Surf City Half Marathon – A Personal Best

Yvonne Condes and Jae Wu at Surf City Marathon 2014

I have a new running friend and she is a great companion. She’s always positive and in a good mood most of the time. This works well because we run in the morning, which is not the time of day when I’m positive or in a good mood. It’s been nice to shake it up and run with someone else. But god forbid I let it end there. About a month ago I told her we were ready for a half marathon.

So on February 2, after about 6 weeks of training, we did the Surf City Half Marathon. It was fantastic in so many ways. The course was mostly flat, it was at the ocean so it was beautiful, the medal was a surfboard, and last but not least, it ended at a beer garden on Superbowl Sunday.

Really, though, the best part was that I had a personal best. My time was 2 hours and 14 minutes. Two minutes faster than my second best time. I was hoping for 2:10, but 2:14 is great. It makes me want to run more and try harder. There is still time to sign up for the LA Marathon…


A Stormy and Painful LA Marathon 2011

Sunday morning looked like it might turn out okay. My friend and I got to the LA Marathon starting line more than an hour before the race was supposed to start. And the rain clouds weren’t looking ominous, just mildly annoying.

We started the race with our pace group and I felt pretty good. No pain in my bum leg. I felt strong.

And then we got to mile 3. I had been seeing a sports physical therapist for 2 weeks before the marathon because I hurt my calf during a 20-mile training run. She wasn’t sure I would be able to complete the marathon. After mile 3, neither was I.

I had already taken 2 Motrin and lined my calf with Salonpas pain patches. Nothing. All that and it wasn’t working. “Well, what can I do?” I asked myself over and over again. What choice did I have? I had been training with the LA Roadrunners for 6 months. I had an online fundraiser for the charity Help A Mother Out. What would I tell my kids if I quit?

“Fuck it,” I said. “It’s going to hurt and I’m going to keep running.”

And so I kept running. My friend, who I had talked into doing the marathon with me, was also injured and seeing a physical therapist. We were right behind our training group for quite some time. We could see the orange balloons our pace leader was carrying bobbing in front of us until about mile 12.

That’s when we had to stop and go to the bathroom. And this is where it went from bad to worse for me. It felt so good to stop. The pain in my leg went away immediately when I stopped running. But I had to start running again.

It took a good 2 miles to get back into a groove. My leg hurt so much, but eventually the pouring rain took my mind off of the pain. I knew there was 100 percent chance of showers, but didn’t know there was a chance of HURRICANE!

I have never been so wet or miserable. The hardest and the best parts were running through my neighborhood. It was the best because my husband and kids were waiting for me to run by. They were huddled together under an umbrella and when I saw them my heart lifted. I ran to them and stood under the umbrella for a minute or so.

That was just enough time for me to lose track of my friend. Some very good friends of ours had come out in the rain to cheer us on. One told me that my friend had just passed by. I sprinted to catch up to her. I never did.

It’s hard enough running a marathon injured in the cold, pouring rain. It’s much, much worse running it all by oneself. It’s not like we were talking much during the run, but my friend kept me from walking.

And walk I did. I walked up the next 2 hills and at the water stops. I also stopped to get my legs sprayed with numbing spray. It might have worked if it hadn’t been so windy. I think the guy spraying it got more up his nose than I did on my legs.

At mile 20, I realized I wouldn’t be able to make my goal time of 4 hours 30 minutes. I’d be lucky to make it in under 5 hours.

That was my new goal. 5 hours. At mile 22 I started having pain in my right calf even more excruciating than in my left. At one point I stopped running and doubled over on the curb.

“Okay, new goal,” I said to myself, “Better than last time.” I did my only other marathon in 2007. My time was 5:29.

I ran as fast as I could the last 3 miles. And when I say ran, I mean shuffle. I kept saying to myself, “Shuffle faster, shuffle faster.”

I played the song “Everybody let’s move” by Michael Franti and Spearhead. The chorus is “And you don’t stop. And you don’t quit.” I played it over and over.

I was almost there. The most amazing and kind people were waiting along the route and every time someone said “You can do it, Yvonne,” I had to choke back tears.

Finally, I crossed the finish line. 5 hours and 11 minutes. Not the time I wanted, but the best I could possibly do.

After a painful walk, I found my son and husband. My 5-year-old was such a trooper. He was cold and wet and not complaining. We had to keep walking to get the bag I checked at the beginning of the race. It had dry clothes and water. Suddenly, the wind whipped up and the rain came at us in sheets. A big group of us huddled under an awning.

At that point I was shivering and needed to eat something, but was too cold to care.

“I want it to be over,” I thought. Finally, an hour after I finished, we were in the car.

I’m so glad I went through the training. I’m thrilled that I raised $1,050 for Help A Mother Out. And, although I’m disappointed that I didn’t do better, I’m glad I improved my marathon time.

Mostly, I’m just glad that I didn’t stop. And I didn’t quit.

Say No to Positive Thinking

There are some things I never, ever do. I never spank my children, I never eat cauliflower, and I never say anything genuinely positive about my life. You would never hear me say, “I look fantastic!” or “This day is going to be great!!!”

I’m more Eeyore than Pooh, more Han Solo than Luke Skywalker. So when I wrote a post about turning 40 I hesitated on writing the phrase, “I feel really good.” But I did feel really good. For about 5 minutes.

In the month since I decided to become a positive person I have;

  • 1.    Puked at Disney’s California Adventure from stomach flu
  • 2.    Injured my leg running while training for the LA Marathon
  • 3.    Contracted a cold that is still lingering

I know it’s ridiculous to think that saying that “I feel really good” would make me feel really bad, but I have to wonder. I also wonder if it has something to do with the “bad karma” moment I had with the friend I had convinced to run the marathon with me.

She injured her leg a couple of weeks before I injured mine. I gave her a lot of advice, but one thing I told her keeps coming back to me. Come marathon day, I said, just run through the pain. It’ll be fine. If the injury gets worse, “Who cares?” At least you finished a marathon.

Now my leg is hurt and I know first-hand how running on it is not an option, I feel like an ass for even suggesting it.

But somehow we both have to finish the marathon. So tonight I’m going to meet her at the physical therapist’s office and hopefully we’ll both be well enough to run on race day. She will never forgive herself if she doesn’t finish and I feel the same. I’m running for charity now and must finish!

So this is officially the end of my positive streak. I can honestly say, I’m not feeling too good.

Time for Mom

Thanks to Crystal Light for sponsoring this post. To learn more about how Crystal Light can flavor your day with 30 refreshing flavors, visit

Finding time for myself is not easy these days, which is why I’m so glad that I’m training for the LA Marathon.

It doesn’t seem like running 4, 10, 20 miles counts as time to yourself, but it really does. I’m a work at home mom and for me that means that work never stops and neither does being a parent. If there’s a spare minute, I’m at the computer or putting in a load of laundry. Because I don’t have a set schedule, I have to work in time for me and I oftentimes feel guilty when I do.

But when I’m out on the road, I can’t feel that guilt. I have to make this time for myself because if I don’t, I’ll be hurting on the next long run. Or worse, I won’t be able to complete the marathon. And, not only that, I signed up to run for the non-profit Help a Mother Out on Crowdrise. So not only am I running for me, but hundreds of babies who need diapers.

I get so much out of this time. I don’t take my phone with me when I go jogging, just my Ipod. Four times a week for 30 minutes to an hour, I have uninterrupted time to myself. I listen to podcasts, music, or my own thoughts. How often does that happen? I can actually pick a song to listen to without my kids yelling, “I hate this song, turn it off, ahhhhh!” or “Why is that lady saying that she’s gotta shake her ass?”

And when I’m running I don’t feel like a chubby middle-aged mom. I’m Sydney Bristow, or Diana Prince or me at 19. It’s liberating to run like a kid or a crazy person. And it’s fun to be outside or in a gym.

Running can be hard on your body, I’ll admit, but it could be worse. When I don’t exercise, my body aches. My hips, knees, ankles just don’t feel as good as when I’m exercising. It’s not just my body that feels good. If I’m in a bad mood and I go on a run, I almost always feel at least a little bit better when I get back.

And when I feel good, when I have time to take care of myself, I’m a much better mom.

Here are some tips to help get you to make time for yourself and exercise:

1)    Sign up for an event – a marathon, a 10K, or a walk can really help get you motivated to start a routine.

2)    Join a group – has walking groups or if you sign up for a marathon or bike ride through Team in Training, they train you along the way. If you live in LA, see my post for CBS about how to start running in Los Angeles.

3)    Make it an adventure – Map out a new walk, run, or hike every time you leave your house.

4)    Pick an activity that’s fun for you –  If running isn’t your thing, try swimming, walking, biking, yoga, pilates, bar workouts or any other sport that works for you. Check out your local YMCA to find out what it offers.

Remember, visit to learn more about how Crystal Light can flavor your day with 30 refreshing flavors. I was selected and paid for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

I'm an LA Marathon Superstar!!!

Yay! A week ago I set up a  page on Crowdrise to raise money for Help a Mother Out while I run the LA Marathon. Now I’m an LA Marathon Superstar!

What does that mean? I get a t-shirt! And the picture of my older son and I (above) is on the LA Marathon website. (It’s in the rotating picture on the top.) But what I’m hoping it means is that more people will look at my Crowdrise fundraising page and want to donate.  If you want to look at my Crowdrise page and donate, well, please click here. 

Running the LA Marathon to Help A Mother Out

I’ve been training for the LA Marathon since September and it’s taken over my life. It affects the amount I sleep, how much I eat, how I plan my week, and how much energy I have for work and for my family.

But that’s how it goes when you’re training for a marathon. I thought I was giving all I had to give until I got a reality check from Edward Norton.

There’s much more to give and there are organizations out there who are working much harder than I am and they are making people’s lives better. One of those is Help A Mother Out, a non-profit that provides diapers to parents who can’t afford to buy them for their babies.

Here is more information about Help A Mother Out’s diaper program from its website:

Did you know that diapers are not covered by public assistance programs like WIC or food stamps? And did you know that diaper companies do not make big donations to shelters or outreach programs? Until we started Help A Mother Out, we didn’t know it either. It was a revelation to us that something so basic as a diaper could have such a big impact.” Read more
So now, I’m running the marathon for more than just myself. Please make a donation to Help a Mother Out by visiting my page on Crowdwise.

Thank you!


I’ve been trying to have a better attitude about LA Roadrunners marathon training. It’s tough but I do love running and the exhausted feeling the night after a long run.

Saturday was incredible. It was really cold, 37 degrees cold. But it was clear and beautiful. We ran from Venice Beach through Santa Monica and up San Vicente Blvd., which I love because there’s a view of Santa Monica Canyon and a line of beautiful old houses. It’s also nice because the way back is downhill and then it’s flat.

We did almost 14 miles, the last mile of which was a little tough, but it always is. Afterward, my friend and I stopped for coffee and then headed home.

My sister and niece were visiting so we went back to the beach that afternoon. Somehow I had missed the part of the plan where we talked about riding bikes from Santa Monica to Malibu. I was already hobbling from the long run so I said, no thanks, and parked myself on a bench and read Ruth Reichl while my sister, niece, husband, and 2 kids rode all the way to Back on the Beach.

I drove to meet them at Back on the Beach and we had a fabulous lunch. It was our first time back since they had remodeled and the food was very good, and much improved from before.

It was so wonderful to sit in the warm sun and just enjoy our family. I think I might try having a positive attitude from now on. We’ll see how long that lasts.

It's Hard to Follow a Plan

Signing up to run the LA Marathon seemed like a good idea in August, but now that I’m several weeks into the training I’m not so sure.

I’m part of the LA Roadrunners and we ran 10.9 miles Saturday for our weekly long run. It was not good for me. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. I was so tired the rest of the day. That night I kept asking myself, Why am I doing this? I don’t ever want to run again.

Well, I did run again on Monday and it was fine, but not good. I have asthma and it’s been very bad lately. On Tuesday, I was gasping for breath most of the day and went to the allergist. The advice he gave me applies not just to my asthma, but to running and to the rest of my life.

He asked me about my medications and how I was taking them. Well, I had been cutting back on all of them little by little. ‘I didn’t have asthma in my 20s and early 30s so why should I be dealing with this now?’ I had thought. ‘I don’t need to follow this schedule.’ I wasn’t following the prescribed regimen that had made me feel better than I had the previous 3 years and it had finally caught up with me.

Then I thought about running. I was well aware that I wasn’t following that regimen either. When I ran the marathon in 2007 I did most runs while pushing 2 kids in a double jog stroller. I was sleep deprived and overweight. I thought I was so tired all the time for those reasons. Now I realize I was so tired because training for a marathon is hard! It’s especially hard because I haven’t been keeping up with the training runs during the week. I can’t expect to feel good running 10 miles when I only ran once the week before.

Once again I thought about my 20s and 30s, “I didn’t have to train that hard then so why should I have to do this now?”

I think the biggest lesson I learned this week is to accept my new self. I’m turning 40 next year and my body is getting older. I have to keep up with my training and I have to keep up with my medication. I’m not in my 20s anymore. And as challenging as it might seem to me, I need to keep going.

Tips to Eating Healthy For Marathon Training

After a year of talking about it, I’m officially training for the LA Marathon. I joined the LA Roadrunners training program with a friend and we’re already up to running 8 miles this weekend. Yay! 8 miles. Boo. I’ve already gained 5 pounds.

A similar thing happened the last time I did the marathon. When I started training in 2006, my son was a year old and I hadn’t lost my baby weight. During the training I got down to my pre-pregnancy weight and felt great. I was like Oprah. I bought a pair of expensive jeans and was so happy to wear them. By the end of the training I had gained 10 pounds back and couldn’t button my new pants.

I’m not letting that happen this time. Or, I won’t let it continue because it seems like it’s already happened. I asked my friend Amelia Winslow of Eating Made Easy for some advice. She has masters’ degrees in nutrition and public health, she’s a personal chef and a food blogger. Here is the Q & A.

Yvonne – The last time I ran the LA Marathon I lost about 20 pounds, but near the end I gained 10 of it back. This time, I’m only 3 weeks in and I’ve gained 5 pounds. Any idea what I’m doing wrong?

Amelia – Many people, especially women, gain weight when they’re training for a marathon or big event, because they feel hungry all the time and end up eating all the time.
Just as in any other time period in your life, losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight takes work, and even though you’re exercising a lot, diet is still 70% of the healthy weight puzzle.

Yvonne – I’m not running the marathon to lose weight (ok, maybe 10 pounds). But how do I keep from gaining weight?

Amelia – When you begin training for an event, or exercising for the first time, it’s normal to be hungrier than you were before. For example, someone who rarely eats breakfast may wake up starving during a vigorous exercise program, because her calorie needs are higher and her metabolism has increased.
However, this increased hunger and calorie-burning does not warrant a free-for-all when it comes to eating. If your goal is to lose weight, you need to be sure that you’re still eating fewer calories than you burn, and this will take some careful attention, especially if you’re feeling very hungry.
The best way to lose or maintain weight during an exercise program is to write down what you eat, and to eat frequent, healthy meals and snacks.
Never let yourself get so ravenous that you’re tempted to binge on whatever’s around. Instead, plan ahead so that you have healthy foods with you when you’re hungry, whether that’s at home or on-the-go.
For tips on how and when to plan ahead, visit:

Yvonne – For people who are trying to lose weight, how can they do it safely but still have enough energy to run?

Amelia – Frequent running will certainly help someone lose weight, but only if this exercise is combined with a healthy, calorie-controlled diet. The first step is to keep a food & exercise diary. Write down everything you eat, what you do for exercise, and how you’re feeling when you eat (bored, starving, tired, etc). After a week or two, look back and examine the diary. You’ll see patterns of behavior that you’ll then be able to change if you want.

Then, figure out how many calories you should be eating in order to lose the amount of weight that you want, via this method:
Write down everything you eat for 5 days, including at least one weekend day (without changing your diet). Figure out how many daily calories you’re eating on average, either on your own ( has an extensive database that may help) or with the help of a nutritionist. Figure out how many pounds you want to lose. It takes a 3500-calorie deficit to lose one pound, so if you want to lose one pound per week, you’ll have to cut 500 calories from each day, whether that’s through eating less or exercising. Most people burn about 100 calories per mile of exercise, so if you’re averaging 5 miles/day, you’ll be burning 500 calories/day, which means you’ll lose one pound per week if you don’t change your eating habits at all.
Some healthy eating tips for hungry runners who want to control calories:
Bulk up meals by adding veggies to everything: pastas, soups, sandwiches, wraps, burritos, tacos, stews, omelets, etc.
Shred or dice veggies into everything you make.
Snack on high-fiber fruits and veggies between meals, to tide you over.
Make sure you’re eating at least 5 servings of veggies and 2 servings of fruit per day. If you’re not, that means there are too many other less-nutritious, higher calorie foods in your diet.
Eat only whole grains – 100% whole grain bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole grain cereals, etc – so you get lots of fiber, which helps keep you full.
Don’t ever let yourself get too hungry.  No one can make healthy eating decisions when they feel starving!

Yvonne – What is the ideal diet for a beginning or intermediate runner who is training for the marathon?

Amelia – Make sure meals and snacks are a combination of lean protein, whole grain carbs, and a little fat.
If you’re hungry between meals, have a healthy snack, rather than waiting until the next meal.
A piece/cup of fruit with a piece of cheese or a small handful (10-15) of nuts is a great snack because it provides fiber, healthy fat, and protein—all of which will keep you satisfied until you eat again.
Keep “empty calories” (candy, cookies, chips, fried foods, soda, etc) to a minimum.
Your body is working hard during training, and it needs more nutrients, so you need to make sure that almost everything you put into your mouth is “fuel” for your body.
Don’t think of all this running as an excuse to eat more of whatever you want, or you may end up gaining weight.

Yvonne – What are the best healthy snacks for runners?

Amelia – Combinations of carb + lean protein, with a little fat (preferably unsaturated a.k.a. from a plant source or fish).
Large pear with 1 oz cheese
Apple with 15 almonds or 8 walnut halves
1 cup berries with 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt and 1 Tbsp chopped nuts
½ cup cottage cheese with halved cherry tomatoes on top
Piece of whole grain toast with 1 Tbsp nut butter and ½ a banana
Hard boiled egg with 1 serving whole grain crackers
1 cup carrot sticks with 2 Tbsp hummus and 2 Tbsp tzaziki
Homemade smoothie: ½ cup milk or soymilk, ½ cup plain lowfat yogurt, 1 cup frozen berries, ½ banana, ice to taste
Chocolate low-fat milk blended with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
1 corn tortilla with ¼ cup canned refried beans and 1 oz melted cheese, heated in toaster oven or microwave
6 oz plain lowfat yogurt with ¼ cup granola and ½ cup chopped fruit
1 cup whole grain cereal with 1 cup skim milk
3 oz smoked salmon with 1 Tbsp light cream cheese on 1 piece toast
½ cup chicken, tuna, or canned salmon salad on 1 serving whole grain crackers

For more snack ideas, see here:

Yvonne – Is it okay to drink moderately when training for a marathon? I think a glass of red wine occasionally will make me a better runner, am I kidding myself?

Amelia – As long as you’re aware of the extra calories that alcohol contributes to your diet, drinking moderately during training is no problem. Just pay attention to how you feel during your run the day after a glass of wine; if it’s more sluggish or fatigued then it might be best to skip the wine. Keeping a food & exercise diary during training will help you track how you feel.

Yvonne – Do you have a healthy breakfast recipe that would be ideal for a runner?

Amelia – As with other meals, breakfast will be most satisfying if it combines whole grains with lean protein. One great example is Breakfast Quinoa (pictured above).

LA Marathon

I’ve decided I may possibly, if everything works out, if I can get it together, if I have the time, do the LA Marathon. The course looks beautiful this year . It starts at Dodger Stadium and ends at the beach. I did it in 2007 (when the course was not so beautiful) and trained with the LA Roadrunners for 9-months. It was an incredible experience to run 15 and then 18 and then 22 miles and then a marathon! My goal was to finish in 5 and a half hours, and I managed to finish in 5 hours 29 minutes. I was so proud.

You would think that because I did a marathon before, that I could easily train to do another one on my own. I went running three times this week (3 to 4 miles each time) and today I can barely walk across the room. I have the feeling it won’t be easy.

Anyway, here’s an essay I wrote about the 2007 marathon training. It won second place in a humor writing contest for moms.

The Race
Jerry scanned our small group and urged us to stay together. “Now remember,” he said. “Don’t start out too fast. If you want to sprint at the end, go ahead, but be careful. You don’t want to burn out.”

Burn out, right. It was a warm Fall day. The 5K race on a mostly flat course through Santa Monica, couldn’t have been easier.

“I did a half marathon and two sprint triathlons before I had my babies,” I told Laura, the 20-year-old blonde in my marathon training group. She seemed nervous, so I assured her, “This little bitty race is no big deal.”

The buzzer sounded and I was off. I didn’t listen to Jerry. I ran alone and as fast as I could. I waved furiously at my husband and two little boys as I zoomed by. I was desperate to catch up with the giant Nordic man in my group, forgetting that he was younger, nine feet tall, and in much better shape. After five seconds, all I could catch was a glimpse of his head shrinking in the distance.

I continued on at a sprint. I passed mile one. I was thrilled when a race volunteer shouted out nine minutes, 32 seconds. I’ve never run that fast in my life, even when I was 19 and in the best shape. I was determined to keep it up. By the end of mile two I was unstoppable.

This is it, I told myself. This is the where it all changes. I’ve lived my entire life in a state of half ass-itude: I would try, but never too hard. I would go a mile, but no extra. I would diet, but still eat a dozen donuts. This time was going to be different. “I’m going to do the best that I possibly can. And not just in this race, but in everything I do. From now on I’m going to be the best mother, the best writer, the best athlete. No more half-ass for me. Yep, this race is going to change my life.”

This was my mantra until around the end of mile three when my breath started coming out in short pants like I was in labor. My ample, child bearing hips felt like they might shatter with each step. Suddenly, people were flying past me. Did they start the race in the middle? Were they former Olympians? I tried not to let their awesome speed bother me until 20-year-old Laura caught up looking just as fresh and perky as she had at the start line. I, on the other hand, was red as a tomato and sweating like it was 110 degrees. I passed her, resulting in her passing me; our two-woman race was on.

There’s no way I was going to let this little chicky beat me.

“Let’s challenge each other,” she said kindly.

“Okay,” I said, but weren’t we already doing that?

In an instant she was gone. Instead of eating my dust, I was choking on hers. I had to catch up. I pumped my arms and moved my legs as fast as I could. “Only two more blocks to the finish line,” I said to myself. “I can do it. I can. I know I can. I know I can. I know….I think I’m going to throw up.”

Oh my God. I can’t throw up. I’ve thrown up plenty of times, but it usually involved a box stamped with the word “wine.” I stumbled down a side street and ducked behind a Dumpster where I began to dry heave.

Something interesting happens after you have a couple of kids; you’re not in control of your body the same way you were before giving birth. The force of the dry heaves made me pee what felt like a gallon. It was everywhere: on my shorts, down my leg, on my shoes. I’d heard of marathon runners getting diarrhea during a race and just cleaning themselves off to keep on running. This wasn’t a marathon; it was a 5K with a happy, happy carnival at the end.

If I were my hardcore sister I would have picked myself up and wiped myself off and kept running. I would have puked and wet myself right there at the finish line, but alas the quitter in me took hold and I got the hell out of there.

I speed walked down a side street searching for anyone with a cell phone. When I called my husband, he was at the finish line looking for me. I could hear the roar of the crowd through the phone and I wished I was running toward him and the kids, dry and victorious. Instead I shouted “Help, help. I dry heaved and there was pee and you need to come and get me now! Now!! Now!!!”

When my family found me I sat defeated on the curb. This race wasn’t going to change my life, it mirrored my life. I started out strong with great potential and then I peed myself. What does this mean for my new life as a mom, as a writer, as an athlete? What about my new, can-do attitude?

“Hmmm,” my husband said as he pondered my problems. “I’ve never run a 5K and I’ve never peed myself in public. I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer your questions. I guess it could have been worse.”

I suppose. It could have happened when I was 20. I would have been found days later drowning in a pool of pee and tears, completely devastated. But I never would have tried it in my 20s. I only ran if someone was chasing me. And I didn’t recover quickly from defeat.

But I guess this time was different. I wasn’t devastated. Instead, I pulled myself up from behind that Dumpster and met Laura the next week for a 10-mile run. But this time I brought along a change of clothes.