Adventuring with Alia

Chronicles of a distance runner


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Learning to run slow

One of the most important caveats that I’ve had to learn at altitude so far is the importance of running slow.

Wait, what?

I know, I ultimately moved here to run faster, not slower. Hear me out. 

Changing thought

I love my aerobic runs. I love running a decently fast pace on my aerobic runs. However, since moving to 5,000 ft. I heard the necessity of running easy on aerobic/recovery days echoed again and again.

Run your easy runs easy, so you can run your hard runs hard. 

Fair enough.

Recovering from hard efforts is not something to be taken lightly, especially when you’re operating in altitude. Even when you’re acclimated, you’re still depleting your body more than you would at sea level.

I understood, but still had a tough time breaking the habit. I’d wear my GPS watch on aerobic runs purely to keep my pace in check, routinely swearing at myself when I would inevitably see mile splits that dipped too low. There was a constant game of tug-of-war going down between my mental and physical capacities. Highly obnoxious.

The “aha” moment

The tug-of-war game continued until I had what I’ll call my running slow “aha” moment several weeks ago. I finished a decent workout, started my three mile cool-down, and realized that I genuinely didn’t want to run one damn bit faster than I absolutely had to. It was more of a glorified shuffle, if you will.

It. Was. Fantastic. I got it. Running slow…is pretty awesome.

Solo to supported

I could be completely delusional, but the partial neurosis that a year of solitary training propagated in me was difficult to let go of. I didn’t fully comprehend the amount of mental energy I was expending before and during workouts alone until now.

Conversely, I also had a difficult time summoning that amount of intensity explicitly for workout days without allowing it seep into my regular runs as well.

Having a group to run with out here has already changed my training for the better in so many ways. Group runs let me enjoy the recovery that aerobic days should be without getting impatient. It’s more than just a run; it’s a much needed social outlet as well.

rollinsville_run

One of the many Sunday long run group pictures, courtesy of Brad Hudson. 

It’s only been two months here, but I just fall more and more in love with this place.


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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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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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Love Me Some Mountains

As my life continues to zoom about, so does my attention span. I’ve, yet again, managed to squeeze in an inordinate amount of action and miles on my odometer in a relatively short amount of time. Hang with me here, it’s a long read, but packed with good bits.

Mountains! Fast people! Running! Hippie cafés! Professional strides!

Have I got ya hooked?

Mammoth

I’ve been meaning to visit this distance-running fairytale of a location for well over a year now. Since I’m in a non-location specific part of life right now, I figured it was a good time to actually go.

Mammoth came on my radar awhile ago, as several older Chico State cross country alum now call it home, specifically for training reasons. Other badasses/elites call it home for training too, as the Mammoth Track Club tears it up on a regular basis (Chico State’s Scott Bauhs being one of these guys).

With a fresh wad of cash from a one-night catering gig in Chico, I filled my gas tank (by the way, the recent hike in gas prices isn’t exactly conducive to my hobo lifestyle) and set off to meet Mr. Jimmy Elam in Rocklin for a cup of coffee before following him caravan-style through the drive to the mountains.

I arrived to an at least a 20-degree drop and walked into a condo scattered with running shoes, marking a classic runners’ household. This one belonged to Alan, Jimmy and their Jordanian roommate, Mo.

After some small talk, we set off on an aerobic run around Lake Mary for my first taste of Mammoth-trail-crack. Surrounded by snow-dusted mountain-tops, and a fox sighting, I was almost distracted from the lack of available oxygen until Alan proudly tapped a road-sign as we cruised by our third mile or so.

Elevation: 8910 ft.

My poor sea-level coddled lungs.

I spent the rest of my short trip being treated to several of the guys’ favorite spots to eat, enjoying a 14-mile long run Sunday morning with Lindsay Tollefson (yet another Chico State alum), a gorgeous hike, and some beer with true personality at Mammoth Brewing Company.

I think I’m in love with the town.

Inspiration

I departed Monday morning, but not before an aerobic run with marathon icon and American record-holder Deena Kastor.

Can awesomeness rub off? I can only hope so as my debut in the marathon creeps closer (CIM, December 2nd! Gah!).

Being in Mammoth in general helped simultaneously calm me down, and pump me up, if that’s possible. I feel like I have so much unfinished business with the sport, and am welcoming the overwhelming calm in knowing that I want to continue, knowing that I want to find a way to make this work in my life.

I suppose I’m using the word “calm” synonymously with “certainty” or “assuredness.” Whatever the word, these feelings seem difficult to come by of late.

Lucky me.

Departing

I left feeling gratitude toward so many areas of life. Gratitude toward the gracious hospitality I’ve continued to receive, gratitude to my ability to explore, gratitude to my health and my continuation with training, and gratitude to everyone who’s helped and supported me along the way.

I took Tioga pass back, enveloping me in more breathtaking wilderness and leading me through a section of Yosemite. It also cut off cell service for a good portion of the drive.

Just me and the road. Ah, confused hobo relaxation.

Mountain Sage

In my more obscure route home, I stumbled across possibly one of the coolest little cafés I have ever had the pleasure of stumbling across.

Side note: for those of you who don’t know, I’m slightly obsessed with cafés. The ones with good-vibes. When I was in high school, I told everyone that I wanted to grow up and own a café that displayed work by local artists. As I got older, that idea evolved to also include a beer and wine bar. Who knows, maybe this is still in my future. But mostly, I think the idea stems from my notion of a place that I want to exist to hang out in. 

ANYWAY, this place was situated in the heart of Groveland, an area with a bustling population of 601, according to the ever-accurate Wikipedia. Essentially, one of those teeny-tiny-itty-bitty towns that can be driven through in a matter of minutes.

But, knowing the length of the drive ahead of me, the boldly carved wooden sign bearing the beautiful word ‘coffee’ lured me in.

Turns out, this place is a café, photo gallery, and herb garden, all in one. You walk into an actual house, follow the signs past a cozy living room situated with a furnace and comfy chairs and couches for lounging to the coffee house in the back.

Oh, and there’s a tree randomly growing in the living room. Of course I loved it.

The coffee bar itself was in a cute outdoor setting, surrounded by the herb garden. The coffee dude wore a “Pre Lives” shirt, a distance runner dead give-away (clearly a sign that I was meant to stop here). We chatted running for a couple minutes, and I assured him that marathon training wouldn’t be a gateway addiction to ultra-running.

I downed my Americano, strolled around the photo gallery for a couple minutes, and was back on my way.

Little Miss Professional

I returned from Mammoth late Monday night, chased daylight for about five minutes of my second run before succumbing to a street-light lit concrete shake-out.

Though I could have remained in the mountains for a many more days, weeks, months, etc., I needed to get myself back to the bay area prepare for some late-week professional ventures in San Francisco.

That’s right, it’s time for this lady to put the yoga pants and hoodie aside for a day and flex her college-degree-journalistic-public-relations muscles.

New adventure?

Random Wrap-Ups

For anyone trying to keep track, here’s the quick and dirty version of my physical/mind location:

  1. Still flitting about location-wise, but can mainly be found between Santa Rosa and Chico
  2. Running for the Sacramento Running Association (*this marks the only real commitment I’ve made recently)
  3. In training for my first marathon
  4. Job searching in San Francisco for PR and journalism related work
  5. Remaining a little too stoked (really, watch the video)

Until next time…