Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Rest of 2011

Seen on Sunday's run: A stone turtle for the real turtles to rest on.
I've run by this little lake in Golden Gate Park hundreds of times but never ran around it until this weekend.

I am back on the running train and feeling good. I am slowly and wisely ramping up distance and intensity (vs. my mad dash for mileage before Big Sur). I am not where I was before the whole fall-on-head-twist-ankle saga but it is coming back and I'm having fun.

I've got the rest of the year mapped out (who am I kidding, I've got 2012 mapped out already, too, ha ha -- so far 6 marathons, stay tuned)

For the rest of the year, I'm eyeballing:

August: Extraterrestrial Marathon
September: Moo Cow Half, Half Moon Bay Marathon
October: Humboldt Half Marathon??
November: Two Cities Marathon

ET is run in the middle of Area 51 at midnight. I've worked it into the schedule as a glorified training run -- no taper and I'm going to take it really slow (it is also at altitude so the taking it easy should come naturally). I've got a couple of running friends who said they'd be there so it is going to be a fun time.

Moo Cow is a new half marathon that features a cowbell medal at the end! It is a hilly course so no major time goals. I'll also not be pushing too hard at Moo Cow because the new Half Moon Bay Marathon is a week later. Right now I'm thinking I will probably have some sort of a time goal for Half Moon Bay. If I'm feeling it I may go for a PR but if I don't think my legs are back I'm hoping to go for a semi-aggressive time goal to show myself I'm at least back in the PR striking range. So I consider it the B-race for the remainder of the year.

Humboldt is a HUGE question mark at this point. When I ran the full marathon last year, I decided that the Humboldt Half is the fastest, best option I have within driving distance at a half PR. The course is fairly flat, appears to be downhill in both directions (because the Redwoods are so darn tall) and the shade of the giant trees promises to keep things cool. I really want to race it one day.

This may not be the year for a few reasons -- I have a lot of time, but I have doubts I'll feel strong enough to go for a half PR in October. More importantly, a full PR is higher up on my wish list and Two Cities is only 3 weeks after Humboldt. I originally wanted to better my half time before going for a sub-4 full marathon. My half PR is currently 1:59 and I thought that psychologically it would be hard to go for a sub-4 marathon without a faster half PR. BUT I think the 4:01 at Texas has given me enough of a mental edge to try for a sub-4 full without a faster half PR.

Two Cities in early November is my A race right now to try for a sub-4. It gets awesome reviews by other runners and is supposed to be a fairly fast course.

So there it is for you. I'm on a schedule again!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Mario

If you can't run a marathon, the next best thing is to sit on a bag from a marathon.

Friday, May 27, 2011

iFitness Belt Review

I was asked to do a review of my iFitness belt (which I seem to be wearing more and more these days).

I started out my workout belt life with a SPIBelt. It worked pretty well, but since the pouch has no form of its own and takes the form of whatever item you put in, the belt tended to roll on my body and it was hard to get things in and out.

My rinky SPIbelt which hasn't seen fresh air in years

I also disliked that I was always afraid my keys/ID would fall out when I reached in to grab something I needed during the run.

I heard awesome things about the iFitness belt and thought I'd give it a shot.

One awesome selling-point for me was that the iFitness belt has a little internal pocket you can tuck your key or ID into so it doesn't fall out while on the run.

View of internal pocket

My first iFitness belt purchase a few years ago was the single pouch model:

I was told by the sales rep at the expo that you had to wear it low on your hips (I usually place the band right below my hip bones) in order to ensure it wouldn't bounce or ride-up.

I'm not sure electronics would survive a dip in the ocean, but the pouch is made of neoprene which offers a fairly high level of water/sweat protection.

I've run with my phone in the single pouch and it doesn't bounce or ride up at all. I literally forget I am wearing it. Since I'm wearing the pouch low on my hips I don't get that uncomfortable feeling that comes when I wear something higher up on my natural waist. I also used this pouch when I was horseback riding to keep my phone and keys handy. I also liked that the neoprene was tough and would provide a layer of protection between my body and my car key in the event of a horse fall.

This past January I won an iFitness belt giveaway on Twitter and was treated to any belt of my choice at the Walt Disney Marathon expo. I chose the Ultimate II belt. I had actually been interested in trying one of their belts that have elastic loops you can stick your gels through.

Cropped for a peek at my snazzy Oiselle orange armwarmers

I tried it out for the first time at Big Sur (above). I stashed my camera in the pouch and my gels in two of the loops and the one velcro pouch on the side of the regular neoprene pouch. You can also see the cap of my lip balm sticking up behind the gels (there is an elastic loop for that).

I use eGels which are pretty huge compared to Gu or Hammer packaging. I almost lost a fingernail trying to slide those gels through the loops. But they were really easy to get out and were held very snugly.

It took Boyfriend and I twenty minutes total to get two gels in the belt loops pre-Big Sur. For the above photo-op I got the gel pack through on the first try. Live and learn.

I was a little afraid that the belt would chafe my shorts, but they came out unscathed after 26.2 miles. I have to say that during Big Sur I did have to readjust the position of the belt every now and then. I think this is because I was taking my camera in and out a lot which changed the tension a bit.

Another thing I recently picked up are the hydration add-ons. Since I already had two belts I am glad I went this route vs. buying a hydration belt. For one, I can decide how many and where to put the bottle holders. Two, I can have all my nifty Ultimate II features or not, depending on my mood.

The hydration add-ons have a little clip inside which clips onto the belt. They attach very securely.

The one downside to the add-ons are that the bottles are tiny. I generally run with a 22 oz handheld and will refill it once or even twice on long runs. The hydration add-on bottles are 6 oz and on a hot day I could probably drink the whole thing in one gulp. There is no way that amount of water would hold me from water fountain to water fountain. However, for race situations where I plan to utilize the aid stations, they are perfect. I have some water with me inbetween aid stations to sip but I can drink more at a station or refill the bottle along the way.

I tend to like to use a belt hydration carrier when running races with my camera so I have two hands free to get my camera out and take photos. Generally a race where I am taking photos I am not caring too much about the time so won't mind stopping to refill so often. And what do you know, there is also a pocket to hold said camera. So the belt set up like this is perfect for me.

True to iFitness form the belt doesn't bounce with the added liquid and it is easy to get the bottles in and out (I haven't run yet with two bottles of liquid -- at Big Sur the second bottle-holder was filled with a pack of Peeps and during Bay to Breakers I had my camera in the second bottle holder).

My camera in the hydration holder.

Peeps in the hydration holder. So many uses!

Another thing I really like about the Ultimate II is the race bib clips in the front. I used it for my last two races and I didn't even notice the bib was there. Newsflash! They also have race bib toggles you can add on to single pouch belts. Hurrah!

The belt is fastened with a secure clip. No more messing with velcro & snagging your delicate tech clothes.

I also purchased the double pouch model for Bay to Breakers. My intent was to put my camera in one pouch and my phone in the other. As I mentioned above, I ended up putting the phone in the pouch and my camera in a bottle holder for easy access. I think I prefer this since it is super easy to get the camera out quickly and the belt didn't have to be readjusted at all since I wasn't taking something in and out of the pouch all the time. However, I decided to keep the double pouch model since I figure it may come in handy one day.

Double pouch model

One interesting thing about the double pouch is that it only has an internal pocket in one of the pouches. I think having the internal pouch in both sides would have been a nice feature.

So there you have it! I definitely recommend iFitness belts for carrying all your stuff on the run and other active activities. There are tons of different models to meet your individual needs and you can mix and match accessories to create your dream belt.

Update, 08/16/13:  iFitness has rebranded to Fitletic

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Mario

Such a lush.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Favorites

1. Oiselle armwarmers: My latest obsession are my Oiselle armwarmers. I tested them out for as long as 26.2 miles at Big Sur and more recently during a rainy run.

Kept me warm in the rain and wind

First off, they fit me which is a HUGE win for armwarmers. Previously I had only found one brand of arm warmer that stayed up on me. The Oiselle armwarmers only come in one size, but they amazingly seem to fit all shapes and sizes.

The material is super soft and stretchy. One thing I am really amazed about them is that they seem to keep me warm when it is cold and cool when it is warm. Big Sur actually got sort of hot at the end but I never had the urge to pull the arm warmers down. It is was sort of freaky.

They have thumbholes which means they also keep your hands warm. Love love.

I received the arm warmers free from Oiselle as part of their running team but was not asked to do a review. I will definitely be buying more in the future with my own $. In fact, I'm hoping they'll make little rabbit-sized ones for Mario so we can match.

2. Zucchini quinoa lasagna: Whenever I need a quick opinion I turn to twitter. I asked my tweeps if they had any favorite quinoa recipes and was pointed to this recipe (scroll down for the recipe) from Sarah at Peas and Thank You. I made it the same day and it is delicious and healthy! D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. I'm already planning to make it again next week.

3. Bay to Breakers Salmon: Last but not least, I forgot to include the video of the salmon at Bay to Breakers in my race report. These people start at the finish and run against the flow of traffic to the start:

They passed us as we were going up the Hayes Street hill. By far I think they are the coolest "tradition" of the race.

Also, check out my friend A's awesome Gu giveaway!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers is probably the foot race for which San Francisco is most known. In fact I have friends who are decidedly not runners who have taken part in this event in the past (while pushing a keg in a shopping cart). When I moved to SF I realized that in a few years the race would hit its hundredth running and I decided to hold off and do the race in 2011.

Boyfriend ran the race in 2008 so I was there to spectate the back of the pack shenanigans. I timed an early morning run in 2009 to see the elites run by. So now all that was left was to take part in the race myself. The race is notorious for boozing and I hate how people trash the park and neighborhoods during the event. Last year was especially bad and the race even lost its title sponsor.

The race organizers promised a crack down on bandits (about 50% of the people who "take part" in the event aren't registered), alcohol, and vandalism. All of which sound great to me. This is quite the unique event because it attracts world class atheletes in the front of the pack, and the people way in the back are generally drunk non-runners who probably didn't pay and don't make it to the finish.

When Boyfriend participated in the race he ran into major transportation snafus and couldn't make it into his starting corral. Subsequently he was behind a lot of parade-type participants and had a hard time hitting his pace. Because of this, Audrey and I left my apartment at 5 am to catch the shuttle down to the start. I'm not sure what all the transportation woes were about because a shuttle was there waiting for us when we arrived, there were exactly FOUR people on board the entire bus for the entire ride down to the start area (the bus only stopped once for some people who decided they didn't want to get on). It was totally awesome.

We were some of the first people down at the start and I was treated to a pristine porta-potty. Can't vouch as to whether any men used it before me, but I was the one who took the paper wrapping off the toilet paper so definitely no sit-down action before me. Win!

We met up with Naomi and waited for the start. You know you're at a different type of running event when "runners" are smoking cigarettes (and other stuff) in the start corrals. Yuck. There is also some sort of strange tortilla tossing tradition.

This was my best result of trying to capture a flying tortilla

If you ever wanted to know what kind of a face a tortilla that was about to get trampled by 50,000 people would have...

LOTS of tortillas flying around; I got hit by one and it hurt more than you'd think it would.

There's the start line!

I had signed up to be in corral A to make sure I got as far up as possible, but I ended up starting in corral B so I could hang with Audrey and Naomi. It was a great call on my part because I had a great time running with the two of them.

In case you didn't know, Bay to Breakers is also known for nudity.

Thanks to Audrey and her photoshopskills, you won't have to burn your retinas after reading this report.

I didn't actually count the naked people but they weren't exactly scarce. For a fun factoid I only saw one naked women and the majority of the naked people were older vs. younger. So basically, all the people you wouldn't want to see with their clothes off were out there with their clothes off.

Bay to Breakers is also known for its costumes. I didn't spend too much time catching a lot of them on my camera, but I'll throw a few in the report.

Hard hat with an owl statue attached. Not sure what that is supposed to be...

We were running at a very easy pace.

Audrey showing off her fairy wings

The race starts downtown and winds its way west to the ocean

Hayes Street hill; We walked this sucker

This group was carrying a limbo stick which sadly conveniently bent right when I hit the shutter button

Balloon people? Die-hard "Up" fans?

Spectator fun in Golden Gate Park

I love this park

Even though I am not exactly in the best shape right now, 7 miles goes by so fast mentally for me. I couldn't believe how quickly we seemed to hit the park and once there I know every turn and incline to the finish.

More costumes

This one just doesn't look comfortable

My favorite quote of the day, "We can't let that old naked guy with the cane beat us!" Sorry, I didn't get a photo of the naked guy with the cane. I didn't think my camera would survive capturing his backside.

Blurry windmill shot on the way to the beach

Heading to the finish

They normally don't hand these out, but for the 100th we got medals!

The new title sponsor was Zazzle. I find it hugely ironic that with a shirt company as a sponsor the shirts were ridiculously plain and lackluster.

The bling!!

I'm really glad I ran the 100th but I definitely won't be taking part in this race again. It is costly for a 12k run and the logistics of the expo were not fun. Getting to the start and back home is not so terrible for me since I live in a convenient location for these things. But it is a nightmare for people coming in from out of town. And the crowds -- I am just not a huge fan of such huge events.

And I can definitely do without all the naked butts.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Mario

Sorry for all the lack of posting over here. This weekend I spent the first Saturday night in my own bed in a month. I've been pretty busy and will try to catch up. Easter weekend we took a quickie trip to NYC.

One thing I was really excited about was getting to go to the Central Park Zoo. I've run by this place hundreds of times and never went inside. I was really excited when I saw they had a red panda. I LOVE red pandas. And this guy was quite active running around his enclosure.

Cutie Pie!

I also thought this was cool:

They have fur on the bottom of their feet like rabbits. And they are crepuscular like rabbits, too. It is official. If I ever can't have a rabbit I'm getting a red panda.

We were strolling down Fifth Avenue when we passed FAO Schwarz and saw this:

This of course warranted a look inside:

"Bunnies are our best friends indeed, they do delight and give glad dreams."

I have to say, I think Mario is the ultimate Bunny by the Bay living in San Francisco and all...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Mario

My domestic goddess, meet Mario Stewart

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Big Sur International Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #27:

Decided to go for the full marathon. Finished.

The Full Recap, Marathon #27:

Many apologies, as I didn't even put up a post saying I was doing the marathon this weekend. After some thought I decided to go for it. My ankle, while not anywhere close to 100%, has not been giving me any trouble while running. I rested as prescribed and was given the green light to run again. I've been cramming a lot of running in the last two weeks to get to a point I felt somewhat sane going after a marathon finish.

Two weeks ago I went on a slow, huffy-puffy three mile run after not running three weeks. I woke up the next day and literally felt like I had run a marathon. Over the last two weeks I did a bunch of runs while mixing in walking to try to get back in enough shape for Big Sur. I did a 13.1 mile run/walk last Friday and proclaimed myself as ready as I'd ever be.

In case you didn't know, part of Highway 1 was destroyed in a landslide earlier this year. As such, they couldn't do the normal Big Sur to Carmel point-to-point course this year. Instead, there was an out-and-back course which started and ended at the normal finish in Carmel. Because of this, some of my favorite miles in marathoning (miles 10-13 of Big Sur) were deleted from this year's event. But even then I was really excited to be out on the course and to be a part of this year's "off" course.

I have done extensive photos in previous Big Sur reports (reference 2010 and 2009) and I find that each year I run I find the need to take less and less photos. Therefore, this one won't be so photo dense nor so detail dense.

When we arrived at the start people were lining up for coffee. I don't drink coffee and was really cold (I stupidly thought a space sheet and some throwaway gloves would be enough to keep me warm). But then I realized they were serving hot chocolate! I am all about the hot chocolate!! Major props to them for thinking of us non coffee-heads.

Oh, Big Sur. I knew I liked you before, but after this it is love.

We found a spot to hunker down and pass the time. There was a stiff breeze and it was chilly. A guy walked by and told us that there was a 24 hour Safeway in the area and that there were swarms of runners all over the place. "It's hysterical. I've already facebooked it." Of course we had to check it out.

Sure enough, the Safeway was nice and warm. And there were tons of runners everywhere. Runners in the aisles. Runners lining up for the restroom. Runners sitting in lawn chairs reading magazines (I thought this was sort of sad). Runners riding the go-cart shopping carts. Runners sitting on the bagging counters. It was both something out of the twilight zone and comical at the same time. At any moment I expected an announcement kindly asking us all to leave.

The lawn chair crew

Just your normal day in the cereal aisle

We first camped out by the wine and later were in the soup/rice aisle. Safeway saved me. I would have been a frozen popsicle otherwise. Everyone please run out and give Safeway some love today.

I knew that Big Sur was going to be a long day for me. I knew that the last miles were going to be a slog of epic proportion. In short, I needed something to look forward to at the end of the race. A couple of days before the race I was at the grocery store and noticed the 50% off Easter candy. I am sucker for 50% off holiday candy. I picked up some seasonal favorites of mine -- Peeps! A running friend of mine once told me that during a marathon she had passed a spectator who was handing out Peeps. She ate a couple and had the most amazing pick-me-up of her running life. Ever since then she stocked up on Peeps throughout the year and used them towards the end of her race.

I've always wanted to try this but never had Peeps on-hand (I'm sorry, I can't stockpile them. If I have them, I have to eat them). A marathon where I thought I might post a personal worst was definitely the race to try it out.

I tweeted this:

Which linked to a photo of this:

I had no clue how I was going to tote them along, but I knew I was going to try.

Luckily I received my new iFitness belt hydration add-ons days before the race. When I run with my camera I like to carry my water in a belt so I have two hands free to take photos. I'm a little sick of my Nathan belt which I have to wear on my natural waist, and wanted to see if the iFitness which rides lower around my hips would work well. I only needed to carry one water bottle since I was planning on using the aid stations, so I tucked my little Peep friends into the second bottle holder.

I had done a little experimenting with the run/walking and had tried a 5 minute run/5 minute walk interval during an 8 mile run. I figured time was the way to go so that I would end up running a longer distance than I was walking. The only thing is that Big Sur is so freakin' hilly you can't really follow that plan to a T because you might end up running all the uphills and walking all the downhills. I had debated when I should start the walk breaks and thought maybe I'd run 2 miles before settling in. The longest consecutive run segment I had done in the two weeks prior to the race was 7 miles and there were days that even 3 miles seemed hard.

At the start I ran into my friend, KL, and we stuck together for over 6.5 miles. She had just run Boston two weeks before so was happy to start off slow. I kept thinking I should start my walk breaks at the next hill, but I was having so much fun chatting and catching up I just kept running. I probably could have kept up the running a few more miles but sadly told her to go ahead so I could get with my run/walk program. I knew I had to start walking while I still felt good for it to be of any worth.

Michael Martinez -- this year at mile 5.5ish and 20somethingish instead of 13.1
This year, "Hallelujah" on the way out and "Send in the Clowns" on the way back in.

While not as beautiful as the normal course, there were still plenty of great views on the out-and-back.

Runners going out, runners coming back.

Coming up to the turn-around. Mercifully it was located before that nasty little uphill.

From miles 6.5 to around perhaps 14 I kept with my 5:5 run/walk ratio. I stuck to a strict 5 minute walking time frame but if I was running and was on a downhill I would continue running until I reached an uphill.

Eventually I lost the will to run any of the uphills and pretty much walked most uphills and ran the downhills. This strategy pretty much breaks down to a 50% walk/run interval so I wasn't losing too much ground.

Finally heading back home

I hadn't realized that the turnaround would be in view of the Bixby Bridge. I am very sad I didn't get to run over it this year, but I am already planning on next year.

I walked up anything that looked like this.

While I sort of feel it ruins some of the magic, we got to pass both the pianist and the taiko drummers twice.

Heading back towards the taiko drummers

Another uphill winding into the distance

Love the strawberry stop!

I had planned to eat my Peeps sometime after the strawberry stop so they wouldn't ruin the strawberry experience for me. I actually sort of forgot I had them, but at mile 23.5 I remembered and took them out.

Get in mah belly!

Nom, nom.

The one difference between this out-and-back course was a little diversion through Point Lobos. I probably should have taken more photos since we hopefully won't be running through here again in future years, but this is the only photo I bothered taking since I was too busy eating Peeps:

It got a little warm, though there was a cool breeze which saved the day.

I had a hard time eating this last guy. With his offset eyes and nose he had a bit of personality.

As I wiped the Peep sugar powder off my face I got down to business with the last few miles. I was actually ahead of my best-guess prediction I had for myself. As I was power walking up the last hill at mile 25 (cruel, cruel world) I realized I could squeak under 5:30 if I just kept running. I wasn't exactly sure how much farther I had to go since there hadn't been a mile 25 mile marker and I didn't know how off Garmin was. But I figured I'd give it a shot. It was a slight fight to the end. It wasn't that it was so hard to keep running -- my legs didn't feel so horrible -- it was just hard to not walk since the last 10 miles I let myself walk whenever things had gotten a little tough.

I was pushing pretty hard the last little stretch which always feels sort of ridiculous to me when you've moseyed along the course the whole time the way I had. But it paid off when I crossed with this:

Nothing feels better than squeaking under arbitrary time goals at the last moment.

In addition to my hot chocolate Big Sur swoon, they also wooed me this year with gender-specific XS shirts. My first Big Sur year I got a unisex XXS. Not bad, but not great. Last year I got a women's small -- also not bad, but not great. But this shiny year they raised the bar and had an XS women's shirt waiting for me. I don't even remember clicking that option when I registered.

Hello, shirt I can wear! Smooches.

Both Alyssa (who smashed freakin' Big Sur with an ah-mazing sub-4 race -- I'd like to take 1% credit for this since I talked her into switching from the 21 mile distance to the 26.2, ha ha) and I bought "Hurricane Point" survivor shirts. This is supposed to be hilarious because we didn't run Hurricane Point this year with the modified course. The race had these printed up before the landslide changed the course.

I've always wanted one of these but in previous years they only went to a size small. XS this year, baby! Plus, they had the old-school artwork I miss from older Big Sur shirts. I am not a big fan of the new modern designs the last two years. It was discounted down to $18 from $28 (which was a plus, though I thought they should have been cheaper). I thought it so perfectly summed up the craziness and kookiness of the last couple of months for me and I will wear it proudly. Inside joke to all the runners (and bunny bloggers) in the know.

I'm really happy I decided to do the marathon. I am also very happy to have this monkey off my back and can get back to a regular training routine. This was an awesome Girls' Weekend in Monterey with some super awesome ladies (Jessica, Page, Alyssa, Aron, Kristen, Susan, & Tara). I had such a blast and am counting down the days 'til registration opens for Big Sur 2012. I definitely have some redemption to chase out there on Highway 1 and it sounds like tons of people are planning on doing the race next year.

I've decided all good marathon stories must end with pedicures from here on out.

Note to self: Next year, take a photo with mile marker 9