Monday, March 30, 2009

One Week Later: Marathon Reflections

6:20 A.M. Pasadena, California. Dark, cloudy, drizzling on and off; temperature somewhere in the 50’s, chilly and a little breezy. It is ten minutes before the gun goes off for the inaugural Pasadena Marathon (both full and half) to start at 6:30A.M.
4,487 people waiting under the glowing street lamps for the signal to start their 13 mile or 26 mile journey, depending on which they choose. For some of us, this will be our first full or half marathon. More seasoned runners are probably seeking to break a personal record and some will choose to walk and be happy with completion. Everyone has their own reasons for entering this race and they are as diverse as the entrants themselves.

Suddenly the drizzle becomes a downpour. We had been warned that it might rain, most were prepared for it in one way or another. Some wore raingear, or plastic trash bags, and then there were those who stood there in tank tops and shorts. Groans , laughter and cheering rose up from the crowd as the rain poured down . The announcer made a joke about how it never rains in Southern California. He did a good job trying to entertain a now freshly soaked crowd of participants who could not start running for another ten minutes. Five or so minutes later the downpour let up. At last we all counted down the final 10 seconds to the start, gun went off at 6:30 and we began to slog through the wet streets of Pasadena.

I have never run a marathon before, nor even attended one as a spectator. What impressed me most was the diversity of the people participating in this race. There were people doing the FULL marathon who I would have thought would have trouble walking around the block. That’s not being mean, just truthful, they were not in any way fit enough for this event…yet they were doing it. I think this a fine example of what people can achieve when we put our minds to it. I am impressed by the human spirit and its willingness to take on a challenge.

A Few Thoughts On Distance Running:

I finally felt it for myself, distance really makes a difference and of course if you choose to attempt to do more than walk and try to race the distance..this makes even more difference. To date, this is the hardest event I’ve entered. I have spent 9+ hours on an Adventure Race that started at 3AM on a very challenging course. I have run the Mount Baldy race 8.6 miles all uphill starting at 6,000 feet, ending at its 10,000 foot peak– a total of a 4,000 foot gain. I’ve run Mount Wilson as fast as I could, 8.6 miles(2,100 gain in the first 4.3 miles). I’ve run some of my fastest 5 and 10k distances this year and I am always challenged and exhausted at Crossfit training. All of these events are difficult, but this…26.2 miles was still the most difficult thing I have ever done….why?

The obvious answer is the distance, but what exactly is it about distance that is so hard? What it is for me is the stress placed on the body of doing the same action for such a long time. Sure, you can choose to walk and stretch, which I did at times, but you always work to get back to pace (if you are racing) and this ultimately is what got to me and slowed me down, especially by mile 19. The time spent on the legs and the number of steps you take, make running form a critical component . Think about it…every step you take, every WRONGLY placed step, magnified over many hours..thousands of steps.

Recap of my race:

Weather: personally loved it. Yeah, it was cold at the start with the downpour, but as soon as I started running I warmed up and felt really good. Dumped my old jacket by mile 2.
Met up with Jim Ward by mile 3ish. He suggested we could run together and help pace each other. I was concerned about my left leg issues and told him that I would like to run together, but that he may end up having to go ahead. Pacing with him was helpful and I think for him too. We were actually able to chat, which was good, because we both wanted to run a conservative first half. The time went so much faster having someone to run with.

We saw friends along the course..this was so much fun; took my mind off of the stress of running and it was so great receiving encouragement and giving it to others.
I wanted to hit the half way point no sooner than 2 hours and no later than 2:10..we hit it at 2: 04…nice. Running it any faster than 2 hours would’ve burned me out too soon. Jim seemed happy with this pace too. We kept going.

Mile 15ish, saw Shannon F. running up ahead of us on Raymond, heading North (uphill to Washington). We passed her, I made sure to give her a thumbs up, and we exchanged a few quick words of encouragement.

Mile 16..along Washington. My left leg started to tighten up from the hip down. I had to let Jim go on..I slowed to walk, stretch and drink. I knew I had to manage this or I wouldn’t finish. Shannon wasn’t far behind, she passed me and was close behind Jim.
The leg was well enough to keep going, but I knew I would have to slow to walking at times to manage it.

Mile 19..the suckfest really starts. Thankfully, Michael Keating was there to pace me in the last 7 miles. He had volunteered to do that for me and I had left extra Cytomax and a goo for him to bring to me at that point.

Michael was patient and listened to me grouse about my leg. He provided encouragement and again, the company was helpful in providing me a mental break from my discomfort. So..walks and jogs for the last 7 miles. Coming around Pasadena High School heading North on Sierra Madre Blvd., the rain clouds began to break a bit, the sun peeked out and the San Gabriel Mountains stood before me in all their stoic beauty. I made sure to look at them and take my eyes off of the painful road. I knew at that point I would finish, though slower than I had hoped, yet truly grateful for every step that I took towards the finish line.

Last mile mostly downhill. It didn’t feel like it was downhill, my legs were spent. Michael made sure to remind me to save enough energy to run through the finish line. I was wearing my SUA SPONTE shirt so I made sure I had enough to run through that finish line. As I ran towards the finish, total strangers were calling out, “great job”, “you did it!”. How nice! They threw out their hands to high-five me as I ran by. People I didn’t even know! Then there were my awesome friends… Dave and Joanne who waited in the cold for me to finish, as they were already done with their half marathon (thanks..I owe you guys) and Carol, Dave and Jane who all made a special trip just to see us all come in…Thanks so much!!! (Oh, and Jane brought us each a bottle of celebratory beer). Jim W and Shannon were there, they finished 4:20 and 4:21 consecutively and I came in at 4:38.

Was this hard?? YES very hard! Would I do it again..absolutely and I hope to be a little faster next time.

I thank God for my friends, the rain, the mountains and the ability to complete the event.

P.S. Something to remember for next time: Carry more of my own nutrition. I needed more Cytomax.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Revisting Virtuosity

Virtuosity is defined in gymnastics as “performing the common uncommonly well.” Unlike risk and originality, virtuosity is elusive, supremely elusive. It is, however, readily
recognized by audience as well as coach and athlete. But more importantly,
more to my point, virtuosity is more than the requirement for that last tenth of a point; it is always the mark of true mastery
(and of genius and beauty).
(Greg Glassman-Head Coach, Crossfit). (Image from

On Sunday 2/22 I participated in my third running clinic. This clinic was conducted entirely by Coach LeClair. We were put through various drills for improved running mechanics, we were filmed and critiqued and we tested what we had learned in challenging workout at the track.

What I came away with today was a rather large slice of “humble pie”.

I have run quite a few races in the past five years. I have gotten faster, I’ve done well with divisional placement and earned a few medals. However, what I saw today on my running film was not the form of a good runner, it was mediocre. When my first run was viewed and hurt. Here I sat, one of our “better runners’, someone whom others look to for help. In my defense, I often do know what to do, and I can spot most gross form faults and offer corrections. However, when it comes to “fixing” myself, my problem is no different from everyone else’s..that is connecting my brain with my body so that my body does what I want it to do.

It only took me about a minute to get over initial “ouch” (ego wound) because I wanted to really hear and understand what I needed to do to improve. So, swallowing my piece of “humble pie” was good medicine. I listened, kept working, did some things better and still need to work on others.

Coach LeClair asked us the question, “can you keep running like you are?” The answer is yes, but clearly we should not. The answer for me is obvious, because while I have become a stronger runner, a faster runner, I still suffer with various “aggravations” that are not going away. I am concerned about this, seriously concerned. I want to compete in longer runs; I have a marathon coming up in less than a month. I want a healthy run, I want to run injury free, and I want to run for as long as I can, therefore, my bio-mechanics need correction…period.

“There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art,
whether learning to play the violin, write poetry, or compete in gymnastics, to
quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more
sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques. This compulsion is the novice’s
curse—the rush to originality and risk. "

While I might not be consider a “novice” runner because of how long I’ve been running, my lack of sound bio-mechanics says otherwise. What the film tells me is that I have forgotten some of my basics...and I know they were there. I can feel during a run when I finally "get it", running actually does become more effortless. What I need is CONSISTENTLY good form, which means quelling the compulsion to go faster than my form can take me, not allowing my anxiousness for speed turn me into a sloppy heel striker. they say, back to basics: drills and more drills and out comes the “tempo trainer” little beeping buddy.

I want to excel in Virtuosity!

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009- The Quest..Dreams into Realities

Goals, dreams..they seem interrelated to me. Don't we dream of the goals we want to achieve?

The quest then is in pursuing the dream, setting the goal and turning it into a reality.

2009 is off to a good start for me in some areas, but I've got to get it going in other areas -- and do so while the year is still young.

SUCCESSES TO DATE... and it's only the first week of the year!
1. I have a new work schedule...more work, which is good for me financially. I'll be learning new skills and expanding my "universe" to speak.

2. BOOTCAMP is off to a great start! I am so proud of my Lady Boot Campers. Five of them in particular are training together on their own in addition to attending Bootcamp. They've already set a race schedule for the entire year! They are so motivated, this is what I live for as a coach. They get it! They understand that their training is more productive and even more fun when it has a purpose outside of itself, i.e. activities and/or sport they can apply it to. They are making the discovery that they are capable of so much more than they thought.

3. PERSONAL TRAINING BIZ: Two of my personal clients have made impressive achievements in weight loss this past year and are becoming "mentally tougher" during their training sessions. They are also getting better at keeping active when they are not training with me. One of them has found a hiking friend, but my client wants to run more and ON HER OWN has put them both on a conservative running program that they will work for 30 days to gradually improve their running. Again...I LIVE FOR THIS! She wants to achieve's not my goal for her, it's her goal.


1. Getting my own training nailed down for the goals I've set.

2. Growing the Women's Bootcamp program.

3. Growing and developing the personal training side of my business. Have some ideas, but need to make them materialize.

This requires more self discipline in several areas: A. Time Management B. Personal Health, i.e. improving nutrition and rest. C. Learning business skills such as writing a business plan, budgeting, learning to use the resources I have on hand more effectively. In other words, becoming a better business woman.

I've heard it said that:
"Dreams are good, but Realities are better." I agree.

I'll be working to turn some of my dreams into realities in 2009.