Medals, Running

A look back at 2009

A lot has happened in my life in 2009. In January I ran my first half marathon. In April I set my half marathon PR that still stands even after five more races. In June I did my first duathlon at the happiest place on earth. In September I returned for the second Expedition Everest Challenge and while I didn’t do so well defending my title, I still had an awesome time. Then in December, I finished my eighth half marathon which qualified me for membership to the Half Fanatics. (More on that to come in another post.)

And of course in non-running related news, the last quarter of the year has been full of change. From getting sick, to being single again, to preparing for a major move.

But coming back to running, to me this photo really sums up how amazing a year 2009 has been.

(Okay, so there are two medals from 2008. But it’s still pretty darn impressive.)

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Giveaways

Fuel Up With Chocolate Giveaway Winner

Sorry it’s taken a few days to announce the winner. The random number generator came up with 3, which means the winner is RunnngLaur!

Welcome to the new readers, and thanks to everyone for entering. I’ve got a couple more ideas for giveaways (not fuel products this time) so I hope you’ll continue to stick around. 2010 is already looking like it’s going to be an exciting year with my big move to Baltimore, and of course lots of fun races both in AZ and on the East Coast (and maybe one or two somewhere in between).

Training, Travel

DUDE

I haven’t mentioned it yet on the blog, but it’s official… I’m moving to Baltimore in February. I’m sad to be leaving Phoenix because I really love it here, but I’m starting to get excited about checking out a new city and I’m ready to embrace the change. Anyway, with my time in Arizona starting to come to an end, my mom and I decided to take advantage of my four-day holiday from work and drive up to the Grand Canyon.

The post title comes from a Ranger Program that we went to about the geology of the Grand Canyon. DUDE is an acronym for how the Grand Canyon was formed… Deposition, Uplifiting, Downcutting, and Erosion. Another fun fact from the talk was that if you take the entire life of the earth and stuff it into a year, with the earth being “born” on January 1, humans have only been around for the last 10 seconds of December 31.

The Grand Canyon was cold, but beautiful. We lucked out with the gorgeous, sunny weather. This was my first visit so I have nothing to compare it to, but I think the snow really enhanced the view. Plus, it was just fun to see snow again. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the trip:

In training news, I did a 2 mile run at the track a few days ago at 10:33 pace, and a 9 mile speed walk yesterday at 13:28 pace. For the walk I set my Garmin to alert me when I was slower than a 14:00 pace. At times it was annoying because it would beep even though I didn’t think my pace had changed at all. But overall it helped push me to keep moving quickly. I’m going to do one more long walk next weekend, then I’m headed up to Baltimore for a week which fits in nicely with tapering before RnR AZ.

I’ll be back to post again tonight or tomorrow to announce the winner of the giveaway.

Race Report, Running

Winter Misery One Miler – aka My Return to Running

Last night I did my one mile for RunningLaur’s Winter Misery One Miler virtual race. It was also my first time running in over two months! (The last time I ran was at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose on October 4.) At first I started off slow, almost at like a shuffle. It felt very strange to be running again and I could tell that I was using muscles that hadn’t been used in awhile. As I got more comfortable, I picked up the pace a little as you can see by the neat chart below. (Have I mentioned how much I’m loving Garmin Connect?) Despite all the spikiness, there’s a definite downward trend.

I’m not a natural runner, and I’ve never run just for the fun of it or felt the need to just go out for a run. I run as a form of fitness and because my ultimate end goal is to participate in a race (and hopefully earn a medal) and in order to achieve that I have to train properly. I’ve never experienced the “runner’s high” that people talk about…

But yesterday, I think I came pretty darn close. I was happy to actually be running again and I enjoyed the feeling of my feet carrying me along down the street. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe it was because I knew I was just doing one mile, but there was something about the run that just felt good. There were no “why am I out here again?” or “how much farther do I have to go?” thoughts in my head. In fact, I even thought about doing another mile, but didn’t want to push myself too far too soon.

So thank you RunningLaur for providing the perfect opportunity for me to start running again!

I also did a 1 mile walk before and after the run. Here are my times:

  • Mile 1 walk: 13:53
  • Mile 2 run: 11:28
  • Mile 3 walk: 15:42

I realized it’s really hard to speed walk when I’m by myself. There’s something about the race atmosphere (probably the fact that I don’t want to be dead last) that brings out my competitive spirit and makes me go faster.

The virtual race may have been called the Winter Misery One Miler, but there wasn’t anything miserable about it for me. It was a nice, clear night and about 60°. However, I did bring in the winter aspect by taking some photos of my neighborhood during my walk…

It seems like everyone has these reindeer. My next-door neighbor is the only one who also included Santa though.

I liked this little nativity scene.

I thought this was a creative way to decorate what’s typically just an ugly looking box. I’ve never figured out what these boxes in some people’s front yards are for. Something to do with utility services maybe?

Here’s something you’ll only see in the desert. Are those supposed to be upside-down stockings? Mittens?

And finally, one way to describe how I felt about having a successful return to running.

Race Report

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas – Part 3

(Go to Part 2)

When I left off, I mentioned that my wake-up call for Sunday morning was set for 4am. Why so early? Well, MGM Grand wouldn’t confirm until that morning whether or not I could have a late check-out so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time just in case I had to pack up and check-out before leaving for the race. Luckily when I called down to the front desk they said I could extend my check-0ut to noon instead of 11am. I did a slight bit of packing anyway, then got ready for the race and headed out around 5:15am. It was crazy how quiet it was outside with no cars at all on The Strip.

I walked the one mile from MGM Grand down to Mandalay Bay, stopped by the port-a-potty (the lines actually weren’t too bad), grabbed a bottle of water, then headed to my corral. For once I didn’t leave it until the last minute to jump in. Now, I guess I’ll have to let you in on my dirty little secret. As you know, when I registered I was planning to run and I got assigned to corral 7. I know I should have moved back with the walkers, but I really, really didn’t want to wait 45 minutes to cross the start line, especially seeing as how I wouldn’t have that much time after the race to get back to the hotel and check-out. So I went ahead and stayed with corral 7. (Actually, it might have been 8… I can never tell whether you’re supposed to line up in front of or behind the big number signs.)

Here I am waiting in the corral with my lovely bright orange throwaway fleece still on. I was definitely glad to have it (and my earwarmers and gloves) because it was cold!

I read afterwards that Celine Dion sang the National Anthem, but from where I was I completely missed it. However, I did get to enjoy the fireworks that went on for a good 15 minutes or so as we all shuffled up to the start line.

I also read that there were showgirls and tigers at the start line, but I missed seeing them too. One thing that was definitely impossible to miss though were the huge screens everywhere along the course. The race was being broadcast live on the local news and a lot of the casinos were playing the broadcast up on their screens. You’ll see it as a recurring theme in my photos just because I thought it was really neat to be able to see the race as I was participating in it. I loved how much support there was from the casinos for the race. I guess with The Strip being closed down and taken over by runners for the morning, there’s no way to avoid being part of the excitement of the event.

The gun went off at 6:15 and it took about 15 minutes before I finally crossed the start line. It was very awkward at first because everyone else took off running, and there I was strolling along by myself past all the spectators. Not that I was actually walking slow. I probably started off at a 14/15 minute pace, but it sure felt slow. To try and alleviate the awkwardness, I took off my throwaway fleece just to give me something to do. Now that the sun was coming out and I was moving, it wasn’t quite as cold. Although in reality I probably could have kept the fleece with me the entire race and not been too warm either.

Anyway, after a few minutes I was glad to see three women walking not too far ahead of me so I hurried to catch up to them. We chatted for a bit but eventually I pulled away because I wanted to go at a slightly faster pace. By now more waves of runners were out on the course and I didn’t mind walking along on my own. I just stuck to the edge of the road as close to the curb as I could to try and stay out of the way. The whole course was very flat with no real noticable camber (unlike in San Jose) which was good.

The course started off heading south, then there was a u-turn within the first mile.

Right around the mile 1 point we passed the airport.

Shortly after that was the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. There were a couple girls who had stopped to take photos and were nice enough to take mine too.

Then I noticed some people going around the fence for photos, so I did that too.

Now we’re heading back up the fun part of The Strip past all the casinos.

There were tons of spectators out during the first part of the race, lining the streets and up on the bridges.

I was about 2 1/2 miles in when the leader of the half marathon went past on his way back to the finish line with about 1 mile to go.

Lots more photos of the casinos we went past…

And a couple “official” photos…

This sign at The Venetian says Team Members: We’re Proud of You – See You at the Finish Line.”

I love the look of the Wynn and Encore hotels.

This water station just after mile 4 was staffed by “Wynn Racing” volunteers.

My fueling plan for the race was to have either a GU gel or Chomps every three miles (about every 45 minutes). With the cool weather I didn’t take water at every stop, but I did want water to wash down the fuel. It was a little scary to come across this station around mile 6 and see the empty tables.

Thank goodness there was still water and Cytomax available across the street. That continued to be the theme through the rest of the race, where at first it looked like they ran out of drinks, but there was always more a little further down.

Then we headed into a more strip mall-ish part of The Strip. (I was tempted to write the seedier part of The Strip, but it really wasn’t that bad, at least not at 9am in the morning.)

Well, I think that’s enough for now. If you’ve stuck with me through this far, then this final photo of the post is very appropriate. Stay tuned for part 4!

(Go to Part 4)

Race Report

Race Report: Frosty’s Run

This morning I did another last minute race, the 4th Annual Frosty’s Run. The main reason I decided to go was because it was nice and close at Reach 11. (For those of you who are new to my blog, Reach 11 Recreation Area is where I do a lot of my training. There are about 18 miles of basically flat, gravel/dirt multi-use trails, although I usually stick to the same 4 mile route.)

Race day registration for the 10 mile distance was $35 and I got this cute t-shirt and a raffle ticket.

Since it was a relatively small event, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of course support, so I carried my own water and fuel. Unfortunately the Garmin bad luck fairy paid me a visit this morning and I couldn’t get it to turn on. I was upset because I wanted to track my pace over the 10 miles, but there wasn’t anything I could do. At least the weather was about perfect for a race – sunny and about 60°. I was glad I made the decision to go with short sleeves.

I took a GU Roctane right before the start. The first few miles of the race were sort of loops that wound around the park. Pretty much everyone else doing the 10 miler was a runner so I was definitely at the back of the pack, but there were a few people in front of me who I tried to keep in sight as long as possible. Then the course turned into an out and back and I was able to do some people watching. It was interesting to see the race leaders come by because they made running look so effortless compared to the expressions of the more mid pack runners.

I was still feeling good at mile 3, so I decided not to fuel up yet. When I hit mile 4, I knew it was time for my next GU and that ended up being a good choice because there was a water station just after that so I could throw away my empty GU packet. The turnaround was just after mile 5. I hope this doesn’t sound too vain, but I was happy to get to the turnaround because I wanted to see how many people were behind me. I counted about 10.

Somewhere between miles 6 and 7, it started to get hard because I couldn’t see anyone in front of me anymore. On one hand it was good that no one was passing me. But on the other hand it felt like I was basically out there walking on my own and it was hard to stay motivated. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and telling myself to keep going because I really just wanted to be done. It didn’t help that it started to get windy and I was walking into the wind for a bunch of the last few miles.

I had 4 GU Chomps at mile 7 which kept me occupied for a bit. Then the course started winding around again. Now that there weren’t a lot of people out on the course it was a little difficult to tell where to go. I came across a couple women who were debating whether they had taken the right path or not. I slowed down a little, but then just keep going. The race organizers had done a pretty good job marking the course with chalk and I decided to trust that they would have indicated if we were supposed to turn. After I passed the two women, I thought they’d catch up to me again but they never did.

Finally I got to mile 9 and the finish area was in sight. With about half a mile to go, I could hear the announcer starting the awards ceremony. That encouraged me to keep pushing through to the finish because I didn’t want to miss the raffle. It was a little weird coming in to the finish line because I had to walk through part of the crowd gathered around for the awards. But the people around were really nice and cheered as I approached and finished.

Since I didn’t have my Garmin, I couldn’t check my stats right away. But I felt like I had done really well. Luckily they’ve already posted the official results…

Time – 2:16:12
Pace – 13:38
184 out of 198 finishers

Woo-hoo! Based on those results, I’m thinking about revising my goal for RnR AZ. Instead of just beating my time from Vegas, I might shoot for finishing under 3 hours. I already ran it through a pace calculator and at a pace of 13:38 for a half marathon, my time would be 2:58:35.

Anyway, to wrap up the report I followed the advice from the Get Fit seminar and had a banana right away after finishing. There were also oranges and chocolate chip cookies available. Then it was raffle time. There were some really nice prizes like Starbucks gift cards, movie tickets, and digital photo key chains. Sadly, I didn’t win anything from the raffle, but it was still a good event and I’m happy I went.

Random

An Apple A Day…

I’m almost done with the next installment of my Vegas Race Report. But I’ve been a bit distracted the past couple days because…

My brand new laptop finally arrived!!! I ordered it on Cyber Monday and it took about 2 1/2 weeks to get to me. But I forgive it because I’m so head over heels in love with my new little 13″ MacBook Pro. I’ve been wanting a new laptop for awhile because my personal laptop (a first generation Apple PowerBook G4 Titanium) is over eight years old and while it still runs, it’s really slow. I mainly use it for downloading podcasts. I’ve been using my work laptop for blogging and photo storage, but it’s really not an ideal situation in case anything ever happens where I don’t have time to clear off my personal files from my work laptop. I thought about getting a cheap netbook, but I’ve always been an Apple fan and I just couldn’t resist the beauty (and ease of use) of the MacBook Pro.

The reason it took so long to arrive is because instead of ordering directly from Apple, I purchased it through my alma mater in order to take advantage of their educational discount. It was worth the wait because I ended up saving about $440! I debated for a long time whether I really needed a new laptop, and the savings was what convinced me to just bite the bullet and make the purchase. So that’s my tip of the day… after you graduate, check with your college/university to see what type of discounts they’re able extend to alumni and you may be pleasantly surprised.

When I get a new bit of electronic equipment (tv, video game console, laptop, etc.), instead of jumping right in, I’m the type of person who sits down and painstakingly configures all the settings to my liking. I unboxed the laptop on Thursday night, then yesterday and today I’ve been installing applications and getting things organized and set up. Oh, and I took a little time out to create a couple characters in Sims3. 🙂

One of the things I did today was hook my Garmin 205 up so I could download all of my training history. I’m really excited to start using the Garmin Connect service. I also installed the Garmin Training Center, but don’t like it quite as much. I’ll probably do a separate post about both, but for now here’s some proof of my speed-walking from Thursday night.

I don’t know how I got to be such a fast walker. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing the funny-looking arm swinging thing. It looks goofy, but it does help. Also, it’s easier to keep up a fast pace when it’s “only” a 5k. Tomorrow I’m doing a 10-miler so it’ll be interesting to see what my pace is like at that distance.

So one final thought to tie everything together here, and then I need to get some rest. For my new laptop, I’ve been looking at different accessories like a carrying sleeve and a keyboard protector. I kept asking myself “do I really need this?” and “is it really worth $25?” And ultimately I did buy a bunch of stuff because I want to protect my laptop and hopefully use it for another eight years. But then I had this realization today that it’s crazy how my priorities have changed in the last year. It takes me days to decide whether to make a $25 investment into the longevity of my laptop. Yet I think nothing of the fact that I’m going to pay $35 tomorrow so that I can walk for 10 miles. It was this weird “wow, when did that happen?” moment for me. How did running (and walking) become such an essential part of my life?

I had to stop and ask myself the same question… “do I really need to be doing all these races?” I could just as easily go out and do a long walk on my own. But I guess the way I justify it is that it’s an investment into my health and well-being. Without races I wouldn’t have as much motivation to work out as often. And participating in races is not only good exercise, but it lifts my spirit and makes me happy to be around other people with the same interest. As long as I can afford it, I’ll keep paying the registration fees. Some women collect designer shoes and purses, instead I collect medals and race bibs.

Training

A variety of workouts

Even though I haven’t been posting about it, I have been working out lately. On Sunday I took my bike out to Reach 11. Some maintenance was recently done on the trails making them cleaner and smoother, so I was able to do some exploring rather than following my usual out and back route. On Monday I didn’t feel like going out so I played Wii Fit for an hour instead. I really love the step aerobics in Wii Fit. It’s both fun and a good workout. If they made a game just based around the step aerobics, I’d totally buy it.

Yesterday we had a potluck lunch at work and I definitely overindulged with dessert. I had a piece of vanilla cake with strawberry filling, a slice of coconut pie, AND a slice of pumpkin pie. Luckily there was a free 5k fun run at Road Runner Sports last night to help me burn off the calories. I was the only walker, but everyone there was very supportive and I managed to come in not too far behind the last person who was running with her dog. According to my Garmin, I had an average 13:10 pace and the distance was just under 3 miles. The pace was very comfortable and I felt like I could have kept going for at least another mile. I’m getting really good at this whole speed-walking thing!

Giveaways

Fuel Up With Chocolate Giveaway

It’s time for another giveaway!

As a little background… Since my lupus flare-up in October/November, I’ve had to cut a lot of foods out of my diet. From a Western medicine point-of-view, none of my doctors have really made any recommendations about what or what not to eat. However, I also see a traditional Chinese medicine doctor occasionally and there are certain foods that from an Eastern medicine standpoint I should either avoid or have only sparingly. It’s hard for me to explain, but some foods are thought to contribute directly to the possibility of another flare-up. In other instances it’s not exactly about lupus, but more about having the right balance of food to keep me healthy.

Unfortunately one of the foods I’m not supposed to eat is chocolate. At first I was very sad, but suprisingly I don’t miss having chocolate that much on a general daily basis. Trader Joe’s has some amazing Butter Waffle Cookies and Ultimate Vanilla Wafers that I’ve been using to get my sugar fix.

On the running/walking side however, it’s been a bit more difficult because all of my favorite fueling and post-workout recovery products are chocolate flavored. I love, love, love the mint chocolate GU. Luckily I’ve found other GU gel flavors that I like, and I can still have the fruity GU chomps. On the other hand it’s actually been harder than I expected to find an energy bar that doesn’t have chocolate or nuts in it. So far I think the only Clif Bar flavor I’ve found is apricot.

Anyway, since I can’t have these yummy chocolate products, I’m going to share them with a lucky winner instead. The giveaway includes everything pictured below, plus a couple other extras that I picked up after I took the photo.

To enter, simply leave a comment naming your favorite fuel product and why. One comment/entry per person.

Edit: After receiving some friendly advice, I’ve decided to include a second entry if you share about this giveaway. It can be through a link on your blog, a Twitter update, an email to a friend, or however else you can think of. Just leave a second comment telling me that you helped spread the word.

All comments must be made by 11:59pm MST on Sunday, December 27.

Note that I’m deliberately not making the request that you follow my blog as a requirement to enter the giveaway because I hate feeling obligated to do so with other contests I’ve seen. Now that I’ve been blogging for awhile and posting more regularly, I feel a good next step is trying to attract more readers. However, I’d rather have people follow me because they’re interested in what I have to say and not just because they want to win something. So if you like what you see and want to keep reading, yay and thank you. And if not, feel free to enter the giveaway anyway, and I’m glad you at least stopped by for a look.

Rock 'n' Roll Series, Running

Get Fit Seminar and more Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ugh, I don’t know what happened… WordPress somehow ate my whole post. Maybe it was because of the “snow” that I enabled on the blog? Anyway, here I go again.

So for the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona races, there’s been a series of free “Get Fit” seminars held monthly that cover different aspects of preparing for a race. I went to my first seminar last night, which was also the last of the series. The main reason I went was simply because it was being held about five minutes away from my house so I figured why not. The seminar mainly consisted of nutrition advice and Q&A. It was definitely geared toward beginners and I already knew a lot of the information being discussed, but it was good to have a refresher. The speakers were energetic and engaging which kept me from being bored. There was a raffle at the end, but by the time my name was drawn the only thing left was a t-shirt that I already have (got it when I registered for the race at an Expo). I was a little miffed because the lady sitting next to me has just barely started training for a race that’s in a month and didn’t even know what an Expo is and she won both a Rock ‘n’ Roll AZ branded slingback bag and the grand prize of a pair of Oakley’s. Aside from those items and t-shirts, there were a few P.F. Chang’s gift cards given away too. Oh, well. I can’t always be lucky.

The one takeaway for me was that it’s a good idea to try to eat right away after finishing a race. I’m really bad at this because it always takes me awhile to get through the finish area to the food, and even then I don’t always eat if what’s there doesn’t appeal to me. To solve that problem, I think I’ll start carrying an extra GU with me to use as post-race fuel. The other interesting aspect of the evening was that I got to try a foam roller. I didn’t go too crazy with it because I was wearing everyday clothes and I don’t really have any sore spots at the moment. But I can see how it would help. Once I start running again, I’ll probably give some serious consideration to buying either a foam roller or “The Stick”.

Speaking of running again, I’m thinking about giving it a try next Monday. RunningLaur is holding another of her fantastic virtual races, the Winter Misery One Miler. (I love the cute snowman graphic!) The one mile distance seems perfect for my return to running because it’s just far enough to gauge my current running ability, but not so far that I’ll strain myself. As I start running again, I definitely want to take things slowly this time around to try and avoid any further illness or injury. I know I’ve got to take the time to build back up to running longer distances. As such, I’m probably going to continue to walk any races I do in the near future. I guess I could do a walk/run plan with say 4 minutes walking and 1 minute running. But I have this weird desire right now to keep walking separate from running. When I’m walking, I know that my time and pace reflect the fact that I’m just walking. But if I throw in an occasional bit of running, then I can’t classify it as a walk anymore and I think I’d start to feel frustrated by my slowness as compared to my previous running stats.

Originally for RnR AZ I registered for the marathon. This was back at the beginning of September when I thought four months was plenty of time to train. Then after I got sick, I realized there was no way I could do a marathon in January. Even if I walked most of it, that would still mean I would be out there on my feet for seven hours. Yuck! So I emailed the Competitor Group and “downgraded” to the half instead. As just explained above, I’m not sure I want to mix walking and running yet, so right now my goal for the race is to beat my time from RNR Las Vegas for walking a half.

(RunningLaur, to answer your comment… yes, I’m still planning on doing RnR AZ and I’d definitely love to meet up with you and other local bloggers either before or after!)

Beyond RnR AZ I’m not registered for anything else yet, although I do have some tentative races in mind. The first is the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas 1/2 Marathon in March. I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing all the new inaugural RnR races for 2010, but there’s already five of them on the calendar and I don’t really want to commit to another year primarily devoted to RnR. It’s time for some new experiences. The reason I’m interested in RnR Dallas though is because 1) I have a good friend who lives there who I haven’t seen in a few years, and 2) the timing is good because I have carryover vacation at work that I’ll have to use up before the end of March anyway. So maybe RnR Dallas will be my target race for getting back to running. Or at least run/walking.