Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another great weekend in Bellingham!

I see from my race shirt that this was only the third running of the Bellingham Bay Marathon and Half Marathon, and I am a little surprised because it is such a great race! I would have thought it had been around for a lot longer. I'm certainly happy to have gotten in on it, and I hope to be back for years to come.

I have said a couple of times already how glad I was to be staying up in Bellingham at the Fairhaven Village Inn, not just because it was a very nice place to stay, but because this race starts early (for one in the cool Northwest, anyway). 7:30 a.m., in late September! You know it only just gets light out around 7:00 this time of year.

So when I got up around 5:30 I had no real way of gauging what the weather would be like; it was still dark out! I did look out and see some stars, which meant it was clear. That meant likely sun later on, but also cool to begin with! I had already decided to wear the long-sleeved shirt that I considered middle-weight in terms of warmth, though. It was not as thick as one of the others, but had a crew rather than V-neck as compared to the other unchosen. Plus it was pink with darker pink accents, which I thought was more distinguishable for photo purposes. And I could wear a matching two-tone pink hat. (The little things are important!)

I put on the coffee maker right away, then dressed pretty quickly and fixed my English muffin with almond butter. I wanted to eat it around 6:00 so I could digest it before the running began. I also downed a handful of chocolate espresso beans, for an extra caffeine kick!

Like I said in my morning post before the race, I was feeling nervous, as usual. Even though I didn't have any ambitious goals for the race, I am always worried about how it will go. Actually I think the nerves help rev up the adrenaline a little bit. If I was too relaxed, I might run that way too!

Even though I had no major goals, I guess I had a strata of objectives for this race. Number one, I wanted to finish respectably under two hours without having to work too hard at it. Something like 1:58 would satisfy that requirement, and I think I would have been satisfied with that. (Would have required about a nine-minute mile, easy peasy, I think.) Number two, I would like to be under 1:55. I am sure I would have been satisfied with that. (I was somewhat confident I could manage that too--that would take an 8:45 average, and 8:45 seems to be my happy pace in races, the pace I can do with just a bit of effort, not beating myself up or anything.) My pie in the sky goal was to beat my Anacortes time...but I wasn't counting on that at all.

My mother and I left the hotel around 6:30 to drive to the start in downtown Bellingham, only a couple of miles away. My mom lived for a number of years in Bellingham, and went to college there, so she is really familiar with the downtown in some ways, but since it has been more than 40 years since she lived there, some of the changes (like the one-way streets, which have probably only been around for 20 years) are frustrating to her.

But we got to the right area pretty quickly and easily, and found a parking spot about a quarter of a mile from the start (I determined that distance while doing my warm-up run). I left my mother in the car while I started jogging around the area to warm up.

I felt really loose and light of leg during my warm-up run, and I took that as a good omen for the race. Now, the Garmin was showing something like a 13-minute pace during the warm-up, but I didn't let myself be worried by that (I knew I was going slowly, but I'm sure it was no slower than 10-11 minute mile pace!). I took it as a sign that the satellites might be screwy around there, and decided I was going to avoid looking much at the Garmin during the race.

I did about a mile and then stood in line for a porta-potty visit. I had gone right before we left the hotel, so I considered this my second pre-race potty stop (this is significant). It was about 7:10 and there was a line but I got in after a few minutes' wait. Then I finished my warm-up by running back to the car to get my mother (total warm-up 1.3 miles).

We walked back to the starting area and I really wanted to use the porta-potty again (I always go three times before a race), but the lines were really long now and there was only about 5-10 minutes before the start. I was sure I wouldn't get to the front of a line in that time, and didn't want to stress myself (or my mother) out by trying. I felt like I needed to pee, but put that down to nerves and perhaps the cold air out, and told myself that it would go away after I got running (I've had that experience in the past).

So I made my way into the starting crowd. They had signs to divide us up based on expected pace. I lined up at the front of the "under 9-minute" crowd. That seemed perfect for me.

When the race finally started, just a couple minutes past 7:30, it only took me about 30 seconds to get to the starting mats, where I started the Garmin as well. It was pretty crowded for those pre-start seconds, but once we crossed the mats I was able to get to a comfortable pace easily, as did those around me. I love starting with people at my own pace, instead of being blocked by slower runners as so often happens in these big races!

One advantage of a big race, though, is that you never have to wonder if you're going the right way; there are always people around! Here we all are near the beginning. I am "leading the pack" at the far right in the picture!
I did sneak a peak at the Garmin after the first few minutes, and I think it showed an 8:30 or faster pace, and I felt comfortable, so I went with it. I didn't feel like this was "going out too fast" at all. Maybe if it had been the full marathon.... :)

I felt like the road was sloping gently downhill during the first few miles, and my gradually increasing speed reflected that. Again, I wasn't too concerned about going "too fast." I knew I was being given a break by the topography and figured payback would come later. My first three splits were: 1) 8:31, 2) 8:29, and 3) 8:18. I did look at my watch when I heard the miles beep (I didn't hear it every time), but other than that I probably only looked at my pace maybe once every mile (at least until the end was near). That is extremely conservative for me. Usually I am looking every minute! It helped that I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt that I could pull over the watch.

In mile 4, I believe, we switched from downhill to uphill and climbed for approximately the whole mile. The incline was noticeable but didn't give me any trouble... I was able to hold my pace reasonably well and did that mile in 8:32.

We were back to a down slope in the next couple of miles. It was also around this time, a little past 8:00 and right after we finished mile 4 and began mile 5, that the route took a sharp turn and switched from heading west to going directly east. And it was about this time that any early morning dimness fully burned off and the sun burst out in all its glory. And yes, we were running directly into it.

For quite some time I just ran with my focus on the road and ground ahead, trying to ignore the sun in my eyes. But I had in fact packed my clip-on sunglasses in my SPI belt (I was wearing glasses, not contacts), and it seemed crazy not to use them in the glare. I thought I could get into the SPI belt and pull out the sunglasses without stopping, perhaps just slowing a bit...and I almost pulled it off. But I think one of the clips caught on the fabric of the SPI belt, and as I struggled to detach the sunglasses, I dropped a small personal item out of the SPI belt, and I veered out of the main running traffic to scoop it back up (sorry to the guy who had to veer around me). I ended up stopping for a few moments to stuff myself back together, then took off again still holding the sunglasses in my hand.

I must have lost a good 30 seconds on that unplanned stop, but we were on a downhill and I think I put some extra push into the next stretch to make up for my delay, because mile 5 was a respectable 8:34 and mile 6 was 8:19! (I'm not sure which one my problem occurred in.)

I ran on for a bit before attempting to clip on the sunglasses. That I did successfully without further delay. However, unfortunately, by holding them in my warm hand for several minutes I managed to get the lenses fogged up (and it was the inside that was fogged, of course), and so after I clipped them on I was able to fend off the sun glare, but not really see clearly thanks to the foggy lenses. I think that went on for miles before they finally defogged on their own! Ironically, after mile 6 the sun wasn't much of a problem. It was still out but our route was more shaded the rest of the way.

By now I had passed two or three water stations. Except in really hot weather, I don't like to drink water before mile 5 or 6 in a half marathon. I wasn't thirsty, so I kept skipping the water stops to help save time (and make up for prior lost time).

The other reason the water stops did not appeal to me was because the sensation of wanting to go to the bathroom never did go away. Apparently I really could have used that third potty stop! The urge never became quite unbearable, certainly not enough to stop along the way, but I was certainly aware of it throughout the run, at least up until mile 12. (At that point adrenaline did drive out the need to pee, at least for a while). But I had a hard time wanting to drink water when I already had to go.

Mile 7 looked to be perfectly flat, and I was back to an 8:34 pace, then 8:41 in Mile 8. Miles 9 and onward were on the trail between downtown and Fairhaven that I was extremely familiar with from the Fairhaven 15K. As I was running along, probably in Mile 9 but maybe Mile 10, I noted to myself how comfortable and easy my running felt. Good thing I looked at my watch before getting too self-congratulatory, because the reason I felt so easy was because I had slowed to almost a 9-minute pace! (I noted the next day that this trail is slightly uphill in the direction of Fairhaven, so that also probably contributed to my inadvertent slow-down.) Mile 9 - 8:53 and Mile 10 - 8:55 (oops).

Before this race started, I had two minds (at least) about what might happen after mile 10. On the one hand, I was a little concerned because, due to all the races I'd run over the past couple weeks, it had been several weeks since I'd run more than ten miles at a time. I was a little worried that I might hit the wall at mile 10, which is so common in half marathons. I've been doing lots of 8-10 mile runs, though. In fact, I'd rarely been running less than eight miles at a pop, throughout the month of September, at least.

Assuming that I didn't hit the wall at mile 10, I I thought that would also be a good place to rev up and pick up the pace for the final 5K. Maybe make up for any laggy miles earlier on.

Well, neither of those things really happened. I felt just fine at Mile 10, although, as I mentioned, I had slowed down a little bit unintentionally. I did pick up the pace a bit at that point. But I also didn't immediately burst into 5K pace. I decided it was a little too soon to give it all I had (in case I ran out before the end!). I decided to maintain a steady pace and then kick it up when we turned to head back to downtown Bellingham, or at least for the final 1.3 miles.

At around mile 11 we crossed over the water on the Taylor Avenue Dock (just like in the 15K). The split-off for the half and full marathons would happen after we left the dock and hit the road again. The last portion of the dock is a rather steep climb from water level to road level. The official race photographer just happened to have a camera stationed halfway up that climb! (By the way, I did order and pay for a copy of the picture, I just wanted to post it right away, rather than waiting for it to be mailed.) I look so crooked in this picture—the chiropractors would have a field day with me!

Earlier in the race I had been a little nervous that I might miss the half-marathon turnaround and somehow get swept along with the marathoners. I hadn't studied the race map very well, and somehow had it in my head that we would turn and head back half-way through the distance, rather than two miles (or less) from the finish! So around mile 9 or 10 I was craning my head around to make sure that I was still running with other half-marathoners. Then I remembered that the cut-off was supposed to be after Taylor Avenue Dock, so I was sure I couldn't miss that.

Sure enough, once we got back to the road there was the sign, directing the half-ers back toward Bellingham and the full-ers onward to Fairhaven. There were also people directing us, though I don't know why they didn't say "Half-marathoners to the left, Full to the right," instead of "Half-marathoners go that way, Full go that way"! (Yes, they were pointing, but really, would it hurt to be clear about it?)

Back on the road, and knowing the end was near now, I really did work to pick up my pace for the final mile or so. I concentrated all my energy into running faster. I resorted once again to the landmark technique, focusing on a point (mostly light poles) ahead of me, and running to that, then picking another, running to that, and so forth. All my attention was intensely trained on that one thing, running to the next pole. I didn't even pay much attention to the people I was passing—and I did pass several, male and female. (I was rewarded with an 8:12 mile in mile 13.)

Finally the finish line was in sight, and I tried to find an extra gear to give it all I could to the end. I could see the clock, and I knew I would finish under 1:54 on the clock. However, since it was already past 1:53 there was no chance of being maybe I didn't run quite as hard as I could have. My final pace for that .23 mile (my race distance was longer than 13.1) was 7:42—not my fastest sprint, but a worthy effort. I didn't, however, get anywhere near the puke threshhold.

My mother got a good picture right after I crossed the final mat. I was still running and hadn't dropped to a walk yet. See that pink ribbon in the picture? They held it up for everyone to run through. Cute. It confused me, though. For a second I wondered if I hadn't already crossed the finish line, and I'd screwed up by slowing down? It was merely ceremonial, though, not the true finish.

The official finish picture was well past the finish line, and I was already walking, or just about to.

Someone handed me a medal!

The medal was very pretty. The full and half-marathoners got the same medal, with the race indicated on the back. (The picture is not my medal, of course. It looks like the half marathon had orange ribbons and the full had blue.)
I had finally forgotten about the bathroom in the efforts of mile 13...and I finally drank some water after the race. (I didn't even go to the bathroom until we got back to the hotel!)
My Garmin time was 1:53:18 (I learned later that my chip time was 1:53:19). Officially, this is a 13-second PR from Anacortes. In reality, though, I ran farther and faster in Bellingham than I did in Anacortes. My Anacortes distance only came to 13 miles, but my Bellingham distance was 13.23—almost a quarter of a mile more! The Garmin gives me an average pace of 8:33 (my official chip pace was 8:39). I'm not stressin'.

For fun, here is the race course marked on a satellite map. The water views were beautiful throughout the race (and part of it, Taylor Dock, was actually on the water!). The marathon runners continued south through Fairhaven and beyond, before eventually doubling back to downtown Bellingham.

Here is the elevation profile.
Finally, this chart shows my pace throughout the race!
Actual splits:

  1. 8:31
  2. 8:29
  3. 8:18
  4. 8:32
  5. 8:34
  6. 8:19
  7. 8:34
  8. 8:41
  9. 8:53
  10. 8:55
  11. 8:44
  12. 8:43
  13. 8:12
  14. 1:48 (.23 mile at 7:42 pace)

Instead of sticking around and checking out the post-race food, I wanted to hustle back to the hotel and grab something from the breakfast room before taking a shower and getting dressed. Breakfast didn't start until 7:00 (and we left at 6:30), but it went to 10 (and I finished by 9:30).

Aside from wanting to pee throughout the race, and dropping stuff partway through, my only other problem in the run was my right quad. It was sore and kind of tight throughout. I wondered if it might have been from the little fall I took on Thursday—I could feel it in my quad then. Luckily, the discomfort wasn't bad enough to interfere with my running.

But as soon as I stopped running, and particularly after I sat down in the car for a few minutes, the right quad seized up and I could barely walk without limping. Correction: I could barely walk, and could only limp! I looked a little bit like "After the marathon"!

When we got to the hotel I popped into the breakfast room and helped myself to a berry muffin, a hard-boiled egg, a banana, and another cup of coffee. I figured this would tide me over till lunch! I went to the elevator and found it occupied by a housekeeper with a big cart. I didn't want to wait for her to make her delivery and send the elevator back, so I decided to walk up the stairs. To the third floor. It was slow.

(Luckily, the extreme muscle soreness went away after a shower and a bit of time, and I didn't have any other ill effects.)

After I took a shower and got dressed, and sat around for a bit, we went out to have lunch at the Colophon Cafe. After soup, bread, and salad, we split a big piece of carrot cake. The cream cheese frosting was surprisingly not was good, but I would have preferred more powdered sugar!

A little shopping in Fairhaven, then we hopped back in the car and drove back to the race site to check my official finish time. By this time, almost 2 p.m., only the slowest marathoners were still finishing. Throughout the late morning and earlier afternoon, though, we had heard and seen the marathon runners passing by the hotel through Fairhaven, both on the way south and returning to the north. Now the roadside volunteers looked tired and a little bored as they waited for stragglers to hobble past.

When I confirmed my final time on the posted printouts, I was a little confused because I didn't realize that the printouts had been done early, and only reflected the finishers as of that time. So I thought that my overall place was somewhere south of halfway through the group of runners (which was a little disappointing). I only got the true data yesterday when I pulled up the online results.

Instead of the 412 runners indicated on Sunday, there were in fact 1037 total runners (and walkers) in the half marathon. I was 262 out of 1037 overall, and 110 out of 720 females. In my age group, I was 14 out of 98. Now that's more like it!

I wandered downtown before we left again, and managed to score some sweet deals at a couple of clothing shops. Now that makes it a vacation!

We finished off Sunday with some decadent fish and chips from the red bus!

On Monday morning I got up for a recovery run. I ran 2.5 miles into downtown, then another mile before I turned around and headed back, for a total of seven slow miles (average pace slower than 10 minutes).

After breakfast (we took full advantage of the breakfast room), my mother agreed to walk with me along Taylor Dock and the waterside park. So I was able to take a few pictures of where we ran.

Approaching Taylor Avenue Dock...

Looking back towards Fairhaven.
Down the hill on Taylor Dock.
And over the water.
Two colorful sailboats! Wonder if the owners are Oregon Fans?
More sailboats and a tanker in Bellingham Bay.
We crossed this railroad crossing (going this direction) in both the 15K and Half-Marathon. Trains use these tracks, so it is very important to be cautious when running and walking there!
A nice view of Bellingham Bay.
Looking back up Taylor's steeper than it appears!
Monday was a very windy day on Taylor Dock. We're lucky we didn't get that wind on Sunday (at least I didn't notice a wind).

Before we left Bellingham we went back to the red bus for a cup of clam chowder and soft-serve ice cream. Here I am fending off the paparazzi! (Really just trying to keep my hair out of my face.)
The end of a great weekend!
And before we left I made hotel reservations for next year!

Semi-speedwork Wednesday

And so it begins—the fall/winter running season. Dark when I leave in the morning (and soon to be dark when I return as well). Possibly raining. And COLD.

Today it was dark and cold, but happily not raining. (It rained all day yesterday, though.) Because of yesterday's rain, I didn't really want to go to the track for speedwork. It's muddy enough under normal circumstances, I didn't want to deal with extra mud! So I decided to do 4 x 1-mile intervals on the road for today's speedwork. It went okay, but I don't think I'm really effective doing speedwork except on a track. (More on that in a moment.)

As for COLD, that it was. Well, it was in the mid-40's, which is a lot colder than I've been accustomed to over the summer and even in recent weeks. I over-compensated for the cold, though, by wearing a pretty thick long-sleeved shirt under a running jacket, plus gloves. I always feel like I'm going to be colder running than I actually am (there is a warm-up factor, you know). I could have done well wearing a lighter long-sleeved shirt or possibly even a short-sleeved shirt under the jacket. The gloves were a good idea, though. I think my hands would have been pretty cold without them, at least for the first few miles till my quickly circulating blood warmed me up. Irritatingly, despite the many pairs of gloves I own, last night I could only find one pair suitable for running. They happened to be hot pink, and my jacket was coral-colored. Oh well. It was dark out.

I started out by doing two miles of warm-up (jogging at a 10+ pace). Since it was so dark, I couldn't see the Garmin (and haven't yet figured out how to lock the light on), so I had to rely on the beeps to know when I finished a mile. After the two mile beep, I kicked my pace up to do my first "speed" mile.

I will say right now that my speedwork this morning was more on the caliber of a tempo/pace run than a speed workout. Each of my "fast" miles was in what seems to be my current half-marathon pace range, between 8:30 and 8:50, which is not a bad pace by any means. But it is far slower than what I have done on the track, even for a distance as long as a mile (under 8 minutes, even under 7:30 once).

I think it must be primarily a psychological thing. When I'm out there doing intervals on the track, whether it's quarter mile, half mile, or even a full mile, I put it all out there for the duration of each lap. After I finish a lap I rest a little, then I go again. When I'm on the road, in the middle of a distance run, it's harder to mentally separate the "fast" miles from the rest. Yes, I can pick up my pace, but it's just more difficult to put it all out there knowing that the road goes on even after I finish my interval. Plus, of course, the conditions are more pure at the track. On the road I face inclines and declines, corners, lights, traffic, pedestrians, and potential hazards like tree roots or sidewalk signs.

My general plan was to follow the warm-up with four 1-mile intervals, with about a half mile recovery jog in between each. My first recovery jog was intentionally short, only .35 miles, because that got me to Grand Avenue Park, which is a little more than a quarter mile in length. I wanted to start speed mile 2 there, so I could go up and down the park twice and finish a mile that way. Accordingly, my next recovery jog was a little long, .65 miles, so I could get my laps back on track to "even" miles and half miles. (By this time, it was light enough that I could see the Garmin pretty well.)

Another speed mile, another half mile recovery (with an emergency bathroom stop in the middle of the recovery lap), then my final speed mile was followed by a bonus speed mile back down to Starbucks.

Final stats:

Warm-up Mile 1 - 10:30
Warm-up Mile 2 - 10:07
Speed Mile 1 - 8:38
Recovery - .35 mile at 9:16 pace
Speed Mile 2 - 8:31
Recovery - .65 mile at 9:32 pace
Speed Mile 3 - 8:50
Recovery - .14 mile at 10:40 pace plus .36 mile at 10:36 pace
Speed Mile 4 - 8:48
Speed Mile 5 - 8:37
Recovery - .14 mile at 9:44 pace
Walk home - .5 mile (not included in total mileage)

TOTAL - 8.64 miles, average pace 9:17

The moral of this story is: If you really want to do speedwork, go to the track.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Adventures in DVR!

Tonight I am using the DVR to time shift for the first time. I set it to record The Biggest Loser at 8 p.m., then went off to the Y for a stint on the elliptical. I got home at 8, then was able to take out the garbage and make dinner, then start watching The Biggest Loser from the beginning at 9:00 (plus FF through commercials if I want). It seemed like no matter how hard I try, I could never be ready to watch at 8 (even without going to the Y). So I'd end up just coming in for the weigh-in and missing the early fun stuff--challenges and the like. This is much better!

It is SO COLD tonight. It kind of makes me dread my early morning run tomorrow, or at least worry about it. I think I had better dig out some gloves!
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Post-race dinner: fish & chips!

Just like we were in England, I picked up a couple orders of takeaway fish and chips (plus, ahem, a side of clam strips) and brought it all back to the hotel for supper in our room!

The fish and chips are sold out of a converted red double-decker bus (I couldn't take a picture tonight because I was facing right into the sun, which hadn't set yet). The fish could not quite measure up to the HUGE cod filets you get in most English chippies (these were American sized), but they tasted good. And the thick cut fries were possibly even better than English chips, much crispier than typical steak fries/chips.

Of course, as you can see, the fish & chips came in boxes, not wrapped in newspaper!

It was a decadent and delicious treat. I adore fish and chips but rarely allow myself to indulge. But I think it can be allowed after 13.1 miles (plus 1.3 mile warm-up)!

Tonight is the season premiere of Desperate Housewives AND Brothers and Sisters! Welcome back Rob Lowe! :)

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A good race!

I ran the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon this morning, and it was great! I really loved this run, and not just because I did well. I think Bellingham is just a really wonderful place for running (see Fairhaven 15K, two weeks back).

I'll try to put together a more detailed race report in a couple days, but here's some quick and dirty details. Garmin time 1:53;18, which should be about the same as chip time, if I was good about starting and stopping at the right points. My finish time on the clock was under 1:54.

So this is almost certainly a PR, about 16 seconds faster than Anacortes. Not much (and remember I wasn't even looking to PR), but it is worth noting (worth it to me, anyway), that the Anacortes race measured a little short on my watch and this was much longer, 13.23 miles total! My average pace for that distance was 8:35. About half of my miles were about that pace exactly, with a few laggers and several a bit faster (my last full mile was 8:12!).

I really do want to write more about this run, but I'll wait for a real computer. I can hear marathon runners outside passing the hotel (actually it's other people clapping and hollering I hear). Now we're about to head out to have lunch and stroll around the Fairhaven shops, and shop for the item(s) I forgot to bring...and it's not a toothbrush.

Pre-Race breakfast

6 a.m. In the hotel room bathroom--bakery-made English muffin with almond butter, and coffee. Nerves are a-fluttering!
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

A plate of puttanesca

(And the bread basket at my side!)
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The day (and night) before the (half) marathon

I sort of borrowed this title from Laura, so thanks, Laura, for the theme idea. :)

This afternoon my mother and I drove up to Bellingham for the Bellingham Bay Marathon (and half) tomorrow. Bellingham is only about an hour north of where we live, but the race does start at 7:30 a.m., so it's nice to be up here in advance.

Before going to the hotel we went directly to the number pick-up and race expo at the Hampton Inn by the airport. It's not a huge expo like Victoria or Vegas (in fact they don't even call it an expo, that was my term), but they had a number of booths and some browsing was clearly in order.

After I got my number, chip, and shirt my mom and I wandered through the vendors wares. We were both taken with a shirt that said "gotta run"--so we got one for me and one for my sister.

I was drawn to a Nathan gel belt in pink and grey, so I got one as a fashion alternative to my ubiquitous black waist pack.

My mom, in the meantime, was checking out a rack of $15 polarized sunglasses. After a lot of trying on, we each got a pair, me for running with my contacts in and her for driving in glaring conditions.

Then I spotted a rack of Spi-belts. I have read so much about these, all of it good. I really wanted something to carry my ipod in races where my pants don't have an ipod pocket and I don't want to wear a big contraption. They didn't have plain black, so I ended up getting one with a hot pink zipper and 13.1 printed on the pouch. We also got a rust-colored one (no logo) for my sister so she could carry her phone more easily on walks.

Then we escaped before any more money was spent.

Back to south Bellingham, where we checked in to the Fairhaven Village Inn. I was a little disappointed that morning coffee is not out till 7 (which is too late), but I was able to get an in-room coffee-maker (the last one they had!) so that was all right.

Our room is huge, and includes this little reading area (in picture) in the corner. We look onto the Village Green. The rooms on the other side overlook the water, but I chose this one for the better rate (plus we can look at the water anytime at my parents' house). We sat in these chairs to enjoy our first afternoon snack of tea and coffee (brought up from the library sitting room downstairs) and a piece of Pear Zucchini bread I brought along.

After an hour or so we decided to venture out and try to find breakfast for early tomorrow morning. We were successful at the Avenue Bread (more on that tomorrow), which also appears to be the source of the great bread at the 15K two weeks ago. We also got a chocolate chip cookie to share for another snack. :)

Before returning to the hotel, though, I wanted to locate a destination for dinner. A few blocks away I spotted Mambo Italiano (where we ate before the 15K twoyears ago). Just to be safe, I went inside to check on reservations. Good thing I did! The hostess told me they were overbooked, but she could get us in with just two. So I made a reservation for 7:15.

Then we hustled back to the hotel for a couple hours of rest time, magazine reading, more tea from the lobby, and our chocolate chip cookie (which wasn't very big at all when split in half!).

At 7:00 we headed out to walk the few blocks (uphill) to the restaurant. Thanks to the reservation we were seated almost immediately in a little booth. The only disadvantage to our seat in the front of the restaurant was the proximity to the door. At first it was still propped open from the day, which was VERY chilly, but even when they closed it we were still blasted with a draft every few minutes as the door opened and closed with comers and goers.

I was quite hungry, and fell on the bread basket as soon as it arrived. Usually I try not to eat too much bread...but I excused it in the name of carbing up. It was good bread, dense but soft, rather than chewy.

After some amount of indecision, I ordered seafood puttanesca and a side salad. My choices were somewhat limited because I didn't want a creamy sauce--no matter how deeelicious the dish sounded. I made that rule a year ago, after the Maine half. I had a delicious lobster pasta dish, probably alfredo or something similar. It didn't make me sick or anything, but I've always suspected that the creamy pasta contributed to my slightly slower than expected finish!

So I stuck to my tomato-based puttanesca. I ate all the seafood (salmon, prawns, mussels, clams) and about half the fettucine. The rest of it traveled back to the hotel and is now tucked into the ice chest for a snack tomorrow.

I've laid out my race number, gear, and clothes for tomorrow (though I still haven't decided among the three long-sleeved shirts I brought). We have a wake-up call for 5:25 and my phone is set for 5:30. I've checked the directions a couple times to confirm the race starts at 7:30 (remembering the almost-mishap in Las Vegas).

Now I am in bed watching Broadcast News. I've always loved that movie! (Best line*--Albert Brooks: "...and I'm in love with you...How do you like that? I buried the lead.") (Well, that and the shadow puppets. :) Lots of commercials on KVOS though. Hoping to get tomorrow's weather forecast soon, help me decide what shirt to wear.

*Actually, there are a lot of great lines in this movie.


There was an article about last Saturday's Marysville YMCA Family Fun Run in the Marysville Globe* this week. While two long paragraphs were devoted to the (male) winner of the 5-mile and the (male) second-place finisher, there was not even a mention of the first-place female finisher. Apparently that is not important to the residents of Marysville. Or at least to the person who was covering the race for the paper (I saw him there with his camera). Not that I care one freakin' little bit!**

*Small, extremely insignificant local weekly paper.
**It may sound like I care. :) I think I am just bemused at the different view of things taken by runners and non-runners. I am pretty sure that any runner would differentiate between the male and female winners of any race (and might even be interested in the age-group winners, at least if one was an age-group winner). And I must admit I might have liked having my name in the town paper as the "winner" of a race, even if I was only the "female winner." In a small race with very poor turnout.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday food thoughts, and other random stuff

Sometimes I wonder if the reason I gained weight last year was because I did so many races, and almost every one had a pre-race restaurant pasta dinner and a post-race cinnamon roll (or other breakfast treat). When it gets to the point of doing this almost every week (or so it seems in retrospect)...well, you have to wonder, don't you?

This year I haven't done nearly as many races, and very few have had pre-race restaurant dinners. The post-race treats have been a little more conservative too, I think. That's not to say there hasn't been some self-indulgence in the name of carb-loading and/or recovery. That's actually got me a little worried as this weekend is the third race weekend in a row for me. I think I've pretty much kept my eating in check, though, or at least within the range of reason (I think).

This weekend there will be a pre-race dinner tomorrow night, though. My mom and I are going up to the Fairhaven Village Inn in Bellingham to stay for the weekend, till Monday. The Fairhaven Inn is not right in the vicinity of the race, but I wanted to stay there for the Waterfront 15K two weeks ago and was too late to get reservations, so we're making up for it with this one. Yes, it is true, I basically signed up for this half marathon so I could stay in a hotel in Bellingham. Call it a substitute for an autumn trip to Maine....

So anyhow, we'll go to one of the Italian restaurants in Fairhaven for dinner Saturday night. On Sunday after the race there will have to be something for breakfast, but the post-race treat of the day will be English-style fish and chips from a converted red English double-decker bus.

Honestly, Fairhaven has so many appealing restaurants, you could find places for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and dessert and still have places you missed. It always makes me regret missed opportunities to eat! (And you wonder why I worry about gaining weight....)

I'm experimenting with a pre-pre-race pasta dish tonight, using my delicious squash soup as a sauce for mushroom ravioli (they were on sale, that's how I chose them).* And last night I made a batch of Pear & Zucchini Bread (just like zucchini bread, plus with pears). It's quite tasty, and I am counting on the pears displacing some of the oil and sugar in the recipe!

Even though I am tapering today, I did go to the Y this morning for 90 minutes on the elliptical.** That was primarily an effort to counteract all the various goodies that have been passing through my mouth*** (in hopes that they would not take up permanent residence in my fat cells). Tomorrow I am really resting my legs, though, no exercise substitutes allowed! We'll be heading up to Fairhaven and getting settled into the hotel, and picking up my race packet for Sunday, and that should be the extent of the day's activities (except for walking to dinner).

Today and tomorrow were my only tapering attempts, though. I did eight miles with speedwork (8 x 400/half mile intervals) on Wednesday, and ten miles pretty easy with three one-mile pick-ups at roughly race pace (about 8:45) interspersed throughout the run on Thursday (yesterday). There was going to be a fourth "fast" mile immediately after the third, but about halfway through I was flying past Tully's Coffee and caught my foot on their sidewalk sign and fell pretty hard. Amazingly, I did not draw any blood. My only lasting injury is a small bruise on the heel of my palm. My almost-first thought as I fell, along with "I hope I don't scrape myself up or rip my pants," was "the Garmin is still running"! I didn't stop it until after I caught my breath and assured the people who ran out of Tully's asking if I was all right that I was, in fact, fine. So instead of 8:30, my time for that mile was around 9:30...not too bad when you consider everything that happened in those nine and a half minutes in addition to running.

I didn't write a title for this post until I was just about finished. I couldn't really think of anything clever, but I did notice that I was writing about food an awful lot. Hence, my lame selection of a title. I'll try to do better next time. :)

So. Have a great weekend, everyone, and well wishes to all the 10K and half marathon and marathon runners out there!

*Post-dinner follow-up: The mushroom ravioli with kabocha squash "sauce" was delicious. I also peeled and diced a delicata squash and roasted the pieces at 425 degrees until they were soft and a little browned, and stirred it into the ravioli and sauce. Truly scrumptious, at least if you are a squash aficionado! I used it as a side dish, served on a bed of arrugula (because I eat almost everything on a bed of greens), with a store-bought roasted chicken and another side of Oven Roasted Broccoli. And a piece of Pear Zucchini bread for dessert.

**I had a haircut appointment at 9 a.m., and the hair salon is near the Y, so I decided to take a shower and get dressed at the Y instead of making an unnecessary trip home. Since I do live so close, less than a mile away, I never usually do this. In fact, in the mornings I often don't even use the bathroom in the locker room, thereby avoiding altogether the women getting ready for work. But today I had no choice but to brave the locker room and the thing I go to all lengths to avoid—locker room nudity. Not just my own, but everyone else's too. Really, there is no modesty in this world. People (women) just walk around with parts of their body hanging out that have no business being anything but covered (and often restrained in some way). Myself, I prefer not to expose anything that isn't absolutely necessary. When I am not actually in the act of dressing/undressing/showering, I make sure to have a towel or clothing on me. It's only fair to the rest of the locker room occupants, I think.

***We won't even mention the Costco Chocolate Cake I ate at Drug Court graduation today....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumn Equinox

I took this picture of the setting sun at 6:54 p.m., walking home from a stint at th Y and a stop at the grocery store. The sun was sinking so fast that by the time I fumbled around trying to get a shot that better reflected the intense deep red of the sky (I couldn't), it had dropped to just a firey sliver. By 7:00, probably before, it was gone altogether.

Today, at 2:18 p.m. Pacific time, autumn arrived. Technically speaking, this is supposed to be the day when the length of the day and night are equal, before the days start getting shorter and nights longer as we move toward winter solstice. According to the newspaper, sunrise was at 6:57 a.m. and sunset was supposed to be at 7:06 p.m. But from what I saw out there, the sun was right on track to disappear just before 7.

It was so beautifully sunny and warm today (in the 80's!) that it's hard to believe it's fall. The weather is supposed to stay nice all week, though cool down later in the week. The nice thing about days like this is that they start out cool in the morning (in the 50's), perfect for running, assuming you do it in the mornings. (Afternoon runners, not so lucky.)

This Sunday I am running the half in the Bellingham Marathon, my last race in September and the last race in what has turned out to be my summer of speed (to borrow a name coined by another blogger). (I'm counting it as a summer run even though summer is technically over.)

It makes me wonder what will happen as the colder and wetter days of fall and winter roll in. I was pretty speedy last summer too (though not as much as now), and it was in the fall and then winter that I fell into my slowness slump. So I'm a little nervous about that. I don't want to have to stage another big comeback in 2010!

But that's all speculation. For now, I'm just going to enjoy the beautiful summer-like autumn days and see what comes next.

(Next, for now, being Sunday's race. I am not planning on trying for a PR, by the way. I got my PR in Anacortes, and I'm happy with that, for now. I just want to enjoy myself and do reasonably okay!)

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Running without Garmin

This morning* I decided to go for a run even though I ran yesterday and plan to run tomorrow. It was the usual Sunday morning dilemma when I've already run Saturday. What am I going to do for exercise Sunday when I've run on Saturday? The Y doesn't open till noon, too late. Besides, I only did 7 miles on Saturday, the weekend can certainly absorb more. I decided to make it a short run, 5 or 6 miles, maybe 7, certainly no more than 8.

But when I pulled out Garmin, it had no power! Can't imagine how that happened. But I had no choice but to run naked--that is, without Garmin. Nothing to tell me my pace, distance, etc.

I did rely on the mileage signs around Jennings Park to figure how far I had gone. By complicated use of math (and my knowledge of the area), I am pretty sure I ended up with a total of 8 miles. That made sense because my running time was about 80 minutes. Although I didn't think I was quite that slow....

Tomorrow morning will be the last run of the summer! Also the one-year anniversary of last year's Maine Coast Half Marathon. That was a fun race, wish I could go back!

*Actually I decided in advance last night.

Pears and a PR

First the important thing--Upside Down Pear Cake! I made these two beauties after I came home from the race this afternoon (Saturday). One is for my parents and the other is for Rod and me. I haven't officially tasted it yet,* but based on some traces left in the baking pans, I can pretty much say YUM! (The cake batter wasn't bad either. I'm just saying.)

The recipe's so simple I think I can remember it here (the recipe's at home). I didn't make any efforts to healthify it. :)

Core and slice three large pears. Toss with a little lemon juice (to prevent discoloration) and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350. While oven is heating, melt 1/4 cup butter in a glass baking dish in oven (either 11x7 or 8-inch works). After the butter melts, sprinkle 1/4 cup brown sugar in pan. You can add more brown sugar if it looks sparse, I did.

For the cake batter, cream 1/2 cup soft butter, 1 cup white sugar, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon grated orange rind, and one teaspoon vanilla in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl, stir together 1 2/3 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons baking powder. Mix flour and 1/2 cup milk into butter/sugar mixture, alternating wet and dry ingredients.

Arrange pear slices in baking dish, and pour cake batter over evenly. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until toothpick tester comes out clean.

Cool for a few minutes then invert onto serving plate (you might want to loosen edges with a knife first). I'm sure you could serve warm or cold, plain or with ice cream or whipped cream...whatever turns you on.

Okay, that's done. What else? Oh yeah, the race!

This morning (again, I mean Saturday morning) there was a 5-mile fun run/race (depending on your inclinations) at the Marysville Y.

The morning started with heavy rain, which was a bit of a downer. But it lightened up by the time I got to the Y, and stopped entirely for the duration of the race (at least my part of it).

There weren't very many runners, I'm not even sure of the number right now, but it was definitely a smaller crowd than when I ran two years ago. I don't know if the rain kept people away (wimps) or if it just wasn't well publicized.

Because of the small crowd, I started right up front, just behind three very fast guys and one other who wasn't as fast as them.

While we were waiting I made a joke about how we could all win our age group (because there were so few people), but when I realized everyone around was in my age group, I amended it to we could all win a place in our age group. I think they thought I was saying I was going to win my age group, though. Oops.

When we took off one of the other 40-something women was right next to me, and we ran "together" for a while. I figured eventually she would leave me behind, but instead I ended up leaving her behind!

My secret goal was to finish under 40 minutes (not so secret anymore when I told my mom at the start, "see you in 40 minutes"), but I knew that would be really hard, and unlikely. My first mile was around 8:15, which meant it was still possible...and not ruled out after a second mile of 8:04. But it didn't seem too likely considering that I could not really imagine picking up my pace substantially enough to make up the difference.

As the next couple of miles clicked in around 8:15 again, I knew there was no way I was going to break 40 minutes. So I concentrated on the possible--keeping my lead amongst the female runners (and anyone else who was still behind me). I was the first, and for awhile I was aware of others behind me (the other 40-something women), but after about halfway I had lost them. I was pretty sure I'd be okay if I didn't slow down.

Ahead of me in the race were three very fast males who had disappeared into the distance long ago and were never seen again. But just ahead of me was one guy, not as fast, who was about a block ahead of me. It was rather nice having someone to follow, to make sure I didn't lose the route!

For the rest of the race I chased this guy, never letting him get away but still unable to catch him. I did see him look back a few times, and there was small satisfaction knowing he was aware that I was there behind him (if not quite on his heels).

The race ended back at the Y. As we turned into the final stretch I could see the clock, and it already said 40 on it. Obviously it would--not one of my miles had been under 8 minutes. But I still put on the speed to the finish--I certainly didn't want to go over 41. I crossed the finish at 40:35.

According to Garmin, the distance was actually 4.96, a little under 5, so my actual pace was 8:11. Still, it was definitely a PR for this distance. I don't remember my exact prior PR, but it's always been 42-something in the handful of 5 mile/8K races I've done.

I checked the results board and I was fifth overall, and the first female. For my prize they gave me a YMCA sweatshirt, which ironically said "Monroe YMCA" (this was Marysville). Even though I was obviously first in my age group, they gave the age group ribbons to the three women who finished behind me. I didn't mind.

So that was pretty cool, even though it was a small race and obviously not too competitive.

Next Sunday is my last September race, the Bellingham Half Marathon. So running this week will be geared toward prepping for that. (How, I don't know--it just sounds like a good idea!)

*No longer the case as of Sunday morning. We had some for dessert after going to a movie--The Informant!, it was fantastic, I highly recommend it!--and I had a piece for breakfast after running Sunday morning. And it tastes just as good as it looks. On Sunday I warmed my piece in the microwave (because I like warm sweets) and had a spoonful of vanilla ice cream on the side (because I like ice cream with just about everything). It was extremely yummo both times!

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Still okay

I was a little worried that after my jubilant post the other day, things would go south and I would have to take back all my joyous words. Especially considering that whole "achy back" thing I had going on Tuesday.

But, happily for me, the mojo continues to flow and my last two runs (Wednesday and Thursday) have continued to satisfy. The back is feeling better too. By Wednesday afternoon, most of the lower back pain had receded and I was just left with sore hips. Hips I can handle better than back problems. Stiff hips go hand in hand with running. A bad back is just...bad.

By tonight the hips are better too. The only residual backache is the strain I feel when passing through a certain level of bending or squatting. It's that place where your knees are partially bent as you stand from a seated you know what I mean? Anyhow, it's way better that Tuesday, or even yesterday, when stooping or bending over at all was painful. Every time I dropped something that I had to pick up I swore...and I was dropping things a lot.

But fear not, none of this back and hip pain deterred me from Wednesday speedwork yesterday! I really wasn't sure how it would go. I did feel really stiff when I started running, and the first few miles definitely reflected that. Slow, slow. I did about four miles warm-up before arriving at the track to do half-mile (800) intervals (quarter mile jog in between each).

Originally I had intended to do six, but I ran short on time and knew I had to cut out one or two. I did four at the best pace I could manage, and one more at a slower pace. I had meant lap five to be just under an 8-minute pace, but I guess in the excitement of getting done I couldn't hold myself back enough, so ended up with a faster finish than I intended. Here are my splits for the speedwork only:

1. 3:43.10 (7:25 pace)
2. 3:43:30 (7:27 pace)
3. 3:46.84 (7:35 pace)
4. 3:43.21 (7:28 pace)
5. 3:49.70 (7:40 pace) (remember, this was meant to be slower than the others)

Today I went out for a run again, even though Thursday is usually a non-running day. I did Friday's longer run early, as I am running a 5-mile race on Saturday and I thought it would be good to give my legs a non-running day beforehand.

I did a total of 10.11 miles, with a three-mile tempo interval in miles 6, 7, and 8. I started out slow (as usual) but am pretty happy with my results overall. Check out my splits:

1. 10:32
2. 10:01
3. 9:31
4. 9:19
5. 9:15
6. 8:04
7. 7:55
8. 7:42
9. 9:12
10. 9:13
11. 9:25 pace for .11 miles.

Average pace for the distance: 9:05.

Happy day! And another beautiful late summer day. The sun came out and it was warm and sunny all day long. I love it!

No running tomorrow. Got it? No. Running. Tomorrow. Hopefully it will be another sunny one!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Looking towards 2010

Last year I waited too long to order my running log calendar, and by the time I was seeking out end-of-year sales every venue I could think of was sold out. So this year I'm acting early. My order is placed. 2010 is just around the corner.

Oh, yum!

I hardly ever enter giveaway contests, but I absolutely could not resist this Sweet Potato Scone giveaway from Megan's Munchies! I love scones, and I love sweet potatoes, so I would love the opportunity to try these. Hopefully I will be the winner, but if you are interested too, click on the link above to check it out! (The contest ends at midnight tonight, though, so hurry!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Running on a whole new level

The other night, Sunday night, after finishing a nine-mile run that morning and a great 15K the day before, I found myself thinking, "I am running on a whole new level these days."

I know that sounds a little pretentious. After all, the level that I am running on is nothing compared to elite runners like Kara Goucher and Deena Kastor, and not even comparable to the level of many bloggers I read regularly.

But yet, something has changed for me. It's not just that I've hit PR's in every distance I've run this summer. (Though that is part of it, for sure.) Or even that I've slipped into logging more mileage every week than ever before.

It may be, though, that I've come to believe that I can achieve new PR's and fast times in races (even though every race still is, and always will be, a battle of nerves beforehand). And it may be that I've built up that new mileage while feeling very little pain from the effort.

So much of running is mental, I believe. I've made great strides in the physical over the last few months. I've lost weight, I've pushed my body harder doing speed intervals and tempo runs. I've increased my running distances so that a medium-length run is now seven or eight miles (previously five to six), and my long distance runs vary from twelve to (occasionally) sixteen miles, and fourteen or fifteen is typical. (Beforehand I would say a "long run" was ten to thirteen miles.) I rarely have achy legs the night after a long run (except for races where I put my legs through the extra abuse of running hard, not just long).

That's the physical. The mental, psychological part of all that is this. I want to do an eight-mile run instead of six in the mornings (though we'll see how I feel about that at six in the morning during the dark, cold, wet winter months!). And while running fifteen miles in the desert still feels like biting off a big chunk of challenge, I know I can do the distance, and feel okay about it. And twelve miles? Hardly a blip on the radar.

I find myself thinking about my runs when I'm idle at home or work, or going to sleep at night, picturing myself out on the sidewalks, feeling my body gliding along, up hills and down. And although I much prefer running with my iPod, my ten miles without it was a bit of a Zen running experience, listening only to the sound of my breathing and my feet hitting the sidewalk. When I am not running I crave it (although I treasure my breaks from running on non-running days as well).

I don't know precisely when this metamorphosis occurred, although I know it developed gradually over this spring and summer. As I've written before, during the winter I fell into a slump, in which I kept doing the distance but got slower and slower. After my nadir at the Bath Half, I came home to the beginning of spring and it was then, in the season of new growth, that my running was reborn.

I did a little bit of mental letting go after Bath. I had a bunch of goals for 2009 which seemed so impossible at that point, PR's and increasing my annual distance from 1500 miles last year to 1600 this year (which would require an average of 32 miles a week over 50 weeks). At that time any new PR's seemed unlikely, and I was surely behind on mileage.

And I said to hell with it. After getting home from England I took a four-day break from running and stopped worrying (for the time being, anyway) about how many miles I was adding up every week. (I still kept track, I just didn't worry about it.) I let go of my expectations and just let myself run. And somehow, without even pushing myself, I started running just a little bit faster again.

After a month I felt brave enough to sign up for a race, and I registered for the Spokane Bloomsday Run in the first weekend in May. Even though I ran it slower than 2008, I was okay with my time, about 9:30 per mile average (slowed by the lengthy and steep Doomsday Hill, which apparently I was less prepared for than last year).

My next revelation occured in Kona, during a four-day Memorial Day weekend trip. I ran every morning in Kona, getting up before 6 a.m. to beat the heat a bit. It was pleasant but still humid in the very early mornings, and the sweat poured from my body as I flew along Ali'i Drive every morning. I say flew because I was as light on my feet as I had been for a long time, not even slowed by the rolling hills. I saw times on my Garmin that had seemed out of reach only weeks before, times starting in nine, and often on the low side. Perhaps the sweat bathing me was a running baptism of sorts, a sacrament to the running gods that probably reside along the Kona Ironman route where I was running. Or perhaps I was channeling the spirits of some of the many much greater runners who had run this path before.

And over the summer it has all just progressed to bring me to the point of running nirvana I am at now. Will this last indefinitely? Will it even survive the winter? Who knows. I am just going with the flow, the joy of finishing a sweaty run at Starbucks and walking home with a latte, the endorphins I bask in on weekend afternoons after a long morning run.

The pleasure has not eliminated all pain, I will confess. Getting out of bed in the mornings is hard even on light summer mornings, and will only get harder as fall and winter progress. Even as I run a 9:30 pace easy run on the day after a hard race, I may face another day with leaden legs where it takes all I have to give to stay under ten minute miles (that would be yesterday). I certainly don't expect to PR in every race (although I do hope to avoid humiliation in every race). And my body, though able to withstand lengthy miles so much better than before, is not immune to aches and pains. Today, in fact, I am plagued with unexplainable lower back and hip soreness that makes me look like a 90-year-old every time I stand up (half-bent, hand on my hip, hobbling for a few moments until the aches dissipate).

So what level will I be on tomorrow morning? I have every belief that once I overcome the early morning lethargy, any residual aches and pains, and whatever weather the day has in store for me, I will embrace another run with joy and energy. And savor the endorphins all day long!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fairhaven update (with pictures!)

Turns out I was wrong, the chip timing did record both the start and finish of the race. So my adjusted net time is actually 1:17:19 (same as on my Garmin), with a per-mile average pace of 8:18. Hurrah!

Saturday night I made some notes on my BlackBerry, so I could do some kind of race report with everything still fresh in my memory. Here are my notes, plus pictures!

We gathered for the start in front of the Fairhaven Runners store. I am just visible in this crowd, circled in yellow for your viewing assistance. Obviously it's much easier to see me in a larger version of the photo.

I am much more visible in this picture; unfortunately the two guys in dark jackets interfere with the shot. They're not even in running clothes, what are they doing in the starting line photo?
I was glad the weather was predicted to be rather warm, so I was able to firmly decide on a sleeveless running shirt without having to dither about short sleeves, long sleeves, jacket, as I do in colder weather. It was pleasantly cool at 8:30, but warmed up fast! The heat didn't bother me, but by the time I finished I was as drenched with sweat as I have ever been.

To prep for the race, in addition to eating oatmeal and drinking part of a latte on the ride to Bellingham, I used the porta-potties four times (one more than my previous PR of three) and jogged around the area for about 1.2 miles in a warm-up run. I believe that I always need to do at least a mile warm-up, to get the first 10-minute mile out of my system!

Once we took off, I didn't worry about passing or being passed by other runners, as I was happy with the pace I was maintaining. Mile after mile clicked by below 8:30 (which had been my goal pace for the first six miles). Garmin seemed to be pretty reliable at reflecting my pace accurately, I determined as I glanced at it far too frequently. When I occasionally saw it show 8:30, 8:45, or on occasion 9:00, I gave myself a little push and then it would bob briefly to eight minutes or below. The slower paces generally happened when I was going uphill or just afterwards (understandably), or in areas with a lot of turns (which do slow you down). In fact, that was one small gripe I had about the course. It's always had a number of quirky bends, out-and-backs, etc, but today we were running a modified route which was rife with oddball twists and turns. In fact, I am certain that my slowest (8:28) split encompassed the most convoluted stretch.

The race photographer was stationed somewhere around five miles. They were kind enough to post a sign beforehand to warn us, and I was certain I smiled happily for the camera, but somehow I still managed to look pained in the photo! And like I was hardly running!

After passing the 10K mark, and wanting to try to pick up the pace for the remainder of the run, I started paying attention to the people around me as potential competitors to help spur me on. Three people fit the bill. One was a woman in a pink shirt who was ahead of me, far enough to create a challenge but not so far as to be unreachable. The other two were a male and female running together. He was very tall (a built in advantage) and she was about my size and looked strong. I think they were just a hair ahead of me and we were really running the same pace.

So I set my sights on the woman in pink, pushing myself to try to close the distance. I guess we were running the same pace too, as for a long time the gap between us stayed constant. In my efforts, though, I did pull ahead of the male and female. I decided to use another technique to get myself through the last couple miles with a hard effort. I used the landmark game, picking an object a little ways ahead and running hard toward it, then on to the next.

I don't know exactly when it happened, but suddenly the woman in the pink shirt was beside me and then behind me. She must have slowed a bit, I am guessing, because despite my efforts my pace never really changed until I got to the last third of a mile (although I may have been a little faster than I think, with my average pace slowed in the end by a hill). A the end of mile nine, the dock we were running on began to climb rather steeply back towards land. I ran as fast as I could under the crcumstances but slowed inevitably. Mr. Long Legs caught up to me at the top of the hill and I fully expected him to pull ahead of me for the finish. But I finally found my extra gear and began to run like I was doing a 400 at the track. (Granted, one of my slower 400's.) I left him and everyone else around behind and steamed to the finish line at a 7:42 pace!

This should have been the perfect picture of me approaching the finish line. However, it was an extremely unlucky shot as I am almost totally blocked by the lady in the black top and whitish pants. All you can see of me is my hat and my shoe!
Here I am sprinting to the finish line! The picture is small, but I am the flying legs in the center.

Official finish line shot. At first I thought it was awful, but at least I look like I'm running hard! The three people behind me in the picture are the woman in the pink shirt, Long Legs guy, and the woman in the green shirt (blocked in photo).

Here I am heading across the street to meet my mother afterwards, thrilled by my finish time!

A final post-race shot before heading home. Some runners/walkers are still finishing. We had a really hard time finding a good photo op spot because of the sun and shadows!

Random notes:

  • Race director Lance grouped us at the start by projected pace. I went with 8:30—clearly I was not being over-optimistic.
  • There was a guy behind me in the porta-potty line before the race started who said he had never run this far before; he was used to doing about five miles. He was hoping to finish under 80 minutes. I wonder how he did?
  • In that same conversation, an older man who had done this race before (lots, probably) was describing the course to the other guy. He said that other than the final climb at the end, the course was flat, no hills at all. That is so untrue! My recollection was lots of short up and downhills throughout the first 10K. And that was still the case. I think the reason the other man didn't remember these, or didn't consider them hills, is because they seem (to me) to be the kind of ups and downs that help you more than harm you. The ups (though noticeable, more than just inclines) are gentle enough that they only slow you slightly, and the downs allow you to speed up for a spell without extra effort. I often find that my best results come from gently rolling courses like this. But I would under no circumstances describe it as pancake flat!
  • The race course crosses the railroad tracks, and the last couple of years the Amtrak train came through town during the race. I never had a concern about it affecting me, because my time was slow enough that it would not be a factor. I wondered if it would be a problem this year (being faster and all), but either the start time or the train schedule has changed, and I don't think Amtrak came through at all while we were running.
  • Nevertheless, director Lance warned us strongly of the dangers of crossing train tracks. He told us that if we were told to stop and wait because a train was coming, and we disobeyed, we would be disqualified from the race. And dead.
  • I had thought that once again the chip timing only recorded the finish, not the start. My Garmin time was 6 or 7 seconds faster than my chip time. Miniscule, but still! However, I expected this after last year so I was not distressed about it. Much. I just found out today that I was wrong and I'm very happy about that!
  • I didn't drink any water during the race. I don't recommend this, obviously, but I didn't feel I needed it (even though it was warm out) and I know I would have slowed and lost seconds if I had accepted water.
  • It was really a beautiful day. Sunny and cool at the start, though it warmed quickly. Still, we probably only got into the 60's while I was running. (Afterwards it felt warm in the sun and cool in the shade.). I sweated profusely, though. When I was done my shirt was pretty soaked, my hair and hat wre drenched, and my face was thickly coated with salt.
  • As we exited the ramp/hill from the dock to the trail toward the finish there were several people plus a stroller blocking the way--I had to veer around them. Respect the race, people! It wasn't even 10 a.m., surely racers should have had priority this early on.
  • When I was getting my mini-massage afterward, the chiropracter-therapist told me (once again) that one leg (my right) is about an inch longer. Yep, I'm crooked. Yep, I should check into finding a chiropracter to adjust me.
  • The post-race food here is FABULOUS. I could really go crazy if I wasn't trying really hard to maintain self control. There was sliced watermelon (I had several pieces), lots of really great different kinds of bread from Colophon Cafe (or possibly Great Harvest Bread Co.?) (I limited myself to the cranberry whole wheat but had, um, three skinny slices), brownies from Colophon (one 1-inch square), Erin Baker granola (just a taste of that), and cookies and poppyseed bread from another market (which I managed to eschew, but it all looked delicious too). I really, really wish I had taken some pictures of the food tables, but I was too giddy from the race finish, and rushing to get my name on the massage list, to even think of it.
  • I was trying hard not to go crazy with the post-race food because I did go just a little crazy in my pre-race eating on Friday. Since I didn't run or do ANYTHING on Friday, I didn't have that calorie cushion that exercise provides. I had already decided it was okay to go over my "weight loss" calorie level for the day. After all, malnutrition didn't seem like a good fueling plan! Without that running/elliptical bonus, though, the calories sure added up fast, even though I pretty much ate "normally" up through lunchtime. But the mind is a devious thing, and it was pretty easy to convince myself that it was okay to indulge in this and that, all in the name of carb loading! First it was a piece of zucchini bread that Ann brought to the office. Well, actually it was several zucchini bread shavings, followed by a very thin piece...I interpreted that as one real piece. Then, after my healthy lunch, I was in the Drug Court staff meeting and the new coordinator had brought donuts. What could I do? I helped myself to a large maple-frosted doughnut. Ooooh, how I love maple icing. I really would have had only half, but there were no knives and I didn't think everyone else would appreciate me ripping the doughnut apart and leaving half behind. So I ate the whole thing. Of course. Finally (and this is the most embarrassing), after I got home later I had bought a carton of light vanilla ice cream to go with the pear crisp I was making for dessert (I make no apologies for the pear crisp), and I convinced myself I could have a little taste of ice cream in a teeny tiny custard cup (about 1/4 cup). So I did. Three times. Plus a big bite of Cherry Garcia ice cream that was lurking in the freezer. I think that ice cream had crack in it.... After that I stopped tracking for the day on my Daily Plate.
  • I went on to have my Pasta ala Norma* and pear crisp for dinner, and just attributed my excess to fuel building for the race. After all, what good would it be to have all my glycogen consumed just to survive? I needed the extra for the running, right? RIGHT? Well, it worked out okay, obviously, since I had PLENTY of energy for the race and by Monday my weight was back where I thought it should be. Maybe my self-indulgent fueling wasn't so bad after all... Did I mention that the maple doughnut wasn't a typical maple bar, but more of a yeasty dough with cinnamon in it...almost a cinnamon roll with maple frosting, really!
  • As I said on Saturday, it was a fabulous race and a wonderful day all together!

*You can make this using far less olive oil than the recipe calls for. I did fine with just a few teaspoons of oil plus plenty of olive oil spray.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Recovery Run

Normally I don't run on more than one weekend day, and normally I don't run on the day after a race (yesterday's 15K). But this morning I decided to go for a run in spite of all that. I didn't really know what to do for exercise otherwise (walking takes too long, the Y doesn't open till noon, biking seemed like too much work, and we hadn't made plans to go for a hike or do much of anything other than watch the Seahawks game later). Plus, by 8 a.m. it was already sunny and looked like a beautiful day!

So I put on my race shirt from yesterday, some pants of course, and my running shoes, and after half a cup of coffee (I didn't feel like I needed to eat anything and I wasn't hungry anyway), hit the sidewalk for an easy eight (okay nine) miles.

At first I felt stiff and slow, although my first mile was only a little more than 10 minutes, which is not nearly as slow as I can manage some days. But I warmed up to a 9:37 in the next mile, then progressively sped up a bit between 9:30 and close to 9:00 (slowing a little to 9:20 and 9:30 in the last two miles), for an overall average pace of 9:28. This just confirms what I'd already figured out, that 9:30 is my "easy" pace now, the pace I can (usually) run without too much effort or exertion.

I ran twice around the 4-mile loop that passes the Y where I'll be doing the 5-mile race next Saturday. So along the way I ran twice up the hill that starts the race. Not at race pace today, though.

It's a good thing I ran, because we ordered pizza to eat for lunch with the game. Yes, the pieces of pizza I ate pretty much covered the calories I burned up in the run. But where would I have been without the running?

I am inexplicably tired tonight, so much so that instead of sitting in front of my computer I am sprawled in front of the TV (watching Top Gun :) using my BlackBerry. (The study has a TV but the computer chair isn't much good for sprawling.) I am contemplating an epsom salt bath. I THINK I have enough strength to manage a bath!

Tomorrow morning I'm out for another run. Then Tuesday is a Y day, Wednesday speedwork, and I think I'll do my Friday medium-long-possibly-tempo-run on Thursday instead. Then I'll rest my legs on Friday (probably go to the Y) before the race on Saturday. (Must remember to get registered for the race!)

Okay, Tom Cruise just graduated from the Top Gun Academy. Must tune in for the grand finale! Go Maverick! (Okay, that just gave me a Sarah Palin flashback--not good. But actually it was Tina Fey as Sarah Palin--better!)
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fairhaven Waterfront 15K - Big PR!

It was a great morning. I've always had a good time (in all senses of the word) at the Fairhaven 15K, and today was no exception.

Official time 1:17:26, average pace 8:19 (my birthday!). I was also 6th in my age group, which obviously has no significance, but I can assure you it was a big race and there were many, many more than six women in the 40-44 age group. :)

I'm also pretty astounded that this pace is actually my fastest pace in any race, except for a few (very few) 5K's! And my 10K split (51:30-ish) was about a minute better than my 10K PR.

My splits were shockingly consistent--8:14, 8:19, 8:19, 8:19, 8:19, 8:28, 8:21, 8:16, 8:20, 8:14, and the final .32 at 7:42 pace. My original objective had been to run the first 10K at 8:30 pace and the final 5K at 8:15 pace. Didn't do that exactly, but my average was better!

A big thank you to Lisa (Discovering the Meaning of Stonehenge) for her encouraging words... She predicted I would go under 80 minutes! Thanks for the good vibes!

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Squash soup seasons falls again

It may not be officially autumn yet, but this weekend my mom bought me the first Kabocha squash of the year and I finally made my first heavenly pot of soup! (See recipe link on the right side of the page.) Here I am about to enjoy a delicious bowlful! Dressed to match the soup (helps with spills and splatters, too).

Today I am enjoying a total rest day from running and working out, in order to (hopefully) have fresh legs for tomorrow's 15K. While I enjoyed the opportunity to sleep in this morning, I felt (and feel) a little twitchy getting no substantial exercise today! I do think I will really benefit from the long night of sleep, though, especially as I have to get up at 5:00 to head north tomorrow so can't expect to get TOO much sleep tonight.

When I was in the kitchen fixing breakfast this morning (which I was able to enjoy in a leisurely manner instead of gobbling it down in a rush before work as I do on running mornings), I looked out the window to see another traditional fall morning sight--fog. It made me feel all New Englandy. It would have been a very nice morning for running! It burned off quickly and now we are enjoying a sunny late summer day.

Tonight I am "carb-loading" with a pasta dish I got from the Amateur Gourmet. It's called Penne (or some kind of pasta) Norma, but it's just sauteed eggplant with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil. It sounds wonderful to me because I LURRRVE eggplant. (And he says in the accompanying blog post that eggplant doesn't inspire passion--I beg to differ!) And there may or may not be another pear crisp in the offing. :)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The thing about 15K's is...

  • I've never done a 15K I didn't like. However, I only know of two...the Portland Shamrock Run and the Fairhaven Waterfront 15K. I've done each of them twice, Portland in 2007 and 2008 (I was in England during the 2009 race) and Fairhaven in 2007 and 2008 (2009 coming up on Saturday).
  • I don't even know what my 15K PR is! That goes back to them being so uncommon, somehow my times do not stick in my mind.
  • I like the 15K distance because it's longer than a 10K but shorter than a half marathon (duh). I'm almost certain to be done in less than 90 minutes.
  • I think the dream 15K pace would be to run the first 10K at 10K pace and then finish the remaining 5K at 5K pace! Not gonna happen....
  • There were pacers in the 2007 Fairhaven run, and I passed the 9-minute mile pacer about halfway through and stayed ahead for the rest of the race. But my final pace was exactly 9 minutes per mile.
  • Running 15K (9.3 miles) burns more than 1000 calories...certainly enough to accommodate a post-race treat!
  • I'm pretty excited about Saturday. I think it's going to be a great run!