Friday, January 29, 2010

Sunny San Diego

Alisa has called me out on my lack of training posts so I'm hoping to start that up again. First off, I spent a whirlwind day going down to San Diego to meet up with old friends from Scotland. Side-note: 5 hours is not enough time to catch up on 8 years. I had a free hotel night credit and got to book a night at a really grand hotel. I usually book the cheapest hotel I can find that doesn't have super shady reviews so this was a real treat.

View from my hotel room

The hotel! I was on the 29th floor in the right tower.

What is that shiny, warm, yellow orb up in the sky? I haven't seen it in SO long!

I hadn't planned to run outdoors in San Diego and was kind of bummed about that because the weather was grand and there was a pretty straightforward waterfront path I could have followed.

Sunday: 7 miles @ 10:28 pace; It has been a long, long time since I've run on a treadmill. It has been an even longer time since I've run more than 3 or so miles on a treadmill. The hotel in San Diego had amazing treadmills with little television screens and ipod ports. I actually used to enjoy running on treadmills and detested running outdoors. I have turned a complete 180 and couldn't stand the treadmill! There was a great view of the water from the gym, but that gets old pretty quickly. Should I stare at the mileage slowly ticking away every 0.01 miles at a time? Should I stare at the time changing second, by second? Bleh. I did bump up the speed to do 1 mile at about a 9:00 pace (first time since pre-CIM I've attempted this) which helped to get it over more quickly.

Monday: 12 miles @ 10:36 pace; Last two miles were pretty rough, but I have to bump the mileage back up since I have another marathon in about three weeks.

Friday: 16 miles @ 10:38 pace; I don't like this 5 weeks-between-marathons thing because that means I actually have to do some training in between them! Got this done in anticipation of knocking out 20 miles next week.

Next week marks my return to real training. It was actually supposed to be this week, but I hit the 1 hour snooze button on my pre-work run on Thursday. Sue me. I've been putzing around ever since CIM. My legs have retained a great deal of the work I did for CIM. But, they are slowly losing some of the speed I got and I'm going to try to do at least one run with some tempo pace miles each week. The faster I can keep my "easy" pace, the better!

A few quick comments on some comments people have left:

I do think running 12 marathons in 12 months doesn't have to be a Jan-Jan cycle to count. I personally feel that counting my two December '09 races is "cheating" because when I ran them I didn't have a clue I was going to be attempting this and I'd be counting them only to lighten my load the next 11 months. Does that make sense?

I will not be trying to PR at any race this year. I am mentally PR'd out. It was fun to train to try to PR at the half marathon and marathon last year but my mind needs a break from that mindset and pressure. We'll see if this changes as the year goes on, but I doubt I will attempt it if only for the fact that I don't want to increase my risk of injury.

Yes, Mario is adorable and even when he acts up, all I have to do is look at his chubby little cheeks and I go and fetch him a craisin. Often he'll be chewing on the walls and I'll go over and clap my hands to get him to stop. Then one second later, I moosh his checks in with my hands and exclaim, "I love you, Mr. Mario! You're the best bunny in the world!" Talk about bad positive reinforcement.

I started writing up a ditty about my thoughts on future marathon PR attempts, but it was getting long, so I'll save that for another day.

I have a Disney race report in the draft folder and will get that up soon!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Year of the Marathon

I have been waiting for the Dopey Challenge to be over before really sitting down to think about what I want to do running-wise in 2010. I've been doing some pretty intense PR-focused running since May 2009. Between that and the recent 3 marathons in 5 weeks, I wasn't sure if my body/mind would say, "Enough!" and demand a bit of a vacation.

It hasn't.

For Christmas, Boyfriend got me the Dean Karnazes movie, "UltraMarathon Man," which chronicles Dean conquering 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. While I was watching the movie I became thoroughly intrigued at the idea of running multiple marathons very close together. He didn't seem to get tired. If anything, he got stronger (the 50th marathon he ran was his fastest). Now, I'm no Dean, but I think there is definitely something to be said for running long distances consistently.

There was a time in my life I actually wrote home to tell my parents I had run 10 WHOLE MILES! I couldn't believe it! I had trained for years, really, before I ever got up to that distance. It was long and hard but I had gotten through it and was so proud. Flash forward a few years and I can run 10 miles every single time I go out there and it just feels like another run day. Your body adapts to amazing things if you just stick with it and have the curiosity to try.

I won't be attempting 50 marathons in 50 days. I'm not that crazy. But I got to thinking it might be neat to try 12 marathons in a year. I sort of want to do Goofy in 2011 again and to assuage part of the guilt of returning to Orlando so soon I thought it might be fitting if Goofy 2011 was my 26th marathon. To do that, I'll need 14 more marathons in the next 12 months.

So my 2010 running goal runs the gamut of anywhere from 9-14 marathons in the next 12 months. My dad so kindly pointed out that if I count from Dec. '09 to Dec '10 I am already 3 marathons into my 12 in 12 challenge. That sort of feels like cheating, but I don't think it takes away from the accomplishment if I only eek out 9 more.

To do this without having to send Mario into Golden Gate Park to harvest his own hay, I need to do as many local marathons as I can. This way I don't have to take off from work and have minimal travel expenses. So there will be a few marathons on the list I didn't think I'd ever do (or do again) but I'll get over it. Because of the need to do these local races, I wasn't able to space these all out nicely. There are a couple of back-to-backs and even a possible 3 in 3 weeks (perhaps even 4 in 4 weeks) segment planned. I do have about 4 destination races I've penciled in that I'm really excited about, though.

So to start this off, I have already signed up for the Napa Valley Marathon on March 7th and the Oakland Marathon on March 28th. I am also tinkering with the idea of doing the LA Marathon on March 21st.

I may end up regretting this, but if so, I'll just stop! No worries!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Mario

I had a great time at Walt Disney World and made it through the Dopey Challenge in one piece! I have hundreds of photos to wade through but will get a fun report up ASAP. In the meantime, enjoy Mario getting into the Disney spirit! Doesn't he look overjoyed!? Maybe next time I'll bring him to Orlando because he is clearly a true-blue Disney fan. :P

I'd like to clarify that the Honolulu Marathon did offer "normal" Nike stuff (exact same stuff just not "Asian Fit"). I just thought it was sort of hilarious (and a little disconcerting) they had something called "Asian Fit." And for the record, the graphic on the shirt is okay with me, just the actual shirt color combined with the graphics color makes me want to gouge out my eyes.

I had read the lackluster reviews of the Honolulu Marathon on before the race so had pretty low expectations going in (which is probably what led to me having an overall okay experience with the whole thing). Though I don't have any experience with the other Hawaii marathons, I'd probably recommend looking into one of them for a destination race. But please stop by Oahu on your way to the race! We've got lots of great stuff going on :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Honolulu Marathon

Coming off of CIM I was nursing a very sore left hamstring. I tried some stretching exercises and guess what? My right hamstring got a little sore, too! I wasn't sure if I should ice it, heat it, or stretch it. I did a little of all three just in case. After my failed run after CIM I was very, very worried I might end up walking the entire 26.2 miles.

My parents picked me up on the airport the Friday before the race and after a quick (and delicious) Hawaiian lunch, we were off to the expo. You don't need me to remind you all how I LOVE race expos! But the Honolulu Marathon expo was something entirely different. I felt like I had walked into the Twilight Zone.

In case you weren't aware of it, Hawaii is the mecca for Japanese tourists. For some reason, the Honolulu Marathon has also become a huge event for people from Japan, too. I read somewhere that 60% of the 25,000+ runners are from Japan. If you ask me, that number is really skewed because a lot of local runners sign up but end up not running. I'm willing to bet that of the people who actually ran the race, 80% were Japanese runners.

When I first got to the expo I picked up my chip and number (didn't need to show my passport to "prove" I was from Hawaii and deserved the cheaper rate) and a nice volunteer directed me to the next area. But she spoke to me in Japanese. Say what? I hope that wasn't an important message because I totally didn't understand anything but the word, "please."

Asian fit?! What the heck is Asian Fit?! Oh, let me tell you... It means size L = XS. Seriously, I normally wear Nike XS and that Asian Fit stuff XS looked like it would fit a (very skinny) 10 year old.

And the vendors at the expo? There were scarcely any running-related booths. There were people selling Hawaiian quilts. And Hawaii t-shirts. And strange Japanese herbal drinks. But not much cool running gear to gawk over. Super expo FAIL. Plus everyone was speaking to me in Japanese so I can't even tell you what stuff they were hawking. The one great thing about the expo was this:

Zippy's is a local chain of diner-style restaurants. They are fairly famous for their chili. They were giving out samples of Zippy's chili at the expo! Totally random, in my opinion, but since Zippy's is on my list of places to eat when I get home, I killed two birds with one stone. Oh, and for the first time in my life, someone described to me what Zippy's chili was in Japanese (at least I assume she was telling me what chili was). Because I guess I am clearly a Japanese National.

Because Hawaii has abysmal marathon weather, they start their race at 5:00 AM. Let us all do some math together... Usually I like to get to a marathon about an hour before the start. So that takes us to 4:00 AM. I had a choice to either have my poor parents drive me in (a half an hour drive) or to catch a bus from the finish to the start (sleep at my friend's house by the finish with the last bus leaving at 4:00 am). So that takes me back to about 3:30 AM. I chose to spare my parents my dire fate so my good friend from way back when let me crash at her place. So what time did I set my alarm for? 2:30 AM. 2:30 AM. Enough said.

Here comes another quirk of the Honolulu Marathon. You have to drop off your sweat bag before race day. And the location you drop off your bag isn't even the expo! You have to get yourself to the finish area to check any items you want to have held for you at the finish. To me, the point of a sweat bag is to be able to bring things to the start and be able to pick them up at the finish. So this meant anything I had on me at the start I had to be willing to either chuck or carry the whole race.

Since I wasn't sure how long I would take to complete the race I carried more stuff on me than any other marathon. I used a small belt-bottle (versus my larger handheld). Since I wasn't running for time, I didn't mind stopping to refill it along the way (in CIM I stopped at only one water stop the entire race). In my belt I carried my cell phone so that I could tell my parents if I was walking or running. I wasn't sure if they should expect me in at 5 hours or 9 hours. Problematic. I also carried lip balm and extra sunscreen (more on this later!!) since I figured if I was going to bake on the highway for 9 hours I'd need a reapplication.

My friend lives only a short walk to the Honolulu Zoo so I got there in good time. I grimly noted that the dark o'clock temperature was still far warmer than any daytime high I'd been experiencing as of late in California. I waited in line at the zoo for a shuttle bus. Luxury tour busses were pulling up to drive us to the start. When my bus pulled up it was a dinky yellow school bus. Shuttle bus FAIL.

The bus ejected us in Ala Moana Park and I went to search out a portapotty. As I stood in line, I taped this:

Can't understand a word he's saying? Yeah, I couldn't either.

At this point I could write a whole separate post on Japanese Running Clothes Fashion. But I won't. I'll just say five words: Spandex tights under running shorts. Seriously? For a marathon in HAWAII?

A guy walked by our portapotty line and said (thankfully in English), "There's a restroom about two minutes away and believe me, it is worth the walk. No wait!" Don't need to tell me twice! About three of us left the lines (I guess we were the only ones who understood him) and I made my way to a park restroom. For the awesome love of flushing toilets!

After that I went over to join the crowd of people to line up for the race. I seeded myself rather optimistically in the "5-6 hour" area. That's right. 5-6 HOUR area. I didn't get a shot of it, but I later snapped a shot of the "2-3 Hour" corral sign:

It probably isn't obvious to a non-runner, but there is a HUGE difference between a 2 or 3 hour marathon pace. So long story short, the Honolulu Marathon SUCKS at getting people to line up in any fashion that encourages a chance of getting off at a good pace. I was actually running at 5-6 hour pace and I was passing people the first 11 miles of the race. I knew this would happen but I didn't want to push further up in case I ended up walking and adding to the clog.

Someone sang the National Anthem (I almost passed out in shock when the Japanese Anthem wasn't played immediately after) and then the fireworks went off. I will give the Honolulu Marathon this: They have the best pre-race firework show I've ever seen. It was like a REAL fireworks show. Plus since I was way back in the no-man's land of 5-6 hours I didn't even start moving through the whole show so I got to enjoy it. Here's a snippet (it went on for a couple more minutes, I think):

And then we were off! I started running and my left hamstring started talking to me. And it didn't shut up for the next 26.2 miles + 11 days. Every single step of the race it hurt. But the good news was if I kept it slow and my stride short it was do-able. I was really paranoid the first few miles about whether it would flare up to the point of stop-running!, but it didn't.

Since the marathon starts at 5 AM it is pitch black for almost the first 2 hours of the race. I snapped these two photos of the Christmas Lights in downtown Honolulu:

I had initially planned to take some walking breaks, but I decided that I should make the most of the dark and cooler hours and just keep running. I felt frustrated because I felt really good and knew I could easily be running much faster, but my darn hamstring would have none of it.

I did so much weaving around people moving slower than me the first 6 miles of the race. When we ascended Diamond Head the road narrowed a lot and there was a major bottleneck. Things were going so slow I just started walking. Poor corral system, I shake my fist at you!

Yeah, there were TONS of people. It has been a long time since I ran a marathon this large.

Here comes the sun!

I am here to officially report that the Honolulu Marathon course sucks. You run through downtown Honolulu and Waikiki when it is pitch black. By the time the sun comes up you're doing a 10 mile out-and-back down a highway. I HATE out-and-backs. Bleh. I'm not sure if it is because I am local, but I was not inspired by the scenery at all. I had to force myself to snap some shots to share with you.

I called my parents when I reached 13 miles and told them I was running slow, but I was running!

I stopped at every single aid station and drank a lot of water. The cups were big and well-filled and I drank one at every station. I drank about 22 oz of liquid at CIM and I'm willing to bet I easily drank 5 or 6 times that at Honolulu. They also added ice to the cups in the latter part of the course. At first I saw this as a nightmare of runners slipping and falling, but it worked out really well for me.

This is all I saw the whole race... Runners going one way, runners coming back the other way. Did I mention I HATE out-and-backs?

The good news about Honolulu is this: Once my leg started hurting from the moment I crossed the start line, it hurt, but it didn't get any worse. There were a few moments I started to flare up more and I'd walk it out a bit, but other than that it stayed at a constant level of pain. The other good news is that once it got hot, it didn't really seem to get any hotter. As my water intake shows, I was definitely hot, but I didn't feel as horribly oppressed as I thought I would.

Heading back towards Diamond Head

There was a man running around my pace who was wearing Japanese geta. He ran the race in wooden slippers! No socks! I passed him at about mile 4 and we leap-frogged a little bit through the race. I saw him at mile 20ish and his whole left foot was covered in blood. I was going to get a picture of it for all of you, but I felt kind of bad about exploiting him like that. I have to give him credit -- he seemed to be in a super good mood despite the fact he looked like he was going to need a blood transfusion when it was all over.

Another plus of the Honolulu Marathon: The crowd support is pretty good. The majority of cheerers are from Japan and I have no idea what they were yelling. But, they were very enthusiastic and looked like they were having fun! The San Francisco Marathon has lousy crowd support and everyone says, "Well, the race starts at 6 am. What do you expect?!" Well, I'm here to tell you that Honolulu starts at 5 am and the crowds were awesome. Shame on you, San Francisco.

Overall, I felt pretty good during the race. I was going pretty slow so didn't feel too pushed. But as usual, around mile 22 I was ready for the thing to be over already. I was doing some math in my head and for a bit I thought maybe I could squeak in under 5 hours. But then that started to slip away and I figured I wasn't going to kill myself to try to break 5 hours just to cross at 5:01. So I let myself walk a little more here and there.

I saw the ocean at mile 25 coming back over Diamond Head and thought maybe I should pull over and ask someone to take my picture. But at mile 25 you can smell the finish and no way was I going to stop moving. So here is what I managed to snap while on the run:

Honolulu is cruel in that you can see the finish way off in the distance and have to run your arse all the way to it. I started doing math when I saw the finish and realized I could squeak under 5:10. So I picked up the pace a bit. There was a man running by me who was crying out rather loudly. At first I thought he was in so much pain he couldn't help it. Then for a bit I thought maybe he was so overcome with emotion at finishing a marathon. In the end I think it was a little of both. But he was SO vocal I felt kind of bad for him.

I miraculously caught sight of my mom in the final stretch and gave her a wave and a smile. I squeaked under the finish in 5:09:58 :)

I have a lot of gripes about the Honolulu Marathon finish area, but won't go into detail here. I collected my shell lei, world's fugliest race shirt, and race medal/keychain and then headed off to pick up one of these after lunch:

Baldwin's Ling Hui Shaved Ice :) Yum!

Most people don't agree with me, but I think this thing is hideous.

So in the end, I have to give the Honolulu Marathon a thumbs-down. I have never said this about any marathon I've run, but I never want to run this race ever again (not saying I wouldn't run it if the timing was right, but I wouldn't shed a tear if I never got to run it again). I feel that a race like CIM is run by runners, for runners. Honolulu feels like some sort of tourist stunt put on by the state. This was by far the most quizzically and questionably organized marathon I've ever come across.

As far as doing back to back marathons, I thought that was a lot of fun! If it weren't for my hamstring being toast after CIM I think I would have felt really good at Honolulu. I was far less sore after Honolulu than CIM which surprised me a bit.

p.s. I am a little sad I never got to see how this worked out, but they actually labeled the portapotties for women vs. men. I am really curious whether this kept the women's stalls cleaner.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Mario

Hopefully by the time you read this, I would have successfully completed a 5K Friday, half marathon Saturday, and a marathon Sunday. In honor of this horrifying accomplishment, I'd like to showcase Mario being utterly lazy.

Mario tends to nap all day long. He gets active at night and is a little busy bee digging in the corner of his cage in the morning. But the middle of the day? He's O.U.T. Once I looked over at Mario and he looked like this:

Not too shabby, huh? Almost comfy. Side-story: I once bought Mario a nice sheepskin bed but I only caught him lying in it once. Otherwise he tended to like to use it as a litter box. No more sheepskin bed for Mario.

But then I walked around his pen and saw this:

His poor little toes are mashed up on the brick! His other leg is caught up on the pen! That stick is almost poking his cute head!

And now as I peer into the future I'd like to think that the way my body feels today is the way Mario felt when he woke up from that nap.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

This is what my foot looked like on Christmas Eve. I guess two marathons in 7 days was too much for the poor guy. I lost this toenail in 2008 after the Goofy Challenge and I'm willing to bet that after running Dopey this year (Goofy Challege plus the 5K the day before) that toenail is going to be ready to disengage from my foot.

On December 29th I was out on a 12 miler. It was the first time I was running more than 8 miles in over 2 weeks. At mile 10 I twisted my left ankle (on some miniscule rock, no doubt), and fell flat on my face (or more accurately, flat on my collar bone -- realized I had a small cut there later). I popped back up and was running again almost before I even realized I had fallen. My handheld water bottle in my right hand broke most of my fall. At the time I was most concerned with the dirt-rash on my left palm and about my twisted ankle. But as I kept running I looked down and saw thick blood running down my right leg.

All I could think was, "Noooo!! Not the Balegas!!" I have to say, if you ever want to get your mind off of the pain of running at mile 11 when your poor body hasn't run much lately, just fall, bleed, and worry about if you can get home before the blood trail maims your favorite socks.

By the time I got home it had dried and cracked and wasn't nearly as gnarly looking. But I took a photo anyway. In the end, the cuts on my knee were so wimpy I'm pretty perturbed about how they bled so much.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Mario

Every now and then I drag out the vacuum and two brushes and go to town de-furring Mario of all his wandering furrballs. The end result is something like the above. I don't know how the little fluffball doesn't go bald! The photo is actually sort of disturbing to me. It is almost like he got sucked up into the vacuum!

I thoroughly dissaprove of you showing my shedding problem to the world.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Without a doubt 2009 has been an epic running year for me. I ran more marathons, more miles, and more meaningful PR's than any other year. For the first time I followed training plans with speed work and saw great gains in my running.

I finished off the year with 1,529 miles. That is 427 more miles more than I've ever previously run in one calendar year. I also pulled this off running 4-day-a-week marathon training plans vs. the 5-day-a-week plans I usually followed.

With the exception of the last month I also had a relatively injury-free year. I'm not sure if it was the hip strengthening exercises, compression sleeves, 4 days-a-week running plans, ice bucket soaks, shoe rotation, or just plain dumb luck. But I'll take it.

I dropped my marathon PR from 4:35:39 to 4:14:09. After three years of wishful thinking, I finally sub-2'ed in the half.

So what's planned for 2010? Honestly, I don't know yet. I still haven't really thought about what that 4:14:09 marathon PR means for me. I would like to run a slightly faster half marathon time, but I don't know if 2010 will be the year I tackle that. A part of me wants to run lots of marathons in 2010, but I haven't committed to the idea just yet. I unwittingly ran more than 1500 miles this year (some sort of landmark I've wanted to hit for a couple of years) and I'm not sure I really care if I ever beat that mileage PR, either. Basically, I've achieved all sorts of running goals this year I never thought I would and I'm left with a big, "So what's next?" hanging above my head.

I'm leaving for 9 fun-filled days in Orlando this Sunday. I've got a three-punch 5K, half marathon, and marathon challenge to tackle. I am really looking forward to having a lot of fun at these races. I love Disney races! I am a little undertrained for this sort of thing at the moment, so hopefully I emerge intact!

I am going to try to stock Blogger with some posts before I go since I have a lot of updating to do. I haven't forgotten that I owe you all a Honolulu Marathon report and just what is that injury I have been dealing with the last month? I have a couple other posts I want to get up and I will be sure the "Monday Marios" are ready to go, too. I'm not sure if I'll be updating the blog live from Orlando, but I will be able to read comments.

I hope that everyone (and everybun) has an awesome new year!