Random updates

I can’t believe I have less than 2 weeks left until my move. It’s time to stop procrastinating and start packing! At least I already packed away my Wii and PS3 so I won’t be tempted to play video games anymore. I still have my tv out, but I’m pretty good at multi-tasking. Last night I finished up my income tax forms while watching Heroes and CSI: Miami… can’t wait to get my $700 refund from the state!

I’m making good progress setting up/canceling my various utilities and services. It stinks being put on hold, but I’ve been using that time to catch up on posts in Google Reader… see, more multi-tasking! So I have been reading your blogs, even if I don’t always comment.

Also on the productive front, I contacted a dealer in Maryland and my new Mini Cooper is scheduled for production! (I like that I can follow the status of my car online.)

I took a crash course in new car buying and learned the phrase “out the door”, as in “what’s the best price you can give me out the door?”, meaning the final price without any additional hidden fees. I was able to negotiate for the dealer to cover the tax, title, and license so all I’ll be paying is the MSRP on the car. For my first ever car buying experience, I think it went pretty well.

I’ve been a bit under the weather* the last few days. Thank goodness it’s nothing major, just a slight cough and sore/dry throat. I’m really making an effort to get more rest and hoping that will take care of it.

The past couple weeks I’ve been doing short 2-3 mile runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays and “racing” on Saturdays. But since I’m not feeling well, this week I’m going to cut back to just one short run sometime before my last half marathon in my 5-in-a-row streak on Sunday. I read somewhere that it’s better to be 5% under-trained than 1% over-trained (or something along those lines) so I’m going to hope that’s true. It makes sense to me. Since I’m just out there for fun, I don’t anticipate any problem being able to finish the upcoming race. But it would be nice to get back under the 2:30 mark…

My time for The Sedona Half Marathon was 2:38:46. Race report and photos will be posted eventually. By the way, for this Sunday I decided on the MasterBlock Half Marathon. I know Lost Dutchman is a fantastic race, but I just wanted to run in a different part of the Valley.

Finally, I’ve been updating my Half Fanatics profile after each race and today it was awesome to see that it automatically added four little moons next to my name for reaching Jupiter level (4 half marathons in 23 days). Way cool!

*I started wondering where the phrase “under the weather” originated from and found this explanation… “When it’s gray and rainy out, does that affect how you feel? This expression comes from the idea that bad weather might hurt a person’s health and mood. The saying also may be related to “under the weather bow,” the part of a boat that will take the force of rough seas during stormy weather. If you were in that part of the boat, you might get seasick!” Source: http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/come_from/under_weather.html.

London’s Run – Race Report

Since my next half is in the morning, less than 12 hours away, I’m going to try and knock out this report really quickly.

There were a bunch of reasons why I chose to do London’s Run instead of another race last Saturday. First, the half marathon was the longest distance being run. Sometimes when doing a half that’s associated with a full, I feel like the half gets overshadowed by the full. Second, the race started one hour later at 8am instead of 7am. Third, the course was a loop (instead of out-and-back) and I liked the idea of running around a farm. And finally, it was for a great cause.

Here are some snippets from the London’s Run website:

“London Solomon was a courageous six year old girl who fought a brave and cheerful fight against an aggressive type of leukemia (AML). Her grace still inspires all of us to take advantage of each new day without fear of doing hard things and cherishing our relationships with each other.

The butterfly was chosen as the logo for London’s Run because it represents the changes one makes as they go through the cancer experience. For London, her cocoon was the treatment and the months spent in isolation. During her treatment we saw her grow and change from a little innocent girl to one with a greater sense of appreciation for life and family, self and fun! When one emerges from cancer treatment they are more refined and beautiful – and ready to take flight. So it was with London.

We salute cancer survivors everywhere who emerge changed in subtle but important ways ready to take flight and make more of the life they knew before cancer. The butterfly reminds the rest of us that we can watch on with wonder and learn from the privilege we have in rubbing shoulders with the special people in our lives who are touched by cancer.

In January 2006, the first London’s Run was made possible by the caring support of Queen Creek residents as a benefit event for London’s family. London’s Run is a great day for accomplished and beginning runners alike to compete on a flat course, paved and unpaved, through the peaceful farming community of Queen Creek. The proceeds will go to children’s charities and Queen Creek families who are walking the same path the Solomons did.”

The event was great, but personally the race didn’t go that well for me. It all began when I left the house 15 minutes later than I planned. Which would have been fine if traffic hadn’t been really backed up trying to get into the farm where the race was held. Once I parked, I was scrambling to get everything done… pick up my packet, stop at the port-a-potty, pin on my race number, and make sure I had everything I needed to carry with me on the course.

I had a moment of panic when my Garmin wouldn’t turn on, but thankfully I remembered how to reset it. Then the low battery message appeared, but there was nothing I could do so I just figured I’d wear it until it died. Luckily the battery actually lasted through the entire race.

I was still trying to put on and adjust my fuel belt and iPod as I walked over to the start line with about a minute to spare. I got distracted because I noticed that one of the foam things on my iPod earbuds had fallen off and I didn’t even hear the announcement for the start of the race. I just saw people moving forward and joined in with the crowd.

We’ve been getting a lot more rain than usual lately in the Phoenix area and the roads were muddy for the first couple miles of the course. There were basically just two single lane paths to follow unless you wanted to stray into the mud. This made it hard to pass anyone during those first couple miles.

Although I didn’t have a firm plan in place, I knew I’d be doing some combination of walking and running. After the first mile I kept running because there didn’t seem to be any way for me to walk without getting in someone’s way. The crowd began to thin out during the third mile, but I decided to keep running.

  • Mile 1 – 10:25
  • Mile 2 – 10:12
  • Mile 3 – 11:12

Looking back this was probably a bad idea. In the past I’ve had problems with my feet getting tingly and numb while running. It hasn’t happened since I started running again in December. But that morning I could feel it starting to come on during the third mile. It actually wasn’t that bad until I stopped for a walk break and then both feet just suddenly went numb. I ended up walking for the next two miles until the sensation went away.

  • Mile 4 – 13:59
  • Mile 5 – 15:32

Luckily I didn’t have any further problems the rest of the race, but I already knew that with those two slow miles I’d be finishing in over 2:30 and wasn’t feeling any desire to push myself at all. It was definitely more like a long training run than a race. Especially after the crowd thinned out and the course widened, I somehow found myself at an in between spot and for a long time I couldn’t see any other runners out on the course. At least it was a nice day!

London's Run 2010

Here are a couple other course photos:

There were also signs placed throughout the course reminding us of why we were running.

The rest of my splits:

  • Mile 6 – 11:00
  • Mile 7 – 11:16
  • Mile 8 – 10:24
  • Mile 9 – 13:00
  • Mile 10 – 10:45
  • Mile 11 – 13:29
  • Mile 12 – 11:20
  • Mile 13 – 13:24
  • Last .16 miles – 1:37 (9:53 pace)

As you can see, I was all over the place! If I could redo one thing about the race, I think it would be to stick with a consistent run/walk pattern. Especially since the course was pancake flat it would have been easy to do. As far as I can remember, this was the flattest half marathon course I’ve ever run with absolutely no dips anywhere at all.

Eventually I made it to the end and even got a nice race photo. I’m actually thinking about buying this one.

My official time was 2:39:51, a 12:07 pace. I was 53/59 in my age group, and 488 out of 522 overall. It’s not a horrible time, but I would have liked to come in under 2:30. That’s sort of my general target goal since I usually don’t have a specific time in mind. Unfortunately there were no finisher’s medals, but I did get a participant ribbon. And ultimately, the race was a nice reminder to just be happy that I’m healthy enough to complete a half marathon.

Fun with race photos

I’ve been saving this for a time like now when I’m too busy to do a longer post. Back during the long Thanksgiving weekend I felt like doing some arts and crafts and ended up with the following…

I went with a Disney theme for this frame. I never realized before that race photos are usually vertically-oriented. It was really hard for me to find a photo I liked to fit in the bottom right corner.

I’m not sure where the inspiration for this collage come from. I think I just wanted to do something non-Disney and the Havasu Half seemed like a good race to commemorate since it’s still my half PR. I’m really happy with how all the elements came together.

Do you keep memorabilia from races? What do you do with it?

Posted in Random. 4 Comments »

Decisions, decisions (and some free socks!)

It’s finally hitting home that I only have three weeks left before my move… and so much to do! I thought my experience moving from Houston to Phoenix would make things easier this time around, but Baltimore is a lot farther away and there are more decisions to be made than before. It’s like all my time is spent tossing around pros and cons in my head, and trying to reassure myself that I’m doing the right thing.

The biggest decisions were to sell my bike and car. While I like my bike, it just doesn’t really make sense to have a mountain bike in Baltimore, especially when I don’t even like mountain biking that much. I finally put my bike on Craig’s List last night.

It was harder to let go of my car because I’ve had it for almost eight years and A LOT of road trips. Even though there’s nothing remarkable about my car, it’s special to me. I had to force myself to think practically and accept the fact that it’s better to sell the car now than pay over $1,000 to ship it out to Baltimore where I’d be a little uncomfortable driving it around the city (and trying to parallel park) anyway due to the size. Also factoring into my decision was the fact that I had a buyer already lined up so it was a quick and easy transaction and I know my car is going to a good home.

On the bright side, it’s exciting to think about getting a new car. Since I’ve been wanting a Mini Cooper for a few years now, that was a fairly easy decision. But then I had to figure out the colors and features. The Mini USA website let’s you design and build your own Mini and I’ve been spending way too much time playing with it. Here’s what I think I’ve finally settled on… the blue looks a lot better in person than it does in the image.

With everything going on, I haven’t really been in the mood to work out. I’d feel a bit guilty about it, except that doing a half marathon every weekend kind of evens things out. But I did make the time to go to Road Runner Sports on Thursday for the monthly fun run. I have to admit that the main reason for going was in hopes of getting some free stuff. And it paid off because I was the first name called in the drawing. I actually won a free RRS top, but since I’m already stocked up on tops I switched with someone for socks instead. It was a win-win for both of us.

My third half marathon of the month/year was yesterday. It didn’t go as well as I would have liked, but I had fun. I think I want to add a fifth half to the schedule, but I’m still debating which to go with.

Lost Dutchman Half Marathon:

  • I did the Lost Dutchman 10k last year. It was neat, but nothing special really sticks out in my mind except the long walk from where I parked my car to the start/finish area.
  • The course is a scenic out-and-back. I thought I didn’t like out-and-back courses, but then Yuma wasn’t too bad so now I’m not sure. After London’s Run yesterday, I realized that “scenic mountain views” are nice for photos but otherwise don’t really make much of a difference.
  • The finisher’s medals are awesome!
  • RunningLaur and Rio will be there too.
  • Registration is $60 if I do it TODAY. Otherwise it goes up to $75.
  • Day of race packet pick up is available.

MasterBlock Half Marathon (associated with the IMS Arizona Marathon):

  • This race is located in a part of the Valley that I haven’t run in before. I’d kind of like to run someplace completely new. Part of the Lost Dutchman 1/2 course is the same as the 10k.
  • The course is a point-to-point. I think I like this better than an out-and-back. I don’t think the course is as “pretty” as Lost Dutchman, but there might be more to look at.
  • I’d have to park at the finish line and take a shuttle to the start. Good news is that the finish line is only a half hour drive, as opposed to an hour drive for Lost Dutchman.
  • No day of race packet pick up. I’d have to make a 45 minute drive to the Expo the day before the race.
  • Based on photos from last year, the medal is just a basic medallion.
  • Registration is $70.

Arrrgh. I can’t decide! Why do both races have to be on the same day?

Race Report – P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon

Wow, has it really only been a week and a half since P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona? It feels like so much longer. The details are already starting to become hazy. Good thing I have plenty of photos to jog my memory…

Last year I got dropped off at the start which was really nice. This year I was on my own so I parked at the finish and took a shuttle over to the start. It was not much fun waiting in the cold for about half an hour until the bus finally arrived.

Then when we reached the start area it was time to get in another line to wait for a port-a-potty. Check out this guy’s hair!

I overheard a lot of people worrying about not making it over to the corrals before the race started. But I knew from past experience that it didn’t really matter unless you were in one of the first few corrals. The whole morning was basically a big case of “hurry up and wait”. I was assigned to corral 17 but moved back to corral 22 to wait with a friend who was also walking the race. It took about 40 minutes to get up to the start line.

(I found this really cute, comfy fleece jacket at Old Navy for $4 and even though I bought it as a throw-away jacket, I was sad to get rid of it.)

I planned to walk at least the beginning part of the race with my friend, but I ended up being much faster and lost her within the first mile. At first I sort of regretted not having my iPod with me, but I was able to keep myself occupied taking photos and people watching.

One thing I really like about RnR AZ is the enthusiasm of the spirit groups. Unfortunately this year they also reminded me that I’m getting older because all the girls look so young. I used to think that I could still pass for a high schooler under the right circumstances, but seeing these girls I realized that’s probably no longer possible.

It’s hard to see, but there was a steel drum band playing around the mile 3 marker. I remember last year this was where my left foot started to go numb. Luckily I didn’t have any similar problems this year. Despite the KT Tape, my shins hurt a bit during the first couple miles (I should have done more warm-up/stretching pre-race), but after that it went away and I was fine.

This is one of the most picturesque areas of the course. And one of the few parts that’s not a long, straight stretch of road. The majority of the course goes through downtown Phoenix with lovely views of warehouses, trailer parks, and drive-through liquor stores.

Another spirit group. I couldn’t quite figure out what their theme was supposed to be… There was the devil mascot, but then one of the girls looked to be dressed in a pirate outfit?

Yay, something different to look at and read! I think it’s awesome that P.F. Chang’s is such a major sponsor of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series. It’s just too bad their food isn’t better so I could actually make use of the discount cards I keep getting in the mail every month or so.

For the first 7 miles of the race, all my splits were under a 13:00 pace! During the race I didn’t look at my Garmin very often so I was surprised by these numbers when I went back to look at my splits. It didn’t feel like I was walking that fast. As I always say, the race atmosphere brings out my competitive side. With no iPod to listen to, one of things I did to keep me distracted was find someone else walking in front of me and then focus on keeping up my pace until I passed him/her.

  • Mile 1 – 12:35
  • Mile 2 – 12:42
  • Mile 3 – 12:41
  • Mile 4 – 12:34
  • Mile 5 – 12:29
  • Mile 6 – 12:42
  • Mile 7 – 12:48

I enjoyed going past the Chinese Cultural Center because it was nice to be on a stretch of road that was familiar. With all the destination races that I do, that doesn’t happen very often.

The next couple photos are just things that made me smile. Love the penguin!!!

For the last six miles of the race, my splits were all under 14:00 pace. I was a little slower than the first half of the race, but still going at a decent speed. I fueled approximately every three miles with GU and all that caffeine probably contributed to helping me keep my energy up.

  • Mile 8 – 13:03
  • Mile 9 – 13:09
  • Mile 10 – 13:20
  • Mile 11 – 13:08

With only two miles to go, I looked down at my Garmin and realized that I would definitely be able to make my sub-3:00 goal. I decided to slow down just a bit and have some fun.

There weren’t too many spectators out on the bridge, but I found a friendly-looking older gentleman and asked if he’d take my photo. He seemed a little puzzled about my request (why was I stopping in the middle of a race?) but was happy enough to help out.

Then for this photo I actually handed my camera to a spectator, turned around and walked back a few meters, and retraced my steps to get an “action shot”. Some of the other people gave me strange looks, but who cares? I’d never see them again.

So with the photo stops my last two miles were the slowest of the day.

  • Mile 12 – 13:48
  • Mile 13 – 13:49

Finally I crossed the finish line with an official time of 2:51:32. While I was certainly happy with this new walking PR, it was almost too easy. Everything about the race went so smoothly that I never felt challenged. It was a good way to end my short stint as a speed walker, but I’m ready to go back to aiming for some new running PRs soon.

Overall the race was well-organized, as all Rock ‘n’ Roll events are, but there was nothing “special” about the race that stood out. I do like the point-to-point course rather than an out-and-back, but that doesn’t make up for the slow shuttle service and the boring scenery. Right now I think I’d rank RnR AZ last among all the halves I’ve done so far. Which is not to say that it’s a bad race, just not one that I’ll probably do again since I’m leaving Phoenix. I’m already starting to think about next January… first marathon at Walt Disney World maybe???

Yuma Territorial Half Marathon

I’m halfway to Jupiter status! The race went very well and the best part is I don’t even feel like I ran a half marathon two days ago.

I found a friend who was up for taking a road trip so I didn’t end up having to do any driving. We left Friday night and made it to Cocopah Resort, the host hotel, about 10 minutes before packet pick-up closed. (I could have picked up my packet in the morning too, but it was nice to get everything taken care of that night.) Notable items from the goody bag were a couple Hammer Nutrition products and a pedometer.

In terms of convenience, I think this is the best race I’ve done. The start/finish line was outside the Cocopah Casino, which was literally next door to the hotel. It was maybe a three minute walk from the hotel room. I picked up my timing chip, did a tiny bit of warm-up and stretching, and slipped into the casino for one last bathroom stop. The race started at 7:20am. A few minutes before, we all gathered in the corral and after a five-four-three-two-one countdown we took off.

As you can see, it was still dark when we started, but it didn’t take long for the sun to come up. The course was an out-and-back. I thought it was too bad we were running west for the first half because it would have been neat to watch the sunrise. I was wearing pretty much the same outfit as I did for Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ last week. Unfortunately I didn’t take into account that this race was starting almost two hours earlier than RnR AZ. I warmed up a little once I started running, but I really wished I had kept my gloves on instead of leaving them with my friend. My hands were cold through almost the entire race. At one point I stopped because I had a rock in my shoe and my fingers were so stiff that a volunteer ended up helping me retie my shoelace.

Other than the cold, everything about the race went really well. I went with run .9 mile/walk .1 mile intervals. Mentally it definitely helped knowing that I had a walk break coming up, versus trying to run the entire thing. The only time I broke from the .9/.1 pattern was near the very end where there was a fairly significant hill in the middle of mile 12. I also took a longer walk break during mile 13 because at that point I knew I’d finish under 2:30 and didn’t feel the need to push myself considering that I have two more halves in the next two weeks. I started running again when I could see the finish line in the distance.

My official time was 2:27:58, an 11:18 pace. Surprisingly I felt really good as I finished. My calves were a little tender, but overall my legs were in much better shape than after last weekend. Not that I was trying to go hard or fast, but I expected to feel worse just by virtue of having covered 13.1 miles on foot.

After grabbing a bagel and some fresh fruit, I made my friend take a few photos of me with my new medal.

We also checked out the awards which were pretty cool. Since it was a small, inaugural race there were no age group rankings, just the overall winners.

To round out the trip, here are some random photos from the drive home:

The pretty desert landscape… I’m going to miss seeing views like this when I get to Baltimore.

We stumbled upon Dateland, AZ entirely by accident when we stopped for gas. They had all sorts of products made from dates, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a “world famous” date shake. It was quite yummy!

We saw the Space Age Lodge & Restaurant in Gila Bend, AZ on the way down and decided to stop by for lunch on the way back. The food was okay, but the real highlight of the place is the theming, including large hand-painted murals on the walls of the restaurant and hotel lobby.

Fanatical or just plain crazy?

Guess what I’m doing tonight? I’m heading down to Yuma, AZ for the Yuma Territorial Half Marathon tomorrow morning!!!

I saw the event posted on a local race calendar and for some reason I really wanted to do it. I tried to talk myself out of it because Yuma is a three-hour drive. But on the other hand it’s an inaugural event, I get another medal, and I get to see more of Arizona before I leave. (Although I’m not sure what there is to see in Yuma… I should probably look into that before I leave.)

What finally pushed me over the edge though was deciding to do The Sedona Half Marathon with RunningLaur. I realized that with Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ, Sedona, and two races in between, I could jump up to Jupiter status in the Half Fanatics.

So here’s what my next three Saturdays look like:

I may even add one more event to the schedule on 2/14, but I’m not sure yet because it doesn’t do anything to advance me beyond Jupiter. By then I may be burnt out and tired of halves. At least I have plenty of time to decide because there are two races to choose from that day on opposite sides of the Valley.

The plan for tomorrow is to take it nice and easy. I’m going to do a combination of running and walking and the only goal is to finish. Right now weather.com is reporting 0% change of precipitation and I hope it stays that way!

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