Thursday, December 29, 2011

Boxing Day Grinches and Will I Survive My 22-Miler

According to the folks at the Houston Area Road Runners Association, I didn’t run a real official race on Monday but tell that to my sore ass and back! Seriously, though, if you want to read about appalling adult temper tantrums go read this rundown of the story. If you’re pissed enough tweet about it or forward it to your friends.

Since my body certainly feels like it ran a real half marathon on Monday, I have been reevaluating my marathon training schedule. It really isn’t an unreasonable schedule – it’s very similar to how I trained for LA in ‘03 (an 18, two 20’s, and a 22). And I was very prepared for that race (negative split on a 75 degree day). However, what I didn’t do back then was race my back down weeks in between 20 milers and then also throw in a mid-week tempo run to boot.

I have never had back issues in my life. Yet as I write this, my lower back, left side, is an achy mother f****r. Not too far away is a sore upper left IT band. Coincidence? I think not.

So, I’ve decided no more racing until Carlsbad. And also? No tempo run this week or next. Isn’t racing a half marathon more than enough “tempo”? I don’t know why this just occurred to me, but, duh. It’s harder than a tempo run. I am going to try to get the same mileage in this week but slower. I ran 5 miles yesterday and felt OK during, but the last mile, the back starting complaining again. I want to survive my 22 miler but the way my back is feeling, I don’t know. It would certainly be annoying to miss my key long run before the marathon. However, I don’t want to end up in a crumpled heap on the 101 calling my husband to come pick my ass up at mile 10.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Operation Jack Half Marathon

Last weekend I completed my longest mileage week ever – 42 miles. Not even while training for the LA marathon in ‘03 did I run over 40 miles that I can remember. As one would expect, I am feeling it. Thursday evening I played Old Woman and tweaked my back picking up a loaded laundry basket. Yeah, who feels like they need to join AARP with her sciatica?

I managed to get through 11 easy miles on Friday and Saturday but I could always feel it there, nagging me (“Haaaayyy. It’s your baaacck, how’s it goin’? ”). So I wasn’t sure what to expect of my performance at OJ on Monday morning.

Christmas day I ate a ton of beef and buttery things (Husband used 1.5 pounds of butter in his baking escapades) and about three-quarters of a bottle of wine (that was reining myself in, by the way). Went to bed at 9pm but didn’t manage to actually fall asleep until 11:30pm. Four AM came very quickly (and apparently this is just when my bachelor brother-in-law in Hermosa Beach was going to sleep). We hit the road on-time at 5am. I had to make an emergency stop both for emergency coffee and also the other kind of emergency, if you know what I’m sayin’ (Sbucks has clean bathrooms, yo).

Meanwhile I get a tweet from Sarah and we both pull into the parking lot at 6:45am, and walked down to the start at El Porto Beach.

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(I lived two blocks from here from 2001-2002. Aside from my apartment being a poorly maintained shithole, it had a small ocean view and you could not beat the location)

I got to meet Julie, a twitter pal, at the check in desk! And she also was doing the timing at the end. Volunteer extraordinaire!

Before the start, Sam and his wife, Tiffany, got up and said a few words about what we were running for – raising money and awareness of autism.

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What stuck with me the whole race was one line Tiffany said – I’m paraphrasing here, “Run for the kids who have to live with autism every day.” I think we sometimes forget how they must feel trapped inside in own minds with this disease.

Then it was time to run! This race was capped at 300 entrants and it was gun-timed. So Sarah and I tried to squeeze our butts close to the start line. We took off right away - I had barely gotten my head phones on! Right from the get-go, Sarah pushed the pace ~8:05. And my legs seriously felt like lead.

You know when you’re running and you feel like the way you are landing must sound and look like a 300 pound gorilla? Just flopping your feet down in the most ungraceful manner? That’s how my legs felt the first six miles. My breathing was ok – but my legs. Man, they wanted nothing to do with this race. I did my best to hang on with Sarah, either next to her or just behind. It felt hard. Which, mentally, was tough because just two weeks ago at Santa to the Sea, 7:55 felt easy. I repeated to myself at least five times “Your legs will loosen up, just keep going. Don’t worry about the pace, you can pick it up later”

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Mile 2.5 we saw Heather who cheered for us (incidentally, she was very quiet on the return at mile 11 – where was the obnoxious volunteering we saw at mile 2?!)

Mile 6 we ran into a headwind and saw a field small rocks all stacked precariously on top of each other along the side of the canal. Sarah decided Heather would think they were creepy. I agreed. Then just after mile 6, she high-fived Sam running in the opposite direction and took off. My legs were still unfreezing themselves so I just let her go.

Meanwhile, my husband found Santa Claus surfing at El Porto.

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After the turn-around things started improving for me. I was landing less like Frankenstein and more like a normal runner. I had been routinely eating my clif shot bloks every odd  mile (I think this is my new strategy – it’s working) and drinking in the hopes I could salvage the race.

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Hello 7:xx splits! Finally. Somewhere around mile 10 I caught up with Sarah. I wasn’t sure if I should try to drag her with me or if that would be annoying and obnoxious. Generally that shit doesn’t work with me, I have to decide to move out of my own volition, so I just said “You’ve got time banked” because she did. Even of the last miles were going to be painful, a PR was still possible.

Then my back decided that it was totally Over This Race. I hung on for another mile, and then we had a hill – nothing huge, but it was still a hill. Maybe like 20 feet or so. Killed my mile 12 split – 8:20. I just hung on for the last mile and change (the change was .23 – I apparently didn’t run good tangents or my Garmin was off).

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Finish line action shots!

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Final official time 1:46:38, 5th female overall (of 111).

Considering how this race felt the first six miles, I am happy with the outcome. It’s my second fastest non-Fontana half marathon time (this whole having to write “non-Fontana” s getting old). Had I not run stupid tangents, I would have been under 1:46.

Apples to apples (i.e. garmin to garmin) it’s only 8 seconds per miles slower than Santa to Sea. With two 20-milers in recent weeks and a PR half marathon, I think my body is a bit tired. This week is my highest mileage week – 44 miles. A 9 mile tempo this Thursday, and 22 miles next Monday. I am SO READY FOR CARLSBAD TAPER ALREADY.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! Off to make my coffee, do laundry, maybe hit a yoga class (eh, maybe), and then tile my shower (loving my company’s holiday vacation policy).

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Santa To The Sea Half Marathon

I didn’t have any plans to run this race – I was going to run the Holiday Classic again in Loma Linda, but then Schwaggle drew me in with a $38 entry fee. The only unfortunate part of this race for me is the fact that there is no race day pick up (without paying a $25 VIP fee). So we had to drive up the day before – it’s about a 3 hour drive without traffic which meant we had to spend the night. I managed to find a cheap hotel that wasn’t scary in Camarillo right next to the outlets (which we didn’t manage to avoid the next day but wallet damage was minimal).

Pick up was a cinch – the tech tee is cute and we got random good stuff in the goodie bag including a pack of shot bloks and gu chomps. After that we met a friend for dinner and managed to check out two local craft breweries in Ventura (beer=carbo-loading).

I woke up around 5am for an 8am start (yeah, kind of early but I don’t like rushing around). The race is point-to-point, and starts at this semi-historic 101 Landmark – a massive Santa Claus statue right off the freeway.

Thus the name “Santa to the Sea” because you literally run from the Santa to the ocean in Oxnard.

I had The Husband drop me off at the start rather than taking a shuttle. Which was good because it was FREEZING so at least I got to wait in the car for a while rather than in 40 degrees. He finally had to leave and I waited about an hour walking around aimlessly to keep from freezing – I even ran a bit as a warmup. They had the UPS bag check (awesome) so I held on to my sweatshirt until the last possible minute.

After sadly parting with my sweatshirt, I made my way to the chute. There were corral guidelines that everyone pretty much followed – no walkers in the sub 2:00 corrals that I could see. I found myself right in front of the 1:50 pacer and told him I had to stay ahead of him!

We took off and the 1:50 pacer passes me (already?!) but my watch showed 8:11 pace so, it was even a bit fast for 1:50. At some point in the first mile I passed him back. I don’t remember where.

This race is pretty much flat. According to Garmin there is 55 feet of climbing and 112 feet of downhill. There were only a couple hills I remember – one overpass and then another little guy. Most of the 57 feet of downhill comes in the second half. 

Mile 1: 7:58

Err, ok, at this point I figured it was just excitement. It would ease up.

Mile 2: 7:57

Again? I thought I was running slower.

Mile 3 & 4: 7:54, 7:53

At this point I felt great but I was really worried about these splits. These splits are fast. I don’t run 4 consecutive 7’s. Sure it was flat as a pancake, but still.  I ate my first blok here and continued to eat one shot blok every odd mile.

Mile 5 & 6: 8:03, 8:00

Finally! Seriously when I saw those “8” miles I felt a little relief that I had managed to ease up. Even though it was only 6 or 7 seconds slower. We had started running through neighborhoods and were approaching the Oxnard city center. The spectator support was awesome! I had a smile on my face most of this race. For such a small event, I was impressed.

Mile 7, 8, & 9: 7:58, 7:56, 7:57

Again, this had me concerned. Seven of the nine miles I had done were under 8:00. I have been known to start sagging at mile 10 after going out too fast. SO, yeah, I was worried. It was around this point I started noticing who I was running with and wondering if maybe I could catch some of them. Good mental distraction.

Mile 10: 7:51

Yeah, WTF. I do remember this mile feeling hard. I also remember leapfrogging with two women so maybe that made me push. We had pretty much made it to the coastal area and were making our way south to the finish at Embassy Suites Mandalay Bay. I told myself that I just had a 5K and keep the miles under 8:00!

Mile 11: 7:53

Hurting a bit here. We hit the beach path and I passed a guy I had chatted with at the start – we exchanged words of encouragement and I kept trucking. It was difficult to get out more than 3 or 4 words. I had one more female ahead that I thought I might be able to catch.

Mile 12: 7:55

At this point I knew I was going to smash my non-Fontana PR. But the question was how much energy would I have left to give in the final mile.

Mile 13: 7:49

The finish was kind of annoying – we had this narrow path to run down between orange cones and school buses. Only fit one person and I kind of got stuck behind this older guy. I decided to quickly swerve outside the cones to get around him. I could tell he wasn’t pleased but whatever. I had managed to pass the last chick earlier in this mile and this dude was not going to sabotage my effort.

Final .12: 47.7 (6:41 pace)

How I had any kick left, I don’t even know. The announcer read my name and actually pronounced my first name correctly! This resulted in a huge grin spreading across my face even though I was sprinting (dying). The little kick eeked me under the 1:44 mark with a finish of 1:43:56 - 7:56 pace.

Some bad finish line photos to laugh at:

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That’s the dude that I had to swerve around. Sorry, man, these short legs were on a mission.

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(Yeah,  I chopped my hair off last week – donating it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths)

This race was very well run. They had three aid stations with GU. There were plenty of water stops. Mile markers for all miles (most were accurate – except mile 12 which freaked me out – it was at 11.8 miles). Food at the finish was plentiful – coconut water, a jamba juice “apples & greens” drink I’d never seen before (but decided to drink because, hello, free?). Medal is cute and made in the USA (not China).

As for my effort – I am pleased. Sure it was an easy course but I can’t classify it as a Fontana-Easy. It is pretty much flat. 57 feet of downhill over 13.1 miles isn’t very much. So, I consider it a real PR. Yay!