Thursday, November 30, 2006

Marathons are a pain in the ass

From the Too Much Information Department...

I have an odd injury left over from the marathon: my butt hurts. I don't know what I did or how it happened, but my left butt cheek has some kind of tight knot in it or something. It's like a tense muscle, and I'm not about to go searching the net for "butt stretching exercises". Maybe I just need a good massage?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

My big race goal for 2007 is to do my first half-ironman distance race (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run - 70.3 miles total). Because of scheduling and geography, my two options are Ironman 70.3 Baja and Wildflower Long Course.

I have friends with a beach house about 30 minutes north of Ensenada in Baja, so I would have my own bedroom and private bathroom. In Wildflower, I'd be sleeping in a tent and using communal bathrooms. Yes, I'm a wimp.

Wildflower is known for being one big weekend-long triathlon party.
Baja would be mellow with a couple of friends.
ADVANTAGE: Wildflower

Baja 70.3 is a long and difficult course.
Wildflower is a long and INSANELY difficult course.

Baja 70.3 is an official Ironman-branded event with the M-Dot logos everywhere. I think that would be very cool, and a great way to get a taste of a future full Ironman.
Wildflower is not affiliated with Ironman at all. Its main sponsor is Jamba Juice. I hate Jamba Juice. I hate the bizarre yuppie-hippie hybrids that go there. I can't even stand the smell of being in their stores.

This is the big one. In Baja, I would run the race alone. At Wildflower, I'd have friends racing with me. They'll finish several hours ahead of me, but at least at the end of the day we can sit around the campfire drinking Mountain Dew and share war stories from the race. That's important.
ADVANTAGE: Wildflower

Registration for Wildflower starts Decembet 1st and it sells out very quickly, so I need to decide by then. You're probably thinking I should just set my goals high and do Wildflower, since that's where my friends will be racing. I think it's more complicated than that. I believe that by May, I will be capable of crossing the finish line for either race (I'm not there yet.) The question is, how do I want to feel at that point? I don't want to repeat the L.A. Marathon, where I didn't care at all about finishing. There is no doubt in my mind I would mentally have a better race in Baja.

I have 2 weeks to decide.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Most of my race reports involve some sort of zany antics but this marathon went pretty smoothly. Brad, lives 3 miles from the starting line, so I went to his house in the morning for my final flush-toilet. His sister was in town visiting and she drove us to the race. Let me tell you, that's the only way to travel. No worries about parking, no long hikes to the starting line.

This is a fairly small event: 300 marathoners, 1000 half-marathoners, 800 5k-ers - so it did have a somewhat low-key vibe. I liked it. The aid stations were great, ESPECIALLY the one at Mile 4. (That's where Brad's kids were handing out water.) I was very vocal going through the aid stations, clapping and cheering "VOLUNTEERS ROCK!" That made THEM excited so I always got extra support back from them.

I wore a sign on my back that said "I Blame Brad". (He got me signed up for my first 5k, so this was his fault.) During the first 13 miles, I think only 3 people asked me "who's Brad?" But in the second half, as the heat and exhaustion and misery kicked in, people seemed to inherently know who Brad was. I probably had 8 or 9 people come up to me and say "I blame Brad too!"

The half-marathon followed the same course as the marathon and it was good running with a pack of people. For the most part the path wasn't crowded, but there were plenty of people nearby to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, they all broke off at mile 12 and all of a sudden the roads became far more lonely. There were several times when I felt like I was just on a training run- people were so spread out you'd have no idea we were actually participating in a single event.

For the most part I liked the course. Much of it was on a bike path following a dry riverbed. Rather scenic. Unfortunately, when you run upstream, that means you're running uphill. It's a very gradual climb between miles 15-18, and it slowly sucks the energy out of you right as you come up against The Wall.

I took my first (and only) potty break around mile 21. This was dangerous territory, because in the L.A. marathon I fell in love with the port-o-potty. (After hitting The Wall, sitting down - anywhere - was better than running.) I peed like a girl and I could once again feel myself being tempted by the glamour of the port-o-potty. Ah... sitting down... so nice... Fortunately, the john had been baking in the hot sun all morning and I quickly realized "hey, it's pretty hot in here. Kind of making me dizzy. I should get out of here soon." So I did. The last 3 or 4 miles were rough, but I walked-a-little, ran-a-little, and crossed the finish line in style.

So how did I do? Well, I'm a moron. I wanted to do a 10-minute pace which would put me in around 4:20-4:30. Well I did the first mile in about 8.5, and I knew I was going too fast but I didn't slow down enough. I hit the half-marathon mark and just under 2 hours (9.1 minute pace) which is too fast for me too maintain. I knew this. But my (incorrect) logic at the time was that for every 9-minute mile I did in the first half, I could do an 11-minute mile in the second half. The math works out that way, but the body doesn't. For every 9-minute mile, my body wanted to do a 12 or 13-minute mile later on. Yes, I crashed a bit in the later miles and ultimately came in at 4:31:20. Just 1 minute off of my 4:30 goal. You may say "close enough", but I say it doesn't quite count.

However, don't think I'm down about my time at all. I'm actually more excited about my 18-mile split time- 2:49, which is 17 minutes faster than my much-flatter 18 mile training run last month. That's a nice personal best for me and next time (did I just say that?!) I'll maintain the pace even longer.

The star of the day has to be Brad, who did 4:37 in his first marathon and beat his goal by 8 minutes. He's been bitten by the marathon bug; he's doing the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon next year.

Photos and more thoughts later.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Why I Ran

I'll post a Santa Clarita Marathon Race Report soon. For now, here's a post-dated message I wrote a couple months ago.

After the L.A. Marathon I sort of knew I'd have to do another one, mostly to get rid of all the bad Juju from the day. I was looking at Las Vegas, P.F. Changs, and Walt Disney World. So why on Earth did I decide to run a marathon in a podunk town like Santa Clarita?


There is some debate as to how much influence Brad had on my decision to run my first 5k. But what is not in dispute is that he had a huge impact on me sticking with the running. I think it's important to go through the experience with someone at your same level, who can really share in your excitement. ("Oh my God! Can you believe we ran FIVE MILES this weekend?!") And that's what we did. That led to me doing triathlons and eventually the L.A. Marathon, and I wanted to make sure that Brad experienced every bit of pain that I went through. I wanted to have his soul ripped out of his ankle and stuffed into his cramped belly. The Santa Clarita Marathon starts literally 3 miles from his house; I knew that if I signed up to do it, he would follow. And in spite of my warnings I knew nothing would prepare him for the torture he would go through.

Of course, there is a little more to it than that. Before I did L.A., Brad trained for the Long Beach Marathon. He injured himself on his final 20-mile training run and had to drop out just two weeks before the race. I hate the fact that he didn't get closure with his marathon training. He has a family which obviously takes a lot of commitment and I'm not sure if he ever would have tried again on his own. I don't know ultimately how important it was to him to do a marathon some day, but it was important to me that he do one. So I forced his hand and signed up, knowing he would as well. He may be Just A Runner, but now he's a marathoner and I know many triathletes who can't make that claim.

I'm not overstating things by saying that running has dramatically changed my life. Brad has now completed a marathon; my debt to him is paid in full.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ready for Launch

I picked up my race packet for tomorrow's marathon. I was maybe just a little tense, but nothing like the last freak out. There was one little "gulp moment" however. I saw two medium-length lines at the packet-pickup, so I just got into one. After a short wait, I go to the front, gave the volunteer my name, and he couldn't find my bib. He looked in another pile, then said "are you doing the full marathon?" "Yes." "Oh, those are in the next line." But there was no next line. Just two guys sitting there with a very small pile of marathon bibs. It seems that all the smart people come out to do the HALF-marathon. Far fewer choose to do the whole thing.


No fancy analogies for my goal this time. No movies, no airplanes. I'm shooting for 4:30.

I'm spending most of the day streaming the live video from Ironman Florida, tracking The Kahuna, Robo-Stu, and Nancy. You guys all rock. When I see what these people are going through today, the marathon seems less frightening and I'm fairly calm. For now.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ten Reasons Why This Marathon Will Be Better Than That One

1. I think it's an easier course.
2. I have 7 months extra training.
3. Last time I missed a lot of the later workouts because of injuries, but did most of the early ones. This time, I missed a lot of the early runs because of injuries but made most of the later ones.
4. Although the size of the L.A. Marathon is part of the excitement, it also adds to the stress. Santa Clarita should be far more low-key.
5. I should be coming to the starting line 2 pounds lighter. That's a 3-minute advantage right there.
6. After every hour, I'm taking an 8-minute walk break. In my training runs, those breaks have helped my energy and my overall pace has sped up.
7. Last time I ate 7-8 gel packs during the marathon. After the first 4 or 5 I was choking them down and they made me sick. I'm now using Clif Shot Blocks and will only have 4 servings.
8. I don't know what the breakdown is for a marathon, if it's 75% physical-25% mental or whatever, but I do know I lost it mentally after mile 20 last time (ie, right past The Wall.) So I think I'm better able to handle it now.
9. Brad is also running it, so at the very least I'll have someone to commiserate with.
10. Somebody else will be driving me back from the finish line.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Those who don't learn from history...

Today was my final training run, and on paper it is the Best Workout Evar: run 2 miles. That's it. You're not supposed to do any more. The entire purpose is to make sure that blood is still flowing through your legs. It should be the least stressful run of the year. I drive home from work through Griffith Park every day- all I need to do is pull over, hop out of the car and I'm back in less than 20 minutes. I don't need to worry about water or fuel, or running with Scary People who will make me go fast. I don't even need to worry about my nip guards.

Back in March, for my final Marathon Training Run I went to Griffith Park and discovered I accidently packed my bike shorts and had to drive home to get my running shorts. And the way the freeways work that time of night, it's much easier to drive FROM Griffith than it is to drive TO the park. So that was a big pain. Tonight however, I did not pack my bike shorts. In fact, I didn't pack any shorts at all. So yet again, I had to drive home, pick up some shorts, and then head back to the park. I was seriously considering just running the 2 miles in my skivvies, but good taste prevailed.

It's not the end of the world having to go home to get changed. It's just that twice now I have really looked forward to a smooth, leisurely, stress-free final run. And twice now I have been denied.