Monday, August 22, 2016

Alaska Part One

There's this woman named Karen who came into my life approximately two years ago when her husband and my running coach decided to meet up for a run. I ran 7 miles with her (during one of her 20 milers) and somehow, we got over our resting bitch faces and decided to run together again. Since then, she's not only become my best running buddy, but one of my real life best friends. We have bonded over running, our introvertedness, and our love of adventuring in the mountains.

She used to live in Alaska and was itching to return. When she asked if I wanted to adventure, I immediately said yes please! We planned our trip (which basically was just, "Let's go to Alaska and play in the mountains") and somehow, August 2nd came around quickly and (after a cancelled flight and someone accusing us of fraud) we were in Alaska!

We met up with her friend from Utah who is also a blogger and we had a dreamy mountain climbing vacation for 10 days.

That's us doing the "blogger pose" in front of a glacier. The best part of the trip was how easy-going everyone was about the whole thing. Karen would ask if we wanted to do something or go somewhere and the answer was always yes. 

Our first adventure was an overnight car camping experience. It was pouring down rain, so we set up our tent and ate our dinner in the car. Most importantly, we drank cider.

I couldn't get over the fact that it just didn't get dark. We were eating dinner at 10:00pm because it felt like 5pm. This picture was taken at 11:30, right before crawling into the tent to rest up for our hike to a glacier.

In the morning, we began our 7.5 mile round-trip trek to a glacier. On our way, we ran into a group of army men who were practicing wilderness survival skills and told us we were looking "delicious," which was little creepy, but I probably scared them away by saying I hadn't changed my underwear for three days.

We played in the glacier cave and had lunch looking at the beautiful wilderness.

When we made it back to our camp, we packed up our backpacks and headed to our next adventure, driving down the Denali highway.

We ended up at some random lodge in the middle of nowhere where and Alaskan Ron Jeremy took pity on us and gave us free brownies after we ordered coffee and hot chocolate.  He really did look exactly like Ron Jeremy, except we are 100% certain that he had never left his little corner of Alaska.  He told us a story about a woman who had come in the day before and asked for a mocha.  He had never heard of such a thing...

(Photo by Brenna)

We overheard someone talking about picking blueberries on the side of the highway, so we decided to do the same. We spent an hour picking wild blueberries and ended up with about three gallons.

Then it was off to experience true Alaska backpacking. Most of the hiking in Alaska is route finding, which means there's no designated trail to your destination.  As a California girl who has had it hammered into her head over and over again to never leave the trail, it was hard to wrap my head around that in Alaska, it's basically choose your own adventure. And we definitely chose an adventure.

(Thank you Brenna!)

It took us over an hour to climb a mile up the side of a mountain. We bushwhacked, scrambled, and prayed we wouldn't fall. But it was all completely worth it.

(Thank you Brenna!)

The next morning, after a night full of rain, we decided to go back down and head to Fairbanks to dry out. But that meant going down. And going down meant repelling using only the branches of Alder trees.

(Thank you Karen for capturing the pure terror on my face.)

We definitely slipped our way down the mountain.

(Thank you Karen!)

But we made it. A little wet, a little shaken, but alive.

Back in Fairbanks, we stayed with one of Karen's running friends who graciously offered her shower, her washing machine, and her beds to us. After sleeping on the ground for three nights, the bed felt like heaven. Karen took me to her old running route and we ran for the first time in four days and then soaked in the nice warm river.

We then got Thai food and rested up, because we were running a half marathon the next day. I'll end this already too long post here, but spoiler alert, we both placed in our age group with an incredibly slow time. I need to move to Alaska.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Where I've Been

I'm not really sure how this year has gotten away from me. Taking over a new classroom, ramping up my mileage, and just trying to live life made 2016 fly right by! Now it's almost August and I finally have some time and energy to think about writing a blog post. I really do read blogs every day. I just never quite find the time to comment. I'm a horrible blogging friend. I promise I'm a much better real life friend!

So, what have I been doing all these months I've been out of Blogland? Let's see, shall we?

Let's start with running, since, that's what I do more than anything else beside work, which I can't talk about on social media, even though I really wish I could.

For the first part of the year, I was really just doing my own thing. Loving not having a training plan, running with my best running buddy who has quickly transferred over to my best buddy in life.

She pushes me and challenges me and validates me no matter what. We talk about anything from pooping to relationships and I never get sick of her. Oh. And I also trained for a second marathon with her. We did almost every single mile of training together, except when life got in the way and we had to do separate runs.

The second marathon was so much better than the first. Probably because I ran with Karen for the first 16 miles, until the fact that I had zero electrolytes (I hate Gatorade) and not enough fuel (lesson learned, take in more than 300 calories) made me back off and she zoomed on to become a sub-3:30 marathoner!

I finished mentally strong, but physically I was toast. My coach had driven up and ran the 10k (and won it, of course) so he ran back to find me. He found me hobbling, laughing, and joking. Then, the last .2, Karen ran with me. I cramped up so bad, I used her as a crutch. She's the best friend a girl could have!

I did manage to PR by 10 minutes. I finished in 3:45:20. The fact that this was my home course, my running club's marathon, and was prepared for the last 6 miles to hurt like hell really helped my mental game. I've just got to get the fueling down next time. That's right, next time. I'm going to run CIM again this year. I've become one of those people.

That race was in May and I've been doing a lot of random running again. Trail running has become my biggest passion and I feel the happiest in the mountains.

In the trails, pace doesn't matter. Distance doesn't really matter. It's just about you and the trails and connecting with the world.

Conquering hills makes me feel like a beast. There's nothing like coming home and realizing you climbed over 1,000 feet or 2,000 feet or 4,000 feet in one run.

Also, walking around super muddy makes you look like a badass! ;-)

Other than trail running, marathoning, eating, and napping, I found the time to travel. 

I spent 10 days in London with my mom, brother, and grandma.

I think I did possibly every single thing a person can do in London, including run in Hyde park almost every day, walk through every museum that exists, ride on the eye, get caught in a rain storm and catch a taxi home, ride the busses and the Tube, see The Book of Mormon, accidentally run into London Pride, get asked to vote in the Brexit decision, watch the chaos that ensued after the vote, and watch England get their butts kicked by Iceland during the Euro in a pub.

It was an exhausting trip, but so much fun. I'm leaving again for Alaska on Tuesday. This time for some mountain bingeing. I cannot wait! 

Thanks for reading this ridiculously long post. I'm sorry I get lost from time to time!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Baby's First Marathon

I've been asked if I was planning on blogging about my marathon experience. I said probably not, but I am feeling the muse, so I might as well go with it. Especially now that it has been a month and a half and I've had time to analyze and over analyze and forget the pain of the last 6 miles. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here is the take away: it's definitely true when people say the first half of the marathon is 20 miles and the last half is the 6.2. 

I don't have any amazing finish line photos because I'm too cheap to buy them, so here I am in my CIM shirt. These are my adult clothes.

After my failed attempt to make it to the start line at the spring marathon, I was kind of devastated. All of that training for no reason. I had even done a 21-miler! My hip had been feeling better and my I had started increasing my milage. Talking with my coach, he decided I should go for it. Karen had asked if I wanted to start training for California International Marathon with her and her husband, and I stupidly said yes.

So, we ran. All fall. We ran and ran and ran some more. We ran all of our long runs together except for one, where we all ended up being in different places and Poor Karen was stuck running 20 miles by herself while I ran 15 with my coach and Matthew ran 14 by himself in some other state on a work trip. We even had a destination 20-miler in beautiful weather.

It is really helpful to bring along boys to hand you your fuel and water. Ten out of ten, would recommend.

I had zero goals in mind for this marathon. I just wanted to finish it healthy. I had heard too many horror stories of terrible first marathons and I had no desire to finish like that. I wanted to have fun and experience the specialness that is the marathon. During my training I learned that I can't handle GU. It's disgusting and makes me gag. Chomps are totally the way to go. I also learned that salt tabs work miracles.

I drove down on Friday and stopped in the town my coach lives in. We spent the evening obsessing over the course. He had run it the year before and PRd (uh, 2:38, he's kind of fast...) so he knew the course already. It's technically a downhill course and is "the fastest marathon in the west," but after running it, I don't believe it. Karen said that it's just as hilly, if not more so, than the Boston course. So Coach wrote out a plan for me that I was supposed to carry with me for 26.2 miles.

Yeah, I left that in the hotel room while I ran, but it was hilarious. He stressed over and over and over that I needed to go out at a 9 minute mile and maintain that pace for the first 6 miles, then slowly decease my pace. The marathon is a real beast and going out too fast will kill you in the end. He knows my pattern of going out way to fast, so he adamant about me going out slow.

Saturday, after a 2 mile shakeout run, I headed to Sacramento and met up with Karen and Matthew. We had Thai for dinner (another thing I learned during my training was that green curry with rice is the best long run fuel). We woke up at 4:30 and were at the busses by 5. 

They brought Zoey because she wasn't feeling well.

I didn't take my phone with me because the weather called for rain, so I have zero pictures from the beginning, middle, and end. I know, really bad blogging form. The race started promptly at 7. Both Karen and Matt were going for PRs, so we said our goodbyes at the start line. The gun went off and I began my first marathon. I was SO proud of myself when mile one beeped on my watch and it was exactly a nine minute mile. Of course, I naturally sped up, but every time I looked down because I felt too fast, I backed down. I ended up with pretty consistent splits for the first 21 miles! I was so proud of myself. I saw my coach at mile 20 and he was really proud of how I was running.

It was really great to see him because I was having a mild panic attack about how I still had about an hour more to run. He told me to breathe and that everyone around me was also falling apart. Everyone else hurt as much as I did. He also told me that this was the most physical pain I will experience besides child birth and that the marathon was preparing me for that. As someone who isn't planning on having kids ever, I turned to him and said, "I've been running for over three hours and YOU'RE the delusional one?!?"

I think this was mile 24. I was totally falling apart at this point. But so was the guy next to me.

The last 5k is pancake flat. I've never had a 5k go so slow. My mental game was way off by this point. I knew how long a 5k would take me at the pace I was running and it sounded like forever. I tried to just breathe and take in the scenery. Everyone on the course was amazingly supportive. When I saw the finish line, all I could think about was sitting down. I didn't tear up. I don't even think I realized that I had run a freaking marathon, I just wanted a nap! But I had finished! I had run a really smart race. And I had finished significantly under four hours, which was secretly my A goal. 

We sat on the grass for awhile. I didn't want anything sweet. I had taken in fuel every six miles and electrolyte drinks at every aid station. I tried to eat a bite of banana, but couldn't handle it. I also tried to find the bag check, but kept having to sit down because I felt like I was going to pass out. I finally stomached some tomato soup which was the best, most deliciously salty soup I've ever had in my life.

Matt and Karen both ran really great races. I am so, so grateful for them.

We began the long walk (maybe a quarter of a mile) back to the hotel. We were all limping (except Coach, as he had not just run a marathon). We showered and headed out into the fall wonderland to find food.

After lunch (I still wasn't handling good very well and only managed a few bites of green curry and rice) and goodbyes to Matthew and Karen, I headed back (about a 2 hour drive) to Coach's house where I promptly laid down for a nap. I still had a four hour drive home because I was working in the morning. Around 6pm, my appetite came back and I was ravenous. I knew immediately that I NEEDED to eat pizza. Coach went on a gluten free pizza hunt and ordered me the best pizza I've ever tasted. 

I made the decision to just fall asleep at nine and wake up really early to make it to work on time. It was the best decision I've ever made and slept like a baby. I even made it to work almost on time!

Overall, the marathon was a very positive experience. It's been a month and a half and I still have no desire to run one again anytime soon. Many people have said that they are addicting and I will want to keep running them, but I haven't felt that at all. I was incredibly proud of my time and how I managed to stay consistent in my splits for 21 miles. I was also very proud of my training and for making it to the start line almost healthy. I couldn't have done it without Karen and Matt's undying support and the gazillions of miles and hours of advice they gave me. I also could not have done it without my coach, my best friend, my partner in life. He may be four hours away, but we still managed to run at least 4 of my long runs together. I gave me advice and listened to me bitch when my training felt horrible. He got me through the last 6 miles of the marathon when I thought I was going to die. 

Those three believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. I can never repay them. I finished a marathon! I now know that I can do pretty much anything I put myself through. I can do hard things. 

I'm not sure what's up next. Right now, I'm enjoying running what I want when I want, but I know I need to train for something. I definitely love the half the most, so I may focus on that for awhile. Who knows? I just know I want to keep running for as long as I possibly can and this year is going to be about learning to listen to my body. 

Thank you all for reading and supporting me, even though I disappeared for awhile!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Twenty Fifteen

So, it's been awhile. Like a really long awhile. Since August awhile. Turns out, life gets busy when school starts and you are a teacher. Blogging got put on the farthest back burner that exists. I still read people's blogs, but very rarely comment as I'm usually reading them on my phone and I cannot figure out how to comment.

That was a very long-winded way of saying that I am still here. I still exist. I've been feeling a very strong pull to update the blog, so I've finally sat down on my couch to do it. What better way to come back to the blogosphere than to recap 2015? I wasn't around these parts for most of it, so let me fill you in.


I began the year with a decent, really fast run, which set the tone for the first four months of 2015: running way too many fast miles and not enough slow ones.

I travelled south for a family reunion to celebrate what would have been my great grandmother's 100th birthday.

And I did a lot of working out with this guy.


I did a lot of nature things with my friends.

I visited my brother in San Luis Obispo and did a lot of nature things there, too.

I began sort of training for a spring marathon with my favorite running friends, but still ran way too fast for pretty much every run.

I ran my very first 20-miler and made it out alive.


I became a professional photoshopper. I clearly woke up like this.

I got super into volunteering at races. This was the month I decided volunteering is just as fun, if not more fun, than actually running them.

I climbed some pretty big mountains with my lady.

I ran my longest run ever. 

Which lead to my demise. The day, after I caught the worst flu of my life. And then I was broken.


Due to being a complete idiot with my training, my left knee got an overcompensation injury and I was sidelined from marathon training and just running in general.

Luckily, I went on a very long road trip to Arixona with my best friend which forced me to sit for hours at a time.

I got to see some pretty awesome nature things, so it made up for my inability to run.

I also visited my brother again. Always a good time.


I cross-trained a lot because my legs still hated me, even after all that rest.

I volunteered some more.

I ran the 10k version of the marathon I was supposed to have run and broke myself even more.

It didn't stop me from going to my mountains. The mom, running coach, and I did a Mother's Day hike together.


I finished my first year of teaching! 

I went on a professional rafting trip where I fell out of the boat for the first time ever, after a bazillion trips down the river in our own crapoy boats.

I went to a Father's Day baseball game. Don't let the smile fool you, I hated every minute of it (besides being with my dad and brother, that I loved).

I took a very special trip to Costa Rica with my mom for her 55th birthday. 


I celebrated the 4th of July with my favorite little firecracker.

I began my second year of teaching in a brand new classroom.

I started running short distances again and really got my life together by matching my running clothes.


I began running a little bit more and a little bit farther.

I did my very first double digit run in months. In the mountains. With my favorites.

I had to say one of the hardest goodbyes of my life to my running coach.

I visited my baby brother for 24 hours for his birthday.

My grandma turned 90!!

My love bug turned two!

I ran the worst half marathon of my entire life.

And I started a new school year.


I officially signed up for a marathon and did my first long run on a dusty trail. Just the way I like it.

I did my first solo long run of the training cycle.

Oh. And I did this little thing I heard adults do and bought a house.

So I spent a lot of my September painting.

I mean most of my September...


I finally moved into my house.

I ran a lot with these people. They're my happy people.

I did what I believe all home-owning adults do and sat on my couch watching Netflix.

I ran a half marathon as a training run. And actually used it as a training run, not a race.

I found out that my second niece will be arriving in March!

I decided to quit my job and become a professional pumpkin carver.

I went wine tasting with my uncle in Sonoma.

And really went all out for Halloween at work.

But spent actual Halloween running.


We took a quick overnight trip to run 20 miles with my coach.

I did a mid-week long run with my running girlfriend in the redwoods.

I did my first training run in the rain.

My brother visited for Thanksgiving.

But we celebrated a day early.

I watched a beautiful sunset on our very last "long" run before the marathon.

And I got my very first Christmas tree!


I ran a freaking marathon! My only goal was to finish, but I secretly wanted to finish in under 4 hours.

Thanks to this guy, I ran it in 3:54:21! 

I spent a whole lot of December not running and did a lot of recovering, but still volunteered at races.

I finally decided to run again and swam half of a long run.

I decorated cookies.

I turned 28.

I got a selfie stick in a White Elephant gift  exchange, and it changed my life.

I made a very last minute trip to San Diego and ran 10 miles on New Year's Eve.

Then rang in the New Year at a martini bar listening to Spencer Day. (If you haven't heard his music, I highly recommend him. His voice sounds like butter tastes.)

I guess 2015 was a pretty big year for me. I bought a house, ran a marathon, took over a different classroom, and made it past the 27-year curse. I'm doing well. Really well. Let's see where 2016 takes me!