Tag Archive | sports

Laguna Hills Half Marathon Recap

It’s so simple. Running is the perfect metaphor for life. You get out of it pretty much exactly what you put into it. So when I train hard and strong I get a really great race in return, and maybe even a PR. When I train half-heartedly and make excuses for myself, I struggle and I suffer. No matter how long I run I suppose I need refresher courses in this lesson every once in a while. The Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon provided such a lesson.

Let me start by saying that this is a fantastic race. I’m so glad we signed up and actually ran it. The only reason we did was because Brad wanted to find a half marathon for us to run other than the Disneyland Half. We get in this pattern where we train really well for the Dland Half, run it, and then we don’t run as diligently until June or July of the next year when training starts up again. So Brad’s philosophy was that we should sign up for a race in the spring that would keep us on track. Good idea Brad. It sort of worked ūüėõ

The morning started off… early. Here I thought getting up for a runDisney race was brutal, but that’s like sleeping in compared to this. In an effort to save money, we decided to forego getting a hotel in Laguna Hills the night before the race and instead would drive down the morning of. The difficult part of that scenario is that the race started at 7:30, Laguna Hills was over an hour away, and we had to be there an hour early to pick up our bibs. The night before the race we set the alarm for 4:00 and snuggled in for essentially a nap.

Luckily there was no traffic on the way down, and the race starting area was easy to find right off the highway. It was a beautiful morning for a race!

Lots of activity at the starting line. I was impressed by the turnout!

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Sleepy, but ready and rarin’

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Morning bathroom time. We all need it. We don’t like to talk about it. But for runners, it’s a very crucial part of your pre-race prep. Unfortunately neither Brad nor I had to use the facilities until we’d already arrived at the registration area. Even more unfortunate, the bathroom lines looked like this:

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This picture doesn’t accurately depict how long the lines were, but when ya gotta go… Every time I run a non-Disney race, no matter how good it is, I’m somehow reminded of why runDisney reigns supreme. At the start line for all of the runDisney races I’ve participated in, I’ve never waited more than a few minutes to use the loo. These lines were a good 20 minutes long. *Sigh*. They can’t all be Disney.

The real bummer about waiting in this line was that it forced us to start the race late. They counted down and runners started running, but we still had to go! So by the time we got started running, the race course looked like this:

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LH Half 6

 

Just a handful of stragglers bringing up the rear. The race was chip-timed, so it didn’t really matter, except the whole point of running a big race is to feel the energy of that big crowd. I wore my shirt that reads on the back: “Dear God, Please let there be someone behind me to read this” and I was actually worried there might not be! I really didn’t want to run in last place so I put on some speed to catch up with the crowd. In hindsight that was a mistake. Never burn too much fuel in the beginning of a race.

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The first few miles of the race were lovely. We ran through a quiet residential neighborhood in Laguna Hills. I believe it was actually a retirement community as there were several lovely retired people sitting out on their front lawns to cheer on the runners. Honestly, there is nothing better than cheering, enthusiastic, spectators. Ok, maybe there are some things better, but it’s really high on the list. One of my favorite parts about a race is getting cheered on by a stranger. There’s something so pure and hopeful about it. A total stranger willing the success of another total stranger. It’s as life should be.

This was a combo race. In other words there was a 5k, a 10k, and a Half Marathon, but they all started at the same time. So as we approached the three mile marker a lot of people cheered to the runners, “You’re almost done! You can do it!” I giggled as I heard a lady next to me reply, “No we’re not!” because I was thinking the exact same thing. Combo races are deceptive. I started the morning thinking this was a large race. By the numbers, it was. About 8,000 runners participated I believe. But as we ran on it became clear that most of those thousands of runners were doing the 5k or the 10k, and a somewhat small number of crazies were running on to the Half Marathon. I was worried that it would actually be a really small percentage, but as we passed the 10k turnaround, I felt relieved to be in the presence of a still solid group of runners. Probably about 1,000 half marathoners would be my guess.

Hills!

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Hills!

20130527_074506More hills!

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You can’t quite get the right perspective from the pictures, but this race had hills. Not crazy hills. Mild rolling hills. I know that I shouldn’t have been surprised, given that the race was called the Laguna¬†Hills¬†Half Marathon, and I wasn’t really; I just quickly realized that we should have done a lot more hill training. Long story short, I pretty much completely ran out of steam around mile 10, and that had a lot to do with poor training, but was definitely compounded by the challenge of these hills.

The beauty of the course made up for it though. We winded down through a nature preserve and ran along a lovely hiking trail alongside a creek. Course aesthetics are super important to me, and this course gets points for beauty. Sure, it’s not Hawaii or anything, but it really made me appreciate the beauty of Southern California.

Running up along a ridge, we could see the whole valley below and the city of Laguna Hills.

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Running along the creek, Brad spots some local wildlife.

 

LH Half 2

 

I think we look kind of bad-ass in this one. I like it ūüôā

 

LH Half 5

 

LH Half 4

 

Mile 8, things start to change.

 

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Through mile 8 I was having a pretty great run considering the hills. Did I mention there were hills? Oh yeah, there were hills. I could tell at this mile marker though that the winds were changing, and not in my favor. By the time I got to mile 10, I was toast.

It’s hard to describe the difference between good tired and bad tired, except to say that I can honestly imagine what my car feels like when it’s running on fumes. By the end of a half marathon, I’m always tired. That’s a given. When I’m good tired, I still have magic runner energy. I’m winded and my muscles hurt and I’m fantasizing about crossing that finish line, but my legs still move in a steady rhythm with gusto. When I’m bad tired, every move is torture. My legs feel like they’re made of leaden spaghetti (did you know there was such a thing as leaden spaghetti), I can’t seem to get my breathing in a set rhythm, and the worst adversary of all, my brain. I heard a runner once say about ultra-marathoning that the hardest distance you have to defeat is the 6 inches between your ears. I love that. It’s absolutely so true about distance running. A lot of it is in your head and you have to learn to balance and control your thoughts to achieve things you didn’t know you could. But when you hit the wall and run out of energy, those 6 inches between your ears become the longest distance ever. The willpower I summoned through the mantra in my head is the only thing that got me across the finish line. My body was toast.

I finished. We finished. But I had to walk a bit. At mile 9 we walked for about 3 or 4 minutes, and then again at mile 11. I ran the last mile, proudly. I knew that I wouldn’t feel great afterwards though and that it was my own fault. This is what happens to me when I don’t train. Lesson learned. Again.

LH Half 9

 

We managed to cross the finish line with big silly grins on our faces. I’m telling you, no matter how tired you are, you can’t help but smile when you cross that finish line.

And then of course there’s the bling. Gotta love the bling.

LH Half 7

 

The medals were actually quite impressive. We shall proudly add them to our collection.

 

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There was a really great expo and celebration at the finish line complete with food trucks, DJs, vendors, and a beer garden. Unfortunately because I was totally wiped out, I didn’t really get to enjoy any of it. All I wanted to do was find somewhere shady and cool to sit down and rest.

The most important thing about this day was that it was Memorial Day, and that we were there to first: honor our fallen veterans, and second: run a race. I have mixed feelings about the military; and yes I harbor plenty of lefty-hippie opinions about war and peace and our bloated defense budget, but NONE of that mattered on this day. Because no matter how I feel about the military, the men and women who put on a uniform and fight to defend my right to have lefty-hippie opinions deserve my respect and my undying gratitude. And they have it. And I get choked up just thinking about it. So thank you from the bottom of my heart to all those who serve.

The race specifically honored the Marine Corps Dark Horse Battalion. The Marines had quite a set up at the finish line complete with a tank, weaponry, and lots of soldiers available to talk to the runners and educate all those present about what they do. It was a very interesting display. Brad reverted to his 10 year old self when he saw the tank. He wanted a picture.

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On one hand I was glad that the community had the opportunity to actually witness all of this first-hand, so that it became real and not just a news reel. I think it’s important for us to resist detachment from the reality of war as much as possible. The more removed we are, the more dangerous. On the other hand I was a bit sad to see little kids like the one above look at this giant automatic weapon like a toy. Again, mixed feelings. Again, doesn’t really matter. I’m going to choose to be optimistic and say that the opportunity for these soldiers to educate these little kids about weapons was ultimately a good thing and will make them take guns very seriously as they get older.

All in all, we had a great time. We started training for this race in February after I finished the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. We started strong and stuck to our schedule, but then I got in a play and Brad got in a play, and suddenly we’re missing almost all of our weekly runs and getting about half the weekend mileage we should. Like I said, I got out of this race exactly what I put into it in terms of performance, and I learned a huge lesson. Training pays off. I guess part of me started to wonder if, since I’ve run several half marathons, maybe I’d gotten to a point where I could just go out there and run 13 miles without trying. Nope. Training never stops. You can only run half marathons as long as you are training for half marathons, and when you stop training, you’re preparedness stops with it. No matter how much your heart and mind feel like you can distance-race, your body has to participate.

Brad and I give this race two enthusiastic thumbs up and we will run it again next year. Join us!

How about you? Can you run a half marathon without a lot of training? Or are you like me and have to put in the prep?

 

 

 

 

BIG announcement, like, big

Last weekend I watched my friend not only finish the L.A. Marathon, but kick it in the butt. Brad and I drove him to the starting line at 6:00 am. The sun continued to sleep soundly somewhere past the horizon while Dodgers Stadium overflowed with 20,000+ eager and excited runners. As we pulled into the drop-off area, inspiration filled my lungs. I couldn’t believe not only how many people took on the challenge of running a marathon, but how many of them were in the same physical condition (and maybe even a bit worse) than me. I couldn’t help but excitedly think if they could do this, I could do this. And I can.

With no further ado I have an announcement to make. I will run a marathon in 2015.

In case you weren’t sure, that’s 26.2 miles.

I’ve been toying with the idea since about one week after I finished my first half marathon. Immediately after finishing I thought that running that distance twice in a row sounded like the most insane idea I’d ever heard of, and I couldn’t believe ANYone actually did it. But it only took about a week to forget the pain before I started thinking not only of running another half as soon as possible, but entertaining the notion of greater challenges. I imagine it’s a bit like having children. During childbirth and immediately after I think most women curse their spouse’s name and swear they’ll never do this again. Doesn’t take long before that cuddly little bundle wipes away the memory of the pain and you start prepping another baby’s room. So yes, I’ve been thinking about it for years, (the marathon thing, not the baby thing) and I’m done thinking. The only way I’m going to find out if I can actually do it, is to just frickin’ do it.

So I’m going to do it.

Why wait until 2015 you ask? Well I’ve got this little thing called a wedding to plan. Brad and I are getting hitched in July 2014 (BRAD AND I ARE GETTING HITCHED JULY 2014!!!!!) and I don’t need to add to the stress of wedding planning by trying to squeeze in 15 mile runs on the weekends. 2014 is the year ‘o’ love. As soon as we get back from our honeymoon, let the training begin.

The goal right now (and I hope I hope I hope I can make it work) is to run the Walt Disney World Marathon. We’re talking about a marathon people. My FIRST marathon. It’s a big deal. You want your first time to be special, y’know? Whether or not we’ll have enough money leftover to fly to Florida for a running vacay after saving for a wedding and honeymoon remains to be seen. If it doesn’t happen, then it’ll either be the LA Marathon¬†or the California International Marathon¬†that takes my marathon V-Card.

So there you have it! You heard it here first. Accountability officially in print on Running to Tahiti.

I will run a marathon.

special idiots run marathon copy

falling down the rabbit hole HURTS!

I’ve convinced myself that what happened at the race on Sunday happened so that I would have great material to write about for my blog. Who wants to read about something going as planned? Don’t worry, you won’t.

Running has given me life lessons at every turn and last weekend’s half marathon is no exception. You can plan and plan and plan for something and when it comes right down to it you can’t control what happens at go time.

I start the weekend with enthusiasm and confidence. I know I have trained hard and I have trained strong. I am ready. More ready for a race than ever before. There is practically nothing that can stop me from murdering my personal record.

I am so excited about my costume choice and have even convinced Brad to dress up as the White Rabbit.

ready to race

We make it down to the starting corral at 5:00 am and the nerves start to kick in. Not everything is perfect after all. I have a pinched nerve in my back that seems to flare up only at times it is unwelcome. Despite my best efforts to get up extra early and drink copious amounts of coffee I have not yet “gone to the bathroom.” Pardon me for the crudeness but this is a very important issue for runners. And lastly, I remember that my last long race was not strong at all. It was an 8 miler and it almost got the best of me. These things start to play on my confidence and I feel it wane a bit.

I suffer from allowing my race day energy to disguise itself as worry as I wait in my corral for the 45 minutes before we start running. Something I need to work on. Thankfully the energy is quickly put to good use as we move across the starting line. I feel the nerves turn into running fuel. We start strong. 5 Р4 Р3 Р2 Р1.. GO! The race is off. 

At just a 1/4 mile into the race Brad and I hear a loud smack and see a poor runner just to our right take a nasty face-plant into the pavement. Those street lane bumps, they’ll get you every time. It’s a bad spill and I feel so sorry for her. She gets up rather quickly, although I don’t know if she is able to stay in the race. I think to myself “Geez I’m glad that wasn’t me,” coupled with an eerie shadow of foreboding. I shake it off and keep running. Watch your footing, I tell myself.

The race is fantastic. I feel so strong. We’re passing people left and right which clearly means we’re going to pace out with a group much faster than in previous year’s. We do have to stop in Fantasyland for a bathroom break (dang coffee, NOW you kick in!) but luckily there is no line so it’s only about a 3 minute delay. Still. 3 minutes mean a lot to a runner trying to beat a PR. But it can’t be helped.

There’s not much else to say about the next 5 miles. They are incredible. I feel strong. I feel fast. I even feel a runner’s high start to kick in. I have a killer playlist to boot. Amazing what music does to put pep in your step. Good, good, better, better. Let’s skip to mile 8, shall we?

We turn the corner to enter Angel Stadium. This is one of Brad and my’s favorite spots on the course. There are so many people in the stadium there cheering us on. It’s exactly the burst of energy we need at mile 9 to get through the next 4 miles. We turn the corner to exit the stadium and that’s when it happens. I fall down the rabbit hole. The operative word being fall.

I have a fair amount of Disney music on my half marathon playlist. What can I say? I love it. Have you ever run to “Out There” from Hunchback of Notre Dame? Or even better, “Go the Distance” from Hercules? You’ll never run faster. I have one song on my playlist to pay homage to our costumes for the day. This song:

This is the song that Alice sings right before she falls down the rabbit hole. This is the song that plays as I turn the corner out of the stadium, catch half of my foot on the cement walkway and half on the dirt sidewalk, and fall on my face. This is the song that plays as I fall down a rabbit hole of my own, I kid you not. Not only do I seem to live my life in metaphors, I seem to actually BE Alice.

Many emotions and thoughts race through your body and brain when you fall in a moment like that. Amazingly you run the entire¬†gamut¬†of emotions in just the few short seconds it takes you to hit the ground. Forgive the dramatics as I describe this experience but the reason for them is that I have huge expectations for this race. I know what stellar shape I’m in. I know that we’re ahead of our PR and if we just keep at pace, we’ll beat it by a landslide. As I fall, first I feel denial. I feel that I can stop myself. I feel that I can catch my footing. Then I realize I can’t. Then I feel embarrassment. Good lord how embarrassing to fall in front of all these runners. And in a petticoat no less. I suddenly feel silly for wearing it. Then I feel dread. Oh no. I can’t believe I just fell. I can’t believe that just happened. What does this mean? I try to assess the damage but I can’t tell yet. Oh God what if I can’t finish?? I look down and see that I’ve scraped my knee rather dramatically. What just a moment ago was was a gleaming pair of white tights is now a torn dirty bloody rip across my knee. I don’t care about that. I can run with a scraped knee. What I care about is that I can tell something is wrong with my ankle. A new level of denial kicks in. No way. My ankle is FINE. I give it a good rub. A runner who is right in front of me when I fall is so kind. Even though she sees Brad is there to help me, she stops and helps me up and shows true concern on her face. She tells me just to stand for a few minutes before I start running again. There is something about her. She doesn’t show me pity. She looks truly concerned. She shows solidarity. I read in her face “girl, this happens to everyone at some point.” I won’t forget that woman and her random act of kindness. It really comforts me in that moment.

I take her advice and Brad and I stand there for a few minutes to see if I can put weight on my ankle. In the back of my mind I know it doesn’t matter. I am finishing this race if I have to crawl to the finish line. A few minutes of walking and I start to pick up the pace again. The tingling in my ankle seems to have stopped and I feel pretty much fine putting my complete weight on it and getting back to our previous pace. I figure I’m lucky. That I just escaped really twisting or spraining it and won’t be injured at all other than my bloody knee. I underestimate the power of adrenaline.¬†Looking back I know now that a huge dose of the wonder hormone surged straight towards my bad ankle and let me finish the race. Adrenaline is an amazing thing. Human bodies are amazing things. Of course a day later I’ve got a knot the size and color of ripe plum on the side of my foot, but in that moment I think I’m in the clear.

Within just a few minutes we’re flying again. I feel strong and fast and I’m doing my best just to laugh off the fall. Focus and determination to cross that finish line prevent me from looking back. Prevent me from playing the moment over and over again in my head and trying to undo it somehow. That would come in time.

I do my best to really pick up the pace these last few miles. I know we lost at least 4 minutes with the fall. We turn the corner at the end of mile 12 and I can’t believe how amazing I feel. I see a group of runners doing burpees at the mile 13 sign. Ok, so I don’t feel THAT good, but by my standards I’ve never felt better. The finish line is in sight and I fly toward it. At this point I try not to think about my time and just focus on finishing strong. I’ve never experienced the half marathon finish like this. Not a single ounce of nausea. Barely any fatigue. Minimal muscle tightening. I really could have gone farther. We fly through the finish line, Donald and Goofy cheering from the sidelines. Brad feels good enough to proclaim that he feels like he could run a marathon right now. Now there’s an idea.

Not too much time goes by and thoughts previously put at bay by determination and adrenaline start to creep into my mind.

WHY DID I HAVE TO FALL?????

Ugh. Why? How hard is it to put one foot in front of the other? How could I fall? I try to visualize it in my head in slow-mo and I can’t figure out how it happened. One minute I’m running, the next minute I’m eating dirt. If only I had been more careful with my footing. If only I hadn’t been so over zealous in trying to pass people. I would have stayed more on the center of the track and not gone near that lip that tripped me. If only I hadn’t chased that white rabbit. If only… if only… if only. I know it’s just the Disneyland Half Marathon. I know it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But I was doing so well! Why did I have to fall on my best run ever? Why couldn’t I fall on a mediocre run when there was less at stake?

I immediately start thinking about the Olympics. So many Olympian runners have fallen at clinch moments. 1st place with just 200M left and a hurdle gets ’em. Down they go along with their dreams of gold medal glory. If I feel this bad after falling during the Disneyland Half Marathon, I really can’t imagine how those Olympians who have suffered a similar fate felt when their life’s dreams slipped away. Truly. My heart goes out to you.

Even with these thoughts running through my head trying to undo what happened, the truth is I don’t feel terrible. I feel awesome. I feel better than ever before and though I don’t share Brad’s immediate confidence that I could run 26.2 miles in that exact moment, for the first time ever I start to think that one day I probably could.

Then I start thinking about our time. Brad used the Nike+ running app (which he is now completely converted to thanks to my review), to track our time so we’d be able to see our splits. We look at the final results. 2:33. Last year’s time,¬†2:43. That’s not bad. We didn’t shave 15 minutes off but we shaved 10, and that’s pretty darn good.

This realization is bittersweet. I know that this will not be our official chip time. Brad paused the app during our bathroom breaks and during my stumble incident, so while this is an accurate depiction of the amount of time it took us to literally run 13.1 miles, it’s not our official time. 2:33 is the time it took us minus all of the obstacles that got in our way, but it’s the obstacles that get in your way and what it takes you to overcome them that give you your real record. That’s why official times matter. Because you can’t subtract the obstacles from your life to measure your success. They have to factor in or the success is not real, it’s sterilized.

So how long did it officially take us to run the Disneyland Half Marathon this year? 2:39. Even with two bathroom breaks (one extra long) and a pretty dramatic tumble in Angel Stadium, we still shaved 4 minutes off of our race time. We still finished with a personal record. So why am I so dissatisfied?

Last year’s race and this year’s were so different. Last year’s training regimen was weak. We ran the race with zero stops, bathroom breaks or otherwise, and finished at 2:43. If what had happened this year on the course had happened last year I know that 2:43 would have been closer to 2:55. So somewhere in my heart I know that I actually did cut 15 minutes off of my race time. But it doesn’t count. What I did was cut 15 minutes off of my ability, and there’s value to that, but the official time is the official time. We run races for a reason. A race is what you do with 15,000 other runners around you. A race is what you do with a course you’ve never been on before. A race is what you do in a sudden rainstorm, or freezing weather. A race is how fast you pick yourself up when you fall down. A race is what you do knowing the clock won’t stop to make it easier. You can train for years and when it comes right down to it, you can’t control what happens on race day. You can’t control the weather, you can’t control your bowels, you can’t control if you fall (well, you can control it but you definitely can’t reverse it). You can never run in perfect conditions. This is why runner’s run races. Because life isn’t sterilized. Life doesn’t hand you perfect conditions so when you succeed in spite of the challenges, the success is so sweet and so worthy of celebration.

When a race doesn’t go exactly as planned, the challenges that got in your way motivate you to try again and circumvent them completely. Yes we finished with a new personal record. In the face of the obstacles presented to us we did incredibly well and yes, without those obstacles we would have done even better. Without those obstacles I would have accomplished what I set out to do, and that is cut 15 minutes off of my official time. Knowing that I’m ready to achieve that motivates me like crazy. We did everything we should have done. We trained right. We ran strong. Everything else was out of our control. Let’s just say, I’m counting down the weeks until Half Marathon 2013. I will not be falling again.

falling down hurts

but doesn’t stop me from smiling

proud with our medals

Alice

shot of the bunny tail

happy

Next installment of Running to Tahiti, “my visit to Wonderland.”

half marathon training: week 3

We’re already in week 3 of training for the Disneyland Half Marathon and Family Fun Run 5k. I get more and more excited as the days go by! Here is the schedule for this week:

Half Marathon

Mon – 3 miles

Tue – Rest

Wed – 4 miles

Thu – 3 miles

Fri – Rest

Sat – 6 miles

Sun – Rest

Family Fun Run 5K (This week is different from previous weeks so read closely)

Monday –¬†Brisk five-minute warm-up walk, then do two repetitions of the following:

  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)

Wednesday –¬†Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:

  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)

Thursday –¬†Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:

  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)

 

Tips for the week:

  1. It’s ok to move the training days around. Ideally you should keep the same pattern of workout days to rest days, but if you miss Monday and need to run on Tuesday instead, go for it. Don’t just not run because you missed a day. Adjust your schedule to get in as much of the week’s suggested training runs as possible. Or if you’re never free to run on Saturdays, make your long runs on Sundays instead. You catch my drift. HOWEVER, if you get really behind I would caution against doing 4 days in a row of training. That could lead to injury and set you way back. Let the day or days you missed go and vow to be more on top of it next week.
  2. I mentioned morning runs before and how beneficial (albeit annoying) they are. This week, let’s make at least one workout start at or before 7:00 am. We can do it!
  3. Try sprints at the end of your run. It’s a great way to build up overall speed and endurance. About a quarter of a mile before you finish, start to pick up the pace. As Brad says, start to let go. Don’t hold yourself back. Let your muscles release and your feet fly. It seems counter-intuitive but the more you release the faster you’ll run. Think speed, relax into it, fly. By the time you finish you should be completely out of breath, totally uncomfortable, and you should feel the skin of your face jiggling in all kinds of funny ways. You very well may have some drool spraying out from your jiggling lips so keep your distance from your running partner ūüôā¬†

 

Are you training for a half marathon? What kind of training plan are you on? Any tips for fellow runners? Tahiti readers would love to hear feedback from some other runners out there, so feel free to leave some comments and share your training tips.

Have a great week runners!

the merits of public school, or, how and why I run

I’ve been thinking and thinking about how best to give training advice to those of you who will be training for the Family Fun Run 5K this September. In all honesty, it’s been difficult for me to figure out the best approach because it’s been awhile since I’ve trained for that distance. It’s hard to get in the right head space. I truly don’t mean to toot my own horn by saying that. I’ve said many times, and I’ll say it again, that I am a slow, amateur runner. But I stick with it, so I’m able to build up a lot of endurance. Trust me when I say that anything I can do, you can do too, and I in no way mean to poo-poo the fact that it’s daunting to take on your first 5k. I’ve been running my entire adult, and most of my young adult life, so 5k is my standard daily run. I’m at a place where that’s my starting distance. That wasn’t always the case of course and it was my stroll down memory lane today, back to the beginning of my love affair with running, that helped me get back in touch with what you are feeling. I do in fact remember what a mountain 3 miles can look like to someone who has never run before.

I’ve never wrote about my history with running and what made me start. Most of the time I feel like I’ve just always been a runner but that is, in fact, completely not true. I owe every ounce of my passion for running to my 6th grade teacher Mr. Turner. There were two 6th grade classes at my elementary school. You either got the eclectic, artsy, eccentric teacher with a passion for ancient Egypt; or you got Mr. Turner, the sarcastic, brash, tough jock who reminded me of Coach Hayden Fox. Guess who I got. The jock. And I’m so glad I did for many reasons. I don’t need to delve into the merits of my public school education right now so I’ll only talk about one specific thing for which I owe Mr. Turner a debt of gratitude. He got me in shape. Mr. Turner made the entire class run… every day. When he told us we’d be running a mile every day, we were a) mad and b) convinced our teacher was crazy. We had P.E. once or twice a week and we all played during recess, so why the heck did we need to run every day? I’m not exactly sure what Mr. Turner’s motivations were, but I know he was on to something. Making our class run every day not only blew off the excess energy we 12 year olds harbored and helped us focus when we got back to our desks, it laid the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle and the discipline and routine it takes to maintain it. It’s easy to play tag at recess when you WANT to, but that’s not going to last forever, and neither is a 12 year old’s metabolism. It’s not so easy to be healthy and fit when you don’t necessarily feel like it, but if you build in the habit at a young age you’ll be ten steps ahead of the fitness curve for the rest of your life. I think Mr. Turner knew this, and I think this was exactly why he made us run every single day. Or he was just living out his dreams of being a drill sergeant.

Throughout the rest of my life I haven’t always been perfect about maintaining a fitness schedule, but I’ve always known that it’s important and that I should strive to keep myself active. I’m proud to say that I’ve never been a couch potato, and I definitely would have veered in that direction if it were not for the running practice I started at age 12. If you’re reading this, it doesn’t matter if your 12 or 70, it is absolutely never too late to get yourself into an active lifestyle. Running a 5k (3.1 miles) is a fantastic goal to strive for.

So now that we’ve covered what laying a healthy foundation did for me, now let’s talk about my actual experience of running back then. The daily requirement was that we walk or run a mile. That’s it. Boy, back then, it seemed like a million miles. That field we ran around was HUGE and we had to run around it 4 times? Crazy talk. For weeks and weeks I did a lot of walking. Run walk run. The weeks passed by and the walking breaks subsided. Before I knew it, I was running a solid mile every day. It felt great. At that point Mr. Turner upped the stakes. He said that we still only had to run a mile every day with the rest of the class, but if we wanted we could start aiming for 2 miles.. and even 3! No way. 3 miles was like the same distance as a marathon, right? Absolutely no way.

Looking back, I feel like I have two different brains. The brain of now that feels like 3 miles is a warm-up, and the brain of my youth that remember 3 miles feeling like an impossibility. Both feelings are true, and one is a hearty reminder that the impossible is never truly impossible. 

I continued to run with my classmates a mile a day. I didn’t jump into the 2 mile club. I may have added an extra lap here and there but on the whole I was happy with the 1 mile. Some days I’d push myself and get faster. Others I’d slow down and spend the time gabbing my girlfriends about the brand new training bras we’d just gotten. I enjoyed the time so much. Time to clear my head and not worry about homework, or taking notes, or whether Danny was looking at me on the playground, or whether someone would ask me to play foursquare with them. Not a care in the world. Just run. After a couple of months I decided that maybe I would try and reach that 2 mile goal. A lot of my friends were aiming for it, and a few kids in my class were even going to try for 3. Crazy! Mr. Turner set a specific date that we would try to run the extra distances. That way we could really focus on a timeline to achieve our goal. I kept adding laps , sometimes running and sometimes walking, and slowly but surely I felt like I could take on 2 miles.¬†

The big day came. About 12 – 15 of us were going to try for 2 miles. 2 kids in class were going to shoot for 3. I still remember those kids. One was a tiny little lighting bolt with brown hair and spindly legs. Boy could he fly. Another was a tall blonde boy who was almost all leg. Clearly he had an advantage. He covered the same amount of ground with 1 step as I did with 3! We started all together. I remember a lot of kids stopping after the first mile. I remember myself wishing I was one of them. But I didn’t give in. I kept going, and after what felt like an eternity later, I crossed that finish line to the sound of my classmates cheering me on. That was the first time I experienced the “oh my god I’m going to puke” feeling from a workout. It felt good ūüôā¬†

Mr. Turner had three big cards up on the wall in our classroom. One said “1 mile.” The other said “2 miles” and the third said, yep you guessed it, “3 miles.” After our accomplishment he would put our names under the corresponding card. Everyone’s name was up on the board some where. Most kids stayed under the 1 mile card. A handful of us made it to 2. And still only those 2 quick as lightning boys made it under 3. That bugged me. What can I say, I’ve always been competitive. 2 boys, no girls. That just couldn’t stand.

The next date rolled around where we could try and reach the next running goal. Many of my fellow classmates were more confident this round shooting for 2 miles. I was proud of them. Me, I was going to, hopefully, do the impossible. I didn’t know how I would be able to ever run so far, but somehow, I was going to try and run 3 miles. The whistle blew and we all started running. I¬†instinctively knew to pace myself. Boy did I ever. I trotted for the first mile more than ran. A very slow trot. The laps came and went. If 2 miles felt like an eternity, this felt like eternity times a thousand. I made it past 2 miles, and 4 looooong laps later, I stumbled across the finish line. Wow… Holy.. I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe I actually ran as far as that tiny brunette kid, and couldn’t believe that I’d accomplished the impossible, and couldn’t believe how sick I felt. Yet I knew I’d be ok. I was too excited to not be ok. In that moment I’d set a new bar for myself. I thought back to how difficult I thought it would be to run 1 mile, and here I’d just run 3. That was the beginning for me. The beginning of a lifelong love affair with running. And the beginning of a lifelong quest to achieve the impossible. Thank you Mr. Turner.

If you’re gearing up to begin training next week for the first time EVER, I’m so excited for you. You’re going to discover a new side of yourself. You’re going to change the way you live and the respect you have for your health. You’re going to achieve things you didn’t know you could do. You’re going to exceed your own expectations and after that, the sky’s the limit. Get ready for the journey that leads to The Happiest RACE on Earth!

This isn’t exactly the right era but it’s the closest thing I have to looking like a little jock. Wuddin’ I cuuuute?