Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chicago, Owned: A Marathon Recap

I know I haven't updated in a while, but I decided that in an effort to tell everyone about my race, it would be easiest to just write a post about it.

Of the marathons I've done so far, this was the one I made the biggest deal out of (so far). My training felt good and consistent (thank you, and for the support and guidance), and with the exception of a bout of Achilles tendonitis at the beginning of my training, I had remained injury-free throughout it (thank you, Shannon, for all of those chiropractic adjustments). I also planned on using this as my first attempt to shoot for a BQ (Boston Qualifier). Needless to say, I made myself pretty nervous, and had my marathon pump-up mix on repeat for the week leading up to the race.


After arriving at 8:30am on my redeye flight, I hopped on the Blue Line and headed down to the Expo. My friend Katie (who was graciously hosting me and my friend Lindsay for the weekend) had to work until 4, and I had heard that the area around McCormick Place would be less crowded on Friday (due to the ND-Miami game on Sat), so it worked out perfectly (minus carrying my duffel bag and backpack all over the city).

After the Expo was lunch, coffee, and grocery shopping (I wasn't about to fly across the country with a bunch of bananas).

Once Katie and I connected, we caught up and grabbed dinner at an Italian restaurant. We returned home and watched a movie (and by watch, I mean I passed out after 15 minutes because after sleeping in an airplane seat and schlepping my bags all over Chicago, I was beat).

Saturday (Marathon Eve)

I attempted to sleep in, but still woke up around 7:30 (I did sleep for 8 hours). Part of me wanted to go back to sleep, but I had to reply to Lindsay's text about her flight dilemma. (Her flight got canceled, and so she'd be arriving at 2pm instead of 9am.) One thing led to another, and I ended up responding to texts for so long that it made no sense to go back to bed. After all the texting was said and done, I warmed up and went for a light 1.5 mile run. Once I got back, I prepared my marathon morning breakfast of millet porridge (millet cooked in water, with some Craisins, cinnamon, and salt - it takes a while to make, so I just make it ahead and eat it cold).

I ventured out to Whole Foods to pick up supplies for Lindsay, and ate lunch while I was there (tofu teriyaki bowl - delicious!), and then to the Expo to meet my friends Christine and Nicole (whom I hadn't seen since we graduated from college). The Expo may have been packed on Friday, but it was a madhouse on Saturday. But catching up with old friends is ALWAYS worth braving the crowds. Lindsay and Babs (her mom) met us there, and after hanging out and chatting for a bit, we were all ready to leave. 

Lindsay, her mom, and I met my mom (who had just flown in from CA) for a pre-race pasta dinner at Viaggio. I ordered the penne special, which was penne with jumbo shrimp, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and a garlic and olive oil sauce. This tasted just as good as it sounds! All of us left with leftovers, and none of us left disappointed. If you're ever in Chicago, I'd recommend going there!

From there, we headed back to Katie's and were in bed by 10pm.

Sunday (Marathon Day)

Some of us fall asleep by counting sheep. Me? I count off my target times for each mile. You see, my goal was 3:05 (the Boston Qualifying standard for 18-34 year old males), which is a 7:03 min/mi pace. To go through my plan, I counted off the times at which I should hit each mile marker (7:03, 14:06, 21:09, and so on). I fell asleep after counting off the 26 target times. And woke up once during the night. 

My first alarm (I set two, just in case) went off at 4:50am, and I got up right away. The first time in as far as I can remember that I didn't hit snooze. Lindsay woke up ten minutes later, and the fiesta began. Once dressed, we headed upstairs and had breakfast with Becca and Mary Kate (Katie's roommates who were also running the marathon). I did my warm-up exercises after breakfast, and my running mates gave me some strange looks. I got a few laughs when I told them I was doing the drinking bird. (Drinking bird, hamstrings -- get on it!) Those laughs helped make our frigid walk to the El a little more bearable.

Becca and Mary Kate were in Wave 2, so Lindsay and I wished them well before heading to the start. 

I was worried that I'd be waiting around for too long after checking my bag, and get cold as a result. Fortunately, I only had a few minutes between dropping my bag off and the start, so this wasn't an issue. Lindsay and I said our good lucks and went to our corrals. I found my friend Steven (from Front Runners NY, my old running group), and it was good to see a familiar face and catch up before the start.

At 7:30, the gun went off, and Bruce's "Born to Run" came on. Just what I wanted to hear! I hit the first mile right on track (7:03), and hit the second mile in under 14 minutes. Around mile 3.5, I saw the first spectators I knew - Mike and Rachel from FRNY. Unexpected, but awesome. I hit mile 5 in 34:25 (50 sec ahead of schedule, and 70 sec ahead of my 5M PR), and was so stoked to be at a sub-7 pace. I kept up this momentum through the Addison Road turn-around and beyond. In Boystown, I knew I was going fast because I caught up with and passed one of the faster FRNY runners. (Note: After finishing, I remembered that he just did an Ironman two months ago. But at that moment, I forgot that, so passing him was a good boost.) Mile 11 brought Babs and Mike and Rachel, and as I ran up the Franklin St Bridge, I saw my mom screaming and flailing. Those two seconds that she was looking forward to had happened. I ran into the sidelines, gave her a hug, and continued on. After that, I started executing my plan of one Shot Block every 1.5-2 mi. I crossed the halfway mark in 1:31:35, smashing my previous OR by over 5 min (and not to mention I was still maintaining a sub-7 pace).

By mile 16, I noticed that I was slowing down, and by mile 18, I had stopped hitting my target times. I could just see the BQ hopes slipping away. It was around this point that I lost dexterity in my fingers (because my hands were so cold) and started knocking over water cups when I tried to grab them (I started using two hands - like any good 5-year-old would do). To motivate myself, I kept thinking about everyone who donated to the ALSA (the charity I ran for) and everyone with ALS who can't move. Seeing my friend Tracy at the mile 20 water station helped too.

Around mile 22, I went to take my last Shot Block, and the pack had slipped out of my fingers during the previous mile. Damn loss of dexterity! But I only had four miles left and a PR within easy reach, which left me no choice but to push. I also opted to not stop for fluids, because of time.

Going up Michigan Ave, I saw a banner, and thought it was the finish line. I was very disappointed to find that it was a video monitor at the 800m mark. With 800m left to go, I rounded the turn onto Roosevelt, saw this hill, and thought, "You've got to be kidding me with this." But the mile 26 marker was in sight. After climbing that hill, I could see the finish line and just went for it. I crossed it, stopped my Garmin, and it read "3:11:22." I wasn't quite sure how accurate it was, but I'd take that as an unofficial time.

Walking through the finisher chute, I got my medal, space blanket (i.e., superhero cape), food, water, and Gatorade. My stomach wasn't ready for food, but I took it for later. I trudged a little further and saw the sweet elixir that is Goose Island 312. I grabbed a cup, took a sip, and thought, "Mmm, beer never tasted so delicious." I may/may not have been a ham and posed for every photographer I saw. I also posed for one photo with a random French guy, though in my defense, the photographer asked for that one. (Pics available here. It may prompt you for a last name, bib #, and race name.)

Eventually, I got my bag, dug out my phone, and found three texts of congratulations (all these people who knew my exact time before I did) and a missed call (from my mom, who was trying to find me). We reconnected, and she showed me the results page. Final time: 3:11:18 (7:18 min/mi). I may not have BQed, but I beat my PR (that I set in April) by over 13 minutes!

It's been four days, and the shock (or runner's high; whatever you want to call it) still hasn't worn off. Between crushing my previous PR, and crushing my $1,500 fundraising goal for ALSA (I raised $1,735), it feels like a dream. And knowing that I can hold a BQ pace for over half a marathon provides me with hope for next time.

Before running Chicago, I told myself that after doing 3 marathons in a 12-month period, I wanted a break. But with that Boston Qualifying time within reach, I want another shot. Call me crazy, but I want to try again and shave those 6 minutes off. Yes, I'll wait to register (so as to not be impulsive), but I'm seriously considering a spring marathon. LA, Vancouver (BC), and Newport (OR) all seem like good options, but I'm open to suggestions! 

(Edit: The shock wore off on Friday, five days after the race. On Sunday (one week after Chicago), I signed up for the 2013 Eugene Marathon, which will be on April 28.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Happy National Running Day!

Happy National Running Day!

What, you thought I'd let the holiday go unacknowledged?

For those of you who don't know, the first Wednesday in June is known as National Running Day, and is designed to be a day to promote and celebrate running (Go here for more details). Some of the tweets I've read have alluded to the fact that every day is like National Running Day for avid runners. And while this may be true, it reminds me of Valentine's Day -- we need one day to remind us of the good things we should be doing throughout the year.

As you'd expect, I have a plethora of reasons why I run. I run:

  • Because I can
  • To destress
  • To get some me time
  • To get my blood flowing
  • To release any pent-up energy (good or bad)
(Note: These are not all of my reasons, but these are the key ones.)

Believe it or not, I didn't like distance running in high school. I steered clear of the cross-country team because 5K seemed too far, and while on the track team, I stuck to sprinting and the field events. But here are some key events in my progression as a runner.
  • The time I moved to DC -  This was when I started college and started running for fun. 
  • The time my friend told me I should sign up for this half-marathon she was running - She read about the Philadelphia Distance Run in Runner's World, and said, "You'll be living there. You should join us." So I did. And I felt proud because this was the first time I knew of that I was able to run a sub-10:00 mile. (Before that, I think the last time I ran a timed mile was high school.)
  • The time I signed up for a marathon because the registration fee was going to increase the next day - For some reason (to this day, I don't know why), I was on the Philadelphia Marathon's website, and I saw that registration was still open and that the fee was going to increase the next day. This seemed like as good a reason as any to sign up. But I finished.
  • The time I moved to NYC - I knew hardly anyone in the city, and so I used running as a way to meet people. The people I met motivated me to sign up for some of the NYRR races and made me a more serious runner. And I developed some great friendships along the way.
So in honor of National Running Day, I was going to run 6 miles. But after mile 4.5, I still felt really good, so I decided to run 9 miles instead. I ran 9.02 mi. in 1:07:36 (7:29/mi pace). Great way to celebrate the day, and how far I've come!

And hopefully, you can get out and run! Even if it's only a mile, you'll still be a mile further than everyone who's still sitting on the couch. 

Why do you run? What made you decide to try running in the first place?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Morning Runs

As I awoke this morning, I had quite the predicament. I wondered if I should go for my run in the morning, wait until the evening and use the morning to work on homework, or push it back to tomorrow because my schedule has more space then. As tempting as it was to put off the run, I opted to put on my running gear and go then. I couldn't resist the power of the sun pouring into my window!

So at 6am, I was running up one of the busiest streets in my neighborhood, and I couldn't help but notice how quiet it was. It made for a very peaceful run, and I felt like I got a head start on my day. It was quite empowering.

I realized that morning running has some other benefits in addition to these.

None of the crazies were out. Unless you consider other morning runners crazy

You can start your day with a healthy choice. And because healthy begets healthy, it could inspire some other great decisions!

Even if the rest of your day falls apart, you can still hold onto the satisfaction of knowing that you finished your workout before some people even wake up. (And no, I am not elaborating upon whether my day fell apart. Let's just leave it at "I'm lucky I don't pass a liquor store on my way home.")

After a long day of work (or just a long day in general), you can collapse on the couch and not feel guilty for missing your workout, because it's already done!

And now because I woke up at 5:30am, I was ready to fall asleep at about 10pm. Thus, I may or may not be face-planting in my bed. Good night!

What time of day do you prefer running?

PS I finally caved and joined Twitter. Follow me! My handle is @milesonfire.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Getting Back into It

Yesterday turned out to be a GREAT day for a run, simply because of the weather! At 6pm, it was still about 78º. For some distances, those are less than ideal temperatures. But for the 3 miler that I had planned, it was great. It was also my first run in the Sauconys. This run was probably my most anticipated event of the day.

Because I have to run out the door in about 10 minutes (to not go running), I'm going to make this brief. It was a diagnostic run, so it was supposed to be on the easier side. When I started, I was a bit worried because my right hamstring was a little tight (despite the dynamic warmup). However, once I got going, I didn't notice it. Actually, it felt really good toward the end.

And the shoes (because I know you're dying to hear about them)! Can I just say that they're awesome? I could notice the weight difference (vs. my Adrenalines). My feet felt great the entire run! Well, everything felt great.

Anyway, so my diagnostic 3M (which was 3.04M, to be exact) took 24:50, which was an 8:10/mi pace. About 30 seconds faster than I was expecting (given that my easy runs are typically around 8:40/mi). For just getting started again, I was quite happy.

Next run's on Thursday. Stay tuned!

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Recovery Week

The Eugene Marathon has come and gone. After all the time I spent griping about being injured, feeling burnt-out and half-caring about the race, and just wanting Eugene to be a mere memory, it's done. Those four months sure flew by! (But at least I have some fond memories of the race.)

Anyway, now that the race is done, I figured I'd write about my week of recovering/not running. And to clarify that "not running" does not equal "sit on my ass while I eat and booze-face" (as delightful as that sounds once in a while).

What Recovery Week has Entailed
Three easy sessions on the stationary bike - This has been to keep my legs moving and flush out the lactic acid. Since cycling's a different workout, different leg muscles are used during it. (Remember my general philosophy: "There's more to marathon training than running.") Easy cycling's nice because it allows me to read while I exercise. (Yay for multi-tasking!) While on the bike, I finished Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (which I highly recommend), the June 2012 issue of "Runner's World," and read some of the June 2012 issue of "Running Times."

Two core workouts - Core strength helps runners. Just an example: If you hunch over, you're constricting your airways. Better core strength can translate to better posture, which can result in better breathing. (More on the benefits of core training later).

Two sessions with the foam roller - This is to relieve any residual tension. And while we're talking about foam rollers, I finally bought one of my own! My gym has foam rollers, and so I've just gone there every time I needed to foam roll. It's convenient when I have to go to class or meet with my thesis advisor, but if I have to go just to foam roll, it's not worth my while (despite how much it helps). So I caved and finally bought one. And then I caught up with Hulu while I foam rolled (again, yay for multi-tasking).

One session of yoga (plus another session of dynamic stretching) - Three days after the race, my right hamstring (or maybe it was my piriformis -- it's so hard to keep track when everything's tense) was still really tight, so I decided to go to yoga. And I felt better afterward!

One ice bath (two if you count the post-race one I took on Sunday) - Fill the tub about halfway with cold water. Add a bag of ice (I used a 7-lb bag of ice cubes the first time, and a 10-lb block the second time -- the cubes work much better). Get in and sit for 10-20 minutes. (I wore running tights and long sleeves, since we know how well I deal with cold environments.)

And last, but not least...

One shoe-shopping adventure - I went to my local running shop, and must've spent 1-1.5 hours shoe shopping. In all fairness, this included a gait analysis and shoe sizing, but still, I lost count of how many pairs I tried on. I'd put a pair on, run around the store for a bit, run on the treadmill for a bit, take the pair off, and then repeat that. Eventually, I narrowed it down to one -- the Saucony Mirage 2. Yes, you read right -- after 3+ years of running almost solely in Brooks, I bought shoes made by another manufacturer. (What can I say, they felt the best of all of the ones I tried on. Plus, my Brooks are still in decent shape, so I'll probably still use them from time to time.)

I haven't taken my new shoes on their inaugural run yet, but a diagnostic 3M run is on the agenda for tomorrow, so I'll have to try them out then. I'll let you know how they are once I try them out!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Marathon Mania!

So the big day (well, two big days, if we're counting my birthday into this) has come and gone. And it was epic!

Saturday (Marathon Eve)

Around 1pm, my friends Peter and Michael picked me up, and we headed off to Eugene. On the way there, we passed one of these signs.

This was when I realized that Portland is closer to the North Pole than it is to the Equator. Remind me again why I live so far north in the Northern Hemisphere. I digress.

By the time we arrived and checked into the hotel, it was nearly 4, so we had to head to the Expo before they closed at 6. While there, we ended up getting a boatload of Clif Gu. And Lauren Fleshman was there selling her Picky Bars. Being the running nerd that I am, and having read the profile of her that Running Times recently published (the profile that contained some of the advice I heeded when easing back into running after my bout of Achilles tendonitis), I was starstruck upon meeting her. (How does one mentally prepare for such events??)

Anyway, after my mini celebrity sighting, we headed back to the hotel and walked over to the starting area (so we knew how to get there in the morning). We also walked around the University of Oregon's campus.

I'm sure you all want to hear about the pre-race dinner (well, assuming that you love food as much as I do, and that you want to hear about carbo-loading). However, finding a good place that didn't have a 1+ hour wait was a long adventure. Let's just say that "Third time's the charm" and "All's well that ends well." Still managed to be back in the hotel and in bed by 10:00 (which is more than I can say about NYC Marathon Eve).

Sunday (Marathon Day)

The race started at 7am, which meant that we had to be up early. I set an alarm for 5:15 and Peter set one for 5:40. Of course, I think we were all brewing with excitement/pre-race anxiety, so we all woke up at 5. I definitely had a dream about running a race (not this one though). Pre-race breakfast consisted of oatmeal, half a banana, and water. I did my standard warmup routine after breakfast. We snapped a few pre-race photos before we left. The hotel was only about 5 min away from the start, which served as a great warmup run.

Soon after I entered my corral, I found a runner with a NYRR t-shirt on. Naturally, I had to start a conversation about NYC. After chatting for a bit, we each went off to do our warmup stretches. Soon, it was time to line up for the opening ceremonies. And by ceremonies, I mean the National Anthem and a welcome speech by Meb. (Yes, the one and only Meb came to Eugene!) I have no idea what he said, but he was there. After this speech, the gun was fired, and we all trotted across the starting line.

Part of me was trying to take in the Eugene scenery, but the other part of me was working toward my lofty goal. I finished the first mile in about 7:20, which was way faster than my target pace of 7:37. My mind tried telling my body to slow down, but my body didn't listen. I was about 50 feet behind the 3:15 pace group, and I figured that if I were a good distance behind them, then I was in good shape. I kept this pace up for at least the first 10K. Around the 10K mark, I met this woman who was running the half (there was also a half-marathon that started at the same time). In our brief conversation, I gathered that both of us ran the Portland Marathon in 2010, and that she thought she was going too fast for the 1:36-1:38 finish she wanted to pull off. (She was actually on target for that.) I also met someone else who was running the full and wanted to run sub-3:15, but he was not much of a conversationalist. He did mention how he had run 3 marathons in a 15-month period (this period ended in April 2011). I then thought about it and realized that between NYC, Eugene, and Chicago, I'll have run 3 in a 12-month period. Clearly, I'm crazy.

Around mile 10, the course goes onto paved running trails, which was awesome. I think I was at about a 7:24 pace, but the 3:15 group was still nearby. The scenery over the next two miles of trails was amazing. We crossed the halfway mark, and I was relieved when I saw that the clock said "1:37," because it meant that I hadn't gone out super-fast and PRed for a half-marathon with another half left to go. I then had to sing Bon Jovi's "Woah, we're half way there, Woah, livin' on a prayer" to myself. 

I think the 3:15 group started to break away around mile 15, but I don't fully recall. What I do recall is going back on some more awesome trails around mile 16. We also got to run along the Willamette River! It was so peaceful. Actually, it was too peaceful. There were times when I was the only runner around, and the few spectators who were present were too quiet. (C'mon people, it's the second half of the marathon! We need some energy!) Around the 30K mark, I got tired enough so that doubt caught up with me. I had to squash it in order to finish, and so I used the first means I could think of -- essentially dedicate  each of the remaining miles to a different supporter. And in doing so, I broke up a 7.5 mile stretch into 7.5 segments. Around mile 24, I caught up to this runner, and he decided that he wanted to have a conversation. I was not in the mood. There were 2.2 miles left, and I needed to finish them. With half a mile left, we got back onto the streets (yes, that's right -- we were on trails for almost 10 miles) and were on the home stretch. 

Once I got into Hayward Field, I could see the finish line and the clock. From then on, the only thought in my head was that I had to break 3:25. With about 50 yards left to go, some announcer called out my name, and I immediately threw my hands in the air. I may have also had a dopey grin on my face, and I may have done a little dance as I ran to the finish. And all of this may have been captured on video. But I didn't care. I PRed by over 8 minutes, and broke 3:25 (official time: 3:24:28, 7:48/mi pace).

Krusteaz had set up a pancake station in the finisher area, and volunteers were handing out pancakes. Mmm pancakes. That hit the spot as I waited for Peter and Michael. While I waited, I saw the New Yorker from the starting area again. As it turned out, he only finished about 2 minutes behind me. Anyway, the rest of my time in the finisher area goes something like this: get some free food, find my friends, get more free food, join in on these Texans' cool down/core stretching routine.


Was I disappointed that I didn't break 3:20? A bit. But I broke 3:25, which was my goal for the 2009 Portland Marathon and the 2011 NYC Marathon. And given that I fulfilled a three-year-old goal, I couldn't be happier. Furthermore, to accomplish that after all of the injuries (IT band, piriformis, Achilles tendonitis) I incurred during my training made it monumental.

I don't typically like running the same race more than once, but I'd run this one again. 

The duck was happy. I was happy. And we all finished. Victory all around!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Skinny Jeans are Actually Functional!

I don't have classes on Thursdays or Fridays this quarter, so because of that, Friday no longer feels the same. But regardless, I'll keep this up (because "Thursday Five" just doesn't have a nice ring to it).

Things I Realized on My Runs This Week

1. Skinny jeans actually have a purpose!

When you bike, you risk getting your pant leg caught in the gears. To avoid this, you could roll up your pant leg, buy fancy and inexpensive reflective Velcro straps (which wrap around the bottom of your pant leg), or wear biking/running tights. Or option #4: wear skinny jeans. We all know that they cling to your legs (they, like tights, contain spandex), so there's little (if any) excess fabric to get caught. So why not use this to your advantage? (Though please don't use your mode of transportation as an excuse to wear these all of the time.)

2. Despite any flavor labeling, Honey Stinger Energy Gel tastes like honey.

I normally use the Clif Shot Gel on my long runs. I have no problem with the taste, they're easy to open (even in the cold -- just use your teeth), and can be consumed while running. Whole Foods seems to be the only store around here that stocks them, so you can imagine my disappointment when I went there and saw that they were out of stock. However, they happened to have Honey Stinger on sale, and after looking at the ingredient list, I decided to give it a try (they're all natural ingredients). I figured that since I like bananas, the banana flavor would be a good one to try. After trying it, I thought that there was too much honey flavor and not enough banana flavor. Don't get me wrong, I love honey. But that much honey is too sweet for my liking.

(Note: I recently found the Clif Gels at Fred Meyer. Back in business!)

3. The hardest step is the one out the front door.

Yesterday, I was lacking motivation to do my training run. I just wasn't feeling it. Not to mention that I just want this marathon to be a distant memory (between the IT Band, piriformis, and Achilles tendonitis). Once I got moving, it was better (well, after I warmed up), but getting myself outside was tough (even though the weather was fine).

4. Perhaps training in tights and extra layers helps one race faster.

Extra layers means extra weight. And extra weight has been shown to make runners slower. By my logic, extra layers would cause one to run slower. But correct me if I'm wrong.

5. If I run the first loop counterclockwise and run the second loop clockwise, it'll all balance out.

I finished a loop around the waterfront and thought to myself, "Why don't I switch it up and run the second loop in the opposite direction? That way, each leg will have some time being on the outside, and that'll prevent the muscles in one leg for being stretched/extended more than the other one." While I'm not sure if that actually helped (in terms of muscle extension), it helped to add some variety to the run.

Here's a bonus one (that didn't make the cut for the Friday Five because I didn't realize it while running). I think that because of the magnitude, Chicago is overshadowing Eugene, which is helping make me feel more blasé about Eugene. But it's only 16 days away! Gah! So close!

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's Baaaaack!

For the next couple of days, I'm playing host to Alanna (my friend from high school) and Josh (her boyfriend). We were in the car, and Josh asked me if I run with water on my long runs, and before I could answer, Alanna chimed in with, "He does now! He talked about it on the blog." (I'm so touched to have readers who remember these details.) And this reminded me that I've been slacking on this. With that being said, I'm bringing back the Friday Five. In honor of them, the week's topic...

Five Questions that Josh Had about Running (and the bibs)

As I may have mentioned before, I save the bibs from all of the races that I've run, and then hang them on my wall. (But in case I didn't, here's a picture of the wall.) It makes for a great conversation topic among visitors, and Alanna and Josh were no exception.

1. Why are some of those bibs missing tabs?

Some bibs have tabs printed on the bottom, which serve purposes like baggage identification (so that when you check a bag, you pin the tab to the bag, and they can match your bib number with the number that's printed on the tab) and t-shirt distribution (so that when you receive the free t-shirt that we all love getting, the officials have a way of recording that you already got one). For some races, I didn't use bag check, so I still have the baggage tab.

2. Which bib is your favorite?

If I had to choose, I'd say the NYC Marathon bib. I love orange, and the orange on white just looks great. Plus, I currently don't have any bibs with orange (though I do have quite a few with red).

3. What was your best race overall?

I needed clarification on this one, because you can't compare a 5K result to a marathon result. The pace is going to be different. But Josh wanted to know about best race in terms of place finished. (Though now that I think about it, this isn't a fair comparison either because some races are larger than others. I could look at them as proportions by dividing my place by the total number of finishers. But let's face it, that's too much quick math work.)

This one time, my cousin convinced me to run a 5K race in CT with her. It was small enough so that they didn't use chips. But anyway, I finished in the top 25, placed 3rd in my age group, and got a trophy for placing that well.

4. How do they assign the bib numbers?

This one depends on the race. Sometimes, it's as simple as when you signed up (i.e., the first person who registers gets 1, the second person gets 2, and so on). Other times, they'll group you by projected finish time before assigning numbers. NYRR asks for your fastest per-mile pace from any race that's a 5K or longer, and then uses that to group runners into corrals. I don't know anyone within NYRR who can verify this, but the legend is that once they group you, they assign numbers by alphabetical order.

5. How come the Portland Marathon bibs are the only ones with your name printed on them?

Some races give you the option to personalize your bib, so that spectators can call out your name as you run past them. The Portland Marathon is the only one I've run that offered that. Philadelphia has started allowing runners to personalize their marathon bibs, but this started after I ran that one.

Hope everyone has a fun weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Explaining My Absence

Okay, I'll admit it. I've been AWOL for about two weeks. Life got in the way of me updating. And by life, I mean the following:

1. Finals.

2. Cleaning my house. Because let's face it, when you're busy working on final projects, all other projects (ahem cleaning) seem to end up on the back burner.

3. Recovering from finals by trying to enjoy this thing they call "Spring Break."

4. A bout of Achilles tendonitis. This one requires lots of explaining, and merits its own post. So I'm leaving that one for sometime soon.

5. Saving the world, by playing the role of non-profit manager. I decided to run the Chicago Marathon on behalf of the ALS Association, and I've started raising money. I'm managing it and I'm not making any money off of it. By that logic, I'm a non-profit manager. Because my focus right now is Eugene, I'll get more into this once I start chronicling my Chicago training experience. But seriously, donate. You get to help me achieve my goal, support a great cause, and get a tax deduction for 2012!

Speaking of Eugene, it's officially one month away! Isn't that insane??

Friday, March 16, 2012

Learn From My Mistakes

I was recently thinking about this blog and its purpose. The whole purpose is to share the story of my training and in doing so, instruct others on the sport and (possibly) inspire others to lace up their trainers. I'd like to use this Friday Five to get back to that.

Five Mistakes I Made When Starting Out

Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn't run. I was new to this sport at one time, and made some idiot moves. (Alright, alright -- I still make idiot moves. Will ya cut me some slack here?) Here are a few of them:

1. Running in heavy cotton

Because of my days of crew, I knew that moisture-wicking clothing existed. What I didn't know/take into account was that such moisture-wicking clothing could be used for running too.

I've done training runs (and even a race) in a heavy, cotton hoodie. Yes, it's nice and warm (which is great for when you're trying to stay warm in your house and don't want to pay for extra heat), but once you start sweating, you start to feel like a wet dog.

Cute to look at, but who wants to feel soggy? My advice: Go to a store that sells athletic apparel and has knowledgeable staff, and ask questions. Now nobody (myself included) wants to be the person who asks 50,000 questions. But that's what they're paid to do. Some stores I'd recommend are City Sports (if you're on the East Coast), Niketown, and Jack Rabbit (if you're in NYC).

2. Not running with a water bottle

I hate carrying stuff on my runs. If I wanted to go on an excursion, I'd pack a backpack and go on a hike in the woods. But water's essential. I trust that you know about the "eight glasses a day" rule, but there are other benefits! I'm aware of these benefits, and STILL avoided bringing a water bottle. Until my epic run to Jersey.

The epic part isn't that I went to Jersey (Why would anyone do that now?). The epic part is that it was a 2.5 hour run (I was going to run 1.25 hours, then turn around and run back), and at 5:30pm, it was probably around 90ºF. Still, I headed out. I ran up to the GW Bridge, over it, and through the fine neighborhoods of Jersey. I don't remember when I started feeling off, but after an hour and eight minutes, I came across a Target and decided that I had to stop for fluids. However, Target was closed. (Seriously, what madness is that??) Fortunately, Pathmark (local supermarket) was across the parking lot and open, so I went there and bought Vitamin Water. Since it's Jersey, the NYC busses and subways were nowhere to be found, so my only option was to run back (and drink the Vitamin Water). Well, it took much longer than 1:08 to run back. And when I got home, I drank 96 oz. of water before I had to pee. (That's how you know you have issues.) It was a classic case of hyponatremia

The gist of all of that: If you're going for a run longer than an hour, suck it up and bring some water to suck down.

3. Not properly fueling before and during long runs

When thinking about my training for my first three marathons, I can't recall what I ate before my long runs. What I can recall is what I ate during them. For the second and third marathons, I brought Gu packs and would consume one on the run (two if the situation called for it). For my first marathon, I didn't bring anything. (True story: I had never heard of Gu until I was in the midst of running the Philly Marathon.)

Your muscles need glycogen for energy. Furthermore, you're limited by the number of calories worth of glycogen you can store (which, by the way, is barely enough to make it through a marathon). By consuming some sort of energy (e.g., Gu, sports drink) on your long run, you supply additional fuel for your muscles (Source). Oh, and (hopefully) prevent yourself from hitting "the wall".

4. Not using a structured training plan

When you're just starting to cook for yourself, you follow a recipe. When you're trying to install and operate that fancy surround sound system with no prior experience, you read the manual (presumably). Running is no different. Let's face it -- when you're new at anything, you want/need guidance. Why I didn't think to look for guidance when training for my first marathon is beyond me.

I had no structured training plan, but knew that I had to run and increase my mileage. In hindsight, I would've greatly benefitted from a structured training plan that told me how far to run on what days.

5. Proper shoes

For some unbeknownst reason, I thought that all training shoes were created equally. It wasn't until I had a gait analysis (where they evaluate your running form and suggest proper shoes based on that) that I realized this. Furthermore, even within running shoes, there are specific kinds. There are neutral shoes, stability shoes (for those of you like me who tend to pronate), minimalist shoes (e.g., Vibram Five Fingers), and so on.

I remember that I ran Philly in these New Balances. I don't know what model they were, but I think they may have been cross-training shoes.

My advice: Speak with an expert, get a gait analysis, and buy shoes specifically for the sport.

I'm sure I still make mistakes. But it's a learning experience. I learn, you learn, we all learn. It's a win-win situation! And as a bonus, it's Friday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where's My Head?

Who pauses their Garmin while stuck at a stoplight, and then realizes after about half a mile that they forgot to restart it?

That's right...ME!

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a bit absent-minded. (Now if only I were a professor as well -- then I could have some money in my pocket for race fees.)

I went for a 5M run this evening (taking advantage of the later daylight hours), and paused my Garmin while I was waiting on the Broadway Bridge for the light to change. It changed, and I ran. I looked at my Garmin about 10 blocks later and thought, "That's odd...I should be further along than this." I then looked at the timer and realized that it wasn't ticking. I unpaused it and kept running, because I'd have been damned if that Garmin didn't read at least 5M by the end of that run.

Clearly, the end of the quarter stress has caught up with me.

Onto happier things. Remember my IT Band pain? Well, for the last 9 days, I haven't noticed it. I'm not sure if it's the dynamic warmups, the IT Band Rehab, and/or the fact that I stopped taking glucosamine & chondroitin, but whatever it is seems to be helping. I'm hoping it went away for good, and didn't simply take an epic Spring Break trip without me. Regardless, Eugene's in 46 days, so I can't afford to take any chances. Thus, I better keep doing the dynamic warmups and the IT Band Rehab, and stay away from the glucosamine pills too. Of course, all of my runs in that time period have been 9M or less, so I don't know if this applies to longer runs. Stay tuned.

PS If you haven't subscribed yet and like my stories, subscribe via email. (It's on the right side of the main page.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Impromptu Day Off

Oh, hey there! Yes, I've been AWOL for the last week. No, I didn't go on any exciting vacations. But I did come back for another edition of "Friday Five."

In honor of my absence, this week's theme is "Anecdotes from My Training."

1. It's warming up here! This was the forecast when I left for my long run on Saturday:

What'd this mean? I was able to leave the hat at home. I still needed the gloves. But it was much more pleasant than the run in the snow!

2. I ran into some friends along the way. On Saturday, I started my long run by myself, but between miles 6 and 7 (6.25 to be exact), I ran into my friends Jeff and Steve, who were in the midst of their long run. So I ran with them after that. It was a great balance between running by myself to recharge and get me time, and running with others to be social.

I also ran into another friend on Wednesday morning, but that wasn't as exciting because he wasn't running.

3. I explored some new routes. Or rather, I explored one new route (Tryon Creek State Park), and some variations of routes that I've previously run. It's always enjoyable to switch things up!

4. For the first time in about 6 or 7 years (I'm not sure of how long specifically, but it's been a while), I tried swimming laps. I did about 3 laps, but because of the smell of chlorine and the chlorinated water splashing into my ears, I was over it after that. Not to mention that I was already drained beforehand. But I'm still humored by the fact that I can survive running for 3+ hours on land, but can't seem to survive swimming 3+ laps in water. Goal for next time: 4 laps!

5. On Tuesday evening, I developed this craving for pancakes, and decided that they'd be a good breakfast for after my 9M run on Wednesday. Plus, it always helps to have delicious food to look forward to while running. To make my life easier on Wednesday, I made the batter Tuesday night and stuck it in the fridge. It seriously hit the spot! Plus, I had some batter leftover, so I was able to have pancakes again on Thursday!

Sweet and Savory
Left: Basic pancakes with a poached egg
Right: Chocolate chip pancakes with peanut butter

I ended up with a day off (kind of). My thesis meeting this week was switched from Friday to Thursday, and my other meeting I had scheduled got canceled. All I have scheduled is a 7M tempo run (which I should probably start on), and some homework. And the sun is shining!

Any big Friday/weekend plans?

Friday, March 2, 2012

March into Spring

It's Friday!

I'm switching up the list a bit. This week's theme: The First Five Races I Ran (and a brief story on each)

1. 2006 Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia Distance Run (Now the Philadelphia Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon)

One of my friends had read about this race in "Runner's World," and decided to sign up for it. She also convinced her dad and a few mutual friends to sign up, and then said to me, "You'll be in Philly. You should run it." A half-marathon as my first road race? Clearly a great idea. It was a beautiful course, but running up West River Drive was so boring (nothing but trees, and not too much crowd support). But I finished in under 2 hours. And ended up running it again in 2007 (also before they sold out to ING and Competitor, Inc.).

*Note: I'm not counting that 2007 run as race #2 because it was the same race, just a different year.

2. 2007 Philadelphia Marathon

For whatever reason (I don't recall why), I was looking up fall marathons, and found the website for the Philadelphia Marathon. I noticed that the registration fee was scheduled to increase the next day, so I took that as a sign that I should sign up. What I remember from that race is a Gu pack exploding on my face because I opened it with my teeth (my fingers were frozen, so using my hands wasn't an option), being disappointed at mile 20 because I realized that I wasn't going to get any new/exciting scenery (the last half of the race is composed of a 12 mile out-and-back loop (6 miles out, 6 miles back), and the fine locals of Manayunk who were handing out beer at miles 18 and 22 (the benefits of an out-and-back: you can be at 2 different mile markers at the same time!).

Exhausted after having to wake up before the sun and run for over 3.5 hours
3. 2008 Grete's Great Gallop (half-marathon)

This was a last-minute registration, as well as my introduction to NYRR racing. This also marks the first time I ran in Central Park.

During the 2011 NYC Half Marathon
For those of you who don't know Central Park, one loop around the park is about 10K, so a half marathon is slightly more than two loops. This was great, because once I finished the first loop, I was able to tell myself that I was on the last loop. There were also bagels with lox and cream cheese at the end, which tasted delicious. I was disappointed that I missed my PR by less than a minute, but given that I hadn't intended on running a half, I wasn't fully prepared and should simply have been happy with finishing.

4. 2008 Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff (5M)

NYRR hosts this race the Sunday before the NYC Marathon to kick off Marathon Week. (Yes, NYC makes a whole week out of the Marathon.) Nothing else from this race really stands out, except that it was a sunny, October day.

5. 2008 Race to Deliver (4M)

This race benefits God's Love We Deliver, a NYC organization devoted to providing "nutritious, individually-tailored meals to people who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves" (as quoted from their website -- see hyperlink). At the time, Star Jones was one of their main spokespeople (she may still be), and she was present at the event. My per-mile split from this race was slower than my per-mile split from the Poland Spring run (by one second), which was annoying/disappointing.

About a month later, I was watching a special on running on the YES Network (to this date, I don't understand why a network devoted to Yankee baseball was airing something on running, aside from the fact that the show was focused on NY running, and the Yankees are in NY), and they showed footage from the Race to Deliver. I was thinking to myself, "Oh, that'd be really funny if I ended up on here!" Lo and behold, they showed my legs and part of the bright purple shirt I was wearing. 

It's been a fairly bad week on the training front. I caught this head cold (sore throat, sinus issues), and so I ended up taking a few days off from training so I could rest up. But I had good runs on Wednesday and Thursday. I also realized that in February, I ran 112.92 miles. That's more than January, which as we're all aware, is a longer month! 

As much as I'd love to continue this post, I have to do my training run for today (4M). Have a great weekend, and happy running!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Over the River And Through the Woods

Remember that time I said, "If you don't like the weather in Portland, wait 10 minutes?"

That couldn't have been more true on my long run.

I woke up to rain outside my window and thought to myself, "Oh joy!" But I got dressed anyway. For a pre-run breakfast, I made myself some oatmeal with almond butter, dried cranberries, a few almonds, and cinnamon, and had a glass of water on the side. Mmmm. I got through part of my warmup routine, but not the whole thing. (I didn't leave myself enough time.)

I met up with my friend Jeff and ran about 1.5 mi to meet up with our friend Peter. (Yes, believe it or not, I run with people sometimes.) It was raining and 39ºF when we left, and because we were planning on running through the Southwest Hills, I commented that because of the altitude change, it might be snowing up in the Hills. Jeff told me that it probably wasn't going to be that cold. Now because a 7 degree temperature difference in one city seems very unlikely, I left it alone.

We met Peter down at the Esplanade (along the water on the East Side), and Peter guided us along (he knew the route). We ran along the waterfront, across the river, and through Downtown before trekking up into the Hills. We got about a mile up Terwilliger Blvd., and what did we meet? SNOW. I couldn't resist saying some variation of "I told you so," and the response I got was, "It's not cold. It's just...snowy." (Since when is 32ºF warm? Or am I the only one north of SF who thinks that 32 is cold?)

A little while later, we escaped the snow and found SUN! (In case you couldn't tell from my other posts, the sun in Portland in the winter is a hot commodity -- pun intended.) We proceeded through the River View Cemetery, which is perched on a hill and, as the name suggests, offers a view of the Willamette River and the East Side. (Why do the dead people need a stunning view? I presume that they already have a better view than any of us have on Earth. At least, assuming that there is a Heaven and these people made it there.)

Once we left the cemetery, we crossed the Sellwood Bridge (Woo for running across a new bridge in Portland!), and ran along the Springwater Corridor for the last few miles of our run.

The path is lined by trees on one side and the river on the other. While this seems very peaceful, it also feels like being in the woods in the Middle of Nowhere. Eventually, we escaped and made it back to the Esplanade. I left them to head to the MAX, because I had a bunch of homework waiting for me at home, and after 16 miles of freezing (practically), mass transit sounded great (and it was). I did some lunges as a cooldown stretch while I waited, and consumed some of the water I brought with me on the run.

Once I got home, I got started on breakfast. Eggs and cheese (though I had them with polenta instead of on a sandwich), coffee (with some warmed chocolate almond milk -- in case anyone's wondering, it's a bomb combo), and a banana. (Three of five things off of the Friday Five -- not bad!)

Now it took my Garmin the entire run from my place to the Esplanade to locate the satellites, so I can't provide any stats on that. But as far as the rest of the run:

Distance: 14.78 mi
Time: 2:06
Pace: 8:31/mi

Faster than my last run of a comparable distance! And that route was flatter too. Improvement? I'd like to think so. I think running with people who run at my speed or a bit faster helped too. My knee only acted up a few times too.

PS Just a reminder that you can subscribe via email! Because who wouldn't love waking up to an email with my anecdotes? ;)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Five, Part Deux!

This week has been so busy, I actually had no idea what day it was. I needed my computer calendar to confirm whether it was Monday or Tuesday. No joke. But now that Friday is here, I can give you another dose of Friday Five! This week's topic...

Favorite Things to Eat After a Run
(in no particular order)

1. Bananas!

Who are we kidding? I love bananas at any time. During my sophomore year of college, my roommate equally loved bananas, and we became notorious for taking some from the dining hall after we finished eating. At one point, we had about 8 bananas sitting on our microwave (and a couple apples -- needed a colorful pile now!). But I digress.

Bananas are easy to open, easy to eat, and as long as they're not too ripe, you can throw them in your bag without worrying about them getting smashed. And as we know, they're full of potassium, which your muscles need after any workout.

2. Egg and cheese sandwich


You have your protein and your carbohydrates in one sandwich. If you're like me, the last thing you want to do when you're starving after a run is complex cooking. But this is one of those things that will probably take you about 5 minutes to make. Or you can stop at your local bodega/corner store/whatever they call them in your neck of the woods and get one. But once you realize how easy it is to make, you may not want to ever buy the bodega version again.

3. Protein smoothie

(From my collection)

Essentially, you just throw fruit, liquid (and/or Greek yogurt), and protein powder into a blender and mix everything together. You can also add nuts or nut butter, spices, flaxseed, etc. They're so customizable that it's hard to get bored with them! You can prepare one ahead of time and leave it in the refrigerator until you're ready for it. Another great protein and carb (and healthy fats, if you choose to add nuts or flaxseed) combo.

4. Coffee

(From my collection)

This is on here for no other reason than that I love coffee (iced or hot; I don't discriminate). I will admit that this is probably one of the worst things to consume after a workout, because caffeine dehydrates you. So have some water/sports drink first. Now I need to concoct a good coffee protein smoothie.

5. Mimosas

After a good run, reward yourself. Have a drink with your breakfast, brunch, or drunch (whatever you choose to call it). Yes, the orange juice has carbs, but I'm sure the benefits of those carbs are negated by the alcohol. Be careful -- one can easily lead to two, and before you know it, you've lost count of how many you've actually had. (Not that I speak from experience or anything. *coughbirthdaydrunchcough*) But consume in moderation, and you'll be fine. (Note: alcohol, like coffee, dehydrates, so make sure you have water/sports drink beforehand.)

The Training
It's been a good week for training. Ran Tues, Wed, and Thurs, and also did some core work yesterday. After hearing so much about the benefits of a dynamic warmup, I finally decided to put it to the test on Tuesday. And I felt so limber during my run! The best part is that I haven't had as much knee pain while running. 

Rest day today, followed by a long run tomorrow. Now off to enjoy my day of rest! (And by enjoy, I mean tackle my to-do list and gear up for tomorrow.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Week in Review

Workout stats:
Running: 25.42 miles
Yoga: X1

It was a light week on the training calendar, in that I didn't have any long runs penciled into it. It was also a busy week, as I'm in the midst of midterms. But I made some time for a run on Wildwood Trail!

My right knee still seems to be bothering me when I run. I need to be more diligent about doing the IT Band Rehab exercises.

Fortunately, my school considers President's Day to be a holiday. Thus, my classes were canceled and I had a day of much-needed catch-up. And by catch-up, I mean study and do other homework. And get distracted by everything the internet has to offer (including the chance to fill you in on the fact that I'm procrastinating).

I hadn't done any cross-training in a while (and I had it on my calendar), so I put in 30 minutes on the bike. I also used that as time to catch up on "Runner's World." I came across an article titled, "From Knee to You," which is a satirical letter that the author (J.R. Havlan) wrote from the point of view of his right knee. Needless to say, I started cracking up.

Alright, back to work I go!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Five

Happy Friday, and welcome to the first ever Friday Five! The Friday Five is this: I take a topic (given the blog, the topic'll most likely be running-themed, though I welcome suggestions), and pick my five favorite things related to it. This week's topic is...

Running Routes!

5. The Riverwalk (San Antonio, TX)
From my collection
Yes, I know, it's one of the most touristy spots in San Antonio. But get out there before the shops and restaurants open, and you can easily get lost while checking out one of the city's most well-known spots. (Just ignore the green water. After all, you're going running, not swimming.) Plus, it'll spare you a ride on one of those tacky, guided boat tours.

4. Aliso Creek Trail (Orange County, CA)
I'm sure when I mention Orange County, the first thought that pops into your head is either money, surfers, beaches, or if you're like me, mail-order county. (Let's face it, the entire county looks prepackaged.) Regardless, probably one of the last things that you think of is a trail along a creek that eventually leads to canyons. The trail itself extends from Laguna Niguel to Rancho Santa Margarita, and is over 12 miles long. I've only run about a quarter of it, but because I haven't run it much, it's still novel and exciting. But it reminds me of the Southwest -- short shrubbery, (fairly) dry creek beds, and (typically) warm. After all, it is Southern California. 

3. Hudson River Greenway (New York, NY)
I bet you're wondering why I didn't choose Central Park, right? Don't get me wrong, Central Park is great, but I like running along the water. (After my tenure in NYC, I can probably come up with a separate Top 5 list of routes in NYC.) Running along the west side of Manhattan, the Greenway extends from Battery Park to Inwood (the northernmost neighborhood on the island). From end to end, this means over 10 miles of uninterrupted running! When I lived in NYC, I was fortunate enough to live close to the Greenway, so this was one of my go-to routes. Without the traffic and tourists, you can easily forget that you're in America's most populous city.

2. Wildwood Trail (Portland, OR)
Even though it's one trail, I never seem to run the same route twice. Which is understandable, given that the trail is 30 miles from end to end. The portion that I flock to most is nestled in Washington Park (because this is the portion that's closest to my house), which is also home to the Rose Garden, the Japanese Gardens, and Hoyt Arboretum. Between the trees, creeks, and lack of traffic, this is the one spot I can truly lose myself while running. Of course, I still have to pay attention, because parts of the trail are very narrow, and if it rains, they can be muddy. Fantastic hills as well!

1. Kelly Drive (Philadelphia, PA)
When I lived in Philly, this was my go-to route. As humored as I was by the locals yelling things like, "Don't stumble, 'cause it's a looooong way down!", I prefer to not be distracted. This 8.4 mile loop along the Schuylkill River takes you by such fine attractions as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Boathouse Row, and the Canoe Club (which has seen better days, but I'm still partial to it because my college used it as its boathouse). Not to mention that the bridges spanning the river are incredible. You can also catch stunning glimpses of the Philadelphia skyline! A secluded, riverfront run with beautiful architecture and (possibly) seeing crew teams hard at work are my reasons for naming this my favorite running route.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Valentine's Day! If you know me, I'm not one to celebrate. But there is one anniversary that I have to acknowledge.

An anniversary with a running shoe? Yes. I realized that on Valentine's Day 2009, I went to Jack Rabbit with one of my best friends in NYC and discovered the Brooks Adrenaline 9. Three years later, the Brooks Adrenalines and I are still together. I currently run in the Adrenaline 12 (pictured above), but the 9s started my relationship with the company (and model).

(For some other cute stories involving love and running, check out this article from Runner's World!)

The Training
There's lots of catching up to do! So I'll just summarize.

Friday - 4.03 mi. easy run
Saturday - 9.7 mi. on the stationary bike
Sunday - 14.05 mi. long run
Monday - Vinyasa yoga

The long run could have been better. My knee started acting up around mile 10, but I was able to finish the run in one piece. Funny enough, the Fanconi Anemia 5K/8K/12K was happening at the same time and place as my long run. It didn't interfere with the run much, but I got to run across the finish line of the race! (I think the race officials understood that they were taking up prime running real estate.)

I think about a lot of things on my long runs, but after a certain point, I start thinking about what I'm going to eat when I'm done. On one of my 3 hour training runs for the NYC Marathon, I started craving a breakfast burrito. I ended that run at the Portland Farmer's Market, and upon seeing a burrito vendor, I was overjoyed. That burrito was so delicious. (True life: I have an inner fat kid.) On Sunday's run, I thought about eggs, oatmeal, and banana French toast, among other foods. When I got home, I opened my fridge, and was inspired by the smorgasbord of produce that I bought the day before. I ended up making an omelet with avocado, jalapeño pepper, spinach, and red pepper. I should've had some carbs with that too, but my mind was so focused on the omelet that I forgot about that part.

As far as my knee goes, I went to Vinyasa yoga yesterday. The combination of poses (pigeon included!) helped a bunch! I also started trying the IT Band Rehab routine I found on the Strength Running blog.

There's a 6M run in the forecast today, along with some stormy weather. Let's see how the knee and I hold up!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Three Things

Things I've realized over the last 24 hours:

If you look out the window and upon seeing that it's dreary and wet, say to yourself, "Ugh, I don't feel like going outside," just go. It's probably warmer than it looks.

I had this experience yesterday morning. Upon forcing myself out the front door for my run, my immediate reaction was, "Oh, it's not that bad."

If you look out the window and see that it's raining, just wait 15 minutes.

Okay, maybe I learned this one a while ago, but it came up again last night. I was at dinner with a few friends (all native Oregonians), and one of them said, "Ugh, it's raining." I immediately responded, "Just wait 15 minutes." Another friend commented, "Spoken like a true Oregonian."

(Note: This is typically, but not always, the case. One exemption is the 2010 Portland Marathon. I'm pretty sure it didn't stop raining for the entire day.)

Skechers makes running shoes.

Was anyone else aware of this? When did they decide to enter the running shoe market? A friend recently told me that he bought them, and also included a blogger's review of them. Because it's a brand I know next to nothing about, I was happy to be able to read a consumer review.

The shoe is thickest in the mid-foot area to force you to land on the ball of your foot. I have to admit, after reading Chris McDougall's "Born to Run," I'm a bit skeptical of over-engineered shoes (and these seem over-engineered). But that doesn't mean I'm not intrigued.

Another interesting component of these shoes is the non-removable sockliner (so you don't wear socks when you run). Personally, I'm a little grossed out by that concept (the fact that the liner is there and you can't remove it to wash it). But I'm also a little grossed out by not wearing socks with running shoes. (I'm pretty sure I get that one from my mom.) Not to mention the fact that I have Raynaud's (the condition that makes my fingers and toes turn white). Maybe these shoes aren't for me. But if anyone wants to send me a pair to try, I'm open to testing them.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kaiser Half

I'd have posted this sooner, except things have been crazier than usual. And by that, I mean that I took a weekend adventure, and had to dive headfirst back into my life (or rather, classes). Where did I trek, you ask?

I had never been to SF, and now that I'm on the West Coast, it's so much easier to get there! I also have a couple of friends there, which is a big incentive to visiting. My perception: fun city, full of character, active residents, fantastic architecture, and few hipsters (I mention this fact because this is how I'm different from typical Portlanders). It's now on my list of favorite domestic cities!

As luck would have it, the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon took place while I was there! My gracious host informed me that he signed up, and asked if I'd be interested in running it. He also added that it'd be a great way to see some of the popular spots in SF. More often that not, if you want to coerce me to race with you, you just need to tell me that you registered. If you tell me it's an awesome course, then I see that as a bonus.

The race started in Golden Gate Park, and headed eastward to the Panhandle. It goes around the Panhandle, and then back in the park to head westward. Around mile 7 is the turn onto Great Highway, which runs along the ocean. The views were incredible! There were dunes, and waves crashing into said dunes, and sunshine! The main downside is that it's a 6M loop (3M down, and 3M back up), so it became a bit boring. The toughest part of the course comes at the very end, in the form of a hill. Yes, there's a hill right before the finish line. (The rest of the course is either flat or downhill. Here's a course map.)

The beginning of the course had some major bottlenecking, which I think was because they also put on a 5K which started at the same time. (Seriously? A 5K can start 30 minutes after a half-marathon, and if I had to guess, I'd say that those runners would still be done before the half marathon runners begin to cross the finish line. But that's just me.) Still, the race itself went really well, in that I PRed (1:36:39, which is a 7:23 pace). I can't forget to mention the fantastic weather, especially since the last two half marathons I ran were in very hot conditions. And now I can cross CA off of the "States I've Raced In" list (the other states so far are OR, PA, NY, and CT).

Racing? Fun. Traveling? Fun. Seeing friends? Very fun. Racing with friends while traveling? AWESOME.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Overcoming Stress

Ever feel like this?

One of my friends/classmates and I were having a conversation about taking on 50 million duties (because they all sound like great opportunities), and then feeling anxious and stressed once it seems like too much. All of us get stressed. It's how we deal with it that's different. Some people draw or paint, while some people overeat. Me? I run.

In one episode of "The Simpsons," Homer proclaims, "To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."Perhaps you've seen and remember it, but if not, I have my good friend YouTube to help me out.

Remember now? Anyway, that's my attitude toward running.

Through all of the break-ups, moves, exams, and everything else, my running shoes have been there for me. I find that running helps me clear my head, because I'm not being distracted by meetings, classwork, emails, and phone calls (this is another reason why I don't bring my phone with me when I run). It's the one time of the day that I'm guaranteed to have me time (assuming that I choose to run by myself).

Of course, there have been some instances where running has caused issues. About a week before I was scheduled to run the 2010 Portland Marathon, I noticed a couple of tiny bumps on my right abdomen, and they were itchy. I thought they were bedbug bites (I was living in NY at the time, and there was a bedbug issue at the time), so I bought some cortisone cream. That didn't seem to help, as a couple more bumps appeared (same general area). I still figured it was something minor, but because I was leaving in a few days for a weeklong vacation, I decided to call my dermatologist. Fortunately, she had an opening that afternoon. After about two seconds of looking at the affected area, she said, "Oh, this is a classic case of shingles!" My reaction was something along the lines of, "Wait, what?! How did that happen? I'm supposed to run a marathon on Sunday!" My grandmother had shingles, and up to that moment, I thought it was incredibly rare for anyone under the age of 35 to develop.

The doctor informed me that shingles can develop as a result of stress, and asked if I had been stressed lately. Well...yeah. I was working full-time, applying to grad school, studying for the GREs, and training for a marathon. A couple months prior, I had to deal with moving and some other personal issues which I won't elaborate on right now. So in a way, my means of relieving stress caused it as well.

You ready for some more science??

When you're stressed, your adrenal glands (in the brain) produce excess cortisol. Prolonged periods of high cortisol levels slows down the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins support immune function, dilate blood vessels, and are anti-inflammatory. (Source)

Shingles is in the herpes simplex family of viruses. After you get chicken pox, the shingles virus lays dormant (inactive) in your body. Having a weakened immune system makes you more susceptible to an outbreak, hence why it's more common in people 50 and older.

See the correlation here?? Find effective ways to manage stress. Spend time with friends and loved ones. Because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And life is too short to be anything but happy.

(Just to confirm, I did finish the marathon. I spent the whole time telling myself that I had to rise above everything that happened. And I did, by finishing in record time. I'll tell the story of that race another time.