The comeback kid

Akron Marathon. September 2014

Akron Marathon. September 2014

It's been almost exactly 2 years since I really raced. This time two years ago I was getting back into phenomenal shape after a brief injury at the end of an amazing 2012. I raced a competitive field of ladies at Chuckanut 50k coming in 2nd, then followed it up a week later with a CR & victory at the Oakland Marathon. I was excited and inspired to see what I could do as a racer. 2012 had given me a glimpse of my potential, but I feel like I had not had enough time yet to truly reach my potential. And then the bakery happened a lot sooner and in a lot grander scale than we had imagined. I knew that my racing would be sacrificed and that I was willing to do what it took to get the bakery rolling. And I haven't raced since. 

You might say, but wait, you ran 9 marathons since then! And yes, I have started 9 marathons in that time but I haven't raced them. I have run them most with just general fitness (I can run a 2:48 like a boss!) or the ones I was in slightly better shape for have had complications due to work stress or health issues. I couldn't really do consistent work over the past two years. Workouts after a 10 hour shift on your feet in the heat of the day are not quality. Stress, anxiety and lack of sleep further deteriorate any chance at quality. For the remainder of the 2013 year after Oakland, I was relatively satisfied just running. I actually signed up for races just to get the weekends off! 

But as 2014 rolled in and the ultra that is opening a "big" small business such as ours revealed itself, my discontent grew. I was not ready to give up my goals. I was not ready to let go of the potential I have. I made a few attempts in 2014 to get things rolling, but the business was not ready. I knew I would not be able to race well until I could get my own schedule under control. Through many frustrations and growing pains, I realized with great clarity that I wanted more than anything to see what my potential as a runner could be. I couldn't let it go. And so, I bided my time, went underground in to my cave and began to plot my re-emergence.

Surf City Marathon 2015. Victory!!!!

Surf City Marathon 2015. Victory!!!!

I began to plot, I began to plan. I began to be able to do the work and workouts that would be required to gain back all the edge I had lost. I knew I needed to be all in. I had to commit. I couldn't do this half way. I had been trying to do that for 2 years and it just doesn't work. I had to put it all on the line. And so, with the support of Nathan, I went all in. I started signing up for races, committing to big hairy scary audacious goals and putting the pieces in play to make this year an amazing comeback for me. I took a really non-restful, back breaking quasi-retirement from racing and now I am on the hunt.

The first two things I did to begin to work towards my goal was signing with Oiselle and starting to work with Coach Jason Koop and CTS. Being a sponsored athlete is a commitment which I take very seriously. I want to be someone for my sponsors and for my coach. Oiselle has been amazingly supportive and made my have a sense of fashion at the same time. Working with Koop for the past 6 weeks has been an incredible endeavor. I have given myself over to the process and enjoyed simply doing the intense work. I don't think I have ever done this kind of work before. I never had the accountability. Now, I am focused, informed and ready to do the work as Coach intends me to do. I am sure Nathan is tired of me chirping "Koop said... Koop thinks...." but the reality is I have a coach now, not just a plan and someone to walk me through every step of the process.

Napa Valley Marathon 2015. En route to victory #2 of the year!

Napa Valley Marathon 2015. En route to victory #2 of the year!

Now, I wake up on Monday mornings tired from an amazing weekend of hard work and buzzing with excitement for my big races to come. I am hungry for the work and the challenges. It is invigorating to be beginning this process and slowly emerging from my cave after months of toiling in the dark (literally and figuratively as I have been working 7 days a week on the night baking shift for 5 months which will so end). I am excited.

At the beginning of February, after a great month of training in January including some killer workouts while on our "annual days off" from the bakery, I raced Surf City Marathon. I had a rough day due to an over adjustment of my thyroid meds which left me supremely dizzy and lightheaded, but I was stoked to win the race, soloing the whole thing in 2:48. It was not an A race, so I was happy to jump right back in to training and start my coaching by Koop. After a few weeks with Koop, I was slated for another race, this time the Napa Valley Marathon. My big goal races for the year are Comrades and Leadville, my secondardy races are Two Oceans and Pittsburgh Marathon (at least until September after Leadville I am undecided), so anything else is in support of those goals. Napa, as it has traditionally been for me, is a fantastic training race. Beautiful weather, great course, lovely people, I was very excited to get back out there feeling fit. Last year was probably the most suffering I've done in a race in a long time as I was severely anemic and barely could walk it in at the end. I was determined to execute a controlled, even effort. Koop told me that he wanted me to run 6:20s and not let the race atmosphere push me into going faster. The point was to be able to jump back into workouts pretty quickly. I needed to stay smooth, comfortable and reined in. And I did just that.

Rolling with my homies.

Rolling with my homies.

When I woke up race morning, I felt great. I felt no nerves. I just felt bad-ass. I text Nathan "I am going to win. I hope you like wine" (since the prize is 5 cases of wine). From the gun, I took control of the race. I felt in control of myself and it just felt easy. I stayed in easy gear, tucked in with a few guys and just started rolling. I was right around 6:15-6:20 pace and felt like I was jogging. I considered for a moment whether I should push for the 2:43 and OTQ, but decided to trust the plan, execute the plan that Koop and I had decided on. I never looked back. The whole race I felt invigorated. This is me, this is what I want, this is how I want to feel, was all I could think. I smiled and smiled and smiled as the miles rolled easily. Around mile 20, I decided to pick it up a notch and dropped the guys who had given me great company for so many miles. Pick it up a notch at that point of Napa means, run harder with diminishing returns since there is always a headwind, but I did increase my effort. For my final 1/2 mile, I decided to put a little zing in and dropped down to 5:40/mile pace. I broke the tape in a winning time of 2:45:48- perfectly executed on plan for my third Napa victory.

Total elation

Total elation

Two marathon victories in two months? Things are trending well. I bounced back off Napa really well and we are back to work towards Two Oceans on April 4th. Yes, winning is nice, but the reality is, I feel like I am getting back to me. Devon the runner is coming back. That is so intensely important to me whether or not I ever win another race. I just want to feel like I am exploring the limits of what I can do. I can't wait to see how things continue to unfold.

A very special thank you to all of my sponsors especially Oiselle, Julbo and CTS! Thank you for believing in me!

Finding my mojo

After my disappointment at Boston, I felt like there was a monkey on my back. I was eager to race and kick the icky feeling that comes with a DNF. Immediately after the race, I scoured and such to find a race that I could jump into quickly and "utilize my fitness" that I had built for Boston. If it had simply been a matter of finding another race quickly and showing up, I think I could have PR'd shortly after Boston.

Unfortunately (and I knew this going into Boston) after Boston, Nathan and I were faced with an unfortunately staffing situation in the bakeshop that meant he and I would be each working 1am-1pm on most days. This did not bode well for maintaining my fitness as I selected a race to pursue in the wake of Boston. I decided on Grandma's marathon which was in mid-June as my comeback race. I figured that I could just maintain my fitness during the tough work schedule and that I would just use mind over exhaustion to get my runs in and stay "training". 

And then reality sunk in. Trying to work those hours and get real workouts in was nearly impossible. My "maintain" mode turned into "just get in as much running as I can" mode. Weekday workouts were out the window as after a 12-14 hr shift my legs are so tired and swollen, it is nearly impossible to run fast. I would muster a good long run every week, usually with 12-16 miles in the mid 6 minute range, but my confidence and feeling of fitness was fading. I managed to run 65-90 miles a week somehow, but I just felt dull. As June began, I started to feel very worried about running Grandma's marathon. The goal at Grandma's is to run fast. That is it. That is why you fly all the way to Duluth. I was not feeling confident at all in my ability to run fast and was worried that if things started to fall apart during the race and I fell off my goal pace (to make the OT qualifier) that my race experience would be intensely negative. What I need was a good race, a good finish and a confidence boost. I needed to get the pack of monkeys off my back.

So in a last minute change of plan, I decided to not run Grandma's. Instead, I decided that it was best if I took my weekend off from the bakery and fly to Seattle for a run-cation. Complete with friends, food, and of course, a marathon! It so happened that the Rock and Roll Seattle Marathon was the same weekend as Grandma's. Even though I grew up in Seattle and lived there a few years ago as well, I never raced in Seattle. I felt like doing a more last minute race on a not fast course would allow me to just run and race and start building back my confidence.

Before the race, I read a great article about Training Your Brain to Run Your Best and I could really relate to the struggle of silencing the inner critic.  Over the past year, my inner critic has gotten loud and I've really struggled mentally in races when things were getting tough. I decided leading into RNR Seattle, that I would "shout down" my inner critic. On top of that, awesome coach Ian Torrence, suggested I use the experience to analyze my strengths and weaknesses so we can build from where I am. It was an interesting perspective to take because I felt more conscious of the thoughts, fears, doubts and criticisms that came up during the race and was able to play with and change my thought process a great deal. I was able to note the things that were coming up and actually take a hard look at where we can improve, where I am selling myself short (for instance by being super negative) and where I am doing well. I am so glad I opted to do a race as a building block, a starting point from which I can grow for my big goals over the next year.

The weekend was a blast. I got to spend a great deal of time with Jonathan (Bestest Everest) and his girlfriend Ariana, who were super lovely to let me stay with them and co-opt all their time. We ate great food, enjoy the awesome Seattle summer weather and got in some running too!

Bitterroot BBQ post-race! The cowboy killer.

I was super happy that the race was on Saturday. I like Saturday races. Sundays just feel like I am waiting around for so long for race day to come. This way, I got to get in the race and have the rest of the weekend to celebrate and enjoy (as my birthday was the Monday after the race).

The race itself? After the first 7 miles, when the half and full courses split, I was running alone. Up until that point, I thought I was very much in second place to 2 time defending champ Nuta Olaru who had taken off at 5:40/mile pace. I was clipping along on the easy section of the race in the low 6/upper 5:50s and had absolutely no inclination to chase her. It seemed suicidal on a course that she had only run 2:50 & 2:51 on. I knew the second half of the course was pretty hilly, so I didn't want to do anything ridiculous. And then it turned out, she had decided to run the half marathon. So from mile 7 on, I was rolling solo in first place.

The course is not an easy one. I headed south by the lake and around Seward Park. As soon as I turned towards the north to head back up along the lake and cross the I-90, I was meet with an incredibly strong headwind. Since I was very much by myself, I had no where to hide, so I fought off my negative brain and settled into an effort based pace. It was a beautiful day and I was enjoying the Seattle sunshine, the course, the cheers from the spectators and half marathoners (when we shared the course). It was very lonely on I-90 from mile 16-22 when I was on the expressway going over and back to Mercer Island. I continued to listen to my brain, see what thoughts arose and practice positive thinking.

Coming off the highway into downtown, I nearly started crying when I saw my cousin Erika screaming and jumping up and down cheering at the bottom. I hadn't expected to see her and it gave me such an incredible boost. I was where I wanted to be, doing what I loved. It was a great feeling. I was smiling and laughing as I climbed the last few hills and made my way to the finish.

Coming up Mercer to the finish line, I was filled with joy. I had gotten the monkey off my back. I was going to win a race in my hometown and feel good doing it. I had enjoyed every step, the easy and the hard. I had found a way back to being the racer I know I can be. In the end, my time is no faster than I had run at any other marathon in the past year (although to be fair the course/wind were much harder than any other course- Check out my Strava for the race), but it was an incredibly different experience. I feel like my goals for the fall and for 2015 are within my reach and that this race experience means that I can toe the line with confidence instead of trepidation. I am excited and inspired in running again and that means more to me than anything.

Plus winning is fun. Really fun. 
Cheers to that!

The SF Marathon- race report

photo credit Tony Medina

Heading into Sunday's Wipro San Francisco Marathon, I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to win. I have run this race twice before and neither time was the my primary objective. The first time I ran it, I paced my sister the whole way through as it was her first marathon. Last year, Nathan and I ran it together and I used it as a training run leading up to WC100k.

Despite really wanting to win, I also was not sure I could. After Comrades, I took the month of June easy and once I started back training in July, I was doing more base building and moderate mileage than peak training. I did one track workout and one tempo workout before SF Marathon, with the later happening Tuesday before the race (you know, since it is such a great idea to run sub 5 min pace before you run a marathon). Needlesstosay, I had no real basis for judging what kind of shape I was in. I felt like I was running well, but had no training indicators to buoy my fitness.

So I did what anyone would do in my postion: go for broke and see what happens.

 photo credit SFM

Before the race, I familiarized myself with some of the competition and looked at marathon PR's across the board to carefully consider the capabilities and speed of the field. Knowing SF is a much harder course than most, I knew the times would be slower but wanted to be mentally prepared if I was going to have to go out on PR pace practically. When I got to the starting line, I knew I had the fastest PR in the group by nearly 11 minutes. While I didn't necessarily think I was in PR shape, I knew that I would likely be looked to dictate the pace and lead the field.

photo credit SFM

Anna Bretan (sister of my fellow ninja Jonathan Bretan) is a two time winner of the Oakland marathon. She is tough on a tough course. Before the race she told me that Jonathan told her to keep an eye on me and stay with me. Standing on the start line, I decided on my strategy. If the field was going to look to me to dictate pace, then I was going to take the race out hard and splinter the field early, after which I could settle into the pace (2:45) that I thought it would take to win.

The gun went off and I just went for it. As I started running, I considered if it was a smart strategy. My legs didn't feel warmed up and I knew that taking the race out on 2:37 pace was risky for me as well. I could blow up hard later. I didn't want to be scared though. Part of learning to race marathons for me has been learning how to get in the pain cave and relish it. To hurt and keep pushing. I figured that this race was a perfect opportunity to practice racing and hone my skill.
photo credit SFM

I clicked along at around 6 minute pace and charged towards the Golden Gate bridge with a little pack of ladies and guys tucked in behind me. The first 6 miles only have one real kicker of a hill, so it felt good to get the legs turning over. I wasn't sure how many ladies were with me as we headed up the steep climb to the bridge. I was pretty sure that at least a handful had backed off from my kamikaze of a start. I felt really good though and knew that I was going to have a solid day. I just felt strong. Not necessarily as fast as I've felt, but just felt able to maintain the pace all day long.

photo credit SFM

I run back and forth and back and forth across the bridge for training all the time. I know its curve, I know how hard to push when. By the time I was headed back to the SF side, I knew that my strategy had paid off. A quick glance over my shoulder registered that I was gapping the field and pulling away. I fell in with a group of guys and worked my way towards the park. I rolled with the hills, not throttling back too much on the few challenging up and hit the park feeling good. I was excited to feel so good heading into the park because I knew that the second half was faster and if I was feeling good I might be able to even or negative split. I passed through the halfway point just around 1:22. 

To the beach and back is one of my bread and butter runs (speaking of Bread and Butter, have you checked out our Kickstarter campaign yet?!?!), so I locked in and got my legs moving fast as the course slopped downhill. I was running with a guy named Gavin who was doing his first marathon. It was nice to have the company and we caught another duo shortly thereafter, whom I helped coach through a bad patch, reassuring them their race wasn't falling apart because they felt crap. That instead they just each needed to take a gel. I spent a few miles with them and then decided to push on ahead. I got onto the Stow Lake loop that is next to the 1st half finish and was excited to see Nathan, Georgia and Larissa (with the whole Strava crew).

 photo credit Tony Medina
I was on my own then. Just pushing along, managing my time and my energy. I apparently had not been running tangents well because my mileage vs. the markers was off, so I just resolved to stay locked in on my 6:11min/mile pace and focus on that. Loping down the Haight the cheers for me changed from "yeah 1st woman" (in the park) to suddenly "you are second woman!". Wait, what? I was confused and told the leader bicycle pacer that people were saying I was second. There are two places on the course where it is possible to get confused and cut off significant mileage. I figured that someone had turned left going into the park and skipped the bottom section of the park (which friends later confirmed). The bike pacer took off after the woman and I decided to turn her into a rabbit instead of being frustrated by the situation. I knew I was winning, but I also wanted my moment. If I am going to win, I want to come tearing into the finish line and break the tape. 

I pushed the pace on a few downhills into the mission and turning on to 16th spotted the lost lady. Her pace was significantly slower and I ate up ground and passed her quickly. With less than 5 miles to the finish line, I was starting to smell the barn. I wasn't sure what my gap was on the field, but I knew that if anyone was going to catch me, I was going to make them earn it. I just locked in and went. 

 photo credit Tony Medina

I never felt bad. I felt like a machine. I did work through the Dogpatch and crossed the bridge to ATT park flying. I looked at my watch and saw that even with the extra .25 miles I had run that I was going to be able to run sub 2:45. I pushed myself towards the finish line. Hitting the mile 26 sign I looked at my watch (marathon split 2:42:44) and pressed forward. The finish line announcer was saying that they had word that I was at ATT park a few minutes out, but I was flying down the finishing straight. The announcer caught sight of me and the crowd started going wild. I soaked it in. This is what I came for, this is what I had earned. I came to represent for my home and I protected my home turf.

photo credit Tony Medina

Victory. I have to say that this is one of the more satisfying wins I've had. It wasn't just about the fact that I won. It was that I ran the race I wanted to, I took risks, I pushed myself. I came to win: mission accomplished.
Photo from SF Gate

Thanks to The San Francisco Marathon for inviting me as an elite (and putting me in bib #2 for motivation!), North Face and all of my other sponsors!

How To Have a "Devon Day" ebook


What you see above are the cover, table of contents and a sampling of the introduction, including the definition of a "Devon Day". I developed this guide after the LA marathon when I realized that my successes were coming as a direct result of the framework I was using in my training. The framework was not just specific to LA, in fact, part of the excitement of writing this book was doing in depth research into all of my own training and realizing that I have had four "Devon Days" or breakthrough performances in the space of less than 2 years. Though my training and goals were different for each of these races, the framework was the same and ultimately so was the result: successfully reaching my ideal goal.

In this guide, I walk you through the framework and talk about the aspects of my formula for success. This includes how we define our goals and the specific training aspects that make the most difference in reaching our goals. For me, the goal was qualifying for the Olympic Trials but this framework can work for anyone and any goal!

How to Have a Devon Day: A Runner's Guide to a Breakthrough Performance.

(Click on Add to cart to purchase for just $9.99)

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