Saturday, December 7, 2013

Angkor Wat Half Marathon: Race Recap & Photojournal

I wouldn't normally travel 20+ hours for a race but this was too good of an excuse to make a Thailand/Cambodia trip happen. I'm kind of a sucker for destination races and generally have a problem saying no to anything that involves a start / finish line with double digit miles in between.

Angkor Wat
I had been a little freaked out by the potential heat and humidity. Then my lovely friend Heini made me  go running at 6:45AM on my first day in Thailand so I was forced to get over that (and jet lag) quickly and no, it was not pretty. But I survived and then there was Starbucks. I love you, globalization.

Let's talk about the race.

First off, I was thankful for the extensive bib pick-up hours. They were open for 3 days prior to the race and until 8pm the day prior which allowed a lot of flexibility - particularly important since there is a LOT of sightseeing to be done near Siem Reap (the city closest to the Angkor Wat temple complex and where we stayed). But don't expect many distractions here - it was truly just a bib pick up with no shopping opportunities. Yet another reason to pack your own race fuel and hydration rather than relying on the expo to buy anything.

Getting to the start line was highly entertaining since we had to take a tuk-tuk. Not just because the prospect of riding 20 minutes in a somewhat unstable vehicle on roughly paved roads sounds too enticing, but because that was the only real options. Or I suppose we could have added on some miles and just run it. We didn't.
Start line transportation
With a 6:30am start time, we were advised to be there by 5:30am. This, as it turns out, is a precautionary measure to avoid runners being stuck in massive tuk-tuk traffic since there is only one road to the start area. Getting there early is also advised for bathroom purposes since, well, there aren't too many of those. But there are a lot of bushes.

Let's not talk about the stuff dripping from under the port-a-potties...
We started running just after sunrise and it was all too beautiful. I mean, you are running by temples built over 900 years ago and what is the largest religious monument in the world. It's kind of impossible not to be amazed. We had toured around the temples the day before, which I would recommend. There is so much more you notice during the run if you get a little bit of the story / get oriented beforehand. (Also, if you're going to visit the temples - go with a tour guide. You won't regret it. There are many but Chhaya came recommended and he was great.) 

Start line. 

  • The course is completely flat which is a good or a bad thing, depending on who you ask. It's pretty much all on well-paved roads. 
  • Water stations are frequent and you get bottled water (you don't want to drink tap water). It's not designed as a BYOB course but at least you know you're getting safe drinking water. 
  • The crowd is really fun, it seems as though most people were there for the experience rather than a PR and it was pretty relaxed. There were about 2600 people running the 13.1 (there was a 10k and a 3k as well) and it was pretty congested for the first few miles, so running for time would have been very frustrating. 
  • In terms of crowd support, I didn't expect much given the remote location. But it was pretty awesome.

  • Overall, I set a new record for # pictures/mile = approx 5. Side note: taking pictures and opening the camera app on an iPhone with sweaty fingers is challenging!
  • Between picture taking and chatting with people, I had so much fun, I really wished the finish line wasn't there! 
  • And there were monks. Monks on motorcycles, monks on their iPhones and monks actually doing their chanting and meditating thing. 

And speaking of finish line, that's where you usually get medals. If you are visiting Angkor Wat in the near future, you may be able to buy one. There are a few stories going around, but it appeared the local kids decided to take them as souvenirs after handing some out to 3k/10k runners instead of half marathoners. I am told we will be mailed a medal but honestly, I'm so not bothered.
Look it's a medal! :-)

Love these ladies - Congrats to Mhairi on her first 13.1!
Oh! And I love MuscleAid Tape. The knee held up and allowed me to be my usual distracted self, forgetting about the fact that I am actually running. I've discovered that leaving it on for a couple days after helps a lot with healing and after a little rest, any little pain/discomfort was gone.

Thankfully, this tape really sticks…plus it's pink and when you wear it out with a skirt, you get a lot of funny questions. Not a common accessory in Cambodia.

Do I even have to say it…this was the most fun half marathon I've run to date.

In other news…I will be running the 6 hour NYOD race at Crissy Field in San Francisco on New Year's Eve so if you don't have plans to ring in the new year yet - come and join the fun! Last year I had a go at the 24 hour race, and there is also a 12 hour version.

And a few more pictures:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Einstein was a runner.

When Albert Einstein wrote "The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know" he must have been referring to running. No doubt about it.
Side note: naturally I had to google "Einstein running" and it seemed "Einstein running around a tree" was my suggested string to enter. After all that information,  just to be clear, I'm not talking about his "theory"on running around a tree at a speed of 87 kph. That can't be real.

So, another LA Roadrunner season is now well under way and I have actually been running some almost decent weekend mileage. Which is new after my summer of...well, barely any running. Therefore, I am officially emerging from my virtual cave. Of course that doesn't mean I'm about to have a social life or anything because, you see, I excel at putting too much on my proverbial plate.

Anyway, I've learned some pretty valuable things recently.

- Kinesio tapes really, really work BUT not all kinesio tapes are created equal. KT Tape falls off, Muscle Aid sticks for an impressive 4 days of sweaty fun. Yes, I showered (at least 2x/day).

- Some energy gels really don't work for me. I thought I've tried them all and although some brands fared down better than others, I haven't had any strong reactions to such an innocent carb-concoction. That changed during this past Saturday's 11-mile death march. I'm not naming the product, because I know some people love it. I, apparently, vomit. TMI. So, it's not a myth. Some gels really, really  don't work for me.

- Daylight savings time can really confuse you. Today, I left for an early evening run - just after 4:30PM. No need to map a route, I was so excited to just discover new places. Apparently, a planned easy run can easily turn into a speed workout in the following perfect storm of circumstances: (1) the sun goes down earlier than it was supposed to, (2) the sidewalk stops for no apparent reason and you find yourself on a main road, (3) there is nothing but thorny bushes by the side of the road and it's dark (4) the only landmark is a dimly-lit and seemingly not-too-popular storage facility. Thankfully, I was wearing some very bright and obnoxious gear so I stuck to the side of the road, escaped with only minor bush whacking injuries and had a pretty good workout.

I can't wait to stumble upon more random experiences. And speaking of random - I'll be running a half marathon in Angkor Wat in less than a month! I'm beyond excited.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The treadmill experiment

It's actually been a fabulous few weeks, despite the quietness in the running department. I had been planning to ceremonially end my 30-day non-running streak on August 1st, but realized that to really make it 30 days, I'd have to wait till the 2nd. Of course, I respect technicalities.

So, on Friday (8/2), I put on some really bright running gear so in case this treadmill experiment turns into a disaster, I'll at least look happy. I ran ONE mile with mild discomfort (but no real pain), walked a bit and ran a little while longer on an incline. Running uphill made the discomfort go away. Quandary.
Mandatory selfie.
My shoes were even brighter.
Apparently,  running uphill is good for me. Yeah, I knew that.

The good news: I held my usual pace, didn't get tired and felt pretty effortless...meaning that my cross-training-only regime is doing something besides leaving my triple-As (abs, arms and a**) constantly sore.

The not-so-good news: I won't be running the Santa Rosa Marathon in 3 weeks. Which means I have an entry into an otherwise sold-out race up for grabs...(contact me if you're interested) Instead, I'll be going to Vegas. It's the natural alternative to a marathon and there are some really nice hotel gyms.

Also, I am going to be smart and get 100% ready for the LA Roadrunner season which starts in just over a month. I will be Pace Leading the same group as in the previous years and I am so freakin' excited to see everyone again. Plus I have some race plans for the rest of the year, which involve at least 1 marathon and a half in Angkor Wat (which is really rad).

Conclusion: I am self-prescribing no more than 2x/week of easy running for the next month, with my continued SPX / power yoga practice 6 days a week. Ironically, my power yoga teacher training and LA Roadrunner season start the same weekend, followed by grad school starting again a few weeks after, which just means I have become a master at overcommitting but that's ok, I like it that way.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer. Love. Yoga...and my non-running streak

Over the past few weeks, I've been spending a lot of time on my yoga mat and absolutely no time in my running shoes. There are two reasons for this.

ONE: In a way, I am training for my upcoming 200 hour power yoga teacher training. A good friend introduced me to YogaGlo a while back, and so I am experimenting with more on-the-mat time at home, in addition to my usual studio classes. With all the online classes, I feel like a kid in a candy store each time I log on. I want to do all of them because let's face it, yoga is (or can be) a lot of sweaty fun. Yesterday it was Vinyasa flow with Jo, this morning was made brighter practicing Ashtanga with Jodi.

TWO: I know it's already national ice cream month (because we all need more encouragement to eat ice cream, clearly). However, I'm also calling July my own "respect your injuries" month. As such, I am not running all month. It's my non-running streak, which, I might add, is a lot harder than a month-long running streak would be. No test runs, as those have backfired so many times (and for every proverbial step forward I've been taking one or two steps back).

I'm hiding my shoes in the closet.

I'm signed up for the Santa Rosa Marathon on August 25. Whether this is going to happen or not is unclear and will be decided once I put my shoes back on August 1st... And then I'll start tapering. (Not!)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Can I please go running, already?!

Stating the obvious: over the past few months, I've had to cut back on running miles almost entirely, which is not fun and pretty frustrating. But not to worry, I would still describe myself as clinically sane, thanks to a few races here and there.
Nerd moment. Yess. -Credit-
A little while ago, I realized I had 2 options: 1) continue in my general state of misery and frustration or 2) try to find the fun in staying active without killing my knee, at least until it recovers.

I chose 3) stay a little frustrated but have a lot of fun building new strength to run safer and better in the future.

My diagnosis: It has been called an IT band issue, a popliteal strain and I was given plenty to be confused about. My MRI finally showed the beginnings of a stress fracture (likely the result of impact from a lacrosse ball back in January and my failure to stop running earlier to let that heal) as well as some cartilage damage and swelling in multiple places. I've gone to a great ortho/sports medicine doctor, physical therapy and got multiple types of shots (with scary needles). It still hurts when I try to run. I was told to ice, then I was told that since it is not muscle, but joint/structure related, icing is counterproductive and I should use heat therapy. Marvelously simple, right?

Discovery (or "duh moment"): running long distances does not, in itself, make you strong or provide you with core stability. However, without balanced strength and a stable core, running long distances safely, injury-free and efficiently becomes very difficult. Marathon running (and training for them) places great demand on the body, breaking down muscles and straining joints and bones too. So, while it would be intuitive to think that training to run 26.2 (or more) miles requires a lot of running, in reality it requires much more than just running.

Work in Progress

As per my original post in April, but more specifically.

Naturally, food has been my first focus. I have added more omega-3s and shifted to a diet with more anti-inflammatory/antioxidant components, also incorporating supplements like Glucosamine and Wobenzym N. Can't expect healing to happen without using quality fuel (nutrition).

Studio MDR -Credit-
To try and re-build strength and core stability, I discovered The Studio (MDR) -> SPX fitness, which is a pilates-based workout on a Megaformer. I'm not going to lie, I cried a little and was sore for a week and beyond. I embarked on a 1 weeks challenge and went to 6 classes. Even in such little time, I got stronger and appreciated the amazing workout that did not impact my knees! Will definitely be back.

For some months leading up to my issues, I traded my yoga time for more running. Apparently, not so smart. Training for the ultras sort of forced me to, given there are only 24 hours in a day. I've now committed to re-focus my practice. Heated yoga  (hot power yoga more specifically) is the most amazing form of active heat therapy. Strength + Flexibility + Meditation = sunshine in my mind and body. Needless to say, it has helped a lot and I've also signed up for a hot power yoga teacher training starting September! I love you, Hot8Yoga.

Oddly, swimming has been  tough on my knees. Strange, right? Regardless of the lack of impact, the cold water and types of movement seem to make it a little worse. It took my a while to conclude this since swimming is *supposed* to be the best cross training, especially when you're injured...
(More on cross training from an earlier post here).

Why am I posted all of this? Other than my love for talking/writing about running-related issues, I hope you can learn from (or smile at) my silly mistakes. Of course, if you have discovered the miracle cure for running injuries, feel free to share ;)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The San Francisco Marathon 2013 (First half)

It's really no surprise that this race is absolutely amazing. This was my 3rd time toeing the start line and watching the sun rise over the bay bridge as we lined up in the corrals. In 2011 I ran 26.2, in 2012 came the double loop experience of 52.4 (plus some bonus) miles and this year, I ended up crossing the finish line of the first half marathon in Golden Gate Park. 

Sunrise over Bay Bridge -> Almost time to run!

I went into the race knowing there is a good chance it will be a 13.1 and not 26.2 mile day for me. I was signed up for the marathon and wanted to go the whole way, but I had to listen to my knee and just be thankful I was able to run at all - particularly as I have not run more than a few minutes since Ragnar in late April (yes that's about 2 months)...and that was not a painless experience, either. I have, however, done a lot of strength training work, yoga and cycling to keep me in decent shape because, well, 13.1 miles is still a little ways. But another post will discuss my dealings with left knee problems soon. I could say DNF because I only ran half of my distance...but heck, I ran 13.1 miles, thank you very much. That's finishing something.

The SF Marathon is a very organized, well-run race that is unique in many ways (especially if you love the city of San Francisco - and why wouldn't you?). I am in love with it, obviously, and I was super thrilled to be an ambassador for the race this year. Also, the ambassadors are all extremely cool peeps and I was honored to be a part of this group. People who run know how to have fun. No brainer.

Start line
The start area is smooth and gaps between corrals allow for the crowd to disperse quickly once you start running. Gear check is right by the start and no hassle at all. Even with some security measures thrown in this year due to the Boston tragedy, the start was still very accessible and easy to manage through.

The course is very scenic, especially when there are no clouds atop the Golden Gate bridge (rare but it happened this time around!). It may not be flat or particularly fast but with views like that, do you really want to go fast? Maximizing time on course means more value for $$, clearly.
Yes we stopped for pictures!
Runners, meet clear-skies and GG Bidge
Onward to Golden Gate Park
This was my first time seeing the First Half finish area and it was really fun. Irish coffee, Panera scones, Noosa was a gourmet finish for sure! Plus, the park is gorgeous and the buses that shuttle you back to the start area (if you need them) are a short walk away.

Mandatory random post-race picture

Will I run in 2014? See you there!!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ragnar Relay SoCal - So little sleep, so much fun

Tean #82...born to run ULTRA wild (best team ever)
It's hard to explain what makes a 200-mile relay in SoCal so much fun. You are...
- locked in a minivan for 30+ hours with a bunch of sweaty runners
- driving from exchange to exchange and getting barely any legitimate rest (especially on an ultra team)
- running in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, potentially for a couple of hours
- or...running in crazy heat in the middle of the day with no shade or breeze
- living on energy bars and energy drinks with hardly any "real food"

But at the same time...
- you gain a true appreciation for running water, especially when there is soap available, too
- rest rooms in a Rite Aid appear oh-so-luxurious
- that pizza at the finish may be substandard but man, nothing has ever tasted so good
- you learn a LOT about yourself and others running on no sleep (I learned that my teammates are all different shades of truly amazing people. no joke.)

The SoCal course is not as scenic as it could be, until you reach the coastal part north of San Diego (finish), but it's definitely not boring. The atmosphere is amazing, perhaps because everyone is out there to have fun and accomplish something together, as a team. 

The ladies
The mileage for each runner seems to change a little each year. The advantage of a regular, 2-van team is clear - the ability to get a few hours of sleep and either start late in the morning (van 2) on Friday or finish early on Saturday (van 1) and have the opportunity to meet the other van relatively clean and refreshed at the finish line. As an ultra team you get to run more miles and miss out on sleep. so clearly, why would you ever not choose an ultra team?!

This year, I had the joy of running that last leg to the finish line. This was the most fun, ever. In spite of a few glitches, of some minor confusion over where the finish line actually was, the abundance of traffic lights that forced me to stop, oh and difficulty locating my team so we could cross the finish line together.

Last leg - I am pretty sure I was having fun
Getting home, I was completely exhausted and proceeded to sleep for 13 hours, no problem. Even though I did not run all my 30something miles (thanks Janelle, I love you!!!), I was afraid I had made my knee injury worse (which I previously swore to give time to recover). Thankfully, that did not seem to I will pretend I never ran on it and keep resting. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Now...when can I sign up for my next Ragnar?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Basic Salad How-To Guide

For once, I am not going to talk about running but my other quasi-obession: food. Well, being a nutrition student much of my time tends to revolve around thinking, talking or learning about food so that's no surprise. I am no culinary genius and I don't like recipes. They are very restrictive and I am always missing at least one crucial ingredient. Nevertheless, I felt the need to share the method behind my random salad creations, such as the one I made for dinner tonight. I wanted something quick, easy, fresh and nutrient-dense. So I power-walked a few loops around the produce section and this is what happened:

How-to guide to random but delicious salad making:

Choose your base -> I chose mixed greens but there is also spinach, kale, chopped romaine etc
Choose your veg (3) -> I chose cucumber, tomato, red pepper (but was tempted to add radishes)
Add some fruit (why not?) -> I love apples, pears or berries in a salad
Choose your protein -> If you're vegetarian go with crumbled tempeh, tofu cubes, beans or else try lean meats like turkey or chicken pieces
Choose your dressing -> Avocado and lemon juice mash into am amazing "dressing" and bring out flavors
Add some nuts -> I picked walnuts but almonds and cashews also make great additions

Optional: add some quinoa or brown rice. And/or some fresh basil. Mmm.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Oh, injuries

I know that as a long distance runner of sorts, staying injury free my whole 'career' (meaning adult life) is as probable as snowfall in Southern California. Mind you, it happens to a select few...but just as I didn't bust out a Boston Qualifier on my first marathon, it it not the sort of miracle that happens to me. And I'm okay with that.

As you probably predicted, I'm off my feet again. I've even started taking the elevator instead of taking stairs on the way down (upstairs is OK). Yeah, *gasp* moment.
Frankly, this time of not running / running with pain would have been much shorter, had I respected a developing injury early on, took my own advice and taken a proper time for recovery at that time. That includes NOT running marathons like I did last weekend (yet I do not regret running SLO).

Now that I've dragged it on, doctors are telling me all sorts of things I do not want to hear. Not unusual. The good news is, I am resting, working up crazy nutritional therapies AND my knee feels pretty good right now.
Unlike all prior times, I am not rushing to lace up my shoes, but making sure stuff (my knee) heals - properly.
I want to be that awesome 90 year-old lady running marathons or even ultras. 
I think I can rock gray hair with colorful compression gear.

Ok, so here is what I am doing to heal my knee and stay sane...

1. NOT going into panic mode.

2. Treating this as a bump in the road and will make me stronger in the long run (pun intended).

3. Staying active in other ways - swimming and biking are currently out of the picture.
What works: hot yoga, working on core strength, non-weight bearing leg strengthening and free weights...oh and bring on the hula hoop!!!

4. Eating well. Good quality protein sources, lots of fruits and veggies and limiting empty calories. More antioxidants = less inflammation, in a nutshell.

5. Supplementing. I'm my own guinea pig at the moment but it seems to be working.

My *top secret* regimen includes: Calcium + Vitamin D (bone healing) ; Omega-3s (anti-inflammatory); Wobenzym N (anti-inflammatory); Arnica 200c (homeopathic wonder) and Traumeel gel (topically). If this all works (and it seems to be working), there will be a more extensive post on each of these and how to take them.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

San Luis Obispo Marathon Recap

After over a month of no real running and definitely no marathon training, I was betting on some miracle to get me through this 26.2 mile adventure. I made the decision not to quit, so I toed the start line eagerly to see whether my left knee would let me run...or whether I would be forced to walk the whole thing. So here is how it went a nutshell:

Mile 1 - wow, I think I remember how to run but it's definitely not pain free.
Mile 2 - Uh oh...
Mile 3 - Why am I so tired?! Still yawning.
Mile 4 - Finally, the sun's up....yet I feel the opposite of awesome.
Mile 5 - Ok, I think I'm warming up slowly...
Mile 7 - It hurts more to walk then to run. So I'll run. Hobble-wobble.
Mile 9 - Ouch.
Mile 11 - OUCH. No more running. Completely disillusioned and ready to cry.
Mile 12 - Begging medical tent for painkillers...mission unsuccessful.
Mile 13 to the end - Found and ran with an angel, called Gisela. We run-walked (9min run, 1min walk) the rest of the race. Beast mode. I am not sure what I would have done without this amazing lady.

I was prepared for everything, but I must admit...walking a 7+ hour marathon was not my ideal scenario. Thankfully, I managed a 5:27. Slowest marathon but who really cares?! Humbled and happy.

Ok, race details...

START - low-key, very easily accessible. Great to stay on Monterey St, since you can simply walk to the start line at the high school. Otherwise it's a shuttle situation, and those left at an ungodly (4am) hour from the parking areas.

Dean Karnazes set us off with a motivational little speech: "raise your hand if this is your first marathon. [lots of hands going up]. Are you ready to DIE?!"
COURSE - This is NOT a flat course. The elevation profile is misleading. About 80% of the course is rolling hills. Absolutely gorgeous scenery and no crazy climbs, but the hills do add up. The last 5 miles is pretty much flat/downhill though, which is nice. I repeat...the scenery is absolutely stunning. And for a small race, crowd support is great. The course is well marked and intersections manned by volunteers, who are great cheerleaders too, for the most part. Aid stations are frequent with lots of gel stations (CLIF) and I liked the electrolyte drink on the course, too.

FINISH - Parking was (I am told) refreshingly easy at the finish line and it was pretty uncrowded. The jamba juice tent was full of deliciousness and if it wasn't for the wind, I would have hung around longer.

SWAG!  The long sleeve tech shirt is great. Soft and comfy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My 4-mile marathon - LA Marathon 2013

What an amazing day. As depressed as I was about not being able to run 26.2 miles in LA this March, today goes down in history for a lot of firsts.

Today I got to:

- Act like a security guard at the corrals and spot sneaky runners trying to get in corrals they were not supposed to. If you were nice, I let you through - but if you gave me attitude? Back of the line.

- Empathize with drivers trying to navigate away from Dodger Stadium amid endless road closures. It was an adventure.

- Ride an official race motorcycle to my cheering spot (mile 23) on the course from the finish (where my parking spot was too good to give up so I refused to do so). Cones? Road closures? Oh please. They don't exist for this mode of transport!

- Spectate a marathon!!! It dawned on me that I have never been a true marathon spectator. If there was a marathon where I was, I ran it. Except for one time way back when I waited at the finish for 2 friends of mine, but that's not the same.

Spectating is fun (but tiring) stuff. I was pacing up and down as my Roadrunner group was coming through, running a little with each of them to make sure they knew to kick a** on those last few miles. Then, miraculously, I was able to run/walk the last few miles with an amazing runner from my group, Bre. I am so proud of your finish girl! In fact, I am so proud of all of the LA Roadrunners. I'm already counting down to next season.

So, I ran about 4 miles in total and crossed the finish line like it's no biggie. I am thankful for making the mature decision not to run the entire race (there is no way the knee would have help up, anyway) and even more thankful for my legs holding together with minimal pain as I ran that last bit of the course.

It was a beautiful day, Los Angeles.

Elite ladies starting. Winner was Aleksandra Duliba (BLR) with 2:26

Elite men at the start. Winner: Eric Mose with 2:09

Mile 25!!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Not taking it for granted (?)

So this is what's up. Over the past few years, I've been signing up for races one after the other. Sometimes multiple races at once. Last year, I ventured beyond the marathon distance, which only added fuel to the fire.

Over this time, injuries bogged me down here and there, thanks to my less than stellar biomechanics and probably inadequate attention to complementary strengthening. I'm talking about muscles you need to focus and work on to make you a better runner, but that you only really pay attention to when circumstances force you to.

It's always frustrating to have to sit on the sidelines for days, even weeks to listen to my body complain about what I haven't been doing right. I generally try to patient, listen and learn. But this time is different.

The LA Marathon is in 2 days and 10.5 hours. It's my favorite marathon for many reasons. This would be my 4th time running this course in total and the 2nd running it as an LA Roadrunner Pace Leader. I never had a doubt in my mind that I would be able to finish this year's race with my group. After all, this whole season, culminating in a 26.2-mile party, was about getting them ready and not me. I've been excited for each individual since we started training in September, when race day seemed so distant. Since then, I've been inspired by their dedication, amazing personalities and absolutely loved getting up early (almost) every Saturday to go running. Whether the runners of Group 7 liked it or not, I tried to pass on every lesson I have ever learned from every stupid mistake I've made since I declared myself a runner, no taboos. Anyway, never in a million years did I question my ability to be there for the group on race day. I took it for granted, completely.

And then my popliteus muscle and IT band decided to scream in symphony. Cacophony, really. I have done everything in the book (and beyond) to rehab, but progress is slow. I don't think there is an anti-inflammatory food or antioxidant or supplement I have not taken (say hi to the guinea pig).
I haven't given up on Sunday, but it's looking less and less likely with each step I take. So I try not to take too many steps, exist in RICE mode when possible and pray for a miracle.

If this was any other race, I'd be disappointed but I'd deal with it. In this particular case, however, I'm at a loss.

On the bright side, even if I don't get to run, I'll be there to see everyone finish. And from now on, I'm going to do things properly. More strengthening, more stretching, back to yoga. Like I've been telling others to do all along. Oh, and something about not taking things for granted. Yeah, that too.

*and I promise my next post will be way more cheerful*

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A belated celebration - New Year's Race LA Recap

I guess January 5th is close enough to New Year's Eve to legitimately classify for a New Year's party. And anyway, who really needs an excuse to party (i.e. run a half marathon at night)?

I had been pretty excited about this race, ever since they announced it. Starting and finishing in downtown LA, running around and inside Dodger stadium at night, this was a concept that definitely got my approval. 

I miss city-running...the life, lights, dodging people, outsmarting street lights... I guess it's part of my nostalgia for London, where my obsession with running all began at my first race, the London Marathon. But back to the New Year's Race. 
Downtown LA...the views were incredible
The Expo was small, but organized and relatively un-crowded. I spent some time at the San Francisco Marathon booth, trying to make sure no one walked by without considering to sign up. Expect the usual gear and gadgetry...and the ever-present Clif bar samples table.

The Swag gets a mention because I love the idea of a race hoodie. My race tech shirts are taking over my apartment, but a warm and comfy hoodie is always a welcome addition. 

The Start was a little delayed, which is not entirely surprising. It was an inaugural race and clearing the roads in downtown LA on a Saturday night does not sound like simple math. There were too many corrals to count (ok, I think 16) and I moved to 7 with a friend...meaning we left with a 20ish minute delay versus the original 9pm start time. Despite the corral system, the course was a little crowded for the first mile or so (but I did enjoy strategically navigating around people). 
Tip...get there early! Freeway exits and streets get jammed, as expected. I found street parking a few blocks from the start, but had I waited in line for the lots...well, I may still be there.

The Course was great - in my opinion. I've heard it called a "hilly rat maze" and pure hell. I had an amazing time. Fine, the endless miles around Dodger stadium got me a little dizzy, but there was a certain thrill in having no clue which way we would turn next. From what I hear, the route will be changed for next year. I'd do the race again with the same route. In fact, give me more hills, please. The total elevation gain was apparently ~1,200 feet...which is virtually flat ;-) 

The finish line was supposed to be an amazing party...except it was not. It was simply too cold for people to stick around, which is unfortunate. I collected my free drink and moved on, in style, to Hooters. Yes, Hooters. Don't ask.

I have to admit, I was determined to have an amazing time, which is probably why my review is all rosy. I put my legs on cruise control and wished I could just run all night. I may have been more refreshed at the end versus the start...I call it 2 hours and 2 minutes of pure therapy. Not to mention, having done 15 miles that morning (and 53 miles on Monday of the same week) meant I was adequately warmed up, I guess. All in all, the race ended an 85-mile week which I am pretty happy about.


(Photo credits:;

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ringing (running) in the New Year - New Year's One Day Recap

So, I partied hard on News Years eve... by running around a field for an entire day with a bunch of other fun-loving folk. I mean...who wouldn't?!

When I signed up for the New Year's One Day "race" in Crissy Field (San Francisco), I hardly knew what to expect. But I did know that running a 1.061 mile loop with amazing views of the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, Marin headlands and the privilege to run all day and night sounded simply too good to pass up.
I could hardly think of a better way to end 2012. The event offered a 6, 12 and 24-hour option. Yes, I paid to run around a loop for 24 hours.

There were 29 of us starting at 9am. The concept of running until 9am the next day was something I preferred not to think about. The 12-hour guys and gals joined us at noon and the 6-hour (aka sprint event I guess) runners at 6pm.

Parking was extremely convenient, race shirt/bib pick up was right then and there before the event and the weather was perfect. The transponders around our ankles would track our progress each time we crossed the "finish" line at the start/end of the loop. We would have access to a fully (and amazingly) stocked aid station every mile. Truly, we were spoiled by the organizers.
could hardly ask for a prettier course for a city-race

The race:
The first 5ish hours went by extremely fast. It was like running with old friends...except I didn't know anyone besides Peter (who told me about the race in the first place) prior to Dec 31st. The atmosphere was simply amazing. No pressure, just friendly running. Well, unless you are the guy who was going for breaking the course record (which he did by one lap!). He didn't talk much but I did see him fly by as he lapped me (frequently). The course was 60% dirt path and 40% asphalt (which hurt a little after 10ish hours).

the impromptu running family...all smiles.

My goal? I once hoped I would make 100 miles. After a few laps I knew that would not happen. As it happens, "old" injures die slow (and resurface often) and my joints/ some muscles chose not to cooperate. I was not having a good day, but I was determined not to make it ruin the party. I ran as much as I could, limped often, walked when I had to and rested when forced. I even got to share 2 laps with the amazing Yolanda Holder, for whom this was the 120th marathon for the year (setting a new Guiness world record). I ended up with 53 miles (50 laps) and I guess I should be happy I got that far. I had to respect my body and leave at midnight, so 9 hours early...but at least I am feeling happy and ready run again 1.5 days later! Sometimes, it's just not wise to push injuries when you don't have leaving was probably one of the smartest running-related decisions I've made to date. And I don't make smart running-related decisions often.

What I learned...
A great thing about timed events is that there is no DNF (Did Not Finish). As long as you finish one lap. Mind you, this also makes it harder to incentivize moving when things get ugly (which they are bound to somewhere after mile 30 or 40). I also found it hard to "get in the zone" with the distraction of a super fun (and delicious) aid station every mile. Since this was my first time-based event, I'm not surprised. I also think I underestimated the mental/psychological difficulty of running around the same loop, in the same direction, for hours on end. It sounds so simple...and I guess it is almost too simple.

I don't think I could find a single complaint against this event. The lentil soup at night? Simply magical. Coastal Trail Runs - beautifully done and thank you for a spectacular ending to on to race planning for 2013! Next stop: New Years Race Los Angeles, Jan 5 @ 9:30pm. I love 2013 so far...