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Archive for November, 2012

I am still processing what an amazing morning I had racing the Santa Barbara International Marathon, but I’ll do my best to put it into words (and pictures!) In retrospect, there are four things that made my first marathon go well: (1) the beautiful setting for a small(er) race, (2) a carefully planned fueling strategy for before and during the race, (3) proper pacing, and (4) the supportive people of Goleta and Santa Barbara who came out to cheer along the course.

Pre-Race Nutrition

I paid attention to my carbohydrate intake about three days before the race. There’s lots of debate about whether carbo-loading is helpful, especially for women, but I wasn’t taking any chances after hitting the wall on my 20-mile training run. The day before the race I tried not to eat too much fiber, got a little extra salt, and had a carbohydrate-rich dinner with some lean protein (pasta with marinara sauce and chicken).

In spite of my race jitters I managed to get about six hours of sleep, one of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever gotten before a race. I woke up at 4:15, about half an hour before my alarm was set to go off, and just continued to rest until it was time to get up. At 4:45 I got up and flipped the switch on the hotel teapot for hot water for coffee and oatmeal. I realized I hadn’t packed a spoon (oops) and was about to eat my oatmeal with the clean end of my toothbrush as a scooper (true story) but then I remembered I was staying at a nice hotel that probably had a spoon for the mini bar (it did). I ate 3/4 of a banana and a cup of oatmeal, timed to precision about two and a half hours before the scheduled 7:30 race start (I say scheduled because there ended up being a 15-minute delay). Two hours before the race I drank 3 cups of water. Half an hour before the race I drank two more cups of water and took a Green Apple PowerGel for the extra calories and tiny bit of caffeine. I planned to take in a little less than four 23.6-ounce bottles of Fluid electrolyte drink on the course, based on the calorie calculations I made with the instructions from 4 Steps to Perfect Marathon Fueling.

Race Start

My husband and kids woke up at 5:45 to take me to the race start. We left the hotel in Santa Barbara at 6:15 and arrived at the race drop-off location at 6:30, plenty of time to walk a few blocks to Dos Pueblos High School for the start of the race. On the drive over, a beautiful white egret flew over the road. Long-time readers might remember that on my training runs I often saw egrets along the Santa Ana River Trail, and right before my first half marathon an egret flew off the roof of my house. I love good omens!

There were tons of porta potties in the race start parking lot but even better there were two bathrooms in the nice warm high school. Over the course of an hour I went to the bathroom three times, not so much because I had to but to entertain myself and give myself the best possible race I could have. On the way to my last pit stop in the girls’ locker room I spotted a penny on the ground and picked it up for good luck. When another women commented on my luck, I pointed out one for her to pick up too! 🙂

At about 7 a.m. the race organizers announced a 15-minute delay (I never heard why there was a delay but people posted on Facebook that the shuttles from the remote parking area were backed up with long lines of people). I texted my husband about the delay, and loaned my phone to two other women so they could make calls to their husbands.

Dos Pueblos High School gym

We all sat around in the warm high school gym until the announcer said it was time to head to the start. I dropped my bag off at gear-drop and took my place just before the 4:00 pacer. I gave silent thanks for the gorgeous race weather. High 40s to low 50s, sunny and clear. The forecast had threatened a 20-30% chance of rain and while I don’t mind running in the rain, I do mind RACING in the rain. There were high winds at times on the course but generally it was a tailwind and I never felt I was fighting the wind.

Marathon Miles 1-10

The starting horn sounded and everyone took off in an orderly manner. Love, love, love a smaller race (1,375 full marathoners). Goleta is beautiful with an interesting mix of mountain and ocean feel.

Marathon course

Gorgeous lemon orchards with a backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains

I restrained myself from going out at too fast a pace. I kept it at 9:06, my marathon goal pace, only going faster on the downhills. I think that was the main thing that allowed me to enjoy this race from start to finish. When I did the half marathon, I’d burned out by mile 5 and questioned why I ever signed up for a half. That never happened to me over the course of 26.2 miles.

The main feeling I had over the first five miles or so was: “I am so lucky to be here.” Cheesy as it sounds, I was grateful to be well enough to run the race, and to get to run in a spectacular new location. After training for six months, I was tired of running in the same old places, and here I was getting to run down the middle of the road along the coast on a gorgeous fall day.

Santa Barbara Marathon Mile 7

A peek at the Pacific Ocean at Mile 7

Mike and the girls met me around mile 6 to hand off a replacement bottle of Fluid. The course then wound through Isla Vista, back to the high school, to the mile 10 mark. Another runner asked what time I had on my Garmin and when I replied 1:31 he checked his pace chart and said we were one minute ahead of a 4-hour pace. That was perfect as many of the official pacers for the race recommended banking some time in the first 13.1 to make up for the .4-mile hill at mile 23.

Marathon Miles 10-18

Mike met me again at mile 12 with another 24-ounce bottle. My oldest daughter ran along the sidewalk next to me for a while and told me she loved me. Such a nice way to boost me along on the race! At the 13.1 halfway point my gun time was 1:59.32. I felt strong.

This is a good time to talk about the course support from all the locals. I wish I could personally thank each person along the way who cheered for me and the other racers (while I didn’t have the voice to do that as I was running, I did give everyone a thumbs-up). The best was when people read my name from my race bib and cheered for me specifically. Each time I’d feel a little rush of energy, a renewed surge to keep me going. My favorite race sign showed a picture of eagle wings and said “Touch for Power.” You better believe I touched it, and totally felt the power! I also high-fived a clown (pretty sure I didn’t hallucinate that) and passed a giant yellow chicken. I also loved all the unofficial bands that set up camp along the course. Violins, banjos, drums. Loved and appreciated them all.

Marathon Miles 18-26.2

My 10-year-old passed me the last Fluid replacement bottle at mile 18. By mile 21 I could no longer keep up with the 4:00 pacer but still felt good and set my mind to push to keep the pace under 9:30 except on the big hill at mile 23. At mile 22 my legs felt tired and to entertain myself, I started counting the number of people I passed (while ignoring the people who passed me ’cause who needs to focus on that!) By the end of the race I’d passed 101 runners! There was a nice long downhill at mile 22 and the hill at 23 was tough but totally doable. I took a Green Apple PowerGel (the only gel I took on the course), not so much for the calories but for the caffeine boost. That turned out to be a smart decision. It helped. I didn’t walk on the hill and just kept on chugging and before I knew it I was at the top and ready for 2.2 miles of gorgeous downhill that included an amazing oceanside mile.

Santa Barbara Marathon beach view

How’s that for an inspiring view for the last mile and a half?!

I thought that after the ocean views it might be a little anti-climactic to run to the finish on the track at Santa Barbara City College, but I actually loved hitting the track and sprinting to the finish. It helped that I finally passed that lady in the purple right at the finish! 😉 That never happens to me. I usually have no gas left in the tank at the end of a race. This time I felt fantastic and was just so thrilled to come in at 4:02:39.5. The McMillan Running Calculator had predicted that based on my half marathon time of 1:55:10, I could train to finish the marathon at 4:02:22. I was just 17.5 seconds off from that! Now that’s a darn good pace predictor, and a good indicator that I trained adequately for the race.

Overall I was 511th of 1,375 marathoners (top 37%) and 31st out of 99 (top 31%) in my 40-44 age group (I’m 41). I surprised myself with how thoroughly I enjoyed my first marathon. I expected it to be like the half marathon, where I questioned why I ever wanted to put myself through that. Instead, I enjoyed the view, took energy from the fantastic people along the course, pushed through the last hard 4.2 miles, and finished with a huge smile on my face.

marathon finish

Feeling strong and happy at the finish!

Have you run a marathon before? What was your experience like? Are you training for a marathon now?

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I had a fantastic time at the Santa Barbara International Marathon this morning. Perfect racing weather, a gorgeous setting, and lots of support from the locals along the route.

Marathon finisher

26.2 miles later, I am one happy runner!

Everything came together for me and I finished at 4:02:39.5 for my first marathon! Best of all, I finished with a smile on my face. No matter that now I’m doing the “marathon shuffle” and could use a walker to help me get around on my sore legs. I am too happy to care about that!

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One day left until the Santa Barbara International Marathon! I slept well last night, which as we all know is a Very Good Thing two nights before a race. It’s not uncommon to have trouble sleeping the night before a big race due to nerves and having to get up early to eat and get to the race start. That lack of sleep is not likely to hurt your race performance much as long as you got a good night’s sleep two nights before the race.

In spite of sleeping well, there was one tiny hitch. I forgot to tell myself not to dream about the marathon. I can influence my subconscious that way — for years I had to tell myself not to dream that I had gone back to work as a lawyer, a true nightmare! Anyway, I was so tired from the drive up here last night that I just curled up in bed at 10:15 p.m. and went right to sleep. A blessing and a curse.

I dreamt I got a DNS (did not start). I ran straight out the door of my hotel to what I thought was the marathon course, but then had trouble following it. I tried to follow some other runners but then I realized that I’d joined them halfway into the loop at the start of the marathon course, and I had gone the wrong way. I backtracked and did what I thought I was supposed to, but I came upon a huge road that was backed up with traffic. Some people offered me a ride in their car and without thinking, I got in! I got out again before we started moving, and I started running again, but then I realized I hadn’t ever crossed the official starting line of the race and the timing mat, so whatever I was running didn’t count anyway. At that point I started berating myself for choosing a small-town race that was so poorly organized and so poorly marked (I love how my subconscious totally blamed the race organizers in spite of the fact that I was the one who thought the race started right outside my hotel room door!) In my dream I decided I might as well get a training run in and I could choose another marathon to run the following weekend. My husband texted a map of Vancouver, British Columbia. I have no idea if there’s a race there or not in real life but I’ve always wanted to go there because I keep hearing how pretty it is. So with renewed energy in my dream, I started running again, until I came upon a girl who had fallen off her scooter and scraped her knee. She reminded me of my four-year-old, and I stopped to carry her home to her mother. The end. (Except I also dreamed that I started writing a blog post about how the race was an EPIC FAIL. It all seemed very real to me!)

So yeah. Major stress dream. I’m “just a little” nervous. The one good thing is that in my dream, when I was running, I felt great. My injuries did not bother me and I felt strong. So that’s the feeling I am determined to take from that dream and put into reality tomorrow. That, and I’m going to go drive the marathon course today, just to reassure me, myself, and my subconscious. 😉

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Not So Crazy

The “Taper Crazies” are turning out not to be so crazy — the pain in my left shin is not magically going away with the reduction of running miles during taper. KT Tape Pro helps, as does rest and ice, but the pain refuses to go away completely and it gets a lot worse after running again. I am going to take Wednesday through Friday off running and hope for the best on Saturday morning for the race.

I’ve had to drastically alter my marathon goals. Now my goal is simply to finish and have a good experience. I’ll still try to hit my goal time and want to come in under 4:30. If I don’t, it will mean I didn’t “have a good experience” because I will have been significantly off pace due to pain in either my left shin or right groin or both. It’s not the way I wanted this training round and race to go, but I’ve learned a lot from it and maybe it will go better next time if I decide I want a “do over” with another marathon.

So what exactly have I learned? That tight calves lead to plantar fasciitis and shin splints. That ramping up too quickly with speed work and hills, on top of a reasonable increase in weekly mileage, can lead to a cascading stream of injuries. That mental/emotional stress will affect you (me) more than expected. I have always used exercise to moderate the stress in my life, but there are some stresses that are simply too big to “run” off (see, among other things, father-in-law passing away). Then when the running or other training leads to injury, that adds on a whole new kind of stress.

While it might sound like I’m admitting some sort of defeat before I’ve even started the race, I assure you I am not. I am venting. Now the plan is to put a smile on my face, pack for a fabulous weekend in Santa Barbara, and look forward to the chance to test myself with my very first marathon!

You can sign up to get updates on my race progress at the Athlete Tracking site for the Santa Barbara International Marathon (Angela White, bib number 1455). You can also follow me on Twitter @fitfunmomdotcom and I’ll post my result as soon as I’m able!

Wish me luck! Send good vibes out into the universe. Wish on a star for me! Your good wishes will carry me through on race day.

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Listen up ladies, this one is for you! After three years of blogging about breastfeeding, I can now talk about any body part and bodily function with ease. My three girls know the proper names for all their body parts, and the older two watched their baby sister be born. We’re not shy about our bodies, is what I’m saying. It’s that kind of openness that allows me to review the Instead Softcup. It’s a menstrual period protection product (say that three times fast!) that you use instead of a tampon, pad or other kind of protection. It’s a natural fit (no pun intended) for endurance athletes like runners and triathletes as it offers 12-hour protection. As part of the Instead Softcup Challenge, I received 14 disposable softcups to try out.

Instead Softcup

Why yes, I photograph all my feminine protection products in my backyard.

Let’s just say that little box arrived in the nick of time, and I got down to business reading the instructions and watching the video tutorial on how to insert and remove the softcup.

I have to say, when I first tore open the individual wrapper and saw the size of the flexible pink ring, I was a little . . . intimidated. I should not have feared, it was super easy to pinch the sides of the ring together into a long, thin shape that’s not at all uncomfortable to use. First try for the win! Immediately I was happy that I could not even tell I was wearing the softcup. I went for several training runs during my period and had no problems with the softcup.

Cons?

– Takes a bit of practice for some people to get the hang of it.
– It’s not biodegradable or reusable (although the reviews on Amazon tell another story — I will leave it at that). There is also a “reusable” Instead Softcup that can be reused for one menstrual cycle. In the past I’ve used a different type of silicone menstrual cup which can be reused for more than one cycle. I also liked that one but I can tell you that since I’ve had three kids, the Instead Softcup fits better and works better for me.
– The logistics can be a little tricky when you’re using a public restroom. You might choose to take a water bottle or hand wipe into the stall with you to clean your hands again before coming out of the stall. However, that likely will not be an issue for many women given that you can put in the softcup at home in the morning and forget about it until you get home at night!

One thing I cannot comment on is how well the softcup works for heavy flow. I used to have horribly heavy periods, to the point that I needed iron supplements due to the blood loss. My guess is that I would have loved to use the softcup, especially at night when I used to have to get up once or twice to change tampons.

Pros?

– Very easy and quick to use once you’ve mastered the technique, and I found that that did not take long at all.
– Individually wrapped and easy to store in your purse or bag.
– The price per use is comparable to tampons, given that you can wear these for up to 12 hours.
– Love that you can safely wear it overnight without risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
– It can be worn during physical activity (perfect for my swimming, biking and running) and even during sex (Fit Fun Mom tested, husband approved. The lengths I will go to for this blog!)
– Comfortable to the point that you forget it’s there. If it’s not comfortable, try again until you get it right.
– Best of all — it can be worn for several hours at a time, making it ideal for endurance events. Nice not to have to worry about it for a long race!

So, would I recommend the Instead Softcup? Absolutely! Will I use it again? Yes! I found that I very quickly got used to the benefit of putting in the softcup in the morning and forgetting about it for the rest of the day.

As part of the Instead Softcup Challenge, I received one free box of Instead Softcups and sponsorship of my race entry fee for the Santa Barbara International Marathon. This review is 100% my own opinion and believe me, I would tell you if I didn’t like the product (or more likely, I wouldn’t review it if I really didn’t believe in it).

What do you think ladies? Have you ever tried a softcup?

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Triathamom!

Triathamom

Triathamom a/k/a Easiest Halloween Costume Ever

When my husband begged me not to recycle my vampire costume yet again for Halloween this year, I put my 10-year-old to the task at the last minute. She grabbed a plain blue t-shirt of mine and some fabric markers and she made me a “Triathamom” t-shirt like the one she saw at the expo for SheROX San Diego. Along with “TRIATHAMOM” she wrote the names of each of my races on the shirt. Add in my Snail’s Pace running academy training hat, my SheROX medal, my running tights and my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 and I was good to go. Frankly it was the perfect outfit for tromping around the neighborhood with the kids for trick-or-treating.

I’m on week three of taper and trying to deal with the taper crazies. The game is all mental at this point. I am sure each ache and pain is the sign of something devastating that will keep me from racing. That pain in my calf must be a tibial stress fracture. The groin injury will plague me until the end. Good thing I warned Mike not to take my whining and complaining seriously. This ain’t my first rodeo. I know that everything will miraculously come together for race day. Even the weather looks like it’s cooperating, with temps in Santa Barbara predicted at a high of 67° and 48° low for race day.

I stick to my theory that endurance training and racing is like pregnancy and birth. After months of training, all I can think about is the marathon. I’m uncomfortable at this point, tired of the training, and I want to get on with the show. At the same time, I know the big show will involve some pain. And I know that in spite of the pain, the reward will be worth it, and the pain will soon be forgotten.

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First and foremost, my heart goes out to all those affected by Hurricane Sandy. It’s hard for me to imagine the physical, emotional and financial toll the storm has taken.

NYC Marathon Cancellation and Donation Drive

I was pleased to see that the NYC Marathon resources and materials are being diverted to the recovery effort wherever possible, and that the New York Road Runners are leading a “Race to Recover” donation drive.

Race to Recover

The Race to Recover charity drive explains:

NYRR, in partnership with the Rudin Family and the ING Foundation, has established the “Race to Recover” Marathon Fund to aid New Yorkers impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Over $2.6 million has been raised, including a $1 million donation by NYRR. We are asking you to join us by making a $26.20 donation, or whatever you can afford, to help bring recovery and hope to those communities and families most affected. Proceeds will go to Hurricane Sandy Relief, administered by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. You can also donate to the relief effort through NYRR’s fundraising platform, CrowdRise, which includes the American Red Cross and other charities. From your mobile phone, text “redcross” to 90999 to donate $10 through your wireless carrier.

I’ll be donating to the Red Cross through my husband’s employer’s matching program.

That said, my heart also goes out to the 47,000+ runners who were slated to run the marathon tomorrow, November 4. The ING NYC Marathon is such an iconic race and a difficult one to gain entry to. Furthermore, with my first marathon coming up on November 10, I know how hard those runners have trained to run the race and how disappointing it must be to miss it. Let’s keep in mind, it is possible for the runners to feel complete empathy and compassion for the people living and working in the hurricane-affected areas and yet at the same time feel the different yet still significant feelings of their own loss in light of the marathon cancellation.

Some Good News

Runners who are looking for an alternative to the canceled marathon have some options for racing a substitute marathon. The Santa Barbara International Marathon, scheduled for Saturday November 10, 2012, is offering a discount registration for registered NY Marathon participants. Email the race director for more details.

The Tucson Marathon is offering an $85 entry fee to its December 9th event. Enter the discount code NYC2012 when checking out and the organizers will donate $10 per entry to relief efforts in the New York/NJ area. Proof of NYC Marathon registration will be required at packet pickup.

ETA: SkinnyRunner and her readers shared some more discount registration opportunities: (1) The BCS Marathon on December 9 in Bryan/College Station, Texas is offering marathon and half marathon registration for just $25. (2) The Dallas Running Club provides a reduced registration fee of $60 for its half on November 4. (3) An article regarding the November 11th Malibu International Marathon says “MIM will offer early bird prices using the Malibu4NYC code and 25 percent of the proceeds from each race entry will go back to the AmeriCares Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.” (4) The Rock ‘n’ Roll series states, “Thus we would like to extend a 20% discount to any 2012 ING NYC Marathon entrant who would like to run either our Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & ½ Marathon on Sunday, November 11 or our Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & ½ Marathon on Sunday, December 2, and we will also make an additional matching 20% donation to Hurricane Sandy Relief from each entry.” (5) The Soldier Marathon on November 10 in Columbus, Georgia is offering FREE transferability of NYC Marathon registration.

Here’s a partial list of other fall marathons to investigate (whether or not they offer a registration discount).

How to Adjust Training for a Marathon Race Plan B

That’s all well and good you say, but you’ve already tapered for the NYC Marathon. How are you supposed to train for another race that is one, two, three or four weeks out from now? Coach Jenny Hadfield at Runner’s World magazine laid out four alternative marathon race plans just for you.

What do you think of the decision to cancel the NYC Marathon? Do you know of any other race registration discounts?

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