Archive for May, 2013

I just realized I left out the best part of my Spring Blast Half Marathon race recap! Mike and my three girls often cheer me on at races and act as my support crew by handing me replacement bottles of sports drink along the course. For last Saturday’s half marathon though, I brought my own bottle of sports drink to grab at the aid station at the halfway mark, and left Mike and the kids sleeping at home. By the time I got home after the race, my girls were out playing in the yard and they ran up to the car in the garage. I rolled down the window and my 8-year-old exclaimed,

There’s our champion!

It makes me well up just to think about it now! Such a wonderful, sweet thing to say!

We all went in the house and my 4-year-old presented me with a picture she had drawn for me while I was gone:

Rainbow over heart flowers

Rainbow over heart flowers

My 11-year-old asked me how the race went and gave me a hug, and my husband made me a plate of scrambled eggs with a side of fruit and a mug of hot chocolate! I am so thankful for my amazing support crew!

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One of the nice things about the small, timed races put on by Rocket Racing Productions is that the organizers take digital photos and make them available to download for free from Facebook. Free race photos? Posted within a day of the race? Yes-please-and-thank-you-very-much! Even better, I think these just might be some of my favorite race photos ever. Decent form, some newly toned muscles, and a smile on my face at the halfway point (6.55 miles, approaching the aid station, chucking my visor because my sunglasses were fogging up, and turning around my race belt to chuck my water bottle and replace it with another from the aid table):

Happy to be at the halfway point

Happy to be at the halfway point

A nice midfoot strike!

A nice midfoot strike!

Looking strong, feeling good!

Looking strong, feeling good!

Ready for my close-up!

Ready for my close-up!

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Yesterday morning as I pulled out of my driveway at 5:55 a.m. to head to the Spring Blast Half Marathon in Huntington Beach, I still had a major case of race jitters. Usually my race jitters flare up the day before a race and I manage to beat them back into submission by race day. Not so this time. I had to resort to an out-loud pep talk with myself in the car: “You will do your best and that’s all you can do. You are nervous because you’ve trained so hard and you want this to go well. You haven’t tapered for this race, and it’s ‘just’ a training run. I know you want it to go well because that will boost your confidence for the full marathon, but really your goal is to do your best, enjoy the race, and not push yourself to the point of injury.” The self-talk sort of worked to calm my nerves, but not completely, as evidenced by my need to thank the nice people of Carl’s Jr. for the use of the restroom at 6:20 on the way to the race. And my need to visit the beach bathroom when I got there. But once I was parked in the right parking lot and made my way to where the race started, I did finally pull myself together and get my game face on.

I feel like I’ve been running and racing for a long time, but in reality it’s only been two years since I challenged myself to run 30 miles in 30 days. In those two years since, I’ve come a long way. Just last month I ran 133 miles in 30 days, and the month before that, 141 miles in 31 days. Still, I haven’t run many races. I ran my first half marathon just over one year ago at the OC Half (race recap here), and my first full marathon last November at the Santa Barbara International Marathon (race recap here). So, this Spring Blast Half Marathon would only be my second half marathon.

The race is a small event put on by Rocket Racing Productions, which is headed up by two runners themselves, Michelle and Mark. They put on low-cost, timed fun runs in Southern California about 5-7 times per month. That’s what’s so great about it — when I searched for a local half marathon taking place on the day of my scheduled 13-mile run, I easily found a match! And you can’t beat the price at $31 for the half, $42 for the full marathon option, $23 for the 10K and $34 for the 30K.

Parking is free in the lot at Sunset Beach behind the Travelodge. The race starts at the Huntington Beach multi-use path.

Open course along the Huntington Beach multi-use path

Open course along the Huntington Beach multi-use path

The 12 racers checked in with Michelle at 7 a.m. and Mark started the race with a countdown promptly at 7:15. There were no bibs or timing chips (a stopwatch is used to time the race from the starting call). I made a point to check out some of the other racers so I would recognize them on the course and I could give them a thumbs-up or a “great job” to cheer them on the way. The lack of people cheering along the course is the one downside to the race (well, that and the occasional smell of lighter fluid from the beach campers). The beach path is open to everyone and you would never know a race was going on. I love a smaller race but I’ve come to appreciate the energy boost I get from random strangers along the way! Thank goodness a lovely young woman saw some of us booking it at mile 7 and she called out: “You guys are amazing!”

The half marathon course consists of two 6.55-mile out and back loops on the course (the full marathon is, you guessed it, four 6.55-mile loops). While that might sound a little dull it wasn’t at all and it really helped break up the race into manageable pieces. The run out was into the slightest of headwinds with a low bridge at mile 2.5 and a little uphill to the turnaround cones. That meant that on the way back it was payback time with a speedy run back to the bridge and the flat course back to the aid station at mile 6.55.

All the goodies at the aid station

All the goodies at the aid station

I’d left my own special bottle of Fluid (with a cute little bow on it to identify it as mine) but there was plenty of water and Gatorade along with gels, bananas and granola bars on the aid table. I took my own green apple PowerGel with caffeine at mile 6.

After starting the race out at about an 8-minute pace I quickly reined myself back in to 8:35, the targeted pace for the training run. I kept up with that pace pretty well most of the way and only started to struggle on the slight uphill from mile 9-10. Once I hit that second turnaround near mile 10, I got a little boost from the downhill but it got harder and harder to keep pace. That’s where the pep talk started again (this time in my head). “Don’t give up the pace now. Keep going. Only 3.1 miles left. Leave it all out on the course. You can do it. Push yourself!” For miles 10 and 11 I pushed to keep it between 8:35 (target) and 8:47 (my pace from my first half marathon). At mile 12 I gave it my all for a big push to the end. I tried not to even look at my Garmin and just go as fast as I could go. I wanted to come in overall somewhere between 1:52:36 (an 8:35 pace) and 1:55:10 (my time from my first half marathon). I ended up hitting 1:53:34 (an 8:40 pace) for a PR by a minute 36 seconds!

While the race course was relatively easy, the race for me was tough. I pushed myself hard to hit the pace and it took all I had physically and emotionally. Of course I felt terrific emotionally when I finished, and even felt pretty good physically too. No injuries and just the usual hobbling soreness, part of which I fended off with an ice bath in this:

Nature's ice bath

Nature’s ice bath

I hit up the aid station for a banana and a granola bar and I chatted with Michelle and Mark, who both happen to be racing at the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon too! Good luck guys and thanks for a great race!

Happy Sunday everyone (and a Happy Mother’s Day to all the mother runners and triathletes out there!)

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Just a quick post to shout from the rooftops that today’s half marathon went well for me! I came in at 1:53:34, which is a PR by 1:36 over my OC Half Marathon time one year ago. It turned out to be a good decision to run the Spring Blast Half Marathon as a training run.

One red-faced but happy finisher!

One red-faced but happy finisher!

The target training pace was 8:35 (marathon pace) and I came close to that with an average of 8:40. I can tell you there’s no way I would have run that fast if I had not been racing.

I feel good and am resting up now but will post a full recap and review sometime soon!

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Are you tired of paying for expensive sports drinks full of unnecessary food dyes and artificial flavoring? Try this recipe for 40 ounces of homemade natural sports drink:

Homemade Sports Drink Recipe

30 ounces of water
10 ounces of 100% fruit juice of your choice (see some options below)
3 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 rounded teaspoon of salt

Shake well to dissolve sugar and salt.

(The suggested ingredients for this recipe were shared with my running academy group by chiropractor and clinical nutritionist G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN. I researched several different juices for the recipe and compared them with commercial sports drinks below).

What type of juice should be used to make a homemade sports drink?

Any kind of 100% fruit juice works, but keep in mind that the calories and other nutritive values will vary by the type of juice (see sample information below — I am not a nutritionist but I did some research on various types of juices). I always prefer organic juice. You might have to play around with a mix of juices to get the right flavor, sugar, and salt balance for you. Some good choices:

Cherry juice: one study found that drinking cherry juice can reduce muscle soreness due to exercise. (Source: WebMD Juice Wars Slideshow)

Pomegranate juice: this juice has a high level of antioxidants. (Source: Mayo Clinic)

Pineapple, orange, lemon and lime juices (not from concentrate, and preferably fresh-squeezed). You might want to limit the lemon and lime juices to a small amount for flavoring and pair them with other juices. Lemons and limes have high acidity levels that can cause stomach upset.

Note that no matter which juice you choose, you always want to try out a sports drink first on several training runs and not on a planned long run or race!

Nutrition Information Per 20 Fluid Ounces of Sports Drink

I used 20 ounces of sports drink for this comparison because it is half the recipe and nearly fills most standard sports bottles (I prefer the 21-25 oz. CamelBak sports bottles (not an affiliate link)). It also compares well to the G2 powder pack which is mixed with 20 ounces of water.

Fruit juice (5 oz. juice in 20 oz. sports drink):

Granulated sugar: 72 calories, 18.9 g carbohydrates (source: USDA Nutrient Database entry for 4.5 tsp. granulated sugar)

Table salt: 0 calories, approximately 98 mg sodium (source: USDA Nutrient Database entry for 1/8 tsp. table salt)

How does a homemade sports drink compare to other sports drinks like Gatorade G2 and Fluid?

Let’s compare homemade sports drink with pomegranate juice to Gatorade G2 Fruit Punch Powder for 20 oz. water and Fluid Performance Sports Drink Blueberry Pomegranate for 20 oz. water (When I buy sports drink I choose Fluid because it’s what has been offered on course for both of my full marathons and I make sure to train with what will be available during the race. I have also tried the G2 powder packs which are very convenient but I do not like the red dye). Of course, you could always adjust the homemade recipe above to approximate your favorite sports drink.

Calories per 20 ounces:

  • Homemade pomegranate: 157 calories
  • Homemade cherry: 153 calories
  • Homemade orange: 266 calories (again, you could reduce the added granulated sugar to adjust this amount)
  • G2: 130 calories
  • Fluid: 167 calories


  • Homemade pomegranate: 39.5 g
  • Homemade cherry: 38.9 g
  • Homemade orange: 63.6 g (less if you add less sugar)
  • G2: 32 grams
  • Fluid: 40g

Sodium per 20 ounces:

  • Homemade pomegranate: 112 mg
  • Homemade cherry: 110.5 mg
  • Homemade orange: 102 mg
  • G2: 230 mg
  • Fluid: 334 mg

It is interesting to me that the homemade recipe is so much lower in sodium. Consider your needs and adjust the salt or supplement with salt tablets on your run. See the interesting Active.com article How Much Salt Do You Need While Running?

Potassium per 20 ounces:

  • Homemade pomegranate: 336 mg
  • Homemade cherry: 256 mg
  • Homemade orange: 860 mg
  • G2: 70 mg
  • Fluid: 109 mg

Magnesium per 20 ounces:

  • Homemade pomegranate: 11 mg magnesium
  • Homemade cherry: NA
  • Homemade orange: 47 mg
  • G2: NA
  • Fluid:  18 mg

Have you tried a version of this recipe? What do you think? It takes some experimentation to get the mix right for you. I like pineapple juice but plan to play around with other flavors to get the salt and sugar balance just right.

Do you have a favorite homemade sports drink recipe? Feel free to share your own recipe or link in the comments.

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Should you throw in a half marathon or a shorter race in your training for a full marathon? Or a 10K in your training for a half? The authors of Run Less, Run Faster do not recommend it, because runners often get swept up in the excitement of the race and end up running it faster than the targeted training pace, or running farther than planned for the scheduled training distance. I, however, have a 13-mile training run on the calendar for Saturday, and the targeted training pace would leave me with a PR in the half marathon (I ran my one-and-only half at the OC Marathon last year in 1:55:10). I am not worried about running faster than the targeted training pace of 8:35; in fact I am hoping the adrenaline of the race and the fun of running somewhere new will push me to hit the pace. [Edited to add: I ended up running the Spring Blast Half Marathon at an 8:40 pace in 1:53:34 for a PR of 1 minute 36 seconds! You can read the race recap and review here.]

A “B” goal race tucked into the training for an “A” goal race can do several things:

  • Shake off the cobwebs and get you ready for the big race.
  • Allow you to practice your race day preparation: carb-loading, breakfast before the race, clothing, gear and fuel.
  • Boost your confidence if you do relatively well.
  • Show you where you can improve from your mistakes in the “B” race so you don’t repeat them on “A” race day.

The trick is to choose your “B” race wisely.

  • Chose a race that is as close to the planned training run distance as possible. You might think you’ll run a 10K and tack on an extra 3 miles to get your 9 mile training run in, but it’s not easy to do. I’ve done that once after the La Habra 10K and it was not easy, nor was it exactly wise to race my hardest then slog through three more slow miles just to get the mileage in. I didn’t injure myself but I’m not sure I did myself any favors either. That said, I still don’t regret it.
  • Find a race that mimics the “A” race course, if possible. The last 6 miles of the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon run along the beach boardwalk in Ventura. For my “B” race this weekend, I’ve chosen to run the Spring Blast Half Marathon along the beach boardwalk in Huntington Beach. You better believe I’ll be using the opportunity to visualize those last six miles along the beach as I run Saturday’s race.
  • Don’t go for something new. It’s a bad idea to pick a trail race, a mud run, or an obstacle run if you’re training for a road race. Only the opposite might be true — I imagine it would be fine to run a “B” road race if you’re training for a trail race, although it would be a shame to miss an opportunity to practice racing on the trails before the big day.

What not to do:

  • As I mentioned above, it’s not a good idea to give the “B” race your all-out effort, above and beyond your goal training pace. You risk injury and if even you are not injured, it will take you longer to recover from the run than it would have if you stuck to your goal training pace. Now, if I happen to hit the targeted 8:35 for 12 miles and still feel pretty good, I’m not promising I won’t give it a little kick at the end. 😉
  • Don’t try out new gear. We all know it’s never a good idea to wear new clothing or gear on race day and you should not be tempted to break that rule for a “B” race training run. I got these beauties in the mail today, but I won’t be putting them on for Saturday’s race:


Brooks Adrenaline 13

Wouldn’t the green be perfect for a “Spring Blast” half marathon?! Still, I refuse to be temped.

What about you? Do you incorporate a “B” race into your training for a longer distance race? I have even been known to throw in a triathlon or two into my training for a full marathon.

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PCRF Reaching for the Cure LogoMy oldest daughter trained with her elementary school’s running club for a 5K. She is 11 and she had run two 5Ks before, but this would be the first one she would run by herself. It turns out that the PCRF Reaching for the Cure 5K made an excellent choice for her first solo race! It offered a well-marked course, a medium-sized field of runners, a great cause, and a super-fun finish line expo with lots of activities and free food for both the participants and the spectators.

My daughter joined the team for Diann’s Defenders. After Diann’s cancer diagnosis at the age of 5, she underwent two and a half years of treatment and has since remained cancer-free for five and a half years!

Some of Diann's Defenders after the race.

Some of Diann’s Defenders after the race.

On race day our family woke up at 5:30 a.m. to get to the race in time for the 7:15 start for the 5K. I should have printed out the directions to the parking area from the race website instead of following the Google Maps directions to the street address. Of course several roads were blocked off for the 5K, 10K and half marathon courses and there really was only one way to get to the parking. I ended up dropping off my daughter and husband near the starting area and going back to follow the directions from my phone. Once we reached the parking structure there was plenty of parking remaining but I have to say, it was a L-O-O-O-N-G walk from the parking structure and I saw several racers running on their way to the starting line. Tip: Build in an extra 15 minutes for parking and walking.

My daughter finished the race in just over 32 minutes. She was happy with her time and super proud of the fact that she ran the whole way without stopping. The school running club had only had two training sessions (a third was canceled due to 100 degree heat) and the rest of the training she did on her own. It made me really happy to see her stick with it and achieve her goal!

After the race we made a beeline to the Jamba Juice tent for free smoothies for everyone. Then we visited the petting zoo, the puppies, the train, the inflatable bounce houses and slides, and best of all, the trampolines. Even my 4-year-old got in on the action. She got strapped into the harness and bounced high without fear!

Race pros: First off you cannot beat an event for such a good cause as the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. There’s a positive energy at the race and I think it takes a little bit of the competitive, nervous edge off (even though it’s a race for serious runners as well as fun run/walkers). The race is well-organized and family-friendly. Runners are allowed to push their babies and toddlers in strollers on the course. The best part though is the post-race expo with all the free food and family activities. My kids all had a blast. There weren’t long lines for bounce houses or even the trampolines and we spent over two hours going from one activity to another. Tip: bring a change of warm, dry clothes so you can stay and play in comfort! The cool, overcast weather was perfect for running but it felt downright chilly when we were milling around after the race!

Race cons: None of the cons would keep me from highly recommending this race for kids and adults. There’s always room for improvement though, so here’s what I would say: (1) The long walk from the parking structure made it hard for racers to get to the start on time and hard for supporters (especially 4-year-olds with short legs!) to get to the start line. That could be overcome with better planning on our part, but I did hear that parking used to be more convenient and perhaps it should be switched back if possible. (2) My daughter’s registration was not processed properly. We were charged the money for the event but I had to follow up with a phone call to actually get her registration processed. I think it was a one-time mistake of lost paperwork though and the PCRF people were very helpful and nice when I called. (3) There were plenty of porta-potties but one long row did not have a hand-washing station within sight. (4) The race took place on Sunday, May 5 (yes, Cinco de Mayo) which happens to be the same day as two other local-ish, popular races: The OC Marathon and the Safari Park Half Marathon.

Again, those were minor details that did not overshadow a great race experience at the PCRF Reaching for the Cure 5K!

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Why hello, Taper! I am so happy to see you! It’s been 13 weeks of intense training and I must confess I am ready to scale back the running for a few weeks until marathon race day. Yesterday I completed my fifth and last 20-mile run for this training cycle. I’m calling it a huge success. Twenty miles in 3:06:55. The training schedule called for 20 miles at an 8:50 pace. I hit several of the miles at that pace and all the 14 complete downhill miles I averaged 9:00. I had to run back up the trail for nearly 5 extra miles to get in a full 20 and even with those uphill miles I averaged 9:20 overall (6.4 mph). For those people who understand or even care about the elevation gain and loss, here are the stats from my Garmin Forerunner 110:

Elevation Gain: 534 ft
Elevation Loss: 1,436 ft
Min Elevation: 142 ft
Max Elevation: 1,052 ft

I ran Aliso Creek Trail again because it’s the one that best simulates the Mountains 2 Beach race course elevation gain and loss. This time though I didn’t continue all the way to the beach. I started with this:

Aliso Creek Path trailhead

Aliso Creek Path trailhead

and ended with this:

Latte from Cafe Anastasia in Laguna Beach

Latte from Cafe Anastasia in Laguna Beach

I highly recommend Cafe Anastasia for brunch. If you go, try the Eggs Laguna:

Eggs Laguna

If you have time, wander down Ocean Avenue to Main Beach Park:

Sunset at Main Beach Park in Laguna Beach. Photo by Eric Bennett.

Sunset at Main Beach Park in Laguna Beach. Photo by Eric Bennett.

but first stop at Casey’s Cupcakes for one of these:

Casey's cupcake

Did you run over the weekend? Did you go anywhere fun?

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Time to check in with my April Goals:

Book the hotel for race weekend. What a relief it was when I finally took care of this! We ended up booking a vacation rental home in Ojai for less than it would have cost to stay at the host hotel. The rental is within five minutes of the starting line in Ojai and that eliminates the need for me to take the early morning shuttle from the host hotel in Ventura. Also, with the rental home kitchen I can cook my own pre-race dinner and breakfast on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Focus on meal planning. I did focus on nutrition for the past month and made it a point to know by breakfast time what I wanted to cook for dinner that night. Only once, though, did I sit down and plan out a menu of meals for a whole week. I flipped through the pages of magazines a friend gave me and I tore out recipes that looked interesting to me — a meat dish, a chicken dish, a vegetarian dish, a fish dish, a stew (which I will double to freeze a batch for another meal) and a casserole (well, a garlic bread bowl thing that looked good to my husband! I have yet to make it). For the remaining night we had the best kind of meal — a home-cooked meal but one that I didn’t have to cook! Hooray for the spontaneous Sunday dinner invitation!

Run two 20-milers and two 15-milers. BAM! I ran 20 miles on Coyote Creek Trail, and 20 miles on Aliso Creek Trail all the way to the beach, and two 15-milers that seemed short by comparison.

April Miles

Swim: 1.75 miles in 1 hour in 2 workouts. Can you hear me singing: “Reunited and it feels so good!”? I finally got back in the pool after a few months’ absence and it felt fantastic. So good that I was kicking myself for not getting back in sooner. It reminded me why I like triathlon so much. The mix of disciplines allows the body more time to recover (by varying the muscles used) while still permitting you to train at a high level of intensity.

Bike: 53.57 miles in 3 hours in 4 workouts.

Run: It was another high mileage month (for me) with 133.89 miles in 25 hours in 13 workouts. While it’s not my highest mileage month ever, it is the most in hours of running — in the 30 days in April I spent an entire day plus one hour running!

Skiing: 2.5 hours in one workout. Can’t forget the spring break trip to Mammoth and the awesome run on the snow.

Weight training: 2.75 hours in 9 workouts. I usually do situps, pushups, and some biceps curls two times a week. Sometimes I get in some adductor and abductor muscle moves if I’m at the gym.

Random Photo for April

My oldest daughter celebrated her 11th birthday in April. She asked for cupcakes with yellow and blue frosting. She shares her birthdate with another friend who is one year older, so we made a yellow “11” and a blue “12”:

cupcake collage

If you’re looking for a great recipe for vanilla cupcakes with homemade buttercream frosting, check out this cupcake and frosting recipe from DC Cupcakes (we made the recipe without the filling). Tip: use whole milk in the recipe, not skim.

May Goals

There’s only one goal for May:

Have a blast at the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon on May 26!!

Of course before that I need to complete one more 20-miler this weekend and then begin to taper! I am actually looking forward to tapering this time around. Come to think of it though, I also have a race on the calendar as a training run: the Spring Blast Half Marathon on May 11. The training schedule calls for 13 miles at an 8:35 pace, so why not make it 13.1 and try to PR on a new and interesting course?

What are your goals for May?

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