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!!