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.