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 SoCalRunning.com. 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!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Big Avocado 5k

On October 7th, last weekend, I finally dragged Mike to a 5k race. Ok, to be honest it wasn’t really dragging when he’s been asking to do a race with me for awhile now and we had planned this over a month ago. Last time Mike and I had raced together was back in May of 2011, the Gladiator Rock’n Run. That was a total blast and involved a lot more mud. This race was of the more local variety, with beachside views and local support.

Gladiator Rock'n Run in May 2011
 The Big Avocado 5k is held each year in Carpinteria along the bluffs, about a half hour drive from my home. It’s an interesting course, mostly trails and sand, weaving through a park overlooking the ocean. The views are magnificent and the morning was beautiful and clear.

Mike and I before the race
It was a small race with a decent sized turn out. We started out on the baseball field and followed the cones to the trails from there. Mike set us off at a quick pace, one I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to maintain, but he didn’t leave me too far behind. Thankfully we were able to follow the other runners, because the course was hard to figure out, but there were also a lot of volunteers about.

The course
Our first loop through the park, we came across a sleepy looking student volunteer. All proceeds from the race go towards scholarships for the local high school students, so a lot of the volunteers were students. We thanked him as we went by and he just kind of grunted. The second time we passed him, we thanked him again and he smiled and the third and last time we passed him, I gave him a high five which made him laugh.

The course was rolling, up and down, it felt more up than down. We kept a pretty consistent pace for about the first half and then started taking walking breaks during the second. Mike was feeling a little worn out, but I was itching to run. I wanted to do the race with him, so I encouraged him to do what he needed to do to keep going.

I know I always say this, but beautiful course!
With only a quarter of a mile to go, the finish line in sight and a runner just ahead of us, I started to speed up. To my shame, I left Mike behind, BUT he did encourage me to go. I ramped things up, passed another runner and finished the race. I then turned around to cheer both of them in.

Afterwards, there was lots of juice and goodies. We nibbled on a couple treats and hit the road. I was able to get Mike home in time to get cleaned up and get to church. What an epic morning!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The X-Files Challenge

When I was given permission to run again, my physical therapist told me to put in as much time on the treadmill as I could. I’ve never been much of a treadmill runner: A) It’s boring and B) street running is just so much cooler. My first couple of weeks back, I managed to get on the treadmill twice. I quickly came to understand why people called it the “dreadmill”.

Mid September I realized that I was only averaging one run a week (at most) on the dreaded treadmill, so I decided to give myself a challenge to see if it would motivate me. I decided to see how many miles I could run while watching …. drum roll…. X-Files! 

X-Files was my favorite show growing up (yes I’m a geek and always have been) and I’ve been wanting to watch it again. All nine seasons are on Netflix, so I’ve been taking my phone to the gym and streaming it. And yes, I did say nine seasons! What have I gotten myself into?!?

So far, the challenge has done the trick. I’m now hitting the dreadmill twice a week and hitting the street the other two days. I’m putting in some good mileage and getting to watch my favorite show all over again from the beginning! When my run is complete, I make myself stop the episode where it is and won’t let myself pick it back up until my next run. 

I am currently on episode 4 and I’ve run 16.73 miles! Keep up with my latest mileage and episode by clicking on the X-Files challenge tab at the top of the page.

What tricks do you do to keep yourself motivated?