Joshua Tree Half Marathon Finisher

We came. We ran. We conquered. And it was a doozy.

The course started uphill. It was a fairly large climb, leveled off for a few minutes, and then uphill again. I had never run at night. The movement of thousands of headlamps was quite a spectacle to behold. All of us lined up, slowly ascending a sandy hill, like rush hour for an army of fireflies marching up.

The dust was unbearable. I’m not talking about a little sand here or there spraying up. This was real dust swirling from the runners ahead, behind, and next to us stomping in the sand, unearthing the lightest of all molecules.

By the light of my headlamp, I saw dirt and dust ever-present in the air. Although, I had not started coughing as some of my fellow runners had, it was impossible not to see how bad the dust was moving, and we were undoubtedly inhaling most of it.

But we carried on. The first sip of water came for me around mile four. It was delightful. I had pulled up my buff all the way over my nose and mouth trying to filter some of the dust from going straight into my lungs.

My eyes still burned and watered. My nose leaked incessantly behind the buff. I had no idea how far I had run until I heard someone called out, “you’re halfway there.”

Great. Half is good. 

Then, several volunteers yelled, “it’s all downhill from here.”

A wave of relief washed over me. Downhill is really good.

But they were lying. All of them.

I couldn’t understand why. We never did anything to them. Why would they blatantly lie to a group of exhausted, choked out runners fumbling through deep sand in the dark? Because they were evil.

Not more than a couple of minutes after those shouts, we were climbing again. The elevation map told the story. Although it looked like runners should be coming down, in fact, they’re actually climbing first before a big drop, which gave the illusion of “all down hill from here.” Bastards.

Around mile 12, there was a wonderful downhill slope, which I bombed throwing caution to the wind, sinking each foot into the deep, ankle-straining sand, and letting gravity to the work. After that glorious forty-five seconds, it was uphill again.

There was also a short section, under a mile, of pavement somewhere in the middle, but other than that, the rest of the course was done in foot- and soul-sucking sand.

After completing the race, I received a medal.

A medal that depicted a fucking paved road and some sunlight. And a dude at the bottom, which is annoying. His silhouette looked more like a detective running to catch a perp than a racer.

But I digress. This medal is should be illegal. Friends, do not be lured by its false promises.

For anyone interested in taking on the Vacation Races JT half, check the reviews of the race. It was hard last year so they changed the course. It was still hard this year.

Now, if you’re in it for a tough race, say mostly uphill in ankle-deep sand, go for it. You will feel like a badass when it is over. But if you’re looking to do a fun race, keep looking.

Happy running.


My half marathon training plan

If you’ve not run a half marathon before, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of training plans available. Some cost money to download and others are free for the taking online.

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years evaluating race training plans, and found what works for some runners, does not work for others. One size does not fit all.

Some training plans have you running five or six times a week and others just twice. If I run four or five times a week, week after week, I’ll injure myself.

It’s best to test as many different types of training plans as you can to find what works for you. If possible, get a running coach, and see what she can build specifically for you.

Below is my half marathon training plan for the Joshua Tree race in November.

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Mileage

Week 0

3

3

Week 1

Hike

Rest

Abs

3

Rest

Rest

4

7

Week 2

Rest

Abs

3

Strength

Rest

Rest

3

6

Week 3

Rest

Strength

Rest

3

Rest

Rest

4

7

Week 4

Rest

Cross-train

4

Rest

Yoga

Rest

5

9

Week 5

Hike

Rest

Yoga

4.5

Rest

Rest

6.6

11.1

Week 6

Rest

3.5

Abs

Rest

3

Rest

5

11.5

Week 7

3.2

Rest

4

Rest

Yoga

Rest

6

13.2

Week 8

Rest

Abs

Rest

5

Rest

Rest

8

13

Week 9

2

Rest

Yoga

4

Rest

Rest

10K race

12.2

Week 10

3

Rest

Rest

3

Rest

Rest

10

16

Week 11

Rest

Rest

3

Rest

4

Rest

8

15

Week 12

Rest

4

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Race Day

17.1

As of this entry, it’s week five of the plan. We did a killer hike this morning to work out any stiffness from my five-mile run yesterday. Everything is feeling pretty good.๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿฝ

What’s important to look for in any training plan is how the weekly mileage increases. Slowly. It should be very slowly. Anything over 10-15% increase in mileage week over week is a red flag.

Even the popular Couch to 5K plan gives you the option of running for a set time as opposed to distance, which gives you a baseline to start with. Once you know, for example, how far you can go in twenty minutes, then you can slowly increase your mileage from there.

Don’t forget to add in strength and cross training. I also like to include yoga every other week to help with flexibility, breathing capacity, and mental focus.

When you train, do it on the same terrain as your race. If you’re running on trails, train on trails. Road race? Hit the pavement. Come race day, your body will thank you for the conditioning.

Two things that are equally as important, but not shown on the training plan are your nutrition (go plant-based) and sleep (get lots).

Last, don’t skip the dynamic warmup and comfortable cool down with rollout and stretching post-run. Stretching has become somewhat controversial on when you do it, how effective it is at helping reducing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), and impact on muscle health, but I’ve found it incredibly helpful.

The dynamic warmup helps get some heat to areas, like my hips, back and knees, that can’t get into gear as quickly as other parts like my quads and calf muscles.

Post-run stretching and foam and/or stick rolling are recovery tools that have become indispensable. If you’re short on time, and have to skip something, skip the dynamic warmup, but go out slowly. You’ll warm up naturally in the first few miles.

Stay healthy,ย friends.ย ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ’š


Running in the desert

Training for the Joshua Tree half marathon has begun.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started to work my way out of not running and in to actual training. This weekend, I ran four miles without feeling destroyed (and therefore sad and depressed) post run.

Since going plant-based in June, I find my recovery time has shortened a little. I’m not as sore or sore for as long as I had been on a heavier meat and dairy diet.

It felt like an eternity to get healthy, but now that I am, I give all the credit to my plant-based diet, raw iron supplement, essential oil concoctions, shedding any old negative feelings, and yoga regiment. They have breathed new life into my body and soul. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ

My training plan for Joshua Tree is a 12-week program that includes training runs two to three times a week. I designed it so I could ramp slowly, ever aware of not running too much too soon, and peak just in time for the race.

Although, I included a two week taper into the plan, my hope is to continue the training beyond Joshua Tree to build to a full marathon in January or February. We’ll see how it goes.

Joshua Tree National Park is made up of two deserts that converge next to one another. The actual race will take place in the Mojave Desert in Joshua Tree, CA.

In 2018, I visited Joshua Tree National Park. It felt, unmistakably, like everything in the park and both deserts were designed specifically to kill humans. Spiders and snakes and sharp, needled plants and desert bees; and did I mention spiders? ๐Ÿ•ท Big ones.

Running at night means all those dangerous things will still be there, only hidden by and lurking in the darkness waiting to take out any unsuspecting racer. I plan on bringing an enormous – potentially two enormous headlamps. Imagine the light on the front of a train – that’s what I’m going for. I want light 40 feet out and 15 feet wide. I wouldn’t mind if it was able to be seen from space.

Speaking of gear, since I’ve not had much experience with night running, I have even less with headlamp running.

Earlier this year, I participated in REI’s night run, which was a mile, and wore a workable headlamp. But it was cold and I wore it over a trucker hat, which I wore over a warm beanie, which was soft and cushy. And we jogged only a mile along a local trail. Neither of us broke a sweat.

I won’t have those luxuries running 13 miles in the desert night. The headlamp needs to be reliable, last the whole race, which for me could mean hours and hours, comfortable, and, of course, really, really bright. Open to recommendations.

The race is supported with aid stations every other mile after mile 3. It’s cup-free race, and I’m toying with the idea of testing out a vest on the trail. Correction: I’ll test out the vest in training, and then decide hopefully weeks before the race whether or not it’s for me.

If it’s not, I’ll stick with my old trusty Nathan handheld. It didn’t fail me in Antarctica, so I have a fair amount of confidence it’ll do just fine in the desert.

Last, but essential to a solid training plan: nutrition. I ran the Antarctica race on starburst candy. I need a real plan for this race.

Friends who also ran Antarctica used sport jellybeans. I might be open to that if they’re vegan. I’m leaning mostly on using medjool dates, but I’d like a few more healthy options to test during training.

Over seven miles is usually when I start to introduce some sort of nutrition during the run. Anything under, I can do without and eat a recovery snack afterwards.

Again, open to ideas or suggestions.

Lots of training and running and testing still to come.

Stay healthy, friends. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ’š


Progress

My heart pounded in my throat, and my lungs burned desperate for oxygen. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck. Legs were heavy, knees throbbed, and back ached.

I might actually die, I thought. How long had I been doing this? Forty minutes?

My watch showed 6:33. I’d been running for six f*cking minutes.

That’s how my first run in over three months started.

A mile into it, however, my body remembered, my heart rate regulated. Although it hit 197 and that felt a tad high, I paid little mind to such insignificant details. I was running.ย 

And running is f*cking amazing. ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธโค๏ธ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ

Best three miles of my forties. Antarctica shmantarctica.

While on the epic jaunt, I came across a massive construction project that spanned the better part of half a mile. It must have started while I was hurt.

New buildings and structures littered the once serene view. The wild grass, brush, and vast greenery (or brownery in the summertime) were gone.

The foothills were blotted out and NASA’s folded dome that I had come to think of as almost homeย when returning from a long run was indistinct.

What once was the only standing structure in my view had become an impotent and dusty half nickel squeezed out by the shiny titanic-sized scaffolding.

In the photo (above), I can’t tell if when the construction is completed, I’ll lose NASA’s dome altogether.

But this is what progress is: change.

I’m grateful for the progress my body and soul have made in the past few months going from not being able to walk to being in a stupid boot to running.

These new buildings represented someone else’s progress, I guess. Maybe this is how I know I’ve moved into a new chapter of my life. I resent someone else’s progress.ย ๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿผ

Especially, when progress destroyed the view and eliminated the oxygen-creating trees and plants along the running trail. They better install green rooftops on those massive steel dinosaurs, or I’ll write a letter. ๐Ÿ˜€

Onward. But first, I need a nap.


Learn the lesson

The last six weeks have been frustrating, insightful, educational, and inspiring – a rollercoaster of highs and lows.ย I went from a skeptic feeling deprived of my favorite – and socially acceptable – foods to a grateful member of the plant-based family.

Besides my leg, my body has never felt better. I no longer have mid-afternoon lulls. I thought it was “natural” to have a 2pm tired spell, but it’s not. Or at least it’s not for me. I have a lot of energy throughout the day. Cuts and scrapes heal quickly and my clumsy spell is over.

My leg pain is still a bit of mystery, but I’ve learned a lot. Last week, I meditated daily and asked for guidance on healing. I asked to see old or existing patterns in my thinking where I could be subconsciously causing myself pain or a perceived injury.

As I mentioned in my blog postย last week, the documentary HEAL resonated with me. I put into action all the tactics they outlined. The work helped, but didn’t fully heal me – at least not in the last week or so.ย Tick tock, let’s go, self.ย โฐย ๐Ÿ˜‡

But I’m continuing down that path and feel good about it. I reread The Purpose-Driven Life. It offered an interesting take on life from a Christian perspective. I took away the lessons that resonated with me, like “you were made for a mission” and left anything that didn’t on the page.

I also went to a reiki healer, named Bella, who, without knowing a thing about my journey or me personally, said, “your brain is telling me you are severely anemic.”

She went on to tell me that because of the lack of iron in my blood, there are kind of like varicose veins being created on the inside of my left leg. (Left leg!) She said it wasn’t a clot or anything dangerous, just that it causes pain. And damn is she right about that. She said a high quality iron supplement, which I need to take every day for the next three to six months without skipping or forgetting, will fix it.

She also said she saw calcification above and below my knee, which is where I feel throbbing. I was blown away at her accuracy and the confidence in which she delivered her messages.

So it looks like this journey has gone full circle. When I embarked on this plant-based experiment, I talked about being anemic even after eating meat for a few years. Seems I’m still working on that.

Bella said my body needs more iron than most. So a low iron reading on a “normal” western medicine blood test is anemic for me. I should look to be on the high side or slightly above normal.

As far as the calcification above and below my knee, she recommended essential oils, which I’ll take a look into. Lots more to learn.

I f*cking love this about life. When you go search for something, it reveals itself. It might not be on my time schedule, which was yesterday, but it will happen. And I am grateful for that.ย ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ

Three years ago, I traveled to Everest Base Camp to heal my hip. Hmmmm, sound familiar, does it? I had a very similar problem with pain moving up and down my left side and settling into my hip. In Nepal, I hardly felt the pain. It seemingly went on vacation too.

In 2013, when I was training for the Chicago Marathon, I injured my left foot weeks before the race. It was the same deal – I had to pull back training and missed my longest run. I finished the race, just like in Antarctica, but not without a lot of pain, just like in Antarctica.

So what the eff is going on? Every three years am I going to have to deal with this shizzle?

Seems I’ve got a nasty pattern on my hands – mind, body, heart, soul – that I need to solve for or I’ll be doing this again in a couple of years.

Pema Chodron said, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

Maybe it’s simply iron. Maybe. But maybe it’s something else. Or maybe it’s both.

If I can identify whatever is going on with me and conquer the “injury pattern” – do what I was supposed to do or learn what I was supposed to learn in 2013 and then again in 2016, I can solve this and stay healthy.

I’m on a journey to learn the lesson. This stops in 2019. More to come.ย โค๏ธ


Heal

I’m out of the boot – hooray!ย ๐ŸŽ‰

Last week, I watched HEAL on Netflix. It reminded me that I have the power to fix myself, especially in a situation where my leg muscles should have healed months ago.

The tightness and burning and throbbing – like my leg is vibrating on a different frequency than the rest of my body – indicated that maybe this, like so many other afflictions, could be a spiritual issue.

From the documentary, I took the following nine key tactics of healing and took a look at how I can put them to use in my own life.

  1. Radically changing your diet
  2. Taking control of your health
  3. Following your intuition
  4. Using herbs and supplements
  5. Releasing suppressed emotions
  6. Increasing positive emotions
  7. Embracing social support
  8. Deepening your spiritual connection
  9. Have a strong reason for living

The good news is I can’t help but to do number two, that’s the benefit of being a little bit of a control freak. I try to do number three – that’s where most of my harebrained ideas come from.

And, if you’ve followed my journey, you know I started number one five weeks ago by going completely plant-based.

In fact, the whole foods, plant-based diet has been instrumental in changing my life.ย After five weeks, I have more energy. My thoughts are more focused. Scratches and cuts heal incredibly quickly. My skin has finally cleared up.

I haven’t looked into herbs and supplements but will. I just need to figure out a good place to start. ๐Ÿค”

This past week, I did an exercise for number five – releasing suppressed emotions – and that was fabulous. Hard, but so good.

I’m working on number six and seven. I’ve stopped watching the news and try to surround myself with positive people.

My friends and family are the best when it comes to sending me love and healing energy. I am blessed.

I’ve meditated and prayed every day since seeing the documentary. I love connecting with God. Oddly,ย I seem to find reasons not to do it often, same with my yoga practice. It’s like my brain wants to keep my hands (and itself) busy with idle tasks, which I unknowingly comply with.

But when I do sit down and meditate or invest the time in a yoga class, it’s heavenly. Right now, I don’t think about whether or not I have the choice to do it. It’s simple. If I want to heal, I just do it.

Number nine. This one I struggled with, which is saying something. I love life, it’s not that I don’t. I just can’t say I have a strong reason for living.

I love my family, friends, and partner immensely. I love the earth, nature, animals, and life’s wonderful conveniences like clean hot and cold water, lights that turn on with the flip a switch, and the espresso machine.

A strong reason for living feels like something a lot bigger than animals or the espresso machine; like a purpose.

When I was a child, my purpose was to grow up and move out of the house. After I moved out of the house, my purpose was to get a degree. After I did that, it was to land a good job. After I did that, it was to land a better job that paid more money. Then, a better one, and so on. Maybe these were just goals. (I love goals.)

The truth is I can’t say I’ve ever had a bigger purpose in mind other than to survive my childhood, not become a complete basket case as I process the trauma in adulthood, contribute to the better good of society, and give of myself at both work and in relationships.

All considered, I’ve been mildly successful. I probably have something deep down, I just need to find a way to bring it to the surface so I look to that as I begin to heal.

So, while I finish up the last scheduled week of eating a plant-based diet, I’m going to find and implement a few different exercises in helping me find my purpose.

A long, long, long time ago, I read The Purpose-Driven Life. Maybe I’ll check that out again.

One more week to go.ย ๐Ÿฅ’๐Ÿฅ•๐Ÿ‡๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ†๐Ÿฅฆ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ‰ย ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ