Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Motivation Lost

Without the marathon to train for, my motivation has disappeared.  I should have gone out for a run every day this week, but haven't managed once.  I know that running would be good for me mentally. The two races I have run the past two weekends have been wonderfully therapeutic.  They were fun.  I needed them.

I mentioned briefly in a previous post that I have recently felt victimized and out of control.  Several weeks ago it became clear that my husband's wonderful job that we picked up and moved here for wasn't working out. Once again, this economy was biting us in the ass.

So my husband is busting his hump finding consulting or full time work and I am looking for a full time job.  My dream of starting my own running/fitness/lifestyle business will have to be put on hold. Being out of the job market for a while has left me feeling a little less confident.

Going through this, yet again, so soon is demoralizing, frustrating and depressing.  You are taught that if you work hard and strive to always do the right thing, good things will happen to you.  I find myself falling into the "why me" trap.  That is not my style.  I usually like to take things head on. However, lately I have been feeling sorry for myself.  For crying out loud, when is it OUR turn? 

I am sure all this stress is a big factor in my lack of motivation.  Another factor is the lack of races on my calendar.  I was going to run the Catalina marathon next month, but the logistics are just too much right now.  Between the boat ride over, the hotel stay and meals, it not only gets expensive but a little lonely. My husband would have gone with me, but Catalina is where we go to celebrate and he didn't have the heart for it.  My girlfriend is running her first marathon anxious wanted to be there with her.  But her husband will be there and I don't want to be a third wheel.

This week I took a temporary job to earn some extra money. It is quite possibly the most boring job I have ever done.  But it is also completely stress free. So it is easy money.  It is my first time working in almost four years where I wasn't wearing workout gear.  That is another thing affecting my running this week.  It is a lot easier to get two kids ready for school when I don't have to make my lunch, shower, blow dry my hair, put makeup on, and find professional attire that still fits me.  I'm sure once I do this a while, I'll get in more of a groove. For now, adding an hour of running in there is too much.

So now I go between feeling guilty and feeling sad for missing this week's runs. I am sure I'll run this weekend, so that should make up for it.   In fact, I am really looking forward to running this weekend.  Hopefully, it will help ground me a little, put things back into perspective and get the "poor me's" out of my system.

I apologize if some of these posts lately have been a little more dark.  Sometimes this blog is as much therapy as it is a journal of my running.  I will hopefully post more upbeat and inspiring things soon.

Happy Running.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Winter Trail Run Series 21K Race Report

This race was HARD.  It was more than twice as long as last week's race and twice as difficult.  Here is a glimpse of the elevation profile from my Garmin.  Yikes.

This race was a leg workout extraordinaire!  There was a LOT of running uphill or downhill and very little flat.  The climb starting at mile 6 was 1400 feet over 1.4 miles!  The grade for that section of the race was over 20%.  To put that in perspective, my previous hilliest races were La Jolla Half Marathon and the trail race last week. La Jolla has a hill with an elevation gain of about 450 feet over two miles and O'Neill Park has an hill with an elevation gain of about 550 feet over two miles. La Jolla has 960 feet of climbing over 13.1 miles where today's had 3107 ft of climbing over 13 miles.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  I would like to start at the beginning....*

I woke up this morning to rain.  Thanks to Glenn, who told me about the race as well as pointed out the joys of running in the mud, I was determined to go no matter what the weather.  Due to scheduling issues, I wasn't able to rally anyone else to drive the hour drive with me.  By the time I hit the road around 6:45, the skies had cleared.  It was a gorgeous morning!

There was a bit of traffic (always in this area), so I was starting to cut it closer than I would have liked.  I drove up into the mountains and then turned off toward the campground where the race was.  Instead of going through Orange County, I drove into Riverside County.  Google Maps told me that it was fifteen minutes faster.  That was because there was more time on the interstate than the windy two-lane highway.  Unfortunately, most of the runners came in from the west.  My directions were brief on the website and there were no balloons showing me the way.

As I am driving up a wide one-lane road into the mountains, I started wondering if I was going the right way.  There were no other cars.  No markings.   I finally came across a campground.  It was not the Bluejay campground that I was looking for.  Thankfully, there were some campers there making breakfast who told me that the other campground was just down the road.  Phewww....   I hate being lost.

I finally found the cars of the runners and parked.   I started talking to two women while walking down to the start.  They were Kate and Cindy.  I explained that this was my first real trail race.**  I was nervous.  I knew that there was a lot of elevation change.  They told me that there was even a creek crossing!  They had run it a couple of weeks ago in the pouring rain.   It was Cindy's first time.  They reassured me that I would have a great time.

In the starting area a very friendly gentleman came and welcomed me.  He even gave me a hug.  I recognized him as the race director Baz Hawley.  What a wonderful person.  He completely put me at ease.  The day before, I had e-mailed him asking if there were still spots available.  I also asked him how scary the course was in the rain and mud.  His response? "Not scary... it is magic... you will love it.  BAZ"
Then I saw a familiar face.  While I have never met Glenn in person, I recognized him from pictures from his blog and Twitter.  I walked up to him and said hi.  I love meeting bloggers in person.  We learn so much about them through their blogs and other social media, once we meet them, it is like we already know them.

This race was so laid back and low key.  All the announcements were made by hollering over the crowd.  The RD, Baz, scolded runners for talking while he was talking.  He knew most of the runners by name and teased them mercilessly.
I had no idea what to expect in terms of time.  Should I go out slow?  Should I run faster while I can?  I really liked the lack of the pressure of the clock.  If this was a half marathon, I would be thinking about splits, pacing, PR etc.  In a trail race, because they are all different, PR's are out the window.  It is all about running.   It is ok, and even encouraged, to walk when the terrain gets tough.

So we were off.  We ran along the road for almost a mile.  Then we headed into the hills.  It was a gravel and dirt fire road.  Things were pretty social along here.  It was nice and wide.  I chatted with several runners.  There was a couple, Melissa and Hugh, who were very nice.   I came up on Kate and Cindy and ran with them for a bit.  It started getting pretty steep and just about everyone around started to walk.

The views were spectacular.  The sun was out.  I took this opportunity to take my phone out and take a couple of pictures.  I still have a hard time getting a clear self-portrait. 
Yes... that is the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
Sorry for the blur.

At the top, there was an aid station.  I decided to drink a full cup of sport drink.  I was carrying water, but I forgot to bring my Endurolyte pills and I was really starting to sweat.  While I was standing at the aid station (you can't really drink on the run because the garbage is right there and there is no way I would toss my cup in the woods), a woman asked the man at the station in a very tired voice, "is that the last of the hills??!!"  He gave her a sympathetic look and answered, "I am sorry to tell you that the next one is worse."  I half expected her to turn around and go back.  But she actually passed me on the downhill a short time later.  I then passed her on the "hill".  I didn't see her at the end.  I hope she finished.

After the aid station, the course went into a beautiful single track section.  This is where more experienced runners started to pass me.  Glenn's friend, Lori, passed me.  She is a really cool ultra runner who has run 50K, 50 miles and has attempted a 100 mile (she was cut off at mile 72 due to time).  I tried to keep up with her, but she was pretty quick.  Glenn pointed out that these runners may not have a ton more skill maneuvering on the trails, but a lot less fear.   Watching your feet was necessary.

We hit a downhill section that was pretty much all rocks.  The rocks were all shapes and sizes and getting good footing was difficult.  A few times, my ankle rolled a little.  Thank goodness I didn't roll it all the way.  I really had to pay attention during this time.  We hit a bit of a bottleneck.  Apparently, there were others who were even more cautious than I was.  The trail was narrow and hard to pass.  At some points there were four or five people, so it seemed fruitless to pass.  I caught up to Lori during this slow down.  At one point, I was gaining some momentum.  I nearly ran into the woman ahead of me, who I had been basically "tailgating" for a bit.  She asked if I wanted to pass, so I did.  I am still not sure of the correct etiquette.  I didn't want to be pushy or cocky, especially when the big hill was still to come. 

We hit the creek at the bottom of the canyon.  It was smaller than I had imagined it to be, especially after the rains.  I had visions of traipsing through ankle or knee deep water.  Instead, I just hopped a couple of boulders and started back up the canyon.  There were a couple more spots where we had to navigate water or obstacles, but I loved every minute.  This was trail running.  I even had to duck under a log crossing the trail!  Awesome!

The trail went up, up, up.  This was the 20% grade.  I was right behind Lori.  She stopped at a switchback to take a drink and I decided to go past her.  I was in a nice rhythm with my hiking and didn't want to mess with it.  Soon we came across four or five men in a line.  They were walking very slowly.  In fact, my heart rate dropped quite a bit.  I told myself it was a good rest, since more than half the race was in front of us.  After a while I worried that my heart rate would get down too much and I would have a hard time getting back into it.  A guy who I had passed on the way down asked to pass.  I thought about following right behind him, but didn't.  Then the girl I had tailgated came up behind us.  She asked to pass.  As she went past me, I fell in step behind her and passed the men.  I was able to get my heart rate back up.

As we reached the top of the canyon, the trail widened and the grade reduced a bit.  My calves and hamstrings were KILLING me.  I couldn't wait to start running downhill.   The climb took us to over 4000 feet of elevation and we were in the clouds.  Where earlier the sun was making me warm and sweaty, now the temperatures were lower and the wind blew on the top of the ridge making thing very chilly.  I ran just to warm up.

I reached the aid station and stopped to down some more sport drink.  I could feel my calves and hamstrings starting to cramp up.  I think that my electrolytes were a bit low.   Lori caught up to me here and offered me a salt pill.  I am pretty sure it stopped my cramps.  We started down the hill.   Less than three miles to the end, all downhill.  I tried to stay with Lori, but she was very fast.  She flew down that hill.  I just ran it easy.  My legs were really tired.   It reminded me of that last run after a long day of skiing.  That last run, when your legs are like rubber, is when you are most likely to get injured.   Running down that fire road, I nearly tripped a few times, just because I was so tired.   I focused on running strong and safely down to the end.

It wasn't until I was on this downhill section of the fire road that I realized that it was the same road we ran up.  The aid station was the same one from the third mile.  I usually have a great sense of direction, but with all the switch backs and turns, I had no idea which direction we were heading.  Since the clouds had moved in, the sun wasn't around to give me a clue.  Thank goodness for ribbons and chalk, or I might still be out there today.

There was another short section of single track at the end.  It was nice to run through here, knowing that I could stop running soon.
Other than my three marathons, this was the hardest race I had ever run.  It was also the most beautiful.  I ran into the finish to see Baz cheering me on.  He high fived me as I crossed the finish line.  
 After the race

Later, I cheered on other runners coming in.  I saw Kate and Cindy, who had been so encouraging.
And Glenn.

Glenn posted a great video of the entire race.  It really shows a lot more of the terrain (I didn't get my phone out much to shoot pictures).  Check it out here.

My time was somewhere around 2:46 (I forgot to turn my Garmin off right away).  It was great to forget about the Garmin.  I rarely looked at it the entire race.  Splits didn't mean anything.  The winner ran it in 1:36!!  Holy cow.  I think he must have run all those hills.

It was a great race and I'll definitely be running more trails!!

Happy Running.

* Of course, I couldn't do a short, concise race report.  Detailed (aka wordy) is my signature.  ;-)
**I'm not sure if last week's really counted, since it was only five miles.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Keeping it real

I noticed something about myself today that concerned me a little bit.  Not a lot, but I know if I post it here, it will keep me accountable and ensure that these feelings don't go further.  I know that there are several of my friends out in blogland that have struggled with eating disorders, so I know that you will make sure I don't head down that road.

Today I went to a podiatrist to make sure that my foot is ok.*  The nurse was getting all my vitals and weighed me.  A small wave of disappointment went over me after seeing 123 pounds.  I thought after all the marathon training that I would weigh a little less than that.  Then she asked me my height.  I am between 5'5" and 5'6".  She put 5'5" and my BMI came up on the computer as a somewhere around 20.5.  I was hoping to see it in the 19's.  I actually thought about asking her to change my height to 5'6".


I am on the lower end of normal for BMI.  WHY would I want to be even lower?  It is not right for me to think that way.   My logical self knows that.  I know what is healthy.

The other day, I was reluctant posting this picture on Facebook because it shows a little post-baby pooch in my belly hanging over my hydration belt.  I thought to myself that after months of marathon training, I shouldn't have a tummy pooch.  I posted the pictures that showed it the least.  I told myself that I had carbo loaded.  The truth is, I have a little pooch that will never go away.**
I actually didn't post this one because I was vain about the belly shot.
I have a lot of crap going on in my life right now.  I am feeling a little victimized and definitely not in control of what is going on around us.  I know that these kinds of feelings can lead to behavior that seeks to find control.  

I have been lucky enough to have never been on a diet.  The only scale we own has been out of batteries for months.  I don't obsess about my weight.  I am sure that I don't have an eating disorder.  In fact, I don't think a lot about what I eat***.  However, I would hate to think about wanting to lose weight when I am right where I need to be.

So here I am, post-baby belly pooch and all.  When my three-year-old asks me if I have a belly in my tummy, I will smile and tell her that she is the last baby I will ever need.  I will be proud of my strong abdominal muscles, even if they don't form a six-pack.  I just need to focus on staying strong and running, running, running.  Not because it is good for my tummy, because it is good for my soul.

Happy Running.

*Thank goodness there is no stress fracture.  He recommended custom orthotics and a bone density scan.  He thinks that my bones are starting to get weaker (which might explain my pain), so I need to start adding calcium.
**I have never a completely flat tummy, even at my thinnest.
***I do want to think a little more about what I eat.  I recently had some bloodwork done and my HDL (good cholesterol) was not as high as I would have liked.  Results also show that I might be borderline anemic.  Time to add some more iron.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Safety while running (or biking, hiking, etc....)

I have flirted with the idea of getting a Road ID for sometime now.  If you aren't familiar with Road ID, it is identification that you wear when you are out running, riding, hiking, surfing etc.  Here is what the company says:
Road ID was created on the concept that active people should wear ID as part of their gear when participating in outdoor activities. It was started by a couple of guys who began to wonder "why in the heck don't we have ID on us when we go out for a run or a ride?" We looked at our dogs, they had ID. But, if we had an unexpected accident, while running or cycling, we would be in bad shape - nobody would know who we were or who to contact. That freaked us out.
 It just seems smart, doesn't it?

I keep putting it off.  It is not like it is particularly expensive, but it never seems to be a necessary expense.  I am sure I wouldn't think that if I actually needed it.  I have seen a couple of blogs giving a Road ID away, so I'm going to try to win one first.  If I win more than one, I will get one for my dear husband who goes on crazy long bike rides being somewhat undertrained (Sunday he rode almost 80 miles after not riding for two weeks).  

Allie at Running Fool is giving one away here.  Check it out.  Also check out Road ID.

Monday, February 15, 2010

OC Chili Winter Trail Run Race Report (My first official trail race! )

Saturday morning, I ran the first part of the OC Chili Winter Trail Run Series. It is an approximately five mile race through a beautiful wilderness area*.  Proceeds of the event went to Trails4All, which helps to preserve the 700+ miles of natural surface trails in the Orange County area. It was a great little race that I plan on repeating in March and April!

Kelly, Heidi and I drove the 35 minutes to O'Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon.  We registered for the race.  Because it was in the park, they couldn't collect money. They handed us each an envelope and asked us to pay the registration by mail.  That is a lot of faith in humanity.  I guess they know that runners are great people!  They were smart, however, and asked us all our e-mail addresses.  Later that day, I had a PayPal invoice.  I was happy because that is so much easier to pay that way.  Plus, I didn't have to pay the registration fees.  Score!

It was chilly that morning (chilly by Southern California standards) and I had wondered if I should have dressed a little warmer.  It was in the low 40's (I know... I know.... east coasters please don't boo at the screen), but I stashed my sweatshirt in my car and went with my long-sleeved tech shirt and capris.  Heidi kept her sweatshirt on, but tied it around her waist pretty soon into the run.  It didn't take long for the sunshine to warm things up nicely.**

The run/race started with a "ready, set, go!"  There is something really nice about a small race. There were about 200 runners.  It was a friendly group and we all started running with very little fanfare.  There was some chatting and bantering at first.  I debated whether I wanted to stay and run with Kelly and Heidi or run at my pace.  I thought that it would be fun to run it with them, but there was also a part of me that wanted to see how I could do.  I knew that it was a small race and if I am ever going to place in my age group, this was the kind of race to do it.  I decided that I would start out and see how I felt.  Turns out, my legs felt great and I wanted to RUN.  Kelly and Heidi were telling me to go.  Since they were together, I decided to race it a bit.

It was my first run since the marathon.  I had planned to go out during the week and get in a good recovery run, but I was fighting a chest cold all week and thought it best to nurse that.***  I wasn't sure how I would feel, but it felt great to get out there on the trails.

The first two miles were brutal.  They were very steep.  In fact, the first major climb had stairs cut into the trail.  It was quite the bottleneck.  Everyone was walking.  I felt good and considered trying to pass people, but it was really narrow and I couldn't see where it opened up.  Passing would probably just be a huge waste of energy.  I thought I would save that energy to pass people when it opened up.  At the top, it was much easier to run and pass people.

I tried to run up the hills, but they were really steep.  I walked quite a bit.  It seemed like just about everyone was walking up these things.  I was also getting hot.  I was second guessing my choice of the long sleeved shirt.  I started out using the thumb holes, but was soon pushing the sleeves up to my elbows.  I considered at one point taking off my shirt and running in just a sports bra.  I am just not fast enough nor young enough to pull that off, so I thought better of it.  I was glad, since the shady areas on the way down were still pretty chilly.

I don't normally bring my iPod when I run with the girls on Saturdays, so I didn't even think about bringing it.  Unfortunately, a small race like this gets pretty spread out pretty fast.  It got a bit lonely.  I really could have used my music.  However, I am glad to know that I can run a good race without music.  I just don't like hearing my panting as I make my way up those hills.

The trails were uneven and had plenty of little gullies from the recent rains.  Overall, they were in great shape, but you had to watch your footing.  In fact, on one of the uphills, one runner took a pretty hard fall.  He said he was ok and kept running, but it was a good reminder to watch our step.

There were two water stations on the course.  I was really thirsty, so I stopped to drink.  The first was on a slight downhill, so I was a little bummed to stop.  I couldn't really just drink on the run because the trash box for the cups was right there by the table.  You can't really toss your cup on a trail.  Unlike a road race, there isn't anyone there sweeping up the cups.  The second water stop was the same way and I felt like I needed water, but hated to stop.  Next time I am carrying my water.  Even though it is a short race, the hills got me very thirsty.

Right around the half-way point, the trail started back down.  At one point it was really steep and I worried about my knees.  I just tried to stay light on my feet and keep it easy.  The downhills were pretty fun.  I think I actually said "whheeeee..."   One portion was run on the road and there was a sign that said "honk on the corners," so I did.  I love it when I can have fun during a run.  That is why I keep doing it.

We then went into my favorite part of the course.  The last two miles or so were on a single track trail through deep brush.  Often it was like I was running through a tunnel of trees.  The ground was much muddier here,  leftover from the rain last week.  At one point I had to decide whether or not to run through the mud or track through the brush around it.  Through it sounded better than scratches and risks of poison oak, so I went through carefully.  I knew if I went too fast, I would end up on my butt.  It was so narrow that there was not room to pass.  At one point I heard someone running behind me.  I glanced back to see a woman who was running at a faster pace than me.  I didn't want to look back much, because I knew I would trip.  I called back to her, "when you are close enough to pass me, just let me know."  She did and I stepped aside so she could pass.  I ended up passing a couple of guys a little later****

The last 3/4 of a mile was on pavement and I tried to push pretty hard.  My heart rate throughout this race was pretty high, much higher than in the marathon.  It felt good.  As I approached the finish line the clock read 49:xx.  I thought it would be pretty cool to finish under 50 minutes.  I pushed at the end, but the clock clicked over to 50 minutes.  Oh well...

I finished in 50:10.  That was good enough for 3rd in my age group!!  It was 58th overall out of a field of 201.  I am pretty happy with it.  If I can do that on post-marathon legs and a chest cold, what can I do when I'm 100%.  We waited for the awards ceremony.  I had never finished so high before!  The woman announced that due to feedback from last year, they would be giving raffle prizes instead of AG awards.  What??  My first AG award and I don't get anything?  Oh well... at least I have bragging rights, right?   

Kelly and Heidi came in about eight minutes behind me.  They both enjoyed their runs a lot.  It was a beautiful and challenging course.  It was a nice change of pace from our regular Saturday runs.  I really wished I had brought my camera or phone to take some pictures.  Maybe next time!  There are two more races in this series and all three of us are ready to come back in March and April.

Wow... this is a pretty long race report for a relatively short race.  Thanks for reading.

Happy Running....

My splits:
Mile 1- 10:20 (ran pretty fast at the beginning and then hit a bottleneck at the stairs)
Mile 2- 12:20 (a LOT of very steep, rutty hills)
Mile 3- 9:00 (half a mile of hills and half a mile of steep downhill)
Mile 4- 8:52 (through the single track)
Mile 5- 8:22 (back on pavement with a little gravel at the end)

*It was such a wilderness area that as we pulled into the park they handed us a flyer on what to do when encountering a mountain lion.  The ranger told us about lion sightings and told us whatever we do, don't run.  Uh... we were running a race!  We decided that whatever we do, run faster than at least one person!
**I had invited blogger Penny to join us for the run, but with her crazy work schedule she needed a day off.  I know she would have hated the gorgeous sunshine.  It got pretty hot, especially on the steep uphills.
***As it was, I wasn't completely over the chest cold and the run made me get even sicker.  The last two days have been spent coughing and losing my voice.  I guess running hard wasn't such a great idea.  My body, still technically recovering from the marathon, just quit fighting and let the virus take over.  That happened to me after my first marathon, as well.
****Yeah.... chicked them!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Worked for Me (a post-mortem of the Surf City Marathon)

My friend, Laura called me on Sunday to congratulate me on my race.  She is also on a quest for a sub-four marathon and asked what I did differently.  Here are my thoughts:

I increased mileage by at least ten miles per week.   Prior to June of this past year, I kept my mileage relatively low.  I did long runs on the weekends, but only ran two other days during the week, sometimes three.  My mileage rarely got above thirty, if ever.  I had mistakenly thought that too many miles would mean over-training.  I didn't realize that having my long run such a high percentage of my week would make it that much harder to recover from that long run.
This time I was scheduled to run much higher mileage.  Due to circumstances, I didn't get in all those miles, but I came pretty close some weeks.  I was scheduled to run a peak week of 49 miles.  My actual peak week was 47 miles.  I ran five days a week.  My average mileage was well over thirty miles per week.  That includes some weeks that I took off due to injury.

result:  The higher weekly mileage helped me recover from my long runs more effectively.  

I think another thing that helped me was running back to back on the weekends.  It goes against the concept of alternating hard and easy workouts, but I tried to take it relatively easy on Saturdays.  If we did longer mileage, we usually kept it at a nice easy pace.  I also kept my long runs at an easy pace.  Usually, my Saturday runs were eight to ten miles and my Sunday runs were the longer sixteen, eighteen, twenty mile runs.

For my previous marathons, I did almost all my runs at or near race pace.  I tried keeping my pace in the low 9's and would be frustrated if I ran near 10-minute-miles.  My "tempo" runs were very fast... often faster than a 10K pace.  I rarely ran at less than 90% effort.

I learned in my RRCA training the benefit of running more slowly.  I wrote a post about it here.  Long runs should be run at around a 75-80% effort in order to train your body to effectively use glycogen.  I now train close to RRCA guidelines, which also correspond pretty closely to McMillan paces.  My long runs are usually around 10:00 per mile.   

So while I upped my intensity in terms of days run per week and back-to-back long runs, I took it down in terms of speed.   I didn't do a lot of speedwork this go around.  I did a few pace runs where I ran race pace (9:00).  I did one or two half marathon pace runs (8:30), but not too much in terms of fast intervals at the track.  I think that will be next.

I also did quite a bit of hills.  In the early stages of this cycle, I did hill repeats.  As I got into the higher mileage, I just ran at least two hilly routes a week.  I mixed it up where sometimes the hills would get my heart rate going (like in the repeats) and other times I slowed down so that my heart rate stayed consistent.  I think it really helped, even though Surf City is a relatively flat course. 

result:  I feel like I can run forever.  My body uses fuel much more efficiently.  I didn't hit the wall until mile twenty-four!  I'm pretty sure that if I slowed it down, I might even be able to run further than 26.2 miles.

I didn't change much in terms of nutrition.  In fact, I think this is still an area where I can improve.  I failed to think in terms of fuel and often ate whatever I felt like.  I think I could even take my performance to a higher level if I think more carefully about my overall diet during my training.  This is a special challenge when you have picky kids.*

I did do the week before the race a little differently.  In the past, I have done straight carbo loading a few days prior to the race.  This time, even though there are mixed opinions whether this works, I did a carbohydrate depletion early in the week.  On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I tried to do a modified Adkins-style diet.  For example, I ate Trader Joes Chile Lime Chicken Burgers with cheese and avocado and no bun and I snacked on hard boiled eggs.  I didn't take it to the extreme, but I did try to consciously cut some of the carbs.  Starting on Thursday, I ate waffles for breakfast (in addition to my daily Luna Bar) and added extra brown rice to my El Pollo Loco Chicken Bowl and had things like pretzels for snacks.  I had pasta for dinner on all three nights.

Whether there is scientific proof behind this method or not, I'm not sure.  I think it worked for me.  I did not hit the "wall" until well after mile twenty.  I felt that pain of the glycogen depletion so much later than previous races or long runs.   At mile twenty-four, when it finally caught up to me, I was close enough to the end to push through it.

result- My carbo loading plan left me feeling well-fueled for the race.

race plan--
A race plan is so tough to get right.  Our only plan in 2008 was to keep it nice and slow in the beginning.  We may have gone too slow, keeping us out there on the course longer than necessary.  By the time we hit the later miles, we were so tired and sore that we couldn't have made up time.  I don't know if we would have had a better result had we gone out a little faster.  I doubt it.  In 2009, I had a plan but didn't stick to it.  I went out quite a bit faster than I had planned to, because I was feeling good.  I mentally wanted to "bank" some time in the early miles to give me room when I slowed down in the later miles.  Planning for positive splits only ensures that you'll get them.

For Surf City, I had a race plan and I stuck to it.  I knew I wanted to keep it between 9:00 and 9:09 for the first part of the race.  I knew that my fresh legs might want to go out closer to 8:50.  I believe that  sticking to my plan is the biggest factor in how I finished.  I not only made my goal, but I ran the late miles stronger than many of the earlier miles.  I might have been able to go out faster and still finished with the same time.  But it wouldn't have been as fun to have a fantastic time up until mile eighteen or so, only to walk much of the last few miles.  Finishing strong was a more important goal to me than finishing under four hours.  The most miserable feeling in the world is that hopeless feeling in the latter part of a marathon when you question everything.  I am happy to say that I never felt that during this race.

Yes, there is the chance that I could have gone out at 8:50 and continued to be strong throughout and gone on to hit my BQ time of 3:50.  But I didn't want to chance it.  I have no regrets on how I ran this race.

Another part of my race plan was nutrition.  I decided to eat my Gu's at specific intervals.  I think in the past, I was much less strict with myself.  I also don't think I ate as often in the past.  This time I decided to have a Gu every four miles.  I think in the past I had one every five miles or so.  So at four, eight, twelve, sixteen and twenty miles, I ate a Gu**.  At one point around mile eighteen I couldn't remember if I had eaten one recently.  Since I was following my plan, I knew that I had to have had one at mile sixteen.  I nearly skipped my Gu at mile twenty-four, thinking that I was so close to the end.  After about a quarter mile, I rethought that and decided to stick with the plan.

I didn't have a specific plan in terms of hydration.  I brought 40 ounces in my hydration belt.  I had twenty ounces of water and twenty ounces of Vitalyte.  In the later miles, I drank mostly Vitalyte unless I was eating a Gu.  It was getting a bit hot and I was sweating, so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of electrolytes.  I also took an Endurolyte around mile fifteen or sixteen, I think.

result: Knowing to consciously hold myself back was huge.  Staying smart and running consistent splits was the key to this race.  I also stuck with my nutrition plan during the race.

Thanks for reading.  I hope that some of my post-marathon thoughts helped some of you who might be in the same boat I was-- only a couple of marathons under my belt looking to take it to another level.  I am excited to keep moving forward.  What's next?  BQ?  We'll see.

*An example of this is when I tried making a basic switch by changing to brown rice.  There was a revolt in my house.  Even my husband, who will eat almost anything, asked to return to white rice.  Now I try to add 1/4 to 1/3 of quinoa to white rice in order to make it a bit healthier.
**I like Just Plain in the beginning of the race and Espresso Love in the later miles.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Surf City Marathon Race Report (AKA Marathon Redemption)

I have run three marathons.
  • The first one I ran just under five hours (4:54:xx)*-- It was a success, since I finished, but I was a little disappointed in my time.  I knew I was capable of running closer to 4:30. 
  • The second one was on track for under four hours until around mile 15, when I walked quite a bit (4:16:10)-- Once again, it was a success because I finished and I had a major PR.  Again, however, I was a little disappointed that I didn't come closer to four hours, since I knew that I was capable of it.  It was really really hard and I didn't have all that much fun.
  • I ran my third marathon today.  It was an all-out SUCCESS.
  • I got the time I was hoping for-- success
  • I made a plan and stayed with it-- success
  • I had fun!-- success
    Here is the report (and in true Lisa fashion... it is a long one, so settle in and get comfy):

    Pre-race (FAIL):
    As I was getting ready last night, I started checking things off my checklist.  I got to my Garmin, which was happily sitting on the charger.  However, the wrist band** that it snaps onto was nowhere to be found.  That search derailed me for at least a half an hour.  During my search I thankfully came across the original band to the Garmin.  My dear, sweet husband (who was trying very hard to deal with a very panicked me) put the new band on.  I hadn't run with the rubber wristband, but it was better than no wristband at all.  I finally went to bed a little after 10 with everything (so I thought) laid out for the morning.

    I woke up at 3:45*** (yikes) and felt surprisingly well rested.  I had gone to sleep relatively quickly and slept more soundly than I usually do the night before a big race.  I went to get dressed.  I put on my capris, sports bra, shirt, arm warmers, hat.  Wait.... where was my hat??!!  I had it last night.  I noticed that it clashed with my shirt.  I spent an extra fifteen minutes looking everywhere for it!  Thankfully, I found my visor.  I just hoped that it wouldn't rain.****FAIL.

    I had my Zip Fizz and my Luna Bar while I waited for my body to "wake up."  I have had a couple of "issues" during races involving emergency stops at the porta potty.  I have learned that I need to completely empty myself, which means going three times (sorry if this is TMI).   Before leaving, I only went one time.  FAIL

    I was finally ready to go twenty minutes later than I had originally planned.  I grabbed my English muffin with a tiny schmeer of peanut butter, my windbreaker in case of rain, my throw-away sweatshirt, my hydration belt, and my drop bag and headed out the door.  I was not as relaxed as I would have liked.  I was cutting it a little close in terms of parking, porta-pottying etc.  I was worried that the stars were not aligning for my race.

    I was picking up my friend, Jimmy,***** who was in for the marathon from Las Vegas.  I picked him up at his hotel, allowing his wife and daughter to sleep in.  There was a bit of traffic and I had to do a U-turn, which was a pain.  Luckily, Jimmy is one of those really laid back guys and his attitude rubbed off on me.  Surprisingly, I was not a stressed-out mess as the clock ticked and we weren't parked.

    As we were pulling into the parking area, we both chuckled a bit at people wearing garbage sacks.  My car said that the outside temperature was in the 50's.  As soon as we got out of the car, I regretted making fun of those garbage sacks.  The wind made it feel much colder.  As we walked to the restroom, I wondered if I should get my windbreaker and then stuff it into my drop bag at the last minute.  It looked like we were going to get a killer headwind for the first few miles.

    After checking in my drop bag, we headed to the starting line.  After parking, using the restroom (yeah for beach bathrooms instead of porta potties) and checking gear, we only had ten minutes or so to wait in the chilly air.  I could tell by this point that it was going to warm up nicely. I was wearing my $3 Wal-Mart Sweatshirt and was very comfortable.  The wind had died down as the sun was coming up.  Yippee!
    Here I am at the starting line.  I still haven't mastered the self-portrait without getting a blurry photo.

    Jimmy and I are ready to go!

    The sun was starting to come up and it was going to be a beautiful day!

    Ready to go!! 
    Jimmy is training for a fifty mile race in four weeks, so the marathon was just a training run (with beverage support).  He was going to take it nice and easy.  So when they started us (after some unofficial waves to keep runners spread out), we waved good luck to each other and I took off ahead.

    Miles 1-9   (9:02, 9:09, 8:57, 9:05 [hill], 8:53, 8:59, 8:58, 8:59, 9:05 [hill])-- Keeping the pace in check- (SUCCESS)
    We were pretty far back from the start.  We were still near the 4:10 and 4:20 pace groups, so I wasn't too worried.  I wanted to start out pretty easy anyway.  As you may recall, my race plan was to keep my pace between 9:00 and 9:09 for most of the race, slowing down if I needed to and speeding up closer to the end if I had it in me.

    My foot had been hurting since arriving.  I had a pain (almost a cramp) in my arch, toward the back. Stretching didn't help at all. I am pretty sure there is something going on with my left foot.  I am going to go see a doctor to make sure everything is ok; that it is just tendonitis.  I get mild pain in or around my ankle almost every day.  It is not enough pain to sideline me, but I really don't want it to get worse.  So the pain stayed, but it didn't get worse.  I made sure that I didn't limp at all.  I knew that limping would cause problems later in the race.

    By mile two I was warm enough to take off my sweatshirt.  I put it right by the mile marker sign, to ensure that someone would pick it up to donate.  Other than the pain in my foot, things were going well.  

    The other runners weren't particularly chatty.  I was running easy and feeling good.  I wanted to chat with people, but everyone was in the zone.  I would make a comment and nobody responded.  Poo.  Lighten up folks!  So I started interacting with the volunteers.  I was that bubbly, annoying runner that I am sure at least one person rolled his eyes at, but I wanted to have fun.   There were a ton of teenagers out there volunteering.  I swear an entire high school was out there that morning.  Several of the girls (and even one or two boys) did cheers for the runners as they came by.  I thanked each of them.  A few times I pointed at some volunteers and said "YOU'RE AWESOME!"  The kids loved that.  At one point some kids were yelling, "we believe in you, runners."   I looked right at them and said, "and I believe in YOU."  I was having fun and I think they appreciated that I not only acknowledged them with a thank you, I even interacted.   I did this at almost every water station and intersection where yellow volunteer shirts were standing.  When I thanked volunteers/spectators and gave high fives, I thought about the runners who I gave that advice to over the past couple of years.  Irish threw the same advice back to me the other day.  Perfect!

    I did chat with an older gentleman for a minute or so.  He was well into his 60's (maybe older) and was wearing a t-shirt that said that he had run a marathon in all 50 states and D.C.  I asked him what was next. What does someone do after accomplishing a feat like that?  He told me that he wanted to complete 200 marathons.  This was number 183, so he was well on his way.  He was running a bit slower than I was, so I wished him good luck and went along my way.

    This first part of the race ran through some residential streets, had the only two hills of the entire race and a lovely park.  We ran through the park, on the path, around a beautiful lake.  It was still early morning and the sun glistened off the water.  It was a great setting for a race.

    I was grinning most of these miles.  I actually felt giddy.  Is that possible during a marathon???

    Miles 10-16 (8:49, 9:00, 9:03; 8:58, 9:04, 9:06, 9:01)--Keeping it going strong on a boring out-and-back section on the Pacific Coast Highway -(SUCCESS)
    Alissa wrote me a comment that really stuck with me.  She wrote, "Just remember those first 10 miles should be the some of the easiest 10 miles you've ever run."  Every time it started feeling like work, I looked at my Garmin and saw I was speeding up a bit and slowed down.  Those first ten miles were a breeze and they flew by.   My foot was still bothering me, but it hadn't changed at all.  It wasn't getting worse and I often forgot about it.

    I kept checking in with myself, making sure I was feeling good.  I caught myself a couple of times getting over confident.  I am currently listening to a book about K2 in the Karakoram mountains.  Like other books I have read about Himalayan Mountaineering, a key theme in the book is that getting to the top of an 8000 meter peak is only half the battle.  You must make it down from the top alive.  Similarly, in a marathon, getting to mile twenty is half the battle.  Running the last six is the hard part.  I kept reminding myself of this as I was confidently running those middle miles.

    Around mile twelve, the front runners of the half marathon caught and passed us.  One of the runners whizzed past and I made the comment that I couldn't run a 5K that fast.  A woman next to me responded.  Finally, a chatty runner.  I asked her if she was hoping to finish under four hours.  She was.  We told each other that we would try to help each other along.  Her name was Lisa from Sunnyvale, CA.  She is turning forty next month and trained for a marathon as a present to herself.  She had started a few minutes later than I did and had run faster miles.  She had averaged pretty close to 8:45 up until that point.  I told her I was closer to 9:00.

    Lisa and I ran together for a while, chatting occasionally.  Unfortunately, she started falling behind in mile fourteen.  I went on ahead.  As I hit the turn-around at mile sixteen, I saw her.  I cheered her on.  She waved and gave me a sheepish smile.  It was a smile I knew all too well from my other two marathons.  She was starting to hurt.

    Miles 17- 24 (9:08, 9:05, 8:59, 9:02, 8:56, 8:53, 8:50, 9:04)-- Kicking into another gear- (SUCCESS!)
    After the turnaround at mile sixteen, the course goes onto the bike path on the beach (as opposed to the previous section on the highway.  I liked this better.  It was a little narrow, but by this time things had spread out a bit.   I ran this stretch during my sixteen mile run a few weeks ago.  I was feeling much stronger this time than I did during that training run.

    I was starting to get more and more confident that I was going to be able to reach my goal.  My splits had been very consistent and I was still feeling good.  My foot was actually not hurting like it was.  Maybe it had gone numb?  In both my previous marathons, by mile seventeen, I was in trouble.  I was stopping, taking walk breaks and in some significant pain.  I had not stopped at all thus far.  I was carrying my own water and sport drink and didn't  need to stop at the aid stations.

    As I approached mile twenty******, I was getting excited.  I had just under an hour before the four hour mark.  If I kept it up, I would make my goal.  This thought really pushed me on.  Believe it or not, miles twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two and twenty-three were my favorite miles of the day!  I felt good and I knew I only had a short way to go.  A 10K?  That is a short run for me normally.   After that twenty mile mark, I decided to try to push the pace to ensure that I made my goal.

    I ran those next three miles faster than any three mile stretch of the entire race.  I'm not sure what happened, but I was feeling really strong.  A few things happened during those miles that helped to inspire me to keep going strong.  First, I saw L.B., another blogger,  running his first marathon.  He looked like he was still having fun, judging from his smile.  That gave me a boost.  Next, I saw Jimmy.  He gave me a big grin and we gave each other high fives.  Seeing a friendly face is great so late in the race.  I told him that I was right on target.  This is why I enjoy out and back segments.  I love seeing other people who are ahead or behind you.

    Next, a song came on my iPod that really made me smile and remember what is really important to me.  My husband likes country music.  I do not.  He always changes my car radio to a country station, just to mess with me.  He downloaded a song that cracks him up because it is so country (not the Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts kind of country that he usually likes).   I put it on my playlist on purpose and it worked beautifully.  Somewhere in that third hour I heard the twangy sound of a group called Trailer Choir.  Seriously... that is the name of the band.  The song is called "Rockin' the Beer Gut.*******"  It made me smile from ear to ear.

    It wasn't until right around mile twenty-four that I started to hit that wall.

    Miles 25-26.4 (9:14, 8:47 [!!], 3:14 [8:11 pace!!!]********---Pushing through the wall and across the finish line- (SUCCESS).

    That twenty-fifth mile was my slowest of the race.  Finally, my body realized it had been running a really long time.  My legs started to hurt (that all-over kind of hurt) and my feet felt like they weighed a hundred pounds.  I concentrated on keeping my footfalls light.  I didn't want to shuffle.   I just wanted to be done.  I knew that if I kept up a decent pace I would be done in less than twenty minutes and under four hours!!

    I hadn't eaten my last Gu at mile twenty-four.  I figured that I was so close to the finish, why bother.  As I started to fade, I realized that it couldn't hurt.  I had stuck with my race plan so far and I should continue.  I ate the last Gu.  Whether it even had time to kick in or not is debatable.  I think it helped me mentally, knowing I was doing everything I could to make sure I finished strong.

    When I finally saw that twenty-five mile sign, I knew I could make it.  One more mile!  One more LONG mile.  Just past mile twenty-five, we turned back onto PCH and merged with the half marathoners.  Since the half marathoners started more than an hour after us, these folks were most likely finishing after three hours, so most of them were walking.  I passed hundreds of people.   It was pretty cool thinking that I was running my twenty-sixth mile and blowing past people who were on their thirteenth.  Not to take anything away from those people. They ran/walk their hearts out as much as I did that day.

    I saw the four hour pace sign ahead of me.  It became my focus.  I needed to finish before that pacer.  I could tell she was tired.  She kept dropping the sign and then lifting it up for a few seconds before lowering it again.  I pushed hard.   I passed her and kept going.   I was almost done!

    My next goal was to make it in before the race clock hit four hours.  I started three minutes after the gun.  I thought it would be really cool to see a 3 on the race clock.  I sprinted toward the finish (as much as you can sprint after twenty-six miles).   I didn't make it.  The clock showed 4:002x.  Almost! 

    The finish and after- (SUCCESS!!!)
    When I crossed the finish line, I felt that rush of emotion.  It was the rush of emotion I had hoped to feel after my first marathon, but instead felt only relief.  Sunday I felt elation and pride.  I burst into tears.  I am actually tearing up right now writing about it.   I ran a race on  MY terms.  The race didn't define my running... I defined it myself.  I was strong from start to finish and ran MY race.  I had a race plan and stuck to it.  I am actually still in disbelief how well it went.
    I took this picture when my Garmin was still on my wrist.  I posted it immediately to Facebook so my friends and family would know that I did it.

    I was holding my mylar blanket because it was pretty hot at the end of the race.  I'm glad I kept it because I got chilly on my walk back to my car an hour later.

    I had my short burst of emotion and then wanted to get my bag, put on my flip flops and get a beer.  I was hoping to meet up with Penny.  I failed to get her number before Sunday and was trying to communicate via Twitter rather than texts.  I was also hoping to run into Alice and the Heffers.  There were other bloggers like Danica, Aron, and Glenn who were running the half who I was hoping to see.  I didn't.  I still waited in the long beer line and drank my free beers.  They hit the spot.   I chatted with some very friendly runners and had a nice time.

    Since Jimmy had found his wife and daughter, I walked back to my car.  I was still on cloud nine.  I drove home and had a nice afternoon with my family.  It was a low key Superbowl with just us.

    Thanks for reading this novel!  I will post some thoughts later this week on my training and preparation for this race.  I want to document my thoughts so I can try to recreate it for my next one.    Thanks to all of you for all your support and encouragement.

    Happy Running....

    Final results:
    Overall: 628 out of 2349
    Women: 171 out of 961
    F 40-44: 28 out of 141
    Age/Grade: 61.13% Place: 409
    Finish: 3:57:17 Pace: 9:03
    Tag Time: 3:57:17
    Gun Time: 4:00:23

    *the 2008 race report was in three parts.
    ** since my husband and I were sharing the Garmin, we bought a band that can snap off so it can be mounted onto a bike.  I actually like the band better than the original, since it is more of a cloth-like band (instead of rubber) and adjusts with velcro.
    ***I need at least an hour to let my body "wake up" and for me to get set for a race.  I wanted to leave around 4:45 in order to get a decent parking spot.  I have about a half hour drive to Huntington Beach.The race started at 6:30.
    **** for the record, I haven't found either item.  I think my house must be in some sort of vortex, seizing key items and sending them into the unknown.
    *****Jimmy and I met during our RRCA Certification Training.  We hit it off right away.  We then discovered that we had a mutual friend.  Jimmy is very good friends with Jill from the blog  She and I have become friends over the internet (blogs, facebook and twitter) and Jimmy is friends with her in real life.
    ******For those of you who cyber-stalked me, I really don't think that twenty mile split was accurate.  If I recall correctly, the mat was closer to the twenty-one mile marker than the twenty.  The splits recorded on the Surf City website show I averaged 9:29 for the twenty miles.  I never ran a single mile slower than 9:15.  Even the course map shows the turnaround between miles twenty and twenty-one.  The timing mat was right at the turnaround. 


    ******** My Garmin measured 26.4 miles.  I didn't think I had done that much weaving or going wide on the turns.  In fact, I consciously ran the tangents on the turns.  It is possible that I ran it long.  However, Jimmy told me that he measured 26.4 as well.  I also talked to a couple after the race who thought the course was a shade long.  Who knows?  It doesn't matter now, does it?


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