May 29, 2010

Too Much Fun

I apologize in advance because this post is going to include almost nothing running-related. Instead, it will explain my lack of running this past week.

As I mentioned, Sunday was super busy. That morning we went to a gorgeous Spanish-themed restaurant in Santa Barbara called El Paseo for my sorority Senior Brunch. The event is kind of a tradition and involves an all-you-can-eat buffet as well as bottomless drinks over a 2 hour period. So we all got dressed up in our sun dresses and got chauffeured to the restaurant by our lovely juniors : ) Now I don't really drink, with the exception of the occasional beer or glass of wine, so after one mimosa I was feeling pretty good : ) After another one, plus a couple margaritas, I was having a fantastic time! The food was delicious and I certainly indulged more than I probably should have, but I savored every single bite : ) The whole brunch was so much fun - great friends, wonderful food, good conversation, and endless laughs : )
Class of 2010
 El Paseo
My fabulous table.
 Some of my fave girls : )
 Sharing a margarita.
The aftermath.
Senior Love : )
Right after the brunch we hurried home to change then headed to our Team In Training Send-Off party. We got there a little late and missed the food but I don't think any of us were actually hungry! As always, there were many inspiring things to be said. Advice was shared, logistics explained, and questions answered. I remembered back to my season and how I sat in awe as I listened to my coaches and mentors give us their tips and words of wisdom...funny how much things can change in just a year. The party was held at fellow mentor Michael's gorgeous house up in the hills of Santa Barbara so we couldn't leave without enjoying the pool, jacuzzi, and amazing view. Our lovely coaches had a canonball contest while the rest of us took refuge from the gusty wind in the jacuzzi.
Listening to words of wisdom.
I know, right!?
The gorgeous view!
A year ago this was burned in the Jesusita Fire.
Yeaaahhh Coach Dodge! Cannonball!!
Chillin in the jacuzzi : )

After the Team Party we hurried home once again to rest and get ready for our sorority formal, Crescent Ball, later that night. I was unbelievably exhausted but managed to find a tiny spark of energy to start getting ready. I found the most beautiful dress the day before and was taking my little sis as my date, so I was really looking forward to my last C Ball. Considering our morning, most of my friends and I decided to forgo the champagne we had planned to drink before, and I'm so glad we did - I think it would have put me right to sleep! The theme for the night was G Phis in Wonderland, and the venue - the waterfront Fess Parker in downtown Santa Barbara (which we always run past!) looked gorgeous. The food was delicious, and once again I indulged : ) I didn't do much dancing since I was pooped so I spent the rest of the evening chatting with friends and taking pictures. Overall it was a fabulous night : )
Windswept in front of the Fess Parker.
 G Phis in Wonderland!
 Nom nom nom.
Me and my lovely little date : )
Some of my faves

Come Monday there was no time to rest. I worked that morning and then that afternoon we seniors did The Loop! The Loop is basically just going to all the places in Isla Vista where alcohol is served, so-called because it forms a loop - clever right? It also happened to be my roommates 22nd birthday, so it was fun celebrating with her along the way! We ended up hitting up 9 places in our "tight and bright" gear, attracting more than a few stares, and drinking a few pitchers among us at each stop. This was definitely a challenge for me but we soon found the easiest - and most fun - way to drink a pitcher: with straws! It was seriously SO fun and made it go by so much faster. After that much beer, the last thing you want to do is sit around and sip on it : / At the last stop, Gio's across the street from our house, we played a few games of flip cup before dragging our drunk asses back to the house for another Gamma Phi tradition, Senior Wills. Basically it's just a chance for us to "will", or give away, our stuff to younger girls. It was weird to be sitting in the front, giving away my stuff, when it seems just yesterday I was getting hit in the face with a poorly aimed old shirt, courtesy of a drunk senior. Time sure flies.
Senior girls!
Roomie : )
Study Hall (birthday girl in pink wig!)
Fun with mirrors!
Young at heart : )
Winners of flip cup!
Senior Wills

By Tuesday my body was in need of a serious detox. Now maybe for your average college student these few events would be no big deal, but that's just not me. I don't drink that much, or eat like that usually, and I could feel the difference it made. I did make it to track that night in one of my only healthy acts of the week. After a warm-up we did mile laps around Shoreline Park at marathon pace. Not the most exciting but at that point I just needed to be running.

This past week also happened to be Senior Week (sensing a trend?) where each day we get a gift/treats from our secret "senior buddy". So once more I found myself with a load of junk food and not nearly enough willpower. Ok, so the detox would be starting a few days later... I actually knew who my senior buddy was the whole time (my little sis) and she didn't exactly do much to throw me off her trail. But it was still so much fun to come home and find treats for me!

Wednesday was the start of Serenades, where all the new member pledge classes put together dances and perform them at all the sororities/fraternities. So that evening our newest spring girls, along with a few rhythmically gifted active members, performed a killer dance routine at 6 frats. Back at the house afterward I helped celebrate my friend Christine's 21st birthday with a fondue party (again, my diet this week just sucked!). Needless to say I did not run.

Thursday I actually did fit in a short and fast 4 miler after class. I even negative split every mile, keeping my pace in the 9's for the whole run. After I got ready for the second evening of Serenades in which the frats come to our house to perform. After the first few houses, though, I couldn't help but feel awkward and way too old to be watching half naked boys attempt to dance and deliver gross pick-up lines. So I left and got sushi : ) That night seniors usually go downtown, but my friends and I opted to skip it and make margaritas at home instead. After a couple I was done and so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. I think the crazy events of the week finally caught up to me.

So in summary, lots of drinking, lots of eating, not much running. Who am I and what have I done with the real me!? Haha I guess it's a good thing I'm in taper!

May 22, 2010

No. 5?

Time to play catch up! This has been another crazy week and while my training took a slight hit as a result I still got a few quality runs in. Tuesday was track, but since the one we usually practice at is actually being redone we met across the street for hill repeats! I had been in a pretty foul mood the last couple days so I was looking forward to a nice challenging workout to take my mind off things. After a 15 minute warm-up we did 7 repeats up and down the hill from Cabrillo to Shoreline Park. Each one was about a half mile long but included a straightaway leading up to the actual hill. Considering that it was my first run since the 20 miler last Saturday, my legs and body actually felt really good. I was a little tired on the last one but powered through and finished up the workout with an easy cool-down to round it out to 5 miles.

It's kind of ironic that our workout ended up being hills because earlier that day I had been contemplating a decision about the notoriously hilly San Francisco Marathon. I'm registered for the 1st half (as part of the CA Dreamin' Series) but I've been considering upgrading to the full marathon! One of my goals this year is to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs by completing 3 marathons in 3 months. Since I'm already running San Diego in June and E.T. in August, it would be kind of convenient to just do the SF Marathon rather than try and pick out another one in fall (in addition to Marine Corps and CIM). I know the course is hilly, but the goal for this race would really just to finish. In fact, all 3 of my summer marathons will be run for fun - no plans on trying to PR, I'm saving that for my fall races! So with that decided I'm just waiting to here back from the San Francisco people to confirm my race change! Crazy to think that will be marathon no. 5!
Soon to be marathon no. 5...
Wednesday evening I was going to try and do my usual tempo but I just didn't have the energy. But instead of skipping the workout completely I decided to just modify it a bit. Instead of 6 miles I did 4, and instead of doing 3 tempo miles I did half mile repeats, running hard for 0.5 then easy for 0.5. For some reason I just wasn't feeling it and at some points it was a struggle to keep pushing. On the last half mile, however, something clicked and I just started flying down the street! Not a tempo run but still speedwork, so I'll take it : )

Thursday and Friday I took off, mostly due to my activities for big/little sis week for my sorority. Thursday was a surprise dinner for all the new littles followed by one of my favorite traditions: the presentation of moons! Since our sorority symbol is a crescent each big sis decorates and personalizes a wooden moon for her little sis with her name on it. Friday I worked all day then hurried back to the house for big/little sis revealing! In my sorority we have "families" made up of all the bigs and littles. Mine is one of the biggest, called the White Chocolate Family (wannabe gangsters), and I just got a new grand little and great-great-grand little! Silly, I know but so fun, too!
New girls with their moons.
My little revealing herself to my grand little!
Me, my little, and new grand little : )
White Chocolate for life!
Today we had our first taper "long" run. It was a gorgeous, warm, clear day with lots of people around, even at 8am! We had 1 hour 30 minutes on the schedule which felt ridiculously short - kinda like a warm-up! I took a couple miles to warm-up but then felt really good the rest of the run. Jordan had some IT band issues the last few miles so we spent a little extra time stretching and rolling her legs at water stops and took a short walking break at one point. Better now than on marathon day though, right? Hopefully with some frequent rolling these next 2 weeks she won't have any more issues with it. For the first time in a while I actually had some time before I had to be at work and could relax a bit. It was so weird being done so early!
Doesn't the background look fake?! Too good to be true : )
Tomorrow is jam packed: sorority senior brunch, Team In Training send-off party, then my sorority formal, Crescent Ball. Wow, I'm tired just typing it out!

May 16, 2010

Another 20 in the Books!

Yesterday marked another 20 miler under my belt, but at the same time it was so much more than that. For my Team In Training girls, it was their longest run ever and marked the peak of their training before the marathon in just 3 short weeks. It was inspiring to see everyone out there, overcoming their own unique challenges to finish something incredible, in honor of a cause so much bigger than themselves. And as always seems to be the case on a 20 miler, I learned a little bit about myself, too. I felt the best I ever have on a 20 mile run, and when we finished I knew I could have easily kept going. Our pacing was relatively consistent and we averaged an 11:30 pace (a tad slower than my marathon PR pace) and I actually felt like I was holding myself back a little for most of the run.

I ran with my roommate Jordan and had an amazing experience watching her persevere. It was such a great feeling to be able to focus on someone else and help them push through their struggles instead of constantly obsessing about the time, distance, or pace as we runners tend to do ; ) From the beginning, I told her this run was about her and I would do whatever she needed to do. Freed from the usual logistics and with the focus off of me I was able to enjoy all 20 miles in a very different way than in the past. And dare I say it, but 20 miles didn't seem nearly as difficult as I remembered!
Amazing friend, roommate, and running buddy : )
We started off at a shopping center 5 minutes from our house (which meant 15 more minutes of sleep!) and had our usual morning pep talk. We totally lucked out on the weather - overcast, foggy, and cool. Not so great for a beach day but perfect for running! Before we started our coaches gave us the details of the route. We would head toward then through the UCSB campus, down to Goleta Beach, then along the Obern Trail. To add on a little more mileage our coaches also included a couple short out and backs along the way. The route they mapped out was ~18 miles, so the plan was to run a minimum of 3:15 or 18 miles up to 3:45ish or 20 miles. The only problem was that since the route was short and most of the Team doesn't have GPS-enabled watches, they had no way of knowing how much they needed to add on (as a result I have my suspicions that not everyone reached 20). It would have been much easier if the route was a simple 10 mile out and back, without the added confusion of extra distance added on her or there. But I digress!

The point above only becomes more confusing when I consider what Jordan and I ended up running. The first few miles we wove through campus. It was a weird feeling to be running on the bike paths early in the morning when campus was totally deserted. The bike racks, which are normally overflowing with Santa Barbara-cool beach cruisers were almost barren. And the only things we came across were a couple ducks!
 Campbell Hall and empty bike racks.

We continued down to Goleta Beach and onto the all too familiar Obern Train. One of the first out and backs was on the Santa Maria trail that connected to the Obern Trail. I've always passed it but never knew where it lead, and I'm a little bummed that I only just found out! We were supposed to go out for no more than 10 minutes, but Jordan and I were really enjoying the new territory and wanted to see where it would lead us - plus, we preferred to add on some mileage along a new trail over having to add some on at the end. I really loved the trail, too! It was relatively flat with a couple dips under freeway overpasses and the surroundings were great - lots of trees, fields of kale and swiss chard, cute neighborhoods, and grassy parks. We ended up going out for about a mile and a half!
One of the tunnels along the Santa Maria Trail.
Smiling for now : )

Back on the Obern Trail we took Gu no. 2 just as both Jordan and I started to have stomach issues. Jordan had it pretty bad and started to struggle to maintain our pace, so I knew we needed to find a bathroom stat! We made it to the next aid station and I asked our coach where we could find one, then we made a detour out to busy Hollister Ave. where we finally found a gas station. Feeling much better we headed back to the trail and found the aid station once again. Since we added on about a mile finding the restroom, we didn't need to go all the way to the turnaround, so we just headed out for about half a mile. As we headed back toward Goleta Beach I did some figuring of our distance and determined that we would need to do yet another short out and back on the Santa Maria Trail. This was around mile 14 and Jordan was starting to slow. I could tell she was struggling as she had become very withdrawn, so I tried to break up the distance into small parts like just making it to the next water stop. We pushed on and made our way to the next aid station at Goleta Beach and had a little under 4 miles left to go. Running back through campus was really difficult since Jordan had hit her wall. She got a little emotional and was really hurting, so I just did my best to keep her moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other.
Heading into a water stop at mile 16...
I couldn't help but smile!
Again, I tried to break up the remaining distance into short, manageable stretches. We finally made it to the last water stop where we learned that we were somehow pretty far behind the rest of the Team - not sure how that happened since we were right on track with our mileage and time. Jordan just wanted to be done so we got moving. I told stories and reminded her how mental this whole thing was. I told her that I knew she would finish it, she had come so far already, but she had to dig deep. We continued on, her in focused silence, me chattering happily away. It's a true testament to our friendship that she didn't bite my chatty head off that morning! We finally got to the grad school housing which we were supposed to follow the bike path through, except I couldn't remember where the path started. Jordan pointed to one so we took it, only to discover a couple minutes later that we were on the wrong one, and the right one lay just on the other side of the fence. So what's a couple of runners to do at mile 18 of a long run in a situation like this? Hop the fence of course! This was undoubtedly the highlight of the entire run. I scaled the fence and forced encouraged Jordan to follow. At the top she froze, perched like a cat, unable to maneuver her tired and achy body over to the other side. So I made myself into a little ladder she could step down onto and helped lower her onto the right side. I seriously wish I could have a picture of us, it was priceless!

When we coming to the end of the bike path and were close to the start, I checked my watch and couldn't believe that we were still going to come up short! I didn't tell Jordan yet since I knew it would be too much to handle at that point, so when we got to the road that lead to the shopping center, I just said we had a little more and that I was going to do a loop around the marketplace, but she was free to go back and be done. She didn't want to finish alone so she decided to stay with me, and I reminded her that she had come this far and it would suck to do 19 miles when you had planned to do 20. And at that point, having run that far, one more mile would be purely mental. At each entrance to the shopping center Jordan thought we would be turning in, but we still had a little more to go. This was really tough for her, to be so close but have to keep going further. Every time she said she couldn't keep going, I reminded her that each time she had said that that morning she had indeed kept going. I reminded her to dig deep, and finally we headed into the parking lot and back toward where we started, nearly 4 hours earlier. We were still 0.1 short, so I did a loop in the parking lot til my watch beeped 20 miles : )

Unfortunately, most of the Team had left by that point, including all of my girls but one. I was a little disappointed, especially for Jordan, since this was such a huge accomplishment and part of being a team is supporting one another. Regardless, I was so proud of her! It's so different being on the other side of it now, and it made me think back to my first 20 miler ever with the Team. The morning was nothing short of amazing. Like I said, I felt surprisingly good afterward. But I had no time to rest or recover because I had to be at work in less than an hour! I will say that 4 hours on your feet after running 20 miles is not recommended as an effective recovery technique (although it certainly adds a little perk to your mood!). And so, another 20 miler in the books. Now on to marathon no. 4!!

May 14, 2010

Ready for Twenty

Once again, here I am on a Friday night attempting to catch up on the week as it comes to a close. Tuesday was track night with our workout focused on preparing us mentally. After our warm-up we did 1x800 at threshold pace, then 1x3200 at race pace, then finally another 1x800. The 3200m was supposed to help us practice our mental state for the marathon. It was horrendously windy which made for an extra resistance workout, but also made things kind of miserable! The workout was kind of dull just going in circles for so long but it went by pretty fast being surrounded by the Team. I rounded out the workout with a few easy cool-down laps to get an even 6 miles in.
Round and round we go!
You may not be able to see the wind, but we could sure feel it!

Wednesday I forced myself to do my scheduled tempo run, which I've skipped the fast few weeks for one reason or another. It was tough, I was tired and would've much rather stayed home and relaxed, but it was one of those times where I knew I had to suck it up and get out there. I know the benefits of tempo runs, and I knew I'd feel better after, so I finally headed out just as it was starting to cool off. I did my mile warm-up then 3 tempo miles at 8:36, 8:23 (my fastest tempo interval yet!), and 8:50. The first two were much faster than my last ones, and although they were challenging, I didn't feel like I was dying. The last mile included the crazy hill coming up from Goleta Beach which totally kicked my ass. I took quick breathers after each tempo mile which I think really helped me mentally and physically. The last two cool-down miles I ended up running pretty consistently and at a good pace, and even ran a sub-10 minute pace on the last one! I hope that all this is a sign of improvement...

After two long workouts in a row, I was a little pooped and wasn't really looking forward to running on Thursday. I also had dinner plans with a friend (making sushi again!) and I didn't have a lot of time to try and squeeze in a run, even though I knew needed to. In the end I managed a quick 3 miles around the west campus lagoon, but it was pretty lackluster. Maybe I was just tired,  maybe I wasn't in the mood, or maybe I just felt rushed, but it wasn't one of my better runs. Oh well, you can't win them all, and 2/3 good runs isn't too bad, right?

Tomorrow morning is the BIG 20 miler for the Team! I'm a little apprehensive since my longest run for this training cycle has been 15 miles, and that was 3 weeks ago. I know I can do it and I know I will, but I think 20 is always a little scary : ) I'm really excited to get this done though and then it's just 2 short weeks of taper before marathon #4, the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon! And I'm excited for all my girls to conquer their last long training run before their first marathon : ) Should be lots of fun! Unfortunately I have to work right after which means 4 straight hours on my feet after running 20 miles....hmmm.....should be interesting.....

May 9, 2010

SB Wine Country Half Marathon (Race Report)

First off, what an incredible race! Unquestionably one of my best yet - not so much time-wise (official time 2:21:14), but just the overall experience. Let me explain...

My alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 4:15am since we had to drive up to Solvang and the race started at 7am. Jackie and I headed out in the dark, wondering just how crazy we must be to be up that early to run : ) I was really anxious about getting there, finding parking, and catching the shuttle in time - more anxious than I was about running! Turns out my worrying was for nothing because we found prime parking a block from the shuttles and immediately were on our way to the start! When we got there we still had just over an hour to kill. The start was kind of in the middle of nowhere next to a gorgeous field that seemed to glow in the early morning sunrise. We took some pics, hit up the porta potties a couple times, and hung out in a "barn" to stay warm. I also ran into a bunch of people I know - seriously everyone was there! Soon enough it was time to go and we were off!
 Jackie & I
 I loved this tree!
 Sunrise over the meadow : )
Ready to go!
Crowd of runners waiting to start.

Within the first few miles we already encountered some rolling hills. Nothing too bad, and at least we had some downhills, too. During this first part we ran along green and yellow fields, farms with horses galloping around, ranches, and lovely houses. From the beginning I was constantly checking in with Jackie and let her dictate our pace. It was nice to focus on someone else in a race and not be so obsessed with pace and time for once. Plus I carried my camera and had SO much fun taking pics throughout the race. I ended up taking over 100 pics!
 Approaching the first big hill...
 Pretty orchards : )
So green!

Around mile 5 we hit a cute little town (Los Olivos?) with a big crowd of spectators, then it was back into the country! At mile 6 we hit the hill. You could literally see the road wind up the hill and see the runners at the top...where we would eventually be. We kept going up for almost a mile, taking short walk breaks when we needed to, but when we finally got to the top we were rewarded with amazing views of the valley below. And then when we came around to the other side of the hill, we got an even more amazing view of green orchards stretching into the distance. At this point I started smiling and didn't really stop until the end : )
 THE hill!!
All smiles despite the climb : )
It kept going and going...
 The view from the top!
 Happy to finally be headed down!
I don't know about this wagon...

The second half of the race was when I had the most fun. I was feeling really good and our pace felt easy. Considering that it used to be my "fast" pace, it seems like I might just be improving : ) I made sure I kept asking how Jackie felt, and she was feeling and looking good. These miles I also seemed to be obsessed with the scenery, especially all the trees! The majority of my pics were taken during this part of the race. I even stopped briefly to take a quick pic of a lone cow : ) At one point I mentioned to Jackie how it was funny that it was called a wine country race and yet we hadn't passed any vineyards, but I spoke to soon. As soon as we turned the next corner we were surrounded by them! There continued to be some rollers but the majority of this part was flat. I zoned out a bit to my music and tried to absorb everything around me. It was great!
The first of many tree photos - I loved them!
 Yellow wildflowers : )
 A nice guy offered to take our pic!
Spotted: a cow!
 Wine Country
 Roses : )

When we hit mile 10 I decided to make a video to celebrate! I was just in such a good mood at that point : ) I think at this point Jackie knew we were close and got excited to finish so we chatted away the next couple miles. We were literally out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by beautiful countryside : )

 Surrounded by countryside.
 So happy : )
 More trees!

We continued to enjoy ourselves and I told her when we hit mile 12 we would pick it up as much as we could to see what we had left with the justification that "we can do anything for one mile". So when we saw the 12 mile marker she turned up her music and took off! Just as we were really cruising, however, we hit some final rollers - go figure!
 I love this one! That's us!
 The road ahead...
 A lovely downhill : )
 Jackie at mile 11!
 One more to go, time to pick it up!

We pushed on and finally made the turn back into downtown Solvang and sprinted in to the finish. We collected our (hideous) medals, grabbed some water, and tried to get away from the crowd. I felt fantastic and I was so proud of Jackie for finishing her first official half! We eventually made our way to the finish festival in cute little Solvang Park. 
 We did it!
 Solvang - finish line in the background!
 At the finish line festival.
 Holding my wine glass!

We ran into my former TNT coaches at the Team tent and chatted for a bit before I went to collect my souvenir wine glass. I decided to skip the wine tasting, however, in favor of getting some food - we were both starving! After wandering around the adorable streets of Solvang we settled upon a little Dutch restaurant called the Red Viking (haha!) where I ordered the most delicious omellette of my life! My mouth waters just thinking about it : ) When we finished eating hit the road back to Santa Barbara, where I took a much needed nap and spent the rest of the day being lazy. I definitely recommend doing this race - it was a truly incredible experience on so many levels!
 Solvang is so cute! I loved this windmill : )
 Nom nom nom.

p.s. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, especially mine : ) She's my mentor, my biggest fan, my best friend, and an incredible woman. Love you!
 ♥ ♥ ♥