Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big Sur International Marathon

The official statistics:  5:19 finish time, 48 video clips, 141 photos, one big finish line smile.

I had an awesome Big Sur experience.  I got to the expo rather late Saturday after a work day.  Julianne was so nice and picked up my packet for me so I wouldn't have a pre-marathon oh-my-god-I'm-stuck-in-freakin'-traffic meltdown.  We then got together with some other tweeting runners for some pre-race Italian food.

I didn't get to sleep 'til about 11:30 pm, I think.  I was meeting my friend, KL, at 3:50 am.  Gah!  Michael sent me a text at 3:40 am saying, "It's time to go!"  Made me smile.  Misery loves company.  We got on a shuttle bus and winded our way all the way down to the start at Big Sur.  I've done this once before (ride the reverse of a course to the start) and it's always amazing to me how looong 26.2 miles feels on wheels.  I was engrossed in conversation with KL but I could definitely tell a hush came over the bus as we started down Hurricane Point (which we would have to run UP later).

The start area is one big, freezing memory.  I had brought a throwaway sweatshirt but nothing extra for my legs.  My toes froze.  With KL as company the time went pretty quickly.  When we were waiting for the start I had already ditched my sweatshirt and was shivering from head to toe.  I must have looked pretty pathetic because a total stranger started rubbing my shoulders to keep me warm (not in a creepy way).

I would like to dedicate this paragraph to the Most Valuable Player of this marathon, my arm warmers.  I have these puppies that I bought for my short-lived cycling career.  I had never worn them on a run.  I was so stubborn about wanting to wear my awesome Oiselle shimmel (and confident in the idea that it would warm up), that I decided I would bring the arm warmers along for the ride.  I figured I would warm up somewhere around mile 6 and could just stick them in my fuel belt for the rest of the race.  I wasn't counting on the predominantly overcast skies and 15-20 mph wind.  I kept them on the entire race.  I had only worn these for 15 mile bike rides, but they were uber comfortable for 26.2 miles of running.  

Arm warmers, I love you.

The Start

I was able to run the first 2 miles with KL before I took my first run-walk-eat-blok plan scheduled break.  I was tempted to skip it to stay with her a bit longer, but knew the breaks early on were probably the most important.

The early, freezing miles in the redwoods.

I am pretty horrible at race reports.  I can't write a blow by blow, mile by mile type of report.  I am more of a highlights type of race reporter.  One of my favorite things early on was when we passed some cows out in a field.  They were moo-ing VERY loudly.  I felt like the cows were actually looking at us like we were crazy.

Cows to the right.  I didn't get a picture that accurately summed up the scene.

I had heard that around miles 5-6 you will know if it is destined to be a windy day.  It was that sort of a day.  There was a 15-20 mph HEADWIND.  Not a fan.  But even with the wind it could have been worse.

Point Sur Lighthouse

The first half of the race was also dominated by great conversations.  I had a handful of ladies who started chatting me up which helped to pass the time.  With all of my picture taking and run-walk-eat-blok cycles, it was hard to stay with any of them for too long, though.

Right around mile 10 I saw a familiar shirt & hat.  It was RBR!!  I introduced myself and we stuck together the next 2 miles up Hurricane Point.  

That big hill right there in the center, that is Hurricane Point

The Taiko drummers at the base of Hurricane Point help to set the ominous mood!

You can see the road snaking upwards towards Hurricane Point

Many people have told me that everyone worries about Hurricane Point, but it is really the rollers at the end that get you.  I couldn't agree more.  I think because of RBR's company I hardly noticed the hill at all!  Plus the higher you got, the better the view so my camera was loving every second of it!  I was so camera happy after Hurricane Point that I lost RBR for the rest of the race.  I tried looking for her, but she had already sped away into the wind.

My hill-running buddy

Fun signs and awesome views up to Hurricane Point:

Don't have to remind me!

Listen to that wind!

At mile 13 you get to cross the Bixby Bridge and hear the lovely sound of Michael Martinez on a grand piano.  Surreal.  Definitely rank this up there on my non-existent top ten running moments mental list.

My first look at the Bixby Bridge in the distance.

Hello, Bixby!

Meant to record him playing for much longer (just figured out I stopped because someone offered to take my picture for me).

Bixby Bridge was the number one thing I was looking forward to, so the rest of the marathon represented a lot of work.  But the views were no less gorgeous the second half.

After this point, the running started to feel a little tough from miles 16-21.  The hills just kept on coming.  That course elevation profile is pretty misleading.  The hills were constant.  If you weren't running up a hill, you were running down a hill.  I hardly noticed any flat sections at all.

Another fun string of signs:

After mile 21 I started to get a second wind and got some energy back.  The race was awesome!  I don't know how anyone could run this course for time.  I kept pulling over to grab a shot or video of something.  I will admit towards the end I opted to do more videos because it got to be a bit hard to stop to take a picture and then start back up again.

We re-entered civilization around mile 21ish.  Lots of nice real estate.  Check out this guy with his pool and little beachy nook:

I took this lady up on her offer for a hug.  Notice the poncho she was wearing.  Sort of like a sweaty runner condom.

Strawberry aid station!  It was yummy.

Cute sign modification.  I love me some Christmas!

I do remember coming up to Mile 25 and seeing this:

I think I swore out loud.  Who puts a hill at mile 25?!

It may be hard to tell, but YES, it is a hill.


Spectators aren't allowed any access to the course except at the finish line.  The race put your name on your bib.  I totally forgot about this until I approached the finish since the entire race hardly anyone was cheering for me by name.  The announcer even called my name off as I was about to cross the finish line which was really nice. 

Road sign at the finish.  See the modification?

I am happy to report that this is the first marathon I've run where I had NO blisters.  My shin felt pretty good once it got warmed up, too.  I had some foot pain issues, though.  I have a strange pointer toe issue and one of the bones by my arch/heel area was giving me some pain.  Two days later my legs are feeling pretty much back to normal but I won't be running for another couple of days.

Overall, this was an awesome race.  It is hard to not enjoy a marathon that is run purely for fun.  No pressure.  No guilt.  This is definitely a challenging course.  I have (knock on wood) never gotten a cramp while running, but there were times on the uphills I could feel the twinge of one looming up in my calves and had to walk it out.

While I was doing the race I was thinking, "This is beautiful, but you'd be crazy to do it again!"  But now I would love to do it again and maybe try to see what sort of a time I can put down on this course.  I think if you train for the uphills and downhills you could actually run a decent time.  It was pointed out that the course has a net LOSS of elevation so for every uphill you're treated to a more significant downhill.

Marathon #7 in the books!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Mario

You left me all weekend to pick up this?

Friday, April 24, 2009

1:13:59:27 until Big Sur...

Okay, it's time for that post where I lay out all of my intentions for my upcoming marathon.  

For the first time ever I went through an entire marathon training cycle and never had a training plan written down.  Nothing.  I had a basic idea of what I wanted to run every day but had no scientifically-backed-by-a-smarter-better-runner calculated mileage build.  Also, the majority of the marathon training cycles I've done in the past had me running 5 days a week.  I only ran 4 days a week this time around.  Suffice to say I did less long runs, less overall mileage, and much less smart training than usual.  So with this in mind here are my goals for Big Sur this Sunday:

1.  Finish
2.  Finish with a smile
3.  Take lots of pictures

I have not had these exact marathon goals since Safaricom a few years ago.  I had wicked shin splints before that race (would have pulled a DNS if it had been in North America).  I barely ran at all (like, 1.6 miles/week) during the weeks which should have been peak mileage.  I couldn't even walk without pain.  I managed to get back up to 10 miles two weeks before the race and flew over to Kenya to Hail, Mary! it.  That marathon was my slowest (5:58).  

I will admit that I'd like to beat my Safaricom time.

I just looked up my marathon times:
Disney '05 5:16
NYC '05       4:51
Safaricom '06   5:58
Rome '07   5:09
Disney '08   4:55 (Goofy Challenge, half marathon the day before)
Napa '08   4:35

I am thinking something around 5:20-30 is probably realistic given my lower training and the tougher course.  But I have no pressure on myself to keep up a certain pace.  If you've never tried this before, believe me, it makes for an AWESOME marathon experience!

I took my new camera on a test run today.  I hardly felt the extra weight in my back skirt pocket.  I tested out taking shots while actually on the run.  Lucky I did because 9/10 of them came out blurry (image stabilization has its limits).  So now I know to stop to take pictures.  This is the first time I'm running with a digital camera with the intent of getting pictures OF the course (vs. at Disney where I've run with a camera to get pictures of ME and the characters).

One of my blurry on-the-go shots.  Yeah, this will never do for Big Sur.

Carrying a camera poses a few challenges for me, though.  I usually run with a hand-held water bottle.  Have you ever tried to take photos and carry a hand-held bottle at the same time?  I've done it once at the Disneyland Half but at that race I just needed to hand my camera to a handler who would snap a photo for me with various characters.  This time I've got to coordinate snapping photos with my right hand and holding a bottle in my right hand.  Pretty tough.  I am therefore probably going to wear my Fuel Belt for the race so that I won't have to hold onto a bottle.  I will probably run with just one bottle and refill it along the way.

The agenda for the rest of the day involves lots of pasta and neurotic packing/repacking.  I work tomorrow and am headed straight down to Monterey afterwards.

I've seen this family of geese around Stow Lake the last couple of weeks.  I did stop to snap some pictures of them:

A gaggle of gosling butts!

Thanks, everyone for the well wishes.  Stop by and wish Julianne, her husband, and Michael good luck, too!  See you after the race!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

B2B, anyone?

Received a coupon code for Bay to Breakers to share on my blog.  I haven't yet decided if I'm going to do the race this year.  I definitely have to do it at some point since I live in San Francisco.  I went as a spectator last year and it is definitely like NO other race out there!

Here's the info:

Special Offer for the 98th Annual ING Bay to Breakers 12k : May 17th, 2009

Who doesn’t like discounts?! ING Bay to Breakers 12k has a special offer for my blog’s readers! You can get an additional 5% off the early registration price for this year’s race.  Don’t miss this opportunity to join (and support!) one of the most original and zany road races in the county.

-          Visit www.ingbaytobreakers.com for details about the race
-          Register online by midnight on April 30th, 2009 to receive the early registration price with an additional 5% discount  http://tinyurl.com/cy3vkw
-          Enter this coupon code 5ROADBUN09 (case sensitive) and click ‘redeem’ before completing your registration
-          This offer is limited to the first 100 registrants, so make sure to register as soon as possible!

Please direct any questions to info (at) ingbaytobreakers (dot) com

The Fine Print:
-          This is an online offer only
-          Discount is valid only for the registration fee. It is not applied to optional purchases such as the MUNI pass or packet mailing fee

Only two more miles...

until the marathon.

So I am planning on going for a two mile run Friday then no more running 'til the marathon on Sunday! We've had a bit of a heat wave in San Francisco (it hit 93 here the other day) so my last three runs have been pretty miserable. I am looking foward to two carefree cool miles on Friday.

The current forecast for Sunday is:

Not bad at all.

p.s. Aron is having a giveaway on her blog. Check it out!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Mario

Pet me.  PET ME!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Last "Long" Run

So I ended up doing 11 miles today as my last long-ish run before Big Sur.  Originally I was going to do 12 miles today.  A few things happened which caused me to cut it back by one mile.

1) Garmin announced at about mile 1.2 that he had a low battery.  This was absolutely my own fault.  I was thinking of the low mileage I had done this week and had failed to realize that my 20 miler last Friday was from the same battery charge.  I cursed Garmin.  I cursed myself.  I cursed my reliance on techy gadgets for running bliss.  I know the route that makes 12 miles but knew I had little flexibility in changing the run total once I went past certain points.  This was also a major kill-joy since I am operating on a run-walk-eat-blok plan every X miles.

2)  Though by no means HOT, it was sunny and warm which is the achilles heel of RoadBunner running happiness.

3)  I was really looking forward to this run, but my body was just not that into it today.

4)  Since I knew I wouldn't be able to do a 10 or 11 mile run once I commenced the loop that would make it 12 I decided early on to cut back to 10 miles (because of #'s 2 and 3).  I repeated the loop around Stow Lake three times (roughly 1 mile each) and made mental notes of mile markers so that I would know when to eat my blok and how far to walk in case Garmin died.

I felt pretty decent towards the end so tacked on an extra mile to make eleven.  Miraculously Garmin survived the entire run.  Thanks, little buddy!

Marathon 8 days away...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Orange You Perfect?

I got a new toy today.  

I have been using my clunker digital camera c. 2005 during road races.  It sort of reminds me of the Ford Taurus I drove during college.  Dependable, comfy, but definitely not brand new.  Once I was trying to squeeze out of a parking structure and ended up scraping up a good portion of one side of the car.  The parking attendant ran over to me horrified when he heard the noise and I just smiled and waved as I drove off (my dad did not smile and wave when he had to hammer out the body of the car because it was now scraping the wheel).

This is my relationship with my current on-the-go camera.  It's been dropped.  It's been scraped.  It still does everything I need.  I love taking it to races because I could care less if it went skipping across the concrete.  However I have come to realize that while I don't care about the camera, I definitely care about the pictures it is supposed to be capturing.

I was watching a video of the Big Sur Marathon today (can I just say that if the grand piano guy is playing "What A Wonderful World" when I go running by I will totally start crying).  I realized there are going to be some amazing photo-ops on this course.  In fact, with my lack of consistent training the whole point of this race is enjoying the scenery.  But what happens if it rains?  How will I take pictures?  I was planning on getting a sleeker digital camera I could stick in my back skirt pocket before Disney 2010.  But I realized I have an amazing race to photograph coming up very soon.

I had been piddling around researching cameras for a while but really got down to business today.  Long story short, I ended up getting this one in orange.  Even better it was on clearance at the physical store even though it hadn't yet been marked down online.  In fact I think I got it for a great price even when looking at those bargain-yet-possibly-shady electronics sites.

The thing is shockproof (go ahead and drop it!), waterproof (sweat, rain and snorkeling!), and freezeproof (hello, Antarctica Marathon!).  At first my goal was to get the lightest, sleekest camera possible.  But I'm willing to haul around another ounce for some peace of mind.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Mario

For our long-forgotten study of Mario Sitting on Things I dug deep into the photo vault and found a few more gems.  There are limited items around that Mario can actually sit on so there are tons of repeats of the same performance.  But I found two which are still original:

Behold, Wonder Bunny on two briefcases!

Mario submits his Pride Rock Lion King pose

Oh, and as far as any photos of Mario sitting on his covered litter box...I don't think that's going to happen.  He attempted valiantly to sit on it the first day he had it, but failed miserably.  Of course, I have also missed photo opportunities of him sitting on his water bottle and his willow tent.  The water bottle was uber impressive.  Trust me.  Not sure if he will oblige and do it again, though.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Twenty Done!

So I survived my 20 miler today!!  I got a late start and really wasn't feeling the whole idea of schlepping around for hours.  But I eventually got going (thanks to some encouragement from Alisa and Aron). 

Normally I'm a loopy kind of gal.  I became a runner in Central Park and ran endless circuits of loops to get my mileage done.  Here in San Francisco I feel there are a lot more options for running.  I sometimes add a little tail to my loop of Golden Gate Park down the Great Highway to add some more miles on.  Today I attempted something I have always wanted to do but never had the courage to try (I have a fear of something happening on a long run the farthest point from home).  I did a loop of Golden Gate Park (with a few smaller loops such as Stow Lake for additional mileage), ran down the Great Highway to the Zoo, over and across to Lake Merced, a loop of the lakes, then back-tracked to home.  It was quite nice because besides the down and back up Great Highway segment, I never ran any area twice.  Sometimes I'll do 3 loops of Golden Gate Park on a long run!  Very nice.

Overall I felt pretty good.  My legs were getting tired towards the end but I felt much better than I've been feeling on long runs lately.  I even had a little something in the tank to push up the final hill to home.  I utilized the strategy I'm planning on using during the marathon:  0.15-ish mile walk breaks every 2 miles when I eat my shot blok.  With only one 20 miler and reduced weekly mileage this race is going to be tough, but I'm optimistic it will be doable.  I ended up with a 40 mile week which is about 10 miles less than my usual peak mileage week.

A question for the runners:  Normally I do a 3 week taper with my long run mileage being 22, 14, 10, race day.  This time around poor planning has dictated a two week taper.  So I have one more long run before race weekend.  I am debating whether to do a 14 mile run next Friday or to just cut it down to 10 miles.  Part of me feels like the rest could be good, but another part feels like my endurance this training circuit has only now gotten to a good level and it would be better to try to keep it up.  Thoughts?

While I was out running 20 miles today, Mario was at home doing this:

His position as King Lazy Bum is still secure.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rapturous Rainy Run

The weather has been undeniably gorgeous here in the Bay Area the last week.  However, I'm a warm-weather weenie and the sunny 60 degree temps were starting to suck the life out of my running.  I know.   I'm pathetic.  So it was actually with a bit of gleeful joy I woke up to overcast, drizzly skies this morning.

By the time I left to meet ShoeRunning the drizzle had turned into a mildly steady downpour.  I even had to return to my apartment to put a slightly warmer top on.  I ran with SR for only about 3 miles of my run, but it was the perfect distraction to make the planned 10 miles feel much shorter.  The rain subsided towards the middle of my run but the cooler temps were energizing and I felt good.  It didn't feel as easy as a 10 miler should this stage of marathon training (a.k.a. peak mileage week) but it is definitely an improvement over weeks past.  I'll take it.

I'm debating whether or not I want to go for a 2-3 miler on Thursday morning.  Chances are I'll take the day off and gear up for my 20 mile run this Friday.  I just looked at a calendar and realized I'm doing a two week taper for this marathon.  I usually do 3 week tapers.  I guess that's what happens when you go through a whole marathon training cycle without a schedule!  I think this will actually work to my advantage this go-around, though.

Maritza, I did spend some quality time with Homer after the run.  I am going to try to ice dunk after long runs and even mid-length runs.  I may even finally do strength exercises for the shin, too (like air alphabets).  I have plans for higher volume and dedicated speed work later this year and need to get this shin under control.  

I apologize for being such a poor blog reader.  I have SO many posts to catch up to in my reader.  I am whittling away a little every day and hope to be caught up soon!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Mario

Mario was very excited to get a box in the mail from his friends, BunnyGirl & Cadbury.  He was one of the lucky Rocker Buns who got selected to get a prize from the recent Bunny Benefit Bash.

Mario loved is frame so much, he promptly knocked it over and showered it with kisses.  I sense bunny approval!  Thanks so much, Cadbury & BunnyGirl!  

Friday, April 3, 2009


Today I headed out for my last 18 miler.  Next week I'm attempting 20 miles and then I'll start tapering down.  I tried to keep my pace slow and took walk breaks every 2 miles when I ate a blok.  It wasn't easy, but I felt better than I did during my last 18 miler two weeks ago.  I felt like I could have kept going a couple more miles at the end, too.

I took the last two days off from running and Mr. Right Shin Splint settled down a bit.  I had some pain while running Monday and Tuesday but today I didn't feel it at all during the run.  As I mentioned before, I decided to get a bucket to do lower leg ice baths.  There's no way I'll ever have the discipline to do sit-in-the-tub ice baths regularly.

The other day I went to Home Depot and picked up one of these puppies for $3.01 after tax:
It's fairly obvious his name is Homer.

Homer and I are going to become good buddies.  He is going to kick Mr. Right Shin Splint's buttocks.  I've been putting ice packs on the right shin for years, but it's time to get a little more aggressive.  So after my run today I did my first ice bath with Homer.

I realized once I had fully dunked both legs that I didn't have my camera handy to document the event.  So Aron graciously agreed to let me post a picture of her and Homer's cousin.

Basically this is what I looked like except I was sitting on the toilet & was watching "Running The Sahara" on my ipod (and checking every 30 seconds whether 10 minutes had passed already!).

I just noticed Homer doesn't have any reviews on the Home Depot website!  Tsk!  I should add one:  "Great for plunging my legs into after a long run."  Ha!