April 22, 2012

Medal of Shame

Last week I broke down and ordered a medal rack to display all my race bling.  I'd been wanting to wait until I met my goal of breaking 2:30 in a half marathon, but I came within seconds of that goal during the Hollywood Half a few weeks ago, on a really tough course, and I decided that was okay.  I had this custom made, as I wanted the top to say "Strong Girl". I love it!

I added all my medals, but was missing one:  I did a half marathon back in 1999 and wanted to add that too!  I looked high and low, but it hasn't yet turned up.  However, while digging through old boxes, I did find this old medal, dated October 17, 1999:

It was from the Arturo Barrios Invitational, which was an annual 5k and 10k in the San Diego area (I just read that the race stopped in either 2005 or 2006).  I had signed up for the 10k. I started running in 1998, and did countless 5ks in that year.  In 1999 my husband and I also did the AFC Half Marathon (this is the medal I'm still searching for!)  If I'm estimating my dates right, the Arturo Barrios 10k was a few months after the half marathon.

(As a side note, in looking up the Arturo Barrios 10k while writing this post, I just learned that Deena Drossin--otherwise known as DEENA KASTOR-- also ran the 10k that year.)

Anyhow, the course was set up as a 5k loop.  To do the 10k a runner had to go around the course twice.  I don't remember why, but for some reason I stopped after one lap--a 5k--instead of going around a second time.  I was probably tired and maybe my legs hurt and no doubt I was mentally drained.  But why I didn't do that second lap is beyond me.  They gave me the medal (all 5k and 10k runners got one) but I didn't feel like I earned it.  After all, even though I did the 5k I didn't do the race I had set out to do.

The person I was back in 1999 bears no resemblance to the woman I am today.  That would NEVER happen now.  I am very dedicated to my training, and would never "wimp out" of a race.  I rarely wimp out of a training run/bike/swim, and if I do it's only because something is seriously wrong.  I've become somewhat obsessive-compulsive with my training. For example, if I set out to do a 5 mile run, I am not stopping until my Garmin reads 5 miles.  If I end and my Garmin only says 4.98 I will run the extra .02 miles to make it 5 miles.  I can go OVER my goal (I wouldn't balk at my Garmin reading 5.03 miles, for example) but I need to do at least what I set out to do.  Only injury, time constraints or equipment malfunction would make me fall short of a training goal (I've had leaky goggles that have made me stop a swim, or bike issues that made me call my husband to pick me up, etc).

The cartoon on the far right, created by Colin Hayes, sums me up pretty well:

(I know it's small, so if you can't read it, the runner is looking at the screen and it says: Weekly Mileage Goal: 50 miles. Actual:  49.9  The runner is thinking "Darn, guess I better get back out there.".  The cartoon is titled "The Anal Mileage Man").
In short, the runner (and person) I am today would have never quit a 10k race at only 5k unless something was seriously wrong with me.  And although I don't quite remember why I quit, I know for sure that nothing was seriously wrong. I was tired....and frankly, uncommitted.

Today I take my fitness, my goals and my life much more seriously.  I am dedicated and committed.

I'm not sure what to do with the medal I found.  I don't want to hang it on my new medal rack----it's connotations are too shameful for me to do that, as I didn't really earn it.  But I don't want to throw it away, either, as seeing it reminds me of how far I've come.  I think I will put it back in the box of momentos, and hope that never again I give up on myself.

April 9, 2012

Hollywood Half Marathon Race Recap

This weekend I ran in my 11th half marathon, the Inaugural Hollywood Half Marathon. I registered for this race last year, when I saw on Facebook a special deal that made the entry fee only $39 (a BARGAIN for a half marathon!) I thought it would be really fun to run up in Hollywood so I quickly acted on the deal before it went away. I got one of my dailymile and Twitter friends (and soon to be Ironman!), Rebecca, to do it with me and share a hotel room. I was set to go...until I realized that the race was on the first day of Passover, a very important Jewish holiday! I didn't want to skip the race, and I really needed to be in San Diego with my family on Friday night for the traditional Passover seder, so I ended up hosting a very early dinner and driving up (2 hours!) after dinner on Friday night for the race. This meant I would miss the expo, so I paid the $15 fee to have my race bib, timing chip and shirt sent to me beforehand. I also paid an extra $8 to upgrade my shirt from a cotton one to a tech shirt. I thought this was odd---every half marathon, and most triathlons, that I do give a tech shirt automatically---but I knew I would never wear the shirt if it was cotton. All in all, the added fees made my entrance only $62, still a bargain in the racing world. (And, after reading in other race recaps what a zoo their expo was, I'm glad I had opted to have my stuff mailed to me anyway!)

Anyhow, by the time I got up to Hollywood and the Universal Sheraton, it was already 9:15 p.m., only a few hours before racetime! I had been up cooking since very early that morning, and was already exhausted. I got up to the room, and spent an hour or so catching up with Rebecca. Finally, we got to sleep. Since the race started at 6:00, the wake-up call was for 4:15, although I was up earlier than that. I never run in costume, but for this race decided to have some fun and dress up. I opted to dress as Audrey Hepburn (as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's). I got a black sparkle skirt and silver arm warmers from Team Sparkle, added a tiara comb and pearls from Claire's, tried to put my hair in a bun and was ready to go!

Getting ready in the hotel

Me and Rebecca pre-race

We walked to the Universal Studios City Walk, which was very nearby. I haven't been to Universal Studios in more than 20 years, so City Walk is new to me. Wow, what a huge place! I met up with some other San Diego friends, posed for pictures (both for friends and from one of the official race photographers) and got in a corral. There were SO many people dressed up---the only race I've ever seen that many costumed runners was the Disneyland Half Marathon! It was awesome to see so many people get in the spirit of the race.

Still in the dark, pre-race
My goal for the race was simply to have fun. Although I still have my goal to break the 2:30 barrier (my PR was less than a minute shy of this goal!) I wasn't feeling like I would run a fast race. I had to skip my long run a few weeks ago, due to health reasons, and I wasn't feeling as prepared as I would have wanted. Also, I was exhausted from cooking the day before, driving up late, and getting little sleep. Finally, I had read that there was a big uphill at the end of the race. I don't do well on hills. So, I just wanted to have fun and soak up the excitement of running in Hollywood for the first time.

The races started promptly at 6:00, although my corral didn't start until about 6:15. We ran through City Walk, which was really cool, especially since the sun was just coming up.

I LOVED the course, at least until the end. We started on a huge downhill, and most of the first 7 miles were flat-ish or downhill.

We ran past the Hollywood Bowl, and then we were on Hollywood Boulevard. The official race website says "Run down the World Famous Hollywood Walk of Fame as thousands of spectators cheer your name!"....well, this wasn't quite true. We were ON Hollywood Blvd, but on the street part, not the sidewalk part where the stars are for the Walk of Fame. But I got a picture:

There was also little crowd support. There were some spectators, of course, but I think our early 6:00 start time was too early for more people to come out and cheer. And there was only one band (a drumming band) out there. But it was awesome to see all the costumes, and all the crazy people! I saw a group of Elvii, one of whom was pushing a stroller with a speaker blaring Elvis tunes. I saw a man running, dressed like a jester, who was JUGGLING the entire time while he was running. I saw a woman who was HULA HOOPING while running. I saw people dressed like superheroes, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, I Dream of Jeannie, Disney Princesses....you name it, there was someone dressed up like it. And, just like at the Surf City Half Marathon in February, I saw the guy running with a watermelon balanced on his head.

Mile 7 was the turnaround for this out-and-back race. At mile 8 I noticed that all the water stops were out of cups! This didn't affect me, as I always bring my own Gatorade, but I was bummed for the people who really needed it. At least they still had water, which they used to either refill people's bottles or splash on peoples' hands or heads. I never saw them offer a sports drink, although they did have a gel station with plenty of gels on hand. Rookie mistake for an inaugural race, although I've encountered a cup shortage in other well-oiled races. This is why runners should always, ALWAYS carry their own liquid.

At mile 10 I was feeling really good! I was running fast, faster than I usually do, and even though I was taking some walk breaks I was doing great on time. In fact, at mile 10, my Garmin showed I was at 1:50. This was CRAZY! I realized that I only had a 5k left to do, and 40 minutes to do it in order to break 2:30. Even though I hadn't been planning on a PR today, it seemed that it was possible! I could easily do a 5k in 40 minutes!

However, at about mile 11 I hit "the hill". The hill that I had gleefully run down in the beginning of the race. This hill was long, over 2 miles, maybe 2 1/2 miles, and very steep. On top of that, right when I started on it, a strong headwind began. I slowed down, and had to walk more than I wanted. EVERYONE was walking. People were grumbling and demoralized. There is no way to describe how long and steep this hill way...but trust me, it was horrible, especially for the end of the race. My quads were screaming. My Garmin showed I was running out of time to break 2:30...but I was still in the game. I ran a few steps, walked a few steps, ran a few steps, walked. Finally, I got to the top of the hill and saw a short flat section to the finish line!

I started sprinting, faster than I ever have before (my Garmin showed I was running at an 8:35 pace for this last stretch), desperate to cross the mat before it turned to 2:30. I didn't make it...I was just over the 2:30 mark by a few seconds. However, I almost did it---and I still set a PR by about 35 seconds or so, even with a tough course! Getting back to the hotel was tough; we had to walk a steep uphill to City Walk, then I had to navigate the huge place to find my way back.

I LOVED this race medal!

All in all, it was a great race for me. I loved that I PR'd, even though my goal had simply been to have fun. I have high hopes to break 2:30 one day; with a flatter course I KNOW I can! Running in Hollywood was fun. Despite some rookie mistakes by the race organizers, I think it was fun. Hooray for Hollywood!