What’s the plan?

Yeah, that’s what I have been asking myself this whole month. That’s what so many other people keep asking me as well! Every January, you start with a clean slate and look at the year ahead and plan adventures, mini vacations, races and more. But, I have yet to plan anything and it’s been very strange for me. Honestly, it’s been driving me bonkers. I am a planner so not having a plan is hard for me.

I have been trying to be calm about it and be okay with not having a plan for a change, but I am feeling the need to at least get some races on the calendar. I feel like, when I have a plan, then I have a goal or something to look forward to and something to work towards.

I recently was accepted into #TeamSRA which was really exciting! I was part of Sacramento Running Association’s Ambassador team (called the AmbasSRAdors) last year and applied again for this year. They decided to split it into two teams and I will be part of this newly created one. So, this helped in my motivation of continuing my passion of running! It’s exciting to be a part of a team of runners who feel the same and love being a part of the Sacramento running community.

I also applied for the New York City Marathon lottery last week. I have lost count on how many years I’ve done this, but I am sure it’s at least 5. Hopefully, I will be chosen this year! It would be a nice 40th birthday celebration to run this!

As far as other races, I have no idea yet what I will do (other than the CIM which I run every December). I have an idea for a international race, but I’ll let you know down the road if/when it comes to fruition.

So, until then, I will just keep running my short runs, keep thinking about where I want to spend my money, what races sound fun this year, and what will keep me motivated. What races are you running this year?? Anything fun and interesting or anything you want to suggest??

**Note: I wrote this in January and forgot to (didn’t want to) publish it.**

#2015bestsix

With the year coming to a close, we all tend to look back on the year; what we’ve been through and what we’ve accomplished. My year started off a little shaky and stressful but quickly turned into one amazing and epic year full of great adventures and a lot was crossed off my bucket list.

Clint and I bought a house together (crazy!), I ran a marathon in Tokyo, Japan(!), ran the Boston Marathon a second time (such a great time!), then ran the Boston to Big Sur Challenge six days later (I’m one of those crazies)…then started training for an ultra…then ran the Athens and Istanbul Marathons within a week of each other, and finished off with running the California International Marathon for the 8th year in a row. That was six marathons this year! Ummmm, crazy!

I met new running friends this year, became a USATF official, worked as an expo coordinator for the CIM (that local, hometown marathon of ours), and also helped coach the Runnin’ For Rhett organization’s half marathon training program in the fall. Yeah…a lot of running stuff. But as I get older, I realize more and more that passion is the key to happiness. Do the things you really love!

Aside from running, I got to hot air balloon twice(!) and see the Grand Canyon finally. BIG checks off the good ‘ol bucket list.

I wish for you all to do the things you love so you can find your happiness. I hope your 2016 is as great as my 2015 was. I really don’t know how I will ever be able to top it, but I do know there’s still lots out there for me to learn, discover and see in the world. I have plenty of other countries on my list of where I hope to run all over the world. I’m hoping to get more in next year. Peace!

IMG_1370

Tokyo, Boston, Big Sur, Athens, Istanbul and CIM #2015bestsix

 

 

#8 CIM: My hometown – 2015

This year’s CIM brought no expectations. I had just run two marathons back-to-back three weeks prior (Athens & Istanbul) and had long work days leading up to the race so I had no idea how my body was going to feel running my last 26.2 of the year. I was feeling positive though so I knew no matter what I was going to have fun. This is my hometown race and I get to see my friends cheering on the sidelines, fellow runners on the course, and I know the course like the back of my hand. This is something I miss when I run out of the country.

I did my usual routine and prepped all my running gear the night before. I ate my pizza immediately after I got home from work about 7:30pm. I ate the same pre-race breakfast, except forgot to eat some banana. I even hydrated a ton the day before while I was working because the Nuun rep suggested I bring a water bottle and fill up on their free electrolytes all day at the expo. I was so glad he had suggested that!

When we got to the start, Jen and I met up with her friend LaDawn and my friend Scott, who was running his first marathon. We got into the pack and took off at 7! Jen was feeling good and was going a little faster than I wanted to run, but I stuck with her for about 4.5 miles then I dropped back to run with Scott. I had told him I’d help him get to the finish line under 4 hours, which usually isn’t that hard for me to do. We were running a steady pace that felt very comfortable but around mile 13 my quads started to feel pretty heavy. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep this pace the rest of the way. So about mile 14.5 or so I told Scott to go ahead and try and keep up with my friend Brian. Brian just passed us and was slightly in front of the 3:55 pacer so I knew he could bring Scott home so he could reach his goal. I felt bad I had to drop back but I had to be smart and I knew my legs weren’t going to be able to take a harder beating of going faster. It just wasn’t going to happen.

12360039_10154364904233484_8475854128090726390_n

You feel better when you’re having fun!

After Scott left me, I saw Deirdre Fitzpatrick from KCRA running and I said Hi to her. Then about mile 16 I thought it would be fun to take a pic of myself at the mile marker and posted to Instagram. At this point I totally didn’t care about my time and was just going to have fun. Not too long after, a fellow SRA ambassador, Leo, came up and we started running together (I ran with him earlier, as well, around mile 10). We were pretty much in the same boat and just wanted to have fun and finish, no matter how that happened. Around mile 18, I think, I was so hungry so I grabbed a handful of a brownie bite, orange slice, red licorice, and ate one of my chia surge gels. I have only been hungry during a race once before and that was in Paris, so this was weird.

12342385_10206628463404405_2931197241562009139_n

Nuria’s husband and their adorable pooch

12322759_10153136242516954_8153880313345656446_o

Drinking about half a Guinness

I saw Nuria (from Buffalo Chips and my Boston 365 group) and her husband and took a picture with them, then saw Katie and her crew from Team in Training, I fist pumped to a few bands as I ran by, then I came upon my friend Manny who was walking around the 21 mile marker. He was having a hard time, so I stuck with him. Then I saw Leo again and he joined us. It just became a party! As we were crossing the bridge, Tiffany, another SRA ambassador, joined us for a bit and we all chatted about our struggles, but none of us were negative or feeling let down. We were all smiling! We just sucked it up and made the most of it.  We had to keep stopping to tend to Manny’s inner quad that kept knotting up. We rolled it out periodically with a small water bottle and he stretched on the railings. At this point we were in East Sac and this is where I get a little excited each year. My friends and Clint are always waiting at Bonn Lair at 37th and J with beers for runners and I get so pumped when I see them. It gives me some energy to get to the finish. We stopped this year and drank some Guinness as they videotaped the madness. They were calling it #guinnessmile which makes me laugh! We now have an official hashtag for this stop on the CIM course. Manny downed the beer; I couldn’t finish it. But it was fun to see them for a few and then we took off. We turned onto Alhambra, saw my friend Katy and took pics with her. We were getting so close but it was still tough.

12322739_10153136242551954_1732244966283997016_o

Me and Manny – we’re smiling!

As we approached the finish, Manny was still having a tough time with his quad, but I made sure he was okay and then I took off to the finish line. I was really happy to finish, although I never doubted I would make it, I just knew it was going to take a while. My time didn’t matter at all, having finished three marathons in a month (dumb! don’t do this!). If you really want to know, it was officially my worst marathon time. BUT! I was smiling the entire way, I LOVED how many friends I saw along the course and on the course, I got to chat with new SRA amabassador friends that I met this year, I ate lots of food on the course, I drank more beer at Bonn Lair this year than I ever had in the past (PR!), and I’m just happy to continue my tradition of running the CIM each year. This is the only race I run every year. It makes me happy to continue my streak.

It really was one of my favorite races that I’ve completed. Time is definitely not everything. While I love running abroad and seeing new countries, there is nothing like running in your hometown and having so  many people supporting and cheering you on. I don’t get this when I run international races. I’m alone, can’t understand what people are saying as they chat to their friends while they’re running, it can sometimes get boring, and I have to stay super motivated. But, all of these experiences, whether abroad or in town, are what making marathoning (is this a word?) so magical for me. Every race is different and that’s what makes it an adventure and experience for me. These are the best experiences!

12339343_10156310998055113_4188891391885767858_o

Manny, Katy, me and Michelle in front of Limelight

My friend Scott and I chatted the next day after the race and he mentioned that he didn’t get to have as much fun as I did because he was so focused on his goal. I told him that’s what happens…you kind of have blinders on and don’t see what’s around you or get to laugh, smile and enjoy what’s going on. That’s why I mix up my races so I can have both experiences.

Cheers to all my fellow runner friends! You are all amazing! Keep chasing your dreams!

12347751_10154365314623484_3835425789663756014_n

 

 

Athens Marathon ’15

Intro –

After I ran the Boston to Big Sur Challenge back in April I really didn’t think I’d run back-to-back marathons again. It definitely wasn’t easy and wasn’t something that I was keen on doing again. However, when the opportunity came to go to Greece for a “racecation” I was doing research and discovered that the Istanbul Marathon was the following weekend. This race was already on my bucket list so I HAD to do it if we were going to be traveling that far and had already talked about going to Turkey. So, here I was again, faced with back-to-back marathons, but I wasn’t stressed about it at all. I knew I wasn’t going to be running them for time or super fast, so I was pretty confident I’d be ok.

Athens Marathon

IMG_0348

Carb loading with a gyro and greek salad

After having a super late carb up meal around 12:30am after Clint arrived in Athens and only two hours of sleep, I left a sleeping Clint to walk to the metro to get to the buses leaving for the city of Marathonas. The buses loaded up at the Parliament building in Syntagma Square and it was dark. I chatted with a Parisian and another American from the Bay Area on the bus, which made time pass quickly. The sun was rising and it was beautiful when we arrived. I dropped off my gear bag and headed for a porta pottie. In the meantime, runners were warming up on the track at the field we were at. I watched them go round and round. It was like watching a treadmill with lots of people. It just kept going and going. Not long after, we got in our corrals and we were asked to raise our right hands and a special pledge was read out load, although I couldn’t understand what they were saying. As it turned to 9am, the balloons were released and the corrals were off!

photo 1 (5)It was very exciting starting the race and running through Marathonas. I saw these very cool historical kilometer signs along the route designating the marathon course. Not long after we started I noticed spectators in the town passing out small branches of olive leaves to the runners as we passed by. An old woman handed one to me and I quickly figured out how I was going to hold it the entire race, hoping it would give me energy to finish. Many runners tucked them into their hydration belts or hats. I managed to slide mine behind my cell phone armband.

The weather was a lot warmer than I thought it was going to be. I had heard the hills were going to be tough but I hadn’t expected warm conditions. And coming off of being hungover the day before, I had a feeling the warm weather would affect me. I wasn’t concerned with my overall time so I tried to keep a slower pace, but I still struggled during part of it. It was pretty warm and humid, and my body doesn’t do well in these kind of elements.

photo 5

This was a gradual hill…

I was told there would be hills, but didn’t think much of it. I’ve done Heartbreak Hill a few times, but these hills were tough. Long, gradual hills (they call them “gentle long hills”) for most of the middle of the race. The last 6 miles were downhill so I just had to get through the damn hills. I saw a lot of people walking and pulling off with cramps and even witnessed a girl projectile vomit. I felt bad for her and asked if she needed help. She said no as she threw up again…and again. I offered to get a medic which was nearby but she refused help.

The water stations were great and there were plenty, but I dislike when races give full water bottles. It’s such a waste. They also had lots of electrolytes and fruit along the way. Toward the end they even had cups of Coca Cola. I was so happy to have a cup of that sugary goodness. The bubbles were great as well.

There were periods of the course that had lots and lots of spectators yelling “Bravo! Bravo!” but there were definitely stretches with no spectators at all. I did my best to high five as many kids as I could as I ran by. There were quite a few security or police posted along the way as well. As we reached the end and started our way into the center of the city of Athens, the crowds got larger and larger. I looked around hoping to see an American flag or maybe even see Clint, even though I told him to be at the end. We had to designate a meetup spot since we couldn’t communicate by phone. As the crowds got larger and louder, I got more excited to run into the 1896 Panathenaikos Stadium.

photo 4 (2)The last mile was exciting! As I entered the stadium, I pulled out my phone and took video of the last moments. It was unreal. The stadium was so big and there were so many people in the stands. It was loud and amazing. I really don’t know how to describe it. I just looked around at everything trying to take it in.

The unfortunate thing was the volunteers or security, don’t really remember which, wouldn’t let us stop and take pics after we finished. They were just trying to get us through the lines and move us along. I snuck a few pics anyway and then made my way through the long lines to the gear check area, where I told Clint to meet me. Poor guy had waited an hour for me. But I was really glad to see him and he had made me an olive branch crown, which was so sweet. After I got my bearings and relaxed, I made him walk back into the stadium to see it. I wanted him to see how grand and amazing it was. This was history here and he needed to go in there.

IMG_0399We spent a little bit of time in the stands and watched some runners finish. It was so cool, but I knew I wanted to see the stadium empty of all these people at some point in our trip. After getting a few selfies, we walked to the Plaka area and had lunch and relaxed. It was so cool to see all the runners walking around in the area with their medals around their necks. Locals would ask if I ran the full marathon and were impressed. An employee at a boutique we stopped in asked me how I liked the race and I said it was amazing, especially running into the stadium, and then I started to choke up. She knew how special this race was.

This year’s race broke the record of having more than 43,000 total participants and came from 100 countries. 16,000 came to run the classic course (marathon only). Not only is this course the original course, but also the same course used in the 2004 Olympics.

Some of the cool things included in the registration fee: a 5-day transportation pass that could be used for any public transportation during my stay (which was so helpful!),  a cool messenger bag only for the out of town participants, a great Adidas participant shirt, a bad ass finisher medal, and the glory of following the footsteps of Pheidippides on this historic course. It’s a bucket list item for sure if you love running marathons. It wasn’t easy, but when is running a marathon ever easy??

IMG_0404

Istanbul Marathon ’15

After running the Athens Marathon, I just did a lot of walking all over Greece and Turkey, so my legs felt really good. I never felt super sore. And I never really thought about the next marathon I was going to run until it was time to go to the expo.

We arrived into Istanbul on Friday afternoon. We had arranged with our airbandb host to meet a private driver at the airport and paid a little extra to have him drive us to the expo on the way into town. I had noticed that the expo was much closer to the airport than to where we were staying so it worked out much better to have him take us there first thing. We told the driver we would be quick and we ran in, grabbed my bib, my shirt and gear bag, and then found a person who spoke English to ask about the buses to get to the start. A lot of people in Turkey do not speak English, so thank goodness there was someone who could help out.

Clint also saw a wall of names and told me to look for my name. We also ran through the expo vendors looking for a kt tape vendor with no luck. I needed a small piece to cover where I had chafed under my sports bra at the Athens Marathon. Oh well, I’ll figure something out.

IMG_0973On race morning, we weren’t sure if Clint could go on the buses with us to the other side of the Bosphorus Bridge, but I wanted him to at least go with me to the bus pickup area to see me off. He was leaving the country the same morning and wouldn’t be around to see me finish so I needed him to be with me for part of it.

The bus pickup area was right next to the Hagia Sophia, which was quite beautiful at that time of morning. As we boarded the buses, I kissed Clint goodbye. I kinda teared up knowing I wasn’t going to see him for a couple days and he wouldn’t be at the finish to greet me, which was the first time I would be by myself after a race.

IMG_0981When we reached the other side of the bridge, we had a lot of time to wait until start time. It was a little windy and cool, but I knew it was going to get warmer. It was also another 9am start time for the marathon. I got rid of my gear bag right way, got in a porta pottie line, and just got in my corral. A lot of people crammed in this narrow area and were pushing and shoving, which was super annoying. I thought it was really interesting they let food vendors in this area. They roamed around the crowds of runners and had Turkish breads, bananas, water, tea and coffee. I’ve never seen anything like this.

I didn’t see any Americans in the corrals, or at least in the area I was in. But I did see a lot of excited and smelly Europeans. As we started the race, you could see the enormous bridge in front of us. It was quite an incredible site and as we ran over it so many people stopped to take pictures or selfies. It was probably the best part of the race.

IMG_0998Around mile 3 or so, I saw a man with an SF Giants hat. I asked if he was from the U.S. But he wasn’t. I think he was Italian but was very nice and wished me luck. I saw another lady wearing a tech shirt from a race in Pennsylvania so I asked if she was from the U.S. She was Polish, living in New Jersey, but in Turkey for work and just randomly decided to do the marathon. I think around Mile 8 I kinda just started running next to a guy that was running the same pace. We didn’t say anything to each other but just kept running together for like 5 miles. It was kind of nice to run with someone. Then he asked what my time goal was and I said I didn’t have one. He assumed I did because I was looking at my watch so he thought he’d keep me company. Turned out he was an Iraqi and British citizen and kind of lives all over. It was his first road race. He had done a couple marathons in the desert so this was different for him. He also said that his friend who was running just the 15k wanted to go out for drinks the night before and they ended up drinking too much, so he was having a hard time. Right after we had this conversation he said he was dropping back and I never saw him again. So much for my pacer.

A long portion of the race (about 20k of it) is just a straight out and back and was just boring and not that exciting. Barely any spectators and no music. It was kind of tough. But as I got closer to the finish, I just tried to hold on even though my legs were getting tired. The last mile was uphill. Lame! But as we entered the area of the finish line, the crowds were large and loud. That definitely helped me get through the end.

IMG_1008The finish area is in between the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque area in Sultanahmet Square. After passing the finish line, they gave us bags of food and drinks and I immediately drank the orange juice they had given us. It was delicious! We had to filter through the small area and get through the crowd of spectators on the other side of the fencing. I just kept walking straight for my gear bag because I just wanted to take my shoes off and sit down. After I relaxed for a bit and changed my shirt, I finally gathered myself and walked to the nearest metro station only to find it was closed because of the race. Crap! So I had to walk to the bus station, which wasn’t close. I tried to suck it up and continued on through all the tourists and runners in my way. I was getting cranky and needed food. Thank god there was a protein bar in the goodie bag that we got at the finish line. Once I reached the bus station I noticed locals sitting at the stations so I went to the 99 bus stop and sat down. I waited and waited and I was kind of wondering what was taking so long. I asked the guy next to me if they always take so long and I thought he said yes, so I just waited. Then after like 45 minutes, I was over it. They clearly weren’t coming. IMG_1013So, I started walking in the direction of where my neighborhood was and thought maybe I should catch a cab. I asked like 4 taxis and they all turned me down. I was so annoyed. But then I figured out that I think they turned me down because it wasn’t worth their time or money to take me because it wasn’t far. It wasn’t far to them but it was far to me. But what they didn’t know was I didn’t care and would have paid them more to take me because I didn’t want to walk anymore! I was hungry and tired. So, 2 hours after I finished the race, I finally made it to my neighborhood and walked straight into a restaurant with my running clothes on and got something to eat. The guy probably thought I was crazy coming in with all my gear, wearing running clothes, saying I was starving. Oh man! It was good though! By the way, I also got strange looks on the street because I was still wearing my running shorts and I don’t think they are used to females wearing shorts, especially something that short.

IMG_1029After my delicious meal, I walked to our flat and showered, relaxed and ended up falling asleep and taking a 4 hour nap! I’ve never done that after a race, but I think all the walking after the race got to me. Plus, the bed was super comfy and warm. When I woke up I knew I didn’t want to waste my last evening in Istanbul doing nothing in my room, so I rallied and took a cab to Taksim Square and had a beer and dinner. It was like 11pm at this point, but it was pretty lively in the square. After a bit of walking around, I went back to the flat and snuggled back up in bed.

The best part of this race was the Bosphorus Bridge and being able to say I ran from Asia to Europe. This is the only race that crosses two continents and I think that’s really cool! I think this race has about 15,000 and the cutoff time is 5.5 hours, so no dawdlers allowed here. One thing I noticed that was not good was they didn’t have electrolytes at any water stations. Nothing! They did have some gu’s, bananas and apples though. And they used the small water bottles instead of the larger ones, which was less waste. There were not as many spectators at this race though. Pretty slim. But overall, it was a great experience and the sites at the beginning and end were great!IMG_1017

Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge

Holy smokes! First, I didn’t know if I was going to get in. I was on a waitlist for several weeks. Second, after I got in, I wasn’t sure I should do it. Third, I did it!

Here are just some things I experienced during my second marathon in 6 days -

-High-fived Bart Yasso at the Start
-Saw a guy running in a cotton Misfits shirt (kinda awesome!)
-Cows grazing
-Lots of picture stops (beautiful scenery!)
-Orange slices were like heaven in my mouth
-Lot of great music
-Gorgeous views
-When will this hill end??
-Another hill?
-Beautiful sandy beaches
-Hello wind!
-The most amazing strawberries
-Are we there yet?
-I’m so glad I am done!
-Well, I did it! And I now know why they call that a “challenge”.

After the race, we got our medals and our awesome finisher jacket. We also got a special tent with free food and beer and our families could join us as well. That’s it folks! That wraps up 5 marathons in 6 months. It’s time to rest and recover for a bit!
11182738_10153849664408484_5630457525558394141_o11194614_10153849669343484_7348321529291648561_o11187364_10153848358773484_7799561391509473655_o

Boston Marathon 2015

How did it sneak up on me so quickly? April crept up on us and it was time to start packing for the Boston Marathon. It had been 494 days since I qualified and now it was time to fly to Boston!

The week leading up to the marathon I had a beerfest to organize and manage. I had to wrap up the event and take care of returning equipment and calculate number of participants and figure out expenses. I had to get a check sent out to our beneficiary. So, I was pretty busy in those days before leaving. But, I still managed to have relaxing runs and all I could think about was being on the Boston Marathon course. There’s just something about it that can bring me to tears.

As I boarded my flight from Phoenix to Boston, I saw fellow runners. Some wearing Boston marathon jackets or sweatshirts or other items that signified they were on their way to Boston to run this great race. I ended up talking to a gal in line who was heading back to Boston where she lives. She was so excited for me to run the race on Monday and said they, meaning the city of Boston, had already started putting up signs like “Boston Strong” and other meaningful items to get ready for this amazing weekend. Turns out the bombing happened right in front of her office. She said she has kept close tabs on the trial of the bomber and how emotional it’s been. I couldn’t helped but get choked up. She also told the boarding agent that I was running the marathon after I was asked to assist in the Exit row, which was pretty funny. She made it sound like I was a superhero and if anything happened I could help everyone with my magical superhero powers. As we boarded the plane she wished me luck.

Being in Boston is just so magical. It really is! I’ve said that before and I mean it. The energy of the people, the energy of what’s going on all weekend, and being around all those amazing athletes from all over the world is just so awesome.

We stopped in a small dog boutique near our hostel and ended up chatting with the owner for a while. She was really happy for me and thanked me for coming all the way from California. She said that a lot of people are afraid to come back. I told her I wasn’t afraid at all and was very happy to be there. We had a great conversation with her and it made our trip to Boston even more special. We love talking to the locals and hearing their stories.

Marathon Monday came very quickly…and the weather went from sunny and beautiful to rainy and cold. But, there’s not much you can do about the elements so we had to just suck it up and do the best we could. As I got on the bus with my friend Jen, I knew this was it. I was heading to the start of my second Boston Marathon. How did this happen? It was so surreal!

We waited in the Athlete’s Village for our turn to line up behind the start line. It was pretty cold but we huddled up under a large tent after using the port o’ johns (as they call them there). As 10:50am approached it literally started raining as the gun went off. And we were off! It was speedy and so cool! I didn’t wear my headphones this time so I could hear everything along the course. I heard screaming, chanting, a lot of “Go Jen!” and “Boston loves Jen!” because Jen wore a shirt that said “Jen Heavy black heart️ Boston”, I high-fived so many spectators, and just enjoyed as much of it as I could. Since I was wearing my Timex shirt several people said “Go Timex!” or “It takes a licking but keeps on ticking” and even an older runner ran by me and showed me his Timex watch that he’s had for 30 years.

So many spectators lined the sides of the street, even in the rain. Spectators had beers, water, licorice, oranges, and Swedish fish, which I took a few cuz I love those little candies. The spectators are what it’s all about. These amazing people from town to town have such a great time cheering all us runners on and getting us to the finish line. The Wellesley girls were “wicked” loud! We could hear them wayyyy before we ran by them. Jen even got a kiss from a British fellow (I think it was a guy). Those girls did not stop screaming! It was pretty insane!

I had a moment between miles 15-16 where I felt a bit of fatigue come on, but I was able to snap out of it. The “hills” came about mile 17 and I just busted through those! I literally chewed ‘em up and spit ‘em out! They actually gave me a ton of energy and adrenalin.

Soon, we saw the Citgo sign and I knew we were getting close. Then I saw the Prudential Tower and knew this was it! As I turned onto Hereford, I was pretty darn excited and popped in another Shot Blok and started sprinting. I looked for Jen and said “Let’s go!!” I saw Boylston ahead and started to tear up. It was then time to turn left down to the finish. I just couldn’t slow down. I looked around trying to find Clint and Katy but couldn’t spot them. I then just focused on the finish line and heard my name called and it was just such a special moment. The whole day was so extraordinary. I felt so lucky to be there again. I also felt so lucky to run with Jen who is just an inspiring and fast runner.

I do have to say, I had a moment while running down Boylston where I thought about the bombings. I looked left to the spot where the first bombing happened. I couldn’t help but not think of that moment in time two years ago. I finished this race for this wonderful city. And even though I wanted to thank everyone along the course for helping me, the volunteers all thanked ME for running! Every single volunteer was genuine and so sincere and they all appreciated what every runner did on Monday. We weren’t afraid to be there.

In 2008, I had no idea what the Boston Marathon was. I qualified a year later and went to my first Boston Marathon in 2011. I was so happy with that accomplishment and never thought about going back because I was satisfied and loved the experience. I qualified at the 2013 California International Marathon because Clint’s cancer battle gave me the motivation to get to Boston again. To be able to go back this year was just more than I could have ever dreamed of. Having Clint and Katy there, to run with Jen, and to know so many people from my training group and other runners from Sacramento made it so memorable. This was my 19th marathon at the 119th Boston Marathon.

I don’t know what the future holds and if I’ll go back, but I know without a doubt that this race was so incredibly special and I’ll never forget it. I came back to chase those unicorns and now have two hanging in my house. It’s just such a great feeling and almost indescribable.

Thank you to everyone for all your support and love!

photo(39)

Tips for a “racecation”

For some of you folks that may be interested in traveling out of state (perhaps, to Boston) or country for a race, I thought I’d put together a list of tips that could be helpful in planning and packing for a racecation.

I’ve learned a lot in my travels, so maybe this will keep you from making some mistakes I’ve made along the way.th

1) Make a list of everything to bring: A list is super helpful and will keep you organized. I’m a huge list maker and this makes things a lot easier to check off as you are packing. Sometimes I start this list months in advance. I use the “Notes” section in my phone so I can add to it easily and it’s on me all the time when I remember something.

2) Accommodations near the finish or close to public transportation options like subway/metro: This is ideal because then you don’t have to go far after the race. After you’ve received your medal, water/drinks and goodies you want to locate your friends/family. Then you’ll be hungry. After all this time, who wants to travel super far for food or shower or your bed? I don’t.

3) Don’t worry about overpacking: With the inconsistent weather we have nowadays due to global warming (those experts say), it’s always good to bring all types of running gear with you. You never know when it’s going to be warm or when it’s going to be cold. It’s happened to me a couple times where it should have been cold and then it ended up warm and I wished I had worn a tank. Or I thought it would be a bit warmer, but it was drizzly and cold and I could have worn a long sleeve shirt to tear off mid-race. Just be prepared for anything.

4) Don’t forget your race gear: While this may seem obvious, I’ve heard of people forgetting their shoes (super important) or other items they need for raceday. Now, there usually is an expo with lots of vendors selling items that you could buy to replace that missing item, but after training in a pair of shoes that’s perfectly broken in and ready for race day, a new pair is not the most ideal. You really don’t want to run your race with any new apparel that could chafe or ride up on your body in a weird way.

5) Pack your race items in your carry on luggage: This is something I’m overly paranoid about. I never pack my race gear in my checked in luggage just in case it never makes it to my destination. I always carry it on me. Because if it does get lost, you don’t want to resort to having to buying all new gear (as mentioned in #4).

5) Bring snacks and food from home: Seriously, if you can bring snacks with you, you will be glad you did. When you travel to another country, you never know what they have at the corner store or grocery store. You may think they will have something similar to what you eat before a race, but you can’t guarantee that. Bring bagels, KIND bars, or whatever pre-race foods your body is used to. I bring a large zip lock bag full of treats just in case I’m hungry when I’m traveling, because we all know runners are hungry ALL the time. I will bring trail mix, almonds, KIND bars, protein bars, pretzels, and I always pack some packets of Emergen C.

7) Research your carb loading places before, if you can, or in the first day or two of your trip so you aren’t scrambling on the night before the race: Whether you like pasta or pizza or whatever it is you prefer the night before a race, do a little research on what restaurants will be in the area you are staying. You don’t want to travel too far from your accommodations, if you can help it, and you don’t necessarily want to go where everyone else is going. There will be long waits and who wants to wait to carb up? Not me! Doing the research ahead of time will definitely help.

9) Go to the Expo on the day it starts: If you can get to the Expo on the first day it starts, I suggest this for a couple reasons. One, you can get it over with early on in your trip and not have to stress about it right before race day. Two, if you go on the first day, there are generally less people to have to walk around. Three, if you are looking for merchandise to purchase from the vendors, there will be more sizes to choose from on the first day.

8) Stay off your feet, if you can, for most of the day (or at least half the day) on the day before the race: I know you’re on vacation too and want to sightsee, but you still need to stay disciplined. This will help with fatigue. You don’t want to tire out those legs the day before a race. This could make your legs feel tired on race day too. Keep those precious extremities rested and ready for a good race!

10) Safety pins: Bring some extras in your toiletry bag or somewhere in your belongings just in case you forget to pick up some at the Expo or THEY forget to give you some. You need to pin that badboy (your bib) to your shirt, so this is an important item to have handy. I’ve been to race expos where they didn’t have safety pins out and was scrambling later looking for extras.

11) Game plan for meeting friends or family at finish: With a race of 20,000-40,000 there is going to be chaos at the end of the race. If you can come up with a plan on where to meet (a coffee shop, a bar, a “family meeting area”) then you will be better off and feel less stressed at the end of the race. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming trying to get through all the masses when you just want to find a familiar person and you are hungry. Make it easy on yourself and your loved ones after the race. I’ve been in situations with no cell reception or I couldn’t find the person(s) I was looking for and it can make for a depressing couple hours.

12) HAVE FUN!!: Uh, duh!

Tokyo Marathon 2015

I’m not even sure where to begin. What a trip! Literally. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to Japan. I knew there would be a language barrier, but we quickly also found out the subway/metro system is quite complicated. We did get used to it after a couple days though, thank goodness!

photo(1)

Tokyo Marathon Expo

photo 2(4)

Nicole and me at the Expo with a tower of Asahi beers behind us

As soon as I arrived to the apartment very late on Wednesday evening (Feb 18), I went to bed. It had been a long travel day of many hours. Thursday morning we woke up early, headed to a traditional breakfast place for noodles (you order your meal from a vending machine, receive a small ticket, then hand that to the chef), and then headed to the Tokyo Marathon Expo. I wanted to get this over with on the first day the expo was open. The expo was really easy and organized, as far as picking up your bib, shirt, chip and info. Once you exit that area, it became a very loud convention hall full of craziness! It was like going to a live auction with people yelling out things, handing out things, just pure chaos. It was almost too much for me. But I came upon an area where they were embroidering your name (or whatever you wanted in a limited amount of characters) on the sleeve of your participant shirt. It was only 500 yen, which was a little less than $5 USD, for my name in Japanese characters, so I said why not! After an hour of perusing the rest of the vendors and waiting for my shirt to be done, we finally left.

After a couple of full days of sightseeing, I tried to rest my legs on Saturday afternoon and not go too far away from where we were staying and get ready for the race. We found some pizza places nearby, so I was all set to get my carb load the night photo 2(1)before. That evening we decided that we wanted to get the pizza delivered so we didn’t have to go anywhere. Brilliant! Then all of a sudden it occurred to us that we would not be able to order the pizza over the phone because we didn’t speak a lick of Japanese. Ha! So, my friend Shin was trying to get a hold of us to meet up, so we just asked him to come over to order the pizza for us. He called a Dominos and we were all set! And, I might add, it was quite delicious. After my pizza, I drank some fluids, laid out all my race gear, and went to bed early. It wasn’t too hard to go to bed earlier because our days were jam packed of getting up early and 13 hours of sightseeing, so it made it easier to put on the pjs and get in bed.

photo 2(6)

Twist ties to hold the timing chip in place – will this stay on my shoe??

I woke up early, as usual, and decided to just get up and put my clothes on, put my timing chip on my shoe with twist ties (I was a little nervous these wouldn’t hold), and got ready. The race didn’t start until 9:10am so I was happy to “sleep in” a little and get up around 6:30. I had coordinated with my friend Nicole (who was on this Japanese adventure with me) on where to meet at the end of the race at the #7 balloon in the family meeting area, but I also got her squared away with meeting up with Shin in the morning to go to spots along the course so she could see me run by. So, I had a piece of cold pizza, grabbed my “banana in a bag”, and all my stuff in my gear check bag and headed out the door around 7:20 to get to the JR (Japanese Rail) that took about 30 minutes to get to the starting area in Shinjuku.

photo 1

“banana in a bag”

As I entered the Tamachi station near our apartment, I didn’t see any other runners, but as my train continued, several runners got on at each stop along the way. I started to notice all the runners were wearing leggings or running tights. I was wearing shorts. I started to think maybe I should have packed tights. But I never run in tights…I’ll be fine! As we exited at Shinjuku, runners had packed the trains and I knew I was in the right place. We just followed one another and made our way out of the station. Officers/volunteers were holding signs telling us which way to go, which was super helpful even though you couldn’t really get lost by following all the runners. I finally had to turn right because I was in Corral D and it was in a different direction than most letters. As I turned onto that street, I noticed we had to walk down into an area that was filled with so many people in lines. As I approached, I saw that we all had to go through security lines with metal detectors and they searched our gear bags. I had forgotten they were on “high alert” with their security, but it didn’t take too long. That was a first though! After I got through this line, it got a little confusing. Luckily, I saw a volunteer that had a sign on his shirt that said “I speak English”. Thank goodness! So, I asked him where to go and it made better sense. I arrived early and with 35,000 runners I was glad I did. There were announcements being made that told us what time we had to have our gear in the trucks and what time we had to be in our corrals. It was a little stressful. I also knew I needed to get in a porta potty line at some point, so I threw my bag to the gear truck and found my way up the stairs to my corral area. Along the way, I found another section of porta potties and the lines were MUCH shorter, so I grabbed a spot. While waiting, I tried to open my “banana in a bag” and was having trouble so I asked the guy next to me to help. Even two of us had a hard time. I don’t know why they package single bananas in plastic. I ate my banana and my Kind bar and walked to the corral.

photo 2(2)

The start area of the race (Corral D)

I got in the corral at about 8:30 and it was quite chilly. Many runners were wearing ponchos or extra layers to stay warm, but I decided to not deal with all of it and just got in with just my short sleeve shirt, arm warmers and shorts. While standing in the 40+ degree drizzly conditions, a guy from Detroit, a gal from Florida (@krissycakes13), and a German who lives in San Jose all surrounded me. What a weird coincidence that all of these people from the US are standing right next to me?! We all chatted while shivering and doing little “I’m cold” dances in place. The next 40 minutes actually went by fairly quickly. I was a little bummed to hear from the guy from Detroit that he doesn’t get the race jitters or butterflies anymore. After telling him this was my 18th marathon, he said that after 18 was when he didn’t feel those jitters anymore. So I asked why he still runs them and he pretty much said he’s just addicted now. It was a little disappointing to me and I hope I don’t ever feel that way about running these races. It may drive Clint (the boyfriend) crazy that I get all stressed and nervous about running another marathon, but that’s one of the things I love about it. It’s part of the process and what keeps me going and wanting to run more.

resize

Confetti! (photo courtesy of the official press)

After some music and announcements, there was an explosion of confetti that flew over the top of us to start the race! It was so exciting! I’ve never been at the start of a marathon that had confetti flying everywhere! And we were off! It took a few minutes to get to the start line, but as I did I noticed the confetti was in little white heart shapes and it made me smile. As I continued to run, I was just in awe. I really couldn’t believe I was running through the streets of Tokyo, with all the enormous buildings with colorful signs on them. I just couldn’t get over it! I started crying about a mile in because it was just so exciting to me. I felt like this solo American running in a sea of Japanese runners. When you run a race in the US, you see so much diversity in the crowds. Hair colors, skin colors, body types, tattoos, etc. But in Japan, everyone looks the same – dark hair and short (not to be stereotypical). It’s really bizarre. There were, however, many runners wearing costumes and funny hats.

I ran without ever putting my headphones in. I wore it just in case, but I just had a great time listening to everything. I couldn’t understand what the spectators were cheering, but it didn’t really matter. It was pretty awesome to hear. I felt good, I was running well, and I just kept up my pace even though my watch was bouncing all over with what my actual pace was.

Aid stations were frequent and well organized. Porta potty areas were extremely organized with signs telling you where to turn off the course with arrows and men/women signs. It was so cool to see how different this was as compared to other races internationally (definitely much different from Paris). Periodically, aid stations would have tomatoes and I loved them! They were delicious! The sport drink was called Pocari Sweat and although it’s a funny name, it was pretty tasty.

photo 2(3)I spotted Nicole and Shin around the 7 mile mark and stopped for a quick photo. That was awesome! The course has a few long stretches that turn around and you run on the other side of the street. At times, you could see some of the elites or at least some of the really fast runners on the other side of the street. I saw American Lauren Kleppin (Asics Mammoth Track Club Athlete) out there running in pink. As I kept running and was nearing the end of the race, I noticed the kilometers and miles weren’t matching up on my watch. I was so confused. I basically started to think I could PR and BQ because I was approaching the 26.2 with a really great time. But it just didn’t seem right. How could this be? Well, this all started to screw with my head and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And then, as I hit 26.2 on my watch, I had a time of 3:34! So awesome…except this wasn’t really accurate as I kept running another 2+ miles. With 1k left to run, I spotted Nicole and Shin again! I was so happy that I just ran this entire race and felt great! I turned left going into the Tokyo Big Sight building and saw the finish was near. I crossed the finish line with an official time of 3:51. I was pretty darn happy with that with so many runners on the course. At about the 36k mark, we had to go up and over a bridge and the road narrowed and we were all crammed in, so it was tough to go super fast in this area. The crowd of runners never really thinned out, but I did have enough space around me.

photo 1 (4)

#selfie

photo 3

gear check area…

After we crossed the finish line, we received our medal and a finisher towel, which was quite nice and large. We were then directed through the area to get our water and food and then to the halls that had our gear check bags. This was amazing to see! They had all our bags in numerical order (remember, there were 35,000 people running this race) in different sections and they were so quick to find our bags for us. Not only that, all the other volunteers hanging out in the areas were cheering us on and saying congratulations! After this area, we were directed to the “dressing areas” which were open areas for the men to change in the convention hall and they had more private areas for the women. I just threw on my pants and a shirt and was good to go. I got in line for my official finisher photo complete with a wreath headband, got in line for a large tomato to eat over tarp they laid out, and then headed out to the family meeting area.

Official numbers for the race were 35,797 total entrants (Male: 27,966/Female: 7,831) and 30,509 from Japan and 5,288 traveling from abroad. After seeing the total female count made it more clear why I barely saw any lady runners out there. That was so strange.

photo(39)

Tokyo Tower

Once I found Nicole and Shin in the family meeting area, we headed out into the chaos and crowds of family members trying to get in to see their runners. I just wanted to eat something at this point because it had been over an hour and I just needed something more than SunRype fruit bars and a Pure Protein bar I had on me. So we wandered looking for something. I was kind of hoping for a warm beverage, like hot cocoa, but lines into places just seemed ridiculous, so we ended up making our way (a long way) to a metro station and headed back to our apartment. I got showered and changed and had some leftover pizza. We then made our way to the Tokyo Tower so I could see it at night. We then ended up having a late dinner there and I had some kind of rice bowl with pork.

photo 2(5)For anyone who wants to run an international race, this by far was one of the best races I’ve run. I would encourage you to try to get into this race. I don’t know how I got in this year, but I feel so lucky I did. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so happy I was able to make it happen and go. Those Japanese know how to organize races! It was done so well and they are just amazing!

Oh, and this was my 4th World Marathon Major with London and NY left to run. It was definitely very exciting to check this race off my list! Sayonara for now!