Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of an Era

I’ve been writing this post on/off for a few months now but am finally ready to post it.  This year, and the past 6 years since starting this blog, have been full of opportunities, challenges, triumphs and some tribulations BUT most importantly, my life has just been FULL.  Never in a million years did I think I would create friendships, really good, meaningful friendships, through a blog.  I also never thought I’d continue blogging for so many years or that now, six years later, I would be an ironman, multiple half ironman, half marathon and marathon finisher.

Through this blog I have learned so much about myself— my strengths, my weaknesses, what I want out of my future and how much I can learn from my past.  I started this blog as a training log and it has morphed into a window into my soul (remember, I am embracing the woo-woo).  This has been a log of my life for the last 6 years; it is a catalog of the journey I've been on and will continue to follow.

I think you all know where this is some ways, I am sad to let this space go but I know it is the right thing for me and my future.  I suppose I reserve the right to post here again someday, maybe, but for now, I want to extend a thank you to the internet for creating this space for me to write, grow, live, laugh, cry and smile.  An even bigger thank you, sealed with a giant hug, to all of you that have followed along in my journey.  To those that I have met in person and to those that I haven’t, your support and friendship has meant a lot to me, probably more than you know—please keep in touch.  I’m keeping other social media channels open and the email connected to this blog.  I am truly grateful to have had this small space on the internet and to have had the experiences that came along with this journey.

Here at the end of this space, I say a final, “see ya later gators,” thanks for the ride!  Keep on running, biking, swimming, sweating and most of all, believing in yourself to seek out and tackle YOUR ambitious aspirations!

Twitter: dunalpa
Instagram: dunlapam0723

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A year in medals…

As I said previously, I really am trying to relish the last few weeks of this year, this training cycle, these successes.  I set out to accomplish ambitious goals and I DID!

I thought it would be fun to do a year in medals post with medal award winners.

Biggest Medal:
Self-Support HIM July 2014

Smallest medal:
Girlfriends and Dudes Sprint Tri July 2014 (can you even see it?)

Shortest distance/biggest medal: 

New Yearathon 5k Jan 2014 

10k Luckython March 2014

Most meaningful: 
hard to say but probably CIM Dec 2014

Best in show: 
most definitely my Captain America meets Flava-flav (see above for also biggest medal)

As my friend recently wrote in a post about finish lines, each of these medals holds a story.  When I finally got around to writing a goals post in March, I said publically that I wanted to PR every distance attempted.  Well, goal freakin’ achieved!  I PR’d by MINUTES and sometimes HOURS in every distance I attempted (5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, marathon, sprint tri and half ironman).  I hit milestones in training and dug deep when and where it counted.  I attribute so much of this success to the coaching and guidance of Jen Harrison.  Without her, I wouldn’t have been pushed.  But, that being said, I have to REMEMBER that I DID all of this training, I RAN, SWAM and BIKE all of these miles, under her guidance BUT I DID THIS!

I know not every year is going to be like this one (or last year for that matter).  There is going to be a time when the PRs will stop however, what isn’t going to stop are the stories behind each medal, each training cycle, each race.   Right now my story is one of success, I attribute much of this to my ability to tap into potential I’m not sure I believed was there; through coach’s guidance on how to find that potential and not only reach it but exceed it.  I recently asked Jen Harrison if I made her proud this year…her response “of course you did.  You far exceeded my expectations and had an amazing year.”  Something in my application for her Pay it Forward challenge (which sheis doing again BTW) made me her selection and for that I am continually grateful.

This year of medals deserves a special place, it shows continued improvement, strength of the body and mind, and most of all…perseverance, endurance and belief.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Race Report: CIM 2014

Alright, well, first things first, the results...

A PR of, 1 hour, 2 minutes and 11 seconds, to be exact.  
My shiny new marathon PR is a 4:39:27

Now for the play-by-play.  The day before I texted a few people that my goals for the race were: #1 have fun and #2 kick the shit out of my marathon PR.  I went in wanting to stay mentally strong and to run a smart race.  My goal was an hour PR (4:41) with a pie in the sky of a 4:3X.  I was feeling mostly relaxed but I knew it was going to at some point not feel great, there is some point in every race no matter how short or long where things don't feel great, BUT I felt like I had all the tools in the tool box I needed to deal with those moments when they would arise.

After I got dropped at the start, I got in line for the porto's. (P.S. This is a runners dream porto situation, there were a TON of them, lines were short which was amazing.) I wandered around for a little while, I chatted with a few people near the start and looked for the 4:40 pace group.  I hopped in and talked to one of the pace leaders about her strategy, she said 10:35 run pace to accommodate for aid stations and consistent pacing so that if I lost them on the uphill that I would probably catch on the downhill. Sounded like a great way to keep my pace in check and even.  

The gun went off and I started running with the 4:40 pace group and was chatting with the pace leader.  She qualified for Boston last year at CIM and had shaved significant time off of her first marathon (more than an hour).  It was a great way to click off the first couple of miles.  I stayed with them for the first two miles and then just let my legs settle in.  As I ran up and down the rolling hills I looked around and was just reminiscing about driving those same roads to rival high schools for waterpolo games and other sports events/dances.  At mile 5ish the first of the relay exchanges came up, fresh legs at this point didn't bother me and it felt a little bit like a flashback to Hood to Coast in the middle of a marathon.

Splits: Mile 1- 10:35, Mile 2- 10:31, Mile 3-10:13, Mile 4-10:24, Mile 5-10:18

As we turned onto Fair Oaks Blvd, the road we would be on for the majority of the race and a road I know like the back of my hand, I was just so happy.  I felt good, I was smiling, I was running—consistently---the ups and downs all felt great.  None of the "hills" were big and as soon as you were up, you were going down.  Around mile 8, I saw my Dad, Mr. Pi and my stepmom.  I waved and smiled and felt good.

As I passed within 1/2 mile of my elementary school and my high school I got to thinking about how much I hated running in high school and now look at me, running strong during my 6th marathon.  Second thought, I had to pee =).  So, every aid station I passed I started looking for the porto...every-single-one had lines.  I wasn't going to wait in line.  

By mile 10, I was still running very consistent and I was still enjoying everything about the race.  I passed through Fair Oaks village which is known for its wild chickens, yes, chickens...yes, we aren't talking about Portland.  I even remember a chicken photo bombing my group at junior prom as we were taking pictures outside a restaurant and later, at that same restaurant, my mom and I eating on the patio and a chicken running around, both of those memories made me laugh which reminded me I had to pee.  Still no porto without a line so I started looking for a good bush/tree to duck behind.  And, I found one, right across the street from the Schwinn store where my Dad bought me a pink bike as a kid, sorry Schwinn.

Splits: Mile 6-10:30, Mile 7-10:30, Mile 8-10:26, Mile 9-10:37 (pee stop), Mile 10-10:16 (relief sets in)

A mile or two later, I passed a street near where my mom, stepdad and I got hit by a drunk driver when I was in high school, we were coming back from a movie, Shakespeare In Love, I think, less than 2 miles from our house.  We were fine (thank goodness for Volvo’s) but it was such a wakeup call.  Not more than a few months later my HS waterpolo coach was also hit by a drunk driver and she didn’t make it. As I ran, I thought about all the memories those streets held...learning to ride my bike, playing in the park, walking to the pool and tennis club, learning to drive, the dance studio, the coffee shop, the nail salon, my hair stylist...I grew up in that neighborhood, it felt like coming home. My mom doesn't live in that house any longer and hasn't for a few years but those streets still hold all the memories.

As I approached the halfway point, I realized I was running strong, STILL consistent and I STILL felt great.  I also knew that I would see my mom and stepdad soon.  Sure enough there they were!  Also, relay exchange #2, the fresh legs started to annoy me more now.

Around this point, I started grabbing a cup of water at the aid stations to throw over my head.  It wasn't too warm but the sun was peaking out and I wanted to stay on top of any overheating issues. As I cruised along, I knew I would see my dad, Mr. Pi and my stepmom again soon.  About mile 14, I saw them, waved and smiled, telling them I still felt good!

Splits: Mile 11-10:39, Mile 12-10:19, Mile 13-10:24, Mile 14-10:34, Mile 15-10:30

Close to the mile 16ish aid station I also saw my best friend, her husband and her baby girl.  I gave them a wave, she told me to keep going and that I would see them at the finish line.  About this time, the rollers were starting to not feel as good.  I decided to put in my headphones and find a good song.  First one that came on, T. Swift, perfect.  I settled in and kept on truckin’.  My water belt was now empty so I took the gel from the pocket and shoved it into my shorts pocket knowing I could ditch my belt with the fam at mile 19.  At mile 19, I wasn’t feeling great but was still trying to stay positive.  I am pretty sure I grunted more than I smiled when I saw the family this time (sorry family).  I also flung my empty belt at Mr. Pi and his response was something like hello to you too =).  

I believe, by scrolling in on this photo I am asking for water either that or just looked pained. Maybe both.

Getting ready to FLING

I told him I wasn’t feeling great but that I was going to fight for this. At the mile 20 aid station, I slowed to walk through as I grabbed both a nuun and water cup.  I told myself I could take short breaks through the final aid stations but that it wasn’t an excuse to stop.  This is a HUGE win for me.  Normally by this point there would have been lots of walking, the fact that I didn’t walk a single step until mile 20 is HUGE.

Splits: Mile 16-10:16, Mile 17-10:27, Mile 18-10:54, Mile 19-10:43, Mile 20-10:54

At mile 21, I entered the pain cave.  My quads were burning but I focused on my lungs, which were happily breathing in and out with ease--my cardio system wasn't being taxed and if I could just push the pain of my legs away I could get through this low point.  I also briefly turned around at this aid station and I saw the 4:40 pace sign. I knew I wanted to stay ahead of them and that my slowing down was not helping.  At mile 22 came the final “hill” aka overpass and as everyone had warned it did indeed feel like a hill, I slowed to a walk, the only unplanned walk of the day, just to crest the bridge and then I got moving.  The pacer for the 4:40 group caught me and tapped my shoulder.  We chatted for a couple of seconds and that was the motivation I needed to pick it back up!  Hence the mile 23 speed up.  I ran lock step with the pacer for miles 23 and 24 briefly pausing for water/nuun.  When I hit mile 25 she said, GO!  So, with everything I had left I went.

I saw my family around mile 25.5 and was close to tears knowing that I had that massive PR in the bag and that I had fought AND WON in those last few miles.

I made the final turn and with everything I had left, turned it on.  I waved to my friends in the chute and crossed the line.  I had a friend on medal duty and she placed my medal around my neck and gave her a sweaty hug.  She wrote a great recap on what it was like to be at the finish line that day.  I waited for the 4:40 pacer to cross and gave her a big sweaty hug and said thank you for her encouragement.

Splits: Mile 21-11:19, Mile 22-11:50 (deep in the pain cave), Mile 23- 10:35, Mile 24, 10:48, Mile 25-10:42, Mile 26-10:49, Mile 26.2-9:49

Official: 26.2/4:39:27/10:38 AP
Garmin: 26.3/4:39:29/10:37 AP
Elevation gain: 1476/Elevation loss: 1808 (net loss but definitely not flat)

The After:

Honestly, it took a little bit to set in that I PR’d by over an hour.  I think partly b/c I knew I was going to, yes, I had to fight for it at the end but I KNEW I could do it.  Jen Harrison has taught me many lessons this year but two of the bigger lessons were: 'don’t give up' and 'learn how to suffer successfully.'  After last year and the epic comeback and the ironman I didn’t think I could have another year even close BUT I sure did.  

I PR’d every-single distance I attempted this year and I am so f’ing proud of that! I was reading back through old goal posts from years past, I've had a 4:3X marathon on my list since January 2009.  The funny thing is, back then I had no idea what it would take to get there, how to train and be consistent, how to push a pace, suffer in training, etc.  I was recently talking to a friend about the race on Sunday and I was reflecting on how far I really have come since June 2008, marathon #1, with a finish time of 6:01.  Through the many finish lines since that first marathon, I have learned something about myself.  This race really is a culmination of so many lessons learned and rocky roads taken.  That same friend asked me the question we all get asked at the end of a successful race, "what's next?" Gosh, I really don't know.  I'm not ready to give up on ambitious goals.  I also know a lot more about what it takes to actually achieve ambitious goals.  I could go on and on about various races or time goals that have gone through my head but right now they are really just white noise. As I said to another friend this week, I am going to take some time to really appreciate what I just did, this year and THIS race.  So, here I sit, sore, happy and most of all thankful for the experience of this year, this training cycle, this coach, and am so incredibly grateful for what my body (and mind) has achieved.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Persevere, Endure, Believe

These words have come up often on this blog in the last couple of years.  They are the words written on my RoadID bracelet and are words that I often come back to in training and daily life.  Here I am on the verge of another race, the final one for this year and I’m remembering those three words.  For me, this year has been a lesson in my potential (thank you Jen Harrison, I could not have done the things I did this year without you) and also in introspection.  I’ve said it time and time again this year that I’ve been continually learning what truly makes me happy, what makes me thrive and how to remove all the other crap that doesn't contribute to those two things.  I’m continuing to chase my happy, thriving self and, I have a feeling, that this will be a lifelong process but I'm ready, willing and able to keep chasing.

But I digress.  Taper brain has gotten the best of me this week and I’ve been questioning myself and my preparation but I keep coming back to those words on my bracelet-persevere, endure and BELIEVE.  (I also got the most encouraging email from Coach Jen telling me that I’m fit and ready and to not over-think taper.)  So, with that I’m doing my best to not to over-think the rest of taper and rather reflect on my training cycle.

So, on July 26th, the day I did the epically awesome self supported half ironman, I also hurt my foot.  I didn’t run for 6 weeks.  BUT when I was up and running again, on Sept 4I came back with a vengeance.  I’ve run with more purpose, more intensity and more volume than I have in training cycles past.  However, with the excellence guidance of Coach Jen, I’ve done so without burnout and without overtraining.   My runs were differentthis time around, I did long runs, speed work, focused hill training, HR zone training and even some back-to-back and double day runs.

As I said before IMAZ last year, I am trained, I am ready.  I believe that I am ready to PR my standalone marathon and more importantly, I really really want to.  I’m excited to run this race, to leave it all out on the streets of Sacramento and, regardless of the time on the clock, to run every step grateful for the opportunity to be out there, with the support of my family, friends and Coach Jen.  

It has been a great year and I’m ready for one last great race.  See you in Sacramento.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


I may be a couple days late on this post but it is never too late to express your thankfulness, IMO.  So here I am with my thanksgiving leftover scramble and my homemade pumpkin pie coffee making my list.  There are always so many things to be thankful for and I feel like my list keeps getting longer and longer the older I get.

BUT before I start with the thankfulness list, around my thanksgiving day table we had a fun conversation about the thanksgiving day staples you couldn't live without and the ones you wouldn't miss.  I was the ONLY person that said I couldn't have thanksgiving dinner without TURKEY!  This has happened before but I'm always surprised how many people could do thanksgiving without turkey.  Among the most popular choices for MUST-HAVE items were stuffing and mashed potatoes (two things I really wouldn't fact, stuffing, even before the high-fat low-carb/NSNG/paleoesque lifestyle, was an item I have never liked).  My wouldn't miss items were...stuffing and gravy.  Think about your thanksgiving table, what could you live without and what absolutely MAKES your table?

Alright, onto the thankfulness list...most everyone starts with family, friends, significant others, all of these are absolutely essential in my life and people I am so grateful and thankful for but I'm going in a non-traditional direction here and starting with...

1.  Being comfortable in my own skin.  
It has taken me a long time to get here but man it feels good.  As Carrie said in Sex in the City, " The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself."  True dat.

2. My Coach, Jen Harrison.
Wow, what a year it has been.  Jen has continually pushed me and taught me what I am truly capable of and it has been an amazing ride.  THANK YOU JEN!

3. Oregon.
Ha!  Many of you never thought in a million years that Oregon would ever make this list however, there are so many great things about this state and the people that live here I consider myself very lucky.  While I am and always will be, a sunshine loving California girl, Oregon has stolen a little piece of my heart. I resisted it for a long time, basically since I set foot in the state, but I've given up, Oregon, yes, I heart you too.

4.  My relationships.
It has been a year of introspection and through that I have learned just how important it is to have meaningful and fulfilling relationships.  Those that have been on this journey with me have been invaluable to the process.  Quality relationships are so important and I so appreciate the ones I have in my life--both near and far.  My relationships with my family, friends and my wonderful significant other are only growing stronger and deeper as the memories grow.  Thank you, thank you, I am truly thankful for each of you.

5. Movement.
This is the all encompassing thank you to my body for moving in all of the amazing ways that it has for my 32 years and change on this planet.  I love to be active and cannot imagine my life without movement.  When I'm old and gray I plan to be moving in whatever way I can.

Of course I am leaving all sorts of things off of this list but with those I am calling it.  Go out and be thankful!

Monday, November 17, 2014


It's been exactly one year since I crossed the finish line at Ironman Arizona (swim, bike, run, recovery).  I know, I know, I keep talking about this race, maybe even more now than I did last year BUT it really was a moment of change for me inside and out.  It is in moments such as that one that you learn about yourself, what you are capable and how very grateful you should be for every moment in life.  

Today, I am grateful for this memory which has impacted so many moments in my life since.

Be grateful.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Top 5 Learning experiences from having a coach

What I’ve learned from having a coaches for two years has been invaluable.  Both of these ladies, Coach Laura and Coach Jen, got me through injuries and helped me achieve goals I never thought possible.  I’m shocked that I have taken my body to such amazing places.  A top 5 list of lessons I’ve learned:

1.  Do your research and then trust your coach.  This seems like a no-brainer but for some of us it is hard to put our training cycle in someone else’s hands.  But if you’ve done your research, you should know what approach your coach will take to training, their style, how they have trained other clients (when interviewing coaches ask to speak to one of their other athletes), the success stories they have achieved, etc.  Trust that your instinct on choosing a coach is solid and if it isn’t feeling right, express your concerns and ask to make adjustments.  A good coach is wants a happy (and hardworking) athlete.  Don’t be afraid to push back on something but also hear them out, if you’ve done your research, you have already chosen a solid coach who has experience and knowledge.  Once you’re in the throes of a plan follow it, provide honest feedback, upload your data and TRUST that your coach knows what she/he is doing.  Even if that means cutting back/adding volume outside of your normal comfort zone, this is the whole point of having coach--getting you to realize your potential and pushing you beyond your comfort zones.

2.  It is okay to “fail.”  Part of what I’m learning about having a coach is that some training sessions are designed to be really really really hard to execute and that’s part of the grand plan.  What I mean by “fail” isn’t so much that you don’t achieve a goal, more that, a workout was so hard you were forced to make adjustments along the way, learning where you still need more work and where you were just hovering not getting faster/stronger/tougher.  I've had a few workouts this year where I really tried to hit X pace for X time/distance and got close but didn't quite make it.  Each of these have been learning experiences.  Learn and move on.

3.  Don’t stress over the data, this is why you have a coach.  I used to analyze my splits like crazy, now, I review them sure and gain some insight from them BUT this is why I have a coach.  It is their job to review your data and make adjustments going forward and to point out areas to work on. 

4. Communication is key. This goes hand-in-hand with trusting your coach and #5 (below) but communication is key.  You can't expect your coach to help you progress if you are not communicating your progress or what is going on.  If your shoulder is acting up, you should tell your coach so they don't schedule a 4k swim workout.  Communication doesn't pertain to just injuries either.  Communicate on life...if you have a big work or personal trip coming up, let your coach know and they can work with your schedule.  If you have a big stressful event coming up, also important to note, as your body doesn't know the difference between physical and emotional stress.  Also, if a workout was hard/easy/moderate/etc communicate it.

And, probably the most important...

5. Be honest.  Be honest with your coach and with yourself.  If you aren’t honest, you’re not likely to make improvements.  You and your coach learn from honest feedback.