Tuesday, July 12, 2016

2016 Mountain 2 Beach Marathon - Race Recap

Date: May 29, 2016
Location: Ojai to Ventura, CA
Start: 6:00 am
Finish: 3:32:41 (new PR and third BQ)

The first part of this recap is mainly on my history with this race and the lead in to the actual race. If you are not interested in that, you can probably scroll down.

It's been over a month since I ran this race so I figured that I should probably do a recap before I forget all the details. Unfortunately, I've already forgotten a lot but I've found these recaps to be useful when I look back on them to see what I did surrounding the race. Memory don't fail me now.

I haven't ran this race since 2013 right before my pregnancy but I've always liked this race. Not just because I've always done well on this course (I progressively run PR times in consecutive years and it's where I first qualified for Boston) but I also love the location and the race day weather. So this race has been good to me. After I had my baby, I wasn't sure if I had wanted to do this marathon-ing thing again but after my baby turned one I started casually running again and boy that good old feeling just came rushing back. That year when the Boston Marathon rolled around, I suddenly felt the desire to go back to run that race again. Which meant that I would have to put in the time to train to run a qualifying race and I knew exactly which race I wanted to target.

I started gearing up for this race around early October 2015. I had been logging some casual miles earlier in the year to the tune of maybe 20/25 miles per week after having ran zero miles for two years due to aforementioned pregnancy. So I had a lot of work to do to get back into marathon running shape. I decided to use the Hansons Marathon Method for this cycle because it had been sitting in the back burner for so many years and I thought 'why not?' Isn't that always how every good decision starts...'sure, why the heck not!'

So I went from 25 miles a week to 40/50 miles on the recovery weeks and up to 60/65 miles on peak weeks. I was not really prepared for this to say the least but I sucked it up and took rest days where needed. I had signed up for the LA Marathon as my practice race to get re-acclimated with the whole marathon-ing thing and this proved to be a good decision because boy was I rusty. A few weeks after I completed the LA Marathon, I resumed training for my goal race. I didn't restart a new training cycle. Instead, I just picked up a couple of weeks into the cycle since I already had the mileage training in my legs. This time around, I felt much stronger, still pretty tired from the higher mileage but overall pretty happy with how I was handling the fatigue and being able to hit my goal pace.

Fast forward to taper week...

...all the training was done, I've arrived at taper week injury-free and ready to race but then the nerves started to set in and it was Monday. It was going to be a long week!

When I signed up for the race, I was aware that the course had changed a couple of times since I ran it last but a few months before the race they announced that the course was changing again and at the time there was not even a map to look at. This was where the source of my nervousness was coming from...an unknown course. In the month leading up to the race, I saw some postings on Facebook from a couple of individuals who had taken it upon themselves to run different sections of the course and reporting back. Some said the changes were good while others said it was more difficult. So at the end of the day, I didn't really learn anything new or useful.

Let me just say that the course I ran this year was completely and totally different from the course in 2013 and it is slightly more difficult in my opinion. We lost some of the drop and made some gains in elevation. The only part of the course that felt like a decline was mile 4-5 and 12-14, the other parts felt flat. Those little blips around miles 12, 15 and 17 did not feel great to maneuver at race pace and that tiny bump at mile 23 mentally messed with me when my legs were pretty tired. My mind was making mountains out of mole hills. Overall, my quads were way less trashed than in 2013 since the decline was more gradual. This is still a fast course with historically good weather to boot.

2016 course

2013 course

When race weekend rolled around, I was full of excitement. Especially after I saw my bib number. Lucky sevens all across.

My husband and I made the 3-hour drive from the OC to Ojai the day before the race. I'm borderline OCD so I had planned out the entire weekend hour-by-hour on paper but most of it just went out the window because things just sort of fell into place on it's own. I've ran this race so many times that I've developed a ritual of things that I must do prior to the race, thereby the planned out weekend. Mostly because of superstition than it actually attributing anything to my running. As in years pasted, our plan was to stop by the Camarillo Outlets to do some shopping then have lunch at this little Mexican place, then go to the expo, check in at the hotel, watch an action flick (and yes it has to be a action flick...bonus if it is Marvel/Star Wars/Superhero), have dinner, set out my stuff for the next morning and then turn in. I leave out the part where I toss and turn for several hours but I assume that's a given.

I did manage to do all those things, just not in that order. The deviation started early on. My coworker kindly offered to pick up my bib for me the weekend before the race so I didn't even go to the expo the day before so I had extra time. We got hungry on the drive up and was not able to wait until lunch time so we ended up stopping at this quaint little restaurant called Jessica's Cafe where I ordered this giant cinnamon roll that was really disappointing.

After our meal we did end up at the outlets where I scored on some Oakley shades, True Religion jeans and some clothes for our little man.

Normally we would have dinner in Ventura or Ojai the night before the race but we ended up having dinner at this place near the outlets called Lure Fishhouse since we didn't have to drive into Ventura to pick up my bib since I already had it. That bread basket was pretty amazing! Strangely my dinner was not so much. Maybe I ordered the wrong thing. I was so tempted to eat some oysters but I'd imagined that would have been a bad idea.

I slept for a couple of hours that night and woke up before my alarm went off. I guess I was ready to go. Our hotel was about a mile from the start so after I had some coffee/snack, I got dressed and made the warm-up jog to the starting line. We have stayed in Ventura in previous years but it turned out to be a pretty good idea to stay in Ojai because I got to sleep in a bit more, got a warm-up jog in and arrived 15 minutes before the official start. I was even able to find my coworkers who I had trained for this race with as the race is still relatively small. Weather was perfect for me in the 60s and logistics looked pretty smooth from my point of view at the starting line and they started right on time.

My goal for this race was to beat my time from 2013 and in doing so would also get me a BQ time. I started the race very conservatively as I had wanted to run a negative split. Everything felt great up until mile 16 when I started to feel less than great for the first time. I kind of panicked at that point when I should have just soldiered on. My heart rate was fine but my legs started to feel tired and I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to finish strong so I would slow down every couple of miles to make sure that I didn't hit the wall. Looking back I should have just ran my goal pace and not over think it so much. In the end I'm happy with the outcome because I did manage to check off both my goals of a personal course PR and a BQ. I'm also pretty happy that I was able to maintain a somewhat even pace throughout and didn't fade the last six miles like I have historically done in the past. A true testament to the effectiveness of the Hansons Marathon Method which really helped me hone in on the feeling of a pace.

Race photos were free but I only got one and it was very bad. Luckily, my friend Pam took this one of me at mile 25. I don't know what I was doing here...maybe trying to fly. Yep, I was still smiling but it was mainly because I was so happy to see Pam at the mile 25 marker. She paced me to the finish line at a sub-8 pace so that I could be put out of my misery. She's a good friend.

Pam and her husband drove a couple of hours at the crack of dawn in order to get to the finish line in time to pace her friends in. That's really a great act of kindness on their part. I'm really appreciative to have her as a friend.

It was a really great day for a race. Good weather, good course and I had a really good race. Couldn't ask for more.

Later that day, my husband and I ended up meeting Pam and her husband for lunch at that Mexican joint I mentioned earlier which was really nice since we haven't had time to hang out in a really long time. See...we managed to hit everything on my OCD list.

I'm really happy that I ended up signing up for this race because despite all the changes to the course, it is still one of my favorite!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hansons Marathon Method - Phase One

For all intents and purposes I'm going to refer to the Hansons Marathon Method here on out as (HMM) to simplify things.

I'm also going to breakdown the plan into three phases because while I was going through the training, I felt like I went through three different stages. I'm going to classify the first month or two of the training program as Phase One. So what happens in this phase? If you already have a solid mileage base, very little/minor changes will be evident. If you are coming back after taking extended time-off or a long rest due to injury, you will experience the most change.

Sometimes change can be good and also bad which is the case for this training plan. HMM is an 18-week training plan that will have you running 6-days a week with one rest day. This is true even on the beginner's plan. The beginner's plan peaks at 57-miles and the advance plan peaks at 63 about three weeks from the race date. This seemed crazy to me at first. Crazy and scary.

I decided to go with the advance plan only because I had already built up a modest base by the time I started this plan. So my experience with this plan will be based on someone who had normally trained 3-5 days a week of running mixed in with cross-training.

The book does mention that if you are training for your first marathon and don't have a time goal aside from finishing that the beginner's plan is the way to go. Having said that I feel like the beginner's plan might be challenging if you've never ran before...like ever. The beginner's plan is also a good introduction to the running 6-days a week thing if that seems daunting.

The first week or two will be tolerable and you'll feel really proud of yourself because you're running 6-days a week. That's only because there are no 'workout' runs yet. You will however feel tired by Sunday. Your legs may even feel sluggish towards the end of your Sunday long runs.

Week three is where the speed (track) and tempo workouts start. This week will seem shocking at first especially when you look back. I had a hard time maintaining pace on the final miles of my first tempo run. Do yourself a favor at this point and don't look ahead on the schedule because it will just freak you out but take comfort knowing that by the end you will be doing everything on the schedule and feeling awesome about it...for the most part. You will be tired but you will feel awesome! Trust me. Tempo runs will become your most favorite thing. Just me?

When you reach the end of the first month, you will feel really fatigued. I mean really really TIRED.

I remember just crawling into bed every night at 9 pm and be dead asleep in five minutes. You will wonder if you will be able to carry on with the plan because this is only the beginning and things will just add on. I was constantly talking about being tired at this point. I did skip a couple of runs the first month because I was so tired and I didn't want to get injured running with poor form due to fatigue. Looking back maybe I could have benefited from starting with the beginner's plan like a friend had suggested but I guess my ego got in the way. This feeling of fatigue will go on for another couple of weeks while your legs and body adjust to the 6-days of running regime. The important thing to do at this point is HANG ON. Just hang on no matter how tired you feel or how much you hate the plan. Just keep moving. Slowly if you have to but don't give up on the plan because the feeling of fatigue will ease. It's almost like going up a hill. At some point, you will reach the summit and you will be glad that you stuck with it.

I mean it's not going to be cake after Phase One but you do acclimate to the new normal. Your body is amazing, you can put it through hell and it will still come through for you. Believe it or not more crazy stuff starts to happen in Phase Two.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hansons Marathon Method - One New Mom's Journey Back to Marathoning

Point A to Point B...also known as how I went from casual running after baby to running a marathon again. Here it is...the Hansons Marathon Method.

I fondly refer to this book as my running bible. From the moment I picked it up to the time I turned the last page it has captivated me. Yes, I read this book cover to cover. Multiply times. Everything in this book is useful...or at least it is to me. I pick it up at least once a week still to refresh my memory. Mainly because I have a bad memory. Also, because the more you get into the training process the more this book starts to make sense. When you first start reading you might not fully understand everything they are talking about or care but in time you will. I've ran a lot of races but this book gave me a new perspective on training. It is very likely that I was doing it all wrong before. Highly likely.

Let me start by saying that I'm no stranger to running. Prior to getting pregnant it felt like I was running a marathon every other month so I didn't just pick up this book and go from zero to sixty. However, if you are new to running, this book could also work for you since there is a beginners section that I think is pretty reasonable.

I think if I had to pick the one thing I like most about this training plan it is that everything is laid out for you. All you have to do is pick out a reasonable pace and/or finishing time and commit to it. Honestly, even if you pick out an unreasonable pace, you will find out in a painful way soon enough to adjust to a goal that's right for you. So it's all good. Mostly foolproof.

I can't stress this enough when I say that you will need to COMMIT to your pace because you will literally need to eat, sleep and breathe that goal for the next three to four months. This plan works really well for people who likes structure and having every workout laid out for them. You won't have to worry about what you're going to do today or the next because everything is spelled out for you. All you have to do is make sure you do it. This plan is not very flexible and it admits to that. If you are going to continually miss runs or change things around or worse try to add other elements to it, it may not work very well for you and you may end up not accomplishing your goals which will be frustrating especially if you put in a lot of time and effort into the training.

Having said that, I for one love this plan. Prior to using this plan, I was a Hal Higdon training plan devotee. I had used the Higdon plans for so long that I was really hesitant to try something new but I'm glad I took that leap of faith. I really didn't have a reason for changing training plans. The Higdon plans were good enough to get me through over 20 marathons and even 2 BQs. What I lacked now that I use to have a ton of before was free time. Being a first time mom is hard. Trying to train for a marathon at the same time is harder. I was looking for something that didn't require me to be out for 3-hour training long runs on the weekends. Although, looking back, the HB method is equally time consuming just in different ways.

So how did I do on this plan? I'm going to say 'good'. I'll go into more details in the next couple of posts and break it down for you month by month. It's just too much to cover everything in this one posting.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My 2016 LA Marathon Recap

Date: February 14, 2016
Location: Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica Pier
Start: 6:55 am
Finish: 03:59:10

Elevation profile:

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written one of these. Okay, here we go.

I was supposed to go to the expo on Saturday, the day before the race with some friends so that we could kill two birds with one stone. Meaning so that we could pick up our bibs and watch the Olympic Trials all in one go. But I decided to go up on Friday instead so that I could stay home on Saturday and rest up for the race. I have not been to a race expo in a couple of years so I spent more time walking around and talking to vendors than I normally do. It was fun to be back in this environment again. Skechers Performance was the new title sponsor this year. Taking over for ASICS.

I was feeling nervous and because the forecast predicted higher than usual heat levels on Sunday, I hydrated like it was my job all of Friday and Saturday. I think I hydrated too much. Went to bed Saturday night pretty early but couldn't sleep at first but got a solid five hours in so I was happy with that.

I carpooled with my buddy Darren and his neighbors to Dodger Stadium. We left the OC around 4:30 am and got dropped off around 5:45 am which was perfect. I got to use the potty once but the lines got too long when I went back a second time but I didn't really have to go that badly so thank goodness.

Got in corral B in time to de-layer, take my first GU and listen to the national anthem. Things moved pretty quick after that. The elite women took off first and then the rest of the field followed ten minutes later. Believe it or not it was still a bottleneck nightmare to get going even up in corral B. It's tons better than being in the open corral but still really crowded as people try to find their positions.

So I started the race with the 3:35 pacer. I think this was wishful thinking on my part. I stayed with the group up until mile 12 which was where things started to go awry. You see I did almost all my training runs on pretty flat terrain and running the first half which is a series of rolling hills at pace ended up being my demise. I got some quad cramps around mile 13 but was able to walk it off. I had to slow my pace down by 30 seconds to a minute per mile over the next 6 miles but I kept chugging along because the crowd/volunteer support is just awesome at this race. I guess my mind had forgotten how tough it is to run this distance.

Here I am in Hollywood around the midway point. Smiling but suffering inside a bit.

Here I am in Beverly Hills around mile 17 and as you can see I am struggling. I struggled the most between miles 19-22 where the rolling hills started again. I mentally just shut down and took it one step at a time.

After this part, somehow I found my second wind and was feeling much better and picked up my pace a bit. I mean I wasn't feeling fresh as a daisy but I started smiling and waving to the crowds again. My nickname at this race was apparently "Tutu". "Go tutu!!" they would yell.

So this picture pretty much sums up miles 23-26.

The elation of reaching the finish line!

I crossed the finish line and was walking like a normal person. Not limping and not overly tired like I usually am. WTH! Why did I feel so bad in the middle parts and then felt great towards the end? This is a rhetorical question of course because I know exactly what I did wrong and how I can fix it for this future race. I am going to write a followup post on my training plan and go more into details on this race and how I plan to prepare for my next marathon coming up at the end of May. That post will have way less gratuitous photos so come back for that if you are interested. :)

So I did it! I finished my first post pregnancy marathon and made it just under 4-hours. Phew! That was a close one. This was my 9th LA Marathon and my 24th lifetime marathon. It's a course PR for me and my fifth best marathon time out of 24 so it's not too bad but not how I had envisioned it. I think the important thing about this training cycle is that I came out on the other end uninjured despite running more miles than I ever had in any training cycles and felt strong and prepared for the most part which is not something I could've said for most of the marathons I ran in the past.

Until next time LA Marathon! You were my first and will always hold a special place in my heart. It was a blast spending Valentine's Day with you.

(p.s. I ran my first marathon 10-years ago with my sister at the 2006 LA Marathon so this is an anniversary of sort.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thoughts On The Eve Of My First Postpartum Marathon

It's been awhile since I blogged but with only a few days left until my first marathon post baby I thought it would be a good time to clear out the cobwebs so I'll have a place to write a proper post race report. I've been reading up on some of my past race reports this month leading up to race day and it's really nice to relive the emotions and details. I guess that's why this blog is still here.

I've not blogged in so long that it would be impossible to document everything that has happened since I last blogged...last summer. As I'm typing this, I realize how rusty I've gotten at banging these out. I'll attempt a short summary.

So last year (circa March 2015) right after my baby's first birthday, I decided to start running again. By the way, my "baby" is now almost two years old. This is him here. ^_^

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, so I thought that if I could get into decent enough shape by September, which was when the 2016 Los Angeles Marathon registration opened up, that I would sign up and devote myself to an 18-week training program. My progress was slow but by summertime I felt confident enough to continue to ramp up mileage. When September rolled around, I was ready to commit so I signed up for my first postpartum marathon. This was early September. I spent most of September researching a new training plan so that when October rolled around I would be confident in my plan and ready to go. I'll see if I can find some time after my race to write a proper review of the plan I decided to go with. That is if it doesn't fail me this weekend. If it does, we'll never speak of it again. 

So I spent most of October, all of November, December, January until now deep in the trenches of training. If you follow me on Instagram you probably know all this already. With the exception of a couple of missed runs due to being ill, I've followed the training plan to a "T". I would really like to go more into details of my training so I'm hoping I will get a change to sit down later and reflect on those several months. 

This will be my 9th LA Marathon. I started in 2006, it was also my very first marathon. I didn't run in 2014 or 2015 due to my pregnancy and lazy-ness to sign up after I lost my streak. But life goes on and we will start another streak. 

So it's come down to today...four days until the big race. For the most part, I am ready. I came down with a bronchial infection late last week that landed me in urgent care over the weekend but I'm on the mends now so hopefully by race day all the medication and such will be out of my system and I'll be ready to go. At least that's what I'm planning on. 

My course PR for this current course is 4:08:08, I ran that in 2010. I haven't done as well in the years following mainly due to lack of training. I have to admit that I used to sign up for races just to experience them or sometimes just to get the bling. By the way, now I have a giant box of race bling that is heavy as f&#$ collecting dust in my garage. Food for thought? I think so. I never really took any of them seriously enough to commit to a training plan or disciplined myself enough to follow through with the training. It's kind of weird to hear myself say that in my head because at the time I thought I was so committed to each and every one of those races. 

I'll leave you with this collage that I've put together of all my runs that I posted on Instagram these past several months. It's only missing two days which I won't be able to include because they will happen tomorrow and Saturday but the rest is all here. In preparation for this race, I will have ran 97 days over the course of 18-weeks totaling 817 miles and boy are my legs tired. ^_~

Nothing left to do now but go out there and run marathon #24!!! Wish me luck! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Flip Belt Review

It's been a long time since I've written a product review so you know that I really like this thing. What thing you ask? This thing...the Flip Belt!

I took so much time off from running that when I got back to it again I couldn't find any of my old running paraphernalia which included my old running iFitness belt. It's funny, I had to root around my garage looking for the box of workout clothes I had packed away. I couldn't remember which pair of running shoes were still good. All my supplements and GUs were long expired and I had to sadly throw them out. Then on top of that I couldn't find my fuel belt. I had to go on that run without it. If you know me then you know I have a tendency to tote around a bunch of crap with me on my runs so needless to say I somehow had to get another belt quickly. So I went online and did a quick search and the first thing that popped up was the Flip Belt. I don't like change so I skipped over it and tried to see if I could find the site where I purchased my old running belt. It took a lot of digging around but I did find a vendor but I could not help but notice all the positive reviews that the Flip Belt was getting so I spent a couple of days reading reviews and asking around. The next day I decided to order it. I got it pretty quickly and upon my return from the test run, I could tell that it was worth the purchase. It's spandex-y so it fits snug around your waist and hip. I wear mine somewhere in the middle of my waist/hip. I cram my iPhone in there and there is absolutely no bouncing whatsoever. I can't even tell I have the belt on half the time. There is a key strap so your keys won't fall out. You're supposed to flip the belt inward once you put your stuff in so that nothing falls out but I don't do that since nothing has fallen out yet. So yeah, I love this thing and use it every time I go out on a run. I might even get another one in black. That's how much I love it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

You Got This

Wow...just dropped in because I felt like writing a post today and noticed that it has almost been a year since I last wrote anything. Kids, man! Okay, so I only have one but to be fair he can be a handful.

My poor little running blog has seen better days. So many times I've dropped in to start a post but ended up scrapping it. Mostly because I only managed to throw together two sentences before I got bored. I guess I am having a major bout of lack of blogging motivation. Is that just called writer's block?

Anyways, I'm not sure why I haven't blogged more because I'm been working out a ton, which includes lots of running. The month of May actually turned out to be one of my highest mileage months ever. Crazy, right? I guess trading in my weekly long runs for several shorter runs was "same-same" but different. Fitness-wise I'm mostly back to my pre-baby level. For example, I'm running faster paces now as compared to my pre-baby self during peak training periods. Although, I haven't quite gotten back to running long miles on the weekends yet since I'm not training for anything currently.

Speaking of that...I was quite content with the amount of running I've been doing but recently I started to get the "marathon running itch" again. Where's the "uh oh" emoji? I don't know where these feelings are going to take me. For the longest time, my one and only driving force to train was to qualify for Boston but now that I have done that twice and ran Boston I can't seem to find my focus or I guess figure out a new goal. I mean, I guess I can try to qualify for Boston again. Yeah...what to do?

So I guess this is the reason why I haven't gotten back into the marathon game. Although, I have to say that my love for running still burns strong. People are constantly asking me what I am training for and I know it is because they see the passion or umm rather my red face and sweaty clothes after a run. It feels different to say that I am not training for anything and that I run just because I like to. People look at you weird when you run for no apparent reason at all I guess. Whatever.

For the time being, I guess I'm secretly marathon hunting but I guess that's not much of a secret anymore. I wanted to post a current photo of me but apparently I must be camera shy because I don't have many, especially not of me running. I only have this photo that I posted to Instagram recently of me getting my gainz on at the gym. See those 25 lb dumbbells? I use them.  >_<