December 30, 2011

Bike Lust + Swim Test

Since I'm finally tapering for Houston and only running about four times a week, I've been able to fit in some other workouts which has really helped me avoid burnout. Yesterday I met a coworker at a bike shop in Folsom to do a little window shopping before going for a ride. With Ironman in my future I'm in the market for a new, more aerodynamic bike. My little intro road bike has been great, but it's not the greatest quality nor the best fit, especially for such a long race. I still plan on keeping it, but will most likely be getting a tri-specific bike in the near future. This will be the biggest purchase I've ever made, so it's definitely a bit nerve-wracking, but exciting, too! I'm going to do a little more research before I bite the bullet, but I also wanted to have a chance to check some out in person.

Our first stop was Folsom Bikes, where I oggled a lovely 2012 Felt B16. It's got a full carbon frame and is reported to be one of the best intro tri bikes for the price. Speaking of, it's a tad over my budget, so I'll need to give that one a bit more thought. I did get to hop on it in the shop and test out the aero position, and all I can say is holy shit it is terrifying! And I wasn't even moving! Definitely something that will take some time getting used to. From there we hopped on bike trail and road into old Folsom for a stop at Bicycles Plus. As soon as I walked in the door, I spotted this beauty:

The 2011 Trek Speed Concept 2.5, the bike I've been lusting over for months! Now admittedly, I'm mostly drawn to it because it's so pretty. In reality, I can do a lot better with my money. It's got an aluminum frame and is welded rather than a single frameset. If I'm going to spend the money, I want to get biggest bang for my buck. To add salt to the wound, it also happened to be on sale! Thank god I had someone else with me to talk sense into me : )

After we'd had enough bike lusting for the day we hit the trails again for a loop around Lake Natoma before finishing with 17 miles back at Folsom Bikes. It was a beautiful, if not a little cloudy, day, and it was nice to get back in the saddle. Although pretty soon I'll be spending a whole lot more!

That evening I grudgingly headed to the pool to do something I've been putting off for way too long: my swim fitness test. My coach has instructed me to do 3 different fitness tests to gauge where I'm at with each one currently so that she can plan my schedule and training accordingly. I've had the forms for over a month with a due date of January 1, and only a few days ago did I realize how close that was! So after a nearly 2 month hiatus, I found myself at the pool, slightly nervous about how slow I'd be and how much the test was gonna suck.

I've mostly been avoiding the pool lately because, who're we kidding, nobody wants to get in an outdoor pool in the middle of winter! Granted the pool is heated, but it's the before and after I'm not keen on. I sucked it up and hopped in, and once I got moving I warmed up pretty quickly. The swim test called for 10x100 yards with 10s rest, with the goal being to maintain a consistent pace throughout the test. Seems pretty straightforward, right? Well the tricky part was that in addition to actually doing the test I also had to record the data : / This led to me setting up an awkward little station at the end of my lane with towel, phone, and paper and pen. This meant that during my 10 seconds of rest, I was frantically stopping the timer, recording the time, then resetting and starting the timer before setting off again.
 at least I had a gorgeous sunrise to stare at between sets!

I wasn't expecting to be very fast, but I was hoping I could at least maintain 2:00/100 yds which wouldn't be too depressing, especially after such a long break. So I was pretty happy to find myself averaging a 1:55. I felt like I was working hard, but never like I was going to die. Definitely a win in my book! I know with more consistency I'll get faster, but I figure this is a good starting point. After a little cool down I rewarded myself with some time in the jacuzzi. With the promise of that after, I think I can come to terms with swimming more often : ) I still need to find the time to do the bike and run test (both to be done at the gym, and I'll need a heart rate monitor and assistant), but I'm glad to have at least one done... Especially since official training starts next week!
 despite the cold, there's just something about night swimming...

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I hope you've all had a wonderful holiday with family, friends, and good food : ) We did Christmas Eve with my mom's family in the bay area then today was just my folks and bro. Definitely one of the more low-key years, but it was great nonetheless. I managed to squeeze in an awesome 16 miler Christmas Eve morning, which meant I could indulge with a little less guilt : )

I always love sharing my gifts with others and I try to put a lot of thought into each one, so it was fun to see everyone's reactions this year as I think I did pretty well ; ) I'm definitely that person that loves to give presents more than to get them, but I will say that I got some awesome stuff this year, too! I spent most of today being pretty lazy, finally managing to watch Love Actually, my favorite Christmas movie, and later Unbreakable, which finally arrived yesterday!
i wish this could stay up year-round...
 new magic bullet!
 ready for some adventures in juicing!
 new ornament this year from Chicago
my festive pup on Christmas 2010 : )

It's hard to believe that another Christmas has come and gone. It's certainly my favorite time of the year, and I'm always a little sad to see it go. But I know soon enough I'll get carried away with everyone else in the excitement of the new year. Happy holidays to all!

December 12, 2011

"Unbreakable" Film Review

This past Friday I had the opportunity to attend a screening of a new running film, Unbreakable: The Western States 100. I'd seen the trailer the week before and really wanted to check it out, so I was excited to find out that my work was hosting a screening. As you probably could guess, the film covers the epic 2010 WS 100 ultra race. From the website:

"In 2010, four of the greatest undefeated mountain runners on earth toed the starting line at the Western States 100-mile endurance run, the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile foot race in the world.

'Unbreakable: The Western States 100' follows the four lead men on this amazing journey. Hal Koerner, two time defending Western States champion, and running store entrepreneur from Ashland, Oregon. Geoff Roes, undefeated at the 100-mile distance, an organic chef from Juneau, Alaska. Anton Krupicka, undefeated in every ultramarathon he has ever started, a graduate student living in Boulder, Colorado. Kilian Jornet, the young mountain runner and two time Ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc champion, from Spain. 

While their lives may be quite different, the goal is the same: win the Western States 100-mile run. A win will require breaking the course record and running the fastest time in the history of the race. An epic showdown ensues, from Squaw Valley, CA in Lake Tahoe, up though the high snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains, down through the extreme heat of the American River Canyons and finishing in Auburn, CA. Though all four are undefeated, three must break and only one can remain Unbreakable."


The film ended up being just as epic as the race and had me on the edge of my seat for nearly 2 hours. It alternated between following the 4 runners on the trail as the race progressed and the intensity increased and interviews with the runners that offer a look into what their lives are like outside of running and racing. It was refreshing to see that despite tremendous talent, they all seem extremely down to earth and just really love to run. The footage from the race is pretty incredible, too. One of my favorite scenes was when Geoff, Anton, and Kilian began a steep descent and Kilian suddenly splits from the pack and takes off, putting so much space between them in such a short amount of time that you have to question whether you are seeing things correctly : ) Really, though, the filmmakers managed to make you feel like you were there.

While I did know the outcome of the race going into it, I nevertheless found myself wondering what would happen next. For those of you who don't know, after falling behind fairly early on, Geoff makes up a ton of ground and catches Anton around mile 88 and goes on to surge to the finish in a record-shattering 15:07. Watching Geoff cross the finish line after seeing the journey it took to get there was nothing short of amazing.

Completing a 100 miler has been on my bucket list for a while, and after volunteering at WS this past year I knew that one day I had to take on the infamous race. Now after watching Unbreakable I find myself with an ultra itch that only Western States can scratch : ) One day! If you have the chance to check out the film, I can't recommend it enough. Even if ultras or trails aren't your thing, you will undoubtedly still be inspired and entertained. In fact, I already pre-ordered my copy!

December 10, 2011

Catching Up

1. GRE
On Tuesday I finally conquered the last big hurdle in the grad school application process: the GRE. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of taking this exam, it's basically a harder version of the SAT with verbal, math, and essay sections. This thing was seriously stressing me out over the last month so I'm glad to have it out of the way. I got the results back immediately for the multiple choice sections and while I didn't kill it, I did pretty average as I expected. I just keep reminding myself that there are a lot of other factors that the schools consider besides test scores. Either way, it's done, so yay!

2. CIM & 16 Miles
This past Sunday I had 16 miles on deck so I planned my route around the California International Marathon course. The race actually runs just a couple miles from my house so I did an out-and-back on the bike trail and made it to the J St. bridge just in time to catch the lead runners going by. It was pretty exciting, those guys were flyyyying!
 American lead (went on to place 2nd!)

I did another short out-and-back and by the time I got back to the bridge the pace group of women gunning for a Olympic trial qualifying time of 2:46 were passing. 25 went on to finish under the standard and will be headed to Houston in January for the trials (I'll be there, too!).  After that I hopped onto the course (on the sidewalk, not in the thick of things) and ran down J St. spectating as I went. It was actually kind of funny, because of the timing I was running along all the sub-3 hour folks. And there were a lot of them! Seriously impressive and inspiring. I got to the mile 25 aid station sponsored by my work and took a short break to do some cheering. With just a mile left to go I headed to work. I would've preferred the finish line to work but such is life!
Olympic trials hopefuls
 J st. bridge
 Sutter's Fort
 1 to go! (for them and me)
 Fleet Feet Sac aid station
home stretch
The run itself actually went really well though and was a huge confidence boost. My plan was to actually start off slow, like 9:30s, and just keep it easy. I have a habit of doing my long runs way too fast (like, practically race pace) so I wanted to try something different. Interestingly enough, after a few miles my pace naturally dropped to 9:10-9:15s for the rest of the run with no apparent change in effort. That's a win in my book! Also has me reconsidering my goals for Houston...

3. Winter Conditioning
I don't start official Ironman training with my coach til January but in the meantime I'm taking part in her winter conditioning classes twice a week. They are mostly circuit-type workouts designed for triathletes specifically that build in intensity from week to week. So far I've really enjoyed them and will be incorporating them through February. The only downside is the time. They start at 6am - it's actually still dark when we finish! I am not a morning person, but I know I need to get used to it for Ironman training. Yikes!

4. 100 Push-Ups Challenge
So I made it halfway, through week 3, and was doing nearly 70 push-ups in one workout. And then this week happened and push-ups didn't. Between the GRE and my winter conditioning classes (which include push-ups), I just didn't want to do them. Plus, they were getting really hard. I'm not giving up; I'll probably just repeat week 3 and go from there. And if that doesn't happen, I'd like to at least continue to incorporate push-ups into my routine because they really are effective and easy to do in 5-10 minutes.

November 26, 2011

Run to Feed the Hungry 10k (Race Report)

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Ours was pretty low-key, but great nonetheless. We kicked off the day with a little exercise at the annual Run to Feed the Hungry. It's become somewhat of a tradition for my dad and I to run this race Thanksgiving morning. In 2009 we started out with the 5k, last year we stepped it up and did the 10k, and this year we returned for the 10k again.

Despite my hopes for clear weather I awoke to a gloomy and rainy morning. The race was going on rain or shine so we joined the throngs of 27,000 (!!!) other runners at the crowded start near Sac State and waited for the start. We were already pretty wet by the time the gun went off, but luckily it wasn't a cold rain. By the way, sorry for the blurry photos - I had my phone in a ziploc bag to keep it dry!

The first couple miles involved a lot of dodging and weaving through the crowds, but eventually we settled into an easy rhythm. We weren't really racing for time (it's almost impossible with so many people), so we just kept the pace comfortable. About halfway in my dad's calf started acting up. He injured it about a week ago and has been having issues with it ever since. It felt better to keep moving, so we did.

We made the turn around just past McKinley Park and headed back into East Sac. Despite the rain, the fall colors were out in full force and appeared even more vibrant against the dreary gray sky. The rain showed no signs of letting up but by that time were soaked and used to it. With just a couple miles to go my dad really started struggling. His calf was cramping badly and forcing him to slow a bit. Looking back at our splits, we surprisingly stayed very consistent and it wasn't til the final mile that we really slowed down.

We finally made the turn onto the home stretch down 'H' Street, merging with the throngs of 5kers that had started a half hour after us. There was no final sprint across the finish line, but we crossed together in 1:00:36. As we anticipated, as soon as we stopped running his calf seized up so we tried to keep moving. It also got pretty chilly once we stopped moving, and being soaked did not help. We walked about a half mile back onto the Sac State campus where we my brother was waiting to give us a ride home.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and eating, the perfect ingredients for a good Thanksgiving, if you ask me! I helped my mom with some of the cooking, and I even ventured into the realm of baking with homemade cheddar sage biscuits! I am much more of a cook than a baker - baking is just far too scientific and easy to screw up - but these were actually really easy and turned out great! I will definitely be making them again. It ended up being a wonderful day, full of family and food. There really is something special about the holiday season, so glad it's finally here!
 fresh out of the oven!

How was your Thanksgiving?

November 23, 2011

I'm Still Alive!

Sorry for being a bit M.I.A. these last few weeks. There's been a lot going on!

1. Grad School
I've finally got my ass in gear and am in the process of applying to grad programs for Fall 2012! This is something I've been planning on doing for a while, so I'm excited (and a bit nervous!) to start this new chapter of my life. I'm applying to 3 doctorate programs in psychology, all located in the Bay Area. The application process has been a bit overwhelming and in primarily responsible for my absence on here. Between writing essays, relearning math for the GRE, revising my resume, etc. there's a lot to get done! But I should have everything in by mid-December then I'll just have to cross my fingers for some good news!

2. Push-Ups
The 100 Push-Ups Challenge is still going strong! I even recruited a few ladies from work to do it with me and so Team T-rex was born! Week 1 was pretty easy, but things are already getting tougher. Tonight was Week 2, Day 2 with a total of 53 push-ups. I may totally be imagining it but I do feel like I'm getting stronger - although I still can't imagine doing 100 straight!

3. Houston Training
While I haven't been blogging about it, I have been running. Not a ton, but I do feel like I'm getting a solid base built, then in December I hope to start doing some longer runs and slightly more mileage. I've also been taking advantage of my more relaxed training approach with some cross-training. I've been to the pool a few times (although I need to start making this more of a habit) as well as hot yoga. The latter has been a really great outlet for me to relax and refocus. I plan on doing a better recap of my training this month at the end of November.

4. Ironman Coaching
This is something that deserves it's own post, but I did just want to throw it out there that I've decided to hire a coach to train me for Ironman in June. I'll go into more detail later, but I'm really excited!

5. Turkey Trot
Tomorrow morning my dad and I will be taking part in what's become an annual Thanksgiving tradition, the Run to Feed the Hungry 10k. The race is huge (think 25,000 runners!) and is always a lot of fun. Hopefully the rain holds off and we luck out with a lovely, cool morning, running through the colorful fall foliage and working up an appetite for later!

I hope to be back to more regular blogging soon. While my own blogging has been less than stellar I have been trying to keep up with as many blogs as possible. Big congratulations to Allison for her huge marathon PR in Philly and Roadbunner for her new sub-4 hour PR!!

November 15, 2011

100 Push-Ups Challenge

This is one of those things I've wanted to do for a long time, but can never seem to fit it into a training plan (or at least I just don't try hard enough). I often describe myself as a t-rex; all my strength is in my muscular legs while my arms remain scrawny and weak. The bigger goal with this is to incorporate more strength training into my routine as well as targeting the muscle groups that often get ignored in my regular activities (hello, arms and abs!). But for now, I'm keeping things simple with one of the most basic strength exercises out there (and perhaps one of the most dreaded), the push-up. I've been eyeing the 100 Push-Ups Challenge for a long time and figured that since I'm not currently following a specific training plan, now is the time to do it!

The program itself is pretty simple, the goal being to complete 100 push-ups (the real ones!) by the end of the 6 week duration. Why 100? Because it's totally badass to be able to spontaneously bust out 100 legit push-ups. One of the best parts of the program is that it's not time-intensive at all. There are 3 workouts a week, ranging from about 5-10 minutes in length. The build-up is also very gradual, with the workouts structured into short sets with breaks in between. Before starting the program, you perform an initial test to determine the maximum number of push-ups you can do. This number puts you in one of three categories that determines which workouts you follow each week. In my initial test I did 11 push-ups (this number may or may not have something to do with this), so I will be following column 2. The program also suggests doing the workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so you have a rest day after each one and can recover over the weekend before starting a more challenging week.

So I kicked things off today with week 1, workout 1. The minute-long break between each set actually felt like more than I needed, but by the last set my arms were definitely shaking! I did manage to eek out 10 for the final "max" set. So far, it's definitely not too bad. But I did peak ahead to week 6 and was a little terrified to see sets of 20, 30+, back-to-back. But then again, by then I should have some killer guns so that should be a piece of cake ; )

Feel free to follow along! You can even print the entire plan and then follow directions to fold it into a handy little book. My plan is to post a brief recap on each Friday on the week's workout.

Has anybody tried or completed this program?Anybody else resemble a t-rex?

November 11, 2011


Today was a big day for me, one I've been waiting a long time for... 11/11/11! I'm not just one of those people who goes nuts for weird number things like this, it's more that eleven is my number. Favorite number, lucky number, whatever you want to call it. I always seem to catch the clock at 11:11, it's always the number I choose, and there's just something about it I love. I've been anticipating this date for the past couple years, and decided a while back that I wanted to do something to commemorate the only-happens-once-in-a-hundred-years occasion.

I had the day off so this afternoon I headed out for a run. Do I even have to tell you how far I ran? Why 11 miles of course! It actually turned out to be a pretty great run, too. It was my longest run since Chicago, and I was a little nervous as to how it would go. I've concluded that partly why I've been feeling so slow and heavy on my runs is because my legs are a tight mess, so before my run today I took 15 minutes to Trigger Point my calves and roll out my quads and IT bands. It was amazing what a difference it made! It was supposed to rain and the sky was dark, but it ended up holding off. There weren't very many people out on the bike trail so it was a nice solitary run, just me and my thoughts. I stopped a few times for water, but other than that I felt pretty strong through the end. The sun set with just a couple miles left, and as soon as the sun went down the critters came out! I saw a coyote, three deer, and a bunch of jackrabbits : ) I stopped a few times for water, but other than that I felt pretty strong through the end. I've really been struggling with motivation and getting back into a running routine, so it was nice to have a confidence-building run like this. And of course it was fun to do 11 miles on 11/11/11!

The highlight of the day, however, was getting to do something I've been waiting years for. I hit up my favorite tattoo shop and got the number eleven in roman numerals inked on my arm! It's simple, but I absolutely love it. And the fact that I was able to get it today just makes it that much more special to me.

p.s. Yes, I did wait til 11:11pm to post this : )

November 7, 2011

Apple Hill Harvest Run (Race Report)

It's been a while since I ran a race just for fun, but yesterday I got to do just that! I'd heard good things about the Apple Hill Harvest Run, and figured it would be a good way to get in a run, enjoy the beautiful scenery up there, and get some tasty treats after. I managed to talk my dad into running the 8.5 mile race with me, so I headed up to Apple Hill with my folks that morning. The forecast had a 50% chance of rain with temps in the high 30s/low 40s. It was pretty chilly! The start was at the lovely ParaVi Winery, and we got there with plenty of time to to spare. We picked-up our bibs and found the bathrooms then just tried to stay warm while we waited to start.
the start at ParaVi Winery
beautiful orchards & fall colors

Going into this race I was planning to just run it easy and have fun. It would be my longest run since Chicago, and I know I'm not in racing shape right now. I'd mentioned it to my dad, thinking he might want to do the 3.5 miler, but was quite surprised when he decided to do the 8.5 miler with me! He's in great shape for his age and runs fairly regularly, but usually maxes out at 10k. In fact this would be the longest he'd run in nearly 30 years! I had no doubt he could do it, and I was excited to be along for the ride.

By the time the race started my toes were completely numb. We started out with a good quarter mile climb right off the bat that warmed us up a bit, but my face was frozen for much of the first half of the race. After cresting that first hill we settled in to an easy, consistent pace along the flat country roads. The course is known for being pretty challenging, especially in the last few hilly miles, and also due to the elevation. The first 5k seemed to fly by and we were both feeling pretty good. We had to pause briefly for my dad to pee (he chose a lovely Christmas tree farm) so I slowed to a walk til he caught up. The course took us past lovely vineyards, apple groves, ranches, and Christmas tree farms. The air was cool, crisp, and unbelievably fresh. The rain thus far had held off, and we we had our fingers crossed that it would wait til we were done!
alright, Dad!
donkeys on the left : )
apple could smell all that goodness!
Mile 5 gave us a nice, long, gradual downhill which I made sure to take advantage of, knowing what was coming in the final 3 miles. When saw the mile 6 sign I knew we were entering somewhat new territory for my dad. Up to that point we were both feeling good, then we turned a corner and found ourselves on a nasty little hill. It wasn't all that steep but it was long. We made it to the top, huffing and puffing, and I suggested we take our first walk break to catch our breath. Then we took advantage of the short flat section before we hit the next hill.
 Dad tackling another hill!

It was actually pretty entertaining to me to listen to my dad complain about the hills. He's used to running on the flat bike trail or the treadmill, making the hills and the elevation especially challenging. Our pace slowed a bit on the hills, but we ran most of them and walked when our running couldn't be distinguished from walking. In the last couple miles I could tell that my dad was hurting a bit from the hills and was more than ready to be done. Considering that he did not train for this, I was quite impressed, especially on a tough course.
 what goes down, must go up!
We passed the 8 mile sign, took one last walk break up yet another hill while we commiserated with the others walking around us, then turned the corner for the homestretch. Oh, and in keeping with the trend, the last quarter mile is up another steep hill, so there was no finishing kick for us! I'd told my mom to look for us around an hour and a half, and we came in just under at 1:28:39. As we approached the finish line the MC called out our names and then correctly guessed that it was a father-daughter duo : )
the homestretch!
father-daughter finish : )
Once we stopped moving we got chilled pretty quickly. My dad didn't want to stop moving and tighten up in the cold so we headed back to the car and then went on the hunt for some post-race apple treats : ) During the race we'd passed a market at Boa Vista Orchards so we made our way back there and picked up a few yummy treats including apple donuts (for immediate consumption), an apple pie (for that night), some apple cider, bbq sauce, and chestnuts for roasting. If it weren't so cold I would have loved to do a little more exploring but by that point I was freezing!
Boa Vista Orchards

I'm really glad I had a chance to participate in this race and get up to Apple Hill in the fall when it is just so beautiful. It was such a good feeling to just relax and run for fun, and this was the perfect race to do it - in fact I didn't look at my Garmin once the entire race! I had a wonderful time running with my dad, too. I'm proud of him for challenging himself and finishing strong, and I'm glad we got to do this together. There is definitely something special about sharing one of your passions with someone you love, and I'm fortunate to share my love of running with both my parents. So now that I got him to do 8.5 miles, I just have to convince him to do a half - after all, it's just another 4ish miles right? ; )