Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: The Year That Was/Wasn't

The year that wasn't...
... focused on running.
... the year I'd hoped in terms of my fitness.

The year that was...
... focused on finding my happy place.
... the happiest personal year in awhile.
... a little more chaotic than I had planned!

I vowed that 2013 would be the year I became a SMART runner -- focused, a little  more aware of what I was doing and how I was doing it (training, resting, fueling, you name it), and that I wouldn't just run as I did before, but do it a little more intentionally. And you know, for the part of the year that I was focused, determined, and motivated, I think I did just that. That wasn't the majority of the year, but for the part that was ... it was good. Let's take a look at the year that wasn't... and was. 

After kicking off the new year sickly in Southern California, I headed back to Georgia to begrudgingly get back work and the new year grind. Shortly thereafter, though, my sister came to visit and run the Hot Chocolate 5/15K with us in Atlanta!
Even thought I had just seen her for Christmas, I loved having her come visit, spend the weekend with me, and realize the stark comparison between her and Heather (which is eerily similar, for the record). 

The next weekend, we were sorority-business bound for Austin to welcome in the newest Omega Phi Alpha chapter to Texas State University (my former employer, to boot!). That trip wrapped up the last week of marathon tapering and before I knew it... it was marathon weekend in sunny Southern California! 

Surf City Marathon (Huntington Beach) was my first full - intentionally in my home state so I'd have a support crew along the way but also a weekend that turned into a pretty epic girls' running weekend (and kicking off a pretty awesome year of girls' trips). Heather, Katy Beth, Kasey and I bombarded my parents' house for the weekend ... and then ended up with an additional guest! 

The expo was unbelievable - I was a nervous wreck, as that's when it really kicked in, and I couldn't believe what I was getting myself into. How was I supposed to run 26.2 miles the next day? Oi vey. Little did I know that behind the very first window was my bestest friend, Tina, there to surprise me for the weekend!  I was beyond floored, and even more so when I found out everybody had been in on the surprise for a few months. I love her so much and am so glad she was willing and able to make the journey to support me (and get herself a half marathon PR in the process!). 

And then I ran 26.2 miles. I had two goals (finish standing upright, and finish sub-5), both of which I made, even if only by seconds (4:58:42). Unreal. I am a marathoner! Even almost a year later, it still sounds odd. 

Easter Bunny Half - Clemson, SC
I spent  most of February recovering from Surf City. Hardly any mileage, a nasty chest cold (and a 10K during that), but really chilled. And struggled at times. I was ready for March to jump back in, get back on my groove and continuing working on the year goals. At the end of February, I had joined the Athens Road Runners and started working with a coach for Wednesday morning track speed sessions. They were rough, but just a few weeks in, I knew they were making a difference; I loved the challenge, the camaraderie with other 5:30-am crazies, and knowing that it was making me so much stronger and I knew it. 

March brought on quite a few races -- 2 half marathons, a 10K and a colorrific 5K. The second half marathon was a very last minute decision, but I got to cross off another state in my half-marathoning adventures! The Publix Half was rough, but a solid performance from a very long week of driving to Florida, interviewing for 13 hours for jobs, driving back, and volunteering at the expo for 5+ hours the night before. The Clemson half was my last minute decision, but one I am so glad I made; despite the course being short, I had the most solid performance to date, both with pacing and fueling, and knew that I'd come a long way since the last half. 

At the end of March I declared my dream (and major 2013 goal!) of running sub-2 at the Nike Women's race in DC in April. Based on how my March had gone, I knew I'd have it. I felt good, strong, confidence, and ready. 

Between Clemson (March 30) and NWMDC, I was on a no-race regimen. It was the last few weeks to focus on training, resting, and gearing up for my goal race. Nike was the new ultimate girls' running weekend: Kasey, Carly, and Brandi, my sister, Heather, Trista, and Amanda (almost all sorority sisters) all came together for an amazing weekend! Gallivanting around DC, showing  my sister around, and throwing in a race all makes for a good time, regardless of the outcome. 

I didn't sub-2. You can read all about it here, as I don't want to rehash it all again (once or twice is enough), but I'm so close. SO CLOSE. 2:01:33 is nothing to scoff at, given the fact especially that it was over a 7 minute PR. I'll make it there - when I'm focused and ready and my time is meant to be.

I burned. I crashed hard. And at least I recognized it? I put myself on a tech diet, vowing to run for at least a month Garmin-free, iPhone-free, and that it would just be me, my shoes, and on the random, Molly would come along too. I ran one race that month, the Marigold 10K, nearing the end of the self-challenge, and finally met my 10K goal for the year of a sub-1-hour time. You know -- running solely by feel is more telling than you'd have thought!

May was mellow. Compared to the early, crazy (and yes, awesome) months throughout the spring, I was looking forward to summer, having some to mellow out as there's not a whole lot going on in the South over the summer months, and some potential adventures.

Doug, Chris (his roommate), and Nancy (Chris' girlfriend) came out for a college friend's wedding too. It was so great playing tour guide around Atlanta, attending probably the most gorgeous wedding I'd been to before, despite the rain. I'd seen Doug a lot this spring semester, but it was wonderful having him come out for an all-fun, random weekend of adventures!

June was absolute insanity. The first weekend of the month, I was out to California on Thursday night through Sunday. On Friday, at Disneyland, I got a phone call for a Skype interview on Monday night (mind you, I had a red-eye out on Sunday). And then I had another offer for a Skype interview also on Monday night - two back to back. By Thursday, I was booked on a flight back to California Saturday through the following Thursday for two interviews out in LA at both campuses I had interviewed with on that Monday night. Follow all that?
Needless to say, I was exhausted that month. And just kinda flew through it, dealt with it, and crashed hard every night.

However, June also brought on Year 2 of the #RWRunStreak for me. Tina, Erica and I made it a challenge amongst the three of us, tracking our weekly progress and making a true competition out of it. It was so great, and a way to keep up the motivation and enthusiasm over running again after no-tech May. I finished in second, by just .11 miles to Tina - what a turn out!

July is where my year turned on its own side, in all kinds of ways. As we all know now, those job interviews in June turned into where I am now! My last day of work at UGA was July 5, officially. Doug flew out to Atlanta on July 4 to spend his summer vacation driving me back across the country (can you say best guy ever?). But first, as it does for most every runner in the Atlanta area, my July 4 started with the ever epic Peaachtree Road Race. A fitting race for my last one as a Georgia resident, and grateful HP let me take in her bib to run it myself.

We knocked off one more baseball park for Doug, after avoiding rain as long as possible, and went to the Braves' game from the sixth inning on. I worked a partial day on the 5th to pack up and say some good byes to the few folks around, and we spent Friday night packing, organizing and cleaning. Saturday morning the POD guy came to pick up the giant box, helped us with our last load, and we were off!

Driving across the country in the middle of July is a little daunting. Despite having done the drive a number of times in a number of segments and all kinds of highways, we headed off across the south, up to Memphis, and across I-40 all the way to Flagstaff, dipped into Phoenix to see Tina and Jon (they're my one consistent road trip stop) and were home on July 10. You can read allllll about the adventure, if you'd like, here: Day 1, Day 2 & 3, and Home Again!

I was in California for a week, then headed out to Pittsburgh for our annual sorority convention, and got in a run with Ragnar teammates Shannon and Cathryn. Needless to say those two weeks were beyond exhausting... but never mind that, because the new job started on July 23!

Nothing to write home about, thus the serious lull in blogging since then. August was adjusting to the job, a hefty commute, and enjoying having a personal life again with my parents, Doug, and rekindling some friendships here. But you know what - it was great. Quiet, busy, hectic, and enjoyable all at the same time.

In September, I got to coordinate a group of Marymount students to run a 5K up near LAX as part of kicking off our campus Suicide Awareness week. It's not often you get to combine work and hobbies and I felt so grateful I got to do so. A number of our students were running their first 5K, a few were even walking their first 5K ever! What a great day to be a part of something so encouraging.

I also flew up to San Francisco to spend sometime with Heather (who moved to the Bay just a week before
Bay Area Birthday 2013. 
I moved too) for my birthday! Food, wine tasting in Napa, and despite having a nasty cold, having an all-out awesome birthday weekend with one of my favorites.

Birthday month! And truthfully, quiet, mellow and nothing spectacular. I spent most of the fall going to Doug's football games. It was truthfully a wonderful way to spend my Friday evenings - I haven't been around, really, since he stopped playing, and it's exciting to cheer on the team he's coaching for and seeing what he loves doing with these kids.

October also brought about my 10-year high school reunion, which I decided to attend at the semi-last minute. I'm really glad I went - you can catch up via Facebook so much, but for some, it was great seeing folks in person, hearing what's really going on in their lives, especially now that I'm back in the area.

November's key excitement was the Rock 'n Roll Las Vegas half marathon, and yes, another girls' adventure weekend. Tina had been working on this since March, ever since our epic weekend at Surf City, and wanted to get some ladies together to run Vegas and Phoenix to earn that awesome Desert Double Down medal. Count me in, please.

So despite a complete lack of training and knowing I wasn't ready to rock a half, and fighting yet another chest cold, we were off to run Vegas. It was rough. And hard. And a friendly reminder that training kinda helps if you're planning on running a half marathon (note to self?). Personal solo-performance half marathon worst, a new PW. Despite that, I loved seeing my besties again and was reunited with the idea of our ladies' running weekends (Phoenix coming soon!). Hooray!

November also brought along a fairly major personal revelation. Cheesy as it were, I think it was important to note and I think also explains a lot of my revolution through running. I wasn't doing much, felt like I wasn't achieving much, and needed something work for. Here? I'm doing okay. Missing the feeling of fitness and

I found myself on a crazy series of 5Ks this month -- starting the Chino Triple Crown race series with Doug at the Reindeer Romp with an age group award and a PR, followed by the Reindeer Run the next weekend with my mom and Doug again!

Christmas was a wonderful week - my sister was only home for five and a half days, but got some good time in with her as we tackled the Placerita Canyon 5K and lots of car time inbetween! I saw my sister a lot this year, and feel lucky that I got to, but I miss her immensely!

This year didn't turn out like I thought. But I'm looking forward to making 2014 everything I hope it can, and could, be.

18 races on the year, 573 miles, and a whole lot of learning, adventures, and memories. A reflection on the goals from this year later this week, in addition to some hopes for 2014.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Race Report: Placerita Canyon Holiday 5K

Placerita Canyon Holiday 5K | December 28, 2013
The Master's College | Santa Clarita, CA

My sister's New Year's resolution was to run a race every month of the year for 2013 -- and starting in January (with me!), she did just that all the way through November. She was bound and determined to run the last one in weather warmer than 9 degrees, so we found one here in California so she could run while she was home for the week of Christmas. Mind you, this is about 50 miles from where we live. So yes, we drove 100 miles round trip (ish) to run 3.1. Fun times!
The race is held as a fundraiser for The Master's College track and cross country teams. TMC is a small seminary school way out in the foothills, in a gorgeous little area known as Placerita Canyon. The course was described as "turf, pavement, dirt and sand trail." Little did we know what we were in for... 

We got to campus about 8:15 with a race time of 9 am (hooray late starts!) and got our bibs, tshirts, back to the car, and back to the race start with still 20 minutes to spare. While parking wasn't super close to the start, the campus is itty bitty, so it doesn't make it difficult. The race itself started and finished on the soccer field/track. 

I wasn't sure how hard I'd run. I forgot my watch, wasn't feeling super excited, and told my sister that maybe I'd just run with her (let's be honest, I never do that when I say I will. Sorry sister). And then adrenaline took a hold and I was off. The first 3/4 of a mile is on the neighborhood roads that lead you back into the canyon and on to the trails.

By trails, I mean the first 40 yards were packed dirt roads, and just before the 1-mile marker, it turned into horse trails. And by horse trails, I mean sand. SAND. And dodging piles of horse crap. HA!

I walked a little after the 1.25 mark by guesstimation, for about 30 seconds, and then charged forward again. I found an older gentleman that I used as my rabbit, and we exchanged leads for the better part of the race. Into mile 2, we finish out the trails and head back on to the road for one last loop around the block, and back again onto the track. The race is gun-timed, but you're given a chip for the finish to mark your official finish, which was kind of odd that they didn't have a mat at the start, too. 

Considering I walked at least 90 seconds of this whole thing, I must've booked it early on. The age group was just silly (19-29) and the winner ran the thing in 17 minutes (pretty sure she's the UCLA cross-country girl I saw prior to the race). However, if you take standard age group (25-29), I finished first. So there. :)

That wraps up the races for 2013, and this long string of 5Ks I've found myself on! At least I can say I've got my first (mostly) trail race down as I wrap up the year! 

What was your last race for 2013? How'd you do?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Race Report: Ontario Reindeer Run 5K

'Tis the season for reindeer-themed runs. I'm not one to complain.

Ontario Reindeer Run 5K | December 14, 2013
Ontario, CA

After last week's stellar 5K, and a couple of even more awesome runs this week, I was really excited to see if I could make some race day magic happen again. Doug and I signed up with my mom for this one, as the race is local and sponsors the Promise Scholars program, partially based in the school district my mom teaches in. The school with the most registered participants would win $1,000 for their school - and what better way than a 5K?

Mom and I!
Compared to the awesomeness of last week's small race, this one was hopping! Later, based on numbers, I learned this was double the size of last week's with almost 700 runners. That explains a lot.

I appreciate Christmas races for a few reasons: a) Yes, I'm a sucker for all things Christmas. b) They're the only ones I'll (generally) dress up for because who doesn't love antlers? (I ditched mine before the race) c) Elves, Santas, reindeers, and rein-dogs abound. Love.

The race was so front-heavy, Doug and I held on to the back and were literally among the last ten people to cross the start line. What's the point in gunning out when it's chip-timed anyway, right? Right.

First mile, 8:29. A little faster than last week, and a little too fast at that. By 1.5, my knee wasn't sore, it was just tired. In fairness to it (and me), I ran harder this week than I have in awhile. It felt great, and felt fine, but you know that it adds up after a while. I walked a bit into mile 2 (but still in 8:52, so I held on pretty well) and walked a bit more into mile 3 -- when was the last time I walked in a 5K? (answer: it's been awhile)

Ah well -- two minutes slower than last week, but I'm happy with a 5th in my age group! Considering the first in my age group ran a 23 flat, and the second and third ran 26:xx, I'd have to have run 3 seconds faster than last week just to finish in third. So with that... 5th is alright.

Done and done! (Doug's not dying, I promise)
Morning breakfast with mom and Doug aftwards, and on to Saturday.

One more 5K this month on December 28 with my sister. She's completing her New Year's resolution of doing a 5K a month, and was determined not to run a below-freezing one again in New York, so we found this one (far, far away) after Christmas before she heads back to the City. So excited!

Do you dress up for Christmas runs? Best costume you've seen?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Race Report: YMCA Reindeer Romp [Triple Crown Race 1]

Chino YMA Reindeer Romp | December 7, 2013
Chino, California

Chino is hosting a Triple Crown race series -- a 5K each in December (the Romp), February (Run for Russ) and March (Dairy Aire). Complete all three and you get some extra award - count me in! Doug and I saw it, were interested, and his sister wanted to do it too. So despite also having a Reindeer Run next weekend, we did yesterday's Reindeer Romp too. 

A cold, 40 degrees and some on-and-off sprinkling didn't scare away 354 runners. Lucky for us, the heavy rain held off until we were done and in the car, minus some sprinkles here and there. We didn't get to the race hardly before 8, but thankfully chip time does ya some good! They were singing the national anthem and yelled 'Start!' just as we were walking up -- I nearly took off, but we took a quick pre-race photo and then I took off.

About that first mile -- 8:35. Way too fast to maintain anything, let alone two more miles at that pace! I felt really good though. It was a gorgeous morning (the sun came out during the run), enjoyed seeing people in holiday costumes (you bet I will next weekend) and enjoying being out. 

Second in AG!
The course is super flat, super fast. Just after the first mile, you double back and Doug said I was probably in the top 50 people at that point. Just about mile two, you come to the top of the course, double a little bit, run past the finish line for the last half mile or so. I hate, hate hate, no matter how short the course, running by the finish line! Mental torture.

I got it back together and sprinted it for a solid, strong finish. 26:12?! Yeah buddy! That's a 58 second 5K PR, not to mention really close to one of my goals for 2013 (sub-26 5K). Who knew that was in me, considering I barely ran a 28:32 a week and a half ago for Thanksgiving?

Race #1 of the Triple Crown - DONE!
A second in age group win, and some major mental boost for the next few weeks. Hooray! Doug scored himself a pretty huge PR (just over a minute off) and his sister (and Todd) are on their way to getting better and better through each 5K of this series. I'm so excited to do them all!

I also need to talk about the adorableness of this race -- so this year's shirts were blue and we were kind of confused, being that it's a holiday race, so why not red or green? So we learned that last year's shirts (and medals, see below) were red. Each year, they'll have a new reindeer featured and a new color to go along with him. Adorable. Sign me up for the next seven years, please.

 What a cute touch, right? We bought last year's medals ($2!) just to ensure we had the full collection. Awesome race, awesome day! 

Have you ever run a race as part of a triple crown type series? Or even better, one where the theme goes on year to year like reindeer? LOVE. 

If you're looking for super fast and super flat in Chino, this is your guy. I believe the Dairy Aire 5K runs the exact same course. Check it out!

Race Report: Claremont Sunrise Rotary Turkey Trot 5K

Claremont Sunrise Rotary Turkey Trot | November 28, 2013
Claremont, California
(side note: I really enjoy that California is typed a lot now) :)

HOLLER for overdue blog posts. Guess I had to write this one before I could tell you about yesterday's PR... oops?

As I have for the last two years now (2011, 2012), I was determined to find another turkey trot race to do Thanksgiving morning before I gorged on deliciousness the rest of the day. Claremont is not even 10 miles up the road from me, and a cute little area to run in, so why not? I also learned that Caroline was running too -- and we easily pulled Sandy into the fun. Hooray!

Finally meeting Caroline & seeing Sandy again!
Given my lack of running since Vegas, I wasn't pushing for anything in particular, just wanted to see how this little race would go. I was happy I was out, it was a gorgeous morning, and I was earnin' my turkey for the rest of the day (or at least a little extra).

The race starts in downtown Claremont, near the Metrolink station, and winds its way through the Claremont Colleges. Doug went to school up there, so for the better part of the entire race, I knew exactly where I was (sometimes that's so nice!). Gorgeous campuses, gorgeous residential areas - no complaints! 
Can you ask for any better?
The course is fast and flat, and ends on a easy downgrade coming down back towards the station. I booked pretty well, running the last mile at my fastest compared to the other two, and was happy that as soon as you turn the last corner, the finish line is not even 30 yards from there which makes for  a quick, easy ride.
Happy finisher! (thanks to Sandy's hubby for photos!)
Not a stellar race with a finish of 28:32, but for what it was... a good run, a good morning, and a good way to start Thanksgiving for the third year in a row!

Belated... did you do a Turkey Trot of some kind? Just a 5K or did you go for more to EARN that turkey? I read somewhere that to run off the average Thanksgiving dinner, you'd need to run 12.3 miles. Heck. No. 


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Race Report: Graffiti Run

Graffiti Run | Los Angeles County Fairplex
November 24, 2013

Squeaky clean!
 We actually got a Group On for this race back in August or so, and having done a few color runs before, I was more than excited to get another reason to get colorfully, wonderfully, messy! Yes please! Doug and I were going, in addition to his roommate Chris, and his girlfriend Nancy. Chris turned into an airport taxi so he  missed and Nancy ended up with another friend -- so Doug and I did our own thing and had a colorful, messy blast.

The fairgrounds are pretty big, and the course wove its way through the entire complex -- I haven't been to the county fair in a loooong time (at least high school?) so it was neat being back and running through some areas I don't think I'd ever seen before! It seemed pretty empty when we got there, but we headed straight into a corral to get on our way -- we stood around less than ten minutes and got to get moving!

I don't think it works this way...
The only thing that confused me was that the race announcer had people opening their color packets before we took off -- aren't you supposed to start this run all white and get colored as you go? Doug and I opted to hold on to our packets, caught some residue pink and green powder, but stayed as white as we could so we could get extra colorful throughout the run...

If you've done any color run, you know the drill: run through a color 'station', hopefully find some awesome volunteers that pommel you with dyed cornstarch powder. If you find the really awesome volunteers, they're the ones that notice that you have white spots and try to "fix" that problem for you. Case and point: Doug.

Needless to say, he got pommeled in pink. The girl managed to get him straight in the head, even though he had a few inches over her. It was kind of awesome.

All in all, this was a good time. The shirts are kind of adorable (they have the logo from up top) and you got a colored sweat band on top of that. The after party was kind of lame, but had a sweet photo booth from a local health insurance company, and a few food vendors. We didn't stick around long.

One thing I did thing was super awesome: they had volunteers with industrial blowers to blow all the extra dust off you before you got into your car. Genius idea, even though we were prepped with towels and trash bags and extra clothes. But still, so smart!

 Great Group On idea? Yes. Would I do it again? Maybe in a new color fun -- gosh knows there's enough to choose from that have popped up these days!