The Ultimate Coffee Date: October


October???!? I guess I’ll be the eleventy-zillionth person in your blog or social feed to exclaim, How can it be October already?

But here we are, anyway: it’s the first Saturday of October, which means it’s time for the Ultimate Coffee Date hosted by Coco, Deborah and Lynda! So let’s grab an afternoon cup of coffee and chat!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you… that I am IN the 2016 Boston Marathon! Boy, did it come close… There was so much interest in the race this year, that time cutoff ended up 2:28 minutes below the official BQ standard for each age group. Which means that, with my 2:36 cushion, I squeaked in by 8 seconds. When you think that I could have lost that time at an aid station or walking for a bit, or with a porta-stop… I will never, ever again underestimate the importance of a second — or eight. A little confession, though: I ordered this Boston Qualifier tee from Adidas even before I knew for sure that I got in the race. I would have worn it with pride, regardless!

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on


If we were having coffee, I would tell you… that last weekend I officially wrapped up my racing season. It went down in style, with a 3rd place overall finish at the See Jane Run triathlon. It felt hard and I was so, so tired and ready to cross that Finish line into the off-season! Now, I’m going to enjoy a few months of doing whatever the heck I want, just for fun! (As in, I will swim, bike and run with no purpose and agenda — just to meet with my tri-buds and because I love it!)

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on


If we were having coffee, I would tell you… that I am running Ragnar Napa Valley this month, with Team Nuun! I am super-duper mega excited to run, ride, sleep (?) and repeat the beautiful 200 miles from San Francisco to Calistoga again, and with the support of a company whose product I love and use daily! Thank you, Nuun Hydration, for the opportunity, and I can’t wait to meet my van-mates and get going!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you… that I recently started reading Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Cofounder. I’m late to the party – the book came out years ago – but it’s fascinating, especially the parts describing how Bowerman developed his training methods. And I haven’t even gotten to the part where he is making the prototype Nike flats out of rubber melted in his wife’s waffle maker!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you… my dirty little secret: I hate pumpkin spice latte! I really do! I’m not a huge fun of pumpkin-spice anything, really, other than actual pumpkin. My dentist a couple of years ago discovered this the hard way, by using pumpkin-flavor paste to clean my teeth, without asking first if that’s OK. I hope she knows better now!

What would you tell me if we were having coffee together?

Swim, Bike and Run Like a Girl at See Jane Run Triathlon

Swim, Bike and Run Like a Girl at See Jane Run Triathlon

What better way to end triathlon season than with a fun celebration of girl power, friendship and accomplishment?

This is what the See Jane Run Triathlon has meant to me for the past three years. (My race recaps for 2014 and 2013 are here and here). Every year, I come back to this race with three goals:

1. Go fast.
2. Do my best.
3. Have fun!

The See Jane Run Tri did not disappoint this year and I checked all three off my list!

The beautiful sunrise greeted us as we rolled our bikes into the transition area at Shadow Cliffs Regional Park:


I got my race packet with no hassles whatsoever (race-day pickup is the best, isn’t it?), racked my bike, got body marked, went to the bathroom a few times (a real bathroom, not a porta-potty: another valuable perk. Check!) — and met up with a few ladies from our San Jose Moms Run This Town group, some of whom were here for their first tri!


I overheard at least a couple other conversations among women there to tri their first, and one lady I chatted with mentioned how impressed she was by all the different ages marked at each woman’s leg: from 12 to 72! (Did you know, by the way, that See Jane Run offers free race registration to any woman who is 70 and older? How cool is that?!)

That is the best part of this race: so many women in one place, all celebrating friendship and excited about a fun morning ahead. There is none of the nervous energy or the “bro-talk” you might overhear at an Ironman event (“Yeah, man, I swam 5,000 yards in the pool the other day at 1:20 [minutes per 100 yards], went for a three-hour ride and a five-mile run.” – We get it, dude, you trained.)

But I digress. Back to the race! I had gotten here with at least an hour and a half to spare, but time flew! I headed out to the beach a few minutes before the official race start, what felt like mere minutes after arriving.

The swim

I admit, I was anxious about the quality of the water. For one, I saw quite a few sizable piles of goose poop on that beach! (Seriously, what are these geese eating? How big are they?) And it has been months – years! – since we’ve had proper rain in the San Francisco Bay Area. How low would the water be? How murky?

It turned out to be perfectly fine. The water was clear and I already knew to expect the thick plant growth on the lake bottom, very visible and even touchable as you begin swimming. Not to mention, it was at least a few degrees warmer than the air. In short: the race conditions were just right.

This was a “shallow water” start of sorts — we lined up about knee-deep and started running in as soon as we heard the start signal for our wave. The water level was higher than last year, but still pretty low – we had to “run” a bit to get to a swimmable depth. I jumped in as soon as I could and started pushing water like my life depended on it.

I’m not sure what exactly happened and why, but for the first time in a race, I actually felt strong in the water. Like I was propelling myself forward faster than usual. (Was it the beans I ate for dinner the night before, as some friends kindly suggested? Ha!)

I got to the first buoy fairly quickly, with only one “detour” — I didn’t sight all that much because the course is short – just 400 yards — there are no waves or currents, and I thought I was swimming in a straight line. Well, I wasn’t that straight, but I don’t think I lost more than 20-30 seconds repositioning. A second turn on the second buoy and we were swimming to shore.

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The Swim Out timing mat was at the corner of the parking lot/ Transition area, so swim times included the short trek over. Then again, so did last year’s swim — and the top five women (some of whom were the same as this year, in the end) all swam at least a minute or two faster. So my best guess is that either last year the swim course was shorter than the prescribed 400 yards, or this year it was longer.

Swim time: 9:04
T1 time: 0:55


The Bike

Out of Transition quickly and onto the bike. For at least 30 seconds on the Mount line, I had trouble clipping in my left shoe. It was so frustrating! First try, second, third, fourth: my clip kept sliding out and, of course, the more annoyed you get, the harder it becomes. Finally, I was safely attached to my bike and pedaling.

The next 11.1 miles were a breeze! Well, not really. It wasn’t easy, I had to make up lots of time, relatively speaking, that I lost on the swim — not just compared to the other gals in my age group, but everyone else. The bike course was already crowded by the time I got started.

The course has only one moderately tough climb to get over, but also a long, straight flat stretch of a couple of miles in the beginning, which makes it pretty great for picking up speed quickly.

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And so I did, only getting held up a couple of times behind slower bikes in one very narrow stretch of marked-off course. I would normally try to pass – safely – even on the outside of the cones if there are no cars or other bikes around, but in this case, our route went against traffic (we were on the left side of the road) and there was a long line of cars merely a few feet to our right. I remembered this section well from last year: not my favorite, but we were through it quickly.

I rolled back into transition with somewhat tired legs. The course might’ve been short, but when you push yourself to go fast… well, you may end up paying for it on the run!

Bike time: 34:40
T2 time: 1:27


The Run

I changed shoes and headed out on the run quickly, except I ran to the wrong exit and had to pivot, run in between a couple of bike racks and then head onto the correct run course. (Then I did one more wrong turn, but was quickly “repositioned” by a volunteer. Really hoping next year there are clear markings for run out and the start of the run course!)

I started out, as I suspected, on very, very tired legs. Basically, my legs were shot. I felt the ride, I felt the Santa Rosa Marathon barely a month in the past, I felt the 200-plus-mile months that preceded it… This was going to be my last race of the season, and I was quite ready and eager for it to end.

I was running my very best, wheezing and pushing, and trying so hard… and my Garmin was showing a 7:30-minute/ mile pace. I know I can run better than that, I have run better than that — only in March this year, I ran faster for the last 10 miles of the Livermore Half Marathon! But today was not the day I could pull it off.

So I just settled into doing the best I could, and wheezed my way through 3.1 of the most grueling miles I’ve had to run in recent history. Everything hurt – lungs, legs, feet – and the trail surface (the race is almost exclusively on fire roads that have little rocks) – felt punishing, not forgiving.

Finally – FINALLY – I could hear the music, crowd cheering and race announcer and rushed to the Finish. The best finish ever, for so many reasons, but not least because:

a) I saw my family had come to see me cross, after all! (I left so early in the morning, most everyone was still sleeping.)
b) I officially crossed the line into a now long-awaited offseason (HURRAY!), and
c) It turned out I was the 3rd woman overall. High fives all around!


Run time: 23:45
Total time: 1:09:53

ALL of this training, racing and all those PRs this year, and I managed to improve my See Jane Run course time by five whopping seconds. Well, I’ll take it!

See you next year, Janes!

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on


Disclaimer: I am a race ambassador for See Jane Run. As such, I get free entry to the race for myself, as well as one free entry to give away to a blog reader. For everyone else, I have a discount code – SJRAMB236 – good for 25% off any event, or 10% off any purchase from their online store. (You can use this through the end of 2015 on purchases; for 2016 – come back later for a fresh discount code. I get no commission or referral fees — just the satisfaction of knowing I have introduced yet another powerful woman to a wonderful event and the amazing sport of triathlon!)

Friday Five: Ways to Get Over a Training Slump

Friday Five: Ways to Get Over a Training Slump

Fall is here and with it, peak racing season. We are weeks away from some the most popular marathons in the world – Chicago, Marine Corps, New York City – and dozens of smaller races that are no less important to those who have put in months of work to get ready.

At just about this time — between two and six weeks out of the race — most runners feel… well, over it. You are tired, you are cranky, you might be nursing tiny nicks in your legs or feet that you feel may turn into injuries any day now. You are dreading those 18- and 20-mile runs you have coming up. You just aren’t feeling it any more.

Breathe. This is perfectly normal. You have been putting your body through more stress than it is used to, and it is telling you that you need to do something about it. Stop training? No need for that! Here are five ways to address a training slump. Barring an actual injury or serious health conditions, I bet trying at least a few of these will work for you. In order of importance:

1. Get. More. Sleep.

Cannot stress enough the importance of good sleep during peak training. This is when your body needs the most time and the growth hormone you produce as you sleep, to repair torn microfibers and make those muscles stronger. If you normally get 6 to 7 hours a night, try to get 8 to 9. On weekends after a long run, take a short nap — or at the very least give yourself an hour or two of “quiet time” when you can put your feet up and relax. During quiet time, put your phone, tablet, laptop or any other electronics away: don’t let those shiny little screens mess with your brain when all it needs is rest. Read a book?

2. Eat iron-rich foods

Endurance exercise takes a toll on our bodies. One of the ways it affects athletes is an increase in plasma volume (i.e. we have more blood running through our veins and delivering oxygen to hard-working muscles). If that increase is larger than the increase in red blood cell volume, the result is slightly lower levels of hemoglobin in the blood. This might cause fatigue and affect athletic performance negatively.

If you eat a balanced, healthy diet made up of whole foods and heme iron sources (i.e. red meat), your iron levels might be perfectly fine and you can ignore this. But runners who live on a plant-based diet or avoid red meat in general should pay special attention to taking in enough non-heme iron from foods like leafy greens (beet greens, especially), lentils, beans, chickpeas, and iron-fortified bread, pasta or cereal. Eat with foods rich in Vitamin C, which aids the absorption of non-heme iron.

3. Add fun into your training

Not easy to do when you’re on a five runs a week schedule of prescribed interval training, tempo runs, long runs, hills. But adding a fun factor – a basketball game or fun bike ride on your day for cross training, for example – can leave you feeling refreshed and ready for your next long run.

Other fun ideas: meet with a friend after your long run and treat yourself to your favorite fall drink. PSL? PSA (pumpkin spice ale)? Hey, we don’t judge.

4. Get a new running outfit

You know you're a runner when
I was going to start this with “Sorry, dudes.” But you know what? I am not sorry. Getting a new running outfit always adds a bit of extra pep in my training step, and I bet at least one of my current rotation of three new running skirts that even the manliest of men would feel better about that next week of training if they got themselves a new pair of shoes, socks, pants or a shirt. Try it!

5. Run for more

Some apps track your training or encourage you to train, while helping you earn money for charity. With Charity Miles, for example, runners earn 25 cents for each mile they run (and 10 cents for each mile they ride) for their charity of choice.

With Pact (formerly known as Gym Pact — read my review of the app and how it works from a few years ago), you commit to working out a certain number of days a week, earn money during weeks in which you make your pact — and pay a pre-set amount, often $5 or $10, for the number of days a week you fell short. Running counts and can automatically sync via Runkeeper, or the step-counting function of your phone.

Speaking of Runkeeper, they’ve been running (ha!) a ton of challenges lately with brands like New Balance, in which you can get discounts on purchases for completing a certain number of miles (per week or per run).

Or simply remind yourself that you’re in the final stretch (of training) – it’s no time to give up now, is it?