Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oakland Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #15:

The first hilly 10 miles were actually my favorite part. Wonderful, wonderful spectators! Hot and thirsty at the end. Three marathons in my birthday month to celebrate my 30th completed.

The Full Recap, Marathon #15:

We arrived in Oakland at about 6:30 am for a 7:30 am start. There were a few parking garages listed and I was determined to make it into the one free garage! I guess I overestimated the number of marathoners (the half marathon started 1.5 hours after the full) because the garage was fairly empty when we arrived. I waited in the warm car another 20 minutes or so before walking to the start area.

We stumbled upon a row of portapotties. Barely any line. WIN! Made that pit stop then sat down on a planter to wait for the start. There were so few people it was almost eerie. I don't know where I got the number, but I thought there were 3,000 marathoners. Boyfriend commented it couldn't be more than 1,000 people and he was totally right (945 finishers).

While we were waiting a tall guy was walking through the start area high-fiving people. He was being followed by a small camera crew. I looked at him and thought, "Is that Mr. Cooper?!" Boyfriend and I weren't really sure. He was tall so we thought maybe it was a local basketball star. Anyhow, turns out it was Mr. Cooper (yes, I will be referring to the actor as Mr. Cooper this entire post)! I used to love his show when I was 13 or so! I had this song stuck in my head.


I got into place around where I thought the 4:30 pace group would be lining up. For the first time in a long time, I felt nervous. I think it was because I wanted to prove to myself that I could run back-to-backs without dissolving into a walking puddle at the end. I also wanted to finish off my three marathon March well.

They had confetti at the start which was something new. Boyfriend shot this video of the start line:

Mr. Cooper saves the day and helps to right the fallen start sign

I had this race broken up into four parts: 1) Get to mile 5.5 (steepest hill), 2) Survive until mile 10 (peak of uphill segment), 3) love the downhill until mile 14, and 4) hold on until finish.

Simple enough, yes?

I have to say that the uphill 10 mile segment had a lot more downhill portions than I was expecting. Don't get me wrong, it went up, up, up, but there were some nice rollers nestled inside to recover on. The hill at mile 5.5ish was pretty long and brutal. It reminded me of Hurricane Point at Big Sur. But probably worse. Ah well, good training for next month.

There was an extra out-and-back they added on that I wasn't expecting (it isn't on the official map on the website). Sort of wicked because it made you run further up that steep hill before turning around.

My favorite part of the course was running through Lake Temescal Park. It was a nice little bike/running path and so peaceful! After that section there was a run through some hilly fancy neighborhood which was really nice, too.

Up until this point, I was actually feeling pretty decent. I took short walking breaks on two of the steepest, longest inclines, but otherwise was able to keep powering through. A lot of times I'll give myself permission to walk a bit (i.e. until the top of the hill). But when the ultimate top is at mile 10 you can't really tell yourself that. My average pace was just hovering at about a sub 10:00 at this point.

After cresting the hill at mile 10 we were treated to a beautiful view of the bay and Oakland. My first thought was, "Holy S&@%, we ran all the way up here from all the way down there?!" Sorry, I develop a little bit of a potty brain when running. After the shock of that, I was pretty proud of the accomplishment.

The next mile went down, down, down. I need to work on my downhill running. Lots of runners who I passed or held off on the long uphills passed me on the downhill. It was fun for about 2 minutes. Then after that it started to hurt more than running up the steep hills. Ow, ow, ow, all the way down the hill. It leveled off a little at about mile 11 but I knew it was still fairly net downhill until mile 14. After the just-go-with-gravity part of the hill was over, I started to use my legs again. They were shot. The hard work up the hills and the pounding down the hill had done me in. My pace started to slow a bit.

Meanwhile, back at the finish area, Boyfriend got to talk to Mr. Cooper and snapped this photo (to my dismay he did not get a photo with Mr. Cooper).

Sorry, people. I didn't carry my camera. All I got are Mr. Cooper photos!

I'd say around mile 13 or 14 I stopped enjoying the day as much. What I now consider to be my favorite part of the course was over, and the heat was starting to be a factor. I also started to get thirsty. I was carrying my small bottle which I stopped to refill a few times but was still drinking a full cup of water at every water stop. Since the race was so small, the water stops were usually just one or two tables. This meant that if I needed more than 1 cup of water, I had to actually stop to get it or a few times I even had to turn around and go back to the table for another. Most marathons I can drink a cup while walking and grab another further down the line.

I have to say that the spectators at this marathon were incredible! I was so surprised so many people came out to support an inaugural event. They were also so proud of Oakland. So many people were yelling, "Thank you for running Oakland!" or "Welcome to Fruitvale!" That sort of thing. Loved it. I had a lot of fun waving back and yelling thank you to them (when I did this tons of them would yell back, "Thank you for running!")

In honor of my favorite running skirt company closing up shop (sniffles) I wore this shirt:

I am here to report after a highly scientific study that women love this shirt and men feel it is inappropriate to comment. I got tons of remarks from women. "Fast butt!" or "Nice butt!" or "It looks super fast!" A few ladies misread it and said, "Your skirt doesn't make your butt look fat!" Out of 26.2 miles of great spectators only one guy had the balls to say anything to me. Props to you, man. Fist bump. I once wore a shirt in a marathon that said, "Run like a girl," which garnered equal responses from both men and women -- so guys aren't afraid to comment on females' shirts in general.

At around mile 17 the half marathon and marathon courses merge (this is mile 3.5 for the half). Since I am not so speedy I only caught up to the half marathon walkers. I heard that faster marathoners were frustrated getting stuck behind slower half runners, though.

From here on out, the race was tough. The scenery was not so hot (industrial area). The spectators seemed much sparser, too. It was sunny & hot. I saw Boyfriend at mile 18 and said, "I want to die!" (In retrospect I was being a bit melodramatic). I trudged on. I started to hit the aid stations with more gusto which helped to revive me a bit. My average pace was creeping up in the 10:30's.

I foresaw myself walking a lot more than I ended up walking. I was sort of in this zone where it wasn't so pleasant to be running and walking was mighty appealing, but I was able to keep trudging along without too much effort. I didn't have any additional gears left, though.

The miles ticked away a lot faster than I thought they would. Running around Lake Merritt was a little interesting but I think my brain had checked out at this point. Before I knew it, I was at mile 25.

There was no mad dash to the finish รก la LA Marathon. I just kept up my little trudgey pace. I knew I would be able to finish under 4:40 which had been my main goal for the race. At what I thought would be about mile 25.5 I tried to kick it up a bit and then truly did push for the last 0.2 miles. I wasn't putting on the speed for time so much as I just wanted to be done. I shot up three fingers as I approached the finish line to celebrate my 3 marathons in one month accomplishment.


I celebrated by downing 4 full cups of watered down Powerade after getting my medal. Thirsty, much?

I don't think I mentioned it on the blog before, but I turned 30 this month. Originally I thought it would be awesome to run 30 miles on my birthday. But it ended up falling on a workday. I wasn't about to take off to run and there was no way I could do that type of mileage before or after work. Some other ideas were batted around, but I ended up deciding that running three marathons in my birthday month would sufficiently commemorate the achievement.

The shirts were pretty cool. They did do gender specific shirts, but the small is still too big for me. Can I ever win?

I was watching the news the night of the marathon. They had a short blurb about how there had been a marathon in Oakland today. They cut to an interview with a guy they had labeled as "Marathon Spectator." He said, (and I am paraphrasing here) "I came outside because I thought it was a raid! There were so many cops out! But it wasn't a raid. So I stayed out to enjoy the beautiful day. Everyone is getting along." They then used this to segue into a story about an Oakland shooting the night before, "But everyone wasn't getting along the night before... blah blah."

I couldn't believe that was the story they had about the marathon. I also couldn't believe they had exploited that poor guy like that (they were clearly making fun of him, as I am now -- you had to see it to fully appreciate the humor). I even sat around another hour for the next news hour to try to tape it for you. Alas, someone must have complained because they had a proper segment about the marathon that actually named the winners.

There has been a lot of Oakland humor (hilarious, Ron!) circulating about this race. I will report that for the first time ever I saw two marathon "spectators" look like they were about to get trounced by police officers who were manning traffic points. One was a man who was sort of getting too close to the police officer in a semi-aggressive way (the officer even moved his hand to his gun), and the other was a teenager who was being harshly talked to by another officer as I ran by (moments later a police car with sirens blazing came screaming up and a second officer jumped out and ran to the scene).

But all that aside, I was very impressed with this event. Boyfriend mentioned that I have to run it every year so that 25 years from now I can be one of those crazy legacy runners. I'm not sure about that, but I am thinking of doing the full again next year. I like that it is a small marathon and am a little sad that it will probably be a much larger event next year.

Well done, Oakland! You should be proud.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Mario

"Monday Mario" originally came about as a rabbity-themed post on Mondays. Quite quickly it changed to a guaranteed-to-see-the-world's-cutest-bunny type of post. Today I will re-visit the "Monday Mario" roots.

Side-note: I have since bought all four seasons of that print series. See here:

The details of the snowy tree-tops, wave white-water, and fall leaves are bunnies

When we were in Austin last month for the race, we went to a diner-type restaurant for breakfast one day. I went into the bathroom, chose a stall, sat down, and saw this:

There was not one other word of graffiti in that bathroom stall (and nothing in the adjacent stall -- I checked afterwards).

When I got home, I put the power of Google to work. The full quote is:
"i cannot make/ your past disappear/ only rabbits, my love/ only rabbits."

I think it is lovely.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A-OK for OAK

I recovered pretty quickly after LA. In fact, besides the shockingly quick recovery after the Goofy Challenge in January, I'd say this was the least sore I've been after a marathon. Going easy has its merits, sometimes.

Seeing as how this week was both a recovery and taper week all in one, I only got out for two short runs.

Wednesday: 2 miles @ 10:23 A little tightness but no soreness.

Friday: 3 miles @ 9:54 pace

The LA Marathon had all sort of neat stats about your race. By far the coolest was this one:
Over the final 4.5 miles, I passed 980 runners and was passed by 62 runners

I think that is a pretty good definition of a strong marathon finish (or a race I started too far back. But I'll think of it the first way). We won't discuss how I was at mile 10 when the male winner crossed the line or barely at mile 12 when the female winner arrived.

This weekend is the Oakland Marathon! I am actually looking forward to the race even though it is one I only signed up for because of my "Year of the Marathon Challenge." It is an inaugural event so I'm sure there will be some kinks in the system. Hopefully they won't be too terrible.

The elevation profile for Oakland looks like this:

Pretty sadistic, if you ask me.

Going into this LA/Oakland back-to-back, I really wanted to have solid showings at both. My CIM/Honolulu back-to-back was a bit skewed since I raced so hard at CIM and was injured at Honolulu. I'd love to bring Oakland home in about the same time as LA. That would leave me feeling pretty pleased. I have at least one and possibly two more back-to-back weeks this year so I am curious how this one will play out since my hamstring is not gimpy like Honolulu.

My probable piriformis (thanks, Marci! for the diagnosis) has much improved since Austin but still gives me some issues when I am sitting down. Next on my agenda: Get better at stretching consistently and use my stick and foam roller. A lot of people encouraged me to get a massage. I have never had one! I am a little scared! I think I'd laugh the entire time. So embarrassing.

I saved this post as a draft until after the Oakland Marathon expo. I thought I could spice up the post a bit more with cool expo photos. Sadly, the expo was fairly pathetic and all I got was this shot:

Yes, it sucked as much as my one photo. And that guy on the left thinks I am a stalker.

I'll check back in after another 26.2!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

LA Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #14:

They weren't kidding about LA traffic. 25,000 people is a lot! Sightseeing tour of the LA area. Wonderful spectators! Easy pace with a strong finish.

Really not a fan of races that feature what edition of the race it is on the medal.
Really? Twenty-five years? Whoopee-dip.

The Full Recap, Marathon #14:

First off, a HUGE shout-out to Michael and Boyfriend. Michael picked up my bib for me at the expo Saturday since I didn't head down to LA until after work. Thank you SO SO much. Boyfriend did 80% of the driving to and from LA (within a 26 hour span). You're the bestest!

We didn't arrive at my friend's until 10:30 pm Saturday night. I got to sleep around 12:30 am or so and was up at 4:20 am. I had a spot on a 6:00 am shuttle bus. Since the race is a point-to-point course, you could park your car at the finish and then catch a shuttle to the start at Dodger Stadium. The race had been sending out emails saying to get there early, early, early! I did my part and was actually on a shuttle by 5:20 am. There was barely a line at the shuttle stop and they even had a small row of portapotties. I grabbed a quick pee which was probably the best move of the entire day.

Thing were going well enough until at some point we stopped on the freeway. We were in regular public transportation buses and the lights were on inside of them. So it was hard to see out the windows at what was going on. Someone said we were about 2 miles from the stadium. ONE HOUR later, someone said we were about 1.5 miles from the stadium. At this point it was probably closing in on 7 am (the race started at 7:24 am).

Once the sun came up, I was able to see outside the windows. There was another shuttle bus in front of us and we were flanked by cars filled with nervous runners. Around this time, we started to see people running on the freeway to try to get to Dodger Stadium to make the start. I was really happy this was going to be a fun run for me. I can't imagine what it must have felt like for people trying to PR this thing or first time marathoners.

At one point, our bus driver cut into an adjacent lane (everyone was really waiting in one lane to make the exit), sped past about 5 other shuttle busses, and then quickly cut back into line. The entire bus erupted into a huge cheer. It was hilarious.

We made it up to the area and I disembarked the bus at about 7:42 am. They had apparently held up the entire race just for us (ha ha). I heard the announcer say that the race was going to start in 8 minutes. I looked at the portapotty line and then I looked back at the people waiting in the "corral" area. I debated what to do. I could grab another pee and start way, way at the back, or I could stand in the corral area and just be far in the back. I decided I didn't have to go that bad and got in with the huddled runners. Thank goodness they had portapotties at the shuttle bus! I am only miffed about the poor traffic predictions because I later learned you could have hung out on the Dodger stadium field before the race. I abhor baseball, but even then it would have been cool.

Dodger Stadium at the start

I knew it was going to be a long morning when I looked around and saw the 6:30 pace group. I told this to Boyfriend later who got confused so I'd like to clarify and say this was the 6 HOUR and 30 MINUTE finish pace group. There was a couple in front of me who had "3:45" pace bands on, and all I thought was, "Good luck with that!"

"Hello, start line!" I think the winners were at mile 4 at this point

It took 25 minutes to cross the start line. I did so much dodging and weaving and elbowing the first couple of miles. It was horrible. I swore off doing anymore of these huge events ever again. It was a total cluster$%&@. I won't be posting anything but the first and last splits for this race. My first split was a 12:06 pace.

Check out all those people! Contrast it to Napa a couple weeks ago. Seriously. Click the link.

I was in a foul mood about how crowded it was the next 9 miles or so. After that I sort of hit my stride and was able to relax a bit. One thing I will say about the LA Marathon is that the spectators were 100% awesome. The one plus, I suppose about a big race. Oh, and all the free product samples. Downed a delicious Sunny D towards the end of the race.

They changed the course this year to be a bit more scenic. I was able to see things I hadn't ever seen before!

Disney Concert Hall (and a nice little incline to go along with it)

Taiko drummers pushing people up the hill

As the race went on, my average pace was always somewhere in the high 10:40's to low 10:50's. I walked through nearly every water stop to drink lots of fluid. I did walk some of the uphill segments (Man, this course was hillier than I thought it was going to be) but overall didn't take extended walking breaks. I did slow down a bit more the second part of the race as I let myself walk for slightly more extended sections through the water stops. My average pace creeped up then to the high 10:50's. No sweat (Figuratively. Literally I was pretty soppy by mile 2 -- it was muggy but thankfully overcast with a slight breeze the whole race). Towards the end of the race they had firemen operating hoses to water down the runners. Life saver. I always got a pep in my step for a while after getting sprayed.

I took lots of photos so will let them tell the story:

They had awesome mile markers because you couldn't miss them. Not so awesome because on long straightaways you could see them WAY in the distance.

My first ever sighting of the Hollywood sign was during the race!!

Fun building

Hitting the Hollywood Walk of Fame area

This was the first Broadway type show I saw when I was 7ish.
And look, the stars on the sidewalk!

I was a total nerd and actually wrote down cross-streets and names of the stars I wanted to see. And in true Blogger Dorkdom I took a picture of said list while on the run for all of you.

First find, Lassie!

I cut off the official course to grab this video. Later I wondered if I missed a timing mat (I didn't).

Second (and sadly, last) find, Walt Disney!

Julie Andrews was located behind a water stop and I think Tom Hanks and possibly Mickey Mouse were just beyond where the course veered left off of the Walk of Fame. But two finds in the middle of a marathon aren't bad!

Kodak Theatre!

Laugh Factory's first sign: "If you can read this you are running too slow." I guess that means if I could take a picture of it there was just no hope for me.

Their second sign: "Run harder; You're about to get free healthcare."

I figured when you're running a race that ends in Santa Monica, it is a good sign when you turn onto Santa Monica Boulevard.

Hello, Beverly Hills! Thanks for keeping it beautiful with that yellow hazard tape.

All the fancy pants stores. I lived off of 5th Ave in NYC so it made me a little nostalgic.

Rodeo Drive!

More opulence

There were tons of bands out performing (Rock 'n' Roll race series, eat your heart out!) which was a huge lift during the race. There was a Christian rapper who even had his own entourage of groupies dancing and cheering for him (which is something I've never seen at a race). My favorite by far was a violinist who was playing Canon in D. As I came up to him I was totally mesmerized by his music (it was a really upbeat unique version) and almost took my camera out to record the sound (but my camera has a horrible microphone -- probably because it is waterproof -- so I decided it was a worthless endeavor).

As I often do when people are performing I clapped for him as I ran by. He made eye contact with me. I yelled, "Thank you!" to him and he nodded his head in acknowledgement. I don't know why, but it gave me a huge boost to know that he knew I appreciated what he was doing. I used the power of Google and found him! I am totally going to buy his album. I found this video of him performing Canon on youtube:

Sign I saw on the course: "Live positively. It's much easier than running a marathon."
Food for thought.

Running around the VA Hospital. Did six months worth of externships at VA hospitals on the east coast so that was sort of neat. Even saw a patient from the hospital out in his wheelchair to take in the race.

I saw this sign at one point in the race and really regretted not getting a photo of it. Saw it a second time 10 miles later and didn't miss my second chance.

Found Ron out on the course. LOVE his shirt. In case you don't know, getting passed by a girl is referred to as "Getting chicked." Sorry to say it, Ron, but I chicked 'ya ;)

I ran with Ron for a little less than a mile, I think. He had been suffering from leg cramps and was having a tough go at it. I am so glad I ran into him because his company from mile 24-25 took my mind off of the actual distance. I knew once I got to mile 25 (this day) the hard mental game of the marathon would be over for me.

At this point the course was totally downhill or flat the rest of the way. I knew I was pretty close to not breaking 4:50 and made that my goal. Once I passed the mile 25 mile marker, I threw down the hammer. There was a left hand turn at the 25th mile and the next 1.2 miles is a flat straightaway. Talk about suckage! I could see the finish line waaaay in the distance. I hate that! I tried to get incrementally faster and pulled off the 25th mile in 9:30 pace, then 8:58 pace; the last 0.5 miles (distance per my garmin -- darn all that early weaving) was at an 8:00 pace. Official time: 4:48:03

I am happy with my time. I didn't want to go too fast (and honestly couldn't have gone much faster on this day if I wanted to) and after I threw my hissy fit the first few miles, I really enjoyed all the sights and spectators. I also finished feeling strong which is a huge plus to me at any marathon regardless of the finishing time.

The race finished by the Pier.

I have major gripes about the finish area. Here is one of them: For a 25,000 runner race, this was their family reunion area. Really? You can't separate the signs more so runners have more room to meet with their people?

Only runners were allowed to use the ramps (everyone else had to use adjacent stairs). That was a sweet touch. I seriously felt so special :)

Poor Boyfriend stood at the finish line for hours and didn't see me at all. He wasn't immediately aware of the late start and also didn't know it took me 25 minutes to cross the line. So he was a bit disoriented about where I was. Plus, well, it is hard to pick someone out in a sea of so many people!

As I was running down the homestretch, a guy on the sidelines yelled, "Run, 'RoadBunner,' Run!" (insert my real name, which was printed on my bib) He yelled it with such conviction I thought for sure it must have been someone I knew. I even thought maybe it had been Boyfriend (I swear I was too far away from the sidelines for that guy to have easily read my name). But it wasn't Boyfriend and it wasn't anyone who knew me. Just goes to show you how awesome these spectators were. I got my medal from someone who was also named "RoadBunner." Fun day.

Overall, I would recommend this race if you are in the market for a mega marathon. They definitely have some logistics issues to work out, but I am hoping that will improve as they get feedback. The course is great to make it a destination race. It is a little hilly but nothing too terrible. I was telling Boyfriend I don't think I have a lot of these mega races left in me. I'd love to do NYC again and Boyfriend reminded me we are planning on doing Chicago in 2011. But other than that, I think I like my 5,000-12,000 runner races so much more.

The race shirt is kinda bleh, but they did have women's specific sizes. My size small fits so that leads me to believe the shirts ran small (which is the feedback I have read elsewhere). Does anyone get this design? I don't really understand what they were trying to go for here.

I would like to close with the most random thing to ever be stuffed into a race goody bag:

Please tell me my tax dollars did not pay for this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Mario

I normally don't pick Mario up very much. He tolerates it pretty well but I can tell as soon as I put him down that he is quite displeased with the whole situation.

Look at those feet!

I had to share this photo because he is just so darn cute!!

Mario recently got me (via Boyfriend) lots of rabbit themed Easter candy. In fact, I just snacked on a chocolate covered marshmallow egg before I wrote this. I sometimes do get a sweet tooth.

The LA Marathon has come and gone. It was quite the experience. No sandbagging, RG! I will try to get a report up tomorrow.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Heavy Legs, Quick Hands

Sunday: 6 miles @ 11:15 pace; Boyfriend and I did this run mainly on the trails in Golden Gate Park. I'd like to officially blame the trails for the slow pace (and the feeling like my heart rate was through the roof most of the run). Sadly, the trails in Golden Gate Park are fairly tame. It was a fun run except for me turning my ankles... Three times. The third time I did it, I threw a little trail fit and moved us back onto the road.

Tuesday: 3 miles @ 10:17 pace, 0.5 miles in VFF; Made it a point to run the hill by Fort Mason/Aquatic Park. Figured that was my Big Sur training for the week. I also took the Vibram shoes out for a quick spin and was happy that even though I haven't been too consistent with them, I had no post-run pain. I should share that Boyfriend loves running in his VFF's and even did the Sunday 6 miler in them. I still don't foresee myself running much more than a mile in them as more of a cross-training exercise.

Thursday: 6 miles, including 4 miles @ 8:58 pace; The last few weeks my tempo runs have been pretty easy. Today's run was pretty tough. I fought really hard to keep up the pace for 4 miles.

Friday: 3 mile @ 9:52 pace

This whole week my legs have felt really heavy. The taper week before Austin and Napa I had a real spring to my step and pent up energy to burn. I don't quite feel that way this time. That's okay, because I am planning on carrying my camera at the LA Marathon this week to take photos & have some fun. I want to run pretty conservatively given 1) My lack of legs this week, 2) The heat factor in southern California and 3) I'm running Oakland seven days later.

I have also been knitting up a storm this week. I recently learned that I will be in town this Sunday in the LA area for a friend's baby shower. So in the last four days I knit up a baby blanket and hat for her little bun in the oven. I am still a newbie knitter and I love how I pick up a new skill with each project.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tagged! Bunny Birthday! Running?

I was recently tagged by Alisa and The Qi Papers to share 6 or 7 random facts about myself. The last time I was tagged to do this, I shared these facts.

Here are 7 more random facts about myself:

1. I have broken two bones in my life: Left elbow twice (monkey bar fall, roller-skating collision). I also think I broke my tailbone (not officially diagnosed, but I fell off a horse and landed square on my butt and it hurt like the dickens for a long, long time. My riding instructor had broken hers before and it sounded like the same thing).

2. My beverage of choice is water. I will rarely drink anything else.

3. I had a premonition of the death of my childhood rabbit. I was out to dinner with my parents and my dad nonchalantly mentioned he was cutting down a tree in our backyard. Immediately after he said that, I knew she was going to die. I didn't know when but I had a bad feeling. She ended up passing away the day the tree was cut down.

4. I am a salty snacker more than a sweet snacker. Cheetos over M&M's any day of the week. Also, if I have something like ice cream I have to follow it up with a salty snack.

5. I hate milk. My parents forced me to drink a glass at dinnertime every night until I graduated from high school. Since then (over ten years ago), I have drunk milk once, maybe twice. However, I love all dairy products including cheese, ice cream, and milkshakes.

6. At one point in my life, I had ten piercings on my body. Nowadays I max out at wearing five and most days I sport three.

7. When I was a kid I was deathly afraid of people dressed up in those character costumes. I hid under the table at Chuck E. Cheese when he came around and refused to take photographs with Snoopy at Knott's Berry Farm. My mom thinks it is hilarious that I now love to take photos with the characters during Disney races.

I will tag the first person who left comments on my last post. So Hef's Mom, you're it!

Happy Birthday, Mario!
This deserves a post all to itself, but last Saturday (March 6) was Mario's birthday!! It is really the anniversary of his Gotcha Day! As I've mentioned before, he was full grown when I adopted him, so I always add one year extra get his approximate age. So it's been 6 years together and Mario is now seven!

I didn't do much running this week. Post-marathon laziness and recovery (or at least, I tell myself it is recovery to justify the laziness):

Wednesday: 3 miles @ 10:52 pace

Friday: 10 miles @ 10:29 pace; My legs were really heavy and tired on this run. Major battle to keep moving almost the whole run. And just like that I'm in another taper week! I LOVE taper weeks :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Napa Valley Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #13:
Went out faster than anticipated, felt good 'til 20 miles, Will.Not.Walk. Second fastest marathon time (faster than Austin 3 weeks ago!)

The Full Recap, Marathon #13:
First off, I'd like to recant my previous statement that, "I consider this course to the be the fastest marathon course I have ever run." Two years had obviously dulled my memory of some pretty long uphill climbs. I'm sure the 20 mph tailwind in '08 also helped skew my previous perception. It is a fast course (net downhill) but be prepared for some climbs.

We drove out to Napa Saturday afternoon. The race is a point-to-point course that runs from Calistoga to Napa. When we arrived in Napa I had Boyfriend snap a photo of this sign:

I was miffed when I found out that they had run out of women's small shirts at the expo. I was given a unisex small which will never see the light of day again. Is it so hard to order the shirts people say they want, and then hand them out that way? Rant Over.

Ate two rows of these fellows as a midnight snack before going to bed :)

Back in 2008 I ran Napa Valley and posted a 4:35 (which at the time was a PR). I am finding that I am more competitive with myself than I thought I was and so figured I'd go for a 4:34 to beat my last time.

I met up with Ron at the shuttle bus pick-up in the morning and we got on a school bus to take us 26.2 miles to Calistoga. We discussed our race strategies for the day and I said that I was planning on going for a 10:20 pace from the get-go. We were dropped off at the start area at 6:40 (race start at 7:00). We headed to find the portapotties and were shocked at how long the lines were. I didn't have to go that bad, but I knew that at some point over the next 4.5 hours I would have to make a pit stop. So I decided to take my chances and stand in line. Long story short, I got into a portapotty right after the National Anthem started (I am pretty sure sitting in a portapotty is about the most disrespectful thing you can do while it is being sung), and made it over to the start area with about 30 seconds to spare.

It was nippy at the start, but I wouldn't have called it cold. I knew it was going to shape up to be a pretty warm day for me out there. The first 6 miles, the weather was lovely for running, though!

Mile 1: 10:00, 9:57
Mile 2: 9:45, 9:51
Mile 3: 9:56, 9:46
Mile 4: 9:50, 9:36

After the first few miles, I knew I was going faster than I had planned. I was running at a comfortable pace, though, so decided to just go with the flow.

Pretty much the first 20 miles of this course is like this: Vineyards and mountains. In some areas, the view is quite beautiful.

Mile 5: 9:46, 9:41
Mile 6: 10:17, 9:36
Mile 7: 10:01, 9:57

At this time, I'd like to highlight Annoying Fellow Runners. The usual cast of AFR's were out in full force (feet slappers, loud chatty Cathy's, rustling clothes/fuel). But I had the delight of discovering two new classifications of AFR's.

The first was a man who was wearing a metronome. I am assuming he had it set to his optimal cadence. I heard him coming up behind me. For a few annoying moments he was right there by me. I found myself automatically running to the beat of his metronome. Since had had come up behind me, I figured that he was running faster than I was and was SO happy to see him gradually disappearing off into the distance. There is a point in a race where you settle into a groove and are "stuck" with the people around you. I seriously felt bad for the runners who got trapped running next to him! I have no qualms with runners in headphones, but I think they should seriously outlaw metronomes. I actually caught up to him and passed him 10 miles later. Thank god I was able to keep up a faster pace!

The second new-discovery AFR was Basketball Shoe Man. Every few steps, his shoes would squeak as if he was doing a fast stop or turn on a basketball court. It was mile 4 and I wanted to yell at him, "Dude! Pick up your feet!!"

Mile 8: 10:03, 9:47
Mile 9: 9:53, 9:44
Mile 10: 9:55, 9:46

Boyfriend popped up a few times along the course to cheer me on. He ran with me a minute or two the first time he saw me to tell me this story: He saw Dean Karnazes running and for some strange reason, decided to run after him and talk to him! Anyhow, the meat of the story (for me -- Boyfriend loved the fist bump Dean gave him) was that Dean wished me good luck in the race!

Here is a screen shot of a short video Boyfriend took. He sadly got nervous and hit the stop button so he did not get the "Wish your girlfriend good luck for me," on tape. Boo. I overheard some women talking during the race who said that Dean ran to the start of the race from San Francisco during the night!

Mile 11: 9:47, 9:46
Mile 12: 9:38, 9:53
Mile 13: 10:17, 9:39
Mile 14: 9:54, 9:49

For most of the race I was averaging about a 9:51 pace. I knew I would easily break my Napa course PR and realized I could probably beat my Austin time, too. For about 60 seconds early on I even thought about going for a PR in general, but I couldn't remember what my PR pace was, and I also knew I didn't have the training to back that up!

When I still had a 9:51 average at about mile 15 I decided my goal would be to finish with a sub-10:00 pace.

It was sunny and hot at the end. When I saw Boyfriend cheering with his jacket off, I knew it was a warm day for me to be running. Comfortable spectating weather = uncomfortable RoadBunner running weather!

Around mile 16, I started to have some problems. My right calf was getting really tight and I slowed down my pace a bit to try to work that out. Around now my "comfortable" pace was slowly slowing, too. That 9:51 average pace slowly creeped up...

Mile 15: 9:53, 10:01
Mile 16: 10:13, 10:07
Mile 17: 10:45, 10:22
Mile 18: 10:02, 10:01

I knew the last big hill was shortly before mile 20. What I didn't remember was how long that freakin' hill was. I swear it was uphill for a mile straight. And it was the kind of hill that rounded turns just enough that you thought you were there and then you round the bend and realize you aren't. I kept plugging up that hill and told myself that after it was over, it would be downhill or flat the rest of the race.

Mile 19: 10:06, 10:52
Mile 20: 9:55, 10:13

I crested the hill (Triumph!) and decided I needed to push a little the last 6 miles to have any hope of finishing with a sub-10:00 pace. I think at this point my average pace was up to about 9:57 and I knew my official pace would be slower since the distance on the Garmin always reads longer than 26.2 miles.

I started to push, just a little, and was quite disheartened when the pace for the next splits read:

Mile 21: 10:07, 10:06
Mile 22: 9:57, 10:11

Umm, that wasn't going to cut it. I knew at this point the wheels had fallen off my day. I slowly watched as my average pace creeped up, and I almost lost all will to run when it went over 10:00.

The next few miles were long, hot, and difficult. Sometimes you hit walls when running and you just can't run another step. I wasn't at that point, but it was a constant battle to keep myself from walking. I did walk through a few water stops, but I told myself I had to otherwise just keep running 'til the end.

Usually the last few miles I have a pretty good attitude. I tell myself, only two more or three more miles to go! At mile 24 a volunteer at a water stop yelled, "Only 2.2 more miles!" I literally almost cried. Tears welled up in my eyes. What?! There are 2.2 more miles!? There is no way I can keep running another 2.2 miles! I told myself I'd be so mad at myself later on if I gave up and walked so I sucked it up and kept running.

I felt like my form was terrible. I felt like I was lurching forward. But I was running. It didn't help that tons of people were doing the death march. I thought how nice it would be to join them. But then I figured it would still be hot, and I still wouldn't be finished. The more I ran, the sooner I'd be done. So I kept plugging away.

I thought about the finisher's medal. Some marathons are almost effortless. Others just plain suck. I was earning this medal today and wasn't going to take it off all day once I got it.

Mile 23: 11:08, 10:26
Mile 24: 10:24, 10:14
Mile 25: 10:38, 10:16

At the 25th mile marker I did some math and realized I was going to be cutting it close to beating my Austin time. I'd be danged if I didn't break 4:25 at this race. So I dug deep and kicked it up the last mile and change to the finish.

Mile 26: 9:45, 9:41
Mile 26.4 (per Garmin): 8:35
Official time: 4:23:51

Good enough for my second fastest marathon time.

I got my medal. I took it off to take a shower, but I didn't take it off for good until I went to sleep that night -- even sat around with it on in my PJ's knitting before going to bed!

Overall, I don't consider this race to be a strong showing. I hate, hate fudging out at the end of races. I'd rather run an even keel the entire race then crash and burn at the end. However, the way I ran at this race makes me rethink what I consider to be a "good" race for me. For such a long time I was a 5+ hour marathoner and anything sub-5 was exceptional for me! I find it very strange to be in a place where posting times in the 4:20's is not a major push or something I can do even with a slight crash and burn at the end. I never expected to be running these types of times when I committed to this 15-marathon year. I told Boyfriend I would be pretty pleased if I could finish most of them in the 4:40's.

So, another marathon in the books! I've got less than two more weeks 'til the LA Marathon!