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!

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 5.46.09 PM

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?

The Race I Didn’t Plan For

I know it’s Friday and I’ve been bad about posting my Fit Friday posts, but I wanted to get this recap out instead.

Last Sunday, I ran the Big Sur Half Marathon. This has been one of my favorite half marathon since I first ran in it in 2011. Last year, I also ran my current PR there. So this year, I planned on this being my last real race of 2013 and hoped to finally break 1:40 in the half. For the most part, my training had gone really well and my speed was picking up. A week before the race, I was confident that this would be the perfect setting. But it wasn’t, no PR, not this time.

Unfortunately, timing was not on my side. As I shared in my last post, we just purchased our first home and began our move on the Friday before the race. I knew this was not ideal but it was what it was. I ended up being on my feet packing pretty much every day of the week leading up to the race. I tried to mitigate this by using some Recovery Pump time but I just had too much on my legs. During my Friday run, my right foot also acted up and we had to stop for me to stretch it out. Despite all this, I really thought I could still PR – if only by a few seconds.

Who can complain with this scenery? (Photo by Miriam K.)

Who can complain with this scenery? (Photo by Miriam K.)

Sunday morning I headed down to the race with Leslie (who was pacing me – what a treat!) and Sam (who rocked her race with a new PR and took 1st in her AG). We had a nice little shake out run and while my legs still felt tired, I felt ok and wasn’t too worried. Pretty quickly into the race, I knew it was going to be a hard push to get this PR but I still thought I could do it. Leslie kept me on pace, following my goal to stay within 7:35-7:40 for the first 10k, then the plan was to drop to about 7:30 through mile 10 and then give everything I had in the last 3 miles. Even though I didn’t feel as great as I wanted to, every time Leslie asked how I was going, I said good – if I said it out loud it made it true, right? I hit mile 7.7 at 59:02, right on target.

When we hit mile 9, Leslie knew I was having a rough time. She asked if this was just the pain of the race or if it just wasn’t my day. I had to be honest, there was no way I could keep up my pace for another 4 miles, let alone push faster. So I told her it wasn’t my day. We held a pretty decent pace for the next two miles (7:48, 7:54). But then I just fell apart – running never felt so hard! (Ok, it felt harder at the LA Marathon but whatever.) We hit mile 11 at 1:25:51. I thought maybe if I held back in miles 11 and 12, I could push in the last mile and maybe make up a little time – still not a PR but at least close to my best. Leslie was a great pacer, she reminded me that even on my slow runs I was faster than what I was running in those two miles and I really appreciated that. She encouraged me to try to pass people in that last mile. And I wanted to… but no good. I had to stop (twice!) because my body just wasn’t having it. I have to admit, it was a little awful to fall apart like that with a friend to witness it – but I so appreciated Leslie being there. A big THANK YOU to her for being there and being a great pacer even when I couldn’t make it happen. When we came up to the finish (where Kevin and my dad were spectating – thanks guys!) I gave everything I had to push to the finish, even a little sprint in that last bit before the finish line. My official finish time: 1:44:15 (1:42 ish without my stops).

Leslie taking me into the finish chute (photo by Kevin)

Leslie taking me into the finish chute (photo by Kevin)

After crossing the line, I picked up my food box and ate EVERYTHING. I was starving. I never eat that quickly after a race. But I could not find where I had packed my Sports Beans and had only eaten a banana before the race – not great. I normally don’t need fuel in a half marathon, however, the few times I have forgotten to take it with me have been the times I needed it – of course, right? We had to run some errands after the race for the new house and my legs were so tired that I sat down in the store – yep. And I didn’t run again until today – although lots of time on my feet still with unpacking. Even with those days off, my legs still felt tired and so while I’m bummed that Sunday didn’t go the way I hoped and planned for, I gave all I had in the race. And still, it was my fastest half in a year.

Nice swag

Nice swag

This Sunday I also get to pay it forward and pace a friend to a new PR at the inaugural Berkeley Half Marathon. I’m pretty excited to run with her and still in a good long run. Will I be seeing you at the race? (Look for me, I’ll have on my SFM Ambassador singlet from last year.)

 

 

The Changing Plans Continue

The changes just keep coming in my training/running schedule.

I had originally planned to run the Big Sur Marathon on April 28. This was assuming that I did well at LA and then could run Big Sur easy (well relatively speaking of course). Big Sur holds a special place in my heart because it was my first marathon. I had been especially looking forward to running it again because the year I ran the race was the year that part of Highway 1 collapsed and so rather than being a point-to-point course it was an out and back. So I was eagerly looking to running the full, original course.

But … I had to change all of that. For the 2nd race of 2013, I have dropped out of a race. Well, unlike the Santa Cruz Half Marathon and I am changing my registration for Big Sur. I have officially downgraded from the marathon (all 26.2 miles of it) to the 5k (all 3.1 miles!). I could have run the full but I was starting to worry that would erase all of the recovery work I have been doing. As I reassess the rest of my running goals for 2013, I didn’t want to throw any possibilities away because I ran Big Sur. While it’s a bummer to not run the marathon, I am excited to run the 5k because I get to run with two of my favorite running/training partners and SCE teammates, Elise and Leslie. The full marathon will just have to wait for another year (perhaps a Boston 2 Big Sur year? A girl can dream!)

When have you had to change your running/training plans? Have you had to drop a race?

My Shiney New PR from the Big Sur Half

The Big Sur Half Marathon has topped my list of half marys since I ran it last year (read my recap of that race here). There are several reasons why this race is favored by many runners (not just myself). The course is stunningly beautiful, it has nice rolling hills rather than difficult steep hills or boring flat routes. And Big Sur is a great race organizer (there are only a few race organizations that I put in this category, the SF Marathon is another good example).

Last year when I ran the race I was smack in the middle of my running rut. I could not seem to run at my previous speed anymore. My official time at Big Sur was 2:04 and some change (granted I did have a bathroom break and the course according the GPS watches (acknowledging their flaws) seems a tad long). But I was still happy at that race as I knew without the bathroom break I would have had a slightly faster run and it was quicker than my previous half marathons.

This year was a whole difficult ballgame. I joined a running team (SC Endurance), was more consistent with my running, did more speed workouts & long runs, and Big Sur fell at the tail end of my marathon training plan. And well, let’s be honest, 2012 has been my personal year of the PR. Just to recap, in April I finally fell well below the 2 hour mark finish the US Half 2 (now Rock n Roll San Francisco) at 1:54 and then finally beat my 2-year-old PR at the Capitola Half with a finishing time of 1:45:44 (running a 1:45 half marathon was a huge goal of mine). After that I secured a new PR in the 5k and in the 6 mile distance as well as creating some new personal course records. In July, I created a new half PR at the SF Marathon (1:43:03).

After all this, I knew I could do well at Big Sur. It was my ideal course with its rolling hills. I also knew that I wanted to do well at this race to have it in my mind when I run my marathon in just under 2 weeks (wow, how did that happen??). So I decided I had two plans for this past Sunday. 1) Aim for a 7:38 pace which should get me to 1:40 finish time and a PR or 2) Run a marathon pace for this course. I decided I would go by feel to determine which goal I would pursue.

Pre race with the FIL

Corral A

It was a long weekend. I went to the expo on Friday to pick up my gear but I was back there Saturday to volunteer for the SF Marathon booth. I got to see several other SF ambassadors, including meeting Paulette for the first time! I was tired and cranky after the long Saturday and this was not made better while waiting for dinner. But after some delicious pasta I felt better. I drove down with my father-in-law, who is also a runner and raced Big Sur as well, and saw that the rain had subsided. Woohoo! When the race started, I felt strong and decided to go for goal 1. Every mile I ran was under 8 minutes, with the fastest at 7:22 and the slowest at 7:53. My last two miles were very consistent despite fatigue, clocking in at 7:45 each. I immediately knew after the first mile that course was a bit long but it was not abnormal (I also know that the course could be perfect but GPS tracks it a bit long). According to my watch, the course was 13:31 and I ran an average 7:36 pace. At the 13.1 mark by my watch I was at 1:39:40, but I ended up finishing at 1:41:19. A PR by nearly 2 minutes!! Woohoo! And 23 minutes better than last year. 23 minutes!!!

PR!

This race went exactly how I wanted it to. I felt strong the first 9-10 miles and fatigue in my legs set in around mile 10-11. My shoes felt a little off, even though I’ve worn them in a half marathon and some long runs before. This could have been due to wearing new socks. Anyway, for the first 8 miles or so I just smiled like crazy. I knew I was feeling good and no one can overstate the beauty of the Pacific Grove & Carmel coast. After the turn around I saw Alisyn and my father-in-law.  Miles 11 and 12 were tough and I knew that even if I slowed to a 8 minute pace, I would still meet my goal of a PR. But I pushed through. I saw Kevin and his mom right before the finish, gave them a big thumbs up, and sprinted to the end. What a great race!

Almost to the finish!

Love the Big Sur medals

Happy Meg

And now… CIM!

Big Sur Half Marathon – My New Favorite Race!

Last weekend I ran my last half marathon of the year and my 11th half marathon overall. It was my favorite race, ever! Why? Because it’s a beautiful course and you just can’t top a Big Sur running event, they put on the best races around (see my recap on their marathon earlier this year).

Cold pre race :)

I had headed out to the expo on Friday (I love when I can go early) and had Saturday to relax before the race day. I ended up running 3.1 miles with Kevin to prep for our 5k on Thanksgiving but it was actually nice. Since the distance was short it didn’t bother my legs and instead seemed to prep them for the race day. I had been reading for the days leading up to the race that it would be a cold, rainy morning. So, I laid out warm clothes and the running cap I bought at the expo. I had my usual pesto pasta pre-race dinner and got to sleep.

4:30am rolled around way too quickly, as it usually does. I got up and decided to wear a running skirt and bring pants just in case (so glad I went with that decision instead of wearing pants). It was not raining, although it sprinkled a bit on the way to Monterey. I went back and forth about wearing the hat, which I had got to keep the rain out of my face. I decided to wear it anyway, just in case it started to rain. But nope, no rain! At least not during the race. It turned out to be a beautiful morning, cold but good for running. The race takes you through the city of Monterey, Cannery Row, Pacific Grove, and along the Monterey Bay. It is a spectacular view!! I loved every minute of it.

I planned for this to be the race that I broke back through 2 hours. The last few races I have run have been slow because of a variety of reasons (dehydration, sickness, not enough training due to my crazy schedule). But I thought I could keep around a 9 minute pace and get back under 2 hours. And I did! Well, ok officially I didn’t but at 13.1 miles by my fancy Nike+ watch (thanks Kevin!) I was at 1:59. I had a little potty break at the turnaround and stopped my watch to account for that. According to my watch I crossed the finish line at 2:01 (at 13.4 miles) and my official time was 2:04. Still a significant improvement from my last race. And I kept to my pace pretty faithfully (except mile 2 and mile 12). Here are my splits:

1 mile – 8:42
2 mile – 7:29
3 mile – 8:52
4 mile – 9:10
5 mile – 9:26
6 mile – 9:03
7 mile – 9:02
8 mile – 9:32
9 mile – 9:30
10 mile – 9:23
11 mile – 9:23
12 mile – 9:34
13 mile – 9:19

I love this race. It will be my first priority of races to do in fall 2012. And I can’t wait to do it again! Thanks Big Sur for another great experience!!