Where I’ve been Running & The Climax of Marathon Training

For having a running blog, I haven’t blogged too much about running lately. For being about to run a marathon in 20 days, I also haven’t blogged too much about training!

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind, that’s for sure, with quite a few highs and lows along the way.

While in San Diego I did some absolutely spectacular runs along The Strand, which is the strip of land connecting Coronado Island to Imperial Beach. That was definitely something to check that off the bucket list!

In the Spring of 2011 I actually lived in Chula Vista and worked at the Hotel del Coronado, so I drove The Strand daily. Back then I wasn’t a runner and didn’t take advantage of that beautiful trail even once. My one goal for my return to the area was to make up for lost time and get some miles in out there! Mission accomplished.

I figured go big or go home and decided to recreate my own version of the Goofy Challenge. You know, where you do a half marathon one day followed by a marathon the next. I really just wanted to see if I was up to it. So Monday of last week I headed out for my own half marathon. Easy breezy and I finished first – haha!

The next day I woke up at 4 a.m. and went out for the second half of the challenge, running 23 miles.

Sure, I was 3.2 miles short of the total challenge, but I proved to myself that I could definitely handle doing 13.1 + 26.2 miles back to back.

For the 23 mile run I started at The Del and ran almost the entire way back to my apartment in Chula Vista. That was a fun throwback to all the drives home from my internship at the Hotel del Coronado that spring.

When it came to the actual run though, I was a little worried because there was almost no elevation gain the entire route, so I felt like I was cheating myself.

That is, until I looked up the elevation map for the Marine Corps Marathon, which is almost equally as flatline. After I saw that I went from thinking it was inadequate training to perfect training!

Recovery was surprisingly not too bad. Obviously after the 23 mile run I went back to the hotel, collapsed into bed, and didn’t move for about 4 hours. But that afternoon I was up and out on the town with Abe. The next day I would say I was at 85% and by the next day I was at 100%.

The run marked the peak of marathon training for me. While I was thrilled to have topped out the miles, I almost instantly felt a mentality shift. I could feel my motivation begin to taper off along with my training.

Anyone who has run a marathon will tell you that the race is almost secondary, it’s the training and the process that is the most meaningful. For me, entering the taper stage was almost like starting the final chapter of a good book. I’m excited to see how it will end but am already lamenting the fact that it actually does have to end.

Feeling a bit deflated, this week I ended up taking two days off back to back on Monday and Tuesday. I was definitely in a weird funk, feeling sad and anxious about the marathon and just plain antsy! I knew I had to snap out of it though – two days are really the most I can take off in a row before I let it become five days and then two weeks off and I didn’t want to end up sacrificing 16 weeks of hard training!

My runs this week were brutal. No sugar coating – they were hard and slow. We were in Santa Clarita, CA which seemed to be in the middle of the mountains! There was an enormous hill to summit in mile one and although I got to run down it during mile two it just meant another climb on the way back! On a cool note, I did see a TARANTULA one night on my run.

My pace has gone to hell lately too, which has me concerned. If anyone has any suggestions for why this might be or how I can get that pace back down I definitely want to hear them! I had been training at an 8:40 pace for my shorter ~5 mile runs and around 9:00 for my longer runs. This week I could barely maintain 9:00 and truthfully creeped into the 9:30 range for many of my miles.

Luckily, on my long run, some kind soul had chalked some random inspirational sayings along my route. I don’t know that I would have made it without these little pick-me-ups along the way. There were about 5 of them!

Here’s what I’m thinking. I’ve probably (read: definitely) overtrained. My long run this week (13 miles – I was going to do 16 but didn’t think I’d survive) was the worst run I’ve done in my life. My legs were SHOT.

I’ve also gained weight, which could also be contributing to the slow down. Yeah, whhaatt? As someone who has struggled with weight gain, weight loss, and weight maintenance, this has definitely contributed to my weird mood lately. I run 50 miles per week and gain 5lbs?

This week I have one focus: recovery. That long run this week was so miserable that I know my legs need some TLC and that means taking it easy. So while I’m clamoring to get my pace back down, I’m hoping that if I invest in slow runs now it will pay off with a better pace on race day, which is when it counts.

So here we are, 20 days until race day! I’m thinking about posting a motivational quote each day just to keep me pumped up and avoid getting too taper nutty!

Good luck to everyone else training for fall marathons and congrats to anyone who has run one, especially all those folks at Chicago this weekend!

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Touristy Tuesday: Boise, Idaho Edition

Well, well, well Boise. What an unexpected delight you were this week! I had no idea how much fun we would have in town. From literally the moment we got into the city until we left Abe and I had a great time! I dare say that this may have been the most fun city on the road yet!

We rolled into Boise after a relatively uneventful drive from Salt Lake City. It’s Media Challenge month for the Hotdogger crew so I was actively pitching local news outlets on the drive up. I felt like I was getting some use out of my degree from the University of Missouri when I emailed fellow alumni in the Boise media circle. As a new member of the Mizzou Mafia I hoped they would hook Abe and I up with some good coverage. (Side note: didn’t hear back from any of them! Come on mafiosos! I thought i was now part of an elite brotherhood of journalists.)

Co-Hotdogger Ben and I at the J-School graduation ceremony, sporting our Wienermobile stickers! I wonder if he’s having any luck with the Mizzou Mafia!

When we finally arrived in Boise we were a little drained from the drive. We perked up when we heard that our hotel not only served hot breakfast daily, but also offered dinner, wine, and beer Monday – Thursday! A temporary break from the Subway Diet that Abe and I seem to be on most of the time on the road.

That first night was awesome. The first thing we did in Boise was hit the CrossFit gym. I’m so glad I finally got over myself and just did it! That ass-kicking workout was incredible. To recover we had to hit the hot tub, and that’s where we met our first friend of the week – Luis.

Luis was from New Mexico and in Boise for school with the military. We got started by chatting running and it just went from there. He had done the Bataan Death March and had me ready to sign up by the end of the conversation! Since it was our Friday night, Abe and I wanted to go out to start the weekend, and as it turns out Luis is the kind of guy who lives every night like it’s Friday night!

Tuesday was my long run for the week of 18 miles along the Greenbelt River Trail. If you ever get the chance to run in Boise, check this path out. One side of the trail runs along the Boise State University campus, next to the dorms and the stadium. The other side is equally well maintained and runs next to the river, through some gorgeous areas, and up into the hills.

That was the fun part of the day. We spent the rest of Tuesday catching up on work and doing a little bit of sight seeing. I had a great mocha at the Flying M Coffee Shop in downtown Boise. Just the cheerful pick-me-up needed for working on an off day.

We also stopped by the capitol building. Abe and I are collecting pictures of us at capitols – so far we’ve got Madison and Boise, but now we have to head back to Salt Lake to get that one! We’ll be sure to get Denver while we’re in town as well!

Wednesday was my big touristy day. Abe was taking the day to just relax so I was on my own to explore! Growing up, my mom had done $50 days with my sister and I. For the three of us we had a $50 budget and had to come up with fun, frugal activities to do for the day. That’s kind of what my Wednesday was like!

First I went to the Old Idaho Penitentiary. $5 got you in to explore the old prison grounds.

One of my guilty pleasures is watching Lockup on MSNBC and let me tell you, prisoners these days have it easy! Yikes, were some of those cells bad.

Of course, some problems are the same whether you’re behind bars or not, like mismatched socks!

After visiting hours at the Pen were over I just walked across the street to the Idaho Botanical Gardens.

Talk about a crazy juxtaposition! Something tells me the botanical gardens probably came after the penitentiary closed!

I was seriously impressed with them. Norah Jones just performed there and they bring quite a few other headliners to the gardens – I just barely missed some of my favorites! The gardens were also $5 and when I went to pay I mentioned that I drove the Wienermobile.

Turns out one of the girls had left free tickets under the windshield wipers for me! I wouldn’t let her give me my money back though – I can afford $5 for a non-profit! The gardens were in the process of building a children’s section that would include an entire treehouse area! How adorable is that?

That night the adventures continued when Luis invited me to the Idaho fair with some of his friends from the military school. It was the perfect night to go – Chris Young was playing!

We got in for just $7 and margaritas were less than $5. Country music and cheap margaritas – that’s my kind of event! Chris Young was awesome to see live. I tweeted at him to see if he wanted to “ketchup” for a ride in the Wienermobile, but he never responded. Even the next day when I told him he could ride “shot bun” he didn’t get back to me – bummer!

After his show we wandered around the fair grounds. After the 18 mile run I promised I was going to have a deep fried candy bar of some kind and I got my chance that night! The five of us all shared a deep fried Snickers! Talk about tasty. I only did one bite and that was really more than enough. One of the girls also got a POUND of fries, which also disappeared pretty quickly between the lot of us!

The toothless carnies sucked us in for carnival games and that actually turned out successful. Well, depending on your definition of success. Less than $100 later we had one pink stuffed bear, three goldfish that had to be given away for obvious reasons (there isn’t an aquarium on board the Wienermobile), and at least some modicum of our pride left!

Luis was ready to eat these poor goldfish before I gave them away to some deserving child!

Alex was one of Luis’ classmates and talk about one of the most impressive people we’ve met on the road yet. A graduate of the Air Force Academy and a member of their triathlon team, this guy does BQ marathons for breakfast and just signed up for the DMZ marathon in Korea. Yeah, like running to N. Korea or some craziness! Between Alex and Luis I had all the inspiration and running conversation I could handle. I know Abe was excited I finally had another outlet to talk to about mileage, shoes, and races!

Although Wednesday night was likely the highlight of the week for me, that doesn’t mean it went downhill. Thursday night Abe and I had a whirlwind cab experience but finally made it to a comedy/dueling piano bar. Yeah – comedy AND dueling pianos. The comedy was so-so and it was pretty dead for the pianos, but we still had a blast! Both our requests (our team theme song of the week “Sweet Caroline” and of course the Oscar Mayer jingle) were played, so that was a plus! We actually ran into one of the pianists at our event later in the week, where he sang the jingle for us again!

To burn off the deep fried snickers and all the drinks of the week I made sure to hit the trails. On my second 8-mile of the week I ended up running 7 miles with the CFO of the Boise Airport. Mike and I ran into each other when two paths came together and we just happened to be running to the exact same cadence. Instead of being creepy and running a perfect 10′ behind me the whole way, Mike introduced himself and we had a great time and good conversation for the rest of the run. I had been feeling pretty unmotivated at the start, but you can tell from the Garmin data when I ran into him and how he pushed that split time down!

Friday night Abe and I headed out again with the military crew, going to downtown Boise. Talk about a great downtown scene! My one regret for Boise is that I didn’t spend more time down there. There was this awesome looking Mediterranean restaurant, Opa’s, that I wanted to check out that had been highly recommended by one of the girls at our hotel. We were meeting up with the group though and they were at Super Sushi, which admittedly did have some great food!

After dinner we got drinks at Piper’s Pub, where I tried my first scotch. Blegh! For only $8 you could sample four different types. I figured why not, try a few different types and see if any of them are for me. I can profoundly and enthusiastically say that scotch is not and never will be “my drink.” Piper’s had great live music though, which went well with the white wine I opted for after scotch, which I ended up just passing around for everyone to try.

Later in the week I knew there was still one touristy thing I absolutely had to do while in Boise, which was see Big Blue – the blue turf at the BSU Stadium. I mentioned that I ran past the stadium while on the Greenbelt, but as far as I could tell it was pretty much closed off. Well on my final run of the week I decided I had to see this turf and nothing was going to stop me!

I ended up jumping the fence at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning and ran into the deserted stadium.

I figured if anyone saw me, a chance I gauged to be very unlikely, I could easily talk my way out of that one. The threat level was nil though and I was in-and-out without a hitch, with my coveted picture of Big Blue to prove my adventures!

Sunday was the big Dirty Dash, marking off Idaho on the Race for 50 States! Alex, the Air Force Academy grad and Ironman, joined us for the race. He showed us up by doing it barefoot though – talk about hardcore!

Sunday night Abe and I went for dinner and margaritas (big surprise) at this place by the hotel. Even there, at the most random bar in Boise, I managed to make friends. Turns out the mother and son sitting at the bar next to us were basically family. The mom lives in Estes Park, Colorado – blocks from where my Grandma lives! You never know who you might meet on the road!

Monday marked the end of our time in Boise, but it ended on a high note. The Wienermobile got to “meat up” with the Big Idaho Potato. The potato truck is HUGE! The potato itself, not counting the semi it’s hauled on, is bigger than the entire Wienermobile!

Abe and I went to fro-yo with the Tater Team and swapped stories from the road. What a fun group they were. They don’t actually drive the Big Potato though, there is a third guy who does that. What an interesting dynamic that would be. I think I’ll stick to Abe and i co-piloting the big dog and sharing the radio choice 50/50!

Up next we’re back to Salt Lake City, to pick up where we left off. I’ve got quite a few touristy things left on my bucketlist for that city! Our friend Matt from Fresno is coming into town, so we’ll be +1 for a lot of our adventures this coming week! Looking forward to more Mormons, CrossFit, and Mountains!

Where I Ran this Week: Boise, Idaho – Greenbelt Trail

I. LOVE. RUNNING. Actually, after my 18 mile run this morning, I pretty much love everyone and everything. Full disclaimer: I have a serious runner’s high after runs like that!

Today was my long run for the week along the Greenbelt Trail in Boise, Idaho. Let me tell you – I’m ready to move to Idaho. This place is unbelievably gorgeous!

Yesterday I did an 8 mile run and took the trail past Boise State and through some gorgeous neighborhoods. It was like the crew from Curb Appeal or any of those countless HGTV shows came and took over all of Boise – every house and yard had impeccable landscaping! Between the college kids, lawn ornaments and gorgeous gardens, I certainly wasn’t bored.

Today I decided to take that same trail but run along the other side of it, which continues further. The run was a breeze! I was expecting a rough run because the tops of my thighs and my calfs had been aching from the half marathon this weekend. Instead, after three miles I was all loosened up and the miles just ticked off. I was only supposed to do 17 miles, but I went for 18 – I like to break the run into 3 mile increments and figured what’s one more mile once you’ve done 17! I don’t listen to music while I run, but the scenery and sound of the river were more than enough of a distraction.

Along the way I ran into this absolutely adorable “Free Little Library” that a converted an old newspaper stand into a give-and-take place for children’s books!

You “otter” be reading! I couldn’t help but think my Librarian-Mother would adore this concept! How fun. This would also be a fun idea to have around neighborhoods too, not just in front of a school!

I also ran into something a little more intimidating. At mile 2 I saw a raccoon two feet from me who scurried off. At mile 6 I saw a deer scamper through the fields. Then at mile 10 I saw this fox – mouse in his mouth and all – directly on the trail.

The other two critters had run off, but this guy was not scared by either the other runner on the trail or the biker, and certainly not by me. His lack of fear made me scared! I figured since he had already found breakfast though that I might be ok!

Besides that, the run was great! High-fived quite a few other runners along the way. That leads me to one thing I’ve got to address though – bikers here are jerks. Seriously, you can’t even smile when I say good morning? It’s not like you’re going all that fast – you’re clocking maybe 15 mph, and that’s on the downhill! Boise runners, love you guys. Boise bikers, not so much! Can’t a girl even get a head nod? Haha!

Now I’m ready to go explore Boise. My gamin said I burned 2,000+ calories and I think that qualifies as the perfect excuse to go to the fair today! Deep fried Oreos are something I’ve always wanted to try! Haha!

Shit Happens – Just Run with It

This week I am in Claremont, California – the far West side of LA. Each week when I get to a new city one of the first challenges is finding good local running trails. Let’s talk about this: there are simply NO good websites out there for finding jogging paths. I don’t know if my Google skills are just that rusty or what, but I am always struggling to find decent nearby paths.

Can anyone recommend a good site or app for locating the best trails? I really like running on bike paths – why are these not easy to find?! I know some sites, like Map My Run show user-submitted runs, but often times those are through their neighborhood – no straight shot runs like I’m partial to.

But I digress.

Today I woke up bright and early at 5:00 a.m. all set to get my 13 mile run in for the week. Having struggled to find a long enough path in the area, I decided to head out to Venice Beach for an oceanfront jog. I was looking forward to a relatively flat and mindless long run today because I had a loft goal I was hoping to achieve – breaking the 9:00 minute pace for the half marathon distance! I’ve been doing plenty of sub 9:00 paces, up to 9 miles, and thought today just might be my day!

So off I go – I hopped in the company car and hit the highway. While slowing down in that awful LA traffic though I noticed I forgot my Garmin watch – just like last week! Ever the data-junkie, I decided to head back to the hotel to grab it since I was just a few miles away. I wasn’t going to skip the run like last week, but I wanted that watch to keep me on pace for the run!

Now, it’s crazy to think of how if I hadn’t been so reliant on my Garmin how my day may have panned out quite a bit differently. Nevertheless, I turned around, grabbed it, and started back on the drive to the beach.

Then – BOOM. As they say, shit happens.

I can’t really go into too many details, but 10 hours later I’m now driving a rental and the company car is getting some TLC. If only I didn’t need that stupid watch! Grr! As you can probably imagine, I didn’t quite make it to the beach for my long run.

Once all the details from this morning were sorted out I was craving a run even more, wanting to burn off some steam. With ample amounts of fro-yo fuel from lunch, I was ready to go. The waiter at lunch had recommended the Pacific Electric Inland Empire Trail, nearby bike path (where were you Google?) and I decided to check that out.

Even on the map you can tell how boring this run was!

Let me tell you something: if you’re trying to run seven miles, 2:30 p.m. in LA is not the time to do it. ICK was it hot out!

Perhaps because it was my first time running on a relatively flat path in awhile, or because of the stress from the morning, but I started out WAY too fast. I’m talking way too fast, clocking my first mile in at 8:20. When my second mile was only marginally slower, I knew I had started out too fast for seven miles to feel good and, combined with the heat, I decided to cut the run down to four miles.

This is as flat as I was in middle school!

Anytime I go for a shorter distance I try to push myself a little harder in the speed department. Feeling like a rockstar with those sub 8:30 miles, I started into the second half. Oh, hello there sun right in my face and a crazy strong headwind! (Now I know why I was going so fast on the first half!) That second half was brutal, but somehow I was still pulling a pretty swift pace.

All said and done, I ended the run – gasping – with four miles at an 8:29 pace! I think that was one of the fastest four mile runs I’ve done yet! End time 33:45.

Tomorrow I’m going to try again to get this half marathon knocked out for the week. We’ll see how it goes. This bike path, while flat, rivaled the Santa Ana River Trail for lackluster scenery. I was running past abandoned buildings and padlocked storage units for most of the run. Claremont – plant some trees, will ya?

The rest of this week, in addition to the 13 mile run tomorrow, will be one more 4-miler and two 7-milers, for a total of 35 miles this week. Whoo! Marine Corps Marathon, here I come!