Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye, 2011; Week 3

Quick Updates:

The races keep piling up for 2012 in the sidebar.  My next race is the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon next month.  I'm training with eyes on the prize at the Modesto Marathon in March, though.  My birthday falls on a Sunday in 2012 and I debated whether I wanted to do a birthday marathon.  In 2007,  I ran the Rome Marathon on my 27th birthday and I think that is a pretty tough birthday act to follow.  So I decided I wasn't going to run a race on my birthday just for the sake of doing a birthday race.

But then I realized that I would be running my 32nd marathon on my 32nd birthday.  That is a pretty sweet deal and I doubt my age and marathon number will ever coincide on my birthday again.  My local choices (I suppose I could have gone back to Rome and run the Rome Marathon again) were LA and Modesto.  LA was a nice race but nothing I want to do again.  Modesto got good reviews and has the perfect recipe for a PR attempt for me:  Flat and a relatively small field size.  So I'm all signed up and back into training mode.

In November, I joined a Bikram Yoga studio for the year.  I'm trying to go 3-4x a week.

This past week (sorry I haven't been doing weekly recaps lately):

Sunday:  8.6 mi, including 3x1600 with 400m recovery @ 7:36, 7:37, 7:25; That last mile repeat is my current training mile PR and my first sub-7:30 mile.  For the record, mile repeats suck.

Tuesday:  7 mi @ 9:30 pace, 3x hill sprints

Wednesday:  10 miles including 6 mi @ 8:13 pace; Running in the low 8:00's is starting to get a little easier and I find myself slipping into 7:xx's for a few splits here and there.

Friday:  15.3 miles:  6 mi warm up, 5 mi:  90 sec hard (14x 7:41 pace), 90 sec easy, 2 mi easy, 2 mi hard (8:09 pace); The thing I hands down love the most about my new training plan is the pace work and speed play during long runs.  It keeps the run fresh and I get a big confidence boost doing this kind of stuff in the middle of longer runs.

Sat:  2 miles @ 9:54 pace, 3x hill sprints

2011 Wrap-up

Stats from my running log

This year was a rather bipolar running year for me filled with ups and downs.  I had three major injuries which put major dents into my training.  But at the same time, I bookended 2011 with marathon PR's at my first and last marathons of the year.  I finally ran a sub-4:00 marathon which was my goal for the year.  For the first time since I've kept a running log for the year, I did not run more miles than the previous year (I'm pretty sure this is the first year since I've started running in 2001 that I did not set a mileage PR).  Yet at the same time I was running faster and stronger than any other year.  In November I set official PR's in the marathon and 5K, and unofficial PR's in the 10K, half-marathon, and mile.  That is quite a month, right?  This year I was also blessed to forge stronger friendships with old runner friends and meet a boatload of new ones.  The Bay Area running community certainly took on a life of its own in 2011.

So what am I hoping for in 2012?  I am hoping to be in shape to race two marathons so perhaps two ratchets down in my marathon time.  I don't have a hard marathon time goal like I did in 2011, but I'm thinking I'll be pleased if I break into the 3:4x's.  I really prefer to look at my progress in terms of training runs and I'd love to be running tempo runs in the sub-8:00's by the end of the year.  Most important to me is to be injury free in 2012. If I can get that to work out, everything else will eventually follow.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hoppy Holidays!

I hope that everyone had a great Christmas!!  I meant to get this up as part of "Monday Mario," but the day after Christmas was the exact opposite of Christmas and I was barely home at all yesterday.

Christmas Eve we made gingerbread cookies.  Per tradition, we always make a gingerbread family of ourselves. Mario's has sort of taken on a standard look since I got a rabbit cookie cutter a few years ago, but it is still always fun.

I have to turn him into a lop and I added his mustache.

Mario and the tree Christmas Eve

Christmas morning we set the camera up and took our Christmas family photo.  Mario looks so adorable in this one, I want to reach into the photo and squeeze his furry cheeks:

Why yes, I am Mario, Lord of this Christmas manor.
And in other outtakes, he looks a little less dignified:
We call this one, "The Gynecologist"

This year Mario was pretty lively during the present-opening festivities.  He is usually snoozing in the morning and past Christmases have seen him heading under the couch to catch some shut-eye.  He was pretty distracted with PAPER! to shred in this TUNNEL! but he'd check in with us every now and then.  When he'd come around, I'd grab one of his gifts and open it for him. 

Apparently, last year's big gift is made 100x better when you add some paper to shred inside.

A few of Mario's gifts:

Call me out of the tunnel when you get to the willow wreaths.
Much better.

After all the excitement, Mario hunkered down in his tunnel for a long Winter's nap and didn't emerge until shortly before dinner.

Bunny's version of sitting on the couch all day in PJ's watching Christmas movies.
All in all it was a wonderful day, and I even peeled myself off the couch and got a great 8+ mile holiday run in, complete with a training mile PR (7:25) as a Christmas gift to myself.

We also had a transient holiday visitor who got a coveted place on our tree while he awaits his private jet up to the Pacific Northwest to live with Racer.  RG, send me your details again and I'll send this guy up to you.

The original Racer Rabbit met an untimely demise.
I think the new one is a bit more handsome than the original, so all's well that ends well.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-changes & 13.1 LA Giveaway Winner

Close to a year ago, I bought this book:

And just in the last couple of months I actually got around to reading the darn thing.  I've been using the same training plan since April of 2009.  It took me from a 4:35 marathoner to a 3:57 marathoner and I think it is time to change it up a little. The last few times I've used the plan, I've added in a little more hill work and some marathon pace miles during long runs.  A few times I ran 22 or 23 miles as my longest long run.  That worked great, but I think I'm ready for some more changes and have been working on my new plan.

The book has three levels of ready-made plans, but I don't think any of them are suitable for me.  So I have to make my own (which is really the whole point of the book).  My main goal is to incorporate more speed work into my schedule and to also increase my overall volume.  I am committing to adding in a fifth running day and am hoping to peak at around 60 miles vs. 50 this time around.  I am trying to be smart about this change as increasing both quantity and quality at the same time is a recipe for disaster.

The last few weeks my chronic right shin has been flaring and I had a knee niggle.  So I had to reevaluate my running each week to keep it honest and real.  I realized a while back it would probably take going through 1 or 2 training cycles to get where I want to be with my training and I am okay with that.  I've had to cut out the fifth day of running the last two weeks to be cautious and I'll be keeping close tabs on what my body is telling me.  The book emphasizes adapting your training plan and runs based on how you are feeling and I think that is really important.

I'm starting the third week of my new training plan and am enjoying the change.  The workouts are new and I'm already feeling like a stronger runner.

The goal is to go from this:

To this:

Naomi alerted to me this image which I adore.
At least in my head, if not reality :)  Next A-race marathon is in mid-March (more on that later).  Let's see how much work I can get done by then.

Now on to the good stuff.  With all the tweets and comments, there were 35 entries for the 13.1 LA giveaway.

And counting from bottom to top of the list I had compiled, the winner was:  @momtomarathon
Send me an email at roadbunner at and I'll get the entry code over to you.  Congratulations!!  And thanks to everyone for entering.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Mario & 13.1 LA Giveaway!

Little clues the holiday season is here :)

I've been given the opportunity to host a giveaway for an entry into the 13.1 Los Angeles race.  My pal, Alyssa, ran the race this year and you can read all about it here.  The race has spinner medals and gender specific shirts.  Enough said.

The race is coming up in a little over a month and is, obviously, in Los Angeles.  I know this will limit the number of people who will be interested, but I'm excited someone will get the opportunity!


To enter:
1. Mandatory entry is to tweet:  "Check out the 13.1 LA giveaway at @RoadBunner"
2. For an extra entry, leave a comment and let me know what you think Mario would like for Christmas this year (feel free to participate on this question even if you aren't a runner or aren't going to be in the LA area next month).  If you're doing it for an entry, please let me know that in the comment & also let me know your Twitter name if it is different than your blog moniker.

I'll close the giveaway Monday night next week (19th).

For a double chance to win, check out Aron's giveaway, too. Hopefully we don't pick the same person :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka

I've dropped the ball on this blog again (I blame YOU, Twitter).  It is just hard to get to this blog when most of my peeps are chatting to me on Twitter all the time.  But I've recently gone back to old posts which was really interesting and helpful, so I'm getting back on this blog train.

I have a semi-good excuse.  I nipped away to Hawaii to visit my parents.  Traveling to Hawaii is so much cheaper in early December than late December.  This is the second time my mom waited for me to put up the tree. I really think putting up the tree is practically as good as being there for Christmas morning so I may make this a tradition.

I've been trying to make hand made ornaments for my relatives as gifts the last few years.  This year I made a holiday mouse:

Super fun project!
You can see how much my knitting has improved from when I first started a few years ago.

My parents have a large tree and TONS of ornaments.  It took Boyfriend and I twenty minutes to put up our tree.  It took me 3.5 hours with my mom to do the tree in Hawaii.  The majority of the ornaments we have were either gifts or hand made and there is a special story for almost every one. My mom loved to tell me who gave us this or who made that.  Especially special to me, my grandma and grandpa on my dad's side used to get us ornaments every year for Christmas.  I used to love it when my grandmother would take us to the ornament shop and let me pick one out.  It is so special now to see their names written on these ornaments along with the year they are from.  I didn't take the good camera home but am thinking maybe next year I will to take some photos of them.

All done!
See that big box on the left?  As an aside and public service announcement (because my mom doesn't read this blog and apparently she snooped and already knows), but KitchenAids are REALLY hard to wrap. When offers to wrap it for you for $5, you can bet your furry bunny butt that it would be money well spent.  My sister and I went in on gifts together for my parents this year so we got them each something extra special.  My mom's been oogling KitchenAid mixers for years and we finally got her one.

We took a detour after dinner one night to see the Honolulu Christmas lights.
I will have a much more detailed post about my training very soon.  But suffice to say I stayed pretty active while in Hawaii.  I either ran or joined my mom on her daily 5.5 mile walk each day.  I actually enjoyed running in Hawaii this time.  Usually I dread not having a big park loop to run through.  Neighborhood running is not my cup of tea.  I created a larger loop than usual which helped and the winter morning temps were very nice.  It was a little humid but the weather this time of year is so much more pleasant than going home during the summer.

I snapped some "Seen On My Run" shots in Hawaii for all of you:

My mom said this poor guy has been sitting here for a while.  Anyone else sense a Toy Story 3 Lotso-esque meltdown?

Not the prettiest hibiscus, but when I was growing up one side of our property was lined with this type.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Mario

The art of urban camouflage.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Run Wild For A Child 5K

Yes, you read that right.  I ran a 5K.  And I surprisingly have a lot to say about the experience.

I pretty much stumbled into this race having secured a free entry.  I have long and often said that I am afraid of 5K's and therefore avoid racing them like the plague.  However, it didn't take me more than a few seconds to decide that I'd race this event vs. just running it for fun.

My current 5K PR was from April, 2005 when I ran a 25:51.  And this was a huge deal for me at the time to be running in the 8:00's.  But that race hurt and I remember feeling as if my heart was literally going to pound out of my chest as I approached the finish. I swore off 5K's.

That 2005 5K PR was an 8:19 pace which is a pace I can probably hold sans heart attack feeling for 7 or 8 miles now.  So I knew I had a PR in the bag barring any huge catastrophe.

I was a bit scared of this race because I don't spend a lot of time doing short interval or even 5K pace work.  During marathon training, 3-4 times I'll do mile repeats.  And my last mile repeat sessions were early JULY and mid October.  Not a lot to go on there.  I've always thought it would be super cool to have an average race pace in the 7:xx's and the 5K distance seems to be the only distance this could ever happen for me.  So I've had that teensy goal in my mind for a few years as a pipe dream sort of thing.

In October I ran two mile repeats in 7:46 and 7:54.  Based on how I felt during those repeats I doubted I could hold a sub-8:00 pace for 3.1 consecutive miles.  On a bit of last minute decision, a week ago I did another two mile repeats in 7:31 and 7:38.  Not bad progress in a month.  I figured with the new training mile PR I had a more realistic shot of going sub-8:00 pace during the race.

My plan was to go out at a 7:50 pace, hold it, and ratchet down as appropriate.  I ran a little over 2 miles to the race start from home as a warm up.  I luckily found Boyfriend at the start, as well as Naomi, and got there just in the nick of time for the gun.

The race panned out like this (0.5 mi Garmin splits):

The first mile or so, all I could think about was that I had no clue how to pace myself for a 5K.  I'm on pace but is that too much?  Should I back off?  Will I implode?  Oh wait, now we're going to slow.  Must speed up.  But now is this too fast?  Repeat.  Shortly after the first mile, I realized I felt the same amount of physical distress as I would at about the halfway point of a marathon.  Gah!

Mile 1:  7:52, 8:00

One thing I totally forgot about 5K's is that children run them.  Let me tell you, there is nothing like pushing along at 5K pace right next to a 10 year old with horrid form, obviously not pacing themselves, wearing a huge backpack, and yet there they are right by you and hanging on.  Oh wait!  And now that little snotty kid is actually pulling away from you.  Gah!

Mile 2:  7:53, 8:02

I saw the awesome Courtney who was out cheering.  Such a great surprise!  Since I hadn't known she'd be out I was wondering if I would get to see her after the race.  "Are you coming to lunch after?" I asked her as I ran by, "I hope you can make it!"  As soon as I uttered those words in such a cheery fashion I realized I was not running this 5K hard enough.

I saw Alyssa who beat down the 10K race shortly after that.  We had a smiley exchange and again knew I wasn't in the right effort zone.

Then all of a sudden, I was at mile 2 with only one more mile to go.  I started to push the pace a bit.  I was running along and realized I'd finish with a sub-8:00 pace!  I tried to time pushing my pace so that feel-like-puking would coincide with just after crossing the finish line.  But I never quite got there.  I was giving it my all at the finish, though.

Mile 3:  7:45, 7:29
Mile 3.15:  6:49
Official finish time:  24:32
Pace:  7:55 min/mile

So I'm totally impressed with myself for putting down a sub-8:00 pace somewhere officially.  Never thought that would happen.  And so with that, you'd think I'd officially retire from 5K's, right?  But alas, there is always just a little bit more to squeeze out of yourself, and I'm hoping to one day finish with a sub-24:00 time.  I think this is pretty doable with just a little better pacing in the early miles and a little more speed work.

I actually really enjoyed pushing the pace a bit and am hoping to race 5K's more than once every 6+ years in the future.  It is a very different change of pace for me from marathons, but I think it will help me to become a stronger runner.

A couple of observations about 5K's:

  • The marathoner in me loves the parallels between the marathon and the 5K.  The 5K is just a little truncated version of the marathon.  You feel like it is mile 16 at mile 1.2, it feels like it is mile 24 at mile 2.1.  And there is that awesome dash to the finish.  
  • But it all happens so quickly!  And if it goes badly you can try again so soon!  Gotta love that.
  • Sadly, you won't be setting any 10 minute PR's in the 5K.  Not sure how I feel about trying to whittle away 10 seconds here and there. The marathoner in me does not like this aspect.
  • My garmin stats were as follows:  3.15 miles, 7:48 average pace.  Quite frankly, that is right about where I wanted to be for my overall average pace.  And I only ran an "extra" 0.05 miles.  Surely that means my average pace on the garmin is going to be pretty identical to the official average pace, right?  An extra 0.05 miles in a marathon is like nothing and wouldn't even put a dent in your average pace.  But alas, I learned this is totally not so in the 5K.  That extra 0.05 miles cost me 7 seconds a mile off my official pace.  The marathoner in me dislikes this, too.  Note to self, learn to run tangents better.  Or find a straight 5K course.

I've got no photos to share so enjoy this one of Mario looking so handsome and stately :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Mario

Mario always looks like a Muppet to me when he lies with his legs sticking out in this fashion.

Just in the last two days, I consider Mario to be 100%.  He has finally eaten all his pellets on his own (I did back off the Critical Care a bit as an experiment) and if you could only see his primo, planetary poop-pile from the last 24 hours (I discussed briefly with Mario sharing a photo of it for "Monday Mario," but after all of the embarrassing Bunny Burrito photos, I reneged).  He's getting into mischief during his play time at night.  And he is just generally himself again in little ways I hadn't realized I'd missed until things were back to normal. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Mario

Someone please get in contact with my attorney.
Nothing much new on the Mario front.  I have been diligent with his Critical Care feedings and he is still on his meds.  His eating/poop production is still slightly below normal.  But honestly, if the vet hadn't said anything I wouldn't be too concerned about it at this point so it is not far from normal.  He is eating all of his veggies and seemingly normal amounts of hay.  He leaves about a third of his pellets every day, though.  Call me crazy, but if I'm pumping him full of Critical Care twice a day it sort of makes sense to me that he wouldn't be eating all his pellets.  And yet I am not supposed to stop feeding him the Critical Care until he eats all his food as normal.  Something seems sort of off there.  The one nice thing about the bunny burrito is having total access to kiss those little cheeks.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Two Cities Wrap-up

Believe it or not, my 2011 marathon season is officially over.  I managed to bookend 2011 with PR's in the first race of the year and the last race of the year.  Had some nasty little injuries in the middle, but overall it turned out pretty great.

So now I am reflecting on what my new PR means to me.  During the race, there were a few moments when I seriously started rethinking this whole, "Let's try to PR the marathon" deal.  I've gotten finishing marathons down pretty well and it can even be tons of fun.  But this racing a marathon?  You're spending a lot of time in an uncomfortable zone.  And even though a minute buffer is big, it is at the same time not a lot of time, either. I could work so hard for hours and lose it all to one or two bad miles.  It started seeming sort of ridiculous to be doing this.  I thought to myself a couple of times,  "If I go sub-4, I think I may stop trying to race marathons."

Do you know what was one of the first things out of my mouth when I saw Boyfriend after the race? I said, "I've got a faster one in me."  Blargh!

In a way I sort of dreaded going sub-4 because I feel like there is no other big goal out there for me.  Sub-4 was this shining beacon to work towards and I feel every other goal is sort of arbitrary.  There is of course the super shiny BQ! but my BQ time is still far from realistic for me.  But then I look back and realize that going sub-4:30 was once a stretch goal for me, too.  Remember when I wrote this?  Look how far I have come.

I still remember what the coach at Marathon Camp told me.  And I still do believe that I owe it to myself to see how fast I can get while my body will still let me do that.  I'm going to keep at it and tackle the next realistic goal and see where it takes me.  I've hit my "I'll die a happy runner goal," so everything after this is major icing on the cake.  I am adrift without a hard end-point goal, but I suppose there is nothing wrong with that, right?

Regarding Two Cities itself, it was a great race!  Very well organized and I loved how they separated the half and full races.  It would be nice if they had a BYOB (bring your own bottle) mentality where people were ready to help you fill-up with a pitcher, but that is my only big suggestion for them.  Kristin did an awesome write-up about the race that highlights some of the major points (the number of bathrooms was amazing!  I didn't wait at all just 15 minutes before the race start).  And a special shout-out to her for helping get my race packet.  Not having to pick it up race morning was a huge load off my mind.

The swag was plentiful but just meh, in my opinion.  Yay, for women cut shirts, but it is still too big.  The sweatshirt is unisex so useless in public for me.  I'd rather have one really nice souvenir than multiple useless ones.

Audrey ran the New York City Marathon the same day I ran Two Cities.  In fact, with the later NYC start we were actually running at the same time, too.  We were orange Balega sock twins on Sunday.  And we both ran marathons ending in X:57.  Coincidence?  I think not :)

I tweeted her this photo in the morning while I was getting ready.

And she sent this one back to me.

Many thanks to everyone for all the congratulations!!  When I first started running marathons I never, ever thought I would ever run a 3:XX marathon.  Being a runner is an amazing journey.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Two Cities Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #30:
PR! Sub-4! Negative split!

Sunday night, I was about to give Mario his meds/Critical Care and yes, still had my medal on.  Photo-op! 

The Full Recap, Marathon #30:
My goal for the race was to keep my average pace right around a 9:05 minute mile.  A 9:09 pace is a sub-4 hour marathon, but since I run based off my Garmin I knew that with the "extra" distance you cover the pace my Garmin showed would end up being slower than my official pace.  I figured out that a 9:05 was the buffer I needed to be safe.

From layering in marathon-pace miles in long runs, I knew that I had a tendency to sometimes slip into the high-8:00's.  I made 8:55 my fastest tolerable pace for the beginning of the race. I was afraid anything faster than that was going out too strong and I would end up suffering for it later on.  There were a few times in the first half of the race I found myself running in the 8:40's or 8:30's and I forced myself to slow a bit to conserve.

The weather was absolutely perfect for a race.  They had forecast a 50% chance of rain, low of 41, high of 58.  I figured the entire race would be overcast if not drizzly.  I'd take it!  The rain ended up burning off before the race but the temps were awesome.  There was a slight breeze in some locations which was just under my threshold where I would have called it a significant head wind.

The race had an ultra marathon, marathon, half marathon, and two person relay.  The marathon and ultra marathon started half an hour ahead of the half marathon.  I loved this.  I have a huge pet peeve running with people doing shorter distances than me (apologies to those ultra marathon people who had to run with me).  The longer distances also went out in a totally opposite direction than the half so you would never see a single person doing a shorter distance faster than you were going.  The course was a two out-and-back type configuration with a couple little loops and tails here and there.  Nothing special, but I wasn't out there to see the scenery.

Mile 1:   9:00
Mile 2:   8:56

I didn't realize until the night before, but this race had tunnels.  Three of them you run through six times. I blame the 16 tunnel passages of Texas for throwing my Garmin off and was counting on accurate Garmin data this race.  Luckily I had also thrown on a 4:00 pace band.  The race didn't have clocks on the course, but they had volunteers at every mile marker calling out the time.  Early on I passed by a mile marker and figured out I was a little more than 10 seconds behind the gun time.  I had my reference point for my pace band for the rest of the race.

Mile 3:    9:04
Mile 4:   8:52

I'm not going to lie, around mile 4 I started thinking that this whole idea was slightly ludicrous.  The pace didn't feel hard, but it wasn't easy peasy, either.  I was talking to Naomi about my race strategy a couple of weeks ago. I told her that if someone told me to go out and run 6 miles at a 9:00 pace, it wasn't something I could just easily pull off.  I'd have to psych myself up for it a little bit.  And here I was attempting to run 26.2 miles at that pace.  What was I thinking?!  I then reminded myself that there is a point in a run where things start to suck a little, but then they tend to not suck any more for the majority of the rest of the run. Perhaps I had just hit that point already.  It had come a bit early, but I could and would work with it.  Fight for it!

Mile 5:  9:01 (gel)
Mile 6:   9:02

Boyfriend made his first spectator appearance around mile 6.  It was a big pick-me up which is reflected in my pace the next few miles.  Looking at the photos he took, I am smiling and waving at him (which never happened again in subsequent photo encounters).  I thought briefly after mile 6 that I had just set a 10K PR in a marathon (I fully admit that all of my PR's under the marathon distance are a bit outdated at this point).

Mile 7:   8:53
Mile 8:   8:59

Boyfriend popped up again around here.  Oh, wait, I flashed him a smile at mile 8.5, too :)  I think Boyfriend yelled, "You're right on pace!" at me, and I recall thinking that I still had a long way to go.

Mile 9:   8:57
Mile 10:  8:59
Mile 11:  9:17 (filled water bottle, gel)

I stopped to fill my water bottle during mile 11 which really irritated me. I generally race with my 20 oz handheld and will refill it once or twice during a race.  I sometimes grab a cup to supplement here and there but generally ignore and keep running through all the water stops.  I don't plan for any walk breaks (even through aid stations) when I race and it was murder for me to lose even 15 seconds filling up my bottle.  To make matters sadder, this race did not have someone manning a pitcher who I could go to in order to fill my bottle quickly.  I had to go to the table and literally empty cup after cup into my 20 oz.  One thing that makes sense but really irked me was that they only filled the cup up about an inch on the bottom so I had to go through tons of them. I felt like a bit of an ass emptying cup after cup and throwing the empty cups around.  Sorry, volunteers.

Mile 12:   9:08
Mile 13:   8:57

Boyfriend popped up again around the half mark.  I was so annoyed at the thought of stopping again to fill my bottle that I yelled at him, "Bring my bottle to mile 21!"  I had pre-filled a smaller 12 oz handheld in the hopes that towards the end of the race I could switch out to a smaller bottle thus lightening my load and saving me a water bottle refill.

I set a half marathon PR during this race, too.  Blows my mind.  I thought about how I felt when I ran my 1:59:11 a couple of years ago.  It was hard and I was spent at the end.  I thought about how I had to go twice as far today, but also marveled that I wasn't at death's door like I was during that half, either.

Mile 14:   8:53
Mile 15:   8:55
Mile 16:   8:59

During miles 14-16 I thought about how I had never run this far, this fast in my whole entire life.  I was hitting unexplored territory.  Pre-race I decided I had a very realistic shot of holding this pace to mile 16.  I figured I knew I had a half marathon in me at that pace, and even if things got really tough I could probably gut it out another 3 miles.  I found myself at mile 16 still chugging away and told myself that from this point on I'd be proud of however many miles I could keep it up.

Remember those dark miles I was psyching myself up for?  They always come during race effort races and I didn't know when that would be during this marathon.  Well, it happened around mile 17.5.  My Garmin gives me splits every half a mile which I averaged out for most of the miles on this report.  But I left the mile 17 splits as two half miles because you can tell where I started to slow a bit.

Mile 17: 8:59, 9:12 (gel)
Mile 18:  9:18  (filled water bottle -- The second out and back road seemed pretty isolated, and Boyfriend had even remarked the night before he wasn't sure he could access it to see me out there.  I knew if it was possible he would be out there with my bottle, but I was running low on water and couldn't take the chance.  So I stopped and refilled again.  Was really annoyed at this stop because I even took the cap off the bottle and pointed to it as I ran up, but the volunteers just stood there handing out their cups and I had to go and do my 10 cup refill again)

I was getting really down miles 17.5-20.5. Here is the official elevation chart:

In my memory I had told myself that 16-21 were slightly downhill, and 21-24 were slightly uphill.  Now was the time I was supposed to be clicking away easy to perhaps bank a few seconds to be able to slow on the uphill portion.  But here I was slowing down.  I'd look down at my Garmin and my current pace was 9:20something, 9:15something.  I remembered how I was going to be proud for getting this far.  My overall pace was still right on target and I knew I could keep up this slower pace for a few miles more and still technically be on track. If I could get to mile 20 today on pace, I could definitely one day, get to 26.2.  But then I thought about how hard I had worked to get this far.  To do this again another day I'd have to re-run all these miles.  Hell no, was I about to let this go.  Fight for it!

I willed myself to pick up the pace a bit and I slowly started passing people.  I was going to lose this race if I let myself slow on the "easier" part of the out and back.  I told myself this pace was hard, but I wasn't at the point that it was impossible.  And I wasn't going to slow down unless it became impossible.  I wasn't going to be upset if the sub-4 didn't pan out, but I was never ever going to use that reasoning as an excuse to not give it my all this day.

Mile 19:   9:09

The whole race whenever I passed a mile marker I'd look down at my pace band to make sure I was doing okay.  Towards the middle of the race I was already almost 0.2 miles ahead of the mile markers which worried me about my official vs. Garmin pace.  By the latter part of the race I knew I had over a minute buffer.  God bless the volunteers who were calling out the times. I've worn pace bands before but never actually looked at them.  So I always felt calling times at mile markers was sort of a useless, thankless job especially in this Garmin Age.  I've run plenty of races with time-callers who must pick up on this fact and will call out times for a while and then stop for a while, and then start for a while, and so forth.  But every single mile marker I passed with a person present saw me coming and called the time for me.  It was such a nice security blanket to know where I stood.  I didn't have much energy to thank everyone, but I made sure to thank every volunteer who called a time for me.  I even spent oxygen adding a "so much" to the end of my "thank you's."

Mile 20: 9:17, 8:40

I heard Boyfriend from far, far away before I ever saw him.  He had made it to give me my bottle.  We were right before the turnaround, and I told him I'd grab the bottle from him when I came around the other side. I started drinking lots of water out of my bottle since I had already sacrificed some time to refill it.  Plus I wasn't sure if my little 12 oz would be enough to get me to the finish.

Coming around the turnaround nursing my bottle before swapping it out.

I made it around the turnaround and started the trip home.  I told myself that coming up were the hardest miles of this marathon.  We were late in the race, the sun was out, and I had a few uphill miles to get through.  Hard but not impossible.

Mile 21:  8:55
Mile 22: 8:58, 9:24 (I'm assuming this second split was the hill, gel)

I saw "The Hill" and it looked pretty intimidating as you came up to it.  But actually running it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  My pace did fall a bit and my breathing got harder, but I never felt the need to stop.  Golden Gate Park with your never-ending rollers, I heart you.

My Garmin's elevation data which I think more accurately describes the course than the official map.  One big down and one big up and not as much gradual as I had expected and dreaded.

Okay, that hill was behind me, I just had to get to mile 24 and it was downhill to flat to the finish.  Around this time I started passing hoards of half marathon walkers.  The race does an awesome job of always keeping the half marathoners and the full marathoners separated on the road for the full distance the two races overlap (even at the turnaround!). I never had to sidestep anyone.  Great job, Two Cities!

Mile 23:   9:08

I was expecting to be really suffering and really having to dig deep to my mantras (I alternated between "Fight for it!" and "Hard but not impossible" -- having thought of this second one while out on the course earlier).  And while I kept repeating the mantras to myself, I wasn't in a deep despair like I had been around mile 18.  The cloud cover came back.  I felt stronger the last few miles than the latter teen miles.  My pace was really good and I kept slowly ratcheting up the pace the last few miles; Playing the gambling game wanting to finish as fast as I could without combusting before the finish.

Mile 24:   8:50
Holy snickers,
Mile 25:   8:42
I'm really
Mile 26:  8:30
doing this.

Like a beacon calling in the distance.
I dug deep and pushed really hard the last almost half a mile to the finish.  I told myself just a few more minutes and I'd be a sub-4 hour marathoner.  A man running close to me had a friend who was running him in. His friend kept yelling, "You're almost there!  Come on!  Push it!  Keep up with me!" and I took it as a personal challenge to go with them.  His friend was running slightly ahead of us to motivate the guy to go with him.  They were faster than me and I couldn't exactly keep up, but it kept me kicking to the finish.

Mile 26.46 (Garmin distance) 7:41

I crossed and looked at my Garmin.  The time started with a "3."  I turned around and looked at the official clock.  Still a "3" there, too.  I felt a little wobbly for a few steps but overall didn't feel so bad.  I collected my medal and sweatshirt and headed out to meet Boyfriend.  The race offers a hot breakfast and ice cream sundaes in the finish area, but I don't really have an appetite for any of that immediately after a race.  I grabbed half a banana to force myself to eat.

It took a few minutes to find Boyfriend because he had missed me finishing.  He ran into a traffic snafu coming back from mile 21 and missed me by 2 minutes.  He felt really bad, but I remember thinking while I was out running that the road out there was so isolated it was a possibility he wouldn't make it back.  And at the time having that bottle hand off was more important to me.

A special shout-out to Boyfriend who has always been amazingly supportive of me and my running.  He puts up with my pre-race moodiness and craziness.  He cooks me awesome pre-race pasta.  He humors me when I ask him in total seriousness if I should wear the white hat or white with pink accents hat to a race.  He is my chauffeur to races.  He gets up early with me and hauls butt around towns to see me for fleeting, often thankless seconds. *blows a kiss*  My pace picked up every time I saw him and I don't think that is a coincidence.

This is pretty long so I'll get a post-race wrap-up together and posted in the next couple of days.

Catch-phrase on the back of the Oiselle shirt I wore after the race.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Mario

Mario had his follow-up with the vet on Friday.  His eating and pooping is still not 100% and that worried her a little.  She thought his stomach still didn't feel normal so we redid the x-rays.  She said his stomach is about 50% the size it was when he went in acutely the first time, but she still thinks there is a mass or something in there that hasn't pushed through yet.  She's a little puzzled as to what it is as she says it doesn't look like a typical hairball and I can't recollect him chewing up something he shouldn't have lately.

So we restarted him on his anti-gas and anti-gas producing bacteria antibiotic (he had just stopped his course of treatment on those the day before his follow-up).  She also started him up on a med that will cause his digestive tract to move a little more (we were unable to do this one the first time because she wasn't convinced there wasn't a blockage somewhere). Also, I had stopped with the Critical Care syringe feeding because his interest in food was high and Mario is just not cooperative with the syringe feeding.  But I've been scolded gently and told I am to continue with the Critical Care until everything is 100% normal.  I am a little dubious he'll ever eat his normal volume of food when I'm stuffing him with Critical Care, but the vet seems convinced it will happen.

So that is where we are now.  Still not out of the woods :(  The good news is that his personality is pretty normal so that keeps me from worrying about him all hours of the day vs. a couple here and there.

I'm getting better at the bunny-burrito to feed Mario and figured out if I hold him up like a baby the stuff goes down a little easier.  He's a smart little rabbit, though, and if he can do it, will tuck his nose into the burrito to try to hide.

Mario wishes he were a turtle.

I won't steal Mario's Monday thunder with any race stuff today. Tune back in tomorrow for that.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Game Time!(?)

With all of the Mario trauma/drama I wasn't able to get a running update posted. And now here we are, 24 hours away from the next marathon.

Two Cities was originally going to be my A-race of the year.  Early in the summer my paces were getting a little faster and I felt that with another four months to train and build off that level, I'd be in a pretty good place to try to PR at Two Cities.  If you've been following along for a bit, my PR is 4:01:02.  I'm in that sticky spot where just a PR would be disappointing.  I need to go sub-4 to have any satisfaction.  Because let's face it, a 4:00:30 would just sting more than bombing and coming in at a 4:15.

My hip derailed my plan to have months to build up my pace and confidence.  I stopped doing any speed work through August and September.  I am so grateful my chiropractor kept encouraging me to keep up the running as I didn't lose my endurance base.  The first week of October I was able to get back into real training and I've been surprised at how quickly my paces started dropping again.

I feel I am currently in slightly better shape than I was at the end of July when I had to give up speed work.  I am not, however, quite where I wanted to be going into Two Cities.  I have four weeks of solid running, but that isn't the same as having a full 12 of them.

I took a step back and decided I had some options for this race.  First, I could set an aggressive yet conservative goal that would build my confidence; Perhaps a 4:08.  Something I know I could pull off and then use that confidence to build up for my next A-race attempt.  But then I took two steps back and realized something huge.  I may not be in as great shape as I wanted to be for a sub-4 attempt, but I am in far better shape than I was when I ran my 4:01 at Texas.

For example:

I pulled up some workouts from Texas and Fresno training to compare my paces.  My 7 mile tempo pace  is 9 seconds per mile faster now.  My mile pace is 25 seconds faster.  My easy pace is almost 30 seconds a mile faster.  My long run pace is 46 seconds per mile faster.

Do you know what the difference between a 4:01:02 and a 3:59:59 marathon is?  3 seconds a mile.  Three seconds a mile.

My second option is clearly to try to go for the sub-4.  My confidence doesn't think I can do it, but my body seems to be telling me I have a realistic shot at this.  What is the worse thing that can happen if I go out at a 9:09 pace and can't hold it?  I slow down.

I've run enough of these at varying effort levels to be devoid of ego regarding my finishing time.  If I set out to run a sub-4 and come in at 4:40, so what?  I don't think that would crush me.  I haven't invested a year's worth of training into this one race.  In fact, I've only managed to pull together a month of solid training.  Not a huge investment, so not a huge loss.  Another nice thing about doing lots of marathons is that there is always another race around the corner to try again.

I think something that far too many runners lose sight of is that a marathon, even a race-effort marathon, is not the end-game of our running.  Too many people go out and run races they feel don't live up to their expectations and they take a look at what they did and are upset or disappointed.  If I go out and run 16 miles at a 9:09 pace and it all falls apart, do you know what I'm going to think?  I'm going to think, "Hell yeah!  I ran 16 freakin' miles at MP!"  I've never done that in training before.  And I'll use that as a stepping stone to my next race.  Because even when marathons don't go the way you wanted them to, chances are if it had been a training run, you went out and kicked some major assphalt.

So that is my attitude going into Two Cities.  I'm going to give it my best shot, and I'm going to be proud of however many miles I can hold it.  It's been a long time since I raced a marathon and I'm nervous as heck.  I'm trying to think about what I'm going to tell myself during the dark miles when it feels impossible.  This may be my 30th marathon, but I've only ever toed a starting line of a marathon with the full intent to try to PR at a hard effort three, maybe four times previously.  I'm still learning how to get my race-face on.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Mario -- Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween!
Mario wanted to dress up as Optimus Prime, but the helmet wouldn't fit on his head.  So we went with a fireman instead.

He is still not 100% back to normal but getting there.  I'd say his personality is pretty much all back and it is just his appetite and poop patterns that need to catch up a little.  Every day seems a little better, though.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

Look who is back!

After three nights in the hospital and plenty of tears on my end, I was finally able to pick up Mario this evening from the vet's!  His blood work came back normal.  Yay, kidneys!  He's been eating a bit on his own and pooping up a storm (they are a little messier than usual which will require some maintentance on my end).

The vet tech spent a lot of time showing me how to do all of this:

Which involves all of this:

Yes, I need to hook my bunny up via needle to that bag once a day for a week.

I thought he might be a bit lethargic and sad, but he is quite perky.  I put him in his pen and the first thing he did was run over to his food bowl and pick out a treat to eat.  Then for a few minutes he scampered all around his pen picking at pellets, eating hay, and exploring everything.  He is settling down a bit now and has even done some good bunny flops.  The main thing that seems a bit off is that he might have lost some muscle tone -- he is sliding around a bit more than usual.  

Thank you, everyone, again for all of your support through this.  Mario is a lucky bunny to have so many people in his corner.

I think I can manage that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Over the River and Through the Woods

Thank you to everyone who has emailed, tweeted, commented and texted about Mario.  We really appreciate all of your concern and good thoughts.

Today has been a bit of a roller coaster of a day.  I called the vet's this morning and spoke to the vet tech.  She told me that they had force fed Mario last night but that this morning he refused to have anything to do with any of that.  He had not pooped or eaten on his own.  He peed once and his temperature was still good.  Basically, she said he was the same and that the vet would give me a call once she evaluated him.

The vet called shortly after and said that his stomach was still very engorged.  Also, she had gotten his lab results back and Mario was in renal failure.  She said she thought it was acute vs. chronic because he was not anemic which I should take as a good thing.  She said it was not uncommon for bunnies to go into acute renal failure when they are as severely dehydrated as Mario was due to his inability to eat/drink.

Because of his lack of progress on bloat treatment, she suspected that he may possibly have a blockage somewhere.  She said there was no way to know for sure and that surgery at this point would be exploratory.  We could possibly do barium x-rays to try to image a blockage but she felt that with his engorged stomach this wasn't the best course of action, plus it would waste a day's worth of time.  She said if there was a blockage, today was the day to do the surgery or else his digestive tract could go necrotic and then there would be little hope.  Without the surgery, he would surely die.  "If this were my bunny, I'd do the surgery," she said.

The vet said she wanted to consult with another veterinarian in the practice who had handled a similar case and had done some research on the matter.  She said she would be in touch in a few hours and we could go from there.

The idea of poor Mario going through surgery with no guarantee that it would address the problem was too much for me.  I was a wreck and I called Boyfriend.  We decided if the second vet agreed, then we would pursue the surgery.  I asked Boyfriend to come home from work so he could come in with me to visit with Mario before he went under.  There was no way I'd be able to handle that on my own.

I had some time to kill and a run on the schedule so headed out to do that.  I had to fight back tears through my warm-up and almost gave up on the tempo portion.  I felt like my heart-rate was elevated from the anxiety and it was throwing everything off.  The tempo effort eventually helped to get my mind off things a little and I ended up with a pretty good run.  I arrived home and promptly burst into tears.

The veterinarian gave me a call and said she had good news.  Mario had started to feel better and had nibbled on some hay. She also felt that his stomach was dramatically reduced in size from her examination of him this morning.  She didn't feel that surgery was the way to go anymore.  I was so relieved.  She wanted to start him on an IV in order to try to get his kidneys back to normal.  She felt that as long as he continued to improve, she would redo his blood work in a day or two and if his kidneys were better he would be ready to come home.

Mario with his fancy new earring :(
We went in to visit with him.  He looked pretty out of it, and I'm hoping that was from the meds he was on.  He tooth purred a little as I rubbed his cheeks.  When the vet tech brought him into the room I saw he had three nice poops stuck to his butt :) I was SO happy!  I had brought some of his hay and pellets from home and he even ate a pellet I gave to him.  He perked up for a minute or so while he ate the pellet and actually lifted himself to standing for a while.  But right after that he went back into his foggy state.  The staff wasn't even aware that he was pooping yet and they seemed excited when I told them.  So he's making progress.  Eating a little, pooping a little, and getting rehydrated.

The vet said he is no way out of the woods yet, but she is much more encouraged than she was when she spoke to me this morning.  I'm really hoping he continues in this direction and can come home soon. I probably won't get to see him again until either Thursday evening if he comes home or Friday.  The staff seems to be really enjoying him so I hope they are giving him lots of love.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Mario Part II

Since most of my bunny blogger friends are not on Twitter, I thought I would post an update today.  I'm just back from the veterinarian sans Mario :(  The vet wanted to keep him overnight to monitor and treat him.

Mario and I are just x-ray magnets this year.
That big round thing on the left is his stomach, and the vet thinks it is full of gas. The black stuff on the right are his intestines, also gassy.  She doesn't think there is a physical blockage, but just that the gas in the intestines have slowed motility and everything is backing up a bit.  They are putting him on pain meds, anti-gas meds, anti-gas-producing-bacteria meds, and fluids.  Depending on when his stomach comes down a bit, they will start feeding him some food, too.  His temperature is normal which the vet says is a good sign.

The vet didn't really start throwing me carrots of hope until I broke down crying so I'm really hoping he'll pull through.  It was really hard to leave him there :(

These are different Monday Mario shots, for sure.