I am strong. I have trained. I got this.

I am strong. I have trained. I got this.
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The nightmare was vivid. I was running the Santa Rosa Marathon. Finally. After months of hard work, I was going after my number-one goal of the year: run 3:35 or less and qualify for Boston. I had trained. I could do this. I was doing it!

Then I ran into the first obstacle, a series of monkey-bar rings I had to go through, American Ninja Warrior style, before continuing my run. It took forever and I had to really push the pace afterwards to catch up on time. Then another obstacle showed up: pull-ups. Miraculously, I managed a single one and carried on, crossing the half marathon mark at 1:52 and knowing full well that my goal was now out of reach.

I woke up in cold sweat.

And so fear of failure has reared its ugly head.

I’m no stranger to pre-race anxiety and doubt — I think few people are. When you set a goal, the doubts are inevitable: can I do it? Will I do it?

Part of this is fear of the unknown. If you’re training for your first marathon, you’re scared of the distance. If you’re training for a specific time, you’re questioning your ability to maintain the pace.

And a small, but strong part of it is simply being human. We have doubts and insecurities. We overanalyze every little detail of a run that failed to meet a goal time. We shrug off the runs that we nail — because, oh well, I did it now, but can I do it again?

Or maybe it’s just me.

Two weeks until the Santa Rosa Marathon, and I am tired and a little bit scared. We just came back from a three-week overseas trip, so add to that jet lag, too. (Today, I woke up at 2:30 a.m. I will probably take a five-hour nap in the early afternoon, then attempt another normal bedtime… before waking up at 3:30 tomorrow. It takes a day for each hour of time difference to adapt, so hopefully by the middle of race week I’ll be fine!)

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

Our trip was fabulous. The beach was perfect, and so was the mountain. But the weather was hot and humid, and I suffered through several miserable runs, failing to make goal pace by a long stretch.

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

But you know what? I have been running my butt off. I have a coach who has trained me through PRs at every single distance I’ve attempted this year: 1:42 in the half marathon (seven minutes off my time last year!), a 44-minute 10K and a 5K PR (and first-place female) at a local run just two weeks ago.

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

I trust my training. I trust the process.

I’ve run 50-mile weeks consistently for the past several weeks and today, despite jet lag and the fatigue buildup in my legs, I nailed the goal pace on my 12-miler. (Of course, I wonder now whether Coach D prescribed a slower pace to reflect all those sluggish runs of the past few weeks… See? Human. Doubt.)

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All I have to do now, is trust myself. And so, if you’re human like me, look the ugly face of self doubt in the eye and repeat:

I am strong. I got this. I have trained.

Sharks Fitness Faceoff 10K: Running fast hurts.

Sharks Fitness Faceoff 10K: Running fast hurts.
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Teal and black may not be as popular in the Bay Area these days as the gold and blue hues of the Golden State Warriors, but let’s face it: San Jose is Sharks territory and always will be.

Last weekend was the third annual San Jose Sharks Fitness Faceoff, featuring a solid selection of events: a 5K, 10K and kids’ fun run, a 50-mile and 20-mile ride, and a bonanza of fun activities at the finisher expo.

We did the 10K and kids’ run last year and had a great time. I ran a personal best on the flat course, so I wanted to see if I could improve my time.

I met up with a friend from my tri club and we warmed up together: an easy-pace 15-minute run around the block with four 30-second strides at the end, to introduce the legs to the hitting-the-pavement thing a bit. With about 10 minutes to go, we lined up.


(Do you think we were close enough to the start?)

It was not even 8 in the morning, but the temperature was creeping up to the low 80s. Sweat was dripping all over my face as we listened to the Star Spangled Banner and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Except once the singing was over, we didn’t start. We waited. And waited. The race started 18 minutes late. That’s never fun, especially if you’ve warmed up (and now you’ve effectively cooled down), but what can you do.

At the start signal, we all darted off like sharks were chasing us and within a few hundred yards, the lead group separated. They were running 5-minute miles. One woman ran with them. I had strict orders from Coach D to stay at a 7:30-minute pace for the first two miles, even if I felt I could go faster.

I did feel I could go faster! I also thought my watch wasn’t working properly, as the pace was jumping all over the place, from high 8’s to low 7’s and, briefly, into the 5’s. I reached the first mile marker at 7:18 on the clock — and roughly that on my watch, so I guess it was working just fine. Oops, I was supposed to go a little slower than that. But it can’t hurt, can it? (Oh, just you wait.)

By the time we approached the second mile marker, I had passed a bunch of runners, few of them women. My watch showed 15 minutes of running. So I had slowed down a bit. See? Good thing I banked those precious seconds in the first mile. (Seriously, though, banking time in the beginning is apparently really bad. I’m not supposed to do it.)

By mile three we hit the one “climb” on the course: a freeway overpass. It sucked.

When your brain and legs have gotten used to the idea of a flat race, even the smallest bump feels like a mountain.

I was running pretty much on my own at this point. The front group (groups?) were too far ahead to even try to catch. I leapfrogged with two guys for a while, then with a dude pushing a stroller. For the most part, though, I was lonely.

The fourth mile marker showed up late: 4.35 miles on my watch. Was my Garmin wrong? Was the mile marker wrong? By that point in the race, I was supposed to run as fast as I could. But was I? Had I been running much slower than I thought I was running, because my GPS watch was off? I tried pushing the pace, but it was really, really hard. (My Strava file shows that I actually slowed down a bit in this mile, 7:29. Maybe it was the small incline… or maybe it was my stupid head.)

Then the fifth mile marker came and my watch showed 5.35. That did terrible things to my brain. I was wrong. I was slow. Much slower than I thought. Shit. I hate this. I hate 10Ks. They hurt. My left leg hurts. My feet hurt. My right foot hurts more than my left foot. And I have 1.2 miles to go.

I tried picking up the pace, but it hardly worked. (Mile split: 7:24.) At this point, the course was crowded with 5K runners, so I had to start dodging. Dude with the stroller passed me. Respect. The other two dudes passed me, as well. More respect.

Then I heard and saw the finish line. Wait. I looked at my watch: not even 6 miles! I picked it up and sprinted, crossing at 44:29 — and 6.06 miles on my watch.

Who knows. Maybe my Garmin was wrong? I looked at the course from last year and it was just over 6 miles (but not 6.2), as well. Maybe, then, the course was short.

In that case, my sub-45 minute 10K didn’t quite happen. That’s a bit of a bummer, but still: a nearly four-minute PR on a 10K? I’ll take it.

And it did turn out that there was only one other woman ahead of me. She finished in 42:36. A two-minute difference in a 10K could as well have been two hours. I didn’t even see her out on the course. I guess we both lucked out that your typical 10K leader types (women running 6-minute miles and faster) didn’t show up that day.


Time: 44:29
Pace: 7:10 (if the course was not short)
Place: 2nd Female
Overall: 20

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

To Be a Runner is To Be…

To Be a Runner is To Be…
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Runners from all over the world headed to Staten Island to help in relief efforts. Photo by ING U.S. via their Facebook page

This photo is making the rounds today, quite deservingly evoking gratitude, kudos and blessings from around the web. These runners came to New York City from all over the world to run its streets, but will leave it having done something even better. They helped the city get back on its feet.

That so many marathoners headed to Staten Island to help the relief effort didn’t surprise me at all. Have you met a runner? I dare you to find one – someone who loves running, and who is also mean, narrow-minded, annoying, or in any other way unpleasant to be around. It’s as likely as procuring an egg if no chicken existed. Or vice versa.

To be a runner, you have to persistent and able to give more of yourself than you thought you had. Especially after mile 20.

Runners are healthy and strong, and a strong body means a strong mind. Runners are smart.

Runners are persistent, often downright stubborn.

Runners set goals and complete them, then set new and tougher ones.

Runners are giving to others. Just think of the millions of dollars collected for charity through running.

Runners are happy. How can you not be, when you’re making all those endorphins on a daily basis?

How runners helped Staten Island today, via Buzzfeed. Look through all the photos without tearing up: it’s a dare.

Today’s run:

Ran a “10k” for New York City today. Would have gone for 26.2 if I could, but that would be a bit premature (training for LA Marathon officially begins next week!) Still, an “Empire State of Mind” kind of run.