Sunday, November 28, 2010

Race Recap: Run Wild For a Child 10k (2010)

Yeah, yeah... My 5-mile race on Thursday got the best of me over the long weekend. In between double helpings of mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, I somehow talked myself into believing that I'd be able to run a sub-50-minute 10k based on that trail race alone. I thought I found a good race (ok, so it was just a "close to home" race) to try this goal on. And I knew I was plenty carbo-loaded.

I wasn't sure if I'd have a fast race due to lingering muscle pain from XC racing a couple days before + an 8-mile post-feast run, but at least there was to be one huge redeeming factor: This race promised more people in costumes.
Run Wild For a Child is a fundraising race held every Thanksgiving weekend in Golden Gate Park. Registrants are asked to bring a toy (or a donation), which is then given to the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program. The toys are not only given to children in need during the holidays, they are also given throughout the year to shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, children's cancer wards, pediatric AIDS units, and to families who have lost their homes to fires, floods, or other disasters. I may not be the biggest fan of children, but I'm a big fan of things that are nice. This charity is very nice, and I knew that even if I didn't run well, I was supporting a great cause.

In light of the recent turkey-themed race I did on Thursday, this race also had a theme: TOYS! Participants were encouraged to dress up as their favorite toy and take part in the parade/judging afterward. Since I decided on doing this race the morning of, I didn't have time to scrape together a costume. I did have time to enjoy all the costumes around me, though.

Mile 1 (7:41):
It was chilly this morning while we were waiting for the race to start, and it certainly didn't help that we were waiting in the shadows of the de Young museum tower. I've never seen anything like this before, but an instructor actually led a warm-up to keep us all moving. The warm-up involved jogging in place, light stretching, and a whole lot of energy. I've never seen a group so big doing synchronized movements before a race. There were pace times posted near the start so people could line up in an appropriate order. I moved up to the 8 minute/mile group and took off with others in a similar bracket.

Some joker spacing out during the warm-up.

Mile 2 (7:37):
At mile 2 the 5k racers split off and this helped keep the road free. I was impressed at how well this race was set up so people knew where to start, where to go, and how open the roads were. I had no problem picking a few people to draft and hope that they'd pace me to the halfway point. I also had very little issues focusing on running some decent tangents.

Strawberry Shortcake looking a little lost.

Mile 3 (7:39):
During this mile, I was able to watch the last of the 5kers making their first loop around the Panhandle. It was there that I got to cheer on the best costumes I saw all morning: a family of bubbles! They were the last people running the 5k course, but for good reason. Not only is 3.1 miles a lot for two tiny children, it's a lot for anyone who's in a bubble! I even got to watch one of the little ones take a tumble -- it was only adorable because he laughed as he couldn't stand back up.

Cutest costumes ever!

Mile 4 (8:01):
This mile felt like a long, gradual uphill back into Golden Gate Park. As I learned from doing a lot of smaller (and larger) less-manned races, I brought my own water bottle so I wouldn't have to fight with the crowds at the one and only water stop. I was really glad to do have done this again.

My brother used to kick my ass at the Sorry! board game when we were growing up, so it was a fun trip down memory lane to see these pieces out on the course! Not sure what the dancing monkey with cymbals had to do with the game though.

Mile 5 (7:36):
This mile included the sharp-grade hill leading to Stow Lake and, frankly, I'm surprised it was my fastest mile. As soon as I got to the top of the hill, I ran to the side of the course and gagged. Nothing came up, so I continued to run. Then I gagged again. And again. I kept running, gagging two more times while in motion. Figuring that this was merely a reflex for "sprinting" up a long hill, I didn't get scared about losing my breakfast and booked it on the downhill. I have now deemed gagging as a "turbo power" and I will no longer be scared of puking during races.

Gingerbread Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Inky

Mile 6 (8:03):
After a steep downhill from Stow Lake, there was only one more long climb up Lincoln Blvd. in Golden Gate Park before we could consider the hilliest parts of the race over. Convenient, since where the hills ended, the race ended.

G.I. Jooooeeeee
Mile .3 (2:00):
I heard the announcer shouting finishers names from around the corner and tried my hardest to sprint to the finish line. This was a challenge as we ended on an uphill through the tiniest finishers chute ever into the Music Concourse. I knew I was going to break my PR by more than a couple minutes, and I was ecstatic about that.

Pippy Longstocking dancing to some post-race music.
Am I seeing double?!
6.3-mile splits (48:42) -- a 2:06 PR!
1: 7:41
2: 7:37
3: 7:39
4: 8:01
5: 7:36
6: 8:03
.3: 2:00
Air Temp: 48F

Average Pace: 7:44 min/mile (7.7 mph)
Overall Place: 112 out of 619
Gender Place: 18 out of 320
Age/Gender Place: 6 out of 67

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Race Recap: Turkey Trail Trot 5-Miler

A while ago I decided I wasn't going to pay for shorter distance races. Obviously I've failed at this because I've still signed up for 5ks when they are for good causes, when people ask me to run with them, and when they are cheap. Apparently I have another exception to this rule: I'll pay for short-distance races when it's a distance I haven't raced before. (I'll also apparently pay for races when my friends leave town for the holiday and I have nothing better to do.)

This morning I trotted over to the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park to run my first ever trail race: the Turkey Trail Trot 5-mile cross-country run.
I've done a few Thanksgiving Day runs in the past and I find them to be hilarious -- there's something about people running in drumstick costumes that will forever entertain me. Then put us all on a 5-mile path of loose gravel, wet grass, thin dirt trails, and lots of mud puddles, and you couldn't pay me enough to watch pilgrims and Indians slipping and sliding down the slopes.

They don't know what they're about to get into.
Go ahead and make fun of me for losing my Minnesota blood already, but it has been cold in San Francisco lately. (We don't need to talk about running in ice and snow; I'll be doing that over Christmas soon enough...) While it was sunny and perfectly clear all week, the winds have whipped, the temperatures have dropped, and the cold ocean air has soaked into my bones. I was shaking as I waited for the start.

A penguin also waiting around for the start.
I have done a fair amount of dirt trail running at the Lands End and Coastal trails, but I've never done a cross-country race through meadows. I figured 5 miles would be a good distance to warm myself up to this new world of running, especially since the race mostly looked flat. Hooooly cow, was I wrong in guessing that it would be easy! The fields were slick with frosty dew, the trails were packed with thawing mud, and my legs felt like cranberry jello within the first two miles. All of you cross-country runners out there: I salute you. This terrain was very difficult in lightweight running shoes.

The march of the turkeys -- moving from the benches to the starting line.

Mile 1 (8:16):
As usual, I pushed my way to the front of the crowd while we waited for the starting gun. I tried to keep up with the front runners once we were off, but there were so many random puddles along the track that people were hopping and skipping all over the place. (Totally fine -- I do it, too -- but I at least try to make sure I'm not jumping right in front of someone.) I think I clipped more than a couple shoes, and the sheer number of people finding their spot in the pack made for a slower mile for me.

Silly turkey hats

Mile 2 (7:55):
I don't remember this mile at all. I remember thinking like we should have been at mile 4 -- I felt that spent so early on -- when my Garmin chirped at mile 2. Running on Lindley Meadow's slippery grass was probably the hardest part of this course.

Sillier turkey hats

Mile 3 (8:14):
This mile had a few hills. While hills slow me down, they also make me feel more competitive for some reason. I'm able to gain a lot of ground (and "chick" a lot of runners) on uphills without sacrificing too much time. I also had one slip-up on this mile: I rolled my ankle. I don't know if it was the uneven terrain or the fact that I overpronate on a weak left ankle from a previous injury, but I rolled it, wobbled, and almost took a tumble. My ankle had a dull throb the rest of the race.

Silliest turkey hat. And body.
Mile 4 (8:06):
My leg muscles were feeling really unsteady and weak as we made our way through the frozen Lindley Meadow a second time -- not running on solid surface was taking a lot out of me! Road running: I miss you! During this mile I also learned why cross-country runners have spikes on their shoes. I'm surprised I didn't see any spills (or why I didn't personally take myself out) on this mile of the course.

Wrong animal, dude.
Mile 5 (7:39):
The only reason this mile was my fastest was because we were back on the flat track and I was well ahead of a lot of runners, so I didn't have to do much weaving. I recently started running to progressive house music that is mixed specifically for runners based on foot turnover rate/beats per minute, and for this race I was listening to tempo music slightly above my comfort zone. I lengthened my stride on the track and still kept with the faster beat. It ended up working out well for me. Now, if I can learn to do that all the time...

Wrong holiday, dudette.
Overall, the Turkey Trail Trot was a really fun race. They had prizes for the top three finishers in each division and I was amazed at how many people stuck around to watch the awards ceremony -- then I learned that they also do a raffle! The race was well-organized, the energy was contagious, the costumes were funny, they had a ton of post-race goodies, and if I'm around for the race next year, I would gladly do it again.

Waiting around for the awards/raffle. That teeny tiny lady in bright orange collecting her prize was the 1st-place female finisher. Who was she? Oh, none other than Magdalene Lewy-Boulet, 2008 Olympic marathoner. Of course she won this little race. She got a friggin' 2:26 at Rotterdam.
All day I've been thinking about the fact that I could maybe, MAYBE, break the 50-minute mark in the 10k (my current PR is 50:48) after seeing my results for this race. So who knows -- perhaps I'll be paying for another short distance race in the near future. ;)

Terrific Turkey Trail Trot t-shirt
Happy Thanksgiving!

5-mile splits (39:34) -- gotta love automatic PRs
1: 8:16
2: 7:55
3: 8:14
4: 8:06
5: 7:39
Air Temp: 45F

Average Pace: 7:55 min/mile (7.6 mph)
Overall Place: 127 out of 824
Age/Gender Place: 12 out of 176

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nuun Giveaway Winner!

Thank you all for your comments on why you should win not one, not two, but THREE tubes of delicious, delicious Nuun! I wish I could make you all winners (well, you ARE all winners, but you know what I mean), but alas, I have to pick one.
I enjoyed reading all your responses! My favorites included:

Jen from Pretend this is real, who tied in many reasons why running hungover is no fun and Nuun could help her stay hydrated. I love how you embrace the New Orleans culture and still have an awesome running life!

Pam from Thirty Schmirty, who cracked me up with her "Why should I win? I am cheap and this is free" -- that IS a good reason to win, and I have the same mindset. I love free stuff!

Tortuga_Runner from Tales of an Ambitious Slacker, who wins extra cool-kid points for admitting that she runs with a fanny pack. Awesome! ;)

And the winner is . . .

Just like I'm not giving away only one tube of Nuun, Julie didn't give me only one reason why she should win Nuun. I shook my head at the thought of her catching sleet in her mouth to hydrate during the winter months (can't say I miss that), and she wins four stars simply for the fact that she hydrates her bike rides to school with hot chocolate. Now that's talent!

I didn't even think about trying the cola-flavored Nuun for the reason she gave me -- becoming addicted to a cola that actually hydrates!? I might need to try now! -- and I really hope I can hear her personally say "Nuun of your business" when I ask what she's drinking while she kicks ass at Grandma's Marathon next summer. :)

Julie, please send your info to diaryofanaveragerunner [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll get these in the mail to you so you can start hydrating right away. Best of luck in your training this winter, and please stay injury free!

Thank you all for reading, and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Totally Rad Get-Together

Even though this wasn't my motivation (or even something I thought would happen as a result), one of the coolest things about having a blog is all the awesome blogger/runners I have met. I've heard other runners saying how blogging provides them with a close knit pen-pal kind of relationship with fellow runners. I get what they are talking about.

I feel like I know a lot of blogger/runners virtually, but I have been lucky enough to meet a few in person to exchange stories and run some races. Last night I got to meet one of my other favorite bloggers, Erica "Rad Runner", who recently kicked ass at her very first marathon, while she made a quick few-day getaway into San Francisco for the weekend. Instead of exchanging stories, we exchanged cupcakes and beer. It was a good night.

My god, I want that cupcake and candy tattoo she's sporting.
Be sure to check out Rad's blog for a super awesome giveaway (but don't enter because I want to win) ... and then leave a comment on my giveaway to win yourself some tasty Nuun! Only a few are in the running -- your chances are really good!

To leave you with a less-than-inspiring picture for your upcoming weekends, the U.S. Half Marathon photos were posted yesterday. Let's just say my life was better off having not seen them. However, I have no shame after I kicked ass at this race, so here's me in the final stretch.

Okay, so the real reason I'm posting this is because I finally have a picture with BOTH FEET IN THE AIR!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let's Have Ourselves a Giveaway!

Alright, folks. I do believe it's about time for an Average A Giveaway!

I'm giving away a product I've come to swear by ... NUUN!*

I started drinking Nuun early this year for one completely silly reason: I'm a sucker when it comes to artificial banana flavoring.


I love banana Runts, banana Laffy Taffy, banana Dum-Dums, even regular old bananas (but they aren't as good as banana-flavored things).

One day when I was at a local running store re-stocking my Sports Beans supply, I ran across BananaNuun and immediately threw it in my basket without a second thought. I had heard of people using Nuun during training and racing, but didn't know much else about it other than it came in a flavor that appealed to me. I quickly learned that it's a sugar-free electrolyte tab that dissolves in your water bottle, much like some of those old-fogey denture-cleaning products. Only unlike those denture-cleaning products, this product is good for your body and not your fake teeth. There's a ton of science behind Nuun, and instead of pretending like I understand chemistry, I'll let you read for yourself here.

Drinking Nuun at first was weird. It's more carbonated than water, but less fizzy than soda. It was a strange feeling to drink bubbles while running, but the artificial banana flavor quickly made up for any awkwardness and I never had any upset-stomach issues from the fizz. I then ventured on to trying other flavors that reminded me of sports drinks (berry flavors, lemon-lime flavors -- I haven't yet braved my way into the cola, ginger, or chai world, but maybe someday). Before long, I realized that this product was actually helping me during my marathon training.

Not only was I staying better hydrated, I was watching how much I was hydrating because it was hard for me to chug the product. With water, I'd easily drink way too much and then I'd have side stitches/sloshy stomach syndrome. It wasn't as easy to chug something mildly fizzy. And then there's that whole sometimes-you-need-more-than-water-when-your-body-starts-eating-away-at-itself thing. Nuun ended up becoming my trusty companion on my training runs, right there beside my Garmin.

AAAAND, if I haven't already written too much that you didn't even want to read in the first place, Nuun is easy to carry so there is seriously no excuse to not be hydrated. A tube of Nuun fits easily into my iFitness belt (although I prefer to just bring a few tabs with me), and one tube makes 12 water bottles worth of active hydration. Public water fountains just became a whole lot tastier.

So what's the giveaway already!?!!
My giveaway will include one tube of my all-time favorite BananaNuun (I can't believe I'm surrendering this), one tube of tasty Tri-Berry Nuun (which I drank during my PR at the U.S. Half Marathon last weekend), and one tube of Citrus Fruit Nuun (which I also promise is delicious). That's THREE tubes of Nuun! 36 bottles of hydration! *However many that equals* gallons of tastiness! Who will be the lucky person?

Yes, there are rules. They are simple.
  • Part I: Leave me a comment about how you hydrate during your workouts -- running, biking, weight lifting, kayaking, rock climbing, flyfishing, boogie boarding, cartwheeling, etc. I'm interesting in hearing the hydration method(s) that work best for your activities.
  • Part II: You better tell me why you want to use (or currently use and deserve more) Nuun. Creativity counts!
You don't need to follow my blog, although it is nice. You don't need to like anything on Facebook or stalk anything on Twitter since I don't care. Just leave me a comment about how you hydrate/what you use during working out and why you want this delicious product.

The winner will be chosen randomly based on my discretion, and I may or may not favor someone who can beat the "I stumbled across this piece of heaven because of a fake banana obsession" story. I'll announce the winner two weeks from today (Tuesday, November 23, 2010).

Good luck!

*I'm not being sponsored, promoted, or bribed by Nuun in any way -- I just really love this stuff and want to share the happiness. Bottles up!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Race Recap: U.S. Half Marathon

We all have those races where we set high expectations for ourselves: Where we feel our training and our pacing is swiftly moving by; where we feel strong and excited heading up to race day; where we know -- weeks before -- we are on track to set a new PR.

And then the opposite of ideal conditions present themselves on race day, and we throw those expectations out the window.

After a beautiful stretch of warm and sunny weather, the rainclouds poured in and we lost our "perfect race day" this morning. But thankfully, my first San Francisco half marathon was still a good run with a new PR to my name.

The Prep

Since moving to San Francisco, the hills have given me good reason to be concerned. After taking time to establish myself, I re-introduced myself to running by finding the flattest terrain possible. I then moved onto running in Golden Gate Park where I made my way over some gradual uphills and downhills that reminded me of a glorified version of Minnesota. After that, I huffed and puffed (and walked) my way up the steep hills of the Presidio, up and over the Golden Gate Bridge, and along the Coastal Trail. Still, the hills were getting to me, my endurance, my lung capacity, and my burning calves. It was definitely not as much fun as is sounds.

And then my training slipped away because I was finding so many fun things to do and see and visit and be visited by. My first 3 or 4 weeks of my new time-based (rather than distance-based) half marathon training program deteriorated and I shifted workouts around all the time ... if not skipping them all together.

At the end of September, reality hit. I was registered for the U.S. Half Marathon, and the U.S. Half Marathon isn't exactly known for being flat and fast. Sure, the website tries to hide the obvious:


No need to be intimidated by the hills — they’re actually good for you! Hills allow you to engage other muscle groups — and award you with a fun-filled downhill.

(Nice try.)

I began re-focusing my training at the beginning of October and took my hill training and tempo runs much more seriously. I was rewarded with some blazing fast runs (by my slow standards), a newfound appreciation for speed training, some incredibly tiring -- but rewarding -- uphill runs, and an unusual confidence that, despite the hilly U.S. Half Marathon course, I could potentially beat my half marathon personal best. Then blam-oh: 100% chance of rain. Cold, hard rain.

The Race

Yesterday was downright gorgeous.

The view from the packet pick-up.
This morning downright sucked.

After the finish line -- can you even see the bridge in there?
RoadBunner, after coming down from her wicked 2010 marathon streak, still hasn't said goodbye to racing this year, and she picked me up at 5:30a.m. (thanks, Daylight Savings, for making this morning suck a little less). We found our parking spot in the Marina and met up with Karin and Ron. You may remember Ron from such races as, oh, well, you can find him out running and biking races a couple times a day. This guy is a true maniac, running something along the lines of 18,006* full and half marathons (plus more he's probably not telling me about) from the day we did the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure together in September to the U.S. Half today. *This figure is purely a guess.

Ron was not only kind enough to put up with my incessant text-messaging habit (the medium by which I expressed all my race nerves to him ... daily), he outfitted me for the day!

Punk Rock Racing now comes in pink!
I had the worst, most discombobulated start ever. We thought we were doing well on time, so we chilled out in the heated Safeway, used the bathrooms there, and slowly made our way over to the start. I switched on my Garmin as I found some semblance of a bag check -- it was more like a potpourri of random objects people were hoping they could find later. I then heard "2 minutes to the start!" as RoadBunner and Ron urged me to push my way to the front. My Garmin still hadn't found any satellites, I didn't have my headphones in, I couldn't get the garbage bag I was wearing over my head, I didn't organize my iFitness belt, and the group starting moving forward. I held back and waited for my Garmin to start since I wanted to accurately monitor my mile splits. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was the official LAST PERSON to start this morning's race. So much for avoiding the back of the pack.

Even though the race was chip-timed, I felt a wave of panic knowing I was in last place. The first two miles were a pretty steady downhill and I was successfully able to make up some space in the pack. I looked at my Garmin after the first two miles and I realized I had gone out way too fast (mile 1 = 8:08, mile 2 = 8:01). I needed to pace myself better or I'd bonk before the halfway point.

I had no problems slowing down, as miles 3 through 6 were all the crazy hills leading up to the Golden Gate Bridge. I actually didn't think the hills were too bad; sure, they were tiring and much too long, but I didn't feel were as daunting as some of the hills I had trained on. So at least I had that going for me.

Miles 6 and 8 were the miles on and near the scary, scary bridge. As RoadBunner was quick to tell me, I actually wasn't that scared on the bridge because I couldn't see anything through the low rainclouds and the water blowing in my eyes. The scarier part was running in ankle-deep mud puddles on the trails leading down to the water on the Marin side; I felt like anyone could have come tumbling down the hill, knocking us down like dominoes, straight into the water.

By the end of my second pass over the bridge, I started to feel tired. I realized that I was on a good pace, but I started to feel physically cold. The wind picked up near Chrissy Field (miles 11 and 12) making the rain feel like bits of hail pelting against my face. In previous years, this course had a notorious history of being short; I was hoping that it would be short again this year. The flattest, windiest part of the course was harder than any of the hills, and these ended up being some of my slowest non-hill miles. I was ready to be done.

I sprinted down the final hill by Aquatic Park, expecting to see the finish line where it was supposed to be... only it didn't showed up. I tried to keep my momentum going until we finally turned a bend around Ghiradelli Square and the finish line was in site. I didn't even vomit as I barely squeaked in a new 40-second PR.

Ron had to show everyone up by tacking on additional miles DURING the race.
Me, RoadBunner, and Karin, sporting PRR gear and the fact we came out alive.
Bling bling.
The Cons

There were a number of problems I experienced with this race: When I went to pick up my packet yesterday, they had run out of t-shirts. They claim they'll mail it to me, but I'm not holding my breath. Today's bag check was a serious mess; they basically moved our massive pile of bags at the start down to the finish, and we were left to fend for ourselves and hope no one walked away with our stuff. Some of the later finishers didn't receive their finisher's water bottles or medal, and that really sucks for them. I didn't use any of the water stops during the race (I brought my own water bottle), but I heard they were poorly manned, understocked, and moved off of the course due to flooding.

Aside from that, would I do this race again? Perhaps... :)

The Results

Average Pace: 8:40 min/mile
Overall Place: 522 out of 2,973
Gender Place: 133 out of 1,620
Age/Gender Place: 70 out of 703

13.22-mile splits (1:54:30)
1: 8:08
2: 8:01
3: 8:20
4: 8:59
5: 9:19
6: 8:47
7: 9:14
8: 8:56
9: 8:13
10: 8:08
11: 8:44
12: 9:00
13: 8:52
.22: 1:41
Air Temp: 59F, heavy rain