The Home I Built Myself

Let’s be real: I’ve been all over the place these past few months.

Don’t worry, you won’t hurt my feelings by agreeing. I know.

I’ve been living this crazy-12-hour-day life where I go from teaching to coaching to CrossFit to Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve rarely found time to be by myself, much less write (hence the quiet on this blog). I’m working too many jobs. I won’t even begin to tell you about the emotional turmoil I’ve put myself in recently (I am fine. I’m just going to have a lot of fun stories one day).

So, I’m sitting here on my couch, trying to write, and I look down at my sore body.

Honestly, I am covered in bruises right now.

I have one on my bicep from jiu-jitsu; my thighs are perpetually purple from working on cleans and snatches at CrossFit. I have some weird internal bruising on my knees from the 12-miler I did yesterday. I am sore everywhere.

And, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve been this happy in a really long time.

Let me explain: I’m not saying people should hurt themselves for the sake of self-discovery. What I’ve said above is true, but I’m not some crazy masochist beating myself into the ground. I’m recovering, taking supplements, icing when I need to, and taking days off when my body tells me it’s necessary.

That’s what ended up happening Sunday morning.

I went out for what I wanted to be a nice, mellow long run. I just got an Apple Watch a few weeks ago, which has finally allowed me to start tracking my runs again. Perfect timing, since the Honolulu/Hawai‘i Conservation back-to-back marathon extravaganza I have planned is just about six weeks away. I figured I’d do some easy double digits and get back in time to go to mass then play disc golf with some friends.

My body, though, had other ideas.

I went out Sunday morning, new compression socks on and everything, and my body completely fell apart. My calves started aching and seizing within the first half-mile. My shins were splinting (correct? do I care?). My hips were sore.

Admittedly, I had a little bit of a freakout moment. Oh my God, I worried to myself, am I losing it? Am I no longer a runner? I’ve been pretty lax in my running once Cross Country ended. Yes, I’ve likely been running more, but I don’t know that I break into anything but a casual jog while doing so. Instead, I’ve been focusing my efforts on other sports. Had I gone too far?

I tried to breathe through the pain but ultimately decided to stop and avoid injury. I reminded myself that while I hadn’t run the previous day, I had done some intense BJJ and gone to a two-hour intensive Yoga class. I decided to listen to my body, walk home, and try again the next day.

So, at 4:30AM on Monday morning, I went out for my first twelve-miler in months.

And it was lovely.

No, it wasn’t as fast as I was running last year (I was booking it at a steady sub-8:30 pace in Nov 2016. Recently, I’m right around 8:45. This particular run was a slow build to 9:19). And, yes, it was much harder to run without music than it was in the past. My running had certainly changed.

The thing was had changed too.

My feet pounded the pavement down Date street toward Diamond Head, and I felt my hips sink down towards the ground just like old times. I began thinking through just how crazy these past few months had been. I had torn down an entire section of my world, and the skyline of my life had a hole in it.

Years ago, the hole would’ve terrified me. The negative space in the busy outlook of my life would’ve made me feel incomplete and I would’ve hastily built the first structure that stuck to fill in the gap.

I turned the corner to go up Diamond Head’s long incline, ducked my head, and leaned into the hill. Half-way up, I turned and, through a hole in the trees, saw the stars and a beautiful nearly-full moon over the ocean.

I stopped.

I took a deep breath and looked up at the stars. I smiled wide and realized that sometimes when your life cracks, it lets moonlight in and you see a whole new part of the night sky you had been missing before.

I said a silent prayer of gratitude for the abundance of beautiful things in my life right now: meaningful work, an amazing family (blood and chosen), passions that pushed me to feel strong and empowered. I thanked God for the run and the night sky and the moment I was given to appreciate it all.

And then I turned and began to creep my way over Diamond Head and down long Kahala streets. It was dark and empty– only a handful of us crazies were up running or biking this early. Instead, there was nothing but the road, the rhythm of my feet, and the run.

And it hit me, then, that running helped me build my first home: the body I lived in each day.

Ultimately running is nothing but me, my body, and the road. As I work through miles, I find a comfort in the very existence of my own being, as bruised and broken and slow as it is. This home, this body is so far from perfect, yet so perfect in its present state because it is really, truly mine now.

See, the thing is this is the first time in a very long time I am doing things solely for my own joy. I am running because I love it. I’m doing CrossFit because want to. I worked to continue my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training because I knew it was where I wanted to be. I’ve spent years building my world around other people– which I think can be healthy– but now, at 30, I’ve taken the reigns and am doing the things I want to do solely because I want to do them.

And that’s really exciting.

And I would have never gotten here without the chaos my life had survived.

We never know the outcomes of the decisions we make, but I still believe that ultimately they lead us where we need to be. We often can’t control aspects of our lives, but we can choose to be bitter or we can choose to move through it with grace and find joy.

Later the next morning, my students sang Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” with a verse I hadn’t heard before. It included the line:

And even though it all went wrong/I stand before the Lord of Song/with nothing in my heart but Hallelujah.

So, as the run allowed me to process these past few months, it also gave me the opportunity to see joy and grace in this home I had built. Everything else around it had crumbled. My body was bruised and hurting.

Yet, I stood at the top of Diamond Head on the way home, just as the first rays of sunlight peaked over the horizon, and smiled. I chose to find the Hallelujah of my aching body as it ran the road to redemption all the way home.

This Is What You’ve Worked For: Honolulu Marathon 2016

It has been, in truth, far too long since I last wrote. 

I have a whole list of posts on the docket– things I have started writing, things that explain my absence, things that have been on my mind.

I hope to get to them, I do. For now, here are a few thoughts on this year’s Honolulu Marathon.



Pre-Race Thoughts

The Honolulu Marathon always feels like a homecoming of sorts.

This is my third year running the marathon, and since most of my races involve a plane ride to new and sometimes different climes (last year’s CIM was a brisk 39 degrees for much of the race! Quite different from Honolulu’s consistent 70-85 degree weather), it’s nice to have a course that I’ve trained on all year and a race that I can run from my apartment as my warm-up.

This year, I admittedly felt a strange bit of pressure about the race. After 6 years of marathon racing, I’m pretty quiet about my races now. I might share a post or two the day before a race, but I’ll generally keep runs to myself, lest I set myself up for epic failure.

That wasn’t so much an option this year. After sharing my running journey with KITV, plenty of folks knew I was running. I’m not fancy or anything, and I made it a point to say that I didn’t have a time goal this year, but I wanted to have a good showing at the very least.

I’ve been running pretty consistently at a 8:15-9:00 pace this year, and I secretly had hopes of hitting another sub-4 time at Honolulu (my previous being CIM last year). I had come so close at the Kauai marathon, and Honolulu’s course is far less hilly. Still, I didn’t want to throw my hat into a ring I hadn’t trained for, so with the exception of my boyfriend Chase, I kept those hopes to myself.

I had a hard time fitting in my twenty-miler over the weekend. Cheesy, but I rarely get to sleep in with my guy since we both work early morning jobs, so my willingness to, say, wake up at 4:45 AM to run twenty miles when I could just snuggle with him, has waned. So, I did another mid-week long run, fitting in my twenty-miler after work on a Tuesday, 10 days before the race.

I felt good going into the race, but I’m always one for cautious optimism, so I got my bib and just hoped for the best.

Screen Shot 2016-12-26 at 8.42.36 PM.png

The photographer made me giggle hard. It worked.


Race Report

Admittedly, I haven’t had a race go this smoothly mentally in quite a while. After a nice two-mile warm up from my apartment to the course, I shook out my pre-race jitters and felt ready to go.

The highlight of my morning was having one of my former students find me before the race! She was running her first marathon on her own, so we talked story before the race started. That was exactly the kind of mental boost I needed pre-race: a reminder of the excitement and joy encapsulated in this sport, and the kids who help me feel this way off the course.

Some Key Takeaways From This Year’s Race

  • The Honolulu Marathon is just a really fun race. You see families running together, folks who have flown in in ridiculous outfits, locals just going out there to try something new. It really felt like there were more spectators on the course this year, and Honolulu does an excellent job of having great volunteers the entire way. For me, this is incredibly helpful as a runner. It makes a race fun and spirited, which helps me keep a positive mindset throughout the race. The Honolulu
  • I wish Honolulu had pace corrals and that folks self-monitored where they start. It’s probably my only small issue with the race. I always have to fight through folks who are walking and taking photos in the first few miles. Don’t get me wrong– if that’s why you race, that’s great! But please, don’t start towards the front of the pack! Move towards the back/sides so those folks who are trying to make good time have a clear path.
  • Still, the course is gorgeous and well-managed. Really, I don’t know if Honolulu gets credit for being such a well-timed and mapped race. Not too hilly, great weather (Hawai‘i is always unpredictable, but December is probably the best bet), fuel and medical stations well-manned and consistent throughout. I always feel like I’m in good hands with this race.
  •  This is me being an old race curmudgeon at this point, but knowing the really course pays off. For me, this being a hometown race really gave me an advantage as far as mentally preparing for what was to come. It was also a reminder that I have to study the course before I race! I used to be all fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, but I’m seeing now how useful it is to know what’s to come. Study!
  •  Train and plan for the toughest circumstances as far as fuel and hydration go. I had 5 or 6 friends talk about hitting the wall this year, and some folks blame watery Gatorade and humid temperatures. I was fortunate to miss this, and I think it’s for three reasons:
    •  I pretty much always train and plan for the apocalypse for Hawai‘i races– I don’t train with water or fuel so that on race day I run better than I train.
    •  The day of the race I follow a tip from my old SRLA race director: drink water and electrolytes at every aid station until at least the halfway point. This allows me to get ahead of any cramping issues before they happen. At the half point, I start assessing at every aid station what I think I need.
    • I’m very careful about eating and drinking in the week before the race. I start upping my water and sodium levels early on. The night before the race, I chugged some of boyfriend’s leftover Pho broth after my customary vermicelli bowl (thanks PHO’hana!), and I think the extra salt came in handy!
  • Racing without music is still the best option when I can. It sounds impossible to so many runners, and definitely was (and at times still is– I used it at Kauai when I struggled mentally) to me when I started, but I really think being super mindful as I ran helped me avoid cramping too.

I kept a solid 8:30-9:00 pace throughout. I was clocking right around 8:45 for the first 6 miles and decided if I could stay in that area throughout the race, I’d finish feeling good. Admittedly, the course generally flew by. My mental game felt strong, I smiled looking for folks I knew on the course, and just enjoyed the race. I was able to wave to and talk to some friends who were spectating, and see a few friends as I came back around from the halfway point. That’s the kind of stuff that makes racing really fun.

I finished at 3:53, 19th in my category, just shy of my PR and an 11-minute course PR! I think I could’ve hit a new PR, but since it wasn’t my plan, I didn’t push some of those early miles outside my general comfort zone. Plus, Honolulu is a hillier and much warmer course than CIM. So, I’m happy I finished with a smile on my face instead.

At the end, some former students were handing out medals. They clapped when they saw me. Needless to say, I lost it.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fhonolulumarathon%2Fphotos%2Fa.10151869536785928.1073741827.229185790927%2F10154681035270928%2F%3Ftype%3D3&width=500

Thanks Honolulu Marathon for the great photo!!


Reflections

At the end of the day, a marathon isn’t just a race, it’s the culmination of the months, weeks, hours of training you’ve put in to get to this point. Every mile you’ve run is a step toward the eventual finish line of the marathon.

For me, this third Honolulu marathon truly felt like a reward for all the hours of training. Every step of that race was built on other training runs I had put into that course. Every mile that I felt good at was a reminder: this is what you’ve built your body to do. This is what you’ve worked forEnjoy it.

As much as I’ve been trying new sports, I think one of the reasons I come back to distance running isn’t just about the space I make for myself or the meditative calm I find, but it’s also because there a few sports that so completely test whether you’ve trained and prepped for this moment. Running for that long is incredibly humbling. There is very little room for plain luck in a marathon. You need to put the hours in to be successful. No matter how gifted you are as a runner to begin with, trying to take down 26.2 is a test even when you do put in the work, much less without.

Is that, at times, difficult? Of course. But it also makes crossing that finish line only that much sweeter. screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-8-44-37-pm

God Meets Us Where We Are: On Running and Meditating

It’s been a crazy few weeks, and I know I need sit down to make some space to actually write for myself. EdWeek often takes up much of my writing time and brainspace.

Fortunately, over the break, I was able to carve out a piece to submit to OnBeing, one of my favorite programs ever. This weekend, they published my piece! You can read about running as moving meditation on their site. An excerpt:

A few months later, an acquaintance learned I was a marathoner and asked, “What do you think about while you run?” Without hesitation, I responded, “I meditate.”

I surprised myself. While I’d always considered myself a mindful person, I often had trouble meditating. I would get distracted by my phone, or bugs, or the wind, or how thirsty I was or how hot I was or a million other things. Running was not the zen, silent space I imagined I could meditate in. With my feet pounding and arms pumping, how was I finding inner calm?

I’m excited to push forward in my running, spiritual, and writing goals in 2016.

Rest for the Harvest: A Runner’s Letter to Winter Bodies

This past week, I embarked on a crazy attempt to run back-to-back marathons: I ran CIM on December 6th, then the Honolulu Marathon one week later.

I successfully completed both marathons, which is admittedly exciting and ridiculous. I’ll be honest: I’m proud of myself and grateful to my body for getting me here. I also know, however, that after such an event I’m going to need extra time to rest. I am trying to be okay with that.


Runner. Athlete. Warrior. Friend.

You worked this year. You threw your cap over the wall and decided not just to chase after it, but to leap over and tumble into a backflip on the way down.

So, you put your head down and you worked. You planted seeds and tended to muscles the way farmers tend to new sprouts. Your body was the garden now, and you were the farmer trying their hand at new crops. You nurtured and researched. You watered and wondered. You tilled the soil again and again, with each step hoping you were bringing something new into the rich brown earth of your being, pushing it towards bounty.

Then, you had no  choice but to patiently wait,  praying for rich harvest, hoping to be rewarded.

Yes, there were times of uncertainty. Times where you were unsure if you were putting your time in the way you needed to. You doubted everything: if the weather would be right, if you were watering enough, if the soil even had the nutrients it needed to begin with. You fretted over every weed of  an ache or when heated skies cramped your growth. You knew you had no choice but to trust the work you put in, and see what bloomed.

And you did that. One morning, as the sky turned light, so did your body, and you bloomed again and again. You reaped the harvest twice over, and it was sweeter than you could have imagined.

Now, though, winter comes, and everything folds in on itself. Everything curls into the folds of itself and seeks refuge and respite. Through some strange, silent, natural clock, the world knows that now is the time to slow time down and rest.

So, now, should you.

It is hard. The routine of hard work doesn’t fade as fast as the tan you gained working in the sun. It’s not some pair of gloves you throw off. You worry that the callouses you built and the sprouts you planted and the strength will disappear completely if you stop now.

You have to let that fear go. As before, you have to have faith in the work and training you put in. You need to trust that taking a moment to breathe will not undo the physical work you put in and that you will never let go of the mental fortitude you gained along the way.

Now, you need to let the spent soil of your legs regenerate. Let the fields of your muscles and sinews have time to heal. All farmers know this is as necessary as working the soil. You have to let the field gain back everything it put out with the harvest.

Don’t mourn the temporary breath, though. Celebrate in the fallow fields of your body. Learn to appreciate the gentle reshaping that comes with it. Love the softness that slowly seeps back into parts of you. Let yourself dig your hands deep into the rediscovered curves you lost, the places that were once hard and tight now made malleable. Smile as it molds in the heat of your hands.

Your body will be forever changing. You have learned that with work, with thought, with sheer will, you can remold it into the shape of your choosing. So, for now, smile as you choose healthy softness. Delight in the simple idea that you can rest now.

And be excited, because you know that someday soon, you will begin to grow again.

Running Home: Honolulu Marathon Race Report and Running Back-to-Back Marathons

Hey! So, as I wrote about a few weeks ago after PRing at CIM, I ran the Honolulu Marathon the next weekend! And it was crazy! And somehow I lived! It was a crazy week after and things aren’t as fresh in my memory, but I wanted to make sure I documented some things for future reference.

The Lead-Up

I flew home the Monday after CIM and felt tired and painfully sore. My legs kept cramping, and everything was tight. I could barely walk at some points, and stairs were ridiculous. Honestly, I was legitimately concerned I would be unable to run the race. How will my body be able to recover in time?! I thought. I was sure I would fail.

I knew that if I wanted to have a chance, though, I would need to push past this fear and not give up. I foam rolled every day and often, even using a muscle stick while teaching during class. I covered my legs with ice packs while I slept, mostly on my knees and hips where I had ached during the end of CIM. I stretched consistently.

I also immediately began regearing my diet towards building back as much muscle as I could. I focused on carbs and protein: a lot of teri-chicken bowls (a dish from Goma Tei that’s rice, chicken teriyaki, and an over-easy egg), green smoothies with flax and chia seeds, and any lean protein (mostly chicken and turkey) I could get my hands on. I also used dotFIT Amino Boost a few times during the week to try and aid in the recovery process (the UFC gym I train at loves dotFit, and they had a sale a few weeks back. I’ve been consuming this after every workout for the two weeks prior to CIM, as well as immediately after CIM).

On Wednesday, I ran a few miles to the convention center to pick up my bib. I had been walking fine that day, but a few steps into running I was surprised at how tight everything felt. My knees ached, and I knew I was going to need to loosen everything in my body if I wanted to try and run this. Even as I was running that warm-up, I was unsure if I could do this.

Still, once I got to the convention center and my body loosened up a bit, the mood there was contagious. It was full of folks who were so hyped to do this race, and I realized how lucky I was to live here and get to do it for an incredibly affordable price.  I decided to smile and give it my best. IMG_7681

The rest of the week, I just did my best to not get in my head, foam roll, and ice consistently. That was the best I could do.

 

 

 

 


 

The Race

Just some brief thoughts, since this race flew by fast:

  • I ran to the starting line from my boyfriend’s apartment– about a two mile warm up. It sounds nuts, but I’m so glad I did. It enabled me to stretch and start the race at my best
  • I found my friend and coworker Marc and his wife Si before the race. Normally, I’m big on solo racing (and I admittedly didn’t start with them), but I’m so happy I said hi and tried to be social. I think, as someone who generally has social anxiety, I tend to take these situations, make them an even bigger deal in my head, and shut out folks completely. Then I remembered that racing is fun, and I should celebrate with folks I care about!
  • It was hot. So hot. By the time we were at mile two, I was dripping in sweat (though I’m a generally sweaty person). I made it a point to get water and electrolytes at nearly every opportunity since I ran this race without any supplemental water.
  • There is something so wonderful about running a “hometown” race. Not only because you know the course so well (I make it a point to train along the course throughout the year), but because it’s awesome to see your home through the eyes of people loving it.
  • This was the first race I did entirely without even considering music till the last half mile. I’m proud and amazed that I no longer need it, since a few years ago I definitely would never think to run without music. It was extra great because I was able to cheer my fast friends David and Kali (who was amazing enough to shout for me as she had an amazing race and placing in her age group!), and hear my coworker Marybeth and her family cheer me on the course.
  •  I was pacing solidly under 9:30 (even an 8:35 mile at one point, though as soon as I saw that time I slowed my roll) until mile 19. I even had some crazy dreams about trying to beat or match my previous course records. That dream floated away at mile 10 when my legs began to ache.
  • My data is here, and you can see where the wheels started to come off. My legs started locking at mile 19, then completely shut down at mile 21 and crept to a walk-run. I thought I’d be upset, but I just decided to smile and enjoy the course when I had to walk. “This is a beautiful day to run,” I thought as I moved. Then, I saw a woman running who was talking to herself, and laughing as she apparently felt better about her time than I did. She inspired me and made me think of the first time I had run this course, so I worked to try and draft off of her as much as I could. I made it to mile 23 when some boys with icy hot appeared magically. Thank God for them.
  • I finished the race at 4:10, only about 5 minutes longer than my course PR. I saw stars after though, so didn’t take any personal photos. I walked about a mile away from the course to meet my boyfriend (I had asked him not to try and find me at the finish line since I didn’t know when I’d finish) and nearly collapsed. Thank goodness for him and official race photos.

     

  • I was surprisingly not too sore after! I foam rolled and iced a ton immediately after. I’ve only tried to run a few times after and definitely still feel pretty tight and sore, though, so I’m planning on taking it easy for a bit to recover from a ridiculous week of racing.

 

What’s Next?

Great question! Who knows?!

No, I’ve clearly given it some thought. I think trying to hit a 3:30 marathon would require more training and discipline than I’m willing to give right now. I obviously still love running, but I also don’t want to burn out on what I’d like to be a lifetime activity. I’ve been focused on marathoning so intensely for the past few years: first to get back into it, then immediately after to sub-4.

Now, I think I’m going to try and switch up my goals a bit. I’m considering trying to hit a 1:30 or 1:40 half-marathon time and try to start building more speedwork into my life.

In addition: I actually auditioned on a whim for a local production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and got cast as Tintinabula! It’s a small, non-speaking featured role (I think I may have a dance solo? Maybe?), but I’m so excited. I haven’t done a musical since I was 17. That will take up much of my spring, so it’s a good way to force me to rest.

 

Overall, 2015 was a very successful year for running and fitness. Now, though. We rest and celebrate. Happy Holidays!

Limitless: A CIM Race Report


 

Reflection

When I first started running, I had no idea I would ever come to love it as much as I do now. In fact, part of the reason in my life was because so many people– myself included– told me I couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. I don’t like being told I can’t do something. Most times, I make a silent covenant in my head and think, Oh yeah? Watch me. 

I know I’ve written about this before, but the biggest lesson running has taught me was not to limit my own potential. Once I ran my first marathon, my mindset changed from, “I could never do that,” to “I could try and do that.” It’s not about setting unreasonable goals, it’s about making a choice to test the limits of your brain and body because you want to see what will happen.

Running is about participating in a life-long experiment to see what I’m capable of. It’s about understanding that I may fail, but that I can always stop, reassess, and try again.

When I started this blog about a year ago, I was trying to get into the habit of writing more consistently. I was also hoping to document my running goal of 2015: to run a sub-4 hour marathon.

Today, I beat that goal with nearly 10 minutes to spare. 

I’m elated, for lack of a better word. While, in retrospect, my goal was fairly conservative (I’d run a 4:04 marathon last year), I can’t help but remember the girl I was five years ago, who looked at a marathon course and thought, “I could never do that.

Then, she made a choice and did. Then she did again, and again. Through blistered feet and aching legs, that girl ran. When it poured rain or she fell and cut up her knees, she put her head down, dusted off her hands, and kept running. When every voice in her brain said, “You can’t do this,” she remembered every step she had taken before, pounded her feet and roared back, “Watch. Me.”

So, when I crossed the finish line today, I was running for that girl. Me. Because I have to be honest: I’m pretty damn proud of her.


Race Report

Alright! Running! Yay! Final time: 3:50:28.

So, I’ll be honest, some of the reason I didn’t write much in the past few weeks (besides travel) was because I’ve been freaking out about this race. There felt like a million things that could go wrong, and I was worried that by setting this goal, I was setting myself up for disaster.

By the time I landed in Sacramento and got to hang with my family, though, I felt good. I’ve tried to be better about nutrition, so I’d been slowly increasing my carb intake (mostly with rice and, oddly, ramen since I was battling a bit of a cold) over the past few days. I had a small vermicelli bowl and tried to grab as much sleep as I could.

On race day, I woke up early to catch the shuttles to the race. CIM is great because you not only can get shuttled, but you can stay on those shuttles until the race starts. Warmth win!

Speaking of which: despite my fretting, the weather actually didn’t feel that cold. Certainly a few shivers here and there, but it was near 50 degrees when we started amidst some light showers, so I couldn’t complain.

The first few miles were wet and fast. It was mostly rolling hills that were clearly heading down. Still, the course was crowded at this point. CIM is a fast course, which means that while people are on pace, there was still a bit of weaving. I was trying to stay with the 3:55 pace group, but would lose track and get caught a little bit behind.

I realize now, this was probably a key struggle in my racing last year. Since I ran without a watch, I had no way to make sure I was starting my races off at a steady pace when I’m so focused on trying to get through. This led to lots of catching up later on previously. Glad I made the commitment to time this year!

Miles 3-6 were all pretty fast, and by the time I was at mile six, I realized I had long left the pacer and run an 8:30 mile, nearly 30 seconds faster than planned. Eep!

Part of me wanted to try and slow down. I’m a conservative racer and normally stay at a slower pace until the second half of the race. Most of my training splits, though, had been in the 8:30-8:45 range, instead of the 8:55 range it needed to be. I decided to see if I could stay in the 8:40-8:50 range as long as I felt good. I promised myself if I still felt strong at mile 15 (when the course really started becoming fast), I’d let it go.

Fortunately, miles 6-9 made me slow down since there were some solid hills (nothing compared to Kauai, of course, but certainly enough to make me be mindful of my running). Fortunately, I also took the time to prep this year by studying the course and had prepped for this.

All of that melted, though, at mile 10. I have to say: Sacramento’s spectators did not disappoint throughout the ENTIRE course. It was nearly as populated as LA, full of funny signs and adorable families and folks of all ages cheering us on. Mile ten was particularly dense, and as your round a small uphill, you can’t help but smile at all the amazing signs and shows of support.

I rode that energy for a few miles and ended up pacing at 8:35 all the way until the half-marathon point, including through the toughest hills on the course. This was… a calculated risk that I certainly felt later on. While I’ve been running 8:35 as my half marathon pace, I hadn’t considered it my marathon pace. Still, I decided this was the year to push myself and leave it all on the course.

At mile 14, I could feel myself start to slow, and was so tempted to listen to music at this point. I had run the entire race without music, but had my headphones in case I wanted to call someone or really was struggling.I made myself calm down and keep pushing, not wanting to call in reinforcements just yet. I ended up dropping my pace back down to 8:50 by the time I hit mile 16.

I’m a pretty nervous consumer of energy gels (I worry about stomach issues) and usually train without them at this point since I’ve had enough experience with Gu’s to know they work for me. I had taken in fuel at miles 5 and 10.5 I wasn’t planning on taking another gel until Mile 16 or 18. I decided I had more than enough gels to last, and took a caffeine Honey Stinger at mile 14.5. It worked, and by mile 16 I felt back on track.

At mile 16, I had a hard conversation with my body. “Body,” I said, “this year, if we’re leaving it all on the course, it means the next 10 miles are going to hurt a bit.” My legs flexed in momentary protest, but then buckled down and ground it out.

Miles 16 and 17 were fast for me (8:35 pace, and in the middle of Mile 18 I could feel my legs start to lock. I momentarily began to panic, but made myself calm down. “Don’t get in your head,” I thought. “You’re trained for this. Stay in this pace right now.” I took another energy gel and begged my legs to stay with me.

By mile 19, I was starting to feel it, and dropped back down to an 8:50 pace — not in my heart or chest, but in my leg muscles. I was nervous I was cramping, but kept telling myself to breathe and relax. “It’s  yours if you want it.” I kept thinking.

At mile 22, I started listening to music intermittently. I was really worried my pace was going to slow, and I wouldn’t make my goal time. Still, Sacramento’s crowds were so awesome, and the scenery so beautiful at this point, I had to stop listening and just stand in awe. I realized that I loved doing this– running– so much. I wanted to make sure I enjoyed it.

I ran mile 24 a near 20 second slower (9:10) for reasons I still don’t understand. Honestly. Was it music? Was I just not focused? I am still bewildered.

When my watch showed me my pace for mile 24, I freaked a little. I decided that, in these last two miles, now was my time. I knew that, unless I walked, I beat my goal, but wanted to see what I can do. Mentally, the last few miles are so hard for me because it feels like I’m so close but take so much longer than I want them too. My legs were starting to ache at this point, but my heart and lungs felt strong and I knew I needed to just keep grinding.

By Mile 26, I pushed as hard as my stiff legs would let me, and by the time I made the final two turns I was flying as fast as I could. The ending split was confusing (why have two different endings for men and women?), but I ran to the end and couldn’t believe what I’d done.


So, What’s Next?

So, I am actually running another marathon…. next Sunday.

Crazy, I know. I saw the races on my calendar and felt bad canceling Honolulu. So, I wondered if trying to do back-to-back marathons was nuts.

It’s not common, but actually not out of the realm of possibility. Emily Abbate’s story in Runner’s World resonated so strongly with me, that I know I want to try. I make these important caveats:

  1. While I PR’d here, I didn’t finish feeling so thrashed I can’t move. I spent much of the rest of today walking and feeling good, just tight.
  2. I plan to roll and ice this week to recover, with one run on Wednesday just to see how I feel.
  3. I have zero time goals for Honolulu. I just want to finish. Frankly, I might walk parts of it, and I’m fine with that. If worse comes to worse, though, I’ll drop out and not finish.

The thing is, I just really want to see if I can do this and finish, even slowly. I think I can, and that alone makes it worth a shot.

Hit the Beat and Go: Pre-CIM and #SpotifyRunning Gear Review

Check out my review of Spotify Running below!

So, we’re a few weeks out from the California International Marathon.

CIM_688x203I’ve been generally quiet about it, but this is my big chance to sub-4 a marathon. I specifically chose CIM for a few reasons:

  1. The course is known for being fast, however, it’s not flat like some marathons. Flats can get really boring for me, and I tend to get in my head and slow down. This marathon features some nice rolling hills as it nets a nice downhill.Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 11.59.51 AM
  2. The race is in Sacramento, where my older brother lives, so I’ll be able to hang with him and my family.
  3. It’s a generally cool race, with average temperatures in the 30s. Sound strange, but I love a cold race. I tend to do better in cool weather.

I’m nervous, but trying not to get into my head about it. Still, my mind has been firmly focused on running over the past few days, which is great because the awesome folks at Spotify Running decided to give me a chance to try and review their product!


Edit: I just found these photos. Besides the awesome things they sent, Spotify made sure it was well protected and included enough bubble wrap to either eat me or make a beautiful fashion statement.

The Goods

First off, seriously, thanks Spotify. In addition to the subscription so I could try Spotify Running, I also got some delicious trail mix from Harry & David. That Mesa Verde one is delicious, and I’ve been noshing on it pretty non-stop for the past week.

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They also sent me a Nike gift card, and these awesome Bose headphones. I ran with them today and was definitely impressed. They stayed in during today’s windy jog.

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The Product

So, I don’t always run with music. In fact, I’ve been training without it for a bit. However, I’ve found playing with sound useful on some shorter runs to make sure I either keep my pace up when I’m tired or just to help me enjoy a run when I don’t feel like doing it. Lots of studies show music, when used properly, can help with efficiency, so I see it as a nice tool to use.

When I opened Spotify Running app, I was impressed with its nice interface.

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(yes, I was listening to “Hamilton” while I was running earlier. If Spotify offered an “awesome show tunes” channel, I’d run to it)

After choosing a playlist (I chose “Latin Beats”) it prompted me to run so it could measure my speed. IMG_7487 I did, and it quickly put me around 185 BPM.

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Not the strongest song choice, Spotify, but thanks.

Initially, this is where I had trouble the first time I tried Spotify running months ago. No matter what speed I would run, it would put me at 180 BPM. Don’t get me wrong, 180 BPM is the goal for many, but it made me unsure if I could trust the app’s measurement of my initial speed.

Fortunately, those issues are gone. I tested the app at many different speeds and found that it was able to both detect when I was at a slow jog (around 140 BPM) and when I was sprinting (190 BPM). Any slower than that (say, a nice walk), and you’re out of luck– the app only stays between 140 and 190 BPM even when manually set, but then you’re probably not using the app at either of those speeds anyway.

A few other things to note:

  • The app will initially measure your speed, but it won’t adapt if you speed up or slow down. Slate did a great in-depth piece on this, and I agree: when you know how the works, it’s easy to be thoughtful and use Spotify running to its strengths. Tempo runs or sprints? This thing was great. It’s ALSO great for recovery. I used it today post my final long run to make sure I stayed at a slow jog throughout. However, if you’re just looking for something to read you while you go out on the road, this won’t continuously match you. If you’re not looking for something to keep you steady and more looking to run based on feeling, you may want your own playlist instead.
  • They have some pretty good song choices though it’s not perfect. I wish there was some kind of thumbs up/down function. I tried the Latin Beats playlist, which had some solid reggaeton and merengue, as well as the “Power Run” list, which actually exposed me to some trap and dubstep I don’t normally listen to. Then, I put it on the “Run This Town” list, which claimed the “freshest RnB and hip hop jams,” but mostly featured songs with dudes very graphically talking about what they do to women (and not always with love and affection). Not the greatest or most empowering music. Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of hip-hop and rap I love that, unfortunately, has really disempowering language, but this was 6 or 7 songs in a row worth. It got to be a little frustrating.
  • The app promotes “gapless playback,” so your music fades in and out. I don’t have strong feelings either way on this– sometimes I like it, sometimes I wish I could get to the end of the song. Still, it’s important to remember that, when you skip a song, it will take a second for the app to fade into it.
  • The app is useful for more than running. I went to the gym to do some weight lifting the other day and decided to try the app as a way to just keep my heart-rate up. I skipped the measurement and put the BPM to 190. Gym playlist was set, and the gapless jams were great to keep me hyped up in between sets.

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    Nice.

  • It will suck up your battery, which, if you’re an Apple user, is just a fact of life. This is why it would be hard to use this on a long-run, but I don’t know an alternative since, as mentioned, much of that is Apple’s battery life issue.

Overall, I was really impressed with Spotify running! I’m excited to keep checking it out as I move closer to CIM. If you’re looking for a way to shake up your workout or even find new songs to add to your own running playlists, I definitely recommend you take a look. 


Note: As mentioned above, Spotify running and 360i sent me material and products as compensation for my review. They did not, however, encourage me to review either way.

Run Your Race: Reflections After the Kaua‘i Marathon

I don’t usually write race reports, but I’m giving this a shot! It’s also included with a reflective post, so it’s less streamlined, meaty, and free-form than what I might normally post. Just to keep it clear:
Intro
Reflections
Stats and Race Report


An Intro

I landed on Kaua‘i expecting the worst.

Obviously, the island is gorgeous. It was muggy, but jumping into the car with my parents was a breath of fresh air I desperately needed. If I had shown up just to spend a weekend with them, it would have been a sense of peace, of coming home.

But there was this race to run. A marathon with a reputation: picturesque and full of aloha, but with heat and elevation that would demand your respect and push you to your limit.

So, I showed up with one goal: finish. Just get the darn race done. I was already nursing an aching left hamstring and twitchy knee. I had failed to get in a twenty-miler. This wasn’t a body built to win. I was here to enjoy the view and say I did it. If I survived, it’d be a miracle.

I’m happy to report that I survived and, surprisingly, did much better than I thought. By far the best part was having my parents at the end.


Reflection

I had a lot to think about this race. With school getting into swing, working on a number of projects, starting up The Intersection, and navigating some other life-work-things, there’s a lot of… stuff.

The Kaua‘i Marathon came at just the right time for it. Interestingly, I ran this race with almost no music playing. The only time my headphones bumped was mile 24 to 25 (a beast of a hill at the end). Besides that, I was in my own head, figuring things out and coaching myself through a very difficult race.

I usually use mantras when I run. During my first marathon, I ended up with a pacer who coached us all to chant, “I am strong, I have energy, I can do this.” I also used one from a friend, “smart, strong, focused,” to stay on track.

This marathon, I had three that have stuck with me and become part of a larger reflection I had after the run.

  • The first was “run your race.” I used this a lot at the beginning, and I’ve said it and heard it said to student runners. It’s a good reminder not to compare what you’re doing to the runner next to you, especially in an endurance race. When we see people passing us or surging, it’s natural to want to try and catch up. Sometimes, we have to fight that urge.
  • The next was a recitation of The Paradoxical Commandments, and whatever variation my run-addled brain came up with. When my adrenaline gets surging, it’s easy for me to create a competitive, even nasty internal monologue to push myself forward. I didn’t do that this race. While reflecting on some personal events in my life recently, the phrase “love them anyway” kept popping into my head.
  • Finally, for some reason, each time I went up a hill I kept repeating, “It might get some, but it won’t get me” (“It,” I’m assuming here, is the hill. Or the desire to walk up the hill? I really can’t remember.).

So, here’s what I’ve been thinking about: If we know who we are and trust in our abilities, there’s no reason to seek approval or validation from anyone else on the course who hasn’t earned that privilege. I wrote about this recently, but I’m beginning to trust myself a little more and have a better sense of what it means to follow my own instinct and integrity.

The Kaua‘i Marathon put these ideas into physical practice: I had to settle in and run my race. It would have been easy to give in to the desire to be angry or frustrated while in pain during the race– lots of people do. By refusing to give in, I  stayed true to myself and was able to stay positive throughout the race. I ran nearly all of it with a smile on my face (something spectators lovingly noticed, which pushed me to keep doing it!). That’s the kind of person I want to be and be remembered as.

When we choose to put ourselves out there online (or in any space), there’s a natural tendency to seek validation or acceptance. Many of us share our voices because we hope someone else as felt what we have, or appreciates what we have to say. When that doesn’t happen, it can be very tempting to beat ourselves up or change who we are (or the persona we put out there) in order to be easily categorized and, therefore, appreciated.

At the end of the day, though, the best we can do in any situation is seek joy and truth in being wholly and completely ourselves. As silly, angry, bubbly or blunt as that may be, as unlikeable as those people sometimes are, at a certain point all we can do is run our races, love and move past those who don’t like it, and try not to get pulled away from our own course. 


Stats and Race Report

Warning: This is long and was mostly a nice exercise for me to reflect on the technical aspects of running this race.

So! I finished:

  • 29th overall (out of 255)
  • 9th female overall (out of 20)
  • 2nd in my division (F25-29, out of 11)

Honestly, Kaua‘i was one of the toughest marathons I’ve ever faced. I really had no idea how difficult it would be until I was in the middle of it, fighting through.

My parents and I got to the race at 4:45 AM, a little over an hour ahead. Like I’ve mentioned, having them there was a huge upside to this race, and they walked with me to the start line as I tried to get calm. I was worried I had entered this race day all wrong: my body still hurt, I had eaten late last night and was worried my stomach would be tricky, and I didn’t know if I had properly trained for this.

Still, the darn thing had to get done. I crammed a quarter bagel with PB into my mouth, tried to use the restroom, and said good-bye to my parents.

The race started beautifully, with an ‘oli celebrating and thanking the island for hosting us. I was struck by how marvelously small (and well-run!) the marathon is. With only about 1,500 participants for the half and full race (and only 300 for the full marathon!), the setting was far more intimate and grassroots– and completely unlike the mayhem and glitter of the LA marathon.

We were sent off, and the first few miles were spent just trying to get into my body. My left hamstring began feeling tweaky immediately, but I did my best to breathe through it and not let it rattle me. The sun came up around mile three, and the only thing I kept noticing was how beautiful and green the scenery was.

At mile five, we entered the tunnel of trees. I had driven this part with my parents and remembered my dad’s wise word to “mind the potholes!” A few folks didn’t and tripped. There really aren’t words for how lush, spiritual, and breathtaking running quietly through these trees was. The only thing I noticed was the breath of my competitors, the sounds of beating feet, and the wind in the leaves.

Around this point, though, is when I noticed people beginning to drop. Surprisingly early, even for half-marathoners, but I have no doubt the heat played a role in that. This was my initial reminder to breath and run my race. The first six miles were all a gradual incline, which had seemed terrifying. They actually weren’t that bad. I like hills, and the slow climb up let me find a rhythm to move forward

The race then leads through a net-downhill. First, through some gorgeous farm land, then through a residential neighborhood where locals very sweetly cheered us on and clapped for us. I really started to find my groove here. I was smiling, thanking volunteers each time I grabbed water and was surprised that I hadn’t felt compelled to listen to music yet.

Around mile 8, I also popped my first Gu. I know, about 40 min late. I normally train without water or fuel in case I need to run during a zombie apocalypse or actually forget gels. This also helps make sure that my races are always better than my practice runs (I’m not recommending that to anyone, though. You should always stay properly fed and hydrated).

Mile 11 is where the course splits between the half-marathon and the full marathon. I joked with the volunteer and asked if I could change my mind. He laughed and said to stick to my race.

I understand why I needed the reminder. As soon as you make the right turn and decide to run the full marathon, the course slaps you in the face with a brutal half mile climb that was best run as a “slog.” It’s empty, and so there’s no one else on the course but you, the other runners, and everyone’s collective pain. This is where, mentally, mantras became huge.

After a half mile to recharge with a flat and an aid station, the course beats you up again with another hill! It was mentally so hard to push past this point, but I kept deciding that I would not get bogged down by the hills (though I did walk a few times). I eat hills for breakfast, I thought as I padded up. This is where I started passing some folks.

At the half-marathon mark, we enter a gorgeous, cool flat. A timer marked us on the course, and after yelling out my half time (2:01), one of the race directors shouted, “You’re thirteenth female overall!”

I was taken aback. I had never been anywhere near top ten in the overall female division of any race. “Seriously?!” I called back.

“Yes!” he laughed, “so keep moving!”

I thanked him and kept pushing forward. I felt positive and wanted to stay with that feeling and not get caught up in competing.

At mile 14, we hit another admittedly beautiful hill, and the woman in front of me was in sight. I was determined not to surge. She was walking, so I decided to just keep my pace and see what happened. I was able to catch up, and she congratulated me as I did, saying, “you’re running strong. Great work.”

I was so thankful for her kindness in that moment. I returned the sentiment and kept moving.

I don’t remember much about miles 15 through 18, except that it was hilly, brutal, and beautiful. That, and the spectators and volunteers truly make this course fantastic. They played music, had signs, clapped for us, set up how made aid stations, music, and were so full of generosity and love. One aid station played “Eye of the Tiger” as they strummed air guitars and took my photo.

Another interesting note: because the race is so sparse (300 total participants!), there were long stretches where I was running alone or was the only person at an aid station. This made it feel awesome and personal though occasionally made me worried I had gone off course!

After reaching the top of Kalaheo, I was able to catch my breath a bit and start back down hill. The course meets back up with itself here, and I began to run into folks at the fifteen-mile mark of their race. Many congratulated us as we ran by and encouraged us to keep it up, or told me to keep smiling. I did the same and was reminded how strong and open the running community can be.

At mile twenty-one, I went past the half-marathon timers. They took my time again, and told me I was now eleventh overall female. I was thrilled but knew I needed to not let my excitement force me to burn out in the last five miles.

Another big hill followed, and another racer and I exchanged encouragement as I pushed past him. Hills really are where I come into my own as a runner, and I’m glad I trained on them so much these past few months.

I don’t remember much until mile 24 when the last big hill happened. This is one of the first years I really studied the course and its elevation, so I knew this was the final hill. The tenth place woman was in sight, and as we came into the aid station at the top of the hill, I gulped down water and knew I had to get moving if I wanted to at least keep my place. With the last two miles ahead, I decided now was the time to let myself get a little competitive.

We coasted down towards the finish line, and I eventually caught up with the woman ahead of me. She congratulated me, but I told her we still had a few miles to go. She pulled ahead, and I knew her pace was just fast enough to edge me out. I decided I was okay with that. As we hit mile 26, people cheered us on and I yelled for both her and I to finish strong.

The end in sight, I began to try and kick as much as my body would let me. I had spent everything on this course, though, and it was only seeing my mom and dad frantically waving at the end that brought me speeding in with a smile on my face.

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After, I looked up and saw that I had come in at 4:07. Only 3 minutes over my PR! I was ecstatic, and really believe that keeping a positive outlook got me there.

Overall, this race went well. No stomach issues, fueled consistently every 4-5 miles, stayed hydrated and cool, and followed my normal strategy of a conservative first half and a faster second. This time, the training paid off.


*phew* Okay, that was longer, but way more fun than I thought it would be to write. I may need to try and do this again.

Aches and Breaks

I heard the boy before I saw him again.

We had started up the backside of Diamond Head at roughly the same time, though he had likely run more miles than me. Gleaming with sweat in the humid afternoon, he ran with his hands behind his back for reasons that still escape me (is he training for some kind of twisted “prison” inspired race? Is that a military thing?). He looked 22, like he could’ve been a former student, and wore a “don’t mess with me” look on his face.

I knew because I often wear the same look, but today it was for very different reasons. I was dripping sweat and snot, my body rebelling after too much travel and not enough sleep. After finally accepting that I had a nasty cold, I had decided that I wouldn’t run that day. Rest days are necessities for all runners, and this would be one of mine.

Still, sitting at Kapiolani park, knowing I had all my gear if I wanted, I couldn’t help it. I had spent all morning thinking and talking about my love if running, and I was too fired up. I decided I’d run Diamond Head– a few miles– just to sweat it out.

And, man, did I do that. I sweated. I sneezed and hacked up whatever is sitting in my lungs and had to execute more than one Farmer’s Blow (I know. I’m sorry). I stopped a lot on the way over, and once I had come to the other side, I tried to catch my breath and whined a little.

After a few minutes, I was faced with the thought most runners encounter at some point in a bad run. As much as you are so over this, you also know that the darn run isn’t going to finish itself, and you have to get home.

A bit more rejuvenated, I started back up the hill. That’s when I saw the boy. We paced together until he had to stop for water, but I saw him look up and give me an all-too-familiar glance. You’ll see me again.

I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t aggressive, it was something I think a lot of us do: you build a story while you run. You, silently, let out your inner competitor and you desperately want to “win.” I’ve done it often, and certainly don’t mind when others do the same. I kept climbing and crested the hill, just happy to have found my stride.

Five minutes later, I heard his steps behind me. I moved to the left so he could pass, until something kicked in my own head. Not today, kiddo. I snatched my self-pity, my resignation to a crappy run off the mat, and threw them out the window.

I picked up my stride and began to pump my arms a little more. Push push push. My back straightened immediately, and I heard a former coach’s voice in my ear, launch yourself to the next step! I bounced and hopped my way down Diamond Head, determined not to be passed. My breath caught in my throat, but I let out a quick, sharp growl and swallowed it back down.

Then, my hips clicked. Something happens when you’re body finally snaps into gear and matches what your brain is asking it to do. The muscles that were saying What the hell brain? We can’t do this! all of a sudden let go. For me, it’s in my hips. They spread wide along my back, and my body opens up in a way that propels me forward.

You. Shall. Not. Pass. my inner Gandalf screamed as I pushed forward. I pounded the pavement harder.

Suddenly, I am all fire. My lungs burning, my feat beating the ground like a fiery drum. I am molten fire streaming down beaches towards the ocean. I am streaks of gold off Apollo’s chariot. I am rage at student walk outs. I am fury outside city hall. I am my mother’s heart beat when she brought my into the world. I am my father’s arms as he holds us both. I am what you don’t see coming next.

I am all these things, welded into the fibers of my muscles, glowing in the sparks and charges that keep my body moving.

I get back to the grassy park, slow down, and look behind me. The boy is gone. I never looked to see if he was even really there.


If anything, the breaks we are forced to take make us much more grateful for the miles themselves. I didn’t run more than those few yesterday, but I am reminded that even when everything aches, and it feels like things are breaking apart, glimmers of golden, crackling joy are still there, deep inside us.