Reflecting on Chicago Training

 

0533F88A-A59D-4EA1-AC14-64068CFA0FAF

My Chicago Marathon mantra

My motto for Boston was “I can and I will” because simply finishing was something I doubted and I needed that constant reminder that I could and I would. 2 weeks later in Big Sur, my mottosniftd to “limitations only exist if you let them”… I spent so much time worrying for Boston but when I arrived and the gun went off, my worries faded and I was able to just run because I made it to the start line and ultimately that was all I wanted. Sometimes our greatest limitations are absent fears that our brain has created.

Chicago training was probably one of the most solid and consistent training cycles that I have ever done. In July, I focused a lot on speed, track work and 5ks.

09CAA77A-5249-4C1C-A042-36C42A8760F7

I wasn’t ready to tackle the heavy mileage and did not want to rush into marathon training. I may have tackled speed a bit too aggressively because my high hamstring got annoyed. That was my cue to lay off the track and hit the roads to start some mileage training. I started slowly and really focused on being smart this cycle. My only possible regret this cycle is maybe taking a little TOO smart and cautious.

I established a solid base and my first 20 miler was late August, giving me plenty of time to throw in a couple weekends of different long runs before my final 21-miler that I usually do 3 weeks out. In th past, I would have just filled the awkward middle 2 weekends with more 18-20 but I decided to switch it up and try different workouts this time around. I jumped in the Charles River Marathon with Nicole (@girlrunseverywhere) for a fun workout that was a 3 mile warmup, 10k @ 7:09 and 8 mile cool down. I have never done that type of workout and it was actually very hard but fun to maintain a decent pae while recovering.

3D67AB50-D0C1-4F25-8E71-554BDDAF9E91

Both of my 20 milers had a 5k embedded in the middle of the run and despite everything I would say about “not racing”, when that gun went off, I picked up pace and my competitive side revealed itself. I often times shocked myself with how my body was able to respond when the 5k started and all of sudden the 14 miles that were already logged didn’t seem to phase me.

This training cycle was also the first cycle where I didn’t do CrossFit and supplemented my running with a mix of large group circuit work and small group personal training. I joined a gym that offers both styles and bought a package that allows me to do small group 2 days and unlimited large group strength and metabolic condition classes. The small groups are designed based on my request and needs. I have incorporated a lot of glute and hip movements, core and stability work and one legged movements into these small group sessions. Some of the workouts are not as intense as some of those brutal 10 minute CrossFit WODs but I think it is exactly what I need if I want to try and balance strength and marathoning training.

E83031F9-5D1D-440F-B671-5CF37E312C33

Not only is my body correcting itself from muscle imbalances but I am also not putting my body through the CrossFit lifts that used to really break me down and sideline me for a couple days because of overtraining.

This cycle has not only been the most consistent cycle, it was the first cycle where I did not have to take any unnecessary rest days becuase of accidentally pushing myself too hard. Everything pretty much went as planned no matter how many time I feared it wouldn’t.

I am going into tomorrow’s race excited but very curious to see how these changes will play out. I don’t know if I am more fit than I was last year when I ran my current PR because many variables are different.  My average paces have been 10-20 sec slower but my long runs had speed incorporated in them.

So what’s better?
Consistently faster paces but little variety in terms of speed workouts and long run tempo miles? CrossFit workouts that push me to my limit but then leave me feeling overtrained at times? (Past cycles)
Or
Overall slower average paces but more runs that incorporate tempo and race pace? Strength workouts that are a mix of large group strength/ metabolic conditioning classes and less intense small group stability work? (This cycle)

I really don’t know and I wish I could say that I will find out tomorrow but we all know that there are many more variables that play into Marathon performance.

What I do know is that I am excited, confident and ready to run with every ounce of heart and determination!

5EAC1F9F-CBCB-4001-9883-2F4A2A4F0380

Goodbye 27!

Goodbye 27…here we go 28!

FullSizeRender 33

Yikes! Already sounds frightening but I prefer even numbers over odd so I guess I have that going for me.

27 started off pretty awesome because my parents boought me Normatec Recovery boots for my birthday so my 26 year-old self was anxiously waiting for my birthday presents like my 6 year-old self.  I had Chicago marathon around the corner and wanted all the help/recovery I could get so September 26th couldn’t come soon enough.

This year, September 26th can come in slow motion because I am not ready for colder temps.  This 90 degree day has actually been the best birthday present!

In addition to kicking off last year’s birthday with some expensive fancy recovery boots, I also had a fabulous trip to Chicago and ran myself a nice and shiny PR.  I left Chicago with a medal, a PR and maybe a bit of an ego.

img_0546-1

I decided to find a coach and take my training to the next level.  So with my non-existent birthday money, I dropped Crossfit and put all my pennies toward someone who would draft up a training plan that ONLY involved running…not my typical style… but I still buckled in for the long road ahead of LOTS of running.  I scored a new 5k PR and my excitement of being coached and feeling super badass helped me get through the misery of running everyday and the jealousy felt when my friends talked about the 6am WOD.  Deep down, I knew this was not what I wanted but apparently being wise and smart wasn’t packaged up and given to me as a birthday present.

I eventually faced a little knee injury that at first, just bruised my ego and lessened my excitement for this whole ALL I DO IS RUN business but later manifested into a hip injury that left me feeling broke, useless and just plain sad.  I struggled a lot in the January/February time period and if you follow my blog/Instagram you probably are ready for me to GET OVER IT.

I try. I think I am.  I am 12 days out from Chicago and 40 days out from New York City so I will hit this topic at a later date because right now I am scared of jinxing myself by saying anything!

So I guess you could say that 27 was like riding one of those roller coasters at Six Flags – one that is scary, intense but manageable – when it ends, you look to your friend and say “Oh that wasn’t bad! Actually pretty fun”.  That was 27.  It was scary and sad during those times when I felt so broken and so defeated.

But I rode it out.  I made it to Boston.  I made it to Big Sur.  I learned some non-running related lessons.  I learned how to step back when you feel like you hit rock bottom and change your perspective.  Focus on the positive things and not the negative.  Focus on what you can do and not what you can’t.

Maybe I didn’t get ‘being wise’ as a 27th birthday present but I think I found it along the way.

I am pretty excited for 28.  I have a lot of things on my mind.  Things I want to do, things I want to share and things I want to try.  Right now my mind is fixated on a podcast and although it sounds crazy, intense and time-consuming…I know myself and I know that when I have a fire burning inside me, I will usually do it.

So here is a Goodbye to 27 and a Hello to 28!

Hello to all the amazing and memorable moments…

…..And hello to all the moments that will have me like…

FullSizeRender 34

 

or like….  

IMG_2986 2

Things won’t be perfect but you just need to be patient and roll with it! 🙂

Don’t Be a “Must Be Nice”er

I have dedicated my Tuesday morning runs to turning off the music and turning on podcasts.  Sometimes they are health related, sometimes they are running related and sometimes they are mindset related but the goal is to have more knowledge and a better mindset at the end of my run.

FullSizeRender 22

This past Tuesday I listened to an amazing podcast by Balanced Bites on female hormones, managing stress and the adrenals. I turned on this podcast to learn more about ‘Amenorrhea’ – something very common in female runners but is often pushed to the side or not spoke of.  If recovery and nutrition is an essential component to overall athletic performance then gaining control of these issues is just as important and should not be pushed to the side.  That being said, I am I am tackling this issue head on with as much knowledge as possible…but I will save that for someone else to cover because I want all audiences to keep reading this post!

STRESS.  We are aware that is can have a variety of negative affects on our body but why are so many people stressed? SOCIETAL EXPECTATIONS. I am not a mother but I see the pressure everyday. To be considered a good mother, you should be doing, X, Y and Z, even if you still have the entire alphabet to get done before you can even think about X.  But what’s wrong with saying NO to Z?  Is it the guilt that you will feel when someone judges your inability to tackle the entire alphabet in a day? Most likely.  

There are two pieces to this – WE ALL NEED TO STOP JUDGING and WE NEED TO IGNORE THESE JUDGEMENTS.

There are too many “must be nice” ers…..you know those people that look at your lifestyle or your choices and say “It must be nice to be able to…” without really having any knowledge of how you got there or what your daily life entails.  These “must be nice” ers cause guilt and make us feel like we should be doing MORE because apparently our life is so luxurious.  And that one extra thing we feel we need to do can put us over the edge.  Embrace what others consider to be “must be nice” and know that all the things you are doing are sufficient and enough even if it means you may not be getting to X, Y and Z today.

“It must be nice to be able to sleep in over the summer.”

“It must be nice to run and workout everyday.”

“It must be nice to buy all organic food.”

YES. It is.

 I make it possible because I stop making excuses and make time for the things that I consider NON-NEGOTIABLES.  I value my health and save my money so that I can feed it the food it deserves.  I wake up 2 hours earlier than most so I can start my morning doing the things I love.  I spend most of my summer and Sunday’s doing school work and lesson planning.  But people rarely know the behind-the-scenes when they make those comments which is why these comments can be so hurtful and rude.

The most insulting comment of all is “Oh Mel does not eat that..”

People throw this line out there ALL the time to people who have strict diets without having any clue WHY their diet is the way it is.  If you don’t know someone’s history or journey then you have no idea how much your words can inflict pain or triggers.

But lets get to the root of that comment.  Does me turning down your food make you feel guilty and now you are going to shame me? Are you trying to speak for me despite having little knowledge of what my diet looks like? …Please let me speak for myself, it is my body.

So to the irritating phrase, “Mel doesn’t eat that”… – I have simply learned to be confident with my choices and try to surround myself with people who respect my decisions…but I still hear it.  So let this be my universal response…

You are right, I MAY not eat that…and it is not because I am rude or above you.  I simply made a decision to feed my body with quality food and I am going to stick with that.

No one should have to force something down to simply please someone else.  Your body is the driving force behind everything you do.  I have learned that listening to the signals it is sending is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your athletic performance.  You need to give it the fuel it deserves needs because it pushes you through all your grueling workouts.

Please.  Think before you speak.  Don’t judge and don’t be a “must be nice” er.  If you find yourself saying “must be nice” frequently, step back and think about why you are saying these things.  Jealously and envy are natural feelings but they can be dangerous and hurtful if you don’t know how to reel them in and change your mindset.

I am not perfect and have my moments of “it must be nice.” but when I feel myself doing it, I work really hard to alter my way of thinking.  Sometimes when I am exhausted during the week, I say “it must be nice to go home and do nothing after work.”….but then on rest days when I do nothing after school, I am bored within an hour.  It serves as a quick reminder that my craziness of a life makes me happy and my brain is simply not wired to Netflix and Chill all afternoon.

When I was injured in January, I was BIG into the “must be nice to go out for a run.” Ultimately, I was so jealous and my envy was getting the best of me.  I had to do a lot of self talk – “it’s nice to have an obstacle that is making me mentally stronger.”…and it was .  Fighting through Boston was more memorable because of my struggles.  It’s not always nice at the time but find a way to change your thinking so your obstacles can make you a better person.

I will end with this….

FullSizeRender 23

Bowls, Bowls, Bowls!

This is not one of my typical running-related blog post and is more down the food route.  But then again, nutrition plays a huge role in running performance and recovery so I guess it is running-related by association.

I have been on a HUGE bowl kick.  What type of bowls? ALL TYPES.  Vegetable bowls, greek yogurt bowls, smoothie bowls, lentil pasta bowls..the list goes on. The best part of these bowls…aside from the nutritional value, of course..is how quick and easy they are to put together.

I am going to throw a bunch of bowl photos at you and give a little description of each.  I hope in this photo bomb, you find something that looks delicious and something you hope to/eventually recreate in your own kitchen.

But first….let me give you some background info on how I got started on this bowl kick.  I was doing school work at my favorite cafe.  I was getting pretty hungry and eventually  succumbed to one of their delicious but over-priced bowl.

FullSizeRender 22

It was definitely delicious but was $12 really worth a meager bowl of kale, quinoa, avocado, pickled, carrots, beets and pumpkin seeds thrown in a bowl? No. I made my way to Whole Foods and bought those 7 ingredients for about $30 and had enough to make over $100 worth of bowls if I kept buying them at the cafe.  Not only have I re-created this bowl for many lunches, I have become much more creative with each farm share pick-up.  My cast iron skillet and the fresh farm-share vegetables (tomatoes, beets, carrots, green peppers, kale) are the two key components for making the best warm bowl.  Once you have the staples, have fun with some toppings!

 

IMG_7525 2
Lentil pasta, kale, tomatoes, green peppers
IMG_2780.JPG
Red Lentil Rotini, beets, spinach, tomatoes, pickled carrots, pumpkin seeds.
IMG_2739
Chickpea rotini, kale, tomatoes, avocado

Now, if you are not into the savory foods..lets talk sweet and fruit bowls.  Smoothie bowls are one of my favorite post-run meals, especially after running in the summer’s heat.  Greek yogurt bowls are perfect pre-workout fuel.  Staples for a great smoothie bowl include Vital Protein Collagen Whey, frozen zucchini, spinach, frozen berries, and maple syrup (non of that artificial sweetener crap!)

IMG_2772
Added cacao powder for a chocolatey flavor.
IMG_1474
Greek yogurt, cinnamon, fresh berries and unsweetened coconut.

As you can see, I love to top these bowls off with some nuts, coconut, bee pollen and a variety of seeds.  Why?  Well aside from the added crunch and taste, each of these toppings add even more nutritional benefits to any bowl.  Here are some of my favorite toppings and their benefits.

Hemp Seeds – Rich in two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and 25% of their calories are from high-quality protein.

Pumpkin Seeds – Contain magnesium (often times low in runners), zinc and plant-based omega-3 fats and high in antioxidants.

Unsweetened Coconut Flakes – Flavorful addition to any bowl and adds fiber and protein to the dish.  Coconut is great source of iron which is crucial for getting oxygen to the body and can be low for many female runners.

Bee Pollen – Rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, lipids and fatty acids. Bee pollen also adds protein to the bowl as well as amino acids.

Pickled Vegetables/Tumeric Sauerkraut – Packed with probiotics, fiber and a variety of vitamins.

So next time you find yourself spending too much money on a bowl..look at the ingredients, grab them at the store and start making your own!  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, go get one!  They are a game changer – they add so much flavor and make this a one pan meal.

 

 

Why I Blog…

I’ve been wanting to jump on here for awhile and just write away but time has been limited and I haven’t been able to properly organize and compile my thoughts and feelings…

The personal things/challenges that have happened in my life over the last few weeks has taught me some valuable lessons that I’ve wanted to share.

However, these personal matters involve people close to me and I value their privacy.  I’ve struggled trying to figure out how to write this without delving into too much detail and stepping over boundaries.

This morning I read The Athletarian’s blog post about her retirement from blogging.  Certain words that she wrote connected with me and after 6 miles of processing/organizing my thoughts, I’ve found a way to use her content to help me convey my personal message.  So strap in and lets roll…

The Athletarian wrote in her post that she used to be so dedicated to blogging but it started to consume her.  She wrote,

“I’d photograph everything, blog multiple times a week, respond to comments, spend time finding new blogs and leaving comments on them, obsessively watch my stats in Google Analytics, and the list goes on and on.”

I thought to myself, “WOW, that’s what I am doing wrong…that’s why my blog isn’t making it big time”….I don’t really do ANY of these things.  But then again, I just don’t care to.  Of course, I check my stats on WordPress occasionally after I post, but after a day or two, I never look at it.

However, I AM a little envious of bloggers who get all expenses paid for at certain races or events.  I’m still waiting for the day that Brooks sends me all the extra Launch 3s they have in stock with a letter saying, “Hey Fruitful Runner, we love your blog and find it so great/psychotic that you have purchased seven pairs of the Launch 3s in the last year so we just want to send you more…and pay for your hotel in Chicago and NYC this fall because we know your teacher salary isn’t amazing.”…..hey, a girl can dream!!! 

What I am trying to say is that, I would love for my blog to take off and I get so happy when people can relate and genuinely connect with the content. I’ve always said that if ONE person can be inspired from my Instagram or blog, that is enough to make me happy.

I started this blog because I enjoy writing and letting my thoughts just take off.  Three years later, that is still why I do it.  If my audience expands and grows, that is fabulous but if not, I will still keep writing away.  My posts are just as much for me as they are for you.  My Instagram is my virtual scrapbook/training log.  I frequently scroll back to see how I trained in past cycles.  Some pictures don’t have a long caption but the picture holds a thousand words to me.

Last summer, I posted a picture from the Vermont 100 on 100 relay race.

IMG_2546 2

It doesn’t look like much/you can barely see me, but that pictures holds a special place in my heart.  What you don’t know was how emotional and crazy this day and this run was.  My grandma was sick in the hospital but my mom and I thought we could still do the relay race and make it back in time to comfort her in her final hours.  In the middle of the relay, we got a call saying that she wasn’t doing well.  We decided to skip our last leg, planned for the my dad to meet us at the end of my second leg and rush us to Boston.  That second leg was a run I will never forget.  I was tired but hit sub 7s for those 8 miles.  I just kept my eyes in the clouds and begged my Grandma to keep fighting.  I promised her I’d run fast because I knew my tiredness was nothing compared to what she was facing.  I spent those 8 miles just talking to her and motivating her to keep going because I wanted to be there for her.  It is amazing what you can do when you aren’t focused on yourself and your own pain…when your competitive mind isn’t so selfish.

Here is where I will start to segue into my personal life and the lessons I’ve learning over that last couple of weeks.  I blog because my posts are my memories and if there is anything I have learned over the last couple of weeks, it is that making memories is so important in this crazy roller coaster called LIFE.

You will never regret spending extra time with family and friends but you WILL regret not doing so.  I am someone that is ALWAYS on the go.  I always want to improve myself and try to be involveed in everything.  My perseverance can send me straight into a stressed-out mess or leave me sidelined for a few days because my body couldn’t handle all the activities I decided to jump into.  But it also advances me in my career and my athletics and makes me happy and proud.

However, when Friday nights roll around, I just want to lay on the couch and catch my breath from the whirlwind of a week.  If a friend or family member asks me to get dinner or catch up, I am often torn between…’I really ought to spend time with them’ and ‘ohhh but this couch feels so nice!’….and I hate to say it, but the latter usually wins.

Well let me tell you something, life can throw a curve ball that you’ll never see coming.  These curve balls can come fast and rob you from a lot of things.  Even if you are not directly hit by the curve ball, you are still impacted.  In my case, I watched someone get thrown this curve ball.  I watched them not be able to do the things they loved.  I watched them have to watch others do things for them.  I watched the pain they went through everyday.  The physical pain they felt was nothing compared to the mental pain of seeing their life fade away.

We can’t control these curve balls. We can’t live in fear of these curve balls but we can’t live so freely in preparation of them.  But we can be MINDFUL.  We can say ‘I love you more’, stop in to say HI to someone more often, stress less and when we are feeling down….we can think of all the things we DO have.

I’ve spent the last week trying to help as much as possible.  Trying to visit more often and put other things on hold.  Trying to be patient and just listen.  I couldn’t make someone less sick but my presence could be valuable.  Giving my presence means giving up other things.  But it shouldn’t take a curve ball to be a better person.  I need to learn how to stop, step back and do a few extra things each day for someone else.

So to my future self who will scroll back and read this at some point. You are probably tired and did 100 things today and that to-do list is still going strong…but stop.

Do something for someone else before the day over.  Do something that will make someone else happy even if your tired.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

 

 

Summer Goals – A Mix of the Past and the Present

Boston 2 Big Sur feels so long ago but occasionally, I like to just reminisce on the whole experience and the road that lead me there.

I think about all the strategies I used to pull me out of my down times. 

I think about all the doubt I had.

I think about how I will use this whole experience as a lesson. 

I think about how this will teach me to not overstress. 

But let’s be honest… I still stress….I still worry…. and the thought of Chicago and NYC training being right around the corner makes me cringe a bit.

…Not because I don’t want to train hard but because right now I feel something I haven’t felt in a while.  I feel GOOD. I don’t have to worry about a long run lingering over my head for a week.  I train the way I want. I run when I want.  I strength train when I want.  I go to hot yoga when I want. I rest when I want.

 

IMG_2037
Jumped into Murph with my friend

Lately, I have been doing two workouts a day just because I love not having a schedule and just doing a little bit of everything.  However, my body sent me a friendly reminder that I was starting to overdo it.  I listened, rested and was able to resume training with swapping hot yoga or strength with a massage or yin yoga.

I do love ‘Long Run Sunday’ and the excitement/fear/sense of accomplishment associated with the long run but I have been loving my new Sunday lineup…

IMG_8514         FullSizeRender 19

A short run around my hot yoga studio and end right in time (always a couple minutes late because you can never plan a run JUST right) for some vigorous flow.  I am not sure what sounds appealing about ending a run, walking into a 115 degree room and being suffocated by the heat…but I like the challenge and I try to remind myself that this tactic will help when I am struggling for air in the final mile(s) of a race….or maybe not and this whole thing really is crazy. But I enjoy the fun mix of everything.

This past Sunday, I ran in the Ribfest 5-miler with my running team and we placed third despite the heat and humidity.  You know that whole run/hot yoga tactic I just talked about??…yeahhhh..it didn’t work its magic when I was riding the mile 4 struggle bus in the race haha.

img_2230.png

I wish I could have contributed more to the team and clocked a time much closer to what I ran 3 years ago but I was proud with my 35:08. (I ran 32:24 in 2014!! WHO WAS I??)

My pace was respectable given my recent focus on just having fun with training but it did light a fire under me and got me thinking about some summer goals.  The past 3 years have been very marathon focused.  After a marathon, I would give myself a few weeks to rest/have fun with training but would quickly find another marathon to sign up for and would be back to marathon training.  With NYC and Chicago in the fall, a summer marathon is a definite NO.  The thought of not going back to San Francisco makes me a little sad but I am excited to set summer goals that are not just logging long runs and running a marathon.  Over the last 3 years I have improved greatly in the marathon and 26.2 will always be a favorite because of the dedication and mental strength it requires.  Although I have improved in the marathon over the last 3 years, I have slowed significantly in other distances.  I haven’t come close to my 10k PR of 37:31 that was set over 3 years ago and my half marathon PR of 1:26.34 seems unfathomable these days.

I’ve been scrolling back in my Instagram to see how I trained to get these times and the only significant and noticeable difference is that every run posted had an average pace of 7:10 – 7:30. Anything higher would have been considered slow.  NOTE** I only ran 3 times a week like I do now and did Crossfit and other forms of cross training on the other days.   If you just run everyday then YES…make sure you have easy runs.  For me, having the 3 days of running be key workouts was very important.  When I took the leap of faith into marathon training, the miles took priority of the quality and I drifted away from those key workouts.  However, I DID bring back some of these key workouts in the month before Boston this past year.  To save my hip from the miles, I decided to make my mid-distance run more of a shorter tempo run and found that my overall paces started to improve.  Instead of running 10 miles at an easy pace, I would do 5 or 6 miles at 7:00-7:20 pace (including warmup and cooldown) and I felt much stronger going into a 10k a couple weeks before Boston and then again IN Boston.

Another big difference was my final preparation before these shorter distance races.  I took the half marathon VERY seriously because at the time it WAS far for me and it WAS a big deal.  I tapered in the week leading up to every half and took extra rest days in the days prior to the race.  Ever since I started marthoning, I started to treat half marathons and 10ks difrerently.  I’ve developed a mindset of “It’s just a half so I don’t need to rest or taper.”  Every half marathon that I have run in the last three years, I have trained hard up until a day or two before the race and went into it as a workout or tune up.  Yes – a half marathon may seem short compared to the marathon but it is STILL 13 miles and if I want to run it fast and maintain a sub 7 pace, my legs need to be rested and ready to do so.  If I am not going to give my legs this rest then no matter how fit or well-trained I am, I will not get the times I used to when I tapered and prepared properly for the race.

As I start to draft some summer goals, I am planning to adopt some of my old training styles. I want to hit the track more frequently, include more tempo runs, and scale back my longs runs before I need to amp them up toward the end of August for my fall marathons. I want to have some goal 10ks and half marathons that I take seriously and taper properly.  August and September will be filled with miles so while I am free from a set schedule, I want to focus on having fun, building strength and pushing myself when I lace up.  And of course…I want to listen to my body and learn to chill out when the warning signs are being fired.

This can be especially hard in the summer because I have more free time..translation…more time to spend jumping into different workouts.  I love to workout in the morning and have the most energy at that time of day but when 4pm rolls around, I get another wave of energy.  I usually want to use this 4pm energy to get in an additional workout or a short run but I have learned through experience that if I make two-a-days a daily thing, my body will give me the overtraining warning signs.  I need to tackle the summer mindfully and make sure that I don’t go into ‘crazy mode’.

Here’s to a summer of enjoying the sun and time with family and friends, embracing the hot workouts, stepping up my speed work game and learning from my past whether it be from 3 months ago or from 3 years ago!

FullSizeRender (1)

“The past if your lesson, the present is your gift and the future is your motivation.”

Big Sur International Marathon 2017 Race Recap (Boston2BigSur)

Big Sur International Marathon and the final half of the Boston to Big Sur Challenge!

FullSizeRender 13

If you know you are not going to finish this novel of a recap…at least read the last three paragraphs.

All I have to say is WOW. This weekend, this race and this place are absolutely incredible.  The second we landed, I knew I had made the right decision to come.  I was a nervous wreck the week leading up to the race.  Was I rested enough? Should I run? Should I just stretch? Should I do mobility? I questioned everything.  Once we landed in California and made our way to Monterey, the nerves subsided and the excitement kicked in.

My mom and I arrived in San Francisco late Thursday night and made our way to Monterey the following morning. We made a pit stop in San Jose to do some Cryotherapy in an amazing facility…I tried to get my mom to do a session but apparently being enclosed in a cylinder of extreme cold doesn’t sound appealing to some people. Haha.

In Monterey, we stayed in the Casa Munras hotel and I highly suggest this place to anyone planning on doing Big Sur. It is beautiful, spacious and has the cutest patio and restaurant area.  We immediately hit the pool for a little sun and relaxation before heading to the expo.  The expo was only a half mile walk which is another bonus to the hotel.  The expo was small and low key which is obviously drastically different than the elbow-throwing trek through the Boston Marathon expo…and helps my bank account.

IMG_8701

On Saturday morning, I went for a morning shakeout run.  I headed in the direction of the expo but really had no route mapped out.  I ran past the expo and found myself on a bike path that lead to the water.  The views literally stopped me in my tracks.  I didn’t want to run too long but I also didn’t want to stop running.  I couldn’t wait to take it all in on race day and just let the views fuel my race.

IMG_1813

The rest of the day was relaxing and low-key.  I sat by the pool for a bit and then did my foam roll/stretching business in the fitness center so I could keep busy without getting too much sun.  We were then off to an early dinner, I got in a solid Normatec session and then it was bed…2:45am was going to come very quick!

IMG_1818

Flat Mel and Real Mel were ready!

Race morning started at 2:45 am with enough time to make coffee, pack my breakfast and get out the door for the 4am bus departure.  The bus was completely dark and it was hard to believe it was morning and we were about the run a marathon.

FullSizeRender 15

My fancy $11 Old Navy that I bought the day before was way to comfy to throw-away so I checked it instead. 

I ate my bagel on the bus (2 ½ hours before race time..getting better at this fueling business with a little help from Bethany #nochiaseeds) and chatted with the girl next to be who was from Turkey!  We arrived at 5am and walked through a wooded pathway to the ‘athlete’s village’ where their bagels, coffee, water and bananas.  I was worried about the whole sitting outside in the semi-chilly weather for a whole hour and a half but with good conversation with those around me, the time flew by and before I knew it, I was making my way to the start.  The marathon portion of the event is not very large (400-500) so there were no waves or corrals, we just went right to the start line and staggered ourselves based on approximate finishing time.  Even the start line was beautiful and we weren’t even in site of the water yet!

FullSizeRender 14

Miles 1-6:  These miles are where I get the most nervous.  You don’t want to NOT feel good this early on so you are hyper-focused on everything.  I was running with the 3:25 pace group but decided to slow and let them pass because I really needed to focus on running MY race.  I wanted zero expectations and I didn’t want to be squeezed in a crowd of runners while I trying to take in the scenery. There were a good amount of runners wearing their Boston shirt and became a good conversation starter which made the first 3 miles pass by quickly.  I was enjoying the conversation for a while but was ready to stop wasting energy and wanted to listen to my music and tune everything out.

Mile 7-9: I have to say, these are sometimes the hardest miles for me.  You’ve been running for under/over an hour so your body is starting to feel it a…bit but you also still have AWHILE to go. My outer hip/IT band was giving me some mild discomfort so bits of doubt were beginning to seep in and I had to just keep warding them off.

Mile 10-12:  I pulled the ultimate rookie move…or maybe it’s a veteran move…or maybe just a careless move.  I did not look at the course map/elevation prior to the race.  I heard rumors of some Hurricane Point hill but didn’t think much of it.  Well friends, it is NO JOKE. You just keep going up.  At this point the 21 milers were in the race and there were a lot of walkers and continued to be a good mix of runners and walker from this point forward.  It made for a lot of dodging and going around people but it also gave me comfort.  If I ended up having to do the whole ‘walk/run’ thing then at least it would look normal and I would have plenty of people to walk with.

FullSizeRender 18

Miles 13: DONE! The climb was over and we were making our way down…not for long though.  That halfway point is such a milestone for me.  I have raced many half marathons on tired legs or having raced a 10k the day before so I always tell myself that my legs don’t feel any better than that time I raced ______ half marathon.  Making this mental note really helps me fight through the middle portion of the race.

Mile 14-20: This segment felt similar to Boston and was surprisingly a mentally strong point.  I began to feel confident in my ability to finish and I just focused on chipping away at each mile. I wasn’t clocking amazing splits but I felt strong and had that gut feeling that no matter what happens, I’ll still be able to stick it out. Have I mentioned that the views were amazing?!?

FullSizeRender 9

Mile 20 – 24: I really do love mile 20.  YOU ARE SO CLOSE.  I said those exact words to some woman who was running next to me when we passed the mile marker.  She grinned and said that it was her first marathon.  How exciting! I asked if she was trying to BQ and she said that it was a dream of hers.  Her qualifying time was 3:35 and we were well on track for that.  I don’t know why, but I was just SO excited for her.  I wanted to push her to the finish line.. even though she probably felt stronger than I did. Haha.  Regardless, it strangely gave me a sense of purpose.  I made it a point to stay with her and even at one point she saw me trailing back a bit and told me to stick with her.  I knew right then that we had to work as a team and I wasn’t going to let her go. The few downhills in this portion were just what we needed to keep the finishing momentum strong.

Mile 25-26.2: I thought the minor incline at the end of Chicago was cruel….but this was just nasty.  I may have let out some profanity and big huffs and puffs.  The guy next to me just laughed in agreement..more publicly appropriate.  We stayed together and fought hard up the hill and when the finish line was in sight, he turned and said, “Let’s go!”….and that is exactly what I did.  I had a strong finishing kick and from that point on I was on cloud 9 for the rest of the day.

IMG_1851

I made my way to Boston 2 Big Sur tent where we were treated like VIP with the jackets, food, beer and just great hospitality.

IMG_1847

I didn’t want to leave and have it be officially over but I was getting a cold and the hotel pool and blue skies were calling my name.  After a couple hours by the pool and a delicious lunch and ice cream trip downtown, my mom and I made our way to San Francisco to rest up for an early flight.

It’s all over now – Boston 2 Big Sur Marathon Challenge is complete. I started training for Boston 2 Big Sur in NOVEMBER.  Not hardcore training, but started working with a coach, transitioned to running every day and no CrossFit.  Since then, it has been an INSANE ride.   Injuries led to over-cross training, exhaustion and the combination just brought me to a really low point.  I was physically fighting hard..too hard..but mentally I was angry, sad and wanted so badly to give up.  I HAD to change my mindset.  I HAD to gain control over my training and my mental state of mind if I had any shot of making it to Boston. I HAD to stop being angry and genuinely believe there was a reason for this and the underlying reason will ultimately make me stronger.

..and it did.  I clocked my slowest marathon time at Big Sur and Boston was not much faster but not a single part of me was disappointed.  Finishing one race, let alone BOTH, was the greatest accomplishment.  I finished both Boston and Big Sur with the BIGGEST smile on my face and so proud of myself.

9 months ago I finished San Francisco marathon in TEARS.  I was so eager for a PR, started off too fast and blew up at mile 16.  I still ran faster than both of these marathons but the experiences was completely different.  Chicago was a better experiences but that 3:13 time inflated my ego a bit and all I could think about was chasing another PR.

Maybe I needed to be humbled.  Maybe I needed to a reminder that finishing a marathon is an amazing accomplishment.  An accomplishment that I could not FATHOM achieving 3 years ago.  Maybe my mental game needed to be strengthened. Whatever the reason may be, this training cycle did all of those. I learned to run with my heart, ignore the doubts and just live and train in the moment.  After Chicago, I tried to conform to the way others train and this cycle was a reminder that I am different than others and I need to embrace my strength and versatility.

Lastly, I need to thank my amazing Mom who did her best to keep me optimistic throughout the last 4 months.  When I lost hope, she gave me that little bit that I needed to keep going.  Of course, I was jealous when she was going out for long runs and I was headed to the pool but I was so proud and excited for her.  I wanted to run Boston for many reasons, but to share the experiences with her was probably the top reason.  She supported my decision to do Big Sur, agreed to come with me and set up the plane tickets last minute.   Big Sur Marathon weekend may have been the best marathon weekend thus far.  It was only 4 days but it was an amazing 4 days.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL THAT YOU DO.

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND I CHERISH OUR RACE-CATIONS!