November 21, 2015

Silver Strand Half Marathon Race Recap 2015

Wow!  Once again, it's been a long time since I've sat down to write.  I have a few races to recap, and while I should probably just skip the recaps, I will do them....mainly because I like to look back on what I've done. I write mainly for myself, after all.

Last Sunday I ran the Silver Strand Half Marathon.  Truth be told, I had not been planning on running this race. I did it once before, back in 2011, and hated it.  First of all, I didn't like how flat and boring the course was. And it was very hot outside.  But secondly, I believe that this is where my disc herniated---it was the first time ever I had felt the glute/sciatic nerve pain that I deal with to this day, 4 years later.  I think it herniated while running it.  So I've always had bad memories of this race, and haven't done it since. But I won a free entry to the race on a contest on my local chapter of Moms Run This Town (MRTT).  I couldn't beat the price!  Plus, it fit in perfectly with training for my upcoming full marathon, as I was going to run 13 miles that weekend anyway.  I might as well run with other runners, aid stations, and get a medal at the end!

Packet pickup was easy-peasy the Friday before the race at Road Runner Sports.  I was in and out in 2 minutes flat.  I was hoping for a long-sleeved tech shirt, as I got back in 2011, but this year it was short sleeved.  Oh well.  It was weird getting ready for the race. Even though it was my 25th half marathon (!!!!!) (not counting the 3 half marathons that came at the end of my half-Ironmans) I hadn't run one since June, and was out of practice preparing.  The night before, J and I went out to dinner to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, so I definitely didn't prepare well that way---I was up late and had a drink with dinner, something I would normally avoid the night before a big race.

gorgeous view of the San Diego Bay while on the shuttle.  Coronado Bridge in the background

start line

I got up at 5:15 the next morning (much later than last time, as I'm seeing from my 2011 recap) and was out the door by 5:45.  I easily found parking in the Silver Strand State Beach parking lot, made use of the real toilet in the lot (hoping to avoid the port-o-potty line) and was on a shuttle by 6:45 to the start. (As a side note, I purchased a parking pass for $6 to park in this lot, and my pass was never checked.  A waste of money).  I met up with the MRTT group at 7:00 for a picture, then found a few more friends to chat with before the race started at 7:30.  The weather was gorgeous---overcast and cool. I had brought a throw-away jacket to toss at mile 1, but it was nice enough pre-race that I gear checked it to save for another race.

me and my friend Smitha

me and my friend Ruth

My friend and coach, Steve, had a plan for me for the race.  Normally, I run a 2:1 run/walk ratio (run 2 minutes, walk 1).  This helps me with my sciatic pain when I have it, and has really kept me running.  The last long run I had done, which was 11 miles the week before, he had me do a 1:1 ratio (run 1 minute, walk 1 minute).  While I was slower than I'd like to be, it was great---I had finished feeling good.  And, my goal for the upcoming marathon isn't so much about a finishing time as it is about finishing strong.  For this race, Steve wanted me to do the first 4.5 miles at a 1:1 ratio; the second 4.5 miles at a 2:1 ratio, then the rest of the race (miles 9-13.1) at a 3:1 ratio.  He said this would give me a triple negative split (a negative split is running the second half of a race faster than the first half) and have me finish strong.

pre-race----ready to run 13.1!

I was wary about this plan, but decided to go for it.  So the first several miles, I did a 1:1 ratio. This part is always hard for me.  It's hard to walk when I am first starting out---I feel so good and the crowd energy around me makes me want to keep running!  But I forced myself to stick to the plan, and even at the start, I did the 1:1 ratio.  The first few miles are nice----going through Coronado, passing the Hotel del Coronado (where I got engaged), etc.  But soon  we entered the Silver Strand (this stretch of land connects the "island" of Coronado to Imperial Beach) where it is pretty much flat, boring and ugly, at least to me.  I just kept plugging away, keeping my ratio.  Soon the 2:45 pace group passed me, which bummed me out, because I really wanted to finish under that.  My usual times are between 2:30-2:40 (with some times more and less than) and I really hoped to finish in 2:40. I wasn't trying to PR, just train, but ideally I didn't want to go over 2:45.  But regardless of the time, I wanted a strong race.

it was like this most of the run. I never even wore my sunglasses!

At mile 4.5, I changed the alert on my Garmin to do a 2:1 ratio.  By this time I felt very warmed up and was doing great!  There was a couple, a man and woman, that I kept leapfrogging. They would pass me on my walk breaks and I would pass them on my run segment.  They were running consistently without walking and I wanted to get away from them but couldn't at my pace!  At about mile 6  I had to go to the bathroom, and was regretting not standing in that long port-o-potty line. I didn't have to go too badly, but by mile 7 that's all I could think about.  By this point we were by the State Beach (I could see my car---waaaah!) and in the distance I saw a random port-o-potty, not part of the race. I ran a bit off course and went---and was so glad I did, as I felt better!  I did add about 0.1 mile to my race, and wasted about 2 minutes, but it was minutes well spent.

At mile 9 I started the 3:1 ratio. I was nervous---how could I do 3:1 so late in the race?  Miraculously, I felt great.  Amazing.  Strong.  In fact, those miles were my fastest. I was flying! I had long passed that couple I leap-frogged with (I later saw them walking), and in the distance I saw the 2:45 pace group. I kept my pace, walked when it was time, but soon I passed those pacers! .  I couldn't believe how good I felt.  As I wrote earlier, this was my 25th half marathon. In every single one of those other 24 races, I feel awful in the later miles.  At miles 9/10 I always feel nauseous and exhausted. I feel like I want to puke, or cry, or die. But this time, for the first time, I felt STRONG at mile 9, and felt strong to the finish!

I ended up finishing in 2:42 and change, which included that bathroom break. I'm confident that I would have finished in 2:40 if I hadn't stopped---but that's ok, I NEEDED to stop.  And I accomplished something great---a triple negative split!  Each block of 4.5 miles or so was faster than the preceding one. I felt great at the finish!

At the finish line, I found my friend Marianne, and we headed to the shuttle and back to the cars.  Very easy.  It rained later that afternoon, so I was happy I avoided that---I got the best of both worlds, no rain and cooler/overcast weather. Yay me!

with Marianne post-race

Would I do this race again? Well, I had sworn last time that I wouldn't, and here I am again. I will consider it in future years. It IS a well-run, organized event, and a great fall option here in San Diego. Regardless of if I do it again or not, I'm very proud. It wasn't my fastest half marathon ever, but it was definitely my strongest.  This bodes well for marathon training!

September 28, 2015


I've fallen off the blogging wagon yet again, and seem to have just been focusing on race recaps.  There have been some changes in my family that are pretty significant, and I want to focus on that right now.

School started a little over a month ago---and this time, we're in two new schools!

D is now in 6th grade, which is middle school here.  How I have a child old enough to be in middle school is truly beyond my comprehension.  He's 11!  I remember his first day of kindergarten so clearly-----and now he's out of elementary school and in middle school.  I am continuing to try to soak it all up---it goes so fast. I only have 7 more years left with him at home.  I can cry just thinking of that.

He's made a great adjustment to middle school.  His school is on a block system, which means that he only has 3 classes a day.  They alternate days---one day he has Language Arts, Science and P.E., and the next he has Social Studies, Math and Band.  Because there are only 3 classes a day (plus a homeroom that is the only daily class), each class is 90 minutes, giving them time to really dig into a subject.  But not only is he on a block system, it's a ROTATING block.  So Monday he will have periods 1-3-5.  Tuesday will be 2-4-6.  Then Wednesday it's 3-5-1, Thursday it's 4-6-2, Friday it's 5-1-3, and Monday it's 6-2-4. It sounds confusing, but the kids understand it within a few days.  I actually like it. It means that EVERYONE has every period at each time of the day at some point.  Every child will have math first thing in the morning, when their minds are fresh, and every child will have math after lunch, when they are more sleepy.  Every child will have P.E. first thing in the morning, when it's cooler, and every child will have P.E. after lunch, when it's hot. It's a great equalizer!  And, since there are only 3 classes a day (and really, only 2 academic classes a day) he doesn't have TONS of homework each day. Although, he really does still have a lot.

This year he is in GATE (Gifted and Talented).  He tested into the GATE program in 4th grade, but there really is no program in elementary school, with the budget cuts.  Here, GATE comes into play in middle school. The GATE classes are Language Arts and Social Studies.  He had a choice to be either in homogeneous class (all GATE students) or heterogeneous class (half GATE, half high-achieving but not GATE identified). He wanted homogeneous, and had to enter a lottery for it---and got it. I warned him that he would not be the smartest kid in the class anymore in this type of class, which could be good for him---and he's ok with that.  His math class is the highest there is too (there is no official GATE class for math, but they place kids in math based on their MAP scores).  He's in a compacted 6/7 class, meaning that he's getting a year and a half of math in one year.  Halfway through the year he'll get the 7th grade book.  This also means that he's past the point of me helping him in math.  Luckily, if he needs help, my husband, J, is a math whiz (his dream is to get his masters degree in math). I am great at Language Arts, writing, etc, so between the two of us we have him covered.

He also switched instruments this year. In 5th grade band, he learned the saxophone.  This year he wanted a change, and opted to play the baritone. (Click here to see what this is. I'd never heard of it until this year). He has to practice this most days, in addition to his homework, and also in addition to his guitar (he's been taking guitar lessons since 3rd grade). He has joined the astronomy club (meets once a month after school) and has made a few new friends, although he largely seems to be hanging out with his friends from his old school.  He had a rough start to the year with a few instances of irresponsibility, but now we have a plan that he follows to make sure all homework is done, paperwork is signed, etc.  I'm incredibly proud of him.

On the other hand, my daughter, A, is also in a new school.  She's now 9, and in 3rd grade.  We made the very difficult decision to place her in a special day class. She's been in general ed this whole time.  She's been doing ok, but not great, and between some behavioral problems she's exhibiting and the fact that she needs more one-on-one with reading comprehension, a smaller class was the way to go.  A general ed class has up to 28 kids (and up to 34 in 4th and 5th grade!) and not only does the teacher not have a lot of time for one-on-one attention, but it's very noisy, which is difficult for a deaf/hard-of-hearing kid.  This new class only has 11 kids (it will have no more than 14), and has two teachers.  It's a NSH class (non-severely handicapped) and the only special ed class-type in my district that is is on the academic track.  (We had to switch schools because at our old elementary school, the special day classes were autism classes)  Kids here are geared for a high school diploma, while other special ed classes are geared to a high school certificate.  In fact, their goal is to get the kids out of hte NSH class at some point and mainstream them back into general ed. That is my hope for A.  But, if she needs this class for the duration, then we'll do what we need to do.

She is getting lots of one-on-one.  Actually, she's in the highest reading and math groups, and for at least one of those groups she's the only one in it! I was nervous putting her in this class, but I'm thrilled so far at what I'm seeing her accomplish.  It was hard to admit that she needed more, that she needed special ed, but she does.  I'm proud of her, and frankly, I'm proud of myself and my husband, for recognizing this and placing her where she belongs.  She does miss her old school, and sometimes cries that she wants to go back, but for the most part she loves her new school and teacher.  It's good that we still have Brownies twice a month, because that's where the majority of here friends are and she can still see them. But she's made a few new friends at the new school as well, so that's good.

In short, both kid are where they need to be. Both kids have special needs of sorts, and I've placed them in classes that address that.  GATE or Special Day, each class is geared to my son and daughter, respectively.  I'm hoping that what I'm seeing during this first month continues all year!

September 25, 2015

Pedal the Cause 2015 Recap

Last weekend I participated in Pedal the Cause, a fundraiser to raise money for cancer research.  As of now, there are only two such rides---one in St. Louis, and the other here in San Diego.  For the San Diego ride, 100% of the money stays here in San Diego and goes to four beneficiaries who collaborate to try to find a cure for cancer.  They had different ride options---10, 25, 50, 75, or 150 miles.

How did I get involved in this?  Well, I wanted to give myself a big biking challenge.  Last year I did my first century and thought it would be a good idea to do another big ride.  There are tons of different rides out there, different centuries, metric centuries, fundraisers, etc-- and Pedal the Cause (PTC) caught my eye. My friend Todd did the 50 miler last year and loved it.  And cancer is a cause very near and dear to my heart.  Just last year I lost my mom last year to ovarian cancer, and my husband lost his father to pancreatic cancer many years ago.  Not only that, I have many friends who have been fighting cancer, and know so many who have won---and unfortunately, so many who have lost. I decided to sign up for the BIG challenge----150 miles, go big or go home!---and with that came a commitment to raise at least $2000.  In the end, I raised over $3000!  The ride would be long and hilly----from UCSD (the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla) to Temecula, and then back the next day.  75 miles each day.  They would put us up in tents for the night.

I had a good riding base from my half-Ironman in July, Vineman, but had to kick up the training in the last few months.  I trained the best I could given burnout (I was so burned out after Vineman!), family commitments and extreme heat.  My longest training weekend was two weeks before---when I did 60 miles on Saturday and 40 miles on Sunday---but I did a lot of miles and hillwork.  Looking back, I could have benefited from maybe one or two more longer rides. I trained a lot with Todd, and did some rides with some other friends, and sometimes on my own.   On our last training ride, the weekend before PTC, Todd and I randomly met a couple, Kandy and Jim, at a stoplight (they had recognized Todd from seeing us out riding the previous weekend!).  It turned out that they were also doing PTC and we rode with them for a bit before we went our own ways.  We were looking forward to seeing them the following weekend.

The night before the ride, we had went to Petco Park for their kickoff party and packet pickup.  Apparently this was new---they are now partnering with the San Diego Padres, so that was cool. I signed my waiver, and got my packet (number for my bike, etc) and my jersey. They had dinner for the whole family, a band, and an overall great vibe.  Those people who had not yet made their fundraising commitment had to sign a paper acknowledging that they would be responsible for the balance if they didn't raise the money.  I saw Todd and another friend of ours, Mike, and also met new people while standing in line.  Then home to pack and early to bed!  Not only did we have to pack biking clothes for Sunday, but also things for the overnight---toiletries, flip flops, warm clothes, and a pillow, sleeping bag and pad (tents were provided but were empty).

at packet pickup

empty stadium at Petco Park kickoff party

Todd picked me up at 6:00 a.m., and we made our way to UCSD.  We parked, assemble our bikes, checked in our duffel bags, and made signs noting why we were riding. It was right there, before the ride even started, that I started to cry. Writing my mom's name down hurt so much. I miss her terribly.  It was sobering seeing all the signs people were writing.  There were also posters to sign that would be delivered to cancer patients at Children's Hospital.  Very sobering.   Soon it was time to get to the starting corral.  Trevor Hoffman, former San Diego Padres pitcher, was there to see us off (he rode, too!) Happily, we ran into Kandy and Jim, and posed for some pictures before wishing each other luck and starting on the ride.

me and Todd pre-ride

me and Kandy

My reason for riding. Already crying before the ride even started.

Trevor Hoffman, giving a pep talk

I'm not going to do a mile-by-mile description.  First, there were too many miles to do so!  But second, it all became a blur.  I had 150 miles to cover and it was hot. I mean, HOT.  Triple digit temperatures.  As it was a ride, not a race, I didn't need to prove anything to myself. I'm a slower cyclist to begin with, but I made a decision to take it extra slow during the weekend.  I just wanted to complete the ride safely.  My goal became to make it from one aid station to the next.  Most of them had snacks (ie pretzels, licorice, and chips) but one had lunch, a pizza truck making brick fired pizza.  As the stops went on (and I stopped at ALL of them) I started to sit longer, savoring the shade, getting a cup of ice to eat, and pouring ice down my sport bra.  I get hot very easily, and there were times on the ride I thought I was going to faint, it was so hot.  So I did the best I could.

mile 19.  first aid station, and feeling great.

So I kept my pace, and met tons of people along the way.  The stories I heard made me cry.  I met a woman who lost her husband a few years ago to lung cancer (he had never smoked). I met a woman whose best friend died of melanoma last year. I met  team from Missouri who had also biked through Texas, raising $1M for cancer research.  EVERY SINGLE PERSON RIDING had a reason to be there, a personal connection to cancer, and had raised money for the cause.   Lots of of tears were shed while biking, and I was not immune. I talked a lot to my mother during the ride, asking her for strength to get through.

I wore my Ironman Vineman 70.3 jersey the first day (I wore the PTC jersey on day 2) and got tons of comments. I was the only one I saw in an Ironman jersey, and people kept referring to me at the Iron Girl, etc.  It definitely made me well-known on the course, and helped to keep my spirits up!

lunch.  hot and dying of heat.

praying for strength?

The last 30 miles or so were awful.  It was so hot, and very, very hilly.  There was carnage all over the roads.  People stopped on the side, sitting in the shade.  People resting on the ground. People catching rides to the camp, as they were too exhausted or dehydrated or cramping up to continue.  I was so thankful for the plentiful aid stations and the numerous volunteers who were there to assist.  I was drinking a lot, taking my salts, and pouring water over my head every few minutes, but the heat and hills were very wearing.  There's a few big climbs, and before each of them I'd stop to steel myself for the job that had to be done to get up.  By this time, I had caught up to Todd (he was ahead of me the first half of the ride) so it was great to bike with a friend!  Finally, FINALLY, we crested the last hills and made to the rider camp.

my tent

charging station

panoramic view of the tent city

As soon as we rolled in to the camp (to our names announced and people cheering) volunteers took our bikes.  Good! I didn't want to see it for over 12 hours.  I saw my friend Mike and went  over to say hi....then went straight for the massage tent to make an appointment.  Coincidentally, at that moment someone didn't show up for their massage, so I was able to go right then!  I still had my helmet in my hand and bike shoes on, but I didn't care!  I went over to the massage tent and had a nice 15 minute massage, which felt great on my sore muscles.  Next, I found my tent (each rider had their own two-person tent--our duffel bags were already delivered inside!) and made my way to the trailer that contained hot showers.  Ah.......the shower felt great!  (As a side note, PTC did provide each tent with two towels, which I used, but I also brought a towel from home. I'm glad I did).

Massaged, showered and happy, I found Mike again.  He was with his friends, drinking beer---and informed me that they had run out of beer.  WHAT?!?!? I literally had been dreaming of a cold beer for the last 2 hours. I was so upset!  One of his friends offered me what was left in his cup and I greedily drank it, then I went back to my tent to "unpack".  They had a tent set up with power strips, so I put my phone and Garmin on to charge up.  After that, it was "happy hour' at camp (we had missed the lunch served since we didn't get in until 4:30!) and we sat on a big grassy area outside, listening to a live band.  They had snack food, but I was too nauseous to eat.  I wanted beer!  They did have wine, but I didn't want that.  Lots of people had their families there...something I had considered, but when I mapped it, it was 90 minutes from my house. I didn't want J to have to drive 3 hours round-trip with the kids to see me for a few hours!  Soon, there was more beer--- they had made a trip and had bottles and cans---and that made everyone happy.  By this time, Todd had showered and joined us, and we relaxed on the grass, drinking beer and listening to the great band.

relaxing with Todd and Mike--finally with beer

Next was dinner.  They had a great buffet, and even some vegetarian options.  Some people spoke, which was really moving.  Listening to them speak was very poignant to me. It made me realize that I was part of something bigger than myself, that I was doing something good.  The sense of family in the tent was amazing.  In fact, the sense of family throughout the entire two days was strong.  I've done so many races, and there is is always a sense of camaraderie on the courses...but here, this weekend, the feeling went beyond camaraderie. It felt like family.   The feeling in the air is impossible for me to describe, but I felt it in every cell of my body. We were all in it together.  After the speakers, they had dessert, but I skipped it in order to get to bed.  I was in bed by 8 (although I slept fitfully).

I woke early, and went to the tent to get breakfast. There I ran into Kandy. She told me that Jim was not able to ride back, as he had been having severe leg cramps all night long, and asked if she could ride back with me.  While I was concerned and upset for Jim, I was thrilled to have Kandy's company.  We finished eating,  I packed up my belongings, pumped air in my tires, and was ready to roll at the kick-off time of 7:00 (after getting a picture with Trevor Hoffman!)

the name of camp---Camp Pedalton

me and Trevor Hoffman

My legs were already sore from Day 1, and I was exhausted from the heat and lack of sleep.  But I still had 75 miles to ride back!  Kandy and I started together, and did the entire ride together.  The first several miles were great---it was cool and there was a lot of downhill---but soon, at about mile 30, there was a huge, nasty hill that was maybe about 1.5 miles long (West Lilac).  I got up to almost the top of it, and then, with .25 mile to go, I had to get off my bike and walk it up the rest of the way.  My lower back was beginning to ache, and my left calf was starting to cramp. I could have probably pushed through---it wasn't too much further---but at what cost?  Even pushing my bike up that portion was brutal. By this time, the sun was out in full force and I was shaking with heat exhaustion and sobbing at the effot. I finally got up the to top where Kandy was waiting, and we rode another few miles to the next aid station where I sucked down lots of ice to try to cool my core.

From this point forward, all I wanted to do was get home.  There were tons of people getting rides back---people were cramped, or had heat exhaustion---but I knew I could get home.  The route back was different from the way there----and had about about half the elevation gain---but it was still hot!  Eventually we got to the coast, at the Oceanside Harbor, and we went south.  Even though it was still so hot, at least we had an ocean breeze at this point. That made all the difference.  We still stopped at all the aid stations on the coast, eating ice, refilling our bottles, but it didn't seem as much as a death march from that point on.

my reasons for riding

At mile 70 (of 75) we had to go back UP the Torrey Pines hill.  This is a 1.5 mile steep hill. I've done this hill a gazillion times, but never with so many miles under my belt.  To make things "interesting" they had a contest where they were timing people for a mile of the hill (there was a timing chip in the bike bib number).  They had signs up the hill saying "3/4 mile to go" or "500 feet to go" etc...and lots of cheerleaders along the way.  I just focused on getting to the top---I wasn't going to walk this one---and was so glad when I did.  There was an aid station at top where a volunteer poured an entire bottle of ice water down my back. Man, that felt good!

From that point on, it was just a few more miles to the finish.  Kandy and I did it together, and crossed the finish line together. I was thrilled to see not only  my husband and kids there, but a few other dear friends who surprised me to come cheer us on.  Todd had finished 45 minutes before, and was there too. As soon as we finished, Kandy and I got off our bikes and started sobbing, giving each other a big hug. I could NOT have done this return ride without her---she was amazing, and even though we just met, over the 7 hours we were together we became good friends. It's amazing how much you disclose on a run or bike ride----the saying "what happens on a run/bike ride, stays on the run/bike ride" is true!  Then I saw my family and friends, and was able to give hugs and pose for pictures. I was delirious at this point with the heat and exhaustion, and at one point was looking for Todd, and he was literally right in front of me! I didn't even see him.  After refueling on delicious BBQ and a cold beer, I was ready to pack up and go home.

post-ride with Kandy, Jim and Todd

Will I do this ride next year?  Absolutely, as long as there are no family commitments that interfere.  The cause was so special to me, and I loved knowing that my efforts contributed to cancer research.

BBQ and beer. Awesome post-ride fare!

This was one of the hardest things I've ever done, which is saying a lot. I've done so many tough events---many triathlons, including 3 half-Ironmans, 20-some half-marathons, a full marathon, a century ride, 2.4 mile ocean swims---and while each was one was tough, THIS event I think was the toughest.  The amount of hills (over 8000 feet of elevation gain when all was said and done).....the triple digit heat....the emotions thinking about my mom, father-in-law, and all the friends and family I have had that have won or lost their battles.  Whenever I really down, I thought how this was only two days of my life, and that this was nothing compared to chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.  I am proud of myself and my fellow riders for getting through this grueling ride, and look forward to it again---and hopefully raising even more money! I can't say enough about this ride.  Except for running out of beer at the first finish line (which they remedied), everything was perfectly well-run----plenty of signage, volunteers, food and drink. Massage and hot showers! Upgraded trailer port-o-potties!  Charging stations for electronics!  We were treated very well.  I'll be back!

 In the meantime, I'm dreaming of a world without cancer.