Going sub 5

I near the high school when I decide it will be a good time to try to break five minutes for the first time in my life. I’m two miles into a fairly relaxes jog up until this point. I take my stance at the starting line and take off around the turn. I run the first 200 meters in 30 seconds and instantly slow down. I finish the first lap in 1:17; slightly off the mark but nothing that cannot be fixed. I dig into the turn hard, hoping to shave some time off. No such luck. I finish the second lap at 2:37. I am 7 seconds off of 5 minutes. Again, I dig deeper into my reserves. I can feel I don’t have much left to give. I remind myself that I only need to run one lap and not to worry about what has to happen after that. I come into the final 100 meters of the lap like it’s my last. I scream track and the slow walker on the inside lane ducks out my way. I don’t have a chance to look at my splits. It doesn’t really matter though. I am sprinting as fast as I can. My entire torso goes numb rounding the second turn. I try to ignore the wild sensation but cant help but be a little worried. I hear my watch beep moments before I sprint through the finish line. 5:13. I don’t hit my goal but at least I know where I stand for my first timed mile in over five years. I resume my regular scheduled workout and head to the creek trail for the final four miles of the afternoon.

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No Mercy: Silver Strand 1/2 marathon finisher

In 2011 I ran the Silver Strand ½ marathon with an ambitious goal of running 7:00 minute miles the entire way. I had no idea if it was going to be possible but I trained as hard as I could and went for it. It was the first race that I trained to hit a time. I finished the race with exactly 7:00 minute splits. Though the goal for 2012 was slightly different, I was hoping for another success story.

7:30AM November 11, 2012, Coronado Island – 50 degrees and windy

3500 cheering runners patiently waited behind a line to be let loose onto the course. The MC started his prerace chant and safety protocols. There was a soothing energy in the air. I stood off to the side with music blasting in my ears. I paced in circles, lighting stretching out. I was ready to go.

I hit start on my watch and there was no turning back. The sun was in my eyes. The wind was in my face. I cut right onto the sidewalk and stayed out of the mobbing crowd that was sprinting down the middle of the road. I will never understand why people burn themselves out in the first mile. Before I reached the first mile marker the unthinkable happened. My iPod died. I froze mid-sprint. I looked around at everyone rocking and out and couldn’t help but feel extremely jealous.

A slew of excuses entered my head. The wind suddenly became a much bigger factor. I started feeling sorry for myself. Would I be able to make it? There was absolutely no way I was going to PR. No way. How was supposed to stayed motivated with no Kanye West Mercy in my ears? It wasn’t going to happen. My iPod was out of juice and so was I. One penny of energy could have gotten me through the race but I didn’t even have that.

Since it was a little too late to go home and charge my iPod, I decided to take the challenge and see if could stay competitive. I stopped thinking about everything that was wrong with the race and started focusing on the competitors in front of me. I set my sights on someone a ¼ mile ahead and caught them. I kept doing this over and over again. I caught the “1:30” pacer and his entourage and decided to run with them for a few minutes. I was amazed at how easy the pace felt. Months ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of running with this crew. Before I got too comfortable, I put in a surge and continued with my race.

The mile flags started to fly by. I was just running. It sounds so simple but sadly it’s something I rarely do. I usually run deep in thought, trying to figure out life’s hurtles. Music has always acted as the catalyst so without it I was left to just be. I had one thing on my mind and that was to beat people.

I reluctantly passed these two girls in bright neon shorts who made running 6:30 miles look too easy. I was afraid they would latch on and suck all the energy out of me from behind. I pushed through that wild mental image and the strong headwind and continued ahead. I passed the 9 mile marker. I was race was getting shorter. The course veered into a neighborhood and the nasty wind went away. It felt so nice. I took advantage of the much improved conditions with a surge. I knew it wouldn’t last long. A mile later the course would be back in the elements.

I could hear one of the neon shorts coming up behind me. She was cheering runners on. I figured it was her way of showing off that she wasn’t even trying. I picked up my pace a bit. I had flashbacks of 2011 where a girl passed me at the 12 mile and never looked back. I wasn’t going to let it happen again. Every time I heard her cheer I started running faster. But alas, she eventually caught me. It was right around 11 ½ miles – Déjà vu. I let her pass me so I could turn into that annoying follower. I stayed with her stride for stride. I was excited to see this last section unfold. I kept looking at my watch to see what we were running. I hid the heart rate display miles ago so all that was showing was lap pace. Game on.

I focused on my breath as we started passing a few groups of people. It felt like were on the same team, pushing each other to be our best. I have never run a quicker mile during a race. We finished the 13th lap at 6:03 and tore into the finish line sub 6. I had no idea what my race time was and they didn’t have a timer at the finish line. I got my finishers metal and congratulated the runner who finished the race with me. I reset my watch to see what I just did. My watch read 1:25:19. I could feel myself smirking, thinking it couldn’t have been real. There was no way. I needed to see an official time before I celebrated.

Monday after the race I went to the gym for a light climbing session. I thought it would stretch out my legs. Something was off, I didn’t quite feel right. My energy level was low and I felt frail. I wasn’t sure if I was ill or just feeling the effects of the race. I muscled my way up a few routes but I didn’t feel like myself. All of a sudden it became apparent that there was more to it than fatigue. I walked as calmly as possible into the locker room. I stood over the toilet and a mass of particles left the front of my head and hit the bowl. It wanted out and I wasn’t going to be able to, nor did I want to, stop it. The poison left one heave at a time. It was painful but I could already feel myself feeling better as the last bits of Mexican food left my mouth. Needless to say I won’t be eating Mexican beans and rice for sometime. I will stick to every other country’s food.

Kanye West once said, they claim you never know what you got ‘til it’s gone. I think the same can be said about you never know what you don’t need ‘til it’s gone. The vomit almost felt like a symbolic way of letting go of everything I didn’t need and feeling so much better afterward. I wish I could have realized that without being so dramatic.

Every race this year has had a different theme. Surf City in February was all about new experiences. Rock n Roll in October was very introspective. And Silver Stand in November was something else. They have all amazing been experiences that have helped make this year what it is. The progression has been fun to be apart of.

Surf City – 1:32:56
Rock n Roll – 1:26:26 [PR]
Silver Strand – 1:25:09 [PR]

This has been a productive year of mental and physical growth. I am in the best shape of my life and I have a clear focus on where I want to go. I’m nowhere near where I want to end up at but I have a plan on how to get there and I’m going to stick to it as long it makes sense. I am really excited to train hard through the holidays and kick some ass in 2013. Thanks for following the transformation.

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What is one more?

Friday I didn’t finish a run for the first time in over four years. I started walking a mile from my car. I wasn’t tired, that would have been much better. My calf cramped which caused my nerve endings to send pain messages to my brain. I tried ignoring it but it became too much and I started to walk. I had to tell myself it was just one mile. What what one mile going to do in the grand scheme of my training plan? It was probably less than .05% of the mileage I would eventually put in for the Silver Strand 1/2. Saturday I woke up with an extremely sore calf. There was no way I was going to be able to run. Maybe my leg was more injured than I thought? What was missing one run going to do?

Sure, one run won’t change the outcome of a race but where should the line be drawn because I know at some point actions will create consequences. If I would have forced myself to run on Saturday regardless of how I felt, how would that have changed my training for the long term?

Rationalizing decisions individually can make almost anything seem meaningless. “Yo, it’s just school.” “Relax, it’s just a job.” What if we took everything into consideration before we made a decision?

Imagine if we treated life as a choose your own adventure book? Every decision impacts every other decision, on and on. Would we decide to spend more or less time on Facebook? Would we break more promises or keep more? I am excited to test it out and try to create the most impactful story possible. I hope you are too.

I have been down on myself for falling into the trap and being okay with missing “just one run”. But the more I think about it, by resting the entire weekend instead of running on Saturday (though it was only one run) I may have avoided serious injury and humiliation during next Sunday’s race. Or so I hope so. We shall see in 1 week’s time.

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Giving something your all and reaching your full potential

Going the extra mile, putting in that extra rep, staying after practice, doing whatever you can to get better, knowing you put yourself out there and knowing you couldn’t have done more is quite a feeling. It’s a feeling we should be proud of. Often we dismiss our success for a number of reasons. Sometims it’s because we compare ourselves to others who might be running faster, climbing harder, or doing something better. Or it might be that we want to be at our full potential and feel it would be premature to be proud until we reach it. Sometimes we say things such as, “I’m slow. I suck. If only I was as good as her…” Whatever the words are, negative thinking doesn’t make anyone better.

A common negative phrase that deserves its own paragraph is, “I wish I would have started doing this as a kid. I would be so good.” Unless you’re talking about a language there is no good reason to think you can’t still reach your full potential. Do I wish I would have started running before I was a freshman in college? Of course! But I’m glad I started running then verse when I graduated. There’s always going to be an earlier time you “should have started” but the second best time is when you did start or NOW. How did my first year of running go? I got 192/200 in the state championship. That may have sounded like a failed effort to 191 people (and the UCLA admissions office) but for me, I was stoked. I trained my hardest all year and was heading in the right direction.

There are always going to be people who are better than you and worse than you. The trick is utilizing both to your advantage. Example: Burn the slow runners on trails and copy what the fast runners are doing. Okay, I’m kidding but there is something to be said about what a better athlete is doing. If she is relying solely on hard work she put in years ago you will surely be better than her before you know it. If she is training twice as hard as you, you will need to dig a little deeper if it’s your goal to do what she is doing. Don’t let a better athlete discourage you from trying your hardest even it’s not even close to what theirs is. Don’t let other’s successes or failures dictate how you think of your own. Remember that every workout you give 100% effort to is one workout closer to being your best.

If you repeatably give something your all, you’ll eventually reach your full potential. The catch, you may never know when you get there but hopefully it will be in line with your goals. If, when you do you reach your full potential and you’re still bad just know how much worse you would’ve been without training or trying. Bottom line: hard work does pay off. Don’t compare yourself to others or get down on yourself during the journey. Keep looking forward and train as hard as you can. And don’t forget to have fun along the way. Now go workout and be proud.

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Rejuvenated in Joshua Tree

I had begun to earn the strength that comes from working through pain and it felt good. I filled the sink with hot water, hints of fresh blood came to the surface of each knuckle. I looked in the mirror. I squeezed my jaw and my cheek and my nose, checking for soreness. I stood there awhile looking at my face. I realize now that I had only taken the barest first step on a years-long journey. I was not particularly tough. I certainly was not any good. But I was becoming stronger and I liked it. – Eric Greitens, The Heart and the Fist

Sweat dripping down my forehead, mouth dry, legs aching, sun pounding, three miles into the backcountry I had a lot of thoughts going through my head but none of them stopped me from enjoying my run.

I originally planned to run at 7:00AM but instead found myself 150 feet in the air, completely jacked up on adrenaline, leading the second pitch of a 5.8. I questioned my decision to lead from the moment I left the belay station. I hadn’t lead outside in over a year and leading a run out friction slab was the last thing I wanted to regain my confidence on. I looked down a few feet after I clipped the last bolt only to realize the only way down was up. Climbing down to the bolt was no longer an option. There was still twenty feet between me and the top and I didn’t know if I had what it took to smear my way up. I couldn’t believe I was struggling on such an easy climb but in that moment the only thing that concerned me was getting to the top. I found an invisible foot and pushed up toward the top. I eventually made it.

At 2:00, after a big lunch of peanut butter and jelly and iced tea, I set out for my first ever run in Jtree. I made two random right turns and found my way onto a horse trail. The ground changed from sand to hard, dark dirt. The shrubbery changed from cacti and thin grass to thick, thorny bushes that loved my teeshirt. Drinking coconut water back at my car tasted so good. Running in 82 degree weather with a slight breeze can really dehydrate a person!

I couldn’t get enough of Joshua Tree. Sunday I decided to head back into the park for one last run before I went home. I ran on a trail that I hiked my first semester at USD. It was really cool to recognize a washed out river that I was in three years prior. Instead of being stuck in the rain with 14 other cold students I was traveling solo in perfect morning weather. I finished the week with 45 miles – the most I have ever logged.

I am excited to see what a little hard work will do for the Silver Strand 1/2 on November 11th. I know I have a long way to go but this past week was certainly a good first step in the right direction.

Here’s what I have planned for this week:
Monday: 7 mile easy run
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: 5 x 1 mile repeats @ 6:30 pace with 1:15 rest
Thursday: Off
Friday: Hill repeats at Torrey Pines
Saturday: 12 mile long run
Sunday: 7 mile easy run

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Throwback Thursday: Barcelona run

This is the second post in a series of archived writings about a special moment or accomplishment from my past. The following was written January 7, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. It was an incredible solo exploration that opened my eyes to parts of the city that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

Barcelona Run

I don’t think I can do my experience justice with a blog. I’ll give it my best shot. Here’s the story: I am on four hours of sleep. I just get out of a 3-hour Spanish class. I lay on my bed and try to get some sleep. It’s too bright so I get up and suit up. My plan is to head down the main road near school for 2.5 miles and turn around. Within five minutes things are already interesting. I see a mountain biker in my peripheral but don’t think much of it. Next thing I know he’s skidding out, nearly falling off his bike. I realize I forced him to take the turn a lot tighter than he planned. He turns around and yells something in Spanish. I say sorry in English—strike two? At 1.9 miles or so the road dead ends and I don’t want to cut my run short so after making several mental pictures of the intersection I head right, up a hill.

A cable car passes me—it’s a scene out of Chinatown only there are no Chinese people or Lombart streets. The hill keept going and going. I don’t know how long I will be able to keep running up it. On the right side of the road the trees open up and a view of Barcelona appears. I stare in awe. The city is so beautiful. I can see all the locations I’ve visited over the last few days. I am right around 2.5 miles but it’s too beautiful to stop. Toward the top of the hill I find myself in a footrace to the finish with a local. I ignore the 197bpm appearing on my watch and dig deep for the finishline. He barely puts up a fight. Maybe he doesn’t know it’s a race? It’s too late to ask, I keep heading up the hill and find countless trailheads.

A lot of locals from the running and mountain bike community are standing around stretching and conversing. I only get to experience the soft dirt trail for .3 miles because I’m worried I won’t have enough energy to make it back. I take a small stretch break—getting my heart rate down to 150bpm—looking down at the beautiful city. A balloon in the shape of a number 3 floats by—my favorite number. I can hardly believe it. A nice sign I’m in the right place. I bomb the downhill and make my way back to the dorm after getting lost for a mile. It was by far my best run in Europe.

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Starting over with a fresh training schedule

My psyche for running hasn’t come back after leaving San Jose. I have definitely taken a step back this week. I need to refocus on what matters and that’s having fun and feeling good. I got caught up in times and distance – both very important but only as an avenue for my purpose, not the purpose itself.
I have been feeling sluggish and heavy. The sweat pouring down my head hasn’t tasted as sweet. I have struggled to feel good. What is it going to take to get back on track? A few things come to mind: Rest, improved weather, and goals. Two of the three I can control so I’m in pretty good shape.

Goal for Silver Strand 1/2 Marathon: PR by one minute and twenty seven seconds.

I tried to pick up where I left off before San Jose but I now see that isn’t possible. I did better than I could have dreamed in San Jose so now I’m worried at what it’s going to take to follow that up with another good race. I need to start from scratch and get a new training plan together, that’s the only way it’s going to happen. Monday morning I will post workouts for the next four weeks.


Weather at the beginning of my run Wednesday evening

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