Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Mario

A few more Mario Christmas photos!!

Mario checking out his Christmas bounty:

Boyfriend got Mario those nut/honey sticks (I call them crack for rabbits) which were of course a bigger hit than the high-fiber, "educational" toys I got Mario. His head is in the way, but in the photo Mario is digging into the seed stick and pretty much ignoring the other new toys. I am rationing the seed sticks so he doesn't turn into a Christmas porker.

I left the wrapping paper strewn about for an extra day so Mario could enjoy ripping and shredding

We made gingerbread cookies and this is the gingerbread Mario I made this year (with the help of a rabbit-shaped cookie cutter to do the hard part!)

I am going to get busy with updating the blog more frequently. I've been keeping in touch with a lot of bloggers on twitter and I think that has made me lazy with actual blog updating. It is hard to write a post about this or that when I've already tweeted about it. But a lot of you aren't on twitter (Why not?!) so I want to keep up the blogging. I owe lots of posts on lots of things and will start chipping away at that soon.

Sidenote: If you're on twitter, I am "RoadBunner" there, too. If your name is not immediately obvious as to who you are, please send me an email to let me know! Right now I have my tweets as private so I need to okay you and as of now I am more or less just okaying the people I am already familiar with. This may change in the future. I am not being snobby, I just want to keep twitter personal and I feel if you have x,000 people to follow it it is hard to keep up with everyone.

Since someone asked, I got the pattern for the knit bunnies from here. It's a nice pattern because the bunny knits up in one piece. I used small needles (size 4) to get the bunnies to come out smaller. I bought another bunny pattern that had a bit more character, but it is a huge pain when the arms, legs, feet, ears, head, and body are all separate pieces. I hate all that finishing work. In fact, that rabbit never even got stitched up!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

I hope that everyone had a great Christmas! I have been horribly delinquent on blog reading/commenting (more on that later) but was thinking about all of you out there!

Our Christmas Eve dinner:

The perks of having an Italian boyfriend who loves to cook (I didn't take a picture of the leg of lamb he made for Christmas day)

A crop of Mario's thoroughly disapproving face on Christmas Eve:

Bipeds, I am not amused. Merry friggin' Christmas!

A rare shot of Mario not trying to devour the presents:

Close-up of some of the casualties of Mario's teeth:

Mario took a nap under the couch this year while we opened our presents, but when he finally emerged a few hours later, he got to open up his gifts. Lots of chewy toys and tasty treats:

I got a rather surprising gift from Boyfriend. When I first opened it, I was honestly mortified. Then later I was a quite giddy. For you non-runners, these heinously ugly shoes are a big craze in the running community nowadays (much, much more on this later, I'm sure):

Vibram Five Fingers. Yes, I will someday have to go outside wearing these babies.

I have become a bit of a knitting freak as of late. One of Boyfriend's gifts was a knit Vespa scooter (he loves Vespas) inspired by an adorable print by Nakisha VanderHoeven. I saw her art and thought, "I wonder if there is a Vespa pattern on Etsy?" I checked and there was! I was a knitting maniac for three days knitting this guy up on the DL.

I'll have more Mario Christmas photos up for "Monday Mario" tomorrow. Until then, have lots of gingerbread cookies and hot cocoa!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Mario

Many apologies for being so quiet. I've been terribly busy since getting back to California from Hawaii.

I had a very great (albeit very quick) trip home. The Christmas tree decorating was a grand success. I'll post a full-tree photo soon, but wanted to highlight my little knit snowmen bunnies I gave away to family members.

This group photo is two bunnies short of all the ones I gave away in Hawaii. I was burning the proverbial midnight oil after the Honolulu Marathon to have them ready to give away (my mom invited the extended family over for dinner the evening of the marathon).

Here's a shot of the bunny I left on my parents' tree. On the bottom you can also spy a glimpse of the hideous Santa I made when I was three (c. 1983). I told my mom she didn't have to put it up, but she insisted.

Back on the home front, after my quick nip home the San Francisco tree is now heavy with presents. Mario is in awe of all the gifts and I am constantly clapping, whistling, and shouting at him to leave the presents alone. The other day he grabbed a gift by the ribbon. When I clapped at him to leave it alone he ran off dragging it behind him for about three feet (not a small feat for a little bunny)!

Here is a really quick clip of Mario and what he does when he realizes you've caught him trying to open a present up early. He's done a pretty good number on the corner of one gift already. Will get a shot up of that soon.

Mario circling the presents is never a good thing!

But then he'll settle down and looks so adorable with the tree :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'll Be Home For Christmas (sort of)

Today is the best day ever.

In a few short hours I will be:
1) Flying home to Hawaii
2) Seeing my parents
3) Eating a huge lunch of yummy Hawaiian food
4) Going to a marathon race expo
5) Helping my mom decorate my childhood home for Christmas

Sounds like the perfect day, yes?

So this Sunday I've got a little something called the Honolulu Marathon planned. I was so focused on CIM it didn't really hit me until two days ago. Then I got all panicked because I don't really think my legs want to run 26.2 more miles. Also, last time I checked the weather it was going to be a low of 70, high of 81. That is also known as "World's Most Miserable Marathon Weather" for me. Ugh.

I've got a couple of goals going into this race which I'd like to elaborate on here:
1) DO NOT GET INJURED -- I have the Walt Disney races coming up which mean far more to me than completing back to back marathons. The Disney races are more important than finishing Honolulu with any "runner" dignity. I will turn this into a 26.2 mile walk-fest if I must.
2) Have lots of fun!
3) Take a lot of pictures

Hmm... Talk about a complete 180 from CIM (in both goals and weather)!

I tried to go on a 2 mile recovery run yesterday. I got 0.3 miles before I had to stop. My left hamstring was super tight, started to burn, and then a shooting, radiating pain traveled up my inner leg to my groin. Not pleasant. It was not the kind of pain you can keep running through. I've got 48 more hours of rest and stretching planned and I hope I can get to the point I can run a little. I do not have the muscles to walk for 26.2 miles and that would be a very unpleasant way to spend my Sunday. I don't mind dealing with fatigue of the legs, but not being able to run at all would really put a damper on this race. I feel better this morning than I did yesterday but will keep monitoring it and would be willing to pull a DNS if necessary.

Packing procrastinator that I am, I don't think there will be a Monday Mario next week (or any more updates 'til I return). But I'll hopefully be back with a Wednesday Wabbit!

Thank you, everyone, for you nice words about CIM! I am still a bit in shock and awe about how that day turned out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

California International Marathon

I apologize, but this is going to be a long report mainly because I want to remember the details.

The Mario Recap, Marathon #9:
For the people who come here mainly to admire Mario's cute mug (don't blame you): I ran the race 13 minutes and 13 seconds faster than I've ever run a marathon. My official finish time is 4:14:09.

I interrupted Mario's nap to take this photo. VERY grumpy bunny.

There was much medal-flinging before a decent shot was had.

The Full Recap, Marathon #9:
I got my number at the expo on Friday afternoon. Nothing too spectacular and probably not worth the extra trip up to Sacramento since I couldn't stay to attend the seminars (I had to work Saturday so returned back to SF Friday). But in the end I had peace of mind of getting my stuff, checking my chip, and buying my bus ticket. I got to meet up briefly with Kristen (PR!)! We had a little cola Power Bar Gel Blast drug run. One addict to another! Nothing at the expo spoke to my running-gear shopaholic tendencies. I did sign up for the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon in 2010, though. No full there for me next year!

Race morning came with a 4:15 am wake-up which actually didn't seem too bad. I was in and out of sleep all night and woke up before my alarm went off. I had really debated about what to wear at this race. The temperature in the morning was about 30 degrees and I figured it might rise to 45 by the end of the race (was totally wrong about that!). After much see-sawing I settled on a tank, skirt, and gloves for sure. I threw tons of options into my check bag, though (socks to use as gloves or arm warmers to chuck & real arm warmers).

Possibly the last time I get to use these types of chips for a race (they're becoming dinosaurs of the past)

I met Audrey and we made the very short walk across the street to a bus pick-up. It was cold, but not as cold as I expected it to feel. The busses arrived and we luckily made it onto the first one. CIM is a point to point race so they bus you out to the start. It is very sobering to be driven 26+ miles knowing you have to run all the way back. I LOVE that CIM lets you stay on the bus to keep warm. The majority of the runners on our bus were certifiably insane because they all vacated immediately. Only about 10 of us stayed inside for a bit. While on the bus I decided to add my arm warmers to my outfit.

We headed out and hit the port-a-potties which had a pretty reasonable line length so close to the start of the race. We then headed over to the sweat bag check where we ran into Tara and Nicole (PR!)! After that I went to line up with the 4:15 pace group.

I had been thinking about it and decided to start off on a 4:15 finish pace. Ultimately I really wanted to crack a 9:59 overall race pace. I figured that by my Garmin I'd have to shoot for something around a 9:50 to take into account that the Garmin always measures the distance long. Since my other tiered goals involved paces in the 9:40's, I figured I'd go out at with the 4:15 pace group and evaluate from there. A 4:15 finish seemed like a very aggressive goal seeing how my SFM PR was 4:27:22. BUT, since my training plan felt I could run even faster than a 4:15, I felt I had a little bit of a built in fudge factor to go out at that speed.

The 4:15 pace group had two leaders. A man and a woman. They were busy chatting and meeting the group. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to hang with them the whole race so was reluctant to introduce myself. The gun went off (didn't hear it, but heard everyone cheer) and off we went. I crossed the start mat the exact same time as the female 4:15 pace leader. I thought, "That is it, if she does a good job I know exactly where my 4:15 is at any point in the race." The first couple of miles were pretty slow with the congestion. Then all of a sudden she picked up the pace and started zig-zagging around runners. The first few miles were VERY crowded and there were no openings for me to follow her. I even heard some other runners comment how they had just lost the pace leader. Somewhere in the early miles Maritza found me and wished me luck! Thanks, lady!

Mile 1: 10:07, 9:42 (remember, my Garmin calculates splits every 0.5 miles)
Mile 2: 9:59, 9:39

Eventually she settled into pace (the male leader crept up to about where she was, too) and she was an even 20 feet in front of me. I figured as long as she wasn't accelerating I could keep an even distance and gradually try to close the gap over time. The next 2.5 miles we were going much faster than the specified 9:43 pace and even faster than I would have liked for the most aggressive of goals. Mile 3 hovered right around what I consider to be half marathon pace and mile 4 wasn't much better.

Mile 3: 9:15, 9:06
Mile 4: 9:20, 9:27

At this point I seriously considered pulling back and letting the pace group pull off without me. Everyone has heard stories about how a zealous pacer went out too fast and ruined their race. A 4:15 was my true gold goal and I didn't want to raze it by going out so fast so early.

I don't even remember why or when I decided to try to stick with the group, but I did and never thought about purposely letting them get ahead of me again the whole race.

Mile 5: 9:31, 9:53
Mile 6: 9:53, 9:48
Mile 7: 9:56, 9:53

So now that I mentally attached myself to those red "4:15" signs up ahead, I'd like to talk a little bit about the pacers. The woman's name was Lisa, and the guy was Mike. I have never run with a pace group in the past. I generally prefer to race solo so that I can speed up or slow down as I deem fit. I have run by pace groups in marathons that were truly irritating. Pacers that were too chatty. Runners in the pace group that were too chatty. Pacers that were downright annoying. I really lucked out because Lisa, Mike, and my fellow 4:15's (with a few quirky exceptions) were none of those things.

You can see my pink hat right under the "4:15" sign on the left

Mile 8: 9:38, 9:43
Mile 9: 9:46, 9:40
Mile 10: 9:28, 9:19

CIM is generally known to be a very fast course. I think it is something like 6th in the country for sending runners to Boston. I am here to say that the course, while being net downhill, is NOT flat or even generally downhill. There are TONS of little rollers. Too many to even memorize where they occur.

Elevation profile from the marathon's website

I went in knowing miles 7-10 were the worse, mile 11 had the steepest climb, and there was some short little incline at mile 21ish (just cruel) at a bridge. But really, this course went up and down and up and down. Nothing too long or too steep but enough to slowly break your spirit.

One awesome thing about being in the pace group was that I was so distracted by not bumping into the other runners or jostling for position that I couldn't really look up ahead much to know if a hill was coming. The pacers would mention we had made it to the top of an incline or that we should rally to get to the top of the next but for most of the race I was present only at that moment. I think if I had been running solo with wide open spaces around me, looking up ahead at hill after hill would have been very demoralizing.

Mile 11: 9:30, 9:20
Mile 12: 9:34, 9:17
Mile 13: 9:49, 9:43
Half Marathon split: 2:06:31

I don't really have a lot to say about the majority of the race for two reasons. One, while the pace I was running was not terribly excruciating like my half marathon pace, I don't think I'd classify it as easy conversational. So I was in my own little zone concentrating on the task. Two, when you run in a pace group you are running with a bunch of other people who want to stay close to those numbers on the stick. So you never really carve out your own personal space. I was generally always looking 1.5 feet in front of me at the ground to make sure I didn't clip someone's heel or trip on anything in the road.

Boyfriend was scheduled to come cheer at a few spots and I worried he wouldn't see me tucked in the group or I wouldn't see him (I had no hope of looking around long enough to scan the crowd for faces). Luckily he found me and once he knew I was with the pace group it was easy enough for him to spot me.

Another great thing about running with a pace group is that the crowd really cheers for you. People were yelling, "Go, 4:15!" the whole race. Usually when I run marathons I like to thank people spectating and cheering. But besides being stuck in the middle of the group I didn't really want to expend the extra energy feeding back to the crowds.

I am tucked in there somewhere!

From reading people's race reports I surmise there was a pretty good headwind for the majority of the first half of the race. I say "surmise" because at any little breeze Mike would yell, "4:15! Tighten up behind me! Cut the wind! Help each other out!" And just like that the whole pace group would pull together and the wind was definitely much less noticeable. In fact, besides a few gusts that would prompt a "4:15! Tighten up!" I never really felt like I was running in a headwind at all.

Since we had two pacers, when we ran through water stops one of them would always keep going and sometimes the other would stop to refuel. I only stopped twice at aid stations (once to refill my handheld and another time I grabbed a cup on the go so I wouldn't have to stop a second time). However, the pacers are capable of easily running much faster than a 4:15 pace so they would always catch back up with the group quickly. When I stopped to refill my handheld (probably about a 30 second stop -- couldn't find someone with a pitcher so had to pour cup after cup into my bottle) I had to really jet to catch back up with the group.

Mile 14: 10:03, 9:46
Mile 15: 10:05, 9:51
Mile 16: 9:54, 9:20

Around mile 16 I started to doubt my ability to keep the pace the rest of the race. Niggling questions of can I do this? I have how much farther to go? Gah! Looking at the splits now I sort of feel like we were all over the map. That was probably due to the rolling terrain. I trusted in Mike and Lisa's judgement and didn't get too concerned when the splits read too fast or too slow.

Mile 17: 9:18, 9:28
Mile 18: 9:40, 9:27
Mile 19: 9:29, 9:25

Another awesome thing about the pace group was that Lisa and Mike were very familiar with the course. They knew all the turns and got us ready to run the tangents. Mike would call out whether we should stay to the right or left and if it was a quick left-right combo he'd let us know and head diagonally towards the 2nd turn.

Mile 20: 9:33, 9:35
Mile 21: 9:31, 9:50
Mile 22: 9:41, 9:47

At around Mile 20 I told myself no-way, no-how was I going to let that 4:15 sign run off into the distance without me. I didn't come 20 freakin' miles to let them slowly slip away the last few miles. I was going to suck it up and keep on running. Around this point I also ruled-out the idea of trying to get in front of the 4:15 sign. That wasn't about to happen.

The weather was perfect. I thought the sun was going to come out (it popped out at about mile 23) but it remained overcast the vast majority of the race. I never took off my gloves like I thought I would. During SFM I had to refill my 22 oz. handheld bottle twice during the race and at CIM I only had to once. Glorious, glorious, freezing running weather. I never felt cold. I was loving it. I don't think the temps got out of the 30's during the race.

Mile 23: 9:35, 9:48
Mile 24: 9:51, 9:58

I always think that miles 22-24 are the longest of any marathon. I saw a sign with that wonderful phrase, "Pain is temporary. Pride is forever." I thought about finishing with a 4:15 finish and got a little choked up. At about mile 23 we passed speakers playing "I Gotta Feeling" (I played that song to get pumped up the morning of SFM, pre-race for San Jose and also while I got ready before CIM -- I call it my PR song). That got me kind of choked up, too. But I reminded myself to concentrate and that a lot could still happen the last few miles. It wasn't mine yet.

Someone's friend jumped in to pace for a bit and I heard her say, "At this point it isn't physical. It is all mental." I really took that to heart. My legs could keep going a few more miles. I just had to believe they could do it. I started to feel like I was moving slow as molasses but a quick peak at Garmin said we were right where we should be.

At about mile 24 I started to realize I felt like I could go a little faster than what the group was doing. I told myself I'd stick with them until mile 25 then slowly pull away. At mile 24.75 Mike said, "If anyone is hoping to do better, now is the time to take off!" He didn't have to tell me twice. I kicked it up a gear and started to pull away. I could hear the pace leaders cheering the people who took off onward. Eventually the "4:15!..." calls got softer and softer and then I couldn't hear them at all. I realized I had opened up a lead over a 4:15 finish.

I have to say I felt pretty good that last 1.5 miles or so. I didn't want to push too much lest I start to feel nauseous or lightheaded. It was sort of freeing to finally be running my own pace for the first time in the race. While the majority of time I pushed myself to keep up with the pace group there were times I held back to stay with them, too. I could finally run for a little bit based on my own feel. I kept telling myself to keep it steady. A sub-4:15 was more than I ever hoped for this race and I had it in the bag.

There is a left-hand turn to the finish which is sort of nice because you don't see it until you are right there. A volunteer was on the side giving high-fives. I didn't interact with anyone in the crowd (Boyfriend excluded) the entire race since I was in such a zone and it was nice to get a high-five.

Mile 25: 10:03, 9:46
Mile 26: 9:37, 9:31
Mile 26.2ish: 9:22
Garmin distance: 26.33 miles
Official time: 4:14:09/9:42 pace

Almost to the finish!

I crossed the line and got my medal. For a few seconds I was a little lightheaded and felt I might throw up. But that passed pretty quickly. I turned around and waited for Mike & Lisa to cross the finish line. I thanked them and gave them each a hug. They were totally awesome pace leaders (they finished with an official time of 4:15:02) and I owe my whole race to them.

Thank you, Mike & Lisa!!
Here they are:

On the way to get my sweat bag Aron found me! She was trying to BQ at CIM. I asked her how her race went and she gave me a little smile and a thumbs up! I am SO happy for her! I was starting to get super cold so didn't even bother standing in the food line. As Boyfriend and I were walking back to the hotel the 4:45 pace group passed by on the course. I knew Audrey was trying to hang with the 5:00 group to try to break 5 hours so we hung around to see her come by. The 5:00 pace leader (who at this point seemed to only have one other runner with her) came by, but no Audrey :( She appeared a few minutes later and we got to cheer for her. I later found out that the 5:00 pace leader was way ahead of schedule and Audrey broke 5 hours with minutes to spare! So exciting!!

I am very, very happy with how I did this race. Not that I wasn't tired and it wasn't tough, but I have to say I don't think I have ever felt as good at the end of a marathon as I did the last few miles of this race. That makes me feel like I could have gone a little faster a little earlier. I have some thoughts and questions about what this PR means, but will save that for another post.

Some other crazies who were out there who had great races were thepixelsuite (BQ!), PunkRockRunner (PR!), Marci (PR!), and Danica (3 marathons in 3 months!).

Thank you, everyone, for all your nice words pre-race!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Mario

Hello. Who are you?

I'm sure this will be the first of many photos of Mario and the Christmas tree this season. I love the recent post at Disapproving Rabbits because it is so true. Mario loves to tear into presents. It has been pretty low maintenance bunny-watching so far when Mario is out, but the presents are slowly trickling in and pretty soon it will be a full-time job to keep him from ripping off the wrapping paper and ribbons. My fault for giving him magazines to shred.

The winner of the Headsweats hat is.....

Yes, Mario heartily disapproves of my use of to pick a winner.

So the winner is, EndorphinBuzz!! Please email me your snail mail addy! Enjoy the hat! I hope everyone had a nice time walking down memory lane with "Monday Mario" moments. I told Mario that forcing people to look at his photos was his reward in this giveaway.

I will be working on my race report. Should be up tonight or tomorrow!

Friday, December 4, 2009

All I Want For Christmas

I went on my last run of the CIM training cycle this morning. Three miles, easy, over a relatively flat route. Every marathon training cycle, somewhere towards the end, I do something incredibly dorky. I look at my legs and think in awe, "There is a marathon in these legs." (I don't say it out loud, though, 'cause that would be just strange) I am always amazed at how following a training plan gets you ready to run 26.2 miles. There are 26.2 miles locked and loaded in these legs. Incredible.

This time around I'm hoping that there is a fast marathon in them.

The race this Sunday is shaping up to be everything I've ever hoped for in a marathon. Great training cycle, fast course, cold weather (currently low of 32!, high of 54).

As I explained before, I used the exact same training plan for CIM that I used for SFM. The CIM plan was a little truncated because SJ Half training cut into the first few weeks of the plan. I know I haven't been breaking down a week by week report this time around, so I'll do a little comparison to explain my goals for this race:

San Francisco Marathon long runs:
18 miles @ 11:09 pace
20 miles @ 10:55
16 miles @ 10:44
20 miles @ 10:50
16 miles @ 11:16
20 miles @ 10:38

CIM long runs:
17 mile @ 10:18
20 miles @ 10:04
16 miles @ 9:55
22 miles @ 10:15

SFM tempo runs:
7 miles with 5 mi @ 9:44
8 miles with 6 mi @ 9:41
9 miles with 7 mi @ 9:46
10 miles with 8 mi @ 9:27
10 miles with 7 mi @ 9:29
7 miles with 5 mi @ 9:22
6 miles with 4 mi @ 9:27

CIM tempo runs:
9 miles with 7 mi @ 9:07
10 miles with 8 mi @ 8:59
10 miles with 7 mi @ 8:58
7 miles with 5 mi @ 8:50
6 miles with 4 mi @ 8:49

This trend continues with all the easy runs, too. For example:
SFM last 3 miler before race: 10:45 pace
CIM last 3 miler before race: 9:55 pace

That said, here are my goals for the race:
Goal 1: PR. 4:27:21
Goal 2: Sub 10:00 pace (4:21:33) <-- my number one goal for this race
Goal 3: 4:16:11 (one hour off my first ever marathon), 9:46 pace
Goal 4: 4:15:00 -- has a nice round feeling to it :), 9:43 pace
Point of interest: I will regret posting this, but according to my training plan, I should be going for a 9:26 pace race which is a 4:07:47! With the exception of two 1600 repeat workouts I have actually run faster for pretty much every run than what my plan specified. So you'd think it would be possible, but I'm pretty much ruling out the possibility of this happening.

This marathon really snuck up on me. I enjoyed the training so much and never started to resent the high mileage weeks. Because of that, it actually doesn't feel like I worked hard for this marathon. But looking back, I really did. I know I am capable of PR'ing this weekend. What I don't know is if everything will fall into place for me this weekend. It may or may not and there may be little I can actually do to control some of that. But I'm excited for this race and I am excited to give it my best effort.

There are LOTS of other blogger/twitter runners doing CIM this weekend. Good luck, everyone!