Friday, June 10, 2016

Race Recap: RnR San Diego 2016

(I'm writing this on day three of a really nasty head cold, which started with a throat so swollen I couldn't talk on Tuesday morning, so apologies if any of this recap is nonsensical.)

Sourabh and I drove down to San Diego on Saturday around 11 a.m., stopping in Carlsbad for sandwiches before continuing on. Traffic on I-5 is the worst on the weekends for some reason. Every time I've driven south of San Clemente on the weekend I've run into traffic! But we made it to San Diego and I picked up my bib at the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego expo relatively painlessly.

This is exactly what the start line looked like -- it's a big race!

We headed to the AirBnB we'd rented for the night, which was a great little place, just a couple blocks from the start line. When the race starts at 6:15 a.m., you don't want to be worrying about catching a cab or taking a bus to the start line! If anyone is interested in the specific AirBnB, just leave a comment or shoot me an email. Definitely a good place to stay if you're running this race!

Ok, quick aside to say a huge THANK YOU to the kind man at Lenscrafters who took pity on me and gave me some sample contact lenses on Saturday afternoon. As I set my race day items out around 4:30 p.m., I realized I had forgotten to pack contact lenses. DISASTER. I could not imagine racing if the distance was blurry -- it seemed like it would be incredibly disconcerting. Thankfully, after speaking to a local Lenscrafters in San Diego, I was able to get samples. Crisis averted!

There also happened to be a Tender Greens close to the Lenscrafters, which I figured was the perfect pre-race dinner (I got their seared tuna, roasted fingerling potatoes and some sauteed eggplant, for those who are curious).

I did a short jog around the nearby portion of Balboa Park with some strides, just to get the legs moving. It was nice to see a bit more of San Diego!

I'm pretty sure I didn't sleep at all that night. I wasn't even that nervous, and the bed was super comfortable, but I couldn't get my mind to settle, so I never really fell asleep. But that made waking up at 4am a lot easier!

After sipping some coffee, eating a Picky Bar and half a banana at 4:15, and hitting the bathroom the requisite five times, I walked over to the start line around 5:30 and did my warm-up stretches. The race is pretty big (the half marathon and marathon start together, and the half marathon alone had over 16,000 runners), but RnR did a great job of organization at the start line, I thought.

I ate a Honey Stinger waffle 15 minutes before the start because, given the humidity, I wasn't sure how much fuel I'd be able to get down so I figured more fuel early on was a good plan.

Ah yes, the humidity. For the bulk of my running time, it was around 90% humidity, which.... is a lot. It wasn't very hot, thankfully, but I definitely felt the humidity in my breathing.

I actually loved the course route, despite the elevation gain (I think it was ~50 ft more than the NYC half?), which was more than most half marathons I've run. There were so many people out cheering in the first half, especially in Normal Heights, including one older man who was pouring drinks for his friends out of what looked like a fully stocked bar.

I ran the first two miles at a strong opening pace, but I had a hard time really getting into a comfortably hard groove. I was trying to run on effort level, but I just had a hard time dialing into the right effort level.

At the same time, I was really enjoying the race, even though I could tell I wasn't on pace for a big PR. I started having a sharp stitch in my right side. I realized it started after the Gu I took at mile 4, and got worse every time I took a sip out of my bottle of half water/half Gatorade.

Having read up on this, my understanding is that the liver gets larger with glucose, which pulls on the abdominal muscles and can lead to that sharp pain. This is something I've dealt with in a lot of previous races, so in our post-race debrief, Coach Jess emphasized that it's something we need to figure out because it's definitely a limiting factor in terms of effort level. Every time the stitch kicked in, I'd slow down a bit and focus more on my breathing. I didn't take anything after that Gu at mile 4 since I recognized that I seemed to be in more pain after taking any fuel.

The last few miles run through Balboa Park, largely downhill, and finish in downtown San Diego. I felt like I had to slow down on the biggest downhill, though, because the pain was at its sharpest due to the heavier up-and-down motion -- that mile still clocked in at 8:07, though. The stitch actually continued hurting through Sunday and Monday, in a pulled muscle kind of way, but thankfully it went away by Tuesday (slash, was covered up by my overall aches and pains due to being sick).

I'm most proud of the way I pushed in that last mile, where the uphill and downhill evened out and there was no net loss -- I clocked an 8:01! That's the fastest mile I've ever logged in a half marathon.

Sourabh snapped this picture of me at the finish line. Clearly I was working hard in that last mile!

I paid $30 for this picture because (1) it's the best race picture I've had taken and (2) it came with a $20 credit for Shutterfly, so I can use that to buy prints to put in our new house, which means it really only cost $10... right?

Official Time - 1:53:08

I ended up running a much hillier half, in 90% humidity, 34 seconds slower than my PR. So, I'm happy with it, even though it wasn't a PR, and even though I know I didn't give a 100% effort level. The ease with which I walked off the course made that very clear, as did the minor soreness over the next two days as opposed to my typical "OMG EVERYTHING HURTS WHY" post-race soreness.

The big reason I'm fine with not PR-ing is that I feel like I learned so much with this race. I learned that I can run strong on a hilly course and that I need to figure out longer distance fueling better. And most importantly, I finished a 13 week training cycle without a muscle strain. That is HUGE for me! 

Coach Jess and I have also agreed that I should race more, so I am planning on a late summer half marathon and a late fall half marathon, followed by a late winter marathon in 2017. I'm pumped!

Half Marathon #9 complete!
I have some ideas for late summer and late fall half marathons, but do you have any suggestions for me?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

RnR San Diego 2016 Training Log: Weeks 9-12

It's race weekend!

The past month has been pretty hectic, between travel during a few weekends, work, and Sourabh's birthday. We've also been house hunting for about six weeks now, and pending appraisal coming in at the right value, we've gotten a house!!

This is our view!!! We have to renovate a few things, but getting a place with a view was worth it.

Buying a house is obviously a huge life update, but other than that, I've basically just been training and working. I went up to Washington State for a weekend to see my dad perform as the featured soloist at a Skagit Symphony Orchestra (he played the Strauss Horn Concerto No. 1 and knocked it out of the park) and, coincidentally, it was the same weekend as Mother's Day, so I got to spend Mother's Day with my family as well. It was so nice!

A little rural WA farm action
WA is so green right now!
The perk of window seats -- great views! (That's Mt. Rainier.)
Oh, and I also got Snapchat (I'm jengaude), so if you want to see quality pictures like the below, and if you can figure out how to use Snapchat (ahem, it might have taken me a while), feel free to follow me there.

She stayed like that for at least 5 minutes.

So, let's recap the past month of training... just in time for race day! Yes, I have been bad at the training logs. Instead of logging each individual workout, I'm going to run over some highlight workouts, along with the lowlight of the past month -- a nasty fall.

Best Speed Workout: 6x800m repeats in week 11

I had done 4x800m a few weeks before this workout, and just felt super lousy during it. I ended up disappointed with the splits. This time, I was pretty consistent, and more importantly, I felt really good.

Splits: (1) 3:41 / 159, (2) 3:33 / 160, (3) 3:32 / 160, (4) 3:44 / 160, (5) 3:41 / 158, (6) 3:36 / 161

Best Tempo Workout: 4 miles at tempo pace in week 7 (total of 7 miles)

I ran this on a Friday evening. Temps were in the low 60s, and there was a roughly 10 mph headwind for the first 3.5 miles. After warming up for 2 miles, I turned on some of my favorite speedy songs, turned up the volume, and ran. And I was SO pleased with my tempo paces. Here's hoping I can achieve some of that speedy zen on Sunday!

Tempo Splits (pace / HR): (1) 7:57 / 159, (2) 7:56 / 162, (3) 8:13 / 163, (4) 8:04 / 175

Best Long Run: 12 mile long run around Back Bay and on the San Diego Creek Trail with 6 miles at tempo pace (1:51:40 for 9:18 avg pace, 146 avg HR, ~320 elev gain)
This was one of those runs that makes you nervous when you see it assigned, but gives you so much confidence when it's done. 12 miles with miles 5-7 (miles 8-9 relaxing a bit) and miles 10-11 at tempo pace, with mile 12 faster than tempo pace. 

Splits: (1) 9:59, (2) 10:02, (3) 10:04, (4) 10:12, (5) 7:58 (some downhill), (6) 8:15, (7) 8:13, (8) 10:52, (9) 10:49, (10) 8:29, (11) 8:44, (12) 7:58 <-- nasty headwind in miles 10-11

Worst Fall: I don't think I've ever had such a bad fall. Just before mile 10 during what was supposed to be a 13 miler in Washington, I bit it on a compressed gravel sidewalk. It was rough -- my hands were a chewed up mess and my left knee was a throbbing, bloody disaster. My knee is still a bit bruised a month later, but thankfully it didn't completely derail training, although my physical therapist did have Coach Jess adapt things a bit. The big concern was avoiding creation of any new injury due to overuse of a swollen knee, so mileage came down.

This was before it swelled up (and also before I cleaned up the blood).
Duolingo was eerily on point that day.

Race Weekend

It's looking like it'll be fairly warm (high 60s to low 70s) and humid, which is not ideal, but I know I'm well trained so I'm not going to let the weather psych me out. My left knee has felt a bit wonky on and off, although never when running, so I'm crossing my fingers it'll be fine. Race day will show!

I won't lie, I would love to PR on Sunday. I don't race very often, so every time I race I am trying to do better than previous races. I don't know how likely a PR is, but I am confident that I've had a really strong training cycle that hasn't involved any pain (other than falling), so even if I don't PR this Sunday, I've continued to increase my fitness.

Even better, I've overcome the hamstring issues I faced during every previous training cycle, which is something worth celebrating. Not once did I have to scale back training due to hamstring issues! And most importantly? I've really enjoyed almost every run. Because isn't that, ultimately, what it's about?

And now, for some pretty pictures.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Spartan Race Giveaway

I plan to get a training log post up soon (things are chugging along well!), but in the meantime, I wanted to share this giveaway with you all.

Spartan Race reached out to me to promote the book, Spartan Fit, which the founder of the race series recently wrote. The book is coming out in early August, and it looks pretty intriguing. It has the typical workout and diet plan, although it's tailored to help you prepare for a Spartan race, but it also includes  inspiring stories about athletes who have competed in Spartan races. I recently read Matt Fitzgerald's new book, How Bad Do You Want It?, which focused on stories of pushing through mental barriers and overcoming pain during the racing process. It's hard not to come away from the book feeling inspired.

Spartan Fit looks like it'll have a similar component, which makes it seem a bit different than other similar exercise books. One element of Spartan races that I learned about by reading the first chapter of the book (which is available online), is that part of the focus is on developing "obstacle immunity".

The idea is that getting past obstacles in the race is a metaphor for life's obstacles. If you can crawl through mud to get past barbed wire, jump over fire, haul a log, or quite literally get over a wall, then maybe when you're faced with an obstacle in life, you'll feel more empowered to get through it or move past it.

This woman: getting through obstacles.
I've certainly seen that running has had a positive impact on my ability to handle setbacks and obstacles in life, so I think Spartan Race's focus on this makes a lot of sense. I'm definitely interested to read the book when it comes out in early August.

Now, how about a giveaway? I have one free race code that's up for grabs! The code will work for any open heat in any Spartan race in the continental U.S.

Leave a comment letting me know why you're interested in doing a Spartan race. Giveaway closes on Friday, May 27, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. I'll notify the winner by Monday. Good luck!!

And even if you don't win, use the code SPARTANBLOGGER at registration for a 10% discount on all Spartan races!

[P.S. I'm not being compensated for writing this post in any way, I just figured that people would appreciate the opportunity to win a free Spartan race!]