Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Santa Rosa Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #21:
Decided to go for it. PR, Baby!

The Full Recap, Marathon #21:

I woke up at 4:35 am to head up to Santa Rosa by 5:00 am. We arrived there about an hour later shortly before the sun came up. It was a little chilly which I was grateful for, but I knew it was going to warm up as the day progressed. There was a nice layer of clouds and I was hoping it would stick around until after the race was over.

I told Boyfriend I was shooting for a 9:55 pace (sub 4:20) but that if I felt good I might try to PR (previous PR pace was a 9:42). It is a pretty slim margin between a 9:55 and a 9:42. My goal with this race was never to PR but since the times between a sub-10:00 pace and a PR pace are so close it was always in the back of my mind it might be possible.

I lined up somewhere between the "9 minute mile" and "10 minute mile" pace signs. They delayed the start a little due to long portapotty lines, but eventually we were off. I had no problems hitting my pace right away even though we were scrunched on one half of a street.

The course is of the two-loop variety with 99% of it along a bike path/canal walkway. There was a concurrent half marathon. So everyone ran the loop once together and the marathoners continued on for a second go-around.

Garmin's trace of our day

mile 1: 9:40, 9:36
mile 2: 9:46, 9:45
mile 3: 9:40, 9:45
mile 4: 9:42, 9:39
mile 5: 9:43, 9:45
mile 6: 9:45, 9:44

The first few miles were on a concrete part of the path which then turned into an asphalt bike path. This later morphed into a what is described as "hardpack trail." When we first hit the trail I was totally caught off guard. I knew that part of the course was previously unpaved but from my understanding off the website it had been paved over recently (apparently only one section had been paved but there were still many miles of unpaved trail). It was by no means a technical trail but it did have loose rocks and gravel which made it crucial to pay attention to footing.

Heading out for the first loop early on in the race.

At around mile 6 I looked at my average pace. It was 9:42.

First, I thought about how I was doing well for my goal of a sub-4:20 finish. I even had a bit of a fudge factor built in just in case I bonked later. Second, I also thought about how I was clicking out a 9:42 without any hard effort. It was kind of strange how I was exactly at my current PR pace. I considered reining the effort back to a 9:55 -- no need to tire myself out too early. Third, I realized if I continued as I was until later on in the race it would be harder to beat my PR. I didn't want to decide at mile 20 to go for it, have my average pace be 9:43, and have nothing left to bring it safely down below 9:42 (since Garmin generally measures courses longer than 26.2, the pace you see on the watch is generally a second or so slower than what your actual official pace ends up being). I wasn't going to be in the range and come so close and not be able to PR.

I knew I had to commit at that moment to PR'ing.

So I decided at mile 6 I was going to go for a PR this day. My goal changed from 9:55 to keeping my pace a few seconds below 9:42.

At this point, let's take a look at the elevation map. The above is for one loop. So after reaching the end of the chart, you go back to the beginning and do it again. It is a little misleading because the down didn't feel so big and the ups weren't steep, either. But there was definitely a downhill and uphill slow and gradual trend.

It did cross my mind that perhaps my pace was looking good at this point because I was cruising down the slightly downhill portion of the course. Maybe I'd hit the uphill part and my pace would slip up into the high 9:50's?

mile 7: 9:31, 9:35
mile 8: 9:34, 9:38
mile 9: 10:13, 9:38 Stopped to refill my 20 oz handheld water bottle
mile 10: 9:36, 9:41
mile 11: 9:31, 9:38

So the above mile splits were from the first time I hit the uphill trending portion of the course. As you can see, I got faster. At the time I attributed this to the fact that shortly after the turnaround we hit the freshly paved section of trail. I've taken physics. I know that when you're running on a loose surface some of the force that could be used for your forward movement is now displaced to moving that surface backwards instead. As the running got easier on the pavement I cursed the trail section and was not looking forward to doing that part again. Little did I know that we were no where near done with trail for the first loop. There was another very long section that was definitely uphill. My least favorite part of the course for sure. I made a mental note to toughen up for it on the second loop.

mile 12: 9:19, 9:24
mile 13: 9:13, 9:28

The last two miles of the first loop I was feeling pretty good. I started running faster and did try to slow myself down a little. The lead marathoners were already starting to head back out for their second loop and I yelled encouragement for the runners as they passed by. There were practically no spectators outside the start/finish area except for volunteers so I thought they'd enjoy the sentiment. Most of them didn't even acknowledge me! I made myself feel better by thinking of how fast they were going and how they were probably in some zone (Sidenote: Miles later I encountered what I assume was the winner of the marathon heading home. I cheered for him and HE acknowledged me!). I thought that if I was on PR pace and had the extra oxygen to cheer for other people, I wasn't going fast enough.

Right around here I realized that my cloud cover had vanished. BLUE SKIES AND SUNSHINE. I had a horrible sinking feeling. I had been looking up at the cloud cover every now and then and it had seemed to be holding. Then Poof! It was gone!

I saw Boyfriend around the halfway point. I motioned that I did not want my ipod (since it was so lonely I thought maybe I'd like it the second half) but gestured for him to catch up to me. I told him I was on track to set a PR (I was averaging a 9:36 pace at this point) but the sun was out now and I didn't know if I could keep it up. He gave me some encouragement and I trudged onward.

mile 14: 9:27, 9:18
mile 15: 9:41, 9:29
mile 16: 9:33, 9:34
mile 17: 9:28, 9:33

Thankfully the next few miles of wonderfully paved path was both slightly downhill and had a lot of tree cover. I was feeling decent, though the thought of all the unpaved areas to come was nagging at me and I knew the tree coverage was going to be scarce later on. I cheered myself up by thinking about running the Disneyland Half next week -- I could stop and take photos with all of the characters next week! I could walk whenever I wanted!

mile 18: 10:38, 9:40 Stopped again to refill the 20 oz bottle. The aid station was located right after a sharp bend so this one was not as efficient as the first since I didn't have the top undone and the volunteers took a second to register what I wanted to do.
mile 19: 9:48, 9:53
mile 20: 9:56, 9:22

The wheels briefly fell off shortly after mile 18. This was definitely the lowest I felt during the race. The above splits are pretty bad (that 9:22 really should be grouped with the next set as that was when I re-hit the freshly paved section after the unpaved area). In my mind I only remember feeling particularly crappy for maybe a mile. But I guess maybe it was 1.5 miles. I just felt sort of tired and that I was fighting to keep the pace for the first time. The sun was now out in full force and I was heating up.

I debated strongly in my head whether or not to stop and walk while I ate my second gel. It would just be for a tenth of a mile and maybe it would re-energize me? I even started decelerating a few times to walk before changing my mind and picking back up the pace as best I could. As I ate the gel I told myself I could slow a little bit but I had to keep running. I started to feel a little down and foolish for going after a PR today. Why did I pick a marathon with sub-par footing in sure-to-be-sizzling August?

There weren't a lot of people out for the marathon. A women I had passed at one point had re-passed me when I stopped to fill my water bottle. She was up ahead of me at this point and I could tell she was slowly pulling away. Not that I particularly wanted to beat her, but I told myself that if I stopped to walk she'd keep on running and I'd never see her again. She'd forever be a place marker of where I could have been.

I don't even know where I read it or who said it, but I recently read a quote. The gist of it was that the first step to doing something was believing you can do it. If you don't think you can do it, you won't. I thought of Marlene and how she wrote the word, "Believe" on her hand when she went for a marathon PR attempt. "Believe." It became my mantra for the day.

mile 21: 9:20, 9:23
mile 22: 9:41, 9:36
mile 23: 9:32, 9:29

I turned off of the trail portion and onto the newly paved section (where I had picked up the pace on the first loop). I knew this was where I was going to find out if I could keep up the effort. Sure it was slightly uphill, but I had my footing back. I don't know what it was about this section either of the times I ran it, but my pace completely bounced back and I felt great! Sometimes I feel that a slight incline is actually easier for me to run on, and this must have been the perfect grade.

I also started to pass people. All kinds of people. Everyone. And no one was passing me. Granted there weren't a whole lot of people out there, but I was steadily catching up to and passing everyone I encountered. In between people, when no one was around, I would mutter "Believe... Believe..." out loud under my breath.

The footing went back to trail and eventually we hit the dreaded 2+ mile uphill trail section I had dog-eared during the first loop as "going to be very difficult the second time around." I knew I was losing time on the footing. I knew it was uphill. There were no nice shady trees on this section. It was also the harder miles of 21-24. Even though I knew what to expect, this section went on for what seemed like forever. Just when I thought we might be near the end of it, the trail would give you a peek further up and you'd realize you still had a long way to go.

Whenever I got disheartened I kept repeating the word of the day: Believe. I'd say it out loud and would push a little harder.

From mile 15 or so onward I kept expecting the warm sunshine to suddenly and unexpectedly point it's finger at me and zap me into oblivion. I was actually scared that any second the temperature and sun would squelch my day. It was always in the back of my mind.

As the trail kept going I kept telling myself to just get to mile 24. When you're at mile 24 you've only got one more mile until 25. And once you're at 25 you're practically home free.

mile 24: 9:31, 9:27

Finally the trail portion ended and I was back on firm footing. The race had a bunch of over and underpasses to get you from side to side of the canal. As I turned over the last one I faintly caught about 2 seconds of the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." Could it have been?

When I trained for the San Francisco Marathon in 2009 I ran to this song a lot. The morning of the race I listened to it on repeat as I got ready. I PR'd. The morning of CIM as I got dressed and psyched myself up for the race I listened to this song on repeat on my ipod. During CIM at mile 23 someone was playing it for the runners. I PR'd.

Had it been a passing car that was playing the song? I had a feeling that I was moving relative to the sound of the music versus the music moving in a car.

As I came back up on the other side two girls sitting by the aid station had a stereo that was playing my PR song. I couldn't believe it. What are the odds of that song playing at the moment I passed at such a pivotal distance in the race? I thanked them as I ran by the aid station. I was at mile 24 and for the first time I didn't just believe I could do it, I knew that I had a PR today. I got a little emotional for a few seconds. Then I told myself to buckle down and bring this thing home. It's never over until you cross the line.

mile 25: 9:22, 9:27

The last couple of miles of a marathon there is some sort of magnetic draw to the finish. You can't help but pick up the pace a little. As my pace automatically quickened I started to feel the effects of the temperature. I was getting a little nauseated. I told myself to hold it easy until the 25th mile marker.

mile 26: 9:18, 9:18

Somewhere after mile 25 I heard some heavy breathing to the left of me. That women who I had leap frogged with a bit (the one whose presence inspired me to not take a walking break at mile 18ish) was passing me back for the second time of the day. No one had passed me since mile 18 of the race. But with the slight nausea I didn't have anything to try to hold her off or pass her back (I am not really that competitive as far as people passing me anyway). She said some encouraging words to me as she slowly drew in front of me. In retrospect, the fact that I actually spoke back to her tells me I wasn't that poorly off at the time.

Mile 25++ heading out for the last little out-and-back before the finish area.

There is a little out and back to cross a lovely trestle bridge before you come back around to the finish line. I was really happy for the double loop aspect of the course at this point. I knew exactly where the finish line was. But man, that little section seemed to go on forever. I really wanted to walk. It was a major battle of mind and body between running faster to the finish, running slow enough to not puke, and wanting to just stop altogether. I thought about how I had a PR, but if I stopped now all of that hard work and payoff would vanish in a few minutes.

I turned the corner after that out and back and gave it everything I had left to sprint to the finish.

mile 26.2: 8:20
Finishing time: 4:11:34
Average pace: 9:36 min/miles

The finish area

I tottered over to a volunteer and as I bowed my head for my medal I did briefly think that it was sort of dangerous and I might hurl on her shoes. But I didn't feel nearly as bad as I thought I would.

A few moments under this was amazing.

RoadBunner Salt Lick

The Swag

This was kind of long so I'll get some post-race thoughts up later. I have a lot of them.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Mario

Carrot Mouth strikes again!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Game Time

Sunday: 6 miles @10:23 pace; Something was really off today. It was sunny and warmer than usual but nothing earth shattering. Got it done with some walking breaks.

Tuesday: 3 miles @ 9:49 pace; It was HOT. Like, after-the-run-was-done-and-I-was-walking-home-I-crossed-the-street-to-walk-in-the-shade hot. I had to stop to take a walk in a shady stretch half a mile from the end of my run. On a three mile run. So far this week has not been filled with energy-packed confidence boosting taper runs. And let me be honest here. It wasn't even that hot. I just checked and it is 77 degrees (not a cloud in the sky, though). Isn't that a pleasant summer day in most parts of the country? Days like today really reveal my achilles heel of warm weather. San Francisco is a fantastic place to run because it is rarely this warm. Just last week my hands went a little numb from the cold while I was standing around pre-run. But the caveat is that when it does get hot, or if I went to a race that is hot, I have no heat acclimation and devolve into a puddly mess on the street.

Thursday: 6 miles including 4 miles @ 8:39 pace; My beloved fog rolled back in and I had a great tempo run.

Friday: 3 miles @ 9:47 pace; It was nice and cool in San Francisco and my legs felt great. Feeling marathon-ready today, for sure!

Tomorrow I am running the Santa Rosa Marathon. Originally when I was scheduling races this year I decided I would do a full training cycle for this race and flex my legs a little. I am hoping to push for a PR at the Texas Marathon in January. I feel that it would be good for my psychological confidence to run something faster than the 4:40's I've been tra-la-lalling out most of this year. I've had a pretty decent training cycle and am pretty confident I have a nice run in my legs. The real wild card will be the weather. It is looking good but it is still warmer than the optimal temperatures in which I've run most of my faster races.

My A-goal is a sub 4:20. I think I will be pretty pleased with anything up to a 4:25. I'm going to try my best to finish in that time range. It has been a long time since I've dug deep at a marathon and I am actually looking forward to tomorrow. I've been telling myself lately that the point of this race isn't only to put down a good time. It was just as important to get some solid training back into my legs to give me a good base to jump off for Texas training in October. I definitely feel like I've accomplished that. However, I think if I tell myself that the time doesn't matter I won't try as hard tomorrow so I am trying to find a balance between those two ideas.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Mario

Mario has been busy growing out his fur spurs. They've gotten pretty long and just in case they decide to fall off, I decided to take some photos.

Spurs on Garage

The Mario Fur-Spur Salute!

Supplemental bunny butt photo.

Friday, August 20, 2010

This Little Piggy Went to Market...

Sunday: 6 miles @ 10:11 pace; Ran with Boyfriend in Sonoma. I don't think we got going until after 11 in the morning and it was hot out there! In foggy San Francisco a 20 oz bottle of water will last me 12 miles. I probably drank twice that amount during the 6 miles in Sonoma. Sadly, it wasn't even that hot. I am just a warm weather weenie.

Tuesday: 7 miles including 5 miles @ 8:44 pace; Finally a tempo run I can be happy about.

Wednesday: 6 miles @ 10:12 pace; After waking up early to run 10 and 11 miles before work the last two weeks, this felt like sleeping in.

Friday: 8 miles; 1 mile easy, 2 miles MP (9:21 pace), 2 miles easy, 2 miles MP (9:25 pace), 1 mile easy; Had lots of fun on this run. Short and sweet with some pace-work to keep my mind occupied. I'm amazed at how comfortable a 9:20 pace feels. A year ago this was my tempo pace.

Next week is marathon week! Hardly any running going on at all (a couple of 3 milers and 6 milers). I know some people hate the taper, but I love it!

Thanks for all the comments on my Tourist Guide post. I'm glad I am not the only one who has a hard time with direction giving. I think BunnyGirl hit it on the head: When you're familiar with an area you don't see it the same way other people do. I think as I run off and really process my directions I start to realize this and second guess what I told them. I think I feel badly in Golden Gate Park because some areas are pretty devoid of pedestrians so I sometimes feel like they may walk for a long while before finding someone else to clarify.

About a week ago that pesky nail finally came off!! Thank, goodness. It was starting to flap around quite a bit (but would hurt when pulled on so I didn't want to yank it if it was going to bleed). I had to tape it down every night when I went to sleep so that I wouldn't snag it on the sheets. I caught a bunch of people off guard last time so here's fair warning... Nasty toenail photo to follow...





Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tourist Guide

I have spent almost the last decade of my life living in tourist-philic locations. There is something I've noticed over the years. Maybe other runners can relate to this, too?

Tourists love to ask runners for directions.

I guess there is something about someone out for a run which screams, "I live here! I know my way around! Stop me and ask me all your burning questions!"

I'm generally very happy to stop to help tourists out (If I'm in the middle of a tempo run I may blast past 'ya, though -- I don't think this has come up yet -- I once ignored someone calling to me from their car but more because I thought that could be dangerous). If I see someone holding a map looking puzzled I'll even stop and offer my help (Golden Gate Park is hella confusing).

I do my best to get the blood flowing to my brain as I stand there panting for air. I try really hard to give good help. But then after I've given directions and trot off, I spend the next few miles feeling utterly guilty. I replay what I told them in my head and always decide I could have been more specific, more clear, or more just plain right.

The worse I ever felt was in Central Park. Two men stopped me to ask for help. They had tickets to a taping of the Letterman Show and had to be there in 15 minutes. They were walking in the totally wrong direction and I seriously doubted they could make it there in time. But I gave them some advice and sent them on their way. A few minutes later I realized there was something different I could have said that would have been so much clearer. I felt SO bad as I pictured them lost in the jungles of Central Park missing their show. Guilt.

Lost in Central Park? Just flag me down.

Recently I was running in Golden Gate Park and two guys stopped to ask me, "How far to the Pacific?" "The Pacific Ocean?" "Yes, the Pacific Ocean?" I stopped and really thought about it. I know that from the westernmost point of the park to my house is 2 miles. I was probably a smidge under a mile to my house. I told them a little over a mile. They seemed content with this answer. I told them to just keep walking in the direction they were headed and they'd get there. We parted ways. I immediately regretted my advice. It was probably closer to 1.5 miles if you tag on the little leg out of the park to the beach. And that extra 0.3 miles will feel very far to them if they're walking. They'll probably lose hope. And it wasn't exactly straight. At one point they'd have to choose which way to exit the park. Guilt.

I've had two requests for this location in the past month and a half: Japanese Tea Garden. And yes, I can approximate in minutes how long it will take you to walk there. Though, I calculate it in running time in my head and add a few so I probably second guess that number as soon as you depart.

Tuesday a young man stopped me. "Is this Golden Gate Park?" "Golden Gate Park? Yes." "Where is the bridge?" "The GOLDEN GATE Bridge?" "Yes." "Umm, you aren't very close to it. It's probably two miles that way." "Where is the best place in the park to get a view of the bridge?" For the life of me I couldn't think of an easy one. I thought about sending him up that hill on Stow Lake but that is pretty complicated to explain plus I wasn't sure if you could even see the bridge. "I can't really think of a place you can see it from the park." He mentioned something about driving. He had a car parked nearby. So I proceeded to give him directions on how to drive to the actual bridge. "... once you get on that road just keep following it all the way to the bridge and get off at the last exit on the right before the toll booth." After he left I regretted the way I had described things. It is a pretty far drive to the bridge. He might think he went too far. I should have told him there is a tunnel to go through. Guilt.

Am I the only person this happens to? I always replay my advice and feel bad about it after. Maybe I am just bad at giving directions? Or maybe I am too hard on myself and too critical of my advice?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Mario

Someone must have noticed all the time I spend with my running shoes. I guess he thought if he joined the line-up I might mistakenly take him out for a jaunt around Golden Gate Park.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Peak Week

Sunday: 13.8 miles @ 10:44 pace; I was supposed to run 11 miles this day but was having such a fun time with Maritza I decided to stick with her for her long run. It's amazing how quick this many miles goes by when you've got great company.

Tuesday: 10 miles including 7 miles @ 8:58 pace; I didn't hit the pace I wanted to (was aiming for something in the low 8:50's/high 8:40's) but I am really proud I kept up the effort for the full 7 miles. The last few weeks when I've gone out for this type of speed work I've had to stop to take a few walking breaks. This has been really frustrating and I've started to get anxious before these types of runs. So hopefully this will be the breakthrough week and we can go back to our regularly scheduled broadcasting now.

Wednesday: 10 miles @ 10:04 pace; I've definitely hit that point again where 10 miles seems like a normal run day. My legs were pretty dead the first few miles, but as they usually do on my Wednesday runs, they perked up the last half of the run.

Friday: 20 miles @ 10:30 pace; Last 20 miler of this training cycle in the bag! I won't say I felt like I could keep going and going at mile 20, but mentally the run went by pretty quickly.

And with that I start my two week taper for the Santa Rosa Marathon. This isn't an A-race but I do have some time goals which I'll go into later.

I never really showed any photos from my time in Utah in June. This was taken from Antelope Island in Great Salt Lake the day after the second marathon. You'll notice the weather did a complete 180 from the previous two days.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Mario

So this "Monday Mario" installment is a little late for anyone not in my time zone. Sorry about that. I've had a very busy weekend. "Monday Mario" purists may poo-poo this edition, though. Above is a portrait of Mario that Boyfriend made on a Magnadoodle. He looks a little like Eeyore, so I think Mario might disapprove.

I've been so distracted, I didn't post my weekly run wrap-up. I also apologize for not catching up with everyone's blogs. It is a priority for tomorrow.

Sunday: 12 miles @ 10:18 pace; This is the run that almost wasn't. I almost cut the run to 8 miles before even heading out the door and came this close to scrapping a run this day altogether. But I got out there and got the training-plan specified miles done. I'm really glad I did, too. I felt pretty decent the whole time and it was one of those runs that made me so thankful I'm a runner.

Tuesday: 10 miles, including 4x 1600m @ 8:19, 8:20, 8:22, 8:16; Felt SO blah during my 2 mile warm up and didn't think I'd bang the 1600m repeats out so well. But I'm very happy with how they turned out.

Wednesday: 11 miles @ 10:09 pace; Can I get a bleh-bleh for pre-work double-digit runs?

Friday: 16.3 miles; 3 miles easy, 3 miles MP @ 9:20 pace, 3 miles easy, 3 miles MP @ 9:23 pace, 4.3 miles easy; I retried this marathon-pace-mixed-in-long-run workout and really enjoyed it again. It makes the long run go by so much faster mentally. I am definitely hoping to work this type of run in every other week or so in future training cycles. I was able to run a few miles with Audrey at the end of the run which was lots of fun!

If you can't tell from the mileage this week, I am ramping up for my peak week for Santa Rosa training next week. It sort of snuck up on me since I took the week after San Francisco easy. One more heavy week then my beloved taper!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Mario

Mario looked so angelic snoozing this morning.