Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Things I've Seen

Now that I run without an iPod most of the time, I find myself noticing a lot more about my surrounding--sights, sounds, smells. I thought I'd share a few from last night's run:

1. A lone can of Libby's pumpkin puree lying on the sidewalk in a residential neighborhood. I wondered how it ended up there (b/c there weren't any driveways terribly near by) and who was making pumpkin pie in April.

2. A puffy dead squirrel--biggest squirrel I've ever seen; I thought it was a cat at first. Both disgusting and sad (but not as sad as if it'd been a cat).

3. The inviting smell of flowers (I have no idea what kind...purple) mixed with the nose-wrinkling smell of new mulch.

4. A fellow runner carrying the cutting edge discman...Who even needs an MP3 player??

5. A runner who, apparently used to the seas parting for him, ran directly down the middle of the sidewalk toward me, leaving me to practically leap into a bush to avoid being mowed over.

6. Honking...followed by a long leer out the window. Gross. Come any closer and you'll get an eyefull of pepper spray.

7. The green-yellow film of pollen covering cars and sidewalks everywhere I ran. But, my histamine-proofed nose was good to go--I love you Sudafed!

8. An ice cream truck playing a children's tune over the loud speaker...I couldn't remember the name of the song or the lyrics...All that came to mind was Chingy's version "Do Your Chain Hang Low."

9. A little girl running across the lawn and down the sidewalk after said ice cream truck, whose cries of "ICE CREAM!!!" turned into sobs as she collapsed onto the sidewalk in a forlorn heap when the truck didn't stop. Can't blame ya little sista, I've been known to do the same when I miss out on ice cream.

10. A rough kitten tongue licking my ankles as I stretched out...yum, salty!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Recap: My First Half Marathon

This weekend was the much anticipated Go! St. Louis Half & Full Marathon. I took the day off on Friday to, among other things, attend the race expo and pick up my race packet.

The expo was held at the Chaifetz arena on the campus of St. Louis University. It was my first time to the arena. This was my first expo, but I have to say I was unimpressed by it. First, there were three separate stations, in three separate parts of the building to pick up 1. bib numbers, 2. race duffel bag, and 3. race shirt and goodie bag. I thought it was weird that I had to traipse all over the building just to do what I came there for.

The vendor area was set up in the floor of the arena. I really thought there would be more. There wasn't much in the way of free samples. I got a couple of Larabar samples and some cereal but that was it. I ended up buying a Bondi Band b/c they're supposed to both wick sweat and stay put (which is difficult with my slippery hair texture) and a pair of compression socks (in hot pink!). All the area running stores were represented, and there were booths for about half a dozen upcoming marathons and a couple of running clubs. All in all, I was out of there in less than an hour.

Between then and Sunday morning, I tried to lay low and rest. I planned to go to bed early on Saturday night, but we had a birthday party to go to for a very good friend. Even though I left early, by the time I got home and got my race stuff together for the next day, it was almost 1 a.m. before I fell asleep. My alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. I wanted plenty of time to eat and get to the Metrolink station to catch the first train downtown.

Dear sweet B. got up too and went with me. He brought his bike along so he could move between areas of the race more easily. Turns out, the instructions to arrive an hour early were kind of a waste. We were down there by 6:00 a.m., with nothing to do but mill around and try to stay loose (and take pictures...)

People didn't really start lining up until about 15 minutes before the race. I got in line near the 2:20 pace group. I wasn't sure yet if I would go faster or slower than them, but it seemed like as good a place as any to start. The crowd you can see in the picture below doesn't even do justice to how enormous the race field was...

While I was waiting, I spotted B. standing on the steps of a nearby building taking pictures, so I tried to get his attention:

While I waited, I made friends with some other first time marathoners. We watched the minutes tick by to start time...The start turned out to be pretty anti-climatic. There were so many people that when the race started, it took a good 12 minutes for our part of the crowd to even start walking towards the start. I pressed my Garmin timer when I stepped across the line 15 minutes later according to the race clock.

Maybe it was all the waiting and subsequent nerves, but I took off when I finally made it out of the gate. I knew I was running too fast, but I didn't even care. I just felt good to be moving. The first couple of miles took us past Busch Stadium and down Broadway toward the Anheuser Busch brewery. My first two splits were 9:37 and 9:54. I knew I should slow down to avoid burning out before the finish. Then we got to our first uphill as we ran past the brewery on our circle back toward downtown. That slowed me down plenty.

My first two water stops (which I'd been nervous about b/c I'm not coordinated enough to run and drink at the same time) went well. There were tables with Gatorade followed by water, and I'd made the decision that I'd walk through every single stop just to make sure I stayed adequately hydrated. The only thing that could have been better was the volunteers were having a very hard time keeping up with demand not just at the first tables, but all of them. This problem was continuous throughout the race.

After our little tour of Soulard, we were on our way back downtown. I saw B. again around mile 5. All the spectators were very encouraging and vocal, but it was nice to see a familiar face! PS: I love the expression of the guy next to me in this picture...

Back downtown, we headed down Olive, which we'd be on until we reached Vandeventer in Midtown. I'd run in this area before several years ago when I did the St. Patty's Day 5 miler, and I knew there was one rather large hill near Compton. Yes, there was a hill at Compton, plus about three others I didn't know about. The course had a lot more uphill than I'd thought going in. It made me glad that all my training runs involve a hilly course. None of them were too terribly hard. I just shortened my stride and kept moving. My splits were getting slower at this point, mostly in the 10:30s.

I didn't see B. again until the end, but he apparently saw me (I was really "in the zone" I guess and didn't hear him shouting my name).

At mile 8, they provided GU gels for us. I was going to skip it but I heard one volunteer call out that he had apple cinnamon flavor and decided to give it a try. YUM! Other gels I've tried have made me ill, but this one tasted like apple pie filling. I slurped down the whole thing. What they didn't give us for another mile was liquid. I would have liked a little something to wash my GU down with, but I'll know better for next time.

The hardest part of the race came around mile 9...We were approaching Forest Park Parkway, where the half marathoners were turning around to head back downtown and the full marathoners were splitting off to head toward Forest Park. In the distance, I could see runners headed right and others streaming off to the left. I thought this was the turn around. Sadly, it was not. Nor was it at the next block or the next or the next. It was completely psychological, but the constant wondering if we were "there yet" took a bit of a toll on me.

Finally, I made it to the turn around and a few feet later the 10 mile mark. "It's just a 5K from here," I kept repeating to myself. I tried to take it up a notch, although several more hills kept me moderately slow. I just tried to keep ahead or at the same pace as the 2:20 pace group that had caught up with me around mile 8. Miles 10-12 were somewhere between 10:45 and 11:00 minutes per mile. When I knew there was just a mile left, used absolutely everything I had left and sprinted (well, in my mind I was sprinting...) for the finish. Just for some perspective, about this same time, the first marathon finisher was also approaching the finish line--Oh to be that fast!

I hit the stop timer just as I crossed the finish at 2:18:30. Before the race 2:20 was a ideal goal and 2:30 was what I figured I was capable of. So, I was really pleased with that. I wound my way through the mob of people to find B. in the family reunion area. I had him take an after race photo since I'm pretty sure my finish line photo is going to be crap (I was looking at my watch...).

By the time we got home, my official results were posted:

Chip Time: 2:19:32
Clock Time: 2:31:17
Overall Finish: 5853 of 10702
Female Finish: 3048 of 6820
Age Div Finish: 497 of ?

I can't figure out why my chip time is a minute off from my Garmin since I started/stopped it exactly at the finish line. I did see on the Go! website that several people had commented that their times were wrong. 2:18 or 2:19, either way, it's a good first time for my fitness level and I'm happy with it.

Professional race photos should be out later in the week, and if any of them are decent, I'll post them. I'm not expecting much...there was the not looking up at the finish, not to mention almost mowing over the photog mid-race who was stationed in the middle of the road...Again, I'll just say I was "in the zone."

After the race, we took the Metrolink back home, and as soon as I'd eaten some lunch, I passed out for a long nap. I spent the evening icing my knees and hip and stretching. Today I feel pretty good--just a little sore in my right knee and left hip and dealing with a ginormous blister on my big toe. This week I'm going to cross train and give myself until next weekend before I go on a real run.

Next up, marathon training starting in June. I have to admit that I'm intimidated. Yesterday was TOUGH! I'm partially to blame for the lack of sleep and starting out way too fast, but I still wonder how my body will handle the twice as many miles required for a full marathon. *Sigh*
I guess that's what training is for, right??

Special thanks to B. for all the support and picture-taking. Thanks to everyone else for their well-wishes and encouragement!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The "Cheapest" Hobby

When I first started running with the C25K program, I absolutely bought into the myth that running is the easiest hobby. No need to gather up a team. No special equipment, just throw on any old t-shirt, shorts, and beat-up pair of tennis shoes and hit the road. This philosophy worked for a very very short time.

By the time I was up to running for 8 minutes straight (what is it, like 2 or 3 weeks in?), I realized the old New Balances that I wore everywhere from the grocery store to the elliptical machine weren't going to cut it. My toes were jamming against the front, and the padding in the inside of the shoe that rests against my Achilles was ripped and rubbed with every step. New shoes were in order--shoes I picked out myself with zero knowledge and bought on a discount site online. It took even less time to realize that old sports bras were the worst for running and needed to be replaced with quality ones. I already had some yoga capris that worked for running, better than the old gym shorts that rode up and left me tugging them back down the whole time. And, I soon tired of cotton t-shirts that were soaked with sweat after a few minutes and chafed at my sides and underarms. The solution? Running tanks from Target.

A year later, I've come to terms with the fact that running isn't a cheap hobby at all. I've dropped a fair amount of cash to keep myself in appropriate gear. First there was the need for cold gear (tights, shirts, jackets...). Then, there was the Garmin. And, you've seen the haul of running stuff I got for the holidays. Then, I replaced my poor choice of "running shoe" with a professional fit pair. Next, there were new running capris for summer.

Lately, I've been considering new options for hydration packs, dying for a running skirt, thinking of trying compression socks, and longing for better quality tanks and maybe finally some running shorts. Today, I actually chose a new hydration pack over a pair of new summer sandals. Seriously?? What's wrong with me??

My latest obsession? I've been coveting these CW-X running tights since I read a review of them several months ago.

But, they run anywhere from $75 to $100 a pop. And, I balked at the $50 for my current running tights...I want them before Chicago in October. I'm trying to decide between 3/4 and full length and which would get the most wear. I'm thinking 3/4. If there was ever a time to get them, it's now when I have a $50 gift card to Dicks Sporting Goods from winning a giveaway from the awesome Jogger's Life.

If I do something, I like to do it "right." I wish I could be a running minimalist (or purist or whatever you want to call it), but why get unnecessarily chafed and blistered and risk injury with sub-par equipment? So cheap, not quite. But, I tend to think the money is well spent when I consider the physical and mental benefits I've gotten out of running.

How do you feel? Do you run in just the basics or do you like the best gear with all the bells and whistles? Have you tried CW-X tights? Are they worth the cost?

Friday, April 2, 2010

9 Days and Counting!

I am so excited about the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon that I can hardly stand it! The race is a mere 9 days away!!

In the meantime, I've received my bib number: I will be runner 4327. As of right now, I don't think there's online tracking, but if that changes, I'll post an update. Next Friday, I'm taking a half day to pay a visit to the race expo. This will be my first expo, and while, the StL marathon isn't the biggest race in the world, I'm hoping for an expo full of free samples and other fun swag!

This Sunday is my last long run before the big day...I'll probably do 10, so I'll get a good workout but not push myself too hard. I really need a good run. Yesterday afternoon's run sucked plain and simple. It was hot, the exhaust from the passing cars was almost more than I could stand, and I was just tired. I did 5 miles, but walked a good little bit along the way. It's okay to have bad days, but this close to the race it made me a little anxious. But, I think a good run Sunday would improve my spirits.

Other things to do before the race?
1. Figure out how long it takes to get downtown to the starting area via Metrolink.
2. Print a map of the race area for B. so he can figure out strategic areas to intercept me for photo ops and cheering. (Side note: he's such a trooper...he's getting up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning to take me to the start and then hanging around waiting for me to finish. What a good boyfriend!)
3. Decide what I'm wearing. This is less girly than it sounds. I know what running tights I'll wear, but I need to figure out tshirt or tank and which one AND if I'm layering, what to wear that I don't mind discarding. I like all of my current workout wear and there's nothing I really want to say goodbye to forever. Might have to hit up the Target clearance section. At least all the discarded clothing along the route will be donated to a local charity.

ExcitedExcitedExcited! It's going to be hard to back off on runs this next schedule has a 4 and a 3. I won't know what to do with myself!

PS: A shout out to a couple of friends doing the Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon tomorrow morning in Springfield, IL. Good luck, Ladies!