Thursday, March 29, 2012

Race Pictures!

Sorry, couldn’t think of a catchy title.

The reason this is exciting for me is because I had zero recognizable pictures from my two fall half marathons in Philadelphia.  While I have only paid for one race picture ever (from my first half marathon), race pictures are usually good for a laugh.

I’ll cut to the chase.

This was right before we began the trail portion.  I look strangely pleased.  Or in La-La Land.

dippy  dippy2

Here we have the beginning of the trail, and I seem to have found something amusing:


After the mile-long descent which came after the forever-uphill, I summoned my ability to levitate:


Approaching finish!  My pasty flesh reveals I am not a native Californian.

finish1    finish2

While I don’t recall switching my water bottle from my right hand to my left hand, I can only assume it was to free up my right hand to stop my Garmin a second later.  

finish4   finish5

And quite possibly the best picture I came across today (or this month):

compressionhorse source

Horses benefit from compression during recovery too.

Hills Build Character

A fast and wise Angry Runner once told me “hills build character,” so here we go.  After running the Chesebro trail half last weekend I’m even more determined to do better on hills.

Running varied hilly routes each week doesn’t really tell me if I’m improving.  So I decided on a short little hilly route to serve as a gauge for my progress on hills.  I’ll run it once a week, or if that gets really boring, once every two weeks.  It looks a little something like this:

Hilly Run

I ran the 3.1 miles in 32:54.  Not super fast, I know, but I “ran” (it wasn’t pretty) most of that distance, with the exception of one walk break from mile 1.8-1.9.  That’s significantly less walking than I did on a similar route a few weeks ago.

Thank you for all the responses on my post last week about training plans. I think I’ll stick with Run Less Run Faster, but adding in a couple shorter runs.  I only gave RLRF 6.5 weeks in the fall and saw serious progress, so I’d like to see how much improvement I can make with 12 weeks of that plan.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
3 mi Hills Track Easy
or Rest
Tempo Bike
or Rest
Long Hike?

We’ll see how that goes. If the added mileage doesn’t work, I’ll revisit.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Race Report: Chesebro Half Marathon

Saturday was the Chesebro Half Marathon, one of several races that make up the Dole Great Race of Agoura Hills.  While the entire event had about 6,000 participants between the Fun Run, Kids 1 mile, 5k, 10k, and Pacific (road) half marathon; the Chesebro (half trail) half marathon was capped at 1500 runners.

greatracelogo12_385 source

Dan was nice enough to wake up before the crack of dawn with me at 5:15 so we could get to the race, 40 minutes away, in time for the 7am start.  Dan spared me the pain of parking (though I will say they did a good job of listing several lots where you could park and when certain roads would be closed) and dropped me off near the start, continuing on to a nearby park for some solo hiking while I ran.

It was foggy and in the mid 40s when I got out of the car at 6:35.  I thought the fog would burn off once the sun came up so I brought my sunglasses…definitely could have left them at home.  It may have warmed up to 50 by the time we were done running.  I wore shorts, a short sleeve top and arm warmers which I took off after the first 3 miles.  I brought my handheld water bottle and a mint chocolate gu.  I wore my ifitness belt so I’d have a place to stuff my arm warmers and so I could bring my phone for music, picture, and so I’d have a chance of finding Dan after the race.

There were plenty of volunteers along the way to make sure you were headed the right direction for your race since the different events had different start lines and starting times.  The start of the Chesebro half was at the top of a hill in a residential neighborhood.  The blue inflatable arch at the top was hard to miss.


This meant an automatic warm-up walking up that hill, and a nice easy downhill start.  Also, kudos to the race organizers for having plenty of port-a-potties on the way up the hill; the lines weren’t bad at all, definitely less than a 5 minute wait.

The race started shortly after the scheduled 7am start time.  The course wound through a neighborhood, around the park where we would finish, then past some ranches for the first 3 miles before moving to trails.

My one shoe felt kinda tight at the start and I envisioned the foot problem I gave myself during December’s 15k, so I pulled over to the side somewhere between mile 1 an 2 to fix it.


I take amazing phone pictures while running, I know.  I wanted to capture the fog/clouds and the mountains though.


From mile 3.0-10.5 we were on trails.  The course followed the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail (yes, different spelling on purpose) on a dirt path through some very green mountains, then became single track on the Sulphur Springs Trail (you could smell the sulphur, too).  This part was less green and more desert-looking and had a lot of uneven ground and big rocks to carefully navigate. I’m pleased that my clumsy self did not trip or fall even once.

Surprise horses!


The crazy switchbacks winding up the mountain began on the Sheep Corral Trail.

This was the worst of the up hill, getting close to the top.



Soon after that, it was glorious downhill for about a mile on the Palo Comado Canyon Trail.  I let myself fly on the downhill, forgetting that there was a small (but very noticeable) little hill coming up at mile 10, not to mention 4 more miles of running.  The path widened and the surrounding land became more grassy.

Trail coming to an end soon:


The last 2.5 miles were on roads with another tiny little hill at the beginning then a gradual downhill until the finish.

I finished in 2:14:29 which is by no means a PR, but it is a huge improvement over my last trail half marathon (which, really, post-hurricane and related flooding was more of a mud-run/obstacle course). 

chesebro splits

The total elevation gain for the Chesebro half according to my watch was 1051’.  To compare, my previous half marathons have had the following total elevation gains:

  • Philadelphia Half Marathon: 278’
  • Sloppy Cuckoo Trail Half: 604’
  • Philadelphia RnR Half: 168’
  • ODDyssey Half: 259’
  • Bucks County Half: 1342’ (ran it in ~2:19)

To be honest, I felt pretty good about my run until I just looked up these stats and realized the Bucks County Half last April had more elevation gain than this one.  I’m a little mad that I didn’t push harder up the hills Saturday.  The Bucks half was all paved roads, but with some killer hills and my paces was never slower than 11:11 (none were faster than 9:38 either).

On Saturday, I guess from prancing around to dodge rocks and washed away spots in the trail, my HR was already higher than it would have been in a road race, and I wasn’t happy that my HR had hit 195 already with half the race to go.  While I did run up several of the inclines, I walked up some others to help conserve some energy for later in the run. 

I will say my average and max HR were noticeably lower this weekend than last April, and on more challenging terrain I ran 4:30 faster.  Maybe that’s progress.


After the race, I found some folks from the running club and Dan was able to find a parking spot and track me down in the park.  I picked up a bottle of FRS protein recovery drink (don’t really love the blackberry acai flavor, maybe it’s better when colder), a Peanut Butter Power Bar, a soft taco from a Mexican place that were surprisingly good at 10am, and a peanut butter crepe from Whole Foods (not really worth the 20 minute wait in line).

Sorry, no race pics.  If you’re lucky, maybe there will be a picture of me with my eyes not-closed that will be worth sharing in a few days.  I think September of 2010 was the last time I saw a race picture worth hanging on to, so don’t get your hopes up.

But I do have this medal:


And a sweet drawstring bag with a zip pocket and a tech tee in women’s sizing.

100_6965   100_6967

The FRS folks at packet pick up were very generous.  Also in the drawstring bag was a bunch of things, coffee, post-it notes, a chip clip, magnet, and an LA Sports & Fitness magazine—where [fun fact] I learned that I now live in the area where Lauren Fleshman is from.

100_6969   100_6973

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t go too crazy on the downhill when you still have 1/3 of the race to go.
  • Push harder on hills in training runs.
    • I don’t know if this really matters, as I don’t have a hilly race lined up. But I still want to improve.

Sunday it rained hard for most of the day, so it was a good excuse to lounge around in my compression shorts, bake oatmeal butterscotch cookies, and make an attempt to do some cleaning/organizing/decorating.

I’m off to shake out my legs on a short run.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Next Training Plan Conundrum

After the Chesebro Half Marathon this Saturday I'll pick back up with an official training plan for my next half marathon which will be 12 weeks later.

A couple weeks ago I signed up for a teeny tiny FLAT half marathon along the ocean in Ventura, CA that was recommended to me by a fellow running club member who ran it last year. It's reasonably priced by half marathon standards (though not by my husband's standards, as he feels I should pay nothing to run) and it supports a non-profit organization.   I thought a June half marathon would be out of the question, but apparently it will be cooler with the breeze coming off the ocean and the 7am start should mean it's not too hot out yet.

My goal? Break 2 hours.
I think this is a reasonable goal. Please tell me if you disagree.

Let's take a walk down Half Marathon Memory Lane.

April 2010, my first half marathon:  2:21:10
Sept 2010, aka "The Suck": 2:30ish.

April 2011: 2:19ish
May 2011: 2:15:32
Sept 2011: 2:12:01
Nov 2011: 2:06:49

If I could shave 5:12 off a half marathon in 9 weeks, I'd like to think I can work to shave 6:50 off in 12 weeks.  Why not.

Now my question is, which training plan to use.  As previously mentioned, I am a fan of the Run Less Run Faster/FIRST Training plan and felt I saw great progress with it in the fall, using it only for a short period of time.  However, the RLRF plan calls for only 3 quality runs a week, with 2 days of cross training.

Until either the State of California fixes its disaster of a budget and positions magically appear OR I find myself a new line of work, I will likely have plenty of time on my hands for lots of running, not to mention nice weather most of the time.  3 "quality" days of running was great so I could be picky with when I ran in NJ where it rained often enough. 

Regarding the cross-training, while I enjoyed my old gym's group classes, I would prefer to not spend money I myself am not earning on a gym membership here.  I do have a bike and if I grow some muscle so I can lift that thing, I could start carting my bike around in the back of my car to bring it to a nearby mostly-hill-free bike path for some cross training.

It kinda defeats the purpose of using Run Less Run Faster if you add in 2 more days of running, huh?

(Re)enter Hal Higdon

I used his plans last Spring.  I'm now considering the Advanced or the Intermediate.  For both, you should be capable of running 30-60 minutes a day, 5-7 days a week.

The advanced plan includes speed on Tuesdays, tempo on Thursdays, and long runs on Sundays just like my running group, with shorter easier runs 2-3 additional days a week.

Regardless of which plan I use, I hope to/expect to keep up with our weekend hikes we've been doing every weekend since we moved here. I think that can count as cross-training, or at least counts for not using my muscles the exact same way running uses them.

1. Thoughts on my time goal for June- Ambitious? Reasonable?
2. Do you use an official training plan?
3. Cross-training: yay or nay

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another week in review

Almost met my goal of running 25 miles this week.
March 12-18
Monday:  13.12 mile long run
Tuesday: 4.15 miles of speedwork
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 5.59 mile trail run
Friday: 5 hours of downhill skiing
Saturday: 1 hour walk after the rain & wind let up
Sunday: 11.12 mile hike

Total miles run: 22.86 

I think running just under 23 miles + skiing and hiking make up that 2.14 mile difference. I could also claim it's my taper before my mostly-trail half marathon this Saturday.  Though I have no time goal for that, and I haven't officially been following a training plan for the last month, so I probably can't really say I'm tapering.

Oh, I did crunches a couple nights before bed. But no dedicated arm work. I'm going to say that while skiing when I poled myself through slush that counted as some arm work.

I'm happy with my activity level Thursday through Sunday, which was when our friend Ben was visiting us from Buffalo (where it was sunny and 75...that never happens in March).  Meanwhile, SoCal got slammed with a winter storm Saturday and Sunday which meant cold, rainy and windy.  Luckily Ben likes to be outside as much as we do.

Skiing on Friday was awesome because it was over 50F and sunny, so that meant we didn't have to bundle up like I'm used to doing in the northeast.  Weekday skiing is cheaper than weekend skiing.  Also, we went on a Friday before a big snow storm. I'm sure many people were waiting until after the snow hit to ski, but snow on the mountain road requires snow chains, which we don't have.  And that road is already slightly terrifying without snow.  So Friday it was.

No one was there!!

No one there = no lines for the lifts = amazing.  Also means you get tired faster.

Hiking Highlights:

After raining most of the day Saturday, it cleared up a little on Sunday - but was still unseasonably cold in the 40s.  We took Ben to Placerita Canyon, a place we hiked when we came out here for our house-hunting trip in January, but added on a new-to-us trail. I don't think I've ever hiked 11 miles before yesterday.

Some of the trails were in rough shape from all the rain, and there were a lot of fallen rocks:

We saw an animal moving in the grass in the distance and at first thought it was a coyote but then it sat down and moved its front paw in a cat-like way, we noticed the dark tips on the ears, and realized it was a bobcat!

zoomed and cropped
Waterfalls, thanks to Saturday's rain.  Appropriately named "Waterfall Trail."

The dudes climbed up along the left. I waited at the bottom.

There was a lot of up hill
Surveying the land
Top of Los Pinetos Trail:

View of the Santa Clarita Valley including the doom-cloud over our house

This view was pretty nice, but Ben felt we should continue to the summit.

Ben at the top
I only made it as far as the 'X' before freaking out about all the snake holes I had passed on the way up and was currently standing in the middle of.  It was around 3300' elevation and the view was nice enough from there.  Ben made it up to about 3400 feet.

Self portrait from the X.  Don't look down.
The ground was squishy and it was tough walking up that vertical...coming down was kind of more like a controlled fall.  

Dan was a trooper and came back down with me after he made it to the tree.  He sort of talked me into quitting the uphill climb, so maybe he just wanted an excuse ;)

After we came down, we walked back around that little peak and found another short trail that gave us views in the other direction.

To the south toward Burbank and LA
 What else... Total Distance: 11.12 miles.  Elevation Gain: 2,278 ft.  Elevation map here:


The End.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Running and Cupcakes

Monday  was a weird day.  I woke up at 4:30am (except since Daylight Savings had just begun, it was really 3:30am Old Time).  I had agreed to play taxi for my husband and his coworkers at 5am, was presented with a glazed donut with sprinkles that I barely remember eating, I got back home before 6am, and went back to bed for a little “nap.”  I had set up the coffee maker for 6:45, positive I’d be up by then.  And planned to go on a long run shortly after. Except I actually woke up at 8.  At least I awoke to the aroma of hazelnut coffee.

I ran 13 miles because I didn’t do a real long run this past weekend.  I didn’t have a pace in mind, but knew that Run Less Run Faster likes you to do most of your long runs at half marathon pace + :20 which for me is around 10:00-10:05.  I should note that while I love RLRF, I sort of mostly abandoned it since moving last month.  rlrf

Back to my run.

The first 12 miles were good, I ran them at an average pace of 9:47. Things got a little hairier for the last mile and change uphill.  I started off trying to run uphill for about .3 miles - even if it meant a really slow pace, but after 12 miles it wasn’t happening. I did some short run/walk intervals up the hill then resorted to walking the second half to my house.

I spent much of Monday evening in my Aspaeris Pivot compression shorts, and I even slept in them, hoping they would magically heal me and give me fresh legs for my planned track workout Tuesday night.

Either my legs are getting stronger from the abuse they are taking from the hills here or the shorts worked, but I felt I had a good first track workout.  I’ve done speed work before, but this was my first time on an actual track. Previously, speed work has consisted of programming my watch to beep at me at predetermined intervals while I run through neighborhoods and parks.

The track workout was:

4x[300m, 100m rest] 1:24, 1:24, 1:23, 1:25
4x[600m, 200 rest] (.37-.38 mi) 2:49, 2:59, 2:39, 2:50
4x[200m, 1min rest] (.12-.13 mi) :48, :45, :47, :45

I’d say it was a success as my beloved RLRF tells me I should run 600s in 3:05.

The 600s weren’t too consistent, but the others were pretty close.  I didn’t stare at my watch like I sometimes do for speed work, I just ran and hit the lap button on my watch as I crossed the line on the track.  While I am definitely in the slower half of the group that came to the track tonight, I didn’t feel badly about – I think seeing so many fast people ahead of me motivated me to run faster.

I was proud of my track success and treated myself to a cupcake. 

Actually, I had pre-planned this cupcake, regardless of how the track went.  I’ve been researching cupcake places in my new area, hoping to find something that could rival my most favorite cupcake place in NJ.  I was disappointed to see a lot of mixed reviews for the 5 or so cupcake bakeries on yelp.  Not confidence-inspiring. Maybe individual cupcake preferences vary widely. 

My favorite from Sugar + Sunshine in NJ was the mocha cupcake which was chocolate cake with a coffee buttercream frosting. I could eat that frosting by the spoonful, but luckily they didn’t sell their frosting.

When I learned one of the places here had a Mocha cupcake—but only on Tuesdays—and that it was right near the track, it was a done deal.

I will readily admit that aesthetically it does not even compare. Even before it got knocked around in the bag a bit.

IMG-20120313-00838  IMG-20120313-00839

But when I opened the bag at home I could smell delicious coffee.  The frosting to cake ratio was good.  The buttercream frosting had the right amount of coffee flavor and was not too sweet; the cake portion was still moist despite me buying it at 8:30pm.

The CA cupcake cost me $3 while my NJ favorite is $2.50.  The NJ one might be a little bigger, too.  But it seems all cupcakes in this area are priced at $3+.  I’ll blame it on the high taxes in this state.

Cupcakes: Yay or Nay?

What’s your favorite sweet/baked good?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Running/Hiking Week in Review

March 5-11

Tuesday: 5.74 miles of running followed by a .62 mile uphill walk "cool down."
I explored new territory and found a route along lots of horse ranches.

When you are loaded, you spend lots of money on a fancy gate for your ranch.

Wednesday: Arm weights + crunches. Specifics on Daily Mile.
5.21 miles of running followed by a .76 mile uphill walk "cool down."

I attempted speed work in a new park that I thought was flat, based on what I saw from driving past it a few times.  It turns out I was wrong and that speed work is very challenging on an incline.  But I still tried all the intervals I set out to do.
Goal was 6x800 in 4:08 with 90 second rest intervals. 4/6 weren't bad.

Friday: 5.7 mile tempo run.  Goal tempo pace was 9:20; my average pace was 9:07.  Flat route for a change.
Pushups+Crunches, more here.

Saturday: 8.15 mile run, Average pace was 9:42. I don't really know what this run was as it wasn't quite an official long run.  Just running.

Total running miles: 26.18

Plus a little hiking:
Sunday: 5.22 mile hike at East Canyon.

Elevation Gain: 1153', all in the first half.
I guess while it's maintained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, it's technically the Santa Susana Mountains.



Snake hanging out in the middle of the path. Luckily it isn't the kind that rattles.

Also came across this crazy little lizard. Bronze body, bright blue tail.
At the top, looking West-ish

At the top, looking East-ish

On our way back down, looking North East

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