Highlights of 2014

Well, it’s nearly the end of the year and it’s been three months since I have posted on the blog. Life got crazy busy … teaching, TAing, researching, writing (sort of), and running means no time for blogging. And as I realize this, I am contemplating ending this blog… still undecided on that. But before I do that, I thought I’d touch on some highlights of the year.

Trails & Hills
When 2014 started, I opted not to focus on speed and PRing and race goals…but instead I wanted to log more miles on trails and learn to be stronger on hills. And while I did train for races, whenever I could I made a concerted effort to get out on the trails and climb (remember my Fit Friday posts?). Climb and run trails – I did! With amazing friends (Jenn B., Hillary, Leslie, and the Bobs) I learned new trail routes and got more comfortable off the road. And as of today (Dec. 29) I have climbed 91,250 feet during my 2,175 miles this year. Success! And as the rest of this post will show, those hills and trails paid off with PRs in every distance (in fact I PRed twice in the half and 10k if you count relays…)

Relays
Speaking of relays, I ran several relays with both SFM Ambassadors and SCE teammates. From Ragnar to the Capitola Half to a duathlon and triathlon and finally the recent Christmas Relay in San Francisco, I have run more relays than ever before! And it has been so much fun. My last relay, the Christmas Relay was a great way to cap off a relay year – with 3 teammates and a goal to race at a sub 7 minute pace. (I succeeded, 4.5 miles at 6:55, woohoo!) Running in a relay takes the focus off the solo sport that running often is and brings in a team element that often can push you to meet goals you previously thought impossible. Plus, how much fun is it to start and finish as a team!

SCE at the Christmas Relays

SCE at the Christmas Relays

PRs
As I mentioned before, I PRed in the 5k, 10k, half, and marathon distances. This was an incredible feeling, especially after 2013 not really catching any PRs. I’ve written about my most of my PRs (Super Bowl 10k, Santa Cruz Half, Run in the Name of Love 5k, and SFM, link below) but I never got around to posting on my most recent at the Big Sur Half Marathon on the Monterey Bay, so I guess I’ll post a little about this now.

Best views at Big Sur

Best views at Big Sur

As readers of my blog know, the Big Sur Half is my favorite half marathon and I’ve had great races there in the past (2011, 2012). Last year, I aimed for it to be my first sub 1:40 half but it just wasn’t my day. I decided to take this year off and run the inaugural Disney Avengers Half Marathon instead. Well, sometimes life works in funny ways. Due to an unforeseen and unexpected issue (not necessary for the blog post) we couldn’t make the drive to Southern California. We transferred our hotel reservation for 2015 and RunDisney was awesome, letting me defer my entry. I felt really fit and wanted to still race 13.1 and thought I’d check to see if the usually immensely popular Big Sur half still had any entries… they did! After going back and forth, I decided to drive down to the expo and register at almost literally the last minute. Race morning, I left early for the 6:55am start, giving me little time to get caught up in typical race nerves. I felt like I ran a nearly perfect race. I started out a tad fast, but nothing too crazy and made my way through the first couple miles, which weave through Monterey’s downtown to the coast through Cannery Row and to the Coast (miles 1-3: 7:13, 7:36, 7:24). This part of the course stays by the coast for a bit and then heads up the most steep hill (67 feet) into Pacific Grove and then back to the coast. Then the race stays on the coast until its turnaround, a little past mile 8. Coming out of Pacific Grove, Kevin (Paulette’s husband) came up beside me and we ran together for a bit. Then fellow SCE team member Jeff passed me and just before the turnaround I saw another SCE member, Benoit (using the race as a final long run before CIM), heading back toward the finish. These guys really helped me stay motivated during the middle miles! (Miles 3-8:  7:32, 7:13, 7:30, 7:24, 7:15) After the turnaround (BTW I love that the turnaround is so late so you only have about 5ish miles  left!), we turned to a massive headwind, boo! But with the views of the Monterey Bay, who can really complain? I also saw Paulette as she made her way to the turnaround. I had been looking for one other SCE member, Jose, but I didn’t see him until the finish (because he was just a few steps behind me the entire race!). I definitely felt tired but knew I should be able to catch my previous PR time. I  had a bit of mind game coming back into Cannery Row, as that was where I really fell apart last year. But I powered through and before I knew it, I was at the finish (Miles 9-13.1: 7:28, 7:23, 7:29, 7:15, 6:56, last .10 37 seconds). This meant I finished at 1:37:51! That was a 2 minute PR for the half… only 7 months after I set my previous PR! I was elated. I texted Leslie first because she had been my rock for the half last year and I knew she would be stoked for me. Then I texted the hubs and family. The only bummer was I was pretty much by myself… then I saw Jose, Sean, and Benoit! And that made me pretty happy.

PR = Happy Meg

PR = Happy Meg

Catching that Unicorn
Like many runners, one of my ultimate goals was qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I tried 3 times from December 2012 through August 2013 and still remained 7+ minutes away. After trying so hard, I decided not to make that my goal in 2014. I purposely registered for SFM knowing that it would not be a good BQ course (hoping to remove that pressure). But take the pressure off, combined with great coaching (thanks Aaron!) and lots of hills meant that my 2014 marathon was my strongest and fastest yet and allowed me to finally catch that unicorn. (Read that post HERE.) In September I registered for Boston and got my confirmation about a week later. This definitely tops my running highlights for 2014!

BQ Smile!

BQ Smile!

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Everything Else
There were lots of other awesome non-running moments from 2014. Some of my closest friends got married; so the hubs and I had bachelor/bachelorette parties and beautiful weddings to attend. I was able to come home to visit my family more times than I usually do. And Elise came to visit twice this year! Sadly, both Hillary and Jenn moved away, but I was able to visit them both – so that’s not too terrible, I guess. And while Leslie had her share of injuries, she has been such an inspiration in her recovery. Speaking of inspirations, Ashley’s Barre Studio opened in October and is amazing!! I love going to the classes (runners, this is a great asset to your running, I promise!). And the hubs and I have been hosts to friends and family to our still-new-to-us house. It’s been a great year!

2015
I’m looking forward to 2015. I’m a new ambassador for Team Run the Bay (Represent Running). Our first big race is the popular 408k… looking to register? save 10% with the code: RUNTHEBAY-MG

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As far as races go, I’ve only got my eye on a couple. Of course, I’m running the 508k. I’ll also be running the Super Bowl 10k for the 6th year in a row. And I’m excited to run She is Beautiful in March. I haven’t run this race since its first year in 2011. And I was lucky to be a part of their new video:

Every day is a choice… from She.is.beautiful on Vimeo.

And of course, I’ll be focusing on Boston. The hubs and I are both excited! We’ve never been to Boston so even without the race this is going to be a fun trip… but to run the famous Boston Marathon makes it that much more special!

So, what have been your favorite 2014 moments? And what are you looking forward to in 2015?

Dashing the Dip and Dash

Last Sunday, I participated in my first Dip and Dash put on by Finish Line Productions. The Dip and Dash series includes three aquathons, swim then run of varying distances. Since I’m not a swimmer, it’s not a surprise that I hadn’t participated in one before. But my friend and teammate, Sam, wanted to use the swim as a practice and asked if I wanted to be part of a relay team with her. She’s swim around the wharf and I’d run the five miles on West Cliff. I jumped at the chance to be on a team with her and thought it would be a fun chance to see where my speed is at 6 weeks post marathon.

My plan leading up to the race was to run a pace similar to the 10k portion of the Capitola Half relay back in May. This meant about a 7:05 pace. I also hoped it would be fastest enough for us to win too. The two weeks before the race I added in some speed workouts for the first time in a month. I started with a reverse ladder workout: 2×800, 2×400, 2x200s and was not too far off from the times I was hitting earlier in the summer. The Thursday before the race I ran some 400s and a couple 200s around the harbor – couldn’t seem to find a time to make it to the track. They were not my fastest attempts and I thought about scaling back my goal to a 7:15 pace. This seemed the best idea when I woke up Sunday morning feeling a little sick to my stomach (I’m assuming this was thanks to Chinese food and ice cream the night before!).

I jogged down to the start and met up with Sam, where I learned that we were the only relay team. Sweet, we already won! Ha! She had a great idea that I run the Wharf as my warm up and then I could cheer on the swimmers as the same time (as well as get some good photos). I did a few strides at the end of my warm up and headed toward the transition area. Even though the pressure of winning was off, I still wanted to have a strong run. Sam came out of the water (which had some strong swells Sunday morning) and I grabbed the chip and made my way out to West Cliff.

Swimmers ready to start!

Swimmers ready to start!

Sam rounding the wharf

Sam rounding the wharf

Since I was the only runner, I made sure to encourage all of the race participants who were running on much more tired legs than mine. I felt pretty good by the time I started the race, stomach issues were gone. I started out too fast and did a terrible job of pacing (oh well): 7:03, 6:59, 6:56, 7:09, 7:15. I finished at 36:15 with an average pace of 7:03 – easily making it to my original goal. Despite uneven pacing, I was pretty happy with that. Since it was only my second 5 mile race, it also meant a distant PR ;)

I met up with Sam and another teammate, Dan, after the race. After some coffee and yogurt from nearby Picnic Basket, Sam and I collected our prize – a gift certificate for free Rudy Project sunglasses! Sweet!

Have you ever won a race because there was no competition??

SCE Whale to Whale

Just over a week ago, SCE (my super awesome running club) hosted the 3rd Whale to Whale “race” of the year. The Whale to Whale has been our little local tradition. We start at the Long Marine Lab Whale and then cruise the 6 miles along West Cliff and the Boardwalk to finish at the Natural History Museum Whale in the Seabright neighborhood. We don’t shut down the roads and it varies from 10 to 30 (ish) participants. The entry is just $10 and is used for the club or various community involvement (we’ve collected canned food, donated to the Baker/Butler Scholarship Fund last year, etc.) and we have a small prize for the top 3 men and women finishers.

At the start of Whale to Whale (all photos credit of SCE)

At the start of Whale to Whale (all photos credit of SCE)

While I have been to the other two races this year, I haven’t run it in quite some time. This time around I really wanted to run it again but knowing I really haven’t done any speed, I didn’t want to race it. Luckily, another team member and my friend, Sam, felt the same way. We decided to make it part of our long run. We started just past the “finish line” and weaved over to the start, getting in just under 8 miles before we began the race. It was a beautiful run along the water and we even saw a whale in the bay. So this year it was more of a whale to whale to whale ;)

Running as a pack on West Cliff

Running as a pack on West Cliff

After signing our waivers and paying our entry fees, all the runners headed to the start. This time around, there seemed to be more of us “fun running” rather than speeding through the course. This meant lots of time to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while as well as seeing an otter and some dolphins playing in the bay. All the sea creatures were out for this race!

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When we got to the finish, the three women decided to hold hands and all come in for 3rd place together. (I wish I had a photo of this silliness!). We hung out for a bit but after 14 miles, but I was ready for some food and a shower so headed home soon after.

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If you haven’t joined us for one of these events, check out the SCE FB page or our website to find out about the next one!

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Wilder at Sunset

Yesterday I joined the SCE Tuesday evening Trail run for the first time since the marathon. Usually this is a loop through the Wilder hills, just shy of 7 miles. When I showed up at the starting spot, there was chatter of a longer route. Two of the guys are moving into their fall marathon training and wanted something closer to 8-9 miles. Cool. I had no real plans, so I was up to add on a mile or two. The run ended up being closer to 10 miles but included some new trails I hadn’t explored at Wilder yet (and connected some other ones that I did know). I took a couple of photos as we headed down and had to post them here! So without further adieu, pretty Wilder views.

 

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Sunset at Wilder – perfect way to end the day!

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SCE guys enjoy the views too

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Ok, time to finish up this run!

 

Fun Running by the Sea

One of the benefits of fun running (i.e. not training!) is that I can drop into events that would not be great races for me but are really fun. This was the case last week when I ran Race Thru the Redwoods and it was true for yesterday’s Run by the Sea 12k as well. For some, these events are ideal settings but I am just not super fast on trails (whether they include hills or not) and therefore they aren’t great events for me to test out speed training or look for a PR (although since I’ve never run a 12k before it’s an automatic PR ;) ). But they are great for going out and having a great time while supporting a good cause and being a part of the running community. And sometimes, you surprise yourself and walk away with a spot in the top three in your age group too!

Just about to start

Just about to start (photo cred: SCRC)

Yesterday was the second annual running of the Run by the Sea. Last year, I couldn’t run it because it was the same day as the Santa Rosa Marathon but this year I had no conflicts. The race wants to raise both awareness and funds for the Santa Cruz Rail Trail project. It follows the trails through Wilder State Park, including a little off-road adventure down to the beach (another reason I wasn’t interesting in “racing” this one). My morning started with a few texts from family members checking to see if we were ok from the earthquake… so then I had to go figure out what earthquake they were talking about since I slept right through it. (We are about 2 hours from the epicenter but some did feel the quake here, including the hubs and one of our pups). Then, of course, I spent a bunch of time reading about the early reports of Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake and trying to determine if my friends running SRM would be ok (they were!). Then I just wanted to go back to sleep… forget the race (especially considering the several glasses of wine I drank the night before…) But somehow I still managed to head out.

In the pack, starting the race

In the pack, starting the race (photo cred: SCRC)

This was definitely not a “race” morning for me. Besides the wine the night before and the atypical wake up, I didn’t run any warm up or cool down miles and I didn’t wear my normal racing singlet. This, I wanted to remember, was just fun miles to support a good cause. I found my teammates Sam, Josh, and John right before the start. I positioned myself a few people deep and started out on the trails. I encouraged a gal to pass me since she clearly was in race mode (she came in 3rd overall) and happily ran toward the water. I took it easy climbing down the rocks and across the sand. I happily took the volunteer’s hand to help over the rocks on the way back up to the trail. At the first water station, a volunteer cheered her friend behind me – telling her to pass me. Fine by me. I let her go and continued toward the turn around. There I saw the first woman (who went on to win) and Sam looking strong. I counted the women and realized I was 6th woman. Cool, I thought, it would be fun to end up in the top 10 women but still no pressure.

Wilder views are the best!

Wilder views are the best! (photo cred: SCRC)

I felt really good after the turn around and unintentionally picked up a little speed but nothing too crazy. I passed the 5th woman and was back at the beach. I saw Jason from Santa Cruz Running Company, SCE’s sponsor and said hello. Then I saw the gal who has passed me back at the water station. She was a few minutes ahead of me and I didn’t expect to catch her, but I felt good and caught up to her. There was less than a mile left, so I just cruised along to the finish line. I finished with an official time 58:27, a 7:51 pace. Good enough for 3rd in my age group, 4th woman, and 16th overall. Not too shabby. All age group winners got chocolate (nice!) and a medal.

I promise I wasn't running a race by myself!

I promise I wasn’t running a race by myself! (photo cred: SCRC)

This was a really nice, low-key event. If you’re in Santa Cruz during August next year, I definitely recommend it. While you will do a little climbing for the beach portion, the Wilder bluffs are on of the best running spots around. And this race, unlike other races, is ran entirely on them. For those into swag, the shirt is nice – I wouldn’t run in it but it will be good for the gym. There are two water stations and helpful volunteers. There is both a 4k and a 12k (instant PRs for uncommon distances) and this year, just over 150 runners.

Shirt for all participants, medal and chocolate for finishing in top 3 in AG

Shirt for all participants, medal and chocolate for finishing in top 3 in AG

Post race: Sarah (1st woman), Sam, and me

Post race: Sarah (1st woman), Sam (2nd woman), and me (photo cred: Sarah)