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August 13, 2013

“But I plan to learn to be a better listener to the subtle signals in myself. That is the beginning of health, I think.” -Marian Call

I have a hard time listening to those signals within myself. Moderation and balance do not come naturally to me. Sleep, food, running…I tend to go to extremes. I force myself to get up early to get things done until I eventually crash. I don’t eat until I get extremely hungry and then can’t stop myself from eating far too much. I run and I run and I run. And I run. Because if a little bit of running is good more must be better, right? (Spoiler: wrong!)

I have to consciously try to get adequate amounts of sleep reassuring myself that I’m not as effective at work (and play) if I am sleep deprived. I’m trying to allow myself to eat snacks when I need them to prevent the inevitable gorging that accompanies extreme hunger. And I’m trying to determine how far I can safely run for maximum benefit.

Once I’ve committed to a training plan, I tend to follow it to the letter; getting anxious when trying to figure out when I’m going to fit in the designated runs around other plans. It’s hard for me to determine when I need a rest day (whether or not my training plan calls for it) vs. pushing through some fatigue. Generally I opt to push through any discomfort because isn’t that what racing’s all about? Training for a marathon requires training my mind not to give up when things get uncomfortable. It’s about working hard and pushing myself in order to improve. Of course, as anyone who’s sustained an overuse injury can verify, you can have too much of a good thing. My training plans always have built in rest days, but I’m sure listening to my own body, recovering at its own rate, would yield better results.


Triangles are all about balance, amiright?

Listening to the “subtle signals in myself” is much hard said than done. How do I tell the difference between just being lazy and legitimately needing to rest my legs? As much as I want to will my mind to immediately identify what my subconscious and body are trying to say, it’s impossible to force this communication. I’m going to need to practice and observe; see how I react to different stimuli and how successes and failures are preceded. This is going to require patience with myself, another skill I’ll need to acquire on my way to this “health” of which I hear so much.


PAX Prime 5K

August 12, 2013
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Attention my fellow nerd runners!

In the style of Alaska Robotics, I’d like to run an informal, unofficial 5K at PAX Prime. We’ll meet at 8:30AM on Saturday, August 31 at the Waterfront Park and run (or walk) a nice, flat course along the water:

Let me know if you have any questions or requests. I hope to see you there!


*** UPDATE: Now comes in Facebook form: ***

A Call to Write

August 7, 2013

Hi there, how are y’all doing? It’s been a while. I went to this blog to see what I wrote in my last post and I found that the words were foreign to me. I’ve always had a difficult time rereading my own work because I impart my own awkward tone on it. I find some dissonance between what I was thinking and what I had written. And of course there’s my tendency to judge and criticize my past self. However, rereading after such a long time must have given me some perspective because I didn’t feel that nagging discomfort, the unfortunate disconnect that I usually feel. It didn’t feel one dimensional; it has some personality and emotion behind it. Would it be terribly conceited of me to say I may have actually enjoyed reading it?


Anyway, the overarching theme of this blog was supposed to be my experiments with food but it’s turned into more of a running blog. I suppose that could be considered food for my soul. J Reading my previous entry I realized how far I’ve come this year.  I did redeem myself in the 10K I alluded to by running a PR-worthy time of 51:35. I also got my sub-24 minute 5K about a month ago, running the Redmond Derby Dash in a cool 23:24.  I am much more concerned right now about getting my sub 4 hour marathon. I have it in me, I know I do. And, well, even if I don’t I would like to keep trying. Which brings me to my real impetus for writing: this post by the lovely Marian Call.


“But I plan to learn to be a better listener to the subtle signals in myself. That is the beginning of health, I think.”


I realize that as a self-employed artist this probably has bigger implications on her life than mine, but I still think I could benefit greatly from listening to those subtle signals in myself.


So I’ll leave you now to discuss that quote amongst yourselves until I return. I have some vague notion to write about how that quote applies to my running and eating (and life in general). Plus, I’ll add some ruminations on why I run and maybe throw in a food experiment or two, I think Alton Brown has inspired me to try making caramels. Oh, and perhaps a recap of the two fabulous trips I’ve take this year: JoCo Cruise Crazy III and hiking around Machu Picchu.

5K Disappointment

October 9, 2012

Every October Microsoft runs a campaign to get employees to donate their time and money to charity. As part of this, they host a 5K run around campus. Running + Charity = AWESOME. Admittedly, I was at first turned off by the price ($55 is pretty steep for a no-frills 5K – upgrading to VIP for $75 got you a cotton t-shirt and water bottle), but quickly realized that benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue, Crohn’s and Collitis research, and a guide dog foundation was more than worth it!

I’m in the midst of marathon training which generally means long, slow distances, not optimal for relatively short, speedy races. This didn’t stop me from being pretty optimistic. I PR’ed in the 5K earlier this year and (not to toot my own horn) I’ve kind of been on fire in the running department since my half marathon. This 5K course is a little rough, but with the additional interval work I’ve been doing to cap off my strength training I though I had a decent shot at PR’ing. At one point I thought I may have even been able to break 24 minutes, a 46 second PR. But alas *spoiler alert* it was not meant to be.
The sun was shining as my coworkers and I made our way to start of the race. I lined up at the back of the 7-8 minutes/mile heat. It was a fairly large race for the course size (over 2000 participants) so I did a slow shuffle after our heat was released to get to the starting line. Once I crossed the start, I was off! I knew the first mile was the easiest: on roads and downhill. My first mile would need to be under my goal pace if I had any hope of achieving my PR. Unfortunately, I may have been a little too aggressive and ended up with a 7:26. The mile markers were a little bit off, so I was concerned when I passed the first mile marker a good 30 seconds after my Garmin flashed a mile. But I kept on chugging. I focused on a runner ahead of me who looked calm and in control. I made it my goal to keep up with her. From the first mile, the course went slightly uphill. I managed to catch up with my unwitting pacer, but my speed was waning: 8:03. It became a struggle for me to keep pushing myself. I began to noticed how warm it was in the sun and how thirsty I felt.  I started to lose hope since I knew the last mile was pretty killer. It started with a steep decent on gravel. This meant controlling my speed to prevent running into others on the narrow path or slipping out. Then a sharp uphill on the gravel ending in a set of stairs. Killer. From there, it was about a half mile moderately uphill to the finish line. I kept on the tail of my chosen pace rabbit and tried to push myself to the end. The course narrowed a bit on the sidewalks so I had some additional bobbing and weaving between those who were fading at the end. I avoided the photographer at mile 3 knowing I probably did not look my best. 🙂 And so I rounded the last corner, giving it all I had. I crossed the finish line just the girl I was following and looked down at my  watch as it turned to 25 minutes. My final time was 24:58, 12 seconds slower than my PR and 58 seconds slower than I had hope for.

The Aftermath:

I got myself a bottle of water and made my way to the finish line. I hung around there cheering on my friends and coworkers for a bit before collecting swag from the sponsors. I knew that my training and the course had made PR’ing that day an unlikely feat but I still had a lot of fun. There’s always next time! Fortunately, I have a 10K in two weeks to redeem myself. Too bad I think it’s got a lot of hills as well!

Getting My Bike On

September 17, 2012

I completed a sprint triathlon on whim earlier this summer and it was quite obvious that biking was my weakest sport. I’ve ramped up my biking the past couple years, but there’s still quite a bit of room for improvement relative to the swimming and the running. Combine that with my desire to do the Seattle-to-Portland in one day this year (ambitious!) and I realized that I spending some time in the saddle would be a good idea.

I organized a ride with some of my running buddies, planning to meet on Sunday morning just a few miles from our house. I chose a ride we had done earlier this year. I was hoping for one a bit longer or hillier, but I haven’t done a long ride and I wanted to go easy on Derek’s hurting knee. I rushed Derek out of house this morning since we had to bike to the start (about 5 miles) and I hate being late. The rushing ended up being for naught since some bike troubles and issues finding the meeting location made a few of my friends late. About half an hour after our original meeting time, we set out into the fog covered route. After about half an hour, the sun came out, the fog lifted, and I stopped feeling chilled.

A couple miles in, we lost one of our members (who was carrying her dog with her in a basket) because she thought she couldn’t keep up with us. I felt very badly about this; since we had a range of biking abilities I really didn’t want to leave anyone out. The main goal of this ride was to have fun and enjoy the ride.

The first half of the ride had some small rolling hills and beautiful rural scenery. It also had portions scented with pungent cow manure. I wish I had taken a picture of some of the cows (moo) and the mountains in the distance. On a straightaway I start to feel a bit cranky; a sure sign that I needed to ingest some calories! We took a bathroom and snacks break at a gas station about two-thirds of our through where I consumed my snack of pecans and raisins. Nothing beats the convenience and satiety of dried fruit and nuts for fuel.

That certainly made all the difference. I felt much better the rest of the way back. We pushed the a little bit on the winding, bucolic roads back to our starting location. We met up with our lost companion (and her adorable dog). Half of our group needed to return to their families and the rest of us enjoyed a tasty lunch at the Duvall Grill. I was craving salt so I devoured a tasty spinach salad topped with bacon, cheese, and chicken. It definitely hit the spot!

Derek I and I still had the short 5 mile ride back to our house. Unfortunately it was mostly up hill, but I don’t think my legs felt reality of biking 40 miles already so I powered up the hill (well…powered up as much as I could :). I’m not sure how many of these nice days we’ll have left this summer so I want to enjoy them while we can!

Bob’s for sale!

September 12, 2012

Last chance to own these one of a kind crappy ping pong balls!

So this happened:

Then this happened:

The second “this happened” happened because of my husband. Well, technically it happened because of me. After reading about Wil Wheaton’s original dented ping pong ball I saw our cat’s dented ping pong ball and exclaimed, “How much do you think we could get for that?!”. So Derek ran with the idea and put it up on eBay. He’s spent just a tad too much time and effort on this (all in the name of a good cause!) so if you want to make him really happy, put in another bid! It’s already up to $46 with a day left, hopefully it’ll get up to $50. 🙂

Running Like Luis

September 7, 2012

I’ve never been a big fan of the half marathon distance. Frankly, I’ve always seen it as just a stepping stone to a marathon. And I can never get the pacing right. I know 5K is supposed to hurt the whole way. A 10K is supposed to hurt a little bit less. Marathon pace should be fairly maintainable until mile 20 and then it should be a struggle…but 13.1? I can’t start out at a comfortable marathon pace, but it shouldn’t hurt like a 10k. Up until Monday, I wasn’t really sure what that should feel like.

With some lofty marathon goals in my head, I figured benchmarking myself with a half marathon would be a great way to keep myself motivated over the summer and lead right into training for a fall marathon. So I signed up for the Labor Day Half. I managed to also convince some of my running buddies to do the same (none of whom had ever run a half before). Since I was leading a group of newbies to this distance, I really couldn’t back out.

Training with a group was a new experience for me. I’m so used to most of runs alone, especially my long runs. I really enjoyed the social aspects getting to run with others, but I was afraid that running with others at a slightly faster clip would burn me out early. Or maybe I wouldn’t be able to get the mileage I wanted. Or during speed and hill workouts I would get distracted by my friends and not push myself. And tempo runs really didn’t happen…

This running group also caused me to sign up for more than my fair share of races over the summer…all of which I was PRing in. I figured my luck at to run out some time. Then two weeks before the half I did my first sprint triathlon spur of the moment. I didn’t have many expectations going in, so I was happy to finish with a respectable time.

The week leading up to Labor Day involved a lot of preparations for my husband’s birthday party. On one hand, this distracted me and kept me from obsessing over the race. On the other hand, it made me obsess over party details.

Monday morning came before I knew it. I had my usual pre race breakfast of smashed banana + oatmeal + peanut butter. I demanded (and subsequently received) coffee from McDonalds (don’t judge, I succumbed to their evil $1 beverage marketing). I gathered and socialized with my running buddies before the (slightly delayed) start. The weather was perfect: 50-55 and overcast.  We waited. And waited. And waited some more. And then the horn blew and we were off!

For the first mile I tried to keep up with my friend Brian. When my Garmin flashed 8:11 for the first mile and my friend was a good 10 seconds ahead of me, I knew I had to slow down before I wore myself out too early. That kind of pace was not sustainable for me. My original goal was 1:55 (8:46/mile) and I knew I could hit it as long as I stayed focused and didn’t get greedy. Demoralized at the sight of Brian slowly gaining ground ahead of me, I thought to myself “run like Luis”. My husband, Derek, had given me this advice before one of my last races. Luis runs quickly and effortless. He seems to just enjoy the experience without getting caught up in paces, turnover rate, or PRs. So I ran like Luis. I relaxed, focused on the runners around me and the cheering bystanders. I was feeling good.

1 8:11.47

The miles flashed at me, showing a pace of just over 8:30, still well below my goal of 8:46 miles. I thought about slowing down a tad; this was still an ambitious pace for me, but I felt fine. So I kept it.

2 8:34.08
3 8:34.32

Before the turnaround I focused on finding Brian and giving him a high five. After the turnaround, I looked for Derek and our friend Mandy. Each time I saw a familiar face it gave me a small boost.

4 8:28

At about 4.6 miles I realized that my super speedy coworker, Yury, had probably already finished the 4 mile race (even though it started 15 minutes after the half). This was again a bit demoralizing. So I forced myself to smile. It’s a well documented phenomenon that facial expressions can affect the way you feel (fake it till you make it!).

5 8:34.08
6 8:29.23

I hit the halfway mark over a minute beneath my goal. I hit 7 miles in under an hour; a feat I’d never accomplished before. Just hang on for 6.1 more miles I told myself. Less than an hour to go.

7 8:35.24
8 8:37.70
9 8:32.61

Around mile 9 a man asked me if I was going to run the Seattle Marathon this year. In between deep breathes, I responded affirmatively and returned the question. I found it hard to talk at this point, but I was thankful for someone’s companionship. He told me he’d see me at the marathon and sped up a little bit.

10 8:37.25

Mile 10. The sun comes out. Pushing your pace for 10 miles is always hard. The sun beating down on you doesn’t help. I began to doubt myself. Run like Luis. A little pep in my step.

Nearing the final turnaround, I saw Brian again. He only saw me when I called his name, and though he looked tired he smiled. “I can do this” I thought. I’m almost there.

11 12 8:40.49

At one of the final waterstops, before mile 12, I splashed some water on my Garmin. It changed to the compass screen instead showing my time, distance, and pace like I was used to. I couldn’t get it back. I told myself that I didn’t need a watch to tell me if I was holding a steady pace. I just couldn’t shake the thought that by not seeing my instantaneous pace I would slow down to a crawl. Run like Luis, I thought. And at mile 12, I was holding steady at 8:40. Encouraging, but I just wanted to be done. The last mile stretched on for so long. I couldn’t help but worry that though my Garmin distance matched closely to the course markers, maybe it was off…maybe I needed to run a few extra tenths of a mile which would prevent me from getting my goal. I bumped my pace a little; I couldn’t let me goal slip away. The finish line came into view and I gave it all I had (which wasn’t too much at that point). I crossed the finish line, a smile on my face. I saw the clock…1:56 and change. How long did it take me to cross the start? There were two waves ahead of me, 90 seconds apart…or were there 3? I realized I could stop my Garmin from recording and focus on getting it to display my time. 1:52:38. AWESOME.

13 8:34.64
14 1:21

My official time, without the additional 12 second of wandering around after the race was 1:52:26, beating my goal time by more than 2.5 minutes. I ran like Luis.