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January 2018 training recap

January 2018 training recap

Hot damn. January, you were fast.

Admittedly, I’m one of those people who actually likes the whole “new year, new you” vibe that comes with the territory of a new year, but I don’t particularly buy much into it. I’m of the mindset that if you want to make some sort of lasting change in your life, do it whenever you want; it doesn’t have to be a certain month of the year, time of the year, day of the week, or whatever. I mean, honestly, if you decide that you want to start running, there’s no reason why you can’t take that first step on a random Tuesday afternoon in April, ya know? That said, I do appreciate January because for a lot of people, it’s that kick in the pants, that “fresh start,” that they want/need to start chasing down big goals. It’s inspiring to watch and be a part of.

And yet … I didn’t really begin this year or this month with any audacious goals to speak of. After a very light month of running following CIM in early December, I knew January was going to be a return to business as usual: lots of commute miles with my kids, regular workouts, routine long runs, the SOP. Add to the running stuff a very busy month with my eldest’s school,  planning a big event for Girl Scouts, and lots of activity with her GS troop — it’s cookie season (yay!), but dear lord, it’s a labor of love — along with the usual life stuff, including potty training (which has gone really well, thankfully), and here we are, one month down and 212 healthy miles later.

part of this month’s 212 miles

Everyone’s busy, I get it, but when you’re a SAHM, it can be really easy to silo yourself away from reality and stay within the four walls of your home day in and day out. It has been really gratifying to feel like I am contributing in a very direct way to my community, to her school, and to the lives of many families right now, as cheesy or ridiculous as that may sound. Sometimes I wonder if I am shortchanging myself — personally and/or professionally — by staying home to raise my kids, but I think right now I’m at a bit of a sweet spot or at least approaching it. If December was mostly about resting and recovering post-CIM and post-holidays, January was all business, all the time, and an ongoing exercise in re-routinizing priorities again, both running-related and otherwise. It was a good month overall.

back to biznass

A funny thing about the commute mileage with my kids: I put a challenge out there to A that if she rode her bike to/from school for 15 days in January, I’d take her to a salon and get her nails done. She was totally on board from the get-go and actually, pretty enthusiastic about it. We had been talking about goal-setting a lot recently (see above note related to selling GS cookies), and I know she loves to ride her bike, especially after school, but sometimes — like with any of us — the motivation can be lacking. I am not that parent who is adamant about my child being in particular sports or activities, “following in my footsteps,” or even sharing in my passions, but it’s really important to me to instill in my children what a healthy lifestyle entails: in this case, playing outside more often than not. When we’re run/ride commuting to school, we’re not going particularly fast or particularly far, but I think it has become an important and meaningful (and enjoyable) part of her day, and like a lot of us can relate to, she often says how good/strong she feels when she’s done. That’s money, man. The new added challenge has been to practice addition and subtraction on the fly, which is actually harder than I would have anticipated. (PS She hit her 15 day goal!)

I’m obsessed

Sunday is the my first race of the year and the first PA race on the calendar, a 10k in Sacramento, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m not really certain where my fitness is, but I’m willing to figure it out. The PA races are generally a good time, so I’m looking forward to seeing what my team and I can do. It should be fun in a red-lining, uncomfortable way. 

just a handful of us (PC: WRC)

Aside from the commute mileage with the kids, most weekends in January I posted my long runs on trails, and I think that has helped my mental and physical fitness along. Trails make me care less about my pace and more about time on my feet, and I think — regardless of technicality — they can play a huge role in preparing your body to be able to withstand the rigors and intensity of training, for marathons or otherwise.  Plus, it’s so pretty. 

Sunday morning sunrise service (PC: Janet)


Different place, yet still the same pretty (PC: Janet)

The yin to the LR on trails’ yang has been running in ovals during swim practices each week, and that, too, seems to be working advantageously for me. It’ll usually shake out to one night being easy ovals and the other being a workout, and selfishly, it works fantastically for me because it means I don’t have to endure a 3:xx a.m. wake-up during the week. I can usually run my workout (with no/an abbreviated CD, depending on the mileage I ran during the daytime) and still manage to catch the end of swim practice.

If variety is the spice of life, I feel like my January’s running is like a veritable spice cabinet… or something. Tenuous metaphor. It’s past my bedtime.

…and when the oval is locked up, adjacent parking lots will do


Bring on February!


Reading: So many good books right now, some of which I’ve already reviewed here. If Our Bodies Could Talk was an enjoyable non-running-related read that I found completely endearing and entertaining; Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg’s Peak Performance was informative; and Joe Biden’s Promise Me, Dad left me bawling in almost every chapter. I’ve started another running-related book that I am honestly so excited to recap if for no other reason than I want more people to know about it and read it for themselves.

Writing: More, hopefully; that’s the goal, anyway. When I taught first-quarter, first-year college students writing, rhetoric, and discourse, I told them that writing is a skill that people tend to improve with practice. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll become the next pivotal American author, but you’ll probably find that writing frequently lends itself to lots of ideas and fodder for future writings. You write to … beget more writing, ultimately, even if you think your original stuff is trash. (It’s ok; we all think that). So often I say that I want to write more in this space, but I ultimately don’t. This year, my soft goal is to write something here once a week. I think I can do it and still be able to thoughtfully contribute to whatever the discussion is at the time (or not… I mean, who knows). I have tons of ideas; it’s just a matter of routinizing my writing as I have other areas of my life. 

Anticipating: The first PA race on Sunday and both my parents and my in-laws coming to visit in February. It’s going to be an excellent month.

Listening to: Nothing much, TBH; I kinda feel like I’m on a podcast hiatus and instead am just reveling in any silence that I can get.

Watching: Honestly, not much, again. Whenever I’ve had downtime this month, I’ve been more inclined to put away my phone and pick up one of the books that I’m reading. However, C showed me this awesome video from Burger King explaining net neutrality to people (weird, right?). If you haven’t watched it yet, go nuts.


2017: the annual report

2017: the annual report

At the start of 2017, I was about 16 months postpartum and fresh off November marathon and half marathon PRs, records that had taken a good three years (and getting pregnant again) before finally falling. For the first time in a long time, I decided to forego a spring marathon in the interest of doing short stuff. In essence, for the better part of the last decade, I had convinced myself that I was/am more of a marathoner than anything, that the discomfort from running 26.2 as fast as I could was more bearable than doing the same for 13.1, 6.2, or god forbid 3.1.

The stories we tell ourselves, or hey, let’s call a spade a spade and qualify it for what it is — the limitations we impose on ourselves — seem to have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. For years, I had all but purposely shied away from racing, much less training for, short distances because I was convinced that those distances just weren’t in my wheelhouse because anytime I did them, it just wasn’t enjoyable. Racing any of the PA races with my team was never an option simply because I never felt I was fast enough to do anything productive, lest I forget that I was always training for a marathon and always told myself that I “wasn’t in half, 5k, 10k, or (insert any other non-marathon-distance) shape.”

At any rate, I don’t know why I had decided that a spring 2017 marathon would be an unwise route for me to take — if memory serves, the only time in recent history when I haven’t done a spring marathon was in the throes of pregnancy — but in doing so, it left me with a gap to fill. I felt I was far enough along postpartum to begin pressing things a bit more earnestly, so going after the shorter and arguably harder non-marathon distances seemed to make a lot of sense at the time. Something unbelievable happened, too: I actually enjoyed non-marathon races. It wasn’t until after halfway through the year that I’d get back into the marathon, and it was in that opposing world where I spent most of my time training for the second part of the year.

When I talk about 2017, I can rattle off lots of statistics:

  • 2,501 miles run (not a distance PR, but just shy of the 2,56x from 2014);
  • several PRs (5k twice, 10k twice, 5 mile, marathon, XC races);
  • winning a couple races (SIB baby mama 10k, Hearts and Soles 10k, East Bay 510k);
  • running new-to-me distances/races (XC);
  • and having several non-racing or non-mileage-focused experiences that were still very meaningful (pacing SRM; spectating at BSIM, IM Santa Rosa, and my eldest’s first tri; participating in a Hoka Women Who Fly weekend; the tons and tons of stroller runs; and bike-stroller run-ride commutes with my kids).

I’ll be the first to admit that all that stuff matters to me, but when I think about my 2017, the connective thread between all of it is the community in which this sport enables me to immerse myself. It’s the community that made taking the plunge to do different stuff — stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise be so keen to do — more feasible, a welcome change of both literal and metaphorical pace. There was a time in my life when I’d sign up for a race; show up and do the thing; and then go home, both when I lived in Chicago and since moving to the Bay Area.

My 2017 was basically the polar opposite.

It’s the community in this sport — and the so many people with whom I got to spend time, train, and race alongside — that just makes me cheshire like a damn fool when I think about my running in 2017. Sure, notching personal bests (and working my ass off to get myself to a place where I can do that) is important and enjoyable, but the people, man. The people are where it’s at in this sport. 

Rather than belabor every lowlight and highlight of the 2500 miles from 2017, I think the more appropriate way to adequately express what I’m talking about — why this community thing meant so much to me in 2017 — is to show you.

A lot of my 2017 running, usually about 25-30 miles a week, looked like this, with A on her bike and G in the stroller. Run- and ride-commuting to school 4x a week was one of A’s best ideas in kindergarten.
big group training runs were the bread and butter of many weekend morning runs for me in the first part of the year. (shamelessly screenshot from Strava)


having Chicago training partner John in town for a day, even if it meant running 10+ miles in the pouring rain, was definitely memorable. We trained together for Boston back in the day through a pretty rough Chicago winter, so it was like old times.


the first PA race in 2017, my first 5k in forever, the first race of the year, and destroying a five-year-old PR by chasing after my teammates (Sam here) was a fantastic way to start the year, even if it meant running a bizarre course. (PC: CT) is one event I look forward to each year, and for the third consecutive year, I ran pushing one of my girls in the ‘baby mama’ division. I love this pic because you can see me mid-holler for my teammate, Julie, who’s about to go on to cinch 2nd in the 5k. (PC: Dave)


SIB is a guaranteed positive-vibes meet-up with lots of friends who inspire me daily: here, with Paula and her youngest son, as well as Meg and her daughter. (PC: Dave)


inspiration abounds at SIB, and the feel-good vibes from this race last for weeks for me. Incredibly, these pictures don’t even feature all of the Wolfpack racers from that morning. I love pregnant Janet in these pictures. (PC: Lisa/Wolfpack)


It had been many years since I had last raced an open 10k, and I was so happy to see a familiar Wolfpack face, Greg, at the Heart and Soles race (on yet another bizarre race course).


From within the first half mile, maybe quarter mile, at the Stow Lake Stampede 5k, you can see that I’m already trying to work alongside my teammates Sam and Claire. It’s pack running at its finest. (PC: Wolfpack Running Club)


going down to Big Sur is always a treat, and it was a lot of fun to be with Meredith as we watched Austin (visiting from PDX) finish his marathon and to see Robin (not pictured) and her team finish their relay.


I didn’t spend much time on trails in 2017, but when I was there, it was even better than I remembered. The views are always worth the work, and as with most things in life, the work is always more enjoyable when shared amongst friends.


And speaking of friends, sharing Monument Peak with Connie, Meg, and Char was so sweet. (Miss you, Char! Move back!) It was very cool to share with them such a special (and beautiful) place. This was from our first foray up.


Getting comfortable with the discomfort of the shorter stuff took several trials, but chasing friends and teammates (yet again) made it work: this time at the Marin Memorial 10k, and yet again, chasing Sam was to my benefit. (PC: Tamalpa RC)


an upside to running an inaugural half where I grew up, when I was visiting family in Ohio: my sister showed up with G and her youngest kiddo to cheer late in the race, and I ran into a friend from high school mid-race, seeing him for the first time since we graduated 10+ years ago, hence the mid-scream face here. It was a disastrous race for me, but not all running memories are about the times we post. (PC: Ben)


sharing a local race with my sister when I was in OH was awesome; she ran the 2 mile race with her BIL, while I ran the 5 and raced against a bunch of high schoolers, having a blast in the process. I can think of two times (ever) in my life wherein we’ve run together/at the same event. MOAR plz


one of my fav weekends each year is SF Marathon weekend, in part because I love the race and because I honestly just love doing the ambassador gig. It’s always so much fun to connect with runners who travel from all over the world to come race in SF, and race weekend is one of the only times I see many of my SMA buddies.


running into so many other local runners at TSFM makes the race so memorable each year, whether they’re also racing it or pacing it, as Sunny was here. (PC: Sunny)


after running with Chai and Saurabh so much during the first part of the year, during their IM Santa Rosa/my SF training, it was very cool to be able to spectate for their marathon at IM SR (and to see Saurabh cross the finish line). perhaps unsurprisingly, Strava told me they were my two biggest training partners in 2017.


I never ran XC in high school, but I’ve heard from so many people how fun it is. I finally got to experience that in 2017, and in doing so, I learned that XC (here, in Santa Cruz) is an entirely different beast. XC racing is hard AF! …but man is it enjoyable. the camaraderie is fantastic. the scenery? yea, also tolerable.


it was nice to finally be able to pace a race (for the first time in ’17 and maybe for the first time since giving birth in ’15? maybe?) and to return to the Santa Rosa Marathon to do so. being able to support others in their goals is deeply gratifying, and cheering on friends (Anil, Connie, and Meg here) in their big unicorn pursuits was just the coolest.


the SRM was a great day for my friends, and I was so happy to have such unfettered, front-row access to witness it all. I still find it hilarious that somehow the best, the only, nice group pic we got post-race –wherein we were celebrating Connie’s first sub-3 and 2nd F OA, Meg’s solid race, and everyone else’s experiences — is in front of the honey buckets. (PC: Connie’s husband)


I was/am so proud of her. Doing a tri was initially her idea, but the running was hard (and not enjoyable) for her. She dug deep and post-finish was greeted with her own little cheering section. She inspires me more than she’ll ever know or understand.


The one and only time I’ve ever bought a race reg off Groupon — and idiotically, it was for a half marathon very shortly after pacing at SRM and on a “the Bay Area is broiling” type of summer day. It made for a lackluster race, but the post-race shenanigans with so many teammates and friends (and finally getting to meet Angela and Jen) made the otherwise ‘eh’ experience completely positive.


This pic from the Golden Gate Park XC open reminds me that every starting line — whether it’s at the beginning of a race or at the beginning of a regular ol’ training run — is full of promise and opportunity. You’re never alone. (PC: Craig)


Taking a momentary break from PA races to periodically do a local race — here, Represent Running’s East Bay 510k — was a good way to connect with other (non-PA) runners and to promote our team. Lisa was lead bike for both the 5k and 10k, Andy ran and won the 5k, and Ida and I ran the 10k (and I got to break tape for the first time ever, which was unexpected and admittedly pretty cool!). I unfortunately hadn’t been able to do a single Represent Running race all year, so I was so glad to make the trek up to Emeryville to support a race organization that I appreciate.


Finally getting to do a RR race (the East Bay 510k) also meant that I could finally see many of my RR social media ambassador buddies whom I otherwise rarely see, like Christina and Brian. Between these guys and my WRC teammates, it made for a really fun race morning.


I hit the jackpot when Janet moved back to SJ and to (basically) my neighborhood. Early morning training runs became immensely more enjoyable (and much more documented!). (PC: Janet)


Winning a spot on Hoka’s Women Who Fly weekend was kinda otherworldly — I thought it was a scam! — and the entire trip remains somewhat of an enigma to me. The QT that I got to share with these other WWF recipients, in the backdrop of beautiful Santa Barbara, was indescribable.


Even when racing blew — and it did sometimes (here, at the Clarksburg HM) — in 2017 I made it a point to remember that there was always reason to smile and be grateful. Even if shit just sucks, simply being able to do this stuff is a gift. (PC: Impala Racing IG)


The last XC race of the season — Champs at Golden Gate Park, though on a different course than the GGP Open — was the beginning of the end of my ’17 racing exploits. Even during the height of all the nonsense surrounding my liver at the end of the year, when I was seriously questioning just about everything, I wanted to show up for my team and be there for them. (PC: WRC)


I started working under Lisa for CIM, and she challenged my running in ways that I couldn’t have done on my own. Celebrating with her and Oscar (whom she also coached) post-CIM, where we both posted PRs and ran strong races, was yet another reminder to me of how lucky I am to have found such a such a fantastic sport filled with such gracious and genuinely lovely people.

I’m not completely sure what I’m chasing after in 2018, at least not yet. I’m inclined to focus my year in much the same way as I did in 2017, by doing the shorter stuff in the first half and the marathon (SF, CIM) in the second half, but we’ll see.

What I do know is that I’ll be in good company again this year, and that in and of itself is pretty damn exciting.

Consider this your standing invitation to join in the fun anytime. 

(And if you’re looking for the complete 2017 racing index, here it is: Reach for a Star 5k; baby mama 10k, pushing G; Heart & Soles 10k; Stow Lake Stampede 5k; Marin Memorial 10k; Matchstick HM; North Canton YMCA 5 miler; The SF Marathon; Santa Cruz XC Challenge; pacing 3:33 at the Santa Rosa Marathon; Race to the End of Summer HM; Golden Gate Park XC Open; East Bay 510k (10k); Clarksburg HM; XC Champs; CIM).