Archive for November, 2013


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Somehow I got it in my head during this crazy month of NaNoWriMo (current word count: 33,550 words) that I could sign up for a race and run it “just for fun,” using it as a training run. I get bored running the same old routes, and I love running someplace new. So why not take advantage of the free race registration I won for the 1st Annual City Farm Turkey Trot 10K, right?

Well, it turns out I am pretty much incapable of running a race “just for fun” (people who know me well are probably saying “duh” right about now). I tried, I really did, but when I woke up at 5:30 a.m., my race jitters trembled on high alert. I drank a quick cup of coffee and headed out the door by 6. On the 40-minute drive to Griffith Park in Los Angeles, I ate as much of a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a banana as I could stomach, which turned out to be not much with those darn race jitters. I enjoyed watching the sun rise, and with little traffic at that hour I arrived at Griffith Park without hassle.

Parking at the race start at The Autry, a museum of the American West, was easy, free and abundant (there’s additional free parking at the Los Angeles Zoo across the street).

Back in the Saddle Again

“Back in the Saddle Again”

Mother Nature blessed us with perfect running weather — high 50s and overcast. Earlier in the week the daily high temperature had hit 94 degrees, so we got lucky!

Packet pick-up had been offered the day before at A Runner’s Circle in LA, but you could also pick up your bib on race day — a huge plus that saved me from spending an hour and a half in the car on Friday. I arrived at 6:45 a.m. and did not have to wait to get my bib. The reusable goody bag came with a protein bar sample, some coupons, and a plain white tee with the turkey logo printed in orange. They’d run out of my size, which does not really bother me, it just means my daughters now have another large cotton nightgown!

How could I best describe the size of this inaugural event? Let’s call it “a three porta-potty race” (and note that I never had to wait more than five minutes in line).

The master of ceremonies for the event, the actor Alan Naggar, was a hoot and kept us all entertained both before the race as we awaited the start, and after the race while the results were compiled. I also very much enjoyed and appreciated the pre-race warm up led by a charismatic, fit young woman. It felt like a wonderful community event as nearly the entire crowd participated in the warm up. I’ve never seen that happen before at a race, and it put a smile on my face.

The race started and finished in the parking lot by The Autry Farmers Market. This small stretch of asphalt was the only pavement for the entire race:

start and finish City Farm Turkey Trot

Within yards the course veered left onto a short stretch of grass, then followed the wide, hard-packed dirt path around the golf course and sections of the Los Angeles Zoo. At some points on the trail the surface softened into loose sand-like patches, but I found it all easy to navigate. The paths were so wide you could drive a car down them, and the course elevation was flatter than many road races I’ve done. It was a trail race in the most basic sense of the word — a race on a dirt surface as opposed to the road. If you’re new to running on trails or you’re looking for a trail race personal record, this is a great race for you. If you’re a die-hard trail runner who wants some challenges and the rewarding views of a hill climb or two, you might not be happy with the race (and you might want to check out the Griffith Park Half Marathon Trail Race, as reviewed there by Striding Mom). The most challenging part of the race came at a small creek crossing, where if you timed it right you could hop across on two carefully placed sand bags. There’s a short part of the race that parallels the freeway for a bit, and you do need to watch out for “horse apples” here and there, but otherwise I found the trail to be scenic and enjoyable.

Overall I can’t say enough good things about the race. For a first-time event, the City Farm organizers did a fantastic job coordinating the race. I had no trouble following the course, which I had worried about because the first loop follows the 5K race course, then branches off for the full 10K course. Aid stations were well-stocked and well-placed, and the signage was appropriate and manned by volunteers. My only suggestions for next year (and if you know me, you know I never can resist offering suggestions for every race to improve in my race reviews) are for organizers to improve the monitoring of who completed the 5K versus the 10K (apparently some racers switched courses at the last minute — something out of control of the organizers but perhaps it could be monitored at the 5K turnoff by observation of the race bibs) and the recording and dissemination of the race results. Race results should be posted the same day of the race, and should be segregated by 5K versus 10K, and delineated by gender and age groups (not just the top three winners by age group, but listing all the Women ages 40-49 and their placements in that group, for example). But seriously, I do not criticize the organizers at all. It was a fun community race to support the cause of reducing obesity. I would absolutely do it again if the race fit into my schedule.

And as for my personal performance, you ask? My glowing review might just have a little to do with this:

3rd place finish at City Farm Turkey Trot

That’s right, that medal shows I came in 3rd place in my age group, the old lady field of women ages 40 to 49. Can I just tell you how ridiculous I felt waiting around to see whether or not I placed in my field? Thank goodness I actually received a medal! I later deduced that I came in 3rd of 15, the benefit of a three-porta-potty race. While I waited for the results, I enjoyed the post-race oranges and bananas and protein bars, and a free full-sized Voskos Greek yogurt sample from a booth at the Farmers Market. I also took advantage of the fact that the restrooms at The Autry opened up and I could change into dry, warm clothes after the race.

If I have the opportunity to do the race again in the future, I would try to make a day of it, bringing along the family to shop at the farmers market, then touring the Los Angeles Zoo. It’s a great cause, a great first trail race, and fun community event.

P.S. My time was 50:26.8, a PR for me at the 10K distance over my La Habra 10K road race from when I first started racing about two years ago).

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I realized the other day that I track three numbers:

1. The number of miles I swim, bike and run, plus the number of minutes I do workout videos and weight training exercises.

2. The number of books I read in a year.

3. The number of words I write in National Novel Writing Month (see the chart below for the totals at the end of yesterday):

National Novel Writing Month count

This issue came up because I saw an article in The Wall Street Journal in which the columnist asserted that runners only run because they are narcissistic, attention-seeking people. (I won’t link to the article because the author doesn’t deserve the, um, attention — but I will link to an excellent rebuttal). The columnist’s assertion that I run to get attention is laughable. Running is way too hard to do it simply to impress someone else. Besides, if I wanted to be seen, I wouldn’t get up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday for a long run.

So why do I keep track of my miles (1,106 run so far this year)? Because it gives me a kind of concrete feedback on my goals and personal accomplishments that I do not get in other areas of my life. No one pops up after a tough discussion with my tween daughter to say, “You handled that really well — good for you!” or “You really missed the mark on that one.” I might get a hug or a smile from my daughter, but that does not necessarily mean that the encounter was a success, that I guided her properly.

Do I keep track of the number of books I’ve read so far this year (55) to imply that I’m better than someone else? Heck no! I remember all too well when I was in the thick of caring for a baby, a toddler, and a kindergartner, and all I could manage to read was a short magazine article when I stole five minutes for a hot bath at the end of the day. Do I think I’m a better person today than I was then? Hardly!

And why does it give me such pleasure to see that little blue line on the NaNoWriMo chart above turn green when I’ve hit the word count for the day? Because it’s instant feedback that says, “Good work! You’ve met your goal for the day!”

Do you set tangible, measurable goals for yourself and keep track of your progress? How’s your mileage count looking so far this year, or your word count this month?

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(Who has time for creative post titles during NaNoWriMo? Not me!) Novel word count at start of day 8: 13,040.

In week one, I learned lots of lessons from National Novel Writing Month. Here in week two I’ve learned plenty more (continuing the list):

7. You make time for what’s important to you. Do I have three free hours a day to write? No, I generally do not. But can I cut out watching (as much) television? Yes. Can I steal half an hour to write in my car while I wait to pick up my daughter from gymnastics? Yes. Can I steal another hour to write on a park bench while my youngest plays at the park across the street from her sisters’ tennis lessons? Yes. Can I throw a 15-minute meal in the crock pot on low and save 30 minutes cooking dinner later? Yes. Voilà! Three hours.

8. Procrastination never feels as good as hitting your word count for the day. All things I have done to procrastinate writing: uploaded family photos and created our family holiday card; paid bills; sorted laundry; loaded the dishwasher; written a blog post (ahem). Did all of those need to be done? Well, yes, at some point. They’re certainly productive. But did they need to come before writing that day? No. It’s okay to be flexible (and sometimes guilt is a good motivator) but it feels a million times better to knock out the writing first and reward yourself with other things later. (I’m not sure the privilege of doing laundry and loading the dishwasher is a “reward” but you know what I mean!)

9. You will lose track of time. That is a good thing. You know you’re in the “writing zone” when you look up at the clock and realize an hour has passed when you could swear it only had been five minutes. I have to set alarms (I’m talking multiple alarms: stove, cellphone) to remember to pick up my kids at school on time. You might even lose days. One day it was Halloween and the next day it was November 8. True story.

10. You will lose sleep. That is not a good thing. Even if you don’t stay up late writing (but you will), your brain will churn with thoughts of plot lines. You’ll dream about (not) hitting your word counts, and wake up as tired as if you hadn’t slept at all. Coffee will be your friend. Don’t be surprised if, about a week in, you finally crash and sleep extra hard one night, and yet wake up with an odd sort of sleep hangover, your body’s way of saying, “Oh, so that’s what sleep is! I want more!”

11. Do yourself a big favor and leave a cliffhanger at the end of the day. What do I mean by cliffhanger? Leave yourself a clear jumping-off point for the next day. Taking a precious few extra minutes to outline the next piece of the plot will save you several agonizing minutes of writer’s block the next day. Write that one scene today of course, but leave yourself an unfinished thread as a starting point for tomorrow’s writing. You could even stop writing in the middle of a

(Hahahaha…. I crack myself up. Forgive me. It’s the sleep deprivation.)

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At this point — a week into November and NaNoWriMo — I suspect some readers of my fitness-related ramblings now shout at the computer: “Stop writing about writing! Stick to your theme! You’re not allowed to write about anything other than subjects covered in your tagline: Fitness, Fun, Family, Food. Notice the absence of another F: Fiction!” (I kid. Generally I find readers to be exceptionally kind and generous people, as most runners and triathletes happen to be.) However, at the end of the day yesterday, I found myself shouting, “Enough!” I crashed from the high of hitting 10,000 words in my novel-in-progress, and I burned out big time. I didn’t want to write any more of the novel, write yet another blog post with strained analogies between writing marathons and running marathons, read about writing (I’m currently reading Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within and I recommend it), or even think about the plot of the novel.

So what did I do? I picked up Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by elite athlete and vegan, Scott Jurek. He talked about how he started to get more and more involved in long distance running as a way to train for competitive cross-country skiing. His friend Dusty took him out for long runs on animal paths that made great running trails. Just as I thought what a nice diversion this book was from all things writing-related, on page 50 Jurek described the experience of trail running with his friend:

I know a novelist who says he was never happier than when he was working on his first book, which turned out to be so bad that he never showed the manuscript to anyone. He said his joy came from the way time stopped and from all he learned about himself and his craft during those sessions. Running with Dusty that spring — not racing, running — I understood what the writer had been talking about.

Alright, Universe! I get the message! I will write! And furthermore, I will embrace the analogies between writing and running, just like ultrarunner Scott Jurek did!

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National Novel Writing Month Word Count as of midday, day 6: 10,584 words. I’m on track, people! I sat in front of the fireplace today and wrote for three hours. Every day I think I’ll take less time or write more words overall than the day before, but that’s pretty much how long it takes me every single day to crank out the necessary 1,667 words.

Having completed one-fifth of the National Novel Writing Month challenge of writing 50,000 words, I feel pre-eminently qualified (ha!) to write about what NaNoWriMo has taught me so far.

1. With writing just as with exercise, it’s a lot more fun to knock it out in the morning than to put it off until the end of the day. Mind you, that’s not saying it’s any easier to do the work then, just that it’s less pressure and more rewarding to complete it early in the day.

2. The words that flow the fastest are the ones that come from your own experience. You always hear the advice to “write what you know” and now I know why. I simply have to trust that I have a unique experience and a unique perspective to offer.

3. While I’m on the topic of inspirational advice, let’s go with “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” True for the beginning runner, true for the beginning writer. Do not fear the blank page.

4. You know those photos that circulate every once in a while — the ones that show what you think you look like when you run (a graceful Olympian) and what you really look like when you run (a flailing maniac)? That’s how I feel as I’m writing. I feel like a poser, wannabe writer who is sure to be found out as the flailing maniac she really is. But then I remind myself of lesson #3 above. Repeat to self: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Everyone has to start somewhere. I wouldn’t fault a beginning runner for not having perfect form at the start of her running journey. Why would I expect to be able to write perfect prose right out of the gate?

5. As a writer it’s hard to “show and not tell.” I tend toward very concise writing and speech, and my first instinct is to say, for example: “She worried what would come next” instead of “She hunched her shoulders and furrowed her brow in nervous anticipation.” When I worked as a lawyer, one seasoned paralegal offered me some advice on how to explain legal concepts to a client: “Write like you’re explaining the law to your grandmother.” I need to write for my grandmother. Set the scene. Describe the smells. Paint the characters. Don’t assume the reader sees any of what you see in your head.

6. Find your motivation. I know why I’m doing this, this mammoth marathon writing project. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing a novel and now is as good a time as any to do it. But that’s the big picture motivation. I find that the little picture motivation, for me, is the ability to log my word count for the day and see that blue progress line turn green when I’ve hit 1,667 for the day. It shouldn’t surprise me. After all, I log every mile that I swim, bike or run. Of course I take pleasure in logging every word written!

What lessons have you learned recently about running, about writing, about life? If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo and/or NaBloPoMo (please tell me you’re not doing both), how’s it going for you?

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Before I get to my monthly recap of miles and goals, I want to note my progress on National Novel Writing Month. In the first three days I’ve written 5,534 words. That puts me 533 words ahead of schedule (a whopping 1%)! I have already learned a lot. I am proud of myself for keeping up so far and yet wholly intimidated by the fact that I’m a tenth of the way through and need to keep this up day after day for many more days.

Miles for October

With October being full marathon month for me, I ended up running relatively few miles during taper and the recovery week after the marathon. I have been battling a torn calf muscle that wants to morph into shin splints. I’m a little ticked that running less has resulted in more injury. But I’ve been mixing up my workouts and throwing in some serious yard work and housework too (I’m not talking dusting, I’m talking full on attack).

Swim: 0 miles. It doesn’t fit into my schedule well this school year and without a triathlon on the calendar I simply don’t make it a priority.

Bike: 52.1 miles in 3.85 hours in 4 workouts.

Run: 70.55 miles in 11.2 hours in 9 workouts. That is likely the lowest number of miles I’ve run in a month in well over a year.

Walk: 1.16 miles in .72 hours in 9 workouts (I never know whether to count these cooldown walks as part of my running miles, not that it matters to anyone, anywhere).

Weight training (including some Jillian Michaels DVDs that are indeed shredding my abs): 3.43 hours in 6 workouts

Yard work and heavy housecleaning: 8 hours 40 minutes in 5 workouts.

Random Photo for October

Isabella of France and Braveheart for Halloween

Isabella of France and Braveheart for Halloween

Goals for November

1. Win National Novel Writing Month by completing 50,000 words of a novel!

2. Run my first trail race!

3. Beat my calf and shins back into submission.

What did you dress up as for Halloween? What are your goals for November?

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NaNoWriMo dawned this morning and I have yet to write a single word of the next great American novel, but I had to stop by here and write a few words about how I won a free race registration for the 1st Annual City Farm 5K/10K Turkey Trot from Race Grader!

city farm turkey trot

It takes place on Saturday, November 16 in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. You might wonder why I would take on a race in November when I’m already committed writing 50,000 words of a novel. The answer: (1) I’m going to keep running during November anyway to maintain [what remains of] my sanity, (2) it’s a unique opportunity to run 6.2 miles in Griffith Park at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, (3) it will be my first trail race and I’m thrilled about that, and (4) did I mention it’s free?

Anyone else doing a Turkey Trot race? Any other NaNoWriMo participants who exercise to maintain mental health during November?

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