October 19, 2010

Long Beach Half Recap

I don't have any specific reason why, but the Long Beach Half Marathon has been the favorite of the 7 half-marathons I've run.  Last year, Long Beach was my second half marathon, and this year it was my seventh.  Last year I was under trained and this year I was over trained having just ran the Chicago Marathon the week prior, but both times I've surprised myself with my performance and I think that's part of the reason I love this race.

In addition to doing well, the size of the race is perfect for my liking (that's what she said?), the weather was perfect (especially after Chicago), and the course itself is scenic and fast, with a couple tiny hills to break up the monotony my muscles don't seem to appreciate on a completely flat course.

After arriving at the start with a perfect amount of time to spare (thanks to a cop on the 710 showing me how to avoid the traffic) I positioned myself at the end of one of the many long lines for the porta-potty.  For once, I picked the fast line and I was in-n-out just in time to force my way into the middle of wave 4 as the gun went off.

I waited around for about 15 minutes as waves 1-3 started, watching impatient people jump the fence to run up to the front, or push their way forward through the tightly packed crowd.  I'll still never completely understand this.

When my wave was finally off I really had no race plan because I had no idea how I was going to feel after having run a marathon.  I was standing close behind the 4:30 pace group and decided a 2:15 half sounded modest enough, and figured it'd be a good time to see what these pace groups are all about, so I joined the pack.  After about a half a mile, I realized the pacer had WAY too much energy and was going to drive me nuts if I stuck with him for another 12.5 miles (I'm sure some people appreciate this, but not my style), so I picked up the pace and left the group in the dust.  Perhaps unrelated, but I watched the same pacer make his way into the finish...alone.

I really enjoyed the first 5-6 miles of the course with all of the turns, small hills on the overpasses, and being able to see the runners ahead and behind you at different spots.  Much like last year, this part of the course went by really fast, and I was surprised how great my legs felt especially since I was averaging about a 9:30 min/mile.  I took Powerade and water at all of the stops, and my first Gu at mile 5...without stopping!

Things started to fall apart soon afterward, at mile 7.  I was finally feeling the fatigue in my legs and my butt of all things locked up and felt like lead.  My never-ending achilles issue presented itself again and by mile 8 it hurt pretty badly.  I had my mind set of breaking my time from last year, a 2:08, and was on pace to do so until this point.  I thought about pushing on for another 5 miles, but decided it'd be best to take it easy, slow things down, and recover a bit until mile 10 where I'd pick it back up again for the last 5k.

Mile 10 came around, my leg was feeling better, I took my 2nd and last Gu, and got ready to pick it back up.  There's a slight gradual incline around mile 10 and I was having an issue getting my butt moving again (literally) so my pace continued to be a bit slow and I knew I wasn't going to be able to do as well as last year.  Oh well, better than getting hurt!

A few motorcycle cops and a truck passed me at mile 11, closely followed by the leader of the marathon.  I knew I was almost done and seeing that guy fly past me was motivation enough to get going and I picked up the pace for the last two miles, finishing in just over 2:10 - not too bad!  I didn't break my time from last year, but I was happy with my decision to let up a bit, and was impressed with my legs for surviving a marathon and a half within a week.  Splits from the race here.

I love the medals this year, and I really liked how the post-race food was well organized by giving each runner a small bag instead of it being a chaotic free-for-all.  Can't wait to do it again :-).

Next up is the Catalina Eco-Marathon in three weeks, and not sure how to prepare for that, but for now I'm giving my legs some much needed rest and recovery.

October 17, 2010

Chicago Marathon Recap

To get the stats out of the way...

Time: 5:27:25 - palindrome! :)
Place (overall): 27945
Place (females): 11388
Place (20-24): 1151

And my not-so-negative splits can be found here.

Going into this race, I knew it was probably going to be sub-par as I trained horribly, so my dream of running a 4:30 (or 10:10 pace on 10/10/10) was unlikely.  However, I was confident that I could PR or at least run about the same time as my first marathon, a 4:50, after my last 20 mile training run in which I managed to hold onto a 10:08 pace.  It became pretty clear that this was not going to happen either by the 2nd mile.

Pre-race I was lucky enough to get access to the special facilities for the Chicago running group, CARA, so I got to avoid all of the porta-potties, and lines, and hang out on the second floor of The Congress Hotel and eat bagels while talking to some first-time marathoners.

I made my way to the start and positioned myself just behind the 4:45 pace group, thinking that would be a more realistic goal.  The race started, and about 20 minutes later I was finally able to cross the starting line!  The first few miles were pretty uneventful except for the ridiculous amount of guys urinating on the supporting beams underneath the first bridge.

My garmin freaked out a bit being between all of the huge buildings, and I was weaving around the crowds of people, which lead to my first mental lapse by the third mile.  I was feeling fine and keeping my pace slow, but I noticed that my garmin was already reading 0.38 miles long.  I let this discourage me as my pace was actually much slower than I thought, and I let it continued to discourage me until mile 23 when I realized that no matter what distance my watch said I had run, I only had 3 miles left.  By the time I finished, I had run 26.89 miles.

At mile 5, we made our way into a park, and again flocks of guys were coming in and out of the not very wooded trees to urinate.  I had to go as well, but opted for the porta-potties resulting in about a 3-5 minute break.  It seems unfair that guys can just go wherever and waste less time, but they also attributed to the porta-potty line being much shorter so I guess I won't complain!

I don't remember the miles much leading up to the half way point (come to think of it, I felt totally lost and disoriented the whole race), just that I started feeling fatigued already by mile 10 and began walking through all of the water stops.  Throughout the day, I would take Gatorade, and then water at every single stop, which definitely helped me out when the heat started rising.  At the half way point, I was not feeling good anymore - I was starting to feel my lack of training.  This was the first time I took out my phone, letting Pete know I didn't think I'd finish before 5:15 and that I was having a hard time.

My achilles started aching around mile 14, and by mile 15 I decided I was done with this race.  My legs were tired, I knew there was no way I'd come even close to my previous time of 4:50, and it was getting hot out, so I gave in.  This is when I started walking quite a bit, and tweeting about how much it sucked.  But I wasn't about to drop out of the race, so I kept moving along, stopping a few times to stretch my legs.

Mile 20 finally came along and I knew I could finish.  Looking at all of the people around me, I knew I wasn't the only one hurting.  The heat was approaching 90 degrees and the whole running field looked zombie-like.  This was about when I saw a guy carrying a 7 foot mini Eiffel Tower on his back...I was not about to let that guy beat me.  I started running again and continued a walk/run pattern.

I was in so much pain by mile 23, and all I wanted to do was finish.  I knew I needed to pick it back up a bit and focus on running if I was going to finish sub-5:30, so I kept a slow, steady pace and tried my best not to walk until I crossed the finish line.  The crowd during the whole race was amazing - I couldn't believe how many people were out cheering in the streets compared to any other race I've done.  The last mile to the finish was definitely powered by the crowds as their numbers grew even more and everyone was encouraging you to push it to the finish.  I finally made my way around the last corner and kicked it in as fast as I could manage.  Crossing a finish line has never felt so good.

I got my medal and walked, for what seemed like forever, out of the finish area.  The pain that flowed into my legs was awful so I just kept walking all the way back to the hotel where I was able to keep my drop bag.  I met up with Pete and his friend, and headed to straight to the bar where I learned I wasn't the only one to have a less than awesome race.

It was a rough day out there, but I had a great time with my first big marathon experience, and am happy to add a second marathon finish to the books!  I learned a lot from this race - especially that 26.2 miles is no cake walk, and requires a lot of training if you want it to be successful (at least for me).  I also learned that I have what it takes to finish a marathon on a tough day, but that I have a lot to work on both physically and mentally.

Next up - Long Beach Half!

September 8, 2010

I'm Coming Out....

...of my pitiful four month rut filled with copious amounts of running loathage and complete demotivational suckage. Yeah, that about sums it up.

Since completing my first marathon on May 2nd, I've been very down on running.  I'm not sure why or how it started.  I was thrilled to have run my first marathon, and I guess equally thrilled to not have to run 4-5 days a week for hours on end.  I finally had a life again, even if it wasn't very eventful, and within record time it seemed I had kicked that running habit and developed a new one as a laziness extraordinaire.  But when it came time to start training for Chicago in July, I got right back into the swing of things...I wish.

I didn't completely quit running, as I had a "goal" this year to run a race every month, but those races seemed to make up the majority of the running I did, and needless to say, they didn't go over super well.

Here are some very brief recaps of the races I completed this summer (yep, I was that unexcited about running I couldn't even find the motivation to blog about the races at the time).

Peters Canyon Summer Trail Series
This is a really chill, fun, series of 5-mile trail races that happen on a Thursday evening once a month over the summer.  This was also my very first trail run last summer after moving out to California and I was excited to run the course again.

I managed to beat my time from last year at all three races, and had a blast despite being rather out of shape!

San Francisco 1st Half Marathon
I decided to sign up for this race somewhat last minute to complete 2/3 of the California Dreamin' Series.  I was not ready for this race AT ALL as I had not run AT ALL in at least a week.  However, this ended up being a fantastic weekend since I finally got to meet my twitter buds Ron and Joe and tour some of SF on my 2nd visit to the city.

I met up with Ron first thing after getting off the BART to get my race bag he was kind enough to pick up for me, and ended up running with him for the first 6 miles of the race the next morning until my bum calf (and lack of running) forced me to resign from my "pacing" duties.  Ron kicks ass and I was honored to have been able to run with him, even if it was only 6 miles :-)

Running over the Golden Gate Bridge was pretty spectacular, and it was a great course in general...but the hills...you'd have to be crazy to run the full marathon.  I struggled a bit from about mile 11 on, and finished around 2:16 - not a PR, but not my worst half either - I'll take it!

After the race, I got a chance to have some drinks with Joe at his Runners World get together and had a bitchin time hanging out, relaxing, and talking until I had to leave to catch my flight.

Bulldog 25k
This race was absolutely BRUTAL as I was not trained or ready one bit.  It took me only 50 minutes less to complete this 15ish mile run than it did to complete my first marathon...yikes!  I don't have a whole lot to say about this race other than it was a really hot, really scenic, really exhausting 15 mile walk in the Santa Monica mountains on a lovely Saturday morning!  I won the battle a 65 yr old man decided to start with me around mile 4, and I only got lapped by about 10 of the people running the 50k - so I'll call that a win!

Special thanks to the race photographers for displaying "warning" signs that I better "look cool" and like I'm "having fun" because they would be taking our pictures up ahead.  This is the only reason I look so happy and awesome :-).

After the race I got to hang out with Josh, Graham and a few other friends and talk about my death march while we watched some more of the fast 50k racers finish close behind me.

You'd think with a decent amount of races this summer that my training for my next big race, the Chicago Marathon, has been going well.  Noooope.  Once I got out of the habit of running practically everyday, I could never get it back.  No matter how much I fought with myself, I'd always come up with some excuse not to run, and usually the excuse wasn't good.  I just didn't want to run; it no longer seemed fun - just a lot of time and energy I didn't want to spend running all over the place, and a lot of aches and pains I didn't want to feel.  The excitement of completing my first marathon was gone and I couldn't figure out why I'd want to do it all over again so soon.  The motivation and desire wasn't there, I couldn't find it, and as a result I've probably logged about half as many miles as I did training for my first marathon.

Chicago is just over a month away and I'm finally ready to bust out of this sucktastic running funk.

I watched "Spirit of the Marathon" the other night and something finally clicked back on, and I'm finally excited and passionate about running again.  Due to the unfortunate training leading up to this point, Chicago is going to be painful for me, no doubt, but I can't wait for the big city, the enthusiastic crowds, and hopefully all the tweeps I get to meet and/or see again; it's going to be an absolute blast.

Yesterday I went for my first run in about a week and it was fan-fucking-tastic.  I haven't felt that great on a run since I can remember :-)

Stay away injuries, and bring it on...cuz I'm back!

June 15, 2010

My Issue with Tissue

For the past month and a half since the marathon, my life has consisted of very little running and lots of doing other things.  It has been lacking so much running-related activity that I have digressed to writing about toilet paper...yes, TP, the butt-wiping tissue.

Ever since sophomore year of college, when I moved out of the dorms and had to begin buying my own toilet paper, I've been in awe of just how much toilet paper an apartment of 2-5 girls can go through in what seemed like a very short amount of time.
*i would just stop reading now*
A few months ago, I decided to start keeping track of toilet paper usage at my apartment to see what kind of conclusions I could draw, if any.  For three rounds of toilet paper that I bought (my roommate and I take turns), I kept track of the price, number of rolls, number of sheets per roll, and the date purchased and date the package of toilet paper ran out.  Seemed like good things to note.

Meet my toilet paper
To reduce variability, I bought the exact same toilet paper each time.  I picked generic Target brand TP because it's cheaper, but not so cheap that it's quality is awful and going to inflict pain upon my sensitive areas.  I picked a package of 6 rolls, because less than that means I have to waste time buying more, sooner, and I didn't choose more than 6 rolls simply because my roommate never does and we have to keep things fair, right? :)  Each package of 6 rolls had 286 sheets per roll and cost $3.79.

On average, the 6-roll pack of toilet paper lasted 27 days.  This means between my roommate and I, and a couple random visitors, we used about 1/5 of a roll of toilet paper or 64 sheets every day.  That doesn't seem THAT bad, but you have to remember we're not home most of the day during the work week, or even that often during the weekends.  So it really is a bit ridiculous, and wasteful.  If just the two of us use that much toilet paper every day, I wonder how much toilet paper is produced daily.

Conclusions lacking usefulness
- Not taking into consideration fluctuations in price or usage, and keeping the type of toilet paper constant, it costs my roommate and I about $0.14 per day or $51 per year to use the bathroom.
- No big deal, this is less expensive than I had in mind, but I guarantee it costs a household of guys way less.  Another reason why they have it easier.
- I'm going to continue using toilet paper liberally, but buy in bulk so it seems like I'm using less because I'm buying it less often.
- Even if I tried to limit my toilet paper usage, my roommate and the rest of the population would cancel out my efforts. Ahem, toilet papering houses.
- This was a waste of time, but I'm no longer curious.
- What is the point of having tiny sheets?

And then I found $20.

May 16, 2010

Bike to Work Week

It's Bike to Work Week!  This girl is coming out of bicycle commuting retirement and pedaling to and from work all week, and I'm actually really excited :-)

I would like to encourage everyone to participate in BTWW by riding your bike to work some day this week, or by using public transportation - or both!

There are many great reasons to ride your bike to work - here are a few:
1.  Exercise is always good for you - use the bike ride as a way to cross train.
2.  It's a fun way to wake yourself up in the morning, and cool down after work.
3.  Bike shorts are sexy.
4.  Riding your bike or using public transportation is an environmentally friendly alternative to driving your car
5.  and you save gas money!
...etc, etc, etc.

OCTA has put together a nice program where you can pledge to bike to work and receive a gift certificate to Jax Bicycles, and get entered to win numerous prizes.  They also provide a bike map, and bus routes/schedules for Orange County.  Check it out here!

Pedal away, friends!

May 3, 2010

I'm a Marathoner!

It still hasn't quite sunk in that I just ran 26.2 miles.  Ignoring my screaming quads, it doesn't feel like I ran that far, or like I spent almost 5 hours of my day just running - it feels more like I just finished a long training run, and a lot of people happened to be there, or something.  It's a strange "did that really happen? naw, it couldn't have" sort of feeling, but at the same time I'm floating on cloud 9, and a bit sore in funny places, so I must have done something amazing!  Maybe I need to go drive what I can of the course and remind myself that I am a crazy person who just ran crazy far.

Thanks to my mom, who flew in from Minnesota to visit and watch me run my first marathon, I got to spend Friday and Saturday at the Newport Beach Marriott conveniently located about two blocks from the start of the marathon.  It was a bit funny staying at a hotel for a marathon only 6 miles away from my apartment in Huntington Beach, but it was incredibly relaxing and made the morning of the marathon way less hectic.  I spent most of my Saturday eating, drinking lots of water, and relaxing next to one of the pools.  A little taste of heaven.

Sunday morning, I didn't have to wake up until shortly after 5am since we had literally a 5 min walk to the starting line.  I got dressed, pinned on my number, made some oatmeal, and headed up to the lobby to give Billy his race number.  We headed back down to the room where Pete was still getting ready, and chatted for a bit while I finished my oatmeal.  It was great to see Billy before the race, and hear that he would be biking around looking for me around the 20 mile mark after he finished the half.

Finally, at about 6:10am we headed to the start of the race.  I told Pete good-luck, and he jogged to the start to make his way up towards the front with the fast people since he was going to be running a speedy half.  My mom and I then casually walked over to the crowded start, and I eventually planted myself near "corral C."  I realized later, after waiting 10 minutes just to cross the start line, that I probably should have lined up a bit closer.  Oh well.  It was during this time that a few "fast" guys were complaining about how they somehow managed to line up towards the back of the pack and one felt the need to say, "so this is what it's like to be slow."  I wanted to slap him.  If you're a fast marathoner...shouldn't you know better?

Anyway, I was surprisingly the least nervous I've ever been for a race, and was relaxed when I finally made my way across the starting line some time around 6:40am.

Miles 1-5:
Taking most everyone's advice, I started off slow - almost painfully slow.  Since we started with the half marathoners, and they greatly out-numbered the marathoners (1498 marathoners finished; 6112 half marathoners finished), it was a little hard to keep going at a slow pace, and people were passing me left and right, but I knew it was for the best and averaged the first 5 miles at about a 10:45 pace, still feeling fresh and full of energy.  I relaxed and enjoyed the only views I'd be seeing of the ocean, and sort of watched all of the people around me.  I teared up a bit when I saw a lady running for a little girl named Andrea who had cancer - the picture on her shirt, and the fact that she had my name, made me sad.  I also got a bit emotional when I saw the Marines pushing their Sergeant in a wheel chair.  At this point, I told myself I wasn't even to mile 5, and I really needed to mentally HTFU if I was going to make it to the finish!

Miles 6-10:
I was most excited for this part of the course.  It was mainly through the beautiful Back Bay, where I had done both of my 20 mile training runs, and I knew my mom would be waiting for me at the top of the hill at the 9.5 mile mark.  I was still going pretty slow, even getting a little bit slower.  This is the first point where I contemplated picking the pace up since I was feeling good, but since I had never done this before and it was still early in the race, I kept trotting along at about the same pace.  Somewhere between miles 8 and 9 I could tell my legs were getting a little bit tired, and it freaked me out a bit since it was so early in the race!  I told myself my legs were just warming up, working out the kinks, and I'd be fine.  I ran past a bunch of people walking up the hill (that was fun!), and saw my mom - who had surprised me by making a sign!

Miles 11-15:
The most annoying part of the race for the marathon runners.  I lost count of how many times volunteers and people cheering yelled, "you're almost there!" because we were running with the people doing the half marathon.  I wasn't even half of the way there so hearing this over and over was not fun, at all.  Just after mile 12, we parted ways with the half marathon runners, and suddenly it was like I was running alone.  I went from being surrounded by tons of people to having maybe 10 runners in sight.  My energy fizzled a bit from lack of commotion, but it was also calming and I started feeling really strong.  I decided to pick up the pace a bit, running close to 10 minute miles for a couple miles, but again got "scared" that I would totally run out of energy later since I had no idea what to expect, and slowed back down - and ended up maintaining this average pace for the rest of the race.  About half way between miles 13 and 14, I knew to look for Jeff and his son, and was really excited and feeling amazing when I came across them making HUGE bubbles for all of the runners.  I gave his son a high-five, Jeff told me I was looking good, I said thanks, and kept chugging along.

Miles 16-20:
Soon after mile 15 is when things started getting a little sketchy.  We had just come down from a fairly big hill, I ate a Gu and drank some water and I felt a bit sick.  Thankfully the nausea faded quickly, but my legs were starting to hurt.  I saw my mom again at mile 16.5, and when she asked how I was doing, I told her it was starting to get painful.  It was great seeing my mom again, but I knew that would be my last familiar face until Billy found me around mile 20.

Miles 17 through 20 are kind of a blur.  It was the only area of the course I wasn't familiar with, and I don't really remember it.  The pain was coming and going every few minutes and wasn't bad at all, but I was definitely getting tired, and I kept telling myself I just needed to get to mile 20 and I would make it to the finish.

Miles 21-26.2:
It was so great to see the 20 mile sign, and it was even better to see Billy up ahead soon after!  He briefly chatted with me, took a shockingly great picture, and headed back to his bike - telling me he'd meet up with me up ahead a bit.

I was running a bit slower, but still feeling relatively good at this point.  A little before mile 21, Billy met up with me again and ran with me for about a mile.  It was so great to have a friend to talk to to distract me from my legs that were slowly getting more and more tired.  

After Billy left again, I was looking forward to finding Pete.  I was a little worried his race may have left him incapable of running with me, but the plan was for him to be somewhere around mile 23.  Moments after turning a corner past the mile 23 sign, there he was!  I could tell I didn't have much left in my legs, and was so glad to see him.  He slowly ran with me, talking to me about his race, when the next aid station would be, told me I looked like I was still doing pretty good, and all that good stuff...and I was doing my best to contribute to the conversation.  Then BAM!  Right around mile 24 I hit the "wall."  I was done.  It was extremely painful to keep moving.  I wanted to stop and walk, but thankfully Pete made me keep going.  I also started to get a bit cranky and Pete's talking, and usually welcome enthusiasm made me want to punch him...in a nice way :-)  We saw Billy again around mile 25, and he captured this great picture that illustrates this perfectly.

I've never tried so hard to smile in my life!  Pete quieted down a bit, I kept slowly putting one foot in front of the other, and somehow made it to mile 26 - only 0.2 to go!  Pete was forced off the course, and I kicked it in to the finish - running a speedy 9:07 pace to the finish.  I was so happy to be done!  I just became a marathoner!  The initial awe wore off a few seconds later when my legs, hips, butt, everything started aching so bad I was in tears.  I walked around a bit to find my mom and Pete and had to sit down.  Again, SO glad Pete did not let me stop...if that is what stopping feels like - holy moly!

Finishing my first marathon was a great experience I will definitely never forget, and I'm thankful I am able to accomplish such a feat!  I was hoping to run close to 4:30, but I couldn't be happier with my official 4:50:23 finish.  I wanted my first marathon to be a FUN learning experience, and it was definitely that!  I know what I want to change, and what I want to remain the same during my training and during my next marathon.  And, I made it out alive with no puking or bowel movements, all of my toenails, only three blisters, a pretty sweet medal, and one big smile :-D

Special thanks again to my mom, Jeff, Pete, and Billy for cheering for me and running with me on the course.  And to everyone else (on Twitter and in person) who has given me tons of advice and have been incredibly supportive :-)

For the curious:
Garmin Connect Data
Race Results (bib #158)
Training Plan (deviations in red)

April 26, 2010

Ragnarly Recap

I apologize in advance for a long, probably disjointed recap of this weekend.  The occurrence of events is a huge blur and I'm struggling to put it all into words - what a crazy experience!

I think my experience with the Ragnar Relay can be best summarized by their tagline: Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.

Going into this thing, I didn't think the running was going to be very difficult for me.  I was only doing a total of 14.6 miles, with a solid 8-12 hour break between legs - and turns out I was right!

Our team started at 7am in Ventura.  I started my first run just before noon, and it was a short 2.8 mile route through Camarillo.  Even though I promised myself I would take all of my runs easy with the marathon approaching, I started out pretty fast, because let's be real here, who wouldn't run fast for only 2.8 miles?  I finished the first mile in 8:17, and then I came to a hill and slowed down quite a bit.  All of the route distances, elevation profiles, etc were in the Ragmag, but the tiny bump in the elevation profile was deceiving, and the hill turned out to be a bit brutal, gaining 160 ft in less than half a mile.  Thank you trail runs!

The parrot all ready to go, and finishing my first leg!

My favorite run was my second leg that started at 12:57 in the morning.  This was a 6.1 mile route mostly through Beverly Hills.  I was a bit nervous for the night run since I had already heard a few horror stories about bums and running completely alone through wooded parks, but thankfully I had a pretty stellar route and I felt safe the entire time.  I was also slightly nervous for this run because it was part of the "hillier than thought" LA marathon route, and a girl in my van had run the LA marathon and was telling me how the hills I was about to run on totally sucked.

Here I am all excited to go at 1am! Reflective vest, headlamp, and blinking butt light for safety!

I took off fairly fast again, and was having a blast running in the dark.  There was something about running at 1am, in the dark, that was really exciting.  The few drunk people I encountered on Sunset Blvd were harmless and entertaining, and I was enjoying the surroundings.  Once I got to Santa Monica Blvd I came across another girl who was running about my pace and we decided to stay together for safety reasons.  We pushed each other up the hills (which weren't bad at all!), and she helped me keep my pace fairly fast and steady.  I also had additional motivation because I knew Nina was volunteering at the exchange until 2am - so I needed to get there before she left!  We passed 13 people, ran the last mile at 8:13 pace, and I made it to the exchange before 2am!  I still don't know exactly what it was, but this run make the whole experience worth it to me, and I had a mega runner's high.

By the time I had my last run around 9am the next morning, I was feeling pretty crappy, and dreading having to run again...but excited I was about to be done.  My last leg was a 5.7 mile route through Seal Beach.  Right as I was about to take off, I saw Andee, who then cheered for me when her team drove by to find their runner up ahead.  So nice to see her, and wow was her team fast!  They started 7 hours after my team and were passing us with about 1/3 of the relay left - amazing!  Anyway, like all of the other legs I had run, I started out a bit fast.  However, this time, my fatigued legs were not having it.  I totally shut down after about a mile.  Bonktastic.  I struggled to finish the last 4ish miles of this run and fought with myself not to walk.  

Finishing up my last leg - DONE!

A fun, and sometimes frustrating part of the relay was navigating the course in our huge 15-passenger vans.  Thankfully, I was able to program all of the GPS coordinates of the exchange locations into my GPS, and we only got slightly lost a few times.  I highly recommend doing this, and being very familiar with the route.  We saw a few runners who had gotten to the next exchange, but the runner they were supposed to hand off to (and van) were MIA.  That would totally suck!

One of my favorite parts of the relay was seeing all of the decorated vans with all of the creative team names. There were some great team names, and van decorations...everything from "The Vangina" to the "we eat our feelings" van with food wrappers attached to it.

Being the "Jungle Janes," we decorated our van with a jungle theme.

I am also very glad that each of our vans had a designated van driver, who drove the entire time so that none of us that were running had to worry about driving, too.

What sleep?  The lack of sleep was definitely what made the relay difficult, and is what took a toll on all of us.  I heard a few people say that this relay was harder than running a marathon, and I think the lack of sleep and sitting around in a van for hours has a lot to do with it.  

Thursday night, those of us in the first van that had to go to the starting line only got about 4 hours of sleep.  We didn't get everyone picked up, the vans decorated, and to the Motel 6 in Ventura until about 1am, and had to be to the starting line to check in at 6am Friday to be ready for our 7am start.  I was tired and we hadn't even started the relay yet!  Bleh!

People trying to get some sleep on the Santa Monica pier around 2am.

After everyone in the first van finished running, we met the 2nd van at the first major exchange where it would then be their turn to run, and we would get a break.  This exchange happened around 1pm - and were projected to be at the 2nd major exchange around 7pm.  This gave us about 5 hours of free time since we'd want to get to the exchange a bit early.  By the time we sat down and ate an actual meal, got to the house we'd be "sleeping" at, and factored in driving time to the next exchange, we were able to get about 2 hours of sleep.  And we had even less time before our 3rd and final van switch, resulting in about an hour of sleep.  So going into my last leg, you can imagine why I may have felt like total crap, and started having some pretty bad stomach issues.

Not a flattering picture, but I'm willing to sacrifice my good looks to sum up exactly how I was feeling at that point :-)

And to think I was on a SLOW team (aka we got a lot more rest time than fast teams)!  Not sure how they did it.  Kudoos to them.

I've been asked about 10 times already if I would do this again next year.  Heck yes!  So much so that I've totally lost my mind and want to be on a 6 person "ultra" team.  Recruiting in progress.  And now that I've done this once, I've learned some valuable lessons and hope to make the next time an even better experience.

The Finish.
My team ended up finishing the 200.6 miles in just a few minutes over 35 hours - making our average pace around 10:30 min/mile.  Not bad!  I'm extremely proud of our team for pulling this whole thing off.  It involved TONS of planning and we were able to make it to the finish pretty smoothly.  Our team was also very diverse.  Hardly any of us had ever met each other, only a few people had run further than a half marathon before, and we even had a girl who had never ran outside before, or more than 6 miles, and didn't know what a marathon was!  You can imagine the look on my face when I found this out as she was about to head out on her 7.7 mile run!  But really, super impressed with my n00b team's relay skills.

Here we all are at the finish with our wonderful van drivers!  Yeah Jungle Janes!

And I think this could quite possibly be the most amazing race medal ever!  Ragnar sure knows how to make their runners happy :-)

What an amazing experience.  There were some fantastic highlights, and definitely some low points, but it was all worth it, and I can't wait to do it again!

April 14, 2010

OMG, Shoes!

Yesterday, I bought new running shoes.  Not because I found a flashy new pair I wanted, or because I didn't like the ones I had, but because I actually wore them out!  This is a first for me, and it's also the first pair of shoes that mean something to me - as dumb as that sounds.

I found it a little annoying to buy the EXACT same pair of shoes, but I really liked them, and with the marathon in about 2.5 weeks, I had a slight fear of changing the shoes I had just spent 3.5 months training with.  Also, since they're an "endangered shoe," I got a sweet discount - looks like next time I'll have to try something different.

Leave it to a new, bright white pair of shoes to make you realize how worn and dirty the old ones have become.

Now, I've kept old tennis shoes before, but that's because they're still in fairly decent condition and I can use them for pick-up games of basketball, kickball, biking around, going for walks, etc, and when it gets to that point, I don't think I would have an issue throwing them away.  In this case, I feel like I'm in some weird limbo of not knowing if I should keep these shoes or get rid of them.  They're old, dirty, run down shoes that no longer serve much purpose, yet I feel some sort of nostalgia for them.  They were with me when I broke the 2 hour barrier in a half marathon, they took me up some ridiculous, beautiful, trails I never thought I'd ever be running on, and most importantly to me, they were the shoes I used to start training for my very first marathon.

After years of shaking my head, I think I finally understand why my dad still has t-shirts and shoes from significant marathons and various other races dating back to the 1970s, even though you can practically see through some of the shirts they're so old, and the shoes have ridiculous leather patches (if I remember correctly, he still takes these out for a run on occasion) or soles mended with a hot glue gun.

I remain in shoe limbo.  I feel too attached to my shoes to just throw them in the trash.  Yet it seems asinine to keep smelly, dirty shoes - and this is just one pair, what happens when I've accumulated dozens?!  Maybe I will use the old shoes for the occasional trail run I do, since they're already dirty.  Or maybe they'll find a permanent home in the plastic bin in my closet, taking up space...next to my dusty track spikes (hey, you never know when you'll need those again!).

Do other people feel this way?  What do you do with your old shoes?

April 12, 2010

Gearing Up for the Ragnar Relay

Next Friday and Saturday, I will be running the LA Ragnar Relay as part of a 12 girl team.  The relay starts in Ventura Friday morning and ends in Dana Point some time on Saturday depending on your pace, totaling 199.9 miles.  Each person runs three legs, with each leg ranging anywhere from just over 2 miles to just under 10 miles.  The minimum total mileage any one person will run is 12.4 miles and the most is 21.3 miles.  There are 282 teams registered this year - which include all girl teams, all guy teams, coed teams, old people teams, corporate teams, and there are also the crazy people who are on "ultra" teams of up to 6 people, who then cover about double the distance!  You'll also see the occasional nut case who decides to run the entire thing by their self - no thanks.

Since this is all taking place the week before my first marathon and I will be deep into taper madness, I opted for lower mileage and will be running a total of 14.7 miles - with individual legs of 2.8 miles, 6.2 miles, and 5.7 miles, which will take me through the cities of Camarillo, Beverly Hills, and Seal Beach at various hours of the day and night!

I'm super excited for this relay, but the whole thing is more complicated than you'd think, and has involved a TON of organization.  Props to our team leaders!  We've had to rent 2 vans and find van drivers, adapt to multiple changes in the route (which involved losing people, and finding new people last minute due to mileage increases), find ourselves 3 volunteers so we didn't have to pay extra money, organize all of our safety gear (reflective vests, headlamps, tail lights, etc.), find places to "sleep" along the course, determine an accurate estimate of how fast everyone will be able to run, and so on...but most importantly, we had to get our costumes all figured out!

My team decided on the theme "Jungle Janes" and we will all be dressed as a different jungle animal.  Now you don't have to dress up for the relay...but who wouldn't?!  Boring people, and we're not boring :-)  Also, when you're running, and sleep deprived, I bet watching monkeys and tigers and frogs running through neighborhoods at all hours of the day will be quite entertaining (it's not a closed course, and we probably won't be running with a ton of other people at any given time, so I hope to attract some awkward stares).  So please keep an eye out for a monkey, tree frog, butterfly, zebra, giraffe, peacock, turtle, avatar, lion, cheetah, tiger, and, my costume, a PARROT!  I'm not entirely sure if a parrot is a "jungle animal" but it sounded like a great idea at the time.

Last night, I realized I better get going with this whole costume making business and went to the local Jo-Ann and picked up some stellar supplies.  A few creative hours later, the parrot was born!  Feast your eyes on this epic creation.  I just realized I actually ate some crackers while wearing this, too.  How fitting!

Anyway, yes, it is ridiculous, but I'm okay with that!  The best part, is that the parrot masterpiece is not quite done!  I'm brainstorming ways to make "wings" and haven't quite figured out what color shirt I'm going to wear, or if I'm going to wear my black compression socks to look more like parrot legs.  You will just have to wait for the relay recap to see the final design!  In the meantime, I'm thinking about buying a webcam and wearing my masterpiece while I hang out on Chatroulette.  Might be a good warm-up for the reactions I'm going to get while wearing it running through Beverly Hills at midnight :-)

One day into my taper, and I may have already lost my mind.  Oh well.  Can't wait to share how the relay goes!

April 11, 2010

Twenty Great Miles!

Yesterday was my second 20 mile run, and last loooong run before the marathon!  Only 3 weeks away and I'm finally starting to get excited :-)

If you remember my first 20 mile run, it didn't go the greatest.  I took a lot of breaks, and although the running only took me about 3.5 hours, I was out on the "course" for almost 5 hours.  This time around went SO much better for various reasons.

First off, I ran the first 10 miles with a group of people.  Earlier this week, Dylan pointed me to a meet-up group called "OC Runners" who were planning to run 10 miles around the Back Bay Saturday morning.  Perfect!  I showed up Saturday morning and was welcomed by a group of about 10 friendly runners who were happy to hear I was there to run with them.

Most of the runners were a bit faster than me since I was going to be doing the 10 mile loop twice, so I stayed back a bit.  I started the run around 9:30 min/mile pace and realized I needed to force myself to slow down so I could make it the whole 20 miles without a ridiculous amount of stops again.  Remember, goal for this 20 was consistency, not speed.  There were two girls in the group running behind me at about 10:30 pace so after a few miles I dropped back and joined them.  They were a ton of fun to talk to (one lady just moved here from MN in July, too!) and the pace we were running felt very easy and comfortable.  Before I knew it, we were already back to the start!  My legs felt amazing at this point, and I couldn't wait to go back out for another loop.  I talked with the group a bit, ate a honey and peanut butter uncrustable, and headed right back out!

This leads me to reason number two this run went well.  I forced myself to run slower than my usual pace.  Unless I'm doing crazy trail runs, my natural, comfortable pace is around 9:15-30 min/mile.  When I go out for really long runs, I always tend to stick to this pace and forget I'm running way further than my usual 5-8 mile weekday runs.  Once I started running with the two girls, my pace slowed to around 10:30 and I maintained a 10:15-11:00 min pace for the remainder of the run.  I felt amazing until about mile 15 when my legs started to get fatigued, and the pain started kicking in about 3 miles later.  BUT, by going slower, I only made a total of 4 stops - none of which were because I felt like I couldn't run anymore.  Hooray!

Next, the trail runs I've been torturing myself with have made the "hills" on the road feel easy.  With the ridiculous hills I've been running on lately for all of these trail races I decided to do for some reason, the little hills I encountered on this route felt like nothing!  I hope to keep doing at least one trail run a week for this reason...and I have a goal to be able to do a whole run in El Moro without walking, but that may take a while.

Lastly, the weather was perfect!  When I did my last 20 miler, I didn't start until about 11 am, and it ended up being a very hot and sunny day with temps in the 80s.  Yesterday was overcast and cool.  The entire run I only drank one water bottle full, compared to 3-4 refills last time.  I think this definitely made a huge difference and I really hope the weather stays cool for the marathon!

I finished the 20.08 miles yesterday in 3:32:59 and only made about 20-30 minutes worth of stops.  I was so happy and felt great afterwards.  I know the last 6.2 miles of the marathon will be painful, and I will undoubtedly be slow, but after this run I'm finally confident that I can finish - it's a great feeling :-)

T-minus 3 weeks until the marathon; it's officially TAPER TIME!  I hope I don't go crazy!

Garmin Connect info: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/29697563

April 5, 2010

Sycamore Canyon 18k Recap

Since it seemed like everyone else was running the 30k or 50k at Sycamore Canyon this weekend, I thought I'd show the 18k some love and run that one...of course it had nothing to do with my physical capabilities, in fact, the bionic woman who got 3rd overall in the 50k with a time of 4:28:xx better be happy I didn't sign up!

In all seriousness, I was looking forward to this race more than any other race yet this year.  I was finally going to meet a lot of the people I talk to daily on Twitter, and I only had to run about 11 miles on a beautiful trail, where walking is justified :)  After swearing off trail runs after finishing the Buffalo Run, I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me that I keep signing up for trail races, and I think I figured it out: I can walk and not feel bad about it.  And, of course, the people are pretty awesome and chill.

I woke up not ridiculously early, around 6am, got ready and started on my 1.5 hour jaunt to Sycamore Canyon.  On my way out of the parking lot I found my first tweep, Stuart!  I was surprised to hear he had an accent, who knew?  I must not have downloaded that Twitter app.

Soon, everyone had congregated near the start, and I saw tons of familiar faces.  Billy got a random fella to take this picture of all of us!  And I have to agree with Billy, what a great looking group of people!

From left to right, Stuart, me, Dave, Billy, Josh, Emil, Kristin, Colin, and Andee

We were all so busy talking that we failed to realize it was 8:28 and the race started in 2 minutes.  Crap, I still had to go to the bathroom.  The race started, and I was just getting to the bathroom.  Because of this, I literally started the race dead last.  I've never done this before, and it wasn't a great feeling since I knew single-track was coming up within the first mile and I wouldn't be passing many people.  Oh well, next time I'll pay more attention, and I'm not really sure how or when passing many people happened, but I ended up finishing 54/80ish so I must've done something right!

The beginning of the first climb wasn't too bad.  I was still running, and my legs didn't have that awful heavy feeling they've had lately.  Nearing the end of the single track, though, the trail literally went straight up!  I started walking, and just walking was proving to be difficult - uffdah!  The guy in front of me was mumbling to himself, "this'll teach ya."  I had to laugh; true story.

We then ran on fire road for a while up to the Ray Miller Trail where I had gone hiking last weekend.  I was really excited for this trail - it's absolutely gorgeous and gives way to some breathtaking views.  I also knew this meant I was done with the first major climb - hooray!  I have to say, being a n00b trail runner, I think I'm pretty good at running downhill and managed to catch up to or pass a lot of the people who schooled me on the climb.

A few pictures I took from the Ray Miller Trail on my hike last weekend.

At the bottom of the trail was the first aid station, and also time for me to turn around and run the course in reverse.  I carried a water bottle and Sharkies, so I didn't stop at the station and turned right back around to save some time.  Thinking about climbing back up everything I just ran down was daunting, and I made a personal committment that I would run anything that was relatively flat or slightly downhill, and just walk the rest, and it seemed to work pretty well.  

Since I'm not the best at climbing, but do well on the descents, I had been playing a cat-and-mouse game with a few people, including this girl and her dad (or maybe grandpa?).  What was special about the girl with the old dude was that I could tell she was in my age group, and I was fairly confident that her or I would be in the 3rd place slot based on who I saw coming back up the hill when I was still going down.  My time was already becoming less and less impressive and definitely not brag-worthy, so the least I could do was place in my age group and get a kick-ass ribbon!  After turning around, I could hear her approaching me again, and tried incorporating more running into the routine.  This didn't work very well, and by mile 8 the girl and the old dude were probably 1/4 of a mile ahead of me and gaining, we were nearing the end of the climb, and I had pretty much convinced myself that I wasn't going to get the kick-ass ribbon.  Oh well, life goes on.

Soon enough I was back on the fire road and had about 2 miles of running downhill on the road to the finish.  Nobody was really around me at this point so I just did my own thing, took in the sights and sounds, and made my way back down and quickly and safely as possible.  With about a mile left, I could see the girl and old dude not far below me so I picked up the pace a bit.  Maybe I had a chance after all!

With about 3/4 of a mile left, a guy literally FLEW by me...turns out he was the leader of the 30k (he ended up finishing it in 2:15).  That's cool, dude.  It didn't phase me...and you too should just be happy I didn't sign up for that race!

Anyway, with less than a half of a mile left we were back on a flat dirt road, my legs were really feeling fatigued, and I could see the gates to the campground/finish area.  The girl and old guy were also only about 100 feet away.  I knew I could catch them.  I kicked it into full gear, used what I had left, and passed them both with about 50 feet to spare, finishing in 2:18:34.  I then got yelled at by the old dude about sandbagging, the race just being for fun, and that there was no "prize car" or anything for running fast across the finish line.  Thanks, man.  Maybe it's trail race etiquette not to kick it in at the end or something, but that's just how I've always been told to end races, it just kind of happens, and I had been trying to catch up to them for 3 miles!  I just wanted my ribbon!  And, for the record, I did end up getting 3rd in my age group and got my ribbon :-)

I finished just before 11am, but didn't leave the race until about 2:30.  Having only ran the 18k, I had the privilege of watching everyone else finish their races and had a great time just hanging out and watching everyone kick butt.  Josh finished the 30k soon after me, getting 2nd overall, and Colin and Kristin prove the be the nicest, cutest, and most amazing running couple ever and finished their first "official" (not to mention difficult w/about 6000' of climbing) 50k together in just under 5 and a half hours.  Great job everybody!

I stole this picture from Billy...seriously, they're awesome.

I then had the pleasure of ending my evening at the weekly s'moree at the Cooley's.  It was a great time with great company, and instead of drooling over the s'more pictures Colin always shares, I got to experience the wonder first-hand :-) I was not disappointed!

I also have to say, it was truly a great time meeting and hanging out with everyone yesterday.  I've never felt that welcomed by a group of people I've never met before - you all rock!  

Garmin Connect info if anyone is interested: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/29010987

March 29, 2010

The Great Fail

This weekend I ran the Chesebro Half Marathon as part of the Great Race of Agoura Hills.  Since my first half marathon a little under a year ago, every half I've completed since then has been a PR - if not in time, then in other ways like surviving thousands of feet of climbing (see Catalina Buffalo Run).  Races have always been a ton of fun and I've surprised myself every time with how well I've done...until this weekend.  This was my first race where essentially nothing went well...which is why I'd like to rename it, The Great Fail.

First off, the race started at 7am.  If I had seen this before signing up, I probably would not have opted to run this race.  Agoura Hills is just under an hour and a half drive from Huntington Beach, meaning I would need to leave my apartment by around 5:15am to get to the race.  Then, a long pre-race email was sent out explaining that parking is going to be crazy and to plan to walk 10-20 minutes from where you park to the park where you had to pick up your race bib, etc.  For the Chesebro race, the starting line was an additional 10 minute walk up-hill from said park.  I ended up having to awake at 4:15am, drive an hour and a half, and then spend about a half hour walking just to get to the start of the race.  I am NOT a morning person.  Personal Fail #1.

After sleep-driving to the race (don't really even remember driving there), parking, walking, walking, walking, picking up my race bib, walking, going to the bathroom, hanging out with Pete, and walking some more, I realized 5 minutes before the race started that I totally forgot to put on my Garmin.  Great!  I also remembered that I had "popped" the trunk of my car to get my forgotten Garmin out of my backpack.  Not only was I anxious about the race, but I Garmin-less, and concerned about my trunk being open with all of our camping gear for the rest of the weekend with no way to let Pete know to shut it.  PF #2.

The first 3 miles of the race were on road, followed by about 7.5 miles on trails, and the remaining 2.5 miles on road again.  Although I swore off trail running after the Buffalo Run a couple weeks ago, I went into this race thinking it would be no big deal because the amount of climbing I'd be doing was about 1/3 of that in the Buffalo Run, so I started off feeling fairly confident and strong.  The first mile was also downhill.  I started off and what I thought was a good pace, but not having my Garmin I really had no clue, and by mile 2 I was already starting to realize I started off way too fast.  Soon before the 3 mile mark, I asked a kind lady I was running next to with a Garmin what pace we were moving at.  7:40 min/mile.  PF #3.

I slowed down, but right after mile 3, we made our way onto the trail and my legs were done.  Just done.  My legs have felt like garbage all week, ever since the 20 miler, and any optimistic thoughts I had that they might miraculously feel any different during this race vanished.  I wanted to just quit and walk the rest of the way...but I kind of sort of had another 10 miles to run. Ugh.  PF #4.

As much as I wanted to stop, I kept jogging along at an I-have-no-idea-how-slow-cuz-I-forgot-my-Garmin pace, so I guess that may be win #1.  However, this is also when I realized there were not going to be mile markers every mile.  So now I didn't just not know how fast/slow I was running, but I had no idea how far I had gone either, which was extremely difficult for me when I was feeling that crappy.  PF #5.

Thinking to myself, "I bet I've gone about 7-8 miles by now," I round a turn and see a nice big "Mile 6" sign.  Obviously, I was discouraged by this, but took a bottle of water they were giving out (which was a fail on their part since bottles littered the trail everywhere) and continued on my way.  Some single track started at this point and suddenly I was at a dead stop.  I could see some people sort of yelling up the hill in front of me but didn't really know why.  As I slowly made my way closer to the commotion, I realized there was a guy running with his 1ish yr old baby in a stroller.  WTF?!  I realize running a race with your child can be a special occasion or whatever, but this was a half marathon, on a trail, with single track, and rough spots, and you're blocking about 1000 people!  Parenting Fail #1.  

I ended up running behind "stroller guy" for a while because he was extremely difficult to pass, and running slow enough for me that I didn't care too much.  I kept getting so nervous watching him tho, as the stroller kept nearly tipping over.  Then, it happened.  There was a mini "ravine" in the trail and the stroller tipped completely over.  The kid was wearing a seat belt, thankfully, and seemed to be fine.  But really dude?  Parenting Fail #2.  Random side note: looking back, "stroller guy" reminded me a lot of The Hoff.  That may explain some of it.

Soon I was marching up a steep hill to the high point of the course.  I felt like I was part of an ant parade, but nearing the top, it was fun to look down and realize I was definitely not going to get last :) Win #2.  After this long, steep climb, we got to run back downhill for a while and my legs were feeling a bit better, and I knew I'd be able to finish this beast.  I came around a turn to some volunteers holding trash bags to throw our water bottles from the previous water station in.  The course had flattened out a bit at this point and my legs were feeling tired and heavy again.  A few of the volunteers were laughing and smiling and yelling "mile 7!! not much further to go!!"  It felt like we were WAY past mile 7...I looked to the girl running next to me, she looked back, and we hung our heads nearing tears, and proceeded to slowly walk up the next hill.  Again, I was ready to be done, and couldn't believe I had only gone 7 miles.  Upon reaching the top of the hill a half mile or so later, I noticed it looked like we were turning off onto the road again (meaning we only had 2.5 miles left) and sure enough, I exited onto the road and saw the 11 mile marker shortly after.  Thanks volunteers at "mile 7" that was SO nice of you when not everyone has a Garmin, and there was only one mile marker on the trail.  Laugh away!  Volunteer Fail.

Again, more downhill and I knew I could make it back.  Being annoyed at the volunteers gave me an extra boost as well.  I was tired, but I was so close I wasn't going to let myself walk anymore.  With about 0.2 miles left, I rounded the final turn and felt the same urge I felt at the Buffalo Run to throw up.  I had to stop and compose myself.  Who stops that close to the finish, really?  PF #6.

I finally reached the finish with an official time of 2:24:06.  I think I should have been able to run this course between 2:10 and 2:15, so I was a bit disappointed, but I guess I can't win them all!  I finished 706/1038 overall, and 22/34 in my age group.  Definitely not my best, but not my worst either.

On a positive note, the people who ran this were some of the nicest people I've encountered while racing.  Everyone was encouraging, had great race etiquette, and I even saw a couple people picking up litter they saw along the course.  And thanks to all volunteers that were not at "mile 7!" :)  I'm excited for my 18k trail race next weekend - redemption here I come!

March 24, 2010

The Car Chronicles

So about that being carless when I moved to California thing?

Things started out great.  I had a 12 mile commute to work that took some getting used to, but I really started to enjoy the cool, crisp mornings and the mellow, calming rides home after work.  After a long day, it was so relaxing.  And being a Minnesota girl, this weather was just too good to be true, and I was more than willing to spend my mornings and evenings commuting.  If for some reason I wasn't up for the ride, the bus was always a fairly convenient alternative.  As described in this post, I really was falling in love with the commuting lifestyle, and I became a lot more serious about sticking with it...I even vowed to stop using Pete's truck for things like grocery shopping.  By the end of November, I was enjoying biking so much, that Pete and I spent a week biking 400 miles up mountains, across the desert, around a sea...and back.  It was one of the best experiences of my life and it made me even more passionate about being on my bike.

I'm not entirely sure where my turning point was, it may have started with all of the rain we got, but by January biking started to lose it's fun.  Commuting was no longer enjoyable.  It became a chore.  Something I had to do everyday.  I described the pros and cons of being without a car here.  However, finding and buying a car is a pain, especially when you don't know much about cars and have never done it before, so I pedaled on, looking here and there every once in a while.

Things really got bad about a month ago.  I mean REALLY bad.  Drivers appeared to get ridiculously dumb, careless, and evil.  I had a lot of close-calls, and I started getting severe road rage.  This is not good when you're on a bike.  I wanted to plow people over...who were in cars...going fast.  Get the picture?  It got so bad, that commuting made me want to cry, and I wanted nothing to do with it.  From then on, I would take the bus.  I guess you could say I hit the "wall?"

In the midst of my commuting mid-life crisis, I got an email from an angel named "My Dad" (my mom's gonna love that one).  He asked me if I would like to buy his 2000 Jetta for $2k.  Umm...YES.  That decision took about a minute.  Best day of my life!  Long story short, the Jetta made it from Houston to Huntington Beach via some plane rides and road trips, and my life is already better.

Since I retrieved my car almost 2 weeks ago, I've been able to get out and do so many more things without having to rely on Pete or a bus or my own two legs.  One nice thing is being able to sleep more in the morning because my travel time is about 40 min less, and my nights seem longer for the same reason.  Yay more time to run!  I was also able to go drive to San Diego for a night, a new place to do my 20 mile run and cheer on everyone at the LA marathon!  I also signed up for another race in the Santa Monica Mountains next weekend...BECAUSE I CAN DRIVE THERE...and because it sounds fun :)

All of the biking I did was a great experience, but after 9 months, I learned a completely carless lifestyle is not for me, at least not while I'm living here.  Now that I have been driving for a while, the idea of biking to work again is actually kind of exciting and I plan to start commuting a few days a week soon.  There's definitely a difference between having to bike to work, and wanting to bike to work.  It's nice to finally have that option.