Thursday, September 19, 2013

#TBT Throwback Thursday: Grateful for the Trail - 20 miles

Throwback Thursday - December 23, 2012

  • The farthest distance I would go before the marathon
  • The ultimate "enjoy the journey" test
  • Just me and the trail for 5 hours
J and I both had to cover 20 miles while we were visiting my parents for the holidays. They live on top of a small mountain in New Jersey - winding roads, steep hills, no sidewalks - not great even for a short run, much less double digit mileage. So we had done some searching for a suitable running location in advance. We decided on the Columbia Trail. It was perfect. It was mostly packed dirt with a little gravel thrown in for good measure. Despite the trail being an out-and-back, there was plenty to see, and I have the pictures to prove it! Horses, cows, rusty cars, a Christmas tree farm (!), an ambulance (!!), a fairy house, etc.

The day before, I slammed my toe into a door jamb - hard enough that I actual fell down from the initial pain. I thought about postponing my run, but decided I needed to get it done.

Once I got out on the trail, I was feeling particularly zen; there was nowhere else I was supposed to be. My goal was a 15-minute mile, with the hope of a 13 or 14-minute-mile in the marathon. This training run was slow and steady, lots of walking, maybe 2-3 short running intervals per mile. After 10 miles, I was exactly on pace and feeling good. The weather was a perfect New Jersey December day: Partly to Mostly Sunny, 40 degrees, not too windy. Somewhere around 17 miles my knee decided it was done. Even just walking was painful. I stretched for a minute, altered my stride a few different ways, slowed down, sped up, but really just grit my teeth and got through it. It was getting dark and colder as my watch ticked past 5 o'clock. Just a few tenths to go...and done! Twenty miles COMPLETE!

It was challenging, it hurt, but I knew I could complete the full distance.

Two words sum up how I felt about this run: Grateful. Accomplished.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dumbo Double Dare - Part 1 - Get Ready...

On Friday I was nervous; what was I thinking signing up for this race?! Whose idea was it to run back-to-back races the weekend after working four 15-hour days?! I pulled an all-nighter before the flight to California, so that I could drive back from my business trip in time for our morning flight. I drove nearly three hours including a wrong turn and refilling the rental car with gas. Met up with J and Princess A, and we made it to our gate with 10 minutes to spare. I slept okay on the plane - enough to get me through the day at a basic functioning level. The biggest side effect was an overall queasy feeling that I couldn't shake.

We arrived in the Orange airport at 11 am and took a taxi. We had planned on doing the Disneyland Express, but we had just missed one and I had forgotten the coupons. So the idea of waiting 25 minutes, paying almost as much as a taxi, and making multiple stops - yeah, that lost it's appeal. We went to the Grand Californian to meet up with my parents. I love that hotel!
Room with a view

They hung out with Princess A, while J and I went to pick up our packets. We walked to the Disneyland Hotel through Downtown Disney. The Expo was insane. We arrived at noon (it opened at 10 am) and there were lines everywhere. We couldn't tell what was what. We scooted into the vendor and t-shirt area, walked around for a few minutes, and realized packet pick-up was not there. We went outside and got on line to enter the Valet Parking Garage turned packet pick-up. Once inside, the lines weren't terrible, but were moving slowly. We got our bibs and made our way back over to the convention area for our shirts and race bags. The line for XS shirts was short (lucky me!), but the Medium and larger lines were very long. I don't mind a few lines, but the length of the lines throughout this Expo and the organization (or lack of) made it so that it was hard to tell exactly what each line was for. Another oversight by runDisney and Marketing was allowing Little Mermaid magnets to be put in the bags (which could demagnetize the timing on our bibs). By the time we got our goodie bags (1 pm?), the magnets had been pulled out of the bags and put on the table. Luckily my volunteer mentioned not to put my bib and the magnet in the bag together. This arrangement also allowed you to choose NOT to pick up a magnet at all.

Hmm...where do we get the park tickets we pre-ordered? Oh crap, it's back at the packet pick-up area. So we trudged back down the parking ramp to find our park tickets. The lines had thinned in this building at least, so it only took a minute to grab our tickets. As we neared the exit, we asked a Cast Member where the timing chip verification was. She told us they didn't have it this race, just don't bend your bib, and it will be fine! This seems like a terrible idea - there are enough nerves going into a race, it is nice to have that piece of mind when you get confirmation that your bib chip works. I wonder if runDisney had any mishaps or complaints because of this?

And back over to the vendor area. The line seemed to have shortened for the official merchandise, so we tried to get in, but we were told they were closing the merchandise area because it was too busy, try back in an hour or two. I guess I don't need any official merch!

With park tickets in hand, we joined Princess A and my parents at California Adventure. We had a late lunch where I carb-loaded with a salad in a sourdough bread bowl.

The Boudin Bakery's outdoor seating was the perfect accidental viewing area for the Pixar Parade! The rest of the afternoon we went on several rides and watched the Minnie's Fly Girls show.

This day was so hot (95 degrees and humid - not the lovely SoCal summer I was expecting!), we also had to make sure to keep hydrated. We all went back to my parents hotel room, so they could freshen up, and J and I could take our suitcases and check in to our hotel - the Del Sol Inn. For anyone who knows the area, it is behind the Denny's. Check in went really smoothly and our room was about what I expected for a motel. I had really trusted Trip Advisor's reviews on this one and it worked out. We were walking distance to the parks/races and had two full-size beds plus bunk beds for a little over $100 per night (plus tax).

I had meant to change my shoes before walking back to dinner, but forgot. I was wearing a pair of running sneakers that I've never been able to run in, and apparently I can't walk all day in the heat in them either. Downtown Disney has plenty of shopping opportunities, and I treated myself to my first pair of Sanuk flip flops. Like a little kid with new shoes, I wore them home. We met Princess A and my folks for dinner at Naples Pizzeria. Between the heat and my lack of sleep, I didn't have much of an appetite. The food and experience were okay, but we were all underwhelmed overall - especially for the prices.

After dinner, we said good night. My parents took Princess A back to storytime at their resort, since she was staying with them. J and I went back to the Expo again at 7-something. I had warned our friend JP about the lines, so he decided to come over to get his packet that evening. There were almost no lines (the Expo closed for the day at 8 pm). We did some quick browsing of the vendors and checked out what was left of the official merchandise. Not much!

I was fading, but we wanted to spend some time with JP. Since he hadn't eaten dinner, we went to the Uva Bar. Water only for me, please. By the end of the meal, I was just staring at the store across the way - too tired to engage in conversation any longer. After we said our goodbyes, I wanted to find some kind of pre-race breakfast or snack box. I was surprised that the Grand Californian resort gift shop didn't have much of anything for grab-and-go. We trekked over to the Paradise Pier hotel, but that shop was closed. We were seriously on a wild goose chase to find a Powerade and some pre-race food in walking distance. I was getting panicky and negative and frustrated. And then it hit me: I was just walking a 10k in the morning. I could handle that with just the granola bar from my travel bag and maybe one of my Gu gels for a little caffeine. Crisis averted. (I also seemed to miss the numerous signs listing which eateries in Downtown Disney would be open extra early before the races)

We made it back to the hotel, and...what was that?! A Gatorade vending machine - glowing like an oasis in the California desert of a parking lot.
My only remaining stress was wondering, "How were my feet going to do?" They already hated the non-race sneakers I had worn all day. The new flip flops helped, but I was still a little nervous. I soaked them in some cold water in our bath tub for insurance.

J and I laid out all our race stuff, double checked race instructions, and set two alarms. Then, finally, I climbed into bed and fell fast asleep.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Destination Run & Extreme Taper

I figured I would do a normal two-week taper heading into the Disneyland races, but life and work had other plans. In a good way, actually. My biggest work project of the year launched just days before the event. I worked extra hours, 6 days a week, then was out of town with the project. While it was hectic, I love the team on this one, and it was pretty fulfilling work. On the life side, one of my best friends was in town. In the spare time I could have been running, we went to the State Fair, Interstate State Park, the Mall of America, and I'm sure I'm forgetting somewhere else. I think I missed half of my workouts during my taper. At least there was a lot of walking in our activities, so it wasn't a total couch potato taper.

Here is one of the runs I did take:

Mississippi River, La Crosse, Wisconsin

Training Recap: August 5-11

Wednesday, August 7
An average short run for me

Friday, August 9
This day was a departure from my scheduled short run. The next two months are going to be crazy with more hours at work for my husband and I, plus he will be out of town on business for 3 out of the 4 weeks in September. I knew J would be working late, so I substituted my evening run for a 35 minute brisk walk on my lunch break. Turns out I worked late as well (and Princess A came with us), finishing at 8 pm. After getting her home, fed, and in bed, I did stair repeats. This is a 5 minute workout that is surprisingly challenging. The simplest way to describe it is run up the stairs, walk back down. I add some variety by going up every other stair, walking up, running up, walking up sideways, doing some step aerobics on the bottom stair, etc.

Sunday, August 11
Distance: 8 miles
Tunes: The Nerdist podcast and finished out the last 2 miles or so with a running song mix.

TRIUMPH! I'm scared to jinx it but this was my first 6+ mile run without knee pain in years! I want to smooch my physical therapist and whoever invented low-light laser therapy!

The highlight of this trail is passing this fabulously white trash home that has had a toilet sitting in the front yard for a year now:

I've been working on a new long run theory the past few weeks. I wanted to research a little more into long run paces, and came across this article:
I've adapted the "Target Your MP" for a half marathon. I've started running the first half of my miles about 60-90 seconds slower than my goal race, with the back half of miles 30 seconds slower up to race pace. Since I walk/run, I have been doing more walk segments in the first half, which seems to put me at the right pace. So far I'm liking this plan.