Fit Friday: Boston on the Brain

A little bit of late post today  - but better later than never ;)

Today I meant to join my running wives for 5 @ 5 (five miles at 5am). But after going to bed after 11pm and hearing my alarm at 4:30am, I opted to sleep in. That meant my 5 @ 5 turned into 5 @ 10. Just fine for a Friday easy run if you ask me. About a mile into my run, I realized I had on yellow and blue today (I mean for reals: yellow long sleeve, yellow socks, blue shorts, blue sports bra, and even blue and yellow-ish shoes). Granted I love yellow but still this was a bit much. Then I remembered Marathon Monday is just days away and I must have Boston the brain. (So excited for my Boston runners: Leslie, Jenn, Chris, Charlie, Nicole, and I’m sure a couple more – go get that finish line – you have worked hard and deserve it!!!)

Look how I accidentally dressed today!

Look how I accidentally dressed today!

Boston always means something special for runners. Regardless if we’ll ever qualify for the unicorn’s race, its history and its status makes it something equivalent to a national holiday for us runners. But of course after what happened last year, Boston means so much more. We reminded ourselves and showed the world that runners (and the loyal, cheering spectators) are an amazing community. So even though I won’t be running down Boylston St. on Monday, I’ll be cheering from my home. One day I’ll be there but this year especially I’ll be there with my heart.

I’d say good luck Boston runners, but I don’t you don’t need it! Trust in all those training miles & have the time of your life!

Breaking the 1:40 in the Half Marathon

Well, it’s crazy but I just ran another PR race. 2014 is gonna be hard to top!

I had signed up for the Santa Cruz Half Marathon a long time ago, wanting to make up for not running it last year. I have run this race twice before, it was my first half marathon, and it a course I really like – along West Cliff where I typically do my tempo runs and mile repeats and then out to the Wilder Bluffs, which is just a stunning view. Seeing all the runners along the bluffs in one the best sights in Santa Cruz (clearly a runner’s bias!). Anyway, there was a little part of me that thought maybe I can PR at this course. That part of me got louder after the Lucky Run where I didn’t officially PR but would have if not for a bathroom break. However, I also knew that I was aiming for a PR at the 5k and would be running Ragnar the week before this race, so a half PR was a little unrealistic.

Start line

Start line

After the Carlsbad 5000 and Ragnar, my legs did feel tired and stiff. This was worsened by an 8 hour drive home the day after Ragnar. I did some 800s on the track on Monday and was pretty happy with them and thought “well maybe, if my legs feel fresh, I’ll try for that PR.” But I also knew my new buddy & co-TSFM ambassador and Ragnar teammate Erin was serving as the 1:45 pacer so I could just run with her and have some fun. All week I was unsure, my legs never felt completely rested but I didn’t feel destroyed either. I literally waffled back and forth on my race plans until the second the gun went off (and maybe for a few more miles).

1:45 pacer extraordinaire, Erin!

1:45 pacer extraordinaire, Erin!

Sunday morning I jogged down to the start line with Hillary (she wasn’t racing but wanted to come down with me before she headed out for her run). We stopped by the Santa Cruz Endurance/Santa Cruz Running Company tent at the finish line and said hello to our teammates, most of whom were running the 10k with the exception of Julie (who I somehow missed seeing all day) and Selena who was also running the half (and had a massive PR!). Selena had a 1:46 PR before so I had suggested that she run with Erin to get a 1:45. She was a little unsure due to some shin splints and lack of loads of speed training. But when we lined up, she was right next to me and Erin. At this point, I figured I would start out with the 1:45ers and pick it up if I felt good.

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Gun goes off, and there I go – ahead of the 1:45ers (and for about a mile ahead of the 1:40 pace group). After a little hiccup, I switched my watch’s screen from the mile/pace to the clock screen (and until the last mile I never checked my splits/pace). I kept the 1:40 group within sight and tried to just stay comfortable. I didn’t want to go all crazy just to run out of steam in the first miles. Selena shocked me by showing up right next to me! She ran with me for a couple miles, on pace to destroy her previous best half! Around mile 3.5 or 4, I saw Hillary on her run, cheered her on (yes I realize she was just running and I was the one racing). Then it was time to head into the bike path leading to Wilder. (Miles 1-4: 7:44, 7:40, 7:37, 7:48)

I run the bike path a decent amount and knew it was a little rolly with a good downhill toward the end (just about at the 5 mile marker). I came down the hill to see friends Rebecca and Jenn doing their course support/volunteer thing. I hadn’t really told a lot of people I was running the race so they were surprised to see me. They cheered for me and I turned into Wilder Ranch where I saw Fleet Feet Racing teammates Lisa and Nancy. Loved all the support! Then it was into the bluffs where I saw Shoshanah and grabbed a quick sip of water. The bluffs are flat trails, not technical but not super speedy either. I chatted with some other runners, kept it nice and easy. The 1:40 group was about a minute ahead of me. We came out of the bluffs and started to make our way back toward the Boardwalk. (Miles 5-8: 7:39, 7:46, 7:36, 7:32)

Always a tough finish with the last few steps on the sand.

Always a tough finish with the last few steps on the sand.

Back to the bike path and more cheers from Jenn, I started up the one real hill in the course. It’s not long but it’s steep. Lucky me, the hill work paid off and I was able to pass several runners here. I saw the UCSC cross country runners doing their thing followed by my running coach (I hadn’t told him I was racing either, “Hey Aaron! Decided to race today!”). It was back to West Cliff where I took good advantage of running smart tangents. While I felt I lost some steam here, I also knew I would PR, I assumed somewhere around 1:40:30. And then I saw Jose, who I have run with in other races. I caught up to him with 2 miles left, said hi (and thanks for giving me a reason to pick it up a bit) and kept going. (Miles 9-12: 7:54 (hello hill!), 7:30, 7:29, 7:38)

Last mile. I wanted to hold back until I had about .75 of a mile left and then push as hard as I could. I knew it would hurt but I also knew that it would be about 7 minutes long and then I would be done. Unfortunately, there were a lot of 10k walkers at this point and even though they closed the road (yippee! not just the path!) it was hard to navigate that last mile. I came running down the final hill yelling “ON YOUR LEFT!” (Bob is my witness, I screamed at people.) When I turned the corner I was shocked to see the clock said 1:39:XX. I booked it and ended up with an official time of 1:39:38 (my watch had a few extra seconds..I probably stopped it a tad late). I felt like I was pretty steady with my pace, maybe a slight negative split. But hey, I had a half marathon PR on 5 weeks of 5k training! (Final mile: 7:21, last 10th 5:24 pace)

Coming in with 1:39 on the clock!

Coming in with 1:39 on the clock!

Official results

Official results

happy post PR Meg

happy post PR Meg

I headed over to the SCE tent, told everyone my good news and then Laura practically tackled me – knowing I had broken 1:40 and that it had been my goal since last year! It was AWESOME! I saw Erin again and heard she did a great job pacing her group (yay Erin!!). I found out my team members rocked their races too: Selena PRed with a 1:41, Julie beat me by a few minutes, Leslie & Sam took top women’s overall spots in the 10k, and the guys pretty much all took either an overall or age group spot in the 10k. Strong work SCE!!

PR buddies - congrats Selena!!

PR buddies – congrats Selena!!

Can I get your autograph Erin?

Can I get your autograph Erin?

Stellar SCE runners with their prizes

Stellar SCE runners with their prizes

SCE held a post party at member Josh’s house. We had delicious treats and mimosas, complete with massages from our new sponsor Santa Cruz Core. And I got a new Santa Cruz beach towel as a celebration of my PR. What a great team to do that! Thanks all! It was so much fun to see our team running together and then celebrating together. And now, I get a training break before its time to start up again for the SF Marathon!

Post race party

Post race party

Did you race this weekend? How did it go?

 

 

Everyone Explores Cemeteries on Their Recovery Runs, Right?

Today was one of those days I was really bummed I didn’t bring my phone with me on my run.

After a speedy race yesterday (recap coming soon), I initially planned to take today as a rest day. But as I was driving to work and my legs ached, I remembered how every time I take a rest day after a hard run, my legs are more sore and tired. So I texted my running gal Hillary (who conveniently lives up the street) to see if she wanted to run an easy 4-5 miler this afternoon. Yep, she did. And she wanted to know if I wanted to run the hilly loop through part of Pogonip (about 900 feet of climbing in 5 miles). Yep I did.

I think sometimes running trails and hills are a great way to recover (I also did this after my Wharf to Wharf PR last year). You’re forced to run super slow (which is good) but you’re still building endurance and strength. Win win. We climbed up the trail and were treated to a great view of all of Santa Cruz, out to the Boardwalk. It was such a clear afternoon (this is when I wanted my phone super bad for photo ops – one day I’ll remember). We saw some deer chilling in the meadow and made our way back down the path.

This loops passes by an old cemetery in Santa Cruz that I’ve always wanted to explore. I mentioned it to Hillary and crazy lady that she is, she was in. I love looking at old cemeteries where they tell stories about the people buried there (name, wife/son of …, years, months, and even days old). A long time ago when Kevin and I went to New York City, we spent some of our trip looking at crazy old cemeteries. It was kind of awesome (and at the time more important, it was cheap). One of my favorite vacations ever.

Anyway, this one is the Evergreen Cemetery, it dates back to 1850. I’ll have to pick to chat with my friend who does local history to learn some more. But it has some old graves as well as Chinese memorial were the graves of past Chinese immigrants and the inhabitants of the city’s old Chinatowns are buried. Like I said, no camera but I found these photos on the google machine.

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Beautiful right?

Do you explore old cemeteries? Do you run after hard workouts?

Fit Friday: More Climbing, More Trails

It’s not been that long since I last checked in with my running goals but I’m pretty proud of hitting my goals these last couple months (and knowing that I’ll be posting about it here as been keeping me motivated), so let’s keep up with that trend.

So a reminder: at the beginning of this year I made it my goal to focus on adding more hills and trails to my running. And I’ve been doing well with adding the hill climbs. This week has had some minor climbs but last week every path I chose for my run included climbs (with the exception of a couple Ragnar legs, out of my control). This meant I climbed 3,628 feet last week! Woohoo! That’s the most I’ve ever climbed in one week. (Not including today, because I haven’t uploaded my run yet, that means I’m up to 23,484 feet of climbing this year).

My "recovery" run after the Carlsbad 5000

My “recovery” run after the Carlsbad 5000

I’m still focusing on trails although I haven’t been nearly as good with that goal. After my last check-in post I ran a nice little 8 mile trail loop at Wilder (a state park on the northern edge of Santa Cruz), an easy 4 miler on the fire road at Nisene Marks (another park in Aptos) and today I did a 5 mile run again in Nisene. However, as I move toward SF Marathon training, I plan on including a lot of more of these hilly, trail routes.  (Are you running SFM this year? Use DSC10TSFM2014A59) at registration to save $10). So hopefully my next check-in will include a lot more trail fun!

Do you have running goals? How do you keep motivated to achieve them?

My First Ragnar Relay: Team AfterNUUNRun

I honestly have no idea how to recap the Ragnar Relay. I have thought about how to sum up my Ragnar experience in one blog post for the past 2 days. And I’m still not sure how to do it, but here goes (and yep… it’s long).

This was my first relay race (well the kind of relay that needs vans and lasts more than a day). As I’ve mentioned on previous posts, this was sponsored by Nuun (race entry), The SF Marathon (vans), Skechers Pro (shoes), Gametiime (shirts), FitSok (socks), and Zensah (compression sleeves). And it was all organized by Chris (thanks so much!). He put together an awesome group of SFM Ambassadors (you can read all about our team members here). I had known about the race for a while and looked forward to it, but other than reading one of Paulette‘s posts on a previous relay experience, I didn’t do any real research. In other words, I had no idea what to expect.

I had been in SoCal for a week when relay Friday finally arrived. After being dropped off at the hotel, I connected with the other members of van 2. I had met all of them before (Alisyn, Paulette, Bruce, and Matt) except Miriam. I knew it would be a great group. We decorated the van and then headed to exchange 6 where we did our safety training and picked up our gear. Then lunch. Then waiting…

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Around 6ish (our wave started at 12:45) we were ready to begin. And we got to see the other half of team (minus Chris who was racing his leg). I had met Keith, Wes, and Erin before and got to meet Jordan and Kristina for the first time IRL. After Alisyn and I rocked out to Bohemian Rhapsody (and the rest of our team slowly backed away from us), Chris came back in and our first runner was out. Insanity began.

AfterNUUNRun ladies (minus Jordan) at Exchange 6

AfterNUUNRun ladies (minus Jordan) at Exchange 6

Pretty much the whole team is waiting for Chris :)

Pretty much the whole team waiting for Chris :)

Goofin' off at Exchange 6

Goofin’ off at Exchange 6

We darted to each exchange, which were a bit haphazard and poorly organized. But soon enough, it was my turn to race. I had gotten a little nervous about my first night leg. I wasn’t scared to run in the dark since I do that often, but my course included a long section on a “horse and walking trail,” which I took to mean as unpaved (read tripping hazard). Alisyn volunteered Matt (her fiance) to run with me since he’s training for Western states. I was really glad I had him with me. Even through it ended up being a paved trail, I only saw 4 other runners the entire time, one of which ended up running with us for a couple miles. But there was also a random guy on a bridge and we were off the streets for most of the run. There was also one spot where I was half convinced we missed the route (we didn’t)! Save for a couple of street lights, it was a fast leg. I ended up running a 7:18 pace (my fastest on all the legs) and felt good enough to chat with Matt for most of the run. Since there few other runners, I only had 3 roadkills on this leg. Before I knew it, I was handing off to our next runner (although in the dark I could barely pick out Bruce from all the rest of the runners).

Waiting for Paulette's first leg

Waiting for Paulette’s first leg

Bruce’s leg was a short two miles, so we raced to the next exchange. This time, I joined Alisyn in her night run. She hasn’t run much in the dark and was nervous about night blindness. I was happy to join her on her leg since she had found me a buddy for mine. Her leg was the same distance as my first one (6.7 miles) but had a lot more climbing (823 feet!). But she did great and man, she rocks the downhills (I had to work hard to keep up!). Her leg led us into the Dana Point Harbor (would have been gorgeous if it was light out). Then our van got a break. Paulette and I were starving and there was a Carl’s Jr. I had a Diet Coke and a big order of fries (carbs & salt? yes please!). My stomach had been hurting, this didn’t really help but it tasted great at the time. Then we drove down to Oceanside for the next big exchange.

With lights & vests before Alisyn's leg.

With lights & vests before Alisyn’s leg.

Exchange 12 was at the Oceanside Pier and what apparently is now known as the Junior Seau Amphitheater. I had forgotten my sleeping bag, so I slept in the car with the ladies while the guys camped out on the beach. I got about 2, 2 1/2 hours of sleep. Eh. When I checked my phone I saw that Van 1 was making up massive time on their legs and would be at the exchange faster than expected. So we rushed to get ready and Matt at the handoff from Chris. When Chris came in we had to tell him we hadn’t seen Van 1 yet, but we figured they were parking. (nope). We headed off to inland Oceanside and when we got there, we saw Van 1. We were shocked … and then we realized (at apparently about the same time they did) that they had gone to wrong exchange. We waved as they piled into the van to go back and get Chris!

O'side

O’side

My next leg was the one I was looking forward to the most. It was only 2.1 miles, so I had hoped to be really speedy (and I knew there was a good downhill) and it ended at my high school (go Longhorns!). Well, the course was more hilly than I remembered (nearly 300 feet, a decent amount for just 2 miles) and I caught 2 red lights (boo!). I ended up being about a minute slower than expected. Despite this, I still had 10 roadkills (pretty good for 2 miles). I barely got to realize I was at my high school before we were off to the next stop.

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After Alisyn’s 2nd leg, exchange 18

The next major exchange was at TaylorMade in Carlsbad, less than a mile from where the hubs and I used to live. We didn’t spend much time there, we were hungry. We decided to head down south a bit and catch breakfast at Denny’s in Encinitas (yes, I know there are SOOO many good breakfast places in Encinitas but time and cheap breakfast were the priorities). I was excited about a real bathroom and for the first time actually changed all of my clothes (as opposed to just a shirt) and brushed my teeth! That was the best. I ordered a bunch of eggs and toast to calm my upset stomach (it seemed to work but took some time) and had a nice cup of black coffee. We saw two other teams there before we left for the next big exchange at Torrey Pines Hang Gliding park.

Catching up with fellow SFM ambassador Heather

Catching up with fellow SFM ambassador Heather

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I hung in the van for a bit when we got there because I was tired and my stomach still hurt. But eventually I found my way to the rest of my group, who were enjoying the amazing views (and not noticing how close we were to Blacks Beach…) At this exchange, we ran into fellow SFM Ambassador Heather and my fellow Fleet Feet team member, Erica. And then it was off for morning running on a beautiful, sunny day. My leg went around Mission Bay. (It wasn’t great to be able to see the exchange way on the other side at mile 3!) I am glad I got to run this in the day as it was so pretty. The leg was described as “very hard” but save for a couple flights of stairs, it was really flat. The hardest part was the final mile, which was straight into a pretty strong headwind. I ended up with 31 roadkills and a strong need to change into non-sweaty clothes (thankfully I changed quickly and was able to do so before we moved to the next exchange). It took me an hour to run my final 7.5 miles but I had completed just about 23 miles at this point, so I was ok with it.

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Last handoff to Bruce at Mission Bay

Last handoff to Bruce at Mission Bay

The final legs weaved through the nicest parts of San Diego and the race ended at the harbor behind the San Diego Convention Center. I can see why they picked this location: stunning view and lots of parking. But it is also one of the busiest parts of SD on a sunny, spring day during rolling spring break, with tons of Ragnar runners. So basically a big ol’ mess of traffic. After sitting in it for a while, most of our van’s runners jumped out to meet the rest of the team and run in with our final runner, Alisyn. But I was exhausted so I hung with Matt who was driving. We met up with the rest of the group and posed for a finish line photo :) We ended up finishing 8th of the 510 mixed regular teams and 24th overall (720 teams). Not too shabby! Then it was time for beers!

Finish!

Finish!

This was a crazy experience and there were things I loved and didn’t love about it all.

Loves: I loved running through the area. The course wove through places where I had lived in college, where the hubs grew up, where I grew up, and where we had lived together. I had a story for each community for my van (whether they wanted to hear it or not). I also loved being a part of a team and running as a group. I loved my team, even those in van 1 I didn’t spend nearly as much time with. And we had a pretty chill van and that was nice. And I liked racking up all those miles so quickly!

Not So Great: I didn’t like that I didn’t get to spend much time with the other van. It’s kind of unavoidable but it almost felt like 2 teams instead of one. I was also really confused about how they described each legs of the race. My hilliest run was rated the easiest and my most flat run the hardest. I’d like it if Ragnar provided an explanation of how they determined course difficulty to better prepare for the runs. I also thought in the “trail” sections they should have put up some floodlights and I’d think more signage would be awesome. I also really like sleep, so not having much of it was not fun for me.

I’m not sure if I’ll run a relay race again. But then again, the Calistoga to Santa Cruz Relay seems pretty tempting…

My favorite part!

My favorite part!

(thanks to all the team members for the photos :) )