Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Mario

I hope that Everyone and Everybun had a wonderful Christmas!! As you read this I am no doubt pigging out on various Hawaii food delicacies.

As such, we celebrated Christmas a little early this year. Mario had quite the bounty:

And this year's special gift...
Tunnel Haven!! (collapsable and therefore easily storable)

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday Wings

It has been super rainy here in California so I haven't gotten much riding in the last few weeks. I visited Miss Muddy to clean her stall out and to let her stretch her legs a bit. She usually lives in a huge pasture but her owner tries to bring her in when it gets really rainy since the pasture turns into a muddy swamp. Wings is usually pretty ho-hum in the round pen, but man alive does she have some fire after being in a stall for a few days.

To answer a question from the last "Wednesday Wings," we ride English. Wings has a Western saddle that I think would be fun to use every now and then. I am embarrassed to say that I am too weak to get it up on her. All that running makes for strong legs and weak arms. But my goal is to be able to hoist it up eventually.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Mario

So if you remember this video from last year, having the Christmas tree and Mario out is a full time job. I got tired of calling him off of presents so I erected this:

Why I didn't think of this years ago is beyond me.

What the heck is this??

Maybe I can step over it...

Perhaps from atop my perch I can spy a route over...

Or maybe from this angle

You are a cotton-headed ninny muggins.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Kingdom For a Shoe

A lot has gone on since the last time I posted a running update. First off, shortly after the Turkey Trail Trot, my left knee started hurting. I personally blame this on one thing:

If I knew how, I'd draw devil horns on this shoe.

I've been running in the Pearl Izumi Syncroinfinity successfully for years. Pearl Izumi in their infinite wisdom discontinued my shoe love and replaced it with the above monstrosity. In Pearl Izumi's defense, I made some questionable decisions with the new shoe involving the removal of my orthotics. Once I realized this was a bad decision, I stuck them back in. I know for sure that the above shoe without orthotics is a bad match. I can't say for certain whether the above shoes with orthotics is detrimental since I am not sure if it was just a continuation of problems that started when I went sans orthotics. Follow? For the time being, I've sworn them off until I'm doing low mileage runs again to test them out again.

I therefore panicked big time (I have two pairs of shoes in rotation now with 400+ miles with two marathons coming up in a few weeks) and scoured the internet to find the last pair of Syncroinfinities in my size.

My new babies. If only they could last forever.

I also bought a pair of Asics GT-2150's to try out since Aron used to run in my other shoe love (Kayano 14's) and was able to switch to these when Asics in their infinite wisdom "updated" to the crappy Kayano 16's. Does anyone else sense a stupid trend with running shoe companies? With the shoe problems I just went through, I'm not sure if I'll get to try the Asics out in time to utilize them for Goofy in January. Worse case, I'll take my old pair of Syncroinfinities for the half and use the newer pair for the full.

But enough shoe drama.... What about that knee pain? It slowly got worse and more persistent the week after Thanksgiving. I am forever grateful to @karinmp for suggesting I go and see a chiropractor. I was desperate to be seen by someone that day so while I couldn't get in to see her doctor, I found another guy in San Francisco who I am convinced can walk on water.

Besides having awesome bedside manner, this guy diagnosed what was wrong (tight quads pulling on the insertion at my knee), gave me a stretch to try, and the thumbs up to go for a 10 mile run the very next day (who doesn't love a doctor who doesn't just say, "Stop running for a few weeks?"). I stretched my leg obsessively that day and went on a ten mile, 99.9% pain free, including the fastest 4x 1600 repeats I've ever done, run the very next day. And you know what? The day after that I ran 11 miles which were 99.8% pain free. Hallelujah.

I am not out of the woods, though. After this miraculous turnaround in less than 24 hours, I'd say my knee has not gotten any worse, but it also hasn't gotten any better. I am aware of it every now and then, but I am eons better than I was before seeing the chiro. The fact that I've gotten through my two peak weeks and held steady does bolster my spirits a bit, though.

I went out on a drizzly 22 mile run today. I have one more double-digit run on Sunday and then it is taper time for Texas!

Garmin at the end of today's run.

The best remedy for frozen hands after a rainy long run?

Bunny nose!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Mario

After many false starts we finally got the tree up!!

Mario had to meet his new roommates:

And make sure the ornaments were in their right places:

Of course his ornament is one of my favorites:

And after all that, a tired bun needs his personal massage:

Mario was so sweet this night. When I started rubbing his cheeks he inched forward and plunked his head on my leg. And if I stopped petting him, he'd give me kisses. My heart melts.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Boots & Hay

You are all so funny. The image of Mario clopping around in rain boots to keep his feet clean was too much! Actually, the boots in the boxes in the previous Monday Mario were both returned. With the rainy season starting the pasture at the stable is a huge muddy, boggy mess right now. I've been told that the stall Wings is going to get moved to when the rain really starts (it's going to get worse?!) gets pretty bogged down, too. I currently wear my leather riding boots to the stable. They are old (I got them when I was 15, I think!) so I don't care a lot about how clean they stay, but I'm not about to go into ankle-high muck with them on a regular basis, either. So I needed something to wear when going out into the pasture or mucking stalls.

I looked at the rubber boots on horse sites but they were all about $70! For rubber boots! I eventually found two pairs of those Western Chief boots. I couldn't quite decide which to get. I had a 15% off coupon for that day only so bought them both and figured I'd return one once I made up my mind. When I went back to return the pair I didn't want, I found these:

I fit into the kids size of the above boots! And they are better quality (waterproof guarantee, made in Canada vs. China...). The adult version of the above cost twice as much as the Western Chief ones I had bought. So I got the purple boots for $17. I feel slightly silly in the purple boots at the stable but they do the job and I am happy!

And since we're analyzing the boxes Mario was sitting on in the last post. That Oxbow Hay box... Do you know what it cost me? $29.55. For NINE pounds of hay. I usually buy a 25 pound box which runs almost $50. I was talking to someone at the stable and found out that a bale of Timothy hay costs $23. A bale is around 100 lbs of hay! Ugh.

So the most recent time my stable friend got a bale she picked up timothy hay for Mario. I took my hay container down and filled it up (I think I squeezed in 30 pounds). I paid for the whole bale since she was nice enough to pick it up (her horse and Wings will chomp on the other 70 pounds). Even after scrapping 70% of the bale, I still saved over 50%. Highway robbery of small animal owners!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Mario

What are you looking at? Never seen a bunny on a box before?

Pride Rock, take two. Not as good of a pose as the first one, but a much better "rock" choice.

Everyone always comments on how white Mario keeps the bottom of his feet. Here is Mr. OCD in action:
A clean bunny's work is never done.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks, everyone for the encouraging comments and advice after my last post. My legs have been coming back and I had a really good 9 miler with some speed work this week that has me feeling better. I may still readjust my January goals, but am not really thinking about that too much at this point.

This morning Boyfriend and I got up to run the Turkey Trail Trot in Golden Gate Park. I figured we'd run to the race and back from home to add on some extra distance. The race itself was 5 miles and though I haven't downloaded the Garmin data, we probably ran 8.25 miles total. We kept joking that we had "Pulled a Dean" (of Dean Karnazes fame, an ultrarunner who often runs a hundred miles to the start of the race or sometimes runs a hundred miles home from the finish -- or both). Granted our "Dean" was only an extra 1.6 miles both ways, but whatever.

I volunteered at this race a couple of years ago and this was the first time I was running. The majority of the race is on trails or grass which was really challenging for me. I was really afraid I would twist an ankle. I kept giving mad props to cross-country runners who clearly have more mettle than I do. We stopped to get photo-ops with the Turkey both during and after the race.

The Turkey

The Bay Area is in a bit of a "cold snap" which is a real treat for this former East coast runner. There was even frost on the grass this morning!

Bad photo, but you can see the frost on the grass.

We were taking things really easy what with our "Dean," the terrain, and my having a 16 mile run tomorrow. Boyfriend kept gobbling at other runners and it was a lot of fun.

The best part of this race is the shirts. Every year they come up with a new graphic and word.

I had wanted to knit one of these snazzy hats for the race:

Image pulled from the awesome knit/crochet site, Ravelry

But I didn't have quite the right color yarn. I had some dark brown yarn and thought maybe I'd just make the legs and pin them onto my running hat. But people thought it sort of defeated the effect and would make it hard to tell what I was trying to do. So I scrapped that idea. Maybe next year. There were a few people with cool Turkey hats at the race:

A hand knit one would have been cooler!

So in the end I gave Mario the one leg I had knit to use as a prop to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!! I'm so grateful for all of you that I've either met through this blog or feel like we've already met. I hope you're all having a great holiday. The Stove Top stuffing just hit the stove so I am pretty happy over here!

You do know I'm vegan, right?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Running Update

I apologize for the lack of running updates over here. Truth be told, my body has been in a major running funk the last two months. It is a strange disconnect because my mind is still raring to go with all of the races I have coming up.

It isn't a secret that the last three marathons were hard. After getting my speed honed for Santa Rosa in August I fully expected the most recent marathons to finish up in the 4:30 time zone. Instead my times drifted into the 4:40+ and I suffered a bit of marathon burnout at the time.

Recovery after Humboldt was slow and tedious. I took an entire week off, a second week of easy short runs, a third week of marathon training plan mileage with no intensity, and then the fourth week tried to follow the program. My legs have been trying to keep up but have been slow to come around.

Just last week I was getting sort of down about how my paces have been lately. But I stopped and realized that in the last month from that day I had run two marathons. Of course my legs were going to be a little off. I keep trying to preach patience to myself but have been getting a little down. This has definitely been the most difficult recovery period of the year. Perhaps a sign of the accumulated fatigue over the last 12 months.

There is still a bit of time before the Texas Marathon on Jan 1, but I am not feeling as PR-chasing as I thought I might at this point. My paces for all types of runs are 10-20 seconds slower than they were when I was Santa Rosa training.

While I'd love to be in shape for a good effort in January I am not opposed to taking the fun approach, either. I'm going to keep on training over here, though. Every week I get a little more zip back and we'll see how this shapes up.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday Wings

Wings having her bucket of grain.

My pal, Cliff, has some good ideas and some not so good ideas (read his comment on the last "Monday Mario"). He requested "Wednesday Wings" a while back and I promptly shot him down. This will not be a regular thing since I rarely take my camera out to the stable with me. But she is a love of a horse and if I snap photos I'll share them.

It hasn't gone unnoticed that I've done a solid month of just "Monday Marios." While it is obvious Mario has stolen this blog's show, I originally started it as a running blog and I do plan to get back to that channel. So yes, I have been running quite a bit and will have lots to say about it soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Mario

Mario smooshes his face through the bars to get pets on his own.
I may or may not have pulled his ears through to up the cute factor.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Mario

I saw Mario chewing on a huge piece of hay last night and had to capture it on video.
Bunny mastication = Squee!
Sorry about the poor video quality as the lights were down pretty low.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Mario

Audrey was over a few weeks ago and commented that she was so surprised that Mario had furry feet. A few days later Boyfriend (who has lived with Mario for years) also commented, "Wow! Rabbits have fur on the bottom of their feet?!" And then Audrey also requested a picture of said furry feet.

So this is for all you non-rabbit owners:

Rabbits don't have pads on the bottom of their paws. Just fur. Which is why it is so hilarious to see a bunny navigate hardwood floors.

And now you know.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Mario

Welcome to a very special edition of "Monday Mario." I never thought I'd be lucky enough to nab a photo of Mario doing this... I was SO happy when I got it that I immediately downloaded it to my computer for fear it would somehow erase itself. Enjoy...






The Bunny Yawn

Friday, October 22, 2010

Humboldt Redwoods Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #24:
Gorgeous course. Third marathon in four weeks (ran each one slightly faster without intentionally sandbagging). Last marathon of 2010.

The Full Recap, Marathon #24:

This race was an extra special one out of the year. Boyfriend is training to run the Texas Marathon with me in January so he signed up to do the half marathon. We drove up from San Francisco the day before the race (love how there is race morning bib pick-up at these smaller races). The drive up deserves its own special report later.

I will spoil one thing and just post this photo of our pre-race dinner:

Two cheeseburgers each and fries. I've PR'd at the half twice and ran my second fastest marathon at the time after this meal. Tried and true and readily available. They also had pumpkin pie (which wasn't as good as good 'ole apple).

I had a bunch of little goals for this race.
A- goal: Sub 5 finish. I never paid attention to it, but the race opens up the course to traffic after this point in time and the finish mat may or may not be there afterward. A bad day for me puts me safely into the 5 hour finish time so my ultimate goal was to get to the mat before it got lifted.
D-goal: Sub 4:45 finish. Beat Akron.
C-goal: Sub 4:41 finish. Beat Portland.
B-goal: Sub 4:40 finish. Let's get a "3" in that second number position.

I went on one pretty sad 2 mile run the Friday before the race. That run pretty much solidified the idea that my legs were totally over this multiple marathon streak.

The race started at 9:00 am. This is a pretty late start for a race. It was really nice setting my alarm the night before, but I'd much prefer a 7:00 or even 8:00 am start. My body is thrown all out of whack running so far later in the morning. If I get up and go early I can surprise it, but 9:00 am -- it's expecting all sorts of creature comforts like a real breakfast, bathrooms that flush, and lunch before my finish time. Boo.

The course is made up of of two out-and-backs. Normally this would totally suck but I didn't really mind. It broke the race down into mini chunks for me. The scenery doesn't change a whole lot (pretty redwoods lining the road) so it didn't really matter much if we were doing an out-and-back, loop, or point-to-point. We ran the first leg with the half marathoners (of which there were tons) and the second leg was just for the full marathoners.

Boyfriend and I started off together, probably a little too far back in the crowd. If you're racing this one, get up to the front because the course was pretty crowded for the first few miles. He stayed with me for about a quarter of a mile before taking off to do a marathon-paced run with some negative split action at the end. I was looking forward to seeing him at the turnaround.

I pulled over to the side to catch this photo on Avenue of the Giants (probably 0.3 mi into the race); To give you an idea of how many half runners there were, during the full marathon there was often no one in front or in back of me that I could see. I just checked and there were 206 full finishers and 607 half finishers.

Here's the elevation chart:

The first half is fairly flat (one nice overpass to get over). The second half has a nasty uphill trend before the second turnaround where you get to run back down the incline.

As I was running out towards the first turnaround I started getting sort of angry. It looked like we were constantly running downhill. If the whole first leg was downhill, that meant when we turned around it would be all uphill. I actually almost asked people running around me if they thought we were running downhill, too. "Does this seem like we're running downhill? Shouldn't it be flat?" But I didn't.

Pretty soon the leaders started coming back from the turnaround. I cheered on the very first ones and then the first women later on, but decided to save some energy after that. Shortly before I saw Boyfriend a man coming back towards me was cheering very loudly for all of us still heading out to the turnaround. I thought this was so nice of him. I guess as a slower runner I'm used to being the one cheering for all the faster people. It was cool of him to take some time out for us. I decided to cheer for everyone still heading out to turnarounds the rest of the day.

I saw Boyfriend coming back and stopped to snap a picture of him. We high-fived each other as we crossed paths. He was probably a mile ahead of me at this point so shortly after seeing him I reached the turnaround. One "out" portion done, one more to go!

The road was really windy like a snake so it made running the tangents a real brain exercise. Boyfriend noted that on the way back in to the half finish everyone kept to the right side of the road. If I run this again I will definitely cross over to the other side when doing the return run. I did note that once the leaders started coming back it was impossible to run all the tangents since they were taking up the entire left side of the road. I could have done better that return leg of the first out and back if I had crossed over the middle line. On the second leg, people heading out and in were on all sides of the road. There was no "keep to the right" rule.

I did notice that after the first turnaround, I still felt like we were running downhill. I didn't believe it when I read it but supposedly the tall redwoods give you the illusion of running downhill in both directions. PLUS in my book! (In reality I'm sure the terrain is pretty flat)

I kept plugging along. I decided to fuel with both shot bloks and gels. I took a bunch of bloks first and decided to save the gels for the middle miles. I took one gel (and my first walk break) at mile 11. I calculated that my next gel would be at mile 17. I told myself I wouldn't walk again until mile 17. By mile 17 I'd be halfway up the uphill climb of the second leg and that would be a nice time to take a little break and regroup.

All of my on-the-the-run photos were blurry like this. Sorry.

I approached the halfway point and saw Boyfriend. I handed him my camera since I hadn't been taking many pictures up to this point. He used it to get some shots of me before I disappeared off into the second out and back.

The first thing I noticed about the second leg was how few runners there were. This is definitely a predominately half marathon event. The second thing I noticed was how peaceful it was. I definitely prefer to not have other runners around me during marathons. Especially ones like this with serene nature settings. I had read online that the second leg was not quite as pretty as the first, there were some areas of torn up road (I did notice there were many sections of freshly paved road. So while there were some gnarly bits of pavement I think the worse of it has been repaved since the old reviews online were written), and also a stretch where the trees weren't shading you. Add to this the uphill fight to the turnaround and you have a bit of a mental and physical challenge. My attitude heading out towards the second leg was, "Bring it!"

I was slowly catching up to a runner up ahead. She turned around and saw me at one point and motioned for me to catch up to her. It took a while but I finally did. We exchanged a few words of encouragement but she had headphones in and I was content to just run with her for a bit. We were doing the same pace. I vacillated between being happy with her company, wanting to be by myself, being upset running beside her meant I couldn't run the tangents as well, and wishing she didn't have headphones on so we could chat and pass the time. Bipolar, I know!

A little out of sequence, this was shot on the return trip of the first leg.

When Boyfriend and I looked at the elevation profile, he commented that the elevation gain the second half over so many miles was nothing. Well, I'm here to tell you that it was definitely something! I noticed that my effort hadn't lowered but my pace was slowing. The hills weren't very steep looking but they were definitely affecting me. But I was amazed when mile 17 came around and it was time to take a gel and walk a little. This race was going by SO fast! I didn't want to lose my running buddy, but I knew there were still 2.5 more uphill miles to go. I told my pace buddy I was going to walk and take a gel and that I'd see her at the turnaround.

Once I downed the gel I picked back up my running pace. Now my goal was to make it to mile 19.5 so that I could turn around and run DOWN this incline. By the time I hit the half the sun had come up. The second leg of the course has areas of less tree cover so things were warming up a little bit. I wished I had brought along my sunglasses (it had been overcast at the start and that combined with the tree cover made me leave them in the car). I was afraid that there would be a very long stretch of unshaded road where I would melt into a we-started-so-late-and-now-it-is-high-noon puddle but luckily the unshaded sections were broken up by shade just enough to keep that from happening.

The incline slowly got to me, though, and I took another walk break around mile 18.5 or so. Just a short one. My pace buddy up ahead kept my place and I didn't lose much time doing that. She seemed to be pretty rock-steady and I wasn't sure I'd catch her in the future.

As I approached the turnaround my pace buddy ran off into the woods (she later told me she had to pee). I never saw her again during the race. Then, my favorite part of the race: I saw the last turnaround at mile 19.5. I put my hands in the air and did a little, "Whoo!!" as I turned around the cone. Instantly things got easier. I felt like I was flying. I made it a point to tell every runner who was still heading out to the turnaround "The turnaround is just ahead!" and, "Things are a lot easier going this direction!" They seemed to appreciate the encouragement. Eventually I got far enough from the turnaround I couldn't say this kind of stuff so I went back to the old, "Great job! Keep it up!"

I let my pace quicken with the downhill and started passing people. I kept thinking how the uphill didn't feel so bad, but if I was feeling this good going in the opposite direction it must have been a doozy! My pace quickened about a minute a mile without any extra effort. I loved this part of the race because the early 20+ miles just kept clicking away as I felt so great on the downhill return.

All good things must come to an end and the keep-you-honest flat to rolling segments started up again. In this part of the race the uphills were fairly short and I let myself walk up a couple of them. When I got to mile 24 I looked at my overall time and realized I had a good shot of breaking 4:40 if I just kept running. I took a last walk break up a short little incline and told myself to suck it up the rest of the race.

I was running and pushing a little. Around mile 25+ another short little uphill came. I kept telling myself I could slow down but I couldn't walk. If I walked I'd lose my sub 4:40 finish. I passed the mile 26 sign and looked at my time. I don't remember exactly what I saw (4:38 something) but I know what I thought because I said out loud, "I'm not going to make it."

And you know, I can't tell you what I thought or what made me decide to go for it and try harder, but I dug deep and started pushing really hard. I wasn't going to come all this way and come so close to my main time goal. I had pretty crappy finish times at Akron and Portland and I really wanted this for my last marathon.

That's me heading towards the finish line. LOVE those awesome finish line crowds. Ha ha. Actually, even with the dearth of cheerers I felt like lots of people were cheering. Or maybe Boyfriend was just making all the racket himself? They had an announcer saying all our names/cities but honestly I never hear those things as I'm pushing to the finish.

I headed down the finish chute. And hit the mat in 4:39:47. I was SO freakin' happy.

The interesting thing about myself is that for these non-PR races I have a rough idea of what sort of time I can do depending on how I'm feeling. Then I set these time goals with NO clue about what pace that entails. Somewhere around mile 24 I'll look at my time and have to dig deep to make the cut. It would be far simpler for me to know what pace I need and try to stick with it the whole race. Instead I run comfortably the first 24 miles and see where that leaves me for that particular day.

The medal for the race was sad. Lightweight with basically a sticker stuck on it with the logo:

What made it even sadder was that the half marathoners didn't get a medal! I mean really, how much could a sticker medal possibly cost?

But Humboldt redeemed itself with its race shirts. I wasn't expecting a technical shirt. I wasn't expecting gender specific technical shirts. And I certainly wasn't expecting women's XS tech shirts.

Hallelujah! A race shirt I can wear!
And you'll notice it is a long-sleeve V-neck Ha!

There is another race which runs on the same course called Avenue of the Giants. I imagine this race is the more famous of the two. The Avenue race runs the two legs in the opposite order as Humboldt. Therefore for the marathon the hills would come earlier. I am not sure what I would prefer for the marathon, but I would definitely prefer to run the half at the Humboldt event. The first leg for my race is definitely faster and more beautiful which is a win-win situation in my book. I would run the marathon again and I certainly would run the half at race effort.

We drove back out onto the first leg of the course to get some photos. The majority of the course looks just like this. So beautiful and the shade keeps things wonderfully cool.

Look at the size of the road in relation to the trees. Simply breathtaking.