Category Archives: Running

ECSCA 50k Race Recap

Hello…it’s me.

(clenched teeth emoji)

So…yikes. This has been quite the hiatus from the blogosphere, and I’ll admit I’m a little overwhelmed at the thought of trying to paraphrase ALL that’s gone on since we last chatted.

In a few words: a lot has happened over the past year, which is entirely related to my internet absence. I can’t make any promises, but I would love to recap this year, my training, and my upcoming goals at some point before 2016 starts. Time will tell, but here’s hoping.

But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because something crazy happened this past Saturday.

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I ran my first ultramarathon!

Most likely, you didn’t even know that I was training for or even considering running an ultra, and with good reason. I’ve been a diligent servant to the roads since I started running, I’m scared of big hills, and I only really started trail running this year. But, all those excuses are part of the long list of things that changed this year.

For the past six-ish months, I’ve found myself entranced by the siren sound of the trails. The running is more enjoyable, more rewarding, and exponentially more scenic. I recover much quicker, and I can feel myself getting fitter and faster. Do I still have big goals for the road? Certainly. But I’m discovering that what I once thought were mutually exclusive identities (being a road runner vs. being a trail runner) are actually quite complimentary to one another. I’m really enjoying it all, which ultimately lead me to the decision to forego a fall marathon for the sake of a new goal: a trail 50k.

I chose the North Face Endurance Challenge Series – California for a number of reasons, but namely because of all the rave reviews I’d heard from my friends who did it last year. Specially Julia, who ran it as her first 50k, could not say enough great things about the experience. Not to mention that there would be a deep November Project field attending, it was uncharted terrain (for me), and at sea level. No brainer all around.

My training for this race was easily the least diligent I’ve ever been while training for an “A” race. I mainly just followed a week-by-week schedule, never really planning ahead anything tied to certain distances or paces. If I’m being honest, for maybe the first time in my running career, I felt a little under-trained going into it; not horribly, but my longest long runs were 18 miles seven weeks out and 24 miles three weeks out.

Regardless, I was really excited going into the race and shockingly relaxed. I kept waiting to get overwhelmed with nerves and incessant butterflies (as per usual), but it never really hit me. I was mostly just amped and ready to spend a day out on the dirt. The lack of pressure to achieve a specific finishing time helped a lot too, not to mention the knowledge that I would be walking and hiking for plenty of it.

Enough already! Onto the race.

My goals (you knew I’d have ’em) were as follows:

  1. Run with joy
  2. Be proud of my race
  3. If things went well, finish under 6 hours

The race took place in the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco. The course traversed up and down the sweeping vistas along the peninsula, in and out of grassy farm pastures, and all around the Muir Woods. It was an enviable set up no matter what type of runner you are, and I highly recommend a visit to this area if you’re able.

We started at 7 am, which meant the sun was barely creeping into the valley when the gun went off. It was picture perfect conditions: 50-ish degrees, mostly cloudy, and a slight coastal breeze to ward off any glimpses of overheating. It would remain that way the entire day, and none of us could have asked for better weather.

My approach to the miles focused on two key things: maintaining my “coyote pace” (run like you can run forever) and staying mentally present. Remembering presence is not only a good distraction, but it really helps me to not get overwhelmed by how much more is left and to just enjoy the day. Sounds cliche (it is), but it works.

So with these thoughts in mind, we were off on a 31.1 mile journey! Considering the length of this race and the fact that I don’t want to water down its greatness with superfluous detail, I’m going to recap it in sections that stood out to me.

-Journey to Cardiac

Miles 1-8 of the race were a superb “warm up,” and I was entirely exhilarated the whole time. There was a lot of up and down, but nothing that was unmanageable. The rising sun was altering the surroundings by the minute, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the scenery and camaraderie. Everyone was amped up and so encouraging of one another. I loved feeling fresh, strong, and ready for a good day.

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-Cardiac

The longest climb of the day took place between miles 9-13, with 1,300 feet of gain up to the Cardiac aid station, and it was the part of the course I’d been nervous about ever since I saw the elevation profile. I’m not great at sustained climbs, and I knew mentally it would be challenging to be going up for that long.

I look less happy than I was. But I was! Also: views on point.

I look less happy here than I was. But I was! Also: views!

Turns out, this was one of my absolute favorite parts of the entire race! I focused specially on running a very steady, easy pace up and up the whole time, and I found that not only was I able to keep running, I was also passing people. I felt so good as I traversed up each of the winding switchbacks, and I tried to mentally preach to myself that I was a strong hill climber. Fake it til you make it, right? But it worked really well, and I’d say this was my proudest portion of the race. I made it the entire way up without stopping or walking, full of confidence when I reached the aid station on top (full elevation profile pictured below).

Muir Woods

Following Cardiac, we went into the woods for a long, long time. It was a lovely change of scenery as we quite literally dove down into a lush, shaded forest after spending hours atop the hills. I had a very love-hate relationship with this portion of the race. One minute I’d be thinking:

” I love this! My favorite kind of single track! This will definitely be my highlight of the race!”

Minutes later:

“Ugh, this is going on foreverrr. More wooden stairs?? When will we start going back already?”

So, some definite highs and lows in the Muir Woods. Specifically, there was one point where I was sure we were approaching mile 20 (my watch was showing the digital clock the whole time), and when the mile buzzed, it displayed “Mile 18.”

Womp womp.

But I pressed on, and I joined a little group of five men and women or so for the final 3-ish miles of the woods, which was wildly helpful. The terrain leveled out just enough to offer a big mental reprieve, and I pulled myself out of a low spot between miles 19-21.

Muir Beach to Alta

Miles 22.5-28 were definitely one of the toughest points of the race for me. I was so ready to just bring it home, but the big steep descents that we flew down at the beginning of the race were now ominous climbs, ready to taunt our already exhausted legs. My left IT band was tightening every time I tried to sustain a run uphill too, so I started an alternating pattern of hiking and running. I admitted to myself at this point, too, that I definitely could have afforded myself more hill training.

LIES. I was not smiling on the inside at this point.

LIES. I was not smiling on the inside.

We were granted a few big downhills along with all the ups in this section, however they were so steep that they didn’t offer much recovery for my already chewed-up legs. In terms of mental games, this section certainly required the most of them. Something I tried to remind myself of when I was overwhelmed with the obstacles, whether it was a climb, a descent, or just the overall time on my feet, was that I’ve hiked mountains for more than twice the amount of time I’d been out there. It might not be “running,” but reminding myself of the other high-intensity, high-vertical endurance endeavors I’ve done was a great confidence booster and calmed me down.

The Finish

The last 3 miles were almost entirely downhill, and although my legs were certainly not happy with the pounding, it was mentally very helpful to know that it was all down to the finish. And boy was I ready to be DONE. I just kind of let my legs go and catapulted as gracefully as I could down the big hills to the finish. We’d also met up with the course for the marathon relay at this point, so it was nice to have some fresher people around to share the ending with. I got a lot of “Yea NP!” high-fives, which certainly boosted my enthusiasm. I was moving pretty quickly too considering I’d already run almost 30 miles, but I was so close to being done I figured I might as well dish it all out.

The final quarter mile stretch toward the finish line was amazing. There were tons of people lining the way, full of cheers and woops and everything you hope for at the end of a big race. I felt really strong coming in, and full of pride for having just run further than I’d ever run before. Finishing amongst November Project people is truly the greatest way to finish a race, and I felt like a champion running through all their high-fives and screams.

“Finishing her first 50k from Denver, CO…welcome home Robyn Mayer!”

That was a highlight too 🙂

Numbers

I finished in 5:34:39, which I was incredibly happy with. Strava file tells more of the story.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

All in all, I could not have asked for a better first ultramarathon experience. It had it all in terms of playing on my strengths, highlighting my opportunities for growth, and generally showcasing the culture and joys of trail running. Not to mention my fueling was – I’ll just say it – flawless! I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to how my stomach and energy levels would do, but I’m mighty proud of the result. I never bonked and didn’t even have a glimmer of intestinal distress. I credit this to a superbly plentiful and nutrient-dense dinner the night before, ample hydrating in the days before and during the race, and starting to eat early on. I followed a menu of electrolyte drink, plain salt, PB&Js, and shot blocks the entire time, and it all sat really well. Sorry for the extensive nutrition tangent, but it is a big factor when it comes to super long races and it’s something I was really pleased with last Saturday.

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Adam ran the marathon relay!

A few days later, I’m still buzzing from the entire experience. My legs are just now beginning to regain some normal functionality, and I’m looking forward to taking some real down time for the next little while.

If you’re still out there reading, thank you! And if you are even considering the idea of running an ultra, I highly recommend it. I ran my first half-marathon in 2010, and at that point I could not even fathom running a full marathon, let alone 31 freaking miles. Even just a year ago, I was scared of and intimidated by trail running. Often times, I still am, but it has completely redefined both my respect and love for the sport. The opportunity for running goals and adventures spans a whole new horizon with trail running, and I’m really excited for all that’s to come.

 

 

 

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5k on St. Patrick’s Day Race Recap

Yes, you read that title right. I somehow went from not blogging about anything to writing race recaps about 5ks…?

Now is when I really wish I could include emojis in blog posts, because I would include the scared face with the white eyes and the blue on top of its head. You know the one.

No offense to the distance at all, I’m just generally not a short-distance racer – so I tend to equate a “race recap” to a half or full marathon. Regardless, this was a race I am proud of…so you get to hear about it, like it or not.

Let me back up first, because I realized I’ve given absolutely zero detail about how my “training” this spring has been strategized.

I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to run a spring marathon for a couple of reasons. 1) Our wedding is in June, and while running is a great stress reliever and I do it no matter the circumstances, I didn’t feel like intensive/heavy training would fit well into all the other to-dos that this occasion requires. And 2) I really don’t like spring marathons. They are always hotter than the temps I’ve trained in, and historically I just haven’t run that well in them.

So, a full marathon was out, and since I still wanted a “goal” to get my butt out of bed in the morning, I decided to focus on shorter distances and reclaiming my speed. My target race is a half-marathon in the middle of April, but generally I just wanted to think (for the first time) less about mileage and more about shorter, hard key workouts. My other “short distance” PRs were dusty as well, so I figured this spring would be a good time to do an overall refresh and reset on my running. The end goal, ultimately, being a faster marathon time (because they’re still my jam), but that can wait for now.

Anyway, onto this past Saturday’s 5k!

I was really pumped up for this race, namely for the fact that I really wanted to race it. The time on the clock was certainly a consideration, but mainly I wanted to focus on embracing discomfort and pushing through it. In researching race results from last year, I also hypothesized that I could break into the top 10 women as well. Game on!

I planned a light training week beforehand, and the morning of I did everything 5k-specific I could; a slow 1.5 mile warm up, activation exercises, and strides. Mentally, I treated it as I would another “big” race, including a lot of visualization of running strong and shutting down fear. I lined up near-ish the front of the pack (which with over 2,000 runners was not easy) and took some restorative, calming deep breaths. And then boom, we were off!

I knew the course started on a very slight downhill, followed by a slight uphill, and finished fairly flat. I told myself to take advantage of that first mile and not be scared of a fast split – which in hindsight was a good forethought. My watch buzzed right at 1 mile in 6:16…which might be the fastest mile I’ve ever run. But I felt great! My lungs were a little fiery, but it was manageable and I mentally checked out of mile 1 and focused solely on mile 2. And shortly after…things started to get uncomfortable. We were on that “slight” uphill at this point, and it felt anything but slight. I focused on maintaining my form, maintaining my position (although I had zero idea how many women were in front of me), and keeping calm.

I peeked at my watch a few times, but it frankly felt like too much wasted effort, so I just tried to stay strong. Closing out mile 2 (6:47), I was excited to finish the thing off, since I could mentally handle 1.1 miles to go. There were two hair pin turns in mile 3, which kind of threw off my groove, but they made for nice landmarks to focus on. I was also able to run back by the other runners coming out to mile 3 on the way to the finish line, and I got a wave and cheer from my dad and step-mom who were also running the race. I might have even mustered a smile, but who really knows what it looked like.

pain face, coming down the finishing stretch

Pain face, coming down the finishing stretch. Photo by Adam.

The finish line was closing in, and things were hurting. I had no energy to think about anything other than holding my pace and getting it done – so all thoughts of finishing place and time were completely out of my mind. As I neared the end, I could see the large clock ticking below the 20:20 mark – which was the first time  I realized that my goal of breaking my 21:05 PR was going to the crushed.

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I busted over the line, immediately stopped my watch, put my hands on my knees, and tried to catch my breath through the huge smile on my face.

20:17, 9th female overall, and 1st in my age group.

Leading up to the race, I was generally just hoping for a strong finishing spot and a 20:xx finishing time. This result was beyond my expectations for the day, although I won’t say it was beyond my expectations for myself. I think part of why I was excited for this chance to run hard was because I know there’s more out there for me to reach toward, and this result validated that I should probably stop limiting myself as I tend to do. I’m feeling encouraged and motivated after the fact – and somehow for the first time I haven’t sworn off the distance for another two years 😉

Additionally, since I was able to beat a record previously set at sea-level at 6,000+ ft elevation, I realized I need to stop sand-bagging myself with the “altitude” excuse. Sure, it’s a factor, but I think I’ve reached a point where comparing myself to my Seattle-self isn’t really relevant anymore. Which is exciting! I also think these last two paragraphs may have come across as a giant non-humble brag, but…just trying to keep it real.

I’m looking forward to what’s to come, both within the next few months and for the rest of this year. I’ve got the aforementioned half-marathon on April 12th coming up, a 10k on Memorial Day, and I might try and schedule another little race pre-wedding. I’m excited for the momentum shift that seems to have happened, and I’m hoping to capitalize on it throughout the spring.

Hope everyone had a good weekend! Hallelujah for the (almost) end of winter, amiright?

Ch-ch-changes

…hi

Yep, I fell into a deep pit of not blogging (and not even considering blogging for that matter), and I just now managed to drag myself out of it. There are a million excuses, per usual, but they’re all either not interesting, too personal, or some combination of those two.

The short story of what happened after Philadelphia goes like this: I recovered what I thought was a proper amount, it wasn’t, I was burned out hard, Colorado was super cold and snowy, we moved, more burn out, more snow, and now, at long last, I’ve finally started to feel motivated again. Unrelated (read: completely related) is the fact that my speed reappeared, and in a very encouraging way. I’m actually running faster now than I was during Philly training, which is really exciting given the fact that I’ve generally been a Grinch regarding my speed for the past year. However, I’ve finally started thinking beyond “getting back to where I was,” which is the mode I was stuck in for far too long.

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Mountain-top handstands for feeling BACK!

In this aforementioned year, a lot has changed in regard to my training and running in general. Chalk it up to the Colorado move, boredom, or just natural exercise-evolutionary process, but I’m not really the runner I was when I left Seattle. Most of it’s for the better, at least I like to think, but it’s generally just been a big overhaul. Here’s what has been going on:

I don’t run with music anymore

I don’t know the exact point in which this switch happened, but somehow I turned from someone who listened to music on 90% of their runs to a person who runs almost exclusively without music.

This still kind of blows my mind, considering the amount of panic I used to feel whenever music wasn’t going to be available for a run. When I first started in the long-distance world, plugging into my headphones and hitting the pavement went entirely hand-in-hand. Which I totally enjoyed; particular songs elicited different emotions, several of which I could tie back to either running or however I was feeling that day. My “running music” became the soundtrack to this passion I was building for distance running, and I enjoyed the background noise just as much as I enjoyed the miles.

Exhibit A: First half-marathon ever! Check out that i-pod arm band!

Exhibit A: First half-marathon ever! Check out that iPod arm band! Also, pretty sure I bought that cotton Target shirt exclusively for this race. Totally makes sense.

As most people can probably guess, running (namely, long runs) can get a little boring, which is why a good playlist can be clutch in getting the job done. I was no exception to this line of thinking, and therein spent years ensuring my little nano/shuffle/whatever was as well-prepped for the miles to come as I was.

But then, something happened. Namely, moving to a new city and needing frequent restroom breaks happened.

I run in the morning, and for most of the year, it’s completely dark out when I start. Living in a new place where I was navigating uncharted routes didn’t feel entirely safe with my headphones in. I would use the music on weekend long-runs when daylight was guaranteed, but for my early morning jaunts, I accepted that for the time being, it was safer to stay alert.

At the same time, I realized fairly quickly that my frequent need for potty stops and listening to music did not go well together. It’s a little hard to explain, but essentially it took all of my concentration to keep my digestive system calm and manageable – and even that hardly ever worked. Listening to music when I was dealing with an incredibly unpredictable and temperamental gut just kind of made me more wound up, and I found that when I was in desperate need of a nearby bathroom, having music on did nothing to help keep me calm. That might not make sense, but basically the combination of my irritable stomach and wanting to stay safe on the streets was enough to break my music-listening habits.

And now? I’ve remained unplugged, despite the fact that my location awareness and Crohn’s issues are much better. And I love it! It feels simpler, more purist, and I’ve found a love for the routine sounds that occur on a run: the pitter-patter of my feet, the friendly “hello” from a stranger, and the chirping birds as they wake up. I’ve tried listening to music again as inspiration to get me out the door, but I’ve found I almost have a distaste for it at this point. Even on long runs, when I am indeed bored and ready to be done, music just kind of annoys me when it’s on. Granted, this is partly due to the fact that I have more company now on runs than I ever have before (see third bolded statement below), but even when I’m alone – I much prefer the sounds on the run as opposed to the sounds on the ‘pod.

Look at me! Running a full marathon! No iPod! Booyah!

Look at me! Running a full marathon! No iPod! Booyah!

I don’t go to the gym anymore, and I don’t really cross-train anymore

If you’ve read here for a while, you might remember that I used to be a boss at doing different types of cardio. I would run and train for races, but I always incorporated frequent spin classes, lap swimming, and Body Pump classes. Seriously though, if you compared a week of training for me two years ago compared to a week now, the difference would be kind of astounding. In fact, for fun, here’s one from 2012. Stair stepper, treadmill, spin, swimming, and lifting all in one week?! I don’t really know who that person was, but since then I’ve either become a lot lazier or just less manic about being an A+ exerciser.

Nope

Nope

I cannot tell you the last time I went to our gym. The thought of going kind of revolts me right now, which is why I’ve somehow managed to do every single run this winter outside, no matter how slow and slippery it may be. Or, I just don’t exercise. It used to be that I wanted to get a good cardio fix no matter the medium (run, spin, pool, etc.), but now my disinterest in anything other than running has forced me to accept more rest days, which I’m really appreciating and enjoying.

Oh, and let’s not forget an important factor here: November Project! In some ways, I do consider this cross-training, considering the plyometric and body-weight emphasis in a lot of our workouts. But more than anything, no matter the conditions – I would always rather be outside with those people than inside either alone or with a bunch of strangers. The workouts are always quality, but the community and the camaraderie are what have really caused me to remove my “gym rat” name tag altogether.

But seriously. Sledding + running up hills with your friends > everything else

But seriously. Sledding + running up hills with your friends > everything else

One thing that I have reintroduced to my routine is yoga, which has taken on an entirely different role than it used to. Before, it was simply a check-list item which I begrudgingly tolerated since I always had running aches and pains, and I knew it would help ward off injury. But, I spent every class with my third-eye focused on the clock in the room, counting down the minutes til savasana.

Now, my practice has entirely transformed – and I find myself sometimes craving an hour in the studio more than an hour on the roads. I’ve been loving the trifecta of spiritual, physical, and restorative elements incorporated in yoga, and I love that classes can emphasize either one or all of those aspects together, depending on the day. Not to mention that I’m certain doing yoga (I’ve been going about twice a week) has been tremendously beneficial in my desire to run most days of the week. The balance between running, NP, and yoga has all my exercise needs entirely filled right now, and then some, so for the time being – I’m going to stay far away from the gym.

*for the sake of not jinxing myself, I wholly acknowledge that being injury-free has helped me avoid the gym

I run with other people now

This is easily the biggest change in my running, and I think the very best one. In fact, it kind of saddens me just how long I jogged along by my lonesome.

There were a few reasons why I never ran with people before, but mainly it was due to the fact that A) I had no running friends within the vicinity of our neighborhood, and B) I didn’t really know how to run with other people. That second point sounds weird, but the only running I ever really did with other people was for a fun run or a run before an event. Does that make sense? Never was it the pavement-pounding, boring grind of just getting a regular run done. I was too conscious of coordinating speeds, schedules (5 am typically doesn’t make you many friends), and logistics to attempt finding a training buddy. And, a big part of me enjoyed running alone. I could choose my own pace and route, and I wasn’t accountable to anyone else’s schedule but my own.

One of those blue-moon times when I would run with other people. Also, hi Seattle peeps! I miss you.

One of those blue-moon times when I would run with other people. Also, hi Seattle peeps! I miss you.

I’m actually going to write an entire post about this, so I’ll try to refrain from explaining more of my thoughts (and there are lots of them!). But, currently I run with someone else maybe 50% of the time, which is a HUGE change. Most of the time, it’s with this girl, who’s been a training game-changer in so many ways. But like I said – that’s a love letter for another day.

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Holy shit this is a long post. I hope you’ve made it this far. In fact, if you even opened up this post – thank you, I know it’s been while. I have to hit publish soon before this disappears into the abyss of drafted posts that are piling high right now. But, I do pinky promise to not let this be my only update until another three months go by. I do have more things to say and some races coming up – so you’ll be hearing from me sooner rather than later.

I’m also going to end with something I haven’t done in YEARS. And generally I don’t love to do this, but I am curious:

What is something that’s done a 180 degree turn for you in your running life?

 

5 Happy Things (for Friday)

Whoa, whoa…what? A post that isn’t a training recap or a race report?

Remember way back in the day when I would do Friday Favorites religiously every week? Well, somewhere in there I got busier and/or ran out of things to talk about. But since it’s been a little while, and since I’m desperate to help move this Friday along, let’s talk about some things that are making me happy recently. I’ve been in the midst of an upswing in terms of both running and health, and while I’m still proceeding with caution, it’s really been great to break through the clouds and let a little sunshine in. And I mean this both literally and metaphorically. Because…Colorado, obviously.

Colorado

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This really is a beautiful state. When I grew up here, I never really appreciated just how splendid and unique Colorado’s geography really is. When I moved to Washington, I realized that maybe I shouldn’t have taken all those years of being in the sun and near the mountains for granted. Low and behold, here I am again, and I’m trying to take in every beautiful view and day that comes my way. I’m anxious for adventures aplenty this summer, and I’m looking forward to experiencing this beautiful place to the fullest.

New Shoes

I spy...pretty blue running shoes!

I spy…pretty blue running shoes!

So, I’ve had shoe issues since last summer or so. I’ve been able to get by on rotating between a few suitable pairs, but I’ve been missing that running shoe magic. Since the few I’ve been using have been mostly getting the job done, I kind of gave up on my quest for a new shoe. That is…until one came to me. I’d had a few running friends mention to me (and by mention I mean rave about) the Adidas Energy Boost.

At first I was all…Adidas? Really? Pretty sure I wore their sneakers once in 5th grade and that’s because I liked the color. I’d never heard them in running shoe conversations before, so I was skeptical.

(Sidenote: never mind the fact that Adidas is the athletic sponsor of everything at the Boston Marathon…minor detail.)

Nevertheless, after 5 minutes of convincing in the shoe store and an A+ first run in them, I was a changed woman. I love these shoes. Everything about them. The cushion, the weight, the support, etc. They’re a bit of a change from the lower drop shoes I’ve been wearing for the past two years, but I don’t feel at all like my foot strike or stride is compromised. On the contrary, my feet feel way better than they have in a while. Not to mention the fact that these shoes are currently the best-sellers at just about every running store, and allegedly they last up to 700-800 miles. Wins all around, I love these blue beauties.

Moscow Mules

Change out of my running clothes for day-drinking? Nah.

Change out of my running clothes for day-drinking? Nah.

I’m a beer girl all the way. In fact, cocktails are the lowest on my preference list of alcoholic beverages. BUT, that’s changed a little bit recently, all for the sake of this yummy concoction. I know I’m late to the party, and essentially everyone’s known about this drink forever, but it’s still new-to-me and I’m crushing on it hard. Ginger beer, lime, and vodka-y goodness. Additionally, I think the concentration of sugar and carbonation in beer is a little rougher on my stomach than other libations, so this seems to be the safer route nowadays. Pro tip: try it with whiskey.

The November Project

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If you’re a regular Runner’s World reader, you may remember back in December a group called “The November Project” featured on the cover. It took a while for me to connect the dots myself, but the originally Boston-based group of running and fitness buffs has expanded their reach and grown to 17 different “tribes” throughout the country. One of those tribes is in Denver, and thanks to the encouragement and enthusiasm of this girl, I decided to try going a month ago.

Basically, the November Project is a free, twice-a-week group who meet up at local parks, city centers, etc. to get in a workout. I’ve gone four times now, and let’s just say I’m not only drinking the Kool-Aid, I’m close to injecting it into my veins. I love it.

Sorry for the drug joke, but seriously…the November Project is a game changer. I’m planning to do a whole post about it at some point, but essentially this group is exactly the kind of shake-up I’ve needed in my exercise and running routine.

I spy again...shoes!!! Also, I'm still sore from these.

I spy again…shoes!!! Also, I’m still sore from these.

This Weekend

Guess what! My best friend Anna is running HER FIRST MARATHON this fall!!!

(Anna, I’m sorry for telling everyone. This is a safe space, don’t worry.)

Senior year? Junior year? Either way this is a very sober picture. Maybe I should wear my hair curly again?

Senior year? Junior year? Either way this is a very sober picture. Maybe I should wear my hair curly again?

I think that I might be a little more excited about it at this point than she is, but regardless…she’s already killing it in terms of preparation. Case in point: this weekend, she’s signed up to run the Happy Girls Half-Marathon in Bend, OR. Which is all well and good, and then I realized that she was running it alone. As in…driving from Boise to Bend by herself, running the race, and then driving back.

Well that won’t do!

So in what was perhaps the quickest text-based planning session, we orchestrated the best Memorial Day weekend plan ever. This afternoon, I’ll be flying to Boise, tomorrow we’re driving the 5 hours to Bend, Sunday we’re running the race together then enjoying all the wonders (beer) Bend has to offer, and then on Monday I’ll be flying back to Colorado. The best, amiright? I’ll be running the race entirely with Anna, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

There you have it! Five Friday things. I’m so proud of myself for being so blogging-savvy today.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! Tell me something you like!

Updates!

Once upon a time, I used to write on this little blog more often.

Hey folks! I’m not quite sure where the time has gone, but somehow when I kicked up my feet after running Boston, blogging got kicked aside too. In its place came a lot of sleep, a lot of work, and a lot of food. I played the marathon recovery game oh-so-well, if I do say so myself. It was wonderful and it was necessary, and I’m really starting to appreciate the vegging-out period that comes with big races.

One last stolen photo. Running and smiling knowing that rest, sleep, and cake are on the other side.

One last stolen photo. Running and smiling knowing that rest, sleep, and food are on the other side.

Luckily, all that cake and sleep did a lot of good for my recovery, and I’m happy to say I’m back on the roads and feeling better than I have in a long time.

I thought it best, since my life has basically been a whirlwind of change recently, to provide some updates on just what’s going on in my life currently. Some might be super uninteresting, so feel free to skim, but this is what I’ve been up to lately (and why my blogging has been non-existent).

Work Update

Did I tell you all I got a new job? Like, three days after moving? It happened ridiculously fast and threw me for a bit of a loop, although I’m not going to complain about receiving quick employment.

See? I'm official!

See? I’m official!

Since I’ve settled in and no longer feel horrified every day of asking where everything is, I’m happy to say things are going really well in my work life. I’m super busy most of the time, but I really enjoy that. My days fly by, and I like feeling like I’m actually getting into a groove with my workload as opposed to merely dog-paddling through it.

I work exactly 7 minutes from where we live, which is also super convenient. Run-commuting perhaps in my future? I’m generally just really thankful to have found a job, that I really like, so soon and to not be relying on Adam for all my running-related purchasing (…and food and living and stuff, too).

Health Update

I’ve had some people ask me, so I thought I’d give the skinny on the current state of my intestines. And let’s get real, you all have been along for the Crohn’s ride for a while now— you’re used to it. 🙂

After Boston, my focus became to get my stomach and general health back in order. I had a bit of a set-back after we moved given the change in routine and general stress of it all (I’m guessing?), so it was time to get back to the doc.I found a GI in Denver that I liked enough, and once I gave her all the nitty-gritty about my shitty stomach’s history (puns and rhymes forever!), she came up with a course of action.

So, despite me telling her that previously steroids did nothing for my flare ups, she prescribed a small, tapering dose of Prednisone which she hopes will kick my regular medications back into gear. They were working before, so apparently there’s no reason they should have fallen off the wagon. I was hesitant, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Luckily, too, my charts all looked normal with the exception of higher inflammation levels – indicative of my current symptoms.

I’ve been on the ‘roids now for a week and despite some altered sleeping patterns, puffy cheeks, and emotional rollercoasters— I think they’re working. My stomach seems to be improving, and I’ve had two stop-free runs for the first time in months. Winner winner. I just hope that I’m able to seamlessly taper off the steroids and enter into a forward-moving health progression.

As always with these issues, we’ll see, but I have high hopes and fully believe that a positive outlook is directly related to increased healing power.

Running Update

Ah, running. You’ve been a fickle beast over the past 6 months.

I don’t need to recap all the complaining I’ve been doing since last November for you, but the short and long of it is that running had just been so hard. Honestly, since I was hurt and then sick, I could count on ONE hand the number of “good” runs I’d had…and it was getting to be so defeating. This thing that I loved so much and was so dedicated to had become such a chore and so frustrating. Running had never been as hard as it was for me, and between the constant emergency bathroom stops, the lingering IT band issues, and overall fatigue, I was wondered how I’d ever been (relatively) good at this sport.

Then something happened. I don’t know how or why, but within these past two weeks, my gears started to click again. My stride felt familiar, my legs felt strong, and running felt…good. Good! Like, really good. Certainly part of this has to do with the steroids and their impact on my stomach, but generally I think I’ve actually started to regain some of the fitness I once I had. My breathing no longer feels strained by the air, and I’ve found myself enjoying hills again rather than avoiding them.

I hadn’t been wearing a watch since I started running again after being sick, which I think was the only way I didn’t completely melt into sadness. But after being gifted with this beauty for my birthday (thanks fiancee!), I’ve started using the pace-awareness to keep myself a little more honest.

<3 <3 <3

❤ ❤ ❤

And it’s been great! I’m not keeping track every run, but I’ve found that with the numbers flashing at me, I’m held more accountable to not sink into my current easy pace and try pushing it a little.

Now, “pushing it” currently is equivalent to my former easy paces, but you have to start somewhere. And I’m thrilled to even be making a little bit of progress.

More than anything, I’m thrilled that—for at least the time being— running is starting to feel fun again.

Training and Racing Update

While I don’t have anything in the near future when it comes to big race plans, I certainly have a long-term outline of what my year will (ideally) look like.

I’m running Ragnar Northwest Passage again this year in July as an ultra team, so there will definitely need to be a step-up in terms of volume. I’m so excited to do this again! My base last year for this race was so much better than it currently is, so I’ll need to step it up in order to survive the 35+ miles of running in 24 hours.

Otherwise, I have very little on my calendar. Which I’m currently very comfortable with— because other than getting my numbers up for Ragnar, I want to make a very serious transition into reclaiming my former speed…and then some. I’ll write about this in another post, but after Boston (as in, a few hours after) a fire was lit…and it’s currently blazing. I love the feeling, I’m scared of the feeling, but I’m ready to get serious about the long-term running goals I’d like to achieve.

That said…I do have one more race on my calendar.

I’m registered for the Philadelphia Marathon in November, and after a summer of heat and speed training, I’m absurdly excited to take on an aggressive marathon training plan. I love fall marathons with all my heart, and my plan right now is to go all-in on this one.

But, that’s a long ways out. But, for the sake of this being a running blog, I figured I’d share.

And the best part….

Adam’s running it too!

Denver Update

We moved! Remember? I can’t believe that it’s been over two months since we left Seattle in our massive Uhaul.

Getting acquainted with his new home wonderfully. These windowsills are heaven for a curious kitten.

Getting acquainted with his new home wonderfully. These windowsills are heaven for a curious kitten.

Life in Colorado is generally going very well. It’s been great to see our families and old friends so often, and I’ve loved meeting new friends as well. Despite having lived in Colorado for most of my life, Denver still feels like a very new city and with that comes all the fun surprises and a general sense of novelty. The sun, the people, the atmosphere…it’s all very good.

Car picture, but look! Sunrise!

Car picture, but look! Sunrise!

I do have to admit, though, that I miss Seattle more than I expected. I suppose I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of how severing my Pacific Northwest ties would feel, but on the other side of it all…I have to say my heart is a little broken. I know this is perfectly reasonable given that Seattle was home for me for so long, but that doesn’t really make it any less sad to think about. I miss the water, I miss the people, I miss my favorite spots, and dear lord do I miss West Seattle.

We’re visiting in June and I’m euphoric with excitement.

That’s about all I’ve got in terms of updates! I’m hoping to write soon about my plan of action for getting my butt back in gear. I’m feeling good about it.

Happy Wednesday!

Boston Marathon Training Week #4

This is going to be the quickest post in the history of Run Birdie Run.

There’s just two days until we’re hitting the road to Colorado for the big move, and my free time is extremely minimal. Between packing (hate), saying goodbye to people (hate), more packing (double hate), and marathon training, I’ve been pinched when it comes to just about everything else. Including showering. But it’s temporary. I’m trying to hold myself together, but I’m sort of expecting a hysterical breakdown at any moment.

Nevertheless, training is happening, and here’s how last week looked. It was a good one.

Monday: 6.7 miles + lifting

Oh sweet, glorious Monday. This run was a game changer, people. I decided to wear my old shoes that I’ve shelved for the time being, and within just a few paces I felt light, quick, and efficient. It was windy and rainy, but it didn’t matter. This was the kind of run we runners dream of, and it was long overdue.

Tuesday: 2 mile swim

I remember nothing from this swim, and if it weren’t for my Google doc training log, I wouldn’t have even remembered what I did this day. Oh well, it happened.

Wednesday: Total Body Conditioning class + 8 miles

In a very uncharacteristic move, I decided to wait until later in the day to do my run instead of before the class. I knew it would be sunny later, and somehow a runch sounded better than getting it all done at once, which I typically prefer.

Shockingly, the class was way better than usual since I hadn’t exhausted myself by running beforehand. Here’s what the class looked like, compliments of my instructor who posts the workouts ahead of time. And I’m only posting this because the result was soreness in precisely every single muscle. Pain, so much pain.

3x
• Swings (hand weights btwn legs then in front of chest.) Optional hop up and down on bench. 0:45
• Single leg hip hinge with 2x row 8x ea side <— HAMSTRING DEATH
• Elbow plank with leg cross under 12x ea side
• Triceps extensions on 1 leg 20x

3x
• Alternating front lunge passing weight under leg and overhead 16x
• Side lunge to wood chop, optional knee lift 10x each side
• Bench pullovers with hand weight 16x
• Walking plank then double knee tuck in elbow plank 0:45

3x
• Squat with lateral swing – swing weight from hip to hip, bringing weight up and in front of body. Optional jump on the squat. 0:45
• Push-up with jack legs 0:45
• Double leg lower 12x
• Bicycle abs 32x

And the sunny run was all I’d h`oped it would be. Perhaps not quite as magical as Monday, but really great in general. Two good runs in a row, high fives!

Thursday: Yoga

Today was my planned rest day, but after the soreness crept in after Total Body Conditioning the day before, I decided I ought to do a little stretch out. Plus, I should probably stretch more often anyway. It was a good class and we did a lengthy pigeon at the end, which is really my only credential for whether or not I think a class is successful.

Friday: 50 minutes elliptical + Total Body Conditioning class

I was still so sore from the class on Wednesday, but it seemed like working those muscles again helped out some. I’m still trying to ease off the running at certain points each week, no matter how much I might dislike the elliptical.

Saturday: 18 miles

This was a good one, friends. I decided to explore the best running parts of Seattle while I still had time, so I trekked my way to the Burke Gilman trail for this out-and-back long run. It was tough, and around mile 12 I was feeling pretty tired. Luckily, thanks to a second wind, I ended up finishing feeling pretty good and strong. Pace was meh, but consistent. Oh, and only 1 bathroom stop…which is a significant improvement!

The best part about this run though was getting brunch afterwards with lots of my favorite running gals. I will miss all of them!

Photo courtesy of Nicole. And look at Baby Jack!!! You're allowed to be impressed with my posture.

Photo courtesy of Nicole. And look at Baby Jack!!! You’re allowed to be impressed with my posture.

Sunday: 5.5 miles + Jasyoga

Some recovery miles around Greenlake with friends, which was lovely despite my wonky legs from the long run the day before. And a great 1 hour long Jasyoga class, followed by mini donuts. As someone who’s fairly consistently eyeing the clock while in yoga (super zen of me, I know), I was impressed with just how relaxing this class was and how quickly it went by. Good stuff.

Total = 38.2 miles

Thing felt like they really started to click this week, which was encouraging. Recently, although I’ve been able to run, I’ve felt off-kilter. The best analogy I can give is when you’re changing gears on a bike and the gears haven’t clicked in yet; that’s how my legs have felt on the run. This week was different, and somehow those mismatched gears seemed to fall into their rightful place. I think we all know how satisfying that feeling is on a bike, and it was just as good on the run.

And also…two yoga classes? I don’t even know who I am anymore.

This current week has been pretty crazy, but somehow it will be ending with a 20 miler. If I manage to get to Colorado without an ulcer or the flu, it’s going to be a miracle. All good stuff though, and I’m grateful for the ability to keep up.

This post ended up longer than I intended, but I guess talking about running is more fun than packing anyway, right? 🙂 Fineee, I’ll get back to it.

Happy Wednesday!

Progress

I keep going back and forth on subjects to blog about. One day, I’ll be convinced I’m never going to run fast again and then want to vent all my boo-hoo frustrations to the internet. Other days, I’m so gracious to have (most of) my health back and to be capable of running at all that I want to shout tear-filled gratitude from the rooftops.

Basically, I’m in a state of limbo; wavering between discouragement and encouragement, frustration and optimism.

However, no matter what mood I may fall into on a certain day, there is one thing that’s undeniable when it comes to both my fitness and my health: there’s progress being made.

I got a good slap-in-the-face of reality the other day. After a very slow, very not-enjoyable short run, I felt completely out of sorts. How was I ever going to break free from my out-of-shape shackles? As I was throwing this pity party, it suddenly dawned on me that it had been one month since I started running again. One little tiny month.

Get it together Robyn!

One month ago, I was slogging out 2 miles on Christmas Eve, after just starting to feel better from my horrible flare up. Just over month ago, I couldn’t even muster up the energy to get off the couch, let alone exercise at all.

Needless to say, I was a little humbled that I had the audacity to call into question my current fitness level. Of course it’s hard, of course it’s slow. There’s really no reason it shouldn’t be. But, the mere fact that I am out there and am able to jot something in my log book is a bit of a miracle.

I admit, nothing motivates me more than speed gains, so it’s tough for me to go from running a PR in the half marathon to running slower than I ever have in my life. But that’s the way running (and life) work sometimes; we progress and we regress. And after too much regression over the past few months, ultimately I’m going to try and be glad for any progress that comes my way.

Here is some running progress that’s happened since I disclosed my plan for getting to the Boston starting line:

-I’ve been running 3-ish times a week, and I’ve done two “long runs” in the past two weeks. They weren’t pretty or effortless, but they’re stepping stones to getting my head back into regular running mode. I’m going to try another long run this weekend, and hopefully by the time I’ll need to log some big miles, my endurance will have returned some.

-I haven’t been wearing a watch or a Garmin at all, which is very very intentional. I wore a stopwatch for a little while when I first started back up, but I’m too hard on myself when it comes to speed that I realized the surest way to make my runs a little more enjoyable was to ditch the numbers. I have a pretty good sense of pace, so I know I’m slow (for me), but the other day a glimpse of running magic happened:

I was out on a run in the early morning and I saw BF coming my way on the other side of the street, on his own run. He was about the turn around, so on the way back I started to see him coming out of the corner of my eye. He was still on the other side of the street, so there wasn’t any communication, but with about a 1/2 mile til home — we both started to pick up the pace. No eye contact, no gestures, we both just channeled our mutual competitive natures. I kept picking up speed, as I was certain he was going to jet by me at any moment. But we stayed neck-in-neck, and somehow I was able to keep going faster and faster. I was able to outstride him as we got to the front door, and despite feeling completely winded, I was elated. It was the first time I experienced speed of any kind in so long, and it felt positively wonderful. BF, who was using his phone to track the run, said that our little non-race/race at the end had clocked in at a 7:05 pace, which made me smile for the rest of the day.

I’ve come nowhere near that speed since, but the memory of the feeling and the knowledge that the potential is out there gives me a lot of comfort.

-I’m doing any and all kinds of recovery tricks, and they seem to be working. I stopped going to PT when I was really sick, but I’ve tried to keep doing the rehab exercises I learned to help continue to heal my janky IT band. It’s not 100%, but with each strengthening session it’s feeling better and better. I also got a sports massage last week which was incredibly helpful. It hurt, and I was bruised afterwards, but I could definitely feel the effects of having someone really dig into my tough spots.  It was so good that I’m going back again tomorrow, and hopefully after one or two more sessions my lingering tightness will subside. The gal I go to can do 1/2 hour sessions, which is really nice for time management and my wallet.

So in terms of running—progress is definitely being made. I can feel the muscle memory coming back, and it’s encouraging to know that while I might not feel my best right now, running is a routine my body is ultimately very familiar with. The best metaphor I can come up with is that I feel like Forrest Gump when he has the leg braces on his legs and he’s trying to run away; the braces are there for a purpose, but eventually he’s able to outgrow and break free of them. So here’s hoping I’ll be breaking free of my current struggles sooner rather than later.

(I am not, in any way, trying to equate being out-of-shape to having actual disabilities. Please do not read that metaphor literally at all.)

Finally, the biggest progress that’s happened has been the return of my health. I’ve made some leaps and bounds in the last month, and I’m so very grateful that my body has bounced back so well. I went to my GI doctor for the first time since I was sick this week so she could look at my labs that were, you might remember, “terrible” when she last checked them. The morning after I got the bloodwork done, I had an email from her that said:

“Your labs all look perfect. This is a dramatic improvement.”

I was ecstatic—and doing way too many imaginary first bumps in my head while sitting at work. While physically I feel so much better, it was so reassuring to know that the science behind it all was showing the same thing. Again, I’m not 100%, but compared to how I felt before, I might as well be. My doctor is confident that the medication I’m on will continue to have bettering effects over the next few weeks.

So despite my occasional belly-aching about being slow and my actual belly-aching from Crohn’s, progress is definitely being made. I am ultimately so thankful to be sitting in a different place than I was just one short month ago, and I can only hope things continue this way. Admittedly, after injury and illness, it’s hard not to be scared of another road block popping up. Which it might. But until then, I’m going to do everything I can to keep getting stronger and pressing forward.

Progress feels good, and no matter how long it may take, it feels like I’m moving in the right direction.