peak training

500 miles done: 100 miles to go

Christmas morning run. Photo by Peter Duyan.

Today is the last day of the year. And what a year has it been. I feel like this year has been a good one. I have experienced many different things, had fantastic adventures and accomplished more than I ever thought possible in such a short amount of time.

In the space of a year, I have transformed myself as both a runner and as a business person. Whereas in 2010, I focused on 100 milers and trail more, 2011 had me pursuing the Olympic dream and seeing what I could transform myself into the marathon. It has been quite and experience and I am able to now fully understand who I am as a runner and who I want to continue to be. I am not just an ultrarunner, I am not just a marathoner. I am not just a trail runner, I am not just a road runner. I am all of it. This year I have found a way to balance all of my passions, push my limits, keep perspective and weave a common through line into all of my running: my love for it and enjoyment of it.

2011's big running shift was matched by an equally amazing shift in my business. In the course of less than a year, I went from nothing to having a personal cheffing business which I am not only proud of, but allows me to retain a wonderful work life balance while helping others to better health through the meals I provide. I am very blessed to work for some amazing individuals, who are not just good clients but interesting awesome people. This year I have taken my passion for food and made it a successful business and I cannot understate how empowering that is.

As this is published, I will be out for my final run of the year and my final long run before the Olympic trials in two weeks. This run will put me over 500 for the month of December which is my highest month total ever. My training has been good since NYC marathon and I have marveled at times how my body has been able to continue to adapt and learn throughout the course of the year.

With just two weeks to go before the Olympic Trials in Houston, I have about 100 miles to go until race day (cumulative running over two weeks of taper, 70 miles then 30). As any ultrarunner knows, a lot can happen over the course of 100 miles, but you put your faith in your preparation and hope for the best. In 100 miles, I will line up with the nations best and be as ready as I can be. And that is enough. It is enough for me to have come this far. It is enough for me to know that I will put every ounce of energy I have into that race to run the race of my life. This year has been one of digging down and seeking my potential. It is absolutely exhilarating to know that I can and will continue to make even more strides, even when I reach the finish line on January 14th.

Thanks for a great 2011! Cheers to another great year in 2012. Run happy and happy running!

View from Rock Springs on Mt. Tam

A day in the life the non-professional OT marathoner


With just 30 days left until the Olympic Trials I have been reading plenty of feature stories of professional runners getting ready to rock the Olympic Trials. While fascinating, I cannot, nor can the majority of the runners, relate to their lifestyles. Professional running is hard work, but so is training like a professional runner while still holding down a full time job. I decided on my evening run that I would share a typical day as I prepare for the Trials.

5:46am: Alarm goes off. Pretend I can't get out of the altitude tent so Nathan will get the snooze button.
6:05am: Stare at the clock and contemplate exactly when I need to leave the house for my run.
6:09am: Get out of bed, make cup of black tea.
6:10am: Drink tea while writing emails to clients.
6:30am: Get dressed in layers and prepare for run.
6:40am: Start running with Nathan to the Beach.
7:10am: Split up with Nathan and run longer through Land's End
7:35am: Have woman exclaim "You must be freezing" as I run towards her, despite wearing hat, gloves, long sleeve and long tights. It is 43 degrees out.
8:00am: Finish 11 mile run.
8:02am: Bundle up in warm clothes and start making breakfast.
8:03am: Make delicious and quick pumpkin oat pancakes with peanut flour.
8:15am: Eat pancakes while doing client planning for the days double (i.e. two clients).
9:00am: Take quick shower and get dressed
9:43am: Leave for work
10:00am: Arrive at Rainbow grocery and shop for clients.
10:24am: Leave Rainbow and drive to Whole foods to shop for clients.
10:44am: Leave Whole Foods and drive to client #1.
10:54am: Drive round and round in circles looking for a parking spot.
10:58am: Eat snack of kale chips and kombucha and end up wearing both since the kale chips are crumbly and the kombucha explodes.
10:59am: Thank the universe I am a chef and it is normal for me to have food all over my clothing.
11:05am: Start cooking for client.
12:40pm: Finish cooking, clean up and head home for lunch
12:54pm: Walk in front door, sprint to kitchen before I eat my arm off.
12:55pm: Reheat poblano, mushroom, chard enchiladas from the previous night. Put it on a bed of greens and call it a salad.
1:20pm: Leave house for second client
1:30pm: Start cooking for second client. Thank the universe that my client lives a half mile away.
3:45pm: Finish cooking, clean up and head to Whole Foods to buy supplies for dinner
3:55pm: Shop for fajita ingredients
4:05pm: Arrive home
4:12pm: Receive a text message from my mom about Jesus Toaster. Think its spam and text back to make sure her phone didn't get hacked.
4:14pm: Confirm phone not hacked and that according to CNN, the Jesus Toaster is moving "briskly" off the shelves this holiday season.
4:16pm: Realize my mom must be really bored at work.
4:17pm: Play a word in each of the 5 ongoing games of Words with Friends.
4:25pm: Leave house for run number two
5:00pm: Enjoy watching beautiful sunset over Golden Gate bridge
5:25pm: Run through a very dark Presidio and home I don't fall in a hole
5:27pm: Put on Poker Face and start running really really fast
5:40pm: Remember how much I love running at night and what a bad idea it is that I am wearing all dark clothes.
5:45pm: Finish 11 mile run #2.
5:50pm: Start making dinner. Steak and veggie fajitas.
6:05pm: Start writing blog about day.
6:27pm: Realize that the blog is taking me a long time.
6:30pm: Text from Nathan that he is going to be late. Realize I have time to stretch before dinner, but also realize that I might eat my hand off if I do this.
6:40pm: Stretch and do core work.
7:10pm: Finish making dinner
7:20pm: Dinner
7:45pm: Plan for my Thursday client
8:15pm: Take shower number two
8:30pm: Play more Words with Friends, W.E.L.D.E.R and read
9:20pm: Collapse into bed and try to go to sleep because of 4:35am wake up on Thursdays.

Perspective and progress

I have not been posting frequently in recent times because I have been too busy doing nothing. That is not completely true, I have in fact been busy training as hard as I ever have as well as working hard on top of that, you know, work work. For the last three weeks, I have challenged myself to "run like it is my job". I have tried very hard to make my life centered around the pursuit of my goals at the trials. For me, that also means working very diligently to maintain my own balance, listen to my body and not get overzealous. Yes, I go out there and push myself as hard as I can when I am suppose to, but I am also remembering to not worry about the pace that comes up on my watch, if I am even wearing one at all. I don't go out and just hammer, hammer, hammer every day until I am dead. I am not trying to pound nails in here, I am trying to sharpen the edge of a blade.

Heading up Dipsea during TNF 50 with Nathan
Photo by Peter Duyan

Part of keeping my perspective means staying connected to my community and the trails. Just because I am pursuing a road marathon goal, doesn't mean I have forsaken the trails or ultras in general. In fact, the more I road run, the deadlier I become on the trails. The balance of roads speed and trail time that I find, increasingly, is making me stronger on the hills and more confident in my speed on any surface. I love the trails and I love the ultra community.

Leaving Muir Beach
Photo by Peter Duyan

This weekend was a great opportunity to bring this home once again with pacing Nathan at TNF 50. It was a crazy competitive race and it was incredibly fun to watch it unfold. It was also an opportunity to get to witness a fantastic performance by Nathan. He is an incredible closer and I felt more than once in the last 22 miles that I paced him that it was legitimate that he might drop me, and not because I wasn't running my ass off, he is just that fast. We passed at least 15 guys in those waning miles, even going off course at one point. He was charging and I am so proud of his effort in such an amazing talented field of runners. After the race, I got to catch up with so many friends and fellow runners. It was great to spend three hours hashing out the happenings of the day and catching up. We talked ourselves silly for three hours before we left the finish line. But when it comes down to it, that is what I love about trail running and ultras- the community. We are a community and even when we duke it out on trail, we come together at the end, as friends, and enjoy our accomplishments together. That is not something that is part of the road running world, at least not that I have found. Instead of feeling like I was lost in a sea of (proud) finishers and strangers, I felt like I was hanging out at an extended family barbecue. Everyone there is at least a bit familiar and probably related. I love it. I am so glad that that is part of the way I train, live and see the world. I can't imagine pursuing such a specific goal such as the trials without that to balance it out.

Crushing it
Photo by Peter Duyan

The other side of that coin is the hard specific work I have been doing in preparation for the trials. While the trail/ultra side keeps me balance, I know I will only progress if I attack my specific workouts with intensity and drive. And I have. I have up'd my intensity and specificity and I can feel the changes in my body. Paces that once felt hard are easy. I am more limber and flexible than I ever have been (yes, I have been focusing on stretching!). I feel like my body is working like a well oiled machine. 

There are tests in training. Key workouts you go through that the mind assigns more significance to than any other. For me that has been the mile repeat workouts. Earlier this year, before LA, I did an 8x1 mile workout that gave me a huge confidence boost in my upper end speed. I averaged just over 5:50 a mile for that workout, which was suppose to be race pace -5 seconds & -10 seconds. A week ago, I was up against the same workout. I was nervous because I knew if I was only able to hit 5:50s again then I would  question whether my planned race pace in Houston is too ambitious. But, I also knew that I just had to do the work and let the pieces fall where they could. One workout, one set of mile repeats, does not make or break the race. Suffice it to say, I nailed the workout. I average 5:29 pace for 8 miles, with a 400 meter rest. I was stoked. I felt pleasantly surprised at my progress. I walked away from that workout intensely satisfied.

Over the next 39 days, I will continue to work hard, progress and try and keep perspective. It is a fun experiment, an unusual journey and a unique opportunity to try and see what I can make myself into. I for one, am going to continue to enjoy the ride.

Changing gears

We saw 5 such encouraging signs in 2 miles in Yosemite.

The picture above sums it up. I am almost there. Almost to race day. And I feel as ready as I can be as I start a gradual taper before heading off to race the WC100k in the Netherlands. The beginning of last week was pretty fantastic and had two great indicator workouts that I am as ready as I can be at this point. Now, it is just a matter of cutting back mileage, maintaining/increasing intensity and getting some good rest. It is time to change gears.






I planned my hard long run for last Wednesday because Nathan and I had planned a backcountry weekend for Friday-Sunday and were heading up to Yosemite for some running, camping and good fun. After hitting my mark in the earlier weeks workouts, I was just looking forward to logging some miles with a focus on adventure instead of speed, distance or pace. I wanted to finish out my week with high miles, but was stoked to be able to hit the trails to do so. Over 3 days, we logged nearly 65 miles, hitchhiked, didn't shower, save for the occasional dip in a lake, slept in a tent and generally just refreshed our souls with miles and miles of beautiful backcountry. It was a nice change of pace and even as the miles rolled on, I never felt tired or sore or worked over.  I just felt alive and excited. The high country rejuvenated me and made me excited not only for my race in 3 weeks but for things to come in the near future. There is something in nature that moves me and sets me free. I am happy that I had the opportunity to immerse myself this weekend, reset, recharge and change gears. I feel prepared to take on taper now and the race ahead. I cannot wait to see how it all plays out. 

GoPro views of Half Dome from North Dome

Taking a little dip mid run in mountain top Evelyn Lake.

Check out all my pictures from the weekend here (click on picture to go to picasa album):
Yosemite

The Pretender

Post 100k WC 2009 in Belgium. 4th place, team gold.

After Hardrock pacing, I switched gears and started focusing on my goal race for the early fall: the 2011 WC100k as a member of Team USA. My training started off well and I was feeling fast and strong, focused and like my training was progressing in a promising manner. One of my first big long runs on the road was a 5:07 effort for 42 very hilly miles from San Francisco to Fairfax to Stinson Beach. It was suppose to be a 4 hr effort but when I mapped out the route, I missed that google maps had sent me down a little known or possibly non-existent trail from Bolinas Fairfax road and I proceeded down the road that I was familiar with. After that run, I decided that it would be the only 5 hr effort I would do before the 100k. More than one might tax my body too much and I felt that I wanted to heed the lessons from Mad City 100k earlier in the year: that less is more.

I recovered well from that effort and a week later pounded out a solid effort at the SF Marathon with Nathan. I was very pleased with a 2:53 on that marathon course without any taper to speak of and the long run the week before. I took my normal day off on the following Monday and was back to training Tuesday with a good track workout in which I felt very strong. Wednesday I did a solid double workout day for a total of 20 miles. Thursday I hit a wall. I am not sure if it was a mental or physical one, probably a bit of both. I had moved my 4hr long run from Sunday to Thursday because I was heading out of town for the OR show on Friday and couldn't be sure I would have the time to do an effort like that while in Salt Lake. I doubted it. So in the wee hours of Thursday morning (I started running at 4:30am), I headed out with the intention of getting in my 4 hrs. It was raining, cold, windy and foggy. My body was feeling fatigued from the marathon on Sunday and my mind was saying, "I am just not that into this". I decided that physically and mentally, it was better to NOT push through so close to the marathon and did a modified route, covering 22 miles for the day. I finished up the week strong, including the hardest 15 minutes of my life at the Uphill Challenge, followed by a fantastic double day with friends on the trails in SLC. I ran 108 miles, despite no "long" runs and was satisfied.

Pre-100k training with Bestest Everest in 2009. 40 miles in 4:42.

Last week, I put in solid effort after solid effort (with plenty of recovery efforts in there too). I had a good track workout on Tuesday (400, 800, 400, 800, 400, 800, 400, 800. All repeats 1:17-1:19, 2:40-2:43) and ran doubles everyday. By Thursday morning, I could tell that I was feeling off. Not physically, just mentally. I was feeling down in the dumps. I was feeling unmotivated. I was feeling grumpy. I think the weather was just weighing on me and couldn't talk myself out of the negative space I was occupying. So on Thursday afternoon, I did something drastic. I just drove and drove until I found the sun and then ran on trails until I was tired, a bit sunburned and uplifted by a few hours in the sun. It meant 25 miles for the day, but unlike what my training plan called for. I didn't care. I needed to be happier above all else. I needed to crawl out of the doldrums. Friday morning, Nathan and I chased the sun again, this time on Mt. Tam above the fog. I was feeling more uplifted, more like me. I had my long run planned for Saturday and Nathan and I made a plan for meeting up in Tennessee Valley after I did a 42 mile road loop (the Paradise loop+ more from the city). I set off in the wind, cold and fog but couldn't get my mind into the effort in from of me. By mile 7, I was texting Nathan that I just wasn't into the run. I decided to have him pick me up at mile 11.5 and I would run with him on Mt. Tam for a couple of hours. I managed 4 hours for the day with 2.5 hours of that in the glorious sun on Mt. Tam but the workout was not the confidence booster I wanted or needed. I still remember back to my last Worlds in 2009 where I had a fantastic 40 mile run which Jonathan joined me for the second half of. I had not yet had a fantastic indicator workout on this cycle. Instead, I was just worrying that I had overcooked myself somehow. I ran on the trails again Sunday and gave myself a break from the road. I just ran and enjoyed myself again instead of worrying about the miles, splits and what this meant for my race. I covered 110 miles for the week, again with no real "long run" and 4 days of pure trail.

WC100k 2009.

I went into this week determined to have quality workouts. I decided that it wasn't a matter of hoping for a good workout or week, I would simply decide it to be so and it would be. And in the two workouts thus far this week, it is abundantly clear that I am ready. Tuesday I headed to the track and focused on hammering out my relatively light workout of 5x400 repeats with 200 recovery. I smashed the workout, finishing my last three repeats in 74, 73 and 70. I pushed myself and found, much like I did during the Uphill Challenge, that I had yet another gear. I finished the last workout and received applause from a few onlookers. One came over to me and said that he has seen me working out at the track and that I really inspire him with my hardwork. It was a really nice compliment and I appreciated that someone took the time to say it. I warmed down with Nathan and was very stoked to have run a 70. I don't think I have run a 70 yet this year and I am encouraged by the thought of getting faster at the track.

This morning, I planned to do my long run as we have fun trail plans for the weekend. I didn't want to miss out on a good road effort, even though I was worried about my ability to motivate myself to hit another 4-ish hr road effort. I decided to run 50k and see what I could do comfortably hard. 

Before I headed out this morning, I read an interesting article entitled "You Become What Your Pretend to Be". It really resounded with me. It was exactly what I needed. Last Saturday, I did a lot of negative self talk and talked myself out of my workout. I was determined not to do that today. Instead, I would simply pretend and therefore make it so. So I pretended:
that I was strong
that I was fast
that I was motivated
that I was worthy of a gold medal
that I was ready
that I was inspired
that I could do anything

And from the start, the workout was completely different. I ran comfortably but felt a levity about the journey ahead. Instead of worrying how the workout would go, I simply told myself it would be a good one. By the time I reached the other side of the Golden Gate bridge, I was dripping with sweat and beaming with pride (mind you it is only mile 7 at this point). I knew I was going to have a breakthrough workout. I knew I would never have doubts. I knew that I would run strong and fast and push it harder with each passing mile. And it was so.

I ran out to the end of the bike path in Mill Valley and turned around, laughing at the headwind that seemed to blow in both directions. I was 13.5+ miles into the run in 1:29. I popped a gel and headed back towards the bridge. At this point, I decided that I would push the remaining miles despite knowing that all of the bigger hills lay before me. I wanted to get to mile 20 steadily and then do a fast finish. I hit the 20 mile mark in 2:14 and pressed across the Golden Gate bridge with a smile on my face. Making it back across the bridge is such a nice feeling. I feel almost home, even though when I got across I took a right turn and headed away from home. I was determined to hit a sub 3 for my marathon split despite miles 22-26 being very hilly and partially on trail through Land's End including a sand ladder. I made it through Land's End and sprinted down the hill towards the beach hitting the marathon in 2:55:44. I realized that I was what I had started out pretending to be. I cannot remember the moment when I crossed from "fake it til you make it" into this being the reality of things. I was LOVING the run. I felt strong and fast and inspired. I just felt good. My body felt alive even though I was running really hard.

The final 4.5 ish miles home were no easy task. It is uphill all the way from the beach but I was determined not to relent on the pace and zig zagged my way up the park, up each hill and sandy bit of trail. The miles ticked away and I approached the final giant hill up to my house. I pushed up it, grunting, sweat flying everywhere. I wouldn't go easy on myself even though I was nearly home. I pushed up and over the top and sprinted down my block and beyond my house. I simply couldn't finish my run .01 short of a perfect 50k. I didn't have to go far and I dramatically hit stop on my watch 3:29:13. 6:44 min/mile for a 50k. Wow. That felt good. 

As the article mentioned, "our attitudes influence our behavior" as well as "our behavior influences our attitudes". On this run, I definitely found this to be true. I started off the run with a positive, even if just pretending or slightly uncertain, attitude and it made my behavior positive as well. Because I felt positive, happy and hopeful about the run, my running was comfortable, strong and inspired. Then, because my run was going well, my attitude continually got more positive and inspired. By the end, I am sure I looked like a crazy person running 6:40s through the park with a wild grin on my face. I became what I pretended to be. It was the breakthrough I was hoping for and it shows me that come race day there will be no pretending. There will just be a goofy grin and joyful running as I count off loops in a small town in the Netherlands.





Two for the road- SF Marathon race report

Photo from the article about us in the SF Examiner
Copyright Cindy Chew/ SF Examiner

Last Sunday a great article about Nathan and I running SF Marathon came out in the SF Examiner. We had fun being interviewed and doing the photoshoot and were look forward to the first time actually running a race together. We have run the same race before, but we have never stuck together the whole time. We have run plenty of miles side by side, but I was curious to see how it would play out in a race circumstance.

I signed up for SF marathon quite some time ago as a training race for the upcoming WC100k. In years passed, I have run a marathon as training for other 100ks and like doing a hard "speed workout" by racing a marathon. I asked Nathan if he wanted to join me and he did so we got signed up as elites. I never was focusing on this race and neither was Nathan. For me, it was a part of training. The week before the race, I ran over 115 miles including a hard 42.5 mile run. The week of the race, I trained pretty well for the beginning of the week and did a mini (2 day) taper for the race. I wanted to go in tired, but not wrecked. Nathan has been in recovery for the past few weeks after Hardrock. He runs when he wants (still mostly every day) but without a specific race in mind, getting his legs back moving and feeling things out. Before the race, we discussed our goals. I wanted to run a low 2:50 (right about 6:40/mile pace), even though the course is very hilly and slow. Nathan had no specific time goal, didn't really know his legs would feel and thus, just wanted to hang with me. 

My mom was in town for the weekend, so I kept myself busy Friday and Saturday playing host to her and didn't get much into the race hype, except for a brief visit to the expo to get our packets. The SF Marathon is the 13th biggest marathon in the country (despite it being crazy hilly for a road race) and the energy from everyone involved was great. 

Marathon morning was way too damn early. Ultra early. We got up at 3am, ate and headed out in a taxi down to the Embarcadero. We headed into the VIP area and caught up with friend (and eventual winner of the marathon) Mike Wardian. We did a little shake out run down the embarcadero and were soon enough standing at the line ready to make our way into the darkness (5:30am start!). Even after the warmup, I was not really sure how my legs were feeling. They didn't feel great, but not horrible either, just kind of tired, without zip. I figured I would be able to tell soon enough how they were feeling. I looked around the starting corral at the other elite women and I didn't really feel like I was racing against them. Instead, I felt like I was focused on my goals to run my race.

Off we went and Nathan and I fell in to step quickly off the line and were joined by Scott Dunlap. He said his race strategy was to stay behind me. We chatted for a bit and I felt he and Nathan quickening their step a bit and I pulled back. Scott continued ahead and joined up with the lead female pack which was about 30 seconds ahead (5-6 women). I felt no desire to chase and figured that things would shake out with the first hills and the group would splinter. At which point, I would pick up the pieces.

Nathan and I just clicked along. I wasn't wearing my foot pod but checked the time on my Suunto T6c when we'd pass mile markers. I did the occasional lap to gauge a mile here and there. I felt like we were running pretty consistent and Nathan assured me we were running strong. With tired legs and "training through" a race, it is sometimes hard to gauge your own speed. What feels fast in a training run, might actually be quite slow comparatively. Luckily, we were right exactly where we wanted to be: clicking off the miles. I won't say it was easy, but it wasn't a struggle to maintain the pace. The hills, although quite challenging, actually felt fantastic to me and we would eat up ground on the lead pack and even started picking off women after the turn around on the bridge. 

Nathan was making it look easy and I wondered if he was having to work hard at all. Coming off the bridge we easily cruised up a decent grunt of a hill and found our way in to 3rd place (well I was, who knows what place Nathan was in). I was drinking water at all the aid stations and finally popped a GU at mile 11. I was looking forward to getting into the park and starting on the easier half of the course. We ran into friend Jimmy Dean, who was out to pace a friend to a BQ. He was a week out of rocking AC100 and it was great to have him cheering us on. Nathan and I had a lot of support out there. It is so much fun to run your hometown marathon!

 Cruising in the park. Photo by Paul Mosel.

Arriving in the park is a nice feeling because you get a good 2 mile gradual downhill before another extended (but very gradual) climb out of the park. It also marks halfway, with the "easier" half remaining, so that was good too. Nathan and I had discussed my race strategy before the race. I had decided that I would establish in the park whether or not I would actually start racing or if I would settle in wherever I was and just cruise. Hitting the bottom of the park, I was also hitting a lull in my energy. I was in the weeds and not feeling awesome. Nathan was feeling good, at least good enough to grab a beer at mile 16 from the Hash House Harriers, chug it and then catch up to me. I was not feeling good enough to be amused. I think he was actually a bit tipsy for at least a few miles. Running makes the alcohol get into your system quick! I started to feel better and though I could still see the lead two women, I was not feeling that I would give chase. I decided to stay consistent and let them come back to me in the waning miles if they faltered. I popped another gel to get me out of my funk and we worked our way around Stow Lake and out of the park. Reaching Haight St the crowds increased and I got to see my mom cheering for me. It is the first time she's seen me race, so it was as exciting for her as it was for me!

Nathan was still chugging along side me, steady and seemingly strong. He said that he was definitely feeling the lack of speed work and was tired, but I was confident he would hang with me. I was feeling less funky and we picked up the pace a bit as we rolled up Haight St. I was a good 3 minutes behind the lead women, but was unconcerned. We continued to cruise, rile up the cheering sections and thank all the volunteers who were out there.  Once we hit mile 20, the miles started to feel quicker and easier. I was coming in to my favorite part of the race: the furious finish! I could smell the barn and was certainly ready to be done, as was Nathan I think. We continued to pass guys, moving up past at least a dozen or so in the last 6 miles, if not more. We caught up to Scott again just before mile 24 as he was suffering from a foot issue. The last miles wind around Mission, Potrero, Dogpatch and then finally head towards the ball park and finally the Embarcadero and finish line. We zoomed through Dogpatch and were picking up speed passing mile 24. Then came the headwind. I wanted to push in the last few miles, but also was walking a fine line of not wanting to run too hard, especially since I couldn't see if there was any reason to chase. Near the ballpark, I could see one of the lead bike escorts and calculated she was a good 1:30 ahead of me. Not a distance I was going to make up in less than a mile (into a headwind). I was happy with the race we were running, it is exactly the race/pace/time I wanted to run. Nathan and I zoomed onto the Embarcadero together, enjoying the cheers of the crowd and passing a few more guys for good measure. With less than 100 meters to the finish line, I sped up to pass another guy (I am so nice) with Nathan on my heels. I made sure to get him next to me and we crossed the finishline holding hands in 2:53:55. Good enough for 3rd place.


This was a good race for me in my training and a good confidence boost. I have had some good long road runs, but there is nothing quite like a race to gauge fitness. 2:53:55 is a fast time and even faster considering how slow the long grinding hills make you. I am excited for the rest of my training in the next 6 weeks. I have some longer quality sessions remaining and some mileage to be done, I can't wait to see how things shape up on September 10th in the Netherlands! I finished the week at about 80 miles total with a few quality sessions and a good race. That is a very satisfying feeling. What's even more satisfying is running an entire race with someone you love. The first time I ran SF marathon it was with my sister and we crossed the line hand in hand. This time, I got to run my 4th fastest marathon time with Nathan and cross the line hand in hand with him. It was great to have his company, pacing and encouragement along the way. Even though I got a lot of attention for my third place finish, to me it is a shared victory because he was there with me every step of the way! 

Invincible


Sometimes I mistakenly think I am invincible. My muscles recover pretty quickly from hard runs, even runs I feel that I am completely under prepared for or extremely taxing and I usually feel ready to run within a few days. 

April's "triple crown" of achieving my Olympic Trials Qualifier, winning the 100k National Championship and setting a CR & PR, and then 9 days later setting the FKT with Krissy at the R2R2R show my capacity to recover quickly and be ready to roll. My crazy race month in April was not by design, in fact, the only thing I had planned (at the beginning of the year) to run in April was R2R2R. LA came about after I didn't make the standard at Houston in January and Mad City came about because of the discovery that my spot on the 100k National Team was tenuous at best (as one of my 'A' goals for the year was competing at worlds). I knew as these plans all manifested themselves that I would be extremely lucky to get through all of these events unscathed. I told myself that I would focus on recovery, recovery, recovery. After LA, I did a good job basking in my success but was also able to put in some good 70-80 mile weeks between it and Mad City. After Mad City, I barely had time to land on the ground and repack my bag before I was off to Utah/Arizona for R2R2R. I don't think I even celebrated that victory as much as I should. My "recovery" was non-existent for the most part as between Mad City and R2R2R I traveled, worked my busiest week yet as a chef, slept at an even higher altitude and ran about 30 miles for the week. I was very tired for R2R2R and even more tired after the 42 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing. However, by the time I got back to SF, after a good massage and a few easy miles with friends, I was feeling much better. I even managed a fast 14 mile run on Saturday (the 4th day after R2R2R) with Nathan before heading up to Bodega Bay for some family time. I ran 70+ total miles for the week and tried to get back into recovery mentality. It was essential I do as I asked a great deal of my body in April and before I can even stop to take a breathe, I am on my way to my next race, leaving on Sunday for Australia and the North Face 100k which is on May 14th. 


I say I tried to get back into recovery mentality because for some reason last week, I had a hard time pushing out the "I should be training" mentality. Because of all the racing, I don't feel like I've been doing a whole lot of running or had a whole bunch of feel good time in my body and for some reason, I figured a good week of training would be the cure for that. Why I thought this is beyond me. I didn't go too crazy, but planned a good 90-95 miles for myself for the week. Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty light, Thursday was our normal morning ninja run and Friday I did a double plus a gym workout= 19 miles and 1 hour of weights. So by the time I woke up on Saturday, I was worked. I was ready to go back to bed before I even got out of it. My body didn't hurt (except my hamstrings from the previous days squats) but I was all over tired.

Look a bobcat. 
Or in my case, oh look, an excuse to stop while going up a steep hill!

I planned to get out with Nathan and run with him for the first 7-10, then continue on my own for a total of 25 miles. I thought I'd get a good 45 mile weekend in and that would give me a little confidence booster for NF100k (i.e. trail time confidence). The majority of the first few miles went like this: we run, we get to a hill, I start walking, very slowly and wishing I were dead. 

Nathan and I started discussing just exactly what I was playing at with the my training schedule for this week (my coach has this time unstructured as I should be chilling out not training per se). I came to the obvious conclusion ultimately that I am way too hard on myself and just because my muscles/bones feel good doesn't mean that I can just jump back on the horse and keep going full throttle. This past month has been super taxing. This past month has been super amazing and rich and full of things to celebrate. And I should celebrate them and praise myself, not push myself until I do break. I have been very lucky to make it through the past month healthy and that is something I definitely need to be mindful of. 

Needlesstosay, I decided to cut my run short. And it sucked, most of the way. I was not my best runner ever, I was tired worn out Devon (hence the death becomes her photos). I just need to cut myself a break which I use to be good at doing but haven't done in a while. I cut my run short on Saturday and changed my run plan for Sunday. I ate a half of my favorite kind of gluten free carrot cupcake to celebrate all I've accomplished (I usually don't have them except after particularly hard long run efforts or races & hadn't had one since last summer!). I refocused my energy on recovering. I am in recovery. I should be. I need to be.

When it comes down to it, the only way I can make it through my next challenge (NF100k) is not by training more but by maximizing how recovered I can get. I need to fuel myself, repair my body and rest, rest, rest. I am such a big proponent of rest (I take off one day a week) that it is funny to me how hard I find it to really rest or chill out sometimes. Ultimately, the changes I made in the weekend's run plans made the week an ideal maintenance week for me- about 80 miles. My run on Sunday was fast and felt really good, so I know that I am not too far gone. But Saturday's run reminded me not to push myself too far.

I know I am not invincible. I never intended to have the month that I have had. I don't want to become one of those people that gets sucked into chasing that high or racing too much. Instead, I want to be the type of person who cuts myself a break, rewards my good work and doesn't engage in self-defeating behavior or thought processes. I cannot continue to be the runner I am if I blindly press forward in haste, instead I must be patient, I must take a step back and I must take time to celebrate my accomplishments/ give myself credit for all I do. I think I am on the right track.

One of the things I do while resting? Make Fast Foodie Tshirts of course! Get yours here!

Boundaries

Road trip, South Africa 2003. Going outside of my boundaries and outside of myself.

When I was little, I loved to be outdoors much like I do now. My sister and I spent a lot of time playing, running, riding, swinging and exploring on Capitol Hill where we grew up. In order to keep us safe, my mom gave us boundaries. These boundaries were physical locations, streets that we could not cross, but we were free to roam about within those bounds. They changed the older we got but I found that even when I earned another street or my territory expanded, my go-to locations stayed the same and I found a great deal of comfort in routine. When I deviated, I always felt like a rebel, even if I was still within those boundaries and no rules were being broken.

As I grew up, I didn't realize it but I internalized this framework. I developed boundaries for myself, safe routes, territory in which I was comfortable in. In high school, the boundaries were distance and the territory large, so I never really even noticed them. But looking back now, I can see them. Looking through all of my journeys and all of the places I have lived, I see now that it has been part of my strategy, part of how I frame a place, it is an instant framework that I setup whenever I arrive in a new location. 

Examining it now, I can clearly see this play out. I have somehow managed to be bold and adventurous but at the same time somehow managed to instill boundaries wherever I land. It has been an amazing coping mechanism to get myself oriented and settled wherever I have gone. I can be very spontaneous yes, but subconsciously, I think I am more a creature of habit than I ever real imagined. I can remember living in South Africa and a few of us deciding to go on a road trip to 4 different countries. We had a rental van and a map and I remember being reluctant to go because we had no plan, we had no route, we had no boundaries. I went and it was one of the best times of my life, but I can see now how my subconscious is ordered when it comes to adventure and spontaneity.  

Nothing better in life than exploring new routes and trails with friends.

Looking back it is amazingly evident to me, though I never really thought about it. When I lived in Fresno, South Africa, Pittsburgh, London, Atlanta and when I first moved to San Francisco, my first order of business was develop standard routes to the places I needed to go. I always felt better once I knew exactly how to get to the grocery store or pharmacy or my favorite place to eat. In running it seems even more evident. I am a route girl. I find a route and I set my boundaries and I develop permutations of the route to suit my distance needs. Deviating from those routes always makes me feel like I am on an adventure or being a rebel even if I am not one. 

It is very easy for me to become a creature of habit. I come by that honestly. When a lot of things in life are up in the air and I feel like I am really going outside of myself to do something hard and new and different (starting my own business and writing a cookbook), familiarity is my equilibrium. The boundaries give me comfort. Or so says my subconscious. A few days ago, I set out for a run and realized that perhaps the boundaries, the routes I was limiting myself to were not in fact comforting me, but deadening my senses, allowing me to check out and zone out instead of being present. Its almost like I was sitting in front of the tv, shutting my mind down and allowing myself mindless time. And not in a good way. On that run, I decided to run a new route, I decided to be different. I didn't have a specific workout or speed to go at, so I was free to just explore. It was amazingly refreshing to come to a fork in the road and decide which way to go. I was present in the moment instead of somewhere else or nowhere at all. There is a time and place for routes but I realized that I need to be conscious of how I balance the two things. I think they have gotten out of balance more since I have been training for fast road marathons since the focus is more on paces, splits and miles than when I trail run. I have *less* of this problem when I am out on the trails though I see its presence too. I finished up my run and though it was not remarkable in any way, it felt liberating. Variety is the spice of life and I realize that I need to check myself and keep in balance. Boundaries are not inherently bad, but you have to find a healthy equilibrium between staying within them and pushing past them.

It's really hard to take a picture of yourself splayed out on the ground post long run.

This week I have also been wrestling with boundaries in my training. I am tired. As I mentioned last week, I have been pushing myself really hard and burning very close to the edge. I realized that I had never really stopped pushing the training since December when I started training for Houston. I haven't really taken a step back since then. I raced Houston, took a token light week and was back to it. In my head, I compartmentalized my training for Houston and for LA and didn't see the big picture. The big picture being that I have run well over 90 miles a week with 3 hard workouts a week continually for nearly 3 months. Leading up to Houston, the cycle was so short I never did a cutback week, there was never time. I was doing the same for LA. The only cutback weeks were the taper for Houston, and week following Houston. Not much of a cutback to race a marathon in 2:50. No wonder this week I felt like I just needed to not press into the 100 mile range. I needed to respect my own personal boundaries or likely I would fall to pieces before I was even to the start line. 

Yesterday, though it was not easy for me to convince myself to do so, I decided to take it really easy.  It became a relative rest day, running only once in the morning with Nathan who is tapering for tomorrow's Napa Valley Marathon. I knew I had a long run planned for today but it still took me nearly two full hours in the afternoon to talk myself out of a second run and I even had to text my sister to tell me not to run. My body was spent, my mind reluctant and my glute/hip thing was not happy. Hello, obvious much! I decided to opt for an ice bath and a concurrent cocktail instead. I have been living an austere yet strict life for the better part of  3 months trying to achieve my goals and really, sometimes you absolutely need to remind yourself that life is too short to be so serious and that being constantly rigid will drive you mad (and make you wander around in your running clothes for 2 hours while anxiously trying to decide if you should run or not).  Respecting your physical and mental boundaries in training is essential and as I sat there in my ice bath, sipping a cocktail, I realized I was doing way more for my training by NOT running, by not being rigid and ridiculous, by not pushing myself too hard and by not giving into neurotic behaviour. 

When I woke up this morning, I was ready to run. I felt refreshed, my leg wasn't bothering me and I was ready to push hard in my 2 hour long run. Since I hadn't been able to do my tempo run during the week, I decided to incorporate some hard tempo intervals into my long run. While last week, I worked on relaxing and not forcing myself to run every long run at or near marathon pace, this week I decided to really push my limits and push outside my boundaries. It was a perfect morning, shorts and t-shirt weather. Sunny and pretty still. I did an out and back into Sausalito. I hit around 6:30 pace to warm-up then once on the bridge started doing 2 mile repeats at 6 min/mile pace or faster with 1 mile recovery at long run pace (between 6:30-7:30). It was hard but it was awesome. There were moments when I just wanted to stop during the intervals and instead, I pushed harder, found the next gear. I went outside of myself and dug deep. I didn't limit myself, I just pushed and burned. My 4th and final interval, nearly 15 miles into my run I was able to clock back to back 5:50s. It felt really really good. 

In the end, I realize that boundaries can mean a lot of things and can exist concurrently. They can provide comfort and security, they can provide a way to navigate the world. They can be limiting or protecting. They can be respected and broken. And they can be all of these things all at once, existing in perfect harmony and balance, if we let it.

Full moon and being seriously serious

Seriously beautiful. Alamere Falls in Point Reyes.
Fun Saturday run with friends.

My training for Houston has been serious. I have enjoyed the seriousness of it. I have done things that I am afraid of, I have been focused and committed in a way I, perhaps, have never been before. I have made sacrifices, worked very hard and am excited for race day.

Getting some serious air in Point Reyes.

Amongst all the seriousness, I have tried to not to become too serious or too wrapped up. I wanted to work hard and lift to myself to new heights, not plunge myself down into the space where the ultimate result becomes too important. I didn't want to lose myself in it all. When I decided to try and see what I could do at the marathon, my intention was to have a fun challenge, to push my limits and explore the question: how fast can I run? I define myself as someone who runs because I love it and I didn't want that to change just because I was setting my sights on the Olympic Trials. For the most part, I think I have done a good job.

My favorites on a fun weekend trail run. Nathan, me, Larissa and Brett.
Northside of Tam.

One of my strategies for keeping my perspective and my sanity is to include some fun running, some adventures and some group trail runs with my friends. In the past three weekends, I have explored the trails on my "recovery" days (Saturdays), run in some awesome places. Nathan, Larissa and Brett and I headed out the first weekend in January to run on the Northside of Tam. The folllowing weekend we headed up to Point Reyes and explore Alamere falls and followed the run with oysters from Hog Island. These runs were stout for a "recovery" day but we were out more for adventuring than hammering. It is a wonderful counter-point to hard track workouts, tempo runs and long runs that require strict focus and effort. I always wake up on Sundays looking forward to my long runs because I feel refreshed after a day on the trails. And my Sunday long runs have all been excellent, so I know that I have appropriately paced my Saturday recovery runs.

This past weekend, I was able to head down to SoCal to cheer and support my sister in her first 50 miler. I was glad it worked out for me to go because earlier in the month when I consulted my training schedule I knew it would be an important training week for me and that the runs I would do Friday-Sunday were not skippable runs despite it being my first taper week (well not really, since my mileage was as high as the previous peak week but was a step back in intensity from the previous week). But when I thought hard about it, I didn't want to miss out on a important occasion (and fun occasion) for her because I was being too serious or inflexible in my training schedule. I figured it out though and it turned out that I could have my cake (a good three days of training) and eat it too (be at my sister's race). I had to get up at or before 5am for several days in a row, but the exhaustion I felt from the schedule was far outweighed by the happiness and fun of being there.

Happy and tired sister after finishing her first 50 miler in 8:32, 3rd woman!

After a great training block that began in mid-December, I finished my last long run on Sunday with Jonathan and felt really good about my speed, endurance and training. We had knocked out 6:20 pace for the first half of the run including a final 1+ miles to the turn around point at sub 6 pace, and it all really felt comfortable. We cruised back home at a more "conversational pace" but still were pulling just under 7 min miles. I returned to San Fran feeling tired and happy. I went to bed on Sunday exhausted and looking forward to my "day off" on Monday.

I woke up on Monday exhausted and feeling like I was getting sick. I had no energy and had to spend the majority of my time with my trainer working out pretty easily. I felt like I could just collapse into a heap and go to sleep. I was not excited about how I felt and picked up some Quick Defense by Gaia to fight off any semblance of a cold. Tuesday was worse than Monday in every which way. My track workout was horrible, I felt dead and couldn't hit my splits. Everything about my day that could go wrong, did go wrong, including being rear-ended on my way to see my pal Krissy. I just wanted to hide and freak out and cry and gnash my teeth. I tried not to get too stressed but I was sliding into one of two taper weeks and this was not boding well. Everything in life just seemed to be a bit off. When my morning run on Wednesday didn't go well (just a 7 mile recovery run!), I was reduced to curling up in a little ball and acting like a big baby. But then I had a moment and I flipped the switch. It was nothing in particular said or done, nothing changed inherently in the world, I just realized that I seriously needed to get a grip. Whether it was the taper tantrums gripping me or the fact that there was a full moon, I didn't need to let myself be sucked underneath a wave of negativity or self-doubt just because I was having a few off days. I was making life too serious just because it is creeping closer to my race. I decided to look on the bright side of things and change my attitude, find humor in things and things got better. It is amazing how that works.

This training has taught me a great deal. It has shown me a great deal about what my body can do and the limits I can push. It also taught me that I am at a point in my life where I can do something passionately and put 100% into it, but at the same time not lose perspective (for too long at least), humor and balance.

Catalina run with Jonathan during Sarah's race. Miles and miles of fun.

And I apologize for the flagrant overuse of the word serious in this post. It was seriously necessary.

Exceptions and Rules

Sunrise on Tam. An exceptional day.

This morning I headed out to do my tempo workout of the week. I was scared, I was intimidated and nervous. I knew how significant this workout would be. It is a big week in my training for Houston which is just over three weeks away. I also knew that I had struggled through my "track" workout on Tuesday and been reduced to a crying, shaking bag of bones and not necessarily in a good way. Needlesstosay, I knew that this workout would be telling. The workout was a very stout 10x 1 mile tempo run at race pace minus 10 seconds. Ideally, I wanted to hold 5:58s or better. As I ran my warmup down to the polo fields in Golden Gate park, I pondered whether the paces I have been holding in previous weeks tempo workouts were the exceptions or the rule. I knew THIS workout would make that clear. And it did.

The main reason I had been contemplating the concept of exceptions and rules is because a friend of mine inquired about my reference to being on an athletic diet leading up to Houston and urged me to write a blog post about what that means to me. The friend is a world class Ironman athlete and even she says that she gets confused. I can relate to that, I think a lot of athletes understand a bit about nutrition but not necessarily enough to implement a plan for themselves that coincides with training.

I was hesitant to write this blog because I don't believe in defining myself strictly and also because in the past giving myself rules created a great deal of anxiety around my food choices, including peanut butter. In the past year, I have had the healthiest relationship with food in a long time and while that meant I raced slightly heavier in 2010, the reduction in anxiety and obsession and time spent thinking about nutritional content and quality was worth it. I raced well and learned to trust myself. I realized I eat very mindfully, healthfully and don't need to stress about my food choices, since even my indulgences are most people's health foods.

A morning on the trails, currently the exception in my training :(

My training for Houston has been different in a lot of ways as I have discussed. It is also significant because it is the first time I have put myself on a strict race related diet. As I prepared for this race, I finally was able to synthesize the idea of periodization for my food/diet just like I do for my running/training schedule. I made modifications to my diet, changed the rules and exceptions and even implemented some things with no exceptions. The final two weeks of December I transitioned to the eating plan but let Christmas eve/day include exceptions (after all, I needed a glass of wine-believe me and HAD to have a slice of my mother's Stollen on Christmas morning, it's tradition) but after that, it's been on the plan! So what does that plan look like? With the help of my trainer Josh and my friend Ronda and my own experience, experimentation (as well as a few tests which determined food intolerances/allergies), I developed the following plan, rules and practices.

Typical day:
Addendum (1/7/2011): This is the baseline plan, I don't weigh my food and add in additional items as I see fit based on hunger or need. I developed it as guidelines to help me with timing, general portion and content.

Example of a dinner from two nights ago: Ka Pra Grow (fresh ground pork, garlic, gluten free tamari, red chili, coconut oil), Quick cooked Asian Greens (cabbage, mixed braising greens, coconut oil and gluten free tamari) and a side of roasted carrots (for my starchy veg, while Nathan had rice).

Last nights dinner: Bacon, shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and brussels sprouts topped with homemade fire roasted bell pepper one pan "stir fry" and roasted winter squash.


Rules and Practices:

DO NOT EAT
  • Wheat/Gluten
  • Sugar (refined)
  • Sugar (non-refined)/ artificial sweetners
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy
  • Grains (except oats), Sweets, pastries, cereals, or baked goods
  • Avocados, Pineapple (allergic)
  • No processed foods
Practices (notes from my trainer):


  • Practice a modified paleo type diet- focused on the vegetables and lean meats. 
  • Add back in a select few natural, starchy carbohydrate sources to support training. Time these to support workouts and recovery.  Still keep less ideal sources – sugar, juices, pastries, bread, pasta, flour, cereals, etc. OUT of the diet.
  • Starchy tubers would be a good choice – yams, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes. Corn tortillas and oats are other options. 
  • If carbs goes up, dietary fat should come down.  
  • Reduce added sources of fat (condiments, oils, nuts, seeds, etc.), and just get your dietary fat as by-product of your animal protein sources (eggs, fish, meat, poultry).
  • Spread food intake out over 5-6 meals. Drink lots of water.
  • Eat 1g of protein per 1lb of lean body mass.
  • Eat 1-2g of carbohydrate per 1lb of lean body mass.
  • Combine a serving of protein with a serving of starchy carbohydrate – both about the size of a deck of cards – with each meal and snack.
  • Starchy carbs (rice and potatoes) are better than fruits for athletes because fruits are sugars, natural sugar, but sugar nonetheless.  They are preferentially stored as liver glycogen whereas starch is preferentialy stored as muscle glycogen (which is what we want as athletes).
  • Continue to eat unlimited amounts of vegetables with any meal or at any other time.


My training and body have really responded to this nutrition plan and I feel great. It is not that terrific of a departure from how I normally eat. I normally eat approximately the lunch listed above, but was eating it in one sitting instead of split into two. I actually like splitting it up. My nutritional timing is way better and more effective. In fact, I have been more creative in the kitchen than ever before and plan to continue to eat this way long term but with room for exceptions. Outside of peak training, if I want something from the "no" list than I can have it, its a welcome exception as long as it is an exception. I have learned that peak training nutrition just means NO Exceptions and that normal eating whether during building phase or time off can be more flexible. As much as I joke about it, I am not chomping at the bit to have the foods I am currently excluding.  I look forward to a post-Houston treat, enjoying a celebratory toast but I also value how I feel currently and plan to continue to be a mindful eater. This plan is currently working for me, it is personalized to my needs and based on my own personal experience and understanding of how my body works. I don't for a second think that it would work for everyone, I don't believe in one size fits all nutrition. I also believe that being neurotic or a perfectionist about your nutrition intake is infinitely more harmful than helpful, so even in times of peak training nutrition a light hearted approach is encouraged. I think the one thing that everyone can take away from this is that peak nutrition is a time to eat a very clean healthful diet, it really does support the hard work you are doing out on the roads and trails. There is a time for (gluten free) muffins and a time for perfectly timed carrot sticks. Right now, I am enjoying food as much as I always do and loving just as much the nutritional benefits I feel.