Newport (OR) Marathon Race Recap 2016

Making it to the starting line of Newport Marathon was an accomplishment. My left foot had been hurting two months before the marathon, and I missed a couple of long runs in order to preserve my left arch, heel, and big toe for the race. It really bites going into a race with humbling goals, but I suppose there is a lesson to be learned regardless of how lofty goals may or may not be. The first goal was based on hopes and prayers. “Please God, let my foot hold up with just enough strength to cover the marathon distance.” The second goal, with the hopes of accomplishing the first one, was to redeem my performance six years ago on this same course.

2010: Smiling in order to disguise my frustration. This was my first marathon six years ago, and to date has been the most grueling race I’ve participated in.

Newport Marathon was picked because of its ideal course (advertised as flat, but I gauge flat from the perspective of a Floridian, and from that perspective, it isn’t, but I digress) and mild coastal temperatures. Let’s just say I was in for a BIG surprise come race day.

The day before the race, my husband and I did a shakeout 3.5 mile run on the beach. I was relieved when I walked out and it wasn’t windy or cold; signs of possible ideal race day temperatures. I mentioned to my husband I had never ran on the beach before, and he happily reminded me that we had indeed ran on the beach, together, 16 years ago! When I suggested to him I couldn’t remember that experience, he refreshed my memory. It was in the Marine Corps, Camp Del Mar, during Corporal’s Course, the class where we met and fell in love 16 years ago! That run was absolutely miserable! The sand was sandy and we ran for what seemed to be a never ending hour and a half. The whole goal of that run was to break each and everyone of us. Though I survived the run, I detested the experience. It felt so wonderful to have had a much more pleasant beach running experience with my husband 16 years later.

Enjoying a slow and memorable run in Agate Beach.

Race day came early – race started at 7 am – and my husband, sister-in-law, and I made it to the starting line with roughly twenty minutes to spare. All three of us were on a honey bucket mission in order to clean out our bowels from the carb-loading feast we enjoyed the night before (Thanks Maureen for feeding us). We snapped a couple of pictures, chuckled, and nervously awaited for the race to begin.

With my sister-in-law, Megan. She was running her first marathon.

The gun went off, and aside from one of Chris’s childhood friends calling out my name around mile 3, I don’t recall much of the race. I was pretty self-absorbed and lost in my thoughts. 

Smiling no more. My daughter, Samantha, who was 6 at the time, running with me as we approached the finish line.-

I prayed, focused on my form, was conscious of the landing of my left foot, visualized crossing the finish line, and thought about how badly I struggled running my first marathon, this same marathon, six years ago. I was older, and even though my foot was not okay, I was physically stronger.

Though hurting, I was genuinely happy I was running this course six years later! And even with a mediocre left foot and the heat, I felt so much stronger than I did 6 years ago!

Even though my arm warmers had come down after the second mile, it wasn’t until mile 15 when I realized I was hotter than I could have ever anticipated. Sweating profusely is completely uncharacteristic of me, but this was exactly what was happening to my body. Twenty miles of the course is on hot slanted asphalt, and even though the temperature was supposedly 68 degrees, I felt like 98 degrees.

Around mile 22, my husband told me to go ahead without him. I wasn’t going much faster than he was, but I continued pushing in desperation of being done and getting off the course. And it seemed like I wasn’t the only one suffering. There were so many people walking, pouring water over their heads at water stations, and searching for shade when the course offered it. 

Definitely snapped a picture of him during the run. I’m hoping I am able to run well into my 70’s.

There were a couple of times when I stopped to look back to check on my husband, but I couldn’t see him or my sister-in-law. My foot was hurting, but my entire body was hurting even more. I kept sweating, and no matter how much water I drank, I couldn’t seem to get enough. The chews were awful,  my feet were burning, and I was disheartened when I saw the .5 mile discrepancy between my GPS and the​ signs. Around mile 24, there were more people walking than running, and I remembered how much this course made me cry, humiliated me, and forced me to walk/jog the last 10 miles​ six years ago.
This time around, regardless of how hot I was, how much my foot was hurting, or how slow I was going, I refused to walk! I kept pushing, yearning to see the next mile marker. 25. And that was the longest mile. Between 25 and 26. My body and mind were becoming impatient. They were done. A bend would come and I would think, “It’s gotta be here. Please let my GPS be off.” And then, I saw it! I felt like I had been spotted by a rescue crew in a remote island somewhere on the Pacific Ocean. 

2010: Tears of humiliation. 2016: A grimaced look of relief!


Hop Hop Half-Marathon Race Recap

This was supposed to be my last race celebrating the last few days as as a 38-year-old, and the race to ring in a new year as a 39-year-old. A week prior to the race, I kept looking at the weather and the prediction went from sunny with high of 50+ degrees, to rain and temps in the 40’s the day before. I kept visualizing both scenarios and told myself regardless of how the weather played out, I was going to be grateful and remain mentally strong throughout.


My mum-in-law, sis-in-law, and nephews came to visit us during Easter Break and we trekked to Anthony Lakes to play in the snow. It was a GORGEOUS sunny day.

On Friday morning, we took off from Eastern Oregon to Portland, Oregon. The race was on a Saturday, which is unusual in Portland (I prefer Saturday over Sunday races anyway) and both the half marathon and 5K were capped to 1,500 runners combined. I ended up paying $89 (with registration fees) for the race, which included a technical t-shirt (the shirt ran big, but I didn’t bother to swap), a giant egg medal, and a mimosa flute. The course was described as “extremely flat” but if you are from Florida, you would have vehemently disagreed with that description. Though the course wasn’t hilly, “extremely flat” was not fully accurate because there were a couple spots that required some quad work, but not for a prolonged period of time. The event organizers offered four different bib pick-up days dispersed throughout the city of Portland, which made it extremely convenient. Registration was also available during bib pick up and my husband indicated he really wanted to run the half, so he registered on Friday when we ended up picking up our bibs.   


Race Swag

I failed to eat breakfast on Friday (I don’t recall what I did that made me forget to eat), so we grabbed McChicken Sandwiches with pickles and ranch dressing out of convenience. The four and half hour drive required a couple of restroom stops (the 3-year-old, twelve-year-old, and four-legged-furry baby accompanied us), making the trip close to five hours. Because I have been battling some hamstring and butt pain, I MADE SURE to stretch and roll as much as I could inside the vehicle and outside of the vehicle. My body aches were my main concern going into this race, and I spent a couple of hours on Thursday wrestling with the thought that running could possibly further agitate my hamstring and butt and considered not showing up. In the end, I decided that if a race was going to side line me, then I obviously wasn’t healthy enough for marathon training either way and not to run Newport Marathon. Thus, this race was a perfect way to gauge whether I should continue training for Newport Marathon or not.


Views of PDX from our hotel. This was Easter Sunday.

 My carbohydrate loading feast the night before took place at the Olive Garden, where I indulged in salad, breadsticks, and pasta primavera with grilled chicken. My husband opted for Fettuccini Alfredo, and I made a comment that should I eat Fettuccini Alfredo the night before a race, I would most likely end up with diarrhea (lactose intolerant here). In all honesty though, I don’t care for creamy, buttery or cheesy sauces – or cheesy anything for that matter. By 9:3o pm, I was pretty exhausted and I did hip flexor and hamstring stretches, along with side plank leg raises and clams before calling it a night.


Triple tasking by rolling my derriere, foot and legs!

Because I was supposed to run 15 long miles, I thought I would do a warm-up mile prior to the race and then do a one mile run cool down after the race. Let’s just say, that didn’t happen because we got to the starting line with thirty seconds to spare before the gun went off. Much to my chagrin, we ended crammed up in the middle of the pack. We were so rushed, I ran with five packets of Extreme Sports Jelly Beans on my left hand and my cell phone on the right.  I did manage to be responsible enough to consume a  UCan Cinnamon Swirl Power Bar 45 minutes before the race. Once the gun went off, we found ourselves behind people who were walking or going at a pace considerably slower than ours. Shook off the “should have been here earlier, could have gotten  closer to the front” thoughts and weaved around the people in front of me. Since we also did not arrive in time to use the portable bathrooms, my husband was still carrying around a serving of Fettuccine Alfredo in his intestines. Fortunately for me, I managed to take care of that detail at the hotel. We figured we would find a portable bathroom on the course somewhere and he could do his thing. Sadly, the closest portable bathroom was not until mile 6! Around the second mile, my husband’s stomach had slowed him down, and I made the decision to keep going. 


The Easter Bunny ran the 1/2 and my husband snapped a picture of him. He actually started off really FAST, but he slowed down and his suit gave everyone something to smile about during the race.

On race day, the weather was nearly perfect. There were a slight breeze, temps were in the mid 40’s, and although it was overcast, there were no visible signs of rain. The crowd had also thinned down enough where I had plenty of room to run comfortably.
I think I have mentioned some time before that I don’t tend to race against anyone in front of me during a race because I feel that the journey of each and every runner is unique, and I don’t aim to elevate my journey over someone else’s by passing them. Now, if I were an Olympic athlete, that would probably be a completely different story, but since I am not, I am comfortable enough to allow others on the course to pass right by me. However, between miles five and seven, there was this cat-and-mouse game happening between another runner and myself. She would slow down, and I’d pass her. A few seconds after passing her, she’d sprint past me and she’d slow down again. My thoughts were, “I am not racing you and I am not trying to beat you.” However, after six times of going back and forth, I decided I was just going to pass her once and for all and not give  her the opportunity to sprint pass me anymore. Either I would fatigue and she’d smoke me towards the end, or I would run strong enough where she would not be able to catch me.

At a water station after the turn around point that my husband snapped of me.

Mile 8 is usually when my body starts feeling the half-marathon race. The hamstrings, my back, and my shoulders are especially susceptible to the pounding of the distance and when it begins to lose its form. So when mile 8 rolled around and neither my hamstring nor my back were feeling fatigued, I thought to myself, “Have I been taking it easy this entire time?” The mapymyrun app stated I was running at an average pace of 8:08 and it made me wonder if I was at a pace where I could beat my PR from the Run 4 Luv Half-Marathon I ran a year ago. With the realization that I was not hurting, I mentally pushed my body to refrain from seeking the comfort zone. I told myself, “You don’t train so it doesn’t hurt. You train so you can tolerate it.” When I saw the finish line in sight, I still wasn’t sure whether I was on pace to PR or not, but I looked to the side and saw 1:48:24 on the clock as I sprinted past the finish line! I was in complete disbelief! I then took a look at my running app to check how close or off I was and saw 13.23 miles in 1:48.40! I got a two minute PR without expecting it! My husband came in at 1:53 after two portable stops (and he learned his lesson about Fettucinni Alfredo). Oh, and the runner that I decided to pass at mile 8, she never caught me. Marathon Training continues! Which means I ran an extra two miles after my race to complete the scheduled 15 mile long run.


That’s a wrap!

Do you race against someone in front of you? Have you ever eaten the wrong food the night before? How early are you to your race?

Mental Training

I am officially on Spring Break and see light at the end of the tunnel in my job. Because my job is one that requires long hours of sitting, I have also made an effort to do some yoga stretches every four hours and to get up out of my seat and walk around the building every two hours. Stretching, rolling, and strengthening are also happening at home every night before I go to bed and every morning when I wake. Although there is still slight discomfort present in my hamstring and glute, I have felt the pain decrease. There have been a few occassions where I have found feeling sorry for myself and wondering if I will be able to even make it to the starting line of the Newport Marathon, but I have not allowed the negative thoughts of defeat to knock me down. If anything, it makes me even more determined to take care of my body and treat it right in order for the favor to be returned.

The weather here has been absolutely erratic. Winds, which don’t seem to bother any of the people who grew up here,  seem to be present every time I have to run.  I’ve chosen running outside with the wind over the treadmill in order to train my brain to be tougher. Although I don’t think I have quite mastered, or embraced running with wind, I am proud of the fact I still manage to face and run against my nemesis.  My long run this last Saturday tested my mental fortitude. The stormy gray clouds were filled with a smorgasbord of snow, rain, and sleet. But it wasn’t  mother nature’s fickle palette bothering me. It was the WIND that really set me off on a tantrum the size of a two-year-old. For the first two miles, I found myself swearing at the weather conditions, whining about the fact there is ALWAYS wind in this city, and asking God for a break. Even though I knew my attitude stunk, I was so deep into how I felt, I couldn’t seem to get past my funk. So I began to pray. I asked God to help me get over my self-pity. I wanted him to remind me about how fortunate I was and how trivial my tantrum over the weather was.

With each step I took, I named something I was grateful for and continued to do so until mile four, where I finally felt God’s peace. From there on, it was as if the wind had turned into a soft breeze, caressing the path set forth in front of me. I no longer had to pray to recognize how fortunate I was. “I don’t HAVE to run. I GET to run!” That moment right there was a moment of triumph for me. More often than not, I am unable to get myself out of the whirlwind of negativity and walk away feeling completely dejected. This past Saturday though, for the first time since I can recall, I had MENTAL RESTRAINT and won the battle. My mind was not in control. My marathon training this time around is not focused on time. The focus is to achieve a strong mind. It is to tackle every run with gratitude. To prevent the negative voices in my head from overtaking the voices of reason and the voices of grace. How will I measure mental success? I will praise God no matter the CIRCUMSTANCES or the RESULTS.


2015 Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

Picking up my bib on Saturday afternoon at the Expo Center and smiling with Marines in what is unarguably the most AMAZING uniform in the Armed Services – Dress Blues.

The alarm went off at five in the morning on October 25, 2015, five hours after we had set it. It was my intent to be in bed by 9:00 pm, but circumstances that were out of my control prevented me from having eight hours of sleep. We didn’t get to bed until midnight because we had to pick up my sister’s luggage from another hotel room where she stayed with a friend the night before. She was supposed to stay with us for the weekend, but a six-hour delay from Alaska Airlines on Friday caused us to arrive in D.C. at 10:00 pm versus 3:45 pm. When we arrived on Friday night, we only had the energy to grab a bite and call it a night due to exhaustion from three hours of sleep from the night before.

Three mile shake-out run the day before the Marathon with the Oiselle Volee team. From left to right: Dana, Erica, Courtney, Simone, Caitlyn, and Prianka. My daughters joined in on the photo-op. Following our run, we had lunch at Vapiano where I met more of the amazing group of women that make up the Oiselle Team.

Even though the race was not starting until 7:55 am, our alarms went off at 5:00 am because we were told by the race organizers to be there two hours prior to the starting time. We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Crystal City, which was about two stops away from the starting line with public transportation (Metro). The Metro stop was about .7 miles away from the hotel. Initially, we were going to take the Metro, but opted against in when we learned that the Hotel Shuttle was dropping off runners at the shuttle stop the Marine Corps Marathon had set up. With only a guava pastry in our stomachs, my husband and I shared the Hotel Shuttle with half a dozen more runners and headed towards the shuttle area.

Seventeen years after I joined the Marine Corps, I had the opportunity to meet up with a long lost friend. Carlos Taja, though younger than me when I was an adolescent, was very influential and a constant source of positive strength in my life. He is now married to Vanessa who I also had the privilege to meet. Carlos lives in Virginia, and sent him a message that I wanted to see him as soon as I find out I was going to be running the Marine Corps Marathon.

We arrived to the Marine Corps Marathon Shuttle stop around 6:00 am and the lines, though long, were moving very quickly. Three big buses at a time bused us from the entrance of the Crystal City Metro Stop to the Pentagon, where every single runner and spectator had to pass through a metal detector – yikes. Apparently, this was the first time the race has done this, and because there was rain, it cause the metal detectors to malfunction and therefore created a backup, leading for the race organizers to extend the finish cutoff an extra 20 minutes. Standing under wind and rain made for a very cold experience, and I could only think of how sweaty I was soon going to be once the race began to not let it bother me. Though the line was moving slowly, we made it to the starting line with about a half hour to spare. There were plenty of portable bathrooms, so no waiting in massive lines. My husband, who graciously offered me his hoodie while we were waiting in the security line because the rain and wind picked up significantly,pried the hoodie off my cold and wet hands dropped off his hoodie and wallet in the bag drop-off area. The Oiselle Volee team was supposed to meet for a pre-race picture next to the last UPS truck, but I figured I was late did not get a chance to partake in the pictures. I found out after the race that many of the Oiselle runners were stuck in the security line.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed in the Marine Corps Shuttles as we made our way to the starting line. My husband was smart enough to bring his hoodie, while I opted for arm sleeve warmers. I didn’t want to do bag check and thought I would be comfortable enough considering it was supposed to be 57 degrees. I did not take into account the wind and rain.

It was still raining at this point and continued to do so until maybe sometime after the race began. Honestly, I cannot remember. The rain was a slow drizzle, although it was enough of a drizzle to make one damp. A major pet peeve of mine is runners not lining up in the correct starting corral. It was very obvious there were hundreds, if not thousands, of runners who were trying to get to as close to the starting line as possible and had no regard for the MASSIVE YELLOW SIGNS that had respective finish times written times on them. While I am well aware I should NEVER judge a runner by their physical appearance, when a group of runners in front of you tell you they hope to finish around the 5:00 hour time frame and they are standing right next to the 4:15 – 4:20 corral, then you cannot help but let out a long deep breath to prevent from ruining the moment. My uptight state of mind soon changed when I looked up to the sky and saw parachutist with garrison flags! It was absolutely amazing and the adrenaline in my body soon kicked in. Cannons went off, I consumed a second packet of Sports Beans, and I crossed the starting line a little after eight minutes.

This sight will uplift anyone’s spirit. As soon as I saw them in the air, I was overwhelmed with pride and gratitude.

Weaving, passing, bumping, and pausing, definitely happened the first 8-10 miles of the race. Even when I tried to pick up the pace, it was physically impossible given how many people there were on the course. There were people walking around mile 5, before the half way point. The water stations, which were the stations I was most concerned given the amount of runners, allowed me to pass runners because it opened up the course like the way Moses parted the seas. I will admit though, the water stations were well stocked, and they were not as congested as I envisioned them to be. Should I ever return to run this race, I might not wear the hydration vest, which I wore to the race because I was worried about water.
My husband, who is less uptight and was doing the Marathon to accompany me, tried to engage in small chat with me, pointing out different monuments and sights, but because I am not someone who likes to talk while running, I really did not pay attention to what was going on around me. In fact, after the race, my husband made a point to say, “Remember we ran past this” and my answer was always, “I don’t remember seeing this.”

Running past the Washington Monument. I vaguely remember this moment. I think I briefly looked at it after my husband pointed it out and then I moved along. My rationale was I would get a chance to admire its beauty once I was done with the race.

There were four memorable moments that will forever stand out and that it was impossible for me to forget:

1) The Blue Mile, during mile 12, which was made up of 1) the Faces of the Fallen posters and (2) American flags (each draped with a black ribbon, bearing the name of a fallen military member) held by volunteers. It was very solemn, and there were faces of young men, faces of older, men, and faces of women. On the last picture, there was a lady who was kneeling and was sobbing. It was very emotional, and only reminded me to be grateful.

2) The Bridge, just before mile 20. There were drums playing, and my heart was thankful. My body felt great, and aside from my feet who were in pain (my feet are the WEAKEST part of my body), I was feeling physically strong and there was no cramping anywhere. I decided to pick up the pace and saw that I was averaging under 9:30 minute miles, enough to be well under 4 hours and 20 minutes. However, my Garmin and the Mile Markers were not in sync, with my Garmin reading I was .5 miles further than the mile markers. Apparently, this is the bridge where runners who do not meet the cut off time, which is the pace of 14 minutes per mile, are picked up and taken to the finish line. My husband and I beat the bridge!

3) Mile 24 – This is when it all hit me. I was exhausted, and the idea of stopping to walk and stretch crept its way into my head. There were runners all around me who were bent over backwards trying to reach their toes. Runners who were squatting and stretching their hips. Their were runners standing one leg and holding the other leg bent back touching their butt. There were runners sitting, runners crying, runners walking, runners who were limping, and runners who had lost good running form. I was the latter, and had to start talking to myself to prevent myself from stopping. “You are supposed to be tired Luisa. You are supposed to be uncomfortable Luisa. You’ve run 24 miles Luisa, are you seriously going to start walking with only 2 miles left? You will look back and regret it if you walk. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for Luisa. Finish strong Luisa. Believe in yourself Luisa. Walking will only prolong the race.” And so I kept moving and shook off the temptation to stop.

4) The Finish Line – I did not care to study the course prior to the race. With all of the worrying that occurs prior to the race, I figured being ignorant about the course was one less thing for me to worry about. However, I did know there was a hill at the end of the race, but that was all I knew. Yes, that was a hill. It was not fun at all. It hurt really bad. It slowed me down significantly. and it made the finish line seemed so far. My watch said I was well past 26.2 and I was mentally and physically ready to be done. The hill zapped me, and if it wasn’t for the fact I heard my name and FINALLY SAW the FINISH line, I would have stopped and collapsed right there.  I WAS DONE!!

This picture was taken AFTER the race and on our last day in D.C. I remember learning about this in Boot Camp and dreaming about visiting the Memorial some day.

Four hours and 13 minutes according to the Clock, and 4:08 minutes with 26.69 miles according to my Garmin. My husband crossed the finish line 5 minutes later, and he had logged 27 miles according to his GPS.
The medal was absolutely beautiful. We were asked to keep moving so that the finish line would not be congested. Even though we finished at the IWO JIMA Memorial, I never saw after the race. Water seemed a while to get to because they were not handing it out right after the finish line, but there was plenty. Instead of a space blanket, we received a red paper-like jacket, which I did not use because I was actually pretty hot. We got a box of food, which I did use because I was starving (I wish I could tell you what it was), and after more walking, I got to the portable potty and got to empty out my stomach (starting bothering me around mile 24).

The One-of-a-kind medal, which is now my FAVORITE medal, my running bib, and my Garmin.

The MARINE CORPS MARATHON was by far the best marathon experience I ever had. It wasn’t just because I PR’d by more than 30 minutes since my last marathon (Portland Marathon in 2011), but because I once ran in the Marine Corps uniform, and I took for granted. At the time, I never knew how much running would change my life. Running felt like a punishment and I wanted nothing to do with it once I got out in 2002. I am glad I never gave it up though. The best part is, my running journey continues. OORAH!

I had the MOST AMAZING support group while in D.C. My friends Oscar, Doris, my sister Beth, and my friend Danny, all childhood friends flew from Miami to D.C. to cheer for me. Doris even designed custom made shirts for every one to wear at the finish line. I have been blessed.

Ragnar Relay NW Passage Race Recap

Relays are like childbirth, you’ve got to forget the pain before you decide to register for another one. Apparently, Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back was not painful at all, because a month after running it, I ran Ragnar Relay NW Passage. It actually wasn’t a planned race at all. A friend of mine who lives in Washington was registered for the race, but she contacted me asking if I was interested in taking her place because she was undergoing some medical issues and felt it was best not to run. It took a heap load of discipline not to immediately say “yes.” While extremely supportive, it would have meant my husband had to spend another weekend with the girls, and it also would have meant more money spent on racing and traveling. After deliberation, I suggested for my husband to run instead. Even though he did not seem thrilled with the idea, I knew he would enjoy running in his beloved Pacific NW.

Three days before the race, my friend from Washington contacted me once again and said her husband was thinking about not running and asked me if I was interested. Without hesitation, I said “YES!” I figured finding a babysitter for my 11-year-old and my two-year-old would happen out of will and determination, and when my mother-in-law agreed to watch them (and our dog Jake), we were over the moon!!! Running with my husband is ALWAYS a privilege!

My mother-in-law, Maureen, who saved the relay.

The plan to getting to Redmond, WA (where my friend from Washington lives and where she kindly allowed us to spend the night) was cumbersome. On Wednesday, we traveled from Eastern, Oregon to the Oregon Coast (6.5 hour drive) with a 2-year-old, an 11-year-old, and a beagle in tow. On Thursday morning, we drove from the Oregon Coast to Redmond, WA (5.5 hours). On Friday morning, we met members from Van 2 and drove from Redmond, Wa to Bellingham, WA (1.5 hours) to conduct the first exchange between Van 1 and Van 2.

We took the scenic way along the Oregon Coast to cross the Washington border. This was taken in Oregon.

Leg 7

Distance: 4.8 miles with a rating of Moderate according to Ragnar website

Actual Distance: 4.4  According to Garmin Forerunner 220

The first mile of this leg was uneventful. It was on the streets of Bellingham and I had to cross five different lights, all of which required me to stop because they were green for passing traffic. After the first mile, you reach the bay trail and get to see the sound and the opportunity to run on the boardwalk.

This was a corridor after running past the streets of Bellingham amd just before reaching the boardwalk of leg 7.

Despite the fact the temperatures were in the 70’s my run was extremely hot. Maybe it was the humidity, but either way, I was drenched in sweat, and that is rare as I am not someone who perspires heavily. Fortunately, I do not mind running in warm weather, so I was not bothered by the temperatures as much as my husband (who prefers cooler temperatures).

It was pleasant to run on the boardwalk and be surrounded by water.

Leg 19

Distance: 8.7 miles Very Hard

Actual Distance: 8.69 miles

While most people seem to prefer the night runs (those who prefer cooler temperatures), I don’t particularly care for running when it’s dark out. Running at night in the dark is very overwhelming for me. My peripheral vision is poor, so I cannot see what’s around me, and my headlamp only lights a portion of what’s ahead, making it difficult to discern the terrain. Furthermore, because of the poor lighting, you tend to momentarily lose your night vision when facing incoming headlights.

Self-Taken night picture just before my second run.

Okay, enough of my whining. The point is, night runs are just okay for me. This particular run felt very long and aside from a bridge I know I crossed, I don’t remember much about it. It was definitely dark, and without a doubt very hilly, but there’s not much I can say. In fact, for a stretch, it felt like I was running by myself because I could not make out anyone in front of me, nor could I hear anyone around me. At the end of the run, I was drenched in sweat, and relieved my longest and most challenging run was over.

Leg 31

Distance: 6.3 miles Hard

Actual Distance: 6.32 miles

Van’s 2 night run ended about a 1/2 hour after the sunrise. This means we were up during the hours of the morning most people would prefer to be sleeping. While some slept during other team members’ runs, I felt obligated to stay awake. Unlike Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back, we had a driver, so I was not staying awake to help the driver stay alert. I wanted to be awake for my teammates while they were running and cheer them along the way. When we finally finished, we parked our vans in the next exchange and made an attempt to sleep. Attempt was definitely the key word, because I was lucky if I got one straight hour of sleep. It was just too  bright out, and because I was the first runner up, I definitely had to be ready before all the other runners. At the exchange, there were showers and restrooms. While I didn’t shower (not a fan of showering in public) I did take advantage of the flushable toilets and the luxurious sinks with running water and soap to wash my face and brush my teeth. It’s amazing how a little soap, water, and a fresh breath can make someone feel rejuvenated.

A digital portrait with my loving partner-in-crime.

Once it was my turn to run, I was ready to be done with the relay. I missed my daughters, and while grateful for the opportunity to share this relay with my husband, I was ready to head back home to Oregon and sleep in my bed. Of course, first we had to endure the drive back to the Coast from Washington and then the drive from the Coast to Eastern Oregon. We were in Whidbey Island and I could see bodies of blue water around me. It was still warm out, and my leg had a couple of gnarly hills, but I was not fazed by the route. The last leg of the relay is the relay you run with heart because at that point, the body and mind don’t have much to offer in terms of stamina. I could tell by the number of people I was passing that they were giving it all they had to finish the last 6.3 miles of the 200ish relay.

Taken after my last leg in Whidbey Island.

On a really random note, I do not ever celebrate passing anyone. If you’ve run a relay before, there is this tradition in which you count the “kills,” or the number of runners you pass during your leg. I’m by no means trying to be self-righteous here, but I personally do not find pleasure passing someone who is struggling and or may have a different running pace than mine. Perhaps it’s because I believe that each and every single runner out there is on a journey, and that journey could well be a journey to self-healing (cancer survivor, the loss of a loved one), a journey to self-discovery (first relay, first run after having surgery), or a journey to raise awareness about a social or medical cause. In essence, I always feel privileged that I am traversing the same path as the runners out there, and in a way, passing them is not celebratory for me; it is more of an acknowledgement that I am grateful I was a part of their path if only for a brief moment in time. But again, I digress.

Third and Final leg. After this decline, I turned left and climbed up another hill.

This leg was also perhaps the most motivating for me. My teammates, which were nice but complete strangers, seemed to be completely vibrant and awake during this particular leg. Maybe I was too reserved and apprehensive during my first two legs of the relay, but it was during this last stretch that I felt like I finally got to know them. It completely changed my mood around and I was so appreciative of the fact I got to share this experience with them. At the end of the relay, they no longer felt like strangers to me.

The most awful night selfie with team Will Run for Donuts.

Ragnar Relay NW Passage vs Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back

Scenery: Wasatch Back

Maybe it was because I had more scenic legs, or perhaps it was because I had never been to that part of Utah (I’ve only visited SLC for the Riverton Half-Marathon), but I felt like my views for Wasatch Back were so much more worthy of a smart phone picture than NW Passage.

Exchanges: NW Passage

The exchanges at NW Passage were less congested than the ones at Wasatch Back. Don’t know if this had to do with the number of registrants or the size of the exchanges, but the exchanges at NW Passage were much more ample, with better parking. I don’t recall if Wasatch Back had a place where you could shower, but because I vividly remember the one in NW Passage, I also feel like this particular detail beat out Wasatch Back.

The Finish Line: NW Passage

Getting to the Finish line in Wasatch Back was quite the experience. It took forever for our Van to just get into the parking lot of the Finish Line. The place also seemed very small for the amount of runners, making it feel really cramped and more of a carnival than finish line.

On the other hand, NW Passage had a big finish line with plenty of room for runners to walk around. One thing that Wasatch had that NW Passage did not have: Free Ice Cream, Pizza, and Soda at the finish line. This was nowhere to be found in NW Passage. The free Pizza (Papa John’s) was all gone by the time our team finished at NW Passage and you had to form a line to wait for it if you wanted it. However, if you like Beer at the finish line, NW Passage definitely had Beer, which was not the case in Wasatch Back. My husband got to enjoy a delicious cold beer, which is exactly what he wants at the end of every race.

On the Ferry from Whidbey Island to Washington. If you are ever on any of the islands off of Washington State and brought your own vehicle, do not ever , I repeat, do not EVER skip the line to get on the ferry. There are cops that monitor this line and they will force you out of the line and make you go to the end. The local residents will also call the cops if they see you commit this crime.

Have you completed a Ragnar Relay before? Were you in a team with strangers, or people you knew?

Catherine Creek Classic Half-Marathon

Exactly a year ago today, I was chasing a sub-2 half-marathon. That goal was achieved on August 2, 2014 at the Catherine Creek Classic Half-Marathon. This year, I ran the same course, but with goals and thoughts completely different from the ones I possessed a year ago. For one, I was no longer seeking a specific finish time. Second, after spending two months on the sidelines due to a plantar fascia rupture, I was grateful for the mere of opportunity of being able to run. Finally I was racing for distance in order to test my endurance and gauge if my foot could sustain the upcoming demands of marathon training for the Marine Corps Marathon.

Last year, I had the opportunity to race with my husband. This year, my friend Kim, whom I ran Bridge of the Goddess Half-Marathon with back in September of 2014 was also running the course. She trekked all the way from Portland, Oregon to savor racing in Eastern Oregon. Unlike last year though, the temperatures were supposed to reach the 100’s for the day. While I personally prefer running in warmer temperatures over cooler temperatures, I’m highly aware how challenging and demanding running in temperatures over 80 degrees can be. The temperature at the starting line was 72 degrees, and for me personally, that was just right. I do not like starting in temperatures where I’m shivering and my muscles are cold. Since the course had water stations every two miles, I only carried Huma energy gels with me (thanks to my mother-in-law, I now have a sweet amount to choose from), and wore sunglasses to protect my eyes from the sun.

Up close and personal after the race with my friend Kim.

Because I really did not have any expectations about the race except to measure the endurance and strength of my left foot, I was extremely relaxed and free of anxiety or self-imposed demands. This time around, I was excited for the opportunity to run with the goal of just crossing the finish line. There were no voices of doubt and confidence wrestling back and forth between one another and trying to placate them with visualizations or negotiations. If there was anything my injury taught me was that a number on a race clock does not quantify the will, determination, and struggle of the human spirit. The clock at the finish line is a mere snapshot capturing just that – the finish line; it does not capture what transpired before, during, or after the race. The acceptance that the time clock was by no means a measurement of who I was and what I was capable of doing took away any stresses I had a year ago. I was not worried about the hot temperatures, the elevation, and distance I needed to cover in a specified amount of time. It was genuinely a run that I was going to enjoy.

This was the day of the Blue Moon. The moon looks tiny, but it was big and bright in person. We were trying to capture a sun set the night before our race and after dinner, but we got to see a moon rise and it was a captivating experience.

When the clock started and we started racing down the hill (much of the race is a net loss and it is mostly downhill), I was smart enough not to go all out like I did last year. In fact, in comparison to last year’s time, I was almost one minute slower than the first time I ran it (2014 – 25:40, 2015 – 26:39). However unlike last year, I was feeling extremely strong the last four miles of the race and did not feel like my energy was waning. Last year, I was fighting tooth and nail not to let my pace slip to a ten minute mile in fear I would not make it to the finish line under two minutes. This year, I did not bother to look at my Garmin during miles 9-12 because I did not feel like I was struggling at any point either physically or mentally. My foot felt great and I was not experiencing any significant pain at any point. My back and shoulders, when exhausted, begin to hunch forward, but I never felt like I was losing my form. When I only had one mile remaining, I realized that my time on the course had flown by! I had no idea what my time would be, but I knew that I had probably run one of the best races I had ever run in my life. The time on the clock: 1:53:21. My time last year -1:57:46. I shaved four minutes off my time! Would this post had been positive had I finished in 2:07? Absolutely! My goal the entire time was to finish my race and to finish strong. Because I did not place any pressure on myself, I managed to run a very strong race. It is my hope to repeat this performance during the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

Second in my age group! I love small town races.

Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back Race Recap 2015

Ready to board my flight.

My day started very early morning on Thursday June 18. There was a rush of adrenaline cruising through my veins as I boarded the plane and flew from Boise, Idaho to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was my first time away from home alone for more than 24 hours in over three years! Two years ago, I would have felt guilty about leaving my family for a fun weekend alone, but not this time around. This time off had been earned and I was going to enjoy it and come back a happier mom and wife.

When I arrived in Salt Lake, I was greeted by some of the members of the team – Bird Machine. I was running as part of the Oiselle team. Oiselle is a woman’s athletic apparel brand that supports women athletes at a local and national level. Even though all of us are part of the Oiselle team, this was my first time meeting the 11 females that made up the team! I was excited and scared. It was my intent to be authentic and cherish every single moment regardless of how uncomfortable it felt. Thus, whether I met other people’s standards or not, the goal was to walk away with no regrets and full of positivity. We got our rental vans, checked into our hotel rooms and went shopping for snacks, fruits, and other necessities for our 24 hour running escapade.

Getting to know my teammates and posing for a picture outside of Squatters Brewery.

Once the sun started to set, we all set out to grub and enjoy each other’s company at a Salt Lake City brewery. To be frank, I was a bit nervous about eating too much because I did not want to be the runner in the van who needed to put our expedition on pause due to stomach issues, so I was very conscientious about my food choices and consumption. A turkey avocado wrap and a cup of chicken noodle soup made the final dinner cut. I’d like to say that we went wild after dark, but since 10 of the 12 of us had been flying, we went to our rooms after dinner and prepared for Ragnar Relay 2015.

Enjoying our dinner the night before the race with some cold suds at Squatters Brewery.

Bird Machine was slated a 10:00 am start time. The twelve of us were split into two groups of six. I was in Van number one and assigned legs, 6, 18, and 30. The first runner was Leana, followed by Jessica, Emily, Emma, Wendy, and yours truly. Three months ago, I was disappointed with my legs because my total distance was only 11.8  miles. However, since I had to take off two months off running from a ruptured plantar fascia, I was rather relieved I had the least amount of miles.

Top Left: Leana, Bottom Left: Jessica, Top Right: Emily, Middle Right: Wendy, Bottom Right: Emma

Top Left: Kate, Middle Left: Jessica, Bottom Right: Paulette – Team Captain, Top Right: Marilyn, Middle Right: Robyn, Bottom Right: Farron

The morning of our race was definitely filled with excitement. The drive from our hotel room in Salt Lake City to the starting line in Logan, Utah at Utah State went by fast! Prior to starting the race, we had to check-in with race personnel and ensure we had the necessary running accessories, specifically, a reflective vest for every runner with a blinker light attached to it and two headlamps. Next, we watched a mandatory safety video and the do’s and don’ts of race etiquette while on the course. We then proceeded to pick up our swag bag that included t-shirts, Ragnar tattoos, body cleansing wipes, and Monster drinks. We were also issued two safety flags to use when assisting our runners. After picking up our swag bag, we trekked to the starting line of the race and took the time to soak it in. After a couple of minutes, walked back to our car, decorated our van, and headed back up to cheer Leana commence our journey.

Van 1 posing in front of the Ragnar Starting line.

Being the last runner allowed me the opportunity to cheer my teammates and assist them with any kind of aid. Because the sun was in full force, I was a little nervous when each runner would come in expressing how hot it was out and how the elevation impacted their run. I tried to remain positive and reminded myself that this was supposed to be fun and there was no need to psyche myself out. Yes, definitely easier said than done.

Leg 6

Distance: 6.9 miles with a rating of HARD according to Ragnar’s Website

Start Time: 2:40 P.M.

End Time: 3:50 P.M.

Actual Distance: 7.14 miles

Elevation Gain: 297

Elevation Loss: 1379

Minimum Elevation: 5115 feet

Maximum Elevation: 6499 feet

Temperature: 91

Leg 6 RR2015

This was my first introductory leg to a Ragnar Relay. Not only was it going to be at an elevation significantly higher than what I was accustomed to, it was also sizzling hot out with a temperature of 91 degrees! I slathered as much sunscreen as I could put on and wore a hat and shades to try to prevent from burning. Furthermore, I drank 16 ounces of Nuun Energy just before my leg was to start. The trail was unpaved and it was completely exposed to the sun as there was no trees to provide any shade. However, the exposure gave the course its magnificent views. The course initially started with a moderate ascent, but pretty soon, it turned into a gravity defying descent. My foot, which I was most worried about (on top of the heat and elevation) seemed to be handling the pounding. My bladder however, was not. With the force of each step, I felt the pressure of the liquids pushing against my bladder. The race organizers did an extremely awesome job of ensuring there were plenty of Honey Buckets at each leg exchange, but there wasn’t any on the actual running courses.

The popular Honey Buckets getting some much-needed cleaning.

The pounding on my bladder got so intense, I needed to empty it. Because I was not alone, and there was nowhere in the course to hide and relieve myself, I had to make a strong effort to hold it. However, when you have weak pelvic floor muscles caused by giving birth, holding it becomes more challenging than juggling expensive porcelain plates while balancing on one foot. As the descent got steeper, my bladder gave in and then there was pressure no more. Even though it was pretty embarrassing, it would have been just as embarrassing to have dropped my pants in front of runners behind me and next to me who were in their vans en route to the next leg. When Jessica and Emma came to give me some water during the middle of my run, I felt the need to tell them about my mishap like a sinner in church.  My confession brought so much relief, and I was finally able to enjoy the run and the wonderful views.

When running in scenery this rad, self-taken pictures with a mobile device are mandatory.

It was my intent to run with gratitude prior to my run, and I gave thanks not only for this wonderful experience, but for the path that led to it regardless of how painful and embarrassing the experiences may have been. I was grateful for my family, for my health, for my friends, for the opulent mountains, the turquoise skies, the strangers around me who were far more than kind to me. I was thankful for this experiences, and above all, I was thankful for being able to run.

“The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.” Michael Josephson

Despite the temperatures, there were so many happy runners out there. Some were forced to run, while others cruised down the hill. Many of the vans running adjacent to us on the side of the road cheered us on and there was a team that made sure to get out every half mile or so and sprayed us runners with water. That five second water mist made the biggest difference! It almost dropped our core temperature by at least 15 degrees. The sun was so hot, it took split seconds for it to burn the surface of the skin.

I wanted to sing, “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music.”

With about 2 miles remaining, the unpaved path turned into a road and I was beginning to feel a rush of excitement. The furthest distance I had run in the last two and half months was four miles, but I was now at five and thankfully not feeling any pain in my foot at all. When there was one mile left and my foot still felt good, I knew I would be okay with the two remaining legs as they were less than 3 miles each.

Our living quarters traversing some gorgeous scenery.

There was so much joy within me when I reached mile seven and saw my teammate ahead waiting for her chance to run the Wasatch range. I ran up to her and slapped the orange bracelet on her wrist with much gusto! Once my leg was over, our van was scheduled to take a break until runners 7-12 made it back to the next exchange. I quickly headed back to the car to get a new clean pair of clothes and prepared for our night run.

This was our resting spot until close to midnight, when Van 2 finished their legs and we began ours. We started here when it was still light out, but once we lost complete strength of the sun, the air around us became extremely cloud and the grass beneath us made it difficult for our bodies to remain warm.

Leg 18 Distance: 2.3 miles with a rating of Easy.

Start Time: 4:18 A.M.

End Time: 4:39 A.M.

Actual Distance: 2.28 miles

Elevation Gain: 30

Elevation Loss: 8

Minimum Elevation: 5564 feet

Maximum Elevation: 5612 feet

Temperature: 45

Leg 18 RR2015

The temperature had dropped by 46 degrees, so one could say I was cold. I got very little sleep, so I was tired. It was dark, so I could not see where my feet were landing nor what was around me. Apparently, there was water nearby, but I never saw it. All runners were required to wear a reflective safety vest, a blinker light attached to it, and a headlamp. I did know the ground was soft and I was running on a dirt trail. My long sleeve Oiselle Flyte shirt and capris kept me warm and I was so happy I decided to pack a warmer running outfit. Because of the distance, I never actually got the opportunity to get hot. My leg was the closing leg for Van 1 and I knew Van 2 was right around the corner waiting for us. With about a mile left, the path changed from dirt to road. The stars were shining brightly over the clear opaque sky and there was very little movement around me. Once again, I was grateful to be out there and enjoying the companionship of the moon above me and the runners around me who were also cherishing their journey. When I reached Robyn (runner 7) I was once again grateful my foot did not hurt. My mind was wide awake, but my body was definitely tired. My teammates and I headed towards the next exchange and we all agreed to sleep inside the van.

Once my leg was over, we all agreed to sleep inside the van in order to remain warm. It was hard for me to catch any sleep because I could not find a comfortable sleeping position no matter how much I tried to turn my body into a pretzel.

Leg 30 Distance: 2.6 miles with a rating of Easy.

Start Time: 12:04 P.M.

End Time: 12:39 P.M.

Actual Distance: 2.72 miles

Elevation Gain: 481

Elevation Loss: 464

Minimum Elevation: 6715 feet

Maximum Elevation: 7202 feet

Temperature: 45

Leg 30 RR2015Hot, sweaty, excited, and ready to be done!! That is how I felt at the start of my final leg when Wendy, runner 5, handed the orange wristband to me. Once again, I was running on a trail, and unbeknownst to me, the trail was barely wide enough for one person.

Ready for my last and final leg! I had gotten so much sun, I had produced enough Vitamin D worth an entire Summer.

About 1/4 mile into it, the trail started climbing, and it got a little more challenging with rocks, branches and deep holes that could cause a deep sprain. I felt my chest getting heavier and my legs kept slowing down. Because all I could think about was how the run was labeled as easy, I was expecting for the climbing to plateau, but it didn’t. The further we went, the harder and trickier it got. I noticed runners ahead of me walking because the terrain was no longer friendly to rapid feet. As much I did not want to stop, I had to. It was a switch back trail, and the rocks were too big and the ground too uneven for me to even attempt to run. When I was a mile into the run, I felt myself getting irritated because I had no idea how much further we would be going. Easy was not the word I would have used to describe my leg. If anything, it was at least a challenging trail hike. At around 1.4 miles, I reached the summit with another girl, who was feeling the same way I was about the Easy description of the course. Our legs went from going up the hill to losing all the elevation we had just gained. We stayed as close together as possible and then we bumped into a little boy who had just earlier whizzed by us. He was on the ground and appeared to have hurt himself. We stopped and asked if he needed help, but he reassured us he was okay and that he just needed to catch his breath. The other runner and I moved on and we saw the exchange below. I tried to pick up the pace a little going downhill, but remained cautious so as not to fall and hurt myself. Once both my feet touched pavement, I made a right turn, and I could see my teammates cheering for me ahead and my heart filled with joy. When there was about 100 feet remaining, I took off my wristband and held it up high to demonstrate my enthusiasm and eagerness to hand it off.

Bringing Van 1 to its final journey and ready to hand off to Van 2. Can you see the look of excitement on my face? I was most looking forward to a shower where I could scrub off the layers of sunscreen off of my body.

The race exceeded my expectations! Not only was I in excellent company, I enjoyed one-of-a-kind views. The first portion of our race was actually very smooth with little to no traffic between transitions. We did not experience any congestion until we began our night legs, but it was understood given all of the teams were on the course by this point. There were portable bathrooms in every leg and driving markers for the vans were well marked. The finisher’s t-shirt is one I would totally wear again and the medal is absolutely sweet!

Hanging out at one of the exchanges and taking in some sun.

The only notable changes I would make pertain to the finish line and the exchanges between Vans 1 and Vans 2. It would be nice if coffee or some kind of pick-me-up beverage was offered, especially during the night transitions, when you find yourself fighting sleep. The finish line seemed very compressed and it was difficult to enjoy the scenery because it was a rather small space. While not an issue for me, some of my teammates were disappointed in the fact there was no beer at the finish line. I don’t know if this is a Ragnar issue or a setting issue (Utah). Finally, the leg descriptions to me were not very accurate. Just because a leg is 3 miles long does not necessarily mean it is easy, especially if half that distance requires climbing a steep and challenging trail. When your pace drops significantly to the point that you have to start walking, then I am not sure easy is a fair description of what to expect. Overall though, I would most certainly return to this course and do it all over again. My experience was positive and I will never forget my first time doing a Ragnar Relay.

Team Bird Machine finished in 36 hours and managed to get 3rd Plan in the Women’s Open! We were so happy to learn that our efforts actually put us into a third place position despite the fact that competing was not our goal.