Saturday, May 31, 2008

See Jane Run Half Marathon

I had originally selected and signed up for this race because I thought it was perfect for a PR attempt. The race was far enough along from my March marathon to recover and build up speed. It was generally flat and fast and the weather was supposed to be ideal, too. I found a Hal Higdon half marathon training plan which incorporated speed work as a template for my training plan. The major change I made to it was increasing the long run length and the overall weekly mileage.

My goal was a sub-2 hour half marathon. As previously mentioned, my current PR is 2:00:04. In recent weeks I hit a gnarl in my training as I entered a strange running funk. I pulled back a lot on pace and distance for two weeks thinking my body needed a rest. The core of my plan, the long run, was also detrimentally affected. My last three long runs were dismal and involved a lot of downhearted walking. During recent goal-pace runs I tried to hit a 9:00 pace and found this to be bordering on anaerobic. I was clearly not at a place where I could maintain close to a 9:00 pace for 13.1 miles.

Until late last night I wasn't even sure if I was going to race the See Jane Run Half. I thought maybe I'd think of it as a nice training run and enjoy myself. But I decided to go for it. I'd maintain the pace as long as I could and see where I ended up.

I left the apartment a little late but still got to the race around 6:30 am (for an 8:00 am start). I was concerned about finding a parking spot after repeated emails about limited parking space. I was able to get a spot only 2 blocks from the start. I spent time ping-ponging between the start area and my car to keep warm. I'm very excited to share that today I left a bag at the baggage check for the first time ever. That's right, in all of the 30+ road events I've participated in, I've never checked a bag. I guess I was always worried it would get lost anyhow so shivered away at starts and finishes even in brutal NYC winters. But today I didn't feel like shivering (in 50 degree weather no less!) and the whole check-your-bag process seemed suddenly ridiculously simple. I am now a believer!

The weather was almost ideal. Overcast and cool. It was even lightly misting rain for a bit at the start. I am definitely a cold weather running fool. My perfect running temp is probably in the mid to low 4o's. I like being able to wear shorts and a light long sleeve shirt but never feel like pushing the sleeves up. Today was about 10 degrees warmer than ideal for me. In fact, it felt pretty muggy once we got going because of all of the humidity. But overall, I can't find much fault in the weather for this time of year.

The course was pretty much flat as described. Nothing like the San Francisco hills around where I live. As it always is in running, you generally only remember the uphills so I'll just note that there was a small bridge involved (which means a short but steep incline) and the last three or four miles was definitely on a slight incline.

The race course

My goal was to stay as close to a 9:09 pace for as long as possible. I'd say I stayed pretty close to target for about the first 7-8 miles. I was probably hovering around a 9:11-15 average pace overall at this point. Of course, I did some math in my head and realized that being 5 seconds off pace per mile for 9 miles was a lot of time to make up. I had a couple of disheartened miles where I was in the 9:30's as I contemplated whether or not to continue at a high effort or to trudge it in easily. I then appear to have tried to kick it up shortly before mile 10 when I decided I was going to try to get the best time out of the day as possible. After this short-lived push for speed, I clearly hit my limit.

The last three miles I was barely sub-10:00. I'll be honest and say I wanted to take a walking break. But wouldn't you know that besides one lady who started walking to work out a stitch at mile 2, I did not pass one walker the entire race? Maybe I've been doing too many marathons lately, but I found this to be odd. Where was a person taking a walking break to make me feel better about doing the same? These women are tough! So I sucked it up and kept running. According to my Garmin I finished in 2:03:36 (9:26 pace) which is my second fastest half marathon ever.

I am very happy with my performance today. My current half PR was set over 2 years ago and it feels good to know I am at least in striking distance. Even with the downtrodden last few miles, the effort the first 10 miles was not as strenuous as I thought it would be. I'm hoping to train hard for the San Jose Rock n' Roll Half Marathon in October to chase my elusive PR again.

And for the best part of this race...the swag! I love races that give out tech shirts and I love races even more that give out woman's specific sized shirts! The race had woman's sized shirts ranging from S-XXXXL (yes, that's three X's more than an XL). Now, I'm all for size-equality but really, there were tons more women out there who would have benefited from having an XS vs. an XXXXL. In fact, I didn't see one woman who would have needed even an XXL. My only gripe because the woman's small is pretty roomy on me.

As the shirt hints, they also had CHOCOLATE! (just ate it, divine!) and champagne! at the finish. I'm not much of a drinker at all, but I took a glass of champagne and had three sips. Why three? Well, 1) Even though I don't like it, I had to have some since it's on the shirt and during the race people were talking about the CHOCOLATE! and champagne! at the finish, 2) I hate the taste of alcohol and probably couldn't have forced myself to drink much more, and 3) I'm a lightweight when it comes to drinking and in my semi-dehydrated state I'm sure a fourth sip would have put me over the legal limit to drive home.

They also gave out sterling silver pendants instead of traditional medals. Regardless of the fact that it came on the same cord material my mom used to string things on for me to wear in Kindergarten, I think this is very cool. Even though it has not been on my neck once yet today it has much more than the 0% chance my previous race medals have of getting worn sometime in the future.

Right now, I'm feeling tired from my early wake-up time but my legs don't feel bad at all. Besides my duathlon in two weeks I have no real training plan the next month. From July I have all sorts of torture mapped out for the next 8 months, but more on that later.

Mario will be excited to know that my order for him from Bunny Bytes arrived today. I got him two grass mats for traction (they're actually folded up and are quite larger than shown...My heart almost stopped when I first saw them). I was also able to sneak in three wicker rings to the order before the shipping charge went up to the next tier. On top of that, there's the cardboard box that everything came in. Every rabbit's dream. It's a party tonight!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Muir Woods

Yesterday, Boyfriend and I went to Muir Woods for the first time.  We purchased an annual pass which was a great deal.  Normally it would cost $5/adult but we paid $20 which will get both us and whoever else fits in a car with us, into the park for a whole year!  We decided to take it easy this visit and did a casual stroll (not even strenuous enough to be called a "hike") through a 2 mile loop called the Hillside Trail.  

I have high hopes that we'll come back in running gear and do some nice trail runs.  I've been wanting to get into trail running more and these non-technical dirt trails are just the type of terrain I'd like to start on.  There are also more challenging trails which would definitely be great for some hikes in the future.  Lots of trails to explore!

The crowds were pretty thin since this was the day after Memorial Day.  I can see how the boardwalk-style walkways by the visitor center could become very crowded during the weekends.

How can you see a trail like this and not want to run?

We even spied this little guy nibbling up lunch with his mom!

After Muir Woods we drove down to Stinson Beach.  Talk about a windy road!  I am also in awe of a few cyclists who were either going up, up, up this road or down some very quick and twisty descents!  Makes me feel like a super chicken for being afraid on neighborhood streets and mile long inclines!

All in all it was a very nice day.  I went for a 5 mile run in the morning, had a relaxing 2 mile woodland stroll, then topped it off with 6 miles on the trainer.  I could definitely tell that my legs were tired from the last two days of running.  They felt a little heavy during my run and my shin pain started to act up afterwards.  Today was a rest day and tomorrow I'm planning on running 3 miles very easy as my last run before the half marathon this Saturday.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Mario

I should mention that I got the idea for "Monday Mario" from Cinnamon of Disapproving Rabbits. A plethora of rabbits guest star every day (Mario once, included) but on Sunday it's all about Cinnamon. I thought it would be fun at least once a week to reference something related to bunnies, Mario, or Mario-approved. So since "M" is for "Mario," here you go...

My aunt gave me this magnet as a Christmas stocking stuffer a couple of years ago. If you own a rabbit you'll immediately see the humor. Bunnies poop a lot (hay has a lot of roughage!). I don't know if Mario appreciates the humor (or the fact I've put a bootie picture of him up) but it's now his magnet on his cage.

I had a very enjoyable 7 mile run today. I had wanted to keep to a 10:30 pace but even when trying to hold back managed to finish with a 10:00 pace. I guess I really suck at pacing. It also marks the maiden voyage of solo running skirt outings. I've had a great running skirt from for a while now, but have thus far only taken it out when Boyfriend was accompanying me out on the run. When you're not used to it, it's a nice security blanket to have someone to make sure it isn't flapping up while you're running. I've never had any such mishaps so today decided, "Why not?" They're super cute and super comfy. I've got a second one on the way and plan to start wearing them more.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Great Long-weekend Sunday

I woke up today feeling super giddy because Boyfriend had agreed to come south to Woodside with me to ride 15 miles on our bikes. There's a portion of Canada Road that they close to traffic on Sundays (it's called Bicycle Sunday, I believe) but even better than that is the fact that the road has a wide, smooth shoulder, very few stop signs, little traffic, lots of other cyclists, and little rollers to start getting me in bike-worthy shape.

I'm probably not going to be riding much further than 20-25 miles at a time in the next few months so 15 is a good distance for me. I have a duathlon coming up way too fast and need to start getting some more time on the bike accomplished.

I had done this route once before with the Velo Girls on their Mellow Velo beginner ride. I think today it felt a little easier than when I did it with them at the beginning of the month. I even successfully drank from my water bottle while on the move! Previously I waited to grab a drink at stop signs (which is torture for me since I usually carry a bottle when running and sip on a whim). I am still also figuring out the art of shifting. My new saddle was much more comfy than the old one though the jury is still out on whether it is The One. It's harder than my old one so my sit bones need some time to adjust. But other, err, softer areas felt much better which is a big plus. I do have padded cycling shorts but think that maybe the problem is too much padding? I'm planning on picking up a pair of tri shorts soon and will try those out.

I am a plodding runner and had secret hopes I would be a superstar on the bike, but no go on that. I get steadily passed on the bike the same as on the run. Oh, well. It was a nice dream.

After lunch I went for a 5 mile run. I've still been having issues with lethargy and feeling in a little bit of a running funk lately so was very happy to finally have a good run today. I ran a 9:28 pace and felt good. I was supposed to run a short tempo tomorrow but I think I'll consider today's run my tempo effort and do a longer, slower run tomorrow instead.

Today I also watched the first video that Steve Runner posted. I'm not sure if anyone here listens to his podcast (and if you don't you really should!) but I never knew he was playing the harmonica himself! I found that totally awesome!

And now, for the bunny fans:

Mario's condo has a door on the upper level that I utilize to do quick meet and greets. It warms my heart when he comes running over when I open it and either stands up like this in the window to see me or sometimes he'll rest his chin down on the opening and close his eyes in contentment.

Hey, who said you could stop! More head rubs!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gone With The Wind

This morning I got up early to do a 3 mile goal-pace run per Hal Higdon's intermediate half marathon plan.  For the first time ever, I have been incorporating structured speed work into my training with the hopes of breaking two hours in the half marathon.  It's a sad and sordid story, but my current half marathon PR is 2:00.04.  Yes, I missed personal running glory by 5 lousy seconds.  This was a couple of years ago and I'm sure later I will elaborate on how I somehow pulled this almost sub-2 hour performance out of a hat and have no clue how it happened.  But the thing about coming so close is that you realize it's possible and I've been thinking about going after that goal ever since.

I had to put it on the back-burners for a few years as I was concentrating on my best imitation of an endurance tortoise.  But with a good base after doing Goofy and Napa I decided I was ready to kick it up a notch.  I've been doing a modified version of Higdon's plan.  I have been trying to follow his prescription of intervals, tempo, and goal-pace runs since I really have no clue how these things should be utilized.  

I have definitely seen gains in my running pace.  An easy pace for me used to be in the high 10:00's during Goofy training and now I'm back down in the high 9:00's to low 10:00's which I consider to be my average plodding pace.  However, I still consider a sustained 9:00 min/mile effort to be more of a 10K effort vs. a half marathon effort at this point.  

So this morning I figured I could rattle off three 9:00 miles with some effort, but hopefully nothing too painful.  I do most of my pre-work early runs on a bike path along the beach.  The unfortunate side-effect of this is that the area can be very windy.  Since it is a straight bike path you generally get a glorious tailwind in one direction and a nasty headwind in the other.

I got out of my car and was blasted by wind.  Wonderful.  I took off running south to warm up for a bit.  The wind was at my back and I felt good.  Garmin reports I did a 9:58 pace for my warm-up period.  Then I turned north into the wind to start the 9:00's.  Thinking back I should have planned a little better.  Maybe warm-up into the wind so I could start the pick-up with the wind at my back.  At any rate, the wind was kicking something fierce today.  It wasn't just gusting every now and then, it was a constant tirade with butt-kicking gusts thrown in for good measure.  I was really trying to up my pace and Garmin said I did that first 0.5 mile of the pick-up into the wind at a 9:50.  Umm...okay, I was just plodding along not even trying and hit a 9:58, and now I'm pushing really hard and you say I did a 9:50?!

Let me officially declare that I HATE RUNNING INTO THE WIND.  I kept up the effort for probably 0.25 miles more and threw in the towel.  I just didn't have it in me this morning.  I probably should have given it a perceived 9:00 effort and told Garmin to shove it where the sun don't shine but I didn't.  I pulled back to a comfortable pace and decided to run 4 miles easy.  Well, it didn't feel all that easy because half the run I was fighting GOD.  I believe this was the last goal-pace run of the training program and it obviously did not go well.  Oh, Wind, I shake my fist at you!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Home Improvement

I have been noticing Mario digging at the rug I put on the bottom level of his cage for traction. More recently I noticed him nibbling at it a bit. But yesterday I took it out to vacuum it and saw this:
With BunnyGirl's Tidbit feeling under the weather, I couldn't stand the idea of Mario getting stuffed up with carpeting. So I had to throw his traction rug away. Without his rug, I've seen him struggle to make the jump up to the first raised level of his cage. The bottom floor is pretty slippery when you've got furry-bottomed feet! My parents recently revamped their bathroom and decided while they were at it they would redo it in such a way that it will take them into their "Golden Years" (door wide enough for a wheelchair, shower stall instead of tub so they can still get in and out of it in 25 years, and handlebars in the shower stall). So in similar fashion, I had to geriatrify Mario's condo.

I lowered the first level one inch. Mario's condo has been through many incarnations, but his original condo's second floor was a good 4 inches higher than where it is now. The distance between the second and third floor is now pretty large, but since he has a good grip on floor 2, he doesn't seem to have any issues making it up another level. But I'll keep an eye on him and may end up lowering the third floor, too.

I had a nice six mile run today and followed it up later on in the day with a six mile ride on the trainer. I had meant to take the bike out for a proper ride but the weather outside was windy and all doom and gloom so I opted to stay inside. Truth be known, I'm a big weenie riding in traffic and down hills (and especially next to traffic on the downhills) so decided to play it safe indoors. I've had some much more enjoyable rides on roads that had a wide shoulder and no stop signs every two blocks and hope to get out to one of those this weekend.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Have you hugged your amphipod pouch today?

Lost:  One Amphipod Micropack Land Sport, Black, 3+ years old, lightly coated in salt.  Last seen at the end of a 16 mile run on Friday.

I have a few essentials I am never without during a run.  These are 1. Water bottle 2. Hat 3. Amphipod pouch (the only way to carry keys & money on the run).  I went about collecting these three things on my way out this morning and couldn't find the pouch.  Hmm.  Well, I was running late and was planning on taking my camera, so I grabbed my 4-bottle Fuel Belt holder which works great to carry cameras.

When I came home, I went looking for the pouch.  It wasn't in the little wicker basket in which I store all my running knick-knacks.  It wasn't on the dining room table where I normally drop my stuff when I first walk in the door from a run.  I went downstairs and tossed the car around a bit.  Not there, either.  I was starting to panic a little.  

I am the type of person who hates to misplace something.  I'm not one of those people who lets it go and hopes it turns up later.  I cannot get to sleep at night knowing something is missing.  I have since retraced my steps on Friday after my long run (iced my ankle after the run, maybe it's in the FREEZER?, put away towels, maybe its in the LINEN CLOSET?, filled Mario's hay bin, maybe it's buried in the HAY?) but have been unlucky.

I have come to accept the fact that it has disappeared into thin air.  I'm fairly certain it made it back into the car when I left the park on Friday but who knows if it decided to bid me adieu on the journey back up to the apartment or threw itself out the window in desperation to latch onto a speedier carrier?

I've had this thing for 3+ years.  I've used it on probably 99.99% of every run I've completed since the day I brought it home.  Easy runs, long runs, 5K's, marathons, snowy runs, scorching runs, bad runs and good runs.  We've run thousands of miles together.  It still looked as good as the day I bought it -- years, runs, and washes and it still looked brand spankin' new!  The thing works so great the company still sells the exact same product.  Sure, I've updated hand-held water bottles and thought about replacing my Fuel Belt for the newer, sleeker models.  But the Amphipod was PERFECTION.

And now it's gone.  Unable to deal with the idea that it was missing I went to two sports stores to buy a new one.  The first one didn't have it in black.  I walked around holding a blue one for a bit, but it didn't feel right.  I felt like I would always be reminded of the day the original ran away.  The second store didn't carry Amphipod (blasphemy!).  Defeated, I came back home and sifted through the car, garage, and apartment again.

I've crowed the virtues of the pouch to many people (I recently bought one for my mom who is now a convert) but I never stopped to really reflect on my pouch.  All that time together and not even a picture to show for it.  I'll be over this soon enough, but wanted to bid a fond mahalo & aloha to my running companion.  Nothing held keys and a subway card quite like you.

I had a good snorgle with the rabbit and feel better.  There was one time Mario went "missing" for about 5 minutes and that was infinitely worse than a whole day searching for the pouch.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

10g of Chewy Goodness

I love Clif Shot Bloks.  I've been a long-time Gu fan but a few months ago gave these little cubes a try after hearing Steve Runner from Phedippidations tout them on a past episode.  From my first cube I was hooked.  I've never disliked Gu but I'm not sure I would crave it as a snack (though I do recall once saying I would love to squeeze it over ice cream).  I could pop these things like candy if they weren't so freakin' expensive.  

But speaking of expense, my secret weapon to stay fueled and salted is Runners' Feet.  They sell a package of Shot Bloks for $1.00 flat.  Maybe I'm naive but isn't that almost 50% cheaper than most everywhere else!  I restocked today with 16 packets of my favorite flavors (Cran-Razz, Margarita, & Cola).  I love Shot Bloks and I love Runners' Feet for selling 'em so cheap.  I try to buy other things from them even if I can get it for less elsewhere just to support them and their ploy to get runners in the door with inexpensive fuel.  Every time I go in I hold my breath when I get rung up.  I think, "Did they realize they could charge $1.95 and people would still buy them?!  Surely by now they've come to their senses and have decided to charge at least $1.25!!!"  

But so far so good.  

$1.00 flat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

All my hopes in a faux leather package

This past weekend I attended a 4 hour bike skills clinic put on by the Velo Girls.  Yes, I am such a sad rider that I decided I needed someone to teach me how to start, stop, turn, etc.  It was actually pretty awesome and I'm really glad I went.  A lot of things we learned about were things I think you know unconsciously, but once you are aware of them you apply them much more efficiently.

I've had my bike almost two months now but have only ridden it about 5 times.  I haven't even taken it in for it's complementary one month tune-up because I figured I hadn't ridden it enough for it to be necessary yet.  So far my farthest ride has been 15 miles which is pretty weenie when it comes to cycling.  One limiting factor has been my saddle.  The thing was some sort of torture device!  So I did some research and decided to do something about it (I have a duathlon coming up to train for!) and I bought a Specialized Jett Saddle.  It wasn't cheap and hopefully it solves my problems.  In doing research it seems finding the perfect saddle can turn into a lifelong quest for the Holy Grail and I'm really hoping I don't end up on that road.

In running news I had a decent 6 mile run today.  I think my funk has psyched me out as I was paranoid the whole time that any second I was going to hit a wall.  Just two weeks ago my training was going great and I was having a lot of fun on my runs.  It's amazing how quickly your mind-frame can change after just a few bad experiences.  I am cautiously optimistic that after a few more runs like today I'll be back to my old self.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday Mario

I just found this at Mahar Drygoods and totally want to buy it to put up in the apartment.  The detail has little bunnies as cherry blossoms!  Mario gives it a stamp of approval.  If you go to the page, at the bottom they have another wave print which is also really nice.

I was able to run 5 miles today without having to take any walking breaks.  I felt pretty sluggish so am still in the midst of this strange lethargic funk, but I'm hoping I'm on my way up from here.  The way I've been feeling the last two weeks, I'm almost compelled to go see a doctor.  I've been sleeping 9 hours a night, sometimes with a nap during the day, and still feel tired.  For a little bit I thought I might be overtraining, but I've cut way back for two weeks and still felt off this past Friday.  Fingers crossed...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Long Run Police

The past week, I've been in a running funk.  I have now had two long runs which I had to resort to taking walking breaks to complete.  I know that some days are good and some days are bad, but I'm definitely not used to having two bad long runs in a row.  This past Friday I was scheduled to run 14 miles.  I got to 12 and decided to call it quits.

Mario eats a lot of timothy hay.  To prevent the apartment from smelling like a barn we keep the majority of hay down in the garage.  I have a smaller bin I fill up and bring upstairs.  When I got home from my run I left my running stuff in the car and got out to refill his bin.  When I was done, I was juggling the bin, my water bottle and cell phone.  I locked the car and shut the door.

At the exact moment the door closed, I realized I didn't have my keys.  I looked into the car and there they were -- inside and  mocking me.

Our landlord lives inside the building and his two sons both work here, too, so I was optimistic ONE of them would be around to let me into the apartment.  No luck.  I left a message on the landlord's cell phone.  I consulted with Boyfriend, who I live with (but happened to be at work), and came down to two options:  Wait around for someone to come home to let me in, or go to Boyfriend's office to pick up his set of keys.

Boyfriend works pretty close to home so I decided to suck it up and run to his office (I was, after all already in running clothes).  I had already been dreaming of eating a big bowl of pasta the last 3 miles of my run and was pretty hungry at this point.  His office is only about a mile away so I got there in good time.  Boyfriend refueled me with a piece of chocolate, and back home I came.

So in the end, I got my 14 miles done.  I guess something was conspiring against me copping out of the last two miles of my run.  Hopefully the funk lifts this week.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

First post!

So after reading blogs for years and years, I've finally decided to join the bandwagon and close the loop on what has been a one-way conversation. First, I'd like to introduce you to Mario, the Cutest Bunny in the World! He mainly likes to sleep and eat so doesn't really think much of my running ways, but he's still my furry soul-mate. I adopted him from an animal shelter a little over 4 years ago and the time is going by much too quickly.

I started running in 2001, mainly because I was never a runner. I was usually last or second to last in any P.E. running activities. I thought, wouldn't it be cool to be able to run non-stop for more than 1 minute?! I found an online plan (of which I really wish I still had a copy) that was tailored to get you running 20 consecutive minutes. I remember I started on the week which was "Run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, repeat 7 times." I thought I was going to literally drop dead trying to run those 90 seconds but I kept with it, and months later I built up to 20 minutes. I kept adding another minute, and another minute and before I knew it I wanted to run a 5K. The 5K gave me the goal of doing a 10K, then a half-marathon, and eventually a marathon. Somewhere along this journey I felt comfortable calling myself a "RUNNER."

Two months ago I completed my sixth marathon and I'm still setting new goals. My long-term goal is to complete a marathon on every continent (I'm up to three). Shorter-term goals include completing an ultra-marathon, completing a triathlon, and breaking 2 hours in the half marathon. I'm a middle-back-to-back-of-the-pack runner who is loving every minute of this lifestyle I never thought I'd want or be able to join.