The Start of a New-New Training Cycle–Race for the Rescues OC 10K recap

new Evolution of a Fan Girl post up on the Oiselle Blog! check it out –>


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Yesterday kicked off what I’m considering my “official” training for the Carlsbad Half on January 19th, which if you’re not looking at a calendar, is 10 weeks away. Typically I’d like to go into a shorter cycle like this with a more solid base (weekly mileage 25+, strong core, sound diet, etc), but this time I’ve got something a little different going for me:

A fire under my ass.

That’s not a real tangible asset to catapult head-first into a plan of track workouts, hill repeats, and hard running focused on PR’ing the 13.1, but I’m letting go of some of my Type A and counting on that spark to lead my efforts. I’m getting to the point in my running where huge PRs are going to be hard to come by, and each round of hard work will (likely) be rewarded with shaving seconds, maybe minutes, from previous times.

Not only does this mean I’m going to have to work harder to reap rewards, but I’ll also have to work smarter. Keeping my head screwed on straight, learning from the past, and staying hungry.

(metaphorically, of course, as I am a supporter of keeping the #runger fed and at bay)

This got me reflecting on the great/awful races of my past – strong finishes, lost mental battles, huge PRs, admitting defeat to injury, not taking running too seriously… Looking at what went wrong, what worked, and what I could do this go-round to improve.


Sub140 at M2B, struggling at CLE 10K, 20min PR at Eugene Marathon, after K’s finish and my DNF at CIM, goofing off with Margot at Surf City Half

I’ve come up with Rule #1, of an in-the-works Training Credo, in an attempt to set this cycle off on the right foot.

Look Forward, Not Backward.

Surface meaning: keep your eyes up, you’re passed due for a fall.

Deeper/Emo meaning: I’m sick of fearing the disappointment that comes with sizing my current self up to my old self. It’s so easy to look at the stats from last year’s 8×800 and freeze up under the pressure of trying to match them. To compare how easy 8:00 pace used to feel compared to the huff-puffing I’m doing now. To wonder how the hell I’ll ever run a 6:50 pace for 3.1 straight miles again.

So the next 10 weeks I’ll focus on my process of getting back in shape. Instead of looking at this cycle’s Week One vs another cycle’s Week One, I’m going to focus on Week Two vs Week One. Three vs Two. Measuring progress and seeing gains towards my Carlsbad goal, rather than how far I am from my Personal Best self.

I know, I know, it’s totally genius. Nobody has ever thought this way before. Total new age.

Luckily this all came to me Saturday night, right before Sunday’s Race for the Rescues 10k which I was kind of dreading. I was recalling the pain from Cleveland, imagining how tough it was going to be, picturing myself slogging through those last few miles gasping for air and praying for death. And even though logically I knew I wasn’t in shape to go for a PR, the thought of posting a “slow” time made me not want to run at all.

oiselle team singlet

don’t RACE rundies get everyone excited to run? ps got to see the new Randies this weekend – suuuuper cute. (hint hint, santa…)

But I told myself it would be a good measuring tool for this training cycle. I’d use the time as base-level data (oh come on, I can’t totally un-Type-A), and after a few weeks of hard workouts it’d be exciting to race it again to see how far I’ve come.

And guess what? Duh duh duhnnnn… it worked.



Katrina Parker from s2 of The Voice throwing down a kick ass anthem

Race for the Rescues was a great event – mostly because of all the cute dogs everywhere – but also because I let myself enjoy the race instead of stressing it. I went in without a time expectation, the only plan to run the first 5k controlled and leave enough in the tank for a hard final mile. Whatever that time amounted to would be fine with me.


more Garmin data if you’re into that sorta thing…

I ran most of mile two with a tiny little 5k’er who was dead-set on not letting me pass her. Instead of getting aggravated at her leapfrogging (shhh don’t call me a horrible person) I ran next to her and tried to help push her along. I fell into an easier coasting pace when the crowd thinned for the second lap but didn’t fret the lost time when I saw the slower split at the 4 mile marker. I smiled at the leashed dogs in the walkers crowd, rather than getting angry at them clogging up the course (the race WAS for them, afterall.) I didn’t whine about the “long” course even though my average pace at 6.2 miles would’ve been within seconds of a PR, because that wasn’t the purpose of the race. I wanted to run hard, smart, and enjoy myself, which I did.

(My pal Annette – who placed 3rd overall, btw nbd – talked to RD and he acknowledged a last-minute alteration could’ve screwed up the actual distance. The bones we throw (ha pun) for inaugural events)


lead dog must’ve run a 23-ish 5k, and a thirsty pup mid-race (from Rescue Train’s FB)

Race for the Rescues OC 10K, 11.10.13   –   :48.50

I had a great great time and am (most importantly) really looking forward to getting underway with training. Now to find a mid-season re-test race…

And if you’re wondering, yes I was able to restrain myself at the adoption parade, despite instagram leading you to think otherwise.

Sarah OUaL

Ventura Marathon–Another Faltered BQ Attempt

.Well let’s just go ahead and get straight to it.

After 10 weeks of training, including falling back in love with “running to run”, squeezing in miles on an 18-day road-trip, tackling the track solo, and an odd late-season crash, the Ventura Marathon did not exactly go as scripted.

I can’t say I’m completely shocked – I’ve not felt great the last few weeks, running-wise and in general, but kept hope that if the day was nice to me I might have a fighting chance at my 3:35 BQ goal.

And for a good part of the morning, I thought that was going to be the case.


standard – threads, tats, breakfast, and a 6am selfie with K

From the good night of sleep, actually waking up to the first second alarm, a no-hassles drive with Kristina up to Ventura, and easy peasy prime parking we were already off to a better start than 95% of other races. I felt “with it” – energized but contained, focused but lighthearted, and totally void of the sense of doom most long runs had haunted me with. Don’t underestimate the marathon beast, but by god don’t go in already defeated.


don’t let the ironman champs hashtag fool you, this was obvs directed personally to me

We met up with Pacer Dave, Kristina’s parents randomly in from Delaware, Pam, and a few other friends/readers/teammates. I felt the buzz of the start line and the infectious nervous energy from everyone around me – so many with big goals on the eve of Boston registration opening. I answered every “how are you feeling? are you ready?” with a big smile – genuine, actually – and,

“I guess we’re gonna find out!”

I had re-read my HTC recaps from last year, which uhh, may seem narcissistic, but was the last (/only?) time I went into a race with the shit scared out of my butt and managed to power through. I feared those Runner 5 hills with my life, but tackled each of the three runs with a task-at-hand focus and hopeful will that my body would find a way to succeed. Which, spoiler, it did, and even better than I could’ve imagined.  I figured with a similar “thrive, don’t just survive” attitude I could do the same today.

As part of my Get the Fuck Out of Your Head strategy, I didn’t wear a watch. I handed all control to Dave, an experienced pacer, putting my faith in him to lead the best race I had in me. I wore a heart rate monitor strap synced up to his watch so he could monitor my effort and was told to just let him do all the work.

We got lined up, further back in the corral than I would’ve liked, but for a smaller race I didn’t bother bulldozing my way to the front. Dave told me to take the lead to break the pack, and after a mile he’d come up and pull me onto pace to settle into.

Just as planned, Dave came up next to me at the mile marker and I waited to respond to his move. But he just stayed there next to me.

S: “Are you still following me or are you leading now?”

D: “I am but you’re right on target. Locked in, girl.”

In that moment, I thought the day was mine. How often do you kick out of the starting gate – watch or no watch – and lock immediately onto target goal pace? Any runner knows those first few miles are a constant battle of finding a rhythm that feels good and syncs up to the blueprint. To have it happen immediately, and feel completely comfortable in it? Lord have mercy this marathon is fucking mine! WATCH OUT, NEXT 25.2 MILES!

We headed out into the out-and-back and around mile five the half leaders came through, a favorite distraction of mine. Kristina went flying by – top 10 female I thought I’d counted – cruising in to what ended up being a huge PR, a sub 1:32 finish, and 12th woman overall. WHAT! Girl needs to graduate from running with me and find some equi-fast training partners.

Shortly after though I could feel the wheels starting to come off. We’d been on a slight incline for a while, which I was thinking would be SO nice running final miles on, and told myself at the top of the “hill” I’d feel better. My stomach was off and I was oddly dizzy. It was perfectly foggy and cool, so I knew heat wasn’t an issue, and my heart rate was in normal range. Why did I feel so weird?

ventura marathon course map

ventura marathon elevation


Almost instantly that slightly squeeky shopping cart wheel turned into the one that spins all around and won’t let you steer straight.

At mile eight I took a big swig of Nuun and immediately ran to the side of the course for a little dry heave. Which, up until that run with Margot two weeks ago, is completely unheard of for me. Did you not know my nickname is Iron Stomach? I caught my breath and we started again – I could see the 3:35 pace group just ahead and felt confident we’d get the lost minute or so back in no time. But then I tried to take a chew… and a gel… and more Nuun (all my usual, tested and proven products), and nothing would stay down. Fuck.

I pulled to a complete stop at the next aid station – mile 10? – and managed to keep some plain water down. There was no way I’d be able to stay on pace having to stop for hydration, and plain water with no fuel is NOT enough for my body. Hi I’m Sarah and I’m a super heavy, super salty sweater.


get it?

My legs were refusing to give up – after each stop they took off at a pace determined to get back on track, but the nausea and accompanying dizziness would not subside. Once 3:35 was out of reach, I decided trying to push through just for “I ran a marathon!” sake would be dumb. Call me a quitter, call me a snob, or call me smart, I don’t really care.

I had the mile 15 aid station call in a Saggin Wagon “reservation” and shooed Dave off to finish the race, assuring him I was fine both mentally and physically (there may have been a small “catch me I’m blacking out” moment right before.) He crushed out the last 11 miles at sub7 pace like NBD while I made fast friends with Annette at the Wagon pick up zone waiting for our ride of marathon defeat.

saggin wagon

wasn’t big on taking photos this weekend. car source

While I believe every marathon is an accomplishment worth celebrating – covering that distance takes a lot of heart and hard work, regardless of your finish time – it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’ve set a hard nose goal to it and find yourself out of the running for it. After eight marathons and one other DNF, I didn’t feel that sacrificing my body and any future training was worth just putting a finisher’s medal around my neck. (not to mention what would’ve likely been a pretty poor time on my athlinks profile)

Am I upset? God yes. After weeks of wavering confidence I finally got into the race feeling like it was mine to conquer, only to have a new, honestly slightly concerning, ailment knock my ready-to-run legs out from underneath me. I’ve had races turn sour from injuries and mental struggles, but a surprise cockblock from an organ that’s never wronged me hurts. Like, what the fuck, stomach? Jerk.


Pam’s medal, because obviously I don’t have one of my own to show

Some of you have suggested redemption, to find another marathon to tackle and not waste the training. I don’t think I will. There aren’t any feasible options nearby or within my budget, and Boston 2014 registration will be closed by then (it opened today for qualifiers of 20+minutes or more and goes through next week.) Plus I’m realizing, ahem again, I really just don’t love the marathon. That long, dull ache of 26.2 miles is really not my barrel of monkeys. I’d rather be in extreme pain for a short amount of time than be uncomfortable for hours.

Plus, you need to be a really special kind of stupid crazy runner to devote months of diligent training to a singular goal, line up race day, and not get eaten up by the pressure of “this is your one shot.” I’m still working on that.

So this is me signing off from the Boston Qualifying Attempt Camp. I’m not saying I’ll never be back, but don’t expect to hear those two initials together here anytime soon. I’m gonna go hang out in the energy gel-free zone for a while and see where that takes me. (also maybe figure out what the heck is wrong with my body)

To all of you hoping to register for Boston this week, BEST OF LUCK TO YOU. Sincerely. It will be a magical year in Hopkinton and I can’t wait to cheer everyone on from afar.

I’ll totally be drinking while you’re running.

Sarah OUaL

Vacay’s Over… The “What’s Next” is Here.

I’m going to run few than 100 miles in June. Triple digits every month was kind of an unwritten goal of mine, and I’m a little bummed I realized too late to squeeze them in. I mean unless I’m going to run 40 miles in the next 4 days…


we didn’t go very far, but where we went was pretty awesome

But I can’t look back on the month and judge based on a silly fake goal or mileage hog pride. June’s sole purpose was to recover and reset after Spring racing, and get fired up for a new training cycle. Which it did! The piddly 80 miles I’ll record (compared to usual 140ish) were just the right amount to keep my legs moving and remembering how to run without wearing me down. All the annoying little niggles are gone, there’s a spring in my step, and I’ve got that caged animal feeling ready to pounce on something.

Body AND mind = READY.


I ran slow and watchless for most of the break; Running without expectation was a great way to let that inherent joy back into the act. Like I wasn’t out there for any reason other than I wanted to be. I’d forgotten how fun “just running” can be! And while I thrive on tough workouts and goal paces and training plans, I vow to keep that joy in my runs once this break is over (except maybe when I’m cursing hills and holding down bile during track repeats).

Because, yes, the training hiatus is on it’s final days.

I signed up for a race. It’s longer than “____teen” miles and is the weekend before Boston registration traditionally opens (the official date hasn’t been set yet).

No pussyfooting around the plan here…

ventura marathon

The Ventura Marathon on September 8th will be my next Boston Qualify attempt.

I’ll do a separate post on my plan and what changes I’m making from past cycles, but hit-it-hard training starts on Monday. I’ll savor this final week of honeymoon running before hopping on the pain train, destination Sub 3:34.59 or bust.

Can’t lie. I’m super pumped.


  • If you’re interested in running Ventura (there’s also a half and 5k) you can use code “onceuponalime” for 10% off. The course is super flat, out-and-back along the coast, and has a beer garden. Sold.

Strap in, friends. We’ve got 2.5 months of track parties, long run battles, and laughing-with-you-not-at-you training crazies to take down.

Guess I better restock my Brooks Launch inventory.

Sarah OUaL