Saturday, February 26, 2011

Snow in San Francisco!

When I heard late in the week that there was a "likely" chance snow would come to San Francisco, I did my best sleuthing to figure out when exactly said snow was going to happen. Granted, I've already had nearly 30 years of winters filled with way too much snow, but the thought that snow would hit us at sea level was exciting.

The hours between 4a.m. and 6a.m. were looking like peak hours for flurries. I ate my breakfast and headed out on my long run somewhere around 5:30 hoping to catch a glimpse. This is what I saw.

My street was not only covered in snow, it was being threatened by some daunting storm clouds.
Heading up Lincoln Blvd. to the Golden Gate Bridge -- stopping to pack some snowballs along the way.
The sun peeking its way through the monstrous snowstorm.
The Bridge was so covered, I wished I had brought my Yax Tracks.
Sutro Tower barely holding its own against the storm. (Okay, so maybe something did come from those clouds, but I'm not convinced it happened here.)

Seriously though, the closest thing to snow was the frost on my hat after my run. 33-degree temperatures + a little sweat will do that, and, snow or no snow, I actually enjoyed bundling up and running in the cold early this morning.

Here's hoping the rest of you are staying safe in this unusual weather!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Most Discombobulated Morning Ever (aka Strawberry Hill 5k+ Race Recap)

We've had some nasty monsoon-like weather here in San Francisco lately. Yesterday morning I went out for an 11-miler along the 2nd half of the San Francisco Marathon course and somehow managed to finish it. Granted, I couldn't feel my hands and it honestly took me minutes to fumble my keys into the door to get back inside, but I ran the whole thing -- and I finished much quicker than I felt like I was moving.

This morning, my blogger buddy The Girl in Chucks talked me into running the Strawberry Hill 5k in Golden Gate Park so we could finally meet up in person! While it was still very cold this morning, at least it was sunny. I decided to run to the start to get in a warm up (and also to hit the 5 miles I was supposed to do today), so I left pretty close to the start time in hopes to not need to stand around long. I put on some warm running clothing, stepped out my door, and realized my iPod was waterlogged from yesterday and didn't want to play.

Not a big deal. I don't mind running without music.

A half mile from home, my Garmin chimed the "Battery Low" signal. I charged it immediately after my run yesterday -- what did it mean battery low?! I was hoping it was a mechanical issue from being in the rain and it was just playing games with me. I clicked it off, deciding that if the battery was indeed dying, I'd rather have my mile splits for the race than my warm-up miles.

I tracked down The Girl in Chucks, wished her a good race while shaking her hand as the airhorn was blown, and we were off. I really did cut it a little too close this morning.

Lots of people at the low-key DSE race.
A mile into the race, my Garmin chimed "Battery Low" again and promptly died after the first mile (which I finished in 7:21). Fair enough, I suppose I had my warning.

I guess I'll run without my Garmin now, too. Isn't this how people have run for the last couple thousand+ years?

The Strawberry Hill 5k is probably one of the hardest 5ks you could run here in the city. It runs a lap around Stow Lake with a roughly one-mile uphill grade that corkscrews around Strawberry Hill (one of the best vantage points of the city, alongside Twin Peaks), one mile following the same tracks down, and then the last mile is a mix of sharp, steep inclines with some gradual downhills around Stow Lake Drive. It's a really hard course. And, it's mostly on dirt in the woods, which, thanks to the recent rain, actually meant running in thick, sticky mud.

Yeah, I didn't really get the course either. Just imagine that it's mostly an uphill climb.
I felt like I was going at a good clip up Strawberry Hill, until, I ACTUALLY HAD TO STOP TO WALK. Yes, ladies and gentlemen: I walked during a 5k. At the very top of Strawberry Hill is a steep bank of narrow steps that you basically have to use your hands to climb to the top. It's made of woodchips and makeshift wooden stairs, and with all the people around me stopping to walk to the top, I followed the leader.

I booked the downhills as fast as the mud would let me and saw the clock say 23:59 as I crossed the finish line. Not bad for a hilly, muddy 5k, I guess. I'll take it. And then the DSE announcer told us that the course actually measured out to be 3.3 miles rather than 3.1. Based on some rudimentary math of my average pace, this would have put me into finishing the "real" 5k in 21:50 or so -- which would have been awesome for a hilly, muddy 5k that involved a few seconds of walking.

Gah, I wished my Garmin was working now!

Me & The Girl in Chucks after the hardest 5k ever.
I'm tempted to try another 5k in the near future, of course, to see how fast I could potentially do it. But story of my life, huh?

"Everyone's a winner at DSE races!"
3.3 miles: 23:59 (7:16 average pace)
Air Temp: 40F, sunny

Heeeeeyy, product review/giveaway coming up this week (if I find the time)!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Overheating in a Tank Top ... in February (or, Race Recap: Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon)

A few months ago I woke up with a stabbing pain in my left heel. I figured I had a bruised heel and it would go away. After consulting with my friend RoadBunner (a totally certifiable running consultant in my book), she warned me that it sounded like a classic case of plantar fasciitis. I rolled it on a tennis ball, bought some orthotics for my shoes, iced it every night, and continued to run 6 days a week.

Two weeks ago, I was riding the bus to work and got a charley horse in my right quad while just sitting there reading my book. I thought the months of hobbling on my left heel was getting to my "overcompensating" leg. Only the pain didn't go away, and I sometimes had a hard time putting weight on it altogether. My quad never hurt to the touch -- it only hurt when I stepped on that side. I massaged it, iced it 4 times daily, and continued to run on the days it wasn't totally unbearable.

I asked a physical therapist about my leg and the result: It's my right IT band. It's weak because my right leg is about an inch longer than my left leg, and all the running on pavement is jarring it in weird ways. My right sartorius muscle knotted up because it was tired of making up for my weak IT band. His suggestion: Take a few weeks off of running, roll my sartorius and IT band on a foam roller, and stick to running on trails for a while when I get back into it.
This morning was the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon & 5K here in the City. I registered for the half a while ago thinking that if I didn't make my sub-1:50 goal in L.A., I'd try again here since my training was up and the two races were close to one another. I ended up making my goal in L.A., and a promising 10-mile race two weekends ago lead me to think I might even be able to squeak out a sub-1:45 half marathon. Then my satorius bonked, and I had to re-think my goals for today's race.I woke up and the pain in my heel was pretty noticeable. I rolled it on a tennis ball before getting my body out of bed, made breakfast, hobbled outside to gauge the weather (my computer said 63 degrees at 6:00am!?!), and changed my mind from wearing my black Punk Rock Racing shirt into my yellow, yet-to-be-christened-at-a-race Marathon Maniacs tank. It was going to be a warm day, and I didn't want to have a repeat of feeling too hot, like I did when I ran the 13.1 Marathon in L.A.

I ran to the starting line of the KP Half, noticing only some minor twinges in my right quad, but appreciating the warm-up miles. I lined up with the 1:45 pacer (an ambitious goal I was more than willing to back out of), had my best half marathon to date, and then ran home.

The starting line near the De Young Museum.
Yes, I wanted to at least go for it.
I can't remember the 1:45 pacer's name, but we chatted briefly as I asked him about the course tangents. He ended up playing a pretty cool role for me late in the game.
Mile 1 (8:00), Mile 2 (7:33), Mile 3 (7:59), Mile 4 (7:44)
Usually I start races out too quickly and after "banking" time on the first few miles of the 13.1 Marathon - L.A., I figured I'd go for that strategy again. But when my Garmin beeped 8:00 at mile 1, I needed to pick it up to bank anything -- my goal for the race was to run 8-minute miles, and I already cut it too close right off the bat. Luckily by mile 2, the crowd thinned out and we had a nice little downhill, so I was able to bank some time as we squared around Panhandle Park.

Mile 5 (7:52, first gel), Mile 6 (7:31), Mile 7 (7:43), Mile 8 (7:57)
After a relieving downhill stretch in Golden Gate Park we hit the Great Highway, where the out-and-back portion was seriously brutal. While there was at least some shade in Golden Gate Park, there was nothing along the highway -- no wind, no clouds, nothing but the hot pavement glaring up at us. I slowed down at a few water stops to swig some cold water (the Citrus Nuun I had in my bottle was warm and disappearing quickly), and dump the rest of the water on my head. It seemed to help in cooling me down. I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that I was overheating, in a tank top, in the first week of February, in San Francisco!

Mile 9 (8:03), Mile 10 (8:02, second gel), Mile 11 (7:56), Mile 12 (8:06)
I struggled a lot on the Great Highway. The footing wasn't the best in places, and the stiff heat made the miles seem like they were dragging on forever. At mile 11 the 1:45 pacer passed by me. "Oh no you di'int!", I exclaimed, hoping he'd recognize me from the short chat we had earlier in the morning. I was feeling a bit nauseous, and told myself I'd let him stay in front of me until mile 12, allowing myself to watch his steps, let him pace me, and not think about the race elements for a few minutes. I listened to my music and counted to 8 with the beat, and concentrated on his footing. For a while the pacer was a good 20 feet ahead of me, but I never let him get any further than that. After the mile 12 marker, I made a break for it.

Mile 13 (7:48) and .24 (1:53)
Right as I passed by the pacer, he said, "You will have 45 seconds in the bank! Go!" -- this guy was on his game! My watch showed that I wasn't doing the best job with tangents, but he knew exactly what I had left based on the remaining course and his watch's reading. While I didn't need him to push me during the first 11 miles of the race, he was watching my back the whole time. When I needed his consistency, he was right on par. And when I was ready to leave him, he was so supportive! I cranked it on the last uphill through Golden Gate Park, gagged about 10 times on the final stretch, and finally let my guts go after crossing the finish line.

It was perfect.

There was no bling for this race; but my Garmin reading is satisfying enough. :)

Official Time: 1:44:11 -- a 3:33 PR; three half PRs in three months' time
Average Pace: 7:57 min/mile (7.5 mph)
Overall Place: 946 out of 5,923
Gender Place: 211 out of 3,161
Division Place: 53 out of 650
Air Temp: 74F, sunny

13.24-mile splits (7:52 min/mile, 7.6 mph)
1: 8:00 / 7.5 mph
2: 7:33 / 7.9 mph
3: 7:59 / 7.5 mph
4: 7:44 / 7.8 mph
5: 7:52 / 7.6 mph
6: 7:31 / 8.0 mph
7: 7:43 / 7.8 mph
8: 7:57 / 7.5 mph
9: 8:03 / 7.4 mph
10: 8:02 / 7.5 mph
11: 7:56 / 7.6 mph
12: 8:06 / 7.4 mph
13: 7:48 / 7.7 mph
.24: 1:53 / 7.6 mph

Even though it appears I'm running better while injured, I'm not totally stupid. I'm going to take a week or two off of running, buy myself a foam roller, and I'm going to do some yoga, hiking, and biking while working on these issues and easing myself back onto the trails. I'd like to think I know how to read my body's signals (even though my race times are telling me differently), and it's time for a break.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's February!?

Can you believe it's already the second month of the year? Time needs to seriously slow down because I'm not getting nearly enough done in life.

A few of you have left questions for me on previous blog posts, so I'm going to take a moment to address them. Yes, I do read each and every comment (and thanks for them!), and if I haven't written you back or returned a comment on your blog, it's because I had no contact information for you. My apologies if you felt left out.

If you have any more questions, please fire them my way!

On January 14, Me and Jorge - Amber asked if was doing the Kaiser half in Golden Gate Park on February 6, and then asked for some advice on running in adverse weather since apparently I'm a pro in it. :)
Yes, I am running the half on Sunday. I originally signed up while registration prices were low, solely in case I didn't make my sub-1:50 goal in L.A and felt the need to try again while my training was up. I've been having some lingering pains in my left heel, so I'm going to simply treat this run as a training run for Big Sur, and hope to not push it too hard this weekend. Of course, we all know what races do to our adrenaline...

As for the weather, I think we're going to be set on Sunday. Right now I see low of 50F, high of 65F, party sunny. It should be a great morning for a run. If it does rain, or if it's a little cold and foggy, embrace it! I think running in the rain can be fun, and it always makes me run faster. If you've never done it before, my main piece of advice is to avoid cotton. It's going to get really wet and heavy -- and cold. Stick to light, technical materials that will more or less deflect the rain, rather than absorb it. This material will also keep your body heat in, so there's not a huge need to layer up.

It's probably not going to feel that cold in the park Sunday morning (and if it is while you are waiting around, you'll warm up once you get moving), but it might be a good idea to wear a layer of clothing you won't mind ditching a mile or two into the race. Even a long-sleeve shirt and mittens will do the trick. Just don't wear anything that will upset you if you never see it again.

I see it's your first half marathon, Me and Jorge - Amber -- best of luck and HAVE FUN! Perhaps I'll see you out there! :)

On January 28, Laura asked me where I got this shirt.
I am a sucker for good deals and I found this shirt at a small consignment shop in Minneapolis -- 50 cents for that sweet little babe! It had a hole from where the retail tag was, and it couldn't be sold at retail price. I snatched that sucker up and fixed the hole myself. It was originally printed by dELiA*s.

On January 28, Denise kinda-sorta hinted at not knowing what nuun was. Here's a better explanation. nuun is a straight-up electrolyte tablet (~500mgs) that you drop into 16 oz.-20 oz. of water. It has no sugars, no carbs, and very few calories (unlike most sports drinks), so it's not really damaging to sip all day long either. It has sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium (plus vitamins C and B2), and I find that it works better at hydrating me than plain water, especially when I'm out on a run. Plus, who doesn't like turning fountain water into a tasty beverage?!

The active hydration tabs are meant for more intense activities (cycling, running, mountaineering) and they come in 6 flavors: lemon+lime, tri-berry, citris fruit, orange ginger, banana, and Kona cola.

nuun will be introducing 5 new flavors that'll be available to the public starting April of 2011: strawberry lemonade, lemon tea, fruit punch, tropical, and grape.

The U-hydration tabs are for less-intense activities (walking, hiking, yoga) and they come in 4 flavors: lemon chai, tangerine ginger, goji berry green tea, and cucumber mint.

nuun is also completely vegan-friendly, which is rad.

On January 31, AJH asked me to explain more about my Brooks sponsorship. Here goes.
Last year I was accepted into the Brooks ID program. It was more-or-less an ambassadorship where we were promoting Brooks by wearing the apparel at races and in everyday training to evangelize the brand. We recieved a race kit, discounts on clothing and shoes, and had options to win prizes and participate in a racing contest among other ID members. However, the Brooks ID program outgrew itself last year, and Brooks had to change the way the program was run. This year, they split all the existing members into three teams: Bluestreak, P.A.C.E (Performance and Coaching Elite), and the Fanatics. I don't know the exact details of Bluestreak or P.A.C.E, but I believe they get race kits and consistent discounts from Brooks' website. The Fanatics get a t-shirt and some monthly discounts. It's a nice acknowledgment to still be honored by Brooks, and I'm glad everyone still got a spot on one team or another.

Waaaaaay back last November, Alma F. asked me about my hydrating and nutrition strategy for running long. While I e-mailed her back, she pushed me to post my response. Here's what I personally do, and of course it's a matter of finding out what works best for you.

During runs of more than 10 miles, I take some sort of nutrition in 30-minute increments. I used to eat Sports Beans and I still sometimes do, but lately I've been trying to bring along PowerBar Gels because they fit in my pockets easier. And sometimes gels just don't sound nearly as appealing as eating candy on the run. :) I always carry a gel or Sports Beans with me on shorter runs just in case my blood sugar crashes (it's happened), but I definitely try to read my body's needs while I'm out there.

When I was training for my marathons last year, I found that I needed a little bit more than just Sports Beans to fuel me through 26+ miles. I used to take a tortilla wrap and roll some peanut butter and jelly inside it, cut it into quarters, and eat those sections along with Sports Beans. The sugars + carbs + protein seemed to work well for me.

Before I won a year's supply of nuun, I used to always carry a Amphipod handheld of water. I would drink one bottle of water for every bottle of water + nuun, mostly because I was trying to be efficient with the limited number of tabs I had. Now, I pretty much just drink nuun. The exception to this is when I'm doing shorter runs (less than 5 miles) and I know I won't be drinking more than 20 ounces of liquid. Then I stick to plain water.

Alma also had some questions on handhelds vs. Fuel Belts. For more on hydrating, see here. :)

And for all of you asking when I'm going to take the "average" part out of my blog title...

The answer is until I start hitting consistent 6-minute miles during long-distance races (aka never). :)

Happy February!