Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mermaid Half race review (finally)

Last year I "competed" in the Mermaid Duathlon and decided that I liked the way they organized their races. I knew they held a half marathon in the early spring but it never fit with my schedule. This year the race had changed venues to the other side of the Bay, and was the day after my birthday. Since normally the only marathon/half marathon the weekend of my birthday is that famous one on the other side of the country (for which I will never run fast enough to qualify), I grabbed the chance for a (day after) birthday race and registered.

My training runs had been going well, even though my earlier half marathon in Oakland had, quite frankly, sucked (me, not the race). I was a bit concerned about the Mermaid Half since the pollen levels have been off the charts and my breathing has been poor. But the weather forecast was for a great day and I figured I'd enjoy myself no matter what.

I arose early, at 4:50 am, and forced myself to eat some breakfast. It's getting harder and harder to fuel before a run or a race; food of any type is completely unappetizing. I know I can't get past an hour of activity if I haven't eaten something like oatmeal but physically it's a struggle to choke it down. I met Anita, who had decided to run the race with me, at a parking lot in San Leandro and we drove together to Mountain View. I knew the start was in a park near Shoreline Amphitheater but the exact location was unclear. We did find the parking lot though, and were nice and early.

We parked and used the clean and fresh porta potties, then went to packet pickup. The goody bag was a very nice reusable bag, the tee shirt was good quality and cute. There wasn't much in the bag other than our bibs (with the disposable D timing tag), the shirts and a Luna Bar, along with a bunch of ads. The bag itself was the goody. And damn, for someone with borderline dyslexia, "goody" is hard as hell to type. It's also a very strange word to look at. Goody. Goody. Goody. Or, goodie.

Yeah. We went back and sat in the warm car for a while then waited in the rapidly lengthening line for the potties. It turned out that line wasn't long, it was the line to wash hands at the portable sinks, an option usually not available. Funny, at races without sinks everyone just walks away, but with a sink it become imperative to wash up.

In addition to the half marathon there were also a 10k, a 5k and a "mini-mermaid" race. The starts were supposed to be staggered with the half beginning first, but the loud speakers were very garbled and I don't think most women heard anything other than "start." There were clearly runners of the other races beginning at the same time as the half; the bibs were different colors.

We started off slowly in comparison with everyone else, but a bit quickly for us (like maybe 10 seconds per mile faster than optimal). It was overcast, breezy and cool and we knew it would warm up while we were out there. The crowd quickly thinned out along the path as we headed along the Bay.

The first part of the run was on asphalt trails and was very enjoyable. The scenery was lush and overgrown with the mustard plants taller than both of us. Other delicate wildflowers and grasses grew along the trail, leading to the Bay. All types of water birds (collectively to me as "ducks") and fowl ("geese") were watching us run past. We were enjoying the beautiful morning.

Then the trail changed to a dirt fire road. I immediately slowed down, even though the effort remained the same. The road at this point was well graded dirt and relatively easy for running (for someone who isn't as uncoordinated as I am). We continued winding along the road, slower and slower. Then the trail turned to ungraded, rocky rutted road, much harder to run on. I was sure I'd turn an ankle or fall if I didn't keep my entire attention on each step. Too bad, because it was really pretty along that part of the race.

The water stops were spaced a couple of miles apart and were manned by some of the friendliest students I've ever seen at a race. Normally anyone younger than 20's is a little grumpy at having to stand around for hours, but these (high school aged) students were wonderful and helpful.

The route was an out-and-back with a loop so we got to see everyone running back toward the start. There were a couple of incredibly speedy women and each one took the time to smile or wave to cheer for those of us plodding along at the rear. And plodding we were. By the turnaround my lungs were heavy and wheezy and my legs were tired from wobbling on the rocks. I couldn't wait to get back to the paved portion of the run.

Slower and slower, until I was sure that we were going to have the chance to be DFL, something I intended to take great pride in. But no, there were a couple of girls who were challenging us for that "honor." We ran when we could, walked when we couldn't. The sun came out, the breeze increased, and we marveled at the lovely scenery around us. We made up names for plants and birds, something easy for 2 middle aged women who don't see that well. Blue duck, huh?

We got back to the pavement and were able to pick up our pace a little but by then I was burned out. Then we saw the return route wasn't quite the same as the start; we left the pavement and returned to dirt. We could see the finish line and could also see we weren't last. Anita fell back behind me; as a birthday present I got to finish first. Heh. "First" being relative since 98% of the runners had already finished.

We were handed a bottle of water and a little bag containing our medal/necklace. There was a pancake breakfast but as usual my stomach was in no shape for food. There was fruit, pancakes, juice, candy. A group of booths were set up with different vendors including Luna, a big sponsor of the race. We wandered through as we cooled down, looking and tasting. The award ceremony had taken place some time before we got there. The last few finishers wandered across the line and the race remained open until they crossed.

I was again impressed with the quality of the race, especially considering how much cheaper it was than the big 'uns. Everything essential (water and electrolytes, well marked route, porta potties), good premiums (the bag, the shirt and the necklace), food at the finish, friendly support personnel. Throw in a gorgeous route in spring and I'd do this race again in a heartbeat - assuming I get my breathing under better control.

Afterward my lungs still hurt, badly. But I was heartily amused when I discovered that I was third in my age group; because Anita dropped back and let me cross first, I placed in the race! Too bad the award ceremony had taken place earlier and you have to be present to get any awards, but I still get a giggle that someone as slow as I am can place.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Not the race report ... yet

I've been putting off writing about the Mermaid Half Marathon until I get the pictures from my camera to my computer but since that's taking forever, I'll write around it.

Friday was my birthday, the latest of many others. It astounds me when I think that I'm in my mid-50's since I don't feel that different from how I felt when I was, oh, in my teens. That same sense of self, of "this is me" is there. Yeah, I have a different body and different life outlook from when I was younger but it's still the same Amy inside my head. I still sound like me to me, I still have my same feelings, but the calendar and my mirror tell me that yes indeedy I'm middle aged. Not complaining, mind you. I know the only alternative to getting older and it's not something I want. Age over death any day, thankyouverymuch. It's just that it's so odd!

My celebration included going to work, since that's what I normally do on Fridays. Luckily I like my job and I like my co-workers. I had purposely scheduled a race for the morning after my birthday so I would have an excuse to stay home Friday night. Partying late is something I got out of my system when I was much younger. Like in my 40's. I had an easy, enjoyable day, heard from friends and loved ones and got in a nap, reading, knitting and even some sleep. Oy. I am old.

Saturday morning I got up at 4:50 am (just about the time I used to roll into bed after a birthday celebration) and got ready for my race. [Pretend you're reading a race report here.]

Saturday afternoon I was able to crash on the sofa for a while before going out to dinner with a friend. Her birthday is a week after mine so we always try to celebrate together. Sometimes that doesn't happen until June, but we were both available so we scheduled an early dinner at Casa Orozco. We each felt we'd be home and getting ready to settle in by 7:15 - wild and crazy girls are we!

Instead, we had a great dinner (with only one margarita each, mind you) and sat chatting away until we realized it was 8:30, the restaurant was crowded and we were taking up a table. Oopsie, so we retired to my house with a glass of wine and continued talking until after 10:15. That's what happens when we don't get together that often.

Whether it was the conversation, the wine, the food, the race, the pollen-stuffed lungs or something else, I was wired (ha! betcha thought I was going to say I couldn't stay awake!) and jittery and didn't bother going to bed until close to 1 am. I tossed and turned and dragged myself out of bed early Sunday morning and set to the day's chores.

Sunday was mom's day, and we shuttled back and forth picking up more things that she decided she needs to have. She's slowly cramming her new apartment full to the rafters (figuratively; there are no rafters where she lives) and the old house still has enough stuff in it to furnish another apartment. I'm trying not to think about having to sort what's left, but at least we're not in a horrible hurry to do that. I think my mom still hopes that someday she'll be able to go live there again. Yeah, that'll be right around when they invent those youth pills we've been told about or when someone discovers the Fountain of Youth.

Frequently when I go to a store these days there's someone with a petition for something. "Don't let your freedom to [whatever] be taken away, sign now!" or "No representation, we must be able to vote on [whatever] now!" or "Save the [parks/taxes/children/animals] now!" they say, "add these to the upcoming election." The only petition I'd sign is one I haven't seen yet. That would be the one creating an 8th day of the week, to fall on the weekend between Saturday and Sunday. I'd call it "Momday" but I'm willing to let someone else pick the name if that isn't acceptable. "Momday" will be a day for people to take that extra step for their family members, either the elderly or the young. The day would be spent either with the family member, or for the family member's behalf. It would still leave a 2 day weekend for recreation and errands and housework. C'mon, wouldn't YOU sign that petition?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Forecast: rainy, windy and cranky

I was sure winter would be over by now. In many places rain is a sign of spring and growth and birth and blah blah. Here it's a sign of, well, rain. Those of us who look forward to getting over our Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) assume the Bay Area's weather will be mostly clear and dry from March until late fall or winter. We know the fog we get only lasts a couple of days. But this rain in April stuff? Unnatural. Makes me want to hibernate. Or yell at someone.

I had a great 18 mile run on Saturday, before this latest storm hit. Anita, Bree and I met up again in Lafayette to run on the Lafayette-Moraga Trail (which has become my go-to place for long runs) (and short runs). Since she's coming back from a bit of a layoff, Bree only ran about 1-1/2 miles with us. Anita and I continue to almost the end of the trail, about 7.2 miles, then turned around and ran back to mile 1, looped back to 3 and ran it on in. We started slowly, finished slowly, and ran slowly in the middle.

The weather on Saturday was cool and overcast and very windy. It was the swirly type of wind which meant whichever way we ran, we had a headwind. A couple of miles we managed a small tail wind or cross wind, which was nice. There were a few sprinkles but not enough to get us drenched or frozen. Actually not a bad day to run, notwithstanding the high pollen counts.

I'm concerned about my speed. Rather, I'm concern about the lack thereof. I truly don't mind going slowly, being slow, taking so long. But there's a 6 hour cut-off for my next marathon and I'm currently running slowly enough that it's going to be very very close. Even if I'm able to (1) maintain a consistent speed and (2) not stop at a bathroom, I'm going to be right at the wire. I have 2 more long runs and a bunch of short ones before then so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. But with a hilly course I might be doomed. Ok, that's a bit dramatic. I might not make the cutoff, which would annoy me terribly.

I spent the rest of Saturday with my mom (and managed to stay awake the entire time) and that gave me Sunday to spend by myself, for myself. I love those days which I can take my time doing whatever I want, as long as I know I complete the tasks that must be completed. I cleaned my house, did many tubs of laundry, waited hours and hours for my laundry to dry (I really need a new washer and dryer), read, napped and knit. Really, how perfect is that?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring unsprung

I have to keep checking my calendar to confirm that it is not, in fact, January. I look outside and see the pouring rain and blustery winds and my confusion is reasonable. The fact that I keep thinking it's October is not reasonable. That's plain old craziness.

After last week's fiasco of a race I had a lovely run on Saturday. The plan was to run 18 miles in Alameda to train for the New Jersey Marathon. At about mile 11 I changed that plan. Saturday early morning was cold and hazy and as we ran the cold wind picked up. I felt good, much better than the past Sunday, for no reason that I could discern. Anita and I chatted our way along the shoreline, running slowly but consistently, and at about mile 9 realized we were getting a little tired. Since we were in no hurry we slowed down even more, changing our intervals from 9:1 to 4:1.

Somewhere around mile 11 I decided that I felt much too good to continue running; I wanted to end the run on a high note instead of beating myself up running 18 miles. I thought that accelerating my training schedule wasn't one of my smarter ideas. Sure, I could do it, but how good would I be feeling at my real goal race in Vermont? My end decision was to not run 18, to not spend about $1,000 running an extra race (even if it would give me another state), not to beat myself up more than I had originally planned. That decision made our last mile much better and in fact, it turned out that it was our fastest mile of the day. Go figure.

I'm very happy with that decision even though it means that next weekend I'll be running that 18 miles. I'm planning on that 18, two weeks later to run 20, two weeks after that 22, then the traditional 3 week taper before the race. That way I can run a half marathon on April 17, which I've been wanting to do. I have 2 months before a marathon instead of one month and my body thanks me for it.

Although I've been bitching and moaning about the rain, at least for several hours afterward the pollen is damped down and not making my allergies so whacked out. Also, the wildflowers are glorious and will remain so for a bit longer. I'm not really pushing for those 98 degree runs, or blazing sun, but it would sure be different!