To Chase a Unicorn One Must First Seek a Running Coach

 

youer-than-you

“If it’s still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk.” 

~Paulo Coelho

The days leading up to the 120th Boston Marathon were very intriguing and exciting for me. For one, I was taking the day-off from work to observe Patriot’s Day holiday, and of course, to watch the live coverage of the Boston marathon. I just could not miss live commentaries from Meb Keflezighi, Amy Cragg, Desiree Linden, and Shalane Flanagan. But that was just the icing on the cake!

Witnessing the hype for the upcoming Boston marathon on social media (and who does it better than IG!) was a decisive moment that if I were to have a shot in one day making running the Boston marathon a reality, I had to focus my energy and resources wisely. I sought a running coach’s help.

I thank the IG runners’ community for inspiring me even more with their hard work, training and now finally getting to make their dream a reality. It was through IG that I found a runner who happens to live in Orlando. She’s a strength coach and a very good runner. I DM her and she mentioned about an awesome running coach living in the Orlando area that perhaps could guide me in making my dream come true. Her name is Kristen and she is the owner of Strong Finish Run Coaching & Sports Nutrition. She’s also a RRCA Running Coach, a Sports Nutrition Specialist, a Boston marathon qualifier and a 120th Boston marathoner finisher! She is such an amazing runner that she got to re-qualify for next year’s Boston marathon!

Through a few e-mails exchanges with Kristen prior to the Boston marathon, I just knew I was running in the right course by seeking out her guidance. With her professional leadership and knowledge, and her upmost dedication to help other runners accomplish their dreams, I feel that the time is now to put 110% of all energy I got to become an efficient runner. I desire to one day in the near future line-up with incredible runners in Hopkinton and follow the steps of many historical and elite runners who makes the Boston marathon the holy grail of all marathons. I love running and I want to experience the Boston Marathon in my life time.

It was not by coincidence that Coach scheduled my first week of training to start on April 18th. I’m super excited and nervous at the same time. Never in my life I thought of having the professional assistance of a running coach; much less, being referred to as an “athlete”. This week’s weekday runs were full of ups-and-downs with thoughts of ‘I can do this!’ 🙂 to ‘how am going to get there’ 😦 to ‘ughh’ 😦 At least this Saturday’s easy 8-miler was a lot more enjoyable. Week 1 of BBG’s workouts planned by Kristen, has been super fun and has helped me to feel strong when I need the most. Her welcoming me to the Team has meant so much – more than words could possibly describe. And her reminder that everything is a “working in progress”, gives me some sense of peace with my training and learning curve.

SF

I just have to remind myself that everyone goes through pain during training and that the pain I’m feeling now is part of the process of getting stronger. Besides, it’s only week 1; I will get better and soon I’ll have a bunch of 1:1 sessions that will cement my running foundation. Focus on the positive, believe that the better is yet to come and materialize dreams. Whatever your dreams are, go for it! Have a great day awesome people! 😀

Seuss

“Don’t just chase your dreams. Run them down!

~The Fresh Quotes

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Perspectives from the 120th Boston Marathon

Patriots BAA

“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.”

~Bethany Hamilton

Happy Patriots’ Day! Happy Boston Marathon Day!!

Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts and Wisconsin and Patriot’s Day in Maine is an official state holiday celebrating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. Massachusetts and Maine have observed this civic holiday on the third Monday in April. While these three states seriously observe Patriots’ Day, Florida law simply encourages people to celebrate it, but it is not treated as a public holiday.

Well… this year I made my own observance of Patriots’ Day by taking a vacation day! Also, there was no way I would miss watching the live coverage of the 120th Boston Marathon. It would be extremely nice to run it instead of watching on TV, but I know that one day my time to line-up in Hopkinton will come. For now, I enjoyed every minute of the live coverage with tons of appreciation for what these elite runners and all other runners deserving of running the most prestigious marathon race there is: The One and Only One – The Boston Marathon!

Watching

#BostonStrong Go Runners!

Running a marathon is a life transformation. I thank my husband for awakening the runner inside of me when he first registered both of us to run the 2010 Disney Marathon. Even with all the pain and poor training preparation, I never thought it would be my last. The running flames inside of me rekindled back in August 2014, and I have never stopped since then. The 2016 Tomoka marathon, my second, is serving as a guide of how much more training and preparation I must follow.

You are never the same after you have run a marathon. There’s a sense and inspiration that anything is possible. For me it feels like a bridge connecting visualization and reality where the Universe conspires to help you if you know what you want and do accept its help. Watching the perseverance of dedicated human beings whether running on their own feet or on a wheelchair, handcycles; or being visually or mobility impaired (as listed by B.A.A. website), is beyond amazing. If they can find ways to prevail whatever challenges life throws at them, then be my guess – where there’s a will there’s a way! No excuse. Data below provided by B.A.A.

Wheelchairs
(M) 1 Marcel Hug 1:24:06
(F) Tatyana McFadden 1:42:16
Handcyles
(M) Freddie DeloSantos 1:15:10
(F) no data available
Women
Atsede Baysa 2:29:19
Men
Lemi Berhanu Hayle 2:12:45

It’s always fun watching a marathon race, but this time watching the Boston Marathon was super exciting because there were three people (one not associate with the group) I know who were running the race and some other runners that I’m yet to meet that are part of the Track Shack MarathonFest group. It’s nice to know and to be part of a running community that produces BQs – show up and put the work in and some more. One of the runners is Rose, who I had the privilege of running with in one of my long training run as she was training for Boston and I was training for Tomoka. Also a member of MarathonFest and now my running coach, Kristen, ran her first Boston Marathon and finished at an amazing time of 3:28. Following her track on the B.A.A. website was so inspiring and I’m fired up that she is my coach and I’ll be learning from a BQ on how to get there.

A runner doesn’t only get a runner’s high from running and finishing a race. A runner at heart gets his/her dose of runner’s high by also being a spectator and supporter. A runner respects another runner’s pain and appreciates their happiness – and that is so inspirational. Thanks for reading this post, awesome people 🙂 and stay tuned because in June I’ll be going on a vacation to Boston and I’ll be running all over the place XD

nature visualization

One of many early mornings of running. I felt an unique sense of gratitude on this day. It’s one of my favorite pictures. ❤

“Success will be within your reach only when you start reaching out for it.”

 ~Stephen Richards

2016 Tomoka Left Over = Recovery

Never Give Up

Healing is not an overnight process. It is a daily cleansing of pain, it is a daily healing of your life.  

~Leon Brown

I was amazed that my petite body was handling Tomoka Marathon so well. I ran out of energy, but my discomfort was manageable – or maybe I was just numb that I didn’t even realized how much stress I was subjecting my body to.

Crossing the finish line was so unreal and powerful for me. I felt that with determination, hard work and support from family and friends, anything is possible as long as the flame to do what it takes is burning. I walked around and enjoyed some of the post-race festivities, grabbed a slice of pizza and some beet/orange juice from Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice company. It was delicious!

On our way to the car, my husband even mentioned how surprised he was to see me not limping as much like some runners were. “I’m amazed that I’m not feeling so bad but I know it’s coming; however, the chaffing is bothersome”, I replied back to him with some enthusiasm. He drove us to the hotel and when it was time to get up and move… Oh my goodness! Why did I gloat on feeling ‘almost pain free’?

From the parking lot to the hotel entrance, to the elevator, to the room and to the shower, each step was becoming slower and slower. Not only was my left shin getting sore by the minute with each step taken, but the damn chaffing inward my right tight burned like hell with the contact of the cool-warm water from the shower. Yet, I was still running really high on ‘runners high’ – and it was worth it!

Marathon training has taught me to be in the present more than anything else I’ve done. Of course every now and then, I glimpse on what’s ahead, but I refocus right where I am. Here’s what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks of recovery-mode.

  • Enjoy the moment: I got up at 3:15 a.m. on race day to get going with my pre-race routine and get everything ready for the 6:30 a.m. race. From this time forward, I did not stop (nap? what nap?) for one minute. We headed to the hotel to check-out, grabbed something to eat, drove 1 hour ½ to get home, stopped by Kurt’s dad to pick up our pooch, R2-D2, and then we got home around 3:45 p.m. We immediately started to unpack and organize stuff and I headed out to meet my running family for dinner at Coach Chris’ favorite restaurant – Don Julios. I didn’t get back home until close to 7:00 p.m., took a shower, and ate some more, called my mom and caught up on social media updates. By the time I went to bed, it was around 11:00 p.m. It’s amazing the energy you can find and create when you love what you do and have fun with it. I would do it again in a heartbeat!
  • Stretching/Foam Rolling: I cannot imagine not stretching or using the foam roller during recovery phase or training. The benefits are tremendous in promoting circulation, flushing out lactic acid and regaining flexibility and range of motion.

Therapies

  • Spinning Workout: Any cardiovascular activity is a great activity mainly the ones that have low impact on joints, muscles, tendons and bones. A 30-minute or 6 miles on the bike has worked out well for me and I’ve noticed steady healing and decrease on soreness.
  • Ice bath: I’m a big fan of ice baths because I feel so refreshed afterwards. Throughout summer long runs training, I made ice baths a priority, but I don’t overdo. There’s still a big debate on whether ice baths impact the benefits of a hard workout in a sense that it precludes the body from adapting to inflammation; therefore, getting stronger. It’s debated that it’s more beneficial in closing the gap between a hard workout recovery to the next hard workout or race. I use my own judgment on that and tune-in to my body. I just finished listening to Meb Keflezighi’s audiobook, Run to Overcome, and he makes ice baths part of his recovery so I’m not going to argue with that – and do what works for you! I make ice baths less intimidating by filling out the bath tub with cold water to my waist, dropping the 10 lbs bag of ice, wearing a hoodie, sipping some hot ginger tea and catching up on some reading. You will not even notice when the ice starts to melt and the water gets colder!
  • Diet: Fueling the body properly after a strenuous workout deserves attention just as the same as doing any physical recovery methods. I’m a vegetarian, but the only animal-derived foods I consume are eggs, honey and occasionally cheese. I try to keep it simple by avoiding acidic-producing food (animal protein (meat), grain, sugar, fish, processed food, refined carb) and consuming more alkaline-producing food (fruits and vegetables). Lately, I’ve been craving my homemade kale juice and beet juice. I also have supplemented my diet with more chia seeds. Drink water, water and more water!
Kale juice

I’m addicted to Kale juice!

  • Yoga/mediation: Years ago, I started to attend Kundalini Yoga, but got side-tracked with other things. After being more involved with running and reading Running With The Mind of Meditation – Lessons for Training the Body and Mind by Sakyong Mipham, it has given me a different perspective – a positive approach in being aligned with the body, mind and all things surround. Just as meditation presents different phases of learning and evolution, running is the same, and I’m grasping the interchangeable energy of physical activity and spiritual alignment.

Meditation

  • Warm Epson Salt baths and Massage Therapy: When massage therapy is not available, Epson salt bath is the answer. After a stretching and foam rolling session, I find Epson salt baths to be the most beneficial for me. Here’s a cool link on the benefits of Epson salt baths. Foam rolling is really good, but a massage therapist’s help in finding those tight knots where you had no idea it existed; it’s like winning the jackpot.
  • Chiropractor adjustments, graston, compression and hot therapy: I see my chiropractor as needed. I don’t like to overdo on adjustments, so I usually have one done before my longest run of training, four days before a major race and after a race. The combination of graston, compression boots and hot therapy is a remarkable tool to aid the healing process.
compression

Ahhh yes! These compression boots are awesome! 🙂

These recovery methods have been very helpful, but the recovery progress is not as fast I’d like to be. Meb’s recovery time after running the Olympics qualification trials this past February took three weeks. The effort I put into this past race was a high level for me so I guess I can chill out because three weeks is about the average time for recovery. I didn’t get to run until one week after Tomoka; my calves and shins were sore still – a slow 4-miler was all I could do for the day. I decided to rest more and focus on active recovery for the following week. A week later, I ran an easy 1.5-miler as a warm up and a 3.1-miler run with more effort. In terms of soreness I felt better, but the itchy on my tights (lactic acid) and sluggish feeling could not have been more evident.

Patience and patience. That’s what I need to keep in mind and be grateful for the small and big things. Thanks for reading, awesome people!

Gratitude

“Pain is nothing compared to what it feels like to quit.”

~ seen on marathon spectator sign

 

 

2016 Tomoka Marathon: Is this it?!

C running

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you have imagined.” ~Henry David Thoreau

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

  ~ T.S. Eliot

It has been many months, many training runs and many mornings of anticipation for one morning of running. I was ready for Tomoka and nothing was going to stop me from finishing it – not even the weather.

The typical Florida weather did its thing as usual – toying with us on whether it was going to rain or not and on whether it was going to get hot like furnace or not. Considering its unpredictability, it could have been worse. At the start of the race at 6:30 a.m. and still dark, it was a stuffy 66°F and 94% humidity. I didn’t take chances in relying on water stops every other 1.5 mile so I carried my own fluids. I was stocked with nutrition – my favorite Sweet Potato & Sea Salt Cliff nutrition, Mango Huma gel and Chia peanut butter chocolate bar. I also had two electrolyte and two ibuprofen pills – just in case.

Huma

Huma gels are my favs – and it’s 100% vegan!

Clif

Yummy stuff!

The 1-miler mark came pretty quick, actually, and I was greeted by a faint, and yet, a powerful tone of voice saying: 25 more miles to go!” It was my husband. It was great seeing him, but not being reminded of the mileage ahead of me. I was getting hot already, and the fact that the sun was not out, wasn’t very optimistic. I stopped to remove my running top. It felt better and lighter, but I was still hot and my heart rate higher than I wanted. On the next water stop, I made sure to grab the half-filled-tiny-cup-of-water and poured it over my head.

The beauty of the Tomoka course filled with mature trees, beautiful architecture, and the fragrance of water from the marsh and the Halifax River helped distract my mind from the heat. I decided that the weather and my body would serve as a guide towards the best way to approach this journey. I did my best to cover as many miles as I could before the sunlight was full out. I was grateful that my body was somewhat okay with that strategy since calves and shin discomfort had been an issue.

By the 10-miler, I felt an unusual right knee discomfort, and by then, day light was out, but a little cloudy with possibility of rain. I acknowledged the discomfort while asking my knee to stay strong and let go of the pain. Again, the beauty of the course grabbed my attention to the nature surround me. The anticipation of meeting my husband at the 13-miler helped me to refocus and the information on the Pose Method of Running book kept me mindful of my running form. The pain went away and I felt like I could run strong.

At mile 10ish

At mile 10ish

At about the 11-miler, raindrops started to fall. It felt refreshing while I wished to stay that way instead of becoming a heavy rainfall. Having it finished my sweet potato/sea salt Cliff nutrition, I decided to take the two ibuprofen pills and one electrolyte pill at the 12-miler. I wanted to be pro-active and assure that it was a fun race.

I mistaken my husband thinking he was one of the race personnel camera guy taking my picture at the 13-miler water/Gatorade stop – all I noticed was the camera. I kept going and only slowed down when I heard him calling my name. It was encouraging to see him. He provided me with my during-activity drink and ice. It was so hot that I used the ice to put it inside my sports bra. Whether it was the sports drink placebo effect or not, I felt confident and reenergize. Knowing that I would see my husband again at the 16, 19 and 21-miler was also exciting. His support helped breakdown the long distance and solitude.

My husband's support and encouragement made a HUGE difference!

My husband’s support and encouragement made a HUGE difference!

Despite of having the luxury of such support (not everyone is as lucky as I am); the truth of the matter was that my pace was all over the place. The best pace came at the 17-miler as 10:19 min/mi, the medium pace at the 23-miler as 11:38 min/mi and the worst pace at the 26-miler a “yippee” 13:41 min/mi. Right off the start, I felt this race was going to be one that I had to do everything I could that was under my control not to go sour.

I wished for a sub-5 marathon, but the “wall” raised up around mile 23ish with the sight of the bridge on W. Granada Blvd. I kept pushing through. When I made the turn to climb the bridge, the will power to move my legs was non-existent. I only had the energy to walk through the highest point of the bridge. I picked up pace again at the top of the bridge only to take a quick walk at the end of the bridge. I decided to just go ahead and finish it, and somehow, I found the power to run towards the finish line.

Bridge view

Ugh!

I wanted nothing more than to finish and to put an end to my husband’s and my coach’s wait. When I saw the rug that covered the timer and crossed the finished line, a quick thought came to mind: “is this it?” It felt unreal. I saw my husband on the side line and in a split of a second, I saw Coach Chris holding my medal. She gracefully put it around my neck. I started crying immediately; gave her a “sweaty” hug (she didn’t mind), and soon after, my husband as he made his way through the volunteers giving out medals to other marathoners. I was hugging my husband in tears. Coach Chris’ husband, Steve, was there too. He had the thoughtful idea of suggesting that she award me with the medal. For that, I am very grateful. It was so unexpected and the days of training came all together in that moment.

Is this it? - that's the thought it came to mind as I saw the blue rug on the finish line.

Is this it? – that’s the thought it came to mind as I saw the blue rug on the finish line.

Six years ago I struggled to finish my first marathon at 6:46:48. This time, I finished with a little more grace, smiles and relatively pain free with a timing of 5:01:48. I only had a one-stop potty break at mile 15ish – and that was a real bathroom (no lines) inside the state park. Yippee!

Finish with K

Kurt was exhausted! 🙂

Group Pic

Coach Chris PR’ed!

It’s a big step forward for which I am grateful. This accomplishment would not be possible without the caring and support of my husband, my family, my running family and friends. The journey has only began. I am so happy!K&C Selfie
Tomoka Medal

“A marathoner is a marathoner regardless of time. Virtually everyone who tries the marathon has put in training over months, and it is that exercise and that commitment, physical and mental that gives meaning to the medal, not just the day’s effort, be it fast or slow. It’s all in conquering the challenge.”

~Mary R. Wittenberg