Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Race Report: Pre-season Burn Series, Series 1 (A Mini-tri!)

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for your comments & cheering on my 1/2 marathon report!  Thanks so much - I sure loved and appreciated them!  Once I got time and space to dedicate to writing it, the writing was enjoyable and the finishing even sweeter.  I do love to write and share a race report!

So there I was, having this little new year slump, when what should I stumble upon online but a NEW mini-triathlon series located close to me!  (Talk about your "woo-woo" moment!)  It's the "Pre-season Burn Series," a series of 3 triathlons on the College of San Mateo campus on January 16, February 13, and March 13.  Each event comprises a 200 yard swim in the new aquatic center pool (plush!), a 6-mile bike ride (10k actually, which is a little more) on a type of new stationary bike called the "Wattbike," and a 1.5 mile "rolling loop" course through the campus.  This distance is sometimes called a "super sprint," which is shorter than a sprint distance; there's no standard distance for sprint distance, but the Pre-season Burn Series is about half of a regular sprint.  

Well.  Y'all know I do love me a triathlon.  The question was, should I wait until February or March, or do it now?  Ha ha ha ha ha!  Yep, you got me:  you know that wasn't a question at all. :-)  I was all fired up to do it ASAP!  Since the series was new, I figured it would be okay to do a race-day registration.

So...even though the race was somewhat casual and I told myself, "It's just like a workout," I still slept really poorly the night before and was waking up every hour or so.  Typical pre-race stuff.  Then - YAWN - up bright and early and before my family on a Sunday morning, tip-toeing around (not so quietly - the orthotics in my shoes squeaked like mad) and getting ready.  Because Sunday is Kids' Donut Day in our house, I dashed off to the donut shop and picked up their donuts.  The glazed twists were HOT out of the fryer, but the donut shop people were happy to glaze a few of them with chocolate frosting.  We usually only get two, but hot donut?  Yes, please!  Part of one of them ended up as part of the 'Breakfast of'...well, this triathlete anyway.  That, and a heaping cup of coffee.  And some nuts.

Thus fueled, I was out the door and on campus by 6:30 a.m.   Start time was scheduled for 8 a.m., with packet pickup/registration 6:00-7:30 a.m.  When I arrived, the event staff were just arriving, so I ended up waiting around until about 7:15.  I walked around, did a little hula practice as I watched the sunrise.  Being a Sunday, on-campus parking was free (yeay!), so I didn't have to pay extra for waiting.

The setting up - ooo, all misty and mysterious!

I registered, and wandered around until it was time for the race to start.  Pre-race, the Wattbike folks helped everyone determine their settings and try them out.  They ride more like a regular bike than a spin bike - "coasting" will not snap your foot off, for example - and the computer monitor has all kinds of cool features, such as stroke analysis graphing, so that you can see which side of your body is delivering more power and you can see how you need to adjust your pedaling to get more power on the upstroke.  The front wheel has a huge fan inside, so with 10 of them set up along the pool deck, it sounded like a wind tunnel! :-)  I'm glad I took a little time to check them out before the race.  That was another great part of this event - everyone had the same equipment for the bike portion, although most folks had bike shoes and thus a power advantage from being able to clip into the pedals.

It turned out that I was in wave 4, which didn't end up starting until 9:30!  That's a lot of time to mill around and drink coffee and go to the bathroom about 50 times.  I took a little time to walk around the run course, which sure beat standing around and trying not to stare at the guys in their Speedos.  I'm glad I did the walkabout, because I was able to see where the hills were before the thick fog set in!  The morning had started rather clear, but you could hardly see buildings that were right across from each other as the morning progressed.

I felt a little lonely and bored - no one there seemed to want to chat - so I fired up Twitter and Facebook and got some good cheering up before the race.

On Facebook:  "I forgot how much of this sport is hurry-up-and-wait...
but at least there's lots of lovely coffee!"

Great thing #2 about the race:  Everyone in the wave got their own pool lane!  After the Lompoc tri, this was a relief, because even though everyone was really nice about sharing, I felt compelled to go a little faster than I felt comfortable going.  After the men's wave before ours, I grabbed a bike that would correspond to a lane fairly close to the pool ladder, set up transition and bike, and then waited for the go-ahead.

And then, we were off!  Only 8 times across the pool, but I still felt really rushed and like I wasn't getting enough air, so I broke from the front crawl into a breaststroke.  (I'm a slow swimmer anyway, and my pace is the same for either one, so I knew it wasn't going to cost me to do this.)  I was the last one out of the pool - had to pause a moment at the ladder to catch my breath before heaving out of the pool and onto the bikes.

Transition went fairly quickly, although it seemed reeeeeally slow when everyone was already on their bikes pedaling away.  Putting on my tights and tech shirt was a bit tricky, and of course having to tie my shoes was a bit of a pain, but on the other hand, no shoes to change after the bike!  I jumped on and stated pedaling like mad.  I made it my goal to maintain the revolutions-per-minute that the Wattbike guy recommended, and I liked the way it counted down the meters.  I could also see my neighbor's monitor, so I made it my goal to catch up with her.  Whew!  Burn, baby, burn!  Oh, and it turns out I drop things off of my bike during a race, even when the bike is stationary! *blush*  My electrolyte water bottle didn't quite make it back into the rack.  One of the nice tri staffers put it back for me. :-)  Another one of the nice tri staff came around and was writing down our names so they could record the bike times in the computer system (we wore chips during the race).  "Wow," he remarked to me, "You're kicking ass!"  Being the queen of delayed repartee, of course I didn't think of my response - "And you're taking names!" - until after he moved on. Oh well.  I was delighted to jump off the bike before a few other people, and I was off to the run...well, after the initial leg wobbles wore off, before then it was more of a quick stagger.  

I was glad to know what to expect on the run!  I felt like that helped me keep a good pace for me, and I kicked it up on the last bit.  The woman I "passed" on the bike blew past at about the halfway point - "I knew you'd catch me on the run!" I grinned - I tried to keep pace, but no dice.  Luckily there wasn't anyone around when I made my muttering-to-myself sprint to the finish!

"43:47" called the gentleman at the finish line.  Huh?  Wow!

Greetings from...the Finish line!
(Isn't it weird how foggy it got after sunrise?)

It turns out I placed 39/41 overall - yes, with all else being equal, that's still way at the back of the pack.  I think it was a pretty fast field, though.  The top 10 were sub-30 minutes (fastest time was 25:06), the next 19 were sub-40 minutes, and 8 were sub-50 minutes, and 2 were sub-60 minutes.

I was quite happy with my time, though.  I'm not sure if an equivalent time would be possible in a full-distance sprint tri with my regular bike (that would be 1:27:34 for 400 yard swim, 12.5 mile bike, and 3 mile run).  I think the bike monitor helped me push harder, and I'm sure not having to worry about steering and road conditions made it much easier to just pump out the distance.  Plus I think it gave me a taste for what a better bike could do - I don't think I could get equivalent speed out of my current bike or my limited "real bike" skills.  The most equivalent 2x-this-distance race I can think of was the See Jane Tri - my time was 1:46:40 for 400 m swim, 11 mile bike, 3.1 mile run - but the bike was much more hilly.  Lompoc, with 500 m swim, 11 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run, was 1:39:06.  It's so hard to compare sprint triathlons.  But I think it's safe to say that even though I feel like I haven't improved a whole lot, I can claim some improvement.  And that is a really, really good feeling.

So...nice setup, good swag (t-shirt and hand towel, all the Starbucks I could drink, sugar-free flavored electrolyte drinks), great staff and volunteers:  this series is a winner!  I'd highly recommend it, especially for folks who want to get a taste of triathlon without having to do a full sprint distance or lug a wetsuit, bike, etc.  I hope to do at least one more of these.  I think next time I'd see about buying a guest pass for the posh athletic center and trying out the facilities (or even better, warming up in the other lanes of the swimming pool).

It's also a good feeling to meet my Q1 event-per-quarter goal already!  And yes, OF COURSE I'm doing something for Lori of Finding Radiance's "1st Annual Bloggers Healthy Heart Weekend"!  Check it out!  

The Not-So-Weekly Update

Well.  In the grand scheme of what a lot of you all and your families are going through, my main health-and-fitness gripe is pretty much a non-issue.  My 6 pounds of holiday overage is still hanging in there.  So, apparently, are some not-so-good food choices (see "donuts as 'Breakfast of Triathlete'" and sundry highly caloric-yet-healthy weekend madness).  No, it's not muscle, because my pants are a little tighter around the tummy and I haven't upped my strength workouts.  The weekday feedings go pretty well, the weekends haven't quite as much, so I've got something to work on there.  

On the other hand, the good news is that my blood glucose numbers are great!  I haven't reported in awhile - 30 day average is 98 overall and 101 fasting, with the last 7 days being 101 overall and 105 fasting (darn today's PMS number for messing with the curve!).  I've also been getting new and fun activity - my hula class is a blast, I found a cute, swishy-yet-fitnessy skirt at Goodwill to banish my very non-Aloha-spirited skirt envy I felt during class #2, and I think I like the deceptively difficult 30-minutes-of-not-tangling-self-in-exercise-bands (aka "Transformer" class) at the gym.  Work craziness keeps messing with my overall gym schedule, but I'm at least hanging in there with my basic minimum (30 minutes, 5 days, at least 1 strength).

How About a New New Year?

Maybe we should do a New Year's do-over on the first day of the lunar new year.  (Because seriously, I think we've had quite enough of the funky stuff in January, don't you?)  February 3, 2011 begins the year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac and year of the Cat in the Vietnamese zodiac.  Bunnies, kitties...what's not to love?  

Kittehs make everything better

Update - 2 minute plank for the PLANKTASTIC PLANKATHON!

I'm not big on planks.  In fact, when I saw that Foodie McBody and Josie of YumYucky were having a "The Planktastic Plankathon Challenge," well, I tried to studiously ignore it.  I mean, I thought I could only do a 30 second plank, and there were folks like Sagan, the Queen of All Things Planky, doing 6+ minutes!

But then, I saw that Foodie McBody posted a video of her 88-year-old mom doing a plank, and I was won over.  I had to get off my bum and on my toes and forearms!

So I grabbed Thing 1, our camera with video powers, and my stop watch, and assumed the position.  When I got to 1:30, I knew I had to go for 2 minutes, and what do you know?  I probably didn't do it very well, but I did it!  (Well, if moving my feet a little is okay, I did.)

Raw "Planktastic Plankathon!" footage
(which I think makes it even funnier)

"Why did you do that?" asked Thing 1.  "Wait - don't tell me - it's for your blog, isn't it?"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Race Report: Las Vegas Rock & Roll Half Marathon Weekend!

Or, The 27,667 Long-freakin' Steps (and Then Some)

If you were on Twitter or Facebook this morning, I bet you weren't expecting the write-up of my experience at the Las Vegas Rock & Roll Half Marathon!  This took a long time to write, for many reasons, but oddly enough my mojo-restoring mini-sprint triathlon this morning got the "I'm going to finish this thing!" writing juices flowing!

The Las Vegas Rock & Roll Half Marathon wasn't just a race--it was an entire weekend experience.  It wasn't just an entire weekend experience, though.  It was the culmination of months of...well, I'd like to say hard and consistent training, but it wasn't that, either...more like scraping together enough training to feel okay about completing the course within the cutoff time.

This is a long one.  Sit back, grab a cup of your stimulating beverage of we go!

The Tribal Invasion

It all started when MizFit and Bookieboo decided to run the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.  Lots of bloggers got excited about the idea, and Foodie McBody offered a place to stay on the Strip.  I gave my husband "pretty eyes" (wide eyes with batting eyelashes; my daughter does that quite effectively when she wants something) and mentioned something about it being the ideal Christmas gift.  So when I got the go-ahead, I jumped on it:  told Foodie I was in, registered for the race, and booked a flight.

Thus committed, I started training.  But then, as regular readers know, my training went awry.  Each time I ran, I had these shooting pains in my leg, starting around my ankle.  I ended up resting the leg, getting a referral from my doctor for a podiatrist, and needing to get new shoes, orthotics, and an ankle brace.  *sniff*...gone were the days of cheap running shoes!  On the other hand, my new shoes (New Balance 1123s) are super comfy!

Oddly enough, a weekend that had seemed like it was going to be "Fit Bloggin' West" started dwindling:  life circumstances and injuries saw lots of people cancel their plans to be there.  I was a little worried about ending up as the lone blogger, but luckily Foodie McBody and her daughter, Jr. McBody, were still game, as were several other members of the healthy living tribe.  I would still be in good, if fewer, company.

I Lost My Modesty in SFO

So I packed my bags, did my pre-trip freaking out (eeeek!  I'm going to big, bad Las Vegas!  Without my family!  How am I going to get to the hotel?  What am I going to eat?  EEEEEEK!), and the next morning I drove over to the airport.

The trip was quite smooth.  I guess my only weird moment was ending up in the security line that went through those new scanners.  I wasn't crazy about the idea - you have to stand with your arms up inside the thing, which seems kind of demeaning.  However, they don't project your image on a screen for everyone to see, thank goodness...although, heck, the TSA might be able to spin off a little side business, offering people a "souvenir photo" of their scanning.  Commemorative t-shirts, maybe? I think a photo shirt with the slogans "The TSA Didn't Touch My Junk..." or "My Mom Went Through the SFO Security Checkpoint and All I Got Was this Stupid T-shirt" might work.

[image courtesy of Wikimedia commons...didn't feel like showing the stock photo everyone's seen in the news already]

The plane flight went well (with the most funny pre-flight talk I've ever heard). I enjoyed the marvelous company of Charlotte Hilton Andersen...well, not in person (bummer!), but through her incredible new book, The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything!  I finished this book later in December.  In Mythbusters fashion, Charlotte and the Gym Buddies put various fitness programs to the test.  I loved reading about each of the experiments, and the pros & cons of the various fitness programs they did.  I adore Charlotte's writing and sense of humor, and it was such a treat to have it in book form!  As MizFit mentioned in her review, it's also a fitness memoir. It goes deeply into Charlotte's personal experiences and how they affected her fitness experience.  I think my only word of caution would be about some of the personal essays (in particular, the December chapter's).  I don't know everyone's experience with sexual assault, so just be forewarned if reading about it would trigger mental or emotional pain that you would prefer not being triggered.  Who of us wouldn't feel pain to read of anyone going through that experience?  I found it painful and uncomfortable to read about; not something I've had to go through myself, but it makes me so angry that "people" treat other people like that.  No one deserves it.  Anyhow.  The personal essays give context and depth to Charlotte's fitness experiments.  I especially found her treatment of body image issues to be powerful, and I think that it could be healing for many (women in particular) to read her insights.

I arrived in Las Vegas and met up with Jr. McBody to share a cab.  There were tons of people, and it took awhile to get a cab to the Expo.  Not only were the foot racers in town, but the National Finals Rodeo folks were there, too - that explained all the people sporting cowboy hats!

Plastic Is Burning

We arrived at the Expo and met up with Foodie.  I was relieved to get my packet and t-shirt, and then we hit the expo.

Can you spot the REAL showgirl?

I was pretty much unmoved by the merchandise...that is, until we hit the One More Mile booth!  Oh my!  So many funny shirts and bondi bands, so little room in my suitcase!  I figured a polar fleece bondi band was a good pick, since it might be cold the next morning.  I got the one that read "Race Day Strategy:  Start off slow, then back off."  Then I found the shirt I'd seen and admired at a race: "Does this shirt make my butt look fast?"  I had to get the "I thought they said 'rum'" one, and then I saw one with a penguin and the phrase "No Need for Speed."  So many others, but really, how many technical shirts does a girl need?  Now I have to figure out which shirts to weed out of the shirt drawer.

Pre-race jitters at the Expo.  And with good reason!

Candy?  Or sushi?  So confusing....

The OTHER thing I was looking forward to on this trip was the opportunity to see the Cirque du Soleil show "O," which I'd heard was amazing and had hoped to see if I ever made it to Vegas again.   (The last time I went was 13 years ago; our company sent us all out there to see the Cirque du Soleil show "Mystere."  It was the day after we'd just hosted a party, and I was beat, so the frenetic atmosphere of Vegas was a bit much.  Had someone told me that 13 years later I'd be going back to do a 1/2 marathon, I would never have believed the person.  I think I would have fallen off my chair laughing, with maybe a floor roll or two.  I know that's kind of a cliche image, but it would have truly been my response.)

By this time, I was pretty ravenous.  We ended up eating at the Bellagio, in a restaurant called Yellowtail, which is a Japanese sushi bar-style place.  The young waiter cracked us up ("Hi, I'm server_name, and I'm going to be hanging out with you tonight!"  Uh huh.), he initially offered me black tea or Earl Grey when I asked for tea (but it worked out okay and I ended up with the desired green tea, in a handsome cast-iron teapot), and the menu had some interesting specials.  One, which Jr. ordered, was a crab sushi roll with watermelon Pop Rocks candy.  I suspect this is the one that the chefs laugh about people ordering, because candy in sushi?  Yep, works about as well as you'd think.  Everything else (tempura, spicy tuna roll, and roasted eggplant) was superb.

At one point, I noticed water shooting past the windows.  We saw people going out the French doors, and sure enough, there was a small patio, from which we had a splendid view of the Bellagio dancing fountains!




So, the show "O" was as fantastic as I'd imagined.  It's hard to describe...amazing music, lighting and sets are gorgeously dramatic, and acrobatic feats that make you go "wow!"  Definitely worth it!

So then, we took a cab (I've never ridden in so many cabs in my life!) back to the hotel...

Nice view, eh?

...and everyone tried to get to sleep....

[On Facebook...]
"ready as I'll ever be" - Foodie McBody, December 4, 2010, 11:15 pm
"Likewise.  Go to sleep!!!  ;-D " - my responses, 11:18 p.m.
"Why aren't YOU sleeping?!? LOL
OK, I'm shutting down now." - Foodie's response, 11:21 p.m.

I always get lousy sleep the night before a race, and this was no exception.  But eventually I drifted off for awhile...

"Go, Johnny, Go"

Then all of a sudden, it was 5 a.m.  

Those who knew me before "opposite life"
 know how completely opposite it is for me to
(1) be willingly awake at this hour...
(2) ...for the act of running, no less...
(3) ...looking quite this chipper. 

Our grand plan was to get ready, then to wander over to the Sahara and get a cab from their back entrance and arrive near the Mandalay Bay on a side street across the strip.  And, other than a few very tense moments of wondering whether a cab would show up, we got one.  And sure enough, we got dropped off pretty much across the strip from the starting line.

The atmosphere of intense, palpable excitement caught me by surprise.  There were helicopters hovering over the starting area, tens of thousands of people excitedly milling about, and scenes from the event were broadcast onto the Mandalay Bay jumbotron!!!

"Hi, Mom!"

What they don't tell you?  Is how unbelievably far the starting line and corrals for the wave starts are from the bag check.  We got our obligatory photo with tinsel boas, and then I packed 'em up and did the hike (at least a good 1/2 mile round-trip) to rid myself of the bag and hit the port-o-potties.

A little pre-race hijinx

So back to the corral.  Foodie told me that Mrs. Fatass was there, at the front of the corral, except she meant her corral.  So I wandered around, checking out the chest of every brown-haired woman in Corral #31, looking for a "Mrs. Fatass" t-shirt, and shyly calling out "Sue?"  Er, sorry if I creeped anyone out....

So after milling a bit, and watching Elvises and even an Elvis SpongeBob SquarePants pass under the starting arch, our group began to slowly move forward.  I realized that yes, I felt like I had to pee again.  Our group took at least 40 minutes to inch our way to the start, but I'm so glad they had a nice, gradual wave start and no one got trampled.  And oh, look!  There by the start!  Port-o-potties, all in a row, with lines that didn't seem long.  Amazing how long it seems for 5 people to go pee when your wave has already started.

Go, Pubsgal, Go!
(And shouldn't that guy be going the other way?)
(And what am I doing, stopping to take a picture?!?  GO ALREADY!!!)

When I emerged, the Blues Brothers impersonators were belting out "Go!  Go Johnny Go!" and I abandoned my idea of a slow start.  I pelted through the starting arch and down the strip to catch the back of the pack.

As I trotted along, I kept an eye out for Mrs. Fatass, and I was in luck!  I was so happy to finally meet her in person!  We walked for awhile and chatted about our weekends so far, and other stuff.  I wasn't sure how long she'd want company, so I was very happy and honored to read in her report that I was a welcome distraction! ;-)  I decided to jog on ahead at the 5K marker, and so we snapped a photo and continued with our races.

Pinch me!!!  It's the fantabulous Mrs. Fatass and me at the 5K marker!  
(So excited to finally meet my "bikini mentor"! ;-)
(And is it bad form to wear a tri hat at a running race?  Ooops.)

The part of the race on the main strip was tons of fun.  There's plenty to see, lots of music (and not just the race bands) playing, and just a great vibe.  I was delighted at how well-stocked the aid stations were throughout the entire race, although I found myself having to watch my step a bit from all the dropped & crushed cups in the middle of the road.  The volunteers were great, and my mind boggles at the logistics of planning and implementing something like this.

"What the **** Was I Thinking?!?"

So I "wogged" along merrily until about mile 6.  That's when I had to start dealing with not only the mental part of the race, but also the distinct lack of inspiration along the course.  It was the section between The Strip and Downtown.  We passed pawn shops, liquor stores, apartment buildings, bleak wedding chapels, a Federal building.  We did get a brief enjoyable glance at Fremont Street and some of the famous old neon signs of Las Vegas.

Foodie McBody likened this part of the race to the "Harry Potter maze of death." Here is the map of my thoughts during the taunting that was miles 6-9:

The scenery didn't have as much to offer, it was hard, but that's when the camaraderie seemed to kick up a notch.  People on the course chatted with each other, I met a lovely fellow racer from Zappos, I stopped to get photos and take photos of other racers at the part where you could see the old "Las Vegas" neon signs.

Sometimes, you just gotta be a tourist.  Even in the middle of a race.

I wasn't the only one who waved my hands in the air like I didn't care (au contraire - like several others, I did care about getting puffy hands). I liked offering to take photos of some of the couples, because I know it's tough to get both parties in the picture.

"Party in the Pint?" Yes, please.

After passing mile 8, I entered the undiscovered country:  this is as far as my training, such as it was, had taken me.  It's funny, though.  I never thought that I wouldn't make it.  Not really.  Oh, sure, I knew that if injury happened, I'd quit, or if I felt seriously ill, I would quit.  These things happen to people during races sometimes.  But barring those, I was going to keep going.

Any Port-o-Let in a Storm

So I was very glad about the amount of facilities on course.  Because all that hydration is going to catch up with a body, and sometimes your digestive system has its own "What were you THINKing?!?" moments.  While I thankfully didn't experience any moments needing this product, the 2 "bio breaks" probably sucked up at least 15 minutes of my race time. The one I was a little peeved about was the break where I saw one with a line of about 5 or 6 people near the medical table.  I wasn't sure where I'd find another one, and I didn't want to run with that sort of pain.  So I waited...and waited...and waited....FINALLY!  As I dashed out and around the corner, there they were:  the 20 or so general use ones with no lines.  (Someone could have told us, perhaps?  Oh well.)

"Ain't That a Kick in the Head"

So I emerged from the Maze:  hip sockets and knees aching, muscles feeling fine, and my ankles had never been better.  I'd been sticking to my food and hydration plan, but also did a bit of my usual trying new things on race day.  I tried my first Gu...hmmm, goopy.  I drank the electrolyte drink stuff.  I kept moving.

Yeay, there was music again!  I typically don't work out with any music other than the ambient stuff at the gym, so I was used to not having it, but it sure does put a spring in one's step.  I saw the back of the pack and the follow-up vehicles once I got to the strip.  I finally passed the Stratosphere...9 miles..."Christie O. does a whole one of these and swims over a mile and rides a bike 50 something miles - OMG, how???"....noticed the "Nascar Cafe" that would have impressed Thing 1...Hi, hotel!  *sigh*  "Miles to go before I sleep"...mile 10.  Oh my gosh.  Only a 5k race to go!  I'm really going to DO this thing!!!  I noticed some racers dashing back out from from one of the casinos...with beer.  Boy, that looked good!  And then I caught sight of the Mandalay Bay: the end was in sight!  Still kind of far, but in sight.  I got a little teary as I jogged along.  I was hurting, man was I hurting, but not in an injured way, so I just kept shuffling along.  At almost mile 13, our lane was next to the marathon (OMG, I cannot even imagine!) finish lane.  Then right in front of the Mandalay Bay, there were the Rat Pack impersonators, singing, "Ain't That a Kick in the Head."

Deano, you don't know the half of it.

So there was mile 13.  The sign I never thought I'd see.  The last .1 was pretty cruel, up the only "hill" on the course, and across the neverending parking lot.  And there was...the finish?  For reals?!?!

For reals!!! I wanted to get photos of this, because heaven only knows when--if ever--I'd feel like doing something like this again.  So there I was, walking and futzing with my phone, and getting a crummy picture.

"Um, Pubsgal? Isn't this when we should be racing toward our triumphant finish!?!"

Yeah, I know.  Something for your amusement: Official race photos and finish line video.  With me walking, then doing a last-few-yards' dash.  I had no idea that I would be able to view video of not only my approach to this monumental finish line, but my having crossed it, too!  Otherwise, I would not have bothered futzing with my phone. That video cracked me up, though.  It captures the tension in one of these races for a blogger: how much should I be "in the moment" and how much should I stop to capture the moment in photos.

Oh, there's the triumphant finish!
(Look like I wasn't the only one trying to catch it on film.)

Mr. Handsome-and-Handy bought the crossing-the-finish-line photo for me.  And there I am, arms raised in thanksgiving and relief, lips pursed in the hearty "Woo hoo!" of victory, bracelet glistening on one wrist (bracelet which has talismans from my girlfriends, both those I've known a long time and those whom I have met and have yet to meet through the wonderful world of blogging), cell phone in the other.

Because you just can't have too many finish line photos.
(This was taken by the guy in the other photo,
and I returned the favor for him and his running companion.)

So there I was.  Done with a half-marathon, and lapsing into what triathlete Jayne Williams dubbed "Post-Race Stupidity Syndrome."  It doesn't just happens to triathletes...or maybe it only happens to us, whether we are doing a triathlon or a foot race or whatever.  The post race was already kicking my posterior.  I wandered in a daze, and someone handed me a medal.  Huh?  Oh, yeah, medal!  Sweet bling!  I went through the photo-with-my-medal chute.  I walked in circles a few times in front of the medical tent, because I was feeling kind of iffy and I wanted to make sure I was near someone who could help if I collapsed into a heap.  I ate a banana and felt a little better, and I walked some more.  I decided I was going to be okay, and I wandered out of the finish area to gather my checked-in items.  I tried to call and text my husband, to let him know I'd survived the race, but cell phones were reduced to shiny river rocks in the post-race area.

Thank goodness I found Foodie McBody, because I needed to see a familiar face of someone who had also survived this race.  I burst into tears.  And then wiped my eyes, and mugged for a photo.

Heck yeah, we did this thing!

So here's the part not everyone mentions much in their race reports:  the getting-back-to-somewhere-in-which-one-can-collapse part.  As Foodie mentioned, it took us an hour and a half to return.  Thankfully, there were two monorails that conveyed us most of the way.  But there was also the painful journey through the bowels of the MGM Grand to the monorail felt like MILES.  I just trailed, dazed, in the wake of the McBody women, stopping with them to eat the most welcome ever tuna sandwich of my life, finally getting to the monorail - hey, a monorail!  Thing 1 would love this! - hiking through the Sahara (which was familiar from that morning), then up the driveway of the Hilton, up to the room, and aaaahhhh....Oh wait, I need ice.

Ice, Ice, Bay-beh!

So I figured out how to do an ice bath.  It was heavenly.  I followed instructions I'd read, and I ran a lukewarm tub.  I got in, put a little ice in, and then put some of the ice in a plastic bag and iced the owie parts.  Which was just about all of my joints.  My muscles felt fine (thank you, Zensah tights!!!), and I can't believe it: NO blisters.  Unbelievable.

I soaked, I was finally able to talk to Mr. Handsome-and-Handy and my merry crew.  I emerged, still munching on nuts and things, and then I felt really cold, so I bundled up and hung out in the bed for awhile.  And then we went were off for dinner at Serendipity III.  But not before the ride in the "Caustic Cab."

"It's all these people from California"

Unlike "Cash Cab," in which you have the opportunity to win fabulous wealth (or at least get reimbursed for your cab fare in a major city), "Caustic Cab" was the delightful domain of the Angry Taxi Driver.  We had taken a veritable legion of taxis over the weekend, and I was amazed that we hadn't encountered an Angry Taxi Driver until then.  He started grousing the minute we got in about how awful a weekend he was having, how people were stiffing him on his tips (astonish me!), and the like.  "It's all these people from California," he muttered as he rounded a curve.  Gulp.  We all nervously eyed each other in the back seat.  We are about as crunchy-granola California as a group could get.  On he drove, and just about every word from his lips could not have been more accurately targeted to offend us had they been calculated to do so.

I guess our silence finally soaked in.  We a little over halfway there, and he asked where we were from.

"From California!" I chirped.

"What part?" he inquired.

Oh, this was rich.  "San Francisco Bay Area!"

At that, bless him, he had the grace to laugh.  That "oh I just shot myself in the foot but good" laugh.  And we then talked about non-flammable subjects like places with beautiful scenery.

"I Just Finished a Half-Marathon, Heck Yeah I'm Going to Eat That!"

So we then enjoyed a tasty dinner at Serendipity III, where we all shared some of their frozen hot chocolate, some Kobe beef sliders (yum!!!), and I had a great crab cake salad.  We were a little worried when they only brought 2 baskets of sweet potato fries, but there ended up being more than we could finish.  We walked over to the Caesar's Palace taxi stand, and the sitting had made me stiff and sore.  I was hobbling so noticably that Jr. asked if I was okay.  I wasn't so sure...I felt kind of queasy.  But the feeling passed.  We bid a fond farewell to Jr., took a cab back to the hotel, and then, as Foodie so eloquently put it, we respectively "CRASHED HARD."

"Well, I'm Back"

The trip home went smoothly.  Hopefully I wasn't too much of a pain in the patootie about getting to the airport sufficiently early, which made us both way early for our flights.  I made it home in time to hang out with my dad (who was visiting that weekend) and Mr. H&H until it was time to pick up the Things from school.  Oh, it was so good to see everyone!

Of course, the kids were curious if I'd "won."  It's hard to explain how I feel great about a race, even with having 17,895 people kick my hiney. ;-)  My pace would not impress any of the runners out there, in fact, any snooty ones out there would scoff.  But in having a great experience with friends, and by overcoming my fear of the distance, the frustration of injury mid-training, and the minor worries about travel and logistics, I feel like I won big time.

I also feel pretty darn lucky to have only about 24 hours of feeling gross after the race.  My ankles felt a little fatigued and sore after the race, but it was a different sore than my injury, and rest + gentle activity did the trick.  In fact, I had a follow-up appointment with the podiatrist the Wednesday after I got back, and it was such a kick to tell him that I'd finished a half-marathon on foot only a few days before.

What Happens In Vegas, Stays in Vegas...

...unless you're among bloggers, in which case, it gets texted, Tweeted, Facebooked, photographed, videoed, and blogged about. Here are some other reports I've run across from those of "the Tribe," as MizFit calls those in our little corner of the blogosphere.  (If I've missed yours and you want me to link to it, please comment with the URL of your write-up!)

@FoodieMcBody - "I Finished a Half Marathon!"

@MrsFatass - "gadzooks" (Part 1) "@mrsfatass: 13.1" (Part 2 - the race!)

@EatingJourney (Mish) - "Marathon Recap, Part 1" (Part 1)

@FitMacDaddy - "Las Vegas Marathon Race Report - No Luck on Race Day"

@AHealthyDad - "Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon Recap"

@OperationJack - "Race Report: Las Vegas Rock N Roll Marathon"

And Now?

I have to admit, while I'd toyed with the idea of doing 13.1 before (in fact, it was a "maybe" on my 2010 goals list), it was the fact that I'd get the chance to do this with blogger buddies that made me commit.  I really think this article by Emily B Malone of the blog The Front Burner"You Don't Have to Run a Marathon", speaks nicely to not letting the "I'm not a real runner/athlete/healthy person if I don't go long" bug bite you.  As my mother-in-law wrote when I emailed everyone about the race, "You gotta wanna."  And this distance or longer?  You reeeeeeally gotta wanna.

I'm not sure if I ever want to go 13.1 on foot again.  I have a profound respect for the distance now.  I know I would not do so without better training.  I would definitely choose a local event, because that "not quite feeling ready but I dropped a chunk of change on this" feeling?  Sucks big time, even with modest goal of finishing before the cutoff in a walker-friendly race.  And I didn't get that same surge of excitement about the idea of trying 13.1 again as I did when I finished my first triathlon, which I know is kind of screwy, because the foot race is a part of triathlon.  This race, this distance, taught me that I can dream big, but it can only be real if I can commit to training big.  "Now" is not the right time, but you know what they say: never say never!

Monday, January 10, 2011

10 Delightful Things

I read an article by John Carroll (a columnist for once, in which he declared:
"Absence of delight is the problem."
Well, that certainly sounds like it was MY problem last week.  I had turn-of-the-year malaise.  Even as recently as Saturday, when we were taking down the tree, I started feeling a muddle of maudlin+worried.  What if next Christmas wasn't as happy as this past one?  What if something awful happens, personally, in 2011?  What if....?

Yeah.  I obviously had to snap out of THAT line of thinking.  Whether I feel anticipation or stress about the future, stuff (both good and bad) is going to happen.  And does the other shoe EVER drop quite as hard as one thinks it will?  Sheesh.  I know I'd rather spend that time feeling optimistic.

So today, I'm going to focus on 10 delightful things, no particular order (except maybe the first one):

  • I enjoyed a nice weekend with my family: everyone healthy (never EVER taken for granted, especially in the winter!), kids and their neighbor friends all getting along pretty well, doing nothing in particular.  Ahhhh.  Sure, we took down the Christmas decorations, but "ordinary time" is kind of nice, too.
  • Coffee party with Thing 2

  • It's my friend W's birthday today!  I'm so glad she was born.  We've known each other since jr. high school, and she helped get me through my teens and twenties.  We don't see each other very often anymore, but when we do, it's just like no time has passed.  (And to see her, you'd think that no time had passed, she's lovelier than ever.)

  • I got to run yesterday!  It's been awhile (almost a whole month!), but we had a nice, clear day, albeit somewhat cool (upper 40s), and I felt inspired by the folks I knew who were running the Disney Marathon.  I settled for about 1/5 the distance; I went 6 miles total, with about 1-1/2 mile of that as walking to warm-up and cool down, and a few bio and photo breaks sprinkled in there.    I think 10K is about my max right now; the half-marathon taught me that.  That may or may not change over time, of course. ;-)
  • "Start off slow then back off" - Not just another pretty race day strategy!

  • Good news in the blog world:  Debby is back from Africa! And several gals in "Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans" finished the Disney Marathon!  Crikey, 26.2?!? Christie O, Brooke, Kirsten, and Terri, I salute you!
  • They finsihed 26.2...while I was still in my pajamas!
    (Sorry, Terri, I didn't have your Twitter handle! :-/)

  • (Biz, I know you're going to disagree with me on this one, but then again, I'm one of those crazy people who loves onions.) Kale crunchies are yet another proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy...and apparently raw, vegan, organic, and gluten-free.  (And yep, just about any brand will do it for me, not just these ones.  Especially when the brand is on sale AND has a $2 off sticker on it.)  At least some of the time.  Oh wait.  If He wanted us to be gluten-free, then there would be no beer.  Then again, as the old Polka song goes, "In Heaven, there is no beer/That's why we drink it here."  Hmmm, quite the conundrum.  Well, as long as there's chocolate, we're good.
  • Kale crunchies...don't know why I love them like I do/Don't know why, I just dooooo

  • Hula class is so much fun!  It started last Monday, and I had a nice time.  Our instructor is great, and it's such a nice group of people.  I really felt it in my arms, quads, and core, even if it wasn't a drench-me-in-sweat, DOMS-for-days workout...which was nice for a change!

  • The Gym Fairy granted my wish:  they added a strength class to the schedule, on Mondays at lunchtime, AND it's only 30 minutes!  I tried it for the first time today; it's a resistance band-based strength class, and the instructor was friendly, had great enthusiasm but not over-the-top, and she showed variations where appropriate (mainly on the core exercises, thank goodness!).  I know I'm going to "respect the bands," especially tomorrow when the DOMS sets in....

  • I got to help Thing 2 learn a new math concept last night. "Homework" does usually make my list of delights, especially now that it's not my own and I'm in more of a supervisory role. But I got to explain something to Thing 2, she was in a receptive mood, and it was so fun to see her "get it" and feel excited and happy that she learned it. It's a cool feeling when something "clicks" like that.

  • They have yet to be sent, but the thank-you notes are all written! That's always a delightful feeling.

  • What to put for #10? Hmmm - there are so many things I could put for #10 - what to choose? Then I saw a Martha Beck quote that reminded me of something important, it was over on Cammy of The Tippy Toe Diet's blog and FWIW, the quote was in another entry that she linked to, not today's entry. Anyhow, that quote summarizes the rest pretty well: I live in an abundant environment. Which simultaneously delights and makes me feel grateful-humble.

Hope you all have a DELIGHTFUL Monday and week ahead!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Am I the Only One?

Am I the only one not totally fired up about it being the new year?  Who is not surging ahead with plans for 2011?  Who is not cajoling others to do the same?  It's funny, last year I was so excited to share my goals for 2010.  This year, I'm feeling kind of "meh" about it.  I guess that's one truth for me about the health & fitness journey - enthusiasm waxes and wanes, and one just has to be patient about it returning.

I'm definitely not feeling "meh" about 2010; although the last quarter wasn't exactly a blaze of glory, in general, it was a good year for me.  I successfully accomplished most of my goals.  I did 6 events total, with at least one event per quarter: completed two sprint triathlons, did the bike leg of a tri relay, racewalked a 5K, finished (albeit slowly) a half marathon that was a "maybe" goal, and I even got to run a race in Kauai!  Even with my ankle injury, I was able to meet my goal of 1000 miles of activity this year (activity=walk, run, swim, bike, spin, elliptical, etc.), which I logged in Daily Mile.  I did some things that my former weight held me back from doing: horseback riding, riding a roller coaster, and wearing a bikini!  I completed half of my "pay it forward" items (3 caps) and started on the second half (a dog sweater).  And most importantly, I was able to maintain my good health numbers, including keeping my a1c in the 5% range all year.

So for 2011?  Well, my only plans so far are "more of the same."  I definitely want to continue my "event-per-quarter" plan, to reward being consistent with exercise, and do at least one triathlon (hmmm...maybe this is the year for an Oly?).  I've enrolled in a hula dance class, something I've always wanted to try, for January.  Other than that, I'm going to stay open to inspiration.  I'm also going to swipe my 2011 mission from blogger Debra Sapp-Yarwood, who described a healthful life so beautifully: "Live joyfully most of the time, eat healthfully most of the time, exercise most days and treasure whatever body happens."