Monday, September 29, 2008

Race Report: Mermaid Duathlon - Santa Cruz

Well, race mania continues in full force over in this neck of the woods. Yesterday, I participated in my very first duathlon and it was a blast! It was the Mermaid Triathlon/Duathlon in Santa Cruz. I signed up right after I got Gigi because 1) it sounded fun and 2) I wanted to make sure I was motivated to use my new four-figure purchase and not have it collecting dust in my apartment.

There's a whole series of Mermaid events in this area that are tailored for women and are very newbie-friendly. So this duathlon was perfect for me! It was a pretty manageable distance as well: 1.5 mile run, 11 mile bike, 2.5 mile run. I had done 10 miles on my jenbike (the mountain bike I had inherited from my friend Jen) before I had Gigi so I knew I could handle the bike distance.

I had two main goals for the race:
1. Don't fall off my bike during the dismount
2. Don't resort to walking my bike up any hills

A co-worker had laughed at me for setting my expectations low, but considering both of those things happened last weekend, I thought they were actually pretty reasonable goals! And c'mon, I've never done anything other than running events, so I didn't even know what to expect!


I went down to Santa Cruz the day before to pick up my race packet. I got a bib for me, a sticker for my helmet, and a tag for my bike. Very exciting! Afterward, I drove the bike course because I wanted to know exactly what kind of hills I would be tackling. The online course map showed two steep hills. Yep, I easily could tell they would be granny gear hills. However, there were lots of other hills throughout the course - more like rolling hills but still, it was pretty challenging! So now I'm starting to get nervous... what am I doing? I think I could count the number of bike rides I've had to date on my two hands and now this? Eeyikes... I was also really nervous about the whole transition thing but everyone assured me that there would be plenty of volunteers and race staff to direct us.

I probably left Santa Cruz around 5:30PM Saturday evening. You would think I would have then gone home to rest up for the big race. But no, I then headed over to meet up with friends for the Journey concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater. It was awesome! And their new singer (who's filipino - pinoy power! haha) sounds just like Steve Perry. It's so weird... Heart opened for them and they were awesome as well!

Race Day

OK, now on to race morning. My wave start was at 7:50AM. I decided to get there extra early so I would have plenty of time to figure out the transition area and get settled and stuff. So I left my apt at around 5:50AM and then headed out. As a side comment, driving down 17 between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz in the dark is kinda creepy. You basically are driving through the mountains and it's a lot of twists and turns on a narrow highway surrounded by super tall trees on both sides. The only lights are from the cars so if you look in your rear view mirror - it's pitch black. That part wasn't so fun.

Anyway, I finally get to the state park. Everything was really convenient as the parking lot was right next to the transition area. I followed another lady and we started chit chatting and I discovered this was her first tri. That seemed to be a common theme - so many of us were new and had no idea what was going on!

I entered the transition area and the confusion must have been all over my face because a volunteer immediately offered to help me out. She directed me to the racks for the duathlon athletes. I kind of looked around to see what everyone else was doing and then I went to set up my stuff.

Gigi at her first race:

The rest of the transition area:

I definitely had a lot of time to kill before my wave started. I got body marked, looked at the course map, wandered around, people watched, etc. I also had a lot of people coming up to me asking questions about the race which I thought was pretty funny - probably because I looked bored or something.


Eventually it was time for us to go! I forgot to mention that the race was at Seacliff State Beach. Everyone had their first leg at the beach - obviously the swimmers for the tri, but even the duathletes had their first leg down by the water along the beach path. All the duathletes started together so we headed down the wooden stairs from the transition area to the beach. We were chip timed but there was no start mat for us - our start line was drawn in chalk right when we got there. For our first leg we would run to the end of the beach path, turn around, and then run back and then UP the stairs to the transition area.


Here are the stairs:

Talk about a buzz kill! Anyway, we counted down and then off we went. I definitely started out too fast because eventually lots of people were passing me. No worries - I don't know what my pace was but I could tell I was pushing it to where I needed to be. Running a mile is tough - it's an all out sprint! And then we got to the stairs. There was no running then, my heart rate was already sky high. After we finally got to the top, my natural instinct would be to stop and catch my breath but oh no... I just hit my first transition and with all the people cheering you on, it was just go, go, go! So I ran to my bike and tried to catch my breath a bit while getting my gear on. I changed shoes, replaced my Nike hat with my helmet, slipped on my gloves and off I went. Transition was actually pretty straightforward - I walked my bike to the mount line and was able to take off with no problems.

I'll be honest - I really enjoyed the bike part. It was my kind of biking. We had wide open roads and all these lovely volunteers and police officers monitoring traffic so that we didn't have to worry about silly little stop signs and stuff. The first hill was definitely a toughie. I dropped to my lowest gear and just pedaled away. I was pretty pleased to see that I was climbing the hill at about the same pace as everyone around me. Yay - I don't really suck that bad at hills! (I've only done two serious bike rides prior to this and they were both with hard-core bikers ... so this was quite refreshing!) Once I got a little more comfortable, I remembered, oh yeah - this is a race. So when I could, I tried to add more gear and push myself a little more to pass a few people here and there. That was kind of fun. But for the most part, I kept with the people around me.

The second super steep hill was right at the end of the bike course. Cruel, right? So I knew I had to save some energy for that. Holy crap was that exhausting. But I succeeded - I did not have to walk my bike at all! (However, on my way back, I did see several other bikers walking up their bike on the first steep hill - it was a hard one!)

Finally, we were arriving at the transition area and the volunteers were directing us on where to dismount. Immediately, I'm starting to get nervous... uh oh... stop and dismount... in front of all these spectators??? But again, it was one of those cases of "don't think, just do it!" and so I did! No problem!!! I had this big smile of relief as I entered the transition area which was mostly due to the fact that I didn't make an a** of myself in front of all these cheering strangers.

So I racked up Gigi and replaced all my bike gear with my running gear. I took a big swig of Gatorade and then took off for the last leg - 2.5 mi run.

Um. WOW. My legs felt like Jell-o when I was coming out of that transition area. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. How do people manage such great runs at this point? Seriously, my legs felt like two dead weights underneath me. Luckily, the first part was downhill which helped a bit (but you know what that means...) and then we ran along the same beach path like the other run. I seriously felt like I was running an 11:00 pace but every time I glanced at my Garmin, it said 9 something so that shocked the heck out of me. I was seriously huffing and puffing at this point, no conversational pace for me! After a couple of turn-around points, I finally was back at the hill. I so wanted to walk it but the finish line was literally at the top of the hill so I just pushed myself through. I raced for that finish line and the clock read 1:43. I didn't even know what that meant so I thought, OK, sounds good to me!

After they took my timing chip, they gave me a little gift bag that had a mermaid necklace inside. Sure it's no Tiffany necklace, but it was still cute!

The post-race stuff was also pretty good considering it was a small race. I was able to get a 5 minute massage with hardly any wait, got some Luna bar samples, some 20% off Sports Basement coupons (love those!), and even a pancake breakfast! Yum yum!

It was while I was wandering around that I noticed Garmin had actually recorded a 1:23 finish time. I forgot that there were other waves ahead of me.

So here are the *official* results:

Run 1: 9:14
T1: 2:34
Bike: 46:39
T2: 1:34
Run 2: 23:12

Total time: 1:23:13

Overall Place: 41/131
Divisional Place: 6/22

(Top third!!! Woohoo for me!)

If you are really observant, you may have noticed that some of these times seem messed up. Well, you would be correct because there's no way I can run 1.5 miles in 9:14. So for your reference, here are the Garmin times. It also had my T1 and T2 times but for some reason, Garmin decided to chew up that data.

11:49 for 1.01 mi (11:42 pace) - stoopid stairs
48:11 for 11.10 mi (13.8 mph)
23:14 for 2.39 mi (9:44 pace)

My mermaid loot:

The official race T was a ladies cut ring T but it was super skinny and super long so I decided to get the more basic T shirt style.

Close-up of the necklace:

Overall, I had so much fun at this race and would love to do it again next year. Except next time, I would try to make it more of a focused race and not one I squeezed into a calendar full of half marathons.

These multi-sport kind of events are pretty fun. It's quite the change of pace from running races. There's so much activity going that it really mixes things up, you know, makes them a little more exciting.

It's also interesting to see the different skill sets during a race. For example, there was a lady I had chatted with at the start of the race - she was wicked fast and totally flew past me during the first run. Somehow in the second half of the bike race, I passed her. And then toward the end of the second run, she passed me and I ended up finishing right after her. There was also this girl that I tried to keep up with on the bike part but eventually lost her toward the end - I ended up passing her during the run.

Also, these kind of races are perfect for spectators! I'm kinda bummed that I was too chicken to invite my friends to watch. You can stay in one spot and are guaranteed to see your favorite racer multiple times. Going in and out of transitions were pretty fun because of all the people cheering. A lot of times I was kind of by myself and they still cheered for you - my favorite was "I like your shirt!"

Some people had asked if I was going to go for a triathlon. And unfortunately the answer is no. I tried swimming, I really did! I even took a handful of private swimming lessons a year or two ago, but I just can't get the hang of the breathing. I suppose if I just focus on practicing that, I might improve, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

On another random note, I bought two things in preparation for the duathlon:
1. Yankz! (Although I'm still not sure I have them on right)
2. Garmin quick release kit

Both work great - however in all my rush, I forgot to actually move the Garmin from my wrist to the bike during the race. Oh well - here's how it looks in case you are curious.

That's it for now... still have one more race report to write. And can you believe I have another half marathon on Saturday???

I did not plan this season very well. But I am having a lot of fun!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekend Review: Trail spotting, last Nike weekend run, and 30 mile bike ride adventure in SF

I haven't quite finished my Chicago Half Marathon race report but I can tell you this much - I was in pretty bad shape afterward. My IT band was really acting up afterward so I was limping around like an old lady for a couple of days after the race. On top of that, I got a cold :(

So I pretty much did nothing for four days after the race. But considering I still have several races coming up in the immediate future, I knew I had to quickly get my butt in gear over the weekend.

Friday Bike Ride

On Friday, I decided to ease back into it with an easy 10 mile bike ride on the neighborhood trail. I don't think I've officially announced it on this blog, but awhile back I decided to take the plunge and buy my very first road bike. And here she is! I've nicknamed her Gigi (as in Gigi the Giant, the brand of the bike).

Admittedly, my bike skills are not quite up to par yet. Last time I owned a bike, I was in elementary school so I'm still working on gear shifting, especially when tackling the hills, and even basic stuff, like coming to a stop and unclipping my shoes without completely tripping over myself!

Since I'm scared to share the road with cars, I like biking on the trail where it is much less stressful. The tradeoff is you can't go very fast because you have to share the path with the runners and walkers, plus there are a lot of twists and turns with some blind curves as well.

The people watching on this ride was pretty fun - one of the most interesting things spotted was a dad pushing a stroller with his two kids by his side and then their CAT draped around his neck!!! Never seen that before!

Saturday - Nike Run

I was actually scared to go running on Saturday because I wasn't sure how my leg was going to react. I hate that feeling! I had been rolling my left IT band during the week, but it still felt kind of sensitive. But I knew I had to just go for it.

Luckily, it's a recovery week for the Nike training plan so we did the easy course which was just along the Embarcadero - mostly flat with just a couple of small hills. I decided to do 6 miles with the 11:00 pace group.

My legs definitely felt weird when we started running but since it was a comfortable pace, I didn't really feel any pain. By about a mile in, they started to feel back to normal. The rest of the run went fine - I couldn't really run as fast as I'd like but since I'm still recovering from both the half and a cold, I didn't worry too much about it.

Afterward, I made sure to do a lot more stretching than usual, even joining in with the group-led stretches they hold back at the start. It was nice because they had mats and stuff for us to stretch on.

I didn't realize this until later, but this was my last Nike weekend run. Every weekend between now and the Nike Half, I either have a race or I will be out of town. So sad, I'm really going to miss the Club Run SF training runs. I might be able to squeeze in a Wednesday evening run, but not the Marina or Danville ones.

Sunday - Biking from SF to Sausalito

I finally decided I was ready to go on a REAL bike ride so my wonderful friend KB agreed to take me on a 30 mile bike ride from SF to Sausalito via the Golden Gate bridge. It was insane! The views were amazing and parts of the ride were fun but holy crap, other parts were completely terrifying! I definitely did not fully grasp how challenging the ride would be for me which was probably a good thing since I may have not gone through with it. A lot of times during the ride, it would be "don't think, just go!!!"

We started at Alamo Square which is practically in the middle of SF so first we had to make our way across town to get to the bridge. The ride did not start out well for me. At the first stop light, we had to stop on kind of a slope. I have enough problems stopping and getting unclipped as it is, much less on an incline! So yeah, I totally lost my balance and although I didn't completely wipe out, I did have to put my hand on the car stopped at the light next to us to brace myself. Funny thing is that the driver was too busy on his phone to even notice (or so I tell myself). Amazingly, KB did not lose faith in me and we just kept on going.

There were so many things I had to deal with on this ride that I was not used to. Sharing the road with cars, tackling hills (lots of granny gear time for me), dealing with narrow shoulders, narrow shoulders through a tunnel!, making left turns with traffic, stopping at top of hills, stopping at bottom of hills, having the wind practically push me off my bike on the bridge, weaving around tourists, etc. I still can't believe all the places Gigi and I biked through!

(Yes, I'm fully aware how my ensemble does nothing for my figure)

Despite all this, the ride truly was beautiful! Definitely not views you get in the south bay. And parts were very fun and easy like in Golden Gate park where KB and I could ride next to each other and chit chat and stuff. Next time, we'll try to do the 40 mile route where you add a 10 mile loop around Tiburon.

Bonus - look what I got! Not only did KB take me on a fun bike ride, she also gave me these super sassy shoes (Coach, by the way!) which were a half size too small for her. Yay for me being the right size! Aren't they cute? Thanks KB!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I wish!

Ummm... yeah... I so did NOT run a sub-2 hour half marathon. There's definitely some fluke in the timing system (look at the 5 and 10 mile splits) but I had to capture this before they fixed it.

Anyway, I don't really know my official time, but I'm guessing it was around 2:20. I'm on a roll, I guess. :)

I am convinced the Chicago weather gods hate me. It's been raining since I arrived and it poured during the entire race. My hands and feet were like prunes hours after we finished.

BUT it was fun to hang with Cleveland crew for the race. Race report coming soon!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


In the great words of Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother), I am so awesome.

Or at least I had a really awesome run last night.

I did the Wednesday Nike run in Union Square again. Instead of the usual 4 miles, I decided to do the 6 mile route instead. This was pretty much the only workout I could squeeze in this week before flying to Chicago for the weekend so I wanted to make it a good one.

I decided to run with the 10:00 group again since they usually average a little faster than that and it would be good for me to push my pace a bit. As usual, my Garmin struggled with picking up a signal in that area so I couldn't track my pace until we got to the Embarcadero. So out of the six miles, I only have splits for 4.87 miles.

I don't know if our pace leader had a little too much Starbucks before the evening run or maybe she was just testing us, but here are the splits:

Mile 1 - 9:54
Mile 2 - 9:35
Mile 3 - 8:58 (!!!)
Mile 4 - 8:44 (!!!)
0.87 - 7:18 (8:24 pace!!!)

Total - 4.87 mi: 44:28 (9:08 pace)

This is not a malfunctioning Garmin. I know we were running sub-9:00 minute miles... trust me, I could feel it! I really had to focus on my breathing, my shoulders were starting to get a little sore, I felt a little winded, etc. I was both silently cursing my pace leader but also secretly loving her at the same time. The second half of the run was at better-than-5K pace for me!

I may regret this speedy run when I run the half marathon this weekend as my left knee felt a little "twingy" this morning. I think I can shake it off in time, though.

Last night's run was fun... since I did the six mile course, we had to run through Fisherman's Wharf which as you can imagine is tourist central. It was funny because there were so many people that took pictures of my pace group as we were running down the street. One person even took it from their car while driving by (it was a passenger, not the driver)!

On another note, thanks to everyone for their fun comments on my Disneyland Half race report. A few people mentioned that I looked so happy during the race... that is called selective picture posting! Yes, there were some smiling moments but to be honest, most of the time I look like this:

Or this:


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Race Report: Disneyland Half Marathon

Overall, I had a lot of fun at the Disneyland Half Marathon. It was my first time running this race and since I am doing a bunch of half marathons this season, I wanted this to be my fun one.

Just like the other Disney races, only bits and pieces are actually run through the parks. I think the first three miles were around and through Disneyland and California Adventures. Then the bulk of the middle miles were spent running up and down the streets of Anaheim where they had a pretty decent line-up of bands and cheerleaders for entertainment. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to go inside the ballpark in Anaheim, just around it. Last year, the course had you actually run the bases which I thought would have been cool. Finally, the last mile or so took you back through California Adventures and then Downtown Disney. Here's the course map in case you want the full view:

Running through the parks was fun as they had characters cheering you on. I had to stop to get a picture with these guys as my sister and I loved the Finding Nemo show at Disney. Definitely one of our favorite attractions that I highly recommend! On a side note, I didn't really see that many runners take pictures with the characters compared to the WDW Marathon where it seemed like all the characters had lines of runners waiting to get their pics with them.

Here's me running through Disneyland - very fun! But look what a mess I am, I've got my hands full with my iPod and water bottle. Not something I will be doing again.

My favorite part of every race... the final stretch to the finish line! It was so cute to have the characters there to greet you, too.

Here's me afterward with my two medals:

Pretty nice bling, right? The one on the left is the half marathon medal and the one on the right is the medal for the Coast to Coast challenge (running in the WDW marathon in January and running the Disneyland Half). Disney gives the *best* medals - you can see the Mickey one from the marathon here.

I love the Coast to Coast challenge medal - here's the inspiration!

Did you know Tinkerbell was there, too?

OK, let's talk about how I did. Final chip time: 2:17:20 (10:28 pace)

This was my fifth half marathon ever and the slowest time out of the bunch - the other finish times ranged from 2:08 to 2:13. I was a little bit disappointed because I felt my training runs were going really well this year but then when I thought about it more, it all makes sense that I didn't have my best showing and here's why (kind of reads like an excuse list, but really is meant as a reminder for myself for upcoming races):

1. Weather: Apparently, the temps this year were much better than last year when it was in the 80s when the race *started* at 6AM (yikes!). I think for us, it was in the high 60s when it started and then later on it was in the 70s. That is too warm for this runner. I prefer 50-55 degrees. And when I think about it, all my other half marathons were in much cooler temps, the kind where you needed to have some kind of layering while you wait for the race to start - always a good sign in my book!

2. Water stops: My usual approach to a half marathon is three evenly spaced stops - one for water, one for gatorade, another one for water and then on to the finish! That always seemed to work well for me. But since it was so hot, I stopped for water at almost all of the dozen water stations.

3. Other misc breaks: Since I approached this as a fun run, I was a little bit more disorganized than I normally would be. Examples: I stopped once for the Nemo pic, stopped again to put my camera back in my belt, stopped again to put my ipod in my belt, stopped again to turn off my ipod and shove my headphones in my belt, stopped again to dump some of the water in my water bottle since it was kind of heavy and I was mainly taking from the water stations anyway, etc etc... so yeah, I was a disorganized mess!

4. Bad refuel plan: I didn't really adjust my refuel strategy for the weather conditions. I probably needed more than just the gatorade I took at the halfway point - they did have Gu's or Clif shots of some sort at one point but for reason I didn't think I needed it. On second thought, I probably did need an extra boost in the electrolyte department.

Some other random notes (again, mostly for myself):

- This was the longest run I've ever done in my Nike running skirt and I was pretty happy with it... the compression shorts didn't ride up on me or bother me at all!
- Did NOT like carrying the water bottle - should have stuck with one of my fuel belts.

And in case you're curious, here are the splits courtesy of Mr. Garmin:

1 - 9:26
2 - 9:50
3 - 9:49
4 - 10:40
5 - 10:05
6 - 10:05
7 - 11:36
8 - 9:49
9 - 11:12
10 - 10:33
11 - 10:32
12 - 10:49
13 - 10:12
0.32 - 2:56 (9:10 pace)
Total: 13.32 mi, 2:17:34

Official Race Results:

Chip Time - 2:17:20
Overall Place - 3538 / 10849
Gender Place - 1439 / 6407
Division Place - 255 / 1061

In summary, the race was fun and although I don't think my finish time was *that* bad, I really do hope I can improve in my upcoming races.

I leave you with a picture of me showing off my new medal to Minnie:

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I need relief from the heat!

I survived my two runs this weekend but I'm really ready for the heat to go away... bring on the cool fall weather already!


Yesterday's run in SF started a little earlier than usual because it was already warm with the sun shining on us at 8AM that morning. Not a good sign as SF is usually the land of the fleece jackets.

I did 6 miles with the 11:00 pace group. Around mile 2, we went uphill on one of our usual routes. At that point, my pace group really thinned out. Normally, we stick pretty close together (I think there were maybe 60 or so of us that started together?) but you could tell the heat was really affecting all of us. A lot of people started walking the hills. I managed to stick it out but it definitely felt harder than usual.

There was a water stop at mile 3 where I took two cups of water. Normally, I would be worried about having too much water swishing around in my belly but nope, everything felt fine. Guess I needed the extra hydration! And luckily, I was doing an out and back so I got to run back down the hill on the way back to the start.

I finished the 6 miles at a 10:52 pace.


Sunday was fun because I got to run with my speedy friend KB. She ran *20* miles yesterday in that ridiculous heat at around a 9:00 pace so she needed an easy run for Sunday. Solution? Run with me, of course! I got to be the pace leader - haha.

It ended up working really well because easy run for KB = good challenging run for me. Despite the heat (again!), we did 5 miles at a 9:51 pace. And more importantly, we were able to catch up on girl talk :)

Disney report is on the way... I need to get it out soon because I have half marathon #2 this weekend in Chicago!
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