Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Big Sur Half Marathon Race Report

In mid-November I ran the Eighth Presentation of the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay. This was a later addition to my race calendar; my sis and bro-in-law were coming to town for an event that ended up getting canceled so we took advantage of our vacation times and went to Monterey for the weekend. And since the timing was right, I registered for one of my favorite races in one of my favorite towns. I ran this half marathon in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and enjoyed myself each time.

In the days leading up to the race I was thinking I might end up with a DNS. My knee had been bothering me, and sometimes even walking was a pain. It was sporadic and unreliable and I wasn't going to take any chances of permanent harm (assuming that permanent harm hadn't already occurred). We did a lot of walking and took a hike the day before the race and my knee was slightly swollen and sore. Uh oh.

This year we stayed at the Hotel Pacific, a wonderfully odd conglomeration of buildings thrown together to make an all-suite hotel. We had great mini-suites next to each other on the top floor of one of the end buildings, away from the street. Little did I know that being on the top (4th) floor would give us clear access to hearing the sea lion barking frenzy each night. It was so incredibly annoying that it finally was just funny hearing the loud exclamations from the local wildlife all night long.

The expo was held at the Conference Center right across the street from our hotel, very convenient. We went there Friday afternoon and packet pickup was very quick and efficient. Race shirts were tech fabric; gray for men and a purplish-red for women and as usual, their XL women's shirt was too small for me. Since I expected that, I wasn't upset (I haven't yet gotten a BSIM shirt that fits). The timing chip was the disposable D-tag that so many races are using these days.

back of shirt

front of shirt

The expo was so complete that my sis and I managed to shop 'til we dropped - a bad habit we have when together at race expos. One thing I bought that ended up being wonderful was a pair of 2XU compression calf guards. Sis had a pair of their tights and was singing their praises so I decided to fork out the pile of dough and give them a try. This turned out to be a great idea. I also got a good deal on Gu and one or two (or four) other things.

Race morning dawned very early for me after being kept awake all night by exclaiming sea lions. I had no idea how my knee was going to react so I decided I could bail out at any point with no regrets, even if it was before the race started. Since it was supposed to get warm I dressed in my running skirt and the new compression calf sleeves. I topped that with a long sleeve shirt and throw-away gloves, and my usual hat and buffs. I thought about wearing a disposable poncho but already at that hour it was warm enough not to.

The course had a little revision since I had last run it, mostly having to do with placement of the start. Instead of being right outside the hotel it was a couple of blocks away, nearer the Bay. That gave me the chance to walk and feel out my knee. So far, so good.

My corral was towards the back, as usual. I had hoped to be seeded before the majority of the walkers and that ended up happening. Of course, there were walkers scattered throughout the crowd but that always happens when you use the honor system to give your estimated finish time (I'm not sure if there's any other way to do it). I stood around, watching the sun rise, watching the very energetic crowd, and waited for the start.

The crowd of about 6,000 people started off fast at the gun. Despite being way back in the "H" corral I was across the start very quickly. I ran at the side, determined to go carefully and slowly and trying to see how my knee was reacting. Still fine. We made a little loop around a park with a lake, through downtown, back past the hotel. I had thought this would be where my race would finish but my leg felt surprisingly good so I continued on. One thing that helped was the crowd was thin enough that I wasn't having to jig and jag around people everywhere.

We ran to and along Cannery Row, on Oceanview and then up the hill to Pacific Grove and Lighthouse Avenue. The Pacific Grovians were out in force (including, I think, the mayor) and we got a very warm welcome. Neighbors were on their porches watching or cheering, drinking their morning brews and wishing us well. I was still running with restraint, still feeling good. We headed back down the hill to the water. Memories of my first triathlon floated through my head. Glad this run didn't involve swimming in kelp!

The next part of the race was out-and-back along the Bay, exactly the same as the cycle portion of the triathlon. From Oceanview to Sunset Drive, watching the faster runners going the opposite direction. The course is a little rolling here, with a definite upgrade in the outward bound direction. At the top of the hill at the turnaround, about 7-1/2 miles, they had a bottle refill station. This is something I haven't seen at any race before and was a welcome addition. Since I'm so poky I always carry my own bottle and fill it with my own Ultima Replenisher and course water. Often this means stopping to pour water from several cups into the bottle. This time there was a crier with warnings of the upcoming station, giving me enough time to pull out the bottle and the Ultima packet. Another volunteer walked along side of me and poured water from a pitcher into the bottle so I didn't have to stop. Very nice.

I felt good at the half, very good indeed. My knee didn't feel exactly right, but it wasn't hurting either. I decided I could pick up the pace a bit without danger to myself. The weather could not have been nicer; sunny, clear, warm-ish but not hot, slight breeze. The view of the shoreline was great and I enjoyed seeing all the people who were, surprisingly, slower than I was.

Lots of times I can go a whole race without talking to anyone except for thanking the volunteers at the water stops. This race I chatted with several people as we ran along. I did my normal 9:1 run:walk and noticed many other people also running intervals. I guess most back-of-the-packers these days throw in some walking. At least they do toward the end of a race.

At almost mile 11 we ran onto the Rec Trail. I was feeling very good, no pain at all. I also was feeling surprisingly energetic for being 11 miles into a race. According to Mr. Garmin and my rapidly deteriorating math skills, it was possible that if I knocked myself out I could PR. One problem was that I wasn't exactly sure what my half marathon PR was, I just guessed. I also wasn't sure I was adding up the mileage correctly. But I decided to go for it, the worse that could happen would be having to hobble the last couple of miles.

I picked up the speed until I was huffing and puffing. Down the trail, back along Cannery Row, back to the trail again. I kept revising the time I needed, kept forgetting what I had just decided, realized I had no idea if I could make it in time. Then I realized that I might just possibly have started my finish line sprint a couple of miles early. Uh oh.

I cut my walk breaks down to a half minute and kept on running, kept wheezing and puffing. I started counting all the people I passed but then I'd forget and start trying to do finish time math again. I realized that my brain was no long reliable since I wasn't getting any oxygen. So I ran hard, tried not to do anything except watch my foot placement and look ahead, and finally saw the finish line. I gave one final extra push and crossed the line. I stopped Mr. Garmin, took and look and saw PR, Baby! At least I thought so.

I got my ceramic medal, gathered up my sis and bro-in-law and walked through the food lines while recovering my breath. I was terrifically excited about my fast time and the lack of knee pain. In fact, the total lack of any pain. I got water, a bagel, a banana and a cookie and we walked back to the hotel while I munched on the food.

It turned out that I had beat my 2002 half marathon PR by 2 full minutes. I beat my previous course times by 6 minutes, 6 minutes and 12 minutes. I can't think of anything I had done differently from any of my other recent runs, which made my knee hurt like hell and were slower, except for the compression calf sleeves. Yes, that means I'll always wear the darn things now.

The BSIM organization puts on a fabulous race. I may have some issues with their hoity-toitiness ("Eighth Presentation" anybody?), price ($95-$115 for a half marathon) and belief that women runners only come in very small sizes, but they sure know how to set up a race course. They benefit from two of the prettiest courses around (the full and the half) but they also get wonderful and knowledgeable volunteers and course support. Well done. I'm very proud to say that both of my PRs, full marathon and half marathon, are from Big Sur races.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Marine Corps Marathon (delayed) race report

It seems like it was months ago that I was in Washington, DC to run the 35th annual Marine Corps Marathon along with about 22,000 of my good friends, including Bree and Sandy. The fine details have escaped into the mists of other, more recent races. What I remember of this Halloween day race follows.

Bree and I took a red-eye flight and got into town early enough on Friday to get to the expo not long after it opened. Packet pickup was uneventful. I don't remember much of the expo except it was big and complete. A variety of goodies were in the bag or given as handouts. I had bought lots of stuff at my last race expo so I didn't need to buy much here.

The race shirt was the MCM traditional black long sleeved cotton mock turtleneck. And very very large. I don't like tight shirts so I tend to order an XL, whether it's cotton, tech, unisex or otherwise. Once in a while this turns out to be a poor choice, as in this instance. It will make a very nice mini-dress. Too bad, since it's a nice shirt.

front and back of shirt

Our hotel was in Arlington so it was just a hop, skip and a jump to the start. We walked the couple of blocks to the Rosslyn Metro station. Unfortunately thousands of other runners had the same idea at the same time. I'm vaguely claustrophobic at the best of times and the way we were packed into the train, with more and more people trying to cram on, was horrifying to me. I think if there had been room I would have run screaming through the train. Of course, if there had been room I wouldn't have needed to. Luckily it was a very short trip to the Pentagon Station.

In that dim pre-dawn hour it was hard to see anything, but clearly the enormous building next to us was the Pentagon. Marathoners were herded along the path, this way then that way, then the other way. Marines lining the paths told us which direction to go and kept the massive crowds moving smoothly.

We reached the pre-staging area and were a little confused where things were located; the Marines were helpful but the signage was poor. We found a rather underused bank of porta potties and hung around there for our first and second visits. We tracked down the baggage check trucks and had to decide which layers to check and which to keep on. It was very cool but forecast to get warm. I decided to check my sweatshirt and my throw-away jacket but to keep my throwaway poncho and gloves. Sweat check was very smooth and easy.

Then we had to find the start line, which was another short walk. The starting area seemed to be a multi-lane road, with paces clearly marked along the side. Sandy and Bree decided to make one last stop so I went on alone. I decided to start just behind the 5:30 pace group since I was hoping that if it was a good day, I could stay by them for at least half the race. Then I observed that the other side of the grass median was also being used for starting although very few people were standing there. So I hopped the low border and walked over to that side.

I knew the race had started and the crowd slowly walked forward. My side of the road moved much faster than the other side and I found myself parallel with much faster pace groups. I edged to the side and slowed and still got to the start before the rest of the people in the back of the pack. Oh well, that meant less weaving around slower people. I tossed the poncho and started running.

It was very crowded, for the entire race. Wider roads allowed freer running but corners and narrow roads packed us in. Even as far up as I started I was keeping up easily with the others around me. I was feeling good except for a slightly aching stomach that I decided to ignore (since I couldn't do anything about it anyway).

For a good part of the race I paid as much attention to the other runners as I did to the scenery. Sure, I noticed and admired the landscape (brilliant fall colors just fading to brown), the history, the monuments. It was a prettier area than I had expected and a very interesting course. There were a couple of bigger hills in the first part of the race but the rest of it was flat to rolling. Except for the finish.

I warmed up immediately and it got warmer as the sun rose in the sky. There were some scattered clouds but mostly the bright sun shone. A very brisk breeze helped cool us down but sometimes got pretty annoying when it was in our faces. I was wearing my running skirt, a short sleeve top, my buffs and a hat. The gloves got tossed very early on.

I had a very good first half, not my fastest recently but far from my slowest. I was well within the cutoff times for the race and hoped to keep close to that pace for the entire race. That's when my stomach started acting up more than it had been. I've found that a Gu every 40 minutes keeps up my energy and that the Ultima Replenisher keeps my electrolytes in balance. Normally I can tolerate both of them quite well but the gel I ate mid-race kept threatening to come right back up. I slowed down.

The second half of the race runs past many of the famous monuments and the National Mall. The White House is totally off the course and out of view, but most other DC highlights are passed once or twice or could be glimpsed in the distance. Unfortunately I was feeling quite nauseous by then and was paying more attention to moving forward than to the surroundings.

As a Halloween day race there were a significant number of people running in full costume. I alternately admire and laugh at those running 26.2 miles while burdened by excess accessories or clothing. After a couple of running hours I get tired of my necessary clothing, let alone anything decorative. There were superheroes and monsters, cartoon characters and fantasy persons. People with big rigs on their shoulders and runners in full makeup. They made the many groups of Marines running in full uniforms, boots and packs look positively sane.

My grumbly tummy and I finally reached 14th Street Bridge; the "Beat the Bridge" landmark at about 20 miles which you had to reach before the 1:15 pm cut-off time. I couldn't remember where I had to be at what time, just that I had to be across a bridge at some time. I had slowed considerably but that bridge kept going and going and going so I sped up just to get the hell across it.

I knew that I needed to keep drinking but every sip of water or Ultima was nauseating. The gels were worse but I forced myself to take at least one each hour to keep up my energy. My 9:1 run:walk deteriorated to a run:stagger: walk:plod. At least I kept running, although slower.

Finally it was apparent I was reaching the finish. I had heard there was a nasty hill at the end and I thought it was the grade I was running up to mile 26. My mistake. The hill was AT mile 26 and went straight up. I had been trying to run the last bits but just shook my head in disgust and power walked up. The way was lined with encouraging Marines shouting at us to keep running. I ignored them. I reached the top of the hill and then started to run the last .1 to the finish. According to Mr. Garmin I had run 26.66 miles. I got a cold bottle of water, my space blanket, my medal and walked along. Finisher pictures were taken in front of the Marine Corps War Memorial.

More Marines moved the crowd along toward the food. I think we were given a bag with the normal after-race foods, plus offered more water and some energy drink. I was glad to just be done running, and I was quickly cooling down. We had planned to meet at the beer tent so I walked that direction although I preferred to find the baggage check first. Once again as at the start, the signage was poor and the distances far.

The finisher area encompassed several blocks. Unfortunately the UPS baggage trucks were in one direction downhill, and the beer tent was the other direction downhill. It would mean going back uphill to get to the beer after getting my sweatshirt so I gave up on the beer. I texted Sandy and Bree to let them know where I was and then plopped down on the curb.

Once they finished and joined me, we walked back to our hotel. Luckily Tom knew which direction to go. The security was incredible; there were vehicles from every branch of the armed forces and every emergency responder agency. Cars, trucks, fire engines, ambulances. All surrounding the vast finishing area. And ohbytheway, the entire time we ran through the Mall area there were helicopters overhead. I had thought they were media choppers but apparently they were security. In a way that made me feel very secure, in another way it made me think things were very sad when a marathon causes so much extra security in our nation's capital.

We got back to the hotel and I headed straight to the bar - with my friends trailing behind. I wanted something hot to drink and my heart was set on an Irish Coffee. We sat there in our grungy damp running clothes, draped with our medals and space blankets, and ordered drinks and munchies. My stomach was feeling better since I was no longer moving so I felt free to gulp down my very hot drink before ordering a nice Manhattan to go with the food.

Overall I thought this was a wonderfully organized race. Except for the confusion at the start and vast distances at the finish, everything was well done. Course support was good, water stops were frequent and efficient, premiums were good. I would recommend that you run this one!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

... and don't forget the hat

My busy fall schedule of half marathon following half marathon following marathon and so on, is over. I'm a little (!) behind in reviewing all the races, but they have mostly been fun, entertaining, quick (for me) and enjoyable.

I just spent a few days on a vacation in Vegas. The purpose really was to get away on my own, pretend that real life had gotten easy and smooth, kick back and relax. In place of the normal Vegas-gala show, I spent my money on a half marathon and a Santa Run 5k. Running is my joy and my hobby and I'd rather throw my money there than at someone who sings or dances or pulls rabbits from his hat.

This was my 6th race in the past few months (and well over the 100th since I started running marathons in 2001) so you'd think I've learned how to prepare. I have a list that I normally check while I'm packing but this time I started packing earlier than the night before the flight and thought I'd throw things in as they occurred to me. Bad mistake, as it turned out. To my list I'll have to add "don't talk on the phone while placing items in suitcase."

Since I don't think well in the morning I always set out my race gear the night before. Clothing and accessories, in the order in which I'll need them, all neatly placed for easy grabbing. In a hotel room my habit is to raise the ironing board and use that. I did the same this past weekend. Once I decided that it would be crispy cold at the start but warm by the end I picked out my clothing from the piles of choices I had brought with me. Running skirt, sports bra, long sleeve top, compression leg sleeves, socks, shoes, hat ... hat ... hat??

I checked through everything once. Then again. Then emptied my suitcase and checked again. Once more for good luck. No hat. I have a gazillion running hats since I collect them from most races. I forced myself not to buy a hat at this expo since I have a RnR-Vegas hat and many other RnR caps from other races. So for the one of the very few times, I didn't even have a new hat from the expo.

Further checking revealed that I didn't have a buff either. I use the buff on cold mornings to not only cover my ears, but to breathe through so that cold air doesn't exacerbate my asthma. No hat, no buff. But that wasn't all. I have many ear warmers, all of them in my garage at home. Lots of scarves, many of tech fabrics. All at home. The morning was forecast to be about 40 degrees and I had nothing whatsoever to put on my head.

Since the little cancer scare last year my sun paranoia is sky high. I can tell myself that between abundant sunscreen and a rim on my hat that the sun doesn't touch my face. My hat is not only to keep the sweat from flowing into my eyes, not only to keep the little ends of my hair from flying all over my face, but to keep my sun exposure anxiety from driving me nuts. The thought of being hatless for a half marathon on a day that was supposed to be mostly sunny pushed buttons I wasn't prepared for.

It turned out ok, the world didn't end and I had a good run. Lots of squinting, lots of wiping the sweat from my eyes, lots of pushing my hair away. It didn't make me run faster but it didn't slow me down either. I didn't get sunburned but I did worry while I was out there.

Reminder to self for next time: pack TWO hats.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Still here, didja miss me?

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I guess I've been a busy busy girl since I haven't posted since before I went to DC for the Marine Corp Marathon. Yes indeedy I ran it, and ran it well (yes, I will review it at some point). I also ran the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay and ran that well too. In fact, I ran that one well enough to set a new PR, breaking my old half marathon PR from 2002.

My training is going well, with my trainer continuing to find new and inventive ways to hurt me while increasing my strength, flexibility and endurance. My diet is still on track, although I'm just aiming for maintenance over the holidays.

I've been reading a lot, napping a lot, spending time with my family. My 3 current knitting projects are slowly getting knit. Very slowly, since I'm spending more time reading and I still can't manage to do both at once.

I didn't write another "What I'm Thankful For" post this year because I'm thankful for much the same as I was last year, and the years before. Mostly this year I'm thankful for the good health of me, my family and friends. Quiet is good, routine is good, status quo is good.

I hope you had a good holiday with loved ones, and hope we can all have many more.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Update on training and fitness

Yeah, I was going to write about each training session. Yup, I was going to update the blog with my fitness stats. Whoops, haven't done either for a while, leading some to think that possibly I've fallen off that fitness wagon. Again.

I didn't! I'm right there on the wagon, churning along. I continue my twice weekly sessions with the trainer, continue my long runs on Saturday (or Sunday if it's a race weekend) and run or run/walk or walk 2 additional days. Some days those additional run/walks are the afternoon of the day I've trained, sometimes it's the between mornings.

My current training is, all things considered (including my improved strength, flexibility and balance), easier than the earlier sessions. Don't tell Katie I said that. I think because my miles have been so long and my races so frequent, we've been careful to not injure me. My "easy" routine is a set of wide leg squats while holding a 10 pound ball, superset with a combo mountain climber/side plank move that Katie made up the night before she sprung it on me. I was shocked I could actually do it, me, the woman who couldn't even do a regular plank when she started. Three sets of those, then into v-ups superset with this thing where I'm on my back, my feet are on a big ball and I roll it up toward me while my hips are elevated (was that clear?). I can feel those from my ankles up through my glutes. Three sets of those, then into side twists with the 10 pound ball (I do love those, I have waist definition for the first time ever), and one-leg squats (which are really one-leg sit-downs because otherwise it hurts my knee). If I speed through all of those I'm rewarded with push-ups. I'm now up to 25 girly push-ups on the floor (plus many more on the bar). If you remember, when I started I could do a total of zero girly push-ups on the floor. I'm aiming first for 30 girly floor push-ups, then I'll start trying to do real ones.

My food consumption continues to be healthy, for the most part, and I'm still logging every single bite I swallow on Lose It!, a great program. I'm less strict about my food quality or nutrition balance after long runs or during long run weekends but I've mostly managed to stay within my calories. Right now, I aim for 1500 daily calories with a 60 carb/20 protein/20 fat balance. If I've exercised I'll up that depending on how much I've burned (and mostly I aim to add protein calories), but I try to not eat every single exercise calorie. That means if I'm starving, I'm more likely to get my ass in gear so that I can eat more.

It's working since I've lost 15 pounds. My weight is now just a couple of pounds from the lowest I've been able to be since I stopped smoking in 1992. I know I can lose more since I'm highly motivated (and just a little obsessed with logging my food intake and activity), I just don't know if I'll be able to keep that weight off. I look in a mirror now and even though my pants are literally falling off, I feel fatter than I've ever been. I truly feel like I have more fat and flub and lumps and jiggle than I had before I started this, even though I have more energy, move better, feel healthier and run faster than I have in a long time. It confuses the hell out of my rational brain.

I'm not quite ready to throw out the fat clothes yet. Hopefully by spring I'll be ready for a new wardrobe, and hopefully I'll feel thin enough (or at least not too fat) to shop for it!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nike Women's Half Marathon 2010 Race Report

I was trying to come up with some new way to describe the very same race I wrote about in 2009, 2008 and 2007. All I could think of was to say "... as I said in my report last year ..." and that was boring. So pretend that I said the same things all over again: dumb expotique Thursday night, shopping at the Nike store where most things were very small, getting up early Sunday morning (this year the parking at the ballpark was not available; we had to pay $30 to park downtown); crowded start area, ridiculous corral system that everyone ignores, wait for 20+ minutes after the start before crossing the line, weaving and bobbing among all the walkers, WORST RACE ETIQUETTE EVER, gorgeous views, lovely scenery, walk the uphills, run the flats and downhills, laugh about the impending rain, laugh less as it started to really rain, cross the finish, get the blue box, small tech shirt (not as small as usual), food, retrieve bags, wait forever in line for the bus, freeze my ass off and turn blue.

This year for the first time Bree was with me. Our paces are different enough now that we don't usually run too far together, so was fun staying with her the entire race. I wasn't in the slightest bit worried about my time and didn't want to walk the hills alone again. The weather for most of the race was perfect: high overcast, cool temps and a breeze. Perfect for running, not bad for walking. A few drops of rain fell here and there until about mile 12, then the rain began in earnest. By the time we walked past the food at the end we were wet. Luckily we had warmer things and rain ponchos in our checked bags, but we got wetter and colder. I felt very bad for anyone running her first 4-6 hour marathon in that wretched weather.

Here are the highlights in pictures:

very cute goody bag, doubled as sweat check bag

finish bag, big (and dry) enough to hold our Tiffany box, shirt and food

hot pink tech shirt, slightly larger than most years



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon Report

This past Sunday was my third running of the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon and my best run there to date. The route was identical to the past years, and other things were the same or similar to the last time I ran it in 2007.

I went to the expo with Bree early Saturday morning before the crowds hit. Bib pickup was first, with the D-tag timing device attached to the big green bib. Next was the race branded clothing, none of which appealed to me (except for my usual race hat). The goody bags were the usual Competitor large plastic sling bags filled with the usual assortment of ads and a couple of samples. Tee shirt pickup was at the back of the expo. They've done away with the white cotton beefy tees and now have unisex tech shirts. As a word to the wise, these are big. And this year, they were very very green.

The expo surprised me again this year by not being very large. I guess since fall is marathon season, October being the height of it, vendors can pick and chose where they want to display and sell their goods. Since I had done some spending at the Women's Half expo a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't too disappointed to get through there and out in a hurry.

We arrived for the race nice and early the next morning and we wandered around for a bit while Mr. Garmin tried to pick up a signal. Sadly, Mr. Garmin is on his last legs and in addition to eating some of my run results, he takes forever to locate a satellite. Looks like I'll be getting a replacement soon (any recommendations?). We saw several friends in our wandering. The start area was mostly very well organized and laid out, except for one glaring foul-up. We were in corral 13, out of (I think) 16 or 18 (or possibly more). The corrals up to about 10 were nicely spaced with banners separating them. After that they were completely shmushed together. Several thousand people were crammed into space enough for just a couple of people. It was like they had decided they couldn't block the next cross road, so they just piled the corral signs next to each other. It made the early line-up feel like a cattle drive and we all know how I feel about cattle.

This year it didn't seem that they spaced the starts out at all, I think they were all let loose at once. While it meant we started quicker than I had anticipated (6 or so minutes after the gun) it also meant the crowd never thinned out. Ever. Even with the use of full wide streets there was still a lot of dodging the entire route.

Bree and I started out at a quick pace and decided we should slow it down some. Then we sped up. After a couple miles of this Bree decided we should run our own paces and sent me on ahead. I figured I'd just run at a comfortable pace until I was tired and then slow down. This was supposed to be a training run for me, not a race.

The weather was again almost perfect. Aside from a little drizzle in the first miles, it was mostly coolish and overcast. The sun peeked out here and there before making a full appearance in my last couple of miles, but the breeze kept me cool enough. The air was clear and my breathing was very good. I wore a sleeveless shirt and my running skirt, along with a cap and a couple of buffs for my neck and wrist and felt like I was dressed correctly for the weather.

Water stops were plentiful and, as far as I could tell, well stocked with water and something-ade. I was able to run past the first few since I was carrying a bottle with my own Ultima. The weather earlier in the week had been breaking the 100's and I'm not sure if there were more fluids than normal because of that. One thing that was definitely added was the salt stop where they were handing out little packets of salt. I grabbed one of those and, after spilling it all over myself, licked the remainder off my fingers. I think I managed to ingest about half the packet which helped.

Somewhere around mile 9 or 10 was a Gu stop, with several flavors being handed out. I grabbed one just in case but didn't need it to supplement those that I had with me. I'm now taking a Gu every 40 minutes during a run, varying between the double caffeine Espresso Love and the single caffeine Tangerine Orange, Tri-Berry or Vanilla flavors. I sure would like some of the flavors that they have in their Roctane but after the disaster when I took the Pineapple, I won't try them again (and as a complete side note, their new Chomp flavor, watermelon, is yummy).

There was a lot of music along the course, some of it quite good. The Cocktail Monkeys, in particular, were good enough that I was sad to have to pass them by. Both times, since they were playing along a stretch that we ran past in both directions. It seemed that there was more music this year than in the past, but maybe it was just louder. I started listening to my own music at about mile 9 but half the time I couldn't hear it because of the bands. I would have turned it off but it was too much fussing and fumbling.

I felt good. I ran along at my usual 9:1 and kept telling myself that sooner or later I'd be slowing down. Well, not at mile 10. Not at mile 11. Not even at mile 12. After that, I decided the hell with it, I'd just go for it. I didn't see the point in running hard and fast and slacking the last bit. So I skipped my last walk break and powered it through. I wasn't sprinting down the finish line until I saw lots of people trying to pass me. Nuh uh, I don't get picked off in the home stretch! I had to speed up too.

I crossed the line, stopped Mr. Garmin, looked at my time and started giggling. I was 7 minutes faster than my unstated goal, 7 minutes faster than my course PR, about 15 minutes faster than what I expected. The funny part was how good I felt. Yeah, my knee hurt (don't tell anyone), but it was sore from my second step. I wouldn't have wanted to run much longer at that intensity, but I was feeling good from the 13.25 miles my watch told me I had run.

Once across the line I was handed a bottle of water, which I promptly chugged down. Then they again had ice cold wet towels, which I used to wipe the crusted salt off my face and arms. I knew it would be a few minutes until Bree finished and I didn't want to go too far and risk missing her. I walked down the secured area a bit and got my medal, then saw that they were handling out bags of ice at the medical tent. They were also wrapping ice on various limbs and I thought that might be a good idea.

I waited a couple of minutes for someone to be free and then placed my cold towel under the ice, and had her wrap it onto my knee. The woman doing the wrapping couldn't understand why I would want to use the towel against my skin. Cautionary tale, folks, freezer burned skin hurts. It's very easy to damage yourself with ice and I was surprised that more care wasn't being used. I saw dozens of folk with melty ice taped to various body parts and I don't think they were even paying attention to the condition of their skin underneath. I only left the ice on for about 10 minutes but it was perfect and I didn't have any swelling or any more pain.

After Bree finished we walked down toward the food tables where they had exactly 3 bananas left (and they were icky looking), many many bags of Wheat Thins, granola bars, bagels, maybe something else. We grabbed a couple of things. I was starving, something very unusual for me after a long run (normally I'm vaguely nauseous and don't want anything for a while). We walked over to the beer tent and got our free MGD Light (or maybe it was some other 64 calorie tasteless beer) of which we took a couple of sips and then dumped out.

I enjoyed the run, enjoyed the race. My only complaints would be about the other people doing the race. How completely oblivious does someone have to be to come to a dead stop in the middle of the road when they're surrounded by runners moving forward? Or when then don't finish their water and drop the half full cup directly in front of someone who then gets soaked? Or when they walk 4 abreast right where the road narrows and nobody can get past them? Or when a 14 minute mile runner starts with the 10 minute milers and everyone has to dodge around them for the first few miles? And on and on. A handout on race etiquette should be distributed at every Rock 'n' Roll race since they get so many beginners. Or maybe people should just listen to their mothers and be POLITE!

Ahem. Where was I? OhyeahIremember. Enjoyed race, enjoyed run, would do it again if it falls on an empty part of my schedule. Even as cookie cutter identical as the Competitor races have become, the locales and weather play a big part of the race. Having a nice one in my back yard is convenient, and will be again in future years.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Women's Half Marathon Race Review

I dreamed that I was running through a sea of Pepto Bismol. Pink --- pink everywhere! Soft baby pink, bright hot pink, flamingo pink, Barbie pink, cotton candy pink, bubble gum pink; pink pink pink. Then I came to my senses and realized that I wasn't dreaming, I was running the inaugural Women's Running Magazine's Women's Half Marathon in Nashville and pink was the girly color of the day.

We all know I love to run races, we know I love to see my sis. This race offered the chance to do both. It sorta kinda fit right into my training calendar, between my longest training runs. So I registered, bought my plane ticket and headed to Nashville for a weekend of family and fun.

We went to the expo Friday, arriving early enough to be first in line when before it opened. For us, it was simple to pick up our (pink) bibs, emblazoned with our names and race number. We moved along and picked up our very cool goody bags:

They were filled with an assortment of stuff and the usual ads and papers. The expo was definitely womencentric with all the girly clothing and gewgaws a (female) runner could want. I spent a teensie bit of money there, walking away with a pair of shoes, a running skirt, a couple of headbands, a couple of boxes of Gu, a pair of sunglasses and my usual running hat. We remembered to pick up our race shirts which were, surprisingly, pink. They were also, surprisingly, big enough. A very nice tech shirt with some shaping and no ads.

In total disregard of the old saw that you never do anything new on race day, I decided to wear my new running skirt and my new cap. I figured this was going to be one of my shorter runs for a while, I was supposed to treat it as a training run, so no big deal. I crossed my fingers and hoped I wouldn't regret the decision.

Early Saturday we arrived at the starting area. Still dark, it was bustling with excited runners and walkers preparing for the race. We headed over to the line of porta potties and the sky exploded. It was truly bizarre; the potties were lined up under a row of trees that were apparently the resting place of a very large flock of birds. There were many hundreds of these birdies who took wing as the sun started to rise. Sweeping back and forth and back again, the birds wheeled around the sky as runners and walkers and spectators covered their heads and hoped.

My sis and I knew we couldn't run together since she isn't running these days but we lined up together in our corral. Then we noticed that we were ahead of the pacers holding up signs for 2:30, 2:45 and 3:00. That was wrong so we moved back. My goal was to take it easy, have fun, not get hurt. I didn't want to start too fast. Her goal was to finish walking a half marathon when she just wanted to run.

Finally the race started and we split up right at the mat. The race was, to be brief (hah!), great. It was well organized, well supported, well routed. The course was varied through business areas, residential and parkland. We ran on streets and trails. The police were wonderful keeping the routes clear of cars, the volunteers were friendly and helpful, the water and ade stations plentiful. It was hillier than I had expected from the course profile but it wasn't bad until about mile 12 when we had to run on an overpass in the blazing sun in the heat and humidity. But after that it went downhill or flat until the end.

I ran:walked my normal 9:1 until that overpass when I walked and ran when I felt like it. My splits were pretty even (except for my fumbled water bottle fill at mile 8 that took an extra 2 minutes) until then, and my last 2 miles were slow. I had realized finally that I was running a little harder than I had intended, it was hot, it was humid, so I slowed down. That's my story and I'm stickin' with it!

I crossed the finish line to the sound of my name (according to my bro-in-law who was waiting, there were lots of finishers with my name), had my huge medal draped around my neck, and was handed a bottle of water. I wandered down the line, greeted my bro-in-law, had my picture taken and headed to the food tables. They were filled to bursting with bagels, muffins, granola bars, bananas, apples, probably more that I didn't notice. There were buckets filled with icy water and bottles of energy drinks and water. I grabbed a cold one and went back to wait for my sis to finish.

After a while I saw her and her friend cruising across the finish line. They had made excellent time on their walk and both looked fresh and happy to be done. We hung out taking pictures for a bit, then moved along to the food tables which still were groaning under the weight of lots of food - even after 3-1/2 hours. I'm not used to anything being left at a half when I finish, let alone much later. Then we walked over to the cookie place. Yes, a set of tables just for cookies. Not quite a beer tent, but second best.

The medals were made just for this race in Music City. They're a two-piecer, with a center piece that could be removed and put on a necklace. Which coincidentally they were selling at the expo and after the race for a mere $10. Yes, we had purchased them at the expo and worn them during the race with the intention of having the charm hung after the race. There was a booth with helpers transferring the charms and there was no line so we were through there quickly.

Final thoughts: great race. It's not east for an organization to put on such a successful inaugural race. Soup to nuts, everything went right. There was a medical tragedy on the course that was quickly handled with sensitivity. The expo, while not as huge as the bigger races, carried just about anything a runner or walker could want for a race or other fun run. Packet pickup was efficient. Amenities (bag, shirt, medal, food and drink afterward) were ample and fun. Course support, both police and volunteers, were ample and cordial and friendly. Participants ranged from newbies who had never done a race to experts hoping for a PR. The weather even cleared up; hot and humid to me but cooler and drier than it had been. I'd do this race again, and I'd do another of their races if I had the weekend free. Give it a try!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Race season starts this week

Most of you know I love running races. Even if I'm just planning on cruising along at a slow(er than normal) speed, I love the hoopla, excitement, fuss, course support, other runners. Yes, I like small races too, the ones without the hoopla, excitement, fuss. Give me course support and enough other runners that I don't get lost and I'm happy. Throw in a shirt and a medal and I'm thrilled. Easily excited, that's me.

That's how I find myself with 6 upcoming races, starting this weekend in Nashville. Run a half marathon with my sister? Sure! Run a half marathon in San Jose? Yeah! Run a half marathon in San Francisco? Heck yeah! Run a marathon in DC? You betcha! Run a half marathon in Monterey? Of course! Run a half marathon in Las Vegas? Bring it on!

On top of that I have a couple of long training runs for the full marathon, the first of which was this past Saturday. My 20 miler went just about as expected: it was long and tiring. I was slower than I had hoped but I finished, always a victory. Bree and I were lucky with the weather (again) which was drizzly and humid and warm to start and overcast and humid to finish. Good training weather, if warmer than optimal. We ran together for about 5 miles then split off to our own paces and routes. As a treat I listened to music the last 8 miles, hoping it would give me a boost to keep going. It did. But 20 miles is 20 miles and it's a long time to keep running. I was happy as a clam to finish.

Along the way I had a close-up and personal encounter with a Great Blue Heron. This huge, majestic bird was posed along the trail, not 5 feet away from where I was running my 19th mile. I slowed to a walk so as not to scare it away (and because hey, it was my 19th mile) and it remained there, ignoring the passersby on the crowded trail. Amazing. I was also treated to views of all the other seabirds including the pelicans sunning their wings on pilings and egrets shuffling along the shallows. I saw one silly wabbit (fine, it was a jack wabbit) (I mean rabbit) playing chicken with cars along the road. In the dark the jack wabbit -- er, rabbit -- looked like a very misshapen kitten since I couldn't see the dark tips of it's ears. Once it got lighter out it was more obvious what type of critter it was.

I tried a new gel a mile 15, wanting to see how it was during a long run. My go-to gel is always Gu, normally the Espresso double caffeine flavor, sometimes the Berry or Vanilla or Tangerine or Blackberry. At some expo or other I had tasted one of their Pineapple Roctane gels and thought it was yummy. I hadn't tried a Roctane before and wondered if the added ingredients would boost my performance. It gave me a boost all right; almost boosted the contents of my stomach all over the trail. My mouth was happy with the taste but my stomach rebelled almost immediately. Luckily I had just 5 miles to go. Unluckily that would take me over an hour to do. Note to self: stick with the regular Gu that works so well.

A couple of days after the run my legs are still somewhat fatigued, a fact I noticed clearly while working with the trainer this morning. Since my knee is very tender (that same old problem) we skipped the toe taps and jumps and I'll be resting instead of running for a few days. I don't have time for any injuries or aggravations.

I fly to Nashville to join my sis on Thursday. The race is Saturday and I'm looking forward to it. It'll be interesting to run in the hot humid weather that's expected. We've had such a mild summer here I've forgotten how ugly it can get when it's hot and drippy. That should be enough to convince me to keep my speed and ambitions in check. This is supposed to be a fun race, a rest week, so I need to be smart about how I run. But it's a race. I never know until I toe the line how I'm going to feel, what the conditions are, how it will go.

Do you like races? Will you do anything for race bling? Would you sign up for 6 races in a season?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The marathon of my dreams

In the past I've had many marathon anxiety dreams. Mostly they involve starting late: "oh no, I forgot my shoes!" or "oh no, I got caught in traffic!" or "oh crap, I can't find the start line" although I have gotten lost on the course a time or two and I've taken several days to finish once or twice. Last night I had the marathon dream of marathon dreams.

I got lost. Over and over and overandoverandover again. I think it was a smaller race, , possibly in the 5,000 runner size, and probably a Team in Training benefited race (we were all wearing TnT colors and logos). Because the course was routed through several shopping malls, and a couple of international monuments, and through some very dense forests, it was hard to find which way to go. Not to mention all the twisty, winding streets which branched out in several directions. Despite very good water stop support - almost a buffet of food at every one - none of the nice volunteers had any idea which way I should go. And then the elevator got stuck on the roof and I couldn't get down the stairs because they were blocked with furniture (and wouldn't the Fire Marshall be angry about that!). And the hills in the park turned into a loop and I couldn't get out. And then it got dark and they made me stop even though I was at the finish line (I still had about 10 miles to go) which was next to a food court and a very fancy restaurant.

I'd awaken and fall back into a restless doze and the damn dream would continue, often in a different venue. I got up and went to the bathroom and when I fell asleep again the dream went on. It was relentless and when my alarm went off I was exhausted, as if I had really run 20 miles overnight.

I'm wondering if that counts as my workout for today. What do you think?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Little of this, little of that

That didn't last long. I enjoyed our 4 days of summer, could use a little more. I feel like I should be wearing boots and a turtleneck with gloves and a scarf. I'm confident we'll have at least a day or two more of heat this year, but it'll probably show up mid-November.

The craptastic weather has been good for one thing only: running. Good thing that my favorite running conditions are overcast and mid-50's since almost every single weekend run this year has started that way (and most of them have ended that way). Last Saturday was no different. I was running alone since my running buds had better things to do, and I needed to get 14 miles in. Well, I needed to get at least 12 but since 14 was on the schedule I wanted 14.

Bright and early I met up with Nobody at the Lafayette-Moraga Trail and told myself that I had to at least get to the Commons and back. Unusually for me I listened to music almost the entire time. With one ear bud in, one ear bud dangling, I ran a little faster than usual and made it to the 7 mile turnaround with no problems. The return trip took more effort but I was very happy with my consistency and effort.

I'm only getting a little faster but running is much more comfortable to me these days. Go figure, running on a regular basis, cross-training on a regular basis, eating right and losing weight improves running. Who knew? Oh wait, I did. I don't get a runner's high, but I have great enjoyment plodding along. A couple of times I'd see graceful runners flowing along the trail and think that I look like that too. Then I'd see my shadow galumphing along and realize that I'm a runner of a different species. No matter, mostly I can ignore that and just stay happy within myself while I run.

Cross training is hard. The stronger I get, the harder it gets (my trainer makes certain that it gets harder, that's her job). But the results are so obvious that I bought another training package so I'll be going for another 4 months. There are days when I feel strong like ox, days I feel weak like silly putty. Today I felt like I could be pressed onto the Sunday Funnies and lifted with multi-colored pictures. What?? You never did that with silly putty? WHAT??? You never HAD silly putty? Sheesh. Kids today. Hmmph, go play with your electronic gadgets and get off my lawn.

What really makes it feel like fall to me, in addition to the lower angle of the sun and the fallen leaves underfoot (... and the cold air), is my list of races in the next few months. Look at the list over there, on the left. No, the other left. Yeah, that one, the one most people call the "right." I'm going to attempt to not race every single race and just treat some of them as fun 13.1 mile outings. We'll see how that goes.

I'm having house renovations done. Originally I was just going to replace some carpeting with tiles but then I saw the lovely work the tile-setter does and I had him re-face my fireplace. I've always hated the fireplace; the bricks were impossible to clean, even to dust, and they just looked dated. Now it looks spectacular. The process was messy and dusty and smelly but the result were worth it. I'm looking forward to new bathroom floors. I'm not looking forward to the process.

before, and


Which do you prefer?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Random not quite Friday

The oddest thing happened as August ended: summer arrived. Heat and smog and pollen, hand in hand like old buddies. I'm enjoying wearing sleeveless tops and capri's but there's a slight hitch. In early May I bought a few pairs of shorts and capri's because nothing in my closet fit (uh, as in too tight). Then I spent a few months exercising in fact like I had only been doing in theory, and very carefully watching every bite I ate and now those new pants are very loose. Like, falling down loose. Like, I look like a teenage boy with pants on the ground loose. I'm not complaining, especially since I'll be able to wear older stuff now. Also, I'm pretty sure the heat won't last. Prove me wrong Mother Nature, 'k?

The twice weekly training continues and I like it so much I just signed up for 4 more months. I like me some commitment! And I still think that word should have 3 t's instead of 2. My workout routine changed on Tuesday, right when I was getting the hang of the old one. Katie kept some of the oldies but threw in some new stuff too.

When I started this I couldn't do one single girly push-up, let alone the real ones. Now I can do 3 sets of 15 girly push-ups. Plus the ones I'm doing on the bar. Yippee and ouch. I didn't say I can do them painlessly, just that I can do them. I went from being able to hold a plank for a grand total of about 2 seconds. Now I'm doing them on one leg. Yippee and ouch. Still doing the twists with the 12 pound ball, the one exercise I can definitely see benefits on my body. I'm back to doing sit-ups with the 8 pound ball. Since my knee whined when I did up-and-over a bench, I'm doing quick deep squats instead. The mountain climbers made a surprise appearance at the end of the workout.

A new one for me is jumping onto a ledge. Mind you, this ledge is maybe 6 inches high and is part of a piece of gym equipment. I jump up with both feet together, then step back down. That is, I jump when my brain allows me to jump. To my combined amusement and horror, my body completely froze when I tried to do it. I swayed forward, then backward, then forward, then back again. I was pretty sure I was telling my knees to lift and my feet to move but they weren't listening. A combination of errant depth perception and a bit of vertigo tied up with acrophobia kept me locked in place for what seemed like 20 minutes - although it wasn't. I managed to jump/trip once, then to jump correctly. I even made it through the set. But the first time each set I'm still needing to convince myself to jump. Hopefully after a month of this my brain will catch up and get with the program. At which time Katie will probably increase the height.

I had a great run last Saturday, almost all 18 miles of it. Again the weather cooperated by staying overcast and cool, albeit quite windy. I ran with Bree for about 5 miles and alone for the rest of it. I love running with my buddies but I'm remembering that a few hours running completely alone isn't too bad. Lots of time to think, and lots of time to not think. And then just lots of time.

The sock is coming along well. At this rate by Thanksgiving I'll have knit one complete sock in this pattern with this yarn. I love the yarn so I'm hoping I don't end up with second sock syndrome. A pair would be very nice.

I'm going to be starting some home renovations soon. Don't be silly, I'm not doing the work myself, I'm paying someone else to do it. After 12 years of high sun (and that one flood) my carpet is rotting out and needs to be replaced in a couple of rooms. As much as I'd love a whole house overhaul I know the mess and fuss and noise and dirt and schlepping stuff around would drive me crazy. Not to mention drive me broke. So I'm just doing flooring now and maybe someday I'll do more. I can't believe I've lived here for 12 years.

I'm looking forward to only running about 13 miles this weekend. I love that finally it's back to "only" running 13 miles. I'm still glacially slow (although with global warming I think the glaciers might be quicker than I am) but I'm enjoying running as much as I ever have. Since I'll be running alone I think I might try running with some music, just in case I get tired of my brain jabbering at me.

I think I should go try to sleep now.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A little late: San Francisco Half Marathon Report

I haven't really said much about the race, other than how much I enjoyed it. I think I mentioned that I missed the race last year because of family issues and missed it the year before because of injuries. I ran the second half in 2007 and wrote all about it afterward - I'm not going to repeat all the details of the route since you can read it there. I'll just note the changes and my own personal thoughts.

The expo was at the Design Center again. We went early Saturday morning. Packet and shirt pickup went very quickly. The shirts were different for each race and sex. The Half shirt was cute, although girly sized (which we all know I don't like much):



The goody bag was a very nice backpack. One side had blanks for writing your bib number, so that the bag could be used before the race for sweat check. I'm afraid I don't remember exactly what was in the bag, but there were lots of freebies at the expo.

We wandered through the booths, registered for the San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon, bought some shorts, bought some gels, looked at other races, tried some foods and drinks. A very nice expo.

There was a little problem Sunday morning - the approach to the bridge on I580 was closed for repair. Thanksalot Caltrans. I met Bree at her house at what seemed like the middle of the night and we detoured our way over. We had allotted oodles of time to get there so of course we were early. We ended up parking at the Embarcadero Center (which would later prove to be a mistake) and walked over to the bus.The line-up for the bus was long, wrapping around the corner. Loading was going very slowly but as we approached the next bus the people in charge figured out a faster way to load the people. We boarded and took the long ride across town.

We arrived at the second half start nice and early and immediately lined up at the porta potties. We wandered over to the route and saw one of the nicest things I've ever seen at a race start: propane heaters. There were several, all with formerly shivering people huddled around. We found a spot on the periphery and tried to warm up.

There were a few waves for the half and somehow we managed to start with the wave before the one where we should have been. That, and the first half mile being downhill, got us off to a way too fast start. I told Bree we had to slow it down and we did, but our first mile was a smoker.

I like the route a lot (probably the reason I've run that second half in 2010, 07, 06, 05, 03 and 02 and the full in 2004). The weather was good for a race: cool and overcast without being cold, with a light breeze. I was feeling pretty good. I stuck with 9:1 run:walk, except for a couple of bigger hills. I'm very careful on big downhills so where other people bomb away, I mince my way along, trying not to re-injure my knee or crush my quads. Or fall.

There's really not much to add about the race itself that I didn't say last time. I got tired around mile 12 and told myself to just run and get it over with. I finished in 2:47, much better than I had anticipated and my fastest half in years. I got my medal and space blanket, a bottle of water, had my picture taken a couple of times, grabbed some food.

The food available was impressive: scones, bagels, chips, fruit, Jamba Juice, granola and yogurt, and much more. I walked through the choices and grabbed this 'n' that, wandered on and looked for the sweat bag pickup. Along the way I noticed a race booth for the Loyal Runners. I figured since I had run the race so many times, maybe I'd be included in that group. I told the volunteer my name and was handed this lovely water bottle. Nice!

I tracked down the baggage and quickly retrieved my bag. Bree arrived shortly and we sat down on the curb and chatted for a bit. Then I noticed the beer tent. I have a rule after races: if there's free beer, I have to have one. It's the principle of the thing. Heh. So we walked over and convinced the guy checking IDs that I was indeed old enough to drink (I don't carry my license when I run). Sheesh, I haven't looked under 21 for a few years. Or decades. We got our beers and sipped enough to make it clear that we were really hungry and wanted to leave. The balance of our beer was dumped in the trash since we couldn't walk down the street drinking.

We got back to the car and were completely blocked in. We were on the bottom level of the lot and there was gridlock. For over a half hour there was no movement at all. Not even an inch. We pulled the car back in a spot and went out to lunch. By the time we returned, we were able to slowly exit the lot.

I like this race and I think it's improved every year that I've participated. At times I've thought of running the first half, but since it's normally too foggy to see a view from the Bridge, and since the route is hillier than the second half, I'll stick with with I know. I plan to run it again next year!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Random thoughts for Wednesday

I stayed out too late last night. In my world, "late" on a workday means anything past 9 pm and I wasn't home until about 10 pm. I had a very fun girls' night out; drinks, appetizers and the girly movie du jour, Eat Pray Love. Despite the evening having 4 complete flaws (1: staying out late; 2: drinking a cocktail during the week; 3: eating fried and gooey food whilst dieting; 4: chick flick) it was a lot of fun. Surprisingly enough I enjoyed the movie and stayed awake the entire time. Now I have to read the book.

I didn't get up to run this morning because I got to bed too late (see above). I didn't get up to run Monday morning either so I ran after work. I kept telling myself to take it easy since I had a trainer workout early Tuesday, then I ended up running 4 outside miles faster than I've done for a couple of years. D'oh!

That didn't translate well to Tuesday's training session. My legs were still fatigued and my arms decided to keep them company. I made it through the workout but wasn't my normal sparkling self. Wait, I don't normally sparkle, no sparkles here. I made it through the squat/ball tosses without dropping the 10 pound ball on my head (or dropping it at all, for that matter), I made it through the mountain climbers without pulling my groin (which I did last week), made it through the traveling lunges without toppling over (it was close, I had to keep grabbing the rail to get my balance), made it through the v-ups, twists, push-ups, tricep pull-downs, bicep curls without collapsing on my face. I wasn't a happy camper like I usually am when I finish, just relieved to be done.

Saturday was a long run, the first 18 miler of the season. We lucked out again with the weather. The cool, overcast, drizzly, breezy conditions were perfect while running. Kinda sucked when we finished; it took a half hour in a hot shower, warm sweats, thick socks and a blanket to warm me up afterward. Summer? Not here. We ran on the always lovely Alameda Creek Trail in Fremont. Since we hadn't run there yet this season we didn't know that the trail going toward the Bay is closed, while the other end's construction is cleared out.

Refueling and rehydrating on Saturday were amply supplied by dinner at my bro's. I picked up my mom and we went to one of my bro's and sis-in-law's patented food fests, this one Tacos Two Ways. Which could also have been called Margaritas Two Ways. Or Dessert Four Ways. Good thing I burned a couple thousand calories running so I could eat (fish and carnitas tacos with the trimmings), drink (ginger/tangerine margaritas and blackberry/mint margaritas), pray (that I wouldn't fall asleep during the meal), love (that I was still under my allotted calories for the day).

I missed knitting so I picked up the sock I started so many moons ago and tried to figure out where I had left off. Somewhere in the gusset so I continued on the row I thought was correct. I'm not sure the pattern is written right for across the instep but I'm going to blindly follow it. Heck, I can do it correctly on the second sock if this is wrong. Nobody looks at my feet anyway.

Now that I've worked out with the trainer a couple dozen times, gotten up at the ungodly time of 5:15-5:30 am to train or run during the week, counted every single thing that I put in my mouth, I'll have to say I'm seeing results. I've lost some weight (lots more where that came from), gotten a bit faster with running (it's relative, I'm still snail-slow), gained some upper body strength (some day I'll be able to do a real push-up). I detest getting up so early but I'm getting better at it. "They" say it takes a couple of months for a pattern to become habit. I'm still waiting.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Where oh where has our summer gone?

When I look out the window it's hard to remember that it's August. Overcast, windy, cool, drizzly. Yeah, lots of Bay Area summer days start this way, but this year it doesn't clear out. Except for a few days where the sun shone and the temps rose to the 90's, it's been cool and gloomy. I'm not complaining (oh wait: yeah, I am) because it's perfect for those morning long runs, but it's strange to have SAD in the middle of summer. I wouldn't want the sweltering heat that the eastern and southern parts of the country are experiencing, but sunshine would be welcome.

Saturday morning I wasn't complaining about the weather (oh wait: yeah, I was) while I was running. I deeply appreciated the cool temps in the 50's, appreciated the overcast, didn't mind the mist that made water drip off the brim of my cap, but I wasn't too thrilled with the constant wind in my face for the first 7 miles. I was running merrily along in my tank top and shorts, passing walkers bundled up for the arctic. These people had on parkas and gloves and scarves while I sweated my way past them. We all looked at each other as if the other were crazy.

The run went well. I met Bree at the Lafayette-Moraga Trail at 6:30 am (yawn) and we started running together. We ran together for less than 2 miles and then I sped up to a more comfortable pace and she slowed to her own comfort zone. I stopped at the bathroom at Moraga Commons to release and refill fluids, then continued on. The trail that was so beautiful in the winter and spring was dried and weedy, with only the prickle vine weed (whatever it's really called) and blue star thistles showing any color. A few of the oleanders are still in bloom, adding bits of brightness to the overcast gloom. Strangely enough, I really love the look of dried California summers. Whether you call it golden or brown, it looks like home to me.

I kept up the 9:1 run:walk except for the 9% grade hill leading to the end of the trail where I extended my walk break. That gave me a chance to talk with a little bunny hanging out on the side of the trail. No, he didn't talk back (sheesh, bunnies don't talk!). I ran to the end of the trail, tagged the post and started back the other way. I passed Bree going the other direction, continued on.

Back at the Commons I refilled my fluids again and then went on. With the wind at my back it was easier to breathe but I was getting a bit bored. Luckily the trail was busy with walkers and runners and I stayed busy saying "good morning" or "hi" to everyone. There weren't many cyclists on the trail (except for family groups), probably because those weeds are excellent at puncturing tubes.

Another way I kept myself busy was tying to figure out how far I had to backtrack to get in my 16 miles. My math skilz are absent once I've been running for an hour or so. I really didn't want to run more than 16 but I wanted at least that 16. Lessee, according to Mr. Garmin it was 7.3 miles to the turnaround. That makes the trail 14.6 round trip. That means I need an additional 1.4 miles. If I turn around at mile 2 and head back toward mile 3, I only need to run ... oh! lookit the rose blooming in that yard! Wow, I'm thirsty. Is it time to walk yet? What was I doing? Oh yeah, it was 7.3 miles to the turnaround. That makes the trail ...

Pitiful. I ran past the Senior Center, deciding that I'd run to the 2.25 marker and back and then stop to refill and empty fluids. All of a sudden I saw the 2 mile marker and realized I'd gone too far. I certainly wasn't going to run an extra half mile so I refilled my bottle at the fountain behind the fire station. Bree and I encountered each other again (hey, how'd she get ahead of me??) as I headed for the last couple of miles.

I ended with 16.2 miles. The sun was just starting to peek out and it was getting warmer (oooh, it was in the 60's!) so timing was good. I stretched out and waited for Bree who wasn't too far behind me. I was happy with the run; it was the most consistent long run I'd done in ages. Consistent not in the TnT definition of slow (although it was that) but in the true meaning of equal (and almost negative) splits.

A shower and a nap would have been a good thing, but Saturday means Momday so I headed over to see her. We're in the process of putting her condo on the market and she's decided that she needs to be in control and sign everything, so I took the massive pile of forms to go through with her. I read them to her, explained them to her, showed her where to sign. We answered the gazillion disclosure questions, marked those that were questionable, she initialed and signed. In the middle of it all she insisted it was lunch time so we went out for some truly mediocre Chinese food (which had the added benefit of being a zillion calories). Back to reading, explaining, re-reading, more explaining, signing and initialing. We had a major difference of opinion when it came to setting a price; my mom wants to list the place at about $100,000 more than anything has sold for in the past couple of years. I think that's ridiculous and a waste of everyone's time. I told her she needs to speak with the agent who can hopefully get her to see the light.

Next weekend's run will be 18 miles, starting the long runs early. I'm looking forward to it!