Wednesday, April 30, 2014

American River Parkway Half Marathon 2014

On Saturday I participated in the American River Parkway Half Marathon for the second year in a row. I guess I should really refer to it as an "ultra" half marathon though, as the course was closer to 13.65 miles rather than 13.1. It was purely accidental, so I couldn't be too upset.

I haven't been running much since the American River 50 several weeks ago. I've still been having foot pain, and honestly I've been losing my motivation to keep running. So, initially I thought I'd just look at this race as a "fun run". But come race morning, my inner-competitiveness kicked in and I knew I had to PR. Lauren brought up a good point, that we've PR'd every half marathon we've run so far except the Davis Moo-nlight (so hot!), so I had the urge to power through and PR again.

Lauren, Leti, Marissa, Heather, and I met up with one another before the race. Lauren, Leti, and I started together, and Marissa and Heather began with one another after us. I can't speak too much for them, but I do know that Marissa took off at mile 2, and Lauren and I separated from Leti shortly after the first mile.

I started the race at a much faster pace than I normally run, and I was okay with that. I knew that I would be running 8:1 intervals, so I felt comfortable with running faster knowing that I'd get a walk break pretty soon. Lauren and I completed the first 3 miles or so with an average pace of about 9'40'' per mile. Soon after the third mile marker our pace slowed down to around 10 minutes per mile. We kept this pace until mile 7.5 where we took it a little bit slower. It was at this point that everyone started to notice their GPS watches were way off compared to the mile marker signs. I think this changed our mood and made us a tad less motivated because with an extra half mile, there was no way we could PR.

We did pick up our pace again around mile 12.5 though. Knowing that I was almost done gave me a burst of momentum. Hearing all of the cheering at the finish line from other SacFit members was so encouraging, and seeing Dan at the finish and my dad shortly after was also great.

The race director ended up taking the extra long course into consideration; he was able to officially recalculate all of our times. My recalculated time was 2:13:47 which means I did PR! Even though it is only by 33 seconds, a PR is a PR!
Now onto fuel and hydration. About an hour before the start, I ate a chocolate chip Clif bar, my go-to running breakfast. Throughout the race there were aid stations with water and an electrolyte drink about every other mile. I ended up drinking a cup of electrolytes every time, except for the last mile. I didn't want to waste any time stopping with just a mile left, and I felt fine so I knew I'd be okay without it. I carried my handheld water bottle throughout the entire race as well, and ended up drinking a total of 20 ounces of water while I was running. I ate eight Clif shot blocks as well: 3 around mile 5, 3 around mile 10, and 2 around mile 12. This particular regimen of water, electrolytes, and fuel worked out perfectly for me.

What's cool about this race is that there is an entirely separate course just for walkers. They start at the same location as the runners, but run in the opposite direction. Both courses are an out-and-back route, so that walkers and runners finish at the same point. My mom walked her very first half marathon which is pretty neat. We all were able to witness her cross the finish line which I think and hope she appreciated.

This year's race weather was so much nicer than last year. Compared to last year's dreaded heat, this year's early morning fog and slightly overcast, yet dry sky was perfect. As of now, my next race is not till June...but I should probably start running more regularly again.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

First Tomato Growth

Look at this little guy; isn't it so cute? Lauren and I spent some time today trimming our tomato plant (picking the suckers off), and by chance we spotted the first little baby tomato. Even though it's still green, it's awesome! I love being able to step outside and marvel at our plants' continuous changes.

I didn't have time (I was too lazy) to take pictures of the other plants, but I'll definitely share an update of the other plants soon!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

American River 50

On April 5 I ran 50 miles! Well technically I didn't run all of it, I walked a good portion of it too. But hey, that was the plan...walk the hills, run the rest. And that's basically what I did.

In January I signed up for this race, mostly because I wanted to earn the cool finisher's jacket and I wanted to be an "ultra runner", but also because I wanted to challenge myself. I'd run several half marathons and one marathon before so I figured it was time to run even farther. As Lauren says, "we aren't fast runners, so we have to run longer distances for people to be impressed".

To help me with this feat, I joined SacFit Ultras and have been training with them since the beginning of January. All of that hard work and those long weekend workouts definitely paid off. My biggest goal for the entire race was finishing in under 14 hours so that I could earn my awesome Patagonia finisher's jacket.

April 5th I woke up at 2:30 AM to complete my 50 miles. Lauren, Leti, and I approached the start line around 6 AM and met others from our running group. It was so cold at the start, but I knew I had to wear shorts as I would warm up in no time.

This race was so well organized with plenty of fully stocked aid stations. It also helped tremendously that we were able to have our crew at the majority of the aid stations, and we were allowed to have a pacer run with us starting at mile 24.5ish. From my multiple training runs I've come to know the course by the aid stations' names. I finished the race about two weeks ago, and even now I remember my experience by how I felt and what happened at these points of interest. Many many many years from now I want to be able to look back and be able to recall all of the emotions I felt throughout my race. So in an effort to help me be able to reminisce in the future, I wanted to write out a brief, yet pretty detailed list of how I felt/what happened relative to the aid stations. Here it goes!

Mile 0: Start- Started at the back of wave 2, with only 5 other runners behind me. Lauren, Leti, Tammy, Chelsie, Al, Scott, and I started together.

Mile 4.97: Folsom Point- I felt so strong and all of my worries of not being able to finish quickly slipped away. It was awesome seeing several SacFit volunteers at the aid station.

Mile 12.77: Willow Creek- Dan, our crew chief met us here with all of our medical supplies and extra fuel and water. The majority of our group had to take a bathroom break. Yes, I've done my business on the trails many times before, but if I have the option of using an outhouse then I'm going to use it! I snagged some orange slices and potato chips at this station.

Mile 16.98: Main Bar- More superstar SacFit volunteers at this aid station! In between Willow Creek and Main Bar, my right foot started hurting and I starting feeling really nauseated. I thought I needed more salt, so I ate a boiled potato piece and put way too much salt on it...that definitely didn't make me feel any better.

Mile 20.18: Negro Bar- This was the first place I saw Marissa, Heather, my uncle, and my dad. It was so nice to see so many people I knew. I took Ibuprofen for my foot.

Mile 24.31: Beal's Point- This was the first place we were allowed to have a pacer, but because I was running with so  many other people from our group, I opted not to have a pacer at this point. My right foot was still hurting a lot, but I knew I had to keep going. I ate several handfuls of Pringles, but I still felt nauseated due to the nuun I was drinking. I stopped adding nuun to my water, and I think this helped a lot. Marissa, Heather, Dan, my uncle, and my dad were also here.

Mile 29.45: Granite Bay- Marissa, Heather, and Dan met us here. I filled up my Camelback with ice and water. The ice was such a nice treat! I ate another handful of Pringles.

Mile 34.67: Buzzard's Cove- I was feeling really lousy at this point, I just wanted to be done. I remembered hearing that if you're feeling crummy, you should drink soda; the carbonation and caffeine will make you feel better. So I drank ice cold coke and it tasted so good!

Mile 38.14: Horseshoe Bar- More coke and potato chips helped me keep going. By this point I wasn't nauseated anymore, but I was still having a lot of foot pain. My left foot started hurting too...I was in so much pain. The rest of my body felt completely fine, but my feet were killing me. Right after we left Horseshoe Bar, we heard someone throwing up and continuing to made me want to run faster to get out of there!

Mile 40.94: Rattlesnake Bar- Marissa, Heather, and Dan were here. I ate more potato chips and took more Ibuprofen. Marissa, Heather, and Rick started pacing us at this point.

Mile 43.92: Dowdin's Post- This aid station was run completely by SacFit volunteers. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces. My feet were in so much pain at this point; I also began to have shooting pain up my right arch. I was in a horrible mood and didn't want to talk to anyone. This was probably the hardest leg of the entire run for me due to the pain, but I was so close to finishing.

Mile 47.56: Last Gasp- I ate a chocolate Gu about a mile before climbing the Beast so I'd hopefully have extra energy to help carry me up. My foot pains continued, but the rest of my body felt great. I didn't have any muscle pains and I was never out of breath. There were mile markers the last three miles of the race which helped me keep going, knowing that I was almost to the finish.

Mile 50: Finish- Even though Lauren and I ran the entire race with Leti, Tammy, and Chelsie, the two of us took off with about 0.1 miles left because the others were greeting friends and family. I finished the race in 12 hours, 30 minutes, and 19 seconds...just one second before Lauren, and two seconds before Leti. As soon as I crossed the finish line I received my finisher's medal and jacket! My dad, aunt, and grandma were there to watch me cross the finish line; my grandma even brought me flowers! Tons of SacFit runners and friends also greeted us at the finish, it was such an awesome feeling! We all took tons of pictures at the finish line before heading off to the SacFit tent. Lauren and Leti got massages afterwards, then the three of us joined the rest of SacFit to watch the rest of our team finish.

I did everything I wanted to accomplish that day. I ran/walked 50 miles. I finished in under the 14-hour cutoff to earn a finisher's jacket. I had fun. Even though 50 miles doesn't really seem that fun, it was the camaraderie that truly got me through the race. I enjoyed running with several of my SacFit peers and I looked forward to seeing my family at certain aid stations.

I'd like to run another ultra race, whether it be a 50k, another 50 miles, or a 100k. As of right now I don't have plans for another race, but I know I need to set another race goal for myself. That's what keeps me going. I want to stay in shape, I need to keep exercising during the week, and I love being able to treat myself to desserts without feeling guilty.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

My Running Essentials

Even though I just started running more seriously just this past year, I've already realized that having good and comfortable gear makes a huge difference. While there are tons of products out there, prices and the quality of items greatly differ. Sometimes it's necessary to spend the extra money for a better product, but a lot of times I'm easily able to get away with spending half the amount for a product I equally love.

Through my personal experience of trial and error, here are my top six (I tried increasing my list to ten items, but I just didn't love all of them, and I couldn't narrow down my list to five, so seven favorites it is!) favorite and must have items for running:

1. Nike + App (iPhone or Watch)
I hate running without knowing how far I've run and what my pace is. I know there are tons of other apps out there that do pretty much the same things as Nike+, but this is the first app/watch I've used and it's working for me. I enjoy how easily both my phone and watch sync to one program and how simple it is to go back and view previous runs and routes. I do wish it had a longer battery life though; from my experience it lasts about seven hours. I am curious to know what my heart rate is throughout my run, so if my running habit continues I'll probably eventually end up trying the PolarFT4 watch as well.

2. Sweaty Bands
My hair is really long and thick, and when I run I sweat a lot. No joke. Sweat and lots of hair don't mix well; my hair gets frizzy and it hard to maintain. I've tried lots of different headbands, but most are either too wide for my small head or too stretchy and slip off. Sweaty Bands come in many colors and prints, but my favorite by far, and the only ones I wear are the sparkly glitter ones.

3. Target Champion brand Athletic Socks
Many people swear by more expensive running socks. I agree that your feet are super important to take care of as they're the ones that constantly hit the ground. When I first started running I solely wore regular cotton socks and had no problem with them. Yes my feet sweat, but it didn't bother me. My stubborn self finally tried actual athletic socks and I did notice increased comfort, so I haven't worn cotton since. I've also tried more expensive brands of athletic socks, but they didn't make my feet feel any better, so personally that steeper price isn't worth it.

4. UltrAspire Handheld Water Bottle
This is the first handheld water bottle I've ever used and I still like it better than the other one I own. I like how there's a pocket to carry keys, Gu's, or money. I also appreciate the mesh that completely encompasses the bottle so that your hand doesn't freeze when you're holding your water bottle full of ice water.

5. Target Gloves
This past Winter was my first cold weather running season and I heavily relied on gloves. I hate when my fingers are cold and I can't bend my hands; my fingers get swollen and they're useless. I've tried other "insulated" gloves and they aren't any better than these cheaper Target gloves. (Target doesn't sell them anymore, probably because it's almost Summer, but here's a similar pair I found on Amazon). More expensive pairs are actually stiffer and heavier. Plus it's really easy to lose a glove, and with this price, I don't fret about having to replace them (I haven't lost them yet though).

6. Hot Chilly Pants
I've had a hard time finding the perfect fitting pair of running pants. I have major issues with the waist band and thighs fitting correctly. Proportionally speaking, my thighs are much bigger than my waist. So when I buy pants to fit my thighs, I am constantly pulling them up throughout my run because the waist band is too loose. Hot Chillys fit great and they provide the perfect amount of warmth without being too hot. I've run a marathon, many long trail runs, and numerous shorter road runs in them without any problems. They are a little pricy, but definitely worth the cost. They also make for a great winter wardrobe staple; I've worn them several times under maxi skirts!

So there's my list of my top six essential running items, several of which I use during every single run. Without all of these gadgets and apparel I probably would've given up running a long time ago. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Crazy Plant Lady

I think I'm ready to accept the title of "crazy plant lady". It's been a long time coming, but I think it's official now.

Last year I wanted to try my hand at "gardening". I bought a yellow rose bush and made Lauren plant it for me. We had beautiful roses for a few weeks until aphids appeared and I gave up and stopped watering it entirely. Fail.

Several months ago I wanted to spruce up the apartment with indoor plants. How hard could it be? We went to Ikea and each picked out a plant. I enlisted Lauren again to do the planting and I was in charge of watering. I'm happy to report that these two plants are doing great and I love the touch of green that they add to the place.

A few weeks ago, I had an epiphany. If I can keep indoor plants alive, I could surely grow vegetables, right? So Lauren and I headed to Home Depot and wound up back home with tomato, strawberry, and basil plants. Again, Lauren planted them and I've taken charge of the watering schedule. I am very proud to say that they are thriving. The tomato and strawberry plants have already started to blossom.

During this same Home Depot excursion, we picked out three succulents, and I planted them all by myself. We decided to keep the succulents inside. We previously had potted succulents outdoors, and they too had suffered miserably. So, our new succulents are keeping the Ikea plants company inside, and they're doing okay indoors. The jade is doing really well, but the other two are getting a little funky. I have no idea what's up with that.

Because our latest planting attempts have been successful so far, we wanted to add more veggies to our container "garden". This time we checked out Walmart and decided on lemon and Japanese cucumbers, and zucchini. I also found a small palm for indoors. Lauren also wanted to try planting flowers from seeds. So far everything is still growing great. Two weeks ago it rained all week long, so I got off easy on my watering duties. All of the veggies are growing new leaves, and the flower seeds are slowly inching their way up above soil. So cool.

I guess the moral of my planting story is to not give up after numerous failures (they were my fault anyways), and try something new. It's possible to have a "garden" even when you live in an apartment and don't have a backyard or barely a patio! I'm so excited to watch our plants grow!