Monday, November 14, 2016

Running on Empty (I finished Lumiere's Challenge!)

"Go all the way with it. Don't back off. For once, go all the goddam way with what matters."
--- Ernest Hemingway


Well, I did it. The race that I've been blogging about for seemingly forever is now done, and I finished it. And someday, I shall write about it in a way that will be enjoyable to read. Today is not that day. Today I write to express my frustration and whine about still existent pain. And while I'm immensely proud that I finished this race, I'm so sad about how it all turned out.

For those of you in the dark about what I'm talking about, the race I completed last week was called Lumiere's Challenge - a runDisney challenge race which requires participants to complete a 10K and a half marathon in the same weekend (Saturday for the 10K; Sunday for the half). When I signed up for this race in the spring, I thought it was a totally doable challenge. I had run one official half marathon, and completed two other half marathon distances for fun. I had several 5K and 10K races under my belt, and I still had 7 months to train. But things don't always go as I hope and plan for them to go... Training runs get missed; work pressures trump personal goals and personal matters trump everything in-between. Alas, I really gave my training 110% in the last three months, and felt confident about my races for the weeks leading up to race time.

Exactly a week before my race, I got sick. I kept trying to talk myself out of it (ha ha ha) but I was genuinely sick. I couldn't swallow, had difficulty breathing, and couldn't muster up the strength to run more than 3 miles. I had planned that week as a taper week so it really shouldn't have been the end of the world. In typical Becky fashion, however, I let my mind get the better of me and landed in Florida with none of the confidence that I left with in California. I was scared.

My final training run on Thursday went ok - it was hot and muggy in Bonita Springs, but my pacing was on-target. I felt good after my run, and my illness had completely left me. Still, I felt uneasy as I went out for my 10K on Saturday... smart enough to know not to push it, but fearful of going too easy. While my nerves made the first three miles a challenge, miles 4-6 were a breeze. I was perfectly on pace, took my time taking pictures with other runners and the scenery in Epcot, and even ran into a friend I made via Instagram around mile 5. I finished the race feeling pretty good, and a little less fearful of the half that was to follow. 

And then came race day...

Nothing seemed to go right leading up to my half marathon. I didn't sleep well at all the night before, slept in later than I liked the morning of, and hopped on a bus that went the totally wrong way to the starting line. I didn't take the time to eat or drink anything before jumping into my corral, and started off faster than I should have after the gun at the starting line. While the first mile went ok, the next mile was a struggle, and my nerves got the better of me and I had to stop to dry heave on the side of the road by mile 3. Once I collected myself, I felt better... and I finally found my groove around mile 4. Miles 4 and 5 went through Animal Kingdom - a beautiful park with more entertainment than I had seen all day. I felt confident as I waded through the crowd here, even passing the people I had been using as pacers up to that point. I grabbed water at the water stop, and I felt really good...

Until...

I'm not sure what happened. I may have tripped on the curb, but a fellow runner said it looked like I fainted. Regardless, I fell. AND I FELL HARD. When I finally snapped out of the haze I was in from falling, I discovered I had a shattered iPhone screen, a badly scraped and bruised left hand, a very swollen and badly bleeding right thumb, two skinned knees, ripped pants, a torn shirt, and a very sore foot. A fellow runner helped pick me up and tried his best to clean me up and keep me away from the crowd. I'm embarrassed to say I was hysterical. I really hope I said thank you (I'm pretty sure I did?), but I just wanted to crawl into that gutter and cry. He helped me for nearly a mile until we reached the medical tent where the volunteers were encouraging me to stop my race. This was near mile 7, meaning I was nearly 1/2 way through with the race. I thanked them but begged to continue... "Just let me see what I can do." 

The next three miles were a combination of ugly crying and limping. Those poor volunteers... every single one of them cringed as I approached for water or Powerade. I don't blame them. I looked more like a zombie from The Walking Dead than like the colorful, bubbly characters typically found in a runDisney race. The next medical tent was at mile 10. The bandages on both of my hands had fallen off by this point, blood smeared into my shirt as I held my thumb against it. I limped into that medical tent and asked if they could wrap my hands instead of slapping a bandaid on, and they complied. Again, they asked if I wanted a medical escort (they were concerned that my thumb was broken and I may have fractured my foot), but I again asked to continue. "I'll hate myself if I stop now."

Shortly after this point, we headed up a cloverleaf leading us on to the final stretch into Epcot. This cloverleaf is highly feared by runDisney regulars for some reason... I only found the banking to be challenging since my foot was hurt, but the elevation wasn't bad at all. As I crossed the road I had just passed, several people around me pointed out that the "balloon ladies" weren't far behind (these are the official race pacers, and are assumed to be the last people in every race before the sweep). There were about 30 people that I could see behind the balloon ladies, but I knew the buses were close by. As soon as I acknowledged that thought in my head, the buses and a police car pulled forward, collecting everyone blocked behind. It was so emotional watching this. Despite my good start and better corral, my injuries had me very close to being in those people's position. Sure, they'd still get their medal... but those in a challenge like me wouldn't get their challenge medal(s), and to be so close and not get to finish would have been heartbreaking!

I silently wept but picked up the pace after witnessing this. A much older lady encouraged me to run down the ramp with her, so I did. It hurt like hell, but I did. My foot was killing me, and I was starting to chaff where my pants and shirt had ripped. We went over one more small overpass before Epcot, and again this lady encouraged me to run down with her. I power walked through Epcot in tears. I couldn't believe I was actually going to finish this half marathon! I came around the last corner just before the finish line and was greeted by a joyous gospel choir. Something about seeing them glow in their warm yellow gowns and hearing them sing songs of praise lifted my spirits, and I started to cry with joy. I had less than a fifth of a mile to go, so I decided to run it. Every single step hurt, but I ran to that finish line. And then I cried again. 

I collected my three medals and headed to the bus. (I earned a medal for finishing the half, a medal for Lumiere's challenge, and a third medal for Coast-to-Coast for running two half marathons in two parks in one year.) I was exhausted, sweaty, dirty, and in tremendous pain. I wanted to celebrate, but I also just really wanted to go home. I threw the medals in my bag and limped my way to the bus. A couple of ladies got on the bus shortly after I did, and I heard one whisper to the other that it looked like I must have been swept. I kind of giggled at that... if they only knew! And I finished with them, not behind them!

It's been a week and a day since that race, and I'm still in a bit of pain. I went to the doctor last Tuesday and nothing was broken. My thumb wasn't as bad as it looked - a chunk of my thumb was torn off, my nail was bent in half, and I sprained it, but none of that requires a cast or surgery. My left hand has mostly healed. Both knees are still very bruised and very swollen, but the foot pain comes and goes. I'll walk ok for a while, but I end up limping by the end of the day. I'm the very definition of a hot mess, my friends! But I'll live. I did the elliptical for about 30 minutes tonight. It hurt, but it didn't kill me. I think I'll stick to yoga for the rest of this week, and try to get back at a normal workout routine next week. We'll see. 

On a somewhat funny note... I actually did try to look up pictures from both races on the runDisney page. My 10K pictures were all there, and weren't bad for the most part, but not a single picture of me exists from my half marathon. My guess is that Disney wants to pretend that their zombie racer never existed! LOL. I kind of wanted to see how bad I looked (based on the gasps I got from volunteers at water stations, I'm guessing I didn't look great), but I thought it was funny that Disney deleted them. Oh well!

Anyway, I really will try to do a better overall recap of both races with pictures later this week. I just needed to vent a little bit about this race since I'm still in pain from it. I'm very proud of myself for finishing this race, and am proud of the progress I've made in the last two years. I missed running, and while I doubt I'll ever be a real runner like I was in my 20s, I'm happy to be back at it again. It's never too late, and you're never too old, my friends. 

Until next time... Cheers!

Becks

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rocky Mountain High

"The choices we make lead up to actual experiences. 
It is one thing to decide to climb a mountain. It is quite another to be on top of it."
-- Herbert A Simon


Hello, friends! I'm fresh off a plane after spending the last four days with one of my best friends in Denver, CO. Denver was as beautiful as I remember it being in the fall, and I really enjoyed my visit. I did some walking with my bestie, some solo running, and a nice hike in Breckenridge on the Continental Divide before heading back to California today. (I really don't know how to relax on vacation! Ha!). 

You might have noticed that I threw in "some solo running" in that last paragraph. As you know, I've been training for the RunDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon and 10K in November, so I was pretty determined to run at least a little while I was away. I tend to be an early riser, so I took advantage of same and squeezed in a run each morning while I was in town (my friend slept in). She lives near some beautiful trails, so I figured they would be the perfect substitute for my favorite trail at home.

If you didn't know, Denver sits at a little over a mile high with an average elevation of around 5,300'. I grew up in a small town that sits a little higher than Denver, and I ran in college in Albuquerque at roughly the same altitude. All that being said, I haven't lived at a high altitude since 2005. My current city (like the last three cities I lived in) sits at around sea level. I haven't done major cardio at a high altitude in a long time, and minor attempts at same (slow hikes; running last Thanksgiving at home; etc) have reminded me that I haven't acclimated to the higher altitude. Still... I decided to go for it  and planned my routes prior to arrival.

My first run wasn't fun. I took the running trail heading south on Saturday. I started my NikePlus app from my friend's apartment, approximately a quarter mile uphill from the trailhead. It's kind of sketchy getting to the trail as you have to cross a very busy street to get there. Once on the trail, however, it was smooth sailing! I felt pretty great until I started going uphill. At this point, I had to stop - my lungs were filling with liquid, and I found it very hard to breathe. I stupidly didn't bring my inhaler, so I had to focus on controlled breathing exercises to get everything back under control. Bah! Once my lungs calmed down, I walked the rest of the way back to her apartment. It was a low moment, y'all, and I felt like crap the rest of the day.


My second run went MUCH better. I started the second day run similarly to the first, only this time I headed north on the trailhead instead of south. I ran down the hill to the trailhead, but then decided to walk for about a mile to get my lungs in sync with my heart rate. I enjoyed it a lot - the trail is beautiful, and I used the time to call a friend back in California. At my turnaround point (I thought this was at 1.5 miles to make it 3 miles roundtrip, but I messed up), I hung up the phone and jogged back. The trail has a bunch of hills and stairs going back so my pace sucked, but it felt much better than Saturday's run. 


While I didn't hit the 3-4 miles I had planned on running on Sunday, I was pretty happy that I got my run in at all. The Becky of yore would never have had the motivation to hit the trail before her friends woke up. This Becky not only got up, but ran in high altitude! Woohoo! I was pumped for the rest of the day... so much, in fact, that I hiked another 2 miles on the Continental Divide (more on that in another post). It was a very productive day!

Alas, back to reality. My goal this week is to hit 45 minutes of treadmill running tomorrow and Thursday, another 3 mile run on Saturday (or 3 mile hike...), and an 8 miler on Sunday. We'll see how it goes. I have got to get my long runs in on time. I only have two more months until my RunDisney races!!!

Have a happy, healthy week, y'all!

--- Becky

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rocky Road (Hiking Pinnacles National Park)

"The desert sharpened the sweet ache of his longing,

amplified it,

gave it shape to it in sere geology and clean slant of light."

-- John Krakauer


Welcome back to the blog! Actually... This post is actually pretty overdue. I have been so focused on personal issues and Wine & Dine race training lately that I neglected to post about my hike earlier this summer at Pinnacles National Park. (I'd like to say that I was clever and decided to wait for the NPS Centennial to make this post, but I'm not that clever.) Pinnacles had never been on my radar before, and I wish I could take credit for wanting to go here. I let my niece choose at least two day trips that we would take on a weekend while she was here, however, and she was adamant about visiting Pinnacles. She had studied geology and volcanoes at school during the spring, and really wanted to check it out. Yes, the spires and caves at Pinnacles are remnants of multiple volcanoes that erupted over 23 million years ago. It's always pretty amazing to remember how old our earth is and how brief our visit is on this planet. 


There are over 30 miles of trails in Pinnacles Park, so we made sure to research ahead of time to pick the trail(s) that would be the best fit for us to do. Katie and I had recently hiked Vasquez Rocks with the Girls Who Hike LA, and that was a good measure of how strenuous of a hike she could take on without further training. We settled for the Moses Spring to Rim Trail Loop, a moderate hike around 2 miles long with about 500' of elevation gain. 


You gain about half of your elevation gain pretty quickly - gaining about 200' in the first quarter of a mile (according to my NikePlus app). This is part of the trail is well marked and shady - you're in a canyon for most of the first half of the hike to the reservoir. It was about 100 degrees the day we tackled this hike, so I appreciated the shaded trail immensely! 


We picked this trail mostly due to its level of difficulty, but were happy that it would also include some of the famous Pinnacles caves along the way. This was the first of three that we climbed through on our hike. The "caves" here are mostly old lava tubes, which just added to the appeal for my niece, Katie. 


To her disappointment, however, the trail to the Bear Gulch Cave was not accessible during our hike. It's apparently closed seasonally due to bats that are in having babies during the summer. Bummer! Alas, there was more to see so we continued.




The trail after the Bear Gulch Cave trail split becomes much more of a climb than a hike. The trail isn't as well marked here, and you literally have to climb over and/or jump down from various rocks, cliffs, and trees to proceed. It's a lot of fun, but keep that in mind if you have any type of disability.


As you finally make your way out of the canyon, you go down through another cave. This one is marked a little more clearly, and has makeshift stairs taking you down. My niece and I are short, but I feel bad for anyone tall that has to crawl through here! It's a pretty tight fit. 


The final leg before the reservoir includes about 100 stairs. I wish this picture did these stairs justice - they're very narrow,  steep, hand-chiseled stairs. This makes them a bit interesting (and unstable) to climb, but it's doable. The railing on the left is very necessary, as it's a near vertical drop off the side of them. My niece and I were surprisingly unafraid of these stairs anyway, and kind of enjoyed the view. 


You reach the Bear Gulch Reservoir at the top of the stairs. The view is incredible! Despite passing several hikers along the way, we found ourselves alone up here. It was peaceful, and I really wanted to spend more time there. 


The sun was quickly chasing us down, however, so we had to make up our minds on the route going back to the car. Despite the late hour, we opted to tackle a portion of the High Peaks trail to see how much we could get done before sunset. I'm so glad that we did - the views were incredible!


We really took our time enjoying the view of the spires as we made our ascension to towards the summit. THIS is what Kaitlyn was wanting to see! I enjoyed it too - I think it was around the time that I took this picture that I thanked Kaitlyn for asking to go here :)


While the sun was quickly setting and we didn't want to get caught in the dark, we decided to continue up the mountain. The trail becomes very steep as you near the summit. Kaitlyn predictably rolled her ankle around this point, and we decided that we would only go another 15 minutes before turning around. (Poor Katie! I need to buy this girl some boots next summer!)


From this point, the summit is in sight. We could see people at the top of the mountain, and wanted so badly to continue. But appearances are deceiving... As we neared the top of this trail, I realized that the trail turns into many, many switchbacks as it continues up the mountain. We both so badly wanted to reach the top, but her ankle was throbbing and I started to fear the impending night.


We decided to sit for a while and just take in the view. We hiked for just over 2.61 miles and gained around 900 feet in elevation. It was a remarkable feat for my niece, who rarely gets the opportunity to hike like we did that day. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me as I got to share my love for hiking and the outdoors with a young lady who means the world to me!


If you're ever looking for a good hike, I would definitely give Pinnacles National Park a chance. It's not terribly far from Monterey or Paso Robles, so you could easily add it in to a day trip if you're visiting either area. I have already put it on my list to visit again in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming. :) 

Back to our regularly scheduled running programming beginning tomorrow. I finished 7.5 miles today at just nary over my goal race pace time, so I was pretty happy with that today. I can only go up from here! Big shout out to my co-blogger, Natasha, who finished the Summer Sparkler Virtual 10K today! (You can see her race picture on Instagram). It's been a great weekend, my friends!

Until we meet again...

--- Becky

Monday, August 22, 2016

Zonked

"You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run." 
-- The Gambler



Hellooooooo friends! This weary little friend of yours just returned from a whirlwind visit home over the weekend. I visited both places I refer to as "home" during this visit - Albuquerque and the Four Corners area. I left on Friday, and just returned this afternoon. And I'm E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D! Frankly, I think I might be sick. I'm really hoping that it's just this crappy air quality we have here in "beautiful" southern California, but man, I feel like crap. I actually didn't feel awesome while I was home - as you can see in the picture above, I was quite the swollen, sneezy mess. 

While I had every intention on running while I was home, I never got around to it. My friend, Miranda, even brought her running shoes to run with me on Saturday... but we opted for breakfast burritos and a split cinnamon roll from Frontier instead. We were up late-ish and I had a 3 hour drive ahead of me! Running aside, my vacation was anything but lazy. My mom and my sister and her kids went for a long walk at the park after the movies on Saturday, and I did a lot of walking during our trip to Rico/Telluride on Sunday. I haven't lived in the area in eleven years, though, and the altitude (and allergies) definitely got to me. Plus, I drove approximately 4 hours on Saturday, 8 hours on Sunday, and another 6 hours today. I'm pooped!

I should run tomorrow, but I think I'm going to give my body one more day to recoup. I always push too hard, and end up getting myself either injured or sick. I'll do my morning yoga and my morning/evening walks, but I think that'll have to do for tomorrow. Sometimes, you just gotta know when to let your body rest for a while, you know?

This trip, like many I've taken recently, was very eye-opening. It's hard not to think about life and your place in it when you're driving for hours and hours and hours by yourself (see what y'all get for not answering the phone?). But just as the lyrics above are relevant to running ("know when to hold them"), I think there are some other areas in my life that I need to let go too ("know when to fold them"). I often hold on to things/people longer than I should, and I also always give people too much credit when they aren't really acting like the friend I thought they were or that I needed. So, like any great gambler, I'm going to take these learnings and "know when to walk away," and close that chapter (or those chapters). It's never going to be what I want it to be, and I'm not willing to take the leap of faith to find out anyway. When I feel better later in the week, I'm going to "know when to run" in the literal sense... as a way of helping me cope with what I need to let go of so I can move on with my life. I've been stuck on a couple of things for longer than I should have been. (Word games are fun! And sorry this is so vague.)

Anyway, I'm sleepy, hungry, and not feeling great so I'm going to end this one here. While this probably reads as an excuse for why I didn't run this weekend and won't be running tomorrow, I hope you'll cut me some slack. I hope that I will cut me some slack too. Pushing yourself is great sometimes, but sometimes you gotta recognize when rest is more important too. 

I hope that you have a great week. For those friends who are training for Wine and Dine with me... wish me luck! My training isn't going as amazingly as hoped, but I hope to be back up and "running" with y'all soon! (Haha... I'm such a dork.). 

Until we meet again...

--- Becky

Monday, August 15, 2016

Princess and the Pea

"Often it isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, 
it's the little pebble in your shoe" -- Muhammad Ali


The worst part about Mondays is that Monday is always Monday. Rarely, if ever, do people get excited to greet it when it arrives. It's usually hardest when you had a great weekend - but sometimes a bad or boring weekend can make the impending work week difficult to bear too. I'm not sure what gives this week, but I'm already over it.

I intended to wake up this morning at 4:45am. Yes, this is early... even for me. My intention, however, was to wake up early enough to do yoga and still get my morning mile in with my dog. As with most of my best intentions, I failed miserably. Despite setting several alarms, I finally got up in a panic around 5:30am. So much for yoga! I quickly gathered Diego's things, jumped in the car, and headed to the park. I usually order my morning coffee or tea from Starbucks as we head back to the car, and today was no exception. I arrived - and my order was never received. UGH. It shouldn't come as any surprise that I rolled into work about 20 minutes late... forgetting my workout shoes in my gym bag, and forgetting my morning snack at home. 

I got home even later than I had expected. I picked up my dog, changed into shorts, and promptly crashed on the couch. When it came time for my evening walk with my neighbor, she had to wake me up. Ridiculous. We slowly did our evening walk, and I resigned myself back to my house even sleepier than when I left. When I finally called my mom to check in, I had no idea how to respond to her question about my day. My answer was... meh. 

My tardiness notwithstanding, today wasn't a bad day. I didn't have too many meetings, and only one meeting was less efficient than I had hoped. We had a fun lunch to say goodbye to my intern, and I even got answers to emails that I sent on Friday. I didn't work out, but I still got some walking in. All that, and I still felt "meh" about my day. It wasn't good. It wasn't bad. It just... was. 

Even though my workouts usually improve my mood, I've been fairly melancholy for the last few weeks for some reason. My weekend was uneventful and "boring," but I got to spend time talking to a few close friends and that was nice. My long run on Saturday was painful and hot (I need new shoes!), but my pace had improved since my last 6+ run in July. For every yin, there was a yang. Nothing was dreadful. What gives?

Even though my workout consistency has improved, and even though my run pacing is getting better, I feel very much like I've plateaued. I've racked my brain for the last hour trying to think about what's holding me back. 
  • Is it my diet? (Probably... there is definitely room for improvement!)
  • Is it my shoes? (Maybe... my new ones should be here by Thursday!)
  • Is it my energy, or lack thereof? (Could be... I'm always tired these days.)
  • Is it boredom? (Meh... I like routine for exercise, so I don't think this is it... yet?)
  • Is it my self-esteem? (Possibly... it's taken quite a few hits lately. Sigh.)
I've talked through the years about journaling, but I've not practiced it much lately. I recently read about "guided" journaling, and think I may try that for a few weeks. I have a lot of travel coming up in my schedule, and maybe one of those trips will be the reset that my body (and brain!) needs. Until then, I'm going to try to find that pebble in my shoe so that I can get it out and appreciate the journey instead. And if I can't find it? I need to find a way to tune it out, and focus on what I need to do to be successful in my fitness journey. Have you had this problem? How did you fix it? I may want to talk this out with you... If not, wish me luck!

Sleeplessly,

Becky

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Moon Rocks (Visiting Vasquez Rocks)

"A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, 
bearing within him the image of a cathedral." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery


If I can't make exercise fun, I won't do it. Well, I will do it... but I might not enjoy it. That's not to say that I don't enjoy traditional forms of exercise - I love yoga and weight lifting, and enjoy running (when I have a goal in mind). Aerobics classes, pilates, zumba, etc, however, have no appeal to me. And let's not even talk about sports... I don't think I could be an athlete if I tried. So what's a girl to do? Hike!

Lucky for me, my niece loves hiking as much as I do! She and I planned to do several hikes while she visited this summer, and we really got excited when the Girls Who Hike LA event at Vasquez Rocks was scheduled. I knew we both would enjoy it - the rocks and desert-like landscape is reminiscent of the places back home I like to hike, and would be more familiar to Katie too. Plus, Vasquez Rocks Park is a filming location, so you know this movie fangirl just had to visit it one of these days!


The Girls Who Hike LA event was loosely based on the same loop described by Modern Hiker on his post here. The trail we actually took is located on AllTrails, although I still haven't figured out how to read their trails other than via GPS. I was excited to take this particular loop, however, because it included a brief stint on the Pacific Crest Trail. The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,600+ mile trail that runs from the Mexican/California border all the way to the US/Canada border in British Colombia. While mentioned often in literature, it's probably most famous for being the trail that Cheryl Strayed took in her autobiography, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I trusted that Kaitlyn would be up for the hike when I researched the trail before our adventure - the trail that Sharron planned covered a little under 5 miles total, and less than 1,000' foot elevation gain. I also figured that we were well prepared because I had been taking Kaitlyn with me for nightly 2-3 mile walks in the park after work every day. I knew it was going to be a hot one, so I made sure we had plenty of water for our hike too.


The hike was relatively easy/flat for the first mile or so. We could view the famous rocks throughout that first mile, and only saw one PCT hiker on the trail as we made our way out. We had a fairly steep-ish descent as we made our way down to the PCT junction, heading south towards the tunnel to experience that stretch of the infamous trail. This area was fairly rugged and overgrown, features that I really enjoy when I hike in the desert. Rocks, fossils, and other sediment were exposed in the sandstone, making for fun conversation between my niece and me.


After a brief break at the tunnel, we headed back the way we came and started our climb to the tops of the surrounding rocks of the park. This is where things started getting hairy for the less adventurous/experienced of our group. The only child on the trip fell during this portion of the trail, and my niece rolled her ankle shortly thereafter. I was glad to see I wasn't the only one breathing heavily during this portion of the trail, but a noticeable gap between the front of the pack and the back was starting to form. 


Somewhere around the famous rocks themselves, the front of the group left the back of the pack. It was better for all sides. As a back of the packer, I could sense the relief. The front group was more physically prepared for this hike, and I was worried about my niece and wanted to slow down too. Once the gap was realized, I noticed that we weren't alone in taking our time, taking pictures, and enjoying the stunning sky. Our back of the pack was around 1/4 of the total group, all determined to still enjoy the hike and fellowship with each other.

As we made our way back to the valley floor, however, some bit of panic set in. The path was not as obvious at the bottom as it was up top. Several of us tried to map the trail to see if we were still heading in the right direction. Two of the girls were very close to giving up. One girl sat down. We shouldn't have feared - our back of the pack leader was tremendous! She kept everyone calm, and cheered the group on to finish the hike back to our vehicles. (If you're reading this, Angela - THANK YOU!)

The temperature in my car read a very hot 95 degrees by the time we returned to it. My niece was hot, sore, and in pain, and as much as I wanted to join the girls for lunch, I knew it was best if we just headed back home. After the initial soreness died down, Kaitlyn and I talked about the hike. She actually really liked it! She was just woefully ill-prepared. That's my fault - I'm sorry Katie. (At least this experience helped me prepare for our much more strenuous hike at Pinnacles a few weeks later!)

As for me, this is a hike I really want to tackle again when it gets cooler in the fall. My hope is that the Sand Fire didn't destroy it - I'll have to do some research and see. This hike reminded me a lot of hiking back home, and that made me very happy. I'm not so sure that the giant group hikes are quite my speed, but it was fun meeting some of the other girls from GWHLA. I look forward to seeing them at the networking event in October. But for now... small group hikes are the hikes for me!

Take charge this week!

--- Becky

Live in the Los Angeles area (or visit often)? Like to hike? Consider joining us at GirlsWhoHikeLA.com. Our website links to our blog, which includes hiking trail reviews, gear reviews, and more. Want to join our hikes? Informal meet-ups happen all the time and group hikes happen once a month. You can only get that info by joining our closed Facebook page. Our founder updates our Instagram regularly too - be sure to check it out!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mas o menos

"You can do anything...
... but not everything." 
--David Allen

Today is the last day of July. In my head, this will always be the last day of summer (although, yes, I know... summer lasts well into September). When I was planning out my summer, I only had one goal: I wanted to run 100 miles during the two months of summer. I didn't come up with this idea on my own, mind you - I have a friend on Instagram that does this every year, and her goal inspired me to try it this year. She actually uses the full summer to accomplish this goal, but I'm crazy and always try to do more than expected.

When I came up with this goal, I figured it would be super easy to achieve. I planned a running program for the summer, and between that program and the "Streak" I did with my niece, I figured I would hit 100 miles in the second week of July. The second week of July came and went, and I was no closer to my goal. And here I sit on this 31st day of July, and I'm still 6 miles short of the goal. What happened?

I could do what I always do and analyze all the reasons I fell short of my goal. I'm not going to do that today. No, instead I'm going to concentrate on everything that went right over the last two months. More specifically, what I did right in the last 26 days. (There's a time and place to let the demon in your head win, but he's had enough wins lately. Today is MY day.)

The last 26 days have been enlightening... challenging... and restful. No, I didn't finish running 100 miles, but...

I completed a 10K race, focusing on fun over pace. I scheduled hikes, focusing on fellowship with friends over photos for Instagram. I worked with a trainer, developing a weight training program that doesn't take away from my race prep. I worked out at lunch... and loved it! (Ok, showering at work is hella weird, but I'm a grown person... I'll get over it). Overall... July was a pretty darn good month! So I'm not going to stress that I missed my century goal by 6 miles (I'll hit those by Wednesday anyway). 


I'm still using the Red Rocks App Running App for my short runs, and I'm loving it! My speed has increased a full minute/mile, and I can only see it getting better from here. I feel strong, and fit-ish! I don't look fit-ish, but the hell with it. I'm really excited for August. I am increasing my distance runs starting next week, and have a trip back to New Mexico planned soon too. I'm sure the month will fly right by! Now, I'm off to bed so I can get up bright and early tomorrow. I've been sleeping in much later than usual for the last couple of months, and that stops here. Onward and upward... always!

Cheers til then!

Becky


Monday, July 25, 2016

Simply Running

"When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first. 
That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends.
That, my friend, is a dark side."


In my perpetual pursuit of improvement, I am always on the lookout for new books, apps, etc that will help me be a more efficient runner. I pursue efficiency in an almost obsessive way. I'm not looking to be the best - I won't ever be the fastest, and I'm pretty sure I'll never be an athlete that others aspire to be. Running won't ever give me the gazelle-like figure of my running peers, and I'm ok with that. But I don't like to suck. I can run for miles and miles and miles, but if my entire run is clouded by the fear of falling behind the minimum pace it ruins it for me. I want running to be fun, and I want to be better. (Plus, let's face it - deep down, I'm lazy as hell, so the faster that I can finish these miles, the better!)

I recently read an article in a running magazine offering advice on apps geared towards beginning runners. I'm not a beginner necessarily, but I sure as hell run like one. I employ the "Galloway Method" of running - a form of interval running that is designed to mitigate injury. It's been successful in preventing injury, but try as I might I have not been able improve my speed or efficiency (breathing, heart rate, etc). The article mentioned several apps worth trying (Couch to 5K, Galloway, etc), but one in particular caught my eye - Running for Weight Loss by Red Rock Apps. 

As I mentioned before, I'm not running to lose weight. Running and dieting doesn't work for me - running leaves me crazy hungry, and if I try to diet, I'm too tired to run. The reviews on the app, however, appealed to me for other reasons. Like other apps, the Running for Weight Loss app employs a variety of techniques that encourage runners to run, including a GPS running map, variety of coach voice options, and in-app tips. While these are cool, the actual training programs were what interested me. 

The Running for Weight Loss app has 5 different training programs, two of which having multiple levels of training intensity: Walking for Weight Loss (beginner, intermediate, advanced), Start Running, Running for Weight Loss (beginner, intermediate, advanced), 5K Training, and 10K Training. Once you select your program, you can view each day of the running plan to see what's to come. (Just as I like to read the last page of a book before I read the rest of it, I like knowing what the end game is before I start any program. Couch to 5K programs were always good for this, but I never found one that I actually liked). After reviewing the first and last days of several programs, I selected one and prepared myself to start it.

I started this program last week, and I'm actually impressed. The visuals are simple and appealing - each interval comes with a both a countdown clock and calorie counter, and the GPS works both indoors and outdoors. [The indoor GPS worked better for me than the NikePlus app; I've decided to input indoor miles into my Nike app manually as I can never get it to read accurately.] The intervals themselves were similar to other apps/methods I had used, but I actually find these intervals to be more "right sized" for me. Not sure if it's the duration of the intervals or that my fitness has actually improved since the last time I ran on a treadmill, but I am running longer and faster than I used to!

The program that I selected with this app runs for 8 weeks (3x/week). I intend to use this for all of my runs during that time, even my long runs (I can use the app for the first 30 minutes, and then go back to Galloway for the remainder). I'm curious to see how much my endurance and speed improve... If I really do become a more efficient, slightly fast-er runner, I will be very excited! I know a few of you are also running (or planning to run) races this fall, so I figured I'd give this app a shout out. And for those of you thinking about it... give it a go! There's sure to be a program for you - and it's free!

In other news, tomorrow starts week two of my strength training program too. Woohoo! I'm going to be fit-ish by November... trust me!

Until we meet again!

Becky


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bittersweet Sixteen

"It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out;
it's the pebble in your shoe." -- Muhammad Ali


I am the queen of excuses when it comes to health and fitness. Did I work out today? No, I worked overtime. Did I run today? No, my shoes aren't fitting right. Did I cook dinner? No, I didn't have time. As a New Mexpat hailing from the great Land of Mañana, who would I be if I didn't put today's tasks off until tomorrow? 

To give credit where credit is due, I've done 1,000X better than the Becky of three years ago. I've done 1,000,000X better than the Becky of the 5 years previous to that. But am I doing better than this time last year? Am I improving? Yes... and no. And while I'm giving credit where credit is due, I'm 100% to blame for all of it.

Tomorrow is Day 1 of a 16 week training plan I've developed and plan to use to prepare for my next big runDisney race (Lumiere's Challenge during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend). Unlike my last runDisney half marathon, I don't want this race to be only about running/finishing. I want to train harder - train better. I want to get my diet in check. Food as a fuel, and not as a companion or anti-depressant. Running supplemented with strength training to make my runs more efficient, not running as a replacement for strength training. 

I am not so naive to think that I can do this alone. A 19.3 mile race weekend is a big deal for me; it's likely the closest I will ever get to running a full marathon. I don't want to hurt myself, nor do I want to look forward to the event in fear. I know I can do this, so now I need to prove it. 



Of course, I'm still super self-conscious about both my speed and my body. Both need improvement, but this time I'm not going to naively think that I can overcome either by myself. I recently re-enlisted the help of my personal trainer/friend to ask her for a fitness plan with my runs in mind. We had our first session last Friday, and I was super pleased with it. Tomorrow is our lower body focused session, and I can't wait to see what she brings me this time. 

The next 16 weeks are going to take more discipline than I applied for my half marathon earlier this year. It's going to be difficult, so I may need your help. But... I'm looking forward to it. Onward and upward!

Until we meet again...

Becky

Monday, July 11, 2016

Win Some, Lose Some (Shoreline 10K)

"Will you look back on life and say, 'I wish I had,' or 'I'm glad I did?'" -- Zig Ziglar

Another month, another race. I can't believe I have participated in six races in seven months. This time last year, I had completed... zero. Who am I? Haha.  


The race started early on Sunday morning. It was gorgeous outside - cool, but not uncomfortable. The marine layer was lifting early, and the race crowd was light. And the smell of the sea... oh, to be so lucky to start every day with the smell of the sea!


The course was an out and back similar to the trail I train on at home. I'll be honest with y'all... I didn't plan on a fast pace or running much in general. This race was much more for my soul than my ego, and I wanted to keep it that way. Unfortunately, the 10K was the race that the most competitive of runners decided to run. (Seriously... the 5K was mostly walkers, and the half marathoners seemed to have the full gambit - elite and slow runners like me. The 10K? All the fast runners!). Alas, we took it easy and enjoyed the sights along the coast and the 2 miles of wetlands. Ego be damned!


The ego took a bit of a hit, however, when we hit the 10K turnaround and realized we were at the back of the pack. We weren't last, but it was close! My friend and I picked up the pace considerably for the last 4.5 miles. I'm glad we did. The marine layer lifted unseasonably early, and the sun was starting to beat on our faces. 

The last three miles were not my favorite. All three races ran the same course (with the only difference being the start time and turnaround points). As I mentioned before, the 5Kers had a lot of walkers, and there were some beastly half marathoners who easily lapped some of the slower 10Kers like me. Our paths collided around these last few miles, making the already tight and narrow course even more crowded. Additionally, the trail we were on was not closed to the public, so the guests from the nearby hotels were also crowding the trail as we neared the finish. 


Alas, we waded through the crowds and we finished! My favorite race MC was there to congratulate us by name at the finish line. (I can't believe I typed that... who has a favorite race MC? Apparently, I do! Thanks, @TheRunMC!) The after party was a bit busy but cool. Our relatively inexpensive race got us coupons for a beer (good beer - Firestone Brewery!), tacos, açai bowls, and organic açai energy drinks... all free! My friend and I opted for the açai bowls, and I grabbed an energy drink for later. As tempting as a free beer is... 9am is a bit too early for me to start drinking something so heavy!

So to answer the question a lot of you have asked... how'd it go? I loved it. I didn't put myself under pressure to do well, and it gave me time to just enjoy being there... with my friend... enjoying the morning. I love racing. I really do Focusing on racing and pacing, however, has been less fun. The recent "streak" taught me that if you force me to do it, I won't enjoy it. The Disney races, while fun, have so much pressure on pacing that it makes me nervous. I know I can do it, but I start to doubt myself every time. These smaller races are better fit for me, I think... We'll see. 

If you find yourself in Southern California, I highly recommend the events hosted by Elite Sports California. The races are small, but fairly well run. I know I'll look for more in the future. I have another race in the Ventura/Oxnard area in December, and I can't wait. Maybe I'll run into you there? :) Have a healthy week, y'all!

Cheers!

Becky

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fall Seven Times, Get up... Late?

"If you're bored with life - you don't get up every morning with a burning desire
to do things - you don't have enough goals." -- Lou Holtz

We finished it. Kaitlyn and I finished our 30 day streak of running and walking at least one consecutive mile each day as part of the "Streaking with the Cool Kids" challenge. I'm so proud of her. Kaitlyn managed to rack up an impressive 50+ miles over her 30 day streak during long, hot summer days, and yet she rarely complained about it. Seriously proud of the kid. I'm going to miss her!


Me? Well, I'm another story. During our 30 day streak, I managed to "only" get 54 miles in. This wasn't Kaitlyn's fault. It was I that was more likely to suggest a shorter route or complain about the journey. My pace was out of whack. I'm slow as it is, but the last 30 days were terrible. I'm slower than ever, tighter than ever, and I feel more out of shape than I have in a very long time. And we won't even talk about my diet... yikes!

I have no one to blame but myself,  you know. I made excuse after excuse for sleeping in when I should have been up early for a run. I skipped workouts after work. I bought dinners out when I should have cooked, using my niece as my excuse to treat myself. I drank soda (gasp) after two months of abstinence. BAH!

My mom and my sister picked up my niece over the weekend, and I'm an empty nester once again. It's time for me to get back on track - I have literally no excuses to fail. I have a 10K this weekend, and I'm not looking forward to it (ok, ok... I might be looking forward to my hotel on the beach). I hope to get a respectable time, but it's not looking good!

Why is it that one change can throw me off so severely? What am I doing wrong? Ugh - truly a work in progress here, folks. There are a few people who I look to as inspiration on this journey. I don't tell them that, but maybe I should. I feel bad if/when others tell me that I have inspired their own fitness journeys. I'm so not worthy of that... but I'd like to be. Here's hoping that the next four months before my big race in November go better than the last four. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!

Until next time...

Becky

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fiddy

"Only one who wonders finds new paths." -- Norwegian proverb


Hola, amigos! Well, only 3 short days remain in our Streaking challenge! AND we are almost to the halfway point of our Century Run summer challenge! What better time to provide an update on my progress so far. In short? I'm exhausted! I can't remember the last time I was this deliriously tired... maybe last summer? Regardless... I'm tired, cranky, and ready to go back to my regular routine. 

The streak has been fun - my niece and I continue to find new ways to get our miles in, whether it be a short jog around the neighborhood or a challenging hike in the heat. A couple of weekends ago, we did a nearly 5 mile hike at Vasquez Rocks with some girls I met through Girls Who Hike LA (a team of which I am a moderator). While I hope to find time to blog about it later, it was a moderately strenuous hike - slightly under 5 miles (I forgot to turn the app on, so that's why it's only reflecting 3.99) and an elevation gain of roughly 1,000'. AND... we did it in 90+ degree heat! Whew!


We've been trying to mix things up during the work week too - whether it's testing new neighborhood routes in the dark to beat the heat, or walking the various trails at the park near my house, we try to forge a different path every single day! (Confession: There have been many days that doing just a mile has been hard lately. I don't know if it's work stress, personal stress, or heat exhaustion, but I am dog tired these days! But... we haven't skipped a day yet! Yay!)


We kicked off the last week of the Streak by visiting Pinnacles National Park for a hike. We had planned a longer hike than we ended up doing, but we were pretty proud with what we did! All in all, I have reached over 50 miles of walking, jogging, running, and hiking on this streak. I'm halfway to my century goal (which I now fully expect to exceed), and feeling stronger every day. 

But it hasn't been all wins, folks. Personal training sessions aside, I have not been fully committed to weight lifting. It sucks because I enjoy it, but I feel so guilty leaving my niece alone all day that I end up talking myself into skipping it after work so that I can spend my time with her. My runs have also suffered. I have been "streaking" with my niece, but she's not a runner. When I do run, it's usually short and not very fast. I really need to work on pace and endurance in the months ahead. Sigh.

My next race is coming up on July 10th in Ventura, and I hope to find time in the next two weeks to somewhat train for that accordingly. If not, it will be a lesson learned. (as if I am learning from any of these errors... sheesh). 

Are you streaking with the cool kids? Or did you join our century run? Neither? I don't blame you... my occasionally lazy behind wishes she didn't commit to so much too! But I do hope you're taking advantage of the warmer weather! Get outside! Explore! And tell me about it so I can live vicariously when I read about your adventures during breaks between my meetings on my iPhone! :)

In the meantime, it's bedtime for this girl... another marathon day of meetings awaits me in the morning! Hope you are happy and healthy, my friends!

Cheers!

Becky

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Going Streaking!


Yes, friends - it's true. I have decided to go streaking... and I'm taking my niece with me! Ha!

Ok, ok... it's not that kind of streaking! What kind of auntie do you think I am? No, my niece and I have committed to a 30 day running/walking streak along with a thousand of our internet buddies, courtesy of Pink Cupcake Girl (aka Jenn Davis). The rules? You must run, walk, or jog at least one mile every single mile for 30 days. Yes, 30 days straight. No, you can't bank days and no, you can't make them up. No excuses. Period. 


As I mentioned earlier this summer, my niece and I have decided to complete 100 miles of running this summer (in June and July). This 30 day streak seemed to fall within that perfectly, so we added it to our plate. It's been great so far! It's given my niece and me a reason to be active every single day, and we've used it as an excuse to find creative ways to hit our mile+ target each day.


While we mostly get our miles done in the neighborhood, my niece and I do take opportunities to take our show on the road every now and then too. My niece and I had already decided we wanted to spend a lot of time hiking this summer, so this has fit well into our new routine (hiking is basically walking at an incline). A couple of Saturdays ago, for example, we used our daily goal to hike up to Raven's Landing at the Wind Wolves Preserve in Kern County!


Some days have been easier than others. When temperatures climbed past the 100 degree mark last week, it took a lot of dedication for the two of us to hit the pavement and get our steps in. I'm glad my niece has been here though - she keeps me accountable, and she makes it so much more fun!


Today was our 14th day, so we are just one day shy of the halfway point. I wish I could say that we are running faster or farther than when we started, but we aren't. I'm not sure why. Part of it has to be laziness (although I don't feel lazy), and I'm sure part of it has to do with the heat (although it's been cooler this week). Whatever it is, I hope we get after it for the second half of this challenge. Well, I hope that I get after it anyway. I have another 10K in less than a month, and I'd really like to beat my Tinkerbell 10K time :) 

For those of you still with us for the 100 miles of running summer challenge, we hit mile 26 today! If we stay at the current pace, we will easily meet the 100 mile goal. I'd really like to beat it though - here's hoping! Hope that all of you have a happy, healthy week!

Cheers!

Becky

Out of Time!

Hello friends!  

Although it has been longer than I would prefer, rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Well, maybe not, if you expand your definition of demise to mean the loss of pretty much all free or down time.  Whenever people would tell me that they "didn't have time" to exercise, I would roll my eyes a little.  What do you mean you don't have time?  Obviously, if you're not exercising, you're just not making it a priority in your life, right?  Well, now I just feel like those silly people who give out parenting advice before they have kids.  I really want to exercise, but I can't.  I just don't have the time!




My health is still (sort of) a priority in my life.  (I can say that with a reasonably straight face despite having neither a piece of fruit or a vegetable all day yesterday).  It's just that sometimes it falls down a little bit on the totem pole.  Exercise or sleep?  Exercise or study? Exercise or Young & the Restless? And so on and so.  The days when I can spend a whole hour or more in the gym are gone.  I have to focus on being efficient if I'm going to bother at all.  I've been reduced to quick runs, HIIT training or the speediest of circuits at the gym.  Suddenly, I'm feeling nostalgic about those long runs (unbelievable)!  

So, what's a girl to do?  What are some ways that you have been able to sneak fitness into a busy daily existence?  By all means, let me know and I'll try to post again before 2018.  
:)

Natasha


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Good Morning, Miles!

"You only get what the day gives you." -- unknown


Hello, friends. Tomorrow is the first day of our "100 Miles of Running" summer challenge. Are you ready? Did you write it down? Did you lace up your shoes? Are you ready? Are you really? :)

My niece is back for another four week visit this summer, and I talked her into reviving our "Morning Mile" routine while she is here. I meant to write about this last summer, but I never got around to it. Quite frankly, it's hard to keep up with my writing with my work schedule as it is, and having her here makes it even harder to find the time. Alas, I found the time to write this today so here it is!


So, why a Morning Mile? When Kaitlyn visited last summer, she came across an article about a school program with the same name . Dubbed "The Morning Mile," the program was initiated by fitness expert, Fitz Koehler, as a way to encourage kids across the country to incorporate fitness into their morning routines.  The program has flourished, and can now be found in over 200 schools across the country. The purpose? To combat obesity while providing children with an outlet for their energy so they can focus remaining energy on learning throughout the day. 

While reading about the program, I remembered my running routine back in college and how much it would help me focus during the day. While I always enjoyed running in the evening, it was the days that I also ran in the morning that seemed to make me feel the best. Why? Well, waking up with a run (or walk) is a great way to quick-start your metabolism. It helps your body wake up naturally, making you more alert and more productive earlier in the day. And if you run in the morning, you're not as apt to find an excuse to cancel plans to run later in the day. Winning all around! With this in mind, I talked to Kaitlyn and we decided to take the "Morning Mile" challenge. During her three week stay last summer, we completed our Morning Mile routine for about 80% of her stay! Woot!


When Kaitlyn was planning her annual visit this year, she asked if we would again do our Morning Mile routine. I enthusiastically said yes, and added her to our "100 Miles of Running" summer challenge on Facebook. Today was her first full day with me and, true to our word, we did our Morning Mile bright and early with the sunrise. I was so proud of her. She just got out of school on Friday, and she still managed to go to bed early and rise with me and the sun. I really hope we can hit 100% compliance with our commitment this summer. It will be good for both of us!

It really gives me a lot of joy to have my niece here, and to see her so interested in fitness. It also keeps me accountable - I know she looks up to me, so my lazy days mean lazy days for her too. If you care to follow our fitness adventures this summer, I'll try to update this blog and our Occasionally Fit Instagram page. I encourage you to consider committing to a summer fitness routine too. It doesn't have to be a Morning Mile, but getting up (and getting moving) should be something that we all aspire to achieve! Have a healthy, happy week, y'all!

Cheers!

Becky