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2016: a year.

2016: a year.

When 2015 closed and 2016 began, I wrote, rather snarkily, that my singular goal for the new year was “to go forth and kick ass.” No doubt that life is hard to plan for any of us, especially a year out, and especially when you’ve just had your second kid and are getting used to life with two kids, your oldest starting school, and the whirlwind of change that your body and mind goes through postpartum, so perhaps needless to say, I had no fucking clue how 2016 would pan out. Having done this postpartum dance before with running, I knew that it’d behoove me to simply take things a day at a time — really, that’s all that any of us can ever do, right? — and to not get too far ahead of myself.

The executive summary: my 2016 year of running, somewhere around 2010-2020 miles, was fantastic, though at times, it was shitty. Racing and training was arguably better in 2016 than it’s ever been, depending on how you slice it, and most importantly — and I do mean most importantly — the miles, the training, the racing, all of it was injury-free. I can’t ask for more than that.

Some highlights and lowlights from the year, in no particular order:

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Running trails more frequently. I’m incredibly fortunate to live in an area of the country that has basically perfect running weather year-round and one that’s also home to a rich array of trails. While many parks and preserves require a decent drive from where I live, Monument Peak and Alum Rock are both very nearly in my backyard, and I spent more time running in both and AR and MP this year than in years past. Whether I was running with the baby through parts of AR with Wolfpack teammate Janet or going long with Saurabh and company on their 50k/50mi/100k training runs through Monument Peak (et al), I’ve come to the realization again and again that trail running is just good for the soul. It may sound like hippy-dippy-nonsense shit, but god is it true. I love roads, I love running as fast as I can and racing to exhaustion, but there really is something to be said for chasing elevation for a change and hauling ass up what seems like veritable Everests so you can experience a piece of the world that’s inaccessible otherwise. And — practically speaking — I’m convinced that the trails and hills made me faster on roads, helped keep me healthy, and got me strong as I worked on my strength in this first year postpartum.   

what up, Monument Peak
what up, Monument Peak
Mission-bound
Mission-bound

Tons of stroller miles with one/both of the girls. I spent tons of time on the road with one or both of my girls in 2016, either for regular ol’ training runs or “commuting” (to/from school drop-offs/pick-ups). Stroller running makes the already challenging motion of running much more difficult, no doubt, but it also makes it a lot more fun (usually). These days, when I ask the baby if she wants to go for a run, she basically drops whatever she’s doing and has a big smile on her face and runs in the direction of the stroller. Big Sis will often ask to go on a run with me, big smile across her face, too, so I feel like I’m doing something right here. I don’t push my kids to like this sport just because I do, but it’s nice to know that they’re growing up knowing that regular physical activity is part of a normal/healthy lifestyle.

these two
these two

Volunteering and spectating at RNR SJ and CIM with Big Sis. I love racing, but I think spectating comes in at a very close second. Again this year, Big Sis and I volunteered with Wolfpack as course monitors along the RocknRoll San Jose course. Doing so allowed us to keep the runners safe (natch) while we cheered and cowbelled our little hearts out. There’s no shame in my game, here: I can’t tell you how much I teared up watching Big Sis cheer her heart out for the runners, and the joy on her face when runners veered over to her for side-5s couldn’t have been more perfect. In December, we trekked up to Sac to spectate and cheer at mile 21 at CIM. It was a perfect day for a marathon, and we got to spend part of the morning with Paula while we all cheered and cowbelled so hard that one of us (ahem) began to feel very, very faint. If you ever want to make a five year-old’s day at a race, take two steps outside the tangent to give her/him a side-5.

RNR SJ '16
RNR SJ ’16
mi 21 at CIM '16
mi 21 at CIM ’16

Racing in FL over a girls’ weekend with my mom, sister, and sister-in-law. Over my sister’s birthday weekend, she, our mother, and my sister-in-law and I all flew to Jacksonville, FL, for a girls’ weekend away at the beach. I had won an entry to a half marathon there, and the weekend shook out to be about 95% R&R and 5% running. It’s rare that I get quality time with my family sans children running underfoot, and it was just a wonderful weekend away. Bonus: I ran my second-fastest HM ever, and as a workout, so I got a boost of confidence for my autumn marathon training.

family shot!
family shot!
steps from the finish line in the godforsaken sand
steps from the finish line in the godforsaken sand

Tying my marathon PR at 7 mos postpartum and then breaking my PR at 15 mos. PP. I took a bit of a leap of faith and decided to race my first marathon at 7 mos. PP in Modesto, and the training and race fared much better than I anticipated, resulting in my basically tying my PR. About seven months later, the universe aligned even better, and I finally broke my three-year-old marathon PR at Two Cities Marathon while having a good time downstate with Meredith. At TCM, I raced feeling calmer and stronger than ever before, and I am stoked to see how I can continue to improve.

P-fucking-R Cityyyyyyyy
P-fucking-R Cityyyyyyyy

Pacing a first-time marathoner to a 3:30 (and BQ). I had a rare opportunity to run an inaugural marathon and also help unofficially pace a first-time marathoner, and it was the perfect way for me to approach a marathon that I had otherwise felt a bit mentally burnt-out on. Sometimes when you’ve been doing something for a long time, you forget the little steps along the way that help enliven the process, and I couldn’t have been more pleased to share my 27th marathon nearly side-by-side with my unofficial co-pacer and friend, Chris, and his 9run6 friend and first-time marathoner, Alexia, who’d go on to finish in 3:30 — a BQ ain’t too shabby for your first marathon, gal!

Very unexpectedly PRing my half. Just a couple weeks after my marathon PR at TCM, I showed up to the Berkeley half marathon without any expectation or goal, and I was absolutely floored to destroy a three-year-old half marathon PR. I had long ago put that HM PR up on the shelf, thinking that it’d be forever untouchable, so I can’t even begin to describe the rush and joy that I get when I think of how that race went, how much fun it was, and how strong I felt from start to finish.  

another fun running adventure with Meredith and Meg :) so good to have some fun miles with these two this year
another fun running adventure with Meredith and Meg 🙂 so good to have some fun miles with these two this year
finish line pic!
finish line pic!

Getting a colitis diagnosis. This is a double-edged sword. After basically 7 years of “stomach problems,” with a couple pregnancies, international travel, surgeries, life, and everything else thrown into the mix, my GI here diagnosed me with a type of colitis that’d likely explain the incessant “stomach problems” I’ve been experiencing. With his diagnosis came medicine; with medicine came relief and an abatement of symptoms. It’s like science works or something. Crazy, isn’t it. +1000 to my improved quality of life.

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Getting a colitis diagnosis. The double-edged sword aspect is that I got a colitis diagnosis, one which I’ll have for the rest of my life, adding to my other autoimmune disorder gem. I spent more time in my GI’s office, peppering him with questions, than I did with any other practitioner this year (and probably many of them combined). After a lot of conversation with him and a battery of tests, he came to this diagnosis, and together we decided that the drug’s benefits outweighed its risks. Within weeks, I had relief. I hope that this colitis becomes just something minor to manage, and while I obviously am not keen on having another lifelong autoimmune disorder that necessitates daily medication, I am grateful to have a good relationship with my GI and have no trouble being my own biggest advocate. One of the biggest takeaways I have from 2016, maybe a subject for a future post, is that the relationship we have with our bodies is one of the most important relationships we’ll ever have, and it behooves us to advocate for ourselves accordingly.   

A DNS at the SF Marathon & at pacing Santa Rosa. That colitis diagnosis I keep talking about? Well, before we got it all sorted out, let’s just say it did a number on my running and on my day-to-day life. I ultimately decided to DNS at SF Marathon and to not pace 3:35 at Santa Rosa — both decisions I wasn’t particularly eager to make — because of how god-awful my stomach felt. I have only DNSed a couple times since I started doing this stuff in ‘07, but I absolutely knew that I was making the right call at the time. As runners, it can be really hard to swallow our pride and not follow through on our goals, but if we want to do this stuff for a long time, we gotta take the long view and think big-picture. Easier said than done, I know.

My 30 year-old cousin’s death. Not at all related to running, but very much affecting my life this year, was the death of my 30 year-old cousin. I haven’t talked about it here at all, and I’m still trying to figure out (six months later) how and where I can go with it for a post — because it matters — but my thirty year-old cousin died from a heroin overdose, leaving behind her 18-month-old daughter and her parents, my aunt and uncle, without their only child. Opioid abuse has reached an epidemic level in this country, and northeast Ohio is in the thick of it. It’s heartbreaking, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to read her obit, thinking that I didn’t actually get the call that I did with the news, or look at her fb page (again thinking that it’s not real), only to see a litany of RIP messages. Quite honestly, it sucks. As a parent, I can’t fathom what my relatives have to be going through. I can’t rationalize it, it’s beyond my comprehension, and every time I read a news story about heroin or opioids in this country, I get equal parts depressed and just pissed as hell. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of her, wondering if I could have said something or done something — I saw her not even 12 hours before her death — and my heart is shattered for my aunt and uncle. It’s awful. Running isn’t therapy, and no number of miles that I run will bring her back or make her not use heroin or hurt her family, but god have I ever hashed and rehashed scenarios like these (and others) in my head over so many runs since she died in mid-July.

The relationship that we develop with our bodies is a powerful one, and arguably, it’s one that many of us tend to take for granted. Once we get into the rhythm of running regularly, or running injury-free, many of us just assume that day in and day out, we’ll be able to wake-up, do our running thing, and get on with our lives. It’s often not until something huge interrupts our flow that we realize shit, a lot has to happen (on a macro and micro level) in order for me to run, and suddenly our presumption that our hobby of choice will always be there transforms into a sheer attitude of gratitude of being able to just do said hobby in the first place.

While (fortunately) 2016 didn’t beset me with any injuries, or really any niggles to speak of, as I worked to gain strength and speed in that first year postpartum — while also dealing with the shitstorm that was my stomach, and later, the anguish over my cousin — I guess you could say that I fortified my attitude toward running, both currently and in the long-term. I’m not a “have to” runner these days, nor do I plan to be one anytime soon. I don’t have to run. I get to run.

Having an attitude of gratitude toward this little hobby of mine no doubt helped fuel the fire toward getting stronger, getting faster, and just having a fucking ball out there in 2016. I didn’t expect to set any PRs this soon out from kiddo dos, and while those I set were of course awesome and special, most of my memories from this year come from all the “chop wood/carry water” miles along the way — the daily grind; the running with my kids; the trail adventures; the miles, roads, and routes that become part and parcel of my daily life.

I think I turned a corner in 2016 with my running. That said, I’m intrigued to see what’s down the road in 2017. More than that, though, I’m honestly just grateful to get to be on the road in the first place (cheese cheese cheese, but true). We’ll see what happens. I’m amenable.

Two Cities Marathon training (wks 9-5)

Two Cities Marathon training (wks 9-5)

This is such a good time of year to be an endurance athlete. It’s such a big weekend (Chicago, Twin Cities, Kona, IM LOU, Dick Collins, Healdsburg, East Bay 510, so many more I’m missing), and there’s just so much to look forward to and so many people to be excited for. It makes my soul sing! The air in the morning here is getting “California crisp” – what I call anything under 50 degrees – so while it’s still near the 80s, 90s, or even 100 in the afternoon, at least in the morning, it’s finally beginning to feel like fall (some days, anyway). So good. Every day of the year is a good day to do this stuff, but this time of year, it’s magical.

another autumn day
another autumn day

 

It’s been more than a while since I last posted any training updates for the Two Cities Marathon – which we’ll be staring down in less than a month’s time now – so alas, here’s a long overdue recap of how training is going. I’ll try to keep this short(er) and sweet(er) than my usual 2k+ word diatribes.

Picking up where I left off last time:

9 weeks out: 44.08 miles

long run: 16 with 10 at GMP (7:30, +/-). For not doing GMP in a while, this went fairly well (7:28, 32, 29, 19, 36, 23, 28, 34, 31, 17), even with the final 2.5 miles going straight into gusty winds. My stomach held it together on this run, too, which is basically akin to earning an Olympic gold medal. I’ll enthusiastically take it.

8 weeks out: 49.16 miles

speed: 10 miles with 5 at tempo (around HMRP, but I haven’t really raced a half well in forever, so I was shooting for anywhere between 7:05-13). I took to a park near home and lapped it to death, resulting in a map that resembled either a boot or a heart, depending on your mood: 7:04, 6:58, 6:59, 6:58, 6:53. Considering the last time I did a 4 mile tempo at the same park, and had to make an emergency stop in the woods so as to avoid the Big D, again the fact that I made it through this workout without that is a victory.

long run: a little over 18 trail miles (user error on le Garmin) at the beloved four peak run: Monument, “EMS,” Mt. Allison, and Mission for just over 3,600′ gain. So pretty up there. It’s always worth the work, and I’m forever grateful to tag along with Marc and Saurabh. It’s just so awesome and unlike anywhere I’ve ever run before moving here.

Regrouping at the top of Mission Peak before beginning our descent homeward
Regrouping at the top of Mission Peak before beginning our descent homeward

 

view looking eastward from Monument
view looking eastward from Monument

 

regrouping at the top of Monument Peak before going to EMS (right side) and then Mt. Allison (left side, with the towers)
regrouping at the top of Monument Peak before going to EMS (right side) and then Mt. Allison (left side, with the towers)

 

7 weeks out: 32.31 miles

-long run: 16 miles. No GMP goals, just time on my feet, with the run being made more enjoyable by company (Tri Geek for the first 4, Saurabh for the first 5, and Anil for the entirety). We also all randomly wore blue shirts on this run. I should have taken a picture.

No speed workouts this weekend because I decided to sleep in. Slacker.

6 weeks out: 50.58 miles

-long run: 15 with 12 at GMP (7:34, 23, 29, 33, 41, 36, 26, 43, 37, 37, 20, 15) with a good side of GI issues from miles 8-12 and a shit ton of mud. I decided to run in the Baylands for this, and I even recall thinking that the further I go in, the more likely it will be muddy, which will surely make the GMP feel a lot harder because my shoes will be getting sucked down into the mud (and also weighed down by it) … and yeah, that was a brilliant idea on my part. Mental training for sure.

-speed: about 10 miles with 5x1k at 5kRP (haven’t raced a 5k in a while, so I just used 6:35 as my pace based off a forever-old PR) with 50-90% jog recovery in between sets. Overall, this went ok: a 6:52 pace, 6:39, 6:30, 6:43, 6:27. I had some issues with getting the distance exactly right (my repeats were between .62-.64 miles each), but overall, for doing it a day after a big LR workout, I felt pretty good about it. This completed my first 50 mile week in a long time, which was also really satisfying. Healthy miles are the best type of miles.

5 weeks out: 50.36 miles

-long run 17 in stages (7.11 at 7:33 avg; 10.03 at 7:59 avg). Last Saturday morning, my kids ran the RNRSJ kids’ races, and on Friday night, a friend went into labor, so between the early morning races and the sleepover we had on Friday night with my neighbor’s three year-old, running early on Saturday just wasn’t feasible. I don’t like to break-up long runs, but I’d prefer getting the mileage in to skipping it altogether. The first run was way faster than necessary – I blame it on a huge adrenaline surge of trying to get in as much mileage as possible while everyone was asleep at home – but even with that, I felt pretty good when I posted the second bit that night, albeit with some bathroom stops.

almost at the end of the 800m kids' race. It blows my mind that she can run with her hair down bc that'd drive me crazy!
almost at the end of the 800m kids’ race. It blows my mind that she can run with her hair down bc that’d drive me crazy!

 

I think she was the only walker in her "diaper dash" heat :) (and yes, marathonfoto thinks you'll pay for pics of your kid walking about 5 feet...)
I think she was the only walker in her “diaper dash” heat 🙂 (and yes, strangely, marathonfoto thinks you’ll pay for pics of your kid walking about 5 feet…)

 

Another weekend without a speed workout – what should have been 600m repeats, I think – due to volunteering at RNRSJ in the morning with Wolfpack and my disinterest in running a workout that evening. An easy 5 it was instead. Better than nothing.

always fun times volunteering at RNRSJ
always fun times volunteering at RNRSJ with Wolfpack. Big Sis has done it with me for two years now and genuinely seems to look forward to it.

 

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she felt like a rockstar bc so many runners came over for a side-5

 

For the most part, training is going rather smoothly, and I’m happy with how things are going and how my body is feeling. As has been the case since I last wrote about my training, I’m still posting nearly all of my runs during the week with single or double stroller, and my weekend running is usually one day of the speed/threshold stuff and the other day as a long run. I’ve done more GMP work this cycle than I usually do, and as is often the case, GMP at times leaves me a bit terrified, wondering how the fuck I’ll be able to try to hold that pace for the race. I often feel like throwing down GMP mileage during marathon training is as much about the mental games as it is the physical. No doubt it can be intimidating, but it can also be a lot of fun. It shouldn’t be so easy that it’s effortless, but it’s also a little unnerving when it feels somewhat hard and like you can’t wrap your head around that pace for the marathon distance. Basically: I think I’m exactly where I need to be.

This training plan will have me max out around 55 mpw, which is a little lower than what I’ve usually done (closer to 65-75), but I feel confident that it’ll suffice. Historically, I haven’t had any problems handling the 60-70 mile weeks, in terms of injury propensity or family stuff, but it also necessitated a lot of 4-6am running during the week, and quite honestly, I’m just not all that interested in doing that right now. I’ll get back to that schedule eventually, but right now, I’d rather just wait to run during the morning daytime hours, with the baby, post-kinder drop-off and/or piecing my miles together with drop-off and/or pick-up. Having a decent percentage of my running volume as stroller miles means (aside from the fun quality time and the slight promise of some semblance of a morning nap) that a lot of my mileage is pretty easy and casual, which for marathon training is good. Back in the day, I couldn’t understand why you shouldn’t run hard and fast (GMP or faster) on nearly every run; these days, I’m pretty much the opposite. The easy days should be easy so that the hard can be hard. If it works for the pros, it’ll work for me. Pushing weight in front of me definitely helps keep my “easy” pace in check.

Life circumstances have dictated that I basically throw out the scheduled programming for weeks 5, 4, and 3 and rearrange things pretty significantly, so just like with anything else in marathon training, it’s a bit of an experiment of one and so far, it’s been fine. It’s amounted to breaking up long runs between a.m. sessions with (or without) the baby and p.m. sessions solo, post-bedtime, as well as front-loading a week to accommodate for family travel, in addition to rearranging things to accommodate for a scheduled colonoscopy that ultimately didn’t happen (grr! stupid false positive pregnancy test!!) and for two mornings of spectating/volunteering at RNRSJ. It’s all good stuff, aside from the thwarted colonoscopy – which I have to reschedule in a week’s time, ugh – and luckily, running is fairly flexible. It just necessitates some creativity and, when necessary, letting go when it’s just not feasible to get 100% of the training in. On that note, it wasn’t until about 7 weeks out that I started doing “the little things” more regularly, but I still need to routinize that stuff better. I feel like a lot of runners are in that boat; we’ll move the world to make sure we post all of our scheduled mileage for the day/week, but we somehow just can’t find the 10-20 minutes each day to get the rest of our body in tip-top shape. Working on it…

And finally, on the GI front, there’s not a lot of news to report. I’m still having the same issues, at about the same frequency and intensity, which sucks. Fortunately, the endoscopy, parasite tests, and lactose testing all came back clean – no worms or milk allergies for me – but because I’m still having issues on the regular, a colonoscopy is in order, which is shitty in both the literal and figurative sense of the word. I last had one when I was still in Chicago, circa 2012, and it didn’t offer any answers, so I’m not anticipating much this go around either, but it’s worth a shot, anyway. A lot of good news has come from all of this – basically, I’m really, really healthy; I don’t have any absorption issues; there’s no underlying systemic inflammation; more things I’m forgetting – so for as shitty as this stuff is (you’re welcome), all told I’m very glad to be as healthy as I am, inexplicable diarrhea be damned.

Good luck and godspeed this weekend, friends!!! xo