Anatomy of a PR

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The Personal Record. That elusive, arbitrary time goal runners chase. It haunts us, often missed by seconds. But sometimes it is crushed, setting a new benchmark to attain. Most of us will never win a race, so we race ourselves instead. That number is a motivator, helping us dig just a little deeper when the wheels are about to come off late in a race.

What makes a PR? Well, the training, obviously. Stress, recover, repeat. The basic formula is simple, yet so easy to screw up. There are no magic workouts that will guarantee a faster time, but the most important thing you gain from proper training is confidence. You need to believe that running a PR is possible, because if you don’t, who will?

Let’s analyze two PRs I fought for this year. The first came at the Boston Marathon, where I dropped from a 3:07 to a 3:04, and the second is from the Humboldt Redwoods half marathon, where I knocked 6 minutes off my best to run a 1:24. Continue reading

Trail Running 101, part 2

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Welcome to part two of my Trail Running 101 series! In part one you learned trail etiquette (don’t be a jerk!) and all the fun gear you get to buy (more sneakers, yay!). Now that you are outfitted like a seasoned trail runner, I’ll tell you how to find your way around and avoid being a snack for a mountain lion. Read on! Continue reading

Trail Running 101, part 1

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Trail running: it’s just like road running but on dirt, right?

I wish it were that simple. The trails are a different beast. When you are dealing with nature there’s a lot more that can go wrong. But, in my opinion, you get so much more in return from the trails versus roads. I’m here to give you a primer on how to survive (and thrive!) without getting run over by a mountain biker or eaten by a snake. This is part one of a series I’ll be writing in collaboration with my MoveWith Trail Running 101 class. Let us start with how to behave on the trails… Continue reading

A humbling distance: Headlands 50K race report

Photo by Richard Bolt

Photo by Richard Bolt

I feel like I’ve got marathoning down. I know how to train for it, pace myself, and fuel properly. And barring any weather disasters, I can usually come pretty close to the goal I set for myself. Ultras, as I’m quickly learning, are a whole other beast. The 50K is a humbling distance. Just five miles longer than a marathon, but with that five miles comes the unexpected. So many things can go wrong out on those trails that it’s hard to prepare for all worst case scenarios.

I chose the Tamalpa Headlands 50K as my first attempt at that distance. It’s in my backyard, making travel logistics a non-issue. And more importantly, I could train on the course. Looking at past year’s winning times, I felt I had a pretty good shot at placing in this one. And then I realized it was the USATF 50K National Championships and there was some big prize money on the line. Okay so the field would probably be stacked and top 10 would be cool, but I tried to set my expectations low so I wouldn’t be disappointed come race day. Continue reading

Pro Tip in Pictures: Handheld Bottles

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I hate running with anything in my hand (mostly because my arm gets tired and it reminds me how weak my upper body is). But buying the right handheld bottle can make all the difference on the annoyance scale. Look for a bottle with a wide cinching strap, like the Nathan bottle on the left. Try it on, pull it tight, and violently shake your hand around. Does it come loose or fly off, narrowly missing someone’s head? If so, you probably grabbed a bottle with a narrow strap, like the one on the right.

The less energy you have to put into holding onto your bottle or re-tightening the strap, the more energy you can channel into trashing your quads on that next downhill.

Bonus: the bottle will protect your hand if you ever dive headfirst into the trail. I may or may not have firsthand experience with this.

SF Marathon race report

Photo via Ultra Sports Live

Photo via Ultra Sports Live

Let me start by saying that I did not want to run this race. I’ve been training almost exclusively on the trails for my upcoming 50k so the thought of pounding out 26 miles on the road was not that exciting. But with that being said, it was a well-timed long run, a great venue to test my hill climbing strength, and a place to really nail down my fueling strategy for the 50k. I wasn’t planning to race it. But really, who am I kidding? It’s ALWAYS a race. My public goal was to not wreck my legs, but my secret goal was to place in the top 10. Even top 5 maybe. Last year I also ran the marathon as an “eh, it’s there I might as well” race. I negative split it in a big way and ran a 3:11, which was good for 7th female and 2nd in my age group. This year I was stronger, faster, and more prepared so I figured I could do at least that well without blowing myself up for the 50k. But I still told everyone I was keeping it casual in case things didn’t go well.

Cut to race morning, 5:30am. I’m in Wave 1, surrounded by all these tall, wiry elite-looking people, feeling just a bit out of my league. The guy on the mic started counting down. “3… 2…. 1………” We all stood there, finger on Garmin, waiting for a “GO!” or a bell or something. A few seconds pass before someone in the crowd yells “GO.” A few runners jump, and then eventually someone takes off so we all follow. Continue reading

Headlands 50k training update

Pirates Cove comes just a few miles into the 50k

Pirates Cove comes just a few miles into the 50k

On August 29th I’ll be running my first 50k race. You know what that means? Automatic PR. Yessss! I’ve changed my training fairly significantly for this race, so here’s a little rundown.

After Boston I was burned out big time- mentally and physically. Training for a road marathon with a very specific, aggressive goal is all-consuming for four months. And then when the race doesn’t go exactly like you hoped, there is major disappointment. Looking back now I know I ran the best race I could under really shitty conditions, but I was in a big funk for a while. The remedy for the post-marathon blues took me to the trails. I was so relieved to be back under the redwoods. No concern for hitting 6:50 pace, or taking an extra long water break, or any of the other pressures I put on myself. I was having fun again.

In the months leading up to my next race, the Tamalpa Headlands 50k, I’ve been focusing on three of my weakest areas: strength, hill climbing, and “easy” runs. Continue reading

Tahoe: my favorite place to run.

tahoe5 This photo pretty much sums up the way I feel about running in Tahoe. It’s just… that. much. fun. This weekend I ran a combined 36 miles on the trails and came away sunburned, mosquito bitten, and exhausted. It doesn’t get much better. I was a little nervous about doing such big mileage in Tahoe because of my less than stellar experience at altitude in Flagstaff. But luckily I had no issues at all. That 1,000 feet of elevation makes all the difference. Or my body was just extremely embarrassed of it’s poor showing last weekend and manned up to create some new red blood cells.

Photo Break. AKA catching my breath.

Photo Break. AKA catching my breath.

Saturday’s run was part of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Miler training weekend, 23 miles with only about 4,400 feet of elevation gain. The kicker was that over 1/3 of that elevation came within the first two miles. We started the run by heading straight up the Diamond Peak ski mountain, ducking in and out of the shadows of the ski lift. It was a great time to practice my power hiking. The hands-on-thighs technique worked pretty well for me, and I actually felt really strong going up and up. I think all my lunges and step ups and squats are finally paying off. It’s exciting to feel progress! The other 21 miles ran along the Tahoe Rim Trail, circled around the Red House Loop, and weaved back down the mountain on this mountain biking trail that was SO FUN. It had wide, banked turns on the switchbacks so naturally I was trying to catch some air. I had my wings spread and kept yelling “weeee!” on the way down. I probably looked like a maniac, but when you are having that much fun, who cares? Continue reading

Ultra Training Camp Recap

happy campers

happy campers

When I was a kid, I never got to experience summer camp because we’d pack up to England for 6 weeks to visit my mom’s family (poor me, right?). If I’ve learned anything from my best running buddy Ally, the camp experience is very special. So when I heard about an Ultra & Trail Running Camp hosted by Greg McMillan, of the McMillan calculator fame, and a few of his coaches (including mine, Emily Harrison), I jumped at the chance. A four day adult camp probably wouldn’t get me the same coming-of-age stories and lifelong friendships, but why not. I quickly forced my boyfriend to sign up with me, and then sat back and anxiously waited two months for camp to start.

Continue reading