March 31, 2010

The Tempo Run

For once my roommate Jordan and I have schedules that aren't completely opposite, so we came up with a schedule for some workouts we can do together throughout the week. Sundays are swimming, Wednesdays have been designated for tempo runs, and Thursdays for an easy recovery run. I'm actually really happy with this plan. With track on Tuesdays and long runs on Saturdays, it has me running 4 days a week with one day of cross-training and 2 rest days (I might add strength training or pilates to one of the rest days).

Today we did our first tempo run together. Okay to be honest, this was my first official tempo run ever! It's crazy to think that in the past year or so of continual training for one race or another, I never incorporated these useful workouts. I totally believe in their effectiveness, however. Over the summer I started running my shorter weekly runs at a faster pace and noticed a huge difference in my long runs and overall speed and endurance. But I think it's important that I upgrade to real tempo runs that work on increasing speed for longer distances. I've been wanting to gradually increase my overall mileage, which means bumping up my midweek runs from measly 3 milers (not to completely downplay these, they definitely have their place!). So every Wednesday I will be doing a 6 mile tempo run, with a one mile warm-up, 3 miles at tempo pace, and 2 miles for cool-down.

Today's run was one of those breakthrough, feel-good, remind-you-why-you-love-running type of runs, which came as a huge surprise to me! I was really tired after work and actually fell asleep on the couch pre-run. When I woke up I was still exhausted and not exactly up for a run, let alone a 6 mile tempo. I couldn't bail on our first planned tempo, so I pushed myself out the door. We ran one of my favorite routes onto the UCSB campus then down to Goleta Beach and out to the end of the pier. It was a gorgeous evening but super windy from the start. We powered through the wind and even ran the entire hill that I usually walk! I felt really strong the entire run, even when I was running straight into the wind! I'm really happy with our splits, especially since they stayed somewhat consistent.

mile 1 (warm-up) - 10:29
mile 2 - 9:29
mile 3 - 9:23
mile 4 - 9:26
mile 5 (cool-down) - 11:06 (the worst of the wind!)
mile 6 (cool-down) - 10:31

Overall I think my first tempo run was a total success!

March 30, 2010

Last First Day

This post doesn't have a lot to do with running, but I think it's pretty exciting nonetheless! Today marked my last first day of college ever. Spring quarter has officially started and in just 10 short weeks, I'll be graduating from UCSB. Wow! I have a really easy schedule this quarter with only 3 classes, only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'm actually really excited for my classes, too - they all sound super interesting! One is an introduction to counseling and clinical psychology (which is what I plan to go grad school for), another is an English class on literature of the Pacific (think Hawaii, New Zealand, surfing, and episodes of Lost), and finally my last course for my major, health psychology (looks at the relationship between psychological events and health). It's kind of strange to say, but I'm really looking forward to classes this quarter!

Since this is a running blog, I have to mention something running-related. Tonight we had our Team track workout. After our warm-up we did 1x400m at 10k pace, 3x800m at marathon pace, and 1x200m at 5k pace with cool-down laps in between each set. The whole workout ended up being 5 miles. With so many of the laps at marathon pace, however, it wasn't the most challenging workout, but it was still fun and it felt good to be out there running. We also had an expert out there analyzing our stride/form and giving us tips and suggestions. I noticed that he was wearing Vibrams so I couldn't help but ask his opinion on transitioning to barefooting. He suggested looking into getting a pair of minimalist shoes with lots of flexibility. He checked out the shoes I was wearing (Brooks Adrenaline) and said they had decent flexibility, but the next step would be something like Nike Frees. Hmmm next pair of shoes perhaps?

March 29, 2010

Bike Ride!

My roommate and I had planned to go for a swim Sunday evening, but after realizing the gym closed in a half hour, we decided to go for a bike ride instead! Now I have to clarify that by bike, I mean beach cruiser, and by ride, I mean meandering along at a very modest pace. Even so, it ended up being a lot of fun and I actually ended up being pretty tired after. We refilled our tires with air and I figured out how to change my Garmin's settings to biking, then we were off! We headed through campus then down to Goleta Beach where we caught the Obern Trail. It was kind of weird to be biking a route that I run so often, and it made for such a different experience.  I brought my camera along, and let me just say trying to take pictures while biking is a bit of a challenge!

It was a gorgeous evening, but along the trail there was a plague of bugs in the air! Seriously, I couldn't look up without getting bugs in my eyes or mouth, making it rather difficult to see where I was going : / There's one gnarly hill that leads from campus down to Goleta Beach, which I usually walk when I run that way, and biking up it was just as hard - it was literally one of the hardest things I'd ever done and my legs were on fire!! It made the rest of the flat ride seem uber easy though. We turned around at 4 miles and made it back home just as it got dark.

We were both starving when we got back and immediately made dinner. I had a delicious baked potato with roasted butternut squash and brussel sprouts, and fresh strawberry shortcake for dessert! Mmmmm : ) It was definitely a good weekend! Tomorrow marks the beginning of my last quarter of college - yikes!

March 28, 2010

Running on Empty

Yesterday was my first run since the LA marathon last Sunday, and it ended up being a bit lackluster. We had 1 hour 45 minutes on the schedule, and I was determined to run the whole thing. But despite feeling fresh and ready to run, my energy was on empty from the get go. I ran with my roommate Jordan and while our pace was actually on the slow side, it strangely felt much faster and was hard to maintain. Toward the end of the run my body did start to protest a bit with my knees, hips, and feet hurting, but I pushed through and we finished 9.6 miles. It was a gorgeous, warm, clear day and the route we ran had incredible views of the ocean. The Team also left fun chalk notes along the way to encourage us.

The Team had plans to get breakfast together after, but unfortunately I had to be at work at 10am, so I had to haul ass home and had like 20 minute to shower, get ready, and get to work. Let me just say 5 hours on my feet after that run was tough! My purple big toe was throbbing constantly and I was just tired the whole day. In hindsight I probably should have taken the weekend off, but I just couldn't resist a group long run! And after being in training for so long and running so regularly, after taking 5 days off I kind of missed running. I'm still going to take the upcoming week easy, but with my next marathon at the beginning of June, I've gotta jump right back in!

March 26, 2010

Recovery Mode

It's been 5 days since the LA Marathon and I'm finally able to walk without hobbling. This past week I've been in recovery mode, meaning no running for me - not that I would've been able to even if I wanted to! I still went to track practice Tuesday and walked several laps around the track barefoot. I figured it would help me loosen up and give my feet some more time to start adjusting to shoeless feet. I even jogged a tiny bit to see how it felt, but I was a little too sore to keep it up.

Thursday my roommate and I headed to the pool for an easy swim. Several people recommended swimming as a great recovery activity, and honestly it did feel great to be in the water. I didn't want to overdo it, so I just focused on swimming 500m with as few stops as possible. I wasn't perfect, but I did better than usual (though my lungs felt like they were about to burst!).

Tomorrow morning is our TNT long run, with 1 hour 45 minutes on the schedule. I'm planning on running the whole time, but ultimately it will depend on how my body feels. I know there's more to recovery than just being free of sore muscles, and the last thing I want to do is overdo it, especially since I now have marathon no. 4 in a couple months.

The one thing that probably hasn't helped my recovery is that I've had to work all week. I definitely feel it in my legs after being on my feet for 5-7 hours straight. My one big toe is a nasty shade of purple and is quite tender, too. But I suppose this is all a small price to pay for the awesome feeling of finishing a marathon? Yeah, totally worth it : )

March 23, 2010

LA Marathon (Race Report)

I've given a lot of thought to writing this race report, because I want to make sure it does justice to the awesomeness of the LA Marathon. Personally, I had a fantastic race. I felt great for the majority of it, enjoyed myself, and my sub-5 hour finish goal was a success with an official time of 4:55:17. The race itself, however, was just as great - the aid stations, entertainment, crowd support, and the fabulous inaugural "Stadium to Sea" course made this a marathon I am proud to have run and will remember always. With that said, on to the details!
The Expo
My parents and I drove down Saturday afternoon and went straight to the outdoor expo at Dodger Stadium. Man oh man was it hot by then! There were some cool booths and fun things to check out, and of course lots of free samples : ) I even got a glimpse of Dean Karnazes! I picked up my bib and race packet, but was pretty bummed to find out they only had two t-shirt sizes left - a men's large and a woman's small! I ended up going with the latter, but let me just say it is meant for a child and I will unfortunately never wear it : ( Great design though! I picked up another box of my fave Gu vanilla bean and then escaped the madness to go check into our cheap little motel. My mom's aunt whom she hasn't seen in several years happens to live about 20 minutes from LA so we sat through typical bumper to bumper LA traffic to go visit her. By that time it was like 5pm and we hadn't eaten since breakfast so I was cranky. We finally got some yummy dinner at Elephant Bar, including a decadent mudpie dessert to split between us. Back at the hotel my mom and I checked out the map and came up with our plan for Sunday, I laid out all my gear, then I was off to bed around 9:30pm.

The Race
I actually woke up before my 5am alarm and began my race morning routine. The nerves really started to hit me at that point as the realization that I was about to run another marathon hit me. The last minute instructions advised everyone to get to the start extra early to account for traffic, and boy were they not kidding. Our motel was only 4 miles to the start at Dodger Stadium, but the traffic was so bad that after 45 minutes we hadn't even fully merged onto the freeway. Then a funny thing happened: more and more runners started getting out of cars and walking, determined to get to the start regardless of the unrelenting gridlock! It wasn't long before I joined them on the one mile walk to the stadium : )

In hindsight, this actually served as a great warm-up! The start area was crazy crowded by the time I got there, as were the port-a-potty lines. I quickly jumped in line, meanwhile less patient runners scrambled up the dirt hills behind the port-a-potties to do their business in the bushes! Quite entertaining. I made it to the front just in time, then headed to the corrals. They were so packed, though, that I ended up with the 14 min/mi walkers! This made for lots of dodging and maneuvering the first few miles : /

We started a little later than scheduled, and I didn't end up crossing the start line til 8am. But man, the energy at the start was fantastic! The first mile wound around Dodger Stadium and was basically all uphill. Then we emerged in downtown LA for the next 4 miles. There were lots of spectators out and great entertainment early on. We hit the first and probably most significant hill between miles 3 and 4, where there were Taiko drummers whose beats helped push us to the top where the awesome Disney Concert Hall awaited us. Talk about a gorgeous piece of architecture!

Around mile 5 we arrived in Echo Park and ran along a beautiful lake There was more fun entertainment, including a circus group with people on stilts! I also want to mention the abundance of water/aid stops. There was almost one official station every mile, and a bunch of unofficial ones in between with spectators handing out oranges, water, candy, you name it! This really saved me since it was quite warm during the race. I made sure to grab water almost every mile, drinking some and pouring the rest down my back to keep cool.

The next couple miles (7-8) we ran through a neighborhood called Silverlake. It was here that I looked down and realized that two of my Gu had fell out of my fuel belt! I had already taken one, but this only left me with two more for the rest of the race. My mom had texted me that she and my dad were at mile 11, so I quickly called her and told her to have some replacement Gu ready for me. Not too much to see during this stretch. I was feeling strong though and thoroughly enjoying the experience, trying to take it all in.

Around mile 9 we entered Hollywood! This was by far one of the best parts of the course for me. Although it was a bit hazy out, the Hollywood sign could easily be spotted up in the hillside. Now this may surprise you considering that I've lived in California my whole life and have been to LA several times, but this was the first time I'd ever seen the sign, so I was pretty jazzed : ) There were lots of other great landmarks during this stretch, too, like the Pantages Theater, Capitol Records Tower, Walk of Fame, and Graumman's Chinese Theater. It was pretty cool running through Hollywood, with huge buildings on either side, and it was fun to look up at all the billboards. Great distractions! The crowd support through Hollywood was also fantastic! At mile 11 I spotted my folks, both ready with cameras in hand. I quickly grabbed my Gu and kept going while my dad trotted alongside for a minute, asking how I felt, then I took off with plans to meet up again around mile 20.

Next up was Sunset Boulevard and West Hollywood for miles 12-15ish. I don't remember too many details from this stretch, except for the male cheerleaders and half-naked Go-Go dancers : ) At mile 14 we hit another landmark, the pink Whiskey a Go Go, a famous dance club/music venue that's been around since the 60's.

Then at mile 16 we finally hit...Beverly Hills! I really wanted a pic of the famous sign, but it was too far off the course to get a good one, so I took one from the net instead! It was really fun running past all the fancy houses, then hit mecca of ritzy shopping: Rodeo Drive! So so so cool running along all those stores, window shopping while running a marathon : ) Again, lots of great crowd support. The folks at the Nike store had a big group out dressed in lime green spandex bodysuits which was an interesting sight to see! At this point I started feeling a little tired, but was still maintaining my pace. As rumor had it, the rest of the course was mostly flat or downhill so I was looking forward to that.

For the next few miles we ran mostly along Santa Monica Boulevard through an area called Century City. I was fading a bit by this point, and seeing a hill coming up around this time didn't help either. I pushed through it though, and was then greeted by throngs of cheerleaders in "Cheer Alley" and got a nice little boost. Hoses had also been set up along this stretch to cool off runners which was much appreciated by that time of the day. I saw my parents again around mile 19 where I complained about how tired I was. Interesting thing is, despite all the aches and pains (including shin splints) I'd been having during my training leading up to LA, my legs felt great for the entire race! My only real problem was fatigue. When I reached mile 20, the mental game began.

Around mile 22 ran through the Veterans' Administration (VA) grounds, which also happened to be on a slight incline with very little to look at around us. I took a few walking breaks during this stretch, and really started to wonder how I could keep up my pace for the last four miles. I also started doing a lot of math in my head to figure my estimated finish time if I kept up various paces, which after 18 miles of running isn't easy to do. I made it through the VA though and finally hit a nice, long, somewhat shaded stretch down San Vicente Boulevard. I had a big mental battle with myself here, and really started questioning if I could finish under 5 hours. I knew I just had to maintain an 11:30 pace, but I so badly wanted to walk. I just kept reminding myself how mad I would be at myself for giving up so close to the end when my finish goal was in sight. So I pushed. A song by Paramore came on my iPod and put me in a zone. In fact, I played this song on repeat about ten times til the end! So many runners around me were struggling at this point. I almost saw more people walking than running! I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and my pace slowly got faster.

At the end of San Vicente I turned the corner onto Ocean Boulevard and saw the banner for mile 25, and knew I'd reached the home stretch. I couldn't really do math at that point but I knew if I just kept running I would make it under 5. Man oh man, did this seem to go by in slow motion! I was so focused on the finish in the distance and giving every last effort I had left that I barely acknowledged that the ocean was finally on my right and huge crowds on either side cheering like mad. I passed under the banner for 26 miles and sprinted my way to the end at the Santa Monica Pier, so ready to be done. I crossed that line with a smile, then swayed on the spot a little and tried to keep moving. I made my way through the finish shoot, collected my medal, and tried to find the nearest spot to collapse.

When I finally sat down, my body realized we were done and the pain came in full force. Literally just sitting was miserable with throbbing joints and tired muscles. I checked my Garmin and saw that I had indeed made my goal with 5 minutes to spare, but also saw that the course was long - by a whole 0.2 miles! Now that may not seem very much to some of you, but in a marathon it might as well be another mile. I don't know if it was the course or probably just the tangents I ran, but I first noticed around mile 2 that it was off. Anyone else run LA get something similar or was it just me? It was kind of a bummer during the race though when my Garmin beeped at me with a mile when it was still a ways off in the distance.

The medal was pretty cool, with a big "25" commemorating the 25th anniversary of the marathon. The ribbon was the best part, though, with the course and landmarks printed on it! Very cool. A couple of finishers collapsed next to me and we chatted for a bit while I tried to get a hold of my folks. There were so many people that the cell phone networks were jammed, and it took a good half hour to finally all find one another. When my shoes came off I discovered two lovely purple toes, most likely thanks to the many downhills of the course. I hobbled away from the masses to do a post-race photo shoot and then we headed to get some grub! We had lunch at a yummy Thai restaurant where I devoured some pad thai and a much needed beer : ) Then we hit the road back to Santa Barbara, thankfully with very little traffic along the way, while I basked in the glow of finishing another marathon.

It's now Tuesday and I'm still so sore I can barely walk! Seriously, ouch. I almost forgot how much a marathon hurts : ) In other awesome news, I came home to find out that I won a beautiful running-themed necklace in a giveaway from Chic Runner (who also happened to run LA!)!!! I was so excited I nearly jumped out of my skin! Thanks Danica!

March 19, 2010

Father-Daughter Run

Marathon weekend is finally here! My parents flew into Santa Barbara this morning to come down to LA with me. They came bearing a fabulous surprise, too... a new computer! That's right ladies and gentlemen, I'm typing this post on my brand new Macbook Pro! I got my old computer as a high school graduation present, and lately it's been on it's last leg. A while ago the screen started to randomly flicker, and the battery can't last one second when it's not plugged in. So this new beauty is an early college graduation present from my wonderful folks. Thank you!! Since I was previously a PC girl, I'm now spending all my free time trying to figure this darn thing out : )

We spent the afternoon running errands and then my dad and I went on a fabulous run together! He's been running a lot on the treadmill at his gym back home and is up to 6 miles! Today I took him on one of my favorite routes around the West Campus lagoon and along the ocean side cliffs. I was a little bummed because there was a weird steam-like fog coming from the ocean so visibility kind of sucked, but it was still nice scenery to run through. We did 3 miles at a pretty easy pace and felt really great after!

Then tonight I invited my running buddy and training partner Tom and his girlfriend over for dinner. My mom made an amazing vegetable lasagna - it made me really miss home-cooked meals! Conversation flowed easy with lots of interesting topics and stories. It was just one of those times where life is just good : )

March 18, 2010

Looking Cool & Staying Cool

Here's an excerpt from the email I received from the LA Marathon director this morning:

The double-edged sword of living in a place as blessed with good weather as is Los Angeles is the threat that warm weather can pose, especially for long distance runners, especially when it's unseasonal.  That appears to be the situation we're faced with this weekend where, if current predictions are to be believed, the temperature should hover around the mid 70°s during most of the day.  While it's sure to be cooler-even cold-at the start at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, heat is a real concern as the race and the day progress.

 This was followed by tips on how to survive in the heat : / Although I know I can manage, I don't really do well running in warm weather, so this will just be one more challenge to deal with on race day. As far as being prepared otherwise, I've taken this week really easy. In fact, since my final long run last Sunday I've only run once, at track practice on Tuesday. This was partly due to being busy with finals, but it was also very much intentional. With my shin splints flaring up every so often and little aches and pains a common occurrence, I didn't want to overdo it, I want to feel fresh physically and mentally going into the race this weekend. And honestly, what difference would a couple of measly 3 milers have really made? It still hasn't really hit me that I'm running another marathon in 2 days. Maybe once I get down to LA, go to the expo, get my bib, set out my stuff...

That brings me to my next topic: my outfit! I've been planning on wearing my light blue Nike tempo shorts for a while, but I needed a tank to go with them. I wanted something super light and cool since it's gonna be a scorcher, and I found a great white Nike tank with lime green piping that was perfect! But of course, while I was looking, I also found a great pair of bright blue tempo shorts that match the tank : ) Every race I've run I've worn practically the same thing: a white shirt and black capris. Not only does this make me hard to spot for my spectators, but it's also just a bit dull. So for LA I wanted to wear something that would stand out. And yes, the top is white, but check out the shorts!

Now some of you may be thinking of the unofficial running rule "nothing new on race day", but I have a couple other pairs of these shorts already, and the shirt is long and loose enough that I know I won't have any problems. This will, however, be the first time I've worn shorts in a race longer than a 5k. For a long time I was a capris gal, but I have a new love for shorts and have worn them on all my training runs for LA. While I do love running in shorts now, chafing is most definitely still a problem. I'm talking inner thighs, every time, no matter how well I glide pre-run. By about mile 10, it's worn off and my skin gets rubbed raw. My solution for LA is to carry a small tube of sport shield and reapply as often as necessary. Let's hope this works! In addition to this fabulous new outfit I will be wearing my new and equally fabulous iFitness belt! I'm almost done with my review of it, so look for that tomorrow. I have to admit I'll still be packing my other shorts just in case, but I think this outfit's the winner : )

March 16, 2010

whistle while you work!

Boy oh boy was today hot!! It actually reached 80°F and felt like a scorcher! While I was not exactly looking forward to track practice in the heat, I was looking forward to the workout itself. Our team likes to do a little something called a whistle workout. Unfortunately I missed them during my season, so I was excited to finally do one tonight! Basically, each whistle is run at an increasingly fast pace for 13 minutes total. One whistle meant cooldown pace, two was marathon pace, three was 10k pace, and four was a sprint! I didn't push too hard considering I have a marathon this weekend, but we still ran some pretty good paces, and it actually wasn't nearly as tough as I had made it out to be in my mind. It was actually really fun!

My good friend and running buddy Tom has been taking some fabulous pics at all our TNT trainings, so kudos to him for letting me share with you the amazing places we get to run : ) Even the track we practice at is pretty awesome. It's at Santa Barbara Community College downtown, literally across the street from the beach. Imagine, doing track workouts with the salty ocean breeze drifting by, surrounded by palm trees and blue skies... Ok, I'll stop making you all jealous! In all seriousness though, I really am a lucky little runner : )

In other news, I got an email today informing me that I had won a spot via lottery for the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon in May!! I really really wanted to do this race, partly because the course is gorgeous, and partly because it's local, but it sold out super early. They had a waitlist for any remaining spots, however, so I signed up and was one of 100 runners out of about 1,000 to be selected! Yay!! I've also made my decision regarding the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and will be running marathon no. 4 in June with all my TNT girls : ) Can't wait! Oh, and lest I forget, the countdown to marathon no. 3 is on, just 5 more days!!!!!!!!!!!

March 14, 2010

T-minus 7 Days

I officially have one week until the LA Marathon! Wow. This morning I dragged myself out of bed to do my final long run of taper. The time change threw me off a bit, and I didn't get started until 10am, by which time it was very warm : / I mapped out my route last night and incorporated two of my favorite runs to make it an even 10 miles. First I ran down the gorgeously green, orchard lined Glen Annie Rd. I love how quiet this road is - I only saw one car and two cyclists the entire time! Then I headed back toward Isla Vista and added on a couple miles by running the loop around the West Campus lagoon and along the cliffs overlooking the ocean. It really was a gorgeous run.

Since I've been having a lot of small aches and pains, I really tried to focus on my form today. I constantly checked in with myself to see if my back was straight, my arms straight and loose, and if I was taking short, quick steps and landing midfoot. I actually think this helped a lot and I actually felt pretty great. Around mile 4.5 I even got a second wind and picked up my pace easily! Gotta love those second winds : ) I finished in 1:44 with an average pace of 10:27, which I was more than pleased with. This was also my inaugural run with my new iFitness fuel belt, and it was totally awesome! I can't wait to review it : )

After my run I took advantage of the wonderful sun and laid out for a while and tanned with friends. Well, turns out I was out there a little too long and I now resemble a lobster : / I also finally made it to the grocery store. I've been out of my essentials this past week and have been eating the strangest things. I'm so glad to have my oatmeal and bananas again! Speaking of, I might as well be a monkey with all the bananas I bought (12!).
This week happens to be finals week here at UCSB, so I'm hoping it makes resting my body (albeit not my mind) easier in preparation for LA on Sunday! Yikes!