It saddened me to read today of the plans of Black Lives Matter St. Paul to disrupt the Twin Cities Marathon this coming Sunday, October 4, 2015. The protest organizers say they hope to block the road at some point on the course to prevent runners from finishing the race.

Runner’s World article: Black Lives Matter Says It Plans to Disrupt Twin Cities Marathon
Statement by the Twin Cities Marathon: Updates on the Twin Cities Marathon event page
Black Lives Matter Facebook Event: Black Lives Matter St. Paul Press Release of September 25, 2015

It’s hard for me to come up with coherent thoughts on this, so I am just going to post the thoughts that ran (no pun intended) through my mind as I read the articles, the comments, and the Facebook replies.

– I cannot see the link between police violence against blacks and the Twin Cities Marathon. Yes it’s a high profile event. Yes it is something that runners are privileged to do. But if you wish to highlight and protest police violence against blacks in your community, why choose an event at which the police will be ensuring the safety of the community? Disruption of such a positive community event is not likely to garner support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
– Why target a sport in which so many of the professional athletes are black? Twin Cities Marathon does not yet have up the profiles of the professional athletes running this particular race, but you only have to look at the finishers of the world marathon majors and Olympic races to know that the sport of running benefits many blacks.
– And forget about all the professional athletes, what about the ways in which running benefits the everyday athletes of all backgrounds? Don’t the protesters know that Black Girls RUN!?

At any rate, my thoughts will be with all of the runners and the protesters on Sunday. May the runners finish safely without interruption and may the protesters stay safe as well.

I crossed another item off my bucket list recently! It wasn’t a marathon, half marathon or any other goal race — it was volunteering at a race! On Sunday, September 20, 2015, my three girls and I got up at 5:45 a.m. to drive out to Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California to volunteer at the Girls on the Go Los Angeles Half Marathon, 10K, 5K and 1K races. What a fun morning in a gorgeous setting!

Not a bad place to spend a Sunday morning -- Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California

Not a bad place to spend a Sunday morning — Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California

In a stroke of good luck we got the best assignment in my opinion: handing out the medals at the finish line! But first we had to unwrap hundreds of individually plastic-wrapped medals. I had no idea the medals came that way. Of course it makes sense, you wouldn’t want those shiny medals clanking against each other and getting dinged up before race day, but I never gave it any thought before. Which is exactly why every runner should make the time to volunteer at a race — to better understand and appreciate all the volunteers who make it happen!

If you are looking to boost your mood and your sense of community, get out to a local race, volunteer your time, and watch a few finishers come in at the finish line.

Happy finisher at the Girls on the Go race

Happy finisher at the Girls on the Go race

The Girls on the Go race series is particularly fun because many of the runners come in costume — I even saw a man in a tutu (what a good sport!)

While we could normally expect pleasant weather in September in Southern California, the heat wave here continues and we all roasted. That didn’t diminish the joy of the runners though and if anything, it enhanced the sense of accomplishment. Besides, who wouldn’t smile at the finish line when they receive a medal from one of these three beauties (their mother is just a little biased, no apologies there):

My long-haired lovelies handing out medals at the finish line

My long-haired lovelies handing out medals at the finish line

As an unexpected side effect/reward for volunteering, my 13-year-old got inspired to sign up for her first half marathon. We’ll build up to it by running the Brea 8K in February, maybe the La Habra 10K in March, and then a half marathon (still to be decided — her dad needs to help choose the race for his first half marathon too!) in the spring.

Have you ever volunteered for a race?

It’s official! This landed in my mailbox on Monday morning:

Boston Marathon acceptance

I should have been jumping for joy, but I was surprised to find that my joy was dampened by some other emotions. I remember all too well the feeling last year of getting a very different email, one that said my qualifying time of 3:44:26 did not meet the minus 1:02 cutoff for Boston 2015 and I would not get to race that year. I re-doubled my efforts and stayed strong at the end of the Phoenix Marathon last February to make sure that I qualified this year by more than the standard minus five minutes, coming in at 3:36:58 for a BQ minus 8:02. Online speculation predicts that this year’s cutoff will come in somewhere around minus 1:30 to 1:50, even harder than last year, and my heart goes out to all the people who worked so hard to beat the qualifying standard and yet will face the disappointment of that “we’re sorry to inform you” email. I hope the BAA comes up with a better solution, either by tightening the qualifying standards or figuring a way to expand the field safely to allow all qualifiers to register if desired. In the meantime, I will do my best to appreciate the opportunity to run the race. I am particularly grateful to my parents who generously offered to pay the $180 registration fee!

General Training Update

It feels very strange to be registered for my seventh marathon when I have yet to complete my sixth! I never do that! I always wait to see how I feel after a race to set my sights on my next goal and my next goal race. But this time I am in the middle of training for REVEL Canyon City, which takes place November 7, about 6.5 weeks from now! Training is going well, although I have regretted my choice of training plan this time around. I thrived on the Run Less, Run Faster and Smart Marathon Training plans that called for three targeted runs per week plus two cross-training sessions and some strength training. Bumping up to 4-5 runs per week plus training on some hills to get ready for Canyon City left me with a painful case of shin splints — medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) to be exact, which is a fancy way of saying pain on the inner part of the shin. I have managed to run through it over the past five weeks while trying many different remedies (rest, ice, compression socks, strength training) which I will be happy to share once I have beaten this overuse injury once and for all. I’m happy to report that this morning’s 8-mile run was my first completely pain-free run in a long time and it felt fabulous. I lost a bit of the joy of running when I was feeling the weight of injury, and it felt so freeing to run strong this morning (fingers crossed, knocking on wood).

Do you have an opinion on the Boston Marathon qualifying standards and registration process? Are you training for anything right now?

On a whim I decided to enter a contest for a free entry to the Shoreline Half Marathon from RaceGrader.com (a great place to check for reviews of Southern California races and to find registration discount codes for many popular local races). I’m always looking for someplace new to run and 13 miles along the beach sounded spectacular. Of course as soon as I typed in my email address and hit submit, I had second thoughts. How far exactly is Ventura from my house? Two hours. How early would I need to get up for the race? 4 a.m. Ugh, that seemed a little early for what would basically be a training run for the REVEL Canyon City Marathon in November. But what are the chances I’ll win anyway? Pretty darn good, apparently!

So that’s how I found myself lined up at the start of the 2015 Shoreline Half Marathon on Sunday July 12. And what a gorgeous shoreline it was!

Part of the course runs along this promenade in Ventura

Part of the course runs along this promenade in Ventura

I had arrived at 7 a.m. and parked for $6 at the public parking structure next to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, an easy walk to pick up my race bib and nice grey technical shirt at Promenade Park. There were plenty of porta potties and also some public restrooms on the beach path (oh the luxury!)

The half marathon started promptly at 8. I loved how the race director asked people to self-seed in the corral by pace and sent us off in waves every two minutes. It’s an unusual way of doing it but it makes perfect sense to avoid a crowded mass start along the beach path and the chip time doesn’t begin until you cross the starting line.

I wore my Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS watch but vowed not to look at it for the entire race. Mike didn’t think I could run “naked” (he knows how I love my data!) but that made me all the more determined! I wanted to practice running by feel and not by the watch. I hoped to go out at a steady pace, slower than marathon or half marathon pace but not exactly an “easy” pace — just a pace I felt I could sustain comfortably for 13.1 miles. I guessed that would be in the low 9-minute mile range.

The first part of the course runs five miles north along the bike path and the wide shoulder of the 101 overlooking the ocean. As always in a race I felt grateful for the privilege of being there and being healthy and able to run. The course is nearly all flat with just a few dips here and there, less than 100 feet of elevation change. Around mile 4 I could see the leaders of the race coming back along the course after the turnaround at mile 5. It was fun to cheer them on and marvel at their speed! The north-and-back and south-and-back layout of the course meant that there was plenty of opportunity for people watching with the 664 participants in the half marathon and the people on the boardwalk. Somewhere in the first five miles I passed the 2:00 pacer so I knew my pace was faster than I had originally thought it would be.

Pace miles 1-5: 8:54, 8:37, 8:29, 8:32, 8:22

The course then runs the five miles back, past the start/finish line, a couple of miles out under the Ventura Pier and around Ventura State Beach Park, and back to the finish line along the promenade.

Around mile 8 the pace stopped feeling comfortable and started getting tougher. The 8 a.m. start time meant that we faced some serious heat on the course in the later miles (73 degrees and humid by the time I finished). I wore a visor and sunglasses and stopped at the aid stations every 1-1.5 miles for Gatorade and water. The volunteers were hustling and did a good job helping the runners.

Pace miles 6-10: 8:29, 8:38, 8:27, 8:26, 8:36

The last 5K of the race was a challenge. My training plan only called for 11 miles for my long run so when I passed the parking structure after mile 12 the temptation to call it good was strong! The plan also called for a “fast finish” though, so I picked it up for mile 13 and brought it home strong.

Pace miles 11-13.1: 8:24, 8:52, 8:30

Chip Finish Time: 1:52:15, 8:34 average pace overall

Females 40-49 age group: 9 of 113

Females overall: 33 of 408 (Interesting that there were more women than men in the race! Go ladies!)

All finishers: 94 of 664

I enjoyed the bananas, oranges and Gatorade at the finish line while I waited in line for the free tacos. There was free beer too but I wouldn’t have survived the drive home with that!

It was an interesting experience running the race “naked.” I ended up running faster than I would have had I been looking at my watch, and yet the pace felt easier. I found that when I run by effort, the pace feels more comfortable than if I try to “force” myself to hit a certain pace on the watch. Now would I pace a marathon goal race this way? Not likely. That would take a lot more practice for me and a lot better sense of how to run 26.2 by feel. Would I pace another half this way? Absolutely, especially if I wanted to use the race to gauge my current level of fitness. For not tapering (and for spending several hours the previous day cleaning and priming my daughter’s bedroom to paint), I was very happy with how the race went. I recommend the course for the views, the smaller size of the field, the ease of parking and same-day packet pick-up, the nice race t-shirt, finisher’s medal, and free tacos and beer at the finish. Just a few tips if you plan on going for a goal time on this course: place yourself toward the front of your wave at the start, be prepared to dodge a few runners and people on the boardwalk (which isn’t closed to the public), and dress for the heat. With early bird registration starting at $45 for the half and going up to $75 in the months before race day, it’s a great value for a well-run (no pun intended), gorgeous race!

Have you ever run a race “naked”? Do you find it easier to run by feel or by a GPS watch?

Random fact about me: I’ve never paid for a race photo. I am just too darn thrifty and I’d rather put that money toward another race. They’re never the best photos of me anyway. Case in point, the free race photos from my last two races:

iCureMelanoma 5K

Downtown Anaheim 5K

I’m not sure what I was pointing to in that photo. Maybe I was signaling for help in catching my breath? Anyway I’m glad to have these free photos.

Training officially starts next week for the Revel Canyon City Marathon on November 7. This week was a transition week and I filled it in with an easy 5-mile run on Monday and a tempo run yesterday. Spell-check tried to correct that to “temper” run. I did almost have a temper tantrum because I was scared to run 3 miles at 7:46 pace, but I convinced myself to just get out the door for the two-mile warm up and then see how I feel. Two miles into any run I usually hit my stride and feel a lot better. It’s like my legs give in and say, “Fine, if you’re really going to do this, I’ll cooperate.” It went well and I tacked on another two miles of cool-down for a total of 7 miles.

Today the schedule said “Rest or cross-train.” I wanted a nap and was in fact resting on the couch but my six-year-old asked if we could do one of my workout videos. How did she know I needed some motivation? We did the Insanity – Cardio Abs workout. Perfect! 17 sweaty minutes. I really believe that strength training has made all the difference for me in racing. Not only does it help with injury prevention, it also helps maintain good form in those last miles of a race where the leg muscles need the support of several other muscles in the body.

Cheryl from Why Mom Runs is also starting training for a November 7 race, the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. She laid out her race goals and inspired me to do the same. I always set out several goals:

1. Sub 3:55. The best thing about aging is bumping up an age group, and with that wacky Boston Marathon Qualifying math, even though I turn 44 in August, this is the year I move up to the 45-49 group for Boston 2017 and the qualifying time jumps from 3:45 to 3:55. I’ll take that advantage, thank you very much.

2. Sub 3:36:58. It would be nice to get a PR over my time from the 2015 Phoenix Marathon.

3. Sub 3:35. I’ve set my training runs/paces to hit a 3:35 time.

4. Sub 3:30. This is the in-my-wildest-dreams time. It would require perfect training, perfect weather, and perfect execution on race day, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. In fact, if I plug my 3:36:58 time into the Marathon Time Converter from Find My Marathon, it says I could run Canyon City in 3:22:12, simply due to the advantage of the downhill profile of the course. But that comes with its own challenges. I am going to need to be careful about not going out too fast, not trashing my quads on the downhill, and not hitting the wall. Easier said than done. Plus I am taking a chance on a new training plan. I enjoyed the Run Less, Run Faster and Smart Marathon Training plans I used for my first five marathons, but this time I am going with the “Own It” marathon training plan from Train Like a Mother.

What training plan(s) have you used? What are you training for right now, if anything?


I love running new-to-me races and the 16th Annual Downtown Anaheim 5K Race did not disappoint!

The race offered free race morning packet pickup in addition to early pickup, which meant that I could sleep until 5:15 a.m., scarf down some oatmeal with brown sugar and a cup of coffee with milk, and hit Harbor Boulevard at 6 a.m. for the straight shot south to downtown Anaheim. I arrived at one of the two parking structures on Oak Street that had free, ample parking and I had no trouble finding the check-in table by 6:25 and the porta-potties by 6:30. No waiting in any lines!

Registration cost $35 but only because I was too chicken to sign up before May 1. Normal registration is $30 and there are discounts for teams and even a $20 early bird discount fee for those on the race director’s email list. Registration comes with a nice white cotton tee which I confess I used for a sweat rag after the race (what, it will wash clean!) and which I prefer over a technical tee if it keeps the cost down (same with the fact that there was no race medal – I don’t need more bling although I mention it because I know that’s important to a lot of people). Tons of great vendors lined the expo and offered free samples of everything from vitamin water to protein recovery drinks and bars. My favorite vendor though? The one offering two-minute lessons on hands-only CPR, something every runner (every person!) should know. Check out this demonstration video from the Boston Athletic Association, the American Red Cross, and the American Heart Association:

What the lesson taught me today is that to help you figure out how many chest compressions to do in a minute, you can perform them to the beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive.”

For more information on the cardiac risk associated with endurance events you can also listen to this great Runner Academy podcast: How Safe Is Marathon Running for Your Heart? (And when I say “cardiac risk” I am not talking scary hype, just the facts about the actual low level of risk and how to assess your personal cardiac profile).

Speaking of hearts, mine was beating pretty quickly with race jitters as I waited on the starting line. After a live rendition of the national anthem, the race began promptly at 7:30 a.m. under gloriously overcast skies, 63 degrees and 80 percent humidity.

I hope next year the race director has volunteers holding up minute-per-mile seeding suggestion signs in the self-seeding corral because I highly doubt the dude in cotton Bermuda shorts (no joke) who tried to place himself in front of me five rows from the start could run 7-minute miles. And I’ve never experienced more jostling at the start of a race. If I wanted to be elbowed I’d do an Ironman swim. Anyway, it is thankfully a relatively small race at about 850 participants and it soon thinned out on the wide straight streets of Anaheim. Unfortunately one of the train track crossing bars was stuck down and the course police directed us on the slightest jog around that. The announcer assured us the course wouldn’t run long and indeed, my Garmin measured 3.13 miles. Besides, this year’s winner clocked a course record so who am I to complain?

In spite of my best intentions and 1-minute warm-up intervals at race pace, I started the race a little too fast and had to settle into a 7-minute pace. The first mile seemed to fly by. My goal then became to “maintain.” Funny how mantras just pop into your head as you run. Mile two was good but getting harder, and mile three was a real challenge. I tried to walk (run) that fine line between leaving it all on the course and actually blowing up on the course. I did pretty well but my pace slipped a little. Perhaps I was demoralized by the woman who passed me as she pushed a jogging stroller (I joke — I wasn’t demoralized, I was awed!) I ended up finishing in 22:19, a PR by 1:25 over the iCureMelanoma 5K last May.

Gorgeous palm-lined finish with the American flag and balloon arch

Gorgeous palm-lined finish with the American flag and balloon arch

Turns out my time was good enough for second place in my age group!

Chip time: 22:19
Pace: 7:11
Overall: 136/851
Females: 25/434
Females 40-44: 2/36

I stuck around to collect my award but the timing company experienced a glitch and it couldn’t confirm the official results in time. Those came out at about 5 p.m. today and the awards will be put in the mail on Monday.

Overall I definitely recommend this race! The parking and packet pick-up are a breeze, the course is well laid out and flat, the finish line is beautiful and the expo has a real community feel. The race director gave out prizes from some of the sponsors and it was fun to watch a little kid get four tickets to an Angels game and an adult get a two-night stay at the Anaheim Marriott! One lucky lady with size 8 feet won a pair of Skechers running shoes (I curse you, size 11s! Actually I take that back — my size 11s have given me many happy miles.)

Racing a 5K was quite the experience after all my marathon training and racing. I followed this 5K training plan for advanced runners from About.com and I feel like it did the job well. I was surprised to note that my lungs gave out before my legs, and my arms were sore. Man I must have been pumping to keep up that pace!

What’s your favorite race distance? I like to mix it up. I would like to run another one-mile race some time but there aren’t too many around and the local ones haven’t fit in my schedule. I love an 8K — I feel like that is a nice middle distance race. My favorite race of all so far though has been the Revel Canyon City Half Marathon, just because the course was so spectacular in the San Gabriel Mountains, and I felt like I was flying down the course.

When I started running four years ago, I followed a fairly natural progression. At first I trained for a sprint triathlon. I enjoyed all three disciplines of swimming, biking, and running. While I continued to train for triathlons, I also ran a stand-alone 5K, an 8K, a 10K and a half marathon over the course of the next year. Once I had trained up for the half marathon and liked it, I figured if I was ever going to run a marathon, that would be the time to do it. Five months later I ran my first marathon and was hooked. And so began three solid years of marathon training:

4:02:39 at the Santa Barbara International Marathon – Fall 2012
3:57:29 at the Mountains2Beach Marathon – Spring 2013
3:52:42 at the Long Beach Marathon – Fall 2013
3:44:26 at the Santa Rosa Marathon – Summer 2014 (BQ minus 34 seconds)
3:36:58 at the Phoenix Marathon – Winter 2015 (BQ minus 8:02)

Those last two races took a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy as I raced to qualify for Boston. When my qualifying time at Santa Rosa did not meet the cutoff to register for Boston 2015, I felt a huge sense of disappointment. I dedicated myself to training for the Phoenix Marathon six months later. It took an incredible amount of focus and commitment to finish that race strong and not give up on qualifying with several minutes to spare. I accomplished that goal, and yet I felt an odd sense of letdown. I think I burned out on training 10-11 hours a week with three runs (a 4-5 mile speed workout, an 8-mile tempo run, and a long run) and two bike rides (20-30 miles each) and strength training (40-60 minutes per week). The training worked, but it left me ready to take an extended break from regimented training.

So, I took the month of March off formal training. I went skiing with my family at Whistler (where I still took advantage of the trails to get a few runs in) and I engaged in marathon housecleaning sessions rather than marathon training sessions.

Rest is great, and there’s lots of research that says muscle memory and endurance make it easier for you to get fit again after a break than it was the first time you got fit. However, I have to say that it took me a good two months of regular training before I felt back on track again, so to speak. I held off signing up for my next race because I just wasn’t sure it was worth putting myself out there. Finally I decided I was just being chicken and I signed up for the Downtown Anaheim 5K a week from tomorrow.

After that, I will start training for my sixth full marathon, the REVEL Canyon City Full Marathon on November 7, 2015. I had such a fantastic run at the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon in 2014 that I couldn’t resist putting the full on my calendar this year. The challenge now is to train for the net -5,134 feet of downhill on the full marathon course. I take that very seriously and I plan to do at least a couple of long runs on the course to make sure I can handle the pounding on my quads on race day.

What’s up next for you? Have you ever taken a break from running? Do you like to have a training plan in place or do you enjoy the flexibility of some time off from formal training?


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