Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon Tomorrow!

kaiser-half

Quick post tonight before I head off to bed. I’ve been waiting anxiously for tomorrow for a month now. And now that it’s less than 12 hours away, I’m so nervous! GAhh…

I feel: good. I’ve been running consistently all of January. I’ve managed to sneak in a run every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday with just one exception. No injuries other than my blisters. (I developed blisters from hiking the pyramids in Teotihuacan in Mexico in my stupid sandals!) I’ve been stretching and drinking lots of water today.

I’m aiming for: a 1:19. That’s what I secretly want, but I’ll be happy with a 1:22. My PR is 1:24:29, so really, I should be happy with anything faster than that. So it’s actually more like this:

  • slower than 1:24:49 – unhappy
  • 1:22-1:24:49 – happy
  • 1:19 – 1:22 – happier
  • sub 1:19 – happiest!!

My happiness formula is complicated…

Why I’m nervous: Impala girls will be there. And there’s a 50% chance of rain.

Why I’m excited: This race is in Golden Gate Park and Great Highway aka my stomping grounds aka my backyard! I have run these routes countless times, so my familiarity with them will definitely serve to my advantage.

The actual results: We’ll see tomorrow! Good night everyone.

Weekly Check-in: Groovy, Baby

2 weeks away from the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon, and I’m feeling strong. I had a good 2.5 weeks of solid training after my 5-day vacation in Mexico, and now I’m back in the groove. (Groovy, baby) Rest helps refuel my passion for running and prevents me from burning out both mentally and physically. When timed correctly, not running helps me come back stronger.

Here’s my mileage from Strava for this month:

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I started using Strava in December 2013, and I’m still learning the bells and whistles, but it seems like a great tool to track my distance and time spent running. Not gonna lie, I’m looking forward to the end of 2014, when I can see just how much time I poured into this passion of mine. Wouldn’t it be great to end the 2014 year with 2014 miles? So perfect, right?

It’s also super helpful because I get asked quite often, “What’s your weekly mileage?” and being the hippie runner that I am, I have no idea. I do some quick rudimentary calculations and reply with a “40-50 miles??” that sounds less convincing than I’d like to admit. So… now I know, down to the last .1 mile!

This is quite a drastic change from my running habits from around this time last year. I was running on weekends, and squeezing in runs whenever I “had the time” or whenever I “wanted to” during the weekdays. Which meant I never ran on weekdays. :) Now, I aim to wake up at 4:15 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays to squeeze in a morning run before the sun even comes up.

Having a more structured workout plan allowed me to make leaps in my performance and ensured that I was prepared for my races. It’s also boosted my confidence because I know I’ve put in the effort and completed my months-long training. I’ve done everything I could in the weeks before, and on race day, I’m ready for anything.

We’ll see in 2.5 weeks. Eek!

Good night, moon

I was running along the Great Highway earlier this week, doing my usual morning run, when I noticed the moon. A gloriously round, bursting-at-the-seams moon in the clearest of night skies. There was not a cloud nor any fog to obstruct my view, and when I ran past the crashing ocean waves, I couldn’t help but stop and admire.

How lucky I am to live in such a beautiful city.

The next morning, I brought my point-and-shoot camera along to snap a few shots. Perfect timing. I had just taken my first photography class last weekend and was eager to test my new knowledge. I’m still very much a beginner and learning to use my camera features, so please have mercy on my blurry pictures. These were taken around 6 am. Enjoy!

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The moon glistening off the waves.

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Artsy off-center shot, heh heh

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A little blurry, but check out those waves. Here, the moon almost looks like the sun!

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Similar shot, but slower shutter speed = darker. Here you can see the waves more clearly.

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I love the rich, golden colors here.

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Good night, moon.

Top Secret Weapon to Cranking Up Motivation

WWYD

This is part II of my last blog post 3 Secrets to Staying Motivated. Just when you thought I was done…

Here is my top secret weapon to really cranking up the power of motivation:

What would _______________ do?

Yes, admittedly, it’s an adaptation of the “What Would Jesus Do?” motto you remember from bracelets, notebooks, and other teenage girl goodies in the 90’s. But it works. Just fill in the blank with the type of person you strive to be. You know, the person who already accomplished the goals you set out to do.

For me, it’s “What would an Olympic marathoner do?”

Would she hit the snooze button at 4:30 am when it’s time to run? Would she over-indulge in another piece of fried chicken? Would she skip her workout in order to go to happy hour with friends?

Of course not.

And if you want to be in that person’s shoes, you must be willing to do what it takes to get there. It’s getting into the daily habit and the mindset of the person you want to become, coupled with the art of visualization. It’s essentially “Fake it till you make it” or better yet, “Fake it till you become it.”

3 Secrets to Staying Motivated

A fresh new year also means new years resolutions. If your Facebook newsfeed is anything like mine, it’s overflowing with posts and articles about goals and strategies to make sure this year will be the year.

Uh okay, cool. No pressure.

Now I think that’s all fine and dandy. I’m all for ingraining healthy habits and setting goals, and I strongly and honestly believe it’s never too late to change. There are many reasons to run and just as many incentives to stay fit. Today, I want to share with you how I stay motivated and on track when it comes to running.

  1. Plan out your workout schedule for the entire month. It can be as strict or as loose as you’d like. I prefer a loose set of guidelines (for ex, I plan to run 12 miles this Saturday and again on Sunday) to make sure I hit the right mileage for the week, while still having enough flexibility to make it fun (I get to choose when and where I run). Be sure to schedule breaks or “off days” as well. Recovery is just as important as training hard, and you don’t want to burn out your body or mind. Plus, allowing for off days allows you to push harder (“If I run today and tomorrow, I can take Friday off.”).
  2. Lay out your workout clothes and equipment, so they’re ready when you plan to exercise. Mine is all set up for me when I get home tonight, so I can quickly slip into them and get out the door before I even realize I’m going for a run. This simple but vital step saves you time and energy. You don’t need to hunt for your Belaga socks, your Garmin GPS watch, or anything; it’s all ready for you to take for a spin. Any energy you spend deciding on what to wear, what route to run, or what mileage to tackle means less energy and time for your actual workout.
  3. Trick yourself. We all have those moments where we don’t feel like working out, when we’ve had a long, taxing day and we think we deserve a break. Yes, you’ve already planned out your monthly workout schedule and have your Nike thermal gear eagerly waiting for you, but you think to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to just lay on the couch for just a minute and relax?”

WRONG.

You will always feel better after a workout. You will feel more productive, more accomplished, and more proud of yourself. Logically, you know that (of course you do!), but the sofa is just so darn tempting! So here’s what you do: you compromise and tell yourself you will run 1 mile. Just one. Who doesn’t have time for one measly mile?

But let me tell you: 99 times out of 100, I will exceed that 1 mile. I will realize how silly it is to get dressed and stretch and everything for just 1 mile, and oh, what the heck, what is a few more miles. When you get back to your couch, you will realize it wasn’t that hard after all and what were you whining about anyway? And that, my friends, is how you knowingly trick yourself into working out. And if you don’t exceed that 1 mile, that’s perfectly fine too. One mile is infinitely better than 0. Plus, you didn’t break your momentum, so it will be 10x easier to pick up where you left off tomorrow.

That’s it. Those are my secrets. Which really aren’t secrets at all. #1 and #2 are about preparation and #3 is about mustering up a teeny bit of motivation and challenging yourself to take it further.

I also believe that because one technique works for someone doesn’t mean it will work for someone else. So I encourage you to give them a try and see what works best for you. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

If you have any tips and tricks to staying motivated, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

2014 Race Calendar

Ahh. New year, new possibilities. It’s amazing to think of how much I’ve learned improved in the past year, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for me these next 12 months.

After CIM, I took a few weeks to relax, get fat, spend time with family, and zip off to Mexico. Now, it’s time to get back into gear. In other words, I’m channeling Britney’s her new song “Work B*tch.” :)

It’s also an exciting time for me because I’ve never planned my races so far in advance before. I’m actually becoming a “real runner!” Without further ado, here are the races I hope to plan on dominating the next few months:

Feb 2: Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon

Apr 21: Boston Marathon

Apr 27: Big Sur Marathon Relay

May 18: Bay to Breakers

Jun 21: Grandma’s Marathon (tentative)

Jul 27: SF Marathon – I’m an Ambassador for this event! Use my code DSC10TSFM2014A6 for a $10 discount

After July, it gets a bit hazy. I hope to get into the Chicago Marathon in October, as it’s one of the flattest (read: fastest) courses in America. Also considering the NY Marathon, which is also pretty high up there, drawing some of the speediest runners around the world. My concerns are that it’s so close after Chicago and so close before CIM (which after what happened last year, I’m determined to make a comeback!!!). We shall see. In the meantime, it’s all about focus. Less than 4 weeks until my next race in my stomping grounds: Golden Gate Park and Great Highway!

Race Recap: CIM and 9 lessons I learned the hard way

Yesterday at 7am, I froze my tush for a little over 3 hours running the California International Marathon in Sacramento. It’s one of the fastest marathons in the nation, and is known for churning out a fair share of Olympic Trial qualifiers. I had my heart set on a 2:55:00, which would have shed a whopping 4 minutes off my PR of 2:59. But alas, my heart was broken. Note: heart was broken, but spirit was not.

It was just so darn cold!!! The temperatures hovered in the 20’s that morning, and I was so grateful that we raided a Goodwill the night before to buy extra clothes to toss. It was spine-tinglingly awesome. I was wearing a little boy’s black puffer jacket, my dad’s extra pair of sweatpants, a scarf, and gloves, all on top of my usual dri-fit tee/black shorts/pink compression socks combo. I was shivering at the sight of so many people already peeling away their layers and bouncing around in shorts. What a waste of energy, I thought.

A bit of confusion with the bag check trucks, Charles drops his banana peel (someone is gonna slip, Charles!!!!!) and next thing you know, Charles and I were at the starting line. The sweatpants and scarf were flung off. We were ready to go.

 

BOOM!

 

I don’t know why I’m going so fast, but everything feels good and right, and I can’t stop, won’t stop. I’m cranking out 6:30’s per mile. Where did that come from?! Deep down, I’m overly confident and anxious to PR. I reason to myself, this is a downhill course. If I could sub-3 in the rolling San Francisco hills, I can sub 2:55 by cruising downhill.

The puffer jacket gets shed by mile 3. That was longer than expected. I ran 3 miles in a huge snowjacket! I’m following a good pack now. The boys look strong and effortless. It makes me feel light on my feet. So light that I pass them as I run tangent point to point.

Then I don’t know where or how it started, but I was slowing down to a 6:40 pace. Alright, that’s not too bad. That’s where I should be anyway for a 2:55. Then 6:40 creeps up to 6:50. I’m not too happy about that, so I start to negotiate. As long I can keep it sub-7, everything’s going to be okay.

Except it’s not. 7:00 quickly turns to 7:10, then 7:15 and 7:20, and everyone is passing me. I’m a very proud person, so I do not like this one bit! My heart gets crushed a little more each time someone passes me, as I cannot will my body to move any faster. My right arm is frozen. I keep shaking it out to get the blood moving and bring feeling back to it, but it’s futile. That’s weird; my left arm is fine.

I’m starting to negotiate with myself even more.

“What can I do to simply finish?”

“How can I warm up?”

“No matter how slowly you go, just keep moving!”

It was a really tough race, but I’m proud to say that I did finish sprinting through the finish line. 26.2 miles is a quite a distance, and many completely opposite thoughts can swim around your head. Pride and mental pats on the back quickly dissolve into doubt and self-destructive negativity. A marathon is a beast you must tame with patience, perseverance and perhaps most importantly, positivity.

 

Here are 9 lessons I learned from the CIM:

1. You will have good races and you will have bad races. I have been completely spoiled by the good fortune of PR’ing in every single race in the past 3 years. I have trained myself to not only match my previous performance, but to beat it. I’ve even been upset because I didn’t PR by as much as I had hoped. Yesterday, I had a bad race, and although I wish never to have another one, I hope I can have the strength to accept it and the wisdom to learn from it.

2. Start out slowly. This is the oldest trick in the book, the one piece of advice everyone gives about every marathon, and something I used to pride myself on. I’m usually a very conservative runner and prefer to start off slowly, and then catch up to others, one by one. The past few races though, I’ve started chasing ‘em down from the start. Time to recalibrate. After all, even if you start slowly for the first 5 miles, you have 21 more to speed it up. If you start out too fast, it’ll be very hard to keep it up and cling on for dear life.

3. You don’t have to refuel every chance you get. Now, this was really strange for me. MY coworker told me before my very first half marathon to drink from every aid station, even at mile 2. I’m grown accustomed to taking at least a sip from every water station and slurping down Gu after every hour. But at yesterday’s race, I felt that I really didn’t need it. Not sure if because of the cold temperatures, I just wasn’t sweating enough, and therefore not getting dehydrated OR if I was running so slowly, I wasn’t losing as much water/nutrients. I think it was the temperature though. Dang, it was really harsh out there.

4. Be prepared with the right gear. Although we went to Goodwill for extra apparel the night before, which helped tremendously, I wasn’t prepared enough. I didn’t have running gloves (my fingers were numb and purple, even under my knit gloves), and I didn’t have arm warmers. It was weird though: my legs were slightly cold but otherwise fine in my shorts, but my right arm was frozen underneath my long sleeve. I’ll still have to play around with extra layers to know what my body responds to the best and what it needs. I also have never run in such low temperatures, so I didn’t know what I would need, and what I would be overheating in.

5. The race isn’t over till it’s over.  Although I gave up on running a PR about halfway through, I resolved to finish the race. I was hurting, I was cold, I needed to use the port-o-potty, but I chugged onward. And I ended up with a decent time. 3:05:19. Then I wonder if only I had run just 30 seconds faster for each of the last 10 miles. That is not too much to ask for when you’re doing 8 min miles! (Or maybe I am just delusional and should check my Garmin for my actual pace.) Anyway, 26.2 miles is a LONG TIME, and the race doesn’t end until you cross the finish line. You owe it to yourself to sprint through the finish and to not give up. You never know how much closer you can get to your goal if you push just a little bit harder.

6. Words of motivation help others, and yourself. After I gave up hope on achieving a PR and just hoped to finish, I used my energy to motivate others along the way.

“Don’t walk!!!! You’re almost there! Come along. We’re all in this together.”

One lady even complimented me and told me how great of a motivator I was. Aww shucks.

Truth is, the words of encouragement that you give unto others, sneakily work on yourself. It just has that effect on your own actions.

7. In times of need, a port-o-potty can provide shelter. I needed to use the bathroom badly. I held it for 6+ miles, but then I thought, What the heck. If I’m going to finish this race one way or another, I may as well finish comfortably. I crept into the port-o-potty and felt instant relief from the cold. Are you forealz?! I’m hiding in the port-o-potty for comfort and shelter. Never thought I’d see the day…

8. Supporters are essential. I cheered when I saw some spectators waving a Chinese flag, and they cheered back. I smiled at people on the sidelines, laughed at cheeky signs. Non-runners may not know this, but having people cheering you on, giving you a jolt of energy is much needed. Luckily, my family usually comes to support me with encouraging posters, and it means everything to me.

9. There will be other races. I am already eyeing CIM 2014 as a way to redeem myself. The mistakes I made this year will ensure that I don’t make them again next. Bring it on, CIM! I’ll be chasing that 2:55 (or faster!) next year!

5 Ways to Recover After a Marathon

Resting is just as important as training when it comes to improving your performance. It’s essential that you take a well-deserved break after such an intense workout, so you body can recuperate and avoid burnout. So… how exactly do you recover after a marathon (or any long run)?

  1. Cool down after your race. You’re exhausted, excited, and patting yourself on the back, but now’s not the time to just plop on the ground. Go for a light jog and stretch afterwards so that your muscles cool down and you prevent cramping.
  2. Stretch. Stretch after the race and several times a day for the next few days. Your muscles get really tight, and stretching will help loosen them and increase your flexibility.
  3. Massage your muscles. You can go to a professional or do this yourself with a bit of oil or even petroleum jelly. I use the tools below so I can get in deep to really loosen my IT bands. My IT bands are ALWAYS tight! Yowch!

the-stick

This, my friends, is The Stick. It’s a 19 inch stick with 10 white plastic cylinders around it. The plastic cylinders remind me of marshmallows, which is always fun. You grab the stick by the grippy handles and run the marshmallows along your legs to massage them. The stick is bendable, and you can apply more force to get a deeper massage. This is super portable and really does do wonders.

This is how I roll.

And this is a foam roller. There are plenty on the market with grooves and texture, but mine looks just like this one. How does it work? You roll on it! Let gravity do its thing and the weight of your body will apply the force needed to get this thing deep in your muscles to roll out the knots. I feel that I have less control over which muscles I can massage with the foam roller versus The Stick, but you may find that you like the foam roller more.

4. Drink lots of water. This will help flush out the toxins that are released when you massage your sore muscles.

5. Go for a light jog. I know you’ll be sore afterwards, but a light jog at an easy pace will help bring blood to your muscles and flush out the toxins. Be careful not to overdo it though! It’s just as important to rest as it is to put in a tough workout. Ultimately, it’s the combination of both, at the right time, that will help you drastically improve your running performance.

Race Recap: 1st Place, Baby!!!

Yesterday, I won my first marathon event! I came in 1st for women and 15th overall at the US Half Marathon in San Francisco. The weather was perfect (slightly chilly, light wind), and we had an extra hour of sleep, thanks to the end of Daylight Savings.

Charles picked me up at 5:30 am, and off to the course we went!

My previous PR was a 1:27:44 at the Bay Breeze Half Marathon in Feb 2013, and I was aiming to sub-1:25. Deep down, I wanted to break 1:22. I’m still learning a lot about running, and what is truly a “good” time, and I like to use my running buddy’s PR’s as a baseline.

It was a tough course! Starting at Aquatic Park, going up the hill and across Crissy Field to hike up to the Golden Gate Bridge, cross, down and back up, and of course, back across the bridge. The course was lined with hills and gravelly trails, and worst of all, gravelly traily hills! Oyy! The bridge path also had plenty of metal doors on the ground that are slippery when wet. Proceed with caution!

All in all, it was a TOUGH COURSE. I am still a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to kick it into a full sprint at the end. It’s what I pride myself on, and for whatever reason (lack of preparation, arduous course, not being mentally in the game, or whatever), I wasn’t able to turn it up. I’ve been working hard to train myself on squashing negative thoughts and insecurities, and replacing them with self-encouragement and positivity. Yes, it sounds very nice and dandy, but it works! I tried to smile and enjoy the race when I was feeling my worst at the Santa Rosa Marathon in 2012, and it helped me PR by 30 minutes.

Nonetheless, I am completely STOKED that I won my first semi-big marathon event! How empowering! The best part? I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, yet I still have so much to improve and so much to learn. And that… that is the most exciting feeling.