April 30, 2013

La Jolla Half Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend I ran in my 19th half marathon, the La Jolla Half Marathon.  Truth be told, I've been dreading this race. Although it's a local one, I'd yet to do it.  There is a huge hill in the middle that always scared me off, and I know that other parts of the course were hilly as well.  However, this race is part of San Diego's Triple Crown Series:  if you complete the Carlsbad Half Marathon, La Jolla Half Marathon, and the America's Finest City Half Marathon (AFC) all in the same calendar year, you get an extra medal after the AFC called the Triple Crown. I've done AFC and Carlsbad each twice, and this year vowed to get my Triple Crown.

a monster of a hill at mile 6
 I was extra nervous about this race because I've been injured, and going uphill hurts my injury the most.  The injury deserves it's own post, so I'll write about that later on this week, but suffice to say that I am under my new chiropractor's orders not to run, although he did know and give me the go-ahead to run this race.  It was also my first race to run after the Boston bombings, and that weighed heavily on my mind. It was not going to stop me from running, but I did give extra thoughts and worries to the runners and spectators.

Two days before the race I went to Road Runner Sports for packet pickup.  It was a very small expo, and I was able to get in and out quickly.  The only thing I was bummed about was that the shirt was really small! I ordered a medium, as always, but it looked tiny. When I asked if I could exchange it I was told I could on Sunday.  I had heard in past years that the shirt was cotton, so I was happy this was a technical shirt, but if I couldn't wear it, what's the point?  I did notice one change that was made in response to the Boston bombings: gear check.  This year a flyer was given to each runner explaining the new rules, that runners would have to put their gear in a bag given to them AT gear check.  The bags would be clear.  The fact that they wanted to see what was in each bag made me feel a bit safer.  A small, but really big, move on the race director's part. The night before the race I set out my gear for the next day, as I would be leaving the house at 4 in the morning. I settled on a shirt I bought when I was in Boston 2 years ago...a simple grey cotton t-shirt that said "Boston, MA" on it. While I never run in cotton, this year I really wanted to honor Boston. The "Boston Strong" shirt I recently ordered from Raw Threads hadn't arrived yet, and this was the only Boston-related shirt I had.

Now, this race is a point-to-point race, going from the Del Mar Race Track to La Jolla Cove. Runners have a choice of parking at the race track, running to the finish, and taking a shuttle back to the start....OR parking in La Jolla and taking a shuttle to the start. I drove with my friend, E, who has run this race the past two years.  She highly recommended the latter, as after the race the line to get on the shuttle is long.  So the morning of the race, I got up at 3:00 (ugh), was out the door by 4:00, and picked E up at 4:15.  We made our way to La Jolla in the dark, and hit absolutely no traffic getting there. We easily found parking and walked the two blocks over to where the shuttles were loading. I think we got on the second shuttle!  Very easy, very relaxing. We shuttled up to the race track where it was still virtually empty. That is the great thing about getting up extra early to go to a race; yes, it sucks to lose a bit of sleep, but it's wonderful not having the stress of traffic and parking. I assume that a bit later the traffic getting into both Del Mar and La Jolla was heinous.

Of course, now we were really early.  We got off the shuttle at the race track at 5:15, and the race didn't start until 7:30! That gave us plenty of time to hurry up and wait.  I used the port-o-potty (no line!), talked to E,used the port-o-potty a second time (again, no line!), chatted with the runners next to me, and posed for pictures.

Oh, and froze. It was very cold down by the coast.  I was glad I had a throw-away jacket with me, but I would have paid good money for a blanket!  Finally, it was time to think about getting into our corrals, so we used the port-o-potties one last time (this time a huge line) and wandered back.  I was supposed to be in corral 6, but stopped in #5.  Because I was so far back, I didn't realize that at the front they were having a moment of silence for Boston, and then singing "Sweet Caroline", a song beloved by Boston Red Sox fans.  I found out about that part after the race.  I randomly ran into a few people I knew and chatted happily until it was my turn to cross the start line.

And suddenly, I was running.

I hadn't run since the week before, as I was under orders not to run.  As soon as I started running, the pain in my hamstrings started.  I knew it was going to be a long and painful race for me, and decided just to grit down and get it done. I stayed with the 2:30 pace group for a few miles, as we ran around the race track and out into Del Mar.  We ran through the neighborhoods of Del Mar and it was really nice.  There were some rolling hills, nothing major.  I walked when I needed to, which was when the pain got too much to bear.  But overall, I was having fun and enjoying myself.

running views don't get better than this
A few miles in (4? 5?) we were running along the ocean, by Torrey Pines State Beach. Ah, now this was gorgeous. There is nothing like running by the ocean.  I ran into another friend around this point, and walked with her for a while.  Looming at ahead, however, at around mile 5.5 was The Hill. Torrey Pines.  The hill I've been dreading.  Right before I started up the hill I noticed Joe, from the Marathon Show. I've seen him during other races, running with a microphone and an "on air" sign. At the Carlsbad Half Marathon in January he interviewed two women running right next to me, and I later saw the footage--you could see me running---but I'd never been interviewed myself.  But this time, he saw my Boston t-shirt, and ran over to me and started interviewing! It was really cool.  He said "it's no mistake when you see people running with Boston shirts on" and proceeded to ask me a few questions related to Boston. Although he spoke to me for a few minutes, only a tiny clip made it onto a montage he made that he is dedicating to the people of Boston.  You can see me at 2:49 in the following clip by clicking here.  That interview gave me a mental lift and I actually ran up the first part of the big hill.

I should mention that there were lots of people, both running and spectating, in Boston gear.  Anyone who had previously run the Boston Marathon wore their shirts, and I saw lots of other shirts that paid homage.  Some people had signs on their backs saying "we are all Boston marathoner" and some people simply had blue and yellow hair ribbons, or blue and yellow shoelaces.  I myself got lots of comments on my shirt, not from other runners but from the spectators. A lot of people I ran by yelled out "Boston!" to me as I passed.

just one of the views

 So, onto The Hill. I'd never done Torrey Pines hill before, and it is pretty long and steep. I ended up walking most of it, although I had periods of running. At that point, I just wanted to get up the hill as painlessly as possible.  It was a scary hill in my head, but really, once I was on it, it wasn't bad. It kept going and going, and there were several switchbacks so I couldn't see where it ended, but I've done other races where I did hills just as steep--or steeper.  The Hollywood Half Marathon last year had an unbelievable hill at the end; last month's San Diego Half Marathon had a killer hill in the middle; and I did that Xterra Mission Gorge 15k in February with steep hill after steep hill.  So Torrey Pines, while long and steep, wasn't any worse than ones I've already done, which was reassuring in my mind.

The Hill from a distance
Nevertheless, when I got up to the summit at about mile 8 or so, I was hurting, and in a really bad way. My leg was on fire and my mind started to go to really dark places.  I just wanted to be done. Even though those next miles were flat or even downhill, I couldn't pick up the pace. It was just too painful. At mile 8 "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond came on my iPod. I don't usually listen to Neil Diamond while running, but I added this song, and a few others, after the bombings as it was played a lot and I forgot how much I loved the song. When the song came on, I immediately thought of my dad, who is a huge Neil Diamond fan and I used to sing this song with him when I was little while he played it on the guitar.  One thing my dad always tell me is that when I'm feeling scared, or nervous, or afraid, to look down at my hand and I'll see his hand in mine (meaning that he's always with me).  So when Neil sang the lyric "hands touching hands" I completely lost it and started sobbing. For that mile all I wanted was my daddy, and I wanted him to stop the pain.  We ran past UCSD, where I went to undergraduate school a million years ago, and I tried to concentrate on that for distraction.


At mile 10 we started a steep downhill down La Jolla Shores drive. I stopped to use a port-o-potty here (I had seen very few along the course and when I did there were always long lines; there was no line for this one). I didn't really HAVE  to go, but I knew if I went I would finish the race in more comfort...and at this point I didn't care about my finishing time.  After going, I felt better and just started chugging downhill.  Around mile 11 I saw a dad and two little boys, holding signs for their wife/mother. Right when I passed them, I heard the dad say "there she is!" and the little boys starting jumping up and down, cheering for their mother. When I turned back, they were running with her. When I turned back again, one boy had fallen---I hope he was ok! This scene, of a father and sons waiting for their wife/mother, made me cry again. It was such a beautiful scene, and at that moment I all I wanted was to hug my husband and kids.

Running right next to the beach

Mile 12 brought us to La Jolla Shores, a local beach, and we literally ran on the sidewalk next to the beach.  The sidewalk was covered in sand, and it was nice to look at the people playing beach volleyball and enjoying themselves.  A few turns and a bit later we were at La Jolla Cove.  This part was downhill, and on cobblestone, so I ran it carefully.  Ahead of me was the finish line and I decided to sprint it in, pain be damned. There were several spectators there and everyone was yelling "Go Boston!" because of my shirt. I crossed the finish line in immense pain and relief. My friend, Andrea, was there to hand out medals and I was in such a daze that I took a medal from someone else. When I realized my mistake, I handed the medal back to the girl and insisted that Andrea give me mine. All I remember is her hugging me and asking if I was ok and I kept saying no, I wasn't ok.  I really wasn't (and still am not). My finishing time was 2:55, which is one of my worst times ever. However, my goal was under 3:00 (they have a 3:00 hour cutoff base on chiptime) and I'm happy I made that, given my injury and The Hill.

I got a bottle of water, a bag with a banana, Clif Bar and pretzels in it, and found my friend E. She had tried to exchange my shirt for me (she finished way ahead of me) but they were out of larger sizes. Bummer! After resting on the grass for a bit, we made our way to the car, bypassing a LONG line of tired runners waiting for the shuttle to take them back to their cars at the start line.

All in all, although I myself had a bad race, the race itself was nice. The weather was overcast the entire time and I never even needed my sunglasses. Perfect running weather. It was a beautiful course, as you can see from the pictures. And I thought it was well organized. My friend told me that in years past it was a very unorganized race, and that this year it was much better, so I'm happy about that. My only complaint was that there should have been more bathrooms along the way, although I'm sure they were limited by restrictions put on them at Torrey Pines.  Now I'm hoping to heal myself enough to be able to run AFC in August and complete my Triple Crown---but if I'm not healed and unable to run, I will commit to doing this again next year. I know I can do better on this course if I'm pain-free.

April 21, 2013

Peace-Love-Run 10k Race Recap

A week ago I ran the inaugural Peace Love Run.  I meant to do my recap this week, but I was too preoccupied with news of Boston.  It seemed trivial and inconsequential to write about a little race when I was glued to the TV every day trying to get the latest on bringing the scum who bombed the Boston Marathon to justice.  I'm so happy the nightmare is over, and I hope the second suspect recovers enough to be put away in jail forever.

Now, onto my recap!

As I mentioned, this race was the inaugural running. There was a 5k and 10k option; I chose the 10k.  It was only my second-ever 10k, with my first being the 80's themed race I did in November.  This race was 60's themed, and truly the only reason  did it was because I had to have the medal!  I usually don't do a race just because of what the medal looks like (I did that Awesome 80's 10k for the adorable cassette-tape medal they offered, too) but this one was adorable---a 60's themed VW bus medal. The inner hippie and Deadhead in me just couldn't resist.

I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a costume, but really wanted to dress up.  I ended up going to Target and buying a pajama top with a peace sign on it, and wearing a 60's themed headband which I already had.  It wasn't the full-on tie-dye get-up I had envisioned, but it would have to do.  One thing I was happy about was packet pickup. Although there was a small expo the day before, they also offered packet pickup the morning of the race, at no extra charge. I don't know how it is in other pars of the country, but in San Diego most races, even 5ks, require a bib pickup the day before.  Often you CAN get your stuff the morning of the race, but they charge a fee.  I didn't really have time to go to the expo the day before, as it was my son's birthday party (he's 9 now!)  And, there really wasn't much to pick up!  Just the bib.  There was no race shirt included in the cost.  You COULD buy a cute shirt for $15, but I didn't want to spend an additional $15 to commemorate a 10k, no matter how cute it was.  (To be fair, the race organizers wrote that as it was their first year, and they didn't know how many runners would register, they made a choice between medals and shirts).

I got to the race really early. The 10k started at 8:05, but I left the house at 6:30 and was there by 7:00.  As a result, I got an amazing parking spot, just a stone's throw away from the start line. I got my bib, but then hurried back to my car. It was COLD!!!!  Very cold. At that point I was regretting what I was wearing, which was only a thin t-shirt and a running skirt! I would have loved pants or a long-sleeved shirt or arm warmers.  Alas, I didn't have anything else with me, so I settled for waiting in my warm car. Soon I was joined by some friends, Ingrid and her son, and then Kelly and her daughter.  All four of them were doing the 5k.  It was Kelly's daughter's first-ever race, and I was so excited for her!  Finally, at about 7:55, we ventured out of my car and walked the few yards to the start line.  After running into another friend of mine, who was also doing her first-ever race (she did the 5k!) we posed for pictures, then I left them and headed for the 10k-ers.

Peace, man!
After a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, we were off!  I was in a sea of 60's-dressed runners. Lots of tie-dye, fringe, and headbands.  While lots of people were dressed up, however, I was surprised at how many weren't. Maybe it was the weather? As I said, it was cold.  In fact, right before we started a man mentioned that I could win an award for the most goosebumps. Thanks, man.

Groovy Start Line
The course itself was pretty flat, except for one overpass we had to run over twice.  The 10k ran by the water for a good portion, which was so pretty, then down by the airport, which wasn't so pretty. A lot of the run course I had already run during my first-ever Olympic-distance triathlon a year and a half ago. I spent much of the time thinking of that run, and how proud of myself I was for completing what had been the longest distance distance triathlon up to that point.

My view for part of the race

After a mile or so, I was really warmed up. I was actually feeling a bit hot, and wished I had a tank top on!  Many of the runners around me were peeling off layers, tying jackets around their waists. This is why you should always dress for the second mile, not the first.

Once back toward the finish area, the 10k route followed a winding snake-like pattern up and down the a field.  Suddenly it was over---actually, tiny bit short according to my Garmin, which read 6.07, but that's close enough to 6.2 for me not to complain.  I didn't PR, it was a pretty slow run compared to my previous 10k, but I still had a great time.  And this medal was worth it.

Far-out medal!
I really enjoyed the race. It was a nice course, and I loved the 60's theme.  I didn't bring a fuel belt with me, and was pleased to see there were two water stops on the course (making for 4 on the out-and-back).  It was a very low-key, relaxed race.

After I crossed the finish line, I headed back to my car to put away my medal and had to run 4 more miles---I had 10 miles on the docket that day!  I was NOT motivated to run 4 more miles after running a 10k but I got it done.

I would do this race again, especially if they offer another groovy medal design!

April 17, 2013


I know the world doesn't need yet another blogger weighing in on the Boston tragedy, but as I use this blog as a journal, too, I am going to indulge myself.

It's only a few days post-Boston, and I'm still in shock.  I can't believe what happened.  It's tragic, it's horrific, and it really hits home for me.  My emotions vacillate between sadness, grief and anger.  I don't have a lot of personal connection to the city itself---the last time I was there was exactly two years ago, the same weekend as the marathon, actually, and I enjoyed a great running tour of the city.  But I am highly connected to the runners that ran there. I knew several people who ran the race on Monday, and thank God each and every one of them is ok.

There are always tragic events that happen worldwide on a daily basis.  Most of them seem so far removed to me.  9/11 was the first time that I could recall feeling the impact.  Even though I was in San Diego, not in New York, those events made me feel very unsafe and very scared.  It took a long time for me to get over that; I guess in some ways I never did.  How can you?  But most other tragic events that happen don't have the same PERSONAL impact for me.   I sobbed for days over the shootings in Columbine, and grieved over the death of Caylee Anthony, and was shocked at the  shootings at the Aurora movie theater.....and all the events in between.  But rarely was there a personal connection.  I was get upset at those events on a human level.

The shootings at Sandy Hook in December were different.  Those hit me hard, and in fact I still think about those children, and those families directly affected, quite often.  It hit me on a personal level, not just a human level, because now I am a mom. I drop my kids off at their elementary school every day.  And my daughter is the age of most of the murdered children.  Sandy Hook was one of those moments where I thought "there but for the grace of God go I" because that's how much I related to it.

The Boston Marathon bombings hit me in a similar way.  I am a runner.  Yes, I am a triathlete too; I bike and swim as well.  But really, I'm a runner.  That's my identity.  Not only do I run, but I have very close ties with the running community.  I have written here before, and I'll say it again, the running community is the best community I know.  They are amazing. I've yet to meet someone who is truly awful only to find out they are a runner. I'm sure there are bad people out there who run, but I've yet to meet them.

I've never run the Boston Marathon. I never will---I am not a marathoner (well, I did run one full a long time ago and never again!) and I'm too slow to qualify even if I was.  But it doesn't matter.  The attack could have been on a local 5k race and I'd feel the same.  Running----is so pure. It's so peaceful. It's from the heart and soul.  How could anyone want to mar that?

The running community is not only made up of runners, but of their loved ones who support them.  When I'm training for a race, I'm gone for hours at a time.  I talk about my races, my gear, my injuries, and my hopes all the time. I  mean, all the time.  My poor husband.  But he loves me, adores me, and knows this makes me happy so he happily indulges me. This is true of all loved ones of runners.  And they are the ones who spectate, who get up early to come cheer their runner on.  Who make signs of support and signs to make the runners laugh.  They are the ones who bring their kids to give the runners high-fives on the race course.  They are the ones who offer bowls of orange slices and pretzel and shout out encouragement, using the person's name on the bib if it's on there.  I have only had my family come to a few half marathons and triathlons, but let me tell you, when they are there, my heart soars when I see them.  I've had a few friends come spectate here and there and nothing lifts me up more.  It gives a mental boost, and can carry me for miles, way more than drinking an energy drink or taking a shot of Gu can.

I am horrified and disgusted that the runners---and their beloved spectators--were singled out in this act of terror. 

And I can't get 8-year old Martin Richard and his family out of my mind. This family!  The 8-year old son is dead.  To my knowledge, his younger sister, in 1st grade, has lost a leg, and may possibly lose the other.  His mother underwent emergency brain surgery to save her life.  This hits home. My son, D, just turned 9 last week. He's the same age as Martin.  They were both in 3rd grade. My daughter, A, is almost 7, and while she's in kindergarten she should be in 1st grade (she's doing a 2-year kindergarten program) and is basically the same age as the sister.  This could be my family.  I can't stop thinking about this family, how the father and other sister are coping.  How CAN they cope?

I know one thing...I'm not going to stop running. I may never run another full marathon, and I certainly won't run Boston, but I won't stop running. And I won't stop cheering my community on.  Terror will not win this time.

April 5, 2013

Breakthrough on the Bike

I've always said that of the the triathlon disciplines, biking has always been my "nemesis".  I am slow, painfully slow, and that can be discouraging to me while racing.  It's hard biking when all I hear is other cyclists yelling "on your left" as they pass me!  I've definitely gotten better over the years, though.  I only started biking-for-triathlon in July of 2010, and back then a long ride for me was 10 miles.  Now, I've completed several rides of 50 miles or more when training for my half-Ironman, and am currently in training for my first century ride in June (part of my "do something in each sport that scares me in 2103" plan).  This 103 mile ride is scaring the hell of out of me; I've been training, but not as much as I should be.

The truth is, though, that I've been enjoying biking.  To say biking is my nemesis is wrong.  When I'm out there biking, for the most part I enjoy it.  Yes, there are times it's tortuous---when it's too cold, or too hot, or my legs are burning at the sight of yet another hill to climb--but by and large, being out there in the fresh air, conquering hill I never thought I'd be able to do, can be fun and even exhilarating.

Why, then, do I dread each and every bike workout?  Unlike running, where I might initially drag my feet getting out of bed but am ultimately looking forward to, biking I have to talk myself into.  (Swimming is the same way, for that matter....I seldom WANT to swim, but once I've done a few laps I enjoy it).  I've really been thinking about it, and I think I have found the answer:

I fear the pain. 

Yes, the pain. The pain that comes in my quads, which burn with lactic acid at each and every uphill.  Unlike running, where if I have pain (ie my sciatic nerve acts up or my plantar fasciitis screams) I can take a walk break and still move forward, with biking there is no "rest" without stopping.  You can "rest" in running by taking a walk break, and you can rest in swimming by doing the breast stroke or side stroke---in both running and swimming, these are ways of cutting back the intensity and still move forward.  And I'm all about moving forward.  Heck, when I did my half-Ironman in September, and was dry-heaving and retching in the middle of the run, I was still shuffling forward.  Had I actually thrown up, I would have done it walking.  The only times I've ever STOPPED in a race have been potty breaks, or to re-tie my shoes, or, in the case of my half-Ironman, to dump sand from the beach out of my  shoes.  (I did stop in Dodgers Stadium during the New Year's Race Los Angeles to take pictures, but at that point my mind was fried and I was not really racing).  With biking, there really is no downtime.  Yes, if you're going downhill you can stop pedaling and coast, and if you're on flat ground you can put it into a very low gear and spin your legs out.  But if you're going uphill, if you stop pedaling, you fall over. On many of my training rides I end up stopping to rest, and I hate doing that.

I've recently reframed my thinking with the biking pain.  Why am I dreading it so much?  I don't fear pain while running, and I can tell you that I have some discomfort on most runs, especially recently with my sciatica. I don't fear it.  I run through it, or walk through it, or put my mind someplace else, but I don't fear it.  Why should cycling be any different?  Maybe when I'm faced with a steep hill I can EMBRACE the pain, expect it, and in that I can control it.  Famed triathlete Macca says to "embrace the suck", to expect the pain so that when it comes--and it will--you're not surprised.  I am going to try doing that---to know that when faced with a big hill the pain will be there, but that I can get through it.  No hill lasts forever, and the beauty of going uphill is the thrill of going down after.

Another thing that happened recently to change my views on biking was that I got to witness a group of women starting on a cross-country bike ride.  My cousin's girlfriend's aunt (you got that?) raised a ton of money for Alzheimer's research and the opportunity to ride from San Diego to Florida with a group of women, all over age 40.  Since they started in San Diego, I went to see them off.  I watched them dip their wheels into the Pacific Ocean and go on their way.  Most of the women seemed really fit and decked out in biking gear, but a few of the women were heavier.  One was even wearing jeans, not biking shorts, and had regular pedals, not clipless, or even cages!  It was really inspiring to me, to think that these women, most of them older than me and in all shapes and sizes, were going to bike over 3000 miles in 3 months. (On a sad note, a few hours into the first day my friend fell on the wet streets, as it was raining, and separated her shoulder. She had to fly home, but will try again next year).

Both of these events---seeing the courage of these everyday women, and realizing I need to embrace the pain---have changed my views of cycling.  And---I just got a new-to-me bike, which I'll write about later.  Hopefully my views will translate into even more enjoyment on the road!