Author Archives: Maria Mendoza

Weekend of Races

Although Laura and I are miles apart and even have an ocean in the between us, we managed to sign up for races for the same weekend without even knowing it.  Several months ago we were having a conversation about what’s to come and as it turned out she will be running a half marathon tomorrow night and I will wake up Sunday morning for a 30K trail run.

This will be her first race since adding Nahuel to the family and I have my second trail run on the docket.  Thankfully this one is a smidge shorter than the last one especially considering this was the worst training session I’ve had yet.

As always, I sat down to plan out when I would run each distance.  My goal was to hit 18 miles 2 weeks ago and then taper.  Life happened or I should say I put other things first and all of a sudden it was 2 weeks out and I still hadn’t done 16.  I also managed to go the entire week without putting my running shoes on between the 14 and 16.  Talk about feeling my legs those next Luxcouple days!  I also made the decision (both good and bad) to run in the shoes I will run in this weekend.  As it turns out I have a slightly different form with those shoes and it meant my calves felt like it was my first run in ages.

Regardless and whether we’re ready or not, this weekend we’ll both be pitter-pattering our way across several miles.  And it’s been nice to be able to talk about similar runs again even though we’re so far apart.


Running around Morocco

Yet again, it’s been a while since I’ve made an appearance.  The good news is I haven’t given up running during that time. Last month, I joined 13 other runners on an adventure through Morocco.  I’m generally against group tours, but I figured what can go wrong combining two of my favorite things, running and traveling.  So I dove in and met the group in Marrakesh for our 10 day running expedition.

Water stopThe trip is designed so anyone, no matter their running ability, can see the colorful country off the beaten path.  Each day we moved from village to village, did some sight-seeing along the way and then would hit our departure point.  They would tell us how many miles until the hotel and we could choose to run the distance that we desired.  The 4x4s that carted us to that point would then loop around us providing water and snack stops and a pick-up if you just couldn’t go any further.

We ran through villages, along paths that were speckled with nomad camps, through a gorge and eventually in the sand of the Sahara Desert.  We saw snow-capped mountains, hills filled with layers of different colors, gave high-fives and ran with children in the villages and passed camels grazing on the unexpected arugula that had sprouted in the desert.

My favorite run started at the top of a hill and we worked our way down the dirt road to the asphalt that would lead us through a village.  It had just rained so we started a little lower than planned so we wouldn’t slip on the mud.  MoroccoAs I worked my way down, I was looked from left to right and felt like I was in a movie.  I couldn’t believe the colors.  I kept looking back and forth and even though I had to dodge the small rocks in my FiveFingers, I couldn’t have enjoyed the run more.  A couple of runners waited for me at the bottom of the hill where the dirt met asphalt and we made our way into the village.  Children were waiting for us and joined us as we made our way through their familiar streets. They yelled “yalla” to encourage us to go faster as we weaved through the red clay buildings.  After 10 miles and the mountains getting closer and closer to form the Todra Gorge, we were met with a river crossing that was covered in rushing brown water.  It was time to get in a 4×4 to cross the water, but I couldn’t have asked for better scenery and company during that run.

Looking back, I can’t imagine a more exciting way to discover a new country.  I highly recommend seeing a country with the main focus on running and allowing that to take you at least part of the way from point-to-point.

Yo-yo weather

I was born and raised in Texas. I decided to move back to this state to be close to my family and because I probably couldn’t handle the winter in many of the other states. I’d rather deal with the heat than try to put on enough clothes so I don’t feel the cold down to my bones.

Having said this, over the past several weeks the temperature has bounced from 80°F (27°C) one day to below or near freezing the next.  We’ve already experienced a Canadian cold front and then weeks later after the true Texas weather was back the Arctic cold front made its appearance.

These cold fronts have also come with rain and that’s a lethal combination for getting me out of the house and running.  I finally made a rough plan so that I could build up my base before January.  The only problem was convincing myself to get out of my warm, cozy bed at 5:30 am with the sun still tucked in and the weather gusty and cold.  I’ve been slacking on my weekday runs, but I did make it out one Sunday when the Arctic weather was in full force.

Austin weatherI looked at my weather app before walking out the door to see what I was getting myself into.  With the wind chill factor, it was 19°F (-7°C).  I only had so many clothes that I could layer on me.  For the first mile, it felt like my feet were numb.  The second it was my face and then my hands.  I seriously wondered if my runny nose would actually freeze.  Thankfully nothing froze and I made it through my run.

The warmer weather was back for my run this afternoon, but it’s supposed to freeze yet again tonight.  My goal is to take advantage of the warmer days and bundle up with a cup of something warm on those days when it’s just too plain cold to get out there.

Trail closed…no problem!

The weather had warmed up again and it was time to pull out the shorts and t-shirt.  I’ve been bored with running my normal routes lately and since I got home early from work and the sun was still shining I decided to make my way to the park.  Thankfully since the last time I wrote about the park I have learned my way around and am able to make the loop without any wrong turns.  I eased my down the embankment to get along the creek at the bottom.

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I was amazed by how different it looked.  Just two weeks earlier I had taken the dog I’m watching for a walk.  Granted there had been torrential rains on Halloween (hence my need for dog sitting), but there was water flowing through the creek and there was even a waterfall.  It was so peaceful with the sound of running water and being surrounded by the trees even though the highway isn’t that far away.

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The two weeks had taken their toll and the ground had soaked up the water.  I ran along the path and where there used to be waterfalls and places where the trail was overtaken by water was now dry rocks and the makeshift cement trail.  I was still enjoying being one of only four other people on the trail and feeling like I wasn’t stuck in the city.

I continued on and made it to the spot where I should turn left to make my loop up the hill only to find it impossible to turn.  I knew they were doing some construction to connect this park to another, but I didn’t think they’d block so much of it off.  This meant that my 2 loop run was now becoming a multiple there-and-back.  While it wasn’t what I’d hoped for, it was more enjoyable than pounding the pavement alongside the cars.  I was able to let my mind run free in nature and truly enjoy my run.

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Putting running back on the front burner

Life takes over sometimes and I’ve put running as well as writing on the back burner. But now it’s time to rearrange things and get back to it.

As I know, I need to sign up for something in order to keep me on track. I’ve been looking at different races for a while now, but hadn’t found one that I was ready to sign up for yet. I talked with Whitney, our friend who was with Laura and I in Buenos Aires, the other day and she was in the same boat. We spent time researching different races and finally decided on the Nashville Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. So on April 26, 2014, we’ll be running through the rolling hills of Nashville listening to country music.

That means I have to get busy getting a base under me as I haven’t been running more than twice a week for the past several months. I’ve found a training plan that is much more intense than what I’ve done in the past, but I figure it’s worth a shot. I’ll probably make a few edits as running 20+ miles multiple times and hitting 48 miles in one week seems daunting.

I’m going to take it one week at a time, but for now I need to have a base to be able to run 9 miles the first week of January. That means it’s time to hit the streets…

Wandering around a new park

About a week ago I moved into my house and have been getting settled in.  With the move, running was put on the back burner while I painted new pieces of furniture and got things somewhat organized.  One of the benefits of my location is about a half mile away there is a park with a mile trail around it as well as a basketball court.  So I woke up on Sunday morning and decided it was time to venture over and discover what Balcones District Park had to offer.

I had seen on Google maps a rough idea of how the trail would go.  So I cut across the parking lot and found what I assumed to be the trail.  I followed it down across a dry creek bed and up before heading into the trees.  I thoughtfully landed my feet between the big rocks as I my 2 mm FiveFingers soles are not helpful on these types of terrains.  I passed a man walking his dog and felt like I had to be on the right track.

Then, the side paths began.  I tried to keep right as much as possible as I assumed these paths would cut across the circular trail and cut my mile loop short.  Sometimes I selected the trail based on which one had less overgrowth.  It also got confusing when I’d end up at a dry creek bed and the rock path somewhat disappeared into the empty rock bed.  I even took a slight detour when a tree had fallen across the path and blocked it, but quickly continued on my way.

After twists and turns and even getting splinters from brushing away branches from hitting me in the face, I ended up at yet another fork in the road.  To the right was a gate with an paved road on the other side.   To the left continued the trail.  I took a few steps down the trail and decided to turn around.  I figured the best idea was to get on a street that would have a sign at some point that I would hopefully recognize.  I took a right once I hit the asphalt only to realize it was a dead end.  I turned around and headed up the hill.  It was then that I saw a sign that was actually a street I’d been on during my last run and made it back home safely.

My goal is to now start the loop backwards and see where I end up.  Maybe I’ll have better luck or recognize something from my last run.  The odds of distinguishing one tree from another is slim, but it’s worth a shot!

The mysteriousness of wind

After debating whether to sign up for the 30k I’d had my eyes on for weeks, I finally decided to cross it off my list.  I only had a few more weeks in Buenos Aires and I didn’t want to have to plan my weekend activities around my longer runs.  There was also the factor that my mom mentioned of going from winter to summer and getting acclimated before charging along.  While I don’t know if it would have really been that big of a deal it was another reason to cancel the run.

I then took a step back from running and even had about a 2 week break in there.  But now I’m back in Texas and I’m working on getting  back in the routine again.  I went out for what I thought would be 3 miles at 10:30 a.m. on the first try and couldn’t make it.  Lesson learned: I must wake up earlier to beat the heat.

The second go was more successful. Although, I had a love/hate relationship with the wind. I went up the hill to the corner and felt good.  I had to head down before doing the same route again to get in my planned 4 miles.  As I turned to go downhill I suddenly realized there was a cool wind blowing.  It’d been pushing me along the whole way, but I hadn’t even noticed. While I was thankful to have the air move around me to cool me off a bit, it was also annoying to feel the wind in only one direction. I headed back up the hill again and while knowing there was wind helping me along I still didn’t really notice it’s presence as I had while heading directly into it.

Isn’t it amazing how different a tailwind is to a headwind?  They are both there yet one makes its presence much more obvious than the other. I’ve even had moments where  I had the sensation that the air would just swirl around me as I was headed into the wind no matter my direction, but at least this time I knew it had to be helping me when I needed it most…going up the hill.

Spicing up lunch with a run

Last week I tried something new.  At the end of June, the company I work for moved offices.  While our last office had a shower, it didn’t come with a curtain and didn’t give the appearance of working very well.  Our new location is equipped with a shower and it even has a door.  All of this was perfect timing considering the cold front that blew in and my lack of desire to run in 40 degree weather in the dark.

I brought all the necessary equipment to the office and mentally prepared myself.  The involved planning a bigger breakfast and mid-morning snack with proper timing.  So I made peanut butter and jelly on toast before heading to the office and then had a bowl of cereal with banana a bit before heading out.  I was excited to change up my routine, run in daylight and start from a different point.

I tested the shower as I wasn’t 100% sure it would work or that it had hot water.  Luckily, it all worked.  So after listening to comments from my coworkers about my funny shoes and if I was really going to do it, I plugged in my earphones and was off.  I did the mile loop around my normal park and then headed further downtown to get in a few more miles before returning to work.  I soaked up the sun with every step and enjoyed fewer people in the park as it was a work day.

Once back, I hopped in the shower and had a great feeling.  I used my time wisely so once the sun went down all I had to do was hop on my bike and head home.  I enjoyed a warmer run as the sun was in full force and I was left with my night to do what I wanted to with.  The sun makes a world of a difference and avoiding the colder temperatures seems like a no-brainer to me.  I mapped out a few different routes and definitely plan on continuing this routine for the weeks to come.

Training and mantras

I’m now officially back on the horse and training for a 30K on September 1st.  I’ve mapped out my training schedule and have planned how I’ll reach my max. a few weeks before.  Granted there will be a sudden climate change when I move, but it’s nice to follow a routine again.  The race is a trail run that will take place in the evening/night in an attempt to avoid the extreme temperatures common in Texas this time of year.  Besides Cruce I haven’t done an “off-road” event and I’ve never participated in an evening run besides training.  It’ll be a good change of scenery and fun experience to spice things up.

As I’ve been running, I’ve taken time to think about different mantras or the phrase(s) one says to themselves to keep going.  It might be based on internal motivation, fear or something that reminds you of why you get out there and run.  Thinking of using fear might sound weird, but have you ever imagined you were running from a pack of rabid dogs?  I don’t really have one that I use every time I get out there, but on those days when my legs are especially heavy I’ve been resorting to one in particular: “It can’t be worse than climbing a volcano.”  And it’s absolutely true.

It’s not that climbing El Mocho was a horrible experience by any means.  I use it to remind me that if we made it to the top (and back again) then I really can do just about anything.  I say ‘just about’ as I realize I still can’t fly, but maybe one day.  The first time I crossed the finish line after a marathon it was a sensation that is hard to put into words.  You really do feel like you can face anything.  The world is at your mercy as you have put your body to the limits and came out standing (even if the legs feel a bit like jelly).

“You finished a marathon and you believe, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything.” – Grete Waitz & Gloria Averbuch

I use my mantra at different times and for various reasons, but it helps me to reach my next goal whatever it may be.  And more than likely this mantra won’t work for many other people out there.  The key is that it’s something personal and it’s what keeps me moving.

What about you?  What’s your mantra?

Happy Father’s Day!

I had planned to write about a different topic today, but seeing as today is Father’s Day I decided to go in a different direction.  This is for you, Dad, for supporting me in everything I do.  I can’t even begin to say how much it means to me.

Last night I had a conversation with a friend who was asking me about memories I have of my father as a child.  I shared a few, but honestly most are related to some sport.  Over the years, we’ve used softball, basketball and running to bond and spend time together.  From coaching me when I was little to playing with me and running half marathons when I was older.

He came to my first half marathon and then joined me in several more after that.  At times we’d question why we’d signed up, but it was always good to cross the finish line together and know we’d done it with each other.  I remember when he ran 10 miles with me to train when I told him I was ready to try a full.  He even coordinated with Fede to surprise me by flying down to Buenos Aires to cheer me on once I finally got the nerve to go the whole 26.2 miles.  Not to mention the fact that he had a t-shirt made (in Spanish) to give me that extra boost!

He’s supported me in sports, but in so much more than that.  He has been there for me no matter what.  I think I could ask him to do anything for me and he wouldn’t hesitate to do everything in his power to make it happen.  Now the physical distance separates us so we can’t celebrate the day together, but it’s those special moments that are important and the memories I’ll always have.

Here’s to you, Dad, and the memories to come!  Thanks for everything!!