Sunday, October 30, 2011

Whoops

Somewhere between Nike Women's Marathon and today I added another year onto my age and life has once again figured out a way to get in the way of me writing here... but I certainly have been reading inspiring blogs and hanging out with supportive running friends.

I guess, in a moment of panic a couple weeks ago, I signed up for another marathon. It's, oh, in 5 weeks. I'm coming off major, major post-SFM burnout... burnout so bad I altered my diet and took running wayyyy easy for months to get my health back and elevated heart rate down. I'm again running on a regular basis, I'm feeling stronger every day, and having the California International Marathon as my next goal has given me something to work toward again.

With just 7 weeks to train for this marathon, long runs are of the utmost importance. While I do my share of shorter runs during the week (4 and 5 miles are my favorite after-work distance, especially while it's getting darker earlier), I've been throwing in more 8- and 10-mile runs to make sure I have a solid base going into CIM.

For my weekend long runs, I am simply repeating the last few weeks of my SFM training plan: 18, 20, 15, 20, 16, 13, race. I don't care how fast or slow I do these long runs -- it's just important that I get them done if I want a shot at finishing the marathon.

The truth: I don't have high expectations for CIM. I think I am capable of surprising myself, definitely, simply because the course is less technical and much less hilly than every other marathon I've done. CIM is a notoriously famous PR-course, and while I hope to use that to my advantage, it's not my goal. I simply want to run a marathon that has awesome & steady crowd support and hills that don't kill your legs in the first half. Finishing strong is also a goal, but I'm saving any serious PR efforts for a spring race. If it happens it happens, but I am wary of burning out again and I've been exercising caution.

20 miler

Today was my first 20-miler since SFM (and also Week 2 into my 7-week training plan, ha!). I had some nerves going into today's long run because, ahem, 20 miles still is a daunting distance, even when you've got 4 marathon medals in your display case.

Doing 20 miles without much of a build-up into it makes it seem even longer. My plan for today was to break it up mentally as much as possible.

The DSE Great Halloween Highway 4-Mile Run

This morning I rolled out of bed, snarfed half a bagel, and headed out the door to the DSE Great Halloween Highway Run, a 4-mile race that required about 3 miles of warm up to get there.

3 miles to the start: 8:32, 7:54, 7:50

Since I arrived at the race late, I was the last person to start. They don't chip time, so the clock was already about 3 minutes against me. I knew I probably shouldn't "race" this race since it was at the beginning of a long run, but I really wanted to run with my friends. I booked it until I met up with Cate, her husband Mike, their adorable baby, and Courtney right around mile 1.

By mile 2, Cate and Mike took off, Courtney held back, and I decided to see what I had.

Garmin time: 4 miles in 30:17 (7:34/mile pace): 7:16, 8:08, 7:40, 7:13

I participated!

Cate & Mike at their daughter's first race -- and she slept through it!

After the race, I ran to Stow Lake to meet up with a fellow running blogger/tweeter, Kristine, for 8 more miles. She was doing her first 20 miler (ever!) and asked if I would keep her company for some miles. Of course I agreed -- I like doing my long runs with people and figured she's the same way if she was asking me to join her. Plus, meeting other local running bloggers is not anything I've regretted doing in the past!

3 miles to Stow Lake: 8:17, 8:19, 8:20

While I was waiting for Kristine at Stow Lake, I got a message from Layla saying she and Karin had spotted me running in Golden Gate Park. I invited them up to the lake to join us. Soon after they arrived, Courtney came charging up the hill much to my surprise... and we had an awesome impromptu group meet-up to knock out a bunch of miles together.

I'm so ready for this Indian Summer to go away. Come back, cool foggy weather!
With Kristine, Layla, Courtney, & Karin

Impromptu Sunday Runday

Getting to chat with Kristine was awesome -- what a cool girl! I am so glad I finally got to meet her in person. And seeing Layla, Karin, and Courtney was seriously icing on the cake. I loved this part of my long run the most.

8 miles with friends: 8:57, 8:59, 10:06, 8:43, 9:00, 9:00, 9:05, 9:13

After that random little meet-up, I headed home. Going back to my place is flat/downhill from Stow Lake, so I decided to crank it and tire my legs out like a true masochist.

2 miles home: 7:50, 7:18

Total: 20 miles in 2:47:49 (8:23/mile pace)

Even though today's run did have a number of pauses, water stops, bathroom breaks, and a little bit of standing around for pictures and chatting, 20 miles is 20 miles. I may not have run it completely nonstop, but I didn't know if I'd be able to finish otherwise. After today, I'm feeling pretty good about my last-minute decision to sign up for CIM.

I know I'll finish. And maybe I'll even do alright.


Have a great & safe Halloween!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Race Recap: Nike Women's Half Marathon

I'm not completely happy to say that my 10th half marathon was one filled with so many ups and so many downs (I am not talking about the San Francisco hills here) -- but at the end of the day, I'd call the Nike Women's Half Marathon fun.

I initially wrote a long post that screamed of complete negativity and I didn't like how it turned out. I don't want to diss a race that's important to so many people for so many reasons, so instead I will just breeze over the bad instead of focusing on it. Condensing the negative points into bullets will prevent me from going off on some unnecessary diatribe right?

1.) The "Expotique": A 3-day event in Union Square where Nike doesn't let any other company sell anything to ensure they dominate the entire sport's market for a few days. Going to the "expo" was more like going into a nightclub, but outside and in the middle of the day. Huge crowds, blaring music, and inconsiderate and pushy participants gave me a headache and the angries within minutes.

ZOMG my name is a square inch on the temporary wall art! I'm famous! Let me through!

2.) The participants: 25,000 people is a lot of people. A LOT of people. When the majority of them are walking/randomly stopping/switching lanes without signaling/being inconsiderate/never having been a part of a race before and therefore not following any sort of etiquette, it makes me want to kick some necks. I felt that sensation a lot while in the bag check and during the 13.45 miles I ultimately ran on Sunday morning.

Effff.

3.) The bag check. In theory, the way they set up a bag check with school buses was a great idea. However, it was so inconveniently located and congested with people that we couldn't even push our way through. My claustrophobic tendencies made me want to panic a bit, simply because I was afraid of being trampled to death by a bunch of perfumey girls.

Efffff part 2.

4.) This course. This was definitely not an easy course! I venture to say that this was harder than the San Francisco Marathon in terms of the hills (three different stretches of mile+ uphills?), and yet it seemed to be marketed to beginners...

NWM 2011 course profile.

5.) The immature high-school volunteers. Let's just say that some physical volunteer-to-participant contact was unnecessarily made, some 4-letter words were exchanged, security was about to be called on us, and we left the post-race expo angry, ready to kick some more necks, and drink the last few hours away.


NOW, onto all the good!

1.) Rad Runner Girl! Early Friday morning, my best running friend Rad flew into town and we had grand plans for the most epic weekend ever; a weekend that just so happened to include a race with 24,198 other psychos. We started off by heading to the Expotique where we met up with Courtney, found our names on the Niketown wall, satiated Rad's photobooth junkieness, and then busted the hell out of there in leiu of ramen.

(Okay, okay, so we pushed our way through to find our names on the wall, too.
Guilty as charged.)


Niketown
Expotique

Loves.

Thanks, Pom, for letting us waste too much time in the photobooth with a long line behind us.

2.) Audrey Hepburn outfits! Originally we were planning on wearing good-ole Tiffany Blue for the race, but nixed the idea in the last few weeks because we were actually too lazy to shop for the outfit figured other people were going to be wearing that. Instead, we decided to dress like Audrey Hepburn a la Breakfast at Tiffany's. While I'm not sure many people appreciated or even understood the costume, we did get a lot of hoots and hollers for the pearls. :)

Courtney, me, & Rad, channeling Audrey.

Sheer brilliance.


Ready to rawk.

Work it!


3.) Friends! Courtney and I told Rad we were going to do our best to get her across the finish line in under 2 hours so she could set a new PR, but the fact is there was no way it was going to happen with all the people or the hills we were running. Instead we just went with the slow & painful march, enjoyed one another's company, dodged whoever and whatever we could whenever we could, and successfully stayed together the entire time. (This was a huge feat, honestly.) I am used to running races alone, so running with two awesome running friends was seriously, seriously amazing. So fun.

BRFs actually getting to run together!

There was a big TV screen with runners going by featured on it. Do the people on screen look familiar?
How about now? I see a Courtney Audrey & a Rad Audrey!
Best cheerleaders ever: Page, Jess, and Katie! (Sorry I cut you off, Dennis. Makes up for you forgetting to give me a Twitter shout-out???) Hey, XLMIC, where were ya??

4.) The scenery! While running the hills on this particular course was a royal pain in the ass, I never get sick of these views.

Sun rising behind the Bay Bridge. It looked much better with purple sunglasses on.

Running toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
Running down Lincoln Blvd, looking onto the Avenues.

Passing the Cliff House on the way to Ocean Beach.

5.) The finisher's medal, provided by Tiffany & Co. Ahhhh. This was perhaps the most redeeming factor of the race and/or the only reason we ran it.

Tiffany & Co. necklaces are passed out by firefighters in tuxedos.
Totally ridiculous. Totally fun.


This is probably my first real piece of jewelry because, if you haven't surmised, the pearls I ran with around my neck were actually plastic.


Overall...

I am still trying to look at this race from an objective point of view. While it was a Nike event, there were clear problems with the organization and the execution of this race. It was not a runner's race -- instead, it was a race geared toward the amazing Team in Training participants & supporters, many of whom were doing a race for the first time and had no qualms about stopping at a dead standstill in the middle of the road or having any regard for a finishing time. Their efforts should in no way be overlooked, and it's important to note that they raised a sick amount of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This is far more important than any time on the finisher's clock, but it was frustrating for the runners to not get to run their own race safely.

That being said, I had a great time running with my friends, and I wouldn't change that experience for the world. After seeing how this race went down, I wouldn't want to do it any other way either; and if the opportunity ever comes up again, I'd want to run it casually in this same fashion. It's the kind of event that brings everyone of every ability together; it's an activity that should be absorbed and enjoyed.

So there we have it... the fastest slow (and my longest) half marathon I've ever run. Being around my friends in such a crowded and energetic atmosphere made the miles FLY by, even though we were doing anything but flying. Every time a mile clicked by, I think I told Rad & Courtney that I really didn't want it to be done.

And yet, at the exact same time, I just couldn't wait to be far, far, FAR away from the Nike Women's Marathon.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

(Sorry, RoadBunner, I am not breaking out my Christmas tunes just yet...)

I'm talking about Fleet Week, friends! I GD love Fleet Week. And the only thing better about Fleet Week is meeting up with a bunch of other local blogging runners (and even some blogging foodies -- that's a whole new world to me!) to watch some of the Fleet Week festivities.

This past Saturday, the gorgeous and amazing Courtney planned a truly magnificent blogger meet-up, hosted at our own equally generous and incredible Sports Basement-Presidio.

Love love.

That's us -- the Bad Ass Bloggers! Or Bay Area Bloggers. Whatever.

Oh goodness, the food. Some of this was given to us on behalf of SB (THANKS!), and the rest were our contributions. We had wayyyy too much food & not enough room in our bellies, which is usually not a problem for a group of runners.
We scared the other people using the Community Area away -- more space for us to gab!
Back row, left to right: Me, Jana, and Cate. Front row, left to right: Courtney, Teresa, Naomi, Audrey, Courtney, and Annalies.)

After stuffing ourselves to the brim with snacks, we headed out for the Fleet Week airshow, where we conveniently had front-row seats.

Gorgeous day for an air show, me thinks.

About a trillion boats were out on the water.
In comes the Marines plane.

(Great shot, Jana!)

Another groups of BAs... the Blue Angels.

They looked much cooler in person, I promise.
(Once again, Jana's pic is 289371023 sweeter than mine).

FLEET WEEK FUN! Back row, left to right: Courtney, Theresa, Suki, Audrey, Naomi, and Courtney. Front row, left to right: Cate, yours truly, and Jana. Not pictured: Annalies, Karin, and her adorable son.)


Overall, it was really fun getting to meet new people, hanging out with old friends, watching the airshow, and running run a few miles with Cate, who is back into running from her maternity leave! I'd call it a successful day all around. Thanks for organizing, Courtney!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Spectator (For the Third Weekend in a Row): The Twin Cities Marathon

This past weekend was the 30th running of the Twin Cities Marathon, a popular fall marathon known for its cooler temperatures, flat course, scenic views, and crowd support. The last few years when I was living in Minneapolis, I would bike the Greenway down to Lake Calhoun to cheer on the athletes & look for local celebrities and running buddies.

This year was only slightly different -- I didn't bike the Greenway to Lake Calhoun. Instead I flew 3,000 some miles, drove 40 minutes, and walked another 15 to make it to the race. Granted, I was in the metro area for other reasons, but while I was so close to my old stomping grounds, I figured I'd stop by, hoot & holler for a bit, do a long run of my own, and spend the rest of the day with friends.

Some of the trees starting to change colors. <3

Good morning, Lake Calhoun!

Not long after staking out my spot at Lake Calhoun, the wheelchair racers came blazing through. This was the lead wheelchair racer being completely blinded by the rising sun.

Just a few minutes after the wheelchairs, the lead men came through. Mannnnn, they were flying.
video

Lead women
video


The Flash?
video

Early on in the race, my Big Sur friend, SF-touring buddy, and Hood to Coast Nuun Platuun teammate, Susan, came blazing through! Seeing her was the main reason I wanted to spectate at the race.

My hands were full as I wanted to snap a picture for Twitter while filming her come through, so it looks like I'm about to hand her my phone. I'm pretty glad she didn't steal it.

SUSAAAAN!!!
video

Susan ended up setting a new PR, finishing the Twin Cities Marathon in 3:18 (that's a blistering 7:35 pace, might I add), and finished in the top 100 women. Way to go, Susan!!

Sorry for the bum shot, Susan. At least you look good in those booty shorts. :)

Further behind Susan, I recognized another person slogging through the race at a decent, but much slower, clip. I freaked out, star-struck, and fumbled with my camera to snap a picture but it was totally too late. Do you recognize this man's fine behind?

DUH! It's The Ultramarathon Man himself, Mr. Dean Karnazes!
After all the TCM runners and walkers made it past my little cheering station, I set out on a 13.1 miler of my own. I was originally slated to run the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon back in California the same morning, but gave my entries away since I was out of town. I figured the least I could do is run my own half marathon in my old neighborhood. I ended up having one of my best runs in a long time around the tri lakes -- turns out that all that race energy rubs off, even if you're not racing.

13.1 miles/1:45:29/8:03 pace

Lake Calhoun

The infamous Lake of the Isles water monster.

I feel like all my race spectating has been a huge success (how can one fail, really?) and I totally love going to races & can't wait to do more of it! Next up, though, is finally race I intend on doing -- the Nike Women's Half Marathon. I'm looking forward to a casual race with so many of my friends.