Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Mario

I've talked about my obsession with Mario as a baby bunny in the past.

Saw this YouTube video the other day and SQUEEE! Baby Mario look-a-like!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Week 7; Got Recovery?

Landed in Chicago last Friday during a snowstorm.  I hadn't seen snow since 2007.

Sunday:  Icebreaker Indoor Marathon; 26.2 miles @ 9:38 pace

Monday:  Bikram Yoga

Tuesday:  4 miles @ 9:26 pace; Easy, systems-check run.  Was still a little sore from the marathon but legs felt pretty good during the run and my pace was fairly quick for a short recovery effort.

Wednesday:  10 miles @ 8:58 pace, including 3x 10 min @ 8:10, 7:58, 7:45 pace with 3:00 recovery; My legs felt surprisingly good.  I was sure there would be some deep-seated tiredness from the race but I hit all the pick-ups with more flare than expected.  This is definitely the shortest time frame after a marathon that I've asked my body to do speed work and it was in the middle of a double-digit run as well.

Thursday:  Bikram Yoga

Friday:  14 miles @ 9:30 pace; Legs were dragging a bit at the end but my pace didn't suffer for it.  I received some Sports Beans at a runner holiday party and tried them out for the first time today.  My stomach is pretty iron-clad when it comes to runner fuel and I can go a fair distance on nothing but water.  So I can't speak to the fueling abilities of the beans, but I will say they are a ton of fun to eat.  They have the same texture as regular jelly beans and I felt like a kid waiting for the time to eat them.  I may throw them into my fuel rotation.

All in all a very successful training week.  Body, I love you for being a great sport this week and bouncing back so quickly.  In just a few days I'll be able to say that my goal race is *gulp* next month already!  Wow.

I've been doing some ruminating on Icebreaker.  I was a little sad I didn't try to race it what with all the babying the aid station gives you.  I am not entirely sure I could pace myself well on that set-up with only quarter mile feedback.  I'm used to staring at my Garmin's lap pace when I'm racing.  Interestingly, the race director once said that the totally flat course generally yields slower race times for people since you're using the same muscles. I'm not sure if that is a reflection of the way people approach a race like this (as a fun event or in conjunction with the half the day before).  But eyes on the prize in Modesto so I won't think too hard on this.

As an aside, I had originally planned on running the half marathon on Saturday and the full on Sunday (just like the Goofy Challenge).  I wrote to Shirley to ask if she would recommend this, and she felt that a lot of the novelty would wear off doing it two days in a row.  In hindsight I think I agree with that assessment.  I won't say I wouldn't try to do that challenge, but I think the set-up of Goofy at Disney is definitely more appealing.  Icebreaker used to be a Boston qualifier but they reniged that designation this year.  A part of me wants to go back and race the event but I'm sort of hoping the next time that happens I'll be in BQ territory which would make the whole thing a moot point.  So we'll have to see when/how I participate down the road.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Icebreaker Indoor Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #31:


The Full Recap, Marathon #31:

When I started telling people I had signed up for an indoor marathon, I was genuinely shocked by the responses I got.  Most people seemed horrified at the idea of running 26.2 miles around an indoor track.  I first heard about indoor marathons from Shirley and I wrote to her a bit over a year ago to narrow my choice down to Icebreaker.  The race director of this marathon also did a couple of podcast interviews and the whole thing sounded amazing.  I suppose with all the positive influences about this race, the potentially negative aspects never crossed my mind.

To cut to the chase, after Disney (which is near and dear to my heart) this is the most fun marathon I have ever run.  And for sure I rank it in the top 4 races of the marathons I have done (which is 24 unique marathon venues).

I love, love, loved every minute of this race.

Race location:  Pettit National Ice Center; and SNOW!!! (Humor me, I grew up in Hawaii and have been in CA for 4+ years)

First off, to set the stage, things that were awesome:
  • You don't have to worry about the weather.  No sunblock needed.  Wind?  Nada.  Rain?  Nada. Temperature?  Absolutely perfect.
  • There were 96 aid stations and 192 portapotty stops.
  • Bringing a spectator along?  You'll see them 96 times which is probably 92 times more than the typical marathon.  It is always such a pick-up to see Boyfriend at any point in a race and he was there almost every single lap to cheer me on.  He did disappear for a bit when he went to get a pretzel and hot cocoa, but I must have seen him at least 89 times.  Which brings up another point -- ultimate spectating luxury -- food, seats, and real bathrooms at your disposal.  
All in all, the above things made for a zero stress situation.  I never realized how not having the above things makes a marathon so stressful.  What shouldn't I eat the night before?  No biggie, there are 192 portapotty stops if something goes wrong.  How much fuel should I carry?  Who cares?  You can pick it up at one of the 96 aid stations.  I knew they were handing out Gu.  Sometimes the gel stations don't coincide with the miles you want to consume them.  No worries about that at this race.  I am not sure I can ever run a traditional road race again with all those unknown variables.

The track was pretty big and with the ice hockey rink on the inside you couldn't see around the entire track at once -- a good thing, I suppose.

The track had two lanes.  They designated the inner lane the passing/faster runner lane.  This is one bummer of the race.  Unless you are super speedy you are definitely not going to get the inner lane the whole race and will therefore add a bit of distance to your day.  It took me a couple of laps to get a strategy, but I hugged the outer side of the dividing line the first half+ of the race to minimize swerving.  I did have to step into the inner lane to pass people, but I'd immediately move back to that position so faster people could easily pass me.  Around mile 17 or so the crowd thinned and I started hugging the inner side of the dividing line to try to save myself some distance.  It wasn't until the very end of the race when few people were passing that I ran squarely in the center of the inner lane and only during my very last lap did I take the thing for myself.

Runners heading to the start line.
Let's talk about that one aid station you pass 96 times.  There were tables set up by your number and you could leave a water bottle and fuel there and pick it up/drop it off as you liked.  These tables were manned by volunteers who stuck with a certain number group.  So basically they were your personal pit crew.  There were also self-serve unmanned tables you could drop stuff off at but I never used those. I saw some TV tables set up by people around the track that I suppose they used as their personal table.  There was enough room that I could have brought my roll-on luggage and left it track-side to pick through as I pleased.

My two volunteers were awesome.  I'd tell them my number and what I wanted and they'd have it ready for me the next lap.  "Refill water, please!"  "Bottle, please!"  "Gel, please!"  I hate the time I lose on courses refilling my own bottles or tangoing with gel wrappers.  I'd drop my bottle off one lap, pick up a gel another and have two hands free to mess with the thing.

And the freedom of knowing what you want is right there is amazing.  If you don't get it right another 2.5 minutes and you're right there again.  Same with the portapotties.  I had to use the bathroom for a bit and on a normal course since you never know when the next one will appear, I would have stopped. But I knew one was never much more than a minute away and subsequently I never bothered stopping.

And besides being your lifeline, those volunteers cheered their little hearts out for you.  They were amazing.  They took bottle orders and were the best cheerleaders.  I think volunteering at this race would be such an awesome experience.

So stating the obvious, Garfield wouldn't have worked in an indoor track.  As such, I left him at home and ran with a regular digital watch for the first time in a race since 2008.  With auto-lap on the Garmin I haven't had to hit a watch button at a race in years, so that took some getting used to at first.

They had two screens up.  The first showed your name and your lap count.  The second would post your name and lap time as soon as you crossed the timers.  It took me many laps to figure this out.  At first I thought the lap count screen was supposed to know you were coming and show you your lap count.  But I realized it was just randomly scrolling through the names (which was sort of nice because you would have to go around again to see if your name would be up if it wasn't the the first time you looked).  If you wanted you could also ask for a lap count but I never did this since my watch showed me what lap I was on (I did occasionally check it against the official screen since I sometimes wasn't sure if I had pushed the button on my watch correctly).

When you registered for the race, they asked for two song requests.  I was a little sad when my songs played less than a mile into the race back to back.  On top of this the announcer thanked everyone involved with the race while my second song was playing.  So I hardly got to hear the second song and had nothing to look forward to the rest of the run.  But the music choices other people made weren't bad at all, either.

There was a moment in the high teens of lap numbers where I realized that 96 laps was a looong way off.  But shortly after that, I stopped thinking about it and just kept running.  Every lap went by so quickly.  First off it is only a little over a quarter mile.  Second, you are constantly thinking about whether someone needs to get around you or if you need to pass someone else.  Third, they are playing music the entire time.  I pretty much always train with music but never race with it.  Whenever I hear music on course it comes in short bursts as you pass bands or speakers.  But it was going on constantly at this race.  Fourth, you pass a hearty bunch of spectators every minute.

The lap sort of broke down to this:  Cross the timers, hit watch button, look at lap time, on pace, pass spectators in stands (one guy had a dry erase board and changed the message every single lap -- he even had knock knock jokes and hangman games -- and other spectators had multiple signs), ride the spectator high around the corner, start thinking about whether or not you want to drop off a bottle or pick up something at volunteer table, let me pass this guy, let me make sure that lady has room to pass me, there's the volunteer table, smile back as they cheer, cross the timers...repeat.

It sounds repetitive but it was awesome.

I was looking forward to lap 61-62 because I had figured out that I would run my 10,000th lifetime mile at that point in the race.  My mileage count from the early days is a bit estimated at times but the tracking is good enough for me.

My training log stats pre-Icebreaker

My training log stats post-Icebreaker

I got a little misty thinking of all those miles and who would have thought I'd ever run so far.  Boyfriend told the announcer about my 10,000 and the announcer gave me a little shout-out.  Here's to the next 10,000.

The race venue is an Olympic Training ice rink and the speed skaters were out for part of the race.  I have never seen speed skaters up close and man alive are they fast!

Wish I could put on skates and slide on the ice during this race, too.

Olympians in the house!

Quite frankly most of the race is a blur.  I could sort of figure out what mile I was at based on time, but generally I had no clue what mile I was at.  This led to an amazing phenomena.  It may have just been a really good day for me, but I was not nearly as spent at the end of this race as I normally am during marathons.  I recall a moment when I did some mental gymnastics and realized I was over 20 miles into the race.  Really? Over twenty?!  Wow!  It doesn't feel like 20!  And then I just forgot about what mile I was at and kept running.  I didn't have that awful countdown of the last few miles which always seem to go by so slowly.  I thought it would be disconcerting to not know my exact mileage, but it was so freeing.  The time on the track flew by so quickly.

Before I knew it, I was at lap 90 and started counting down.  With two laps to go I started to pick up the pace and when I crossed the timers after lap 95 I heard the announcer call my name, saying I had one lap to go.  I put on the jets and took up the inner lane.  I felt genuinely sad that it was my last time running around the track.  I didn't want it to end.  I passed my pit crew and told them it was my last time around and they cheered really loudly for me.  I crossed the timers in 4:12 and change, and the announcer said I was a finisher.  Finisher. Such a sweet word.

AWESOME post race snacks.  I may or may not have brought my own bag of goldfish crackers to nosh on post-race but was happy to eat some of the race supplied fishies.
I went back and thanked my bottle station volunteers and gave them each a big hug.  They were awesome and were still at it with bottle hand-offs for the remaining runners.  I'm sure the time goes by quickly for them since they are always thinking, but it is a high responsibility, quick-paced job for sure.

I actually like the shirt, but unisex small.  Bleh.  If I was a medium-sized man I would never have to buy any running clothes.
My foot behaved for the race and has not been worse for wear since the marathon.  I gave it three days off before the race.  I generally don't train on pain killers/anti-inflammatories but for races will renege that ideal.  So I Alleve'd up the two days before the race and ran under the influence of Extra Strength Tylenol.  I haven't taken any meds since the race and haven' t had any issues.  Can't really explain it, but I won't question it, either.
I'm really happy with my time.  For the effort level a 4:12 finish is pretty good for me (4th fastest marathon).  I've never approached a time like this in the past without being in PR-mode.  I think normally an "easy" race I would have done some walking through the aid stations, but with the personal pit crew I didn't walk at all this race.  As I mentioned, I finished feeling very fresh and I've been able to get right back into training which was the goal of using this as a training run.  It is a little hairy traveling to the Wisonsin area this time of year but I hope to return one day and run this race again.

Really, really cool.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Week 6; Wherefore I Disown My Left Foot

This photo has nothing to do with this week.  I shot this when we were in Half Moon Bay.  No idea who that runner is, but I'm sure he's having a great run.

Saturday:  Bikram Yoga; I ended up skipping a 5 mile run this day because I had some toe issues on my Friday long run the day before (see below).

Sunday:  10 miles @ 9:24 pace; Joined Aron on her final run in her 20s which was tons of fun.  I was supposed to do speed work this day, but flipped the easy run to Sunday so I could enjoy the group atmosphere and did the speed demon stuff the following day.  I was only planning to do 9, but what's another mile?

Monday:  10.1 miles @ 8:41 pace, including 6 miles @ 8:12 pace, Bikram Yoga; Did almost 1.5 miles at a sub-8:00 pace at the end of the tempo portion.  Yee-haw!

Tuesday: Bikram Yoga, 4 miles @ 10:26, 5x hill sprints; Audrey joined me for 3 of the miles.  She hadn't run at all since a Turkey Trot in November so we took it easy.

Wednesday:  10.1 miles @ 9:13 pace, middle 7 miles done 2 min fast (8:01, 7:40, 7:59, 7:47, 7:56, 7:43, 7:39, 8:29) every 5 min; My legs felt decent this morning but I just couldn't muster a great pace for the pick-ups.  I felt sort of deflated that my pick-up paces were sometimes slower than my 6 mi tempo pace earlier in the week.  But I figured I was getting the effort in and didn't stress too much about the whole thing.

Thursday:  Bikram Yoga

Friday:  Rest; I was going to run a few miles before hopping on a plane, but with my foot issues (see below) I'm playing it safe. If planning to run a marathon on a bum foot is ever safe.

A note about my foot:  So early last week in the middle of a 5 mile easy run, my "pointer" toe of my left foot started to feel sore.  It had a bruise-like pain with every push-off.  Once I got home it went away pretty quickly.  The remainder of the runs last week it flared up a little after 6 or so miles but always went away fairly quickly once I got home.  Then on last Friday's 18 miler, it started to get sore at mile 10ish and remained sore the rest of the run.  With the higher mileage, it was still a little angry on Saturday which is why I skipped the run.  Sunday I could *just* feel it at the end of the 10 miles, and ever since then it has been fine.

On Monday's run, the arch of my foot was a little tender the beginning of the run but it went away after a couple of miles.  I was rolling my left foot on a tennis ball like a mad woman because I found some tender areas and thought maybe that was what was pulling on my toe.  I figured maybe I had over-rolled and now my arch was angry.

Tuesday's run:  No foot issues. Phew.

Wednesday's run was going great, until maybe mile 4 or 5.  The rear part of the arch started to feel sore like a bruise and it persisted the rest of the run.  It was actually pretty bad during the recovery periods and when I picked the pace back up would improve a little.  That area is still tender to the touch now and I've been rolling it out to see if it helps.

So I'm thinking I have some sort of moving plantar fascia issue.  I'm happy that the pain is moving around -- that has to be a good thing, right?  But at the same time it is pretty annoying. I'm a little troubled because I have a marathon this weekend.  I'm scheduled to do 20 easy miles on Friday so instead I'll be doing the marathon at an easy pace.  So not so much pressure in the sense that I can take it easy or walk it out if I have to, but I don't want to set myself back in such a way that I can't get back into training next week.

Originally I was thinking I might finish just sub-4:20 running at an easy pace.  I'd love to do that, but will have to see what my foot decides to do on Sunday.  I'm running an indoor marathon this weekend.  I've been wanting to do one for a while now and am really excited about the experience.  People think it is totally crazy to run 26.2 miles around a 442.8767 meter track, but I think it is going to be an amazing, unique experience. When you're up to 30+ of these, you've got to keep it fresh, right?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Mario

It is still Monday in California...

Another of Mario's Christmas gifts.  I ended up having to take the ring down because Mario got his front leg caught up in it twice and was having a hard time getting out of the Willow Trap of Death.  I tied up a smaller ring and now this one is underfoot.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Week 5; Getting Rungry

Grabbed sushi with Naomi this week.  That's my sushi stack on the right and hers on the left.  Guess the miles are starting to pile up.

Sunday:  8.8 miles, including 4x1600m @ 10K pace (7:47, 7:44, 7:45, 7:43 pace);  Normally I pace myself for mile repeats pretty much with the idea to run as fast as I can for a mile.  Lately I've been setting new training mile PRs every time I do this workout.  But the plan today called for 10K pace which is definitely not "set-a-new-mile-PR" pace.  I told myself to keep it in the 7:40's and did a good job. For the record, even 10K-pace mile repeats suck.

Monday:  12 miles @ 9:27 pace;  I love my double-digit, mid-week easy runs.  I'm out there for a nice chunk of time and I can let my mind wander.   I also love the mindset they give you; 10 miles?  Not far.  Just another run day.  My "easy" pace has come down a bit since Fresno which is a major stick I use to measure my fitness.

Tuesday:  5 miles @ 9:33 pace

Wednesday:  10.1 miles @ 9:37 pace; My legs were pretty dead-lead heavy this morning.  Wednesdays are normally speed work of some sort and I was thinking I was lucky today was a pretty mild speed day.  This was a progression run with the last 15 minutes run hard at slightly sub-8:00 pace.  Was averaging a 10:00 pace before the pick-up started so you can see how blah my legs felt. They rallied at the end and I was pretty pleased.

Friday:  18 miles @ 8:57 pace, middle 14 miles @ 8:46 pace;  I was supposed to run the middle 14 miles at MP + 10-20 seconds.  I was therefore shooting for a 8:50-9:00 pace.  I'm actually surprised my average ended up faster than that.  It wasn't too taxing and was a good confidence booster. I am trying to internalize the fact that I could probably run a sub-2 half on any given day.

Bikram Yoga Count:  2 :(

I consider Sundays to be the start of my running week, but decided to post weekly recaps on Fridays.  Therefore Saturdays will be included in the previous week's wrap-up.  This won't mean much to you, but to me it will feel a little strange.

Even without the short run I plan to do tomorrow added into the total, what I posted above is still more than I've been running during peak weeks the last few years.  And truthfully, I don't feel like I'm peak-weeking.  So far this new schedule and I are getting along fine.

Thank you, to everyone for your nice wishes on the big news.  I generally keep my personal life separated from this blog so have no plans to turn this into a wedding planning venue.  I may share snippets here and there if the mood strikes me.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Mario

Dear Devoted Mario Fans,

Hello!  It's me, Mario!!  That's right.  After years of being represented in sometimes unflattering ways, I've been allowed to finally pen a post for all of you.  I'm not sure what took so long since after all, I am the main star of this little corner of the blogosphere.

I wanted to tell you about one of my cool Christmas gifts I got this past holiday.  I received lots of gifts and I acted surprised when The Biped opened them in front of me even though she also wrapped them up in front of me a week or so prior.  Sometimes those bipeds have such a short memory but I play along to amuse them.

I know you can tell, but this is my Christmas day "I'm surprised!!" face.  I'm still waiting for my Oscar nomination.  And that wet stuff on my fur is not a puzzling medical mystery but really a tear of joy for my new acquisitions.

Any-hoo, back to my post.  One of my favorite gifts was...

Hay topper!

I love me my hay topper!  First off, it means my litter box got cleaned.  Let's face it.  No one likes a dirty L'box.  Second, it adds a delightful floral scent to my L'Box which is quite lovely.  I may not look it, but I appreciate the finer things in life.  Third, don't you love the pop of color it provides?  Hay is notoriously green and it gets a little boring.  Fourth, this stuff tastes ah-maaaa-zing!  The way to my heart is clearly through my stomach.

Look at that. A clean, sweet smelling, colorful, candy filled L'box!

So the other weekend The Biped hooked me up with the above treat and wished me an early Happy New Year.  Apparently The Two Bipeds were nipping off for a short weekend getaway.  I was a bit ticked at not being invited, but I had a long weekend to-do list involving various takes on "Sit Around and Look Utterly Cute."  I spend a lot of time thinking of new ways to achieve this and I figured it was best I didn't fill up my weekend with extra activities.

When they returned, there was much happiness and I was told all about how The Two Bipeds had received some sort of hay topper of their own.  I was reminded about a top secret conversation I had with the male Biped when he told me he was getting some special carrots a couple of weeks earlier.

If you ask me, my hay topper is much more inviting.  Hay topper was not meant to be illuminated with romantic light sources.

I inquired how these special carrots and hay topper tasted and since they didn't respond, I can only deduce that no one bothered to taste either of these delectable treats.  Oh, the travesty!!  For the record, the moment I get hay topper I dive right into the L'box.  And I get a tasty carrot every night and it is the first thing I enjoy out of my evening salad.

Here I am feasting on the previously pictured hay topper.  No waste here.

I am unimpressed with this new development.  The word, "fianced" is being thrown around quite a bit over here.  I surmise I won't be invited to whatever they are discussing which is probably for the best.  I am pretty busy perfecting the Art of Looking Cute at all hours of the day.  There is some joke about putting me in a little top hat and bow-tie and forcing me to abandon Operation Look Cute for a day, but I'm going to thump loudly if that ever comes to fruition.

So there you are.  My short story about my favorite Christmas gift.  I'm off to take a nap while still maintaining an elevated cute-factor which is a higher level skill that took years to master.

Nose bumps and fur balls,

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Week 4; Walking on Sunshine

New Year's Day trail run in gorgeous Half Moon Bay

Sunday:  10 miles @ 10:20 pace; Boyfriend joined me for the first run of the year on some easy trails in Half Moon Bay.  We took it slow and enjoyed the views and weather.  Theses were the same trails in the Half Moon Bay Marathon I ran in September.  We went 5 miles on the trails, then I finished up another 5 miles on a hotel treadmill.  I don't think I've been on a treadmill in 2 years and it was really awkward.  I had a hard time getting into a groove.  I swear that the effort felt much harder than the pace the treadmill was reporting.  And sweet baby goats, the time dragged on and on.  I couldn't keep my eyes off the distance and watched it slowly tick away in 0.01 mile increments.  I started my runner life off as a treadmill runner and I never want to go back.

Monday:  5.23 miles @ 9:28 pace [middle 3 miles: 30 sec hard every 3 minutes (8x @ 7:02 pace)]

Tuesday:  8 miles @ 9:38 pace

Wednesday:  7 miles @ 9:10 pace [ladder intervals 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 2:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 @ 7:30 pace with equal recoveries]

Friday:  17 miles @ 9:44 pace; Easy pace long run with Alyssa and Karin.  I ran the first 7 miles solo then met up with the ladies for the last 10.  It has been a few weeks since I did a long run totally at an easy pace and it was a nice change.

Bikram Yoga Count:  3

I ran 6 days in a row (Fri-Wed) during last week and this week.  I think I held up pretty well.  It has definitely been years (if ever) since I've run 6 days in a row.  I had a massage on Tuesday with an amazing woman I'm so glad I found (I've been trying to see her the week before every marathon and even during training cycles if I can stomach the price).  I told her how my shins have been acting up and she found some tight spots in my calf and the bottom of my foot that may be causing the issue.  I am also trying to get better with icing my shin post-run.  I'm in constant damage control and prevention over here.  The shin didn't get any worse with the busy running week.  So far so good.

If anyone is interested in my running log, I've used this one since 2006.  It is an excel spreadsheet and I really like all the info it gives you.  It is customizeable and keeps tracks of all types of stats. I don't even use a lot of the info it generates.