Ryan and Sara Hall https://ryanandsarahall.com Home of Ryan and Sara Hall Thu, 08 Sep 2016 22:02:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.4 One Step: Both insignificant and Powerful https://ryanandsarahall.com/one-step-both-insignificant-and-powerful/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss https://ryanandsarahall.com/one-step-both-insignificant-and-powerful/#respond Thu, 08 Sep 2016 22:01:53 +0000 http://ryanandsarahall.com/?p=312
A few years back I read a book called “The Slight Edge,” it was a great book that expanded upon the principle of setting your trajectory on the right path by making good seemingly insignificant decisions that will drastically change where you end up in relation to your goals.  They used the illustration of a rocket blasting off to outer space, if they are off even by the smallest of margins they will end their journey far from where they wanted to be.
I see fitness as very much the same process.  There isn’t a lot of change that happens as the result of any one step you take or any one workout.  Change happens over a long period of time after consistently hitting workout after workout, all while balancing the physical stress of hard workouts with lots of quality sleep and nutrition.
A while back I calculated how many steps I would take training for one marathon.  Over the sixth month period I would take approximately half a million steps.  Each step didn’t singularly accomplish much of anything but the impact of all the steps put together was a massive change in what my body was capable of doing.
I feel the same way about global poverty.  It’s a massive issue in our world today but no one government or person can fix it, it’s going to take everyone getting involved and taking their step towards ending the global poverty crisis, which is why Sara and I named our foundation The Steps Foundation.  There is tremendous power in all of us taking our steps together.
Lately, it’s been fun for Sara and I to pay more attention to tracking our steps on our Fitbit Surge.  It gives us a great overall picture of just how active our days are, which is why we are excited to invite all of you to join us in our upcoming StepBet Challenge.
Our StepBet Challenge will take place on Monday, September 12th and will end six weeks later on, Monday, October 24th.  We are very excited to host our first StepBet challenge because it’s fun to go after a personal physical challenge in an encouraging group atmosphere.  Also how cool is it that you can get paid to take your steps and accomplish your fitness goals?  That will give us all a little extra motivation to get out the door for our training and anyone who has been trying to tackle their fitness goals, whether it be a professional athlete or someone trying to run their first 5k, knows we could always use a little extra encouragement to get out the door.  So how does Step Bet work?
StepBet is a 6-week game that challenges players to be more active. It’s an app that’s available on iPhone and Android. Players are given custom goals based off of their personal activity history. StepBet supports FitBit and Apple Watch with more devices in the works but you also don’t need a wearable to play – you can play with only the app on your phone. The entry fee for the game is $40.
Once you install the app on your phone, you are given two custom goals: An Active Goal and a Stretch Goal. In order to win the game, players need to hit 4 Active Days and 2 Stretch Days every week for 6-weeks. Players are given one free day. The goals do not change from week to week so the goals you are given at the start of the game are the same as they are at the end.  On the app you can see your progress throughout the day to make sure you hit your goal.  The first week is a warmup week, so you can still enter the game during the first week. 
If a player wins the game (hits all of their step goals for 6-weeks), they get their $40 entry fee back and they split the pot with the other winners.  How cool would it be to get everyone together and go after our fitness goals together, especially as fall marathons and road races are right around the corner, and the hot summer days are beginning to turn towards crisp, perfect mornings to get out and train.  We will be hosting the game and encouraging players throughout.  We are hoping you can come take your step with us!
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Olympic Marathon Trials https://ryanandsarahall.com/olympic-marathon-trials/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss https://ryanandsarahall.com/olympic-marathon-trials/#comments Wed, 16 Mar 2016 21:07:40 +0000 http://ryanandsarahall.com/?p=273 The Olympic Marathon Trials happened on February 13th.  I did not make the team, and far from it- it was the first race I’ve ever had to DNF in, something I had hoped I’d never have to do.  When I toed the line in LA on a blazing hot day, I had incredible peace and expectation filing my heart.  I knew I had done all I could do before getting to the line and I felt so grateful for how well my training had gone.  It was my best marathon buildup yet and I felt prepared (even for the heat), FullSizeRender (2)hopeful, and excited.  I executed the plan I had committed to, but after halfway the lead pack pulled further and further away and I struggled to keep my composure.  Eventually my muscles started cramping much like they did at the LA marathon a year before, and though they were not the culprit that kept me from staying in contention, they further hindered me until they were so strong they stopped me in my tracks.  Around mile 17.5 after being jolted into stopping by a strong cramp, I knew in that moment the right thing to do was to step off the course.

As I sat on the curb trying to figure out what to do next, I felt frustrated and confused, but rather than having excuses for myself, I just wished I were better.  I was clearly not nearly as strong as I needed to be for everything that race involved, so far from how prepared I thought I was.  My race plan had not been a “hail Mary” approach, I had believed I belonged there and was capable of seeing the race to the end.  The team that made it to Rio was without a doubt the strongest, and I felt humbled by the race and by those that executed so well on such a challenging day.

I will never forget seeing my kids out on the course at mile 8.5, their excited faces in their matching t-shirts cheering wildly FullSizeRender (1)literally made me cry.  Fortunately we were running easy enough at that point that I couldn’t help but wave and blow them a kiss (the next loop, not so much!).  As tough as the conditions were, I will never forget how truly incredible the crowd was and created such an inspiring stage, and that along with seeing my kids further motivated me to want to deliver on that day.  When I saw my kids after the race, I couldn’t help but feel ashamed- of all the races for them to be at it had to be the first one I dropped out of.  But I will never forget the way that they embraced me with their love. Later in the night, when my five year old saw the tears I was trying to hide in the restaurant she said “don’t worry Mommy, when we get home we can go to the circle one (track) and I’ll help you run faster!”.  My 9 year old assured me she would teach me how to run better.  Each one came up to me individually to offer encouragement and help. It was not the fairytale ending of us booking tickets to Rio, but I felt us come together as a family in a deeper way, we became more of a team.

In some ways, it has been easier to get over than I expected, especially considering how strongly I believed the result would be different. I think it’s because I really have no regrets, and regrets are really what will keep you up at night. Not only did I pour my heart out in training, but I loved almost every minute of the journey to that line. I felt so alive and so “me” in the training.  Paces that used to be challenging to hold for six miles I can now hold for 15, week after week. A look at my Instagram feed might leave someone wondering if I even run anymore, but it is quite the opposite, my training is going the best it ever has and I am enjoying it more than I ever have before. I just don’t talk about it that much. (Part of that is because I think there is a fine line with social media in an individual sport where you “market yourself” when it becomes self-promotion, which is something I try to avoid).  This training buildup felt like such a sacred process, pouring myself out with joy and thankfulness to God, celebrating the victories with just Him and maybe one orIMG_0079 two other people. It gave Ryan and I such a fun project to work on together, and lots of quality time to replace the hours we are used to spending together running. Fortunately the end result didn’t change anything about this.

Two days after the race, ignoring my aching legs, we took on Disneyland.  It began with a parenting fail, starting out on Pirates of the Caribbean (darkness, guns, skeletons, not quite the mellow family ride we remembered) but we had a blast and our kids once again proved that they could take on even the most “over-stimulating” experiences like champs.  Life went on, and it was still beautiful and challenging and rich.  I felt a shift when we got home, a resiliency to believe and hope again, one step at a time.  By inviting my kids into this process, I get to teach them to not let failure discourage them from believing again, and to determine for themselves how to measure success.  For me, that is being faithful with what God has given me towards the things He puts on my heart.  I can be successful no matter how fit my competitors are or no matter what crazy weather is going on or what injury or setbacks I experience- success is being faithful.  At the moment that looks like preparing the best I can for the races ahead- first up, the World Half Marathon Championships in two weeks! I’m not taking for granted any opportunity to

represent the USA, and I’m already starting to sharpen my track spikes as I eye the Olympic Track Trials in July. New season, new goals, but the same passion.


P.S. In other news, our family reached the 6 month mark of being together! This was a huge milestone for me as in our first home study with the girls home I asked our social worker, “Things have been really good and surprisingly easy, do you think this is just the ‘honeymoon period’?” and she said “Well, they seem pretty adjusted, but I’d say if you make it to 6 months without any real issues you’re probably home free”.  So I’ve had it in my mind and counting down the days ’til this moment. Not to say we

have not had our challenges, and there are many more to come, but we are so thankful for God’s abundant grace for the transition.  We celebrated together with toasts, cake and sharing stories of our favorite moments of the last 6 months! So much more I could say about this jounrey but tried to keep this one strictly to running, so to be continued….

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Rebounding https://ryanandsarahall.com/rebounding/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss https://ryanandsarahall.com/rebounding/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 23:28:15 +0000 http://ryanandsarahall.com/?p=238 By, Sara Hall

“If you’re going to be a big dreamer, be ready to experience a lot of disappointment”. This is the line that stood out to me most during the documentary on Ryan recently released online by Flotrack. Often times I feel I spend half of my career rebounding from disappointment and setback and I have come to believe a huge key to success is resiliency. My last blog I wrote about my devastating disappointment at the LA marathon, but since then I was able to rebound and place 20th at the World Cross Country Championships 13 days later, my highest World Cross finish.

IMG_1625I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to compete, as I could still hardly hobble around the day after the race. I had envisioned a much different finish at the marathon, one that would leave me tired but not trashed, much like the majority of Ryan’s marathons. But after praying about it and discussing it with my support team and our US women’s team coach I decided that since my struggles had mainly been muscular, that I was going to do everything I could to get my muscles working again and be able to use the fitness I had worked so hard to build.

I asked my coach Steve to send me a protocol for my new state of “super recovery-mode”. It felt like cramming for a test, and the task was just what my mind needed to rebound emotionally. I’ve found often the best thing to do after a race disappointment is to start looking ahead and get a vision for the future. Of course, you want to assess what went wrong with your team and not just sweep it all under the rug and move on, but you can’t stay there forever. And maybe racing again right away doesn’t make sense, but at least get a vision of where you are headed and what tangible things you can work on to get you there- even if that is taking a vacation! Having vision helps you to not feel so disoriented when this goal you had been so focused on is suddenly gone and without closure.

My recovery cramming included getting in the pool, at first just moving my legs around and doing walking drills, and eventually doing Aqua jogging (land running was out of the question). I iced my legs in the Sacramento River ( perfect 50 degrees), took

Icing in the Sacramento River

Icing in the Sacramento RiverEpsom salt baths, wore compression tights and used the Normatec compression boots. I did self massage with all my tools. I took in lots of Muscle Milk and Monster Amino and ate lots of protein, including a large amount right before bed.

Epsom salt baths, wore compression tights and used the Normatec compression boots. I did self massage with all my tools. I took in lots of Muscle Milk and Monster Amino and ate lots of protein, including a large amount right before bed.

One thing on Steve’s list I found interesting was “minimize stress- it has a similarly catabolic effect on your body”. Of course it makes sense, but the reminder made me more motivated to make peace with LA. I am normally very disciplined in staying away from running websites in general and specifically commentary on myself as that is rarely beneficial, but I made an intentional effort to take a break from social media as well, as often you can see more than you want to there without looking for it. Fortunately I have friends and family that love me unconditionally, and I made sure to spend time with them and spend time listening to what God says about me. I believe that when you give your life to God, He redeems everything in your life, and believing this makes me realize that all the hard work leading up to the marathon was not in vain. He will redeem it, even if I haven’t seen how yet. This takes off a huge load of stress and regret.

Eventually my extremely slow and painful runs became less tender, and I was able to do a

XC World Championships in Guiyang, China (pic: Jim Estes)

XC World Championships in Guiyang, China (pic: Jim Estes)

short fartlek on grass before flying out for Guiyang, China. I had seen how far I had come in a week, and felt confident I could represent the U.S. well given another week

of recovery. How well was definitely in question, and I won’t say I wasn’t nervous going into the race without knowing what my legs would give me. Because of that, considering the race was at altitude,and after seeing the tough course, I opted to go out more conservative than usual. But I was able to work my way up through the packs well and was excited to feel my leg strength was there when I asked of it. I crossed the line in 20th, elated, and watched anxiously for my teammates to see how we’d fare (we ended up 5th). It is probably the most memorable world championship I have run thus far and I feel incredibly thankful!

No sooner had I enjoyed the post-race afterglow and finally having my legs back under me, ready to get back to work towards track season, that I got hit with another “opportunity” to rebound once again. As soon as I got on the 12 hour flight leaving China, in a completely full economy cabin, I got extremely sick and vomited most of the way. It was some kind of Chinese superbug, as it didn’t pass In the few days that the usual Ethiopian variety I’ve gotten recently, but lasted 10 days until I finally killed it with meds. It was frustrating knowing I was missing precious track preparation time, but I put my head down and grinded on, trying not to compare myself constantly to my pre-sickness self or be rattled by slow times, but focus on doing what I could to get my energy back. Four weeks later, I was rewarded by getting my legs back going in time to finish 2nd at the US 25k championships. Since then I’ve run my second fastest half marathon at RnR

Rock n Roll San Diego Half marathon, with this shaggy guy

Rock n Roll San Diego Half marathon, with this shaggy guy

San Diego and my first track 10k at Portland Track Classic, qualifying for the US Championships.

The shiny race performances will eventually fade, but what remains is the character built on the journey of overcoming disappointments and choosing hope again. I hope you will be inspired to not let discouragement keep you knocked down- you never know what opportunities are on the other side if you do what you can to rebound and keep believing!

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My Debut Marathon https://ryanandsarahall.com/my-debut-marathon/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss https://ryanandsarahall.com/my-debut-marathon/#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 01:54:15 +0000 http://ryanandsarahall.com/?p=229 By, Sara Hall

You know when you get off the plane and do a shake out around congested LA airport that you’re excited! I arrived in LA just itching to get to the starting line. I had a healthy respect for the marathon and knew that it can take even the least suspecting of victims, but I felt I had prepared the best I could for the challenges I might face out there (all the while knowing that the best preparation is having raced 26.2 miles before, which I lacked).

The early miles of LA are a series of steep descents and ascents. The pace was much slower than I anticipated, so the ascents were never taxing and I relished the feeling of being out there in the race I had visualized often. The crowd at times made me smile and gave me goosebumps when they roared. I smiled inside as I successfully maneuvered crowds to get my bottles, something I had watched Ryan do countless times. It was my turn, I was running a marathon, and I felt great! However, I couldn’t help noticing my quads feeling unusually heavy. I at first chocked it up to eating extra carbs the day before, which causes you to retain water. “The extra glycogen will do me good later” I thought. However, as we progressed along and they got heavier and heavier I realized this wasn’t just water weight, that my muscles were taking a beating from the downhills.

Yet at halfway, I wasn’t too alarmed. I tried to tell myself that my fitness would carry me through, and shifted my focus to my controlled breathing. When we ran downhill I didn’t need to use my quad muscles much, but on the uphill stretches when they were required to work it became harder and harder to keep up, until finally at mile 16 on a long uphill stretch I wasn’t able to stay in contact. It is a strange feeling to be trapped in your body, with your engine ready to go but two flat tires. I looked at my watch at mile 16 and thought “I’ve done 16 mile tempo runs at altitude much faster than this, and my quads never felt this way. What’s going on?!”. I had tired to intentionally prepare for the downhills in training since they are not my strength to begin with, but apparently it wasn’t sufficient. Aaron Braun had warned me that at his debut on the course “at mile 14, my quads were done” at it now it rings eerily similar.

My mind kept telling me to speed up as I noticed the pack wasn’t pulling away too much, but my quads felt like lead- and then the cramping started. Adductors, and calves at different points started also making themselves heard, likely due to dehydration from the unseasonally warm day. I was having a hard enough time keeping my typical easy run pace going on the flats, and then Miles 21-23 were severely uphill, and I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you are running in quicksand. At this point, I contemplated dropping out. It would be the smart thing to do. I was set to finish at a time embarrassingly slower than I anticipated. It would save my muscles from further damage from running through cramps. There were plenty of reasons to justify it.

But I didn’t feel peace about that, and when I prayed about what to do I felt God encouraging me to keep going. I have never dropped out of a race before, and one of my core values is if at all possible, finish what you start. Plus, I know that once you drop out once it is always an option in your mind. I have had some races that it would have been easier and saved me the humiliating black mark of a bad time on my running history. But as I finally crested the never-ending hill, I had a steely resolve that “I’ve come this far, I am finishing this thing!” The pain was relentless, my legs were like steel poles, but I pressed on.

My view of the marathon was not the same view I had experienced through Ryan’s eyes. I felt like in those final miles, I got a glimpse of what it is like from the masses’ perspective. Whereas normally I am so into competing that I rarely hear individual cheers, I was moving so slowly that each person’s encouragement made a literal difference in spurring me on. I remember the little 5 year old girl holding the “Go Sara Hall” sign and excitedly cheering, with little care for my place. I remember my mom at mile 24.5, and I thought in my head “Oh please do not be running so slow that she can keep up with me!” (sorry mom!). And I will never forget crossing the line and having them put the finisher medal around my neck.

Now usually I don’t even take the finisher’s medal at the end of the race, or if I do, I give them to my friends’ kids. As a professional, just finishing is never really an accomplishment. However, today it was, and as humiliated as I was to see the clock, crossing that line I couldn’t help but be proud. If nothing else, I was a marathoner, a title hard-fought for.

Since finishing, the race has been one of the hardest ones for me to swallow in my entire career. I had spent months in preparation where I had gained so much momentum going into this day, and now it feels like a bad dream. But there is no going back, only forward, and I know though it is a painful memory for me at this moment, 20 years from now when my professional career is finished I will look back and treasure this moment were I endured more pain and fought to not give up more than I ever had in my life. It’s these moments that build resolve in us that we carry into every challenging experience in life, running or non-running.

Part of the challenge of the marathon is not just the distance, but handling the course and weather you get on the day on top of the distance. I wasn’t prepared for all I encountered, and you’d think that after this I would never want to run another marathon, but quite the opposite has happened, I can’t wait for another opportunity! Sometimes believing in yourself means learning what you can from each poor performance, and then believing that next time with greater preparation and more experience it will be different.

“I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

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Ethiopia, Gratitude, and Debut Marathoning! https://ryanandsarahall.com/ethiopia-gratitude-and-debut-marathoning/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss https://ryanandsarahall.com/ethiopia-gratitude-and-debut-marathoning/#comments Sat, 21 Feb 2015 08:59:23 +0000 http://ryanandsarahall.com/?p=212 By, Sara Hall

Hello from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!

I’ll attempt in one paragraph to sum up my life and racing since my last blog post 5 months ago…. Ready, Go!

My favorite memories of the sport are moments like this- at Pittsburgh 10 Miler

My favorite memories of the sport are moments like this- at Pittsburgh 10 Miler

After my appendix rupture and taking two weeks completely off of running, I started back training with a shuffle that eventually became a jog and then what I would consider a “run”. However, the further I pushed the envelope, I was surprised how easily the training started coming back, and I ended up PRing in the 10k at the Tufts 10k (32:13) just 2 months after surgery. That sparked some more PRs (12k and half marathon) during my Fall race binge, along with a fun win at the Pittsburgh 10-mile in November. I capped off the 2014 year with a 2nd place finish in the USA Running Circuit series and a win at the Dallas Half Marathon, finishing off the most fun year I’ve had as a professional thus far!  We also hosted our first ever Hall Running Retreat in the wine country where I grew up, which exceeded our expectations and we hope to find time to do another sometime soon!

At the end of 2014 Ryan and I headed back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to start our marathon training in the thin air (and summer!) of 9,000 ft. elevation. Spending time here is just as much about the experience for us as it is the training, and I find I

The view from my room in YaYa Village, Addis Ababa.  Yes I eat lasagna for breakfast when marathon training, among many other random things!

The view from my room in Yaya Village, Addis Ababa. Yes, I eat lasagna for breakfast when marathon training.  Anything is fair game!

always gain refreshed perspectives and motivation from being there. This last trip, one thing that God was speaking to me about was areas in my life where entitlement has crept in. I won’t bore you with the typical “I went to Africa and realized how many material things and comforts I take for granted in the US” speech as I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, though I am reminded of it every time I come here. But it was more entitlement as it relates to running that I found myself becoming aware of in how it has subtly slipped into my perspective as an American runner.

When you spend time in Kenya and Ethiopia, you see hundreds of runners every morning killing themselves in training, hoping for a lucky chance or opportune break to race outside their country and make some prize money. They are motivated by generational extreme poverty and lack of other opportunities besides running. They have no gear sponsor, often their shoes are falling apart at the seams, they likely have just enough food to fill their bellies, let alone focusing on the nutritional components. It is inspiring, yet sad at the same time, knowing that realistically the majority of them will never have the chance to make money from running simply because of the vast number of runners doing the very same thing with only a small handful rising to the top.

Now, I realize that right now it isn’t easy even as an American distance runner to make a living full-time through running. Yet we in the US do all have more access to opportunities and support, and worse case scenario, can secure good jobs outside the sport, whereas in these areas that is not usually the case, running is the only option. I am very grateful for the opportunities and support I’ve been given to pursue my career full-time, yet I find that it is easy to lose sight of it and for entitlement to creep in.

Likely where I got sick. Love that we have a photo of it and that the place is called "Seedy"- I was asking for it! To my defense, it is where all the local runners go after training...

Likely where I got sick. Hilarious that we have a photo of it and that the place is called “Seedy”- I was asking for it! To my defense, it is where all the local runners go after training…

Recently as I competed in the US half marathon championships at the Houston half marathon. I was excited about my fitness, but right before leaving Ethiopia and flying to Houston I ate something bad and came down with a nasty bacterial infection, such that I thought about skipping the race altogether. In the end, I managed a good race, coming in 4th in 70:50 which I was initially very happy about considering the circumstances. But it wasn’t long before those little voices crept in saying “man, when will I catch a break? First the appendix, now this, I just want to be able to run the race I’m capable of!” It took a bit for me to realize that, although there was truth in that, there was also a good helping of entitlement as well. I am not entitled to have every race go as planned and run exactly what my fitness is capable of. It is by God’s grace that I have the opportunities that I have. Sure, when you work hard you want to reap the reward for that hard work. But what about the Ethiopian athletes, working just as hard as me, if not harder? They would kill for the opportunity to come to Houston and run the half. If they won the same prize money I did it would feed their family for a year.

Holding it together at Houston Half Marathon

Holding it together at Houston Half Marathon

Now I am not about to become complacent about my running performances. But rather than feeling entitled to having everything go perfectly my way, I am trying to focus on being grateful for the opportunities I do have and what I do achieve. In this sport, there will always be something greater out there to achieve and there’s a healthy (or unhealthy) discontent in the process. But I’m hoping it’s possible to have an awareness and gratefulness in the process at the same time that I am constantly pushing myself to greater levels. And remembering the athletes I see training in Ethiopia gives me motivation not to overlook a race as “less important” but to take advantage of every opportunity, because each one is an undeserved blessing.

Well that’s enough of my soap box, in other news, I am running my first marathon at the ASICS LA Marathon! Speaking of gratefulness, I have been incredibly grateful to have enjoyed nearly every moment of the training and buildup for this race. When I first decided to run the marathon, I expected it to be this miserable grind of a process, peeling myself out of bed to trudge through the miles every day, but it has been quite the opposite. I feel like an over-eager newbie, energized by the constant satisfaction of running bigger workouts and more mileage than I ever have before and feeling like my body is absorbing it like a sponge. I have been waking up the morning of my hard workouts giddily excited as if it was race day, not thinking about the pain I’ll be going through at the end of 24 miles at altitude, but looking forward to the fun of challenging myself. I don’t know what race day will hold for me, but I do know that I poured my heart and soul into the process and I hope to wake up with the same deep gratitude and giddy smile on my face as I have during training and fully take advantage of an amazing opportunity! I also qualified for my 4th  World Cross Country Championship team to compete in Guyang, China the end of March, and I hope my marathon strength carries over to representing the US well there!

Grinding away on Lake Mary Rd. in Flagstaff, a marathoner's playground

Grinding away on Lake Mary Rd. in Flagstaff, a marathoner’s playground

Lastly, I am committing my race at the LA Marathon to bringing clean water to people in Ethiopia.  Clean water decreases infant mortality 50%, allows young girls to go to school instead of fetching water, and increases life expectancy 10 years.  I can’t think of a better use of $50 than to bring clean water to one person and change their life! For every person you fund, Ryan and I will also fund until we reach our goal! teamworldvision.org/team/hall

Can you imagine drinking muddy water from a pond? I can't. No one should have to.  It's $50.

Can you imagine drinking muddy water from a pond? I can’t. No one should have to. It’s $50.

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A new coaching season w/ Jack Daniels https://ryanandsarahall.com/a-new-coaching-season-w-jack-daniels/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss https://ryanandsarahall.com/a-new-coaching-season-w-jack-daniels/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 22:52:53 +0000 http://ryanandsarahall.com/?p=196 I first met Jack during the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school back in 1999 at Jim Ryun’s Running camp. My Dad and I attended the camp that summer and we were like sponges, soaking up every story, every conversation, every video, and every seminar we attended. One of the speakers at camp was the legendary coach, Jack Daniels, who’s coaching expertise rivals that of any coach in the country. He told story after story of testing he had done on various Olympic runners, like Jim Ryun prior to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and all he had learned with each study. My Dad picked Jack’s brain during our week in Kansas and we came back ready to take on a new year.  With our new found knowledge my Dad coached me from a mile PR down to a 4:05 by the end of my junior year. It was one of the biggest breakthrough I’ve had in my career.

During my time at Stanford I crossed paths again with Jack, as he was one of the coaches on the Farm Team (a group of professional runners that trained at Stanford), and I did a couple of VO2 Max tests under Jack’s eye. I remember doing those tests with Jack and thinking to myself what an honor it was simply to say you’ve been tested by Jack Daniels, joining my name to a list a mile long of incredible runners Jack has worked with and tested. There are few coaches in the world I have as much respect for as Jack.

Now, as a professional runner I am thrilled to be working with Jack as my coach.  It has been a fun ride over the last couple of years being self-coached and I have learned a log, but I feel like I am back in my old “sophomore self” shoes looking forward to soak up everything Jack has to say. Jack has already played an influential role in my development as a runner as well as hundreds and thousands of others and I am confident he can help me get back to my full potential as a marathon runner. With the Olympic Trials just a year and a half away it’s time to start making progress towards my main goal as an athlete, to return to the Olympics and be at my very best there. This is something that has eluded me the last two Olympics but I am hopeful and expectant for the next years ahead with Jack’s guidance.

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Summer racing & season of Pain https://ryanandsarahall.com/summer-racing-season-of-pain/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss https://ryanandsarahall.com/summer-racing-season-of-pain/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:38:44 +0000 http://ryanandsarahall.com/?p=163 Battling the Central Park hills in the Oakley Mini 10k

Battling the Central Park hills in the Oakley Mini 10k

When I look back on Summer racing of 2014, I will remember two things: a fun and successful string of road races, and enduring a lot of pain!

Since I last blogged, I continued my binge of 10kish distance races with Bolder Boulder 10k: 3rd place team finish and

More recovered and savoring the atmosphere with other American runner friends

More recovered and savoring the atmosphere with other American runner friends

16th individually, and a 9th place finish at the Oakley Mini 10k in a strong international field. Bolder Boulder was one of the hardest races I’ve ever run, the combo of the heat, altitude, and mostly uphill first 4 miles left me in a wheelchair for the first few minutes after I staggered across the line. However, I will never forget the crowd support the whole way and the roar of a packed stadium finish. The mini 10k was a bit less dramatic, and I enjoyed getting to celebrate my love for running with so many other awesome women in the longest running all-women’s race!

I had an uptempo cool down after the race, so as I cruised around the Central Park reservoir dodging runners, I hopped up on a slanted curb that was slick from the morning rain and wiped out straight onto my chest. Once the race endorphins wore off, I realized I couldn’t move my elbow and had pain in my chest, and subsequent X-rays showed a cracked elbow and rib. Throughout the coming weeks, I trained through my broken rib as I had been advised that it would hurt, but running wouldn’t make it worse. Sure enough, it hurt like heck for a month, like I was being stabbed continually in the chest, but the pain eventually subsided and finally went away the week after I placed 2nd in the US 10k championships at Peachtree in Atlanta, Georgia, one of my favorite races with a crowd that never disappoints and a challenging course. Right after the race, I flew to DC for my layover on the way to visit my sister in Senegal, which

Now this is a post-race celebration! 4th of July on the Lawn watching fireworks

Now this is a post-race celebration! 4th of July on the Lawn watching fireworks

happened to coincide with 4th of July night where I took advantage of my best friend working in the White House and joined her for fireworks on the White House lawn! It was a surreal moment and unforgettable experience.

Keeping the training up in Senegal, with some company on my strides!

Keeping the training up in Senegal, with some company on my strides

After a short trip to Senegal, it was back to the grind, turning the corner on marathon training and winning the Destination Races Napa to Sonoma half marathon. This was a fun win for me as it was just miles from the home where I grew up and had a lot of family waiting for me at the finish. Running through the hills of the wine country will always remind me of falling in love with running growing up in Sonoma County!

6 short days later, I competed in the US 7 mile championships and placed another 2nd. I was proud of how I ran this race forcing the pace in front of the chase pack (Molly Huddle was out of sight!) for the majority of the race. Bix was an extremely challenging hilly course, and it was rewarding to finally head down the steep hill and cross the line. From Bix I headed up to higher grounds in Mammoth Lakes for a couple week training stint with Mammoth Track Club and helping out with the Altitude Project Christian running camp, a camp Ryan and I have been involved with for 10 years now! While in Mammoth, I felt like my training went to another level, finally fully focused on the marathon and loving grinding out hard long runs and

Visiting the maternity clinic in rural Senegal renovated by The Hall Steps Foundation (with my new niece Aby Zahra!)

Visiting the maternity clinic in rural Senegal renovated by The Hall Steps Foundation (with my new niece Aby Zahra!)

longest-ever tempos. My body was adapting surprisingly well to the increase in work load and I was enjoying having plenty of energy left to fly around the lakes at 9,000 ft on easy days.

Just when I was starting to feel invisible, disaster struck. Out of nowhere after a great training day, I woke up in the night with what felt like food poisoning. 36 hours later of the most painful sickness I’ve ever experienced, they figured out it was apendicitus, and unfortunately we didn’t catch it in time and my appendix ruptured, spilling toxins into the surrounding areas, a potentially life-threatening situation. To this day they don’t know what causes appendicitis, it just strikes you one day and this was mine, in the midst of my best training block ever.

Immediate surgery followed by 4 days in the hospital and my world suddenly was turned upside down. I was in extreme pain in the hospital and could hardly hobble down the hallway, pushing my IV. It’s been all progress from there and I am thankful my recovery has been ahead of schedule, but it took me two full weeks before I was able to run, and when I was, it was a pitiful shuffle while my body regained its strength. As I returned to training, it is hard to imagine that in such a short time your body can change so much- from being in the best shape of your life to “ground zero”.   I had lost weight and muscle from essentially not eating anything but IV fluids for 5 days, and after being on super-all-life-killing antibiotics I could hardly get off the couch.  It’s easy in these moments to dwell on what was lost and have a “why me, why NOW of all times?!” pity party. It took intentionally focusing on what I was thankful for, and thanking God for that, and worshipping Him to keep myself on a positive track.

Chugging away in Mammoth Lakes before disaster strikes

Chugging away in Mammoth Lakes before disaster strikes

I am happy to report that despite the slow start, my running is coming back quicker than expected! I’ve adopted the diet of a college freshman guy (burgers, pad thai, and pizza) and am back to my more normal strength.  I’ve still been dealing with some issues like running through stomach cramping/pain, which between this and my broken rib seems to be the theme of this season. I’m hoping it is preparing me to tolerate even more pain in my racing when I’m finally back at it! And in the meantime, I truly am taking joy in the journey. I’m celebrating the progress, even if it’s something before I would consider insignificant, like running 8-minute mile pace on a run. I love the feeling of running hard and pushing myself, and feeling your body responding and getting stronger. So rather than dwell on

A new season begins in Flagstaff- starting with walk, progressing to a shuffle, and finally back running.  Enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and the joy of the journey!

A new season begins in Flagstaff- starting with a walk, progressing to a shuffle, and finally back running. Enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and the joy of the journey!

races I won’t get to do, like a Fall marathon, I’m focusing on the joy of getting to do what I love again and no longer being in constant pain (and being alive!). I am hopeful I will still get to debut in the marathon, though a bit later than I had planned, and be back out at the races soon!

Huge thanks to my husband for rarely leaving my side in the hospital and sneaking me in Thai food when I was supposed to be just drinking broth and eating wretched hospital pudding J (Though no thanks for losing my engagement diamond ring that I took off before surgery- oops! This operation just got a bit more expensive!) And also thanks to John Ball at Maximum Mobility for busting through all the restricted areas that were putting me in so much pain after being released from the hospital and Steve Magness for once again having to scratch our plan and start a new one. I am thankful for the support people God has brought into my life and all the encouragement from running friends near and far!

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Spring Distance Heptathalon https://ryanandsarahall.com/spring-distance-heptathalon/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss https://ryanandsarahall.com/spring-distance-heptathalon/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 01:29:36 +0000 http://ryanandsarahall.com/?p=145 This last month of racing has been a fun and successful stretch… after the 10 miler I stepped it down for a couple competitive efforts in

BAA Mile, finishing at the Boston Marathon finish

BAA Mile, finishing at the Boston Marathon finish

road miles. The short races set me up well for my fastest season opener and 3rd place in the steeplechase (9:42) at Payton Jordan. After the steeple, I ran the Bay to Breakers 12k, placing a close 2nd, a strong race for me but one I would have loved to win in front of my hometown bay area crowd after growing up just north and going to school at Stanford just south. I now head to Boulder Boulder 10k this weekend and look forward to competing on a strong US team with Shalane and Deena, along with Ryan in the men’s race.

Post-race with champ and ASICS teammate Diane Nikuri-Johnson from Burundi

Post-race with champ and ASICS teammate Diane Nikuri-Johnson from Burundi

It seems like I have been all over the place when it comes to race distances, but really, it hasn’t felt too unnatural to me. Right now I feel like I am in good 10k shape. My training has been primarily more strength-based by design, but since the speed stuff comes more natural to me, I feel like I can race a bit over and under -distance from there. As I eye even longer distances and a marathon debut, I always want to make sure that I am spending time working on my speed, as I’ve seen that it’s needed to finish well in any even from a marathon to a road mile. So hopping in a couple of road miles, though I hadn’t trained for a mile at that point, were good stimuluses for my body to not forget those “gears”. And mainly I ran them because they are fun! Being a part of Boston Marathon weekend, however small, and the Drake Relays were fun atmospheres to compete in. Payton Jordan was a bit of a surprise to me, I wasn’t expecting to run so close to my PR after not doing much training specifically for a steeple. On my cool down I spent some time chatting with God and actually got a little emotional as I replayed my last few outdoor track races (Spring of 2013). Last season was so difficult, I was trying so hard and things just weren’t clicking, largely due to trying to salvage a season after knee surgery. I was fully focused on doing everything I could to position myself to make the World Team in the steeple, and came up glaringly short. And here I stepped on the track and ran my fastest opener despite feeling unprepared going in and doing most of the work into the wind in the race. It’s moments like this that you realize that running performances do not necessarily correlate with the effort put into the preparation.  It also taught me the importance of building a strong aerobic base, something I didn’t have time to do last year. As I cooled down, I thought about how God has been with me every step of this journey from Day 1 when I fell in love with running at age 13, it has always been me and him going after it together. He not only gave me the gift of some talent but the passion to train hard on my own, running to and from practice in my first year of running (7th grade) and doing hill sprints on the way home, a passion that wasn’t natural.


Big thanks to this guy, John Ball (Maximum Mobility, Chandler) for all his help getting back to full-strength post injury!

That passion has gotten fueled by victory and dampened by defeat but he has never let the flame die, encouraging me that there is more. I’ve had many great coaches throughout the years to encourage my running but he has been the constant that has picked me up when I’ve had humiliated finishes and told me I had the strength to keep going when the easy thing to do is quit and move on to something more “safe”. He has been the one when I’ve had thrilling victories that I go back to in the private and give back everything I received, any praise or accolades, realizing He deserves it all, that without Him I would have quit a long time ago. God has been worthy of it all- every drop of sweat in practice and on the track, every tear shed in defeat, he deserves every bit because he created me, and Jesus has died for me so I can be eternally His. It’s these moments that you realize that these races can be about more than just times on a paper that will likely be forgotten a year from now. They can be building history with God. Just like the quality times of training together births beautiful friendships between teammates, it is through the fires of adversity that I have learned God’s character. I have learned his unconditional love for me, that doesn’t change when I get last in a race. I’ve learned how he delights in watching all of us run, fast or slow, just as a loving parent does. He cares about it because he cares about me. And I’ve learned to trust Him and see his hand in my life and how He works everything together for good, even when I can’t see it in the moment.

Not shying away from competing this month!

We driven runners are always looking forward to the next race and the next goal, we rarely look back and reflect on the journey we’ve been on, (until maybe our career is over). Of course I love to look back at the times I’ve overcome and succeeded, but when looking back at all my failures I realize I have the strength and courage to go through anything. When you realize that, that there is no need to fear failure, you’ve already been through it, you are free to go after lofty, impossible goals, which is what I feel God calling me to do. And I know He will be with me every step of the way.

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Baby Steps and a Lesson from Bob https://ryanandsarahall.com/baby-steps-and-a-lesson-from-bob/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss https://ryanandsarahall.com/baby-steps-and-a-lesson-from-bob/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 08:00:16 +0000 http://ryanandsarahall.com/?p=141 By, Ryan Hall

This clip, http://youtu.be/p3JPa2mvSQ4?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss, basically sums up the last season of training for me, and yes Bob, baby steps really do work.  Less than 5 months ago I wasn’t able to run at all, and then was able to run but still with some pain.  It took a lot of baby steps throughout the winter, a hefty dose of patience and a big shot to the ego some days when looking at the watch, but eventually getting fit enough to line up at the Boston Marathon pain-free was a success for me.


My slowest marathon by far, but when I look at it through the What About Bob eyes the gains I made in a relatively short time weren’t baby steps, they were giant leaps.  The key to progression is to not to look at where you are at, especially when it is far from the level you have previously been, it’s to look at progress.

It’s not exciting to make baby steps. I’m a dreamer. I always envision making giant leaps in training, but this has never been the case. The key to becoming great at anything is consistency over a long period of time. So this has become my goal. Constantly train year round, not trying to hit mega-miles or crazy workouts, just simple hard, smart, training that leads to gradual improvement rather than taking big risks in training for immediate gains. Recently I’ve been running workouts on the same hilly 4 mile loop in Flagstaff, and each week it has been encouraging to see a few seconds off my average mile pace.  I’m not reaching to try to run a pace I’ve run in the past, I’m focused on baby-stepping my time down from the weeks before. It’s not as exciting, it’s not a new idea or concept, it’s simple, hard consistent work that pays off in the long-term.

When I was growing up, my brothers, Dad, and I would always being doing some form of manual labor together, mostly re-doing roofs.  My Dad had a saying he would remind us when we were starting to get bored of pounding nails on a hot black roof in the bright beating summer heat: “Head down, butt up” he would say.  That saying is permanently ingrained in my head.  I can’t say I enjoyed those hot summer days, but there was always a great deal of satisfaction when at the end of the day we would look back and see the tangible progress we made towards a new roof.  Sometimes baby steps can drive you mad, it seems like you aren’t making any progress at all.  One lousy shingle doesn’t make any difference on a massive roof, but the longer you keep your head down and butt up, at the end of the day you will be proud of what you’ve accomplished.

In our culture today, myself included, we are constantly looking for the quick-fix or how to fast forward the process.  We are high-acheivers that want to climb the ladder faster and skip rungs if we have to, which leads to us slipping and falling down the ladder at times.  I’ve learned not to rush the process, not to be greedy, but to keep my head down and baby step along towards big goals.

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Training in Ethiopia, US 10-mile https://ryanandsarahall.com/training-in-ethiopia-us-10-mile/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss https://ryanandsarahall.com/training-in-ethiopia-us-10-mile/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 16:38:29 +0000 http://ryanandsarahall.com/?p=131 Directly after my race at the Mountain to Fountain 15k, I drove the dogs out to their grandparents in Big Bear Lake and met up with Ryan in LA to fly to Ethiopia for a 3 week training stint (4 weeks for Ryan) at Ya Ya Village athlete hotel (for more on YaYa village see my blog from last summer). Conveniently we happened to be on the same flights as a contingent of Ethiopian runners that competed at the LA marathon, including the women’s  winner Amane Gobena, which was fun to get to know them and hear a bit more from their coach about good places for marathoners to train around Addis.  It was Ryan’s first time in Ethiopia, and I had been just for a week last August during the rainy season and thus wasn’t really able to see the trails.  Unlike when I was in Africa last summer in base season, I had a bit less flexibility to just hop in and do whatever they were doing, I needed to be preparing specifically for races coming up.  However I was hopeful we would be able to connect up and overlap with runners there often.  I live at altitude, so unlike many Americans/Europeans that go to Africa merely for the altitude and do their own thing, the objective for me is to train with them and learn from them, both about running and life in general.

Trying to keep up with the drills in Bekoji

Trying to keep up with the drills in Bekoji

Sure enough, my first day there I ran into Kalkidan Gezahegne, (2010 World Indoor gold medalist in the 1500m at the age of 16).  Kalkidan and I remembered each other from Boston Indoor Games in 2011. We were both at the track for a shake out the day before the 3k, and she looked a bit alone and out of her element, so I invited her along for the run.  She didn’t speak much English then so it was a bit awkward but I could tell she appreciated it, little do we know that 3 years later we would train together in Ethiopia!  Her English is much improved since, and it was really fun to experience Ethiopian running through tagging along with her and chat about the differences between Ethiopian and American running culture.

I would often run afternoon runs with Kalkidan and a few other guys that her husband/coach coaches on the “satellite field”, a large open grass field.  The runs would be in a single file line, lead by the fastest guy in the group, an unsponsored 5k guy that by his beat up running gear and mud hut home you would never know is capable of (in my opinion from watching his track work) running sub 13 in the 5k (he will actually be running Doha diamond league as a breakthrough opportunity, excited for him!).  The runs would start at 11 min mile pace, but quickly progress down, until we hit about 6:45 pace where we’d stay the final few miles of the 40 min run- no cake walk on rolling terrain at 9,000 ft.  (I was thankful these were not in the forest- when Ethiopians run there they zig-zag around in the most nonsensical patterns that is enough to drive us Western runners mad!) Afterwards they would often do “gymnastics” (the classic Ethiopian synchronized drills) while I would do some strides (which they called “fartleks”).  They all got a kick out of the fact that I would stop and stand still in between strides, rather than shuffle along (at a near stand-still) as they did.

I also got to tag along a bit with the “Jama group”, Aden Jama’s team including recent 3-time world record holder Genzebe Dibaba, 2 time gold medalist Kaki, the recent 2014 Indoor gold medalist Souleiman, and others, the majority from neighboring Djbouti.  Of course I was curious to watch Genzebe train as she is on fire right now, and for her sake and because I want to continue to join them in the future, I won’t divulge too much detail of their program.  But needless to say they work hard and they hit the weights hard! I was kind of sad I had to leave to run Cherry Blossom 10 miler because I would have loved to do some more training with them.

This is how the Jama group recovers post-workout: takeout spaghetti eaten with fingers

This is how the Jama group recovers post-workout: takeout spaghetti eaten with fingers

As I found last time I was there, even the best Ethiopian runners were quite welcoming to Ryan and I. In Ethiopia in general, one of the things I love about it is despite the fact that foreigners are almost nonexistent, they are very nonchalant about our presence. We once had a bus continue on and take us privately to our destination for free, refusing money, simply because  “here in Ethiopia, we respect foreigners”. You will have little kids shout “firenge!” (white person) while running by and sometimes get called “China” (the Chinese have been building roads in Ethiopia, so are likely the first or only experience the locals have had with a firenge and they can’t really tell the difference).

One of the main things I took away form interacting with the Ethiopian runners is their confidence.  After finishing a run with Kalkidan one day, she proclaimed that I would win gold medals.  I’ll take it! They expect success and talk about it as if it is inevitable.  They also didn’t seem to look to their workout times for confidence, which is a good thing, because trying to run intervals on a track at 9,000 feet elevation is no joke.  I was hitting times I probably could have run in high school.  You just aren’t able to run race pace, so I don’t think they expect to, and just work hard and expect that when they go down, they will have what it takes.

Colorful, delicious injera with "fasting platter" of vegetables

Colorful, delicious injera with “fasting platter” of vegetables

I tried to apply this mentality to my race at Cherry Blossom 10-miler, also the US 10-mile Championships.  I really had no idea what I could run, especially after training up there and not getting my normal feedback, but I knew I was strong and decided that I was just going to trust I was fit enough to go with the leaders.  I could have made a case for playing it conservative; I was jet-lagged, had just traveled 30 hours 2 days before the race, and at Houston half I had gone out aggressively and spent 10 miles running alone.  But I also felt I had unfinished business after underperforming at Houston, so it was a risk I was willing to take.

As expected the race went out hard upfront, yet I felt surprisingly comfortable, and was getting excited knowing we were on American Record pace.   I was sitting back a bit because I didn’t want the African runners to see me- I’d learned that sometimes in Africa when a white person goes to the front in a workout, it causes fireworks, so I tried to stay out of view. Somewhere after the first few miles though we went around a roundabout and the pack didn’t take the tangent very well, and I couldn’t help but hug the turn.  That was a mistake- I was spotted and a hard surge was thrown in, just as I thought might happen, though it took me by surprise.

I was able to work my way back to the pack where I stayed until another hard surge was thrown around the halfway point. In hindsight, I wish I had done more to cover this move, but I ran a 5:03 that mile, so maybe it wouldn’t have been

Hanging on at Cherry Blossom 10-miler

Hanging on at Cherry Blossom 10-miler

possible. This type of racing was definitely a new experience (afterwards Janet said it is common for Mamitu to run this way, good to know for next time!).  I ended up spending the next 5 or so miles trying to catch back up, and slowly slipping further back, though not fading as badly as I did in Houston.  It was enough to still run under the old American Record pace, though I watched as my Team Run Flagstaff Pro teammate Janet set a new one ahead of me.  Though I didn’t get the record, it is the first time I have run under one, and it was a neat moment!

Unlike Kenyan runners, where English is largely spoken thanks to British influence, I’ve found Ethiopian runners are less likely to speak English as proficiently. Since Ethiopia was never colonized, they maintained their original historic language and alphabet, and they are always surprised but delighted when a foreigner makes attempts to converse in it. Ryan and I have started learning it in our free time, so it was fun to surprise the Ethiopian runners at Cherry Blossom with my new skills.  As I rode the bus back with winner Mamitu Daska, chatting about my time in Ethiopia and the strong Ethiopian presence in DC, it was a neat moment of realizing the power of running to unite cultures.  Looking forward to learning some more and practicing at Boston Marathon in a few weeks!

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