December 30, 2009

Review of Garmin Forerunner 405

Alright I know this review has been a long time coming, but I wanted to use my Garmin (aka Juliette) regularly so my review would at least be somewhat substantial. The Garmin Forerunner 405 is the newest release from Garmin and considered the ultimate in training technology. The features are certainly impressive - high-sensitive GPS for improved satellite reception; data transferred to your computer post-run wirelessly; tracks distance, route, current and average pace, calories burned, elevation, time, and more; customizable training screens; a virtual training partner to "race"; heart monitor capabilities; and is water resistant. Then there's the sleek new design with a unique touch bezel making it the smallest GPS training device by far. It all sounds great, but does it live up to expectations?

Since this is my first Garmin/GPS, I can't compare it to previous models, but for me this is probably a good thing. Every time I use it I just keep trying to wrap my head around how amazing technology today is. I spent a good hour figuring out how to use my 405 and customizing the features, but it wasn't too difficult to figure out. I would suspect that those who have experience with Garmins would find it pretty easy. Every time I've used it (the first during my marathon!) satellites were located immediately and I never lost reception. However it remains to be seen how it will fare in other places like cities. The 405 has four different modes: time/date, training, menu, and GPS. In training mode you can view your progress during a run, race your virtual partner, run intervals, set your goal pace, etc. Because the screen is smaller than previous models, only three things can be viewed at once, however you can set it up to scroll through multiple screens during runs to see more info. I have time, pace, and distance on one screen, and average pace and a clock on another. The third screen for me has my virtual partner and shows me how far ahead or behind I am of my goal pace. Afterward in menu mode, you can review your workout, including calories burned and the stats per mile. Easily the most impressive feature of the 405 is that it sends your data wirelessly to your computer as soon as it is within range - no cords, wires, or hassle! All the data stored on your device is loaded to Garmin Training Center and allows you to analyze your runs, view your route, calculate mileage, and much more.

But the real thing that made me want this Garmin in particular was it's sleek and sexy design. I always felt that the GPS running watches were cool, but far too bulky; I wanted something that could do all that fancy stuff, but also be comfortable like a regular watch. Well the Forerunner 405 certainly delivers this and more! By using a touch bezel circling the watch face they were able to eliminate the buttons on earlier models and make the whole device smaller. As I mentioned before, the screen is also smaller, but I don't find this an issue; everything is still easy to see for me, even during a run. In other reviews, the bezel seemed to be the feature that was the most controversial. Some people find it too sensitive or difficult to use in the middle of a run, and I totally see where these comments come from, but I've found that with practice you get used to it. The bezel can be locked, too, which I found useful while running to prevent accidental bumps. It reminds me a little bit of the wheel on an iPod, which becomes like second nature after time.

There are a few more features I haven't tried out, nor have I used it to do intervals yet, although I would imagine it would work quite well for those as well. For now, Juliette does exactly what I want and does so superbly.

December 29, 2009

Wait, I get to run where?

So after a week-long hiatus from running (sick, holidays, etc.), tonight I finally got back out there. I have to admit I was a little nervous to see how I would feel, but besides being a little more tired than usual, I felt pretty good. I took it easy and just did a 5k on my favorite course that takes me along the West Campus lagoon and then along the bluffs overlooking the beach and Pacific. I ran the first mile a little too fast (sub-10 min) but quickly reigned myself in and finished with an average pace of 10:35. I especially love running this route in the evening just before sunset because the views are absolutely gorgeous. Living in the cramped and crowded college "town" of Isla Vista, I often forget that everything else around me is pretty darn amazing. I really need to start appreciating this incredible place I live and run in before it's too late! Anyway, I took my phone along with me so I could capture some shots (hence the poor quality) to give you an idea of just how lucky I am : )

West Campus lagoon heading toward the ocean.

Looking back at the lagoon with the Santa Ynez Mountains in the background.

 The water was so still it reflected everything like a mirror!

Yes, I live 2 minutes from the beach : )

The trail along the bluffs heading back to Isla Vista.

I'm just about done with my review of my new Garmin so that should be posted asap. Inspired by many other bloggers in the running community, this week I also want to do a post reflecting on my running in 2009 and my plans/goals/hopes for 2010. Finally, I just wanted to mention my newest running-related challenge. I've rejoined my local Team In Training for the summer season as a Mentor! TNT holds a special place in my heart as it was with their help, support, and encouragement that I trained for and completed my first marathon last June (click here to read more about TNT and my experience with them). With that in mind I'm excited to be back with the Team and to help others accomplish something extraordinary.

December 19, 2009

Strung Out

Since the marathon, I've only run a few times (3, 7, and 4 milers), and I felt a little bit lethargic and unenthusiastic. But on my run tonight I was finally back in the zone and had one of those fantastic runs that happen just every once in a while, and leave you with a completely awesome state of mind. It reminded me why I love running, and made me much more excited to begin my next stint of training.

I don't ever run with my iPod, but after discovering Vitamin String Quartet (via Chic Runner), a group of musicians who do amazing string quartet covers of well-known songs, I went nuts downloading a bunch of their songs and couldn't resist listening to them on my run. I started out listening to their cover of Coldplay's "Yellow" and felt completely liberated and energized as I began running. I kept up an amazing pace for my 4 mile run (9:35 min/mi) and felt fabulous afterward! Seriously check them out on iTunes asap, you'll LOVE them!!

Now I have some sad news. Well, sad for me. After my run, my iPod's battery was low so I plugged it into my wall charger. Immediately, the screen went black and refused to turn back on! Then, within a few minutes, it got super hot! I was afraid it was going to blow up or something, but luckily it didn't...however it's still dead and nothing I do will make it turn back on!! I'm super bummed, especially because I JUST downloaded a bunch of new music : ( Oh well, I guess it's just one more thing to add to my Christmas list?

In other (non-running) news, Wednesday was my birthday (22, or as I like to say, twenty whoo!), so Tom arranged a wonderful dinner with some friends and running buddies. Channeling our inner youth, for dessert we had smores! It was a pretty low-key day but I had a great time nonetheless. Since the quarter at UCSB ended last weekend, almost everyone went home for break, leaving me alone in Santa Barbara for the past week thanks to work. Isla Vista, normally full of people, seems like a ghost town. Luckily I got some work off so I'm heading home Sunday for a week for the holidays. I'm hoping to get some running in while in Sacramento, but mostly I just want to enjoy my time with family and friends. Happy holidays!

p.s. review of my Garmin Forerunner 405 is in progress...should be up in a day or two!

December 15, 2009

Race Wish List

With the holidays in full swing and marathon no. 2 behind me (thank God), I started looking to the future, and I've compiled a wish list of races! I'm one of those people who makes a list for just about everything, and get far too much satisfaction from crossing things off. So in the spirit of the season, and giving in to my obsession, here is my race wish list!

  • NYC Marathon - this is my dream race that I think has to be experienced to be believed (entered the lottery for 2010 and crossing my fingers!)
  • Marine Corps Marathon - a course that takes you past some of the country's most historic monuments, it's almost like a history lesson on foot!
  • Honolulu Marathon - running a marathon in Hawaii, kind of an obvious one I hope!
  • California International Marathon - this one is in my home town of Sacramento on familiar turf, maybe 2010?
  • Los Angeles Marathon - set to be marathon #3 on an all new stadium-to-sea course!
  • Big Sur International Marathon - I've heard that nothing can compare to the stunning views along this challenging course, but I'll need a lot more hill work before I take on this beauty!
  • Niagara Falls Marathon - starts in one country, finishes in another, need I say more? (I'm a sucker for these kinds of things)
  • Flying Pig Half Marathon - ok I'll be honest, I really just like the "flying pig" aspect of it : )
  • Nike Women's Half Marathon - as you may have guessed, I'm into race shwag, and Nike offers a unique Tiffany's necklace that I must have!
  • San Francisco Half Marathon - this one is part of the California Dreamin' Series
  • Long Beach Half Marathon - ditto to SFM above
  • Sacramento Cowtown Half Marathon - again, my hometown, but instead of a medal you get a cowbell!! love it
If any of you have run one of these please share your opinion/experience! Any other races on your to-do list? In other news, I've officially registered for my next half marathon, Surf City USA in February (to start the California Dreamin' Series) and my next full, the LA Marathon in March. I'm going to take the rest of December easy in terms of running, then begin training in full swing come January!

December 13, 2009

SB International Marathon (Race Report)

So I know this race report has been a long time's been an entire week since the marathon. Let me just say that it was a miserable marathon, and I've sort of been avoiding reliving it. But after having time to reflect on the race and with some supportive words from friends and family, I'm ready to share and ultimately move on to what's next.

As I mentioned in my previous post the night before the race, I woke up that morning feeling nauseous. My immediate thoughts were nerves and lack of sleep. But as my parents and I drove up to SLO to visit my brother, I found myself feeling even worse. As the day wore on, I started to panic a little. I knew that this was the worst time to feel sick, and all I could think about was my 4 months of training and hard work being spoiled by bad luck. I started to lose it and cried a lot, couldn't eat, and was just miserable. I kept telling myself that with some rest I might feel better, but also tried to prepare myself to alter my race plan if necessary. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn't run, just that I might have to run slower than usual. That night we headed over to Stacey's for a home cooked pre-race pasta dinner. After not eating all day, I finally had a bit of an appetite and was able to eat something, and felt a bit better after. We called it an early night and I headed home, hoping (praying) that a good nights sleep would do the trick.

My alarm went off promptly at 4:30am and I dragged myself out of bed. My stomach was still not happy, but I convinced myself it must be nerves and got ready and headed to Tom's. Stacey picked us up and we got dropped off at the start, luckily just a mile or so from us. As we waited in the cold, it was announced that due to a car accident on the freeway, we would be starting a half hour late, at 7am. Not really a big deal, especially since this was the inaugural race and we were expecting some bumps. The number of runners at the start was surprisingly small, but that only meant a lot of familiar faces from the Santa Barbara running community and Team in Training, which had a great showing. At one point the announcer asked who was a first timer, and as a bunch of hands around me were raised, I smiled to myself as I kept mine at my side : ) Finally the gun went off, and as I crossed the mat I pressed start on my new Garmin Forerunner 405, this being it's inaugural run. We started out a bit faster than the pace I was hoping to maintain (11:30, to break 5 hours), but we all felt ok and kept it up. The first half of the race consisted of a loop and a half in Goleta, making it super easy to see our families twice each time through.

Around mile 7, I started to drag a bit. Then at mile 8, I had to stop. I felt awful, weak, and nauseous. My arm started to feel completely numb and I got dizzy, which completely freaked me out. I immediately knew I needed to take it easy so I could at least keep going. From that point on, things were pretty miserable. I don't really want to relive every moment of it, but I had to resort to a run/walk for the remainder of the race. I had zero energy, and because my stomach was acting up I couldn't get down any Gu. It was hard to walk, and I couldn't help but think that everyone who saw me probably thought I was under trained, too tired, etc. I know I shouldn't have cared, but I did, because I know I'm capable of more. As I continuously had to stop to walk, I felt my goal slowly slipping away. I was more than bummed. I was trained for this physically and mentally ready, but fate was not in my favor. And to have me conk out so early on sucked, too. The weather was absolutely perfect, but all it takes is one little thing to change everything, and there's nothing you can do. Let me just say I have so much more respect for walkers because being out there for so long is incredibly tough. I did barf. Twice. I adjusted my goal to simply be to finish. And slowly but surely, I moved forward.

At mile 23 we approached what we affectionately call Piss Hill, a gnarly half mile incline that practically forces you to walk, and still wears you out. Finally at the top, the last 2 miles were slightly downhill with views of the Pacific Ocean...not a bad way to end a race, huh? I've never wanted to finish a run or race more than I did that day. My body hurt, I was exhausted and weak, and a bit disheartened. Those final .2 miles were definitely bittersweet, but regardless of the journey that gets you there, crossing a finish line will always be incredible. It was a personal worst, by nearly a half hour, but I made it under 6 hours, which I had decided to make my new goal along the way. I'm proud of myself for finishing, and I don't blame myself. I know shit happens, and there was nothing I could have done. I know I have a lot more in me and if anything, I'm even more motivated now to reach my goal. But am I disappointed? Hell yes.

Thank God for my running buddies Tom and Stacey. And my parents. And my friends. Tom stuck with me the entire race. I can't really put into words what that meant to me, or how grateful I am. But there's a real good chance that without him, I wouldn't have gotten to that finish line. I saw my parents 4 times along the course, and each time they were ready with medicine, fluids, and words of encouragement. And cameras to document my misery. See the pic above for my thrilled reaction to the photos : ) And at the end, I spotted two of my friends, Sarah and Jackie, and immediately started to cry as I ran toward the finish with them alongside me. Thank you all so much, everything you said and did meant the world to me.

I cried a bit more after finishing, but was super relieved to finally be done. I got my beautiful medal (the secret reason I refused to quit) and we took a bunch of pics with the gorgeous ocean as the backdrop. When I took off my shoes, I discovered the biggest blister known to man. Literally, it was a monster! Surprisingly, my toes felt great, so the bigger shoes must be doing their job. Afterward we went out to lunch. I was kind of bummed about my stomach feeling bad because one of my favorite parts about running long races is eating shamelessly the rest of the day. I knew I needed something, though, and I managed to eat a plain veggie burger. All I wanted to do at that point was shower and sleep, so my parents dropped me off at home. I opted to do an epsom salts bath over an ice one, because I'm a wimp. It may not have been quite as effective, but it helped. Unfortunately I had to put off the sleep I wanted so badly because, lucky me, I had a paper to finish, due the next day!

My parents came over for dinner and made stir fry, and the next afternoon I drove them to the airport. The following week I had finals, so I was busy busy busy. I embraced recovery and didn't even think about running until Wednesday. I didn't have time the rest of the week, but I'm meeting Tom tomorrow morning for an easy 9 miler, my first run since my disastrous marathon. I'm actually looking forward to it. It's been raining cats and dogs the last couple days, and I'm kind of hoping we get to run in the rain a bit! So now that marathon #2 is in the books, what's next? Well I'm glad you asked : ) I need a marathon redemption, so Tom and I have decided to train for and run the LA Marathon on March 21st! I'm pretty excited for it as it has a brand new, flat course, it's the 25th year, and it's in an awesome location. I also have a bunch of 13.1's planned, and hopefully I'll be posting a 2010 race schedule soon!

p.s. review of Juliette (my Garmin 405) coming soon!

December 5, 2009

One last thing...

....before the Santa Barbara International Marathon tomorrow! I'll make this super quick, because I need some sleep and my alarm is set for 4:30am(!!). Of course I have some goals, however they may have to be adjusted due to newly developed I experienced every runners worst nightmare pre-race....I started to feel sick! I was nauseous all day and had a headache that wouldn't go away, but I'm really hoping with a good nights rest I'll feel much better in the morning and be ready to get this thing done! If all goes according to plan (aka I don't barf at some point), here are my goals:

C goal: 5:25
(this is basically the same as my first marathon)
B goal: 5:12
(this would require 12 min/mi, pretty doable)
A goal: sub 5:00
(an 11:30 min/mi pace, which is pretty much what we ran for training)
Wish me luck! I'll be running with both Tom and Stacey and my parents will be out on the course so it should be a lot of fun. Good luck to everyone running CIM or Las Vegas tomorrow!!

Happy (early) Birthday to Me!

My parents arrived in Santa Barbara this morning, my dad bearing an early birthday present : ) Giving me some clever cover story about how he got me new running shoes, he handed me a wrapped present. Well, let's just say that there were no shoes in that shoe box, and I'm now the proud owner of a Garmin Forerunner 405!!!

Esthetically it's sleek and sexy, and functionally (ok, so I haven't actually used it yet), it's awesome! I've named her Juliette : ) A couple of weeks ago I had mentioned to him that I had started looking into GPS watches, but for the time being they were a bit out of my budget. Well I guess that convo planted the seed and he started looking, too. Then amongst all the crazy Black Friday sales, he found the 405 for a pretty good deal, much to my benefit. I'm super excited to test it out on race day Sunday, but also a little nervous about using it for the first time during a marathon. I spent over an hour tonight reading the manual, playing with the functions and settings, and downloading the software, so I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. Pretty sweet technology though. On the flipside of this wonderful new accessory, I can no longer "cheat" on my runs - no more underestimating my distance, or guessing my pace (at which I suck). Hopefully it will keep me accountable and improve my training! Since the 405 is still relatively new, I'll post a review in the near future. Finally, I want to say another huge THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to my dad for this amazing birthday present!! I'm predicting a long, happy friendship between Juliette and I : )

p.s. less than 24 hours!!

November 30, 2009

6 Days and Counting!

The countdown to marathon Sunday has begun! I really can't believe it's this weekend already... While I was home for Thanksgiving I bought new shoes yet again so I'll have a fresh pair come race day. I switched things up again and this time went with the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10. Besides changing brands I also went up an entire size and went with extra width. I have Flintstone feet, aka they're really wide, so I needed something that wasn't going to squeeze my feet like sausages. I'm hoping that the extra room will also accommodate swelling while running and hopefully make my toes much happier. We'll see. I tested them out on a 6 miler at home and so far so good! It's amazing what a difference new shoes can make  : )

On a less positive note, I've been having some issues with my calves, mainly the left one. They've been super tight to the point that I can feel huge knots the size of golf balls. I've tried massaging them, rolling them, and even using my dad's electrical muscle stimulation kit, all with little success. I can still run and they're not painful when I walk, just noticeably tight. I'm hoping that with intense rolling, stretching, and massaging they will loosen up by this weekend. Speaking of this weekend, the forecast so far looks interesting:

Few Showers 
Precip 30%

I don't mind running in the rain, but then again I don't relish being soaked for 26.2 miles. Maybe just a light drizzle? On the bright side, it should at least be nice and cool! Low 60s are perfect running temps... My parents fly into Santa Barbara Friday morning, so I'm trying to get as much done as I can this week so I can enjoy race weekend with my folks. This isn't as easy as I'd like, however. This is our last week of classes, which means finals next week and papers, presentations, reading, and lots and lots of studying : / I'm going to try and squeeze in a few easy runs this week but most importantly I want my legs to be fresh for Sunday!

November 26, 2009

Run to Feed the Hungry 5k (Race Report)

Happy Thanksgiving to all!! I'm back home in Sacramento, relaxing, eating, and enjoying time with family. I'm so very grateful for everything and everyone in my life. I really do love Thanksgiving - minus all the turkey eating! For several months my dad and I have been planning on running the huge turkey trot in Sacramento called the Run to Feed the Hungry. Beginning in 1994 with just 800 runners, it's grown every year and today saw 30,000 runners and walkers of every age, shape, and size. The race donates all funds raised to the Sacramento Food Bank, so it truly is a great way to give back while also getting out there and being active. It was exciting to be running a race with my dad, too, and it helped me take it easy and avoid racing it when I'm supposed to be in taper mode : )
 lovely fall colors  : )
the crowded start!

To avoid the problem of parking, my dad and I biked to the start near Sac State, just a couple miles from our house. We got there pretty early and just hung out and took in the incredible crowds of people, mostly families for whom this race is an annual tradition. My only complaints were with organization. The race consisted of a timed 10k, timed 5k, and untimed 5k. My dad signed us up for the latter, which was fine with me, except that this group also included walkers and those with baby joggers. Even though I wasn't racing, it still really sucked to get stuck behind walkers or weave in and out of people the entire race. The course was great though, and the time seemed to fly by. My dad has been doing 11 minute miles at the gym, so that's what I was expecting, so imagine my surprise when we pass the first mile marker and my clock says 10:00! We managed to keep that up the whole race, bringing us in at 30:30 - not too bad! I'm really proud of my dad for having such a great race!
me & dad
 all finished! time for food!

Overall it was a lot of fun, and such a great way to start out Thanksgiving! I'm kind of bummed that we never did it before. I have have a feeling, however, that it might just become a family tradition for us as well : ) So now it's time to eat and eat some more, and spend this wonderful November day with the people I love so dearly. Again, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!!

November 23, 2009

20 Miles in the Bag

Yesterday Tom, Stacey, and I headed out bright and early for our last long run before the inaugural Santa Barbara International Marathon. Waking up at 5am was certainly not fun, but I was kind of excited to finally knock out the 20 miler. For me, this run is almost more of a challenge than the marathon itself. It lacks the energy, crowds, adrenaline, and motivation of a race, elements that for me make the miles tick by, almost unnoticed. Also, it essentially proves to me that I'm ready for the marathon. Knowing that I can do 20 is a huge confidence booster, and makes the last 6.2 a mental game that I'm now ready for!

We met at Stacey's house in Goleta and her husband kindly drove us out to Montecito. Tom and Stacey had mapped out a route so that we would do a point-to-point back to her house! Even now, I still can't believe that we ran all the way from Montecito to Goleta! It was nice and cool for the first 10 miles and they passed by with good conversation and good scenery. We ram along the coast for a bit then up State Street, window shopping as we ran. Then State eventually turned into Hollister and Santa Barbara turned into Goleta. I've found on longer runs that the first 10 miles for me are actually harder than the second 10 miles. Maybe it just takes me some time to get into my "zone", but it was the same in my first marathon and yesterday's run.

My body started protesting around mile 14 with throbbing hips and knees and tender feet and toes, but it wasn't so bad that I had to stop. In fact it felt better to run than to walk! I did take that as a sign, however, that it is once again time for a new pair of shoes. We made a few stops to get water and Gatorade to refuel and to use the restroom, but other than that, we were pretty strong running-wise, taking fewer walking breaks than in previous runs. The last mile was pretty tough, but I think it was all mental. I think no matter what distance you decide the run, the last mile is always tough because you know it's the last. If we had been running 22 instead, I probably wouldn't have been dying until mile 21. Hopefully this will hold true in the marathon!

After the run we stretched out on the lawn in the warm sun while Stacey's husband made us a wonderful breakfast complete with eggs, hashbrowns, bacon (not for me, of course), and fruit salad. Yum!! Sunday night my sorority had our Fall formal, Initiation Ball, downtown at the Maritime Museum. The theme was Roaring '20s (it was a day full of 20s!) so it was fun to dress up, and it was a beautiful venue along the Santa Barbara wharf, but I was so tired it was hard to fully enjoy it. And my legs didn't even let me consider dancing!

I'm so glad our training has finally reached it's peak because that means now it's time to taper for 2 weeks! This is my favorite time of marathon training, and I think many runners will agree. It's a good feeling to know you're physically ready for the race and to let your excitement and energy slowly build for 2 weeks. Thanksgiving is this week (where did the time go?!) so I'll be heading home to Sacramento on Wednesday for a long weekend with family. I seriously can't wait! Thanksgiving day my dad and I will be running a 5k turkey trot, the Sacramento Run to Feed the Hungry. I won't be racing it for several reasons, but it will be my first time running, let alone a race, with my dad and I can't wait! Besides Thanksgiving, I've started putting together my race calendar for 2010, so hopefully I'll be posting that soon. I hope everyone has a fantastic and safe Thanksgiving!

November 18, 2009

Big Sur Half Marathon (Race Report)

The Big Sur Half Marathon this past Sunday was a total blast and a complete success! Not only did I PR by knocking off 6 minutes, but I also got to run one of the most beautiful courses ever, on "the edge of the western world".
I left for Monterey early Saturday morning and met up with my mom, who was driving down from Sacramento to spend the weekend with me and be my personal cheerleader. After checking into our hotel we headed to the expo to pick up my race packet. It wasn't the most impressive expo, but it had some cool vendors. I got a shirt on sale to wear for the race and an entire box of GU...that should last me like 6 months! The official race shirts were long sleeve tech t's, which I love. I also got some new socks, because I seem to lose one of a pair every time I do laundry : /

After the expo we headed to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I have to admit I was almost more excited for the Aquarium than the race! The exhibits were absolutely incredible, especially the jellyfish, my personal favorite. They also had a special exhibit called "The Secret Lives of Seahorses" which was absolutely fascinating. After a couple hours of walking around I was beginning to fade, so we finished up at the Aquarium and headed to an Italian restaurant to carbo load on some pasta. Finally we made it back to the hotel and man was I exhausted! Definitely wasn't looking forward to my early morning alarm...

I got ready in a daze Sunday morning and then we headed to the start near the wharf. It was absolutely freezing! So much so that I actually just wanted to start running to warm up! We only waited about 20 minutes til the gun went off, then I handed my jacket to my mom and made my way to the start line. The first couple miles I felt really good, other than not being able to feel my hands. I started out with a 10 min/mi pace, and actually felt like I could keep it up. Around mile 3 we ran down Cannery Row while being serenaded by a piano player. This was just one of many moments during this race that brought a smile to my face. Mile 4 brought us into the beautiful neighborhood of Pacific Grove where we encountered our first "rolling hills" of the race. Finally by mile 5 we were along the craggy edge of the Monterey Bay, with waves crashing and birds squawking. at mile 6 I saw my mom, but despite my yelling in her face, she somehow missed me! It was an out-and-back course though, so I saw her again at mile 9 : ) Speaking of, this was my first race that wasn't run point-to-point, and I loved seeing the elites fly past me on mile 10 while I was only at mile 5!

I started to get a little tired around mile 7, and my pace had dropped to about 10:30ish. No big deal, but I still wanted to be consistent and finish strong. We finally reached the turnaround at 8 miles (I love that it was more than halfway!) and at mile 9 I saw my mom again, and this time she was ready for me. As I passed her I yelled back that I was ahead of schedule so she hurried off to the finish line. The course entertainment was really cool, with drummers and jazz bands adding a unique element to the race. On the way back I had a quick chat with another runner who was a local and annual runner of the half, and she told me "as soon as you see the big pink building along the wharf, you're there!". So I kept my eyes peeled for pink from that point on. The last few miles were pretty tough. I knew I was going to PR, but I wanted to knock off as much time as possible. I focused on one foot at a time, and when we reached Cannery Row for the second time, I knew I was close. The last mile was the hardest, but as soon as I saw that finish line the adrenaline kicked in and I was suddenly sprinting! I saw my mom on the side and fought not to collapse as I staggered through the finish chute. But I had done it! Official finish time of 2:17:50, averaging 10:30 per mile.

I was pretty exhausted afterward and had to lay down for a bit. As soon as a I felt better I took some finisher pics in front of the gorgeous wharf with my sweet new ceramic medal, designed by a local artist. Then my mom and I headed back to our hotel so I could shower and get ready. After checking out, we headed down to Cannery Row for some lunch and some shopping. I was still pretty tired so we only stayed for a couple hours, but I loved it! Monterey is an absolutely gorgeous little town, I would love to come back sometime to visit longer. But since we both had a 3 1/2 hour drive back we cut our afternoon short and started the long drive back. Overall it was a really great weekend. Every time I race I'm reminded how much I love to run and how wonderful the running community is. And I loved being able to spend the weekend with my mom, too. So now only 3 more weeks til SBIM! This weekend will be our 20 miler then 2 weeks of taper before the big day!

November 14, 2009

Playing Catch Up

I haven't posted for a while, so I wanted to give a quick update on my training this past week and also talk about my race this weekend! The 17 miler in the heat two weekends ago seriously kicked my ass, but in a good way I think. Last weekend we decided to take it easy and "only" run 12 miles, partly because I had my sorority's annual Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser to get to that morning, and partly to recover from our last long run. It felt pretty good, and we even kept up a 10something pace! I think my body is adapting to longer runs better than before, which gives me some much needed confidence. We still have the big 20 miler next weekend, but then the wonderful taper begins! I really can't believe marathon no. 2 is just 3 weeks away! Yikes! Speaking of, I have great news - I decided to get my folks plane tickets to come down to Santa Barbara that weekend to be my fans : ) Every runner can attest to the difference it makes to have friends and/or family out there supporting you and cheering for you during a race, so I'm super happy that I get to share this experience with them.

My non-running schedule has remained pretty hectic and it's been hard to be consistent with training, but I did get in some good-quality short runs, including one on my 5k loop that was my fastest time yet on that route! While I really would like to be following my 5-day training plan to the T, I think the most important thing for me is getting in those long runs on the weekend, and I've made sure I fit those in. For me, at least mentally, the most important part of training for my first marathon was overcoming the 20 miler. Once I did that, I felt completely ready to take on 26.2, so I'm hoping it will be the same for round 2 and after next weekend I'll feel ready to go!

Moving on, this weekend I have my third half! On Sunday I'll be running the Big Sur Half Marathon, which is renown for it's gorgeous course along the Pacific Coast. I'm heading up to Monterey early tomorrow morning and meeting my mom, who's driving down from Sacramento to watch! I really just want to enjoy this race, take in the beautiful scenery along the way, and remind myself why I love running. The weather is supposed to be in the 50s which should be great for racing. Of course I still have goals, but I'm going into this with a relaxed attitude and what will happen will happen. Mainly, I just want to finish by 2:30 at least. This is totally doable and a safe goal for me, but faster is always better, too. Honestly though, my time will probably depend on the course. As I've mentioned before, I do NOT do well with hills, so if I encounter a lot on Sunday, you can be sure it will be reflected in my time. It should be a great weekend though. I'm excited to see my mom, get another medal, qualify for Half Fanatics, and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium : ) So now I'm off to bed because it's far too late and my alarm always comes far too soon! Wish me luck!

November 4, 2009

I'm in a New York State of Mind

Already looking ahead to my running future, today I applied for the 2010 New York City Marathon! For those of you who aren't aware, because this race is so popular it uses a lottery system to select participants. So today I put my name in, and by mid-March I should know whether I was accepted or not. I've always wanted to do New York, it's seriously my dream marathon, so I figured why wait? Wish me luck!!

New Month, New Time, New Run

I can't believe November is already here! Time really does fly by... Sunday marked another long run for Tom, Stacey, and I with a 17 miler, and we are now just 5 short weeks away from the SB International Marathon! That means our long runs are getting up there in mileage, but it's also great to see us getting closer to the peak of out training.

I think I deserve a bit of credit for making it out there early Sunday morning, however. Here in Santa Barbara, or in the college town of Isla Vista specifically, we are famous for our Halloween celebration. I'm talking about 25,000 crazy drunk people dressed in barely there or ridiculous costumes, all crowded into a square mile. It truly is madness, and must be seen to believed. I made the smart (and obvious) choice not to go out Saturday night, but thanks to the unbelievable and unceasing noise, still didn't make it to sleep until about 1am. I lucked out and got another hour of sleep thanks to the end of daylight savings time.

Early Sunday we headed south toward Carpinteria to a place at the base of the Santa Ynez mountains called Lune Point, about 30 minutes away. Since we were running in a somewhat rural place, we drove the route and stashed fluids and gels at mile 7. By the time we got started, and partly due to the time change, it was nearly 2 hours later than when we usually start our runs. This made for a very warm run. It felt like 75 degrees, and this was just in the morning! I don't do well in the heat at all, and much of the route going out didn't have any shade, so it was tough. Other than that, the route was great. As we started out we passed the upscale polo fields, then headed along some lovely quaint roads. A few rolling hills, but mostly flat up to that point. When we reached our stash, I was definitely lagging from the heat and lack of energy. We had about 1.5 miles to go past the stash to the turnaround. This last little stretch was absolutely gorgeous, looking out on orchards and rolling, green hills. Tom snapped a couple pics with his phone, I just wish I had brought my camera! This part also happened to be a pretty drastic downhill, which was great, except that it meant a drastic uphill on the way back! We walked what we needed to get back to flat ground and made another quick stop at the stash to reload and grab everything.

Thankfully on the way back there was much more shade which revived me a bit. With about 2.5 miles to go, Stacey started hurting so she and Tom started to walk a great deal. At that point I was feeling much better and all I wanted to do was finish, so I went ahead on my own, only to realize after losing sight of them that I didn't really remember my way back! I made guess after guess, hoping something would look familiar, and lucky for me I eventually spotted the car! The run was definitely challenging, but when I was done I felt good. We shouldn't be dealing with any heat for SBIM in December, which is a relief. This next weekend we're doing "just" 13 miles as a recovery run, then I have the Big Sur Half on the 15th. Then finally we reach the peak of our training on the following weekend with 20 miles!

October 29, 2009

Half Fanatics!

If you're a runner you've probably heard of a "club" known as the Marathon Maniacs. There are different levels you can qualify for, with each consecutive one being harder than the next. For example, to qualify for the lowest "Bronze Level" you only have to complete one of the following:

1) Back-to-Back Marathons (2 marathons in consecutive weekends)
2) 2 Marathons in 3 weeks (2 Marathons within a 16 day time frame)
3) 3 Marathons in 3 months (3 Marathons within a 90 day time frame)

Crazy, right!? Despite this obvious fact, it has become a goal of mine to one day be a certified Maniac. This will probably take years of running experience, but in the meantime, I found another way to satisfaction: Half Fanatics! Yes, you guessed right, this is the equivalent club for those who run lots and lots of half marathons. The criteria for each level is similar to that of the Maniacs, substituting halfs for full marathons. Well, it turns out that after I run Big Sur on November 15th, I'll qualify for the first "Neptune Level" by running 3 half marathons within 90 days!! It may be a long time before I can call myself a Maniac but for now I'll settle with being a Fanatic!!

October 25, 2009

Up Before the Sun

This morning I was up before the sun for a long run with Tom and Stacey. We did 16 miles out-and-back, starting in Goleta and following part of the SBI Marathon course into Santa Barbara. Compared to last week, this run felt much better. We didn't start out as fast, and kept a pretty steady pace the entire time. Great weather, great course, and great conversation made for a really great run. I'm feeling a little sore in my hips and knee, and my feet could use a good massage, but I iced asap and took some ibuprofen so hopefully I won't be hurting too much tomorrow. Afterward I headed over to the local farmer's market to pick up some fresh produce for the week and then came home and took a much longer-than-intended nap. The rest of my Sunday will be dedicated to studying as I have a midterm early tomorrow morning....yikes!

October 21, 2009

Seriously on to Something

Slowly but surely my training has started to take on some consistency. It really hit me the other day that the marathon is in just 6 weeks, so no more excuses, time to get serious! I've decided it's more important to get in any time I can on my feet rather than only focusing on upping the mileage. I've planned out a schedule that I'm hoping to stick to over the next 6 weeks that should get me marathon-ready:

Mon: rest/strength training
Tues: run (3-6 mi)
Wed: run (3-6 mi)
Thurs: rest
Friday: run (3-6 mi)
Sat: run (3-6 mi)
Sun: long run

My runs during the week will probably range from 3-6 miles, simply because the routes I run near my house happen to be in those increments, plus I don't want to burn myself out. Sunday long runs will increase by 1 mile each week, peaking at 20 miles, and leaving at least a week or 2 for tapering before the big race. This is pretty similar to my training schedule before my first marathon, and it definitely felt like enough. Once in a while I might throw in a 6 or 9 mile run during the week, but other than that I want to take it somewhat easy during the week so I can have a good quality run on Sundays. I'm trying to fit in some speedwork or hills, too, but we'll see.

Last Friday I had an interesting run, heading from my house to the pier at Goleta Beach for an easy 6 miler. I always underestimate how early it starts to get dark, and so I usually end up finishing a ways after the sunsets. It's not that I fear for my safety after dark, but rather the variety of creatures that tend to come out. On multiple occasions I have had run ins with skunks and raccoon families, and I'll just say they are best avoided. As I was running down a hill next to the lagoon on campus, I noticed something long and skinny stretched out across the path in front of me. When I was right in front of it I suddenly realized it was a huge snake! Almost 4 feet long, it covered the entire path, so since there was no going around it I leapt into the air, hoping it wouldn't decide to strike. Safe on the other side, I turned around just in time to see it slithering away in the bushes. Once I was finally back in civilization, I picked up the pace a bit for the final stretch...only to trip over the sidewalk and go down, in front of several people! More embarrassing than painful, I jumped right up, turned the corner, and started sprinting away from all witnesses of my stumble.

Sunday morning I met up with my TNT friend and current coach for the new season, Tom, and his friend Stacey, also a current coach, for a long run. Stacey's friend Duncan was in town from New Zealand and joined us as well. We set out with a goal of 15 miles, running a portion along the marathon course. It was fun running through parts of Goleta I'd never been before, since most of our TNT runs were in downtown Santa Barbara, and also to get an idea of what the course will be like for SBIM. We started out way faster than I was used to, averaging about 10 minute miles for the first 6 miles, so at the turnaround I was pretty pooped. Stacey was feeling it a bit too, so we slowed it down significantly and did little walk intervals when we needed them. We walked a good part of mile 14 as we waited for Tom to catch up from a water stop, but it was a much needed break that gave us enough energy to finish the last mile strong. Afterward I was pretty exhausted, but I think a lot of it had to do with the inconsistent pacing. We met up a bit later for a hearty breakfast, and surprisingly, I wasn't nearly as sore as I usually am after a long run. I think it's because I was super hydrated during the run and I was constantly moving the rest of the day so my muscles didn't have time to tighten up as much. All in all it was a great time, and I'm looking forward to running with Tom and Stacey every Sunday!

Last night I ran my trusted 5k route around the West Campus lagoon for the first time in at least a month. I pushed the pace at about 10min/mi and felt really good the whole time. It was nice to be back running a route I'm so familiar with, especially since it was the main one I did during training for my first marathon. Anyway, things are looking good so far with training, and hopefully I'll keep it up!

October 12, 2009

SLO City to the Sea Half Marathon (Race Report)

Another race over, and a new PR to go with it! Yesterday I ran the City to the Sea Half Marathon from downtown San Luis Obispo to Pismo Beach and had a great time, both literally and figuratively : )

Now on to my review. This was my first experience with a small-scale race and there were certainly some big differences - some good, some bad. It was relatively small with a lot of local runners participating, and I was definitely a fan of the 8am start. My first issue, however, was the course. Yes, it was very scenic, but it also was almost completely run on the same road that just kept going, and going, and going... Part of why I had been looking forward to this race was because the website boasted that the last 2 miles coming into Pismo Beach were slightly downhill...and who wouldn't love that at the end of a race? Well, if by downhill they meant rolling hills every couple minutes, then they would be correct. In fact, the last 4 miles had scattered hills throughout, which slowed me down significantly since I'm a bit incline-challenged. Another factor I was unimpressed with was the mile markers...aka chalk numbers that were super easy to miss if you weren't watching for them and made pacing a bit difficult. The water stops also seemed a little too infrequent. Maybe I just need water more often than others, but I found myself wishing they weren't so few and far between.

My last complaint (I swear!) concerns a lie of great significance to me. When I registered for this race, I was excited for the finishers swag: a long sleeve shirt, free breakfast, and most importantly, the medal. Anyone who knows me is aware that the real reason I run races is the medal, and I don't like to sign up for ones without. Many might say to this, "But isn't it about the experience and enjoying the race?" No. It's all about the medal. So imagine my surprise (ok, anger if we're being honest) when I visit the website a few days before the race to check out last minute details and I find that "medal" has been replaced with "prizes". Wtf?! Perhaps this made me bitter about the whole race, hence the above complaints. Instead, we were given a water bottle and a keychain with the event logo. Not the same as a medal (cheapskates), but it's ok because I'm going to make the keychain into one anyway : )

Now on to my performance. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was aiming to at least do as well as Disneyland, with a pace somewhere between 11:15 and 11:30/mi. Without clear mile markers, and being alone, it was hard to monitor my pace, and so I was quite surprised at about mile 3 when I realized I was doing 10:10s! I slowed a bit since I knew I couldn't keep this up for 10 more miles, but was still going faster than I'm used too. By mile 8 I was consistently 8 minutes ahead of where I should be for a 2:30 finish, but then came miles 9-13, which, as I mentioned were so not flat. This closed the gap a bit as I walked short spurts on the uphills, but I still was doing well on time, now back around my 11:30 pace. Early on I had started to think I might PR; then came the hills, and some doubts inched their way in; then came the last 2 miles which were not downhill as expected, and glancing at my watch I sort of gave up on a PR and decided to just have a strong finish. Well imagine my surprise, then, on crossing that finish line at looking at my time - a PR by 2 minutes!! Official results haven't been posted yet but according to my watch I came in at exactly 2:24:00, totally unexpected but a totally exciting turn of events! Considering that this was my first race solo, I didn't have the best training going into it, and the hill factor, I'm pretty proud of myself : )

Some final thoughts. During the race, as I kept passing and being passed by the same people, I couldn't help but think about some things. Like how incredible your first race is. For several women I talked to, this was it, and I couldn't help but think what a fantastic experience this will be for them. I also found myself contemplating the thoughts that keep a runner occupied for 13.1 miles. Seriously, what do you think about when you're running for so long, you're tired and sore, and you forgot why it is you're doing this? Absolutely fascinating, I think. After the race, as I relaxed in the park before hopping on a shuttle back downtown, I reveled in the running community atmosphere that I've come to love so much. Some first-timers, others seasoned athletes, but all with a common interest and passion. Most of all I just love the supportive factor that is so prevalent in this community, and really inspires you to keep going whether that be in training or in a race.

I'm taking tomorrow off to give my sore muscle a break, then it's back to training for marathon #2, just 8 weeks away!!