Archive for November, 2012

I do enjoy a chance to go on and on about myself (define:blogger), so I was pleased to see that recent half marathoner Wendy from slowgirlfastdog nominated me for a Liebster Award! With such a thrilling honor comes the great responsibility of naming 11 random things about myself and answering 11 random questions from the nominator.

Without further ado, I give you 11 random things about me:

1. In high school I appeared on the television game show Wheel of Fortune. I came home with consolation prizes including a 3-foot high chocolate Santa and more Rice-a-Roni than I ever wanted to eat.

2. It took nearly two years for me to conceive my first child. Infertility stinks and it’s a lonely, hidden sort of condition (so if you’re going through it too, know you have my sympathies). I was lucky and figured out the cause of my infertility (see random fact #3), and now I have three lovely girls ages 10, 7 and 4.

3. I have Graves’ Disease. That sounds more grave than it is. Basically, after the birth of my first daughter, my thyroid went into overdrive. I lost a lot of weight, my heart rate went up, and I developed insomnia. Once I figured it out, I went on anti-thyroid medication. Then my thyroid burned itself out completely, and now I’m on thyroid supplements. Thankfully, my thyroid levels have been normal for years now.

4. Over the course of having three young children, I breastfed for a total of about 9 years, sometimes tandem nursing a toddler and a baby at the same time. I loved it and blogged about it for three years on a breastfeeding blog that eventually had 100,000 pageviews a month. Sadly I’m no longer part of a blogging network that can drive in that kind of traffic!

5. I don’t like being called Angie and only a few close friends and family members can get away with calling me Ang. Call me Angela or better yet, Hey You Yes You the Girl Who Finished a Marathon.

6. I’ve lived in Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts and California. For one fun summer I lived in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and that’s my favorite big city (although I enjoyed living in Boston too).

7. I’m a lawyer but I choose to call myself a born-again non-lawyer. I graduated from University of Michigan law school in 1997 and went on to practice estate planning law for three years. It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 years since I’ve practiced law. I do not miss it one bit.

8. I want to write a novel one day. The problem is that I really want to have written it. I don’t actually want to write it.

9. I love to read and have read over 50 books this year. I am not joking when I say 18 of those books are audiobooks that I listened to while driving my kids back and forth to preschool and elementary school. I am currently reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, S is for Silence (Kinsey Millhone Mystery), and Running Doc’s Guide to Healthy Running: How to Fix Injuries, Stay Active, and Run Pain-Free, and I am listening to Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I never used to read multiple books at once but my tolerance for that has increased.

10. I think the public library is the best invention ever. So much so that I make many monetary donations to the library each year (so what if the library calls them “overdue book fines.”)

11. As part of the Liebster Award I am supposed to nominate 11 other bloggers. I don’t wanna. (This is in keeping with my Official Policy Rule 10.4.1: Do not send chain letters.) If you want to participate though, I’d be happy to read your answers to my 11 questions. Either post the answers in the comments or a leave a link to your blog post with your 11 answers.

And now for my answers to Wendy’s 11 questions.

1. What was your favorite comic strip as a child? It’s a tie between Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes.
2. Do you own any pets? If so, what kind? I have a cat named Camo (she’s a calico cat with camo-like white, black and orange patches. I didn’t name her — she came with the house when we bought it!)
3. Why do you blog? Because for some reason my friends and family refuse to listen to me go on and on about running and triathlon and training and injuries and me me me me.
4. If you could only own one book, what would it be? Pride and Prejudice. Sure, you think I might say the Bible but I’m not religious (I’m spiritual).
5. Do you color inside the lines or outside? Inside. Who do you think I am?!
6. What word would your mother use to describe you? Delightful. Right Mom?
7. What word would your best friend use to describe you? Wife. Right Mike? I’ll let him come up with another word for me.
8. What is your biggest pet peeve? People who do not give cyclists and runners proper respect on the roads.
9. Have you ever been in a bar brawl? No. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to a bar.
10. Do you believe in ghosts? No. Wait, what was that sound?!
11. What have you done to prepare for a zombie invasion? I keep an earthquake disaster kit of water and supplies in my garage, does that count?

And now my 11 questions for you all:

1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
2. What book are you reading right now?
3. What’s your favorite book?
4. What’s the farthest distance you’ve ever gone under your own power (racing or training or hiking or walking or whatever your definition of farthest distance and “own power” is)?
5. How many days a week do you work out?
6. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Explain.
7. What’s the most exotic place you’ve ever traveled to or the most interesting site/tourist attraction you’ve ever seen?
8. Do you think money can buy happiness?
9. How often do you eat fast food (I’m talking traditional fast food like McDonald’s, Taco Bell etc.)?
10. Do you buy organic?
11. What is one thing you’d like to work on changing about yourself?

Now you go!

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The HITS Palm Springs triathlon takes place this coming weekend. I’m not racing it again this year since it’s too close to the marathon I did 19 days ago (no, I will not ever stop bringing that up in all its glory!) Instead, it’s time for me to flashback to last year for a recap and review of my first Olympic distance triathlon. It was my second triathlon ever and it included my first 10K run. I’m tempted to apologize for how wordy this summary is but gosh darn it, it just might help some other triathlon newbie out there and it’s fun (for me anyway) to peek back into my mind as a relative beginner.


In the days leading up to the triathlon I was nervous and wondering what I had gotten myself into and why I had gotten myself into it. It’s a huge challenge – mental, physical, organizational – and I hoped nothing would go wrong. It’s funny though, because the closer I get to the race start time the better I feel. It’s an accomplishment in itself to arrive at race day healthy, well-trained, and prepared with all the gear and race information.

On Friday Mike picked up the girls early from preschool and elementary school. By the time he did all that, I was done packing and double-checking my triathlon gear list. We left at 1:30 and had an easy 2-hour drive to La Quinta. The resort is gorgeous and the kids were delighted to see one giant Christmas tree outside and a few more inside the lobby.

While the kids played tennis with Mike and the ball machine someone had left on the court, I went out on the bike to make sure everything was in working order (both me and the bike). I ran for 5 minutes after I got off the bike. By that time it was already starting to get dark and we needed to head out to the horse park to pick up my race registration packet. First we swung by Lake Cahuilla so I knew that I would know how to get there in the wee hours of the morning on race day.

We got to the horse park at 5:30 and it was completely dark outside and freezing cold as we waited in line in the outdoor area. I got my race pack no problem and then we waited for the mandatory athlete’s meeting to start at 6. There was also supposed to be a dinner at 6, but they didn’t start serving the food right away. Mike and I were desperate to feed the kids so he went up to the food and helped himself, not waiting for the servers. I’m sure people were glad because the food kept the kids quiet.

The race director did a poor job on the athlete’s talk — too much rambling and not enough info, especially for us nervous newbies. I had questions and he only took 3 questions from the audience including one of mine. At least I learned that we had assigned spots in transition (unlike SheROX, where you just had to get there early and grab the best spot you could), transition wouldn’t open til 5 and not 4 like the athlete’s guide had said, and we’d be starting on the beach and running into the water. I didn’t find out until the morning what the swim would look like — where the buoys would be placed and how to do the two loops (more confusing than it sounds, as it turned out). He did introduce actor/triathlete/marathoner Mario Lopez, which was important (ha).

We didn’t get enough food because Mike could only carry two plates and by the time the servers started serving, the line was huge and we weren’t willing to wait in the cold. We went back to the room and ate leftover Panera.

Mike helped me get all the race numbers on all the gear properly. Stickers for the bike, my helmet, my transition bag, my race belt and my swim cap. “TriTats” for me — temporary tattoos for both my biceps, my outer left calf and my back left calf.

These cool race tats made me feel like a pro! I have no idea why my toenails look like they’re glowing. Pink sparkly nail polish maybe?

The tattoo applications actually took quite a long time. At least it distracted me from my race nerves. I packed all my gear and made sure I had everything. I almost forgot the parking pass I needed to park at Lake Cahuilla! After that we got ready for bed. I needed to be up at 4:30 a.m. and we set 3 different alarms just to make sure we had backup in case one didn’t go off like last time. Lights out at 9:30 and I was asleep by 10 so I got 6.5 hours of sleep. Quite good for the night before a race!

Race morning:

I got up with the alarm and Mike hit the “on” button on the coffee for me and went back to bed. I had coffee and instant oatmeal. I got in my swimsuit and sweats, double-checked my gear and headed out into the dark “night” at 4:55 a.m. I could see lots of stars in the clear desert sky. I saw a couple of other cars getting ready to go too. I followed my nav system directions for the 15-minute drive. Along the way I saw a car stopped at an intersection. The interior lights were on and the people were obviously looking at a map. I saw the bikes on the back of their car and I knew where they were going! I rolled down my window and gave them a “follow me” wave and led them to the park. I was worried I would steer them wrong but soon we met up with even more cars with bikes and I knew we were good. 🙂 I figured I earned some good race karma by helping those people. Everyone in triathlon is super nice. Competitive mainly against themselves, serious about the sport, friendly and helpful to other triathletes because we all know how much work it took to get to that point.

I found my spot in transition and was disappointed to see that it was the absolute last slot in the row, meaning that to get in and out I would need to travel farther than an athlete who had a lucky assignment on the aisle. It not only costs precious seconds in the race but makes it harder to find your spot when running in for T1 or T2 (that would be foreshadowing right there).

I got my timing chip, which was attached to a velcro strap that I was to wrap around my right ankle on the outside of the wetsuit (which meant that you’d need to take it off to get the wetsuit off, then remember to put it back on for the bike — costing more seconds and it could potentially be a huge problem if you forgot to put it back on!)

I went to the bike support tent and had the guy pump up my tires with air. He said I shouldn’t pump them up to 120 like the number on the tire says; that’s bursting point. He recommended 105-115, the softer they were the more grip I’d have on the road, which is good for someone like me who isn’t so confident in the turns. He said I could even go down to 95 in rainy conditions. Then I had him run through the gears and put it in second gear for me for the race start.

As I was setting up, another triathlete in my row asked me what was said at the athlete’s meeting. I told him he didn’t miss much. He asked me if we were getting out of the water on the swim at the end of the first loop. I hadn’t heard that — that clearly should have been discussed at the meeting! I cornered the race organizer and asked him that. Sure enough, there were 4 buoys for the Olympic distance. One on the shore, 3 in the water (with smaller buoys in between). To do the full two loops, we’d need to go to the 3rd one in the water, swim back to shore, get out on the sand and run around the shore buoy back into the water.

By the time I got all set up it was 6 a.m., the time the officials were going to close the in-and-out of cars from the park. If I didn’t hurry I wouldn’t get out to go back to the hotel to get Mike and the girls (they needed the car while I was at the race).

I called them at 6:15 on the way to make sure they were up. We were cutting the time close. I got there at 6:30 and got my swim gear on. It’s hard to remember what stays at transition and what I need to keep for the swim — my race cap, goggles, anti-fog for the goggles (which I put on the night before just in case), my swimsuit, wetsuit, Glide for under the wetsuit. Parking pass again.

We all headed out around 7 and got there around 7:20 for a 7:30 race start time. I had plenty of time to talk to some of the other “green caps” on the beach. The sprint was underway. Apparently there had been some scary panic attacks at the start of the sprint swim. The water was 60 degrees and even with a wetsuit that was quite cold. Unfortunately this was the first event this organizer had put on and he didn’t hire enough lifeguards! They had pulled volunteers from the vendors and even some of the Olympic racers to lifeguard for the sprint! Good karma for one racer who was 19 years old and ended up still coming in 6th place overall, even after treading water as a lifeguard before his event started.

I chose not to do a warm up swim in the water. I think that was wise. The people coming out of the water were absolutely shivering. The organizer called us around and said he’d be saying “Set!” and then sounding the horn.


Immediately after the talk I walked to edge of the water, dipped my toes in, went to back out, and I heard the organizer say “Set” and blow the horn! Totally caught me and all the other racers off guard. I didn’t realize he was starting so fast — we hadn’t even all gathered on the shore.

Gorgeous but cold Lake Cahuilla for the mass swim start

I took off and was in a good place — quickly getting toward the front and having enough room to swim in spite of the fact that all 191 racers were starting at once, not in age group waves like at other events.

The water was cold and choppy due to high winds. I took in a few mouthfuls of water during the race and each time I was grateful that it was fresh water in the reservoir and not saltwater from the ocean! I’ve known racers who have thrown up from ingesting saltwater on ocean swims. The swim was tough for me. I don’t know if it was the cold or the waves or both, but it was really tough. The only saving grace was that the water was relatively clear, better than Mission Bay. My mantra on the swim was “motorboat” — said to the three-beat arm strokes: “Mo-tor-boat! Mo-tor-boat!” At a few points on the swim I did backstroke to catch my breath. Backstroke is way faster than breaststroke for me, and I noticed that even when doing backstroke I was faster than most others doing freestyle. Still, I wanted my time to be under 30 minutes and I missed that by a minute some. 31:11.686. There is plenty of room for improvement on the swim for me.

T1: T1 was slow for me. 00:04:40.980. A long run to the transition area, then a rough time getting my wetsuit off. It’s hard when I’m panting from the swim and having trouble balancing to step on my wetsuit and pull it off. Again a tri-suit would have helped because it took me a long time to get on my bike shorts and long-sleeved shirt (the sleeves are tough — short sleeves are easier but I needed the long sleeves in the cold). I decided to put my bike gloves on too, so I wouldn’t freeze, but I think I would’ve been okay without them. I didn’t think I took 4 minutes in transition — it goes by fast for me. I thought I had a strong run with the bike to the bike start, and I got pedaling right away and then clipped my shoes in after I got going — a definite improvement over my first tri.

Bike: I passed several people on the bike — maybe 6? Nothing like SheROX where I was passing 10s of people. But this was 24.8 miles — double the length, and a far more competitive field. A couple people passed me — I’d trade spots with people and I think only a couple ended up ahead of me by the time we were done.

The bike course was not well marked. There were police officers at every turn and I finally realized I’d just have to rely on that fact to guide me that there was a turn, and then I’d yell out to the officer, “Which way?!” Sometimes there’d be a biker ahead of me to follow but often we were spread far apart. At one point an officer warned me that an upcoming turn was slippery due to sand on the road. I have wiped out in sand before so I was grateful he was warning everyone. And another officer was sweeping the sand off the road.

I was disappointed to see a farmer spraying chemicals on a field next to the bike course. I don’t want to know what was in that bright green spray!

The winds were high and certain parts of the course were really tough. I had a mantra on that part: “Head down, power on! Head down, power on!” Over and over again. That’s where tri-bars would have come in handy for the aerodynamics. It’s not enough to keep my head down, it would have helped to keep my arms in.

My feet were numb for the entire bike ride. I occasionally tried to pull with the top of my feet rather than push down on the pedal, just to try to get some circulation going and to use different muscles. That helped but not much. I later learned that other racers were also numb, and it was due to the cold, cold water. Swim booties would help with that.

Note the people starting out their run as I’m starting out on the bike!

I had Rain Berry Gatorade in my race bottles and a peppermint stick Luna Bar. I could hardly choke down any of the Luna Bar. I’d tried it before in training and liked it then. On the race it tasted like dirt. I had to force myself to eat a third of my bar at one point and another third during the second half of the bike.

I had put the power bar in an elastic slot on my race belt, which worked fine for holding it but once I took it out I couldn’t get it back in. FAIL. I stuffed it in my shorts. 🙂 Final time for the bike: 01:19:25.949 — 18.77 miles per hour. Not bad in all that wind.

T2: 00:02:04.585. T2 would have gone better had I not missed my row to rack my bike. I probably lost 20-30 seconds that way. Things look different in the light of day and I should not have relied on “I’m in the row by the big lights and the flag” and should have counted the number of rows from the “bike in” until my row. I also lost time when I clipped on my running water bottle and started running and the bottle promptly bounced right off the belt! I had to run back and pick it up. Obviously the belt wasn’t tight enough. I’d practiced this at home so I’m not sure why it wasn’t set right. I couldn’t get it tighter and didn’t want to risk losing the bottle again so I carried it the whole way. Good thing I had it though because I don’t like stopping for the aid stations and I heard that the aid stations later ran out of water anyway!

Run: I wore my visor to protect myself from the sun and that turned out to be a mistake. It was so windy that I nearly lost the visor two times and ended up keeping my head down against the wind. That made my already horrible running form worse. Mike took pictures of me toward the end of the run and I look like a hunchback! I was proud of my performance on the run though. I wanted to get under an hour and I came in at 00:55:35.306 — that’s 8:56 minutes per mile and 6.7 miles per hour for 6.2 miles! At the end of the bike, a race volunteer had told me I was 14th among the women. That heartened me! I wasn’t wearing any kind of watch and didn’t have a bike computer and there no clocks or even mile markers on the course. I had no clue how I was doing, aside from a swim volunteer having told me that I was around the 30-minute mark. I was grateful that guy said I was 14th. Three women passed me on the run (no surprise there) but a few must have been faster in transition too, because I ended up 20th. People were really nice on the run — often saying, “Good job!” or “Way to go!” or “Looking good!” etc. I couldn’t speak so I finally resorted to giving people a thumbs-up. 🙂

At one point during the run there was a sign that said “Run Turnaround.” Thank goodness I was following some people and they knew to keep going beyond that sign (which was for the sprint distance but not marked as such. At that point I’d been racing for over 2 hours and I had no idea where I was on the run — I didn’t think I’d gone 3.1 miles yet but I couldn’t be sure.) Finally I made it to the actual turnaround and was pleased to find that I felt pretty good for that point in the race. I picked up the pace toward the end and finished strong. My mantra, in addition to “Head down, power on!” same as the bike, was “locomotion” said to the 4-beat running steps: “lo-co-mo-tion.” My legs feel like a train, powering me on down the course. That’s even more true on the bike, but the “locomotion” mantra helps me keep my legs going on the run. I never wanted to stop or even to walk — I had trained well. I would love to improve my running form though, and get even better on the run. For now I was really happy. I was super fast on the finish. Total Time: 02:52:58.506.

Coming in for the finish with a smile and a thumbs-up!

Post-race: I didn’t hear the announcer and Mike had to tell me what my time was. I was just glad to be done and so so happy that it had gone as well as it had. It’s a feeling of relief, joy, and accomplishment. A race volunteer took my timing chip and gave me a luggage tag (instead of a race medal – very cool!) I got a banana and oranges and water, and Mike had brought me some OJ. I felt good. The biggest thing I noticed was that my lungs felt congested. My muscles were not sore exactly, just a little achy and if I stopped moving for any length of time, I felt like the Tin Man needing some oil. Once I got going again I was fine. I felt better after this Olympic than I did after the sprint. All that training paid off!

We waited around a long time to get the official results. A nice race volunteer suggested that I change out of my sweaty clothes so I didn’t freeze, and I took her advice. I had a sweatshirt and a blanket in the car and I got warm in those. It was sunny and relatively nice out but still only in the 50s and windy.

At SheROX the individual times were available for printout immediately, and that even included the rank by age group. At this race, it took an hour and a half before they even gave us the times and that didn’t include the rank — all I knew was I got 1st in the 40 age group (not the 40-44 age group — they had actual awards for each year of age). I had thought I was in the individual age group as 39, the age I was on 1/1/11, but either I got that wrong or they changed their minds. Whatever, it worked for me because I was the 1st of the two 40-year-olds! I got my plaque and then we went back to the hotel. I later learned I came in 20th out of 88 women total (top 22.73% to be exact! Can you tell how proud I was, given that this was my first Olympic distance tri?)

I talked to a couple of other Olympic distance racers after the race and they’d both had the same impressions I had — the race had some organizational glitches, and the water was super-cold and their feet were numb the whole time from the swim until about 15 minutes into the run (exactly what I’d told Mike!)

Lessons learned:

– Practice more open water swimming, both to get used to the waves and to practice sighting, and to get used to swimming in the cold. If the water temp is going to be 60 or below, consider buying swim booties.
– Get a tri suit and aerobars if I’m going to commit to do more races. [Done!]
– Don’t wear bike gloves unless air temps will be below 40.
– Figure out a better solution for race fuel and where to store it and practice that several times before the race.
– Count the number of rack rows to get to my row from the “swim in” and “bike in” towers.
– Ditch the run visor. Decide whether to put on sunscreen in transition.
– Work on running form. [Done! Half marathon training and marathon training took care of improving my form, although I continue to work on it].
– Think twice before signing up for a first-time organizer event. This organizer needed to do a better athlete talk, hire more swim lifeguards, do a better job of marking the course turns and turnarounds, ask the farmers not to spray on race day, NOT have it so the course had runners and bikers all together and going different directions on the same sections of course along with cars too, have better supplies for the aid stations, do a better job on reporting the race results.

I am glad that in spite of all that I had a wonderful race experience. And I did hear that the half-iron and full iron distance races both went much better the next day — those glitches were worked out for the really big races. I would do this race again now that the HITS organization has a full year of races under its belt. La Quinta is gorgeous, the resort is a fun place to stay, the freshwater lake for the swim is nice in spite of the cold, and the bike and run courses are relatively flat and scenic.

Have you done a HITS race? Have you competed in a triathlon at any level?

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At the beginning of the school year in junior high, the physical education teacher told my class to run a mile as fast as each person could. I, being both an obedient and a competitive little thing, ran my hardest. I wasn’t very fast — I was fit from the swim team but did not do any running — but I ran all out. For some reason, many of the kids walked the mile. I couldn’t understand it. Why didn’t they listen to the teacher? Why weren’t they even trying?

After we finished the mile, the teacher dropped a bombshell, and I knew exactly why those kids had “run” like tortoises. She told us we would be tested on the mile throughout the school year, and if we didn’t improve our time each week, we would fail. Those kids that had walked? They had older siblings who had clued them into the deal. If they walked the first week, they could jog the next, and run slowly the week after that, and so on and so on, steadily “improving” each week. Those of us who had run all out were now stuck with a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Completely worn out from the effort of running a mile, I saw no hope of improving. I felt tricked, and the whole thing completely de-motivated me. I wasn’t a runner, I didn’t have the natural talent, and I wasn’t going to be able to do it. What a horrible mindset! I ended up getting out of PE by putting my hours in at the pool. I didn’t run after that for many years. I opted instead to keep fit by swimming, mountain biking, rollerblading, walking and hiking, but never running.

I did one Race for the Cure 5K in 2006 when I was 35, and while I achieved my goal of coming in under 30 minutes, it nearly killed me. I still didn’t feel like a runner (whatever that means). Running felt difficult to me, and it seemed I wasn’t naturally suited to it.

Something clicked inside me when I was 39 and staring down 40. I wanted to be “fit at 40.” A friend (hi Geli! Thank you friend!) challenged me to run 30 miles in 30 days. That seemed totally doable, and I did it! Around the same time, I picked back up with swimming and started training for my first sprint triathlon. At some point during that six months of training, I turned the figurative corner with running. I enjoyed it! I enjoyed it enough to advance to an Olympic distance tri (with its 10K run), then a half marathon, and finally the full marathon.

Along the way, my mindset changed. At first, after the junior high mile fiasco, I had a “fixed mindset.” I believed people were either born runners or they weren’t. Either you had the natural talent or you didn’t. No amount of training would turn a “non-runner” into a “runner.” During the triathlon training, I started to see improvement. I put in effort and got out results. No one expected me to be an expert, a super-talented triathlete from the get-go. I relaxed and enjoyed the process and the progress. Without knowing it, I developed a “growth mindset.” Let me explain. For my lovely ladies’ book club (both the ladies and the book club are lovely), we are reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck.

As the subtitle explains, the book is about how we can learn to fulfill our potential. The author claims that we all have unknown and unknowable potential for growth. For example, some people think a person’s intelligence is fixed — that your IQ is innate and no amount of nurturing and developing your mind will change your intelligence level. The author talks about how we all start with a genetic endowment but experience, training and personal effort take us the rest of the way. Two quotes on page 7 struck a chord with me and I think they apply equally well to intelligence and athletic ability.

This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way–in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments–everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.

I love that way of looking at it. If a particular run is hard for me, or if I suffer an injury or other setback, or I don’t have my best race, I have two choices. I can tell myself that I’m a failure (the girl with the fixed mindset who didn’t think she was a runner) or I can learn from the experience and continue to improve (the new woman with the growth mindset who believes she’s a runner).

Does this resonate with you? Does running come easily to you? Did it always? How do you feel when you have a setback or do not get a PR in a race?

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Earlier this month I got to experience a race from the sidelines as I cheered on my 10-year-old and husband at the LJEF Family Turkey Trot 5K. It felt strange to be up at 6 on a Saturday morning and not going for a run myself (I got in eight miles later on that day as my last long run before the marathon the following week).

Race starting line

And they’re off!

As I watched my two loved ones line up at the start, my heart rose in my throat. I get nervous before my own races, but even more so for my children’s races. I feel more vulnerable and exposed when I have no control over the outcome. If I do not do well in a race, that’s all on me. If one of my children has a bad experience, it hurts in a different way. Will this affect her self-esteem? Will she want to race again?

I had encouraged my daughter to sign up for the race, but by no means did I force her to do so. In fact, we had several discussions about how if she did not commit and follow through on the training for the 5K, I would not allow her to run it (and furthermore she would be required to work off the $20 entry fee we paid on her behalf). She assured me she wanted to run. She had done the race the year before and wanted to do it again. In the end, I can’t say she dedicated herself to the training as I dedicated myself to marathon training (what, you mean not everyone takes such joy in checking off a training run?), but my husband and I deemed her ready to put in the 3.1 miles.

In retrospect, we should have put as much work into the mental preparation for the race. Yes, it’s “only” a 5K, it’s a turkey trot, it’s for fun and fitness, it’s not life and death. But as many runners can attest, a race can be torture if you’re head isn’t in it. The mind-body connection is never more evident than in a running race. My daughter had trained enough that she was fully capable of running the whole race and beating her time from the previous year. Instead, she struggled physically and mentally. After lots of congratulations and hugs at the finish line, and after a few days passed, I talked over the race with her. Why did she think she hadn’t done as well as the year before, in spite of the fact that she trained harder this time? “Because I didn’t want to be there.” You said you wanted to run. Why didn’t you want to be there? “Because I didn’t want to keep running the whole time.” Ah. Turns out that my daughter ended up being so concerned about the possibility of being told to keep running when she wanted to walk, that she psyched herself out of running well in the first place. (Trust me, that says more about my daughter and her personality than about her dad, who certainly does not push her hard and only wants to support her). I told her I had the perfect solution for that problem. The next race, if she wanted to do one, she would run by herself without her father/pacer at her side. She can run or walk, her choice. Completely up to her. How much do you want to bet she runs the whole way?

Do you have children who participate in races? How do they (and you) handle it? My two oldest have done some 5Ks and a junior triathlon. They tell me they want to do more.

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Well that did not take long. I get antsy without a race on my calendar and after I researched several options for winter and spring California and Arizona full marathons, I signed up for the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon that runs from Ojai to Ventura, California on Sunday, May 26, 2013 (the reincarnation of the Ojai to Ocean Marathon course).

Mountains 2 Beach Marathon banner

I know it was the right decision because I didn’t experience any pang of regret when I hit “confirm” on my registration. No matter that I can’t run without aches and pains right now. I will use the next month to recover from the Santa Barbara International Marathon and then I will dive into training for M2B. I plan to use the Run Less, Run Faster plan again this time, but be more mindful of easing into the speed training and hill work.

Use coupon code “sjrr15” if you want to sign up for this awesome challenge. The race is capped at 1,000 runners and registration is about 1/3 full at this point.

I also signed up for the Brea 8K on Sunday, February 24, 2013, and I’m in the market for another half marathon. I could do the OC Half again. It’s three weeks before Ojai and McMillan Running does recommend a half marathon right around that time (or better yet 4-5 weeks before the full). Suggestions are welcome.

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Still Recovering

In keeping with Hal Higdon’s marathon recovery plan, I took it easy the week after the marathon, sticking to easy walking and hiking and one cross-training workout on the elliptical machine (yuck yuck yuck never again). By Saturday, day 7, I fought an internal battle about going out for a run: I don’t wanna. That’s just post-marathon blues talking. You can do it. I don’t wanna. You’re not sore. Just get out there and run a few miles and see how you’re doing. I don’t wanna. DO IT OR YOU’LL NEVER RUN AGAIN.

After that internal struggle, I’m not sure if I had a mental or physical block, but whatever it was led me to the slowest 3.3 miles I’ve ever run. It felt like I hit the wall before I even started and no matter how many times I told my body to run faster, it said, “No thank you. I prefer 13:30 miles.” Seriously? I ran 26.2 miles at 9:15 and a week later 3.3 miles at 13:30 feels like torture? Obviously I still have some recovery to do. I know it takes 2-3 weeks to recover fully from a marathon effort, but I didn’t know it would be that bad. My groin injury and posterior shin splints are angry with me and in general my body is on strike and pretending it forgot how to run. I’m going to put some miles on the bike and in the pool and then see if running wants to be my BFF again.

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Three days is all it took for me to recover enough from my first marathon to go online and look for my next one! My husband Mike reminds me that on the finish line at Santa Barbara I was already talking about doing another race. I don’t remember that although I know I was totally enamored with marathon racing at that point.

I worry a tiny bit that another marathon might spoil the warm, squishy feelings I have about my experience at Santa Barbara. In keeping with my theory that training for and racing a marathon is like pregnancy and birth, I kind of wonder if I can love another baby as much as Santa Barbara…. I had such a good labor and birth, I was so lucky this first time around, do I really want to press my luck with a second? Of course I do!


So, options (not a comprehensive list, just several local-ish races of interest):

California International Marathon (CIM), Sunday, December 2, 2012, Folsom to Sacramento, California. Gosh darn it, this one is way too soon for my liking. I know there are people who bounce back and run another marathon in a week or two, but that’s not this 41-year-old relative newbie. I like the idea of this flat course though. Point-to-point and net downhill. Sacramento is not exactly my idea of great destination for a race but I will have to keep this one in mind for next year anyway.

Honkers Motivational Marathon, Sunday, January 13, 2013, Yorba Linda, California. I love to see the introduction of this inaugural marathon along the Santa Ana River Trail! I’m a bit stumped as to why it’s an out-and-back (west) and out-and-back (east) course with a lot of elevation gain (299 feet), when it would be so much more awesome to run 26.2 miles west along the trail with a net downhill to the beach. Permits and logistics, I’m sure, but golly it’s a shame. I’m marking my calendar to see if I can volunteer or at least go out to cheer on the runners for this one!

Carlsbad Marathon, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, Carlsbad, California. This out-and-back course with rolling hills along the coast looks like it’s gorgeous but challenging.

Death Valley Borax Marathon, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, Death Valley, California. This course looks incredibly scenic but here’s the deal-breaker for me: “NO PERSONAL SUPPORT! Your friends and family members may not drive along the course during the event – not to provide support, not to take your photo, not even to watch/cheer.”

Surf City USA Marathon, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, Huntington Beach, CA (hence the Surf City name). I’ve heard many good things about this race. Nice oceanside course, generally flat. The way the course loops around on itself (not following the exact same loop but winding back and forth on the streets as the course approaches the coast) makes it easy for family and friends to spectate and offer support. The marathon is capped at 2,000 participants (last year there were 2,445?) but there are another 15,000 half marathoners. Yikes! And again, the February 3 date makes this one a little early for my taste.

IMS Arizona, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, Buckeye to Glendale, Arizona. This is another nice, small race (305 full marathoners last year) and a relatively flat, net downhill point-to-point course. A few reviews mentioned that the course is “boring” and on busy roads but with friendly spectators.

Napa Valley Marathon, Sunday, March 3, 2013, Calistoga to Napa, California. Talk about a destination race! This beautiful point-to-point course has some rolling hills but a net downhill of nearly 300 feet. How cool that this race honors “Women in Marathoning.” Another neat feature: “Runners who prepare special drinks can have them delivered to specific aid stations by bringing the bottles to the start line where they will be placed in boxes labeled for specific aid stations.”

LA Marathon, Sunday, March 17, 2013, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to Santa Monica, CA. Who doesn’t want to do an iconic race like the LA Marathon? I’m totally tempted although at 18,919 participants this is way bigger than what I normally like and the course is not as scenic as I’d prefer, even with the finish at the beach in Santa Monica. It looks like it has some rolling hills, too, which can be a challenge.

River City Marathon, Sunday, March 25, 2013, Sacramento, California. This small race follows the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail/American River Parkway and gets high marks for being scenic. It’s a point-to-point course of rolling hills with a net downhill of around 100 feet. Looks like it’s struggled with some organizational details and even flooding of the course one year.

San Luis Obispo Marathon, April 7, 2013, San Luis Obispo, California. A loop course that runs through town and out into the vineyards and farmlands, this looks like a pretty course that’s also pretty challenging.

Big Sur Marathon, Sunday, April 28, 2013, Carmel, California. The Big Sur race comes with some big hills to challenge you. As one reviewer said, “epic beauty, epic hills.” Not the one for me to choose to try to sub-4!

OC Marathon, Sunday, May 5, 2013, Newport Beach to Costa Mesa, California. I had a good time at my first half marathon, the OC Half in 2012, but there were so many people in that race I’m not sure I can stomach the full. Hmm, checking the results from last year shows there were 1,860 runners doing the full compared to 8,796 doing the half. Start time for the full is 5:30 a.m. — dang that is early!

Mountains to Beach Marathon, Sunday, May 26, 2013, Ojai to Ventura, CA. For 2013 the Ojai to Ocean Marathon has been renamed the Mountains to Beach Marathon, perhaps all the better to capture the fact that the first 20 miles are net downhill of over 700 feet and the last 6.2 are all flat miles along the Ventura coastline. For the last two years this course has made it in the top 10 of Marathon Guide’s list of “most likely and largest qualifying percentage” of all Boston Marathon Qualifying Races. (Other California top qualifiers are the California International Marathon above and the Santa Rosa Marathon in August). The marathon is limited to the first 1,000 entrants, my kind of race. The host hotel is in Ventura but I hear wonderful things about Ojai. The race is Memorial Day weekend which works well for me and my family to make a vacation out of it. This race is looking the most promising for me.

Any opinions? Have you done any of these races or are you signed up for any of them?

Image by Heather Dowd.

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It’s been a full week since the Santa Barbara International Marathon and the race has taken on a surreal quality in my mind. Did that really happen? Did I really have so much fun running 26.2 miles?! Indeed I did! I give high marks to the race and definitely recommend it.

Expo: Packet pick-up at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara was convenient and easy with lots of parking available. There weren’t any goodie bags (aside from the virtual online goodie bag offers) but I am happy with the white v-neck technical tee. Plenty of vendors — the kind you’d expect to see with all types of running gear but also local groups like the pet shelter that tried really hard to send my kids home with a dog. 😉

Tip: If you’re driving up from Los Angeles on Friday night for packet pick-up, be sure to leave long before rush hour. We left Orange County at 4 p.m. on Thursday and didn’t arrive in Santa Barbara until 4 hours and 30 minutes later (the drive should have taken just over 2 hours). You really want to be driving through downtown LA by 3:30 or sooner or make arrangements with someone else to pick up your packet with a copy of your photo ID because you won’t make it in time.

Race day shuttles and drop-off: I opted to have my family drop me off at Dos Pueblos High School for the full marathon start and the drop-off was smooth and convenient. Plan to walk a few blocks to the high school.

I felt sorry for the people who opted to take the shuttles and even arrived plenty early to do so. They ran into a bit of a snafu with too many people waiting for too few shuttles from the UCSB parking lot. Race organizers have acknowledged the issue, apologized and vowed to plan better for next year. I think the race is still growing and on top of that, they picked up a bunch of runners who were planning to run the New York City Marathon before it was cancelled. Kudos to the organizers for offering those runners a discount registration!

Pre-race: I’ve never been to a better race starting area. Getting to wait inside the high school on a cold morning, and use the indoor restrooms, was a treat. There were plenty of porta-potties outside too.

The course: The race starts out at the high school in Goleta and makes a loop around the suburbs and through Isla Vista by some UCSB off-campus housing. Tip: Plan to bank some extra time in the first 13.1 miles to account for the hill you’ll hit at mile 23. The first half of the course has some nice downhills and flat sections and the views of the Santa Ynez mountains are gorgeous. Around mile 15 you head onto a bike path. It worried me a bit that it might be crowded on the narrow path but at that point it was not a problem. With just 1,375 marathoners the pack had spread out by then. The path is pretty and the support from spectators along the way is great. Shortly after mile 19 you are back out on the roads again. Take advantage of the downhill at mile 22 to prepare yourself for the 0.4-mile climb at mile 23. It’s not terribly steep but many runners opted to walk. The reward at the top is 2.2 miles of downhill with spectacular views of the ocean.

Mile 24 Santa Barbara

Peekaboo ocean! It’s all downhill from here to the finish!

Plus the last mile was lined with American flags, an inspirational sight for Veteran’s Day weekend. Best of all, some military members in uniform came out to cheer the runners on at the home stretch (gentlemen, were you trying to make me cry?! Thank you for your service to our country and your support!) The race finishes on the track at Santa Barbara City College. I found I liked sprinting to the finish on the track — it gave me a bit of a boost at the end.

The finish line expo: At the finish I received my medal and was offered an ice bag (nice touch!) In hindsight I should have taken advantage of the offer to tape the bags to my legs. I kept walking though and made my way to the refreshments. I had a banana, Sun Chips and a Clif bar, and water. I didn’t see the Fluid replacement table although I hear there was a booth around the corner.

Ways to improve the race: There’s always room for improvement at any race. (1) Shuttles — I have faith that will improve next year. (2) Responsiveness from the organizers. As the race got closer and closer I sensed some frustration from people trying to get into contact with the organizers either through the Facebook page or email. (3) I would have loved to see more food options at the finish line — orange slices and muffins would have added a nice touch to the bananas, chips and protein bars at the finish. Also offer the electrolytes at the same table.

Best things about the race: It’s a manageable size with only 1,375 full marathoners in 2012. The course is gorgeous and it makes for a lovely destination race. I have to give a shout-out to the official pacers. Craig Prater did an amazing job in the weeks leading up to the race by making his presence known on the Facebook page and posting answers to questions and uploading inspiring photos from various points on the race course. Jill Christ was the 4-hour pacer and while I wasn’t running with her (I ran ahead for the first 5 miles, stayed right behind her until mile 21 and lost her as she kept on pace for the 4:00 mark) I could tell she did an excellent job.

I didn’t stay at the host hotel but I negotiated a 20% discount with a high-end hotel (Spanish Garden Inn) and absolutely loved it. We spent a 4-day weekend in Santa Barbara and it made for a nice weekend for my whole family.

I recommend this race for: anyone who likes a scenic course that has some downhills, flats and one significant uphill. It’s not necessarily the course I would choose for a beginner like me but I love a small(er) race and a destination race and it was great for me. I didn’t get the sub-4 I wanted but I achieved four of five of my marathon goals and I had a blast (you can read my race recap here). If you’re going for a PR you need to make sure you plan your pace well — train for some hills and as I said, bank some time early in the race for the hill at mile 23. Monica at Run Eat Repeat chose to run Santa Barbara after the NYC marathon was canceled and she PR’d with a 3:53!

Did you run this race in 2012 or have you run it in past years? What’s your opinion? What’s your favorite marathon course?

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26.2 Marathon sticker

This was waiting for me on my car when I finished the Santa Barbara International Marathon! Major husband points scored for this surprise!

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Right after the marathon on Saturday I made sure to keep walking for about 15 minutes to help my legs recover. Once I stopped walking I wasn’t sure I would be able to start again! Back at the hotel I took an ice bath for 10 minutes. My husband did not quite understand why I would torture myself that way and offered to whip me with a sharp stick if I thought that would help too. I declined. 😉

My family was actually very sweet and thoughtful as I recovered from the race. They met me on the track with hugs and kisses, and walked me to get some food. They carried anything I wasn’t nibbling on. My husband retrieved my gear bag for me and bought me my favorite post-race drink — hot chocolate (great on a chilly day; on a hot day I like a fruit smoothie). The kids could hardly wait to tell me about the surprises they’d gotten for me: a People magazine to read in the bath and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to munch on since I’d been eyeing the kids’ Halloween candy for two weeks but resisted indulging in my favorite chocolate-peanut butter goodness before the marathon.


No worse for the wear!

After the ice bath I took a nice hot shower, dried off and then slathered on some arnica gel for my sore muscles.

I got to choose lunch — pizza, naturally — and we walked to the restaurant from the hotel. I ought to have given in and taken some Advil for my legs but I toughed it out for a long, slow walk/hobble/marathon shuffle. We took a cab back to the hotel!

I slept OK Saturday night but the soreness surprised me every time I tried to roll over or get up to go to the bathroom. On Sunday I gave in and took two Advil. I could walk much better then, and we spent a lovely afternoon at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

So, that brings me to day 2 of post-marathon recovery. Let’s break it down from the feet on up. I don’t have any plantar fasciitis pain in my feet and I’m so thrilled that I trained through it and used the KT Tape Pro for the race. Worked like a charm. I do have two blisters on my second (index) toes. My second toes are not taller than my big toes but they must hit the toe box of my Brooks Adrenaline 12s. My calves are sore, especially the shin splints on my left inner calf. I did use KT Tape for that and it felt OK during the race (tolerable discomfort) but it worsened as expected after I stopped running. My thighs are sore, along with my hips and buttocks. My lower back is also slightly sore. I’ve got a line of chafing on my chest from my favorite Champion running bra, in spite of my liberal application of Bodyglide. The Bodyglide did spare me any chafing under my arms (which I had experienced in training). Lastly, my trapezius muscles (between the shoulders and neck) are sore, probably from my hunchback running form when I get tired!

All in all, I feel about as I expected and no worse off than before I ran the marathon. I mean, sore for sure, but not injured. Stairs are a particular (comical, really) challenge, as is sitting or getting up from sitting. I limp when I walk unless I have some pain medication on board. Today I plan to go in search of more Advil, then walk through the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. I’m still glowing from the whole marathon experience and I wear my sore muscles like a badge of honor!

Have you ever been so sore from a workout or race that you had to hobble around? What do you find is the best way to recover from sore muscles?

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