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Hollywood Half Marathon

  • For the Love of the Sport

    image3Ah what we won’t do for love.  Men have constructed monuments to show their undying devotion to the queen of their heart.  Wars have been launched to fight for the beauty at the center of the strife.  Thrones have been forsaken in order to be with the one that was not of royal blood.  I am sure you all have been at the place in your life where you could relate to the pure amore that was strong enough to build the Taj Mahal, launch a war in the name of Aphrodite or give up the Royal Crown. Yes what love can do, and what we won’t do for just a slice of it.  So as a runner at heart, I at the age of 36, was re-introduced to the love of my life, and it took the most serendipitous of events to bring me back to this love affair.

    Last Saturday was the Hollywood Half Marathon.  Vitalyte was the official on-course beverage of this inaugural event.  I was scheduled to race the 13.1 miles and it was going to be my official “comeback race” after having a seven year hiatus from competing.  I hadn’t been feeling very well the two weeks leading up to the event.  I was really troubled by a neck injury I had incurred in a car accident a while back.  Still undecided the day before the race, I was working at the expo and happened to meet Sean Astin.  He was trying to find the packet pick up so he could get his bib number.  I pointed him in the right direction and we started talking running.  Turns out he is a huge running fan and has multiple marathons to his credit.  We immediately became buds and I offered to pace him through the race.  He accepted.  So at the crack of dawn, the  next morning, I met Sean at the starting line for the 6 am start.  We had our game plan, and as his “coach,” it was my job to make sure he made it to the finish line despite a recent achilles injury.  I charted out our plan and told him he had to stick to the pace I set.  So as we headed out of Universal Studios City Walk and onto the streets of Hollywood, “Rudy” himself was skeptical of the easy pace I was setting.  “It’s ok Sean.  Running a race is like money in the bank.  Every mile upfront that you go out steady, buy not too hard, pays you interest that you get to spend towards the end.”  He loved the analogy and took my advice.  As we ran down Sunset Boulevard, I told Sean that this was the most fun I had ever had in a race.  We were snapping photos of us eating our Chia Surge Endurance Gel, waving at people in the crowd who were shouting “Rudy,” and singing happy birthday to the people like Loraine who were running in the race and had a neon green printed sign pinned to the back of her running singlet that said “It’s My Birthday.”  I had never had this perspective of a race before.  The middle of the pack. The place where the runner’s high never dies.

    As Sean and I made the turn up the big hill right off Highland Avenue and downed one more cup of Vitalyte, he made a quick surge and said to me “I’m putting on my headphones for this one.”  At that point we had two miles to go and I knew he was home free.  My brave student had headed my advice and now it was time to enjoy the homestretch.  I learned just as much from running with Sean as he learned running from me.  I learned about his “Run 3rd” organization.  He runs first for himself, second for his wife and children and third for you or whoever needs a little inspirational support.  You simply tweet a dedication to hash tag #run3rd.  What a cool concept.  I learned that the race is not always about the “race.” And I definitely learned that Goonies Never Say Die.

    We ran a great race and Sean ran exactly the time he was hoping for.  As we walked back to the awards area he turned to me and said, “I could definitely go for a chocolate crepe.  What are the odds of getting one of those?”  Well I am not only a great coach, but a really good observer and I noticed that there was a crepe place in the Universal City Walk.  So as Evan, our CEO, Sean and myself sat and ate our post race crepes (only after we drank our Complete Recovery), I confessed to them that this was the best “race” I ever ran.  They seemed surprised and wanted to know why.  “Because,” I said, “we all ran for the love of the sport and I had an amazing slice of it.”

  • What To Do & What NOT To Do a Week Out From Your Race

    screen-shot-2012-03-26-at-95815-pmOkay so it is a week out from your big race.  You've trained.  You've woken up at God awful hours to meet your running group for the Sunday long run.  You have sweated in places you didn’t even think had sweat glands!  You have put in your dues and now it is time to cash in.

    So make sure all that hard work pays off and you make the most of your training and race day.

    I had a friend who once taught me something invaluable.  She would always say, “First, do no harm.”  That is the stance you need to take the week before a race.  It is NOT time to try that new supercharged, extra cushioned, gel-infused running shoe. It is NOT time to try that new Thai restaurant down the street where every dish on the menu has five out of five chili’s next to it to indicate it’s heat level.  And it is definitely NOT time to tell your sister you’d love nothing more than to take her six year old twins to Disneyland for the day.  No, no and definitely no.

    Ok, so what CAN you do the week before your big race?  Here are my top five.

    1. Taper- Your mileage should be decreased by 25% of your average weekly mileage the week before a race.  You still need to run, but make your runs easy.  The goal is to get out, get the blood pumping and stay loose.  So no racing in your workouts.  Go light and enjoy.
    2. 4852159395_no_beer_answer_1_xlargeHydrate-Let me emphasize this.  Hydrate with a non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated source of liquid.  Vitalyte is my beverage of choice (duh).  Not only does it have the perfect balance of electrolytes to make sure my body gets the right minerals, but it also uses glucose as it’s carbohydrate source.  The glucose actually is the carrier that allows the body to absorb the electrolytes.  Glucose works, hops and barley do not. Embroider that on a pillow.
    3. Eat-Believe it or not people forget to eat when it gets near race day or they get nervous so they don’t eat as much as usual.  I’m not saying go to the nearest Schezuan Buffet and become intimate with the Kung Pao Chicken.  I am saying though stick to easily digestible and nourishing foods that will sustain you.  Things like oatmeal with berries for breakfast or a protein smoothie a few hours before your run will keep you super charged for your weekend race.  Also, don’t forget your Tri Phase.  I couldn't dream about running without it.
    4. Relax-Yep, the hay is in the barn so to speak.  All your work has been done so enjoy this time and take a moment to reward yourself.  Get a light massage or a facial.  Take some time to read a book or whatever relaxes you.  Make sure to get plenty of rest and let those around you know that you need some extra down-time.  Ask your family for their support in creating a restful environment.
    5. screen-shot-2012-03-26-at-95914-pmCelebrate-After the race!  Make sure to spend some time in the beer garden or getting together with your friends (cheers to the hops!).  After all, running is something to enjoy and celebrated with your friends and family.  Take the time to celebrate your hard work!

    Good luck to you all (and myself...) and hope to see you all at the Hollywood Half Marathon next weekend!

  • The Countdown Begins to the 2012 Hollywood Half Marathon

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    In exactly 27 days I will make my competitive return to running after eight years of leaving the racing flats in a dusty box in the closet.  The Hollywood Half Marathon is a welcome event highlighted and marked with a star on my calendar.  Why am I looking forward to it with such raw enthusiasm?  Pretty simple...I feel I have unfinished business.

    I was forced to walk away from the sport that I loved because of a mix of personal family issues and severe health challenges that would keep me housebound for years.  During these past eight years there has been a slow burn deep inside that over the last year has intensified to a smoldering.  I so desire to experience that personal satisfaction that comes with finishing a race where you have left all of your sweat and soul on a 13.1 mile stretch of hard pavement.  I so desire to run with a body that is now strong, resilient and fueled by the best sports nutrition products on the planet.  Last time I raced I think I weighed about 92 pounds and my soul felt like it carried the weight of the world.

    Now I’m proud to toe the line at 110 pounds of muscle and carrying nothing but the personal triumph that comes with creating the life that I desire.  So this race, I can easily say, is a tribute to myself.  Not just Milena the athlete. But to Milena the whole person.  I’m just like a lot of you-balancing work, training, horrible friday night dates and awesome Sunday afternoon cocktails with my best girl friends.  I feel so blessed in my life because my full-time “real” job is based in an industry that I love.  Vitalyte Sports Nutrition is not only my employer but my greatest champion.  The products they have created for endurance athletes have allowed me, at the age of 36, to work full-time, train full-time and finish this chapter in my life that I feel has been unwritten for almost the last decade.

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    Last Saturday night I was at the Endurance Live Awards.  Competitor Magazine celebrated the greatest endurance athletes on the planet during this awards ceremony.  As I walked onto the stage during the “Parade of Athletes” I felt like a completely different person that I did ten years ago when I walked onto the stage during this same ceremony.  I walked with a confidence that only comes from experiencing both the depths of turmoil and the peak of success.  I truly feel the fact that I have not just experienced, but lived both extremes and the entire spectrum of intensity that comes with being plummeted from the pinnacle of victory to the trenches of vicious conquest, is the reason I can walk into any situation knowing I can not be intimidated, bludgeoned or scared.  No, I know I will own that line because the Milena that is running now is in charge of herself.

    My stress fracture is still there.  It’s not getting worse, but not much better.  You know, I can run three days a week and the other days I am in the gym cross-training.  I like the fact that I am making the most of what my body is able to do right now.  I am being resourceful, smart and determined to be there on April 7th.

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