Sunday, July 21, 2013

See Jane Run Seattle Race Review

Overall I really enjoyed See Jane Run, however there were a few things I thought could be improved. But first I'll start with the positives.

Recently I haven't been that big a fan of large women's focused events, but See Jane Run may have changed my mind. I liked that it wasn't super girly or overrun with tutus. It also wasn't over the top with pushing female empowerment. I feel like the main nod toward it being a women's event was the slogan "I run for chocolate and champagne." Even though I don't really drink much alcohol, I liked the free chocolate at the finish, especially since it was See's Candy. And if I did want a drink at 11 in the morning, I'd much prefer champagne over beer. I feel like everyone focuses so much on free beer at the finish line and sometimes it makes me wonder just how much I'm paying in registration fees for that "free" beer that I'm not going to drink.

The overall race organization was good and it seemed like everything went pretty smoothly. I was glad that I could do packet pickup on race morning, and they had it set up well so that I could get my number before the race and my shirt and goody bag afterward. Bag check was also easy. For the post-race food, there were bagels and the usual other stuff, but I zeroed in on the nice selection of mini Luna bars and Larabars. There were also a bunch of vendors set up at the finish, almost like a race day expo, which added a nice festive touch. I picked up some coconut water and See's lollipops, and ate some PB&J sandwich bites.

The course was pretty good. I liked that it was mostly flat and the few hills that there were weren't anything major. Also, I think the course was all road and paved trail which I like. Gravel trails are good for training, but a smooth surface is better for racing. When I'm racing I don't pay that much attention to the scenery anymore, but it was nice running around the lake and I enjoyed the occasionally glimpses of the water. On the website it said that there was water every two miles, but I think there may have actually been more aid stations because of the out and backs. There was GU at two of the stations which was good. I think Rock 'n' Roll and Disney still only have fuel once during the half marathons (but don't quote me on that).

Switching over to the things that could be improved... in my opinion one of the biggest mistakes a race can make is to have an inaccurately measured course. Now I know that Garmin's and other GPS devices aren't foolproof, but if anything they should measure the course as long rather than short. My Garmin read 12.96, but I'd much rather it read 13.24. Based on the fact that the mile 4 marker was early, and then the rest of the markers seemed to be evenly spaced a mile apart after that, I'm pretty certain something was off about the course.

When I got my race bib, I was excited because it looked like there was a coupon for free Chipotle on the back.

But then I read the "fine print". Not only did it say "bring this in to any San Francisco Bay Area Chipotle" (reminder: the race was in Seattle), but it was only good through 7/8/13 (the race was on July 14). Talk about adding insult to injury! It's not like I was expecting anything from Chipotle in the first place, but this seems like such an easy mistake to avoid. Wouldn't they have actually saved on printing costs by just leaving the back of the bibs blank?

Finally, I think my biggest complaint about the race is the shirt sizing. I registered for an XS and I got a S. Now I would have understood if they ran out, since I signed up at the last minute and also picked up my shirt after the race rather than the at expo. But I asked the person handing out the shirts and she said it wasn't that they ran out but that there weren't any XS shirts to begin with. First of all, I wish race organizers wouldn't offer the option to sign up for a size that isn't available. And second, what really gets me is that the race is supposed to be for all shapes and sizes. In fact, here's what it says on their Facebook page: "As a woman-owned and operated company, See Jane Run reaches out to individuals of all shapes, ages and fitness levels."

As a company that caters to women, See Jane Run really should understand that XS is a size. Obviously it's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and I should be used to race shirts that don't fit by now. But it's a really cute shirt that I'd love to wear proudly, and it's disappointing that I can't even get a shirt that fits from a women's race.

So there are some of my thoughts about the good and the not so good from See Jane Run. As I typically say, I'm not sure I would do it again just because I like trying out different races. The registration fees seem to be on par with what to expect these days from larger races, but are a bit steep for me to do the race again for fun. I'd definitely recommend the race though, especially as a destination race with a group of girlfriends or for a first timer.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What a weekend - Race Recap: See Jane Run Seattle

Man, I'm beat from a busy weekend. Normally on Mondays I do a cardio kickboxing class at the gym, but today I just wasn't feeling it and spent 45 minutes on the spin bike instead, followed by a relaxing yoga class.

It started Friday night when I went out to carb load with pizza, followed by an improv comedy show with local celebrity Ryan Stiles and friends. I went to bed as soon as I got home and set my alarm for 6:15am.

On Saturday I drove about an hour south for the Clear Lake Triathlon - a 1/3 mile swim, 14.8 mile bike, and 4 mile run. I likely won't come back to do a full recap of the race, so in short I'll just say that I was nervous going in but ended up having a blast with my fastest bike ride ever at 16.7 mph (it was a pretty flat course) and I killed the run with a 7:33 pace. Afterward I got the best compliment ever when a girl that I passed said "you were terrifying on the run".

After the tri I headed back home to have lunch, shower, unpack all my triathlon gear, and repack for another drive south. On a good traffic day it's about an hour and 45 minutes to Seattle, depending on where I'm going. Unfortunately I had dawdled too much before leaving the house and then hit a traffic jam entering Seattle so I wasn't able to make it to the See Jane Run expo. Instead I did some shopping for a dress to wear to my cousin's wedding next month, and then fueled up for the next morning's race with my favorite pre-race meal - a Chipotle burrito bowl.

I should back up here and say that this was an unexpected double race weekend. The See Jane Run Half Marathon wasn't even on my radar until about a week ago when I came across an opportunity to win a free race entry. In recent years I haven't been that into women-focused events but I was interested because my favorite chocolate company, See's Candies, is a sponsor of the See Jane Run race series this year. I figured I'd give it a shot and I found out on Wednesday that I won!

Luckily I have relatives in Seattle so even though it was last minute, I had a place to stay on Saturday night. I woke up at 6am on Sunday morning and snuck out of the house bright and early. I got a bit lost and then got a little stressed out about parking but eventually made it to Gas Works Park and picked up my race number. I want to get through this recap tonight so I think I'll do a second post later with thoughts about See Jane Run and the whole event.

Even though the race was unplanned, I knew I was in half marathon shape because I've been doing long runs of 12+ miles the last several weeks. I didn't think I could PR since that would require a 7:45 pace. But I did want to push myself a little and decided to aim for an overall average pace of 8 min/mile which would put me around a 1:45 finish time depending on how well I ran the tangents.

The starting corrals were a bit odd. There was a tiny area for people running under 9 min/mile. Then everyone else crowded in after that. Since the race was chip-timed, I decided not to push myself up to the front. Instead I ended up about four people back in the 9+ min corral and it worked out well. We started about 3 minutes after gun time and once I got past the initial group of people then it thinned out and I was mostly by myself for the rest of the race. I mean, I could see people in front of me pretty much throughout the race, but for the most part there wasn't really anyone around me.

At first I felt a bit sluggish and wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make my goal. But I hit the first mile right on target and then picked it up a bit as my legs warmed up. Around mile 3 I realized that the weather felt warmer than I'm used to running in since there wasn't any shade. I got worried about having enough electrolytes so I grabbed some Gatorade at one of the aid stations. I have a pretty strong stomach so I figured I could handle it even though I never drink Gatorade while training.

I hit the mile 4 marker early compared to my Garmin and after that the mile markers were off the rest of the race. I had set my Garmin to show me average pace so I focused on that instead of my time. All I had to do is keep my average pace under 8:00. After the first few miles I hit my groove and started to enjoy myself. Recently I've been racing shorter distances so it was nice to be in a race where I wasn't gasping for air. I didn't know the course or have any sense of where the heck I was in relation to the finish line, so I just focused on following the people in front of me and slowly reeling them in. I'd guess that I passed about 2-3 people every mile which felt great and kept me from being bored.

After 7 miles I had an orange GU Roctane. (I also had a berry GU before the start.) The water stops were about every two miles. While it wasn't hot, it was sunny and warm enough that I started grabbing two cups each time. I'd drink about a cup and a half and then dump the rest over my head.

I think it was around mile 8 when we hit some hills. Nothing major, but definitely a change from the mainly flat course that we'd been running until then. We'd just finished mile 9 when I realized that we were back near Gas Works Park. That meant the last four miles were an out and back. I was starting to feel a bit tired and it was showing on my Garmin. Whenever I checked I was seeing that my current pace was over 8:00. I wasn't too worried because I had some time banked but I knew I couldn't slow down too much if I wanted to make my goal.

Once I hit the turnaround point I felt good because now I knew that I just had to head back the same way for two miles and I was done. Piece of cake. Also it was nice that there was a slight downhill. Going out I hadn't noticed that we were climbing because it was so subtle. I picked it up in the last mile and according to my Garmin, it was my fastest "mile" of the race at 7:33 pace. However, once again the mile 13 marker was off and I could see the finish line just ahead so I finally knew for sure that the course was short. As I was coming into the finish I could see the clock was really close to 1:45 so I sprinted in the last few feet before it clicked in my head that that was the gun time.

According to my Garmin the course was only 12.96 miles. I'm actually glad that I wasn't trying to PR because if I PR'd on a short course then I'd always feel like I didn't really earn it. The key thing is that I met my goal and ran better than an 8 min/mile pace. And I'm super proud of myself based on the official results. I can't believe I finished 35th overall. I'm also happy that not only did I pass a bunch of people throughout the race, but no one ever passed me. Even though I was tiring at the end, I ran a strong race overall.

See Jane Run Seattle Results

Like I said above, I'll try to do another post with details about the event. But all-in-all it was a great morning. I hung around for a bit after the race to get my chocolate, snacks, and other samples. And I looked for friendly strangers to take my photo.

After a shower and change of clothes, I went out with my relatives for dim sum, bubble tea, and picked up some Chinese veggies to take home. Then I made the drive back north and wrapped up my weekend doing laundry, paying bills, and other various tasks before I called it a night. Despite racing pretty hard two days in a row, I don't really feel stiff or sore. I think that I'm mostly just tired from not getting enough sleep. It makes me wonder how I might have run if I hadn't raced the tri on Saturday. Or if perhaps I still had more to give on Sunday morning and could have pushed harder. Maybe it's time to put some serious thought into chasing down my half marathon PR.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Padden Triathlon Race Report - My First Tri!

A couple weeks ago on June 22, I finished my first triathon! I had such a great time that I'm doing my second triathlon this Saturday.

The Padden Triathlon was held at Lake Padden Park, a little less than half an hour from my house. There were two distance options and even though it was my first tri, I chose the "competitive" division which took place in the morning. The race started at 8:30 and I probably got to Lake Padden around 7:10 in order to get a good spot in transition (and a good parking spot).

Pre-race I wasn't too nervous because I'd actually done a practice tri with my training group where we swam, biked, and ran the entire course. So I wasn't worried about finishing. I just wanted to push myself and do my best. There's a lot more to think about pre-race with a triathlon and I went back and forth between my car and the transition area a few times. But eventually I got everything set up, I aired up my tires, and I remembered to tuck my phone in my seat bag "just in case".

The wave starts for the swim were self-seeded and I started in the fourth wave. My only goal for the swim was to finish. I just took it slow and steady the whole way across the lake and back. The only slight issue with the swim was when I got caught by the people from the fifth wave right at the turnaround buoy and there was some crowding and kicking. I just focused on staying calm and continuing to move forward. It was a little disheartening to have everyone pass me, but I was happy that I was able to swim the entire distance without stopping. Next year I'll work on getting faster.

1/2 mile swim - 20:27

The swim included a short run out of the lake and over to transition. I felt like I was moving quickly but there was so much to do. I got my wetsuit off fairly easily, then dried off my feet and put on socks and shoes. I had to fix my hair so I could get my helmet on. I put on my sunglasses and Garmin and slipped some Clif Shot bloks into my pockets. Whew, I think that's it.

T1 - 3:18

Coming out of transition, the bike course started with a short uphill. Since I'm still not super confident with my clipless pedals, I decided to jog my bike up the hill and then get on. Once I'm on my bike, then I'm good. It was a difficult bike course with a lot of hills. I was glad I'd had the chance to train on the course and knew what to expect. I was surprised at how many people I passed. I don't love cycling yet, but that day I felt pretty strong.

I had to remind myself to drink water, but I did have a fueling plan. I had 3 shot blocks about 30 minutes in and then another 3 shot blocks right at the end so I'd be fueled for the run. The bike was supposed to be 21 miles, but based on my Garmin and using MapMyRun, I think it's closer to 20.5 miles. My overall speed based on 20.5 miles was about 15.8 mph. There's definitely room for improvement, but it was pretty fast for me.

Bike - 1:17:41 (16.2 mph based on "official" distance of 21 miles)

The second transition was quicker since it was more a matter of taking stuff off. I had put some elastic laces on my running shoes so I could slip them on quickly. Then I grabbed my race number belt and I was off.

T2 - 1:10

Now I was in my element. The run course was two loops around the lake. Even though I was wearing my Garmin, I ran more by feel rather than focusing on hitting a certain pace since this was after already swimming and biking. I tried to push myself but still keep a pace that I could maintain for the entire distance of 5.2 miles. Looking back, I think I was right on with my pacing because it was just sightly slower than my 10k pace.

I felt strong the entire run and I was able to pass quite a few people. I almost want to say that I didn't get passed by anyone on the run, but I'm not 100% sure of that. Again, being familiar with the course helped because I knew exactly when to pick it up and give a little extra kick into the finish.

Run - 40:59 (7:53 pace)

My overall time was 2:23:33. I had roughly estimated that I'd finish in around two hours and 30 minutes, so I was really happy with my time. And of course, I was proud of myself for finishing my first triathlon!

As for the race itself, the only negative was that there were no medals. Oh, and the swim start was a bit unorganized. But other than that it was a well-run, low-key event. I registered back in January and it was only $40 and no USAT fee required. I'm definitely planning to do the Padden Triathlon again next year and hope that with more training and experience I'll be able to improve on my times.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Side of the road

It's another side of the road post! This time I only have a flat tire so I'm not too down in the dumps about it. Even though I only rode about 8 miles My back was killing me so I'm kind of glad for the excuse to stop.

Last week I spent some time in the parking lot just practicing getting on and off my bike so I'm feeling a little better about it. Plus today I actually stopped at every stop sign just to get more practice. (I ride out in the county where there's not really any traffic so usually it's safe to ride through stop signs.)

In other news, I've gone out for two open water swims with my tri training group now. It's nice that I'm doing a local tri as my first so I can actually swim in the same lake where the race is. (The downside of this tri is that the bike course is actually pretty challenging.)

The water hasn't been as cold as I was expecting and I love that with my wetsuit I'm not afraid of drowning. However I'm struggling with being able to swim in open water. There are these posts out in the water that I can swim to but then I struggle on the way back. I can't seem to take a full breath and I start to have a slight panic attack because my wetsuit feels too tight across my chest. From that point I can't get back in the rhythm of things and both times have had to do a weird doggie paddle-ish thing to get back to shore. Also my upper arms and shoulders feel tired after swimming just that short distance.

I know I've gotta just keep getting in the water so that's what I'm doing. I just hope that I'll be able to get the hang of things in the three weeks I have left before the tri.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fall to the left

I took my bike in Sunday afternoon to be fixed. Turns out the part that was broken is a derailleur hanger. I picked up my bike last night and the repair cost a little over $50.

Earlier tonight I met with my tri training group. The workout was supposed to be a ride-run-ride-run-ride-run so we could practice transition. I was a little nervous about clipping in and was the last to take off, but I made it without any incident and had a great 25-minute-ish ride, even on the hills. Next was a 2.5 mile loop around the lake. It's the same course that we'll be running for the tri, except during the race we do it twice. I was happy my left knee didn't bother me today, but the pain seems to be shifting over to my right achilles again.

Anyway, I got back to our transition area and prepared to take off on my bike again. And that's when disaster struck. For some reason I didn't have enough momentum to take off and so instead of moving forward my bike just stayed put and then since my right foot was clipped in I toppeled over. I may not have this clipless pedal thing down yet, but I'm getting pretty darn good at falling. No scratches this time, just a couple more bruises.

It's just so frustrating that I feel like I'm clipping in the same way but getting a different result each time.      I managed to get back up and try again and was able to stay upright that time. Woo-hoo! And then I discovered another problem. My bike wasn't behaving properly as I tried to shift gears. In non-technical terms (since that's all I know), there was too much jumping and clicking. I got off to look at the chain, even though I had no idea what I was looking for. Everything looked okay to my naive eye so I got on and tried riding again, but now there was a lot of clicking even when I wasn't shifting. I had no desire to become an expert at falling while in motion so instead I turned around and headed back to the transition area again.

Our coach informed me that my rear derailleur was bent and I should probably have it replaced. Apparently it's a fairly fragile part. Since it's located on the right side of the bike, and I have a tendency to fall to the right, apparently I'm not only one getting banged up when I fall. So that was the end of my workout for the night. I feel like I have bad bike karma or something. My last three bike workouts have all ended up getting cut short. At least I was able to get to the bike shop just before they closed and hopefully I'll be able to pick it up Friday as long as they have the part.

With the three-day weekend coming up, I think I better schedule in some quality time in the parking lot and just practicing clipping in and out, in and out, over and over again until I'm thoroughly bored... and then do it some more. Now that I know falling hurts not only me but also my bike, and as a result my pocketbook, I have even more reason to not want to take any more spills. Either that, or I guess I should learn how to fall to the left instead of the right!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Things can only go up from here, right?

I'm standing on the side of the road waiting for a ride with nothing to do so figured I'd blog. Why am I here? Because my bike broke! :-(

Luckily I didn't fall. I have no idea how I unclipped in time. I was totally thinking "here I go again, this is going to hurt". And then somehow I was straddling my bike with both feet on the ground. 

Now I'm thinking "this is just my luck". I had grand visions of a 25-mile ride followed by a short brick run and instead I'm going to miss my workout and have to take my bike in for repair. I only got a little over three miles out. 

Cycling just doesnt seem to be my sport. 

I'm dreading how much this is going to cost me too. I may not understand much about bike mechanics but having something completely snap apart has got to be bad. 

In other news, since my ride still isn't here, I fixed my flat tire yesterday. I even found the hole and patched it. The whole ordeal took me two freaking hours but I did it. So that's something I guess.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Catching up, injuries and triathlon

After six months, I've finally got the urge to blog again. It's been a roller coaster since my marathon last fall. At first I was all set to jump right back in and even had big plans to train toward a half marathon PR in January. Then a trainer at the gym noticed my KT tape one day (for my right achilles) and suggested that I shouldn't keep trying to run through an injury. Since I've been battling achilles tendinitis for a couple years now, I decided to take the rest of the year off from running to see if that would help.

During my hiatus from running, I started going to spin classes at the gym and bought a bike trainer for riding at home. I also took some basic swim classes at the local pool. Obviously, this was all in preparation for my first triathlon which will be in June.

When I started running again, my achilles wasn't magically healed, but it wasn't too bad so I started to build up my mileage again. In early March I ran a local half marathon in 1:46:35 to kick off my marathon training. In April I ran the Birch Bay Road Race 30k and was extremely happy with my 8:04 pace. That's right where I needed to be if I was going to chase a BQ.

Finish of the Run For The Honeywagon 1/2 Marathon

But after that high point, things started to go south. I stupidly ran a 5k in rain and snow without properly bundling up and then stood around in my wet clothes for almost an hour waiting to get my 3rd place award. In hindsight I should have just skipped the award since it was just a lame unisex cotton t-shirt in large. The next day I went out for a 22 mile run and got soaked again. I guess it shouldn't have been a surprise that I came down with an awful cold after that.

I was also dealing with some left knee pain that appeared sometime between the half and 30k. I went to a physical therapist who diagnosed it as ITBS. In the 5 years that I've been running, I've never had knee pain or ITBS so it's really frustrating that it's happening now. Anyway with the cold, the knee pain and other assorted aches and pains I ultimately decided to skip the marathon and just focus on the triathlon instead. It wasn't a marathon I'm dying to check off the list and I didn't want to lay out a few hundred dollars just to run it "for fun". I need that money for my foray into the triathlon world. Oh yeah, plus I just started seeing an athletic trainer/massage therapist to try and work through my injuries and get my body back to feeling good for racing.

So now, on to my triathlon adventures. I may or may not delve more into what I'm doing as far as triathlon training in a later post. But for today I want to rant talk about cycling. I thought that swimming would be my weak sport, but I'm more frustrated with cycling right now than swimming. I guess maybe I had my expectations too high, but it seems like everyone I talked to said I HAD to get clipless pedals for the triathlon and that I'd notice an immediate improvement in my cycling. But instead of getting faster, all I've been left with is a series of bumps and bruises to the point where I'm almost scared to get back on my bike.

The first two falls happened in my driveway. I was clipped in with one foot and waiting to cross the street (so I could ride with traffic). Somehow I last my balance... twice!... just standing there. The second fall skinned up my knee so I didn't even get out for a ride that day. That was three weeks ago and I didn't take a photo until last night so it's mostly healed now, although every once in awhile I feel a twinge of pain that I'm hoping is a result of the fall rather than another new injury.

I had a few good rides and then last Sunday I toppled over again getting off my bike at the end of my ride. I'm still not sure what happened, if I was tired and off balance or if it was the wet ground. I got some surface scratches but luckily it wasn't too bad.

Last night's ride just plain sucked. I was with one of the coaches from my training group and we pulled over to the side of the road because she thought my seat was a bit too high for me. After she adjusted the seat and we were about to take off again, I didn't have enough momentum and fell over onto my right elbow and palm. I had gloves on so I didn't break any skin on my palm, but it hurt like hell the rest of the night. Even though I didn't tear the fabric of my jacket, I was sure I skinned my elbow, but with the coach waiting for me I didn't stop to check since we were at the back of the pack now. I'm not sure if that ended up being a good or bad decision. Good because I kept going with the workout, but bad because if I had stopped then I would have avoided some of the troubles that were yet to come.

The fall caused some problems with my chains and shifting (I don't know all the technical mumbo jumbo to describe exactly what happened) and several miles down the road the chains locked up and my bike came to a stop and I fell over AGAIN! Luckily this time I fell on a patch of grass and plants and didn't get too banged up. But I was definitely feeling anxiety about clipping in again. If the coach hadn't been with me I think I would have just sat on the side of the road and cried. Especially because I would have had no idea what to do with the chains. But I put on my brave face and we kept going.

The chains locked up one more time but I was able to get unclipped that time so I didn't fall. The coach said it was because I was in the wrong gears and crossing chains. The thing is that I know I've accidentally done that before but instead of locking up usually I just hear a noise that tells me I need to shift out of that combination. So I guess I need to take my bike in for another tune up to make sure it's okay after all of my falls.

This is dragging on, so I'll try to wrap it up. The icing on the cake was that after we'd already cut the ride short since we were so far behind the rest of the group, I got a flat tire. GRRRRRR. It was maybe a five minute walk back to our cars but it felt like forever after such a crappy ride. And then I got back and discovered that I did indeed skin my elbow.

I knew there would be a learning curve in switching to clipless pedals, but I guess I didn't expect it would take this long or be so painful. And I don't think I'd mind the falling so much if I was at least seeing some kind of improvement but my average speed on my rides is the same as it was before switching. I try to keep reminding myself that it took me awhile to get faster at running too. But I don't feel the same level of excitement with cycling as running and I don't think I'll ever like it as much. There's just too much "stuff" to deal with and I don't have a mechanically-oriented mind. I can't get my mind wrapped around all these gears and chains and levers and things that need to be tightened and adjusted and lubed and who knows what else. I'm a frugal person, but I'd almost rather pay someone to change my flat tire than try to do it myself, but I know I need to learn how. If only there was some kind of AAA roadside assistance for bikes. Hey, that's actually kind of a good idea!

Anyway, that's about it for now. I guess I should go run, mainly to burn off the thin mints I ate earlier. Then maybe I'll go wrestle with my flat tire. Actually first I need to find some kind of "how to" guide.

Any cyclists out there? How long did it take you to get comfortable using clipless pedals? Also any tips for changing a flat tire?