Sunday, May 30, 2010

Half Marathons galore!!

Tomorrow I am running my 10th half marathon. And will complete my 11th next Saturday. What???  Really??? I had to sit down and think about it to count how many I have done.  Here is the list.

1) America’s Finest City Half Marathon-  August 2008--  My first half marathon (ironically, two months after my first marathon).  I was hoping to finish under two hours.  I came pretty close. 2:04:37
2) Carlsbad Half Marathon- January 2009—I still count this as one of my favorite runs ever.  It was the first race where I felt like I ran it on my terms.  It didn’t hurt that I blew my PR away by twelve minutes!  1:52:46
3) La Jolla Half Marathon- April 2009—I was right in the middle of training for my second marathon, so I didn’t want to push too hard.  This is known as a very difficult and hilly course and I wanted to run it smart.  I felt extremely good about my sub-two hour time.  1:56:39
4) America’s Finest City Half Marathon-August 2009 I was looking for redemption.  It kicked my butt the year before and I wanted to feel in control.  I had helped a large group of my friends train for this race, so my focus was less on my time and more on the experience.  This is probably my favorite race experience.  Even though I ran the race by myself, the time before and after the race was the most fun I had had.  I didn’t have a perfect race, but it was a great day.  1:56:13
5) Kaiser Permanente Southern California Half Marathon- January 2010—a last minute decision to run this.  My friend Heidi was running her first half and we carpooled.  It was a PR surprise!  I was training for my third marathon and I guess I had some good conditioning.  1:49:48
6) Palos Verdes Half Marathon- May 2010—This was a couple of weeks ago and I did better than I expected for such a difficult course.  Once again, it was a last minute decision and I wasn’t training for it specifically. 1:53:19
7), 8) and 9)I am counting three races as half marathons (since the Half Marathon Fanatics count them).  The Winter Trail Series 21K*, the Malibu Creek 25K and the XTerra Malibu Creek Challenge 22K are all half marathon  distance or longer.

I am planning on joining the Half Marathon Fanatics as soon as my budget allows.**  After running tomorrow’s race in Laguna Hills, as well as next Saturday’s half marathon in Fontana, I will qualify for the Saturn level, which is four half  marathons within a 37 day period (I’ll be doing four in 30 days).

So when did a half marathon become a spur-of-the-moment thing?  It used to be something on my calendar months in advance.  Now it is something I can run on a given weekend.  It serves as a nice tempo run.   I like that!

Since I am not specifically training for it, I don’t have high hopes for a PR, especially since it is another hilly, hilly course.  My goal tomorrow is to finish under two hours, hopefully under 1:55 again.  I didn’t do any sort of taper (I ran 8 miles yesterday), so I am not sure how strong my legs will be.  I’d like to get close to my PR next week, since the race is billed as “the fastest half marathon in the world.”  Once again, I am not doing any taper (running a half five days before), so my legs won’t be super fresh.  We will see.

I hope you are all enjoying the long weekend.  Happy running….

*this one may or may not count.  Technically, 21k is slightly less than 13.1 miles.  However, according to the race director, this race measured slightly longer than 21k.  I am counting it as a half marathon.  :-)
**I received some money for my birthday that was to be earmarked for things I wanted, but didn’t need, to do.  I chose to run a few races.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Back in the swing of things

I went from practically no running last week to running over 40 this week.*  I can’t really pat myself on the back for my motivation.  My added mileage this week is mostly due to me not wanting to let my friends down.  It is good, although I vaguely remember a story told in my RRCA training program of a guy (or is it a dog?) who never says no to a run and ends up burning out.  I won’t let that happen.

My friend Heidi texted me Sunday to see if I wanted to run during our kids’ dance class the next day.  I had run a good 9.5 miles Sunday, but didn’t run on Saturday.  Even though I don’t normally run on Mondays, I thought it would be a good idea.  Then later that night, my friend Kelly (who happens to be Heidi’s sister) texted me and asked if I would do a long run with her Monday early.  She had missed doing a long run on the weekend and is planning a half marathon next week and wanted to get in some mileage.  Since I am encouraging her to do it, I felt like I should run with her.  We ran almost nine miles before 7 a.m.**

When I got to dance class, I knew that Heidi was ready to go for a run.  I knew if I didn’t go with her, she wouldn’t go.  I had promised her first and it wouldn’t be fair to blow her off because I ran with Kelly earlier.  Heidi and I ran a little over three miles, giving me close to 12 miles for the morning.

I ran another eight miles on Wednesday before 7 a.m., as well as my normal five miles on Thursday.
I am aware that I can do too much.  I have been listening to my body and actually told Kelly no for a longer run on Thursday.  I knew that I had had enough.

I am liking that my running buddies are kicking it up a notch.  It helps to motivate me.  Knowing that Kelly is meeting me in the pre-dawn darkness to run is a good reason to drag myself out of bed.  I can’t let her down.  Now that I know that starting at 5 a.m. is not only possible, but pleasant, I am confident I can get those extra miles in over these next few months.

Happy running…

*this depends on the length of my run tomorrow morning, but we are planning on running 8-9 miles, which will bring my weekly total to around 43.
**Kelly did less since I ran home from her house, which is about 3/4 of a mile.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

wimpy or smart?

I haven’t run since Tuesday.  I’ve been sick and I hate it.  Wednesday, I was down for the count and couldn’t do anything.  Thursday I felt a little better, but there was still no way I could run.  Friday I was well enough to walk my son to school and teach Stroller Strides, but still didn’t run.  That brings me to today.  The body aches and fever have given way to a good old fashioned head cold.  I know I have run with a worse cold, but again today, I didn’t run.


So am I smart to give myself a break to get better or a wimp for finding excuses not to run?  I don’t feel committed enough to this training cycle.  I am running a 31 mile race in less than three months and I am nowhere near where I should be.  Where is that drive to get those longer and longer runs?

I am planning on running in the morning.  I don’t know where or for how long.  I really want to go out on the trails, but I am a bit nervous about running by myself on the trails during rattlesnake season.  I just think I am less likely to encounter one if I am chatting with a friend.  Plus, there is another set of eyes to make sure I don’t step near one.  It is my biggest fear.

I hope that I am well enough to have a good run.  I am ready to be healthy again.

I hope you are all having a great weekend.  Happy running…

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Palos Verdes Half Marathon Race Report

This was a last minute race for me.  I had been thinking about it for a while.  I have it penciled into my schedule as a possible race.  I decided to run it sometime on Thursday because I knew I needed to get a good, solid long run in and wasn’t sure I had the motivation to do it by myself.  I didn’t register, but knew that they had race day registration available.  Then I received a text from Rod that he, Jeff and Joan were running it and would I like to ride with them.  Yippee!!  I was excited that I didn’t have to drive 45 minutes by myself and hang out for an hour before the race.

Palos Verdes half marathon 1We met at 5:30 to drive down there.  It was chilly, but not cold. I ended up wearing a tank top, my arm warmers and shorts and was completely comfortable throughout the race.  It stayed overcast in the upper 50’s the entire time.  Perfect running weather.

I started out running with Rod.  We have very similar PR’s, but he is just Palos Verdes half marathon start faster than I am.  I knew that we could definitely push each other.  It was a bit crowded in the beginning where we had to walk for a bit until it opened up, but we got into a rhythm fairly soon.  We went out faster than I normally would, but I thought that I might be able to keep it up.  Could I get a PR?  Hmmm…   Rod offered to slow down when I commented that our first mile was 8:13 (even with the slow start), but I wanted to see what we could do.

The second mile started to climb, but we kept pushing the pace.  We kept up our pace and were average under my PR pace of 8:19.  We ran the second mile in 8:23.

But that is when it started to get steep; really steep.  I wasn’t even really warmed up (it often takes me a few miles to really feel warmed up) and the course turned on to Western Ave which was quite a climb.  I knew I needed to slow down.  My pace slowed down closer to ten minute miles.  I saw Rod start to get ahead of me.  I knew we had over ten miles to go and I didn’t want to kill myself by trying to keep up with him.  As I saw him get farther up the hill ahead of me, I hoped I could catch him toward the end. At the very top, I stopped briefly at the water station, even though I was carrying my own water.  I gave myself permission to stop to gather myself before continuing on. Mile three was 9:42, the slowest of the day.

Palos Verdes Trump National Golf CourseThe course then flattened out for a bit.  That next mile was full of rolling hills, which weren’t nearly as bad.  The scenery was wonderful and I even pulled my phone out to snap a picture.  That is Trump National Golf Course in the distance.  I ran mile four in 8:26.

Then we hit the longest downhill of the day.  It felt great, except for the fact that I knew that I would have to come up that hill toward the end of the race.  I really wanted to take advantage of that downhill, however, to bank some time.  Mile five was the fastest of the day: 7:41—woo hoo!

It continued with the gradual downhill for close to another mile.  That was followed with some steep, short rollers.  The turn-around came and I had to do those rollers again.  Mile six and seven were 8:17 and 8:20.

I’ve decided that I actually like out-and-back courses. but only when I am running with other people.  I love being able to see all my friends.  I was able to see Jeff, who was about ten minutes ahead of me.  I saw that Rod was a couple minutes ahead of me and Joan was about ten minutes behind me.  I also was able to see Penny and give her a high five.  During the time before and after the turn-around, looking for my friends was a great distraction from running.

Miles eight, nine and ten slowed down again (8:54, 9:38 and 9:13) as the course went back up the hill (remember those zippy miles in miles five, six and seven?).  At the end of mile nine (the second slowest of the race) I could see the top of the long incline (so I thought).  I told myself that I would have my last Gu at the top.  When I reached the point, I discovered that it was merely a turn in the road and it continued up for another half mile!  Holy hell!  Why didn’t I pay more attention on the way down???

The last three miles were mostly downhill (8:25, 7:50 and 8:33).  The steep hill on Western Avenue wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be (although, I did haul some booty with a sub-8 mile.  woo hoo!).  While I am getting better at the downhills, at the end of a tough run, I felt like my feet were pounding the pavement.  Even though another runner warned me earlier, I completely forgot that the race started with a gradual decline (maybe that is why that first mile was so fast).  Well, during the last mile of a hard-run half marathon, an incline, even a gradual one, is disheartening.  I like to put on the gas during the last mile of a race, but that last bit felt really hard.  When I finally saw the finish I gave it everything I had.  I saw Jeff on the sideline cheering me in and I gave my last bit of steam to cross the finish.  I had the volunteer tear off the bottom of my bib, since I couldn’t even get my hands to work.

My official results:
Time: 1:53:19
Overall: 268/1118
Race Palos Verdes Half Marathon 5-15-2010, Elevation - Time
This was one of the hardest races I have run.  The trail races* are technically harder, but there is so much less pressure to run fast (and therefore, I ran them an hour slower). This was very similar to La Jolla Half in terms of hill climbing.  La Jolla has a longer hill, and this one has two big hills.  I’ve looked at the elevation profiles and can’t tell which one is more difficult.  Either way, I am happy to have run this one three minutes faster than La Jolla, which I ran in 1:56:39.  I am happy to be only four minutes off my half marathon PR (1:49) on a course like this.  In fact, I have only run two half marathons faster than I did on Saturday (Carlsbad and Southern California).

La Jolla Half Marathon 4-26-2009, Elevation - Time
Despite the difficulty of the course, I can definitely see myself doing this race again.  I actually enjoyed it and felt a sense of accomplishment after finishing strong.

Once again, thanks for reading.  And happy running...

*Malibu Creek 22K, Malibu Creek 25K, and the Winter Trail Series 21K races had insane elevation profiles and rough terrain.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Xterra Malibu Creek 22K Race Report

Holy cow…I can’t believe it has been two weeks since I have posted anything.  I have a few in my “drafts” but my creative juices just haven’t been flowing nor the motivation to finish them.  Well, what better inspiration for a blog post than a race?

Saturday morning I ran the Xterra Malibu Creek Challenge.  Challenge was the operative word.

It was a challenge to get up in the morning.  It was one of those nights when I wake up every hour, looking at the clock to make sure I didn’t oversleep.  When the alarm did go off, I was so tried.  I got up, drank my Zip Fizz, at my Luna bar and got ready to go.

It was a challenge getting there on time.  I did get there on time, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time (it turns out I cut it a bit closer than I would like).  It was a long drive.  I tried to get some of my friends to drive up with me to run it, but they either had plans or didn’t want to run that far.  There was a 6K race, but that is a long way to drive to run only a 6K.  I left a little later than I had planned and luckily the freeways were empty and I made great time getting up there.  It took me just over an hour.
Xterra malibu creek race pic 2
Another runner took a picture for me.  An incredible setting!
It was a challenge finding a bathroom!  After getting my bib etc., I needed to take care of business one last time before the race.  There aren’t any facilities along the way and I knew I couldn’t wait three hours to go.  This was in a state park and there were bathroom facilities throughout, but they were LOCKED.   WTF??  There were two bathrooms unlocked in a little building that had four.  Why unlock half of the restrooms in one little outhouse and not the other two??  I was told in the very long line that there were a couple of porta potties by the starting line, but the line was three times as long as the one I was standing in.  The minutes ticked by and race time was quickly approaching.  This was not a chip timed event and while I did not feel that my time would matter in the long run, I wanted an accurate reflection of my race.  So I decided that I had to use the bushes.  Lovely.

It was a challenge finding the starting line.  After my impromptu commune with nature, I ran to the registration/starting area.  My watch said 7:30, so it should be starting any second.  I couldn’t see the starting line.  I didn’t see a crowd, so I assumed they had started already.  I asked around and was pointed down a trail to the beginning of the race.  After heading into the woods and down some steps, I found the crowd of runners.  Phew!!  I didn’t miss it.
xterra malibu creek starting line
You may recall that I ran in Malibu Creek two months ago in the PCTR trail series.  Saturday’s race was basically the same course, only backwards.  It was a little over a mile shorter by virtue of the different starting/finishing area.   The XTerra race was bigger.  There were a lot more people.  It made for a completely different race experience.  XTerra had 435 finishers while PCTR had less than 125 (just under 200 total if you count the 50Kers too).  Such a large field made it very interesting.
xterra malibu creek self portrait
It was a challenge getting into a rhythm in the beginning.  The mass start of all the runners was fun, but very crowded.  We did a bit of shuffling in the beginning.  We headed up a somewhat wide hiking path.  We didn’t hit the single track for about a mile and a half, thank goodness.  Still, I was right on the heels of the person in front of me and there was someone right on my heels.  We didn’t spread out until we hit the steep Bulldog Road.  I guess, since there are no chips, there is no way to send the runners out in waves.  That would have been so nice.

Bulldog was a challenge.  It was hot (with very little shade) and steep.  It was a fire road that seemed to go up forever.  Just went I thought we were approaching the top, the trail switched back and went up some more.  The grade was often around 20%.  I just tried to power walk and run when the terrain flattened out.  At one point I told myself that if I approached someone and wanted to pass them, I needed to run to do so.  It was a nice incentive to get me moving.  Near the top, just when I thought that I wanted to give up, a volunteer left a message that really perked me up.  Whoever this pre-runner was, he/she was awesome.  In addition to the flour arrows to make sure we didn’t take a wrong turn, this person left random smiley faces (and in one case a frowny face) on the course.
xterra malibu creek almost top of bulldog

Some runners found Gu wrappers a challenge.  When I run and eat a Gu (or anything else that has a wrapper) I hold onto it until I can properly dispose of it.  I usually just cram the empty wrapper in my bra.  During Surf City, I stashed them in my arm warmer.   On Saturday, I was appalled to see these things littering the trail.  Are these elite athletes who are going for a world record and a big purse?  I don’t think so!  I picked one up and stuffed it in my bra (which isn’t the most comfortable thing).  Later, I picked up another one.   I ended up picking up SEVEN wrappers discarded by selfish runners.  And I know I missed several when it wasn’t easy for me to stop.  IF YOU ARE SOMEONE WHO DUMPS HIS/HER TRASH DURING A RUN, PLEASE STOP.  Come on, people…. who do you think is going to pick these up??  This is a trail  in the wilderness, not an urban road with street sweepers*.  Even worse than the Gu packets were the little tabs from the top of them.  They are small enough that an animal might eat them.  Occasionally, I would see a wrapper next to a mile marker.  I can forgive that, since someone will be there to pick that up.   But these are still volunteers and why should they have to pick up your spit-laden waste??  I thought that people that ran in trail races did so because of their appreciation for the great outdoors and the beauty of the trail.  How can they have such a disregard for it?  As you can tell, this is a huge hot button for me.  Littering is such a disgusting, selfish thing.  I hate it when I see it on the roads and even more so out in nature.  OK… rant done.  Back to the race report.
xterra malibu creek top of bulldog
Xterra malibu creek race pic 4 Xterra malibu creek race pic 5
A nice runner offered to take a picture when I stopped to get a picture of the view near the top of Bulldog.
The weather was a challenge.  It was much hotter than I had anticipated.  When I pulled up to the park around 6:45, it was pretty chilly (in the upper 40’s, I think).  I knew it would warm up, so I wore my tank top and then slipped on my arm warmers at the last minute.  Um, yeah… I had to take those things off in the first two miles.  I tied them around my awesome new iFitness belt and kept going.  It must have been humid, because it didn’t take long for sweat to start running down my face.  I decided to take a couple of Endurolytes and I’m glad I did.  I ended up taking four all together and still started cramping a bit at the end.  I am sure the Endurolytes (and the Gatorade at the aid stations) helped me.  I carried my own water and refilled it at an aid station half way through.  Thank goodness for my handheld.  The logistics of the course made the aid stations few and far between.  There were two in the first two miles and then not another one until almost mile 7.
xterra malibu creek self portrait2
Xterra malibu creek race pic 6

Did I mention that the hills were a challenge?  The downhills were almost as hard as the uphills.  At least I am getting better at running downhill on the trails.  People would pass me going up (note to self: hill repeats) and then I would pass them going down.  At first it was fun and free to fly down the trail.  It started getting harder and harder.  There was a long stretch of downhill grade with no flat spots or inclines.  You would think that would be a welcome relief to the endless climbing, but I was starting to yearn for a leveling off.  I read in an article that trying to slow down or “braking” on the hills is worse than just going with it.  I tried to relax and run down the hill.  The slope was pretty rocky and I did roll my ankles a couple of times.  Luckily, I didn’t really injure them, but they are pretty sore still today.  I was building speed and slowing down took effort.
When the bulk of the downhill ended, we hit a road.  During the PCTR race, we didn’t run on this road, but crossed the creek instead.  That would have been a welcome relief.  I would have enjoyed the cold water on my legs and I didn’t particularly like running on the shoulder of a somewhat busy road.  At least we didn’t have to run on it for long.  We soon turned into the park area and then into a single track section.

Single track was a challenge.  In the beginning of the race, we were bottlenecked in the single track, but people were moving pretty quickly.  At the end of the race, it seemed like everyone was walking up the single track incline.  I am not saying that I would have scurried up quickly, but I am pretty sure that I would have run a bit more than I did.  Passing was a difficult task.  I did pass several people where the trail widened a bit, but there was often a line of about six people.  If I passed one, I probably needed to muster the energy to pass the group.  It was easier to sit back and follow.  The frustrating thing was that when the trail headed back downhill toward the finish (one mile to go), the people in front of me were moving in an easy jog.  I really wanted to push it on this section, but it was nearly impossible.  Once we got to the bottom, near the campgrounds, it opened up and I passed at least six people.  There was a volunteer there telling us that there was on 4/10 of a mile left.   I turned it on.

I crossed the finish line in 2:50.  My Garmin shows a 12:01 average pace.  I was hoping to average under 12:00, but I’ll take it.  My main goal was to finish under three hours, so I was happy.  The official results show a 12:29 pace, which is what it would be for a 22K.  This course was longer than 22K; even the race director told us that.  It was just over 14 miles (a 22K is 13.6 miles).

Overall: 244/435
Women 40-44: 15/38

It wasn’t my best showing, but it taught me that I have a lot of hill training to do.

The food spread afterward was great.  They had several types of fruit, muffins and scrambled eggs.  They also had grilled burgers, which really hit the spot.  The only thing missing for me was an ice cold Coke.  I love cold soda after a dusty trail run.  There is only so much water and Gatorade I can drink. 
Getting home was definitely a challenge!  Where it took an hour to get there from my house, it took twice that to get home.  I have no idea where so many people were going on a Saturday afternoon, but driving through LA was pure torture.  It wasn’t that bad in March when I did that drive, I’m not sure what was going on to make traffic that bad!  It wasn’t just one freeway… it was all of them in two counties.  Geesh.

All in all, it was a good day.  It was a good race with great volunteers.  My only suggestions would be more bathrooms, better signage at the start and more medals (while I received mine, they ran out of medals for the later runners).  I wasn’t super pleased with my performance, but I was glad I did it.  I never would have done a tough 14 mile run on my own and I needed to kick up my training somehow.  I always love running on the trails and love other trail runners.  This was a gorgeous trail on a gorgeous southern California day.  What more can I ask for?

Happy Running.

*And you shouldn’t be throwing trash on urban roads with street sweepers!!


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