Tag Archives: How to run faster and stronger

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!

 

 

What the Beets? Why Every Athlete Should Make Beets Part of Their Weekly Menu

When it comes to endurance events, such a running a marathon, biking a century ride, doing an Ironman, and so on, most athletes reach out to energy drinks and caffeine before the start of their events. But what if we can replace the above-mentioned with beet juice instead and boost athletic performance even more?

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Jaclyn Schmidt

My picture during Urban Cow Half marathon on Oct. 1, 2017, where I had a big PR, finishing in 1:43:56 with a 7:56 pace. I felt amazing during the whole time and the Super Beets powder that I mixed in my water and drank it before the race sure kept me steady and strong.

 

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2009 found that individuals who drank beet juice experienced up to a 16% increase in endurance compared to those who did not. Also according to Jacqueline Ritz, founder of the Paleo Mama blog, beets fight cancer, lower the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, increase endurance in athletes, and they are also an aphrodisiac. Being a high nitrate vegetable, beetroot, the red bulbous part, has become the super food for runners, cyclists, and other athletes. What if you don’t like beets and don’t wish to eat it, but still want to reap some benefits in increasing your endurance? There are many products on the market, such as this powder I buy from Wholefoods.

 

I have used this before races and my running felt effortless. I just mix a scoop with water and take it about an hour before the race, or a long run. Love it!

 

How high nitrate foods enhance our performance:

 

Another thing you can do to benefit from high nitrate vegetables is to eat more spinach, arugula, radishes, celery, lettuce, parsley, and rhubarb. Talking about nitrates, Amby Burfoot, the author of In Beet Juice We Believe published in the Runner’s World, explains how our body processes beets and turns them into a superfood. Burfoot points out that beets get their endurance power from helpful mouth bacteria that convert the nitrate in beets to nitric oxide, which appears to be the miracle substance. Nitric oxide can substantially lower blood pressure and somehow extend endurance. I guess we runners should not need too much more convincing regarding beets, which are good sources of folate, manganese, potassium, vitamin C, and dietary fiber, since we all try to avoid the famous “wall,” when our body rebels and starts hurting.

 

Ways to eat your beets:

 

  1. My favorite one is borscht.

 

 

Best borscht I have ever had made by my awesome friend and best training partner Andrea Brizendine. She added quinoa,  carrots, potatoes, and onions to it. I gobbled it up with whole grain bread and hummus. Delicious! It also makes me run longer and stronger! Isn’t this what we runners want?

 

To try this recipe and cook the same vegan borscht that my friend Andrea shared with me, please go to https://natashaskitchen.com/2013/05/18/easy-superfood-red-borsch/

So easy to make and so healthy! For a quick glance at the ingredients needed to make this,  see below.

 

Ingredients for Superfood Red Borsch – vegan style:

 

12 cups reduced sodium veggie broth
1 medium or 1/2 large onion, peeled and cut in half (ends removed)
3 medium potatoes, sliced
1/4 cup quinoa
3 medium beets, peeled and grated
2 good handfuls of chopped kale leaves
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup sliced carrots
1 Tbsp Mrs. Dash
3 Tbsp ketchup
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste

 

2. Roasted beets, which I cut up, drizzle with olive oil, wrap them in aluminum foil, and roast them in the oven till they are tender.

 

3. Beet salad, which I used to eat as a child and liked its sweet taste. To make this salad, I cut up the beets and boil them till they are soft and tender. After they cool off, I remove the skin and grate them. I mix them up with a little salt and pepper and drizzle red wine vinegar on top. I keep the beet salad in a glass container in the fridge and eat it with roasted potatoes and other meals that go well together with this salad.

 

Credit recipe goes to my friend Cristina Nagy.

 

How about you? How do you like to eat your beets? Any special recipes you would like to share? No matter how you choose to eat, or drink them, one good thing could happen: you will BEAT your race PR with the mighty BEET!

 

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!

 

 

Swim, Bike, Run – Why Every Runner Should Do a Triathlon!

It’s been more than a month since I have completed my very first triathlon The Women Only TRI put together by Total Body Fitness. To my great delight, I finished third in my age group mainly due to my strong 3-mile run at the end, when I passed more than 20 women. The running was definitely my forte, but I loved the swim and biking, too. The best part about The Granite Beach Triathlon held close to my home was that my body felt stronger and not too tired all throughout the race.

 

Arriving at least an hour early before the triathlon starts gives you a good spot for your bike and plenty of time to prepare.

 

I did not read much about preparing for my first triathlon (read some great tips), but have received free training and amazing advice from Dusty Dustyn, the head coach of Women’s Cycling Program at Total Body Fitness, Bill Driskill , one of the owners and founders of Total Body Fitness, Tiffiny Ferrell, one of the awesome swim coaches , and running coach Henry Hawkins, who gave me the best and hardest track experience that included squats, lunges, push-ups, and dips in between our 400-meter repeats.

 

SWIMMING

 

During my training for the triathlon, I have practiced my swim more than the biking to feel confident in the water and not too slow. Once my swim portion started, the Folsom Lake waves lifted and cradled me against them. My swim turned into a negotiation with the lake and its brownish water. As I chopped the waves next to other triathletes’ arms, legs, and bright swim caps, I realized that less was more, so I relaxed into my strokes. Soon, my elation grew when I realized that the swim felt effortless.

 

Photo credit: Charlie Joyce. My good runner friend and real estate client Christina Joyce  and I right before the start of our swim. She told me that I inspire her and that since I was doing the TRI, she also decided to sign up. Good peer pressure, right?

 

My body turned into a vessel of joy, hope, and determination. My arms were in unison with the underwater world, carving and parting the water, as if slicing a cake in even portions. The waves made by all the women swimming around me turned into my self-propelling device, which made my swimming relaxed and easier than I had expected. My only worry was the second white buoy and the turn towards the shore. After I passed the buoy, I deviated a little, but made my half a mile swim in 24 minutes. I used my slippers to run faster to the shore,  just like Total Body Fitness experienced trainers taught us when we practiced our transitions.  I still could not believe how fast and effortless the swim portion had been. Was my swim a levitating, floating dream, or was I really done? The cheers from the spectators and the calling of my number by volunteers meant that I was done and that it was pedal time!

 

BIKING

 

The transition to biking took a little longer than 2 minutes, because I quickly changed into my running shorts to avoid chaffing. I used the towel as a shield, while avoiding any wardrobe malfunctions. I also put my racing team T-shirt on top of my wet bra after which I quickly put my socks on last – they were already rolled up, which was great advice from one of our Total Body Fitness instructors. I was trying to get out of the transition area as quickly as possible. I still managed to take a bite of my banana that was in my small triathlon bag and grab a fruit bar to eat on the bike . It seemed that everyone around me just hopped on like grasshoppers hunched over the handlebars of time on their super fast bikes. Finally, helmet on, I took off and promised myself to catch some of  these fast transition women on the hills.

I started to pedal and felt the rush of freedom that comes from having a good clip on your bike. The hills showed up fairly quickly. I knew that they would be my friends and that I would pass a few women on  the hills. Although I felt stronger than many women on the hills, I still felt nostalgic thinking of my dear father who bought me the first bike and taught me how to ride it when I was seven years old back in my home country Romania. Soon, I was riding and crying not because of the hills curving and bending in a maddening rhythm that cooler September morning. I was crying when I realized that the gaping hole in my heart was still there along with my longing for my dear dad, who once again was smiling upon me from Heaven. I started to sob when I realized that my father was there with me, guiding me gently upon the hills that seemed to multiply, especially because we had to do the same loop twice. I even worried that I went too many laps, but when I reached the volunteers the second time, they flagged me towards the finish of the bike portion. Yay!

 

RUNNING

 

After I set my bike on the rack, I dumped the clip-on shoes and put on my Nike Wild Horse trail running shoes with elation and renewed energy. I took a quick bite of my banana and ran as quickly as I could. My legs were not tired, or sore, so I knew that I had to catch up with as many women who were already running as possible. One of my friends and volunteers took my picture while speeding towards the trails. I needed to push hard, since the running portion was only three miles. Soon, I heard myself saying: “on your left,” quite frequently. By the time I reached one mile and some hills came up, I had already passed more than 10 women who were ahead of me. I kept going strong and focused on passing as many runners as possible. I felt great and so happy to finally get to my favorite portion of the triathlon. My feet felt the dirt, the earth, the roots, the rocks, and they were happy. By the time I reached the finish line of the run and the triathlon, I knew that I had done fairly well and that I had chances to finish in the top three in my age group.

 

At the end of my triathlon elated and happy that I conquered a new challenge.

 

I was right! I finished third in my age group during my very first triathlon. I knew the run had been my forte, but my swimming and biking have also come together for me. I had conquered a new challenge and discovered a big secret: triathlons are much gentler on the body than racing a half marathon, for instance. The body gets worked differently during the three events. As long as one has enough determination, grit, and positive attitude towards triathlons, there will be a successful and happy ending.

To TRI, or not to TRI, runners? That is the question! You guessed the answer: to TRI for stronger bodies and minds, to live life in a challenging and meaningful way, and to say that you tried the TRI and have succeeded!

 

A collage of joy during my first triathlon. Many thanks, Total Body Fitness for putting together such a great event.

 

 

Veni, vidi, vici, or I came, I saw, I conquered! I was proud of finishing my first triathlon, making new friends, and even placing in my age group.

 

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!

 

5 Ways Progressive Runs Make You Stronger & Faster

Ever since I became a runner, I held onto the false belief that I had to run strong in the beginning while having fresh legs and just try to  keep steady at the end, which almost never happened, as I normally slow down. My preconceived ideas about running this way changed due to my amazing and super positive running coach Robert Ressl-Moyer, who provides me with a personalized training plan and who made me excited about progressive runs and hill workouts.

I am very lucky and grateful to have two excellent coaches for my upcoming California International Marathon that I will run on Dec. 3rd trying to qualify for Boston: our Fleet Feet Racing team coach, Chad Worthen, whose marathon personal best of 2:22 in 2002 qualified him for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in Birmingham, AL and who is an outstanding athlete and coach training over 200 athletes, and Robert, a terrific marathon and ultra-marathon runner, who finished the San Francisco Marathon 10th overall in 2:46:45 in July this year.

 

My training friends’ smiling faces after a tough hill workout. Coach Robert Ressl-Moyer is in the back right behind us, encouraging us with every hill and sending us the message that we can strive for more in our training. His positive and personalized training method has me working harder than ever.

 

What are progressive runs? First, let’s look at the definition of the word progressive, as I am sure you would want to become a more progressive person and runner.

Progressive means:

  1. Favoring progress.
  2. Making progress and moving forward.
  3. Continuous improvement.
  4. Relating to progressive education.

When applied to running, we all understand that progressive means increasing speed with each mile that we run. We start slower and we make each mile faster. When applied to life, being progressive simply helps us become more open to changes. Additionally, we don’t mind making sacrifices to constantly improve physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Until this month, progressive runs meant running three miles faster, which did not seem too hard to do. Yet, when I received my new training schedule from Robert and saw progressive runs of 10 to 12 miles, I cringed. I did not think I could execute them, but being the problem solver that I am, I immediately jumped into action and turned on my Strava to talk to me every half a mile so that I can adjust my pace. That made me feel a little better, especially since I have difficulty staying at a slower pace in the mid 9s. My tendency is to run faster, so starting slower and increasing the pace for so many miles was definitely new territory, but I was ready for the challenge.

Today, on the bike trail I executed my 10-mile progressive run perfectly, even though I had to constantly adjust my pace, as I kept running too fast. I started the workout with a positive mindset at 9:50 pace and worked down all the way to 7:44 pace, feeling like a sculptor who chisels a piece of wood to give it the perfect shape.

 

The challenge was not to run fast at the end; it was to keep steady and slower for the first 6 miles. Progressive runs require great discipline! Good for the body and the mind.

 

Hitting my 5 miles of the progressive run and realizing that I was feeling great and ready for more fun.

 

As I kept running and counting down the miles, I realized that this 10-mile progressive run is a perfect training tool for half marathons. I loved it and continued running and writing in my head as I often do.

Here are the five reasons why progressive runs make you stronger and faster:

 

  1. They help you hold onto your pace, or even run faster on race day.
  2. They prepare the body to run stronger when fatigue kicks in.
  3. They increase mental toughness in runners of all levels and abilities.
  4. They help you tune in and feel the pace.
  5. They turn you into a more disciplined, patient athlete and human being.

Next adventure: doing a 12-mile progressive run.

For more info on running, training programs, or hiring a coach, feel free to check out Fleet Feet store, as they have the right training for everyone.

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!

 

10 Ways to Make Your Solo Runs Fun, Interesting, and Challenging!

“When you reach a dead end road, don’t despair. Instead, watch the sky, the swimming clouds, and the narrow paths that open up.  After this exploration, pick yourself up and elevate your soul and mind with jumping joy.” Carmen Micsa

 

Jumping with joy!

 

Let’s be honest: it is always more fun to run with friends, especially those long runs. Yet, many times we need to run on our own for various reasons, such as time constraints, pace desired, coming back from an injury, and so forth.  This Thursday, May 11th, I had a terrific solo 6-mile run in the high 8s and felt so great after not having run for more than a month due to my tendonitis. While running, I usually listen to some of my favorite podcasts, such as The Hidden Brain, Runner’s World, The Moth, The Nutrition Diva, and a few others. This time, I was ready for a selfie running video, as an idea came to my mind. I wanted to explore running and exercising alone and how we can make it fun and exciting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow3SAkci4DI

 

During my solo runs, I love to stop more often and capture the pretty views that unfold in front of me.

 

I took this picture at Ancil Hoffman Park on Good Friday before Easter. Only after I  looked at my picture, I saw the divine cross burning in the sky at sunset. I was thrilled with my discovery and took my time before getting back to my run.

 

Ever since I got into running, I felt that I needed to test my body and lungs on my own first. From that first day in 2015 when I ran down the street from my house for half a mile, or so, I have discovered different ways to enjoy my solo runs. It wasn’t always easy, since I am quite a social person and love company, but here are my 10 ways to make your runs solo more fun, interesting, and challenging.

  1. Turn your solo run into that much needed mediation in motion, which is why it is good to leave the headsets behind sometimes.
  2. Listen to interesting podcasts that you like, which feels like running together with an intelligent, fun,  and well-read friend.
  3. Make an appointment with yourself and write it on your calendar. You can write something like: “Running 6 miles tomorrow around Ancil Hoffman Park with my new podcasts to listen. ” By penciling the run on your calendar, you won’t dread going by yourself. It will almost feel that you are meeting someone and you have to stick to the schedule and be punctual.
  4. Combine workouts, such as speed workout with hill repeats, one of my favorite combinations. Another combo I like is tempo run on a hilly course.
  5. Wear a silly hat, or piece of costume around the holidays (Christmas, Halloween) and enjoy the smiles you get from other runners and walkers, as well as from the drivers passing by you.
Wearing my Santa hat and my Christmas top.

 

6.  Find a new running route and create as many different routes around your neighborhood to have choices and be excited to get out the door and start running.

7.  Solve whatever problems you are having during your solo runs and you will be amazed at your creativity and ease of finding the right answers and solutions.

8. Stop to talk to other runners and make friends, or even run together just like I did in Las Vegas when I met two wonderful guys from Canada. We ran down the strip up to Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort and it was wonderful to chat with them and run together. We have stayed friends and are connected on Strava.

 

Picture in front of Paris, Paris with my new running friends. They were kind, fun, and interesting to run with! They had the right pace, too! Runners are the nicest people!

 

9.  Allow yourself to be poetic  and philosophical when running in beautiful places. I love writing little poems in my head, coming up with my own quotes, which makes my run quite exciting and interesting.

10. Give yourself a weekly challenge, such as taking a beautiful pic of wild flowers, animals, taking a selfie jumping picture, etc. You can do the same challenge a few times that week and that will give you even more purpose and something to look forward to besides your tempo run, speed workout, or easy run that day.

 

Besides making your solo runs more interesting as I mentioned above, there are also three gifts that come from running alone:

 

In other words, running alone should be practiced weekly  for all the reasons above-mentioned and many more that you might have yourself, as well as to become mentally stronger for your races when you are mostly likely to run by yourself surrounded by the other runners.

 

  1. Running alone is the gift of solitude and peace that your soul needs on a weekly basis to recharge itself.
  2. Running alone is also the gift of gratitude, as it will teach you to be more humble and grateful for that great running friend and partner who helps you pick up your pace and lifts up your spirits the days you do run together.
  3. Running alone is the gift of good health and extended life, as it will offer you so many physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.

And to find out how running with others will make you a stronger and happier runner, stay tuned for my next blog.

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!

 

5 Reasons Why Running and Biking Make a Great Cross-Training Team

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.
Albert Einstein

My Biking Background

Before I became a runner, I used to love to bike places by myself and with our sweet kids who learned how to bike before they turned eight years old.

 

The kids and I doing a short bike ride around the neighborhood at the beginning of 2017.

 

I also used to bike to Sacramento State University when I did my Masters degree and loved the no parking hassle and getting my exercise done at the same time. I have also done a few century (100 miles) and 100K rides for Diabetes Tour de Cure in honor of my dear father.

After a long 10-hour century ride. I used to always get lost and my family worried about me.

 

Running and Cross-training

Yet, once the bug of running took a hold on me in 2015, I started to neglect my Specialized Women design road bike. With a sticker on the middle bar that reads in Japanese calligraphy, self-moving vehicle, my bike started collecting dust in our garage, because I had found pure joy and more freedom in running, not to mention an excellent way to burn roughly four times more calories.  I was thus preoccupied with my running Lunar 8 Nike shoes and my Brooks Cascadia shoes and following my training schedule provided by our racing team coach. At first, I was running 4 to 5 days a week, but then I increased to 6 days a week to cram more miles and get stronger, and yet more prone to injury.

Overusing our muscles doing the same repetitive motion will certainly lead to injury sooner or later, which happened to me last month in March after a tough track workout. Thank goodness, I can now start back running wiser and stronger after my tendon has healed. As I biked 20 miles today, I kept writing in my head, while feeling the wind, smelling barbecue meat cooking on the grills the day before Easter,  and watching the swollen and swift American River on my left side.

My 20-mile bike ride today instead of my 20-mile long run, as I need to build back up slowly with my running and marathon training for Mountains to Beaches at the end of May.

I even imagined a funny conversation between my bike and I that went this way:

Bike: “So, now I am good enough for a 20-mile spin, because you can’t run in your snazzy Lunar Glide shoes, huh?”

Me: “Uhmmm! You know you have been my first love ever since childhood.”

Bike: “Yeah? And running is your hot lover who gets you high all the time.”

Me: “Nonsense. I just love to run and maybe my Lunar Glide shoes and you can be civilized and share the roads and trails from now on,” I replied while listening to the Runner’s World podcasts.

Bike: “I guess we can… Pedal harder! You can get a biker’s high without getting too tired, or too winded!”

Me: “Sweet! Maybe biker’s high is a little more real than unicorns.”

While biking and not getting tired, I also came up with five reasons biking and running can be best friends:

  1. Biking is a fast and great way to do intervals and hills with less pressure on our body.
  2. Biking can be done during a class indoors no matter what the weather is like, or outdoors for more sunshine and vitamin D.
  3. Biking can be a great training partner during off season, during an injury that allows you to bike, or just as an addition to your rest, easy days.
  4. Biking will build up your stamina and endurance, as well as provide excellent cardio benefits.
  5. Biking and running can become best friends and help you with that PR when running your next race.

As for me, I have decided to balance running, biking, playing tennis, strength training, and aqua jogging to avoid injuries. Running 5 days a week should be enough. Running and swimming the same day if I choose so can give me two intense cardio workouts and less stress on my joints and body. It will feel as if I am training for a triathlon and maybe one day, I will actually do one! Cheers! Happy feet! Happy pedaling!

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!

 

5 Worst Running Injuries I had in My First Two Years as a Runner and What You Can Do to Prevent Them

Romanians (Yes, I am Romanian American and quite proud of it) have a great saying: “smart people learn from the mistakes of others, whereas not so smart people learn from their own mistakes.” I would love for you to learn from my mistakes and know that learning from your own mistakes is unavoidable. Besides,  when things happen for the first time, it has little to do with your intelligence level: it has to do more with life’s constant element of surprise, or what I like to call an ocean wave sweeping us off our feet when we are least expecting it.

Balance

 

One of the things I think I am pretty good at is balancing my busy parent, professional, intellectual, and athletic life.  I feel that I can juggle things, because I use my calendar well and try to write down all appointments, all my to-do lists, and still have room left for fun activities. I also found out that as a runner, balance is key. I need to balance my workouts, the time on my feet, as well as make room for tennis and strength training. But what happens when you become a little too confident in your running abilities? Well, you tip the balance scales to the heavier training cycle of running, so you start doing two runs a day even after a race you did the same day, which I have done and felt great at the time. You know that your form is good, so you won’t get injured, but overuse injuries can creep up upon us. Our bodies take the beating up to the point of quitting, so that’s when we start having problems.

 

Five worst running Injuries I have had in the last two years

 

I always thought I had a stronger body than my body really is! And, yes! I am an optimist who likes to wear the rosy glasses often. Moreover, just because I have played tennis for 22 years and never got injured is not enough to proclaim the Herculean strength of my body. As a matter of fact, once I started to run in 2015, I realized how many weak areas I had in my body, starting with the ankle which I injured in my first month of running due to poor form and improper shoes for my feet (I was wearing the low Altra shoes that offer no support to our ankles), but bounced back in 4 days. Then the knees pointed out to me that I had developed IT band syndrome, when I felt pain on the side of my knees and runner’s knee when my knees hurt right below the knee cap.

My first  half marathon Run the Sly in 2015, my first year running. I wore the copper fit knee sleeves to protect my knees from hurting, especially during longer runs.
My first CIM marathon that I finished in 4:13, even though I pulled my groin muscle at mile 18 and had to slow down.

 

Although I always ran with my knee sleeves on for about a year, as if they had magical powers, I had discovered that I could run without them with no pain when I forgot to put them on. That day I ran freely without any “crutches,” so to speak and felt like Forrest Gump .

Next injury took me almost six months to clear, as I had developed Planter Fasciitis after buying running flats that had a lower heel drop than I was used to and due to my tight calf muscles. Every morning, the sharp pain in my heel felt like walking on needles or stepping on a nail, but once I started my run, I was pain free and kept on going.

Towards the end of 2016,  I also developed a mild form of shin splints, with pain running up the inside of my lower legs.  Shin Splints can happen to runners whose feet maintain ground contact too long, or if the foot lands too far in front of them. Higher mileage will also contribute to shin splints.

My fifth injury came on totally unexpected on March 21st, 2017 after I did some intense speed workout on the track. I did 4 mile repeats and felt great until I got home and started to limp badly. My husband asked me if I twisted my ankle, or my foot. I said “no.” My speed workout felt wonderful as always.  I just didn’t know what happened, but I was sure I would be like brand new by the morning. And, yes: my rosy glasses were on. I had no clue that I had developed one of the worst injuries that only affects 0.6 percent of runners from what I have read – see how special I am?

I had developed peroneal tendonitis on my right foot, which is extreme pain on the outside area of the foot right above the ankle. Unlike all the above-noted injuries that never stopped me from training and running races, this one left me limping and unable to run. Yes, I was smart to stop running, while resting and icing, but it was mainly because my injury forced me to do that. I have not run in two weeks, doing aqua jogging, stretching exercises, and foam rolling.

After two weeks of rest and doing aqua jogging, Pilates class, and core exercises, I have tried acupuncture http://www.acupunctureinsacramento.com for the first time in my life to attack the tendon and be able to restart my Mountains to Beaches marathon training coming up on May 28th in Southern California. It worked so well and I highly recommend it, but check about your injuries with your doctor first.

Do You Have Peroneal Tendonitis? Here is How to Fix it

http://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/peroneal-tendonitis-stretches#2

Although the article below talks about 5 most troublesome running injuries, which I had all, my sixth running injury comes and goes depending on how long and intense I run. I have had piriformis syndrome on and off, which is simply pain in the gluteal muscles, making it hard to maintain a certain pace, once it kicks in. I like to call this injury a kick in the butt, not figuratively speaking, as that’s the area that hurts and slows me down.

The 5 Most Troublesome Running Injuries

 

When it comes to healing all kinds of running related injuries, I recommend reading James Sullivan’s advice below and then read about my healing methods.

http://www.mensjournal.com/expert-advice/how-to-recover-from-running-injuries

 

CARMEN’S 20 HEALING METHODS FOR THE ABOVE-MENTIONED INJURIES AND ADVICE:

 

  1. Listen to my body and address the issue promptly.
  2. Read many running books and changed my running form after reading the Chi Running book by Danny and Katherine Dreyer. I highly recommend it, as I was able to apply the lessons and improve my form and speed.
  3. Read about the injury and take action to heal the body while running, if safe to run.
  4. Changed the type of shoes I wore and currently run in the Nike Lunar Glide 8, which are better for my feet.
  5. Changed my running shoes every 400 miles to avoid injuries.
  6. Rolling my foot on a tennis ball daily and often while working at my desk to get rid of Plantar Fasciitis.
  7. Using the foam roll often and doing different Yoga stretches.
  8. Doing weekly core and strength training exercises, such as squats, lunges, kettle bell swings, bridges, and so on.
  9. Doing hills to strengthen my body, especially my gluteal muscles.
  10. Running much slower on my recovery days to allow my body to fully recover.
  11. Running with friends to keep myself accountable.
  12. Using the sauna to loosen up the muscles and recover well from tough workouts.
  13. Using the Epsom salt baths after long runs.
  14. Not running the day before a race and especially before a marathon.
  15. Using the chiropractor once to realign my body.
  16. Using the acupuncture and common sense to heal the tendon.
  17. Not taking Levofloxacin or Ciprofloxacin antibiotics, as they can weaken the tendon and ankles, leaving one more prone to injury.
  18. Talking to other runner friends and asking for their advice.
  19. Staying humble.
  20. Being wiser about life and running – hopefully!

 

CARMEN’S 12 GOALS FOR RUNNING STRONGER AND INJURY-FREE IN THE FUTURE ALL THE WAY TO 100:

 

  1. Balance my tennis and running better, meaning that I won’t do a speed training session the same day that I play tennis. Instead, I will do an easy run the day I play tennis, or no run.
  2. Strengthen my muscles more.
  3. Do more stretches after my runs and ice more often at the first sign of soreness.
  4. Give up racing, if a small nagging injury is present and wait to be totally healed.
  5. Run mostly 5 days a week instead of 6, unless I am behind my schedule and my body feels healthy to handle the extra pounding.
  6. Do two easy runs a day when feeling good, but never a hard run followed by an easy one. After a hard run, or race, I can do aqua jogging to relax the body and muscles.
  7. Incorporate aqua jogging and biking into my weekly workouts for cross training and getting the body stronger.
  8. Listen to my body more and respond with rest when needed.
  9. Be flexible in rearranging my running schedule, if my body cannot accommodate a speed workout that day.
  10. Mix road and trail running, but avoid running too many hills on tired legs.
  11. Order custom orthotics for my high arched feet to take away the pressure from the calf muscles.
  12. Use acupuncture, deep tissue massages,  and active release techniques to stay strong and healthy.

 

I have tried Crossfit for a month and got my body stronger, while learning to incorporate some of the moves into my own strength training schedule, such as the deadlift move.

 

Although these injuries seem to be too much, I have enjoyed my running tremendously and highly recommend it to all my friends as the best mediation in motion out there. I have been successful at it, winning many age group races and even winning first female overall in the Gumby 5K trail run this year. I believe that with the right plan and improved running technique, I will continue to run many more races and marathons. Running is life!

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!

16 Life Lessons I Learned from Running in 2016!

“Running gives us the total freedom to be ourselves, while negotiating life one stride at a time.” Carmen Micsa

Physical Fitness Lessons

  1. When in doubt you can do something, just do it anyway. I have learned this lesson this summer during the week I ran 101 miles just to see what it is like to run like an elite runner. I had started my week with a 15-mile run on the American River Parkway in the morning. In the evening, I went running through Ancil Hoffman Park and doubted I can have a decent 5 mile run, but to my great surprise, I ran in the low 8s and felt great. It also helped to see a coyote roaming around and trying to beat the summer heat.
    On the American River Parkway
    Coyote prowling around Ancil Hoffman Park

    2. When the legs get heavy, stop clenching your fists and teeth; instead, lighten up! Anytime I am tired, I love looking up at the sky. The turkey vultures seem to  have the smoothest and seamless fight pattern. They glide effortlessly and float with grace. I try to imitate them, while making my body glide down the trail with ease and determination to  end the heavy breathing and my body’s fatigue.

    The ducks were quaking and moving while I was just admiring them and taking a break from my long run.

    3. When you feel sluggish, look for someone slower than you to make you look better. I remember being at the end of my run and getting into a desperation mode when I came across this steady and determined tortoise crossing the bike trail. I smiled big and understood that slow and steady is a good thing; yet, I still found enough strength to push a little faster and not listen to my tired body.

    Feeling as slow as tortoise? Get those legs moving!

    4. Body aches all over, but you still need to get your easy run in, which is by no means easy. I remember starting my group strength training class this summer to get my body stronger and avoid injury. After my first class, I got  super sore, as my bosy was not used to the intensity. The next day, I had to do a Fartlek run that started with a 2-mile warm-up. I felt the gluteal muscles halting my entire being and thought to myself that I could just skip this and wait till the next day to run. Yet, once I finished my first two miles and got into doing my Fartleks, I felt so much better and the speed agreed with me.  Moral of the story: find that sweet spot to push past pain and a tired body.

    I used to wear knee sleeves, but not anymore.

    5. Knee pain is making you wince and stop more often than you want. My knees used to bother me until I started to run faster and changed my form and cadence. The quicker turnover of my feet also alleviated the strain I was putting on my body, so every time I get tired, keeping my form as intact as possible is key. http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/the-great-cadence-debate

Mental Lessons

6.  Relax the mind. Although this is only my second year as a runner, I ran 18 races ranging from 5Ks to 50K this year. I PRd 16 of them and won 7 races in my age group. One reason I enjoy racing so much is because I am really good at relaxing my mind. I know I will be prepared and I do not worry or stress about the outcome of the race. I try to enjoy every minute, while I visualize myself running at a great pace propelled by all the racers around me. I can honestly say that I am not nervous when racing, whether I run a 5K or a marathon, which is why relaxing my mind with positive images and a good pep talk really works.

Winning first place in my age group at the Fabulous 40s 5k run, which felt hard due to the heat, but I ran relaxed and was excited to see my results at the end.

7. Tell your brain stories. You might scratch your heads here, but the reality is that our brains will not distinguish between a true statement or a little white lie, which by the way you should not make a habit to use unless you need to make yourself believe in your ability to keep on running strong. For instance, my favorite mantra is “fresh legs,” which I tell my brain towards the end of a race when I am tired. My brain will accept the story; my finish will be much stronger.

My body was done after 7 hours of running my first 50K, but seeing my sweet Sophia at the finish line running next to me has activated my “fresh legs.”

8. Let the positive energy carry you over the mental threshold. At the beginning of a race, most of us possess this positive energy, but towards the end when legs are tired and want to quit, the energy decreases. My trick to increase and keep my positive energy consistent is simply to observe my breath, the sky, the trees, and anything else that will take my mind off any negative feelings or remarks.

During my first 50K Folsom Gold Rush, I kept my positive energy by noticing the harmony and perfect flow of nature.

9. Surround yourself with positive and vibrant people to boost your own mental strength. We runners underestimate the power of our own words and others, so in order to perform at the level we want, it is imperative to surround ourselves with the doers and believers instead of the naysayers. When our family and friends believe in us, our minds are like a well-prepared plot of land waiting to receive the seeds that will later will grow into healthy plants. Our minds are no different and need the same clearance and preparation.

Finishing California International marathon strong. I had so many friends and family who cheered on me and believed in me so that made my running the marathon easier and more enjoyable, as my mind received all the good vibes.

10. The power of distracting the mind and redirecting our thoughts. I can honestly say that all women who are mothers like myself will get this very easily. During long runs, I have learned to distract any negative objections my mind brings up, as well as redirect my thoughts to more positive images, such as celebrating at the finish line. Additionally, whenever necessary, I treat my mind the same way I used to treat our toddler kids by using the power of distraction. The beauty of this is that my mind will accept distractions when body and legs are tired, whereas our children who are older now detect any attempt to distract them when I change the subject.

Even stopping for a jumping picture can be enough to distract the mind and infuse energy.

11. Let imagination guide the mind. During my 20-mile race before running CIM (California International marathon), I used one of the signs someone made for us runners to fuel my imagination and to make me run at marathon pace the entire race. The sign read: “Pain is temporary. Facebook pictures are forever. ” I smiled when I saw that, because as the Facebook queen- ha!ha! I could totally relate to the sign. I even started to write my won FB post in my mind, which helped me continue my run at a strong pace without hardly any pain.

Feeling strong during my 20-mile race three weeks before my CIM marathon.

Spiritual Lessons

12. Running brings us closer to God. With every step and stride, we go through a giant leap of faith. We believe in ourselves and are grateful to the higher powers guiding us. Moreover, when I ran my first marathon in 2015, I felt that God attached angel wings to my shoes that helped me run non-stop for 26.2 miles.

Finishing the first marathon CIM 2015 was truly a divine feeling.

13. The Zen of Running. Running with calm and composure turns us into Zen runners.  It is easy to overreact and worry about things that are not under our control, but if we learn to harness the Zen in us and smile when things get tough, then we will enjoy ourselves more and will be stronger mentally.

Enjoying a trail run on a frosty morning and feeling Zen about my run and life.

14.  Running is humbling. We as runners know that every race can take a sharp turn in a good or bad direction, so we  try to stay humble and not let our minds take off with too much elation and excitement.  As Lao Tzu says in one of my favorite books Tao Te Ching: “The further you go, the less you know.”

A humbling view from one of my trail runs through Cronan Ranch. The view left us in pure awe.

15. Running is serenity soothing the mind, soul, and body. When calmness turns into serenity during my runs, I experience an exhilaration similar to being on the peak of the tallest mountain. My poem about serenity that I wrote after one of my runs can also attest to this indelible feeling:

Serenity

“The crowns and branches of the trees

dip themselves in a pool

of serenity.”

The flowers at the edge of the river brought peace and serenity to my run at the beginning of spring this year.

16. And last, but not least, running is my meditation in motion. With every stride, I feel the pulse of the earth underneath my feet. I meditate on the mundane, the nature around me in correlation with God’s amazing grace, life and death. When I meditate and run, I am in sync with the world around me and feel so ALIVE. Running is LIFE.

The blooming trees in spring offer the perfect backdrop for my meditation in motion.

 

With all the lessons learned in 2016, I feel that I am barely scratching the surface of life and that the further I go with my running, work, being a mom, wife, professional, writer, friend, the less I know. I ran 1,649 miles in 2016 and looking forward to running even more in 2017. Namaste! Happy 2017 filled with wonder and many spiritual wanderings.

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!

 

 

The Serendipity of Running – How to Live a More Creative, Productive, and Joyous Life!

 

Running is serendipitous!

 

Ahh! You might exclaim! The author is trying to invoke serendipity to make us run more! Well, she will need to work hard to make this happen!

purpleserendipity_nob8

It might be just the opposite, I would add. One aspect of Walpole’s original definition of serendipity, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serendipity often missed in modern discussions of the word, is the need for an individual to be “sagacious” enough to link together apparently innocuous facts in order to come to a valuable conclusion. How many times do you go on a run expecting a typical run, but then things turn out serendipitous? Are you able to detect these moments easily, or do you just run along and miss them?

seren_def_nov8

 

Serendipity at Ancil Hoffman Park

For instance, I had a really fun run and hiking coincidence one weekend when I was still pretty new to running.  Our kids wanted to relax and stay home with my husband, but I decided to go on a 2-mile run to Ancil Hoffman Park right after the cleansing rain. Once I got there, there was a group ready to go on a hike, part of the meet-up group Trail Mix. I asked them if I could join the hike. Our energetic and youthful guide, a man in his late 70s, who still does speed walking races and is super fit, said yes, so I  went on a 4.5 mile hike all around Ancil Hoffman Park (my total for the day: 2-mile running and 4.5 mile hiking, which was just great). The people I hiked with were delightful and quite cheerful. We all enjoyed seeing deer, a jack rabbit, turkeys, and relished the scenery.  I love exploring and experiencing new things, as well as being open to serendipity.

Deer grazing
Deer grazing

Another time, I woke up earlier than my normal time on a weekend, because I had a busy day, but I still wanted to get my 5-mile run in. I decided to run through my slice of Paradise, as I call Ancil Hoffman Park .http://www.regionalparks.saccounty.net/Parks/Pages/AncilHoffmanPark.aspx

As the sun gently pushed its way through the tree branches, the artist I listened to on my Ted Talk podcast said the following Egyptian proverb: “Anyone who wants to see the sunrise clearly needs to wipe his eyes well first.” At that moment, I stopped on the trails and took this gorgeous sunrise picture. I love the spiritual and meditative side of running.

As I ran down the trail, I turned around and saw this beautiful sunrise. I stopped and snapped a picture, smiling at the serendipitous moment.
As I ran down the trail, I turned around and saw this beautiful sunrise. I stopped and snapped a picture, smiling at the serendipitous moment.

 

Serendipity at Jensen Park

 

Another time, I went on a quick 4-mile run after finishing all the activities with the kids. I ran to my beautiful Jensen Botanical Garden. http://carmichaelpark.com/jensen-botanical-garden/

Once there, I noticed the colorful tulips surrounding the old oak tree in a circle of love. At that moment, I smiled sheepishly and came with my own diagnosis: ORD, obsessive running disorder- ha!ha!

The beautiful tulips surrounding the majestic and old tree in Jensen's botanical garden
The beautiful tulips surrounding the majestic and oak tree in Jensen’s botanical garden
Spring tulips

Symptoms: increased happiness and productivity at work and life, lots of joy and satisfaction with life, tremendous energy and endurance, laser beam focus, increased concentration and efficiency, exploration of life’s many trails, routes, vistas, etc.

Cure: More running and more meditation in motion.

Time frame for cure: When patient turns 100 years old- ha!ha!

Towards the end of my run, I stopped and talked to one of the gardeners. She immediately offered to give me a tour of the community garden. As I entered the garden, to my left, there was the Misca family garden, which is not our family (we do not have a green thumb – ha!ha! and our name is spelled with a c before before the s), but another wonderful Romanian family. Right away, I appreciated the serendipity that running brought along into my life, as well as the sounds, the smells, the thoughts, and the people I met along the way. Pure bliss.

I pray that God allows me to kick up my heels till I’m 100 to enjoy the serendipity of running and to spread the joy. I also pray that you do the same. Happy feet!

Please post your serendipitous running moments under the comments for our contest. The best one will win a $5 Starbucks gift card.

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!

Speed Interval Workout Joys- How to Get Stronger and Faster!

I ran my very first marathon the California International Marathon in Sacramento in 2015 at the age of 42.  I hardly ever did any intervals or speed workouts (see definition and types of intervals), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interval_training, as I felt running long and steady runs were the golden keys to unlocking marathons. Yet, in November while on vacation in Palm Springs, less than a month before the marathon, I discovered the freedom and joy of running intervals  just because I didn’t feel too good that day and I wanted to do a short but speedy run.

As I kept running faster than 5K pace from one point to another on the winding path lined up with swaying palm trees and colorful desert flowers with short breaks in between, I realized that I was running my fastest mile in the high 7s at the time.  I also came up with my own little poem that I wrote it in my mind while running and marveling at the speed of my thoughts intersecting the speed of my feet:

Running Dreams

“Best way to chase

dreams through course sand:

Quick feet, happy heart, and a resolute mind. ”

Enjoying the speed around Palm Springs, where I first discovered the power of interval training.
Enjoying the speed around Palm Springs, where I first discovered the power of interval training.

In 2016, I continued running intervals consistently about once a week. At first, I did not realize that we lived less than 3 miles away from a high school with a new track field, so I discovered a quiet app. 200 meter-path through Jensen Botanical garden, where I ran at full speed, squashing olives under my feet during the winter months.  I usually did about two to four intervals there, accelerating through nature and marveling at my kick that seemed to get stronger and more assertive than the previous week’s workout.

The end of my interval run, a bench in Jensen's Botanical Garden
The end of my interval run, a bench in Jensen’s Botanical Garden

MUSINGS ON SPEED

  • With speed, came liberation and total joy.
  • With speed, I squashed fears and doubts about what I could do and could not do.
  • With speed, I could feel younger and stronger, kicking dust in death’s face.
  • With speed, I erased  the wrinkles of time  and recreated a  new speedy Gonzalez:  ME, as my tennis friends had already nicknamed me.
  • With speed, came the tiring of every fiber in my muscles, while the heart rejoiced in the new fountain of youth.
  • With speed, I became breathless at LIFE and its adventurous paths.

    My perfect interval path through Jensen's Botanical Garden
    My perfect interval path through Jensen’s Botanical Garden

Towards summer, as I looked to expand my speed workouts, I decided to run to Del Campo High School (less than three miles away from our house) to use the track.  Getting your muscles warmed-up before speed workouts is key. The first time I went to the high school, I asked an older gentleman about the distance of the track. I found out that four loops make a mile, so I decided to run 4X 400 meters, which was exhilarating. I blasted every lap and took a short break after each repetition. For more ideas on marathon specific track workouts, check out this article that will give you tons of ideas and ways to get faster!

3 Track Workouts Guaranteed to Kick Your Ass

I ran that mile in the low 6s and I was ecstatic! With interval workouts, there are so many possible combinations and variations: 200, 400, 800,  1,600 meters that you can repeat as many times as you wish, which is why I think interval workouts are one of the most exciting in running. They also burn the most calories.  For an idea on a more advanced speed workout and how to stay fully focused when doing intervals, check out this article from Runner’s World.

http://www.runnersworld.com/workouts/engage-your-brain-to-boost-speed?cid=NL_QOTD_-_07122016_EngageYourBraintoBoostSpeed&smartcode=YN_0000988866_0001559983

Running track 4X400 in 6:22 minutes.
Running track 4X400 in 6:22 minutes.

Whether you do your speed/interval workouts on the track, at a local park running from one tree to another, on any trail, remember to go for speed and the results will astound you, as you will run faster and stronger. Kick it up a notch, and don’t forget to run a few 5K and 10K races to test your new speed!

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!