Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Mario

Months and months ago I saw this post from our friends over the pond. I am a pretty sad knitter but I enlisted one of my friends to help me figure out the pattern. I've been practicing for a while now and finally got around to knitting Rabbits Guy his consolation prize sock bunny.

I decided to try to make a little Racer sock bunny. Here is our subject:

Mario quickly befriended the sock bunny for some cuddling.

This was the first time I ever used two different colors of yarn. His nose ended up being rather large, but RG, if you pinch his face just right and turn down the ears when he arrives he's a nice little Racer wannabe!

I am not a great knitter, but it is a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to doing other projects! I am currently working on a shawl/scarf thing for my mom and sister for Christmas and other knit bunnies to give to relatives as ornaments.

Mario helped me stuff the sock bunny in an envelope to send to RG when the sock bunny tried to hitch a ride on Mario to the hay wagon.

Not to hijack a "Monday Mario" post, but I have been running and will start updating the blog on that front soon! I have lots of running related posts I want to do and even another giveaway that is long overdue!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Mario

It has been a long time since Mario showcased his awe-inspiring talent of sitting on things. Truth be told there just aren't so many things to sit on in this new apartment. However, Boyfriend left a cooler out the other day and when I heard the little clack of little nails I knew we had a moment!

Side-note: Yes, those are my running shoes in the background. I rotate through a few pairs and right now I have the highest number in rotation ever (that would be 6 pairs). One just passed over to the other side after yesterday's run and I have one more pushing 400+ miles I'm hoping to recycle very soon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Mario

Someone has apple tongue!

My parents are sadly back in Hawaii. I'm not the only bummed one around here. My dad tries to eat an apple every night and Mario is the lucky recipient of all that apple skin. Years ago he was a little piggy and would devour the entire apple's skin and come back begging for more. He has slowed down over the years and now will even refuse pieces. However, those first few pieces are still real treats for him. He has definitely put on an ounce or two this week!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

R'n'R San Jose Half Marathon: The Re-Do

First off, I want to say a BIG "THANK YOU" to everyone who left comments on my pre-race post. All of your words of encouragement were much needed and helped me a lot. I seriously lacked confidence going into this race and everyone's miracle stories of holding fast paces during races which were unheard of in training bolstered my spirits. I also appreciated the "suck it up & concentrate" comments, too. I needed those as well.

This race was super special because my parents were in town visiting from Hawaii. They have only seen me run one race before (San Jose last year) so it was awesome to have them here to see me try to PR.

I took only one lame expo picture.

I attended a speaker at the expo who was supposed to go over the ins and outs of the course. It wasn't very enlightening (geared more towards first-time racers) but he said something that helped me get my head in the game. First he was joking about how there are huge "hills" on the course (it is essentially flat, just a few underpasses). He also mentioned how the weather was shaping up to be perfect. He then said: "Tomorrow is going to be a great day for running. You won't find a flatter course. You have no excuses." Umm. Did you catch that? YOU HAVE NO EXCUSES. Sigh.

He finished up with a little diddy that went something like this: "You challenge the day. You challenge your training. You challenge the distance. You challenge the course. You challenge the weather." And that, I think, pretty much summarizes what running road races are all about. I'm not sure what it was, but it got me ready to get this done.

The strategy: One thing I've learned about myself this training cycle is that I often take a long time to warm up. Paces will feel really hard the first few miles of a pick-up, and much easier towards the end. I went into the race thinking I wouldn't panic if I was in the 9:30s the first few miles. My plan was then to stay as close to 9:00 as possible until the last 3 or so miles where I would kick-it up a notch. A 9:09 pace is a sub-two half. However, if I ran a pace which registered as a 9:09 on Garmin, I would most certainly fall short since you never end up running just 13.1 miles during a race. Last year my Garmin said I ran 13.24 miles during the race so I calculated I needed my Garmin to say I was running a 9:03 pace so that after all the extra distance was subtracted out, I should hopefully be left with a sub-2 pace for the race.

The San Jose course has a lot of turns. Turns add to your overall distance since you can't perfectly run the tangents. The night before I tried to memorize as much of the course as possible so I'd know what side of the street to be on. Of course, I couldn't remember anything past the first 5 miles. Semi-fail. If I ever run this race for time again, I am definitely going to work harder on this point. There were a few times I'd think a right-hand turn was coming up so I'd allow myself to drift to the right, then realized it was actually going to be a left-hand turn so had to drift back. Perhaps this is a little anal neurotic, but when you've missed a goal time by 5 seconds, these things start to really matter.

Turn, turn, turn!

Surprisingly I was able to hit my desired pace from the very beginning of the race. Thankfully it didn't feel excruciatingly hard, either. In fact, until about mile 7 I thought my "Hold a 9:00, kick it up at the end" plan was going to work out. I saw my parents and Boyfriend cheering at mile 4.5 which gave me a nice boost. Somewhere around mile 8 my pace started to slow down a little. I had to keep telling myself to push a little harder when I saw it sliding into the 9:15's.

Somewhere around mile 10 I realized I was suddenly nestled in the middle of the 2:00 pace group. I panicked because I didn't know if I had snuck up on them or if they had snuck up on me. My mood was further depressed as I realized they were slowly but steadily pulling away from me! At one point they were a good 20 feet ahead of me and I realized that was not a good sign regardless of whether they had started ahead or behind of me. I wasn't about to watch this sub-2 dream die like a pink "2:00" sign running away from me into the sunset. So I started to dig a little deeper and slowly started gaining on them. I don't think I passed the group until right around mile 12 but I felt pretty good when I did!

Right before the last turn to the finish line I heard an ambulance come up behind us. As I turned down the homestretch I saw what all the commotion was about. There was a man, flat on his back, getting CPR less than 100 yards from the finish. I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone get their chest pumped before. Very scary.

This is how the last little push to the finish played out: Run hard, dry heave, slow down, run hard, dry heave, slow down, run hard, dry heave, slow down, see the clock read 1:59:57, run REALLY hard, cross finish, hit garmin, dry heave, keep moving, dry heave, look at volunteer and contemplate puking on his shoes, keep walking, dry heave, drink cold water.

That's me in the yellow shorts trying to simultaneously sprint for the finish and not puke.

For a moment my mind was sort of in a stupor. Garmin read "1:59:11" and I remember thinking I'd have to wait to see my official results to see if I had made it. Then I realized my pace might be off from what Garmin read (ended up running about 13.2 miles) but the TIME was golden.

I weaved my way through the grocery store of post-race food and met up with my parents and Boyfriend. My dad even treated me to getting my finish time engraved on the back of my medal! I was in a little bit of a daze and I think my family was more pumped than I was that I had made it. My tummy started to feel a little funny (a strange empty feeling like someone had punched me in the gut) but my legs felt really good. It has been a long time since I ran a half marathon and I'm more used to the utter fatigue post-marathon.

My fancy engraved medal :)

In reality I don't remember a whole lot about the race. It seemed to go by very quickly since I was so focused on keeping my pace. Last year I ran San Jose for fun and I remember taking in a lot of sights on the course, enjoying the spectators, and listening to the bands. This year was all business. The majority of the race I kept my eyes focused 4 feet in front of me so I wouldn't trip in any pot holes.

For the first time ever I wore an ipod during a race. I really think this made a world of a difference for me. I ran all of my tempo runs to music from Hella Sound. You can get songs whose beat per minute rate matches your cadence. The 180 bpm songs get me running right around a 9:00 to sub 9:00 pace. I kept an eye on the footing in front of me and let myself concentrate to the beat of the music. It took me out of the discomfort of the moment and totally saved me mentally!

I later found out that not only had that gentleman I saw by the finish line not pull through, another runner had passed away during the race as well. This made me really sad since I had run right by the guy and was really hoping he had recovered. I had been thinking of him all day and this really put a damper on the occasion. You can never take anything for granted.

My splits (every half mile)
Mile 1-7.5 (Feeling good):
Miles 8-12 (Holding on!)
Miles 12.5-13.2 (per Garmin's distance; Trying to kick)

So mission accomplished!! Going into this I told myself if I could hold a 8:59 official pace I would stop trying to PR at this distance (per Garmin I held a 9:02 pace, official pace was 9:06). When it comes down to it, I am more of a distance runner than a speed runner. I don't mind so much the pain of going too far but I am not so keen on the pain of going too fast. There is definitely something amazingly satisfying about setting a PR but I enjoy running these races for the fun factor so much more. So I still have one more word for 13.1 but that will have to wait for another training cycle and another race.

Coming up next... CIM on December 6th! I am hoping to PR at this race, too. I know, totally goes against what I said in the last paragraph. But I've heard so many great things about CIM being a fast course I always wanted to try to PR there. In January I have a whole weekend of just-for-fun races (5K Friday, half marathon Saturday, marathon Sunday) that will even out the balance on all of this PR-driven running I've been doing lately.

Here is Meb Keflezighi at mile 4.5 who won the race in 1:01:00. Holy. Smokin'. Cow.:

All muscle and kick.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Week 8, Game On?

Sunday: 10 miles including 20 min @ 9:07 pace (overall pace 10:21); This run is a hybrid of both an easy 10 miler and a scheduled run that was supposed to include 20 min of goal pace running (remember that carry-over crap when I had to rearrange runs last week?). A part of me wanted to reattempt the 6 miles of goal pace that went horribly wrong last week. I sent a tweet out into twitter-land asking for advice about this grand idea and got this response from @The_Woz_ . She's an awesome runner so I deferred to her wisdom. Admittedly I set out to do 30 min of goal pace running (a nice compromise, I thought, between 6 miles and 20 minutes, ha ha) but felt so crappy was happy to get the plan-specified 20 minutes.

My legs felt like horrible, heavy bricks from mile 1 onward. I took a walking break at mile two. Let me repeat that. I took a WALKING break at mile TWO when I was running EASY just ONE WEEK before my let's-run-this-at-a-soul-crushing-pace half marathon. Needless to say I am sort of amazed I was able to hold a 9:07 for 20 minutes. By mile 8 my legs were toast and it was only by thinking thoughts of mental toughening up for next Sunday that I was able to keep running. I gutted this one out pretty well, but it just felt like a fail.

Monday: 4 miles @ 10:08 pace; Hallelujah. After three bad runs in a row felt normal!

Wednesday: 4.7 miles including 6x 400m @ 8:21, 8:25, 8:13, 8:16, 8:21, 8:21 pace (goal 8:31); I still have this monkey on my back from Nightmares of Runs Gone Bad but this went pretty well. God bless 400m pickups. After weeks of doing 800m, 1000m, and 1200m ones this felt almost too easy.

Friday: 3 miles @ 10:08 pace (Hey, 10:08 must be my new easy pace!); Didn't feel as spunky fresh as the last two runs but overall a nice way to end this training cycle. It was pretty warm and sunny in SF this morning (it tends to be even warmer down in San Jose) but I hear there's cooler weather in store for this weekend.

Random grumpy Mario photo

So here it comes, the "goals for the upcoming race" part of the post.

I have two goals for this race.

Goal A: 1:59:59
Goal B: 1:57:40 (my super stretch sub-9:00 pace goal)

That's it. There's nothing else. I am not even hoping for a PR that isn't Goal A or B. Because let's face it. If I PR with a 2:00:03, 2:00:02, 2:00:01, or 2:00:00 I will absolutely TOTALLY LOSE IT.

I have to admit I am not mentally feeling this coming race. The last two weeks of sub-par running have really thrown off my confidence. I am not filled with any sense of excitement. I have to share that the overriding emotion right now is DREAD.

Reasons I think Sunday could go well:
1. I have done a lot of specific training for this race. I have run more 9 minute & sub-9 minute miles than I ever have before. I have definitely gotten faster since the San Francisco Marathon.

Umm... Yeah, there's only one.

Reasons I think Sunday will go badly:
1. Numero Uno has to be the weather. NYRR does a lovely job of keeping track of weather conditions for all their races. I checked a while back. Do you know what the weather was like during the Brooklyn Half in 2006? It was 33 degrees, 42% humidity, 14 mph wind. Huh?! THIRTY THREE DEGREES! I remember it was quite chilly, my guess would have been low 40's. Probably for most of the race it was in the low 40's. But obviously it was a cold day. I am a cold weather runner. The weather in San Jose is predicted to be a low of 47, high of 69 degrees, and sunny. That isn't horrible, but it is less than ideal for me.

2. I'd really like some input from everyone on this point: 9:00 minute miles are hard for me. It doesn't matter if I'm running half a mile or 5 miles. They are not easy for me. Sometimes a mile or so goes by and it doesn't feel too bad, but the entire time I have to override the urge to run slower. The farthest I've run in training near goal pace is 6 miles. I don't know about you, but I am pretty sure 6 miles and 13.1 miles are highly varying distances! Please someone tell me that you can hold a difficult pace for twice as far as you've ever done it?! There have been days in the last few weeks trying to do 9:00's for even just 20 minutes was downright difficult. I looked at a few half training plans before I started training. None of them have you run more than 6 miles straight at goal pace. So there must be something to that. But let me tell you, that does nothing for my confidence.

My priority the next day is to get my head in this game. There's no way I can attempt to do this without even some fake confidence. Whether things go well or badly this race is not going to be a comfortable effort. I need to get psyched up for that mental game.

Boyfriend was also going to try to PR this Sunday but got injured during the training cycle. He's bummed he can't even run. So whatever happens I'm focusing on the fact that I was able to toe the line and try. This Sunday will be my 16th half marathon! That's pretty amazing in itself. I am VERY proud of the way this training cycle went. I have never attempted something so ambitious in speed work, and I have never been able to complete a training cycle injury-free which included so much speed work.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I'd like to share a story about the 2006 Brooklyn Half Marathon. I've eluded to it previously in my blog but figured this was a good time to tell the tale. Depending on how you look at it, this is either a story of an extraordinary feat or the ultimate heart break.

I ran my first half marathon in October of 2004 in 2:19:24 (10:38 pace). I later decided it would be awesome if I could squeak a sub-10:00 pace half out and was able to do this in October 2005 (2:06:38, 9:40 pace). At the time I thought this was amazing. So what was next? I threw out a fairly arbitrary goal of running a sub 2-hour half marathon. I am going for full discloure when I say I thought it was within the realm of possiblity but I did not think it was a terribly realistic goal for me. That 2:06:38? I had a great race that day and was pushing hard. I didn't think I had much left. I said I'd die a happy runner with a sub-2 half. It gave me something to work towards, but I didn't think I'd ever really achieve it.

In March 2006 I was already in training for the Safaricom Marathon which was to take place in June. Looking back at my log I was doing a few pick-ups (a couple of minutes here and there of increased perceived effort) during various runs but no real measured speed work. I had built up to a long run of 14 miles one week before the half marathon. There is precisely ONE run up until the race where my overall pace was sub-10:00. It was a 7 miler done at a 9:33 about 1 month before the Brooklyn half. ALL of the other runs the entire 3 months previous hovered at an average of 10:25 pace.

I had signed up for the Brooklyn Half Marathon mainly because it was a favorite half course and it fell on my birthday that year. Who can resist a race on your birthday?! I had no aspirations of PR'ing or even really pushing at all.

I'll never forget the first few miles of that race. For one, I totally regretted them later. But secondly, I remember not really feeling "on" those first few miles. I remember questioning whether or not it was a good day to even be attempting to run 13.1 miles. I thought it was going to be a total slog of a run. But as the race went on, something amazing happened. My splits got faster and faster and they didn't feel that hard. If you're at all familiar with the Brooklyn Half course you'll know the first 9 miles or so are pretty flat and the last few are pretty hilly. At about mile 10 I knew I was going to be really close to a sub-2 and I started running my little heart out. It wasn't pleasant. I remember thinking that I had better sub-2 that day because if I didn't I sure as heck didn't want to go through this feeling again! I threw up twice in my mouth at the finish.

My splits:
Mile 1: 10.00.02
Mile 2: 9.59.29
Mile 3: 9.44.62
Mile 4: 9.17.58
Mile 5: 8:56.30
Mile 6: 9.02.03
Mile 7: 9.00.84
Mile 8: 9.08.01
Mile 9: 9.10.33
Mile 10: 9.04.77
Mile 11: 8.52.47
Mile 12: 8.23.35
Mile 13: 8.37.31
Pesky 0.1: 49.14

I will spare you the mental math and let you know this added up to be a 2:00:06 race per my watch. When the net time was figured out and the dust settled, my official time was 2:00:04 (9:09 pace).

To put this in perspective, my 10K PR pace at the time was (and still is) 9:09. My 5K PR pace was/is 8:20. I had just run a half marathon at an overall pace equal to my 10K PR with a few hilly miles at the end close to my 5K PR pace. I did this all without it being planned and without any specific training. For a second I was amazed. And for all the seconds and years after, I have just been pissed.

Five seconds over 13.1 miles is NOTHING. At one point a pedestrian crossed the road in front of me. I pulled up short to avoid hitting her. That's one second lost. Walked an extra step at that water stop? Another second. Putzed around those first few miles when I thought this was going to be a La La Land type run? More than 5 seconds there!

Let me tell you, I'd rather miss a goal time by 30 minutes than 30 seconds because there are just too many what-ifs in almost-executed races.

So basically ever since this race I've known a sub-2 is a realistic goal and I'm aching for a little bit of redemption.