Ventura Half Marathon 

Disclaimer: I received  a free entry to the Ventura Half Marathon  as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

This past weekend I ran the Ventura Half Marathon. It was my first time running a race in Ventura, which is such a cute little town to run in/visit. Packet pick up was at the Ventura Pier, with beautiful views of the ocean.

The expo was smaller than expected, but had good vendors (running gear, food, clothing, etc). The packet pick up was simple and well organized and they had lots of good photo ops!

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Check out the runner swag! Reusable Ventura bag, hat, nice tech shirt, and not pictured was all the snacks and Ventura tourist info.

After checking out the expo my bf and I went out to dinner at my FAVORITE restaurant in Ventura, Himalaya . Unfortunately I didn’t get any food pics (#fail). If you are in Ventura this place is a must. With our bellies full we went to our Airbnb…home? Room? I don’t know how you would refer to that, but we stayed at a cute home that we found via Airbnb – our first Airbnb stay! The proximity to the race is one of the reasons we chose this location, but let’s be real, this is the number one reason I chose to stay where we did:

v4Oh my goodness you guys! These cat friends were the best! We cuddled all night, then cuddled some more before we left.

Okay, okay, on to race day. The half marathon started at 6:30am so I arrived around 5:45am to prepare for the race. I also met up with my fellow BibRave Pros! It was great to meet Abby and Erica on race morning (you can read their reviews of the race here and here). The start of the race, and the entire race for that matter, was very well organized. The start line had corrals, and each corral was well controlled by the volunteers. A pretty big pet peeve of mine is runners running in waves/corrals that they shouldn’t be in, that didn’t really happen here that I could see. Perhaps it is because everything was so clearly labeled.

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So, I gotta be honest here, not a big fan of this course for the most part. I really did think we would be able to see more of the coast. You saw the beach at the beginning, a little in the middle, then again at the end since it is an out and back course. This isn’t a huge turn off for me, but I thought the views would be a little nicer. The course is nice and flat and perfect if you are looking to set a PR. There were quite a few cheer stations, which I LOVE! If you don’t run, but are reading this and you cheer at races, I just want you to know how much that means to me and the other runners. Running/racing is really hard and having people out there cheering us on helps more than you know. Another thing that helps is good pacers. I was in the 2:15 pace group, which I only decided on the night before. I have been recovering from a few injuries so I wanted this to be a fun and easy run. Thanks to Megan and Amy, who pace for Beast Pacing, I ran a nice and easy 2:09 half. They got me to about mile 9, and I was feeling great so I thanked them, took off and they cheered for me as I ran the rest of the race solo. v7

While the views aren’t the best, I still enjoyed this race a lot. The course was clearly marked, aid stations were stocked well and the volunteers did a great job handing us our water/electrolytes. Bottom line: awesome cheer stations, flat course and it ends on the beach! Food, drinks and beach time is a pretty great way to end a race.

I have also reviewed this race (and all my races) on BibRave. Check it out & leave reviews for your races –> BibRave.

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What Is It All for?

It’s no secret running has been tough for me this year. It all started last October when I injured myself while training for a marathon. So, yep – almost a year that running has been a struggle. I haven’t wanted to admit it, I haven’t wanted to admit that my running is just not at the level that it was a year or two ago. I am constantly comparing where I am now to where I was then, which is not a healthy thing to do. I have not been present, I have not been enjoying my journey, I have forgotten what this is all for.

Now, that’s not to say I haven’t been enjoying running, because I always do. However, this year I have felt a need to prove myself. To who? Everyone? Myself? I’d say both. I wanted to prove that I was a good runner, something I never thought about when I first started running. I remember my first sub 2 half marathon it was a PR by almost 15 minutes. And my first sub 4 was a PR by almost 30 minutes. People would tell me how great I was doing, other runners I had met would tell me those were crazy improvements. I had no idea, I just knew I was having fun. Then I ran a 1:43 half, when my goal was 1:45. If I had to pin point when I felt the need to prove myself, or maybe more accurately, prove my worth as a runner that was it.  The Urban Cow Half Marathon 2014.  It is my best half to date, and I find myself comparing myself to that race all the time. Stupid, I know! Especially when I encourage so many people on their running journey – slow or fast. I tell people being slow doesn’t matter, who gives a shit? You’re moving, you found something you love, that is what counts. Apparently I don’t listen to my own words.

I had Boston qualifying friends tell me I could BQ. I had people come up to me after races and tell me I was fast and they were trying to keep up with me. I was getting compliments on how fast I was. I’m not gonna lie, I liked it. But at the same time, I’ve never been one to brag, I’ve never let compliments go to my head. I am humble when it comes to my abilities. So what the fuck? Perhaps being the couch potato I used to be, the feeling of accomplishment you feel post race, the recognition, the belonging to a community…perhaps I didn’t want to lose that. And since everyone around me was trying to BQ I decided I wanted to also. Since everyone was talking about getting faster I thought I should get faster too. Of course there is nothing wrong with pushing yourself, setting goals and being your very best, but there is something wrong when it isn’t making you happy and you aren’t doing it for yourself.

There is a social pressure at times when you are a runner. One of the first questions I would get asked once people knew I ran marathons was, “Are you going to qualify for Boston?” When I’d run a race the most commonly asked question was, “What was your finish time?” Which really means (intentionally or not), “How fast did you run?”  It’s like I was letting people down if I didn’t set a new PR, or if I said I wasn’t interested in BQing yet. Obviously those are my thoughts in my head, I wasn’t letting anyone down. I think a  good analogy is when you are in a long term relationship people always ask when you’re getting married. If the answer is never, or you’re not sure there is this look of sympathy like, oh that poor girl isn’t ever going to get married. Maybe I don’t want to get married, maybe I don’t want to BQ, and nothing is wrong with that. You gotta do you. I know society is not intentionally trying to put pressure on me (unless you’re my mom asking for grandkids. I hope grandcats will do) but it does happen. So in the mix of pressure from wanting to “keep up” with the other runners and wanting to look good to those who don’t run I lost myself along the way.

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Fast forward to today.  I ran for the first time in 15 days. It was fun, I looked around, took pictures and enjoyed the fact that I was running along the San Diego bay. I ran by a bathroom that I love – which is so weird but it is clean and has letters all over it. I noticed there was a no climbing sign near the bathroom wall, then I looked at the wall and realized, that would be a really fun wall to climb. You’d be climbing the alphabet!

The skies today were overcast and gray, just the way I like it. I even did the tourist thing and went to the kissing statue for a photo.

3 miles today. Nice, easy and fun. I have 3 marathons within the next 6 months. Two are for charity and one is the CIM so obviously I have to run it, but I don’t have a training plan for any of them right now. I am running because I love to, and those marathons will be long run days. Today I came to the decision to run for fun and I tossed my Chicago plan out the window (not literally, I don’t litter). So if I want to work on some speed I will, if I want to do an easy run along the beach I will, hills – sure, why not? Running has been my time to be free of worries and responsibilities; it has been about connecting with the community, and being happy. So I am going back to that.

Because otherwise, what is the damn point (thank you, friend for your words).

This Body Can – Louise

I am very happy to present September’s  This Body Can post from Louise. I met Louise when I was attending an Iron Grrls Clinic and I saw her benching, I think. She had a Cat Town Cafe shirt on (based in Oakland, CA) so of course, being the cat lover that I am, I had to go tell her how much I loved her shirt. Over the months of training at BodyTribe I found out Louise is a cat lover as well, made a really great documentary about the Historic Rose Garden in Sacramento and loves & appreciates movement just like I do. I love her story and can relate to the “can’t” feeling she had in P.E. Shit, I failed P.E. in high school and had to take it again my senior year – so there you go; finding a love for movement and appreciating what my body can do is new to me, with in the last 5 years. Age doesn’t matter when you are on this journey. Sometimes it comes later in life, and that is okay. Thank you, Louise for sharing your story.

Like many women – heck, let’s go ahead and include all genders and say many people – I’ve struggled in thinking positively about my physical being. My earliest thoughts about sport/exercise/physicality were all some version of “I can’t.” I remember the horrible realization I had, in grammar school, as I tried so hard to “try hard,” watching the backs of all my fellow students grow farther and farther away, as they raced to the finish line ahead of me. I remember the exact moment: the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Here it was, the measure of us all. Who could do a pull-up? Who could jump far enough? Who could run fast enough to meet the time? I watched as our class sorted itself into the Cans and the Can’ts, generally corresponding to boys (Can) and girls (Can’t),  and me – the very last of the Can’ts. I had been good at things up until this: I could read well, liked math, could draw. But this? I was bad at this. It made me feel terrible physically and emotionally. Of course, I learned later that the PPFT had a worthy motive – to encourage the physical education of children, and I’m very in favor of that. But for me it was a crusher. My takeaway: I can’t, and I hate ALL this stuff.

I don’t want to pin it all on President Kennedy, but it took a long time to turn this belief around. For me, the legacy of such a bad start including years of self-hate, disordered eating and mental health problems. I’m so very grateful I’ve been able to change this pattern, even though it came later in life for me. When I was around 40, I started going to a gym for the first time – a dumpy, inexpensive place with beat up equipment, chosen because it was the least intimidating place I could find. I booked a few training sessions, so I wouldn’t look like an idiot on the machines. I forced myself to shop for workout clothes until I found something that didn’t make me feel hideous and uncomfortable. My motivation was simple: I was under a lot of stress at work, and needed some way to handle it. I began meditating at the same time. I set some reachable goals: for a long time, my goal was just to get to the gym, just enter the building and change clothes. If, at that point, I just couldn’t… well, I didn’t. But that almost never happened. Once I got there, I generally felt like doing something. I started to look forward to this part of my day. I realized how effective the stress relief was.

louise.JPG                                                              Flip a tire 20 times and then beat the crap out of it with a club – stress relief!

I started really enjoying the feeling I had as I walked home, tired and in the mood for dinner. I started to feel strong. I noticed that I was not out of breath anymore on the stairs. My back pain disappeared. My tricep became noticeable. It was a new start, a much better start. I began to think, “huh! maybe I CAN.”
And now, even though I’m 52 and definitely noticing the changes that come with age, I am more able and confident – physically and emotionally – than I have ever been. After my first gym closed, I was lucky enough to land in a great place, and get access to an extremely talented and generous trainer. She has patiently worked with my fears and issues, always teaching me, always challenging me in both physical and mental ways. She has gently steered my thinking away from negativity toward empowerment and exploration. The gym I go to now is a haven of sanity and support, focused on hard work and proper form, and always filled with laughs, sweat, dogs, babies, music and friends. At this point, I actually seek failure at times, as when maxing out a lift. It’s just another tool to measure progress – my own personal progress, not someone else’s. It’s a joy to own that feeling so completely. Changing the way I think about success and failure has made a big difference to life in general, not just life in the gym. I am much more concerned with progress, momentum, and consistency than I am about numbers (my own or others’). This way of thinking allows me to try hard, and to be happy.

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Are You Practicing Self Awareness?

You know when you hear something and it just clicks? This happened to me the other day while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, RunnersConnect. This episode is about conditioning your mind the way you condition your body. If you have trained for a marathon, or just being a runner, you should know running is just as much mental as it is physical. I think an argument could be made that it is actually more mentally (and emotionally) harder than physically.

Thoughts are powerful; things like visualization, setting goals, appreciating your journey and positive thoughts during your runs/training all help prepare you on race day. I know when training gets hard for me, I visualize running down L street in Sacramento during the CIM.  I can see myself running through Midtown, past de Vere’s (where there are always drunk people cheering us on!) I visualize turning left down 8th street, then another left down Capitol Mall. Running down the chute with the California State Capitol in the foreground. I can see all of that, and it is my go to when training gets tough because the California International Marathon was my first marathon and it is in the city I love and call home. It helps me remember why I do this crazy thing – running marathons.

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October 2015 I got injured and running has been tough for me, off and on, ever since. After the CIM (pictured above) I completely reevaluated my goals. I wanted to BQ at CIM for the past 2 years, but why? At the end of 2015 I thought to myself, “Why do you care about setting a PR or qualifying for Boston?” Truth be told, it is because that is what everyone else was doing. Sure I want to improve and challenge myself, but as I mentioned before, I was putting too much pressure on myself and not having fun.  I had no balance between hard work, proper rest and self awareness.

So of course, today was another tough run. I don’t think I warmed up well enough when I went out on my run, and my glute and hamstring were both pretty painful – IT issues. I only ran 2 of 4 miles. While I could have been pissed, had a pity party for myself or try to push through, I decided to listen to my body. I cut my run short, went home and did some yoga. Yoga is another great conditioning tool. I focus on my breathing, if thoughts come into my head they are positive and I am always 100% happy after class. Completely stress free – which has been my biggest battle lately. Honestly, it is probably one of the only times I am in the present. I’m not thinking about work, running, or anything I have going on that will eventually need my attention. I am definitely lacking in my yoga skills, but I feel great after class or a solo session in my living room or garage gym. Focusing on all aspects of training – physically, mentally and emotionally – and finding the balance that works for me, right now, that is what matters.

Chicago Marathon Training – Month 2 

The good: I ran today and yesterday after a week off of running.

The bad: I am still not recovered from my cold.

The ugly: I am coughing up shit again.

After being sick last week and having chest congestion, I thought it was finally gone Monday. So when I flew into Sacramento on Tuesday I was super excited to go run. I ran an easy 3 miles yesterday, and had a 4 mile cut down run on the plan today. I knew running fast wasn’t going to happen today so I opted for an easy run. After my 7 miles today I found out I am not fully recovered. My chest is burning again, and I am coughing up…stuff. So I am back to taking it day by day and hoping this stupid cold, cough – what ever I have – goes away soon.

Other than that today’s run felt great. It is so good to be running the familiar routes I love here in Sacramento. Today’s route took me through McKinley Park, the State Capitol, Tower Bridge, River Walk…this city is beautiful.

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I was such a tourist today!

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I unintentionally ran by one of my favorite murals in Sacramento this morning. If you look up from your phone while walking around this city you will see many beautiful works of art from Demetris Washington (BAMR).

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I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed how training is going so far. My cold has taken me out for over a week, and I will probably be out another week or so. I’ve been having pain in my glute that travels down my hamstring to my calf – not to mention all the itis’ I am seeing a physical therapist for. On the bright side, every time I go to the PT he tells me I am improving. And I can feel it, I’m not in as much pain as I was before I started my PT routine. Honestly though, I want my running to be back where it was in 2014. The year I set all my PRs, and I ran 4 marathons and was having fun! That isn’t to say I’m not having fun, running is always fun to me. But perhaps I’m putting too much pressure on myself to hurry and get back to where I was in back then. You can’t rush progress, and you definitely can’t rush healing.

Being injured has taught me patience, and to enjoy being healthy – which is obvious but as I always say, too often we take our health and ability to move for granted. I never want that to be me. So for now I will slowly continue to progress and enjoy my training. I may not be as fast as I’d like to be but there is much more to running than being fast.

Happy running!

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This Body Can – Laura

Social media can be awesome. It helps keep us connected, tell and hear each other’s stories, and understand that we can all learn from each other – even if we have never met in person. This is where Laura comes in. We “met” via Twitter, where posted something from her website, F#@k Skinny , that really resonated with me. She is another amazingly, strong woman out there who is sharing a different message from the one that has been shoved in our faces for years. Her message: “One of the most detrimental things happening to women in America today is a focus on food as a means to be either fat or skinny when all along it should have been about healthy or unhealthy. These two things are not the same. We NEED to stop our obsession with being skinny. It is killing us emotionally and physically. It divorces us from the purpose of food and, therefore, warps our understanding of what we see in the mirror. ‘Skinny’ confuses the real reasons why we need to make responsible decisions regarding what we choose to eat.” Here is her story:

For me, working out and eating healthfully never made me skinny. I have always been curvy with a belly. If the only benefit to moving my body, daily was weight loss, I’d have given up a long time ago. Had I done that, I might not physically look much different than I do today, but the picture of my life would be dramatically changed. I’d have had fewer life experiences. I would not have been fit enough to climb a mountain, solo, on a trip to Wales. I might not have had the strength to run the Cronulla Sand Dunes in Sydney, Australia, or jog the coastal paths from Coogee to Bondi Beach. Without fitness, I wouldn’t have met my best friends. It wasn’t until I became an athlete that I developed the strongest, most positive relationships I’ve ever had in 36 years of life. The people who encourage me to show up and be my best self every single day in every area of my life are my friends from Team In Training and from November Project .
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Running brought me closer to my mother and my sister. It provided us time to bond while doing something that made all of us feel positive and accomplished. And, most importantly, adopting a healthy lifestyle has helped me whether a very serious health condition. A year ago I was diagnosed with Primary Hyperparathyroidism, which are tumors that grow on one or more of the parathyroid glands, causing hypercalcemia. Calcium plays a critical role in many of the major functions of the human body. I am working with my surgeon and endocrinologist and have a plan to have these tumors removed, but I firmly believe I’ve been able to maintain an active and functional quality of life as a result of being strong, fit, and otherwise healthy.
Becoming a runner, a triathlete, a weight lifter, and an all-around bad-ass did not come naturally to me. I wasn’t always athletic. As a teen, I used to think I had exercise induced asthma because running was such a struggle. Lack of sleep, chronic yo-yo dieting, and no coach to train me properly was probably more to blame than my ability to run, but at the time, there wasn’t anyone in my life with enough expertise to help me see this. Through my early 20’s I always claimed to be a “bad runner,” but by the time I approached my 27th birthday, I’d made so many lifestyle changes with regard to diet, non-running cardio, and weight lifting, I was primed to be pushed into the world of running. All it took was a cute t-shirt, namely a race t-shirt that my friend had earned and that I wanted. Badly. I started talking to her about running and she introduced me to the concept that you can take walk breaks when you feel you can’t run anymore: an idea my high school gym teacher had neglected to share with me. It was as though a lightbulb had turned on in my brain. That very week I began training for my first 10K. Three years later, for my 30th birthday I ran my first marathon. Six years later, I’m a multi-seasoned marathon coach and ultra distance triathlete. And I’m still not skinny. But who cares? My life is incredible. I am strong. I am sexy. And damn, it feels good.
You can find Laura on IG/Twitter @forgetskinny
Her book is F#@k Skinny: How I Quit Dieting & Found My Health available on Amazon.com

Am I An Adult Yet?

Remember when you’re a kid and you can’t wait to be in your 20s because then you’ll be an adult? Then you turn 21 and think you know it all. In your mid-late 20s you realize you don’t know it all. Maybe in your 30s you’ll feel like an adult…but then your 30s come around and you realize you may never feel like an adult. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know that I will ever feel how I thought being an adult was supposed to feel like. Today I turn 32. While I don’t feel like a lost little kid (teenager, or 20 year old) anymore I also don’t feel how I thought I would when I was younger. If you asked me what that even means, I don’t really know. Older? Responsible? Wiser? Accomplished? Who knows. But when I think about it, I do feel those things and more, but the feelings are different than what I thought they would be.

Remember when you are young and you’re told to do this or do that to be successful. You have to make a lot of money to be successful. You have to be married with kids and a house at a certain age to be successful. Everyone has to like you to be successful. Maybe we aren’t told that, but I certainly know those were the ideas I had in my head growing up. Well, I don’t have every one of those things I just listed – and a few of them I don’t even want. What I do want, and what I am doing is what I love. Personally, I have found it to be true that if you do what  you love you will be successful. When I started running in 2011, I had no idea how it would change my life. Running has opened up so many doors for me. From coaching for the Muscular Dystrophy Association  and Kaia FIT , to representing the Sacramento Running Association  and BibRave. Everything that I am involved in has helped me to realized what I am passionate about and what I want to do “when I grow up” – which is a lot of things. Most importantly running gave me the courage to be comfortable with myself and helped me to realize my dream of starting my own business of helping people and cats (check out My Cat Friend ). You may wonder how running and starting a business with cats is related. The short answer: confidence, dedication and belief. If I can dedicate so much time to training and running marathons, and be successful at that, then I can apply those same concepts to life. And I have. I’ve also become so sappy the older I get. It comes with age, I suppose.