Most think of Medal Monday as a way to review a race/accomplishment you achieved that week while showcasing the post-race medal. However, this week, my Medal Monday digs a little deeper. This isn’t just a recap of a three-hour experience I had this weekend, but a complete change to my athletic focus and abilities.
This past Saturday I ran Whoos in El Moro a 25k trail race. The race was challenging with rolling hills (who are we kidding it was mountains), canyons and tons of single-track. I climbed a total elevation gain of 2,331 feet, ran downhills that were so technical every footstep had to be just perfect. I felt the warmth of the morning California sun, then the breeze of the Pacific Ocean. I did this feeling strong, confident and at times amazed at the moment I was in.
Now that the dust has settled, I realize this race meant more to me than just running around chasing goals. It renewed a love for running, for making goals, and most of all trying new things that seem to hard or to “scary”.
If someone would have told me a year ago I would move to Southern California and fall in love with running trails in mountains, I would have laughed really hard. I have always been an urban runner. I love running in traffic, through neighborhoods, even with the noise and smog. But there is something about the challenge of climbing a mountain, then running without fear (or at least trying) back down to the bottom. Both styles of running take a bit of grit and grace but more than that being open to fearlessly try something new.
Four months ago knew I wanted to take the plunge into trail racing. I researched races, and when Lauren told me about Whoos In El Moro, I knew that was the one for me. I honestly had no idea how hard this trail running training would be. There were definitely more days that were humbling then ones that were easy. What I didn’t expect was how grateful I would become for those humbling days. They opened my mind to understanding the why behind the missed goal which led to learning so much about myself. I have run 12 marathons and had humbling days before, but to be honest since I was so familiar with the ins and outs of marathon training, those days just felt defeating, and could be hard to turn around. As crazy as this sounds, trying something new like trail running, created a shift in me. Not too far into the training I began to see those hard days a positive instead of a negative. The hard days made me curious and I realized as a runner I could still learn and push to new heights (literally and figuratively).
So how did race day go? It was really amazing. I will post a separate race review later this week, but suffice to say it was one of the best events I have run and I will be adding this race to my yearly calendar. I went into this race with a plan. A plan to use the knowledge and experience I gained over the last few months to push through the climbs and run fearlessly down the mountains. I was shooting for a goal of 3 hours, and ended up pretty close at 3:12. Even though the last 2 miles I slowed down a bit, I realized when I was done I physically had a little left in the tank and could have pushed a little harder. I honestly spent most of the race, feeling strong, well hydrated and mentally tough to push through whatever came my way.
My main goal though was to see how it felt to trail run, see if enjoyed the challenge and wanted to come back for more. The answer to all those questions was yes. Even when it got hard and my heart rate was higher than it should have been I realized this trail racing thing is the perfect challenge for me. It requires so much physical strength, so much relaxation and race strategy. I have known for a while I am not going to be a fast 5k runner. What I do excel at though is the endurance it takes for distance running. This race gave me a taste of what is out there. I have the drive to continue to build the necessary physical strength and mental stamina so that I can continue to grow and get better at trail racing.
Where do I go from here? I will admit it, I have been bitten by the trail running bug and this only the beginning of the journey. I will put together a winter and spring schedule soon but at this stage I think I want to stick to mid-distance runs, such as a 25k and 30K. I want to get better and faster at this level before I decide about moving on to longer distances. I have another small race in a couple weeks and then I will focus on a recovery series. I want to spend some time hiking, doing yoga and strength training to build a stronger base. In 2017 I hope to learn more about making my running more competitive. I want to set new goals and push fearlessly to reach them. If I am able to podium in my age group that would be a huge plus.
The weekly posts will continue for the next few weeks and then may cut down a bit. But don’t worry, I still will share my journey of how I am going to Run Fierce and Live Fit.
This blog has been about my journey into trail running. I picked a race, set a goal and got a training plan. This is race week and the best part, I am actually excited. While the training is done, I still have one more hurdle to work through this week. A race plan.
It’s been a long time since I ran a race with a clear race plan. The last couple of years I haven’t really started a race with a finish line goal. Sometimes it was because I didn’t take my training seriously, sometimes it was because it was just a “fun” race, but there were other times the day or so before the race, I would talk myself out of pushing toward a goal. Goals are scary not necessarily because of the pain it may take to get there, but because of the risk of not meeting them.
This week though I am going to step out of that comfort zone and create a race day plan. I realize I don’t run as fast as I used to, and this is my first mid-distance trail run but that doesn’t mean I can’t develop a strategy on how to run on race day. A few weeks ago I decided it was time to race this event, not just run it. I have put a lot of time and effort into my training plan, so why wouldn’t I create a plan to execute everything I have learned in my training? I have decided on an A, B & C goal but more importantly my goal is to understand how my body works on this new terrain, with full effort. My plan will include mental notes of when to fuel & hydrate, when to push and when to conserve energy (based on a review of the course map and elevation chart), and mantras to help work through difference phases of the race. After the race, I will review my performance in an effort to set goals for the next big event.
What’s the next event? I am still not sure how I want to continue trail running. With my marathon history, the temptation is there to continue on my training and work toward a spring trail marathon or ultra…however I am not sure I want that just yet. I will use this event to race, see how I make it through and then try to figure out where to go next. Either way, race day is coming and I cannot wait.
This week’s training:
I mentioned this before, but the last few weeks I have been lucky enough to receive a bit of extra coaching from Ekiden Coaching. Here is how taper week went:
Random thoughts from the week:
**In case you missed it, I had a mid-week blog post, sharing my journey into embracing the yoga mat. This has been one of the most surprising part of my training season, and believe it or not I intend on continuing on with yoga and committing to a regular practice.
**CUBS WIN!!! Yes, this news could be a whole blog post, but to say I am excited would be an understatement. The Cubs are going to the World Series and I am beyond ecstatic. Good thing I don’t have a lot of running this week, because I will be glued to the TV for each and every game of the series. PS. This makes me so homesick for my old neighborhood. It figures, the year I no longer live in Wrigleyville, would be the most exciting year the neighborhood has ever seen.
**Racing outfit. I am still trying to decide what to wear for the fall races here. It is a bit cooler in the morning, but warms up quick when the sun comes out. Although, I did get my new Volée singlet and I can’t wait to put it to good use.
Since Whoos in El Moro is Saturday, for my next blog post I will share how it went. Send me all your good luck vibes.
A couple months back I wrote about my overstimulated mind and that I was on a mission to bring balance and a stronger presence to my running and everyday life. I thought I could go to yoga or incorporate meditation and that should do the trick. Guess what…it wasn’t that easy. Just like any new life change, you can’t “hack it” you must put in the work to see the results.
I live in LA where there are more yoga studios than Starbucks. When I first moved here from Chicago, I kind of fought embracing yoga, because I didn’t understand the appeal. Yes, all the cool kids here do it, but to be brutally honest, I never liked yoga. One day, when attempting a class that I was actually enjoying, I came to the realization of why I didn’t like yoga. I wasn’t good at it and I really didn’t understand it.
My body isn’t very nimble or flexible and it can be intimating attending a class with experienced yogis who flow through poses like an acrobat. I get lost when I am in a class where there is chanting or new age music.
However, I started to take notice of runners that I admired and one common thread I found, is that they all had incorporated some sort of yoga and/or meditation practice into their life. One of these runners is my friend Lauren, who put together my current trail running training plan. She is a yoga professional and she actually included yoga sessions into my weekly workouts. I finally was convinced I needed to bite the bullet and give this yoga thing a shot.
And so my journey began to embrace the suck of something I knew I didn’t really enjoy.
For the first few weeks I tried a few community yoga classes. One was very challenging. (I swear I lost my breath just trying to get through the poses so quickly) Another was a bit to slow and wasn’t holding my attention. Then there was the one with a group of flexible experienced yogis and I’ll be honest, I was too intimated by their Instagram worthy poses to get into my own rhythm.
Then I heard this podcast from Running on OM. I had been lucky enough to talk to Julia a few days before, inquiring about what she thinks is a good way to begin a yoga practice that I could utilize in my running training plan. She advised me to listen to this episode because her friend Rebecca Pacheco, could explain it better than anyone. And boy was she right…hearing Rebecca and reading her book was a complete game changer.
Rebecca wrote a book called Do Your OM Thing, and seriously everyone should read this. I have read it twice, and highlighted practically every chapter. It is just that good. In the book Rebecca breaks down yoga in a way I have never seen written before. She explains everything from the poses, the reasons for the practices, to mediation and the tools to embody the practices in your everyday life; all in a way a complete beginner or 20-year yoga vet will understand. Rebecca is also a pretty respectable runner and athlete, with a realistic view on how to incorporate yoga to make you a stronger athlete. Her explanations of “coming to the mat” use a voice and a tone that I resonate with. Once I wrapped my brain around this new knowledge, I knew I could head to a yoga session with a difference perspective.
Over the course of the next 6 weeks I visited Yoga studios around the west side of LA. (a lot of the studios will give you a 2-week trial session for a great price). I tried hot yoga, which I didn’t really love. (warm yoga=awesome, hot yoga=ugh) I tried the sparkly new studio that sells pressed juice and has post workout cool towels, and it was very fun but the classes were packed liked sardines. There was this small studio in my neighborhood where the average teacher had over 10 years’ experience so their teaching practice was less bells and whistles and a little more focus on form and lessons in a meditative practice. (spoiler alert, this was my favorite) I attended flow classes, beginner classes and restorative session.
The one thing I didn’t expect; they all provide a different purpose to developing a yoga practice. The flow class was a great workout (depending on the class and the instructor), the beginner classes help me feel less intimated by the poses, and the restorative, hurt so good but provided a strong lesson in mental toughness that I was searching for.
I tried a few on-line options and found some great ones. Lauren recommended Lululemon, which are free YouTube videos taught by some of their high level ambassadors. There was a good variety including ones which were a bit shorter and more convenient than going to a 1 hour session. I also found a couple great virtual options that offer monthly subscriptions such as Jasyoa and Yoga Collective
**One other shout out to all the unique classes that are offered in LA, such as rooftop moonlight yoga, glow in the dark yoga, and year round SUP yoga.
You can't do yoga in LA without dabbling into mediation. The Instagram pics don’t tell you this but meditation is hard, really hard. Sitting quietly and not getting carried away with random thoughts is a big challenge, especially when you think you might miss an email or a think of another thing to add to your to-do list. I quickly realized I couldn’t do this by myself, so I utilized an app called Headspace. Headspace offers 10 minute sessions of guided mediation. It doesn’t utilize mantras, but more awareness of thoughts and feelings. After a couple of weeks, I have incorporated this into my morning ritual about 2-3 times of week. It doesn’t take much time and I have found it gets me grounded for a good day. One tip: if you have the opportunity to mediate outside I found it works much better. It doesn’t get much better than deep breaths of fresh air while sitting on the beach.
So, where do I stand today? I have a few pros and cons to yoga.
Here are the pros:
Here are the cons:
Overall this has been a very enlightening exploration. I wouldn’t describe myself today as a yogi, but I do feel it is a practice I can and want to grow into. I have seen the benefits of this both physically and mentally. Having looser hips and stronger abs are physical benefits that will help my running and prevent injury. By learning a few fundamentals such as breathing through a pose, or settling back into a mediation after acknowledge a thought or emotion, I can push a little bit harder during a hard cycle of a trail run. I am recognizing when I am not as present as I should be during a conversation with a friend, and I am working toward not checking my social media first thing in the morning (boy that’s a tough one). The best part of this though, is that I am only touching the surface. There are so many layers to yoga and the benefits it provides I will continue to learn and grow for quite a long time.
The most important thing I have gained from this, is the understanding that a yoga practice isn’t only about the time on the mat. This is only where it begins. The enlightenment you receive in developing a practice can help guide you through all areas of life. I experience this with endurance running as well. Logging miles and hours on a trail can help find clarity, understanding and even a stronger heart. Yoga is so similar, I don’t know why I fought it for so long.
If you haven’t tried yoga and/or mediation do it. If you don’t like the class, don’t give up, find another one. If you want to be empowered by a beautiful soul, read this book.
Hard, easy, Hard easy….its a pretty basic concept right? Well, yes in theory, but as runners we all know some days it just isn’t that simple.
This week was the peak week of my training plan. Peak week, or aka run a ton of miles in one week. Now let me clarify, my total weekly mileage for this training plan has been bearable, to those following me on Strava it might even seem like it isn’t very much mileage at all. When I say bearable it is because I am used to training for marathons and this is only a 25k race. However, there is one big thing to keep in mind. The miles may be shorter, but the runs are so much tougher. Running in varied terrain with elevation increase that average 500ft on a long run day wear down my body much quicker than running on the flat surface of the Chicago Lakefront path.
When I headed into this peak week, my focus was to hit the mileage, feel strong and push when I could. In other words…run hard. Overall those hard runs went pretty well, actually as I recap my runs I realized I probably can push even a little harder come race day; but that is only half the battle of the training week. I had two rest days scheduled and I knew it would be important to rest. In other words..rest easy.
I have come realize during this training cycle how important rest is for me. Sometimes I have chosen active recovery, like yoga or an easy hike other times I have rested by the pool soaking up the vitamin D. Some weeks I have even needed an extra day of rest. This is one of the things they don’t tell you about getting older as a runner. It really does take a lot longer to recovery from a hard workout. I’ll be honest, early in my training I thought if I got stronger during cross training sessions or ate a great weekly meal plan, that would be the key to a quicker recovery. What I have come to realize is that those things aid with recover, as do ice baths, foam rolling, but none of that is a replacement for rest.
I recently read a blog post by an Oiselle Pro runner Sasha Golish about the importance of rest days. She spoke on “Respect Rest”. As runners training for a key race, we focus so much on the hard runs, doing everything in our power to hit the marks and pacing times. Why don’t we also focus on executing our rest days with the same respect? I am the first one to admit on those rest days I need to focus more on foam rolling, stretching, hydrating, reading books and getting pedicures. It’s so much easier said than done, when as runners we just want to push a little harder or rest less. However, when we don’t respect the rest our body needs we are set up for injury, burnout or worse yet, running on tired legs that feel like lead. With a couple week’s left in this training cycle, this is going to be a big take away from take away for me. Make my hard days hard, and my rest days easy.
Training this week:
*I need new road running shoes. I have been so focused on my trail runs that I haven’t zoned in enough to my easy weekday runs. They haven’t been the greatest feeling the last few weeks and I have realized it is because of old shoes. It’s been a while since I went to the running store to source out new shoe options, but now is as good of time as any. Let me know if you have any recommendations for a neutral road shoe.
*If you haven’t done so already, check out my race discount page. As a Bib Rave Ambassador I have a ton of race discounts to share for races from all over the country.
*As you might recall I previously wrote that I was exploring tools and ways to be more present in running and life. I have spent the last couple of months incorporating this into my workouts and daily life. Later this week I will post a special blog recapping my experiences. Check back and share your thoughts.
Earlier this week, in the midst of the 90 degree LA weather, I realized how excited I am for fall. (yes fall in Southern California isn’t quite the same). After my sweaty, hot weather training run, slightly missing the falling leaves and hoodie weather; I scrolled through social media posts of friends running marathons and other races this weekend. I am excited for all the racing that happens over the next couple of months, almost obsessive love for it. I love watching, cheering and supporting runners on during races, especially the marathon. It’s the time all the hard work from summer training finally gets put to the test. The thrill and the hope that the training you have worked so hard on will culminate to reaching your goals.
Over the last few weeks, I have been reviewing local events, deciding upon a few I intend on racing. This year I strategically chose my fall and winter races so that I can race them, rather than just run them. To be honest, i have spent the last few years, just running events and now I really want to focus on racing them. I want to set goals and see if I can meet them, If I don't meet those goals, I want to use that to build my training for the next event. This racing season I chose races that challenge me, but aren’t too long and exhausting and create a bit of burn out. I might build to longer events next year, but for now here is my list:
10/16 Pasadena Trail 10K Goal: 1:05 Top 5 AG
10/29 Whoos in El Moro trail 25k Goal: 2:55 Top 5 AG
11/12 Griffith Park trail 10k or ½
12/ Santa Run Venice
1/29 Phoenix Women’s ½
2/19 Palm Desert ½
For my first two races of the season I have set A, B & C race day goals. With my first race being just a few weeks away, I am developing a race day strategy for those events. Since trail racing is still a bit new to me, it is hard for me to gauge a finish time. Trail races have varied levels of technicality and elevation gain so it can be hard to set only pacing goals (or at least it is hard for me to grasp at this stage). My A goal is to hit a specific time, my B goal will be to place in the top 5 of my age group, and my C goal is to finish. I will see how those first two events go, then set my goals for the rest of my events.
To guide me through the last few weeks of my training schedule I have been lucky enough to get a little extra support from Ekiden Coaching. As a Bib Rave Ambassador I have been given the opportunity to be paired with a coach from Ekiden for a few weeks and I am pretty excited about this. Jenny, my coach is a great fit. She is an experienced trail runner as well as being a yoga and strength training instructor. I have shared with her my full training plan from the season and she will work to help me fine tune my last few weeks. I will still keep incorporating yoga and cross training with only 4 days of running. In return for this opportunity I will provide feedback to the company on the product and services they provide. So far I really like it and will provide a full recap in the coming weeks.
This week’s training:
**This next week I am taking the week off work. I have a ton of vacation days to use, and it’s a way to explore some of the LA scenes and eat at a few places I haven’t had a chance to check out. Follow along via my Instagram account to see where the staycation adventure takes me.
**Speaking of fall and food, it is really hard to wrap my brain around the fact that it is fall. Honestly I don’t miss the weather, but I do miss the food. Soup, Chili, pumpkin spice everything. When it is still in the 80’s eating those foods just doesn’t work.
**I really missed not being at the Chicago Marathon this year. It is the first time in about 15 years that I haven’t been there, running or cheering. Thank God for social media and the ability to keep in touch with all the amazing runners who did get to enjoy the day.
Do you have races plan for the fall season?
Birthdays. Some use them as a time for celebration, but I love taking the time to reflect and set new goals for the coming year.
To say this past year of my life has been all about change would be a complete understatement. If one would have told me last year in October, that a year later I would be living in California, missing the Chicago Marathon, becoming a primarily trail runner and dabbling in yoga & mindfulness I probably wouldn’t have believed it. My reflection of this year? Nothing turned out the way I imagined…and yet life is pretty incredible.
About this time last year, I had made up my mind I wanted to leave Chicago for warmer weather and started putting those goals in motion. I had a plan on where we wanted to live, and a way to find a job, but to be honest the rest of my goals and what I would “be or do with my life” was a blank slate. For those that know me, know I function better with plans, goals and a sense of structure. In this past year, I threw all of that need for structure out of the window. Although I didn’t realize it on my last birthday, I needed time to reset, breathe and find a way to “experience” life. I spent a lot of time focusing on being a student of life again, and not always being the leader/motivator. Taking that chance, has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life
The most surprising change has been my transition from road running to trail running. It has provided a new fitness challenge that I so desperately was craving, has opened my eyes to an amazing running community, and provided the catalyst I needed to “learn” again about running, instead of only running to motivate others.
Yes, I miss my friends and family (thanks to social media it’s not so bad) and some of my favorite Chicago restaurants. (LA restaurants are pretty spectacular too) What I have gained has been so worth the risk of change. This sounds incredibly clique, but sometimes when you step out of your comfort zone, you really can find the life you really want to lead. My life now is much more relaxed, I have been fortunate enough to make quite a few new friends, and living among the palm trees and weather is pretty sweet too.
To sum it up: the path this last year has lead me on, allowed me to let go of the things that weren’t serving me, and yet have found a new passion for what really does. I have discovered, this is what matters in life. Don’t hold on to something just to hold on or that is what you think is the right thing to do. Dig deep, find those goals and ideas that linger in that deep place, and go for it. Jump in with two feet and go for it. What do you have to lose?
With peak week approaching I did a lot of running this week:
*I didn’t make it to yoga this week, and I actually missed it. Can you believe that..I missed not being able to take yoga.
*I’ve spent a bit of time getting back to reading this week. I love to read, but have been so consumed by podcasts lately. I’m trying to find a way to squeeze them both into my life. For now, podcasts for running and commuting and I am committing to reading every night.
*I preordered the new Lauren Fleshman training log called Compete. I can’t wait to get this, as I am trying to dabble into setting my race goals with a more competitive focus.
A couple week’s back I mentioned I had a cool opportunity come up as an Ambassador of Bib Rave. It was delayed a bit, but starts Monday. Check back next week on my cool opportunity which will hopefully make my first mid distance trail race even more successful