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Last night I ditched my responsibilities at home to enjoy a rare night out by myself, on a weeknight no less! I got to attend a special event: the local movie premiere of Boston: An American Running Story!

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The film opened to rave reviews from runners everywhere, and I happily add my favorable review to the pile. The movie offers everything you would want from a film about the iconic Boston Marathon — facts about the history of the race, old film footage of the race and past interviews with the winners, and current interviews with those most intimately involved in the race. It sounds terribly cliché but I laughed, I cried, and I felt inspired.

I highly recommend the movie for runners everywhere — those who want to run Boston, those who have run Boston, and those who just want to enjoy a great film about the history of running. I think the people of Boston would love the film too; it’s a real tribute to all the people involved in putting on the race and all the supporters who come out to line the race course each year. I ran the race in 2016 and that’s what I remember most — the unparalleled support I felt from the crowd from the starting line to the finish.

This film highlights the 2014 race, a triumphant return of the event after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. It certainly was difficult to watch the footage of the bombings, but the film treated it in just the right way — not giving any attention to the perpetrators but rather focusing on the victims and the heroes of the day.

This is a film I know I’ll want to watch over and over again, adding it to Spirit of the Marathon as one of the films I will watch for inspiration before I run another marathon.

Did you see the film, or will you watch it when it becomes available near you?

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March is the month that podcasters are encouraging their listeners to share their favorite podcasts in an effort to get more people to try a pod.

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I am happy to share my favorites as a thank you to those podcasters who have gotten me out the door for many a run. I’m one of those kooky people who do not listen to music while I run (yes, we do exist). I love to listen to podcasts and audiobooks though, and I rarely run without one or the other.

My favorite podcasts are:

1. Another Mother Runner: These ladies first introduced me to podcasts and I’ve loved them (the ladies and their podcasts) ever since. Not only do they have great guests and content, they also are completely relatable and I simply enjoy catching up with them each week. So many times I’ve laughed out loud as I listened to their opening dialogues and interviews. This podcast grew out of their books Run Like a Mother, Train Like a Mother, and Tales from Another Mother Runner and the wonderful Another Mother Runner community that has sprouted around those books. New podcasts come out every Friday, just in time for listening to on a weekend long run. And guess what? I sent in a voice memo about training with my teenager for a half marathon and you can hear that clip on today’s episode (at about the 12:30 mark if you want to fast-forward to it): How to Get Your Kid(s) Involved in Running.

2. Run to the Top Podcast from RunnersConnect: Tina Muir does an excellent job hosting this informative podcast with high quality guests. She’s an elite athlete who manages to be both humble and inspiring as she shares content that appeals to beginners and professional runners alike.

3. The Rich Roll Podcast: If you’re a fan of Rich Roll and his book Finding Ultra then you might also enjoy his podcast. He has a unique perspective and his podcast is one of the few that goes long-form with one- to two-hour interviews with a wide variety of guests, from celebrities to fitness experts. He hits heavy on the topics of sobriety and veganism, but there’s something there for everyone.

4. The Conscious Runner Podcast: Listening to the Conscious Runner host Lisah Hamilton is like listening to your own personal coach and running friend. She has a lot to teach a new runner and anyone who wants to improve running form and speed. Her guests range from experts to everyday runners, and they all share a passion for running that will keep you inspired to get out there and do your best.

5. Human Race Podcast by Runner’s World: This relatively new podcast features human interest pieces that share the stories of various runners and the running community.

6. The Runner’s World Show: This show hosted by Runner’s World Editor-in-Chief David Willey is an interesting mix of running news, tips, and interviews.

Are any of these on your favorites list too? What are your go-to podcasts, running-related or otherwise? I would love to hear your recommendations!

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Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get some great free stuff to review. StrideBox kindly sent me two boxes full of running goodies over the last two months. Let me just say straight up that I’m a pretty thrifty (okay fine, call me cheap) person and usually I would not sign up for a subscription service like StrideBox. But I also believe that money spent on fitness is money well spent, and at the current price of $15 per month, I can see how StrideBox is a good value for the avid runner. I particularly love that there are various gift subscriptions available (hint hint) without any long-term commitment.

First of all, it was a delight to receive a box in the mail. There’s something so fun and indulgent about receiving a package and opening it up to see what’s inside. And the great thing about StrideBox is that you’re bound to find at least one or two gems in each box. Not everything is going to be a winner, but that’s okay! It’s worth it to find out you didn’t like that particular protein cookie, but you really loved that flavor of protein bar.

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I wonder what’s inside this carefully wrapped StrideBox?

My first box contained lots of wonderful goodies.

 

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My absolute favorite, and something that I wouldn’t have found on my own, were the iGloves. They are the perfect weight for a chilly SoCal morning and they actually work when I try to start a podcast on my iPhone. No more tearing off my gloves in frustration when I want to answer a text or open the MapMyRun app.

I was surprised to find that I liked the Yogurt Berry PR Bar better than the Peanut Butter Granola one (which was also good, but both my 8-year-old and I preferred Yogurt Berry).

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Can’t forget the sports detergent that was in the box too.

In the second box, I found a few more favorites.

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Lots of goodies, treats and tips.

I am already a fan of Honey Stinger Waffles in my marathon training, and I am excited to try the Wildflower Honey flavor. And the morning I opened the box, I used the new-to-me Escape SPF 50 lip balm – a must-have in sunny Southern California. I look forward to having the HyperGo After Sports Wipe when I am out and about, trying a new trail somewhere while one of my kids is at ballet camp or tennis camp this summer and I’m squeezing in a run while waiting to pick her up. Love the massage tool too – that will really come in handy after a long run.

All in all I recommend StrideBox for a fun treat for yourself or the passionate runner in your life!

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On a cool and beautiful Saturday morning in February, 87 hearty souls raced through the desert to complete the 2017 Death Valley Marathon. The course runs through spectacular Death Valley National Park along the same road traveled by the infamous Badwater 135 ultra marathon.

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View of the starting line on Highway 190.

Instead of the national anthem, the race director led us all in a more appropriate and moving rendition of America the Beautiful.

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Marathoners and their friends gathered for the 8 a.m. start. You can play “Where’s Angela” and find me in the purple top toward the front of the group.

Before the race, I worried that the out-and-back course might be a bit dull, with the same view for miles. I needn’t have worried, as the park is gorgeous and the course winds through the valley with ever-changing views of mountains to the east and west. Also, while the course boasts less than 325 feet of elevation gain, that number is deceptive. It felt to me like we were usually on a slight uphill or downhill grade on rolling hills and rarely running on just flat pavement.

The course roadway is open to park visitors, but I found the vast majority of drivers to be extremely respectful of the runners. We ran on the west shoulder at all times, and while that meant a little jockeying for position at the beginning of the race, the runners soon spread out and by the second half, I often found myself running alone through the desert. Spectators are not allowed on the course, and aid stations are only every three miles. The stations were well-stocked but I thought the Gatorade was a little too watered down (that is foreshadowing, in case you didn’t catch that).

I really enjoyed the first half of the course. The problem for me came around mile 16 when my calves started cramping. I can only speculate that I undertrained for the race or underfueled during the race, or some combination of the two. I had brought my own homemade sports drink that worked fine for me in training but obviously did not do the trick in the race, and the Gatorade on the course didn’t make up for it in the final miles. My splits went from a super-consistent 8:52.6 and 8:52.4 in miles 8-9 and 8:58.8 and 8:58.9 in miles 14-15 to 13:56 for mile 21 and 15:03 for mile 24! At one point I considered whether I wanted to drop out of the race (that might have been the time I heard the raven caw above me and wondered if that was a vulture coming for my carcass when I dropped to the ground. I might have gotten a tad bit dramatic in my suffering). I asked myself if I was going to injure myself by continuing. When the answer was no, I asked myself if I would feel better if I stopped, or better if I finished. I knew for certain that I would feel better if I finished, so I set my mind to it. I decided that I needed to take the focus off my cramping, painful calves, and concentrate on something that didn’t hurt. Somewhere after I really hit the wall in mile 20, I started counting my arm swings. My arms didn’t hurt, and I felt more powerful and in control as I counted each time my right fist punched forward. Long story short, by the time I finished the race, I had counted over 4,200 swings of my right arm. I got into a zen zone by the final miles, and brought my pace back down from 15:03 to 12:38 for mile 25 and 11:37 for mile 26! Mike brought the girls to the finish line, and they gave me a burst of energy as I ran the final 0.33 in a pace of 9:46.

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The most special moment of the race, as the girls ran with me to the finish.

I finished in 4:28:01, a full 51 minutes off my PR of 3:36:58 (recap of the Phoenix Marathon here). I had hoped to come in under 4 hours, but only two women out of 26 female finishers managed that feat. My final stats:

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The first place male and female finishers came in at a blazing 2:49:40 and 3:21:08 respectively. Including all of the 87 finishers, the average finish time was 4:39:40 (a perfectly respectable time, and now that I look into it, I see that the average finishing time for the New York City Marathon is 4:34:45, so the average here is only 5 minutes slower. I guess I just thought this race would trend on the fast side due to the sea level altitude, the good weather, and the experience level of the type of runner who would choose a race that does not allow spectators). If I had to do it over, I would train harder (though I thought I had trained well, with 3 20-milers under my belt), and carry Gatorade instead of my homemade sports drink. Or perhaps, knowing what I know now, I would have opted to do the half marathon and had more time to view the rest of the national park, which truly wowed me with how beautiful it is in the winter.

I was very happy to find that the finish line fare included trail mix with nuts, raisins and M&Ms (heaven!) and a pretzel mix too. I picked up my cotton race t-shirt, which I will wear with pride. While I didn’t finish anywhere near the time I hoped, I am unusually proud of myself for finishing this race. The marathon always has something to teach me, even in my 8th one. This time I learned that the mind really can control the body. My mind carried me through 10 miles after my legs started cramping. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a pretty impressive display of sheer determination.

It’s been three weeks since the race and I’m back up to running 10 miles for my long run this weekend. I am still thinking through what I’d like to take on next. Do I choose another marathon after three particularly hard experiences (REVEL Canyon City, Boston and this one)? Or turn to a different challenge? All I know is I like having a big goal, so I’d better start planning.

What was your hardest race and why? Have you been to Death Valley? (If not, you should go — in the winter!)

 

 

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Five years ago I first ran the local school district’s Turkey Trot 5K. (Five years ago? How can that be?!) I couldn’t run it again until now because the date always conflicted with my fall marathon training. But it fit in nicely this year since my next marathon is not until February 4, the Death Valley Marathon. I didn’t train specifically for a 5K and I only tapered two days for this race, so I didn’t have a great idea of what I should set for my race goal. It’s a hilly course so I knew I couldn’t expect to come close to my 5K PR of 22:19 set at the Downtown Anaheim 5K over a year ago, but I at least wanted to beat my time from the 2011 Turkey Trot, 24:37, and I hoped to come in under 24 minutes.

It was a gorgeous morning for racing. Cool but not cold, sunny but not blinding.

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292 finishers participated in this lovely neighborhood race.

The junior high choir sang a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, and then promptly at 8 a.m. we set off with the sound of the blow horn. So many youngsters took off at a blistering pace and my job in the beginning was not to trample any little kids. You would think I would learn not to get swept up in the excitement and go out too fast with them, but when I first checked my Garmin the pace said something in the 6 minute mile range! Oops. I reined it in over the rest of the mile and the mile splits for the race ended up being 7:39, 8:02, and 7:57. Maybe someday I’ll master 5K pacing and not suffer so much in the 2nd and 3rd miles!

I raced the big finish line clock down the home stretch to come in just under 24 minutes as I hoped. My Garmin said 23:56. But then I checked the official race results and my time said 24:07. So unsatisfying! That’s the problem with races that are not chip timed, I guess. I shouldn’t care so much, but I do, so I ended up writing the timing company to ask why my result didn’t match the finish line clock (I don’t expect my result to match my Garmin, but I do expect it to come within a few seconds of what the finish line clock said). At any rate, I was happy with my effort in the race and pleased to win 1st in my age group out of 20 women ages 40-49 (I am 45).

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The first place medal came with $15 in gift certificates to A Snail’s Pace running shop in Brea.

Saturday is my long run day and my plan called for a long bike ride (this plan from Smart Marathon Training sometimes substitutes long rides for long runs, which I find very refreshing). So after the race I drove to a paved path and rode the ElliptiGO for an hour and 40 minutes.

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Oh how I love a dedicated bike path!

That hour and 40 minutes on the ElliptiGO was truly easier and more fun than running a race for 24 minutes, let me tell you! I listened to running podcasts (Another Mother Runner had on Dean Karnazes and The Runner’s World Show talked about Running While Female) and enjoyed all the thumbs-up I got for the ElliptiGO, which remains a curiosity on the trails.

Are you watching the NYC Marathon today? Because I don’t have cable I’ve had to content myself with following the live coverage on Twitter. Hooray for American Molly Huddle coming in 3rd for the women in her marathon debut with a time of 2:28:13!

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

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

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

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

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

What are you training for?

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

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

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

 

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

Ground Afire: The Story of the Death Valley National Monument

Ground Afire: The Story of the Death Valley National Monument

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

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

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

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

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