Thursday, May 31, 2012

If you dream it, you can do it in your dreams

A couple things first:  Check out Hanna's blog!
She interviewed me the other day which is...ridiculously good for my ego.  The last time I was interviewed, I was stuck in an elevator at a school dance.
So thanks, Hanna!

Also, I have a running blog roll on the right of my blog.  Through different iterations of the blog, various blogs I love have fallen on and off of the list.  This is for no reason other than laziness and I certainly don't mean to exclude.  So if you want to be there and you have a running blog and we get along and stuff, email me. 

Main Post

In high school, I raced the 3200m in the District championship.  I didn't remotely belong in that race and I felt very intimidated prior to the meet.  The caliber of runners in this meet were far better than me and I was seeded somewhere in the middle of the slow heat. 

My coach took me and my teammate aside the day before and told us to go out in 6:15 to 6:20 pace.

I thought he was crazy.  My PR at the time was a 12:58 and knocking 20-30 seconds off a 2 miler is not easy stuff.

But the next day, I took his advice, and clicked off each 200 meter lap on pace. 
I ran a 12:39 and my teammate ran somewhere around a 12:25 and even though I didn't score any points in the meet, I felt like I'd we'd both won the damn Olympics. 

It was cool to run such a great race and I know I wouldn't have been so aggressive in my pacing if it weren't for the advice of my coach.  His words gave me the confidence to run faster.

So how much of a part does confidence play in running performance?

Most of the time I think "dream big" type confidence building mantras are dumb.  Detrimental even.  I believe in being pragmatic and keeping expectations in check.

I's just the people who made it against all odds who say these things, right? 


But it's hard to say.  I have no doubt that Olympic and professional caliber athletes have to have a huge amount of confidence and belief in themselves.  (I mean come on...Ryan Hall thinks he is being coached by God.Don't even get me started on Steve Prefontaine!   Kara Goucher has spoken about how a lack of confidence has sabotaged many of her races.  

I wouldn't consider myself to be a particularly confident person.   Just ask a slew of annoyed ex-boyfriends of mine who got tired of providing validation.

I've tried to build my confidence in and outside of running.

I've done race visualization.  I've visualized myself running crazy PRs. I started too fast in races chasing crazy PRs and seldom seen it materialize how I wanted it to. I mean, I will try just about anything that someone says worked for them. 

Having big goals can often mean big disappointment.

But, I have no doubt that people often run to the ability they think they have.  I'm convinced this is why runners (myself included) run almost exactly the same time over and over again even if their fitness is at different levels. 

What works for me is putting in the confidence building workouts before racing- it's hard for me to dream big until I feel physically ready.  I have no doubt that my couch in high school told us to go out fast because he saw us running workouts and knew we had PRs in us, not the other way around.

Speaking of goals, I'm running a 10k this weekend.  I've felt pretty good in the past couple weeks, but I don't want to get my hopes up too high. 

Here's the snapshot of McMillan prediction based on a 5 miler I ran back in November. 


If I even come close to that, I'll be a happy girl.   Of course, I'm already dreaming of some crazy PR but I've gotta accept it's unlikely.  Plus I don't even think this 10k is USATF certified, so I might end up running closer to a 5 miler anyways!

Has confidence played a role in your race performances?   If people dream it can they do it, or is that unrealistic?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Brightroom gets useful

A couple days after most races, that dreaded email shows up in my inbox that says "Your Race Photos Are Now Available!".

Even though the race is over, I always get a few butterflies in my stomach fueled purely by vanity as I click through to the pics.  

"God, I hope the camera really does add ten pounds". 

Basically my goal is to not look like a Yeti.

It's sometimes achieved. 

Lately though, I've been thinking there are some other thoughts to take from Brightroom.   Thoughts like "What the F is up with my form?".

There are all sort of advice that you can read about having good form.  Keep a quick cadence, drive your knees forward, try to minimize vertical motion, don't twist too much, and keep your elbows at 90 degrees.

Improving your form can help prevent injury and make you a faster runner. 
It'll make you look like these super fast looking dudes with great form:

After looking at my race pictures online, it's pretty clear I'm doing at least 78% of it wrong.  Granted, most of these bad pictures are near the end of the race when my form breaks down.  But that doesn't mean it's not a problem.

Let's take a look at exhibit A from the Eugene marathon.


Unless I was trying to push the person to the right out of my way or run the slowest marathon possible, I'm pretty sure it's time to stop twisting and flailing my arms around.

But that's not the only problem:


You know that part about having a short but fast stride and minimizing vertical motion?  Guess I missed the memo on that one too.

So I've decided it's time to do something about it.  I'm not sure I'm going to get much faster without trying to iron out some kinks anyways.

When I run, I've been focusing on keeping a short and quick stride.  This has added benefits of helping my right knee that's been sore for a while.  One of these days, I'll start doing high knee and butt kick drills too, but only after my neighbors agree not to have me committed when they see me doing drills outside their door.

I've also been doing some very minor strength training.  Really minor like pushups and situps before bed.  I've also made a deal with myself that if I go to the gym, I have to pick up a free weight, even if it's for 30 seconds.

I'm not 100% sure this will make me a better runner, but it can't hurt, right?

And if it does hurt, I can go back to my Batman meets Chubby Checker style of running. 

Have you ever tried to improve your form?  With any decent results? 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Running Stuff I've Tried Lately!

Over the past couple months, I've either received or bought a lot of running related stuff.  I thought it would be nice to give a quick review to some of it.  I hope this post doesn't bore the crap out of you.  If it does, tell me, and I won't do it again.=)  Also, I'd love to hear about any awesome running gear you've tried out lately in the comments!

I want to be as transparent and honest as I can be about what I got for free and what I purchased.   So, a "*" means it was sent to me.    

Running-wise, everything is going ok.  My legs are still recovering from Eugene/Ragnar and I've done a couple very relaxed speed sessions.  I also signed up for a 10k in three weeks, but I'm unsure of whether I'll be ready for it.  I don't want to disappoint myself by setting expectations that are too high, but it would also be fun to run a shorter race.  Guess I'll see what my legs decide in the next couple weeks!

Running Gear 

Run Pretty Far Tank* ($36)

What I Like:  This tank is pretty awesome.  It fits really well and the rest of the girls on the relay team agreed that it was very flattering.  The fabric is light and skims the body.   I also like that it isn't too tight fitting (I have a small), strappy or low cut.
What I'd Change: As cute as the saying "j'adore hardcore" is, I'm just not one for words on my shirts.
Bottom Line: 8/10. A cute and unique running shirt that could be worn casually as well.  A buy.  

Mizuno Rider Tee* (On sale for $20, regularly $40)

What I Like:  This is a good staple running shirt with simple styling and a flattering fit (especially if you are curvy because it definitely comes in at the waist!).
What I'd Change:  While this is a good basic and does everything you'd want in a sport shirt, the styling is almost too simple for me.
Bottom Line: 7/10 A good addition if you're looking for running basics. 

Mizuno Maverick Split Short* ($15 - $36)

What I Like: This is a really great racing short (I wore it for Eugene).  The 2" inseam, the slight split, and the light fabric makes it perfect for me.  I also like that it doesn't come up on the sides as much as other shorts (like Nike Tempos), which is way more flattering on my hips.
What I'd Change: More pockets.  The little key one is not enough.
Bottom Line: 9/10. Favorite shorts for racing.

Lululemon TaTa Tamer Sports Bra ($58)

What I Like: Keeps you in place even if you are endowed and is really cute.  I don't care too much about padding and separation and stuff, but let me say this bra might make you look like you have fake boobs.  If that's your goal, this is a must have.
What I'd Change: Not a fan of the clasps in back or the absurd price ($58).
Bottom Line: 7.5/10. Cute and very functional but be prepared to pay 2x of a normal sports bra price.

Lululemon Recognition Pant ($98)

What I Like: Um pretty much everything.  The little top and bottom ties make it so that this pant is actually the right length on me.  There are front seams that look nice.  It's also ridiculously flattering on athletic legs.
What I'd Change: The absurd Lululemon price.  More pockets.
Bottom Line: 9.5/10.  I am convinced this is the best offering at Lululemon, period.  If you only buy one thing, get these.

Compression Gear

ProCompression Socks (and shorties)* ($50)
What I Like: There are a lot of crappy compression socks out there on the market (like random tube socks), and these are the real deal.  Good for taller and bigger runners due to the length of the sock.  There are cute argyle designs as well!
What I'd Change:  I felt like the socks should be a little tighter on me, and I had an XS.
Bottom Line: 7.5/10.  A great compression sock, especially if there's a a coupon out there (sometimes there are!) and if you're tall.

SL3S Compression Socks ($60)

What I like: The butterfly design option is honestly what sold me.  They also have a legit compression feeling that is great for me.
What I'd Change: The price is pretty high unless there is a discount. They can get uncomfortable if you wear them all day.
Bottom Line:  8/10.  Tight fit, feels nice, cute butterflies.

Aspaeris Compression Shorts* ($60)

What I Like: These are great for lounging around in post race.  They really make it easier for me to walk when I'm super sore. Guess the shorts are holding something in right. (technical, I know).  I enjoy sitting in them more than running in them.
What I'd Change: The design.  I'm not sure why, but I don't look that cute in them.   Also, they don't hold up well in the drier.
Bottom Line:  6.5/10. Great if you're looking for a reasonably priced compression short for recovery (compression is expensive!).  


Click Coffee Protein Drink* (~$3 per serving)

What I Like: The nutrition facts.  I'm a huge fan of stuff with protein and caffeine.  Sounds like a good way to start the day not hungry.
What I'd Change:  This review is a bit unfair because I don't like powdered drinks much or sweet coffee.  That said, the drink is kind of clumpy and too sweet for me.
Bottom Line: 5.5/10.  Good if you're looking for a quick pick-me-up that's better than 5-hour energy.

Honey Stinger Energy Chews ($2.19 per packet)

What I Like: I could eat these as candy.  They seem more natural/organic than many other energy foods on the market.
What I Don't:  The price point is a little higher than other comparables.  The 160 calorie mark is sort of awkward for me (is this one gel or two?).   
Bottom Line: 9/10.  My favorite energy food out there.  Perfect if you like honey and fruit flavors.


Bic Bands* ($10-$12 each,I got a couple sent to me and I've already purchased more!)

What I Like:  There are a lot of no-slip headbands on the market and Bic Bands are my favorite. There's a huge selection of colors and designs, the price point is relatively low, and they donate a lot to charities.   There're also some reflective headbands that I love.
What I Don't:  There's not a whole lot they could improve, in my opinion.  
Bottom Line:  10/10.  These don't slip, are cute, and the company gives to great causes. 

RoadRunner Sports The Stick($22+ depending on size)

What I Like:  This stick changed my world after Ragnar Ultra.  It feels great and gets the knots out of muscles. Everyone I've talked to likes it better than a foam roller.
What I Don't: I'm not convinced I actually recover faster using this.  Also, if you try to carry it on a plane, the TSA might not let you.
Bottom Line: 8.5/10.  A better investment than getting a massage. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I had a weekend.

I've resolved to have more fun, and this weekend, I did.  Running has taken a temporary backseat and the living is easy.  (Thanks for the suggestions to do RLRF next training cycle though.  I agree). 

My pants are already tighter, and I don't even care. Ok...I care a little bit, but I'll be back at it soon enough.   It was the weekend of beer and doing running stuff with other people. 

Part 1:  Beer

My roommate and a coworker of hers decided they were going to the OC Beerfest on Saturday.  And they wanted to get the VIP tickets for $50 and four hours of uninterrupted beer tasting.  Sounded like the perfect post-marathon week Saturday. 

And it was.

Mini cups in hand, we toured the dozens of breweries with offerings available.  A surprise favorite was the Inland Empire brewing company!  909, baby!  

And the absolute best was the ShockTop Lemon Shandy.  I know it's not a microbrew but I couldn't help myself.  It was like all the refreshment of lemonade and all the taste of a beer. Sigh....

 Unfortunately, I did not get the memo that it was plaid skirt and fishnets day..

Some of the pros at the Beerfest were wearing pretzel necklaces to eat with the beer.  We didn't come that prepared, but didn't stop us from having a fantastic time. 

After several hours of beer sampling, and eating things like kangaroo sausage (it's actually not that good, by the way), it was time to call a cab to get back home. 

2) Neon Blonde + Me

The issue we failed to consider was that hundreds of other people were also counting on catching cabs to take them home.   I needed to get back to my place so I could meet up with Neon Blonde Runner who was in town to run the OC marathon and was staying with me.  I called her to tell her I'd be a bit late, and she graciously offered to come pick us up. 

While I was on the phone with her, several fights started breaking out around us amongst the drunk-angry-cab seekers.  I assured Katherine that I was indeed a classy human being, and waited for her and her boyfriend to save us from this mess.

A half hour later, and after witnessing more gross things than I've care to blog about, NeonBlonde and her boyfriend came to save us!  A heroic end to a fun afternoon.

Remember how Sweaty Emily and Oual met in a fortuitous cross country trip and then became best friends forever?

Well meet "Neon Blast Bunny".

No, of course it is not weird to have random strangers stay at your place if you've already met them on the internet! 

Katherine, her bf, and me drove around Newport and settled in at the Newport Brewery company.  She was exactly how I expected her to be on her blog.  In a very good way. Probably closer to my expectations than anyone else I've met! 

We found out we had some random things in common (grew up in neighboring DC suburbs, almost went to the same high school, had mutual friends, etc.).   I was also focusing on staying awake at this point.  I wasn't drunk, but the wonderful combination of many kinds of beer and kangaroo sausage brewing in my stomach wasn't exactly making things easy. 

I was excited when it was time to go home and Katherine and her bf were soon fast asleep due to a 4:30 AM wakeup call.   (she ended up running a 3:26 the next morning!!). 

3) A Massive PR

Long story short (because this blog entry is getting very TLDR), I ran the last four miles of the PCRF half marathon with my friend Heather the next morning.

I ran to mile 9 of the course and wandered around like a vagrant for a while, randomly cheering on people on the course.  I saw my friends Chiara, Monica, and Pam killing it.  Then I saw Heather

She looked uncomfortable but determined.  I tried to be as good of a pacer/companion as possible and to be motivating without being mean or annoying.  Hard to saw whether I accomplished that, and the second half of the course was a gradual uphill which did not help.   I have to say, I was feeling a bit like a douchey version of Bob Harper when I said things like "It's supposed to hurt!  That means you're doing it right!". 

But Heather raced like a champ, and pulled in the race with a massive 19 minute PR.  She also raised something like 6k for pediatric cancer research but you know.....NBD....

It was really cool to be a part of her race and to see her lay it down at the end.  Conclusion:  Heather's a dang champ.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lessons I'm Trying To Learn

During my orientation week of business school (almost four years ago, holy crap), a marketing professor made a presentation about Nike and Reebok in the 1980s.

Both came out with campaigns with catchy slogans.
Reebok's was "Let U. B. U.", and Nike's was "Just Do It".  You can probably guess which one was the success and which one was the huge failure.

The Nike campaign featured some of the best athletes on the planet kicking butt and then the "Just Do It" slogan.  (The best athletes wearing Nike is still a thing! Ahem Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan).  

The Reebok commercials?  They were kinda weird.  Well see for yourself:


The commercial featured a bunch of people who look like they escaped from an insane asylum doing crazy things and wearing Reeboks.  Kind of fun to watch, but doesn't really make me want to buy the shoes.  No wonder the thing bombed, right?

But I like the slogan.

"Let You Be You".  (or U. B. U. if you use their ridiculous spelling). 

I totally didn't do that when I was training for Eugene / Ragnar.  

It's important to understand what works for your body and I spent most of the time telling my body that it was an asshole.  

I spent most of the last couple months really disliking running and feeling sore all the time.  Pushing harder than I should.  This definitely didn't work for me physically or mentally.  I felt myself get slower.   Or at least less motivated. 

I really want to improve as a runner.  I want to be faster, love it more, be able to push harder.  So here's what I'm trying to learn.   Basically I want to take a more balanced approach to training in the future and hopefully that will pay off in loving running more and faster times! 


1)  Recovery: It takes forever for my legs to feel ok after a race.  So I need to let my legs recover after working out.  It seems like so many of my blogger friends are able to bang out race after race and be ok.  I'm totally jealous they are so awesome but I gotta remember that's not me. 

2) Mileage:  Right now, it doesn't seem like I can handle 50+ mile weeks without having really heavy legs.  Maybe I could gradually increase my mileage, but a jump from around 30 to 50 in a couple months was too much for me.

3)  Cross Training:  Not only do I think road biking is a blast, I also think it makes me a better runner.  In the interest of increasing running miles, I stopped biking as much.  Bad idea.  Cross training is a good mental and physical recovery for me.

4) Treat an A race like an A race:   I am the world's worst planner.  This may sound crazy, but it wasn't until a couple months back that SarahOual pointed out that Ragnar Ultra and Eugene were a week apart that I realized it.  Accidental bad planning or not, I didn't treat either as an A race.  And yet I expected an A results.  My bad ;-).

5) Races are not like a Pop Tart: As Sarah so cleverly pointed out, marathons (and other races as well...and life), are not like a Pop Tart.   Insert hard training into microwave and pull out deliciously toasty race of life?  Doesn't always work that way.  That's life, right?

6) Keeping Up With the Badasses: Stop looking at other people's training and thinking "if they are doing that, I should be doing more".  A quick recipe to feel crappy about your own training and abilities.

7) Getting A Life: I forgot to get a life. I need to have more fun in a training cycle.   That means more going out with friends, finding cool events, hanging out with Tupac holograms, and going to the OC Beer Fest. Some of those things might not be true, but you get the idea.

What works for you in your training?  Any other suggestions for how I can become a better (but not stressed out) runner?

A quick shout out to everyone running tomorrow at PCRF and the OC marathon.

And if you haven't given to Team Gab yet, go do it!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eugene Marathon Recap (for real)

I'm ready to end my pity party in the last post and recap like an adult.  Thanks for reading the last post and for your comments. 


I got to Eugene on Friday night after driving down from Portland with Anthony. We met up with SarahOual and Emily for some food and drinks.
Super Flattering Photo Courtesy of OUAL
I was immediately struck by how gosh darn cute Eugene is.  Full of flowers, green hills, and damn good breweries.  I can see why people love it.

The next day, we met up with Mason (of nuun) and his gorgeous family at Off The Waffle. I am not someone who is usually struck by breakfast food (it all kind of tastes the same to me), but HOLY CRAP y'all.  These waffles are no joke. I got one with cheese, pears, and walnuts on it, but Anthony won this round.  He got the waffle with egg, bacon, cheese, and extra special love because it was amazing.  I've honestly been wondering how we can get back to Eugene just to eat more of them.
Another stolen photo from Emily Sweats!
We picked up SR at the  airport, picked up our packets, and somehow managed to get free tie dye t-shirts at the Expo AND see Lauren Fleshman.  Good stuff.  We cooked a "running fam" pasta dinner, watched "Without Limits" and I nearly peed my pants in nervousness when I thought about running the marathon the next day. 

Also from OUAL.  I'm sorry guys, I sucked at pictures this weekend.
A few sleepless hours later, it was go time.

Race Day

We woke up, got ready to some sort of pump me up music and Anthony drove us to the start.   He kissed me goodbye and before I knew it, it was time to go.

SR had a plan to basically write up all the splits herself, and I would run without a Garmin. Actually, I was supposed to run without a watch at all. The plan was to try for a 3:25 and hope for better.  In retrospect, this was probably too ambitious given that my legs were still noticeably sore from Ragnar 2 days before Eugene.  But hindsight is 20 20, I suppose.   This didn't really register with me at the time. 

We set off the first few miles around a 7:50 pace.  And it actually felt pretty good.  SR was telling me things like "run the tangents" and getting me water or gatorade from the aid stations.  It was actually pretty cute (and wonderful) how serious she was taking her job as a pacer. 

At some point, we ran by Lauren Fleshman and SR yells "Lauren, I want to have your babies!" or something to that effect.  Funniest part of the race, for sure! 

Around mile 10, I was starting to feel not as good.  And what felt even worse is that in a marathon, if you're starting to feel tired at mile 10, this doesn't bode well for the rest of the day.   We went through the half around 1:42:40, which was right on pace.  But I was already feeling hot and not relaxed.  I told Sarah we were going to need to readjust goals.  That today wasn't my day, and we should aim for a 3:30.   I'm not sure if this was a mental defeat at this point, but I don't think so.  I really don't think my body wasn't ready to book 20 miles at 7:50 and then race.

As the miles clicked on, I tried to take things one mile at a time.  By around mile 17, Sarah was saying things like "Just 2 laps to make it to next mile marker.  You're a great track runner, that's nothing."  I was probably the worst running partner in the world because at that point, I was just grunting in response. 

By around mile 21, I was getting really hot.  It's weird...I really love racing in 40 degree weather, and anything hotter than that is tough for me.   I also started looking at my watch.  Sarah continued talking me up.  "You put in the time training, now this is where you show it!".   By around mile 22, I figured I could pull a 3:32, but almost definitely would not break 3:30.  I just wanted it to be over.

Finally we saw the mile 26 marker.  It was probably the most beautiful thing I've seen in a while. 

As we rounded the corner into Hayward Field, I told myself to run this 200m like I the 200m.   I sprinted in with all that I had, and as I crossed my legs collapsed underneath me.  Dramatic flourish as always. 


Sarah held me up, walked me to the finish area and got us some snacks.   Some blog readers recognized her (as others did along the whole course!) and we talked with them for a moment.  We then met up with Anthony (who had brought a picnic basket of booze for the girls, no joke) and then saw Emily, who ran a damn 3:08 (wow!) and SarahOual who ran a massive PR at 3:37. 

Another blatantly stolen photo

Post Race Thoughts

The Bad:  As I mentioned before, I didn't run anywhere near where I wanted to at this race. That said, marathons are weird (maybe that's what makes them kind of magical?) and I ran Ragnar Ultra the week before.  I also didn't see great results during my training cycle.  
This race was not a lot of fun for me.  It was beautiful, and flat, but I just couldn't enjoy it.  Burn out, I suppose.  Nothing against Eugene, for sure.  It's a beautiful town.

The Good: I did the best I could.  I had an AWESOME and encouraging pacer/friend running with me the whole time. 
I had great friends here and Anthony as well.  This time was still a small PR and that's better than nothing. 

What's Next :  I am going to spend the next couple weeks taking it very easy.  I'd love to run some shorter races and do a sprint tri this summer.  I'd also like to take the time to recharge and get excited about running again.  It might take a little bit of time, but I hope to come back strong and ready to go.

Blame It On Your Brain

This weekend, (as you probably know if you're a running blog reader), I ran the Eugene marathon.  I'll write the recap, but this is not it.  I'd rather get the emo stuff out now and try to make the recap more fun.

I have very mixed feelings about the race. I ran a 3:32:40. 

That's about 2 and a half minute PR.

I am SO thankful for a few things:
1) My boyfriend Anthony came down and hung out with us girls the entire weekend.  He got up, drove us to the start, took pictures, drove me back up to Portland, etc.  And he was a sweetheart about it. 

2) Sarah (SR) ran with me the WHOLE time.  She researched the best way to pace me, spoke with others, wrote damn splits on her arm, got me water at almost every aid station, was SO encouraging at the end, and didn't let me hit the track ground during my overly dramatic finish as my legs pretty much gave out.  I have no doubt I finished better with her than I would have on my own.  What a great friend.

3) Eugene and the people there:  It was a great weekend and a beautiful town. It was great to see friends and meet new ones.

But I'm finding it really hard to be thankful for my race.  I know a 3:32 marathon isn't a BAD time.  However, about a year ago, I ran Boston on almost no training in a time not too far off from this one.

This training cycle, I poured my heart and time into making this a great PR race.  I figured a 3:20 was a stretch and a 3:25 was reasonable.   I have never tried so hard for anything in my running "career".   And I came up very short. 

It's not that I didn't give Eugene my all.  I did.  I had a great pacer, good weather, great support.  I could blame this on the Ragnar Ultra last week.  I could blame this on over training in general.  But, I don't know what led to me not reaching my goals.  I know it's still a PR but I also know that this does not feel good. 

So instead of giving you excuses, I will give you Milli Vanilli:

Gotta blame it on something (gotta blame it on something)