25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

I always write my training plan down in my calendar so I see it every day!
Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you all had a chance to enjoy your family and friends this holiday season- I know that we did!  I think my daughter liked her "big" gift this year. 
She is just a bit excited!
And according to my son, his favorite gift was his new Spongebob Wii game from Santa- but I think he liked these books as well!
They kind of have the same smile!
What was your favorite gift this year?  Two of my favorites were a new half fanatics running shirt and a Runner's World Calendar- time to get my training plan back on track!! 

20 December 2011

Santa Runs Tacoma 5K Recap

Candy Cane Girl ready to head out the door!
Saturday morning I woke up around 6am and got myself all ready to head down for the Santa Runs Tacoma 5K race.  I was dressed head to toe like a candy cane and I was excited to meet up with the girls from Team Will Run for Ice Cream.  The family and I headed out of the house around 7:45am, a tad bit later than I wanted but we still got down to the starting area with tons of time to spare.  I found my fellow candy canes rather easily and we had fun posing for a few photos.  The photographer came by and snapped a few photos of myself and Mel (the others had run back to their car) so we cheesed it up a bit! 

Love Mel's homemade shirt!  So cute!
Then the group returned and we were asked if we would like to send a message to the troops in Kabul, Afghanistan- they will be sponsoring a satellite 5K race for I Corps of joint Base Lewis-McChord on Christmas Day and were making a video to share with them from home.  We decided to sing a bit of "we wish you a merry Christmas" and then say a big thank you as a group- we even made it into the video clip!  Here it is if you would like to watch it, it is kind of long and we are at the very end.  You can catch a few glimpses of our sparkly red skirts here and there throughout the video though!

Santa Runs Tacoma Video

We finally discovered where the costume contest judging was, but there were some great costumes so even though we were pretty darn cute I don't think we stood a chance!  I thought it was great when a lady came over and asked if our group was a running club or just really cute- she thought Kim was our coach since she had on a black top!  Too funny.  Nope, not a running club- just super cute! 

The Gang (L-R): Kadie's daughter, Kadie, Me, Karla, Kim, Mel, Zoe, Kerrie, Alma! 
Not pictured- Jamie and Sybil
Singing for our soldiers!
I realized I had not used the bathroom at all and the lines were getting really long- I didn't want to chance starting in the back of the pack.  I had about 12 minutes so I jogged about 4 minutes down towards the Marina, hoping to find a bathroom (even a bush at that point!) and I spotted a little store open so I took a chance they might let me use the restroom.  Score- she handed me the key, I used a real bathroom really quick, thanked her profusely and jogged back to the start line!  About 10 minutes later I was warmed up, my bathroom needs were met and I was ready to RUN!  We were lined up nearly at the front of the line which was an odd thing for me- I am never quite brave enough to seed myself up with the really fast runners but I figured what the heck!  The gun sounded and we were off and running, up the hill that starts this course off with a bang! 

Zoe on the left, me in the middle- heading up the big hill at the beginning
I could feel my pace was pretty quick, but if felt good and I knew I needed to have a fast first mile because of the hill in the last mile.  Kim and Mel were up ahead, cruising along and I kept them in my sight the first mile.  Kerrie was right in front of me and I knew Zoe was right behind me.  Alma was so funny she cruised past me and was chatting with these two girls (high school maybe) and told me she found some friends to talk to - I said "must be nice to hold a conversation at this pace!" and then almost died from muttering that short sentence.  Did I mention I decided against listening to music?  I find myself much more focused in short races without music to distract me.  Is that weird?  I don't miss it one bit- there is so much going on and I can hear the sounds around me.  Although apparently there was a snowman at the turnaround- I totally missed it.  Was it made of actual snow?  How did I not notice it?  Anyways...

At the halfway point there was a snowman I didn't see, but I did see Mel and Kim go past on the other side, then Kerrie and Zoe right in front of me- I was slowly getting slower.  My lungs were not happy, and I just could not take a good deep breathe- probably due to the cold air.  But I was also quite warm at this point and was carrying my gloves and wishing I could rip the fleece hat off of my head!  The sun peeked out and was blinding us as we closed in on 2 miles.  I was trying with all my might to get my pace back down around 8 minutes but it just wasn't working.  Suddenly this little guy was next to me on one of the hills- he looked at me and says "I hate hills"!  I laughed and said "you and me both!"  He was doing the 10K and I told him he was doing a great job -he was probably 7 or 8 years old.  Gotta love those kids out there!

There I am- being beat by a reindeer!  And see the little guy in green behind me to
the left?  That's the kid I was chatting with. 
The last half mile goes up a pretty good little hill, just steep enough to be difficult.  I was repeating over and over in my head that 5K's are supposed to hurt, 5K's are supposed to hurt and I knew I would be done in another couple of minutes.  I could hear Will shouting to me and I just ran towards the finish line as quickly as my legs would go.  I was so happy to be done! 

Almost there...almost done!  My "tie" was flailing in the wind!
My focus face.  Don't trip, keep running, don't trip, run fast...
I found the group and we cheered on the other runners for a bit before checking our official times.  Turns out the Candy Cane Gang are a pretty speedy bunch!  Kim won 1st place in her age group; Mel got 3rd, Jamie got 5th, Kerrie got 6th and I got 8th in our age group; Alma got 3rd and Zoe got 6th in their age group!  We wandered around a bit and drank some chocolate milk.  The sun was out and it was such a pretty day- we really got lucky with our weather aside from the chill in the air (hello- it is December, what did I really expect?)!

Done- such a sunny day! 
Niko is signing up for a marathon in the background.
Soon I said my goodbyes and headed back to our car.  What a fun day, a fun race with some fun (and speedy) candy cane girls!  And a special thanks goes out to my hubby for being our official photographer- you are awesome!  I didn't hit my goal time, but I am still happy with my results- plus it gives me a goal for the St Patty Day race in a few months! 

My official stats:
Mile 1-  7:36
Mile 2-  8:16
Mile 3- 8:35
Mile .1- 7:13

Official Chip Time: 25:20
Average Pace: 8:10
Overall Place:  139/1,041
Female Place:  39/690
Division Place (Female 30-34):  8/103

Can't wait to do this again next year!!!

16 December 2011

Red and White and Glittery

Tomorrow morning I will be running Frosty's 5K  at the Santa Runs Tacoma race down on Dock Street.  It's the same course as the St. Patty Day run, so I have technically run this exact race 3 times:

St. Patty Day 2010- 29:58
Santa Run 2010- 27:52
St. Patty Day 2011- 25:02

I have been knocking some serious time off of those 5K's each time!  I have not really been training for a 5k, but I am sure hoping to squeak in under 25 minutes.  I appreciated a post from (Just) Trying is for Little Girls reminding me that 5K PR's HURT!  Right.  But it is totally worth it.  Right??  Pain is just weakness leaving the body. 

I will be running with a fun group of bloggers as part of the Candy Cane Gang- it is going to be a blast!  Some of the ladies running will be Mel- Tall Mom, Kerrie- Mom vs Marathon, Kim-(Just) Trying is for Little Girls, Run, Zoey, Run and quite a few more from the Team Will Run for Ice Cream.  We will be sporting our red Team Sparkle skirts and red/white striped socks.  Here is a preview of the rest of my outfit:
white skirt, white arm sleeves, striped socks, decked out hat to stay warm! 
And our nifty gloves that actually fit this year!  Do you think I will look
like a candy cane gang member???
  Have an amazing weekend!  Anybody else out there doing a fun holiday race dressed in festive gear?

10 December 2011

A Little More Vegas RnR

Ice skating rink outside the Venetian.  So pretty, I think this was my favorite
decorated hotel!  And yes, I have a skirt on under that coat!
Las Vegas sure is beautiful at Christmas time, don't you think?

One of my favorite things about races- going to the expo!  I love shopping and I love running so combine the two and VOILA instant happiness!  We intended to get to the expo right as it opened on Saturday morning but we were apparently on Vegas time- we arrived closer to 1pm I believe.  Oops.  Anyways, we grabbed our bibs and race shirts and wandered around to check out all the fun (and free) stuff they were offering. 

We are official!
I contemplated a last minute outfit change for the race- but I think I might have gotten a bit cold! 

We posed for a few fun photos and tried to win some prizes- I ended up with a Dodge t-shirt and a Brooks sweatband.  I really wanted to get a shirt from the Brooks store, but they were completely picked over by the time we were there so I didn't see anything I wanted.  Hopefully I can order one online instead.

Will and his groupies
After we had gathered all of our loot we headed back towards our hotel to enjoy the rest of our night.  We headed down to New York New York and had some dinner at Il Fornaio- the wait was a bit long but it was worth it- my lasagna was really tasty and the bread was amazing.  We also found the cutest candy store so we wandered around in there and then did a bit more carb loading.  Sugar is carbs right?

Yum- lots of carbs here!
Here is the break down of my mile times from the race, according to my Garmin:
Mile 1- 9:27
Mile 2- 8:41
Mile 3- 8:57
Mile 4- 8:47
Mile 5- 8:49
Mile 6- 9:04
Mile 7- 8:53
Mile 8- 9:44
Mile 9- 9:14
Mile 10- 9:24
Mile 11- 9:27
Mile 12- 9:06
Mile 13- 9:01
Mile .21- 8:45
I am not sure what happened in mile 8, although I think it is when I realized that my ipod was not hooked onto my pocket and was just swinging freely.  It was a bit tricky to keep moving and hook it back on properly -if it fell I was going to be screwed.  And the mile 10/11 slowing was due to having to move right to the water station, then having to head back to the left so I could keep trying to up my pace.  Also- my garmin says I ran an extra .11 miles so all that weaving around added some distance for me.  Oh well, what can a runner girl do??  Darn 18 seconds anyways!
Inside Caesar's Palace
I am not sure if this will work or not, but here is a link to a video clip at the 5K point. 
Click HERE
You can see me at the very last second of the clip if you are staring right under the 5K sign, I am behind a guy in all black and then I glance at my Garmin (checking my pace lol).  But you can see just how crowded it still is at the 3 mile marker.  You can also see the 3:20 pacer for the marathon run by- those guys are cruising and I feel so bad that they are suddenly mixed into our chaos!

08 December 2011

Las Vegas RnR Half Marathon Recap

Being a goof in our hotel lobby
The Stats:
Official Chip Time- 2:00:18
Average Pace- 9:11
Overall Place- 5253/33123 (top 16%)
Overall Place Female- 1887/21051 (top 9%)
Overall Place Female Age 30-34- 445/4055 (top 11%)

Will and I about to head out of the hotel.  He looks
like he might rob a bank along the way...I don't think he did.
The Story:
Sunday morning- the day of our big RACE  our group met up around 10:30 am for some breakfast at The Cheesecake Factory inside of Caesar's Palace.  No, we did not have a big slice of cheesecake for our pre-race meal!  I had some scrambled eggs and a bagel with cream cheese and some sliced tomatoes- it was very basic but that was all I was looking for- and it was only $6.95.  Score! 

After breakfast Cynthia and I decided we NEEDED to do some shopping.  The boys went gambling and Tiana and Bill headed off to do a few things on their agenda.  We tried on glittery things like skirts, shirts, pants covered entirely in sequins (which were totally uncomfortable FYI!) and settled on some cute glittery shoes.  Which we never got a chance to wear...but I am getting ahead of myself!

We decided we should make a trip to Walgreens as well- it was going to be really cold at the race start line and we wanted to grab a few throw away blankets to keep warm with while we waited.  Well, the closest Walgreens was about a mile from our hotel, so off we went- adding even more walking time to our day!  Luckily we found the blankets easily enough, I also grabbed a few coconut waters for post race hydration.  I wanted to get a few bananas as well, but they were really green so we decided to wait on those. 
Being silly- Tiana, myself and Cynthia
By this time it was about 2:30 and we still needed to walk back to our hotel, find something to eat and get ready to head to the race start!  Luckily our hotel coffee bar had some decent bananas- for $2 each!  Holy cow.  I headed up to our room to dress and it was around 3pm- I had not rested one bit since leaving our hotel room around 10 that morning (dang it!).  I ate a cliff bar and saved the banana for our trip down to the start line.  

I quickly got dressed, pinned my race bib on, grabbed all the stuff I would be needing later and we headed down to the lobby right at 4pm.  We all met down there to take some photo's, then Will asked if I had grabbed my monorail ticket.  Nope.  So off I jogged to our hotel room which was about 1/2 mile away.  No kidding, I even made up a way to remember where our room was.  Get off the elevator on floor 16 then go down the hall and around the corner, down the hall and around the corner, down the hall and around the corner, down the hall and around the corner- 3 doors from the very end of the hall on the left- our room!  Got my ticket and jogged back to the group and we set off for the Mandalay Bay, 2 miles down the strip from the Flamingo.

We got off at the Excalibur and then walked the rest of the way into the war zone race starting area.  It was an absolute madhouse- the band was playing, people were everywhere, it was getting dark so it was hard to see our group and stay together.  There were virtually no signs to direct you anywhere and I instantly felt overwhelmed.  We finally found the lines for the honey buckets and I regretted not going to the bathroom at the Excalibur while we had the chance.  It was 5pm by that time, the race started at 5:30pm and it was going to be close as long as those lines were, but Tiana and I decided to chance it.  Cynthia headed to her corral (#6) and suddenly I realized I had lost Will.  Which made me more anxious because he had my ipod, luckily I had grabbed my Garmin earlier but I still really wanted my music!  Bill was standing with us in line and when he realized my distress he went on a search mission for Will, with no luck.  The effort was much appreciated though! 
The fact that this picture is blurry is perfect- it sure felt like a blur! 
The only photo of us in the race starting area.
Suddenly out of the crowd Will appeared and wandered over to us in the potty line- thank goodness!  Luckily the line moved quickly and we were heading to our corral (#9) right as the gun sent the first wave of runners off to run the strip!  I knew we had about 8 minutes to get our act together before our turn to start so I quickly threaded my ipod through my outfit and stuffed my gels into pockets and we squished (literally) our way into the middle of our corral.  They were counting down and sending wave after wave of runners off as we shuffled forward like a herd of cattle, then all of a sudden we were all just moving.  I am not sure what happened but we did not get a count down at all and we were off!  Well, kind of.

I expected the first mile to be pretty crowded- but I also expected the runners around me to be RUNNING in the first mile!  Your assigned corral is based off of your expected finish time- so technically the fastest runners go first and you should be surrounded by people running the same pace as you.  I put my estimated finish time at 1:55 which is somewhere around an 8:45 pace.  I am not even joking when I tell you there were people WALKING and slow jogging immediately over the start line.  And not walking single file either, but 4 or 5 people across like they were out for a casual stroll with friends!  I just wanted to yell GET OUT OF MY WAY to people, but instead had to dodge around, through, across, onto the grass -tagging onto the heels of others who were doing a good job of maneuvering through the insanity!  So frustrating to have spent all of this time training for a race only to find you can't simply RACE it!  It was like an actual obstacle course in addition to a half marathon.

I finally discovered the best place for me was on the far left, directly on the line of cones separating the full marathon from the half marathon.  The path was a bit more open and I used the marathon path to pass people- I know this was being frowned on but I always made sure nobody running the full was near me and I got in and out as fast as I could.  Around mile 3 or so I passed a guy who was completely naked aside from some upper thigh sleeves (in silver- nice choice) and some sort of g-string holding his business in.  He was really tall, and thankfully looked pretty good running from behind!  Hahaha.  Oh, and he was also drinking a Coors Light tall boy can of beer- while running.  Wonder what his time was?  I saw him stretching at the finish area...should have asked him! 

Anyways, my official 5K split time was 28:08 but the crowd was still thick and my first mile was slow.  Once we hit the Freemont area there were huge lights everywhere and the people on the streets seemed a tad confused about what we were all doing.  There were some people holding up letters that spelled out T-I-F-F and I pretended that it was for me!  I bumped really hard into somebody rounding a corner but thankfully didn't trip.  I crossed the 10K split at 55:55- ahead of my goal pace finally!  I could start to feel the tiredness in my legs at that point.  3 days of walking around Vegas will do that to you I suppose.  I was also kind of hungry- I had to fuel more than normal while running a half marathon.  I took my second gel at the 7 mile mark and waited for it to kick in.

When we were finally back on the strip it was pretty much dark at that point and getting harder to see my Garmin and also keep track of where the open spaces to run were.  I saw a water stop ahead but it was on the right side so I weaved over, worried I would miss it or get trampled in the process of slowing down.  I grabbed Cytomax but it was literally just a small swallow in the cup and I was feeling thirsty!  So I went a bit further and grabbed a cup of water as well.  I am pretty sure that is where I lost my crucial 18 seconds.  After that water stop I decided to just go, no more messing around.  My official 10 mile split time was 1:31:32- slower than my goal pace.

My legs felt really heavy for the last 3 miles, but I kept telling myself -I can do anything for 3 more miles; I can do anything for 2 more miles; I can do anything for 1 more mile!  I ate my package of watermelon Gu chomps hoping for an extra boost of energy.  I came here to run an amazing race and I wanted to feel like I pushed myself as hard as possible, no matter what the circumstances leading up to or during the race.  Around mile 11 some guy in the crowd along the street yelled out to me "Yeaaaahhh- GO red skirt GO!" and it made me laugh.  The fact that the streets and bridges were completely lined with people cheering us on was awesome, and there was never a lack of something to look at.  Except for the most part I was too busy making sure I didn't bump into people to truly appreciate the lights and sounds of the strip at night!

As I ran into the finish area I wasn't sure if I had made a sub 2 or not- my Garmin distance was off (it said 13.21), probably due to all of the bobbing and weaving so my average pace was not accurate.  All I knew was that I needed to hurry, and as soon as I crossed the finish line we came to a screeching halt.  A wall of people were in front of me and I squeezed through, grabbed my medal and a bottle of water and tried to just keep moving.  I was not feeling too good at all- I grabbed a marathon bar and a Cytomax, skipped the green bananas and just kept moving around trying to get my blood sugar back into check.  I nibbled on my bar and sipped the Cytomax.  The space blanket was a life saver- the wind was extremely cold! 
Me, Tiana and Cynthia DONE!  We also all ran our very first
half marathon together in June 2010!  How cool is that?
I wandered over to family meet up letter H (our designated spot) and luckily Bill was there, but no Cynthia!  She had been waiting over by the green bananas for me and I must have walked right past her in my dazed state, but she finally wandered over and found us.  Soon Tiana joined us and we kept waiting in what felt like Antarctica for Will to arrive. 

Will DONE!
Happy to be warm!
Bill and Tiana decided to head in to Mandalay Bay to find a bathroom and Cynthia and I stood and waited for Will.  I was feeling much better after I managed to eat the whole protein bar and drink the Cytomax, except that I was freezing cold!  I was starting to get worried when he finally found us and we headed into the casino to get warm and figure out our game plan.
BRF's together again!
Showing off our glow in the dark "bling"!
Tiana and Bill decided to walk back to the hotel, but the rest of us decided to take a chance on the tram and monorail system.  After being out in the wind for almost an hour I could not convince my body to head back out there!  The tram that runs from Mandalay Bay to Excalibur was an absolute madhouse.  Have any of you been to Walmart on Black Friday?  This was worse.  No joke.  Pushing, swearing, yelling...and additionally sweaty, dizzy, fainting, puking runners.  Luckily our group were all in fine shape physically and we managed to get on the third tram that arrived- it took about 30-40 minutes to get out of the Mandalay Bay via tram.  We walked from the Excalibur to the MGM in order to take the monorail back to the Flamingo.  We arrived at the Flamingo at 10:30pm- we did stop and have a few jello shots along the way though!  Bill and Tiana had arrived at 9:45pm, the walking saved them 45 minutes, but I am not completely convinced it was better- just faster!

By the time we got ourselves cleaned up, met up in Tiana and Bill's room for a drink and then grabbed some dinner at the burger joint downstairs it was after midnight and we were all exhausted!  Our original plan was to head to the after party down the strip at one of the clubs (in our new glittery shoes) but the thought of walking around and then dancing sounded terrible!!  Call me an old lady but we all headed to bed.  Not exactly the way I had anticipated our night ending, but that bed sure felt amazing once I laid down in it!
All cleaned up post race- still rocking our team sparkle skirts!
There has been an absolute TON of negative feedback on this race.  A lot of people were really disappointed with the outcome and I can see how some of it was controllable and some of it might have been the racer's fault.  Pre-race nutrition and hydration are very important, even when you are in Vegas!!  While my race experience was not fantastic, it was not horrible either.  I have made peace with those 18 seconds, it is my second fastest half marathon and I feel like I did the best I could do under the circumstances.  I am happy with my results and have no regrets.  And it was fun to be able to run with Cynthia, Tiana and Will during the largest ever nighttime running event!

What I enjoyed
*Live music at the start line
*Our shirts are really nice, and actually fit well
*Running at night was really a cool experience, the strip is much more alive at night time
*The spectators- I almost felt like a celebrity out there!
*Our medals glow in the dark
*I liked having my split times for the 5K, 10K and 10 mile

What needs to be improved (aka, what I did NOT like!):
*Too many runners.  period.  Or else spread them out better, smaller waves, whatever needs to happen but I did NOT like being completely surrounded the entire time by other runners
*Better signage for communicating where things are (bathrooms, water, shuttles, etc)
*Yellow bananas at the finish- seems like a no brainer
*Something other than dinky orange cones and tiny signs to separate the full and half marathon
*More volunteers!  Especially at the water stations- one or two people per table did not cut it!  Thank you to those that did volunteer- we appreciate you and it is not your fault!!
*Maybe have it in late October or early November- it was freezing cold after the race!!
*And the post race transportation nightmare- I am not sure where to even begin.  That needs some serious fixing!  It should not take 2 hours to get 2 miles down the road.  I ran the whole darn race in that amount of time!

What I learned from this race:  Vegas is for partying, not running!

Interested in reading some other blog recaps from Vegas?  Here are a few of my favorites:
Cynthia- HERE
Shut Up + Run- HERE, HERE, and HERE
Hungry Runner Girl- HERE and HERE