August 31, 2008

New Castles

Today I ran my second half marathon. This time, at the Happiest Place on Earth. I also set a new personal half marathon record, finishing 11 minutes faster than my last half marathon. I’m pretty damn stoked about that.
The medal is huge and I feel like Flava Flav when I am wearing it. Because the medal is so large and it has the castle on it, I am celebrating with another large castle. A 25-oz Newcastle.
This run was in memory of my dear friends Julie and Val who loved Disneyland. Cheers to you 2, my lovely friends who were taken too soon. Cancer sucks so I’m kicking its ass for you.


August 9, 2008

Stick a fork in this day. It’s done.

And I did everything I had planned…well, except the bow chicka bow wow time turned into a much-needed naptime for me.

As for my run? It was HARD. I had planned to do 10 like the voting public suggested, but once I arrived in Portola Valley I decided to do 12. That was before I knew how much would be UPHILL. Seriously. Look (click on it for a better view):
the hills are alive

See those inclines? They were inSANE. Like not runnable. I swear the first big hill was at a 45-degree angle. We didn’t stick to our usual walk/run ratio. Our walk times were aimed for uphill portions. Plus, my running mate was nursing a sore ankle so she wanted to take it somewhat easy today. That was fine with me because this run was grueling for the entire first half. Where the course was flat, it was usually rocky, so we had to step somewhat gingerly or we’d tweak an ankle or trip. In fact, at one point, I stubbed my toe on a large rock and flung forward, nearly doing a faceplant. But instead, I suddenly became agile and landed squarely on my other foot rather than my face.

We did have some excitement on this remote trail in the wilderness. A bobcat decided to grace us with his/her presence. Having never seen a bobcat, nor expecting a wild beast on our run, at first I thought it was a dog. I thought, “What is a dog doing out here alone in the middle of nowhere?” And just as I realized it was a wild cat, my running partner said “oh my god!” and I realized it was, in fact, the mascot animal for my elementary school. It seemed unthreatening enough and it wasn’t a huge cat, but I’m sure it did have some large-flesh gnawing fangs and skin-piercing claws. Luckily the bobcat was not interested in killing us, or even being around us, so as soon as he appeared, he left. If he’d have stuck around I would have known to make myself big to scare him off. Yeah, I can make myself big. I’m just over 5 feet tall. The only thing big about me is my backside, so I guess I could have thought to turn around and intimidated him with the massive size of that. But he might have bitten a large chunk off of my derriere instead. I could then be interviewed by Matt Lauer on The Today Show. I’d tell him all about how I was running with TNT to raise money to cure blood cancers and a bobcat ate my ass. And then I’d be a hero and also be able to fit into size zero pants because of my lack of ass. Coming face to face with my own mortality (OK, not really) threw me off for a little while. I kept thinking there we were out in the middle of nowhere, with no one really around us except creatures from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and maybe that bobcat went to tell the other, larger bobcats that breakfast had arrived. I wish I’d had my heart rate monitor on then, because I’m sure it would have spiked at that point. I also wished I had my camera because, hello! bobcat!

Anyway. We plodded along, walking the ups, and running as much of the flats and downhills as we could, while stopping to stretch quickly so furry beasts would not maul us to pieces. Eventually we reached the waterstop at the half-way point. YAY! The waterstop volunteers told us that it was all downhill from there, which we were ecstatic to hear. We joined 2 other runners at the stop and all headed back to the start, running downhill nearly all the way. At one point Simone (our team captain) said of the decline in elevation “This is kind of nice,” to which I replied, “Yeah, it is. Kind of like a day at the spa.” But apparently that was a bit of an exaggeration for my running buddies. At least we were safe from the wilderness, on a paved road, with the only predators being SUVs.

When we got close to our finish line, I felt pretty good. Like I had not just run 12 miles. That’s because I had not. Apparently the trail was marked wrong. One of our coaches marked it, using a GPS device, but when we got to the finish, my Garmin had logged only around 10 miles. (Sometimes in the middle of nowhere the GPS function freaks out and doesn’t know where I am. Elevations sometimes screw it up too.) The Coach thought his calculations were right, and if the Coach says it was 12, I’m taking the 12. With those hills, I think it counted as more like 14. Or 50. Damn, those hills were a bitch. My butt is screaming and has been since we finished. For real. When I sit, I hear this “OUCH!” from somewhere beneath me, in three different voices. And when I get up, there’s a slight whimper. All the layers of my gluteal muscle area (whatever it’s called) are crying out. “what did you DO to us today?” My butt muscles should stop complaining already because they are lucky to still be intact and not devoured by bobcats.

August 2, 2008

I am a tortoise

There once was a speedy hare who bragged about how fast he could run. Tired of hearing him boast, Slow and Steady, the tortoise, challenged him to a race. All the animals in the forest gathered to watch.

Hare ran down the road for a while and then and paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?”

Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking, “There is plenty of time to relax.”

Slow and Steady walked and walked. He never, ever stopped until he came to the finish line.

The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for Tortoise, they woke up Hare.

Hare stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. Tortoise was over the line.

After that, Hare always reminded himself, “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”

The word slow is not in the Team In Training vocabulary. No one is a slow runner, they are strong and steady. And let me tell you, I am just about the strongest and steadiest runner on the team of 200. And today, I was a bit discouraged by that. I met some of my teammates for an On Your Own run (OYO), which just means it is not a coach-led run, like last week’s 12-miler. OYO runs are training runs, but are much shorter distances than those led by the coaches. Today it was my turn to “lead” an OYO run, but I did all but that. Seven of us (6 gals and 1 guy) set off together to do 6 to 8 miles today. I had my Garmin set for my new run/walk ratio of 3:2 so I could see if it would help speed me up a bit. Before I could even find out if there was a time benefit to my new ratio, the five other gals sped off. SO FAST. Basically, I was left in their 8-minute mile dust, and was truly doing an On Your Own run, all On My Own. I worried at first, because without someone to keep me company, I tend to take longer walk breaks, slow down, and get bored. But this time I remained loyal to what the Garmin told me to do, and consistently ran for 3 minutes at a time, with 2-minute walk breaks in between.

So I ran alone, with just my thoughts. And I found I am pretty good company. I could focus on my form, breathing, and the scenery with no distractions. Eventually I stopped feeling like a slowpoke and just ran, saying “Good Morning” to people passing from the other direction, walking their dogs, pushing babies in strollers, running, walking with Starbucks cups, or riding their bikes. People you see on trails are so friendly. It’s kind of like a cult or something. They’re out getting some exercise. You’re out getting some exercise. When I greet them, I don’t just mean “Good Morning.” Sometimes I mean “You are as insane as I am for being out here at the crack of dawn, so Hello There, Insane Person!” Sometimes I mean, “Oh my god, you old couple. You are too cute for words, shuffling along and holding hands on your walk. I want to be like you in 40 years.” Other times, “Good Morning” means “Damn, woman. Did running get you that body, because holy hell, I would kill for it.” Or “Hey! Cute boy! Are you single, because my friend Liza is really cute and single!” Today it meant “Look at me, running alone for the first time ever! But I’m doing it! I’m not cheating! I’m not quitting, or turning around after just a mile. I might be slow strong and steady, but I’m DOING IT!”

The speed racers were going 8 miles today, but I knew if I went all 8, they’d have to wait a long time for me to return to the start, so I made my turnaround at 3.5 miles. Eventually I heard them come up behind me, and as TNTers are wont to do, they clapped for me, and one said I was looking “very strong and steady.” And the pessimist in me thought “that means slow. But yeah, I am.” But I turned it around in my head and started feeling strong. And steady. And I continued on. I’ll never win a race, but I get out there, damnit, and I am a runner.

Much to my surprise, while running solo, with this new ratio, I improved my 5K race time from earlier this season, and had my fastest overall pace since the season started in early June. 8-minute mile will never be in my running vocabulary. Fortunately, neither will slow.

August 1, 2008

So! Excited!

Disneyland Half Marathon

I received my timing chip for the Disneyland Half Marathon recently and I’m really getting excited to run 13.1 miles through the Happiest Place on Earth, and down the streets of Anaheim. Also, Disney just released the waivers all runners need to sign and bring with them to the Health Expo of Half Marathon Weekend in order to pick up their goodie bags and race bibs. I cannot wait for this race! Mostly because, hello! Disneyland! But also, because it will be my second half marathon, and will offer plenty of scenery and fun stuff to look at to keep me distracted from the fact that I am running my second half marathon. Hopefully there will not be rain, or wind, and I know we won’t be running down Highway 101 in San Francisco for this one, like we did on my last attempt at a half marathon. One thing I am slightly concerned about is the heat. Last year’s Disneyland Half Marathon was torture because of an extreme heatwave in Southern California. And by extreme I mean it reached 108 degrees in the afternoon, and got up to 90 degrees at the time most people finished the run at 9 am.

This race starts at 6 AM. Yes, SIX O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING. Hotel shuttles to the start begin at 3 am. That’s NIGHT, not morning! I don’t even care that I have to get up in the middle of the night, because I am so looking forward to this race. I hear it starts with fireworks before we head off towards California Adventure, and on to Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and Fantasyland (and through Cinderella’s castle!), and throughout this, characters will appear in their running attire for photo ops. Once we’re out of the park we’ll head over to the Honda Center (home of the Anaheim Ducks), and then through Angels Stadium where I get to run across home plate, then run back through California Adventure and Downtown Disney, ending at the ESPN Zone where I will receive my medal. (And you all know how I feel about medals!)

So, if you find yourself at Disneyland during Labor Day weekend, look for me!

By the way, I’m attempting NaBloPoMo this month. It’s going to be an eventful one, so I should have plenty of blog fodder. The theme this month is HOT, hence my reference to the hellacious (hellatious?) weather at last year’s Disneyland Half Marathon. Subtle, no?

July 27, 2008

I was supposed to run 8 miles yesterday.

But I didn’t.

I was up at 5:30 to eat my pre-run carbs, pack the 3 G’s (GU, Garmin, and Gatorade), and get dressed for the run. I met my carpool buddy with 5 minutes to spare, and we left on time for the 1-hour ride over the hill. My carpooler was planning a longer run than I was, and she needed to start her run at 8 am. Since I was only doing 8 miles, my run would start 30 minutes later. I checked in for 8 miles and lined up for my 8:30 start, looking for my usual running buddies in the crowd.

Pre-run Pep Talk

I didn’t find any of my similarly-paced-half-marathon-training buddies and feared I would have to run solo, unable to keep up with the faster-paced marathon-training runners. But I plodded along, at a 4:1 ratio (4 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking), trying to keep up with the gang. Eventually I dropped back and began to run at more comfortable pace. I wanted to take it easy, knowing that the last time I ran here sucked Armenian yak.

Recently, I haven’t logged many longish runs. In fact, the last time I ran more than 6 miles was back in June, so I knew 8 would be a chore. I kept my thoughts positive, convincing myself that even though my last run here was utterly craptastic, I’d erase those bad memories with good ones today. I ran down the dirt trail lined by redwood trees. The air was clean and my lungs were thankful to be out of the city.

Waddell Creek Trail

I met someone from my pace group at the water stop, about 2 miles in. She had actually started her run with my carpooler’s group at 8, but accidentally took a detour, and wound up at the beloved water stop the same time as I did. We started chatting, and she asked if I would run with her because we go at about the same pace. She was planning on running 12 miles, but she said she’d stick with me until my 4-mile turnaround point and then she’d keep going ahead. I was happy to have a running companion even if it was for only a couple of miles because it is so much more enjoyable with someone to talk to. And it was. We run well together. She’s chatty and so am I so the time went by quickly. I was having an awesomely good run. It was, in fact, easy. I felt great, and because I was enjoying myself so much, I noticed this time that the scenery was gorgeous.


We reached the 4-mile mark in no time and it seemed effortless. This was my turnaround point for the 8-mile loop. But I told my running mate that I would go to the 5-mile turnaround and increase my run 10 miles. What the hell? Ten, schmen. That’s just 2 more than 8…I could do it.

As we approached the 5-mile turnaround, most runners flew past it to go all the way to the 6-mile turnaround that boasted a beautiful waterfall. I wondered if there really was a waterfall, or if it was all a ruse by the TNT coaches to get us to go an extra 2 miles. Even at the 5-mile mark, I still felt great. I thought about those people I am running for and thought about what they endure when going through treatments. They don’t have the luxury of getting up and going for a run while suffering from extreme fatigue, nausea, and pain. They fight and go through hell until they reach their goal – a cure. And if they’re to do 12 months of chemo, they don’t say, “Oh, I think I’ll just do 8 months and then stop.” They go all the way. I could not complain about having to run. I chose to do this running business. Cancer patients did not choose to get cancer. Cancer chose them. (And cancer is an asshole.) And knowing I’d be logging 10 anyway…well…what’s 2 more? “Sure, I’ll go 12 with you!” I told my running buddy. And so I went.

So, yeah. I did not run 8 miles yesterday. I ran 12. And this was the payoff, courtesy of Mother Nature:

keep reading I was supposed to run 8 miles yesterday.