Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Race Report: Laguna Hills Memorial Day 5K

... officially part of the Laguna Hills Half Marathon series, featuring a 5K, 10K and half on Memorial Day (yes, a Monday race!).
May 25, 2015 | Laguna Hills, CA

Last week, I finally got around to talking about our Recon Retread "2014 make up race" that we did to get ourselves into the legacy running for the 2018 Chief of Staff beauty. 

Conveniently, Memorial Day is also the kick-off day for the annual #RWRunStreak summer challenge. I've been doing this challenge since 2012 and as of last year, turned it into a fun competition with friends all over the country (Phoenix, Chicago, and now San Diego and Tucson!) to hold ourselves accountable but also have a little friendly competition at the same time. I mean... what can I say, I'm competitive! I figured a 5K was an appropriate way to kick off these next 41 days... 

 We left for Laguna Hills about 5:45 am for a 7 am race time. Many thanks to the holiday morning and empty freeways that time of day, we got to the Laguna Hills Mall about 6:15, with plenty of time to walk over to registration (hooray race day pick up!), get our shirts (not as soft as last year's, womp) and get back to the car to drop our haul off and get situated.

Then it was back over to the start line and to a mad scramble to get through the porta potty line in time to get back over to the start. Getting into the corrals wasn't a huge problem, just that we entered the corral back with the 13-minute mile pacer for the half, so we worried about getting stuck. Thankfully, we've got a good system going and managed to weave our way up to the 10-minute group to at least get out over the start line.

Pre-race selfie. Duh.
 There were 1,048 finishers for the half, 788 for the 10K and 1,446 for the 5K. My only super major complaint about this race is the start line. While it's not huge by any means, it's big enough that I really feel the start should be staggered at least a bit. It honestly didn't affect my race too much, though some weaving was required, but for a race that felt that big, I thought it was odd that we all started, all together, all at once.

But, bonus to that? Chip timing, which is not common at most Renegade Races (or maybe just the large enough ones?).

This course is not at all what the Retreat course was (that was the last few miles of the full 10K course). The first mile or so winds through Laguna Woods retirement community, so there were tons of old folks out cheering us on, complete with signs, cowbells, and them set up in beach chairs on their curbs waving us on! I so very much appreciated their support as we wound through literally the entire property. 

Mile 1: 8:00
I pushed a little too hard in mile 1, so tried to back off some going into the second mile so that, perhaps, I could give a little more again in mile 3. 

Mile 2: 8:50
The hill. Really, not that huge of one but frankly big enough that I shouldn't have pushed as hard as I did pushing up the first half of it! I walked about 30 seconds at the top just to regain composure and get back in my groove. 

Mile 3: 8:44
A good downhill but not enough to make up for my walk. Ah well. The mile 3 marker was just at the corner, so it was one quick turn on the road, and an even quicker turn into the driveway of the Laguna Hills Community Center. 

I turned and waited for Doug, who came in not long after me. After a few post-race massages and chiropractic adjustments, food (Corner Bakery muffins!) and wandering the community expo (which was pretty large and awesome), we wandered to finally go find our times and check out how we really did, considering that stupid hill. I hate love hate am ambivalent about hills. 

Eh, for a walk stint, 6/50 ain't so bad!
 Doug also finished 5th in his age group, which is one of his highest place finishes ever too, out of a group of 31! Pretty awesome.

A great race, great community event, and some amazing support. Part of the Darkhorse Battalion was out there, complete with humvees and rifles to take photos with. A number of community organizations that support and look out for Darkhorse members, who gave so much and lost even more at the Battle of Sangin in 2010. I was literally in tears walking through the tent that had each of the men's faces, ages (19... 20... 21...) on display. Heartbreaking. An amazing Memorial Day tribute and event to support these Marines. Thank you, veterans everywhere!

Did you run a Memorial Day race?

Friday, May 22, 2015

5 Reasons Why I’m Excited to ROCK San Diego

1. I started running in San Diego.
Albeit very, very casually, it was in the summer between my two years in grad school at SDSU that my roommate and I decided we would train for a half marathon – to be specific, the America's Finest City half. It was in San Diego that I ran my first road race, the Coronado Independence Day 15K (I tell you, at that point, 9.something miles was far). We never made it to the half (and I have yet to run that one), mostly because I blew out my knee that summer, but the morning I moved out of SD in June 2008, I spent an hour running up and down the Mission Beach boardwalk, never more in love with that city than then.

2. Course Scenery
The city itself is gorgeous, but the course takes you through some of the best parts of the city. Obviously starting near Balboa Park is awesome, but actually running through it? A dream.  Up through Normal Heights and into some San Diego residential neighborhoods, where crowds are out in full force! The best kind of course support, for sure.

Finishing down at Petco Park will be pretty amazing, too, so I’m excited for that grand ol’ finish line!

3. Course Entertainment
This goes without saying, but especially as I don’t run with music 99% of the time anymore, I especially look forward to Rock ‘n Roll races because of all the entertainment! The finish line concert is with O.A.R, but you can check out the full list of entertainment course-side here. Can you say FUN?

4.  All The Social Media Fun
While I don’t ACTUALLY get to participate in #allthefun (tear), as I’m working all day Saturday and then BOOKING it to San Diego that evening, there’s tons of fun that YOU can have. My current favorite? The Twitter scavenger hunt, taking place at the expo on Friday and Saturday. Check out the deets here and make sure you play along when you’re at the expo!

You can also check out We Run Social – some amazing folks with a passion for making running truly about connections, fun, and winning on the interwebz (in their words, not mine!). You can check out Pavey’s post for information about ALL THE FUN (seriously) that’s going down over the weekend. Again, tears, because I’m missing out on 80% of it. But at least I get to run the race?!

5. It’s the OG Rock ‘n Roll Race
That’s right – RnR SD is the original race of the entire Rock ‘n Roll series. What better than to run the race that spawned an entire series that is now not only nationwide, but global?! I’m excited to see where it all began – and again, in one of my favorite places ever.

Who’s ready to ROCK San Diego with me? Are you doing the half or full marathon?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Race Report: Recon Retread 5K

April 19, 2015 | Laguna Hills, CA

This one is way overdue, but considering race #2 is coming up on Monday, I figure I better get it together and get this one up on the books, too! Renegade Races has held this race for a few years and announced last year a new fun challenge - run the race (any distance) 5 years in a row and earn a bonus medal... I mean, that says it all, right? Each year's race will honor a different branch of the military, and the 2018 bonus, should you make all 5 years, will be a Chief Joint of Staff medal. 

While we missed this last year, they announced in March a "make up" race - run the make up, and you're still in the running for the bonus. Count me sold! 2014 featured the Marine Corps and this year will feature the medal. At any rate, we signed up for the make up about a week out for just $25. The make up 5K featured the last 5K of the 10K course, so depending what distance we signed up for in the future, we knew part of the course. 

We left Chino about 5:30, and got to Laguna about 6:15 with time to bib check, grab our shirts (softest shirts ever = <3) and settle in the car for a little bit before the 7 am gun time. There weren't a ton of people, but again for a random Sunday morning and a "make up" race, in theory there shouldn't have been a ton of people anyhow (final finishers totaled 126). 

I wasn't gunning to PR, but wanted a solid 5K run, considering I hadn't run much since LA, also considering I had no idea what this course looked like. Turns out the course is pretty much pancake flat, save for a few dips under bridges - the entire course is on a bike trail through a city nature preserve and park, and is totally tree-lined and fabulous. A gorgeous morning. I felt solid, wasn't watching my watch too much, as again I just wanted to focus on having a decent run. At the turn around point, I had only counted 3 women ahead of me (the only benefit to an out-and-back 5K!) and thought it'd be pretty freakin' sweet if I could pull off a top finish. I guessed pretty safely that I was probably leading my age group, at least.  

There was a woman, probably in her late 30s, who I'd been trailing for the better part of the race and I knew I had to at least pass her to get into a top 3 finishing spot. She was just quick enough that I wasn't sure I could keep up, even though I wasn't even close to a PR, but I held on. She started running with a man who I heard ask, "Push it too hard in the beginning?" and I heard her laugh and say "Yes!" Maybe this was my shot... after one of the bridges we go under, there's a quick incline - she stopped to walk up the incline, so I knew it was my chance to book. Even with 4/10 of a mile left, this was my shot. 

Boom. 3rd female overall, 26:28 (26:18 Garmin time). Holy crap! 

Never have I ever, nor probably will ever again, unless it's a race that small.  But woo, that's some excitement to get my Sunday started! These medals turned out pretty sweet, too - the blue center near the runners is see-through also. Love. And what's not fun about a camo ribbon?

This guy came barreling in just 1:02 after me (again, clock time) and snagged a PR for himself too - seriously major wins for us this morning! His watch read 27:22 so that's what we're going with! 

Not a bad morning - complete with breakfast at the cutest hole-in-the-wall French bakery every (helloooo giant cheesy breakfast croissant) that I'm dying to go back to... maybe after Monday's race! Before we left this one, we headed over to sign up for this year's race - just the 5K, but maybe we'll move up to this (apparently) really hilly half at some point. 

As true with any Renegade Race, no real complaints. Great medals, super soft shirts that I've worn countless times already, and great community feel. My only complaint is that their races are based on gun-time, but that's how you keep races cheap, no chip timing! And, frankly, that's what Garmins and watches are for, so you can clock your own. But truly, that is significantly minor to having an overall great race experience, which they never fail to do. 

Looking forward to Monday's 5K! 

Are you racing this Memorial Day weekend?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Life Unfiltered

I started this post a little bit ago, when Split Image was first published. Please take the time to go read it and watch the corresponding video, if you can. After some responses from Pavement Runner and Sharp Endurance, I felt the need to keep moving with it and finish it, even if just for myself. Thanks for letting me share.


I’m going to by no means do this story justice, as ESPN did an incredible job on such a difficult topic. Split Image is about 19-year-old Madison Holleran, a track and cross country runner at the University of Pennsylvania. As a freshman, she greatly struggled with her mental health. Much of the article talks about the life she portrayed on social media, a happy and successful college freshmen’s life and how truly, every one presents a sort of alter-ego via smart phones and computer screens.

Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self. Hundreds of years ago, we sent letters by horseback, containing only what we wanted the recipient to read. Fifty years ago, we spoke via the telephone, sharing only the details that constructed the self we wanted reflected.With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another's edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others' filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered. In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look "cooler than they are" on social networking sites.
How many times have you re-taken that selfie, messed with every filter Instagram has to offer, just to ensure it looks ‘right’? I’m guilty. Used the right filter to fix the onslaught of break outs across your chin? Definitely guilty. When did it become not okay to show that your living room might always be a mess, that your kids’ hair is full of mashed potatoes, and that the run you just finished wasn’t the run you had hoped for?
I think the story resonated with me even more, considering my career in higher education. After running a residence hall of 420+ freshmen for three years, I’d counted too many times that a student was transported or hospitalized for self-harm concerns, or how many times they’d come to me in tears, uncertain about the next steps in life or if college was where they really needed to be. It’s not news that freshmen greatly struggle with the new step, new transition into university life.
I was there, too. I hated my college, hated where I was – struggled with making friends that I thought I could rely on, struggled with my roommate, and was generally unhappy. A friend from home and I made a pact, that we could at least stick it out through the Christmas vacation. And if we could make it to there, we could probably make it to the end of at least our first years at our respective schools, and then we could reevaluate if needed. We both made it, and we both graduated from the schools we started at. But not without struggle. I remember coming back to Flagstaff from home after winter vacation with my family, and I was laying on my twin bed, staring off into nothing. A friend from down the hall came by to say hi since she had just gotten back, and without even saying a word, I just burst into tears. It was a reality of facing the struggles of first semester all over again.
It wasn’t until my senior year, and really even my last semester, that I went to the Counseling Services center on campus to talk about my general anxiety, stress, and general fear about my pending graduation and very much pending life. It took six months to actually make the appointment – I bailed on the first two, but finally went in February for the first time.
When did it become a bad thing to find the need to talk to someone? That it’s so taboo to admit to ourselves that we might struggle?
A week after she died, Madion’s family set up a Facebook page that is to celebrate her life and share her life, but also has become a sort of refuge for other folks to share their stories too. From Split Image, but also one of my favorites and one that probably resonates with me most:
I run because it's therapeutic for me. Because every time I run outside, around my home, I am reminded of the beauty of the world, of which I often forget. Yet at the same time, I am fully aware of beauty -- it simply saddens me because of reasons I have not yet conjured up. I suppose I am sad. But at the same time I am happy; and miserable; and joyful; and stressed out; and calm, and everything in between. I am everything. Every emotion, rigged in every format, and developed through every machine. I am numb but I am not.
I hope to use this as a way to admit that sometimes, I’m not okay. Not every run is perfect, and there are days I’m looking a hot mess and that it’s okay to shed a tear and not have on the cheesiest smile I can muster. It takes courage, certainly, but I think we owe it to ourselves and even to each other that we are allowed to not be okay.
It wasn’t until the fall that I really addressed my unemployment on social media. Those who needed to know, knew at that point, but for whatever reason, I didn't think the world needed to. I wasn't being honest with you, or myself.

Having been laid off in June, I just left motivational quotes and continued to post my (mostly) smiling self on run-cations and adventures to keep myself occupied. Inside, I was dying inside – my self-worth admittedly comes heavily from my work, and my career is certainly much of my identity. Who was I without a job title or something to put my heart and soul into every day? I recently had a conversation with someone about my new job and mentioned that I had “been so open about [my] unemployment.” I looked back and said, “Yes, but it took me five months to get to that point.” It was a sense of embarrassment, ashamed even, but why? It’s not like no one else has lost a job in recent years. I wish I had come clean in June, and been more open from the get-go because yes, behind my Instagram profile I was a wreck. I wasn't okay, but I wanted to show the world that I at least had a brave face to show for it. 
Know that it’s okay to not be okay. Live a little, unfiltered.

If you or anyone you know is depressed or suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Race Report: OC Half Marathon

May 3, 2015 | Newport Beach – Costa MesaBeach Cities Challenge

I signed up for the OC Half wayyyy back in October at the Long Beach Half expo because the deal was so good. About two weeks before the race, my friend Michelle asked if I wanted to snag her pacing spot for the 2:40s since she’d been sick and not focused on running. Long story short, boom, I was in! And got my registration back, which never hurts. Thanks A Snails Pace!

Doug, Jumah and Long had also signed up for this, as their sort of make-up for New Year’s Race for being under-trained and because those hills… well, just sucked. So while OC is significantly flatter, they were ready for go-round #2 to see what they were up for.

OC is a point-to-point course and we didn’t really feel like getting down there an hour+ early just to ride the shuttle from one end to the other. Luckily, Doug’s sister was doing the 5K which is at the half/full finish line, so she dropped us off at the start and still had plenty of time to make it up to the finish line at the OC Fairgrounds. She dropped us off about 5:15, and told us later that she got to the fairgrounds so early, they were still setting up tents and volunteers.

 I settled in the very back of Corral 3, and started to panic when I didn’t see the other 2:40 pacer. 2:30s were ahead of me, 2:45s behind me… was I going to be by myself?! I was having a minor panic attack, especially as some of the ladies gathered around me asked my race strategy, what our pace would be overall, and other plans of attack for the 13.1 duration. Thankfully, at a 12:12 average pace, there was a lot of wiggle-room for a race strategy, but I didn’t want to burn these women out. Thankfully, at (almost literally) the last minute, my pacing partner showed up – whew!

Linda and I had about 5 women who truly started with us – and declared they wanted to finish at our time. It wasn’t until the finish that we learned how many folks were really hovering around, before, or after our pacing signs and using us as a general estimate. Sandra, at 47, was running her first half marathon and all three of her kids were waiting at the finish. Sonia was running her second ever and just wanted to PR (off 2:53). So many great stories, and certainly one of the things that I love most about pacing!

The race starts in Newport Beach, runs through Corona del Mar (miles 2.5-4ish), and into Costa Mesa and the Orange County Fairgrounds:

I knew bits and pieces of the course, but there were plenty of new neighborhoods, sights and scenery to take in, especially along the back bay (8-10 especially). Even as a Southern California resident, it’s a pleasant surprise when a course can still surprise you with some scenery!

Somewhere around mile 4, we realized we had nearly a 3-minute cushion and needed to mellow out a bit or surely we’d burn out some of our runners. We backed off quite a bit, but I will admit that maintain a 12-minute mile was quite tricky, even if I was feeling tired from the 8 miles I did on Saturday with the run club. Backing off quite a bit, we evened into a solid pace and kept trucking with minimal walk breaks through water stops to allow everyone to catch a breather and ensure they had enough in them to keep going. Two or three ladies were feeling so good they surged on ahead and in the end finished nearly 3 minutes ahead of us! 

But still had time for fun, naturally, because what fun is a race without having fun to boot?

No different to Surf City or Long Beach, OC is a very PR-able course. Though some more significant inclines than the other two, I think it certainly makes up for itself along the way. There's a steady incline into mile 7, but the 'killer' hill is at mile 11, just late enough for your legs to hate you significantly. Most of our group hung on to this point, though 2 drifted back a bit. 

Sandra had spent a bit of the race telling us that she wanted to hang with us until mile 10 and then she'd "see how things felt." I assured her that if she could hang until mile 10, she could hang until mile 13. Sure enough, she was still with us through the hill, through mile 12, and at 12.5 she decided she felt so good, she was going to take off and finish it from there (2:37 for her!). 

Linda and I had such a cushion in the last .25 mile, we'd stop and cheer people on for 10-20 seconds, then jog a little more, stop and cheer, and so on... and we still finished like this: 

I tell ya what, it's harder to run that slow than you'd think - I didn't feel any less tired, but certainly much more hungry than after any other half I've done (it's science)I got to reunite with almost our whole original group for a few photos - Sonia had dropped off in mile 11, but still finished at 2:43 for a 10-minute PR! We killed it, everybody - way to go!

Better yet... Doug, Jumah and Long all had pretty stellar PRs: Doug ran 2:18 (20 minute PR), Jumah ran 2:10 (like an hour PR), and Long 2:01 (22 minute PR) and were feeling pretty outstanding. An amazing morning for everybody!

Not only was this my first time running OC (and it might be one of my new favorites), I also got to complete the Beach Cities Challenge for the first time, which was certainly an added bonus! Bling, bling and more bling. 

I've got lots of thoughts coming around on each of the BCC races, but OC is definitely high up on my must-do list for Southern California half marathons!

Did/have you run OC? How about the Beach Cities Challenge?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

National Run With Your Dog Day Virtual 5K + Giveaway Winners!

I absolutely love getting Molly out for a few miles with me - she's done a few 5Ks with me, but numerous miles around the block and neighborhood on some training runs with me. So when Lea announced her virtual 5K, National Run With Your Dog Day, I figured it was just another good excuse to get Molly out the door with me for some miles 'round the block. 

Miles after a full work day, on top of the 45-minute commute back home, are not always easy. This week has really got me down already (despite it only being Tuesday!), so I knew that I'd pretty much have to get through the door, change, and put shoes on before I even sat down so I could hold myself to actually getting out the door.

Thankfully the ride home was pretty quick and painless, so Molly and I were out the door by 6:20 for our 5K around the neighborhood. While I haven't been doing my weekday runs as much as I should be, I figured I'd see what felt easy enough but comfortable and what we could pull off together.

Miles knocked out in 9:20, 9:12, 8:59 and the final .11 stretch at an 8:44 pace. Pushed her a little more than me, so I'm glad that was comfortable enough for me any given Tuesday. She's a little wiped and already snoring at my feet. Happy puppy.

Lea has a ton of great dog-related and running-related giveaways that are open through next Tuesday, so be sure to check them out if you haven't already!

Speaking of giveaways.... I have a few winners, too!

Shannon and Kirsty, check your emails tonight for information on how to claim your winnings! Woo hoo! Congratulations! And even if you didn't win, check out some of their current sales going on here! You can still stock up.

Happy Wednesday, everybody!

Do you run with your dog?