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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?

My two younger girls and I hit the Revel Canyon City Marathon & Half Marathon Expo today at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Monrovia. Here I am sporting my race t-shirt, which I kind of love for the style, long length, and bold color:

Hm, I think I need work on my sign skills. I guess that's why they call me Angela, not Vanna, White.

Hm, I think I need work on my sign skills. I guess that’s why they call me Angela, not Vanna, White.

As you can see from the photo, I’ll be running the half marathon tomorrow. I hope to beat my PR of 1:48:02 from the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon last May, but if all goes well I would love to get in the 1:45-1:46 range. You can track me at this tracking link. Because we are running down the canyon for the majority of the race, the tracker will only post times at the 10 mile and 13.1 mile marks. I hope to be hitting an 8:00 minutes per mile pace or less.

That’s all for now! It’s 9:30 p.m. and I should be in bed for my 3:45 wake-up call!

I’m telling myself that the statute of limitations on writing race recaps is two months from the race date, or before your next race, whichever comes sooner (can you tell I was a lawyer in a former life?) My next race — the Revel Canyon City Half Marathon — is coming up this Saturday, so it’s definitely time to look back on the surreal experience of Ragnar Napa Valley.

My husband Mike has always said that the best way to make friends is to share an adventure with people. The type of experience doesn’t matter so much; it could be a canoe trip, a camping excursion, or, say, a 200-mile overnight running relay from San Francisco to Calistoga. True to his word, over the course of 36 hours at Ragnar Napa Valley, I went from knowing just one of 14 people on the Ragnaritas team to intimately bonding with a great group of women!

I joined my college roommate and sorority sister Renée in Van 2. Six runners and one intrepid van driver!

Missing from this photo from Van 2: our driver Janet and the current navigator, my friend Renée.

Missing from this group selfie from Van 2: our driver Janet and the front seat navigator, my friend Renée.

Van 2 had the luxury of sleeping in at the hotel until a decent hour, whereas Van 1 — six more runners and another wonderful driver — needed to be at the starting line in San Francisco before dawn (which I’d like to think was partially made up for by the fact that runner number 2, Annette, got to run over the Golden Gate Bridge in the early morning fog).

I love how the green sparkle skirts made it easy to spot our teammates, even in the dark!

I love how the green sparkle skirts made it easy to spot our teammates, even in the dark!

For each set of six race legs the Ragnaritas all sported inexpensive matching tank tops from Old Navy in either gray, raspberry or a perfect Ragnar orange:

The Ragnaritas all sported matching tank tops from Old Navy with a logo designed by teammate Sara Aroz.

Awesome Ragnaritas logo designed by teammate Sara Aroz.

I’d say a good 75% of the fun of Ragnar is getting dressed up in costume and getting into the spirit of the event with your teammates (the other 25% being running and having the privilege of covering more miles than you could ever cover on on your own). Part of what I love about running is that it is an individual sport that lets you challenge yourself no matter your age or ability. The beauty of a Ragnar relay, though, is that for a couple of magical days it turns running into a team sport that allows you to share the experience with a wonderful group of like-minded crazy fun people.

Over the shared hours in close quarters in the van (or SUV as the case may be), you develop inside jokes:

Rule number one of Ragnar: never pass up the opportunity to use a Honey Bucket (a surprisingly nice brand of porta potty).

Rule number one of Ragnar: never pass up the opportunity to use a Honey Bucket (a surprisingly nice brand of porta potty).

You count and mark your “kills” (other runners that you manage to pass on your legs, all the while neglecting to count the number of people who passed you):

The Ragnaritas "killed" it for sure!

The Ragnaritas “killed” it for sure!

Our fearless team captain Shana (a super-speedy marathon runner who contributed a lot of those kills on some of the hottest legs of the race, no less), diplomatically assigned the race legs to each of the 12 runners. Some people ran 12.3 miles total while others ran a whopping 26.3 over the 33 hours we were on the course. I had just had a few weeks to recover from the Santa Rosa Marathon and was very happy with my 17.2 miles total as runner number 9. My first leg was 4.4 moderate (hilly but not killer) miles through absolutely gorgeous sequoia trees and cattle farms! It was hot in the mid-day but the trees provided some shade and they smelled so lovely!

After van 2 finished all of our first legs we got to camp out for a few hours of much-needed rest in a park:

Such fun to camp out under the stars in perfect -- chilly but not too chilly - weather.

Such fun to camp out under the stars in perfect — chilly but not too chilly – weather.


My second leg was 3.4 “easy” miles through Santa Rosa in the wee hours of the night. It reminded me of the pre-dawn start to the marathon I’d run on those streets just days before, except this time I ran past a cemetery of all places, at 2 or 3 a.m. (who can remember now — it’s all a bit of a sleep-deprived blur). We got an hour or two of sleep back at the hotel after the second round of legs and before we knew it, it was time to head back out for the last round.

My third leg consisted of 9.4 “very hard” miles along the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley on the way to Yountville. In spite of the blazing heat of the day on Saturday, I loved it because it re-traced where my husband and I had driven on our 20th wedding anniversary trip in July. My van mates captured this picture of me running next to one of the many wineries along the route:

Gorgeous running route by anyone's standards.

Gorgeous running route by anyone’s standards.

I was so happy to finish that third and last leg:

Happily heading in to my last exchange with runner number 10, Shana.

Happily heading in to my last exchange with runner number 10, Shana.

Before I knew it, we were all celebrating at the finish line party with a few well-deserved beers and a team photo:

That's me on the bottom right, with our awesome team of Ragnarita runners and drivers.

That’s me on the bottom right, with our awesome team of Ragnarita runners and drivers.

Somehow our incredible team of two drivers plus 11 masters women (age 40 and over) and one “young” lady managed to come in sixth out of 44 women’s open teams in an overall time of 33 hours, 14 minutes, 28 seconds. The beauty of it though was that it wasn’t about the finish time, it was about the experience. For two days we got to go off the grid and enter a Ragnar relay world where the only things that mattered were your teammates, running, food and sleep. I’m glad I had the opportunity to join the Ragnaritas to run Ragnar Napa Valley 2014.

Have you ever run a relay race? What was your experience like?

Beet Juice Recipe

You know it’s finally fall weather in Southern California when you can stand to turn the oven on to make Healthier Banana Crumb Muffins (allrecipes.com) and at the same time turn the stove on to make pumpkin curry soup (According to Kelly — that recipe is so simple especially if you use canned organic pumpkin from Trader Joe’s, and you put the whole onion and garlic cloves in the blender with some of the chicken broth to make it smooth).

I had one kiddo home from school today with a fever/cold situation, so I took the opportunity to be extra-productive with my time at home and entertain the kiddo by letting her put the fruits and veggies into the Breville Juicer to make the beet juice. (Did you know that some research indicates that beet juice can help boost athletic performance?)

Just look at all these beauties!

fruits and vegetables

What’s in the bowl: purple, orange and yellow carrots with the carrot greens (organic so no peeling necessary), yellow beets (organic but peeled to reduce the earthy flavor of the beets, although next time I’ll just scrub well and leave on the skins), Rome apples (not peeled but cored — any variety of apple will do), and lemons and limes (peeled but with the white pith still on for that extra boost of vitamins).

According to the Breastfast Zinger Juice Recipe (allrecipes.com) you just toss them in to the juicer on a one-to-one ratio — one carrot to one beet to one apple to one lemon. I had a lot of produce to use up so I put in about six of each and ended up with about 36 ounces of juice (there’s a lot of foam on there but one really nice thing about the Breville container is that the lid is specially designed to hold back the foam when you pour the juice out!)

I love how it separated into these gorgeous colors. I did stir it before drinking, though!

I love how it separated into these gorgeous colors. I did stir it before drinking, though!

The juice turned out to be delicious! Full disclosure: my 6-year-old hated it and my 12-year-old loved it. The 9-year-old likes beets but is not a fan of beet juice (go figure) so I won’t be trying it on her.

The juicer intimidates me (the noise maybe? The violence of the “pressing” — it seems more like a wood chipper than a “presser” to me!) but it is super easy to use and surprisingly easy to clean. My other favorite juice recipe so far is Healthy Green Juice with green apples (any apples, really), kale, celery, cucumber, lemon and ginger. It’s got a kick to it but I love it!

Do you have a juicer? Do you have any recipes to share? (Feel free to post them in the comments or leave a link to your recipe!)

Rising Up from the Ashes

Please excuse me when I get all dramatic up in here. I’m just being honest about how I felt when I didn’t make the cutoff for Boston. I didn’t exactly handle it with the grace I would like to have had. I felt very bitter. I kinda wanted to shout, “Fine then! I didn’t want to run your dumb old super-expensive race anyway! I already lived in Boston for two years. I don’t need to see it again! You just saved me the cost of airline tickets and a hotel room and now I don’t have to pull my kids out of school to fly across the country!” I thought of boycotting The Boston Marathon, of not even trying to qualify again.

Of course, then I calmed down and admitted that if I was so upset by not getting to go to Boston, it simply meant that I cared a lot about getting to go. And I promptly signed up for full marathon #5, the Phoenix Marathon (hence my oh-so-clever post title about the phoenix rising up from the ashes).

Phoenix Marathon logo

So that’s where I’ll be on February 28, 2015. Believe it or not, the 20-week competitive marathon training plan I chose from Smart Marathon Training starts next Sunday with a 10-mile long run. Today I knocked out an 8-mile tempo run at 8:00 per mile and that felt great, so I feel ready to tackle the plan.

I had the tiniest bit of buyer’s remorse (racer’s remorse?) after hitting the “register” key for Phoenix because it has a downhill profile with nearly 1,000 feet in elevation loss, similar to the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon where I bonked so hard. Downhill running can pound your quads and also trick you (and by you I mean me) into going out too fast and then bonking later in the race. So, I’m trying to learn from my past mistakes and I’m incorporating downhill training into my weekly runs. Most people would call it “hill repeats” and consider the uphill part the part that’s building strength and thus speed, but I’m more interested in the downhill part where I work on keeping my foot turnover light and quick! Last Wednesday I ran a warm-up mile to a perfect, steep 0.4-mile hill. I ran up (and down) that four times and then ran a cooldown mile back to my car. (I would have run more repeats but that was the amount of time I had in the 45 minutes my daughter is in gymnastics class).

To help allay my downhill race worries I’ve also signed up for a downhill half marathon that fits perfectly in my training plan. In place of a 16-mile long run on a Sunday, I’ll race 13.1 miles on a Saturday down Highway 39, a beautiful route through the forests and canyons of Angeles National Forest to the foothills of Azusa. It’s the inaugural REVEL Canyon City Marathon & Half Marathon on November 15, 2014. (Tip: if you want to sign up for the race, make sure you go to RaceShed.com for a $5 off discount code, and also snag an extra $5 off for allowing REVEL to share your entry on Facebook). The half marathon has a net loss of 933 feet, close to the amount of the loss over the full marathon course in Phoenix.

So, here I go again! Does anyone have any thoughts or tips on downhill running?

Who Moved My Cookie?

Trust me when I say that I’m not sitting here feeling sorry for myself, but you better believe I feel tremendously disappointed that my Boston qualifying time of 3:44:26 did not gain me entry into the 2015 Boston Marathon. That honor belongs to people who qualified by the qualifying standard minus 1:02 or faster, not people like me who qualified by -0:34. I had an inkling this would happen, but I had no idea how disappointed I would feel when I didn’t gain entry. Let’s just say I’ve shed a few tears and leave it at that. I had hopes that the BAA would be generous in light of the success of the race last year with such a large field, and it would expand the field to let all qualifiers in this year. No such luck. I am one of the 1,947 time qualifiers who won’t gain entry based on marathon performance.

That leaves me thinking about what to do next. I feel lost without a race on the calendar. I’m not that excited about racing again but I know it does me good to have a goal on the horizon. I might run the half at Canyon City in November and/or the full at Surf City in February or LA in March. But this idea of chasing a Boston qualifying time has lost most of its luster. I’ve worked a full two years toward that goal. To qualify and then not get in feels like someone told me I could have a cookie if I ate my peas, and I ate my peas but I didn’t get the cookie.

Have you run Surf City or LA? Any recommendations?

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