Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Smelt Run 10k Race Report

Last Saturday morning I drove down to La Connor, WA for the Smelt Run. It was raining pretty hard during the drive, but the weather cleared to just a slight drizzle by the time I got to La Conner. Like the Nookachamps Half Marathon, the race was based at a school so there was a warm, dry place to wait and real bathrooms.

The "race packet" included my bib and a map of the course.

I glanced at the map just long enough to scope out the 10k course and see that it was broken into a loop and then an out and back. I should have paid closer attention because I thought the two segments of the course were about equal, but that first loop was actually just under two miles. It messed with my mind a bit during the run and I was glad I wore my Garmin. The map needs a big "not to scale" disclaimer.

Both the 5k and 10k races started at 10am. I'd guess there were a couple hundred people running. I didn't have a specific goal pace in mind so when the race started I just took off at a pretty brisk pace and decided to keep it up as long as I could. I found a runner to use as my pacer and kept him in my sight for the first few miles.

The loop took us through what I think was the main downtown area and La Conner seemed like a nice, quaint little town. Then we headed out into the county roads for the out and back portion. I was breathing hard, but overall still felt pretty strong. That is until we turned a corner and were running against the wind. A few times during this stretch I tried drafting behind another runner. It actually seemed to work in conserving energy, but I didn't draft for too long because it was disconcerting not really being able to see the road ahead.

Somehow along the way I passed the guy I had been following and managed to stay ahead of him for about a mile until he caught back up somewhere during mile 5, and then slowly pulled away during mile 6. I never completely lost sight of him though.

It seems kind of silly to say the last mile of the race was hard. I mean, when is the last mile of a race ever easy? But I was definitely feeling the effort and kept thinking to myself "just one more mile, less than 10 minutes, you can do anything for 10 minutes". This worked until we turned another corner and hit what felt like the strongest headwind of the entire race. It was really tempting to slow down, but the rest of the race had gone so well that I knew I couldn't give up now.

When I hit the six mile mark and I could see the finish line in the distance, I tried to give a final kick and pass the girl in front of me, but I just didn't have it in me. Looking back, I think I could have given more physically, but mentally I didn't care enough to push through the pain. I wonder whether I would have acted differently if I had a personal time goal or knew there was a definite chance of placing in my age group. This mental aspect of running is something that I need to keep working on.

Anyway, I finished in 48:06 which I'm quite pleased with. I accomplished my basic goal of getting out for a faster paced run than I would typically do on my own.

Friday, February 24, 2012


I was talking to my mom today about how I feel a cold coming on and whether taking cold medicine three times today instead of just twice would help as a preventative measure. She said that drinking water and getting rest will do more good than extra medicine at this point. I sheepishly responded that I already drink a lot of water... but what went unsaid was that I don't get enough rest. I'm a night owl and it's rare that I get to bed before midnight. And even once I get in bed I usually read or surf the Internet for awhile before finally drifting off to sleep. I always tell myself that I'll do better tomorrow or catch up over the weekend, but of course it never happens.

I also looked back at my workout log and realized that today is only the second rest day I've taken since January 7. And if I go back a bit further than that, I've only had three rest days since December 28. Hmmm, no wonder I'm getting sick again.

Part of the reason for the lack of rest days was because of the Fairhaven Runners 30 day challenge that I've mentioned previously. Their rules were to work out everyday for 30 days, which I did. But my personal goal was to run at least 1.5 miles everyday. Since I got snowed out of running just four days in, I extended my daily run for four days after the challenge ended so I could truly say that I completed what I set out to do.

Then I promptly ended the running streak the next day. I actually did consider keeping it going, but I had to drive down to Seattle last Saturday to get my car serviced and the gym was closed by the time I got back and I didn't feel like running in the rain. Yeah, I'm making excuses, but I think I deserved a rest day.

Today is also a rest day because I'm supposed to be running a 10k tomorrow and then I've got a long 16 mile training run scheduled for Sunday. I wrote "supposed to" like I'm still considering it, but really I've decided that unless something super crazy happens I'm going to run the race, even with the forecast showing 90% chance of rain. I know it's not the wisest thing to do when I'm not feeling well, but I really hate the thought of DNS-ing a race. I'd rather run it easy then completely skip it.

Anyway, where was I going with this... basically that my mom's advice today reminded me of the importance of rest. Both in getting enough sleep and giving my body a chance to recover between workouts. Now if I could just get better at actually following that advice...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Count with me

A look at what I've been up to recently...

ONE new pair of shoes - Until now I've always run in stability shoes, but based on a couple gait analyses last year I decided to give neutral shoes a try. After test driving (test running?) a few pairs at Fairhaven Runners, I ended up with the Brooks Defyance 5. They're supposed to be the neutral version of the Brooks Adrenaline that I've been wearing for the past year and a half, and they really do feel about the same. My only complaint is that I wish there was a bit more cushioning, but otherwise they've been great during my recent runs.

TWO For The Road - This is a 5k race that I volunteered at last weekend. It was organized by the local running club so it was pretty low key, but a lot of fun. Being close to Valentine's Day, the concept of the race is that you're encouraged to run with a partner and cross the finish line together, each holding one end of a piece of string. I mainly helped with the registration for the parent/child category, but I also got a glimpse at how hectic it is to capture finish times at a non-chip timed event. It was neat to experience a race from the other side of things and it's something that I should do more often.

THREE new items of clothing - Road Runner Sports had a 25% off sale so I bought a pair of capris and two pairs of shorts. The last time I bought running shorts (also from Road Runner) was in 2009! Actually I wasn't even planning on buying the shorts, but they were on sale and then with the 25% off they were only $15 each. It doesn't get much cheaper than that.

FOUR race registrations - Yep, I just registered for four races on four Saturdays in a row, starting next weekend. One of the races is a club race so it's free. It's also a half marathon which I'll just use as a training run. The other three races are a 10k, 5k, and 5 miler which together were only $45 in registration fees. These I'm using for speed work since I'm really bad at doing speed work on my own.

FIVE books read so far in The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott - I randomly found this series a couple months ago while browsing my library's ebook catalog looking for something new to read. It's a young adult fantasy series that incorporates historical and mythical characters into a present-day setting. Every book in the series has captured my attention to the point where I don't get anything done throughout the day and I'm still reading at 1am because I can't put the book down. I recently finished the fifth book, The Warlock, and now I'm anxiously waiting for the release of the sixth and final book in the series on May 22.

SIX weeks until the Birch Bay Road Race 30k - Wow, this is coming up fast. I'm not worried about being able to finish, but I'd like to have a good race at something like an 8:30 pace and still feel strong at the finish. I need to put together a quick training plan for the next six weeks. Hmmm, 15-miler this Sunday maybe?

SEVEN miles - The distance I ran last night... well, actually 7.2 miles. Lately I've switched over to doing a lot of my running at night since I've been working really long hours. Like yesterday I started at 9:30pm. And a couple times during the last week I didn't leave the house until after 10:30pm. I don't know yet if I like this new schedule or not. It's kind of peaceful being out alone on the roads at night. But on the other hand, when I wait until that late to work out it basically limits me to running since my gym closes at 10pm. I haven't been doing as much cross training lately as I'd like.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tinker Bell weekend part 5 - Wrap up

After the half marathon, the rest of Sunday was of course spent at the parks. We started at California Adventure to grab fast passes for World of Color, then had a relaxing lunch at Paradise Garden Grill. The restaurant serves a selection of skewers and sauces that all come with a side of rice, cucumber salad, and pita bread.

I had the vegetable and tofu skewer with the chimichurri and tandoori-spiced yogurt sauces on the side. (Tip: you can ask for as many sauces as you want.) I liked the tandoori-spiced yogurt with the skewer and the chimichurri with the pita bread. It was a great post-race meal - tasty and filling without being too heavy.

We also enjoyed listening to some live music during lunch.

After lunch we did one of my favorite Disney attractions, Toy Story Mania, followed by Mickey's Fun Wheel. The ride has both swinging and stationary gondolas. Last time I was at Disneyland I don't remember having a problem with the swinging gondolas, but this time I was too motion sick to enjoy the view. I'm including this to remind myself: stick to the stationary gondolas from now on.

A great place to spend some time at California Adventure, especially if you want to escape the heat and sun, is the Disney Animation building. There's quite a bit to see and do, but the highlight for me is the Toy Story Zoetrope... it's like a flip book but in 3D.

Basically there are a bunch of characters in various states of movement. Once the disc that they're on starts spinning (and with the help of a strobe light), you can see the scene come to life. It's truly amazing! For more, check out this YouTube video about the zoetrope.

We also wandered over to Disneyland Park for awhile where we eventually grabbed sandwiches from the River Belle Terrace and brought them back with us to California Adventure to eat while waiting for World of Color to start. My turkey sandwich was good, but nothing special.

Sadly, I sort of felt the same way about World of Color... good, but nothing special. The water effects are definitely spectacular, but overall the show just wasn't that memorable. But then again, I only saw the first part of the show so maybe the ending would have wowed me. It was very disappointing; about 15 minutes in, the show just stopped with no explanation. Ugh. I considered staying to see if the second show would go on as scheduled, but decided that I needed sleep more than I needed to see World of Color. It'll just have to wait until the next visit.

When I woke up the next morning, I debated whether to run then or wait I got home that night. Ultimately I figured it was better to get it over with so I ran to get breakfast.

It was a short, easy 1.9 mile run, just enough for my challenge. My destination was Tangaroa Terrace again because they had a breakfast wrap that sounded good. Afterward I walked back through Downtown Disney and picked up a couple fun treats to take home with me.

I won't bore you with the details about the rest of my travel day. Overall I really enjoyed the trip, but as I told several of my coworkers when I went back to work the next day, I needed a vacation from my vacation. The running itself wasn't an issue, but combined with the travel, late nights and early mornings, and all of the walking around the parks, I was exhausted. But of course, that's not going to stop me from continuing to do Disney races or take other run-cations. In fact, now that I've got this report wrapped up, I need to start planning for my trip to Walt Disney World in May!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tinker Bell weekend part 4 - Half Marathon

Finally, the main event... my race report for the inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

It all started with a 4am morning alarm. We arrived at the start area a little before 5am, and bag check was quick and easy. As I made my way up to corral A, I stopped a few times at the port-a-potties and the lines were all fairly short. Compared to the inaugural Wine & Dine Half Marathon, I found this race to be much better organized.

I staked out a spot in corral A about 7 rows back from the start with a prime view of the stage. My goal for the race was simply to have fun, but I'm glad my half marathon times have improved enough that I can confidently start close to the front. The MCs from the Never Land 5k were back with more banter. They interviewed a couple celebrities that I've never heard of. There were some fireworks during the national anthem. And Minnie and Daisy came out to start the race off.

The first mile and a half were on the roads surrounding the resort. It was a good warm up, but then once we got backstage, it was time to be a tourist instead of a runner.

I've heard mixed reviews about these holiday floats, but I liked them. Anything interesting to look at is always a plus in my book.

I had to stray off course a bit for this photo, but the colorful boats caught my eye. Plus the blue boat was appropriately named Tinker Bell.

When we entered Disneyland park, there were so many character photo ops. The ones below are just a selection of the photos that turned out best and without any repeat characters from the 5k.

It was amazing to see so many princesses together, even though they make me feel short and inelegant. I need to learn how to do the princess hand clasp thing. Also I didn't even realize until I was looking through my photos afterward that Flynn Rider and Rapunzel are up on the float.

My camera didn't like the lights from the parade float that was behind us. In case you're wondering who Donald's friends are, these are The Three Caballeros.

I've heard a couple Tinker Bell participants mention running through the castle, but I don't think we did. At least I don't remember it. I'm pretty sure we just ran around the castle.

Edit: Okay, I was wrong about this. Apparently the course did go through the castle. I still have no recollection of it, but I've seen photographic proof. :-)

After leaving the park we ran through Downtown Disney.

For the first few miles of the race, my legs felt heavy and I was worried I had overdone it with all the running and walking the previous two days. But then after passing the Disneyland Hotel, we came across the most amazing sight. There were hundreds of ladies from the Red Hat Society all decked out in red and purple cheering us on. It was what I imagine the experience is like when people talk about the "wall of sound" at races like New York and Boston.

This was the perfect pick me up as we left Disneyland and headed out onto the streets of Anaheim. Now that I wasn't stopping every couple minutes for a photo, I was able to settle into a comfortable rhythm and felt good about staying strong for the rest of the race.

I didn't think there was anything particularly notable about the course as it wound through Anaheim. What kept things interesting was all the dancers, cheerleaders, and bands that were out along the course. I kept thinking about how I would have reacted as a high schooler being asked to get up that early on a weekend in order to cheer on a bunch of random runners. The cynical side of me wonders if they received an incentive like a free park ticket for participating. But whatever their motivation for being out there, I truly appreciated it. The best was when they'd see my name on my race bib and give a personal shout out for me. In return, I tried to wave, cheer, and of course take photos anytime I passed a group. The photos that I'm including in this post are just a small selection of the groups that were out on the course.

At mile 8 I finally remembered to take a GU, and it was also a good opportunity to get a photo of the mile markers with the Tinker Bell race logo.

It wasn't just high schoolers that provided entertainment. There were also Hawaiian dancers...

...and a military band.

I took this photo just to show how empty the roads were while I was running... another advantage of being in corral A. This doesn't look like a race with 12,000 people, does it?

I was glad that I didn't have to worry about getting in the way of other runners when I stopped to take random photos like this one. (Don't worry, I still stepped to the side of the road and looked behind me before I stopped.) The Disney Way sign meant that we were almost back at Disneyland. Just 3 miles left to the finish.

We reached California Adventure and wound through the park in sort of an S-shape. I'm not sure if this next photo is in the right order, but it's too funny not to include. I'm being chased by an angry fairy! (And I have no idea what I was actually looking back at.)

This photo is in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area of California Adventure.

I saw Sulley and George Sanderson (I had to look up his name) and gave them both giant hugs... they were so soft!

Here's another backstage photo just for fun. It'll be so great to see California Adventure once Carsland and the rest of the construction is finished. Maybe there'll be another new Disneyland race in a couple of years so I'll have a reason to go back.

With less than a mile to go, I saw the Luna cheer squad. They had a ton of hula hoops but no one was using them, so I decided to show them how it's done. I don't think there's any place but Disney where I'd stop to hula hoop during a race!

Coming into the finish, I tried to stop for one last photo with Minnie and Daisy, but was told by a race official to keep moving. There was no point in running the last few steps, so I walked across the finish line. That's a look of annoyance, not exhaustion, on my face.

My race stats:

  • Official chip time - 1:50:50
  • Pace - 8:28
  • Splits - 5k = 28:05, 10k = 53:23, 15k = 1:18:46
  • 165 out of 9,393 female finishers
  • 22 out of 1,407 in my age group
This was the most fun I've had while running in a long time. The race was well-organized and executed. The course was almost completely flat except for a few negligible inclines. The on-course support was excellent. There were water stops about every mile and a half, and as you've already read the entertainment was fantastic. Even the weather was perfect.

Before this, I used to say that the Disneyland Half Marathon was my favorite race, but now I think I'm going to have to call it a tie. I enjoy all Disney races, but what gives the west coast races the advantage is the convenience factor. Everything is within walking distance so there's no need to rent a car or waste time waiting around for buses. Registration is on the expensive side, but it's worth it for the experience.

Plus, just look at this medal!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tinker Bell weekend part 3 - FYTO5K and more

After all the excitement of Friday and not even getting back to the hotel until midnight, I turned off my morning alarm and planned to sleep in Saturday morning. Unfortunately we forgot there was a window in the bathroom and didn't shut the bathroom door so we were woken up early from the bright sunshine and I didn't get as much sleep as I would have liked. More rest would have definitely been nice, but since I was awake it was time to head out for another 5k.

Saturday was the day of the Freeze Your Thorns Off 5k virtual race hosted by Adam at The Boring Runner. Initially I was going to use the Never Land 5k for the virtual race, but then after I started my challenge of running at least 1.5 miles a day for 30 days, I decided why not just do the full 5k distance again on Saturday. I didn't "race" the race, but at least I was participating.

It's probably a good thing I didn't sleep in too late because it was already quite warm at 9am in Anaheim. No freezing of thorns or any other extremities here. I headed out with a vague idea for a route, but no clear plan in mind. I started by following the path from my hotel to the start line of the half marathon to gauge how long it would take to retrace my steps the next day. Along the way, I saw a side gate for Disneyland and stopped for photographic proof of my virtual race location.

Once I got to the half marathon start, around .8 miles in, I kept following that street and ultimately did a big loop around the Disneyland Resort area.

Aside from the "yay, I'm at Disneyland" factor, I'm sorry to say there was nothing remarkable to report about the run. According to my runtastic stats I finished in 27:45, not counting the almost one minute pause for either the photo or a stoplight. I don't even remember pausing the app anymore, but it's on my iPhone so it must be true.

With the "race" out of the way, I was ready to hit the parks again. We started in California Adventure hoping to get fast passes for the World of Color, but when we arrived they had just run out of passes for the early show. So we switched up the plan and decided to save World of Color for Sunday night. We moved over to Disneyland Park instead and I got the obligatory photo in front of the castle.

My stomach was growling so next up was the appropriately named Hungry Bear Restaurant.

I had been obsessing over this restaurant for at least a month leading up to the trip and knew exactly what I wanted to order: a fried green tomato sandwich with sweet potato fries and a lemon bumblebee cupcake.

The sandwich was delicious; the flavors of the fried tomatoes, remoulade sauce, and jicama-mango slaw all blended together perfectly. It was also a great value at $8.49 for the sandwich and fries. It's definitely something I would eat often if I had the opportunity. The cupcake was good, but not as exceptional as the cupcakes found at Walt Disney World.

The Hungry Bear is a great place for a relaxing meal. I enjoyed sitting along the waterfront watching the canoes and riverboat sail past.

For the afternoon, my goal was to check out some new to me attractions: the Storybook Land Canal Boats, Alice in Wonderland ride, and Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. Of the three, my favorite was the Storybook Land Canal Boats. When I was a teenager I loved thrill rides and never thought that I'd one day outgrow them. But now that I'm getting older, the unthinkable has happened. I don't have the same tolerance for thrill rides anymore and get motion sick more easily. And I also have a greater appreciation for all the special little details that Disney does so well.

The Storybook Land Canal Boats features amazing minature versions of locations from Disney movies. There were so many things to look at and details to take in. Now that I've experienced it and know what the attraction is about, its the kind of attraction that I'll keep coming back to again and again.

Alice in Wonderland's Village

Cinderella's Village and Castle

I'm not going to go into great detail about the rest of the afternoon, mainly because I don't have photos to help jog my memory. I do know that the heat was making me tired so we took things easy by riding the Disneyland Railroad, Monorail, and tried to stick to indoor attractions.

We caught the evening appearance of Mickey's Soundsational Parade and it was better than I expected. The music and dancing was a lot of fun. And again, it was neat just checking out all the details of the floats and costumes.

For dinner we split the chicken fusilli pasta and a side salad from Redd Rockett's Pizza Port. I had heard good things about the pasta, but unfortunately ours was undercooked to the point where some of the pasta was inedible.

The last thing on the schedule for the evening was the fireworks. We watched the show from Main Street and due to strong winds some of the fireworks were bursting off to the left instead of directly behind the castle. So not the ideal viewing, but it was still magical and a great way to end my second day at Disneyland.