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Trying Something New

On Saturday morning I tried something new: trail running! Now that I am following a more relaxed running schedule, I thought it was a perfect time to experiment with a trail run. So I woke up early on Saturday morning (in an attempt) to beat the heat and drove out to Pasadena. In addition to running trails for the first time, I decided to run with the Pasadena Pacers, a free running group, for the first time! I have been apprehensive about running with other people because of a fear of not keeping up but I am so happy I took the plunge. First, I would have been VERY lost if I ran the Cherry Canyon Trail alone. Second, I ran farther and pushed the limits within a reasonable range by running with a group. And finally, it was enjoyable to talk with other people about running and other stuff. I ended up running/walking the full 12 mile route! I finished this run feeling accomplished and inspired to run trails and with a group of people on a more consistent basis.

The next chapter

Although this photo has nothing to do with running, I really wanted to share it! I have been working really hard in my summer school class, so I feel like joining this cat right about now.

Moving onto the running…I am slightly changing my weekly running routine post-half marathon to maintain my endurance and weekly mileage. I am doing the Long Beach half marathon on October 13th and I want to hopefully get a PR! For this next round of half marathon training I am using Runner World’s free SmartCoach program. I stumbled upon it while browsing the internet and it is a great option. I like it because it makes a personalized plan based on how many miles you run weekly, how hard you want to train, the day you want your long run to be, and the training plan length. My new training plan consists of running 4 days/week (up from 3 days/week), incorporating speedwork and tempo runs (brand new addition!), and long runs (know ’em and love ’em). In addition to running, I am doing strength training 2-3 days/week and yoga. So far I really like this new schedule, but it is definitely a transition running back to back days and doing speed work. I think I will get more used to it after a few weeks but right now, it is a challenge!

There are more running details to come…

I am happy to announce that I finished the Pasadena Half Marathon on Sunday! Despite the heat, I finished the race strong and with a smile on my face. The feeling of accomplishment  as I crossed finish line was absolutely exhilarating. I don’t know if it was seeing the support of my family at the end of the race or the sweat/sunscreen mixture that was burning my eyes, but I felt teary eyed! Here is a full race recap:

The gearImage

At 4:45am, I quickly up, got dressed, ate something and drank a mixture of gatorade/water to hydrate. I was out the door by 5:15am and anxiously looked at the car thermometer that already read 78F. I got to the race starting line at Pasadena City College with plenty of time to warm up and get ready for the start.

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The half marathon portion of the race started at 6:30am and I was off running near the middle/end of the pack. Instead of music or the usual running podcast, I decided to listen to Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes for the duration of the race. This was a great decision because listening to his crazy adventures, like running 100 miles in Death Valley and a marathon to the South Pole, made me feel like the half marathon was totally do-able! The first three miles of the race were easier than I was expecting despite being slightly uphill. I also took it really easy on the pace (11 min/mile) because I knew that the heat and hills would ramp up later on in the race. At the end of the first mile there were Taiko drums performing, which definitely helped pump me up. The first few miles started on Colorado Blvd, which has a bunch of shopping stores so I was having fun doing some window shopping.  From there we went onto the Colorado Street bridge, which was a fun experience because the bridge is an icon in Pasadena. After the bridge, we headed downhill to the Arroyo Seco Trail and around the Rosebowl. This was the part of the race I was most familiar with because I had run this route before but it was definitely the most mentally challenging. Even though it was flat, there was no escape from the sun and the asphalt made it feel even hotter. At mile 5 I started eating my Chocolate Gu and seriously ramping up the water intake. I am so thankful that there were water stations at every mile because I constantly needed more either for drinking or dumping over my head (I did this a lot during the race!). I had looked at the elevation chart before the race and knew that between mile 8-10 there would be a steady hill, so I had mentally prepared for the challenge. However when I reached this “big” hill, I was relieved that it wasn’t that big after all and I was met with a glorious downhill that lasted the final 3 miles. During those final miles, I had a smile permanently plastered to my face and waved to all the spectators watching. However, I could tell that my happiness was not shared by most of the other runners. The heat was really getting to people and it definitely showed on their grimaced faces and slumped postures. To pump me up even more, at around mile 12.5 I got a great surprise that made me smile wider and wave my arms like a lunatic. What was this surprise? My amazing sister and dad were cheering for me and waving these awesome signs ImageAs I ran to the finish line, I started to realize the magnitude of my impending accomplishment and I could not help but start to feel nostalgic. Right before I crossed the finish line, I was met with another surprise right and that was my mom waving and cheering for me. I cannot describe how elated I was to cross the finish line, get my medal, and give my mom a huge sweaty hug. I finished the race in 2:22:15 at a 10:53min/mile pace. Even though it was slow, my body and mind felt great. There were many runners who suffered heat stroke and severe dehydration, so I am thankful to have remained healthy during and after the race. Despite feeling fatigued and having slightly tender calf muscles, my body doesn’t feel sore a day after the race. I take that as a sign that I trained and raced well! Now for some photos…

The route:Image

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ImageOn a final note, I need to express how wonderful my family is. Their support was more than I could have ever wished for and I am so lucky to have them always be there for me. Training for and running half marathon was definitely a challenging experience but also a growing one. All I can think of now is when is the next race? 

 

After months of preparation and training, the day has finally come for me to run my first half marathon! It is a surreal feeling that my race is tomorrow morning but I am ready to embrace the heat, muscle fatigue, and joy of my longest running distance yet. I have been taking it really easy this week with two 3 mile runs, a hike, and lots of yoga. I hope that my body cooperates with me tomorrow especially since it is going to be hot. I am planning on being extra careful about taking in enough water and electrolytes so dehydration doesn’t make the race seem like a punishment. I picked out my clothes and gear this morning so when I wake up bright and early tomorrow at 4:45 am, I will be ready to run! My only goal for tomorrow is to finish so I don’t feel nervous or pressured, just ready to have a good time! Honestly, the only thing I am caught up on is what to eat afterwards. Should I have a doughnut? Should I stay healthy and drink multiple fruit smoothies? I have no idea, so I am going to postpone my post race meal decision until after I cross the finish line. I will also try to keep this in mind while running…

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To round out the end of this post, I want to express how appreciative I am for everyone who has supported me along the way. Also, I apologize to all my friends and family who have listened to my ramblings about running for the past few months. Training for my first half marathon has been a tiring experience but more fun than I could have imagined. Tomorrow will not be easy but I am ready to accomplish my goal!

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On Wednesday night, I realized that I needed to move up my final long run based on my summer school schedule. I am definitely a “schedule person” so this minor change of running on Thursday morning, instead of Friday morning, made me feel off kilter. However, it was 100% an anticipatory mental block because once I started running, I felt more confident and at ease.

This was the final long run of my half marathon training plan and consisted of 9 miles around Balboa Park. Nothing out of the ordinary happened but I experimented with a new Gu flavor called Jet Blackberry. Overall, I liked the new flavor because it tasted like jam but I don’t think I could handle eating it all the time because it was so sweet! I will be sticking to my usual Chocolate Gu for my half marathon next Sunday because I know my stomach can handle it. And speaking of next Sunday’s race, I am starting to get nostalgic about my training over the past few months. I am proud to say that I never missed a single long run or weekly training run! Before starting my training, I was worried that increasing my mileage could potentially lead to an injury but I think sticking to the plan and doing a combination of yoga and strength training has made a big difference. This week will be light on mileage in anticipation of the 13.1 miles!

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Early Morning Run

Since I started summer school this week, I have had to push my runs back earlier in the morning. Honestly, I don’t mind this shift towards early A.M. runs…as long as I have gotten enough sleep! After a solid 8 hours of sleep, I woke up on Tuesday morning at 5:45am and was out the door by 6am. I love this time of the day during the summer because the sun is shining and the air feels fresh and cool. I don’t have to worry about dodging cars and can focus more on my breathing and running form. It also feels nice to come back from a run as most people are waking up or still asleep. On this particular run, I did 4 miles and tried to seek out as many hills as possible. By focusing on hills as a main part of my run, I found that I didn’t dread the incline but looked forward to each new challenge. On the agenda for tomorrow is a yoga class before my long run on Friday!

Since my half marathon is two weeks away, I am starting to enter into the taper phase of my training, which means gradually reducing my weekly mileage. While my original half marathon training plan only has a one week taper, I have decided to follow the advice of other respected running sources and do a two week taper. This week I plan to scale back my weekly mileage distance by 30% and the following week by 50%. While this stage can be mentally challenging for many runners because it goes against the “go, go go” attitude of training, it is really important to rest your body for the best performance on race day. At this point, I feel like I have been training for this race for a long time so I am welcoming the little break. However, I have a feeling this may change when I truly enter the tapering phase and go against my instinct of doing more miles. In an effort to combat this feeling, I am planning to shift my focus from miles to practicing better running form, more efficient, zen-like breathing, and increasing my protein intake (which has been lacking the past few weeks). 

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This morning I was lucky enough to begin celebrating Father’s Day with my dad by going to Balboa Park for our weekly run/cycle outing. He did his thing on the bike, while I ran 5 miles on my usual route. It was a wonderful way to spend some time with my amazing dad! I am so proud of him and his renewed dedication to cycling. He is actually going to start his own training program for a bike race that is part of the Long Beach Marathon/Half Marathon (I will be running in the half marathon) in October 2014! 

 

Slow and Steady

The theme of my long run this week is definitely slow and steady. I went out to the Arroyo Seco Trail in Pasadena for the second time in my training. I tried a new scenic route with a few rolling hills – nothing too challenging. When I first started running, I didn’t think I would be able to complete the 10 miles I had set out to do. I felt like I was breathing hard, despite my slow pace, and I had low energy. However when I opened up my chocolate Gu gel at around 5 miles, I started to perk up. I think my breakfast, which was part of a luna bar instead of my usual applesauce with nuts and raisins, may have had something do with my blah feeling. It was definitely a reminder to stick to what I know works for me! I ended up finishing my 10.25 miles strong and walked for a little bit to enjoy the beautiful California weather.

Also, I have a confession: those chocolate Gu gels that I raved about before are starting to get old…really old. I need to switch up the flavor/fuel for my last long run next week so I don’t go crazy when I have a chocolate Gu on race day…

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It feels surreal that I am getting closer and closer to my first half marathon. Since I started my training in April, I have not sustained any injuries or sickness to slow me to down (knock on wood), which I am very thankful for. I know how terrible it feels not being able to run because of pain or sickness, so everyday that I get to run is a great day. When I first started running around a year ago, I never would have thought that 2013 would bring a half marathon. I was nervous and focused on finishing a 5k in August of last year and now I am training for 13.1 miles. Even though people say this all the time, I truly believe that if I can do it, anyone can. I have never been a runner and have always considered running the ultimate challenge. Last year, I spontaneously decided to go on a run after a HORRIBLE day at work to blow off steam.  I could barely run 1 mile without feeling like my heart was going to beat out of my chest, but I kept with it and completed two difficult miles. I started running 2 miles 2-3 times a week and it gradually started getting easier. However, I wanted to challenge myself with my running so I decided to sign up for a 5k race (the farthest I have EVER run at this point). After successfully completing my first 5k with the support of my friends and family, I was officially hooked on running/racing. I started running farther and building my confidence that I was strong and physically capable of longer races. Long story short: I signed up for a 10k Thanksgiving Turkey Trot race, got my first injury that sidelined me for a month and required physical therapy, completed my first 10k while recovering from my injury, and signed up for this half marathon! I have learned a lot about running, my body, and myself through finding running (sounds cheezy, I know). While there have been moments where I felt like I couldn’t run a certain distance or comeback after being hurt, I realized that the only thing holding me back was fear. By acknowledging this fear and trying to move beyond it, I have been able to come from that 1 mile accomplishment to a half marathon now…and maybe a marathon in the future. 

Well, that is the end of the mushy,reflective stuff! Here is my typical 5 mile run:

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ImageToday was a special running day because I ran in the 5k/10k Pride Run West Hollywood! I am not going to lie, I woke up this morning not super excited to run, let alone race. However, I am so glad that I got out of bed early on a Sunday morning because this race ended up being a great running accomplishment for me. I signed up for this race a month ago to get me excited for my half marathon that is coming up in two weeks and it has definitely had its intended effect on me!

Now unto the race details…The weather was overcast and in the 60’s – aka perfect running weather. The course was relatively flat with rolling hills and covered the area where the Pride Parade was to going to happen later in the day. The first mile of the race was mentally challenging and I felt out of wack. I thought I was the last/slowest person in the whole race, as I was getting passed by a lot of people (or at least it felt like a lot of people).  However, after that 1st mile I started to gain momentum and I realized that I was the one passing people. The feeling of competition really helped me pick up and maintain my speed. Once I realized that I was averaging a 9min/mile for more than 3 miles and I would be able to finish under an hour, I decided to book it. And guess what? I got a new 10k PR of 55:02!

Overall the race was really fun – I enjoyed seeing the drag queens and rainbow gear along the route. I also appreciated having my parents be there to cheer me on and take pictures of my start and finish. You guys are the best 🙂

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