Thursday, January 31, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Surf City No and Yes, 31-plus

1. No Surf City. For the first time since conquering the marathon monster, I'm not running Surf City. Maybe that seems too melodramatic - my first Surf City was in 2010. I ran the full both that year and the year after, and ran the half in 2012. Still, it will be a bit odd to not run it. Surf City has been a bit of a cornerstone in my running calendar, even last year when I ran the half. The first year, our entire club ran it and the buildup to my first marathon was unparalleled. In 2011 I had a personal mission to conquer it once more and a year ago I paced a runner to her first sub-2 half marathon finish. It's been a great race but it was just too costly this year. I ran last Sunday's half instead of Surf City and saved about 60 dollars in the process. Oh well.

2. Still Surfin': So while I won't be running Surf City, I will still be out there. One of my runners will be running his first marathon. He's in his early 50s and was a very strong runner when I first met him. He'd only run three miles before joining Lopers in 2011. He became quite strong and I remember running with him through all those milestones - first six-miler, first 10-miler, first 15-miler, first 18-miler. But he got hurt and was not able to run Los Angeles last year. He's shown some great determination and willpower to come back and has trained hard for this moment. And I'm not about to miss it. Of course, there are other friends running it and I hope to meet up with them all and congratulate them on their job well done. Hmm... going to a race, not running and still having a good time? Oh boy, sounds like I could get used to that.

3. Run Streak: So my run streak is at 30 days as of Thursday morning. I'm at 183 miles for the month. I was hoping to reach 200 but that won't happen. It doesn't matter, though. Running every day was my goal, not the 200-mile mark. I'm running long on Friday since I'm not running Surf City so that played a role in me slowing down Wednesday (I ran 1.58 miles - yay!). Still, I'm enthused that I made it an entire month. Some days were tough to get runs in, and there were a few one-milers in there. But that's fine because I also had an 18 and a 20 in there too. Running every day is what drives me, what motivates me. I feel like I am back to my top mental condition. Fitness is one thing but if you don't have the desire and drive from within to want to run, the fitness doesn't matter. More than strong legs and physical fitness, I need my mindset to be right, I need that fire burning from within. And right now, that fire's roaring, and I couldn't be happier about that.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Highland Half: The Sub-2 That Wasn't

I felt confident going into Sunday's Highland Half Marathon. I've been having a strong month of runs, capped by a 20-miler a week prior. Also, I had two strong workouts the week before the race, giving me confidence that I could run a sub-2 half marathon.

The problem was the course itself. I'd heard that it was a difficult course, made that way by the hills. But I was ready for the challenge nevertheless.

There were two obstacles in my way, though, before the race even started. One, my stomach. I'd been having issues with it for the last few days prior and the issues hadn't subsided Sunday morning. Two, I'd visited my brother on Saturday night and stayed way longer than I'd anticipated and wound up getting about three-plus hours of sleep.

Still, I felt charged for the race, felt ready to run, ready to challenge myself. Once the race started, I felt grand.

The first part of the race was uphill, for a good half mile. But once we turned a corner it was flat and then downhill but quickly we worked our way over to the first of two tough stretches.

At 2.1 miles in, the elevation was 1400 feet. By 5.2 miles, it had changed to 1879 feet, which meant for those 3.1 miles I'd climbed 479 feet. And I felt it. My paces weren't slow necessarily given the conditions but they were slow enough to have me a bit concerned about my time. I hadn't wanted to run hard uphill for fear of having nothing left on way down so I paced myself.

After that initial stretch, we actually went downhill for about a mile and my paces reflected it. Instead of seeing paces in the 10-minute range, I saw some low-9s, even went into the 8-min range.

But then disaster struck. At 6.2 miles we'd worked our way down to 1755 feet of elevation. The turnaround was at 7.1 miles and we'd gone up to 1937 feet. In less than a mile then, I'd climbed 182 feet. I felt it. I was dragging uphill and didn't bother to look at my pace for fear of dejection. (I looked at the stats way later and I'd indeed been all over the place, from the low 10s and well into the 11s)

At the turnaround I glanced at the time. I was nearing 1:09, which threw me off. I'd have to run six miles in about 50 minutes if I wanted to have a chance of a sub-2. I'd figured that I could run the last portion, which was mostly downill, in the 8:40-min range, but that would not get me my sub-2.

Sigh. What made it worse was that there was some uphills yet to conquer. That stretch between the two toughest climbs? Well, it was a climb now. But once we got back to the long downhill I felt comfortable once more. Mentally I felt strong. Ready for this challenge. I was running hard, it was all downhill from here.

But I wasn't moving fast enough.

It was difficult to know that my sub-2 had slipped away. Like watching a ship sail away over the horizon, I knew my goal time was gone. Within reach, technically yes, but realistically it was way out to sea with no way for me to catch up.

It took me a bit to get past that feeling. I tried to rile myself up and I did. I started to feel it in my legs, to feel that kick that had eluded me. And then my water belt fell.


My water belt decided to throw in one final obstacle. I felt it get suddenly loose on my waist and then it came crashing down. I had debated wearing it but chose to wear it because I was unsure of what sorts of fuel they'd have at the water stops. I only wore one bottle so it hadn't bothered me until then.

Oh well. This was perhaps a final reminder that the sub-2 goal was gone but I still tried to run hard. I ran the last four miles in 8:44, 8:18, 8:43, 8:40, not bad considering the mishap.

Of course, the final portion was indeed uphill and I wondered how devestating it would have been to have lost my sub-2 on this part. Better to have lost it midway than to have lost it so close to the finish.

I charged up that hill though, giving what little of a final kick I'd had in me. When I turned the final corner and raced in to the finish I did so while hitting a sub-7 min pace. Even if it was for a little bit and even though it did not feel that fast, I was happy to have closed it out with a bang.

My final time was 2:02:52 which in and of itself is not a bad time. It was at least 2:53 slower than I'd wanted but I finished my half marathon, finished the race strong and got my medal; perhaps not the race I wanted to run but an accomplishment in and of itself.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Breaking Down a 20-Miler

On Sunday, I ran the longest I've run since October. 20 miles. The cool thing now with these long runs, well, with any run I suppose, is that I can go back and analyze it. With my Garmin, a lot of data is kept and stored and I can upload it to a web site and see what the numbers have to say.

What did the numbers say about Sunday's run? Well, for starters, it was hilly.

I opted to take my group into Redlands. Now, we start off in neighboring Loma Linda and run five miles there. Our course is supposed to take us down a drab bike path but it's mind-numbingly boring running down there. I did that all last year, in part because my then-co-pace leader was staunch about running down there, but she's gone and I've been taking the runners more and more into Redlands.

Anyway, Redlands is hilly. I knew that but I guess I didn't realize just how hilly it was. We seemed to gain about 600 feet of elevation in about four miles.

This is part of the Run Through Redlands course. We jumped on at about Mile 3 of the race (we saw a painted mile marker on ground) and stayed on until about Mile 10 or so. It's a really fun race, and it makes me proud that I broke the sub-2 hour mark on that course, with a great friend running alongside me to boot. Marvelous day that was.

For Sunday's run, I also broke out the heart rate monitor. Check out the peaks and valleys.

The peaks were me huffing and puffing and putting in extra work. The valleys were our various breaks we took along the way.

I averaged a heart rate of 161. That's interesting. My max is 183 so I wasn't close to my max but I wasn't far off either, and if that was the max there must have been times when it was quite higher. Towards the end it's climbing, and that's because there were four of us together at that point and two of us were bringing it in quickly and I was trying to keep up. I did, but man it was tough. We were all at under 8:30 pace, probably closer to 8:10. Finish strong!

And lastly, this is the map of the course.

It's pretty cool that it shows us detail. I'll have to post one of the maps of a soccer game I refereed. It's pretty interesting.

Well, there's plenty more information, including the splits, but I've probably bored you off this page already. Anyway, I'm happy I was able to get my 20-miler in and happy that I can look back at it and break it down in this manner.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Streak, Stats, Wind

1. Run Streak: My run streak is back. Through Wednesday I'd run every day of the year, which means my streak is at 15 and going strong. I plan on running Thursday (just how long remains to be seen) as well as short runs on Friday and Saturday before running 20 on Sunday. Even though it's only been two weeks I can already feel the benefits of having run every day. My legs feel sharp, ready to run, and I can hit my faster paces quicker and seemingly without as much effort. Now, I can't quite stay at those faster paces for long stretches yet but that's the next step. I'm confident though that as the streak grows longer I'll be able to do that.

2. Playtime With the 405: I finally got two things working on my new toy, the Garmin Forerunner 405. I uploaded the software and can now see my runs online. There's some cool data available, such as elevation, paces, etc. This is the elevation for my 18-mile run on Jan 6.

Pretty nifty stuff. I was able to see things like that before when I was using the MiCoach app on my iPhone but lately it had been giving me problems, and the iPhone never had enough juice to get through runs of 12 or more (well, at least this phone I have now which is a bit older). I like having to just look at my wrist to see things and I like that it has three screens set to things that I want to see. For instance, one screen shows me my distance, time and current pace, the other shows me the time, overall pace and distance and the third shows me my current pace, heart rate and overall time. Each screen has the first item I listed in a big display and the other two smaller. But there are so many other options I can have and I might test more out now that I have it all up and running. So excited now to go on these longer runs to see and analyze my data.

3. Wind: It's been so windy out here lately. I ran in it, well, the last few days. Monday was the worst. I ran six miles and the first three were with the wind at my back. The last three were into the wind. So guess what? The first three miles were all under 10 minutes and the last three were all over 10 minutes. Hmmm... I even tried to avoid that by trying to run harder on the last three miles and I still wasn't able to get under 10 minutes. I wasn't necessarily trying for a speed workout, my legs weren't ready for it, but still. I will take rain over the wind, I will take heat (within reason) over the wind, I will take cold over the wind. I've never run in really cold weather before (like in 20 degree weather) but the wind just ruins everything. You can't get into a rhythm, you can't accurately gauge your paces, you can't get comfortable, you can't protect yourself against it. The wind will just do with you as it pleases. It's still windy today but hopefully I can do my best to minimize the damage. Probably not but I can hope.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Three Things Thursday: Half, 405 and Flicks

1. First Race of 2013: As you may have read on this blog already, I signed up for the LA Marathon, to be run March 17. However, that won't be the first race on my race calendar this year. On Wednesday, I registered for the Highland Half Marathon. Highland is a small community east of San Bernardino. It's a hilly course and should be a good training race for LA. It's a small local race and that appealed to me, mostly because of the price; $45 for a half marathon is very reasonable, especially here in SoCal. It also will take the place of Surf City. I could not justify paying $110 for a half marathon, one that I've run before. Now, the downside to not running Surf City is that I won't get a special medal I would have gotten for having run OC and Long Beach, but that's okay. I'd rather save some time and money and run the local race instead of getting a medal I didn't set out to get in the first place.

2. My New Love: I haven't blogged about it too much yet but I got a new toy for Christmas - a Garmin Forerunner 405. It's pretty stinkin' sweet. I've used it quite a bit as you could imagine but I haven't yet used all of the features. Right now, it's like a new car that I've only driven on side streets and not the freeway yet - I haven't opened it up to see what it can really do. In some ways, though, that's fine because I want to get uh, intimate with it and then have it start revealing new sides to me. Hey now. We'll see when that next step happens but with the usage I've already put it through it's going to happen soon no doubt. Definitely before the Highland Half I'll want to see what all it can do.

3. Oscar Buzz: So, I love movies. I've always loved watching movies, losing myself for a couple of hours and diving head first into a story. It's a great way to pass the time. Before I had children, I used to go to the movies quite often, from back in my late teens/early 20s (when I started to afford going to the flicks) to before Mrs. LB and I delved into the world of parenthood. Then, it abruptly ended. Yvie came along in 2003 and my days of going to movie after movie were over. As Yvie and Kennedy get older (they're 9 and 7 now), things have gotten better in terms of movies but it's still not quite to how it used to be (not that I expect it to ever quite be that way, at least not anytime soon). I've gotten to see some movies recently (The Hobbit, Argo) but my girls still dominate the movie dynamic in the house. Case in point: between myself and Mrs. LB, we've seen two of the nine Best Picture nominations - Argo and Les Miserables. Between the girls, they've seen five of the five Best Animated Feature nominations - Pirates: Band of Misfits, Wreck-It Ralph, Frankenweenie, Paranorman, Brave. We all went to watch Wreck-It Ralph while Mrs. LB took the girls to see Pirates and Brave while I took them to see Frankenweenie and Yvie got Paranorman for Christmas (she'd read the book first). Now, I'm not necessarily complaining. There was a time when the girls were too young for movies and now they're not, and the animated movies are getting better in quality (I really enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph and liked Frankenweenie way more than I thought I would), but still. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining (too much). I know there will be a time when I long for the days that we could go watch an animated movie with the girls, so I'm enjoying it. Just pointing an observation of how things can change on you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

All In For LA

In some ways, registering for a race that you're already planning on running may seem a bit anticlimactic. You're already thinking about the race, already set on it, training for it and all that other good stuff. So signing up is the next logical step, and logical steps don't usually lead to excitement.

But this was not the case Tuesday.

I registered for the LA Marathon, and even though all my signs have already been pointing in that direction, I felt a surge of excitement when I did it. I didn't exactly feel a thrill when my bank account took the hit that it did (175 all told) but that's another story for another day.

I'm excited because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is the finish line on Ocean Blvd. in Santa Monica.

I'm thrilled because I have something tangible to point to, because on March 17 this training will pay off and I will run my ninth marathon.

I'm pumped because I get to experience the thrill of the finish line again. There's nothing like the finish line for me. Nothing. That's what keeps me coming back, feeling all the emotions and energy at the finish, the ultimate job-well-done feeling, something nobody can take away from you. Ever.

So mix all of those things together and you get pure bona fide excitement.

I'm also a bit charged because I get to run this race again. I ran it last year and had such a great time. I loved the course, the crowd support and the energy of the LA Marathon. I'm sure I'll blog a bit more about the race again, especially as the date draws near, so I won't get into all those details now but the race exceeded my expectations. And the medal was great.

With this race now firmly implanted on my 2013 race calendar, I am hopeful that I've put all the things that I struggled with in the last part of 2012 behind me. And since I'm nearly salivating at the prospect of running 26.2 miles again, I'd say that would be the case.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sunday's 18

My first long run of 2013 was a pretty good one, and pretty long too. I ran 18 miles on the first Sunday of the year. I think this will be the case as long as I'm A) with the Lopers and/or B) train for the LA Marathon each year.

Anyway, I won't get into all the pre/during/post run details of it, but do want to get in some of the highlights here.

Of course, the day before the run I alternated between feeling very confident of the run to feeling anxious about it. I slept alright, woke up only a couple of times and didn't feel (too much) dread when I was getting ready Sunday morning.

The skies were supposed to open up on us, but we only got a smattering of rain. By Mile 4, there was no signs of rain clouds and by Mile 5 the sun had peered through the clouds, enough to give us hope that the rain would not come back (and it didn't).

Part of the fun of being a pace leader is that I get to choose which way I want to take my group. Sunday I decided to take them into Redlands. This meant hills but no matter. I knew the last little stretch would be flat. Some of the other runners were commenting on how nice it was to go on a bit of an adventure, on an uncharted run so to speak. Of course I'd mapped it out but still it felt like we were just cutting through the streets of Redlands as we saw fit.

The hills were a bit relentless and I thought this might separate our group but it didn't. By the time we got through the worst of them, we were still together for the most part. There were two distinct groups - a group of four running in front of us, us (six runners led by yours truly) and a straggler or two to boot. I wasn't sure if I should count the stragglers as a group...

Anyway, by the time were at Miles 12 and 13, we were out of Redlands, back in Loma Linda and my legs were starting to feel good. Something internally happened to get my legs up to full strength and by the time we were on the home stretch, the final three miles, I was grand. We were running at a solid 9:30-9:50 pace. The last mile, we were hovering around the 9:10-9:30 pace.

But our pace didn't matter much as it wasn't what we'll remember most about the run. The run was great because we'd enjoyed each other's company, had enjoyed some tremendous weather after the early drizzles and were all sort of excited just to have been out there, running. We were an indestructible group plowing through city streets, residential roads and dirt trails at times. We'd run 18 miles and we all felt great, high-fiving and congratulating each other at the finish.

It's runs like that that keep me going. If I could bottle up that feeling I felt during the run, I'd pump some of it into my system whenever I needed a boost.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, New Races

Alright, well, maybe they're not exactly new. In fact, I've run all of these races on my calendar before, but let's not worry about the semantics of it all for now.

March 17: Los Angeles Marathon. I had such a great time running it last year, I can only hope I have such an enjoyable time once more.

April 21: Run Through Redlands Half Marathon: Probably my favorite half marathon. It was my first half marathon, my first sub-two half marathon and it's the half marathon I've run the most. This year will be my fourth time out there.

May 5: OC Marathon. Gulp. I have a special goal for this race which I'll share as the time nears.

June 1: Fontana Days Half Marathon. Another fun race. I've run this one twice and it's my two fastest half marathon times. Of course, it's all downhill so that helps.

June 16: San Francisco Marathon: Yes!! I love this race and will thoroughly enjoy it once more.


To be continued. I've only gotten through June 2013. I'm not sure about a fall race because I don't want to train through the summer. It's fine though that I've only got this on my mind right now. I want to focus on the task of running three marathons in a 13-week span, beginning with LA in March.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Goals And Stuff

It's here, finally. 2013 is upon us. With this new year comes new resolutions, goals, dreams, desires, whatever you wish to call them. Here's what I hope to accomplish in the coming 12 months.

* Run 30 miles a week: It seems like an attainable goal. A year ago, I was running 40 miles per week with regularity, but the last several months of 2012 were a bit rough mentally and I've not been hitting the pavement as much as I had been. I think 30 miles a week is a reasonable goal, and one to be proud of. I'd like to get to my 40-mile-a-week mode but that will come later.

* Tally my miles: I did not keep up with my miles in 2012. After about mid-June I didn't log onto Dailymile much. Sad. That will change. If I had to guess, I'd say I ran between 1400-1500 miles in 2012 but I'm not sure if I'll ever really know.

Really, those are my only two "resolutions" for 2013. I do have one more that's not running related.

* Read more books. I got Mrs. LB a Kindle Fire for Christmas, which means I inherited her old Kindle. And by old, I mean the one I got her for her birthday last year. So I'm the proud new owner of a Kindle. Now, I don't really read books. I mean, it's embarrassing how little I read, but that will hopefully change. I started reading The Stand by Stephen King a few days after Christmas, and am now 20 percent through. I like it. I need to pick up more books and read them.

Alright, well, that about does it for my New Year's Resolutions. I will write another post later this week where I'll map out my 2013 race calendar. I've got it figured out through mid-June, and it's looking rather exciting.