass on the street.  Approaching my car and looking inside, I could see that my gym duffel bag was gone and my side window was completely smashed.  My heart sank.  Immediately, I remembered my favorite North Face flannel shirt was in that bag.  It’s something that can’t be replaced.  It was with me on the top of Half Dome, when I was recovering from sun poisoning in the hospital last summer, on great dates and through breakups.  I was wearing it for two days in a van during Wasatch Ragnar in Utah back in 2013, and on my first day of work at SFRC two years ago.  It was my standby and I was so incredibly bummed.  The low was only highlighted by the high I had earlier at the track workout.  Making a list of all the things that were taken was a painstaking but cathartic experience.  It totals about $1500 worth of personal belongings, running gear and apparel, not to mention some cash and my checkbook.  But it wasn’t the monetary value that made me upset, and while the losing items that had sentimental value was such a horrible feeling, what made me the most upset, depressed, angry even was that this petty thief had ruined an amazing day.

A few days have passed and I’ve spent some time (and money) replacing some of the items that can be replaced.  My window was repaired and it’s so clean I keep thinking it’s not even there.  One of my friends looked online all day for a replacement for my three-year old flannel.  Another friend and rep in the outdoor industry replaced my stolen running sunglasses.  And my boyfriend has been nothing but amazingly supportive in every possible way through all of this.  The outpouring of support from all my friends has been so touching.

In the end, it’s just a broken window and just stuff.  And after a few days of digesting the emotions that come along with feeling so violated after something like this, I see it really clearly.  The theft didn’t ruin my day at all.  As a matter of fact, when I think back to last Wednesday, I think of it as the day that everyone hit their PR’s and the day we celebrated the season’s accomplishments so far.  It’s such a bummer that someone had to go and steal from me, but go right ahead.  The one thing they couldn’t steal was that happiness I had.  They might have my fleece, but they don’t have the memories that go along with it.  And they might have my cash but you can’t buy a bunch of PR’s with it.  Sometimes, bad things happen to good people.  And I don’t know if I believe in karma because I know some pretty terrible people who have great lives.  But I do believe that sometimes stuff just happens, that’s life.  How you choose to look at it determines whether it ruins your day or not.  I’m still learning how to embrace that philosophy but with each challenge that’s thrown at me is another opportunity for embracing it just a little more.

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RIP flannel. Thanks for the years of adventure.

The slow search for speed

Two months ago, I ran the Santa Barbara 100K.  It was long, difficult and despite actually winning the race, it was SLOW.  Yes there were moments where my legs were moving and I was swooping down the winding singletrack or grinding up a rocky ascent, but most of the times, I was power hiking and shuffling–the things you have to get your body used to doing when running longer or more difficult ultras.  Most of the time, most of us aren’t…running.  We are doing some weird variation of moving our feet in a forward direction, sometimes recognizable as running, but mostly viewed as the ultra-shuffle.  Which is fine, that’s how you run a 100K, a 100-miler, a 200-miler a long epic adventure…  But that isn’t going to cut it when you have a road marathon on your race schedule.  I am finally getting back into a bit of a groove with the running, so I figure now would be a good time to transition from running to training.  Despite having the ridiculous Quad Dipsea in a couple months, I’ll be focusing on my February race, the LA Marathon….the marathon, the what?  The marathon.  The what? 

Road marathons are sexy.  People don’t wear shorts and waist packs bulging with trash and gels.  Generally, their shoes are clean and bright and they get to wear just sports bras and short shorts, bib numbers prominently displayed across their chests and not pinned to their shorts among layers of sweaty clothing like some hobo who got lost in the woods.  Road runners are fast.  They have amazing form and picturesque strides, as opposed to me at the end of ultras where my face is caked with salt, I may or may not have puked a few minutes early and I’m shoving watermelon into my mouth.  I have a combination of buffs and spi-belts and flaccid soft flasks attached to me.  Plus, the “marathon” is like the holy grail of running.  Most people don’t even understand the concept of an “ultra” but they know what the marathon is and how hard it can be, and to them, you are quite impressive if you can run one fast.   You just end up looking like a crazy person running ultras where your face gets smashed in by falling rocks or you get struck by lightning, even crazier if you keep running the race after said incidents.

Ideally, I’d like to run a 3:30 or whatever my best time might be under the 3:40 Boston Qualifying Standard (I’m 34 so I’ll be 35 on Boston Marathon race day 2017, getting me an extra 5 minutes on the standard).  If I actually race Boston, that would be a great bucket list race of mine to check off, but it’s not the end of the world if I don’t.  I just think the BQ standard is a solid goal for a relative first time marathoner, and I need something to aim for.  This means I need to run at about an 8 minute mile pace.  To me, this feels like a breeeeeze.  I can run an 8 minute mile in my sleep, I assume I can run 26 of them.  And six months ago, this really did feel like a true statement.  Then I ran something really long and was a changed athlete.

Ever since my recovery from SB100K, I’ve felt good but slow.  People ask me how I feel and I say “good but slow”.  It’s true.  I feel f-ing slow.  I work real hard now to get down to my pre-100K tempo pace and it’s been two months.  Why am I so darn slow?!  Seriously.  I lost a gear.  I try a speed workout and I can barely even reach interval pace let alone hold it for a full interval.  I can’t even get to a place where speed workouts really hurt anymore.  My legs don’t work like that and my lungs somehow just feel deflated.  My body just wants to shuffle.  It can shuffle forever.  Too bad no one is running a 3:30 marathon with a shuffle.

So what happened?  There is some truth to the law of specificity: to be better at something, you have to do that thing, specifically.  To be better at running long ultras, you have to train your body to do the thing you want it to do on race day.  My body was perfectly tuned to run a 100K.  So good that I had a really great race and now I’m paying the price.  But I’m ready to turn this on its head.  The law of specificity can work both ways.  I’m ready to put this theory to work and start running, fast.  I’m ready to find that gear and start using it.  Because if I can train my formerly fast body to run steady enough to go the distance of a 100K mountain race, I can re-train it to run a fast marathon.  My next two months will be a mix of hard hills and strength training (for Quad Dipsea) and a series of tempo and speed workouts.  After Quad, I give myself a few weeks to “recover” and then go full roadie by Christmas.

Stay tuned…