December 24, 2011

My Bike Makeover

This week my bike underwent two big transformations: new PINK handlebar tape and clipless pedals! I am excited about the former, and very nervous about the latter. Both are influenced by my friend, Angi.

I've mentioned Angi before. I met her this past year on dailymile, and she has since become my biking partner. Over the summer, most of my long weekend rides were done with her. She motivated me to go longer, and helped me get up big hills I never thought I could do. She helped train me for my first Olympic-distance triathlon, which I did in September....and in fact came to cheer me on for the entire 4 hours I was racing.

For months she, and her husband, Steve (who taught me how to change a bike tire!) have been urging me to trade in my clunky pedals with toe cages for clipless pedals. Clipless scares me. The idea of being CLIPPED IN while I'm riding, and having to quick-release before I stop, is terrifying. I have to quickly get out of my toe cages, too, and remember falling a few times when I first got them. I hate falling.

But they have been pushing me to try them, even giving me Angi's old pedals and shoes (we are the same shoe size). Apparently, using clipless pedals will give me more power when I ride, which I can definitely use when climbing hills (ok, who am I kidding...I am so slow on the bike that I can use the extra power even on flat rides!) So this week I took my bike into the shop made the change. Yesterday I took my bike to a local park where I practiced riding while clipping and unclipping, clipping and unclipping. Right now, I feel moderately comfortable unclipping on the right side; I can't stop on a dime, but I think I can unclip given warning. I can't unclip as easily on the left side, but that's ok...even with my toe cages I always, always undid my right foot to stop.

So all that is well and good...but here's the thing: Angi is now battling breast cancer. She found a lump about a year ago, but didn't think anything of it. However, during a routine mammogram in October, she found out it was cancerous. She had a mastecomy in November and while the doctors are optimistic that they got it all, she is facing a few months of chemotherapy.

Her husband wrote on his blog that he changed his handlebar tape to pink to show his support for Angi, and that he is not changing it back until she is cancer-free. I am joining him. I can't wait to be able to change it back to blue. Angi will beat this---she's a tough athlete, and has an unstoppable determination and optimism. I have already promised her that when she's ready, I am doing a 5k with her; her first race post-treatment.

Please, please....if you're a woman, get your breasts checked. Check them monthly, get a mammogram yearly, and if you feel a lump, please consult your doctor immediately. And please, please...send positive thoughts, energy and prayer to my dear friend Angi!

December 20, 2011

Parent-Teacher Conference Woes

I haven't written an update on my daughter, A, in some time. This is not because she isn't doing well; actually, to the contrary, she is doing great. I haven't written about her recently because I am harboring some anxiety about her, and to write about it would mean actually having to deal with the issues in my mind. However, I am finally ready to write it all out.

As I wrote a few months ago, she is doing well in kindergarten. A is in the first of a two-year kindergarten program; this program is geared toward typically-developing children, who were born June through November. Ordinarily, these kids would be the youngest in their classes. The district recognizes that young kids may need an extra year of growth (social, emotional, etc) and offers this two-year program as an option for parents. You don't HAVE to enroll your child in the program if they're born June-November; you can go right ahead and put them in the regular one-year kindergarten class. For me, however, enrolling A was a no-brainer. I knew she needed this extra year, and am grateful she qualified based on her birthday (otherwise I would have had to fight to enroll her).

Last month her report card came out and we had her parent-teacher conference. The report card made me happy; the conference did not.

Let me explain.

Her report card showed her pretty much right where she should be. Academically, she is excelling, and is even above "grade level" in some areas (I put "grade level" in quotations, as there really is no grade level for the first year in a two-year kindergarten.) She is reading, and knows all of the sight words she's been taught. She's a pro at reading 3-letter words, and at home is almost done reading the Level One books of the Hooked on Phonics series to me. She is at "grade level" with math and most other things too. It was noted that she was behind on language, but that wasn't anything I didn't expect.

Her teacher, during the conference, expressed some concerns about A for next year. She said that while she is excelling academically, she worries about her with social and language issues, especially with language pragmatics, which essentially is using language in a social context. At home, she not too bad with it, but at school she is very quiet. She is very well-liked and has a lot of friends in the class (one girl even gave her a Best Friends Forever necklace last week) but I'm not sure how well she is relating to the kids. The teacher reported that the kids treat her "like a doll". For example, A will be playing with blocks and another child will say, "A, come play dolls with me." A will go and play...but when the teacher would ask is she had wanted to play dolls, she said no. She is not speaking up for herself in social situations, or having full conversations. Again, this is odd, because at home she talks in full sentences all the time.

The teacher thinks that A has the most problems during free play, when the classroom is very noisy. With her hearing aides, she may not be able to tune out the ambient noise. There are 26 kids in the room, and trust me, it gets noisy (I'm in there every Thursday to volunteer). During instruction time, when the class is quiet, she is doing well. She suggested that next year A spend some time in a special day class, for part of each day, in order to give her some quieter time.

Well, this doesn't sit well with me at all. I'm not opposed to a special day class if there was one that is appropriate for her...but in my district, there isn't one. The highest level of special ed class, the non-severely handicapped class, is way below her level. I observed it this past May, and watched as kindergarteners were being called up to the board to point out letters. If I put A in this class, this is where she's be expected to be A YEAR FROM MAY...pointing out letters of the alphabet. The child is already reading! Yes, the class was small and quiet, but I can't put her in an academic environment where she'd wither.

I've been considering other options, such as private school. However, from what I'm hearing from talking to others, private schools aren't always the answer. They often have large class sizes (as the schools want the money) and they aren't necessarily equipped to handle special needs. There is a deaf/hard-of-hearing school, but I'm not sure I want to segregate her. Besides, she is doing well right now where she is.

I called an IEP (the first one I've called---all my others have been her scheduled, annual reviews). The people there (her teachers and all her therapists) were convinced that they could meet her needs in the school district. We added another half-hour of speech therapy, with even more focus on social skills. We also added another occupational therapy goal of coloring, and the OT may be adding a goal of sensory processing. They talked about other things to do in the classroom to help her (put a stool under her feet, etc). They, too, nixed the idea of a special day class---she needs to be in the least restrictive educational environment, and she's too bright for the level of classes they have, at least at this time. I left the IEP feeling really good about what we're putting into place.

Additionally, I have found a local private clinic that has a social skills class, focusing on the language pragmatics! A has already been 3 times. I love that we're doing something extra, outside of school, to help her. And even at home, I'm prompting her more to use complete sentences rather than one-word demands (i.e. saying "I want some water, please" instead of "WATER!").

My plan is to enroll her at our home school next year for kindergarten (she's at a different elementary school right now, as our home school doesn't have the two-year class). We'll see how she does. If I have concerns, I'll raise them. If I find it's not the best fit for her, I'll look into other schooling options. I want to do what's best for her, and time and money are not the issues. It's finding the place where she's going to thrive. Nothing has to be set in stone; no placement is unchangeable. I'd hate to have to move her in the middle of a school year, but if I'm not happy next year, I'll do it.

I'm convinced that this little girl has what it takes to thrive. It's my job to ensure that she has every opportunity to do so.

December 14, 2011

Triathlete at Rest

It's now been about a week and a half since I crushed the half marathon course in Las Vegas and set a personal record. Since then, I have gotten approval from the Half Fanatics to join! The minimum level to join is 3 half marathons in 90 days, or 2 half marathons in 16 days. My 3 half marathons in 57 days (Long Beach, Silver Strand and Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas) has definitely qualified me. I'm now Half Fanatic #1642. I even got the shirt in the mail this week!

So, besides joining online clubs, what else have I been doing in the athletic world? Well, pretty much nothing. I'm on recovery break of sorts. Before I ran Vegas, I promised myself that I would run through the pain, balls to the wall, and then take a full two weeks off from running in order to rest my legs (I had been having glute pain, as well as some plantar fasciitis pain). I DID run the best race of my life in Vegas, and am keeping my promise to myself. Since I ran on the evening of December 4, I have not run one step. I am waiting until this weekend to run. It is SO weird not to run, let me tell you.

Additionally, I haven't been swimming or biking! I wanted to swim, and was planning on getting in the pool the day after I returned from Vegas to stretch out my legs. (I always, without fail, find that the best antidote to a hard run is a good swim). However, I returned home to an email from my gym saying that the pool heater was broken. It's an outdoor pool, and is usually heated to 80-82 degrees. It was now 70 degrees. Some people may have no hesitation getting in water that cold, sans wetsuit, but I did. Brrrr! So I didn't swim, and now the pool is closed altogether while they drain it and install a new heater. I hope to be able to swim next week, if it's fixed.

And biking? Well, I DID take my bike out for a ride this weekend, but two miles in my shifter broke. I had to call my husband to pick me up. During the short ride I learned that I am woefully unprepared for cold weather riding, and now I need to invest in a warm biking jacket and gloves (although I wore biking gloves, they are so thin that I literally could not feel my fingers). I hope to get a ride in this weekend.

So, what have I been doing? I've been taking it easy. I have not been doing nothing; that would be unthinkable! Instead, I've been walking the dog everyday, doing the elliptical and crossramp machines at the gym, and using the gym's spin bikes. I've also been doing some weight lifting. It is different for me, not to be swimming, biking or running most days...but I think my body needs this recovery. In a way, it's a blessing to be forced into slowing down a bit.

I also sold my bib to the Carlsbad Half Marathon. I will not Triple Crown next year; I'll do it instead in 2013. That still leaves 5 half marathons and a few triathlons on my agenda for 2012. I'm glad I cut out 3 half marathons!

I hope that the next time I write about my workouts, I'll be back to my triathlon-training self. In the meantime, I'm enjoying my recovery!

December 6, 2011

Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon Race Recap

I am back from Las Vegas, where I had the most wonderful weekend away. I was debating on whether to break this recap into two different posts---one about all the pre-race activities and one about the race itself--but I think I will make it all fit into one post. Please bear with me on how long this post might get; I have lots to write!

To end any suspense, I had a great race. I ran the best race of my life, and while I didn't hit my ultimate goal of breaking the 2:30 time mark, I DID set a PR (personal record) and finished in 2:30 and change. My previous PR, 2:31 and change, was earlier this past June, at the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon. I am proud to say I set a PR by 1 minute and 9 seconds!

Also, while I had a wonderful experience in Vegas at the race, there were many, many runners who had horrible experiences. Apparently the organizers ran out of t-shirts, medals, and water on the course. The crowds were huge and there was no one to control them. Runners were denied medical aid. Apparently it looked like a war zone in the Mandalay Bay Hotel after the race, with runners puking, passed out, shivering with hypothermia---and no medical aid was available. You can read all of the complaints on their Facebook page, and on blogs such as Charlene's. I am horrified at what happened at this race, and am so thankful that I didn't run into any difficulties. A race of this caliber, put on by a reputable organization such as Competitor, who has been putting on multiple Rock 'n' Roll races for many years, shouldn't allow something like this to happen.

With that being said, let me start my recap!


While driving to Las Vegas was certainly an option for me, since it's about a six hour drive, I was lucky enough to find a cheap flight. The caveat is that the flight left from Long Beach, so I had to drive 90 minutes to get to the airport. I left the house at 6:00 Saturday morning, drove up, and caught an easy one-hour flight to Vegas. I took a cab to my hotel, the Luxor, which I had deliberately chosen for it's very close proximity to the start and finish line. (The race started and finished at the Mandalay Bay, which is right next door to the Luxor. This will come into play later on in my recap).

After checking in and putting my luggage in my room, I immediately met up with Skibba and her daughter, Little Miss. Skibba is a friend of mine who I met on Twitter. We actually met in person in June, when she also ran the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon. We chat on Twitter and often text each other, and it was great to see her again and meet her daughter. Skibba, Little Miss and I caught a cab and went to the expo to get our bibs, schwag, and check out the goods!

I was SO excited to go to the expo. Most of the races I've been doing recently had very small expos, with only a few vendor booths. Some had no expo at all, only a packet pickup. The last two races I did that had big expos (Carlsbad and Rock 'n' Roll San Diego) I was unable to really "do" the expo, as I had my kids with me. This time, it was just me and my friends, and I had all the time in the world to leisurely stroll through the aisles. I picked up my bib and timing chip, got my t-shirt, and received my schwag bag--which had a cool running headlight inside it for running at night. Score! Next, it was shopping time.

As I have written before, my leg has been in a lot of pain recently, and even just walking through the expo was hurting me. I was getting increasingly anxious about running the next day, and got the idea that maybe some compression shorts might help me. I found some at a booth and decided to buy them. I scored some RazzyRoo headbands, on sale for only $10 each. Finally, I stopped by the Another Mother Runner booth, where I bought a t-shirt (it says "Are My Kids Still Chasing Me?") and their book, "Run Like A Mother". I got to meet one of the authors, Sarah, who I tweet a lot with on Twitter (she's a fellow plantar fasciitis sufferer) and she signed my book for me! I got lots of samples of different products. One drink in particular, a cherry juice, tasted good, but gave me a bad stomach cramp. This wasn't good, as I had wanted to eat lunch (all I'd eaten all day was a scone at 6:00 in the morning at Starbucks before my drive up to Long Beach, and a Clif Bar I had in my purse the expo). I needed FOOD but felt too sick to eat anything. After the expo, Skibba, Little Miss and I wandered in the shops at the Venetian. The line for cabs was long, but we lucked out with being able to hire a stretch limo to take us back! Vegas style!

Once back in the room, I rested, read, and enjoyed my solitude. Soon it was time to get ready for dinner. Me, Skibba and Little Miss caught a cab and went to an Italian restaurant, Casa di Amore, where we met up with other friends we've met on Twitter (some of whom we've met before, some of whom we hadn't), including MoonkinRunning, CoachKristieLV, SpeedySasquatch, and SnowVols.

After a yummy pasta dinner, I was ready to go to another meet-up---this time, at the Eye Candy Lounge at Mandalay Bay. I got to meet many of my friends from Twitter, including Sara, Kimberly and Charlene, as well as many of my favorite bloggers such as Becca from See Becca Try to Tri, Emily from Sweat Once a Day, Beth from Shut Up and Run, and Jess from Blonde Ponytail. I met many more people, but I can't remember everyone!

Sara, Charlene and me

Becca and me

me, Beth and Jess

me and Emily
All too soon, it was time for me to go back to my room and get to sleep. The next morning, I woke up and had breakfast with my brother-in-law's parents, who live in Vegas. I hadn't seen them in almost 7 years, so it was a treat! I wanted to fuel for that night's race (I had never run at night before, and wasn't sure what to eat) so I just ordered some oatmeal and an English muffin with peanut butter. After, I wandered around the shops at Mandalay Bay, shopped for treats for my kids, then went back to my room to rest for a few hours. I didn't know what to eat for lunch; I was afraid to eat anything heavy or unknown. I ended up just eating a scone and a banana from Starbucks.

The Race

I had brought two possible outfits to wear to the race, one for cold weather and one for warmer. I decided to wear my capris instead of long pants, and a long-sleeved tech shirt. I also decided to wear my new compression shorts under my capris. Normally, I advocate to wear nothing new on race day (and indeed, this was one of 2 of my racing rules that I broke, the other being that I never practiced running at night) but I had been wearing the shorts since I bought them the day before, even to bed, and felt they were comfortable enough to risk it. I got dressed, taped my feet with KT tape, put on my throw-away jacket and throw-away gloves, filled my fuel belt with Gatorade and Gu, grabbed my iPod and Garmin, and went to Skibba's room to meet her and her daughter. I had brought some glow sticks and we made them into necklaces and bracelets and twisted them into our shoelaces. I also wore a glow-in-the-dark blinking necklace that I borrowed from my daughter.

The hotel was crawling with runners, all staying inside as long as possible (it was COLD outside!) All weekend I was struck by the paradox of runners in Sin City. Vegas doesn't call to mind healthy images for me (I think of casinos and cigarette smoke) yet here were thousands of runners. 44,000 runners to be exact. I had the same feeling back in the 90s when I went to my first Grateful Dead show in Vegas---it was odd to see Deadheads in the casinos. At any rate, the half marathon started at 5:30 (the full marathon had already started at 4:00) and we made our way outside at about 5:15. We were lucky not to have to gear-check; since our hotel was so close to the start/finish line, it didn't make any sense to.

before leaving the hotel room

me and Skibba glowing in the dark
outside before the race, trying to stay warm

We made our way outside and it was BEDLAM! 44,000 runners, all trying to find their corrals.

I was supposed to be in corral 29, but we couldn't really figure out how to get there. We ended up joining another corral, which was made of various people from other corrals. Apparently, no one knew where to go. Finally, we off and RUNNING!

The energy of the runners and the Strip itself was indescribable. Everyone was happy. People were wearing glow sticks, Elvis costumes, and other random costumes. There was a run-through wedding happening around mile 3 on the course, and I saw lots of runners dressed as brides in preparation for their wedding or vow renewal.

Around mile 1 I ran into trouble. My fuel belt was slipping down my pants; for some reason it wasn't on tight. I tried to tighten it, and in the process the whole belt fell off! Some guy behind me had to hurtle over it (sorry!) and I ran back for it. I had visions of my race in Long Beach, when I lost my camera and had to backtrack to find it. I got it back on pretty quickly, got it snug around my waist, but realized that one of the bottles had smashed and I was leaking Gatorade on my hand. I tossed the broken bottle and started running again. In the meantime, I had lost Skibba and Little Miss running ahead of me. I was on my own. I put on my iPod and took in the sights. At mile 2 I was getting hot and took off my jacket and gloves and tossed them to the side.

Running on the Strip, at night, was pretty incredible. We passed by all the hotels, all lit up. Even though it was dark outside, the street was still pretty lit up from all the hotels and casinos! When we passed by the Bellagio, their fountains were in the middle of one of their dance displays. It was pretty spectacular to run by that. There were tons of spectators on the street and lining the pedestrian overpasses. Soon enough, around mile 4, we veered off the Strip and ran a few miles in a seedy back section of Vegas. Even though this wasn't the Strip, it was still fun for me. I tried taking pictures, but most of them turned out fuzzy....running + darkness= bad pictures.

Flamingo Hotel, just one of many we passed

crazy costumed runner

bad shot, but this runner is dressed like Elvis

Meanwhile, I was having the best run of my life. I normally take a lot of walk breaks, but for some reason didn't need to. I usually take my first walk break around mile 3 or so. I rarely run farther than that without a break, even in training. My longest run that I ever did without a walk break was 5 miles and I only did that once. Well, on this race, I didn't take my first walk break until mile 7. MILE SEVEN! I was feeling so good! In fact, I only took 3 short walk breaks during the entire race. Maybe it was the cold weather, maybe it was the fact that it was at night, maybe it was the crowds, maybe it was my mind digging deep...but for whatever reason, I was on fire!

On the negative side, I did notice that many walkers and half marathoners were on the left side of the street, despite being told (and signs stating so) that half marathoners were to stay to the right and marathoners were to stay to the left. I later read that this merge, of the marathon and half marathon, created unsafe conditions for the marathoners, who then had to dodge and weave around slower people. Also, I noticed that some water stations weren't properly manned (I recall one in particular that had no water poured, and volunteers were just then pouring out cups). This is why I always carry my own liquid. Always. You never know if water will for sure be available. Port-o-potties seemed few and far between, and only on the left side of the street, forcing half marathoners to cross into the marathoners' way. Luckily I didn't need to stop for one. And I myself almost ran into a spectator, wearing high heels, who was crossing the Strip (the race course!) to get from one side to the other.

When we turned back on the Strip, I started to get tired. I wasn't used to running for so long without many walk breaks. Miles 11-13 are usually hard for me, both physically and mentally, and this race was no exception. Plus, I was suddenly getting cold again. I was wishing I had my jacket and gloves, but those were long gone. Thankfully the crowds were back, since we were on the Strip, and that gave me energy. I could tell from my Garmin that I was doing well on time and knew that if I could keep it up, I could PR, or maybe even break 2:30. I kept running and running. My leg was hurting, but not terribly, and I chose to ignore the pain. I wanted to PR so badly!

Finally, at mile 13 I could see the finish line in the distance. At this point I really wanted to stop and walk....I was exhausted. I felt like I was going to throw up from the sustained effort. But I had to get to the finish line. People were walking in front of me and I had to weave around them in order to not break my pace. Finally, I crossed the finish line. My Garmin read 2:30. I was thrilled. Not only did I PR, but I was very close to breaking 2:30, only by a few seconds. I know if my fuel belt hadn't fallen off in the beginning of the race I would have made that goal, as I wouldn't have had to waste precious seconds locating my belt and putting it back on. Plus, now that I finished it, I was qualified to join the Half Fanatics, a group I have been coveting membership in (doing 3 half marathons in 90 days qualifies you for the lowest level; I ran my 3 half marathons in 57 days).

After I crossed the finish line, I got my cool glow-in-the dark medal (whew! they later ran out!) and my mylar blanket (which they later ran out of, too). Usually I have no use for the mylar blanket, but this time I was grateful. I was so cold by that point. I was sweaty and now that I was walking, the cold air and wind made me shiver. I called my husband to tell him I was done, and could barely speak to him due to my shivering and coughing. I waited for less than 10 minutes in the line to get my official photo taken, then tried to find food. They had bananas, which I craved, but they were all green. Instead, I grabbed a bagel, a yogurt, and a bag of pretzels. I saw water, which I passed on, but I saw no other food options. I didn't care at that point; all I wanted was to go back to my room.

I finally found my way into the Mandalay Bay, where it was chaos. There were runners all around, but it wasn't nearly as crazy as I heard it got later. I had a hard time navigating my way, but finally I found my way to the casino, and was then able to find the indoor passageway to the Luxor Hotel next door. Others weren't so lucky; because the Strip was still closed, cabs were hard to find. I have read story after story about people not being able to get a cab until midnight, or even 1:00 a.m., despite finishing the race a 8:00. And the restaurants were all packed and had hours long waits. I am SO glad I stayed next door to the finish line. I didn't have to deal with gear check, or finding a cab, or walking back to my hotel.

Once I got to the Luxor, I got on the elevator. I was still feeling nauseous, especially after eating the post-race food. I was on floor 24, and felt sick the whole way up. Someone got off at floor 23, and while we were stopped I had to talk myself into not getting sick in the elevator. When the elevator doors finally opened at my floor, I got out, walked to the wall next to the elevator bank, and laid right down on the floor, using my mylar wrap as a pillow. I was spent. I had used every ounce of energy on the race course. After a minute or so, I got up, stumbled to my room, and was in for the night. I slipped on my compression socks, left on my compression shorts, and slept. I was up early the next morning for my flight home.

All in all, I had a GREAT race, and a FANTASTIC weekend. I have never, ever run so fast or so well. I set a PR. I became a Half Fanatic. I am sad that so many others had horrible experiences, but for me, Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas will always hold a special place in my heart.

December 2, 2011

Erica Sara Designs Giveaway Winner

First of all, thank you to EVERYONE who entered the giveaway with Erica Sara Designs. This was my favorite giveaway I've done...I was so inspired by reading all of the amazing things you are doing to pay it forward and do some good in the world!

Using the random number generator, the winner is Yoli. Yoli, please email me at sugarmagnolia70 at gmail and I will get you in touch with Erica.

Thank you again!

December 1, 2011

Betting on Vegas--and Beyond

In a few days, I leave for Sin City. Sunday night I will be running the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon, otherwise known as "Strip at Night", since the race will be run on the famous Las Vegas strip at night. In fact, this is the first year that this race will be at night. I am very excited, both in terms of the race (the lights! the crowds!) and the weekend itself (in addition to just getting away by myself, I am meeting up with lots of friends from Twitter and Dailymile, most of whom I haven't met in real life before).

I am a bit anxious, however. I am injured, yet again. While my plantar fasciitis is better (it's still there, but much better after several ART sessions, stretching and working on my form) I am having pain in my leg. It started during the Silver Strand Half Marathon a few weeks ago, when I had pain in my left glute most of the race. Since then, the pain hasn't really gone away, although it's spread more down my leg. I think it's sciatic nerve pain, which I've had before.

Because of this pain, I am re-thinking my race goals for next year. In 2012, I have 8 (yes, 8!) half marathons on the schedule, not counting the 2-3 triathlons I'd like to do. I'm thinking of cutting those races down to 5; there are 3 races in San Diego (Carlsbad, La Jolla and America's Finest City) that, when you do all 3 in a calendar year, you get an extra medal at the end, called the Triple Crown. I'm thinking now of waiting to Triple Crown in 2013. Those races are local and I can easily do them later, while having some more recovery time in between races might really help me.

Remember, I will have done 3 half marathons at the end of 2011--Long Beach in October, Silver Strand in November and Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas in December. This will qualify me for the lowest level of entry to the Half Fanatics, which I am anxious to join. So, having done these 3 races recently, here is my proposed 2012 race schedule thus far:

January: Carlsbad Half Marathon
February: Surf City Half Marathon
March: Super Seal Triathlon (Olympic distance)
April: Hollywood Half Marathon AND La Jolla Half Marathon
May: OC Half Marathon
June: Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon
July: Solana Beach Triathlon (sprint distance) (this is a "maybe" on my schedule)
August: America's Finest City Half Marathon
September: San Diego Classic Triathlon (Olympic distance) OR Super Frog Triathlon (Half Ironman distance)
October: Portland Half Marathon

Just looking at all of that, it really makes sense for me to take those 3 half marathons off the schedule to allow for extra rest time. I'll make my final decision after running the race this weekend; I have already bought my bib for the Carlsbad race, but can easily sell it.

So, what does this mean for my race in Las Vegas? Well, I'm planning on going all out, balls to the wall, and doing my best. I would LOVE to reach my "A" goal, (well, really my "B" goal) which is to break the 2:30 barrier. I'm planning on taking a few weeks off from running after this race, concentrating instead on biking, swimming and using the elliptical machine. I need to rest my leg and heal more.

So, here are my final goals for this weekend's race:

"A" goal: Finish uninjured (or as unhurt as possible) with a smile on my face
"B" goal: crush the 2:30 time mark (2:29:59 or less)
"C" goal: PR (anything less than 2:31, which is my current PR)
"D" goal: Just have fun and enjoy racing the strip at night

I look forward to updating this on Monday, when I return from Vegas, hopefully with a shiny, new PR!

November 25, 2011

United Run For the Hungry 5k Race Recap

Yesterday I ran my first ever Turkey Trot, the United Run for the Hungry 5k. I have always wanted to run a Turkey Trot, but since I usually host Thanksgiving at my house I can never really afford to give up so many hours of the morning. I need to be in the kitchen bright and early cooking! This year, however, my best friend hosted Thanksgiving, so while he slaved away all day over the turkey, I got off easy and only had to bring 2 desserts and my Tofurky. My synagogue was getting together a team to run this race (which consisted of both a 5k and a 10k), so I signed up myself, my husband J....and our son, D!

It was D's first ever 5k (3.1 miles). Up until yesterday, his longest run had been 1 mile. Over the past 18 months or so, he has run in several kid's 1 mile races, but never anything as big as a 5k. I was so excited to sign him up and to run it with him. I was worried about how it would go in terms of running WITH him. D is a fast runner, much faster than me. His last race he pulled in around an 8 minute mile; I, on the other hand, am about an 11 minute miler. But I have endurance, and while I'm slow I can complete half marathons. He has NO endurance past a mile. I was curious how this race was going to go!

My mother was visiting us for the week, and she stayed home with our daughter, A. We left early for downtown San Diego, not knowing how the parking situation would be. As luck would have it, we easily found a parking spot and made it to the race site. We hooked up with my friend, T, and his two sons, who were also running the 5k. At one point, T looked down at J's shoes and asked why he wasn't wearing his timing chip. I looked down and--oh my goodness--I had put the WRONG PART OF THE D-RING ON HIS SHOE! It's supposed to look like this and I had accidentally put the INSTRUCTIONS part on his shoe, not the actual timing chip. Worse yet, I had done the same with D's and my own timing chips! I was so embarrassed, absolutely humiliated--I mean, I'm hardly a novice racer! In fact, just this past year I put on FIVE of these timing chips in different half marathons! My only excuse was that I was exhausted when I put them on, so early in the morning (yet another reason to get things ready the day before). Luckily, the situation was easily remedied; we were able to go to the "help" table and get new bibs and timing chips.

Finally, after much waiting around, our race started (the 10k had started an hour before our 5k). I kept telling D to pace himself, that this distance was unknown territory for him, and that he needed to save energy for the whole race. Whenever he would start to pull ahead of me, I would have him slow down and run with me. The first mile or so, he did great! He ran pretty consistently, with a big grin on his face. Soon after that, he wanted to take a few walk breaks. I waved J on ahead of us; I wanted him to run his own race, to get the best 5k time he could get. I wasn't in this for a good "time" in terms of how fast I did it; rather I was in it for a GOOD TIME with my son. From mile 1-2 he alternated running with lots of walk breaks.

At mile 2, he was beat. He told me he was tired. We walked most of that mile. I tried to teach him the meaning of the phrase "dig deep", how he needed to dig deep inside himself to finish that last mile. I told him that his body may say no, but his brain needs to be stronger. That his body will always tell him it's time to quit, but that his mind needs to overpower it and make him perservere. I said him that this was his first 5k, and that whatever his time was would be a PR (personal record for him). I told him that we could train together, so if
when he does another 5k he would be more prepared for it and would smash this time. He heard me tell him all of this, but gosh was he beat. When I told him to dig deep, he told me he only had a few drops left. Such a cutie!

Finally, my Garmin beeped that we were at the 3 mile mark. I had told him that when he heard the beep, there would be only .10 miles left, and that we were going to run it in together. And so we did! At the end, there were lots of people on the side cheering, and I think that (and the fact that the finish line was clearly visible) gave D energy. We saw J waiting for us right at the finish line (he had finished about 4 minutes ahead of us) looking so proud. The best part is that D and I crossed the finish line together, holding hands.

I am so proud of him! I hope this is the first of many races we will do together. I usually don't do 5ks (in fact, I hate them, preferring to spend my money instead on half marathons) but for him I'll delightedly make an exception!

November 23, 2011

Erica Sara Designs Giveaway!

It is no secret that I am all about being grateful for what I have. After all, the name of my blog is "Grateful Mama". If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that, despite the challenges that have been thrown my way in terms of my daughter's and husband's health, I am truly grateful for the wonderful life I have. I am GRATEFUL for my daughter, and what she can do in spite of the obstacles she has had to overcome. I am GRATEFUL for my husband, who loves me and provides stability for our family. I am GRATEFUL that my body allows me to swim, bike, run and participate in my beloved half marathons and triathlons.

This month, November, is the perfect month to celebrate gratitude. To that end, I am proud to announce a giveaway from my favorite jeweler, Erica Sara.

Erica is an amazing woman. I met her last year on Twitter and somehow, among the hundreds and hundreds of people that I've connected with there, we developed a close friendship. We also started to motivate each other on Daily Mile. She is a runner, a yoga fanatic, a graphic artist (she re-designed my blog for me earlier this year!) and a fantastic jeweler. She creates gorgeous jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, even cuff links) and has a line of race bling that I covet. She also, at my request, created my "born to do this" necklace, which she now sells on her website. Please, go look at her jewelry line; each piece is more gorgeous than the next. In short, I am a blessed woman to call Erica my friend. I can't wait to meet her in person one day.

Erica and I want to host a giveaway based on gratitude. We want to help create a better world, to have people "pay it forward", for we are all blessed, regardless of what challenges or obstacles we have. The winner, who will be chosen at random using a random number generator, will have a choice: they can either choose this beautiful "Gratitude" necklace, OR a race bling necklace (either the 13.1 necklace or the 26.2 one).

"Gratitude" necklace

"13.1" necklace

"26.2" necklace

So, what do you have to do to enter? While there are many optional entries, which will be explained below, there is only one required entry: to do something to help change the world in a positive way (no entry will be valid without this).

Some ideas are:
  • Donate food to a local food bank
  • Volunteer for day at a local organization
  • Check on an elderly neighbor
  • Write a check for charity
  • Donate toys for Toys for Tots or a similar holiday toy drive
  • Pick up litter in your neighborhood
  • Shovel snow for someone who can't

The only limit is your creativity!

The contest will end on Friday, December 2 at 5:00 PST. Again, the winner will have their choice of one of three necklaces (either the 13.1 necklace, the 26.2 necklace, or the Gratitude necklace). Entries will be as follows (and PLEASE leave a separate comment for each entry!)

  • MANDATORY ENTRY: do something positive for the world and write in the comment section what you did.
  • OPTIONAL ENTRIES (one entry for each):

1) Follow my blog via Google Friend Connect by clicking on the "follow" button on the left side of my blog. Leave me a comment telling that you are now following me. If you are already a follower of my blog, you can leave me a comment telling me that too. This will give you one entry.

2) Follow me on twitter (@sugarmagnolia70) and leave me a comment telling me that you are now following me. Again, if you already follow me on twitter you can leave me a comment telling me that as well. This will give you one entry.

3) Follow Erica (@ericasara) on Twitter and leave me a comment that you are following her. This will give you one entry.

4) Become a fan of Erica Sara Designs on Facebook, and leave me a comment telling me you've done so. This will give you one entry.

5) Follow Erica's blog and leave me a comment telling me that you are doing so. This will give you one entry.

6) Tweet the following: "check out the #giveaway @sugarmagnolia70 is doing with @ericasara's race bling/jewelry! Go to for more details!". You can tweet this once a day, giving you one entry per day, until the contest ends.

Good luck! Thank you, Erica, for allowing me to give away one of your gorgeous creations. And thank you, dear readers, for going out there and making the world a better place. My life is indeed better due to the inspiration I get from all of you!

November 14, 2011

Silver Strand Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday I ran my 5th half marathon of 2011, the Silver Strand Half Marathon. As I wrote last week, I was oddly unemotional about this race. Even as I toed the line at the start, I wasn't feeling excited, nervous, anxious, happy....nothing. I hadn't trained specifically for this race, as my husband was supposed to run it but then didn't end up training for it, and transferred his bib to me. Even at the packet pickup the day before, where I usually get a jolt of excitement from all the other runners, I felt emotionless. Regardless, I carefully prepared for the race, eating a carb-filled dinner the night before (which happened to be my 11-year wedding anniversary!) and laying out my clothes and gear.

I got up early on Sunday morning, waking at 3:45 despite my alarm clock being set for 4:05. I was thrilled to see it wasn't raining; it was raining so hard all day Saturday! I got dressed and tried to eat my customary peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, which I had prepared the night before, but could only choke down 1/4 of it. I knew I had to eat, so I opened a Clif Bar. This, too, was unappealing to me so early in the morning, and I only had a bite. I ended up not really eating anything, which would later come back to haunt me. A girlfriend of mine, E, was also running the race, so she came by at 5:00 to pick me up and carpool down to Coronado Island.

me, pre-race

Logistically, parking was a breeze! I was really worried, as I thought parking would be a nightmare. But we easily found a parking spot at Silver Strand State Beach (this is the same place where I did the Super Seal Sprint Triathlon in March) and hopped onto a waiting shuttle, which took us to the start line. Once there, we hit the port-o-potties, which only had 2 people in line for each, then hung around for a while (we got there at 6:30, and the race didn't start until 7:30). I decided to get back in line for the potties, and was shocked to see that suddenly the lines for each had grown to at least 20 people! We waited in line for 30 minutes and used the facilities. I decided to gear-check my jacket and gloves, which I normally just toss, as it was already getting warm. At 7:15 the skaters started (yes, this course was also open to skaters!) and at 7:30 promptly we were off and running.

The first mile of the race was nice, as we were leaving Coronado and ran past the famous Hotel del Coronado....the place where J proposed to me some 12 years ago! But all too quickly, we were on the Silver Strand, a stretch of highway that connects Coronado Island with Imperial Beach. Despite living in San Diego since 1987, I have only been on the Silver Strand once; whenever I go to Coronado, I take the Coronado Bridge, which is much faster. I was envisioning a beautiful run with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Diego Bay on the other. But I never saw the ocean...and while I did have a view of the Bay and San Diego, it was on the other side of the highway so we weren't right next to it. I suppose it was pretty enough, but I was pretty bored by it.

Around mile 2, I started to bonk. Mile 2? Who bonks at mile 2? The girl who didn't eat a good breakfast, that's who! I knew that not eating my sandwich in the morning would come back to haunt me. I stopped to walk and eat a Honey Stinger Waffle---I needed fuel! I took a GU at mile 4, a few miles earlier than I normally would have, and another GU at mile 11. It was getting hot, and I was going through my Gatorade on my fuel belt pretty fast. I felt bad for lots of the runners, many of which were overdressed in pants and long-sleeved shirts. I was hot in my capris and tank top! I even ended up pouring some water from aid stations on my head as the miles got on.

I started to have a lot of pain during this run, too. Not so much in my foot, where I normally have pain due to my plantar fasciitis; rather, this pain was in my thigh and my glutes. I had a lot of walk breaks, many more than I usually take, as I was just in so much pain. My chiropractor, who is doing ART on me (Active Release Technique), is having me re-learn my running, as apparently my form is wrong and that is causing my plantar fasciitis. As a result, I am using my glutes more than I ever have before, and suspect that this re-learning process contributed highly to my pain yesterday.

There were more things that I didn't like about this course. I had heard it was boring, as it is very straight and flat---and that was no lie! It was so straight that I could see the upcoming mile marker far ahead of time. No changing views, no veering off in a different direction. The worst part was at mile 8, when we were still going straight, there was a hill to the right of us in which we saw runners going in the opposite direction doing an out-and-back. So from mile 8-9 we had to run parallel to faster runners doing their out-and-back, then we made a turn into a residential neighborhood before entering the Silver Strand Training Complex. This area, according to Wikipedia, houses an antenna which "was used several years ago to provide directional finding, primary communication links for U.S. Navy submarines.". It is a very ugly, desolate area, and we had to do a mile or so out-and-back in it. I hated this area.

not very pretty

Another thing I didn't like about the course was the lack of crowd support. Most of the races I have done offer lots of spectators, maybe not for every mile but enough of it. It's fun to have crowds; their support gives me a lift and motivation, and it's fun to read people's signs, etc. There were virtually NO spectators on this course, mainly due to logistics---there could be no people stopping on the Silver Strand Highway, and of course people can't go onto the base. Even in the residential neighborhood we ran through, hardly anyone was out! I've run through many neighborhoods during races that have their residents out cheering. It was disappointing. I also thought that there weren't enough aid stations---too many miles went by without water tables. It was ok for me, as I carried my own, but I DID want water to pour on my head, and I know other people who weren't carrying fluid must have been dying of thirst in that sun! (Which is why you always, ALWAYS carry your own liquid!)

Finally, I hit mile 13. Normally at mile 13 the finish line is nowhere in sight, but this course was so straight that I saw it even before I hit the 13 mile marker! I pushed through at the end, and finished in 2:40. Very far from my ultimate goal of breaking 2:30, but since I wasn't trying to push myself in this race, and wanted to use it as a training run for my "A" race in 3 weeks (Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas) I am pleased.

My friend, E, had finished 5 minutes ahead of me and met me at the finish line. We got our medals, found our bag in gear-check, and easily got on a shuttle to take us back to the car. I was miserable on the way home---I had found the race to be very challenging, both physically (pain!) and mentally (boring!). But it's done, and since I have always wanted to do this race, I know never to do it again.

November 10, 2011

Oddly Apathetic

So apparently I have a half marathon this Sunday.

Yes, I am registered for the Silver Strand Half Marathon, a local race that I've never done. And I'm feeling oddly neutral about it. Usually before a half marathon I am feeling all sorts of emotions---excitement, nervousness, anticipation--but for this one, I just kind of feel....meh.

I wasn't even supposed to be running this race. Months and months ago I had expressed interest, but my husband, J, told me HE wanted to run it. At that time, he had just purchased a (used) treadmill from Craigslist and was using it a few times a week in the garage. I told him he could run it, and instead signed up for the Long Beach Half Marathon as my fall race. Well, flash forward a few months and J hadn't trained at all; in fact, he was using the treadmill so infrequently that he sold it last month. He asked me if I would run it in his place, and so we sent in the form (and $15 fee) to transfer the bib from his name to mine.

So, here I am, 3 days away from the race. And I don't really care about it. Why?

  • I've recently read a few race recaps from previous years that talk about how boring the course it. Although it's supposed to be beautiful---it's on the Silver Strand, which is a highway that connects Coronado Island to the mainland--it's mostly super straight. One blogger wrote to be prepared to see the next mile marker waaaaay before you get there.
  • It's supposed to rain! I have run in the rain before, which can be fun (and in fact once did a 10 mile training run in the rain) but I have never done a half marathon in the rain. I have done a few 5ks in the rain, and know from experience that it's not the running part that made me miserable, it was the hour or so waiting around beforehand that sucks. Just standing around, getting wet and feeling freezing, is not fun.
  • My foot and leg has been bothering me. Although my plantar fasciitis is MUCH better, mainly due to a new therapy I have been doing, I have been re-learning my running form, which is causing new pains during my re-adjustment.
  • I have been feeling a bit burnt-out lately, probably due to doing so many back-to-back races.
I am planning on using this race as a training run for my next "A" race, which is in a few weeks: Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas. I am not planning on pushing myself this weekend; I only want to finish happy, uninjured, and with a smile on my face. It is odd, though, to be feeling so emotionless about a race. I hope my sense of excitement, or at least anticipation, grows this weekend before the race, as I really want to have fun! I am proud of myself though, as this has been a fitness goal of mine---to be fit enough to be able to run a half marathon at a moment's notice. It may not be my fastest time, but I will finish---and that in itself will be an accomplishment, since I'm not even training specifically for it!

November 3, 2011

Cookie Monday

I recently started to read the book "The Happiness Project", by Gretchen Rubin. I first heard about this from my sister, but other friends have also been reading it too. The idea of taking active steps to make myself happier is very appealing. Not that I'm depressed, or even unhappy...far from it. But I definitely feel that I can be happier. I borrowed the book from the library, but am enjoying it so much that I bought my own copy (I also bought one for my very best friend; he and I plan on working on our own happiness projects together). Gretchen also has a website that is worth checking out.

Anyhow, I'm only halfway done with the book, but so far the chapter on parenting is really hitting home. Gretchen writes about "fog happiness". On page 91, here's what she writes: "In many ways, the happiness of having children falls into the kind of happiness that could be called fog happiness. Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don't really seem to bring much happiness at all---yet somehow they do."

I understand fog happiness. In some ways, my half marathon and triathlon training is like this. Training makes me incredibly happy. However, when I'm actually doing the training, I'm rarely happy. Running is hard, swimming can be boring, and biking is a huge effort for me. At any given moment I am not happy...yet the whole thing makes me happy. Fog happiness. Likewise with my kids. I love my kids so much; they are my life, and I think I am a very good mother. However, on a day-to-day basis, I don't experience a lot of happiness with my kids. I experience a lot of emotions---contentment, pride, anger, frustration, worry, love--but happiness only comes in short bursts here and there.

In the book, Gretchen talks about taking time for projects and traditions. Reading this, I had a brainstorm: why not have a weekly tradition with my kids, doing something that makes all three of us happy? Hence, Cookie Monday was born. I decided that every weekend, my kids would choose a cookie recipe (we have a cookie cookbook, and once that is done there are tons of other books and websites to get new recipes). I would buy the ingredients, and on Mondays after school we would bake them together. I chose Mondays because, let's face it, Mondays are usually boring. And I chose baking cookies because it is relatively easy and it's fun. Plus, even though I love to cook, I am not much of a baker, and I figured this would help me hone my skills.

This past Monday was our first Cookie Monday---and it was a huge success! We made chunky chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips and walnuts. My son, D, read us the recipe and my daughter, A, mixed everything together. It was fun---and I have to say I was happy doing it! We enjoyed eating our freshly-baked cookies, warm from the oven, and now have cookies to eat all week long. We even ordered a new cookie jar for the project, as the only jar we had was a haunted house cookie jar for Halloween, which is inappropriate to display in any month but October.

I'm glad I thought of this project---it's fun, easy, inexpensive, and something that both of my children can do, regardless of their age and academic/physical levels. It's also good for D, who is learning about fractions and measurements, and for A, who needs to practice pouring and stirring for her fine motor skills. The only thing it's NOT good for is my waistline---thank goodness I run! :)

October 24, 2011

8 Tips for a Successful Race Day

Although I am certainly not an expert, by now I am a seasoned racer. To date, I have completed 7 half marathons, 1 full marathon, 6 triathlons, and countless 5ks. During this time, I have learned many things to do--and NOT to do--in order to make race day a success. While you can easily google this and find many lists of things to help you on race day, I decided to compile my own list, most of them learned through experience.

1) Get to the race early. I can't stress this point enough. Arriving to your race early will decrease your stress level (sitting in traffic as the start time grows nearer and nearer does no good for your blood pressure!), allow time to stand in the long port-o-potty line, and give you time to acclimate yourself and warm-up. If you are doing a triathlon, getting there early will allow you to leisurely lay out your gear in transition. You'll also have time to find the key entry/exit points from transition (swim-in/bike-out/bike-in/run-out) and where they are in relation to your rack.

I have been to quite a few races where I have witnessed other people stuck in traffic and missing the start time. The Safari Park Half Marathon was a logistical nightmare; I got there in plenty of time, but others weren't so lucky and had to park miles away and run to the start line! I easily cruised up to Long Beach a few weeks ago for the half marathon and slipped into my pre-paid parking spot without any traffic at all; however, afterward I read that many runners, who were maybe only 30 minutes behind me on the freeway, got stuck in horrendous traffic and people missed the start time. Even a few weeks ago, at the Mission Bay Triathlon, I myself left in plenty of time yet ran into a ton of unforeseen traffic and had only 15 minutes or so to set up my gear before I had to exit transition.

The lesson? Look at your start time, and backtrack from there. Allow PLENTY of time to arrive to your destination, park, and get to the race area. Once you have your goal time to leave the house, do yourself a favor and backtrack it by another 30 minutes or so. Yes, this means you have to get up earlier. But the worst-case scenario is that you arrive too early and sit in your car for a while listening to the radio. You will not be stuck in traffic, worrying and stressing, and be able to start the race in a good mood and having used the facilities, if you need to.

2) Charge your electronics. These days, most runners use some sort of electronic devices when they run. Garmins (or other GPS aides), heart-rate monitors, iPods/MP3 players are all common place. What a bummer it is when you fail to charge your device though! At this year's Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon, I had wanted to reach my goal of breaking the 2:30 barrier. However, I had not properly charged my Garmin, and the battery died at mile 7. I had no idea of my pace or what time it was. I am convinced that had I known my pace, I would have reached my goal (I missed by time goal by just over a minute) as I would have kicked up the pace at the end, knowing how close I was. In triathlons, you are not allowed to bike or run with music, but most running races allow it....and I can't imagine running a 13.1 mile half marathon without my favorite tunes in my ears. Failing to charge my iPod would be horrible for me.

3) Nothing new on race day. This is common knowledge among runners; we hear this again and again. However, I know plenty of people who fail to listen to this sage advice. "Nothing new on race day" means no new clothes, food or hydration. If you need new running shoes, don't buy a pair at the expo the day before and wear them on race day. During the Long Beach Half Marathon a few weeks ago, I used a extra pouch on my fuel belt that I bought to hold my camera. If you read my race recap, you'll remember that my camera bounced out of it after I forgot to velcro it closed. Had I used this pouch on a training run, I would have been more practiced with closing the pouch, and the camera probably wouldn't have bounced out.

As for hydration and nutrition, if you train with a favorite sports drink, and you find out that the race course support will be handing out a different brand, either don't take any during the race or drink some of the new brand during a training run to see how your stomach reacts to it. I myself bring my own Gatorade on my fuel belt, but, for example, when I read that a race is offering a different sports drink like Cytomax I try it weeks ahead of time to see how I like it. I've heard of many a runner who drinks an untried brand of fluid during a race and ends up with stomach cramps. This goes for gels (I use GU and once passed by the table handing out PowerBar Energy Gels because I had never tried it and didn't want to start during mile 9 of a half marathon)! I just bought some Nuun and will be trying it this weekend, far ahead of my next scheduled half marathon.

And, of course, make sure you've run in your shoes, socks, clothes, hat, and whatever else you plan on wearing. Doing a triathlon in open-water? Make sure you've had some open-water swim practice...IN the wetsuit you are planning to use, and with the same goggles. Work out any kinks before the race.

4) Bring your own hydration. If you are doing a short race like a 5k, you probably don't need to bring anything (unless the weather is so hot and/or humid that you will need it). However, on races 10k or more, I highly recommend bringing your own. Race courses will, of course, have aid stations along the way, always offering water and sometimes a sports drink. However, there are two problems with this:

The first issue is, what if you need a drink and there is no aid station in sight? I always carry my own liquid on my training runs (for me, I carry it on runs 5 miles or more). I get to take a sip whenever I want. But during a race, aid stations are usually set up every mile or so, sometimes spaced even further apart. What if you are dying of thirst and the next aid station is 3/4 mile away? You run the risk of dehydration, especially if you're racing in hot weather.

The second problem with not carrying your own hydration is that race directors are human, and sometimes planning can go wrong. It's not unheard of for aid stations to run out of water. A few years ago the CHICAGO MARATHON (a very well-known race) ran out of water...and in the blistering heat one person died and several other runners had to go to the hospital with heat-related illnesses. I myself have seen many aid stations run out of water; I'm so slow that often by the time I get there they're out of goods. And during last year's Carlsbad Half Marathon I came across an aid station that had plenty of water, but had run out of cups! My running partner, who did not carry her own water, had to drink out of a communal water jug. Yuck! I ended up giving her one of my four bottles of Gatorade in order to help her through the race.

5) Lay everything out the night before the race. There is a lot of things to remember to bring to a road race, and a triathlon is a whole other beast in terms of necessary gear. Because you need to get up at dark o'thirty on most race mornings (see tip #1 above), I recommend having everything ready the night before so that all you need to do is get up, brush your teeth and get dressed (in the clothes previously laid out). For a running race, I will lay out my clothes, already have my bib pinned to my shirt and my timing chip on my shoe, and have my fuel belt packed with my gels and bars. I fill my flasks with Gatorade and put them in the fridge; all I need to do in the morning is take them out. I have my Garmin, iPod, headband, sunscreen and anything else I need already laid out on the dining room table; I even pre-make my pre-race peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and stick it in the fridge. When I stumble downstairs in the dark, exhausted and anxious, it makes it easier on me that everything is done.

For a triathlon, I start to lay my gear out on the dining room table 3 days ahead of time. I know this sounds excessive and obsessive, but there is so much gear to bring to a triathlon that I like to start collecting early so I won't forget anything. I use this list to check off my gear. The night before the race, I triple-check everything and load it all in the car, including my bike. Then all I need to worry about in the morning is pulling on my trisuit and shoes, and getting my sandwich and Gatorade out of the fridge. Knowing everything important (bike, helmet, wetsuit, goggles, timing chip, etc) is already in the car is a great relief to me.

6) Bring clothes to toss. Most races that I've done start early in the morning. It can be a bit cold when you're waiting around for the race to start, even in the summer. However, you don't want to dress too warmly; runners will quickly heat up once the race begins. I have learned to bring clothes that I can dispose of either before the race or as soon as I heat up on the run. I used to wear old sweatshirts to the start line that I could discard, but now I don't have any more old shirts. Therefore, I go to the Salvation Army (you could go to any thrift store) and spend a few dollars on a hoodie or jacket. I take it home, wash it, and wear it race morning. I don't feel bad at all discarding a jacket I only spent a few bucks on. Many races have volunteers that collect the discarded clothes and donate them to a charity. I also buy cheap gloves at Target (they have some that come in a 2-pack for something like $2.50 for two pairs, or something ridiculously cheap like that.). It's a great way to keep your hands warm and not feel bad about tossing the gloves later. As a last resort, I've seen runners cut holes in garbage bags and wear them to keep warm.

7) Train for race conditions whenever possible. If you're doing a local race, this should not be too much of an issue. However, if you travel, this could definitely come into play. Weather, elevation, even the time of day can wreak havoc on a runner's routine. If you live at sea level and sign up to do a race in the mountains, the elevation change can be hard. It's best to arrive a few days beforehand to acclimate. Similarly, if you live in a dry climate, like Phoenix, and sign up for a race in a humid city, like Dallas, the weather may drag you down. If you can train in the conditions, it'll help you that much more on race day. Doing a race that's notoriously hilly? Train on hills. I am doing the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon in December, and it's at night. I do all of my runs in the morning. While I doubt I will be doing a long run at night before the race, you can bet I will do a few short runs in the evening, just so that my body gets the feel of running during that time of day.

8) Finally, trust your training and have fun! If you're been training properly, you should be ready for the race. And having fun is the most important thing---this SHOULD be fun! Most of us are not professional runners who depend on the race as a way to make a living, or for their reputation. Soak in the contagious energy of the other runners, enjoy running in a new place, and smile, smile, smile---especially for the race photographer!

October 21, 2011


When you have a child with a long history of medical issues, you learn to be grateful for things you wouldn't ordinarily think about. Eating? I'm daughter, A, didn't eat for years and used a feeding tube until she was 3 years old. Walking? I'm daughter didn't walk until she was 3 1/2. And today I'm grateful for a sprained ankle.

Yesterday afternoon I got a phone call from my daughter's deaf/hard-of-hearing therapist. She was really concerned about A. She observed her at school to be off-balance (even more so than usual), seemingly unsure of where to step when she walked, and was not writing her name correctly, with the letters in the right order. As she relayed all this to me, I grew more and more concerned; I, too, had noticed yesterday morning that she wasn't walking quite right, but chalked it up to her possibly being tired. And when I volunteered in her classroom yesterday, I witnessed her not writing her name correctly, too.

The therapist was concerned that A had possibly suffered a concussion. This was not a far-fetched theory; she had been pushed down by a little boy on Monday, 4 days earlier, and in fact had a cut and gooseegg on her forehead. (This same little boy has been pushing her a lot recently. It's not aggressive; rather, he has a crush on her and keeps running over to hug her. But she has balance issues and keeps getting pushed over. It's gotten to the point where the principal is involved, and the little boy is being put in a different recess than A). The therapist also suggested that maybe A had had a seizure in her sleep; this frightened me, as A has never had a seizure before.

Needless to say, hung up and had A walk over to me. She was indeed walking funny, something I hadn't noticed earlier because she hadn't been walking far. I had her write her name a few times, and each time she got it right. I was not concerned about this now, but I was concerned about the walking issue. I called our pediatrician, who told us to go straight to the emergency room at Children's Hospital.

The whole drive there I was freaking out. What if A had suffered a concussion? What could they do about it at that point? And what if it was a seizure? I know this is a large leap to make, but given her medical history, and the fact that she had a bilateral pre-natal stroke, it wouldn't be unheard of. On the other hand, I was able to talk myself down from the ledge; her writing was ok, and over the past few days she had exhibited no unusual behavior (aside from the odd walking)...her eating, sleeping, and personality was unchanged.

The doctors at Children's Hospital did not think it was a concussion, based on observation and examination. However, when they looked at her legs, they noticed one ankle was swollen! She ended up having some x-rays done on her ankle, which luckily turned out normal. Most likely she sprained or strained her ankle, which would of course account for her walking oddly! One thing that worries me is the fact that she didn't tell me she was in pain! Never in the past week did she indicate, either verbally or non-verbally, that her ankle hurt. She is definitely a little trooper, but I wish she would be less so sometimes.

So, I am grateful. A sprain/strain? That is easily healed. We are keeping her off her feet as much as possible; of course she's walking some, but she is sitting out of adapted P.E. and is playing in the sandbox at recess. And at home, of course, I'm carrying her around like a princess as much as I can. In light of what I thought it COULD be, this is nothing. A concussion? A seizure? A broken ankle? Bring THIS on. We can deal.

October 13, 2011

Hooray for Kindergarten!

I just realized I haven't written anything about how my daughter is doing in kindergarten! Usually my blog is half about my family and half about racing; however, these past 6 weeks or so I've been so focused on my races. In the past few weeks, I've completed two triathlons (a sprint and an Olympic distance) and a half marathon and I've completely neglected to write about the part of Grateful Mama's life that makes me a Mama!

My daughter, A, started kindergarten at the end of August. As I wrote on her first day of school, she is in the first of a two-year kindergarten. My school district offers this two-year kindergarten to children who were born in June through November, who would otherwise be the youngest kids in the class. This is not a special ed class; it's 100% mainstream, with all typically-developing kids. Most of the kids in there, including my daughter, can benefit from the extra year in order to develop more social, language and other developmental skills. Although she is in a mainstream class, she does get pulled out for 5 different therapies during the week (30 minutes of physical therapy, 30 minutes of speech therapy, 30 minutes of occupational therapy, 60 minutes of deaf/hard-of-hearing therapy, and 60 minutes of adapted P.E.). I'm so happy that they are giving her all of her services even without being in a special ed class.

School has now been in session for seven weeks. My son, D, is doing great in second grade, as I expected. But my daughter? She's thriving!

  • Academically she is exploding. She went to school being able to read a few 3-letter word here or there. Today she can read most 3-letter words without help. She can even spell! We have lots of magnetic letters on our refrigerator that she loves to play with. I can ask her to spell a 3-letter word, like "hat" or "fox" or "bed" and 9/10 times she gets the correct letters and spells the word! Today she came home from school being able to read the words "the", "my" and "see". Being as she is only 7 weeks into her first year of kindergarten, I am very hopeful that she will be a good reader one day.
  • On the potty training front, she is mostly trained. I wrote in mid-July that she wasn't potty trained at all. Soon after that, she started to get it. Now, she is accident-free most days, although there are a few days here and there that she comes home from school in new shorts and underwear (I keep a backpack of extra clothes for her in the health aide's office). She also sometimes has accidents at home. But I know many kids in kindergarten have accidents at school, so I'm not worried; I mean, she only trained two months ago!
  • She has friends! She seems to be well-liked in the class (as she always was in preschool, too) and has a little group of friends. I've even heard kids say "Oh, there's A, let's go play with her" while we're on the playground in the morning before the bell rings. My heart melts each time I see her walking hand-in-hand with a friend. Of course, her language seems to be way below that of most (but not all) of her peers, but she's obviously able to keep up with them.
  • She is getting a bit better with writing some letters and using scissors. This will be an ongoing struggle for her, particularly with her vision issues.
  • She is getting so independent! She's been wanting to pick out her own clothes and get dressed by herself; help set the table; help unload the dishwasher; and assist me with various other household chores.
All in all, I have seen HUGE progress over the last few months with A. Of course, her whole life has been one big leap of progress, but I'm seeing more and more subtle, yet important, milestones these days. I couldn't be prouder.

October 9, 2011

Long Beach Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday I ran the Long Beach Half Marathon. Up until just a few days ago, I was not sure I would even be participating. Because I've been injured with plantar fasciitis, I have not been able to train properly. I have not had a proper long run (10 miles or longer) in a few months. And recently, I have given up most running to speed up healing, except for the two triathlons I completed in the past few weeks and some short runs around the neighborhood with our dog. I am used to getting a long run every weekend and doing an additional 3 miles twice during the week. But I've been wanting to rest my feet, so I've been doing more swimming, biking and doing the elliptical at the gym instead. Regardless, I was unsure if I would do the race; at the last minute, I decided I would try. If worse came to worse and I was in a lot of pain, I could always walk it. Or, I could always walk to the next aid station and drop out. As it turns out, I finished the race strong and pain-free (at least, pain-free in my feet!)

By the way, this race was extremely well organized. When I got to the race area, everything was clearly marked with signs and high-flying labeled balloons, directing people to the volunteer booth, first aid, gear check, port-a-potties, start line, etc. The event was huge---not only was there a marathon and half marathon, but there was also a 5k and a 26.2 mile bike tour. Needless to say, there was a lot going on, but the scene was not at all chaotic. After the race, each runner (for the full AND half) was handed not only their medal but a mylar blanket and a plastic bag containing a banana, cookie, cereal, etc. My only "complaint"was that there was not a lot of on-course entertainment and there were huge stretches without spectators, both of which can add energy to flagging runners. There was some entertainment, though, and I loved running through the sections where there were a lot of people cheering.

I was not able to go up the day before to attend the expo, as it was Yom Kippur, a holy Jewish holiday. I got special permission from the race director to pick up my race packet on the race day. Ordinarily, I would have been up there the day before for the expo and gotten a hotel, but this meant that I needed to drive up early race morning. I set my alarm for 3:15 (I cringe just typing that!) and was out the door by 3:45. I finally pulled into my pre-paid reserved spot at 5:30. I went to the volunteer tent, where I got my t-shirt, goodie bag, timing chip and bib. As I am morally opposed to wearing the race shirt the day of the race (I think you need to earn it, although there are always TONS of runners wearing the race shirt during the actual race) I opted to check my gear at the gear-check, something I've never done before. I hit the port-a-potty, and got ready to head to the start line.

Before the race started, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Mihael, a friend I've known on Twitter for quite some time but had never met in person (this was my week for meeting new friends; last week I got to have coffee with another Twitter friend, Vee, who was in town for business). He is really nice and we connected immediately. It was nice to hang out before the race. The race was self-seeded, and even though I was not expecting to run my ultimate goal time (I am still seeking that elusive sub-2:30 half marathon) I seeded myself in Wave 4, for the runners expecting to run sub-2:30.

Soon we were off! I quickly lost Mihael in the crowd and concentrated on running my race. The first two miles I went out way too quickly---my ultimate goal is to maintain an 11:28 mile pace throughout the race (including walk breaks) and the first two miles I ran in about 10:15-10:30 each. I hadn't really run in a long time, and felt fresh and full of excitement and adrenaline. In retrospect, I probably should have slowed down and saved that energy for the end. The first few miles we ran by the harbor area, where the Queen Mary is. That was pretty neat to see. Then we ran through Shoreline Village, a cute tourist-y areas with lots of people cheering us on. I have never really been to Long Beach before and am excited to come back to this area with my family one day, now that I know what it is!

Around mile 5 I ran into some trouble. The day before the race, I had bought a new pouch to put on my water belt. I wanted to bring both my phone AND my camera to the race and can't fit both in my water belt, so I bought the pouch for my camera. I also put my GU in there. Anyhow, at around mile 5 I took a GU. A few minutes later I looked down and noticed that the pouch was open---and empty! I had forgotten to velcro it shut after I took the GU out; the pouch was so new to me that I hadn't even thought about it. My camera was gone! I freaked out....I needed to find it! I knew I had just taken a picture with it a few tenths of a mile back, so it couldn't be far, but there were hundreds of runners! I was hoping I would find it, and that it wouldn't be smashed from a runner's foot. As I backtracked, I ran into Mihael, but waved him on. Runners called out to me "You're going the wrong way!" Miraculously, a few minutes later I saw a runner pick up the camera and start running! I ran over to him and told him it was mine...and got it back! The only bummer was that the battery pack had opened and the battery fell out. The memory chip was still in there, but no battery. I spent about 15 seconds more looking for the battery, but decided it wasn't worth the time to look, as the battery would be easily replaceable. I set off again.

By this point, I knew that any hope I had of breaking 2:30 was gone, as I had spent several minutes on the camera debacle. In a way, this took the pressure off of me. I decided to just relax and enjoy-- to appreciate running, and to soak in the feeling of participating in one of my beloved races.

About miles 6-10 were all along the ocean on the bike bath. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was getting hot at this point, and I began dumping water on my head and down my tank top at every water stop. It was also at this point that I realized I had lost a water bottle (my Nathan 4 water belt holds four 8-oz bottles); instead of four bottles, I had three. I have no idea where or how it came off (I hadn't even used that bottle yet, so it wasn't like I was putting it back in the holder and missed) but, just like the camera incident, apparently things can fall off my belt. This I didn't care about---I can easily buy another bottle---but was somewhat sad that I would be missing that 8 ounces of Gatorade. As I said, it was getting HOT.

At about mile 10 I was struggling. I hadn't run that far in quite some time, due to my injury, and my body was rebelling. Coincidentally, one of my favorite pump-me-up songs happened to come on my iPod at this point, "Till I Collapse" by Eminem. The best part of the song is the beginning rap, which I played over and over at this point in the race just to get me through:

'Cause sometimes you feel tired,
feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
and just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
and not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.

Whenever I hear those lyrics during a run, it pushes me. I'm glad that song came on right when I needed it. Better yet, at about mile 11 I ran into Mihael again! We ran/walked the rest of the way together. Sadly for him, he got to witness one of my meltdowns at mile 13. I often cry at mile 13....a mixture of physical pain, exhaustion, joy at almost finishing, frustration of being so close yet not seeing the finish line yet, pride in my accomplishment, etc. It's always a raw moment for me. My Garmin showed 13.1 miles....13.2....13.3....finally, at 13.4 (remember, I had extra mileage, as I had to backtrack a bit to find my camera) I crossed the finish line. I finished in about 2:43....not my fastest half marathon, but not my slowest either. Considering my lack of long runs, my injury, and the fact that I lost a few minutes looking for my camera, I'm very pleased.

Because I completed this race, I now want to do the next two in this series: Surf City in February and OC in May. Completing all three of these races in succession will complete the Beach City Challenge and earn me a cool medal!