Friday, November 20, 2015

Cowbells Aren’t Enough: Spectating an Ironman

I’ve known of people who have done an Ironman – running circle acquaintances, former Ragnar teammates, but I haven’t actually known someone who has completed at Ironman. But meet Jacky – and the other 9 IERC athletes – who did that this past Sunday. I know a ton of Ironmen now! Some to better degrees than others, but regardless, when you’re on a 140.6-mile journey in one day (let alone 17 hours), who cares who you know on that sideline right?
(credit: Ironman Arizona Facebook)
Monica and I made our way out to Phoenix on Saturday – once I hauled back from Ventura - (left Rancho Cucamonga about 12:45 pm, so 1:45 pm in Arizona) and got to Phoenix about 6:30 on Sunday evening. We’d been tracking our athletes the entire car ride, so we knew who was kicking tail and where people were in their run. We knew we’d only be there for the run, and as disappointing as that was, that’s where you saw the grit. The determination. The pain. And the finish line.
We picked up Kasey as our official Ironman sherpa, since she lives just a few miles from the course and is all over the tri circuit in Phoenix so she knows Tempe like the back of her hand. It helps she went to ASU, too, so she knew the whole Mill Ave and Tempe Beach Park area.
We caught up with our other IERC spectators about mile 25.8, just around the final corner into the finish chute and right where the runners head into their turnaround for loop 2, so two varying degrees of people out on their run. There were about a dozen of us at that point – wives, friends, moms – all out cheering on our folks all day in the rain and crazy weather that Tempe had in store. It rained on and off while we were out there, but nothing like what our athletes had endured the previous 12 hours at that point.
Jacky had no idea Monica and I were coming out – she knew we wanted to but that, much like most of our club, she thought we’d be streaming online and cheering from our couches. When we caught her at mile 25.9, she hugged her mom and made her way down the IERC line and THEN PASSED US. We yelled “HEY!” to which she turned back and screamed, realizing it was. The video is priceless – and NSFW, as there’s a little Ironman-in-pain cursing. But it’s priceless and worth your watch, especially for her freakout. 

Tips for Spectating Ironman Arizona Along the Course
Mind you, I was there for the run and run only. This is based on course info, things I know, and other snippets collected!

The swim: There's nothing like seeing thousands of athletes of varying skill levels dive into icy water for an open-water swim first thing in the morning. Swimming 2.4 miles is hard. Swimming 2.4 miles with 2800 other athletes? Harder. The  Arizona swim was previously known as the “washing machine” as it was one large, mass start (yes, seriously), but now is waved by anticipated finish time.

The pros start at 6:45 a.m.; amateurs at 7. Spectators can look down onto the water from the easternmost Mill Avenue bridge. Athletes also must pass twice beneath the Rural/Scottsdale Road bridge. There’s also plenty of places for spectators to sit along the bridges/walls to watch river-side.
The bike ride: Each loop (athletes complete three) is a little more than 37 miles. A great spot to watch the riders is at the corner of Rio Salado Parkway and McClintock Drive in Tempe. Athletes will make this turn twice on each loop, so there are six opportunities to see your favorite racer. And it's just a short walk up the concrete path to a turn-around on the run course.
The run: After dismounting their bikes at Tempe Beach Park, athletes transition to the two-loop run. There are plenty of spots to make yourself comfortable – depending how many times you want to see your athlete, or you can keep moving, too, and catch them in multiple spots along the way.
Athletes go under the Mill Ave Bridge seven times to cheering fans, friends and family members who are close enough to offer high-fives. You'll be inspired, and that stretch is a big lift for the athletes, too.
Spectating Details, Tips and Tricks
When to Go: The start is at 7 a.m. and athletes have 17 hours to finish the course, with cutoffs along the way if they're not on pace to finish by midnight. The pro men will start coming in just more than 8 hours after their start, with the pro women not far behind.
Study Up: Know the course, know where you want to be and where your athlete needs you to be (if you’re there for specific people). Figure out road closures – especially at Arizona, because it’s in the heart of Tempe, and road closures were all over the place. Thankfully we had our sherpa to get us around it all, but you’re not always so lucky!
For Inspiration: Be at the last turn before the finishers’ chute to see athletes in their most tired, often weakest, but proudest and strongest moments. See the smile on their faces as they turn that corner and hear Mike Reilly’s words. Also consider being at the finish at midnight. It's so uplifting to watch the final finishers. It is even customary for the pro winners to come back to the finish line to welcome the last competitors – an amazing testimony to athletes and their support for one another, professional or not.
Athlete Tracking: Spectators can track their favorite athlete at Click on the "Race Coverage" tab and type in a name or bib number. It will show the athlete's progress during the race as well as a projected finishing time. Note that this has a HUGE lag, because, duh, everyone is using it at the same time. Plan ahead based on your athlete’s last marked checkpoint.
Must Haves: A portable phone charger (because it will inevitably die as you try and update the athlete tracker); SNACKS (especially if you have little ones with you); weather-appropriate layers or attire. Signs, cowbells, noisemakers, high fives and a LOT of energy. Your athletes (and others!) will need it!
Parking: There are plenty of parking garages and lots on and around Mill Avenue, which is where we got in with no problems even at 6 pm on race day. Walkable to finish line and plenty of other points along the course.
More general Ironman tips hereCongratulations IERC family! We’re proud of you!
She did it! And KILLED it in 12:43! 
Have you ever gotten to spectate an Ironman? Other tips you have?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Race Recap: Surfers Point Half Marathon

November 15, 2015 | Ventura, CA

Surfers Point is another small, local race put on by Elite Sports California. I got to run my first ESC race at the West Hills Half last January, and I’d heard good things about Surfers Point, so I was excited when I was given the opportunity to pace and check it out finally. After running Ventura in September, but seeing that this course goes in the opposite direction, I was more excited to see some of the Ventura coastline you don’t get at Ventura.

After Saturday’s Lace Up 10K, Tina and I headed home for pizza, showers, and to get her to the airport. I was in the middle of doing laundry and getting things together when I realized that the expo for Surfers Point ended at 2. It was already 1:30 at this point, so I figured that since I was now really in no rush to get out to Ventura (just under 2 hours away), that I’d stick around for Doug and grab dinner with him after the football game was over.

I made it to Ventura about 8 pm and had grabbed a cheap hotel room with Patty, who I’d paced with at Revel two weeks ago. I rely on naps – I won’t lie – and after being up and going since 4:45 am with no nap, I passed out probably before 8:30. Patty asked me in the morning if the trains had bothered me, to which I replied, “What trains?” I was out cold.

We got spoiled with some beautiful weather – I had one light jacket on but shorts, compression socks, and my Beast Pacing shirt otherwise and it was beautiful. There was rain forecasted to roll in about 11 am, but you wouldn’t have been able to know given how clear it was. Spoiled – thank you, Southern California!
Small races are great because they allow for an easy morning-of packet pick up. There’s no gear check advertised so Patty and I were a little uncertain about that, but more on that in a bit. We were meeting with the pace team at 6:30, so we left our hotel at 6:15 for the quick walk around the corner, to get our bibs and shirts, and get situated before meeting with the team. My check in went something like this:

Megan: stands at the table for 5+ minutes waiting for someone
Staff: I need some folks to help check in!
Girl: jumps over
Staff: Okay, so you’ll start by asking for their last name and then finding them on the list, highlight… carries off, kind of walks away
Megan: I’m Megan _____, bib 713, right there.
Girl: Okay, so then…
Megan: I need my bib.

The bibs were sorted numerically with cardboard dividers labeling each section (700-720, for example).

Girl: grabs cardboard divider
Megan: No, I need the one that says 713
Girl: OH! Laughs awkwardly. And then what?
Megan: I need my chip.
Girl: Reaches into box and grabs any ol’ chip.
Megan: No, I need the chip that reads 713 too.
Girl: Oh!

Hands me chip, then stands there as if she expects me to walk away.
Megan: Can I get my shirt and bag, too?

So that was a hard process. I couldn’t tell if this girl was just a volunteer or part of the race staff, but it seemed really difficult to just get my bib and find out more about gear check (it existed, just not open yet).  We met up with the pace team, got our mandatory pre-race photos and get situated. The marathon started at 7 am, the half at 7:15, and the 5K/10Ks at 7:30. We saw the marathoners off (all 140 of them), got our stuff in gear check, one last porto stop and made our way into the starting chute with the 350 half marathoners. 

So I was scheduled to be the 2:30 pacer but earlier in the week someone dropped, so Vanessa asked if I'd be able to handle the 2:00 group. Mind you, the fastest I've ever paced was 2:10 and that was just last weekend at Revel. But yes, I know I can run a sub-2 on a pancake flat course and maybe this was the mental push I needed to prove that I can do it somewhere besides Fontana. Sold. 

We spent a little while in the chute, as they released "waves" 2 minutes apart - totally unnecessary in my opinion, as the race was tiny and didn't need such far-apart releases. I had a few folks who said they wanted to make sure they stayed ahead of me, or somewhere near me, but only one man, Charles, who started with me. He had run Santa Clarita the weekend before, but wanted to stick as close to me as he could. He dropped off at the second or third water stop. Sad.

So yes, I quite literally almost ran this entire race by myself. I had folks in, around and near but no one actually running with me for 11 miles! Sad times. I met a fun couple from Kansas City at mile 7 or so, and a lady who very loudly said "Oh, shit!" when I passed her because her goal was to make sure to stay ahead of me. A girl caught up to me at mile 11 and was stoked because she had started 2 minutes behind me and had CAUGHT UP TO ME. Girl was killin' it and just wanted to hang tight with me til the finish - at mile 12, I told her to turn on the gears. She gave a big smile and kicked it up a notch! I wish I had caught her name to see her final finish, but she rocked. 

The Course
Save for a few dents and dips in the road, this course is nearly flat as flat gets. There's one good incline just after the turnaround, probably mile 7 or so (turnaround about 5.2), but is gradual enough that it really cannot affect you at all! 

My Garmin indicated lowest elevation was 7 feet, highest was 78 feet. Pancakes. 

Miles 1-5: The race starts at Promenade Park, near the Ventura Pier, and heads north along the bike and walking trail along the beach and the coast. The race is early enough that there were not many folks out yet, so not too much road traffic to dodge, which was nice. The coruse heads up along a side road that parallels Highway 1, so you get to see the water literally for 13.1 miles. 

Miles 6-10: The turnaround for the half (marathon is two loops of the same course) is at 5.2ish, so it's just double-backing the way we just came. No sweat. This is the one "big" incline (re: where those 70 feet in elevation change come from), but also along the point where you're so close to the water, you get misted if the waves crash hard enough. That was pretty delightful. I know I picked it up along here but it was such a beautiful day and I couldn't believe I was so spoiled with two oceanfront courses in the same weekend

Miles 11-13.1: Somewhere around mile 10, you pass the start/finish line and head down towards the pier, much like where Ventura starts and finishes. Luckily I knew this area from September and knew it was flat, asphalt, and easy peasy to hang on to. Girl who was trying to crush her sub-2 goal caught up to me about 11 and hung tight until I told her to get moving at mile 12 and she did! I hit mile 13 at 1:58 something, so I stopped and walked the last .1 in as slow as I could muster.

That's ridiculously tiny, sorry! My final time was 1:59:02, though my Garmin read 1:59:39 at my finish, so I'm not sure where I came in short - a little too fast for the pace target (1:59:30 should have been the fastest), but I'm stoked that I was able to pull off this sub-2!

Pretty consistent, and you can tell where I certainly picked it up some! The best part for me, aside from helping a few folks make their goal at the end, is that this 1:59 didn't feel hard. It felt quite comfortable, which means I'm making some really good progress with my training and that maybe there's a PR in sight for me at Surf City (did I just say that aloud?).

Best post race food? I tell ya what, it's not Saturday's salad and mushroom empanadas. It's THESE!

Heck yes, street tacos. I devoured these suckers at the finish line while waiting for the next pacer to come in so I could pass off our pace signs and hit the road back to Rancho to get on the road to Phoenix! More on that tomorrow. :)

What's the BEST post-race food you've gotten? This seems to be a theme this week...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Race Recap: Lexus Lace Up Palos Verdes 10K

Lexus Lace Up Palos Verdes 10K
November 14 | Palos Verdes, CA 

Photo courtesy of Lexus Lace Up

I was obviously going to be doing this race all along, but when Tina said she'd be in town I knew I had to jump at the chance to get to run with her! Even better, when I got moved from pacing 2:30 to 2:00 on Sunday, I knew I shouldn't be running the half on Saturday, so I took the opportunity to run the 10K instead (a hilly course throughout) and spend an extra hour (and 9 minutes) with my bestie. 

Tina and I left the house about 5:15 to make the hour-ish drive down to PV and find parking. Turns out we found the one parking lot that required you to take the shuttle down to the race start, so we found some random porto-potties first (hooray no lines!) and made our way to the shuttles. Turns out, one of the four hired bus drivers showed up that morning, so the poor man was angry and frazzled as he was the only one carting people back and forth. Needless to say, there were tons of us still on the top of the hill at 6:45 when the half and 10K were supposed to start at 7 (5K at 7:05). A member of the race staff came running over and told us the race would be starting late. 

We caught the second run of the bus driver and got down to the race area just about 7. Easy peasy packet pick up -- I love that these races are small enough (1,000 runners among the three distances) so race-day pick up is a breeze -- t-shirt, bib, bag, check! Gear check wasn't an issue either, as nearly everyone else (save for a few of us, like Tina and I!) had already been settled for a while.

Finally, about 7:20 we were off. Tina runs 4:1 intervals lately with some knee issues, so I told her I'd stick with her and have a fun, easy day! She just got a new interval timer so it wasn't cooperating so I all of a sudden was counting minutes - which I think helped keep me distracted too. Sometimes we'd walk an extra minute, so I'd have us run an extra minute! The rolling hills were enough to keep your muscles in check but for a girl from Phoenix, these hills were a new concept for Tina! I used to live down near this race, so I knew exactly what was coming for us. 

The course is pretty non-descript, just a main road along the coast - but the views are certainly something to behold. 

Miles flew by for me, Tina powered up hills as best as she could and we were at the turnaround before we knew it. The only super crappy hill is the long one just after the 10K turnaround, and it was even before this point that I decided I was glad I didn't do the half that day. The 10K was just what I needed and challenging enough to get a good workout in.

Tina said her PR was somewhere around a 1:11 - she knew she hadn't broken 1:10 yet, so I kept banking on the fact that if we kept our intervals up at a decent pace, she'd PR that day! I didn't tell her this and she wouldn't let me tell her at the one point I wanted to, so I kept pushing our intervals, pushing pace just a little (sorry Tina!) and got her to run the last .2 all the way into the finish! PR, yo! 

We found our way through the finish area. Unlike Irvine, this parking lot was super tight, so tables and tents were right on top of each other. We found our way to gear check, post-race snacks (animal cookies might be my new favorite post-race munchie ever) and got changed to find our way to the food truck and beer garden.

On our way, I commented that one of the things I love about this series is the ability to check your results on the TV screen right then and there. For the first time ever (of the two previous Lace Up races I've done) they had a volunteer sitting there to type in information. Clearly this girl was from a local high school group or something and she was just taught how to type in bib numbers and pull up results because when she first pulled up Tina, her results said "11:06:07." The girl goes, "Um, yeah, like 11 minutes, right?" We laughed and said that wasn't humanly possible (1:47 pace). So we pulled up mine, which said the same thing, and she goes, "So like, 11 hours then?" Um, no hunny, I didn't start running last night. *sigh* We figured they'd upate later on that day. On to the beer! 

I'm not usually the one to take my  beer, but it was cold and actually sounded kind of good - I only drank about half my Sierra Nevada, but oh well. There was also supposed to be post-race brunch from Scratch, but it turns out the space (parking lot) where the race was wasn't permitted for a food truck, so they just had a booth set up. Post-race brunch? More like a salad and some kind of mushroom empanada thing...

Ew. So we packed up, walked our way back to the bus, and headed home. Good thing we had leftover pizza from the night before anyway! 

I'm so glad I got time with Tina and am so glad we got to run together too! We haven't since Ragnar Del Sol in February (also the last time I saw her, nonetheless) so this was just what I needed! Final results came in later on Saturday to confirm Tina's ~3 minute PR (formerly a 1:12:xx in the end!) and now a smashing 1:09 and change. What an awesome way to spend her morning with me! :)

What's the worst post-race food you've ever been offered?

I serve as an ambassador for the entire Lace Up series and as such, was provided my race entry complimentarily. All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of other ambassadors nor the Lace Up organization.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Favorites #5

Another edition of Friday faves, comin' atcha - I'm seriously bursting with excitement today because there is just SO much going on lately and I can't wait to share it all! Squee! First and foremost...

1. Holidays at Disneyland open TODAY!

I'm the biggest holiday sucker ever and Christmas at Disneyland is quite possibly one of my favorite things on the face of the planet. So excited. Especially since we're now passholders, I can go check out California Adventure, because I've never seen that side of the park at Christmastime, so it's even more excitement. I am very much one of those wide-eyed, child-like 30-year-olds who squeals every time she sees something new at the parks. Cannot wait.

Have you also seen the holiday food list? Yeah, lots of those are happening!

2. I get to see my bestie today!
Tina's in from Phoenix for work in downtown LA and decided to take another day on to come visit (thanks Jon!). I haven't seen her since Ragnar Del Sol in February and while her cutie patootie kiddos aren't coming along, I'm excited to just have time with her! Best yet, we're running the Lace Up 10K tomorrow out in Palos Verdes before she flies home! Bestie time AND running time. Cannot wait.

3. Weekend Adventures
I can't spill the beans too much here, but aside from running the Lace Up 10K tomorrow, I'll then be heading up to Ventura on Saturday afternoon to pace the Surfer's Point Half on Sunday (use code BEAST to save 30% if you want in!). Stoked for more pacing fun! I was supposed to run the Lace Up half, but decided to downgrade to the 10K (super challenging course) as I got moved up from the 2:30 to 2:00 pacer this week for Sunday and I don't want to blow it! 

Sunday holds more adventures, but again... can't share details just yet! More to come!

4. Races Galore!
I love having a full race schedule. By no means do I race all of these, and I think right now I have a healthy mix of races I'm running for me and races that I'm pacing, so I know I won't go all-out every single time. It works wonderfully. My new addition to the race schedule is pacing a Turkey Trot 15K on Thanksgiving! 

It's an inaugural race not far from me, so I am excited! And it's more than just a 5K, so I'll get my turkey and food fill later for sure. Want to join me? Use code BEAST for $5 off when you register for the Riverside Turkey Trot (5K and 15K offered)! 

Happy Friday, friends!

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Meet Beets Blu! | Product Review

I’ve long pondered the concept of heart rate training versus just run-it-all-out-and-if-your-heart-beats-too-hard-slow-down training, but have never gone as far as researching or seeing what it all really means. I was more than floored and excited when Beets Blu reached out to me a little while back and asked if I wanted to test our their Heart Rate Monitor – considering I’d never even messed with the one that came with my Garmin, I figured why not check one out? Theirs seemed simple enough to use and syncs with your phone app, so surely it’s meant for newbies like me. Bonus: I got a fun little key-finder fob – ask me how many times I lose my keys a week and where I’ve found them (re: twice in the front door lock. Overnight. Yes, I win at life).

Beets Blu is a company specializing in mobile apps and fitness technology, and is fairly new in the fitness world, having just been founded in 2012. Their products include the heart rate monitor, the pager tag (key finder) and a smart scale.

I first wanted to play with the HRM during the Ventura Half back in September. The night before the race, Doug and I messed around with it, to get it set up and figure out how this sucker works. Much to my happiness, it’s SO easy – download the free corresponding smart phone app, set up your profile and personal settings, and sync the HRM to your phone via Bluetooth.

I was expecting the strap to be really uncomfortable and awkward, but I lined it up right under the rim of my sports bra, so I hardly noticed it was there. The whole thing is really light, and aside from indents on the tighter spots of where my bra hits, you couldn’t even tell that I had worn it for 2+ hours during the half.

The app is quite simple, and again as a novice HRM user/researcher/nerd, I am not sure what it’s missing that I’d still like to have. For a newbie like me, it’s perfect to see where my high points are and where I work hardest. For folks who might be more advanced in HRM nerdiness, the cool part is that it also syncs to other HRM apps and other devices (RunKeeper, Garmin, etc.), so you can continue using any platform you may have been on before!

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with Beets Blu’s HRM and am looking forward to getting nerdy with it in the future as I read up more on heart rate training and what it all means. 

Easy to use app / simple product overall


The app could be a downfall to some – but I like its simplicity! 

Do you run with a heart rate monitor? 

I received the Beets Blu Wireless Bluetooth Smart 4.0 Heart Rate Monitor free of charge in exchange for a product review. I was not compensated for this blog post other than receiving the products, and all opinions are my own.