Monday, May 30, 2011

San Luis Obispo Marathon - 2012

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For the race recap on the Inaugural SLO Marathon:
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We knew it was going to happen sooner or later.  Branded by Oprah as the Happiest Place in America, I wondered why it has taken this long for the Central Coast to have its inaugural marathon.  Santa Barbara claimed its inaugural marathon in 2009, after a 25-year hiatus. More recently, Paso Robles kicked off theirs last fall. Why not San Luis Obispo? Well the wait is almost over--well sort off.  On Saturday, May 28, the SLDC was invited to attend a taping of the promo video for the upcoming SLO Marathon. The video will be used as a vehicle for advertisement on the SLO Marathon Website (not operational yet, but has a coming soon sign where you can drop your email address now and so you can get your notification as it gets going.) The video will also  be seen in YouTube and will later morph into a commercial on TV.  

The marathon is slotted for Earth Day 4/22/12, that will involve running through a loop of SLO town and parts of Edna Valley, starting and ending at the Madonna Expo. The course details are tentative of course as they are still on the permitting stages at this point in time. Co-race directors Samantha Pruitt and Heather Hellman were in attendance to spur the excitement. They did not disappoint as the hair on the back of my neck stood up at the mere mention of what sounds like a world class marathon in our backyard--there is no need to travel.  That's the perk! 

The shooting of the promo video was low-key event but it was a lot of fun.  Club members who showed up were Matthew and Chris Shuck, Dave Dunbar, Heidi Harrison, Janet Norem, and yours truly. We met a lot of fun runners who were goof-offs as soon as the camera rolled. People yelled out for "hair and make-up" after one take, "I'm glistening!" People playfully yelling, "That's a wrap" after only cresting one hill.  After a hard segment up a slight grade, one would comment, I hope he (videographer) got that on film." Another joker yelled out, "Is he even on that hill taping?" A triathlete from the SLO Triathlon Club named Bobby was in rare form. He made comments that are probably not appropriate for this newsletter. He had people in stitches. It made waking up early Saturday morning on a three-day weekend a little more bearable.  It was worth it.

We must have ran no more than 3miles total for the shoot. We ran up and down the hilly Tank Farm Road/Orcutt Road while the videographer shot us from atop Islay Hill for an aerial view. We were told to space ourselves out and not run in clumps to simulate a real race. The rabbits did their thing by separating themselves from the weekend Trekkers. Of course, when the director said make it look real, I had no reason to awaken the inner actress in me. There was no need because this seems to be my MO at races all the time. Yes, start out fast and putter near the end--just like in a real race. That was my contribution. 
The camera guy is a Cuesta College student named Robert Weber. He did a fabulous job while achieving some creative shots. At one point told us that he would run with us in the midst of the crowd as we were running. We must have run about 200 yards and he stopped. He said, he was winded and said he doesn't like it. I was not sure if I was the only one who heard him say, that he has never seen a race start before.  I wondered what kind of transformation he would feel after seeing an actual race. I know it will change him and what comes through in those lens of his. That would be a sight to behold. But I digress.

One shot that I thought that was pretty funny was when he asked us to simulate a race start with our index fingers on our watches as we took off running. I was sure it looked fake to me since you would never in a million years, find me in the front of a start line like that--Not even in my wildest dreams.  And the funniest thing of all, there were runners who actually started their watches as if it was a real race.  I heard actual beeps going off and people started cracking up. Such amateurs! Finally, he wrapped up the shoot with pictures of us from the back running, as well as side shots with the vineyards as the backdrop, and finally he took a shot of the most colorful assembly of shoes.  I cannot wait to see the final product. More importantly, I cannot wait for April 22, 2012.  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Marathon Maniac # 3809 - That's me!

It's official.  I've crossed over to the Insane Asylum. I never thought I would, but after a streak that qualified me to enter in the bronze category of Marathon Maniacs' rigorous criteria, why not? As a bronze entrant, my marathon streak was 3 marathons in 56 days. That was Napa Valley Marathon (Mar. 6), Oakland Running Festival (Mar 27) and The Avenue of the Giants (May 1).  I'm now Marathon Maniac #3809. I'm pretty excited that I met one of my goals for 2011. It was hairy there for a while. In the beginning of the year, I started out a little wobbly.  I was super gung ho about getting back into training fresh from a PR in NYC marathon.  Intense workouts, hills and speed was my recipe for disaster. I unknowingly aggravated my piriformis. For several weeks leading to Napa, I had a lot of downtime.  My training for Napa Marathon was hampered and I didn't almost make it to the line. Visits to the chiropractor proved futile.   Luckily, I found my problem and accupuncture was a Godsend. I was able to run Oakland, but had to cross out all speed work-outs to minimize aggravating the piriformis. My time in Oakland was not the greatest but I had to remind myself that finishing was the ultimate goal.  Heading into the Avenue, I continued to be careful and dropped all speed workouts again. Turned out to be a good decision.

Speaking of NYC, I found out opening day of the NY City Marathon, courtesy of my friend Rich, I made it in the class of 2011. I was so sure that I would not be so lucky, (two years in a row--please don't hate me), that I signed up for CAL International in December.  I thought, there was no way.  All day I was glued to my computer at work, logging in my profile every hour on the hour to see whether I got in. Only message it spat out was Check back tomorrow at 10 am when your profile log in will be available. It wasn't until I got home when I logged on to FB and Rich gave the somber news that Mary Wittenberg didn't give him good news. It would have been sweet had he gotten in, as he would have raced on his birthday. I asked, How did you know so fast? Where do you go to find out?  My heart was thumping so fast, I couldn't type fast enough, my fingers kept going to the wrong keys. I was back-spacing, deleting, calling my computer all kinds of names...well ok I exaggerated.  Then Rich gave me the link to the site. I thought I was going to look it up myself, but he beat me to it, and gave me the words that were music to my ears "You're in."   I thought it was an April-fool's joke. Well, no, I think what I said, was "Are you freakin' kidding me?" (Sorry Rich, I was overcome with excitement.)  I had to see it for myself: I typed in my name in the link and there it was. "Congratulations! You've been selected."  Then the next thought, how do I break this to my ball and chain? I was thinking about the expense. We had a previous discussion that if I get in, I would defer to the next year. But that was all before I read the fine print and realized the real cost of deferment. Anyway, I thanked Rich for making my day that Wednesday April 27, 2011.  New York here I come. Ahh, is it too early to pack?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Avenue of The Giants Marathon - May 1, 2011

Isn't she a beauty?

Back from Weott, CA in Humboldt County, my training partner, Heidi, and I took a weekend trip up North to quelch our long time fascination with this marathon. It's been in our bucket list of marathons to do in CA. Since Weott is ten hours from SLO, we decided to break up the drive and stayed with my relatives in Santa Rosa on Friday night. On Saturday we drove 4 1/2 hours from Santa Rosa to Weott to the expo. It was a no-frills kind of Expo. We received our bib numbers which had the timing chips attached on the back of it, our race shirts (in women's sizing) and a "green bag." For $60.00 registration, this was well worth our money.
Don't blink, otherwise you'd miss this Expo
On the night before the Marathon, we stayed in Fortuna, a town which is a 1/2 hour drive north of Weott. Most hotels and motels required two nights stay minimum, but we lucked out as Heidi reserved well in advance. After the fact, the hotel tried to back pedal to convince us that we needed to stay a second night. They didnt know they were dealing with Heidi...long story short, they honored our reservation. The tricky part was they wouldn't allow us a late checkout, and if we wanted to use their showers, we'd have to pay for the second night. For marathon travelers, it is a necessity to get a late checkout so that we can get cleaned up so that we're comfortable for the ride back home. Luckily, Heidi found a nearby campsite called Giant Redwoods, RV & Campsite, in a town called Myers Flats, where we paid $5.00 for showers. Now that was a deal!
Let's get the show on the road!
Me and my Redwood just before the start

On marathon morning we arrived at the staging area in Weott under the Dyerville Bridge around 7 a.m. We were glad that we got there one hour early because as we found out the parking area filled up and became a stressful issue for some runners who had to start late because they had to park a little further down the road. While waiting in the car, Heidi and I realized that we needed to dress more appropriately for the cooler temps at 43 degrees. At the last minute, we decided to change our attire to anticipate the windy conditions. We changed into our long sleeves New York tech shirts on top of pairs of arm warmers for wind protection. But as we'd find out later, it turned warmer than we anticipated and the wind died down. The weather turned to be unpredictable in such a short amount of time.

They don't seem cold.
The race looked pretty small with 566 eventual finishers in the full marathon. Even though it was small, Heidi and I became separated and didn't see each other at the start. While waiting for the start, I didn't notice a whole lot of people warming up as in bigger races. The race promptly started at 8:04 am. The course consisted of two lollipop loops of double out and back. The first loop began on Bull Creek Road where we proceeded 6.5 miles to the first turn around which was also the highest elevation point of the course. The first 6.5 miles consisted of short rollers and curves that were deceivingly tiring. The road on this first loop was also heavily cambered and after a while, that proved to be a challenge. The road had a lot of cracks on it and it was difficult to run evenly. After a while the bottom of my feet felt every crack on the road.
The aide stations for water and Gatorade were evenly spaced out every 2, 4, and 6 miles. One thing I noticed about the Gatorade was, that it was made perfectly. It was not watered down or syrup-py as in other marathons. Kudos to the volunteers for getting it right!

It was on this first half of the course that I first noticed the Giant Redwoods. For the most part it, in the beginning it seemed like just rows of regular trees. All of a sudden, you're plodding along and the scenery sweeps you off your feet with the Giant Redwood trees towering over you. The rows of giant trees stood majestically tall ,as if guiding the road. It was like a painting and the only difference is that you're in the canvas. I had to stop in awe and take my shots. I couldn't bear to just pass these reverend trees. They were magnificent. And just like that, it was back to the regular trees. As I came closer to the first turn around, I spotted Heidi as she completed the turnaround. We gave each other high-fives. She looked very focused and strong, even without her ipod! Incidentally, running with ipods here were also frowned-upon, just like it was in Napa.
I almost fell backwards taking this shot!
After the first loop, the marathoners circled back to the starting area, to begin our second loop onto The Avenue of the Giants. This was also where the 1/2 marathoners and 10K runners would eventually start at 9 a.m. It was easy to distinguish the half marathoners and 10K runners from the full because of their bib colors. I think this is important because, sometimes when you are exhausted, discouraged or hitting a rough patch, when someone passes you in seemingly effortless gait, realizing they are running a different race makes it tad more bearable.

The second out and back onto The Avenue of tthe Giants was in better condition than Bull Creek Road.
The road was not as cambered and it was smoother than the first half. At some point there was an opening in the canopy of trees and sunlight beamed so brightly that I worried about the heat. But before I could even complain, I was back in the cooler shades of the Redwoods again. The turn around point was mile 19.5 and I was anxious to get there. I knew at some point I would run into Heidi again at this second turn around, as she was running strong ahead of me. Eventually we would see each other again and another high five!
Crowd thinned out by this point
For the most part, spectators were scarse. The cheers we often heard were from runners themselves coming or going out of the loops. There were a lot of friendly people who would smile or nod at you even if they couldn't offer a cheer--maybe because they were tired or were saving what little energy they had left. If you are the kind of runner looking for spectator support to draw energy from (i.e., New York City Marathon), this race won't be for you. On the other hand, if you love and enjoy nature in its purest form, well, The Avenue is waiting for you.

The final 10K was rough. It always is, and I expected it. My pacing dropped and my legs and feet were tired. My quads cramped but it was manageable. I was soon passed by folks whom I had passed in the first half. That was demoralizing. But they did a better job pacing themselves, so as they passed me by, I yelled out "Great Job!" At the same time, at mile 24, I also passed a guy whom I raced early on, between miles 10-12 and where I was soon dropped. When I caught up to him again on mile 24, he was walking. I got some surge of energy back and managed to run the rest of the way to the finish. Soon I would find myself running behind a guy wearing huaraches but not for long, because he took off. As I kept my eyes on him in the distance, I noticed an all too familiar gait. Could it be? It was Heidi! What was going through my mind was, wouldn't it be great if we can finish together? But I was running on empty. I didn't know how I could possibly run any faster on tired legs. To top it all off, looking forward, there appearred to be a steep hill near the 25th mile. Luckily, previous reviews forewarned us about this optical illusion and that hill was really the bridge over the freeway. I was glad to see that it was true. As I crossed over the bridge, I could hear them announcing Heidi's name as she approached the finish line, "From Paso Robles, CA". Then they called out my name, "From Los Osos, CA." Heidi turned around in surprise, and we greeted each other with the biggest hug! We did it! Heidi finished in 4:19:44 and I in 4:19:49. We came in 8th and 9th in our age group, respectively! We receved our medals, got our water and we were out of there. Finally, Avenue of the Giants, checked.
Heidi with her medal
Me with mine

Heidi and I post-race back home in SLO