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Goodbye desert

I am really looking forward to the environment we will find in Texas; green trees, grass, and lush plant life. But there is one aspect of nature I will completely miss from Arizona: desert views and rocky mountains. I’ve had a love affair with South Mountain over these last few years and saying goodbye has been difficult. This weekend I went out with a friend to run it one last time. My husband and I want to cram in one more hike if we have time once we’ve wrapped up the last of our packing. But this pristine playground will no longer be a few miles from our front door.

I took a few photos during yesterday’s run, it was a perfect cloudy morning.

Hidden Valley, South Mountain

Hidden Valley, South Mountain

Early morning at South Mountain

Early morning at South Mountain

cactus

The desert has been really good to me. It helped to inspire me to wake up at the crack of dawn for over a year now to get out there and run it. It will be missed, but I am excited to explore new terrain in Austin and elsewhere in Texas!

Just a few days left, and we are out of here. SURREAL.

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First half marathon – complete!

I did it! Yesterday I ran my first half marathon at the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. The craziest part was I really enjoyed it. Sure, it was tough but I felt pretty great the whole way through. Plus I finished close to the goal time I had set for myself. Seeing as how this was my first time ever running this distance, I aimed to finish in 2.5 hours. My official chip time was 2:36:01. Practically nailed it! I think I would have hit it too, if it wasn’t for a spiral of tiny errors. The race started at least 40 minutes (or more) later than it was supposed to. That caused a problem, as I was hydrated to start on time. Right as I started to run I realized I desperately needed to use the restroom. Yeeeaahh, no bueno. The first porta potty I saw was a standalone, and the line was more than 20 people deep. I decided to keep going. The second one I saw had the same LONG line. I was so stressed! I knew if I waited for 20+ people to go to the bathroom it would take forever so I said a quick prayer and ran ahead, hoping the next bathroom opportunity would be better. It was, slightly. The next stop (around mile marker 2) had a few porta potty’s lined up, each with about 8 people waiting. I figured this would have to do. I bit the bullet and stood in line to wait.

I knew my pace was blown at this point, it put me at least 10 minutes behind. The delay was clear when I looked at the breakdown of my checkpoints. See, I normally run a 5k in about 30 minutes or less. Because of the bathroom debacle my 5k time was about 40 minutes. Oh well! Other than that, the rest of the run was exactly what I hoped for. I slowed slightly for water/gatorade along the race. I also got a wicked stitch in my side around mile 11 and took a quick breather to stretch and walk for maybe a quarter mile. Aside from that, I ran the entire half marathon! I made sure to keep a nice even pace, running over 5 mph but less than 6 mph for most of the race. I usually only keep 6 mph pace when I run 3-4 miles max, so rather than try to push and burn out I opted for a more relaxed approach on this 13.1.

I loved it. I saw bystanders holding hilarious signs along the way, and I got lots of high fives. But the best part was knowing I had followed though. My family and friends all reached out with calls and messages and I felt real pride for my accomplishment. And now I have a baseline goal. I want to run another this year, and I have a personal time to compete against! Plus now I know, no matter what, I am waiting in line to use the bathrooms before the gun goes off so I won’t lose time on the track. I’ve already scoped out another couple half marathons to do in Texas.

Did I mention this already? My husband and I are making plans to move to Texas soon. We are waiting on a few details regarding his job relocation, but planning is heavily underway and we should be there well before the summer, possibly early spring! I’m so excited, it’s a great opportunity for Matt and his career, plus I will be closer to my family.

Speaking of family, I proudly posed with a Rolling Rock in hand, just like my own dad whenever he finished a marathon.

Rolling Rock runner

And a photo Matt took of me shortly before I crossed the finish line, grinning like a damn fool:

Half Marathon

 

So much fun. I don’t know if it’s insanity or excitement that had me searching out my next half marathon while I recovered on the couch mere hours after finishing my first. Probably a little bit of both.

 

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Half

My brain has been my biggest obstacle. At the end of 2013 I wrote:

…my ultimate goal is to train for a half marathon. I don’t know if I will run one this year, I’m leaning more towards training during 2014 to ultimately run in one by early 2015. I am going to try! Exciting to think about… and a little scary.

I have been training all year, just as I said I would. In 2014 I became a stronger and more capable runner. A week didn’t go by where I didn’t run at least several miles, 2-4 times. Early in 2014 I decided my aim was to run the half at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon; not only because it was early 2015, but also because it was a marathon that my own father has run. It excited me to think of being able to cross that finish line myself (even if it was a half instead of a full marathon like my dad had done).

Even in December 2013 when I wrote the goal I acknowledged my problem. Being scared. Ultimately it is the fear of failing. I have been working on getting healthy and fit for so long now, and this is an actual marker of success. This is a clear and definitive goal to achieve rather than just getting healthy, or posting before and after pictures. If you run a marathon, you either finish it or you don’t.

As the race drew near I contemplated whether I was ready. While I knew I was ready physically, my fear took hold. I wussed out. A couple of friends asked if I was going to run, even tried to talk me into at least running the 10k. I said I’d think about it but deep down I knew I really didn’t want to run the 10k. I wanted that half and if I wasn’t doing the half, frankly I didn’t want anything to do with the event. I knew it would be a giant neon sign of failure in my own brain if I did anything less than run that half. And after all the hard work and effort I had put in, my brain put up a wall and I chose to cowardly skulk away from the whole event.

The other day someone asked if I would be there to watch her finish the race. I made up a completely lame excuse about not wanting to deal with the parking. I felt awful about it. So I talked to my husband. He knew how I felt, and asked me if I really wanted to run. After some hemming and hawing I admitted: YES. I was really scared but yes, I wanted to run. I had always wanted to run.

Last minute and way too much money later, I am signed up to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. I’m going to crush it. And yeah – I’m still scared. But I think that it’s okay to be scared. It will be all the better when I cross that finish line. My time might be wimpy, but that doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is completing the goal I made. I’ve turned my life around over the last 2+ years. I’ve earned this, and I am really proud of myself for going for it. I’m going to cross that finish line, just like when I watched my dad cross it.

I got this.

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Progress – September to November 2014

I haven’t done an official “progress” post in months. Not much to report, other than I’m really dialed in with maintaining. Still hitting right in the 120-125 range I aim for.

Finally, cool weather! Hitting up my normal weekly runs, as well as mixing in some hiking and biking as well.

IMG_0333

South Mountain, gloomy day

Running South Mountain

Running South Mountain

Screen grab by Matt of me running South Mountain

Screen grab by Matt of me running South Mountain

I’ve been running at my work’s gym during the week a lot but now that the temperature dropped I think I will be able to just go running outdoors after work. Finally! I mean, it’s November already for Christ’s sake. It’s about damn time I can go running in the afternoon without roasting alive.

Hiked/ran a mountain new to me today. North Mountain.

North Mountain, view of Phoenix

North Mountain, view of Phoenix

It was cool, pretty steep but a little less intense than Camelback. Hiked up and ran down, nice little workout!

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was able to model for a local photographer, as she was looking for tattooed people to shoot. I got the photos back, and I really love them!

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Thrilled. (If you are local to AZ and want a great portrait photographer, check out Araya Photography.) I don’t know how to say this without sounding a little lame: I feel pretty. It’s really fun to see photos of myself that look so nice! When I saw the first one, my mind was blown. I didn’t actually recognize myself at first. I recognized the tattoos before my own face. Weird, right?

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Hiking and climbing

I enjoy trying new things, I want to avoid total repetition (and a potential rut). I have been hiking, running, and biking for awhile now. I absolutely love all three,  but I was open to trying something a little different. A friend invited me to go check out Echo Canyon at Camelback Mountain with her. This still falls under the category of hiking but it has A LOT more climbing involved. The climb is nearly 1300 feet, whereas my normal steep incline at South Mountain is just over 800 feet. Camelback has a much more intense incline as well, it’s not switchbacks but instead steep boulders throughout most of it.

It was a beautiful journey throughout. Strenuous. And to be honest, parts of it were a little scary to me. One part of the trail definitely gave me a feeling of vertigo.

Here are a couple of pictures from that first trip. This is the view looking up at the mountain, near the parking lot:

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon, Arizona

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon – looking up

This photo was taken of me at the top of the climb:

IMG_9403

I was thrilled by it. The next day, my body was sore all over! I used so many muscles to pull and steady my balance, scrambling up and down giant rocks. I felt tender not only in my legs but my arms and sides. I knew that this provided a completely different type of cardio than I was used to. After one trip I really wanted to try it again. I told my husband about the hike and he was interested. My best friend hooked up to do some hiking so the three of us hit it again today.

I wanted to try to get a photo to try and provide a little perspective of how steep some of the climb is:

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon trail

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon – looking down

I don’t think pictures do this place justice.

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon - Sunrise

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon – sunrise

Gorgeous.

 

I’ve been continuing with long trail runs every Sunday at too. During the last two my running buddies and I have been doing a 7.3 mile at South Mountain by going to “the waterfall” and back. There is no actual water, instead there’s a steep section of boulders – more famous with mountain bikers.

I took a photo from a ledge on it this weekend:

View from "The Waterfall" National Trail, South Mountain

View from “The Waterfall” National Trail, South Mountain

Plus an artsy photo I took and played with, just for the fun of it:

National Trail, South Mountain

National Trail, South Mountain

Another exquisite Arizona sunrise, taken at South Mountain:

National Trail, South Mountain - sunrise

National Trail, South Mountain – sunrise

I am completely addicted to beautiful sunrises.

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Alright already, summer

Enough! I’m ready for fall! Living in the Arizona desert is rough. Every summer is torture. You wake up and look out at what appears to be a beautiful sunny day only to feel the burn akin to opening an oven when you step outside.

Now that we are about halfway through September the extreme heat is winding down some. That’s good news since my absolute favorite way to exercise is to get outside and explore with running, hiking, and biking. My rad husband Matt took some very flattering photos of me last weekend on a hike (Fat Man’s Pass, South Mountain, AZ):

Fat Man's Pass, South Mountain, AZFat Man's Pass, South Mountain, AZFat Man's Pass, South Mountain, AZ

I’m going to level with you: I’m sharing these purely for vanity reasons. I’m feeling really good about how fit my body is and I love these photos! I’m not ashamed to admit it, I work hard and I know this is the best shape my body has ever been in. I’m proud of myself.

I’ve decided after a lot of careful consideration that when my gym membership expires this month I won’t be renewing it. I get bored at the gym. If need be I can always join again, but I want to focus on outdoor activities now even if it means waking up at the crack of dawn to beat the heat. I’ve been lucky enough to befriend active folks and be invited with various  groups to go running; plus there is my eternal partner in crime Matt who is always down to hike and bike. Big decision for me and my routine, but it makes sense. My work also just put in a gym at their new building too, so I figure I can always use that if there is a crap weather day.

Plan in place. Less indoors… adventure it is.