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The ticker on the Phoenix Marathon site assures me there are indeed just 2 days and 14 hours until the race begins. No wonder I have butterflies in my stomach and I am busy shoving carbs in my mouth to try to quell them and carb-load at the same time. This will be my fifth full marathon and somehow it gets harder and not easier, the more I know what to expect from running 26.2 miles. I both love and fear the challenge.

Once again, taper seems like a cruel experiment designed to torture athletes who generally work out their crazy by exercising. Just as you’re going cuckoo in anticipation of the marathon, you reduce the one thing that helps keep the crazies at bay. For my secondary coping mechanism I have turned to making long to-do lists and crossing items off with a thick-tipped black Sharpie. It’s very satisfying and gives me the illusion I’m in control of something, if not my emotions.

I’ll be driving out to Phoenix on Friday, sneaking in and out of the Expo with lightning speed, and cooking my usual pre-race meal in the comfort of my hotel room. If you’re running the race and do not happen to be a hermit like me, you can meet up with lots of social media folks at two events on Friday (BTW the half marathon is sold out now too): 10991246_10153630576554466_4291405724145603124_n

Look for me post-race at the booth where you pick up a special visor for qualifying for Boston at the race (this is not bravado, it’s positive thinking). To qualify for Boston I need a 3:45 or less, however with the Boston Marathon being so popular I would like to get at least 3:42 to be sure to meet the cutoff to register for the 2016 Boston Marathon.

Speaking of time goals, my goals for the Phoenix Marathon are:

1. PR with a time less than 3:44:26 (previous PR set at the 2014 Santa Rosa Marathon).

2. Break 3:40.

3. Break 3:35. I think this is possible if all the stars align — good weather, proper fueling, proper pacing.

You can track me and cheer me on to meet those goals at the following link: Race Tracker (name: Angela White).

Wish me luck! Good luck to all those running Phoenix or any other races this weekend!

If you don’t know what Yasso 800s are, you can listen to the man himself (Bart Yasso) explain how doing ten 800-meter repeats with 400-meter rest intervals in between can predict a runner’s potential marathon finish time: Yasso 800s.

I’d never done them before until today, when my workout called for 12x800m. After a one-mile warmup, I did 10x800m and called it good based on the time I had to do the 8.3-mile workout. I later determined that my pace averaged out to 3:34 per 800 meters. If you believe the ability of Yasso 800s to predict marathon finish time, that means I could finish the marathon in 3 hours and 34 minutes, which would be a 10-minute PR for me. That time is also what the McMillan Running Calculator predicts I could do the full marathon in based on my half marathon time at Revel Canyon City, and what the Marathon Time Converter says I could do at the Phoenix Marathon based on my 3:44:26 finish time at the Santa Rosa Marathon (which you might recall qualified me for the Boston Marathon but did not meet the cutoff to get me in to the race for 2015).

So, with 10 days to go until the Phoenix Marathon on February 28, this workout was just the confidence booster I needed. Tomorrow calls for 30 miles on the bike plus 20 minutes of strength training, and Friday calls for an 8-mile tempo run. After that it’s an easy “long” run of 6 miles (one mile warm up on Sunday morning plus the Brea 8K) and then an easy week of taper until the Phoenix Marathon on Saturday, February 28. Whee! After 5+ months of training, it’s hard to believe it’s almost here!

2014 by the Numbers

Happy New Year! I hope you’ve gotten 2015 off to a running start (ha ha)! I got out on New Year’s Day for a speed workout — 8 x 800m at 10K pace (in the 7:30s). Training for my next full marathon is going well. There are just over eight weeks left until the Phoenix Marathon on Feb. 28. Two months seems like a long time away and a short time away all at once.

I have set some loose goals for 2015 — more “things to work towards” rather than resolutions. For January I intend to work on meal planning, both to save money and to work on maintaining good nutrition leading up to the marathon. My exercise-related goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon with time to spare, so I actually meet the cutoff for registration for the 2016 race.

Looking back on 2014 makes me grateful for what a fantastic year it was. I didn’t realize it at the time but I nearly sampled the whole running menu! In addition to the running relay at Ragnar Napa Valley, I did eight races at almost every distance: one 1-miler, two 5Ks, one 8K, one 10K, two half marathons and one full marathon. (Ultra in 2015??) The really surprising thing is that I got on the podium in my age group in 4 of those 8 races (the mile, 5K, 10K and 13.1). To go from not being a runner at age 39 to getting on the podium at age 43 makes me appreciate all of the wonderful, positive changes that running has brought into my life in the last four years.

My favorite race of the year turned out to be the inaugural REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon in September. Just a gorgeous course and a really positive experience for me to end the year on.

Some more number crunching (perhaps only interesting to me but I like to document it):

Miles run in 2014: 1,084.39

Miles biked in 2014: 1,644.78

Miles of swimming in 2014: 2 (can I even call myself a triathlete anymore?!)

Miles walked on warm-ups or cool-downs: 75.84

If you add up all the running, biking, swimming and walking, I covered the driving distance from Los Angeles to New York City — over 2,800 miles! And what helped me get through a lot of those miles? Reading!

Number of books read: 76

Number of those books that were audiobooks listened to while exercising or cleaning house: 39 (over 50%)

One of the best changes I made in my training over the past year was to add in 40-60 minutes of strength training each week (for a total of 33.94 hours for the year, to be exact). Not only did that change my body shape, more importantly it gave me some core strength to draw on when I get tired toward the end of a race and I’m tempted to let my running form fall apart and my pace drop. Strength training offers a lot of returns on a small investment of time.

What about you? What strikes you when you look back on your year? What’s one change you were glad you made in 2014?

For my fifth (?!) round of full marathon training I’ve kicked it up a notch and taken on the competitive marathon training plan from Smart Marathon Training. To be honest, it’s kicking my behind. It didn’t help that my youngest daughter got sick, as in so sick that she needed my help a few times a night to steam her up in the bathroom so that she could breathe and recover from her croup-like cough and chest congestion. Then, of course, in my sleep-deprived state, I came down with the cold/cough too, albeit in a much milder form. So the last few weeks have been a muddle of trying to juggle sick kids, sick me, and the rainy (?!) weather here in Southern California. Today the training plan called for 80 miles on the bike. I mapped out a loop from my house that stayed off the roads as much as possible, taking the Santa Ana River Trail to the Huntington Beach Path to the San Gabriel River Trail and back on the Whittier Greenway. It came out to 73.3 miles and I called it good.

The 73.3-mile bike loop I mapped out on MapMyRun.

The 73.3-mile bike loop I mapped out on MapMyRun.

I left at 7 a.m. just after the sun rose and I completed the first half in just over two hours. The second half proved much more challenging. I went from a relatively easy 3:20 pace to a tough 4:00-4:20 pace as I went back uphill (slightly) into the wind. My legs and lungs were fine but I do most of my biking on the spin bike so I wasn’t used to holding my head up with my helmet on, and now my neck and back are really sore!

It proved to be an absolutely gorgeous day out though and I have no complaints. I’m so lucky to be able to get out on the bike in mid-December, and to have family members that support me on a bike ride that took 5 hours and 24 minutes (including all the stops at stop lights and for water refills etc.) On my ride I saw an incredibly wide range of things:

– The Christmas tree farm where we cut down our tree each year.

– A strawberry field.

– Angel Stadium.

– The Pacific Ocean, and lots and lots of surfers!

– Oil drilling platforms and massive cargo ships from China. :(

– Catalina Island. :)

– From the beach I had the best view of the snow-capped mountains in the east behind me.

– The naval ammo base in Seal Beach.

– Pelicans skimming across the top of the water over the San Gabriel River as they hunted for fish.

– It was 47 degrees F when I started my ride at 7 a.m. and the best chalk sign I saw on the beach path was “The cold never bothered me anyway!” No matter that I couldn’t feel my toes for about 2/3 of the ride. Note to self: wear wool socks and consider investing in bike shoe booties!

When I got home I immediately refueled with some leftover rouladen baked by my wonderful mom who was in town visiting from Idaho. My favorite meal and the perfect mix of protein and carbs when paired with some leftover mashed potatoes! I took an ice bath (much as I didn’t want to) and propped my legs up while wearing some compression socks. I’m not taking any chances here!

What did you do on your workout(s) this weekend? What’s the longest swim/bike/run/walk you’ve ever done?

Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate it. I started my morning off the way I like to start most mornings — with a workout! Thursday is “ride 25 miles + strength train” and I usually hit the gym to ride on the spin bike. Of course, today the gym was closed and that meant I needed to put on my big girl panties (some people call them bike shorts) and get back on Bullet, my silver road bike. I haven’t been out on the roads in a long time, and I literally had to learn how to ride a bike again. Just the shifting part. I couldn’t remember which side shifted up with the big handle and which side shifted down. It’s crazy because I actually love riding my bike and if I had all the free time in the world I would probably choose riding over running for my main workouts. But I don’t like to ride on the roads much (because I do not like for cars to squish me, go figure), and that means driving to a trail. Today I decided to risk it, figuring traffic would be light on Thanksgiving morning, and the drivers out there wouldn’t be drunk (yet). Which is a long way of saying that I got in a lovely 20-mile, hilly ride in the 90-degree heat. Yes you read that right, it’s 90 degrees here in LA/Orange County.

I’ve spent the rest of the day cleaning to get ready for my middle daughter’s 10th birthday party tomorrow. Mike is a very good cook so he’s on turkey duty.

Alright, let’s wrap this up with a game from Hungry Runner Girl (and Shut Up + Run):

Four names that people call me other than my real name:

1. Ange (NOT Angie, a fine name but not for me)

2. Mama (usually not Mom or Mommy)

3. Princess Efficiency. (I’m not kidding, this was my nickname at the law firm eons ago).

4. Boston Qualifier! (Okay fine, no one calls me that except me.)

Four jobs I’ve had:

1. Temp (this was my favorite — I never got bored and I had just the right amount of responsibility, never taking my work home with me).

2. Newspaper section editor (in college).

3. Camp counselor. (Okay, I take it back. This was my favorite!)

4. Tax and estate planning attorney (I hated this. Lasted three years).

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:

1. The Princess Bride.

2. When Harry Met Sally.

3. Big.

4. Top Gun.

Four books I’d recommend:

1. Pride and Prejudice (classic).

2. The Secret Garden (my favorite children’s novel).

3. Eleanor and Park (young adult).

4. A Life Without Limits (sport).

Four places I’ve lived:

1. Minneapolis, MN.

2. Ann Arbor, MI.

3. Boston, MA.

4. Palo Alto, CA.

There were more sets of 4 but that’s all I have time for because dinner is served! Now you play along in the comments or leave a link to your blog! I’d love to read your answers.

When Halloween rolled around again this year, I thought it was going to be hard to beat last year’s Braveheart costumes. But Mike put his sewing skills to use and made a top for me and a fantastic coat for him (he bought the coat at the thrift store and sewed on the gold braid and ruffles):

Captain Hook and Tinker Bell

Captain Hook and Tinker Bell

I can’t take any credit for the execution of the costumes, just the initial idea. I am cheap thrifty and wanted to get another use out of the cute lime green Sparkle Athletic skirt that the Ragnaritas purchased to run Ragnar Napa Valley. My 6-year-old just happened to have lime green Tinker Bell wings (which my girls were quick to point out I wore upside down — the wing tips are supposed to point up but they kept poking me in the ears)!

Upside down Tinker Bell wings and the hairpiece my 9-year-old ballerina crafted for me out of the fabric scraps from the tank top.

Upside down Tinker Bell wings and the hairpiece my 9-year-old ballerina crafted for me out of the fabric scraps from the tank top.

With the rest of the fabric scraps we made pom-poms to put on my flats. They are easily pinned on the shoes so that I can remove and attach them to my running shoes if I ever get the opportunity to wear the costume in a race like the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.

Removable pom-poms that can be transferred to  my lime green Brooks running shoes.

Removable pom-poms that can be transferred to my lime green Brooks running shoes.

Because I already had the running skirt, Tinker Bell wings, and the shoes, the whole costume cost just $7 in fabric to make the tank top, hair accessory and shoe pom-poms. The costume is very comfortable and other than transferring the pom-poms to my running shoes, the only adjustment I would make for running in the costume is adjusting and pinning the wings so they do not bounce around when I run.

Have you ever run in costume? Share a link to the picture in the comments!

The day started with a 3:45 a.m. wakeup call after about four hours of sleep. I wasn’t nervous about the race but I think I had a little too much salt at dinner and it kept me awake longer than I would have liked. Or maybe my body just wanted to test the theory that it’s not the sleep the night before the race that matters, but two nights before the race. Spoiler alert: the theory is true in my case! I had a great experience at the inaugural Revel Canyon City Marathon & Half Marathon.

About three hours before the race start, I had my usual banana, oatmeal and coffee with a splash of milk, plus 20 ounces of Gatorade. The 35-minute drive to Citrus College in Azusa was uneventful. There was a bit of a line to get into the parking lot, and I had to park in the far lot and walk back to the buses. No big deal but I was desperate to find a bathroom at that point. The race information said the gym bathrooms would be open, but by the time I made it to the buses at 5:30 and asked where the gym was, the gym was too far to get to in time to get on the last half marathon bus at 5:45. Fortunately, some of the buses were tour buses with a bathroom, so I finagled my way out of the school bus line and onto the tour bus. In a second stroke of good luck, the woman in front of me in line gave me a tissue from her pack when she discovered the bathroom didn’t have any toilet paper.

On the bus drive up the canyon, I sat next to a lovely woman who had just run the NYC Marathon two weeks before. We chatted on the half hour drive up Highway 39. I enjoyed getting to preview the course that way, seeing where there were uphills and downhills along the course and enjoying the scenery. When we arrived at the start about 10 miles up into the canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains (recently designated a national monument by President Obama), I put on the warm gloves we’d been given at the expo and made a beeline through the brisk mountain air for the porta potties. There were enough for the number of runners (888 finishers in the half marathon). By that time it was about 6:30 and we had half an hour until the start.

Perfect temperature in the low 50s at the half marathon start.

Perfect temperature in the low 50s at the half marathon start.

Before I knew it, it was time to trade my sweats for the mylar blanket we’d also been given at the expo, and load my gear bag into the truck. After another fifteen minutes, we got treated to a beautiful, live version of the national anthem, and it was time to line up on the course, self-seeding ourselves by the pacers of our choice. I got up close to the front, behind the 1:40 pacer, as I planned to go for a 1:45.

That turned out to be the right spot for me and I quickly settled into a 7:45-8:00 minute pace without any runners to dodge in front of me. There are some rolling hills in the first few miles, nothing too challenging and still plenty of downhill to get your pace up. In fact I’d planned to go out a little slower at the start, an 8:15, but my first mile ended up at 7:45. I just felt great and I went the pace my legs wanted to go on the downhills as I repeated my downhill mantra “light, quick, light, quick” in time with each step (as opposed to my mantra on the flatter sections, which turned out to be “put the hammer down, stay strong.” I have no idea where that came from but it worked!)

I enjoyed the spectacular views down the canyon along the partially closed course. We stayed in the left lane while the right was open to traffic guided by police escorts. Only once, though, did I see one set of cars pass by on the first 10 miles of the course. No spectators were allowed there either, which didn’t bother me at all. It was just peaceful and beautiful, with a sprinkling of runners along the course and helpful aid station volunteers about every two miles.

When I hit the halfway point, I did a quick self-check. At that point I was ahead of my target pace and I was still feeling great. I decided to maintain my current pace and reassess at mile 10. Incredibly, I still felt really good at mile 10 too. It wasn’t easy, but it was easier than the tempo runs I’d been performing in full marathon training (ah the miracle of taper and the wonder of what a little rest can do for the legs). I passed the first timing mat on the course at mile 10 in 1:18:19.2 for an average pace of 7:50. From that point on I looked at the race as a 5K to the finish, “only” 3.1 more miles to go. I tried my hardest to keep the pace around 7:45 without burning out before the finish. Much to my surprise, I got a surge of energy when I could hear the finish line announcer, and then could see the finish line arch. I ended up averaging a 7:38 pace for the last 3.1 miles, for a 5K split of 23:38.8, which happens to be a PR in the 5K! I guess I’d better get out there for a stand-alone 5K soon to see what I could do at that distance!

My final chip time was 1:41:58 for an average pace of 7:47 (which happens to be my 10K PR pace for my very hilly local La Habra 10K). I stopped by the timing tent and got a printout of my official results, only to find out that I had placed 3rd in my 40-44 age group out of 104 women! 27th female of 576 and 76th of all 888 finishers.

Huge finisher's medal on the left, "bronze" medal for 3rd place F40-44 on the right. My chip time ended up being one second faster than shown here.

Huge finisher’s medal on the left, “bronze” medal for 3rd place F40-44 on the right. My chip time ended up being one second faster than shown here.

I celebrated with a heavenly massage at the Massage Envy tent, then made my way to pick up my gear bag. The truck had been delayed on the course so instead I started the long walk back to my car in the parking lot. That took 15-20 minutes and while it made an effective recovery walk, I would have liked to be back in my dry clothes for that (and really, I would have liked a shuttle bus). I drove back to the gear pick-up just in time to see my bag being sorted by bib number.

On my way back out of the parking lot, I spotted Andrea, a friend I hadn’t realized would be at the race as a spectator to cheer on Pavement Runner (and she hadn’t known until the last minute that I was running the race also — and when she heard she made a sign for me too!!) During the race I had heard people call out my name at mile 12 (a HUGE boost at that point because I was putting everything into staying at my pace by then) but I just marveled at the fact that these ladies could read my name on my bib. It never occurred to me that it was someone I knew!! I was so in the zone I just gave a double thumbs-up and kept my eyes on the road. So I was especially glad we connected after the race. It was particularly nice of her to be out at the race this morning when she is headed off to run Disney Avengers early tomorrow morning then hop on a plane to go run the Strip at Night in Vegas that evening!

I never imagined the day would turn out so well and that I would be celebrating a full 6-minute PR on my Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon time. Long-time readers can guess that the first thing I did when I got home was to plug 1:41:58 into the McMillan pace calculator to see that it predicts I could train to run the full marathon in 3:34:36. That would be a 10-minute PR for me for my fifth marathon, so I’m skeptical, but gosh darn it how much would I love to run that at the Phoenix Marathon in February?!

Overall I am very impressed by the Revel Canyon City Half Marathon and I would definitely recommend it to friends. (Note that the full marathon has a net loss of 5,134 feet compared to 933 for the half — I’m curious to see what people think of the full marathon and that serious downhill run).

What’s your next goal race and what is your goal for that race?

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