Adventuring with Alia

Chronicles of a distance runner


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Thoughts on graduation

Graduation season is upon us my friends. Every year, without fail, Facebook nearly goes into overload with pictures of grad caps, sashes, celebratory drinks, and mushy status updates about how proud people are of their loved ones who make it to walk across that stage in oversized gowns.

Guess what?

I am totally one of those mushy people this year.

My little(ish) brother Landon graduated from high school Friday. I feel that I have to include the “ish” because in recent years, he racked up a couple mean growth spurts and has turned into some kind of adult, or man-child. I’ll stick with the latter description for now.

Landon did his thang Friday, had his grad party at our house today, and then I ship out for Boulder, CO tomorrow morning for my not-so-patiently awaited move.

Graduation and grad partyGraduation and the grad party 

All of this has thrown the entire family into a hyper-sentimental/nostalgic time. I’ve caught my mom just staring at me and smiling several times within the last week. And I’ve randomly received old pictures of me striking Charlie’s Angeles poses and the like with my high school comrades, dug out from the shoebox archives, courtesy of my dad.

I know, they’re a pretty adorable duo.

My in-house performance playing the role of annoyed offspring has been practically award-winning.

In other news, I have to admit I’ve gone a bit mushy as well.

Sappy-ness

My younger brother is off to the University of North Texas to study trumpet performance. Not music education. Or something that secures a bit more of a stable career path. And I’m leaving to continue doin’ what I’m doin’ with other people who are doin’ the same thing in Colorado.

Somehow my two completely sensible parents with medical professional jobs raised two ragamuffin kids. In case I didn’t completely shoot their nerves in the first go-around, Landon has to have done some real solid follow-up damage.

Well done, bud. I’ve taught you well.

In all seriousness, this post originated from some reflection on how my brother and I have gotten to where we are, and the abundance of opportunities that we’ve each been fortunate enough to have. And it really seems to stem from our parents.

The support that they’ve given each of us through everything (hovercraft creation, flamenco dancing, flute playing, choir, horseback riding, to name a few), has always been laced with the empowering underlying notion that we truly had the capacity to do whatever we set our mind to (cue, “aww”).

These guys deserve some major credit.

Many times they haven’t fully understood what we’ve each chosen to set our minds to over the years, and I know that they are far from done trying to understand the many more decisions that we each make in years to come. But they’re incredibly supportive on a core level. On a level that I’ve come to realize not everyone has the good fortune to grow up with.

Family at graduati

Tomorrow!

Antsy doesn’t even begin to describe how ready I am to get out there (ready being a loose interpretation of the word…I’m staring into a couple open suitcases as I type).

That said, I should put some more stuff into them. I’m going to take the sun setting fully as my cue to get serious about packing my life into suitcases.

Until next time, folks!


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Time off

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

  1. 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.
  2. Acceptance. Ok, this is actually kind of nice. Beer with lunch? Yes please. Someone isn’t doubling today. Booyah!
  3. …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.
  4. 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,Katrina, ConcertMichaela’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. 

Festival BumsFestival bums.

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.

Annadel

There are worse ways to spend a couple weeks.

Ramping up

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.


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Chasing marks

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.”

Payton Jordan 10kPhoto credit to the one and only Gary Towne.

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!


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BOULDER!

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.

B-B-B-BOULDER!

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.

Spaghetti+Kara

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.

Suitcase in new room

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.

Lucky me.


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Back to the track

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.

Stanford 5k

Photo (and coaching) cred. to Mr. Gary Towne

I’m off to the SacTown 10 miler this coming Sunday. Yip!


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Return to racing and the day-to-day

I kicked off spring racing (and the first race after my marathon in December) with a 15k in Jacksonville, FL this past weekend. It attracted a ridiculously deep field, the deities of road racing yielded perfect weather, and I experienced possibly the most complete athlete-hospitality ever leading up to a race.

The elite women were ushered to the start area in front of an antsy crowd of other road-racers, and lined up for the equalizer timing.

The gun for the women’s start went off, and…meh.

Not my day. I’d by lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed, but I ran a decent effort, and chalked it up to a good workout in the very least. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, but not every race can feel like rainbows and sunshine and fireworks.

…because that is, in fact, what the good ones feel like. Obviously.

On the bright side, I got to spend a weekend in Florida, meet a couple of gals that also run for SRA, and chat it up with other runners. The camaraderie was refreshing, and something that I often feel starved of in my solo training. Having the opportunity to connect with these other amazing elite runners was an amazing opportunity in itself, and inspiring to boot.

I’m turning my focus to getting in consistent work, listening to my body, and smoothing out some of the bumps that I’ve been encountering of late.

I want to keep evolving as a runner and overall athlete, and that requires patience and the ability to see yourself through the patches of training that aren’t so perfect.

I’m workin’ on it.

A New Old

On the “evolving” note, I’m adapting back to Santa Rosa, aka home.

Home is familiar.

Ok, duh Alia. That’s why it’s called home.

However, familiarity isn’t always synonymous to comfort. In my move home, I failed to recognize that the transition back is, in fact, still a transition. In a lot of ways it feels backward to be here, which in itself is something that I wrestling with.

Overall, I’m lucky to have the welcoming home situation that I do. My main quandary is striking a balance between accepting support without using it as a complete crutch.

As I figure life out in my own sporadic, chaotic way, I’ve been lucky to come across some work with a really rad lady by the name of Whitni Rader, who started pea.brain. She is a web designer goddess, works from her home in beautiful Petaluma, and wants my help! Whowouldathunk. I am soaking up whatever I can from her, and am excited to get moving on more projects.

She also makes really delicious stir-fry, and keeps me well caffeinated (new requirement of potential workplaces). What’s not to love?

Day by Day

A lot in my life right now is on a day-to-day basis. I’m not completely locked into a routine, for better or worse. On one hand, just thinking about the wrong kind of routine already feels suffocating. On the other, I’m still ironing out how to structure life myself. Work is helping, and will become more and more natural as time continues on.

Practice makes perfect, right?

Right.

Doing my best to embrace the transition, ride the bumps, and enjoy the day-to-day life that I’m in.


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Uptight Laid-Back

A friend once told me that I was the most uptight laid-back person she had ever met.

For better or worse, the seeming oxymoron of a description of a person seems to fit me all too well. It also seems to describe my current situation.

I went from feeling suffocated by the strict scheduling of my work/training/life juggling act in San Francisco, to not knowing what the fuck to do with myself in this floater phase that I’ve found myself back in.

I don’t have a regular job, but I don’t necessarily feel relaxed.

For now, I’m trying to strike a balance between allowing myself to be present (aka, chilling out), allowing myself to enjoy the perks of being in-between work, and keeping my eyes on the future.

On taking advice

I’m in a space of life where I’m receiving a lot of advice. And here’s the thing: I truly want to talk to everyone and explore the plethora of options that life has to offer. But, I have to say, the responses have been kind of all over the place.

Why don’t you just get a full running sponsorship? (Ha!)

You should look into a career in computer programming.

Isn’t journalism dead anyway?

You should pull on your spandex, walk into a gym, and demand a job as a personal trainer just based of athleticism.

You’re batshit crazy for even thinking about leaving San Francisco.

You’re batshit crazy for even thinking about living in San Francisco in the first place.

You’re just batshit crazy. Period.

Through all of this, I’ve drawn one conclusion: I am the only one who is to make my life decisions.

SHOCKING, I know. Is this what growing up is?

Studying for class, I mean life…

Lately, I’ve found myself gravitating toward literature and film/video relating to living life, for lack of a better description.

Here’s what I’ve intellectually consumed within the past couple months, for anyone who wants to follow the made-up class that I’ve haphazardly constructed for myself.

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler
  • Happiness (a documentary)
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • The 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferris (in progress)

I’m not running to the self-help section of the bookstore and sobbing in a hernia-inducing manner or anything. I’m merely insatiably fascinated by the different ways that people have found to live, the different ways that people find fulfillment on a regular basis.

I’m confident that I’m exactly where I need to be right now, and I’m determined to explore the different ways people make the jigsaw puzzle of life work.

*Disclaimer: For anyone who hasn’t read Bossypants, you may actually be putting yourself at risk for a hernia from laughing too hard.

Right meow

I’m back in Santa Rosa, soaking up the absurdly beautiful February weather, the red-dirt trails of Annadel State Park, and trying to prove my worth as a daughter by doing dishes and dropping my mom off at work in the morning.

That should do it, right?

My first real race of the season will be Gate River on March 9 in Jacksonville, FL for the USA 15k Championships (I admit, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a USA 15k Championship before this…but why the hell not?!). As the date creeps closer, it is becoming apparent that the volunteer elite coordinator Richard Fannin does a hell of a job pulling in athletes. The field is going to be ridiculous, and I can’t wait to be in that atmosphere, surrounded by badasses. AND three other ladies that run for SRA will be there, making a team score possible.

In the meantime, I’m working on getting work, and picking up freelance jobs on the side. My hope is to find some type of part-time work that will allow me to continue pursuing my freelance and running bum ambitions simultaneously.

Why not?

Yip!