Thoughts for a first time marathon runner

With New Years resolutions just around the corner, you may find yourself saying your goal is to run your first marathon.

After running CIM recently, I realized the amazing influence I have had in my own running community with sharing my story about becoming a first time marathon runner. In light of that, I decided I wanted to write a blog post about my thoughts for those dabbling with first time marathonning. These thoughts are all my own and I am not a certified coach or athletic instructor, so please be advised this is all my own experience and advice.

I recommend you currently have a love for running and are doing it regularly. If you think signing up for 26.2 is going to be the thing that finally motivates you to put your running shoes back on, you might want to think again. I say that because training for a marathon will push you into the deepest cycles of training that fatigues even the most diligent runners who are already logging dozens of miles a week already. I recommend going into your training with a solid base of running to begin with.

If you’re looking for a motivation to start running and break out of hiatus, try a shorter distance as your spark, like a 10k. If you’re doing zero, you might find yourself daunted, overwhelmed and annoyed with the time and requirements that 26.2 training demand.

I am glad I waited until I had run 5 half marathons before doing my first marathon. I am not saying that 5 is the magical number that you are “ready” or “not ready” but it was a good number for me. At that point I felt I had really gotten a decent grasp on what a race day looks like. I understood things like starting corrals, aid station etiquette, clothing choices, fueling choices and race day prep. It was a good starting point to get ready for the marathon. During my 5th half marathon I had finally gotten a good level of endurance built up. My half marathons before that were usually tough after miles 10/11, and you need that endurance and stamina for marathon training. I’m glad I had done 13.1 enough times before diving in to training for 26.2.

Pick a healthy and realistic training plan

My first marathon I picked some training plan I found on the internet. Bad move. It was far too ambitious for me. It had a 21 and a 22 mile training run on it and TONS of weekly miles. It had no cross training. In short it was the wrong plan for me. I did the 21 mile run but was mentally burnt out by the time 22 came a long so I did a 16 mile run instead. I did not log nearly all the weekly miles, and I allowed myself to cross train even though the plan didn’t call for it.

I have been much more successful for marathons 2, 3 and 4 because I have a running coach who I can talk to in real time about my schedule, where my head is at and what cross training I want to incorporate. If a running coach isn’t an option for you, also check out local training groups. Real people giving you plans instead of a piece of paper can make a huge mental difference.

Your long runs are LONG. Be prepared. Long runs are tough during your first round of marathon training. You have no idea what to expect and for many people, anything past 13.1 is absolutely foreign. Be prepared for what that’s going to be like.

For me, success with those long miles includes things like running one or two of my long runs with friends (I mostly always run alone), running some of my long runs at a race for the on course support (for example I ran a half marathon that had similar course dynamics as the marathon I was training for the day I was supposed to do my 18 mile long run during my Summer 2018 marathon and then ran 5 extra miles before/after the race), and a big one I enjoy is going to dinner with friends the night before a super long run. Fueling up is important and since it’s a necessity, it’s nice to visit with friends before waking up the next day for the early miles.

I also plan lots of self care during those long runs. I will make no plans for the rest of the day during some of those long run days so I can stay home and read, rest, go to a movie or do something mindless. The really long runs, for me, are mentally draining so it’s nice to be able to check out after them and rest for the end of the day.

You will experience all your normal feelings but to the extreme

If you think you’re tired, hungry, emotional and exhausted now, be prepared. You will experience that to a new level.

You will question why you did this. It will be hard and it will drain you.

Even the most veteran marathon runners have told me that they have struggled through training. You’re alone during these runs, it’s a challenge to stick to a strict training calendar, and sometimes it feels never ending, but you’re not unique in feeling that. Reach out to someone if you need a boost, or take a day to reset your mind.

Keep your why close by.

Remember why you’re doing this. Remind yourself daily. Crush those runs because of it.

Just know it’s all worth it in the end.

The minute you cross that finish line and know you achieved something great makes all the challenges worth it.

My first marathon, the Santa Rosa Marathon, 2016.

Cheers to running 26.2, for all of us who are crazy enough to do it. You got this.

CIM 2018 recap

Hi! How are you? Me, I’m great! I feel so proud of how CIM 2018 went. My pride is beyond words. I hope I can do my experience justice in my writing.

Saturday, December 1

My last training run was a 2 mile shakeout, which I did and it started raining! But it was good and my pace was good and made me feel solid for Sunday.

After I got home and ate breakfast, I showered and we packed up the car to go to Sacramento. But first we made a pit stop at the fancy donut shop in town because I always get one of their donuts before a marathon. It’s my tradition!

It was seriously so good. Did not disappoint at all.

My husband and I journied up to the expo and got in around 12. At 12 I had arranged a meetup with ladies who follow my blog or are in the Badass Lady gang Facebook group and was so glad to meet so many awesome ladies. Proud of all of them.

I also saw whole slews of friends at the expo!

Top: Haley and Carina at the SRA booth

2nd: Tony (Endorphin Dude)

3rd: My friend Ron

Bottom: my friend Amy who I met at least years CIM!

The highlight of my expo visit was seeing the Eugene Marathon booth! They were so amazing. Richard, Race Director, and Ian, Assistant Race Director, made my heart so warm with their kind words and our great conversation about Eugene Marathon 2019! I also heard from them that a few name drops were done by people who said they knew me at the booth 😏. Glad to hear people are talking about the event. Did you know that’s my next big running goal? To PR my half time there on 4/28. (Use discount code VANESSAEM19 for a discount on the half or marathon!).

My husband and I picked up some Eugene Marathon hats so we could represent the event and then it was time for lunch!

I had more to visit at the expo but we were starving. My husband and I couldn’t agree on lunch so I had a bento box while he ate pizza at the restaurant next door. My lunch was better, I’m sure. I could eat Asian food daily.

Then back to the expo! We visited more booths and had lots of fun. I saw my friend Art who was a CIM ambassador last year and got a quick photo with him before he went back to volunteering.

And then I got to meet my friend Amanda who I have been following on Instagram!

And then the most hilarious thing happened. Because Coach Patrick texted me and said “I’m at the expo, are you here?” And if you look in the background of this photo, HE IS STANDING RIGHT THERE 🤣🤣🤣. How bizarre!!

He’s the best running coach.

Then I stood in line just to take this photo. #worthit

Then after we finished our expo shenanigans we went to check into our hotel so I could rest my feet before dinner.

We went back to dinner at the same place I ate before CIM last year and Urban Cow 2016. It was amazing.

Got home and took a hot bath.

Then after laying out my clothes it was time for me to go to bed around 8:00pm. I fell asleep fast and I’m glad I did. I didn’t sleep well Thursday night and needed the rest.

It actually didn’t feel as horrifically early now that I wake up a few times a week at 4:30 for the gym but I was definitely not looking forward to it.

Sunday, December 2

I paid how much money to run how many miles?

After a long bus ride to the start, I made it to the start area at 6am. Race started at 7. I nervous pottied twice and tried to find people but had a hard time. I saw Coach Patrick again though which was awesome! I saw Amanda again and wished her luck on her first marathon. Finally, 13 minutes after the official start I made it though the starting arch. But as soon as I started going I tripped on one of those street reflectors. Thank god I didn’t fall on my face, but it hurt my foot and I felt it the ENTIRE RACE. Lame.

CIM is a huge event. Way bigger than Santa Rosa, so the energy is amazing. Seriously. Everyone comes out in full force to cheer for people!

About 5k or so in, an old German who was cheering from the sidelines ran out into the race and linked arms with me. It was so sweet. I asked if he was gonna take me to the finish line. He said he was too old for that and sent me on my way with a huge smile. It was rad.

Around mile 8.75 the sweepers passed me. The sweepers keep the slowest race pace and you are supposed to stay ahead of them to maintain street closures or risk getting out on the sidewalk. When they approached me I thanked them for letting me know they were there and then I began FREAKING OUT. I thought I would get farther before seeing them. The thoughts in my head seriously went as follows:

  • I don’t know this course well enough so maybe I need to pull up a course map
  • Maybe I should just quit at the relay stop and not finish the marathon. No one would judge me.
  • What will happen if I get lost? Will someone redirect me?!

My freaking out later until I texted my friend Stephanie (I RUN California) and told her I was having a mind f*ck because I got passed. She is amazing and told me to get out of my head and to get it done. It was exactly what I needed to hear. She’s my hero.

Then the trucks began being nearby because they were picking up garbage and mile signs. At first it was so disheartening until I finally said to them “hey you should give me a ride!” and from there on out every time they were driving behind me or cleaning up and I passed by they cheered me on or made jokes how I hadn’t hopped on board yet. It was so perfect.

Finally I got halfway.

and thought to myself “why didn’t I do the relay?” 🤣

After 13.1 I told myself to get to 16, then 2, then 22, 24 and 26.2 and it helped to have smaller chunks to aim for.

The rest of the miles are a bit of a blur. I don’t remember who I saw or what I did but I kept on pace and maintained my run walk intervals 75/45, the entire race, though my mileage pace slowed.

I did get a photo with Ann, who I was hoping I would see!

Mile 20 was a sight to see. And I felt really good. No wall.

About mile 22 I was starting to fade and took in more fuel (I had maintained a solid every 45 minutes) and then saw my friend Mary who ran with me for a bit. It was perfect.

On my shoes I had shoe charms that my follower Debbie so graciously gifted me that said “this is tough/you are tougher” and seeing them on my feet was so perfect.

Finally I got into Sac and started recognizing where I was. It was also around that time that my tired little brain trying doing math to figure out my finish time. I was shooting to finish in 6:40, a one minute course PR from last year. My math said it was possible so I said to myself at mile 23 “you didn’t just come here to finish- you came here to do this”

And as I came through the last mile of the race I was not only going to beat that time but I was going to crush it.

And I did. 6:35.

You guys, let me just say, I have never cried so hard at a marathon finish. I always cry at a marathon finish but today was exceptional. I cried so hard because I was so damn proud of myself.

My training was rough. September I ran hardly any miles because I was constantly rehearsing for my show. October on the other hand, I did double workout days twice a week, and performed four nights a week and ran long on weekends before performing and took zero rest days. November was shaping up until the air quality tanked. I lost two weeks of training, and I lost my 18 mile long run which I was banking on because my 17 mile training run was so horrific. To see a 6:35 finish really made me feel SO justified in how hard I worked. When you’re knee deep in training, sometimes you think “why am I doing this?” And it isn’t until that goal is achieved that it all comes together.

I felt strong today. Really strong. Really proud of what my mind and my body could do. So I let myself cry because if we aren’t our biggest cheerleaders then who will be?

I am not in any condition to marathon PR (6:07:28) but I know as I get stronger and lose weight I can do it. Next year will be my year to PR all my distances!

I’m now officially a 4 time marathon runner. I weigh over 200 pounds and took choir in high school and was grateful to hear it meant I didn’t have to take PE. I used to be so heavy I couldn’t wake up in the mornings or walk up a set of stairs. I used to have little self confidence about what I could achieve.

I am a strong athletic woman who runs marathons, and today was a huge win for me. It helped show me how far I’ve come mentally and physically, and how I am ready for my next round of goals.

I am so honored and proud to have finished today in 6:35 and would trade none of it. I can’t wait to 26.2 again and know exactly which one I’m going for next year… but first I’ll take a little break from the marathon for trail running and road half’s.

Thanks for being here for me team! You mean the world.

With gratitude,

Vanessa

On food and feelings

I would like to start this by saying that I am so sorry to everyone who has lost anything or anyone due to the Camp Fire. I don’t mean to make light of your situation with my post, and merely want to express my words in case others need to hear them.

The last few days have been challenging. There’s a fire 150 miles from me that’s currently over 120,000 acres spread and only 30% contained. The air is thick with smoke over 200 miles from me in either direction.

I’ve used a lot of my emotional strength to say “it’s ok, a lot of people have it way worse than I do. I need to be grateful!” and I do, and I am. I’ve said “it’s ok my races got cancelled, it’s just money I’ve lost!” and it’s true. It’s just money. Not lives, not homes. But after a while the determination of being strong wears on me, and I can always see it in the following way.

I want a donut.

This morning after I had gone running at the gym, I was feeling emotional. I knew it was a combo of feeling off from my routine, and finally letting myself have some healthy alone time on the treadmill. I felt empty and alone and despite having packed two breakfasts, lunch and two snacks for work, I knew my emotions were getting to me when the thought 💭 I want a 🍩 donut came into my head.

I clearly didn’t need a donut. My eggs and oatmeal, chicken breast with rice, Greek yogurt and fruit and turkey breast were neatly packed in my Lululemon reusable bag that doubled as my lunch bag today. But when I feel sad, food is always my go to for comfort. And I don’t find myself going face first immediately into a bag of cool ranch Doritos, I see it subtly in little things like wanting a donut or the spoon going into the peanut butter jar. Temporary happiness comes from food in those moments where I just. Feel. Sad.

No, I didn’t get the donut. I realized I was feeding my feelings and not my belly if I did. But it’s important to know that I might have this feeling again at some point, and I’ll keep it at bay again and again and again.

Best running friends.

Hi! How are you? Me, I’m great. Can’t believe CIM is less than a month away 😱

I’ve been thinking about how lucky I am to have so many great friends I’ve met through running and decided they deserve a shout out.

I am embarrassed to admit it but I have a hard time making friends. I’m more introverted and as a result like activities I do alone like reading and I mostly always run by myself. Outside of the theater I don’t have big events I meet new people at, however I learned this year that the running community has more than accepted me into their tribe and I’ve made some of the best friends in the world.

I set a NY resolution to give more compliments so here it is. Here are shout outs to some of my best running friends!

Thanks to friends who will stick by me for four hour long runs that would have taken them way less time than it took me to do.

To running groups and ambassador teams that are always willing to take a group photo with me!

To friends who will always light up my day by stopping me to say hi when seeing me at races and runs!

To friends who will spend the mornings at race expos and carb loading brunch with me!

(To the best running friends in the world)

To friends who will volunteer with me so we can cheer other friends on!

To new friends who will cheer you on and wait for you to cross the finish line of your first trail half, even if you finished nearly two hours after them.

To your craziest running friends who make you cry laughing.

To your running friends who mentor you and make you feel like a strong runner

To the running friends you meet online who become your real, in person friends!

To the running friends who coach you and push you beyond your limits.

To the running friends who bring lots of joy to your days even if you’ve only spent a few together in person

To running friends who inspire you!

And to the very best friend and running friend of all who supports, cheers and brings burgers and fries to the marathon finish line.

Thanks everyone for being my best running friends! You all mean the world to me!

Tag your best running friends or text them to decide when your next meet up for 5k and a donut is!

Cheers best running friends!

Vanessa

When you set a goal, an actual goal, and are scared.

Hi! How are you? Me I’m great. I’ve been really busy lately and blogging and running haven’t been priority. I’m glad to have my schedule calm down because I’ve finished rehearsals for my musical!

As you all know, I love setting goals. It’s been a while since I’ve set one, but the last few goals I’ve set have been pretty easy and tangible as far as goals go. They haven’t really felt like goals, so much as they’ve felt like things I wanted to do, disguised as goals.

I finally decided after my musical was over that it was time to set a goal, a big one, but one different than my usual goals. So I’ve set a goal that’s always been an overall goal, but I’ve finally put a time and date on it. I’ve been scared to put it into words, but it’s time.

Goal: I am going to PR my half marathon time at the Eugene Marathon on April 28, 2019

I was chosen as a Eugene Marathon EMbassador for 2019 and originally planned to do the marathon at the event but after milling on it run after run my heart wasn’t into the idea of the marathon. I love the marathon distance and will I’ve done two in 2018 after CIM this December, but my mind was intrigued with the idea of finally breaking the number that’s been haunting me since May 2016, 2:26:01, a race pace of 11:08 per mile. I PRed at the Windsor Green half marathon.

Now, my marathon time is far, far from that right now with what I’m fairly sure my only factor being my weight. I’ve remained active and consistent in my activity for the last few years, but have gained 40+ pounds since I PRed my half marathon time. That being said, I still need a plan to get me to race day.

  1. I told Coach Patrick. That was the first step of making my goal a reality. I actually stopped in the middle of my run to text him and tell him because I needed to get it off my chest and I wanted someone to know. He thought it was great and he agreed.
  2. I have come to terms with the fact that I need to address my weight, but specifically my diet. I have taken steps to start working with someone on a one to one basis for my eating routines. I know what I was eating before when I was less isn’t the same things I am and should be eating now. This is going to be the biggest hurdle for me.
  3. I chose a race that I knew this was a reality at. I know the course since I ran t last year (though it’s changing a bit), and I set it far enough out that I can really work towards this goal without feeling like it’s just a hope that it might happen.
  4. I am adding some diversity to my routine. Now that I strength train more, it will make me a better runner, and I’ve also dabbled in Trail running which I think is making me mentally and physically stronger.
  5. I am not setting a time goal specifically. I just know I need to beat a certain time, but rather than saying I need to run 2:26:00, I am leaving it open ended. I could PR by one second, or I could work hard and PR by minutes. I know I’m strong and have a lot in me if I have faith and believe in myself.
  6. I am taking steps to think about it now, so when it becomes time to work towards it, I’m in the right mindset.

If I’m being honest, I know this is a good goal because it excites me and also terrifies me. I have to put in a lot of work, but it is work that will feel good and I look forward to.

If you tell someone your goal, it makes it more real. So here I am, telling all of you, I am going to PR my half marathon time at the Eugene Marathon, 2019!

(If you want to participate in the Eugene Marathon, use coupon code VANESSAEM19 for a discount on the marathon or half!)

Cheers to goals,

Vanessa

Run a trail half marathon, they said. It will be fun, they said. (Trail Hog recap)

Hi! How are you? Me, I’m great. Yesterday I finished my 15th half marathon, my first trail half. Holy smokes it was a doozy. I was originally signed up for the 10k because the event had a Harry Potter theme to it and after hearing my friends were doing the half, they convinced me to upgrade so I did. I hadn’t run a trail half before and it was highly ambitious to start with this one, but I tend to live on the edge! Here’s a recap!

Friday, September 21

The race was over 2.5 hours away from where I live and since the race was on a Saturday, it made it tricky to get down there that night before because of Friday night traffic. Luckily my friend who lives about 1 hour and 15 minutes from me said I could stay at her house because she was also running. My other friend was staying at her house too. I jet out of my job at 4pm in the nose to run home, finish packing and made it to her house around six… just in time for a quick visit to the beach for the sunset.

After that we went to a local restaurant for some delicious pasta, and then laid out our flat runners. Clearly I wasn’t running for time since I was planning to wear a necktie. Picking out my outfit was tricky. I wanted to wear shorts and a tank because of the exposure the park that the race was at had, but my tank options were limited and when I pulled a green tank out decided I could not wear that because people would think I was a Slytherin, and as a die hard Gryffindor that was unacceptable. Luckily I found the black one and my tie.

Then bed time came because we had to leave the house before 5 am to pick up our other friend and get to the race!

Saturday, September 22

We left bright and early with crusty eyes and sleepy yawns. We picked up our friend and drove to the race, and picked up our bibs. I bought a new hat to wear because I really wanted a Brazen Racing hat, so I got that too and wore it for the race. I put it on and Melissa and I had a laugh because I forgot to take the cardboard out of it 🤣. No wonder my head felt so stiff.

We did the Hiker start, which for Brazen events means you start the half marathon before everyone else starts to give you extra time. I like this because it takes the pressure off starting with lots of fast people. After a slew of pre-race selfies and race briefing, we were off at 7:30 and we had the shark, Bruce, that travels to different events with my running group.

The race course is super exposed. I did not love that, and next time I do a trail race will look for a covered course… maybe one near the Coast. But the views were nice and we took lots of pictures.

But it was HOT. Last year they said the event was 109 degrees as the high that day. Ummm no thanks. I’ll take my 75ish but even that was toasty.

The first few miles you climbed up this hil that nearly killed me. I thought I was going to die right then and there. I am glad I printed a copy of the course map so I could see the elevation profile and knew when the climbing was coming. At the top of the climb, around mile 2.2, we were greeted by an aid station, where I ate two potato chips and a cup of ice water and we kept going.

We were walking the uphills and running the down and flats which was a good way to tackle things. Around mile 3 we started seeing the fast half marathon runners pass us. The half started 30 minutes after the hiker start. They were very kind and I really like the energy of trail runners. We had lots of laughs along the way.

Around mile 4.2 we hit the second aid station. Sweet relief. More cold ice water and chips and off I went. I was taking in Skratch chews every 45 minutes.

As we looped around I heard someone saying something and I thought they were telling me to move, which confused me since the trail was wide, but then I turned around and saw Tony (Endorphin Dude) and he asked if I had seen cows since he knows my love of them. Sadly, no cows, and he sped off because he was aiming for a big time goal!

At about mile six you saw an area near where we started but you passed it and started a new loop of a different area. Now, we were heading out and someone told me they had to pop off and go to the bathroom. There were no bathrooms on this course and I was stressed out over that after reading pre-race instructions so I bought baby wipes and stuck them in my pack and was glad someone else had to use them and not me! After a few friend giggles about whether a branch had poked her in the butt or not, we were back out.

You had to hit the third aid station at mile 7.5 by 10:30 am and we hit it around 9:30 which was great! I felt good to be on track. I was worried. At that aid station I had some electrolytes, a few chips and peanut m&m’s (hey, I don’t know that they helped my running but if I was gonna do a trail half I needed to participate fully, right?) and swig of Coke. The sugar felt good. Off we went.

Now, at some point after this we started a treacherous climb which nearly broke me. At this point two of my friends broke off from me and my other friend. The climb up was painful and hot and I struggled. Going down felt good after that but from then on my running became solely walking. My feet were achey.

After getting through that climb, we were off again and realized that we were some of the last people out on the course. That’s okay because we were “doing it” we kept reminding ourselves. It was me and my friend Ria’s first trail half so we stuck through it. I swallowed a bug at mile 10.5ish and chugged the rest of my water trying to get it out. It was nasty. I knew there was an aid station at mile 11.15 so I was okay without water for a bit and Ria gave me a sip of hers until we got there.

Finally we saw the glorious aid station and I refilled my pack with ice water and had a few more snacks. I underestimated how long it would take me to finish so I had run out of chews. Thankfully I had some chips and it helped. We were off.

The last two miles were a blur but at this point we had gotten back on the section of the course so we were remembering the path and thinking about where we were and what had happened on that stretch earlier in the day. We saw a volunteer who told us we were .75 miles from the finish (YAY!) even though our watches said we were at 12.8, so the course was long (which we knew but dreaded in that moment).

Finally we saw the magical arches of the finish line and we had a song cued up to play as we crossed but “you make my dreams come true” by Hall & Oates came on so we rocked out to that.

And I was DFL and couldn’t have been happier.

I felt bad that I had taken so long to finish and that the crew was waiting but I think I was still within my time limit and I felt overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone who cheered for us for completing our first trail half. This elevation was no freaking joke. I could feel how the work I’ve done at Santa Rosa Strength & Conditioning helped my hips and my ankles feel strong for this event. Even though my feet were sore from being on them, I didn’t feel pain and felt strong. Trail runners really are a different energy than road runners. I felt so accepted in the community yesterday.

After visiting with lots of people it was time to get food cause we were ready! I didn’t have much appetite, oddly enough, so I didn’t finish my meal but it was good. Chocolate milk, eggs benedict and potatoes. And chocolate milk. (The pancakes weren’t mine but they look good!)

I boxed half my meal up and we started the drive back to drop my friend off and then get back to our other friend’s house. We showered and visited a little bit and headed home. By this time I had sat in the car for a while and found my appetite again. I stopped for a burrito but then got stuck in standstill traffic. Don’t judge, I was starving.

And I finally got home for a soak.

I felt dehydrated even though I was trying to drink water through the day, so I drank a whole slew and tucked myself in nice and early.

Will I do it again?

Yes, absolutely yes. Not any time real soon because my focus is on CIM, but I think I may do a 10k sometime soon, and then shoot for more trails in 2019. I had been considering a 50k next year to celebrate 31 miles because I’m turning 31, and I think this solidified that desire. I would like to drop weight to have an easier time out there but it isn’t a deal breaker for doing another trail half! I would like to do one in a shadier area though, not so exposed. Will feel better that way.

Until next time, Trail hogs!

-Vanessa

On ambition.

Earlier this year I experienced an incident in my personal life (outside of running, working, activity, blogging etc.) that was one of those moments in your life you could either rise from, or allow yourself to breakdown from. It was a hearty moment, and one I hope I never go through again. I will leave my statement at that, though vague, it is important for the sake of this post.

It was a challenge, (nothing affecting my safety or health, just a personal challenge to work through) that has stuck with me and sat heavily with me for a few weeks, and still I ruminate on it at times.

But I decided that this moment in time was a snapshot in my life reminding me to rise up and live my life more than I already had, and I took it to mean one thing. You need to open yourself up to more things in life, and say yes more than you say no.

Someone recently told me my drive was amazing. Others have told me that I am brave and courageous. And while I thank them for that, it didn’t come from nowhere and my drive and ambition have come from a little life lesson reminding me to just say yes and give things my best effort.

I remind myself regularly to say yes. To lean in to things that scare me, to face things that I fear by breaking down my fears and attacking them with bravery. To give in to things I would have likely otherwise said no to, and to dive in with a whole heart.

In that time I’ve gone to auditions I would have said no to. I’ve collaborated with more race events than I could think possible. I’ve applied for things I would have let go of. I’ve had volunteer opportunities I’ve loved. I say yes to new adventures, to trying new things and to opening my mind.

On being ambitious: while I am normally an adventurer, it doesn’t always come easily. If you’re looking to open yourself up to possibility and strength, sometimes you’ve got to look into what’s holding you back before you can move forward. Sometimes a strong self reflection can do you wonders. Sometimes when you let yourself work through the things that are hard, you’ll find something magical in the proverbial rainbow after the rainstorm.

Cheers to ambition. ❤️

-Vanessa

Santa Rosa Marathon recap!

Hi! How are you? Me, I’m so great! I can’t believe I finished the marathon! It was a challenge and did not go quite as I expected, but I did really well despite obstacles. More on that in this post.

Leading up to race day

I shared a lot about it but two weeks before the race I got sick. Like, really sick. Like, go the doctor and “give it to me straight doc, am I going to be able to recover and run a marathon in two weeks?” sick. Obviously, the answer was yes as long as I continued to improve, but an entire missed week of activity including a 15 mile long run really threw me off. Other than that snafu, my training was so good all summer and I had no idea what I could do on race day.

Race week

I ate a lot of carbs the week before the race. Like, an “I’m over this” amount of carbs. But parts of it were fun while they lasted. 🤤

Oh yeah and I ran a little. Very little. I got a massage too 😉

I would have liked to have run more the week of the race but I had an offsite work meeting as well as an opportunity to meet with my friends from my old job through the week and decided to just do what I could and quit beating myself up. It’s hard for me to remember that tapering isn’t like cramming for a test. It is about giving your body time to rest from the work you put in.

On Friday after work I picked up my bib and had dinner with Mr. Ftof. He works Saturdays DJing weddings so it was good to go to Sports basement together and get my stuff. They were offering a discount to runners if you showed your bib, so we made a dent in our bank accounts. Then he bought me an ice cream cone because he’s the best.

Saturday morning I ran a few miles, ate pancakes with Mr. ftof and then headed back to the expo. I had offered to work the California International Marathon booth at the expo because I had so much fun doing it last year! I’m not an ambassador again this year (I’ll be running though!) but I really like working expos and events like that. It’s fun to talk to other runners.

I had a late lunch with a friend, did laundry, laid out my clothes, did my fancy nails and got in bed around seven and read Deena Kastor’s book for a while before going to bed. 4:30 was gonna come early.

Race Day

4:30 came and I hit snooze but eventually rolled out of bed. After a quick shower, I got dressed, grabbed my hydration pack (which I had filled the day before with water and fuel), ate a clif bar and left the house. I know many people talk about the value of what you eat race morning and let me tell you- I just can’t stomach anything. I’ve tried. I have been lucky so far to fuel up enough the day before that a clif bar is enough because I still have so much food in my tank. One day that may not be the case but it’s been ok so far.

My husband dropped me off at the start area around 5:30. The race started at 6:30, so it gave me time to use the bathroom (3 times), and write on my arm. These little messages during races have helped me a lot this year. I found a sharpie at bag check and the lady let me use it.

Race day weather was perfect. The forecast said about 50’s to start and 71ish around that time I expected to finish. Last year (I ran the half) I think it got to the 90’s or maybe even the 100’s and the year before (when I ran the marathon), was hot too. We were lucky this year.

At 6:20 I went over to the start area and we were off right around 6:30. I was in corral 3 but they started all corrals at the same time.

The announcer said there were 1,300 runners. There definitely were not. There may have been that many registered but that many did not come out.

The first few miles I was keeping pace with a nice man who told me it was his 115th marathon. He said he used to run them but after back surgery he walks them now but still loves them. He asked if it was my first marathon and I said it wasn’t, and we compared notes on some races. Eventually he broke off from me but it was really nice to talk to someone.

At one point this group of people whizzed by me. Apparently they showed up at 6:50 to the race start and the timing people let them start, so they ran by real fast. I was wondering where the heck they had come from!

Around mile 7-8 (don’t recall exactly), the marathon was going west and the half marathon runners were coming east. It was so cool to see that many fast runners in action but what was even cooler was how many of them high fived me and cheered me on. I’m not particularly sensitive to my slower pace, though sometimes I do find that moment of intimidation when I see others who are just so fast. It was really a heart warming few miles for me. At one point a man called me out by name but there were so many people I couldn’t tell who it was. (If that was you, thanks!). On that path I saw the first place marathon runner with the lead bike. He was already over 20 miles in. I couldn’t even imagine running that fast!

Once you hit about mile 8, you get off the trail where my cows are and hit the road. There, I saw more marathon runners coming in. Such a treat to see those fast runners! Many looked very serious but some high fived and cheered me on. Makes me feel like I’m part of the community when that happens.

As I hit an intersection, I saw a family friend of mine from my young days and high school who was on patrol duty who I didn’t know would be working. It was cool to see someone I knew out there!

Around mile 10 I made it into DeLoach Vineyards. This is one of my favorite parts of the race because you run through the barrel room. I took one of my favorite race day photos with the race photographer there the first time I ran the marathon and tried to recreate it. I hope it turns out. As I ran past he told me “you have the best smile of the day!”, which was one of my favorite boosts I got during the race.

As you head out of the winery they offer you Chardonnay. No thanks! I had a long morning ahead of me 🤣.

Miles 10-14 were a bit of a blur with the exception of hitting the 13.1 mile mark and realizing I still had another 13.1 to go.

Around mile 14 my feet really started to hurt. Like, hurt to the point of me panicking and thinking I had a stress fracture. After getting out of my own head I realized I likely had really bad blisters. I stopped at the medic tent around mile 15 and they gave me some bandaids which helped immensely. From there I took off and felt okay for a while.

Around mile 19 I could feel I needed to stop again. I stopped at the medic tent at the aid station and added some Vaseline to my feet. The bandaids had come off. That helped for a while, until I hit about like 21 and stopped again for new bandaids.

Between that time I hit mile 20, which was magical.

In a delirium I saw a person sitting with a sign for someone. I didn’t make eye contact because I felt awkward… until I realized it was my husband!!! He made the best sign. I cried, gave him a smooch and didn’t linger because I had miles to run.

I was losing the steam to keep my run walk intervals but I knew if I did I would finish faster so I tried to push through the struggle. I was slower but it was good to keep routine.

I was struggling at mile 23. I was ready to be done but I knew giving up was not an option. At like 24 I saw a photographer and thought “who puts a photographer here!!!!” Then, a magical moment happened when I least expected it.

Mile 25!!!!!! I was almost done!

So I pushed and pushed and pushed and finally I hit about mile 26 I hit downtown. And as I rounded the corner I saw them taking down the street closures and panicked. I shouted to the volunteer I WANT TO FINISH NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES. HOW DO I GET TO THE FINISH???? After receiving guidance and being told the finish was still open as long as I stayed on the sidewalk, my fire was lit and I had to finish.

On the journey to the finish line I saw someone who had finished who was cheering so loudly for me and pointing me in the right direction. As I turned left onto 4th Street I saw the finish line. Everyone who was spectating was gone, the crowd was sparse but I was determined. And as I neared the finish line it took everything in me not to choke and start crying then, but I had to hold it together until I was finished. As I approached the finish line, the announcer said my name, saying I was a Blogger and runner extraordinaire and that Coach Patrick had sent me a good job 😊. And as soon as I crossed the finish line the photographer took a photo, I stopped my watch and I cried to her. And then I got my medal, and cried some more. And many marathon runners who were still there who said such nice things to me. It was a surge of pride that was well earned and well deserved.

The race results gave me a finish time of 6:45, however I stopped my Garmin at the three medical tents I stopped at and it said my moving time was 6:34! That was a seven minute improvement over CIM (6:41). If I hadn’t had such issues with my feet I would have been interested to see what really would have happened. I think my feet were messed up because I got a pedicure too close to race day so my feet weren’t callused, and I had a new pair of socks on. That combo did not end well.

Unfortunately because I took so long to finish, I didn’t get free pancakes, but it was okay because Mr. ftof got me In N Out Burger 🍔

Which I ate in about seven bites.

Overall, I would have liked to have seen a better finish time because I was capable of it, but that’s the way races go. I’m fired up and proud and ready to crush some training runs for CIM, after today’s experience. Cheers to 26.2 number three!

When you’re afraid to succeed.

Hi! How are you? Me, I’m great. Been thinking about this for a while.

Success.

What you input during training is what you will output during race day.

I trained so poorly for my last marathon. I could give you a list of reasons, which also double as a list of excuses. When I toed up to the starting line I knew my goal was to finish and that’s all I wanted. My time was disappointing, my performance was mediocre, but it’s exactly what I knew it would be because that’s the kind of work that I had put in. A mediocre amount.

I have worked really hard this time around. I have trained really hard, focused, dialed it in. It makes me scared to think that I have no idea what to expect on race day. What if I still have a mediocre performance? What if I excel beyond belief? I don’t know what will happen. I’m anxious about what will happen.

I have to trust that everything will be better than I can even dream it to be.

Cheers to 2 weeks til marathon day!

-Vanessa

SR Marathon Training Recap: July 2018

Hi! How are you? Me, I’m great. I can’t believe my 2nd month of marathon training is done.

It’s been another good month of running. I struggled a little more than I did in June but still came out strong! Here’s a recap.

Week 6

    Sunday, July 1: rest day. NAILED IT!
    Monday, July 2: strength training
    Tuesday, July 3: speed drills. Track work. My legs were DEAD that day!
    Wednesday, July 4: 4 mile easy run for 4th of July! The strength training gym was closed for the holiday so I ran instead.
    Thursday, July 5: 6 mile run with two middle miles at half marathon pace. I made my pace goals, which felt good.
    Friday, July 6: 2 easy miles before my race the next day
    Saturday, July 7: Dirty Dozen 6 hour endurance race. I did 20 miles with my friend Melissa! Was scheduled for 17 but coach Patrick said I could do up to 20

Week 7

    Sunday, July 8: rest day. Highly necessary after 20 miles
    Monday, July 9: strength training
    Tuesday, July 10: 60 minutes easy run. 4.32 miles total
    Wednesday, July 11: strength training. I and ran 2 miles after work because my head was going to explode after work that day and I needed some outdoors time.
    Thursday, July 12: 6 miles with two middle ones at race pace were on the calendar. I had to run before work because I had a family dinner that evening and so I only had time for five but was really surprised my legs were in good shape. I hit my paces.
    Friday, July 13: 3 easy miles were on the calendar but I needed an extra rest day so I took it
    Saturday, July 14: I had 18 miles on my training plan and drove an hour and a half to run with some friends. Well, I got lost! My plan was to do two miles before everyone arrived and since I didn’t get there early, I just did 16 with the group and called it a day.

Week 8

    Sunday, July 15: rest day. I’m really good at these.
    Monday, July 16: strength training. I also had the day off work and went for a 3.6 mile walk with a friend. I also got a pedicure because my feet needed some pampering.
    Tuesday, July 17: hill repeats. I love hill repeats!!!!!!
    Wednesday, July 18: strength training
    Thursday, July 19: 6 mile run with three middle miles at half marathon pace was my assignment. I did not make any pace goals but got the distance in.
    Friday, July 20: 3 easy miles were on the schedule but I took a rest day since my Thursday run was so hard on my legs.
    Saturday, July 21: training plan had 12 mile long run, and was the start of a taper before my half. I got a few miles in and had my marathon training meltdown (first one of the season!!!!), and called it quits at ten. That was a hard decision to make because it was JUST TWO MILES and I felt guilty, but I knew I wanted to have a good race the next weekend and now was not the time for mental or physical burn out.

Week 9

    Sunday, July 22: rest day.
    Monday, July 23: strength training
    Tuesday, July 24: went for an easy run and did 4.11 miles
    Wednesday, July 25: strength training. I died a little during burpees and wallballs.
    Thursday, July 26: 5 mile easy run was on the calendar. Did 4.8. Taper for the race was in effect.
    Friday, July 27: rest day to prepare for race
    Saturday, July 28: 2 easy shakeout Miles on calendar. Went to the official San Francisco Marathon shakeout and got lost so my friends and I did 2.4 miles!

Week 10

    Sunday, July 29: The San Francisco Marathon, first half marathon. Hardest 13.1 I’ve ever run. Also one of the most fun though! Finished in 3:02
    Monday, July 30: rest day. Definitely needed it. The hills in the race killed me.
    Tuesday, July 31: 4 recovery miles on the calendar. Didn’t quite make it to four. My legs were tired still.

Recap

  • July miles: 110
  • June/ July Total miles toward marathon training: 222
  • August Goals
    • Keep consistent with activity. Slow miles are better than no miles
      Roll out more. My legs and feet need it.
      Hydrate like crazy
      Trust the taper
      Run a freaking marathon!

    Cheers to another month of running!

    -Vanessa