I’ve been in California for nearly a week now, which is somewhat hard to believe given that the contents of my various suitcases are still heaped in a massive pile on my floor, and I haven’t made the slightest dent in my to-do list for this month (most importantly, school applications). However, that’s primarily because I’ve only really been home – i.e. my parent’s house in Santa Cruz – for three days, and I haven’t had much time to myself. At least I’ve managed to stay somewhat on top of my Portland marathon schedule (more on that below)!

A good chunk of this past week was spent up in the East Bay, where I met my adorable one-month old niece and spent quality time with my sister and brother-in-law, as well as my parents and grandma. It was a busy but lovely visit, and I can’t wait to see my little E again in a couple weeks, when she will make her first journey down to Santa Cruz with her parents to celebrate my 30th birthday! As much as I miss London, it was a wonderful feeling to leave my sister’s place knowing that I wouldn’t have to wait another year to see them again. I can’t help but include some photos – I’m such a proud Aunt!

 

A champion in the making? I think so…

 

I was on cooking duty one of the days, so I made my sister a super tasty and nutritious kale, mushroom and tofu stir fry with apple/raspberry garnish (below) and my colorful quinoa salad for dinner. Gotta keep mama feeling strong and healthy!

I’m back in Santa Cruz now for awhile and am facing some tight deadlines, both school and marathon related, so it’s time to get down to business. My main priority, aside from continuing my training, is to (ahem, start and) finish solid drafts of my applications in the next ten days, so that when E visits me from London, I can enjoy my time with him as well as my various birthday celebrations.

I meant to start working today, but my body made it clear that I needed to devote some time to myself first, to just chill out and regroup after so many hectic weeks. So I slept in, skipped going to the gym, met up with one of my oldest and closest friends (who I haven’t seen in a year) for brunch, swam and sunbathed at the pool in my neighborhood (today is the first sunny day all week), and now, I’m sitting on my deck in the late afternoon sunshine, listening to the ocean and finally making time to write.

You’d think that I’d have all the time in the world to do things like blogging, now that I’m not working and have left London, but I’ve actually found it challenging to stay on top of everything (particularly electronic things) without an established routine, and with so many things to get done. I keep getting sucked into random projects – for example, yesterday’s attempt to finally put away my clothes and clear my old desk away so I can have a decent workspace morphed into starting to go through nearly 30 years worth of accumulated stuff, which I do need to do but not right now. It was hilarious though, some of the treasures I discovered, including a drawing of various fruits and vegetables from when I was very little. Clearly I was destined to go into nutrition – perhaps a supplement to my application?!

My latest discovery, however, is that I get internet access on my deck, so on sunny days, this will be my workspace:

Man, I’ve missed California! Yes, that is a hot tub…

Anyway, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted a training week recap, so I’ll catch you up on my progress as I rapidly approach race day, which is less than five weeks away…(!!!)

I’d say that things are going well in many ways – I’m gradually regaining my fitness levels and building up my mileage, for instance – but in others, not so much. Essentially, my injury is starting to flare up again, which isn’t exactly breaking news (in truth, I’ve been having some hamstring/abductor/hip soreness for the past couple of weeks), but I’ve been downplaying it a bit here in the hopes that it won’t drag me down once again. If I’m honest with myself, I’m not totally positive yet based on my longest run yesterday of 13 miles that I’ll be able to run (even simply to finish), but I’ll keep taking things day by day and will make the call if/when the time feels right. In the meantime, here are my week 11 training highlights!

As you can see from my training log, I made a pretty large jump in mileage from weeks 10 to 11. That may be partly why I’m feeling so sore today, and I’ve also somewhat neglected my rehab exercises recently, which surely hasn’t helped. I’ve been so busy, I keep saying to myself I will do them later and then next thing I know, it’s late at night and I’m too tired to move. I’ve at least done the easier ones a few times this week (as opposed to the ones that require some equipment/setup), but I have to start being more disciplined.

My initial runs this past week were a massive struggle – not so much from my injury (which felt pretty good for a few days, actually) but rather, from exhaustion and jet lag. My “easy” run on the beach (which I set off to do after my last post) was horrible. Granted, I hardly got any sleep and was sore from the previous day’s tempo session, but I was shocked by how difficult my 9:53 average pace run felt, and didn’t feel very well for the rest of the day.

Thankfully, a rest day and a couple nights of solid sleep helped me tackle Saturday’s hill workout. I hate doing hill repeats on a treadmill, but that was my only option where I happened to be that day, and it sufficed. My injured areas weren’t feeling awesome, but not terrible either, so I pushed myself with caution. I hadn’t done a dedicated hill session for months, so it was still incredibly challenging! Sad to think that the run I did (8 x 1min) was the very first one I did for my NYC training, in week 2 (out of 18), building towards 4 x 5min continuous hills. Oh well!

The following day, however, I had a really strong long run, at least in terms of distance and pacing. I was aiming to do 12-13M with the last few around MP, and I ended up running 13 miles at an average pace of 8:42, with all miles (except for one hilly one) well under 9:00 and the last three miles at 8:20, 8:06 and 7:55. I struggled with sections of this run – at times, due to the fact that I haven’t run this far in months, and at others, because of various pain I felt in my right leg – but I still really enjoyed it, probably because I was so mesmerized by the scenery and it was early enough that only a few others were out and about.

My route was a wonderful mixture of the familiar and the new. I started at Lighthouse Point on West Cliff Drive, a beautiful coastal path that I love and know well. It’s quintessentially Santa Cruz, with a popular surf spot (they were mostly still changing into their wetsuits on the way out, but on the way back, I got a good show!), views of the Boardwalk as well as endless coastline on one side, and very expensive homes on the other. And of course, since I live in Santa Cruz (where people like to keep things weird – check out Urban Dictionary’s definition) among the few runners I did encounter was an older man “joggling.” Perhaps you don’t know what that is – at least I didn’t – but when I told E about the amazing man I saw juggling while running, he somehow happened to know that joggling was the correct term for this strange practice – I mean, competitive sport. It was awesome – and that’s literally what I said to the guy – certainly left a huge smile on my face!

I reached the end of this 2M path, at which point I would normally turn around and go back to my starting point as in the past (and carry on until finished). However, that obviously gets boring, so I was determined to run somewhere new this time – it seemed wasteful to not take advantage of living in such a beautiful area! I had read online about a network of trails further up the coast and had a vague idea of how to get there, so I carried on past Natural Bridges and into Wilder State Park. I had to run a mile or two on road, but eventually arrived at the Old Landing Cove trailhead and ran along a gorgeous coastal path that I had never visited (at least not as a runner and not for many many years). It was foggy, but you could still see the waves crashing against the cliffs, and several tiny secluded beaches tucked into the coast line. Wild rabbits and other wildlife darted across the path (thankfully, no mountain lions though!!), and the smell – some sort of mixture of dirt, hay and ocean – reminded me of growing up. I only ran 2.5M before I had to turn around, but I imagine the rest of the trail is equally wonderful.

It was all so Northern California, which was nice to take in as I make the transition from four years in London and remind myself, this is where I am from – and ask myself, is this where I belong? As out of place as I often have felt this past week, I think the answer is probably yes.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of my own, but I did find a couple shots of the trail, one on a sunny day and another on a foggy one, to give you a sense of what the scenery looks like. (Source 1) (Source 2)

I must say, it’s pretty amazing to view my hometown from such a different perspective – I never used to run for more than an hour, nor was I as adventurous with my running routes – so when I came home in recent years while marathon training, I wasn’t really sure where to go. Now that my interests have changed, and I’m not just here for a quick vacation, being a runner in Santa Cruz is really quite exciting! I look forward to exploring further…

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