Tuesday, November 18, 2014

#runsitka

     I moved to Sitka, Alaska this summer and have been searching for a running group here. Some of my favorite memories and people I have met through running. Running brings me joy. Running challenges me. Running brings both exhaustion and happiness to me.

     I know there are quite a few runners on this small island. I wave at you or smile as we pass one other. Some days I contemplate stopping and asking if you'd like to meet up for a run in the future. I never have. I joined various pages on Facebook but all were/are mostly inactive. So after several months I decided to form a running group myself.

      On Tuesday evenings I will be at Crescent Harbor by the large shelter. (I don't know if there is an actual name for it.) I ask that you arrive around 5:15-5:20 so that we can start the run no later than 5:30. We will run to the airport and back. Dress brightly and in reflective gear. Wear a headlamp if you have one. I know that we all run at different paces and that's okay. If you run faster than me, feel free to run on ahead. If there's anyone behind me than I will wait for you at the turn around point.

     We've officially met up for 2 weeks now and I have to say that it's been a highlight of my week. The first week it was pretty dang cold. This week it was in the 40's, very windy, and rainy. I didn't mind it though because I knew I had other people out there with me. It really motivated me to get out and run. A special thanks to those of you that have joined.

      I have started a #runsitka Facebook group so that we can connect throughout the week. Feel free to join. I'd love to start setting up longer group runs on the weekends too.

       The added bonus of the group name is that you can use it on social media to further connect with group members.

      Consider yourself invited to #runsitka

      HAPPY RUNNING!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Guest Post: Stone Cat Marathon Race Recap

    This post is by my friend Mike Laliberte. We actually have ran 2 races together but did not know one another at the time. I've had the pleasure of corresponding with him about running and training in general for about a year now. Mike did such an awesome job training for and running this race that I really wanted him to write a recap. He had a few setbacks but was able stay positive and overcome them. I have been so inspired and motivated by him and I hope you will be too! He never gives up (he's both stubborn and bad-ass) and his writing always captivates me. Enjoy! 
Photos were taken by Mike's 3 girls.
      Marathons have a way of challenging you, and I don’t mean that they are not challenging in themselves to run, but most often you are left with a certain feeling of unfinished satisfaction. You want more. You are either looking for a better PR, a BQ, an ultra marathon, or a trail marathon. Something else to shoot for. I had previously run 3 road marathons and with each of them I was able to get a better PR (personal record).
    This year I started looking for another road marathon to run with the goal of a sub 4:00 finish, but had to stop my training due to some weird knee pain. The funny thing about this ‘injury’ was that when I ran fast, it did not seem to  bother me at all. So I then decided to try a 5K and ended up running my fastest time ever at 22:59. I then proceeded to run 200 meters on a treadmill at a 5P (12 mph) which was also a record for me. During summer vacation, I started thinking about fall marathons since I felt like my knee issue was better. I came across one that I had heard of before, “Stone Cat Marathon” in northern Mass. It’s a trail marathon put on by ultra marathoners. Because of it’s popularity, there is a lottery to get in and I was lucky enough to make it in. With a mountain climbing trip to Colorado already planned for July, I knew I would have maybe 13-14 weeks to train rather than the more typical 18 weeks. In early September I ran a road half marathon to help with the training, but started off with a really tight calf which I ended up pulling after about 4 miles. I walked the final 9 miles which basically gave me plenty of time to wonder if I had just thrown away the marathon. (Thank you Crystal for your encouragement at this point!). This would end up costing me another week and a half of training time, leaving me the most under-prepared I had been so far. At this point I ended up changing my plans for training and went with all trail running rather than mixing up road and trails.  About one month from the day of the marathon I was able to do a training run on the actual course and that was great for me because it was an eye opener. There were more hills, roots and rocks than I had been training on, this allowed me to see what I was up against. Since I live near the ocean, I hadn’t had a lot of options for daily runs that involved this type of terrain. The turning point for me was when I was able to do a 21 mile run 3 weeks before the race which led to feeling like I was prepared for the marathon and I would probably make it.
    Now on the eve of the marathon after trying my best to hydrate and load up on carbs, I found myself in my hotel getting my stuff together and planning to get up for breakfast at 4:30. This race is also a 50 miler for those who can handle running around 10 hours. I guess on paper I would like to try something huge like that, but not today. Sleeping past 1 a.m. was not really in the cards for me even though there wasn’t much on my mind. I wasn’t really nervous though, I usually have a wave of it hit me sometime during the day or two before the race. 
    It’s nice to stay in a hotel that has a special rate for the runners, it ends up feeling like a hotel party. You can’t miss who the runners are. The atmosphere is kind of special. The morning of the race brought cold but sunny skies. I brought a bag with plenty of stuff including a change of shoes and socks, some food including a handful of gels and Gatorade for the race knowing that the 3 aid stations had plenty to offer. I ended up eating plenty of M&M’s, Fig Newtons, Pringles, and even a piece of Pumpkin Pie. Right before 6:30 the race director gave some instructions as the sound of 2 bagpipes filled the air at the starting line. Ready-Set-Go!
    The course is a 12.5 mile loop, so the marathoners have to run 1.2 miles before getting on the actual course loop. This whole thing takes place in a state forest that is only 2 miles in diameter. There are probably 40 or so turns to make but all had pink signs to make it real easy to follow. The course is a good mix of single and double track but with fresh leaves covering the rocks and roots. Most of the hills are short and steep along with a couple of higher more gentle hills. When you are climbing a hill with plenty of people who decide to walk, you pretty much have to go with the flow. 
I noticed after a couple of miles that my GPS watch started acting funny. The distance that I should be at wasn’t right and my pace seemed too slow. I ended up picking up my pace to keep the possibility of finishing in under 5 hours intact. This was way too early to start to go faster though and so that became a concern too. When I reached the starting line which was the end of the first 12.5 mile loop, I noticed that my distance was a good mile less on my watch than I had actually run. That’s when I realized how off it was, but it did give me hope that I could finish in under 5. I was at 2:23 for the half. The last section coming in and going out goes across a school soccer field and that is where there are plenty of people cheering you on which is always welcome. The second loop started with some nerves that I was going to run out of steam, but after I passed the 2 largest hills I felt like this was still my race to run. One interesting thing was that there is one cutoff that skips about 3 miles of the course and is clearly marked “wrong way” but both times I passed this junction, I saw 1 or 2 people taking the shortcut. I thought, “what good will that do? you are just cheating yourselves!” The two aid stations that are in the woods have the friendliest people ever there to help you, they fill up your drinks for you, try to offer you whatever food sounds interesting, and then help you on your way. Kind of like the old Texaco gas station commercials where you pull in and then 12 people come out to give you gas, clean your windshield, check your tires and all that. You really feel special.
    The last 5 miles are the easiest with opportunities to make up some time if you need to, that is unless you are out of gas. I was doing okay, wondering if and when I was going to hit the “wall” so I just decided to wake up my iPod and get some music to help drive me. For some reason, my new Shuffle would only play in shuffle mode and it kept skipping the few songs that I really wanted to hear. I was real concerned about tripping on roots for those last few miles, because as a road marathoner you get used to zoning out with a level pavement to run on, but here with roots all over, it’s not that easy. You really have to pay attention to where you place every step, you really have to concentrate. I saw plenty of people hit the ground, some hard. It’s not uncommon for people to break bones out there. I heard a lot of stories. Back when I did the training run a month before, there was a guy behind me telling me about his experience running the marathon the year before. He said that a bunch of people sat on the grass afterwards and compared notes and cuts and bruises they got that day. This time he was running the 50 miler. I ended up tripping twice in the last 2 miles, 4 altogether but never hit the ground.
     Once I reached the final mile I knew I was going to finish where I wanted to be, and it was one of my faster miles. Crossing the 1/4 mile field heading to the finish line was a blast for me, I passed some people as I could feel the ground flowing underneath me and could hear the cheering getting louder and louder along with the sound of an acoustic band playing near the finish line, then my daughter running trying to take multiple pics as I got to the clock. There was also an ultra runner just before the line yelling out to me “Sub 5 hours! That’s awesome man!!” It was a great feeling knowing that I finished within my A time goal even though I really just wanted to have fun. My calf that was injured 8 weeks earlier turned out to be a non factor, even though it bothered me to some extent on every training run. My GPS watch showed that I had run only 24.3 miles, which helps explain why my splits were all messed up. I came in #76 overall out of 188 and #17 of 49 in my age group. That works for me!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Spread Kindness & Give Thanks

November is here and with it comes my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.

I know America likes to jump from Halloween to Christmas- don't give in. Stop and give thanks. Better yet, try to be the reason that someone else is thankful.
Volunteer.
Donate.
Go out of your way to show kindness to another.
Smile at strangers.
Open a door for someone.
Bake cookies for your neighbors.

    Every day, dozens of times during the day, we make choices. Do we say hello to the person we pass in the hallway or walk on by? Do we say something encouraging or keep to ourselves? Do we spread joy or create chaos? 

    Remember that even small encounters can impact another human being.
I was recently reminded of this.

    Earlier this year, while I was still living on Cape Cod, I was at the gym working out. As I often do, I struck up a conversation with another gym-goer. He and I ended up chatting for a short bit about running. He said he wasn't really a runner but was interested in it. I quickly told him my story and how running changed my life. I encouraged him to run. We exchanged social media accounts and that was it.

    Well a few days ago he messaged me saying he had ran over 100 miles in October. He thanked me for "waking this passion for running". How cool is that?!

    So I charge you with a mission to spread kindness this month (and always). I know that life happens and we can't always be that bright light for someone else. Let this be a reminder that you are in control of your daily choices. Choose wisely.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cape Cod Memories

    Two years ago I met my best friend Jamie in real life for the first time at the Cape Cod Half Marathon. They actually call it the Cape Cod Marathon Half....but whatever. I am so thankful that Twitter brought us together and that she and her husband traveled out to the Cape to race with me. My life has been forever changed by their awesomeness.

Cape Cod Half Marathon 2012
      One year ago my amazing friends Stuart and Stacey ran their first marathons on the course. I also had the opportunity to meet my Twitter friend Sarah for the first time as she tackled the "Clam Chowdah Challenge". It was another epic weekend.
Cape Cod Marathon 2013
I spectated because I had ran Mount Desert Island Marathon the weekend before.

      I am so sad that I won't be there this year but I can't wait to hear stories from those that are. Have an incredible race weekend. Take photos for me. I am definitely homesick for Cape Cod.

    Also a shoutout to my family and friends running the Monster Dash in KC. My Dad is set to run it as his first 5k alongside a large number of my loved ones. I am also terribly sad that I can't be there. I'm just homesick all around apparently. Have a great race!!



  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

*tap tap tap* Is This Thing On?

Several times a week I think,"I really need to write a blog post." Then I #1 Never find the time to do so. #2 Can't think of anything to write about. Plus with each passing week it feels like my blog post must be even more profound....so then I get frustrated because nothing I say is that profound. (Ha!)

After all this time I have finally decided to give myself a break. I am going through a large life transition and it's okay to slack in some areas. I am sorry that it had to be on this blog. I have at least put forth an effort on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (FOLLOW ME!!) I don't know why this page seems so daunting.

I'm not going to bother with writing a ginormous recap of my life over the past  5+ weeks since my last post. IT'S BEEN BUSY!! I mean, crazy busy. I keep asking myself,"Am I in over my head?" The answer to that is more than likely a big fat yes. I am barely finding time to eat some days. This is no exaggeration. I don't know how I will be able to maintain my life to this level long term. Something has got to give...I just don't know what.

I've been keeping up with my friends races and I have to admit that I am green with envy. I was once a racing machine. Now it has been almost 12 weeks since my last race. That is crazy talk. I have tried to stay motivated and still knock out some mileage but it becomes more difficult every day. I often ask myself WHY? Why am I running all this mileage? I even cut back on mileage and I still ask myself why I am doing it. Is it because it's familiar? Is it because it's part of who I am now? Is it because I fear my friends are going to greatly surpass me in fitness? I don't know. Perhaps it's a bit of everything.

I am thankful that I still find so much joy and happiness in running and fitness in general. I am frustrated because my schedule is rapidly creating less time for it.

Our lives are fluid and things are always changing. I am trying to navigate through this hectic time without sinking the boat. It's just been difficult to do as of late.

All that being said, the reason I am so conflicted and frustrated is because I enjoy all the things in my life. I like my job. I enjoy what I'm doing with it. I enjoy the extra income that it brings to my family. I love to run. I love how it makes me feel. I love that it keeps me fit. I love my workout classes. I enjoy the company of the people there. I love how it has made me stronger. So don't feel too sorry for me...I've brought this all upon myself.

I am sure there are others who have gone through this phase of life or something similar. How did you get back to feeling like yourself again amidst the chaos? I am open to suggestions. I do not enjoy feeling so stressed out about time management.

I think it's necessary to end on a positive note. So, I will tell you that last weekend I ran 16 miles FOR FUN. The husband was at work so I had extra time. It was awesome. Then this week during a kick butt workout I noticed that my arms are really starting to tone up. This greatly excited me. I'll have to post photos soon (check out my Facebook page, for reals). I am also surprised at the workouts that I am able to do. My strength and endurance have definitely increased. I just need to start working on speed again.

Have you had any victories lately, big or small?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Changing Seasons

    It's hard to believe we're already this far into September. Time is moving quickly and I'm hanging on for dear life. This time of year is welcomed by pumpkin and apple flavored everything. By this point most people are so over the heat and humidity. They rejoice at the thought of throwing on a hoodie and snuggling up under a blanket on the couch. In most places you can actually smell autumn in the air and you "ooooo" and "ahhhh" as the leaves turn vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red.

     I adore this time of year.

     Since I'm in a completely different climate here in southeast Alaska, it pretty much felt like fall all summer long. My hoodies, jackets, and boots have already been used quite a bit. All the rain has kept the area nice and green for now. I did pass over one small, lone red leaf the other day while running. It made me smile.

      I feel like my life right now is changing seasons. There are many aspects of my life that are changing and I'm having to adapt to. First of all, I moved to this small island and there are no quick/easy/cheap ways to leave it. I am so many time zones behind a majority of my loved ones. What does this mean? At least three times a week I either accidentally call or text someone SUPER late or they call or text me SUPER early. (I just got a new app to help this situation. I hope it works.) These changes makes me feel slightly disconnected.

       Due to our remote location I already miss small, normal things. I miss being able to go into a store and try on clothes. Although there are a handful of stores here, they are expensive and generally don't carry what I've been looking for. So instead I must order online and wait an extended period of time before receiving my goodies that may or may not fit correctly. I miss Chipotle. ha! I know that I shouldn't confess this, but man I miss it. Actually I really miss just having a variety of restaurants. (sigh) Next time you are able to easily go out for Mexican or Thai...or whatever-Think of me. As I said, things have changed and I'm adjusting.

      Now as far as my relationships go, well I have some pretty incredible people in my life. I'm beyond grateful to have loved ones that genuinely go above and beyond to keep in touch with us. While I'm on the subject I just want to brag a little:

 Jamie and Mike became Ironmen after years of working towards their goal. Janell became a triathlete and has really uncovered a passion for it. MB and Sam are not only incredible athletes, they've also started raising money to bring clean water to small villages in Kenya.

       I'm thankful that even though my relationships have had to change to account for the distance, that they're all still there for me. I'm also extremely grateful for the new friends that I've already made here. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to have Lauren over this weekend and totally geek out together. Good friends make all the difference in the world.

      Another big change is that I'm not training for a fall marathon. Is it weird that I'm a bit envious of people posting about their training? I wish I were training for a marathon. There's no greater feeling of accomplishment. However, it's just not in the cards right now and I'm still learning to accept it. (Not very well either as I've still been logging some decent mileage.) I have opted to broaden my fitness horizons and I started taking classes last week. They are geared towards strength and conditioning. Before my first class I felt like an above average fit person. After my first class I felt really out of shape. It's crazzzzzy how inferior I felt/feel. My body has been aching in all sorts of new places. I can only hope that this cross-training will help build me into a better athlete. It's something I've never considered doing before but I'm adapting to my 'new' life.

       Lastly, I started a new job. What I refer to as my "First Grown Up Job". I have a set schedule. I'm utilizing my education and experience. I'm working full time for the first time in 7 years. (Although for several years I was working part time and going to school so it felt like I was working full time.) I am elated for this opportunity and I hope to greatly succeed in it. On the flip side, the new job is bringing with it its own set of challenges outside of work. Prioritizing time is essential. I just started and I already am overwhelmed with my lack of time. You know this idea called "Meal Planning/Prepping"? Um, yeah... I'm going to need to figure that out-QUICKLY. I know so many of you are experts in juggling all of life's tasks and I look at you in admiration. I know that I will find my balance soon.

       When a new season is upon us we can either embrace it or cling to the past. I'm trying to embrace it. I know there will be growing pains. I know that there will be times I'll need to stop and reevaluate things. I recognize that even though change is scary, it often brings with it the opportunity to grow and mature as a person. I can't wait to see where this new season takes me. Follow along.
   How do you like my new blog design? Since there is so much change going on in my life, I figured this site needed to reflect that.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sitka Cross Trail Classic Half Marathon

    A few weeks ago I was able to participate in this awesome race. It totally blew my expectations out of the water. I am already REALLY looking forward to running it again. In fact, I have a few friends that plan on traveling 4,000+ miles to run it with me.

    Bib pickup the night before the race was quick and easy. I met one of the race directors and she gave me an overview of the course. I loved this personal touch. Plus I realized that the race start was just a few minutes from my front door. It's the first time I've ever been able to walk to the start of a race from my house. That was a definite perk.

The race shirts were long sleeve and I adore the design.
 
    RACE DAY
 
   Since our household goods had arrived a couple days before (we just relocated to Sitka), I was able to sleep in my own bed before the race. YAY!! After 10+ weeks this was awesome!! Due to the close proximity of the start line I was able to sleep until an hour before the start. Double YAY!
 
    I snuck out of the house and did an easy jog to the start. I did a race day no-no and decided to use my brand spankin' new Nathan Hydration Vest. I knew there would be water stops but I was super excited to give it a test run.
 
    I checked in with the organizers as requested and then sat around in the small airport stretching and chatting with Sara. I had met her at the Alpine Adventure Run and it was great to not feel lonely at the start. There was a nice, calm vibe in the crowd. It felt like we were all about to go on a group run together.
 
    The weather was perfection on race day. Complete perfection. It was chilly and foggy at the beginning and warm and sunny during the latter half.
 
    A few minutes before the start they had us gather for a group photo. I love these smaller races!! We all chatted a few minutes after and then lined up for the start. There was also a full marathon option, which required 2 loops. Soon we were off into the fog.

Photo credit to Christine Davenport
 
    During the first two miles I was trying to get adjusted to my hydration vest. There was some adjusting and tightening of straps needed. Once I had it set than it was great for the rest of the race. I enjoyed the run surrounded by like-minded folks.
 
  There were two woman that were near me that were dressed similar to one another and discussing pace. I listened in. I had zero race strategy going into this. I knew the route would be switching back and forth from road to trail a few times. I hadn't ran on about half the course so I didn't know what to expect. It was nice to hear them talk about when they planned on slowing up, because then I knew what I was in for.
 
 
 
    Pretty soon we were cruising into Totem Park. I was a bit nervous that I would somehow take a wrong turn, but everything was clearly marked and the volunteers rocked. Not only were they pointing us in the right direction(s) but they were all exuberantly cheering. I couldn't help but smile every time I passed one of them.
Photo by Harriet McClain
 
    A few people passed me in that section but I really didn't care. I was running at a pace that felt good. I didn't know how much energy I needed to reserve for later so I was a little conservative. I made it through that section of trails and popped back out onto roads.
 
    Just to prove I don't always take great race photos here's one from that section.
Hey look The Pace Twins! (Doesn't everyone nickname other runners?)
 
   There was a police officer to help us with the road crossing. He was awesome and we didn't even have to slow down at all. We ran straight through the intersection and headed towards the forest. I don't remember much about this area except I believe there was a water stop. I was just excited to get on the Cross Trail portion of the course.
 
    By the time I entered the trails again there were three other women directly in front of me (including The Pace Twins). They set the pace for the single track portion. I was beyond happy to be in a small group because the forest can be scary to me when I'm all alone. I felt like we were in this together. They kept a nice pace and it was good to know I had help if a bear jumped out, or I fell on my face. This portion was actually more technical than I thought it would be. Eventually it opened up to the wide gravel path that I recognized.
 
     I felt much more confident. My body was finally starting to feel normal after all the traveling and hotel living in the weeks leading up to this. I started feeling really good at this point in the race. I wanted to pick up the pace but I overheard that a big hill was coming.
Now as you can see my Garmin only logged around 12.5 miles. The GPS always has issues when I'm in the woods here. Anyways, you will notice a few nice inclines.
       I loved the random race signs along the trail. I also enjoyed the few spectators that had made their way out to cheer. On the super steep hills I power walked up them. There was seriously no use in running up and wasting energy when I could walk just as fast, if not faster. It was so beautiful and peaceful.
 
      I found myself completely alone by mile 8.5ish. I remember running by a water stop and asking if I was winning. They laughed and said I was winning the bright yellow socks division. Woot Woot!!
 
     Running across the bridge at the waterfall was incredible. I had never been to that area so it was a special treat for me on race day. There were people there cheering. I don't know if they were there just to cheer or had happened upon the race, but it was nice. One lady yelled out," You're not even sweating! You better run faster." This made me smile and I charged up that last large hill you see. I had planned on walking up but there was a man at the top cheering for me. Okay, he probably wasn't actually there for me....but I really didn't want to disappoint him. So I kicked it into gear and conquered the hill, acting like it was no big deal.
 
     Then that downhill was steep. Actually several of the down hills were a bit nerve-wracking because of the gravel. One slight misstep and I knew I would be scraped up pretty badly. Usually I fly down hills. I had to really restrain myself because I didn't want to get busted up.
 
     After that there was a small out-and-back section and I realized I hadn't really been alone. Runners that were ahead of me cheered me on. When I flipped back around I did the same. I love the running community!!
 
    I decided I could easily pick up the pace now. I cruised down that final sweet downhill, cautiously. Then I turned left onto the road and that's when I realized how messed up the mileage was on my Garmin. I also realized I was going to easily come in below 2 hours. This made me happy since I was having such a fun and joy-filled race.
 
    Once again the volunteers were so awesome!! They were cheering like crazy as I passed by them. I hope they know how their enthusiasm really made this race special.
 
    I was a bit nervous about how running across the rotary was going to go. As I approached it though the lady with the Fire Department (I think that's what her shirt said) was on high alert and she smiled, cheered, and shouted directions at me. I didn't have to slow down at all. The final intersection had a police officer there and he also did a fantastic job at directing runners and traffic. 
 
   Finally I was in the homestretch that is on a walkway by the harbor. There was a lot of pedestrian traffic. I had to dodge a few people. As I neared the finish there was a kid shouting that there was a runner and to please clear a path.
  

     I came through the finish to smiling volunteers and spectators. They also had one of THE BEST post race setups I've ever seen. They had so many food and drink options that I could have easily eaten an entire meal there. I really appreciated all the fresh fruit. I tried to divert my eyes from the donuts and cookies. HA! I chatted it up with other runners about how amazing the race was. I was sad that I didn't have any sort of support system there to celebrate with me. That's just one of the downsides of being new to the area.

Half Marathon #11 in the books!
 
     My fantastic impression of this race didn't end here though. The race photographers totally rocked my world. The race photos were priced at a very reasonable rate AND they donated the proceeds to Sitka Trail Works. This made me want to high five everyone. I happily ordered photos without hesitation. Wait there's more...I contacted the race photographers asking if I could purchase the digital images to use here and they sent them to me at no cost. So flipping cool. Thank you Christine and Harriet.
 
    In our race packets the organizers included a form and envelope to donate to Sitka Trail Works. I know it is much delayed but I'll be passing on the love to them. I really appreciate the fact that this race is about giving back to the community.
 
    So if you find yourself in Sitka, Alaska next August I urge you to sign up for this race. Even if it's a rainy mess that day I promise you'll have fun.