Sunday, July 13, 2014

ZOOMA Napa Valley Race Recap

Back in January, I was honored to have been selected as an ambassador for the ZOOMA Napa Valley half marathon. I was not only going to run in my own backyard, but I was given a free entry (and received so many sweet goodies from the race sponsors: Altra shoes, Feetures Socks, Ultimate Direction, Muscle Milk & Cytomax, Ultima Replenisher, Honest Tea, and a shopping trip at Athleta) in exchange for promoting the race at expos, training runs and through social media. I was excited for the chance to be involved because the ZOOMA race series is unique in that it's a women's specific series that celebrates a happy, healthy and active lifestyle. There are so many races to choose from (especially here in Napa - it's crazy!), and it is nice to find one that caters toward the ever-growing number of female runners, some of whom are looking for that extra push they need to enter their first race. ZOOMA provides that fun, non-threatening push, and ZOOMA Napa Valley turned out to be a perfect event for all racers, new and experienced: the course was fast & flat, pacers and prizes motivated those chasing goals, and everything came together to provide a beautiful and fun morning out with girlfriends.

Race weekend started Friday with a small expo at the Napa Marriott where we picked up our race packets (a cute t-shirt, hat, and Feetures socks - great swag!) and attended a low-key pre-race mocktail party sponsored by Honest Tea. The orange creamsicle mocktail was quite delicious, and the party set the "girlfriend's getaway" tone for the weekend even though I was still in my own town.

The Athleta outfit I purchased at our private Ambassador shopping event - I love this skirt!
Race morning was well organized. Since I'm training for Santa Rosa, I wanted to run around 16 miles, so I ran a 1.5 mile warmup from a friend's house. It was a gorgeous morning - the sun was shining, and runners were treated to a colorful show of hot air balloons landing nearby. The race start was in a large parking lot with plenty of bathrooms (thank you!), and I found my friends, ambassadors and locals, snapped a couple pre-race photos, and anxiously made my way towards the starting line.

Jennifer ran her first half marathon, Sarah ran a PR, and Marci ran her first 10k 
Vinerunners (age group winners Eileen and Heather in the yellow & blue)
I had an ambitious goal of running 1:43-1:44. I'm in better shape than I've ever been, and if I want to hit 3:35 at the Santa Rosa marathon, I need to be running around that pace for a half. My realistic goal was to run sub-1:45, but I've been having trouble keeping up my race pace runs (8:00) during training, so I was feeling a lot of self-doubt. I'm not sure my self-doubt affected my performance, but I do know it was getting a little ridiculous and certainly wasn't helping.

My first mile started with a modest 8:12 pace. Surprised with the ease at which I felt, I picked up the pace for the next couple miles and ran a few sub-8:00's and steady 8:00's. The first three miles of the course were beautiful: Dry Creek Road and Orchard Avenue are picturesque Napa roads with ranch-style houses with large yards, small vineyards and gorgeous trees (we ran by the house where I got my chickens!). I was a little nervous that the roads weren't closed as Orchard doesn't have a shoulder, but I had plenty of space to run in the road without a traffic problem (One house was having a yard sale - were they not warned about the race?).

Solano Avenue was less scenic - it's parallel to the freeway, and, while not as much as I expected, there was some car traffic. By now, a woman had joined me for conversation, which, I hate to say, got a bit tiresome after a few miles.When I told her I was chasing a goal, she seemed to think it was her duty to keep me distracted with stories and pep talks. While she was very kind, and I really do appreciate her effort to motivate, I prefer to be in my own head when I'm racing. I'm way too polite to tell someone to stop talking to me, so mental note: next time I'm chasing a goal, wear headphones (except at Santa Rosa where Erin will be my official pacer, woohoo!).

Speaking of Erin, as I approached the turnaround, there she was, passing by looking strong. I actually really enjoy out & backs because I get a little pep in my step when I see other runners. It was also a wonderful distraction, not only from the boredom of Solano Avenue, but from Chatty Cathy, to call out cheers to all the ladies I knew as they passed by.

I didn't start dying until around mile 9. Up until this point, I had hoped to pick up the pace for the last few miles. But, I made two nutrition mistakes in this race: First, I didn't take any of the Cytomax at the water stops. For some reason, the energy drink didn't sound good to me, and I decided to listen to my body instead of drink what I knew I should have based on what I've learned from experience. Unfortunately, it was getting hot and I was sweating a ton, and I needed those electrolytes. By mile 9, it was too late; I knew I was dehydrated and was running out of energy fast. I felt like throwing up for a few miles, and as soon as I finished, I had to hold on to a table as my dizziness steadied. My second mistake was I ate a Gu too late in the race. I haven't had a Gu in a couple years, but I figured all energy foods are the same and didn't worry about switching things up. I immediately got a stomach cramp on the uphill stretch around mile 11, making that mile additionally painful.

Once I got to the top of Orchard Avenue, I felt slightly better and I knew it was a gentle downhill back, so I was able to pick up my pace again. Trying my best to just focus on form and the finish line, I thought about the crazy people running Western States that same day and a couple Vinerunner friends who were running Ironman the next day. Cathy raced me across the finish line, and I managed to finish in 1:45:53, 5 seconds faster than my previous PR set at Urban Cow last fall. Even though I'm in better shape now, I remember feeling much better at Urban Cow's finish. I have a feeling that if I had fueled and hydrated properly, I could have at least met my goal of sub-1:45. I'm not yet giving up on the 3:35 goal for Santa Rosa, but I am being realistic and I will be completely happy with a PR that reflects the strength I have gained since CIM in December. There's always another race to chase the BQ.

I was pleased to see so many friendly faces at the finish, and once I caught my breath and steadied my head, I was able to enjoy their company. My friend Marci confidently ran her first 10k race, and Sarah ran a PR (her 3rd in a row I believe). Many Vinerunner ladies did well and won age group awards, and after a bit of chatting, we slowly jogged back to the Marriott for the post race festivities. The hotel was lively with women taking dips in the pool, drinking wine and cocktails, and I was able to congratulate my fellow ambassadors on a job well done.
ZOOMA ambassadors, Erin, Lynda, Amanda, Rachel, Karen and Kara
While my performance was slightly disappointing, ZOOMA did a fantastic job with their inaugural Napa Valley race. If I were to offer suggestions, I'd love a closed course that doesn't run along Solano Avenue and an earlier start time to beat the heat, but I'm a spoiled local, and these suggestions hardly muster up to the overall great quality of the race. These ladies know how to pamper women and provide the setting for a fun, laid-back race-cation. Thank you ZOOMA - it's been a blast, and I'll be back next year!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Run the SF Marathon with the Pebble smart watch!

The San Francisco Marathon is just over a month away! As an ambassador, I was recently given an opportunity to try out a Pebble smart watch. Pebble, a local SF company, has partnered with the SF Marathon and will launch a Race Day App, specifically for Pebble watch wearers to track their progress on race day. (All race registrants can receive $20 off the Pebble watch, and those subscribed to the TSFM newsletter can receive $10 off - find the details here)

The Pebble watch faces are customizable, so you can create your own or choose from hundreds of  creative options
The watch syncs with my iPhone via bluetooth, and acts as a display for many of my phone's features. The first few days I wore my watch, I didn't do much but check the weather, check Facebook messages and receive compliments from my students (12 year olds know what's up in the latest tech trends!).  I love being able to check my messages without having to rummage through my bag or (gasp!) get off the couch to find my phone. The Pebble watch allows for eight apps to be loaded at a time, and while there are apps to receive news, play games, receive calendar notifications, and set reminders, many are fitness related. One of my favorites is the simple 7-minute workout, but there are pedometers, sleep trackers and other fitness tracking apps as well.

While there are many uses for the watch, the intention of the SF Marathon and Pebble partnership is to use it as a running tool. Because it syncs with the phone, the watch can act as a display for the data being tracked using your running app of choice. While I already use a GPS wristwatch, I can see the draw of the Pebble for runs when I like to have my phone with me (which is quite often: on trails, when I'm far from home, or at a race):
  1. It's compatible with any of the running apps you already use. While some apps, like RunKeeper, have a specific Pebble watch app that allow you to control more features from your wrist, you can still use your favorite running apps (Nike, Strava, etc.) with the Pebble using the AeroTracker app for basic tracking of time, distance and pace. Once I start Strava on my phone, I just have to press start on my watch, and AeroTracker uses my phone's GPS. 
  2. You can see who is calling or texting you from your wrist. When I carry my phone, and I hear the beep that someone is calling or texting, I always want to check who it is even though I'm pretty sure it's not an emergency. Now, I can just glance at my wrist without pausing my workout. 
  3. You can control your phone's music through your watch. Turning up or down the volume or skipping songs can be done without having to stop or pull out your phone.
  4. It's cheaper (than most GPS watches)- the Pebble costs $150, and while the Garmin Forerunner 10 costs less, it also does less. I wonder how many people run with their GPS watch AND their phone? If you're going to do that anyway, why shell out more money for a GPS watch? The Pebble syncs with your phone, so not only can you track your time, pace and milage, you can enjoy the other Pebble perks as well.

    There are many more uses for the Pebble that I haven't taken advantage of yet, and every time I open the app in my phone, I discover more. It's a great looking multi-use watch that I intend to continue using for work and play, even after race day! 

    Friday, June 20, 2014

    ZOOMA Napa Valley Runner Report: Me!

    ZOOMA Napa Valley is just one week away, and to conclude our Runner Reports, each ambassador is responding to the questions herself. So, go ahead and read through my answers and click through the links at the end to read about the other ZOOMA ambassadors!

     The ZOOMA Napa Valley Ambassadors are excited to bring you our “ZOOMA Napa Valley Runner Report!” Each week we’ll be featuring a ZOOMA Napa Valley half marathon or 10K runner on each of our blogs. As women runners, we want to use our role as Ambassadors to highlight and share the stories behind the incredible women preparing to run ZOOMA in June. Each runner has a special and unique story, and we invite you to learn about our runners through this series. Please feel free to click through the links at the end of each post to read about additional ZOOMA racers.

    Runner Report: Me! (Miriam)

    Age: 31

    Current City: Napa, CA

    Race: Half Marathon

    Why are you running ZOOMA Napa Valley?

    ZOOMA is a celebration of friendship, support and positivity in running. Plus, it's in my own backyard, and you can't beat a 10 minute drive to the race start!

    When & why did you start running?

    At age 26, I realized I was unhealthy and unhappy and needed a change.  Seeking friendship and encouragement, I joined Team in Training and signed up for the Portland Marathon. This was one of the two best decisions of my life. Not only did I accomplish something I previously thought impossible, I found friendship, confidence, and so much more. I haven't stopped running since. (Feel free to read the long version of my running story)

    How many races have you done & which was your favorite?

    I've run 34 races since 2009, and my 35th is tomorrow :) Maybe tomorrow's will be my favorite.

    If you could pick one celebrity to run with, who would it be & why?

    I really can't pick anyone.  Bono is my biggest celebrity crush, but I would probably get tired of him talking too much. 

    What is your favorite running memory?

    Running across the St. John's Bridge in Portland during my first marathon. I think it was around mile 17 or 18. My legs were dead, but my mind was elated as I took in the sweeping view of the river. It was my first runner's high.

    What is your one running must-have?

    My Garmin watch. I've set some lofty goals for myself this year, and I'm obsessed with the data. And a hat. I have crazy hair.

    What is your favorite post-run indulgence?

    After a satisfying run, there's nothing like a cold beer. But after a satisfying race, I have to indulge in a Gott's black & white milkshake.

    Who is your running inspiration?

    The ladies of Team in Training, the Vinerunners, the SFM and ZOOMA ambassadors - I've met so many diverse people who otherwise would never have met if not for their shared love of running. That shared passion is inspiring.

    What is the most important lesson you have learned from running?

    Running has taught me gratitude more than anything - each and every time I step outside, I feel lucky to have the life I have, the legs I have, the lungs I have. I live in a beautiful world, I'm healthy, I surround myself with people who I love and who love me in return. I can take my first few steps feeling tired, insecure or stressed, and I always end my run knowing that everything will be just fine, and for that I am so grateful.

    Want to read about more of our amazing ZOOMA ambassadors? Check them out here:

    Amanda on Running on Waffles
    Karen on Reason to Play
    Nicole on The Slow Life

    Monday, June 9, 2014

    TSFM Week 10 & SRM Week 5

    I know I've skipped two weeks of training updates, but the last couple weeks of school were so busy, and I'm drained of energy at the moment. I'm sure that after a little R&R as I ease into summer vacation, I'll be in the mood to write more frequently. To sum up the past two weeks: I've been logging a lot of miles, I've been successful in my goal marathon pace miles, and I've been strength training and eating mostly well. Things are good, and I'm at least looking at a PR, if not a BQ!

    Monday - Plan: 3 miles easy w/ 3 strides. Actual: rest

    Tuesday - Plan: 8 miles hills. Actual: 7.7 miles on the track with 8x800 repeats. My 800s were slightly slower than what they should have been for a 3:30 marathon, but I stayed with the pack and ran consistently each repeat.

    Wednesday - Plan: 5 miles easy (8:43 pace). Actual: 4.3 miles at 11:59 pace (Ran with the ZOOMA training group).

    Thursday - Plan: 8 miles with 6 at MP. Actual: 8.5 miles with 5.5 at MP. GMP is starting to feel easier, but I still can't imagine running it for 26 miles.

    Friday - Plan: rest. Actual: QSR

    Saturday - Plan: 4 miles easy. Actual: Lynch Canyon Trail Run (amazing run! Will hopefully write a recap soon).

    Sunday - Plan: 16 miles LSD. Actual: Recovery 4 miles & QSR.

    Total: Plan: 44. Actual: 37.4 miles, 2 x QSR

    Monday, May 19, 2014

    TSFM Week 7 & SRM Week 2

    Before getting into my weekly recap, check out my review of the Bracketron TruRunner belt over on my friend Mike's blog, Alameda Runners. I'm new to the "gear review" genre, but Mike was generous to set me up with some new items, and it's fun to try out products from brands I'd otherwise never use. Let me know what you think!

    So... the word of the week was HOT.

    I don't know how many times I'm going to write HOT in this post, but it's probably safe to say double digits (triple digits??). Last week I was so excited about being able to run right on pace - but this week, that definitely wasn't the case. I slowed waaaaay down. But running slowly in the heat is better than just skipping the run altogether, right?

    I ran my first marathon pace run this week (on a hot afternoon), and it left me worried about what's to come. I know I'm still in the early days of training, school is almost out and I'll be able to run in the morning when I know I run better and it won't be as hot, and I'm stronger and faster than I've ever been before ...but I'm very much aware that this goal is a stretch for me. It doesn't mean I'm giving up - it just means that this might be the first of many BQ attempts, and while I'll be bummed, it won't be the end of the world if I don't end up going to Boston in 2015.

    Monday - 4.5 miles at 9:30 pace & QSR #5 advanced. Ran this in at least 90 degree afternoon heat.

    Tuesday - 10 hill repeats for a total of 5.5 miles at a 10:00 pace. Again, heat.

    Wednesday - Took a needed rest day. Did nothing.

    Thursday - Schedule was to run 6 miles with 4 at marathon pace. I ran 6 miles, but my MP miles were not at pace. My splits were: 8:07, 8:02, 8:23, 8:30. Let's remember: it was hot, it was afternoon, I was tired. It will be interesting to see how I compare this week with 6 miles at MP at a cooler temperature. I followed the run with a little strength training at the climbing gym.

    Friday - QSR #6 advanced & scheduled rest day.

    Saturday - 5 miles easy (8:33 pace. That's more like it)

    Sunday - 12.2 Long Slow Distance, 9:11 pace. This run was right on, and I easily could have run faster.

    Total: 33.2 miles, 3 strength, 1,841 ft climb (and should I say it again: this week was HOT??)

    Speaking of brands that are new to me, Feetures is a sponsor of ZOOMA, and they sent me an awesome swag bag. I had a chance to try their socks this weekend, and I love them! Not only are the colors cute, but they are soft and compress perfectly around my feet. I'm excited that everyone signed up for ZOOMA gets a free pair!

    Friday, May 16, 2014

    ZOOMA Napa Valley Runner Report: Brooke Reiley

     The ZOOMA Napa Valley Ambassadors are excited to bring you our “ZOOMA Napa Valley Runner Report!” Each week we’ll be featuring a ZOOMA Napa Valley half marathon or 10K runner on each of our blogs. As women runners, we want to use our role as Ambassadors to highlight and share the stories behind the incredible women preparing to run ZOOMA in June. Each runner has a special and unique story, and we invite you to learn about our runners through this series. Please feel free to click through the links at the end of each post to read about additional ZOOMA racers.

    Runner Report: Brooke Reiley

    Age:  32

    Current City:  Jacksonville, FL

    Race (10K or half marathon): ZOOMA Director of Operations

    Why are you running ZOOMA Napa Valley?

    Oh how I wish I could run one the ZOOMA races! I am one of the “brains behind the operation” You will see me on race day setting up supplies, answering questions, on my phone and then hopefully, relaxing at the post race party! My team and I will be there early early early to make sure it is an awesome race for the ZOOMA nation.

    When & why did you start running?

    Honestly, I was never a fan of running until my sister, Brae (ZOOMA Founder) and Tricia (ZOOMA Community Manager) convinced me to sign up for a 5K a couple of years ago. I had worked on organizing races and started to feel “left out” because I wasn’t truly a part of the sport. It took a while for me to start to enjoy it, but eventually I found myself seeing people running in my neighborhood and feeling jealous when my schedule  didn’t permit me to be out there! I also have found it to be a great stress reliever when I just need to blow off some steam (and get away from my family!)

    How many races have you done & which was your favorite?

    My number is embarrassing, as I have only run in 3 races so far. It’s funny that I have organized countless races for others, but never set out time for myself to participate. My goal for 2015 is to get more involved in the “participation field.” Who knows, maybe one of these days you will see me running at ZOOMA race!

    If you could pick one celebrity to run with, who would it be & why?

    Oh geez – that’s a hard one as I’m not sure any celebrity would want to run with me! If I had to choose, I would say Jimmy Fallon because he would have me laughing the whole way and I would hopefully forget any pain I was in at the time.

    What is your favorite running memory?

    Running in Central Park with my sister

    What is your one running must-have?

    My ipod and headphones – If I’m running solo, I have to have my music!

    What is your favorite post-run indulgence?

    That would have to be pizza.

    Who is your running inspiration?

    Brae Blackley, my one and only sister :)

    What is the most important lesson you have learned from running?

    That you can do anything you put your mind to. I really love that you get out of running what you put into it. You are the only one that can push yourself harder and further. No one else can do it for you. That is really an awesome feeling. It is something that is all your own.

    Want to read about more of our amazing ZOOMA runners? Check them out here:

    Jess on Running on Waffles

    Are you running ZOOMA Napa Valley and would like to be featured in our Runner Report series? Email for more information!

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    TSFM Training Week 6, SRM Week 1

    This post is a little late, but it's an important one. I'm officially training to qualify for Boston! I just completed week 1 of Runner's World's Break 3:30 16-week plan for the Santa Rosa Marathon, and even though I just started and I have a long road ahead, I feel great. It's hard to believe that just a couple months ago I was complaining about my knee, fearing I'd never run again, and here I am now, stronger and faster than ever. Patience really is my friend... I'm 99% certain that I'm recovered, and I've successfully implemented strength training and foam rolling into my regular routine (I learned my lesson). I'm reading up on marathon nutrition, and am making small adjustments to my diet to reach my ideal race weight. I'm feeling awesome right now, and I can't wait to see what I'm capable of this summer!

    Monday - My plan called for 4 miles easy (8:48 pace), but I decided rest from The Golden Gate Relay was more important. I ran my heart out at the Relay (and ran my first sub-8 minute pace), and my body crashed - I couldn't sleep, my calves tightened up, I felt depressed, and my immune system felt defenseless. Rest was what I needed.

    Tuesday - Plan: 4 miles easy. What I did: Ran Level 1 workout at the track, which totaled 4 miles and averaged 8:36 pace. We ran a warm-up, strides, 1000, 800, 600, cool down.

    Wednesday: Plan: 6 miles hills. What I did: 4 miles at 8:37 pace. Swapped today's hill run for tomorrow's easy run. Also completed advanced forms of Quick Strength for Runners (QSR going forward) workout #3.

    Thursday: 6 miles at 8:35 pace. I was supposed to run hills, but it was only about 100ft. I'm pretty sure Sunday's run made up for that though.

    Rocking my TSFM gear!
    Friday: QSR #4 advanced.

    Saturday: Easy 5 at 8:38 pace.

    Sunday: 10.4 in Skyline at 11:03 pace with 1,827 feet of elevation gain. Whew! So fun!

    Skyline group - with views of the valley and Mt. Tam
    Total: 29.4 miles, 2 strength workouts. I am very pleased with this week, and am actually quite surprised with my relay recovery. I was dragging Monday and Tuesday, but once I got a good night's sleep, I was fine. I'm also pleased that even though my easy runs are sub-9:00, they still actually feel easy. Now I just need to beat this heat!