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Me ready for spin class this morning in the cute race tank top (the men got short-sleeved shirts in the same color), minus the blue arm sleeves we also received.

Me ready for spin class this morning in the cute race tank top (the men got short-sleeved shirts in the same color), minus the blue arm sleeves we also received.

On Saturday, February 28, 2015, I joined the 1,881 men and women who conquered the Phoenix Marathon in beautiful Mesa, Arizona. I had trained for five and a half months for this race. I felt ready physically, and yet as I took the 30-minute bus ride from Mesa Riverwalk up to the full marathon starting line, I felt like I had my feet and hands braced against the open door of an airplane as a skydiving instructor tried to shove me out the door against my will. The thought of taking on my fifth full marathon intimidated me to the point that my teeth chattered with nerves and not just the cold.

After a 3:15 a.m. wake-up call (that’s 2:15 a.m. for this California girl), I’d hopped a bus at 4:45 and arrived at the staging area by 5:15. Conditions at the starting line turned out to be perfect in spite of the prior threat of rain. The temperature was in the 50s and the pre-dawn sky was overcast. The staging area boasted firepits and propane heaters to keep the runners warm, but I opted to find a place to sit and rest my legs after my first trip through the porta-potty lines. I hopped back in the burgeoning lines at 5:45 and tried in vain to will the lines to move faster. Only when the first set of fireworks went off did the line get moving, much to my relief. By 6:10 I was back out and changing out of my sweats, then slathering on sunscreen. I dropped my gear bag at the truck and walked to the starting line by 6:20. There were no corrals and I placed myself behind the 3:30 pacer but in front of the 3:35 pacer. The race started on time and we were off in the dark just as the sky started to lighten.

Miles 1 through 4 (Pace in minutes per mile: 8:01, 7:49, 8:07, 7:57)

The runners started out more slowly than I would have liked but that probably was a good thing, reining in my enthusiasm and adrenaline-fueled nerves. The course starts on a downhill grade but nothing that tempted my legs to really fly (it’s much less steep than the Revel Canyon City Half Marathon, which I loved). The pack of runners thinned after mile 2 or so and everyone settled into their own race.

Miles 5 through 8 (8:26, 8:33, 7:37, 7:55)

Miles 5 and 6 are uphill. I had done at least one hill workout per week in training so I was prepared for the hills and I tried to keep a steady effort and not stress when my pace slowed a bit. Mile 7 was the downhill reward for all that uphill. By then it was fully light outside and I enjoyed taking in some of the scenic desert landscape.

Miles 9 through 12 (7:56, 8:01, 8:03, 8:07)

The slight downhill grade continued through mile 12, and while the course declines in elevation after that I did not notice it. The course felt flat from there on out and unfortunately, we faced some wind on several of the miles in the second half of the race.

Miles 13 through 16 (8:10, 8:06, 8:17, 8:14)

I hit the half marathon mark at 1:45:39, right on pace for a 3:34 finish as hoped. However, at mile 15 I really felt the wind fighting me and I struggled to maintain my target pace of 8:07. This part of the course runs through more residential and industrial areas (meaning that the half marathon race course is not quite as pretty as the full course), but I remember passing many orange trees in bloom and the course smelled heavenly!

Miles 17 through 20 (8:03, 8:12, 8:10, 8:43)

Somewhere during mile 16 I distinctly remember thinking, “Okay, this isn’t fun anymore.” That’s not the kind of attitude that’s going to get you through 10 more miles of running, so I started working on my mental game. I remembered what my sleepy six-year-old had said to me as she asked for water at 3:30 a.m.: “Good luck Mama. You’ll do great because you’re a speedy mom.” I just started repeating “speedy mom, speedy mom, speedy mom” to myself, willing my legs to prove I was indeed a speedy mom. Unfortunately, in mile 20 I developed an odd, pulling sort of pain in my left buttock that made me have trouble convincing my leg to lift up and forward. I managed to work through it, thank goodness, but my pace never quite recovered. I didn’t hit the wall like I did at Mountains2Beach, but it was taking all of my mental and physical energy to keep racing. At some point my brain and my body had a conversation that went like this:

Body: “I would like to walk now.”

Brain: “I know, me too, but we can’t. Don’t give up now. Keep going! You’ve come this far.”

Body, “No really, I want to walk.”

Brain: “Sorry. Just run to the next aid station.”

And that became my mantra. “Run to 21. Run to 21.” When I reached the aid station at mile 21, it became “Run to 23. Run to 23.” Somehow the thought of running two miles until I could walk through the aid station was a lot less intimidating than running the whole remaining 10K. At every aid station (miles 3, 5, 7, 9 etc. until 23 when they were every mile), I took in two cups of Gatorade Endurance, lemon-lime flavor (my favorite!) The aid stations were well-stocked with Gatorade and water, and several stations had Clif Shots and/or oranges although I never took any of those.

Miles 21 through 24 (8:42, 8:45, 8:30, 8:51)

Spectators scattered themselves along the course in small packs. My favorite race sign of the day: “Don’t be the Seahawks. Run it in!” Around mile 21, one of my fellow Boston 2016 Facebook group members recognized me and encouraged me by name. I needed that boost then — there’s just something about someone saying your name that gives you that extra surge of energy and I appreciated that so much! I also loved all the kids on the sidelines who offered high fives, and the guy who had the “touch this spot for power” sign (you better believe I touched it)! He popped up on the course several times and I felt like I had my own personal cheering squad in addition to my husband and three girls waiting for me at the finish line.

During mile 23, the 3:35 pacer passed me. I felt both disappointed and inspired at the same time. I managed to pick up the pace to 8:30 as I chased him, but I soon lost sight of him. As my Garmin clocked mile 24 at an 8:51 pace, I decided to check my overall time: 3:20 and change. I realized that if I could just keep my pace under 10 minutes per mile for the remaining 2.2 miles, I could still break 3:40! My PR from Santa Rosa was 3:44:26 and I felt confident I could beat that.

Miles 24 through 26.27 (9:08, 8:29, .27 at 7:57 pace)

The thought of breaking 3:40 really lit a fire under me (not that you would know it from that 9:08 pace). It was clear that I hadn’t hit the wall and I still had some gas left in the tank if I could just convince my legs to go go go! I always joke that I can pick up the pace in the last mile when I realize that I’m not going to collapse on the course. Sure enough, I brought mile 25 in at 8:29. As I approached the final turn on the course, I came up on a girl who was pacing her friend to a Boston Qualifying time. She cheered her friend on as she called to the spectators, “This girl is going to qualify for Boston! Boston Qualifier, right here!” I smiled at her exuberance for her friend, and my cheeks flushed with pleasure as I knew at that point that she could be talking about me, too. As I picked up the pace in the final straightaway, I heard the announcer call my name and say that it looked like I was going to qualify for Boston, “Yes, yes indeed, we have another Boston Qualifier, Angela White!” I threw my hands up in the air with joy and relief!

Phoenix Marathon finish line

I had done it! I had hung on to break my personal best time by 7 minutes 28 seconds and qualify for Boston with 8 minutes 2 seconds to spare, coming in at 3:36:58 (which, let’s be honest, is SO much more satisfying than 3:37)!

My husband and girls had positioned themselves right after the finish line. I got kisses from all of them and they handed me the chocolate milk I’d begged them to bring to the finish (and thank goodness for that, because I got my medal, water, and a hand towel right away, but I didn’t see any food or other drinks right at the finish. I know there were tents with food elsewhere in the finisher’s area, but all I could think about was making my way to my family). We checked my time at the timing tent. I’m always so impressed when a race provides a printout right at the finish line. I learned that I came in 16th in my 40-44 age group out of 150 women. Dang those ladies are speedy! A full 29 women in that group qualified for Boston! That’s a tremendous percentage, and it either means that the course is “fast” and favorable, or lots of runners gunning for Boston targeted this race, or both. Either way, I recommend the Phoenix Marathon. I had a great experience before, during and after the race. Phoenix is beautiful in the winter and my family enjoyed making it a race vacation. And you know what my 10-year-old said when I crossed the finish line? “We’re going to Boston!”

My husband says I’m still on a marathon high but I think of it more as giddy with “marathon relief”! I just am so thankful and pleased that everything came together on race day — the training, the course, the weather (more on that later), the pacing and the fuel — they all combined for me to run the Phoenix Marathon in 3:36:58, a PR of 7 minutes 28 seconds and a BQ with 8 minutes 2 seconds to spare!

I’m still processing the whole experience. Whoever said that the marathon never gets easier, you just run faster, was right. No matter how much you pour into the training, you still have to give it your all mentally and physically on race day if you want to achieve a personal best time. I learned that at Santa Rosa, and I re-lived it this past weekend at Phoenix.

I feel great now — I’ve even resumed walking down the stairs normally — and I’ll have a full race recap up soon.

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.

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