Monday Miles: January 12-18

Hello all! I hope you’ve all been busy sweating since the last time I checked in. I know I have been getting my butt kicked all week.

Monday – 45 min of strength work and stretching. I focused on ab and core work with lots of hip stretching.

Tuesday – 6.9 miles of bike commuting + 50 min training run. The plan was to just run with freedom and no restrictions on route, but it was crazy foggy and I ended up sticking to a set path so I didn’t get lost. Total run was 5.31 miles.

Wednesday – The commute from hell results in 2 miles of biking…and a trek to work that took 3.5+ hours. Seriously…so long. I took my rage out when I got home with 45 min on the bike trainer, including 6 x 30 second spin ups with 1 min recovery and 3 x 90 seconds at Z3 effort with 2 min recovery – which I’m just now realizing was different from what was on the schedule! Whoops.

Thursday 5.9 miles of bike commuting + track workout. I did 10 min warm up, 2000 m at race pace with 2 min recovery, 4 x 600 m at 5K pace with 200 m + 1 min recovery, and 1 mile cool down. To say this was rough would be an understatement. I was in hurt city at the end of the 2K – have to reawaken the speed in my legs still – and I had jello legs for the 600s. 5.28 miles in 46:21.

Friday – Rest day. My favorite thing to see on the schedule.

Saturday – Easy 9 mile run through Oakland, including a jaunt up Piedmont and a lap around Lake Merritt. This was hands down the best I’ve felt on a long run since the Healdsburg Half Marathon – and also the farthest I’ve run since then – and I have to mention I stayed incredibly strong mentally throughout this run. Major improvement. Plus the crazy hip aches weren’t an issue…double win! Total time was 1:30:28, right where I should be on an easy training run. After finishing those miles, I took off for a bike ride out on the Bay Bridge and back. It was not as painful as I anticipated, and it actually helped loosen up my legs. I covered 13.9 miles in 1:05:17.

Sunday – This was the struggle of the weekend. After sleeping funny on my shoulder Saturday night, it has been achy and sore ever since. I got creative in trying to get through the pool workout yesterday, but it was a challenge. I ended up surviving all 850 yards in 15:25 but it was not pretty and it was pathetic. I NEED my swimming lessons to start soon.

So that was my mileage over the past week – pretty stellar I think. I never felt like I couldn’t survive a workout, which means my legs and endurance are slowly coming back. I am hoping that continues because we leave for Florida 1 month from today! That will be my first stab at setting a 10K PR this year, and my ONLY half marathon for 2015! Weird to think.

Other good news this week? I’m dropping weight! I went from 152.2 lbs last Monday to 150.4 lbs this morning. That puts me in a great place to smash my goal of being back under 150 by the end of the month. I can already feel my clothes fitting better, and I’m looking forward to seeing how my body feels during workouts this week. I’m really just aiming to be in a better place fitness-wise, and I know getting closer to my goal race weight will really help.

One last topic today, and it’s a question for the swimmers out there: what upper body exercises do you use to help build swimming muscles?? I’m in desperate need of building upper body strength and would LOVE recommendations!

Your Turn: Swimming: love it or hate it?

Monday Miles: January 5-11

With the kickoff of triathlon training, I decided it was about time I bring back Monday Miles around here! As I mentioned, this past week was a big week as it was the first official training week of the year…and with this year being the year I tackle triathlon, that meant a lot of craziness for myself!

Monday – 45 min strength and stretching. During the off-season I joined the gym at work and try to get some good strength training in at least once each week.

Tuesday – Bike commute (5.9 miles) + 45 min tempo run. 15 min warm up, 15 min building to 10K pace, 15 min cool down. 4.68 miles; 9:37 min/mile

Wednesday – Spin workout. 10 min warm up, 20 min steady tempo, 6 x 45 sec spin ups with 2 min recovery, solid ride to round out 1 hour.

Thursday – Bike commute (6.9 miles) + track workout. 1 mile warm up, 2 x 400, 2 x 800, 1 x 1600 at 10K pace, 1 mile cool down. Had to work incredibly hard to hold on to this one – pretty out of shape after the off-season – but it was a solid workout to kick off the year. 4.75 miles; 41:14; 8:41 min/mile

Friday – Rest day.

Saturday – Long bike ride covering 18.5 miles in 1:25:03. Headed to the pool for 18:24 of swimming laps, with the last 200 including pull buoys (woof).

Sunday – Long run. Tried to add in some hills throughout the route – brutal idea after swimming and biking already – and held on for a solid 7 miles in 1:13:28. On the slower side, but I’m fine with that. Speed will come. 10:28 min/mile

In addition to focusing on workouts, I’m also returning my focus to eating better. I’ve put on too much weight this year to be happy with where I am heading into the race season. So today I returned to counting calories. It’s already been a big eye-opener to just how much I was consuming (and not realizing!). I’m starting my journey back to my happy weight at 152.2 lbs. By the end of January, I’m aiming to be back under 150 lbs, with the ultimate goal of dropping back down to 138 lbs. To hold myself accountable, I’ll be including my progress along with my weekly Monday Miles. I do want to note that I will not be putting my body in starvation mode. I will be carefully tracking calorie intake/burn to make sure I do not dip below 1200 calories, putting my training and body in a dangerous position.

All of this is to say: it’s a new year full of new goals. I’m dedicated to achieving those goals in all aspects of my life. And I’m willing to make the changes necessary to get there.

Your Turn: What big changes are you focusing on this year?

Healdsburg Half Marathon 2014

Just 7.5 days after Tower of Terror, I was back on the West Coast preparing to run the Healdsburg Half Marathon. Healdsburg was the final half in the Run Wine Country series and I’d heard amazing things about the race so I was excited for it. What could be bad about wine country in the fall?

Since the half was sandwiched between two races, and just 3 weeks post-Ragnar, the plan was to take the race ridiculously easy. Anything under a 2 hour finish would indicate failure to comply with that goal (though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to finish under 2:10). My goal race for the fall was the following weekend, and I wanted to be ready for it.

Hotels in Napa and Sonoma can be a bit outrageous when it comes to cost, but we’ve had a lot of success using Air BnB to find places to stay. Once again we’d found a great place in Windsor…and the owner happened to have Vineman 70.3 gear all over (the weekend happened to fall when we were making long-term goals and deciding to work towards the race next summer so it was a pretty awesome sign we were heading towards big things!)

vineman 70.3 visor

We drove up to Sonoma County on Saturday in the late morning so we could hit packet pick up just after it opened and have time to get to the house before the Royals game started – it was October, after all! Packet pickup was held at Kendall Jackson again, but after getting our bibs and t-shirts, we didn’t bother sticking around. I don’t really like that it’s a big corporate winery hosting the expo…I always prefer to support smaller operations.

We spent the day taking it easy with Matt listening to the game while I got work done at the house. We had made a dinner reservation at a restaurant in Healdsburg called Baci, and I would definitely recommend it. The food was good and the restaurant itself was nice. I think for a solid pre-race meal I’d probably go back to Santa Rosa, but a nicer dinner out would be perfect at Bacci. The restaurant was full of runners and you could hear the staff asking each table if they were excited for the race, etc. After running Ragnar and feeling like the towns weren’t happy to have the runners, it was a nice change!

gnocchi at baci

cannoli at baci

On race morning, we headed out to Healdsburg and found parking along a side street. After making our way to the staging area, we got in an outrageous line for the porta potties, which caused us to be late getting into the corrals. That meant we barely made it for the start of the race and we were bunched in with slower runners. While at first I found this incredibly annoying because I had to do a lot of weaving in and out of people, it was probably good for forcing me to keep the pace slow.

The course started in downtown Healdsburg covering a few small hills before we made our way out along the neighboring vineyards. We essentially made a giant loop around the area just west of the freeway before coming back to downtown to the finish.

healdsburg half marathonTo say that this race was the most beautiful course I have ever run would be a serious understatement. Imagine all of the beauty you typically associate with vineyards. And then imagine all of the beauty you typically associate with leaves changing color in the fall in the countryside. And then combine those two things to try to understand just how stunning the course was! It was so easy to forget I was running a half marathon because I was just in awe of everything around me.

healdsburg half marathonI had been warned prior to race day that the course would feature a plethora of rolling hills, and I have to admit that the billing was spot on. Fortunately they weren’t terrible and it was pretty easy to climb them all. I do have to say that my legs were more than happy to be finished when I did, though :).

healdsburg half marathonIn terms of my personal race, this one was much needed. I spent so much time in 2014 focusing on improving my running – being faster, setting new PRs – and taking on duathlon. By the time Healdsburg came around, I was running out of mental steam and questioning some of my racing ability. This race, though? It was easy. I never felt the need to throw in the towel. I know I wasn’t running my fastest, but I ran the race comfortably, didn’t need to stop to walk at all, and would have run a PR race prior to 2014. That’s improvement. Huge improvement. This race was the mental victory I needed. And it was seriously so much fun!

healdsburg half marathonAfter crossing the finish line, we received our medals…and before anything else I demanded changing shoes. I have a spot on my foot that ALWAYS rubs in my shoes. Every season. No matter what. I build up a callous each year, but inevitably, the blister starts forming underneath it and I get these hideous blood blisters by the end of the season. This year was particularly brutal with such a long racing season…and my screaming blister needed room to breathe.

blisterBest sign I saw all race was right at the end & said, “Blisters are Braille for awesome!”

After switching to flip flops, we headed back to the finish festival where we collected our gear for racing the entire Run Wine Series this year: a bottle of wine with a special label and an additional tshirt! We then headed to claim our second prize for the Healdsburg race: new glasses. Our options were regular wine glasses, stemless wine glasses, and pint glasses…having broken most of our pint glasses, we opted for those.

wine bottle and glassOne of my favorite things about this race series is the killer post-race party they put on! We grabbed plates of food (amazing Mexican) and headed into the 21 and over area where Lagunitas was pouring beer and I think about 12 wineries were pouring wine! We had a glass of beer to go with our food and then did some wine tasting. It was such a blast! And I was completely drunk before 11 am…to the point that I didn’t want to do any other wine tasting before leaving Sonoma! Best part: it’s all part of the race registration!

post-race foodpost-race celebrationI really cannot recommend this race series enough! The logistics are easy, there is always amazing post-race food and drinks, they’re on the affordable side (especially if you register early), and they’re well organized. If you’re looking for a race in Sonoma, I really encourage you to check out the Run Wine Country events!

So finally, the dirty details of my finish:

Finish time: 2:02:49
AG finish: 34th out of 98
Female finish: 169th out of 714
Overall finish: 339th out of 1,028

Success!

Your Turn: Have you run the Healdsburg Half Marathon? Best post-race celebration you’ve experienced?

Tower of Terror 10 Miler 2014

Yes, I am still writing blog posts from races I ran 3 months ago! Better late than never, right? It certainly could’ve been worse.

Two weeks after racing Ragnar Napa Valley, Matt and I headed to Orlando to meet up with my mom and run the Tower of Terror 10 Miler. (I’d include a link to the website BUT RunDisney has done away with the race! Considering I had originally registered to run the race in 2013 but had to postpone to 2014 after starting a new job, I’m glad I hadn’t tried to push my registration back again.)

One of the reasons we’d registered for Tower of Terror was my mom wanted to go to the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT and run a race at the same time. Previous experience has taught me it’s much more fun to do the race at the start of the trip and then enjoy the festival after the race is over, which means that since they’ve moved the Wine & Dine Half Marathon to the last weekend of the festival, you can’t use that strategy and run that race.

Going into the race, since we’d just run Ragnar and knew we had a half marathon the following weekend, the plan was to run an easy 10 miles and use the race as a training run. We also wanted to have a little fun, so we decided to dress up as my favorite Disney couple: Ariel & Eric.

rundisney ariel and eric costumes

After three evening races at Disney World, we’ve learned a few things about how to prepare: we ate an easy-to-digest pasta dinner in the hotel room that wasn’t too big a few hours before leaving, we made sure to have a change of clothes and shoes with an extra bag that we left at gear check, and we brought a few snacks to eat prior to starting since you spend a good chunk of time waiting at the start line. Fortunately we were able to keep ourselves well-entertained by checking out all of the costumes people we wearing, and it didn’t take too long before our corral was being moved from the staging area to the start line (I think it was probably a good .5-1 mile walk).

While I’d been assigned to Corral C, Matt was running under someone else’s name…and thankfully she had been assigned to Corral D since RunDisney no longer allows you to change your corral placement at the expo! The start line was located in the parking lot at Hollywood Studios and the course took you down to the Oceola Parkway, where you made a loop in front of the Animal Kingdom parking lot before heading back down in the opposite direction, past Hollywood Studios to the ESPN Wide World of Sports. There, you entered the complex from a side trail (decorated to look spooky and ghost-like), coming up to run a lap around the track, over to the baseball stadium (home of spring training for the Atlanta Braves) for a lap around the warning track, before heading back out on the main road. This met back up with the Oceola Parkway, which takes you back to the Hollywood Studios turnoff for a loop through the park before finishing at the base of the Tower of Terror.

tower of terror 10 miler 2014

Starting the race I had every intention of taking it easy, and we did. We settled into a solid pace, though in typical Amanda & Matt fashion, our miles slowly started speeding up. We had brought the camera along with us to take photos, but we never saw any characters we were super excited to get our photo taken with…so instead of stopping, we just kept running.

tower of terror 10 miler 2014

My 10 miler PR was set several years ago when I ran my second Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in 1:29:58. I figured I’d be running this race around 1:35, so when Matt mentioned that if we picked up the pace just about 15 seconds or so per mile on the last 2 miles we could hit a new PR, I was excited. My legs were feeling surprisingly amazing, and up until that point, I didn’t feel like I’d been working hard at all. So I thought, why not try? A solid effort at the end of the run wouldn’t do too much damage to my legs before the next weekend…and my training runs typically end with some kind of increased effort, anyway.

tower of terror 10 miler 2014

So we pushed it a little bit. Mile 9 was just a little bit faster, but as we came flying into Hollywood Studios and were FINALLY surrounded by spectators cheering us on, my legs got caught up in the excitement of the finish line…and I found myself pushing harder than I really should have. At that point, we were less than 1/3 of a mile from the finish, and I wasn’t about to give up or slow down. Call it my competitive side, if you will.

tower of terror 10 miler 2014

So we gave it a solid push heading into the finish line…and crossed the timing mat in 1:29:01 – an unintentional PR for the race!

tower of terror 10 miler 2014

After receiving our medals, Gatorade, and snack boxes, we started heading out to pick up our gear from bag check. But I am not kidding when I tell you that it was probably another mile until we reached it! Between the walking prior to the start and after the race, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was closer to a half marathon distance. And just when you thought you’d be getting close, it kept going. Eventually we ended up on the set of the Indian Jones stun show to pick up our bags, which was actually pretty cool!

We’d brought clothes and shoes to change into, so we headed straight for the bathroom to freshen up…which was especially important because it got much chillier during the evening than we had anticipated! Matt also said farewell to what were quite possibly the most disgusting running shoes on the planet (thanks to sweaty runs through dusty vineyard paths) before we were off to celebrate.

matt's shoes

matt's shoes

One reason we were so excited to finish so early was so we could ride all of the rides we wanted to before the lines got long, so we booked it over to the Pixar area to ride Midway Mania (the Toy Story ride). However, the ride ended up being shut down the entire time! Instead, we went back over to the finish area to ride Rock’n Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror before grabbing some margaritas.

tower of terror 10 miler 2014

We’d been waiting for the text update on my mom so we could watch her finish, but unfortunately the text was delayed and we missed her! We did, however, make sure she had margarita once she was out of the crazy long finish area (that’s what really matters, right?).

We eventually got my mom to ride the Tower of Terror (she hates that ride) before calling it a night. The after-party wasn’t very cool, particularly with Midway Mania being shut down and only a few rides actually open (which meant the lines were really long). There weren’t many good food options available, either, so we decided to head back to our room. I have to say that after experiencing the Wine and Dine after party, which features both food/drinks and rides at EPCOT, I have been pretty disappointed by the others we’ve been to following night races. I’m definitely glad we hadn’t actually paid to get in!

Final stats from the final Tower of Terror 10 Miler:

AG finish: 30 out of 1,150
Female finish: 168 out of 6,146
Overall finish: 595 out of 9,387

Not too shabby for a race I was taking easy!

Before wrapping up this post, I must also include how exciting it was to get to meet one of my readers, Kate, during the weekend!

Meeting Kate

We have emailed back and forth several times now, and it was so amazing to get to meet her in person! When I started blogging, I chose to do so because I needed an outlet – a way to handle a pretty serious running injury. It morphed into the outlet I needed to help me get through my doctorate work, and now it has become a way for me to share my journey and connect with people all over the world. When I wrote my first post, I never anticipated how much my blog would impact my life. But more importantly, I never dreamed it would be able to impact the lives of other people. Getting to meet Kate and talk to her and her husband, I was moved (almost to tears) hearing how the words I write help others reach for their own goals and make their dreams a reality. I can tell you that without a doubt, the two times we were able to talk during the trip far surpassed my unexpected PR…they were truly the highlight of my vacation.

With that in mind, I want to thank you for allowing me to share my journey with all of you. Hearing from you and learning about your journeys is seriously one of my favorite aspects of writing a blog. The running community is a pretty amazing one, and I’m thankful to be a part of it.

Your Turn: What was your favorite part of your last vacation? Thoughts on RunDisney discontinuing the Tower of Terror 10 Miler?

The Year of EleVen

On this last day of 2014, I wanted to take some time to reflect over the past year while also thinking a bit about the goals I’m working towards.

Without a doubt 2014 was a big year for me! Not only did I get the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for two races that hold special places in my heart – ZOOMA Napa Valley & the Berkeley Half Marathon – but I also had the blessing of being selected as a brand ambassador for EleVen by Venus. I am very selective about the brands I choose to partner with, but what has always attracted me to ZOOMA and EleVen is the way the brands celebrate strong women. EleVen specifically speaks directly to my soul as I have never been one to be satisfied with being average at anything I do. If you’ve ever met me personally, you know I strive for perfection…or at least my personal best…in all aspects of my life. I’m not happy with being a ten. I want to be an EleVen.

i'm not here to be average

When I found out I had been selected as a brand ambassador, I was ecstatic. I felt I was already living the brand’s motto. I’d already accomplished 4 of my 5 goals for 2014. I’d set several new PRs, including taking over 12 minutes off of my half marathon PR, and I had not only conquered my fear of clipping in on my road bike, but I had also raced 3 duathlons.

But in typical Amanda fashion, I decided it wasn’t enough. And I was applying that to all aspects of my life. My notable absence on the blog has been the result of pushing hard at work as I have been striving towards my career goals. The success I’ve been able to accomplish in my professional life lately has pushed me to take the plunge (literally) and step up my efforts as an athlete, leading me to declare 2015 as the Year of EleVen.

You see, the key goal I had been ignoring lately was #4: Learn to swim. I’ve talked the talk on my blog – wanting to race Vineman 70.3 in 2016 and ultimately taking on 140.6 – but I hadn’t actually done anything about it. That all changed on December 21. While I might be slow and my endurance is seriously lacking still, in the past 1.5 weeks, I’ve gone from struggling to swim 200 yards to dominating 840 yards (roughly the 750 meters of a sprint triathlon). It isn’t continuous swimming – yet – but I’m pushing myself to grow and develop. I’m pushing myself to be an EleVen.

we all have a wonder woman inside us

You might be thinking: how on Earth does she think learning to swim back and forth at the pool makes her an EleVen. And you’d be asking a good question. But the answer is that this is just the beginning of a journey that will take me places I never dreamt I could go and will ultimately finish with 140.6 miles of racing that a few years ago seemed impossible. I could settle for where I am now – a 4-time marathoner, 4-time duathlete, sub-2 hour half marathoner, and sub-52 minute 10K runner – and I would be proud of all I have accomplished since finding running in 2009. But it isn’t enough for me to rest on my laurels. So in 2015, I will strive even more to be an EleVen.

1. I will race a sprint triathlon. And in fact, I have already registered for it! On April 12, I will be racing the HITS Napa Valley Sprint Triathlon. I’m terrified. But the goals worth chasing are the ones that terrify you the most.

2. I will race an Olympic triathlon. Another race I have already registered for! On May 31, I will make my way to the Russian River and begin my journey towards Vineman 70.3. I registered for the Vineman Monte Rio, and I splurged on the premium registration. Why? Because it guarantees me early access to Vineman 70.3 registration for 2016. And that’s the big race I have my eye on right now!

3. I will set a new 10K PR. I’m racing two 10K’s this year – Enchanted 10K at Disney World (part of the Glass Slipper Challenge) in February and the ZOOMA Napa Valley 10K in June. My goal is to run both races hard and set a new PR this year.

4. I will complete my first century ride. Ever since I started cycling, I have wanted to complete a century ride. As part of my build up to racing 70.3, I am going to do one! I’m scoping out a few races in the fall and am trying to pick the race. My butt might end up incredibly sore, but I can’t wait to make it happen.

5. I will become a stronger athlete. I mean this both mentally and physically. I will train myself this year to be stronger mentally – to not give up during a race and to fight through the tough moments. I have struggled with this over the past year, and it’s a flaw I need to fix before taking to the ultimate endurance races. Physically I am dedicated to improving my performances by doing more weight training and more stretching. I need to take care of my body and prepare it for the battles that await.

Ultimately, by the end of 2015, I will be able to say I am ready for Vineman 70.3.

i can and i will

Your Turn: How will you be an EleVen in 2015?