Saturday, April 06, 2013
Those of you who know me know that I like logistics. I like to have information, plan for contingencies, anticipate and be prepared for most everything that might happen - I guess its my way of controlling my life. I try not to obsess but that tendency is always there too.
I don't handle sudden changes very well. I don't like unanticipated glitches and I don't like surprises when it comes to my running. I can adjust and adapt, but I need time to wrap my head around things to do so.
Today I ran a half marathon that was like no other I had ever run before, and on the surface, everything about it could have been a disaster - but it wasn't.
For starters, I registered for it 10 months ago and had completely forgotten about it. I got an email with my bib number on Wednesday for this Saturday race and proceeded to freak out. The race was an hour away in an urban area I'm unfamiliar with, and the expo was in another place that I also was unfamiliar with. Parking for both places can be very expensive - $15-$25 - and traffic getting to/from these areas can take from 1-3 hours from my house.
Add to that the 6 a.m. start time which would necessitate a 2:30 a.m. wake-up and the potential for a delay of up to an hour just to get from the freeway to the parking lots a mile away and you can understand why my stress levels would normally be pretty high under these circumstances.
The interesting thing is, other than the shock of realizing I had this race in just a few days I was relatively calm. I networked on facebook and found a friend willing to pick up bibs for myself and my husband. Since hubby was scheduled to fly to Europe the afternoon of the race and was working on a huge project all week I offered to pack for him (something I rarely do!) to make his life easier. I figured out that even if we walked the whole race at a snails pace we could get home in time for him to shower and eat before leaving for the airport, provided we didn't hang around post-race and we parked close to the finish line for a speedy exit. I planned as best as I could, researching parking lots, distance to the start and from the finish line (which were a mile apart), best routes to get there and weather conditions. And then I let go.
I went to bed last night at 10:30 and set my alarm for 2:30 a.m. I knew I wouldn't really sleep so I told myself to just relax, there'd be plenty of time for sleep tomorrow. All I needed was rest. When the alarm went off I got up and started dressing. Made my coffee, loaded my fuel belt, grabbed my Garmin and my Ironman watch to time intervals and off we went. Traffic was light and we made great time to Hollywood. Unlike the LA Marathon, we had no trouble at all getting off the freeway and getting to the parking lot I had scoped out as my first choice. Arriving there nearly 2 hours pre-race start we had our pic of spots and chose one close to the foot entrance to the lot - which turned out to be about 10 yards away from the exit of the finish line chutes! Porta potties were locked at this hour but we managed to find one open one and then just relaxed in our car for 40 minutes. When it was time to head over to the start line to meet my friend and get our bibs we ran into a bunch of friends from a running group I sometimes run with. I had wanted to meet these friends for a picture but knew that the group's photo-op was scheduled for the same time as we were supposed to get our bibs so I was so happy to have a chance to say hello and take a few pictures with them on the empty finish line stage.
Unfortunately, when we all left the stage someone accidentally stepped on my fuel belt and broke my Ironman watch. I was sad but not devastated as I have been practicing running "by feel" - running intervals based on my energy level rather than a set amount of time. I turned my Garmin on as we all made our way to the start; at least I tried to. My Garmin chose this morning to fail, refusing to turn on and not taking a soft reset. How ironic that I had been posting in the car that maybe I should run today without my Garmin? Since this was a "surprise" race I had few performance expectations for it, but I desperately hoped it would be better than my last few races.
For the past 6 months I've felt like I've been getting worse, not better at my runs. I just couldn't seem to break 3 hours for a HM, and pre-surgery I was working towards breaking 2:30. I knew I'd need time to get back to my pre-surgical times but since early October I've been getting slower and slower instead of faster. I've been sick, I've been injured, I've been tired - and I've been disappointed in my performance over and over again. I have a big HM in 3 weeks that I've been training for and I secretly hoped that today would at least bring me a confidence boost.
I took a few minutes in the start corrals to shoot some pictures. We were on Hollywood Boulevard near Highland and all around me were things people fly to CA to see - The El Capitan theater, Graumann's Chinese theater, the Highland Center (featured in shows like The Hills), Jimmy Kimmel's studio, the Kodak theater (think Oscars!), and of course, the stars imbedded in the sidewalk. A group of ladies dressed as Marilyn Monroe posed for pics with their Joe DiMaggio. The weather was perfect - a little cool pre-dawn but definitely not cold. Unfortunately, I discovered that a gel packet had burst when my fuel belt was stepped on and my side was sticky with espresso gu that had soaked through my two shirts. ::sigh:: I hoped that wasn't another omen...
The gun went off and we started out running. My hubby had an interval timer on his Garmin and we decided to run a few intervals to warm up and let the crowds thin out before walking. I was feeling pretty good and in those first 2-3 miles hubby had a hard time keeping up with me. I didn't want to leave him but I have to admit that when he would call out a walk interval I had a few twinges of annoyance. I wanted to run! I felt good and I just wanted to go with it! I knew that the walks could only help stave off fatigue on the way back so I walked with him when he called it out. From mile 4.5 - 6 we had the only significant hills on the course and I told him I was going to just go and run/walk depending on how I felt. We would see each other at 6 because it was an out-and back segment. I walked the steepest parts but didn't worry about it and was only slightly ahead of dh at the turn. He caught me on the downhill side because I had to limit my running on the downhills to protect my knees and we continued together for the next 2 miles. By mile 8 I was starting to feel a little fatigue and wondered had I gone out too fast? Another two gu's leaked all over my hands when I tried to open them - was this the beginning of my undoing?
Dh found his groove and started to ignore his interval timer, running along at a steady pace. I watched as he got farther and farther ahead of me. Would he beat me? How is it possible that he would out-run me when he had barely been hanging on to my pace up until now? Yes, my ego was bruised.
Without the interval timer I found myself walking more than I probably would have otherwise. Miles 9-11 (guessing at that as there weren't any mile markers for this stretch of the course) I walked far more than I ran but after I saw the marker for mile 11 I decided to refocus and try to get back into some kind of groove. I had passed Dh somewhere before 11 and never saw him again. I still walked more than I ran but I found a good groove and just went with it. I had no idea on how much I was running, how long i was walking, how far I had to go or what my pace was so all I could do was listen to my music and body. What a novel experience that was for me! Before I knew it I saw the crowd up ahead disappear from Hollywood Blvd, which meant the turn onto Vine and into the finish was just ahead. Still not pushing it, I reached the last stretch before the turn and decided to see what I had left. Turns out, I had a lot! I sprinted the final 0.25 mile and was surprised by the race clock - 3:08! That meant that my time had to be sub-3:00 - FINALLY!
Without a Garmin I couldn't be sure but turns out I came in at just under 2:54, my best post-surgery time and only 15 minutes more than my PR. Even more importantly, I didn't feel spent by this effort! I visited with friends who had already finished while waiting for hubby to come across the finish line. I really wanted to take his pic since this was as much of a surprise race for him as it was for me. He came in about 5 minutes behind me, a new PR for him too.
Turns out that conditions today were perfect not only for us but for most people - many of my running friends set PRs on this course and marveled at what a great race they had. I have to wonder - was it great because I just let go and went with it, or was it great because for once all the stars aligned?
Either way, I couldn't be happier and am ready for Nike Women's DC!
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
On June 5th I did my first mud run, at Camp Pendleton Marine Base. This is often referred to as the Grand-Daddy of Mud Runs, taking place for over 30 years (so I've been told... but don't shoot me if I'm wrong!). Its a 10k on dirt roads and over hills (BIG HILLS!), across a lake, through some streams, over walls, through culverts, fire hose spray and a place known as Combat Town.
Registration for this event opens on January 1st each year and is capped at 6100 entrants. It usually sells out within hours; I couldn't get in to Saturday's race but did get my team registered for Sunday's run. That meant that I had 5 full months to get my team together and start planning!
First off, I had to insure that my teammates were on board with my approach that this was to be a FUN day of exercise, NOT a competitive race. That said, I hoped we would all be of comparable levels of fitness so that we could do the whole thing together... in fact, teams are required to cross the finish line together and with arms linked. I knew I could walk a 10k and was pretty sure I could handle all the obstacles but running was 100% forbidden by my doctor and my knee pain. Who could I trust to do this in the right spirit??
I started by enlisting my husband and good friend John, both veteran Marines. Since I was in the Navy we toyed with the idea of making this an all-vet team of over 50 year-olds but we had some trouble finding another female (a requirement for mixed teams is that there be at least two women) so we shifted gears and turned to running friends. John brought his friend Jack on board and I invited my friend Cynthia. Both of them are runners who were willing to walk this one with us. I found matching sunflower yellow Nike shirts for us and hence the Strokers and Jugs team was born. Cynthia and I bought disposable waterproof cameras to document our escapades and we all met up yesterday morning bright and early.
We picked up our race shirts and the laughter started... the young Marine who was handing out the size Mediums embarrassed himself when he said to me: "I don't think that's going to fit, you'll want a Large". I looked at him and said "you did NOT just say that to me?! " ... He turned bright red and started stuttering about how he meant in the chest area, all the while keeping his eyes glued to my jugs. Ha! He had no idea that there was a time I wondered if an XL would fit... so I chuckled and said "Let me just try this on over my shirt". When I pulled it on he said "That looks really good on you!!" Ha! Again, he turned bright red realizing how inappropriate that probably was. I was just giggling inside; he was an adorable kid, maybe 19 years old, and he just didn't know what to do or say but he knew he was sticking his foot in his mouth the whole time.
From the T-shirt pickup area we made our way to the race venue and took advantage of every photo op
The Marine Special Ops Group had a booth with tubes of face paint (used for camouflage) and of course I started painting everyone's faces! The guys were really good sports about it... and I promised to use a "light" hand.
It seemed like forever before we could line up for the team start, but were entertained by Jack and John, two of the funniest guys I've ever met. When they opened the team corral (yes, just one for 5000 people!) the party really began. Checking out the other team's outfits and names was definitely a huge part of the experience.
Filing into the corrals:
Our first obstacle was just .25 miles from the start - we were showered by multiple fire hoses before we hit the sand and dirt trails to ensure that we picked up every grain of it in our shoes!
We continued to walk our way through the course, forging streams and climbing hills, passing Combat Town where the Marines train for situations like they might find in Iraq and Afghanistan, and when we hit the halfway point we finally got to some "real" obstacles.
One of the streams:
Combat Town behind us:
The course is laid out so that you get wet immediately but you don't really get muddy until you're on the back end. I think that's rather nice of them, don't you?
Entering the first mud pit, leading to the 5' walls:
And scaling them:
Since this was our first obstacle of significance I decided it warranted a team shot... of Kamikazes!
This was just to insure that we all stayed within the guidelines of our "Mission" - all fun, a bit of booze, a lot of laughs, and memories to last a lifetime!
From the double wall jumps we headed to the Lake, which we had the choice of wading across or swimming across... I swam a bit but the team chose to wade. I use that term loosely, as the water got up to Cynthia and Jack's armpits at one point! In order to exit the lake we had to climb a short, somewhat steep and very muddy/slick hill. Once we got to the top the guys decided it would be fun to slide back down!
From there we had only a few obstacles left, and even fewer shots remaining on our cameras! There was another mud pit and 5' wall to hurdle, done so elegantly by Jack:
followed by a conduit crawl:
when we ran out of film
We still had to climb the "slippery slope" - a very steep, slick, rutted hill, at the top of which stood Marines with fire hoses aimed at us - easy target practice for them, not so easy for us to avoid! The final obstacle was a mud crawl under flags with Marines alternately egging us on and cheering for us to finish. I hope that the course photographers got some shots of us in those last two places because they were priceless!
As required by the rules, we crossed the finish line arm in arm and proceeded to celebrate with an ice cold shower, a beer, and some lunch before heading out. My teammates went home but Bob and I headed down to San Diego to meet up with my dear Spark friend MENT2BE who had just completed her 10th HM at Rock 'n' Roll SD that morning. She is such an inspiration!! Our pics together at lunch are on her blog :
All in all it was a great day and we all had a good time. Anyone want to join us next year????
Monday, May 09, 2011
All it took to get me fired up again about running was a little bling-bling incentive. 1 year post-op I started walking again with my running club. Normally I wouldn't have bothered driving out to the club meet-ups so early on a Sunday morning because I couldn't run yet, but they started a walking group to help get people ready for a 5k. Our club is co-sponsoring the local Weight Watchers 5k Challenge on 5/22 and we knew that offering training and guidance to the local WW members would be a great community service. But wait... I'm digressing.
I heard that there was a new medal available to all participants who completed the Surf City, OC and Long Beach half or full marathons this year, called the Beach Cities Challenge. I love the beach and I love those races, so I figured if I'm walking already, why not do it?
I was already signed up for Surf City and I quickly registered for both OC and Long Beach. That got my blood pumping a bit... then I learned that a group of gals from my club were entering the Nike Women's Marathon lottery together. I jumped right on that bandwagon and submitted my application the day the lottery opened. Woot!! I got in with my group!! This one promises a Tiffany necklace handed to each gal as she finishes by a Firefighter in a tuxedo. Who could resist that?
Then Disney announced a new race - the Tinkerbell Half Marathon - for Jan 2012. I love participating in women-centric events, and Disney definitely knows how to bring some fun and fantasy to the party so I HAD to pull out my credit card for that one too... An added benefit is that I'm meeting some new Sparkers who have also signed up for this race! I love meeting Spark friends from near and far and am looking forward to getting to know these other women better.
Yesterday I was discussing these races with a very fast running friend (gah! She's a sub 3:30 marathoner!!) and she asked me if I'm able to run yet. Uh, no... but that doesn't mean I won't be able to run by the time these races start, right? And if I can't run for one or more, there's always the next one to look forward too, right? I just walked the OC Half and managed to finish before the sweepers, so there is hope for me... and with a goal in sight --CA Beaches, Tiffany necklaces and Pixie Dust -- I'm on a roll!!
Sunday, March 20, 2011
No, I'm not really 17 again, although that would be a neat trick, to turn the clock back 33 years... I am, however, back into the 170's on the scale!! You know how everyone celebrates making it back to "one-derland"? Well, I'm back to 17# - and I'm loving it! I have weighed as much as 250 at the worst point so being back to a weight I haven't seen in many years is truly a reason to celebrate. And I am!!
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