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!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New routine in training

My personal trainer switches her trainee's routines on the first of the month. That meant that the old routine, the one I was just getting to be able to do, is mostly out the window. I was a little apprehensive and a lot excited about the change, just looking forward to something new.

Of course, the first exercise this morning was almost my last. Hold a ball (10 pounds? I don't really remember) and squat. At the top of the squat jump a little, raise the ball and thrust it over your head; catch the ball and lower while squatting. If you're picturing this correctly, you see a loose ball hovering over my head for a second or two. Further, you see the loose ball slipping through my fingers and clonking me on the forehead. Ow. At least that part only happened once, in the middle of the first set. Still, ouch.

Superset these with traveling lunges. That means climb the stairs, lunge along the walkway, climb down the other set of stairs. Be very careful of the bad knee. Watch your balance. Don't knock your trainer over the railing. Avoid other people doing their own workouts in the same area.

We're sticking with push-ups. I've been doing them on the bar railing and doing them well (ok, I've been doing the first couple of sets well, the third set notsomuch). I decided to see if I could now do a girly push-up on the floor. Bended knees and lookie there! It wasn't pretty, it wasn't totally down to the floor (... or close to the floor) but I went down several inches and back up, 10 times, before I collapsed. The next 20 repeats were back with the bar, and I did 3 sets that way. My goal is to ace the modified girly push-ups, get to true girly push-ups, then to modified real push-ups, then to a full set of real push-ups. Maybe by the end of the year.

Along with those are the twists with the 10 pound medicine ball. It's the one place on my body where I can actually see a small difference since I've been working out, so I'm glad to continue with them. But boy, that ball gets heavy and I get dizzy after twisting for a minute.

But that's not all! In the challenging to me department, Katie introduced another floor exercise. Lie on my back, arms and legs extended, hands holding big ball. V-up, switch ball to feet, lower arms and legs to floor. Repeat and switch ball to hands, lower. Yup, there was ball droppage involved here too. At least this big ball wasn't painful when it landed, just frustrating. I was not able to complete full sets of those without modifications so I'm looking forward to August 31st when there's been improvement.

Oh wait - somewhere in there were mountain climbers too. I can do full sets of those now without falling on my face, but when she extends the time on them there's still a chance of collapse. Hopefully I'll get strong (and balanced) enough that I'll improve quickly.

As a last treat there was running up the stairs and coming down. People who know me well know that stairs are not exactly my forte. This is a coordination and balance thing, along with a bit of vertigo. But I'm tough! I can do it! There was no grace or delicacy involved, probably looked like a drunk elephant lumbering upward, but I got it done.

I don't think you can convince me that this workout only lasted 50 minutes. Sky-high heart rate, trembling limbs, flushed and drippy face. Jeez, no wonder I never wanted to work out in public. (Note: running in public is different; I don't care in the least how I look when, or after, I run.) This whole gym-going, personal training thing is eye opening (especially when a ball is dropping on said eyes) in many ways. I'm glad I'm doing it.

Now I need a nap.