2019 goals

Hi! How are you? Me, I’m great. After some reflection about how bummed I am to see 2018 go, I felt instantly rejuvenated and ready for 2019. My running coach and I met up yesterday and I’m looking forward to what we talked about as my 2019 map. I feel good about my choices to decide what events to race and set as goals, while having a healthy mix of fun races. I love going to races and running with my friends!

Here’s an overview. I’ll definitely write more during my 2019 training! 3 running goals:

  • I am going to PR my half time. I AM GOING TO DO IT DAMNIT. I set that PR May, 2016 and I am DYING TO BREAK IT. Whenever the memory on Facebook comes up about it, I get fired up and determined to do it. 2:26:01 was what I set. I ran that half so fast that I thought I had missed a mile of the race because the half I had run 3 months earlier had a finishing time of 2:37. I have my goal race at present to do that at is the Eugene half marathon. I don’t know if I have it in me to do it then, but I will never know if I don’t try. The event is 17 weeks away. If I go for that goal and I miss it, I have a second half marathon I am not currently registered for but lined up a few months later I am willing to go for it again at.
  • I am going to be very transparent about this goal as I tackle it this year. I want this goal more than I want any other goal I have set for 2019, or have ever set in general. I know it’s going to be A CHALLENGE and force me to work REALLY HARD. It will be about running well, eating right and continuing my strength training. I am DETERMINED.

    You guys, I don’t think my words convey how much I want this goal…. but I think you get the point

    Become an Ultramarathon runner! I am registered for the Brazen Racing Dirty Dozen 12 hour endurance race in July 6th and intend to run 50k, which is 31 miles at that event. I would need to maintain a 23 minute/mile pace to do so. I ran the 6 hour event last year so I have a decent idea of what to expect!

    Coach Patrick informed me that training for an ultra is different than anything I’ve trained for. Will involve double weekend runs to acclimate my legs to running while tired. Will be a new challenge but fun!

    Come in under the 6 hour official finishing time at CIM. Every year I’ve run CIM I have been over the 6 hour limit. I’ve still gotten an official finishing time and medal and it’s been great! This is actually in my mind, a subset of PRing my half time. If I can get a faster half time, I can certainly get a faster marathon time. I now feel like I have a good grasp on the CIM course and how to pace myself during it. This isn’t until December so it’s much farther down the line, but still fun to think about!

    Well those are my running goals for 2019! Do you have any goals for 2019? What are they?

    Cheers to goals!


    3rd Grade Vanessa’s lesson on Holiday Gratitude

    3rd grade was a big year for me. 3rd grade was the year I got glasses. It was the first year I started to understand loss and grief because my teacher, Mrs. Smith, lost her husband while being our teacher. It was one of the first years of my life where I no longer had the spotlight to myself because I had a baby brother. I was in dance class and Girl Scouts. My parents took good care of me. I had it good.

    At Christmas time in 3rd grade my teacher had a Christmas party and the kids in the class were told to bring in a present for a game we were going to play. Girls brought in a girl present and boys, a boy present. We all sat in two circles, one for boys and one for girls, and eagerly passed our gifts around while the teacher read us a story, passing gifts to our neighboring classmate at certain story prompts. At the end of the story whatever gift you ended up with was the one you went home with. At the end of the story I had ended up with Natasha’s gift.

    Looking back now as an adult who spent many years working in enrichment programs in low income school districts, I can only imagine what kind of home Natasha came from. I remember her sort of brown haired bowl cut and pale skin. She was taller than me, but most kids were. My best guess through a fuzzy memory, is that she likely came from a home with no structure. No parents at home, and possibly parents who had some type of addiction or just didn’t care to be parents. Me, being in my early years of life, had no idea what types of different families we came from. My mom, always being caring for others around her, reminds me of a time she gifted Natasha an outfit for her birthday, realizing it may have been the only gift she got. She came to school in it the next day. Natasha definitely did not come from the warm and fuzzy life that I did.

    Upon watching the other kids open their Christmas gifts, presumably Polly Pockets, coloring sets and Barbies, I opened my package to find a set of dirty, smelly Christmas ornaments. One in particular was a small knit, red, green and white ornament in the shape of a stocking. My mom retells the story of me thanking my fellow classmate in a cheerful “thank you!” as though I had gotten something equally as delightful that the other kids got. In the car, my mom always retells the story, that I had a very opposite response.

    Upon getting into my moms Blue Ford Taurus station wagon, I had a meltdown of all meltdowns you would expect any 9 year old to have when faced with that situation. Tears, and feelings of how unfair it was to see other kids and their Christmas delights. I wanted to throw everything away and pretend it never happened.

    My mom, always (and still is) being a gentle heart reminded me that come Christmas morning, I will have presents from friends, family, neighbors. I will be flooded with love and around those who love me. She reminded me that this young girl who brought me a gift that possibly came from her own tree, or maybe her parents took her to the thrift store as an afterthought, was certainly not going to have the same holiday as me. She was proud of me for my kind face and holding it together in that classroom, but also took it as a teaching moment to me to remind me to reflect on what I have, and be gracious to others. I believe the story goes, that after her humbling lesson, I requested to go purchase gifts for my classmate who I then realized may have received her only gift for the holiday season in that 3rd grade classroom.

    It has been over two decades since that moment happened and my mom washed that little stocking ornament and hung it on the tree every year to remind me of that moment in my life. I am humbled and reminded of it every year when I see it.

    In my adult years I’ve seen it all first hand while my years in direct service organizations. Families asking where they can get gifts, a holiday hot meal, or enough food to last through Winter Break since school is out and their child won’t get meals at school. Every year as I sit down with my family at the holidays and look at my piles of presents and my feast in abundance, I am grateful for what I have and grateful for what I can give to others, both close to me, or as giving back to my own community through volunteer or donations.

    I hadn’t ever shared that story with anyone, but this holiday season I am humbly reminded to practice my gratitude, celebrate and love others, and to count my blessings.

    To all of you this holiday season, I wish you the merriest and brightest and all the love and cheer I can spread.

    With gratitude,


    My 2018 Top 9

    Hi! How are you? Me, I’m great. Hard to believe it is the 51st week of the year!!

    Every year Instagram does a thing of your “Top 9” posts from the year and though I wasn’t surprised by what got the most “likes” so far this year, I didn’t think it captured the true spirit of the great things that happened to me this year. So when I saw the collage I decided I wanted to highlight what my top 9 moments of 2018 were as we get ready to launch into 2019.

    1. Being in the Weight Watchers magazine and meeting four of the best friends in the world.

    In February I was flown to NYC for a whirlwind 36 hour trip to be in the Weight Watchers magazine. (More on that can be read here.) It was the trip of a lifetime and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity.

    2. Visiting my brother at his University

    My younger brother and I are very close and I was very grateful to get to see his school with my Grandma. My brother graduated in May from Rensselaer Polytechnic University in New York, and I didn’t think I would have an opportunity to see his school, but I did. We also visited the Baseball Hall of Fame which my grandma had on her bucket list to do. It was an amazing trip.

    3. I ran my first out of state race and visited my husband’s side of the family in Oregon

    It was my first year on the Eugene Marathon ambassador team and I had a blast racing in Oregon for the first time. (Race recap here). It was special to see his whole family together for the first time in many years and we enjoyed many laughs, conversations and love.

    4. My mom did her first 5k and I got to do it with her

    My mom has always been a walker but never at a formal event. She came to the Mermaid Series East Bay event after I strong armed her into signing up, but she had a blast and so did I. I can’t wait til we do another. She got bit by the racing bug!

    5. I ran the Santa Rosa Marathon

    This event was my first marathon back in 2016 but after seeing my husband complete the Eugene Marathon in April, the marathon bug bit me hard and I had to sign up for 26.2, so I went back to the marathon where it all began. I became a hard core training machine over the Summer, and despite having to overcome an extreme physical illness just two weeks before the race, I completed it and felt like a champion. (Race recap here)

    6. My college roommate got married

    I was honored to stand next to my college roommate Marge at her wedding this Summer. It was a gift to be part of such a special day.

    7. I performed in a musical again

    After a 16 month hiatus from being on stage I was ready to perform again and was cast in the Addams Family musical. It was one of the most fun shows I have ever been in and was so grateful that the director took a chance on me and cast me in the show!

    8. I ran the California International Marathon

    Getting to the start line of this event was harder than getting to the finish. I trained for this race while also performing in the aforementioned musical and then lost a few weeks of training because of poor air quality due to the fires. I surprised myself by finishing faster than I expected to on such a challenging course, and really felt like an athlete that day in the most amazing way. More than I ever had.

    9. My husband and I enjoyed our first week long vacation since our honeymoon which was almost 5 years ago.

    And at the happiest place on earth, no less. It was special to spend time together. We needed it, and made lots of fond memories.

    And that folks, are my top 9 highlights from 2018. There were so many to choose from but those were the best! I look forward to what 2019 has in store for me!



    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,