Craft Classic Atlanta Half Mary Bang!

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“Being specific about what you want and how you will achieve it helps you say no to things that derail progress, distract your attention, and pull you off course”.

~James Clear, Atomic Habits

After a year and a half drought from racing half marys, I was ready to race Craft Classic in Atlanta. I was ready to put into a test the fitness buildup I’ve worked on so hard with Coach Dave and to have a glimpse of what was possible for Baystate in the upcoming month.

Every race has a purpose and I chose them carefully. There’s the analytical approach of selecting a race, and most importantly, an energy connection of why I choose a certain race. Craft Classic Atlanta was the perfect race for my timing. It was an out of state race, it lined up well with my marathon date and training schedule; the weather was slightly manageable to race, and the course appeared to be hilly. It was hard to detect how challenging the course was on paper or from the images of the course preview. However, it still provided an idea that I would have to work. How much work? Well, that became clear only on my way to Atlanta and while touring Atlanta with a runner’s eye.

Months after months I have been putting in the work on the track, pavement and on the dirt roads of the Serengeti (Clermont Clay Loop). The amount of physical effort I have worked on can be seen through my data. However, the amount of mental effort and work I have been developing is still a work-in-progress and yet, cannot be quantified. In anticipation of Craft Classic and Baystate, I worked with sports psychologist, Adrienne Langelier, a contributor to Kara Goucher’s book Strong, who has also worked with many other athletes and Olympians. I wanted to work with the best and do my very best on this journey. I was ready to play hard.

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I did the work. I studied the course to the best of my abilities with what I had. I was ready to play and have fun. It was party-on-the-pavement day, as my friend Leah says. As every race goes, peeing minutes before the gun goes off is a must. It isn’t a surprise that the potty line was a mile long; therefore, I crossed the start line by myself. No biggy.

From the get-go I was faced with a downhill, and of course, the uphill is right around the corner. Perhaps with half mile in, I saw my hubby cheering me on which helped me a little bit to remain calm. But the enthusiasm was short lived because right after waving at him, I was faced with another uphill. It was steep and I was analyzing how to maintain the pace my coach assigned for this race. This is where MENTAL FITNESS started to payoff and getting put into practice. As my coach said, the first 5K is about feeling it and getting into the flow. My psych coach said to be aware of distractions and work with them, while my philosophical and gut instinct is to breathe, stay calm, work with the problem to find a solution.

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After 3.1 miles of feeling it out and seeing nothing but hills and downhills, and cuts after cuts, I realized that, THAT IS IT! THAT IS IT, Celia. This is what you got. The entire course will be composed of uphill, downhill, curves and cuts. There was a sense of tranquility after acknowledging this distraction. I knew what I needed to do, and that is, work with the course. This has been the staple of my runs, daily trainings and life. I work with what I have; I take pride on that, I don’t force anything; I’ll take what is given to me, and I will find a way to get it done to the best of my abilities given a particular circumstance.

At the 10K mark, the goal still had not changed. My focus was still on managing my energy, my race and focusing on a PR. However, another distraction showed up and now I was facing the “pace chart” distraction. I was off the pace that my coach assigned. I start to feel concerned and noticed my breathing trying to get out of control. So, guess, what? I worked with it and I eliminated it. I stopped looking at my watch for the pace. I had to precisely focus on feel while knowing that I had to push and embrace discomfort a little kinder.

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By mile 10, the pounding, the cuts, the ups and downs started to take its toll. By mile 11 my left quad was feeling the pounding of the massive downhill I was running on. I looked at it and I could sense that there could be consequences. It was then that my mental fitness shifted to the next gear. The power of meditation practice and visualization techniques were being presented to me. I could hear my coach telling me how great it would be to race a hilly course. At this point, I felt an immense sense of gratitude and the struggle shifted to enjoyment instead of pain. This next level of gratitude allowed me to relate and visualize my favorite athlete’s struggle while doing the same thing I was doing. I imagined Eliud Kipchoge’s mannerism and eloquent form at the 40km marker of his race. I felt fortitude in his strength and created the same for me.

I carried this feeling with me to the finish line and crossing it strong as if I had done this before. This race is so special to me on so many levels. It is the first race I have ever won a first place in AG. However, it is the mental strength I brought in today and how I handled distractions that made extra special.  I was mesmerized by the hills and its difficulty. Hills are a matter of perception. It is subjective from person to person. Love or hate them, I choose to love them.

Final Score:

1:49:31 – PR – 1st AG – my very first AG on any race!

“Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from an indomitable will.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

Best Damn Race: Yes and No, but Yes

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“When falling short on a race goal, peace is found knowing and feeling you never gave up, not matter what the odds, and by giving your all.”

~Celia Westbrook

February was a hard month of training and a hard month dealing with health issues. My mom was here visiting us from Brazil, and although I (we) made it work, it was hard to balance out family time and training. Had not been for health issues, I think I’d had done a better job at that.

Despite losing one week of training, I did the best I could to control what I could control. I’d say that for this race I nailed on nutrition because I was already prepping to race without my husband’s assistance carrying my fuel and meeting me at a certain mile marker. I also nailed mental toughness. Hours of mental strength training listening to audiobooks – my last one before this race was Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover, a MUST listen/read to anyone – watching marathons and Kenyans running documentaries, all paid off.

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This race has taught me how to best deal with race technicalities and to really consider the challenges that the course brings. I knew there would be cobblestone/brick roads, I just didn’t think that while running it would feel THIS overwhelming. I ran OUC last year which includes a similar route to Best Damn Race, but this was the worse. OUC counts for 2 miles of cobblestone/brick roads, this one is probably 4 miles worth of it. I PR’ed at OUC (1:50:54) and I ran on the course the whole race. Hence, I was out of running for two weeks after the race due to a horrible case of tendinitis on my left foot that had signs of stress reaction. Yeah, that’s horrible. Whereas at BDR, I minimized this terrain, but it cost me time AND no injury!

It took me a while to see the good things about this race’s performance. Gratitude is everything to me and it enriches my perspective. I could not be happier than knowing that my mom was there waiting for me to cross the finish line and that she would be wearing my medal. That was the best gift of all and I will be forever grateful. Without further ado, let’s run with me in this recap!

MILE 1-5 = 8:57 / 8:50 / 8:37 / 8:41 / 8:43

The weather was a nice 53 degrees; my mom could not believe I was removing my jacket and singlet. I finished my GU mix of water, did a last-minute potty stop to empty the bladder (I’d only pee in my pants if a BQ was at stake), grabbed my mix of GenUcan 10oz disposable bottle, and an overcrowded starting got me in the back of the pack. Hence, dodging through runners and running on the sidewalk trying to minimize running on brick/cobblestone road for the first .50 mi of the race already! More bricks and more sidewalk to come plus getting stuck behind a pack at the entrance of Lake Underhill Park. I tried to keep my cool and a lot of the negative thoughts shut. It was a hard.

MILE 6-10 = 8:25 / 8:21 / 8:21 / 8:15 / 8:20

From mile 6 forward it felt like I saw green pasture. I tried my best to stay below 8:25 pace, but the tough route with more cobblestone road in sight made tough. By mile 10 I had already finished my mix of GenUcan and I felt a steady flow of energy but my legs were definitely about to get tired.

MILE 11-13.1 = 8:30 / 8:31 / 7:53 / .10 @  7:24

Yup, my legs were getting tired and for some reason it felt that I was running a 8:10 pace to only realize it was 8:30/8:31 ughh. From the get go of this race, it felt out of my control and playing catch up in doing the best I could to adjust to where I wanted to be and feel. I’m still trying to figure out why miles 10-12 are the hardest for me. I didn’t feel a crash; otherwise I’d not had ran a 7:53 for mile 13.  At mile 11 I knew my chances to PR was non-existent, but I guess denial or persistence won because I never gave up giving my all.

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I am thrilled and grateful!

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“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not the attainment. Full effort is full victory.” 

Mahatma Gandhi

150 Miles Club

“The Road to Easy Street Goes Through the Sewer.”

~John Madden


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Woot! Woot! I made in the #150mileclub It took me a day to digest that I actually ran 150 miles for the month of January. It amazes me that with the right training, right coach and proper recovery, the body can push just a little more each time.

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Now I know exactly how my body feels what is like to run 150 miles for the month, and I’d say, it’s pretty exciting and exhausting. However, the runner’s high takes over.

The month of January started out a little rocky. Coming out of the runner’s high from closing the 2017 year with 1,028 miles, took me some time to get adjusted for it all was going to start again. The difference was: it was going to start harder and tougher than ever before. The grind of waking up early for runs, strength training, transcendental meditation, stretching – and all before work, was getting brutal on my body and mind. Trying to find balance was again a challenge.

I usually don’t bother much as to how many miles I can bank in a month. I usually go week by week, day by day. But when the half of the month starts to approach, then I start to take a glimpse of how many miles I’m about to close the month.

Based on January’s training plan, the weeks were leading me up to close the month at 143. I recalculated numerous times and the miles added up to 143. I just could not believe it! So of course that being so close to 150, my highest yet, I could not let this opportunity go by.

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I started to add the additional 7 miles sporadically throughout the runs. Two miles were added in a LR with my friend Krista, and additional 1 mile cool down on a LR+tempo run and 4 miles on a family run with my husband and puppy, R2-D2. These 3 were my recovery run and a comeback road run for my husband, which was done on a 3:1 interval. The last mile, I ran at my recovery pace. It was 6 consecutive days of running to actually make to 150 miles for the month. The only extra day added was on a Sunday which was the 3:1 run; everything else was already scheduled on the calendar. I just needed to get it done.

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So excited to have mom visiting for a few weeks!

The only drawback of running 150 miles for the month was managing my scheduled to include strength training. It was a lot to manage and I felt failing behind in including strength training and physical therapy workouts. On the plus side, I now have the feel of what will take to adjust to marathon training schedule. It is scary. But it is also exciting.

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Cheers to a new month!

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have”.

~Vince Lombardi 

There’s NO PR Without Pain

“Someone once told me not to bite off more than I can chew. I told them I would rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity”.

~Unknown

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There’s no doubt I ran OUC half hard with grit and pleasure on pursuing a big-time PR. I ran strong and everything felt in sync, except that my foot got tired of the 2.5 miles of brick road and wearing race/tempo shoes. As they say, there is NO PR without pain. So here’s how it went.

20-minute Post Race:

Just about 20-minutes after the race as my body is starting to cool off but still running high on runner’s high, I felt a flare on the lateral of my left foot. I told my husband I felt something sharp on my foot and I thought that perhaps it was from the edge of my Superfeet insole. I stretched and putting on my flip flops. The pain went away and I proceeded with the post-race festivities, visiting vendors’ tents, meeting IG friends and searching for some running friends until it was time to go home.

At Home:

At home I got to stretch a little bit before it was time to take a shower and head out with my husband to an introductory sesh of Transcendental Meditation course we wanted to sign up. I feeling very good, nothing really bothered me at all. After the course, we headed back home and I was finally able to relax, wear my compression socks while sipping on ginger latte to diminish any inflammation I might had.

By the evening time, my foot was starting to ache. I massaged and iced. By the time I started to settle-in in bed, the pain was intense. It did not stop. I had to take pain medicine to be able to fall asleep. By morning, my foot was really swallowed up, the pain was still sharp and localized in one spot. I was scared. I limped to the homegym for a stretching sesh and I barely could wrap the stretch wrap on my foot, much less use R3. All I could do was to massage my foot.

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I spent the entire day on the couch watching football while my foot was wrapped in a towel with ice packs. During that time, my foot seemed to feel better, but as soon as I needed to walk, the pain was right back. At night time, the pain usually got worse, especially when I laid down in bed. I just could not fall sleep as the pain tended to become intense. I had my foot elevated and wrapped with ice pack. It was another sleepless and painful night. By now I was petrified that perhaps I suffered a stress fracture; just because the way the pain was manifesting and intensifying without much relief.

I make my own Doctor’s Appointment:

Comes Monday morning and I was up at 6:00 a.m. with eyes wide open. I was on a mission to be seen by Dr. Mason, my podiatrist, and NO I did not had an appointment. I am an athlete and I just could not take a NO for an answer, so I went there, checked-in and waited to be seen. I said that I could wait for as long as I had to. I’m grateful that Dr. Mason is a kind doctor who is also a runner and cyclist. He knows me well, and if I was there, it was because it was a serious situation.

After a 90-minute wait, my name was called. I actually double-checked if Brian had called my name. I was thrilled. Dr. Mason entered the examination room surprised to see me, and for a moment, I was apologetic for showing up without an appointment. But he immediately started to take care of my foot and directed me straight to the X-Ray room. Thank you Heavens the X-Ray didn’t show anything, but because my pain was so unbearable, he ordered an MRI with a follow up appointment in 7-days. I was prescribed with anti-inflammatory meds but no cortisone shot because he wanted to make sure I was being treated for inflammation and not an actual stress fracture.

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I left his office feeling a little more relieved. I was still worried because the pain was still present and strong, but at least I had something to take care of the inflammation. At home, I was still icing it and drinking ginger tea and tart cherry juice to help out with my healing. Mentally, I was trying to stay as positive and calm as possible. Three-days after the race, and I was still limping pretty bad but it was only Day-2 on anti-inflammatory meds, which Dr. Mason predicted that I should be feeling better my Day-4. Day-4 after the race I was starting to walk normal. The pain was dissipating and my hopes were blighting up. On this same day, I had my MRI scheduled and I was happy to get it done. The week progressed with great results, inflammation and pain was fading and healing was at full-force.

Dr. Mason’s Follow Up Visit:

It was great to go back to see Dr. Mason without any pain this time. As he went over my MRI results, he was glad to have it ordered because the report mentioned “suspicious stress reaction”. I was happy to hear no stress fracture, but at the same time, I realized how close it was from actually being one or a stress reaction. He recommended no-running for another four days. Of course I cried by telling I was feeling better and that I was already on no-running for the past 9 days. He then changed his mind and allowed me to run easy on the next day. However, I was still uncomfortable with the idea.

Reporting to the Coach:

Well after receiving some good news, I had to share with my coach to have some running back on the schedule. To my surprise, Coach Victoria’s reply wasn’t what I was expecting. She didn’t schedule or clear me to run just yet. She wanted me to give more time for healing. I was emotional and worried that going on a 15-day streak without running, I was going to have to start everything from scratch like I did before. After some pep-talk and uplifting feedback, I came to realize that it was for the best. It was best to give more time for healing. If I were to lose some fitness, it would not be by much because I know I am strong and I do have untapped speed in me.

Focus on Recovery:

Recovery. Recovery. Recovery. It was not different this time; keep doing what needs to be done. I am glad that I scheduled my monthly chiropractor appointment with Dr. Sabrina a day after seeing Dr. Mason. I reported to her what happened, Dr. Mason’s and MRI’s findings and my coach’s recommendations. Dr. Sabrina did her usual thing of adjusting my body and providing incredible guidance on body mechanics and strength methods to work properly with my body mechanics. She concluded that my injury simply was a “circumstantial injury”. There was nothing I could have done based on the circumstances of the race and how hard I ran. The only difference perhaps was not wearing a race/tempo shoe on brick road, but that was too late. Moving forward, I will be focusing on strength routine for my beautiful peroneus muscles. Having graston technique done on my feet was something to be remembered for sure!

Do What You can So You Can Do What You Want to Do:

There is not a boring moment if you are runner. Even if running is not an option, there was plenty of other things to do that will supplement running. Stretch and roll is a must do every day whether I’m actively running or not. So on the days I wasn’t running, I was working to get ready for running. I did some yoga, core work, some weight work, rowing, sauna and I walked for 10 miles on Disney Day. Kurt and I have our annual Disney Day and between visiting Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot, I’m pretty sure I logged 10 miles easily for the day. Too bad that my Garmin died at mile 6.65.

Get Back in Business 100% Healthy

I was so excited to get back into running again and very grateful that Krista didn’t mind going for a 3-mile run on Saturday. I felt good throughout my run, but at times, I noticed that my body was still trying to figure out what was happening after 15-days of no running. Krista acted as if I was on taper for 15-days and this run was my “race day” as she picked up the pace at mile 2 at 8:46 pace. It was a great run and I was still “on observation” as I was mindful on how my foot would feel after this run.

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First Run Post OUC Half Marathon

The following week started to look like a normal training schedule and I was gradually picking up where I left off. My husband and I made sure that Transcendental Meditation is now part of our lives and routine with two 20-minute sesh daily. I am in love with Transcendental Meditation! It’s the simplest thing ever. I was never able to dig into meditation and follow through, but practicing TM technique it is possible to follow through. I feel centered, grounded, focused, positive and calm. My running is becoming more relaxed, focused and breathing is more settled which helps me with my performance.

This week’s fartlek was fun and emotional at the same time. I exceeded the recommended pace and I felt that my body was ready to give me these paces; otherwise, I wouldn’t never pushed this much. I was watching Breaking 2 Special (again), but this time it felt different. I felt more alert and more connected with Kipchoge. I felt his moment of distress as he was pushing his limit, and yet, he appeared so calm and relaxed. And so I cried, as I was finishing up my 6 miles for the day with so much gratitude and humbleness. It is a beautiful thing to watch and feel someone chasing their dreams; knowing and feeling how hard it is. All of the sudden, I didn’t feel so alone chasing mine because it is just a matter of time until it becomes real.

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2 mile warm up; 6 minutes @ 9:00 pace; 4 minutes @ 8:30 pace; 2 minutes @ 8:00 pace
2 minute jog in between; Cool down to mileage

I am enthusiastic for the new year and to find out what my body and mind can do; where running will take me this time. But first, respecting the body and mind is a priority. Recover well, I must. That’s rule # 1 in chasing dreams.

Cheers!

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“Hope is a waking dream.”

~Aristotle

2017 OUC Half Marathon: It’s All Going Down Hill From Here

“Running teaches us that we are capable of so much more than we ever imagined.

~PattiSue Plumer


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As always, I was eager to run the OUC half marathon. It’s my favorite race and it is the last race of the year for me. The one thing I’m not a fan of it is the long and patchy stretch of brick road – that I really can’t stand but I deal with it. When I was with the Track Shack group, I was exposed to brick roads every weekend in the areas of Winter Park. I became accustomed to it and it was nothing new on race day. But since training on my own and with my #runsquad in Ocoee/Winter Garden area, I haven’t really run as much on brick road. I still do run on brick in the Ocoee downtown area, but it’s usually not more than 400 m at a time.

But let’s forget about the brick road for a moment, as I apparently had forgotten all about it when I finally found a tempo/race shoes in Asics DS Trainer 22. I fell in love with it and it loved me back. It was a mutual feeling. Weighting only 6.8 oz, I felt I could fly during my tempo and fartleks runs. I was sure that I was running OUC in my DS Trainer 22, or should I say, in Pre (yes I name all my running shoes!).

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Asics DS Trainer 22

Even up to the start of the race, it was never even a thought that perhaps the DS Trainer 22 could be a problem for my feet. As I entered the first stretch of brick, then a lightbulb lit up. Too late! I was too focus on my race. I was driven and determined to reach my greedy goal or at least to come very close from reaching it. For the first time in a race, I was in the ZONE!

Here’s the race recap:

MILE 1 – 5= 8:21/8:27/8:38/8:23/8:19

Per Garmin, start of the race was at 64 degrees with 94% humidity, yikes! Started off with the 1:55 pacer group and carried a disposable bottle with my mix of Chocolate Explosion GU & Water. Yummy! Tasted like chocolate almond milk and SAVES ME A LOT OF MINUTES as my fuel is ready to be consumed at any time I need. Mile 1 at 8:21, I thought it was way too fast, but I stayed relaxed and with the group. Congested areas, brick road and water stop, helped slowed down the pace a bit. Closing mile 3 at 8:38 and feeling being held, I decided to leave the 1:55 group and kick in my greedy gear. I felt strong and confident in the early stage of the race.

MILE 6-10:= 8:15/8:18/8:15/8:22/8:23

I was on my own pace and feeling strong. My GU intake in sporadic sections of the race was paying off with steady energy. Kurt was on his bike and the plan was to meet me around Mile 4 with my UCan drink, but that didn’t happen. It was not until mile 7 that I saw Kurt. And guess what? My drink wasn’t in the backpack! Kurt thought I put in the backpack, but I left it in the cooler. Because I mentioned it was in the cooler, I thought he would check and put in the backpack. I said I needed it with a hint of panic but maintaining my cool, and if he could go back in the car and meet me even at mile 10, it would be of great help. So he went back to the car. I did my thing and stay focused on my race. But my GU mix had been gone since mile 7.

MILE 11-13.20= 8:35/8:45/8:28 / .20 @ 7:17

From mile 11 forward, in my opinion, it’s the most challenging part of the OUC course. I was starting to feel my energy going down, but I stay focused and pushed for the 8:xx pace range. Approximately 2.5 miles of the course is all on brick road. I remember at mile 11 thinking that my feet was taking a beating, and by mile 12,  I was getting really tired of the brick and needed my UCan more than ever. Exactly at mile 12 Kurt handed my UCan drink and I couldn’t’ drink it fast enough! Mile 12 at 8:45 was certainly the hardest as the sun was beating down hard. I really tried to push more but my legs were tired and didn’t have much energy to pull it from. But even then, I managed a 7:32 pace in the last 800 m to cross the finish line at 1:50:54. My goal was under 1:50, so that was pretty close 🙂

Crossing the finish line again under 2, but this time  with enough buffer was amazing! My effort allowed for a 8:41 PR, that’s a lot of minutes shed. I never thought that one day I would be running a 8:27 AVG pace half marathon. It has been truly an enlightening experience and journey. For the first time, I felt being in the zone and experiencing a  transcend moment. The best way I can summarize what it meant to me is: a sense of gliding through space, being in control and confident.

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As soon as I crossed the finish line, it felt that was snapped out of the moment I was in. It took me a minute or two to start breathing calmly, even though I thought my breathing was stable, and to be able to talk full sentences. My friend Krista, who works with the race management, came towards me with so much happiness asking if I was okay and about Kurt’s whereabouts. All I could do was to give her a hug, give a thumbs up and point my finger somewhere around the crow as a way of saying that Kurt was somewhere out there. I really just wanted to stop in the middle of the road, but she kept me guiding towards the exit of the corral until she had to go back to work.

I kept walking and looking for Kurt at the same, but I just have a hard time finding him in a crowd. After I had chat with some social media friends who had raced, Kurt finally came in towards me. You know the drill, Kurt wears the medal every time! I couldn’t ask for a better execution of this performance. I have grown so much, both physically and mentally. It was a strong race throughout and I’m very proud of my achievements. Having Kurt’s support means the world to me and I couldn’t ask for a better run coach than Coach Victoria Phillippi with Run4Prs. I have PR’ed in every race since becoming her athlete.

Bring it on 2018!

 

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“It comes down to one simple thing: How Bad Do You Want It?”

 

P.S. If you want to know more about my feet, that’s for the next blog posting!

Chasing Mental Strength: Post Race Recovery and the Beginning of a New Training Cycle

“No human is limited. It’s not about the legs. It’s about the heart and mind. With a strong heart and good mind you can do it. If you don’t rule your mind it can rule you.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

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There’s no doubt racing JAX Marine Corps half marathon under 2 hours demanded a great deal of energy – pre, during and post-race. I was running on runner’s high for a week and excited to turn down a notch with training because I had a valid justification to do little and simple recovery work such as PT workouts, stretching, rolling and spinning. The only issue I had to address were my sore calves which after 4 days of no running I was good to go. It felt good to run 5 miles on the treadmill with no pressure or discomfort. It was also nice to run 8 miles on Saturday as my LR and feeling that I was well-recovered.

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Great run with my friend Krista

One week recovery was enough, so that meant that I was easing right back into training for another 13.1, the OUC half marathon on December 2 in my neighborhood downtown Orlando.  Coach Victoria didn’t waste time planning my training calendar, and there it was, WEEK 1 Training OUC starting with 3 easy miles on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 8 mile on Saturday.

Physically I did very well completing all my weekday runs. But then when Saturday hit, I wanted nothing to do with running. I was tired of getting up early and getting runs done. All of the sudden, I felt my mind and body wanting to shut it down. I could sense my mind sending signals to my body that all the hard work I had done for JAX Marine Corps would have to restart all over again and harder!

I got up at 5:00 a.m. and it was a no go. Got up at 7:00 a.m. and nope! Finally decided to get up whatever the time I wanted and run whatever miles my body felt okay running. Thankfully, the weather was somewhat fresh that I was able to get out the door at 10:20 a.m., which for me is as if I were running at 3:00 p.m.. My mind thought about getting 3 miles in, then it turned to 4 miles, but I was happy and peaceful with just 5 miles out of the 8 scheduled.

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WEEK 2 Training OUC arrived fast like a laser, but I was not ready for a Monday run. To that end, I wasn’t ready for a tempo run scheduled on Tuesday either. So I decided on 4 easy on Tuesday and pushed my tempo for Wednesday. The sad thing is, I wasn’t ready for a tempo period. Feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I reached out to Coach Victoria and asked for a pass on that tempo run so that I could regroup and move on forward with week. I am glad I did because my LR+tempo on Saturday was a great run which I exceeded the recommended paces.

5 mi up = 9:26 pace 
20 minutes @ HMP (8:45-9:05) = 8:28 pace
5 minute recovery jog
20 minutes @ HMP (8:40 – 9:00) = 8:19 pace
Cool down to mileage 1 mi @ 9:06  – 11 miles total
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WEEK 3 Training OUC came along and the fact that I was now going on my second week without Newton (my treadmill) was simply miserable and mentally hard to keep going. During a software update, the treadmill iFit software froze. There was nothing to be done but to wait for Pro Form’s slow process of sending me a SD card with the software update. It took them 6 days to process my claim and another 6 days to receive the SD card via UPS. I was going crazy!

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But eventually it arrived, my husband fixed the treadmill and I was back in business – just in time for my fartleks and more tempo runs. At this point, I was more mentally ready to keep moving forward but I still felt that I needed to be fed with lots of inspirational methods such as TB12 Method audiobook, watching Kenyan runners’ documentaries and marathons while I got my run on Newton.

My breakthrough workout came in a few days later in Week 4, and it was worth the wait! I had a 7-miler strength run on the plan. I wanted to get it done early in the morning, but I really lacked energy and decided to get it done after work.

2 mi easy warm up
3 x 1 miles @ 7:55 – 8:10 pace
With .25 jog recovery in between
Cool Down to mileage – 7 miles total

And here’s what I got:

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2 mi up @ 10:14
3 x 1 mile = 8:04 / 7:56 / 7:49
1.27 mi cd @ 9:04

Seriously! This was the best feeling so far! I could not believe I was able to reach 7:49 pace and still feel wonderful while running it and not grasping for air as much. This was such a confidence boost – just what I needed it. Next, I had another tempo run for Week 5 which was taper week. I was very happy with this run – a 1 mile warm up with a 4-mile tempo @ 8:10-8:30 which I managed an 8:28 avg. run for a total of 7 miles and an 8:54 avg pace.

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Until then, it was all about banking the mileage, staying healthy and enjoying Thanksgiving weekend. But for Week 6 I had a 4-mile pace work just to tune up for race. Although I didn’t like the 94% humidity that morning, I was glad to exceed the recommended pace.

1 mi up = 9:56
1 mi @ 9:00 = 8:56
1 mi @ 8:45 = 8:32
1 mi cd = 9:14
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There’s no doubt that this short training cycle of just 6 weeks was tough as well. JAX Marine Corps cycle was different in a sense that I was dealing with summer temperatures and still getting acclimated to speed work. OUC on the other hand, my brain already had an idea of what was coming which required a lot more of mental strength and discipline to get me moving forward. I must say that a cooler weather in Florida lately has helped a great deal. For that reason, I don’t feel so intimated for a speed workout like I used to. And I know that I’m capable of pushing the pace.

I’m grateful to close this training cycle with 141 miles and to go into another race 100% healthy.  I am ready for OUC and I’m confident that I will reach another big PR. With that, I close November strong for a total of 118 miles.

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With gratitude, let’s do this!

“Passion is a choice. You need to choose to be great. It’s not a chance, it’s a choice.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

Breaking2 13.1: Piece of Cake Recovery

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“No Rest is worth anything. Except the rest that is earned.”

~Unknown

JAX Marine Corps half marathon is in the books and it will be one to remember. The hard training, the mental challenge, and the climate adaptation to the minor details – it has all paid off. It’s not one thing I did, it was everything I did under my control.

After 12-weeks of training for a total of 307 miles for the cycle, 13.1 (Garmin stats 13.26) in 1:59:35, I am fortunate to exit this cycle and finish a race 100% healthy! I never thought that my body would be able to hold on to such a demand – miles and speed training. And that’s exactly what I need my body and mind to do in order to keep moving forward to attain my dream – to adapt, grow and recover.

If you dig in deeper in my blog, you’ll see previous posting on recovery methods (stretching, rolling, tens units, chiro adjustments, cryo therapy, ice baths, Epsom salt baths, nutrition, etc) sharing what I have been doing, my routine and focus to avoid setbacks. The result of this race and thereafter has shown me that what I’m doing is working for me, and it’s possible that it could work for you too! My post-race issue: sore calves. That’s it!

As soon as we got in the hotel after the race, Kurt was kind to give me a sesh of active isolate stretching on both of my calves and also some pliability work as Tom Brady uses daily and explains in his TB12 Method book. I could feel the release of lactic acid immediately and also the flexibility back.

Leading up to recovery week, I did not rush the recovery process. I allowed rest on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before I went back to running. It the meantime, my recovery days were like this:

SUNDAY (day after the race)

  • 20-minute Spin Sesh – 21:33 / 6.5 miles

5:00 low resistance – warm up

5:00 moderate resistance

5:00 hard resistance (hill)

5:00 low resistance – cool down

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

  • Tens Units Sesh – 1:00:00

It’s Sunday afternoon football, so I got to use the time wise J

MONDAY

  • 20-minute Spin Sesh – 20:45 / 7.0 miles

5:00 low resistance – warm up

5:00 moderate resistance

5:00 hard resistance (hill)

5:00 low resistance – cool down

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

  • Tens Units Sesh – 50:00

TUESDAY

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

WEDNESDAY

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Yes to Mental Break Day!

  • Mental Break Day – off from everything including stretching! I used this day to allow my body to soak in everything I have been doing up to this day. My mind clearly needed a day-off as well in order to regroup from training, race and recovery.

THURSDAY

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Back at it!

  • First recovery run – 5.0 miles / 52:33 / 10:30 / AVG HEART RATE / 156
  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

FRIDAY

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

SATURDAY

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Super fun run with Krista!

  • Mid-Run Recovery Run – 8.0 miles / 1:16:01 / 9:30

SPLITS: 9:55 / 9:43 / 9:42 / 9:26 / 9:19 / 9:24 / 9: 13 / 9:17

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 30:00

Extra focus on calves

SUNDAY

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

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NUTRITION

Nutrition is just as important to me as stretching, rolling and strength training after a race and whether it is for rehab or pre-rehab. You know that I was chugging all week on beet/ginger/turmeric smoothie, added some extra plant-based protein (yummy to red lentils and Ripple pea milk) to my diet and amplified on foods high in anti-inflammatory nutrients. Two weeks before the race, I started to give my body an extra dose of anti-inflammatory natural remedies. It has paid off big time! This time I purchased a tart cherry concentrate; used two TBSP mixed with 6 oz of water every day and I continued doing so from now on. Of course my calves were still sore, but the fact that it only took 3-4 days to heal is remarkable to me. It’s proof that my methods of recovery are working for me.

It has been an enlightening process and I’m eager to take this learning and work-in-progress to my next half marathon – the OUC half marathon in December here in Orlando. It will be my fourth consecutive OUC and I can’t wait to PR and have tons of fun in my neighborhood. #ontoOUChalfmarathon

“Let yourself rest.”

~Unknown

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Chasing My Breaking 2 Half Marathon

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          Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon                          October 14, 2017

“Look in the mirror…That’s your competition.”

~Unknown

It has been a long journey in the quest for a breaking 2 half marathon. I’ve given all I’ve got to shed 55 seconds of my previous half marathon PR. I’d say it has been worth every single second, minute, hours, and days of hard work. I will forever cheer my first sub-2 half marathon.

Taper week was as crazy as it got. A combination of runner’s crazy and PMS symptoms made the week interesting to say the least. However, I was grateful I didn’t have to deal with it on race week, so that was a huge plus, lol! On race week, I ran Monday and did a last fartlek run on Tuesday, which I considered a success. At that point, I was done physically and mentally and all I could think was to rest my legs and do a final tune up on core and some PT workouts for legs and hip. My shakeout run on Friday went well, but I couldn’t believe that my legs felt heavy even after a Wednesday and Thursday rest day from running. But Coach Victoria calmed me down by sharing that the body goes through some crazy reactions from tapering. Thank goodness I am not crazy!

My husband has been so supportive throughout my entire training cycle, and of course, since I restarted running back in 2014. Our last half marathon running together was the Jacksonville Marine Corps in 2015. He left me eating dust in the last 3 miles to reach a PR of 2:16 and I was so happy for him. This time, he was my “manager”, riding on his bike along the course to provide me with positive vibes, ice and nutrition. It makes a huge difference not having to run with a disposable bottle of UCan mix.

On race morning I was feeling more nervous and excited than previous races. There’s a different level of expectation since I’ve been busting my booty and it would not be normal not to bring the results based on the work done. However, nothing is guaranteed, especially on race day. The weather was what it’s expected in FL, hot and humid at 76 degrees and 78% humidity at 5:00 a.m. If I had an enemy precluding me from reaching my goals, it would have been the heat and humidity. But I was also confident because that’s the weather I’ve been training on for the past 6 months.

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My husband kept me calm, he did everything to help me get settled at the start line and gave some positive advice: stay calm, focused and keep a relaxed breathing. These words were so valuable to me more than he can ever know. From the moment the gun went off, I ran calmed, focused on a relaxed breathing state. I was then body, mind and spirit going through the streets of Jacksonville on a quest to break 2.

Race Recap

  • Mile 1- 3 (8:59, 9:03, 9:15) = started out a bit too fast and followed my husband’s advice to stay calm, focused and a relaxed breathing throughout. Breathing technique really paid off, especially on the steep overpass at mile 3 & 12. Never missed a water station and used some water to pour on my head. Next time, I need to do a better job in avoiding water go run down my legs. I realized how soaked my feet were at mile 13 – no cool! I was able to avoid a blister big time!

  • Mile 4-6 (9:02, 9:01, 9:04) = got into a steady rhythm and used the 2:00 Pacer group as a guidance. Body started to get acclimated to the heat & humidity. I knew then, this was an okay pace to stay in but I needed ice asap (to put inside my sports bra) at mile 5 and UCan drink if I were to sustain this pace. Kurt got ice from a 7-Eleven as he was on his bike following my journey & providing support – positive energy, ice and nutrition.

  • Mile 7-10 (8:57, 8:56, 9:12, 8:58) = UCan at mile 5 and GU at mile 6 started to kicked in, I tested out to see if I could leave the 2:00 pacer group, but with a slight road elevation and a sudden feel of energy going up and down, I decided to keep the pace at 9:00’ish as I slowly consumed GU with chunks of ice – a second round of cup of ice at mile 9 provided by Kurt.
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Probably approaching mile 10 or 11, I can’t remember too well.

  • Mile 11 -13 (9:09, 9:16, 8:40) = Kurt handed my second serving of UCan (used a 8 oz disposable bottle but only fill up about 4 oz of UCan as I didn’t want to upset my stomach on larger dose) at mile 11. Really had to start talking to myself here, put on the effort to bring pace down, but at mile 12 going over the overpass, the 2:00 pacer group caught up to me. Out of about 25 people in that group, there were only about 4 of us left. By halfway of mile 12, I finished my serving of UCan with a Kipchoge’s attitude like he did at the last lap of Breaking2; I tossed the bottle away and hauled ass to the end. That was hard! I asked Kurt to stay close and to talk to me because I was getting disoriented as the sun was shining bright on my face. I don’t even remember feeling my legs at this point; I felt all upper body moving me forward. Finally after my Garmin registered 13.1, I then saw the finish line that never seemed to be anywhere near. 1:59:35 and that’s that! Kurt gets to wear the medal, every time!

 

  • Mile .26 (7:59)

2 Goals accomplished:

  • 1) breaking 2
  • 2) PR
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It was a feeling like no other! 1:59:35 PR by 0:1:19

Another runner also got more than 13.1 registered in her watch, because I swear it looked like they had the course longer even though their official measurement marks 13.19 on the website. My Garmin stats were 13.26 / 1:59:36 / 9:01 pace. By Training Peak application which I use with my coach, it had me at 1:58:14 for a 13.1, so yes, that’s a huge difference which I could have almost missed my goal due to course technicality. The good thing is, I know that I did perform much better. There’s no doubt my average pace was at 9:01.

RACE STATS: 13.1 / 1:59:35 / 9:07

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Bib # 1059, coincidence?

Crossing the finish line was a relief and happiness all mixed together. It was an honor to earn the 2017 Jacksonville Marine Corps Half marathon and to receive it from a Marine. Running is easy in comparison to what they do and go through. My hard work paid off today. I couldn’t have done it without the expertise and kind support I receive from Coach Victoria. Since starting working with her in December 2017, I’ve reached paces and goals I never thought possible. She’s ahhhhhmazing!! Her philosophy works and she could not had chosen a better brand name – Run4Prs. So far, every race – 2 5K s; third and second in AG; and a half marathon, placed 16th in my AG, have been a PR for me.

And the best part for me was meeting my husband at the finish, hugging, thanking him, and of course, placing the medal on him. He is my hero!

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“With a strong heart and a good mind, you can do it.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

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It Takes Guts to Build Mental Strength

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“It’s hard to beat a person who never GIVES UP.”

~Babe Ruth

September was another hectic month; add Hurricane Irma’s stress to the occasion and you’ve got some real stress and some tight muscles as a result of it. Since surpassing 100 miles for the month, I started to get hooked and excited to find out how many more miles I can accumulate in a month. However, I kept in mind that a healthy month was and is more important than the accumulation of miles, especially in the final stretch of training cycle.

My awareness towards my body’s well-being was in higher frequency this month. I paid attention to every detail and unusual discomfort my body was feeling. This time my left calf and shin area was more than I wanted to. However, it is was not a surprise as I was exiting August with 120 miles for the month.

Two days after Labor Day weekend, the news were blasting us with updates on the fast approaching arrival of Hurricane Irma and its deadly force of a Category 5 hurricane. Seeing the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Matthew in Texas, Florida wasn’t going to be the one state to play with its strength, and a state of emergency was then effective. The prediction of the storm’s arrival in Central Florida was for Sunday evening, so up to Thursday, I was able to log in my miles. But my right calf wasn’t too happy.

After my husband examined my left calf, he found a dense knot and it hurt. I took a rest day from running on Friday, rolled, iced and stretched, but I was not 100% sure if it was in the best interest to run my 11-miler on Saturday. I knew it was due to stress and I know that when I run on a tight muscle, nothing good happens. The entire week was about Hurricane Irma prep – going to the store to stock up on water and food, maneuvering through hectic traffic frenzy, arranging for a tree company to come over and cut tree branches hanging on top of our roof, helping my father-in-law remove flying debris from his backyard, removing our patio and yard furniture out of harm way, and really doing the best we could given the situation and time we had was exhausting.

All of that added up and my body felt unrested. It was no brainer that I’d be better off sacrificing 11 miles out of training than to run the risk of losing the entire cycle and possibly missing another race. My Coach could not had agreed with me more!

Going through the storm on Sunday evening was one of the scariest experience I’ve ever had. The storm started around 8:00 p.m. and it lasted for a good 12 hours. The rain and wind intensified around midnight as the eye of the hurricane passed through. For most part,  it was a steady rain fall with an occasional 10-minute break between gusty winds. At 2:30 a.m. I could not take it anymore and had to go to bed, not that I really feel sleep. Kurt came to bed around 4:00 a.m. when the storm appeared to be lessen. When we got up around 8:00 a.m., the rain was gone but the wind gust and tree branches were all over the place. We were very grateful that all we had to do was clean up. Many people lost electricity, we did too, but we only lost for 16 hours whereas many people in Central Florida didn’t have electricity as much as two weeks.

The before, during and after Hurricane Irma left me drained for days. It was exhausting, bust I used the non-running time to rehab my tight calf with icing, tens-unit sesh, rolling and lots of stretching. By the time I got back into the running routine again was on Tuesday after the hurricane. It felt good, but I was still lacking on energy. After that, the rest was history as I kept moving along with training and tackling one speed workout after another. The mental strength training this time was even tougher, especially preparing and executing what I’d say was one of the toughest run yet.

8 Mi Speed Workout

 

2 mi easy warm up

6 x .5 mile @ 7:45-8:00 pace with .25 jog between

Cool down to mileage

2 mi up @  10:31

.50 @ 7:38 (death pace for me!)

.50 @ 8:00 (yep, slow down a bit, Celia!)

.50 @ 7:49 (crank up a notch, you can do it!)

.50 @ 7:48 (steady and fast, find a sweet spot)

.50 @ 7:48

.50 @ 7:49

1.50 cool down @ 9:20

 

TOTAL: 8.0 / 1:23:23 / AVG 10:25

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I did it!

The mental strength and toughness I had to dig for this month was no joke! I constantly used watching Breaking 2, Breaking 2 Special edition, the 2016 London Marathon, part of the 2016 Berlin Marathon, the New England Patriots post games press conferences as part of mental training as I logged another massive 57 miles just on the treadmill. In addition, I’ve been listening to Peak Performance audiobook and the fascinating TB12 Method by Tom Brady audiobook.

The heat and humidity in September was still intense. It seems that such weather conditions do play tricks in your head as I started to feel unsettled on whether I could run a slightly faster pace under these conditions. My Coach had a 13-miler on the schedule, and I saw that as a great opportunity for a trial race training; however, its success was possible to my husband’s assistance. On a Saturday, I headed to the trail with the intention of completing 13.1 without stopping. Kurt rode the bike and followed me with water and nutrition. I felt like I was having Kipchoge’s special treatment throughout the run. And that, made a huge difference! That Saturday was a 6-day running streak, so my legs were tired, and unfortunately due to heat, humidity and a late start (6:50 a.m.), I started to feel the crash in the last 5K. Completing this 13.1 training run gave me a huge confidence boost – just what I needed to finish the month strong.

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Thanks to my hubby for helping me 🙂

Even after losing the 11-miler LR, I was still able to close the month with a PR – a PR by just one mile, but nevertheless it’s hard earned miles that I am proud of because I managed to close the last week of September with my highest weekly mileage at 35 miles to bring to a total of 121 miles. Yes, I did it! And I still managed to take a day off from running during this week to respect my body and be cautious as I’d be entering taper week on the following week.

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And as if you already didn’t know, to celebrate the month and to keep my body healthy, I had my monthly chiropractor adjustment, therapy and cryotherapy sesh as the week and month closed. And to my surprise, Saq was there doing cryo too! That was an interesting experience as I met the former Orlando Magic and LA Lakers basketball player in the same place I do cryo.

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Whether you are 5’3” or 7’1”, athletes do cryo! That’s a wrap for September guys!

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3-minute, temps as low as -255F

(P.S. I also hit my cryo sesh PR at 3-minute as temps went as low as -255F = take that to the mental strength bank!

“Excellence is not a singular act but a habit. You are what you do repeatedly.”

~Shaquille O’Neal

July Miles: Hot Humid and Sweaty

“Every Mile Earned, Never Given.”

~ unknown

Yes to July!!! Independence Day and my birthday month!! As matter of fact, America and I share fireworks. How fun is that!!

If anyone thought that June was hot and humid, one haven’t experienced July in Florida! At one point I simply stopped looking at the weather app to check on how hot and humid the day was predicted to be. What’s the point? If one is to adventure in the outdoor sauna, one better be ready for it.

  • Hydrate every single day
  • Never run without a bottle of water
  • Start your run early and dark
  • If anything longer than 5 miles, consider taking an electrolyte/salt pill
  • Go for shaded areas
  • Sunglasses (and a hand-towel in my case)
  • Lace up and go

 

Going into the second week of July, my body started to feel the impact of the heat, humidity and intensity of the workouts. It was telling me that I needed to rest, amplify my vitamins, minerals and supplements intake; go to my doctor and order a blood test. And while at the doctor’s office, go ahead and take a shot of B12.

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Blood work day, yipe!

It took weeks for my body to start to normalize into a more steady routine. The lack of energy, especially in the morning as I do suffer from the occasional adrenal fatigue attack was at its full force this time. Three unplanned rest days (a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday) were needed until I started to feel somewhat better to do some of the workouts. I listened to my body 100% and I did everything I could to make sure my immune system remained strong and focused on processing my energy level back up instead of fighting some other weakness such as a flu symptom.

To give myself a break from this crazy-hot weather, I started doing a lot of my runs on the treadmill. Outdoor runs were becoming harder and harder on my body and very difficult to maintain the duration of a run. Running a faster pace or some speed work outdoor was getting impossible to hit the suggested paces. Although a treadmill run offers a controlled environment (AC on and turbo fan blowing at me), it still gets freaking hot. It is not easy either, but it is more doable. Going into my longest treadmill run of 12 miles; there were times I wished I had just taken it outside. It was one of the hardest treadmill run to date. The mental and physical drain was nothing I had experienced before, and I believe this was the turning-point of my energy level and adrenal fatigue kick off.

By mid-third week of July, I started to feel and sleep better. I can’t focus enough on how important rest it is for me. In one of the days that my energy was extremely low, I went to bed at 7:30 p.m. On the next day, my body was ready to wake up and get up at 5:00 a.m. and I had one of the best steady run.

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I also decided to schedule a second cryotherapy session before the end of the month. Usually a once a month session is enough, but this time I saw no harm in doing it a second time. To my “luck” at the time of cryo sesh, the nitrogen tank was about to get empty, but Dr. Sabrina Atkins estimated that it would be enough for my 3-minute top sesh. I entered at -111F and I held on for the entire 3-minute; however, the temps only reached to -211F.

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Hold on for the entire 3-minute max down to -245F first sesh of July

This cryotherapy session was a great energy boost to kick off the last week of July with the start of the Jacksonville Marine Corps half marathon training. As a bonus, football training camp was also on tap, which motivates me a great deal, even if the workout calls for a fartlek = 2 mi warm up / 10 min @ 9:10 pace / 4x2min @ 8:45-8:30 w/ 2min recovery in between / easy cool down to 7!

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2 mi up 10:42 / 10 min @ 9:07 / 4×2 min @ 8:37, 8:43, 8:39, 8:38 & extra 8:36 / 2.28 mi cool down  @ 10:01

After all the ups-and-downs, I am learning to manage mental and physical breakdown a lot better. I try to stay calm and let it run its course while not giving it too much power. Negative thoughts will creep in every now and then, but it is so important to not to give them power or they will eat you alive. Simply acknowledge it and put a positive thought and action to nullify them. Also, beating myself up for being on the funk wave is pointless. Do not beat yourself up! It is part of the process of training hard and we are only humans.

I’m also constantly working on mental training just as I work on my physical training everyday. I read motivational/sports quotes, I read books, listen to audiobooks (my favorite so far is The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think , Train, and Thrive by Jim Afremow), I watch word majors marathons while running on the treadmill, and of course, watching Breaking 2 the Nike Project never gets old! All of this positive intakes adds up. I have noticed that when a mental breakdown happens, its intensity is usually less or tends to linger less time. This time for me, I think it was more of a physical breakdown. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will change as training becomes harder and harder, but I know that I’m more mentally tough that I was yesterday.

So, thank you my dear legs, body and mind for taking me a little further this month for a month PR of 107.39 miles! I love you dearly.

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Cheers to you and Happy August!!

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”

~Alan Cohen

Keep Calm and Get Your Nitrogen On

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‘You can only grow if you’re willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”

~ Brian Tracy

 My first cryotherapy sesh was just as exciting as it was intimidating. At the time, I was in training for my second marathon, the Tomoka Marathon in 2016.  I was investing a lot of energy, time and resources to take on Tomoka; therefore, I was open to any recovery method to help me get through training and run Tomoka in one piece.

Thankfully, Orlando Sports Chiropractor is equipped with a state-of-the-art cryosauna chamber – this one is a partial body cooling where my head was out of the chamber. I usually get into the chamber wearing a sports bra, shorts, socks and the gloves and sleepers that OSC provides. That’s it! I did one session during training, one session three days prior to the race and another session two days after the race. I believe it offered great benefits to my performance and recovery time as I did not sustain any injury besides the expected soreness from running or training for a marathon.

I’m currently training my body to run a sub-2 half marathon, and eventually, get down to 1:45; subsequently to work on a full marathon and BQ time. As my training and mileage have intensified, it has taken a toll on my body and time to adapt. Since suffering an Adductor strain on my left leg mid-March, I have taken a more proactive and consistent approach to recovery methods. I see my chiropractor once a month and I do a sesh of cryotherapy once a month.

So far the concept of once a month cryotherapy has been productive. I tend to schedule my sessions in the first week of the month. This way my body will recovery from the month that has passed and receives a boost for the new month ahead. I started with this approach in May and I have been doing since then and seeing great results for the past months. The month of my injury I was only able to log in 40 miles. April was still a recovery month and I logged even less than March with only 34.2 miles. In May, I closed the month with 60.4 miles – a huge difference in improvement, healing and recovery from the past two months.

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In order to keep the rhythm going strong and steady, I continued with my recovery methods on the first week of June. The weather was getting hotter and more humid by the day and missing a cryotherapy session on the first week of June was not an option. At the end of month, I hit my first 100 mile for the month and over with 102.1 miles. I have never felt so strong and my recovery period from one workout to the next were a lot steadier. So if you ask me if it works, I’d have to say:  it is working for me! But I’d say it is also a compilation of many other things that I do as part of my recovery process and methods as I mentioned in my previous blog entry.

So, what is cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy was originally developed in Japan in 1978 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and it is a hyper-cooling process using liquid nitrogen that lowers a person’s skin temperature to approximately 30 to 50 degrees F for a period of up to three minutes by enveloping the body with extremely cold air at temperatures ranging from -100 to -274 F.

Thermoreceptors in the skin send signals to the brain to send the blood to the core to maintain body temperature with a process called vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels). At this point, toxins are flushed from peripheral tissues and blood is enriched with oxygen, enzymes, and nutrients. The body activates all of its natural healing abilities and releases endorphins for further benefit. As the body warms up again, the enriched blood flows through the body through a process called vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels as a result from relaxation of smooth muscle cells within the vessels walls). Thus, cryotherapy is very effective for athletic recovery and muscle repair, reduction of chronic pain and inflammation, and overall enhancement of health and wellness.

Some of the benefits from cryotherapy include:

  • Faster Recovery from Exercises – because of better blood flow, joint and muscle strength is increased and cryotherapy is effective against delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). And unlike ice baths, muscles don’t need time to recover after cryotherapy. I feel that it is the biggest benefit for me. After suffering an adductor muscle strain, I have been able to go over rehab and strength training with great recovery while slowly building up my mileage. In June I ran 102.1 miles – that’s my record for the month, and I have to give credits to my body’s acceptance to several methods of recovery, especially stretching and cryotherapy.
  • Happiness Boost – that’s because the procedure releases endorphins into the bloodstream. Immediately after a session, I feel a sense of well-being and happiness. I feel at easy and relaxed. It truly feels like I spent an entire day at a spa.
  • Decreases Inflammation – it’s known that ice when applied to a specific area of the body, reduces inflammation. Cryotherapy is helpful in a sense that targets the entire body not just a specific area. I found that cryotherapy has helped me a lot with body aches and with limiting the feeling of body tiredness and increasing the feeling of being fresh again.
  • Increased metabolism – a two to three minute session of cryotherapy takes a lot of energy to reheat the body which burn approximately 500 to 800 calories; therefore, when the skin is cooled to around 35 degrees F, it requires a lot of energy to reheat it to our regular body temperature. Immediately after a cryo session, I have to wear a light cardigan and I feel that it takes about 12 hours until my body temperature is less sensitive to the cold. However, I feel refreshed.

I am sure there are articles out there pointing out the “not-so-good” or risks of cryotherapy. After some readings, I found that as long as you don’t go into the chamber with damp/wet clothing (risk of frostbite) or decide to get into the chamber when nobody is around, the “risks” are very minimum.

The most I have been able to handle is -245 F for the whole period allowed of 3 minutes! But within 2 minutes, I started to feel pinches on my skin, especially the legs. How long you’re able to stay in really depends on the level of relaxation you are in and the number of times you’ve experienced cryotherapy. Mental preparation throughout the week also plays a big part on the length of time you are able to endure. Overall, I’d say it really comes down to how relaxed you are during the sesh.

And if you are skeptical about doing your first sesh of cryo, be brave and do it! You only stay in the chamber for as long as you can handle. Remember, baby steps!

It is now July and guess what? It is time for another monthly sesh. So, let’s go and give it a try!

“Stepping out of your comfort zone is a great catalyst for success.”

~Leslie Cassidy

 

Run Rest Recover Rehab Prehab Repeat

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“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

 Many times we do tasks that doesn’t bold well with our likes. They are necessary in order to get from point A to B; that is, if we really want to get to point(s) B, C, D and further. Bottom line is, whether we want to get from one point to another based on want or need, the tasks still need to get done, especially if such tasks are for a dream we chase.

Every day I am reminded that training to one day become a BQ it is not easy. The struggle is real – and it is not just the physical struggle, it is the mental struggle too. There are days that lacks motivation and energy, but when injury is added to the equation, it is even more challenging. It is then a time to really think and reflect, how bad do you really want it? Are you willing to do the extra work?

I came to a point once in which I doubted myself and wondered if my body was even made for this. At that time, I was starting to think that my body was not made for going single-digit paces because every time I pushed it hard or amplified mileage, something would set me back. And there I was, back in square one, only more frustrated than the previous time.

After taking time off from running, some meditation and an encouraging conversation with my physical therapist at the time I was injured, I picked myself up again. I was brave enough to try another half marathon and find out what I had left in the tank before I committed to working with a Coach again. Coach Victoria continues to train and teaches me that I can reach faster single-digit paces. She continues to work with me on my mental game and showing me ways to slowly get where I need to get.

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Easy run with my furbaby R2-D2 on a Saturday morning at the West Orange Trail

But none of this support will make a difference if I don’t apply it myself. Yes, I do want it really bad to BQ and run the Boston Marathon; therefore, there’s no doing half way training or recovery. As my PT said, “you just have to stretch more than other runners”. Okay then. That’s what I will do and more.

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The strained Adductor injury was really tough to get over with. It took more time than any other injury I’ve experienced. The pain was initially located on the left groin, then it was experienced on the hamstrings, quads, glutes and hip. It took about 4 weeks without running with the exception of some test-runs here and there at the end of week 2. This injury has taught me that my body needs constant help with recovery from a workout to the next. The best way to do it is through strength training, PT workouts, stretching, rolling and a sessions of AIS (active isolate stretch by a LMT). Also, icing, heat, tens units, Epson salt baths, ice baths, cryotherapy and chiropractor adjustments therapy are a must.

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Cross training on spin bike and rowing was what helped me stayed in somewhat cardio shape.

So here’s my plan to a steady rehab/prehab routine:

*Disclosure: I am not a doctor or physical therapist and this is not to serve as an advice to anyone’s medical treatment or condition.

   
MONTHLY

First week of the month

cryotherapy session

chiropractor adjustments, graston and ART

 

 
WEEKLY Once or more per week:

Epson salt baths and/or dry sauna

Pool therapy, ice and heat therapy, Tens Units

 

 
BI-WEEKLY Massage Sports Therapy

AIS (active isolated stretch) therapy by a LMT

Ice baths  (as needed)

Yoga

 

 

 
DAILY Active Isolated Stretch with resistance band or yoga band

Static stretch –free or with yoga block

PT workouts (Bosu, stability ball, resistance band)

 

 
3 or 4 TIMES PER WEEK Strength Training – weights, body weight (TRS), HIIT

Cross Training – spinning, rowing, walk, elliptical, swim

 
REST DAY

(Sundays or when needed on weekday)

PT resistance band workout

Stretching

 

 

That’s it! I’ve been on the plan for the entire month of May and it has been working for me so far. This is not to say that I will never get injured again, but I believe that it will help me to continue to build my body for stronger runs and perhaps lessen the time of injury. During injury month of April, I was only able to log in 34.20 miles. However, my hours of strength training, recovery methods and cross training increased significantly.

As I started to get stronger and run 98% pain free, my mileage for the month of May increased to 60.45 miles. This time around, my strength training hours spent was just 7 hours less than April, but my recovery methods hours increased to 2 hours more. My goal is to continue the practice of recovery methods to keep my body happy because you know, Summer is coming!

And here’s this post’s end quote with a bonus picture!

BB Do Your Job

Breath In Breath Out and Let Qi Flow

 

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“To be inflexible to the change around you is to live in fear. Qigong is a useful tool to improve your flexibility, both mental and physical.” 

~Garri Garripoli

 Since my husband is a licensed massage therapist, I try to absorb all the different modalities he comes across with to enhance his life, health and practice. As I’m growing wiser, I’ve been more open to learn and be involved with relaxation methods, practices and overall methods that contributes to a healthy physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

My husband introduced me to Qigong ten years ago. At the time, I went along with him and even did the instructor certification course. I loved learned about different breathing methods, Qigong movements and food healing. But all the information did not sink in much and the exposure to such training started to fade away.

My husband retook the course several times later to refresh his mind and to earn CEU credits. I stopped by in one or two of these occasions but my mind wasn’t into it. After getting back into steady running for the past three years and with bigger dreams in mind, I decided to go with my husband and be fully engaged in the 3-day Qigong seminar; however, I was not able to attend the first day (Friday) due to work schedule.

Running has taught me a different side of gratitude. It has also taught me to connect more with my environment, nature, body, mind and spirit. I thought that Qigong would open doors that I left unopen since last time I participated in the seminar. Part of got me more curious this time is because I heard of a running technique called Qi Running in which it teaches to focus on breathing, body alignment and foot placement. It also helps prevent the most common running injuries. I discovered a Qi Running coach in the proximity of Orlando area, made the appointment, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the appointment got cancelled and I have never made connection again. That has been almost 2 years ago.

Jeff Primack is the pioneer of Qigong Revolution in the USA. He is amazing and so knowledgeable. He brings simplicity to a complicated world of self-made chaos, and the answer is actually within ourselves and within the plant-based realm. That’s when food healing, breathing methods and movement of energy flow comes along.

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During Qigong seminar break. It’s a very laid back atmosphere and setting. Everyone brings their yoga mat. 

As Qi Revolution’s website states, “GiGong is about Strength and Building Energy. Breath, Mediation and Movement are combined in a seamless practice.” Days leading up to the event, I started to focus on my breathing while running. I noticed that I was able to help keep my heart rate close the 150-155 under range (zone 3) during my easy runs. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not, but I believe that on hotter days there was a major contribution to spiking up my heart rate.

For two-days straight we practiced on the 9 Breath Technique, Qigong movements, walking Qigong and meditation. In all aspects of Qigong there is a higher sense of gratitude, especially when we discussed food healing.

My favorite part of food healing was when a smoothie recipe called for beets. Yes!!! I love beets! Energy, movement, flow and breathing are part of the realm of well-being. Therefore, it does starts with what we eat. Does the food nourishes our bodies or does it cause to clog with toxins?

As a runner, I know exactly what kind of food helps me perform better and which kind makes my performance go down the drain. Qi Revolution Food Healing has made me even more aware of the importance of nourishing my body with the highest phytochemicals foods in order to expedite recovery and healing from one workout to the next. Jeff highly emphasizes on the power of food healing to reverse diseases and certain forms of cancer. I could not pass on this opportunity to own the most recent Food Healing SmoothiesFormula book that Jeff has updated, and this time, I even got it autographed.

I highly recommend checking out Qi Revolution’s web site to see if a tour is near you. Jeff travels all over the country to share this valuable information that I have never heard anywhere else.

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To better health and runs!

“Eat from the TREE of Life Avoid the Surgeon’s knife.”

~Jeff Primack

Tomoka Half Marathon No More

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“The pain of training is nothing compared to the pain of not reaching your potential.”

~Josh Cox, US 50k Record Holder

It appears that my push for a PR in Swamp House 5K and a surprisingly second place age group award came with a price. It was not a wonder that my calves took a beating on that race and that my legs were tired after logging 90.1 miles for the month of February. However, I was confident and feeling strong that with a few days of rest from running and some general rest, I’d be able to pull it off and gear up in the upcoming weeks for Tomoka Half marathon. After some rest, miles and hours of strength training later, my left adductor told me otherwise.

It was such a beautiful Saturday morning for a short-long run on the West Orange Trail with the fam. Kurt was getting his exercise on wheels with his rollerblades, R2-D2 was enjoying his 10:10 interval – 10 run: 10 ride on his stroller (yes, he has a baby stroller), and I was happy as I could be running an easy 7-miler on my own feet until I felt a sharp pain traveling from my the bottom of my leg all the way to my hamstring reaching the groin area. What in the world was that? I told Kurt about it, but we didn’t put much thought because pain is part of running.

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At West Orange Trail on the way back around mile 6 pushing to get it done

My pace slowed down during mile 5 and 6, but I was able to pick it up back at mile 7 but I slowed down for the last .50 and used as my cool down. I ended the run with a brief walk and a quick stretched sesh. The stretch was very uncomfortable and every step was getting stiffed by the second. Getting out of the car after seating for a 10-minute drive home was horrifying. I haven’t felt pain and stiffness like that in a very long time – not even when I finished a half marathon race or my 20-miler last year training for Tomoka marathon. It was super sore after Tomoka, but again, nothing like after this 7-miler run. Having realized the state of pain, I went on for a real stretch and foam rolling sesh before eating.

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I sat down for breakfast and I felt like I should not had done so. The pain again was sharp with every body movement I took. At that point, I decided that I really needed to take an ibuprofen and go to the pool for some cool water therapy since the water was a cold enough (68 degrees) as a short-cut to an ice bath. I spent about one-hour standing/walking in the pool in hopes that the discomfort would diminish with every passing hour. I suppose I can only hope but not ignore the fact that DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) was yet to come, right?!

I hardly ever take naps. First of all, I can’t afford naps since I work an eight-hour shift Monday-Friday. Second, I avoid creation such habit. And third, I use naps as a reference point to know when my body is really tired and in need of rest rather than being lazy for a nap. This Saturday, unfortunately, was a day that my body was telling me it was super tired and a nap was needed. After taking two more ibuprofen, I napped for almost two hours, but the soreness was still present with every movement I made and step I took.

The following Monday, I had a 3-miler easy run on the schedule. I did run, but it was brutal. My pace and strides were off as the discomfort was still present. At that point, I decided to see Dr. Brad at Orlando Sports Chiropractor. Dr. Brad diagnosed the injury to be a strained adductor muscle, some heat therapy, lots of stretch and rest. Going through gastron technique performed in the left inner thigh was ridiculous painful. I’ll take calf soreness if I had to choose.

Physical therapy, rest, spinning, heat and cold therapies, and strength training workouts was the priority at this point. After Monday’s chiropractor visit, I started to feel better. Kurt (he’s a licensed massage therapist specializing in sports massage and AIS) worked on me on Tuesday for a 25-minute session of AIS (Active Isolated Stretching technique) and it has helped a great deal. By Wednesday, I was hopeful that it was healed. I didn’t feel any major discomfort when moving, I was more stable in doing my Bosu ball stability workouts; therefore, I was ready to give a test-run on Thursday morning and find out for sure if racing Tomoka half was even possible.

Comes Thursday morning and I felt a little stiffness on the injured leg. I did drills warm up as usual but as soon as I started to run, the discomfort let me know that it hadn’t gone away just yet. I estimated to be foreseeable to feel some discomfort. Because the discomfort was a lot lesser than on Monday’s run, I kept going. At some point at mile 2, I had to pause and I wished I had not. The pain wanted to settle in, so I restarted the run to complete the scheduled 3-mile run. I was able to pick up pace to finish the run with negative splits at 11:32, 10:35 and 9:59.

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It was hard even to pose for a picture! Ughh! Ouch!

I haven’t felt anything worse than an angry adductor after a run until now, and I thought that Saturday’s run was bad! Oh my goodness… the pain was excruciating, my left leg was stiffed as a wood board; it hurt to bend, it hurt to stretch, it hurt to raise my leg, it hurt to put pressure on, and it hurt to walk. Some slow movements of stretch was the only thing that it appeared to alleviate the pain I was feeling, but still, it was hurting as hell. I got scared at that point. Getting in the car to go the gym for a more decent stretch and shower was becoming a hard and scary task. I was barely walking and it felt like I needed crutch. I was thinking, what am I doing to myself? But I needed this test-run to see where I was in this injury. With only nine days shy from race day, I was certain that I could go ahead pull out of the race and cancel all travel plans.

Since the mind-opening and body-painful experience I had in Lighthouse Loop half marathon in October 2016, I promised myself that I would never put myself in such situation again. I’ve learned to respect my body and mind more after this experience. No race (unless it is the Boston marathon) is worth pushing through pain when clearly I am not 100% healthy or confident. Logistically, there was no reasonable explanation or indication that I would have a comfortable and fun race; most importantly, there was not a possible outcome for a sub-2 result. Before Lighthouse Loop, I didn’t realize how mentally draining a race can be. There’s a fine line of pushing mental fitness boundaries for a goal and pushing it out of greed or ignorance. I will pick my battles wisely from now on.

Although it is frustrating to be on the shelf for a few days, there’s a part of recovery or rehab period that it is gratifying. We have to at least try to find the good in a not so favorable situation. It is part of the growth of being a better person and a better athlete. And in this phase, it is where practice of mental toughness and fitness plays a great deal on whether we stay on the path to our goals or take the short cut path which is to give up, because the reality is, there is no short cut. Either we do the work or we don’t. Either you learn to adapt or not.

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The first twelve days of rehab/recovery consisted of a straight-forward routine of physical therapy, strength training, cold and hot therapy, and a mental break as well on the days that I felt that I needed to give some rest while practicing not feeling guilty for not doing a workout.

Day 1
Epson Salt Bath Heat Therapy Pool Therapy

3 x
10 bird dog
5 forward lunges
10 step up
10 inverted flyers
10 front squat (2 sets on Bosu)
10 Bosu, side, front and back lift
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 single leg bridge
10 fire hydrant
10 triceps dip
Stretch

Day 2 3 x
10 bird dog
10 forward lunges
10 step up
10 inverted flyers
10 front squat
10 each – Bosu side, lateral, front and back kick
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance30:00 Heat Therapy

Day 3

Easy 3-miler run – It was a no-go for Tomoka half.

Dry Sauna session

AIS session w/ Kurt – lower body, focus on hip for range of motion and sports massage

30:00 Heat Therapy

Day 4

Rest day

30:00 Heat Therapy

Day 5

2000 meters Rowing 55:00 Spin Class 1:40 Strength Training

3 x
10 bird dog
10 forward lunges (2 sets on Bosu)
10 step up
10 inverted flyers
10 front squat (2 sets on Bosu)
10 Bosu, side, front and back lift
10 Bosu side lunges
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 single leg bridge
10 fire hydrant
10 triceps dip
10 stability ball sit up
10 single leg dumbbell dead lift
10 Dumbbell Upright Row
Stretch

Heat Therapy

Day 6

5 miles Outdoor Bike ride Stretch / Foam Roll

Day 7

Stretch / Foam Roll

1 x
10 bird dog
10 inverted flyers
10 Bosu squat
10 Bosu side, front and back leg kick
10 Bosu side lunges
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 fire hydrant
10 triceps dip
10 Dumbbell Upright Row
10 Dumbbell bicep curl
Foam Roll
Stretch

Day 8

15:00 Spinning Heat Therapy Pool Therapy

3 x
Reverse Crunch (10 reps)
Toe Touches (10 reps)
Plank Hip Twist (10 reps each side)
10 One Arm Dumbbell Row
10 Dumbbell Upright Row
10 squat (2 sets on Bosu)
10 Bosu, side, front and back leg kick
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Resistance band clam shell

Day 9

Rest Day

Stretch / Foam Roll

Day 10

2-miler Test Run – Great progress, but more recovery/rehab work required. 2.01 miles, 9:44 pace with negative splits – 10:10 & 9:18

Dry Sauna Stretch
Static stretch (focus on calves, hip, back)
Yoga Movements
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
2x 10 Resistance band clam shell

Day 11

Rest Day

Pool Therapy

Day 12

Rest Day

Stretch / Foam Roll Resistance Band PT workout

 

On day-10 it was time for me to do a test-run and see how far I have progressed. I was confident and eager to go out for run. I spent a little more extra time doing warm up drill, in part because I knew I had to focus more on that, and in part because I was getting a little nervous about it. As soon as I hit the start bottom, the feeling of being able to run again was exhilarating. I felt in peace and so grateful. I felt like a bird being able to freely fly again.

I was very conservative on my comeback test-run and made sure to go easy. Nothing really bothered me during the run and it was a solid 2-miler until the end. My heart rate averaged at 163 bpm. It’s in the aerobic capacity and a little higher than my recommended easy pace of under 155-150, but I’m excited to know spinning sessions and rowing sessions has helped keep my cardio going. After the run, my leg was a little thigh indicating me that stretch was a MUST and that more PT work was most certainly needed. The routine will remain until I feel 100% healed, and even then, I’ll be putting a lot more focus on hip flexor and legs strength training.

It is a bummer to miss this year’s Tomoka half marathon. It has become a tradition to run a Tomoka event for the past two years, and I was so eager to see how my performance would be since starting to work with Coach Victoria. However, I have nothing but gratitude for being where I am today with my progress in running. I’ve reached goals that I never thought possible. I know that despite this set back, my body is much stronger than it was a year ago. I am counting my blessings today and every day and I will continue to become an even stronger runner than I was yesterday. Giving up is not an option, not now.

I wish all runners a successful and fun race!

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“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

Goodbye 2016 Bring it on 2017

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“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”

 ~ Steve Prefontaine

There is no doubt that 2016 has been a year to remember. It has been a year filled with challenges, triumphs, happiness, some unhappy moments, but most importantly, another year which was fully lived, day in and day out. We made count each of the 365 days like a boss!

There were times in which we didn’t know how we were going to make to another day. But you know what, you just do it! There is no right or wrong answer as to how we make it happen as long as we are in peace with ourselves and as long as there’s no harm to others. We just make it happen and believe that the Universe will show the way because all we need to do is to trust that the Universe got our back, believe we can do it and take action everyday.

It sounds easy, but sometimes living through challenges does not appear to be this way. It takes time and sometimes a step back to see how we can handle certain situations in the eye of the observer. Like many other aspects of life, this is how running goes. Months of training, day in and day out, we don’t think about how to get the miles in the bank because if we were to do think about it, it would not get it done. I mean, seriously? Getting up in the dark early hours of the morning to run some crazy long miles, go to work, take care of life, take care of ourselves and loved ones, and spent more time doing strength training or cross training to run more miles and spend even more time doing recovery work to fix the damage.. Well, you know the drill.

In January I came into realization that there is no feasible short cut if I want to run Boston. If I can’t came up with $5,000 in fund raising for a charity of my like under the B.A.A., it is just not going to happen. If I want this badly, I will need to be patient and earn every single mile, sweat and breaths to achieve a 3:40 qualifying time under my age group category. So January was my big moment in which I committed to put the hard work to chase the unicorn as I run one day at a time and race one race at a time.

January was also the month in which I ran the inaugural Shark Bite half marathon in New Smyrna. It was a fun race and my best half marathon at 2:08:25. A week later, my training to run Tomoka started and I could not be happier to have Coach Chris, our MarathonFest group leader, guiding and encouraging throughout the way. She provided me with a training plan, planned our long run routes, she put on the Gatorade and water on our routes. She did more than she had to. And for that, I am forever grateful for her love and help.

Running a marathon for the second time after six years was epic. It really takes a bunch of determination to even register for such an event and I could not be happier in getting it done in 5:01:48, just shy of a sub-4 goal, but such a great effort shedding 1:45:01 from my first marathon in 2010.

Training must go on and never in my life had I ever thought that I would be hiring a run coach. Growing up I only exercised because of PE classes. I never really cared to dig in deep into sports or workouts, but I did really enjoy playing volleyball. Later in life, working out was not a thought because my time was consumed with work and studies. So the fact I hired a run coach was out of the world! It was my stamp to show how serious I was in chasing this illusive unicorn.

In the middle of everything, my husband had two surgeries, we sold our place, bought a house, lived with his dad, went through a hell of renovation and kept life moving forward. It has been quite a year! A year that has thought me more than I could possibly image, in a sense, it has been a year of physical, mental and spiritual cleansing. Our experiences dictate what enlightenment process we receive after our acceptance. I can say that mine would probably not be the same if running was not part of my life.

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Feeling pretty frustrated with training. 

Through Lighthouse Loop half marathon, I was awakened by such enlightenment. The interesting part of it is that the learning was not over at the crossing of the finish line at 2:28:17. It continued for weeks after the race. It was an experience that allowed me to pause and observe my inner self which has helped me to reflect on what I really want and need – not just on the running lifestyle aspect, but on a creative aspect of life which brings our natural sparkly and bright light. It is still an on-going process which I am learning everyday.

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“Life was [is] like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”  But if we do put the effort in, it is only certain to reap from its benefits if we are just patient and grateful enough to see and receive it. After months of setbacks, patience and gratitude, I finally started to see some results from my hard effort. Running a single-digit pace felt so good and liberating; it felt natural and somewhat effortless. It feels like a sudden energy takes over and all the body wants to do is to run faster. It was and has been my magical moment in running in which I finally have crossed a line in another dimension. My moment of magic came in weeks prior to running the OUC half marathon and while running the OUC just 54 seconds shy of my goal of a sub-2 at 2:00:54. That’s a 9:13 pace! YESS!!!

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Wrapping it all up in a nutshell, I close 2016 with 764.58 miles in the bank! That is a 102% improvement in comparison to 2015’s mileage. A lot of these miles were harder miles (speed work) than I am used to, but most importantly, these miles were earned not given miles. And for that, I could not be more grateful to earn and own it. It is beyond gratefulness to have a body that allows me to do this and to have my husband’s support allowing me to enjoy and to be prepared for my runs. Running might look like a solitary sports, but  behind a successful result, it is a representation of team effort.  Somewhere down the line, there is an army that has helped you get where you are. Be humble and never forget that.

But to get up, lace up the shoes and cover the distance – well, that’s all on YOU! And for that, be proud of your effort!

 

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”

~ Steve Prefontaine

 

OUC Half Marathon 40th Anniversary: A Breakthrough Race

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“Run Your Heart Out”

  ~ Unknown 

 The quote above express a profound statement and it is not only powerful from a sports competition perspective, but also for life in general. We live in a competitive world and whether we think that we don’t care about it, it really doesn’t matter – we’re sucked in competitiveness be it against somebody else or with ourselves. And when logistics or muscles find a glimpse of limitation, you better run your heart out and proof otherwise!

Running the OUC half marathon 40th anniversary race was more than just a race for me. It was an opportunity to be part of the Orlando’s historical race for the third consecutive year, running in my adopted city’s neighborhood and exchanging hellos with other members of the running community composed mostly of Track Shack runners.

After a difficult training cycle with ups and downs, with more downs than ups – at least it seemed to be this way, I was ready to redeem myself, bring on the positive energy and close the last race of the year on a good note. I wanted my last race of the year to be the start of a new beginning of a training cycle, and I wanted to bring a result that would give me hope to work on. The possibility of working with a coach again was intriguing and exciting.

There are no words to describe my experience after Lighthouse Loop half marathon. It was days of depression and hopeless, and weeks of uncertainty on whether I was really capable of running anything faster than a double-digit pace and still feel as if it was like a walk in the park. I finally understood what Julie Isphording meant about her quote: Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running.

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I put all those feelings and darkness behind. I learned to deal with an obstacle at time while seeking a solution of a clear path. I surrounded myself with positive-minded people that would up lift my vibes and help me. There was no getting out of this loomy-gloomy alone, but it was up to me to believe in myself and be with people that enforced my own believe or that showed me the way to make my believe a reality. I started to soak-in Jen Sincero’s audiobook You are a Badass and reading Elizabeth Clor’s book Boston Bound  including contacting her via Instagram for one or two words of advice.

My favorite athlete of all times is Tom Brady. I admire everything about him. His expertise in the game of football, his demeanor, attitude, and competitiveness. His positive state of mind and calmness is an attribute that mesmerize me. It’s interesting that when I planned the OUC race, I chose a Tom Brady picture to be the cover of my Days Event calendar app for the December 3 date. Our subconscious is always in harmony with our desires and dreams, but it doesn’t sync if we choose to live in a negative state of mind or lack expressing gratitude. Hello to the Law of Attraction! And if Tom Brady’s badass attitude gives me motivation to do my best and be my best in the face of adversity, so be it! You got to do what works for you and nobody else.

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My pre-race routine didn’t change a bit. Okay, perhaps the only change was that I was grounded and calmer than previous races. A high 50’s degree in the early morning of the race was welcomed and I’m sure it helped me stay calm and excited to run. I intended to run between the 1:55 and 2:00 hour pace group, but I could not reach the corral. There were over 2,700 runners and somehow I was stuck way back with the 2:45 group pace. I just stayed calm and maneuver my way around looking for some clear path. Once I hit mile 1, the path started to clear and my pace was decent at 9:18 close to target pace (9:05). I sure didn’t want to go too fast and ran out of fuel by mid-way.

I ran with a disposable Açaí juice bottle and mixed a concoction of water and Huma Gel for fuel. I don’t use anything else besides Huma Gel. I figured that having it ready for consumption, it would save me some time at the water stations instead of having to walk/stop to consume. Loosing precious time to drink water and Gatorade was costly enough already.

Buy mile 2, I was getting hot (hot by my standard is anything over 65 degrees) and had to remove my tank top. Running on sports bra is my thing and I do whatever it helps to keep me from overheating. I was happy to see that my pace was a steady 9:18, and by removing my tank top, I knew that I’d feel much lighter. I was just hoping that the weather would cooperate throughout the race.

This was my second race running without music. I’m starting to feel I really don’t need it. I don’t run with music during training for safety reasons since mostly of my runs are done around 5:00 a.m., and quite frankly, I can’t imagine running with music now. I’ve learned to be in tuned with my body, breathing, mind and spirit. I am a runner with more focus without music. It has become my mediation and observation time thanks to reading Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s book Running with the Mind of Meditation.

Things started to look good for me. I had energy, the weather was somewhat cool and I was driven to own this race. If a su-2 half marathon for some reason was not possible, a PR would be the next target. At mile 3, my pace decreased to a 9:04. I was so grateful and in shock at the same time as I had never ran this fast in a race before with some negative splits in sight. Mile 4, it fluctuate to a 9:06 pace, 9:07 for mile 5 and 9:01 for mile 6. Bam, I was flying! Mile 7 brought me up to 9:07 and a slight crash at mile 8 with a 9:09 and 9:20 for mile 9. At this point, the weather started to warm up way too quickly and I was starting to get concern if I had pushed too much too soon.

The thought of bunking in another half marathon was starting to creep in since it’s kinda of customary for to start to loose energy at the most crucial point of the race. So I gathered my thoughts and pick up my feet to bring my pace down to a 9:06 for miles 10 and 11. At mile 12, the course started to get tough with a good portion of bricks and some elevation. The weather was also getting hotter to my taste. My pace went up to 9:22 and I realized that if I were not to be able to make a sub-2, it would have been by seconds.

I am not sure where I got the energy and drive to pick up my pace to 8:55 for mile 13. I breathed so hard and tried to pump as much blood in my muscles as I could. I kept focus on and aiming to that finish line. I saw that Garmin was showing me a 1:59 and something seconds, but I still had probably another 88 yards to the finish line. I lost some momentum thinking it was useless to continue running that fast. Suddenly, I realized that even without a sub-2 PR, every second was still counting. Also, one of the two professors I work with who was a spectator cheering on their son, yelled my name encouraging me to go, go, GO CELIA!!!!

I burst with whatever energy I had left to I cross the finish line with a jump of epic joy! I had never felt anything like it. I heard coach Chis yelling my name, but I didn’t see her because I was still wearing an invisible horse visor, lol. Next, I was searching for my husband. Last year’s race, he was by the sideline, this time, I didn’t hear or see him nearby. A race organizer blocked him from entering the runners’ exit from the course, but he came to my path anyways. As usual, he kissed me and I hugged him. Putting my medal around his neck first is a now a tradition and he loves it!

Illy and Kathy stopped by, we chatted a little bit and took time for some picture. My two speedsters, Julie and Pasley, saw me and came over to congratulate me on a great race. And of course, we chatted and took pictures.

As usual my husband is so supportive of my running, so he carried my change of clothes and my post-workout protein drink. We headed to the post-party event to check my official time. I could not believe that I was only 54 seconds shy from hitting my sub-2 goal.

A 2:00:54 half marathon at 9:13 pace was epic for me. Hope is alive. The dream is in the process of transformation and materialization with one step at a time. Right foot. Left foot. Here I come!

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 “Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do.  Attitude determines how well you do it.”

 ~ Lou Holtz

 

Post-race blues: Is it worth the effort?

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“Effort is the best indicator of interest.”

 ~unknown

 After running Lighthouse Loop I was still feeling unsettled. I knew I had put my 110% effort, I knew the circumstances of the training cycle and race day were indisputable to expect better results. So why am I being so hard on myself?

We live in an environment where we tend to always asks for more and more and hardly ever pause to appreciate what we already have. We compare ourselves with other’s successes, looks, haves and have nots instead of looking deep inside ourselves to appreciate the true essence of what makes us. It’s very easy to get carried away trying to play catch up with the latest on social media and be like the people in the web world. But it’s also an inspiring tool if used to our own enrichment instead of downgrading ourselves. Again, it’s up to us to choose what is good for us or to choose what is not so productive to the body and soul.

As soon as I got home from running Lighthouse Loop, I started to feel the mental and physical drain from the race. Having already nourished my body with a yummy meal I had prepared to eat right after the race, I just went straight to bed for a long nap. After a 3-hour heavy nap, I woke up in tears. I was just feeling so emotional about it and I started to question if everything I had been doing was even worth continuing. I never hold tears back because letting it go allows me an opportunity for physical and spiritual cleansing.

Although feeling depressed, I still had the energy to approach the following day as recovery day by doing some light stretch, massaging, foam rolling my calves and update my coach on the day’s activity. I also focused on nutrition – lots of live food and chugging some beet smoothie with tons of  ginger and turmeric. I wasn’t sure what to do next other than trying to get my calf to heal, but I knew that I had no desire to run for this entire week. I was out!

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My very own recipe of fresh beet juice/smoothie with plenty of ginger, turmeric, blueberries, mango, tart cherry juice, olive oil and pepper. Yummy!

The IG running community shows tremendous support to one another. Posting daily workouts serves as encouragement and ideas for other followers as well as an accountability tool for doing our own workouts. So far, I still had some motivation to post some shots in the week following the race, but at the same time I didn’t want to feel obligated to to so. On the other hand, I was very glad I did because the support I got from the IG running community was priceless and caring. By no means had I forgot how grateful I was in having finished the race and for such an experience; therefore, I made sure to express it.

My next move was to schedule an appointment to see my physical therapist. Ed is a super talented runner (who is also a member and group leader of Marathon Fest group with Track and Shack) and PT. There’s no better PT in Central Florida area better than Ed in my book. We went over the problem I was having and over my frustration. Ed gave me hope when I needed the most because I was starting to think that perhaps my body was not really made for a faster pace. However, I didn’t feel the desire to run that week, but I was slightly hopeful to restart on my terms on the following week.

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The BEST physical therapist in Central Florida, Ed Dullmeyer with Pro Form PT in Maitland, FL

As the days passed, peace started to settle in. I came to the realization that I needed a time out. Unfortunately, I could not just unplug everything such as work, house chores, etc, but I unplugged from whatever I could such as from social media, checking e-mails less often, worrying less and taking the time to simply observe. Yes, call it a meditation retreat of some short. Since my running life had little sparkle, it only made sense to put a pause on my run coaching services. It was a hard decision, but it felt right until I could figure out exactly what I needed if I were to decide to keep moving forward. There was only one thing I knew for sure. If I were to continue to run and have any hope of improving my time, I had to focus on strength training, get professional help and meditate.

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The desire to run started to come back by the end of a zero mile week. In the back of my mind, I knew that I should at least give it a try and see how it feels. Tuesday morning came and I had to no energy to get up for a run. I spent the day pondering if should run when I get back home from work. I finally decided to run. My motivation was to run for the first time around our new neighborhood.

The weather was a nice 73 degree and only 57% humidity. I laced up my shoes and just ran like Forrest. I ran without a purpose and without a pace in mind. I felt free from pressure to perform and I just did what my body was comfortable with. I ran around the neighborhood for a mile and headed to the middle school track’s to finish up the rest before returning back home. At mile 3’ish I cried and by then I was already picking at my Garmin (aka as MAsshole – really, who doesn’t name their running gadgets?!) in shock at my pace. My crying episode didn’t last long because it really takes a lot effort to run and cry at the same, but I was so happy that my calves were holding up well and that my quads and hammies were a little more powerful this time around. My mind was set to run just 4 miles and I was surprised with my pace. My splits were 9:24, 9:29, 9:48 and 9:35 with an average of 9:34. I had never ran this fast before.

I was in shock with this run’s performance, but I kept it low key without making such a big deal out of it. I continued the week with the scheduled PT exercises, core workout and calves stretch. I was also curious to know if my next run would be in this pace range. Due to lack of energy for an early morning run, I decided to run after work in the downtown Orlando neighborhood. Again, I was just focused on a 4-miler and I ended up with very good splits at 9:04, 10:25, 9:50 and 9:24 with an average of 9:41. The weather started at 70 degree, but by midway through my run it dropped around 68, so I’m sure it has a lot to do with a better performance.

Since I started to feel better both physically and mentally, I decided to run long on Saturday with my group. It was nice to run with them, but for this 10-miler run, it felt somewhat hard but doable at 11:05 average pace. A 10-miler in the bank without feeling crippled gave me a slight glimpse that running the OUC half marathon in three weeks might just be possible. Running the OUC half marathon has become a tradition for me and I would love to keep the running streak going for a third year in a row.

My next run was another 4-miler which I made it to be a tempo run with 8:49, 9:50, 9:08 and 8:48 splits at an average of 9:08 pace. Next run was for a friend’s wedding day 5K celebration with our running family which I took it as a relaxing run with an average of 10:51 pace and I did skip Saturday’s long run due to lack of preparation and sleep.

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I was still thinking if this out-of-the-blue single-digit pace was a fluke. Strangely enough, from Monday to Tuesday morning, I woke up with some puffiness on the ball of my right foot and a strange discomfort between big and middle toe. I opted to run after work since I didn’t get enough hours of sleep. What appeared to be an inflammation was kinda of visible and the pain was noticeable when pressure was placed on the foot, but I thought that perhaps it was some phantom pain because I didn’t run in the past Saturday.

With OUC approaching in less than 1 week, I needed to run at least 5 miles. I ran this 5-miler with 1 mile worth of 40 seconds pickups without problems as my splits showed as 9:10, 10:19, 0.50 mile at 10:20; my pickups average at the 8’ish with my best being at 7:36, and a cool down mile at 8:50 to give me an average pace of 9:50. Voila! But minutes after the run, I started feeling a heartbeat on my foot and at that point, there was no ignoring or thinking this to be a phantom pain.

I asked my husband for his input on the pain and he said it had to with the way my middle toe is uneven with all the other toes, meaning, it’s elevating on top of the toe therefore creating pressure on the ball of the foot. I am like….here I go again with another injury and of course it had to happen 10 days before OUC and on Thanksgiving week.

The next day, I called Dr. Christopher Mason’s office (he’s the best podiatrist ever and a runner too) for an appointment on the same day. The only availability was for Monday after Thanksgiving so I took the spot. I was not settling for a Monday appointment as I had planned my long run on Thanksgiving Day. So I called again and asked to be seen on this same day. I’ve got the same unwilling-to-help answer. Minutes passed by and called the office for the third time and requested to speak with Kathy. I’m not sure what superpowers Kathy has, but she helped me with a same-day appointment before. She was not available so I left a voice-mail and begged for her to call me back.

In less than 30-minutes later, she called me back, I explained my urgent situation, and she booked me to see Dr. Mason at 2:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving eve! I was thrilled and so grateful. I practice gratitude every day, but during Thanksgiving week, it was even more special to feel more grateful and share the joy. I was happy to see Dr. Mason and to find out that there was no sign of stress fracture, but it was the case of Capsulitis an inflammation of a joint capsule between toes. Now that I knew what I was dealing with, cortisone shot, meds and rest for two days was on the tap. Yay!!! Seriously, YAY!!!

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Thanks for Dr. Christopher Mason healing was in progress!

The worst that could happen at this point was to postpone pre OUC long run for Saturday. I proceeded with strength training, core and upper body workouts on the next day. On Friday, I focused on upper body and played some racket ball with my hubby. Saturday’s long run results at 9:45 average pace with splits of 9:49, 10:04, 9:50, 10:15, 9:59, 9;52, 9:36, 9:42, 9:28 and 9:01 was very promising that running OUC was within reach. If I a sub-2 was not possible, I certainly had the possibility on my side for a PR (anything better than 2:08:25). I couldn’t be happier with this run!

Taper week approached very quickly and I kept on doing my thing by staying calm, getting the sleep I needed and adjusting my workout according to my energy level. Tuesday’s tempo ran ended up with a 4-miler at average pace of 9:25. For Thursday, I had PT scheduled at my usual time at 6:15 a.m., so it was a 5:00 a.m. run for me which I chose to make it a 5K. I didn’t want to run the risk of getting stuck in my thoughts about pace, effort or even running the risk of a last-minute injury. I ended up with 9:30 average pace and I was happy with it. Friday before the race was my usual pre-race day routine with lots of stretch, some core workout, foam rolling and massage/stretch by my husband.

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I was ready to go and I had never felt so excited and ready for a race like this one. And the IG community wished me some good positive vibes. It was up to me to bring home the negative splits.

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Packet pick up at Track Shack

“Today is another day to make yourself proud.”

 ~ Unknown

Lighthouse Loop Half Marathon: A scare at Mile 8

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“Run with your heart instead of your mind. When you think with your mind, you think of the things you can and can’t do. But when you run with your heart you forget about what you can’t do, and you just go out and do it.”

~Gerry Lindgren

It’s a very strange feeling of training your heart out day in and day out, and yet, feeling untrained for the day you’ve been anticipating for. That’s what I was experiencing leading up to Lighthouse Loop half marathon. I was excited, I was nervous, I was pretending to stay calm, but the voice inside my mind was not 100% confident. Of course it had to do with my nagging hamstring/quads injuries and lack of adequate recovery for the past 3 months, but I tried to focus on letting the anticipation energy out and really go out there to have a fun race.

Even though I tried not to, I couldn’t help but to feel an obligation that I needed to ran better than my last half marathon (2:08:25) because I had been working with a run coach since April. But my kind-self also made aware that it was very unfair to put so much pressure on myself in light of all the circumstances I had been living in for the past months. Let’s face it, I didn’t have a perfect training cycle under a stable condition for training.

My husband’s support throughout my training cycle has been priceless. His patience, his understanding, his words of encouragement and his time, are gifts that makes my running life easier and happier. His company during my shake out mile at the middle school’s track by our new home gave me confidence that I would not have any problems running Lighthouse Loop on the next day. I felt great running a 1-miler on the track at 8:57 pace. We headed home and he worked on me for one hour and half doing his specialty in Active Isolated Stretch and some light massage. I’m so lucky he’s a massage therapist!

There was nothing out of the ordinary on race day. The same routine, nutrition and focus was applied because we runners know better: nothing new only tried-and-true! My husband dropped me off at the start line and went to park at the finish location because it was a 30-minute walk from the starting to the finish. As usual, he wished me a great run, and that’s really all I needed to hear. It makes me feel so much better about a run whether it’s a training run or a race.

The gun went off, the race started and I there I went on another 13.1 mile journey. I kept myself calm throughout the run. I started slow (nothing new there, lol) and gradually started to get a better feel about the race, the weather and my body’s response to a list of stimulation. The first noticeable challenge that this race would be a challenge was the heat and humidity. I tried to focus on the beautiful scenery of the coast line and the settle breeze coming from the ocean. Well, that soon disappeared and we were left with a 64F degree weather and 100% humidity.

Training on summer months and intense humidity does pay off on race day because if the weather is similar as on training day, it really is not a surprise. You would only have to adjust your pace and comform that a chance to PR would be slimmed. But in my case, there was no expectation of a PR here, just to get it done and crossing the finish line.

Tightness on my calves was not a surprise either. Lately, it had been taking between 2-3 miles into a run before they felt loose and allowing me to get some rhythm going. Therefore, with a pace in the first 4 miles as 10:46, 11:03, 10:51 and 11:09 wasn’t something for me to be alarmed. Going into mile 5, I started to push a little more to a 10:25 pace as my calves finally started to like the run. At this point, Jesse called my attention and we ran together for the next 2 miles at 10:30 and 10:26 pace.

Unfortunately, somewhere at mile 8ish I felt a rare knot and tightness below my left calf and near the Achilles. I had to stop on the course several times to massage the area, but it didn’t help much. I walked and the pain didn’t feel any better either. I ran and it felt that at any given moment something was going to tear up. By then my pace went up to 11:53. I had never felt so scared during a race and I had never felt that there was a possibility that I would not be able to finish a race. Seeing a runner sitting down on the side-walk surrounded by other people waiting for the ambulance didn’t help either, but it reinforced  me to get moving while hoping that she was just feeling heat exhaustion and needed a rest.

The pain was getting unpleasantly painful with each step forward. At times I felt like crying, but the pain I was feeling was nothing in comparison to the pain my husband went through days/hours before his surgery and during post-surgery recovery. Absolutely nothing like it! Witnessing him going through months of ordeal and still keeping his head high with positivism and optimism when some doors were getting slammed on the face, it was humbling to say the least. His struggles became my struggles. His perseverance and optimism because my (our) strength. We lived those challenging moments by ourselves and with no help from family or friends. It was just us, my mom’s prayers sent out way and God.

I kept running. It was a slow pace, but I kept running because walking was just making it worse. My pace for the last 4 miles were at 12:36, 11:13, 11:53 and 12:08. Crossing the finish line and hugging my husband was all I wanted and desired at that moment. It was a very emotional race for me. It was also the first race that I didn’t use music as a distraction. I felt a lot more connected with my surroundings, my body and soul. It was an enlightening experience which perhaps I was not ready yet to handle the emotional and physical residue from it.

I was grateful, a little upset with my time (well that’s my ego telling) and I was happy all at the same time in crossing another finish line in 2:28:17. I received the finish medal from a beautiful girl with such a pretty smile on her face. I couldn’t help but to smile bigger. I gratefully grabbed the lighthouse shaped medal and I started walking looking for my husband. As usual I have a hard time finding him when on a crowd, so he found me as I gathered with other members or our running family who had grabbed my attention.

I hugged him, and of course that my first words was how horrible my time was before realizing how happy I was to see him and to share how hard the race felt. I immediately placed the race medal around his neck. This medal was for him. Although I ran the 13.1 miles, but he is the one who deserves.

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There was a lot going on around us and I needed to find a calm corner to settle myself. We headed to a less crowded spot in the parking lot and I was finally able to just look at him in the eye and say how proud I was of him for enduring such challenging times with a tremendous positive attitude. Some tears rolled out, but it didn’t take long for Kurt to start showing his goofy side by taking some silly pictures of me and distracting me from my cranky calf before we head out to our car for food.

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Every race is special in its own way. But some races have a stronger power in changing a runner’s perspective. It’s up to the individual to thankfully receive its gift or ponder on it. I choose to receive and learn from it.

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“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100%.”

 ~Arnold Schwarzenegger