Sunday, October 26, 2014

Healdsburg Half Marathon- the annoyingly long race report

Posted by Rachel

You've been warned by the title- this is a long one. I've divided it into three parts in case you want to skip something. Enjoy!

Part 1: The house

We rented a house for 12(ish) of the teammates. (We run as a team called "Running for the Win(e)". Thus, our blog name.) The house was amazing. Travers and I took a half day vacation Friday to pick up the packets and get there a little early. After that, it was rest and relaxation (and for Travers, wine drinking). The only concern was the pouring rain that was supposed to start that night and carry through the race. Sure, California needs the water, and I actually like running the rain (minus the extra chafing). However, the post-race wine festival is not as enjoyable when it's pouring directly into your alcohol. Although I suppose the state-wide drought is more important than our alcohol.

Left: Packet picked up, ready to go! Right: view from our amazing rental house

Part 2: The run

Saturday morning was finally race day. I didn't post any pre-race thoughts about how I thought I would do for 2 reasons: (1) I didn't want to say anything positive and jinx myself, and (2) I haven't done a single training run with more than 40 ft of elevation gain and this race had 500 ft. Granted, it's not insane for the Bay area or anything, but it's more than enough when you're pushing a hard tempo pace for over an hour and a half. Nonetheless, I didn't know how it would affect me so I set a goal of PRing (sub-1:38) with a secret speculation that I could probably do a 1:36 on a flat course and I could maybe possibly have a small chance of doing it on this course.

Miles 1-3: Uphill then downhill
The race starts with a ~130 ft hill within the first 2/3 mile. I have a tendency to begin races too slowly because I'm afraid of the pain of race death, but I knew I wanted to average 7:20 and I didn't want to lose so much time on the hill that I couldn't make it up later. So I charged up it and clocked a 7:40 for mile 1, and I hit mile 3 averaging exactly 7:20. In retrospect the uphill charging was a bad idea, but I didn't know it by mile 3 quite yet.

Miles 4-9: The rollers
For about 5 miles here I held a constant 7:16-7:20 pace which was right on target. They had a timing mat at the 10k mark and I crossed at 45:34 which is a 10k PR for me! (Disclaimer: My 10k PR is about 4 years old. But hey, I'll take it. With 1 PR already achieved for the day, can I just stop here? No? Crap, ok.) By the time I hit mile 6 or 7 in these rollers, I was really starting to feel the effects of the hills. It became clear that the mile 1 charging was a very bad idea. I tried to NOT think about how the race was only half over and I was already tired, but sadly my math brain knew there was a lot of running left. At the very end of mile 9 we started climbing and I knew that the race was about to get even worse.

Mile 10: The long, unrelenting uphill
We have run this race 6 years in a row and they have used three different courses. In the past we have always run down this hill (or skipped it altogether), and it even feels long running down it. In addition, we drove up it on the way to the race and it felt bad even in a motorized vehicle. Before the race I had calculated that if I could hold 7:20 for the rest of the race, bring this mile in under 8:00, and finish strong I'd have a chance for my 1:36. Needless to say, the hill was awful and I felt like I was barely moving. I wanted to quit and walk so badly, but I doubted that would even help much. The steep part of the hill was over by mile10.7 and I noticed my average pace for the mile was 8:20...shoot. As it flattened out at the top I really picked it up and squeaked in a 7:59.6 for mile 10. And it felt like DEATH.

Mile 11: Smallish up and down
In this mile, there is actually about 40-50 more feet of climbing before you start heading down. I remember feeling so good to not be on the giant part of the hill anymore that this went pretty quickly, despite the extra climbing. When I passed the mile 11 marker, my stupid calculating brain told me that if I could average 7:20 for the rest of the race I would get my 1:36. My body felt so heavy and I thought 'maybe I should just give up and go for 1:36 at a different, way flatter race.' But then I thought, 'I've already been suffering for the last hour.. what's another 15 minutes? I mean, do I really want to have to do this AGAIN? Nope.' Gotta love the internal dialogue that happens during a tough race.

Mile 12: Downhill to flat
I knew this downhill was coming and I was excited about it. I knew I needed gravity's help to get that 7:20 average. It felt terrible but my watch showed a 7:08 and I was thrilled to have banked some time, given how miserable I was feeling.

Mile 13: The END
This mile had about 30 feet of very gradual climbing. I don't know if most people even noticed it. I, on the other hand, was SPENT. Completely dead. From mile 12.0-12.3, I kept looking at my watch constantly. I would hope that 0.1 mile had passed, but each time I looked I had only moved about 0.02. I saw my pace for that mile creeping up slowly each time I looked  7:23...7:24...7:25. Around mile 12.3 I couldn't take it anymore. I wasn't going to lose my 1:36 with 3 laps of a track left. I put my head down, decided not to look at my watch anymore, and basically just started flailing all of my limbs as much as possible in an attempt to move my body in the forward direction and come in at my goal time. I felt like wanted to vomit. I thought to myself  "I will not run again after this for a VERY long time." Finally, at some point I saw a banner that said "FINISH" and somehow eventually I was actually there. I got my PR (1:36:36!) and I hated running (seriously) and I hated that course.

The festival:
After about 20 minutes, I started not feeling like death and I was able to enjoy the festival with the team (minus the rain in the wine problem). We stuck around until the end and I'm glad we did- Team Running for the Win(e) got 2nd place (and 6 bottles of wine!)! Great job, team :)

Part 3: The party

Fellow blogger Will turned 30 this weekend, and like every good 30th birthday party we celebrated with a lot of alcohol. The theme was tequila and tapas and we had plenty of both. We also gathered around for the Giants World Series game and drank our victory wine. Awesome cap to race day!

Upper left: view from the house in the rain, Upper right: victory wine, Lower left: we all know what this is, Lower right: Everyone pitched in with some homemade tapas!

Now we're back home, and my quads aren't enjoying the stairs to our apartment but I've decided that I don't hate running anymore (or the Healdsburg course). My plan is to hang out and not follow any regimented training until 2015. Tonight is lazy, World Series watching time (the only time I watch baseball). Go Giants! (As a side note, I found it amusing that they chose the lead singer of Staind to do the national anthem at this game. I was surprised at how well he hit the notes, although the lyrics not so much).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Santa Barbara, how I miss thee, too

Posted by Rachel

A while ago, Matt posted about how awesome Santa Barbara is. I can only echo those sentiments. Travers and I were fortunate enough to be able to take a "work trip" there last weekend. It started out as a little bit of debacle. Our flight from SFO was completely canceled and we ended up having to drive our car which has a check engine light on. It's great having a check engine light code reader to know what's wrong with your car, but it really doesn't help when you don't understand the problem and whether or not it's going to land you on the side of the road in Prisonville, CA in the dark. Fortunately, we made it without any issues (other than traffic). We also ate at Applebees (the only place in Salinas with a salad), which was my first time eating there in... a decade? We attended a symposium on Friday (ok, that was legitimately not vacation), but after that it was VACATION TIME.

 Santa Barbara perfection

I was super excited for my 16 mile run Saturday morning because I could run all of my old favorite routes at once (after all, 16 is long enough). My excitement faded quickly after about 4 miles when the run started feeling like death. Somewhere around mile 10 I was in the middle of a 6 mile stretch without water. I had brought $7 with me in case of an emergency that would require a short cab ride, and I was ready to pay the ENTIRE $7 to ANY random stranger than I saw that had a bottle of water. Sadly, none did. Luckily, I somehow made it despite every single intersection having a green light and denying me an opportunity to rest. After the run we could enjoy the beach and eat.

Top left: I somehow managed one of those cool jumping pictures, despite my disaster run
Bottom right: 10 points to whoever knows what Travers is holding (he knew; I didn't)

The next morning I had ANOTHER terrible run, albeit much shorter and hillier. Luckily, the beach delivered again and it turned out to be an awesome weekend. We have to go back there more often.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Race Report: Challenge Rancho Cordova

Posted by Katie

Oh ya so I did this race last weekend and here is the (late) report.

Surprised? Me too. I did not post my pre-race thoughts on this one because my only pre-race thought was "Well this is going to be a DNS or DNF... and that sucks". Let me explain...

*DNS- Did not start
*DNF- Did not finish

As Matt mentioned, we signed up for this race as a substitute for the cancelled IM Lake Tahoe 70.3. It seemed wasteful not to put our summer of hard training to the test and we were already planning to be at the race to cheer on friends. I had two hesitations... 1) I took a pretty nasty fall on a trail run the monday after Tahoe and my back was feeling tight and 2) My first day at a new job was scheduled for the day after (turns out interviewing like a marathoner works!). The fall was silly, I was running downhill on a steep section of trail and Kona (our dog) cut behind me and misjudged my speed and ended up taking out my feet. Youch. Initially my back was just tight... but then the Thursday before the race I knew something was wrong. I decided to swim anyway and that turned out to be a horrible idea. By Friday everything hurt. In a last ditch effort to save this race I saw my amazing chiropractor who also does ART. She confirmed that my back/glutes were a total mess and as a triathlete herself, said I should listen to my body and not do this race. Spoiler alert... I listened to 1/2 of this advice, but seriously that ART stuff works magic!

The nice thing about going into a race thinking that you very likely won't finish is that there is no real pressure. My "race" plan was start swimming... and see how that goes. That was it. I decided I would just take each section one at a time and see how my back felt. In all honestly I fully expected to only do the swim and then feel like death. I even mapped out the shortest route from T1 to the finish (two different places) in case I needed to bail. To my surprise the swim went well. This was the first race/open water swim that I did not panic and I was super proud of myself. Usually I hyperventilate and do the breast stroke for a while... and I didn't do that! I just swam. #soproud

One nice but also somewhat weird thing about the Challenge Rancho Cordova race was the wave starts... it was Pro men, Pro women, Men <35 years, Women <35 years, Women 35+, Men 35+, and Aquabike/Relay. Okay... I might be new to triathalons... but I do know that Men 35+ are really good at triathalons. A big pack of 35+ men caught me right at the end of the swim and then I was basically around primarily older gents the entire race. Not sure what the rationale was there?

I exited the swim with 43:28 a bit short of my 40 min goal and took my sweet time in transition (5:03) and then figured what the heck... might as well bike. The bike course was really nice, rolling hills with most of the climbing in the first half and then mostly descending in the back half. My only struggles were with aid station / stomach / hydration. For some reason aid stations #1 and #2 only had gatorade when I went through. I had only brought one water bottle with me so for most of the race I was drinking concentrated gatorade. In training I normally dilute Powerade to half the recommended concentration... so full strength gatorade tasted way too sweet. It was also awesome to know that Danielle was out there on the course. Originally I was hoping we would start together being in the same age group, but they had Aqua/Bikers start at the end. My only complaint was at mile 29ish we were on a road that was HORRIBLE. Okay horrible is a little dramatic... but it was so bumpy and my back was feeling every little bump. Luckily as we passed an "Entering Sacramento County" sign the road got MUCH better! Thanks Sac!

Not nearly as hilly as Tahoe... but also not flat.
 Then miraculously it was time to run! Finally a sport I understand. Due to an unseasonably hot weekend by the time I started the run it was approximately 88 degrees and when I finished it was most likely in the 90s. (Not being dramatic... it was 100 on the drive home). At first I scoffed at stopping at every aid station (spaced 1 mile apart). Then I quickly realized that stopping at each station was MANDATORY. I developed a system of taking two water cups and one ice cup. Drink one water, dump one water on my head and then dump the ice down my shirt and within one mile I was dry, hot and thirsty again. Also, at mile 3 I dumped a full cup of gatorade on my head. I swear I asked "water?" and the volunteer said "yep" and splash dumped it right on my head...I laughed really hard for a good quarter mile. I also started to loose my grasp on simple math and though that I would not be able to hit my goal time when in fact I was ~20 minutes under at the end.
Consistent pace + water stops
 Another sort of odd by product of staggered starts and two loop run courses is that you never really know if people are finishing or just starting. As I passed one woman I said "great job" and she replied "I wish it was over" and I cheerily said "We are almost there!" because I was (at mile 12) apparently she was not and she snapped back "I AM JUST STARTING". Err oops... good luck then...

Coming into the finish I felt good, and was happy to be done running in this crazy heat. Afterwords there were burritos, beer in mason jars (swoon), free massages, and raffles that Matt and I BOTH won giftcards!
Home stretch
Done and done!
Ladies at the finish!

In general I feel that (famous last words about to be uttered) the 70.3 was not that bad. Or at least not as bad as I thought it would be.

So naturally....

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Double Digits on a Dreadmill

Posted by Chen

I swear I’m going to start blogging more than once every 2 months…

Today, I’m writing from the fine city of Norfolk, VA, host of a work-related training that I just attended. Actually, I don’t know if Norfolk is a fine city or not, as I haven’t moved beyond a quarter mile radius of my hotel. Normally whenever I travel, I try to see the city I’m visiting by going for a run around the area. I thought I’d be able to do the same here until I arrived and realized that Norfolk has exactly zero runnable roads. There are no sidewalks or shoulders on the main roads, and side roads are too short and winding, requiring more turns than I allow myself when I’m in a new city and highly prone to getting lost.

That left me with my only option of running on the hotel treadmill. Now, I should say that I’m actually a treadmill veteran who used to do over 50% of my runs on that crazy machine. I primarily did so for safety / weather / convenience reasons, and I generally didn’t mind it. But in the past year or so, I’ve been running exclusively outside, and the dreadmill has since become unbearable.

So with 10 miles on the plan, I was less than excited. I arrived at the gym to see that it was literally half the size of my hotel room (which granted, is a large suite). Still, I knew I was in for a mental adventure, and so began the following train of thought:

Pre-run: Good – there’s only one other person in here. But crap, he’s on one of the treadmills. I hate when there’s a sea of empty machines and someone else gets on the machine right next to you. But sorry, dude, there are only two treadmills, and they’re both in the same corner of the room. Sorrrry.

Mile 1: I can’t hear the communal TV. I wish I still had an iPod. Dude next to me is listening to his iPod. I bet he’s having more fun than me. Treadmills are so weird. Don’t fall off.

Miles 2: Holy shit, it’s burning up in here! I can’t breathe. I wonder what the thermostat is set to… not that it matters, because there’s a locked plastic box around it. Why can’t we change the temperature, Residence Inn?? What are you trying to do to us??

Mile 3: Treat this as a good mental training day, Chen. Ignore the heat. Ignore the boredom. If you can get through this, a marathon in cool weather will feel delightful. Yeah, delightful. Go with that.

Mile 4: Dude just left. Now I can turn up the TV and actually know what’s going on. And… what’s that?? Is that cool air blowing onto my face??? I don’t know how this is happening. I wonder if the hotel staff is secretly watching me, thinking, “damn, that girl is sweaty as hell, we better pump up the A/C.” WHATEVER. IT’S AWESOME. STALK AWAY, HOTEL FOLKS.

Mile 5: Emeril Lagasse and Ty Pennington are on Good Morning America trying to break the record for the tallest stack of pancakes. Previous record was 2 feet, 10 inches. Can they do it?? They’re using pumpkin pancakes. Mmm. I’m hungry.

Mile 6: It’s getting hot again. Where did that cool air go? Maybe I don’t need to do 10 miles today… maybe I can just add on some extra miles tomorrow. No, Chen, you know that won’t happen. You’ll just get home and order crab fried rice instead. Suck it up.

Mile 7: My shirt is completely soaked. I forgot how much sweatier you get when running indoors and there’s no airflow. Glad I’m alone in here. That dude from before would be horrified right about now.

Mile 8: They did it! 2 feet, 10.25 inches! I wonder what they’ll do with all those pancakes. Maybe they'll mail them to me if I ask.

Mile 9: Live with Kelly and Michael just came on. Sounds so weird. Wonder what Regis is up to these days. Kelly has ripped arms. I need to start lifting again.

Mile 10: OMG. I’m so sweaty that I can feel my socks squishing and my shoes are now squeaking against the belt. I hope I don’t wipe out. Don’t wipe out. That belt is super sweaty and you don’t want your face to rub against it.

Mile 10.2: Thank the good lord - I'm done and I didn't face plant into my own puddle of sweat!

Post-run [looking in mirror]: OMG I GOT SO SWEATY THAT MY (WHITE) SHORTS ARE NOW SEE-THROUGH. Can I dry it off? Nope. Should I wrap the towel around myself while I walk through the lobby? No – they’ll think I’m trying to steal their towels. OK – just walk really, really fast and hope none of your coworkers are also attending this training and staying in the same hotel. Annnnnd here we go…. No guests in lobby… and front desk person is on the phone, not paying attention! #WINNING!

Sadly, I have to do my run tomorrow on the same treadmill, but only 5 miles this time. I'll be sure not to wear white shorts.

And, since I don't have any pictures of Norfolk, here's a picture from my flight over:

You better believe I filtered that $h!t