Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reach the Beach Year 2 - 2010

I really consider myself lucky in a lot of ways.  That came clear to me yet again as I packed my bags to get ready for Reach the Beach Year 2.  I was healthy, i had the means and the support to fly across the country to New Hampshire and run a crazy race with 11 other people I've met online.

Really.  Try explaining this to non-running folks.  Oh yes, I'm going on vacation and first I'm heading to New Hampshire and running this race through the state.  it's 12 people with 6 people in each van and everyone takes a turn running and then you do it again and then one more time.  yes.  you run at night on dark deserted roads in NH.  You are tired and stinky and hungry and uncomfortable and don't think that you'll be able to run that last leg.  but then you do it and your face hurts from smiling so much and things get very silly at 2:00 am in the middle of New Hampshire. 

On the flight from Chicago to Manchester, I generally spent the whole time knitting and reading a magazine.  Towards the end, I took out the Reach the Beach handbook for this year to peruse the changes and got all emotionally sappy reading about the support that the local communities give to this race.  A portion of the race fees are donated to the local groups as well as the NH state parks.   A young guy in the seat across the aisle asked if I was running in the race as he was too. He was heading in from NH from Phoenix and was just as excited as I was to be returning to such a great event.

I got picked up at the airport by my vanmates of Team WIMP (Weird Internet Marathon People) and we headed up towards the start of the race.  It had been quite pleasant in Manchester but as we headed north it got rainy.  Dang. I so didn't want to be running in a lot of rain. After a delicious dinner with the team (they have half plates at the restaurant!) we went back to the hotel and I could not believe how hard it started raining.  I had originally planned on a short run to shake off the travel blahs but never mind. 

The next morning was pretty nice fortunately.  We loaded up the vans after presenting Alison with her team gift and had our picture taken by the german new balance team.  Nice group.  We bought yet more food and went up to the start at Cannon Mountain.  The ground was a soggy mess after all the rain we'd had but I still managed to do some RTB gear shopping and was thankful the rain was done.  Another team where we know all of the vanmates showed up and all was good.

Race on! 

As a van two-er that meant we got to go to lunch and relax.  Lunch was pretty good and made better by other Van 2 joining us.  It was great to chat but soon enough we headed off to the Attitash Ski area where I'd be the first of van 2 to run.  The weather had cleared and it was gorgeous.

Leg 1
I was runner #7 last year and this leg was the same.  After dealing with a cranky hip early in the summer, I have not had a lot of longer runs but recently felt like I was getting stronger and faster.  I'd originally expected to run around 8:30 pace but knew I'd be faster.  Last year I ran this in 8 flat.  Could I do it again?  SK (runner #6) got into a dead sprint with a  guy at the end of his leg :awesome: and while I waited in fear for my life as two guys were hauling ass directly at me, I took off like a shot but then immediately reigned it in.  It's a rolling course with a pretty good hill midway through but net downhill.  The roads were immediately so canted that my bad hip was complaining.  I ignored it and as the road leveled felt better and was happily maintaining a good pace which felt comfortable.  I did get passed by quite a few people including 3 women which was a bit demoralizing.  I did pass a few people back and kept my focus.  Surprisingly I remembered basically nothing about this leg from last year so finally as I hit close to 7 miles, I could see the transition area ahead and started to hear my name being called. 

7.3 miles - (gain 208, loss 325) - 58:25 - 8:00 pace.  Woohoo!  This really surprises me as 7 miles hard like this is about my limit based on my mileage of late.  I'm delighted! Roadkill 3, killed by 7.

Interlude:  I managed to NOT lose my wallet this year at transition 9.  The same volunteers were there at the transition and I thanked them profusely.  We finished in good time and zoomed to the next van transition area where all I could think of was lying down somewhere.  I didn't want to go into the college as it was too loud and the floor was just too hard.  I'd brought something waterproof, put on all my warm clothing and grabbed my blanket and just went to lie down in the grass.  I didn't expect to sleep but it sure was relaxing.  Just when I was getting cold and really needed a bathroom, I rolled over and saw a shooting star. 

Leg 2 (#19) - This was the same leg as last year.  Same pitch black and some hills with a screaming downhill.  I'd run this very well last year and didn't really expect to hit that same pace.  I just knew I wanted to be solidly under 8.  After the first half mile of cursing my legs, I got in a groove and felt pretty good.  Not real speedy but solidly and evenly paced even up the hill which made me happy. 

4.4 miles - gain 181/loss 268 - 34:30 - 7:49 pace - Roadkill 11/killed 3

Interlude: Sunrise was gorgeous.  There were some tough legs in this set for the van and I was very glad mine had not been one of them. Ha! We had a fair bit of time hanging out at some of the transition areas once the sun was up.  I managed to find a van which had a foam roller and put that to good use.  I'm not ashamed to beg.  Soon enough AR (runner 12) came in and we were done.  All of us were desperate to get to the next van transition area but got stuck in the worst traffic ever.  It was agonizing since I'd needed a bathroom before we got in the van. At least the new van transition area was nice and there was a lot of space to find a quiet area.  Just about as soon as I was drifting off, I got a text not from Captain A (who would let me know when we had about an hour out), but from my husband who was traveling to DC that day.  His flight had a mechanical and was delayed and he'd forgotten to program the DC friends' numbers into his phone.  He asked me to send the phone numbers.  My brain was so fried that I could not even remember the first 3 numbers of a telephone number long enough to type it!  he eventually got on an airplane though as the texting stopped.  That was good 'cause I wanted to doze but ended up just chatting with everyone.  It was sunny and gorgeous out and everyone was in a good mood.   

Leg 3 (#33) - This was a new leg this year and much, much shorter.  Before the race I had really been looking forward to ripping through this run but as the run approached I knew my hamstrings were not gonna be capable of a 5k pace.  I honestly wasn't sure I'd be able to do much more than a jog at first but as I warmed up, I felt a bit better.  SK came in looking delighted that he was DONE and I was off.  After more than half a mile, I finally felt warmed up.  I got passed by three guys almost immediately but they really never pulled away and I managed to stay in sight contact.  It did mean that I sped up which was nice to see.

2.43 - gain 13/loss 33 - 18:34 - 7:38 - Roadkilled 8?/killed 3

I was so glad to be done and enjoyed watching everyone else finish their last legs.  The traffic as we approach the beach was so bad that we knew there was a good chance our runner would beat us.  Even though we left as soon as our last runner started, we missed her finish and it was very disappointing. I realized that I never got into the water this year but I did have some very tasty food they had set up at the end.  We went back to our hotel, i had the best shower ever and we went out for more food.  WE all got to compare running and other stories and it was great to hear how well everyone had run.  Van 1 had even had a flat tire during one of their set of legs but had managed to get the tire changed and back to the transition area in time!  Back to the hotel and i think I slept 9 hours uninterrupted and woke confused as to where I was.  

Once again, I feel so lucky that I can do these types of events and got to hang out with some amazing people.  I'm not planning on running this event again next year as it is just too far and rather at an inconvenient time.  I'll not forget the friendly communities, the gorgeous scenery and most of all those crazy fun with a bunch of like-minded people.  Ragnar anyone? 


Monday, September 13, 2010

Iron Girl 5k

Reach the Beach Relay is days away and Iron Girl 5k is 5 days before the relay.  Should I do it?  This race has some nice memories for me.  In 2008, I was dealing with a lot of injury problems and that whole undiagnosed stress fracture (I guess stress fractures are supposed to normally hurt a lot more) and ran this race pacing someone to a 5k PR.  I love pacing so that was fun.  Last year, I walked this race with my mom who tore up the 75-79 female age group!  Mom has a knee issue right now so wasn't up to the walk again.  It's a race just a couple miles from my house on a course I run practically every day and I had a group discount. 

Hmmm.  Well the general consensus was go ahead and race, recovery should be quick.  And yes, I've been hitting speedwork well lately and recovering fast from it.  Why not race and get my legs moving quicker in preparation for the relay?

I arrived close to the start early to pick up my bib and deliver some kale seedlings to a friend.  It was a nice morning at mid-50's, cloudy with a bit of a breeze.  I jogged over to a group photo opportunity at Coach Lesley's house with other friends.  it was a cheerful bunch and fun to hang out for a bit before an easy jog back to the start.  last year, it was so crowded I was worried about lining up.  It took a bit of weaving through the crowd but I got up to the front with some running buds.

Female only race note:  It's different lining up for a race that has women only.  No one wants to get in front!  Generally I'd seed myself behind the chunk of men at the front.  With no men to reference, it was different being so close to the front.

The race got off to a late start after some inspiring announcements.  It starts over a grassy area and with the start gets a little crazy even if I was toward the front.  I was worried about tripping as the grassy area is very uneven.  We were on the road very quickly and heading off.  The start was pretty slow so I started working to get to my goal first mile pace (7:30), my running buds were right with me I believe at this point.

At about half a mile, I saw some Coach Lesley friends cheering for us.  it was great to see them turning out even if they weren't running.  I started to feel warmed up and better in here and gradually pulled away from those running buds I'd started with.  I really hoped they wouldn't pass me later.

Mile 1 - 7:27

Nice!  And I'm feeling good.  So at this point in a short race, I generally start looking around at the people around me.  I saw a woman ahead of me with a nice stride and a brightly colored shirt and thought, well, I'll just stay even and hopefully manage to finish around her.  I kept running and gradually would catch up.  So then what?  I guess I have to pass her.  And then I did this again, and again.  Mile 2 just flew by which is very unusual for me for a 5k.  I'm usually having to argue with myself to keep running!

Mile 2 - 7:20

I'll admit that I saw mile 2 had a garmin-measured 7:15 pace attached to it at first and it freaked me out.  I slowed down deliberately because I was afraid that I'd not be able to hold the pace.  This is where the core and strength work I've been doing is paying off I think.  I"m stronger and better able to hold the pace.

female only race point:  Generally I'm surrounded by men in a race with a few women here and there.  I generally expect that the men are going to be faster than me.  Running this race with only women helped me focus on seeing who was ahead of me and passing her.  I listened to how they were breathing and generally thought, hunh, she's working harder than I am and would pass. 

The last mile was on the road and it was wide open.  There were women scattered about and I continued to pass here and there.  I just worked on maintaining  my running form and moving my arms and not looking at my watch.  I didn't want to see what pace I was running and certainly didn't want to see a lot more distance to go.  We came around the last turn and the stretch towards where I normally start my daily runs was in view.  This is it!

Mile 3: 7:20

i shouted out to my previous running coach who was standing here and caught his startled glance and a shout out to "go get 'em."  That made me snort a bit and made others around him laugh.  It was funny.  A turn and onto the grass and try not to fall and I was done!

23:14!  Yippee!  And I felt great.  25th overall and 5th in my age group.  I waited around to cheer those coming in and generally was just delighted.  I felt so strong and I've never had a 5k go so quickly.  No this isn't a PR (but it's pretty close) but mentally this just felt so much easier.

I learned something about some of the limits I'm imposing on myself too.  I assumed I'd not be able to hold a particular pace.  I assumed I'd not be able to pass those ahead of me.  Interesting and something to remember.  Check those assumptions and race, dammit!  Reach the Beach is going to be good and more importantly, i'm feeling very good about where I am right now.  It's a GREAT place to be.

Friday, September 10, 2010

But wait there's more...

Instead of groussing with Seattle about the first big storm with rain at the end of August (!), I snuck off to San Diego for fun in the sun at the Mason Boys Summer Resort.  And it really was a wonderful vacation with a trip to the San Diego Wild Animal Park or was that the Escondido Safari Experience?  No matter.  I saw a lion and a giraffe and wild boys playing in water and it was a idyllic, relaxing day.  If you go, pay the three bucks for the lorikeet nectar.  You won't regret it. 

I went to the beach, had In-n-Out, got a pedicure and had fun with my favorite kindergartener and preschooler.  The pork belly tacos at El Take it Easy are worth going for at any time but especially on the 30th on 30th

I even tried my first hill repeat workout on Upas Street by Morely Field Sports Complex the morning after having many margaritas.  ah.  that's living.

There are definitely things which remind me of Southern California and make me wistful. 
  • The sound of crickets in the evening.
  • The smell of eucalyptus trees especially when they area is being watered.
  • Flowering bougainvilleas and oleanders. 
I can't wait to go back but it is never soon enough to see those Mason boys.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lake Union 10k revisted

This time I was ready for this race.  I had enjoyed last year's race and was looking forward to seeing what some more consistent strength work was doing.  Last year I still felt speedy and strong.  This year, I've struggled with finding my groove and have lost speed and strength. After readjusting my training (thanks Coach Lesley), I was curious how this race would go.

Coach Lesley signed up for this race herself.  I picked her up and we carpooled down to the start.  After finally hitting some summer weather, this day was rainy!  It hadn't been rainy at my house but it was farther south and I was a bit dismayed by this.  I'd not brought a hat.  Oh well, at least it was a warm rain.  We did a warm-up and seeded ourselves into the very crowded and confusing start.  This year, they tried a wave start but without warning everyone of this before hand, well, people were confused.

And we were off.  It was pretty crowded.  I knew I was going faster than I wanted (I'd started in the first group but towards the back) but I wasn't too concerned.  We had a tailwind and it is flat here.  After about a quarter mile, I was starting to look at my garmin for pace information and was surprised to see I'd not started it correctly.  Oh well.  I started it and saw that yes I was fast but was settling into a good pace and I was not concerned.  They had kilometer markings so I started hitting those for reference.  But now I wish I'd left the mile markers as is as I think the kilometer marks were a bit off.

Soon we were climbing towards the Fremont bridge.  I'd been pretty quick for the first section (7:40) and expected to slow a bit here but didn't.  I very gradually passed people here and there and got passed occasionally as all.  At the 5k mark I thought that a 10k seemed excessively far and it would be really nice to be done.  This race is about as flat as you get here but that means you still get some hills that frighten a lot of runners in the rest of the country.  The first one wasn't too bad by the University Bridge.  I just tried to power up it as i knew I'd like the downhill to the bridge.  Last year some of the steep downhill sections bothered me and felt tough.  This year I could use them better.

Last wicked hill and I can't say I was fast up it but I didn't completely bog down.  I did feel stronger.  There were not too many runners around me at this point.  i could see a guy ahead and assumed I'd have a few people behind.  I just tried to stay in contact with this guy ahead and not let him pull away.  This worked and then at about mile 5, I realized my shoe was coming loose and was untied.  Dangit!  I've never had this happen in a race before.  It got looser and looser and then I could feel the ends slapping at my other leg.  I debated stopping to tie it but knew I'd not get started running well again.

the challenge then became trying not to let the loose shoe change my running gait.  And it was hard!  I really wanted to favor that leg and not let the laces whip me.  I was also afraid of stepping on them but was pretty certain that was impossible at the pace I was going.  I do fear that I lost time here.  I was also tiring.  as we came to the finish, I got passed by three women (grrr..they were all younger though) and was shocked to see the time on the clock as 47:XX.  My goal was to beat the June 10k time of 49:2X and last year's 49:1X and try and come in under 49.

Done!  Coach Lesley herself had run this race and was at the finished.  She laughed with me about the silly shoe lace issue.  Oh well.  Like last year the finish area was very crowded.  The new South Lake Union Park should be finished this year and that will alleviate this problem.  I waited around for results to be posted and found another friend who'd raced and has gotten so fast.  I'm so happy for her as things have turned around after some injury frustrations.  We waited and waited and they tried to announce overall winners but then realized there were some serious scoring issues.

I had some pancakes with whipped cream and berries provided by a Portage Bay Cafe, a sponsor.  They were delicious and since I normally have pancakes after weekend runs, i was in heaven.  I waited some more and gave up.

47?  Maybe?  But really?  I know I'd run well and hard and felt stronger and felt great about that.  Finally results were posted the next day.  chip time was listed as 48:52 and I was third master female overall.

Hahaha!  After some hints of timing and scoring issues, I contacted the timing company and confirmed that clock time at the finish was off by a minute (how?) and posted race results were correct.  Not under 48 but solidly under 49 and 30 seconds faster than the 10k in May.  Things are starting to go the way I want and I'm happy about that.

And summer is done...

August always is over in a blur.  Between work (covering vacation time from coworkers), house projects, running and my own vacation plans it gets a little busy around here. 

First up.  Happy Birthday to the Puddlethumper household.  Both K and I celebrate August birthdays.  On the tail end of the hottest days of the year, we grilled some salmon and celebrated in style out on the deck.  Mom came over and it was ever so pleasant out on the deck in the evening.  We opened a bottle we'd gotten from our trip out to Lake Chelan.

I was driven to finish putting up siding on the new porch and paint.  I wanted it done before the end of the month.  Fortunately it went quick and after siding the whole house I do consider myself pretty good at this task.  I was able to get a coat of finish paint up before some of the rains came.  The area up around the soffit still requires some work but will need some tricky cutting of boards to get them to fit.  And we'll need ironwork for railing and the front section of the porch to complete this project.  Plantings are probably going to wait as I think about how I want to approach the changes to the pathways around the house and the new access via the stairs to the side yard.  I'm really pleased with how it looks now though.   

And if that wasn't enough, a very good friend of a very good friend was recently diagnosed with cancer and started chemotherapy immediately.  What I found knitting this chemo cap is that it really focuses your attention on the person's battle.  Good thoughts to her!  And F You, Cancer!