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.

March 22, 2010

Weekend Run Fun!

This weekend was jam-packed full of running, and it was a blast!

I started the weekend off by taking a somewhat impromptu drive down to San Diego with my friend Sarah from high school who drove MY CAR (more on this later) back from Albuquerque with me last weekend, and then stayed the week.  The San Diego visit was short and sweet, but ended up being a really fun night filled with dueling pianos, an amazing Ghirardelli chocolate sundae, and some interesting foreign people at the hostel.  And how does this have anything to do with running?  I ate an entire pizza and was a pretty boring bar-mate since I would be running 20 miles the next day.  It happens.

After driving back from San Diego, I headed right back out for my first 20 mile run!  I decided a while ago I wanted to scope out the parts of the OC Marathon course I was unfamiliar with, so I ran an out-and-back of the first 10 miles (the rest is a lot of my bike route to work).  I'm so glad I did this!  The race is advertised as being downhill the first 5 miles.  I quickly learned this was not exactly the case with a few hills within the first 3 miles.  They are small hills, but still!  Other than getting to run along the coast, and overlook the ocean at Corona del Mar beach, I kind of loathe the first 3 miles of the course.  Maybe I was just in a bad mood that day :)  I did really enjoy the second 5 miles as it's all through the back bay in Newport.  I've never ran in the back bay before and I thought it was really pretty, relaxing, and it's almost completely flat!  WOOHOO!  It was hot however, which is something to remember for race day.

In general, my first 20 miler went alright.  It was successful in that I ran all 20 miles in just short of 3.5 hours (aside from a few walk breaks at the end since it was ALL up hill ;-))  But it was not successful in that I stopped A LOT (and got sunburned).  From the time I left my car, to the time I got back, it was more like 4.5-5 hours.  My legs felt tired before the run even started, and they pretty much stayed that way the whole time.  I feel like I must have stopped every 2-3 miles to either catch my breath, stare at the pretty ocean, eat some gu, drink water, stretch, refill my water, awkwardly take pictures of myself, complain on twitter, text my dad who pointed out that texting during a training run is a bad sign, go to the get the picture.  But in the midst of it all, I did run 20 miles and get a feel for the course, and I guess that's what matters at this point!  Next time, less stopping!

(P.S. I'm doing a pretty awesome job of keeping up with my training plan for once!  You can check out what I've done here.  Six more weeks till race day!)

Now onto the fun stuff.

Sunday morning was spent cheering on my tweeps at the LA Marathon with Sarah!  I got really excited when I found out so many people would be running, and that I would actually be around to cheer, so I made a bunch of awesome signs.  After waking up a bit late, driving a couple miles and realizing I forgot the signs (that could've been bad), and putting some air in my car tires, Sarah and I arrived a bit later than planned, found parking where we could, and ended up claiming a section of pristine sideline just before the 18 mile mark.  I got to see Colin, Nina, Danica and Billy, Ron, and Linda.  And I'm so happy that amongst a massive crowd of runners, we only failed at showing 2 people their signs! Oops.  It was so fun to finally see everyone out running one of these marathon things you always talk about!  Side note: mile 18 was probably not a great spot for me to watch when I'm about to run my first marathon.

Let the sign parade begin:

You all did GREAT and need to run more races around here so I can come cheer you on and make more signs :)  Congrats again to everyone out there yesterday...I hope to be as cool as you soon!

After the marathon, I went for a 4 mile recovery run, felt great, and finished my first 40 mile week!  Today, I am sore, and I love it.

Happy recovery runners!

March 1, 2010

Catalina Buffalo Run

This weekend, I traveled to Catalina Island with Pete and his parents to run the trail half marathon around Avalon.

Looking back, I'm still not entirely sure why I signed up for this race, knowing the following:
1. I don't like going to Catalina because I get sick on the hour long boat rides.
2. I was aware that the course elevation gain was about 1600 ft in the first 5 miles.  Most of my training runs are on the flat, sea-level beach.
3. This was a trail run, and I had only completed two trail runs my entire life.

But, I guess it was something to do, and it was definitely a challenging experience I wish to never endure again :)  Shout out to trail runners - what is wrong with you people?!

Here's the play-by-play of how it all went down:

Pre-race - Woke up around 7am and walked to the area to pick up our race packets and shirts.  Number 131 - yay a palindrome number!  Pete got number 187...which is the month and year I was born, so I told him it was lucky, of course, and threatened to swap our timing chips so I could be really fast!  I ate a banana, some of the Wheaties we got in our bags, and watermelon sport beans.  We took a group picture (Pete's dad ran the 5k) and headed to the starting line for the 9am start.  Props for having a "late" start time!

Mile 0 - Race dude announces that it's all uphill until about mile 6, and then it's all back down.

Mile 0.1 - Cruising along around 8:30 pace, still running on the road.  Hey, this isn't too bad!

Mile 0.67 - Holy crap! Why isn't anyone walking yet?!

Mile 1.6 - We reach the trail/dirt road and a "rival" passes me, and starts walking.  I start walking.

Mile 1.8 - I try running again, and make it a few tenths of a mile before I stop and walk again.  I continue this run, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalk, run, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalk pattern for most of the race.

Mile 2.6 - Guy passes me wearing weird sock things that cover his are those?

Mile 3.5 - Look at my garmin and see my average pace is around 11:50 min/mile.  Decide I'm not going to let my pace get any slower than 13 min/mile.

Mile 5.0 - Okay, not letting my pace get any slower than 15 min/mile


Mile 5.4 - Ahhh I don't know how to run downhill - I can't stop!

Mile 5.5 - F#ck, there's a sharp rock in my shoe.  That's what those shoe cover things are for, and I remember that they're called Gaitors.

Mile 6.2 - Oh good, there's another hill to run up.  FML. Start walking again.

Mile 6.6 - Weeeee back downhill the rest of the way!  I remember a conversation I had with Pete once about him learning to run downhill on trails, and his advice came to me in a very Yoda-like voice: "Lean forward, while running down hill, you must." So I start leaning forward slightly and it helps me maintain my speed, but stay much more in control.

Mile 7.1 - I see Pete flying downhill towards me (there's one out-and-back portion) and excitedly give him a high five before he makes his way the rest of the way down to the finish!  Wait, he was running downhill...which means we're going back up.  What the hell?! The race dude said it was all downhill after mile 6...efffff this!

Mile 7.8 - Rain. Wind. Lots and lots of mud.  Freezing my ass off.  FML, again.  Can this just be over yet?  Rival passes me and tells me I'm almost to the turn-around.  I'm about 3 minutes behind. Grrrr.

Mile 8.2 - I reach the turn-around point.  Guy looks behind me and says "I see I have an orange shadow."  Whatever drugs that dude is on, I want them.  Then I realize I'm wearing an orange shirt, and pass him.  Now, it's all downhill!

Mile 10 - Weeeeee I'm flyin!  Feel great, and only have a 5k left!

Mile 12 - Can see rival not that far ahead of me...decide I'm going to start picking up my pace around 12.5 miles and try to pass.

Mile 12.5 - I think I'm going to throw up.  I slow down a bit and take it easy the rest of the way...trying not to puke.  I can see the finish...deceivingly far away.

Mile 13.0 - I see Pete and his parents.  (don't barf, don't barf, don't barf...force a smile...don't barf, don't barf, don't barf)

Mile 13.14 - Run past the finish, past the person with the medals, past the person collecting chips, and straight to the trash can and throw up three consecutive times.  Victory!!!  First time ever doing that.  I think it was a combination of too much orange gatorade on the course, and since the last 4 miles was downhill, running really fast (for me).

I ended up finishing in 2:29:14.  Only 5 minutes slower than my very first half marathon...haha.  And only 45 seconds behind said rival :)

I went back and got my medal, and Pete and his parents met up with me.  We walked over to where the 5k awards were being announced and Pete's dad got 2nd in his age group!  

After showers to wash off all the mud, and some food, we walked back over to the half marathon awards since we knew Pete had won his age group with a 1:50:14 - watch out, he's getting uber speedy!  While we were waiting for them to announce his name, I hear my name - what the hell?  Turns out I got 3rd in my age group!  Pretty fun that we all placed!  Here we are with our age group medals.

This was definitely the hardest race I have ever finished in my life.  I'm new to running these distances, and was WAY out of my element running on a trail like this, so I'm proud of myself for pushing through, and doing as well as I did.  I'm fairly sure that I never want to do this race again (at least not until I forgot how much it sucked), but I think it was great mental training for me with my first marathon coming up in just 2 months!  Eek!

Here is the elevation profile and a graph of my pace throughout the race: