Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Everything is awesome

The only thing I am allowed to say right now is that Life is amazing and Everything is awesome!

I saw the Lego movie not too long ago. The thing that really stuck out for me from that movie is that everything is perception. An ordinary person can make a difference, create his own life and get the girl he wants, if he really wants it and if he goes for it! So, let's want it bad enough and let's go for it!

This is the thought process that I have been borrowing for a few months now and it seems to be working amazingly!

Let's break it down. To start: Work.

Work is hard.
But it is going awesome! Our office space is the penthouse of a 22 story building. But life in the penthouse is not always incredible, although the views are! We have had our ups and downs with our department staff in the last 8-10 months, confusion with other growing departments in the company and late nights getting things done by deadlines. As an example, we have more than doubled my department since last summer. By last summer, I mean LATE last summer. If you can do the math, that is a 200% increase. It is amazing. What comes with new staff is training and new procedures and much, much more. As our department has not been the only one expanding, the entire company is, every department is also having the same issues we are. But, everyday, we work at it with our team and we get one thing at a time done, one deadline at a time. Lots will be coming this late March and April will be crazy. This includes the office blessing of our expanded office, Suite 136 on the ground level. Exciting stuff...

Weekday training is a daily battle.
It starts early in the morning from getting up at 430/5AM to getting out the door for a run, bike, swim, to minimizing my shower and get-ready routine, to remembering to pack the right things for my after work training. I have been consistently running at least 2x/weekday in the early mornings before work since late last year. In addition, fitting in at least one swim session/week. It has been going fantastic. Just this week, after giving daylight savings time a warmup, I am adding more weekday morning workouts. I have started to run and then swim 1000m right after this past Monday. The water was not as cold as I had imagined and the swim was hard after my 5 mile run, but it was absolutely fantastic! I finished and was absolutely proud of myself. You should be proud of me too. Today, I attempted a ride up Tantalus. The ride took longer than I had predicted, which lead me to getting back to my apartment later than I had estimated. But all in all, I did a quick shower and drove to the office within 15 minutes. That is definitely a world record for a girl!!! PS I did not wash my hair! Ha! I will definitely continue with my increased weekday workout days, as long as work allows me to do so!

Weekends are usually always awesome!
My Saturday 5AM runs with Team Zebra has been amazing! We started tapering with 13 miles this past Saturday. The run felt extremely easy to me. I think that is how it is supposed to feel? This upcoming Saturday, we will continue to taper with 10 miles. I also hope a few individuals can join us. As much as running with Team Zebra has been amazing, I want to share our love for the sport, our knowledge and passion with others. Only two Saturdays left to train until our big North Shore Marathon. I am super excited but nervous at the same time...

Sundays in January and February has been these amazing 2-4 hour long rides with Team Try Fitness. This group of ladies has really surprised and surpassed my expectations. I joined the group to learn how to cycle better but really, to just have people to cycle with. I have finished the clinic with such an extremely comfortable level of cycling skills and knowledge, lots of friends and lots of fun memories. I have started their triathlon training clinic last week and I cannot wait to see what unfolds. My Sundays for the rest of March, April and most of May will be dedicated to brick workouts (run, bike and/or swim) with the team and I cannot wait. So far, I have learned to be a better and more comfortable swimmer. Currently, I think my cycling is decent and my run is decent. However, both can still be much improved upon. But what I am most excited about is my swimming. I cannot wait to see how much farther my swimming gets developed in the next two months.

Hawaii Sport Mag
Working with Hawaii Sport Mag has definitely opened doors and provided me with incredible knowledge and information within the Hawaii running, cycling, swimming and triathlon community. I have started to even branch out and am receiving a few testing apparel from mainland companies. I am continuing to grow the magazine's social media, running team, review column (with my amazing running team) and the magazine overall. Overall, as a magazine, we had substantial growth and major accomplishments in 2013. I cannot wait to see the magazine's growth in 2014. It is all very exciting.

I have to leave now and get some shut eye. Tomorrow morning, I am taking a break from a morning workout to hopefully get to the office early. Got a few deadlines to meet. But the afternoon will be given to Team Try Fitness.

Will update again soon.

PS - this is the Lego movie's theme song: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! Lego Movie Theme Song

Saturday, February 15, 2014

President's Day weekend update

Happy President's Day weekend!

For the past 5 years, President's Day weekend for me meant a few things:

- Missing the GAR
- Coming in to the office to work 12+ hours
- Seeing everyone post about the GAR
- Feeling super duper depressed about missing the GAR

Last year, I was unemployed, so President's Day was great! It was the first year I ran the GAR without having to worry about work afterwards. Overall, it was my second time running the GAR.

There was one year in which I took a half day off from work to run the GAR. In retrospect, it was the worst decision ever! I came back to the office exhausted after the run (came back after lunch) to find myself with a stack 2 feet high of work! It took nearly a week to catch up. At the end of that week, I decided that I could never run the GAR again as long as I was in the same profession. Last year, I left my profession and then ran the GAR under a friend's number (who was injured by the GAR date). I ran the GAR and spent the rest of my day guilt free and relaxed.

This year, I will not be completing the GAR. Instead, I will spend the day working on my personal tax consulting business to get a few things completed.

On the bright side, here's how my training is going thus far:

Team Zebra (Zara and Debra) just completed our second 17 mile run. It was a hard run. We started from Kailua Beach (not our usual route), ran towards Lanikai, back to Kailua beach, then down towards Kbay, around Kbay and then back. The ground was filled with huge wet puddles, the grass was muddy and wet, in addition, there was rain and extremely strong wind which blew towards us on our way to Lanikai, all this made the start of our run quite lousy. It got better when the rain stopped but tons of puddles on the ground left our shoes soaking wet throughout the entire run. I could tell Debra was having a hard time completing the last two miles at both of our 17 mile runs. But she is definitely strong in will. Both times, her will and determination pushed through and both times, we completed 17 miles as planned and finished together. We ended our last 1.5 miles running barefoot in the sand at Kailua Beach. It was to help soften the pain on our foot. It worked very well as the cold water refreshed my mentality giving me something you might call, a spring in my step!

We missed our long run last weekend. I went to cycling camp (more below) and she participated in the Stomp Romp at the Marine Corp Base in Kaneohe. Needless to say, our weekend was over before we could catch our breaths and Monday had began. Next week, we start our first 20 miler together. Soon, it will be time to taper and in a short two months, we will be participating in the North Shore Marathon! I am extremely nervous and excited at the same time. I know that the only thing we can do, is to have fun preparing for this.

Training with team Try Fitness has been incredible so far. Last weekend, we spent the weekend at Camp Erdman. We rode 42 miles on Saturday morning including Pineapple Hill, came back for lunch, foam rolled for 30 minutes, had margaritas, started dinner and hung out at the camp fire. On Sunday, we rode for 30 miles easy as four separate groups. Unfortunately, our group of four had two flats! What are the odds of that?? After the ride, we completed the workout with an easy 20 minute run. Then we had lunch, packed and drove back to town leaving behind wonderful memories of our cycling camping weekend together. It was a great weekend with great food (that everyone chipped in) and the riding was awesome. What I love about this group is that they make it fun! Fitness and cycling being fun? I was not sure if I could find that from this sport. Fortunately, I have become 5x more comfortable with riding through the skills and drills we have been taught during training practice sessions. There are about two more weeks and it can only get better.

The weather in January and during this month, February, so far has been terrible! If it is not rainy, it is just extremely cold! I have tried going in the water after the long runs (around 9AM) before cooling off for too long but still feeling extremely freezing cold in the water. With only a top and bottom bikini, often times, my body cold not take the temperature. I am lucky if I can fit in a swim session during these months. It is definitely putting me behind in my training!

I have also been trying to hit the pool Monday nights and that has been a hit and miss. I would say a hit two times a month! And a miss the other two times of the month. January and February has not been kind! I hope March will be a warmer month so that I can get in the water more often.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Year, New Zara

New Year, New Zara!

This year's goals are:

1. Complete my second marathon: North Shore Marathon - April 6, 2014
2. Complete my first Olympic distance Triathlon: Honolulu Triathlon - May 18, 2014
3. Complete the hardest marathon (and will be my third marathon) on any of the islands in Hawaii: Kauai Marathon - August 31, 2014.

To do this, I am determined to:

1. Practice my swimming, increase my swim distance to swimming 1500m comfortably.
    Action: Swim at least 2x a week, each month progressing in distance. I do not think I ever want to be a pro at swimming. Right now, I am so uncomfortable swimming that I just want to be able to swim a mile and not feel like I might die soon!
2. Get faster and stronger on the bike. Also, learn more about my bike and how to care for it.
    Action: Join Try Fitness Cycling program. Cycling on my own is fine. However, I do not push myself. I also do not ride for longer than one hour. This limits my growth.
3. Get back to my running pace, be able to run a marathon again.
    Action: Weekly long runs with great friend, Debra! Also, schedule at least four runs a week on my calendar. Schedule at least one tempo run a week. This should increase my distance, pacing and cardio weekly.
4. Be Triathlon ready.
    Action: Join a triathlon training group. As determined and self-disciplined as I am or as people know that I am, triathlon is a completely different and very mentally intense sport. Training with a group should help me to learn and progress faster, give myself some competition and keep me motivated.

The new year is all about goal setting... or at least that is what I am told! But I think what is actually more important is, how realistic are your goals?

This is probably the only year so far that all this will be possible. The reason being, a change in my profession. My current profession has definitely allowed me the time to make this commitment. It is amazing how a change in jobs and consequently, environment, that has enabled me to change my life, and lifestyle. This is pretty much what I have always wanted, but it was a dark tunnel for me to get here. I have finally arrived. And the sun is bright!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My second Rock n Roll race, in Vegas!

The Rock 'n' Roll series is known for a ridiculously fun race filled with loud and familiar rock music played by live bands along the course and ending the race at the finish line with a spectacular free concert (for runners) by a well-known big liner band and/or artist.

Members of Hawaii Sport and I thought it would be a good idea to check out our fifth island, Las Vegas, and the RocknRoll Half Marathon this year, 2013.

The Rock 'n' Roll series is always a fun race for me. This was my second Rock 'n' Roll race and it was exactly what I had expected from my experience at the first race in the series.

As far as organization went, they have it down to the T. The series organizes more than 50 races a year, both across the nation and including their expansion internationally now. Tons of email reminders and information were sent to participants on: what to bring to packet pick-up, information on parking, shuttles, portal potties, maps of the race start and finish, discounts on hotels and attractions for participants.

Packet pick-up
The packet pick up flowed like salmons swimming downstream.
Signs included: 1) bib pick up, according to your number, 2) shirt and swag pick up, 3) official Rock n Roll souvenirs for purchase, 4) vendors.

With over 30,000 participants combined for the half and the full marathon, things flowed by butter.

In addition, on Saturday, the team and I had the chance to listen in on Allyson Felix, Olympic Gold Medalist - 200m, on stage interviewing.

Bag drop-off
The bag drop off was also incredibly well organized. About 10 or 15 UPS trucks lined up alphabetized by participant's last names and volunteers took in participant's bags. Later, the same UPS trucks lined up at the finish line for bag pick up. It was definitely a good idea for me to to check in a jacket to wear after the race. Coming from Hawaii, somehow 70 degrees Vegas weather felt like the Arctic, especially when my body had cooled down after the race.

Pre-race concert
Usually, the Rock 'n' Roll series throws an after race concert, but it seemed like due to the limitations of the race being put on at night, a pre-race concert was a better idea. Otherwise, the concert would not start until 9 or 10PM, which might cut into the night clubbing scene. And it worked. The All-American Rejects performed in a packed parking lot and they were fantastic. The walk to the race start was a bit dull and long. But their concert really got my blood flowing and excited to start the run.

Run the strip
Lights, camera, action! I felt like a movie star running down the Las Vegas Uptown strip -- met with tons of photographers, a loud cheering crowd and live bands playing great rock music along the way. One of the bands was KISS! Next up on the half marathon course was Las Vegas Downtown. This was a darker part of the race and was not quite as loud and exciting as the Uptown portion. The good thing was that my adrenaline was already up and high. Some parts of Downtown was dark and not well lit. I think the organizers could have placed one or two more lights in these parts of the course. But overall, I do not think anyone got injured from the lack of lights. At mile 10, I saw the sign which forked the half marathon and the full marathon runners apart. Excited to know that I was almost done, I picked up the pace.

Finish line
The finish line tunnel was extremely long. What was probably only two blocks long felt like an entire mile. Medals, water, the usual items were handled out to us. In additional, black plastic bags with the Rock 'n' Roll logo were also handled to us to keep warm as our body temperatures went back to normal. Bonus, at the end, we were treated to free beer by Ultra. Beer felt great after a long, nice run... Especially FREE beer. 

The rest of our stay
We ended the night with a great buffet dinner at Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It was a block away from the Bellagio, where the end of the finish line tunnel lead. Most of all, it conveniently close. We were all exhausted and COLD. The temperature dropped from 75 degrees F when we started to about 60 degrees F when we crossed the finish line. In addition, our internal body temperatures were also dropping at a dramatically quick pace. To our surprise, it was not an original idea as we were comforted by the familiar crouching backs and slow steps of other runners who also wanted to end their night with a grand buffet. 

We enjoyed the rest of our stay in Vegas with lots of shopping, drinking, and fun fun fun! 

I am sorry, but what happens in Vegas.............. stays in Vegas!!!!!

This review was also published in the December 2013 digital issue of Hawaii Sport Magazine:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

My second Xterra 21K

Every year, the Xterra World Championships off-road trail running race for me means the end of the year's running, the accumulation of my accomplishments, my training and the end of the calendar year. Realistically, my running always trails off in December with all the holiday parties and gatherings and the preparation for these events. So, after a few years kicking, screaming and denying the fact that I do not train during the month of December, I am now wise enough to admit that the end of November is the end of my training for the year but not necessary the accumulation of my training of the year. I find the revelation of acknowledging that Xterra is my last race for the year is great for my body because it allows me to rest from running and training. This month taken to rest just makes me more energized and motivated to start again in January when the 1st of the month starts.

The Xterra World Championship off-road trail running 21K is one of the hardest 13.1 mile races of my running career (a short one still)! Nov 24, 2013, was my second time against this monster trail and it was not easier than my first time, two year ago. The 21K consists of running around Ka'a'awa Valley twice before returning to the start/end. The trail started with a teaser hill where most runners were unaware of and sprint through only to find halfway, their legs and lungs not cooperating with their mental state originally to tackle the hill. I knew to pace myself this time. Perhaps a little too well because after the hill, I had too much energy. Voom! At the fork of the 5K route and the 10K route laid my final, final decision to continue with the 21K. Surprisingly, it does cross my mind each year to continue or to take the easy way out. But the 21K was what I signed up for so, I reminded myself to suck it up and that my training should have been adequate to get me through. After this next mile, runners get to a narrow trail, usually identifiable with a long line of other runners waiting to attack. This is probably the one part of the trail that I think can be improved upon. Perhaps widen the trail to allow enough room for two people? It delayed my time by a few minutes and not something I would like if I was trying to make PR.

Once runners got pass the narrow trail, the next obstacle came at mile 6. Along the route, on mile 6, runners approach another hill, this time, I would describe this as probably being 3x more massive than the first hill. This second hill sort of made the first hill seem a bit silly and even underrated. Assuming that you have not yet passed out from this hill, the next few miles are great. Nice greenery forest. Then you slowly approach your next nightmare, a hill even steeper than the hill at mile 6. Welcome mile 10. Here was when I saw most runners giving up the determination to attack and just walked it up. Sometimes, you just have to know when to buckle, I suppose.

After attacking this hill, I knew I was almost home, almost at the finish line. I slowly regained my energy and picked up my pace. Only two miles left! Another mile, and I could hear voices from the microphone at the finish line. With excitement, I cheered on every runner that I passed.

"WHOOO, almost there!"

Afterall, didn't we tackle three hills together?

The finish line within sight! Almost done, I told myself! Wait, teammates taking photos to the right?? That was the best surprise to my extensive adventure!

What I love most about running the Xterra?
  • Scenery, lush greens of Ka'a'awa Valley.
  • Tackling impossible hills, one after another.
  • Buckets and buckets of sweat equaling my preparation, hard work and determination.
  • The finish line and the medal that has so much sweat on it!

Note: This review of the Xterra was edited and published in the January 2014 issue of Hawaii Sport Magazine. Online copies can be found here:

Where I am today!

I have the most clear thoughts when I am running at night. My problems just seem to work itself out and solutions appear.

I had a thought the other day running that I would like to share with you.

I am a 5th year senior in the running sport. I say 5th year senior as there were some years where work just took over my life (not by choice) and my running slipped. I was disappointed, mad, sad... but overall, I was just thankful that I was employed.

My revelation of my running interruptions came last year when we were busy, again. Mandatory overtime was in place by the principals of the firm and I had chosen to not complete in several races that year because I cared about my clients. I cared about completing their work as I cared for them. And as a result, I let my training drop.

I was a tax preparer at one of the top two largest local CPA firms in the State of Hawaii for five years.

I really enjoyed my position as a senior tax preparer and I loved the interaction I had with clients I worked with. The clients assigned to me varied from the young to the retired and everyone had such a story to share each year. Every year, I would have some new clients assigned but most would be repeated clients. After a few years, I had developed a relationship with them and their kids and their parents. I wanted to see them succeed and I wanted to help them. On the other side, my bosses and my peers were very kind individuals. It made the work environment a wanted place to work and to come to each day. In addition, we were part of Hawaii Business Magazine's, "Best Places to Work", for six years. At the same time, I knew something was missing. When I had some time and did not feel drained to the max as though I had just given blood, I would run alone after work (or before work) and the "runner's high" was overpowering. I felt as though I could run forever. Everything I was passing during my run would suddenly move in slow motion and I could feel myself flying! When I would check my phone for the running app, RunKeeper, I would find myself only going at a 10 or 11 min/mi pace. But somehow, in my mind, I was flying!

The relationships I had made with clients made it really hard to go through with my decision. Scared but ready for a change, at the beginning of this year, I gave four weeks notice. I knew it was time to move on as nothing was going to change with this position. I did not have a position lined up and ready, but I knew I could not face another "tax season". Tax season is the period from February to April 15 when tax firms work overtime to make the IRS tax filing deadline. The feeling can be quite exhilarating as everyone in the office works together cohesively for a common goal. At the same time, I would find myself year after year getting more and more exhausted when leaving the office as I would leave at a time later and later each year. I remember my first year leaving at 8pm nightly. My second year was more or less the same. It went downhill after the second year. I would find myself leaving at 9 or 10pm. In my last tax season with the firm, I was leaving the office at 12pm or 1am on some nights.

No job is really perfect, but what I have concluded is your tolerance. What is it that you can take? As everyone differs, not every job is for everyone. You just have to know what you can handle and sacrifice. For me, I wanted a better work life balance and I wanted more opportunities to run. I enjoy helping people and loved preparing tax returns but the hours were not something I could tolerate any longer.

In my new position, I still work over 40 hours a week. And there has been nights where I would stay until 8pm or 10pm to get projects completed. But I can tolerate this. I am mainly an "accountant" now closing the books monthly and assisting the CFO. I miss preparing tax returns and the appreciation of people, clients, that comes with this position. Now, as an accountant, no one knows what you do nor understand why your position is important. Often times, you do not receive any recognition for staying late and getting the books completed.

This year, there were some hiccups at work which required some overtime, but I was able to get back on schedule with my training. I even picked up swimming. I traded in my aluminum road bike and purchased a carbon fiber road bike. On September 15, I completed my first super sprint triathlon at the Na Wahine Festival. In November, I ran three half marathons back to back each weekend: Heihei Kukini Pearl Harbor 21K, RocknRoll Las Vegas 1/2 Marathon, Xterra World Championships 21K.

The beginning of this year looked dark and bleak. I did knot know where my training would result and if I could ever complete a triathlon. My training this entire year was off and on, here and there.  I could not be on a schedule. Everytime I thought I could get back on schedule, something would go terribly wrong at the office and my overtime was required. But, slowly and steadily, no matter what went on, I made sure to run at least once a week, at a comfortable pace. I wanted to enjoy running and go back to what made me keep running, fun. At the same time, I also made sure to get myself out there doing some other physical activity, whether it be cycling or going to swim class and the pool -- knowing that the end result will be better than where I was at that day.

As 2013 comes down to an end, I am super thankful for everything that has and has not (tax season) happened this year. My training is getting back on schedule and 2014 looks bright.