Archive for May, 2013

I lost $118.15 today! Wait, make that: I lost my mind and spent $118.15 on registration for the Long Beach Marathon! Prices go up $10 tomorrow so I figured I’d be crazy if I didn’t sign up today. So that’s how, just five days after my second marathon, I find myself registered for 26.2 #3, to take place October 13, 2013.

If only my running speed could match the speed with which I can go from thinking “Marathons are ridiculous. I was crazy for signing up for this” to “I love a challenge! I can’t wait to run another full!”

I wasn’t joking when I said my emotions were pretty raw after the Mountains2Beach Marathon. I kind of knew that I wouldn’t let myself end my full marathon “career” (ha) on a race where I bonked, but at the same time I felt a little betrayed by my body and disillusioned by running. (That “betrayed by my body” stuff comes from a history of infertility and autoimmune thyroid disease. Exercise helped me take back some feeling of strength and empowerment, and when my body couldn’t keep running strong for the full race, I felt a little betrayed again. Which I fully realize is just messed up, because HELLO, my strong and powerful body just carried me 26.2 miles!)

The day after the marathon, my family and I played tourists in Ojai. As we wandered around downtown, we came upon a used book sale at the local library. Now that combines two of my passions: reading and thrift shopping! I spent a long time browsing all the titles until I came upon one that caught my eye:

Never Stop Running book

Never Stop Running! No matter that it was a book about politics. It was a sign. Do you believe in signs? For me, it’s not a belief that someone’s sending me a sign so much as a belief that we are open to seeing what we want to see in a given moment. I obviously wanted to Never Stop Running!

Have you run Long Beach? Have you bonked in a race and come back to conquer the distance successfully? Do you believe in signs?

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Don’t miss the thrilling recap of the first part of the Mountains2Beach Marathon here. And now the race continues….

Miles 18-21 (8:34, 9:02, 9:23, 9:39)

I saw Mike and the girls again at mile 18 and I felt strong at that point. If I kept the pace under 8:46 for miles 19-26.2 I was on target to come in under 3:45, but it was not meant to be. I slipped from 8:34 for mile 18 to 9:02 for mile 19. It was right around mile 18 that the 3:45 pacer passed me and I hung in behind him for dear life for another mile or so but could not keep up. In spite of (because of?) taking a gel with caffeine around mile 18, I hit the wall and my splits got slower from there on out.

Near mile 18 the trail goes through some more industrial sections and is completely exposed to the sun. Last year’s race (I hear) was more overcast but this year we were getting beaten by the sun. The temperature wasn’t more than 65 degrees down in Ventura and there was a breeze, but I wouldn’t have minded some clouds! At mile 21 the course stops declining and hits the beach streets and boardwalk in Ventura. That is a really rough section of the course emotionally and physically. After the downhill miles from 0-21, the flat might as well have been uphill. You pass the finish line at mile 21 and still have 5.2 miles to go! I knew it was coming, I’d read several other race reports and studied the course, but you have no idea how rough it is until you run it.

Miles 22-24 (10:39, 10:46, 11:27)

By mile 22 I was really struggling and my splits dropped into the 10s and then 11s. It seemed like mile 24 would never end. My body screamed, “Stop! Stop running!” and my mind yelled, “Go! Move your legs! Why are you so slow?!” It was awful watching the other runners heading back toward the finish line. I would never cut the course (it would only be cheating myself) but I cannot tell you how tempting it was and how easy it would have been.

Miles 25-26.24 (11:14, 10:08, 9:13)

Apparently when I passed the turnaround at mile 24 and realized I wasn’t going to collapse right there on the course, I was able to pick the pace up slightly and give it a kick at the end. I got the pace back down to 10:08 for mile 26 and then hit 9:13 for the sprint to the finish. I had a sub-4 in my sights and I wasn’t going to let go! I came in at 3:57:29, which is a personal record by five minutes and 10 seconds.

Finish Line Expo

The oranges at the finish line expo tasted heavenly! I gobbled up a few slices and grabbed some Clif Bars and cups of water and met up with my family. We walked toward the shore with the thought that I would take an ice bath in the ocean, but I could not make it over the rocks at the beach. With some help bending my sore legs, I sat down on one of the rocks and focused on catching my breath. I felt drained and I wasn’t recovering like I usually do after a race. In fact, I started shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t stop. When that continued for about 30 minutes, I realized I should get to a medical tent to get checked out. Unfortunately by that time Mike had taken one of the girls to the restroom, so it was up to my oldest to guide me and my youngest. It didn’t help that at that point, I burst into tears. I felt overwhelmed and disappointed, not that I didn’t get a 3:45, but that I’d bonked so bad and didn’t meet my goal of enjoying the race.

Another runner saw me sobbing and he escorted me to the medical tent. Gilbert, thank you so much for your kindness! There are lots of people I should thank — everyone at the medical tent including the nurse from UCLA, and the EMTs who took my vital signs, and the man who got me some dry t-shirts and a blanket to warm me and some Gatorade and chips.

My vital signs all checked out — my blood pressure was 150 over 90 (not dangerously high), and my pulse was 67. The EMTs gave me some oxygen and just had me rest. It was another 30 minutes though before I finally stopped shaking and felt well enough to walk back to my car with Mike (after I paid for the t-shirts I’d been given) a full hour after I’d finished the race.

As I said, I need some more time to process the experience and see how I feel about it all. I can’t be too traumatized by it because I’ve already set my sights on another marathon (Long Beach on October 13). My main concern is figuring out why I bonked so bad in the race when my five 20-mile runs went so well during training. I happen to be getting blood tests done tomorrow to check on my thyroid, which I suspect is the culprit in the uncontrollable shaking. The only other time I’ve ever had the shakes like that is when I went to the dentist when I was hyperthyroid (but didn’t know it) and I had a reaction to the epinephrine in the dental anesthesia. Perhaps my thyroid levels are high and I need to reduce the dose of thyroid supplements I’m taking. Or perhaps the adrenaline from the race simply pushed me over the edge. All I know is that I never want it to happen again! [Edited to add: My thyroid levels turned out to be normal. I now suspect that the shaking was due to dehydration and/or under-fueling — in spite of my best efforts at planning I did not consume enough liquids and calories during the race.]

All in all, I am proud of myself for being dedicated to the training, for reaching for an ambitious goal, for toughing out a difficult race, for pulling out a sub-4 time and 5 minute PR, and for bouncing back to be ready and willing to race again. I feel great physically — better than I did after my first marathon — and I find myself wanting to build on my training to go on and have an even better race next time.

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Note: Four days after the Mountains2Beach Marathon, my emotions about the race remain as raw as the blister on my left big toe. So I’ll stick to the facts and save any analysis for later.

In spite of some serious race jitters, I had no trouble going to sleep at 9:45 p.m. the night before the race. Good thing, too, because I only had about five hours before my alarm would go off at 3 a.m.!

For breakfast three hours before the race, I ate some oatmeal and a banana, and drank coffee with unsweetened almond milk. Two hours before the race I drank a couple of cups of Fluid sports drink. By 5 a.m. I was dressed and ready to leave for the race. We had rented a vacation home just minutes from the starting line and it was very nice not to have to board a shuttle in Ventura for a 25 minute ride to Ojai.

The point-to-point race started just north of Nordhoff High School. I had hoped the school would be open so the runners could stay warm and use the facilities like we were able to at Santa Barbara. Sadly, no. Picture lots of runners shivering in the dark, waiting in long porta potty lines. I seriously considered befriending someone who had been smart enough to bring a trash bag to keep warm under. It wouldn’t have been at all weird to offer to share my body heat with a stranger, right? Instead I spent my time slathering on sunscreen and waiting about 15 minutes for the porta potty. Shortly before the 6 a.m. scheduled start time, I did a little warm up and then entered the corral. The actual start time was delayed 10 minutes to accommodate all those people still in line to do their pre-race business. The race started in two waves and people self-seeded by whether they planned to finish before or after the 3:45 mark.

In the days leading up to the race I studied the course map and elevation map. I had trained for an average 8:35 pace for an “A” goal of a 3:45 time. I planned to go out at 8:20 for the flat and downhill portions of the race, with a 9:00 pace on any hills and the flat 5 miles along the beach at the end. As it turned out that was a decent strategy because it was pretty much what the 3:45 pacer did; it just was a little ambitious for me….

Miles 0-3 (8:17, 8:24, 8:23)

The race starts with a 10K loop through a pretty section of Meiners Oaks. Miles 0-2.75 are relatively flat with just one very short uphill jog before you head down to the Ojai Valley Trail. I was worried it would bottleneck where we joined the trail but the pack had thinned just enough by then.

Miles 3-5 (9:01, 8:55, 8:12)

At mile 2.75 there is a slight uphill grade until mile 5. Nothing intimidating at all and I just watched my breathing and kept a constant effort rather than a constant pace.

Miles 6-10 (8:12, 8:20, 8:15, 8:19, 8:22)

At mile 6 we looped back past the start at the high school and Mike and the girls met me with a bottle of Fluid. My youngest two girls paced me for a bit:

My girls at Mountains2Beach

(Psst: If you “like” this photo on Facebook it could help me win a free entry to next year’s marathon!)

Miles 11-17 (8:22, 8:24, 8:47, 8:41, 8:42, 8:30, 8:27)

The Ojai Valley Trail is gorgeous and the gentle decline helped my pace and didn’t hurt my knees. Mike and the girls met me again around mile 11.4 with another bottle of Fluid.

handoff of Fluid Mountains2Beach

My family all wore lime green t-shirts so I could find them on the trail. They had a harder time finding me in my generic blue t-shirt, but they did it on time every time and were a fantastic support crew.

At mile 12 I took a gel with caffeine. Interesting that my splits started to slow then rather than pick up….

I was disappointed that there wasn’t a timing mat or clock at the 13.1 mark on the course. By my Garmin at 13.12 (half of my 26.24 race), I hit a personal best half marathon time of 1:51:01.

Read on for Part 2, also known as “where I hit the wall and the wheels fell off.”

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I wore my Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS watch for the Spring Blast Half Marathon on May 11 (race recap here). I had fun uploading the data to Garmin Connect online and analyzing the race splits. As you might recall, my target race pace was 8:35 per mile, and I came in overall at 8:40 per mile. The chart below says I came in at 8:37 due to a 3 second difference between my Garmin running time and the race official’s stopwatch, and between the 13.1 miles on the course and the 13.17 I actually ran as I navigated the course and dodged people on the path (I didn’t think I did much of that but obviously enough to add 0.07 — a little over a football field in length — to the course):

GPS Garmin Race Splits

Overall I’m happy with how it went. In analyzing these splits, I can tell that wearing a GPS watch helps me a lot. If I don’t wear one and don’t pay attention to my average pace for the current mile, I go out way too fast in the beginning of the race when I feel fantastic, and I don’t push hard enough when I start to lose steam toward the end. For the half marathon, knowing my mile splits helped me keep more of an even pace. In fact, when I checked to see if I negative split the run, I found I came in at nearly even splits, taking just 15 seconds more to run the second half of the race than the first.

You can tell by the mile splits above that I felt really good through about mile 9, then started to lose steam at mile 10 as I was going up the slight incline, then picked up speed on the way back down for mile 11, slogged through mile 12 at about 15 seconds behind the goal pace, then gave it my all for mile 13 at 6 seconds ahead of pace, and sprinted to the finish at 40 seconds ahead of goal pace.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t obsess over my race splits or beat myself up over what I could have or should have done. It’s simply interesting to look back over it and see how the splits compare to how I felt during the race.

Do you wear a GPS watch for training runs and races? I love my Garmin and I wear it most of the time, but I make sure to take it off occasionally and just run naked.

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I ran the Mountains2Beach Marathon this morning and met my “B” goal of a sub-4 hour time with a 3:57:29 for a PR of 5:10!

Mountains2Beach tee and medall

It was a tough race and I obviously have some work to do on adjusting my fueling. It took a long time for me to stop shaking after the finish and I even made a stop by the medical tent to make sure my vital signs were okay.

All is well now though and I’m celebrating with Mike’s homemade strawberry rhubarb crumble and takeout pizza!

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With the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon coming up in two more days, I have been thinking a lot about my race goals. I could say that I want to beat my 4:02:39 from my first full marathon, or to sub-4, or even to qualify for Boston with a 3:45. But lately I’ve been thinking that I don’t so much want to GET a good time as I want to HAVE a good time (keeping in mind the thought that those two things often go hand in hand — if I have a good time, I’ll likely get a good time).

I want to enjoy the race. Soak up the positive energy from the spectators. Take in the view. Appreciate the privilege of getting to run somewhere new, down open roads and bike paths and beach boardwalks. I want to finish the race happy. I want to feel that I put in my best effort, made the most of the journey, and enjoyed myself along the way.

Wish me luck on Sunday! Think good thoughts for me from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Pacific Standard Time!

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If you have ever trained hard for a race, and followed a plan that builds up to a few weeks before the race and then tapers off the training until the big day, you are probably familiar with the taper crazies. It’s that special brand of crazy that comes from pre-race jitters and stress combined with a reduction in the level of exercise that usually helps the athlete deal with that very stress. For my past running races and triathlons, the taper crazies tended to manifest in two ways:

1) Real or imagined aches and pains that might or might not magically clear up by race day. Case in point: the taper crazies I experienced in the weeks leading up to the Santa Barbara International Marathon last fall. (Spoiler alert: I felt great on race day although it did take me a while to recover from some post-race aches and pains.)

2) Obsessive thoughts about the race, the race course, the needed preparation, the logistics etc. You know you’re taper crazy when the first thing you do each morning is check the predicted weather for race day.

This time around though, for full marathon #2 this coming Sunday, the taper crazies have taken on a “fun” new twist:

3) Doubting your training and your ability to execute your race day strategy and meet your race goals. I have trained for 16 weeks for the race, not to mention the two months of base/maintenance training I did after the Santa Barbara International Marathon last November. That means I’ve been working toward this race for SIX MONTHS. A lot of hard work, sweat and hopes have been invested in this one race (with an 8K and a half marathon thrown in along the way).

For my advanced marathon training plan from Run Less, Run Faster, I’ve put in five 20-mile runs, two 18-mile runs, one 17-mile run, three 15-mile runs, and three 13-mile runs. That’s on top of many, many shorter tempo and speed workouts and a lot of biking, swimming and skiing. So why can’t I trust that training and trust the magic of taper, and believe in my ability to have a great race day? Well, on one level I can, but then there’s this taper-crazy space in my head that whispers things like: “Maybe you’ve OVER trained. And heck, if you struggled to maintain race pace for 13.1 miles, how are you ever going to keep it up for 26.2?” Oh yeah, that’s a fun place to be inside my head!

Overall I think I’m doing pretty well taming the crazy talk. But maybe you should ask my husband and he’ll tell you the real scoop on my taper crazies!

Do you experience taper crazies? What do you do to manage them? Have you ever done anything truly crazy in the weeks leading up to a race? I’m always tempted to chop off all my hair right before a race. It just seems like it would feel so good to have short hair when I’m running. Then I remember that one time in 7th grade that I cut my hair short and strangers thought I was boy, and I come back to my senses.

I get pretty nervous in the days leading up to a big race, so I’ve been reviewing these 10 Tips for Dealing with Pre-Race Jitters.

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Calling all cyclists of all levels to check out a great new book that comes out today: Bicycling Magazine’s 1,100 Best All-Time Tips: Top Riders Share Their Secrets for Maximizing Performance, Safety, and Fun. For the list price of $12.99, you get 224 pages packed with advice on a wide range of subjects: bike set-up, maintenance and repair, cycling safety, racing, nutrition, riding positions, training techniques and skill building. The book is bound to please every kind of cyclist, from mountain biker to road racer to distance rider.

I learned a lot from the book and I know it’s a resource I will consult again and again as I grow my skills in cycling. Right now I’d say I’m a beginning intermediate rider (as in, I am a newly intermediate level rider who can stand to learn a few things). I road a mountain bike for several years on the trails in Michigan and got to the point where I could handle the bike pretty well. Now I mainly ride my road bike to train for triathlons — two sprints and two Olympic distance races so far where I averaged up to 19.6 mph on the bike — and to cross-train during marathon training. I especially appreciated the tips on road safety, riding etiquette for group rides, and training techniques. I hope to put to good use many of the tips on maintaining and repairing a bike as well.

Disclosure: Same old same old. I received an advance digital copy of this book for review. I did not receive other compensation. Will someone please use the Amazon affiliate links in this post to buy me a print copy of this book? Thanks.

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The other day as I ran on the treadmill I watched my reflection in the gym windows. With each step of my right foot, my right shoulder dipped a little. Seems natural, right? Except I didn’t notice the same dip of my left shoulder when I landed with my left foot. I started wondering if I had some sort of leg length discrepancy or other imbalance that made me impact heavily on the right side. Then I read the new book Running on Air by Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchik. The authors explained that when a runner’s foot hits the ground, the force of impact is two to three times the runner’s body weight. Research shows that that impact stress is greatest when the footstrike takes place as the runner starts to exhale. Many runners breathe in a 3-3 or 2-2 pattern, breathing in for a count of 3 and out for a count of 3, which means that the exhalation coincides with the footstrike of the same foot, over and over again. For me and many other runners, that happens to be the right foot. No wonder the impact appeared greater on my right side!

In Runner’s World Running on Air: The Revolutionary Way to Run Better by Breathing Smarter, the authors recommend a 3-2 breathing pattern, switching to a 2-1 as the runner’s effort increases. This rhythmic breathing method distributes the footstrike impact of exhalation evenly between the left foot and the right foot, and helps the runner achieve stability and centeredness. The hope is that that then leads to a reduced risk of injury.

With the above explanation, you’ve gotten the core premise of the book and you could go out on your next easy or moderate run and practice the 3-2 pattern, inhaling for a count of three steps and exhaling for a count of 2. Who should buy the book then? Runners of all levels and abilities can benefit from reading the entire text, but I want to highlight a few groups in particular who might get the most out of it:

  • Beginning runners who haven’t “gotten over the hump” — who feel like every run leaves them out of breath and disappointed with their performance.
  • Runners with asthma.
  • Intermediate to advanced runners who have hit a plateau or gotten tired of focusing on pace on a GPS watch or heart rate on a heart rate monitor. Rhythmic breathing provides immediate feedback without the need for any fancy technology. It allows you to make every run a “success” no matter your pace or distance, because you’ve run for the prescribed length of time at the prescribed Rhythmic Breathing Effort.

The book guides the reader through some belly breathing exercises to work the diaphragm to its potential and allow the lungs to fill to their largest volume of air. It lays out several beginning, intermediate and advanced running plans for race distances from 5K to the full marathon. (As I said above, the plans are based on time and effort, not pace and distance. It also follows a 14-day training cycle. I can tell you that as I’ve trained for my second marathon with a pace-based training plan, I’ve been a little frustrated and disappointed when I couldn’t hit the pace for a particular run. So while it would take a leap of faith for me to follow a Running on Air plan based on Rhythmic Breathing Effort, I’m intrigued by the idea).

The book also has chapters on hill running, racing, strength training and stretching. While I found those chapters valuable, the real gold nugget of the book remains the 3-2 and 2-1 breathing pattern and the explanations of how to incorporate those patterns into your running. I’ve given it a try on several training runs. I can do it but it still takes a lot of mental concentration and focus on my footstrikes to do it. I can see how rhythmic breathing would easily become more natural over time, and it could help a runner achieve a meditative state on a run. For now, I will use the breathing method to check in with myself during a run, to alternate the footstrike occasionally, and to give myself a boost of oxygen as my effort increases.

Have you read Running on Air? Do you focus on your breathing when you run?

Disclosure: I received an advance digital copy of this book for review. I did not receive other compensation. If you want to buy the book through the Amazon links in this post at no additional cost to you, that would net me a whole 50 cents or so, which I would gladly accept but I can promise you that’s not enough to bribe me into writing an overly positive review. That would take like $100. Kidding.

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Attention marathon fanatics, trainees and wannabes! There will be a special one-night showing of the new movie Spirit of the Marathon II on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 7 p.m. at theaters around the United States. I watched the movie trailer and started crying, so I knew I had to buy my ticket right away!

I loved the first Spirit of the Marathon movie which followed six runners training for and racing the Chicago Marathon. It’s currently available to watch instantly on Netflix and I recommend checking it out if you haven’t seen it already. Then get ready for Spirit of the Marathon II which centers around the Rome Marathon.

2012 Rome Marathon

For the special event on June 12:

Audiences will be transported to six countries for an intimate “up close and personal” look into the runners’ lives and the challenges they face – both physical and emotional – on an epic journey where finishing the Rome Marathon is anything but certain. The event also features inspirational interviews with marathon greats Stefano Baldini, Paula Radcliffe, Frank Shorter, Kathrine Switzer and others as they offer perspective and insight into this legendary race and its history. This one-night event will include behind-the-scenes interviews, deleted scenes and memorable outtakes from the filming of the documentary.

(NCM Fathom Events).

Have you seen Spirit of the Marathon? Does the Spirit of the Marathon II trailer make you cry too?!

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