Hey there! I (evidently) have not updated this blog for quite some time. You can find me rambling and writing over at my new site: aliagray.com. Thanks for reading! -Alia
I’ve gotten asked by a handful of people if I’m now looking to a late fall or spring marathon.
In short: no. There are a couple reasons why.
1. I’m effing tired
I loved this segment of marathon training. This stuff, the long, strength-based work, is my bread and butter. I am in my element.
However, it’s draining both physically and mentally. To give a marathon the focus and dedication that I feel it deserves, I need some time away from it.
As frustrating as it was to have to forego a fall marathon due to a stubborn right foot, I’d rather wait for another one when I have the time to prepare again than rush into one unready to fully tackle the monster of a race.
I really believe that these types of breaks are crucial to me in my pursuit of becoming good marathoner. I’ll be hungry for the training and the racing when it rolls around again, not burnt out.
2. Speed development
Speed has never been the most natural part of the sport for me. It certainly comes around, but I personally feel the need to keep segments of faster training in my seasons of workouts. I don’t want to neglect that part in my haste to post a fast marathon time.
One of those “working on weaknesses” or “opportunities for growth” concepts. We’ve all got at least a couple of ‘em.
Getting back my routine back
For now, I’m re-introducing my body back to the routine of training. I’m able to run on a soft-surface daily and show up to more and more practices, which has improved my mood drastically.
I’m treating this time period as an opportunity to build a strong foundation going into what will become some incredibly busy running months. HTS Elite recently partnered with Jay Johnson’s training group for some general strength maintenance work, which is a perfect time to implement new good training habits.
We’ve only just started, but I think we’re well on our way to becoming super buff distance running machines.
Watch out world.
I hyped up my move to Colorado, then went a bit MIA in the form of updates. That is, aside from changing my Facebook location within the first 48 hours and the occasional Instagram post. I even had a request to step up my Instagram game, particularly with more “selfies.”
Yeeaaaah, no. Sorry, Rach.
Anywho, I suppose I’ve been a bit hesitant to jump into writing and making assumptions/declarations about what I’ve just started, partially because I’ve wanted to give myself an actual chance to experience this new life without immediately trying to get all analytical and shiz. And partially because I’ve just been having TOO MUCH FREAKING FUN.
My life here so far has consisted of running and hiking in beautiful places, meeting new people, eating, and, ahem, hydrating in various forms of the word. I know, rough, right?
I’ve been in this beautiful state for the better part of a month now and can safely say that I am in love. Northern California is undoubtedly beautiful, but Colorado reminds me that different variations of natural beauty abound. Every day I’m out and get a good look at the Flatirons that tower over the city of Boulder I’m practically giddy.
Mountains! Real, big ones!
This place is essentially the Disneyland of outdoor recreation, and for good reason. I see everything from rock climbing, biking, kayaking and tubing regularly on my runs along the Boulder Creek Path. Pretty cool.
Several posts ago, I talked about my decision to end my season following Payton Jordan 10k. A big part of this was knowing that I had a move to altitude, a shift in coaching, and a lot of adjustments in general ahead of me. I wanted to have space to adapt to my new surroundings in peace, without stressing about having to perform immediately.
Sounds extremely logical and maybe even a bit of a serene way to transition, right?
Well, maybe the logical part is true. The serene part…not so much. Right now I’m building a good base of mileage and adjusting to the altitude. So far so good.
What I wasn’t expecting was to want back at full training so quickly. It occurred to me that this is the first time I’ve trained with a group whose training/racing cycle I wasn’t mirroring exactly. Watching people run fast when you’re not quite there yet…oh man. Let’s just say it’s got me aching to join in the fun.
Of course, I know that I’ll have a whole new transition coming to me when the real workouts start. I’m leaning toward the Twin Cities Marathon in October, which means that soon enough I’m going to be in full swing.
One of the biggest reasons that I made the jump to move to Boulder was to be a part of a group again. I’m starting to run with Brad Hudson’s group, and they definitely haven’t disappointed in being an entertaining cast of characters.
The other day Kara and I were talking about the depth of personalities present. Training at this point doesn’t keep happening because it’s convenient. It keeps happening out of a shared labor of love. Each person has their own individual backstory of how they came to be here and is inspiring in their own right.
I’m feeling pretty lucky to have the opportunity to be out here, soaking it all up.
Settling Down, I mean In
Right now, I still feel like I’m on vacation. But I start to feel more of a routine every day, and am getting better acquainted with the town bit by bit. I finally feel like I’m in a spot that I want to settle myself in, not just move on transiently in a couple months’ time. I feel myself winding down from my past year of bouncing around geographically.
It’s a good feeling. A little peaceful, even.
If you can’t find me, check over here.
South Boulder Trail
I love running.
I also periodically love not running.
Taking some time away from training after a cycle and before a new one is super important for me. It’s a completely necessary mental and physical health check to let the mind and body recover. A runner’s “re-boot” button.
I’ve found that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with my couple weeks of time-off of a training plan. After all, it’s kind of a shock to the body, going from what should be your peak fitness to absolute rest.
Generally, my sentiments regarding the time boils down to something like the following.
Stages of downtime
- Resistance. What do you mean, “don’t run?” When do I shower? Do I even need to shower? How do I start my day? I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.
- Acceptance. Ok, this is actually kind of nice. Beer with lunch? Yes please. Someone isn’t doubling today. Booyah!
- …a little too much acceptance. Ok, I’ll have cake for breakfast. Again. Hell, why not lunch too. I’M ON VACATION, I mean, a break.
- Restlessness. Dear couch, we’ve had a good run of ridiculous amounts of lazy this past week or so, but it’s time that I start seeing outdoors again. My sanity needs it. Thanks for understanding.
Real life stages
The above is a not-so-exaggerated representation of the few short weeks of time off. I’ve taken many of these breaks between seasons over the years, but they still occupy an odd period of time for me. I suppose it’s because such the vast majority of my year is spent training. By the time I’ve gotten used to the time off phase, I’m back to a schedule.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I took a full 10 days off, and then spent this past week running every other day. I did have to figure out when, in fact, normal people shower. I had quite a few lunch beers. And cake (not my fault that Mother’s Day and my dad’s birthday happened to produce an abnormal amount of cake in our household). And I got restless as hell.
Acceptance & restlessness
I love the life that I live with training, but the reality is that it normally vetos certain activities, due to exhaustion and the utter limit of time (have we seriously not figured out time travel yet?? C’mon people). That all said, I try to make a point of taking advantage of my time off.
This time around, I was lucky enough to get in some shenanigans at the inaugural Bottlerock music festival in Napa Valley. I drove out with a couple of friends on a Thursday, camped out for a couple nights, saw a ton of music (The Avett Brothers, The Alabama Shakes, Iron & Wine, The Black Keys, Ben Harper, to name a few…) and returned to Santa Rosa late Saturday night utterly exhausted, filthy, and happy.
Michaela’s excited face on the left, Katrina on the top right (watch out for this one-turn your head for a second, and she legitimately may rush the stage…making her a splendid concert-going buddy), and Seth Avett on the bottom right.
Friends. Music. Beer. Sun. Mission accomplished.
And when the legs really started to itch for something to do, I took myself for a couple hikes in Annadel State Park.
There are worse ways to spend a couple weeks.
This week marks a return to my first scheduled week of running. It’s nice to see numbers with miles after them again, and makes me itch to see what the coming weeks have in store.
I feel rested, and ready to get to work. A break well accomplished.
Going into my most recent cycle of training and racing, I planned on the Payton Jordan 10k being my capstone race of spring training. I was excited with the race opportunities as a whole that my coach and I had lined up leading up to this big one. The schedule looked set. I was content with it.
However, after running a huge 5k PR at Stanford, and feeling workouts lock into place, the “A” standard of 33:20 for USA championships began to feel more and more within reach.
I felt fit, fast, and fired up. And I wanted to nab myself a spot on the start line of that 10k in late June in Des Moines.
I ran a good race, got to run nearly the entire thing with Kara (soon-to-be roommate and old teammate, who killed her 10k debut…NBD), and PR’d by almost a minute to nab myself a new mark of 33:37 in the 25-lapper. My time puts me on the qualifying map with a “B” standard, but not the guarantee of the “A.”
Overall, it was an awesome night. I was lucky enough to have the support of a good chunk of the Chico State crew, my coach, family and friends who made the drive to see me. Honestly, anyone who sticks around for a 10k that doesn’t even start until damn near 11 p.m. should get a medal. Or better yet, cookies. With chocolate in them.
Anywho: to everyone who stuck around-you are really really really awesome.
Decision to end the season
Within the days following Payton Jordan, I had a decision to make. I could extend my season to give the mark another crack at the Portland Track Festival in several weeks. Or I could call it. Move on.
After thinking on it for several days, I decided to close the season. As much as I wanted another shot to show my fitness, when I looked at what I’ve got going on currently and in the immediate future, I feared that I would show up in Portland strung-out, tired, and not ready to tackle a fast 10k. I felt like it would be a real stretch to get myself there in the mental and physical condition that I wanted.
The decision left me feeling a bit happy/sad, in awe of how quickly my own expectations and confidence as an athlete have shifted, but still sad to see the season end. This mark wasn’t even on my radar at the beginning of March, but it was still a bit difficult to see it go.
I know that I have a lot of unfinished business with the 10k (and with many other distances, for that matter), which is possibly the most frustrating part about moving on from a season. No matter how big the PR is, it can become far too easy to finish a race and still feel a twinge of disappointment by the potential you possess that still has yet to come through.
I’ve learned that what can feel like a conflicting dissatisfaction is part of this whole competitive lifestyle. I’m lucky to be moving forward, to be where I am, with what I have ahead of me. I am anything but done with this sport.
So long as I still have that feeling, that hunger, it just means that I’m still in this.
I’m welcoming it.
New home, new cycle
I’m excited to focus on my move, which is coming up (three weeks from yesterday)! The opportunity to settle into my new home, new surroundings, and lack of oxygen, without the stress of being race-ready is appealing as well.
It feels like a good time to transition. And I’m really grateful for that.
For now, I’m doing my best to take a short break from running before gearing up for the next cycle of training…which will be for a fall marathon! Getting back on the track this spring to continue developing my speed was incredible and incredibly important to keep me moving forward. However, I’m hungry for another shot at a marathon, this time with a bit of experience under my belt and some Colorado mountain trails to build up some strength.
Bring on the miles!
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time moves once racing season is fully underway. My absence from this little blog is only one small caveat in which my lack of free time has shown.
My last post kicked off one of the busiest month’s I’ve had in awhile. It included PRs in three distances (1500m, 5k, 10k), a 10 mile road race, and a decision to move…to Boulder, CO!
All of the above has left me ridiculously ecstatic, exhausted, giddy and overwhelmed by the generosity that I’ve experienced.
There is SO much that I want to write about, but for now I’m going to stick to my current focus.
I’m kind of excited, if you hadn’t gathered that already. “Where is this coming from?” you may ask. You probably haven’t asked, but you’re going to hear it anyway. After all, you’re the one who decided to read this garbled blog post.
ANYWHO, long story short is this: I had actually strongly considered moving to Boulder a year ago, when I was about to graduate from Chico State. In a wonderful flurry of events, I flaked on the immediate move, and spent the year trying out a variety of different ventures (start from my first post on this shindig for the extended cliff notes version…I’ve been busy, to say the least).
Then, in what I’m going to go ahead and call fate, my college training partner/amazing incredibly missed friend Kara called me up and told me that a room in her apartment opened up.
She offered it to me. I jumped.
How could I say no? What can I say, this girl gets me.
The move out there accomplishes many things including but not limited to:
- Training with a group! I cannot fully describe how much I’m looking forward to this. I’ve learned a ton about myself as an athlete during this past year or so of largely solitary training, but I’m ready to be around some like-minded people again.
- A new adventure. After I grew out of my sulky teenage years, I realized that Sonoma County isn’t all that bad…that I actually might like it. However, I’m in a restless time of my life, and feel the need to experience something different and a little outside of my comfort zone.
- Trail and mountain heaven. If you need more help with this explanation, I can’t talk to you anymore. Sorry.
Details, details, details…
I’m still smoothing everything out, in a an “as I go” fashion, which I’m pretty sure is completely frying my mother’s nerves. I’m lucky enough to have Kara and her amazingly generous family to help piece together some of the important aspects of the move, like, oh finding a bed to sleep on. Thanks all!
I’m not taking a car (I’m afraid the good ol 96’ Corolla wouldn’t survive weather in Colorado…let alone the drive out there) , so I’m trying to get a little creative in maneuvering my belongings. I’ve already managed to send one suitcase with Kara when she was in California for the Payton Jordan invitational.
I think it’s settling in nicely. I’ll be there on June 3rd to unpack!
More to come…
There is still a ton I want to write about. Training, races, upcoming training, work…you know, life.
For now, I’ll leave you with this: the past couple months have made me feel incredibly fortunate to have the people in my life that I call my support system. I’m at an interesting position where I simultaneously recognize how far this ex-soccer player has come, and also feel as if I’m just beginning to tap into something totally new.
There are so many upcoming ventures that I’m so excited about, and I get to share them with some incredible people.
Anyone who read my last post knows that my 15k in Gate River wasn’t exactly up to my performance standards as an athlete.
My training in general was yo-yoing for whatever reason. I was frustrated. A little exasperated. I tortured myself by reminiscing on the splits that I was running in my fall segment of training. I briefly fell into what I call “post-breakup panic.”
Essentially, the familiar phenomenon that occurs when something in the present isn’t quite going as you had perfectly mapped out in your head, and you make some aspect of your past out to be better than it probably was…failing to acknowledge the pitfalls during that time, only seeing the good attributes somehow now enormously (and typically undeservingly) magnified.
You aren’t thinking rationally. All you know is that something in you wants to do anything to get it (him, her, etc.) back. This genre of panic often leads to some interesting choices.
We’ve all been there, or watch good friends go there.
Except in this case, I couldn’t sit by myself, get sloppy drunk on whiskey, and blubberingly hiccup myself through a phone call that I know I’d come to regret even through the thick liquor-induced haze.
That training cycle was gone. There was no getting it back.
The perfect training cycle
The Gate River race, and really the entire weekend, was a great wake-up call for me. I was training, but something wasn’t clicking.
I was out of the city setting, back to great trail running, a flexible work schedule, and nightly home-cooked meals. Not exactly what you call a charity case.
Essentially, it was time for me to pull up my big girl spandex and get back to work.
I had stupidly been waiting for perfect workouts, perfect training weeks, and was pissed that things weren’t snapping into place. I mentioned that I was missing my fall fitness, but I was failing to remember that that cycle hadn’t started so amazingly either. I had started in arguably the worst shape I’ve been in in years, post-Europe, aka post-five-week-love-affair-with-olive oil-and-sangria-and-occasional-running, at best.
Is there such thing as a perfect training cycle? Who the hell knows.
Swiftness of change
Coming out of Gate River, I wondered if it would even be a good idea to run at Stanford. The date was creeping closer, and I had felt so drastically under prepared for the 15k, that my competitive confidence wasn’t exactly soaring.
However, with a refreshed attitude, training started to turn around after Gate. I ran some workouts that surprised me, and left me actually excited to race, all within the span of a few short weeks.
I felt renewed.
Going into last week, someone astutely noted that perhaps my most significant change was that I had decided that I actually wanted to race that weekend at Stanford. So true.
I toed the line of the third heat, raced the 5k and pr’d by 26 seconds for a final time of 16:14.
The rest of the weekend was spent with my face hurting from smiling, feeling overwhelmed by the support and excitement around me, and humbled by how quickly things had taken a turn for the better.
Photo (and coaching) cred. to Mr. Gary Towne
I’m off to the SacTown 10 miler this coming Sunday. Yip!