Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Halfway to my Half!

Training Week 8: August 25

Based on our training schedule, this week is regarded as Recovery Week b/c it gives our muscles time to heal and relax our bodies a bit before we peak once again. So, prior to Saturday, I'm thinking it'll be an easy, flat 4 mile run..no biggie. Our run is scheduled to take place at Baker Beach which lies at the rugged serpentine cliffs west of the Golden Gate Bridge and I clearly have no idea where this place really is. I get lost trying to find my way there, but thanks to my own navigational expertise, I manage to join the team in the nick of time only to find out we're doing 5 miles UPHILL! Yes, up to this moment, I don't believe uphill running has been in our trainings and it just so happens it's taking place during recovery week...hmm...I think I'm in for it this time!

I start off trailing behind b/c our first mile is uphill and I notice I'm breathing heavier than usual. Well, that and my shoe laces need to be tied. In any case, I trudge on and eventually catch up with my running buddies. We turn on to the Coastal Trail starting from Lands End and leading up to Sutro Baths and the Cliff House and oh my GOD! It's situated along a winding cliff that has the most perfect and gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Ocean and Marin Headlands There are moments along the trail where I glance down and see the waves crashing against boulders...it seems so close. I can't help but run in awe of everything around me....I wished I had a camera on my forehead to document the entire run...I can't say I've ever run in a place as beautiful as this trail. There's truly nothing else like it to run and feel like you're on top of the world b/c you are actually running on a cliff. Even my description can't do this place justice, but I found this one that might help you visualize it:

"Lands End Beach is quite beautiful and exists amidst a dramatic scattering of hard rock formations. A cliff scaling path runs just above waves crashing into canyons of rock between Sutro Baths and Lands End Beach. This is the most beautiful trail in the area. Cypress trunks twist like old women frozen in recoil from the blasting wind. The area is phenomenal by any standard. That it can exist in the context of a large city is astonishing.

This general area is an emphatic highlight of natural places in San Francisco. All the secret paths which weave around between this cliff trail and the Coastal Trail up above tend to lead to protected hideaways under twisted cypress trees. The cliffs are characterized by dark, hard rock rising in immensely detailed formations up to 300' high before yielding to a softer, decaying rock and soil. Since the water table leaks out of the cliffs, there is an abundance of interesting plants which seem to exploit the watershed dribbling down, among them douglas iris, plumes of cow parsnip with huge leaves, and some very nice flowering mallow bushes. This is another great feature of the cliffs."

But you really have to check it out for yourself. I am definitely going back with my hubby for this one.

The most challenging part had to be the during the middle of the trail when I'm running up these stairs that seem interminable and downright grueling b/c it's the steepest stretch of the trail that goes up about 100 feet! But, and it's the best workout I can ever do for my bootie...that for sure! I run halfway up the stairs and then realize that my tush is getting sore, so I end up huffing and puffing my way to the top and thankfully, the rest of my run is all downhill...hallelejah! But you know what? I have no complaints b/c I feel so good....by the time I finish my 5 miles, I feel so juiced that I could have kept on running. But it's okay...another day, another run. Besides, CCFA is putting on a Halfway There BBQ today and when we get back to Baker Beach, Breanne is grilling burgers to feed a pack of hungry runners. Yum!

Reason to Smile: I can't believe it, but I'm really halfway to running my first half-marathon. If you asked me a year ago, I would have never thought I would or could be running. I probably would have laughed and said, "Ugh..yeah, right!" It's amazing what a team and weekly trainings can do for a person who never thought she could run. I am so proud of myself for committing to this and I just wanted to take a moment to thank all my biggest fans (that's you...if you're reading this) for supporting me in my run for a purpose. I think everyone has those list of things to do before you reach a certain birthday and for me, this is definitely going down in my book of accomplishments during my quarter-century mark! If you haven't done it, let me be the first to encourage you to do something you've always wanted and never thought you could do. You'll be amazed at the feeling you get when you do accomplish it. It's indescribable, but the feeling is immense. Just Do It!

8 Miles...Whoo Hoo!!

Training Week 7: August 18

Okay, I just got back from vacationing 4 days in South Beach...wow! Simply spectacular...lots of great food (that's the best part of traveling for me) and warm ocean waters of the Atlantic. If you've never been to South Beach, you should consider it, especially if, like me, you end up with a free roundtrip ticket from my friend and yours, Southwest Airlines. Although I had originally planned on running during my vacation, I ended up doing lots of walking instead...the weather was too humid and it rained a couple mornings during my stay out there..not cool! So, you can imagine my trepidation when Saturday came around and I would have to run 8 miles.

I bought along my handy camelbak, and to avoid plastic-tasting H2O, I filled it up with my Accelerade and this time around, it did the trick..no plastic aftertaste in my mouth. I was feeling pretty good b/c we were running in a new place, Lake Merced near the sunset district of SF. It There was a golf course/clubhouse situated in the middle of the huge lake and for our 8 miles this morning, we would be doing a double loop around the lake. Up to this point, 8 miles will be the longest run of my life! So, putting my fears at bay, I started out with the team. I started with a slow pace during the first loop and as our coach had instructed, would need to pick up the pace during the 2nd time around. It felt great...the scenery of any run really helps, as I've noticed for myself. If I dont' have something beautiful to admire to help me keep my mind off how many more miles I have to accomplish, I realize that I run at a steadier pace and most importantly, am able to enjoy it a lot more than if I was running around a dump. Yes, presentation is everything in my book.

So, during my second loop, I feel a jolt of energy and it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I swear it's b/c of the Accelerade. And get this...I feel like a nut, but as I'm running, I get the Accelerade mantra stuck in my head, so over and over again, I'm hearing: "Don't fade, Accelerade!" And maybe it was just that that kept me running like a nut around the lake. Since I do a run/walk combo, I've noticed that my walk breaks are getting shorter and shorter b/t my running and that is such a major accomplishment b/c most of the time, I am actually running! This is huge for me and with the Accelerade mantra stuck in my noggin, I can't help but pick up my pace. My team-mates are great..we cheer each other on as we pass by one another and during those moments where you just wanna take another walking break, it really helps you persist and keep on running. Towards the final 2 miles, I feel a biting sensation on my right inner foot and I know it's a hot spot coming on. Just what I needed...ugh! But I persist and I tell myself that hotspot or not, I am not going to let this slow me down...not now! I end up finishing in about 1 hour and 30 minutes which is great b/c that means I had an 11 miler/minute pace..not too bad for myself at all. As I make my way to the end, I hear Breanne blasting "Thriller" from her car b/c to commemorate our 8 miles, they decided to bring back the 80's for this training...anything to keep us motivated, eh? Well, I was supposed to show up decked out in 80's gear but I just couldn't imagine running in a Richard Simmons get-up, so I had to forego the wardrobe and bring my sweat band to show them that some effort was made.

Reason to Smile: At this point, I am so elated that I've run my first 8 miles and to top it all off, I feel pretty darn great! I decide to treat myself to a scenic drive along the Great Highway overlooking Ocean Beach...the windy part of SF where if you go on the wrong days, you can get a mouthful of sand just from breathing. Of course, the view is just breathtaking with pillowy white clouds laying high in the sky amidst a baby blue backdrop. The sun is beaming nicely overhead as I make my way towards the ocean's shore, I can't help but feel my hot spot getting sore, but I figure..oh, this scenery is so worth it. I close my eyes and take it all in: the saltiness of the sea air accented with the lingering smell of seaweed against the sound of waves colliding on the sand and then sizzling to a foamy mass of bubbles that evaporate as quickly as they appear. Wow...so peaceful. I think I could stay here all day long and just listen to the musical notes of the ocean lulling me to a peaceful somber on the sand. If you haven't guessed it already, this is why I love the ocean...free therapy that can't be bought. You just close your eyes and listen, and somehow, you're transported into a place of serenity that you never new existed....trust me and until next week, do something relaxing and therapeutic for yourself.

Got Motivation?

Training Week 6: August 12 (yup, Sunday...why? find out!)

So, it's Saturday morning, August 11 and I'm supposed to wake up and run with my team today....what happens? I get up and feel nauseous (and no, it's not what you're thinking b/c if you know me, you know where my hubby is at) and dizzy and I'm like...I really wanna go run, but I don't think I can drive 2 hours to the Sawyer Creek Trail past Palo Alto today...ugh! And so, I play doctor and realize that first and foremost, I have to listen to my body...it's one of the key points of maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. If it hurts, take some time to rest...if you're body is saying no, make sure you heed its warning signs or else you'll end up paying for it in the end. So, yes..I heeded my own body signals and took time to rest. But geeze..why did I feel like so horrible for missing out on my training..it seriously felt like a bout of withdrawal b/c as I glanced at the clock and it read 11:30am, I kept on saying to myself...by this time, I would have been done with my 7 mile run...oh, this sucks! Although I felt physically better by noon, I couldn't help but feel disappointed in myself even though I knew I had done the right thing.

What to do? Well, being the die-hard go-getter that I am, I decided that the very next day, August 12, I would drive to San Francisco and run along the marina....so far, my favorite place to run and finish my 7 miles doing a double loop from the Presidio to Fort Mason. And best of all, I would also take the opportunity to invite my parents along so they could enjoy the bay...they've been wondering what keeps me so busy that I deny coming over for Saturday brunch at their house each week..hehe. Well, that and I know my folks have been wanting a change of scenery from the humdrum of life in Sac. So, I tell them we'll carpool to SF starting at 7am..they're amazed that I can wake up that early and frankly, I am too every week when I do just that to train with the team. Go me!

The day is beautiful in Sacramento, but by the time we make it to the Bay Bridge, I can feel the air getting crisp and the fog is still blanketing the Golden Gate Bridge from coming into full view. We get to the marina and I bid adieu to my folks and oh yeah...I've got my brand new camelbak with me today! I'm testing it out b/c I know I am going to need extra hydration for 7 miles. As I'm making a turn towards my 2nd mile, I hear someone behind say, "Chandara? Is that you?" I turn around and low and behold, it's Breanne, the development manager for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation in SF...she's the head honcho for helping us fundraise for Team Challenge. She looks at me in disbelief that I drove all the way out here to run by myself, but also appears amazed that I'm crazy enough to do stuff like this. She's actually out running 12 miles with a friend today, so we part ways and I'm left thinking, "Damn, it's a small world out here!" haha....in a good way, of course. Isn't it funny when you think about it and you realize, of all the people who you don't know out there in this world, you will always, bump into somebody you do know...how amazing is that!

During my run, I am inspired by the new mommies and daddies who take their babies (and even puppies) out running/walking with them. It's truly my Reason to Smile this week. It's so nice to see people who are so committed go the extra mile and not even let the excuse of "I have a baby" stop them from doing what they love with the people they love. Most of the time, the kiddies are asleep in their swanky sporty strollers as their parents whiz by me. That's what I say...start'em out young and hopefully, they'll pick up this healthy habit! :) And oh..as for the run itself...simply stunning! I ran along the marina and during the last 2 miles back, I ended up running on the beach path along the ocean...great view! There were so many doggies with their owners out there playing on the beach and I even spotted a special dog walkers group all walking their little "Coton De Tulear." From afar, they resemble pearly white mini puffs of cotton with feet scurrying about. When they're close up, I think they actually look like miniature versions of the Shaggy Dog as seen on the classic Disney movie...haha...some may beg to differ, but to me, they looked like they could have been driving a white car with some kids in the back..haha!

And oh yeah...see that large (uncropped) picture up there with me running with what looks like my own dog? Well, not exactly. My dad snapped this picture of me running and some dog ran into my shot chasing his green ball...it was fitting I suppose b/c now it looks like a nice postcard shot. hahaha! Till next time...I shall see you soon!

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's Been a While...I'm Back!

Okay, so you're wondering...dang, is Chandara still running these days? And yes, I am happy to report that even though I've been on vacation with my blog, I have been keeping up with my running every week..yay! So, I'm back and so juiced to tell you all about how I've been doing these days..here goes:

Training Week 4, July 28:
As I mentioned previously, the having to take the GRE on my regularly-scheduled Team Challenge training day, July 28 was a bummer to say the least....believe me, I would have rather been running outdoors than taking a 4-hour long exam. I did manage to surpass my own goal and score pretty well on the analytical writing portion...but riddle me this: I studied like zero to none for math and my score was significantly higher on that portion than on my verbal..go figure!

Training Week 5, August 4:
So, this was a great one although I was utterly disappointed to learn that I'd be running my 6 miles at the same darn sticking place...the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve..ick! I even contemplated skipping it and running elsewhere, but then I missed running with the team the week before already, so yes, I made myself wake up bright and earlier (at 6am) to head out to Palo Alto...and oh yeah, I had also remembered that I promised my honoree, Kelly, that I would make up for missing the Honoree Brunch last week and take her out to lunch instead.

But you know what? It was a nice, breezy morning and do you know what this means? Okay, here's an equation to sum up this run: Nice breezy morning + 75 degree weather + more breeze + 6 mile run at the Baylands = One much nicer run than week 3! That's for sure. I started out with a pretty steady jog and to my surprise, no funky running buddies this time around. Rather, I had the nice bay breeze caressing my cheeks as I watched some Canadian geese congregating in the marsh area..which, thankfully, neglected to impart any funky smells. :) When I got to the stretch that had smelled like nasty sulfur during my previous run, I was prepared to hold my breath for the long haul, but lucky for me, still no smell. Having said that, I think I spoke (or at least thought too soon) because during the final mile, I was met with an overpowering putrid odor that nearly knocked the wind out of me and thus, had to take it easy...but you'll be happy to know that I did manage to hold my breath and make it...finally!

After getting some stretching out of the way, Kelly and I decided to do lunch in downtown Palo Alto (check out our picture below)..one b/c we didn't want to remain anywhere near the baylands and secondly, because I have never been to Palo Alto. I know, I go to college for 4 years in Berkeley and never even manage to make it out to see our rival...SSSSS!!! Well, that and probably the fact that the BART doesn't take you straight to Stanford was reason enough to deter me from visiting. Well, not sure if you've ever been to downtown Palo Alto, but it's one street (University) and driving down, it's lined with little eateries typical of a college town. We decided to dine outdoors at a small Mediterranean cafe where we each ordered a tasty wrap in keeping with our attempts to stay healthy and away from the greasy fast food joints that defeats the purpose of having exercised. For me, it was a nice change of scenery since, as you can see, I always love experiencing new things in the bay after my weekly trainings. I guess you can say it's my way of 'rediscovering the bay' to make up for all the times I took the place for granted during my years in college. And it was a great way of getting to know more about Kelly...who is amazing for having gone through this entire ordeal and still maintaining such a positive outlook on life. She's been active in sports for practically her entire life and I just couldn't imagine having something like Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis prevent you from leading the lifestyle you've been so accustomed to. If you ever fall in love something, you know it's like an addiction, regardless of what it is---good or bad. For Kelly, it was staying active in sports and for me, it's just plain staying active and fit. But you know...we're fighters, we all are in our own rite and being surrounded by people who are strong makes me stay strong as well....through my own trials and tribulations!

Well, needless to say that Palo Alto is also home to the ritzy and flashy. I ended up meandering to their outdoor strip mall while I was there and although all the stores whose names I couldn't pronounce and whose prices I couldn't much less afford were plenty, my Reason to Smile was the Farmers Market at the mall..yes, it's on the far side of the mall, but it is there. It seems so out of place, but it was so befitting b/c how many times do we wander into malls and there's nothing to eat except Steak Escape, Burger King, a yogurt/ice cream place and the greasy Chinese fast food? Well, this was nice for a change and I ended up with my 4 golden California nectarines to take home as parting gifts from Palo Alto. Gotta love CA produce..it's simply the best!