Well, folks, the inevitable has finally occurred: I have appeared in my very first “bad” race photo. I knew it was coming. Everything had lined up perfectly for me to score some incredible shots at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot—I felt great, the weather was terrific, all of my smiles were genuine. But I never once caught the eye of a photographer on the course, and I didn’t even see this one at the finish. C’est la vie!
Running on Thanksgiving is typical for me, but I can’t remember the last time I signed up for an organized trot. Registering for the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K was a no brainer—it fit perfectly into my training plan, and it was sponsored by the Sharks Foundation (which was enough to convince Michael K. Farrell to run).
Bright and early Thanksgiving morning, Michael K. Farrell and I donned our race tees, and joined the purple-clad crowd in the “6 to 7” corral. My plan was to do an easy 6 miles, so lining up just behind the pros made me anxious. (I didn’t want to hold sevens for the entire race!) My fear dissipated shortly after taking off, when I realized most of the runners around me weren’t dropping into a higher gear at the beginning either.
One of the largest trots in the nation, 23,552 people participated in the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K and 5K events this year. That’s a lot of people! Surprisingly, though, the course didn’t feel congested. The route started toward downtown, hooked left through Japantown, then meandered over to The Alameda, and took us on a tour through the neighborhood.
Michael K. Farrell and I ran side by side until around mile 4, when he picked up the pace just slightly during a left turn. I weighed my options—I could push myself to keep up, or I could stick to my plan and enjoy the run. I decided to be on my own for a bit, but I didn’t exactly let him out of sight. (I finished in 52:48, just 30 seconds behind him.)
Michael K. Farrell was waiting for me with a big smile just beyond the finish line. I pretended to be annoyed that he had attempted to leave me in the dust at first, and then gave him a huge sweaty hug.
We refueled with water and bananas in the park beyond the finish line, then started heading back to the car. That’s when my lower back decided to give me something I wasn’t so thankful for—a terrible muscle spasm. Suddenly, I could barely walk and I had to drop to the ground to do a couple of spinal twists. It put a damper on the drive home, and it certainly doesn’t bode well for my upcoming secret marathon. (I rethinking my strategy for that, and questioning whether or not I should even toe the start line.)
The rest of our day was spent with food and friends, which is exactly how Thanksgiving should be! I hope you all enjoyed the day!
Which moments from last week are you still thankful for?
What does National Kale Day have to do with marathon training? Honestly, nothing. But if you keep reading, I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with some clever connection.
I’ve been a lazy runner lately. My butt started acting up again this summer, so I didn’t sign up for any fall races, and recently I’ve only been running when I feel like it, usually no more than 3 miles in any given stint. This year, running just hasn’t felt as important to me. Like any relationship, the one I have with running ebbs and flows; there are times of intense passion and moments when I take the love for granted.
When I lived in New York City running was my escape from the stress of work and living with a bazillion people. The 6-mile loop in Central Park served as a refuge, a place where I could feel alone (though I never had the park all to myself—I was living with a bazillion people!). Today, my life appears to be 180-degrees different. I’m often alone. I work from home and set my own schedule, and I’ve never had so much space in my life. There are wide-open parks everywhere in the Bay Area, and Californian’s are so much more relaxed than New Yorkers—no one ever seems to be in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.
I still want to get faster, that’s always been my back-of-mind running goal, and I still tend to push myself on those easy 3-milers. But my endurance has really tanked and I want to get that back—I miss the mind space of a long run, and the feeling of accomplishment, so I’ve put myself on a marathon training program. I have my sights set on a race that I haven’t registered for yet, and I’ve decided to “decide later” on whether or not I will actually line up for the start. If I do, it will simply be to complete. I just want to have fun and go long.
Now, back to kale. Part of the reason for the lull in my running relationship has to do with my focus on food lately. After graduating from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition earlier this year, I’ve attempted to gain traction as a health coach. I’ve set up a private practice, read a bazillion books on diets, and started consulting with a start-up (so very Silicon Valley of me!) that’s teaching people how to eat better. I’m so consumed with healthy eating, there are days I forget to make myself lunch. It’s not a surprise that I forget to run, too.
My brain has turned to kale. And while kale seems to be getting more than its 15 minutes of fame, I’m still a big fan of the green stuff and I’m so happy there’s a group of people who love it as much as I do (if not more!). I hope you all have big plans to celebrate National Kale Day! Be sure to raise a fork to me and wish me well as I train for my secret marathon.
What’s your favorite kale recipe? And what are you training for now?
There are so many reasons why I enjoyed the Esprit de She Palo Alto 5K last Thursday. The course was a flat, out-and-back that almost guaranteed a speedy time, the pre- and post-race market and giveaways were phenomenal (they had healthy sandwiches and champagne at the finish!), the race shirts are actually wearable (in public, even), and the sound system pumped out killer tunes all night. No detail was left to chance—even the porta potties were impeccable.
Clearly, Esprit de She throws a good party! It didn’t hurt that everyone who toed the start line was in a good mood. (Apparently, free mini-massages and manicures are great for calming pre-race nerves.) Even fellow blogger Paulette from Just Keep Running was sporting a fantastic smile for this after-work, mid-week event when I bumped into her at the registration tent.
It also didn’t hurt that I managed to finish with a terrific time—23:58. Yay!
I was rested and hydrated going into the race, I had visualized finishing strong, and I ran an easy warm-up mile beforehand to keep my legs loose. But I’ve done all of this leading up to other races too, without such a stellar result. There must have been something special about this experience that allowed everything to line up just right for me. In my head, I keep going back to those porta potties.
It’s the little things that make a big difference at races. Having a clean place to use the bathroom before heading to the start corral is just one of them. Instead of feeling icky and worrying about accidentally touching a dirty seat, I was able to stay focused on the race itself. And honestly, even if the stars hadn’t lined up and provided the opportunity for me to race well, I’d probably still be thinking about those potties—they were that impressive!
Well done, Esprit de She!
Think you’ll sign up for an Esprit de She event now? What are the little things that make a race great for you?
The inaugural Sharks Fitness Faceoff benefitting the Sharks Foundation on June 30 was a blast! I had typical pre-race jitters in the parking lot, but once the event got started I was able to relax into a steady 8:30 pace. Like any first year event, the organizers got a few things wrong. Luckily, the goals outnumbered the penalties.
GOAL: Something for everyone. The event had an activity to suit every fitness level, including 50- and 22-mile bike rides, 5 and 10K runs, a kids run around the arena, and a health festival with booths touting everything from massages to sensible footwear.
GOAL: Street closures! I love running where cars usually drive, and it was pretty awesome to take over the streets of downtown San Jose. The loop course went by the San Jose Museum of Art, offered up some challenging overpass hills along the Guadalupe Parkway and Hedding Street, and then flattened out on The Alameda and neighborhood streets back to the arena.
PENALTY: The 10K course was short. I was expecting a regulation 10K that morning, so when someone started their kick with more than half a mile to go (according to my Garmin) I was incredibly confused. I picked my head up to confirm that we were closer to the end than I’d realized, and kicked it into a higher gear for a speedy finish of my own. My watch reported a 5.89-mile run, and I later confirmed the truncated distance using Google maps. Such a bummer!
PENALTY: Not enough liquid at the finish. The race organizers probably weren’t expecting such a large turn out, because they ran out of Gatorade and water at the finish line very quickly. Luckily, I wasn’t too thirsty and I had a stash of water in the car.
GOAL: Great race photos! There were only a couple of photographers peppered along the backstretches of the 10K course, but I managed to smile for all of them. (Looking good in race photos seems to be my M.O!)
Have you ever noticed a course was shorter than it claimed?
I’m not going to sugar coat anything about this race experience—it was a scorching hot day and I was cranky. Who knew the heat would turn out to be my biggest obstacle in a Pretty Muddy 5K?
Michael K. Farrell and I woke up early for the drive to the start line at Granite Park in Sacramento, CA. (Thanks to Michael K. Farrell’s lead foot, we covered those 127 miles in just under 2 hours. Whoa there, speedy!) I had signed up for an 11:00am wave, thinking it would be a good idea to have extra time to get there (just in case we hit traffic, took a wrong turn, got a flat—none of those scenarios happened, but I like to be prepared).
Once there, I checked in at the registration tent and got the lay of the land. It was 9:00am and racers and their families were already jockeying for position in what little shade they could find as they waited for their waves. (Clearly, I didn’t consider the heat of the season when I registered for this shindig back in February.)
I volunteered to participate in an Old Navy fashion show, so I quickly changed out of my clothes into a cute pair of shorts, sports bra, and tank. (I can’t say, “No,” to the spotlight—or a free outfit.) I hammed it up with a few squats and jumping jacks, and then put my own race duds back on.
Pretty Muddy is designed to be a fun run. There are no clocks on the course, and women come out with their girlfriends for a day of running, challenging obstacles, and mud. Everyone was super friendly, but I was insecure about not having a partner. I didn’t have a BFF by my side when I lined up at the start that morning, and I felt a little left out.
Instead of relaxing and having a good time, I started to obsess about getting the whole thing over with and going home. I pushed myself to run between every obstacle and up every hill—even though the 94-degree heat was demanding that I slow down. I just kept looking at my watch and moving on.
Then something magical happened: My watch got “pretty muddy” while crawling through one of the pits, and I wasn’t able to read the numbers anymore. No matter how many times I tried to wipe it away, the dirt remained. There I was a mile from the finish without a friend, without a clear watch, overheating. I realized I had two choices: I could keep scowling and slog my way to the finish, or I could accept the situation, stop worrying about splits, and try to make some friends out there. I decided to smile.
I gave out high-fives, thanked the volunteers, and cheered on my fellow runners during that last mile. Michael K. Farrell got the biggest smile of all as I came across the field toward the finish arch. He deserved a hug for being my BFF and cheerleader on such a hot day—but he refused my embrace until I’d hosed off.
All in all, this Pretty Muddy was a pretty awesome experience. Getting dirty while running a 5K is oddly satisfying, and it’s a great way to break up your standard training routine. Will I do it again? Yes, but next time I’ll recruit some friends and pick a cooler time of year.
Have you ever done a Pretty Muddy? What’s your biggest obstacle on hot days?
I’m my own boss, so I don’t really have anyone to answer to if I decide to slack off work for the afternoon and go for a run—which is exactly what I’m doing today.
National Running Day is the best day of the year to be a runner! With organized group runs around the country, there are tons of opportunities to celebrate with others who love the sport. Or to introduce your passion to someone new—take a friend out for an easy jog around the neighborhood!
It’s also a great day to reevaluate your running goals for the rest of the year. The chill of winter kept you inside, spring got you back into your running groove, and now that it’s summer you owe it to yourself to set some goals! Maybe it’s time to add more miles, toss in a weekly track workout, or sign up for a fall race. The options are endless, so have fun deciding how to challenge yourself next!
My plan for the second half of 2013 is to keep up the momentum. I’m super excited for a weekend of racing at the end of this month: Pretty Muddy 5K in Sacramento, Saturday Jun 29, and Sharks Fitness Faceoff 10K in San Jose, Sunday June 30. Then, I’ve got a half-marathon on the calendar in mid-July. I’d like to race in the fall, and I’m waffling between registering for another half-marathon or going all out and doing a full 26.2.
Scheduling work and personal life around a half-marathon is a lot easier than fitting in marathon training. Still, I’m pretty sure the boss would be OK with me taking a day off here and there to squeeze in extra miles or rest. Decisions… Decisions…
How are you celebrating National Running Day? What’s your running plan for the second half of 2013?
When I ran the Boston Marathon in 2011, I didn’t think I was good enough to be there. I didn’t qualify for my bib—I got it through the magazine I was writing for at the time, and I felt like a hack when I toed the start line. I wasn’t fast enough. I didn’t train hard enough.
I had a terrible run. The first half downhill ripped up my quads, and then I ran out of steam on the Newton hills, Heartbreak indeed. I finished in 4:23:44, and figured I deserved the slow time and the sore muscles because I didn’t belong there—that was my punishment for pretending that I did.
The pain I felt during those 26.2 miles in 2011 was nothing compared to the shock and sadness that coursed through me yesterday.
I wasn’t there, and yet I was. I’d been following the race all morning—sending positive vibes, cheering on friends from my kitchen table 3, 133 miles away.
I wasn’t open enough to realize it at the time, but Boston did belong to me, and it still belongs to me now. As runners, Boston belongs to all of us.
A course that’s just as hard for the pros as it is for the plodders, Boston is the marathon of marathons. We yearn for it, we’re in awe of it, we push ourselves for the opportunity to tackle it one day, and we’re proud of our friends for achieving the honor of entry.
No matter what brought us to the start line, no matter what happened at the finish, Boston is ours and it always will be.
You know that flat feeling your legs get when you’re running in dead sneakers? I had that feeling on Monday, so at the end of a 3-mile lollipop route instead of heading home, I hung a left and ran directly into Running Revolution. (This small shop just off the main drag of Downtown Campbell is definitely worth a stop if you’re in the market for new shoes.)
In seconds, I went from “flat” to “fantastic.” After trying several brands and styles, I walked out with a brand new pair of Brooks Glycerin 10. I practically hugged the box all the way home! (Running with a shoe box is awkward, so I was forced to walk.)
I was on such a shopping high that I went on a registration binge, too. I have now signed up for three upcoming races, and I couldn’t be more psyched for each of them. They’re all first-time courses for me, which means PRs are guaranteed. (Score!)
I’m saving the dates for:
Pretty Muddy 5K in Sacramento, Saturday Jun 29, 2013 This will be my first obstacle-laden mud run, and I’m really excited to participate. I’ve been going to boot camp fitness classes lately, so the competitive part of my brain is throbbing with the possibility of completely killing this course. (Hey, Rope Ladder, my arms will be ready for you!)
Sharks Fitness Faceoff 10K in San Jose, Sunday June 30, 2013 The Sharks are huge in San Jose—sunny Californian’s are some of the toughest hockey fans, believe it or not. And I’m expecting a big turnout for this charity event. I’ll be tackling the 10K (there’s a 5K and a health walk, too) and plan to attack it like, well, like a Shark—fast and ferocious!
With four Mt. Everest summits under her climbing belt, Melissa Arnot holds the female record for most ascents on the world’s most challenging mountain. But she takes that achievement in stride, referring to herself as an “ordinary woman with extraordinary accomplishments.” Her latest endurance feat: Completing the Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon on Saturday, March 9, 2013. I caught up with Melissa after the race to chat about training for her first marathon in ten years and her plans for summiting Mt. Everest again this season.
How does it feel to be done? After deciding to do a marathon, completing all the training and actually staying healthy enough to race, I feel great. It’s a long goal to work towards, but I’m a used to working towards things like that.
Are you happy with your time? I wanted to finish under 4:30 and not be disaster at the end. I came in around 4:16 and I finished strong, so I’m really happy about that. I didn’t want to be a mess at the end. As a climbing guide, I see so many clients push really hard to get to the summit, only to completely flail on the way down. I didn’t want that to be me. I’m thrilled that when the race was over I felt like I could keep running, and I was able to enjoy the afternoon with my family and friends.
Why did you pick the Catalina Marathon? The timing was perfect—I’m leaving for Everest in a week, and I wanted to be able to train through the winter along with my normal training for climbing. It’s a beautiful course on dirt roads and it looked challenging online. I know I can run for 26.2 miles, but I wanted to be to push myself even more. This course was great for that.
Catalina is a small island off the California coast. What was it like getting to the start line? It was definitely an adventure. I traveled from my home in Idaho with my husband and two of our friends, Ivana and Neil, and our first flight was cancelled. We scrambled to get out on another one from a different airport, and finally got to California around 9:00pm. We slept for a few hours, and then caught a 2:00am runners-only boat to the island. I somehow managed to fall asleep again in the choppy water, but my husband felt seasick for the entire 2-hour ride. At Avalon, he disembarked with the other spectators and the boat continued on for another hour to the race start. It all felt like a weird dream, and I was relieved to finally see the start line and get moving.
Wow! Were you tired during the run? Surprisingly, I felt great. I wasn’t tired despite the crazy travel arrangements, and I was prepared for the challenging course because I’d researched it ahead of time. The first four miles were up a big hill. Ivana passed me and I ran solo for a bit, but the island was so beautiful that my spirits were high. By mile thirteen I was really hot and starting to lose my good mood, so I took the advice of a friend and dedicated that mile—and each difficult one after—to someone special. I spent the entire mile thinking about how grateful I am to know that person. Soon all the pain went away, and I was running happy again.
Runners love talking about food. What did you eat before the race? Nutrition was tough for me during training. I don’t typically eat a lot of complex carbs—I’m into fruits and vegetables, so I had to make some changes. On the way to the start line, I had a homemade whole-wheat scone with strawberries. It was the perfect amount of food to get me going. Mid-run, I fueled up with a special energy gel that I’m helping to develop, a few squares of dark chocolate, and a handful of gummy bears from an aid station. Those were good choices for my body. I think people can get anxious at races and end up over-eating. I know my body really well, and I gave it enough to get by, without giving it the additional task of digesting too many snacks.
What’s the funniest thought that popped into your head during the run? I actually wrote a poem—which is something I really enjoy doing, and said it all out loud as I ran. It was in one of those gratitude dedication miles. There was no one around and I was just sort of laughing to myself.
What’s tougher: Summiting Mt. Everest or crossing a marathon finish line? That really isn’t a fair question, because they aren’t the same at all. Summiting Everest is extremely dangerous and it takes everything you have for a ten- to twenty-hour day. A marathon is only a few hours of pain—it’s difficult, sure, but in a very, very different way.
That’s fair. How is training for an Everest trek different from training for a marathon? This is something I really think people should know. Over the years I have climbed with clients who’ve had marathon backgrounds and they were often too cocky. They thought if they could run 26.2 miles, they could do anything. That’s a great attitude for life in general, but it’s dangerous when altitude is involved. The training needs to be very different. For climbing, I train by hiking uphill for an hour, three times a week with a fifty-pound pack on my back, and I work out at the gym to keep all of my muscle groups balanced. For marathon training, I run. Running doesn’t give you an advantage for climbing. Sure, the cardio can give you a slight endurance edge, but it’s important to train specifically for what you are doing. It would be like riding a bike to train for a marathon. Your legs might be strong enough to get you to the finish, but your body would pay for it after the race.
What did you do to train for this marathon? I don’t love running the way I love hiking, so my training was a lesson in discipline. When I was out for a run, I would remind myself that being out there was important even though there were things I’d rather be doing. I started marathon training in November, with three days of 3 to 5 miles per week, plus a long run on the weekend that started at 7 miles and gradually increased. My longest runs were 18 and 20 miles. I also hiked three days a week, practiced yoga, and hit the weights twice a week. I took two weeks off in January to guide a climb on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, which gave my legs a nice break. It’s not the typical training plan for a marathoner, but it worked for me.
Aside from reaching the top, do you have any other goals for 2013’s Mt. Everest trip? This year I’ll be working with the Juniper Fund, a non-profit organization I started with my climbing partner. We are helping to provide supplemental life insurance and rescue support for Sherpa guides who become injured or killed while tirelessly helping tourists climb in the Everest region. It’s a project that is very personal and important to me, and I’m excited to watch it unfold!
Melissa heads to the Himalayas next week and will be attempting her fifth summit of Mt. Everest. Coincidentally, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the first female to reach the top. Way to go, girls!
Everyone has a seemingly insurmountable goal that can be attained through hard work and training. What’s your Everest?