Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Call for Creativity--Half Marathon in Japan?

So...the Birmingham Track Club is yet again working with its sister city, Maebashi, Japan, to host a runner exchange. There is a contest of sorts to win an entry into the Maebashi City Marathon (actually a half marathon) as an official representative of the Birmingham Track Club. Included for 3-5 runners is not only entry into the race but lodging and all expenses paid for a 4-5 day trip to Japan at the end of April. The only thing the runner would have to pay is for a flight to Japan. The flight is no doubt expensive but considering the experience you get in return, it seems like a minor investment.

This is where you come in.

Other than this being an AMAZINGLY cool once in a lifetime experience, an opportunity to travel and learn about another culture...WHY should *I* be selected for this honor? I'm no speed demon (they say this doesn't matter) and I don't have a compelling story about what drove me to running. I just genuinely LOVE to run and I am grateful for the ability to do so. I do think I would be a great ambassador for not only the city but for the running community (we come in all shapes, sizes and abilities afterall) but it feels so generic and bland. What would make an application stand out if you were on the selection committee?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Village to Village 10K: Race Report

In a recurring theme of the past SEVERAL weeks, I have thought of multiple blog entries and even started a few but between 60+ hour work weeks (not counting commute or even time spent working at home in the evening), half-marathon "training", limited social interaction--including time spent with Matt, and minimal sleep, there has been ZERO time for anything else. All that being said, with work closing in around 70 hours over the past week and averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night, I wasn't expecting much from this race. In fact, I was worried about embarrassing myself. We already knew I wasn't planning on making this a PR attempt and despite already being registered I almost didn't get out of bed on Saturday morning for fear of completely bonking out on the course from sheer exhaustion.

Backing up, I picked up my race packet Friday afternoon at Fleet Feet and was stoked to find a cool t-shirt and a loaded goodie bag.

You can't really tell in the pic but the "V"s are actually sparkly and it's a nice quality tech fabric. Loot included: Packet of handwarmers, Decent size sample of Community Coffee plus 2 coupons for $2 off next purchase, sample of Biofreeze, sample of "Elta MD" sunscreen, $5 coupon off sushi at Maki Fresh (yummy), $1 coupon off frozen yogurt at 32* yogurt bar, Coupon for a free class at Grand Jete --I am looking forward to trying this!, 20% off Women's only bootcamp (I am going back to bootcamp in the 'off season'), the requisite flyers for upcoming race and The MOST RANDOM goodie bag sample I have EVER received: sample of "Tiramani" perfume! What is the weirdest thing you have ever received in a race goodie bag?

Matt and I had a yummy dinner at Firebird's (I LOVE their shrimp and strawberry salad), came home and watched "The Town" on Netflix and I settled in to SLEEP.

The race had an 8:00 start and the over achiever in me thought I might go out a little early and log an extra mile or two to help me warm up. However, it was CHILLY (around 27 degrees) and I did not want to get out of bed when the alarm went off at 6. I knowingly hit snooze after snooze and finally at 7:10 I decided it might be wise to get up! (How many of you are freaking out at this thought?) I think you know you are getting too comfortable at this when you are not even out of bed an hour before the start! I was out the door by 7:25, banana and half of a (plain) whole wheat bagel in hand to eat on the way there. Managed to score an awesome parking spot at 7:40, collected my stuff and started jogging to the start. About halfway there, I realized I had left my iPod in my car, so I jogged back and collected it. I was wearing my longer running tights due to the cold and realized at this point that they were falling down from being too large. Not good but really had no other options at this point; I hoped that once I started to sweat they might stick in place and if I had to spend the majority of the race pulling them up, so be it.

There was a good crowd (I've read approx 1000 runners) and the race director thoughtfully had heaters placed around the parking lot for people to stay warm. Business had also opened their doors for runners to get out of the cold. Knowing I didn't have long to start I actually stayed away b/c I think it's easier to acclimate by staying in the elements prior to race start so that it's not a shock to the system.

Everyone started making their way to the start "line" and I positioned myself in the middle of pack. People were especially chatty this morning and based on observation I seemed to be around people of similar pace. Suddenly the crowd started to move forward and those around me were equally surprised. Historically this race has not been chip timed but this year they moved to bib-timing which I am not familiar with (chip is a strip on the back of the bib). I knew where the start was supposed to be according to the course map (started at an intersection) but when I got there, there was no timing mat. A bit concerned about how this timing was going to work, I started to Garmin and off we went.

The chattiness did not last long as we were faced with this:
This is the first 1.4 of the race. You actually start climbing this monster and when you think you are at the top you turn left and keep climbing. I actually looked at the girl next to me and said "Oh no". She smirked and rolled her eyes and at that point it was ON. I really and truly believe it is so important to run your own race and not get caught up in other people's paces or games and I remind myself this often during races if I feel like I am thinking negatively, but as I watched her blond hair pull away from me, I resolved that I WOULD beat her in the end.

The reviews I have read of the race described the first half of the course as "brutal" and I would have to agree. Up, up, up with a short downhill here or there followed by another climb. After the 5K mark it seemed to flatten out a little bit but as suspected, Vulcan has NOTHING on this course. The course is largely through residential neighborhoods and the mansions are just gorgeous. At one point, there was this HUGE mansion on top of a hill with some intricate glasswork and someone behind me said "Oh look...a church" and her friend responded with..."No that's someone's house" to which the reply was "Oh shit" LOL The race is actually in Mountain Brook which you may be familiar with because of the Natalee Holloway Story. The police a great job of blocking intersections and directing traffic flow and the few spectators that were out were great...friendly and cheering for everyone. I made sure to say good morning to each of them and to thank them for coming out. Fluid stations at miles 2 and 4 but since I was carrying my handheld I didn't partake. I did, however, say a general thank you as I ran through. It amazes me to see so many runners around me NOT speak to or thank anyone (I run one earbud out so I can hear what is going on). We all know how important that these things are to us and I'm not intending to get on a soapbox but we can all muster a thank you now and again. Have you thanked your volunteers and spectators lately?

Throughout the race I kept looking down to see "10s" and even "9s" and I was unbelievably ecstatic but realistic. I am happy to report that I did pass blondie at 2.5 never to see her again and there were a few other people that were running around me during the race that I vowed to pick off when the time was right. (Nothing rude, just a personal goal to keep me going as I was tired and COLD). I realized at 5.5 I was definitely going to PR unless the wheels fell off and after seeing the mile 6 sign (when my Garmin read 5.9) I kicked it in with everything I had left. Turns out we had a little more than .2 to go as Garmin read 6.26 when I crossed the mat and then I forgot to turn off my watch(!) as I was so relieved to have given it my all and PR-ed despite personal obstacles and course conditions. It was only after accepting my rose, picking up a bottle of water and stepping aside to drink did I realize I had not turned off my Garmin! I fumbled for the was probably 30-60 seconds after it was all said and done. Aughhh!!

Long stemmed roses were given to all of the finishers when we crossed

They had a huge post-race party in the parking lot area of one of the supermarkets in Mountain Brook village: bottled water, Gatorade/G2, Coffee, beer, Krispy Kreme donuts, pastries from a local bakery, bagels, bananas, orange slices, pizza(!), minestrone soup, massages, a DJ and other vendors offering giveaways, etc. I actually don't do well with solid foods after a run and was really craving a chai latte anyway, so I just grabbed water, G2 and orange slice before heading back to my car and subsequently, Starbucks. Did not stick around for awards and have still not seen final results posted anywhere but again, in the reviews on active it looks like we are dealing with a clock/gun start with a chip finish which I think is CRAP and if this is true, definitely needs to be FIXED for next year.

I don't usually talk about times on here b/c I compete not for AG awards but against myself but I am proud to see the improvement and KNOW in my heart that this is a PR. I have no reason to lie!

For fun (and proof), let's compare against Vulcan:

Vulcan (11/6/10) V2V (1/22/11)
Mile 1 11:07 11:35
Mile 2 11:02 10:55
Mile 3 11:12 10:11
Mile 4 11:08 10:38
Mile 5 10:46 10:41
Mile 6 10:51 10:22
".2" 2:40 (9:38 pace for .28) 2:24 (9:17 pace for .26), if you take off a conservative 30 seconds that's 1:54 for .26 (7:18)
Net time 1:08:43 1:06:16-1:06:46

Anyone else struggle with funky or inaccurate timing from races?

Nice day for a PR :)

10K PR in the idea of my official time yet and I forgot to stop my Garmin for AT LEAST 30 seconds after I was done (put it this way, I had time to accept a rose, a bottle of water and start drinking before I thought...I should stop my watch now...) and even with that I'm showing 2 minutes faster than Vulcan on a MUCH harder course. Race report to come!

Monday, January 10, 2011


I would like to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to say...

WAR EAGLE! 2010 National Champs!

Unbelievable :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Snowmaggedon" 2011

I think I might be in denial about potentially how bad this weather situation might get. I at least had the foresight to fill my car with gas, get a few shelf-stable items that don't require cooking (cereal with vanilla rice milk anyone? No? How about a banana?) and pick up a couple of gallons of water, but beyond that the phrase "I might be screwed" comes to mind. Thoughts of the ice storm when I was around 8 or 9 and power was out for well over a week keep playing in my head and I'm really trying not to pay attention to them.

Alabama is just not equipped to deal with icy weather AT ALL. I was shopping at Old Navy this afternoon to kill some time when the freezing rain started. I thought I would head over to TJ Maxx to exchange a Jockey l/s tech pullover I scored for $12.99 (I needed a smaller size) but "due to winter weather" they were closed. I should have known it was going to be bad when I was headed southbound on the interstate (from ON to TJM) and saw a car traveling northbound hit a patch of ice and spin around on the interstate and crash into the guard rail. Reading FB status updates that seems to be the name of the game on the interstates around here and earlier when I stepped outside I could hear siren after siren en route (no doubt to more accidents)

My back patio is essentially a skating rink from the freezing rain/sleet that fell for 3+ hours and is now getting covered with snow. While they have closed about every single freaking business around here, my office has not yet made the determination of what is going on. Either way, unless there are major improvements I am planning on working from home. I have a MASSIVE and unforgiving deadline on 1/21 and I need every day in order to meet this. I can not afford to lose a day (or multiple days) to this crap right now. Too bad I can't even rejoice in a snow day :(

On the running front, I ran my longest run since the marathon...8 miles...yesterday and felt great. I ended up sleeping in a little later than intended and didn't get out the door until 8:40. That decision pretty much confined me to a combination of 2 very hilly routes but I am very happy to say that I conquered the hills! AND the last mile was my fastest (10:49...which is good for me on a long run) It's amazing how much more confidence and strength I have since the marathon. This was likely building during actual marathon training but looking back at my training logs I was absolutely exhausted (I didn't even realize it at the time) and towards the end almost ALL of my runs were at long run's all my legs could muster. The achilles tendonitis did not help matters but I did not have the mental fortitude for those hills (I would have automatically taken a walk break) when now I am determined to master them and realize that I actually have the ability to do so.

I am on track for the Mercedes Half Marathon over Valentines Day weekend, with a stop at the Village to Village 10K in 2 weeks. I actually have quite a year shaping up with races, goals and training my aunt to her 1st half marathon finish but I will detail this in an upcoming post. In regard to Village to Village, I know this will be part of a longer training run (much the way Vulcan was) and I'm pretty sure it's a tougher course than Vulcan (which everyone says was tough and I did not think so) so I am debating on whether this will be an official PR attempt. In this very short training cycle I am running 3-4 days a week (aiming for 4 but I need to be realistic given the 60 hour work weeks right now) with 2 days of cross training (1 day of cardio/weights, 1 day of yoga). Don't know if this is a recipe for a PR (I am hoping to shave 10 minutes off the current PR) but I am trying to be smart with my running (intervals, tempo and long runs, 4th day being easy paces on a trail) and not filling my schedule with "junk" miles just to have miles. (I know that any running is better than no running but more than ever I need to make the miles count)