December 31, 2011

The year according to my feet

I pledged to get back into running shape this year.

I did it the only way I know how -- I commited to a bunch of races. Over the course of 2011, I registered for and completed 2 marathons, 6 half marathons, and 4 10Ks.

I trained with the highest overall mileage I've ever done for both marathons, which pushed me to my highest mileage year, by far: 1,659.73.

In other words, I averaged 31.9 miles per week.

And, if I'm honest, I'm a little burnt out from all those miles. While elite runners may put in 100+ mile weeks, this year's mileage wiped me out, motivation wise.

Yes, I'm still recovering from CIM, so no doubt that's contributing a bit to my funk.

But, physically, I'm pretty much recovered (although I'm much tighter than I've ever been and I need to focus more on my flexibility and yoga in 2012). Psychologically, though, well, let's just say I'm definitely loafing these days.

We have an out of town visitor, so I had awesome company for the last run of the year today. Even so, after a slow 5 miles, I asked if we could stop and walk the last 2 because I just wasn't feeling like running.

Now that I've done the long slog to get back into decent running shape, I'm looking forward to focusing more on the quality of my runs and less on the quantity in 2012.

So far, I only have 3 definite races on tap for 2012: a 5K with my mom (her first) in January, The Kaiser Half, and the 50th anniversary of the Equinox Marathon (with Arvay! Yay!).

I'm sure I'll add a few more events as the year goes on, but I'm really hoping that I can maintain the aerobic fitness I've built up while focusing on building up my speed, all while returning to a more balanced, but regular, running schedule.

Happy Running in 2012!

December 27, 2011

Christmas with the family

Family -- Mom, MomHubby, Sis, SisHubby, BabyA, Brother, Niece, E, and I all gathered for a few days. It was great to see everyone and catch up.

Fun -- We laughed and played games galore: Wii, Settlers of Catan, Poker (tournament at the casino for me, brother, and MomHubby).

Food -- Beef Wellington -- a longstanding family tradition (Sis, Mom, and I shared the duties and it turned out perfectly):

Friends -- we had surprise visits from several folks we hadn't seen in ages.

And, my Christmas surprise from mom? My wedding dress, made into pillows for our guest bedroom. How awesome is that?

Happy winter holidays to all, and Happy Almost New Year!

December 23, 2011

It feels like I did *something* right

I received a shipment of books from Arvay a day or so ago.

I can't wait to finish them. They were a very welcome receipt.

Tonight, E2 and J came to stay the night and we enjoyed delicious healthy food (which the guys prepared while E2 and I did accounting, the guys grumbling the entire cooktime about the lack of steak). How lucky am I that I have a good friend (with a background in econ!) willing to help with my books?

Dinner was delicious, and the homemade biscotti dessert that E2 and J brought reminded me of the biscotti E2 would make with angst in Berkeley. Ahhh.. to be young roommates, again.

Looking back on college, how could I not feel lucky?

I was ridiculously lucky to meet Arvay as a young student and, also, our shared friend K, who to this day swears I insulted her for blocking my view of the board. Me? I'd like to say that the deep sigh and the slammed books and moved desks and statement about her tall persona blocking my short view was not intended as an insult. But, intent doesn't really matter, now does it? So, it's possible I did insult her. I mean, let's be honest... I probably did respond inappropriately. {{Sigh.}}

Back to feeling lucky -- I feel lucky to have known E2 since 3rd grade (or maybe earlier?) and to have shared tons of familial chaos with her. My grandma, who is entering dementia via the doors of old age, Parkinson's, and more, recently asked me about E2 when I visited in person (for E2 and I have visited her in person at least once per year for at least the last decade). My gran asks about E2 despite her declining awareness and E2s mom made homemade soup and noodles for my recent Pre-Marathon meal. How wonderful and adorable is that? E2 and I are clearly close friends!

Tonight, E2 and her husband are passing through our place on their way to the East Coast. The world is big. (5 AM wake-up for a flight out of SJC big -- blech).

And yet small.

I am lucky.

And grateful that I'll be driving to the CA foothills and back and not much else this holiday season.

Happy Holidays to all!

December 19, 2011

San Francisco Weekend

A long time ago (a decade ago, in fact), E and I moved down the peninsula and told ourselves that we'd take a hotel room when we were missing out on stuff in San Francisco. That was how we justified the loss of a true culturally diverse city in exchange for our plot with a garden and good, sunny weather, and a shorter commute.

We haven't taken ourselves up on our promise to return and stay in hotels as much as we should have. But we've done it more than most. In fact, we do it at least once a year thanks to my first post-college-employer, who invites us to their holiday party every year.

This year, we crammed as much as possible into the weekend. I started with Friday business meetings and lunch with a law school friend at Claudine followed by tea with another lawyer at the Ferry Building and late afternoon work at Ritual. We swung by Aldea Niños to buy a baby gift on our way to our friends before they drove us to dinner at A47 (in an unplanned coincidence, each of us had driven the route in France within the last 6 months, which was pretty cool -- the map on the menu made sense to all of us and we discussed our favorite stops).

So, really, could I have a more stereotypical SF Friday?

Why, no. And how grand was that?

Wonderous. Like driving down Lombard Street.

Which, for some reason, I also did this weekend. As a passenger. Damn, that's cool...

We stayed at the Embarcadero and enjoyed views of the holiday ice skaters (the majority were ice wobblers, actually), Christmas lights, and holiday shoppers.

We attended the holiday party at Alexander's Steakhouse and we had brunch twice with friends, once at Kingdom of Dumpling (how can you argue with that name?) and once at Just For You Cafe.

Overall, it was a whirlwind of social activities with some work squeezed in between. But the weather was perfect, the views were amazing, and we were reminded, once again, why San Francisco really is one of the greatest cities.

P.S. Sometimes, San Francisco looks like Tron:

December 5, 2011

Run Your Own Race

Desiree Davila solo at the 15K, well behind the lead pack at the 2011 Boston Marathon. As you may know, she eventually fought an exciting multi-surge sprint-to-the-finish battle to a 2 second loss for 2nd place. (And if you don't know, you should watch it, this is history in the making, and a great race. American women are slowly climbing the ladder to be able to compete with the African Women in distance running.)

She put in the best American woman's Boston Marathon performance in at least 16 years.

And, consequently, this picture is one of my favorite sport photos of all time.

If you miss the confidence in her gait, you might think she's falling off the pack.

But, I know how it ends. I woke my husband that AM with my PST shouting, cheering, and crying as she almost became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985 in the waning EST morning of 2011.

This picture demonstrates the point. Look at her. All alone. Trailing. Alone. Confident that she's doing what makes sense for her and not following the crowd just to be part of the group. When interviewed pre-race about tactics, she's often quoted as saying, "I'm just going to run my own race."

And she did. Boy, did she.

I am inspired to be so focused. First, I want to have the confidence to actually do the research and have the faith in knowing what my own race is (no denial, honesty about my own abilities and how I'm likely to do best). And second, I want to have the courage to run my own race, regardless of what everyone else is doing.

At the risk of being annoyingly obvious -- I'm not just talking about running.
California International Marathon (take two)

Quick Summary:

-Perfect weather (gorgeous clear day, below 40F at the start high 50s at the finish) and a fast, rolling, downhill course (8 U.S. Men and 25 U.S. Women ran the Olympic Marathon Qualifying Standard!)

-Great 4 Hour pace team leaders (Karyn Hoffman, 10 days after completing the Cozumel IronMan; and Bill Finkbeiner, 27-time Leadville finisher)

-Awesome hydration and fueling. The best I've ever had for a marathon. Thanks to JB, E2's mom, & the SRA!

-My 2nd fastest marathon to date: 4:09:26 (5 minutes short of the PR I was hoping to break)

My training was probably the best I've ever done for a marathon. 721.59 miles in 18 weeks. An average of 40.3 miles per week. Weekly speed work or strength work. Weekly tempo runs (if I'm honest, this is where I cut the most corners. My running buddy didn't. She ran a 3:49!). Sure, I didn't hit all of the workouts perfectly, but I definitely hit more than I ever had in the past.

Nutrition and hydration-wise, I was thrilled. I really messed these up at CDA, so I was very happy that I've figured out what to do.

A huge thanks to JB for the Powerbar products, they aided me through the entire training segment and on race day I easily put away a breakfast of coffee with milk and chocolate syrup, 2 Irongirl bars, and 1 Simply Energy bar -- 500 calories and it felt like nothing in my stomach. No cramping. No GI issues. Perfect.

E2's mom made her mother's chinese noodles for pre-race dinner -- boiled chinese wheat noodles topped with hard boiled eggs, chives, pulled chicken, soy sauce, and homemade chicken stock (you know your friend's mom loves you when she makes homemade stock the night before you visit because they live 0.5 miles from the start and she wants you to have a good pre-race meal!). E and I added rooster sauce to the mix. Delicious. Easy to digest. High in carbs, light proteins, and sodium to pre-load my electrolytes.

I'll avoid the detailed report, but by the time I was leaving the house for the race, I was comfortable from the evidence that I was headed to the start with the perfect balance of water, electrolytes, and a light, relatively empty GI tract.

On the course, I took electrolytes at all aid stations where I didn't have Gu and water where I did. I had GU/water at 7 miles, 13 miles, 14.5 miles, 20 miles, and 23 miles. I've never had that many GUs in a race and I'd heard stories about folks having serious GI issues, so I was pleased to learn that I could handle it just fine. Now that I know I can handle it, I think on my next marathon I'll try to do GU every 25-30 minutes starting at 1 hour.

So, what went wrong? First, I came down with a cold 2 days before the race. I took every over-the-counter remedy I could find, and rested, and hydrated as best I could to get the major symptoms under control. But, I was still producing more mucus than normal at the start, I had some post-nasal drip, some coughing, etc.

I'd done some research, and it appears that the majority takes the position that if your symptoms are entirely above your neck (and you have no fever), a cold shouldn't get in the way of your run. For me, after 2 races with colds, I can say this isn't true. I don't think running with a cold harms me, but I do think it affects my performance. At this year's US Half I was disappointed with my performance (and beat it by 8.5 minutes 3 weeks later, when not sick). On the course at CIM, I began to cough up mucus at about mile 14. After the finish, there were 30 minutes where I coughed deeply and almost without pause until I'd cleared a bunch of crud from my lungs.

Other than the cold, I think I can attribute my failure to beat my PR on 2 things: 1) I seriously considered dropping out and having E come to pick me up at mile 20. This decreased commitment, between coughs, resulted in a decreased pace until I decided I'd just tough it out. 2) Now that I've finished the Hanson's training program with its higher overall mileage but shorter long runs -- I think I personally need at least one 20 mile (or longer) long run during my training cycle so I've practiced the mental toughness to push to the finish. This was the first time I'd trained for a marathon without completing at least one 20-miler and I found myself nervous and doubtful before the race, which was compounded by the cold, and resulted in a significant lack of commitment and slow-down during the 17-20 mile segment because I was very suspicious of how I'd hold up.

I owe the fact that I finished to my 9-yr-old niece and mom. They'd run the 2.62 fun run and were waiting for me at the finish. I knew E and E2 would completely understand if I decided to drop out, treat it as a training run, and enter a replacement marathon in 8 weeks or so, but I also knew my niece wouldn't understand at all.

The truth was, if I dropped out, she's see it as an example saying it's okay to quit. And sometimes it is. This time, if I wanted to save the energy and go for the PR at the Surf City Marathon it totally would have been. But she wouldn't have understood why. She wasn't going to be at the finish line at Surf City. She was as the finish line at CIM. So, I pushed past the 20 mile marker and after the 21 mile marker confirmed that I really didn't have that much to go, I started to speed up again.

By the end, I was back to faster than my goal pace, pushed along by the specter of the closing 4:10 pace group that I wasn't about to let pass me. It was so great to see my niece at the finish, high-pitched screeching with my mom, holding a sign with my name. She told me all about her 2.62 mile run, being filmed by the TV crews, and watching the winners and the qualifiers for the Olympic Trials. I gave her my medal -- and I told her she was the reason I finished. She told me I was stinky.

When all was said and done, it was not the performance I was hoping for, but it was great, nonetheless. I ran the whole thing and didn't stop except to walk through the aid stations (vs. CDA where I took a walk break on Mile 26). I made a 3:46 improvement over Coeur D'alene and ran my second fastest marathon. More importantly, I ran a much smarter race than Coeur D'alene, without hydration and fuel issues and with a smarter, slower start and a 4:59 improvement on the back half, despite my 3-4 mile lack of commitment and slowdown.

So, while I'm disappointed, I'm excited to think about how close to that PR I am if I can avoid a cold and stay committed through the late teens and early 20s miles of the race. I'll get that last 4:59 somewhere, someday.

For the short term, I'm going to give myself a few days off and think about what my next goal might be. I really liked the idea of going for the PR in Huntington Beach, but after completing the full 26.2, I'm hobbling around and not sure I have enough time to recover and get back into marathon shape by early Feb. Perhaps it's time to do some shorter distances...