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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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It saddened me to read today of the plans of Black Lives Matter St. Paul to disrupt the Twin Cities Marathon this coming Sunday, October 4, 2015. The protest organizers say they hope to block the road at some point on the course to prevent runners from finishing the race.

Runner’s World article: Black Lives Matter Says It Plans to Disrupt Twin Cities Marathon
Statement by the Twin Cities Marathon: Updates on the Twin Cities Marathon event page
Black Lives Matter Facebook Event: Black Lives Matter St. Paul Press Release of September 25, 2015

It’s hard for me to come up with coherent thoughts on this, so I am just going to post the thoughts that ran (no pun intended) through my mind as I read the articles, the comments, and the Facebook replies.

– I cannot see the link between police violence against blacks and the Twin Cities Marathon. Yes it’s a high profile event. Yes it is something that runners are privileged to do. But if you wish to highlight and protest police violence against blacks in your community, why choose an event at which the police will be ensuring the safety of the community? Disruption of such a positive community event is not likely to garner support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
– Why target a sport in which so many of the professional athletes are black? Twin Cities Marathon does not yet have up the profiles of the professional athletes running this particular race, but you only have to look at the finishers of the world marathon majors and Olympic races to know that the sport of running benefits many blacks.
– And forget about all the professional athletes, what about the ways in which running benefits the everyday athletes of all backgrounds? Don’t the protesters know that Black Girls RUN!?

At any rate, my thoughts will be with all of the runners and the protesters on Sunday. May the runners finish safely without interruption and may the protesters stay safe as well.

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My husband says I’m still on a marathon high but I think of it more as giddy with “marathon relief”! I just am so thankful and pleased that everything came together on race day — the training, the course, the weather (more on that later), the pacing and the fuel — they all combined for me to run the Phoenix Marathon in 3:36:58, a PR of 7 minutes 28 seconds and a BQ with 8 minutes 2 seconds to spare!

I’m still processing the whole experience. Whoever said that the marathon never gets easier, you just run faster, was right. No matter how much you pour into the training, you still have to give it your all mentally and physically on race day if you want to achieve a personal best time. I learned that at Santa Rosa, and I re-lived it this past weekend at Phoenix.

I feel great now — I’ve even resumed walking down the stairs normally — and I’ll have a full race recap up soon.

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The day started with a 3:45 a.m. wakeup call after about four hours of sleep. I wasn’t nervous about the race but I think I had a little too much salt at dinner and it kept me awake longer than I would have liked. Or maybe my body just wanted to test the theory that it’s not the sleep the night before the race that matters, but two nights before the race. Spoiler alert: the theory is true in my case! I had a great experience at the inaugural Revel Canyon City Marathon & Half Marathon.

About three hours before the race start, I had my usual banana, oatmeal and coffee with a splash of milk, plus 20 ounces of Gatorade. The 35-minute drive to Citrus College in Azusa was uneventful. There was a bit of a line to get into the parking lot, and I had to park in the far lot and walk back to the buses. No big deal but I was desperate to find a bathroom at that point. The race information said the gym bathrooms would be open, but by the time I made it to the buses at 5:30 and asked where the gym was, the gym was too far to get to in time to get on the last half marathon bus at 5:45. Fortunately, some of the buses were tour buses with a bathroom, so I finagled my way out of the school bus line and onto the tour bus. In a second stroke of good luck, the woman in front of me in line gave me a tissue from her pack when she discovered the bathroom didn’t have any toilet paper.

On the bus drive up the canyon, I sat next to a lovely woman who had just run the NYC Marathon two weeks before. We chatted on the half hour drive up Highway 39. I enjoyed getting to preview the course that way, seeing where there were uphills and downhills along the course and enjoying the scenery. When we arrived at the start about 10 miles up into the canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains (recently designated a national monument by President Obama), I put on the warm gloves we’d been given at the expo and made a beeline through the brisk mountain air for the porta potties. There were enough for the number of runners (888 finishers in the half marathon). By that time it was about 6:30 and we had half an hour until the start.

Perfect temperature in the low 50s at the half marathon start.

Perfect temperature in the low 50s at the half marathon start.

Before I knew it, it was time to trade my sweats for the mylar blanket we’d also been given at the expo, and load my gear bag into the truck. After another fifteen minutes, we got treated to a beautiful, live version of the national anthem, and it was time to line up on the course, self-seeding ourselves by the pacers of our choice. I got up close to the front, behind the 1:40 pacer, as I planned to go for a 1:45.

That turned out to be the right spot for me and I quickly settled into a 7:45-8:00 minute pace without any runners to dodge in front of me. There are some rolling hills in the first few miles, nothing too challenging and still plenty of downhill to get your pace up. In fact I’d planned to go out a little slower at the start, an 8:15, but my first mile ended up at 7:45. I just felt great and I went the pace my legs wanted to go on the downhills as I repeated my downhill mantra “light, quick, light, quick” in time with each step (as opposed to my mantra on the flatter sections, which turned out to be “put the hammer down, stay strong.” I have no idea where that came from but it worked!)

I enjoyed the spectacular views down the canyon along the partially closed course. We stayed in the left lane while the right was open to traffic guided by police escorts. Only once, though, did I see one set of cars pass by on the first 10 miles of the course. No spectators were allowed there either, which didn’t bother me at all. It was just peaceful and beautiful, with a sprinkling of runners along the course and helpful aid station volunteers about every two miles.

When I hit the halfway point, I did a quick self-check. At that point I was ahead of my target pace and I was still feeling great. I decided to maintain my current pace and reassess at mile 10. Incredibly, I still felt really good at mile 10 too. It wasn’t easy, but it was easier than the tempo runs I’d been performing in full marathon training (ah the miracle of taper and the wonder of what a little rest can do for the legs). I passed the first timing mat on the course at mile 10 in 1:18:19.2 for an average pace of 7:50. From that point on I looked at the race as a 5K to the finish, “only” 3.1 more miles to go. I tried my hardest to keep the pace around 7:45 without burning out before the finish. Much to my surprise, I got a surge of energy when I could hear the finish line announcer, and then could see the finish line arch. I ended up averaging a 7:38 pace for the last 3.1 miles, for a 5K split of 23:38.8, which happens to be a PR in the 5K! I guess I’d better get out there for a stand-alone 5K soon to see what I could do at that distance!

My final chip time was 1:41:58 for an average pace of 7:47 (which happens to be my 10K PR pace for my very hilly local La Habra 10K). I stopped by the timing tent and got a printout of my official results, only to find out that I had placed 3rd in my 40-44 age group out of 104 women! 27th female of 576 and 76th of all 888 finishers.

Huge finisher's medal on the left, "bronze" medal for 3rd place F40-44 on the right. My chip time ended up being one second faster than shown here.

Huge finisher’s medal on the left, “bronze” medal for 3rd place F40-44 on the right. My chip time ended up being one second faster than shown here.

I celebrated with a heavenly massage at the Massage Envy tent, then made my way to pick up my gear bag. The truck had been delayed on the course so instead I started the long walk back to my car in the parking lot. That took 15-20 minutes and while it made an effective recovery walk, I would have liked to be back in my dry clothes for that (and really, I would have liked a shuttle bus). I drove back to the gear pick-up just in time to see my bag being sorted by bib number.

On my way back out of the parking lot, I spotted Andrea, a friend I hadn’t realized would be at the race as a spectator to cheer on Pavement Runner (and she hadn’t known until the last minute that I was running the race also — and when she heard she made a sign for me too!!) During the race I had heard people call out my name at mile 12 (a HUGE boost at that point because I was putting everything into staying at my pace by then) but I just marveled at the fact that these ladies could read my name on my bib. It never occurred to me that it was someone I knew!! I was so in the zone I just gave a double thumbs-up and kept my eyes on the road. So I was especially glad we connected after the race. It was particularly nice of her to be out at the race this morning when she is headed off to run Disney Avengers early tomorrow morning then hop on a plane to go run the Strip at Night in Vegas that evening!

I never imagined the day would turn out so well and that I would be celebrating a full 6-minute PR on my Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon time. Long-time readers can guess that the first thing I did when I got home was to plug 1:41:58 into the McMillan pace calculator to see that it predicts I could train to run the full marathon in 3:34:36. That would be a 10-minute PR for me for my fifth marathon, so I’m skeptical, but gosh darn it how much would I love to run that at the Phoenix Marathon in February?!

Overall I am very impressed by the Revel Canyon City Half Marathon and I would definitely recommend it to friends. (Note that the full marathon has a net loss of 5,134 feet compared to 933 for the half — I’m curious to see what people think of the full marathon and that serious downhill run).

What’s your next goal race and what is your goal for that race?

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The night before The Santa Rosa Marathon I set two alarm clocks, one on my phone for 3:45 a.m. and a backup one on my Garmin Forerunner 10 for 3:50 a.m. I turned off the lights for bed at 9:20 p.m. and I had surprisingly little trouble falling asleep. Race jitters used to keep me up and anxious the night before a race, but I seem to have conquered those. I still get terrible jitters in the days leading up to a race, and the morning of, but sleep is such a precious commodity in my world that I have learned to drift off to sleep by reassuring myself that all the work I could have done is done, and my only remaining job is to sleep! I slept very well until 3:20 a.m. when I felt one of my children jump into the bed. But then the bed kept rocking and rolling, and I thought it must have been my two indoor cats fighting. But the rocking and rolling continued, and I woke up enough to remember where I was – alone in a hotel room bed, sans kiddos and sans cats. Earthquake! By the time my addled brain registered that fact, I thought for sure the rocking and rolling would stop any second. It lasted so long though that I really ought to have vacated my room on the second floor of the hotel (regardless of the fact that I didn’t have any pajama bottoms on). So much for my survival instincts!

Thank goodness we did not seem to have any injuries or serious damage in Santa Rosa, and we didn’t lose power like much of the Bay Area did. Turns out the earthquake was a biggie, a 6.1 centered not far from Santa Rosa. Just my luck I would be up north for the largest earthquake in 25 years!

There was no going back to sleep after that so the morning routine continued apace (ha, a little running pun there). For pre-race breakfast I had coffee with skim milk, oatmeal with a dash of sugar to make it palatable, a banana, and 16 ounces of Gatorade. I tried to finish all that by 4 a.m., two hours before the race was scheduled to start at 6 a.m., but I didn’t quite succeed. I then hustled into the race gear I had laid out to make Flat Angela, and I taped on my pace bracelet. I packed my phone, sunscreen, hotel key, and another 16 ounces of Gatorade and I was ready to go by 4:45 a.m.

As I pulled out of my parking space at the hotel, I saw another runner starting to walk the two miles to the starting line. I didn’t want to scare her but I took a chance and rolled down the car window. “Do you want a ride to the race?” She was stunned but quickly judged that I was not an axe murderer and she gladly accepted. I think I got the better end of the deal because Yara turned out to be a very nice person who kept me company until it was time to part ways right before the race. We parked in the parking structure at Sears ($3 and very convenient) and walked a couple blocks to the starting area. We hit the porta potty lines twice (I guess ladies do like to go to the restroom in packs!) and then I headed off to strip off my sweats (compliments of the Goodwill thrift store in Santa Rosa) and check my bag. The weather was great, 55 degrees at the start and yet the humidity took a little edge off the chill. I made it to the race chute with 15 minutes before the 6 a.m. start. Santa Rosa is a smaller race with 1,235 full marathoner finishers so there were no corrals; people placed themselves by the pacers or wherever else they wished to be. The race started on time, just as the sky began to lighten. I crossed the timing mat at a slow jog and hit “start” on my Garmin Forerunner 10 (my 110 died a week before the race, but that’s another story). We were off! Click here for Part 2 of the Santa Rosa Marathon 2014 recap!

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BQ Baby!

I’m still traveling home from Santa Rosa but I couldn’t wait to post my thanks to everyone who offered support to me in the comments on my posts leading up to The Santa Rosa Marathon. You all made me believe I really could go for that elusive Boston Qualifying time, and I did it! I hung onto the 3:45 pacer to come in at 3:44:26! I think I gave lots of people nervous attacks because my gun time went over 3:45, but that trusty RFID chip said I had 34 seconds to spare! I am still in a state of disbelief. If I let myself think about it too much I start to cry happy tears. Stay tuned for the full race report and review in the coming days!

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Flat Me

It’s gorgeous here in Santa Rosa and the weather is going to be perfect tomorrow – 55 degrees and overcast. I picked up my bib today from the expo at DeLoach Vineyards. Part of the course runs through the barrel room there:

The barrel room at DeLoach Vineyards today at the expo.

The barrel room at DeLoach Vineyards today at the expo.

Now I’ve got my bib and I’m all ready to go tomorrow. I even put together Flat Angela:

And you thought I was kidding about the cheetah undies....

And you thought I was kidding about the cheetah undies….

Now I just need to set my alarm for 3:45 a.m.!
 

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