Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Leona Divide 50K Race Recap

This past weekend, I completed the Leona Divide 50K. This race was done as a training run on the road to the San Diego 100-miler in June. It's still a little weird to say that a 50K race is a training run, but that's what it is at this point. And, I realized this was my 10th 50K race. So, yay for that! There are so many things I loved about this race! I'll try to keep the recap short and sweet but you know how I love to carry on about things :)

This race is put on by the wonderful Keira Henninger. I've done a few of her races now, so I always know they're going to be well organized, the course well-marked and the aid stations well-stocked. And this race was no exception. We received ample directions in the days leading up the race, with driving and parking directions, maps and details on the course and where the aid stations will be, weather info and so much more. Ultra race directors are pretty thorough and Keira is no exception. She provides so much info, you'll be ready for anything.

My running partners in crime, Vanessa and Alexis and I left Friday afternoon. The race location was just outside of Palmdale, CA, in the Angeles National Forest. It's about a 2.5 hour drive without traffic but it took us about 4 hours. Lots of back roads, slow trucks and other traffic woes thwarted our plans of arriving to the hotel quickly, but it was still a relatively fun time. We drove through some interesting towns and sang along to some good tunes, so all was not hideous.

Saturday morning, we awoke super early (3:45am) and made our way to the Green Valley Charitable Hall, where the start/finish was located. We checked in, used the port-o-potties in the dark and got ready for the race. We met up with lots of Orange Mud Ambassadors and InknBurn Ambassadors before the race, which is always a good time. Super awesome running friend Philip even had a blanket for Vanessa and I to cuddle in (it was actually chilly at the start...but that didn't last long).

At the start, with Sparky photobombing

Vanessa, Tam, Chad, Alexis, myself and Jenny

Pre-race blanket love

After a brief talk from Keira, we were off. The first 3-ish miles are pretty much all uphill. We run on the paved road out from the Hall to a connector trail that leads to the PCT. That is all uphill. The road is uphill, the connector trail is uphill. At the top, where the connector meets the PCT, was the first aid station. It was well-stocked and everyone was happy to get there. We didn't need to really refuel at this point, though. From there, we headed south on the PCT for about 6 miles. This section was really beautiful. We ran through some trees and shade on beautiful single-track. Though, the 50K front-runners were making their way back on to the connector and the trail got tight at times. But, along the way, we passed/saw the Bouquet-Canyon Reservoir, which was quite full and lovely.

Initial climbing, while we're still smiling.

Beautiful PCT single track

Bouquet Canyon Reservoir

We got to the 2nd aid station at about mile 8.5 or so. I had my share of Coke, pickles and potato chips and water. We loved that the road we began on was called Spunky Canyon Road, so we needed to take pictures with the signs. Then we were on our way back to that first aid station/connector. The 50-milers kept going south for another 9 miles or so.

Heading back to Spunky Canyon Rd. Cause we spunky. 

After coming back to the connector and what was now aid station 3, we refilled our packs and loaded up on salt and fuel. Lots of fruit and potatoes at this buffet table aid station. Next we were heading north on the PCT for about 7 miles or so. We were told that this section of the course can be rather grueling. It's exposed and it's getting HOT. No shade + heat = hideous. And it was. We made our way to aid station 4 and were so happy when we got there. Our friend, Philip (of pre-race blanket fame), was there to apply sunblock to our already sunburned necks and shoulders (is he amazing or what?). We also refueled on pickles and potato chips, ice water and soda. After dipping our hats in the ice water and placing ice cubes in various places, we were on our way back.

Aid station heaven 

We ran that. 

I'm not going to lie, this section was soul-crushing. It was so freaking hot at this point and we were just kind of over it. What felt good on the way out to that last aid station felt miserable on the way back. And the sun was unrelenting. Unrelenting. But we made it back to the connector and what was now aid station 5 at mile 29. We did pass a man that was in severe distress. Thankfully the runners ahead of us notified the medics at the aid station and they headed their way out to him. I don't know what ultimately happened to him, but I'm sure he was taken back to the race start and given fluids. I'm hoping he was ok.

Unrelenting sun and heat

When we got back to the last aid station, what was now aid station 6, we filled up our packs, had some Coke, pickles and potato chips, and hunkered down to finish the last 3 miles. Really, this was a grit-fest making our way down the connector trail to the paved road and back to the Hall. The trail was manageable but the paved road was a little banked in places. It was not comfortable. But we made it to the finish line! And that finish line was SWEET. According to my Garmin, total mileage was 31.15 (I think Vanessa and Alexis had higher mileage) and total elevation gain was 4295 feet. And, according to Garmin, highest temp was 102 somewhere along the course. HOT. We earned those medals!

After the race, we hung out for a bit with friends. We saw the 50-miler women's winner, Rachel Ragona, finish. She was met by who we think was her husband and her children (you never know!). She has two young kids, maybe both under 3. I cried a little at how inspiring it was to see her finish. It was pretty amazing. She's a rock star.

After cleaning up, we headed back into Palmdale to Cafe Rio, a delicious Mexican fast-casual place. Vanessa and I enjoyed burrito monstrances (Alexis was good and had a salad) and then we headed back home. Thankfully, the trip home was shorter than the trip there and we made it home in about 2.5 hours.

Don't judge me

Post race glow! And most favorite race shirt ever! 

Would I do this race again? On one condition - the temperature would have to be below 70 degrees. Other than the temperature, it really is an awesome race. I have no complaints.

Next up is the PCT 50 Mile on May 13th. This will be my 3rd year in a row. Here's hoping temperatures stay low! What's next for you?

I'm linking up with Susie from the Suzlyfe, Lora Marie from Crazy Running Girl, Debbie from Coach Debbie Runs and Rachel from Running on Happy for the Coaches' Corner blog link up. Check these awesome ladies when you're done here!

I'm also linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday Link Up with Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama, Jen from Pretty Little Grub and Nicole at Fitful Focus. Check these badass women out!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Run For Charity This Spring

The long cold winter is coming to an end and spring has sprung! And with spring comes a running renewal! Spring is a perfect time to revisit your goals for the year. Perhaps winter wasn't kind to your running for whatever reason and now that the daylight is longer, the temps are warmer and races are popping up all over the place, you can revise those goals and start working towards them with gusto.

Even with the arrival of spring, you may still have trouble motivating yourself to work towards those goals. The most dedicated runners still have trouble with motivation at times. Sometimes working towards a time or distance goal just isn't enough. That's when I think about making my goals about something else like a cause near to my heart. For my 5th marathon, (New York City Marathon many moons ago), I was part of the Livestrong Army, raising funds and awareness for cancer research. For another New York City Marathon, I fundraised for Team for Kids to help kids in low income areas have access to physical activity programs and opportunities to learn about healthy living. I've also fundraised for Girls on the Run, local AIDS charities in Washington DC, as well as my kids' schools. Each time it brought a whole new level of importance to my goals. Getting up to run isn't just about you but about the charity you're running for. The people you're running for become your motivation and the possibility of letting them down is enough to keep going. So, how do you make the move to run for charity? See below for my 5 tips.

Before I continue, I'm linking up with the Friday Five 2.0 link up, hosted by Rachel at Running on Happy and Lacey and Meranda from Fairytales and Fitness. When you're done here, be sure to check these ladies out!

1. Pick your cause. Think about the causes that are important to you. Maybe there's a disease that you want to raise awareness for or a community project that could use more funding. Maybe your child's school is in need of resources for some of their programs. All it has to be is something you care about.

2. Find a race. Many races are associated with various local and national charities. Once you've found the charity you want to support, you can see if there are any races that will benefit that particular charity. Or you search for a race first and narrow your choices down by the charities they support.

3. Start your own campaign. Perhaps the charity you want to support isn't associated with a race or event. You can still run the race of your choice and fundraise on your own. In fact, Eventbrite can help you set up your own campaign to fundraise for the charity of your choice. This way you control the fundraising and the exact cause near and dear to your heart gets the exposure and funds it needs.

4. Enlist friends and family. Trust me, I know that ask is tough. Asking your friends, family, coworkers and others to donate to your cause is hard. But when the cause is something important to you or your community, you'd be surprised how quickly people want to help. And knowing you're also helping yourself achieve a goal will make it easier for others to support you. Email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all great ways to get your message out there.

5. Host an event. If asking friends and family repeatedly is getting old, think about hosting a fundraising event. Speak with local restaurants about holding a night where a portion of the sales go to your fundraising campaign. Other ideas include a spa night where a local massage therapist offers a discounted rate for massages and a portion of the sales go towards your fundraising. Many businesses will gladly help out as it helps get their name out there too :)

Running for charity is a great way to stay motivated and excited about your goals. It makes you feel good knowing your runs, even the bad ones, will brighten someone else's day.

Have you ever run for charity? What tips do you have for others fundraising now?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Encinitas Half Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend was the inaugural running of the Encinitas Half Marathon. This new hometown race is sure to be a favorite among both locals and visitors. The race directors really hit it out of the park on this first outing. Granted, this isn't their first stab at directing races. They also put on the Surfing Madonna Beach Run, which is run on sand starting and finishing at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. In fact, that race has grown so much and gained so much in popularity, it wasn't surprising when the same race directors announced the new Encinitas Half Marathon last year. And after it was announced with a very low early-bird registration fee, everyone jumped on it, including me. Adding more reason to run this race is knowing the organizers donate a large amount of race proceeds to local charities, which is something very few organizers do. They keep the local race money within the community and it's awesome.

I also wanted to coach a training program for this race through the YMCA. Thankfully the higher ups were on board and the 12-week program launched in January. We met each week at the race start/finish and basically ran every inch of the race course each week. We also discussed nutrition, hydration, recovery, strength training, foam rolling, injury prevention and so much more. This was a really great group of people and I loved coaching them.

After 12 weeks of training and major build up for the race, race weekend was finally here. The expo was held in the parking lot of Moonlight Beach both the Friday and Saturday before the race. If you couldn't make it to the expo to pick up your packet, you could pick it up race morning for a small fee, which is nice for folks that aren't able to get there in time. The packet was a burlap bag filled with tons of goodies including popcorn, Clif bars, Kashi, Biofreeze and more.

The shirt was also pretty nice. The shirts were navy short-sleeved shirts and the women's had a v-neck, which is always appreciated. I don't like getting shirts that are unisex or small men's shirts because they never fit right and I never wear them. I know I'll wear this one.

At the expo, tents and tables of various sponsors were there offering samples and materials. I spent most of the time at the Movin Shoes tent. They were not only a sponsor of the race, but they helped my program out big time. They offered a discount on new shoes for every participant, they set up a water stop during one of our runs and just were so supportive of everyone. They really want everyone to be successful and I love working with them.

Smitha and me at the expo
with Mick from Movin Shoes
Finally, race day arrived. It was a cool, overcast morning and I was hoping the weather would hold. It was perfect running weather. I made my way to the start where I met a ton of friends at the start, including my girl Smitha and the wonderful women from the San Diego Moms Run This Town group. I also met up with a fellow InkNBurn ambassador, Debbra, which was awesome. Then all the runners from my group arrived and we got in line for the race. I don't typically run the races for which I coach a group but I registered before the group details were finalized and figured I would just run with them and stay with anyone that needed me.

with Smitha at the start

fellow Ink ambassador Debbra

with the SD MRTT group 

We decided as a group to stay together for the start and placed ourselves back in wave 3. This way, we could at least all start together. There were 4 waves, starting about 90 seconds apart. We didn't have to wait too long, as in some other races with wave starts. Once the race started, the group dispersed and everyone found their own groove.

with my group at the start
And we're off! 

The race course had us starting at the top of a steep hill, which we knew about, but was still jarring right at the start. Then the race spilled out onto Highway 101. The entire road was closed in both directions, which is always a nice treat. We headed north about 2.25 miles and turned around, ran south, passed through the race starting area and headed through the neighborhoods of coastal Encinitas, but not before climbing up the hill we originally ran down at the start. But since we ran that hill several times in our training, we were prepared.

We then spilled back out onto 101, heading south. We ran through Cardiff and into Solana Beach. At about mile 8.5, one of my runners had a bad hamstring cramp. I stayed with him, pushed fluids and, thankfully, it worked itself out. I stayed with him through the rest of the race to be sure he was ok. And he was!

Anyway, around mile 9, we turned back around when we got into Solana Beach and headed north back to Moonlight Beach for the final 4 miles of the race. At about mile 12.25, there's another hill heading back into the neighborhood and most people were walking. Even though we trained with these hills, they were still pretty tough on race day. But after that final hill, it was smooth sailing home.

There were plenty of aid stations along the course and because it was out-and-back in several places, you hit some of the aid stations more than once. I will say there was some confusion as to where electrolytes were along the course. The race had both Ultima (my favorite) and Hyburst, a new local sports drink company. But even with two different drinks available, they weren't at all the aid stations they were supposed to be, according to the race materials. But this is why I always carry my fluids with me. Thankfully I had the OrangeMud Hydraquiver Vest Pack 2 with me. I was able to give my runner some fluids (Ultima, of course) as well as have enough for myself. It was a lifesaver for him!

As a side note - if you go to the Ultima website, you'll see a pic of my group with the awesome sample packs they sent us. Ultima rocks! It was so helpful to train with the drink that was on the race course!

The race finish was in the parking lot of Moonlight Beach. I will say, if I had to complain about something, it would be the finish area. It was pretty chaotic and hard to find anyone. Though, I did meet up with another InkNBurn ambassador, Sarah :) There was some oatmeal and finisher's mugs being handed out, and the lines were super long. But in all honesty, most races have chaotic finisher areas and it's pretty hard to avoid when you have 100s of people finishing at the same time. I will say the oatmeal was worth waiting for as it really hit the spot with granola and honey! The finisher's mug is super cute and they were filling them with hot chocolate, though I didn't try to get any. There was also plenty of water, bananas, coffee and electrolytes available at the finish area as well. Not to mention the enormous medals they handed out upon crossing the finish line. They really did take care of the finishers with food and swag.

with fellow Ink ambassador Sarah 

Almost all of my group at the finish
(we couldn't find everyone!)

The awesome medal and finisher's mug! 

This was a great local race and I definitely plan on running it again, if I'm not coaching a group. Or maybe I'll run with the group again as that seemed to work out well. I just really enjoyed the atmosphere and how it really brought the community together.

Do you have a local race you love?

I'm linking up with Susie from the Suzlyfe, Lora Marie from Crazy Running Girl, Debbie from Coach Debbie Runs and Rachel from Running on Happy for the Coaches' Corner blog link up. Check these awesome ladies when you're done here!

I'm also linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday Link Up with Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama, Jen from Pretty Little Grub and Nicole at Fitful Focus. Check these badass women out!

Friday, February 10, 2017

What I Love Most About Running...While Running

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, we've all got love on the brain. Or maybe you always have love on the brain, Valentine's-related or not. I have love on the brain because it's the topic for this week's Friday Five blog link up. And while I could just talk about my top 5 reasons for loving to run, I thought I'd write about what I love about the actual act of running.

Before I continue, I'm linking up with the Friday Five 2.0 link up, hosted by Rachel at Running on Happy and Lacey and Meranda from Fairytales and Fitness. When you're done here, be sure to check these ladies out!

Let's be honest, poll a group of runners and most of them will tell you that, while they love what running does for them (running friends, seeing new places, losing weight, etc.), they don't actually love running. They love the run when it's over but the act of running itself isn't always great. And I agree. This week especially, I've had a lot of stuff going on and I haven't felt my strongest and most motivated. The runs haven't been the best. Which is all the more reason why I wanted to talk about the 5 things I love the most about the act of running: not just what it does for me, but what I love while on the run. I try to focus on these things when I'm having a hard time. I try to bring it back to the moment I'm in and what about the actual act of running that makes me happy. It helps for those tough times when I'd rather be doing something else!

1. Hearing my feet hit the ground. I rarely run with music and, besides the safety issue, it's mostly to listen to my feet hit the ground. The coach in me is listening for changes in foot strike, cadence and stride but the runner in me loves that light tap, tap, tap as I run along the street or the crunch, crunch, crunch when on the trail. And when I'm with a group of runners, it's like music to my ears. All that tapping makes my heart sing.

2. Getting especially muddy or filthy. There is a certain satisfaction for me when I run through a muddy or dusty trail and come out absolutely disgusting. Mud and dirt streaked all over my legs and feet makes me smile. I love dirt lines on my ankles. That line when I take off my gaiters or socks? It makes me giggle. I actually can't wait to get home to show my family. It all just makes the run so much fun! And it kinda makes me feel a little badass.

3. Feeling the burn. Another reason why I don't run with music is so I can pay attention to all the feels. The literal physical feels. I want to feel my heart rate increase when I climb a mountain. I want to feel my legs burn after that climb. I want to feel the sweat drip off my hat and down my back. Sure, there are times when I get to a point where everything hurts and I want to die. But on a typical training run, I enjoy feeling my body work the way it's supposed to. I am such a geek and I picture my muscles contracting, my blood wooshing through my veins, my heart beating. This is what our bodies were made for - moving!

4. That feeling when it all clicks. When you're out on a run and things just start to work they way they're supposed to, it's pretty heavenly. Your pace feels awesome, you've got a tail wind, you feel light as air and everything else just melts away. It's just you and the run. Man, there isn't much that's better than that feeling.

5. That feeling when nothing is clicking but you get through it anyway. This is really what made me want to write this blog post. While out on my trail run today, I was struggling. I have been stressed and fatigued and I just wasn't into the run. But I kept telling myself that it's getting through moments like this that will help me the most. This is what will make me stronger. Sure, those great runs are nice too. But gutting it out and working through these tough times will help me get through other hard times. And getting past these moments feels pretty darn good too.

A bonus thing? When all of it comes together - I hear my heart beating, my legs are aching, I sing along to the crunch crunch crunch of my foot strike, I push through the pain and come out the other side when everything clicks. And I'm absolutely filthy when it's over. That is magic right there.

What do you love while running? What about the physical act of running makes your heart sing?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Strength Every Runner Should Do: The Bridge

We've talked about squats, lunges, planks, rotational exercises and now it's time to shine the strength spotlight on the bridge. Bridges are exercises I have every one of my clients do on a regular basis. They are the epitome of core work in that they not only work the abdominal muscles but there is also a special focus on the posterior: the back, hips, glutes, hamstrings and calves. This is really important for runners as it improves hip stability as well as glute and hamstring strength, which will help prevent hip, knee and lower leg injuries. As far as performance goes, your power as a runner comes from glute and hamstring strength. Wanna power up a hill? Building glute and hamstring strength will help tremendously. All-in-all, adding bridges to your routine will help you be a better runner.

Let's begin with the basic bridge. You'll lay down flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. You'll want your feet about a foot or so away from your booty. Lay your hands down along your sides. If bridging is difficult for you, you can reduce the challenge by placing the arms further away from your sides, even out like a T. Inhale, drive your weight through your heels and lift your hips off the ground as you exhale. Hold for 1-2 seconds and then lower your hips back to the floor as you inhale again. That is one repetition. Repeat for at least 10 reps per set. Aim for 2 sets of 10-12 reps. Once this seems fairly easy you can progress to the bridges below.


Once a client has mastered the basic bridge, I'll progress them to the bridge with heels down and toes up. This forces the body to engage the hamstrings and glutes more so than when the feet are flat on the ground. You'll perform the bridge as outlined above but have your toes pointing up.

From here, you can progress to the bridge with marching. This further improves hip stability as you must keep your hips level and even while doing the move. Begin in basic bridge starting position with your arms at your sides. You can begin without the toes up and when that is mastered, you can do the move with toes up, heels down to further engage the hamstrings. Inhale, drive your weight through your heels and lift your hips off the ground as you exhale. With the hips raised, you'll raise each leg up in a marching fashion. First raise the right leg up (you can keep the leg bent or straighten it) then lower it down. Then raise the left leg up and lower it down. That is one repetition. Continue to march the legs up and down as if you were marching, all while keeping the hips raised and even. Repeat for at least 10 reps per set. Aim for 2 sets of 10-12 reps.


Once you're a pro at the bridge with marching, you can try a single leg bridge. Begin in basic bridge starting position with your arms at your sides. You can begin without the toes up and when that is mastered, you can do the move with toes up, heels down to further engage the hamstrings. Raise your right leg straight up in the air. Inhale, drive your weight through your heels and lift your hips off the ground as you exhale. Keep that right leg straight and hips even as you lower the hips back down to the floor with an inhale. That's one rep. Continue to raise and lower the hips for 10-12 reps, then switch legs. Aim for 10-12 reps with the left leg up. Aim for 2 sets of 10-12 reps on each side.

Those are the basic bridge moves every runner should be able to do. From here, you can always add further challenge first by changing the position of your hands from on the floor to across your chest or to holding them in the air. You can also try adding some weight across your hips. Just be mindful that you don't lose your form or quality of the movement. Once you lose quality, you need to regress the move. You can also try to create some instability by placing your feet on a BOSU, a stability ball or placing your feet in TRX straps. Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy the benefit of stronger hips, glutes and hamstrings!

What's your favorite bridge move?

I'm linking up with Susie from the Suzlyfe, Lora Marie from Crazy Running Girl, Debbie from Coach Debbie Runs and Rachel from Running on Happy for the Coaches' Corner blog link up. Check these awesome ladies when you're done here!

I'm also linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday Link Up with Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama, Jen from Pretty Little Grub, Michelle at Fruition Fitness and Nicole at Fitful Focus. Check these badass women out!