Hood to Coast Packing List & My Legs!

Note: this list consists of items that I would *like* to bring, but I have a feeling it will be a rude awakening when I actually try to stuff it into a medium-sized backpack.

On Wednesday morning, I’ll be on my way to Seattle to meet the Nuun teams that will be running this year’s Hood to Coast. I’ve been looking forward to this since they day I returned home from Boston. This will be my first relay and my first relay with strangers. But, let’s be real, runners usually aren’t strangers after chatting for 2 minutes and we definitely won’t be strangers after spending 20+ hours in a van together.

Tentative Packing List:

  • Face mask & ear plugs
  • Ibuprofen & Endurolytes
  • Sweatshirt and warm pants
  • Compression socks
  • Small towel
  • Body/baby wipes
  • 4 running outfits in gallon Ziploc bags
  • Water bottle
  • Gloves + HAT/warm headband
  • Garmin
  • iPod (for sleepin’ tunes)
  • Jacket/hoodie
  • Flip flops
  • 2 pairs running shoes
  • Sunglasses (running + regular)
  • Travel pillow- inflatable!
  • Small blanket
  • Car USB charger for iPhone (dual)
  • Sunscreen
  • All the snacks!
  • Colgate Wisps! (no water needed to brush teeth!)
  • Trigger Point Massage Ball (Tiger Tail will be provided)
  • Extra phone battery- JCrew
  • Safety vest + headlamp (Nuun is supplying these, but Corey was nice enough to let me borrow hers!)

*Items in bold were added to the list gradually- based on tips and suggestions from Hood to Coast veterans!

This doesn’t seem like a lot to pack to me but I know I’ll feel differently when I start putting it in a bag. I took a lot of tips from Oiselle’s and Portland Running Company‘s packing lists + many suggestions from friends that have run Hood to Coast before (thanks friends!)

2 pairs of shoes can take up a lot of space but I think it will be worth it. I’m oddly more concerned about what to pack for the 2 days that we’ll be in Seattle than the comfy running apparel I’ll spend most of my time in.

On Wednesday, we arrive, spend time exploring Seattle, and go bowling that night. On Thursday, we visit Oiselle HQ (eeeps!) and run around Green Lake, ride a duck boat (!), and decorate the vans in the evening. And, FRIDAY, we drive and start runnin’ runnin’ runnin’! And, of course, I’m excited for ALL THE BEER in Seaside on Saturday before heading back to Chicago on Sunday afternoon. Dude. It’s going to be a crazy 5 days!

My Leg Assignments:

After my switch from Team Lemonade to Team Cherry Limeade, I’m officially assigned as Runner 4 in Van 1. I will be running a total of 15+ miles which works perfectly with marathon training (especially because I’ll be running on tired legs by the end!)

Leg #1

Hood to Coast Leg 4

7.18 miles with a steady gradual downhill along paved shoulder on Highway 26. The closest thing to this that I’ve run on in the past few months is Cricket Hill in Chicago (ha.) I’m going to keep telling myself that the downhill sections of Boston prepared me for this at least a wee bit. According to our projected paces, I should be running this around 3:30 PM.

Leg #2

Hood to Coast Leg 16

3.78 miles on gently rolling highway, paved shoulder just like the first leg. I’m gonna ROCK this thing. I’ll run this leg around 11 PM so that should be fun (happy that my legs are at relatively ‘normal’ times!)

Leg #3

Hood to Coast Leg 28

4.20 miles, gradual uphill on paved road (narrow highway with limited shoulder). Considering this is my only uphill leg, I think I got lucky [or they were very wise and put the flatland runner on some of the easiest legs. More likely!) This will feel more difficult that it would on fresh legs of course but I’ll be read to bust out those 4+ miles like it’s my job. I’ll be running this leg around 6 AM, so again–normal for my schedule!

Alright, what am I missing people? What else would you pack? How would you save room in your backpack?

Any vets that have run as Runner 4 in the past? Give me all your tips! Tell me all of your stories!


11 Things I Learned On Vacation


This past Tuesday, I returned from a 5-night vacation in Cabo San Lucas. This is what I learned:

  1. It’s never too early to order a piña colada. They’re especially delicious for breakfast.
  2. Buying “real books”, as opposed to using my Kindle, was liberating. No screens = happy eyeballs.
  3. Taking the time to think about absolutely nothing is time well spent.
  4. I missed the Chicago lakefront after approximately 4 days away. A humid gym at the resort just didn’t cut it.
  5. Avoiding clocks is something everyone should do on vacation (or whenever possible. weekends?)
  6. Note to future self: do not go to a resort for my 40th birthday with a gaggle of girlfriends. You’ll look ridiculous, tired, & drunk.
  7. My cup of coffee in the morning has never tasted so good as it did on that balcony overlooking the ocean. :sigh:
  8. Fresh fruit and Nuun. Fresh fruit and Nuun. Margaritas. Fresh fruit and Nuun.
  9. SPF50 prevented a sunburn. It also prevented a nice tan from developing.
  10. Never, EVER take full advantage of the open bar on a dinner cruise. (You and your boyfriend will be the only ones on the dance floor and the ‘audience’ will proceed to take videos of you “dancing” and post them on Youtube…). And no, I’m not speaking from experience.
  11. Doing what you want to do, when you want to do it is exactly what vacation is for. Mission accomplished.


Vacation Brain

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I think pre-vacation brain is like taper brain. I’ve managed to forget the simplest things, my mind is restless, I dream of calories in the form of beer, and I’ve checked the weather no less than 5 times today even though the weather should be sunny and gorgeous where I’m going.

I’m really looking forward to this vacation. Last time I went to Mexico, I literally turned my phone off the moment we landed and turned it back on only when we arrived back in Chicago after 6 days lounging in the sunshine with a margarita in hand. I’ve been thinking more about unplugging 100% for the 6 days, just as I did then. That feeling of becoming detached from technology was scary and wonderful at the same time.

I’m anxious to take some time away to READ. My Goodreads list is out of control and there’s no way that I would be able to read all of the books I want to read in my lifetime while still trying to hold down a regular job. I bought the three books above to devour on vacation. I’m a Kindle-reader and read 3/4 books on it. But I’m leaving it  at home, all by its lonesome. Maybe if I pretend I’m allergic to technology for the next week, quitting it cold turkey won’t seem so scary?

Have you ever done a technology detox? Was it as easy or hard as you thought it would be?


Twin Cities 2012 Marathon Training: Week 5

One week closer to the big day. This past week presented its own kind of challenges. Luckily, I was determined to make it work and accomplished all of my runs despite two business trips during a 4-day week. (Next time someone asks me how I have time to train for a marathon, I really need to tell them that I don’t. But that I make the time!). This training cycle has been interesting because I’ve been forced to run at least 3 of my long runs on Fridays as opposed to Saturday or Sunday. I am lucky to have a job that provides a flexible schedule because I honestly don’t know how I’d get it all done working a standard 9-5 (if a “standard” work schedule even exists!). I ran my 2nd 20-miler at the end of Week 6 on a Friday and didn’t get around to running again until the following Tuesday.

Monday: REST

Tuesday: 5 shakeout miles (left for San Fran)

Wednesday: 7.95 predawn miles/ In San Fran for a 4 hr meeting today and was so happy to see a trail right in front of the hotel on the bay when I arrived the previous. I started my running around 5:30 AM (with a little help from the 2-hour time change!) It was so dark I could barely see my feet and, to be honest, I was scared I’d roll an ankle. Some portions of the Public Shore Trail that goes around the bay near the airport are unfinished and the pavement turns into somewhat long sections of gravel. [I’m so glad I looked up a map of the trail and realized it wasn’t finished—that would have been an interesting surprise!] I spent the entire run bouncing between the inland sidewalk and the shore trail. It was cool to see the planes land and take off during my cooldown. (returned for San Fran late that night)

1k (4:10) 1k (4:16–couldn’t see anything, ha!), 2k (8:34), 1k (4:04), 1k (4:02)

Thursday: “Bombed Tempo”/ I let the “I can’t do it” and the heat and humidity get to me today. 75 degrees and 80% humidity when I started. Beyond that, I’ve had to stack workouts for the 2nd week in a row. Ran 1 mile warm-up, target 6 miles at 6:55, and 1 mile cool-down. Don’t be fooled by the splits. I felt like I was doing mile repeats instead of a tempo because of how many times I stopped to regroup. Definitely the worst run I’ve had in awhile. I tried not to think too much about it the rest of the day. A little pep talk from Coach helped, too. I realize that there are factors that I can’t control and this past Thursday, the heat and humidity were out to get me. I need to stop being so tough on myself, apparently. Thursday was a rough day!

Splits: 6:54, 6:45, 6:52, 6:52, 6:52, 6:53.

Friday: REST [Side note: another business trip! This time, a one-day trip to DC. I was at O’Hare by 5:30 AM. After my meeting ended early, I was excited to head to the airport and see if I could get an earlier flight out. No such luck….and THEN, my actual flight was delayed two hours. I arrived home at 12:30 AM. Twenty-hour days are not my friend! I salute you airplane warriors that tackle this kind of schedule each and every week!]

Saturday: Anticipation Run 4.5 miles. I felt sluggish but it was nice to get out there before relaxing for the rest of the evening and shake the legs out before the long run the next morning.

Sunday: 15 miles alternating every mile between 7:40 and 7:20. I’ll just consider this a super confidence boost. When Coach sent the plan on Monday, I was like “huhhhhhh?”. But I’ve learned not to question the master plan and just went with it. I slept through both alarms that morning and went out at 8:30 AM, a good two hours later than I usually run my long runs. The weather was on my side, though, and it was only 64 degrees by the time I finished. And when I arrived home, I realized that I had likely run a PR for that distance. My half marathon PR is 1:36:08 and I saw 1:37 flash on my Garmin when I hit the 13-mile mark. Nothing but good things from this run! I was sleepy while watching the Bears game afterward, but I woke up on Monday with more energy than I usually do the day following a long run.

This week was incredibly challenging but I’m glad I was able to end it on a good note. I was able to balance work, personal, and running commitments without going out of my mind (cha ching!). Last week, I was obsessed with the quality vs. quantity debate. I keep telling Coach that I think my mileage is too low. Thank goodness, he doesn’t listen to me because my training is going so well.


There’s an argument to be made for running only 3-4 times a week, as opposed to 6-7. Some food for thought:

A Reflection on What Worked

“10 Things I Have Learned Over 21 Years | How To Run A Marathon”



Where to Go From Here

Now that I no longer have a marathon looming on the horizon, I feel like I need to take a step back and look at where I should can go from here. I’ve dedicated 8-9 months of this year to training for this huge goal–to run my first marathon. Thankfully (and perhaps luckily), my hard work paid off and I was able to run a fantastic time at Chicago. I didn’t expect it to happen, but I guess a lot of good tends to come from keeping a level head and being smart about setting goals.

Even before I had run the marathon, I went into planning mode. I’m always in planning mode, but especially when it comes to races and putting goals on the calendar. [Side note: Manny says he admires me because I (and I quote) “get shit done”. Yes, it’s true.] So I have three events on my calendar in the next month or so. I wouldn’t necessarily call them races because I’m not looking to PR or run a crazy time. I just want to have fun after dedicating a lot of time to speed and pain this year.

  • This weekend!!!: Back on My Feet 42k Relay Race. I ran the Chicago Marathon along with BOMF’s FundRacing team and love the mission of this organization. The relay is in Indianapolis on Sunday and I’m happy I was able to get a fun group of runners (ahem…marathoners to run it with me). We’ve deemed ourselves Team Faster Than Turtles and might even dress up haha. Every runner will do 3 loops of 2.2 miles and we have 4 runners on the team. I don’t know what kind of speed is in my legs right now considering I’ve only run once since the big 26.2, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fun morning.
  • Hot Chocolate 15k: November 5th. My older sister, Brittany, signed up for this race months ago. You can get anyone in the Poore family to run a race when chocolate is involved and I’m happy that my mom will be coming up to Chi to run the 5k as well! This was one of the first races I ran in Chicago and it will be interesting to go back and experience it again on a downtown route (as opposed to lakeshore route) this year. I’m not looking to run it fast–but I might run a decent pace in order to get to the fondue and hot chocolate at the finish line.
  • Drumstick Dash: Thanksgiving Morning. Another Indy tradition. I ran this with my family last Thanksgiving and can’t wait to see what color the shirts will be this year. Last year’s were a long sleeve highlighter green dry-fit shirt. Love those funky colors for autumn runs 🙂 Again, just looking forward to having some fun with the fam!

Before the marathon, I confessed to Coach that I was nervous about getting the post-marathon blues and dealing with low energy. He told me I definitely wouldn’t have that problem considering the races I’d already put on the calendar—and he was right. Even though I’ve been in lazy mode for the past two weeks (I’ve only run once!….insane.) I know that my body needed to recover.

I’ve been rolling around on Mr. Foam Roller a couple nights a week and have been sleeping like a baby every night. I think the cold Chicago air has something to do with it, but I’m a happy girl when I can come home from work, put on my PJs, cook dinner, and watch T.V. for a few hours. That makes me sound like a total sloth, but I promise it won’t last long.

…Because I bought a Groupon for Bikram yoga last week!!! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve gotten into hot yoga lately and I couldn’t pass up a good deal for a studio near my office. Cheap, convenient, and good for me. I hope I can make the commitment to go at least once a week and continue to go throughout the winter. Hot yoga is healing for me and it’s the best way to end a long, crazy work week.

I still haven’t decided if I am going to run a spring marathon or not. At this point, I’m on the fence because I don’t know if I can make a strong commitment through the winter to stick to an intense training plan. Running a couple more half marathons next year seems more appealing to me right now. But that all could change in a few weeks.

When’s your next race? How long do you usually wait to run your next race post-marathon? I’m curious to hear if any of you have dealt with post-marathon blues!


Unplugging for a Week

I’m taking my blog title literally and going out to Wander and Ponder in beautiful Cabo San Lucas, Mexico this week. My last vacation was three years ago and I’ve been looking forward to this vacation since returning from the previous one. 🙂 The resort that I’m staying at apparently has a wi-fi connection that’s unreliable according to online reviews, so this week will be an exercise in “unplugging” myself and enjoying the small things. I hope to get a few runs in along the beach, enjoy massive amounts of pool/beach time, indulge in food & drink, and smile as much as I can. I’ll ponder my wanderings (and post pics!) when I return!

Now go do something nice for yourself!


Last LSD Before I Enter the Pig Pen

As of today, 10 days remain between me and the start line of the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati. It’s weird to think how fast this training period has progressed. It seems like just the other day that Brittany, my sister, and I were trying to decide which half marathon we’d be running this spring. The Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon was out due to my twin sister’s graduation weekend (would never miss that–duh!). And there wasn’t one in the Chicagoland area that really piqued our interest either. Luckily, Brady, a fellow long distance runner on DailyMile and Twitter recommended the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati. I’d never heard of this race before and was open to going elsewhere in the Midwest to run. The timing worked perfectly in order to hit an early ‘peak’ before starting the true training cycle for the Chicago Marathon, so Britt and I decided to register.

Since then, I’ve kept my head down and remained focused on getting those workouts in each week. I’m very detail-oriented and like the idea of looking forward to a training schedule and backward on what I have already accomplished–which is why DailyMile has been such a great tool for me. I’m so happy I’ve used it as much as I have, because the encouragement and camaraderie is just outstanding (and most often when you most need it and least expect it). Since I began a consistent running schedule in late January of this year, I have run over 226 miles and devoted 38 hours to time on the treadmill or pounding the pavement (weather permitting, of course). Leading up to the Sam Costa Quarter Marathon last month, I wasn’t feeling very healthy joint-wise. My knee was giving me problems and I was scared which way it was going to go for me that morning even after an easy warm-up jog. Luckily, the knee wasn’t an issue that day and I was happy with my first age group award in over 10 years. It was a great way to start the season.

Since allowing myself to rest and rehab the knee a bit with some cross training and light running, I’ve amped up the workouts in the past couple of weeks. And last weekend was my last long run before Race Day. I had a target to just stay on my feet and ran a consistent pace for about 2 hours. I woke up that morning prepared for what I had to do. I’m not always the most consistent when it comes to fueling my body as I should before a long run, so I made a point to be diligent this time around. I wanted to feel nice and strong throughout. I had a cup of coffee and some oatmeal with a bit of natural yogurt from Trader’s Point Creamery. (I was out of hummus which I love to munch on before long runs, but the small bit of yogurt was a nice substitute.). I also had a couple Shot Bloks left over from the Shamrock Shuffle. The margarita flavor is oddly enough very tasty! And I think the extra salt really does help keep me going–I’m sure it will on even longer runs in the future as well.

The weather on Saturday was the perfect kind for a long, slow distance run. It was mild outside with a cool breeze. Well, breeze might not be the right word, as it amped up to 16-18 mph during the second half of the run. But I was comfortable in leggings, a lighter long sleeve shirt, and a headband to keep my ears warm (something that always bothers me is cold ears!). As much as I wanted to run along the lake that day, I know that the wind was just going to get worse the further east I ran. Instead, I decided to run north up Ashland and see where my legs took me. I like letting my mind go and not prescribing a strict route on long runs–keeps the mind fresh, I think. I always know the general direction of where I’m going to go, but especially for runs that are about time and not distance, it’s refreshing to do away with those mile markers. (I even turned off the distance audio cue on Runkeeper to keep from focusing on that number.)

As I looped back around and ran towards home, the weather took a turn for the worst. Running through strong gusts of wind really does motivate you to run towards home! I felt strong and powerful and my legs didn’t feel fatigued much at all. In the last 3-4 miles a natural water cooler appeared in the form of mist and cooled my forehead, which was nice! I decided to push it the last mile and a half or so. I absolutely love pushing the pace at the end of a long run. It helps to open up the hips and let your legs loosen up a bit.

In total, I ran 11.89 miles in 1 hour 55 minutes and was very happy with my pace throughout. Traffic signals provide somewhat of a problem when you’re trying to judge one mile to the next, but it was pretty consistent nonetheless. As nervous as I may have gotten in the past few days with the Flying Pig on my mind, I know that I’ve done practically all I can do to prepare for a good Race Day. Good days and bad days may happen, but you never know what surprises are in store when you get to the start line. I learned that lesson just 4 short weeks ago. I’m looking forward to seeing what I’m made of on May 1st in Cincinnati. An even 8:00/mile pace would make me happy, but a 7:50 pace would make me even happier!


I Shuffled Through Another Milestone

Race #2 of my Chicago Marathon training season was last Sunday in Chicago. I had never run the Shamrock Shuffle before and remember always wishing I had registered in time to be able to run it. It seems to be one of those races that pulls people from all over the Chicagoland area and I can definitely see why. Most of the races in the city take you up and down the lakefront–and while this may be gorgeous and the breeze is nice at times, it does get sort of mundane if you run a lot of races throughout the year. The opportunity to run on open terrain throughout downtown streets was a welcome change.

Race Day Morning did not go as well as I had hoped. I had everything prepared and ready to go the night before. Clothes set out. Check. Bag packed. Check. Breakfast ready. Check. Coffee make queued to brew. Check. Phone Charged…….Check? Alarm set….Damn it!!! So it turns out I set my alarm for Saturday instead of Sunday–a somewhat rookie mistake. I woke up on my own at 7:30 am with a deadline to get to the American Cancer Society tent for a DetermiNATION photo op at 8:15 a.m. THAT was surely not going to happen. Luckily, I was able to make it to the park by about 8:25 a.m, but the time did not allow wiggle room when it came to saying hello to my fellow DNation runners. I was pretty disappointed, but I knew I had to focus on getting myself psyched for the race.

The second issue–the phone! Due to yet another rookie mistake, I thought my phone was plugged in, but it turns out the USB side of the cord had come unplugged from the actual charger. When I woke up in a fuss and looked at the time, the ‘Charge Your Phone’ message popped up. Because I was in such a hurry and cursing my own error in A) not setting my alarm correct and B) not charging my phone, I didn’t think anything of it and started to throw on my race day clothes.

Despite these setbacks, I felt prepared once I got to Corral A and started some light stretching. I knew it was going to be a difficult race when I went outside and was already sweating by the time I go to the part. It was going to be HOT. And hot it was! I think it was over 70 degrees by the time we started. The first half of the course had a decent amount of shade and felt pleasantly cool, but the second half was in direct sunlight–not cool.

I went out way too fast for the first two miles. While I may have had the training to back up a 7:30 pace for the entire Shuffle, I wasn’t “feeling it” that morning and after all that had happened before I go to the start line, I wasn’t as pumped as I had hoped I could make myself be. By mile 2 I was at a total time of 15:00. Not having my phone and the Runkeeper cues at every kilometer really make me struggle to keep a pace I could keep up with for the entire 8k. Note to self: always always always make sure the phone is charged. I had a good back up though! My boyfriend djs in his spare time and he had a shuffle powered up and ready to go with songs that were sure to make me forget all about how exhausted I was or could be.

After walking a bit at the 3rd mile and wishing I had made the time for a port-a-let break, I pushed through to the finish line with absolutely no juice left in my system. I finished with an official time of 38:50, a 7:46 pace overall which is entirely impressive to me as I look back on the race as a whole almost a week later. After blasting through the first two miles, I was sure I wasn’t going to meet my goal of 37-39 minutes. But alas! I did! Here’s to another milestone down and the next goal pointed towards the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati on May 1st! Just 16 days away!!!


And BOOM goes the Dynamite!

So since the end of January when I officially began my training and committed entirely to running regularly, I have run 161 miles and spent over 25 hours putting one foot in front of the other. It’s crazy to think that last fall I wasn’t even thinking remotely about changing my routine as much as I have in the past two months. I’ve officially become comfortable with the schedule and the amount of time it’s going to take in order to commit to living up to the mother of all dreams (for now, at least)–the Chicago Marathon.

Last week was spent being anxious and worried. Saturday morning would be my first race of the ‘season’ and I wasn’t sure if I had prepared well enough to get the time that was running through my head. On Monday, I wasn’t feeling so great and was dealing with the symptoms of a minor head cold. Rather than going home and feeling depressed that I couldn’t motivate myself enough to get my blood pumping for at least a half hour, I went to the gym and tried to push myself. (I would have much rather gone for a run outside, but Chicago has decided to completely ignore the fact that it is, indeed, spring! Just silly.) All day I tried to decide between two different workouts–a 6 mile tempo run or a full-on 6 x 800 Yasso workout with 1 mile warm-up and cool-down. I decided that I would be a wuss if I left myself get by with just running a normal tempo run (3 miles at long & slow, 3 miles at race pace or faster). Whether or not this was a good decision–I don’t even know if I could tell. My left knee was tight and bothersome during an easy 2 mile warm-up. The distance turned to ‘2.0 Miles’ on the treadmill and I found myself increasing the speed by over 2.0 mph and letting my legs fly. It’s funny how sometimes the motivation to run even faster can come in one split second. And essentially totally change what you tell your body to do for the next 30-45 minutes. I leveled with myself after 3 or 4 strong-ish 800s at 7:13 pace and told myself I would decrease the Yasso laps from 6 to 5 just to keep my knee in check. I ended with a slow cooldown with thoughts about my knee going through my head–why now? what should I do? should I stretch it out? should I ice it for hours when I get home? should I even try to push it this weekend? should I play it safe? —> all of those nasty negative blunders that can get the best of you when you don’t need ’em around. I went home and felt good about what I accomplished…and thought about how I didn’t want to disappoint myself on race day.

The week was slow and regular. I managed to work in another 4 slow miles on Wednesday despite a runny nose that was determined to outrun even itself. The knee felt better and I was preparing to be mentally secure with an 8:30 pace for the Sam Costa Quarter Marathon. While 8:30 would not be such a horrible pace for my first race of the season, it’s hard for me to acknowledge that it’s ‘good enough’. Afterall, ‘good enough’ on Race Day seems like it should leave you empty of all the energy you arrived with but the adrenaline of having run such a great race.

Saturday morning arrived with an alarm clock at 6:45 a.m. in Indy. My body was still set on Chicago time and believe me, I felt the loss of that hour! Chris, my brother, arrived at the house around 7 am reeling and ready to go. He said it perfectly when he admitted , “I look relaxed and calm on the outside, but inside my brain is going a mile a minute”. Chris was to run the Half Marathon and officially his first race of the season. I managed to squeeze in a cup of coffee, a small bowl of Rice Chex with a splash of milk, and headed out the door with my family, my support.

When we arrived near the start and entered the church that was hosting us that morning, I wouldn’t say I was energetic or ready or pumped or psyched–or any of those words that you think of when someone is excited to accomplish the first goal of many. I was calm. I was collected. I got my bib, put my shoe tag on, and readied myself for the race that my body wanted to run. Chris, a friend, Mark, and I went out for a light one-mile warm-up and headed for the start line.

It may sound very cliche, but everything clicked the moment I started running. My warm-up had contributed to my worries about my knee, as it just wouldn’t relax and let the tension go. Shooting pains through my knee cap made me think that it may be a really long race for me that morning. But when I took off from the start line, I was calm, steady, and keeping up with a steady pace. After a Runkeeper snafu, I finally managed to calculate my split times from the audio cues and keep an 8:00 min/mile pace from one mile to the next. I really don’t know what I was thinking about during the race. I feel like I didn’t even listen to the music pumping through my ears and didn’t really realize where I was on the course. I only stopped for a quick gulp of Gatorade at mile 2.5 and avoided the rest of the hydration stations. I just felt like I didn’t need it. In a few words, I was: blank, steady, strong, and confused why it seemed easy.

Coming up the last hill of the race, I knew that I was going to blow my goal time of 53′-55′ minutes out of the water. I crossed the finish line at 50:12 with an average pace of 7:40 min/mile. WHERE THE HECK DID THAT COME FROM?! I don’t think I have an answer to that question even 2 days post-race. All I know is this–those Yassos must have paid off ! I was the 8th woman to finish and won 2nd place in my age group! And I’ve got the hardware to prove it! …And as my brother so aptly put on Dailymile post-race, AND BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!

– J

Conquering Mount Kinabalu

“This may be the last note I ever write to you…,” I wrote on a postcard to my sister, as I tried to warm up and regain some energy at the Laban Rata rest house on Mt. Kinabalu. I had hiked up the first part of the trek to the summit earlier that day and was exhausted already thanks to the steep ascent and high altitude.
As I looked out the window and saw the peak rising up out of mist and then flipped over the postcard to study the rope course I was going to have to manoeuvre in just a few hours at 3 am with only a headlamp for light, I wasn’t sure if it was altitude sickness or the thought of what I was going to have to do that was making me feel slightly nauseated.

I spent a fairly sleepless night in an uncomfortable bunk bed, waiting for the 2 am alarm with trepidation and anticipation. When I did sleep, I kept having a falling feeling, and would wake up after dreaming about multiple ways I could have fallen off of the mountain – both on the ropes course and while trying to climb back down the 70% slope I’d hiked up the day before.

Of course, once the alarm sounded, I just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but we set of at 3 am with our guide. We hiked up past the tree line, got past the initial ropes course, and started walking up the flat surfaced, but inclined rock leading us to the top. Our guide (my new hero) noticed how petrified I was and held my hand all of the way up, directing where I should place my feet for the best grip. I’m pretty sure that I zoned out for part of this, so that I didn’t have to think about what I was doing. Looking back I’m not sure if it was a good idea (because I didn’t panic) or a bad idea (I was zoned out while climbing a steep mountain…so many things could have gone wrong!). We made it up to the summit in time for the sunrise, which was absolutely stunning. The sun started to spread over all of the clouds and other jagged peaks below our vantage point started to catch the light; it was an awe-inspiring view, and worth the struggle, both mental and physical.
Unfortunately, my dad said he would not pay for a helicopter to pick us up at the top, so we started our descent. By the time we made it to Laban Rata, I was feeling sick again, but I’m assuming it was due to a lack of sleep and calories, because once I had some food and multiple cups of tea with heaps of sugar, I started to feel revived. In fact, during the first hour or two of the 2nd stage of climbing down, I thought it was easier than the initial hike up. I can only attribute this to the altitude and the fact that it was noticeably easier to breathe. I made the rookie mistake of thinking we must be nearing the half-way mark away from Laban Rata, when I saw a kilometer marker and realized that I still had 4.5k to hike down. Then each half kilometer seemed to go by even more slowly than the last. By the last 2 kilometers, my legs were shaking and my knees were begging me to stop. I opened a can of Coke I’d been carrying, which tasted like an elixir of the gods, and keep going. I was not going to pitch a tent on the side of the mountain and risk some mosquito-borne disease!!
Miracle of miracles, we made it down safely, albeit with a few cuts, bruises, and limbs that were making sure we realized what we’d made them do in the last 27 hours. We spent the next 2 days at a resort nearby, choosing to lay by the pool and avoid as much physical activity as possible. We did venture into town to see the wet and dry goods markets, but that was as much walking as we permitted ourselves. In the dry good market, I did see a big rat scurry under a clothing display and smelled plenty of unsavory aromas, so it was worth the extra exertion to go into town, just to remind myself that the majority of life in Sabah does not occur at a resort.
My parents came up with the idea to hike climb Mt. Kinabalu because it is the 5th highest point in Southeast Asia, but doesn’t require technical equipment. We have done a lot of hiking as a family, from spending over a week hiking throughout the Salzkammergut region of Austria to hiking all the way into the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back out, but nothing had prepared me for this experience. I’m in fairly good cardiovascular shape – I run just about every day and have done a few half-marathons over the last couple of years, so I wasn’t concerned about the difficulty; after all, I’d read that if you were in decent shape, you would be able to do the climb. Well, I suppose that is true, because I did the entire climb, but I wasn’t prepared to be practically incapacitated for the next 2 or 3 days because my legs were so sore. If I ever do this type of hike again, I am going to do a lot more hill or mountain work beforehand!