Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesday thoughts

  • I had a great long run on Saturday. I headed out to the Bellingham Interurban Trail again with a goal to finish at least 18 miles. I made it to 21 and felt like I could have kept going. With that under my belt, I'm feeling a lot better about Rock 'n' Roll Seattle. I'm going to keep pushing hard for the next couple weeks and then do a short taper.
  • At the end of my run tonight I headed to the track to give the concept of Yasso 800s a try. It was getting late so I only did 4, but I'm happy with how they went. My ideal goal for the marathon is to finish under 4 hours which means that I should be running the 800s in under 4 minutes. I didn't capture my time for the first repeat, but the other times were 3:31, 3:36, 3:40. If I backed off the pace a little, I don't think I'd have any problem doing 10.
  • Thanks to Jill at Jill Will Run, I got a free copy of the Runner's Log iPhone app back in March. I've been diligently logging my runs for the past couple months. While it's neat to look back and see what I've done, the most awesome feature for me is being able to easily track the mileage on my shoes. I never had a great method for this before and always ended up calculating it manually. Now I can simply open the app and know that I've run 299.75 miles in my "new" shoes. Wow! I need to start looking into getting another pair of Brooks Defyance. The question is... do I get them before or after the marathon?
  • I've always liked Luna bars, but I'm absolutely in love with the chocolate dipped coconut flavor. I used to buy Luna bars individually so I had a variety of flavors, but now I'm buying the chocolate dipped coconut bars by the box since they're a bit cheaper that way (at Target). It's interesting how my tastes have changed as I've gotten older. I didn't used to like coconut very much, mainly because of the texture, but it's really grown on me in the last year or so. The Clif coconut chocolate chip bars are also good.
  • I seem to be constantly behind the times on good reads. I didn't read the Hunger Games trilogy until the movie was about to come out, and I never even heard of A Song of Fire and Ice series before Game of Thrones became popular on HBO. But wow, am I hooked now. I've finished the first two books and am anxiously waiting for the third to become available from the library. I can't believe that there are still two books that haven't been released yet. The suspense is going to kill me when I get to the end of book five.
  • I also read Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich recently. Of course the subject matter was interesting, but overall I found the writing to be a bit dull which made it feel almost like a chore to read. Instead of getting caught up in the adventure, it just seemed like a laundry list of aches and pains and other issues. I can't help but compare it to the books by Dean Karnazes. Even though both men accomplished amazing feats of endurance that I'll never ever come close to, somehow the Dean Karnazes books came across as more relatable and engaging to read.
  • I'll get around to wrapping up my Expedition Everest Challenge recap eventually, but right now I'm just not in the mood to work on it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll Portland Recap

Rock 'n' Roll Portland was an ideal weekend getaway. My boyfriend booked a surprise massage for me on Friday morning, and it was the perfect way to relax and start the vacation. On our way south we stopped in Mount Vernon for brunch. Then we drove straight through until we reached our hotel in Portland. I had my much anticipated sushi dinner at a random restaurant picked from Yelp and it was delicious.

On Saturday we had kolaches for brunch. They were good, but not as good as in Houston. Someday I'm going to have to run the Houston Marathon just so I have an excuse to go and visit all my favorite food spots.

Next up was the Expo. Packet pickup was a breeze - no lines at all. It's been over a year since my last Rock 'n' Roll race (Philadelphia 2010) and I'm so happy they've started offering women's cut shirts. (Now if only Disney would make the switch as well.) I can't remember if Brooks was a partner yet in 2010 or if it was still Sugoi, but this was definitely the first time I've seen the Brooks Run Happy Cavalcade of Curiosities. The carnival-like set up was a fun addition to the Expo.

I'm a fan of second (and third and fourth) opinions, so I did a gait analysis. It was a really neat set up where they used tablets to enter your info, capture the video, and show you recommendations. I even got a follow up email afterwards with images and a link to my video.

In the official merchandise area, we had a laugh at the Brooks fitting rooms:

The mirrors also had cute sayings:

Wow! That makes you look really fast!

I bought a commemorative pin for my collection, then we went to check out the rest of the Expo vendors. I picked up some BodyGlide and made the rounds collecting free goodies like Clif granola bars, coconut water, Larabars, Sport Beans, and Cascadian Farm granola. It was one of the best hauls I can remember getting from an Expo.

After leaving the Expo we decided to check out the Portland Saturday Market, which turned out to be in the same location as the race start. There were already signs and rows of port-a-potties set up in preparation for the next day. I was glad to have a chance to scope out the area. The market itself was more interesting than I expected. We didn't buy anything (aside from a sweet potato cupcake for me) but I liked looking at the variety of arts and crafts.

My boyfriend spotted one of the famous pink boxes and we realized that Voodoo Doughnuts must be close by. Like good tourists, we went and waited in line. Eventually we left with our own pink box full of treats.

There wasn't anything else I particularly wanted to see or do, so we just grabbed some dinner before heading back to the hotel. Based on another Yelp recommendation, we visited the Good Food Here street truck pod. Almost all the trucks had something that sounded good, but I finally settled on a pork meatball banh mi from Lardo. Oh my goodness, this sandwich was so flavorful and delicious... easily the best thing I ate all weekend.

Back at the hotel, I had a donut for dessert. The concept - yeast donut topped with chocolate, rice krispies, and peanut butter - was better in theory than in execution, but at least it satisfied my sweet tooth. I laid out my things for the race, then spent the last couple hours of the night relaxing and reading A Game of Thrones.

On Sunday morning I woke up around 6am and noticed that it was gray and cloudy outside instead of sunny as I'd been expecting. I made a last minute decision to wear capris instead of shorts, and grabbed a couple of the hotel towels to bring along with me in case it really started pouring. I let my boyfriend sleep in and drove myself downtown. I have to say that I really enjoyed the set up and location of the race. Personally I didn't run into any issues with traffic, closed roads, or parking. Also the start area didn't feel congested or crowded at all. Sure, there were the usual port-a-potty lines, but aside from that there was plenty of space to move around. There was no feeling of being herded along.

Before the race

I was assigned to corral 2, but decided to move back to corral 3 since I wasn't going to be racing the race. And if things went well, then it's nicer to be the one passing than the one being passed. I started out thinking I was going to run at a 9 min pace, but I ran the first mile in 8:45 and only got faster from there. I felt comfortable, but was constantly worried about hitting the wall. I guess I need to be more confident in myself because I actually ended up running a negative split. It also helped that the major hill was in the first half of the race.

Speaking of hills, there were a lot of them but overall it wasn't too bad. The major hill around miles 5 and 6 was long, but not that steep so I was able to run the whole thing. I was pretty annoyed at the two spectators at different points on the course who were yelling "this is the last hill" and "it's all downhill from here" when it really wasn't. People, unless you absolutely, 100% know for sure from running the course yourself, please just stick with the generic "lookin' good".

Overall I think I ran a strong, consistent race. I felt great the whole time. If I had wanted to, I could have pushed myself harder, but I wasn't out to set a PR. I just wanted to enjoy the race then get back to marathon training. I did pick it up a bit at the end once I finally realized that I wasn't going to hit the wall. Also I must have done an awesome job running the tangents because my Garmin was exactly at 13.1 when I crossed the finish line.

Time: 1:46:21
Pace: 8:07
Overall: 923 out of 11017
Gender: 298 out of 7733
Division: 49 out of 895

Everything about Rock 'n' Roll Portland was so well-organized from start to finish that I really can't think of anything about the race that needs to be improved or changed. Personally I probably won't run it again because the five hour drive is just a little too long. If I go that far south again I want to try a different race. But I would definitely recommend Rock 'n' Roll Portland as a great race worth running.

I didn't stick around very long afterwards because I wanted to get back to the hotel and see my boyfriend. I refueled with the chocolate milk that was handed out after the race, and the rest of the donuts.

I have to say that while the Voodoo donuts were good, and I give them points for creativity, they really didn't wow me enough to go back. Kind of like Doughnut Plant in New York. I'm glad I went once to give it a try and say that I've been there, but it's not worth waiting in line for overpriced donuts when I have access to a fabulous local donut shop.

Anyway, that basically wraps up the weekend since there's not much to say about the drive home. Rock 'n' Roll Portland is done and now there's just one month until I go for double the distance in Seattle.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Portland planning

I meant to blog yesterday, but I got caught up researching restaurants for this weekend's trip to Portland. I'm more excited about eating than I am about running. I've been craving good sushi for months, and I also stumbled across a place called the Happy Sparrow Cafe that makes kolaches! Back when my boyfriend and I lived in Houston, there was a Kolache Factory right down the street and we ate them practically every weekend. I'm also looking forward to checking out the Portland food truck scene.

Since it's my first trip to Portland, I tried looking for things to do besides eat, but nothing really stuck out to me as a must see attraction. Please me know if you have any recommendations!

For the most part, I think I'm recovered from the tendinitis in my left foot. I still feel a few twinges of discomfort every now and then, but overall I've been running pretty strong for the last three weeks. I don't have any concerns about being able to complete the half marathon on Sunday... I'm more concerned about Rock 'n' Roll Seattle next month. 

I don't have any plans to try for a PR in Portland. My goal is to finish in 1:50, which should be a slight challenge but achievable. I'll be happy with anything under two hours though.

After seeing the elevation charts for RnR Portland and Seattle, I figured I'd better leave the track and start working some hills back into my training runs. On Thursday I took a familar route near my house that includes a climb of about 300 feet in two miles. It's a gentle incline that I can handle without getting out of breath as long as I keep it slow and steady. On Sunday, I explored some new trails and unintentionally overdid it with the hills.

With the warm weather, I wanted to do my long run somewhere with shade so I drove to the Interurban Trail in Bellingham. I've only run the entire length of the trail once last fall and thought I remembered that there was a funky side path I had to take to get to the parking lot. I turned off at what I thought was that side path, but ended up being a trail up the mountain. I had no idea where I was going, but I decided to accept it as a good challenge and keep climbing. It took me about a mile to get to the lookout point where I was rewarded with a nice view of the bay.

From there I decided to follow the sign pointing me to Fragrance Lake, not knowing that it meant another uphill climb. Here's what the elevation chart for my run looked like.

It's a little hard to interpret because I can't figure out how to change the chart view in Runtastic to show distance instead of time. But basically it took me half an hour to cover two miles with a 900 foot elevation gain. Whew. There were definitely a lot of walk breaks thrown in there. I was happy to finally reach the lake and the flat trail that loops around the lake.

I thought the return trip would be easier, but I accidentally took a wrong turn away from the lake and ended up getting lost. I got a little scared being on unfamiliar trails, but thankfully I had my iPhone to tell me that at least I was heading in the right direction. With the help of some hikers I eventually found my way back to the Interurban Trail again. What was supposed to be a leisurely long slow distance run turned into a bit of an adventure, but it was fun and I don't seem to be suffering any ill side effects so far. The entire run was 15 miles and my legs felt like I could have kept going a little farther which is a good sign. I'm going to work my way up to 20 miles a couple weeks before Seattle and then taper.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Expedition Everest Challenge 2012 - Day 1 & Packet Pickup

I had such a fantastic vacation at Walt Disney World that I almost don't even know where to begin with this trip report. One of my goals for the trip was to go with the flow more and not worry about trying to fit everything in.  With that in mind, I didn't set a morning alarm at all during the trip. I think the first morning (Friday), I stayed in bed until around 10-10:30am. I thought about starting my day with packet pickup, but I was hungry so I went to Hollywood Studios to seek out some food instead.

I'd heard about something called a banana split from Starring Rolls Cafe that I never had a chance to try last year, so this time I made it my first "meal" of the trip. It's basically a creamy banana pudding on a chocolate graham cracker-like base with whipped cream on top. The textures and the rich banana flavor were incredible.

I picked up a fastpass for Toy Story Mania (for later that night), then figured I should get at least one attraction in while I was at the park so I waited in line and rode Tower of Terror. Then I stopped at Starring Rolls again and picked up a gigantic Butterfinger cupcake to take back to my hotel room for later.

From Hollywood Studios, I took the boat over to Epcot to look for more food. Actually, what I like to do is take the boat from Hollywood Studios to the Yacht & Beach Club stop, then walk from there to Epcot. That way I stay off my feet for the majority of the journey, but make it to Epcot slightly faster than the boat (because it makes another stop at the Boardwalk before finally reaching Epcot).

Friendship Boat at the Yacht & Beach Club dock

Epcot has so many great dining options that it's always hard to decide where to go. I swung by the bakery at the France Pavilion, but nothing appealed to me so I continued on to Japan where I tried the okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) from Katsura Grill.

I've had a Korean pancake with a firm, almost crispy texture that I really liked and I was expecting the okonomiyaki to be similar. Instead I was a bit disappointed that the inside was very soft, to the point where I was slightly worried that it might not be thoroughly cooked. (I didn't suffer any stomach problems afterwards so I guess that's how the okonomiyaki is supposed to be served.) What saved it from being a mushy disaster was the crunchiness of the cabbage filling and the tangy sauce on top. I liked it enough that I polished it off, but it's not something I'll probably order again.

I wandered around the rest of the World Showcase and caught a glimpse of some topiaries on my way out of the park.

I took the bus back to All Star Sports to drop off my cupcake, then another bus over to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the Expedition Everest Challenge packet pickup. I was getting nervous waiting for the bus to arrive, but I made it just in time for the course talk at 4pm.

Ultimately there wasn't anything major discussed at the course talk that I really needed to know. But I did ask for clarification on whether we needed to look for scavenger hunt hints/clues during the 5k run, and the answer (thank goodness) was no. In the past, the 5k and scavenger hunt have always been separate components, but there was a change in the race description on the website this year that made it sound like we'd need to keep our eyes open for information during the run. While it would have been an interesting twist to the event, I'm glad that it was separate because usually when I'm running hard I don't pay that much attention to my surroundings.

After the talk, I went over to another area to pick up my race bib, shirt, etc. Unfortunately Disney race shirts are always unisex except for the female-focused events (Princess, Tinkerbell) so I've never been able to wear them. Since it's the 5th anniversary of the race, Disney threw in a dinky pin and temporary tattoo. The race packet also included a commemorative pin that I purchased, and a bracelet for the after party at Animal Kingdom. On the race bib there's a weird graphic that looks almost like a QR code except it doesn't scan. I didn't notice it until after I left packet pickup and I never did figure out what it was for.

Every year Disney has this giant graffiti mural for people to sign. I'm not really sure what the relevance is, other than it looks cool and gives people something to do. Next year I'll have to try and remember to ask what they do with it after the event.

I took a photo of myself with the sign listing all the people who have done the Expedition Everest Challenge every year. There's not that many of us! 

I also stopped by the solutions booth to get my special gift for being a 5-time participant. I had no idea what the gift would be, and I was happily surprised to get this little guy...

In case you can't tell, it's a stuffed yeti with Mickey ears. On the back of the ears, it says "2012 - Perfect 5th Adventure".

And that's pretty much it for packet pickup. Then it was back on the bus to my hotel where I spent some time in my room just hanging out for awhile and enjoying the butterfinger cupcake I picked up earlier. Eventually I headed back out to Hollywood Studios.

I used my fastpass for Toy Story Mania... so much fun! When I finished the wait time was only 40 minutes, which is pretty low for the attraction. I considered waiting for another go at it, but decided to watch the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show instead. Ariel's pitch was a little off that night, but overall it's a good show.

By then it was about 8:30pm. I'd been planning to go to Epcot for dinner and Extra Magic Hours anyway, and I realized if I left right away I'd probably be able to catch IllumiNations too. So I took another boat ride/walk over to Epcot. IllumiNations isn't my favorite nighttime show, but I'm glad I got a chance to see it. For dinner I had a lamb wrap with a side of couscous from the Tangierine Cafe in Morocco.

Then I headed to The Land Pavilion. The line for Soarin' was long enough that I decided to skip it, but I did ride Living with the Land and watched the Circle of Life movie for the first time. The movie was interesting enough, but probably not something I'll do again for several years. I always enjoy the Living with the Land boat ride though. It's fascinating to see the different types of fruits and vegetables being grown and the innovative techniques that are used.

It was around midnight by the time I got back to my hotel. I love nighttime Disney races and not having to worry about going to bed super early. I pretty much stayed on Pacific time throughout the whole trip.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Better than third

Of course I'll be posting a long and detailed race report later, but I couldn't help wanting to at least make a quick post... I took 2nd place in the individual female category at Disney's Expedition Everest Challenge. I have mixed feelings right now. I'm happy I placed but I'm a bit disappointed it wasn't first. It's hard for me not to keep replaying in my mind what I could have done differently. Don't get me wrong, I know that 2nd place is totally awesome and a lot of people would love to be in my shoes. But there was definitely a part of me that was hoping for first. Anyway, it's time to put that behind me for now and continue to enjoy the rest of my vacation. I'll try not to take too long after I get home to start writing the recap.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Let the magic begin!

The days leading up to a vacation are usually pretty stressful but I feel like this time it's been even more so than usual. I've had to deal with a lot of difficult clients at work and this time since two of my vacation days are basically full travel days, I didn't take off an extra day in order to prepare and pack.

Knowing that yesterday would be crazy, I made sure to get a long run in on Tuesday. 8 miles at the track followed by 4x400s. I ran some of the early miles at a slower pace with my boyfriend and picked it up for the last few miles after he headed home. Overall pace was something like 8:45 which I'm pretty happy with considering the lack of consistent running over the past 5-6 weeks. The 400s I threw in just to give myself a taste of what it's like to struggle during a run. My lungs were burning at the end of each lap. I didn't bother to time myself but I know the last 400 was pretty pathetic.

I have no idea what my goal pace should be for the Expedition Everest Challenge on Saturday. I don't feel like I'm in 5k shape right now. Well, there's no point worrying about it now. All I can do is try my best and see what happens. Besides I'm not sure what to expect from the scavenger hunt part of the race this year since I think they're changing it up AGAIN. Hopefully there will be good information at the course talk tomorrow.

Oh, on a related note... the unexpected benefit of having a boyfriend who's crazy about cars is that he has a bunch of extra tires around. I made him set them up for me the other day so I could practice running through them in case that's an obstacle again in the race. I know that's bordering on overkill, but I had fun doing it.

Anyway, after over 12 hours of travel today, I'm finally at Walt Disney World. I started this post on the Magical Express bus from the airport, took a break to unpack, and now it's time to get some rest. Tomorrow is when my vacation truly starts! It feels awesome to have (almost) no worries for the next four days and not have to answer to anyone but myself. Right now I'm thinking that my first action will be to hunt down a giant Disney cupcake and have dessert for breakfast!

I'll leave you with a photo from my hotel room. I'm at the All Star Sports Resort, hence the football Mickey picture in the background.