Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mission Accomplished: Calistoga to Napa, 26.2 miles

Well, I finally did it: the Napa Valley Marathon, a year later than planned, definitely much more slowly, but with a wonderful running companion by my side the whole way and a pleasantly strong finish. Because I'm tired and writing this only for some closure, here's the brief version:
  • Grumbling knees during training made me very nervous about completing the course within the 6-hour limit. My longest training run was just under 20 miles and my pace snail-like. My goal became simply to finish.
  • The weather was pretty stinky - but after all, what kind of idiot signs up for a March marathon? :)
  • The rest of the pack hared off like they'd heard there would be free wine at the finish. (Was there? Did we miss it?)
  • We set out slowly and for several miles were in the rather depressing position of third-from-last. But we did overtake a fair few folk after mile 22 :)

  • The only scary part was when my knee squawked suddenly and very loudly at mile 18. Yikes, 8 miles still to go. I fed it 2 Tylenol, walked for a bit and made a deal: if it settled down and allowed me to continue, I'd never ask it to go this far again. We reached a truce, the jogging re-commenced, amazingly pain-free.
  • By mile 20 I figured out I had a 'budget' for 15 minutes per mile and would still be within the time limit. This gave me enormous confidence, and we started to overtake a few folk who had started out perhaps a bit fast. Far from hitting the wall, I realized I was plenty strong enough to finish and sped up a little for each remaining mile.
  • We crossed the line in 5 hours 36. More importantly, our marriage had also stayed strong, with no cross words or insults traded!
  • I was the very lucky and surprised recipient of a Wholefoods gift basket as a result of a random drawing during the awards ceremony. Hubby kindly carried it for me, and reported lots of respectful looks from people who presumably thought he'd won the race :)
  • The distance was far, far easier than I'd anticipated, probably because my pace didn't drain my glycogen reserves. The training (both the time commitment and fatigue after long runs) were the truly hard part for me. That, and the deal I made with my knees, mean no more marathons for me. But I'd love to do some more halves and the Skirt Chaser sounds like a whole lot of fun! I'm switching now to shorter and hopefully faster distances.

Tips & thoughts for slow/first-time runners considering signing up for Napa:
  • This is a small marathon with lots of thoughtful touches and great volunteers.
  • If your pace is likely to be under about 4.5 hours, or you have a running buddy, I reckon it's a nice one to do.
  • But if you're on your own and slower, it's likely to be a long and lonely slog at the back of a thinly spread pack: I would have struggled hugely without hubby to chat to.
  • If you're slow, bring your own Gu: this was supposed to be available at two aid stations but the first had run out.
  • Also if you're slow, be aware of somewhat inconsiderate traffic which won't hesitate to share the road with you, especially during the first half :(
  • Plan for rain and if you get better weather, that's a bonus. In any case, you'll be able to wait on the warm, dry bus until shortly before the start.
  • Much has been written about the unkind camber of the road - in fact I didn't find this a particular problem. However, if you're slow, you'll probably have to run in the bike lane anyway, to steer clear of the cars.
  • It's not an ideal course for supporters, but definitely possible at strategic points.
  • Worst case, there is a sag bus to pick you up and get you home.
  • Finishing facilities are great and indoors, with proper restrooms, showers, and food.
Many thanks to:
  • The NVM organizers, especially for deferring my entry from 2010 to 2011 and allowing hubby to do likewise, so we could still run together.
  • The hundreds of wonderful volunteers who worked in the rain and cheered us on.
  • Oak Knoll Inn for their unofficial aid station featuring home-made sorbets!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Going Dark For a While

Speedy Running Friends, I've realized that my stumbling efforts to progress beyond 7 miles are not making very scintillating reading.

What's more, I'm pretty frantic right now trying to get my head around all the various aspects of starting a new business, so both the training and the blogging about it are taking a bit of a back seat.

In my defense, this blog was only really supposed to be a 7-month intrepid tale of a first-time marathoner. However, knees and life sort of got in the way (funny, that), and 16 months later, I admit that the most I'll ever manage may be 26 miles in one week. So, this blog is going dark for a while as I trot around our neighborhood slowly, regularly and without news-worthy speed or drama.

Rest assured, I haven't quite given up on my marathon yet, and I'm taking Asha's recommendation of reading Chi Running seriously, to see if that brings me some benefit. In any case, I'm sufficiently hooked on running to want to keep doing it and I'm greatly consoled that my favorite race route, across the Golden Gate Bridge, is a very manageable 12k. My worst-case scenario is still one of the most beautiful runs in the world and I'm grateful to have two legs, no matter how wonky, to carry me.

Naturally, if I do run stagger through the Napa Marathon, you'll be hearing about it. Otherwise, if you happen to pass me on the much shorter route from Sausalito to San Francisco, I hope you'll give me a friendly wave.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Need a Hedgehog Ramp

This might be my most cryptic blog title every - my apologies. Allow me to elaborate.

In the UK, especially in rural areas, like the part of Scotland where I spent some of my childhood, we have things called cattle grids. These are deep pits with a sort of rack laid across them, placed at strategic points where cars and pedestrians are allowed through, but livestock should not venture . Basically, their hooves can't negotiate the slats and so savvy sheep and cows stay on the correct side. (As a child, there was a memorable moment where I fell down between these slats with my tiny feet, but that's another story.)

Anyway, these ingenious devices pose a terrible hazard to hedgehogs, who seem to fall in there quite often and then can't get out. I assume that means a slow and sad death for these creatures. Happily, many caring cattle grid owners are now installing ramps to allow our prickly friends to climb out of their predicament.

Right now, there is more than a touch of hedgehog-in-the-hole about me. My running was already getting less attention than it deserved - excuses like dark mornings and a (useful, important) hunt for a new career were creeping in. Then I added getting really, really tired.... house guests.... obligatory extra shifts at work... and finally, a stinking cold. I don't believe I've done any exercise for 2 weeks; my nutritional intake is currently appalling and all I want to do is knock back another flu remedy and snuggle in bed.

I'm totally in the cattle grid and could really use a ramp round about now. Tomorrow, I'm planning a short run (or a run-walk, if necessary) and I need to start chowing on some serious fruit and veg, rather than Halloween candy.

Have you any suggestions for easy, nutritious, comfort food? This hapless hedgehog thanks you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rude Awakenings

OK, I need your help.

What tips do you have for stumbling out of bed in the darkness for early morning running, rather than turning the alarm clock off and grabbing another half hour of sneaky snooze time?

I prefer to do my shorter runs around 6AM, because then the rest of the day's distractions can't get in the way. Also, it just seems more efficient to shower only once :)

However, I doubt anyone in the northern hemisphere has missed the fact that the days are getting distinctly shorter. And I'm really struggling to lug myself out from under the duvet, which means a few runs are not happening, or I lose a chunk of time from the other end of the day - also not good.

I did think about getting one of those alarm clock lamps which gradually get brighter before it's time to wake up, but Beloved Husband was concerned that this habit, once learned, would wake me up at 4AM in summer, too. It would be nice if I could find a method for getting me out of bed (and out the door in the darkness), without disturbing his last few minutes of sleep too much.

Any suggestions? When and how do you fit in your winter-time runs?

Image thanks: Upcast Magazine

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New Years Resolutions (Yes, in September)

Suffice to say, reading a post about how half-hearted I've been recently in my running efforts will be boring for you. Heck, it's pretty boring for me to read my own repeated excuses. So let's not go there. If you care about my floundering efforts to juggle priorities, you can get more of that here.

Instead, let's focus on the future. This time of year feels even more like New Year to me than January, probably because of the new crispness in the air and all the back-to-school marketing in the media. Oh yes, and because I work at a university where 1600 newbies just arrived :)

I'm older and wiser than I was this time last year, because I recognize a marathon may not actually be within my grasp, and because I now see that signing both myself and my husband up (without asking him) was a tad foolish. However, there's no point crying over spilled milk.

Here's the plan:
  • I have just under 6 months to train, to get from 6 miles to 26. Should be perfectly do-able, and if I can manage 20 in training, I'll gamble on the rest.
  • Knee-strengthening exercises have now been promoted to the importance of "don't go to bed until they're done".
  • My goal is simply to complete the course on feet, hands, or elbows, in under 6 hours (the cut-off time). Speed is now irrelevant!
  • I will run 3 times per week and do a strength workout twice. Turning the alarm clock off is no longer an option, no matter how dark it is outside.
Last weekend, hubby and I ran together for the first time in ages (he's battling knee pain too) and it was great to be back trotting beside my soul mate. We were also rewarded by spotting a seal lounging around on a rock, which is a rare thing in our neighborhood.

I'm taking that as a good omen, and a timely reminder of the pleasures of running.

Quick housekeeping note: Struggling to be Speedy is the younger and more reclusive cousin of Struggling to be Stylish. If you're kind enough to be visiting from a home decor, crafts, design or organizing site, then you might feel more at home over there.

Image thanks: Edgewater Technology

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Housekeeping Notes

Housekeeping, part 1:

If you're kind enough to be visiting from a home decor, crafts, design or organizing site, then you might feel more at home with my other blog, Struggling to be Stylish. On the other hand, if you enjoy the mutterings of a reluctant runner, be my guest and read on.

Last weekend's 8 miles passed pleasantly and without pain, so I guess this marathon is not a totally dead duck yet. I do still need to get myself out the door for this weekend's effort, but that's a small detail I'm ignoring as I sit here in comfort with laptop and mug of tea, watching Sunday afternoon tick away :)

My head is still spinning regarding a number of strands of my life, of which serious running training is just one. I'm grateful to Shelley, who last week wisely commented: "I can only focus on a few things at a time, myself... The older I get the more I realise it's no longer time vs. money, but time vs money vs energy." Well said, Shelley.

Housekeeping, part 2:
So, on the assumption I'm not ready to give up completely just yet, I've found a few draft posts from this time last year when I first started blogging about my (planned) path from 6-miler to marathon queen. For completeness, I'm going to post these during the next few days and back-date them, so if any out-of-sync ramblings appear in your blog reader or RSS feed, my apologies, and I hope you can filter them out.

Meanwhile, when I've found the answer to my knees, my career, and a paint color for my home office, I'll be back.

Photo via: AverageBro

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Was I Thinking?

I've not exactly been neglecting my training, but I haven't been totally diligent about it, either. The past few weekends have seen me working hard on some house DIY projects, and my typical Saturday habit of run~eat~sleep is not a big help in getting a bedroom finished. And while I've been doing a few knee exercises here and there, I find I'm surprisingly forgetful in sticking to the "every other day" rule.

So it's not surprising that I'm plodding on a bit of a plateau, and, with no particular progress to report, a blog posting has not come easily to mind.

Today, however, in the middle of my regular lunchtime fitness class, I found myself firmly at the back of a very mixed pack and wondering what the heck I was thinking in signing up for a marathon? I'm feeling sluggish and all my workout gear is tight. My soul mate and running buddy has switched to biking and swimming to relieve his own cantankerous knees. Recently, my "long" runs have been just 7 miles. I need to pull another 19 out of somewhere and I honestly don't know if I have it in me. Would it be so terrible just to give up quietly and settle for running in 10k events?

How do you decide when a goal is just not within your reach? Do you keep plugging away, or give up gracefully?

Image thanks: Runnerdecals.com
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