Oxy HP Viewing Party (of one) and Recent Progress

Last week was the High Performance Meet hosted by my alma mater Occidental College. This meet is special. Upfront, it’s a high caliber USATF track meet – 800m and up, elite standards, and often draws a few big names among professional distance runners.

But it’s also big time track’s best-kept secret. At least when I was at Oxy it was. We didn’t know this meet even existed. I have only attended it once. In my senior spring, many of us staying for graduation got first dibs to volunteer and basically watched the meet for free from the infield. The crowd is typically small – like I said, few people know this meet exists – and in 2012 the only big names I remember were Bridget Franek and Jenny Simpson.

^awesome post by Sally Bergesen

It seems like every year since then increasingly more top elite athletes are signing up for this meet. In 2013, Mary Cain, Galen Rupp, and Nick Symmonds raced there. Last year, John and I streamed it live on his TV screen, and I remember watching Jordan Hasay race a 5k that was supposed to include Lauren Fleshman as well (not surprisingly the only reason I wanted to watch a crappy Internet stream).

It is always smugly satisfying to watch Olympians and top distance runners compete on a track that I know so intimately. This meet is a source of pride for me as a former Oxy TF athlete, because we’re not Stanford or Oregon. We’re not hosting Payton Jordan or the Pre Classic, or even the Drake Relays. We’re tiny Division III Occidental College, and we host a meet that can definitely holla at any of the bigger ones.

The elites talk about how they love to run the Oxy HP meet – “Oxy magic” they call it – because the track is fast and the competition is usually stacked. It was STACKED this year. In the women’s 800m alone were Jenny Simpson, Maggie Vessey, Chanelle Price, Phoebe Wright, Shannon Rowbury… just to name a few.

Maybe I’m just a bigger runnerd than I was when I was at Oxy, but that’s a lot more “household” runners than I remember in 2012.

I am a little salty that the meet is now officially called the Hoka One One Mid Distance Classic…. On the one hand, Hoka is certainly a track and field underdog and they deserve some marketing, and yeah I guess by giving the meet a brand name it probably broadened awareness for the meet on social media (I mean seriously Twitter was blowing up about this meet, which is awesome). But what bugs me about the name is that it masks Oxy’s association with a big time track meet. Many who stumbled across the “#HokaMDC meet happening in Los Angeles” probably assumed the meet was hosted at USC or UCLA. I’m sure very few except the crème de la crème of runnerds was savvy enough to know this meet is hosted annually at Oxy, and yes we do indeed have one of the world’s fastest tracks.

Rant aside… I grabbed some beer and chips and Oxy gear and settled in to watch the meet like any other good sports fan. It was great fun until unseasonable downpours (WTF?? ok but actually I was kind of laughing because I know that track floods when it rains) cancelled the remaining events, so, no, Kara Goucher didn’t get to run a 5k on my turf.

^like I said

Hopefully next year (Olympic year!) I can travel to LA to spectate my butt off. And eat some Cacao. I’m already planning to order a fat burrito with deep fried avocado inside. And do some Rose Bowl runnin’. Good times.

In non-elite running news…

Week two of logging a modest 20 mpw is complete! Not all the miles include running, and that is totally fine. I have a reliable 4mi route that follows the alleys all the way to this park where I do strides or drills before turning around. My goal is usually to only run the soft stuff and take walk breaks whenever I encounter pavement. Sometimes I feel like running the whole thing, and other days I don’t feel much like running, so I walk a lot. And I am 100% OK with that.

This year's only Jackalope 5k shot (courtesy of High Plains Harriers flickr)

This year’s only Jackalope 5k shot (courtesy of High Plains Harriers flickr)

One day last week I ventured out in the rain to do a WHATEVER fartlek even though I really didn’t want to. I told myself “30 minutes… whatever speeds I feel like,” and that got me out the door. Shutting down the pressure. And apparently I was feeling pretty speedy! I ran faster whenever I felt like it for as long as I pleased and slower when I needed a break.

I also did two of my runs continuously, because 4mi nonstop feels like a lot at this point and I need to work on extending my endurance. One was a pretty brisk run, and the other was a recovery day, so I watched my pace to keep it slow. After the run, nothing hurt, and I felt rejuvenated rather than broken down.

Work was tough this weekend, so I have been taking my rest really seriously. Classes are over for two weeks, so I’ve had ample free time for active relaxation. Lots of foam rolling and stretching, and I took a leaf out of this girl’s blog to set aside meaningful rest for an hour during the day. The difference between napping out of boredom for prolonged periods of time and shutting down the lights and distractions for a single hour is astounding. I have more energy after dedicated rest. The grogginess that accompanies “coming to” is easily remedied by sitting up and taking several deep breaths, and then I am ready to move along.

My appetite returns in full-force when I pick up running again, so here are some favorite snacks lately because why not talk about food?

Oatmeal with almond milk, flaxmeal, and berries. I’ve stopped adding sugar to my oatmeal, and when it is packed with other goodies I don’t even notice.

Kale salad. I am a weirdo with the kale salad because I get cravings for it. It’s been my go-to late night snack before bed. My favorite add-ins are strawberries, avocado, and goat cheese. Sweet, tangy, and creamy all in one bowl.

Post-exercise black bean quesadilla with veggie crumble. Sometimes I add pineapple or avocado and always add sriracha.

I also can’t get enough frozen banana creamy treat! I blend up frozen banana with another frozen fruit, add a little almond milk, and any other flavoring that sounds good. I like to mix in a spoonful of chia and flaxseed peanut butter I found at Trader Joe’s. It’s like ice cream that is actually nutritious, or like a dense smoothie.

And my favorite coffee joint lately is Turtle Rock Cafe because turtles rock and they have an outdoor patio and offer soymilk. Nothing beats sipping coffee at home on the couch, but when I need to be “social” (or we’re out of coffee) this place is my jam. And it’s a block away.

Bottom line: I’m feeling content with running again. It’s always a beautiful struggle to start a comeback, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My goals are on the horizon, but those will stay on the backburner for a while so I don’t jump the gun on my progress. Right now I am still focusing primarily on enjoyment and release, both of which I lost trust in this winter but which I know will take me farther than “training” ever did.

Holla atcha Oxy (circa 2009)

Holla atcha Oxy (circa 2009)

Humble Beginnings

I named this blog Base Mileage for a reason.

Throughout my track career, I perpetuated myself as “injury-prone.” Every time I approached consistency, the next injury or setback would strike, and I’d be starting over again. Starting physical therapy again, starting slow & easy again, alternating cross-training with running again. Always working on the base miles. And always falling back to base miles after the next injury cycle.

Here I am once again starting with base mileage. Less than base mileage – more like building the habit of running again. Runs feel hard, which is strange for a veteran. It gives me respect for those who set out to pick up running from scratch, because those first runs are hard. They kind of suck. Newbies don’t have previous experience of the highs and rewards and pleasures awaiting them down the road, so I admire anyone who laces up for their second run ever.

After Boston, I was feeling ready to get back on the horse, and I jumped in the Jackalope 5k on a whim after a yoga class. But as is the trend this year, I fell ill early the following week. Not like depressed or head cold… stomach virus ill. The kind of ill where you stumble into the bathroom, faint on the toilet, and wake up with your hand in the bowl, drenched in cold sweat.

I struggled to eat for several days and lived in my boyfriend’s bed because walking home put me at risk for fainting on the sidewalk (seriously, it almost happened on the way home from a bio exam).

I don’t care how little anyone has run over several weeks due to injury setback or funk or whatever… stomach virus will set you back infinitely further in just a matter of days. After more or less purging my body of all stored energy and foregoing food intake for several days + rapid muscle atrophy, my first run post-virus felt like my first run EVER. Heavy, slow, awkward, and sore almost immediately.

But I set goals anyway.

1. Get up at 7 am for one week.

Setting my clock radio alarm* to play NPR helps (now, that is old school). Also sorrynotsorry that 7 am is a goal, but seriously mornings have been ridiculously hard (nonexistent) this winter. Turns out I am far more productive when I hold myself accountable for rising earlier, and I actually have more energy.

2. Exercise every day for one week.

My goal for May is to average 20 miles a week, but first I have to start rebuilding my weeks which means rebuilding my fitness and relearning a habit. Consistency. Simplicity. And good habits are built upon repetition. (Don’t worry, there have been cross-training days.)

That’s it. One week of goals. Just one. So far, I am on pace. The runs haven’t all felt good, or fun, or easy. Far from it. Most of them include quite a bit of walking. Definitely humbling. But I feel better after, and that keeps me lacing up again right now. The initial soreness is diminishing, and the benefits will soon become measurable.

Yup, I even ventured down to Fort Collins to stop by the Roost and join run club for a thunderstorm 5 miler. You can’t tell in the picture, but water was dripping off my clothes. P.S. running is better with friends just as I suspected!

Longer term, I have set some goals too. Pencil marks. No time or pace goals. Just “showing up” goals. BolderBoulder 10k this month and two halfs, one in July and one in September. Embracing the longer, slower stuff rather than VO2 max repeats and 5k speed. Slow, consistent, building.

Laramie also has a cornucopia of local events from 5k to long trail races coming up this summer, and I plan on showing up for as many as possible to a) support small community events and b) keep my interest in and enjoyment of running high. On a quest to just do what seems fun!

*Oh, um, my smartphone bit the dust so I’m living old school for a while. [also why I posted none of my own photos and have no Instagrams to speak of lately. It blows]