Sunday, December 9, 2012

Santa to the Sea on Repeat!

I loved Santa to the Sea half marathon last year and this year did not disappoint! I had a wonderful time and I can’t say enough positive things about this race. Maybe I’m just biased, since I’m such a big fan of Christmas and this race was also my first half marathon back in 2011, but I really enjoy it and will continue to recommend it.

Official logo from their site
Packet pickup was quick and easy. There is no expo before race (at least not at the location where I picked up my stuff), so I was in and out and ready to do some Christmas shopping. Two days before the race, I woke up with a cold! I prayed that it stayed a head cold and wouldn’t move down into my lungs and thankfully it did just that! Race morning I dragged myself out of bed, not feeling very optimistic about my ability to put in a decent time. I took some Dayquil, Sudafed, vitamins and stuffed my running shorts pocket with Kleenex. 

At the start, I dropped off my cool toy at the toy drive and ran into my friend Nick. I was super excited to see him at a race. We hung out chit-chatting for awhile, before I moved back to the 2:20 pace section. I had a feeling Nick was going to totally destroy my PR and he did! He ran a 2:03! How awesome is that?!?

Nick and I at the start
The start definitely wasn’t as packed as last year, but I think the corral sections were bigger. Just down the street from the start was a cheer crowd and a Santa on a horse! My level of excitement grew (this may have been neighborhood #1)!

Around mile three I glanced at my watch to see where we were at and was surprised to see we’d already knocked out a 5k. I felt like my legs were just eating the miles! I had mixed a peppermint GU in my little water bottle and was so glad I did. It was extremely soothing on my sore throat. I’ll have to remember that when I’m racing with a cold again in the future.

This race has a neighborhood competition, where the runners vote afterwards for the best neighborhood. Neighborhood #2 was very enthusiastic, but I didn’t get all the Halloween d├ęcor? Neighborhood #3 blew them all away, with a huge turn out, a Santa and Mrs. Claus giving high fives to runners and balloon arches stretched over the street. Neighborhood #4 was a very excited group with banners and neighborhood #5 was elementary school kids giving out leis. Yes, I got leid around mile 12. 

The message on my lei! How cute is that?!? Thanks Charles!
The first half of the race I was able to keep the 2:10 pacer in my sights, but lost him somewhere around the half way point. I was just grateful to not be seeing the 2:20 pacer!

I interval ran most of the race and I noticed another lady intervaling that I kept passing and being passed by. Unfortunately, she was a spitter and I kept having to dodge it (no fun!). I’ve never seen someone spit so much! I did chat with her and she was very friendly, but I didn’t have the heart to say anything about the spit.

The only real hill on the course is an overpass
Around mile 10, I passed a girl dressed as a gingerbread man. I saw her at the start of the race when she blew by me, so I was excited to catch up with her so that I could snap a pic and honestly, I didn’t want to be beat by a gingerbread man! She was very cute! I hope she won the costume contest or at least placed in it. I don’t think there were as many full costumes as last year, but it may have just been my pace group.

Gingerbread man!

The race ends along the beach
I kept telling myself I’d run it in starting at mile 10, but each time my interval came to an end, I’d take my quick walk break. I had a similar experience at the end. I kept telling myself I’d sprint it in, but wasn’t able to dig in and sprint till I was coming around the corner to the finish. I passed a guy in my final sprint and he gave me a look and started sprinting too. I must have had more in the tank than him, because he stuck with me for a second and then I pulled away.

Finish line sprint!
I finished feeling ecstatic about my time and totally beat! 2:12:09! My second best half marathon time so far. My best time being 2:08:31, last year at this same race! It really is a PR course.

Tired but happy!
Afterwards, I congratulated Nick and went in desperate search for water. I grabbed some cookies and mini-cinnamon rolls and then walked the small expo and farmer’s market. I was feeling some discomfort from my knee, so I didn’t hang around too long.

This really is a great event. The neighborhoods, volunteers, costumes and toy drive make it one of my favorite races. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a Christmas themed race.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Two Benchmarks for the Geek Girl

Image Source
I hit two benchmarks tonight. The first was hitting 100 miles in my X-Files challenge! That means I have run over 100 miles on the treadmill since recovering from my stress fracture! Bonus, I am one and a half episode from completing season one! I started this challenge to get myself motivated to run on the treadmill and it has worked! I actually look forward to my sessions on the dreadmill.

Image source
The second benchmark is that I just surpassed last year’s total mileage! I had originally set out with the hope of running 1000 miles this year. Unfortunately, I spent almost a total of 6 months injured and the time I wasn’t injured, I was starting over and working my way back up. To overcome last year’s mileage was a happy surprise for me. Even with all the downtime, I’m still improving!

Thank you for all the support you guys continue to give me!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

November Roundup

November was an awesome month of great time with family and some great running. I ran two races, the San Antonio Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon and the Santa Barbara 4 Mile Turkey Trot. The San Antonio race was a lot of fun and I was on track for a PR on the Turkey Trot, but the course was mismeasured.

I ran a total of 68.77 miles for the month. I increased my nonstop distance to 5.5 miles and my interval distance to 8 miles. I also went back to running stadiums and added a day of speed work once a week. I’m making progress, but slowly.

For the X-Files challenge, I finished roughly 9 episodes and put the total distance at 88.07. I’m on track to finish season one before the end of the year! 

Having completed three half marathons in three months and also completing two within two weeks of each other, I am now qualified to become a Half Fanatic. Unfortunately, I’m too cheap to pay the membership fee. Any Half Fanatics or Marathon Maniacs out there? What motivated you to join the running club?

For December, I had two races scheduled, but at the last minute decided not to register for one of them. I will be running Santa to the Sea half marathon next weekend, but bailed on the Santa Claus 5k which was scheduled for today. I’m really glad I did bail because it’s been raining for three straight days! Rain or shine, I will be at the half. I really enjoyed Santa to the Sea last year and have been looking forward to running it again.

I also completed my 2012 goal of running 12 races in 2012! Yay!

How was your running in November? Did you set any new PRs or race a new distance?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

San Antonio Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon

On the 9th of November, I jumped on a plane and flew to Texas! My sister-in-law was pregnant with my first nephew and I was so excited to be an aunt that I wanted to be there for the birth. To celebrate, I decided to run the San Antonio Rock’n’Roll Half marathon, which just happened to be held the same weekend that I was visiting. Unfortunately, God’s timing was not my own and little Samuel David decided to wait a week before making an appearance, but I ran with him on my mind anyway.

San Antonio was my first out of state race and I was a little nervous about how the travel would affect me. We flew in late Friday, hit the expo Saturday and the race was Sunday. The expo was awesome! There were so many vendors and free samples. I had gone to the expo hungry (I’d missed lunch trying to get through the traffic to get to the expo) and I left feeling stuffed from all the different things I had tried. I don’t even want to think about how many calories I had eaten!

Yay! Another race!
No, thank you!
As has become my routine, I got a cheapie hotel near the start and walked in the morning. Unfortunately, since I had waited till the last minute, this hotel was a good mile and a quarter away, so I woke up extra early race morning. The start was a little bit of an interesting setup. They had their wall of port-a-potties next to where we lined up for the corrals, so the lines invaded a lot of the corral space. This was a pain when the race started and we were all trying to squeeze by everyone waiting in line. Not a big issue, but a little bit of a pain.

Even though this race was bigger than LA, which I had just run two weeks before, the first few miles seemed to run a lot smoother. I didn’t feel like I was dodging walkers till the mini marathon ended. They must have organized their corrals differently than LA had.

The first few miles of the race weaved through the downtown area. I’m not familiar with the town at all, so I didn’t have many landmarks to guide me. I kept an eye out for the sky tower, which I could see at many different points throughout the race. I also enjoyed when we crossed over the river walk and I got to glance down at the canals. For the first time I took some video. I hope to someday do some video race reports and this was a good practice run.

I got to do the River Walk the next day!
Around mile 3 we ran by the Alamo. This was a highlight to me and one of the major reasons I had been excited about this race. I even stopped to take a few pictures, which ended up messing up Daddio’s timing for a picture he was trying to take of me. This is also the point where the mini marathon ended. It was fun to run by the shouts of excitement at their finish line.

Running by the Alamo! How cool is that?!?
There were several churches we ran by and the preachers and a lot of their members came out in their Sunday best to cheer us on. That was one of the coolest things I have seen in a race. At one church, a priest in his robes came out and with a loud booming voice called out to us as we ran by. I really enjoyed experiencing that kind of support. In fact, there was a ton of local support, from the numerous volunteers, to the communities that came out to cheer for us and give us goodies.

Texas pride
In one neighborhood, they had setup what at first I thought was an aid station, but instead of water they had beer. I almost got trampled when people realized what they were giving out. In another area, I received a beaded necklace, which I wore to the finish line. A lot of people came out with bowls of pretzels, oranges and candy. I really felt the community support.

Around mile seven or eight, I suddenly realized that we had come around and we were right by my hotel. My mom had stayed at the room and I was keeping an eye out for her just incase Daddio had given her an estimate for when I would be coming by. Sure enough, just as we were about to cross an overpass, I see her walking from the hotel parking lot. I called out to her, but she was totally oblivious. A guy next to me tried to whistle at her, but we got nothing. I was just about to let it go and tease her about it later, but at the last minute, I decided to run back and give her a quick hug. It was totally worth the extra minute or so that it took.

Since I was coming off of the LA half and I’m still terribly out of shape, I faced this race without a pace set in my mind. LA had been a little hard on me. I finished the race feeling a little rough and I didn’t want that happening this time, so I just took it easy. About three miles from the finish, I could tell I was just about on pace for a finish time extremely close to LA’s time, so that became my goal.

I was on track, feeling strong but tired. Ironically, this race ended up being much warmer than LA, but my body was handling it better. Maybe all the calories I had consumed the day before were helping to fuel me, I’m not sure what made the difference. A quarter of a mile from the finish, I was getting excited, maybe I could even beat my LA time, but it would be close. I was flying high and enjoying every second when I heard a spectator yell “You can do it! Don’t let the hill beat you!” I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about till we came around the corner. Sure enough, there was a lovely steep hill just down the street from the finish. Right then and there, I knew my LA time was all but lost.

I ate the hill as best I could on my tired legs and I found some sprint left in them to make it down the street and to the finish at a pretty decent clip. I ended up with a chip time of two hours and twenty eight minutes, missing my LA time by a minute! Stinking hill!

Coming up on the finish
The finish area was crazy busy. I got my medal, my wet towel, a bottle of water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, banana, and marathon bars and then I came to the picture area. With my hands full of food and drink, I decided to give it a pass. After swimming through the runners, I got to swim through the spectators. Daddio called to have me meet them under the big blowup PF Chang and I couldn’t even see that from the runners exit. I started to wander towards the spectator’s side of the finish line and finally spotted it. So many people!

My brother, his extremely pregnant wife, my dad and my mom were all there. I felt so blessed to have so much support! Too bad my stubborn nephew didn’t decide to show up!

Heather, my sister-in-law and me after the race

Nice looking bling!
Showing off my fake tattoo
I spent the next few days, sight seeing, baby shopping and hanging out with my family. It was a great race, great trip and a wonderful time of catching up. Now they tell me I have to come back next year and run the marathon which just happens to be scheduled on Samuel’s first birthday!
We took a tour of the Alamo
The day after the race, we did a boat ride on the River Walk

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope that everyone's travels are safe and their time with friends and family is blessed! For those that ran a turkey trot this morning, I hope you all had a wonderful time!

Here in Santa Barbara, a record number of runners showed up this morning for the 4 mile Turkey Trot. It made for a very crowded out and back along a small bike path. Everyone seemed to have a great time. Even a couple costumed runners showed up: turkeys, pilgrims and Indians. Very family friendly with a lot of kids in attendance.

I ran this event with two of my friends. One of them left me in the dust, while the other I left behind. It was a beautiful foggy morning. I managed to set a new four mile PR... kind of. According to everyone's apps, pedometers and my Garmin, the course was almost a full quarter of a mile short. I was holding a solid 9 minute per mile pace and feeling strong, so I'd like to think I wouldn't have had a problem beating my previous PR which came out to about a 9:13 pace. I hate tainted PRs!

Anyway, I'm thankful for friends, family and fun races! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Stress Fracture

Since I posted “Bad Geek Girl” back in September, I have been receiving a lot of questions about my stress fracture, so I have decided to revisit the topic. I’m happy to share my experience, but understand that I’m definitely no doctor and can only relay what I went through.
I have no idea what brought the stress fracture on. I took a month off of running in March after my marathon, due to an IT Band injury. During that time, I started working with a physical therapist. When I came back to running in April, I jumped right in, full steam ahead. I also decided to start running in saucony kinvaras, a much more minimum shoe than I usually wear.

I had a lot of new things going on at the time. I had the physical therapy, which consisted of a lot of strength building exercises I hadn’t done before, I came back to running hard and fast and I was trying to transition into a more minimum shoe, along with a few other changes like shoe insoles and adjustments to my running form. I may have even been favoring my left leg (the side I ended up with the stress fracture on) due to my IT Band injury on my right leg.

In the beginning, it felt like I had strained something in my foot and I didn’t think it was anything to worry about. It wasn’t too painful walking around, but it was too intense to run on. It took me over a week to realize that something more serious was going on. It was determined that I had fractured the fifth metatarsal of my left foot.

The first three weeks after the diagnosis, I was in a boot cast. I wore the short air cam walker fracture boot. It was very comfortable for a walking boot and I was mostly pain free while moving around in it. The boot has an air pump on the front, allowing the wearer to inflate the boot to a comfortable setting. I would recommend this product to anyone with a similar injury.

In the beginning, I was swimming about five days a week as well as riding a stationary bike. My foot would get sore during these exercises, but I didn’t think I was doing any damage. After a month, I was getting anxious to get back to running, but my PT wanted me to give it a few more weeks. At this point I was limping, but boot free. Two weeks later, I had an appendectomy and have to stop exercising for at least two weeks to recover from surgery. My foot made huge improvements during that period of time, so I decided to completely stop exercising till I got the green light from my PT.

Overall, I had to take three months off. My PT deemed it healed two months after the injury, but kept me from running on it another month to make sure it completely healed. When I did come back, it felt a little stiff and sore, but not painful and that feeling disappeared after the first couple of weeks back. My foot is now completely pain free, but I have had to come back slowly and carefully. I’ve also transitioned to doing a lot of my runs on a treadmill, where before I always ran on the street.

If you are experiencing pain in your foot that isn’t going anyway, go to a doctor and have it checked out. Running on a stress fracture will only make it worse!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

October Roundup

October was a crazy month for me. There was only one weekend that I didn’t race this last month, making it one of the most race heavy months that I have ever had. I was so excited to be back out and running, that I think I may have overcommitted myself just a little. It was a lot of fun, but I think it’s time to buckle down and get back to training.

Overall, I ran a total of 62 miles, averaging 15.5 miles per week. My longest nonstop run has now been built up to 4 miles and my longest interval run (not counting my half marathon) was 6 miles. So as you can see, I’m still working on building my base back up. I need to keep reminding myself that I can’t just go out and run ten miles, I have to build back up slowly.

As for the X-Files challenge, I managed to roughly finish six episodes, putting my total mileage for the challenge at 41.96. Maybe I’ll manage to finish season one by the end of the year.

As for November, I have the San Antonio Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon next weekend and I hope to run the local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. I probably shouldn’t have scheduled two half marathons only two weeks apart, but I’d registered for LA nine months in advance and I was planning a trip to San Antonio for the birth of my nephew when I realized that the half marathon was taking place the same weekend I would be there (almost too hard to pass up). Hopefully I can tone things down and get back to the basics.

I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Halloween and I continue to pray for those affected by hurricane Sandy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

LA Rock’n’Roll Halloween Half Marathon

I was super excited for this race! In fact, I had been so excited, that I had signed up for it almost nine months ahead of time with a couple of my girl friends. Unfortunately, they had to cancel, but I still went to rock it solo. My awesome Dad volunteered to tag along and he cheered me on at several places along the course.

This was my first Rock’n’Roll marathon event. I’ve heard the horror stories of the past and I’ve also heard the rockin’ stories, so I had mixed emotions going into this one. To start, the Expo was amazing! There were a ton of vendors, lot’s a free stuff and an overall fun atmosphere. I was very impressed. The event shirt turned out to be really cool and bib pickup was really easy.
The Expo
Rock'n batgirl!
I booked a hotel half a mile from Staples Center where the race both started and finished. It was very convenient and saved me a ton on parking. I decided to go as batgirl thanks to my cousin allowing me to borrow both her batman t-shirt and cape (thanks Kristen)! I found some cool sunglasses at Target that I thought would work great and they really did.

Even before the sun was up the morning of the race, it was already on the warm side. I don’t run well in heat (I’ve lived in Santa Barbara all my life), so I was a little nervous. The black outfit probably didn’t help in that department at all either. 

The start of the race was very pleasant. Daddio hung out till I crossed the start, he kept reminding me to take it easy, to not push myself too hard. He knows how I can be when I’m flying solo. I started off doing intervals of eight minutes running and two minutes walking. I felt two was a little too much walking, but with the San Antonio half in two weeks, I was trying to be good.

Party time!
Around mile three we went under the big blowup Rock’n’Roll balloon and ran around the LA Memorial Coliseum, this was the turn around point for this end of the race. We then headed back to the Staples Center, where I got to run with a group of people dressed as Elvis who were pushing a stroller with a boom box that was pounding out Elvis music. I stuck pretty close to them for a few miles and turned off my own music to rock out to some Elvis.

Around mile six, Daddio gave me a shout and I gave him a big wave and a smile. A couple blocks later, I ran into Coach Steve from I was pretty excited to get to meet him. I’ve been following his YouTube videos for a few months now (MarathonTrainingTV), so my inner fangirl came out. He was really nice! We ran through the tunnel together and he gave me some advice about chi running. If you don’t watch his videos, you should check them out.

Coach Steve!
From there, the course goes about another two miles out, turning back around after going up and across the 6th street bridge. From the tunnel to the bridge, it felt like we had been going uphill and the heat was starting to turn up. There was an awesome view of the skyline at the turn around point, which was a two edged sword. It was a beautiful view, but also showed just how far back the finish line was. I started getting really hot running the bridge since there wasn’t any shade and my pace started to slow down. 

Coming up on the bridge
Nice view!
The tunnel
At mile eleven, I felt like I was hitting the wall, but kept pushing myself forward. My intervals got shorter, but I was still chugging along. About half a mile out from the finish, I could see the finish line. I started running a little more consistently. There was a cheer squad of little girls all dressed up and I ran over to give them high fives and twisted my ankle hard on a manhole (stupid rookie mistake). Thankfully, other than the initial shock and embarrassment, the pain didn’t hit till later. 

I sped up, gave my Dad a high five near the finish line and finished strong, feeling more drained than I have the last few times I’ve raced. I really don’t do well in heat!

After finishing, I received my medal, felt like a celebrity with all the pictures being taken and had bottles of water, gatorade, chocolate milk and even a smoothie pushed into my hands. There were oranges, bananas and Snickers protein bars that are really, really good. There was an after party, with a beer garden, but we didn’t stick around too long.

Overall, a very enjoyable race! I had a wonderful time and would definitely recommend it to those in the future. There were a lot of water stations, all well equipped. I carried my own water, due to stories of past Rock’n’Roll events having problems with their water, but I was drinking it in the end due to the heat and I don’t think there was any problems with it at this race. There was one GU station near the end, but as far as I saw, that was the only fuel station. Like usual, I carried my own stuff. This time I fueled with a GU mixed into my little water bottle, a pack of the sports beans and two Clif shot blok squares.

My one complaint was the corrals. I was in corral eleven, which seemed further back than I expected and for the first few miles or so, spent a lot of time trying to weave around walkers and slower runners even though I was running slower than predicted nine months ago. I’m not sure how they determined the coral assignments, but it didn’t seem very accurate and with the beginning of the race being so crowded, they might want to rethink their process next year.

Definitely look into this race if you are looking for a fun event with a Halloween twist and don’t forget to dress up! It was like 13.1 miles of Halloween Rock’n’Roll partying!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cancer Center 5k

Out of shape and racing two weekends in a row! So maybe I am getting a little ahead of myself, but honestly this time it wasn’t my idea. Just a week and a half before the Cancer Center 5k (days before the Big Avocado 5k), my company offered to cover the registration cost for up to twenty employees. They faced one problem when making such an awesome and generous offer, it was really last minute. The first few days, they struggled to get ten people to sign up. I was going to give the race a pass, given that I was about to run one 5k and I’ve got a half marathon at the end of the month, but the running geek girl inside me finally won out when they were still looking for people a couple days later. Plus, people around the office couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to do it and I have a reputation to maintain.

Two late nights in a row led to one exhausted geek girl come race morning. I was really dragging and if it wasn’t for the company footing the bill, I might have just stayed in bed. The morning was crisp and clear. By the time I reached the event parking, I found myself rocking out to the radio and excited for the morning. I found a huddle of my coworkers near the starting line where I received greetings and my bib along with an awesome goodie bag (the Cancer Center knows how to put together a goodie bag!).

Since I was unfamiliar with this race, I took my cues from those around me. In fact, I wasn’t even sure where the starting line was until they yelled “GO” and the mob started moving. The start of the run was a mess to put it nicely. The street was so packed with walkers, that I couldn’t even start running for more than two tenths of a mile. I was weaving in and out like crazy, trying to be polite, but also trying to get well... moving. Ironically, we had been right by the starting line, but a lot of people had already been on the other side of it while waiting. Definitely not a race, race.

It was thick with walkers
 Once I was able to swim through the walkers, I let things fly. The course started on a downhill and I had seen where the finish line was, so I figured the second half of the course would probably be uphill, so I might as well enjoy the free ride for as long as I could. About a quarter to half a mile in, my boss’s boss passed me, calling out my name and giving me a wave. He was the one person I was feeling really competitive with since we are currently running at similar paces. He blew by at a good clip and I was going to just let it go, remembering my conversation with Daddio about running this one easy, but once he got about 50 feet up, he either slowed down or I subconsciously started matching his pace.

For the next two miles I watched his back, like an alluring target. I didn’t stop at the aid stations because he didn’t stop. I hardly noticed what was playing through my headphones. I’d start to speed up and then force myself to slow down. When we came to the steepest part of the course, I started seriously gaining on him and gave him a smile as I slipped by. Just as I thought I was cresting the hill, the course turned and went further and further up. My self satisfied smile became a grimace. I had misjudged the hill, my breathing was too labored and my heart rate too high… I was going to need to walk.

I got a few moments of relief before he came running by, a look of concentration on his face. At this point I knew we were maybe half a mile from the finish line. I started jogging, picking up where I had left off, trailing behind him. Finally we crested the incline and started down again, the finish line now within sight. He sped up, I sped up. A father with a stroller almost passed me, I sped up more. I passed a few runners who didn’t seem as eager for the finish and I was gaining on him, but the distance was just too short and he was eager. He finished a good twenty feet ahead of me and boy did I get to hear about it at work on Monday!

Post race was a huge buffet breakfast catered by the Marriott, free massages and raffles. I hung around, enjoyed a massage, ate too much food and hung out with my coworkers. When the official times were posted, I was extremely disappointed to note that their time was 35 seconds off my watch time. After coming through the finish line, I had to wait in line to get my number taken down and I have a feeling that that is where most of the extra time came from. A couple of other people I talked to made the same complaint. As a runner, it’s hard to put in that much effort only to have extra time added on due to disorganization. But, I did end up coming in 5th out of 56 in my age group!

Free Massage!
Positive note, the Cancer Center was able to raise more than $150,000 and had a record number of runners and walkers come out for the event. Maybe next year they will be more prepared for the crowds. It was a fun event for a good cause!

The side adventure of the morning: 

Finding the woman's bathroom

Ok, just down the hall...
Well, maybe just down this ramp...

Across this courtyard...
Up these stairs somewhere...
 Yes, I did finally find it! It was like a bathroom scavenger hunt!