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!!

October 9, 2009

I'm Back! and Ready to Run!!

Ok so lately I've failed as a blogger, but in my defense these last few weeks have been jam packed, leaving little time for running and even less time for blogging about it. In September I was in sorority-mode for two weeks for recruitment, and then school started as well, leaving me juggling classes, work, internships, getting ready to apply to grad school, etc. I guess my body hasn't adjusted from my lazy summer to this busy new schedule, leaving me tired, overwhelmed, and unmotivated to run. Considering that I have my next half this weekend and my second full marathon in just 10 weeks (yikes!) it's time to get my shit together and get into training mode.

Lately I've also started to realize a change in my attitude toward training, and I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing. When I was training for my first marathon with Team In Training, I would run 5 days a week with one long run, one speed workout, and 3 short runs around 5k distance. While this certainly proved adequate and I accomplished my goal of finishing around 5:30, being that it was my first 26.2, it really wasn't about time at all, but simply finishing. But with a second marathon, it's a whole different story. Now that I know I can finish, I can't help but look for new goals, like improving my time. While I thoroughly respect the dedicated, fast, number-crunching runners out there, for me running has always been something I do because I love it, I love how I feel after a run, and I love watching my body adapt over weeks and months of training. Compared to many marathoners I'm slow, I don't own a fancy GPS watch, and I even hate running in the morning. So I find myself in the midst of an internal battle with myself - the desire to stay true to my original running philosophy, and the urge to train harder and be better, faster, stronger.

Lately I've noticed myself shying away from those 5k runs I used to do, dismissing them as inadequate for training and convincing myself that a run is only worth it if it's 6 miles or more. In fact, the last few times I've ran I've done 6 miles and 9 miles, and I can't even remember the last time I ran just 3! I keep reminding myself that in all honesty, training for a marathon doesn't have to be so intense. As long as I get that long run in on the weekend, I can take it easier during the week. I know that anytime on my feet is well spent, no matter the mileage, but it's easier said than done. I'm a competitive person at heart, and fully understand the mentality behind the "why keep doing something if you stay at the same level?" question. Maybe I'm afraid to push myself? Or perhaps I'm afraid of setting a goal that I won't reach? In my first marathon, I averaged a 12:28 mile, but in my last half marathon, I averaged an 11:10 pace, obviously a significant improvement. The big question is, of course, am I capable of maintaining that pace for twice as long? Or if not that pace, perhaps 12 minutes/mile, which would still be a big improvement? I'm hoping yes, and as I write this and reflect on things I think I have to aim to improve, as long as I don't forget the real reason I run.

Now that I've rambled on for much longer than I intended, I'll get to the good stuff - races! This Sunday I'll be running my second half marathon in San Luis Obispo, called City to the Sea as it starts in the city of SLO and finishes at the beachside town of Pismo. My friend had planned to run it with me but had something come up last minute so I'll be running solo... As for goals, I've decided to use a nifty system that a fellow blogger uses with A, B, and C goals. I think this is a great way to be realistic while at the same time aiming high.

C goal: 2:35
(this is almost 10 minutes more than my PR, so it's totally doable, without too much pressure)
B goal: 2:26
(this is my PR from my last half)
A goal: 2:24
(this would be an 11 min/mi pace, 10 seconds faster than my previous half)

Unfortunately I had to cancel the next race I had planned, the Santa Barbara half, because I have to take the GRE that day. I'm bummed, but the test is only offered that day and there will be other races. Which brings me to my next big announcement (which I sort of already mentioned)...my second marathon! About a month ago I decided to register for the inaugural Santa Barbara International Marathon in December. I hadn't really planned on doing another so soon, but one day it just sort of hit me, if I'm doing all these halfs, it's not a huge jump to training for the full. Plus, it's the inaugural marathon in my city and some good friends from TNT are running it as well...which means people to train with and run the race with! I'm pretty excited and am really looking forward to it. Who knows, maybe I'll even PR! If you've read this far I'm impressed. I'll try to make future posts much shorter : ) Wish me luck this weekend!!