Friday, January 27, 2012

On the way to see Mickey

This is my first time using the Blogger app to post from my iPhone... I have a 2+ hour layover in Seattle so writing is a good way to pass the time.

The last few days I was really busy with work trying to get caught up before starting my vacation. I was still sending emails after midnight on Wednesday. Okay, I guess technically that's Thursday but I think you know what I mean.

I was still able to fit in my daily workouts, although on Wednesday it was just a quick two miles at 9:30pm and then back to work. 12 days of the 30 day challenge complete! There have definitely been days when I didn't feel like leaving the house so the challenge has been good for making me stay active.

Even though I'm not flying out to Anaheim until today, I took yesterday off from work so I could get some stuff done. I've found this to be a good strategy for me when getting ready to travel. It was a beautifully sunny day yesterday so of course I had to go out for a run. It was nice to head out with no specific plan in mind since I didn't have to stick to my normal nighttime running routes. I did about 7.8 miles at 9:06 pace. I took a couple photos that I'm attaching to this post but I have no idea where they're going to appear when it's published.

I woke up at 5:35 this morning for my 7am flight. That's the nice thing about flying out of small, local airports... No need to arrive two hours in advance to get through security. The 5k tonight is at 10:30 so it's going to be a long day but so worth it! I'm just doing the 5k as a fun run and planning to take a lot of photos along the way. Disneyland, here I come!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I'm going to Disneyland!

This time next week I'll be at Disneyland!

Disneyland 1/2 Marathon expo in 2009

I'm so ready for a vacation (although I'm already dreading how much work I'm going to come back to). And as much as I've enjoyed seeing how pretty everything looks covered in snow, I'm ready to escape to someplace warmer. But there's one thing I didn't realize until this week when I started looking at the weather forecast... it actually gets pretty cold in Anaheim at night.

I'm going to be running two races while I'm down there. The Never Land 5k is on Friday night and starts at 10:30pm. The Tinker Bell Half Marathon is on Sunday morning and starts at 5:45am. At first I had been thinking... running in California? No problem, I'll just pack my usual race tanks and shorts. But now that I know it'll be around 50 degrees during both races, I'm definitely rethinking my clothing options. I'm leaning towards long sleeves and capris, although I'll probably bring a short sleeve tech shirt too, just in case it's warmer than expected.

Aside from thinking about what to pack, I've also been planning my schedule for the trip. I don't get super crazy and try to tour the parks commando-style with everything planned down to the minute. But when I'm at Disney (either coast) I like to at least have a rough plan mapped out. The good thing about Disneyland is that I don't have to figure out which park(s) I'll be at for each day of the trip. And I haven't had to make any dining reservations since right now I'm not planning on any table service dining... Although that might change if I decide I just can't resist a monte cristo. Or this 24-layer chocolate cake from Steakhouse 55... it even has a nutella and cream layer!

Side tangent: do you think Disney actually stocks their kitchen with jars of Nutella or are they just using nutella to refer to a chocolate hazelnut flavor? Whenever I hear the word Nutella, I picture the distinctive plastic jar with the white label that I always had on hand in college. But now I'm starting to wonder if nutella has become a generic descriptor like kleenex, xerox, and zipper.

Anyway, here's what my general schedule looks like.

  • Disneyland Hotel for lunch at Tangaroa Terrace and the expo
  • Afternoon/evening at Disney's California Adventure park
  • 5k
  • Short two mile morning run
  • Full day at the parks, ending with the World of Color show
  • Try to be in bed by 10pm
  • 4am wake up call
  • Half marathon
  • Full day at the parks, ending with the fireworks
  • Short two mile morning run
  • Breakfast and browsing at Downtown Disney

I'm so excited for this trip! I have a lot to do in the next week so hopefully the time will pass quickly and before I know it I'll be back in Disneyland!

Disneyland 5k fun run in 2009

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Running in place

Literally. I couldn't get over to the gym today because of all the snow and I wasn't about to run on icy sidewalks/roads in the dark (and cold) so I ended up running in place for 30 minutes. I figure that's got to be the equivalent of running 1.5 miles, although maybe not because I barely broke a sweat. At least I was doing something active. If not for the challenge I probably would have just settled in for a lazy evening sitting on the couch reading a book or playing Portal 2. Instead I "ran" and then hula hooped for 20 minutes while watching Criminal Minds.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snow day

Mornings like today are the best. With no races or long runs planned, I was able to spend a few hours snuggled warm in bed with my laptop and iPhone. Even if I'm doing something productive, it just feels more relaxing to stay in bed than say get up and move to the couch. I did some itinerary planning for my trip to Disneyland for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon... only ten more days! Then because I still wasn't ready to leave the comfort of bed, I finished reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on my iPhone. (I recently discovered that all of L. Frank Baum's Oz books are in the public domain and available to download to my iPhone so I decided to reread them.) Did you know that in the original book Dorothy actually had silver shoes instead of ruby slippers?

When I finally managed to get myself out of bed, I discovered that it had snowed again this morning. So of course, I decided that my boyfriend and I needed to build a snowman!

I was hoping to make it bigger, but the snow was too powdery and we were having a hard time getting it to stick. Still, it was fun to get outside and play in the snow.

After that I headed out for a short run since today is the start of my challenge to run at least 1.5 miles a day for 30 days. I was nervous about slipping on the snow/ice so I took it pretty easy and did 2.4 miles at about a 9:45 pace.

I realized I had all three pairs of my Brooks Adrenalines off the shelf today so I snapped a quick photo. The two pairs that I wasn't wearing were drying from yesterday's rain and today's snow.

As you can see, I stay pretty loyal to specific shoe models. Before the Adrenalines, I had three or four pairs of Saucony Hurricanes. But it's about time to switch things up again. I just added up my mileage on the newest pair of Adrenalines and I'm already at 330 miles in less than four months. I've really liked the Adrenalines a lot, but at my last gait analysis the person recommended I try switching over to a more neutral shoe so I'm going to give it a shot. Maybe next weekend I'll do some shoe shopping. It'll be fun to test out some new running shoes.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Nookachamps Half Marathon - A rainy day race report

I've been lucky that over the last three years I've never had to race in the rain. (And I've only run in the rain a few times.) Well today, my luck ran out. I guess it had to happen eventually, especially now that I'm living back in the Pacific Northwest.

Despite waking up to a snowy landscape this morning...

I still drove about 40 minutes south to Mount Vernon for the Nookachamps Winter Runs. In Mount Vernon instead of snow I was greeted by a steady rainfall. I picked up my race bib and waited for the start of the race within the wamth of the Skagit Valley Community College gym where we had the luxury of real bathrooms. I kept hoping that the rain would stop, but no such luck. Okay, time to find out what it's like to race in the rain.

Because of the rain, I wore a light jacket over a long-sleeve tech shirt. It was nice having the jacket pockets to hold my GU chomps. I put my Garmin on between the two layers to keep it from getting too wet, but didn't realize that once my jacket got wet it would be hard to push back the sleeve to see the watch. I checked my pace a couple times during the first mile, then just ran the rest of the race on feel. I gave up any thought of trying to finish within a specific time.

Around mile three I remember thinking that my toes felt squishy which was an odd sensation. About five or six miles in, the rain stopped but I was already soaked through. I wondered how much extra weight I was carrying betwen my wet hair, clothes and shoes. A couple times when we were running into the wind, I tried running close behind another runner to "draft" but it didn't seem to make a difference. I ran past a road sign somewhere at the end of a driveway that read "Let Er Rip Tater Chip Street". I wished I had a camera and even thought about driving back to take a photo later but had no idea where I was on the course.

Miles nine and ten were an out and back. I enjoyed the opportunity to see some of the other runners on the course. The only issue was that it wasn't clear which side of the road to be on. Most people were staying to the right, but this meant that runners on their way back had to make a left turn and cross paths with those on their way out. There needed to be cones on the road and/or someone directing traffic.

Compared to last week I felt as though I was putting in more effort but running at a slower average pace. (Even though I wasn't looking at my Garmin, I had it set to alert me if I was running over an 8:15 pace. It beeped quite a few times through the last half of the course, and not just on uphills, so I knew I was slowing.) Mentally I didn't have the drive to push myself today, so during the last few miles of the race I used other people on the course to pull me along, especially during mile 13. There was a guy right in front of me leading the way and I was determined not to fall behind.

I crossed the finish line somwhere around 1:44:28 according to my Garmin. (The official results aren't posted online yet.) It's actually my second best half marathon time, just behind last week's PR, so I'm pretty happy. I collected my finisher's medal and headed back to the gym to grab some water and change into dry clothes before heading home.

Ultimately I'm glad that I was forced to race in the rain. (I was already pre-registered and wasn't about to make today my first DNS.) It was cold and wet, but I made it through. Wearing a running hat and moisture-wicking clothes was definitely key for success. The only minor discomfort was from having wet socks and shoes, but by the end of the race I wasn't thinking about the squishiness anymore. Maybe I'd feel differently if it was a harsher rain or if it had rained the entire 13.1 miles or if I had to drive home in wet clothes. But for now I won't be so worried next time I see a forecast of rain for race day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thoughts on a sub 1:40 half

This Saturday I'm running in the Nookachamps Winter Runs 1/2 Marathon in Mount Vernon. I'm debating whether to try for another PR, specifically a time of sub 1:40.

If I run exactly 13.1 miles, I'll need a pace of 7:38. But if I factor in some wiggle room for not running the tangents perfectly, I'll need closer to a 7:30 pace. It's crazy to me that I'm even considering the possibility of running at a 7:30 pace for 13.1 miles. My current 10k PR was run at a 7:34 pace and I can still remember how much effort that took. But then again, I didn't expect to run the half last Sunday at a 7:46 pace. And while Sunday was by no means an easy run, I finished feeling like I still had a little something left in the tank.

It's not out of the realm of possibility to get another half PR so soon. Last year I got back-to-back PRs running the National Half Marathon on a Saturday and the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon the very next day... both without intentionally trying. Actually part of me wonders if I'm overthinking this since I seem to have done just fine setting new PRs (at least at the half marathon distance) in the past without any planning.

For now I'll do my best to set myself up for the possibility of a PR. I'll stick to an easy run tomorrow and a light workout on Friday. I'll (try to) cut down on my snacking... that's my weakness. And I need to go to bed early enough to get eight hours of sleep the next few nights. So with that, it's time to say good night.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cupcakes and a challenge

Yesterday after the race I ran some errands before going home, which included picking up these yummy treats from Katie's Cupcakes in Fairhaven.

The flavors are mint cookies & cream, chocoholic, carrot cake, and peanut butter banana fudge.

I love cupcakes and these were moist and flavorful, just the way I like them. A delicious way to celebrate my new PR! (Don't worry, I didn't eat all of them. My boyfriend had two, but of course I made him share a couple bites with me so I could try all four flavors.)

While in Fairhaven I stopped by Fairhaven Runners & Walkers to drop off my race registration for another half marathon this Saturday. I had been holding off on registering until I knew that there was a good chance of decent weather.

Fairhaven Runners & Walkers is doing a 30 day challenge starting January 15. The rules are simply to work out everyday for 30 days in order to make exercise a habit. Normally I don't participate in challenges like this, but what caught my attention was earning a free Bellingham trails map upon completion (a $5 value), and the opportunity to be entered into a drawing for cool prizes. It'll also be good to have a goal to work towards. I've been feeling a bit aimless lately since I'm not training for anything in particular right now.

I've decided that my personal challenge will be to run (at least) one and a half miles a day for the 30 days. I chose that distance because if I run from my house up the road until the sidewalk ends, it's just under two miles. Also for the days that I go to the gym it seems silly to just hop on the treadmill for a mile. 15 minutes seems like a good amount of time, but isn't too long so I can still get some cross training in as well.

I admit I'm actually nervous about completing this challenge. I've never worked out 30 days in a row, let alone run 30 days in a row. I tried doing a streak of at least three miles a day last June and it only lasted 11 days. But one and a half miles should definitely be more achievable. The hardest part will be making time on the non-race days while I'm down at Disneyland later this month.

What's your longest running streak? Are you participating in any fitness challenges right now, or planning to later this year?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

First PR for 2012 at Lake Samish Runs

I'm happy to have a new PR to write about for my first race report on my new blog. But before I get into the details, let me back up a bit first to give you some background.

The Greater Bellingham Running Club is the local running club in my area. They have a pretty good schedule of races throughout the year and for a $20 membership fee, members can participate in any of the races for free. This is an amazing value that I'm definitely planning to take advantage of this year.

Today's race was called the Lake Samish Runs and included options for either 6.5 miles or 13.1 miles. For the half marathon, we ran two loops around the lake.

Since it was a free race I was mainly approaching today as a training run and my only goal was to finish sub two hours. I thought I could get close to my half marathon PR (1:45:21, 8:03 pace) since last weekend I ran 14.4 miles at an 8:43 pace. I also figured that I'd break my PR at some point this year since it was set on an extremely windy day. But I hadn't anticipated that today would be the day for a new PR.

I started the race running at what felt like a comfortable pace. When I checked my Garmin, I was surprised to see that I was running in the 7s and tried to pull back a little because of course I didn't want to go out too fast. But once the pack spread out and I settled into my own little zone, I was still maintaining a sub 8 pace without much effort. During the first loop I felt like the distance was going by very slowly. The course had a few rolling hills but none large enough that I was dreading them the second time around. Here's a photo from sometime during the first loop - maybe around mile 4 or so?

After the first loop, I realized I hadn't had any fuel yet and took an orange GU energy gel. I think the caffeine gave me some kick because I passed two women during the first mile of the second loop. My goal then became to stay ahead of them for the rest of the race (which I did). My splits don't show it, but mentally the second loop passed more quickly for me. I guess it helped knowing what was ahead on the course. I had two GU chomps at the beginning of mile 12, then just focused on getting to the finish line.

I finished in 1:41:47 (7:46 pace) which put me at:
  • 48 out of 164 total finishers
  • 9th female finisher
  • 4 out of 23 in the 20-29 age group (which earned me a ribbon)

Now that I think about it, despite my new PR the overall race was pretty uneventful. Everything just kind of fell into place and I felt good throughout the run. My feet are a little tender, but my legs aren't sore at all. I'm pretty sure I have it in me to aim for a sub 1:40 half... maybe even next weekend? But I'll get into that in another post.

I want to mention a few of my observations about the race in general. First, the positives:
  • Chip timing - Even though it was only a gun start, I'm still impressed that the finish was chip timed. I didn't expect that for what I thought would be a small, local race...
  • Size of race - based on the results, there were about 350 participants between both distances. I'm not really sure whether to still consider that a small race. I liked that there weren't a lot of people to weave around, but there were enough people that I never felt like I was the only one on the course. (Also, I'm not sure I can even consider it a local race since the results show there were people who drove down from Vancouver and up from Seattle.)
  • Mile markers - There were mile markers. Not much else to say, except that I've paid higher registration fees for races without them.
  • Post-race food - A good spread with hot soup, bread, and cookies. I think there may have been coffee too.
It's hard to really make a complaint about a free race. So let's just say these are a couple areas for improvement:
  • Shuttles - There's limited parking at the race start so a lot of us had to park about a mile away and take a shuttle van over. While the wait wasn't awful, there was a decent line and it would have helped to add another shuttle. (Although I think they already did go from one shuttle to two this year.) Or as an alternative I'd suggest either limiting the shuttle to runners or asking non-runners to drop their runner off at the start before parking.
  • Water - Actually, I guess it could be considered a positive that they even had water (and Gatorade). There was one water stop on the course that the half marathoners passed twice, and one at the finish. It would be nice to have a second one on the course, making a total of five water stops for the half.
Today was a great way to kick off my 2012 racing season, and I hope there are still more PRs to come in my future.

Friday, January 6, 2012

RRS lighted running hat

I started a new book tonight called Born Under A Lucky Moon by Dana Precious. I picked it up at the library because it was labeled a "hot pick", but so far I'm not that into it. The characters feel too over-exaggerated and unrelatable to me. It's like the author made a checklist of stereotypical characters that should be included in a dysfunctional family and checked them off one-by-one as she worked them into the book. Kind of like how you can tell that the people in a group photo have been carefully selected to show diversity. The sign of a good book is one that I can't put down, but here I am typing up a blog post because I needed a break from reading.

I want to do a quick review of my new lighted running hat from Road Runner Sports. I wore it out for my run last night, the first time this winter that it's been completely dark when I left the house.

The hat has four LED lights built into the brim and is battery-powered. It doesn't feel any different than a regular hat, although there is a barely noticeable bulge where the batteries are located. There are three different settings for the lights, but most of the time I just leave all four lights on.

I bought the hat thinking it would be a good alternative to strapping on a bulky headlamp, but unfortunately it's not really that bright. It helps fill in the gaps between street lights, but I'll need an actual headlamp if I ever do any nighttime trail running. Even with the lighted hat, I was still startled last night by a man standing in the shadows at a bus stop, and there were a couple times when I slowed down slightly because I couldn't see the sidewalk clearly and was worried about tripping.

I think the biggest benefit of this hat is that it increases my visibility to drivers. I usually wear a hat when running anyway so it's an easy way to be a bit safer at night.

A new thin mint alternative?

The weather was nice (i.e. not raining) tonight so I decided to go out for a run instead of heading to the gym. My plan was 90 minutes and it was just under 93 minutes when I arrived back home. I had my running app set to notify me of the time every five minutes but I didn't know my distance or pace, so I was surprised to see that I ran 10.6 miles... an 8:46 pace!

But then I promptly undid all my hard work with an after dinner snack. I told my boyfriend I was craving something sweet and he brought me these to try...

Fudge Mint Cookies from 7-11

Yum, these 7-11 fudge mint cookies are delicious, and dare I say perhaps even better than thin mints! I had a nice evening curled up with a book, a warm class of milk, and these cookies. I ate half the box (six) before I had to stop because it was getting late.

Then... I looked at the back of the box. (I probably should have checked first, but felt like indulging a bit tonight.) The deliciousness definitely comes at a price. Four thin mints are 160 calories and although these are larger I figured the calorie count would be close. But just two of the 7-11 cookies are 180 calories! I'm not actively counting calories or anything so I'm not super worried about it; I was just surprised. But as my boyfriend said, there's a reason they taste so good.

I'll finish the rest of the box (maybe two at a time instead) but then stick to thin mints (or grasshoppers) after that. It's a good thing that as of now, Girl Scout cookie season in my area starts in 6 days and 22 hours so I'll be able to stock up again soon. :-)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Treadmill thoughts

Over the years I've read a lot about treadmill running, but only two things have really stuck with me.
  1. Set the treadmill at a slight incline to make up for the lack of wind resistance.
  2. Don't run at the very front of the treadmill. The "sweet spot" is more toward the middle of the belt.
Do you follow either of these tips? I honestly don't remember the exact reasoning behind #2, so please share if you have more information!

I went to the gym tonight with the intention of running for an hour. I'm trying to get back in the habit of doing one or two midweek runs in addition to my long run on the weekends. I had a very successful run, thanks to a simple helper... a handy dandy post-it note!

I'm sure this isn't a new trick, but I've found that using a post-it note to cover up the time display on the treadmill keeps me from getting bored counting down the minutes. Instead I focus on the distance. I don't find counting the miles as tedious. I think it's because I can control the speed to make the miles pass more quickly if I want, just like when running outside. I still usually try to run for a set amount of time instead of a set distance, but once I'm close to the end of a treadmill run the last few minutes aren't so bad.

The treadmills at the gym are set for a max of an hour. I got through the first 60 minutes and still felt good, so I decided to keep going for another 30.

Total of about 9.6 miles (I always round down) in 90 minutes for an average 9:23 pace.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What's ahead in 2012

2011 was a very exciting year for me. On just the running side of things:
  • I set new 5k, 10k and half marathon PRs.
  • I won Disney's Expedition Everest Challenge (again).
  • I ran my first marathon!
In my non-running life:
  • I switched roles at my company and started working from home.
  • After only 1 year and 3 months in Baltimore, I packed up again and moved back to my hometown of Ferndale, Washington, with a two month stopover in Ithaca.
Things are settling down at home and work, and I'm looking forward to 2012 being another great year for running. To start with, I stumbled across a sponsorship opportunity a few days ago. It's a local restaurant that wants to show community support by sponsoring local runners. I already applied and was accepted and I'll share more details once things are finalized.

These are some of the highlights of my 2012 racing calendar:
  • January 27 & 30, Never Land 5k and Tinker Bell Half Marathon - To be honest I'm not that thrilled about the half being a female-oriented event, but Disney races are always a fun time. The Disneyland Half Marathon is still my favorite race ever.
  • March 31, Birch Bay Road Race 30k - It's only a 20 minute drive from home and my first time doing a 30k.
  • May 5, Expedition Everest Challenge - I've done this race every year since 2008 and I'm not ready to break the streak yet.
  • May 20, Rock 'n' Roll Portland 1/2 Marathon - I debated this for quite a while and finally signed up yesterday just before the price increase. It's expensive for a half, but I like inaugural events. My boyfriend agreed to drive me so it'll be a nice weekend getaway for us.
  • June 23, Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon - I ran the inaugural half in 2009 so now it's time to tackle the full.
  • September 29, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler - Another inaugural event and another trip to Walt Disney World. I love WDW this time of year and it'll be great to spend time at the Food & Wine Festival.
  • November 25, Seattle Marathon - I feel like I need to do this race at least once just to say I've done it.
I'll also be doing several smaller, local races sprinkled throughout the year, including a possible half marathon next weekend. It should be a jam-packed year and I can't wait. Here's to a fabulous 2012!

New year, new blog

It's been two years since I let my previous blog lapse. I was in the midst of some life changes and got too busy to post. Then once things settled down it seemed so overwhelming to try and pick it up again. But over the last few months there have continually been moments where I think to myself, "I wish I had a blog to share this on." Today just seemed like a good day for a fresh start.

The hardest part of blogging for me is putting my thoughts into words that I'm comfortable with being immortalized on the Internet. I used to get bogged down a lot trying to get my posts just RIGHT. This time around I'm going to try and go with the flow and just WRITE what's on my mind. I don't have the time to spend hours on each post. In fact, I think I'll make it a goal to spend no more than 30 minutes on a post. I'm almost at that limit now and I've only written two paragraphs... see what I mean?

Anyway, this blog is going to be centered around running, with some eating, Disney, and other randomness thrown in as well. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll follow me and keep on reading.