January has been all about strength building, prepping for a national-caliber cross country meet, and landing my first gig as a runner model!

After enjoying some time off during the holidays, I got straight to work at the beginning of the year. I decided to sign up for the USATF National XC Championship taking place in Boulder, Colorado on February 7th. It will be extremely competitive and I may be a bit out of my league, but it will be a good racing experience to learn from. My coach built a training plan for me leading up to the race, and as he’s also planning to compete in Boulder, we’ve been meeting up on Fridays for various hill workouts in McMinnville, Oregon. McMinnville has some pretty incredible scenery. Our first workout took place in a cemetery with a sweeping view of Mt. Hood at sunrise, with fog rising over the surrounding grassy hills. The second workout took place in Miller Woods, surrounded by dense and dark trees with every footstep seemingly muted on the dirt trails covered in pine needles.

I spent this past week in Maui on vacation, and little did I know what a valuable training experience it would turn out to be. With the combination of the humidity and hilly terrain I was unaccustomed to, I was huffing and puffing through almost every single run. I had two fartlek (speed play) workouts scheduled during my time there, and “half marathon effort” and “5K effort” took on whole new meanings. Sometimes those efforts would mean 8:30/mile on an uphill and 5:45/mile on a downhill. My actual splits became meaningless, but I did my best to keep my efforts honest.

The only “flat” run I did during my time in Maui was at the Maui Oceanfront Half Marathon, an out-and-back course on a coastal highway. I had been planning to run 12 miles for my long run that week, but when I found out there was a half marathon happening that weekend, I decided it would be way more fun to add another 1.1 miles to my run with the benefit of having people to run with and water stations along the course. While I went into the race with the mindset of running for fun, I couldn’t help but scope out the competition and wonder who I could keep up with. As soon as the race started, some runners took off right away, including a woman that I saw for maybe all of three seconds, seemingly sprinting into the pre-dawn darkness. She went on to win in a blistering 1:18:41- that’s just a hair over six minutes per mile! I found a good group to run with, but noticed my breathing was becoming quite labored in only the first two miles. I let them go and trailed behind a bit, opening up a gap of about 20 seconds. I didn’t like the seeing the figures ahead of me get smaller and smaller, and I really didn’t like it when I got passed by two runners during that time. As I continued to run, my breathing wasn’t getting any more labored, and my legs, despite being quite sore from all of the hills that week, weren’t feeling more tired than they already were going into the race. I decided that I was better than where I was at and threw in a little surge to catch back up to the group over the next two miles. I began to pass runners one by one and eventually settled into a pace I felt I could maintain, finding that sweet spot between gliding and red-lining. I finished the race feeling strong and ended up placing 2nd overall female with a time of 1:29:32. I felt great about it. Just one or two years ago, that would have been an all-out race effort. This time, it was a training run in January!

Also this month, I got an unexpected invitation from Sarah “Mac” Robinson to come up to Seattle to model Oiselle’s Spring 2015 collection! I was more than thrilled, and of course said yes. I don’t have modeling experience, but Sarah explained that Oiselle hires their athletes as models as often as possible because they have that “healthy, strong, runner look.” How cool is that? I ended up spending a day in Seattle in the studio with the fantastic crew from Oiselle HQ, modeling the new looks and having an absolute blast. Some of the photos have appeared in the new arrivals section on Oiselle’s online shop, with many more to come!

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