30-Day Challenge Results

It’s about time I updated on how the 30-day push-up and abs challenges from darebee.com went for me. I completed them “successfully” in that I stuck to the plan of doing the assigned workouts every day for 30 days in a row. It wasn’t easy by any definition — it took 10-20 minutes per day and if I didn’t combine it with my run or cross-training, then I got sweaty twice a day! I liked to do the strength training in the morning because I found if I waited until the end of the day, not only did it weigh (ha ha, no pun intended) on me throughout the day, I also had a harder time doing the work because I was worn out from the day. So I’d wake up, do just enough strength training to work up a sheen of sweat, hop in the shower to rinse off, and get ready to take the kids to school.

The last day of the abs challenge called for 70 full sit-ups, 300 flutter kicks, and a 4-minute plank! That plank wasn’t pretty (picture me trembling through the last minute that felt like forever) but I did it! The push-up challenge was even harder though. I did every workout, every day, until the very last day. I was supposed to do 50 push-ups in a row on day 30, and I could “only” do 30. I finished the remaining 20 in 4 sets of 5.


Ha ha – check out my notes on the particularly hard workouts: “tough!!” “wow” and “killer”

It’s been a month since I finished the challenges and I’ve kept up with the strength training about three days per week. I’m really pleased with the results. I still can’t do 50 push-ups in a row, but I feel stronger (mentally and physically), my body shape changed (no six-pack, but I do have more muscle tone), and I notice a difference in my endurance on runs (it feels easier to hold good form toward the end of a run). I’ve long been a believer in strength training and these challenges just affirmed the power of what a short time investment in body weight workouts can do for your overall fitness.

I’m in my third week of training for the Death Valley Marathon and there are just over 16 weeks to go until the big day on February 4. Last week I ran 38.75 miles but only because I did my 12-mile long run on a Sunday instead of Saturday and then the next 14-mile long run on the following Saturday. Usually I only run 3 days per week and cross-train on 2-3 other days. This week I did an 8-mile tempo run, in the evening, in the unrelenting heat of Southern California. That’s when I really felt like I turned a corner and got back on track (so to speak, again no pun intended) with my marathon training. And then yesterday I did 5.0 miles of hill work. I dropped my 11-year-old at ballet and drove with my 8-year-old to the park. While she played on the playground, I ran half-mile laps around the park on the grass, then ran up and down the hill that’s in the middle of the park. While I was there, the cross-country boys and girls teams from a local high school were training there too. Imagine the lithe, nimble bodies of 15-year-olds, contrasted with my 45-year-old mother-of-three body. But you know what? Instead of being humbled by them, I was proud! Go me for putting myself out there and running hard. And you know what else? One of the cross-country coaches gave me the best compliment. He asked:

What are you training for?

I just love that question/compliment. It’s the question I got when I was training for my first half marathon and someone caught up to me at a stoplight and asked me that and it finally made me feel like a “real” runner — when another runner recognized that I was training for a race.

Anyway, I told him I was training for the Death Valley Marathon, and he told me I was “looking good” and gave me a high five. Totally made my day.

Do you do strength training? Do you have any links to share to core workouts posted online? I like Core H (13 minutes) and 8-minute abs.


My seventh marathon was the Boston Marathon in April 2016. I find it pretty funny that five months later — just as people are submitting their applications for Boston 2017 — here I am signing up for my eighth marathon, and it isn’t Boston (I qualified at Revel Canyon City but I won’t be going back to Boston next year — that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me). Instead of a race with 30,000 entrants, I’ll be going for one that has just 350 entrants. Can you guess which one? Here’s a clue in the form of the book that’s on my bedside table:

Ground Afire: The Story of the Death Valley National Monument

Ground Afire: The Story of the Death Valley National Monument

Yes, I’ll be running the Death Valley Marathon on February 4, 2017! I figure it’s the closest I’ll ever get to the Badwater 135. Just like the Badwater ultramarathon, this race runs along Highway 190 through the heart of Death Valley National Park. I’ve wanted to visit the park for a long time now. It’s just 4.5 hours from my home in Southern California but I’ve never made it out there. Now I get to go for a quick weekend trip during one of the nicest times of year to visit the park.

I know this race isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. No spectators are allowed on the course aside from the volunteers. You cannot wear headphones or otherwise listen to music on the course (I never do anyway). It’s not a closed course. You get a cotton t-shirt, not a tech tee. But I hope I don’t have to spell out the appeal of the race. How awesome is it to get the privilege of running in one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world? Add in the bonuses of race day packet pickup, lodging in the park next to the race start, and practically a guarantee of an age group podium finish if I merely complete the race (only two women in the 45-49 age group ran the race last year).

So, let the countdown to marathon #8 begin! 4 months and 17 days until Death Valley Marathon 2017!

Have you ever been to Death Valley National Park? Do you have any recommendations for must-see sights or must-do activities in the park? Have you ever run the Death Valley Marathon? (If so, please tell me all about it!)

That’s right folks, today is the big 4-5, which oddly seems a lot more momentous than the big 4-0 did. Turning 40 was the impetus for this whole fitness journey to begin for me — I wanted to get “fit before 40” so I started training for my first sprint triathlon. And now here I am five years later, having done 29 races total in that time: three triathlons, seven marathons, six half marathons, three 10Ks, four 8Ks, five 5Ks, and one one-mile race.

I’ve been thinking a lot about which race(s) to do next and I finally settled on the local Turkey Trot in November that raises money for the school district. I’m running about 20 miles per week right now so a 5K seems a manageable race distance. Of course, just my luck when I age up into the 45-49 age group, I choose a race that only has a 40-49 category — ha!

I’m still plugging away at the 50 push-ups challenge and the 30-day abs challenge from darebee.com. My 45th birthday started off this morning with 50 push-ups broken up into sets of 10, 20, 10, and 10! The challenges totally intimidate me and each day I wonder whether I’ll be able to complete the sets. I told myself in the beginning that if I couldn’t complete the day’s sets, no big deal, I would just take the next day as a rest day and then try those sets again. But here I am on day 22, and I haven’t had to skip a day! Trust the training and you might just amaze yourself, right? After the 50 push-ups I did 52 full sit-ups, 230 flutter kicks, and a 2 minute 50 second plank. (Question: How do you count flutter kicks? Do you count one rep each time either foot goes down — right leg 1 left leg 2), or do you count one rep each time your right foot goes down, or do you go big with the four count military/CrossFit style? I’ve compromised with the middle — so I count each time my right heel approaches the ground). The push-ups and ab work all took about 15 minutes and to pass the time during the plank I watched the drops of sweat drip off my body onto the mat below (sorry for that imagery, but it just goes to show how killer these challenges are!)

After I had some coffee and a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, I headed out for eight super easy miles of running. I just cruised along and listened to my audiobook (I use the OverDrive app to get books from my library and I’m listening to the audio version of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer).

Then ’cause it’s my birthday and I can take a hot bath after a long run if I want to, I soaked in the tub while I listened to a little more of the book. Then I had some more coffee and some scrambled eggs with cheese on top (again, another birthday treat. Usually I top my eggs with avocado and salsa but heck, I made it to 45, I might as well live it up with some full-fat cheese).

Now I’m hanging out and reading No Summit out of Sight: The True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits, a book my teenager loved and recommended to me. It’s great so far — I’m enjoying climbing Mount Kilimanjaro vicariously, without all the danger and effort and rainy weather.

Mike and the girls are out grocery shopping for supplies to make me a special birthday dinner. The girls chose a recipe from the cookbook my sister gave me as a present: Runner’s World Meals on the Run: 150 energy-packed recipes in 30 minutes or less. The cookbook is as awesome as I hoped. If you’re a fan of The Runner’s World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes for Fueling Up and Slimming Down–While Enjoying Every Bite then you should definitely get this one too.

I’m feeling loved and pampered today.  Check out these bracelets my younger daughters made me:

friendship bracelets

I can’t wait to enjoy my dinner meal (it’s a surprise — I don’t know which recipe they chose) and then we’ll probably all go swimming in the pool after dinner, including Roxy!

Roxy dog in the pool

She hasn’t figured out that she can jump in and swim, but she likes to hang out on the first two steps and play with the girls with her tennis ball in the water. I hope you all are having a fabulous weekend!

I’m serious, for those of you who have done flutter kicks, how do you count them??

Do you like to jump up an age group? Are you saving a big race for when you move up groups? I love jumping up an age group and I’ve always believed there’s something great about every age anyway. I haven’t saved a big race for turning older — in fact I was determined to qualify for Boston in the 40-44 age group before I bumped up to 45, but I do admit it was nice getting that extra 10 minutes once I did move up groups for Boston 2017!

In Limbo

Hello from Limbo Land, the uncomfortable place where I have been languishing since I ran the Boston Marathon and then paced my teenager through her first half marathon. Over the summer, I’ve continued to run three days a week and cross-train the other days with swimming and strength training, but it feels like I’m hanging on to fitness by a thread. I don’t have a goal race on the calendar and that’s making me antsy. The solution seems to be simple — sign up for a race! And yet, I cannot bring myself to do that with how busy I am this fall. So far nothing has inspired me to take on the commitment of another race.

My goodness, though, how I enjoyed watching the men’s Olympic marathon yesterday! I loved to watch the front of the pack — from the joy on the gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge’s face in the finish chute to the incredible accomplishment of American Galen Rupp taking the bronze, to American Jared Ward surging from 15th place with six miles to go to 6th overall at the finish! I loved seeing American Meb Keflezighi handle his digestive issues and a harrowing slip in a puddle followed by some face-saving push-ups at the finish line. And I loved watching the last runners to complete the marathon — the Argentinian Federico Bruno who due to cramping had to side-step his way across the finish line with support from Paraguayan Derlis Ayala, who stopped several times to encourage Bruno to the finish. And you’ve got to love Jordan’s Methkal Abu Drais who finished smiling in last place (several competitors DNF’d – did not finish) behind a Japanese runner and comedian Kuniaki Tanizaki who was determined not to finish last.

Without a running goal and training plan to keep me focused, I’ve taken on a couple of strength training challenges to give me that daily satisfaction of checking off the workout lists. I just crossed off day 16 of the 30-day ab challenge from darebee.com and the old 50 push-ups challenge from @neilarey.com.  I’m shocked that I can now do 52 push-ups in one day (broken up into four sets – 14 reps, 12 reps, 14 reps, 12 reps). I try not to look ahead at the schedule because it intimidates me.

So why am I so especially busy this fall? My oldest daughter just started high school. She’s made the varsity tennis team and is taking on an advanced curriculum in the local science and technology magnet school. And look who just joined our family — my new running partner! Meet Roxy, an eight-month-old German Shepherd:


Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 9.56.24 PM


The veterinarian cleared her to run 1-3 miles with me, but I have heard that I should wait until she is 12-18 months until I take her running. Any thoughts? She’s about 45 pounds and approximately 75% of her adult weight. I haven’t taken her running yet but she enjoys going on one-mile walks and she loves to run around the yard. I start human/dog training with her next month (she had some training with her former owner, a mother of three girls — like me! — who realized that Roxy had outgrown her mobile home and needed a backyard and some room to roam).

What do you do to come out of a running slump? Do you have any advice for running with a dog?




I’m always excited to check out a new running book and was happy when the publisher of Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe sent me a copy of the book to review. Run the World is the kind of book that inspires and motivates the reader to want to be like the writer. In this case, the author Becky Wade is an elite athlete who qualified for the Olympic Trials in the marathon and 3,000 meter steeple-chase. After graduating from Rice University, she spent a year traveling to nine countries on the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study global running communities. Her book made me want to travel to new places, cook exotic dishes (recipes included in the book!) and push myself in my training, both to work hard and to try new methods of training.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 8.58.29 AM

It took me a little time to adjust to the descriptive style of the book, and I had to let go of trying to absorb all the information. The book is packed with trivia from the greats of running history along with the current running scene. It filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge of the history of the sport. But in fact, the book will appeal especially to those already in the know – current collegiate athletes, elite or aspiring elite athletes, coaches, and true fans of the sport of running.

As a self-professed student of running (meaning someone who really enjoys reading about running and coaching myself through extensive study of running guides), one of the things I especially liked about the book is its in-depth look at different training methods from around the world. It was fascinating to contrast the rigid, high-mileage training of the Japanese athletes with the more flexible training of the Ethiopians. I also particularly enjoyed learning about the variety of foods that athletes consume around the world and the socialization that happens around different cultural food rituals and traditions. In a way was a relief to learn that competitive running success can come from such a great variety of cultures and training methods.

Most inspiring to me though was the account of Becky’s debut marathon at the California International Marathon in 2013 upon her return to the United States. I won’t give any spoilers other than to say that her performance led to her signing with Asics. I look forward to watching her further develop her running career and wish her the best of success with running and Run the World!

I’ve joked in the past about having black toenails…from black nail polish. My flippant attitude about a painful subject for many runners has come back to bite me in the behind (or the big toe, as the case turns out). Yes, I’ve lost most of my left big toenail. But the irony is, it’s not from running. It’s not from running shoes. It’s from wearing a new pair of fancy black flats on my first day back to work in January. You see, the shoes fit fine in the morning, but as I stood on my feet all day at work (in my humble opinion, a good elementary school aide should spend a lot of time walking around the classroom), my feet swelled and pressed my big toenails into the tip of the shoes. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I took my shoes off at the end of the day and felt a horrible stab of pain as the circulation came rushing back into those toes!

Four months later, I could still see a patch of black under my right toenail, but that toenail stayed intact. As I went to trim my left toenail though, one half of the nail peeled off entirely. The nail had separated from the nail bed and a new nail had been growing in underneath the old one for the past four months. It didn’t hurt at all when it came off, although it sure as heck hurts if anyone steps on that toe where it doesn’t have a full nail grown back in yet.

It’s no big deal. I can still run. But now I have a lot more sympathy for runners who battle the dreaded lost toenails.

Imagine the satisfaction of completing your first half marathon. Then imagine the satisfaction of beating that finishing time and setting a new personal record. Then double all that satisfaction and you just might get to the level of satisfaction I felt as I watched my 14-year-old and my husband complete their first half marathons at the Fontana Days Run last weekend!

About five months ago I encouraged Mike and Shannon to start training for a half marathon. I chose the race, the Fontana Days Run, because it offered a gentle downhill profile, the timing was right with the race taking place on June 4 a week after Shannon graduated from 8th grade, it was inexpensive for a half marathon, it was just a 45-minute drive from our house, and we could pick up our race packets on race morning.

I wrote out a training plan for Mike and Shannon to incorporate into their busy tennis schedule. They play 10-15 hours of tennis per week, so I figured they could get by with three runs per week: two shorter runs of 4-5 miles (one easy, one with some hills or informal speed work) and one long run on the weekend that gradually built to a 13.1 mile training run and tapered to an 11.7-miler and a 6-miler in the two weeks before the race. Everything seemed to go well in training, although I had no idea what pace they should target for the race. Shannon set the pace for the long training runs, and that generally averaged out to about 11 minutes per mile. I knew Mike and Shannon wanted to break 2 hours for their finish time, and that would require a pace of about 9 minutes per mile. Could they really run two whole minutes per mile faster in the race than they ran in training? I encouraged them to go out at a comfortable pace and not let their legs fly too fast on the initial downhill (the race has a drop of 2,125 feet from start to finish).

Unfortunately, a heat wave hit Southern California in the week leading up to the race. The race day high was 100 degrees in Fontana. The temperature in the mountains at the 7:30 a.m. race start was about 68 degrees F and the temperature at the finish in Fontana at 9:30 a.m. was 82 degrees. That further muddied the waters as to what pace Shannon and Mike could be expected to run. Here’s a chart from Runner Academy that estimates the impact of hot weather on running pace:

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 4.38.45 PM

So I expected them to run about 30 seconds per mile slower in the heat than they could have if we’d had ideal race day temperatures.


Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 5.03.12 PM

As you can see in this photo of me it was quite sunny at the start.

Without fanfare or much warning at all, really, the starting gun went off and Mike and Shannon set out at a comfortable pace. I carried my iPhone and used the MapMyRun app to keep track of our pace, but I kept the data pretty much to myself the whole race. The first few miles of the course run down the road through the San Bernardino National Forest and it’s simply gorgeous!


After the first few miles though we were in full sun and by mile 5, I really started to feel it. There were adequate aid stations but some just had water and not Gatorade. Thank goodness I brought my own sports bottle and could refill it at the aid stations every 3-4 miles. Given the unusual heat that day, the volunteers drove around in a golf cart and handed out wet washcloths which I appreciated. I coached Shannon to run through the aid stations and just grab a cup of water and dump it on her head. Then I handed her my bottle of Gatorade to drink every mile or so. This worked very well.


Mike ran just slightly ahead of Shannon and me, and he seemed to have an internal, innate sense of pace. I mean, just look at the consistency of these splits!


The course is downhill but it’s so gradual that it never feels taxing. The last seven miles are a straight shot into the town of Fontana, which means you don’t have to worry about running the tangents. It’s not the most scenic, but it’s fantastic for a PR attempt or a first-time race.


By about mile 10 I knew that Mike and Shannon could come in under 2 hours, and I started encouraging Shannon to keep up the pace and not let off. She had the best attitude the entire race and never complained. We caught up to Mike around mile 12 just as his calves started cramping due to not taking in enough Gatorade. I passed him my bottle and he was able to revive and keep running. Shannon sprinted to the finish to come in at 1:54:21. I was one second behind her with a huge grin on my face! Mike clocked 1:54:49.


A happy Mike at the finish line (and some random guy’s rear end. My photography skills can use some work). 

I could not have been more proud of Mike and Shannon. They blew away my best hopes for them and did not seem at all affected by the heat. And for the icing on the race cake, Shannon came in first in her age group!


Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 4.15.47 PM

Later in the week, I interviewed Mike and Shannon separately about their experiences. I probably should not have picked the day of their peak soreness (delayed onset muscle soreness peaks about two days after the race). They didn’t have much to say, but what they said warmed my heart.

Me: Are you glad you did the race?

Shannon: Uh-huh.

Mike: Yup.

Me: Did you meet your goals?

Shannon: Yeah.

Mike: Yes.

Me: Would you do another half marathon?

Shannon: Yup.

Mike:  Maybe.

Me: How did I do as your coach?

Shannon: [Thumbs-up.]

Mike: You were A+. It made it easy. It made it so we could not fail. We were going to meet our goals no matter what. I give you 99% credit.


Ahhhh! What a relief. They had a great race, came out of it uninjured, and were happy with the results. And for those wondering about whether or not it was a good idea for a 14-year-old girl to run a half marathon, I can say in our experience it was a very positive, safe, healthy experience for her. She had a checkup with her pediatrician this week including blood work done, and everything came back normal. And today, only 6 days after running the half marathon, Shannon won the Girls 14 and under division of the 18th Annual Laguna Niguel Junior Open Tennis Tournament!