Monday, April 23, 2007

why didn't they wait for us?

"YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!" About a dozen people yelled those words at us, and I'm sure countless others thought them as we negotiated our way through the first mile of the race. We were running to the 2007 La Jolla Half Marathon starting line as 5,000 other runners were stampeding the opposite way.

For the record, we were NOT going the wrong way. We just happened to be running towards the starting line--on the race course, 12 minutes after the gun had gone off. Ok, if it still doesn't make sense, Skips' Chill Crib (CC) in Solana Beach was about 2 miles from the start so we decided to do a mini-mini-Karno and jog to the start line. Unfortunately, we had some oat meal issues that prevented us from leaving early enough to get there in time for the 7:30 am start.

It was really a strategic move on our part.
1. We didn't want to hassle with the long bathroom lines at the start.
2. Trying to negotiate through the large and densely packed group of runners through the first few miles would've unneccessarily expended our energy and broken our stride, and we wanted to avoid that.
3. We had to stay true to form as LFTB (Love from the Back).
4. There was less chance of anybody passing us (psychological tactic).

The La Jolla Half is a beautiful point-to-point course that starts at the Del Mar Fairgrounds as it makes its way south through a few rolling hilles along Old Hwy 101 with great ocean views. At about mile 5 you see where the course goes up on Torrey Pines Road climbing about 420 feet in just under a mile. It then levels off for about 2 miles before it starts to descend down to La Jolla Cove for a nice cushy and grassy finish. Temperatures were in the 50s and 60s making it perfect running weather.

When we finally made it to the starting line, we made a quick bathroom stop with no waiting in line at all (#1), took a quick picture of the dynamic duo (SM and LW), stepped on the mats with our Championchip-enhanced shoes, and officially started our race. For the first mile or so, we were the only runners on the course making for a nice, easy and stress-free start (#2). We were at the very back of the race with not a single runner behind us (#3). LW was off to a quick start leaving me and Skip in her dust. Bee who started just a tad before us was methodically passing the 7:30 am starters one by one.

Skip and I hung out for the most part through the first half of the course while we discussed important life issues like women, boot camp, bosu, the beauty and complexity of the previous night's Cabernet, my lobster dinner--how it could be delicate and robust at the same time. We got to mile 5 and a half and started climbing up Torrey Pines Road. I shuffled my way up as I maneuvered around most of the runners that were walking at this point. When I got to the top, I waited for Skip a bit. With his tall stature and yellow goalie jersey, it was easy to spot him emerge out of the throng of climbers who, unlike Skip, struggled through the dreaded hill.

At around mile 8, I saw that Skip and I were going at about a 10 min. mile pace. From this point on, with the exception of a short hill at the last mile, most of the course was on a downhill grade. I decided to stretch my legs out and see how much time I can shave off that pace. While people were putting on the brakes, I was testing my OCTR training and going down as fast as I can. This was probably the most fun part of the course for me. I imagined the runners I had to pass around as the line that one normally envisioned while descending down a single track. I cruised down to the finish, and Skip followed not too far behind me. We reunited with Bee and LW at the beer garden before catching the shuttle bus back to the start line. LW said that she must've passed everyone on the race course (#4). Our strategy worked to perfection.

From the Del Mar fairgrounds, we jogged back to the CC to complete our 17-mile day.

Because of Skip's hospitality and the OCTRunners in LJ, this was a fun and relaxing weekend with a great road half-marathon course to top it off.

Before running this race I wasn't quite sure how my body would react to doing a half-marathon after not having run on pavement for a few months. I actually felt fine, and as a result of the OCTR runs, I felt strong on the hills (both up and down).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

i f*&%!^g did it

I actually ran and finished my first ultra--the 2007 San Juan Trail 50K--on Saturday, April 7. I was so worried about the 8-hour cutoff time that I figure I'll just finish the race and take whatever time I do it in. I was also concerned about the weather, since the previous years have been hot, and I have a hard time in heat. The day before the race, I received this text, "35% DNF rate of 2006 SJT50K. Are you sure you want to run this 50K?" WTF, I thought. Geez, thanks for the encouragement. That increased my anxiety even more, but I've already registered and committed, so I figured it was better to DNF than to DNS.

Fortunately, things turned out for the good. The forecast earlier in the week called for highs of about 76 deg. F, but the day of the race, the fog took over and never left. It completely cooled the course, and if I had stopped long enough I would've felt the chill. I was having a hard time finding my rhythm in the beginning. I felt like I was going too fast at the start, and rolled each ankle. I had to stop and rest my bad ankle before I resumed running again. I caught up to a couple of runners who passed me earlier when I was resting, Tom Wilson and Dina Aman, who I ran with for a few miles. That really worked out for me. I had someone to talk to, and their pace was just right. My brother also came out to cheer and lend his support. Seeing him at the aid stations lifted my spirits more than the drinks and goodies did. He even came out with a "cheer poster" made by Karen.

The race had about 55 starters including a late starter--Jorge Pacheco--who eventually won the race. That guy passed me up and I just watched him fly up the hill. Wow!! I was too slow to get my camera out. Some OCTRunners were there too--Robo, Chaz, Rob100K, iMichelle, and Lori. iDad was also on hand marking out the last 12 miles, and Xena, the Trail Goddess came out to cheer, but this slow one missed her. I didn't see Maz man, but apparently he was there as well.

I finished the 31 miles in 7:12:50 and very pleased with it. I could've done better if I'd had at least another month or so to train on hills. I cruised out of the Blue Jay aid station (mile 19) at about 4:06 way ahead of my projected 4:45. The last 12 miles were a killer which featured about 3400' in elevation gain including Horsethief Trail which climbs about 1355' in 1.4 miles. Hill, hill, and more hill training--that is something to remember for next time.

But for now, I'm just savoring the sweet accomplishment.

Click here to see more photos.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

ready or not...

... I'm doing the San Juan Trail 50K (SJT50K). This will be my first ultra event. I don't think I'm completely ready for this yet. I feel that I still needed at least another month or so to train. But here I am, just a couple of days before it, and I'm actually feeling pretty calm and confident about it. I wasn't so a few days ago. There's an 8-hour cutoff and I have some serious doubts about making it in. Apparently this is one tough course, and some top athletes have come in at about 6 and a half hours. However, I decided yesterday or the day before that I'm approaching this just as a loooong training run (with aid stations to help me along the way). It makes it easier to think of it that way. I'm determined to finish it. And if I cross the line after the 8-hour cutoff, I'll be ok with that too.