The bikram yoga studio that I frequent is quintessentially San Francisco.  It doesn’t limit the number of students in class (sometimes you are literally 1″ from the person next to you, unfortunately) and the instructors let people barge in well after class has started.  I’m fairly certain that this would never fly in New York.  The studio itself also has a free-spirited, boho feel to it with its bright apricot colored walls.  On the back wall near the ceiling there are a string of posters made by dedicated students who attended class 100+ times within in calendar year.  “Caroline, 100 Yoga Days!”  “Ashley, 162 Yoga Days!”  Some crazy woman named Valerie has a poster for 365 meaning she came to class every day for an entire year.  Can you imagine?!  Oy.  Anyways, I find myself staring at these posters when I’min  savasana, lying on my back in between postures. While I highly doubt I’ll ever go to enough to be able to make my own 100 Yoga Days poster, I do think that 20 Yoga Days is a semi-noteworthy milestone that is worth reflecting upon.  I completed my 20th yoga day yesterday when I drug myself down to the studio in an attempt to recover from two days of shredding 8 feet of powder at Squaw Valley – an effort that I’m proud to say was largely successful.

In previous posts I touted bikram yoga as an excellent way to increase flexibility, soothe injuries, and get a challenging cross-training workout.  The difficult postures also improve balance and strengthen muscles, particularly the core. As I’ve continued my yoga practice over the past several months, I’ve noticed a couple more benefits that are applicable to running.  The first is increased ankle strength.  My ankles have always been rather weak and prone to rolling during hiking and running and I experienced noticeable ankle pain and discomfort when I started running regularly after college.  At times I wrapped my ankles or wore an Ace bandage ankle sleeve.  I don’t have as many problems with my ankles now, which makes me think they got used to the impact and strengthened on their own, but every bikram yoga class reminds me that I still have a lot of room for improvement.  Several poses in the bikram standing series involve balancing on one leg, and in one posture that I find particularly difficult you are only allowed to progress when your leg is a “solid lamp post.”  Let’s just say that unless I’m having a really stellar day I’m mostly stuck working on my lamp post and trying not to wobble or fall out of the posture.  I have no doubt that these simple but challenging exercises have improved my ankle strength, which I consider especially important to long distance running where  joints and muscles tend to “give out” when they get too tired.

The second benefit I have more recently noticed is the breathing and heart rate control aspect of bikram yoga.  Class starts with a breathing exercise involving long, deep inhalations through the nose and exhalations through the mouth.  Thereafter you are only to breathe slowly through your nose – a simple rule that sounds easier than it actually is, especially for chronically congested mouth breathers like me. (I always have to make sure that I take a Benadryl before class!)  The extreme heat combined with the intensity of the postures quickly raises your heart rate and oftentimes trying not to gasp for air is equally as challenging as correcting your form.  There is a reason that almost every instructor I have ever had is constantly reminding the class to focus on breathing slowly and deeply. Now that I’ve gotten a little better grip (pun intended) on the postures I have really been trying to focus on quickly lowering my heart rate in class.  Given how aerobic of an activity running is, I am convinced that the breath and heart rate control I am working to develop in class will pay dividends on the road.  I’m also considering making Bryant go to bikram in hopes that the next time we go scuba diving he won’t use up his air twice as fast as me. 🙂

I continue to discover new perks of bikram yoga as I continue to practice and it helps keep me fit for running as I try to nurse my injuries.  Here’s to my next 20 yoga days!

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…the need for speed! While my name is not Maverick, I have always liked going fast. Skiing, swimming, driving, you name it. The faster, the better. My running in 2010 was more about the experience, ie.  killing myself on the hills of the 1st half of the San Francisco marathon in order to run over the Golden Gate Bridge and take in the amazing views, dreadful finishing time be damned. And while that was fun, I’ve decided that 2011 is going to be all about speed. I would like to push myself to see how fast I can actually go. Part of the reason I enjoy running so much is the competitive aspect of it. I think it’s fair to say that I’m probably not going to win any race of any size anytime soon. That’s okay. I find competing against myself just as challenging and rewarding. There is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing that your hard work paid off and helped you do something better than you ever have before. Three months later I am still quietly reveling in the success I had in the NYC marathon last year.

Years of competitive swimming has left me focused on and at times even obsessed with personal bests, or personal records (PR’s) as I suppose they are more commonly known as in the track and field world. Unfortunately, road racing does not provide the same constant environment to test one’s self that the pool does. (If I truly wanted to bore you I could dissect the features and characteristics of “fast” pools and “slow” pools, but I will refrain). The point is that unlike swimming, the terrain, course, elevation profile and even uncontrollable factors like weather and number of other runners in a road race have a strong affect on time. This not sit well with me, but what can I do? I can register for the flattest, fastest courses out there, which is exactly what I did this week. I signed up for the second half of the San Francisco marathon this summer and the Chicago marathon this fall and I literally can’t wait to see if I can best my PR’s. I also signed up for the Centennial of the Bay to Breakers 12K. I don’t know anything about the course, but I can assure that I will be running as fast as I can, in costume (maybe Hooters? lots of mobility…), so as to finish the race and get to the party as soon as possible.

Besides my unsophisticated strategy of entering the “easiest” races I could find, I also plan to start incorporating some speed work into my weekly training. Fun stuff like tempo runs and modified track workouts. Maybe I’ll go crazy and even throw some weight lifting in there. Time will tell. I’ve tried to do a bit of this in the past, but there was relatively little commitment on my part. I’m hoping that with my more defined goal of obliterating my PR’s I’ll have a bit more motivation.

But for now I’m just getting back into the swing of things. My injuries seem to have mostly healed up, and I’m very slowly bumping up my frequency of runs and mileage. No need to overdo it. I’m just working on laying down a solid base so I can run fast later in the year!

Well, we’re seven days into the new year.  I think that means it’s time for some serious new year’s running resolutions (nevermind that I haven’t even thought about any regular resolutions that would be way more useful to me).  Without further ado, I present to you:

Emily’s New Year Running Resolutions

1.  Run another marathon this fall and make a legitimate effort to shave off the eight minutes needed to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I’m thinking about Chicago given that it’s still a big time marathon and more importantly is net downhill.  Genius.

2.  Update this blog more frequently.  As one of my ToughMudder teammates and dare I say loyal reader’s (?) quipped, “It’s not the most prolific blog I’ve ever seen.”  Understatement.  I like to write, but I’m lazy.  Get better, Emily.

3.  Test out the barefoot/natural running craze.  I’ve read a bit about it, most notably in a chapter of Born to Run that my friend Jackie sent me, and seen it in action (see my SF Half Marathon post), but have yet to try it.  My boyfriend Bryant knew that I was keen on getting a pair of Vibram FiveFingers so he bit the bullet and got me the ones exclusively made for natural running for Christmas. What a guy! I can’t wait to try them out as soon as my big right toe recovers/deflates from being jammed into my too small ski boots from middle school a week and a half ago (no joke).

My final two resolutions concern my current state of physical affairs.  Namely, my left IT band and the back of my left knee which are still hurting post-marathon despite two months of very infrequent running.  This situation is frustrating to say the least, but looking on the bright side at least I am quasi-mobile and actually want to run.  After the ’08 NYC Marathon I was barely mobile and couldn’t even think about running.  I’m pretty sure that my life was devoid of physical activity, save the occasional ski trip, for several months.  But I digress…

4.  More bikram yoga. It’s not secret that I’ve been on a bikram kick lately, mostly because I’m trying to heal up my body, I have plenty of time to make the 50min. round trip walk down to the studio in the Marina, and I’m trying to make the most of my unlimited yoga Groupon before it expires at the end of the month. While I don’t think it’s realistic that I keep this routine up, I do think it’s realistic that I go 2-3 times a month after January.  I’ve continued to have positive results with bikram and I always feel like I’ve gotten a great workout.  Kudos to fellow NYC-marathoners Snew and Jess who are now giving bikram a whirl as well.  More friends with whom to commiserate over wanting to pass out/throw up midway through standing series!

5.  Prevent/take care of injuries.  More stretching, more foam roller, and more strengthening exercises.  I already make a c0ncerted effort to do all of this but I’m convinced you can never do enough.  Also, if my current injuries aren’t healed up in a month or so, I am forcing myself to go back to physical therapy.  Enough is enough!

And with that, I’m off for a quick 4-miler (just to see where I’m at – probably won’t end well).  Happy running to all of you in 2011! 🙂

Warning: This post contains extreme cheesiness and gloating.  I just can’t help myself.

What an amazing day.  I woke up feeling refreshed despite being too anxious to fall asleep at a reasonable hour and then getting up to pee at least five times.  There may have been some over-hydration on my part.  That, or else I am 80.  Snew and I did a quick stretch before catching the Staten Island Ferry over to the start.  Then came the dreaded 3-hour wait and man, was it cold (mid 30’s with cold gusts of wind).  We sat and ate for the majority of the time, planning out our pill popping timeline and willing the ever-elusive pre-race bowel movement to come.  Perhaps the latter was an overshare but I think most runners can sympathize on this one.  We had to split up once our corrals opened and the time between then and the start is mostly a nervous, excited blur.  I remember feeling like I had absolutely no idea how the race was going to go.  Could be great, could be an utter disaster.  The cannon went off while walking to the starting line I just repeated the cardinal rules of marathoning to myself: 1. Start running 2. Keep running.

The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge was windy, crowded, and slow, just as I had remembered, which is actually a good thing because it prevents you from going out too hard right away and allows you some time to take in the spectacular views and the beginning of the whole crazy experience.  Shortly after entering Brooklyn I was passed by the 3:50 pace team.  I had never entertained the idea of signing up for a pace team (not sure why), but decided to try and hang with them given that I was shooting for a time of under 4 hours.  Mile after mile I stuck with the bunch of blue balloons that the pacers were holding and kept my stride long and loose.  I tried to take in the different neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and I especially got a kick out of Jewish Williamsburg where Hassidic men in all black and curls looked at us like we were crazy people.  One enthusiastic marathoner broke the silence with a rousing chorus of “Shalom My Lady” or something to the nature that was probably wildly offensive.  I was relieved that thus far the race was going 10x’s better than in ’08 when I was borderline having an asthma attack in Brooklyn and was without inhaler.  Total amateur mistake – you can bet I had it with me this time!

The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge

At the midway point in Queens I was still feeling strong.  I was pleased with my 1:55 split and the 3:50 pace team was still in my sights.  Being familiar with the course proved helpful as I knew Queensborough Bridge was coming up and I knew that it was going to suck.  The bridge covers almost a mile (15-16) but given the narrow roadbed, the uphill in the beginning, and the lack of spectators or scenery it feels like about three.  Many runners understandably slowed down but I kept my focus and just kept on trucking.  As I approached the end of the bridge I could hear the roars emanating from the Upper East Side.  An enthusiastic fan standing about 15 feet above me on the upper level at the base of the bridge let out a thunderous “GO EMILY!” (I was obviously wearing my name on a chunk of athletic tape on my chest), which really got me fired up as I made my way into Manhattan.  First Ave was exactly how I remembered – the ultimate rush.  I was so pumped up by the sheer size and noise of the crowd that I picked up the pace, grinned like an idiot, and waved at those who yelled my name.  Further buoyed by my Ruth and Russ sighting (and the knowledge that Becca and Lisa were there somewhere!), I literally felt like I was prancing up the street.  And then, as fast as it had begun, it was over.  I fully expected to fall off the 3:50 pace as we headed towards upper Manhattan and the dreadfully boring Willis Avenue Bridge in the Bronx, but a funny thing happened – I didn’t.  I actually picked up the pace.  I knew I shouldn’t be pushing so hard but it just felt so good!  Against my better judgement, I pulled away from the pace group.

Thoroughly enjoying the race

What happened next can only be described as what my old youth and high school swim coach, Janice, referred to as an “out of body experience.”  What the hell was going on?! I couldn’t believe how well I was doing.  Continuing to wear my cheesy smile I picked up the pace even more, weaving around the runners in front of me who had slowed down.  I couldn’t get around them fast enough!  Spectators lining 5th Ave, including one Molly Fay(!), continued to cheer for me enthusiastically.  I felt like the race had turned into my personal party and I was having the time of my life! Upon entering Central Park I ran into my first speed bump – a piercing side ache on my left side.  My solution was to squeeze my side with one hand and continue to sprint towards the finish.  Thankfully it only lasted from about Mile 24-25 and I was able to finish strong.  Crossing the finish line was pure elation.  I refrained from screaming “YES!” and instead high-fived and congratulated a cute foreigner who most definitely did not speak English.  My time was a respectable 3:48:21, a full 20 minutes faster than my performance in ’08 and not all that far off of the Boston Marathon qualifying time of 3:40!

A week later I’m still in disbelief regarding my performance.  It really made all of the early mornings and long runs, on top of the already arduous campaign schedule, totally worth it.  More importantly, I’m still high on having taken part in arguably the most amazing race in the world with some great friends (and one bad ass Chilean miner)  in the race and along the course.  I can’t wait to do it again!

Can I do another marathon right now? Please?!

Considering that I believe most of my loyal blog readers to be either my parents or my friends who are bored at work, I’m sure most of you know that I’ve been working on the Meg Whitman campaign for the last few months.  The lack of blog postings during this period pretty much sums up the intensity of my schedule.  I had big plans to write all sorts of musings on my training leading up to the marathon, but alas.  If I wasn’t working, completing my 2+ hr round trip commute to scenic Cupertino, CA, or running, I chose to sleep.  While drowning my sorrows at the staff party during our unsuccessful election night, I happened to make a new friend – Bob – who had been called in to work on the campaign for the final week. Turned out he is also running the NYC Marathon, and in fact spearheading a charity team for Executives Without Borders, the non-profit he serves as CEO for.  (Sidenote: Everyone should work for a campaign at some point. You meet a lot of interesting, fun people and get to have bi-weekly happy hours in the vicinity of your own office!).  Anyways, I somehow managed to tell Bob my entire life story, including the running blog for whatever reason, and he suggested the title and theme of this post.

When Team Meg hired me in August, my first thought was that my marathon plans were in serious jeopardy.  How could I possibly work all of the long days and weekends and still get in all those miles?  I decided to just keep training until it became absolutely clear that the marathon was not in the cards.  Surprisingly, this never happened.  Quite possibly the most helpful thing was my overall attitude towards the upcoming months.  I decided that my life was going to be centered around work and running for the next three months – quite a stretch for a social butterfly like myself.  However, it occurred to me that three months really isn’t all that long of a time to sacrifice.  I actually found it easier to be in total overdrive mode as opposed to trying to balance everything.  And despite all of my focus during this period I still found the occasional night, perhaps involving an acid wash denim jumpsuit and a lot of fist pumping to Tainted Love, to cut loose.

I also switched up my running schedule.  While I’m typically a post-work runner, I realized that this probably wasn’t going to work out given the times I was getting home and my generally lethargy at the end of the day.  I switched the majority of my short weekday runs to the morning.  Waking up a little after 5am certainly conjured up bad memories of early morning swim practice, but thankfully my darling boyfriend Bryant gets up around then too so I had someone to prod me if need be.  I also discovered that I quite liked the peacefulness of running in the quite dark along the Marina.  There were usually a number of other early runners (hello, fitness obsessed San Francisco) so I never felt unsafe, and back in September when the sun rose earlier I got to witness some truly breathtaking sunsets over the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.  The only tough part of morning runs besides the god awful early morning wake up was trying to get my appetite under control.  In the beginning I was so ravenous that I had usually consumed three separate breakfasts in the 7 hours before I had lunch.  I discovered the campaigns are notorious for binge eating – licorice, baked goods, beer, etc. – and I had little restraint not to indulge, but luckily my appetite calmed down after a few weeks I managed not to pork up too much.

In the midst of all my working and training madness I also came to the wonderful conclusion that training for one’s second marathon is a piece of cake compared to the first.  Quite simply, it just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal the second time around.  Two years ago when I was training for NYC I was a proverbial trainwreck by September/October, both physically and emotionally.  I’m sure that one Laura Landry could easily recall the time she talked me into uncurling myself from my living room floor post-18 mile run and coming to brunch at Dos Caminos where she tried to force feed me my breakfast omelette while I tried not to throw up/cry/collapse.  Good times.  This year, however, I approached marathon training not as a huge obstacle but as a fun challenge.  I still dreaded my long runs (honestly, who doesn’t?), but I completed them matter-of-factly and got on with my weekend.  Taking better care of myself was also key to better training this year.  Despite my limited free time, I made stretching, icing, physical therapy exercises, and the dreaded foam roller and absolute priority, usually banging it all out while watching trashy tv before bed.  I slept more, drank less, and took more vitamins so as not to get sick or rundown.  And similarly to two years ago, I still skipped some shorter runs if I was hurting, unreasonably tired, or just unable to get up and it get going.  It happens, and I tend to think that doing every single workout is unattainable for all but the craziest marathoners.

As I now sit here in my friend and fellow marathoner Sarah Newhall’s apartment in the East Village, I’m pretty amped about the race tomorrow.  It’s been an emotional week with the election and part of me feels pretty drained and strung out.  In true marathon runner fashion I also have some lingering injuries that I am more than a little concerned about.  However, I have been preparing for this crazy election + marathon week for months and I have no doubt that when I hear the cannon followed by Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” tomorrow morning at the starting line in Staten Island that I will be ready to rock.

Best of luck to my fellow NYC marathoners: Snew, Jess, Amy + boyfriend Dan, Brady, and Bob!  And a big congrats to Jackie, another friend and occasional training buddy (when I can stand it), who already showed us how its done at the 2500th Anniversary Athens Marathon last weekend.  Now, off to the expo to pick up my bib!

I’ve done a lot of physically demanding things in my life. None, however, rival the grueling Ed Anacker Bridger Ridge Run. It’s a different type of animal altogether. Forget the super organized road races with elaborate expos, coordinated transportation, dry fit swag, and frequent refreshments along the course. The Ridge Run is a total bootleg operation with only a few hundred participants testing themselves along the jagged ridge of the Bridger Mountains outside of Bozeman, MT.  Only the truly adventurous dare to attempt it, and I happened to be one of these truly adventurous idiots five years ago this weekend. To top things off, I attempted it on a year when the area experienced some of the worst weather in the history of the race. Instead of writing a sappy reflection on what happened to me five years ago, I’ve decided to re-post an article I wrote about my experience for the Daily Princetonian after I returned to college a few weeks after the race. For any of you that missed its initial publication (which is to say probably all of you except for my loving parents), enjoy.

SPORTS

Dear Daily Princetonian

By Emily Lammers
Staff Writer
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Published: Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of postcards that Daily Princetonian sports staff writers wrote about their experiences in the wide world of sports this summer. Keep reading throughout the next few weeks for more dispatches from across the country and around the world.

BOZEMAN, Mont. — What’s a girl to do after retiring from the Princeton swimming team and the grueling training schedule it entails? Find another way to inflict pain on herself, of course.

My new source of hurt came in the form of the 20th-annual Ed Anacker Bridger Ridge Run. The 20-mile run boasts a 17,000-foot elevation change traversing the spine of the Bridger Mountain range near my hometown of Bozeman, Mont. And despite residing in New York City for the summer and not being able to train at altitude or on mountain trail conditions, I believed I was ready to take on the “most technical trail race in existence.”

With my new Camelbak securely strapped on and my iPod blasting cheesy pump-up tunes, I eagerly lined up at the starting line. A cold snap had just started, and the mountains were completely covered in clouds, but I wasn’t worried. By the time I summitted the first mountain, 9,200-ft. Sacajawea Peak, however, the temperature was hovering around 30 degrees, the ground was covered in snow, and my hair was fully encrusted with ice.

“Well, these certainly aren’t the conditions I had hoped for, but so far this isn’t too bad,” I told myself while getting my frozen portrait snapped by a support crew member.

Disaster struck around mile four when I slipped on a loose chunk of icy shale and slid part way down the mountainside, spraining my ankle. As I was trying to regroup, my cell phone rang with a new message. (It’s amazing how good the service is when you’re on top of a mountain.) My cousin, who had given the race a test run last summer, texted: “Good luck and ENJOY!” How ironic. My throbbing ankle made me question whether I could even finish the race, but lacking a better alternative, I taped the ankle up, popped a handful of Motrin and continued on my way.

The miles that followed were something of a blur. Due to the altitude, temperature and fatigue, I was slightly delirious the majority of the time. The dense fog made it difficult to see any runners in front of or behind me, and I just hoped that I wouldn’t lose the sparsely marked trail or tumble down the side of the steep ridge into the cloudy abyss. Making my way up and down the treacherous talus “trail,” I forced myself to hydrate and suck down high-calorie goo packets.

At the midway support station, located at the top of our local ski hill, I was given some much-needed mittens, pickles (my favorite) and electrolyte capsules by the support crew. My nearly hypothermic mother and frozen-mustached father were also there to boost my morale. (Thanks, guys!)

More gusty winds and bitter cold greeted me on the second half of the run. I focused all the attention I could muster on the trail, so as to not fall down or tweak my ankle again on the loose, knife-like rocks. I eventually reached the final peak, Mount Baldy, where I foolishly figured the final five miles downhill would be no problem. Not so. The extreme steepness, coupled with the millions of tiny rocks which slid like marbles under my feet, proved to be murder on my compromised ankle.

This stretch was undoubtedly the longest part of the run, and the pain and stress had me in near hysterics by the time I finally crossed the finish line. My time: seven hours, 41 minutes, rather pathetic in my opinion. But what did I care? I was DONE — and I could look forward to spending the remainder of the month wearing an air cast and taking painkillers.

While flipping through some literature in my finisher’s packet a few days later, I stumbled across the quote, “Dropped on your head as a small child? Then ultra running is the sport for you!”

After the Ridge Run experience, I’m beginning to think there’s something my parents didn’t tell me.

The Ridge

This photo was taken from when I ran in '05. I have it blown up and framed to commemorate my efforts. Also, I beat that guy in the yellow (barely), which means he was super slow as well.

Emily here again. For those who are curious, it hasn’t snowed during the Ridge Run since ’05. This weekend looks to be warm as well. I do hope to give it another whirl sometime and hope for a better time and better weather.

For those who are interested in getting a better feel for the terrain, check out this fairly amazing video of the ’03 Ridge Run.  (Unfortunately I can’t figure out how to embed it). I’m still wondering how they got what I assume to be aerial footage. Perhaps on the helicopters that drop off the water on top of some of the peaks?!?!

Well, I survived. Chest cold and all. I really had no idea what to expect given the unfamiliarity of the course, the limited amount of training I crammed in after the month-long vacation, and of course, the aforementioned chest cold. Turns out the result was neither stellar nor disastrous. I was a good 11 1/2 minutes off my personal record but it was set on a much flatter course in Central Park. I really can’t overemphasize the magnitude and abundance of hills on the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon (it was also a full marathon but you could choose which half you wanted to run – the 1st half was considerably more hilly). Oof.

As expected, the Golden Gate Bridge was the highlight of the run. The steep approach was absolutely spectacular as the bridge was shrouded in early morning fog. Then there was the nearly 5 miles across the bridge to Marin County and back. While the fog obscured much of the bay and city views, it was still a tremendous feeling to be running in the traffic lane across such a famed landmark. It was also fun to see the the elite runners blowing past on the other side of the course on the bridge. It was at this time I also saw some of the most hardcore people I have ever encountered – a group of guys wearing nothing but running shorts. That’s right, forget the Five Fingers phenomenon, these guys were sans shoes and socks. Owww.

After the bridge came a jaunt through the Presidio which provided a welcome respite from the hills. But just when I thought I was home free the course cut into the Richmond area of San Francisco, heading for Golden Gate Park. These hills were almost as bad as those around and on the bridge and decidedly less scenic, not to mention my legs and lungs were pretty pooped from the first 11 miles. I felt slightly better when a guy next to me shouted “enough with the hills already!” Good, it wasn’t just me that was dying. Into a misty Golden Gate Park we flew and towards the finish line. I was apparently so focused on the finish that I missed seeing my cheering section (thanks Mom and Bryant!) Upon finishing, I promptly broke into a fit of uncontrollable coughing. As I said in the beginning, not my best result, but I would take it. It was my 7th half marathon and first one not in relatively flat New York City. Moreover it was longest run thus far in my training for the New York City Marathon in November.

I think my body has decided to make me pay for putting it through the half marathon in its compromised state as I have been even sicker since Sunday with yesterday being the absolute worst (I didn’t even leave the apartment). As such I decided to rest on my half marathon laurels and put further training on hold until perhaps tomorrow.

So, I’ll be blasting off in the first wave of marathoners/half marathoners tomorrow morning at 5:32am. Lucky me! I have really been looking to this race over the last couple months, however now I am pretty worried about my nasty chest cold. I haven’t slept well in a week – mostly up coughing, hacking, drinking water, etc. I wasn’t sure if I was even going to race given how under the weather I’ve been but my 3 mile “test run” today went better than expected. I actually seem to be able to breathe at about the same comfort level running as I can lying or sitting down. My game plan is to go at an easy (ie. non-PR range) pace.  This is something I’m not very good at and don’t particularly enjoy but it might mean the difference between finishing and not finishing. If I am under 1:50 (my PR is 1:44:30), I will be pleased.  One thing is for certain – I am PSYCHED about the course and running across the Golden Gate Bridge and back! Best of luck to my fellow half and full marathoners and stay tuned for a recap!

It wouldn’t be a trip home to Montana if my mom wasn’t pestering me to go hiking with her.  I used to absolutely despise hiking with my parents (refer to the “About Me” page), but now I quite like it.  It presents a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, as well as either cross-train by hiking or get in an intense hill/altitude run.  Due to all the late spring and early summer snows this year we were a bit limited on where we could hike free of snow last week.  We settled on 8245 ft Garnet Mountain in Gallatin National Forest between Bozeman and Big Sky. Since I had only been running for a few weeks since returning from New Zealand and Australia I was unsure of where my fitness level was and how much of an effect the altitude and the 1900 ft elevation gain would have on me.  I also wasn’t too sure how long the trail was.  Consequently I decided to just run for as long as I could (preferably all the way to the top) without wearing myself out too much of making myself too sore for my 10 mile long run two days later.  Given the trail was uphill 95% of the way, I ran very…very…slowly.  Like many particularly long or steep runs, the main challenge was to just keep going.  It took me exactly 1 hr to run up to the last 1/2 mile of the 4-5 mile trail (still not sure of exact distance).  I did a quick experiment and decided that the last 1/2 mile was too steep to run since I could probably hike it faster, however I still hiked quickly and on the balls of my feet so as to simulate running uphill.  Upon reaching the summit and taking in the amazing views for all 5 minutes I headed down (walking) until I met my mom and hiked the very steep last 1/2 mile again with her.  What a good daughter I am.  I briefly considered running down but decided to save my IT band, hip, and quads from that additional strain as this had already been much more grueling than my usual midweek runs.

I realize that trail/mountain running isn’t a convenient option for most urban runners but that won’t stop me from touting its effectiveness.  Not only is it a more rigorous test of willpower than city running, but it makes other terrain seem like a piece of cake.  My confidence and fitness level going into the hilly San Francisco Half Marathon in two weeks is much higher than it would be had I not challenged myself to hoof it up Garnet Mountain.  I truly think that runners can still benefit, especially from improved mental toughness, even if they only run a couple mountain trails a year.  If nothing else, trail running and hiking is a refreshing change from running the same streets and urban trails in the city.  I probably won’t get in another legitimate mountain run before I leave Montana but I hope to find some trails in and around San Francisco to challenge myself on when I return.  Stay tuned…

The north side of Garnet Mountain, as seen from neighboring Storm Castle Peak.

It may seem a bit odd that my first legitimate post is more about yoga than running.  Given my recent schedule and injuries, however, I thought it made sense to discuss Bikram yoga while its benefits are still fresh in my mind…and body.  For those unfamiliar, Bikram yoga is a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises performed in a studio around 105 degrees Farenheight.  Each session lasts around 90 minutes.  Clothes are minimal, sweating is excessive, and beginners often experience dizziness and nausea.  I have never been a big fan of yoga, and given my strong aversion to heat and humidity Bikram yoga is not exactly my idea of a good time.  Thankfully the benefits are well worth the discomfort and pain.

I can’t remember how I was first introduced to Bikram yoga but I got into doing it during my first couple years of college.  Extremely sore and broken down from the 20-30 hours a week of grueling practice I was putting in for swim team, I would return home to Bozeman, Montana for Christmas and spring breaks with the main objective of relaxation and rejuvenation.  I discovered Bozeman had its very own Bikram studio and started going to classes.  As much as I struggled with the poses and despised the sick feeling the heat gave me, I couldn’t deny how good it made me feel afterward.  It was as if the stretching, breathing, and slow movements had evaporated the  pain and soreness right out of my body.  Magic!  Besides that key benefit I was also getting a cardio and strength workout.  Holding many of the poses lifts the heart rate considerably – something I only noticed while lying down in savasana (resting pose) between active poses and listening to my pounding pulse.

I have long struggled with IT (iliotibial) band syndrome and started to experience a related pain in my hip leading up to and following the NYC Half Marathon at the end of March.  I thought that my 3 week long vacation would be the perfect opportunity for these injuries to heal up a bit since I wouldn’t be running.  It didn’t.  Unfortunately, they became noticeably more painful during the vacation, particularly my hip.  I quickly formulated a solution…Bikram! Upon arriving back in NYC I did a Bikram yoga cram session – 3 workouts in 4 days.  It was a little difficult to get back into (and still not exactly enjoyable), but my injuries felt noticeably better.  I also found some enjoyment in the relaxation I experienced and the intense focus I challenged myself to maintain, as well as the improvements in form I made from session to session.  My hip and IT band are still a little banged up but at least I have been able to run frequently and start training for the San Francisco Half Marathon on July 25th.  I have no doubt that Bikram yoga, in addition to an onslaught of physical therapy exercises, of course, have enabled me to get back into the groove relatively painlessly.

I would highly recommend Bikram yoga as a supplement to running.  If I haven’t already driven this home, it is a completely different type of workout and it also helps with stretching, strength, and injuries. I am hoping to continue Bikram when I go back to Montana for the couple of weeks leading up to the SF Half.  My goal is to permanently incorporate Bikram into my training schedule by going once a week once I have found a studio in San Francisco.