BMO Phoenix Half Marathon Race Report

It’s been a crazy few months as I noted in my previous post. I’ve been coping with all the change by focusing my energy on training for another half marathon PR. My trusty running buddy Allison and I picked out a flat race that was likely to have pretty decent race weather, and begged our running mentor Steve to help us come up with a PR-worthy training plan. The training was challenging and confidence-building, as I was able to complete workouts that were harder and faster than I thought I could handle. I’m pretty sure I was adaptively funneling all of my anxiety about my job and my (lack of) money situation into running, and that turned out to be a great place to work through some of what came up around not having my life neatly following a plan that I set for it.

Fast forward to the day before the race. The forecast for race morning? 100 percent chance of rain, 15 mph winds with 25 mph gusts. This created a flurry of panic for the Sole Sisters and Oiselle team women running the race. Ponchos were purchased (thanks Jenn!), and I obsessively checked the weather up until I finally went to bed at 10 p.m. When the alarm went off at 3:30 am, I could hear the wind howling, but made myself shrug it off. The weather changes quickly in the southwest and besides, there were still three more hours till the race started!

I went into the race feeling confident in my training but nervous about the idea of actually executing a race plan that had me running a pace that I had as recently as September considered my 5k pace…only for 13.1 miles. When it started pouring a few minutes before 6:30 a.m., I relaxed, recognizing this as cue to let go of the things I couldn’t control (the weather), and take charge of what I could (my mental state). I enjoyed running the first few miles in the rain and only looked at my watch to make sure I wasn’t running too fast. By mile 6, I had settled into a groove and was doing a good job of maintaining a positive state of mind and not focusing too much on things that I couldn’t change, like the headwind and the somewhat slick footing due to the rain. It was around mile 7 that I was aware that I was working decently hard to keep my pace. Instead of freaking out like I often do and going into a spiral of “Oh my gosh! How am I going to run SIX MORE MILES at this pace if I’m already tired??” I just monitored my pace and reminded myself that I had been training consistently and had the mental and physical strength to run the race at this pace. At mile 10, I started working on increasing my pace. This was a great learning experience, because by mile 10, I was really fighting the urge to slow down drastically and/or walk. I felt tired, it was starting to feel like work to keep to an 8:38 pace, and 3 miles seemed like a long way to go feeling this way. I didn’t dwell on this feeling, and instead slowly picked up the pace. What was interesting was that running a little bit faster actually didn’t feel much more difficult than trying to keep the same pace. Finally, the Oiselle mantra, “go fast, take chances,” clicked. I knew that my best friend Melissa was going to try and meet me at mile 12.5 to run a half mile with me at the end, and I kept telling myself to keep up a good pace until I saw her. Once she joined me, I picked up the pace even more, partially to impress her with what a badass her best friend was, and partially because finally I knew that I was almost done and I was going to finish strong. I’ll admit, I almost tripped her when she picked up the pace even a little bit more and told me, “You got this.” I didn’t have a finishing kick in me, but I kept up the pace and finished feeling great.

The result? 1:51:57. Faster than my B goal of 1:55, faster than my A goal of 1:53 based on what the McMillan calculator predicted from my recent 10k race, and faster than I had actually believed I would ever race a half marathon. I was pretty pleased when I looked at my Garmin file for the race and saw that my last mile was sub 8-minute-mile pace.

Pretty sweet bling.

Pretty sweet bling.

The icing on the cake was that my running buddy also hit her crazy-fast goal of a 1:35, our birthday girl Sole Sister Kellie came within 3 seconds of her half marathon PR (after racing two back to back half marathons the previous weekend, no big deal), and Sole Sisters Jenn, Gwen, and Natasha all had PRs as well. The rain and wind were no match for our determination! I have a newfound appreciation for the mental aspects of running after this race- I went into it confident that with the right conditions, I could hit my goal. I knew I had trained hard and nailed key workouts, so when my race pace felt difficult, instead of doubting myself, I just focused on letting my body run the race I had trained for.

Post-race, it was great to celebrate with an Oiselle team dinner with 4 other Volee members plus family and friends. It was great to reconnect with some of the Phoenix area birds I had met before, and to meet other members of the flock for the first time. Here’s our demon-eyed crew (photo courtesy of Nicole) post-dinner.

Allison, Dana, yours truly, Ashley, and Nicole

Allison, Dana, yours truly, Ashley, and Nicole

As for what’s next…who knows. After two fairly intense training cycles for CIM and Phoenix and two big PRs, I’m planning to relax and run for fun for a few weeks. I did sign up for the North Fork 50 miler in Colorado for the end of June during a moment of temporary insanity on a whim, so we’ll see what happens with that!


It’s been a while since I last updated this blog, not for lack of events in my life. Suffice it to say, the latter half of 2013 was not without its professional and personal challenges, including getting laid off from my job for the first (and I hope last) time in my life. This setback made me realize how much of my sanity and security comes from having a plan and the illusion of control over said plan. I suppose the silver lining is I’m learning how to roll with the punches (or hugs- sometimes life throws you hugs mixed in with the punches), like it or not. In the midst of this darkness, running was the bright spot that kept me somewhat together. Focusing on training was a way to funnel all the frustration about the things I couldn’t control into an area where I could at least have some semblance of control. And dealing with a significant amount of stress and emotional distress made it seem less terrifying to embrace the discomfort of a difficult workout or a faster pace. So, even as one area of my life seemed to fall to pieces, my running finally came together in a way that it hasn’t ever before.

A quick rundown of some running highlights that I wish I’d blogged about:

Joining the Albuquerque Sole Sisters, an absolutely beautiful and inspiring community of women runners who have consistently pushed me to run further, faster, and enjoy doing it. I hope to do a separate post about this soon. The Sole Sisters embody the spirit of Oiselle, and it’s been nice to have a supportive and encouraging community of women runners in my everyday running life.


A small sampling of our fast fierce Sole Sisters

Finally hitting my sub-2 hour half goal at the Buffalo Thunder Half Marathon in September with a healthy margin.


My trusty speedy running buddy Allison & I both PR’d at Buffalo Thunder.

Running the Ragnar Trail Relay in Arizona with fellow Oiselle teammates Paulette and Sophia as well as repeat-relay buddies Trisha and Susan and some of their friends. I would love to do another Ragnar Trail Relay. It was a spectacular adventure!


Rockstar Ragnar Trail AZ team after we finished! Such a blast. I can’t wait to do another trail relay!

Running a crazy 5k PR at a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. I can’t count the time as official (it was a 23something) since the course was short, but the pace was what shocked me. I don’t think I ever imagined that I would be able to race even a 5k at under an 8 minute mile pace.


5K PR: 24:32!

A huge marathon PR at CIM after losing my job 2 weeks before. This race was like a 4 hour therapy session. I ran the last 3 miles of the race at a pace that I had not so recently considered my 5k race pace, and learned that the mental toughness that I have built in other areas of my life does indeed translate to running. I ran this race looking to find myself, and I emerged with the realization that I am strong, resilient, and capable of not just surviving but thriving in the face of adversity.


4:08:55 at CIM. Smashed my goal of 4:15 or under!

My first 10k race, the same race where I had completed my first 5k a year earlier. I ran well and faster than I thought I could.


My first ever 10k: 51:05! I was shooting for 55 or under!

I still haven’t regained my footing career-wise, but I am so thankful to have running as a place to work through life’s challenges. And so grateful to have a loving partner who tolerates the 4:15 am alarms, knowing that I’ll be better equipped to handle whatever the day throws at me with my running therapy under my belt.

Oiselle Volée 2013-2014

I am thrilled to announce that I was selected to represent Oiselle’s Volée team for another year! Since joining the team in April of 2012, Oiselle has gone through some big changes and, much like a fine wine, seems to only get more sophisticated and delicious with every passing year. Being a part of the team has been like joining a family– a family full of badass, intelligent, sassy, funny, and amazing women runners. Now our flock has expanded from 150 runners to 250, and the Haute Volée team has 24 fast and fierce elite level runners.

The team manifesto is the best explanation I can think of that speaks to why I am so proud and excited to have another year of running for Oiselle!

principles of flight
a team manifesto

What follows are not rules or requirements, or club commandments…but rather ideas we think are important in forming a family of fast runners. Ideas we hold dear…and that we feel lead not only to successful competition, but to creating positive energy in our sport. We’re not building a single runner. Or a single performance. But rather a movement. A new kind of family that breaks from some of running’s old ways especially as they pertain to women athletes. It’s about progress and change. The future, the flight, the journey is new again – and ours to define.

1. build the sisterhood.
We are only as strong as the bonds we build. And while most of us have them, we want to do more. We want to raise the ante in showing how women can support other women. To go further with the sisterhood …fostering strength and leadership not just in competition, but through every action, every day.

2. eat like a human.
No disordered, underweight competition. We know for a fact that this approach is a short-term benefit that detracts from strength, and can spread like a disease. Fuel your body, honor its workload, and create an image of health for other women to follow.

3. tell your story.
Running and racing is not enough to kindle a fire under track & field. By telling your story, you capture hearts and minds. And when you capture hearts and minds, you build the overall success of our sport. You are the story. You are the magic. Let her rip!

4. race with fire.
Fierce, beastly, carnivorous racing. The win, the podium, the qualifying time, the team score. We seek serious victories on significant stages. No matter the goal, the effort is marked by an unconditional desire to push to the limit…to go fast, and take chances.

5. compete clean.
No doping. No cheating. No monkeying with our natural state via chemicals or prescriptions. Eat well, work hard, run fast. Period.

6. be a superfan.
Get fans by being a fan. By being a crazy, cheering, yell ‘til your voice is hoarse superfan. After all, being a superfan, regardless of brand affiliation, is one of the most powerful things we can do to strengthen ourselves and our sport.

7. spread the love.
Oiselle won’t be for everyone, and that’s okay. But if you choose to be here, join because you’re nuts about the brand. You dig where we’re going, and you want to be a part of it.

L-O-V-E baby, that’s all there is.

Race Report: 4th Annual Run with the Kenyans 8k!

So I have had the best intentions of writing a blog post per week, including a post about injury and another about what it means to compete as a mid-to-back of the pack runner, but sadly those posts still are suspended in the liminal space.

Anyway, since my somewhat ego-stifling performance at the Shiprock Half Marathon, I’ve been on an anti training plan. This has looked like running when I feel like it, for however long I feel like it, and at whatever pace I feel like running- usually without a Garmin. This anti-training period has been wonderful for reminding me of what I love about running: the sheer joy of it, the ability to see things from high up places, the adventure of it all, the companionship–and for minimizing the parts that have felt frustrating since coming back from an injury: the uncertainty, the unpredictability, the difficulty of trying to push past a stuck place.

Based on my anti-training mantra, I decided to sign up for my first 8k race this weekend “just for fun.” There were other reasons: The 4th Annual Run with the Kenyans for Global Health 8k is a race that supports a cause that I believe in (improving the quality of and access to preventive and primary health care for Kenyan children) and the race is organized by a friend in the running community. Also, it’s an out and back course with legit elite Kenyan runners participating in the run, so it’s actually like, for a millisecond or two, you get to run *with* elite Kenyans.

Elite Kenyan runners at the start. If you look really hard you can see my shoe in the back of the picture. Just kidding, you can't.

Elite Kenyan runners at the start. If you look really hard you can see my shoe in the back of the picture. Just kidding, you can’t.

Okay, the other thing is that all entrants get a hand-carved giraffe. And if there’s one thing that pretty much everyone needs in life, it’s a hand-carved giraffe. I was pretty excited about mine.

Best race goodie ever.

Best race goodie ever.

So race morning, I skipped breakfast like a anti-training champ, and hopped in the car with my running buddy Allison. We see lots of our running pals at the start of the race, and since I was wearing my Oiselle Long Roga shorts which comfortably fit my iPhone 5, I clearly needed to take lots of pictures to take full advantage of this perk.

If you stand next to a speedster like Arlene, some of their speed might rub off on you. Or so I hoped!

If you stand next to a speedster like Arlene, some of her speed might rub off on you. Or so I hoped!

It had been a windy and ominous sounding night, but the race ended up not being too windy, and the breeze was helpful as it was a rather warm morning. I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself at the start of the race. I wasn’t really nervous because I was running “for fun.” I decided I should try to run at an even-ish pace and maybe speed up at the end, and try for an average pace under 9 min/miles, so basically treat the race like a tempo run. And when I say treat it like a tempo run, that’s hypothetical, because I almost never do tempo runs. Anyway. after a ceremony where we got to hear about how superfast the elites running in the race were, which was pretty neat, we were off and running.

Heel striking like a champ!

Heel striking like a champ!

Mile 1: 8:50. The first mile felt great. I kept noticing that I was inching towards an 8:15 pace and trying to slow down. I felt like I could run superfast forever, but was also aware that this was a delusion. I was running behind a girl wearing a shirt that said, “I need my space,” which I found pretty hilarious.

Mile 2: 8:49 The second mile was also pretty easy, I was just bopping to my music and smiling at people and feeling happy to be alive and running.

Mile 3: 8:44 During this mile, I started seeing the elite Kenyan runners as well as all of the fleet-footed front of the pack runners as they turned around on the out-and-back course. The first three elites that I saw all had the same, faraway and focused look in their eyes. It was if they were completely attuned to an internal world and their eyes weren’t really noticing much else. However, I grinned at each one like a dork and gave them a thumbs up just in case. Once I turned around, I got to do my share of high five-ing and smiling at all the runners I passed. The mile went by pretty quickly.

Mile 4: 8:50 At right about 3.4 miles, I decided that this had been great and all, but I was tired and hot and totally over running. The “I need my space” girl was still in sight, so I focused on keeping her close (don’t worry, I honored her need for a personal space bubble) and thinking happy thoughts about coffee and safari animals. I was filled with an inexplicable urge to walk.

Final .97: 8:36 (8:49 pace) I’m not going to lie. I took a leisurely walk break to get a drink of water at the beginning of this mile. My legs were all, “meh,” and my head was all, “meh,” and I was aware that since I didn’t have a race plan, whatever I was doing was actually my race plan. I passed the “I need my space” girl.  I did start running again, at a decent pace, but I was totally over the running feeling. I was ready for the drinking coffee feeling, or walking slowly while breathing in full gulps of air feeling. Which must be why, a mere half mile before the finish line, I stopped for a walk break. Then the “I need my space girl” passed me again. And then a dude ran by me and said encouraging things, but the subtext was “Are you serious? Freaking run already!” and so I started running again. Then I passed the guy who had said the encouraging things, and said some encouraging things back, and then we ran a few steps together, turned the corner, and Encouraging Guy is all, “LET’S SPRINT THIS IN! C’MON!” And so that’s what we did. He out-kicked my butt.

Encouraging Guy wins the race! But really, aren't we all winners?  Sad truth: no.

Encouraging Guy wins the race! But really, aren’t we all winners?
Sad truth: no.

Overall time: 43:48 (average pace: 8:48).

Must stop the Garmin or it didn't happen.

Must stop the Garmin or it didn’t happen.

I actually was 3rd in my age group of 30-39 and as such, got a hand-carved zebra as an award. Amazing!

Getting my zebra award on the red carpet.

Getting my zebra award on the red carpet.

Lesson learned: Next time, don’t stop and walk DURING THE LAST MILE OF A RACE so you can be a cheetah, not a zebra. The 2nd place woman finished less than a minute ahead of me.

Sometimes you are the predator, sometime you are the prey.

Sometimes you are the predator, sometime you are the prey.

After the race, there was a totally delectable feast of Kenyan food, accompanied by music and dancing. The whole event had a really unique feeling. I will be definitely be running it again next year!

What I learned from this race:

It was a nice change of pace to go into this race with no real expectations for myself. Even though I am far from fast, I am very competitive by nature, especially with myself. Once I started making improvements in my running, I started to get so competitive that I think I was psyching myself out for every race. I could have run faster today, but the point was to enjoy the race, which for the most part I did. I did a 8.5 mile hilly training run the day before this run, so I feel pretty good about keeping a sub-9 pace for 5 miles. I was just happy to be out there racing in my Oiselle jersey with a healthy body and an open mind.

So about that walk break 4 minutes from finishing the race…this seems to be a recurrent theme in my races this year. I realized that this is pointing to one major shortcoming in my training: a lack of tempo runs. I generally enjoy speedwork and can consistently hit my paces for 400s through mile repeats, but I can do it because I know I have that little breather in between efforts. What I haven’t practiced much is maintaining an effort over an extended period without the physical or mental equivalent of a walk break, and I think that’s showing up in my races. As much as tempo runs intimidate me, I think I need to commit to incorporating them into my weekly training if I want to see more consistency in the second half of my longer races this fall.

Overall, the 4th Annual Run with the Kenyans 8k was a great experience, and I look forward to doing it again next year and hope that I can run fast enough to win the CHEETAH!

The best laid schemes of mice and (wo)men…Shiprock Half Marathon Race Report

In January, I had a pretty disappointing experience at Phoenix Rock and Roll Half Marathon. For the most part, this was due to an untreated injury. Since that race, I sought consultation with a physical therapist and started addressing some of the causes of that injury. With patience, I was able to up my mileage from the 15-20 I was averaging in December and January to 30-35 miles per week in March and April. I also started training with the Oxy-Gen Morons in February and was doing more difficult long runs. Given all of these factors, I signed up for the Shiprock Half Marathon hoping to PR and break two hours.

The Shiprock Half Marathon is held in beautiful and remote Shiprock, New Mexico. The race starts at the striking Shiprock landmark, which is apparently the core of an ancient volcano.


Photo credit: Shiprock Marathon

I travelled to the race with my running buddy, Allison, and another friend, Christine, who was running the marathon and also hoping to PR.

I felt pretty prepared for race day. I knew that the pace would feel challenging and my goal was to do a negative split since I thought I went out too fast at Phoenix. Allison and I talked about the plan to go out at a 9:15 pace for the first 5 miles and then pick up the pace for the last 8.

The day before the race, I was well hydrated, well-nourished, and had my race day gear all ready to go.


Oiselle singlet, Distance Short, Arm Warmers, and hat, plus pre-race Picky Bar and Nuun.

Race morning started with an inauspicious 4 a.m. dream that I had missed my goal by 6 minutes because I had to make a portapottie stop in the middle of the race. I woke up relieved to realize that I actually hadn’t raced yet. Allison and I breakfasted and headed to the finish line, where we caught a bus that would drop us off at the start. This part of the race was really well organized. We didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes to get on the bus and arrived at the start with a half hour to spare. We used this time to take goofy pictures and do a short warm up run.


Arm-length photography at its finest, and Shiprock in the background.


Me sporting my amazing throwaway longsleeve whale shirt at the start.

The race started at 8:00 a.m. sharp, and was one of the more informal race starts I’ve been to. There was no timing mat, and the race director started the race by saying “3…2…1…Go!”

It was perfect race weather- mid 40s at the start that warmed up to the high 60s by the end. There was a 5-10 mph headwind for the whole race, which was useful towards the end when we were running under full New Mexico sun.

The first four miles were downhill, which made it hard to stick to the plan to run a 9:15 pace. I felt fantastic and excited, and the downhill made the pace feel easy. Our first 4 miles were 9:07, 9:02, 9:12, 9:07. I kept looking at my watch and trying to slow down, but it wasn’t happening. The highlight of the first four miles was seeing Christine fly by us in her bright pink Oxy-Gen morons singlet with a race vehicle tailing her- I realized she was in first place female for the marathon!

Most of mile 5 was uphill, and combined with a water stop, we came in at 9:39. My legs started to feel a little bit tired at this point, and the next miles reflected that: 9:11, 9:25. I was keeping an eye on our average overall pace and we were still within the window of being able to make sub-2 with a negative split.

At mile 7, I was aware that we were supposed to be picking up the pace, but my legs did not feel springy and fresh. Instead, they felt heavy and tired. For some reason, I was also feeling really nauseous. During miles 6 and 7, I was doing a lot of positive pep talk inside of my head, saying things like “you have the training to do this,” “this will feel hard, but you can do it,” and, “more than halfway done…you got this!”

Mile 8: 9:50. I lost Allison at this point. She could tell that I was struggling and figured that I might be grateful to work it out on my own. I took an excessively long walk break at the water stop and tried to get it together. I was telling myself that I could still finish under 2:05 and feel good about that. I checked in with my body and noted that nothing hurt, my legs just felt tired and heavy. I still felt pretty nauseous, but kept working on the positive self talk, which was quickly becoming an argument between two voices.

Mile 9: 9:25. I kept checking my average pace and tried to focus on coming in under 2:05. My head was playing all sorts of games with me during this mile. I was getting hot, the gentle wind felt somehow hostile, and all kinds of doubts were crowding my mind. Even though I logically knew that finishing in under 2:05 would be a good run for me, the feeling of failure crept in, as I thought about all the people who knew about the goal I set and what they would think about me failing to achieve it.

Mile 10: 10:52. Halfway through this mile, the nausea became more pronounced and I actually stopped and threw up on the side of the road, which was not one of my finest moments. This shook me up, as I generally don’t have GI issues when I run and I was not sure what was going on. I walked a good bit of this mile and felt demoralized. All of the positive self talk that had kept me feeling hopeful during the first 8 miles was replaced by a negative voice that was so compelling and ugly that it felt like it was wrapping my legs and my heart in lead. The meta-process was somewhat hilarious, as my therapist self was sitting back and observing the wreckage and thinking, “Hmmmm.”

Miles 11-13: 10:36, 10:45, 10:32. My best assessment of what happened in the last three miles is that I just gave in to the doubts and frustration. My legs felt spent, it was hot, there was a headwind, I was shaky from throwing up…I just gave up. Part of me knew that it was possible to push through these feelings and bring in the race at a decent pace, that my head was the biggest obstacle stopping me from doing so, but I just didn’t have the focus to regroup and push.

Last .25 mile: 9:27 pace. This was the most telling thing about the race to me. No matter how awful I feel, I usually can get it together enough to muster some kind of kick at the end. The last quarter mile of the race (the course measured long for almost everyone I talked to- I came up with 13.25) went through a stretch of sand, and in my sorry state it was almost more than I could manage. I jogged it in, feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and disappointed. My Garmin has my final time as 2:07:52, but I think my official time was a 2:09.

The  highlight of finishing was finding out that while Christine hadn’t hit her goal to PR, she was the first overall female in the marathon, winning in 3:20:48.


Christine and I post-race. Christine is a winner!

The race had some pretty cool finisher awards, including a unique medal and a long sleeve tech tee.


Pretty medal and tee.

After watching Christine get her gorgeous pottery award, we concluded our race excursion with a stop at Three Rivers Brewery, where we had consolation prize beers and lunch.


Takeaway points from this race:

The good:
-I finished without feeling any pain and without injury, despite running on roads with significant camber for the majority of the race. My PT is working!

-The first 9 miles of the race were pretty good. They made me realize I could run a great 10k at this point.

-This race taught me some things about the importance of mental readiness.

Room for improvement:

-I definitely need to start incorporating race pace miles in at least some of my long runs leading up to a goal race. I think fast finish long runs might help me get used to the feeling of working through dead legs and tired mind and still hitting my pace.

-I still have a lot of “baggage” from when I first started running and had 11 minute miles as my race pace. Part of me still doubts that I can be a faster runner because I don’t see myself that way. My running has changed in the past 2 years, but a lot of my self-concept as a runner has not changed with it. I need to trust that I can push myself without falling apart physically or mentally.

-I put too much focus on a number defining success in this race. It was a beautiful day to run, a beautiful course, and I let my expectations narrow my experience of the race.

-I went into this race having worked 110 hours over the previous 11 days. I don’t think I factored the resulting mental fatigue into my race preparation.

So, while this race certainly was not the race I was imagining, it was valuable in its own way and I will use the experience to prepare better for my next goal race.

Oiselle: These are a few of my favorite things

One of the reasons I first thought about starting a blog was to post reviews for different running products. Before I buy any new piece of running gear, I compulsively Google all of the reviews I can find and then spend excessive amounts of time considering the pros and cons of the item in question vs. similar items. The pricier the item, the more I read before I decide.

I feel that I have a lot of blog review karma to repay, because without the blog reviews of others, I would no doubt be running unclothed, unshod, and without water or fuel. And that would not be pretty or safe. Today I’d like to start by reviewing my favorite Oiselle apparel. For those unfamiliar with Oiselle, it’s an amazing Seattle-based women’s running apparel company that is owned and operated by fierce and fabulous women runners.

I first fell in love with Oiselle when I bought one of their simple 50/50 running tees after my first half marathon a few years ago. I don’t even remember where I bought it- probably at an expo- but I remember putting it on and thinking it was exactly the fit I had been looking for in a run tee: body skimming, flattering, but far from tight. When I ran in it, I didn’t even notice I had it on- it didn’t creep up or chafe, and I felt pretty sassy when I wore it.

I didn’t think much about Oiselle again until my beloved tee started to show signs of wear because I ran in it at least once a week. I decided I needed a replacement, and in the process decided to give Oiselle a chance to change my mind about my longstanding hatred of women’s running shorts. I got another 50/50 running tee, which I already knew was amazing, and a pair of Roga shorts. The Roga short convinced me it was finally safe to wear running shorts in public. Why did I hate women’s running shorts? The typical women’s running short sports a gathered elastic waistband that creates muffin-top due to an unfortunate rise (too high? too low? you choose), an inseam designed to create the illusion that your legs are tree trunks, a completely useless vestigial pocket (big enough to fit…nothing), and a lovely bunched front that would be incredibly useful if you ran in diapers, but is otherwise not functional. In addition, many of them rode up while running, adding to their allure.

The Roga shorts, in contrast, had a lovely flat waistband that was flattering and incredibly comfortable, a rise that fit my body perfectly- no yanking up or down to make them feel right, an inseam that showed off my legs and didn’t make me feel like a nun or someone who had accidentally forgotten to put on pants that morning, and a zip pocket that actually fit the types of things I took on my runs. After buying these and loving them, I looked up Oiselle and started following their blog and social media more closely. The more I read about the company, the more I loved them. When I read that they were accepting applications for women to represent them in races, I jumped on the opportunity. In April 2012, I got an email welcoming me to the team. Since then, I’ve put much more of their clothing to through extensive run testing and can confidently recommend some more of my favorites. Roga Short: I’ve already described my love for these above. There’s a reason they joke about a Roga Revolution. Toss those Nike Tempos and give the Roga a chance to change your world!

The revolutionary run short

The revolutionary run short

50/50 tee: If you like your tops body-skimming, not fitted, you will love these supersoft tees. They are multitasking shirts- they look awesome worn casually, but they wick well and I have worn them worry free for 13+ miles of summer running. I now own an embarrassing amount of these due to Oiselle’s talent for finding the perfectly pithy saying to put on a tee.

Running wardrobe essential.

Running wardrobe essential.

Long Roga Short: You know that awkward time in between when you are wearing your winter hibernation fluff suit and when it suddenly gets so warm that you can’t hide your legs in tights anymore? Wait, is that just me? Anyways, these shorts rock because they are long enough to make you feel…covered…but short enough that the leg you do show looks pretty cute. A winning extra feature is the extra side pocket that is big enough to comfortably fit an iPhone 5. These shorts are great for running and hiking and a good choice for those of you who like your thighs 100% covered when you run.

They've got you covered.

They’ve got you covered.

Stripey Scoop Neck: This is another versatile run shirt that wears like your favorite lounging around tee (it is supersoft) but it also wicks well and is perfect for cool morning runs. Thumbholes and the gorgeous bird detailing at the shoulder make it uniquely Oiselle. I loved this shirt so much after my first run that I ended up getting it in 3 colors. Oops.

If you like stripes and you like to run, you probably should buy this shirt.

If you like stripes and you like to run, you probably should buy this shirt.

Lux Layer: I was not prepared for how much I would love this shirt. It is impossibly soft, impressively warm, and it has noteworthy wicking abilities. This is great as a layer for winter runs or on its own on slightly warmer days. You might balk at the price tag, but I promise that this shirt is worth every penny. The only potential drawback: you might mistake it for a pajama shirt due to the snuggly softness and go back to bed instead of heading out for your long run.

Simply Lux-urious.

Simply Lux-urious.

Run Pant: These are magic pant. No, I’m serious. I have never felt 100% comfortable wearing running tights, but have never found a running pant that fit me well and also looked good. I ran 8 miles in 25 degree windy weather the first time I wore these pants, and they were perfect. The straight leg cut is flattering, even if you are gifted with athletic thighs, and it also means that the cuffs never get in your way when you are running. They are the perfect length for me- which is hard to find, since I’m 5’3″-and the flat waistband and seaming are insanely flattering. They also have a zip pocket that is big enough to store essentials. They have the characteristic Oiselle versatility- yes, they rock for running, but they are comfy enough that you will want to wear them for everything else as well. Magic Pants Arm Warmers:  Arm warmers are one of those things that seem like they should be easy to design, but are hard to execute well. Oiselle’s version come in a great variety of colors, they stay put on my arms (due to my massive biceps…kidding), have pretty reflective detailing, and thumbholes so your whole hand can stay warm. They are perfect for races that start out chilly and end up warm, and tuck away easily.

These do indeed keep your arms warm, and your hands, too.

These do indeed keep your arms warm, and your hands, too.

There you have it, my rundown of my Oiselle essentials. I’ll have to update once I try the new line of sports bras they just released- I’m curious if they’ll work for my non-elite-runner body type, but they sure are beautiful!

Race Report: My first 5k!

I have never been particularly curious to try a 5k, for a number of reasons. When I first started running again after a 7 year hiatus, I was so slow that I figured if I wanted to impress anyone with my runner-ness, I would have to run a lot of (slow) miles instead of only a few. I also like to set goals that seem slightly impossible to achieve because they motivate me to push myself, and a half marathon fit the bill better than a 5k. Now I’ve been running pretty consistently for the past three years, with my longest race being a 50k, I finally decided to brave a 5k race just for fun.

The impetus for this 5k was that a fellow Oiselle team member, Karissa, happened to be visiting Albuquerque and we thought it would be fun to meet up and sport our snazzy singlets at a race. I hoped that running a new race distance would help me leave my disappointment about my poor performance in Phoenix behind. I wasn’t too stressed about how fast I would run, as it would be a 5k PR no matter what! My ankle had for the most part recovered (but still needs strengthening), but I was not looking to go all out and possibly re-injure myself. I confess, the thought did cross my mind that if I jogged it, then besting my 5k PR would be pretty easy.

The race was on Superbowl Sunday, and it was a totally flat course. I “prepared” for it by running 8 miles the day before and having a nutritional powerhouse of a dinner that consisted of buffalo chicken wings and java imperial stout.

In the morning, I met up with Karissa (who was very easy to spot in her Oiselle singlet!) and we chatted away as we waited for the race to start. Karissa noted that she shared my special affliction of exercise-induced asthma, and as a Pittsburgh native, she was pretty curious about what it would be like to run at 5000+ feet for the first time.

Here we are, ready to race!

3.1 miles? We got this.

3.1 miles? We got this.

I’m wearing my favorite Oiselle running top, the Stripey Longsleeve Scoop Neck, my team singlet, and the running shorts that first sold me on Oiselle, the Roga short. Karissa is rocking the long Roga short, her team singlet, and a sunshine-y bright Rundelicious pullover. We are both wearing compression socks, which as everyone knows, make you look like a very Serious Runner. They also help cover more of your legs when it’s 40 degrees out.

The race was held at a local school, and the start involved hilariously doing most of a lap around a track, encouraging silly antics such as starting the race at a 7:30 pace.

Starting a race on the track was a curious idea.

Starting a race on the track was a curious idea. This is actually the 10k runners starting, looking very speedy.

Karissa and I parted ways after racing around the track like spirited Thoroughbreds together, and I decided to push my pace and see what happened. I was nervous to run too fast, as I had not been doing much speedwork and was pretty sure if I went out at my mile repeat pace then my race would conclude after approximately 1 mile. I ran the first mile at a comfortable 8:43, and since that felt great, I ran the next mile slightly faster, at 8:37. The high point of mile two was passing a lot of people including several small children and a Serious Looking Runner Guy who I had been following for the first mile. I was still strangely nervous to go all out for the last mile, as I had my floppy Phoenix finish still in my mind, but I ran it in 8:31 and got to pass more people. Serious Looking Runner Guy was close behind me the entire time, which made me determined not to let him pass me. Why? No idea. It was a pretty small race (250 runners in the 5k), so it felt odd to be passing so many other runners. Once I saw the finish line, I sped up to a 6:46 pace for the final .1 (well, .13 according to my Garmin).

The end result? A 26:54, which put me 7th out of 39 in my age group and 68th overall. I feel pretty pleased with it, but I’m also looking forward to running more 5k races this year to see if I can, you know, run them faster.

After I finished, I watched a couple of my super speedy running pals from my Tuesday morning run club finish the 10k race, and then decided to go back out to run Karissa in. I imagined that she was having some choice words with her lungs about oxygen utilization, which turned out to be true. I found her looking determined and slightly breathless about a quarter mile from the finish, and ran her in. She had a pretty good kick for someone who was marginally avoiding an asthma attack! I was also impressed by how well she handled not really breathing while also running for 30+ minutes. You can read her race report here.

Here we are at the finish. Yes, there are striking height differences between us. 🙂

Not pictured: Karissa's 6" stiletto heels. I'm not actually that short. Okay, I really am.

Not pictured: Karissa’s 6″ stiletto heels. I’m not actually that short.
Okay, I really am.

The most amazing thing happened while we were standing around after the race. The Serious Looking Runner Guy that I had passed during mile 2 came up to me and told me that he wanted to thank me for pacing him during the race, and that thanks to me, he had run his fastest 5k in years. I think I responded by looking confused, smiling, and saying, “Great race!” Me? Serious Looking Runner Guy’s rabbit? What?

Takeaway points: running a new distance is fun, my Oiselle teammates are amazing–I can’t wait to meet more of them, and sometimes I surprise myself.

Race Report: Phoenix Rock And Roll Half Marathon

So I’ve been meaning to write a post about injury and inertia but in the meantime, I’ve been  gradually running more and hurting less for long enough that I felt ready to sign up for a January half marathon. Several of my running buddies had talked about training for Phoenix, and so I decided that would be my first race of 2013.

In fact, I was feeling so optimistic about my healing peroneal tendon/ankle/calf trio, that I thought maybe I should try for a PR in Phoenix, despite the reality that I was working more and running less than I had been when I ran my half marathon PR in December 2011. I’ll get to the flaws in this plan after the race report.

One of the highlights of the Phoenix trip was getting to meet some my fellow Oiselle team members at the race expo. Meghan and Ashley were also racing the half, and were both hoping for PRs on the course (which they achieved!).  I also got to meet speedster and coach Allison and Nuun hydration goddess Megan, who were not running due to injuries. Meeting this group confirmed what I had suspected: the women who are drawn to Oiselle tend to be badass, smart, and strong women.

Ashley, Allison, yours truly, Megan, and Meghan.

Ashley, Allison, yours truly, Megan, and Meghan.

After the expo, my friend Joyce and I secured the necessary ingredients for a paleo-friendly pre-race dinner. We got our race gear ready and then enjoyed a fine gourmet feast.

Giant yam, chicken breast, coconut water. Dinner of champions.

Giant yam, chicken breast, coconut water. Dinner of champions.

We didn’t have to leave for the race until 6:45, which gave me plenty of time to have coffee, a banana, and some almond butter. My ankle was Rocktaped together, and I was ready to go! I jazzed up my Oiselle singlet with violet Rogas because bright colors make me smile.

Featuring: Oiselle singlet & Oiselle violet Roga shorts.

Featuring: Oiselle singlet & Oiselle violet Roga shorts.

We met up with Nancy, who was also shooting for 1:59, at the corral. My friend Trisha had also agreed to run with me “just for fun” and she found us shortly before the race started. She knew I was hoping for a 1:59something and since she is a speedster, she was confident she could help me keep the pace. I had looked at the course elevation profile and figured that I would try for even splits from miles 1-7, allow for a slight pace increase miles 8-10, and then speed up for the last 3 miles.

Course elevation profile.

Course elevation profile.

I felt great for the first 6 miles, especially after we had gotten through the first mile of people piled up on top of each other, and tried to keep myself from focusing on all of the miles ahead and just work through one mile at a time. The first 6 miles were right on pace: 9:03, 9:02, 9:09, 8:58, 9:13, 9:00. We kept with the 30 second walk breaks every two miles that I had used through training, which seemed to help my tendon keep from coiling up into a angry tight ball of pain. By mile 7, I was starting to feel the slight incline and it felt harder to keep up the pace. The slight camber in the road was irritating my ankle, but I tried hard to focus on the mental aspects of running and push all doubts out of my mind about the strength of my ankle. My Garmin ominously started displaying a “battery low” warning at this point.

Mile 7: 9:30. As we started mile 8, Nancy pulled ahead, and I was sorting through my options in my head. Could I fall back for two miles and try to make up the time in the last three miles? The tightness through my foot, ankle, and calf was starting to flirt with pain the longer that I ran, and after checking in with my body, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to push for race pace without collateral damage. This was the point where I fell apart mentally: once I recognized my goal was out of reach, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I was terrified of finishing the race injured and having to take more time off: I’d barely survived my last running hiatus.

Mile 8: 10:04. When I saw this split, I felt demoralized. I won’t lie: I actually thought about dropping out at this point. I had to stop twice during this mile to stretch out my calf and ankle, and I could feel my shoulders creeping up towards my ears as I was trying to force my mind away from the discomfort. Mile 9: 10:11. We hit mile 10 at 1:34:56, and my Garmin died halfway through mile 10.  When that happened, I semi-jokingly said to Trisha, “I’m not sure if I’m going to finish.” Luckily, she didn’t entertain this idea for long, so we kept going, but I had to stop often to walk and stretch. The biggest injury at this point was my ego. I knew I couldn’t bust out a 5k at race pace, and in some ways I felt like it was the first half marathon I had ever run. My mind was a mess. I was obsessing over whether I’d pushed my ankle too far, whether this was the kind of pain I should just suck up and deal with (but what if I couldn’t run after), and wondering if I could conjure up an invisible helicopter that could swoop me off the course without anyone noticing. I was thankful for Trisha’s upbeat attitude and her encouragement to get this thing done.

The last 5k was a sad combination of walking and running. The high point was when Trisha pointed out where we would finish and told me that we only had .25 miles to go. Since my Garmin had died, I didn’t believe her, but once I realized that there was only a 400 between me and the end of this ego-bruising race, we “sprinted” to the finish. I was so demoralized that I didn’t even look at the clock as we crossed the finish line.

The damage? 2:11:01. Which was about 11 minutes and three seconds slower than what I had hoped to run. We found Joyce and Nancy at the finish, and found out that they had both set PRs on the course, both by several minutes.

Turning that frown upside down with the lovely Trisha.

Finishers! Turning that frown upside down with the lovely Trisha.

Finding out that several of my friends and teammates had set PRs on the course helped brighten my mood, as did the realization that my ankle was not swollen to the size of a baseball and that I could still walk on it without limping. Though I was not at all impressed with my time, I took a moment to remember that when I ran it in January 2010, my second half marathon, I was pretty pleased with my 2:24. Perspective, lady, perspective.

Looking back on this race plan, I think my biggest mistake was making a goal too ambitious for where I was with running this fall. I was coming back from an injury, prioritizing my new job over running, and had not built up a strong enough base to justify my expectations for this race. When I ran a 2:00:34 in Tucson, I had been running about 30-35 miles a week, with several long runs over 15 miles in the two months prior to the race. In contrast, I have been averaging 20-25 miles a week, with only 1 12 mile run and 1 10 mile run in the 6 weeks prior to the race. My goal for this race should have been to run a consistent pace and finish feeling strong, not to set a PR.

I’m glad that I finished with an ankle that is ready to resume running (and start PT!) and that the greatest injuries I sustained were to my pride. I am resolved to focus on strengthening in the next month so that I have the foundation for more ambitious goals later in 2013, which hopefully includes another go-around with the Jemez 50k.


Running Buddy Alchemy

This past Saturday, I went out for my longest run since my Great Ankle Injury of 2012 that had me sidelined for the better part of the summer…a whopping 10 miles! It was one of those magical early autumn mornings that only New Mexico can deliver; a handful of hot air balloons lazily drifting in the vivid blue sky, a certain crispness to the warm sunshine, and sunflowers everywhere.

My friend Teresa and I had decided to attempt this great athletic feat on one of our favorite routes, a meandering mostly shaded dirt path by the river. One of my favorite things about running is how it invites me to fully experience fleeting moments of time with all of my senses. We came upon this clearing about 10 minutes into our run, and both stopped to marvel at the beauty of the moment.

A field of sunflowers greeted us as we started our run

We had a wonderful 2 hour adventure (yes, both the path and the runners meandered) filled with that delicious kind of free-flow conversation that is stitched together by footfalls and punctuated by wildlife sounds and sightings. We got to talking about the delicate alchemy of a running buddy friendship. Running buddies can make training exponentially more enjoyable. The Yasso 800 workout you once dreaded turns out to be freakishly fun when alongside some entertaining fellow runners. That 22 mile run that ended up taking almost 5 hours because of unscheduled pit stops, a tight ITB, and/or wardrobe malfunctions ends in laughter instead of tears, and you process your frustrations over a 2,000 calorie brunch afterward. The right running buddy can take any run and charge it with an energy of connection and companionship that makes the whole experience more satisfying. But much like dating, there are trials and tribulations that must be endured as you search for your running buddy soulmates. I feel lucky to have found a handful of awesome running buddies over the past couple of years; they inspire me to try new things and to keep running!

Starting is the hardest part

I meant to start this blog back in Spring 2012, when I was training for my first 50k race. I realized as I kept putting off the moment where I sat down and created actual content for my blog though, there are so many parallels between writing and running. The one that is salient here, of course:

Starting is the hardest part.

I returned to running in 2006 after a 6 year hiatus, and the day that I was going to start that Couch to 5k program was always on the horizon. And the horizon kept on moving. It turns out, there is never a morning when you wake up and say to yourself, “Today, I’m going to get up before dawn, drive to the gym, and have a borderline asthma attack on the treadmill while feeling my fat jiggle up and down and almost die trying to run a tenth of a mile.” It’s just never going to sound like more fun than, say, sleeping in. But, eventually, I did it. 

I can’t misrepresent the experience here; it did in fact suck every bit as much as I had anticipated. In fact, I had not added to my anticipatory dread the indignity of athletic apparel. However, after that first 20 minute interval session of very slow running and even slower walking that was excruciating and embarrassing and very sweaty, I did feel some sense of accomplishment. I had done something that I had been dreading, and I survived. 

The synopsis of that 6 year journey since then is that I fell completely and totally in love with running. This despite having no athletic aptitude whatsoever, having exercise-induced asthma, and a vocal cord dysfunction issue that makes both breathing while running and talking while running quite challenging. I never would have guessed when I got up at 4:45 a.m. on that fateful fall morning for my first jiggly, sweaty, uncomfortable run that I would eventually go on to run a marathon and beyond. But I stuck with it, and I did. And along the way, I made some unlikely and truly wonderful friends, and learned a thing or two about myself.

I’ve often been struck by how running can serve as a form of insight-oriented therapy, and I suppose the purpose of this blog is to examine how my running serves as a metaphor for other parts of my life. I don’t know if this blog will ever have an audience, but I’m taking the first step and starting it anyway.