Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Run Monterey Bay

Sam told me that the Big Sur Half Marathon might have to be an annual thing I do to give us an excuse to come back to Monterey.  I agree.

All the pretty.
We arrived the Friday prior to the race and went straight to In N' Out.  Carb loading, ya know?  Saturday, we walked around the expo and I picked up my bib and shirt.  We took a drive and learned a little secret about the Central Coast of California: it's most beautiful weather is during the fall.  Shh.

We were there in late July and while it was nice, it was definitely foggier and colder.  That Saturday was the kind of weather that makes you want to quit whatever thankless job you have and move there.

Anyway, that evening we stopped at the market for bagels, peanut butter, and juice.  I went to bed early and slept as well as I ever do before race day.

By 4 a.m. I was up and trying to figure out how to cut open my bagel with no knife.  Sam improvised with a stirring straw and our room key.  We would kick ass on Survivor.  Is that still on?

I got ready and we went down the street to the shuttle stop.  I met a nice woman named Maria and we chatted until it was time to get into our corrals.  I made one more pit stop at the porta-potties and then looked around.

"TWO MINUTES!"  The announcer said.

How do I get into my corral?  I thought.  I'd looked at the map of the starting area, but anyone that knows me knows I have the directional sense of a goldfish.  I couldn't see an entrance on my side so I raced to the end of the corrals and around to the other side.  Still no way in.  I got to my fenced off corral and asked a girl who said she didn't know.  Some helpful guy told me to jump the fence.  Because with my luck, I definitely would not fall and I most certainly would not hurt myself.

At this point, I was fully prepared to run along the outside of the fence and hop in at the last minute.  I jogged up to the front of my corral and asked a married couple how to get in.  The man told me to jump the fence.  I was debating the mechanics of that when the woman told me that the fences snap together.  "Here," she said, and unsnapped the fence.  Success!

My adrenaline was going and I was finally in my corral.  The announcer started our countdown and everyone started clapping.  My nerves evaporated.  Oh, that's right, I do this because I enjoy it!

Cannery Row, pre-race
Sam was at Cannery Row when I got there.  He took pictures and ran alongside me for a few yards.  A woman said we were cute.

For the first five miles, I felt great.  I saw the elites coming BACK when I wasn't even quite halfway.  We cheered for them and everyone around me was having a good time.

Somewhere around mile five, the sun came out.  Unfortunately, when I get hot, I wither.  I made it to the turn around, but enough time had passed that the sun was still in my face going the other way.  I ran by sheer will.

Look at the pretty ocean, don't be a baby, be grateful.  Look at all the people cheering!

I'm hot.  I'm hot.  I'm hot.

I had a blister on my left foot and a side stitch which I was able to mostly ignore.  Keep running, I thought, and you'll finish faster!  That was enough to keep me going.  After that, I didn't think of anything else except being done.  But I was supposed to enjoy the scenery, that was what everyone said.

I'll enjoy it later.  In a car.

I crossed the finish line and a little girl gave me a medal.  I couldn't remember what I'd been complaining about because it didn't matter anymore.

Sam was smiling and taking pictures at the finish line.  A photographer took our picture.  Since we were still separated by a fence, we agreed to meet on one of the piers after I went through the food tent and grabbed my things.

While I was waiting on the pier, a couple with their dog came up to me.  She asked me about the race and said that she was a marathoner.  She was funny and friendly and helped me to remember to enjoy the day. She asked me if I'd ever run that race before and I said no, but that it might become an annual destination race.

I learned a lot from this race for next time.  And there will be a next time!  One, there are uphills.  They were rolling, but I hadn't been prepared for that.  Second, bring sunglasses.  Third, enjoy it.  Monterey is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  Fourth, figure out how to enter a corral.

Last, I want to give a special thank you to all the organizers and volunteers.  This was one of the most well organized races I've ever done.  Thank you to everyone that made it happen!

Here are a few more pictures from the race:

Runners be crazy

The elites rounding the corner at Cannery Row.  The winner, Jacob Chemtai, is at the front in red.

Crossing the finish line.  Actual finish time: 2:34:21.
Me in a nutshell

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Nerves and Cookies

I sent my boyfriend, Sam, a text that read, "I'm kind of sick to my stomach."  And then I thought, I should probably write about this.

On Sunday, I'll be running the Big Sur Half Marathon with a few thousand kindly strangers.  I hope they're kindly (note: please be nice to me, I'm really nervous).  Also, it's my first destination race.

Monterey, CA.

Luckily, the destination is my home state of California.  The out and back course begins in Monterey, near the wharf, and winds its way through Cannery Row, into Pacific Grove and Asilomar Beach.  It's oceanfront nearly the entire way.

Cannery Row in Monterey, CA.

Sam asked me why I felt sick.  I told him that I was nervous about the race and also two chocolate chip cookies I ate that may have been a bit suspect.  Pre-race jitters are familiar to me and many other runners, but I also don't like flying, crowds (especially of strangers), or most members of airport security.  Sorry about that last one, but it's true.  Anxiety, thy name is Ashley.

I'm in shape for it after running a half marathon in July and then maintaining that level of fitness.  It will be a beautiful course in a beautiful city.  It is forecast to be perfect running weather.  The flight, hotel, and rental car are booked.  But I still feel a vague, jittery sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

The excitement won't come, I know from some experience, until I toe that line on Sunday morning.  The nerves change to adrenaline and excitement and we're off.  The race will be the payoff.

Until then, I'll be making list after list of everything I don't want to forget because it's my process.

Also, no more cookies.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mercury and Mercury

For the first time ever, I have officially run through a pair of shoes.  My first blog post ever was about retiring some old Nikes for these, my highlighter pink running shoes that I called The New Girls.

Saucony ProGrid Guide 6, brand-spankin-new.

And a couple after shots:

Crossing a teeny bridge in Big Sur, CA this summer.

Big Sur, CA. Shoes are much dirtier, but no less spankin.
I went back to The Runner's Edge, since they were pretty awesome the first time I bought shoes there and decided to stick with the Saucony Guide 6.  I named the new ones Mercury, though I was informed each shoe should have its own name.  I can't think of anything that goes with Mercury though.

Three generations.
I trained for and ran five races, including a half marathon, in my pink shoes.  I can't get rid of them.  I've already made peace with the fact that my running shoes will one day take over my house.  It's cool, everyone knows runners be crazy.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Running on the Fly

Do you have one of those runner friends that can talk about running all day?  Is that person possibly me?  I promise when I'm talking about knee anatomy and injury prevention, I'm not trying to be a smarty pants.  But if you ask a question, I can and will ramble on forever.

When I was a newbie to the sport, I had a lot of questions and I Googled a lot of things.  I asked the kind people at The Runner's Edge here in Missoula and the very limited number of people I knew that also ran.

And now I know some stuff and I want to share a bit of the running dictionary I've pulled together along the way.

Running on the Fly Part Two: Terms that make you go, huh?

5K - Any race that equals 3.1 miles.  K stands for kilometer, which is 1,000 meters.

10K - Any race that equals 6.2 miles.

Bonk - Basically, it's when you feel like you're gonna die if you go any further.  It happens when your body has run out of glycogen to burn.  Instead, it looks to fat and protein, but converting that to energy takes longer and gives you that I'm-going-to-fall-down feeling.  Carbs are a runner's friend!

Chip time vs gun time - Your chip is a little timing device set with your specific info.  You attach it to your shoe and it records the time you cross the starting and finishing line.  The gun time is the time the race starts.  If you've ever done a race with a lot of people, you know that you don't necessarily cross the starting line in the same second the gun goes off.  Chip time can be a few seconds to a few minutes faster than your gun time.

Fartlek - A form of training where you mix slow running with fast bursts of speed for any distance you'd like.  And yes, it's pronounced the way it looks.

Half marathon - Any race that equals 13.1 miles.

Lactic acid - You know how sometimes the day after hard exercise, you don't want to move because it hurts so bad?  It's because of lactic acid.  It builds up in your muscles when there is an incomplete breakdown of glucose during exercise.

LSD - Not the drug.  It means long, slow distance.  It's where you do a long run/race at a slower pace, can be helpful for endurance.

Marathon - Any race that equals 26.2 miles.

PR - Personal record.

Shin splints - Pain in the length of your shin, can be caused by running on hard surfaces.  Rest and/or cross training for a few days is usually a good idea if you have shin splints.  If the pain is severe or doesn't go away, see a doctor!

Split time - How long it takes you to run a certain distance over the course of a longer run.  For example, my last split at mile three of a five mile run was 25 minutes.

Ultra - Any race that is longer than a marathon.

VO2 max - The maximum amount of oxygen your body can take in and use.

I feel like I should be wearing my glasses.  Anyway, I hope that was helpful and I swear I didn't make anything up!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Race I Trained For

"You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." 
- A.A. Milne

I started training for the Missoula Half Marathon in March.  I always use a spreadsheet when I'm training because I get a little obsessive and also, I like to cross off each day's workout with a different colored marker.  
Code that only partially makes sense.
The carb loading began about three days before the race, or if I'm being honest it started about ten years ago.  I got a good nights rest two days before the race and tried to sleep the night before.  Side note: Does anyone else have weird dreams the night before a big race?  I dreamed that I was in this huge crowd and the race was over; I didn't know my time or anything.  I'd run, but totally missed the experience.  Telling, no?

I woke up at 3 a.m. and made breakfast.  I can't even describe how much thought went into a bagel with peanut butter, an apple, and a smoothie.  Sam came over (he slept elsewhere because I live in a studio apartment and was going to bed at 7pm on a Saturday) and helped me with my chip and bib.

Sam drove me to the shuttle stop downtown and we said goodbye before I joined the several hundred runners already in line.  I chatted with a woman with princess stickers on her hat and saw the shortest pair of shorts I've ever seen on a man, even as a runner.

Heard on the shuttle: "Welcome to the south Missoula refugee camp."
Thirty minutes before the start I got in the giant line for the port-o-potties, peeled off my jacket, stretched, and had a gel.  Then it was time to line up.

We had a moment of silence to remember Boston, to remember why we run and who we run for.  

After another minute, we were off.

I started slow, but strong, and stayed that way.  I let the fast starters go ahead of me instead of trying to keep up with them and bonking later.  I kept a mostly straight line instead of weaving around people.  I listened to the pounding of feet, my own breathing, and the conversations (woman to her husband at mile one: "I can already tell I'm going to have to pee." Husband: "There's lots of trees off to your left, just go.")
It's all smiles when you're only six minutes in!
A short way past the mile three marker, I realized I'd run a 5K without slowing down.  At mile five, I had half a gel and had the same realization.  At mile nine, I had the last half of my gel.  It was the longest distance I'd ever run without having to slow to walk once.  In retrospect, it kind of made me think of that part in Forrest Gump where he talks about running and how he might as well keep on going.

I surprised myself.  This past year I've been wrapped up in my struggle for speed and I never stopped to think about strength.  Every mile marker I ran past surprised me.  How was I still running at this pace?  How have I not had to walk?  How have I kept going all this time?

It's a heady thing to know, not to believe but to actually know, that you are stronger than you think you are.  It made all the training, the injuries, the time spent alone on the trails at 6 a.m. worth it.  I worked damn hard and every minute of it was worth it.
Law enforcement running to commemorate a fallen officer.
I had a few little goals for this race: to run the second half faster than the first, to not have to stop to pee (I had to stop last year and it has irritated me to no end ever since), and to enjoy it.  I had no time goal; I just wanted to run strong.  I ran the second half of the race 9 seconds faster per mile than the first half and ran right by every single port-o-potty!

Ultimately, I ran 5 minutes slower than I did last year, but didn't care.  I loved the experience and knowing that I'm stronger than I was last year.

Goals accomplished and on to the Big Sur Half Marathon in November!

And now a few more pictures from marathon weekend:
Goodies from the expo.
Half marathon finishers flyin'.
Top men's finisher in the marathon, Jason Delaney.
Finishing strong.
Run like a girl!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Recipe Day

I don't eat a lot of meat, although sometimes a nice barbecue bacon cheeseburger does call my name, so I'm always looking for alternative sources of protein.  I had the idea to make a lentil spaghetti sauce, though I've never had a lentil in my life.  Sam made it and it was maybe the best pasta I've ever had.

Quinoa Pasta with Red Lentil Sauce

Note: To make it vegan, use veggie broth and subtract the cheese.  Still tastes amazing.
Serves 5.  Or just you with a bunch of leftovers.

Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 an onion, diced
1 small shallot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
30 oz. of tomato sauce (we used Muir Glen organic tomato sauce)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper
1 cup of red lentils
1 tablespoon of chopped basil
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup of red wine
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Saute onion, shallot, and garlic in olive oil
Add tomato sauce and cook on medium until heated (about 5 minutes)
Add salt, pepper, red pepper, basil, chicken stock, wine, and bay leaf
Add lentils, cover, and heat until lentils are cooked through (about 10 minutes)
Add parmesan

Optional: Remove bay leaf and put sauce into the blender for a smooth consistency.  The lentils should be fully blended and the sauce will be thick. Pour mixture back into sauce pan and heat on low until served.
Post blender
Cook 3 cups of quinoa macaroni pasta for approximately 8 minutes in boiling water
Drain pasta
Toss each serving of pasta with 3 tablespoons of sauce
Pour sauce to taste over the top of each serving

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Running the Mountain

"Don't take this for granite."
- David Pengelly

The Pengelly Double and Single Dip is the only race I've heard of that gives out growlers instead of t-shirts.  It's because you're going to need it.

2013 Pengelly Double Dip Races, 10 Years Old and Not Getting any Easier

The Double Dip is a half marathon that covers ground on both Mount Sentinel and University Mountain.  Also, there's that little matter of a 2700 ft. elevation gain.

The Single Dip, which I ran, is a 10K that starts with a short run to a steep climb up the face of Mount Sentinel.  The view of Missoula is beautiful, but you have to get there first.

Mount Sentinel
This was a race I had to do some training for.  I would make mid-week attempts at running up Sentinel, followed by running up and down stairs to recover.  I did okay if you didn't count the wheezing at the end.

I was nervous enough about this race that the night before it I actually had the thought, "I could just not go."  But I had registered and worked pretty damn hard, so I was going.  This was going to be my bragging rights race.  I'd never run it before and had no time goals.  My goals were this: finish the race and don't fall down.

Sam and I got to the starting area on a sunny and bright Saturday morning.  I have a bad time psyching myself out so I thought, "Crap, it's gonna be too hot, I should have worn shorts," and "Good Lord, everyone here is in really good shape."  A woman walked past me in a sports bra and shorts while I hugged my new growler and hoped to get through this.

The Dip races are smaller than a typical road race because we're insane and also because the Double is capped at 200 runners.  So when we lined up I was suspiciously close to the front.  Before I knew it, the gun fired and we were off.

I ran to the base of Sentinel too fast, always my problem.  But I more than ate up time on the power hike up the trail.  I could hear the wind and the sound of people breathing hard.  One of the runners had a watch that talked; it told her (and everyone nearby) the distance and current pace.  Most of us were quiet, concentrating on the grade of the trail and our next step.  The guy behind me tripped and fell and we all paused to help.  He dusted off his knees and laughed.

Once we made the turn that would take us to the fire road and the longer trek down the mountain, people sped up.  They started talking, laughing.  The volunteers pointed us in the right direction and cheered.  I thought, "Okay, that was the hard part.  Just five miles left to go and I didn't have a heart attack.  This is good."

I tripped on a rock, but stayed on my feet.  I reached the rolling fire road that cuts a downward diagonal across Sentinel and there were butterflies on the trail.

This was the point where I finally hit my zone.  My nerves were gone and in its place was overwhelming gratitude.  I get to live here and I get to do this.  This is why I run.

I tried to remember everything.  The way the breeze felt and the happy look of the volunteers at the water station.  On the final downhill I learned the funny, half scary feeling of "controlled falling."

When I got off the trail, it felt weird being on a road again.  The breeze dissipated and I got hot.  It slowed me down a little, but I didn't mind.  When I got to the last hundred yards, I was spent.  It was a good race.

Closing in on the finish

The Pengelly Double and Single Dip honors David Pengelly, an accomplished climber and fellow Missoulian who passed away in 2003.  I like to think that his favorite saying, etched into a rock on the Pengelly Ridge Trail, was about gratitude.

I was grateful to run this race and for those few miles where I could stop taking it all so seriously.  I was grateful that I only tripped once and that the volunteers told us exactly which way to go because I worry about getting lost.  I'm grateful for the people that make these races happen.  And I'm grateful for the growler, which Sam has enjoyed very much.

The growler is mine, the beer is for Sam
 Next up - The Missoula Half Marathon in July!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Running on the Fly

I've been asked for a lot of running advice lately and it made me realize a few things: I actually have advice to give, I should have probably asked for advice when I was a beginner (I pretty much still think I am one), and I should write some of it down.  This might actually help someone, a lot of it is ridiculous, and all of it is true.

1. Get fitted for shoes!  

I can't stress this enough.  I'm lucky enough to live down the street from The Runner's Edge, THE store in Missoula for runners.  If there isn't a specialty store near you, I'd recommend doing this wherever you buy your shoes: try on several pairs, talk to the employee helping you and tell them what kind of running you do/want to do, let them measure your feet, and run around outside in the shoes before you buy them.

2. Dress like a highlighter.

If you run on sidewalks, through intersections, in the dark/in the pre-dawn, the colors of your clothes should come with exclamation points.  Yellow! Blue! Orange! Fuchsia! Please don't hit me with your car!


3. Pay attention to your surroundings, especially when those surroundings have engines.

I've been nearly hit by cars more times than I can count.  (See here for one example).  It sucks when you're really in the zone, but it's important to pay attention for both yourself and the driver.

4. Your mantras will be a little embarrassing.

Mine is "Strong like an Amazon."  It's from Buffy.  I love that show and I don't mean ironically.  I have a couple others; you might have a few as well.  They might be silly, ultra-serious, whatever.  They help me get through that last mile and that's pretty awesome.


5. You may become a gear head.

I want neon pink calf sleeves, a new sports bra, and a Garmin so bad.  A year ago, I didn't even know what compression gear was.  Runner beware: the swag rocks.
6. Side stitches hurt.  Intestinal cramps hurt worse.

That's all I really need to say about that.

7. Ruts happen.

Sometimes you won't be feeling it and that's okay.  I'm talking about when it lasts more than a day or even a week.  I spent this whole winter in a running rut; I just couldn't get out there.  I don't even know what I did instead.  Which brings me to:

8. Mix it up!

Run different distances and try new routes.  Enter a race or set a new goal.  Run some hills.  If you don't have hills, run some stairs.  If you don't have stairs, I can't really help you.

9. The cost of entering races adds up.

But I've never experienced anything that compares.  I love race day.  I have my clothes ready the night before (sometimes they're clean, sometimes they're clean'ish).  I like sitting down to a breakfast I've planned out like I was storming the beach at Normandy.  I like pinning on my number and heading out to the starting line.  I love/hate the nerves and how sometimes I can't sleep the night before.  I love the energy of the crowd, volunteers, and other racers.

Seriously, it's worth it.

10. Runner's high is a real thing.

Why do you think we're all so freakin' happy?  Mine makes me feel like a badass, like I just broke a world record, beat Shalane Flanagan, ran past all my jealous exes, and ate french fries with no consequences.

There you have it.  Ten seemed like a good round number, but I have a feeling I could go on for a while.  So, let's call this "Running on the Fly Part One."  Adios for now!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Recipe Day

My boyfriend, Sam, is a smoothie aficionado.  When he injured his knee a little over a year ago, he said hobbling to the blender was about as much as he could stand at a time.  Now that it's warming up, we've taken to making these together.

I like to portion the fruit out in freezer bags so that I can just toss it in the blender with the juice and yogurt in the morning.  It's a great time saver, especially since I purposely wake up as late as possible without being late to work.

Morning Smoothie

Ingredients: (to save me from typing it a lot, I'll say here - all the ingredients are organic)
1/2 a cup of blueberries
1/2 a cup of strawberries
1/2 a cup of raspberries
1/2 a banana
1/4 cup of pineapple
1 cup of carrot juice
1 large tablespoon of Greek yogurt, plain
1/2 a cup of spinach*
2 tablespoons of whey protein powder*

If your blender is anything like mine and you've frozen the fruit, it helps to take the bag out a little while before you want to make it.  Otherwise, toss in the fruit, carrot juice, yogurt, and blend!

This recipe will make approximately 16 ounces of smoothie, depending on the amount of liquid you use.

*I've modified this recipe from the original post.  I just started adding spinach and protein powder and it's delicious.

Do you have smoothie recipes?  Want to share?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Conservative Runs and Coughing Up Lungs

A couple weeks ago, I was getting ready for something and noticed (if I squinted with both eyes and the lights were dim, maybe I took out one contact) that my body was starting to show real results from training.  Maybe.  I think.  Regardless, with a race coming up, it felt pretty good.

The YMCA Riverbank Run was my second race of the year and I was hoping to see some seconds/minutes shaved from my 5K time.  I have a terrible time psyching myself out, so the week before the race I never uttered the phrase "PR."  I thought it a lot though.

A few days before the race, I caught a cold.  I'm not one to take so much as an aspirin, but this time I bought the pharmacy.  Zicam, Mucinex, multi-vitamins, it's all in my cupboard now.  I took Advil when I spiked a temperature.  I drank water and tried to eat regular meals even though I had no appetite and couldn't taste anything.  I took two days off from work and running.  I felt atrophied.

The race was a Saturday morning and by Wednesday, I felt enough cabin fever to pull off a slightly disastrous four miler.  Thursday, I did a little better at two miles and on Friday, I tried four miles again.

The problem was the breathing.  I couldn't really do it.  My chest was congested, my nose was stuffy, and I was wheezing by a mile out.  On Friday, I took my last Zicam, went to bed early, and hoped for the best.
Pre-race tree pose

The 5K course for the Riverbank Run is probably my favorite of all Missoula races.  It starts downtown and curves through the University of Montana campus, passing through the U neighborhood on the way.  It makes a sharp turn onto the Kim Williams trail and then is a straightaway to the end.

And they're off!

The first mile went great.  It was a beautiful morning, all the runners were chatting and laughing, and there was a guy ringing a giant cowbell about half a mile in.  Partway through the second mile, my stuffy nose caught up with me and I had trouble catching my breath.  It slowed me down pretty significantly.

Huffing and puffing

No, it wasn't my best race, but I had a good time.  Sam and his mom were there cheering and having people cheer for you is one of the best feelings ever.

All the pretty

Lessons for next time:
  • Add speed work.  I have a couple ideas how, Sam to help me with timing, and a track I can use.  I want to make a "need for speed" joke here, but that would be silly.  Right?
  • Nothing beats a positive mindset.  
  • And last, don't get sick.  Like ever again.  
My next 5K is in October where I'll still be chasing that elusive PR.  And next month is the Pengelly Double and Single Dip.  Bring on Mt. Sentinel!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Boston Strong - Missoula

Wow!  I knew Montanans would come out for this, but the turn-out yesterday was incredible.  Together, with 850 participants in the group run, over $16,000 was raised for One Fund Boston.

Thanks go to The Runner's Edge and Run Wild Missoula for organizing this whole thing in barely three days.  You guys are amazing.

Here is a little picture post from yesterday's run:

Moseying around before the start at McCormick Park.

Thank you!

Getting ready to start!

Mike Foote speaking before the start.

And we're off!

Love this woman's Boston license plate!

Hi :)

Almost done.

My main man and photographer.

Runners for Boston <3