Mind Games

Before I jump into anything running related, I am the proud aunt to Rexetta Judy Weber! Carmen’s baby was born on Friday morning and was named after our Grandma Johnson. I can’t wait to be in New York next weekend! I am so happy for Carmen and Jim. Get ready for lots of baby pics!

In my running life, last weekend I signed up for a 10K that was going to be happening about a mile from my apartment. I was hoping for a little race adrenaline but I got this email 😦


During my Wednesday evening run I saw this on the beach path. Thank you very much fuel tank. I was really wanting to get some speedy miles in. You also made me detour like crazy getting to Venice for my Saturday morning run.

Saturday morning we ran one of those perfectly awesome long runs. Ellen and I started at Gjusta for post-run pastries, and ran our way up San Vicente to pick up Marta and Bri. We did the Bristol hill past Sunset, ran back down San Vicente and picked Lauren up before venturing into the Palisades. I love going out and exploring with my running buds. Check out these awesome tropical looking stairs in the Palisades.

I think the run was so enjoyable because there was no pressure. I wasn’t concerned with pace, I ate my shot blocks whenever I felt like it, I drank water whenever we found it, and I didn’t think about how my legs felt. I just ran and busted out a 6:40 for my last mile just because. When I’m training for a specific race I think too much.

They say running is 90% mental, and over the years I’ve learned a lot about how to tackle mental barriers and discomfort during a race. I’m no expert, but I’ve come a long way. Everyone has their secret sauce, but this is what has worked for me. It’s not foolproof. Sometimes I’m just not feeling a race and my mental plan doesn’t work. We’re allowed to have bad days.

Before I even get to a race, I do a lot of visualizing. This is SO embarrassing to admit, but I found this email the other day while searching my inbox. I thought long and hard about sharing it because I worried I’d be judged, but I’m pretty sure only Marta, Ellen, Alaina, and Brent are reading this 🙂 This photo was taken at the LA Marathon in February. Ellen and I ran the marathon as a relay team, and we finished in just under 3:10 as a team. Alaina is my best friend. I tell her everything, so when I saw my marathon foto picture with that finish time, I just had to share my new goal. Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.54.24 AM.png

In my training I spent a lot of time thinking about that moment I would cross under 3:10. When I got bored running endless miles, I’d visualized Hereford and Boylston. I recognize this is my hobby and that there were 243 women who finished ahead of me at Boston, but this was my goal, and I thought about it a lot before the race.

During any goal race I expect discomfort. I don’t wonder if it will come, I know it will. I acknowledged the effort and shift my mindset from “This is hard and I want to quit” to “It feels so good to work hard.” I remind myself how lucky I am to be running, and repeat my mantra. I always have a mantra. Even if it’s just a dinky local 5K. Maybe it’s “You were born to run” or “You eat hills for breakfast” or “You know you’re a good runner.” Whatever it is, I repeat it to myself while jamming out to fun music.

I also remind myself of all the miles I put in before the race. In a marathon, for example, when I’m at mile 16 and still have just over ten miles to go I tell myself “Ten miles. You’d run that after a long day of work.” I think a lot about the hours of training while I race.

I realize I’m painting a rosy picture. Sometimes a mental plan fails. Sometimes I ask myself why I even bother running. What do you do to trick yourself into embracing discomfort and loving the struggle?

OK, now onto the random pics.

Having fun taking panorama pictures of my hood.

FullSizeRender.jpgIMG_3930.JPGAt school we’re getting ready for next year with curriculum planning. 

And our scholars are really improving their writing…

I’m off to meet Gisele for a few miles in Manhattan Beach, followed by date day with Brent, and 2016-2017 schedule writing with Alaina. Have a happy Sunday!

How to Run a Happy Marathon: Part 2

Last year I wrote a post entitled How to Run a Happy Marathon. I’ve run my fair share of unhappy marathons. Nobody should have to experience this.Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 7.38.40 AM

Monday I ran the happiest of marathons. I never felt pain, I didn’t hit the wall, I smiled the whole time, and I never wanted to stop running. You might argue this means I didn’t push myself hard enough, but I’m NOT a professional. I don’t get paid for this, this is a hobby and I do this for fun. Why push myself to the absolute limit? Now that I am officially not scared of the marathon, I’d like to offer a few more tips. This one’s for you, Ellen. One week till race day! Brent, Marta, Anna and I can’t wait to cheer you on!

1. You can’t power through a marathon. You’ll crash and burn. Change your attitude and be a little more playful about the experience. Although I don’t have the scientific evidence to prove this, when I run feeling nervous, tense and stressed about my splits I use too much energy to fuel my nerves…energy that I should be using to run. Last week I lined up in Hopkinton and took the attitude of “time to celebrate!” I was singing along to my music, saying hello to the crowd, smiling for the camera. It calmed my body, and made my running feel effortless. Here I am at the top of Heartbreak Hill. Maybe a little too happy for mile 21? FullSizeRender_4

2. Try not to notice the mile markers. This was especially easy when I ran Toronto and the markers were in kilometers. When you start the race, tell yourself you’ll be running for the rest of your life. When you get to 24 you’ll be like, “Woah, I’m almost done!? I actually don’t have to run for the rest of my life.” Sounds stupid, but it works. The moment we start counting down miles we mess up our mental game.

3. On race week, less is more. This is your excuse to be lazy. Take the escalator. Park in the spot closest the store. Take as many rest days as you need. No running or exercise will help at this point. I took three rest days the week before Boston, ran one semi-fast three miler and did a few other easy three mile runs. Rest those legs. They’ve been training hard and need to be ready for the race.

4. Graze on the days leading up to the race. I’ve carbo-loaded by eating Thanksgiving sized meals which usually resulted in me feeling completely stuffed and unable to move. This time around I ate normal sized meals, and carried around a bag of pretzels or crackers with me from the Thursday onwards and just grazed. Even race morning, because the race started at 10:25, after breakfast I just munched on pretzels to help me stay fueled without being stuffed.

5. Know you won’t have a perfect race. I’ve spent plenty of time stressing about race day conditions that were beyond my control. The week before Boston I was surprisingly calm. I was fighting a cold, race day called for 15-20 MPH headwinds the entire race, it was raining, and I slept no more than 3 hours the night before. I’d trained for four months, and I could have felt sorry for myself and though, “I trained so hard, and now I’m not going to have the perfect race. My time isn’t going to be great. It’s not fair.” But honestly, who EVER wakes up thinking, “Wow. Today would be an amazing day for a marathon. 26.2 let’s do this!”  Know that there will be no perfect race day. Embrace the fact that everyone lining up is in it together, experiencing the same conditions. One of the reasons I get annoyed when people ask for my marathon PR and compare it to someone else’s is that marathons can’t be compared from course-to-course or from year-to-year. My 2014 LA Marathon 3:28 was in heat, Boston was cold and windy, in 2013 I ran a 3:33 in San Diego in fairly ideal conditions but that hill at 21 was brutal. The closest I ever came to a perfect race day was in Toronto in 2011, but even then I slept no more than 2 hours the night before the race. In November I ran a downhill half marathon and PRed like crazy. That was a fake PR. Not sure I’ll be running any more downhill courses. Just not as satisfying. The beauty of having meh race day conditions is knowing you can achieve great things regardless, and have even MORE room for growth. One day I’ll run a 50 degree flat race with no winds, and I’ll rock it!


Brent, Alaina, Mama and I

OK, enough about running. Here’s what happened this week in my non-running world:

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Son of a Gun on 3rd Street is amazing. Thank you Marta for the gift card and the food recommendations. Get the chicken sandwich, shrimp toast and lobster roll for sure!


Ashley told me about this, and I had to go buy a few jars. No more mixing my flax and chia seeds into my oatmeal in the morning! Woo time saver!


We’re at 99 completed enrollment packets! 11 to go!


Yesterday Brent, Gabe and I hiked up to the Griffith Observatory, saw a show at the planetarium, and hiked back down. We got rained on just a few minutes after this photo was taken. Check out the clouds just barely covering the Hollywood sign.


Oh Playa Provisions. It’s been too long. Almond Milk Latte.

LA Marathon Tips, More Food Adventures, and Notes from Long Run #?

I’m embarrassed to admit that exactly a year ago on the night before the LA Marathon I was sitting on the couch with my bowl of pasta crying. The forecast called for sunny 86 degree weather, awful running conditions. I felt sorry for myself and complained to Brent that it wasn’t fair. I had trained for months and put in so many miles. I knew I was ready to qualify for Boston and I hated that it had to end this way. His response was perfect. He looked at me and said, “Cristina, no race has been run!” One of the many difficulties of a marathon is not knowing what you’re going to get on race day. Unlike other distances, factors like temperature, elevation, how many hours you’ve been sleeping, what you’ve eaten and how you hydrated affect you so much more in a marathon. Runners tend to be control freaks and we can control much of our race prep, but we have no control over the weather. Those of you looking for tips for running the LA Marathon in the heat, keep reading. I’ve crashed and burned in heat, barely making it to the finish line in 4:45 and I’ve qualified for Boston in the heat. If you’re smart, you will cross the finish line strong. Living in Southern California it’s rare for me to run a race in cooler than 70 degree weather. I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. Check out my tips below.

Calling Mama right after I finished

Calling Mama right after I finished the LA Marathon!

  1. Bring an icy water bottle to the start. Pour the icy water on your hands and cool your face. Stay cool and stay in the shade.
  2. Wear a visor and light clothing.
  3. Drink water at EVERY single water stand. Especially the early ones. Don’t rush through the water stands. TRUST me, it will save you time. When I ran Santa Clarita I skipped the first 4 stands and was focused on running every mile under 8 minutes. That was dumb.
  4. Whenever possible, run in the shade on the course.
  5. Last year when I saw Alaina at mile 17 it was really starting to get hot. I gave her a pack of stuff the day before and she, being a rockstar, runs next to me and screams “What do you need? Jelly beans? Pain gel? Cooling wipe?” I yelled “COOLING WIPE.” It worked wonders. They’re worth ordering on amazon now and sticking in your running pouch.
  6. You’re really going to need to replenish those electrolytes in the heat. This is tough though, because you definitely shouldn’t try something you haven’t trained with. But if you know nuun, gatorade, powerade, salt sticks or whatever else work for you, use them. If they don’t have your electrolyte of choice on the race course, give it to a friend and have them pass it to you on the course.
  7. This is the part where you’re going to hate me, and you’re not going to want to listen. Start slower. The logic of making up time while it’s not hot does not work. I tried it in Santa Clarita. I thought, “I can run a 1:40 half, and cruise the rest of the way when it’s hot.” Look what happened below. At LA I hit 20 and had been hydrating throughout and was able to push it for the last 6.2. If you start slow it really is amazing how much time you can make up at the end.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 7.27.21 PM

    Oh Santa Clarita! 

  8. You might not hit your ultimate goal. If you were in shape for a 4:15, you might end up running a 4:25. But a 4:25 in 86 degree weather is INCREDIBLE and you’ll gain so much experience and mental toughness. I am SO glad I ran 26.2 in the heat because I know I can do it, I raced smart, and I’ll be even stronger for the next marathon. I don’t fear warm conditions because I was forced to learn how to handle it. In a way it was liberating! Ventura in September was super hot too, but I drank at every water stand and still ran a PR. And remember, there is ALWAYS another marathon.

Read this for even MORE tips! 

On to my long run….yesterday Ellen and I ran 21 miles from Redondo Beach to Santa Monica. (Actually, we ran to Sweet Lady Jane to be exact…when you’re running 21 miles you have to end at a pastry shop) Check us out at 0.0 on the beach path and the route.

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We met Marta, Joe and Jason for the last bit. They are tapering for next week’s marathon. Always nice to have company on those long runs.

So how did it feel?

Friday Dinner: Homemade pasta with marinara and roasted vegetables.

Friday Sleep: 8 hours. Slept like a rock. As usual.

Pre-Run Breakfast: PB&J and some water.

Post-Run SnackSweet Lady Jane Scone.

Long Run Fuel: Honey Stinger Pink Lemonade Chews and Honey Stinger Waffle, although I was really hungry at mile 19. I probably didn’t carbo-load enough Friday.

Long Run Hydration: Stopped for water a lot. It was hot out.

Long Run Outfit: Lululemon shorts, Canyon City race shirt, target sports bra, lulu socks, run happy hat!

How Did It Feel: I love love love point to point runs. Redondo to Santa Monica was beautiful! The last 3 miles were rough, especially because we ran up Montana to Sweet Lady Jane and it was uphill, but I think the constant water stops and fueling throughout helped. It was definitely hard, but not unbearable. One more 20+ run before Boston. Where should we run next!?

Other Notes: I drank lots of nuun after the run and didn’t experience that dreaded post long run headache. I also ate egg tacos with lots of hot sauce to help replenish some of the lost salt.

After the run Brent and I hung out with his Mom. We saw The Theory of Everything. Movies after long runs are wonderful. We then walked around Manhattan Beach (it was weird strolling on the path I had just run from start to finish) and ate at one of my favorite LA spots, Manhattan Beach Post. Here’s what we ate.

Cheddar Bacon Biscuits, Shrimp and Pork Dumplings, BEST BRUSSEL SPROUTS EVER, and Lamb Belly with Eggplant

Cheddar Bacon Biscuits, Shrimp+Pork Dumplings, BEST BRUSSEL SPROUTS EVER, and Lamb Belly with Eggplant

And here’s what’s happening in my kitchen tonight. I made use of my last Sweet Potato Quinoa Black Bean Burgers and made a huge pot of picadillo for tomorrow night. It’s gonna be a yoga day, so I want to come home to a ready made meal. photo 3 photo 4

And last, what I ran last week…

  • Monday- Four Miles at Back On My Feet (8:51 Average Pace)
  • Tuesday- Run MDR Track (5×800)
  • Wednesday- Off
  • Thursday- Seven Mile Run (7:24 Average Pace)
  • Friday- Four Miles at Back On My Feet (8:18 Average Pace)
  • Saturday- Twenty One Mile Run (8:31 Average Pace)
  • Sunday- Lululemon Run Club (Too lazy to go check the pace)

Until next week. Happy tapering LA Marathon runners!