January 29, 2013

Carlsbad Half Marathon Race Recap ('13)

On Sunday I ran my third half marathon of this month, the Carlsbad Half Marathon.  When I registered for it, I knew it might be too much for me (having already registered for the New Year's Race Los Angeles and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, both also in Janaury) but I really wanted to Triple Crown this year.  The Triple Crown is when you complete three San Diego half marathons---Carlsbad, La Jolla, and America's Finest City--all in the same calendar year. At the third race, AFC in August, you get an extra medal at the end, similar to the Beach Cities Challenge I completed last year (doing Long Beach, Surf City and OC all in a row). The last few years I wasn't able to make all three races, and I am determined that 2013 is the year.

I actually ran Carlsbad back in 2011; it was my 4th half marathon ever, and I loved it. I set a PR during that race, and loved running the gorgeous course that run mostly along the ocean.  This time, however, I wasn't really looking forward to it. I was burnt out on running 13.1 miles, and I was still having nagging pains in my leg and foot.  Plus, the forecast called for rain. While I don't mind running in the rain---I often train in it---I have never run THAT far in it, and was not looking forward to getting soaked just waiting for the race to start.  However, once I hit the expo on Saturday, I started to get excited.  My love for the run, and the running community, kicked into high gear.

The race started at the luxuriously late time of 7:45; after the 5:00 start of Tinker Bell last weekend, it seemed really late!  I woke up at 5:30, and was out of the house by 6. I drove to the mall where it started in the rain, but soon after I got there the rain stopped, and never returned.  One thing I did right was parking. The start/finish line is at a mall, and when I did this race in 2011 I parked close to the start line, thinking I was smart not to have to walk so far.  The downside was that it took FOREVER after the race to get out of the parking lot. I think it took about 20 minutes alone just to pull out of the parking space!  So this time I parked far away, near the exit, even backing in for an easy get-away.  I had a long walk to and from the car, but it was well worth it.

I got there pretty early, so I sat in my car for a while, then got out and met my friend Andrea, who was volunteering that day handing out race medals.  In talking to her, I expressed my fears about the pain I've had, and how tired I've been.  I told her my main goal was just to finish---even if I walked it and came in over 3 hours, I just wanted to complete the race in order for it to count toward my Triple Crown. But my real goal was to come in under 2:40.  Most of my half marathons I come in between 2:30-2:40 (my PR is 2:29). After the fiasco of the New Year's Race Los Angeles, where I hobbled over the finish line in 2:54, I needed to prove to myself that I could still run my pace.

I went to my wave, wave 5, right before the start.  The waves were spaced out beautifully; there was tons of room in each one, unlike the ones at Rock 'n' Roll or the Disney races where you're crammed in together.  My wave crossed the start line at 8:00, 15 minutes after the start.  I settled into a nice pace, walked when I felt I needed to, and decided to just enjoy the run.

After a few miles we turned onto the road directly parallel to the ocean. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera or my phone because I was afraid it would rain, but trust me, the views are gorgeous.  Most of the race run along the coastline.  I did my run/walk combination, just enjoying the view, my music, and the weather, which turned out to be PERFECT racing weather---around 50 degrees, no rain, and cloudy. I never saw the sun.  I shed my throw-away jacket at mile 2, and was very comfortable in my short-sleeved shirt.  There was a great amount of crowd support, amazing and funny signs, savior volunteers with orange slices, and even a few bands along the way.  Carlsbad really knows how to deliver.

Around mile 9 I realized that somehow, despite the fact that I had some pain, and despite the fact that this was my third half marathon of the month, I was on pace to PR.  I couldn't believe it!  Even with the walking I had to do (mostly on the uphill portions of this rolling course) I was going fast.  So toward the end I decided to really push it.  I mean, it's not everyday that a PR is within reach!  However, toward the end, I just couldn't maintain it. My calfs were both seizing up, and I had to do a lot of walking.  However, I crossed the finish line in 2:30 and change, a mere 70 seconds or so slower than my PR.  It's my third fastest finishing time, ever. I was sad at first that I didn't PR--if only I had found it in my to go 70 seconds fastser--but then I was thrilled. I mean, I it wasn't even on my radar to PR...this wasn't an "A" race for me, and I had simply wanted to finish in under 2:40.

Once I crossed the finish line, the first person I saw was Andrea. She was surprised to see me so soon, and I showed her my Garmin.  She gave me my medal, and I lurched off. I was wrecked. All that pushing at the end really did a number on my body.  I literally limped the entire long way back to the car, and was in a foggy state of mind. Thank goodness for the space blanket I got, as suddenly I was cold.  Once back at the car I ate the food from the snack pack they gave me, with some chocolate milk I was also given, and felt much better. My parking plan worked---I was out of the mall in under 5 minutes and on my way home.

I am so happy with this race, both with the actual time I ran it in and with my mental toughness for getting through. At around mile 11 it felt like Groundhog's Day---again, with the same mile markers I'd seen all month--but I did it.  I highly recommend this race, and may do it again next year even if I don't Triple Crown again---it's a race not to miss.

January 25, 2013

Liebster Award

Recently I was nominated for a Liebster Award by another blogger, Shona, over at Shushkat.  Per her blog:  This is an award for upcoming bloggers with less than 200 followers to help raise interest in their blogs and help them connect with other bloggers too. I've actually been chosen a few times over the years for this type of thing, and have only followed up with it once, so I decided it was time to do it again. Thanks Shona!!!  This should be fun!

This is what I am supposed to do:
  • Each person must post 11 things about themselves
  • Answer the questions that the nominator set for you, plus create 11 questions for the people that you've nominated to answer
  • Nominate 11 people and link them to your post
  • Go to their page and tell them
  • No tag backs!
11 random facts about me: 
  1. I love Ani Difranco and have probably seen her about 10 times or so in concert.
  2. I have a belly ring that I got in my 20's....I wore a special maternity belly ring during my first pregnancy, but had to take it out during my c-section. The hole closed within a few days. I got it re-pierced a few years ago on my 40th birthday as a present to myself.
  3. I would love to get a nose ring, but my husband would probably divorce me--he hates them!
  4. My most hated chore is meal planning. I love cooking, and don't mind the grocery shopping and doing dishes---but meal planning is the absolute WORST!
  5. I've been a strict vegetarian for almost 11 years.
  6. My first race was a 5k back in 1998. I remember running it thinking that 3.1 miles was such a  loooooong way to run......
  7. I have a tattoo on my ankle, and would love to get another one, but probably won't as I can't decide on where to put it on my body.
  8. I rarely wear makeup. Sometimes I wear lipgloss, but most days that's as fancy as I go.
  9. I recently discovered the Brazilian blowout for my hair, and now can't imagine life without it.
  10. I love living in San Diego, but don't go to the beach as often as you'd think I would.
  11. If I could go anywhere in the world that I haven't been yet, I'd go to Spain first.
Here are my questions from Shona:

  1. What is your biggest goal for 2013? I have many goals, but my biggest--and scariest--is to do my first century ride. I'm signed up for 103 miles of hilly hell during the San Diego Century in June.
  2. What are you proudest of in your life?  This is a hard question!  The easy answer would be completing my first half-Ironman, something that seemed impossible to do. But I think I'm proudest of my job as a mother to both my children. Especially with how I've parented my daughter, who has special medical needs. In her life, I've had to learn to advocate for her, deal with doctors, do medical interventions no parent should ever have to do (like care for a tracheostomy when she had one) and yet I am proud that I have always treated her like a typical child. I don't think of her as having special needs at all. 
  3. Do you have a nickname? And how did you get it?? No nicknames here....
  4. What is the most played song on your ipod? Without a doubt, "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. That song pumps me up whenever I need an energy boost during a run.
  5. What 3 words best describe you?  Kind, determined, and grateful.
  6. What is the most unusual thing you have ever eaten? Probably alligator---a long, long time ago, before I was vegetarian.
  7. What is your favourite quote?  Ah, I have lots of favorite quotes....but I'll chose this one by Ani Difranco: "I know the biggest crime is just to throw up your hands, say this has nothing to do with me, I just want to live as comfortably as I can. You got to look outside your eyes, you got to think outside your brain, you got to walk outside your life to where the neighborhood changes."
  8. If you could choose an age to stay forever, what age would that be? A hard question! I'd say 36. For no particular reason, really. I don't mind getting older by the way. I love being 42, and am looking forward to turning 43 soon.
  9. Tell me something that you've learned in the last week. I've learned to check my DVR settings to make sure that a show I really want recorded is high on my priority list.
  10. If you could have one superpower what would it be? The ability to play with time---go back in it and stop it.
  11. Do you believe in ghosts? Yes, very much so.
The questions I'd like my nominees to answer:
  1. Are you a dog person or a cat person?
  2. What is the first thing you check when you log online in the morning?
  3. Why did you start blogging?
  4. It's your last night on earth. What do you order for dinner?
  5. If you won $50 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?
  6. Name 3 places in the world you would love to visit but haven't yet.
  7. What got you into running (or biking, swimming, etc)?
  8. What race is on your bucket list?
  9.  What is your favorite movie?
  10. If you could meet any 3 famous people, living or dead, who would you choose?
  11. Do you have a bad habit you want to break?
And, the 11 bloggers I'd like to nominate are:
  1. Barb at quick like a bunny!
  2. Becca at See Becca Try to Tri
  3. Ty at Seeking Boston Marathon
  4. Steena at Finding My Happy Pace
  5. Jenn at Junk Miles
  6. Elisabeth at ....With an S
  7. Alisyn at Run in Syn
  8. Monika at Monika Runs
  9. S at TriMeOn
  10. Carly at CarlyBananas
  11. Lisa at 110 Pounds and Counting

January 22, 2013

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend I ran my 16th half marathon, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland.  Happy Sweet 16 to me!

I was really looking forward to this race for a long time.  Last year was the inaugural running of the race, and I heard nothing but good things about it.  It was primarily a women's race, with 11,000 women and 1,000 men runners. I did the Disneyland Half Marathon back in 2010 and really liked it, so I registered for Tinker Bell over the summer as soon as registration opened.  I planned on going up with some friends, and this time I even wanted to dress in costume (for the Disneyland Half I only wore Mouse ears). I chose Cruella de Ville, as I already had the basis for the costume and only needed to add a few accessories to make her come to life.

This race was also important to me because I wanted to pace my friend Andrea to her first sub-2:45 half marathon. She's a strong runner (heck, in September she ran three half marathons in three days in Lake Tahoe) but had yet to run one under 2:45. I really wanted to help her meet this goal.  We met earlier in the week to discuss strategy. I would need to slow down a bit and she would need to speed up some.  We decided to try the run/walk ratio I had been using for my half-Ironman training, which was to run 0.4 miles and walk 0.1 mile. I was hopeful that together we could meet her goal.

Saturday morning I drove up to Anaheim with three other friends, Kelly, Ingrid and Tammy.  It was Tammy's first half marathon, and as I'd been cheerleading her on throughout her training since the fall, I was very excited to share the experience with her.  We got up to Anaheim, checked into our hotels (we stayed at the Best Western Stovall Inn, which was DIRECTLY across the street from the starting corrals....a great score!) and went to packet pickup. After picking up our bibs, we headed downstairs to the expo.  The race shirt was great (long-sleeved tech in Tinker Bell green). I normally don't buy much at expos except for headbands sometimes (and this time was no exception, I bought a black sparkly headband for my costume) but there was a booth from Raw Threads with the cutest Disney-themed shirts I've ever seen.  I particularly fell in love with this Captain Hook one, and just had to have it. Check out the back of the shirt, which is what clinched the deal for me.

"Captain" and a picture of a hook on the front...

...and a crocodile tail and "run" on the back Adorb!

After the expo, we hung around Downtown Disney for a bit, where I randomly ran into two kindergarten teachers at my kids' school. I knew they were doing the race, but it was such a surprise to bump into them...it was so crowded!  Soon, my friend Andrea joined us, and the five of us went to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.  I carb-loaded on tortellini, then it was back to the hotel and to bed.  With a 5:00 a.m. race start (!!), we had to be in the corrals by 4:30, so we planned on meeting up with our friends at 4:00....which meant me setting my clock for 3:20.  Ugh!  Double ugh!

As is almost always the case the night before a race, I hardly slept.  Kelly and I turned the lights off at 8:00, but I tossed and turned until almost 10....and then was up every hour.  I was up for good about 2:30.  Sigh.  Finally it was time to get up and get ready.  My Cruella de Ville costume consisted of:  a black running skirt, a black tank top, red arm warmers, white socks with puppy paw prints on them, a white feather boa, red lipstick, and, of course, white hairspray. I only wanted to spray half my hair white, so for the first time ever I ran in pigtails. I also brought along black and white gloves to toss ($2 from the clearance section at Target!) and my space blanket from my last half marathon to keep warm in the early morning chill.

Cruella de Ville, ready to race!

At 4:00, Kelly and I met up with Ingrid, Tammy and Andrea, and started to walk across the street to the corrals.  As I was crossing the street, I heard my name being called...it was my neighbor, also there to run! How she found me amid all the thousands of runners I'll never know....I guess some things are just meant to be. Ingrid, Kelly and I were supposed to be in Corral B...Andrea was to be in C...and Tammy was to be in E. We all ended up going to C, as they were checking bibs and wouldn't let anyone in without an "A" or "B" bib past a certain point, and we all wanted to start together.  A quick stop in the port-o-potties (no line!) and we were ready to wait. As it was so early, it was still pitch-black, but already we could see so many wonderful costumes. My friend Ingrid was adorable in her Jessi the Cowgirl outfit (from Toy Story). The national anthem sung with fireworks (red ones on the "rocket's red glare" part, and then red, white and blue ones at the end) and it was time to run...for the A Corral.  But soon enough it was our turn.  As we were walking up to the start line, I found $40 on the ground. I asked the people around me if it was theirs, but it wasn't. With thousands of runners, who knows who dropped it, so I had to pocket it.

Tinker Bell (on a screen, of course) sent us on our way, along with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  I really wanted to take pictures, but the ones I took didn't turn out at all.  It was just too dark outside.  We crossed the starting mat and were off!  Andrea and I kept a slow, steady pace for the first mile, weaving in and out of walkers (I really wish walkers would walk to the right).  At mile 1.4 I started us on the run/walk ratio.  We ran around the outside of the Disney property, and then suddenly were in California Adventure.

Like the Disneyland Half Marathon, I LOVED running through the parks!  It is so amazing to run through.  We ran through the new Cars Land, which was still under construction last time I was there. It is so cute, and looks exactly like Radiator Springs!  We ran through the Hollywood area and the Paradise Pier, among other places.  All the rides were in motion, and music was playing, and it was so festive! Again, I really wanted to take pictures, but didn't, as I knew taking pictures in the dark, while on the run no less, would not turn out.  I loved seeing the lights lit up on the water, I guess from the World of Color, which I've never seen.

We exited California Adventure and ran past a HUGE crowd of spectators as we ran into the Magic Kingdom. We ran up Main Street, and into Tomorrow Land, then Fantasy Land, Frontier Land, and New Orleans Square and beyond. The Small World ride was still lit up for the holidays, and was absolutely gorgeous.  Characters were out in full force, and runners were lined up at each one for a photo op.  I saw Snow White, Belle, Cinderella and Rapunzel; Darth Vader and Storm Troopers; Mary Poppins and Bert; the Lost Boys riding the Carousel; Peter Pan, Wendy, and Captain Hook. I know there were other characters out, but I don't remember; I was too focused on keeping the pace and seeing my way in the dark.  Most of the course was lit up well enough, but there were a few darker sections.

After we left the Magic Kingdom, we ran up Downtown Disney, past a ton of spectators and cute signs (my favorite: Worst Disney Parade Ever. The Choreography Sucks).  Almost forgot another funny part--there was a guy with a sign that said "Course Liar", probably at about mile 2 or so, shouting out "You're horrible! Your running is so slow! You're almost done!".  Very funny stuff.  We ran past a HUGE group of Red Hat Society women, who were a riot!  After that, it was bye-bye Disney, and onto the streets of Anaheim.

It was still dark at this point, and we were running through suburban streets. I amused myself by talking to Andrea, listening to music, and checking out the costumes the other runners were wearing.  So many were wearing sparkle skirts, and lots also had fairy wings on---this WAS the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, of course! I even saw several men in sparkle skirts and tutus!  There were runners dressed like the three Sleeping Beauty Fairies; the Cinderella Fairy Godmother (I ran by her and asked for a wish...she told me "bippity boppity boo"); Pluto; Minnie Mouse, Peter Pan, Captain Hook; Pocohontas; the Incredibles; and, of course, tons of Princesses. Several people recognized my costume, and I got many shout-outs of "hey Cruella!".  That was fun, and made the effort I put into dressing up worth it.

As the sun came up, we turned into what I guess is downtown Anaheim. I'm not exactly sure, as I'm unfamiliar with the area. Although there are no characters out of the parks, there was plenty of course entertainment  with bands and cheerleaders, although if memory serves me right there was more course entertainment during the Disneyland Half.  At around mile 7, I saw my friend Mihael!  He totally surprised me by coming, and even had a sign for me!  I literally shrieked with surprise and gave him a big hug.  It made me so happy, and truly lifted my spirits for the next several miles. I got to see him twice, as we circled the block. 

Around this time Andrea started to get tired. More than tired, she was out of breath. I had warned her before the race that I would get tough with her, and I did. I tried to keep her going, tried to motivate her, but she kept slowing down and needed more frequent walk breaks. I knew our chances of hitting a sub-2:45 was going down the drain, but she was so miserable.  Finally, at mile 10 1/3, she told me she was giving up on the goal. At that point, I knew it was out of reach anyway. I didn't want to leave her, but also I couldn't walk the last 3 miles. She told me to go on ahead, so finally I did. I ran the last 3 miles on my own.  Although she didn't reach her goal, she told me she ran the fastest 10 miles of her life with me, and I'm very, very proud of her for going that far, that fast!

Meanwhile, I was having a GREAT race.  Not only was I having fun, running with Andrea and on such a fun course, but I was feeling fabulous! I had some of my feared pains, but most of them were dull the entire race. My pains never really acted up badly until about mile 12, and even then it wasn't terrible. I was never, ever, out of breath, not during the whole race.  I wasn't hot at all; the weather was perfect. After my last half marathon, which was an absolute fiasco, I really needed this positive experience. I got tired at the end, but I wasn't miserable. In fact, in almost every other half marathon I do, around mile 10 I hit a mental wall and start questioning my sanity in signing up. This race, I never hit that wall. I truly enjoyed every mile.


I finally crossed the finish line in about 2:47. I was very happy....not in much pain, not too tired, and I know I had it in me to go faster. I felt renewed as a runner, something I desperately needed.  I got my medal (it's gorgeous, and the Tinker Bell in the middle of it spins!) and a box of snacks, then met Andrea, Kelly and Ingrid at the Family Reunion booth.  We didn't get to see Tammy after the race, but she ROCKED her first half marathon, and is now hooked!

All in all, it was a GREAT race. I loved running through the parks, and Disney does such a great job of putting on a classy race. The volunteers were amazing, great entertainment, and the water, Power Ade and Clif Shots they were handing out seemed plentiful. I loved that it was nice and cool.  The only thing I didn't like, which couldn't be helped due to the 5 a.m. start, is that it was too dark for me to take pictures; but then again, I got to see the parks lit up, which I didn't get to see during the sunny Disneyland Half.

Next up---this weekend's Carlsbad Half Marathon, the third of three half marathons I'm doing this month!

January 16, 2013

Book Review: "Triathlon for the Every Woman"

One of my favorite bloggers, Meredith Atwood (otherwise known as Swim Bike Mom) recently published her first book. It's called "Triathlon for the Every Woman.  You Can Be A Triathlete. Yes. You". I was excited to read it, but even more thrilled to be offered the opportunity to read AND review it. 

I've been following Meredith's blog for almost a year now. I think I found her by chance when I was trying to find other bloggers writing about their first half-Ironman experiences. I had just signed up for my first half-Ironman, Super Frog, and was very anxious. Reading about others' experiences helped to ease my fears.  I came across the Swim Bike Mom blog and have been a loyal reader ever since.  Meredith writes frankly about her own struggles, including her weight issues, fears about triathlon, and family conflicts.  I always appreciate her style of writing, which combines humor with her candor.

The book is part instructional, part auto-biographical.  After reading it, I now understand why Meredith often writes that triathlon saved her life. I always thought that was a bit dramatic, but after reading I can see that, indeed, triathlon DID save her life.  She got into triathlon in 2010, after looking into the mirror and seeing a Fat Stranger.  She made the decision (or as she writes, The Decision) in August 2010 to become a triathlete, despite the fact that she was overweight, had two babies, was working full time, and hadn't done anything athletic in years.  The Decision literally changed her life---helped her lose weight, become healthier, and created a new identity that she was passionate about.  To date, she has completed several triathlons including two half-Ironman and is currently training for her first full-Ironman this year.

I related to much of this. Meredith and I got into triathlon at the exact same time. I made my decision in July 2010, although I had been running for quite a while before.  I didn't look in the mirror and see a Fat Stranger...but I saw a Stranger nonetheless. I wasn't working outside the home, and my whole life was revolving around my two kids, including one with special medical needs. I needed my own niche. I needed something for me, and triathlon filled that need.  I totally get where Meredith is coming from.

I wish I had had this book when I was first starting out. She covers everything a triathlete needs to know, and has experts weighing in to talk about each subject.  She explains how to make triathlon affordable, how to fit training into an already busy schedule, and what to look for in a gym. She reviews what  gear is necessary, how to set up the transition area, and how to get mentally strong.  Although this books is geared toward beginner triathletes, I learned a lot from it. One of my biggest take-aways were tips on riding the bike, especially hills, which have always been my nemesis.  After reading the book, I have been tackling hills in a different way, which has made them more bearable.

I loved this book so much that I ordered it on Amazon to be sent to a friend who is training for her first sprint triathlon this year.  I know it will instruct and inspire her---just as it instructed and inspired me. I highly recommend this book to any triathlete, beginner or expert, as there is truly something for everyone within its pages. 

January 9, 2013

New Year's Race Los Angeles Half Marathon Race Recap

Or, how I bought a one-way ticket to bonk-ville.

Saturday night I ran in the New Year's Race Los Angeles Half Marathon.  This was the inaugural race, and I actually signed up for it six months ago, at the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego expo.  At the expo, it was a lower price, plus I didn't have to pay any processing fees, so it seemed like a great deal. They were also promising hoodies instead of t-shirts, which I really liked. The race was to start at 9:00 pm and run through downtown Los Angeles, including Dodgers Stadium.  I thought it sounded unique, plus a great way to start the new year. I booked a room at the host hotel, the Millennium Biltmore, and we decided to make it a short family getaway.

 This race is, to date, the worst half marathon I have ever run.  Most of the awfulness was my fault; I can only blame a little bit on the race itself.

Several factors went into this being an awful experience.  First, I didn't really know how to fuel properly for this race. The only race I've ever done at night was Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas in 2011, and that race started at  5:30, which is way different than 9:00. I was also a bit worried about the late time---I'm usually in bed by 9:30/10:00, but I figured that once I started running adrenaline would kick in.  Finally, I was worried about some pain. I've been having some of my usual plantar fasciitis pain in my left foot and sciatic nerve pain in my left leg, on and off, but last week a new pain had developed. I did a 40 mile bike ride on New Year's Day, and the day after the inside of my right ankle was very tender; I couldn't even run on it all week.  I must have had it turned too much during my ride.  As the week went on, however, the pain went away.

Saturday morning we dropped Padfoot, our dog, off at the kennel and drove up to L.A. The plan was to get to the Biltmore, where the expo was, and I would get my packet and hoodie.  We were then to meet some of my dearest friends and their kids, and see the Space Shuttle Endeavor.  I thought we'd be there for a short time, have a big late lunch/early dinner, and then I'd have a snack before the race.

As it turned out, we hit a lot of traffic heading north.  We barely had time to do the expo. I literally ran in, got my bib and hoodie/goodie bag, and ran out. I didn't get to see any of the vendors, although it didn't look like it was a big expo.  We then met our friends at the California Science Center, where we saw the Endeavor. While it was really cool to see (truly, I loved it), we were there longer than I expected, and by the time we sat down to eat it was about 4:00 or so.  At that point, I was worried about eating too much, so I ordered pancakes (we were at a deli). I really wanted the potato pancakes but was worried about how greasy they may be. I didn't want any GI issues a few hours later while running.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel, checked in, and went to the room.  We watched a movie on TV and then finally it was time for me to say goodbye to my husband and kids to go down to the race start. As I was walking down the hall toward the elevator, there was a big group of runners in front of me.  One had a backpack that had the name of one of my favorite bloggers and twitter friends (I even have her on my blogroll to the left) and it was her! It was so nice to meet Elisabeth in person, and in such a random way. 

The hotel was just a few blocks to the start line, which was great. I walked over and scoped out the scene. It was about 8:15 by this point, and was already getting crowded.  Oddly, it was pretty warm out. I was wearing a long-sleeved tech shirt, running pants, ear warmers, and had a throw-away jacket and throw-away gloves. I also brought a Knuckle Light with me, as I didn't know how dark it would be. I figured if I didn't need it I could always loop it around my fuel belt.  I decided at the last minute to gear-check my jacket, as it wasn't that cold, and I figured I might appreciate it on the way home when I was sweaty and cold. I then got in my corral (#11) and talked to a few people while I waited.

And waited.

9:00 came and went. The race didn't start until 9:20, which means that I didn't cross the start line until 9:29 (they were spacing the corrals out by a few minutes).  There was no explanation of the late start, at least none that I heard all the way in the back.  I was frustrated. I hate late starts.  Late starts in the morning means that back-of-the-pack runners like me will run more in the heat (at least in hot-weather San Diego) and this late start at night meant that I wouldn't finish until after midnight.  Grrr.

waiting pre-race, full of hope
Finally it was time to run.  I crossed the start line and was feeling pretty good. I ran the first few miles with a girl I had just met, talking about our respective half-Ironman experiences.  Just as we got toward mile 3, we started to go up a big hill. I was expecting this hill from the elevation chart I had studied, and decided to walk it.  When I run up hills lately, my sciatic nerve hurts soooo much.  I'd rather walk and have it be less painful. 

I know we passed by some L.A. landmarks, but since I am pretty unfamiliar with downtown, and it was dark, I didn't notice much of it.  Maybe it would have been better in the daytime.  At any rate, around mile 4 we arrived at Dodgers Stadium.  I knew from the course map that we would be running a few miles around it the parking lot, but I didn't realize just how odd this was.  Stretched ahead of me were thousands of runners, running in a snake-like pattern back-and -forth. It was kind of eerie and kind of cool.  There were a few parts of the parking lot that were not well-lit at all, and it was then I that I was glad I had my Knuckle Light to turn on.  Most people didn't have any lights with them, but a few had on headlamps.  (I think the race organizers did a great job of lighting the way in the dark; there were only a few unlit areas...but even those few could be dangerous. One step on a rock or in a pothole could really injure a runner badly).

Every time it seemed that we would finally be going into Dodgers Stadium, the course would take us on another tour of another part of the parking lot.  At the crest, many runners got off the course and went to look the breathtaking view of the skyline at night.  I just kept going, although by this point "going" was a lot of walking.  My left foot and left sciatic nerve were really acting up, and every step was painful.  Additionally, I was starting to bonk---I hadn't fueled enough and though I was taking my Gu as I normally do (miles 4, 8 and 12) and also had some Gu Chomps, it wasn't nearly enough calories.  Finally, I was tired.  Adrenaline hadn't kicked in after all, and I felt like I was in a daze the entire race.

At long last, we entered Dodgers Stadium.  THIS was cool. THIS is what made the awfulness of my race worth it.  We entered the stadium right around center field, and ran the entire perimeter of the stadium.  I ran by the dugouts, home plate, and the warning track. As a baseball fan, this was awesome.  For the first time EVER in a race, I stopped.  Normally when I take pictures I take them while running (which is why they are usually blurry) but I stopped to really soak in the experience and take pictures.  By that point, I knew my time was going to be horrible---too much walking--so a few extra minutes wouldn't matter.  I would likely never get to run in Dodgers Stadium again, and really wanted to enjoy the experience. So I did.

entering Dodgers Stadium

view of the field

Dodgers' dugout---they're doing some sort of construction on the stadium
Once we exited the stadium, we were at mile 10.  This meant that almost 6---almost half the race!--was run around the parking lot. Unreal.  I know that was advertised, and the course map showed it, but still, it was a lot.  When I signed up for the race, the course wasn't even posted yet...but really, that wouldn't have deterred me.  It wasn't horrible, just boring, although many runners were irate on the race's Facebook page the following day.  Also, the course was very hilly, much hillier than advertised. In looking at the elevation profile, it looks like a big hill at mile 3, then it's pretty flat, then a big downhill. It wasn't like that at all. There were lots and lots of  uphills, way, WAY more than expected. I walked them all.

The last few miles were agonizing. I stopped at a port-o-potty, something I rarely do in a race but at that point I didn't care about my time.  At that point, the tenderness on my right ankle came back, so now I had THREE pains, one on each foot and one on my left leg.  I was bonking big-time, with not enough fuel.  I started to get cold, which I hadn't been during the run at all (I had ditched my gloves at mile 1 and took off my ear warmers at mile 3).  And I was tired.  Oh, so tired.  It was sooo past my bedtime.  I know we ran past Olvera Street and China Town, but again, with it being so dark I didn't really realize it until after the race.

Finally the finish line was ahead. I got my medal (it's gorgeous), a space blanket and a bagel. My running time was 2:50 (I had forgotten to take my Garmin off of auto-pause) and my actual time was something like 2:54.  Not a PW (personal worst) but just about.  I think this was my 15th half marathon, and my 3rd worst time. Usually I finish in 2:30-2:40 (my PR is 2:29) so this time was way off what I'm capable of.  After getting my bag from gear check, I had to walk back to the hotel. Unfortunately, the start and finish were not in the same place,  and the finish line was pretty far from the hotel. It was a long walk back on tired legs and sore feet.  My space blanket kept me warm, and I didn't even need to put on the jacket I had gear-checked.   By the time I got back to the room, it was after 1:00 a.m.

I'd like to learn something from this awful race, and in thinking about it, I learned a lot. Here's what went wrong, and what I can do better next time (if possible).  And also what I did right.

1) Improper Fueling.  Usually I'm pretty good about fueling. I have a big dinner the night before, eat a Luna Bar (or two) in the morning, and I'm set (plus my usual Gus, etc).  I should have eaten a bigger breakfast (I had only had a Luna Bar), and and I should have eaten more at dinner, and had another bar closer to race time.

2) Exhaustion.  I will never again run a half marathon at night.  I do have a 5k in a few weeks that starts at 7, but running 3.1 miles at 7:00 is way different than running 13.1 miles at 9:30.  The only one I would ever reconsider for would be the Disney Wine and Dine, as that is to be quite the experience. No more night half marathons.

3) Pain.  There is not much I could have done about this, except for not run.  My pain hadn't been THAT bad in a long time. I think I was smart by walking much of instead of pushing it hard and exacerbating it even further.

4) Hilly course. Again, I couldn't have foreseen how off the elevation chart was.  I don't mind some hills (heck, I set a PR at the Hollywood Half Marathon last year even with a 2 1/2 mile hill at the end). I just would have liked to have known what to expect. 

5) Lighting. Most people ran without lights, but I was glad I had my Knuckle Light with me.  I didn't need it for the most part, but again, for those few really dark patches I was happy I was able to shine a light.

All in all, while I hated this race experience, the race organizers themselves did ok.  Yes, they had the late start---but as far as I could see they had plenty of water, Gatorade, and gels.  There were port-o-potties along the course, and lots of volunteers and medical tents.  They had tons of official photographers---seriously, tons (many at different miles and then about 3 in a row on the last .2 mile. And then one at the finish.). I felt bad for the people who did the accompanying 5k.....many ended up running 4.2 miles instead of 3.1, as the course wasn't clearly marked. I was afraid that would happen, as the half marathoners and 5k-ers started together, and I myself never saw a sign for the 5k turnoff.

This medal was hard-earned, and while I will never do this race again, I can only hope that my next race will be better!

January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

Welcome, 2013!

I am hoping this year is better than last.  Overall,  last year was great (epic, even) but was notably marred at the end with the crisis of my daughter breaking her neck.  (I need to write a post updating about her, but in a nutshell: she got her halo off last month and is currently in a neck collar for a few months. So happy, so grateful).  If my family can get through this year without any health crises or unplanned hospitalizations, we'll be golden.

I finished 2012 by running 4 miles on New Year's Eve Day, putting me at 651 running miles for the year. I had run 600 miles in 2011, and had wanted to run 700 last year....but between throwing my back out during most of July and dealing with my daughter's broken neck and hospitalization in October/November, a lot of long runs (and some short runs) didn't get done.  Life got in the way, and that's ok.  I'm thrilled to be over 650 for last year.  Maybe I'll get my 700 miles in 2013.

My fitness 2012 achievements looks like this:

--I PR'd in a 5k
--I ran first 10k
--I PR'd in the half marathon (and finally broke 2:30 after chasing it for 18 months!)
--I did 5 half marathons (not counting the one at the end of the half-Ironman)
--I did my first open water swim in the ocean (instead of the usual bay)
--I biked my longest bike ride (60 miles)
--I completed my first HALF-IRONMAN (70.3 miles of fun and hell!)

Mile totals:
ran: 651 miles
biked: 1130 miles
swam: 68 miles
Total miles: 2076 (which also included various walks with the puppy and the elliptical)
Plus weight work, other 5ks, a sprint triathlon and yoga classes

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!

Now I'm looking onward to 2013.  This is the year where I'm doing thing that scare me.  This month alone I have three half marathons (including one at night this weekend).  If all goes according to plan, this year I will complete 6-7 half marathons, my first trail race (a 15k), a century ride (103 miles) and a 2.4 mile swim.  I may or may not do a triathlon, we'll have to see how I'm feeling and how my race budget is.

Of all the scary things I have planned, the one that is freaking me out the most ( by FAR) is the century ride.  I've already signed up and paid, so there is no backing out.  There IS an option to drop down in mileage (the ride also offers a 37- and 66-mile ride option) but I want to do the big kahuna.  I don't even LOVE cycling, but I desperately want to enjoy it more.  The longest ride I've ever done was 60 miles, and that was back when I was training for Super Frog.  I have my work cut out for me.  Yesterday, to kick off 2013,  I went on a 40 mile bike ride, riding part of the Oceanside 70.3 course (which I'm eying for 2014) and was humbled by the hills. And the hills I rode are nothing compared to some of the hills I'll be tacking during the century.

The good thing about the ride is that it's just that--a ride. It's not a race.  I can stop, and I plan on stopping often.  There are 6 aid stops.  The course is open for 12 hours, and while I anticipate taking 9-10 hours to complete the ride, it's nice to know I have 12.  Although truth be told, the thought of biking for even 9-10 hours is making me ill.  I really need to get stronger on the bike, and the only way to do that is to bike, especially hills. Unfortunately, my schedule this month is awful, as I had already committed to running 3 half marathons (and I'm not biking long rides the day before a half marathon) so I need to do some long rides in the week while the kids are in school.  I am also considering getting a new bike for my birthday (when I say "new", I mean new to me....I can't afford a new bike but am sure I can find something good on Craigslist).  My current bike, True Blue, is a good little bike, but I'd like one with more gears to help me get up those hills.  IF I get a new bike, it will be in March, for my birthday. But I may not even get a new one; so far I'm managing just fine on what I have.

I really need to get used to this view:

my view for hours on end

Here's what I know for sure---that finishing the century, even if I'm the last biker in (a real possibility) will be a huge accomplishment for me and one of my proudest moments. I will treasure that medal.  And finishing everything else I have planned---an Ironman-distance swim, the trail race, more half marathons--will be so sweet as well.  I have learned this past year just how tough I can be, and I will meet all my goals this year.