Ultra in my future?

Before I ran my first marathon last month, I was a bit overwhelmed by the distance. I assumed that during and after the race, I would feel so horrible that I wouldn’t want to do another one in a long time, if ever. After all, my 18 and 20 mile training runs hadn’t gone that well, and had worn me out so much that running another 6.2 miles seemed impossible, even though I ran as slowly as I could. I was using a training plan that was designed to minimize injury risk (and yet I still got injured!) and only had a long run mileage increase every other week, so I felt ill prepared by my training.

But it wasn’t that bad, probably easier than my 20 mile training run in some ways. Afterwards, I couldn’t wait for my second marathon. I’m actually looking forward to the day when I get to do it again! And if I train hard but smart, maybe I will be able to finish closer to the 4:30 I believe I am capable of and not be nursing shin splints as I stand at the start line.

Since I am still building my base mileage back after taking time off for my shin splints to heal, my second marathon can’t be as soon as I would like. I am planning to do the San Francisco Marathon next June and the California International Marathon next December. I briefly flirted with the idea of the doing the CIM this December, but then saw that it is already sold out unless you meet the qualifying time! I’m actually glad it’s sold out, because otherwise I might be tempted to do something stupid. I don’t have enough time to safely train for a December marathon, even if I wasn’t trying to build my mileage slowly to keep the shin splints from coming back. Doing too much too soon was a big factor in getting shin splints in the first place. There weren’t any marathons close to Davis that I wanted to do next spring, so running the San Francisco Marathon for my second marathon seemed the logical choice.

Not only am I crazy enough to want to run 26.2 miles again, but lately I have the urge to run almost twice as much. I want to run the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run in April of 2014 as my first ultra marathon. Yes, I have been bitten by the ultra bug. Big time. Blame Eat & Run by Scott Jurek and Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Eat & Run just came out a few months ago, and I just got around to reading Born to Run this summer. All I knew about Scott Jurek before I read his book was that he is a famous vegan ultramarathoner. I had no idea that he was one of the best ultramarathoners in the world, winning the Western States 100 mile seven times (not that I knew what that was before reading his book either) and setting the American 24 hour record of 165.7 miles. And I didn’t know why anyone would want to run so far before reading Eat & Run. I even told a friend a few weeks after completing my marathon that I might do a 50K some day, but had no desire to do anything longer than that. But now I can’t go a day without thinking about ultramarthons!

In the book Scott Jurek described how running ultras had helped him discover himself. His book along with Born to Run also showed the friendliness and strong camaraderie in the ultra community. They showed how a trail ultra can be an exciting adventure, running through the woods or up mountains. Maybe when I try to do my first ultra I’ll find out I’m crazy and hate it, but right now the idea excites me.

For now I’m focusing on rebuilding a good mileage base and getting ready for a 5K (my first one!) in September, a 10K in October, and two half marathons in November. I would love to achieve my goal of a sub 2 hour half marathon in one of those November races. Today I finally had a 100% shin pain free run of 3.5 miles. Until today, even if I didn’t exactly feel pain, I could tell that something was not right in my shins. But today I didn’t have that feeling. I’m trying not to make too much of it, but I think I’m finally on the road to ending my shin splints for a while, maybe even for good. I’m also getting ready to move to California for graduate school in a couple weeks.

Thanks for reading!

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I’m Back!

Hello everyone. It’s been awhile. I really need to start posting more often! A lot has happened since February. It has probably been the most eventful 6 months of my life, and there are more things to come in the next few months. This post will quite long if I talk about everything that’s happened, but I will try.

My low self confidence I mentioned in the last post hasn’t improved much. Although I have proved myself wrong with many of those “I can’t”s, so that helps. Yes, I did get through the semester and graduate. I didn’t get straight As, but I’m okay with that now. I got into two graduate schools: Georgia Tech and UC Davis. I choose Davis mostly because California is awesome, and Davis is full of bike-riding hippies. Who cares if it’s on the opposite side of the country from North Carolina, where my boyfriend is going, and the school isn’t as prestigious as Georgia Tech? And it’s not in a big city (like Austin or Atlanta), which I prefer to small cities and towns (like Davis)? Sometimes I think I made the wrong choice, but I can’t do anything about it now so I might as well make the best of it. Part of making the best of it was apparently looking up what awesome races I want to do in California. I’ve even added the ones that I plan to do the rest of 2012 and 2013 (and a 2014 ultra!) to my new races page, and signed up for some of them. This has helped immensely with my anxiety about grad school and moving to California. At least I have something to look forward to, even if it’s not my coursework or research.

As for running a full marathon? Yep, I can do that! I started training in March after my shin splints were gone (at least until May, anyway). I had a few mediocre races this spring (the Capital 10K, the Austin Half Marathon, the Austin 10/20 10 Miler). Not much to say about them, but I didn’t meet my goal of taking 10 minutes off my Capital 10K time from last year–try 28 seconds. But from March to July, I stuck to my training plan as much as possible without getting injured/making my shin splints worse when they came back in May. On July 3rd, I went to Portland, Oregon along with my very supportive parents and boyfriend. The next day, I ran in the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon on Sauvie Island. This was a good race due to its proximity to Portland (a major plus when you’re vegan or just a hipster!), the fact that it’s flat (no reason to make your first marathon harder than it needs to be with hills), the weather (I was cold standing at the start line! It was 50 F!), and the beautiful location. I was also small, with about 400 finishers in the full marathon, which can nice and peace (but maybe too lonely for some people).
Here are my mile splits from my Garmin:

The first 14 miles were a breeze. I’m glad I wore my No Meat Athlete t-shirt for this race, because I met someone who is vegan around mile 6 who saw my shirt, and saw a couple other people wearing a No Meat Athlete shirt. Miles 15-17 weren’t bad, and I even got to see my parents and boyfriend waiting for me at the aid station right before the mile 17 marker. I stopped to give my boyfriend a big, sweaty hug, and then sprinted through the aid station to make up the time lost. I was so happy to see them there, and it was just what I need at that point in the race, when things were starting to get difficult. I was about to go up the only real hill on the course! It normally wouldn’t have been a big deal, but after running 17.5 miles, it was, and I actually ended up walking up it. The worst part of the race was miles 18-20. It’s said that mile 20 is the real halfway point of a marathon, but for me miles 21-26.2 were actually easier mentally and physically than miles 18-20. Maybe it was the hill, maybe it was knowing that I still had over an hour to go, maybe I bonked (I don’t think so though). From mile 18 on, I started doing a lot of walking, pulling a lot of 14 minute miles. When I think about it I always feel a pang of embarrassment and guilt, like I didn’t actually “run” my marathon, since I included some walking in the last 8 miles. I just felt like I couldn’t walk another 10 feet, much less another 6-8 miles.

In training my longest run was 20 miles, so I was worried about the 6.2 miles of mystery, but they weren’t bad. I had accepted the fact to if I wanted to finish pleasantly, it was okay to take walking breaks when I need them. I felt like I was on a long journey though the countryside, like a road trip on foot. Even though most people were out of sight ahead of me, I didn’t feel lonely. When I was about 1.5 miles from finishing, I decided to just go for it, and not take any more walking breaks, even if it hurt, even if I had to run slowly. I crossed the finish line with an official time of 5:14:19, not too bad for my first marathon, and with plenty of room for a big PR for my second marathon. I rushed over to meet my parents and boyfriend, who had waited patiently for over 5 hours for me! Then I went over to the side to wait for the burning soreness from my waist down to subside a bit before we left to eat lunch at an awesome vegan restaurant. At first, I wasn’t hungry or thirsty, was just so so sore. After lunch I took a long nap, something that had become a post long run ritual during my training, and seems to help me get over the soreness quicker.

I think this is enough for this post, but I will work on another one tonight and probably get it posted by tomorrow, there is more I would like catch up on.

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Yes I Can!

Lately my self-confidence is extremely lacking. I’ve never been that confident a person to begin with. I keep telling myself that I can’t. I can’t figure out my homework. I can’t get through this semester and graduate. I can’t get into any of the graduate schools I applied to. And even if I do, I can’t possibly handle grad school. I can’t figure out anything to do with my life that will make me happy and pay the bills. I can’t eat like a normal person, without binging or restricting or obsessing. I can’t love or even accept my body until I lose 15 pounds. I can’t become a better runner. I can’t run a full marathon. The list goes on and on.

NO! The only thing I can’t do is continue to think like this. The only thing holding me back from achieving great things is this mindset, combined with a fear of failure. I’m a bit of a perfectionist (okay, that’s an understatement), and I tend to think in black and white. If I can’t measure up to my unrealistic standards with something, I don’t want to do it at all. Of course, thinking like this doesn’t get anyone anywhere. I went 100 calories over my self-imposed limit for the day. Might as well all out binge, right? I’ve been running for a year, and have tried to train for a marathon twice and failed both times due to injuries. Time to give up, right? I’ve gotten a rejection letter from Princeton. Therefore, the other 10 schools I applied to are going to reject me too, even though I haven’t heard from them yet, right? I haven’t been doing too well in my classes the first 3 weeks of the semester, and I’m feeling overwhelmed by my workload. Why don’t I just settle for straight Cs this semester, since that’s all I can manage?

Somehow I need to stop thinking the way I’ve been thinking for the last 21 years. It will take some work. Fear of failure is a big one to tackle. It’s okay to fail; it’s better than not trying at all! I’ve learned so much from past failures that has brought me closer to achieving my goals.

For example, when I tried to train for the RnR San Antonio Marathon in November, I got injured because I didn’t realize that it’s not a good idea to run more than your body is capable of handling. When I got injured, I had only been running for about 8 months, but I was basically using an intermediate marathon training plan (meant for people who have run at least one marathon before, which does not describe me!), except with the long runs replaced with the novice long runs. And the once a week cross training days replaced with an extra day of running. And only taking one rest day a week, which for some reason was not the day before or the day after my long runs. Oh, and I was running like 7-8 miles the day after my long runs. When look back at that period of time now, it’s pretty obvious to me that I was over-training. But back then, I was excited about training for a marathon and approaching it like I approach everything else: setting unreasonable expectations for myself, thinking I can do it all. And then thinking I’m a failure when I realize I can’t live up to these expectations.

Same thing happened school-wise last semester. I signed up for 17 hours of coursework, including a graduate-level course, as well as being a grader for a class, and working in the lab on my thesis. On top of my marathon training. Things didn’t go as planned. I ended up having to drop the grad course as well as another course required for my major and take another class pass/fail because I got behind at the beginning and couldn’t catch up. I had a miserable semester filled with anxiety, self-doubt, depression, self-injury, and a strong resurgence of food/body image issues. By the end, I was doubting my future and my ability to do anything. On this first day of class this semester, I had to drop my thesis and tell my research adviser that I can’t work in the lab this semester. And of course I have to take the class I couldn’t take last semester now, on top of the other difficult courses I have to take. But from last semester’s experience, now I know that I’m not superwoman, and I don’t need to do so much at once to be a successful person, nor is it realistic.

I don’t necessarily need to reach for more realistic goals, but I should not be so disappointed when I fail. From now on, I will make an effort to view failures in a positive light, as learning opportunities and necessary steps on the road to success.

In that light, I am going to try to train for my first marathon again. Because this will be my third attempt, I am more likely to succeed because I already know at least two things to do differently this time. Like avoiding over-training, and learning all I can about injury prevention. And taking extra rest days when my body gives me warning signs, even if my training plan says to run.

This weekend, I’m doing a 14 mile run, so going by Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 program I’m planning to follow, I should be ready for a marathon the weekend of April 22nd at the earliest. But there aren’t any marathons in Texas from late April until the fall (I wonder why? could it be the 100 degree weather?). And I still have no idea where I will be in the fall. So my plan is to wait until at least mid-May, after the semester ends, and do a Marathon in a different state this summer! Not only will this give me some buffer room in case I encounter some more injury problems and need to take a break to heal, but I can make a vacation out of it! I’ve never planned a vacation on my own before. I haven’t picked a race yet, but I’m thinking about the RnR Seattle on June 23rd, mainly because Seattle is vegan Mecca. Well actually that title belongs to Portland, but apparently RnR Portland is only a half marathon. 

Sorry for the essay! Thanks for reading!

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Great Day for a PR!

Hey everyone! I ran the 3M Half Marathon today, and I’m so happy and proud of my results! Especially considering I’m just getting back from an injury and was worried I wouldn’t even be able to do this race a few weeks ago.

Summary of Results:

Chip time: 2:06:27
Average pace: 9:39 min/mile
Max pace: 6:17 min/mile (which is the fastest pace I’ve ever seen on my garmin!!)
Average heart rate: 180 bpm
Max heart rate: 199 bpm (as I was approaching the finish line I think)

Mile by mile:

I’m really amazed that I got faster as the race went along. After completing the first few miles at a 9:42 pace, I was beginning to worry that I was going too fast and that I might not be able to keep it up the whole race. Boy was I wrong! In fact, the first few miles ended up being my slowest! It certainly helped that this was a net downhill race, going from Northwest Austin to Central Austin, and the weather was almost perfect. I say almost because it was about 37 F at 6:45 when the race started, but I warmed up enough to be very comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt within the first 2 miles. And the sky was clear, and there was no wind (my enemy while running).

Around miles 11-13, I was running through my neighborhood and pretty much flying down a hill that I usually run up on my routine running route. Then it was on through the UT campus, after which I knew I had to turn right onto a street and run uphill. Uphill at the end? Ugh!!!! Thankfully, when I got there, we only had to run about a hundred feet or so before turning onto a different street for the finally dash towards the finished line. My pace for the last 0.26 miles (my garmin calculated 13.26 miles instead of 13.1 miles for some reason) was 8:46! I’ve never run so fast for so long!

The only downside to finishing so fast was that my mom, who was supposed to meet me at the finish line, wasn’t there yet! I told her to get there around 9 am, maybe a few minutes earlier, but I ended up finishing at 8:56. So she didn’t see me cross the finish line, and we had a hard time finding each other when she did get there.

Overall it was a good race. I cut over 7 minutes off my previous half marathon PR. Afterwards, my boyfriend and I, along with a friend of ours, went to Counter Culture for lunch for their closing party. They are closing their trailer location today for good, so they can open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in March.

Thanks for reading!

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Happy New Year and Race Recap

Hi everyone, it’s been I while! I lot has happened, including the Decker Challenge half marathon on December 11th. I did pretty well, 2:13:36, shaving almost 2 minutes off my R’n’R San Antonio time. Also, this was a much tougher race, with several steep hills to climb. I felt quite accomplished. Around miles 4 and 5, I had a lot of ankle pain, and it got so bad that I considered dropping out, but it subsided significantly after mile 5, so I kept going.

A few days later, however, I was having a lot of pain in my right shin and my ankles were still hurting a bit. The ankle pain was gone after the first few days, but the shin pain wasn’t and I had to take a couple weeks off from running. I have been getting back into it since the 1st, but doing it slowly because I still have some shin pain on and off, though none today on my 8 mile run!

I got a Garmin 305 for Christmas, which I love! Check out all this data from my run today:

Really cool, huh?

Due to taking time off from running, I’m afraid I probably won’t be ready to do the Austin Marathon on February 19th. Today’s 8 mile run was the furthest I’ve run since my injury, and before that I had only gotten up to 15 miles. I think I can do the the half instead, though.

I have a few goals for this year:

1. I want to run my first full marathon, even if it doesn’t happen on Febuary 19th.

2. I want run a sub 2 hour half marathon!

3. Do the capital 10K ago this year (I did this last year, and it was my first race ever!), and beat my time from last year (1:05:46) by at least 10 minutes. This is on March 25th.

4. Work on avoiding injuries. This means that I need to stop running every run as fast as I can while still completing the distance. Most of my runs need to be much slower than that. I’ve been doing well with this in the few runs I’ve done since the injury, because I really don’t want the shin pain to return. And, I want to be better about taking a rest day or two when something starts to hurt, before it gets worse.

Thanks for reading!

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Turkey Trot and Thanksgiving

Hi everyone! Yesterday I ran in the Thundercloud Subs 5 mile Turkey Trot. My time was 46:03! This was actually the shortest race I’ve done so far. I kind of messed up my pacing because I started too close to the starting line (with people faster than me :P). I felt really slow and sluggish, and like my legs and butt were frozen because it was cold and I was wearing shorts. However, when I got to the 1 mile marker, I saw that my watch said 8:49, which is a little too fast for me to keep up for 5 miles! I just felt slow because everyone around me was running faster and passing me.

After that first mile, I slowed down. But I had tired myself out too much. I probably could have ended up with a better time if I hadn’t gone so fast at the beginning. At the very end, when I had maybe a quarter mile left, my side started hurting so badly, I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t when I was so close to finishing. At that point a wanted to finish as soon as possible, but I couldn’t run very fast when I was in so much pain. I ended up finishing with a decent time. I met my boyfriend and dad at the finish line and then we went to my parent’s house for a thanksgiving feast.

I made some popcorn tofu using Wheatsville’s recipe in the Sunny Days in Texas recipe book. In my opinion, it was better than to popcorn tofu you can buy at Wheatsville.

We had a delicious fruit salad with cantaloupe, grapes, oranges, pineapple, and blackberries to start.

Here is my plate, with tofurkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with vegan marshmellows, stuffing, green beans, quinoa, popcorn tofu, and a croissant roll.

And dessert, of course! Pumpkin pie that kind of fell apart, apple pie, and Purely Decadent cookie dough ice cream.

Everything was so delicious! It was a great way to refuel after my race. I think running 5 miles before eating a Thanksgiving meal is a great way to not feel overly full and guilty afterwards.

Thanks for reading!

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Rock and Roll San Antonio Recap

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? On November 13th, I ran the Rock and Roll San Antonio half marathon. I’ve been training for this since July, when I was planning to do the full. It’s probably for the best that I didn’t do the full, since I’ve only been running for 10 months. That’s a little soon, and I think I probably would have ended up with a worse injury than I had back in October, when I took a couple weeks off.  I’m planning to do the Austin Livestrong Marathon on Febuary 19th as my first marathon.

This was my first half marathon ever. I did pretty well, considering that I had 2 weeks to go from the 10 miles I ran for Run for the Water to 13.1 miles. I usually only increase my long runs 1 mile per week, but I did a 12 miler the week between the two.

My time was 2:15:15. Not bad, but I was aiming for 2:10 or so. I think I went too fast at the beginning. I ran my first mile in 9:45, but I wanted to run every mile at a 10 minute pace. I slowed down a little so that I ran about 10 minutes per mile for the first 9 or 10 miles, but after that I slowed even more. I ended up walking on and off for some of the last mile, but I made sure I was running as I crossed the finish line.

My parents and my boyfriend waited for me at mile 8 to cheer me on. They are so awesome! I was still going strong at mile 8, but it definitely motivated me. When I finished it took so long to find them because there were about 25,000 people in the race. We had to walk about a mile back to our hotel, which was not fun. I was so sore! Fortunately, by Tuesday the soreness was long gone. I sported my No Meat Athlete shirt during the race, which I think I will wear for all my races from now on.

A group of vegans running the race set up a fundraiser for Sunny Day Farms, with a goal of raising $100 for every mile of the marathon. We did it! We raised $2665! There was also a raffle to win awesome vegan stuff if you donated, and I won it! I received my pralines today.

In the week since the half marathon, I have improved a lot running wise. In my running class yesterday, we ran a timed mile, and I did it in 7:50! Our last timed mile was in mid-October, and I ran it in 8:42. My first timed mile when I took the class last spring was 10:26. That was only a few weeks after I had started running. I think I’ve also been enjoying running more. Looking at my training log, for every run since the race, I wrote that I felt ‘amazing’ or ‘awesome’!

I will leave you with photos of some pumpkin muffins with maple icing, courtesy of Happy Herbivore cookbook….

A beautiful green smoothie (spinach, frozen bananas, grapes, flax-seed, almond milk)….

And Kasey, queen of dirty laundry hill. (Hey, I’m a busy college student!)

Thanks for reading!

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