Wednesday, November 19, 2014

California International Marathon Traning

I'm alive!  After running the Marine Corps Marathon my ankle was super tight and I had pain when I tried to flex my foot a certain way.  In the spirit of "listening to my body" instead of pushing through and following my training plan despite the fact that I was obviously injured, I decided to go on full rest.  No running, no workouts.  It killed me!  However, it also worked because my ankle now feels 100% better.
Since I have the California International Marathon coming up in a few weeks I knew I needed to get back to running ASAP.  CIM was supposed to be my goal race for the year but given the setback due to my ankle injury I've reassessed my expectations for the race.  Instead of gunning for a PR I'm going to see how my body feels on race day and I'll run accordingly.  Whoa...when did I become all mature and realistic? Ha!
I gave my ankle a true test run this weekend to see how it would hold up.  My first real run was this past Saturday when I ran the Pacific Grove Lighthouse 5k.  Let me preface this by saying that I hate 5k's.  It normally takes me 3 miles just to warm up so trying to run fast right from the start is uber hard for me.  When I initially signed up for this race I had grand visions of racing it for a brand spanking new PR but obviously that wasn't going to be happening.  I lined up at the starting line and found my friend Cathy and her son Nicklaus who was running his first 5k.  Nicklaus is 6 years old and rocked the race by the way!  I quickly told her my situation and she agreed with my plan to keep it slow at around a 10:00 min/mile pace to test out my ankle, especially since the course consisted of rolling hills. 
Once the gun went off and the race started, I stayed with Cathy and Nicklaus for the first half mile thinking that they'd help keep me true to my pacing plan.  Yeah, not so much.  I glanced down at my watch and saw an 8:56 min/mile pace.  Oops!  And despite my best efforts that's pretty much how the entire race went.  I'd glance down at my watch, mutter to myself that I'm going too fast, attempt to slow down and somehow end up speeding up.  I even stopped to take pictures to try to force myself to slow down and I still ended up running faster! Who does that?!  My slow run ended up being a progressive run with my pace dropping down to a 7:33 min/mile towards the end.  The best part was my ankle felt great!  No pain or tightness at all.  And to make it even better, I got to see my friend Jodie cross the finish line!  Jodie is one of my running inspirations and has a heart of gold.  She always inspires me to do more and be better.
Mile 1: 9:02 min/mile
Mile 2: 8:56 min/mile
Mile 3: 8:40 min/mile (with a photo stop!)
.1 mile: 7:33 min/mile
Official time: 00:27:38

Jodie! Love her

The next day I was scheduled to run my last 20 mile run for CIM.  Spoiler alert: That didn't happen.  I met up with my friend Linda and we decided to run one of the toughest, hilliest courses in the area...Aguajito!  It's a challenging 7+ mile loop that's full of non-stop hills.  You either go up or down or up some more.  There is literally no flat road at all on this route!

It was a nice slow steady pace the whole way and we chatted almost the entire way.  I had forgotten to do my preventative inhaler before hand and didn't bring one with me so I was a little worried but I was pleasantly surprised that my breathing ended up being ok for the whole run.  We made it to the summit of the last major hill and decided to take pictures to celebrate. 'Cuz we're cool like that!

Once we got back to the starting point I had intended to finish up the remainder of the 20 miles but decided I wasn't feeling it (I truly hate solo runs) and instead joined Linda and our other friends Ben, Mariana and Tina for brunch and bottomless mimosas.  Best decision ever! 

I know I'll probably be kicking myself in the butt for not getting the 20 miles in that I was supposed to but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  I made a promise to myself that I'd get 18-20 miles in this weekend just for peace of mind.  I know it's closer to race day than I'd like which means a shorter taper period but I'd feel better getting it in even though technically I know I'll finish the race just fine without it.  Basically it comes down to my not wanting to feel like death at the finish!

Linda was happy to reach the top

I own my goofiness
On a completely different topic, I came home on Monday to find this beautiful surprise in my mailbox.  This running skirt was handmade by my amazingly talented friend Handan.  Isn't it gorgeous?!  Runners really are the best people!

Have you ever had to deal with an injury during training?  How did you decide to handle it?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

2014 Marine Corps Marathon - Race Recap

The Marine Corps Marathon is one of my absolute favorite races.  I ran it in 2012 and literally had to outrun Hurricane Sandy.  I had such a horrible race both mentally and physically that I vowed to come back again and truly enjoy the course for everything that it has to offer.  I decided that 2014 was the year to make my comeback to a race that a meant so much to me.  Get comfy folks, this is going to be a long one!

My runcation trip to the east coast started with a red eye flight that left San Francisco at midnight on Thursday and got me into Ronald Reagan International Airport at about 10:30 AM.  Holy cow red-eye flights are exhausting!  I had worked the entire day on Wednesday so I was functioning on maybe 3 hours of sleep by the time I touched down in D.C.  I was picked up by two of my favorite sole sisters Michele (a.k.a. thepinkhatrunner) and Betsy.  My friends know me well and the first thing that we did was head into Georgetown to feed my belly!  The restaurant that we wanted to try out wasn't open yet so we spent time strolling through Georgetown and checking out the various stores, including a mandatory stop at Georgetown Cupcakes.

Love my sole sisters!

After a delicious lunch accompanied by equally delicious beer, we headed back to Betsy's home so that I could unpack and settle in.  We sat and chat and caught up on all of our respective life events and it was just like no time had passed since our last runcation together.  Once Betsy's kids got home from school we headed out to a local Mexican restaurant for some dinner.  Afterwards, we headed back home and basically called it a night.  I needed some major zzz's!

The next day we got up bright and early to head to the D.C. Armory for the Marine Corps Marathon Expo.  It's quite an experience to be pick up race bibs from Marines and have them lined up and down the expo giving us our shirts and free race goodies.  Despite the fact that I swore up and down that I wasn't going to buy more than one race item, I ended up leaving with a bag full of MCM gear.  How did that even happen?!

 Marine Corps Marathon Expo

While we were at the expo we were fortunate enough to run into several members of the Red Felt Running Club.  The RFRC is an amazing running club that I found when I first signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2012.  Although originally founded and formed by runners on the east coast, the club is now comprised of members all over the United States and throughout the world.  I cannot speak enough about how phenomenally inspiring, motivating and encouraging this group of runners is.  They embrace everyone with open arms from walkers to first time runners to experienced ultra runners.  Although the main race for the group is MCM, members run races all over the world and the group offers encouragement and support for every race.  If you're looking for a running group please consider the RFRC!

Some of the RFRC crew

Bib in hand and ready to go!

After our expo shenanigans, Michele headed out to meet her friends for dinner and Betsy and I headed over to her children's school.  Betsy is an AH-MAZING mom and happens to be one of the two parent mentors for the school's Odyssey of the Mind group.  You guys, kids are freakin' hilarious!  Their answers to the questions and problems presented to them cracked me up to no end.  I really wish here was a way for me to look into their little heads and watch their brains work 'cuz the things they said were seriously too funny!  I was thoroughly entertained.

Once the Odyssey of the Mind group finished their meeting/practice session, we all headed back to Betsy's house where we picked up her parents (who happened to be visiting from Oregon) and we all went out to dinner.  I really cannot thank Betsy enough for not only opening up her home to me but also sharing her time with her family.  I've pretty much adopted them!  After dinner we picked up Michele from the metro and headed back home to call it a night.

Saturday morning we woke up to meet RFRC at the National Mall for a shake-out run.  Since everyone in the group is spread out throughout the country (with the vast majority located on the east coast) I really try to spend as much time with them as I can during races.  It was like a huge family reunion with big hugs being exchanged all around.  Even those we were meeting for the first time got hugs because that's just how RFRC rolls!  The run was a short 3 miles and I'm sure we were quite a sight as we ran, especially with Darling taking the lead with our famous RFRC flag.  It was so much fun!

 I seriously love these faces!

Running it out 

Group pic during the run's halfway point

Once our group run was done everyone scattered to their respective next destinations so Michele and I grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Every time I'm in D.C. I have to stop by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Always.  My dad is retired Army and a Vietnam veteran so in his honor I always have to pay my respects to those who never made it home.  It could so easily be his name on that wall.

Never forgotten

Once I paid my respects, we started our walk back to the metro station and hit some of the major landmarks along the way including the Washington Monument and World War II Memorial.  We grabbed the metro, headed back to Betsy's house then all three of us proceeded to our hotel.  We dropped off our stuff in our hotel room then went to grab an early dinner.  After dinner we drove straight back to our hotel for an early night.  We had a 4:00 AM wake-up call in the morning!

Cali in da house!

The alarm went off way too soon and we went through our pre-race rituals before meeting our RFRC contingent in the hotel lobby.  Man, do I wish I had a group picture of us in the hotel lobby.  Our group had taken over and boy what a boisterous group we were!  The energy and excitement was palpable.  We all meandered over to the metro stop together and took the metro to the marathon start between the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery.  It's humbling to start a race guarded on one side by those who are actively protecting our country and guarded on the other by our fallen heroes.

Ready to run

Of course, the RFRC passed the time before the race start in true form with lots of laughter, silliness and genuine camaraderie.  I had such a good time chatting with everyone that the time passed by quickly despite the fact that it was quite chilly.

The ladies before heading to the start line

RFRC family

Soon it was time to start walking towards the start line.  We all huddled together as the sun rose and the air around us started to warm up.  We got treated to one of the most spectacular race starts that I have ever seen with three skydiving teams jumping down to the start area, each with a large U.S. flag held out for everyone to see, including U.S. Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, decorated Vietnam veteran Ret. Marine Col. John Bates and Ret. Army 1st Class Dana Bowman (a former member of the U.S. Army's elite parachute team, the Golden Knights, and a double amputee).  There was not one person who was not emotionally touched and affected by that sight.  Following that was the annual flyover start by two Marine Osprey MV-22B signaling the official start of the hand cycle and wheelchair athletes.  

As with most large races, the race start was really congested and I had a rough time getting a consistent pace going for the first 2-3 miles.  Once I got past the first three miles, my legs were warm and loosened up and I settled into a (way too fast) pace.  The first half of the Marine Corps Marathon is considered the hardest part of the race as it's comprised of a lot of small rolling hills which is exactly my cup of tea!  I was having the time of my life taking in all of the excitement and energy of my fellow runners, enjoying the gorgeous weather and views along the way, and thanking the Marines who were out there supporting us (every race should have hot guys in uniforms at their aid stations, amirite ladies?!).  I was having so much fun that I had a really hard time reeling my pace in and got a bit anxious when I started seeing sub-10:00 min/miles flash on my watch.  This was supposed to be my fun race...WTH was I doing "racing"?!  By the time I hit the blue mile I could feel the fatigue starting to set in and I made a conscious decision to stop and truly enjoy the experience.  So I stopped and walked through the blue mile and truly gave it the respect and reverence it deserved.  I took pics, touched each and every photo of our fallen heroes thanking them for their service and sacrifice, and high fived every family member and friend who was out there supporting the runners.  It was hard not to get choked up and I was so glad that I decided to stop and fully experience it.

Hits me right in the feels

Blue Mile

I may or may not have cried a little

After that, I party paced it while taking photos along the way.  Eventually (I think it was around mile 14 or 15) I ran into some of the RFRC ladies and decided to join their group for the rest of the run.  Best race decision ever!  They were doing 4-1 intervals which suited me just fine and having a heck of a fun time.  Lots of photos, lots of high fives and hugs along the way and lots of laughter. 

Love these ladies!

Why hello there!

Group pic on the course

Everyone was in great spirits and all we could talk about was getting to Mile 20.  See, every year RFRC has our own "aid station" around mile 20 on the MCM course where they have anything and everything that a runner could possibly need at that point in time.  They were stocked with cookies, chips, soda, gatorade, candy, water and even some fireball whiskey!  All we wanted to do was get to the Mile 20 party!  

Before we knew it, we hit mile 20 and turned the corner to hear a ridiculously loud RFRC cheer squad greeting us!  In 2012 I was in such a bad place mentally that I completely ran by the mile 20 crew.  Not this year!  This year I jumped right in for hugs and partook in the best tasting chips and Diet Dr Pepper of my life!  Then we proceeded to have a dance party and twerking session.  NBD.  Totally normal.

RFRC Mile 20 support crew

Freakin' love these weirdos

Dance party at Mile 20

Twerk it out

Unfortunately, the party had to end and we had to go on to "Beat the Bridge" so that we didn't get swept up by the sweeper bus.  The remaining 6 miles were a bit of a blur.  Almost everyone was struggling a bit at some point, whether mentally or physically, and we were all just supporting each other to get it done.  What I do remember is that once we hit the base of the .2 mile hill that took us up to the finish line, we all took off running as fast as our legs & feet could take us.  Marie, Maria and I joined hands before the finish line and crossed it together with Tonya and Nasra not too far behind us.  We did it!  We were MCM finishers!  The best part was that we got our medals from active duty Marines who thanked US for being there.  It didn't seem quite right so I made sure to thank each and every one of them for their service.

Thank you sir for your service!

We meandered over to the beer tent and somehow made our way through without standing in line (hooray for super secret back entrances) and found some more of our RFRC friends.  It was so good to see everyone and hear each of them tell their race story.

Beer party!

Happy runners

Once I found my roomies Betsy and Michele we walked back to the hotel to freshen up before heading out for the traditional RFRC after party.  These guys know how to throw a good party!  I was laughing so hard that my stomach hurt.  I'm claiming that as my ab workout for that day.  Seriously though, I absolutely LOVE RFRC (have I mentioned that yet? 'Cuz I do).  They are some of the most sincerely kind, generous, big hearted people that I have ever met and every single one of them is truly inspiring. 

RFRC after party

Train hard, race hard, party even harder!

I had the time of my life at the Marine Corps Marathon this year.  I have no regrets at all and I am so glad I opted to stop, slow down and really enjoy the race.  It truly is an amazing experience and a race that every runner should run at least once in their lifetime.  I know I'll be back again!

See ya again MCM! Thanks for the memories.