Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Undecided

Post trail half marathon, I've been too sore to run.  In good news, my butt has been one of those things that is sore! I hope this means that the recent butt work I have added to my routine did some good (TWSS) and that my glutes were "firing" during the trail run.  Grow, butt, grow! Sometimes that feels like the theme of my life.  I've been telling it to grow since high school.

This soreness makes me more excited about the idea of incorporating some trails into my casual runs to help balance my dominant road running muscles.  I have never, ever been one to drive to a location and then run.  I only go on runs that start out my front door, non-negotiable, I don't like losing that extra time driving.  But I may have to make an exception for this and climb a trail every other week or so.  Or move my front door to Joaquin Miller Park.

Someone asked why I decided to run a trail race, and I have yet to reply because I am sporadic about replying in the comments--I prefer to reply by email where I know my response will actually be received, but for some unknown reason only about 1/4 of the comments that I receive in my blog email inbox can be directly replied to by email.  Anyway, it was a good question so here's my answer:

I became interested in the Dirt Inspires half marathon because I saw a half-off Schwaggle for it (this is like a Groupon).  I tried to purchase it, then learned it was sold out, and couldn't get it out of my mind.  It also was timed perfectly with the Gentleman's birthday weekend, and we decided to go to Santa Cruz for the weekend to celebrate.  We went, we celebrated, and I ran Dirt Inspires.  Pretty lame reason, huh?

Memorializing our time in our totally average Santa Cruz hotel room 

I had previously run a sorta-trail race, the Tilden Tough Ten (via a complimentary bib), which was significantly more tame--wide dusty trails, exposed hills/no trees and roots, and a lot of paved road mixed in (for a comparison of the difficulty, I ran near a 7:00 average pace for that "trail race" vs. over 8:40 pace for the Dirt Inspires).  TTT was extremely fun and had a vastly different vibe than road races (it's very "team" like), which I guess also piqued my interest in running trails.

*****

Well, originally I was going to make a brief commentary on the blissful fact that the Nuun running-blog takeover came and went very gracefully.  Not a ton of build up, most of the participants laid low on the topic for the months and weeks leading up to it, restraining their urges to share how lucky they are and how excited they (rightfully) were.

Coincidence perhaps, or maybe the Nuun "teammates" gathered virtually on the Internet in their private forum and discussed how to tame the excitement so as not to annoy readers or lead to overdose backlash.  Probably a wise discussion.  I'm sure that some readers enjoy reading the overlapping play by plays from each blog, the daily countdown, love hearing about women stuffed in vans.  But on the whole, wise to not overdo it on the posts, especially since there were...36 participants? 48? That's a lot of blog posts.

This thought that I was going to write is still true; these Nuuners kept it manageable and cool, at least the half-dozen or so in my reading rotation.  It made the existence of the event tolerable and I am glad that everyone seemed to have had a great time.

However, I noticed something else, now that Hood to Coast is over.  A sadder trend.  I think every Hood to Coast Nuun recap that I read started out with an apologetic tone.  Everyone is so preemptively sensitive to reader reaction today!

(Oh dang, my iPad just autocorrected the word "Nuun".  It knows the word.  This brand grew fast.)

I can't decide if I appreciate the "apologizing" that is happening because it means bloggers listen when readers voice annoyance about certain things they read on blogs, or if the pandering to the small whiny few (I know, I am one of the whiny few) is in itself annoying and unnecessary. 

Aside from just the Nuun recaps, I notice more and more bloggers are apologizing for writing about something that they suspect could get them some flack.  I would like to try and not to do this. I will listen to feedback given to me, but I don't want to write (or not write) something based on fear of reception. No more premature apologies from me.  If/when I piss someone off, then I can decide whether an apology is warranted.

*****

I have an important decision to make.  I could use your advice.

I am signed up for CIM, a marathon taking place on December 2.  I haven't started "training" or working extra hard, which is really unwise considering I am on the hunt for a 5 minute and 9 second PR.  Truth be told, if things don't pick up for me in September, I'll probably have to re-evaluate that goal.

I have the opportunity to run another marathon for free before CIM, because a friend is offering me her bib.  The St. George Marathon in early October.

St. George would not be a PR race for me, because it is at elevation, and the downhills will surely make my quads fall off pretty early on.  So I wouldn't treat it like a "goal" marathon, with a 3 week taper and all that goodness.  I would probably take one or two days off beforehand and then just run it for the experience, without any goal.

My Pros:
  • A free marathon that I have never run before!
  • I love Utah, and this is very close to Zion--day trip?!
  • This could be a great training run before CIM, for endurance, for downhill running, for fueling practice, and for pacing practice!
  • Spontaneity can be very rewarding.

My Cons:
  • Travel costs--airplane and hotel room.
  • If I run it too hard, the recovery time could take me out of my training for CIM for 1-2 weeks
  • The elevation might really make me miserable
  • I wouldn't really want to go to Zion by myself (the Gentleman is in busy season for tax, so wouldn't be joining)
  • It could burn me out and make me less excited/energetic for CIM (keep in mind I usually only run 1 marathon per year, but I usually run it all out). 

No advice please if you are indifferent or your attitude about everything in life is "just go for it!!!!!"  I want some serious logic here, friends!  I'm talking Vulcan advice.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dirt Inspires Trail Half Marathon

Oh, trails! Trails.  What can I say about my first true trail race?  I can say that for me, trails will probably remain for hiking.  Maybe I will run another trail race someday, but  I definitely didn't catch the bug today.

When I say this was a "true trail race", I mean it involved 2400+ feet elevation gain, four creek crossings (wet shoes suck!), miles of skinny single track trails where I almost fell down a cliff to my death, and a required BYOW--bring your own water.  I missed that memo.  Which played a big part in making this trail half significantly harder for me and my body that it needed to be.

The steep climbs were actually nowhere near as terrifying as the steep descents

I showed up to run the Dirt Inspires women's half marathon in Nisene Marks State Park.  It is a beautiful park just next to Santa Cruz, with miles and miles of hiking.  Or running if you're crazy.

We went hiking in Nisene Marks State Park the day prior, which I knew wouldn't lead to fresh legs, but wasn't concerned

Poison Oak everywhere.  Poison.  Poison.  Poison


This tree was called the Advocate Tree, because Vagina Tree was too obvious

I showed up and my game face was not on because A) I was frankly afraid of the 2400+ ft climb and B) I had to wait around for an hour.  The race was delayed due to some parking issue, and I had shown up 30 minutes early to register.  By the time the race started, the caffeine had worn off and I was ready to go back to bed.


The Gentleman asked me for an action shot, so I lifted my leg.  

For shoes, I went with my Mizuno Wave Riders 15, a pair I occasionally wear, won them in a race last November, no strong feelings for them.  I thought my "meh" attitude towards them was good (knowing they would get a good beating), and hoped the tougher design of the shoe bottom would be able to handle the slippery dirt and twigs and general death traps that were awaiting me.

They worked fine enough, except I partially blame them on my quads seizing up at mile 3 due to squeezing my legs to brake on the downhills and sharp switchbacks.  Without the traction of a trail shoe to keep me from tumbling down the hills doing somersaults (I was...running too fast), I was tensing up my legs.  Quads frozen, I stopped and gave them a good stretch by a tree.  Some guy out for a run was like "get your shit together and run" and I was like "wah wah wah, I suck at trails!" but went on.  By slowing down significantly, my quads seemed to slowly release themselves.  Felt okay by mile 6.  They will be sore tomorrow.

So that happened. Other highlights include:

1) taking many-a-wrong turn.  I didn't realize til halfway through that there were bright pink ribbons tied to plants to direct us where to turn.  Just give me a break ok, I usually zone out when I'm running;

2) failing at walking on rocks while crossing streams.  Other girls made it seem so easy, and I swear a couple volunteers were heckling me -- "just run through the water already, you're getting your feet wet anyway" -- to which I responded, "I don't want to fall and get all of me wet," which was perfectly valid and very like to happen.  My balance skills are not impressive;

3) Cramping up like never before out of thirst.  I learned before the race started that there would be "water refill stations" but no cups, no bottles.  We were supposed to run with our own water.  Everywhere I looked, everyone had either a hand-held or those little pods of water that you wear like a fanny-pack.  I don't own either of these.

I considered running with a regular bottle of water, but decided it was too big, had a terrible grip, and would probably make me do something crazy like extra somersaults down the hill since I'm not used to the counter-balance of holding anything while running.

So while waiting around for the race to start I saw trail runner champion Caitlin Smith, who in her resume has qualified for the Olympic marathon trials (with a 2:41 marathon), won the Nike Women's marathon, and won the Northface Endurance Challenge, and basically wins every. single. trail run, from 13.1 miles to 62 miles, that she enters.  And sets all sorts of course records.

Caitlin didn't have a handheld.  Before the race started, I said, "I noticed you aren't carrying water.  What's your plan?"  And she said, "I don't need any water."  So I thought, I'll survive.  Caitlin Smith doesn't need any water, I don't need any water.

Caitlin Smith in the front in the bikini.  Whatever you call it.  I'm behind her in the blank tank.

I did survive, so I guess I didn't need any.  But, Caitlin Smith is a little bit more of a major elite badass than I am and has a camel stomach that hoards water for hibernation or trail running.

The problems arose when I stuffed some food (gatorade chews, dried cherries) down at mile 10. The food mixed with NO water led to these crazy stabbing cramps under both sides of my ribs.  Miles 10-13 were misery.  Yuck.

In case you're wondering, I did consider cupping my hands under the fill station kegs (whatever they're called) but my hands were very dirty (climbing up roots and rocks) and I suspected they may have had poison oak on them, so I chose not to.

4) My Garmin didn't work half the time.  I figured that would happen in the hills, so it goes without saying I paid no mind to pace or what mile I was at.

Not sure of the results, I do know Caitlin Smith won, a source (the Gentleman) said she finished in 1:35, and I counted five women ahead of me to put me in 6th place overall.

I was in second place until my quads seized during the third mile, at which point I had to tell a very encouraging woman behind me on a single track trail ("You're still good, keep going, I'll be right behind you, we'll push it together!") that my legs were broken and she should really pass me.  The quad issue put me in fourth place for the middle chunk of the run, and once the thirsty cramps started near mile 10 I slowed down into 6th place.   Someone was adamant that I finished in 4th place, but unless women dropped out, that doesn't seem right.  I saw 1:55:xx on the clock when I ran in.  My Garmin was way stupid and said 1:44 for 12.3 miles.


The first and last mile was on a paved road

I had been wearing arm warmers, and I rolled them down and treated them like a sweat band.  (And a snot band).  I wore the compression socks because I am afraid of poison oak.

Put a fork in me

From what my watch did capture, my splits were in the 7:00 minute zone for the first three miles, then between 9:00 and 11:00 minutes for the middle 7 miles, and then back to the 7:00 and low 8:00 pace range for the last miles.  Average pace of 8:33 for the 12 miles that my Garmin caught.  I think the official pace for a 1:55 half-marathon is closer to 8:50.
        
5) I seriously almost killed myself 50 times.  I had NO BRAKES and was flying down some booby-trapped steep trails (boobied by tree roots and the like).  Thrilling indeed, but I think if there is a next time for me and trail running, I need some great traction shoes and probably need to go slower downhill.

6) This one is the most important thing.  This is the GOOD part.

Even though I started this post by saying how my lesson learned is that I love trails, but love them for hiking and not for running, know this: there were moments, out there in the middle of fern gully, with nothing in earshot but the sound of my feet and breath and some birds having a party, where the narrow trail gifted me a stretch of path that was as close to flat and root-free as a trail will ever be, and I felt like I was riding a horse.  I was just gliding through the wilderness.  It was beautiful everywhere I looked and the shaded woods whipped by like a dream and I felt in that moment like I really was born to run.

Then my pulse spiked as I almost tumbled down a cliff, and I tottered down some rocks and roots and went on my clunky way.

Trails, guys: yay or nay?  Hiking or running?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Well color me surprised, I didn’t intend for the last post to be a mildly stir-the-pot post. I only wanted to give a little encouragement to a small emergent group of male running bloggers in our community!

I listened and interpreted that the post came across to some as:

a) anti-feminist,
b) braggy,
c) validation seeking, and
d) not universally supportive of all women bloggers. 

I don’t support all women bloggers, so you got “d” right.  Some are terrible role models.  The end.  No one should set an example that it is appropriate to eat only a light salad after 26+ miles. 

As for "a", "b", and "c", let’s do some damage control. 

I understand that those are viable angles to interpret a post about “loovvvving that men read my blog, omg, I just love men!”, but I meant only what I said: that I am glad men (albeit few, still very few) are reading, because men are a part of the running community, and because luckily for them, blogs about running that are written by women no longer have to be associated with diets and vanity.   It is still vastly women who read and write running blogs, which is why I took note when a few new readers and e-mailers here were men.  Took note, then wrote an annoying post about it.  My bad, but it is what it is and I yam what I yam.  I yam a blog writer who notices who is reading her blog.

I appreciate every single person who reads and comments, regardless of your chromosomes.  I don’t arbitrarily appreciate a comment by a man more than a comment by woman; I base my enjoyment of comments solely on how attractive the commenter is, obviously.  Not arbitrary at all.  We good?

In the future, I will probably accidentally still call women “girls”, or men “boys”, which isn’t all that worrisome or offensive in the grand scheme of things, it is slang, and we all know who has a penis and who has a vagina (usually we know at least).
   
As for being braggy…I get the vibe sometimes that posting photos of myself comes across as an act of gross self-love.  This really is reading into it too much…I post photos of myself or other random things to support the post that I write.  I spend milliseconds searching and then posting the photo.   I let photos do the talking.  Some interpret that talking as “look at me, I love me!”  Alas, I’m not that lazy.  If I wanted to say that, I would say that.  The pictures are just blog support.  My writing isn’t strong enough to be pictureless.  Also, I love me.  Say it with me everybody! “I LOVE ME”!  Channel your inner Stuart Smalley.

But seriously, I am really pleased that even those of you who I consider my "closer" blog friends are willing to call me out in the comments, so keep it up.  You can only learn how to not be an asshole, by first being told you are acting like an asshole...

Now LETS HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS!

Colorful Girls!


I don't know what to say about girls at the moment, so I'll show you some cool fingernails.  Not all girls care about nails, myself included.  But this stuff is just awesome in a “look what the internet found!” kind of way.

   



















Lots, lots, lots more, here.

*****

I haven’t done this in a while, so let’s roll out the wheel and take a look at what I’ve been running these past dozen days!

Sunday: half marathon
Monday: 0
Tuesday: 11
Wednesday: 12 miles a.m., 6 miles p.m.
Thursday: 13
Friday: 12
Saturday: 9
Sunday: 20
Monday: 0
Tuesday: 13 a.m., 6 p.m.
Wednesday: 12

Double days are pretty new and unusual for me, but when I have the time after work I enjoy it.  I've kind of been avoiding the track--I hope to get back into it sometime next week.  So all of the above--aside from the awesome 20 miler on Sunday--were mild, easier runs.

I also hope to start waking up a little earlier to bump some of those 11-13 mile pre-work runs into 15-18 miles runs.  Building mileage helps me with endurance, which helps with marathons, or so I think.

Last, thanks to many of you for the tips on discounted running clothes yesterday, my goal is now: 5 running shorts for under $100.  Can it be done!?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Let's Hear it for the Boys

One thing that I really love is that guys read this blog.  Men.  Boys.  Dudes.  I'll stick with the original--guys.

My law school dudes

I am....oh no....the one in the bright pink in the middle-ground.  Surrounded by men.  

Running with dudes

Freezing cold with dudes

Dancing with Wolves.  I mean, Running with Guys

One reason is because I feel it is some sort of validation that this woman's running blog doesn't fall into the same category as women's running blogs that regularly entertain topics like vanity, fashion, weight loss, how to be skinny by eating a pickle salad, how to look cute while running, how to maximize the number of running apparel items that can have sparkles on them, running skirts, "running for chocolate and champagne", blah blah blah.

Shut up, put on a cotton Hanes t-shirt, eat a burger, and run.  Veggie-burgers count.

Men obviously can use running for weight loss or weight control as well, and perhaps sometimes men care about fashion or good-looking running gear, so I don't mean that these aspects of women's running blogs are a strictly female stereotype.

But I do stereotype women as having more emotional red flags relating to food, appearance, weight, and their running, which makes for unhealthy, not-fun, bad role-model running/health blogs (at least when the author is in denial or not seeking help).  No matter how you cut it, taking 6 pictures of your food for every unremarkable meal is disordered.  You have a camera-compulsion disorder, or an eating disorder.   Okay, OR, food photography is your passion.  I guess some healthy version of that could exist.

See, when I first found "running blogs", all of them were written by women, and they were all primarily a "healthy diary" blog.  They posted about their running, their yoga, and took a lot of pictures of their food.  I think I found Eat, Live, Run first.  No disrespect at all, but I don't read that blog anymore (it is a recipe blog these days and I don't cook), nor do I read any of the healthy-running-food-diary blogs that I had started with.

Point is, when I did, I don't recall seeing any men comment, and so I assume men don't read exercise-running-green-smoothie-diet-diary-girl blogs.  

And the more that men read my blog, the more I feel a comforting buffer between this blog and the I'm-a-girl-look-at-my-lunch-and-my-sweaty-smile blog.

(Just to cover my butt from hurting anyone's feelings, I do enjoy a lot of blogs that include pictures of food amongst other (much more) interesting content.  It's called scrolling.  Scroll on past the food pictures).

Another reason I love that guys read this blog is because...I don't know how to explain this...but it makes me feel more a part of a real running community.  When I show up at races, there are men everywhere.  Men are clearly dedicated runners, just as much as women.  In fact, in not so ancient history, men were 100% of the people running at races.  So it feels more balanced to see that some of them are also excited enough about the sport to be a blog writer/reader on the subject too.



Dude, dude, dude, me.


Anyway, I was thinking about this today, because I received the best email ever from a relatively new reader.  He is a guy.  He occasionally asks ME for advice, and somehow, a guy asking ME for running advice just makes me smile (despite the fact that I am a pretty bad person to ask for valuable running advice--see my last post about how I don't really follow any rules....)

--A couple other running things--

Due to a tragedy at the laundromat over the weekend, in which a dryer machine like, burned all of my clothes into a barbie-sized crisp, I need to go on a shopping spree.  All my running clothes now smell like charred cloth and don't fit.  I hate spending money on running clothes.  That crap is not cheap.  This would be a good time for one of those companies that I loathe for feasting off bloggers at the utter boredom of blog readers to hook me up with some free running shorts.  Desperate times call for desperate measures...

I'm still planning to run a trail half marathon this approaching Sunday, but.....I don't have trail shoes.  How big of a mistake is this?  I'm considering wearing my trail hiking shoes -- these innov8 shoes.

Run in these -- yay or nay?

 I will be stoked if I come in under 1:45, these trails look like no joke.

Anyway, thank you, boys, for reading!  I really mean it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Running Rule

One running rule that I subscribe to, which you may already know if you've been here a while, is that I do not, cannot, will not, follow a training schedule.

I would never calendar "tuesdays are tempo day, thursday is track, saturday is long run, Sunday is off..." etc. etc.

I am often thoroughly mystified that this kind of planning works for some runners.  That some runners bodies are so adaptable to any type of run that they can bounce out of bed and go for the run that the calendar says is on tap.

I know that many people who follow a training plan do allow for some flexibility, and will move their long run over a day if something comes up.  But that is still a plan--only now, the plan is that you will run long on that next day.

Here's what works for me, and I mean, it works.

Work it

I wake up and head out for a run, not sure at all what the run will have in store.  Warm up for 1-3 miles at a slow pace.  Do I feel good? Ok, I'll run a little longer, or harder, or hit the track today.  Do I feel crappy?  Slow pace, I'm allowed to stop whenever I want.  Do I feel great? Today is HARD day! Track sprints, or a long hard 20+ miler!

This is the ONLY way I can be a runner.  The only way.  Mentally, it works for me, and physically, my body is such an unpredictable mystery that there are days I wake up and a 9:00 minute pace is all I can muster, for unknown reasons.  And then the next day a 6:30 pace feels fantastic.  How crazy would it be if I stuck with a schedule that had me doing a tempo on the crappy-feeling day, and a recovery run on the day I felt great?

For instance--let's look at this weekend.

After a half-marathon last weekend, and several weeks before that lacking any challenging runs due to general fatigue and a couple problems with my left leg, I really wanted to wake up on Saturday and just kill it.  Go for a LONG run, 20+ miles, push it hard, and officially get excited that the CIM marathon will be here before I know it (I know it is redundant to write "CIM marathon", but I cannot help it...).

Instead, I had a rough Saturday morning.  I blame some apartment neighbors.  No need to rant about them any more here.

I tried to recover from my cranky mood and get Saturday going in the right direction.  I loaded up my ipod with some great dorky podcasts.  I otherwise prepared for a 2.5-to-3 hour run by smearing on the sunscreen and stashing some dried cherries in my shorts.

One slow lap around the lake.  4.5 miles (yes for you locals, I have figured out a way to make the 3.4 mile Lake Merritt a 4.5 or even 5.0 mile lap.  It involves doubling up on certain paths that are parallel to each other, but no retraced steps).   I was really mentally struggling with the desire to continue to running for another 2 hours.  It was already noon, and the idea of not getting home 'til 2:00 was bothering me.  My body (left leg alert) felt terrible.  I stopped to walk, stopped to stretch, and stopped to walk some more, and came home with 9 ugly miles.  I scarfed the dried cherries out of disappointment.

Well that blew, I thought.  This December marathon better stay far away and not arrive too soon, because I'm not ready.  With a day like this, confidence blown, I'm just not ready.  I refuse to run a marathon "for fun."  Waking up in an uncomfortable hotel at 5:30 a.m. after paying $100+ for a bib is not what I do "for fun."  It is what I do when I am ready for a challenge and to prove something.

But then, quickly, I realized that this was just a lame day for a hard or long run.  It just wasn't the right day for it.  It was a slower, easier day, the end.  I knew I would feel good soon enough and devour a run where I felt "on".

I woke up on Sunday.  My neighbors still sucked assholes.  But I was in a cheerful mood, and I could feel it -- today was going to be a better run day.

And oh, it was.

20.08 miles in 2:23:50 -- a 7:09 average pace!

I've run a faster 20 miles before on a treadmill, but never a 20-miler this fast outside.  This is not even close to my normal 20 mile pace.  

The splits just got better and better.  (check out the warm-up mile compared to the rest....I respect the warm up mile).

Miles 1-5:       7:58; 7:05; 7:03; 6:56; 7:08
Miles 6-10:     7:12; 7:14; 7:04; 7:01; 7:08
Miles 11-15:   7:12; 7:10; 7:19; 7:07; 7:10
Miles 16-20:   7:10; 7:05; 7:08; 6:54; 6:58
(and 0.8 in 0:37).

It was easy for a long time, I felt fan-freaking-tastic, until of course it wasn't.  I would have happily stopped at mile 15.  But I wasn't going to lose an opportunity to finish up a solid 20 miler.

Not included in the overall time is a couple water fountain stops and a couple breaks to stretch out my hips and calves.  If you think it is "cheating" not to count water breaks in my run time, lighten up and don't worry because I'm not worrying.  I will throw water all over my face and choke in order to drink but not break stride while racing; I will take a solid stop for water while running for fun.  Simple, no big problem, different turf different rules.


Last weekend, racing.  This weekend, not racing.  No rules. (Yup, carrying my bib by hand)


I ate a small plastic baggie worth of dried cherries during the 13th mile.  I waived hello to Richard the odd and possibly homeless runner four times.

So in sum. I cannot force a good workout.  I have to wait and let it find me when I'm ready.

This is what works for me.  Listening to advice in Runners World, in books, in blogs, not so much.  This isn't advice.  Do what works for you. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Today's Lesson

I finally picked up my Newton running shoes that were a prize for placing 2nd overall for the See Jane Run half marathon in June.

Sparkling brand new

Notice the weird nubbins in the front.  Not an official term.

One more view

I've heard a lot about the Newtons in the past year.  I know of at least 3 running friends who love them, and I've inquired as to why.  I've read articles.  But I was never much interested, because I am not a heel-striker (or so I have been told) and therefore figured I didn't need an unusual shoe to fix my stride.

I also wanted to restrain from paying $150 for shoes that look ridiculously (or....hideously) bright and have a seemingly illogical design.  Similar to the barefoot running/minimalist shoe trend, I don't want to relearn how to run or go through some adjustment period where I run only 3 miles max in those shoes at once (and what, return home after 3 miles, switch shoes, and keep going? Girl, Interrupted.  I always wanted to have a reason to say that).

This is so cliche.  Can you see it coming?  Blog writer begins post with skepticism about a certain product; blog writer then explains how they tried the product out anyway; blog writer then announces that they now LOVE the product!

Cliche, be gone.  I'm not exactly there yet.  Not in LOVE, that is.  Here's what I've noticed so far.

They are really hideous.  I don't know when it became the trend for runners to be so bright and loud and LOOK AT MY NEON.  I like wearing a bright top to race in so that persons (the Gentleman) can spot me from afar.  But shoes....I'd rather not be pegged as a running geek because of my neon shoes.  I wish all running shoes were made in a black or grey.  I just want simple.  These Newtons scream "I am a marathon maniac, I've been running for 63 years, I have a lot of running gear, and I run one ultra-marathon per week."  They say, "I take running seriously, I am not a recreational runner who wears Nike's".  Not that there's anything wrong with taking running seriously.  But I still consider myself a hobby runner who isn't attached to any specific running gear one way or the other.

I cannot get all scientific (aka helpful) about reviewing the functionality of these shoes like Shelby the extraordinaire whose job was running shoe expert, because I know jack about shoes.  But in terms of functionality, I can tell you two things.

First, I noticed they forced my stride to shorten.  I probably need this.  Even though it may make for cool running pictures, my stride is a little too long, and I never hit 180 strides/minute--which is supposedly optimal--even when sprinting.  I am usually at 165-170 strides/minute.  A shorter stride should help me increase my speed, and maybe avoid injury.  I dunno.  I'm just talking here.


Stride = too long.  Newtons, help me out


same-sies

Second, I noticed the shoes gave me a little propulsion while running an incline.  A little boost when running up hills.  I think this is due to the miniature rockets that were engineered into the heel.  I think there is low-level atom splitting that causes a spurt of energy with each step.  You can attain this same atomic propulsion effect by farting with each step.  I dunno.  Can anybody tell me what I'm talking about?

Newtons: get them if you like ugly feet and believe anything I just said.  I'll give you an update on how they work for longer runs or faster runs (I've run a total 8 miles in them.  hold the phone).

******

One of the BEST things about racing (not hyperbole) is that you earn a feeling of accomplishment in your day by 8:30 a.m., and then you have the WHOLE day ahead of you to do fun things, which often do and should involve eating and drinking all sorts of delicious items.

The Gentleman and I decided to take advantage of our full day ahead in Healdsburg's beautiful wine country by....you guessed it....going to a brewery.  I won enough wine that I was now far more interested in getting my hands on some good beer.  Nothing like drinking a lot of beer on a sweltering day after running a half marathon and realizing tipsily that you cannot feel your legs.  'Tis better than feeling your legs and noticing they are sore.

So off to the Russian River Brewing Company we went, where upon arrival at 11:00 a.m., we found an obscenely long line of people who were there before the 11:00 a.m. opening to snatch up bottles of a brand new limited release, the Toronado 25th anniversary beer.  We were thankfully sat within a half hour (it's a big place) and everyone narrowly avoided me turning into the Hungry Hulk (this of course is what happens when I'm REALLY hungry).  We followed the crowd and ordered 2 bottled pints of the Toronado beer.

I always forget to bring a hairbrush while traveling...

Shelby: just like my failures in describing the Newtons, I could really use your help here too in reviewing this beer.  People, just go read her blog instead.  She can do everything I can't!

Let me set the mood for reading a review of beer from my limited beer vocabulary....I start by inviting you to forget everything you ever learned about words, and thesauruses, and professional critics, and your own personal taste, and know this: the Toronado tasted damn good.  It had an aftertaste of wine, because they throw that shit in used wine barrels to ripen up.  It wasn't absurdly hoppy, which to me is a plus, because I'm not a hop snob.  I will always pick the darkest stout over an IPA.  Hops be gone, coffee-flavored beer appear!

My drinking pardner

Lest you think all I did was sip on the toronado, I will prove you wrong.

We got a flight of tasters of all 22 Russian River beers that were on tap.  Best decision.  It was so much fun.  I hated about four of them (too much hops, which to me tastes perfumey like flowers) and loved the other 18.


Our flight, some already drunken...

So much to do, including, drinking 20 more shots of beer


I tried to calm the buzz down by eating exactly half of this pizza with the Gentleman (we shared both flavors, one was a vegetable bonanza and the other was jalapenos, corn, sausage, yum).



It didn't work.  But don't you worry, we ran around a Borders bookstore and annoyed the shit out of everyone who was pretending Borders was a library where you can read everything for free, until I was ready to drive us home.

And that concludes today's lesson on how not to review some running shoes and some beer. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Water to Wine Half Marathon 2012 Recap

On this day in history, I ran the Water to Wine half marathon in Healdsburg, CA.  There was water, there was wine, and I didn't really drink any of it.

I finally got my first WIN (for women) after too many races than I can count of placing Second.  Eternally second place.  Silver is more my style than gold anyway.  Actually that's not true, I don't wear silver or gold.  My style is whatever that cheap stuff at Forever 21 is.

Winning was really nice.  Truthfully, I won because fast Bay-Area girls just didn't show-up, but I guess I will always be able to say that no matter how fast I get since there will always be someone faster. 

I ran hard, my left leg issues were present and painful and became an undramatically big-fucking-problem for most of the race, but I just sliced through the fog and the "rolling hills net downhill course" with a bathroom break and a calf stretching break for 13.29 miles at 1:29:47.

Despite the number of things that went wrong (body pain, bathroom breaks, I....forgot to put my BIB on) the race felt perfect once it was over.  It was nice to be the lead women by a big enough lead that I didn't have to focus on not being passed.  Instead I focused on the beautiful scenery and the never-ending hills. 

Picture this: a course is touted as "net downhill," so you show up thinking that this course must be a piece of cake, super easy, and despite some body ailments, you should be fine.  But halfway through the race, it becomes undeniably clear, that "net downhill" means you climb a mild-to-medium hill for a half mile, and then slam down a 200 meter short downhill.....then climb for a half mile, then slam down a brief and steep downhill.  I guess I'm not in hill shape, because man I really felt those hills.  All of them.  By the time I hit a steeper hill around mile 10, I might as well have been walking based on how little power I felt I had left.

With those pre-thoughts aside, here are the details.

Place: 1st of 522 women
           15th of 787 overall

Time: 1:29:47  
Pace:  6:51 official
           6:45 Garmin (for 13.29 miles).

I didn't sleep more than an hour or two, which is the norm for me in an unfamiliar place.  I woke up shortly after 5:30 with my FIVE awesome roommates: Beth and her boyfriend, Jessica and her boyfriend, and the Gentleman.  We all shared one bed.  Kidding.  There were 3 beds.  We did it right by rooming together at a Super 8, spending about $1000 less per person than most people staying up in fancy-schmancy Healdsburg.

Good morning iPhone (not mine)


Good morning purple heart socks (NOTICE who remembered to put their bib on at 6:15 a.m. and who did not).

The race started at 7:00, with a nice cool temperature and dreamy fog throughout the vineyards.  Jessica and I lined up behind maybe 6 rows of people, and I caught my groove with my slowest first mile in a long time (especially given the first mile was one of the few that was much more downhill than up).

Mile 1: 6:33
Mile 2: 6:28
Mile 3: 6:32

I saw the Gentleman at Mile 3.  Hi best friend!


Swinging around the curve


Already lonely at mile 3

I ate a lot of Mexican food and frozen yogurt the night before, and a normal amount of food before the race (banana, cherry juice, Gu...), and was really struggling with drinking or eating during the race while feeling so....saturated.  I could work on getting that balance of not eating too much the night before so I have a little room to fuel during the race.  I took I think two baby sips of water during the race, and I slowwwwlllly snacked on a Gu (it took me 2 miles to eat half of it, no joke, before I tossed it) around mile 9.

I put the headphones on at mile 4 and rocked out in the fog by myself.  I looked behind me at some point to see if I really was in no-mans land, and saw 3 guys about 40 seconds behind me.  They stayed there for a long time.

Mile 4: 6:34
Mile 5: 6:45
Mile 6: 6:50

As my paces slowed but my effort remained the same, I came to terms with the fact that this race was not the easy "net downhill" I had guessed it would be, and that I was indeed not in racing shape.  Forge ahead.

Somewhere around mile 5, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to put my bib on.  !!!  Thank goodness, I did put my timing chip on my shoe, but the bib was forgotten, and I felt so bad that the race photographers/spectators/volunteers all probably thought I was a bandit.  I ran nervously, hoping to see the Gentleman soon so I could frantically ask him to please get it out of the car and hand it to me before the finish.  I saw him at mile 7.5.

"HONEY, I forgot my bib!? Can you get my bib!?"

These boobs are why I will never win an Olympic gold medal

Thanks for the girl support, you cute kid!

I had to go to the bathroom from the very first steps of the race (something I didn't know until I started running....) and finally caved in when I saw a bathroom somewhere between miles 7.5-8.5.  I think I lost about 30 seconds? I'm pretty impressed with that speed, if I do say so myself.

Mile 7: 6:48
Mile 8: 6:49
Mile 9: 6:40

But, boo-hoo, upon my bathroom exit I saw that the 3 men who had been trailing me for the first 8 miles were now about 15 seconds ahead of me.  I gained my spot with two of them, and ran with them for most of the remainder of the race, but all 3 finished ahead of me.  They were very nice and congratulatory after the race.

I was experiencing some serious buttcrease pain, which was also causing the leg-lock I felt during last year's CIM, some knee and calf twinges in that same left leg.  I stopped during mile 11 to stretch my calf out for about 15 seconds, which was super necessary.  It was about to full-on cramp on me and take me out of the race for good.

I was also dealing with an absence of power in my legs for all the hills that just kept coming and coming, without the forgiveness of equally long downhills.  Slower miles, commence.

Mile 10: 6:57
Mile 11: 7:04
Mile 12: 7:08

I finally picked up a little speed for the homestretch which was easy to do since the hills finally freaking stopped, grabbed my bib from the Gentleman just before mile 13, and learned (for the first time during the race!) from the Gentleman that there were no women in front of me. 

Me:  "how many women are in front of me?"
Him: "none.  Now go win!"
Me: run.

Mile 13: 6:32
Mile 0.29: 1:52 (6:26 pace)

I was asked by a race director to pose with my winnings (for overall woman and age group = one huge bottle of wine and one regular bottle).  While her camera ended up not working, it turned into a photo shoot anyway for the rest of us purple heart sock girls.

Surrounded by roses, so appropriate...

Get it? Get it?  Suck it Ryan Lochte.


Beth, me, Jessica, Sesa

Jessica really going for the Angelina leg pose

So listen up, here's the deal.

I'm not even close to ready to running a sub-3 hour marathon right now.  Not even close.  A month ago, I thought my buttcrease/leg-lock issue was fading, I was feeling improvements at the track, I was feeling like it was totally manageable to be in sub-3 shape by December 2 or whatever day CIM is.

Right now, I have some serious glute strengthening, hamstring stretching, and general recuperation of my left leg to deal with before there is any chance I will even PR (sub 3:05).  I also need to hit the hills, hard, since last year at CIM the hills trashed my quads.  I need to build up my lactate threshold with tempo runs.  They work. 

I recognize that this was yet again a long course (my watch was on the dot through mile 8, then fell off particularly at mile 13 and the 0.1) and that it was on the tougher side in terms of rolling hills.  But I still feel like if I was approaching sub-3:00 marathon shape, this should have been an easy 1:26-1:27 race finish for me. 

I'll save the post-race fun for another post, since this is more of my face than I know you want to see already.  I'm gonna go do some donkey kicks and bridges until this glute learns a little respect for the rest of my body.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Crazy

As the Olympics nears the end and I reflect on the exciting two weeks, my greatest discovery is that I spent far, far more time than anyone should have to, watching women's beach volleyball and yelling at the TV, "show track NOW, not at 11:00 p.m.!"

I never want to hear the names Misty May-Treanor or Kerry Walsh-Jennings for the rest of my life, nor do I want to see their cute bodacious bikini bods.  Sorry to those two champions, but NBC has forever tainted the sport for me with total annoyance.  They aired it to infinity.  I'm kind of not kidding when I ask, is one of them screwing the NBC Olympics scheduling director?

Also as the Olympics close, I thought you should know these important facts of the craziest running events in Olympic history, that I plucked from Mental Floss (one of my very favorite magazines).  You can read the full text here.

1) 1904 Olympics Marathon, St. Louis 




The1904 marathon was one of the most bizarre Olympic events ever staged. The organizers knew almost nothing about staging a race. It was run in afternoon heat that reached 90 degrees. It was run over dusty roads made dustier by automobiles that were permitted to drive alongside the athletes. To top it off, there was only one usable water station: a well at the 12-mile mark.

No one noticed that American Fred Lorz hitched a ride at mile 12. Not until he was being awarded his medal by Alice Roosevelt did he confess that it was all a practical joke.

Winner Thomas Hicks (pictured) wasn’t entirely legitimate either, as he was given preferential treatment by his handlers who bathed him head to toe in warm water and administered a concoction of eggs, brandy, and strychnine when he insisted on quitting at mile 19.  (what is strychnine? I want some at mile 19 of a marathon)

Perhaps the most colorful participant in the race was a Cuban mail carrier with no race experience. Felix Carvajal de Soto hitchhiked his way up the Mississippi River from his initial port of entry in New Orleans. The race was delayed because his long trousers and street shoes were deemed unsuitable for running. Carvajal stopped regularly to chat with bystanders about the progress of the race and practice his English, raided an apple orchard (which caused him to cramp up and lie on the side of the road for a few minutes) and playfully stole some peaches from race officials.

Amazingly, Carvajal finished fourth.

2) 1900 Olympics Marathon, Paris.




The 1900 marathon involved a confusing, poorly marked course that went straight through the streets of Paris. Many runners took wrong turns and in some place, the course overlapped with the commutes of automobiles, animals, bicycles, pedestrians, and runners joining in for fun.

Amid the course confusion, fifth-place finisher Arthur Newton claimed that he had finished first because he never saw anyone pass him. 

Even worse, the race was run started at 2:30 in the afternoon and was held in July heat that reached 102 degrees. The local favorite, Georges Touquet-Daunis, ducked into a café to escape the heat, had a couple beers, and decided it was too hot to continue.

3) 1924 Olympics Cross-Country, Paris



At the 1924 Paris Olympics, the cross-country course included an unfairly difficult obstacle—an energy plant giving off poisonous fumes. 

The winner, nine-time gold medalist Paavo Nurmi, got by unscathed, but nearly everyone else staggered onto the track dizzy and disoriented. On the roads, the carnage was significantly worse, as runners were vomiting and overcome by sunstroke. The Red Cross took hours searching for all the runners on the side of the road.

*****

Last week, I received 3-4 recommendations that I visit a chiropractor after I wrote about calf pain and my buttcrease (NOT buttercream) issue.  I took that as a sign, and visited a highly recommend chiropractor on Thursday morning.

It was painfully awesome.  I was laughing reading Ali's account of falling in love with her new Dr. Wonderful, because I could relate, on a lesser scale, with that feeling of discovering a doctor who really seems to fit your needs.  I also related to Ali because this chiropractor was rudely young and good looking. 

Sorry doc, but you're the one who already put your face on the internet

Unlike my 4 collective visits to a physical therapist at a sports facility and through Kaiser, I felt like the chiropractor immediately was able to pin down where the pain was coming from, and attack it.  I'm feeling a little bruised in all the areas he attacked, but man oh man the pain felt SO good.  

I can never understand what doctors/PT's are saying because they use scientific words at a very fast pace, but what I think I heard was that my left hip bone is tilted, and is either the cause or effect of a weak/atrophied glute muscle.  Basically my left buttcheek isn't firing up or being recruited when I run, so my hamstrings and buttcrease and surrounding muscles are taking on too much work. 

I think the plan is to untangle the muscles and tendons that have been working too hard, and strengthen that glute, so that it can re-learn how to fire up on its own while running and my hip will tilt back into place?

Hehe. Pubis.

I found this image here, which is actually a helpful article on pelvic tilt.

He also fixed some deep pains in my feet that I never even thought about.  I just figured feet sometimes hurt, the end.  I had no idea chiropractors (at least this one) are really in tune with the function and break down of a runner's body.

*****

I'm running a half-marathon on Sunday.  I'm not in speed shape, it's been 3+ weeks since a good hard workout.  My butt/hips may make it uncomfortable.  So my expectations are low.  This could be Personal Worst, but don't doubt that I will run hard if I feel like I can.

Forecast is 93 degrees, and the race director emailed a caution, but since the race is at 7:00 a.m. and not 3:00 p.m. (duh) I really don't see how this matters.  See the thing is, at least in Northern California, even if it is 99 degrees during the day, it is still a cool 60 degrees when the sun rises.

What was the most memorable, or crazy thing, that you watched this Olympics?  For me, it was whenever women's beach volleyball was NOT airing.  That was crazy wonderful.  And crazy sad = Morgan Uceny. 

Have you ever been to a chiropractor for a running issue?  Was your doctor magic?