July 15, 2014

Costume Party Run Half Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend I completed my 21st half marathon (that is, stand-alone half marathon; I'm not counting the half marathons I did at the end of each of my two half-Ironmans).  It was called the Costume Party Run.  Last year was the inaugural year race, and this year was apparently the last year, only in year two.  I was interested in doing it last year, but was injured and never signed up.  After reading recaps about how fun it was, I was determined to do it this year.

I didn't even know if I would get to the start line.  I hadn't done a stand-alone half marathon since AFC last August. Right after that race I started to train for my second half-Ironman, California Oceanside 70.3, and my coach basically forbade me from doing a half marathon in the meantime (to be fair, if I really wanted to do one, he would have made the training plan adjustments, but he didn't feel it was worth the potential risk of injury---and I agreed.  Half marathons happen all the time; the half-Ironman was too important to me to take any risks).  During the run portion at Oceanside I injured myself yet again---on top of my usual sciatic pain, caused by a herniated disc, and on-and-off plantar fasciitis, I suddenly developed some Achilles pain.  It worsened  in subsequent runs after that triathlon, and I ended up taking seven full weeks off running to try to heal. After that, I finally saw a podiatrist who diagnosed me with mild Achilles tendinopathy, prescribed me medicine and stretches, and told me I could run.  I finally started running again during the first week of June, which really only gave me six weeks to not only train for a half marathon, but to build up from basically nothing (it's humbling how quickly running fitness can be lost, and seven full weeks of no running set me way back).  Luckily I had been biking and swimming a lot, so while my running legs were gone I still had my cardiac fitness.  I built up slowly, only getting in two long runs of any sort---one that was six miles and a ten-miler the week before the race.

I decided I was trained enough to complete the race, and didn't care about my finishing time. I knew I wouldn't come near a PR (I'd have to get 2:28 for a PR) and just hoped to come in under 3 hours.  My average time for half marathons ranges between 2:30-2:40, but my last two half marathons, AFC and La Jolla, were at about 3 hours because I was in so much pain that I walked much of each. I truthfully didn't care about my time here---I only wanted to finish strong with a smile on my face, having fun.

Not only did I have to train for this race, I had to find a costume! That was the point of the Costume Run---to be in costume!  I didn't really want to spend a lot of money on a costume, and tried to think of something low-cost.  Additionally, I wanted something that would not only be easy to run in, but not too hot---after all, we'd be running in July in San Diego. I settled on Little Red Riding Hood. I borrowed a Riding Hood cape from a girlfriend, paired it with a black tank and black running shorts with a skirt over them, and found some adorable socks.  With my hair in braided pigtails, that would have to do.  It definitely wasn't the most creative costume out there, but at least I was dressed up.

Packet pickup was the day before at Road Runner Sports. There was no expo at all, just pick-up. I got there on the later side, and avoided all lines.  They gave me a bib, timing chip and cap---no shirts for this race, but the hat was a welcome change.

The race started at Qualcomm Stadium at 6:30 in the morning.  Because I didn't know how bad traffic would be (I was remembering the awful traffic getting off the freeway and into the stadium from the Bolt to the Q race a few years ago) I left my house at 5:10.  I got there by 5:25, had no traffic, and was in my parking spot by 5:30.  Oh well---I'd rather be early and waiting in my car listening to music than stuck in traffic worrying about missing the start of the race! I waited until 6:15, then got out of my car, met my friend Ingrid, who was doing the 10k, and waited for the start.

Ingrid and I pre-race

start line ahead

And we were off!  From the start, I followed a Galloway plan of 90 seconds running/30 seconds walking. I was able to stick to this plan the entire way, except once in the last mile when I had to walk a bit more.  The course started at Qualcomm Stadium, looped around for over a mile in the parking lot, then went out-and-back on Friars Road before coming back to circle the parking lot again.  Kind of a boring course---mostly flat with very few mild rollers---except for the costumes.  That was awesome!  Because of the out-and-back aspect, we got to see so many costumes.  There was also a 5k and 10k component to this race, and I'm assuming that most of the warmer costumes I saw were for runners doing the shorter distances---although I saw people doing the half marathon in costumes that I would have overheated in at mile one!

Although there were lots of the usual superheroes in this race, I was impressed by people's creativity.  I wished I took more pictures along the course, but here's just a sampling of what people wore:

a manly Marilyn Monroe

loved these cookie monsters!

where's Waldo?

the mighty Isis!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Indiana Jones---loved the spiders!

these kids were the Scarecrow, Glinda, Dorothy and Tin Man!

In 'n' Out workers

not a costume, but this running group all wore these inspirational shirts

from Mario brothers

a FULL giraffe costume!

no words to describe this Sumo wrestler running in the heat!
It did get too hot for me.  It started at 6:30, and the first several miles were wonderful with a cloud cover, but by mile 6 the sun was out in full force. I drank all the Gatorade I had on me, and used the aid stations not only for hydration but to dump water on me.  My pace definitely slowed a lot, although I was unaware of my pace---for the first time ever in a race, I set my Garmin screen to only show time elapsed and distance run. I didn't want to know my pace.  But aside from the heat, I had fun!  I LOVED seeing all the costumes, I had a great new updated playlist of music, and my run/walk ratio was really working for me!

The only thing that was bad was that I chafed for the first time!  It was the first time I've chafed since I started running in 1998!  The only thing I can think of was that the humidity made my thighs more sticky. I wear these shorts all the time, and in fact had worn then the previous week during my 10-miler.  I ended the race with blood between my thighs from the rubbing. Ouch! I've never used Body Glide while running, I only use it for my wetsuit, but I think next time it's this hot and humid outside I need to apply it to my thighs.

Also, my Garmin clocked the course at about 12.7 miles, not quite 13.1  At that point, when I was so hot and tired, I didn't care that it was short, but the reality is it should have been longer.  My finishing time isn't quite accurate, as the course is wrong.  But, I was on pace for a 2:43 finish, which, considering my lack of training and the heat is great for me.  I was also in minimal pain. I love the Galloway run/walk method--it's really been helping me out.

They billed the medal as the "world's biggest half marathon medal". While I can't vouch if that's true or not, I can say with absolute certainty that it is huge. It dwarfs the biggest medals I have on my rack. Just take a look!

that's my hand in the background. Look how big this thing is!

struggling to hold up the medal after the race

After the race, I got my medal, some Gatorade, and a bottle of water pulled from an ice bucket. Ahhhh! Just what I needed!  They also gave me four different kinds of treats (ie granola bars, biscuits, etc).  I thought it was a well-organized race, although I did hear that there were no clear directions for the 5k so people may have ended up running longer, which is no good. I DID see a clear turn-around for the 10k folks.

This is the last year of this race, but apparently they are going to do something else instead.  I'll bet there will be costumes involved---the people that put this race on, Super Hero events, always puts on costume-themed races, like the Hollywood Half Marathon and Awesome 80's Run.  I hope to check out whatever new race they put on!

June 24, 2014

La Jolla Pier to Cove Swim Recap

I completed my second swim-only event, the La Jolla Pier to Cove Swim.  This is billed as a 1.5 mile swim (although it's actually longer; my friends with waterproof Garmins clocked it at 1.8, and I may have gone even more off-course) and is put on by the La Jolla Swim Club.  This was my first event with this swim club; one look at their event calendar shows many events all year long, so there may be more!  I only recently signed up for this; it wasn't even on my radar until a few weeks ago when a friend, M,  posted it on her Facebook page and tagged me. I decided it would be fun to do, and, although I haven't been training specifically for this swim, I've been swimming enough recently (both in the pool and in open water) that I knew I could do the distance.

This event was very low-key, so much so that there wasn't even an email from the race director the week before. I have done many, many events, whether they are running races, bike rides, swims, or triathlons, and each and every time there is an email at least a few days before with race day instructions and information about parking, packet pickup, etc.  This race had nothing, just the info that was on it's website.  I emailed a friend who did it last year to get more information, and in passing asked if all I needed was my wetsuit and goggles. Luckily he told me to also bring a swim cap, else I may not have brought one.  Bring my own swim cap? In every triathlon I have done, and in the other swim-only race I did, Tiki, a swim cap is provided, if for no other reason than to let the organizers know that you are in the race.  I didn't know how the organizers would know who was signed up, especially since the Cove is populated with other swimmers. Oh well. I made sure to pack a cap!

One notable thing about this swim, for me, is that I broke a cardinal rule: nothing new on race day! I had ordered a new wetsuit from Xterra and just got it the day before. My old wetsuit is 4 years old and is starting to get holes, despite repairs I had done last summer.  I decided to chance wearing the new suit---luckily, it worked out well.  It fit great and I had no chafing issues.

This is a point to point race.  The start is at the La Jolla Pier, and the end is at La Jolla Cove.  They strongly recommended parking at the Cove, and taking a provided shuttle to the Pier.  I knew that parking in downtown La Jolla gets very crowded, so I left the house at 6:20 and got to La Jolla in time to snag a prime spot right on the Cove.  Soon my friend M showed up, and after we found a few of her friends we found a ride to the Pier (really just another swimmer with room in his minivan).  We checked in, got our packet (just a timing chip for our ankles), body marked (race numbers on both our hands) and waited.  My friend Leo soon came, and it was fun to hang out with him as well.

View from the Cove over to the Pier. From this distance, you really can't see the Pier!

Soon it was time to go to the water.  We left our bags on the grass, where they would be transported to the Cove.  We made our way down to the shore and got in to warm up.  Lots of people were in wetsuits, like me (we were non-regulation) but many were just wearing swimsuits (they were in the regulation division).  Although the water was perfect (67 degrees) I was glad I had a wetsuit. I didn't need to wear my booties as I usually do---it was THAT warm!  After a pre-race talk by the director, a horn blew and it was time to charge in the water!

I walked out quite a ways, as it was very shallow.  The waves were very low too.  I forgot to do the "stingray shuffle" (you're supposed to shuffle your feet when you walk here to scare away any stingrays) and I'm very lucky, because a few minutes later when it was deep enough for me to start swimming I looked down and there were several stingrays swimming under me!  A very scary AND very neat moment all in one.

We swam out parallel to the Pier, then turned left (heading south) toward the Cove.  Here is where I got confused.  Unlike every triathlon I've ever done, where there's big buoys to mark the way, and even the Tiki Swim, where there were buoys every few hundred yards, there were no buoys here. None at all.  We were told to sight off the big highrise building next to the Cove, but that's the only landmark we were given.  As I was in the back of the pack, there were not too many swimmers around me; most people took off and were way ahead. and At times I got nervous.  Not scared---I knew I'd be ok---but nervous, as I wasn't 100% sure where I was going.

After what seemed like forever, I saw another swimmer by me, and made my way toward her. I felt better knowing I had a "buddy" out there.  I was then able to relax and really enjoy the swim.  This route has been on my bucket list for a while---such a beautiful place to swim.  The water was clear; I was able to see my hands the whole time, which is so different than swimming in the bay or the ocean.  I saw a jellyfish floating under me, and when I neared a boat I saw schools of fish.

It seemed like I would never get to my destination, but clearly I was making forward progress. I passed over some beds of kelp (luckily I swam OVER them and not THROUGH them) and they were suddenly behind me.  I noticed the woman I was trailing head left; thank goodness, or I would have overshot the Cove!  I followed her until we were both yelled at by a lifeguard to veer more left, as we were going to hit the rocks!

The best part was yet to come.  Right before the end of the swim, we were in the shallower parts of the Cove. I  swam over coral, kelp, and tons of colorful fish darting around. It was like snorkeling, except it was just me and my goggles.  It was absolutely breathtaking. I've swam in the Cove a few times before, and have seen some fish, but never before I had I seen such a layout of marine life right below me.

As I approached the shore, I saw Leo and my other friends waiting for me, shouting my name. I finally exited, ran over the timing mat on the sand, and was done!  Leo had gotten me a cup of water, which I much appreciated after all that salt water.  We made our way up the stairs to the grassy area, got our t-shirts, and got in line for a free spread of Mexican food and cookies.  Yum.

Another view of the Cove (photo credit to my friend Marsha)

I may look into other swims with the La Jolla Swim Club.  I need to get better at sighting, though.  While I appreciated the bare bones race (no swim cap, no medal, no tech shirt) while not leaving safety behind (there were lifeguards out on kayaks and paddleboards) I did NOT like not having buoys to sight off. It's hard to swim in a straight line, bobbling up and down in the water, with only one target 1.5 miles away for a guide.  That said, more practice in the Cove could help with that. I did love the fun atmosphere---everyone there loves to swim and it was very welcoming.

June 20, 2014

UCSD Triton 5k Recap

A few weeks ago my son, D, and I participated in the UCSD Triton 5k.  This is a local race put on by my alma mater, the University of California, San Diego.  I did it many years ago (in either 1999 or 2000) but back then it was called the Chancellor's Challenge and ran mainly through the campus eucalyptus grove on trails.  Now, many years later, it's revamped and goes on a loop through much of the campus.  The fact that the registration fees were very low for alumni was also a plus. 

I wanted to do this race with D because, even though we live in San Diego, he's never been on the campus before. I thought it would be a great way to show him around.  He was excited to finally be on a college campus!  We arrived very early, because not only did I not attend packet pickup the day before, but I didn't know where I was going!  I graduated in 1991, so long ago...and much of the campus is new to me.  Luckily there were great directions sent to us, I easily found parking in a garage, and we got our bibs with no hassle.  T-shirts would be given to us after the race.

Because we were so early, we decided to walk around a bit.  Not too far from the start was my old apartment from my sophomore year (1988-1989), at the old Third College (now Thurgood Marshall College).  Just seeing the balcony brought back a flood of memories for me. I showed D, and walked around the apartment complex a bit to check out the field, the laundry room, etc.

my top-floor apartment, unit G-6

After walking around a bit more, it was time to go back to the start--but not before D ran into someone he knew from school!  Randomly, the kindergarten "little buddy" he'd been assigned to all year was there.  The chances of running into him were so slim!  I also ran into another old friend; I hadn't seen him since the mid-90's!  It was nice to see him and meet his daughter.  We got in line, waited for the start, and were off!

start line

The plan was for D to run/walk slowly with me.  For one, I wasn't planning on running the whole thing, and I was going to run slowly. I took 7 weeks off of running to try to heal my Achilles tendinopathy, and race was only one week back into my running. And it was my longest run in 7 weeks.  But second, I wanted to show D the campus and point things out to him, so he was instructed to keep to my (slower) pace, walk when I walked, and spend the morning with you.

The run looped through the whole campus.  I was able to point out Thurgood Marshall, Muir and Revelle Colleges. The dorms I used to visit friends in.  The lecture halls I used to take classes in.  The pool I used to play intra-mural inner-tube water polo in.  The library I used to study in.  The fountain I would sit at with friends between classes, sunning myself.  The memories came fast and furious.

I was especially excited to see the new (to me) installments of the Stuart Collection, an eclectic series of art projects placed all over the campus.  We only saw a few, though, and I look forward to going back on day and seeing the rest.  One that I was excited to see was Fallen Star, which is a house perched on top of a building.  D was excited to see this too.  Sadly, he missed his chance, as he had run ahead of me at this point and was not there to hear me point it out to him.

see the house up there?
Yes, at mile 2, D decided he'd had enough of Mama's pace and ran on ahead.  While I was proud of him for doing so well, I WAS a bit annoyed at him, as the whole point of the race was to do it together so I could show him things! His loss.

At the halfway point in the race, at the one water station, they were also unprepared---they had two tables set up, one on each side of the sidewalk, and NO water was poured at either table.  Runners were queued up several people deep at each table waiting for the volunteers to pour the water.  Luckily we didn't need to stop, but if we had, that would have been a huge chunk off our time.

The end of the race was on the track (which was cool, as I'd never run on a track before).  I crossed as they announced my name, and found D, who was waiting for me.  There were no medals at this race (D was ok with this, telling me, "it's ok, I have my memories of it!"), so we didn't have to deal with that, but we DID want water.  Unfortunately, this was very unorganized. We had to wait in a long line (over 10 minutes long) just to get water and a banana...then wait about 5-10 minutes more in this same long line to get our t-shirts.  That was not good, especially as it was a warm morning.  After finally getting our water, banana and shirt, we wandered the huge festival for a while.  We each had a beer ticket for the beer garden (yes, even my 10-year old!!!) and we gave them away to friends of my friend Andrea, who was there to cheer her husband on in his first 5k.

Overall it was fun---the only complaint I have is the lack of water on the course and the long wait for water after.  But in terms of the race itself, it was great to be back at my alma mater and show it off to my son.  Who knows---maybe in another decade I'll be doing the race with him as a student there!