Thursday, November 11, 2010

ING NYC Marathon 2010

All good things must come to an end. You know you've thoroughly enjoyed something when you wish you can turn back time. That's how I feel about the 2010 ING NYC Marathon.

There were 45, 350 starters (and 44,829 finishers). Besides me, there were three other SLDC club members who ran the race in NY: Heidi Harrison, Julie Opheim, and Anne Power. We were all assigned different wave villages (blue, green, and orange), wave starts (9:40, 10:10 and 10:40) and corrals. What a unique way of controlling the flow of runners. Each wave started in half hour increments, released 15,000 runners at a time. We were also assigned different bus locations to get to the start in Fort Wadsworth, in Staten Island. My bus assignment was to the Staten Island Ferry, where I was ferried then, bussed to the start. Heidi, Anne, and Julie ran for the Team for Kids charity, therefore were bussed VIP to the start from the Rockefeller Center Plaza in Mid-town Manhattan.

View from the Ferry. Verrazano Narrows bridge in the distant.

The runners' village at the start in Fort Wadsworth were color-coded according to the runner's bib. I was assigned in the blue village where they had breakfast items like bagel, water, tea, coffee, power bars, etc. Toilets were plentiful, medical tent, baggage trucks and even religious services were offered. Runners milled around, in their warmest attires. People wore bathrobes, sweatshirts over layers and layers, donned with beanies, gloves and scarves. Runners were ready with sleeping bags, blankets, and even a French team had a full on-inflatable living room set that they set up. People did what they could to relax and be comfortable.

With the wind factor, the 45 degree weather felt like it was in the upper 30s. What I dreaded were winds from the North, which meant headwinds from miles 1-20 and tail winds in the last 6 miles. The opposite would have been a bonus. In the end, the 3mph north wind was immaterial. Sitting still at the village however, was a different story. It was definitely bone-chilling cold.

At the village, it was pleasant to hear so many different foreign languages spoken by runners around me. I felt like I was in a foreign land. Even the announcements and runner instructions in the loudspeakers alternated between languages. Besides English, the ones I could easily recognized were in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese. I had about 3 hour wait before my 10:40 start, so I sat there and watched people. I should have warmed up or stretched while waiting, but it was fun to observe what people do before a race. Some would stretch, others, went through their attire, pinned their names on their shirt, took it off, put it back on. The majority were listening to their ipods while waiting. I was mesmerized with the whole atmosphere. I ate my second breakfast at 9:15, drank to keep hydrated. This was new to me to have two breakfasts before race time. I didn't know how my body was going to react to a such a late start. Previous marathons I have ran, started at 7am or 8am, never as late as 10:40. They finally called my corral to gate #44 at 9:55. I tossed my sweat pants and headed for the gate. Here we go!

At the corral, security was tight. You couldn't jump gates to an earlier start if you wanted to or risk being DQed. Still there were people who feigned ignorance and were denied entrance. My bib number was checked and I was free to walk to the start. The feeling was electrifying. My butterflies started fluttering. The sun warmed up and I questioned wearing my long sleeve shirt. Runners started shedding their throw-away sweats on the side of the bridge. Clothes were flying everywhere. After a few welcome words from the race director, Sinatra's signature song came on the loudspeaker, “Start spreading the news..." I almost cried. The countdown began, I had my fingers ready to press on the start button of my Garmin and we were off!

The start from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was uphill for one mile, but I hardly felt it. Running among a sea of runners forced me to slow down. As if on cue, the sun came out and the magnificent arches of the suspension bridge was a sight to behold. I tried to look for the Statue of Liberty but couldn't quite focus. I didn't attempt to weave my way out of the thick crowd until after mile 3. I took this as a welcome sign to ease into my marathon pace, after all I have 25 more miles to go. I soaked it all in.

The second mile off the bridge was a fast downhill where we move on to the second Borough. We would be Brooklyn for the next 12 miles. Mile 5 snuck up on me, I thought, “Whoa, we're here already?” I thought the race was happening too fast. The sights and sounds of people everywhere and the cheering made time pass quickly. I didn't want it to end.

The Brooklyn crowd got thicker especially at mile 8 where the blue, orange and green runners merged together. Up until this point, we were all following our designated paths. I was yelling and high-fiving kids as friendly faces of New Yorkers lined up the streets of Fourth Avenue. Everyone was cheering us runners. After a while, I felt my throat felt hoarse, then I realized I better channel the rest of my energy into more running. At mile 10, something caught my eye. I arrived at the community which I thought was Amish. It wasn't until after the race that I found out that we passed through the community of Hasidic Jews. I was so enlightened to see the many diverse communities of Brooklyn. There were Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, Middle Eastern, Italians, Polish, etc. It was beautiful to see this at the core of the Big Apple—what is New York.

After crossing the Pulaski Bridge we entered the third Borough which is Queens. We were only in Queens for 3 miles then on to the steep and long Queensboro bridge. The climb was sometimes short and sometimes it was as long as 1/2 mile. At the bottom of the bridge marked mile 16 where world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie dropped out. The downhill was a welcome change but it was not for long. At this point, we entered Manhattan, the fourth Borough. As we turned to 1st avenue, I remembered this was where Meb Keflizighi (2009 NYC winner) said last year in an interview, to be patient, as the stretch is long and rolling. From miles 16 to 19 was where I noticed runners start to slow down, I included. I thought I can charge the gradual hill, but it took its toll. The cost was 5 seconds off my pace.

1st Avenue had the biggest crowd support. The tall apartment towers lined the streets at both sides, and even at their balconies people were pumping runners. People clapping loudly, yelling out runners' names and nationalities. They were loud and energizing. Even with fatigue settling in, you can hardly feel it because of the energy you can draw from the spectators. What I also remember from this stretch was the sea of green sponges on the ground. That was something new—I've never been handed one to keep me cool. Speaking of which, after passing through the water/Gatorade aide stations, we ran through wet slick ground, littered with flattened paper cups. It was amazing to think about the thousands of paper cups used for this race, gallons of water, the manpower, and the volunteers, what an incredible undertaking...but I digressed.
Look at those cups. I took this shot right after the crew of a blind marathoner told me to get out of his way.

After the arduous climb on 1st Ave we enter the Bronx which we run for only 1 mile! Sad to say, this stretch was a blur to me. I was still recovering from the punishment on 1st Avenue that I didn't get to savor the beauty of the Bronx. All I was thinking was to keep it together, don't slow down, maintain the pace. The two bridges, Willis Ave Bridge and Madison Ave Bridge, were thankfully flat and short. I grabbed a banana from a volunteer, made eye contact, and thanked her. Then we entered Manhattan for a second time, but this one is to the finish. I hung on to my hat, and took a deep breath, ”Here we go, time to put it on!” I felt good at this point. So good that I even missed seeing Harlem. There was no soreness that I couldn't handle, nothing ached, just the usual late stage fatigue. I was glad I have something left in the tank that 1st Avenue didn't completely drain through. I listened to the voice inside me, “Keep running, one step at a time.” The Upper East side crowd by now is incredibly thick and loud. I try to draw more energy from them. Some more high-fives, I heard my name called out. It was akin to an adrenaline shot. It was electrifying.
I knew the end was close as we entered the Park. At mile 23, I kept an eye out for the first turn into Central Park. Then the second turn on 86th Street seemed forever. I reminded myself to run the tangents. I ran the fastest splits of the day. I passed lots of tired folks, nicely, telling them “Good job.” That was a confidence builder. I stopped looking at my watch. The familiar mile 24 banner hung from the autumn trees. Heidi and I ran this same stretch the day before the race as a 3 mile warm up. It was easier running it with fresh legs compared to running it in the late race miles. The slight uphill felt like Mount Everest. The urge to walk was strong but I resisted. Then I saw the 40K banner. Oh geez, now I have to do math in my head, “what's that converted in miles?” Why can't they stick to statutes? I guess that stood to reason, since half the entrants were international runners and metric is widely used in places other then the U.S. The final turn into Central Park at Columbus Circle, near mile 26 had a jumbo-tron where you can see yourself on the huge screen. The crowds got louder and their cheering sent shock waves into my body. My legs had a renewed stride and I found a second gear. Then at the slope of the last few hundred meters, the blue and orange finish banner came into view—a sight for sore eyes! I tried to fly, I felt I was running fast, but I was probably running in slow motion. Finally, there it was, I stepped on the final timing mat. Done in 4 hours 12 minutes and 25 seconds, a five-minute PR!

At the finish line, there were runners who were clearly overwhelmed by their accomplishments. A few hobbled at the side and cried. Others immediately called their loved ones soon after crossing the finish line. People hugged each other. Fatigue and relief were written all over their faces. Medals hung around our necks, gimpy, cold, exhausted and wrapped in Mylar blankets, we were all drunken with happiness. It was a moment to behold. I saw a woman trying to snap a photo of herself w/ her i-phone. I offered to take her picture. She mumbled something which I thought sounded like she PR'd. So I said, “Me too!” Then she grabbed my bib number pointing to my date of birth and said “No.” Then she pointed to her birthday on her bib and said, “Today is my birthday,” in a heavy German accent. I said, “Congratulations! What a huge birthday gift this is.”

It wasn't my birthday, but this was a fabulous present indeed. NY I will be back, in fact, my name is in the hat for 2011!


Aren't we colorful? Julie, me and &Heidi with our medals.
 The SLDC group who ran NY each had personal best. My training partner, Heidi Harrison finished in 4:08:08 and Julie Opheim ran in 4:20:19 Anne Power's result was not recorded due to a tracking malfunction. Worthy of note is she was right behind the 4:10 pace group. NYRR will be looking into her case in the next few weeks and hopefully they will do right by her.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

22-miles Done, Hello Taper Period

What a grand day to run 22 miles. The weather couldn't be any more perfect; a cool 54 degrees with an occasional breeze.  What an incredible journey.  I've now ran four 20-milers in training for NY.  This has to be my most consistent season as far as goal paced runs are concerned.  My training outcomes have been very positive.  I am now ready to embark on the taper:  3 weeks of mellow runs and short intense workouts.  

Speaking of the taper period, this is the time when most people screw up their training, by either doing too much or too little. I am speaking from experience.  The taper is the time when you let your body rejuvenate and recover from all the months of training you've put it through. From 3 to 2 to 1 week before the marathon, you chop off mileage by  certain percentage according to your schedule.  It is not the time to learn new karate kicks, cross train heavily, lift incredible weights, or paint your barn.  It is a time to watch your carb intake because since you've lopped off mileage by a considerable bit, you don't want to gain enormous weight before race day. The name of the game is to keep sharp by doing shorter runs, but at the same time, keeping the same level of intensity as you were in the peak of your training.  I've learned the hard way.  I've toed the line feeling rusty--all because I let myself go in the last 3 weeks, thinking "Whoo hoo! The hard training is over, now I have license to slack."   In the same token, no last minute cramming of workouts, in hopes of squeezing more fitness won't help. All the months of training before this time is what going to get me to the finish line.  I must say, tapering counts as one of those exciting occasion that marks a marathon journey.  When I reach this period, I have a reason to celebrate all the long hard workouts and to come out injury free. I am almost ready for the big day.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

1st 20mi Training Run of 3--Check!

Got a late start today.  The plan was to get to Paso Robles Airport to Mission San Miguel to run a fairly flat 20 miler so that Heidi and I can hit our pace. Weather has been a factor this week.  Today was very hot indeed. At 7:30 a.m. it was already 54 degrees and climbed between 8-10 degrees every hour.  By the time we were done running, my car read 87 degrees.  When you're running, you can easily add another 10 degrees to account for body heat, so 97 degrees is too hot for my liking.

A shot from our halfway point in San Miguel. 

We learned a lot today.  First we should have prepared for enough water.  I had my Nathan backpack/vest on me but I only had 40 oz. of water. I was running late and didn't think to fill it up. I had room for 70 oz. That's more than a gallon.  I ran out at mile 17.  Heidi planned to surprise me and planted 8 oz. of water bottles for each of us.  That was a godsend but, was not enough, we found out. Damage was already done and we were both already dehydrated.  At mile 18, we drank it all and planned to just walk jog the rest back to the car.   At the 18.5 mile point, I had to make a decision.  Do we really want to sacrifice doing this last mile and risk injury, cramps, and  put all our training in one basket and throw it all away?  This is one training run, we have 5 weeks left.  We'll have another shot next week since we have our second 20 miler then.  I was not sure how Heidi  would take it, I told her I am calling it at 19 and do the cool down for the last mile.  Afterall, we have done a good job today considering the heat element, we were supposed to be at 9:52 pace and at 19 miles, we were at 9:45 pace--way ahead of schedule. To my surprise, Heidi and I were on the same page. 

The second important lesson learned today is never be afraid to make the necessary adjustments to a workout.  Hitting the mileage is not as important if you're going to risk injury or heat exhaustion.  I know sometimes we push ourselves too hard to get to the next level. It is a fine line that we must teeter. Always err on the side of caution--That's Heidi's favorite saying. She's right; We are way too close to New York to make silly mistakes.  I am happy that we finished today in one piece.  Onward!
Along our training route, Heidi can't help it, she has to stop and say helo to her friend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Preparation for NY Ing Marathon

By Heidi's coaxing, in November I threw in my hat for a spot for NY.  After five months of waiting, on April 7, 2010, the announcement came and miraculously my number came up.  What are the odds that I would get in my first try? I didn't expect it, but the marathon gods beamed down on me. The chances were 1 in 9.

I remember that day so vividly. Heidi has talked about her NY experience many times over which finally stirred excitement in me.  I've always said, someday I will do it.  Never in a million years did I think it would be 2010.  That morning, we anticipated the announcement at 12 noon, Eastern time. At 9 am, we logged on to the site.  The first 10 lucky names flashed over the ticker tape over and over.  I figured, they didn't have their act together, I'd give them another hour.  Maybe by then they'd post it alphabetically.  An hour passed, the same darn names flashed across my monitor.  I called my husband to check my home email, maybe my bank's security wall is not letting me get the full info.  He saw the same names I've read.   Heidi couldn't view it from her work either so she got her husband to log on using her sign on.  Then that's when the lightbulb lit.  I should have checked my log on, instead of the website. I was so nervous, I couldn't remember my password. But it came to me eventually after I calmed down. Nervously, I searched the site for good news or the bad news. At first, I was confused, because it said "accepted". I didn't know whether that meant "accepted" to be in the lottery pool for consideration or actually "accepted" to run in the marathon.  It was not until I scrolled down further when I read the sentence "Spread the news to your friends in...Twitter and FaceBook."  Then I knew, I was in.

The revelation was bittersweet.  I was dissappointed to find out that Heidi didn't get in.  My first thought, if she didn't go, I would have to defer my entry to 2011.  I can't imagine running this course on my own.  It's too big. And frankly, I am a little hesitant about traveling 3,000 miles across the country on my own.   Taking the whole family would proved to be too costly, especially in this economy.  I wished they could go with me.  (That just means, I'll have to try again.)

That night, Heidi decided that she would raise $2,620 for charity just like she did in 2008. That's another sure way to get in. That was all I needed to hear to make this happen.  'Proud to announce that Heidi has met her goal well before the Oct 8 deadline to raise funds. 

Fast forward to September, I've gotten my bus assignment for NY.  I was assigned to the 7:15 Staten Island Ferry Station.  If I am not mistaken,  I'll be on a boat to get to the start at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  (I hope those ferries are safe, because I can't swim.)  Now I just have to wait for my official Runner's Handbook due out in October.  It contains everything from what the bib number color coding means, map of the five burroughs of NY, instructions on where and what, schedule at the Expo, etc.  Actually the bib number is a lot trickier to read.  It is not as simple as having the the runner's number in it.  It contains your wave assignment, your corral system, and your start villages.  It's complicated but they've got this down.

I heard that the Expo at the Jarvis Center is quite breathtaking.  I can see how easily we get carried away in the excitement and end up unnecessarily expending more energy by walking through the halls. We'll have to remember to save our feet.

Since our marathon start won't be until 10 a.m., we'll have 2-3 hours to kill beforehand.  Why do we have to be there so early, you ask?  Imagine 44,000 runners trying to get to the start all at the same time. Top that off with 2 million spectators on both sides of the road, 5-6 people deep along the course route.  It is a logistical nightmare. But then again, NY has been hosting this marathon since 1970. They've had a lot of practice.  Waiting 3 hours is a small price to pay.  Well, as long as they have bagels and coffee at the start I'm game.

I'm curious to feel what it's like to wait at the start.  So I YouTubed the 2009 marathon start.  All the people screaming and high-fiving each other was infectious.  I felt their excitement as if I was standing there with them.  Then I heard Sinatra's signature song New York blaring in the background...."Start spreading the news...I'm leaving today..."( My heart just skipped and I started tearing up.  If watching this video right now has this effect on me, I can't imagine
how I will feel that day.

November will more likely be cold.  It was suggested to bring warm throw-aways to keep warm.  At the start, runners strip to their running garbs and toss the clothes to the side.  All the clothes are then donated to local salvation army. 

I can't wait to see NY. They said that this is the best way to tour the city. I have a bad habit of looking down on my feet when fatigue hits.  I will have to remember to look up.  I'm afraid of tripping and slipping on banana peels and sticky GU gel packets.  When Heidi ran it in 2008 and she mentioned the sea of flattened Gatorade cups strewn on the ground.  With all those runners, I can imagine how it would be challenge to keep the roads swept up in time.  In smaller races, volunteers can clean up almost immediately.   But that would be a tall order for NY.  One eye on the ground, one eye up. :-)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

7 weeks to New York City Marathon

But who is counting? I can't wait.  To stave off my excitement, I've been watching YouTube videos of the 2009 marathon.  It seems counterproductive, however.  I just get more and more excited wishing I can fast forward time to Nov 7th.  But it will be here before I know it.  Today marks Week #9 of the 16 weeks of training program for NY.  It is hard to believe that we're more than halfway through the Runner's World Program.  We ran 18 miles from Paso Robles Airport to San Miguel and turned around. Ran it with my fellow New Yorker Class of 2010, Heidi.  It is so much easier to complete the long runs with company. Time goes by quickly.  We motivate each other in ways we don't normally give a second thought to.  That's always a plus.

We've never ran through the sleepy town of San Miguel before. It is a small quaint town, we often pass through it when driving by I-101 going north. It was quiet, this overcast morning with a few people out and about.  The course had a few rolling hills.  Noticed the roads were newly fixed with brand spanking new asphalt. It was a treat to run in it. It was a good day, we managed to stick to a 9:51 pace.  First time ever for an 18 miler for me. We were done in 2:57!  Heidi is a believer, I was skeptical, at first. I didn't share that with her.  I have to learn to believe in this training program.  So far it's been great. Today, I am a believer.  For New York I will have to write the words "BELIEVE" on my forearm, so that when I do get tired, all I have to do is read it. This will be my New York mantra. Wooo hooo!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My First Marathon-Los Angeles 2002

I trained for my first marathon because I wanted to lose the baby weight.  I couldn't shake off the last ten pounds that I gained from my pregnancy.  Elena, my daughter was just a little over 2 yrs old then. 

Looking back to my first marathon, and how I've trained, I was fortunate I didn't get hurt anymore than I did. I trained myself using the Hal Higdon Novice Training program( I found it online it seemed pretty easy to follow: one long run, three days of midweek runs, one cross training day, and 2 days of rest. I liked it because it was simple, you just run the prescribed number of miles during the day and you're through. For the most part I stuck to the plan.  I missed an occasional run during the week for one reason or another such as, oh yes, having a toddler.  Missing a  run or two didn't hurt my performance.  Since my goal was to finish, it was enough for me that it didn't have the speedwork or trackwork that other programs called for. I would lose interest when looking at other programs, it would say, for example say "run 3x1200 using your 10K pace."  10K pace? What's that? How do I know what my pace was?  The Higdon Program's simplicity was enough to help me cross that finish line.

Following the miles was the easiest part.  Rest, hydration, stretching, nutrition, marathon tips were all foreign concepts for me in the beginning.  I was clueless.  I knew nothing about pacing. When it came time for the long runs, I carried my yellow Sony Walkman--that was the most important thing at the time.  Water belt? I had none.  I trained my body to deal with no water and it was surprising that I didn't cramp up.  During the actual marathon, this would prove to be a mistake. I drank water in every possible aid station there was.  The result, I stopped at every porta potty I saw.  My body did not know how to react to the water I was giving it. It was a shock to my body so it tried to get rid of it.

During the training, I did not eat right. I never carried any gels, or food during my long runs. At the 20th mile mark, I hit the wall with a bang.  As if that was not enough, I also thought I was cured of my foot ailments.  I don't know what made me do this, but I took off my orthotics before the race and it hurt me during the final miles.  Both my knees hurt so badly that I had to walk for the last six miles. Sharp shooting pain shot up my legs every time I took a step. It's a wonder how I ever finished.

The Los Angeles marathon course was a blurr.  I remember the start of the race and being in the midst of the huge crowd of runners and feeling insignificant.  Standing amongst runners I was scared and started to second guess my training. Did I train well enough? Maybe I shouldn't have missed any runs. I remember asking, "What am I doing here?"  But as soon as that gun popped, it was all game.  All of my insecurities and fears subsided, I just ran.  I didn't know anything about pacing, I knew I ran too fast too soon because I remember feeling anaerobic only into the third mile! I had to slow down considerably to get my breathing under control.   Pretty much the whole way, it was a struggle to the finish.  When I did get to the finish, it was anti-climatic.  There were no tears of joy. It was nothing like I had imagined.  Many times in training runs, I would visualized myself crossing the finish with hands in the air and bending down to kiss the ground in ecstasy. As I gimped over to the finish chute, an aide wrapped me in a space blanket and hung my finisher's medal around my neck.  My legs were sore. I felt blisters on the soles of my feet. I was exhausted, hungry and depleted, but relieved that it was finally over in 5 hours, 17 minutes and 11 seconds.  My head spun around to my next areas of concern.  How was I going to get home? Where was I?  I need a phone booth.  How in the world will my family find me?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Notes from a Slothlike Ultrarunner - Part 2 of 4

PCTR Montana de Oro 50K--Aug 15, 2010

The first trip to Valencia was crowded. The plan was to stay in the back of the pack to try to avoid the quick pace of the 8K and the 12K. The first bridge on Bluff's Trail bottlenecked with runners. I felt a tad disappointed for the slow movement, but I reminded myself that this was good. This forced me to slow down. I ran with my pal, Claudia. She is, what we coined together, a "TV", yes a trail virgin. She's a 4:05 marathoner (PR from San Francisco), and she wanted to experience what trail running is all about. We couldn't have picked a finer course than Montana de Oro. I maybe biased, because I live here. We took pictures early on along the way, while we're still relatively unsoiled. The plan was to power walk the steep hills and run the flats and downhills, to conserve energy.

After Valencia, we got back to the aid station to refill our water, grab a bite to eat and go. I was prepared this time, I brought Ziplocs to fill with food so that we can eat on the uphills to save time. When we got to the aid station however, my TV friend, Claudia, was just tickled pink about the selection of the trail food that lay before her. The way she was hovering over the goodies, you'd think she was picking dishes from the Rio Seafood Buffet in Las Vegas. After stuffing my Ziploc bag with 2 potato chips, 2 gel blocks, 2 russet potatoes, 2 animal crackers, 2 salted pretzels, 2 peanut M&M's and 2 ginger candies, then I asked Claudia, "Ready?" She snapped back, "Hold on!" I thought, "Oh-oh, a hungry runner is not a good company, let her pick her food." Then we were off to Hazard's Peak Trail. She asked, "What do we do with this?"---meaning how do we run with the bag. I said, "Hold it in your hands just like that until we get to the switchbacks at Barranca Trail, then we eat. Silence. Then she asked, "Can we eat it now?" I laughed, "Of course you can." I didn't mean to dictate the time we could eat, I was in the mindset that it might be easier to eat when walking rather than running. She ate and was happy, meanwhile I was slowing down. I realized I hadn't had the gel that I picked from the aid station. I was elated to see freebies so I grabbed 2 packets. It was Cappucino+Espresso, 2x the caffeine. I was in heaven, like a kid in a candy shop, "Yeah baby!" I sucked that bitter gel like there was no tomorrow. After a mile or two, on Islay CreekTrail, the long ugly winding fire trail that seemed endless, I felt my stomach cramped. Oh-oh. I hadn't tried this brand of gel in training. What did they say? Nothing new on race day? I never learn. Lucky for me the cramps disappeared. I have an iron stomach, throw anything at me, I can tolerate it. But no, I wouldn't risk this again next race.

Near the end of the 25K, at one point Claudia almost took a tumble but caught herself in time. The sound of her shoes hitting rocks made me jump. I didn't know if she was going to take me down with her so my natural instinct was to stop, look, or get out of the way. When you are running downhill, at a fast clip, to stop suddenly is not a bright idea. You think you've stopped, but the brain and the body is still in forward motion, so when I heard her almost took a tumble, so I thought, the quick turn to check made me lose my balance and almost fall in the bushes. I was glad she pulled me by my pack in time to stop me from really getting in the bushes. I didn't look to further examine just where I would have fallen, but from the corner of my eyes, it seemed like it was a ravine. Well okay, it makes for a better story, sounds better than falling in the bushes. The funny thing was she apologized for grabbing my pack. Are you kidding me? I was glad both of us were okay. Ahhh, the perils of running. She kept me company for the first 25K and then I was left alone to do the rest.

Notes from a Slothlike Ultrarunner - Part 3 of 4

PCTR Montana de Oro 50K--Aug 15, 2010

On my second trip back to the aid station, I grabbed my second set of running outfits, socks, shoes, cap, everything. I wanted to be comfortable in a new set of dry clothes. My friends Julie and Liz greeted me and volunteered to fill out my pack with my special drink. I was glad she was there to help me as I was rushing to change. I was confused I didn't know what to do first. When I got to the restroom to change,I took a moment to gather myself and breathe. I was in a daze. I stood there wasting time, thinking all the wet clothes that I have to take off. Which comes off first, the cap, the shirt or the shoes? I couldn't decide, my brain cells obliterated. The floor was muddy sandy, I didn't know how I was supposed to stand without getting my clean clothes dirty in the process. It must be hunger. After sucking the leftover gel I had in my pocket, the blood sugar jump started my brain, I managed to move quicker. As I was changing, I realized how much effort it was to lift my tired tree stump legs. Clothes stuck to me like glue, arms, back muscles cramp and I was achy all over. Time was ticking, and I needed to move quickly. In the midst of my changing my shirt I heard my Garmin beeped. Darn, I accidentally stopped my time. I'll just reset it for the next half. Just then the alert came on again battery power 3% left. Oh come on, what else can go wrong? Then the unthinkable happened. The door handle jiggled. Note to self: Always lock the door behind you. As I stood there half naked frozen, the screech of the door confirmed that the door was indeed unlocked. I yelled out in slow motion like in the movies, "Nooooooooooo!" It was too late. The look on the lady's face was as if she saw a rattle snake in there and fortunately she quickly shut the door. I consoled myself, "She's a runner, I am sure she has seen everything."

Why does this kind of thing happen to me? In Big Sur, it was a guy who walked into my porta potty. But that's for another story. That was about the jolt I needed in order to move quicker . I grabbed my shoes and walked out of there barefoot. Got back to my camping chair to wash out the fine powdery soil that went through my socks deeply embedded between my toes. I sunk in my chair, took another moment to settle down from what transpired. I stuck my dirty feet in my ice chest. The cold ice on my tired feet felt nice. While enjoying the moment, I take notice of the couple who sat next to me.  At first glance, I wondered about the special specs the man was wearing: one with lens and one without. For all I know I thought it was meant to be that way.  Then when he turned to the side I noticed the gash on his cheekbones.  Another casualty of the trail. He was okay, he can fix his glasses.  He is after all, an optician. Then he turned to me to ask which race I was doing, it dawned on me that I've wasted enough time. I apologized, I had to run, literally.  He understood.   When I looked up, I saw the runners that Claudia and I passed on the 25K are now moving to go back up to Valencia. I realized that by this time, I was close to the 20 minutes I've wasted. Deflated I thought, "Let them go." I grabbed more goodies, but nothing looked exciting. I forced down PB& J, I knew I had to eat if I wanted to finish. Fatigue was setting in at this point and the thought of doing this all over again made it worse. I played mind tricks and tried not to think about how much more I had to run to complete 31 miles. I broke it into sections, just get to the hill, then the aid station. I trudge on.

Notes from a Slothlike Ultrarunner - Part 4 of 4

PCTR Montana de Oro 50K--Aug 15, 2010

On the Bluffs Trail, I met up with some hikers. I forced a hello. I'm taking cue from one of my other running friend who taught me to be friendly on the trail. The old guy said, you don't look like you're tired at all? That lifted me up a bit. It was hard going the second loop. For once, Claudia was gone. I was entertained by her chatter. I wondered how she does it, she can run and talk comfortably without missing a beat. I on the other hand, have to catch my breath. I just can't do it. I got up to the turnaround point at Valencia, my second loop. I saw the arrow sign pointing to the return trip. It was about 10 minutes approximately to the top. Mr. Negativity popped out, usually when I am tired and hungry. What if I take this short cut? Nobody would know.  I recognized what this is all about. I pulled out another gel and I pushed on. Surprising what a gel can do to perk up a tired runner. I look down to see who was below me. I see Steven, the 24 year-old from San Diego doing his first Ultra. He does not look good at all. He told me earlier that he ran out of water coming down from Hazards' Peak. Luckily he was close to the aid station when that happened. He also said he was sick. But now he was going up the trail with his head and shoulders down. The classic look of defeat. I hope he finished. (Later, results would reveal that he didn't make the 9 hour cut-off.) At the top, I caught up with knee brace lady and asked her if she would take my picture. We took a moment to look at the view. The fog was still thick. She broke the silence by saying, "This was the hardest thing I've ever done." I told her she looked pretty strong. I bid her good luck, and she was off. She moved so fast downhill, I never saw her again. Later, I would find out that she finished 10 minutes ahead of me. She hobbled to the finish line, but more importantly she finished. I can just imagine how hard it must have been for her coming down Hazard's Peak with her sore knees. What a feat for her!

After that lady, I never came across another runner, except an occasional mountain biker here and there. It was quiet throughout the second loop, just me, my ipod, and the trail.  There was a lot of time for introspections. Claudia asked me earlier, what the difference was between trail running and road racing. My answer was more evident in this last 8 1/2 miles of this 50K. In trail running, you don't have the time factor, as in road racing, where you are pressured by time to sprint to the finish. Trail running is time on your feet. (Not to be confused with the cut-off time which is a conservative 9 hour finish for this particular course). If you enjoy the scenery, the peaceful surroundings and you don't mind sidestepping roots, rocks, uneven trails, that's trail running. It is the total opposite of the asphalt jungle of road racing. In a marathon, you are competing with others. On the trails, you are competing against yourself to push on through the low points. Physically and mentally you are drained. Your body hurts, your legs feel like lead, cramps may come on, your stomach might revolt, but you push on and know that they will pass. Believing in your training that you can continue and you WILL finish. Even with small steps, one foot in front of the other, no matter how slow, forward motion is your friend. The utmost goal is to finish. As I approach the finish line, my pace quickened. I have my second wind. I will finish! I saw my husband sitting on the fence with his camera. I was so happy to see him. He was smiling, a sight for sore eyes. I waved to him, I blew him a kiss as I picked up my feet. I wanted to hear that familiar cow bell. Finally they 're going to ring it for me. The many trips to the aid station I heard cow bells ringing, signifying a runner's arrival to the finish line. I was sure that sometime today, they will ring it for me when I finish, so I thought. I realized I was among the last few to cross the finish line because when I got there, the cow bell ringer had gone home and the recorder was out some 50 yards away schmoozing. But he rushed over to greet me and record my time. I finished in 8 hours and 16 minutes. No cowbell was rung for me, but you bet I'll be back next year. It'll be a shame if I don't; the course is practically my backyard.

Notes from a Slothlike Ultrarunner - Part 1 of 4

PCTR Montana de Oro 50K--Aug 15, 2010

The night before race day went smoothly. I did my usual preparation of setting up my running outfits. I have decided to change clothes halfway so that I can be more comfortable running the last half. It was unknown what kind of time I will be sacrificing. It will be an experiment this time. I gathered all the essentials to ultrarunning: Vaseline, duct tape, Power Gels, Luna Bars, Clif Bars, 2 running caps, bandana, Garmin, 2 pairs of shoes, socks, arm sleeves, my cooler for my drinks and Gu Brew. I usually have a very hard time sleeping the night before a big race, but I slept well two nights before, so lack of sleep shouldn't hamper my performance.

The morning of the race, I usually like to get to the start about an hour early to give ample time to register, go to the bathroom, mill around a bit to talk to other runners. It gets me in the zone and makes me less nervous that way. But this day was anything but. I took too long to fill up my new hydration vest. I had other pre-race issues that had to be taken cared of at home. I got to the start with 1/2 hour to spare and I live 4 miles from the course. My nerves were a little shot. I was meeting my new friend for the first time so that added a little to the stress. We finally met and it was like we've known each other forever. We did not know this at the time, but we both ran the San Francisco Marathon some three weeks earlier. A co-worker knew about this commonality we shared so she introduced us. Since then we've been sharing running stories, ideas for a possible future 40-miler, which finally culminated to us deciding to run this 50K for me and 25K as her first trail run ever.

All week, the weather forecast called for warm weather leading up to race day. I anticipated for a much slower time for my 50K, accounting for the warmth. Fortunately, the running gods blessed us with mild temps; it was foggy and overcast about 90 percent of the time. The 8:30 start for all events 8K,12K, 25K and 50K went without a hitch. The 8K had to turn around before Valencia Peak, while the 12K turned around at Valencia. The 25K consisted of running two peaks, Valencia and Hazard's Peak (the old Ridge Trail) while the 50K consisted of two loops the 25K. The fog hid the otherwise astonishing views of Valencia Peak, for both two loops. The fog lifted on my second loop to Islay Creek Trail towards Hazard's Peak revealing the immensity of the mountain before me. I wished I had not seen that at all. It was where I was headed and running it in the second loop, seemed just too daunting a task.

Ultrarunning...What's in a Name?

I wanted to create a running site that's easy to remember and yet reflects me. Someone already beat me to the name "Slorunner". Since I've just recently ran a 50K, I thought, why not sloultrarunner?  SLO which stands for my adopted city (I will always be an Oakland gal-from West side) and also, SLO is a pun for my slothlike speed. That said, let's clear up some of the technicality behind the word.

What's an ultra?  Short for ultramarathon, an ultra is technically any distance beyond 26.2 miles. It begins from 50K to infinity.  But for the ultra community, they really don't consider you a bonafide ultra runner unless you've completed a 50 miler, 100K or 100M.  Why even the elite ultra runners from the likes of the great David Horton thinks you have to at least do one 50 miler before you can call yourself an ultra runner. So where do I stand?  I have two 50Ks under my belt.  Until I can train, sign-up or complete my first 50 miler, then I am a pseudo ultra runner. I am not a poser, far from it. But I think I am close and I'll get there in due time. 

In an ultra, you have to run your own race and it is usually non-competitive which lends to its friendly sort of casual atmosphere. There are plenty of time to chat and get to know other runners especially during walk breaks or during the lonely night runs that is inevitable for 2 day long events (24-30-36 hour cut-offs).  In a marathon, there is a hardly any time to get to know other runners.  It's almost implicit that you sprint to the finish and you subject yourself to beeping watches to view your splits so that you can beat your time. In an ultra, time is not so much a factor. There is plenty of room for the ultrarunner to overcome personal challenges, whether it be race conditions, the rough course itself, mental fatigue, etc.  It's about personal exploration.  There is plenty of room for any particular runner to meet his/her goal. What's more? In a marathon, walking is almost a no-no or frowned upon (not me, I walk anyway).  In an ultra, if you want to finish, you had better taken walk breaks, early and often.  Those who run all through an ultra are for certain beaten by those who incorporated walk breaks in their race.  The best ultra runners power walk all the steep hills and runs the flats and downhills. That's how they survive.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What Inspired Me to Run My First Marathon

In the early days when I exclusively ran short distances like 5Ks or even 10Ks, I often wondered what it would be like to run a marathon. The thought was intimidating to me. That was just too much, no way would I be able to do that. Watching a marathon finish changed my mind.

One March weekend in 1997, I tagged along my mother in law to watch her fellow teacher friend finish his annual marathon excursion in Napa Valley. To make the trip worth my while I joined the accompanying 5K, called the Three "R"s, Reading-'Riting-'Rithmethic. I won my age group and I stuffed my medal in my pocket. After my quick race, we stood for hours and waited for the marathoners as they came in one by one in varying stages of exhaustion, exhilaration and for many, the fight to keep their legs from locking up before they got to the finish line. The local elites came in first, one even clicking his heals in mid-air! How did he do that, he just ran 26.2 miles? Friends and families hooted and hollered, and shouted words of encouragement: "You can do it! You're almost there! Looking good!" People clapped and screamed, as the announcer called out the names of the finishers. What was ingrained in my memory was not the fast finish of the elites or sub-elites, but the normal, everyday Joe Shmoe. I witnessed regular people doing extraordinary feats. I remembered a middle-aged lady, in particular, hobbling to the finish. Clearly she was favoring her left hip. It was obvious that her right hip was in excruciating pain. I could never forget the grimace on her face for every step she took as she got closer to that finish line. I wanted to run to her, to steady her. My mother in law and I looked at each other in amazement. I was choked up when she finally reached the end. (It would be half a decade later that I would fully realize the feeling of that late stage marathon fatigue.) I was simply in awe of her. What an incredible resolve she had to be able to push through that kind of pain, for that distance. On the way to Napa, I tried to wrap my head around how long 26.2 miles was by looking at the odometer. It tired me out. All kinds of people were crossing that finish line: old, young, male, female, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, grandparents--you get the picture. Those who look like they couldn't run a mile and people with handicap were all crossing the finish. Medals hung over their heads as their faces beamed with pride. I can't think of any other sport in the US where you get a medal just for finishing. Running is indeed such an inclusive sport. What a great achievement--for anybody who wants it. All you need are shoes, shorts and a tee.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Most Memorable 10K--The Berkeley Rainbow Run

3-16-1997- In my thirties, I was mostly running 5Ks on the weekends.  Naturally the next step up would be to run a 10K.  In the early days, I ran like Forrest Gump.  I ran aimlessly with no instructions from anyone.  The web was pretty much just starting out. I never thought to read self-help running books. Never heard of Hal Higdon or Jeff Galloway, the gurus of running. I put on my running shoes whatever was on sale. This was before I found out that I needed orthotics and motion-dcontrol shoes.  I ran with 100% cotton tees and I was off.  I ran one pace for both the 5k and 10k. This is what Coach Nancy would coin a "uni" pace, some 13 years later.   Not knowing any better, this was how I approached my first 10K: run it like it was a 5K. Big mistake.

I ran with a gal who had 1/4 of a kidney.  She was amazing, nothing stopped her.  Every afternoon, she would run 10 miles and would be back in 1.5 hours, without a drop of sweat in her.  For someone who only ran 3 miles at the time, that 10 miles everyday I thought was beyond my comprehension. I looked up to this girl. So when she asked me to run, I was gung-ho.  I knew she was fast. But I tried to hang on as far as I could to keep pace.

The 10K course consisted of two loops of the 5k. It was flat and fast along the Shorebird Park in Berkeley where the famous H's Lordship's restaurant is.  Both 5k and 10K started together.  I got sucked in the speed of the 5k.  "Elicia" was just cruising, she knew that I was trying hard to keep her pace. I was not going to hold her back so I pushed it. This was the first mistake of racing, trying to keep someone else's pace.  What did I know? We reached the first loop at 23 minutes and some change.  My first thought was, had I signed up for the 5k, I'd be done by now. I felt my lungs burn.  I wished the race was over.  The thought of the second loop just about killed me.  Between huffs and puffs, I worked up the nerve to tell Elisha that I was going to have to slow my pace.  I told her it was okay if she went on.  Before I finished my sentence, she was gone! I felt bad, because I had no idea she was itching to take off. I was glad I spoke up.  She must have been waiting to drop me but was just too nice to do so. I was relieved to to drop the pace a little which gave me a chance to catch my breath.  I tried to find another runner ahead of me to help me stay on pace. 

This is one of those moments that I realized that there are different kinds of runners out there who come in different shapes and sizes blessed with the running genes.  I tried to keep pace with this gal.  I thought I could hang with her, I mistakenly assumed that she would be slower than me. She did not have that familiar runner physique that I associated with speed. She was deceivingly fast on her feet.  I tried to hang with her but she dropped me in the very last mile.  I was so humbled. I finished in 50:11.  Elisha finished in 47 minutes flat.

Funny how our perspective changes in time.  When I finished in 50:11 that day I thought  my performance sucked.  My thought process was, since I consistently ran 24 minute 5Ks, my 10Ks should have been twice that long.  I thought I should have been able to run a 48 minute 10K. Looking back now, was I crazy or what? 50:11 was outstanding. I'd give anything right now to repeat that. It turned out that was my personal best for 10k.  Now each time I run a 10K which hovers between 52 and 54,  I think back to this first 10K, and think, "Damn I WAS fast."  I've accepted the fact that I will never be as fast as I used to be.  I never take it for granted each day that I am able to run injury-free.  I am happy to run even at slothlike speed. From the words of John "The Penquin" Bingham, "Waddle on friends."

Next Blog:  Ah first DNF!

Left Lane Sports--New Gears for the Trails

I really have no business pimping gears but look what I found online! Ships in one day.  I do believe I have every gear imaginable.  But I can't pass this up.  For $10.99 this handheld Ultimate Direction bottle is so cool. It's got neoprene sleevs--that mean's you can hang on to your cold drinks longer.  It's 50% off. 

Since I am on the site, might as well check out this Sugoi Helium Jacket that I've been eyeing for a while now.  Never could quite pull the trigger for full retail of $100.  But now that it is over half off, why not? It is so light at 3 oz.  Dude, that's a 100 grams! That's so perfect for the trail. I wished I had this last weekend at the PCTR Trail run in Montana De Oro. It's both wind and water resistant. I like the pocket at the back hip and the coverage of the drop tail hem. It's slightly fitted perfect for my boyish figure.  The website is LeftLane Sports--time to support our local company from our very own San Luis Obispo. I've compared their prices from the likes of Team which has the white one for $99. Rei-outlet has one for $38 (marine blue--too bright), it's a 2008 closeout  and the 2009 model (light blue) for $59. Seems like LeftLane got the best deal. Only thing is they are out of xs.  However, I know for a fact that Sugoi usually runs small. So I maybe in good hands.  I didn't plan this but they happen to match. Will let you know how fast shipping is. Boy oh Boy, I love getting presents.

There is a third product that I am eyeing as well: the Salomon XT Whisper Trail Shoes.  But I have to do more research.  I heard they are narrow.  That would prose a problem as I have wide feet.  I also have to insert my custom orthotics in it, so I might have to actually visit the store.  But what a deal for $55, normally $115. I'll hold off on the trail shoes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What's in your ipod? (to the jingle of "What's in your wallet?"

For years, I ran without music. I got tired of carrying that chunky yellow brick of a Walkman by Sony in my long runs. I would get mad when in the middle of a long run the batteries would kick out.  I'd carry that huge lug around my waist for nothing, just as a dead weight. It was too cumbersome. I used to have to flip the cassette tapes to listen to the "B" side.  Remember those?  The yellow head phones would hurt my ears after an hour or two. The wires would get all tangled up if I decided to take my first layer off. It was too much to deal with so I gave it up.  There has been a ton of electronic evolution between the Sony Walkman and the 4th generation shuffle by Apple.  As a Mother's Day gift in 2009, I was ready to try something new. 

I have been running with the ipod for over a year and a half now and I love it. The 12-hour charge is incredible.  It is a far cry from those AA batteries which would die out in the most inopportune moment.  The 1 gig is more than enough, holding an equivalent of 250 songs, if I am not mistaken. The best part is, this thing is so small that it hardly ever get in my way.  I usually wear it clipped on to my running cap and wrapped the cord around my pony tail leaving just enough for the ears. When I take my layers off, it does not get in the way.   Here's my playlist for training in the NY City Marathon this fall.

Beautiful Day U2

All That You Can't Leave Behind by U2
Bette Davis Eyes -Kim Carnes
Empire State of Mind -Jay-Z Alicia+Keys
Every Breath You Take -The Police
Niagara Fall- Harlem Shakes
The Rising -Bruce Springsteen
Steel G- Antietam Opus Mixtum Alternative
Streets of Philadelphia- Bruce Springsteen
Under Pressure- Queen
The Way I Are -(feat. Keri Hilson & D.O.E.) Timbaland
Where Does the Good Go -Tegan and Sara
OMG -Usher
Requiem -M.Ward Post-War
Sweet Home Alabama -Lynyrd Skynyrd
Unwritten -Natasha Bedingfield
Where Is The Love -The Black Eyed Peas
All I Want Is You - VSQ
Black Horse & The Cherry Tree- KT Tunstall
Can't Get You out of My Head - Kylie Minogue
Crazy In Love - BeyoncĂ©
Dear Jessie - Madonna
Family Affair- Mary J. Blige
Four Minutes -(feat. Justin Timberlake & Timbaland)
Get Ur Freak On - Missy Elliott
Hearing Damage -Thom Yorke New Moon Soundtrack Soundtrack
Hollaback Girl - Gwen Stefani
Hot N Cold - Katy Perry
Jai Ho  -A.R. Rahman, Sukhvinder Singh Slum Dog Millionnaire Soundtrack
Jigsaw Falling Into Place - Radiohead
Losing My Religion -R.E.M.
Meet Me Halfway - The Black Eyed Peas The E.N.D.
Mercy - Buffy
Mrs. Robinson - Simon & Garfunkel
My Humps - Black Eyed Peas
O...Saya - A. R. Rahman & M.I.A. Slum Dog Millionnaire Sound
Paper Planes-  M.I.A.
Poker Face - Lady GaGa
Riots - A.R. Rahman, Sukhvinder Singh Slum Dog
Sexy Back -Justin Timberlake Sexy Back
Shadow of the Day -Linkin Park
Shut Up - Black Eyed Peas
Silver Lining -Rilo Kiley
Solsbury Hill - Peter Gabriel
Spaceman - The Killers 2
Such Great Heights - Postal Service
Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall
The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite - R.E.M.
Where the Streets Have No Name - U2
Baba O'Riley-1 The Who
Cecelia -Simon & Garfunkel 
Dancing With Myself- Billy Idol
Disturbia - Rihanna
Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna 
Gonna Fly Now (Theme from "Rocky") -Bill Conti Rocky (30th Anniversary Edition)
Goodbye Horses - Q Lazzarus & Garvey
Hey, Soul Sister -Train Train Pop
I Got A Feeling -Black Eyed Peas
Just Dance -Lady GaGa
Kodachrome Paul Simon The Essential Paul Simon
M79 Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend
Rebellion (Lies) The Arcade Fire Funeral Alternative
Rise Safri Duo
Viva La Vida Coldplay
Walk Like an Egyptian The Bangles
Whip It Devo
Young Turks Rod Stewart
Zocalo Armin Van Buuren
Won't Get Fooled Again The Who

Looking for more cool songs.  What's your favorite go to songs?
So far I've taken you back to how I got started in running. Let's switch gears for a moment. Let's talk about hydration packs.

Recently I ran my second 50K and I was in search of the perfect hydra pack.  I already had the 4 8-ounce bottles made by Fuel Belt.  I like the belt because of the neat velcro closure.  It was a snap to take on or off.  But there is drawback. The combined 32 oz is not enough, even if you can fuel up in the aide stations situated every 8-9 kilometers. The bel,t however is perfect for shorter runs.

When I shop for gears, I like to see how the gear look on actual folks in motion.  So what better way to find out by looking at actual photos.  So I checked out the website on Bulldog 50K, linked to the photos of the finishers.  You can see how the gear looks on the run.  The Nathan Vest stuck out like a sore thumb.  The runners who wore it looked comfortable.  It was more like a vest as opposed to a backpack.  The backpack hydration looked like it shifted quite a bit. The runners with this kind of pack looks like they are a little uncomfortable.  The runners with the Nathan, they look like they don't have anything on their backs.  The plus of side of the vest also has to do with the pockets right at your disposal.  Gels, cameras, phones can be accessed easily.  you don't want to have to take off the pack to get stuff in or out every time you need a gel. The adjustable straps are great, as I found out myself.  The most important factor for me was that it holds 70 oz of water.  It didn't shift side to side even when I packed it at 6 pounds with my water, camera, cell phone, 8 gels, Vaseline, 2 Luna Bars.  I love the neutral light shade of grey color.  It goes with any outfit. (Yes, that's important. You don't want to clash colors. Just because you're gonna sweat later on doesn't mean you can just wear whatever.  Got to look the part.)   By the way, this Nathan Vest comes in a model designed for the woman's shape.  However, when I compared the two side by side, thanks to the folks at The Running Warehouse, the difference is negligible.  The women's vest was shorter by 1/2 inch.  The adjustable closure across the chest is longer.  The last thing that made me decide over the men's version was the pockets in the front.  The men's pocket seemed slimmer and has an additional mesh pocket.  The woman's version has a bigger bulkier pocket.  I prefer the slim line design.  But that's just me.  So I finally put the vest to the test on Sunday and it passed with flying colors.  I was comfortable meaning I didn't get hot like with the others.  The back mesh didn't ruin my technical shirt and refueling was a pinch.  And by the way, I had changed into dry clothes midway through the race and it went beautifully with each running outfit. Like my husband asks, "Are you running a race or going to a fashion show?" What a joker.  I give the Nathan Vest two snaps in a circle.

Martial Arts - Hapkido

After the StairMaster and the renewed interest in running, I was looking for more things to put some variety in my work-outs.   One day a co-worker came in with a black eye.  I asked her how she got the shiner.  She told me that another black belt threw her a flying side kick and she didn't block fast enough.  I was intrigued because this woman I was talking to was shorter than I was and she was a black belt herself.  I asked her if the club was just for students.  She got me in. Hapkido is atKorean style of self defense in Martial Arts.  I was hooked. I worked hard.  My favorite move was the choke.  I became so good at it that it was hard to find a sparring partner when we would do wrestling.  My partner would eventually tap out because I had a mean chokehold and armbar.  That was my specialty. Every semester soonafter, I was promoted to the upper belt.  In three years, I earned my brown belt. That was as far as I got; we moved out of the area.

It was in my second year in Hapkido that I was first introduced to trail running. We had year-end retreat that included running a half-marathon in the trails of Point Reyes in Marin County. I agreed to do it as a fun run.  I had only been running 5ks and a few 10Ks, but not that much more.  My longest run was 6 miles at the time. Needless to say I was ill-prepared.  As soon as I got on the trail, something happened.  The sight of the black belts taking off just fired up the competitive spirit in me.  I tried to stay with them. At every turn I was at their heels. Soon after the lead pack pulled away.  I found myself dropping some of the guys on the uphills, that just made me run harder. It gave me a confidence boost.  The group ahead would stop for photo opp at certain vistas.  I overheard one of them talking about some yellow belt.  They were wondering how I was able to keep up. I had to be honest, that made me feel good.  But I only felt good for the first half.  After that, I had slowed down.  I was introduced to some gluteus maximus pain from running uphills with no training behind me. I tried hard to keep up, but I was in excruciating pain. I managed to finish with the the black belts.  I wished I had known what my pace was.  This was before the days of Garmin. My first time on the trail and I treated it like a 10K.  Didn't like the hills. My approach was all wrong. It took me weeks to recover.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My First 5K Race

I had the StairMaster set up all the way to the max where all you see was red dots across the board.  I was stepping on it fast and furious, sweat flying all over the place. It was amazing.  I was losing weight literally about 1/3 of a pound every single day. But that near fainting spell on the StairMaster scared me enough to stop and vary my routine.  I moved on to the treadmill. At this point I really did not like it.  Twenty minutes was an eternity.  It was all I could do to stay on.  I even covered the control panels with a towel so that I wouldn't see how much time had passed.  Then I would peek to find out only 3 minutes had gone by. I dreaded it each time I got on.   My attitude soon changed, however. 

I was tagging along with some of my old college roommates one day to SF. The had planned to run a 5K with the Bridge to Bridge 10K.  I was indifferent and I went along for the ride.  I was even dressed inappropriately for the race, that I had to borrow clothes from one of the girls.  I made do with oversized sweatshirt and sweatpants.   I had no idea what I was getting into.  I've never ran a race in my whole life.  The gun went off and I followed the crowd.  While running, I thought to myself, "We didn't even talk about where we were meeting at the end of the race." Mind you, this was the age before cell phones.  I tried to run as fast as I could.  I remembered how hard it was to breathe.  My quads burned.  All I could think of was when will this be over? Why  does it hurt so much?  My lungs felt like they were going to implode.  But one thing I didn't think about was to walk.  The thought didn't occur to me.  I was too worried about not being able to find my friends at the end.   When I crossed the finish line,  I didn't see the girls. I started to get worried.  Then one by one they started to come in. One of the girls, was surprised to see me.  "You finished?" she asked.  What was your time? The clock said 26 something.  She said,  "You beat all of us."  Little did she know that that was not my plan.  All I wanted was to make sure I didn't lose them.  This 5K sparked my interest in running and a seed was planted. Hello 5Ks.

Getting Hooked on the Stairmaster

I pre-paid a 3-month membership at the gym soon after I realized that my pants size had approached size 10 for petites.  When you are as short at I am, size 10 is pretty pudgy.  I was not happy about myself.  I felt sluggish and I didn't pay attention to what I ate.  Every morning before work I got a cup of coffee and a cheese Danish. It was either that or Noah's Bagels. Lunch time consisted of dollar Chinese Food. Dinners were mostly take out. My first day at the gym was no picnic.  I got on the stationary bike and I didn't like the uncomfortable seat.  Twenty minutes was an eternity.  I signed up for 3 months and let it go to waste.  I never returned.  I was not motivated at all.

I can't remember exactly but I signed up for yet another membership at the gym this time on the Berkeley Campus where I worked.  Since staff workers received ample discount for joining, I thought I would take advantage.  Seeing young college kids hop in and out of the cardio machines, my competitive fire was rekindled. If they can do it, so could I.  There was a 20 minute maximum time for each StairMaster machine with a long wait list to get on.  At my lunch hour I would do a 20 minute session on the machine. It got to be routine that I would be grumpy if I missed a session. Months later, the 20 minute at lunch became easy, so I came back after work to do another 20.  Soon after that I added 40 minutes after work. The pounds started to melt away and my clothes felt looser.  My double chin disappeared.  That was my sore spot. I used to have a friend who would say hello to me by pulling the skin under my chin.  That used to annoy the heck out of me...Seeing the weight come off, I became a little obsessed.  I started waking up at earlier to be at the gym at 5am, only to return at noon and after work. I was exercising 3 times a day, 5 days a week. I would come home exhausted.  Curious thing about us humans, is once we see a definitive progress, something we can measure and is tangible, the more we stick to it. I was motivated to work harder because I can see and feel my progress. 

My weight dropped to 96 pounds and I looked unhealthy.  Finally, I got a grip one day when I had a scary moment. I felt lightheaded while on the StairMaster. I lost my vision for a few moments, which seemed to last forever.  I held on to the handlebars so hard so that I wouldn't fall over.  Thankfully my vision returned and I slowly got off the machine sort of panicked.  I had nothing to eat and I had been on the machine for 1 hour. (There was the 20-minute limit that I ignored, due to my obsession.  I didn't care who was waiting.) I must have had low blood sugar, but that incident was enough for me to realize that what I was doing was not healthy.  I backed off and decided to only exercise twice a day.  I decided to venture to other cardio machines.

Next: Moving from the StairMaster to the treadmill and martial arts

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My First Blog - Welcome to My Running Adventures

Welcome to my running blog.  I am a running enthusiast, an adult onset athlete.  Funny thing is I've never ever been crazy about running as a child. Growing up in the Philippines, it was always hot, muggy, humid--not the ideal conditions for wanting to run.  In high school, the extent of my running was in competitive badminton. That was about it. In college, we all know about the Freshman 10. In my case the "Freshman 20". After graduating from UC Berkeley, I packed on 130 pounds in a 4"11" frame.  I was shopping for jeans one day at my favorite store, Ross, and was surprised that a size 8 jeans was too tight.  Without giving it much thought, my fingers did the walking to the section that read "size 10 petite".  Then it dawned on me.  What am I doing? This is not okay. I put the hanger back and rushed home to sign up at the neighborhood gym.  That was my beginning on the road to healthy change--well people who know me might say, my freakish obsession to running.

In this blog, I hope to cover all things running. I'd like to go back to how I got started, share the people who contributed to my running and more importantly, how I stay motivated. I will never forget the day I ran my first 5K in 1996 and to think that just a few days ago I completed my second 50K.  I am still giddy at the thought of crossing that finish chute. My love of running has gotten more intense in the last couple of years. I've competed in a number of local races from 5ks, 10ks, 1/2 marathons and marathons. I am not the fastest runner.  In fact, I am a middle of the pack runner, but I love running just as much as the next elite runner. My mission is to make my passion for running to be as infectious as can be.  If I am able to pull someone out of the couch and on to the road, track or the trail, I've made my part.  I'd like to share how someone who was once sedentary has now become an ultra trail running enthusiast. It didn't take overnight, don't get me wrong. It was not all love at first sight with running, but it was a grand adventure just the same. So stay tuned and let's talk shop.