Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Big Fun at Big Sur :)

While I've done some longer races and runs lately, this has been my "goal" race for the last 6 or so months. I remember signing up for it, wondering if I really could run 10 miles without stopping. This, I had decided, was to be my "return" race to running, more than the half marathon or the other trail races. I think, because it was on a road, it reminded me of when I first started running, which made it even more special.

The fun experiences (and not so fun) before the race deserve their own post, but since the run is the biggest part of the weekend (And probably the most interesting for you guys) I thought I'd tell you about it first.

The race started for us at about 2:45am, when Ed woke up. Ed was doing the marathon, and had to leave by 3:30 to catch the bus to the start. So,  up he went, and unfortunately, I couldn't get back to sleep for about an hour. Finally, around 4:20 or so, I think I finally dozed off, only to wake up for the official wake up at 5!

My sister and her husband were doing the 9 miler, so they were going to drive me to my busses before heading to their race. We all got ready and by 6am, I was on my bus. The other runners were chatty, but most seemed to be in groups. I did finally end up chatting with one woman, which was nice, but, overall, people seemed friendly but not very chatty with new people.

The bus ride went fairly quickly, but, seriously cold. One woman decided to have her window down on the ride and, brr!!! I could see all the runners around me bundling up, but no one said anything. Apparently we all like avoiding confrontation.

Once we arrived, I started to get excited. How could I not, when this is what I saw getting off the bus?

The sun hadn't quite peaked over the hills, but the soft morning light looked beautiful along the coastline. 

Sleepy pre-race photo, still bundled up and without my hair done. 

We followed the other runners down the hill, where the sounds of a band got louder, rocking out to oldies. Here, at the bottom of the hill, I could see all the runners milling about. I decided to jump in the port o potty line, just to get that out of the way. That taken care of, I had some time to wander and take in the view from lots of different angles. 

Lots of runners were heading off onto the point, so I decided to join them. 

After snapping some photos, I decided to head back. I had noticed that some other people had what looked to be cups of hot liquid, so I decided to see if I could find some myself. While it wasn't as cold as I thought it might be, something hot still sounded nice.

I was in luck - not only did they have hot water for tea (or coffee or hot cocoa), they had food! I took a banana, and ate it with my yogurt and granola bar :).

After that, I decided it was time to head up the hill and get ready. I had no watch, so I had no concept of when the race was going to start, but figured I should get prepared.

The sun was getting higher and starting to hit the ocean.

I got another picture taken of myself, this time, looking like a runner, as I waited to get running. 

The sweat check in this race was interesting - You actually start running with your bags and throw them to the side about a quarter of a mile into the race. I was skeptical, but it worked great - I ended up ditching the jacket and running with just my short sleeved shirt and capris. I definitely could have gone for shorts, but, oh well. I hate being cold.

Somewhat suddenly, and with no warning, the buzzer went off, and we were moving!

From the very start, the views were just beautiful. I kept smiling and laughing, though I felt like I was getting more out of the race than others. So many were plugged into their headphones and it just seemed like they were missing out. No chatting with other racers, but I was kept thoroughly amused by the views.

I decided to pull over a few times for photos, and was pleasantly surprised to have another runner offer to pull over and take my picture. Note my awesome running belt - I picked this up at the expo to carry my camera and loved it! Bonus is that it's reflective, so it'll be awesome for night running.

As I was photographing and videoing, another runner asked me if this was my first race. Apparently my zeal made me look new. I casually mentioned that I used to run ultras to prove that I wasn't totally new. After that, I don't think I talked with any other runners - I just focused on running.

And, honestly, I was really focused! I was passing a good number of people, and feeling great.

I did somewhat question my decision to make so many picture stops but decided that at the end of the race, the photos were more important that the finishing time. 

I even kneeled down on one of the bridges to get this shot:

My justification is that pictures are part of the experience :). 

I really enjoyed seeing my state in such a special way. The miles seemed to really fly by. With live music almost every mile, I felt motivated, and seemed to be making great progress. 

Even when I stopped to take photos, I was able to catch back up to the other runners without too much struggle :). 

However, around mile 7, I started getting a little tired, and the camera went away for a little bit. I couldn't help but make one last stop for photos in the Carmel Highlands:

and then I just focused on running. I really loved all the downhills, but the uphills were starting to get hard. About a mile before the end, I briefly contemplated walking, but decided that I made it this far, I couldn't give up now. 

Final results? 1:48:57 - A 10:17 pace!!!! Seriously, I am so excited about that. That's like "old me" pace. That's "real running" paced. 

And, about an hour later, I got to see this wonderful sight:

My soon to be husband (2 months from today!) is the shirtless stud above, finishing his marathon strong in 3:47. 

After he finished, we found my sister and James, who had an excellent 9 mile walk. 

After that, we all had awesome bbq and basked in the glory of a wonderful day on the California coast. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Diablo Trails Half Marathon

Finally, I feel rested :). This was a hard week for some reason, and I finally feel like I made it through to the other side. The plus side of this week was that I ran 4 days in a row, something I haven't done, well, in a very very long time. Granted, it was two 3 milers and two 2 milers, but it was very nice. I've also started back up with healthy eating, which has been great. I made scallops for the first time and, despite setting off the smoke alarm, ended up with a very gourmet dinner, pairing them with parmesan polenta. I also had my work bridal shower which was lovely - lots of nice sentiments and gifts, though I have to admit, I definitely feel uncomfortable being the center of attention. I'm glad I"ll have Ed there at the wedding and that we're having a small wedding :).

Okay, so onto the race report that was due many weeks ago!

(Disclaimer - I love my fiancee! This race together had some tense moments, which just reflects that we aren't good racing buddies. Good thing we're wonderful life buddies :). Anything below that might seem critical of Ed is during-race frustration being voiced, not real criticism of the wonderful man that I am marrying! This was a real learning experience for us as a couple, and one that I'm glad we got to have. Okay, carry on :))

I had been looking forward to this race with nervous anticipation for quite some time. My mind was playing odd tricks - I kept feeling like the race was really long for me, and also not going to feel that long. I think my old running mindset kept popping back in!

The issue with this was that we didn't really alter our running the weeks before the race. We ran a very challenging 12 miler two weekends before and a quad busting 10 mile run on the infamous Dipsea trail the weekend before.

Apparently - bad idea.

So, I started the race not entirely fresh.

Added to this was the decision that Ed and I made - to run this race together. We have a great time running together most every weekend, and I was excited about having his support running my longest distance ever in a while.

What we didn't count on was that his runner ego (that is used to coming in the top 10 in races) wouldn't be able to handle life in the back of the pack.

We had a great time starting the race. Our timing ankle bracelets were looking stylish, and we enjoying the road race style start, complete with a huge start/finish arch and super uplifting music blasting.

We were smiling and having a great time for about the first 7 or 8 minutes. Then things started getting a little rough.

Ed tried, he really did, but about a mile in he was already bemoaning our "slow pace" (while I was huffing and puffing). Suffice to say, we went out way to fast for me (sub 11 minute miles on uphills!!!). I could also tell that Ed wasn't enjoying himself. We weren't really talking. He was carrying the camera, and so I asked him to take some pictures (which I thought he'd like - he'd get to stop and then do some fast running to catch up. Apparently, this isn't as much fun for him as I find it. Oops!)

Ed snapped this great one of me crossing one of 6 or 7 creeks that we crossed within the first 2 miles. We had never had a race like this and had a ton of fun crossing (though on the way back, they would prove to be decidedly less fun...)

The beginning was relatively rolling, but then we went off onto a singletrack, where some serious climbing started.

It was here that we really started to get passed a lot. One of the shorter races had also started, so all of those runners needed to get past, as well as a few behind us in our race. I happily stepped aside, as I was needing some breathers (darn Dipsea stairs) and I was used to it, but I don't think Ed enjoyed that as much.

We were rewarded with some nice downhill and vistas once we reached the top of the singletrack,

and I happily switched to downhill gears.

At this point I asked Ed if he was enjoying taking pictures. "No," was the short answer. Okay, I let him know that I would stop asking :). I was trying to have fun, but it was hard because I could tell things were just off between us. I felt badly that I couldn't go faster, but there was just no way. Especially because on the downhills, I started getting a side ache! I had had this problem on the last two runs, and I think was from just pushing way too hard. 

As we started up our next steep downhill, I approached the elephant in the room. "Are you having fun?" I asked him. "No, not really," he replied. He shared that it was mentally hard for him to get passed so much and that it felt, to him, that we were going even slower than we normally go on our runs together (the garmin proved that we were going substantially faster, but I think it was just the race environment). I offered to let him go ahead, but, to him, that would have been even worse, since he was already so far behind. 

Ed also made a really good point. He said one of the things that was making it less fun was that we weren't talking that much - very different from our normal runs together. I gently explained that, at this pace, it just wasn't feasible for me to talk :P. 

Thankfully, he decided to switch mindsets. I told him to try to just think of this as a normal run together. If he let up on the pace, I could even talk a bit more! As a peace offering, he offered to take this picture of me trudging up the hill. 

From here, the race was a lot better. I still felt slow and out of shape, but at least now I had Ed as support :). 

At the top of this hill, we were greeted with some great vistas, of diablo's peak and the valley to our right. 

This next part was nice. We got to walk when I wanted and I tried to run when I could. Everything was unbelievably green and just so pretty. Ed even stopped to take in the view (and let me rest). 

The next section, though, was hard. We were less than halfway in and my legs were already feeling a bit fried. Plus, the sun was really out and shining down on us in full force. 

I was definitely feeling a bit resigned. I knew we had gone too fast, and I was concerned about finishing the race. I was also feeling a bit down - it sucks to be hurting with so much race left. At this point, Ed acknowledged that we had probably started to fast and was being very nice about not pushing me. These hills seemed to go one for a long time. 

Thankfully, we eventually saw Rock City, which was exciting on multiple levels. First, because I was fairly sure it meant we were close to our aid station - I needed water badly and knew some food would lift my spirits. It was also exciting because it reminded me of Diablo Marathon and the good times I had with that race. I had fun pointing out the trails we used for that as we went along. The people were also fun to watch climbing (click the picture above to see some of them).

After what still seemed like too long, we finally reached cheerful faces, helpful  hands, and delicious cookies and chips. Since I was trying to be healthy I first dove into oranges and ravenously devoured at least 4 pieces, maybe more. Then, I went for salt - I took a salt cap that was offered and grabbed a few handfuls of chips. I also had 2 very small cookies. I totally would have grabbed more (and possibly should have) but my healthy eating voice told me to take chips instead (probably not that much better). 

We took off, after saying our thanks, with chips in hand. Walking up the hill, Ed and I were feeling in higher spirits, especially since we had seen our trail earlier from up above, and new downhill was coming soon. 

We were on a trail that was part of the marathon course for a bit, and were seeing more and more flowers along the trail. Ed took this one to commemorate the flowers (and give me a rest). You can faintly make out the grimace on my face - I was hurting here. 

We stopped one more time before the downhill really got going to commemorate the start of the downhill 

and the beautiful wildflowers that covered this field. 

The downhill, unfortunately, was not as joyous as I had hoped. It was pretty steep and was aggravating my side. Plus, it was horribly muddy at  points, which slowed me to a crawl, as my weak legs tried to navigate the sludge without slipping. I told Ed to go ahead of me here, but wait for me if he got too far ahead. This let me go at my pace. My legs were thrashed, so I couldn't even go as fast as I wanted, but I did the best that I could. 

From here on out, it was painful, demoralizing and depressing. I felt like I could barely keep moving. It didn't help that we had even more streams and puddles to cross. Though, puddles would be severely underestimating things. There was this huge "puddle" or, rather, small pond. I suck at balancing on rocks, so unlike Ed, I had to go through. It went past my knees and was far across!

I really tried, really tried, to run. Ed joked about waiting for my end of the race push that I had promised. Sorry, honey, but you decided you wanted my speed at the beginning. I had nothing left for the end. 

We spoke the obvious at this point - this would not be a repeat experience for us (though Ed just suggested today that we could run a race together next month. Apparently his memory is not as long as mine! I reminded him that, no, we will not be doing that :) ). 

Eventually, we crossed the last of our streams (that I was sadly walking slowly through, practically stuck in the middle of each one as I mustered up the strength to make it to the other side). 

I did pull it together for the very end. Ed promised the finish was almost there, so I pushed and soon enough, saw the finishing line. The cheering spectators were wonderful and motivating to keep going. We both were finally running faster and I admit, my eyes starting tearing a little as I finished. I was just so, so happy to be finally done. 

We got our medals and grabbed a seat, where we had the best hot dogs with chili ever. I was so exhausted, but a little proud, too, that I finished. 

Before we left, Ed snapped a picture of me by the finish 

and then we walked the mile back to the car.  Ed drove home while I reflected back on the race. 

I've been reflecting on this race a lot since, and I think I needed to run a successful race (Big Sur was awesome!!!!) to be able to look back on this race with a more positive outlook. 

It was a learning experience, as I said, but it just wasn't my race. That's okay - it happens.

Up next, a review of my amazing experience at Big Sur!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Excuses (Race report coming soon, for real!)

Hi Guys (she says sheepishly)...long time, no talk! I keep forgetting that this time of year is always (i.e. the last two years) a weird time for me. We're gearing up for testing with the kids, completing report cards and conferences, and having lots of meetings. In addition, this is also when job stress really mounts up. Things are looking pretty bleak for next year, but I'm trying not to think about it until I can actually hope to look for a job elsewhere (as of now, there are literally no openings in about a 40 mile radius around where I live). Bleh. Added to that is the happy stress of wedding planning which, while wonderful and fun, is another thing to do.

I'm sharing all this to try to excuse my subpar running, blogging, and general healthy living. Suddenly, my sneaky weight gain last spring makes a lot more sense, since I was going through all the same stuff (minus wedding planing) last year. 

However, like a smart person, I'm trying to learn from my mistakes and stop this downward spiral before I gain back everything I've lost this year. I stopped going to my weight watchers meetings with everything else, but I'm going to face the music and go back tonight. 
Good news, only gained 2 lbs over the last 5 or so weeks of indulgence :). I've feeling remotivated and much more optimistic about reaching lifetime by the wedding. Just 4.4 lbs to go!

I am already getting geared up for my next race - the Big Sur 10.6. Ed's doing the marathon and my sister and her husband are doing the 9 mile walk. It should be great!

I did have every intention of writing my race report tonight, but alas, it's bedtime. Hopefully tomorrow :).