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It was 5:00am on Saturday July 21, 2012 and I was wide awake thinking about the half marathon in two hours.  I laid in the comfortable fluffy Hotel Indigo bed in Santa Barbara trying to get myself mentally ready for the Run Montecito-Summerland Marathon.  This usually happens to me. I get nervous the last few hours of whatever I’m trying to do. I never think about it days before. It’s always right before the activity happens that I get nervous. I finally got out of bed at about 5:20am and took a shower and got dressed. I wore my black yoga pants because I still haven’t found the running shorts that I’m comfortable with. I wore my new white thick and tight sports bra creamed in vaseline.  I put on my new and first marathon shirt that was given to me the night before when I picked up my bib and put on my Asics running shoes with purple shoelaces.  I was somewhat ready. I decided to go outside and get my poop loop out of the way.  Our hotel was walking distance from the beach. It was the perfect area in Santa Barbara. I ran parallel to the beach for five minutes. It was cold and very foggy but the breeze felt good as I ran.  I usually do not like running in the morning, especially this early. But for some reason this five minute felt good. Maybe it was because it was right by the ocean and I love being by the sea.  It gave me motivation and encouragement. Sure enough after 5 minutes, I had to go the bathroom.  There’s one out of the way.

For the people that know me, I know they wouldn’t be surprised on my conversations about poop. I’ve maintained for the most part a high fiber diet for the last 12 years of my life and it has led me to constantly keep an average of four poops per day. Don’t think it’s gross. I like that I’m not keeping wastes in my body.  It just happens more when I run. I’ve blogged about it before how I’ve had to create a “poop loop” before I start my run so I don’t have to stop once I start running. So now I run five minutes before I start my official run so I can get the poop out of the way. It always works.

So going back to my morning…we left the hotel after 6am and got to Cafe Luna before 6:30am. There was plenty of parking and it was not crowded at all. It was going to be a very intimate run!  There was a nice breeze coming from the ocean.  I decided to jog again for five minutes and sure enough I had to go to the bathroom again.  Once that was out of the way I began to stretch. I felt ok and was trying to keep calm and not get so nervous about the race.

7:00am had now arrived and William and I were lined up towards the front of the starting line.  All of sudden the race began and everyone started to run.  My heart began to pump fast. I became nervous.  Immediately there was an uphill on the next block and I became very anxious and nervous to the point I couldn’t breathe.  I didn’t want to stop to walk because I just started but I just felt stressed and uneasy.  So I stopped and walked and told myself to breath deeply and calm down. I felt I just needed a minute to get myself together.  I took deep breaths and tried to get myself focused by clearing my mind. It worked and I began to run again. I just tried to maintain a steady pace and follow the runners. At this point, William was a few feet behind me.

 

 

The first few miles were fine once I stopped panicking.  We were running parallel to the ocean and there was no sun yet.  It was so far a cloudy breezy day.  I maintained a good pace for the first three miles and William stayed behind me.  Once the third mile began so did the hills.  This is when William caught up to me and I started slowing down. I did not want to start walking the uphills. I did not want to get very behind where I was the last one running! I was so worried about that. With only 160 1/2 marathoners, I did not want to be the last one!  The hills got worse and I became slower. By the time the fourth mile was there, I was power walking.  William had maintained a good pace and he was not ahead of me. The hills were very difficult.  My surroundings changed from viewing the ocean to being with the mountains. It was beautiful in Santa Barbara. I was breathing the forrest trees and enjoying the scenery around me.  There were still runners around me and I thought maybe if I try to pace myself with others, I would get a little better.  There were a few girls around me that seemed to be at my pace so I started running  behind them. However I was still going uphill and my running didn’t last that long. I had to stop again to power walk.  People were passing me by a lot.  There was another girl I tried to follow who was wearing a back pack.  That seemed to work a little better. There was also a very old man running the whole time and I don’t think I ever saw hims stop to walk. He maintained his pace the whole time when he was going up hill. I thought that was very impressive and I wanted to be there!

So many things were running through my mind through this journey. I no longer saw William in front of me.  I started thinking about the Maui marathon and thought how in the heck did I commit to this!  Running these hills were very difficult and I knew that it was not going to get any easier in Maui.  I thought a lot about the marathon during my run. I thought how I always commit to things and then wonder why I do it. I reached the sixth mile and finally the hills started to go down.  Yay!

My legs felt so wobbly at this point. I was able to run once the hills were over but my body felt numb.  I just kept running. I was still around the backpack woman and caught up to the old man running. I passed him up!  I tried to maintain a steady pace in the sixth mile. I even got my first cup of water from the volunteers. My hips felt like they were going to collapse. I tried to walk a bit to rest them but that didn’t work. I think my body didn’t want to stop anymore. It was in running mode and if I walked, I felt all the body pains. So I kept running and then I started feeling stomach cramps. It started to feel like there were knots in my stomach and they got very painful!  I then walked and took deep breaths to see if it would go away.  I was irritated because I was finally running but had to slow down for my stomach cramps. Once I started taking deep breaths, it seemed to calm my stomach down. So there I went again trying to run again.  I was wearing my iNano and according to my time at that point, I was not doing so bad on time.

During the seventh and eight mile, I knew I was tired but kept running.  I tried to think of things that would keep my mind off the running. I started imagining my friends at the finish line rooting for me when I finished even if they were not going to be there but it helped me.  I also realized that it was my last day to be 32 years old and I was running a half marathon on my birthday eve!  What I was to start my 33rd birthday with already a half marathon accomplished!  I thought about William and how much he has motivated me and how together we help each other accomplish certain things in our lives.  I thought of how it would be great to live in a place like Montecito.  We passed through some grand estates and I hear that one of them was Oprah’s home.  I thought of my family and tried to imagine them shouting out my name when I ran through the finish line.  I enjoyed this portion of the run because there were hardly any runners around me.  Everyone had spread out throughout the course and I just had to make sure I did not take a wrong turn.

I think I finally learned during this time of my run what the point of all of this was. I started this race thinking to myself that I did not want to be last. Now I knew what this madness was all about. It was about committing to something and not giving up. It’s about finishing at your best with whatever it is.  It was not about the time I was going to do it in, it’s about having the strength to tell yourself that you can do whatever you put your mind to. It’s all in the mind.  So somehow I knew that I was going to finish the Maui marathon no matter what.

I made it through the ninth mile and my body was still going.  I don’t know how but it was very difficult.  Maui is going to be huge!!! All of a sudden another hill began at the end of the tenth mile. What the heck!?  Another hill?  It was not a short one. It seemed like it was one full mile that was going uphill. Why would they do this to us and put an uphill at the end of the marathon??  It wiped any energy I had left to give. I was so frustrated because I had already carried good pace the last few miles and thought I was going to finish in about two hours and 15 minutes. But this last hill blew that away. It felt like the hardest hill ever!  And then I hear the old man’s footsteps. The same one that I had already passed was coming back.  Oh no! Did it slow me down this much!  I was so exhausted.

Somehow I got passed that awful hill and there I went downhill. It seemed like this marathon was never going to end!  I thought I was near when I saw the ocean again but there were some turns and I was back in the middle of nowhere running all by myself. Just keep going Melissa, just pace yourself is what I was telling myself.  The 12th mile was the longest mile so far. I knew I was getting very close when I started seeing the marathoners walking towards me. This means that they had finished and were going home. I asked one of them how close I was to the finish line and she said that I was very close “Just past that turn and you should start seeing the big finish banner” she responded with a smile.  I was so close but yet so far away!  I wondered if William was there at the finish line waiting for me. I knew I was not the last one because I had again passed the old man and the girl with the backpack.

Finally I saw the finish line ahead of me. I looked for William and didn’t see him in the crowd.  Where was he?  I got closer and heard the people cheering for me. I looked up and I saw William running through the crowds trying to get close to the finish line.  I ran and ran and ran until I crossed the finish line!  There was a lady there waiting for me to give me my medal. William was there too with a big smile. I took the medal and took William’s hug. It was finally over!!!

I

My official time was 2:28:54.6. I did it in less than two and a half hours! No way!  William was very impressed with my time. He thought I would finish in three hours or so. According to him, it was a very difficult half marathon. Below is how my pace changed throughout the race.

I finished 6th place in my women’s age group from 31-35.  Not bad!  I was very happy it was over and felt good about it.  I can’t believe I’m actually running. I never thought myself as a runner. I was once told my an orthopedic doctor that I’m flat-footed with introverted hips and that I should not try running for exercise.  This just shows that sometimes people are lazy!  Any of us can do whatever we pleased  and I am proud to say that I ran a half marathon!

 

 

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May was finally better for me. I felt I was running more consistent than before.  It’s the month I added some hikes to build endurance and something different.  I was also trying to add more healthy meals to my diet. At one point I even started to count my calories to make sure I was not being a pig. Because as a reminder to all, I work in a restaurant and I’m around food all day!  So I downloaded this app that would help me track my calories.  I was trying to eat smaller meals and more meals a day. It worked for about a week and then I got tired of researching how many calories each meal has. It takes forever!!! My goal in all of this was to eat healthy while I’m running so much.  I want to maintain the energy I need for my runs.  I hear too many different things on what to eat.  “Eliminate your sugar and dairy,” “Don’t eat too many carbs” “High on protein, lean on fats” “Carbs are good, they are your energy,” “Don’t eat fruit” “Eat fruit, it’s natural and healthy.”  At the end of the day, there are many different ways to eat and I still don’t know what’s the best for me.  So what I’m going to do moving forward is to stop listening to all of these other diets and maintain a balance diet as best as I can. This means that I will allow a little bit of everything in small portions. For the most part I will stick to my basics. Here are some examples:

  • Breakfast options: either oatmeal, protein shake, or scrambled eggs with vegetables
  • Lunch:  either homemade chicken meal, tuna sandwich, or salmon meal
  • Dinner:  either protein shake, small sandwich, small meal on whatever I cook
  • Snacks:  apples, zucchini hummus, nuts, seasonal fruit, chocolate silk soy milk

When I cook, I think it’s pretty healthy. I always buy organic meat, buy the gluten-free pasta, lots of green vegetables, and I also use a lot of spices to flavor the meals.  I just have to make sure I don’t stuff myself and stop when before I get too full.

Going back to my runs for May, I ran about a total of 60 miles.  My longest run was a 6.5 run and my longest hike was about 10 miles when I hiked Mt. Baldy.  My average run was about five miles. I wanted to make my minimum run six miles but there were days where I wanted to get home and do other things and did not have the time to make my run longer.  The above chart is a snapshot of my runs for May through Nike Fitness. There are some runs that are not recorded because I forgot to take my iNano with me when I ran, but I do remember which runs they were.  Overall I’m pretty happy that I was able to get my runs in May.  At the end of the month, I still got worried because I realized how close September is and I’m still only at about 6 miles.  I started to panic because it seems that I will not get to my goal of 13 miles in July!  Gotta keep trying!!!

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I didn’t get much running done in the beginning of the week.  On Saturday, April 21 I worked a wedding that took me the whole day.  I was very tired on Sunday  the 22nd but had to work again in the office because I was preparing to leave for three days to Albuquerque to see the Tom Petty Concert.  William and I left very early Monday morning to Albuquerque by plane and we were there until Wednesday.  It was a lot of fun but very hot and dry!  Not a place where I would want to live.  We ate any meal that had green chiles and drank a lot of alcohol. This is what you have to do when you are on vacation!  We also shopped and explored the city.  The Tom Petty Concert was wonderful and very worth it!

So Thursday was back to work. It was my catch up day and tried to get out as soon as possible because I wanted to get home to go grocery shopping. My plan is to get back on my healthy diet. William and I haven’t been doing as good as we should for the last month on our eating habits. I can feel it in my tummy and I don’t  want it to get worse.  So after work I went to Costco and Ralphs and stocked up on lots of greens and protein meats.  It was so noticeable that the cashier even commented “very healthy stuff.”  It was all green vegetables, greek yogurt, and fruit.  Hah!

I was also able to squeeze in a quick run on Thursday.  William and I did “The Loop” which is a circle going up some streets towards El Paso Drive, Avenue 50, and back on Lincoln to my house. It was 1.5 miles and made me very tired.  I felt behind again but knew that it was up to me to change this!

Friday I worked and went out with friends so no time for a run.  Saturday was another catch up day and began to cook my recipes.  I started the morning with a green shake: yogurt, mint, 1 cucumber, kale, 6 celery sticks, pineapple, ginger, cardamom, agave nectar, 1 scoop of protein, 1 spoon of natural fiber, and 1 green apple. I used the juicer for most of the greens and then combined everything in a blender.  It was the perfect way to start my day.

For lunch, I had a Which Wich Sandwich in Burbank because William and I were doing some shopping in that area. We came back home and I went back to my recipes. We then decided to do another “Loop” for a run but extended it by a street so it was 2 miles.  The new extension was an uphill street and it nearly killed me!  We did the loop twice! Hooray for 4 miles on Saturday!

For dinner I am making a kale salad with pine nuts, radish, marinated in olive oil and lemon juice.  It will be topped with quinoa mixed with dried cranberries, parsley, chopped carrots, mint, and some other spices and oils.  I will finish it off with marinated honey-grilled chicken.

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“Do your best and forget the rest” – Tony Horton

4:40am.  It was still dark as my alarms goes off. I turned it off, go pee, and crawl back to bed under the soft, warm bed sheets.  4:50am.  The alarm called me again. I turned it off and continued to lay in bed.  4:58am.  I dragged myself to the bathroom to take a shower.  5:20am.  William got up and took a shower.  Once I was fully awake, I packed my extra clothes and made some oatmeal for both of us.  I was actually not nervous about the race yet.  Just very sleepy.  We left the house at about 5:50am to pick up our last trooper Mike. As you all know from previous blogs, I’ve used this past week to prep myself for the Merrel Down & Dirty.  This whole year I have been running with the exceptions of some gaps in February and March.  Then there is Mike.  Mike is one of William’s friends that has never ran or done any exercise.  He plays baseball in a local league and that’s about it.  He has been hearing about our experiences and William’s marathons for a quite a while and finally decided to commit to a challenge. However before today, he had only worked out for about 1 week and a half.  He just bought a membership at the gym and has tried to get himself in shape this past week for this race. William and I both knew that this was going to be very tough for him but all agreed that we would stick together and help each other get through the race.

We arrive at Castaic Lake early enough to check in, stretch and get our body somewhat loose.

Stretching 

It was very cold and we did not have the courage to take our sweatshirts off at first.  We left them on until about 7:45am when we had to check in our bags.  We then headed to the starting line right before 8:00am.  We decided to go into the first wave possible. Why not!  At this point I was eager and excited.  It was not until the gun went off and we started to run is when I felt nervous.  The first half a mile was cold and all I was trying to do was to warm up and create a nice slow pace to start easy.  I wanted to conquer this race and I wanted to push myself.

at Castaic Lake

The first few obstacles were easy. We had to go under nets and sure enough the steady incline began. The hills had started. I tried to keep myself at a good pace and for the most part it worked. After the first hill we had to do 10 push ups.  I have not done any for quite a while but still got down and heard Tony Horton’s voice in my head, “Do your best and forget the rest.” So I did and gave the hills 10 push ups.  There were some areas where I had to power walk up the hills.  Mike immediately in the first mile was out of breath and sweaty.  William and I kept ourselves near him so we would not lose him.  Mile two came fast and for the most part we running uphill until mile three.  The obstacles that we had were actually pretty easy. There was one where we had to climb up some walls and crawl in tunnels and under nets, and also climb some nets.  At once point we had to walk on lumber strips that were very wobbly. It was not a good idea to balance yourself on these when other people were on them. If someone fell of these, it looked like it would be very painful. There were volunteers there helping you but I did not want any help. I wanted to walk on these without any help. The yoga kicked in and I walked on them without any problems.  During this time Mike was a real trooper cracking jokes trying to stay alive.  Early in the race his lower pack was giving him problems. We stretched out our hamstrings a few times during the course to help out his back and it seemed to help him quite a bit.

Third mile had a nice view of the Castaic Lake. We were probably at the highest of out those hills and the scenery was very beautiful. By this time, the day was not as cold, the shine was bright, and we were enjoying ourselves on this picture-perfect day.  At some point in the fourth mile, the first mud lake was to be accomplished. We had to crawl in mud and the water was very cold.  After the crawling, my clothes became heavy with mud but it was not as bad as I thought it would be.  Once you kept running, nothing mattered. I kept thinking of Tony Horton’s P90x phrase, “Do your best and forget the rest.” That’s what I was trying to be the whole time.  I tried my best and did not think of anything else but the enjoyment of the whole race.  The fifth mile was probably my favorite. This mile was already going downhill. It was basically a trail with many switchbacks and nice scenery.  The sixth mile was back at the recreation area back to the event where it started.  The only other obstacle that stood out for me was the “slippery mountain.” It was where you had to pull yourself up with a rope not using your feet and knees.

It was difficult for me because I still cannot pull my whole weight yet and also one of my pinky fingers is injured so it was hard to grip the rope with my hand without causing pain on my finger. William and Mike both helped me get through this one.  The last obstacle was the big mud pit.  It was not so bad and I unlike the others tried to keep my face away from the mud. William went in there like a beast and crawled that pit very quickly. Mike did the same thing too.  The bottom of the bit was rough with rocks and rubbed on my knees.  All three of us crossed the finish line together.  It felt great to finish and finally get this race out of the way.  We were muddy and very happy.  We then showered in cold water and changed clothes and had a hamburger.

The above picture was after we were dry and changed.  You can see some mud on our faces. We did not have our cameras right after the race when we were full of mud but I’m sure some will show up soon on their website.

Overall the experience was most needed with me. Last year I had ran the Gladiator Run which was a 5k. I was so out of breath the whole time and had to stop and slow town the group. This time, it was a 10k and the hills slowed me down a bit but I had a lot more energy and my legs kept going most of the time.  It also excited me for the rest of my training.  I was worried this past week that I was going to struggle a lot on this race but now that I have finished it, it has given me confidence to continue to push myself and not give up no matter what obstacles I face.  Just pace and race…

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Tuesday I was pretty sore from the hills from the night before.  After work, William and I decided to bike to a local park and shoot some hoops. It was a great way to loosen up the body after a long run the night before. We then biked home after spending some time in the basketball court.  Wednesday I woke up more sore and decided not to do anything after work. I  met up with my friend after work at Pink Taco’s and had some appetizers and two cocktails. I made it back home not too late and did not think much of it.

It wasn’t until after work today that I realized I was very tired. I knew I needed to make time to run because at this point, I’m only three days away from Merrel Down and Dirty.  William was already home when I arrived because he had bike to and from work. It was a total of about 25 miles of biking. There was no way I was going to make an excuse not to run after he biked that much in one day. So there I went and started my run to Avenue 50.

Immediately after I started I felt very heavy and tight. I felt I was running very slow.  The whole run felt this way.  My legs very tight. After running 1.5 miles, I decided to stretch my legs to see it would help.  It really did not help but I kept pushing myself. I made it all the way to the other side of the 110 freeway through the bridge and then down Griffin Street. I ran uphill a few times and it felt more difficult than Monday’s run. On the way back to my house is when I started to walk a lot.  My legs were not keeping up with me!  I took me 36 minutes to run 3.10 miles. I should have finished quicker than that.  My total distance was 4.6 miles.

I won’t be running tomorrow because I will be working the whole day and night. I plan to do a morning hike on Saturday if it does not rain.  I also have to stretch a lot more than just five minutes.  My goal is to be able to run 13 miles by June.

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I haven’t been able to do much blogging. It’s been one of those months. I started the month off strong but at the end of the month I got a little behind. I was running about 3-4 times a week but I was getting out of work late and was not able to get to the Internet to blog.  I don’t have Internet at home so that’s why I have to drive to places to post my blogs.  I need to get better at my posts so I don’t forget my runs!

I also left to a work conference in Las Vegas at the end of February for four days.  There I was eating three times a day, and usually full meals. This was something that I wasn’t used to. Typically my meals have been a shake in the morning, solid food for lunch, and a light meal for dinner or sometimes another shake for dinner. At the conference I was having waffles, or a hearty egg meal for breakfast, full lunch, and late dinners. Not good!  Delicious, but not good.  My last day at the conference was February 29th.  When I weighed myself on March 1st, I was 173.6 lbs.  I gained some weight back.  I know it’s mostly from Vegas.  And to make things worst, I have been sick since I’ve been back. It started with nausea, chills, and aches. I first thought it was food poisoning but then I started feeling it in my chest and started to cough a lot.  On Friday morning, my whole body was aching. I went to work and only lasted about an hour. I went home and stayed in bed the whole day.  By the evening I was able to eat wheat toast and sliced bananas.  This morning I woke up with a cold and my head is congested. I can’t wait to get better!

Before the conference, I was getting a little behind on my running. I felt I was not running enough. I now have the urge to run every day to catch up.  It’s March and I need to be running consistently each day.  Hopefully by Monday this all goes away.

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This past Sunday was a beautiful day to start a morning run before the Super Bowl started. William and I woke up early and started the day with the “runner’s meal” as he referred it. It was oatmeal, banana, peanut butter, walnuts, and cinnamon. It was quite a treat! We knew it was one of our days to do a long run so I mapped the route and decided to run from my house to Arroyo Seco and Colorado Boulevard. It would be a total of 8 miles.

Off we went and my first challenge started within the first mile.  All of a sudden I really had to go to the bathroom. I had gone at home but recently I have noticed that in most of my runs, I feel I have to go to the bathroom.  It sucks!  I tried to walk it off but I really needed to go. So we stopped at the McDonald’s on York Blvd and left them some of my wastes, if you know what I mean…This is something that I will have to learn to time it right so I’m not constantly visiting public restrooms.

We continued our journey on York Blvd and I felt pretty good once we had the pace right. On the beginning of the second mile was already at York Blvd and San Pascual Avenue. This is when it starts getting pretty.  It’s the road that leads to the Rose Bowl. On the beginning of San Pascual Avenue, there is a downhill that I knew I would have to face as an uphill on the way back. I shivered a little when I thought about it. After the hill, there was San Pascual Park where we stopped to stretch our legs. Right after the park there was a dirt trail where other people were going to run. So William and I decided to try it out.  It was a nice trail surrounded by the Arroyo Seco bushes. It was very mountain-like. We passed an area called The Pasadena Roving Archers.  There were some people shooting with bows and arrows. I had no idea!  We also passed a horse stable where there were some people teaching kids how to ride horses. By this time I was tired but ran most of the time.  We stopped once we got near the 134 freeway and decided to turn around.  This is when William took off in front of me to go at a faster pace. We were happy to have found this new trail. It was about the same distance I wanted to do anyway.

Once we were back on San Pascual Avenue, I was faced with that hill.  William ran it very easily but I struggled.  I know that eventually I will have to conquer a hill. I know there will be a lot in Maui.  So I tried my best and went for it and made it running very slowly.  Oh what a beast!  I was so tired and couldn’t wait to get home. We ran and walked the rest of the way back to the house.  My legs were so tired from this run. Once I figured out the distance, we realized that we did a little over 9 miles within two hours.  I felt I had accomplished something.  We then got ready and watched the game at Molly  Malone’s. I pigged out on baked zitis, pizza, hummus, chicken wings, and some beer. I know it wasn’t the best meal to have after a run but it was a holiday!  There are exceptions to diets 😉

 

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