Thursday, December 08, 2011
My wife ran in the Las Vegas RNR Half Marathon this weekend and had an excellent race!
We had planned this race ever since I ran it last year. My wife watched me finish while holding our then 6-month old daughter. This year it was my turn to watch her finish while holding our now 18-month old daughter.
The biggest issue, tho, was working out the logistics of me and our daughter being there. Last year, the race was in the morning and my wife arrived after it had started and was there in time for the finish. This year, the race started at 5:30pm and my wife's expected starting and finishing times put her expected finish well after our daughter's bedtime. That was going to be a real problem since this was going to be a real special moment and I really wanted to be there and she really wanted our daughter to be there.
In the end, we decided it was up to me to make a race-time decision. I made the decision to go for it and dressed up our daughter as warmly as possible (3 layers of clothing) and made it to the finish line about 20 minutes before she finished.
We signed up for the race tracker text messaging service and it worked great. I knew exactly where she was and could calculate her pace to figure out approximately when she would arrive. She had been nervous that based on her training pace, she would run it in over 3 hours 45 minutes. I told her that the race-day energy would get her moving faster. She kind of seemed to believe me, but not wholeheartedly.
As her texts came rolling in, I could see that she started out faster than her usual pace, but still a little slower than her usual starting pace, but then as I got the next updates I could see she was speeding up little-by-little.
As chance would have it, I met "Nana" in Mandalay Bay parking garage around 8:30pm as we arrived at almost the exact same time. She was there to cheer on both of her daughters (my wife and her sister). Once inside the Mandalay Bay, Nana helped open a path in the massive crowd of runners who had already finished and were going the opposite way we were. It was like fish swimming upstream, but we made it through without incident.
We were hoping our daughter would fall asleep in her stroller, but she was too entranced by all the crowds and lights and excitement going on around her.
After making our way to the finishing chute at around 9pm, we manged to find a spot behind a few people who left after just a few minutes and left us a nice gap right along the fence. When it drizzled a couple times, I got nervous about keeping our daughter outside in the cold and rain, but it didn't last that long and I had brought a big blanket that i draped over the stroller to keep her warm and dry (along with her 2 layers of warm clothes on top of her pj's).
I tried to watch for my wife, but had to spend most of my time keeping my daughter occupied. I had taken her out of the stroller for a while, but had to put her back in once it began to drizzle - and she was none-to-happy about that.
Then, suddenly, my wife appeared on the other side of the railing and yelled and waved and we jumped up and down and waved really big. As she continued on to the finish I could see her begin to cry happy tears. We met her and her sister a few minutes later and we gave her great big hugs and I told her how proud of her we were and also that she finished around 30 minutes faster than she had expected! Later on, I figured out that she had actual sped up throughout the race! Negative splits! She did awesome.
Other than fighting her way through the walkers on the course and the crush of people exiting through the Mandalay Bay, she had a great time. The crush of people was scarier for me and Nana trying to wheel an exhausted 18-month old toddler back out to the parking structure 2 hours past her bedtime, but thank God I had Nana with me. With her help - and the help of some benevolent strangers - we were able to find an alternate way out to the parking garage that didn't involve 6 flights of stairs.
My wife's goal for the race was 1) to finish, and 2) to the run the entire way. Her only other wishes were (in this order) for 1) her daughter to see her finish, and 2) her husband (me) to see her finish. She wore her camelbak and didn't need to stop for water and succeeded at her first goal, and I was able to make both of her other wishes come true. And being able to be there to see her finish after all her hard work and training was amazing. I can't express how proud I am of her. She not only achieved her goals, she also exceeded her own expected finishing time and managed to run negative splits (very impressive!).
Now, suddenly, after what was supposed to be a once in a lifetime event, she feels she could improve on her time and is thinking about running another one. Hmmm... that sounds very familiar to me. :) I had the same plan. Now, here I am 3 half marathons later with 3 more planned!
I love you, honey! You are awesome.
Thursday, December 01, 2011
This weekend is my wife's half marathon! I am very excited for her. I am especially happy to see that she is becoming more and more confident in herself. Believing in yourself an important and often overlooked factor in successfully achieving one's goals. When you begin to tire - which you inevitably will - knowing that you have properly trained, and believing that you can and will succeed, does wonders for helping you push through to end. I can't wait to meet her with a huge hug and kiss at the finish line (or as close to it as I'm allowed to be).
Once her half marathon is over, then it's my turn to train. And what a doozy of a race I will be training for for! It's time to turn my training regimen on its head.
During my wife's half training, I reduced my training to 3 days a week. Now that i will be training for back-to-back half's - and 3 in the span of 5 weeks - I will need to boost my training to increase my running base and endurance.
Of course, my IT band is still tight (and knee sore) from my banked first leg of the Ragnar Relay, so my first course of action is resting and loosening up that leg!
My overall goal is to build back up to running 12 miles for my longest LSD. Once I hit 9 miles for am LSD, I will be alternating longer and shorter distances for my LSD (7, 8, 9, 6, 10, 7, 11, 8, 12, 9, 12).
I will be back to running 3 days a week for most of December (T, Th, Sun), then adding in a fourth run on W beginning the very last week. It will be shorter run (3 miles), but it will begin to get my body used to running extra days.
After a month of running 4 days a week, I will then add in a 5th day starting the beginning of February. This 5th run I will be adding to the day after my LSD to get my body used to running the day after my LSD. I will begin with just a 3 mile run after doing an 8 mile run.
The real question comes in March when I have my first half marathon (Six Tunnels to Hoover Dam HM) that I am running with my friend.
At this point, I am not sure what kind of speed/pace he is running at. If he is running a slower pace than I am used to, then I can skip my taper and run that race with him and use it as a 13 mile training run - which I am really hoping is the case. However, if he is running the same or a faster pace than I am, then I will need to taper before and after this race - and I'm afraid of this since he is very competitive. So, this is where my training plan diverges into the two possibilities.
If I can run Six Tunnels as a training run, then i can eventually build up my day-after run to 5 or 6 miles before my back-to-back half's the end of April. However, if I end up racing it, then I will probably have to stick to 3 or 4 miles and do a before and after taper. Not the end of the world, by any means, but cuts backs on my training potential in the month before my back-to-back's.
Either way, though, I am confident that I will be able to complete this challenge successfully. And the better training I get, the easier it will be.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
What: Labor of Love 100M, 50M, 50K, Marathon, 1/2, & 10K
When: April 21- 22, 2012
Where: Lovell Canyon; Spring Mountains N.R.A. ~ Las Vegas, NV
So, I know I'm going to catch lots of flak for this, but I can deal.
I don't run very many races, so I have to make the ones I do count. I've run 3 half marathons, so far, and a Ragnar Relay. I feel pretty confident in my ability to complete any half marathon or adventure race thrown my way and I really don't want to get caught up in running half marathon after half marathon just hoping to improve my PR and then being disappointed when I don't. I want to pick races that I will have fun with and enjoy regardless of my finishing time.
That is why I have chosen to challenge myself in the Calico Racing - Labor of Love.
This is a two-day event in which the races for all distances (except for the 100 miler) are being run on both days. It's being advertised as a good race for those who are "ultra curious." You can run any of the races on one, or BOTH, days. So, I am going to challenge myself by running a half marathon on BOTH days.
That's right. I will be running a half marathon on Saturday. Then I will being back out on Sunday running ANOTHER half marathon.
This will get me into half fanatics for sure.
In March, my friend is coming into town for the express purpose of running his first half marathon. I was hoping to kick his butt by making him run the Labor of Love back-to-back halves with me in April, but he and his wife's Spring Breaks only allowed them to to make it out in March. Lucky stiff.
So, I will be training for the March half marathon and then recuperating and building back up quickly for the race in April.
This means I will need to do some extra training to make sure my body is up to the task. Fortunately, I have a good 4 months. I just ran the Ragnar Relay, last month, and 11 miles with my wife on Sunday, so I'm already in half marathon shape and won't need to drastically increase my long mileage or create a plan to build up to the races.
Instead, I will need to increase the number of days per week that I run. I may increase my weekly long mileage run by 1 mile per month to a max of 15 miles, but for the most part, I just need to build up my running base. When my wife began her half marathon training, I cut back my running from 4 days a week to 3. Once she runs her race in two weeks, I will increase back to 4 days a week and eventually to 5 days a week and pushing my weekly mileage up to around 40 miles.
The race course is also not a flat course. There are ups and downs on an out-and-back course that will be at altitudes around 4,600 5,500. But, it is semi-local and I hope to be able to go out and train on the race course at least a handful of times before race day which should help immensely.
If I listen to my body and am careful about not running too hard, I should be able to do this. I most likely won't be full-out racing on either of the two days. The challenge for race day 1 will be to not go all out and to conserve some energy and not be sore for race day 2. The challenge for race day 2 will be just to finish. It's generally an uphill climb to start and downhill on the way back, so if I run it right, the hard part will just be getting back the initial 4.5 mile climb and then the one hill on return trip at mile 8. If I can get past mile 8 without too much trouble, finishing should be all but assured.
I know it's semi-risky running these races on back-to-back days, but if I train right and race right, it shouldn't be any more dangerous than any of my training runs and likely still safer than just driving to the starting line. If anyone has any suggestions or comments, tho, please feel free to chime in.
I'm really excited for this race. I've been excited for it ever since I found out about it. Seems like the perfect next challenge in my racing evolution. I don't know why, exactly, but I feel I just have to do this for myself. And I'm going to enjoy every minute of it!
And maybe in a year or two I'll be back running the 100 miler. :-P
Friday, November 18, 2011
Among the piles of junk mail and catalogs that my wife and I receive is the monthly (weekly? daily?!) Eastbay catalog. Like all the rest of the junk mail, this catalog usually goes directly in the recycling bin - but not for the same reason.
I tend to be pretty picky and choosy about a lot of things, and that includes shoes. This drives my wife bonkers. I also love to look at (and buy) athletic gear. And jackets. And sweatshirts...
So, the Eastbay catalog usually gets thrown straight in the recycling bin - not because it's junk - but to save me from myself. Because it's a sportswear and shoe catalog, and has all kinds of things that I really want to buy. It's also the same reason my wife attempts to keep me out of Sports Authority and the athletic and clothing sections of Target and Walmart.
However, I also get e-mails from Eastbay. It's like they know they have to do an end-around to avoid my wife, to get to me.
So, there I was, adding to my wishlist on eastbay.com... when by chance (yes, it really was not on purpose) I came across my running shoes - Brooks Ghost 3. When I originally was fitted for them in our local specialty running store (Red Rock Running Company), they were the latest model and set me back $99+tax. In May of this year, the Ghost 4's had come out and I found my Ghost 3's on sale at a different website for $65.
These two pairs of shoes have done me well, supporting me for over 12 months and 3 half marathons, a 5k, a 10k, and the Ragnar Relay - so, it's actually about time to consider buying some new shoes. I had seen some cheap Champion brand shoes at Target for $19 and $29 and considered going cheap to save some money - despite the risks involved in running endurance races with cheap running shoes. I have seriously considered buying two pairs of cheap running shoes and alternating them to hopefully make them last and to lessen the chances of them hurting me.
However, to my instant glee, while perusing eastbay.com, I found my Ghost 3's marked down from $99 to $49 a pair!
*Cue the chorus of singing angels*
I could buy TWO pairs for the price of just one! Two pairs for the price of the first pair that I bought.
That's a BIG deal!
Hooray for me!
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Okay, so I think I can fit the rest into this post. It's also probably the most difficult to write of any of them. Anyway, here is my last race post and wrap-up. It's been a long time coming.
So, after I finished my second leg we had 3 runners left to go. Ryan ran the fourth leg. We were running through the southern part of Henderson near where Ryan's parents lived. They were going to try to meet us at the exchange when he finished and handed off to his wife, Yasuyo, to run the 5th leg, but they ended up meeting us at the next exchange (#17) where Yasuyo handed off to Devin, our 6th runner.
We got to exchange 17 way early to meet his parents. This was also Yasuyo's longest leg at 5.2 miles. Almost everyone's second legs were short - around 3 miles - except for mine and Yasuyo's. Her estimated 10k pace was 11 minutes/mile, so we figured it would be a while before she arrived since we had gotten to the exchange extra early.
We were sharing funny youtube videos in the van ("Man on a Buffalo") while we waited before finally heading up to the exchange point 15 minutes before her expected arrival.
Well, it was a good thing we went to the exchange when we did because she had an incredibly fast leg and finished nearly 12 minutes ahead of schedule and had arrived just a few seconds before we did. So, Devin quickly ran up and they exchanged the wristband and Devin took off.
When Devin finished, it was around 9:30pm. We grabbed dinner at a smoothie and sandwich shop (I had a bbq chicken wrap and an orange-banana smoothie) and then went to Ryan's parents' house to use their jacuzzi and take showers.
While we relaxed, we debated how long it would take to get to the next major exchange (#24) in Jean since everyone's phones and computers seemed to be giving a wide variety of different times. We needed to be in Jean for the exchange around 2am, so we decided to drive there asap and then sleep in the van.
I slept in the van about 30 minutes until we got to Jean. We got to Jean at 1am and slept until around 1:45am. The other van estimated their last runner (Antonio) would make it to the exchange point around 2:15. So, at 2am we accompanied Greg to the exchange point. Sure enough, around 2:15am, Antonio appeared and made the exchange with Greg.
This was probably the worst leg of the race. It started up the highway towards Goodsprings, but then cut off onto a trail that ran off into the desert, vaguely paralleling the row of power lines that connected Jean to Goodsprings. It was dark and the trail was rocky and uneven. All that and it was also a continuous uphill climb up. While we waiting for Greg at the next exchange point, numerous other finishers were complaining and telling horror stories as they finished.
It was also cold at the exchange. Probably around 50. That's not really THAT cold, but we had been out in the desert by Lake Mead for most of the day where it was up to 95, so all that heat and sun exposure made 50 seem extra cold.
The leg in between Greg's uphill leg and my next (and last!) leg followed the highway up to where it crossed over a low pass in a ridge of hills running north and south between Jean and Sandy Valley (both of which are just tiny dots on a map) and then part way down the other side. This meant that my last leg was mostly going to be downhill as i descended down the other side of the hills.
My last leg was 5.8 miles. The first 3.5 were downhill. Then, once we got to the bottom and entered Sandy Valley we turned right and there was gradual uphill, turned left for a gradual downhill, and then finally a right turn and .4 miles of gradual uphill to the finish.
It was noticeably warmer on the Sandy Valley side of the hills. I had wondered if I would need to wear my jacket, but ended up only wearing my shorts, a short-sleeve shirt, arm sleeves, and my cheap knit gloves. At 4:35am. In the dark.
It was a downhill facing exchange point, so Jorge came in really fast and nearly passed me. I figured the downhill would be nice and fast and that I could really get a good pace going. And since it was my last leg, I could run harder over the gradual uphills at the end since I would have no more legs to run.
I know I'm usually not the fastest descender, so I wasn't surprised that I was passed twice on the long downhill, but I am happy to note that only 2 people passed me on the downhill. I made sure I opened my stride and let gravity pull me down the hill, but also pushed a little extra since this would be my last leg.
About half a mile down the hill, I realized I had never tightened my shoelaces on my shoes and toes were pushing into the front of my shoes every time I landed. I had thrown on my shoes, earlier, so I could get out and use the port-o-potty, but never remembered to tighten them before my leg started. I knew this would give me a nasty blister if I didn't stop, so I quickly stopped and tightened the laces on my shoes. I surprised myself with how fast I was able to do this especially while still wearing my knit gloves. Took me only maybe 20 seconds.
And it didn't take much longer before I warmed up and took off my gloves and put them in my pocket for the rest of the leg.
Two miles into my leg, my back really started to get sore from the downhill. It was weird, but I was wishing for the downhill to end. Fortunately, about that point the downhill became less steep and began to gradually even out as it got closer to the bottom of the valley.
When I hit the bottom and made the first turn and began the first gradual uphill, I slowed down a little, but made sure to keep my legs moving with short quick strides. I passed only a few people on the downhill and wasn't very close to anyone on the uphill. But as I turned the corner again for the last gradual downhill, I began to catch and pass a lot of other runners. I made sure to encourage every single one of them as I passed with a "good job" or a "you can do it" or an "almost there."
I was happy to see the "one mile to go sign" and passed another couple of runners before I could see the last turn before the course headed to the next exchange point and the end of my leg.
When I made that final turn, I could see the exchange off in the distance and sped up slowly but surely. I wanted to finish strong, but didn't want to use all my energy before I got to the finish since I knew it was a gradual uphill and still .4 miles (according to the course map) to the exchange. But, it didn't seem like that far and before I knew it, I was trucking on in. I let it all out and finished fast and strong.
My watch did not disappoint me. This was by far my fastest leg. My overall time was slower than the one for my first leg (which was the shortest), but it was by far the fastest pace of any of my legs.
I finished the 5.8 miles in 46:49 with an 8:25 last mile. That pace would easily shatter my best 10k time. Of course, the downhill helped, I know. But, it felt great to finish strong and to feel like one of the stronger members of the team.
When I finished, it was around 5:30am and still mostly dark with the sun beginning to warn us that it would be making an appearance, over the mountains to our left, in a couple of hours.
The next 20 miles of road were all dirt road from Sandy Valley to highway 160. Ryan, who I had handed off to, could only finish about half of his 7 miles on the rocky, dusty, dirt road. He had injured his knee running trails a year before and never could do it again without pain. That was unfortunate. So Jorge jumped out and finished Ryan's leg.
I had changed into drier clothes. After the switch, Ryan insisted on driving, so I pulled up a blanket and my pillow and napped as well as I could for about an hour or so while riding in a van doing 10mph on a bumpy desert dirt road.
Once our next two runners finished (Devin again struggled with dehydration on his leg), we met the other van at exchange 30... and then we were done.
It was a little odd. Our van was done, but the race was still on. We drove back to Ryan's house and unloaded and cleaned out the van and then parted ways - for a time. Ryan and his wife returned the van early so we could save everyone some extra money on rental fees. Greg, Devin, Jorge, and I left and dropped Jorge off at the airport before the three of us found a Denny's for breakfast. What a delicious breakfast. One of the best breakfasts I've ever had. We had a great time talking about the race and just shooting the breeze.
But, we didn't have a lot of time. We had to get to the finish line to meet the rest of the team. There would also be free food, a party, and all kinds of other fun stuff to do. And just as important, my wife wanted to meet me at the park where the finish line was before she and her sister took our daughter to St. George to go to a big pumpkin patch.
My wife had sent me a couple of texts that morning trying to coordinate our meet-up in the park. It had been so great for them to come cheer me on during my second leg, but I really wanted to give her and my daughter big hugs, especially since I hadn't seen my daughter in close to two days, already.
We got to the park just before noon, but our team wasn't planned to finish until after 2:30, and we were already running behind, so we knew it would probably be even longer until our last runner came in. Greg took his blanket and took a nap under a tree. Devin met with his cousin for a while.
I saw my daughter and my wife and my wife's family lounging under a tree and went over to say hello and get hugs and kisses from my wife and daughter.
After a few minutes, my SIL and MIL took my daughter for a walk so I could be alone with my wife for a bit. That's when she put her arms around me and sadly informed me that my grandfather had passed away.
It was a sad moment. Not a crushing moment, but it still hurt. He was 2 months shy of turning 94 and had lived a full life. He had lived nearly 2/3's of his life before I was even born, but I had spent a lot of my early years going over to his out after school and he would take me to the train station and baseball games, so we had been very close. All 4 of my grandparents are in their 80's and early 90's and I had been steeling myself a while ago for the reality that they will eventually begin passing away. But, it's still not easy when it actually happens.
It was a bittersweet moment on what ended up being a bittersweet day. I got to see my wife and daughter at the finish of my race. But, the joy of seeing my family and the excitement of the race would be tinged with the sadness of the passing of my grandfather.
After a few minutes, they were off to the pumpkin patch and I was alone with my thoughts and a couple of team members while we awaited the arrival of our team.
I sat under a tree for a while. I did a lot of thinking. I did a little crying.
But then, it was back to the task at hand. It was cold in the shade, but hot in the sun. I grabbed some water from my ice chest and bought myself a Ragnar hat to keep the sun off my head and neck and then lay down in the shade with a couple of teammates.
We got some updates from our team. James, our runner on leg 31 - 10.5 miles with the first 6 being a 1,300 foot climb over Mountain Springs Pass - had labored hard going up the mountain and the rest of the members of that van took turns running alongside him to push and encourage him over the pass. That has to be one of my favorite moments of the race. I wasn't even there, but it's the spirit of teamwork that the race encourages that I love from that moment.
Finally, we got word that our last runner was closing in on the park. Devin had never really recovered from his dehydration problems and left with his cousin to stave off a possible heat-related illness. Jorge was on a plane back to Chicago. And Ryan was home icing his knees and resting. All the other members from Van 2 arrived and the 8 of us waited for Antonio to arrive.
Finally, he came around the corner. We all had our team t-shirts on. Antonio quickly changed into his team t-shirt before we all ran the final 100 yards to the finish line. It was an awesome feeling.
We all received our race medals and took pictures at the finish line before heading to the bbq tent for our free post-race meal and then sat exhausted, yet excited, and talked about the race.
We had a great time. I had a great time, I met 11 strangers and then spent 32 hours in a van with 5 of them. I felt like I had made 11 new friends.
While we were waiting for Antonio, a group from another team was sitting next to us when they got a cell phone call saying that one of their runners had been hit by a car. Not too seriously - he got back up and started running again - but hard enough that another runner behind him that saw it, stopped him and had him lie back down so they could check him over to make sure he was really okay, and also to get information from the driver that hit him.
After the race, we learned that the runner who stopped to help the injured runner was our last runner, Antonio. I also learned that when James was laboring on his difficult last leg that Antonio ran 3 miles with him. This after having already run 2 of his own legs and still having a 6+ mile final leg to go. I felt honored to be part of such an awesome team. We may not have won any trophies, but we definitely competed in the spirit of the event.
Ragnar Las Vegas was definitely a memorable and fun experience. I will remember it for a long time. I don't know if I will run another Ragnar, but it's definitely a nice feather I can put in my cap. All my times were much faster than my expected pace. It makes me excited for my upcoming training and races.
The past 2 or 3 years have been a very interesting mental transition. I went from not liking running at all to running in 5k's - but thinking half marathons were crazy - to now having run 3 half marathons and a Ragnar Relay, having 3 more half marathons planned, and actually looking forward to the chance to run a marathon. I feel like I can accomplish anything! An IronMan? Don't bet against it!
Team 2 Legit 2 Quit @ Exchange 30
The Finish Line
Finisher's Medal! (and bottle opener!)
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