Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Running in Ohio Update: Two out of Three Ain't Bad

Well, I'm back from my week at home with the family for Thanksgiving. I had a wonderful time bonding with my nephew and despite the frigid temps, got some good running in as well. My goal was to do three runs when I was at home:

- My short 5K run
- Thanksgiving day Turkey Trot
- My long 10 mile run

Short run - check! Turkey Trot - check! 10 mile run - oops.

I'm still pretty proud of myself anyway. I did my short 5K run on Wednesday and the weather was actually pretty pleasant. I was able to run in just a long sleeve T-shirt and shorts. But the next morning? Yikes! It was a miracle I made it there. First, I overslept (jetlag is a beeyotch). Second, my mom wakes me up to tell me that it's cold, windy, AND raining and should I still be running the Turkey Trot? Third, the car I'm supposed to drive to downtown Cleveland has less than a quarter tank of gas. Fourth, I only paid $18 so it wouldn't be that big of a loss if I skipped it. And so on, and so on...

BUT I did make it. And yep, it was FREEZING! I would guess somewhere in the 30-40's. It was about that cold last year, too, but I don't remember it being that windy (the wind stole my confirmation form on the way to registration) and it definitely wasn't raining. By the way, during the race, the rain turned into snow before our very eyes. Exciting stuff. (not) Luckily, I packed the perfect clothes for this weather. I actually didn't end up using my headband or gloves but I did use my new Northface running jacket with little thumbholes so you can sort of tuck your hands into the sleeves. One of my TNT teammates used hers during our rainy long run and I thought it was so cute and handy that I immediately went out and bought one for myself. It was perfect as it kept me nice and dry but not too hot. I just wore a running tank underneath. I also busted out my running tights which I don't wear too often because I don't like highlighting the awesomeness of my booty (sarcasm, people!). So as a result, I wore shorts on top of that.

Anyway, my goal was to finish under a 10:00 min/mi pace and I literally missed it by seconds! My official chip time was 0:50:05, 10:01 min/mi pace. (Coincidentally, that was the exact same pace as my 5K run the day before.) I guess I just need to focus on pushing myself harder during races.

We also got cute Turkey Trot long sleeve T-shirts - here's me posing with mine (picture taken before I helped my mom rake all those leaves):

Now bring on the pumpkin and pecan pies!
After Thanksgiving, I was too pre-occupied with early Christmas shopping and getting ready for my nephew's baptism. So I guess 5 miles was my long run for the week. No biggie.

This weekend I'd like to do 14 miles. I want to run somewhere other than the LG creek trail. I guess I could run in the city - like along the Embarcadero to the bridge, or maybe tackle the dish in Palo Alto? Suggestions, anyone?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Disney marathon training has officially begun

Well, true to my word, I did my 12 mi run this morning. It was definitely tougher than my short runs this week. But I expected it - I didn't exactly work my way up to this distance. I've only done four short runs (no longer than 4 miles each) since the Nike marathon which was roughly a month ago. So yeah, I'm pretty sore. :)

It went well all things considered. I definitely need to start earlier next time. I had a late start this morning around 9:30AM and the weather was perfect in the beginning but then got a little too warm for my liking toward the end.

I ran at a pretty good pace but still took a lot of walking breaks for water/gatorade (especially when I got hot later on) and when I noticed my heart rate was getting too high... you know, like around 97-98%! Yikes! (If you're not familiar with heart rates, typically you target 65-85% for cardio workouts, which is where I usually am when I'm working out at the gym, but when I run, I end up around 90%. Races are another story. I try not to get too high, though.)

I finished the 12 miles in around 2 hours and 17 minutes, so I averaged an 11:26 min/my pace - I'm happy with that!

Next week's runs will be in Cleveland. The weather there will range from 30-60 degrees. I plan to bring my running gloves which have not been used yet and I just bought a running headband as well to keep my ears warm. Hope all goes well over there!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Focusing on the basics - the 5K!

I had another awesome run this morning! I did just a 5K run but I continued to keep up my pace. This time I averaged 9'53"/mi - when I ended my Nikeplus workout, the voice of my buddy, Lance (as in Armstrong, thank you very much), entered my earbuds to let me know that I had recorded a new best time for the 1 mile distance. Lance forgot to mention that I also recorded my new best 5K time, as well. Silly guy.

Anyway, it was tough as my heart rate went sky high during this run - it's amazing to think that all my half marathons were at this pace! Like most runners, I somehow manage to run much faster in timed races than in my regular workouts - it's always a fun surprise to see where I end up. Except in the case of the full marathon, but I'll get there!

So I think this is something I will try to do every week - a short 5K run with the goal of improving my pace. Because it's only three miles, hopefully this is something I can easily squeeze in before work. Also, during my last two runs, I sped up toward the end - similar to race day. I'm going to continue this as well.

I didn't really do this during the past training season - my only speedwork was at TNT track workouts. Otherwise, all my other runs, whether they were my 4 mile run around the neighborhood or my 20 mile long run with the Nike Club Run SF, were pretty much the same - jogging at a comfortable pace. I was more focused on just covering the distance.

I think this will be a fun change. Plus - my other motivator to keep my pace up during these 5Ks is to get to work on time!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Turkey Trot Time!

Last year, I ran my very first Turkey Trot - mine was a 5 mile run in downtown Cleveland on Thanksgiving morning. I ran it with my friend and it was a lot of fun! It was a couple of weeks after running the US Half Marathon, but it was almost as challenging. First, it was cold (duh!) , around 30-40's, and I was running a bit faster than normal (although my friend did slow down to be more my pace, it still felt pretty fast for me). "Sprinting" in freezing cold weather felt crazy on my lungs! But we did finish in a great time: 0:46:38, a 9:26 min/mi pace - my 5 mi PR, by the way. :)

Anyway, as I need to keep training during the holiday season, I went ahead and signed up for the Turkey Trot again this year. Unfortunately, I have no running buddy this time AND no family support as they will all be preoccupied at that time (working, taking care of a 5 month old stinker, Thanksgiving dinner preparation, etc.) so I will be all alone that morning. :( * sniff, sniff *

I still think it will be a lot of fun and hopefully then I won't feel guilty when I indulge in an extra slice of pie or more than my share of stuffing! :)

Back in the saddle again!

So guess what I did yesterday? I went running! And it was awesome! I've only run twice since the Nike Marathon - one 4 mile run four days later when my Chicago friends were in town and then a wussy 30 minute treadmill run in my hotel in Cabo (after which, I switched to morning walks on the beach with my friends - and unfortunately, I'm still finding the grains of sand in my precious running shoes as a reminder).

Anyway, I wouldn't say I was *dreading* going running again - but when you're out of habit, it's harder to lace up and get out there. But knowing I have to somehow get a 12 mile run in this weekend, I knew I needed to get at least one short run in beforehand. So Wednesday morning, off I went. And I immediately noticed how different it felt! I felt good - great, even! I'm completely recovered (knock on wood) as I didn't feel any weird pains or aches in my legs at all. It was fun! It sort of reminded me why I enjoyed running in the first place.

I did a 4 mile loop around my neighborhood which included some hilly portions which were definitely challenging as I saw my pace slow down and my heart rate go up. But overall, it was so nice to have such an enjoyable run with perfect weather (just a bit chilly which helped me keep my pace going) - a great way to start my work day!

And my pace was pretty good too! (For me, anyway, as I am a proud leisurely jogger, not a speed demon.) I averaged a 10:30 min/mi pace for the 4 miles and looking at my nikeplus log, I usually average ~11:30 min/mi pace and that's when I stick to the trail. My time was pretty good for me this time considering I had stop lights and hills along the way. I even sped up at the end to a sub 10:00 pace which actually made me feel kind of sick in the end but for some reason, I took that as a good sign.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how my body reacts through this second round of marathon training. When I first started training for Chicago, I hadn't been regularly running for almost six months! I hope I don't have any of the weird aches and pains - and I hope the long runs are OK and bearable. 2-3 hours on some trail by myself? Yikes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Race Update: Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon on Superbowl Sunday

I haven't run at all in over a week but I'm still excited about signing up for new events!

I just signed up for the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon which will be held on Superbowl Sunday (February 3rd) in Golden Gate Park.

This will be my first time doing the half but I once did the 5K in 2006. It's a great chance to get outside and burn some calories before indulging in Superbowl snacks for the rest of the day. And yay - another medal!

And timing is pretty good as it will be three weeks after the Disney Marathon so I have time to rest and recover.

So who wants to join in on the fun?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Nine week countdown to run Disney!

Whew! It's been craaaaaazy since the marathon madness began last month. This is what October and November looked like for me:

Oct. 5-8th: Chicago Marathon Fun Run
Oct. 13-17th: New York City for work conference
Oct. 21st: Nike Women's Marathon, San Francisco
Oct. 24-29th: Friend's visit - sightseeing all over south bay, Napa, and San Francisco
Nov. 1-5th: Cabo!!!
Nov. 10th: Treasure Island Triathlon relay LAZY weekend due to oil spill

But alas, the laziness cannot continue because guess what? I am NINE WEEKS away from the Walt Disney World Marathon!

What's up, Mickey!
I'm not really sure what kind of training plan to follow for this one. I'm not going hard-core like I did for Chicago/Nike. I only plan to get to 18 miles before the big event. It's going to be tough to train during the holidays also, especially since I will be in super-cold Cleveland for most of it. But here's what I'm thinking... feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Week 9: 12 miles this weekend - woohoo!
Week 8: 10 miles (Will be home for Thanksgiving)
Week 7: 14 miles
Week 6: 16 miles
Week 5: 12 miles
Week 4: 18 miles
Week 3: 12 miles (Will be home for Christmas - could push out to 31st when I'll be back)
Week 2: 6 miles (Will be in Austin for AY's wedding)

I also think I will explore different trails/courses for all these long runs - south bay, peninsula, SF, etc. If you have any favorites, please let me know! I'll probably just do the LG creek trail this weekend.

Nike Half: YAY, Nike Full: BOO

So here's the deal... Nike puts on a great race. I love how they tailor it for women with the Tiffany necklace "medal" given by young fellows outfitted in sharp tuxedos and the cute dri-fit finisher T-shirt.

The expo is super fun, too - when I went, they raffled off Tiffany diamond earrings every hour, provided free engraving on your ipod nano's, had wine and desserts, Jamba Juice samples, etc.

The course has a lot of fun perks too with lots of freebies like Ghiradelli chocolate squares and Nike dri-fit socks.

I also like how the race is targeted for both hard-core athletes as well as the leisurely runner or walker.

I did the half last year and the full this year. I plan to run it again next year as well and encourage all my friends, no matter where they live, to join in as well. But here's the thing - sign up for the HALF! Because the full marathon course is mean and cruel and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. But maybe it's just me. During my training runs, a lot of the Nike pace leaders and other runners had done the Nike full before and I never heard anyone complain about the course. But I will - so here is my rant, just in case you are interested in running it and want the scoop!

Below is the course map for the full marathon. There's also an elevation chart so you can see there are some hills - those aren't horrible and are in the half as well, so that's not my problem.

Doesn't look so bad, right?
Nike Women's Full Marathon Course

My problem with the course (which I realize I've whined about to several people already, so my apologies for the repeated information) - is the way it keeps killing your spirit by making you feel that you are not making any progress! There were several spots on the course which made me want to cry, "Are you kidding me???!!!" I will now refer to these spots as "Cruel Nike Zones".

Cruel Nike Zone #1: My first moment of frustration occurred around mile 13 when we were deep in Golden Gate Park. The course puts you right next to people running in the opposite direction that eventually turn off from your path. So you know there is hairpin turn somewhere... but I didn't memorize the course map so I didn't know when. But as you're running alongside these people, you know you're just going to have to repeat the same path again. And I kept hoping the u-turn would come sooner than later, but it was actually about a mile overlap before I got to turn around and run the same path back. Annoying. Not only that - I don't even think they had a sign or anything to let you know that you passed the halfway point (i.e. 13.1 miles). Even Chicago had that! At least give me something to get all excited about when you're giving me the run around.

Cruel Nike Zone #2:The next moment of torture came as you exit the park, just past mile 16. You empty onto the Great Highway where full marathoners go left and half marathoners go right - where the finish line (for both half and full) is about 300 yeards away!!! Sure, there were signs that said "Don't look yet!" which I didn't, but you can still *hear* all the cheering and music playing. But don't get excited, you still have 10 more miles to go. :(

Cruel Nike Zone #3: The third cruel zone is similar to the first, this time along the Great Highway. I knew this would be a long stretch but it still sucks to run these three miles that you just know you're going to have to repeat at the end. Oh yeah, the sun had come out at this point and it was hot!

Cruel Nike Zone #4:OK, now you've done 18 miles and you're coming to the end of the long, boring Great Highway stretch (first time, anyway) and then you see the big a** Lake Merced. It looks gigantic. And you know that before you can repeat the long, boring Great Highway stretch, you've got to now run around this sucker:

The buzzkiller that did me in

It doesn't look that big in the picture, but trust me, it seemed massive. And this is when I lost it. I didn't hit a physical wall, just a mental one. It's one thing to pass a mile 18 sign and know that you have 8 more miles to go, it's another when you can literally see those 8 miles in front of you. The unknown is better in my book.

Discouraged, I started walking - thinking I would alternate run/walking. I did - sort of. It was more, walk, walk, walk, oh cheerleaders making a tunnel? I'll run through that! Walk, walk, walk, I'll run until that mile 22 sign up there, walk walk walk, is that a Brightroom photographer? run, run, oh, it wasn't, walk, walk ... and so on.

There were a few other factors as well. One, I had developed a massive case of hiccups at this point which were very painful and hard to run with. (BTW - I totally sounded like an alkie on the course, it was pretty comical.) Two, it was pretty hot around Lake Merced so *everyone* was walking! Really! Three, I didn't know anyone was at the finish - I thought I was out there on my own so I pretty much took my sweet ole time. I was even making conversation with people! Sad, I know.

Truth is, I only really started full on running again once Neeraj and Renu found me around mile 25 and ran alongside me. They let me finish on my own and once I could actually see the finish line, I kicked it into high gear and FLEW past everyone else. (I should - I did have plenty of rest. heehee) And that part was awesome! I guess that's when Pete, Karen, and Paul were cheering my name but I didn't hear them. I was in the ZONE! Just kidding, I did hear people saying my name but because I had it on my TNT jersey, I just assumed it was the friendly TNT folk.

Anyway, there's my review of the Nike full marathon course. I definitely do not plan to run this one again. But I would definitely like to do the half next year.

Also, my official marathon time was 5:33:58 and I'd really like to finish one in under five hours. I don't know if it will happen at Disney World in January, but I have a feeling that until I accomplish that goal, there will still be other marathons in my future. I know it doesn't seem like it from this post, but I really do enjoy running these endurance races - makes me feel like a little bit of a superwoman. :)

More Nike Marathon Pics!

A little late but here are some other pics from the Nike marathon. Renu and Neeraj came out to to cheer me on along the Great Highway and even ran with me toward the finish!

Renu took the next couple of pics and video clips (you can see Neeraj in the one below). These were all taken less than a mile from the finish!


Here I'm complaining that it was so hot when I first got on the Great Highway eight miles earlier:

Then I found out there were other people at the finish! Here's Karen, Paul, Pete, and me. Karen and Pete both complete the Nike Half marathon (Pete even got a Tiffany necklace, too, heehee!)

My "victory" photo! :) The finisher's T-shirt is super-cute.

And in case you were curious, I took a couple of pics of my special prize - the Tiffany necklace!

Many thanks to Renu and Pete for these pics and videos! :)
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