Mesa-Phx Marathon 2017

Better late than never! I’m finally recapping my Feb. 25th marathon, the BMO Harris Mesa-Phoenix Marathon. I ran this same marathon in 2015, and this year I ran a PR of 18 mins. (3:37 – 3:19) In 2016 I ran two marathons. (RnR AZ 3:40) (Mountains 2 Beach – CA 3:42) Obviously both were disappointing races at the time, but looking back I am so thankful for these races. These were experiences I needed to learn from and to grow. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had these struggles.

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I have never ran a marathon or possibly any race, regardless of the distance, and not looked back in the days that followed with some sort of what if’s. I would think about all the little moments in the race where I could have saved a sec off my time, or done something differently that could have made my race better. This was the first race I can say I there is nothing I regret or wish I had done differently. When I reflect on it I’m completely content and amazed that I ran a sub 3:20. I knew I could do it, but there were times during the marathon that the goal seemed fleeting. I’m not saying I did everything perfect during this marathon, I did not negative split the race like I was hoping to do. However, I know I held back when I needed to, and I know I pushed and dug deep when it really counted.

Miles 1-4 “The Start”

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This can be one of the crucial parts to having a great race. Going out too fast early can be detrimental in the later miles. It is hard to think ahead in the early part of the race. Who wants to think about mile 20 when you are on mile 2? I had to tell myself there is a lot of race to go, just keep calm. The first 4 miles of this race are mostly downhill so it is even harder to hold back because it feels too easy! I kept my pace right where I needed it, coach said no miles faster than 7:30 in the first half.

Miles 5-9 “The Hill”

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Starting at mile 5 there is a “nice” hill, and it seems like it will never end. I swear every time I run this hill it gets longer and longer, and in the race it seemed like it was going on forever. The hill in reality is about 1.5 miles long. I knew my pace would drop about 15-30 secs per mile, and it only slowed about 10 secs. I was happy about my effort going up the hill. Right after the uphill is a long downhill section, and it can be easy to want to fly down this to make up time. I kept myself under control and maintained an easy pace, maybe a tad fast, especially on mile 8, oops!

Mile 10-15 “Getting over the hump”

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I felt great thru the midway point. I knew what I wanted my half split to be around (1:38), and it was right on. Around mile 14-15 I could tell my legs were starting to get fatigued, and I would have to start mentally dialing into the race more in order to keep my pace where I needed it to be.

Mile 16-19 “The countdown to mile 20”

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I was still feeling “ok” and I was running with the 3:25 pace group for a little while. I think that pacer went out pretty fast in the first half, which is why I was still hanging back with them. It is always better running with a group and not having to mentally think about your pace, but eventually I had to leave the group and keep my pace up as their pace was not as fast as I needed to reach my goal. During these miles it is just a mental countdown to get to mile 20.

Mile 20-25 “One mile at a time”

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These miles are of course the hardest miles of a marathon. Once I get to mile 20, mentally I just tell myself to get to the next mile. It is just one mile at a time from here to the finish. I knew I wanted my time to be around 2:30 at mile 20, and it was 2:33. That may seem ok, but I knew when I looked at my watch I was at least a min or two off, and making up time in the last 6 miles is almost nearly impossible. This was when I first started to have doubts of the sub 3:20 happening.  It was hard for me to keep my pace mostly because my legs would not move! It is also hard to keep pace if there isn’t a pace group or another person around that you can latch onto that is keeping a pace you need. I didn’t really have anyone around holding a pace I needed so mentally it was hard, and I struggled at times. A few bad miles (21-23) where my pace slowed 30 secs. It’s so hard to stay positive and focused and keep pushing when you know your pace is slipping. The only thing you can do is find something deep inside to motivate you to push past your pain barrier.

Mile 26 “The final Mile”

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Look at that pace! I knew I was right on the edge of the 3:20 cutoff. I was trying to do all the mental math and figure out if there was anyway possible to make it. I did not want to give up no matter what! Thank goodness for the downhill section about half a mile from the finish. I was fighting for every single second at this point. When I came up the final stretch to the finish I could see the race clock still had 3:19 on it, and I knew if I kept pushing I could make it. AND I DID! 3:19:44

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I absolutely love this race. It was my very first marathon, and it was just as great two years later as my 4th marathon. Will I be back in 2018? I hope so….

 

 

Monthly Box Subscriptions

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I’m a total sucker for monthly box subscriptions. I just love getting a package in the mail, and trying new goodies I wouldn’t normally purchase or try on my own. So when the running box subscriptions became more and more popular I had to give a few of them a try. I first subscribed to Stridebox, and have been receiving this box for about 3 months now.


I absolutely love this box. First of all the price is just right, $15 a month cannot be beat. They only offer a month-to-month subscription, which means no long term contracts. I love this because you can cancel anytime. StrideBox incorporates nutrition, body care, and a running accessory into each box. With each box containing 4-6 items. I find this box to be a super value, and a fun way to be introduced to items you wouldn’t normally try or even know existed.
After a few months of receiving this box I naturally grew curious as to what some of the other running box subscriptions had to offer and how they compared. After looking into a few, I decided to try out RunnerCrate.

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This box has a higher monthly price, $35, so my expectations were high. They do offer 3-12 month prepaid subscriptions at a reduced price. Also, a mini “warm-up” crate is offered for $16. This box seems to focus more on running snacks, gear and running challenges. I just received my very first box this month, and was highly impressed. Runner Crate is partnered with brands such as Honeystinger, Saucony, Wild Friends, and Tailwinds. These are popular brands and I actually already use a few of them so I’m hoping these brands keep showing up in future boxes!!

Here is a look inside my March StrideBox:

I received 6 items in this month’s box!! Three nutrition items, 2 body care items, and a running recovery tool. The recovery tool, a massager actually works great! I’m thinking of keeping it in my purse to use on the go. I also received a lip balm and cleansing wipes, which are staples for any runner. The snacks included were a cookie, Honey Stinger waffle and an energy gel. I’ve used Honey Stinger waffles in the past, and they are a great product. I’m excited to try out the other two items.

Each box contains a product listing that says what each item is used for,  how much it retails for, and how you can buy the product if you love it. The box also contains another double sided card, one side has a recipe submitted by an athlete and the other side has a running workout. I love trying new healthy recipes so I actually enjoy this feature of the box.

Here is a look inside my March Runner Crate:

This month’s box had 12 items! Double that of the Stride Box which is about right considering the price is a little more than double.

I get the impression this box focuses a lot more on snacks. The majority of the items are nutrition items – 10 of them to be exact. There is a body care item which is FULL size, it is a deodorizing spray that can be used in shoes, gloves, bags, etc. I don’t have anything like this so I’m super happy to receive this item.  The other non-food item is a running belt, I don’t really use running belts, but I’m going to check this one out and give it a try at some point. The nutrition items sent in this box included Honey Stinger bars and waffles, Bravo bars and Noka smoothie drinks.  Also, Amino freeze pops, which is such a cool idea and great for a recovery after a hot summer run. Living in AZ these will definitely be amazing during the summer!

A card listing all the items, the retail value, and how to reorder is also included in this box. On the back side of the card is the monthly running challenge, and also a list of deals on other products, and a few coupon codes for discounts.

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It is so hard to actually compare the boxes to each other because they are so different. I told myself I would cancel the subscription I was less impressed with, but they both have wonderful things to offer I am going to keep both for a while longer and see if one actually impresses more in the long run. I would say for the value the Stride Box definitely has a lot to offer for only $15 a month.

There are other running box subscriptions that I have not given a try. Runners box is one of them that seems popular. I have to say I’m really happy with these subscriptions. The amount and quality of items has exceeded my expectations. If you are open to trying new products and seeing what cool new running gear is out there then a subscription box might be fun for you to try! It would also make a great gift for the runner friend or family member in your life!

Learning to Race…not just running a race

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This past weekend I ran my 13th half marathon, the RnR AZ, and set a new PR of 1:35:29. I went into this race with hopes of getting a new PR, and estimated a finish around 1:37. So of course I was over the top ecstatic with how this race went. The one thing I’m most proud about though is not my actual finish time or the huge PR, but the fact that I am finally, after 6 years of running and 13 half marathons, understanding how to actually RACE.

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It is usually pretty easy for me at the start of a race to go out fast. As I cross the start line in any race it seems like everyone is flying past me, and the natural thing to do is to want to keep up with them. This race I really tried to hold back, I knew that for me personally I do better when I have a few slow miles at the beginning. My legs just take longer to get into a rhythm and if I start slow I feel much better mid-race. Below shows my actual splits for the half marathon, and the yellow sticky sheet was my race plan in a nutshell-written out.

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I’ve been running for about 6 years, but the last couple years I’ve been running consistently, and have gotten really serious with my running goals. Six months ago I started working with my amazing running coach who I owe my gains in running too!  This is the first coach I’ve ever had! LOL I did not grow up playing organized sports or any sort of team sport in school, so finding the competitive drive and mental toughness is something I am still working on learning.

During this race I had to dig deep not just physically but mentally. It was not easy holding these paces, and when it got tough a few mental mantras somehow popped in my head, and I just kept repeating them over and over…”I can do hard things” and then I would tell myself “this is not that hard!!” and “I feel so good and strong” I believe 100% staying positive and tricking your mind into believing something helps tremendously. The race was hard!! But if you tell yourself it’s hard and you are in pain then it will seem a million times harder and hurt 10x more!

I feel like I ran really smart, and that was key to having a great race. It was humid during the race, at least more humid than normal for AZ standards, so I took a sip of water at each water station. In past races I would not take one single sip of water! Crazy! Also, I had planned out in my head before the race when I was going to take my Honeystinger gels, and I stuck to the plan. I still get nervous taking gels, and it is easy for me to just keep putting off taking them during a race, but I forced myself to take them exactly when I said I would, and I felt great. I have been using Honeystiner gels in training and they work great for my stomach.

I felt strong throughout the race and all these small tweaks definitely helped! Each race is a learning experience. My goal is to keep learning how to race smart and strong!! And chasing more PR’s of course!

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Post Half Marathon RnR Az Jan 2017 

Rim 2 Rim ~ The Grand Canyon

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“One of the seven natural wonders of the world” and one of my favorite places on Earth. I just completed my third rim 2 rim Grand Canyon hike last weekend. This hike is so challenging and so rewarding each and every time I do it. I never get bored of it, and I cannot wait to plan the next one. This one day rim 2 rim hike took about 10 hours, and had an elevation gain of about 4,800 ft!

We started our journey on the North Rim at an elevation of 8,200 ft around 6 am in a foggy cold drizzle that soon turned into a steady rainfall. There were 6 of us girls, and most of us had done hiking in the canyon, however we had never had weather conditions quite like what we were experiencing at the start. About an hour into the hike some of the girls in the group were starting to worry about flash flooding in the canyon, and 4 of them actually made the decision to turn around and not do the rim 2 rim hike. So that left me and one other girl to keep going to see if the weather would improve a little further down. Lucky for us it did!! We had a successful hike and a great time!!

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One thing I love about the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is all the amazing bridges you walk over during the 14 miles to the bottom.

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Ribbon Falls is short detor off of the main trail to a 100ft mossy dome waterfall. The water spraying off of the rocks is very cooling and refreshing especially during the hotter hiking months. The temperature when we started our hike at the top of the North Rim was in the high 40’s and now close to the bottom the temperature was reaching 90 degrees. So cooling off at a waterfall is an added bonus.

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14 miles to Phanton Ranch, we stopped to refill our water and eat our lunch. We also bought lemonade at the small convience store. There were lots of people camping and lodging down here and passing thru on their hikes. The mules also carry mail supplies in and out. After Phantom Ranch it is about a mile to the Colorado River. There were river rafters beached when we passed by. Once you cross over the bridge over the river it is all uphill from there, and the trek up the South Kaibab trail begins.

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Hiking out the South Kaibab trail, is the more difficult option. It has zero water and no shade and it is practially straight up from 2000ft elevation to 7200 ft elevation over a course of about 6 miles. It is basically step after step after step, and it takes a toll on your legs. However, since there aren’t any switch backs it is about 3 miles shorter than the other Bright Angel Trail. I prefer the shorter trail because it saves about 2 hours.

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I absolutely cannot wait for my next hiking adventure in the Grand Canyon! It is like no other place on Earth!! The pain from the hike is temporary but the memories last a lifetime!

 

Recipe Wednesday

Spicy Southwest Chicken Salad

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If you love a good salad then keep reading because I have a delicious quick and easy salad recipe for you! It is spicy and full of flavor. This is my go to salad. I never get bored of it, and I eat salads for lunch almost every day of the week. This salad is great because you can throw whatever you like in it, and it will most likely taste great. Here is how I usually make mine….

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First I like to get the chicken started. I love buying the frozen grilled chicken breast strips. Nature Raised Farms brand is one I typically buy, it is pricey but they taste great and are so quick and easy. I heat a skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil, and then measure about a cup of frozen chicken strips and toss them into the skillet. I let them heat up a few minutes. Once they are mostly heated thru I add about a tablespoon of tamari or regular soy sauce, which ever you prefer, and depending on how spicy you like your food anywhere from a teaspoon to about a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce.  I really prefer the taste of the chili garlic sauce over sriracha but if you are a sriracha lover then that would probably work as well. Once you’ve added those two ingredients to the skillet, mix it all around to cover the chicken strips and let it heat thru a minute or two. Then remove from heat.

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While the chicken strips are heating, I try and throw my salad together. We are all busy and multi-tasking is key;) I love to combine different lettuce types when I make my salad. I usually use whatever lettuce I have in my refridgerator. I do typically keep on hand a bag of the Southwest Chopped Salad mix. This mix stays fresh a long time, and I love that it has cilantro and green onions in it. It also comes with a salad dressing that goes really well with this salad. I usually us a little of the southwest salad lettuce and either some romaine or spinach lettuce.

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Next it’s time to add the toppings. The Southwest Salad mix comes with tortilla strips and pumpkin seeds, so I add a few of those, or sunflower seeds. Other toppings I typically add are chopped carrots, red onion, and either feta or blue cheese, and a few slices of avocado if I have it on hand. Then I throw the spicy chicken on top and drizzle a little of the creamy cilantro salad dressing over (comes in the salad mix) or any ranch or blue cheese dressing, or which ever dressing you prefer would be great. Enjoy! This is such a flavorful salad. It is a cross between thai and southwest spicy flavors, and the flavors somehow blend so well together. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Ingredients:

For the chicken:

1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Tamari or Soy Sauce

1 tsp – 1 T Chili garlic sauce

1 Cup frozen chicken breast strips

For the Salad:

Lettuce of Choice – I like the Southwest Chopped Salad Mix and Romaine or Spinach

Toppings of Choice – carrots, red onion, avocado, feta cheese or blue cheese, sunflower seeds, tortilla strips / pumpkin seeds ( come with southwest salad mix), dressing of choice: I prefer the creamy cilantro dressing that also comes with the southwest mix ( FYI- I don’t normally use this dressing with other salads, it’s not my favorite, but it goes really well with this particular salad)

 

 

Racing a 5K ~ For the first time

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Waiting for the race to start

Believe it or not I just raced my first 5k last Sunday. Over the last 5 years I’ve ran multiple races… 15k’s, half marathons, and full marathons, but only one 10k and until a few days ago I’d never raced a 5k.

5k’s never appealed to me. I think mostly because I thought if I was going to pay for a race, and wake up at an obscene hour and go thru the hassle of getting to the race, I was going to run a distance that made it worth it, not a measly 3.1 miles.

Well, what the heck did I know! That was the old me. The new me is not just a steady long distance runner. I’m working on improving my pace and getting faster, and shorter distance races are defitinly going to be a part of that process.

The 5k race I ran was part of the the Arizona Road Racers Summer Series. I loved that the race was smaller in size, about 500 people registered. I was probably just as nervous for this race as I have been for a full marathon. Running fast does not come easy to me, and the thought of having to push the pace for 3 straight miles scared me death. My stomach was in knots the morning of the race. I did a 2 mile warmup on the course which was so helpful. I had never run in this area before so running a portion of the course gave me an idea of what to expect. After warming-up, stretching, and a little bit of standing around, it was time to start the race. I was ready to get running. My coach told me to start out slower and finish strong. It’s easy in 5k’s to  take off at a crazy pace in the beginning and then crash, which is not what I wanted to happen. It was hard to hold back in the beginning, I felt like I may have started out a little too fast. When I looked at my watch at about the half mile mark the pace was reading 7:05, so I backed off a little bit because I knew I had some hills to manage a head. The hills were tough and my pace dropped to around 7:50, but I regained speed on the down hill, and ended up finishing strong the last mile. The last half mile was probably the hardest. I couldn’t push it anymore and it was a struggle just to hang on and not stop. The race seemed so quick compared to what I am used to ruuning but the effort level is so much harder. I felt on the verge of puking the last half mile, and was just praying to keep it together until the finish line. However, 5 minutes after the race I felt great, and I definitely loved that recovery after a 5K is much quicker than a longer distance race!

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My official time was 23:36, I was really hoping to be in the 22’s but considering the temperature was in the 90’s and the course was hilly. I am happy with my time, after all it is a PR;)

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Happy Saturday!

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The crazy busy summer has left me MIA from my blog, however now that the kiddo is back in school, and I seem to have a routine somewhat established, I’m hoping to be back! I’ve still been running thru the summer heat. It’s definitely been a challenge, but I feel super accomplished to have kept up with my mileage this summer. This is the first summer I didn’t take a break from running during the super hot months. I have a few races on the calendar for late summer and early fall, and that has been my major motivation to get out and run. I’m so excited to run my very first 5K tomorrow!! Stay tuned for a post on that this week!

We took a family vacation to Padre Island, Texas in July. We absolutely love it there! We go at least a few times a year and it never disappoints. The water was warm and felt great. It’s also the perfect place to windsurf. If you have ever been curious about windsurfing it’s definitely the place to try it!

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Hope your summer is going fantastic! Happy Saturday! Happy Running!