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You all know I’m religious to an extent, raised Catholic in a Portuguese/Dutch family full of people who are hard headed and sturdy in their faith. I’ve always believed in God, but until my world changed drastically two years ago, I didn’t know if God was really listening. I know now that he is listening. He is listening loud and clear and keeps sending me the signs that I am on the correct path and headed right where he intends me to be.

I’m 19 days out from the Way Too Cool 50K (31 miles) on March 8, 2014. This is one of my favorite races, beautiful course, awesome volunteers and an overall amazing experience. I can’t wait to go out there and try to PR on this course after my 7:07 finish last year (hoping to break 7 hours this year). Yesterday was our 23 mile run in preparation for the race. I was running “solo” without two of my awesome running partners for the first time in a long time. I was a bit apprehensive about it but decided that I would just go for it and leave it all out on the course. So I started and the first 2 miles were AMAZING! I was flying down “roller coaster” feeling amazing, until the side cramp hit. What? What is this? I walked for a bit, stretched, drank a bunch of water, took some more electrolytes and tried to get moving again, but I couldn’t run the downhills. I was in so much pain in my deep abdominal muscles that I couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t let up. Being a massage therapist, I started doing some therapy on myself to try and loosen it up so I wouldn’t hurt so bad and could get running. No dice. It wouldn’t work. I could only run the flats and uphills but not the downs because you engage your abs so much. I spent the next 16 miles trying to get my abdominals right. It was very frustrating and painful as my entire body was tensing up due to the pain and discomfort I was fighting. Even in the pain I was only moving at about 2 minutes slower than I normally do so it could have been much worse.

Finally around mile 16 I got relief. Something had worked right, pressure point/massage work, food, water, who knows but it got better and I could kick it into high gear. This is also when I first saw the clouds part, the sun come out and felt the warmth on my face. I stopped, let out a sigh of relief and turned my face to the sky for a moment to just take in the beauty around me and feel the warmth of the sun. God was there with me as He had been in the whole run, but he was calming my fears, relaxing my emotions and reminding me that things happen for a reason. I can’t have amazing running experiences all the time, you have to have some bad ones to make you appreciate the good ones. The remaining 5 miles of the run were wonderful. I did have a bit of discomfort in my abdominals because they were so exhausted from fighting the true pain I was in earlier in the day, but I was able to finish at my normal pace and only 11 minutes off my goal time for the workout.

God works in mysterious ways. He challenges us with situations we think are right but shows us the way when they are not. He puts people in our life who make us happy and help us realize our true selves and keeps us on a path to where we should be. Two years ago my life was on a different path entirely and I can say that now my life is EXACTLY where it should be. 2014 is turning out to be my best year. I’m blessed with friends, family, co-workers and a dual-career I love so much. I’m also meeting new people left and right who are making my life more magical than I ever expected they could. Years ago I was a giving, loving, caring woman who put those around her first. Two years ago after some drastic changes in my life, I became very jaded and put myself before everyone else. I wanted to be selfish, so I was. That was never me, however, it was just my coping mechanism for all I had gone through. But, I have missed the old me and when 2014 started, I knew I was on the path back there. Then on my birthday God put someone in my life who has made me realize that I still am the giving, loving, caring woman I have always been, I just had to come back out into the world. This person in particular has brought me back to the woman I was years and years ago. He makes me realize I can give everything I have and be so happy when I do. I tell him every day how amazing he is and constantly thank him for changing my life for the better. Thank you MW.

God’s classroom of silence is ever welcoming to those who will listen. I’m putting my faith in God these days with running, relationships and life in general. With all the goodness in my life right now, he obviously knows what he is doing. 19 days from Way Too Cool. I’m ready. Bring it.

Eating Right

As most of you know, I’m an ultra marathon runner and this year have tasked myself with running another 50K (31 miles), another 50 miler and my first 100K (62 miles). In an effort to achieve this goal, I’ve taken to adjusting my diet to help me lose 10-15 lbs. I know, I know… “Laura, you don’t need to lose any weight!” I know. But for the muscle to weight ratio, and to run faster this year, I need to drop a few lbs. I think I look fine, but I want to be faster and hard work will get me there.

My boss and I had a conversation about weight loss right after the first of the year. He told me about how sugar is playing an awful role in our diets and how processed food is doing the same. I’m also reading the book Racing Weight and it talks a lot about eating more whole foods and not eating processed food. So, I took it upon myself to give up these items.

Now, my diet has been a bit modified, I still eat some condiments (ketchup with a hamburger patty, soy sauce on some rice, low fat mayo on my tuna fish) but I have cut out almost all sugar that is not natural goodness for me. I’ve done really well since I started cutting these items. I have cheated a couple of times (3 peppermint candies the other day, a mint one day at work) but mostly have maintained. 

Today was not one of those days. I kind of fell apart. It started with having Starbucks this morning with a co-worker. I went for it and had my usual soy white mocha. Yeah, not good. I was great at work all day, then I went grocery shopping. Yeah. Bad idea when you are hungry. I purchased a one serving bag of Pirate’s Booty (I ate it on the way home – no sugar in that so a small cheat) and Easy Mac. Yes, Easy Mac. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. 

You know what I realized when I was eating it though? It’s full of sugar, I knew that because I looked at the label before I dug in, but even more than knowing about it, I could TASTE the sweetness in the Easy Mac. It was like eating salt after cutting salt out of your diet… super salty… super sugary. Weird. I enjoyed it but not as much as I thought I would. And the worst part… I’m still hungry. Ugh.

But, I am down 2 lbs total at this point and hope to continue on that path as Ultra Marathon training continues. More miles, more hard work, more training. But less sugar. It’s making me feel good and healthy. I haven’t felt this good physically in a while. :) #trainhardrunharder

For the past few days I’ve been a bit quiet and annoyed (not like me at all). It has been almost a year since my ex-fiancé called off our engagement. While I know it was absolutely the right thing and I’m so glad we are both on different paths, the anniversary and pain associated with it still hangs in my memory. My mom told me the other day that some anniversaries are so bad we just want to stay in bed. True.

And now I find myself working in my favorite industry and surrounded by the last event he and I attended in public… Which has been a consistent reminder that I wasn’t expecting to bother me so much. Regardless I have to keep moving forward. Friday morning I received the following quote from my mom on Facebook and was automatically so glad that she is good with words…

“Today I applaud you for taking time to step away from the busyness of your career goals, put on your running shoes and embark on the trails. In doing so you enter the world of our creator and His classroom of silence.”

I am so blessed to do what I love in my career and life, and be able to run where I do. We are in a beautiful, amazing area here in Sacramento and I’m trying to enjoy every part of my AR50 training with grace and thanks. Regardless of what happens in our lives, we should look at the bright side… Things could always be worse than they are… And He will never give us more than we can handle. God works in mysterious ways but each day the sun comes up, the earth comes to life and we move on to bigger and better things. And at that, my life is pretty darn amazing. :)

#trainhardrunharder

#trainhardrunharder

It’s been a year since I last posted. I ran my first 50 mile race in April. It was amazing and magical. I’m so proud of myself for what I did. This year I’ve set the goal to qualify for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run at AR50. I have to cut down my overall time by 1:26 and run a sub-11 hour 50 miler to qualify, but I’m already running stronger than I was at this time last year training for NYC.

My training for AR50 has already started. I’m up to 18+ miles and have been getting in all my speed work. I’m also reading and abiding by the guidelines in the book Racing Weight as dropping 15 lbs will increase my speed by 1:45 per mile. That’s HUGE! Not that I need to lose it physique wise, but speed wise, yes.

It’s going to be a tough road but I am so up for the challenge. I feel at home on the trails. All is right in the world and I’m living my life. 186 days til AR50. :)

“In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”
-Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder

Some people don’t understand why we run. They don’t see the point behind training for months and months for a race that lasts some 5ish hours. They don’t understand the pain we put our bodies through or our need for the “runners high”, but that’s ok. I don’t expect anyone to understand what I do and why I do it after the weekend I just had in New York City.

The 2012 NYC Marathon was cancelled this year after much debate and controversy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. At first I was very sad to hear this, but then my friend Megan and I decided we would just keep our NYC flights and hotel and head to the city for a girls weekend. Little did I know this weekend would change my view of running into an even deeper appreciation for the athletes we are.

My friend Aaron, who I met while acting as a 2012 San Francisco Marathon Ambassador, was set to run his first full marathon in NYC. After finding out the race was cancelled, he asked me if I wanted to join him in lapping Central Park as he knew the loop was approximately 6 miles so we could do it in a little over 4 laps. I thought about it before I left for NYC and decided that since I was going anyway I would pack my running clothes and accessories just incase I decided to go for it. After visiting the Expo and talking to Bart Yasso I knew I had to go run it. He told me that several people had come by the Runner’s World booth and told him they were going to do the same. I figured that I had nothing to lose because I could run and if I needed to stop I would.

On Sunday, November 4, 2012 I woke up around 6, got dressed and started munching on a bagel. Megan had planned to bring water to us at the halfway point of our run so we ironed out those details and I took off about 6:30 to run down to the park (1 mile from our hotel). When I got to Columbus Circle I saw about 30 other runners milling about. I was happy to see that some other runners showed up. I had checked the ING NYC Marathon Facebook page and had seen that some runners were meeting at 7, 8, 9 and even 10 a.m. to get in a run on the day of the marathon so I figured I’d run into some fellow marathoners. Aaron showed up a few minutes after I did and we were off right at 7 a.m. from Columbus Circle which was about .3 miles from the actual finish line of the marathon which was still set up from preparations earlier in the week.

Now I NEVER expected to see what I saw for the next 5.5 hours, EVER. As we started running, we came across many runners. Some wearing their race bibs, some in their race shirts, some ran carrying bottles of water and some were fully decked out in their race gear (hydration belts, etc.). As we continued through the first 3 or so miles of the unofficial marathon, more and more runners were showing up. We came across runners lapping the park in the other direction, most said hi or we said hi and we kept right on going knowing that we were all out there for the same reason.

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It was when we reached approximately mile 4 on the West side of the park that I realized this was MUCH bigger than I could have ever anticipated. We came across a HUGE group of runners, probably 50+, running in the opposite direction. They were cheering, yelling, laughing, talking and all excited about the “marathon” we were all running together. That was the moment I realized this was way bigger than I thought it would be.

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As we came closer to the 5.5 mile mark the park got louder and louder. Over the last hill we saw the finish line and there were people EVERYWHERE.Image

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The runners had showed up in mass to run their own marathons even though there was no organized race happening that day. We wove through the crowds of runners, snapping photos, hugging their friends, chanting their country’s names and continued on our second lap of the park. At this point even more runners started showing up. We were to the point where we were running with tons of people. It really felt like a marathon where you are surrounded by your fellow marathoners the whole way.

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At the end of lap two the crowds at the finish had gotten even bigger and the stands were filling with supporters.

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Aaron and I met Megan at Columbus Circle to refill our water and decided to make a quick one mile out and back so our finish would be at the real marathon finish in Central Park, then we reversed our lap direction weaving back through the runners all over the finish area. The only thing I can say about this lap is that it just kept getting better! More and more runners came out, more and more fans came out with cowbells, whistles, signs, gear check areas, even make-shift water stations! It was AMAZING!

We saw Megan as we came through the finish area at mile 20 (end of lap 3) and I swear the crowds were multiplying still. The last lap was an awesome countdown to the finish Aaron and I had both been looking forward to. There were still tons of runners out on the course and the fan support at mile 24 was unreal.

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We came into the finish line (26.4 miles) at 5 hours and 34 minutes to the smiling faces of our friends/family.

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(I’m on the far right of this pic with my arms in the air.)

This was Aaron’s first marathon and his PR (that I’m sure he will beat at CIM in December) and not my best time, but with everything going on at this race, I wasn’t even worried about my time. Nothing mattered but running the miles with all the other runners.Image

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I can’t explain why I cry at the end of each marathon, but I do. It never fails that when I finish I put my hands on my knees and burst into tears. Am I proud of myself? Am I exhausted? Am I delirious? I’m not sure, but I know I cry every time. And yes, I cried this time too. But I cried for so many reasons this year.

This marathon meant much more to me than any other race ever has. It wasn’t just another marathon to me. I’ve been through a lot of personal trials in the past few months and everything I thought was happening in my life has changed drastically from where I thought it would be. Running this marathon was something I decided I was going to do for myself and by myself. When it was cancelled I was so heartbroken that I wouldn’t be able to achieve this goal. But seeing the spirit of the marathon runners out there in Central Park reminded me why I do this day in and day out. It reminded me how much I love runners, how much I love the sport and how much heart it takes to keep doing this and keep pushing myself to the next level over and over again. I was reminded of the strength I have inside and the healing and learning I have personally done over the last few months.

I am so proud to have run what many are calling the Run Anyway Marathon on November 4, 2012. I know how magical the real NYC Marathon is for the runners, but I also know that only the 2012 NYC Marathon runners will know how special this day was… the day when we all said, “I’m going to run anyway.”

I look forward to running the 2013 ING NYC Marathon in November 2013. I will be there, I will attack that course and I will make new memories, but they will never compare to the magic I felt for 5.5 hours in Central Park this past Sunday.

It’s been over a month since I ran marathon #11. I’ve taken a lot of time to reflect on everything that happened that weekend and can finally wrap my head around everything I’ve been thinking.

While it wasn’t my best race by far, it was one of the most awesome weekends I’ve spent at a race. This year marked my second serving as an SF Marathon Ambassador.  Over the past year I’ve blogged, posted, networked, trained for and talked about the SF Marathon to everyone I know… trust me, people are sick of hearing about it. :) But I love it.  This race has a special place in my heart.  It was my second marathon with a 24 minute PR, then my first time breaking 5 hours and the last two years it has been a race where I’ve seen runners I’ve worked with achieve their goals and dreams in crossing the finish line.  It warms my heart just to talk about a race that has become a staple in my marathon schedule every year and will continue to be a part of my race calendar for years to come.

The weekend started for me on Friday night with a drive to SF for the Ambassador dinner.  I was so excited to not only see my old friends, but meet the new ones I had gotten to know through our networking over the past year.  I met up with Courtney on our way to the restaurant and got to see my friend Charlie when I walked in.  As the Ambassadors kept trickling in it was so nice to put real faces with names as a culmination of all the hard work everyone had put in.  Jojo, Maddie, Bart Yasso and the rest of the team showed up from the expo a bit later and we ate, drank and presented Jojo with our Ambassador gift. :) We took some great pics of the whole group at the dinner. Such an awesome SF Marathon family. :)

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My race roommate, Claudia, and I headed back to the hotel to get some rest before the next day with the Shake Out Run and volunteering at the Expo.  Last year one of my fellow ambassadors was Joe and this year, while he was an honorary Ambassador, he couldn’t come to the marathon because he’s serving in the Peace Corps. However, his awesome fiance Laura came to SF to not only run the marathon, but to fall in love with San Francisco.  We had planned on meeting at the Shake Out Run and were friends instantly.  I’m so excited for her and Joe and their future together. :)

This pic is for Joe… thumbs up!

ImageThe Shake Out Run was great with all the Ambassadors and Laura.

ImageHere’s a shot of Charlie, Claudia, Peter and Bart at the Shake Out Run.

ImageAnd more of the Ambassadors at the Shake Out Run.

And more. We like to take photos (obviously).

After finishing the Shake Out Run it was time to get ready to work two shifts at the Expo.  I headed to the Expo around 11 a.m. to pick up my bib, shirt and other goodies then met up with the other Ambassadors to work in the Tech Center.  It was great to meet up with all the runners and talk about the race, give them advice and answer questions.  The Sacramento area runners I’d been meeting up with over the past 16 weeks also came by to meet up with me.  We took some group pics as they came through too.

ImageMe with Paul and Michelle.

ImageChatting with Steven, Jonathon and Kim.

After finishing my shift at the Expo I met up with Laura, her mom and aunt for dinner.  It was so great to hear how much Laura was enjoying San Francisco (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she and Joe move out here as soon as they can).

I grabbed some snacks and dessert from the store on my way back to the hotel and tried to get to bed early.  That was hard to do as the Olympics had started the night before.  I ended up not falling asleep until around 11:30 and with a 4:30 wake up call.  When I woke up at 4:30 I had the most awful stomach ache.  Turns out I must have eaten something weird the night or day before because I was really sick.  I got dressed and headed to the VIP party to meet up with the Ambassadors before I went to meet up with my fellow runners from Sacramento.  I got to chat with a few of my Ambassador buddies before heading out to the start line.  I met up with Jonathan, Kim and Steven then headed to our wave to line up.  We only had to wait a few minutes and we were on our way.

The race started fast like it always does, but Jonathan and I planned to keep our pace easy til the halfway point.  Now, after waking up with a horrible stomach ache I knew I was going to have to push through the race while having some major stomach issues. I ended up only making it to mile 8 before I had to stop. Jonathan and I leap-frogged each other a bit and ended up running together again until about mile 19. Around mile 16 in the park I ran into Libby, Lauren and Peter who were running the full as well (Peter was actually doing the “Worth the Hurt 52.4″ double marathon). I ended up leapfrogging with them through the park and joined up with them on Haight Street. The whole race I had been feeling awful so seeing familiar Ambassador faces was AWESOME. :) I couldn’t have finished the race without them.

Coming into the finish I saw my family on the right side of the fence and I started crying.  I have never been so happy to see a familiar face as I was right then. I gave my dad a high-five and kept running with my tu-tu wearing friends.

That’s me with Lauren, Peter and Libby. I was waving frantically at Bart Yasso as he was announcing us all as we came across the line.  I have a similar pic of me waving at him at the finish line last year too. :) Love me some Bart. :)

When the race was over I met up with my family and headed to the VIP location to pick up my bag. I didn’t even stay around to say hi to my Ambassador buddies because I was so exhausted from the race. With virtually no nutrition in my body and being pretty dehydrated at that point I thought it would be best to get a shower and some food with the family before we left town.

As I said at the beginning of this post, it was by far one of the BEST experiences at a race and leading up to it with all my Ambassador friends… but it was also my worst race, not time wise (I beat my first marathon my :09 seconds) but health wise, it was pretty awful. But now I know that I can run through pretty much anything you can throw at me. :)  I will miss the Ambassadors next year. It’s like I’m leaving a club or summer camp after being an Ambassador for 2 years. I just hope I can stay involved with the SFM for many years to come.

If you are interested in applying to be an SF Marathon Ambassador for the 2013 race, visit the website here and apply now!  It’s TOTALLY worth it. :)

The reason I run

There are a lot of reasons I run, but one of the biggest is my friend Cathy Liu. She is an amazing woman I’ve known since I was in elementary school and she has played such a huge role in my life. It’s not until today, sitting here at my computer that I am brought to tears in realizing what a profound impact she has made on my life.

Cathy and I met back in elementary school in Durham, CA. She and I were friends all through school, playing the clarinet together, going to Disneyland, celebrating numerous birthdays and high school dances with our group of buddies. In college we still remained friends, though not as close as she was in Georgia and I was still here in California. After Cathy graduated from Emory University she moved back to California to work as a resident at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. I had already been living here for a few years so when I heard she was coming back I knew we had to meet up. Cathy and I went out to dinner and she showed me her fabulous studio apartment about two weeks before her accident.

In July of 2007, Cathy was out on a morning run and was involved in a vehicle versus pedestrian accident. She spent a month in ICU in a medically induced coma and underwent many surgeries to help repair the damage done to her body and her brain. In the time that she was there, our friend Kira and I visited 1-2 days a week. We weren’t able to see her in ICU, but we did get to meet with her family every day and find out how she was doing.

After 30 days of Cathy being in ICU, she was released to a regular room and we were able to see her. I remember the first time I saw Cathy and how happy I was to see she was moving. Even though she wasn’t back to speaking yet, you could tell in her eyes when she saw us she knew who we were. Over the months that followed, Cathy was in the hospital recuperating and soon enough was out of the hospital attending her rehab appointments at the same hospital where she was enrolled in residency at the time of the accident. Cathy, Kira and I continued to meet up on occasion, have dinner and watch movies. Cathy and Kira have even travelled to NYC a few times to visit Cathy’s sister, Grace, in the Big Apple.

A few weeks after her accident in 2007, when she was still in ICU, I made a deal with myself. Because Cathy couldn’t run (she was a marathon runner), I would get out there and run. And heck, since I’d always wanted to do it, I would train for a marathon. I started running just 2-3 miles at a time around my neighborhood. I slowly ramped that up mile by mile and ended up running my first 10K in February 2008. I signed up for the Big Sur 10 miler (a part of the Big Sur Marathon event) and ran it as my first BIG race. A few months later I joined SacFIT training group in Sacramento and began training for my first marathon. I ran my first half over Labor Day weekend 2008 at the Disneyland Half Marathon and followed that with my first marathon in December 2008 in Sacramento.

Since then I have run nine more marathons, including one ultra, cut an hour off my marathon time and volunteered as a coach for SacFIT for the past three years. I have also served as an SF Marathon Ambassador for the past two years and look forward to running with the current group in the SF Marathon on July 29, 2012. I can’t imagine not coaching runners and I can’t imagine not running races. It’s like I’ve finally found what I’m truly good at…

While Cathy’s accident was changed her life tremendously, she has been able to turn those changes into so much good that is helping others as a result. I am so lucky to have Cathy as a friend and so glad I was able to find a love of running through her situation. Through it all Cathy continues to give hope, strength, happiness to everyone he touches. She such an amazing soul and has changed my life forever.

Please read the recent article posted in the SacBee about Cathy and the efforts she’s making to give back to patients with brain injuries like hers.

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