Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Big Sur International Marathon (21-Miler)

EVENT: Big Sur International Marathon (21-Miler)
DATE: Sunday, April 27, 2014
LOCATION: Big Sur to Carmel, CA
RACE BEGAN: 6:30 am
FINISH TIME: 05:34:56

As I am scrambling to catch up with life after taking a three-day weekend to do this race and feeling under the weather now, I decided to throw something up here as soon as I could. (Extra delay due to me dumbly upgrading the software on my iPhone, which has pretty much kind of broken it.)

We made our way to Monterey, CA the day before the race.  We woke up at 4 AM and started our trek, stopping around the Buellton area at Ellen's Danish Pancake House.  I had never had Danish pancakes, which were pretty much very thin regular pancakes.  Although I didn't want to get anything else, "The Ukrainian" demanded that I at least get an egg, so I decided to raise him a cinnamon bun.

We got the expo around noon and were kind of disappointed about a couple of things.  First, parking -- there wasn't much of it in the area, and we also ended up getting a parking ticket.  Knowing this was an event weekend, there should have been more of it, or more leniency in the process.  Second, the expo was packed with cliques (super athletes, wine buddies, etc.), and there weren't really any samples.  We decided to walk around the Old Fisherman's Wharf and comfort ourselves with food.

Salt water taffy.
Shared paella by the water.  Was so tired from the wind that I forgot to take a "before" shot.

After checking into our hotel and taking a catnap (because we woke up too early), we headed to dinner at the local mall.  There was a pizza-by-the-slice place that seemed to suit our pre-race needs.

Yep, drinking a kiddie drink here.
Back of the race shirt.

The next morning, we woke up at 3 AM (i.e., very early) to get ready before heading to the buses.  The marathon and 21-miler had different buses, so "The Ukrainian" and I parted at this point.  It took about an hour to get to the start, winding around in the dark.  I guess I'm glad it was dark, since everything was still a surprise when I was to run the distance myself, but I did get a bit nauseated from that.  When I arrived at the starting area, I used the port-a-potty and then was sad when everyone already ate all the bagels.  Really?!  Luckily, I was able to snack on some banana and a trail mix bar I had in my backpack.  Yes, I decided to run with a backpack, as I knew I needed to bring fuel with me.

As the sun rose and the race was about to begin, I, wearing my sister's Boston Marathon 2013 shirt, got a little emotional as the national anthem was being performed.  Then, we took off.  The 21-mile course (it's actually 21.6 miles) begins around the Mile 5 point of the marathon.  It started off on an incline (and I think some elevation might have gotten to me??), and I think that's when I decided to stick to my "taking it easy" guns.

Here are some pictures I was taking along the way.  I stopped taking them pretty quickly, because around five miles in, my fingers were swollen like sausages.  I have no idea why this happened so early, as I was definitely hydrating at every station and topping off in terms of electrolytes (I think I stopped for the bathroom five times).  It became kind of painful to hold my phone, so I put it away for the rest of the race and enjoyed the views with my eyes instead of my phone.  I ran/walked until we passed the tough Hurricane Point area (around Mile 13).  "The Ukrainian" passed me around Mile 11 (Mile 16 for him), and he unloaded his gloves into my backpack as we walked up an incline and complained about the difficulty of it all.

So here are some of my race pictures.  I look tired in most of them, and they are quite representative.  The course was obviously beautiful and worth experiencing, but for the under-trained, and even for the trained, it is certainly no joke.  Also, I think by going more slowly, it just made the whole thing so much longer.  Overall, my legs felt as swollen as my fingers, so even walking was kind of painful, and I was clocking 18-minute miles at some points.  I somewhat worried that I wouldn't make the 6.5-hr cutoff, which has never quite been a concern for me before.  I likened it to a really, really long hike.  Luckily, there were many people out there just kind of walking along, just trying to finish, so I definitely wasn't alone in this at all.  A few people asked about my Boston Marathon shirt, which I said was my sister's, and they continued on, hah.

So tired I could barely hold up my arms here.  Was slumped over in the previous pic.

As a slower person, I was trying my best to stay as left as possible (per instructions), but a few runners decided to nearly ram into me, anyway, weaving around me.  Also, the far left was also very slant-y, which caused more foot/hip pain.  I did feel like the 21-milers were kind of regarded as "less than" the marathoners, but I do understand the logistical reasons for this.

My Garmin died without a low-battery warning when I had less than half a mile to go (again, very representative).  That last climb before the end was soul-crushing, and I imagine it would have been worse running.  When I finally crossed, I could barely make my way anywhere, though scarfing down a small apple, a bagel, and a bran muffin in five minutes certainly helped.

Love this medal, though!!
I would definitely recommend Big Sur as a "to do" race, even the 21-miler, which will still feel pretty much like a marathon depending on how you deal with hills/altitude like me.  The views can't be beat, and it was nice to run without music and hear the waves crash and cows moo.  The performers were great, too.  Hearing the twinkle of a piano echoing in the mountains in the distance was so mystical.  Also, the most delicious strawberries after Mile 23 were pretty much the best things, ever.

Here was our post-race food:

Beefiest fish 'n chips ever.

Chowder, chowder everywhere.

Oh, and it was my first time in the Monterey area.  It was beautiful, and I hope to return sometime soon!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Thing About Big Sur...

After what has seemed like an eternity, I will be in Monterey in about 10 days for the Big Sur Marathon!

Except, not quite.

Registration for the Big Sur races opened on July 15th, a Monday morning, at 7 AM.  "The Ukrainian" was at work and registered at that time, while I was at the gym before work.  I got to my desk around 8 AM and immediately went on to register.

The "Marathon" button was greyed outSurely, this must be a mistake?  Some seconds later, I realized that it had sold out.  Argh!

Prior to that day, I had been having some reservations about registering for the full marathon.  I was perfectly content rounding out at 15 and backing off since I was having trouble sticking to a regular training schedule.  I guess the quick sell-out (59 minutes!) made the decision for me.  (I guess had I been prudent, I would have asked my love to register for me, but obviously I did not anticipate this issue occurring -- I read that next year, they will have a different entry procedure, so glad that I'm in for this year's!).

One of my lunchtime doodles -- okay, I was on a phone interview during the time.

I will still be at this race, starting at the 5-mile point.  Yes, that's a 21-miler, folks.  Auto PR!!  This gives me enough slack to run/walk this race, since I am desperately under-trained and wouldn't mind just enjoying the scenery.  I plan on carrying food, water and my phone with me.  Yep, it will be THAT kind of race.  And that kind of makes me look forward to it.  If anything, I am severely burnt out from not taking time off of work since November (I am taking a FULL DAY off after the weekend for this, whoop whoop! [slight sarcasm]).

In the meantime, I'm turning 29 in a couple of days.  My birthday always sneaks up on me these days, and somehow, the prospect of this one is not giving me the "omg, I'm so old" feelings that I used to get.  This could be because I have spent the last few years feeling this way, and well, nothing has changed.  Still, I think this year (as a precursor to my 30s) will be defining in its own right.

Monday, April 7, 2014

4:09:43 -- Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners, by Hal Higdon

It has almost been a year since the Boston Marathon bombings, and as I'm sure everyone else is saying, I can't believe it has been a year.  Since that time, marathon finish lines always make me think of that day.

I don't often read books that recap tragedies, but I made an exception for Hal Higdon.  Higdon's training programs were a staple for me in my earlier running days, and I will always view him as one of the most prominent members of the running community.  He is likely, in fact, the leader of the pack.

Hal Higdon was not present at the Boston Marathon in 2013, but due to his status in the running world, he received many accounts of that day.  In 4:09:43 (the time on the clock when the first bomb went off), Higdon recounts the collective experiences of approximately 75 people, who were mostly runners and also some volunteers and spectators.

Kathrine Switzer, a prominent runner/media person, writes the foreward.  The stories that followed covered those who were close to the scene as well as those who were far removed, as well as those who qualified by time and those who were running for charities.  Generally, they all kind of started the same way, the same as any story I'd have leading up to a race.  Everything played out like any other marathon (with some waxing poetic of the prestige of Boston, of course), until the last few chapters of the book.

I should add that there was a Boston Marathon course map printed in the book, and admittedly, it was my first time looking at it.  Due to my unimpressive marathon times, running Boston Marathon seems so out of reach that I never even looked at its specifics.  Well, I saw that the course traverses Framingham/Natick, an area that I had stayed in while traveling on business mid-2012.  Knowing this made me feel even closer to the stories because I could imagine the backdrop to it all. (Also, I feel like I have some sort of remote connection to Boston because I sort of lived there for a while in utero, but that's beside the point.)

Overall, I thought it was a good read.  I would have liked to hear more about the spectators who were injured, but I suppose their stories have been told numerous times in the media.  This book focuses more on the injuries that were supposedly not significant enough to count among the injured yet still traumatizing.  For example, minor shrapnel hitting a runner's foot to ear canal damage were not recorded but still very real.  It doesn't allude much to the culprits, which is a good thing.  It's a book written for runners, by runners, as a way of sharing and coping.

As the race approaches again (in the coming weeks), I look forward to following a completely ordinary day in Boston.

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of this book from Human Kinetics receiving no other compensation and am providing my honest opinion.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tracie Long Longevity Series: Staying Power

Being the DVD workout junkie that I am, I was excited to try out a new Tracie Long workout video, which comes out next week.

Staying Power is one of a series of new workouts by Tracie.  I have seen her DVDs on Amazon many times but have not had a chance to try one.

The series consists of:

Tracie Long Longevity Series: Defining Shape
Designed to increase lean muscle mass, this all-weights workout focuses on the lower body and shoulders.  

Tracie Long Longevity Series: Staying Power
An interval style that delivers a balanced total body challenge, this workout is designed to improve overall cardiovascular performance.    

Tracie Long Longevity Series: Step Forward
This step cardio workout targets the legs with a varying range of motion and tempos that will get you closer to your best legs ever.   

The run-time for each video is about 50 minutes long, which is perfect for those mornings when I wake up just a bit earlier to fit in a longer workout.  It is divided into a bunch of smaller sections that are focused on different areas -- arms, legs, cardio, core, seat -- using hand weights and a medicine ball.  I think having a 5-pounder and an 8-10 pounder would be perfect, but I only had 5's, which seemed to work out okay.  For convenience, there are customized chapters that group the exercises that focus on certain body parts, which range between 12-ish and 22-ish minutes.

As for the workout itself, it takes some acclimation. Since I am not familiar with Tracie's style, I had trouble keeping up with some of the footwork and sequences.  My solution to that is always to just keep moving until I get back on track, but that's just me!  It's not that they are difficult movements, but they do start up and progress quickly.  Tracie does seem to cue pretty well, though, which is important to me; I just couldn't keep up.  Also, there are a lot of forward/backward and side-to-side movements, and very little plyometrics, which are seemingly optional.  Besides the footwork, I was nervous to keep a dumbbell behind my knee in some of the seat exercises, mostly because dropping it would make my floor very unhappy.

I did work up a sweat and burned about 300 calories (your mileage may vary!), so while I wouldn't consider this a particularly taxing workout, it does equate to a steady burn.  I felt the biggest burn in my upper body because there is a push-up sequence that can get pretty tough, but I do think my upper body in general is weak.

Overall, this workout is a little more tame compared to the likes of Insanity or maybe even Jillian Michaels, but it is still vigorous enough to include in my growing rotation.

FTC Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this disc to review but was not compensated to provide a particular opinion of it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 1

Wow, I have been MIA for a bit.  I think the overarching reason is due to my lack of running.  Folks, it has been pretty bad.  I've maybe run 3.5 (yes, that .5 matters!) miles in the past month.

I could make a ton of excuses, but besides working overtime and such, the fact that I haven't been sleeping well has made weekend running pretty much the lowest of my priorities.  The funny thing is, I had a similar slump this time last year, so I hope things will be on the uptick again soon. 

The other day, I received the Final Instructions for the Big Sur race later this month, and I'm excited to see it!  Knowing that my "training" has been the way that it has, this is going to be ugly, yet pretty at the same time! =P

Dear Julie,
The Big Sur International Marathon and related events are less than four weeks away.  Race Weekend Instructions are now available HERE.  They contain event-specific instructions as well as general information about race weekend.  We strongly encourage you to read these carefully so that you will be prepared for your race.

In other news, I pretty much can take from my post from last year that I'm planting herbs and baking bread in my spare time.  Oh, and someone just lent us Season 2 of Game of Thrones.  Yes, I am THAT behind!  I also have a new nephew who is the highlight of my weekends.

I have a few posts lined up for the coming weeks, so hopefully some people are still staying tuned.  Meanwhile, I'm finding Pokémon on my phone as part of Google's April Fools prank.  Pokémon in Vietnam?  Yes!