Sunday, September 22, 2013

Slacker Half Marathon

On June 22nd while on vacation in Colorado visiting my brother and his wife, I decided to take on the most challenging race I have ever done, the Slacker Half Marathon. I knew this race would be a challenge, but I didn’t realize just how challenging it would be! This one had ended up on my wish list when my sister-in-law had mentioned it to me the year before. When organizing our visit, I tried to arrange the dates to coincide with the race and it worked out! Mom and Dad also got on board and signed up for the 4 mile race taking place at the same time.

So race morning, we got up bright and early, heading out from Denver and driving up the mountain to the town of Georgetown. What a beautiful little town that is! All around us was picturesque views! We picked up our race numbers and t-shirts by a little lake and parted ways for our different shuttles. My shuttle took me up to Loveland Ski Area which is at 10,660 ft, not exactly easy for a sea level running wimp like me!
The view from packet pickup!
The drive up gave me more views to admire, waterfalls, forest and snow! I was nervous about the spots of snow on the ground since I was in a tank top with arm warmers due to the predicted heat later in the day and I was more than a little chilly waiting for the race to start, but things warmed up pretty quickly.
Snow! This So Cal girl doesn't see that white stuff very often!

This race is advertised as the highest downhill half marathon in the country, but I didn’t let that fool me. I knew the altitude would be a big issue for me and I had looked at the elevation chart and had noted how rolling the course really was. This race was all about having fun and enjoying our vacation, so I didn’t even pretend to think I could PR this one.
The sign behind me says "Fast" and another further back said slow. I started in the slow section.
The first mile or so of the race was extremely dusty! We started out on trails and since we were still so closely grouped together, the dust was flying! I started at a conservative pace, surprised that I didn’t notice the altitude more. My breathing was a little heavier than usual, but other than that, I didn’t hardly notice it in the beginning. Last time I visited my brother and went for a run in Denver (where they live), I felt like I was sucking air like crazy, so this was a nice surprise.

I didn’t have any intervals planned, just went with the flow. I walked the hills and some of the flats and took lots of pictures. We ran on trails, roads and bike paths. We were surrounded by trees and beautiful mountain views. Every turn brought on new “Oh wow” moments. We were along a river for a while and more than once I slowed down to admire small waterfalls.

  There were a few aid stations, but not as many as I’m used to, not that it mattered since I had on my hydration pack. Only one aid station had port-a-potties and the line made it not even worth slowing down for. A lot of people were ducking off trail to take care of business. Thankfully, I never had to!

The race finished in Georgetown, but not before we got to run overlooking a railroad and then later getting to run under it. Kids and adults on the train cheered us on as we passed below. I ran through town feeling spent, but managed to muster enough energy to do my customary finish line sprint.

Right at the finish, they gave us little printouts of our finish time. That was a really nice feature! Daddio found me and we went and found Mom. It sounded like they had fun, but were pretty tired. We got free hotdogs, sodas, snacks and power bars! This race had more free stuff at the end then I think any race I’ve done previously has had.

Getting close to the finish!
While waiting in line for food, I suddenly got extremely dizzy and my vision started to tunnel. Dad had me sit down and I figured I hadn’t hydrated enough, so I worked on getting some water in me. As soon as things evened out, feeling self-conscious, I got back up and joined Dad in line. My brother and his wife joined us and we all piled into one car to head further up the mountain. The higher we got, the sicker and dizzier I felt. I grabbed an empty bag and started dry heaving into it. Dad pulled off the road and I got out, walking around, trying to get things back in balance. My head was pounding and I had no desire to get back in the car, so I sent them up the mountain and camped out on a rock with some water to wait for them. Not to get into too much detail, but I ended up throwing up several times and experienced the worse migraine of my life. I didn’t feel better till we got back down the mountain, which lead me to believe later that I was experiencing altitude sickness.

I didn’t even know what altitude sickness was at the time, but now I do and never want to experience it again! I guess I’ll have to be more careful when picking races in the future or get there a few days earlier, so I can adjust to the difference! Be careful when doing a race under conditions you aren’t used to!
Two of the three slackers. Man, I look tired!
The race was fantastic and I highly recommend it! It was gorgeous and well worth the extra effort from being at that altitude!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Goleta Education Foundation 4 Miler 2013

This lazy bum hasn’t hardly run all week since the Ventura Beach Party Half Marathon. My legs have been pretty tired and my knees have been sore! I wasn’t sure if I was going to run the Goleta Education Foundation 4 Miler with it being so close to the half. I had a good run Friday, so I went to register online and discovered I was a day late! They had the option of registering in person on Saturday in the running store, but I was going to be out of town with a friend. So I printed out the forms, wrote a check and my awesome mom took it up for me and got me squared away.

I ran this race last year and enjoyed it, staying well after the race to enjoy the music and the raffle. This is a Grand Prix event and I am currently holding onto first place and I want to keep it that way, so any extra points would make me happy. Support the schools, get some Grand Prix points and exercise, sounds like a good morning to me.

I was so lazy, I didn’t even want to warm up. I wasn’t racing and I wasn’t aiming for a PR, so I sat in the warm car chatting with Daddio till he said with five minutes to go “if you are going to warm up, you need to do it now.” I jumped out of the car and did a half hearted lap around the neighborhood. This running geek girl was tired!
This just never gets old
We all lined up at the start and the excitement slowly seeped in. I don’t think I’ve ever lined up and not gotten excited! When they said “Go”, I took off with the crowd, getting pulled along at everyone else’s pace. The first half mile was tough! My legs felt like lead! To my surprise, before the first mile was even finished, I felt like I broke through a wall and things were suddenly easier. That happens sometimes, but not enough for me to expect it.

For the rest of the race I was on cruise control, feeling good, thanking volunteers and police officers, striking up conversations with random people in pace with me and just enjoying the race. I celebrated finishing mile three with a complete stranger that just happened to be next to me as we crossed the mile line. I caught a girl that I thought might be in my age group and only let one person get past me in the last two miles. I sped up on the last hill overtaking a few more people and debated with myself about flying down the final downhill to the finish or just taking it easy on my knees. I opted for flying and took off at top speed, soring into the finish line.
Official race finish and overall clock time
I finished with a time of 34:42, not too shabby. About ten minutes later while looking at the official times and seeing that I had placed fourth in my age group, it dawned on me that I’d just PRed! After that, I was giddy and smiling ear to ear. Back to back PRs are epic! Later when analyzing my Garmin data, I realized my heart rate had been in my max zone for the last two miles and I’d somehow done some serious negative splits. You never can tell how a race is going to go!

Ventura Beach (Birthday) Party Half Marathon

I gave myself a super cool birthday gift this year…. ok to be honest, I just used my birthday as an excuse. I ran the Ventura Beach Party Half marathon last weekend, the day after my 29th birthday. I was extremely excited to hear about this new race and especially excited that it fell so close to my birthday (too bad they missed it by one day!). This race is also part of the Gold Coast Run Series which consists of 4 half marathons, but you only need to run three of them to receive a cool jacket at the end of the year. Santa to the Sea is part of that series this year and since I was already registered for Santa and this one, I went ahead and registered for the third race which will take place next month. I’m looking forward to getting my new jacket at the end of the year.

I’ve set my sights on Santa to the Sea as my goal PR race for the year, so the night before the Ventura Beach Party I was talking over my race goals for the next day with Daddio and we both agreed that I would just take it easy. Well that didn’t exactly end up happening, but I’ll get to that.

Packet pickup was pretty easy, showed up, grabbed my stuff and headed out for a birthday dinner. There was no expo on Friday when I picked up, but there was a small one on Saturday during pickup and on race day. There were a couple running booths, but most were crafts, so we didn’t miss much by going on Friday.
Ready to party
Race morning, my parents and I got there an hour early to snag one of the few free parking spots. We were actually surprised that the lot didn’t fill up faster. The race started at the Ventura Pier, went out past the Oxnard Harbor and back again. I’m not a big fan of out and backs, but this one was hard to pass up.

The atmosphere at the starting line was very enthusiastic. From my understanding, there were
a lot of first timers there, which always makes the experience more enjoyable. I started out at a comfortable pace, just staying with the people around me. For the first mile I didn’t turn my music on, just enjoying the sound of all our feet hitting the pavement and the smell of the ocean on the breeze. I was already on a runner’s high.

Let's do this!
I figured I’d ride out the high and slow down later. The pace I was at, was faster than I am usually comfortable with, but I was feeling so good, I just went with the flow. The weather was awesome for a half marathon! It was a comfortable mid 60’s with a marine layer and a pleasant breeze. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day!
Around mile five, I was still feeling awesome, but worried I’d run myself into the ground, so I started intervals of nine minutes of running and one minute of walking. I ended up gaining a little speed by switching it up. I felt comfortable, like I was on cruise control. At the half way point, I knew I could PR if I didn’t hit a wall, but needed to be careful. You never know when running high is going to suddenly disappear only to be replaced by a big fat wall of fatigue.

Race picture around mile nine. All smiles!
I was wearing a “Birthday Girl” t-shirt and spectators started yelling “Happy Birthday” as I passed them, giving me a little more bounce to my step. Around mile nine I went through a water stop and a little kid volunteer, probably no older than five yelled “Take the water!” I almost did just to make him happy, but I had on my hydration belt and didn’t need any. In fact, a lot of people had hydration gear, so the poor kid might have been holding out the cup for a while!
Look at that fog! It stuck around the whole race.
Between miles ten and eleven, my heart rate started to spike and a little fatigue started to creep in, but the clock was ticking and the PR was looking really good. I figured if I could just beat my old half marathon PR by just a few seconds, I would be on cloud nine. I’ve been craving a half marathon PR for almost two years now!

I finished the race with a sprint and a goofy grin, with a time of 2:03:19. I set a new PR, blowing my old one away by just over five minutes! I never even imagined that I was going that much faster! My parents greeted me with hugs and congratulations, my dad knowing instantly that I had PRed. A friend from college also showed up to cheer me in at the finish line and to tell me happy birthday. I’ll tell you something, if you ever want to make a runner’s day, show up at their race and cheer them on! That’s one of the many reasons my parents and my friends are so awesome!
Finishing strong
This race was a total thrill, although I am a little bias! The volunteers and race support was awesome! The after race food and snacks were plentiful and everything seemed to run smoothly. I only have one complaint and that was that there was no official photographer (as far as I’ve been able to determine). There was one person along the course that did take pictures and post them, but nothing official. Some finish line pictures have shown up, but nothing of me.
One happy birthday girl!
After the race, we went over to my Uncle’s house where we shared a birthday BBQ (his birthday being that day). I ate too much and enjoyed chocolate chocolate cake. Overall, great race and a day to remember!