Monday, January 26, 2009

I won something at a race!

The Fourth Race of the Super Jock N Jill Winter Grand Prix Series happened last Saturday. this is the prediction run of the race series. That means that you must predict what time you think you'll come in for the 2 mile road race and then run without a watch. There is someone calling splits at mile 1 but that's it. No finish clock that runners can see.

Last year when I did this race
I didn't realize the no-watch policy until day of race. I was not mentally prepared for it at all. I use my watch and especially my heart rate monitor to help me push harder in these short races. With no heart rate feedback, I tend to lollygag about at hard paces.

I think this is partly because I am so unused to pushing myself hard in activities. I didn't grow up doing any sports and was never really encouraged to challenge myself in any physical way. I am finding that the mental part of this sport is a bigger part of running than I ever would have assumed. When my lungs and legs get tired, my rational brain thinks about stopping and why the heck are you doing this? I've spent some years now training that rational brain that it really is ok if my legs get tired and my lungs start burning. I'm still not sure I even reach an all out stage in these short races. It seems that the more fit I've become the harder it is to put it all on the line. It is something I struggle with everytime I toe the line for a shorter race.

Struggle aside, I knew going into this race taht I was in comparable shape to last years prediction run (on fewer miles which makes me happy!) plus I had a better idea what to expect. What to predict? Last year I predicted 14:10 (but made early morning math errors, meant to write 14:20) and came in 14:31 because I really had a hard time with pushing myself. Plus it was a little icier on that race day. I decided that in reality I still was not going to end up going all out but I would probably run a little better plus conditions were good.

14:25. that's what I wrote very clearly on the prediction sheet. RPD and I had gotten there in plenty of time and I had an odd warm up. One in which once I finished I didn't really feel ready to run fast. No worries. Once that air horn went off, I'd be ready.

Immediately I got out well and didn't get boxed in on the first turn. I just tried to settle in and not go out too fast. I could see my 60 year old nemesis (PN) ahead and new she'd start out steady. I kept her in sight.

After about .7 miles, I thought I was sounding pretty good breathing-wise compared to other people and thought I should start passing people. I passed PN shortly and then just started reeling people in. I hit the first mile at 7:15 and was happy. THis was just what I'd done last year but I felt like I'd gotten a smoother start.

The last mile went quick. I didn't really have to argue with myself to keep going which makes me suspect I could've gone a bit faster but continually passing people was very satisfying. I felt smooth and very strong and finished with a pretty good kick, passing someone just before the finish. Someone in the crowd yelled "good kick" to me and that made me smile.

I was at about 1.4 miles when the winner of the race finished. I certainly did not win something for running the fastest. Results were posted today and I ran 14:25.6 just .6 second off of my prediction. That puts me at #5 for closest to their prediction! So I actually win something which will be determined later. I thought maybe I had just maintained pace again for an even 14:30 so I am delighted about this race.

I called it right.
I felt strong on fewer running miles overall.
I feel rather speedy.
And I barely could tell I'd run fast for a couple of miles just hours after this race.

Next up: the track race. This is the race to try and hammer. I can't wait to see what happens!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Metropolitan Opera National Council NW Regional Audition

That's a mouthful, isn't it?

MONC NW Auditions? What is it? The auditions program's mission is to discover exceptional young talent and provide a venue so that they can be heard. If chosen they get assistance to develop their potential, go onto the final in New York and get a big ol' prestigious win.

Really it's a bunch of young singers (under 30 years old) who get to sing and act to their best ability. It takes place in an intimate theater (Meany Hall on UW Campus) and the singers pick one out of their five chosen operatic arias and then judges pick another. According to the website, "Applicants must have a voice with operatic potential; exceptional quality, range, projection, charisma, communication and natural beauty."

Oh. That's all. And they do it with only piano accompaniment and prom-like attire.

I'd not been to this before but it was really entertaining and interesting. There were 14 singers with more women then men and a very interesting range of choices in music. Although you could almost guarantee that if the singer didn't chose to sing a german aria, the judges would ask for that as their second piece.

The best of the group, drew you right in and conveyed the emotion behind what they were singing and held your attention. they made the singing look effortless and used their bodies and faces well to convey emotionalism. Our season ticket opera seats at McGraw Hall are in the middle but almost the very last seats in the hall way in the back. So I'm not used to being so up close and personal. We sat almost in the very front and I'm glad we did.

Here are my notes for most of the singers:
Rachel Routson - gets a little lost in her notes. unpleasant high note and strange facial expressions.
Megan Chenovick - a little shrill at times but excellent acting and pulled me in.
Noah Baetge - he's got it all. drama, stage presence and commanding the audience's attention. Beautiful, sweet voice.
Michelle Trovato - clear voice with expression and body language that I loved. odd "ch" sound when singing in German. Rather distracting, sort of like closing a door after the phrase.
Eugene Chan - excellent! stunning voice and great acting. I'd like to see a serious aria though.
Sharin Apostolou - makes it looks like work. why are her arms glued to her side down to her elbows? and same expression. Very pretty voice.
Elizabeth Pjanowski - great acting and my people's choice vote. Expressive voice and knows how to act with whole body. good in german.
Jose Rubio - sausage arms for a bit there and rather eh for the first song but came to life for the second one. Beautiful dreamy voice.
Gine Marie Sorenson - just does not appeal to me and I can't pin down why. Technical but missing a bit of oomph?
Stephani Nakagawa - too shrieky. Only one expression and kinda boring. Wow. Only 21 years old though.
Jonathan Kimple - two arias were too similar. would've liked to have seen something different. Liked his acting and voice is beautiful but without a lot of depth.
Suzanne Rigden - has got the german down. Fun presence on stage and did some difficult singing much to crowds delight.

My top picks were Noah Baetge, Elizabeth Pojanowski and Eugene Chan. Noah took first place and he will definitely be someone to watch for in the future. He already is someone to watch and I have seen him in a Seattle Young Opera production.

Both mom and I were amazed at how normal these people were when introducing themselves. Then they would be transformed and the most amazing noise would come out of their mouths. It was a little unreal actually!

I was telling RPD that I have started to enjoy listening to the whole opera a little more than just the greatest hits. RPD called that maturing in my listening. I'm not too sure about that as ABBA just came up on my playlist. I thought it would be a little boring watching just a singer and pianist but I was very wrong.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Running really is an odd thing. I remember running when I was a kid or in high school and I hated it. My legs would feel like lead after a very short while, my lungs would burn and strangely enough I would often get a headache. The lead legs and burning lungs are easily explained by lack of fitness but what about the headache? As a new runner, one is often quite bouncy and uneconomical in their running style. That bounce coupled with glasses which didn't fit very well made my head feel like it was going to fall off. What to do about all this? Um. Not run! For years and years.

And here I am today. I easily run 8 miles before work and it feels comfortable and relaxing. So now I'm cardiovascularly fit which means I can comfortably breathe during an aerobic workout. My legs are strong and used to the demands I place on them and I don't bounce around when I run so no headache. No glasses either but that's a separate story.

I know I am a better runner now than when I was a kid (obviously) or even a few years ago. My running economy has improved drastically. Running economy? what is that? It's really not anything in particular that I can point to which has changed. It just happened and I think can be documented in race photos over the years.

Most race photos I saw of myself when I was a new runner always made me cringe because I just looked so crooked and off balance. It didn't look like I'd even be able to walk correctly let alone run. Now and really only in the past two years do I actually look like I am running in running photos. I don't really have any good shots of running from some years ago but I'd often look like I was collapsed to one side and had a sort of hunched look. Just call me Quasimodo!

Somehow in the past year, I actually like race photos. I look like I am running. I don't look like I'm about to tip over. This one to the left is from the Dallas Marathon Relay this past December. I'm at foot plant and look upright and not crooked.

What changed? I have better foot turnover, more strength to support my core and there are some form considerations which I keep in mind. I keep my head up, try and pick up my legs a bit (so I don't shuffle) and keep my arms moving. Making sure that I stay flexible in my legs, hips and my shoulders helps this as well. I dropped my orthotics this past year because I felt I had outgrown them as further proof that running form has changed over the years.

But how do I perceive how I run? Quasimodo here! I still feel like I lurch about.

This morning I ran Race #4 in the Super Jock n Jill Winter Grand Prix Series. This was a 2-mile road race where you had to predict your time and run without a watch. That often is challenging for me because I use heart rate data to help me push the pace and convince myself that I am not dying!

During the race this morning I had the oddest realization. I was using my breathing to gauge how hard I was going and listening to fellow runners around me to see how they were doing. I passed a couple people who obviously had started out way too fast and were paying a price. But then I started noticing that most people around me were running so effortlessly looking. They looked relaxed and graceful at the 7:15 pace we were running.

Um. I was running 7:15 pace too. And I very gradually passed people from .8 miles onward. Does this mean I look like I am running effortlessly and gracefully? Well? I can't quite say yes as I haven't seen myself running but all evidence is pointing that way.

This past year of injuries has forced me to change up my running by incorporating biking, rowing, consistent core and strength work and that has really helped my overall strength. It's made me more aware of form in running, in biking, in rowing and in life. Now that I'm back to more consistent running I feel stronger and faster on fewer miles and it just feels easier. Perception is everything. I am looking forward to this year of running.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nookachamps Half Marathon

This is a great event in the great Northwest frozen tundra. It's an inexpensive race and about the only one that happens around here at this time of year. It draws all the gazelle people from the area. I have always wanted to be in shape to race this half marathon but it just never seems to happen. I've raced the now defunct 4 miler and the 10k or I've been injured or out of town. I still wasn't in shape to race the half but I was in shape to run it as a long run and enjoy myself.

And 13.1 miles would be a long run for me. Looking back over my running log from last year, the last time I ran 12 miles was in May. Really this shocks me and makes me a bit sad. Well no wonder it was so challenging to get ready in the morning. It took me a bit to remember that I should probably bring a gel to have mid-run and I had better wear the comfy running shorts with multiple pockets. We went off to pick up RPD who was also going to be running the half and set off for Mount Vernon.

RPD promptly fell asleep as soon as we hit the freeway. Truly I am envious. We made it up to Mount Vernon in record time and followed the line of cars/suvs with bike racks into the parking lot and were registered and ready to go in no time. I kept running into people I know which was pretty nifty.

It's a new course this year and I really loved it. Flat and hilly with lots to look at as you are running alongside farm land, lakes, sloughs and across creeks. Every time I have raced here, it has been well below freezing. Today's temps were actually above freezing which was novel so I wore shorts even though it was chillier (just above freezing) because of the fog. The shorts I was wearing were so comfortable after the tights I have been wearing that i honestly thought for a moment that I wasn't wearing anything. I had to check a couple of times!

And we were off. The goal was just to settle into a comfortable easy pace and enjoy myself. The second mile has a big downhill and I didn't get suckered into running that harder than I wanted. Pace was around 8:45-8:50 and I was happy. Just in the past week my pace had dropped for effort so I was curious as to what was going to feel comfortable.

1 - 8:47
2 - 8:29 (downhill)
3 - 8:52

The best and most memorable part of the race occurred around mile 3. We were running by horse paddocks and the stunningly gorgeous horses seemed to be excited about the race. One of the stallions was galloping about his paddock. In the fog, it was just an awesome scene. All the runners around me also took time to comment on the beauty. About mile 4 I started chatting with Retail Guy who was running the same pace. He politely took out an ear bud and we chatted about what all runners chat about - races and next races. He was actually a tennis player who loved running because it kept him in such good shape. We were chatting a bit too much (going uphill) and slowed through one of those miles. He seemed ready to move up the pace after around 7 so I let him go.

4 - 8:55
5 - 8:52
6 - 9:04 oops. chatting too much.
7 - 8:35 short steep up and then down.

there was a very long out and back section which I wasn't prepared for at all around miles 8-10. It seemed to go on forever. But it was very interesting to see the runners coming towards me. They were obviously working hard and I really felt fresh and full of of vim and vigor. In fact as I was coming towards the turn around pretty much by myself, the lone volunteer gave me a "good job" and I thanked him for being out there with a huge grin on my face. He laughed and said that I must've started later because I obviously had way too much energy at this point in the race. That got a big laugh out of me and I explained I was just out for a fun run.

8 - 8:37
9 - 8:47

Not too long after the turn around I acquired Heavy Breathing Guy. He stayed on my tail for the better part of two miles until I finally got him to pass me. He said he was using me as a wind break (there was wind?). No biggie for me. I quizzed him about the hills the final miles but he didn't know what to expect either.

It was a little strange the last couple of miles. We made a turn back to the main road and were serenaded by a flock of turkeys. I laughed out loud about that one much to the delight of the volunteers at that intersection encouraging the turkeys. It was a little confusing the last miles about which side of the road runners were supposed to be on. the road was not closed and there was a lot of traffic. Cars and big trucks were going slowly but still didn't like it.

Finally we started the rollers the last couple of miles. I was ready to be done and enjoyed the ups and downs. I had been passing people very steadily for the last few miles and set my sights on one person after the other on the way in. I didn't mean for that last mile to be 7:50 pace but it sure did feel good to let 'er rip!

10/11 - 17:42 Big uphill in mile 11. sorry I missed the splits.
12- 8:36
13 -7:50

1:54:01 by watch time. An easy run where everything felt great. Another fabulous aspect of this race is being able to wait before and after the race in the heated gym and we can use the shower facilities. RPD came in shortly afterwards. After freshening up we went off to Skagit Brewery for hamburgers and beer. It seemed that every other Nookachamps runners was doing the same thing. the place was full of happy runners.

I have run shorter races for fun but usually have paced people to PRs. This is the first race I have run where I am just out there to have a good time. I have never trusted myself in the past to be able to hold back. Ok, I let it slip there just a bit at the end. However it is really a neat feeling to know that I am able to run a half marathon casually and so in control. I consider this another lesson learned in my running life.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

3k XC Revisited

I did the Super Jock N Jill Winter Race Series for the first time last winter and had a blast with the races. last year was the first time I'd run cross country (XC) and track races. I never quite finished the whole series as marathon training for Eugene started to take precedence.

This time, forces conspired to keep me out of the first two races. In fact, I was stuck at home during the last race because of all the snow we had. All week I have been looking forward to doing the XC race. Last year I ran 15:31 and then 14:51 for the two XC races. I was really hoping to PR and beat that 14:51 time this morning. But as I was looking over my training last year at this time versus this year's training, I realized I haven't been running nearly as much. Oooh. A PR probably wouldn't be possible. I have been feeling very strong though from the cross training I have been doing and I've been keeping up core and upper body strength and I really thought I could come close. Either way, it was going to be a good indicator of where I am and I was looking forward to the effort.

I picked up RPD and we chatted about how exciting it was to be going to a race and it wasn't freezing with 20mph winds and driving rain. I was wearing shorts which hasn't happened since Dallas. The mens and womens races were separate this year as there were so many entrants. I combined my warm-up with watching the men's race and cheering for RPD.

Watching an XC race is really fun. I watched the leaders charge through the fins and then up Kite Hill. That was effortless looking power in action. I managed to get around to different points on the course to cheer for RPD. He always had a smile and wave and a determined look. I ran back to the finish to see what his time was going to be as I knew he was going for a PR and I was so excited when I knew he hit it! I found him after the chutes, let him know where his stuff was and went off to finish warming up totally pumped up and excited to run my race. Basically watching his race was a nice distraction and kept me from being nervous.

Helpfully I had been reading about drills and strides the night before. I've just started to do a bit of speedwork and wanted to start incorporating some of these exercises into my training again. I have been doing what I call striders the past few weeks. Towards the end of an easy run, I pick a point a bit away and gracefully try to speed up, hold pace for a bit and then slow down. This isn't all out sprinting but a controlled burst of strength. It helps me remember to keep my shoulders relaxed, my arms moving, my core engaged, my legs lifting and my toe off crisp.

After reading about hill bounding and some of the other drills, I tried some of these when warming up this morning. A lot of times I feel silly doing these sorts of exercises but I think I just need to get over it. Really, a fellow runner is going to know what I'm doing and I do think they are benefical. The hill bounding reminded me of arm drive (oh yeah, I suck at it) and toe off. I did some quick feet to help get my turnover up. I did some running on the grass to warm up those stabilizing muscles in my feet and lower legs. This entire course was on mushy grass or bark and that was helpful too.

Finally it was time to race. The announcer seemed to think it was going to be tough to get a group of women to stop chatting and stand still and made sure to tell us he'd only start the race once everyone was quiet and still. We all settled down quickly and were off. My main lesson from these races last year was not to go out too fast so I kept steady out of the finish. I didn't try to pass anyone and just ran my own race. This worked. I hit the first mile at 8:09 which was a bit slower than I had hoped for but i knew I had a lot in reserve. I probably could've been a little more agressive on the flat section from .5 but it is hard to say if it would've been too much.

Last year I had hard a time doing Kite Hill the second time. This year with the hill bounding warm up I did and the more controlled start, I powered quickly up the hill the second time and was able to keep up the speed over the crest. I was even able to pass a couple of people going up hill which made me really happy. I stayed strong through the last turns and was able to slowly reel in the runner who was a couple of hundred yards ahead of me. As I got close enough to see the finish clock, I could see that I was faster overall than I thought. That got me hauling and I came in at 14:47 by my watch. Woohoo! I'll still wait for final results but that's a comparable time to last year if not just a few seconds faster. I did it!

I got handed a card #34 and was shocked by the low number until I remembered it had been women only. I am quite happy that they split the races as having so many people on this narrow course would've been tough. This way I really was able to run my race without having to worry about the crowds so much.

The doc appointment I had this past week regarding my foot was a bit discouraging. I'm going to have to keep my miles much lower than I would like but it is wonderful to see that I haven't really lost much with all the down time I've had. I'm glad to be running well again but I am also looking forward to getting back on my bike after the weather nightmare we've had.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chill down!

Water Temp - 42°
Air Temp - 38°
Brain, lungs and legs - Frozen

And a great way to start the New Year!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! Now go jump in a lake.

Go Jump in the Lake or Resolution Run 5k with Polar Bear Dip

This is a popular 5k race with an optional ‘Trip n Dip’ meaning that you take a fully submerged dip into Lake Washington. This race has always been on my radar but it has just never worked out. 2009 was the year as I found out some other running friends were interested. The only issue is that we were hosting a casual brunch for family around noon and the race started at 10:30. K was agreeable to covering the cooking duties and off I went.

It’s 36 degrees and drizzly. There is a pretty stiff breeze from the south at times. They are saying that lake temp is 42 degrees. I went and ran most of the course as a warm up and realized a couple of things.

I’m just coming back from a stress fracture and have just been running since early November. I was finally diagnosed with bursitis in my heel mid-December and had a cortisone shot which has miraculously cleared up all pain in my foot. Things are looking up on the running front as all my runs started to feel much, much better. I’ve been taking things slowly and only last week hit over 20 mpw.

This course is nice but there are some pretty serious bottlenecks in the first mile. After that there are huge puddles, big tree root chewed areas of pavement and a huge crowd! 700 finished the trip and dip race. 400 finished the regular 5k. Both races went at the same time.

So with both these things in mind, I realized this really should not be an all out race nor could it be with the dip. So the goals ended up being run a good tempo run, feel good and have fun.

The race started 10 minutes late which according to the rumbling of the crowd always happened. The gun went off with a surprise and we were off. It took a bit to get across the line but they happily did have corrals. Still there was a gramma in walking shoes and sweats and jeans just ahead of me in the 7:00 pace corral. Ok. I hope she didn’t trampled. The first mile was as expected with some bad pavement patches and a bit of congestion/bottlenecks. I was able to slowly make up time and came in right around 8:00. Not bad. I’m hoping for under 8 for tempo. Mile 2 goes by a dog park and there were a lot of canines out having a romp as well. I laugh at all the people who are afraid to get their feet wet (? Remember the lake) and happily go stomping through the very big puddles. There was a hill in here which I took steadily. Mile 3 had a lot of headwind but here I was starting to feel pretty good. I was warmed up and feeling better than good. I was feeling great! I started to slowly catch up and pass people.

The whole time I’m thinking I have to go dunk myself in a lake?! Finally that moment came. Those who were doing the 5k only went off to the finish line, those crazy ones lke me ran down a boat dock and right into the water. The frist few steps didn’t seem too bad. Then as the water got deeper, it became so hard to move your legs against the force of the water. Next I started to realize how cold it was! They did have a couple of volunteers standing in the water in dry suits helping runners get around the hairpin turn in the water and not fall over. As I came around the corner I dunked my head and nearly fell over. HOLY FREAKING SHIT! That was cold. It took your breath away. But keep moving. Another slog back up the boat ramp and try to get the legs moving for the 100 yards to the finish. Hell no I’m not letting anyone pass me and I may have passed some other people in the sprint (ha!) to the finish. I think by the time I reached the finish I could feel my legs again a little.

I went jogging off too do a cool down (ha again!) and came back in time to see RPD finish. I gave him a hug and wished him a happy new year. We both had very cheesy, happy grins. A slow jog back to the car and then I changed. It took forever to get sopping wet clothes and shoes off especially as my hands stopped working half way through. Dry clothes have never felt so good.

Garmin Splits (but mile alerts were always short): 7:55, 7:51, 7:50, 1:35 – Total Time 25:13 and 7th in my AG out of 76. :-D I was hoping for under 25 for a good tempo run and this is just about right. Best of all everything feels great. Considering how little I have been running this past half year I am very encouraged about the coming year. And it was so much fun!

And brunch with family ended up being a really nice time. Mimosas hit the spot after a dunk in the lake.

Happy New Year!