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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.

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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:

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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.

 

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

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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!

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Today’s run was a special one! I got to accompany my husband Mike and our 14-year-old daughter on their longest run to date — a 13.1 mile training run! They had been building up their mileage for weeks now, and they were ready to cover the distance. It wasn’t easy, but they finished super strong (they had some kick left in them for a sprint at the end!) They ran it in 2 hours 24 minutes. A good 10 minutes of that was spent walking around a local high school trying to find an unlocked bathroom for a pit stop around mile 6. I should have turned my MapMyRun app off for that. And I probably should have mapped out a less hilly route for their unofficial half marathon debut.

MapMyRun elevation chart

Yes, that’s 879 feet of elevation gain and it felt as hilly as that MapMyRun chart makes it look. As I said, probably not the best training run for a race that has 2,125 feet of elevation drop from start to finish. But Mike and my daughter knocked it out like champs and I could not be more proud of them. I always enjoyed passing a new distance milestone myself, but it’s even more fun to watch them pass one. I hope it has given them confidence going into the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon, which is three weeks from today. Today’s run was a huge accomplishment, and I made sure to remind my daughter that there aren’t many 8th graders that can do what she has done.

What’s the longest distance you’ve run? If you’ve trained for a half marathon, what is the longest training run you do before race day? When I was training for my first half (the OC Half in 2012) the longest training run I did was 12 miles. I think that was enough to carry me through 13.1 on race day, but I do think it can be helpful to go 13.1 or longer before a half. I wouldn’t do more than 20-22 before a full marathon though!

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Two more weeks until Boston! What happened to March and how can it be April already? The past three months since I started working part-time as a substitute aide in the special education classrooms have gone by in a blur of working and training. I think I’m ready for Boston but it doesn’t feel like I’m ready because I’ve squeezed in my training around a very erratic, unpredictable work schedule (if I leave my phone on overnight I will often get a call at 5:30 a.m. to work at 8:30 a.m. that same day). Training has been a priority, just not top priority and that seems to be allowing the taper crazies to get to me a little more this time around (Boston will be full marathon number 7 for me).

Last week was spring break and I took the week to focus on a very important part of my training — altitude training! I’m kidding — my family likes to ski so we went to the mountains in Whistler, British Columbia.

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Apparently I’m not the only one who likes to joke. I saw this sign on my run through Stanley Park in Vancouver.

I skied for four days and got in some pretty serious workouts trying to keep up with my kids (ages 13, 11 and 7), all of whom are better skiers than I am. This was one of my favorite trails, a traverse along the Whistler Peak:

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Swapped a gorgeous ski trail for a running trail that day!

I made sure to get some running in though too. Check out the moon above Whistler just as the sun was rising over the Valley Trail:

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Five miles at an 8:15 pace along the Valley Trail. The cold morning encouraged me to run at a brisk pace!

I also ran 10 miles on the Seawall Trail in Vancouver.

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What a treat to do a long run as a tourist in beautiful Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia. I saw many other runners that Saturday morning and I wondered how many of them would also be going to Boston in a couple of weeks!

Now I’m back home and back to reality. I started a second part-time job grading online California state assessment tests. Good thing the training schedule is lighter in these last couple of weeks before Boston! One six-miler for my long run this weekend and before I know it, I’ll be back in Beantown. (I lived there for two years when Mike went to business school at MIT Sloan. It’s where my 13-year-old was born, and where my 11-year-old took her first steps when we went back for a visit 10 years ago!)

Do you like to ski? Have you ever been to Boston? Where should I go to eat when I’m there? We have our old favorites and are definitely planning to go for brunch in the South End (Aquitaine. [ETA — closed for renovations! We now have reservations at Gaslight.]) and Italian in the North End (not sure which restaurant yet. [ETA: Rabia’s!]).

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Twenty-five days until Boston! I say that with a combination of excitement and nervousness. I’m at that point in the 20-week training cycle where all the hard work of training has started to wear on my body and spirit, so the doubts creep in. “If I’m struggling this hard to maintain race pace for eight miles, how will I ever do it for 26.2 miles?” and “That 20-miler was tough — I can’t imagine adding 6.2 miles on to that!” But then I remind myself about about the concept of periodization (dividing training into phases that build toward peak performance on race day) and the magic of taper (those last two to three weeks of reduced training that result in fresh legs for the race), and I trust that I am doing what I need to do to have the best race possible.

To keep myself motivated in this last month before Boston, I’ve taken advantage of some travel to run new routes in interesting places. When my husband and oldest daughter wanted to watch the tennis matches at Indian Wells, I made sure to get in a 10 mile run in Palm Springs.

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I could see a dusting of snow on top of the mountain as I headed out on my run from Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs.

I started my run at 11:00 a.m., which was very good practice for Boston. I’m in the third wave, which starts at 10:50 a.m. EDT. I prefer an early morning run or race, but I didn’t have any trouble on the 10 miles at that later time of day.

My next opportunity to “vacarun” (“traveljog”? “runtour”?) came when I transported 5th graders on a field trip to Rancho Soñado in Silverado, California. Parents didn’t need to stick around during the science lessons, so I drove to nearby Irvine Regional Park and headed out on the trails for eight miles.

First I picked the aptly named “Road Runner Loop.”

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Irvine Regional Park is home to a grove of heritage Oak and Sycamore Trees.

What a treat to find views like this in the middle of a densely populated suburban city.

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There is a zoo in the park, but I didn’t have to pay admission to see some wildlife! On the Horseshoe Loop Trail, I saw a bobcat!

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Not the bobcat I saw, but it looked much like this. Photo credit: dbarronoss.

Apparently my survival instincts need a little honing, because my first thought was, “What is a cat doing on the trail?” Once realization dawned on me that this wasn’t an overgrown house cat (doh!), my second thought was, “I need to get a picture of it!” Thank goodness that bobcat wanted nothing to do with me and didn’t stick around for its photo opportunity. I finally had the good sense to Google “What should I do if I see a bobcat?” Answer: Back away slowly. Don’t run or it might chase you! Make lots of noise. Spray it with water if necessary.

I walked very slowly around the next bend in the trail and there it was again! This time I stood still and watched it go right back through the brush to its original position on the trail. Once it was out of sight, I slowly walked along the trail until I thought it was safe to start running again. Whew! Thank goodness the last few miles were uneventful and the only creatures I saw were horses and people.

What’s the “wildest” creature you’ve seen in the wild?

I’ve seen bears (from a safe distance) in the national parks.

Where’s your favorite place to run or hike?

I’ve got to stick with the national parks here — I’ve had some fun adventures in Zion and Joshua Tree National Parks.

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I find it a little funny that my first long run of ’16 was 16 miles! I didn’t plan it that way; in fact I thought I was supposed to run 14 and I was dismayed to see that 16 when I double-checked my Boston training schedule. It’s week five of training, 15 weeks to go. The run went well. I took it easy at a 10:00 pace and listened to podcasts by Another Mother Runner and Runners Connect. I just finished listening to a great audiobook for runners: My Year of Running Dangerously: A Dad, a Daughter, and a Ridiculous Plan. CNN correspondent Tom Foreman narrates his own book and makes it entertaining and informative about coming back to running at an older age, running with your children, and dipping your feet in the ultra marathon waters. I have contemplated running my first ultra as the next big goal but it doesn’t sound like it’s for me, especially after I just burned out on a plan that called for running four to five times per week. I’ll stick to three times a week, thank you very much. I would like to get into trail running, however.

Looking Back at 2015

Here are the highlights for me for 2015 — a wide range of things that made me feel proud. I’ve put links to posts I wrote if you’d like to read more about any particular item.

  • Qualified for Boston 2016 in a PR time of 3:36:58 at the Phoenix Marathon in February
  • Used my own compost to grow a great summer harvest of tomatoes, basil, and hot peppers
  • Helped create a team of 53 members for the iCureMelanoma 5K to raise $5,418 for melanoma research
  • Volunteered each week at my girls’ school, working both in the classrooms and in the school library
  • Crossed off a bucket list item when my girls and I volunteered at the Girls on the Go Los Angeles Half Marathon in Bonelli Park
  • Proofread a friend’s memoir of her experience growing up under the oppression of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia
  • Set a PR in the 5K of 22:19 at the Downtown Anaheim 5K in June
  • Harvested over 200 pounds of lemons with my teenager and donated them to a local food bank
  • Qualified for Boston 2017 by a 15 minute, 52 second margin at the REVEL Canyon City Marathon in November
  • Performed with my middle daughter in six shows of The Nutcracker in December
  • Reached out to ElliptiGO and overcame my nervousness about trying something new, and was handsomely rewarded with finding a new workout I absolutely love!
  • Got a job for the first time in 13 years (aside from writing/blogging), working in the school district as a substitute assistant in the special education classrooms
  • Wrote up a training plan for my husband and teenager to train for their first half marathons next June, the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon

Looking Forward to 2016

I am eager to see what 2016 has in store for me! My first day on the new job is tomorrow, working 12-3 in the special education classroom at my girls’ school! The next race on my calendar is the Boston Marathon in April — my first time running that race and my 7th marathon overall.

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My sweet friends insisted that I take a photo in my prized new Boston jacket that Mike gave me for Christmas!

The only other race on my calendar is the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon in June. If the budget allows (i.e., I get enough work substituting in the district and my husband gets a new job), I hope to try my first big trail race (a half marathon, a full, or maybe even a 50K in spite of what I said about ultras not being for me — the Chino Hills Trail Run Series 50K is so close by and the timing would be perfect in November).

What are you proud of from 2015? What are you looking forward to in 2016?

 

 

 

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The newest race on my calendar is one of California’s oldest races — the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon, which was first held in 1955.

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The race takes place on Saturday, June 4, 2016. That’s over five months away, so why have I already registered? Well, a few reasons. (1) Registration is (relatively) cheap right now — just $50 plus the online registration fee. (2) I am a planner. I like crossing it off my to do list and not having to remind myself all the time to register before the race sells out (the horror!) And (3) — this is the big one — I also registered my husband and my oldest daughter for the race! For each of them it will be their first half marathon. I feel if you are going to take on the 13.1 race distance, it’s very motivating to commit to the race, not just wait and see how the training goes. Having that race on the horizon holds you accountable and makes it more likely that you will get out the door and complete the training miles.

We’ve already started training together — not so much following a half marathon training plan but a training plan I put together to get them building up to running enough miles each week that they are ready to start the 8-week training plan in April.

So far the farthest my daughter has ever run/walked in one workout is 5.5 miles. Come to think of it though, she has run a 5K (PR of 24:11) and then gone right back out on the course to run it again about half an hour later — so you might count that as a 6.2-mile run. That was last May though, and now she’s working up to running about 11-12 miles per week and slowly building from there over the next five months. By June my daughter will be 14 years old and my husband will be 45. I’m proud of them both for taking on this half marathon challenge!

Have you run a half marathon? I’ve run five half marathons over the last four years.

When was your first half marathon and what was it? My first half marathon was the OC Half in May 2012.

What’s your favorite half marathon course? I loved the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon in 2014 and the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon has a very similar course — a beautiful run down a mountain through a national forest.

 

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Two weeks ago, my husband lost his job. It came as a complete shock to us. We certainly never expected anything like this would ever happen, much less just three weeks before Christmas. But life kept on trucking, no matter that we’d been thrown for a loop. In fact, it was very surreal. All of these wonderful things were happening in our lives. My middle daughter turned 11 on December 11 (her “golden” birthday!) and we celebrated with a cake she designed herself. Those are Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups:

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Mike and I performed in six shows of the Nutcracker ballet, playing the parents of our “party boy” and Chinese dancer. It was such a joy to be a part of the production and to watch our golden girl thrive on the performances. She will soon go en pointe in ballet, and gets to play one of the lead roles in the summer production of Alice in Wonderland!

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It was fun to trade my typical running clothes for this gorgeous Victorian gown for a while!

My oldest daughter is applying to a special program in high school next year, and was recently selected to lead a flute ensemble in 8th grade band. And my youngest daughter is ready to begin competing in swimming and has nearly mastered the splits in gymnastics! We are so, so lucky in many ways. Thank goodness we had set aside a “rainy day” fund just in case, and have family members who are willing to help us through this difficult time. Life goes on as normal for the girls, and that’s the best that I could hope for right now.

I had just started training for the Boston Marathon — literally two days into the 20-week plan — when we learned that Mike lost his job. Suddenly marathon training seemed trivial and inconsequential. Why should I take time each day to exercise when I have more pressing things to do? But I quickly realized that it was more important than ever that I keep on exercising, for my mental health as well as my physical health. And it was important that I drag my husband along too! We love to spend time together and it feels like an odd sort of luxury that he is home and can go out for a four mile hill run with me on a random Tuesday morning. So I’ve kept up with the plan, no matter how much I haven’t wanted to head out the door. I always feel a million times better when I get back from a run than before I went out. And last Sunday was no exception. I had a 12 mile long run on the training calendar. It was a cold morning (by SoCal standards — low 50s maybe?) and the whole household was still asleep, but I forced myself to hit the road and I was so glad I did. I haven’t had such a strong run in a long time. You might recall that in my training for REVEL Canyon City, I was running 4-5 times a week and pretty much ran myself into the ground. Every run felt like a slog. Now I’m back on a plan of three runs per week plus two sessions of cross-training (bike, ElliptiGO, or Insanity workouts) and two strength training sessions. The runs are harder — a hill or speed workout, a tempo run and a long run — but because my legs are fresh for them, I feel strong and powerful! I’m back to the joy of running, and so grateful for that, now more than ever.

And guess what’s the best news of all! Santa heard my wish and I’m getting an ElliptiGO for Christmas! My parents have always been extremely supportive of me and my training, and they knew how much it would mean to me to have an ElliptiGO for those cross-training sessions. I can hardly wait to head out to Hermosa Cyclery again this week to pick out my very own Green Machine (yes, I’ve already chosen the color and named the ElliptiGO).

So please be sure to count your blessings, set aside a rainy day fund, and send some good thoughts Mike’s way in his search for a new job.

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My family stays active through a wide variety of activities. Take Mondays for example. My marathon training plan usually calls for an easy 3-4 mile run that day. My husband and oldest daughter practice tennis together for a couple of hours in the evening. My middle daughter attends ballet class, and my youngest goes to her pre-competitive swimming lesson. I love it! But you know what I don’t love? The laundry that goes with it all. With five sets of regular clothes and five sets of workout outfits and towels, I do an average of two loads of laundry a day (much of which is technical gear that has to be hung to dry!) Often my family members end up pulling clean clothes from the laundry bins before we even get a chance to sort them and put them away. And can you guess what the number one most sought after item is? A matched pair of workout socks. I am constantly in competition with my husband and eldest daughter for those darn socks. I have tried everything – buying multiple pairs of plain white socks, buying each person a unique brand and color of socks, it doesn’t matter. Those socks are in such high demand that every matched pair is fair game.

In an attempt to defeat the sock pilferers, I ordered up a pair of performance socks that would be mine, all mine, not only due to the pink and white color (defeating the teen who claims to hate pink) but also due to the awesome female empowerment message on them (take that dear husband)!

She Believed She Could Socks

So She Did Socks

I hid the socks away until I could try them out on a short run. The first thing I noticed is that they are super soft and feel great on my feet. They come in one-size-fits-all which suits my rather large feet well (size 9.5 regular shoe, 11 running shoe). I also like that the ankle height is higher than the average running sock which means that they don’t get pulled below the tongue of the shoe in front or rub on the heel in back.

The one thing to be careful with these socks is that the weave is looser than normal, which I discovered when I snagged my ring on it as I took them off after my run. But they’ve held up well after two more washings and dryings, and — did you see this one coming? — two more wears by my teenager! Yup, she stole these socks too and she likes them! (My husband has yet to steal them but I wouldn’t put it past him. He has gorgeous long hair and is often mistaken for a woman when waiters come up behind him at restaurants. And can you guess who he’s going as for Halloween? Caitlyn Jenner.)

I finally managed to steal the socks back again from the clean laundry and I wore them on the perfect occasion — my ballerina’s “parent participation night” at the ballet studio. Now, parent participation night was fun and easy when my daughter was in Ballet 2 and we did all the most basic moves. But this time she is in Ballet 4 and I got a real taste of the athleticism of these girls! With all the running I do I’ve got some pretty tight muscles and it was quite a challenge to do the barre work and the floor moves. As I lined up with the two other brave mothers to do a series of leaps across the room, I flashed them my socks. Remember ladies, “She believed she could, so she did!”

So if you’ve got a female best running friend or an athlete in the family, these socks would make a thoughtful gift before a big race or a great stocking stuffer at Christmas. Or treat yourself to a pair as a motivation or a reward, just beware the sock pilferers in your own home!

Hooray for Made in the USA

Hooray for Made in the USA

These Socrates performance socks retail for $8.99 at GoneForaRun.com. I received a free pair of socks for review purposes but was not compensated for my honest review.

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Three more weeks to go until the REVEL Canyon City Marathon on Saturday, November 7! Training for my sixth full marathon has gone relatively well. I took a chance on a new training plan (the “Own It” marathon training plan from Train Like a Mother) and while I think it’s gotten me ready to tackle the distance, I discovered that my body really, no-I-mean-it-I’m-not-kidding, does not like to run five days a week and really, yes-I’m-sure, prefers to run three days per week and ride a bike for an hour or two on the other days. My legs simply felt tired throughout the training and there have been several days where the plan called for a tempo run of eight miles and I just couldn’t do it. I could run eight miles, but not at a 7:45 pace. With that feeling and the onset of shin splints, I’m pretty sure I became the textbook case for overtraining. But that’s a lot of what I love about marathon training — each round teaches you something new about yourself, and amazingly, there is always something new to learn. Now I know what this 44-year-old body can handle and I will make a different choice next time (training for Boston starts four weeks after Canyon City!)

In spite of the overtraining, I had a fantastic 20-miler last weekend. My family and I drove up to Crystal Lake Recreation Area in the San Gabriel Mountains and stayed Friday night in a cabin there so I could preview the REVEL Canyon City Marathon course early the next day.

Sunrise over the San Gabriel Valley

Sunrise over the San Gabriel Valley

As I started out on my run at 7 a.m. and I took in the spectacular views, I got the same feeling that I get every time on race day: I am so lucky to be here.

The stately yucca stalk stands out like a sculpture in the early morning sky.

The stately yucca stalk stands out like a sculpture against the early morning sky.

I love the downhill profile of the marathon course. The top half of the course declines even more rapidly than the bottom half (see my REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon recap from last year), losing 4,200 feet over 13.1 miles. Instead of feeling like it pounded my quads though, I felt like I was cruising down the mountain. (Don’t get me wrong, I was plenty sore over the next few days, but my legs felt great throughout the 20 miles and I hardly felt winded by the end).

Much of the run down the canyon remains in the shade even as the sun comes up.

Much of the run down the canyon remains in the shade even as the sun comes up.

The course hits a couple of rolling hills around miles 16 and 19 and those were tough but presented a welcome change in the muscles I was using. I switched from focusing on maintaining a steady pace to maintaining a steady effort and just kept trucking up the hills, knowing that the downhill payoff would come again soon.

The welcome sight of water in the San Gabriel Reservoir, although you can see how the waterline has dropped significantly due to the drought.

The welcome sight of water in the San Gabriel Reservoir, although you can see how the waterline has dropped significantly due to the drought.

I completed the 20 miles in 3 hours exactly and I felt fantastic. It had just been such a joy to run down that beautiful canyon. And look who greeted me at the end:

The best sight ever -- my three girls running towards me at the very end of my 20-mile run.

The best sight ever — my three girls running towards me at the very end of my 20-mile run.

My husband and girls had driven down the mountain just in time to pick me up at the 20-mile mark.

We stayed another night at the cabin and soaked up more of the amazing sights. The next day we took a short hike out to Crystal Lake.

Crystal Lake, one of the few naturally-formed lakes in Southern California. It is fed by snow and water runoff.

Crystal Lake, one of the few naturally-formed lakes in Southern California. It is fed by snow and water runoff.

While my legs felt great Saturday afternoon after the run and on the hike on Sunday, by Monday morning I was experiencing a major case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The DOMS either means it was a bad idea to run 20 miles downhill in training or it was the perfect way to build up those muscles with four weeks to go until the marathon. I guess we’ll see on race day! I’m feeling really good now with three weeks to go. Tomorrow I’ll run 17 miles and then taper will officially begin.

Downhill running: love it or hate it? Love it! Bring it on, Canyon City! And heck yeah, bring it on, Boston!

P.S. For any of you out there running REVEL Canyon City, the Glendora Ridge Runners are doing a preview run on the course tomorrow, Saturday October 17. They have said that all are welcome, not just club members, so check out the Glendora Ridge Runners Facebook page for more details.

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