Posted in Running

Is It Time to Panic Yet?

 

Is it time to panic yet?

Seven weeks until the 2012 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon.

San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon 2012

Eight weeks until the 2012 NWM (Nike Women’s Marathon).

Eight Weeks Left NWM 2012

Is it time to panic yet? Let’s see.

  1. Did you already sign up for the San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-marathon? or Have you been informed that you made it in the lottery for the NWM?
  2. Have you already made your travel arrangements?
  3. Have you already made your hotel reservations?
  4. Have you already requested time off from work (if you’re traveling and/or staying extra days in or around the race location)?
  5. Have you been following your training plan?
  6. If you answered no to #5, have you at least been running regularly?
  7. If you answered no to #6, have you at least been running a couple of times each week?
  8. If you answered no to #7, have you run at least once in the last couple of weeks?

If you answered no to the last four questions, it’s time to panic just a little bit. Sure, sheer guts and determination can take you to the finish line of a 5k or a 10k. But you don’t want to mess around with a half-marathon and especially not with a marathon. Those are distances you need to respect – unless you’ve run them several times before.

The good news is that you still have seven or eight weeks before the race. If you haven’t stuck to your training schedule, let go of expectations of a PR or winning your age group or running with your speedy friends. If you haven’t been running regularly, let go of wanting or needing to run the entire distance and allow yourself the sanity of walk breaks.

You can still show up on race day and have a great time. The key is to adjust your expectations and adjust your training schedule. The last thing you want to do now is to over-train and injure yourself.

As for me, I’m not in panic mode yet. My long run on Saturday was a bit over 10 miles. The training plan said 12 miles but I had technical difficulties with the treadmill so 10 miles was perfectly fine.

Happy Running!

 

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Posted in Race Reports, Running, Travel

Race Report: Inaugural Edinburgh Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon 2012

The days leading up to the inaugural Edinburgh Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon 2012 were overcast with scattered showers. The weather reports predicted cold temperatures (1° C) and chilly winds with chance of scattered showers for race morning. So, of course, race day dawned sunny with not a cloud in the sky and, although a bit nippy, just the barest of breezes sweeping through the starting area in Holyrood Park.

For an inaugural event, things were rather smooth, which is a testament to the Rock-n-Roll organization.

120415 RnR Edinburgh Half Medal
120415 RnR Edinburgh Half Medal

The expo was set up in the park, right where the finish festivities – concerts and awards presentation – would take place after the race. Because of the open setup, everything was in tents. The bib and chip tent was off to the left and the t-shirt and gear bag tent was straight on so most people began by queuing in the t-shirt/gear bag line. I think better signage would be helpful in the future. Or another suggestion would be to have a big tent that starts with bib/chip pickup then flows to t-shirt/gear bag pickup and then flows to the souvenir store.

I mention the souvenir tent because I also almost missed it. The souvenir tent was a compact affair with the sample items hanging on the walls with signs indicating sizes and prices. Easy enough, right? Not if you’re queued up behind a half-dozen Italians who needed to see all the sizes available for all the items. And then, as one bought an item, another one would see it and want one just like it. Only in a different size, of course. So then the clerk would have to pull out all the sizes again while trying to wrap up the first transaction. Repeat six times before it was finally my turn.

All I wanted was my usual commemorative t-shirt plus a beanie cap. The t-shirt has become my tradition at races away from home – because sometimes a finisher’s t-shirt isn’t appropriate attire. The beanie cap was for the weather. Although I packed an assortment of Bondi Bands which could be pulled down over my ears, given the dire weather warnings on the BBC, I wasn’t sure they would be sufficient. By buying that beanie cap, I took my first step toward breaking my cardinal rule of racing.

Gear acquired, I headed back to the hotel, stopping to buy a bacon roll from one of the food vendors. I promised myself another such roll after the race. Mmm…good incentive.

120413 Edinburgh RnR City Centre Road Closures
Bus stop notice showing closures/diversions due to the 2012 Edinburgh RnR Half-Marathon

The night before the race, I listened to the weather report again. The report said frosty and windy and chances of showers. I considered my planned race outfit. I watched another weather report. I looked at my race outfit again.

The road to hell is paved with broken rules, right? My cardinal rule for races is that you don’t wear race swag until you’ve earned it. If I broke my rule for this race, who knew what other evil acts I was capable of committing?

I tried on the race t-shirt. Not the cotton one I bought at the souvenir store but the tech t-shirt given to all registered runners during packet pickup. It fit perfectly. My long-sleeved shirt went on top. I waffled but the next weather report convinced me – I needed the layer. And the beanie cap.

As noted earlier, race day weather was gorgeous – chilly for sure but I could have survived without the extra layer. And probably the beanie cap, too. Ah well, at least I was prepared for the worst weather.

If I needed a theme for this race, it would be “Chilly and Hilly.” A fellow runner I met on a day tour the day after the race commented that the hills only seemed to go up and never down.

That, of course, was a slight exaggeration. We had at least two nice long downhills – heading out of Holyrood Park into the City Centre and then the final mile back into Holyrood Park for the finish. Thank goodness the race directors weren’t cruel and didn’t plan an uphill finish.

120415 Edinburgh RnR Going Down Side of Arthurs Seat
The start of a nice long downhill

The scenery went from residential to coastal to residential to park to city to park to city to park. Running along the sea wall took me by surprise – I didn’t expect us to be that close to the sea during the race. Lines from my favorite poem, Sea Fever by John Masefield, flitted through my head during those miles.

120415 Edinburgh RnR Seaside
Gorgeous views along the Firth of Forth, miles 4 & 5.

The residential areas were another surprise. Little clusters of people gathered here and there outside their houses to clap, smile, and offer words of encouragement. Since I’m a slow runner (just ahead of the 2:30 pace group through the first 2/3 of the race) the thought that people would spend a chunk of their Sunday morning cheering for strangers was quite heartening.

As usual, the race organizers set up entertaining bands and DJs at just the right spots. The volunteers on the race course were great about managing the traffic. There was a lot of waste, though.

Instead of cups of water and Gatorade at the hydration stations, they gave out bottles of water and Powerade. I thought that was great because I took a bottle of water at the first station and carried it until it was empty and then grabbed a Powerade bottle. But other people took a sip or two and then chucked their bottles. Or, even worse, they’d grab two bottles, take a couple of sips out of one and chuck it, and then do the same with the other bottle further down the road. It was especially sad to see 500 mL bottles of Powerade – almost full – chucked in the gutter.

I learned from fellow runners at a whisky tour a couple of days after the race that the bottled water and Powerade was likely in response to people getting sick from cups of city water at the Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas event last December. I don’t know if they ever proved that the people who got sick actually got sick because of the water but apparently the Rock-n-Roll organization wasn’t taking any chances. It’s too bad that their cautiousness resulted in so much waste.

120415 Edinburgh RnR Cowsgate 1
Perfect shot for #SeenOnMyRun ~ didn’t notice the front of the cow until I was looking at pictures for this blog post!

The end of the race was a fast downhill portion and when I turned towards Holyrood Park and the finish, I could hear the announcer greeting the runners as they covered the last bit of the distance. I made the final turn to the finish gate, looked up, and there she was – the little energetic blond from the San Jose Rock-n-Roll half-marathon. Microphone in hand, she cheered for the runners, exhorting them to smile, encouraging them as they took their last few steps to cross the finish line, and giving high-fives to everyone who swerved over to her.

As I’m writing this, I’m already looking forward to seeing her in October at the San Jose Rock-n-Roll half-marathon.

I’m also looking forward to getting my World Rocker Heavy Medal at the end of the year.

This is a good event for a newbie traveler (always easier to travel to a country where they speak English) who wants to run in an organized race event.

Happy running!

Posted in Running

Chasing Demons Leads to…

Runners run for different reasons. Some runners run for weight loss, some for fitness. Some runners run to hold back the hands of time, some because they’ve always run. Some runners run to meditate, some to relieve stress. Some runners run to remember, some to forget.

I started running as a way to spend time with my father and I’ve run ever since. I don’t mind my own company so running suits me because it’s mostly a solitary pursuit.

My brother ran because he had to for football. But other than that, he didn’t run at all. Until recently.

About a year or so ago, my brother started running to keep someone company while she trained for a 5k. He didn’t want to enter the race, he just joined her for random training runs. He’s a much more social being so he prefers team activities like volleyball and bocce. I watched his running progress via his Runkeeper and Facebook updates, not offering much besides a thumbs up or to comment, “Good job!” He made it pretty clear that he wasn’t interested in entering a race and that he was just running for a girl.

Life is all about change and it’s a time of change for my brother. He’s going through some interesting times right now and his updates refer to his runs as “chasing demons.” Running has become his escape.

I noticed via Runkeeper that his runs were becoming more frequent so I thought I needed to step in with some words of experience. I didn’t want him to injure himself by adding mileage too quickly or by pushing too hard a pace too often. I wanted him to stick with running and grow to love it, as I do.

So as we’ve been talking, texting, and emailing over the weeks, I’ve always managed to sneak in a word or two about running. I encouraged him to increase his distance slowly instead of running the same distance every time. I advised him to run fast only once or twice a week and to run all of his other runs at a conversational pace. I knew he was hooked the day that he called me and asked me to talk to him while he ran so he could determine what his “conversational pace” was.

That’s when I moved into phase 2 of my running campaign – trying to convince him to enter a race. But not just any race, a half-marathon. That would accomplish a few things. It would give him a goal to progress towards, it would give him a reason to continue running, and it would get him to come home for a visit. I managed to mention the Big Sur Half-Marathon  each time we spoke, telling him that there was plenty of time to train because the race wasn’t until November.

Big Sur half marathon monterey 2011
Big Sur half marathon monterey 2011 (Photo credit: fogcat5)

When registration opened on the 1st of April, I registered for the Big Sur Half-Marathon and tweeted that I had. My brother called me that afternoon and without any greeting, he said,”Ninety-five dollars?!? That’s expensive!” That made my day – I knew he was hooked. I told him that if he skipped one dinner out a week or had one beer less when he was out with the guys, he could save up the entry fee in no time.

And then the miracle happened.

On Friday, he registered for the half-marathon. And did he even call me to tell me he had? Of course not. I had to find out by seeing it posted on his Facebook page. It didn’t matter because I was so excited for him, for me, and for running.

My brother started running to chase the demons and he’s chased them right into a half-marathon.

Why do you run? Where will your running take you? How do you share your love of running?

Happy Running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report: Together with Love 10k 2012

Bahía de Monterey, California
Monterey Bay ~ Image via Wikipedia

The 27th annual Together with Love run took place on Sunday, 12 February 2012. The race benefits the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center.

This race is a beautiful out-and-back course along the Monterey Bay coastline from Lover’s Point up to Spanish Bay (for the 10k). The weather on race day was perfect running weather – overcast and on the chilly side. It looked like rain so I wore a light rain jacket but the rain didn’t show up for the race.

As with last year, the race was chip-timed. I received my bib and D-chip in the mail but this year, there was nothing else in the envelope – just the bib with the attached D-chip. I’m not sure why the race organizers chose not to include race instructions this year. Perhaps it was a sustainability-related decision. I would have preferred to have something mailed with the bib. At the very least, a strip of paper with the date and time of the race!

I was signed up for the 10k but after I picked up my t-shirt and goodies bag, I briefly toyed with the idea of just running the 5k because of my hip and lower back aches. Just briefly, though, because I really wanted to run 6 miles to stay sort-of-on-track with my half-marathon training.

The race t-shirt was a long-sleeve technical t-shirt with another great minimalist design. My dad, who is the beneficiary of all my long-sleeve cotton race t-shirts, probably wishes that the race would go back to giving cotton shirts. I, however, like the technical t-shirts a lot. As with most races nowadays, people wore their race t-shirts before they earned them.

The race started close to on time and we were off. For the first couple of miles, I just ran. I didn’t pay attention to my Garmin, I didn’t worry about my time or my pace, I just ran. The 5k turnaround came and went and I ran on. I think the race organizers have a wicked streak because the 10k turnaround is on a hill. Granted, it’s not a big hill but after nearly 3 miles, any hill counts!

The race flow felt more disorganized this year – probably because race instructions weren’t included with our race bibs. By disorganized, I mean that people were running on both sides of the road and at no point were we ever moved over to one side to make room for the returning runners. So the 5k winners were having to run against the slower runners, most of whom were so oblivious that they didn’t bother to move aside, much less cheer for the faster runners.

There were some volunteers on the course who were amazingly enthusiastic, encouraging, and uplifting. And they were placed at the perfect spots – close to hills. These ladies cheered and clapped and made runners smile. I really appreciate race volunteers, especially the ones who cheer and smile.

I finished the race and felt good. My time was just a twitch faster than last year’s time. I need to work on being able to hold a faster pace at the end for a longer distance.

There was a line for the munchies and I didn’t have the patience to wait in line for a muffin half or a bagels half or a banana half. I think as the race becomes more popular, as it does year over year, the race organizers need to consider a different setup for the post-race food. The nice thing, though, is that they always seem to have a lot of food, which is a good thing for slow runners like myself!

All in all, it was a good race. I would recommend it for anyone who wants a beautiful course with small rolling hills.

Happy running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report: Nike+ Women’s Half Marathon

My city. My terms. My Nike+ Run.

Sunday, 15 January 2012, was the inaugural Nike+ Women’s Half Marathon. This was a virtual race – each participant would run a half-marathon at any time from 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, 15 January 2012, and log the run with Nike+. Participants could run anywhere so some runners who were already signed up for a race let that race do double duty.

I hesitated about signing up for this race. My runs lately have been to build a base for the half-marathon training that will start in a couple of weeks. I didn’t want to sign up for the race and then not be able to finish it or injure myself in the process because of my inadequate training.

I compromised by signing up for the Nike+ challenge because I could log the miles without paying the entry fee. After all, was the finisher’s bracelet worth $40? Then, last week, I reminded myself that I could do the distance, that I had completed the distance on minimal training before, and that I could walk to the finish if need be. I decided to go for it and registered for the race. I was official.

I chose to do my run on a treadmill, in the evening, after the football games. Since I hadn’t been training for this race, I decided to treat it like a long run and go at my long run pace instead of pushing my race pace. I thought that I would do a run/walk ratio of 9/1. That’s 9 minutes running, 1 minute walking. The morning of the race, I changed my mind because I knew I was going to be running at just a twitch above my long run pace and decided that my run/walk ratio would be 14/1.

After watching the Green Bay Packers lose miserably to the New York Giants, I put on my running clothes, laced up my Asics Gel Nimbus 13 – the next pair of shoes in the rotation, not my usual race shoes – popped my Nike+ sensor into my bean pod, and strapped on my Nike+ SportBand.

One small hiccup, though. I recently moved my treadmill to the garage and the idea of staring at a blank garage wall for 2+ hours was a bit daunting. I don’t have a television out there (yet!) and I’m anti-i so I don’t have an iPad. I’m also cheap so I don’t have a tablet. I had hoped to use my Nook to watch movies on crackle.com – not the best solution because of the Nook’s lack of flash – but even that idea was stymied because my treadmill is now too far away from my wireless router to get a good enough signal to connect. Luckily, I had my phone and was able to watch old episodes of NCIS during my time on the treadmill.

The run went surprisingly well given my lack of training. I stuck with my run/walk ratio of 14/1 and ended up pushing the pace well beyond my easy run pace because I was feeling so good.

I ran until my Sportband read 13.12 miles, ended my run, and then walked for a few more minutes to cool down. When I logged my run, though, instead of uploading 13.12 miles only 13.05 miles were uploaded. That, of course, freaked me out because I wanted to be counted as a finisher! In retrospect, I should have kept the Sportband on while I walked my cool-down – it’s what I do during my regular runs, after all.

Post-race soreness wasn’t too bad and I was able to do an easy 3+ miles on Monday.

I’m glad that I signed up for the Nike+ challenge. I’m glad that I registered for the race. I’m glad that I have a treadmill. The successful completion of this event makes me look forward to the half-marathon in April.

Happy Running!

Posted in Running

Planning for 2012

Are you a planner? Or are you a more spontaneous soul?

If you’re a runner, chances are you’re some sort of planner.

You may not have started out as a planner. You may have just gone out for a run whenever the mood hit you. You probably ran without a goal, running for as long as you felt like it, as fast as you felt like going. And you may have only run sporadically, fulfilling your need for cardio with other activities.

But once you enter your first race – however you were motivated to do so – a change begins to occur. For some, it’s a quick process. For others, the process takes more time. As a result of that first race, you start paying attention to things like running shoes, running gear. You start looking for running advice, like how to drink water without stopping or spilling the contents of that little paper cup all over yourself. And you start to wonder if you could have turned in a better time if you had trained properly. So you start thinking about your next race.

Your next race means a training program. A training program means planning – planning your runs, arranging your schedule to accommodate those runs, figuring out a plan B for missed workouts, planning your race day.

Eventually, you go beyond planning for one race at a time. Suddenly, you’re planning a year’s worth of races at the same time you’re figuring out your resolutions for the new year. You’ve become a planner thanks to running.

My race calendar has fluctuated over the years, going from a race here and there to a few years of a race every month and back down to a handful of regular local races with room to fill in other races depending on my schedule and fitness level.

Here’s my plan for 2012 so far:

  • Nike Women’s Virtual Half Marathon (January)
  • Together with Love 10k (February)
  • Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (April)
  • PAL Artichoke Festival 5k (May) – might finally do the 10k this year
  • Stevenson Run in the Forest 10k (September) – best post-race breakfast ever
  • San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (October) – already registered
  • Nike Women’s Marathon (October) – only if I’m one of the lucky lottery selections
  • Big Sur International Half Marathon (November) – race registration opens 1 April

This leaves the summer months (June, July, and August) open and gives me flexibility. I’ve found that I enjoy having race-free months because there’s less pressure to run and I can run for running’s sake. Those months are when I rediscover why I really run.

What does your 2012 race calendar look like? Whether it’s packed full or wide open, always remember the joy you find in running, the feeling of accomplishment you had when you crossed your first finish line, and the camaraderie of your fellow runners.

Wishing you a 2012 devoid of injuries and full of PRs…

Happy running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – 2011 Big Sur Half Marathon

The 9th presentation of the Big Sur Half Marathon took place on Sunday, 20 October 2011. It was my 9th time running the Big Sur Half Marathon.

The weather was a bit of concern for people commenting on the Big Sur Marathon’s Facebook page but I was looking forward to rain as long as it wasn’t a huge downpour. As it turned out, the storm passed through overnight and we were left with some residual clouds and the occasional shower.

I left my car at about 0640 to head to the start line because the race day instructions said to be in our corrals by 0645. The corrals seemed to be half full and that made sense when they announced that the start time would be 0705 – instead of 0700 as the race day instructions had said – and that the corrals would go off in waves 3 minutes apart.

The opening festivities were okay. One of the speakers told the runners that we needed to hurt as badly as we’ve ever hurt during the race and that would give us an idea of how our military members felt when they were overseas protecting the United States. I thought it was a silly thing to say because race pain is quite different from the pain of being shot or having limbs blown off by IEDs. That aside, I always get choked up by the National Anthem unless the rendition is particularly horrible, which it wasn’t. I suppose it doesn’t surprise me that there are a lot of people – both men and women – who don’t take their hats off for the singing of the National Anthem. It bothers me but it doesn’t surprise me.

In theory, the wave start made some sense to prevent the congestion in the early miles. In practice, the wave start needs some work. When the gun went off, the volunteers in our corral immediately took down the barrier in front of us and so, of course, we all moved up to the corral in front of us. When my corral reached the start line, we stopped because we knew that our wave hadn’t been called. But the announcer told us to get moving so we started running. We had barely taken 10 steps when the announcer greeted our corral. Disorganized.

The main thing that I didn’t like about the wave start is that I missed seeing the elite runners on their way to the finish line. But I did enjoy having people with me throughout the race, especially at the end.

The race unveiled new mile markers for the race and they were amusing. I missed a couple of the mile markers but saw the majority of them. It certainly gave me something to look at – besides the gorgeous scenery – and to look forward to during the run. I like them much better than the old cello mile markers that the race has used in the past.

The bands that came out to play were really good sports to be out there despite the threat of rain. There seemed to be a lot more spectators cheering us along. The drum band just after the Aquarium is always upbeat and comes at a great time – just after a little hill on the way out and just before the same hill on the way back – but I think they were missing a member or two. The taiko drummers right before the turnaround were not present and that’s too bad. I love the sound of drums when I’m running. I definitely appreciate all of the bands that stayed out there for us slower runners and all of the volunteers who manned the aid stations for us slower runners.

My last couple of miles were run in a light rain. I heard runners around me cursing the rain but my mom has always told me that rain is God’s blessing so I have a very positive view of rain. I really think that the weather was perfect for the half-marathon.

2011 Big Sur Half Marathon Finishers Medal

All of the volunteers on the course were great – big smiles and lots of encouragement. The Team-in-Training coaches who were on the course were very different from the ones at the Nike Women’s Marathon because they offered encouragement to everyone, not just the Team-in-Training participants.

This year, the food tent was very organized because instead of having food that we had to put into boxes, the volunteers had already packed up goodie bags that contained fruit, a cookie, and a juice. Bagel halves were handed out at the rear of the tent. I will say that I missed having bottles of water to pick up because the cups of water are cumbersome to carry through the crowds.

I tried to get a cup of soup because I thought a cup of hot soup would perfectly counteract the coldness from the rain shower but the soup line was long and there was only one soup tent. So I chose not to get soup or beer and instead headed off to the parking garage to make my way home to a well-deserved warm shower and rest.

I look forward to this race every year. I hope that next year the race director will have something special planned for those of us who have run in all ten presentations!

Happy running!