Tales From the Back of the Pack

Tales From the Back of the Pack

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Careful What You Wish For

So, I've been trying to spice up my long runs lately. There is a lot of cool scenery around here that I haven't explored much since I started running, which is too bad as I keep reading that running is the BEST way to take in the scenery. Two weeks ago I took my long run to Santa Monica and that was exactly the kind of scene I'd been hoping to find.

For yesterday's 9 mile run I headed just south of Santa Monica, to the Venice boardwalk to see what I could see. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

I started out at one end of the boardwalk and saw pretty much what I expected. Street people, tourists, running groups & Harry Perry

I ran my first 4 miles through Venice up to the Sta Monica pier and back down again. On my way back down the boardwalk, the medical marijuana clinics were now open and hoping for my business. Honestly, a middle aged woman in her late 30's out for a Saturday morning run--do you really think I'm your demographic? Maybe I'm naive. Or just need a moment to think about what really ails me.

After my second pass-through on the boardwalk the G-man said I was only at about 6 miles so I headed over to the canals to run the narrow path that winds around and through this super cute neighborhood.

Venice, CA was supposed to be a copy of Venice, Italy, but this is as far as that plan was carried out. Still a very serene neighborhood, and the bridges provided some nice mini-hill work. Finally, as I was finishing up my 9 miles through the neighborhood, I happened upon this scene:

Another runner had found a body in the canal earlier that morning. Yikes. It reminded me of the post the Onion once ran about joggers constantly discovering violent crime vicitms. I was just glad I hadn't been the one to find it first.

After this, I think next weekend's long run will be through Disneyland...nothing bad ever happens there, right LB?

Despite stumbling upon the disturbing crime scene in progress, my run overall felt pretty great and I inadvertently hit exactly the pace my SmartCoach had asked, 11:19/mi. I have been slacking on my speedwork so I am not expecting or even secretly hoping for a PR for the LA County Half Marathon on December 12th, but I'm confident I'm ready for a half once I've done a 9 mile long run.

Next week, my SmartCoach training has me doing:
Monday: 5 mile easy run
Tuesday: REST
Wednesday: 6 mile tempo run (this might be tough)
Thursday: 4 mile easy run (I'll be hitting a turkey trot for sure)
Friday: REST
Saturday: 9 mile long run at 11:16 pace

Any turkey trots on your schedule this week? Don't you just love those?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Road to Hell is Paved With Runs Like These

My runs have been as sporadic as my blogging this week. It's not that I'm going through a period of low-motivation, I actually DO want to get out there and run. Work has been C*R*A*Z*Y, but knowing what I had on my schedule, I really did try to make every effort to work in my runs.

I had to travel into Bakersfield for work a few days this week. Bakersfield is a charming farming community pretty much out in the middle of nowhere in Central California. While I usually enjoy going out to the central valley for work, I was not looking forward to being away from my normal routine with a half marathon looming in my near future.

My first night in Bakersfield the hotel gym looked like this:

10x10 Cell. Literally.
I shortened my workout to 4 out of 5 miles in these dismal conditions before breaking myself out of this prison.

The second half of my stay in Bakersfield, I upgraded my hotel and was HAPPY to find myself running in this gym:

 Even with the nicer gym, I was pretty worn out from working 18 hour days. That and the fact that I'd lingered a little too long at the hotel bar at night kept me from being able to fully complete the 5 mile tempo and 5 mile easy runs on my schedule. I did 4 miles one day and 3 miles the next, both at easy 10 min pace.

Honestly, running like this does nothing to make me better/stronger/faster. Boo.

I'm back home now and looking forward to a 5 miler today and a 9-mile long run on Saturday. And looking forward to blogging about it once they're in the books!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Turn!

This is a first for me, I've been tagged. Not like with a spray can, although that was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw her blog header. I've been called out by KimPossible to answer some revealing questions about myself.  Here goes:

1.  What is your favorite holiday and why?  Any special traditions?  Favorite holiday food item? I love the 4th of July. My anal self totally relishes in all of the planning that goes into spending an entire day barbeque-ing at the beach or at the lake (dot you know how much STUFF his requires?). By the day after Memorial Day I'm already looking forward to the 4th. For me it's a day of playing hard and eating all the glorious food/fruit available at the peak of summer. I also make it a point to seek out and watch a professional fireworks display instead of lighting our own (I hate it that people light their own fireworks!). And cheesy as this sounds, on the 4th I do consiously make it a point to reflect on & thank God for the privelege of living in this great country.

2.  Have you read a great book lately that you would recommend?  Tell us about it! I don't get to read very much, so I would have to say that the last GREAT book I read was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I was one of the huge dorks that had to camp out at the book store to buy the book at midnight. I would love to find another book in the very near future that had me so hooked as the HP series did. I devoured each installment but by the time the last one came out, with every page I turned I knew I was getting closer and closer to being done and I was sad that it would soon be over.

3.  What is your dream vacation?  Money is not an issue.  Time off of work is not an issue.  Where do you go?  Why?  I've never been, but my dream vacation would be to spend a few weeks enjoying peace and tranquility in a world far removed from my own. Like Bora Bora. Reconnect with my primal self...not wear make up, minimal clothing, just lay around and do nothing, think about nothing, be completely disconnected to the outside world.
Someday. SOON.

4.  Looking back at 2010 so far...what are you most proud of? This one is tough! I'm not sure. Do I say I'm most proud of completing my first half marathon, and of all the miles my running shoes have taken me so far? Or should I say the obligatory something about my  four year old daughter who is already doing advanced calculous? (just kidding). Maybe I'm most proud of being too humble to answer this question adequately.  :)

Introspection is fun, thanks KimPossible! And now,  it's YOUR turn. I am tagging the following bloggers and can't wait to read all about it!

Trying to Live Like No One Else Sucks
Historiadora on the Run
This Mama's 26.2 Mile Journey

Here are your questions:

1.  What is your favorite holiday and why?  Any special traditions? 

2.  What songs are on your go-to playlist? Describe how or why the music motivates you.

3.  What is your dream vacation?  Money is not an issue. 

4.  Looking back at 2010 so far...what are you most proud of?

Have fun!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Running to Keep Up With the Joneses***

This is how motivated I am this week: Yesterday I'd driven almost 300 miles RT to Bakersfield for a loooong day at work, finally got to bed around 2am and still leapt out of bed at 6am this morning to do my 8 mile long run today. (I'm not paid hourly. I worked an 18 hour day for the price of 8. Blech.) My run today didn't feel super fantastic, nevertheless  I was impressed with myself that I was actually out doing it. There would be no racing the G-man today.

After a stop at the donut shop for a bagel I drove 28 miles over to Santa Monica to run Palisades Park. Palisades Park is 1.5 mile strip of grass at the top of the bluff above the Santa Monica beach. The view of the ocean up the coast to Malibu was awesome and the weather was perfect.

I ran 1.5 miles the length of the bluff, then took a steep downhill street that led me to Pacific Coast Hwy at the bottom of the bluff, where I had to take the below underground tunnel to cross PCH to get to the beach path. I ran on the beach path back the length of the bluff, then climbed the steps from the beach back up onto the bluff and ran on the bluff again up and back (two lengths). Seven miles total one mile short of what was scheduled.  


This run was the first time I have ever had to take multiple--THREE!!--bathroom breaks. Luckily there were tons of public restrooms and I was able to pick and choose my stops. I tried to only stop at the end of a completed mile. Today's times:

Mile 1 11:18
Mile 2 11:07
Mile 3 11:31
Mile 4 10:47
Mile 5 11:50
Mile 6 11:46
Mile 7 10:53

There is one thing that is still at the top of my to-do list and that is to find a running group. Today there were a ton of groups out running together and it had me SO wishing I could be one of those cool kids.

After the run I cooled down by walking down to the end of the Santa Monica Pier. My post-run fuel was a ginormous cup bucket of diced fruit: mango, jicama, coconut, watermelon, oranges and pineapple from a fruit cart vendor on the pier.

 And because it was from a Mexican fruit cart vendor, there was also lemon juice, chili powder and salt added. Deeelishous.
***Greg over at Locker 29 has been finding and posting a lot of really cool runs in his North Carolina 'hood lately. I was totally jealous until I remembered that live near pretty cool surroundings and should spice up my runs too. 

Today's run was a success!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Check Check Check

Last week I downloaded the Runners World iPhone app to help me train for my upcoming half marathon in December. It's the free version so there aren't a lot of bells and whistles. If I end up liking this training program I will probably break down and spend the whopping $0.99 (dang, I'm that tight?) for the upgrade but for now, this is working fine.

How fine? Monday I was scheduled for an easy 4 miles at 11:16 pace (I did a 10min pace) 4 miles, CHECK.

Tuesday I had a rest and/or cross day. Since there was an option, I chose to REST. Rest, CHECK. And since Tuesday was also El Dia de los Muertos, we drove over to Olvera Street to celebrate the dead.
The Puff and I with a couple of Un-Deads
I'd wear that too if I had her boobs.
Some altars. I offered to make BD one but he passed. Soon enough I guess, bwah ha ha ha.

And today, Wednesday, the schedule called for a 5 Mile tempo. Warm up for the first mile, then three miles at a 9:39 pace then a cool down mile. Mile one I took it slow and worked out the ache in my arches and knees. I kicked up the speed going into mile 2 and was feeling pretty good. But at the end of mile 2 I started to struggle. Finishing mile 3 seemed to take forever and I thought about calling it quits but I knew how I would feel if I didn't do the complete set: like crap. I wouldn't get to say CHECK on this day's workout. So I pushed through the negative talk and finished all 3 tempos, then the last cool down mile at a 5.3 pace and of course felt AWESOME once I was done. 5 mile tempo run, CHECK.

Tomorrow's run is an easy 4 mile (already saying CHECK in my head), then rest and/or cross on Friday. They really shouldn't give me the option to REST--I'll always opt for doing nothing. Satuday is my first long run since the Long Beach Half Marathon. They're making me do 8 miles.

Isn't it funny how some weeks a single mile is just impossible but other weeks 4,5, 6 miles is like a walk down the block? Running is so mental!

One week into the Runner's World app and so far I'd say it's working for me personally. It allows you to enter the race distance you're training for, the date of the race, your long run day of the week & your personal training level. It then comes up with a schedule for each week up to your race date. It keeps me motivated because I'm anal in that sense that like ticking off each day's run. BUT I wish that there were features to log my workouts and add my own notes about the how, when and where of each day's training. Maybe that will come if I fork out the $0.99 for the upgrade.

I hope your week is going well and you're getting all your training in. Happy running!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Face-Saving Whittier 5K Race Recap

This past Saturday I ran a local 5K in Whittier with my big Bro and BD.

It was the City's inaugural 5K and wowow, did they do it up right! Very well organized and for only $25 we got all this:
1. Plenty of free parking within 30 yards of the start line
2. Well marked course with volunteers directing & cheering us on every few feet.

3. At least two water stations that I noticed, again with tons of volunteers. (I always carry my own water)
4. DJ pumping jams at a couple points along the way
5. A choice between flush toilets inside the community center or portapotties outside
6. A yogurt, banana, bagel, orange wedges, bottled water and Monster drink at the finish line
7. FANTASTIC tech shirts and pretty cool swag bag. Contents were better than some of the more expensive races I've entered.

8. a free pancake breakfast!
Friends we bumped into while having pancakes.
I could go on and on. This was a phenomenally well organized event. Kudos to the race organizers and the volunteers who made it a great event. I will absolutely, positively do this one again next year and bring an even bigger posse.

A picture of my big Bro, BD, me and another friend who we bumped into before the race. Bro and the friend were 5K virgins. I let them know they would be disappointed at the attention to detail at the next 5K they enter since this one was so great.

BD was banditing the race

The one and only criticism that I have of course is that there was no adherance to race etiquette with slower runners/walkers moving to the back of the pack.  There were all sorts of families with little ones lined up at the front and while I have no illusions of placing, I still want to get a good time. Weaving past the walkers is not conducive to a PR.

And now the Face-Saving part of this recap:

Back in August BD and I entered into a 5K together in Historic Filipintotown. This was BD's first 5K ever for which he trained about 2 weeks prior. Long story short, he beat me in that race and though I was a gracious loser, I was certainly burned up about being beat. I'm the more experienced runner after all.

Truth be told, I had him all along in Filipinotown but right at the finish line I spotted the race photographer and ran over in his direction to make sure I got a good pic. That's when BD made his move and whipped past me. He beat me by literally 2 seconds. Vanity will get you every time...

Fast forward to the Whitter 5K. Not only did I PR, I had a great PR! AND I BEAT BD! Crushed him with a 28:39 and 9:13 pace. His time was 29 and change. I finished almost an entire minute ahead of BD. Woo hoo!!! (Yeah, I'm a gracious loser, but maybe not so much a gracious winner.)

We are now registered for a third tie-breaking 5K event also in Whittier in less than 3 weeks. I'm confident the best man I will win.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Week of Unimpressiveness

This week has been chock FULL of lackluster training.

Running in circles around the track isn't very motivating
Monday: 2 miles with lots of rest breaks around the HS track
Tuesday: 4 miles on the Greenway trail (actually this wasn't too bad)
Wednesday: Big Goose Egg. The vaGiants winning Game 1 of the World Series made me physically ill.
Thursday: 3 miles on the treadmill. Blah, but better than nothing.

I'm registered for the LA County Half Marathon on December 12th and so far I'm unintentionally putting in a minimal amount of effort to train for it. I always want to do my best in any race so I hope this Stella gets her groove back over the weekend, if not sooner.

I'll be racing in a local 5K in Whittier and want to finish not too far behind BD's 27 minutes. Maybe all this non-training will mean my legs will be rested and ready to crush a PR.

Besides being plagued by guilt for not training, I'm barely keeping my head above water surviving the work week and getting ready for the Halloween festivities.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Day of Being in the Moment

Yesterday's run was short and sweet (and wet). I drove down to the shore, the scene of last weekend's half marathon, to run in one of my favorite parts of the LBC. For 15 years my office was about 30 feet away from this area and I lived just a couple of blocks away.

Now that I live and work a little further away I don't take the time to drive the few miles down here to run. Last week's Long Beach Half Marathon reminded me that LB is a picturesque city and I'm lucky to be here.


A short 3 mile run at a sub 10 minute pace was just enough time to play through my current favorite songs in my play list --Taio Cruz, Eminem HOLLA-- and get my heart rate up for the requisite 30 minutes. My left knee is making it's presence known and I'm debating on whether to rest it for a while (NOT!!) or strap a band around it to make it cooperate (option 2 for $200, Alex).

The rest of the day? Finally carving up that pumpkin with the Puff

and watching the San Francisco vaGiants get a lucky strike three call to weasel their way into the World Series. Let's go RANGERS!!!


Great Sunday to everyone and GOOD LUCK to 50 Half Marathons in 50 States running in Alaska and KIMpossible and everyone else racing today. The PR is all you, baby!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A 2¢ Final Thought About the LB Marathon

Yesterday the Puff and I drove over to Run Racing headquarters in Long Beach to pick up my personal items bag that I'd left at the race. I'd emailed them first thing on Monday about my bag and they responded promptly to confirm that they had it. They were actually going to mail it to me for free, but I was in the neighborhood anyway so it was convenient.

I never went to pick up my bag after the race because the bag pick up line looked like this:

I was standing at the end of the line when I took this picture. I told the girl in line ahead of me that there was nothing in my bag that was worth waiting in this line.

Her response? "My cell phone is in there, I have to get my bag." HUH? What's the point of bringing a cell phone if you're going to be without it anyway?

Why does anyone leave their cell phone/car keys/wallet/first born child in a stuff bag?


I don't understand the need. My iPhone is my MP3 player and it's strapped to my arm with a few dollars tucked in there with it. My car keys stay in my car and I remove the keyless remote which I tie to my shoelaces:

For the LB race, my stuff bag contained the following items:

1. Energy beans
2. A peanut butter sandwich (petrified when I picked it up yesterday, lol)
3. the long sleeve t-shirt I wore to the race
4. the long sweats I wore to the race
5. deodorant
6. pad/tampon
7. My race t-shirt

Nothing that I couldn't lose. And the only reason I even contacted Run Racing was because I really wanted to see if I could get back that race t-shirt.

I've been reading countless complaints now about the stuff bag issue at the race. I know the situation was a chaotic mess, but honestly people we need to take responsibility for our own contribution to the problem. I'd heard people had broken down the barriers and were bypassing the volunteers searching for their own bags amongst the tens of thousands of bags under the tent. YIKES!

When I picked up my bag at Run Racing yesterday, the lovely staff apologized profusely for the chaos surroudnig the drop bag problem (not a problem for me). AND............to compensate me for my trouble I got a FREE ENTRY to the LA County Half Marathon on December 12th!

Although I was not inconvenienced by the drop bag issue, I'm not above accepting a FREE ENTRY to the LA County Half Marathon. That's a $100 value! Hello, free race t-shirt and medal, here I come! After I run a measley 13.1 miles, that is. :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Long Beach Half Marathon Race Recap

I think what augments my nervousness at the start of a race is that I'm usually unfamilier with the race logistics and end up driving or wandering around lost for a while. This time I knew exactly what I was doing and where I was going. Parking was a breeze. I hit the bathrooms at the Hyatt instead of the lines at the porta potties. Bag drop was easy. I walked directly to the start of the race.

Well go figure, but somehow I still managed to miss my wave start. I had to line up with a slower wave 6-hour full marathon, 3-hour half marathon pace group. It's hard to feel like a person when you're corraled like cattle. I worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up the pace I'd wanted because I was trapped by the amount of people around me. A couple of shots of the start of the race:


Once my wave started the crowd thinned out and I was able to weave around some slower runners. I must not have been the only one to miss my wave because most of the runners I was running with were at least as fast, most faster, than me. The 3-hour pace group in our wave was left in the dust.

The before and after pics:

Throughout the course my mind was kept busy as I went by all the familiar buildings and streets. We ran past The Reef restaurant where my good friend Renee had her wedding reception, past the building where I used to work, the street where I used to live. And then I over heard someone say that the Belmont Pool was the turnaround point. I knew exactly where that was and exactly how long it would take me to get there.

I avoided all the lines for porta potties along the route and waited to make my pit stop in the public restrooms along the beach path. I've run this beach path many many times before. Today it was so over crowded there was no room to maneuver. I minimized the weaving and passed runners by going off the path and into the sand because I knew the sand alongside the path was hard-packed.

As we approached the finish I knew we'd make a left turn at the Batman building and then downhill all the way on Shoreline Drive. This was where I started my sprint.

I hadn't admitted it to anyone other than myself but I was aiming for a 2:15 today. I'd picked up a 2:15 pace wrist band at the Expo on Friday and had been using it over the weekend to help me visualize a 2:15 race.

It worked!
my unofficial garmin time and pace band
The official race results:
FINISH: 2:15:44 PACE: 10:22
Overall: 3838 out of 9669
Women: 1665 out of 5824
Age group: 286 out of 925

This was the flat fast course they'd promised. And the Yassos are working, I'm a convert! Next Half is Huntington Beach Half Marathon in February.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

All in the Familia

This weekend (tomorrow!) is my 3rd half marathon right here in the LBC. But first things first.

FRIDAY: The Expo. Oh, but I do love me an EXPO.


We went through the entire hall twice, picked up new Brooks running shoes, Nathan hand held water bottle, GUs, beans, energy bars. Is there anything more fun than a running-themed shopping fest? Nope, nothing comes to mind.

SATURDAY: BD has himself been bitten by the running bug and signed up for a 5K this weekend. We drove into EastLA for the festivities. The Puff had made a sign for her dad (I helped a little) which we surprised him with and he loved.

He did really well, which is great. It's a little hard for me to be happy for him because he only started running like a month ago. His time was somewhere around 27:00. I'm bitter...I'd love to run a 5K in 27:00. Someday.

**PROUD MAMA ALERT** (kid pics below)
Finally after BD's 5K in EastLos, we drove back into the LBC for a 1-mile Kid's Fun Run that the Puff was running. The course was scenic loop around the Aquarium of the Pacific and the kids were treated like superstars. It was really sweet.

quarter mile in and looking good

starting to melt down after 1/2 mile, mom steps in for damage control

She chicked BOTH those boys!!

into the finish line chute

She medaled!

My four year old finished an entire mile her first race. Pretty cool.

Race recap after the Half tomorrow. No expectations (yeah, right), just want to do my best... and get a PR of course!