Category Archives: Qualify for Boston

17 Life Lessons I Learned from Running in 2017

“Running is like a blooming rose – each petal encapsulating its own beauty amidst thorns. Running is also peeling off the layers of life one petal at a time to achieve the ultimate magic.”  Carmen Micsa

 

At the end of each year, there is reflection and remembering all the lessons we have learned.

 

Physical Fitness Lessons

 

  1. When your first injury as a runner strikes, learn to let your body heal through cross training, such as swimming and biking.

I consider myself pretty fortunate to avoid injuries, as I do have a decent form and I am good about listening to my body if something hurts me during a run. However, this year I got my first injury that sidelined me from running for almost two months after doing a tough track workout with my Fleet Feet Sacramento Racing team. We did mile repeats and I felt great during the workout. However, when I returned home, I was visibly limping, which is why my husband asked me if I got injured. I replied that I felt great during my track workout and that it is probably just temporary. I was wrong: I had peroneal tendonitis, which hurt my foot when I walked, so I had to take time off and heal using acupuncture and my new best friend the TENS machine, which is short for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.

 

Although my tendon was not completely healed, I have decided to race my favorite 5K race the ZooZoom Run. I finished second in my age group, but at the end of the race, I was barely able to walk. I knew I had to listen to my body and start healing and take time off from running. Poor decision to run the race.

 

2. Let aqua jogging be thy medicine!

Although we runners believe there is no such thing as swimmer’s high, swimming is one of the best methods to recover from an injury. I did different pool jogging intervals to keep my cardio fitness up and the tendon loved the gentleness of the water. http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/cross-training-101-swimming-for-runners_82017

 

 

I was lucky that my California Family Fitneess club had the hydro-fit belt that helped me do pool running, gave me joy, strength, and helped me heal my tendon.

 

3. Biking is another great cross training method for runners. 

Biking is extremely beneficial to keep your cardio level up, as well as one of the favorite with injured runners, but I have decided to continue biking as cross training when not injured.

 

Preparing for my first triathlon. Combining swimming, running, and biking is quite fun and challenging. I have also enjoyed doing bricks workouts, such as biking followed by running.

 

4.  Getting injured can help one put perspective on things, as well as become more adventurous in trying other athletic endeavors, such as a triathlon. 

After I healed from my injury, I gained a new perspective on things and learned to appreciate swimming and biking, which is why I have decided to do compete in my first triathlon on Sept. 9 organized by Total Body Fitness. To my great delight, I finished third in my age group, doing very well in swimming, OK in biking, and outstanding in running.

 

I finished third in my age group, even though I did my very first triathlon. Yet, the highlight was the discovery that I can have stamina and strength to swim, bike, and run.

 

5. Learning to trust our bodies after an injury and come back stronger. 

It took me almost a month to regain my speed and confidence in my ability to run strong and continue to get PRs in all my half marathon races, my marathon, and my 10K. At first, I tried to stay away from track workouts, but I realized that I needed to continue my running journey with passion and confidence.

 

Running together with my friend Andrea Brizendine helped me bounce back from injury and made me look forward to my runs.

 

6.  Learning to respect my body and to strengthen it with key workouts and specific exercises to avoid future injuries. 

 

One of the best exercises to strengthen muscles are kettle bells thrusts. My gluteal muscles often hurt after long runs, so I knew that I needed to do specific exercises to keep strong and be a better runner because of weekly strength workouts.

 

7.  Learning to trust your body when running higher mileage weeks in preparation for a marathon.

Getting my own coach to prepare me to run my strongest marathon so far was the best decision I made, as Robert-Ressl Moyer, a top ultra runner and winner of many 50k races, taught me to trust my body when running between 50 to 70 miles a week. He helped me get my body stronger by having me do a few easy runs after every tough speed workout, which kept me healthy and uninjured through California International Marathon.

 

Running strong and faster with the help of my amazing coach Robert Ressl-Moyer.

 

8.  Running fast on tired legs is not a myth!

With the help of my coach, I have learned to finish my races with negative splits, meaning running faster at the end.  The main workout to help me accomplish this were my weekly progressive runs for the first month I trained with him to get me to run faster on tired legs at the end of our workout.  I succeeded to negative split the Urban Cow half marathon finishing with a 3-minute PR in 1:43:56 with a 7:56 pace, The Mandarin half marathon finishing in 1:41:21 with a 7:45 pace another 2:30 mins PR only a month later after running Urban Cow half marathon, and the California International Marathon, where I had a 7-minute PR and qualified for Boston for the first time.

 

My awesome friend and training partner Andrea and I after finishing a smooth progressive run together.

 

Boston-Bound at California International Marathon, where I finished my fourth marathon in 3:40:41.

 

Mental Fitness Lessons

 

9.  Dig deep literally means just that when you use your mental toughness during your training runs or races. 

Digging deep as a runner, or a human being on the quest of achieving a big goal means just that. Although I am not a gardener, I find this expression to represent physical and mental strength when digging a hole, but more importantly, the strength is imperative to dig one’s way out of the hole. As runners we have to find that inner fortitude to run strong through the pain when our bodies rebel against us. My revelation came during the middle miles of my fourth marathon that I ran on Dec. 3rd, 2017. I was getting really tired and my gluteal muscles were sore and hurting. I slowed down by 30 seconds from my goal marathon pace of 8:16 and I was even thinking that marathons are not my cup of tea and why was I insisting on abusing my body like that. I even wanted to stop and use the bathroom, but I decided to harness my mental strength and focus on good form technique, and running the best I could to Loehman’s Plaza past the 20 mile point. Sure enough after that my body stopped hurting, or was it my mind overwriting the body? I started to run at 8:14 pace and felt rejuvenated and confident in my ability to finish strong.

 

I was able to run part of the CIM with my wonderful friend Karen Clark who ran ahead of me during the middle miles. I managed to catch up with her around mile 22 when my mental strength helped me dig deep and get out of the pain hole that slowed me down.

 

10.  Find another gear. 

How do runners differ from bikers? They just don’t have as many gears. Nevertheless, once we allow our brains to process and transcend physical pain, we become stronger and able to find faster gears that we did not know existed and were available to us. The way I learned to access my faster gears was by finishing many key track workouts with a few 200 meter repeats on tired legs. The first time I discovered that I could run super fast at the end of the workout on tired legs, I felt like a legit athlete.  Running strong at the end felt like pulling a rabbit out of a magician’s hat, since the pain had disappeared and allowed the legs to do their thing.

 

My super fast and supportive team mates Genevieve Clavier and David Pai made me look forward to our 5:20 a.m. Tuesday workouts, when we all gave it our best and felt as if we were hanging off a precipice, but somehow managed to stay in control of our tired legs and finished the workouts strong.

 

11.  Overwriting our doubts and mental weakness.

I was doing 800 meters on track with my awesome team mates, when my body and legs rebelled and started to slow down. My coach who was timing us noticed that I slowed down, so he said: “Your legs are not tired; it’s all in your mind.” I smiled and tried to process that statement. My next 800 was stronger, and the last one was the strongest. I had to simply overwrite my brain that was giving wrong signals to my body. All of a sudden, I found renewed energy in my running and knew I could do it! I felt in control of my body, thoughts, and managed to subdue the doubts that were creeping up like tiny spiders ready to weave their web of lies around my tired legs that were capable to give more that morning on track. Positive thoughts and reinforcement are an important tool for runners to have when needed.

 

Doing track workouts with friends is always more fun and motivating.

 

12.  The power of visualization.

It is essential to visualize our goals and even more important to let our friends, our social network and media know about our goals, so that they can keep us accountable. Besides visualizing our goals, it really helps to repeat to yourself what you wish to get out of a race. For instance, when I ran the MandaRun half marathon, I kept telling myself that I wanted to finish with a 7:45 pace, since my pace during my Urban Cow half marathon was 7:56. During the race, I felt great and the speed was effortless, but I kept pushing myself to run a little faster than 7:45 to account for slowing down on a few hills. To my great surprise, I finished the half marathon in 1:41:21 with a 7:45 pace. I was elated and surprised that I finished third in my age group, as half marathons are harder to place. This was my first time finishing in the top three at a half marathon and felt that repeating the magic pace numbers worked well for me. The brain and the body were focused on the same goal and worked as a team!

 

Showing off my two medals that I earned at the Mandarun half marathon. First time getting an age group award for a half marathon race.

 

Spiritual Lessons

 

13.  Jumping with Joy.

To me running is the perfect harmony between body and mind. In order to celebrate that inimitable feeling, I often jump with joy suspended between Heaven and Earth and rejoicing in the runner’s high.

 

No description needed. Too much joy and exhilaration!

 

14.  Running is divine.

I have enjoyed doing trail runs for the change in scenery and for the divine beauty I see all around me. Just like we need to break up the monotony in running and run trails instead of road all the time, it is the same with life. We need to find the divine in various activities, in the people we meet, and in the ordinary that we can easily transform into extraordinary. The divine is within each of us and once we learn how to access it, we will feel our hearts expand with love for others and ourselves.

 

Serendipity and divinity.

 

The divine nature of  wild flowers.

 

15. Running is finding God in nature.

Even though we need to watch our feet and pay attention to each step we take on the trails, I always rejoice in connecting with God during my runs. This year, I saw a cross in the sky right before Easter and I teared up thinking how much God loved us and how much I enjoyed discovering and talking to God during my runs through nature.  Then on Christmas Eve when I ran the Foresthill Divide Loop with a few wonderful friends from our racing team, I stopped on the trail enthralled to discover God’s Temple.

 

I took this picture on Good Friday before Easter this year. At first, I thought it was just the evening sky right before sunset, but when I looked at the picture on my phone, I was in awe to see the clouds forming a cross in the sky. I cried, prayed, and wrote a poem about this divine apparition in the sky.

 

 

The light filtering through this old, mature bent over tree stopped me in my tracks. I felt God’s infinite love for me and all mankind. This deep spiritual connection filled my heart with love and gratitude for the existence of a higher BEING and for being ALIVE and closer to GOD.

 

16. Running is transcendence. 

Whenever I run, there is a calmness descending over me that transcends any worries, crazy thoughts, doubts, or fears. Moreover, running becomes my way of transcending time and space and propels me in the NOW.

 

I love bridges, as they connect two ends, two worlds, two souls, two hearts, and many transcending moments in time.

 

17. The Zen of Running.

 

Running is controlling the shallow and deep breaths into a rhythmic breath, which I call the Zen of running, for it gives me inner peace, calmness, and composure to be the best human being possible. I also feel serene when I enter the Zen realm and know that no matter how difficult or long the run is, I will end up overcoming pain and come out cleansed and elated.

 

This art reminds me of the Zen of running, of breathing and living a meaningful and joyous life.

 

I am humbled to share what I have learned from running in 2017 and hope to hear your stories, too about your ultimate running experiences. Please share any special moments and lessons  you have learned during your runs. Namaste!

 

For more info on running and real estate, whether buying or selling, please e-mail me at carmenmicsa@yahoo.com, or call me at 916-342-2446. Running for real estate with joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Marathon – Big PR and My First Boston Qualifier- Thoughts, Tips, & Insights about running marathons faster and stronger!

“Marathons teach us to be patient, to persevere, and to apply the Bible ‘s scripture there is a time and a season for everything. The more marathons we run, the more likely to chip away minutes and seconds.” Carmen’s quote the day after running California International Marathon

 

The day before any race, I find myself unusually calm, collected, and happy. The day before California International Marathon 35th anniversary was not any different. After my husband dropped my friend Karen and I off at the start line, I took in the morning fresh air and said to myself: “This is my day.” The temperature in the high 40s was perfect. The overnight rain dissipated the frost and brought a balmy and warmer morning to the approximately 11,000 runners running from Folsom downtown Sacramento by the Capitol.

 

At the start of the CIM with my friend Karen Clark whom I met during the Parkway 20-mile race in 2016. We kept in touch and have had very similar goals in our running.

 

Hanging out with Andrea Brizendine and Zina Claunch, my friends and Fleet Feet Racing team mates.

 

Elisia De Bord and I went to graduate school together getting our Masters in English. We reconnected through running during the training runs put together by Fleet Feet. She always has a smile on her face and is ready to tackle new challenges.

 

After doing some dynamic stretches, using the bathroom twice, Andrea, Karen, and I headed over towards the start line to find our 3:37 pace group. I did not recognize anyone from our group and I didn’t know the pacers, but I already knew that I wanted to run the first 2-4 miles about 10 seconds slower to conserve energy and to finish strong. From the very beginning, our pacing group took off in the high 7s, even though our average pace needed to be 8:16. My friends and I paced ourselves and did not start too fast, trying to preserve our quads, since there are so many rolling hills for the first 10 miles of the CIM. My pace stayed in the low 8s for the first 6 miles, after which I dropped into 8:16 pace and kept it all the way to the half marathon point.

After the half marathon, I was looking forward to get past Fair Oaks and Grant Blvd.,  so that I switched my water bottle and see my husband and my sweet kids. Sophia had a special sign made for me, saying “run like a cheetah,” “run fast and don’t stop, ” “you got this,” and so on.  Alex gave me the water bottle and my husband took this picture of me running by with my big smile, knowing that a little more than half of the marathon was behind me.

 

Running through Carmichael and meeting my beautiful family on the course. I am always so happy to see them!
Photo credit: Catalin Micsa

 

After I passed by my family, I tried to keep my pace, but for some reason, I slowed down to 8:30 pace for the next 5 miles, or so. My left gluteal muscle was a little sore and aggravated. I struggled to have a steady leg turnover. I even contemplated stopping at the porta potty, but then I told myself that I didn’t have to go too badly and that I needed to get to mile 20 and then try to run faster.

Indeed, mile 20 came and the spectators were spectacular with their screaming, shouting, cheering, joking, jostling things around. I felt uplifted and my gluteal muscle was not as sore and decided to cooperate more. I ran through the fake wall with conviction and renewed determination to finish the marathon faster and stronger.

After mile 21, there were no more hills and my pace improved from 8:40 to 8:27. Soon I was running again in the low 8s about 8:15. By the time I ran to mile 24, where my super awesome and supportive coach Robert was waiting for me with a peeled banana, knowing that I requested one, I was gaining momentum and speed. I refused the banana and Cliff gel from him. “Keep your pacing, Carmen,” he urged me. I felt strong. The crowds went wild – electrifying atmosphere. It felt amazing to be able to power through and catch a lot of my friends from behind. Seeing my Fleet Feet racing team mates on the course, cheering on me was super fun. Their loud and enthusiastic cheering motivated me to run faster and reach two super important goals: my PR and my Boston qualifying.

By the time I ran by the Capitol towards the finish line, I realized that my feet were happy, barely touching the asphalt, levitating almost… My family was cheering on me at the finish line. I crossed in 3:40:41 with a strong kick at the end and a big smile, knowing that I had PRed by 7 minutes from last year’s marathon and that I had qualified for Boston with more than 12 minutes under my 3:55 time based on my new age group.

 

My favorite picture at the finish line with my beautiful family against the historic and iconic Capitol backdrop.

 

At the finish with my wonderful friends Andrea and Karen. So blessed with amazing and supportive runner friends.

 

The smile says it all. After waiting in line for more than 30 minutes to take this picture, I got to ring the Boston qualifying bell and announce to the world that I was a real runner and that I was inspired to continue doing great things in running and life.

 

VideoofmyBQ_Dec317

In looking back at my fastest marathon to date, I realized that there were three ingredients to my big PR and qualifying for Boston.

 

  1. Track workouts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I was so excited about doing ladder workouts and finishing the workout with 4X 200m, as it gave me the chance to practice speed on tired legs and it was so invigorating. I soon learned that doing the 200m made me forget that I already did mile repeats, 800 meters, 400m, and whatever else we were doing.

 

Track workouts not only test our speed, endurance, lung capacity, but also our patience to lap around the track hitting our target times. My coach Robert Ressl-Moyer never disappointed with his strategic ladder workouts, which built me up as a runner and prepared me to run my fastest California International Marathon on Dec. 3, 2017 .

 

My super fast and supportive team mates Genevieve Clavier and David Pai made me look forward to our 5:20 a.m. Tuesday workouts, when we all gave it our best and felt as if we were hanging off a precipice, but somehow managed to stay in control of our tired legs and finished the workouts strong.

 

2. High mileage training weeks.

I thought that speed and endurance were enough. Yet, this year, after four months of intense training with my amazing, dedicated, and intelligent coach Robert Ressl-Moyer, who has won trail marathons and many 50K races, I realized that logging in 50 to 70 miles a week meant fortifying my body and mind to prepare me to run on tired legs when I needed it during this year’s California’s International Marathon.

 

As I was building up my mileage base, my amazing, talented, fun, and athletic friend Andrea Brizendine ran many mid-week miles with me, making it easier to run on tired legs after Tuesday’s track workouts. We pretty much followed the message on our matching tank tops: “eat, sleep, run, repeat” for four months before running the CIM marathon.

 

Doing long runs with my friends Adam McLearan and Andrea Brizendine made the runs more fun and less painful. We also felt invincible, as you can tell from our bulging muscles- ha!ha!

 

3. Progressive Runs.

Before I started working with my coach Robert, I was only used to doing 3-mile progressive runs. My first month of training, I had to do 10 to 12 mile progressive runs, which felt terrifying in the beginning, but with the help of my Strava app that provided my pace estimate every half a mile, I managed to execute some great progressive runs that left me exhilarated at the end, knowing that I could run in the mid 7s on tired legs.

My progressive runs were always the day after my speed workout, so I had to start slowly and build up to finish strong. Not only did this teach me to be disciplined and conservative with my starting time that needed to be slower, but it also taught me to feel the pace and know when I needed to pull back, or when I needed to accelerate and keep the mile within seconds from my previous one. As much as dreaded them in the beginning, progressive runs have quickly become my very favorite workouts.

I loved to feel my body progress in time and space, so to speak. I also loved running on the edge of time – each second quintessential to the overall time and my progress as a runner. These training runs helped me finish my CIM marathon with the last 5 miles progressively faster than my previous ones without me planning on that. My last 5 miles splits were: 8:49, 8:40, 8:39, 8:15, 8:13, 7:49. Once I developed a good grasp on how progressive runs need to happen, running each mile faster than the previous one became innate and just happened.

What can I say? I had a terrific CIM marathon and looking forward to my very first Boston marathon in 2019. As to 2018, I will be running a 50K and a 50-mile race, as well as two marathons besides other races in between. Vamos!

 

For more info on running and real estate, whether buying or selling, please e-mail me at carmenmicsa@yahoo.com, or call me at 916-342-2446. Running for real estate with joy!