XC, Maui, and Modeling

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!

Daring to Dream in 2015

My running goal for 2014 was to make it to the start line of the Boston Marathon on April 21st in one piece. I began the year dealing with an injury, and the future was a fuzzy blur into the unknown.

The first few months were spent rehabbing, cross training, and gradually introducing running back into my routine with the help of my coach Jerret Mantalas and my PT Jonathan Eng at Portland Athletic Center of Excellence (P.A.C.E.). Though seemingly against all odds, I made it to the start line in one piece, ran the race with no pain or problems at all, and finished happy in 3:22:31. It was more than I could have ever asked for.

Another special thing that happened at Boston was getting to meet Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher, two of my favorite pro runners that just happen to run for my favorite running apparel company, Oiselle. I’d felt a connection to the Seattle-based brand since being introduced to their clothing in 2009 while working at Portland Running Company. Their clothing stuck out because of their chic, runway-inspired designs and flattering silhouettes. Seeing all of the amazing ways the company had grown over the years by developing an elite team, speaking out for athletes’ rights, and connecting a huge network of like-minded (fierce, competitive!) female athletes all over North America, had me longing to be part of it. Not long after Boston, I reached out to Kristin Metcalf, the team manager, to see if they had room for one more on the team. To my delight, she said yes, and even asked me to be an Oregon team leader!

After successfully running and finishing Boston Marathon, I felt like I was “back”. I went on to run a new road PR in the 5K at the Bowerman 5K in June, and then a few weeks later ran an all-time PR of 18:25 at the TrackTown 5K in Eugene, Oregon. When I began to think about what was next, I thought of my lifetime goal, a somewhat farfetched dream of qualifying to participate in the US Olympic Marathon Trials. The minimum required time for a female to qualify for the 2016 trials, aka the ‘B’ standard, is to run a marathon faster than 2:43 before January 13th, 2016. That’s really, really fast. 6:13 per mile fast. But I like to dream big! I figured the next logical step to take whittle away at my PR, which at the time was 3:13 from the 2013 Vancouver Marathon. I decided my next goal would be to run under three hours.

I planned for my goal race to be the Philadelphia Marathon on November 23rd, with the Portland Half Marathon on October 5th serving as a check point along the way. My training got off to a bit of an unexpected start as my coach Jerret and I decided to part ways. He had just accepted a full-time position as interim head coach at Concordia University and understandably would be putting all of his energy and focus there. I felt pretty lost at first; I had had a ton of success with Jerret, as I had run a PR in every distance from 1500m to the marathon in the two years I had worked with him. He recommended that I get in touch with Greg Mitchell, a college coach and national-caliber distance runner from McMinnville. I’m going to brag about Greg for a moment- he has run ten marathons between 2:20 and 2:27, holds the American Master’s 20K track record, and capped off the 2014 cross country season as USA XC Club Master’s Champ. He also happens to be extremely humble, positive, and encouraging. Lucky for me, he was game to take me on.

I had immediate success working with Greg. We had about a month to prep for the Portland Half Marathon and I ended up lowering my PR from 1:28:56 to 1:25:24. As I continued to train for the Philly Marathon, I felt more and more confident about my sub-3 hour goal. The training plan Greg made me was focused on strength based workouts, lots of practice at race pace, and long runs at a slightly faster pace than I was used to, including a whopping 24 mile long run. All of the hard work paid off and I ended up finishing the Philly Marathon in 2:59:22. Check and check!

Last year, looking ahead to 2014 seemed a bit bleak. It ended up being my best running year in every way. When I look ahead to 2015, the possibilities seem endless. My goal is kind of crazy, but no matter what happens, I’m just excited to get out there and see what I can accomplish. Here’s to the new year!

Birds of a Feather

The word’s out- I am a member of the Oiselle Volée Team! Oiselle (pronounced wa-zelle) is a women’s running apparel company based in Seattle, WA and their Volée team is comprised of 250 competitive and recreational runners from all over the US.

While I’m new to the team, I’ve been a bird nerd (ha) for quite some time. I first came across Oiselle apparel at Portland Running Company in 2009, just two years after the company launched. I was blown away by their use of color, design, and silhouette to create a look that was both athletic and chic. Oiselle apparel quickly became a staple in my running wardrobe.

I developed a more personal connection to the brand after getting to meet Sally Bergesen, Oiselle’s founder and CEO, along with a few other team members + friends during a visit to Seattle a few years ago. I joined them for an eight mile run at the crack of dawn, followed by a live NYC Marathon viewing party right in Sally’s living room. First of all, it was such a treat to meet Sally. She is an incredibly smart, kind, and down-to-earth person. Second of all, it was so cool to meet other women who found running for an hour, followed by watching OTHER people run for several hours, to be fun. I’ve also had the honor of meeting Kristin Metcalf, the fabulous Oiselle team manager, at several track and xc meets, and most recently the Eugene Marathon. I can tell you she is always the most supportive and enthusiastic cheerer out there.

It’s been really exciting to see how the company has continued to develop in the past several years. Along with bringing 2x National Champion Lauren Fleshman and Olympian Kara Goucher on board in recent years, Oiselle has made a huge effort to bring more attention and fandom to the sport in a way that’s accessible. They’ve been fervent about keeping fans updated on important national and world class events via their blog and social media, and openly show support and give attention to athletes all over the spectrum. They’ve also made waves in the world of American road racing and track & field by being vocal about issues within the sport and the way it is governed. Runner’s World wrote a fantastic article on Oiselle that includes more on this.

What I love most about Oiselle, aside from their amazing clothing, is their passion for the sport of running and the community around it. Their message has always been to lift up and empower all athletes, regardless of brand affiliation or gender; whether they’re elites or weekend warriors. That’s something I can stand behind. I’m so proud to represent Oiselle!

Why Boston?

Last year, the evening before the 2013 Boston Marathon, I was home in Portland, going for a quick jaunt around the waterfront loop. While I wasn’t physically in Boston, I specifically remember feeling a sort of magic in the air. I was the only runner out there. The city was quiet and the air was hauntingly still. It was the calm before the storm.

I was feeling positively giddy in anticipation of following the race online the next morning to cheer on friends, colleagues, Portland Running Company teammates, college teammates, coaches, and my all-time running heroes Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan. To me, the Boston Marathon is the biggest sporting event of the year. As I ran around my familiar running loop, I tried to channel the excitement and nerves my fellow runners in Boston were probably feeling just as they were winding down to go to sleep before their big day.

The next morning I had a great set up- a live stream of the elite race on one tab, a website tracking all of the runners I knew personally on another tab, the Runner’s World live updates on another tab, then following @flotrack and various other handles on twitter mobile. It was an emotional morning of witnessing struggles and triumphs. I was so incredibly inspired and proud of everyone. As I was waiting for the last few people I was tracking online to cross the finish line, I refreshed my twitter feed for probably the thousandth time that morning, and my heart dropped. There had been an explosion at the finish line. No, wait, now two explosions. I quickly jumped back on my computer to check the news and there was nothing. It had literally happened within the past minute or two. As I refreshed my twitter feed, photos of the scene emerged and I knew whatever happened was serious. It dawned on me that a pretty enormous amount of people that are part of my community and from all different parts of my life could have been near the explosions, and I had no idea if they were injured, or worse. I texted anyone whose number I had to make sure they were safe. I heard back from some, but not all. I then began to receive texts from concerned friends who thought I might have been there, followed up by a few that read along the lines of, “Good, you scared the shit out of me!” The rest of the day was a waiting game. I had spent the morning glued to my computer and phone waiting to see how my friends and fellow runners would fair in a footrace. For the rest of the day I was glued to the same screens waiting to find out if those same people were alive.

Thankfully, everyone I knew was safe and physically well. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel shaken that an attack of that magnitude would hit so close to home. It directly affected my community. The people that piece together almost every part of my life, and not just runners. I ran Boston in 2011 and both of my parents were cheering for me on the homestretch, just near where the bombs went off. So what happened last year, despite whatever reasoning there was behind it, was extremely personal.

The next evening, Tuesday, April 16th, I went out for a run on that same familiar waterfront loop that I had run on alone the night before the race. It was different that time. There were tons of runners out there, donning yellow and blue, wearing Boston Marathon finisher shirts from years past, and some wearing their finisher shirts from the day before. There were people carrying American flags and many wearing race bibs printed with the number 415. As I ran by them we nodded at each other, and I noticed that even people out walking or driving by in their cars would give the runners a little nod or a wave. It turned out that everyone was congregating on the east side of the waterfront for a group run that had been quickly put together after the events of the day before, to mourn the lives that had been lost and as a sort of show of solidarity among the running community. I was never so happy to see so many familiar faces- those who had returned from Boston, my personal running buds, and even just people I recognized from local races, group runs at Portland Running Company, and track workouts at Duniway Park. It was then that I knew I had to run the 2014 Boston Marathon. Not for myself, but because I’m part of something much, much bigger.