Adventuring with Alia

Chronicles of a distance runner


Leave a comment

Colorado Livin’

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?

Changing Scenery

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.

Training

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?

Wrong.

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.

New Homies

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

South Boulder Trail

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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.


5 Comments

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!


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Adjustments

I began my internship in the beginning of November in San Francisco. I dove headfirst into a move, full-time job, and full-time training.

Since then, my mind has been like some sort of real-life rigged pinball machine, seizure-inducing flashing lights, obnoxious noises and all. I really, really wish that there was someway to record my complete stream of consciousness.

…on second thought, maybe not.

Anywho, the past three months have been a rollercoaster. I’ve had a lot of really amazing experiences, and they haven’t come without their fair share of difficulties. I could sit here and write out endless cliché phrases about finding your way in life and all that good shit, but when I was feeling particularly low, my mom threw out this one that stuck with me.

“You are in a transition. Embrace the bumps, they make you ask the important life questions.” 

Well said, momma.

With some writing, ocean air, a healthy dose of honesty, and the help of some red wine, I’m proud to say that I’ve done a lot of growing up in the span of three months. This is a quick post to catch y’all up on where I’m positioning myself next (mentally positioning, at least).

Plight of the working runner

Growing up, I’d always looked to San Francisco as a place that I wanted to live, at least for a bit as a young adult. It was close enough for my family to come in occasionally for a “city day,” or, (when I got my driver’s license) to drive in with a friend for concerts.

In case you’re wondering, yeah, I felt pretty damn cool driving into “the city” for concerts as a high schooler. Even cooler because they were concerts for bands like Something Corporate (try not to laugh too hard).

San Francisco has definitely not disappointed in the way of something new and exciting. I’ve never lived in a city as urbanized as this before, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot just in my day to day operations.

A handful of my adjustments/learnings/observations to life in San Francisco have been some of the following:

  • Nocturnal running is necessary with full-time work, in the morning when the moon is still bright and at night after hours (when the hell is daylight savings?!?)
  • Stretching on my bus ride into work is a good use of time, as tempting as it is to sit the whole time
  • The anger and cursing that follows chasing a missed bus and can be almost completely cured by a cup of coffee while waiting for the next one
  • Avoiding hills is impossible. Impossible.
  • Moving a month before the peak in a training cycle is doable, but not the way I would choose to make a move again
  • Colorful buildings are fun to look at.
  • Colorful people are also fun to look at.

What now?

To keep saying that “I’ve learned a lot,” seems to be putting the description of this entire experience to a disservice.

This internship has been great for me for a multitude of reasons, but ultimately I have simply felt stretched too thin, trying to accomplish too many things at once. The way that an agency operates doesn’t generally accommodate a variety of schedules. Not a bad thing, but possibly just a cue that it’s not the best fit for me.

Running is obviously an important part of my life, and also happens to be incredibly time-bound. I’m feeling such a strong pull toward training, and I really believe that there is a way to pursue the elite lifestyle without completely screwing my career outside of running. Time to get creative!

Haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I’m getting there.

This being said, I’ve decided to take a step back from the city, to figure out a way to make this life and this dream work. I’m still searching for that work/training/life sweetspot, and I’m excited and ready to try something new.

Open door?

Despite the challenging circumstances, the decision to leave the city has not been an easy one. I really do love San Francisco. It’s a socially, intellectually and culturally stimulating place to breathe in. There is always something to do! And it really is a beautiful area to live in…no wonder why it’s so damn expensive.

But, with the price tag of living here being so exorbitant, the work schedule required to pay rent can be quite the juggling act to figure out. And it most certainly doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room for someone in-between jobs.

I’m not necessarily saying a final goodbye to San Francisco. I’m simply finishing up my internship this Wednesday, and taking a step back, evaluating my options, and, most importantly…

breathing.


3 Comments

The Times They Are a Changin’


Literally.

It’s the eve of yet another year, and somehow, I’m right back where I was about a year ago, dumbstruck, and wondering where in the hell all that time went.

All right, that’s a little bit of a lie. I have a pretty good idea of where all that time went.

Quick and Dirty

This past year has been one hell of a ride, to put it simply. When I really contemplate all that it happened, I can’t believe my good fortune to have had so many opportunities, experiences and encounters with amazing people.

I’m one lucky gal.

The quick and dirty summary of my year goes something like the following.

  • Kicked off the year with a roadtrip up to Portland (one of many places I’ve toyed with in my quest to find a place to live)
  • Ran several PRs on the track for a really special senior season, and received my fourth collegiate All-American to cap it off at nationals in Colorado

Final NCAA with Kara

  • Graduated from college (though didn’t officially walk across the stage…I had a more ‘casual’ graduation. Hanging out in Colorado before nationals sounded like more fun.)

Graduation (kind of)

  • Found out my name was stamped on an international plane ticket leaving for London, only three weeks before the departure date
  • Loved every second of my five week adventure in Europe

Burano Houses

  • Made it back alive from traveling solo (a serious accomplishment, considering my (lack of) directional skillz)
  • Saw my cousin get married in Delaware (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding style…kind of. BIG family)

Wedding

  • Joined the Sacramento Running Association for my first move in post-collegiate running

Ancil Hoffman XC

  • Started a full-time internship at TriplePoint PR
  • Moved to San Francisco
  • Ran my first marathon

…well played, 2012.

Gearing up for Spring

My fall session of training was an enormous learning curve in itself. Competing after college is a whole different game, but the change has been a bit liberating, and exhilarating the whole way through. I’m already itching to be back on a workout schedule. “Easing” back into running has taken some restraint, as I often find myself so immersed in thought that I end up running at a clip I have no business holding in my first couple weeks back on the trails.

With all the mud and fresh air out there, can you really blame me?!

As nice (and necessary) as a break from a long bout of training can be, returning to the grind is pretty awesome too. It’s my outlet, and I always return feeling more balanced, happy and sweaty. (Ha.)

The excitement definitely isn’t lacking as it’s time to start looking at a brand spakin’ new racing schedule. I’m still working out the details with my coach, but just talking about my options for the spring has got me rearing to get back at it.

Taking Deep Breaths

It’s difficult to not come off a year like that and think, “what’s next?” I’m lucky that I’m at an age and in an area of my life to keep dreaming, keep fine-tuning, keep striving to find what really makes me tick.

It definitely hasn’t been my easiest year, but it’s been my fullest.

I’ve never felt so alive.

If I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s to not be afraid to grab life by the cajónes and give whatever crazy notion currently resides in your head a shot. Or to do it anyway, especially if it scares you.

I’ve got a couple resolution-type ideas swirling around in this brain of mine.

How about you? 

Ready…

Set….


10 Comments

Holy wow, it’s been awhile!

The last time I posted, I was scrambling to get my wandering ass back from the mountains of Mammoth and into San Francisco for an interview, the longest distance I had raced to date was a mere 10k, and I had access to a sun-spotted, but well-functioning car.

…now, I’m five weeks into a full-time internship at a PR agency in the Financial District of San Francisco, in my first week of down-time post-marathon, and simultaneously holding my breath and pleading with a finicky car battery each time I attempt to start my ’96 Toyota Camry.

My, how quickly life can change!

Never a dull moment, that is for damn sure.

Life in San Francisco

My experience in the city so far has definitely been an adventure in itself.

I’ve been interning for the tech/gaming/consumer electronics public relations gurus over at TriplePoint PR. No, I don’t know a damn thing about gaming, but I am getting a crash course in tech PR.

Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming, knowledgeable, kick-ass group of professionals to be surrounded by while I get my own professional feet wet.

I’m definitely still settling in, enjoying the colorful scenery/people that the city has to offer, and getting used to an exorbitantly different paced life than I was living. Between work and training, I haven’t been left with a hell of a lot of free time to fully explore, but I’m looking forward to having a little more time to play with.

StreetArt

A bit of random street art on my commute into work via Muni. 

So far, I think one of my favorite parts of San Francisco has been living in what has to be a people-watching hotspot and discovering its widely distributed oddities, like the sign I pass on almost every run from my apartment, pointing me in the way of ‘nipple justice.’

I’m not exactly sure what nipple justice is, but I’m pretty sure that I want it.

Marathon Business

Ah, the marathon: a distance that even those who know next to nothing about distance running regard with devout respect.

The 26.2 mile race obviously calls on endurance-based athletes for the challenge. Almost immediately after I began running, it became evident that my strength in the sport lies within, well, my strength.

During my brief years of high school running, my two mile mark was far superior to my mile. My collegiate years didn’t prove to be too much different, generally yielding superior 10k marks than my 5k attempts.

In other words, I’m about as endurance-geared as they come. The transition to the distance was definitely a long-anticipated one for me.

I managed my first semblance of a season outside of collegiate athletics this fall. In fact, I managed it pretty damn well, and got myself into arguably the best shape I’ve ever enjoyed. As an athlete, you really can’t ask for much more than that in terms of growth.

I ran some low-key cross country races and a strong half-marathon mid-November, but kept my eyes on December 2, when the gun would go off for the California International Marathon.

Now, here’s the thing. December is a known winter month. I have personally come to associate December with the holidays, long coats, scarves, hats, heated blankets, peppermint lattes, and about 23 separate renditions of “Santa Claus is comin’ to town.”

Christmas music aside, to me, December=Cold.

Simple enough, right?

Here’s the thing. Predicting weather in Northern California has proven to be tricky and/or impossible. Sometimes the winter months are rainy/windy/cold, and sometimes they feel like the first day of autumn.

December 2, 2012 was both. Unfortunately the latter of the two weather varietals didn’t come until about a half hour after the race was done.

This year’s event will be remembered as one of “the storm” years of CIM, with flooding and 30 mph winds to hammer through. Some of the buses didn’t make it to the start line in time because of accidents caused due to flooding, and apparently part of the race was re-routed at a certain point because of a down power line.

Despite the less than perfect conditions, I managed a 9th place 2:44.22 debut, and enough excitement to have me dreaming about what kind of marks I can get after in better conditions and with gained experience.

Marathon

Photo Credit: Gary Towne

I left the race with a severe fear of stairs for the next several days, a purple toe nail, and an ear-to-ear grin that sure as hell is carrying me over into my next round of training.

Mimosa+Michaela

Enjoying a mimosa post-race…because I’m classy like that. And lucky enough to have my high school friend Michaela brave the conditions and make it to greet me at the finish line!

Transitions

I’ve experienced huge shifts in life within the past half year, kicking it all off by bidding the student lifestyle adieu and jumping into a wonderful stint of travel and non-location specific living. Then (slightly unexpectedly), I got my foot in the door professionally, interviewed, accepted a position, and started the 40 hour-a-week life within less than a three week span.

I wish I could say that I’ve effortlessly jumped into my new life in San Francisco.

I wish I could say that I’ve instantly perfected the balance of full-time work and intensive training.

I wish I could say that I’ve mastered the art of time-travel, managed to live out several lives in the span of one normal one, and have been nominated for a Nobel prize.

…I could go on for awhile.

Pure and simple, the change has been a lot to take in, and has definitely been the most drastic life shift I’ve experienced in awhile. More than ever, I’ve been forced to evaluate my priorities, what makes and keeps me happy, and ultimately take responsibility for them.

You know what? Life could be a hell of a lot worse.

Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it isn’t good. To say that I’m “learning a lot” seems a gross understatement of the concept. And isn’t that what life is all about-learning?

A little cliché, but clichés stand for a reason, right?