Playing it by Ear

Around this time each year is when I start planning my race season for the following year. Mainly because it’s fun but also because it keeps me motivated through the winter (which was really important living in Alaska’s Golden Heart of Darkness). I started doing the same thing again recently when I got a shot of reality from a fitness and pregnancy group I follow.

Namely, I may not be able to bounce right back like I naively think I can. What if I have a c-section? That’s six weeks at least just to be able to heal not to mention the lack of sleep and if I’m able to breastfeed, having to feed her frequently.

And if there’s other factors as well, I have to take that time off to let my body heal without straining it or injuring it further by trying to push it too soon. I’ve recovered from marathons but this is something totally different. I’ve never recovered from birth before, plus I have no idea how different my life is going to be. It’s sort of like traveling – even though I can read all the guidebooks, it’s still going to be different experiencing something for the first time.

It’s hard to hold back from registering for a bunch of races, but even if I lose out on early bird discounts, it’s still better than having to choose to not start and feeling like a failure for it. I registered for a lot of races this fall and winter because I didn’t really think I would get pregnant and now even though it’s dumb, I feel like I’m failing myself by not doing the races.

So instead, I’m going to focus my efforts on keeping myself active and healthy through pregnancy, taking the time and put in the work to recover safely, and stay involved in sports through volunteering. That way I can still be a part of the race and honestly, races and events rely so much on volunteer support.

No Disneyland events in 2018

I heard rumors about this a few days ago and then saw the announcement that they’ve cancelled/suspended the races held at Disneyland for 2018. I’d also heard they were having trouble with permits with the city of Anaheim and there’s speculation that it might also have to do partially with all the construction at DL.

I also wonder if it could have something to do with trying to revive waning interest in Disney races? For the past several race weekends now the challenges and the shorter races have sold out first and the longer, capstone races languish unsold. I think it was a couple of weeks ago someone was offering bibs for the Disney World Marathon for only $75, which is ridiculously cheap for a WDW race. I have to agree that I think they’ve outpaced themselves by raising the prices each year and then also now making it harder (impossible) for their travel agents to sell bibs only and not a lot of people also want to be forced into buying park tickets and also a hotel package.


For me, a race weekend like Dopey and then the Castaway Cay Challenge were a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because of the cost

Even though I’m now much closer to WDW than DL, this is still such a bummer as DL trips were almost always cheaper than visiting WDW. There are excellent hotel options (I like staying at Grand Legacy at the Park, they have a military discount and are a block away from the entrances and also have a really good continental breakfast)off site and lots more food options than just in the parks, as well. On the plus side, since the races were typically held in the off-season, going to the parks now should be less crowded since there won’t also be all the runners there.


I’m taking a brea-who am I kidding?

I told myself that I was taking a break from runDisney races after running the Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare last fall. It was the last race I’d really wanted to do and I felt like I was pretty happy with that. I’ve done the Princess Half, the Glass Slipper Challenge, the Pixie Dust Challenge (both in the same year for the pretty pink Coast to Coast Challenge medal), the Dopey Challenge and then the Dumbo Double Dare (and got the black Coast to Coast medal that year.) The races are just so expensive and Disney isn’t getting any cheaper, plus I felt like the trips just weren’t as special or fun to me anymore as they were in the very beginning. P even told me it wasn’t fun for him because we on;y went on race weekends and I was so tired all the time.

Then we moved to Georgia where WDW is only six hours away. That might seem like a lot, but in Alaska the closest Target was six hours away so my interpretation of “far” got skewed pretty heavily. I also found out my sister has never been to WDW so we made tentative plans to go together in the fall, and then I found out yesterday morning while waiting for my movers to arrive that the Disney Princess Half’s 10-year anniversary race was 1) next year and 2) opening for registration that day.

I am weak.

By the time I remembered to register the Challenge was sold out as was the 10K (weird, right?) so I registered for the half. I’m honestly okay with that. Although the challenge medals are always pretty and who doesn’t like getting a third medal for two races, only doing one race is cheaper and will mean I don’t have to go to bed as early and will probably be more fun for me and for P as well.


Oiselle Volée Opening Soon

It’s been almost a year since I joined the Oiselle Volée, which I describe as a women’s running group loosely sponsored by a women’s running clothing brand, Oiselle. Since then, I’ve bought some new running outfits spurred by my love of their fall designs and coupled with Alaska’s icy conditions (on that note, Lux and Wazzie Wool are my go-tos) but also gained a whole bunch of new friends I never would have met otherwise. I also got to go to a women’s running camp, which was incredible and so much fun.

Some of the downsides for me is that it is a lot about the clothes. Oiselle is a brand, after all. I’ve never felt pressured to buy anything, unlike some of my friends in MLM, but Oiselle does an awesome job of showing its Volée new designs and offering early access to them as well. They also do a good job of eliciting feedback, which only makes sense to me. I haven’t been unhappy with anything I’ve bought from them and worn and having early access and a great return policy means I can shop without worrying about any hassle. I like the clothes and loved them before I joined the Volée.

Another downside isn’t Oiselle’s fault, but living in Alaska is so much more remote and lonely. There were only four other birds here and none in Fairbanks. I loved connecting with other women at Bird Camp so I think once I move down south this problem will fix itself.

Do I think the Volée is worth it? Heck yes. For all the reasons above and more. We have a gear swap group on Facebook and a team site where we discuss everything from pets to what we’re cooking. I love Bird Camp and am stoked to go again this year. Also, the team is redesigning the singlets this year so runners will have the option to choose what they love. I personally love the bright Oiselle singlet already, but I also love the sunset option.


I also like that a portion goes to supporting professional runners and charitable programs. Plus, the new Volée opens every quarter now, which makes the community more inclusive rather than exclusive.  For more information, you can visit Oiselle’s pre-registration page.

Setting Up for a Comeback

Confession time: I haven’t seriously worked out since about December when I left for my last big training exercise with my unit. I did tons of walking but no running and no strength training. Now I’m faced with the challenge of getting back into shape and I’ve developed a self plan of action. Like any plan, it needs to have an end goal that is reasonable and measurable and has a backstop to it (or else I’ll keep putting it off).


Score 300 on APFT at end of March. An APFT is the Army Physical Fitness Test. A 300 is 100 points, the maximum, in each category. For me, that means 50 push-ups, 82 sit-ups, and 15:48 on a two-mile run.

The Plan:

Using the Hundred Push-ups and the Two Hundred Sit-ups plan to augment my daily PT program. Also running 30 minutes at least three times a week.


Push-ups are my nemesis

I used the Hundred/Two Hundred plan back in college and when I was a young officer. Push-ups have always been difficult for me because I tend to have skinny little T-rex arms but sit-ups have always been ridiculously easy for me. Still, because this is a comeback I want to make sure I keep my strong areas strong and strengthen my weak areas.

Since my run is only two miles, 30 minutes of running three times a week should let me build my aerobic fitness back up without getting burned out quickly. Plus, I know I’m going to be stiff and sore from not running in so long.


Winter running essentials: Gore-tex shoes, gloves, headlamp, hat, yak trax

I also plan on doing a better job of foam rolling and stretching than I typically do (which is almost not at all so anything would be a big improvement).

I’ve got some traveling coming up for house hunting but having a reasonable plan makes it much more likely that I can stick to it despite a crazy schedule.

Bird Camp!

Back in May I noticed that there were sign-ups for regional running camps put on by Oiselle. They’ve done a national and several other regional camps in the past few years and they all looked like a lot of fun. The closest one to me and that would work for my schedule was the California one in September. Because I’m a member of Oiselle’s Volée, and Oiselle means “bird,” we’re all “birds” and hence, Bird Camp.

It was held at a conference and retreat center in Aptos, California nestled in among enormous, beautiful trees. I showed up Friday, signed in and got my Bird Camp bag filled with all kinds of awesome swag – a Roga hat, a Hankorange headband, Stance socks, a wrap bracelet and shoelace charm from Momentum Jewelry, and Picky Bars and Nuun.


I found an open bed, settled my things and headed down to lunch to meet the other birds. We did some easy yoga that afternoon in a big open meadow and then we got to talk to Devon Yanko, an ultra runner and restauranteur, about her experiences. Then we had a happy hour put on by Sufferfest Brewing Co. They produce gluten-free beer that doesn’t taste like gluten-free beer. I was very surprised at how good it was!


The following day we had a long run before we headed to the beach. I chose to run the trails with the shorter group and had a lot of fun. The trails were so beautiful and the weather was perfect. We did about 8 miles at a pretty slow, easy pace.


Also, we found a banana slug. It was huge!

The beach was kind of chilly though pretty so we hung out for about an hour and a half before half of us went to a local brewery and the rest of us went to go take naps. My running shoes had developed a hole in them so I went to Fleet Feet to see if they had the same model and debate replacing them before I got home since I knew they were long past their lifespan.

(I didn’t)


Then we had a talk with Sarah Lesko and Kate Grace about her experiences at the Olympics in Rio, and a trunk show of the new Fall Line which is out on the website already. My favorites are the Nelle shirt, the Muscle long-sleeve, and the Pintuck long-sleeve, and for bottoms the Black Widow tights and the Lux track pants. Their theme for fall is “The Warrior Within” and how putting on clothes is one of the many steps of preparation we make to go out and win and I think their line really reflects that well. It’s feminine, but strong and fierce. I am also super in love with their Lux material – it’s soft but warm and wicks so well and looks great when you’re not running, too!

Anyway, back to Bird Camp. Sunday morning some of us had registered to run a local 5K or 10K. I left my cabin late with my bunkmate and two other women and we had no idea where we were going. We started walking up a big hill (and the wrong way) and managed to flag down a woman in a van who confirmed we were going the wrong way and very nicely offered to give us a ride. We found our group a ways down the road and the woman asked us what kind of group we were and we told her “a running group” and then started laughing because of how ridiculous it was that we got a ride.

I signed up for the 10K but wished I had done the 5K. My shoes were very much toast and it was kicking up shin pains I didn’t know I could have. Fortunately it was just an out-and-back along a dirt road into the Nisene Marks State Park so I just focused on getting to the turnaround and then making it back in. I finished in about 55 minutes, which is pretty typical for my cruising pace, but we rocked that race. We finished top 3 in every category, though we may have had a slight advantage as we also had our Haute Volée with us, women who are professional runners at various distances. My roommate, who was not only incredibly nice and down-to-earth, is also an incredible marathoner and her husband used to be in the Army so we had that in common as well.

The race might have been my favorite part of camp, and I have lots of favorite parts. It reminded me so much of when I ran cross-country in college with the team aspect. Running in Alaska is so different. Although we run for PT, the distances are a lot shorter and there’s more of an emphasis on spadework because our test is only 2 miles long. When I run longer, I’m always running alone and Bird Camp reminded me of how much I really love running in a group and how much fun it is having a team. Some of the other birds who didn’t run for various reasons, set up a cowbell corner on the course and cheered for us. It was just so nice to feel the team love and really solidified for me what I love about Oiselle and the Volée.


After dominating the race, we headed back (with a quick pit stop for coffee) and did a more in-depth yoga class for additional recovery. That afternoon we had a talk and demonstration about the PHLX (pronounced “flex”) roller system and we each got one to take home. I’m a little bit of a foam roller snob and kind of particular about what I like, but I really like this system because it has multiple uses and packs up easily and nicely with a carrying bag.


A blurry picture of me and Kate Grace

Then we had a panel of our Haute Volée about nutrition and it was so fun to talk to them and hear what they eat and how they manage things in their off-season. Not everyone eats steamed broccoli and boiled chicken either – some eat whatever looks good that day for whatever their husband made.

We had our last campfire and s’mores that night.

I really can’t say enough nice things about Bird Camp. I had so much fun and met some great people and it reignited my love for running all over again. I can’t wait for next year and I hope I will be able to go to another Bird Camp then.


Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend Recap

So this is almost a month overdue – sorry!

I’ve wanted to run the Disneyland Half Marathon for several years, but it just hasn’t worked out for my schedule until this year.

I was originally only going to sign up for the Dumbo Double Dare (10K and half marathon) but then they announced the 5K was Country Bears themed and I love the Country Bears because I think the show is hilarious. Funnily enough, it doesn’t exist at Disneyland anymore, only at WDW.

I stayed at Grand Legacy at the Park, which I found to be very convenient. It was just across the street from the park entrances. Due to the new security checks in the parks though, it can be kind of a pain to get to Downtown Disney as you have to go through the security line just to get to the other side. They also had a 17% military discount, which made the price a little more affordable.

I spent almost a week at DL this time, which I think was probably too much as I felt pretty burned out on Disney by the end. I went to the Expo when it opened on Thursday and checked out all the merchandise. I liked some of the shirts they had, but I’m always on the fence about buying more shirts when they’re provided with the race. I did pick up some glitter sunscreen, however. It was also scented and I felt like I died and went to preteen heaven.

I had no issues getting to the race the following morning, and I squeezed in a stop at Starbucks on the way. The 5K was well run and had lots of characters out. Since it was Country Bears, they had lots of bears – Liver Lips and Al from Country Bears, Baloo, Kenai from Brother Bear, Winnie the Pooh, and Lotso. It was also probably one of the best days for the race photographers because there weren’t tons of people on the course.


For the 10K I was still in Corral A. The course was still mainly in the parks but also cut a little bit backstage which I kind of enjoyed (and wished I had taken pictures of). I didn’t care for the medal myself, but I know a lot of people liked it. The overall theme of the weekend was “Best Friends” so the 5K was Country Bears and the 10K was Aladdin and Genie and the Half was Mickey and Minnie Mouse.


I had a meetup with a couple of other Oiselle birds for dinner that night at Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney and I had a great time talking about running and Disney with the other birds. The food was also outstanding and much better than expected, which is likely why it’s so hard to get a reservation there.


The Half had me scooted back to Corral B, which was fine with me! I was definitely feeling more tired that day for sure and my pace showed it.. The course was pretty good, it went through the parks first thing (probably so they could open on time) and there were a lot more people so I figured my pictures wouldn’t be much good that day. From there it wove into the streets of Anaheim, took us down to a trail (which I think I would’ve liked more if it was earlier in the morning) and then through the Anaheim Angels stadium and then back to Downtown Disney and the finish. It was a warm day and I felt myself fading around mile 9/10 but there was lots of course support which helped. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed running around the stadium and right around Mile 10 a woman was handing out magic feathers, which I happily took and ran with the rest of the way.


I was happy with my finish and ready for a smoothie, but then remembered I had chosen to leave my card and all money in my hotel. I also didn’t bring any cash so I couldn’t take part in the post-race massage being offered at $1 a minute, maximum of 20 minutes. Take note: Always bring cash to the race! So I just walked back to my hotel to shower and change.

Aside from the race, I had a good time at Disneyland and was glad I got to see the 60th anniversary decorations before they came down, and their anniversary fireworks shows. I liked Paint the Night, loved their Disneyland Forever fireworks show, and really didn’t care much for the Celebrate show in Disney California Adventure.


I also tried the tea at Steakhouse 55 and while it was good, I liked the one at the Grand Floridian better, and I liked their original version better than the new one they changed to that has less options and costs more.  Food wise, I also  tried the Monte Cristo at Cafe Orleans and agree with its reputation as delicious.


All this could be yours, for the low price of $55

Lastly, I rode the Hollywood Tower of Terror one more time for myself before it goes away to become something else.


It was a good trip and a fun race, but I think it will be my last Disney race for a while because of the cost, the time off, and the cost of everything else at Disney. My trip to Japan and China reminded me of how much I enjoy seeing new places and I want to do more international travel and not just the World Showcase at Epcot (though it was really funny to walk around China and say funny things about how it was so much bigger than the one in Epcot). That being said, I have a friend who is dying to do one of Disney’s new Star Wars races so I may end up back at Disney sooner than I expect.


Please excuse potato camera, but how cute are these seagulls all together?

Running Gift Exchange

One of my favorite websites, Redditgifts, does cool gift exchanges every three months and a big, amazing Secret Santa every winter. It’s so big that famous people, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Gates get involved.


They just announced the next gift exchanges today and there’s a Running and Fitness Exchange! It’s completely free to join and the amount of spending money is about $20 (not including shipping) and you can opt for a domestic exchange or ask to be matched to someone outside of your country (I did that for a snack exchange and got matched with a person in Malta). The person you receive is not (typically) the person who receives you, so it’s even more fun.


Sign-ups are open until August 15th when matching happens. I’ll be signing up for sure, and maybe I’ll get you as a giftee?

Double Header: Run of the Valkyries 8K and Run for the Refuge 10K

I was originally going to head down to Anchorage this weekend for the Her Tern Half Marathon, but the transmission on our other car went out and then the hubs was designated as the guy who does the twice-daily reports so I ended up staying home and doing a double header instead.

I ran the Run of the Valkyries a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. It runs along the river and is very pretty and benefits our local opera, they even have an opera singer to sing us off and then welcome us back with a few notes.

I was excited to bust out my Volée singlet for the first time, as well.


I also wore my Oiselle Stride shorts and liked them a lot. They rode up a bit, but everything I own rides up because I have legs.

Nothing too special about the run. I foolishly didn’t grab one of my good sports bra and used an old one that had no support. Not only did I get some chafing, but it left me feeling sore for the rest of the day from the bouncing.

Today I ran the Run for the Refuge 10K. It’s a trail race and was raining out so I debated not going, but decided I should because otherwise I’d just be at home hanging around as the hubs tries to sort out what’s going on with our kitchen sink.


Since it was a little chilly out with the rain, I wore my Oiselle Juno tights, my singlet, a decent bra, my Nike Vapor jacket, and a hat because I hate rain in my eyes.

I don’t usually check the course but it was a small field so I looked it over. I’ve run part of it when I ran the Equinox Marathon a couple of years ago, and part of it is right by my favorite lake to fish in so I had a very general idea of the route.

It rained the whole time but the woods were very pretty. I felt pretty good overall but although I’ve been at over 5,000 feet for a year, I realized very quickly that although I’ve been running at altitude, I haven’t done any hills like these. The uphill was punishing for me.


Blurry running picture

At about two miles a volunteer told me I was the third woman and then I passed a woman and her dog about a half a mile later. I figured I was second then and determined to hang onto that place. I could hear her dog’s tags jangling behind me so I really let it out on the downhills and used my arms as much as I could on the uphill.

At about mile four I was on the heels of another woman and decided to hang on until a little later. Unfortunately, we had a ton of uphill between mile five and the finish and she was much better at hills than I was and I lost my opportunity.

I cruised in at about an hour, which I was happy with since I’m so out of shape with running and hills.

They had some refreshments so I snacked on some bananas and waited around for the prizes to see if I’d won anything.

Turned out there was another woman ahead of the one I’d almost passed, so I finished third female overall. Good thing I passed that woman and her dog! I won a packable stool, a DVD about caribou, and a gift card to a hardware/clothing store in town.


Race winnings. Recognize the carpet? 

Overall a very fun race and a great weekend for the debut of my Volée singlet. I’m sure the half would have been fun, but it was nice to stay home and do local races. It’s hard to beat being able to be home less than 10 minutes after a race.


Training Mental Toughness

Since I started keeping a training journal, I’ve noticed a few key things about myself and my training that I hadn’t noticed before. Namely, motivation and its effects. Lately I’ve been having trouble finding the motivation to work out and even then, sometimes a wave of “who cares?” washes over me and I quit.

I reached out to some of my Volée teammates and was encouraged to hear that I’m not the only one who struggles with the “so what” of workouts sometimes.

For me, it’s also a matter of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. With running and workouts, running a race for a medal can be extrinsically motivating and I think that’s what prompts people to cheat. They want the fame and public admiration for winning or doing well, and it outweighs any inner reward for doing well. There are articles of people cheating to get into the Boston Marathon, cheating to win Ironmans, and cheating to break records.

Sometimes the extrinsic motivation helps me get through the race and over the finish line, and it can also be a reason why I sign up for the race in the first place, like with the Nike Women’s Half Marathon where the medal is a Tiffany & Co. necklace, or the promise of special challenge medals in runDisney races. But the danger is when that’s the only reason to take on challenges. At that point, you might as well just buy the medal online. I mean, they actually sell Boston Marathon medals on eBay, you don’t even need to run the race. That’s what one woman did this past year.

Granted, I only ran the Boston Marathon shadow race, but I ran a full marathon and at 5,600 feet and in a combat zone, and my name is listed in the results on the B.A.A. website so I feel justified in keeping my medal and hat and t-shirt.

That brings me to intrinsic motivation, which is my primary source of why I do anything – because I want to do it. I wanted to do the Bataan Memorial Death March in the military heavy category because it was hard and I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to join the Marathon Maniacs because I was impressed with the challenge and wanted to do it. A shiny medal might be enough to draw me in or help me suck it up to the finish, but at the end of the day I do these things for myself and no one else. I do things because I want to do them.

Where I struggle is when my intrinsic motivation is running low and I’m trying to find the “so what” of my workouts.

The good news is that you can train your brain to be tougher, which helps with the intrinsic fortitude to get through and with the motivation to get started. Some of my Volée teammates use mantras like “All Day Long” or other positive refrains to focus on and drown out the noise. I’m also currently reading through The Champion’s Mind by Jim Afremow and he is big on visualization and other sports psychology techniques to help you reach your goals.