Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Half marathon’ Category

Today’s run was a special one! I got to accompany my husband Mike and our 14-year-old daughter on their longest run to date — a 13.1 mile training run! They had been building up their mileage for weeks now, and they were ready to cover the distance. It wasn’t easy, but they finished super strong (they had some kick left in them for a sprint at the end!) They ran it in 2 hours 24 minutes. A good 10 minutes of that was spent walking around a local high school trying to find an unlocked bathroom for a pit stop around mile 6. I should have turned my MapMyRun app off for that. And I probably should have mapped out a less hilly route for their unofficial half marathon debut.

MapMyRun elevation chart

Yes, that’s 879 feet of elevation gain and it felt as hilly as that MapMyRun chart makes it look. As I said, probably not the best training run for a race that has 2,125 feet of elevation drop from start to finish. But Mike and my daughter knocked it out like champs and I could not be more proud of them. I always enjoyed passing a new distance milestone myself, but it’s even more fun to watch them pass one. I hope it has given them confidence going into the Fontana Days Run Half Marathon, which is three weeks from today. Today’s run was a huge accomplishment, and I made sure to remind my daughter that there aren’t many 8th graders that can do what she has done.

What’s the longest distance you’ve run? If you’ve trained for a half marathon, what is the longest training run you do before race day? When I was training for my first half (the OC Half in 2012) the longest training run I did was 12 miles. I think that was enough to carry me through 13.1 on race day, but I do think it can be helpful to go 13.1 or longer before a half. I wouldn’t do more than 20-22 before a full marathon though!

Read Full Post »

Nearly two weeks after I ran the Boston Marathon, I feel great. Definitely back in the running groove. I took the first week completely off of running and only walked and did marathon sessions (ha ha) of housecleaning. Because I did not push the pace during the race, my recovery was surprisingly easy. Unlike after previous marathons, my quads were not so sore that I ever had to walk sideways down the stairs or brace myself before sitting down on the toilet. In fact I felt so good that I had a little stab of regret that I didn’t run the race faster. It turns out that a marathon is hard no matter how fast or slow you run it, so I might as well have pushed it a little more. I should not second guess myself though. After months of pushing myself to qualify for Boston, I made the decision to take it easier during the race in order to enjoy the experience as best I could. I learn something new every race, and this one taught me that I do not particularly enjoy being out on the course for half an hour longer than my PR time (4:05:09 compared to 3:36:58). Maybe it would have felt different if it had not been such a warm and windy day, but I cannot know the answer to that.

Exactly one week after the race, I went for my first post-marathon run. I took it easy on a 5.41 mile loop and simply enjoyed being back out on the road again. I went for three more easy runs that week, 4.07 miles, 3.52 miles, and 6 miles, for a total of 19 miles. (My husband laughs at the fact that I feel a need to document the run down to the hundredth of a mile, and that I prefer to finish an even 6.0 miles than stop at 5.94. That’s okay, I fully admit my neurotic obsession with the numbers, and I know I’m not the only runner who is the same way).

Now I’m hopping on the training plan I laid out for my husband and 14-year-old to run their first half marathon on June 4, which is five weeks from now. We’re doing the Fontana Days Run (the half marathon is sold out but there are still spots left in the 5K).

What’s the next race you have on your calendar?

Are you obsessed with the exact number of miles you run or are you more easygoing about your training plan and running log?

Read Full Post »

On a whim I decided to enter a contest for a free entry to the Shoreline Half Marathon from RaceGrader.com (a great place to check for reviews of Southern California races and to find registration discount codes for many popular local races). I’m always looking for someplace new to run and 13 miles along the beach sounded spectacular. Of course as soon as I typed in my email address and hit submit, I had second thoughts. How far exactly is Ventura from my house? Two hours. How early would I need to get up for the race? 4 a.m. Ugh, that seemed a little early for what would basically be a training run for the REVEL Canyon City Marathon in November. But what are the chances I’ll win anyway? Pretty darn good, apparently!

So that’s how I found myself lined up at the start of the 2015 Shoreline Half Marathon on Sunday July 12. And what a gorgeous shoreline it was!

Part of the course runs along this promenade in Ventura

Part of the course runs along this promenade in Ventura

I had arrived at 7 a.m. and parked for $6 at the public parking structure next to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, an easy walk to pick up my race bib and nice grey technical shirt at Promenade Park. There were plenty of porta potties and also some public restrooms on the beach path (oh the luxury!)

The half marathon started promptly at 8. I loved how the race director asked people to self-seed in the corral by pace and sent us off in waves every two minutes. It’s an unusual way of doing it but it makes perfect sense to avoid a crowded mass start along the beach path and the chip time doesn’t begin until you cross the starting line.

I wore my Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS watch but vowed not to look at it for the entire race. Mike didn’t think I could run “naked” (he knows how I love my data!) but that made me all the more determined! I wanted to practice running by feel and not by the watch. I hoped to go out at a steady pace, slower than marathon or half marathon pace but not exactly an “easy” pace — just a pace I felt I could sustain comfortably for 13.1 miles. I guessed that would be in the low 9-minute mile range.

The first part of the course runs five miles north along the bike path and the wide shoulder of the 101 overlooking the ocean. As always in a race I felt grateful for the privilege of being there and being healthy and able to run. The course is nearly all flat with just a few dips here and there, less than 100 feet of elevation change. Around mile 4 I could see the leaders of the race coming back along the course after the turnaround at mile 5. It was fun to cheer them on and marvel at their speed! The north-and-back and south-and-back layout of the course meant that there was plenty of opportunity for people watching with the 664 participants in the half marathon and the people on the boardwalk. Somewhere in the first five miles I passed the 2:00 pacer so I knew my pace was faster than I had originally thought it would be.

Pace miles 1-5: 8:54, 8:37, 8:29, 8:32, 8:22

The course then runs the five miles back, past the start/finish line, a couple of miles out under the Ventura Pier and around Ventura State Beach Park, and back to the finish line along the promenade.

Around mile 8 the pace stopped feeling comfortable and started getting tougher. The 8 a.m. start time meant that we faced some serious heat on the course in the later miles (73 degrees and humid by the time I finished). I wore a visor and sunglasses and stopped at the aid stations every 1-1.5 miles for Gatorade and water. The volunteers were hustling and did a good job helping the runners.

Pace miles 6-10: 8:29, 8:38, 8:27, 8:26, 8:36

The last 5K of the race was a challenge. My training plan only called for 11 miles for my long run so when I passed the parking structure after mile 12 the temptation to call it good was strong! The plan also called for a “fast finish” though, so I picked it up for mile 13 and brought it home strong.

Pace miles 11-13.1: 8:24, 8:52, 8:30

Chip Finish Time: 1:52:15, 8:34 average pace overall

Females 40-49 age group: 9 of 113

Females overall: 33 of 408 (Interesting that there were more women than men in the race! Go ladies!)

All finishers: 94 of 664

I enjoyed the bananas, oranges and Gatorade at the finish line while I waited in line for the free tacos. There was free beer too but I wouldn’t have survived the drive home with that!

It was an interesting experience running the race “naked.” I ended up running faster than I would have had I been looking at my watch, and yet the pace felt easier. I found that when I run by effort, the pace feels more comfortable than if I try to “force” myself to hit a certain pace on the watch. Now would I pace a marathon goal race this way? Not likely. That would take a lot more practice for me and a lot better sense of how to run 26.2 by feel. Would I pace another half this way? Absolutely, especially if I wanted to use the race to gauge my current level of fitness. For not tapering (and for spending several hours the previous day cleaning and priming my daughter’s bedroom to paint), I was very happy with how the race went. I recommend the course for the views, the smaller size of the field, the ease of parking and same-day packet pick-up, the nice race t-shirt, finisher’s medal, and free tacos and beer at the finish. Just a few tips if you plan on going for a goal time on this course: place yourself toward the front of your wave at the start, be prepared to dodge a few runners and people on the boardwalk (which isn’t closed to the public), and dress for the heat. With early bird registration starting at $45 for the half and going up to $75 in the months before race day, it’s a great value for a well-run (no pun intended), gorgeous race!

Have you ever run a race “naked”? Do you find it easier to run by feel or by a GPS watch?

Read Full Post »

When I started running four years ago, I followed a fairly natural progression. At first I trained for a sprint triathlon. I enjoyed all three disciplines of swimming, biking, and running. While I continued to train for triathlons, I also ran a stand-alone 5K, an 8K, a 10K and a half marathon over the course of the next year. Once I had trained up for the half marathon and liked it, I figured if I was ever going to run a marathon, that would be the time to do it. Five months later I ran my first marathon and was hooked. And so began three solid years of marathon training:

4:02:39 at the Santa Barbara International Marathon – Fall 2012
3:57:29 at the Mountains2Beach Marathon – Spring 2013
3:52:42 at the Long Beach Marathon – Fall 2013
3:44:26 at the Santa Rosa Marathon – Summer 2014 (BQ minus 34 seconds)
3:36:58 at the Phoenix Marathon – Winter 2015 (BQ minus 8:02)

Those last two races took a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy as I raced to qualify for Boston. When my qualifying time at Santa Rosa did not meet the cutoff to register for Boston 2015, I felt a huge sense of disappointment. I dedicated myself to training for the Phoenix Marathon six months later. It took an incredible amount of focus and commitment to finish that race strong and not give up on qualifying with several minutes to spare. I accomplished that goal, and yet I felt an odd sense of letdown. I think I burned out on training 10-11 hours a week with three runs (a 4-5 mile speed workout, an 8-mile tempo run, and a long run) and two bike rides (20-30 miles each) and strength training (40-60 minutes per week). The training worked, but it left me ready to take an extended break from regimented training.

So, I took the month of March off formal training. I went skiing with my family at Whistler (where I still took advantage of the trails to get a few runs in) and I engaged in marathon housecleaning sessions rather than marathon training sessions.

Rest is great, and there’s lots of research that says muscle memory and endurance make it easier for you to get fit again after a break than it was the first time you got fit. However, I have to say that it took me a good two months of regular training before I felt back on track again, so to speak. I held off signing up for my next race because I just wasn’t sure it was worth putting myself out there. Finally I decided I was just being chicken and I signed up for the Downtown Anaheim 5K a week from tomorrow.

After that, I will start training for my sixth full marathon, the REVEL Canyon City Full Marathon on November 7, 2015. I had such a fantastic run at the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon in 2014 that I couldn’t resist putting the full on my calendar this year. The challenge now is to train for the net -5,134 feet of downhill on the full marathon course. I take that very seriously and I plan to do at least a couple of long runs on the course to make sure I can handle the pounding on my quads on race day.

What’s up next for you? Have you ever taken a break from running? Do you like to have a training plan in place or do you enjoy the flexibility of some time off from formal training?

Read Full Post »

You wouldn’t know it from my happy recap of the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, but the race weekend started out as a comedy of errors. I keep thinking that the older I get, the more capable I will become. Instead, the older I get, the busier my life gets, and therefore the less capable I become! Evidence to follow….

My husband had gone out of town to celebrate his brother’s 40th birthday (as one does), and he planned to return at noon on Friday before the race on Saturday. He had already done a fair bit of work to get the travel trailer ready for us to camp for the weekend just outside the race location in Santa Ynez, but we still needed to pack, load up all the food, and attach the trailer to the car before we picked up the kids early from school and headed out of town. For any number of poorly controlled reasons, we left an hour later than planned, which meant that we hit rush hour traffic through Los Angeles at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. A drive that should have taken us 2.5 hours actually took 4.5 hours, and it became clear that I was not going to make packet pick-up for the race at Hotel Corque in Solvang by 7 p.m.

Now, please note that I am no race newbie. I’ve done about 21 other races. You would think that I know the importance of planning ahead and getting to packet pick-up on time. I take races super-seriously (too seriously?) and I recognize that picking up the bib and timing chip is top priority before a race. I’ve even done other races in Malibu and Santa Barbara where LA traffic was an issue for packet pick-up and I vowed to remember that. Still, I found myself stuck in LA in stop-and-go traffic, wondering if I could beg the race organizers to hand over my bib on race day morning.

Thank goodness for a couple of non-runner friends who were traveling down from San Francisco to join us for camping for the weekend. I texted them a copy of my driver’s license and they agreed to stop in Solvang for me. They picked up my bib, timing chip and t-shirt, then strolled around town in search of a brownie (if only I’d been there to treat them to that brownie, or better yet, a bottle of Santa Barbara Wine Country wine!) We ended up meeting at the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area campground around 8 p.m., with me gratefully snatching the race bag and frantically pinning on my bib for the next morning’s race.

But that’s not where the comedy of pre-race errors ends. I quickly realized that in my rush to pack before the race, I had forgotten, of all things, a running t-shirt and shorts. Yes, I am totally embarrassed to admit that. Who does that?! But see, I have an excuse (explanation?) On that Friday before the race, I’d run a shake-out mile. Just a single mile on the treadmill to loosen up my tight calves and assure myself I was ready for the race. I did that mile on my treadmill in my master bedroom. When I run on the treadmill in my master bedroom, I run in underwear and a sports bra, nothing else (sorry for that visual. Or, I suppose, you’re welcome). I mean, come on, who wants to do more laundry than necessary? So when I went to pack for the trip, I packed my running bra, undies, socks, shoes, and Garmin. What else do you need to run, really? Okay, fine, A RUNNING SHIRT AND SHORTS!

Thank goodness my husband came to the rescue. He had some running shorts in his tennis bag. I paired that with the running shirt from the race (major faux pas to wear the shirt from the race before you’ve run it, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do), and I was good to go.

This is quite possibly the least flattering running photo of me ever. Please keep in mind that it was 6:30 a.m. in 50-degree weather and I was wearing my husband's running shorts, which make my waist look about three sizes bigger. I shouldn't care but I do.

This is quite possibly the least flattering running photo of me ever. Please keep in mind that it was 6:30 a.m. in 50-degree weather and I was wearing my husband’s running shorts, which make my waist look about three sizes bigger. I shouldn’t care but I do.

The shorts turned out to be quite comfortable and I liked that I could use the pockets to hold the gel that I took around mile six (I had planned to wear my skimpy compression shorts and store the gel in my running bra).

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. All I know is that I’m grateful for my friends and my husband who supported me through the pre-race debacles (and my other friend who cooked up a delicious post-race omelet when I got back to the campground).

Have you ever missed packet pick-up or forgotten something for the race? This is my first time. I did talk to another friend yesterday who missed the OC Half Marathon race start by 40 minutes (mistaking the last race transportation bus time for the start time), but he was able to start the race 40 minutes late and have his chip time record his actual time!

Read Full Post »

In the days before the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, race jitters got the best of me and I fretted over the course elevation profile and whether or not I could hope for a PR (1:53 or less) or better yet, break 1:50.

The course elevation as recorded by my Garmin. While it might not be perfectly accurate, I'd say it's about right!

The course elevation as recorded by my Garmin. While it might not be perfectly accurate, I’d say it’s about right!

You can see why the elevation gain of 764 feet intimidated me in spite of the net elevation loss. I’d chosen the race because the timing was perfect for me — it fit in my full marathon training for Santa Rosa — and the location is convenient and beautiful. But as I discovered, I don’t really run races for “fun” — I run for the joy of racing hard and doing my best, all while enjoying the privilege of getting to run someplace new on a closed course.

It turns out I needn’t have worried about the difficulty of the course. The race ended up being everything I hoped for and more. The course is absolutely gorgeous — so much so that I asked my family and friends to tour it with me by car after the race because I wanted to see it again and I wanted to show them all. I have never run on a more beautiful course (for the record, this is my 22nd race or so, but only my third half marathon). It starts in the nice little town of Santa Ynez and quickly heads out into the wine country, past vineyards and horse stables and farms, up Corkscrew Hill and down Ballard Canyon to the finish line in charming downtown Solvang.

The weather was gorgeous too — in the low 50s and sunny. The forecast predicted winds of 21 miles per hour (!!) but it turns out those winds only kicked up later in the afternoon.

So what about those hills? Yes, the general grade was noticeably uphill for the first seven miles, with a few rolling hills along with way, capped with the challenging 0.6 miles up Corkscrew Hill. But surprisingly, I did not find it as difficult as I thought it might be to maintain my goal pace on that first half of the course. I knew what to anticipate, and if you have prepared with some hill training before the race, the hills are totally manageable and dare I say, rewarding to conquer. The real reward, though, comes when you get to fly down the canyon for the next four miles! I haven’t had so much fun racing in a long time. The canyon is spectacular, with hills covered in yellows and greens and dotted with a few buffalo!

I’ll take a minute (pun intended) talking about pace, which is probably only interesting to me and anyone else who plans to run this course in the future. I wore a pace band (tip: print it, cut it out, and use clear packing tape to cover the front and back and then — this is the key — around the edges to seal the sides from sweat). I targeted a pace of 8:19 or better in the hopes of hitting 1:49 overall.

The first mile ended up at 8:21 and I quickly realized I’d started a little too far back in the pack. While it’s always better to start slow and build some speed, I dodged more people at the start than I’d like (especially in the first sharp turn right after the start). After that I settled into my own race and found myself pretty comfortable at a good pace: 8:10, 8:02, 8:17, 8:12, 8:34 — an average of 8:16 for the first six miles.

This was my first race in which I relied solely on the course aid stations for water and electrolytes. Aid stations were positioned about every 2 miles and that was perfect for me. I’d grab 2 cups of water or Accelerade and walk a few steps while drinking, then pick up the pace again. I took the one gel I’d carried with me at mile six.

Corkscrew Hill proved challenging but I simply pictured myself on one of the hills I’d bested in training and soon it was over with an average pace of 9:06 for mile 7. Then the fun began. You can tell by my pace alone that I loved the decline for the next four miles: 7:47, 7:31, 7:55, 7:54.

When the course evened out again around mile 11, any slight incline felt like a hill higher and harder than Corkscrew Hill, but then again, any and every race starts to get tough at that point — that’s nothing new or unusual. There are two inclines that I recall, but I pushed hard to maintain my best pace with 8:42 for mile 12 and 7:54 for mile 13. At mile 12.5 I really felt like slowing or outright stopping but I wasn’t about to give up then! Frantic calculations in my head told me that if I could hit a certain pace I would come in under 1:50, or a slightly faster pace under 1:49. I pushed it so hard, and when I came around the final corner in Solvang and I could see the finish line arch, I sprinted in at a 7:20 pace for a final time of 1:48:02! That’s a 5-minute PR over my second half marathon, and a 3-minute PR over my unofficial half marathon split at the Mountains2Beach full marathon! Two people came up to me separately after the race (one man and one woman) and said I had done a good job on pacing and that they had tried to keep up with me. That made me so happy because I have told other people that exact same thing on more than one occasion at other races and it was just such a compliment to have someone congratulate me on my race that way.

I later learned that 1:48:02 put me in 22nd place in my age group (F40-44) of 303 finishers, so the top 7.26%. Even better when you look at all the female finishers (1,777), I came in 103rd to put me in the top 5.8%!

The finish line expo was great with plenty of food, water, electrolyte drinks, and bags of veggie and egg chips, and small bowls of Amy’s brand chili (which I carried around until I recovered sufficiently to tolerate eating it, and then it was the most delicious post-race food ever)! I caught a race transportation bus back to the parking lot at Santa Ynez Valley High School and was back with my family by 10:15.

I highly recommend this race. It’s expensive for a half marathon (I paid $126 with the online service fee) but it’s a great race with a limited field of runners (just over 2,500 finishers?) in a spectacular setting. As I said, the challenge of the course elevation is more than balanced out by the thrill of running down Ballard Canyon at a faster-than-usual pace past stunning views. It would be really fun to get a team of friends together to run the race and celebrate at the wine tasting festival at the finish line ($20 for a wine glass to taste wines from 15 local wineries). I didn’t partake in any wine (not even at the on-course wine stop around mile 6!) because I just wanted to get back to my family, but I could see how it would be a fun way to celebrate your finish with friends and adult relatives.

Did you race this weekend? What’s your next race coming up? My next big race is the Santa Rosa Marathon at the end of August.

Read Full Post »

It’s the Tuesday before my next big race on Saturday, a half marathon. I’m doing my typical pre-race freak out. By “freak out” I mean there’s no hand-wringing, no crying, no tantrums, just a mild case of pre-race jitters that has me asking — yet again — “What have I gotten myself into?”

After a year of focusing on the full marathon, I thought it was a good idea to pick a race that I could run for “fun.” For the location, for the scenery, for the sheer joy of running someplace new on a closed course. So I chose a race put on by “Destination Races,” the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. It runs through the vineyards of Santa Barbara county from Santa Ynez to Solvang. Sounds perfect, right? Well, yes. I think it will live up to its claim of being a gorgeous destination race. There’s just one little problem: me. I thought I could sign up for a race for “fun” and not care about my finishing time. I thought I could be happy soaking up the views and not care whether I clocked a PR. I told myself that even if I did care about my finishing time, I could look at it as a race where I cared less about the finishing time itself and more about where that time put me in relation to the rest of the field of 40-to-44-year-old-women-who-chose-a-race-that-has-a-wine-stop-on-the-course.

Yet again, however, running and racing have taught me some things about myself:

  • I’m competitive, not so much against other people, but against myself. I do want to get a PR, and I do want to better myself in comparison to the field (not because I care about beating other runners, but because I revel in improving my overall performance).
  • I enjoy training more than I enjoy racing. One might wonder why I sign up for races then, but the fact is that I like having a goal race on the calendar. I like having a training plan that builds up to a race. I like crossing off each workout on the plan.
  • I take each race a little too seriously. I don’t race that often, so when I do race, I care a lot about how that race goes. I use each finish time to gauge how the training is going and whether or not I am improving over time. (I think these things are true about many runners, it just took me a little while to realize all this about myself).

So why the heck did I sign up for a race with an elevation profile like this:

elevation profile Santa Barbara Wine Country

Of course not every race is going to be pancake-flat and “fast.” And the hills are what make for some of the best views along this course. It’s just that if I care so much about my time, I probably shouldn’t have chosen a race with total climbing of 764 feet! I have no clue how to pace myself when the first seven miles are basically uphill and the last six miles are basically downhill. I could run by how I feel, rather than by the pace on my Garmin, but if there’s anything else I’ve learned about myself it’s that I would run a lot slower if I just ran by how I feel! I am a very poor judge of pace, going out too fast at the start and running too slow thereafter. I can run “naked” for the occasional training run but I want and need my Garmin for a race.

(Just for the record, don’t think that I have ignored the course elevation profile until now. I have been hill training specifically in preparation for this course. I live in the “Heights” for goodness sake — I have run a hill or two in my day. And I have been quite dedicated to the training plan. If you look at the calendar last month, I worked out on every day but one. Some of those days were 15-25 minutes of strength training only, and were “rest days” from running or biking, but I did some form of physical activity every single day).

I’ve been running and racing for three years now. During that time, I have only run two official half marathons, my first ever big race, the 2012 OC Half in 1:55:10 (smashing my goal of a sub-2 half), and a training run/race for a full marathon, the 2013 Spring Blast Half Marathon in 1:53:34. I ran the first half of the 2013 Mountains2Beach full marathon in an unofficial time of 1:51:01. I believe I am capable of a time in the 1:4x range, given the right course and given the proper training and taper before the race. And I need that 1:4x as a confidence booster to prove to myself that I am capable of training for running a Boston Qualifying time in the full marathon. To BQ with a 3:44:59 in the full, the McMillan Running Calculator says I would need to hit a 1:46:54 in a half.

Maybe the gorgeous views of the Santa Barbara wine country will help me fly up and down the hills to a PR, maybe not. What I need to do now is re-focus on my original goals for the race. I thought I could enjoy a race for the scenery. I think I can! I thought I could set aside the goal of a PR to focus on doing my best in comparison to the field. I think I can!

Do you ever run a race just for fun? Just this past weekend I ran the iCureMelanoma 5K with my 9-year-old, and I have to say it was a lot of fun to run with her and not worry about my own race time. But unless I’m running with my kids, I run for the “fun” of pushing myself to a personal best.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »