Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Live Every Day Like You're Glen Coco

Iiiiiit's Ragnar time, kids! This afternoon I am hopping a train to downtown LA and taking the bus to LAX to fly to San Francisco (catch all that?) to go run 204 fabulous miles from Golden Gate Park to Calistoga, in the heart of Napa Valley.

I mean, really... this can't be all that bad, right?

I am so excited to:
a) reconvene with some of my So Cal teammates (6 of us in total)
b) meet some new, fresh Ragnar-virgin teammates (the other 6)
c) not have to drive the van (we have TWO drivers! TWO!)
d) run 26.3 miles because if I can do it at So Cal (undertrained) and do it now (pretty well trained), then I am totes marathon-training-ready
e) wear all things pink all weekend

Yep, that's right. We are team On Ragnardays We Wear Pink and basically all weekend, we will be wearing all things pink. Boas, beads, shorts, and tees - and even my reflective vest and shoes at some point are pink. It's so fetch.

But if you're bored about reading about my exciting day up to the Bay to get ready for these shenanigans, I'll leave you with other Ragnar-related fun:

Peace out, kids! Feel free to stalk Instagram and Twitter all weekend! #ragnarianswearpink will be all over the place - enjoy and follow along!  

Are you running Napa with me this weekend? 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tips for Surviving a Relay

It's Ragnar week! I'm so excited to get up to the Bay and hunker down for another fabulous racecation with some of my favorites - and some newbies!

I may not be a total vet when it comes to relays, but with two overnights under my belt (Ragnar DC | So Cal) and one shorter distance relay (ATL 20K), I think I have a pretty good handle on what to expect. I would love to do a marathon relay at some point, or some other long-distance non-overnight ones, so for now, my whole frame of reference is pretty much overnight relays for the purposes of your guide here! I wanted to whip this together for not only my newbie teammates, but anyone else who's on the verge of their first relay, too.
At the start of Ragnar DC, 2012.
Tips for Surviving an Overnight Running Relay

Pack More Than You (Think You) Need

One of the best packing tips I've seen is the idea of using gallon Ziploc bags to store your outfits. Not only does it keep things organized, but after that run is done, you can shove everything back in that bag to minimize overall stink. With the bags, though, it's easy to pack only the essentials. Don't be afraid to pack a little more than just what fits in those bags. For me this year at Napa, I'm adding a jacket, as it rained through nearly all of Napa last year. I also always pack at least 1 extra sports bra, 1 extra shirt, 1 extra pair of socks... you get my drift. You never know when that extra sports bra will come in handy... 

With that - and it's on the packing list linked above, but my best point to emphasize: use those gallon-sized Ziploc bags! It helps keep you organized while you're packing, but also as you're digging around in your duffel bag at 2 am trying to find your headlamp. And minimizes (read: does NOT get rid of!) the stink in your van. You'll thank me. Promise.

Get Over Your Fear of Porto-Potties

I mean it. Ragnar is far from short on portos, and while they're not the most glamorous (who ever said running was glamorous anyway?), you need to get over it. Only on major exchanges and/or on your van's breaks are you going to find the time (and, frankly, energy) to find a 'real' bathroom. And when you do, it'll be the best thing ever. But in the meanwhile, suck it up, hold your breath, and just go. Every. Time.

[Photo Cred: Ricole Runs]
Sleep Where You Can, When You Can (But Know You'll Be Sleep-Deprived Anyway)

Whether it's a 40-minute catnap in the backseat, or 3 hours in the beachside park, try and get your shut-eye whenever you're able. The photo above can be deceiving also - not every Ragnar has a major exchange that's inside with spaces to spread out under a roof. At DC, one of our exchanges was at a high school that we could have camped out at (we slept in the van in the parking lot); but at So Cal, all our major exchanges were outside parks or parking lots near warehouses. 

Keep yourself in mind - if you have a long run coming up and you haven't slept in 27 hours, it's not gonna be pretty. One of the best things my team did for me before my 12-miler during So Cal was making sure I sat down and slept at our exchange. I slept only 2ish hours in choppy increments, but I know it made a world of difference having at least some sleep. 

Nighttime selfie, So Cal 2014.
Get Comfortable With The Uncomfortable

There is no better way to make friends than to shove yourselves into a van for 36 hours. Moreso than that, there's no better way to make friends than having to change in front of people you've just met. Heather and I opened up our team meeting before So Cal with, "We talk about poop. A lot." It's going to be uncomfortable at first, but then you're all in the same boat van and you may as well make the most of it. And it turns into some great inside jokes afterwards. 

My major uncomfortable is running in the pitch dark - I'm an (admitted) total scaredy-cat and getting through the night legs are pretty mentally exhausting for me. At the same time, though, they're also freeing and exhilarating as I (sort of) conquer my nighttime fears. It's hard to push through that mental wall, but when I do... holy wow!

Your Routine Will Not Be Routine

We all have our race day routines. Get up, eat your bagel and peanut butter, drink your coffee, take your immodium, etc. etc. With few exceptions, know that your routine will be far from your routine during a relay. Logistically it's harder, you'll want to sleep more than you'll want to spend time french-braiding your hair into your lucky race-day-hairdo, and other things just don't become the priority! After some time in the van, you'll learn to sacrifice and take what you can get. 

Costumes Are Critical

Okay, so not critical but they really do spice up the whole experience and get you a little more amped up for the utter shenanigans about to come. I don't dress up for a race hardly ever, but have realized that not only does it pull together some more team camaraderie, but other teams get so excited when they recognize you time and time again from your van decor and team ensembles. 

Adventures in Runderland, So Cal 2014.
In DC, which was the first Ragnar for nearly our entire time, our only matching piece was our finish line, team shirts. After watching all the teams flying by us with their decked out vans, colored capes and silver leggings, we knew we had to take it up a notch the next time around. For So Cal, we had our start line costumes (characters from Alice in Wonderland, of course), and for the finish line we had our team shirts and all wore purple tutus. Our vans were covered in cheshire cat smiles and ticking clocks, and our magnets also had the cheshire cat smile - so when another team saw any of those smiles, they knew we'd been around. And they recognized us for just that! So again, not critical... but certainly an added element of fun. 

Two-a-Days Are/Are Not Critical

Take this for what you will - and it will depend on YOU and your strength and in-shape-ness. For So Cal this year, I was far from as in-shape as I needed to be to do 25.9 miles over three legs, but that wasn't just because I didn't do double days. I just wasn't in shape in general, but the only reason I hurt was after my final leg and I had to do this awesome jumping photo... you get the story. For DC in 2012, I was more in shape and it wasn't until the third leg that my body wimped out (under-hydrated) on the third (and shortest) leg. And now, heading into Napa and after a 100-mile August (many with double days), I'm feeling more in shape than I have in a long time and I'm ready to go, despite not having many recent double days. You need to figure out what's going to work for you - most of my doubles only occurred so I could get used to running in the dark again. 

Enjoy the Scenery

No matter which course you're doing, whether it's a Ragnar through the mountains or Napa, or Reach the Beach, there's scenery to take in. That's half the fun of racecations, right, is getting to see everything! So Cal is my home, so while there was nothing new or exciting to take in, it was still a feeling of "Wow, I live here!" that made me really appreciate where the course took us. 

[Photo cred: Trista. I think. So Cal, 2014.]
Enjoy whatever comes your way - whether it's new or not - and stop and take those photos. In a 30+ hour relay, those 2 minutes to mess with your smartphone camera are not going to matter. I promise. My friends and running friends especially know that I am constantly snapping away, but hopefully come to appreciate the fun, random shots we've got later! 

Have Fun

The obvious one, of course, but I mean! The logistics, the lack of sleep, the runger, the nighttime scary runs are all really easy to get stressed over. At the end of your trip (and really, throughout), you just need to look back and say you had a great time. That's what these races are all about - having fun, being a little ridiculous, and getting to know 11 other runners really, really well! 

What other tips would you share for someone running an overnight relay?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Santa Claus is Coming to... Dallas?

No, he's not. But I am! I am Dallas-bound this afternoon for some lovely business time with my sorority executive board and hopefully some fun-times, too.

But Santa IS coming to Southern California, and he's bringing me a new half marathon as a present! I've wanted to race the Santa Hustle series since I saw it in Tennessee while I was living in Georgia (and then I could have crossed Tennessee off my states raced list), but I never got that far, so high fives for me.

But when SH announced they're bringing their races to Southern California (finally!), I jumped on their Facebook and immediately started talking their page for updates. It's coming! December 14, Santa Hustle Buena Park is coming to Knotts Berry Farm and other fun, flat-lying local areas. I'm so, so, so excited!

See Buena Park unlike ever before as thousands of Santas race along the streets and throughout Knott’s Berry Farm.  Jingle all the way through the course with candy and cookies, festive music, creative Christmas images, and so much more, it is all designed to get you in the perfect holiday mood. It is bound to be a Christmas tradition you do with your family and friends year after year.

Whether you're doing the 5K or the half marathon, everyone gets some awesome swag too (did I mention the cookies?). 

Tech hoodie? Count me in!

I am super excited to be a part of this new race coming to LA and can't wait to see the course for myself (to be revealed soon!). But for now, registration opened up yesterday and you should get on that action soon. Half marathoners also get a medal in addition to all the Santa-fied goodness you see above AND a 3-day pass to Knotts Berry Farm included in their registration! 5Kers can purchase discounted Knotts tickets, too.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Will I see you dressed like Santa (or a reindeer) with me in Buena Park? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fall Adventures

You know, despite the fact that my days sort of drag on as I keep myself busy between daydreaming about all the races I'd like to do and job application after job application, I realize I have quite a bit to look forward to over the next few months. Not a ton of races, but enough to keep me occupied and focusing on the next great thing! 

First and foremost... 

Ragnar Napa Valley
September 19-20

So so so so excited about this - it's about half my team from So Cal and we're out to get our double medals for doing both So Cal and Napa in the same year! Holla! Excited. We are team On Ragnardays We Wear Pink and yes, as it suggests, we are all pinked out and all things Mean Girls. We're just not mean. Keep an eye out for us and our sweet magnets!

Riverside Hometown Heroes 5K
October 11

This is race #1 of the Run Riverside challenge. Since I was already signed up for the Citrus Half 2015 as a legacy runner, I figured I may as well do the other two and earn that extra medal because, duh. The cool part about the challenge is that you just have to run ANY of the races offered at all 3, so you could earn the extra bling for doing all three 5Ks. It's pretty sweet. So far, I'm planning on the 5K at each this one and Mission Inn, and then the half at Citrus. Woo!

But more than that - I feel in shape for the first time in a long while, and while I'm not focusing on speed right now so much as stamina and endurance, I'm excited that I've got a good little string of 5Ks to focus on this fall, too. My PR came last December (in the rain) when I was hardly running at all, so I feel like I've got some potential excitement coming. 

Race for the Rescues 5K
October 18

My dad's second 5K! This one is in Pasadena, all around the Rose Bowl. Dad's doing it as part of his health program at work, and I'm doing it with Molly because I can (her second 5K too!), and my uncle even signed up to walk. And it benefits local rescues. And puppies. So that's a given. 

Rock 'n Roll Los Angeles
October 26

I signed up for this one on National Running Day wayyyy back in June, so as much as I still forget about it, I'm excited to have a half coming up this fall. I hear the course is pretty flat and easy as well, so all the better. The medal got released not too long ago and I'm quite excited for it!

Mission Inn Run 5K (probably)
November 9

I say probably only because there's a 10K option too. Doug's training for the New Year's half this fall and wants to do a 10K at some point to see how he's doing, so I'm not sure if it'll be this one or the Dino Dash the week before... but at least the 5K here for me!

I've got one more half marathon pending in December - more on that soon I hope, as I've got some goodies to share too with that, just waiting on some last details! Woo hoo! 

What are you up to this fall? Any races you're particularly excited about?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Job Searching is Like Running a Marathon

This is not my first go-around at job searching, unfortunately. Through my six years' professional experience, I've gone through three major searches (once out of grad school, after my first position, and in an effort to move back to the west coast from Georgia). While not only maintaining a running schedule, some sanity, and an effort to find the best fit, I learned a lot about my fitness, where my efforts were going, and how to make it all happen. 

Through the madness and emotional rollercoaster that is job searching, running really became my sanity. Despite plenty of red-eye flights, bad hotel nights' sleeps, I almost always got up for a few treadmill or campus miles to get my interview days going. Inbetween those, it was the rough days that needed a run the most to clear my head and re-focus. It was then I learned how much these worlds collided and were more alike than I thought. 

In short... job searching is like training for and running a marathon. 

You train for months. 
Most people can't just get up one day and say they're going to run a marathon. There is training involved to ensure that you're still standing come the end and your feet aren't about to fall off. Whether it's the long runs, cross-training or ensuring you get weekly sports massages, you're doing what it takes to prepare your body for the beating ahead.

The same goes for job searching - chances are, you didn't decide the day before TPE that you were going to TPE! Whether you're preparing to finish your master's program or you're a seasoned professional, there's still practice to be done. This could be interview practice with your mentor, or other professionals on campus, all who want to get you ready for TPE or that on-campus interview next week. You're polishing your resume every other day, ensuring that it's at its best too. You've done your research, you know that you want to live off, in an urban setting. Months later, you're ready (or at least mostly ready) to make your way into the Candidates' Waiting Area and ready for the crazy to begin.

It takes a toll on you mentally, emotionally, and physically. 
I think this is a given for both processes - you will be exhausted (and invigorated!) by marathon training, just as you will during the job search process. I cannot tell you how many times I've gotten that "no" phone call, only to hang up and burst into devastated tears. This number probably matches the number of times I got home from a long run and cried because I hurt so badly.

Job searching is an emotional rollercoaster - the highs of getting the first phone interview, to being invited to campus, only to get that "no" call. Or worse, never getting a return call from dream school who had the dream job you've been looking for. Allow yourself to ride that rollercoaster - it's okay, and it's normal.

Starting my on-campus day with a run around campus! Do you know where I am?
Fuel your body well.
For me, this is both sleep and physical activity. Thankfully, sleep comes easy to me on flights and combined with nervous energy, I've got cat-naps down pat so I'm my most alert and best self upon arriving at my destination and being greeted by my campus host.

The physical fitness part of the equation is a mix of managing that nervous energy, exploring my potential new home, and getting my mind clear for the day ahead - whether I'm on an interview or not, I find that my days are better and my focus greater when I start each morning with a sweat fest. For me, personally, recharging with a run is just as great as a good night's sleep (time zones just mess that all up!).

Support goes a long way.
During my first full marathon, my parents and boyfriend were driving point to point to point to ensure they could catch me at various parts of the race. I had told them that I'd love to see them at mile 4, mile 8, and around mile 16, I'd need one of the peanut butter sandwiches I made for myself. Apparently they drove straight into the chaos and my boyfriend ended up leaping out of the car and sprinting to me to ensure he'd get to me about mile 16 to hand me that sandwich. I ate two bites and changed my mind - it tasted horrible and was the last thing I wanted.

Now, while I felt horrible later learning all the leaps and bounds they (literally) made for me that day, it meant the world knowing they were doing everything they could to help me see the finish line and to meet my goals for the day. Whether this comes from your family, your cohort, or your running club bestie, use these people to help you get through - when you need to cry, proofread, or celebrate the milestones along the way.

You will get to places you never thought you would.
This is part of the 'fun' part of searching - if you can call it that. Having done two nationwide searches and now countless of on-campus interviews, there are many places that  I have now gotten to visit and see and experience all because of the process. Memphis, Fairfax, Bethlehem, and Walla Walla are all part of the list of cities that I'm not sure I'd have seen otherwise.

Much like with running, getting to see new places is part of the excitement of the whole process, especially if you're on a nationwide search to find that job. Marathons often give us runners an excuse for a racecation, and a new way to explore an area we've never been before.

Cross train or remain the same. 
Especially in a field as varied as student affairs is, there are often positions and functional areas that are siloed into their own skill sets or qualities needed. I am grateful that my professional experience started in residence life and truly feel that the skills I acquired during my three years as a hall director turned into some very translatable skills to move my career into student life and organizations. In real life, however, I don't regularly cross train when it comes to race preparation, oddly enough!

But it's not always the case that someone can float from functional area to functional area. Perhaps you are in residence life and want to make the change into orientation, but have no other previous experience working with new student programs. That's okay! Take advantage of resources on your current campus, make connections, and talk to folks who currently are in that area about what they would be looking for in a new staff member. Do they have an opportunity for you to volunteer some time with them? A sort of internship, even as a professional staff member? When I was leaving my position in Texas, I was looking at orientation as a new functional area - mind you, without any direct experience in such an area. I was fortunate enough to work with our Orientation department for a few months, sitting in on student staff interviews, group interviews, and to learn more about what their program looked like. I couldn't have asked for anything better!

Cross-training is a great way to let your mind and body refuel, and to find that next great functional area for you to fall into. Nothing says you can't do this, and with the right support, this could be what helps you take that next step from marathon-finisher to PR-breaker. 

What other similarities do you see? Other tips you would add for job searchers?