Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Runner Gets on a Bike ...

And .... I’m back! I spent the last week and a half NOT running. Instead, I biked about 200 miles on a 6-day bike trip in Italy’s Piedmont region.

Did I mention that I have not biked (or cycled, or whatever you people on wheels call it) in 13 years? And that when I did, I never logged more than 25 miles at a time? My husband bikes. And he thought a guided group bike tour would be fun way to introduce me to Italy.

Somehow, I didn’t find the time to bike. Much less biking up and down hills. It seemed like such a hassle. You’ve got to make sure your tires are inflated, your derailleurs and other parts are in good working order, you’ve got to find your helmet, your bike gloves, a tool kit and spare tube, blah blah blah. So I ran instead. Much easier. Just lace up your shoes and go.

Now, 200 miles doesn’t sound like a lot. But Piedmont is SUPER HILLY. One steep hill was more than 5 kilometers long. Every day was a 6-hour bout of interval training. I mistakenly thought that my runner’s fitness would get me through the trip. Yes, it would be painful. But hey, I’m a runner! Half of cycling (or biking) is coasting, right?!

Boy, was I wrong.

Next up: Days 1-3 of biking in Italy. Subtitle: What the hell was I thinking?!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Race Report: Pasadena Half Marathon 2011

Wow, it’s been a year and a half since my last update. Hi, people!   
Perhaps because I had several crappy race experiences last year *. But Mike’s awesome race report on his first half marathon apres heart attack inspired me to dust this old thing off and write about a race I ran last Sunday: the Pasadena Half Marathon 

My race tactic: Start verrry conservatively (9:05/mile pace), then pick it up in the last few miles. The aim: Crossing the finish line with a smile on my face. That’s it. Okay, deep down, I wanted to run sub-2:00. My PR is 1:51 and change. But that was a few years ago. Plus, I haven’t run that far in months. Every step beyond Mile 12 was into terra incognita.
Pre-race: I am lucky enough to live near the race start. I headed out the door late at 6:15 a.m. (the race started at 6:30!). and hustled the 1.3 miles to the start line. I made it with three minutes to spare. I shimmied over the barriers separating the spectators from the runners and wedged myself into the spandexed mass of runners.

Weather: Rainy and cool, in the mid-50’s. Just about perfect. A lot of people complained about the rain, and many wore plastic trash bags. Los Angelenos are such wimps.

Mile 1: 9:17
Mile 2: 9:02
Mile 3: 9:09

I tried to relax and not expend energy by weaving through the crowd. The rain started to come down harder just as the race started, but settled into a steady drizzle.  We ran by Caltech and through empty suburban streets. Peaceful.

Mile 4: 9:13
Mile 5: 9:00
Mile 6: 9:00
Mile 7: 9:09

After wending through tree-lined neighborhoods, we ran up a gradual but long incline to get to Colorado Blvd., the main thoroughfare, also known as Route 66. Ran through Old Town Pasadena, which was empty of spectators except for the cheering employees at Lulumon Athletics. Thanks for the support, guys!

I inadvertently kept speeding up, but tried my best to stick to a 9:05 to 9:10/mile pace. The runners around me were mostly silent. Perhaps because most were too busy listening to their iPods/iPhones. Sigh. Many also still wore trashbags even though the rain petered out around Mile 7. All you could hear were the slap of footfalls and the flap flap the trashbags made from the breeze. The trashbag worn by one tiny old Japanese guy was so long it looked like a dress. 

Mile 8: 9:06
Mile 9: 9:51
Mile 10: 9:43

Hills, hills, and more hills. Gah. Must. Do. More. Hill. Work. I took my one and only water break at Mile 9. Walking while I sipped Ultima, I got discouraged. There comes a time at all races when I think, "WHY did I sign up for this?" This was that time. Then I lost my housekey at Mile 10 and had to backtrack and find it, costing me precious seconds.

Mile 11: 8:56
Mile 12: 8:20
Mile 13: 8:08

After cresting the last big hill, I realized the rest of the course was downhill or flat. My spirits perked up. For a nano-second, I felt guilty for not running harder the first part of the race. Then I felt grateful that I was out there running at all. I started getting emotional, which meant that I almost started hyperventilating.

That snapped me out of any Hallmark reverie. I stopped the self-analysis and started to haul ass. Can I tell you how incredible it felt to run fast at the end of a long race?! Damn the torpedoes, boys, full speed ahead! I passed a lot of people. A hell of a lot.

Mile 13.1: 7:28 pace
Total: 1:59:28

My Garmin said I ran 13.21 miles with an average 9:03 pace. I never was good at running tangents. Anyway, official average mile pace: 9:07. I'll take it. I felt so great after the race that I ran the 1.3 miles uphill back home, then ran another mile with my dogs while cheering on the full marathoners. You know you could have run harder when you willingly run uphill after a race. But I'll tackle the PR another day.

* Two factors are constant in those races: Cloudless, searing, 80+ degree weather, and my starting out too fast. Perfect conditions for a miserable race. By Mile 10, I was road kill. More on in a future post.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Re-building, part deux

Over the past week and a half, I've run in driving rain, 80 degree heat, and windy, chilly "cold for Southern California" temps of 30 degrees. While the weather has varied, the runs have one thing in common: they all felt kind of hard, although I've been running slower than I did last year (read: when I was in better shape).

So I've found myself almost dreading the run. It doesn't help that I'm taking boot camp twice a week, which gives my lower body and core a tiring workout.

So last night, on Christmas Eve, I thought, "the hell with it," and ran the prescribed 6 miles nice and easy. Really easy. Like 10:00 to 10:20/mile pace. And you know what? It was blissful. I enjoyed looking at all the holiday lights in my neighborhood, listening to my even breathing, and feeling the air rush in and out of my lungs.

I gotta do that more often.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Building the Base

Brick by brick, I'm re-building my running base. And boy, is it ever hard work. Not just physically, although, it can be murder just running an easy 6-miler when your quads and hams are screaming from boot camp the day before.

It's almost more difficult mentally. Going from one run a week (at best) to three or four runs plus two sessions of boot camp a week is tough. When that alarm goes off at 5 a.m., sometimes I'm raring to go. Most times, I have to talk myself into getting up. And when I don't get up at 5 a.m., that means a run in the dark after work. When all I want to do is to relax and grab a drink with friends or hang out with my SO and dog.

But if this were easy, everyone would be doing it. And even just the measly 2 1/2 weeks of hard work is starting to pay off: I've lost 2.6 lbs. Woohoo!

You gotta celebrate the little things in life.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

One step forward, one step down

So there I was, walking to my office this afternoon on a cool late afternoon. Minding my own business. When I turned a corner in my high-heeled black boots and BAM, twisted my right ankle and fell down hard, with all my weight on my left knee.

My first thought -- well, after $#*^@! --  was, "Am I going to be able to run 6 miles tomorrow morning?"

The answer? No way. I couldn't put any weight on my left leg for a few minutes and just stayed on the ground, massaging my right ankle. Now I can limp around. I am such a freaking klutz, sometimes. I've fallen here and here in races.

Methinks running is not in the near future. Definitely not tomorrow. But maybe I'll be in good enough shape for my long run on Saturday .... wishful thinking?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Crunching the Numbers

After running for four months with my Garmin 305, I finally installed the device's software and uploaded a season's worth of runs onto my computer.

One thing I've realized: I usually don't wait long enough for the satellites to pick up my Garmin before I start running. I'm not exactly a patient person, alas. Garmin doesn't start tracking my run until after I've already logged a half-mile. Which means that Garmin undertracks my mileage.That also means that the first mile of my runs read abnormally slow: 13 to 14:00/mile instead of 9:30/mile or so.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Qualifying for Boston. Take Two.

After being derailed by a sprained ankle back in January 2008 and then by a decidedly lackluster running regimen, I've decided to get back on track.

My aim: Qualifying for Boston in 2010. At the OC Marathon next May 2.

There. I've said it.

Time to make it happen.

I signed up several weeks ago for a marathon training program: The Sole Runners. We meet every Saturday in San Pedro, by the beach. Most everyone is less experienced and slower than me. Hmmm. The jury is still out on this one, but I may have just wasted $150 on this program.

Started boot camp last week. Love it. Of more which, later.

I stopped blogging last year b/c it was too much work. So I'm keeping this very low-key for now. That way, I don't have to edit (too much) what I write. Or feel guilty if I don't write every day.

Off to bed. It's 1:31 a.m. and I have to log 5 miles tomorrow in the rain.