Category Archives: about me

District: Charged (MCM 2014 Recap)

As with every time we step up to a starting line to see what exactly this race day will bring, it’s over way too quickly. Anticipation fills months, weeks and days before the gun goes off.  Thankfully I know every mile on this course; I needed that small dose of familiarity and comfort. Otherwise, I’ve never been so nervous to go out and test the systems…

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I stayed with Anne & Matt on Saturday night so the trek to the starting line was very easy (pre-race pumpkin carving is one way to take your mind off the nerves!).   We arrived to the Rosslyn metro around 6:35 a.m. and parted ways. They hopped on the train to the Smithsonian stop (10K start); I followed crowds of runners in sweats on their way toward these familiar arches.

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Coach K and I worked out a very specific plan. I know from experience that you have to be careful in the beginning of this race, even more so than other marathons – I’ve never fully mastered the art of it. Even though I’d have to average out to 8:00 min/miles, the plan started with 8:30s. “There is more elevation gain in the first 2.5 miles of the MCM course than there is in the 5 mile stretch through Newton Hills on the Boston Marathon course.”  Round 3, and I still forgot how rowdy that Lee Highway hill is! Going up OR down too quickly will wreak havoc; take it easy. Save it. (Had a brief conversation about this on the plane coming back to CA last night; a fellow racer complained about how quickly/hard he went out on those hills, and the detriment it caused later. I hear ya! I’ve been there.)

This year was different; stuck to the plan, even though it felt a little slow, and put faith in what my legs are well trained to do with fatigue.

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Other tools in the game-day box: rainbows and a few mantras. This race wasn’t gonna go down without a lot of mental stamina.

Miles 1-8 were pretty unremarkable. We had beautiful fall views throughout Arlington and into Georgetown. It was warming up to the high of 65+ and everyone was happily in summer-style running gear.

A few things have changed since 2012, but the best upgrade was skipping MacArthur and turning right off the Key Bridge. We immediately headed into my stomping grounds: Rock Creek Park. You can’t have a bad run in RCP. The crowds were loud and dense, runners were happy!

Around mile 9 I needed my thoughts to calm down and the pace to feel a little easier. I needed mile 20 to be a little closer*, and I needed to zone out for a little while.

None of that really happened, but somehow I did manage to keep putting one foot in front of the other just fast enough to maintain an 8:00-8:15 pace.  I managed to carefully barrel my mind behind the wall, keeping it with me, not against me.

Choose courageNot comfort. 

MCM 2014_haines pt MCM 2014_mile 17
Photo credit, obviously: MarathonFoto.com

There’s no explaining needed here – I think those faces speak for themselves.  I also think miles 10-17 of most marathons will always fall similarly along the spectrum of “uncomfortable”, no matter how the day is going.

In these moments: Your focus shifts from miles, paces, nutrition and frequency of aid stations to pour all the energy you can mightily muster to shut off the mind. It’s ready to quit long before your legs are trained to.

Right after we passed the Capital I briefly walked through the water station to dump blissfully chilled H2O on my head. That would be the last luxury of a  ‘break’ my legs got.*Kate was waiting for me right where I expected her (mile 19.5), with all the energy she reliably carries on the run.

Kate’s mission would be to pull me through 7:30-45s during the last 10K. I refused to verbalize that those numbers weren’t in the cards (not that I had the energy or lung capacity to speak, anyway), or concede to any thought that it wouldn’t happen. Physically, I knew. But when you give up mentally, it’s a different kind of failure. She’s a smart cookie – I knew she would know, and we’d do what we could with what was left.

We’ve done this before, she knows the drill! BEAT. THE. BRIDGE.

That freaking bridge….

Miles 20-22 are too familiar; people are suffering to tackle the undulations of the 14th street bridge. If they’re in my head, they’re also trying to fathom HOW IT IS SO LONG and hoping with all hope that it ends soon.

As we came down and off the ramp, we were joined by two strangers. Jeff was wearing the same TAD visor and accompanied by his friend, as instructed by Katie. He immediately said “We’re here to pace you to Boston!!”. Oh, man. I WISH that’s what you were going to do, Jeff, but that math is not working in my favor at this point. This was the moment I realized there would be none of the usual mile 23-25 intermittent walk breaks – not a chance of letting down any guard, even though there was also not a chance I was hitting my goal. When two strangers and one kick-ass friend give up their morning to run with you? You put on your tough-girl pants and you run.

Those three. They should probably never know what was going through my head, but they SHOULD know that they did an incredible thing. The success of the day: there wasn’t a single point in the last 10K that we stopped, paused or mentally quit. Instead, we ran a pace that felt like walking but was actually, miraculously, pretty consistent.

——

And then there was the “Mile 26” sign. And the crowds couldn’t possibly have been any thicker, louder or more amped up for us! And there was the hill this race is famous for.

And then it was done.

MCM 2014 Finish

MCM 2014 splits

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I’ve had to let this one sit and sink in, and am still not completely done processing it. But a lot of strong people have been quick to remind me there is always something to pull from any race day, and this is no different. The about-to-puke finish feeling , some HR data and my barely-moving-today legs have plenty to say. I ran exactly what I could and I did it well enough to keep running through every mile. It’s not exactly what I wanted, but it’s how this day played out. I got to charge through my favorite city on one of my favorite days and with one of my favorite people. Success!

2014-10-26 12.12.56  2014-10-26 12.19.40

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{MCM} Running: The Gear

There are a lot of pieces that go into any endurance training regimen, and the right gear (for you), collectively, is a BIG piece. Huge. I’ve trained for marathons with and without a watch, changed shoes multiple times, run with and without tunes and experimented with all kinds of foods (or non-foods, depending on your opinion). I don’t think there’s only one way for each person to put the puzzle together. It doesn’t matter how you make the pieces fit, they just have to come together by race day!

For marathon #6, Marine Corps #3 (swoon), this is what works for me:

Marine Corps Marathon Gear_DOTR

SHOES: Mizuno Wave Rider – 17

I was first introduced to these kicks last fall, courtesy of Fitfluential, and haven’t veered far from them since. I’ll occasionally give my toes some breathing room with my Altras, but for comfort and distance, the Mizunos are my go-to. They also happen to have some purple, and that happens to be lovely. These shoes are light, neutral, flexible and ready for game-day.

EYEWEAR: Guideline Sunglasses – Spray (Polarized)

These are new to the MCM-training-gear family, having just popped in my mailbox a few weeks ago courtesy of the Guideline crew. I was in need of some run-friendly eyewear* with a lot of time now spent on the trails and staring into the sunrise, and these fit right in! You can barely feel them resting lightly on your nose, they don’t move a bit and are flexible (i.e. don’t dig into your head/ears). Assuming we’re not in for another hurricane warning on race-day (ah, let’s not forget Miss Sandy 2012), these are essential!

*This look is always appropriate, too.

TECH – Polar RC3 GPS-HRM

What’s that? Yes, yes I do wear a heart-rate monitor, and watch the numbers closely. Yes, that watch/heart-rate sensor decides a LOT about each run. When I race it’s a guidance, but not a deciding factor. It’s something my coach gets to dissect later and use for future computing and math-crunching. But in the months and miles leading up to this starting line, it has been an essential tool. I’m all for some tech-free running every now ‘n then, but when you want to objectively measure your progress, this is how you do it.

There are some things I love about the Polar vs. Garmin watch: ability to press lap around sections of your choice (time or distance) without affecting the auto-lap, 8 training screens providing different information/instant feedback (half of which I don’t use, but they’re there!) and a better (still not great) website for logging workouts. That said, I think each high-end GPS watch has its perks and strengths. I happen to like this one, and we get along quite well.

———

Other things I carry with me on-the-run:

- Small handheld water bottle, filled with Skratch Hydration Mix (lemon)
- Larabar pieces (broken up for easy eating!)
- Shot Bloks (Margarita flavor – for easy digesting late in the run)
-  Spotify tunes, sometimes
- lululemon speed shorts (the. best.)

———

What are some of your essentials?

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The Anti-Stress Diet

Stress is like hot sauce; a little bit goes a long way. It can be great –  mixing things up a bit and providing just enough spice to push you through {insert challenge / perceived life-threatening event / random situation}. But dump it all over the place, all the time? Your system will be quick to say “THIS IS NOT GOOD!”, more is not better, and eventually it starts to shut down because dang that ish is spicy and it is up to no good.

Stress comes in many forms, flavors and costumes. It could be travel, low-sleep, high intensity training, work, family, friends, traffic, the line at the grocery store – each day, trigger and response is different for all of us!

But the internal response and havoc? It’s always the same.

no bad vibes source: kushandwizdom.tumblr.com

My job as a health coach first introduced me to the importance of stress management, as we had to become experts of sorts in how to help people connect the stress – health dots.

Then I started heart-rate training (have I mentioned this?), and stress took on an entirely new meaning to me. Training is basically a continual dose-response stress test. Too little? You won’t see much progress. Just enough? Boom! You’re loving this training thing and sleeping like a baby! Too much? No bueno. You’ll barely sleep, curse your HRM and feel the tank empty. Sometimes it’s training stress, but more often than not it’s the extra stress you add from your lifestyle that affects your training. The heart will try telling you to calm the heck down, lay off the sauce and don’t you dare try making things even crazier!

But there are a few ways you can fight back! I use these tactics regularly – daily, for most – and finally feel like I’m winning the balancing act, with a LOT of help from this gal. Collectively, you could consider these habits an Anti-Stress Diet, or just a smart way to start telling your body Hey, dude, I GOT YOU.

1. SLEEP. Enough. Often. On a schedule.
With your eyes closed and your mind off.

no sleep

I’ve never skimped too much on sleep, but until we moved to California I had no idea what a difference it would make to actually get enough. I now get 7-8 hours on the reg and have no shame in my 9:30pm bedtime.

2. Treat your gut nicely. Eat real foods!

There’s no secret to this one – we all know the difference between real and highly-processed foods. I’m sure it comes as no shock to your brain that our bodies much prefer fresh food to manufactured ones. Your intestines are great friends with fruits, vegetables, proteins, oils, nuts and seeds – they’re all like “Oh it’s so nice to see you again!” and happily move them along their way. Throw a 20+ ingredient “Protein Bar” in there? It’s all like “Dude, I don’t even know where to start.” And it stays in there until your intestine can break away all the crap and search for anything worth salvaging. It becomes inflamed and suddenly you’ve created more stress.

3. While you’re at #2, throw in some anti-inflammatory Omega-3s.

Omega-3 fats are considered essential because our body can’t generate them, we must get them from our diets. They’re also essential because an adequate intake may help reduce risk of heart disease and, important to today’s topic, reduce inflammation. Food sources of these healthy fats include nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds (flax, chia), oils (canola, flaxseed, olive) and…for the best bang-for-your-fat-buck, fish (sardines, salmon, tuna and trout – go for wild-caught if you can). Some grass-fed meats/poultry and Omega-3 enriched eggs are options, as well.

4. Keep inflammation-inducing food/drink low.
Really low.

This may not be a total surprise, but alcohol, sugar and excess caffeine can stress your system out. If you know you’re stressed, ease back or eliminate these things entirely. It’ll help your system stay focused on the task-at-hand without having to deal with more incoming stress.

Intake of these things doesn’t have to perfectly at “zero” all the time, but be mindful of your indulgences when you know your body is working hard to fight whatever it is you’re fighting (it all looks the same on the inside: STRESS).

5. Fill up the water bottle!

No skimping, reading labels or trickery here! Hydration is easy, your body just wants some plain ol’ H2O all day, every day. It’s easy to mistake hunger for thirst, and hard to function optimally when your fluids are low. Avoid all of the confusion, fatigue and, of course, stress, by filling up your water bottle and drinking it down.

What You Do Every Day

source: happiness-project.com

This short list certainly doesn’t encompass everything we can do to manage stress, but they’re some of the easiest ways to do so every day. These things add up, they work and they keep your systems happy. You don’t have to do things perfectly 100% of the time, but it sure helps if you avoid digging your own holes to climb out of. 

What are some of your go-to stress reducing techniques?

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100 Minutes of Plank – What’s Next? {Spoiler: V-Sit Challenge}

I have 18 minutes to go, but the dude finished early and his “100 minute” total next to mine is quite the motivation. There will be one more “HOLD IT FOR FOREVER” test (current record: 6 min 30 seconds), to see what I can do, and then a lot more of this:

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The 30-day Plank challenge is topping my list of favorite-monthly-goals so far. It got me out of a core-strengthening-box I didn’t even realize I was comfortably closed up in. I took work breaks to plank, did multi-minute plank holds as part of my weekly strength workouts (instead of “just” 1 minute) and challenged myself to plank after my first 3-hour long run of the training cycle (that may have been a mistake…). We planked on the beach, seriously considered planking in the aisle of an airplane (but no), and used plank as an excuse to explore and settle into a few Bellevue, WA parks while traveling for work  (see pic above).

Relax in the sun? Yes. .Do it while planking? Also yes.

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The new-norm is to hold it for 2 minutes, do side-plank for 60-90 seconds, hold it again, and alternate for a few minutes. Coach K challenged me to pull my elbows an inch forward while doing forearm plank, and my abs just about fell off right-that-second. He challenged me to plank with a weight on my back and I drew the “Absolutely not” line very clearly. Maybe next time, yo!

And now, almost 30 days later:

I see a little more definition, a happier long-running gait and a core that’s ready for the next step.

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So, what’s next, hmmmm?

Laura (check her out at Precise Pilates!) & I are teaming up for October’s 100 minute challenge – the V-sit (aka Boat Pose). It’s regularly part of my prescribed weekly strength/stability workout and never gets easier. The schedule usually reads “1 minute V-Sit”; 4 months later my legs still violently shake about 45 seconds in. I definitely can’t straighten my legs for the full hold (stretched hamstrings?! Ha. No.), but that’s not my ultimate goal. Rather, I’ll settle for getting through those 60 seconds without thinking this may be the toughest balance pose of them all. (But isn’t it?! Srsly.)

It will not defeat me. It will not make me revert to 30-second holds for the rest of forever. NO, V-SIT. I will get you, even if it takes me 30 days and 100 minutes of trying for the win.

Who’s in?

#30daysofVsit or #100minutechallenge – tweet, Insta, jam it up!

(Suggestions for future challenges are welcomed!)

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Trail Hog Half-Marathon: Comin’ Round to the Mountains

After completing two 10Ks on the trails in the past two months, and a little nudge from the coach to look up a half-marathon for September, we decided to step it up a notch. His race-searching skills are not to be messed with..

Of course my naive logic assumed that since that I’m trained beyond what I need for 13.1 miles, this should be no big thang! The plan was to race, not just run. Yep, I can do that, too!  The elevation chart didn’t look too bad, I mean, as far as trail races go….

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trailhog half elevation garmin

As you can see, things started off really well! And by well, I mean quickly going from a run to a walk, to an uphill crawl, to sweet relief that at least the worst incline was already done.

trailhoghalf_M1 trailhoghalf_H3

Once we finally got through the first few miles, and my ego was dust-covered but not yet destroyed, it was pretty smooth sailing. The first aid station greeted us right after mile 2. Usually I stick with my own water, but this day was already proving to be a no-messing-around adventure, so I happily took a big cup of icy H2O.

There was a 4.5 mile gap between this and the next life elixir.

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The half-marathon runners started 15 minutes before the 10k and 30 minutes before the 5K, but our loops mixed with theirs at one point. This is the biggest trail race we’ve run in California so far, which meant I finally got to enjoy the company and competition of fellow runners for most of the course (vs. just the beginning and/or end)!

We passed mile marker 5 / 12 and then 6 / 13, and I thought well at least I know exactly how the last 1.5 miles look! Then we split. As everyone else headed toward the Finish line, we turned to complete the next 6+ miles

trailhoghalf_H4

I spent most of the last half chasing, passing and then getting passed by the same handful of athletes. We all had different strengths on the course, and likely a few different goals (as it goes), but a similar stamina. I took advantage of every aid station, rationing my water and opting for the “Sports Mix!” for a little boost of electrolytes and flavor.

The hills throughout this last loop threw me off. ‘Scuse me, sirs, but according to that chart you should be shorter and less abrasive!  I assure you no hill feels short or friendly at this point, and I repeatedly tried to run up, only to stop, walk, and conserve the little energy + heart-capacity left. As the incline begins to soften and you can see it flatten out, that’s when I make the legs run again. There is no wasting a flat section, or adding any more time than is absolutely necessary between me and brunch!

trailhoghalf_H_13mi

What I kept telling myself: the stretch between miles 12 – 13 isn’t too bad, you’ve already run it, you know what to expect!

What was actually true: by the time we actually hit those miles, and ran that stretch again, it all seemed different. The slight incline felt like a hill. The mile felt like two. The finish line couldn’t possible be close if my legs won’t move any faster than this.

That last picture is a shuffle up and around a corner; the mental battle script would read “move, food, brunch, water, move, food, MOVE”. The only reason I cared that I walked in the last half-mile is because once I slowed my momentum to get up the tiny inclines, it felt harder to walk than to run. So tricky, these trails!

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SWEET, SWEET, Finish Line. You never disappoint.

trailhoghalf_finishH

13.4 miles – 2:08:43 – avg. 9:33 min/mile
2nd – F25-29

40th / 178 overall

There are a lot of great things about racing the trails vs. the roads, and high on that list is the food spread you see afterward. These athletes certainly know how to put the calories right back in with a buffet of sweet, salty and refreshing options – if you happen to leave a trail race hungry, that’s on you.

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Medals all around! Dan took 1st in his AG for his first trail 10K, and Mike snatched up 3rd in M30-35 along with 13th place overall. Fast dudes, unite!

As always, a huge thanks to the organizers and volunteers! Brazen Racing seems well-known in this ‘hood and put on a great event. We’ll be back!

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