Monday, December 7, 2009

So Much Fun!

Just wanted to share a couple of great photos of the girls at the race this weekend! It was freezing cold (35 degrees) and raining during the morning, but all of the girls were confident in themselves, and excited for the race! They've worked for 10 weeks to accomplish this goal, and they've all come a long way!!
I'm so proud of my girls! The best part of the week with them was definitely the last practice. They shared how they felt about the program, and their experiences, and I was elated to hear how many girls felt like they could "do anything" and were "proud" and "confident". It was an emotional practice, but it was a good one!

Mackenzie just before the race started - ready to run!

Marissa with her mom - she has worked so hard this year! Almost at the finish!

Sophia charging ahead (a huge improvement for a girl who had never run), and Kayla behind her surviving the cold!

Lilac being the best running buddy you could ever ask for - encouraging Alondra on the way!

Amya- a champion!

Friday, November 27, 2009


Picture of Plimoth Plantation, the living museum in my hometown of the original pilgrim village. I also had my first job here - ironing out the wool costumes.
So I had my first "real" Thanksgiving at my house, and by real, I mean that my mother and her husband came, which meant that the meal had to meet a standard, rather than being a mess that my Dad and brother would love me for anyway.
I got up at 2:45am, and had the turkey in at 3:03am at 275 degrees (we did prep it the night before). After 4:40, we basted it in butter, garlic, and black pepper + turkey drippings every 20 minutes. My mother told me it would take about 10 hours to roast a 24 lb turkey. My bro spent the night, so that he could assist with basting while I went to the turkey trot with my neighbor, her friend, their kids, and of course Lilac. The "race" wound up being more of a walk, since I was the only one ready to race, but it was fun all the same. After the race, we let the kids play at the park and feed the ducks.
I got home at about 10:30...and the little thermometer was already popped up. WHAT?? the turkey can't be ready already - it's 10:30 in the morning!! But it was. I used a second thermometer, we took it out, and it was perfect! Even though we didn't eat for another couple of hours it wound up working out just fine.
Everything came out well, the turkey, two types of potatoes, portugese meat stuffing, regular stuffing, peas, sunshine carrots, sweet potato pie, homemade cranberry sauce, and of course pumpkin bread, pumpkin pecan pie, derby pie, death by chocolate cookies, and red velvet cake.
It was surprisingly relaxing, everything went smoothly, and I think everyone had a great time. The neighbor even came over to borrow our stove (hers wasn't big enough to feed 18 people), and was commenting on how nice it must be to be able to hang out together and relax.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Running in the Redwoods

Ok you can tell by my lack of posts that I've been in a mulling phase. I'm trying to work with this new shot and the process of going way up, and falling way down, and then climbing back up. Basically, I'm trying to get the timing down so I feel fairly well all the time, and tweek my workout schedule to ensure that happens. It's been an interesting challenge so far. As of right now, I'm going to try to get more shots, in the hopes that I can avoid that lovely feeling I like to call "being hit by a bus".

I've changed my training plan substantially, as I've opted out of PF Chang's 1/2 this year. I just don't feel like my body is quite ready for the riggers of another long race. However, I have found the most exciting race that I plan to do the first week of May - the Avenue of the Giants 1/2 marathon!

Tell me this race doesn't sound perfect for a Phoenician? It's in May, in the the woods, in 60 degree temperatures, no time cut offs, and best of all it's $45 entry fee. Did I mention that it's in the woods? And not just any old woods, we're talking Redwood National Forest. They say that the 1/2 marathon course is the most scenic of all the options, and looking at the pictures I have to agree. It's perfect since Lilac and I were planning on doing our annual girls only trip around the giants anyway, might as well get a race out of it! She's not 100% sold on the 1/2 idea, but I basically told her that with no cut off, we can run/walk/stop and take pictures as much as we want. Just consider it a day hike, and it's a piece of cake!

(I have no idea who this is in the picture, but you need to see the scope of how massive these beasts really are).
The plan winds up working out perfectly, and I'll start running my "long" runs with an easy 3.5 this weekend, and slowly build up by 0.5 miles each week (cutting every 4th week in half, and then repeating the previous week 3 the following week) culminating in that big 10 miler the middle of April, with a perfect 2 week taper leading into the race.
This rotating 4 week plan has worked best for me in the past, so I'm going to keep up with it - and hope that I can get the shot in line as well.
I'm SO excited to go see the Redwoods (a bucket list item) and to be able to enjoy a day running with them is going to be awesome.
I'll be keeping you updated on my training successes here!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Light the Night!

My cousin Kristen was diagnosed with Lymphoma about a month ago. (technically, she's the daughter of my Dad's best friend, who he's known since childhood, and who is my god-father, but I don't know what you call the kids of your god-father, and frankly, I see him more than any of my real relatives on my dad's side, and celebrate holidays with them, so for the benefit of this blog, I'll be calling her my cousin). She was diagnosed at stage 2, and based on it's location, treatment is 90%+ successful.

When I heard the diagnosis, I felt pretty useless. I like to be able to fix things, and this was just something that I could not fix. I had thought about it for a few days, and I decided that it was likely that everyone was feeling about as useless as me, and that there was a way to give people the chance to feel like they were contributing somehow. So I offered to captain a team for the Light the Night walk - where we could raise funds, and more importantly, meet as a big family and show Kristen in a palpable way that we are thinking of her and supporting her.

Our initial goals were pretty lofty (at least I thought so). I had initially hoped that the Penney family and my family would walk with a couple of friends. My uncle thought that we could raise $2K, which I thought was possible, but I didn't consider it entirely probable. However, the community really stepped up, and after the paper checks are counted, we'll have raised OVER $10,000!!! We had a total of 62 people make donations, and 52 people actually signed up to walk with us. It was pretty amazing to get that kind of response. In fact, we were recognized by the National Team Coordinator for our efforts! THANK YOU to everyone donated, or participated!!

The organization has been pretty difficult, especially considering the way people receive incentives by both donations and fundraising efforts. However, I've already sent out half the thank you cards (the hardest part) and I will be sending out the remainder THIS WEEK! Of course I have no pictures of the team as they gathered before the event, or of the team picture we took (I was too busy running around giving out t-shirts, checking off balloons, handing out water, etc) but I have some before shots that we took in the lull before people arrived. The one above is of my brother and I (I swear he is not a militant terrorist, he's just lazy, does not like to shave, and for some reason his beard is just patchy) underneath our pop up tent (we were graced with lovely three digit weather as we prepped for this walk).

This are my stevedore-sherpas, my dad and my bro at Tempe Town lake, both sweating their butts off after carrying tables, tents, cases of water, boxes of t-shirts, ice, and backpacks from the parking lot at Tempe Center for the Arts to our spot in the park. No, somehow I didn't wind up doing any of the heavy lifting. I had the clipboard and was checking activities off!

This is Dad posing with about half of our balloons. You can see that they each had sticks attached to them. There were lights inside of the balloons, with the wire from the light acting as your string, and you would hold on to the stick, which had a switch for the light itself. One of my father's many non-commercial talents is his ability to create and untangle knots. We had 46 balloons (6 popped on the way from the park to our tent) somehow with their wires in a hopeless tangle at about 5:30. By 6pm, he had untangled them all, confirmed that the lights worked, and prepped them for our walkers. Go Dad!

Once we had actually begun the walk along Tempe Town Lake, I realized that I had forgotten to take any pictures with MY camera before the walk. So I tried to take this one of all the balloons stretched out ahead of us on the walk. All of the red squiggles are balloons. However, I never remember that you have to be really still to take night shots, so this is how it came out. I still like it :)
It was incredibly successful, and I'm pretty sure that we'll be doing it again next year!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Race Reports: Grasshopper Congo Women

I want it noted that I wrote this post four days ago, but somehow blogger lost it as it was saving before the final send. So my enthusiasm has had four days to wane. I think it has something to do with loading the picture in the beginning of the post.
This weekend, J was gone, and I had two races on the schedule. I NEVER run two days in a row, but because it was two of my favorite races, this year I figured I'd slough one or the other and do both - because I had to.
Saturday was Grasshopper Bridge (see picture) which is a race for the Phoenix Children's Hospital. This race is close to my heart, because it's important to Lilac's family. Her younger sister nearly died of a rare illness when she was younger (I never get it right, but it's something like strepptecocklemeningipneumonia - streppe, meningitis, pneumonia, and something that messed up your lungs all in one nasty little bug). The docs gave Lilac's sister a 5% chance to survive the first night! She hung on though, and because the doctors couldn't believe she was still alive they tried a revolutionary new procedure which has now made this bug survivable (nearly everyone died of it before Lilac's sister). The hospital calls her the Miracle Girl on {level} Four, so it's really important for the family to participate in the race and give back to PCH.
Since Lilac's mom decided to "race" with us, we took our time and spent more time chatting and catching up than actually running. Still it is always a great event, with the neighbors and kids sitting on the front lawns and cheering us on. After the race the whole family gathered and we went to breakfast together. It was a great morning. I had a chip, but I chose not to wear it, so my time was not official. It was also not good in any way, but that wasn't the point.
So Sunday morning was the Run for Congo Women (which incidentally will be featured on Oprah today). I had plans to run this race with Tanager, but she came down pancreatitis this past week, and had surgery on Thursday. She was still talking about racing, but I told her she was out. Besides the fact that I hate that the name of the race is not grammatically correct, this is a great event. It's put on by Women for Women International, which is a program that sponsors particular women in war torn areas. The race is a grass roots effort. If you're looking for a great goody bag, 20,000 participants and a party and concert at the finish, you're at the wrong race. last year about 20 people showed up, took off, and I was not only by myself, but since the course wasn't marked I got incredibly lost.
Although the race is important to me, with Tanager on the bench, I thought seriously about picking up our t-shirts, and going home without racing. This was further decided when my "fuel" on Saturday consisted of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, english muffin (breakfasts 1 and 2), pretzel fishies, a bag of popcorn from the movie theatre (lunch) tiki tenders (yes chicken fingers), and a basket of fries (dinner), and cold stone chocolate double oreo chocolate fudge love it ice cream (dessert). Finally, when my brother kept me up until 9:30 pm telling me riotous stories, I decided firmly that I was just driving by the race, and not participating.
And then Sunday morning I woke up wide awake at 5:30am, and ready to race. So I did!
I got to the event way too early, because I wanted to get a definitive answer on the race course and review a map so I wouldn't get lost again. I was told very nicely taht there was no map, but there was duct-tape directions on the course. This is meaningful because Kiwanis Park is used for a LOT of races, so there are random marks all over the sidewalks - chalk, tape, spray paint, etc. I'd like to call it out here that we need to find a standard course for this park. I've done three races just this year, and none of the routes has been similar. The guy (who was delayed) told me that he would be happy to explain the course map to me, and I listened very carefully although I didn't understand what he meant when he said "take the sidewalk past the basketball courts to the guarded loop and go around the soccer field". It took me until I got past the BASEBALL FIELDS to realize that "guarded loop" was GUADALUPE (for you non-spanish speakers that would be goo odd ah loop ay - a major street that everyone knows how to say out here).
Anyway, I would say that there were probably 30 people at the race. The horn went off, everyone took off, and I had the race course to my onesy. This is the only race where I truly enjoy this because it actually allows me to think about what I'm racing for. This time, I thought about the fact that my hospital is 3 miles from my house and how hard would I run if Sydni was sick and I had to run to get help.
I went under 40 mins! WOO HOO. Not fast for anyone else, but this race started at 8am, it was still 105 on Sunday, and it was at very hilly Kiwanis. It's almost like a triple PR to do it in those conditions. I felt incredible afterwards, and it was definitely worth getting up and doing it!
This might be the only time that I get top 10 in my age group (because I doubt there were 10 women there my age) but since it's so grassroots, the results still aren't up. I ran 39:50, only 4 seconds slower than my best race this year (in rainy beautiful 60 degree conditions) so I'm taking it.
And yes - my legs are still sore, which means I worked HARD!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Half the Sky

I just read the most amazing book. Normally I save my book reviews for Goodreads, but this one is so important that I'm writing about it. It's called "Half the Sky - Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide".

A week or two ago, I read an article in the NY Times Magazine by these authors which talked about microfinancing that is funneled to women in third world countries, and how and why it has been so successful. It was a fascinating article that showed how a $65 loan to a woman in the slums in India allowed her to go from a object in her home, who was frequently beaten, uneducated, and had no options, to become a successful business woman sending her kids to college, who is respected in the home and in the community. Yes, I am always skeptical about these sorts of stories - like it's great that it can happen for one person, but is that really the norm? However, the article was truly thought provoking and really forced me to look at the grey in some situations. One of the concepts that they brought out to think about was that we know that sweat shops are horrible situations, and the labor and low pay and forced overtime are all horrible - but that the only thing worse than having a sweat shop job is NOT having s sweat shop job and starving, at the whims of bad harvests, and not able to educate yourself and your children. It really made me think, and when I looked the authors up and saw that they had a book coming out on this topic this week, I immediately decided that I had to read it.

Half the Sky was an incredible book because it captured your attention, told stories through particular people, showed that NO aid is 100% successful and clearly described the challenges of giving aid - not only to show the pitfalls and issues, but to also try to avoid them. There are no Cindarella stories, and the authors take the time to show how difficult change can be for each individual and all of the social and economic impacts of making those changes.

The stories and information are often difficult to understand, gruesome, and painful to read - but they are happening to people all over the globe. However this is not a book that you read and feel down-trodden about the world. It's subtley uplifting throughout and lets you know that there are ways to change the world - but that some are better than others. It was surprising in that in some situations the authors supported drastic actions, and other times really "soft" options, that may not be palatable but have still shown that they are effective for long term improvement.

Some of the things that I learned that were fascinating -
Today, 2009, there are more women actually sold and trafficked in the sex trade across international borders than there were slaves taken from Africa during the height of the of the slave trade in the 1780's. Granted, there are more people in the world today, but it does not account for the millions of women who are sold into sex slavery within the borders of their own country.

The most effective means of keeping girls in school - give them a uniform every 18 months, pay the parents $10 a month if the girl has perfect attendance, feed her at school. That's all that it takes.

One of the best parts of the book (aside from the quotes at the beginning of each chapter which were awesome) was that it gave you many different ways to help and make a difference, whether it was letter writing, sponsoring a woman, donating time to a foundation, loaning to microfinancees, etc. After reading this book, I went to, which is a microfinance organization that allows people all over the world to lend directly to people in need. The agreement is that once the small group receives the money, they will repay it within a year, and that if one person in the group defaulted, the others would be willing to pay the difference. You can donate a minimum of $25 to any group that you pick (you can search by gender, country, loan amount, proposed business, etc) and once the group receives the necessary funds, the loan starts.

I picked a group of five women who are hoping to open a clothing business, and who needed $450 for all five of them to start. They had received donations from a variety of people, and were only waiting on $50 to get started. I loaned them the remainder, and now these five women (pictured above) will be able to start their clothing business, and improve their own lots. Once they repay the loan, I plan to lend it to someone else.

Many starfish washed up on shore. A young boy started picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean. Someone saw what he was doing and told him that it was pointless, that there were too many to save, that it wouldn't make a difference. Throwing another starfish into the sea, the little boy responded, "It makes a difference to this one."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why don't I Wiki?

Wiki is my friend. It might be my best friend. I read it every day. I check the news, I like the what happened in history today. I really enjoy the article of the day because I have yet to figure out the algorithm which defines how random these posts actually are. This should not be a shock at all - if you know me enough to be reading my blog, you know that I love nothing more than to learn something I didn't know. I thrive on learning.

However, my boss sent me a link to this article which was titled "Women and Wikipedia Don't Mix". Before I even read the article, I was livid - how dare they say women don't like Wiki??!! I just told you, it's basically my favorite website. I was ready to rumble with this article! Then I read it, and it stopped me in my tracks.

Basically, Wikimedia recently did a survey on people who access Wiki, and of the 175,000 respondents, 31% said that they have actually made changes or authored an article, but only 4% of them were women.

Hold the phone. I can't argue with this article because I've NEVER authored an article, and even when I've read something that I KNOW is incorrect, I've never made an update. I'm on this site every day, and I know that you can update and make changes, or share knowledge, and yet it has never even crossed my mind to make a change.

The question is why?

I can't speak for other women here, I can only speak for myself. But can I even speak for myself? I'm not sure what my reasoning is, and I can't explain it with a logical solution. So I've been mentally doing a PET interview with myself, and here are my results - which is likely just a confabulation on my part, but hell I'm trying here.

Social Media - I can't say that I'm a fan, though I don't think that my reasons are exactly the same as most people who don't dig on the new world order. (And yes, I see the irony that I am posting this on my blog - I'll get there). There are three reasons why I don't like social media.

1. I don't like the fact that people can get into my world - especially my work. Work is great, but once HR finds my Facebook page, it's a whole different ballgame. Here's the thing- It's not like I'm a wild party animal and likely to be fired for posting pictures of me and Lowell dancing the night away. However, I HAVE been demoted due to something that happened outside of work, during non-working hours, with someone who wasn't an employee of Verizon Wireless (I yelled at my brother and called him a racial slur [one that accurately reflected his ethnicity] while on the phone with someone who was a co-worker). Once bitten, twice shy.

2. I don't like people. No, seriously. Unfortunately I grew up in a small town where people have been living for 10 generations and my family is the only one that left - which means that every single person in town remembers that we moved away and wants to get in contact with us. I don't care about the people I went to second grade with. In fact, I don't remember most of them at all - but they ALL remember me. My brother doesn't mind this, so I use him as my barrier. They contact him, he contacts me, I tell him no, and he ignores them even though they are allegedly his "friends".

3. I can't imagine that anyone cares about the little trivial thoughts going on in people's minds - it's great that I'm enjoying myself on the back patio and reading in the rain and all, but who cares really? And frankly, I don't care that someone else is eating lunch, or is bored at work, or likes Hugh Jackman. Really, if I cared, we would talk about this when we're together. It's also not helpful that I believe no one is interested in the random stuff that goes through MY particular mind on a daily basis- like the impact of the Han Chinese exiting Burma due to strife in that country - and how much better that must look like to them, even though it looks NO better to us.

The Blog. The one you're reading, right. I actually spent a lot of time secretly reading blogs, without ever planning to write my own. The whole thing came from reading people's race reports, which they posted on their blogs. I liked reading about the things that happen to other people during their races and how they handled them, because it taught me how I could think differently when I hit the same speed bumps. I also liked reading about their training woes and triumphs.

When I did my first triathlon, the Tri for the Cure in 2008, I was so overwhelmed by the experience and wanted to share it with my family that I actually wrote my own race report so that I could try to share the moments during the race with them. Then it turned out that they really liked them, so I started writing race reports for all of my races. This was still through email. Then I read a couple of blogs about their privacy protection and how you could prevent it from being really public- so I said why not?
The reason I'm ok with the blog is that it is set up as private, and no one reads it. Maybe 4 people do, but they all received the blog link from me, so they are people that I know and trust. It's really not for anyone else. It's for me. It's like a diary that happens to be online and lets me look back at my training and races, etc.

Goodreads. I use goodreads, and I post my feelings about the plethora of books that I read because I know that there are actually 3 people who actively read my posts, because I lend them my books. Not only do I get to remind myself how I felt about a book when I had freshly read it, but I get to share the things that I love with the people that I love. Does it get any better? Plus I think the rating system, helps me clarify how I really felt about the book. Would I do it if my 3 followers didn't read them? Yes, but it's because there's still value to me and organizing my library.

So why don't I Wiki?
I can say conclusively that I'm not a fan of Social Media, though I can't confirm that the reasons I've provided are the "real" reasons, but I tried. But what does this have to do with Wiki-ing? Everything.

I am a maven. I love to learn. I like to learn about anything, but I'm most fascinated by people - how they interact, how they react, how they organize themselves, etc. I like them historically, culturally, literally, just not personally (See the I hate people thing above!). However, as much as I love to read, I'm not really a fan of sharing my knowledge with random people. I don't like to teach, and I don't like to train. I like to talk to the people I care about (all four of them) and get their opinions on what I'm thinking about, but frankly, I don't think that the lowest common denominator gives a crap about the concept that the only thing worse than working in a sweat shop in a third world country is NOT working in a sweatshop in a third world country.

Also, as a rabid learner, there are some things that are sacred to me, and one of them is the information in an encyclopedia (even one that is updated by people every day). I can't update an encyclopedia! I'm just not qualified. And what if my bias in an article negatively impacted someone else's feelings on that particular topic. Plus what am I actually going to write about? I don't consider myself an expert in anything!

I've thought all morning about making an update in a Wiki article, and I've found that I'm paralyzed and completely incapable of doing it. Is it possible that this same feeling of inadequacy, or of not being right, or of potentially looking the fool is part of why I don't participate in most social media?

I think it's probable, and I think I need to dig down deeper to try to understand. Where is Eric Schaffer when I need him to psycho-analyze me?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Circadian Rhythms

This picture is of Little Tova modeling her favorite outfit from the school clothes shopping that we did - yes, the scarf was a must have, and yes, it has sparkles. I'm so envious of kids clothes.

She was here for 10 days and it was magical - for the first time in years it actually felt like summer time while we were in AZ (probably the first time ever for us). There's something about spending the whole day in your bathing suit, swimming for 5 hours, eating outside (in the misters, fan, and shade) diving for rings at the bottom of the pool, and playing freeze tag that just makes it summer time.

It's also funny how the little queues that we get from the universe changes our rhythm and has us thinking of the next season. We went school shopping, she went home, and she starts school on Monday. That means it's fall.

The sun is starting to rise later here, which means it's back to the gym and my glorious summer outside is over - so it's now fall.

Here's the thing. I've found myself thinking about sweaters, and Christmas, and being cold in the mornings - yet nothing has physically changed from last week. I'm still getting up at the same time. It's still in the 100's every day, it's still exactly 79 degrees in my house - just like it has been all summer - and yet I found myself putting on a hoodie this morning because I was "cold". Why? I have no idea. I also started looking through my desktop pictures for something with fall leaves. Eileen - it's still actually August. And hot. And not remotely autumn like.

I just think it's interesting how these small changes can changed the way that I'm thinking about the environment that is exactly the same.

Anyway, going back to the gym has been weird because it doesn't feel weird. It's like I didn't spend the last 5 months outside. The same treadmill, the same bike, the same shows on, the same people trying to pick other people up. It does give me a chance to focus more on training specifics, but I'm still waffling with where I want to take my training this winter and in the spring.

I still definitely definitely want to do the XTerra Offroad Tri in May, yet I haven't been out on my bike and in the mountains in well over a month. I've been on the bike, but just on the canals. I need tog get back to pemberton - maybe for Labor Day. The hard thing is that not doing PBR in October and not being able to find another offroad race, nevermind a good offroad race, means that I'm sucking wind with the offroad training.

I have been running South Mountain, but I also can't seem to find a trail race anywhere around for the rest of the year either. So I'm just going to have to step up my weekend outdoor training, and get good mileage done indoors during the week.

I haven't been swimming at all - unless you count the diving for pool rings. Lady Tiara is going to be doing the fall splash and dash, and I'd like to do it - but I looked at the distances, and the swim distances are fairly long - 1000 m and then a couple of K running. I need to do some research on temperature of the lake and whether or not I need a wetsuit, and then I need to find some cojones and actually get in there.

Since I can't seem to find a race that meets any of my needs - I've been looking at the following races for the rest of the year - none of these are guarantees at this point.
- Grasshopper Bridge for Children's Hospital - 9/26 This is the Miracle Girl race that we will probably do, but probably walk most of it because Lilac's family likes to go, and none of them run consistently.
- Run for Congo Women - 9/27 I swear would it be so hard for them to make this race gramatically correct? It should be Congolese. Anyway, it's only a 5K this year (last year it was 10) and although it's the day after Grasshopper Bridge, since we'll be sloughing and I really like the home grown roots of this race, I'll probably do both. It doesn't hurt that J will be in Boston this weekend.
- Ghosts/Goblins 5k - Oct 31 - Might be interesting. I just want a race in Oct, and aside from the weekend I'm gone there's not much out there.
- World Run Day/Run Against Domestic Violence - 11/8 I want to do the Run Against Domestic Violence with my girl who has experienced it and is still struggling to get out of the marriage. We say every year that we're going to do this race, but for some reason there's always a horrible dust storm or something that prevents it. This year we're going. It's also World Run Day, and I can sign up for taht, get a t-shirt and run wherever I want - like the other race.
- Iron Girl - 11/15 - Since this is not the GOTR race for the fall season I might be able to run it - though I've crossed out the 10 miler at this point. I know that Lilac had visions of our hubbys dressed in pink and waiving sparkly signs for us. I'd like to do this one.
- Mesa Mi Amigo's Turkey Trot - 11/26 - Best race of the year. I'll be there, and then I'll get to eat whatever I want for Thanksgiving dinner.
- Fiesta Bowl 5K - 12/6 - This will be mandatory since it's the GOTR race this year.

We'll see how it all irons out!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Race Report: Summer Series #5 - South Mountain - 8/9/2009

Ok the reason for this late post is because Little Tova was with us for the last 10 days, and frankly she's more important - sorry!

Pre-Race: I signed up Little Tova and Papa in case she wanted to earn some bling (one of my race medals) she told me that she wanted a medal but she didn't really want to run. I told her sorry, you have to pick, she picked pancakes and eggs with Daddy - which was A-OK with me, as I really really wanted to run this last race hard and finish strong.

We got to the race and did all our standard pre-race stuff. Again, a lot of people there - definitely more than last year.

Race: This is such a weird course. You leave from the far end of the parking lot of the South Mountain preserve, and run along the parking lot - which is so long that you run .6-.7 miles just to get out of the parking lot. The first 1.5 miles is all uphill - the insidious uphill where you're not necessarily licking the dirt, but you can't understand why you feel so slow and tired so quickly. It's probably a 2% incline on the way up, with a couple of sections that are steeper. So to get to the first guard station out of the park is .6 - .7 miles, and then you run along the road to the second guard station which is the mile 1 marker. At this point you're just looking forward to hitting the water station and going DOWNhill for the second half of the race. The .5 miles from the second guard station up to the water station loop is pretty steep, and it hurts. The best part is that you hit the water station, and then go downhill the rest of the race. It's an out and back course, but that .6-.7 miles on the way back from the first guard station to the end of the parking lot takes FOR-EV-ER. It's the longest finish "sprint" of all time.

This year it felt WAY better than last year - probably because the temperature was in the low 90's, which felt great, but also because I was definitely acclimated and had been doing hillwork all summer, so I didn't feel like I was going to die before I even got out of the parking lot (like last year). Lilac and I had a great time, and we decided that the Summer Series isn't that bad if you actually prepare for it.

Post Race: 44:09 (there IS this thing called South Mountain involved in the race which slows you down just a speck), 442 pts, 36/38 in the 25-29F division, 634/660 overall.

SERIES: 20/111 in the 25 - 29F division, 168/712 of all women, 1865 pts. This put me in the top 18% for my age group, and 23% overall.

Am I dissapointed that I finished in 20th place again this year? A bit, yeah. Still I earned 400 more points than last year, had better times at every single race than last year, and there were more people competing this year - so I guess I can't ask for more than that. I have had stray thoughts about signing up in the walk division next year, since I run/walk every race, and I'd have been in 8th place if I had - but it just feels like cheating to me.

Goals for next year's series - earn 500 points in a race, break 2000 points overall, place in the teens, break my PR at the first race.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer Series #4 Kiwanis Park - 07/18/09

First, sorry about that last post. It's amazing how getting not enough sleep can turn me into a human thundercloud like that. I feel fine today :)

Pre-Race: Lilac could not attend this race because she's in Minnesota for some Army thing. As I may have hinted at yesterday, I wasn't really looking forward to this race in any way at all going into this weekend. However, after I rumbled and threw down some lightening, I realized that every single complete meltdown that I've had as an athlete has been at Kiwanis Park.

- My first run there was the first GOTR race that I ran as a running buddy - and although I made it painfully clear that I wanted to make a slow girl feel like a rock star -they gave me Miss Speedy Gonzales, who I attempted (and failed) to catch the entire race.

- My first 10K - Run for Congo Women (yes, the grammar is wrong and yes it drives me insane that it's not Congolese) was at Kiwanis. It was such a small event that there were like 50 people there, and they all took off at the start of the race - and I not only got left in the dust, but also got completely lost on the course, since it was poorly marked, and wound up making up my own route. I came close to 6.2, with my 6.08 mile run, but I was panicking the whole time, and it was a disaster.

- The lowlight was the the Chances for Children Triathlon, where I got hit by a car while biking to the race, and decided to do it anyway. The craptastic event that followed that decision (completely blowing up on the "run" which I walked the whole way because my knee was too swollen to bend, temporarily quitting when I couldn't find the entrance to the bathroom and erupting into frustrated tears, being the LAST finisher, and getting a DNF because they had already removed the finish line and packed up before I got there) lead to my personal intense dislike of Kiwanis in general - which is one of the reasons I was less than excited about this race.

4:30am. Alarm goes off. Eileen (stupidly) checks the temperature. It's a cool 94 degrees, and pitch black outside. Yes! (apply sarcasm as necessary). Still I'm determined to challenge myself to push this race and leave it all out there. I'm going to beat this damn park. I have no time goal. time doesn't matter - my goal is to follow my plan and push myself throughout the race.

I eat, get ready, and I'm out the door by 5:30am. Arrive at the race by 6, get my bib and chip, hit the honey pot, do my pathetic warm up jog, and then line up for the race.

Race: For this race course, they chose to start in the park area on the east side of All American Way, just south of the Garden of Sister Cities. The course started north, and my goal was to run to the bridge, walk along the rose gardens, and start running around the lake when the path split. In fact, I started running once I go up to the hill where the GOTR race generally starts, and ran around the lake and over the first hill on the east side of the lake. Walked over the next two small hills to catch my breath, and then ran through the 1 mile marker, through the rose garden, under the bridge and to the water station which was right on the top of the hill after the bridge on the east side. This was a poorly coordinated course, because the water station was only on the left, where the super fast guys were already coming back from their loop out, and we slow pokes (who really needed the water) couldn't get any. A simple additional table and some water on the right side would have fixed this. Anyway, eventually I was able to sneak through and get some water, and then ran down the east path to the big curve that goes around the rec center. Walked to the soccer fields, ran the along the long part and short part of the soccer field, then walked along the street side of the field - and passed the Mile 2 marker. I ran back to the courts, walked to the rec center bend, ran to the water station (this was the hardest run section mentally) walked down and up the hill by the bridge, and then ran it in for the rest of the race. I have no idea where I finished, and I'll have to add a post script later about standings, since they won't post until at least Tuesday. I can say that when I finished, I knew I had put it all out on the line, done even better than my plan, and worked my but off.

Post Race: I definitely pushed it today. It took quite a while to get rid of the foggy brain, and I'm still red in the face (it's 8:30am now.) I definitely feel like regardless of the time (it was definitely over 42 minutes), and the goals that I set for the series, I can look back at this race and say that I beat the goon in my head and I showed this park that it can't get the best of me - even when conditions were not ideal.

Here's hoping for 500 points, and a spot in the teens - but even if it's not, that's ok with me. I know I ran this race to the absolute best of my abilities!

Post script - Results - like I said, the time stinks, but is not a reflection of the progress that I made mentally in this race. Also, about 5 minutes faster than the last summer series race last year in similar conditions. All's progress!

Summer Series #4: 42:51, 29/31 F 25 - F29, 246/268 female, 642/676 overall
Women's Standings: 16/98 F25 - F29, 129/639 female, no results overall
My points for this race was 458. Still one race to go!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Death Valley

This is a poor me blog. Just skip it. I just need to complain to myself. And yes, I know that the rest of the year in AZ is gorgeous. I know that when people are slogging through snow, I'll be out running trail in shorts. I know all of this, but I'm still whining today).

It's been over 110 for the last two straight weeks. And not just 111 each day, we've had some beautific 115+ days here. Note: they shut down the airport if it hits 117, because the tarmac actually melts. Like literally.

The mean temperature for the last month - including the night time weather - was 96.67 degrees according to the electricity bill I just received. It's hitting 100 degrees one minute after the sun comes up at 5am or so. Then there were the great articles in Runnersworld this month. The first one gave degrees and how much you should slow down off your pace - except that it said "90+? Just walk". Well thanks Runnersworld, that does not help my motivation. The second was a long article on some guinea pigging that Amby Burfoot submitted to which involved determining the impact of heat on the body when all other running conditions were consistent. We'll just say that he ran at a very easy pace for an hour - in the 53 degree weather test he was pronounced healthy as a horse. In the 90 degree test, he had a temperature of 103.5 (104 is heatstroke), and a heart rate at 96% of his maximum threshold. His lactic buildup was off the charts as well. And this was for a nice easy loping run. The moral of his story was even nice gentle runs in the heat can kick your ass - so don't do it.

Wow, thanks. I hadn't noticed that.

The crappy part is that there's always this little caveat - give yourself two weeks to acclimate - but it never actually says how much more acceptable that makes it to run. And we're talking about 90 degrees in these articles. I ran on Saturday, where the high was 116.

Ok I'm working out of the complaining thing.

I think the problem with the summer here is that everyone and every article is talking about how wonderful it is (and I've been in Seattle two weeks in a row, and I can attest - it's absolutely GORGEOUS out there now), and how people are training hard for fall marathons, and trail runs, etc and I want to be able to be motivated and excited about it, but then I go out and check the mail and say Forget it. There's absolutely nothing out there that's talking about motivation and struggling with the weather - probably because this is the best season for most of the country. We're just backwards. In the winter, when I want to be outside every day, all of the articles are about getting out there and doing a little bit - which doesn't help me when I'm running 10 milers.


I have a race tomorrow, and I don't even want to go. There. I said it. I don't want to go. My bro said today "The things you do for 'fun' are insane. Why are you sweating it out for cancer? Write a check." Yeah I can't say that I can disagree with that philosophy right now.

All I can say is that I hope that tomorrow the race report will say that it was worth it. And that I make over 500 points. And that I get into the teens in the women's standings.
Death Valley here I come.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Series #3 Rio Vista Park - 7/4/09

I know, how dare I post a race report when the race took place two weeks ago. In my defense, I wanted to write the race report that day, but the overall standings didn't post until after I started traveling again, and I just haven't gotten to it until now.
Also, see the swirling heat that is shown in the Summer Series logo? That's actually how it feels. Seriously.

Pre-Race: As always, the 4th of July race is generally my favorite race for the community feeling, but right up there as my least favorite due to the fact that it's been in the teens for the last two years. This year, it wasn't quite as hot, but it was really sticky. It was way worse than just being hot and dry.
Lilac and I had planned to meet at the Borders parking lot and take the long trip to Glendale together in her new car. Generally she texts me when she's left, and again right on time to tell me she'll be five minutes late. This happens almost every time we get together. So I get up at the ass crack, eat something, get dressed, set the alarm off again, frantically turn it off, and get my happy ass in the car to meet her at 5:15. As always, I am 10 minutes early. I wait, and then I realize - crap. She didn't text me. This means pretty much conclusively that she is still sleeping. But, who wants to call someone at 5:15am on a holiday and ask if they are still sleeping? I decided to wait the 5 minute standard grace period, and another 5 minutes, just in case. I finally text her at 5:25, when it is absolutely dire to get on the road for the race that starts in 65 minutes all the way across town. She's sleeping. She's frantic. She's convinced she can still make it to the race, even though she's at LEAST 25 minutes behind me. I tell her to go back to sleep. She absolutely refuses.

OK then, so I drove to the race, and hoped she'd make it. While I was driving, I decided that it didn't matter if we started with everyone else or not, it was more important to run with her, so I'd wait.

Due to the semi-narrowness of the course, they decided to start in waves. 6:30am, off goes the fast people, then the pretty fast people, then the semi-fast people, then the less fast people, then the slow pokes, then the walkers.... and then I get the call from Lilac - yes she's actually lost. So I walk her through how to get back to the freeway and start over. Meanwhile, I'm standing at the starting line by myself with and extra bib and chip, and the announcer is looking at me, and then says "Last call?" I explained the situation, and promised that we would not be the last finishers if I could just have 4 more minutes. Finally, she's parked and running through the long parking lot, right to the start line, throws her chip on, and off we go!

Race: Again, the weather was beastly. I had sweat pouring down my face in big droplets about 10 minutes into the race. I generally don't start to sweat at all until about 15 minutes in (why do runners know these things about themselves? I have no idea...). The course itself was all on a wide sidewalk that rolled up and down the banks of a fairly large (dry) wash. There were, unfortunately, no good consistent landmarks to run off of, so we just did the best that we could. We ran south along the eastern bank, under a bridge, and just as we were approaching a decent sized hill up to the top of the bank did we hit Mile 1. Just after we got up to the top of the hill, we hit a water station (thank you gatorade) and then continued cruising south to the turn around point - which crossed the wash at the bottom of the wash, and was sidewalk, but not the place I'd want to be if a flash flood was coming. Hit mile 2. The other side was just as boring, just as hilly, just as humid - and oh by the way they decided to make this a 4 mile race this year, because a good ole' 5K would have been too easy. Still we had hopes that the 4 miles would scare people off and we could get better spots in the series. There was a second water stop at Mile 3 - thank you! The finish of the race was across a pedestrian bridge, and right back to the starting line, now the finish line. Overall, I can't say that it was particularly interesting, exciting, or enjoyable. It was just another race. The good news is that I gave myself a very liberal you'd better finish by 60 minutes, or be embarassed for all time, and I finished before that, so all was good.
Post Race: Breakfast, and TWO cold chocolate milks.

Results Race #3: 58:55, 27/27 F25-F29, 230/245 F, 634/656.
Series Standings after #3: 20/85 F25-F29, 140/558 F, no overall available
*Also, let the record show that the female winner for every race has been in my age group. In addition, the record should also show that this was my slowest race of the season, yet I got the most points. Similarly, my best race is the one I have the fewest points in. My new goal is to get 500 points in either race #4 or race #5.

Next stop - Kiwanis, this weekend!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


It's been fairly sticky this weekend - above 20% humidity which makes the weather rather unbearable. However, I decided to take my bike out exploring this morning, and I found some amazing things!

- The biggest jackrabbit I've ever seen
- Several cotton-tails, and lizards (no confirmed snakes, I'm going to assume the rustling in the bushes was lizards)
- A huge great blue heron that did not want to remove itself from my path - at least 4 1/2 feet tall
- The standard scattered horses and cows
- An arboreteum/set of greenhouses with flowers that lasted for a mile
- U Can Fly Trapeze School - seriously, there's really a trapeze school with full blown outdoor stage and nets and everything
- A new park (Zanjero Park) that runs all the way from Lindsey and the eastern canal to Mercy Hospital
- A 12 mile route where I only have to cross two streets (twice), and get to stop for Einstein's on the way back!

The park was great with this wide sidewalk that went around the edge in a giant U, and a valley inside the U that had picnic areas. All of the paths inside were dirt paths, and they will be great practice for my downhills/uphills when I can't make it to the mountains.

I had seen the park from the freeway, but had no idea how to get there, or what it was for. I completely stumbled upon it this morning, but when I saw the sign, I was like, um, Zanjero Park? What the heck does that mean? I spent the next twenty minutes or so thinking about what it could be - a rich patron of the town, one of the great rodeo riders (I wasn't far from the Gilbert Rodeo Park), a historical figure... whatever it was, it sounded like a command for my bike to move! Vamanos! Zanjero!!!!

Bet You Didn't Know: Zanjero is Spanish for “water master,” and today still is used as name of the occupation of controlling water supplies. (Yes I had to look it up) It is in fact owned by SRP, and was created as a park to support the water retention area for the freeway - which is why the picnic areas are built at the bottom of the valley, and the pathways go around the top of the retention area. Not quite as cool as my guesses, but it was at least suitable.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mother Nature's Gift

So alright, I'll admit it. I've been feeling stagnant for the last week or so. It's not the heat, not my performance, not the hour of the day, not the consistency. It's the route. I'm sick to death of the "Allen Loop".

When we first bought the house, I was so excited that there was a perfect 3.1 mile loop within my neighborhood that I decided to use it all the time, and not go to the gym at all for as long as it remained light out during my training time. It's basically an L shaped loop with the long part of the L being exactly 2.5 miles out and back, and the small part of the L being .6 miles out and back. It runs up and down my neighborhood passing 3 parks and a variety of "green" areas each way. It's idyllic. Really, it's perfect for a runner. The paths are even lines with flowering trees the entire way.

But say I run 4 miles on Tuesday, 3.1 on Thursday, and then bike 4 laps on Monday, and 5 laps on Wednesday. I've now seen each of these parks 24 times. In one week. I've been running this same path for nearly 3 months. I'm done. It also doesn't help that I've been having so much fun in the mountains that I really want to ride/run on trail in the morning, and the neighborhood just does not have the same appeal.

The benefits of it, and the reason I haven't switched up the route, though I have switched up HOW I run/ride the route, is that it's very safe, and there's limited exposure to cars and stupid drivers who don't pay attention at 5am. It's fairly flat so it's a good compliment to the trail running, and it starts and ends at my house. Still, with all that in mind I've just been dreading getting out there the last week. So I've tried to do some interesting brick work, where I ride around once, and then run around once, then ride, then run which did break it up a little bit. I rode around the neighborhood twice yesterday, so I was on the main surface streets. But this morning just wasn't interesting me at all.

I got up, almost said screw it, convinced myself to get up, got dressed, almost gave up when I couldn't find my good socks, found them, got the dogs out, and stepped outside where the sun was coming up as it usually is at that time of morning. As soon as I stepped out of the courtyard, 5 big raindrops hit me, even though it was sunny, and I very nearly turned around and went back in the house and called it a day.

Then I started telling myself that I've actually had fun in the rain in the past, and I'd give myself to the point where I can quickly turn around and run back to the house if it was lightening but if not I was committed to running 4 miles.

It looked weird - sun coming in from the east, yet cloudy above me and raining all around me. I was just running easily, and trying to mentally get ready for this run, and all of a sudden as I reached the first turn around, I looked to my left, and over the park across from me is this unbelievable double rainbow that is arching all the way down perfectly around the park.

I actually stopped dead.

It was magical - I couldn't have drawn it better myself, and both rainbows looked super clear and in fact the bottom one actually started over, so you saw red orange green blue purple red orange again before it faded out.


I could almost hear Mother Nature telling me to take that! and how did I like my route now b*? The flowering trees and parks weren't enough, so she made me an amazing double rainbow.

So after that I was kind of like - wow, ok that was worth getting up for, and the lighting continued to be really weird, because the sun was just coming up, but it looked like spot lights on the trees because it was cloudy overhead. Each time I started to get mentally tired, this gorgeous little breeze wafted in, and then just as I was getting really hot and humidly tired at about 3 miles, it started gently showering and felt awesome.

I guess somedays even the mundane can surprise you. You really never know what you're going to get when you get out there!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Series #2 Horse Lover's Park - 6/14/09

Pre-Race: Lately I've really been focusing on speed and interval work, getting outside, running trail, and basically being more acclimated for the Summer Series races. I haven't run at the gym since we moved into our new home at the end of March, which is not only a record, but is also way more fun.

Since I had a very decent race at Papago, I was convinced I could PR at Horse Lover's Park. It's a flat course, and there's a long tunnel of shade from sage brush that makes the run much more manageable. However, the course is also very sandy (dusty for those of us in the back) and I just couldn't quite remember the entire course in my mind (which is actually ridiculous, because this happened to be our home training course when I ran cross country at PV High, so I've been through the course probably fifty times).

I read my race report from last year to make sure that my memory was pretty accurate from the race, and it surely matched the race report, but I have to say, the race report didn't have a lot of detail on the course itself. It basically said I hate sand, love sagebrush, and hate the sun.

Lilac and I got up bright and early to drive up all the way to Horse Lover's Park, which is on the very north end of the Valley. We arrived at her parent's house at 5:55am, for a bathroom break, and then drove to the park, which is about a mile from her folk's. Again, it was more crowded than it has been in year's past, though we didn't see Lady Tiara (hope everything is ok girl!). We warmed up, and lined up in th back of the line.

Race: OK, so this race starts out going west through the park to the street where it curves around several times. We spent about .75 mile on the road, and then finally got on the dirt way after I remember getting on the dirt. This year the sand wasn't nearly as deep. It wasn't hard packed clay, but it was a comfortable soft surface that didn't eat away at us. Mile 1 happens on the dirt, and we spent that first mile really toodling along in the desert. We didn't actually get to the tunnel until 1.5 miles in (the water stop was almost immediately when we entered the tunnel.

This is where we noticed that Autam was having a skin reaction - her legs were swollen and blotchy red - generally indicative that she had been bitten by an ant, but in this case we believe it was just the dust - she has such sensitive skin! We threw a couple of cups of water at her legs, which seemed to relieve some of the itching, walked so that her socks could dry out a little (maybe I was a little over-enthusiastic with the water splashing) and then took off down the tunnel. The tunnel is so nice and cool and shaded that you just want to take your time with it, but that's where you can make the difference up. We ran through a good portion of it, passed the mile 2 marker, which is at the very end of the tunnel, and then went back out into the sun.

I'll admit here that it was quite a bit cooler than it has been at this race in past years. I would say that it was in the mid 80's to low 90's, which is a blessing for the summer series.

When we passed the mile 2 marker it said 28 minutes, and I knew that it was not going to be a PR day. I'm not sure what happened, because I felt rather good, but the clock was just moving faster than I was - even with the quick ant scare stop. I'll admit that this kind of took the wind out of my sail, and rather than push for the impossible, I just sat back and let the rest of the race happen. The last mile is on sand and we zig zagged from the front parking lot, zig zagged through the park, finally saw the chain linked fence, and knew that the end was almost in sight.

Post Race: We saw Cindy and Bob at the finish line - both of them still convinced that they aren't going to do the whole series, but both smiling and kicking our rear-ends with the extra 30 years or so that they have on us. We went to breakfast with the Lilac's parents (the buttermilk spice muffin at Mimi's is WONDERFUL) and then came home to finish painting the office.

I think the most challenging part of this course is the fact that it meanders so much and there are really no visuals that you can use to queue run/walk patterns. At Papago, I worked with the high tension wires - run three, walk one. With this it's like "well there's some sage...". The sections that we do have, street, dirt, tunnel, dirt, are too long to use as sections for running, and breaking them up is a challenge. I've learned that I can mentally push myself as long as I have a visual queue. When I'm not working with something consistent and in front of me, I struggle more.

Race Results: 42:47, 648 of 689 overall, 43 out of 46 females in the 25 - 29 category (44 being lilac), results not yet posted for the series - but I'm hoping to move up a little bit. I'll repost once it's listed.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Race Report: Summer Series #1 Papago Park - 5/23/09

Pre-Race: This is the first Summer Series race of the season. After taking a long look at least year's results, it became obvious to me that a top 10 finish for the series really isn't in the cards for me - however I decided that I still want to improve on my overall placement against last season. Lilac missed this race, since she's honeymooning in Europe right now, so it gave me an opportunity to really focus on a goal with full concentration.

It's been overcast, cool, humid, and rainy for the last few days, and I've been praying that it would either be raining, or very cool and overcast during the race - since my best times last year were at rainy races! The forecast had said that it would be in the low 100's today, but when I woke up, it was still cloudy and cool. I absolutely cheered the few patehtic raindrops that hit my windshield as I drove out to the course.

There were a LOT of people there (there goes my small hope that the sagging economy would help my overall placement). In retrospect it makes a lot of sense. Where else can you take your family for 5 mornings of activity for a total of $25? Still, there were a lot of charity groups there - something you never see at Summer Series - and lots of high schools trucking their kids in.

*Reminder - this race is the only one with an age-group setup - so the 80+ year old women go first, then 80+ year old men, then grandparents and children go, and then they seed everyone else. Dorothy, our single 80+ year old (and the "professional" from last year) actually false started (she didn't hear the gun go off right next to her, poor dear!) so we did it again, and off she went. She had the most remarkable fuzzy red hat on. It was awesome.

Race: After pummeling my way through the teenage boys clogging up the corral, I was off - a bit after my +12:15 start time, but hey it's chipped timed anyway so no big deal.

The race course is fairly hilly for the first .25 miles, and then it lands you right onto the canal, which you run up to the turn around point, and return the same way. Although my goal was to PR (this is my best chance because of the weather) I wanted to manage myself - not go out too fast, pace myself, challenge myself, and finish strong. I feel very good that I did all of those things. My challenges were to run the entire park/hill area out and back, to run two major electric poles, and walk one continuously, and to not stop in the congestion of the tunnel either on the way out or on the way back. They were challenges for me, and I conquered them all! I also didn't get passed by someone coming back while I was going out until the 1st mile marker, which is a big deal.

What's so interesting to me is that since I've really tried to focus myself on the concept of the challenge and asking myself "Why can't I do this? What's the worst that could happen?" I feel more and more confident with my running. Rather than just running completely by feel, setting up clear physical goals for myself is actually making me a better runner.

I tried actively to not look at my watch, but it happens. My first mile was 12:42, which is perfect - not too fast out of the blocks, but definitely above where I've been training. When I got to the halfway point, I was actually surprised that felt as good as I did, and that I was halfway through the race. I hit the second mile at 26:22, and thought, ok, still right around 13 mins/mile! In the third mile, I just kept telling myself that I was already in the last mile, and it surprised me- I just felt so good. As I left the canal to get back into the park, I checked the watch again, and saw that I had 4 minutes to go before I would hit my PR time - but it's a hilly last 1/4 mile. Still I tried to push up and down the hills, I was racing, I hurt, I pushed, I kept looking for the finish line, which you can't see until you are there, and I climbed up that last hill and crossed.... 10 seconds short of a PR.

Still I can't complain - it's got hills, and I was only 10 seconds off from a pancake flat race. I also pushed myself as much as I could, and I feel very confident with how great I felt, and how much I gave to the race.

Post Race: Lady Tiara and the Hansons were racing as well, and they were kind enough to wait for me, and cheer me on at the finish line! Such good people, and both of the Hansons ran really good races! Lady Tiara beat me by 4 minutes, but she was hoping for a few minutes less. We did have some rocking breakfast, which was a great end to the morning festivities! I haven't figured out who had the better race yet percentage wise, but trust me, I will!

Race time: 39:46 (still under 40!), which is a 12:46 mile, 54/56 in the 25 - 29 female category (a long way to go to get up from 54th place!), and 724/791 overall. Go me!

I couldn't be any happier about this race considering how I was feeling until recently, the travel I've been doing, and still being prepared!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Making Friends with the Hills!

This has been a crazy, yet exciting weekend. I successfully rode my bike at South Mountain, which is a level 1 of 10, but definitely more than the canals, and had a great trail run!
After having a great homework practice on my bike Friday morning, I was excited, yet prepared to be completely humbled when I met with Joanie and her man to ride the desert classic trail. The first section was fairly flat and not at all rocky. There were some patches of sand but it was totally rideable. It did have that tricky uphill thing, where you're basically riding uphill the whole way, but you can't precisely tell that on the way up, so you're just wondering why your legs hurt after five minutes of riding... the second portion had some "serious" hills (I'm sure my definition will change) but for me, they were absolutely scary. Most of the hills were in and out of washes, so they were steep down and quick steep back up. I was very conscious of sticking my butt out off the back of the bike to ensure that I didn't flip over on the down, and held on to my rear brake basically the whole time down, which meant that I had no momentum to go up the hill. This meant that I would come down slowly, pedal my heart out and stop halfway up the hill, bail off the bike and walk up the rest of the hill. Joanie was great and encouraging, and totally didn't appear to mind stopping every time I had to walk my bike up a hill. We road out and back, and on the way back, I tried to ride the brake a little less, and I only had to get off and push twice, which I think is good progress. The down was SOOOO fun, because that sinister quiet uphill became a totally fun but not at all scary downhill. There was probably a mile stretch where I never even peddled, I just wound with the curves in the road, stood up on my pedals and enjoyed the ride down.
I left the run feeling exhalted and empowered, and determined that with practice I can achieve this goal. I WILL be able to ride at Papago. I will be able to ride at Del Valle. Even better I really enjoyed it. I am feeling very lucky that I chose to challenge myself, because I'm really having FUN out there - and isn't that what it's supposed to be about?
Of course the mood was shattered when I was chatting incessantly to Joanie and her man while taking my bike apart, and then realized that I had locked my keys in my car. I'll save you the long story, but it involved a hammer, and I didn't get home until 11pm on Friday night.
This morning, after Lilac's bachelorette party, I decided to get out and run the South Mountain trail again. I just want to do it consistently in the event that it actually someday gets easier. That's my goal. Keep running the mountain trails in the heat, and road races earlier in the morning will become easy, right? right?
Two weeks ago I ran this trail (I blogged about it) after a two week travel hiatus and about 11.5 hours of sleep each night during that time. The up hurt. It was a good challenge, but I just felt woefully out of shape and tired. The down was good, and I finished the four mile out and back in 1:28 minutes.
Today, again, less than 6 hours of sleep two nights in a row, long business trip, yadda yadda, oh and those B12 shots... It felt about the same effort level to me, at least I didn't feel quite as exhausted at each hill climb, but it was a tough up, and a fun/tough down like normal, except it only took me 1:16!!! 12 freaking minutes off a 4 mile hike/run?? WOO HOOO!!! Lady Tiara is shaking in her slippers right now, since we made a bet over best PR in the Summer Series races.
Now of course hiking/trail running is a LOT different from road races, and since I was oxygen deprived, the climbing was really the hardest thing for me - the muscles are being asked to move mountains, without air. However, I was absolutely shocked to see the 12 minute differential, and it definitely put the icing on the cake for the weekend for me!
This week's trail tip - Make friends with the hills. I've been consciously saying this to myself at each hill that I traverse "make friends with the hill. Little baby steps on the way up, so the hill doesn't even know that you are there, and then big bounding steps down, so that you can run away quick!" It does seem to take some of the effort out. I think our natural reaction is to try to push up the hill (which is exhausting) and then are afraid to charge the dowhill and lengthen our strides. This is going to be my main focus for a while.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pernicious Anemia

So after whining, and complaining, and worrying, and more complaining, I finally decided to go in and talk to Dr. Lenny about how I've been feeling lately (which as we don't need to be reminded was somewhere between a smelly pile of wafting poo, and the leftover scraps of a person who was hit by a bus). I went, I brought my training log, my travel log, my food log, and reviewed 8 years of medical history. Since all of my symptoms are.... nebulous... I wanted to give as clear a picture as I could, in case it was something little that I could do.

The absolute best part of going to the doctor was having Dr. Lenny instantly believe me that "something is wrong". He didn't scoff, and tell me that I'm lying about my mileage, or how much I'm working out, or what I'm eating (he saw the M&M's clearly listed on my food log). He calculated out that I AVERAGED 75 minutes of cardio 6 days a week every week for 2008. He also said immediately that something WAS off, and that he'd work with me as long as it took to find the solution.

Step 1 was to do a barrage of bloodwork on absolutely everything that they could test. If that showed nothing, we'd debate the value of going off BC for long enough that I could get additional hormone level work done. From there, we'd continue looking if we needed to.

Step 1 included thyroid tests, blood glucose levels, cholesterol, iron, b12, calcium, STD's, blood cell counts... basically every test that was not a test of estrogen levels, since we couldn't do that one.

The good news is that we found only one obvious discrepancy. I have NO B12 in my system- this is nearly impossible because B12 is in basically everything that I eat. In fact, my food log shows that I'm well over my daily intake requirements of B12. However, I have none. How does this happen? Basically, my body has stopped being able to metabolize/absorb the B12 into my body. This can happen for a variety of reasons, though the most likely is because of my underlying estrogen level issues. The inability to absorb B12 is called Pernicious Anemia (and yes I almost had a heart attack when my doctor gave me this name - for those of you who don't know, the simple definition of pernicious is death. Aparently the clinical definition is the death of an organ or bodily function).

B12 is what helps you put oxygen into your red blood cells and then take that oxygen to your organs and muscles. A lack of B12 can cause - fatigue, complete exhaustion, tingling in hands and feet, low blood pressure, low body temperature, basically absolutely every symptom I've been feeling. Unlike regular anemia, my iron levels are just fine, but the symptoms are very similar. Luckily, there's a very very easy solution - I need to go on a B12 shot regimen (the pills don't work, because they still require me to metabolize, which I cannot do). That's it. The shot location doesn't even hurt afterwards - and I should know, I had to get four of them yesterday to get myself back up to normal levels. I could feel the tiredness melt away as each shot was administered. It was like getting 12 hours of sleep in 10 minutes.

It was amazing that as soon as we knew what was wrong, all of the puzzle pieces fit perfectly into a picture, when just days before they were a big jumble that made no sense to anyone. My doc said that I had basically been living in an oxygen deprived world for years - and equated it to trying to climb Mt. Everest every single day. He even mentioned that the fact that airplans have less oxygen than the outside was part of why I was absolutely slayed by my travel. He was frankly stunned that I was training with the condition, and said that he had his money on a SERIOUS PR this summer, once my body got used to actually having oxygen and blood again.

I did go for a run this morning, and athough I didn't miraculously become a 5 minute miler, I was able to run the same time that I had run for this path after two weeks of extra sleep and no travel. Considering that I had a 22 hour day the day before yesterday, and crossed the country twice in four days (never mind not getting the standard weekend relax time that I generally NEED to keep going) I felt really good out there. In fact, I did notice a couple of body reactions that were interesting. One, my face did not get nearly as red as normal, and it calmed down by the time I got out of the shower, not 2+ hours later. I felt like I was sweating more, but working less hard. Also, the weirdest thing - about halfway through the run, I could feel the blood pumping in my fingers, almost like I had slammed them in the door, and realized that I hadn't felt my fingers when running for a long time. It was sort of weird, but still felt remarkable at the same time.

This is the acknowledgement section of my post. I want to thank a lot of people who in one way or another inspired me to go to the doctor armed and ready, and hope that they would be willing to listen - some who know me, and some who don't know me at all.

Lilac - who has been telling me for over a year that I need to go to the doctor because I know that something is off - and her mom Larue, who mentioned that she was concerned about it back in 2004 when I was completely oblivious.

Iron "Geek Girl" Misty - who writes the blog The Athena Diaries. She is also a plus sized athlete who suffers from several of the same symptoms (different condition), and has been very forthcoming in writing about her medical struggles and her relief in actually identifying the problem. She was the one who finally convinced me to go to the doc, even though she has no idea that she did it.

Lady Tiara - Has continued to be positive, and supportive of my efforts, small or herculean, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that blast of fresh positive air when she puts a comment on my blog.

My Mom and Dad have both been very pushy about my health lately, mainly because they were struggling with the most stubborn person on earth, but the fact that they both still care enough to tell me to go to the doctor means a lot.

Momo - Has been struggling with an injury, and although not a health related issue, it's reminded me that I HAVE the power to attempt to figure out what is wrong with me, and the opportunity to make myself feel better. I know she'd kill for an opportunity to feel better right now, so I took that and used it as inspiration for me! It worked.

Drums, my bro, has listened to every single variation of conversation that I wanted to have and did have with my doc, and he has continued to be suportive, even though I've talked of nothing else for the last two weeks.

Here's hoping it will continue to help!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Race Report: Girls on the Run 5K 5/02/09

I feel like I just wrote a race report... after not doing any spring races, the summer season has begun!

Pre-race: This race was previously called the Wondergirl (see race report from May 2008). It is the culmination of all practices and training for the girls in the spring GOTR program. I ran this race last year as a running buddy, and fell so in love with the program that I started coaching, and became a part of the Operations Committee in the fall. I also ran for the program for the PF Chang's 1/2, although the program name has changed.

This year, due to travel requirements, I have not been able to coach. However, not coaching made me eligible as a running buddy again! Since I was familiar with several of the returnees from Manitas, I fished around and offered to run as "Maire's" running buddy. We share the same middle name, Maire, which is the gaelic version of Mary, and sounds more like Marie. This girl reminds me so much of myself - she's not a natural athlete, she's a huge bookworm, she's way beyond the other girls in her class as far as interests and the things that she "gets". In fact, she frequently made comments during discussions at practice that just floored me - a very wise girl. Which means she's also vastly awkward and not at all popular. I can foresee that the teen years will not be easy for her, but if she can get through it, she'll be an amazing young woman.

OK sorry... the race...

So I got there, signed in, and went and found Manitas. It was great to see the girls and parents all excited for the race. I also got to see Lady Tiara, which was great, and one of the coaches from Crockett that I heart. It was very mellow but exciting. Maire brought me a bright pink feather boa to run in (which by the way, was pretty hot to run in, and the feathers stuck to my lip gloss) but we had GREAT flare and were ready to roll!

Race: Maire is one of the few participants who understands the concept of pacing. She actually asked to go to the back of the starting line (most girls are pushing to be the first one under the balloon arches) so that we would have more room and wouldn't get pushed around - sure, I always start at the back! Her mom had actually signed up originally to run with her, but due to some confidence issues, she was afraid she'd keep Maire back. She did want to make the point that you follow through on what you start, so she was racing anyway, though she expected to be far behind us. We started out after the gun, and we were off!

Maire was in charge of our starts and stops, and ran/walked consistently throughout the course. She had a good steady solid pace that she kept up for fair distances throughout the race. Each time she stopped to walk, we agreed that she had to say something positive. This was to ensure that she didn't think of walking as a bad thing. Her positive affirmations ranged from "The breeze is nice" to "those are pretty hibiscus flowers" (yes she actually said hibiscus) "I'm feeling really good" to "I like donuts". Whatever works. The surprise was that her mom kept up with us the whole way! Maire learned to make friends with the hills, and to push through her running to her goal locations, be it the water bubbler or the boat ramp.

It was a two lap course, and I have to say that from a personal perspective that even though we were not pushing my pace, it felt a lot shorter than it has in the past, even though I haven't really been running longer than 2.5 - 4 miles at a time lately.

At 52 minutes into the race, the feathered up ladies crossed the finish line. Maire felt awesome finishing her "6th" 5k (she's done four in practice in two seasons). It was great to experience, and both mom and daughter were an inspiration. The best part was that the mom was saying before the race that she was planning on doing the race and then throwing out her asthma inhaler, because she was never running again. By the end of the race, she was talking about taking the whole family to the ARR Summer Series races at Papago and Kiwanis this summer.

Overall it was a great day. I love being able to share in the excitement as all of the girls told me how great they did, and how proud they were. It was definitely worth the packed travel day to start at the race. I needed that pick-me-up that I could put in my pocket, and take out this week and enjoy!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Homework Assignment!

In preparation for my first trail ride, my mentor, Joanie, gave me a bicycle riding homework assignment. She was kind enough to mention that I should practice on the grass (see field to the right - also noticethe long pants in the event that I fell).

Those of you who know me know that I take things like homework very seriously. I was the only kid who would do my homework twice each night to make sure that I not only had all of the right answers, but that my penmanship looked perfect.

I invited my brother over to "play bikes" like when we were little kids, and to be my adjudicator and assesor for my homework assignment. My brother road a fixed bike in Boston, so he's very good with bike tricks, though he's never offroaded. Still he was a great judge. As Joanie said, "I'd rather run with the bulls in Pamplona than ride a fixy in Boston!"

Here's my assignment and assessment:

Prelim assessment - pre homework that my brother required:
- I need to be able to get on my bike with one foot and ride it comfortably before swinging my leg over. I cannot tell you how much time I spent looking at my foot and the peddle and saying "no, I can't even imagine it". I've seen people do this for entire parking lots. Currently I can do it for about two inches, but it's progress. At least now I feel comfortable with my extended hand being on the handlebar and not the seat. I plan on practicing this for 10 minutes before every ride.
- I also need to practice standing up on my bike to start, move, go uphills, and downhills (is there anything else?) I did feel more comfortable with this by the end of my first homework practice.

For the actual homework my brother gave me these grades -he's much more generous than I am, counting level of effort and improvement, where I look at current level vs. the elites. :)

Figure 8's - B+
I used a basketball court by my house, and did my figure 8's around the free throw circles and the middle of the court as my pivot point. I tried to do them completely standing up. Need to improve speed, and get deeper in turn, but overall I could do it with a fair amount of control. Really confidence is the key for me in all of these, but especially this one.

No Hands - A
They say you never forget how to ride a bike - I could disagree with that, but I guess you really don't forget how to ride no hands - this one was a piece of cake. I rode my entire street no hands (it's like .2 miles, but it's better than the 2 inches riding on one pedal) and made sure to move my arms in different positions, no issues. I love riding no hands!

Water Bottle Pick-up - N/A (F)
For this trick, I was supposed to be able to bend down while riding, and pick up a water bottle from the ground. I even cheated and used really tall water bottles. No dice. I wasn't able to do it, nor was my brother, although he tried this funky trick where he went one pedal, and then used the wrong foot on one pedal, squatted down, all while the bike was coasting by the way, but he still couldn't get the water bottle. It was like a walk-the-duck ice skating move on a moving bike. However, when I asked Joanie for clarification, she said that she had only ever done it on a road bike, and to skip this one since mountain bikes are a little bit taller.

Stick Wheelies - C
Score One for the HOA, I couldn't find a stick anywhere at the park in my neighborhood. My brother grabbed a boulder, but I baulked, so we used an "imaginary" stick. This was not a natural trick for me (and I'm not even mentioning that I actually read a "how to do a wheelie" article on line to prep for this - I take my homework seriously!) I tried to move my body forward, and then rock back and pull, no such luck. After a while, I'm certain that my brother was lying that I was getting off the ground because he wanted to go swimming (it was hot), but I wanted to get at least one good one before turning in. At one point he told me to try a bunny hop, which actually somehow produced a fairly good front wheelie on the first try (at least 3 inches, which would have gotten over the imaginary stick). Needs some serious work, and we'll have to figure something else out when I really need to do a bunny hop, but for now I have a plan of action.

Overall: I did better than I expected, but there's still plenty of room for growth. Starting at the bottom is always a lot of fun because you get to see huge improvements in the beginning - like wow, I can get on my bike without looking like a tard now! And best of all - I didn't fall down one time, which means I also didn't break anything. I did bail a couple of times, but I think that's par for the course. How else can you learn your boundaries?

I can't wait to get back out there and do more practice!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Next Chapter...

This is an old picture, but it's one of my favorites. It's Lilac and I at South Mountain, having bombed down the last hill. It was one of those rare perfect days where the weather was great and we were both feeling awesome. It was actually not at the Moon Valley Grasshopper Bridge race, we just happened to be wearing the same t-shirt- which happens much more frequently than it should considering that we have about 30 race t-shirts in our rotation.

Of all of the things that we do together, South Mountain is one of my favorites. Whether we're walking leisurely, hiking hard, shuffling along in a run, sweating bullets in the heat, or standing at the outcrops looking at the gorgeous panaramas, it is a place that just feels good and uplifting. I've been running there for 5 or 6 years now, and it's always a challenge that makes me feel good afterward.

Today, I ran it by myself, and I challenged myself to run about 3 miles of the 4 mile loop I do there. For the record it's about 400 feet in elevation change up to the top. I got close and I worked my butt off. I sang out loud to my iPod to remind myself to stop holding my breath, and got some giggles out of other people hiking by me. It was another beautiful AZ morning. We've been so lucky this spring.

So why am I telling you this?

With all of the traveling I've bee doing, and the recent down turn in health again (if they could ever figure out what is wrong with me) I'm feeling exhausted pretty much all the time. You all know I haven't been training consistently since the 1/2 marathon. It's funny how whatever it is that's wrong works. If I'm not traveling, I can focus on my sleep schedule and my workout schedule and do amazing things (for me) like the half marathon. I can challenge myself and most of the time I feel ok. However, as soon as I start traveling, it messes up the amount of sleep that I get, and the wheels come off immediately. It takes so long to get them back on. I have been home for a full week, and I can NOT get my ass out of bed before 6am without starting to get sick feeling. It's the kind of tired that you can feel in your upper back and shoulders. I'm getting 11+ hours of sleep at night, and if it were any less, I wouldn't be able to function.

So what do I do? I know that the next two months are going to be non-stop travel. I know that I need my sleep to get through it. I also know that I'm putting weight back on at an alarming rate. I need to work out, but I just can't put two hours in every day.

I've decided that I'm going to train for an XTerra offroad triathlon. How does this make sense? I'll tell you.
1. It allows me to enjoy the activities I'm doing when I have the time to do them (read the South Mountain description above)
2. I can continue to ride my mountain bike, and not worry about the looming need for a road bike that I just know I'm going to hate.
3. Because it's a sprint distance, it allows me to get in some extra "short" workouts and not feel like I'm dropping the ball while training for a longer event.
4. It's more of a challenge physically, so even though some of my workouts will be shorter, they will be more intense.
5. It continues my goals to get outside more and do hill work.
6. It will allow me to stay sane and focused and not disgruntled about long training sessions that I just don't have time for right now.

There's one problem. I don't know how to ride my mountain bike on anything other than the pancake flat canals. However, Landis is offering a *free* mentor program, and I've been matched up with a hard core X-Terra girl - "Joanie". She has agreed to take me out on some baby rides, and teach me some of the technique to mountain bike riding.

I have to admit, it's the first time I've been excited about training since 1/2 was over.

So here's what I'm looking at. There's a PBR (Pabst(sp?) Blue Ribbon, not Professional Bull Riders like I thought) race at Papago in October. It's going to be my test race. That gives me 6 months to make myself and offroader. It will be the indicator for whether or not I'll be ready to do the XTerra Offroad Tri in Del Valle, CA next May. I think a year should be adequate to focus on, and challenge myself with a new skill.

What about my existing goals you ask?

If you recall at the beginning of January, I had 6 goals for 2009. They were:
1. Stay Healthy
2. Complete a 1/2 marathon (Check!)
3. Push hard at Tri for the Cure (mmmm, well I went...and pushed hard having done no training)
4. Take one for the team at Club Championships (I forgot Autam's wedding is the night before...)
5. Do all the Summer Series Races
6. Complete and olympic distance tri- Nathan's.

#1 is the key here. It said "This supersedes all other goals listed here. If I do nothing but Goal #1, it will be a successful year."

So I'm taking that, and modifying the list. The new list is:
1. Stay healthy
2. Complete a 1/2 marathon (check!)
3. Prove that a sprint is well within my abilities (check!)
4. Do a splash and dash this summer (I'll talk about this another day)
5. Do all the Summer Series Races
6. Do an offroad triathlon - PBR
Optional: Complete an olympic distance tri - I'm not taking it off yet. If I feel like the distances are manageable, I will go for it, but it's no longer the prize at the end of my race season.

*The first lesson in trail running is a short memory, and looking only one foot in front of you. If you try to take in the whole mountain, it kills your concentration.

I'm looking forward to training for it and chronicaling it!