Sunday, January 31, 2010

The inevitable mid-taper discussion on pace....

As you know, I am running a marathon next weekend.  Maybe you don't know.   Many of the people in my "real" life don't even know.  I have been surprisingly low-key about this marathon.  Even my husband has been saying things like, "oh, your marathon is next weekend?"  Rather than obsessing all along (like I did for both San Diego marathons) I only recently started to think about it.

So now, as if to make up for lost time, I am thinking about the race quite a bit.   And, of course, thoughts are often of my race plan and what my goals are.  I have yet to have an "on" day on marathon day.  I have had a couple of "on" days for half marathons.  I know all too well how fickle the running gods can be.  You train and train and have spectacular runs and then have something go wrong on the big day (cramps, tummy issues etc.).  Of course, everyone in my house is sick right now.  Great.  No hugs and kisses for Mommy.  Like that is going to happen.

So, unlike a 5K, where you can go all out and see how fast you can run, a marathon needs to be planned out more.  I know from experience the pain that occurs from going out too fast.  And you often don't know what too fast is until it is too late.  Last year in the marathon, I started out fast, but not super fast.  I ran the first six miles or so around 8:50, which isn't particularly fast for me (although it is BQ pace for my age).  In fact, I can run thirteen miles faster than that.  However, on that day, it was too fast and I knew it before the halfway point.  But HOW do you know?  I had no indication that it was too fast during the first few miles.  In fact, I felt fantastic.

So how do I know??

According to the charts, using my recent half marathon PR, I should be able to run a marathon in just over 3:50.  McMillan shows that the equivalent effort of a 1:49:48 half marathon should be a 3:51:34 marathon (which is :35 seconds off qualifying for Boston).  My RRCA charts show a similar time.  I'm not sure I buy it.  The same charts say that last year, I should have been able to run the marathon in 3:54.  I finished over twenty minutes slower than that!

So the question is really how aggressive to I attack this marathon?  I am better prepared than I was in May, but not as prepared as I had planned to be.  I scheduled three twenty milers and was able to run almost two*.  I scheduled hill repeats and speed workouts every week and have not done them much at all lately.

I could go out easy (around a 9:30 pace) and almost guarantee myself a PR.**  I could do negative splits and perhaps even finish in the low four hour mark.  But that strategy seems like something that may have me thinking afterward, "what if."   A 4:04 (a 9:20 pace) is a GREAT time, but if I go out super easy, it is very possible that I will leave some extra minutes out on the course.  If would be a shame to get that close knowing that I could have pushed harder.

So I think I have formulated a running plan in my head.  I am going to try to keep the first miles just over 9:00.  A 9:07 average, or even 9:10,  would be perfect for the first half or so.  That will leave me within striking distance of the sub-four goal.  If I start to lose my momentum, I can slow it to a more comfortable pace, giving myself a decent PR.  However, keep in mind that my average for the first half in May was exactly 9:10 and I lost a LOT of time in the second half.  There are definitely no guarantees.

So there it is... a rambling post about how I want to run this race.  I don't have a lot of expectations for this race.  I am really hoping that I have a positive experience and can claim it as my "marathon redemption," sub-four or no sub-four.

*I ran one twenty miler and another miserable 19 miler.
**My PR is 4:16:10, which is  9:47 pace.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Beautiful Blogger (7 things that make me happy)

I was tagged by Jill to write 7 things that make me happy.  It might seem cliche, but most of the things on my list will have something to do with my kids.

1) "Mama... I love you."

2) My son's smile and dimples (it is apparent that he is starting to look more and more like my handsome husband).

3) My daughter's "performances" (this includes dancing, singing and dressing up)

4) Getting mail (packages, cards, you name it...except, of course, bills or solicitations)

5) Trying something new (or going to a new place).

6) Getting a PR! (in a race or any other personal best)

7) The consistency of the love in my marriage (through the ups and downs of our lives, it is so comforting to know that one person is always there for me and I for him)

Now I am supposed to tag seven people.  Unfortunately, most of my "peeps" have already been tagged, including everyone that Jill tagged along with me.
1) Kristin at Running With the Runner Girl
2) Runner Mom
3) Rachael at The Beginning Runner's Blog
4) Angela
5) Glenn at Running Fat Guy    Oops... I just remembered reading your things that make you happy.  Feel free to list more.... or ignore this tag.  ;-)
6) Irene at Magazine Smiles
7) Emilie at I Came to Run

*Like Jill, this tag reminded me of a tag that went around about a year and a half ago.  It was interesting to go back and read mine, as well as some from my fellow bloggers.   Here is my post from that tag:  Six Random Things

Monday, January 25, 2010

Oh Southern California, how I love you so!!

In many places I have lived throughout the country, I had to resign myself to months of winter.  I remember several months at a time of grey, drizzly weather in the Pacific Northwest.  So a big storm was often followed with more of the same.  In the Midwest, a storm would leave piles of snow that turned grey and black from cars and exhaust.  Then there would be the dirty, grimy slush that inevitably followed.  At least in Reno, a storm was often followed by cold, clear weather, which made for great skiing.   But Southern California is the best!  After a week of a miserable storm, we were treated with a weekend of spring weather.   It was enough to recharge my soul and prepare me for the next round of rain due to hit us tomorrow.  We don't need to wait for Groundhog's Day in February to tell us when spring is coming; around here, we just need to wait it out for a week or two.

Yesterday, I headed down to Huntington Beach and ran a good chunk of the Surf City course.  It was a PERFECT day at the beach.  As I passed scores of runners, I wondered which ones I would be running with in two weeks.  Many people were donning Surf City shirts from years past.  I love the long sleeve technical shirts and can't wait to get mine.

On the schedule was sixteen miles.  The plan was to warm up for two miles and then run twelve miles at "race pace," ending with two miles of cool-down.  I started out feeling great.  My fist mile was faster than a warm-up really should be.  I ran it in 9:20.  I slowed down a bit and ran the second in 9:35.

The next miles I was hoping to run at a pace right around 9:00/mile.  A sub-four marathon is 9:10, but I would hope to keep it closer to 9:05.  I still haven't decided if I am even going to go for it.  That is the subject of another post, however.  I ran the next six miles at a pace between 8:47 and 9:00/mile.  Mile 9 was just over 9:00, but I am pretty sure that was when I ate a Gu and checked a map*.

I ran through the Huntington Beach Central Park where I saw some storm damage.  There was a huge tree over the path that looked like it was hit by lightning. I wish I would have stopped to take a picture of it, but I was in a groove at that point.  I ran around the lake and then back into the streets of Huntington Beach.

I ran along the Bolsa Chica wetlands.  I had been looking forward to it, since I had read several accounts that it is filled with a ton of birds and other wildlife.  I was a bit underwhelmed.  I guess I expected a beautiful reserve.  Instead I saw this:

Don't get me wrong, it is nice and I am sure the wildlife is impressive.  What I didn't really love were the oil drills every few hundred feet.  And I expected more vegetation, I suppose, instead of the vast expanse of sand and water.  It was nice running for a bit on a trail, but I think I would prefer the canyons out by my house.

When I got back to the beach, I was starting to feel tired.  Mile 11 was the slowest of my "pace" miles (9:07).  I was starting to fatigue and there were several spots where sand covered the path.  The sand was tough to run through and I don't think it was very good for my foot/ankle that was starting to really bother me.

Do you ever notice people who pass you on a running route who look like they are barely working?  I mean, I am pushing to maintain a pace and someone looks SO relaxed and comfortable zipping past you.  I don't get it.  A couple of times I tried to fall into step with some runners.  They looked so relaxed, how hard could it be to catch up?  Unfortunately, I picked a guy who is 6'2 first, so his easy stride doubles mine.  It gets frustrating.  I feel like I look like I am sprinting while these other runners gently cruise by me, fast enough for me to feel the wind from them.

So I focused on passing other runners or keeping up with faster ones, in order to keep from getting bored.  I was tired by this point and ready to be done.  How am I going to go twenty-six miles in two weeks?  I decided to see if I still had a little juice in the tank for mile 14.  I ran that last "pace" mile in 8:20.  THAT'S what I'm talking about.  I wanted to be done, so instead of "cooling down" I ran miles 15 and 16 in 8:39 and 9:12.  Overall, I averaged around 9:00 for all sixteen miles.  Not bad!  The problem is that I don't think I could keep that up for another ten miles.  Maybe with a nice taper and not running eight miles the day before.  Who knows?  But that is a discussion best left to another post.

All in all, it was a gorgeous Southern California day and it did wonders for my outlook. I am ready for the next wave of rain!   And I am definitely excited to run Surf City!

Happy running everyone.

*I recently upgraded to a smart phone.  It was a complete splurge as I do not have any justifiable reason for a fancy phone.  My husband, however, does.  When he bought his Motorola Droid, Verizon was offering a Droid Eris for free.  Score!  It was a bit of a Christmas present for myself.  I LOVE being able to look up my mapped run and determine where I am without carrying a crumpled up piece of paper.  

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What a difference a day makes!

 This is the view from my patio this morning.

The rain has stopped (for now) and it is a GORGEOUS morning.  I went out for a run with the girls.  It was COLD (upper 30's, low 40's, which is very cold for us), but I felt great.  We took it easy and chatted the whole way.   I goofed and forgot to start my Garmin after a break, so I don't know our exact mileage or pace.  That's ok.

There were a TON of runners out this morning.  There were literally a hundred people along the river path.  We saw a couple of running groups and dozens of individuals, couples and trios.  It was like everyone in the area was chomping at the bit to take advantage of the break in the weather (they are predicting another storm on Monday).  There were some bicycles, but not many.  I am sure the bikers were hating it.  Runners were everywhere and often running two or three abreast.  I am sure it would be hard to get in a nice fast groove on a bike on a day like today.

I am actually looking forward to my long run tomorrow.  I am going to run sixteen miles down along the Surf City course in Huntington Beach.  I haven't looked forward to a long run like this in a while.  I guess those lazy rainy days paid off.  Or maybe the sunshine put new bounce in my step.  Whatever it is, I feel like a new person.

Happy Running.

p.s.  the mountains really make me want to go skiing!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)--   also known as winter depression or winter blues, is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or, less frequently, in the summer, repeatedly, year after year. ...
I'm not saying that I suffer from this, nor am I taking away from those who do.  But I do believe there is something to the lack of sunshine (or bright clouds even) and grumpy moods.  It has been raining pretty consistently for six days here.  That isn't too abnormal where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but it is very abnormal here.  I am not depressed, exactly, but I am definitely grumpier than normal.  And don't get me started on how I am eating this week.  Yikes.  Carbohydrate craving is a symptom listed for S.A.D.  Unfortunately, I am digging into leftover Halloween (yes, we still have some) and Christmas candy that is stashed in the pantry instead of the bagels or pasta.

I didn't start thinking about the weather affecting my mood until I started noticing Tweets and Facebook posts that sounded a lot like how I am feeling.  Several of my friends posted how they were grumpy and sick of the rain.  Many of us haven't been running as much as usual due to the weather and that also may be a factor.

I know that my friends in the Pacific Northwest or the Midwest are rolling their eyes at the "freak outs" that we have had here in Southern California.  But you have to admit, our weather here has been a bit "freak" worthy.  We have had weather that is more appropriate to Kansas in June than California in January.  We have had thunder and lightning and even tornadoes!  The rainfall this storm is more than the average January rainfall in Orange County, and this is the fourth separate storm this week.  In the last three days alone, we have had over four inches of rain.  Welcome El Nino!

Check out a couple of before and after picture I took down at the river.  The "before" pictures were taken on Sunday a couple hours after the rain started.  The "after" pictures were taken yesterday around noon (and it has been pouring ever since then).

The good news is that it is supposed to clear up this weekend.  I am planning on running both days.  Thank you for your comments regarding my long run.  I am going to run my planned sixteen miles and trust in my training.

I hope you all have a good weekend!  Happy Running.

Some pictures from my PR Half Marathon

This is what a PR looks like:

 During the race (are those wings on my head?? No... just my hair.  Geesh, I need to look in a mirror before I leave the house.  LOL)

On the final stretch--

 Crossing the finish line--


*I would like to give credit to Action Sports Images LLC for their pictures.  Unfortunately, my budget does not allow for $13 5X7 prints that I have no room for.  These companies should make pictures available for posting on social media for a small fee ($.99 or $1.99).  I think we'd all pay that rather than "stealing" the low resolution image.  A high resolution digital copy is $27.95....yikes.  This post showing just how goofy I look when I run would have cost me almost $200! 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

excuses, excuses....

I am not running right now because:
  • I didn't hear my alarm (although I did wake up in time)
  • it was pouring rain when I woke up (although it is not raining now)
  • I was worried about lightning (although the storm with lightning moved through yesterday)
  • I felt a little twinge in that foot that has been bothering me (ok... this one might be legitimate)
  • I'm tired (I should go to bed earlier)
  • I am having some sort of allergic reaction and my eyes itch and are swollen (this has nothing to do with my ability to run)
  • I am working in my son's classroom today and don't want to feel rushed getting everything/everyone together for school.
  • the dog ate my homework.
OK, OK... the real reason that I'm not running is that I just didn't feel like it.  I'm getting a little burned out on running five days a week and just didn't have it in me this morning.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed in life and usually my running makes me feel better.  This week it feels like yet another chore to add to the list.

This is not like me.  I'm the one who ran right through the holidays.  I wake up early on Saturday and Sunday instead of sleeping in (the only days possible to do so).  I run in the rain.  I run in the dark.

I wish I could take the whole day off.  But life is calling.  I'm off to get the kids dressed and off to school.

I hope you are all having a less grumpy day than I am and are getting in good runs for your soul.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Consistency of Change

This week was full of examples of how life sometimes gets in the way of my running.  Balance is a key theme to this training cycle.  It has taught me to be flexible and roll with the punches.  When you have two small children and a husband who works crazy hours, you take your running time when you can get it.

On Tuesday, I woke up to do a six mile recovery run.  I was getting ready to head out the door and Kenny woke up telling me that he had to be at work by 7 a.m. to prepare for his early meeting.  Since it was already 6, it didn't leave me a lot of time.  I didn't want to push the pace, since I had just run a half marathon, so I went out easy and just shortened the run.  I ran 3.81 miles.

Wednesday, I had a hard time waking up early.  It was raining and that really does a number on my motivation.  I dilly dallied doing my morning routine and left later than I would have liked.   I ended up running about four miles (I forgot to charge my Garmin, so that is a pretty good estimate).  The rain was pretty light and let up completely by the end.*  It felt nice, actually.  I think that, for me, the anticipation of running in the rain is worse than the reality.  It rains so rarely here, that it gets built up into more than it really is.

On Thursday, I was volunteering in my son's class while my daughter was in preschool.  I knew I had about an hour to kill after classroom time and before I had to pick him up, so I  planned on running in daylight.  I needed to make up some miles from the days before, so I went out for a short run before everyone woke up.  I ended up running three miles before 7 a.m. and almost six after my class time.  See what I mean about getting it in when I can?

Saturday is my day to run with the girls.  Kelly, Heidi and I ran an easy 7.66 miles in Heidi's neighborhood and through the dry lake bed behind her house.  None of us were up for a heavy run.  Heidi was still recovering from her first half marathon and nursing a sore IT band.  Kelly had just recovered from a pulled muscle and hadn't run in over a week. Heidi decided to stop and rest and ice her leg.  Kelly and I contemplated going on and running a couple more miles, but both of us had family commitments.  I also knew that I had a long run planned for the next day and thought it best not to push it.  The rest of the day was filled with a playdate in the park and babysitting a friend's kids.

So that brings me to Sunday.  On the schedule was the last long run of the training cycle.  Twenty-two miles.  I was torn between being excited and completely dreading it.  I mapped out a route that goes along the majority of the Surf City Marathon course.  I have never been to Huntington Beach and I was looking forward to a nice preview of the race.  I wasn't looking forward to four hours of running by myself, however.  The plan was to get down to the beach around 7 or so.  As I was getting ready for bed, my dear hubby dropped a bomb.  He had to work in the morning, a meeting at 9 a.m.  WHAT????  My heart dropped, but I can't really complain about it.  Kenny's work is our priority.  He works very hard so that I can stay home with the kids.  Giving him a hard time won't wake matters better, will it?

I tried to make the best of the situation.  I knew I couldn't get twenty-two miles in before 8:30.  I considered running half before his meeting and half after, but I wanted to try to get four hours in a row, if possible.  If he could get out of his meeting by noon, I could get a four hour run in before dark (and maybe before the rain came).  I knew how his meetings sometimes run long, but I thought since it was on a Sunday, he might be able to wrap it up quickly.  It was a gamble.

So throughout the morning, I thought that I would get word that he was on his way.  I had my normal Luna Bar that I have every day, but nothing else.  I ran some errands with the kids to try to be somewhat productive.  When I fed the kids lunch, I failed to make something substantial for me.  I thought that Kenny might be home any time and I didn't want to have to wait to digest.  The only thing I ate other than my Luna Bar was a couple of pretzels and some Hawaiian bread.  I think I was relying on the food I ate the day before to get me through.  This was a mistake.

He finally arrived home at 2:30.  At this point, I just wanted to get as many miles as I could.  I scrapped the plan to drive down to the beach.  A half an hour down to a community completely unfamiliar seemed a waste of time at this point.  I decided to run down to the river and run out and back.  As I was getting on all my gear (hat, Garmin, iPod, Fuel Belt, etc.) it started to rain.  This disappointed me, since the entire morning was gorgeous.  Unlike some blogger friends I know, I don't relish running in the rain, especially when I knew that the rain was likely to stick around for days.  I started running around 2:45-- not a lot of time before dark.

I felt fine starting out.  The rain was light and it wasn't too cold.  My pace felt easy as I kept it around 9:30/mile.   I ran the mile to the river trail (which might be unrunnable later this week) and headed west.  With the weather, the path was a bit dark and dreary.  There weren't the normal runners, walkers and bikers on it.  I knew that it would be really creepy after dark, so I figured out that I needed to turn around after seven miles in order to get off the path by 5 p.m.  I had forgotten my pepper spray and didn't want to see what lurked under the bridges after dark.  I turned around just past 4 p.m.

It was about that time that the rain really started coming down.  My nylon windbreaker was definitely not a rain jacket and was now just a cold, wet, nylon cover that clung to my arms making me cold.  It works fine for short runs in light drizzle, but not in real rain.   I enjoy seeing other bloggers and their self portraits, so I thought I would attempt one of my own.  I stopped, sent a tweet to Penny about the rain and got my phone soaking wet.

A note to self:  when you are running in the rain and have warmed up nicely, do not stop for more than a few seconds.  It is much harder to warm up and get back in the groove.   As I ran back to my entrance to the river trail, my pace was much harder to keep up.  Where two hours ago, running well under 10-minute miles was easy, now it was a chore.  I tried to push myself to "race pace" of just over 9:00 and it was a huge task.

Once off the river trail, I had a decision.  It was getting close to dark.  I could run home and call it a day at fourteen miles.  But then I felt like I needed a twenty miler next weekend to make up for it.  But next weekend starts my taper with sixteen miles.  Would throwing a twenty miler in two weeks before the marathon be a mistake?  I didn't want to risk it.  Although it was now getting legitimately dark, I knew that I could run on the streets of my neighborhood in the dark.  Usually, however, when I run in the dark, it is before dawn and it gradually gets lighter and lighter; not the other way around.  The other issue, besides the dark (and rain) was the fact that the only flat place to run is the river bed.  If I added miles now, they would be hilly.

I decided to do a loop I had done several times.  It was very hilly, but I thought it might make up for the fact that I wouldn't get all twenty-two miles in.  I figured that I could add about five miles onto my run, giving me a little more than nineteen miles.  I might be able to do a couple loops around the park to make it an even twenty.

These last five miles were akin to the last five miles of a marathon.  As I headed up the first hill, I realized I was getting pretty tired and worn out.  I ate my third Gu and headed up a very long, steep hill.  That hill was nothing short of torture.  If I was smart, I would have turned around and ran straight home, calling it a day at around fifteen miles.  But I was determined to finish that loop.  I made deals with myself.  If I made it to the top of the hill, I would eat some candy.   If I made it to that street lamp, I could walk.  I talked to myself for close to an hour.  It was dark, it was wet, I was tired and I was hungry.   My legs were DONE.  I realized that it was close to 6 p.m. and I hadn't had a real meal all day.  I had a pretty good feeling that was why my legs hurt so much.   By the time I reached the top of the big hill, all I wanted to do was get home.   When I reached the next big hill (right before mile seventeen), I was close to tears.

When I arrived at my house, I was done.  I couldn't have run another step.  I couldn't get an even twenty miles, let alone the planned twenty-two.  If it was marathon day, there is no way in hell I could have run another seven miles.  I ran just over nineteen and my legs hurt more than both the marathons I have run previously.  My confidence level dropped a few notches.   At this point, I am three weeks from the marathon and there isn't much I can do now.

I know that nutrition played a big factor in how I felt on Sunday.  I also know that ending a long run with such a difficult route played a factor.   I am disappointed that my last really long run was so hard.  I wanted to enter the taper phase on a high note.   I have a sixteen miler planned for next weekend and part of me wants to tack on a few miles, just to boost my confidence.  Experienced marathoners out there... what do you think?   Should I stick with the planned taper of sixteen (1/24) then ten (1/31) then race (2/7) Sunday schedule?

To go along with the theme of changing up my schedule, this morning Kenny had to be at work at 6:30.  I am off to do my run now, instead of running errands without kids.  It is all about finding the time and making it work.

Happy Running, everyone...

Oh, and I wanted to let you know about a great giveaway!  I am not sure I want more people to enter because I really want to win this one.  However, Marcia has a nice blog and if you haven't checked it out, you should.  giveaway:

*funny side note: the rain had stopped by the time I walked my son to school.  The ground was wet and there might have been a little drizzle here and there.  Usually, before school all the older kids play on the playground until the bell rings to line up.  We weave through the playground every morning on our way to the kindergarten classroom.  On Wednesday, the playground was empty.  This is a school with no gymnasium or cafeteria; everything is done outside.  This means that the kids were all in their classrooms.  Only in Southern California would you bring kids inside after the rain had stopped.  Growing up in Oregon, if they kept us inside every time there was a drop of rain, we would have never had any fresh air.  Even after school when our kids usually play a bit in the park next to the school, all the parents took the kids immediately home. Can't kids here stand a little rain or mud?  It makes me laugh.

Friday, January 15, 2010

giveaway alert!

Nikki, at Slow is the New Fast, is giving away a cool looking hat light.   Since I often run in dangerously dark clothes when it is cold and dark, I could really use it.   Go over and check out Nikki's blog.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kaiser Permanente Southern California Half Marathon Race Report

Gun Time:1:50:41.4
Chip Time: 1:49:48.6 (PR... woo hoo!)
Pace: 8:23
Overall Place: 552/3830
Gender Place: 104/?
Age Division: 6/95  

Not bad for a race I wasn't even sure I was going to run.  When my friends asked me before the race what my goals were, I didn't even know how to answer.   I knew that I wanted to run it at 1:56 or under.  That is around the time that I ran La Jolla and AFC and seems to be my "sweet spot."  I knew I could probably come close to my PR (1:52:46), which is an 8:37 pace.  My secret desire was to run under 1:50, but I wasn't sure this was the time or the place.  This was just a way station on the path to my key race in four weeks.  If I pushed super hard in this race, then I might have difficulty getting back into training for the marathon on February 7.

So... my loose race plan was to start out around an 8:30 pace and see how I feel.  An 8:30 pace would give me a PR and I had run some tempo runs at that pace pretty comfortably.  I knew that it would give me room to speed up or slow down as the race progressed in order to finish strong.  The other part of my race plan was to stay relaxed and focus on running the tangents.  I usually tack on at least .1 or .2 miles (or more) due to weaving and taking turns too wide.

Heidi and Odessa were running their first half marathons.  Neither one had trained as much as they would have liked and were a bit nervous.  Heidi was hoping to finish under 2:45 and Odessa in 2:30.  They both had good race plans that included some walk breaks.  Odessa's step-father, Rod, who I often run with on Saturday mornings, was running with them.  I was really excited for them and briefly considered running with them, but opted against it.  I was running this in lieu of a sixteen mile progression run, so I wanted it to be a high quality run for me.
Heidi and I with the start in the background.  The longest run Heidi had ever done was ten miles, and that was in November!

The Start
I had set out a long sleeved top and capris to wear, but when I woke up, my computer said it was already close to 60 (instead of the upper 40's I was expecting). I quickly switched to shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.  When we arrived to the race, it felt colder than it did at home (closer to the ocean?).  I threw on my arm warmers and was good to go.  I love those things!*

It was a smaller race than I had run, but still a decent size.  There were around 4000 runners and we ended up lining up near the middle.  I was happy that they had chips.  Apparently, this year was the first year for chip timing.  There was quite a bit of weaving, but not as bad as other races I have run.  It opened up rather quickly and I felt like I was getting into a groove.  I started enjoying my music and running really easily.    That mile was 8:24.

The next two miles felt effortless.  My feet barely hit the ground and I was feeling strong.  My music was good and it was a beautiful day.  I was pretty sure that I couldn't keep that up for the entire 13.1 miles.  I decided to slow it down a bit and keep it to my 8:30 pace.  Miles 2 and 3 were 8:17 and 8:14.

The race was a series of out-and-backs.  Also, we would run onto a bike path along the river, up across a bridge and then along the same portion on the other side.  Around mile three, I was looking across the river for my friends and I saw Rod and Odessa.  Heidi saw me and waved and yelled my name, I heard her, but didn't see her.  She was wearing a white t-shirt and black shorts-- hard to distinguish her from other runners.  Rod and Odessa were wearing colors and were easier to see. At that point, I think they were around ten minutes behind me.

The Middle
I ran the next few miles at my planned pace.  Miles 4-10 were all just under 8:30.  I started to get a bit tired during some of the middle miles.  I was actually a little bored.  Usually I like to strike up a conversation with runners around me and everyone seemed pretty focused.  Then I met Richard.

Richard is 74 years old.  He struck up a conversation somewhere around mile 7.  I said that it was a beautiful day for a run. He flirted a bit with me.  In fact, if he was 30 years younger, it would have been creepy, but he was charming.  He stopped for some water and we parted ways.  Soon, however, he zipped past me gesturing for me to follow.  Ironically, my energy level was low at that point and seeing a smiling face encouraging me to speed up a bit was just what I needed.  If a 74 year old man can keep up that pace, I certainly could!  He was ahead of me for quite a while and whenever I spotted him, it motivated to keep going.  Thanks, Richard!  It turns out that we finished right around the same time (and he won his age group!).

Besides the 74 year old man, I had another motivator during the race.  Sometime in those middle miles, I passed a woman wearing Crocs.  Yes, you read correctly... CROCS--the ugly plastic shower shoes that really only look good on children under 10.  Hers were pink with Mickey Mouse holes.  I marveled at how they stayed on her feet.  Don't they flip off?  I was going to ask her about it, but when we made eye contact, I got the feeling that she wouldn't appreciate questions.  Heck, if I was running a half marathon in pink Crocs, I'd be bragging to everyone; "yup, they're pink!  I'm awesome!"  LOL.  Looking back, I wish I would have struck up a conversation with her.  I might have learned a thing or two.  But then again, I might not have been as motivated to beat her.

Well... she and I went back and forth for a while.  I passed her and then she passed me.  I swear I would look over my shoulder and there she was.  It was like she picked out my coral t-shirt and made me her motivation. I just couldn't let a woman in Crocs beat me.  I'd be pretty impressed, but it would hit my ego a bit.  I couldn't seem to shake her.  When I started feeling myself slow down, there she was.  It was enough to motivate me to keep going.  I think the last time I saw those pink sandals/slippers was around mile 11.  That was when I turned it on.  I am sure she came in some time just after me.  I am actually pretty impressed**.

The End
Mile 11 started out a bit sluggish.  As I tried to do some math in my head, I realized that I probably needed to speed up a bit.  Also, I was determined to catch up to 74-year-old Richard and to beat Croc-lady.  I definitely picked it up during the second half of that mile.  When I ran past the mile marker, the clock said 1:33 and change.  I had less than 17 minutes to make it under 1:50.

I knew that I was going to come pretty close to completing 13.1 miles, since I had been pretty good at running the tangents.  But you never know how the last couple miles are going to go.  I figured that I should run closer to 8-minute-miles to make it.  I was a woman with a mission.  Mile 12 felt good.  Mile 13, on the other hand, started to hurt.  For the first time during the race, I felt pain.  The last 3/4 of a mile hurt pretty good.  I ran mile 12 in 8:02 and Mile 13 in 8:08.  The last .18***  was a 6:52 pace!  I was thrilled that I was able to finish so strong.

I ran across the finish line with 1:50:xx on the clock.  I stopped my Garmin at 1:49:51.  I was thrilled beyond belief.  My friend, Lori, was there and said that she was surprised to see me so soon.  I didn't give her the impression that I was going to go for a fast time.  She expected me a few minutes later.

She and I found a nice spot along the finish straight-away to wait for Rod, Odessa and Heidi.  Odessa had a goal of 2:30 and Heidi's goal was 2:45, so I left Lori for a few minutes to grab some food.  The spread for this race was pretty great.  There were the standard bananas, oranges and plain bagels.  They also had yummy cookies, some jalapeno bagels with some flavor, and hummus!  While I normally love hummus, it didn't sound super appealing.  I scarfed down on the oranges and cookies.  Mmmmm.... carbs.  I went back a little later and ate a jalapeno bagel.

Right around 2:30 (2:28:39 to be exact), Odessa and Rod finished.  She looked great.  It was her first half, so I screamed like a crazy woman.  I was excited for her.  At 10:15 (the race started at 8), Heidi texted me a simple "11" letting me know she had hit the 11 mile marker.  I knew that there was no way that she would be finishing the last two miles in 15 minutes, so we relaxed a bit to wait for her.   She made her goal of running it under 2:45 (2:44:23)! I was really proud of her!
Heidi on the home stretch****

It was a great race.  I didn't have high expectations.  It is not a well-known race like the Triple Crown races in San Diego.  Rod has run it several times and told me that it wasn't the most scenic race and they didn't give medals.  I was pleasantly surprised, however.  I think the scenery was enhanced by the beautiful weather.  We ran along a dry river bed and some roads in a somewhat industrial part of town (there seemed to be a lot of warehouse type businesses).   But there was a lot of landscaping, making it nice.  And they gave out medals!  They were small medals, but medals nonetheless.  Score!  I suppose I will have a soft spot in my heart for this race since it is now the site of my half marathon PR.

I am very happy with my performance.  I didn't do any speedwork to speak of.  I did one or two tempo runs and a couple of speedy laps around the track, but no real speed sessions.  When I told my husband how fast I ran my last two miles, he suggested that I left a bit out on the course; that I could have probably run it faster.  I think that I probably could have, but I have no regrets.  I ran it exactly the way I wanted to.  Maybe after I run this marathon, I'll train for a half marathon to go for a faster time.  Maybe not.  I think getting a PR unexpectedly is way better than training for one and barely getting it or missing it altogether.  I hate the pressure.

I have four weeks until the Surf City Marathon.  My confidence level is much higher than it was a week ago.  I still have a long way to go.  I need to get in another LONG run (22 miles) and stay healthy.  I am starting to get excited.

Happy Running.

*It was warm enough that I took them off by mile four.  I just tied them to my hydration belt.

**Through the magic of internet cyber-stalking, I think I found my Croc-lady.  If I am correct, she finished just under two minutes behind me (and third in her age group!).  Here she is:   I wish she were still blogging.

***somehow I picked up .08 mile in the last two miles.
****I stole this picture from Odessa's facebook page.  I would have posted the picture of her finish, but I haven't really asked her permission to post her picture.  I posted the one with me in it because... well... it was taken with my phone and I'm in it.  ;-)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Taking my fall back week to the extreme...

...or I could call it a 'super taper.'    Whatever you call it, my running was pretty nonexistent this week.  On one hand, I am disappointed in myself, on the other hand, I am proud of my restraint and willingness to step back and realize what is important.

Saturday night, after my twenty miler, I was sitting at my desk and suddenly, I had excruciating pain on the top of my foot.  It was sudden and intense.  I assumed it was a cramp, but I had never had a cramp on the top of my foot before.   When the pain subsided a little, I discovered that it hurt a lot to walk.  I iced it right away.  The pain turned to a dull throbbing.

I was terrified.  The only thing that came to mind was "stress fracture."  I uncharacteristically avoided Google, because I was afraid of what I might find.  I didn't post it on facebook because I was afraid to say it out loud.  I less than five weeks out from Surf City.  I am looking forward to it and have been really enjoying my training.  The thought of losing all that to injury was more than I was ready to face.

My foot felt better the next morning, but I could still feel the pain.  It definitely wasn't intense like it had been, but it was there.  I felt it more if I flexed my foot.   I probably could have run my scheduled eight miles, but decided to rest and ice.  I remember hearing my coaches in certification training say, "better to take one week off running than to push it and be out for six." 

I rested Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, just to be safe.  On Wednesday I decided to do an easy run.  I ran an easy three miles and didn't have any pain during the run.  Thank God!  It hurt a little bit afterward, however.  It was then I decided to check Google.

Of course, one of the first things that came up was a stress fracture.  The pictures, however, showed pain much closer to the toes.  My pain is right in the center of the top of my foot, directly underneath where I tie my shoe.  I assume that if I had a fracture, it would hurt during running, not necessarily after.  There are two other possibilities: tendonitis and nerve entrapment.  The first one is likely caused by hill running (trails?) or poor footwear and the second by falling arches or poor footwear.  My shoes are the same shoes I have run in for two years.  They only have a couple hundred miles on them.  I did run my twenty miler in my trail shoes, so maybe they aren't the best thing for the long runs.  The treatment is the same for both: rest and ice. 

Yesterday, I planned on running again.  I woke up at 5:30 and just before I headed out the door just after 6, my husband informed me that he had to leave for work early.  He didn't come home until after I was in bed the night before, so we caught up for a few minutes.  I then realized that I could only realistically get two miles in before he had to leave... so I skipped it.   I thought I could give my foot another day to rest.  Excuses, excuses.

Today, I was all set to go out for an easy six miles or so.  My hubby was up and we started to talk about stuff (his work, the kids, etc.) and suddenly I realized that I was out of time again.  I didn't feel as bad today.  Kenny has been working insane hours lately and I really miss him.  If the only time we get quality time to catch up is 45 minutes before he goes to work, that is worth missing my run.   It is all a matter of balance.

So here I am on the eve of a planned half marathon.  My foot feels good.  I still feel it, but I don't have any pain.  I hadn't registered for tomorrow's race because I never really committed to it.  I will need to register in the morning.  I'm not keyed up for the race, but I feel I should run it, especially since I only ran three miles all week..  I am feeling less than motivated, so it might be the only way I get in a decent run.  Part of me wants to treat it as any other training run.  Hmmm... $50 for a training run?  I think it is more likely that I will push my self, just a little.   Do I think I can get a PR?  I'm not sure.   I'm not sure I want to push that hard.  I have a sixteen mile progression run on the schedule.  I figured that a half marathon would be equivalent.

So I am hopeful that I feel 100% in the morning.  I am hopeful that my foot doesn't get re-injured.  I am hopeful that I feel strong and confident and finish the race knowing that I could easily have done it twice.

Before I go get my running stuff set out, I wanted to give a shout out to Irish.  She is running the first half of the Goofy Challenge tomorrow in frigid temperatures.  She is running a half marathon tomorrow and then a full marathon on Sunday.  Wow, what a stud.  Good luck!!!  I know you will do great!

I also wanted to give a shout out to my friend Angela's husband, Matthew.  He is running the Disney Marathon on Sunday as well.  Matthew ran his first marathon not long after I ran mine.  I believe he has caught the bug as much as I have.  Good luck, Matthew!  I hope that your wife and son can be there to see you cross the finish line! 

Happy Running, everyone....

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The end of one year... the beginning of another

I ended 2009 by running a total* of 1017 miles.    I ended December with a record month of 153 miles.  I am pretty happy about my December results considering how crazy life gets in December.  It was a pretty stressful month and focusing on running helped keep me balanced.

I ran a great run on December 31.  I had a six mile tempo run on the schedule (a mile warm up, four miles at half marathon pace, a mile cool down).  I started out a different direction than usual instead of doing a straight out and back, in order to mix it up a bit.  I ran a loop and then headed down to the river.  After a mile warm up, I went into my "tempo" miles.  My optimistic half marathon pace is 8:30.  I'm not sure if I can run that fast for 13.1 miles, but that is how I am training.  That first mile was an effort (8:28).  I was able to get into a bit of a groove on the second mile (8:23).  The next two were 8:24 and 8:26.  As I was running along the river, I was trying to figure out how far out I needed to run before turning back.  I can never seem to do math when I am running, especially early in the morning when I am tired.  During the last tempo mile, I realized that I miscalculated my distance.  I was more than three miles from home and I needed to get back in time for my husband to go to work.  Instead of slowing down, I sped up (8:12).  The seventh mile was 8:55 (it is uphill).  By the time I got close to home, I knew I would make it in time and did the last 3/4 mile at a 9:53 pace.  My 6 mile run turned into 7.76 and it was a great way to end the year.

Today I ran for the first time in the new year, after a very relaxing day yesterday.**  I am planning on running a half marathon next Saturday, so I wanted to do my long run today.  I also wanted to run with my friend, Kelly.  She wanted to run between 12 and 14 miles.  We ended up running 12.5 miles together (she could have gone further, but that is the distance when we got back to our cars).  I headed back out through the neighborhoods and ran another 7.6 miles.  I felt pretty good.  My feet really started to hurt around mile 18.  However, I was able to push myself to run the 18th mile under 9 minutes (8:51)!!    I got back to my car a little before my mileage goal, so I ran around the parking lot of the school where I was parked until I reached this distance:

 Happy New Year!!!!

I averaged 10:25 for all twenty miles.  I thought that was pretty good, considering that a good chunk of our run was in Santiago Creek with steep hills and uneven terrain.  All in all, it was a great start to the year.

Stay tuned for a 2009 recap, as well as a post looking forward into 2010.

Happy Running.

*This could be higher, since I did not log every run and had to get information from several sources.  I ran at least 1017 miles.  :-)
**Relaxing except for the very frustrating Rose Bowl where my Ducks' defense forgot to show up.

Welcome to a new decade!

Wow... it didn't hit me until yesterday that we are starting a new decade*.  This last one has been the most important, pivotal of my life**.  Here are the highlights:
  • I met my soul mate (2001)
  • I moved from Topeka, Kansas to Palm Springs, California (2001)
  • I married my soul mate (2002)
  • I had a baby (2003)
  • We moved to San Diego from Palm Springs (2004)
  • I had another baby (2006)
  • I quit my job, a career I had been building since the 80's (2006)
  • I joined Stroller Strides making lifelong friends and a love of fitness that I had not known before (2006)
  • I ran my first race ever, a 10K (2007)
  • I ran my first marathon (2008)
  • I ran my first half marathon (2008)
  • I became a group fitness instructor for Stroller Strides (2008)
  • We faced unemployment for seven months (2009)
  • I ran three additional half marathons (2009)
  • I ran my second marathon (2009)
  • I became a certified running coach (2009)
  • We moved to Anaheim from San Diego (2009)
What will this one have in store??

*what DO we call our last and current decades?  Was 2000-2009 the otts?  Is this next one the teens?

**The other decades of my life:
60's-- born 
70's-- I was a kid growing up in the Pacific Northwest.
80's-- High School and College (before this last decade I had thought the 80's were the most influential years)
90's -- work and Master's Degree


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