Long term relationship

Seriously serious about running

I don't recall the exact moment that it happened and I can only recognize it now that its true: I've gone all in with my running. I know it started with pursuing the Olympic Trials qualifier and simply grew and grew from there. And now I find myself at a place where, for the first time, I am taking a long view of my running and development as a runner. I am making plans and setting future goals.

It may be strange to think that I have ever been any other way about running, but the fact of the matter is, my racing has always been about short terms goals. I have always seen my running as something I want to do perpetually for a long time, but my racing has always been only on the micro scale. I never thought in terms of how my workout today might lay groundwork for a breakthrough in 3 years. Since I switched over to ultras, I have raced so often that my mind has never had to really plan longer than 3-6 months out. I have thrived and developed through intense 8-10 weeks of training at a time. I build on one race to leverage another, but the goals are always close at hand and readily upon me before I have time to even think about it.

After my recent success at NYC marathon and the Olympic Trials, I am chomping at the bit to see what I can develop into as a runner. I am eager to see what kind of runner I can become. I am back training intensely when many of my fellow competitors from the Trials are only now just considering going back to serious running. I have new goals and am pushing myself towards them. I am focusing back on the details and working on new ways to develop myself as a runner. I am all in.

Last week, after asking my coach Howard to up the intensity and difficulty of my key workouts, I was treated to more butt kicking than I have ever experienced. I ran so hard in my key workouts that I finished them completely drained and spent. I had moments where I bordered on wanting to puke or give up or fall apart but made it through. It was intensely satisfying and I am excited to do this tough kind of work.

And then yesterday afternoon, I had one of the worst runs of my life. I felt dead, I felt drained. My legs felt disembodied and I couldn't get my head right. I let it stress me out because with a short training cycle, every day and every decision feels so much more important. I spent a good amount of time contemplating how I was feeling, what my problem was, and generally just beat myself up about it. I finished the run and was worried that my important workout today would be compromised by fatigue or soreness that seemed to wrack my body.

When I woke up this morning, I felt a lot better and set out to my hill repeats up Strawberry Hill. Howard had 6 repeats planned for me, but being the glutton (mileage/intensity) that I am I was thinking that I would try and do more if I felt good. I started the workout and felt fine. Not good, not bad, just fine. And then I had an epiphany: Sometimes you just have to get in there and do the work. Some workouts are just building blocks for the long term goals. Every workout, run, decision is not a make or break. I realized that this workout didn't need to be a perfect one, it didn't need to be a breakthrough one, it didn't need to be THE workout. Instead, I realized that it was about getting my hands dirty and digging in, a building block for the future. I realized that I had put too much pressure on myself in individual workouts or decisions because I was not seeing the long term plan. I forgot that gardens take time to grow.

After my run, I was reading an article by Greg McMilan about Traits of a Successful Runner and this quote jumped off the page:

We have a saying in our Olympic training team that you must train consistently for two straight years -- no unscheduled interruptions due to injury or illness -- to even begin to see how good you can be. This reality applies to all of us. A year of consistent running is more beneficial than a few stellar weeks of training.

I had been living in a constant state of a "few stellar weeks of training" mentality. I realized on my run today and upon reading this, that I am, in fact, amid a much bigger period of uninterrupted consistent training. I hadn't seen it before, but I was working for the bigger picture without even being able to clearly see it. Furthermore, I had skewed my mentality to focus on the importance of short-term gains.

I see now that, while I have short term running goals, speeding very quickly up to meet me, they are only a part of the plan and their importance should not overshadow the pursuit of long term development. In essence, by allowing myself to look at the big picture, I am relieving the pressure to achieve everything NOW, NOW,NOW (or soon, soon, soon). By seeing that I am working towards the big picture, both successes and failures feel much more like the gentle ebbing and flowing of the tide instead of gigantic 100 foot waves. I am released from feeling like I have to do everything perfect because I can see that somedays simply cutting myself some slack is as important as the hardest most lung burning workout.

I am all in, but now I see that being all in, doesn't necessarily mean being unbalanced or single minded. It means methodically doing the work, taking steps in the right direction and constantly cultivating the garden where the seeds of my future will grow.

Being all in, doesn't mean stopping your life, either. Cheers to that.

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.

Goldilocks and the Three Runs

This past weekend, including Friday, I had the pleasure of getting some serious trail time in with Nathan and enjoying some of the best the Bay area has to offer in terms of trail running. These runs couldn't have been more different for me: one was pretty good, one was horrible and one was just right (aka awesome! aka a Devon Day!)


Friday trail tempo run with Nathan.
Nathan and I got up super early and headed up to Mountain Home Inn to do a nice 11 mile loop. Nathan wanted to run hard, so out of the gate I was killing myself to lead us at a good pace. The first 27 minutes we ran at a low 6 minute pace, I could handle it but it definitely didn't feel easy. We backed off a bit as we continued to climb up and around the top of Mt. Tam. Clearly my favorite part was popping out above the clouds at West Point Inn and then getting to dive bomb down Nora trail to Matt Davis. Once we were on Matt Davis, I got a bit possessed and started hammering away at a low 5 minute pace for a nice stretch of groomed double track. We covered 11 miles in 1:25 with 1660 feet of climbing. My glute/back felt good, my energy was decent. I was definitely enthused by the run. It helped diminish my trepidation about Saturday's run: The Rapture on Mt. Diablo.


Nathan ready to go with his new Black Diamond poles

Friday was decent, I felt pretty good the rest of the day and got busy on my one weekday non-cooking day. I was hoping Saturday would go well. We planned to run on Mt. Diablo and the last time I ran there, I was worthless. I was pretty good last week about listen to my body, fueling and recovering and generally giving myself a break after flying back from Australia (was that really just a week ago? I actually had to check my calendar!) and all of the craziness of the April and May. I have been feeling off and on worn out pretty constantly for two months and I am well aware that I need to be forgiving and take good care of myself after such a stretch, especially as I begin to think about actual training again. I told myself that I would just see what the run had in store for me on Diablo and respond accordingly and appropriately.
Sad face. But awesome new Rudy Project sunglasses.

The run definitely had something special in store for me but I can't say I handled it with grace or style. It was an absolutely beautiful day out, not to warm yet and Brett, Nathan and I headed up Burma Road to do a 20-ish mile loop Nathan had mapped out. From the car we immediately went up a super steep grade and my calves cramped up horribly and my achilles felt ouchie. And we were less than 1/4 mile into the run. I felt absolutely drained on top of that and as I continued to power hike, Brett and Nathan became smaller and smaller specks on the never ending climb to the top. I wanted to keep up, I wanted to feel good and I couldn't even make a feeble effort from the beginning. I got really down on myself, felt sorry for myself and started to mentally talk down to myself a lot. So much for forgiving and taking care of myself. As I continued to climb, my stomach started to act up and it felt like I had a bowling ball flopping around in there- uncomfortable to say the least. Brett and Nathan patiently waited for me at a turn and I apologized for holding them up. I contemplated what to do but was being stubborn and said I would continue on the planned route (despite not "needing" the miles). The route now took us downhill steeply, which inevitably would lead to another very stout climb up to Eagle Peak. 

As I ran downhill, my energy left me, my stomach was flopping around and I couldn't even keep pace running downhill which is my specialty. Brett and Nathan were pulling away and I stopped, yelled, "I am turning around" and did an about face to go back up the hill. I was a big falling apart mess and not my proudest moment. I couldn't handle my emotions well for some reason and I really appreciated that Nathan was so comforting and Brett was so understanding. We all have bad runs, I just need to not fall apart when they happen. I think sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to keep up or run well when I am with others. Having a crap run by yourself is one thing, no one is effected by it, but when you are with others, its harder not to be hard on yourself. At least for me. I am working on it. This was a lesson that I am not quite there yet. I am not sure where along the line I picked up this response (it never happens in a race or when I run by myself) but I am certainly not enthused by it. But like I said, I am working on it.

After splitting up with the boys, I kept climbing up to the summit of Mt. Diablo, cashed in 3500 feet and then got to descend for what seemed like eternity. When I got back to the car I was completely wiped out. I drank a half serving of Ultragen with coconut water, changed my clothes and pretty much passed out in the back seat. Or at least I wished I was. When the guys got back, I was bonking pretty bad and spent the majority of the car ride back loopy to do much more than stare out the window. Yes, I pretty much had a very winning day all around. At least, the day passed and I was still alive (it was after all the rapture) and could try again in the morning.

I still had managed to cover 15+ miles with 3500 feet of climbing in what seemed to be a very long time. And I ran into lots and lots of snakes.


Happy face. And another sweet new pair of Rudy Projects.

I was a bit nervous for my run on Sunday but decided to be more resolute about accepting whatever I felt and whatever came up. I knew Nathan was going to do about 20 miles, so I aimed for a 15 mile loop out of Mountain Home Inn where we parked the car. It was a cool morning as we set off up Mt. Tam. I pretty much said, "see ya, have a good run" to Nathan before we left the parking lot, thinking he might want to take it out hard. Instead he said he'd like to run together for a while, so I figured I would just settle into whatever pace felt good and say goodbye whenever he was ready to take off. Since we had run counter-clockwise on Tam on Friday, we headed clockwise up Matt Davis which is very runnable and only a slight uphill. 

I felt like a completely different person. I had energy, I had spring in my step, I had speed and no soreness. I glided along the trail and threw down a pretty fast start. We made it to the climb that goes 1 mile up to Rock Springs. Before we had started running, I had set a goal to run up this trail from bottom to top. I usually don't make it all the way up. But I did it. I got to the top and exclaimed, "yeah I made my goal". I was feeling good and Nathan suggested I continue on a bit farther with him instead of taking my turn onto Ben Stein. I figured I was feeling good and a few extra miles would be fun. I knew I would NOT be going the full distance with him since I had no desire to drop down cataract only to turn right around and do the steep climb back up to Northside. We jammed along and finally I took my turn up High Marsh trail which I had only been on once before and started flying along, really feeling good. 
 Goldilocks and the good view.
I really liked High Marsh trail and I managed to find my way back over to the Northside trail which is one of my absolute favorites on Mt. Tam. No mountainbikes are allowed and it is not near any parking or close trailhead, so it tends to be pretty empty. I zoomed along, rocking out to my music and picked up speed with the sun shining down on me. I had a geeky smile on my face I am sure. I hit popped onto the fireroads and flew back to the car, passing other runners and taking the time to make huge two foot leaping jumps into puddles along the way. It was refreshing. I just played and laughed and had fun. I let go of the previous day and remembered that this kind of moment was what I do what I do for. Its not about how fast or far its about how fun and beautiful. I definitely was having fun. I just kept picking up speed and came squealing in on two wheels back into the parking lot; 18.5 miles in 2:30 with 2,000 feet of ascent. It was awesome.

Speed on the High Marsh Trail

Since the craziness of races, work and sleeping at altitude began at the beginning of April, I have been doing my best to navigate all the things that have come up. Some days I am outrageously successful, some days there is much room for improvement. I am feeling, ultimately, that I have come out the other side in one piece and with the wheels still on. I am looking now towards the beginnings of training (transitioning back to real structured training-slowly!), a fun month of pacing gigs and many more great days out on the trails doing what I love to do.

The PB&J of life and Pantry Granola Bars

This is not a post about the most epic peanut butter and jelly you've ever laid eyes on. If you want that, check out this recipe. It's about being in between two things, like (Justin's) peanut butter and jelly between (Udi's Gluten Free) slices of bread.

I am in between two races, recovering from Tussey, getting ready for TNF 50 in just three weeks. The amount of time between the two races is a strange amount and therefore makes me feel a little weird, a little off and a little bit like a slacker. I definitely wanted to recover throughly from Tussey. Even though I was feeling good after the race, I definitely didn't want to push it and get hurt. But in the back of my mind, I also knew that I wanted to keep working on my speed (for Houston in January) and maintain my fitness for TNF. The week after Tussey, I ran just over 50 miles for the week. The next week 85. Last week, I did a righteously hard week (but still lower mileage) and finished it off with doing Lithia Loop as a hard training run. I've been working out with my trainer Josh and am feeling strong and healthy and my running is going great. I can't complain, but I do feel a bit stuck in the middle. For most of the year, my peak training has included several double workouts a week and I've gone over 100 miles a lot this year. I like running over 100 miles per week. And I feel like I haven't done that forever. Woe is me right? No, that's not what this is about. That type of intense training helps you feel and stay sharp. I trained really hard and smart for Tussey and had a phenomenal race. So I feel stuck between trying to pursue that level of training with my physical limits (aka staying healthy and not overtraining). I definitely don't want the wheels to come off and crash and burn before I even get to the starting line at the beginning of December. Thankfully, I have been resolute about keeping my mileage moderate (80-90 miles), I have an amazing coach who challenges and pushes me and found other things to entertain and distract me (like my new obsession with True Blood).

I guess, in the end, stuck is the wrong word because I do not feel bad, I am just in between two things that precipitate and influence my behavior. I like to run and run and run and run some more. So sticking to a plan is definitely a good idea. There will be plenty of time for crazy high mileage, epic runs and training.

Speaking of things that stick together. I just threw together some amazing granola bars. I call them "pantry" granola bars because I went and scrounged around in our pantry, came up with a small bag of seedy trail mix and a large bag of standard trail mix and went to town making some seriously good granola bars. These can really accommodate any number of different combinations of trail mixes, though I highly recommend one nuttier version and one seedier version. And of course, chocolate never hurts either.

2 cups gluten free oats (or regular, if you are one of those people)
2 cups nutty (mine had date pieces and banana pieces along with nuts) trail mix
1/4 cup peanuts (or any nuts)
1/4 cup peanut flour (optional)
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp cacao nibs
1/2 cup seedy trail mix
1/2 cup dried fruit (mix or single variety, I used sour cherries)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup honey
4 tbsp butter (or coconut oil)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Toss together oats, nutty trail mix, peanut and peanut flour. Place on a baking sheet or in large baking dish. Toast in oven for 10 minutes or until starting to get a little golden (watch it, don't burn it!)

While the oat mix is toasting, in a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and stir in the honey, dark brown sugar and salt. Heat until the mixture is fully incorporated and the brown sugar is melted (2-3 minutes), stir often. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

When the oat mixture is done toasting, remove from pan/sheet into a large mixing bowl. Mix together oat mixture, butter/sugar mixture and seedy/fruit mixture. Stir until completely incorporated.

Turn oven down to 300 degrees. In a large baking dish (can be the same one, just be careful not to burn yourself), place a piece of parchment paper that hangs over the ends (helps with getting it out of the pan later!). Pour the mixture into the baking pan and tamp down in a wooden spoon until even. Bake for 25-27 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely in the pan before removing and cutting. The bars must set, so let them cool completely!! Enjoy!

Lithia Loop Trail Marathon

Photo courtesy of Scott and Christi Dunlap

About 2 weeks ago, I got my first post-Tussey workouts from my coach to take me onwards towards TNF50, the first week in December. Tussey was definitely my big A race. I wanted to savor it, recover from it and generally not rush back in to training but with only a bit over a month between the two races, it also really wasn't an option. On the schedule from my coach, there was a listed a 3:20 long run for November 6th. I did a quick check and sure enough, as I thought, Lithia Loop Trail Marathon (the trail marathon national championship) was that day. And last year, I ran a 3:18. Sounds like the perfect workout to me.

If you were to do a quick search of all of the things you shouldn't do before a marathon, you would find lists and lists of things ranging from eat different things to do big workouts. Usually, we do a nice taper, watch over every last detail and generally wander around in a weird taper induced mental state. But not for me, not this time.

Instead, I kept on as usual. Well, slightly less than usual. Since Tussey, I haven't brought back my second workouts of the day and have tried to keep my mileage relatively moderate. Last week, however, was a pretty hard week. After taking my usual Monday off, I hammered out the hardest track workout I've done in a while on Tuesday and followed it up in the evening with a hard training session with my trainer that included plenty of squats and lunges. Wednesday was a recovery day and my legs were singing and I don't mean that is a good way. By Thursday, my hamstrings and glutes were super tight and sore, so much so that it took most of the day to get me out the door to run. I almost didn't run because I was worried that if I did I might really ruin my run at Lithia. Ultimately, I got out the door and did another hard workout, tempo this time in 14 miles total. On Friday, I drove up to Ashland by myself. By the time I got there, my legs felt horrible. They were seriously tight and sore from the drive and I was actually worried that I was going to do really horribly and not be able to get my legs moving. While Lithia Loop was going to be a training race, it is still a race (and a race with money due to being the USATF National Championship) and I wanted to at least run it as a hard workout.

I spent about an hour stretching in the room of my hotel (Peerless Hotel, super cute) and ate a hearty meal of baked potato with vegetables and a huge vegetable salad from Greenleaf. I was happy to see they had take away since I didn't much feel like eating in a restaurant all by myself. By the time I went to bed, my legs were feeling better but not great. I was feeling no pre-race nerves and fell asleep just fine.

I woke up at 6am, gobbled up a small pb and banana sandwich, put on my race kit and got back into bed for another hour. I knew there was no reason to be super early to the race start (8am) and I also wanted to get a cup of coffee from Noble Coffee, which was recommended to me by Erik Skaggs, but didn't open until 7am. My legs felt okay and I was glad that at least they didn't feel like crap from the start.

I grabbed a coffee and headed off to the start. It was a really pleasant temperature at the start and I was excited that it seemed to be a lot warmer than the weather report had predicted. I was comfortable in a short sleeve shirt, but wore my 3/4 Salomon tights with compression to support my worked legs. The pre-race reports were that there were lots of speedy women in the field and the men's field was really stacked as well. Last year, I came in 3rd place and nearly caught 2nd place in a dash to the finish. My goal for this year was to run a hard workout and place in the top 5. I was hoping that my worn out legs would be able to muster at least that.

I did a quick warmup, chatted with friend Scott Dunlap and some others, then Hal gave a quick pre-race briefing and we were off. Up the big ass climb.

Pretty much the first 10.5 miles are uphill. Thankfully, I knew this and could pace accordingly. Hal sent us off and a huge group of men dashed out. Scott had told me he was going to aim for a sub-3 hr finish, so I knew that whatever speed he was going, I should NOT be going with him. I noticed two women go out ahead of me, right on Scott's heels and figured that things would shake out pretty quickly at that pace. Pretty soon, the two women ahead dropped behind me and I trucked along in the 8:30-9min/mile range. Slow and steady. I was running with Katie Caba and Melissa Shweisguth and just tried to be comfortable. They moved ahead of me, but I refused to change my strategy of going ultra speed up the hill. Last year, I survived the hill, the got to crank out tempo speed on the slightly downhill miles from 10.5-20 and then hammer the steep and technical (in places) final 6 miles. I was hoping that this strategy would again work and simply tried to suffer as little as possible up the climb. Katie moved ahead and Melissa dropped back and we chatted. She mentioned that "everyone has their strategy" for the race and I thought about it for a minute and considered if I did really have a strategy. At that point, Katie was in 1st and 2nd-5th place were all right there with me and I was kind of ready to be running by myself and according to how I felt. But alas, I had to make it to the top of the hill to shake out of a group of both men and woman. When we hit the aid station at mile 8, I passed off my gloves to Erik and dropped the pace a bit. I knew that the fire road continued to roll uphill, so I didn't push too hard. 

My legs were definitely not feeling as spry as I would have wanted, but I was not surprised at all. Considering the hard workouts and the hill we'd just climbed, I was at the very least, not worried. I dropped the pace to the low 7s and made some space for myself. I hit the distinct point on the course when it starts to lope downwards and I let my legs go a bit more. Or I tried. Last year, I was easily able to drop into the low to mid 6 minute per mile range. But my legs were not having it, I felt like a car stuck in 3rd gear, I could manage a decent and steady pace, but as soon as I tried to speed up, the engine (my legs) would strongly object and make a lot of noise. I was a bit bummed by this because I had been secretly hoping for some magic race adrenaline to kick in that would make all of the week's hard work wash away.  But it didn't. And that was ok. I just thought about Nathan telling me to run a hard workout and IF there was someone to chase that I could see (or someone chasing me), to push it and if not, just be steady. I decided to be steady. I managed a few high 6's and low 7's. And the miles ticked off quickly.

It is amazing how fast a marathon seems to go by when you are use to running 50 miles and beyond. Before I knew it, I was filling my bottle half way up and taking a swig of coke at the mile 20 aid station. From there, we dive down a steep hill and I cranked out a few sub 6 miles. I passed a handful of guys on the downhills. Thankfully the one part of my leg that wasn't really sore was my quads which allowed me to float down the hills. I worked my way through the very technical gnarly section from mile 24-25 (passing another guy) then hit the road, eager to be done. It was indeed a hard workout and I was ready for it to be over. 

Learning from last year (and how I nearly caught 2nd place in the last mile), I was slightly paranoid that another girl was going to do that to me. I kept checking over my shoulder, just in case. I didn't want to relinquish 2nd place at that point since I was pretty proud of that considering how messed up I felt coming into the race. I was able to cruise out the last mile pretty strong and finished in 3:28:36, a full 10 minutes slower than last year and in 2nd place. Katie had run a great race (her first marathon since Lithia Loop 2008!) and finished in 3:23:12. 

Katie and I after the finish.
Photo courtesy of Scott and Christi Dunlap

3rd-6th place women all came in pretty close to one another about 5 minutes after I did. I hung out at the finish and chatted with Katie, Max King, Jeff Browning, Richard Bolt and Yassine Diboun. I changed my clothes, as it was getting chilly, collected my USATF 2nd place medal and headed out to make the long drive back to San Francisco. 

But not before a stop at Morning Glory for coffee and an egg scramble. Which, let's be frank, was the real reason I drove all the way up to Ashland. So delicious. 

I got in the car, drove the 5.5 hours home to SF and by the time I got home, my legs were so sore, I walked like a cowboy. But after a nice long walk to and from dinner, the soreness disappeared, the tiredness subsided and I was left with nothing but warm fuzzy feelings for following up my National Championship in the 50 miler with a 2nd place finish just a few short weeks later. A satisfying workout indeed.

One good day and 19 more

I am back at it. This has been quite the week and I am feeling good for the most part and excited to be back training. I honestly didn't think I would be. Last weekend, I had thought about going up to Tahoe to run TRT 50 miler. I decided at the last minute that it was a bad idea. I needed a good long run to get my mind back in the game, spend some time with my head out in the woods, but I really didn't need the context of a race. I decided not to race and instead go on a nice long solo outing in the Headlands and Tam. 

Photo by Cameron Baird

I was in a mental rut with running. I was not enjoying myself and I was not motivated after states. While immediately after I considered carrying over my enthusiasm and training into another race. I even considered doing TRT 100 just three weeks after my disaster at states. After a few days though, the reality set in that I wasn't well and needed a break. I ran when I felt like it and rested a bunch. Even when I did run, my head was not in it. I wasn't enjoying it. Since my primary motivation is enjoyment that made me feel confused, directionless and worried. What if the joy never came back? How do I go back to basics? How do I love it again? It turns out all I needed was a good long run. No training partners, no plan, no music, just my water, vespa, frs and a few gels. 

So off I went into the cold misty morning last week. Since I had considered doing TRT 50 mile that same day, my vague goal was to run about 40-50 miles depending on how I felt. I climbed up Coastal and headed towards Tam. I felt like crap. I didn't want to be running. I was worried and stressed, I was not having fun. And to boot, I felt crappy. At every junction, I considered how many miles I would have if I just turned around. 3 miles, 5 miles, 9 miles in. I listened to the thoughts passing through my mind. I witnessed so much resistance on my part. My body wasn't feeling great, wasn't warmed up yet so my mind was mirroring that. See, you aren't ready to be running. See you don't feel good. You're not ready. You aren't having fun. I had just come up onto Dias Ridge and I stopped in my tracks. One of mottos has so long been: no resistance, no stress. And yet here I was stressed because I wasn't into the run yet. Resisting the way things were that moment, instead of trusting that it would change. I realized at that moment that I had somewhere along the line started putting pressure on myself to feel good right away, to feel into it right away. But the fact of the matter is, I start slow. I usually take it easy through the beginning and then rock out at the end. I am patient that way and my running reflects that. I was overthinking it all, never allowing myself to get into the moment because I was too busy thinking about getting there. I was not in the moment, I was not reflecting that philosophy and the philosophy I believe so much I have it tattooed on my wrist. 

Ignore the blood, focus on the tattoo.

Amor Fati. Hic et Nunc. Amor fati is a Latin phrase coined by Nietzsche loosely translating to "love of fate" or "love of one's fate" (Wikipedia). Hic et Nunc means Here and Now. In my running, I had not been "loving my fate" or better explained, I had not been rolling with the punches, not been accepting the good and the bad as all part of the journey. And I had not been present. I can't remember where it derailed but it did. I just wasn't running with joy and love. I was running around worrying about mileage and races and paces and keeping up and feeling good all the time. I was trying to think myself into happiness instead of just being happy. I didn't realize it until that moment. 

I stood there on Dias Ridge for a minute, only 9 miles into my run. I took a deep breathe and started laughing. I mean good belly laugh. I mean I had overcomplicated my most simple and precious joy. I had confounded myself so completely that I was unable to allow for the highs and lows that accompany running of these distances. I am sure that feeling is very much informed by what happened at states. There is a fear of feeling bad and not simply having it be a bad patch, like what happened at states. But that is ridiculous. Part of the joy and experience is knowing that within any long ultra run anything can happen and so much will be experienced. I had to really laugh. Running, I realized again, is simple and basic. The joy it provides is simple to have. The only barrier to understanding and internalizing that is making running more than it is. It is not inherently meaningful, not in and of itself, nor inherently meaningful to who we are. I run because I enjoy it. I love it. And in that very moment. I realized it again. I actually felt that way again. 

I picked up and just ran. I had good patches and bad patches. Brilliance and bonks. I ran 40 miles and was flying down the last 3, hooting and howling with joy. I found my reconnect to the journey. I found my meaning again. I found that I was ready again for real. Deep down inside, not just telling myself that or forcing the issue. It was a good day. 

And from that run, I was able to begin training again. I have been training hard this week and really enjoying myself. Pushing myself. Monitoring my mind and staying on track. As of today, I have 19 more quality days of training left before Cascade Crest 100. The race is 35 days away, but with rest days and taper days. 19 is the magic number. I plan to enjoy the big push, enjoy the challenge I have placed in front of myself to get ready to face my fear. Fast or slow, win or lose, no matter what, running should be fun. If its not, why bother?

With that. I am off for another run.