Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Race Report: Run Through Redlands Half Marathon

Redlands, CA | April 27

I haven't had a half marathon since January - considering I was doing like 10 of these a year, it's a little wild to think about. But I'm really quite okay with allowing myself to do things as I please. Not every race will be a PR, not every race will be awesome, but I'm getting out there and at least being as active and fit as possible. Still figuring it out, but I'm alright!

Redlands isn't far from my parents house, so when I saw this, and its super moderate price tag (less than $60 even with online fees), I figured it was a great opportunity to take advantage of not only a local race, but a long-standing one, too! 31st annual? They must be doing something right!

Gorgeous race morning!
5:30 am came really early on Sunday morning – I haven’t faced an alarm clock like that in a while (okay, maybe just since Ragnar). But like I do every race day, excitement got me up and moving and I was out the door well before 6. As I said, Redlands isn't too far from my parents' house, so that made it easier to get out the door at least! 

Parking was super easy – the Redlands Mall is all but shut down, so all the parking lot was open, and they were able to utilize the parking garage as their packet pick-up center: those registering on-site, pre-registered, and the different stations for the 5 and 10Ks (cotton shirts) and the half-marathoners (tech tees). Bonus: FREE SHOT BLOX. Heck freaking yes! Bonus points right then and there!

Tech tee for half marathoners. 
I still had about 30 minutes to kill before the half start. I thought the way the races were staggered was interesting: the 10K at 7 am, the half at 7:20, and the 5K at 7:45. Normally, I usually see the 5/10Ks off all before or after, but not the half in the middle like that! Either way, it worked, as save for a few walkers, all 10Kers were off the half course (we split about mile 3.5) by the time us half marathoners came through.

The entire course is through residential areas of Redlands, and a few parks and through or by some delicious smelling orange groves. This course actually reminded me a LOT of the Citrus Heritage half, just from the scenery, orange trees, and hills! But overall, it’s a gorgeous course through some pretty areas of the city.
Now, this course was clearly marked on the website with one monster hill in the middle – or so it looked.

Views for days!
When you look at the map, it looks like it’s just 3 miles of up, but it looks fairly progressive. Wrong. It’s up, then flat for like 20 yards, then up some more, and maybe flat, then up up up and up some more. Toughie, that’s for dang sure. At any rate, given those hills, and I wasn’t sure how my knee would hold up, I pushed hard as far as I could. Sadly, my first walk break was only at mile 2.5 (the horror!) and I walked on and off through the halfway mark. About mile 7-8, you start the gradual decline back into town – the only perk to the whole ‘up’ part of this race! You DO get to come back down!

Miles 9 and onward are all pretty much flat. My favorite part was running by a live-in health care center (mostly senior citizens), and tons of nurses and patients were all out, handing out waters and cheering us on. There was a little collection of three or four old men in their wheelchairs and blankets all cheering and saying things like “You go girl!” Sweetest sight ever, especially when you’re already exhausted! Thank you Brookside Healthcare Center!

I was really excited my mom was coming to cheer me on in the end, too. I texted her about the mile 10 mark, “see you in 30 minutes!” and I knew that I was finally near the end! Woooo. And as she promised, there she was cheering me on in the end. I’ve only had a few halfs where I had no one at the finish or along the course, but it certainly makes a difference knowing you have someone at the finish line! Especially someone who treats you to breakfast afterward! Thanks, mom.

All in all, a great race. Tough, but great. A 2:25 finish isn’t what I had hoped for, but given those hills, my knee, and my under-trainedness, I’m going to count that as a mostly-win!

What’s your favorite cheering station been? Any particularly funny or sweet ones?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Huma Energy Gel

About a year ago, I had the chance to review Huma Energy Gel for the first time, through an opportunity from Sweat Pink. Much like a year ago, Gu-like substances (Gu, gels, you name it) still freak me out and are still my last-choice resort for fueling.

Huma got in touch with me a few weeks back about trying their two new flavors! Last year, they were just on the up-and-up and had their first two flavors, strawberry and apple cinnamon, out for folks to fall in love with. Now, they're bring more to the table with mango and blueberry flavors out on the market now! Nommm... mango.

For a reminder, Huma is all-natural, gluten free, vegan friendly fuel based off these fruits and chia seeds. In fact, both the mango and blueberry ones are made from all of 7 ingredients! I call that a win, especially for a runner like me with a stupidly, selectively sensitive stomach.

During Ragnar training, I took the mango out for for a run (doesn't it sound like we're on a date?) on the  beach to get in some good miles that would really require fuel from me to get through it.

Mango? More please! I had forgotten water (you really wanna down these babies with water), so it was a little difficult to take down, but the flavor itself with delicious. Blueberry wasn't as good for me, but I go for the sweeter things in alll aspects of life, so mango was definitely more my jam.

Thank you again Huma for the opportunity! More mango please!

Are you a Huma user? What's your flavor of choice?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ragnar So Cal: Part 3

Ragnar So Cal
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

When we left, I was finally passed out on a van bench at our second to last major exchange. When I finally woke up, it was just about 6:30 am (a solid four hours of sleep, people!). The sun was just starting to pop up and people were definitely buzzing about. After a final costume change, fighting in the porto lines (which really, were not terrible by any means considering it was a major exchange), it was go time! Kasey was due in just about 8 am and was right on time, and I left about 8:03 am.

My legs felt sluggish instantly. Even thought I had compression socks on as soon as I finished that 12 miles, and I had slept in them, and was wearing them for my last leg, I just felt it. Ooph. This was going to be a looong 8 miles! This leg was beautiful though - Carlsbad is not an easy run, as it's just enough rolling hills to be some work, but it's one of my favorite areas in the greater San Diego area. The flower field (even though it's not open yet), strawberry fields were blooming, golf courses... and then that glorious block of the auto mall... but then crossing under the 5 freeway, and then we were on coast for the last 4 miles or so. It was a gorgeous Saturday morning, so there were cyclists, runners, and folks out and about everywhere, who in turn would start cheering us on, or giving us some last little motivation.

Boom. 5 minutes under projected!
I started some intervals. In my head, I remembered my projected time to be 1:20 (lord knows why), so I figured I'd be happy with a 1:30 finish on these tired, tired legs. So I kept up with my intervals, up until just before the 6.2 marker. Then, I said I'd walk to 6.5 And then at 6.5, I said I'd walk to 6.75, and then finally said I was allowed to walk through mile 7, but had to then run the last mile into that final exchange for me. And boy did I  - the last mile was mostly flat, but naturally, the last 100 yards into the exchange were uphill and around a corner. Rude. Last mile: 9:15. Ha! Walking works wonders, eh?

Flamingo & cowbells. Duh.
And then... I was done! And as tired as I was, the ultimate runner's high hit me. I was hanging half out the window, cowbell clanging, and screaming at the top of my lungs for every Ragnar runner we passed (and hell, even those non-Ragnar runners). Trista and Heather laughed and said, "Yeah, I think this is called 'runner's high'!" So much fun. And that was how we spent the rest of the morning - cheering on runners, windows down, cowbells going. It's the last leg that hurts the worst and you just want to be done, so we tried so hard to cheer on anyone we came across to give them that little boost.
No complaints! 

Before we knew it, we were on to the LAST major exchange after Heather took off on her last 4 miles or so. It was at the gorgeous Pines Gliderport - clear on the top of a hill overlooking nothing but water and we got to watch hangliders for an hour or so while we waited on Heather. And then like that, there she was! Van 1 was done - holy crap, we did it!

And then we had a solid 7-8 hours to kill - we made the most of finding food (thankfully, found a plaza with numerous places in one), so we all gorged on anything from Chipotle to Five Guys to Panera... and probably could have eaten more.
Van 1 = done! 

We also headed back up to Del Mar to get checked into our hotel for the night, as we risked the hotel being over-sold. And why not, we had the time! After checking in, and finally being happy with food, we headed down to the finish line to camp out and wait on  our Van 2 ladies. The finish line parking was a little chaotic -- all the vans had to park in the garage at the SD Convention Center, which wouldn't be a problem if it was all tight, small spaces, with vans already parked wherever they pleased, so it made for a stressful entrance into the area.

The finish line itself was fine, though as time went on, a lot of vendors started packing up early and moving on out. We only made our way through the Ragnar swag shop anyway, and finding Italian ice (the important things), and then camped out and snuggled under blankets as the wind picked up over the afternoon. Somewhere around 6ish, Van 2 arrived and somewhere around 7, we knew Kasey would be in at any minute! We found her mom, who was hanging out on a bench near the finish, ready to be our own finish line photographer! The best.

There are much better ones out there, but you get the idea. :)
Team Adventures in Runderland

And then it was to dinner, and quite literally straight to bed. A glorious weekend over with drives back up to LA, cleaning the vans, dropping girls off at the airport, and calling it a weekend. Womp. Thanks for bearing with me to take three weeks to write this up - gone are the days where I was on my blogging a-game, eh?! I promise, there's lots of things going on so I'll have a lot more updates coming a little more regularly now!

Happy weekend! Any exciting plans?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Vacation Bound!

I know you're still hanging on for part 3 of Ragnar... I promise, it's coming. But for now... it's vacation time!

 My grandparents, uncle, parents, sister and I are all meeting up in Long Beach at the port to hop on the fabulous Carnival Imagination for a weekend ride down to Ensenada and back.

We depart this evening, are at sea all day tomorrow, Ensenada on Saturday, and back in Long Beach on Easter morning. I'm super excited - and a little nervous. I love my family and all, but you know when too much is too much! This is the first vacation (that I can recall) that all 7 of us will be going on together. Thankfully, cruise ships have enough entertainment for everyone and we can do our own thing when we please... and come back together when we please, too!

While in Ensenada, I think we're going to check out this:
It's called La Bufadora, or the blowhole. Because of the rocks and the way the water has formed sort of canyons and holes, it's a natural blowhole when the waves come up. I'm kind of stupidly excited about this! But there's also some wineries to check out so maybe I can convince some family to do that too... :)

Have a lovely, lovely weekend, and I promise part 3 is coming soon!

Have you ever been on a cruise? Where to?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ragnar So Cal: Part 2

Ragnar So Cal
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

As runner 1, I was excited to kick off the race for our team. While it was also a little nerve-wracking being that the race was a little behind schedule, but whatcha gonna do? There were a lot more teams than I was expecting that had the crack-of-dawn start time like we did, so I was excited that I also wouldn't be mostly alone. Also luckily was that I knew exactly where we were running on this 6-mile leg 1. Bring it on.

I chugged out of the gate, way too fast naturally (oh, hey .25 mile marker at a 7:55 pace! Whoops!) and finally settled in and slowed down about a mile in (mile 1: 8:28), and then finally found a groove at the mid-point. I befriended another runner, part of team Group Therapy (don't you love that?) and ran with her for almost two full miles before I needed to stop. 

The last bit of the leg went by super fast and before I knew it, I was done! Leg 1, check! Just one minute under projected (including the stop!), and 4 kills to get this Ragnar started! 

And then I got to chill for a bit and just cheer and yell and cowbell my heart out. Unlike DC, which was mostly countryside, the cool part about So Cal is that because we're along major roadways and streets the whole way, there are virtually always runners to cheer for. Love. 
Exchange after exchange passed and we were finally on our way to the first major exchange at the Great Orange Park in Irvine. Road construction and being near two freeway onramps didn't make this exchange the easiest to get in or out of, which made a lot of teams really irrate. We were a little hangry at this point, so beelined to the nearest Whole Foods and got ourselves some fantastic grub for lunch. Necessary, at that point, as it was about 2 in the afternoon by the time we got to Whole Foods and you'd think we'd been starved for days at that point. 

After WF deliciousness, we headed down to Doheny State Beach, the next major exchange, so we could nap, stretch, and hang out for a bit... and do other things... 

Because Ragnar tattoos are
vital, didn't you know? (Kim and Trista)
I have no idea what time we ended up at Doheny (as I was napping most of the way down there in prep for my night leg), but we had a few solid hours to kill. Time for beach playing, more napping, hanging out in the park. Seriously, Doheny has to be one of the prettiest exchanges ever. Oh right, I live here now!
We could only be so lucky. I got to spend some time stretching, hanging out with my co-worker Tom and his wife who got roped onto a team not too long ago. What a wonderful afternoon!

And then the nerves set in. I don't do night legs well - where some people get totally amped up about them (like Heather), they terrify me. Overactive imagination, you might say, but also that I'm terrified of tripping, falling, busting my knee and being hurt... stuck in the middle of nowhere. But I digress. My 11.9 mile leg was the longest leg of all of this course, but knowing that it was late in the evening (rather than 2 am), I was as prepped as I could be for it. We hung out at the exchange point for awhile waiting for Kase, and before I knew it, there she was!... go time!

Nighttime selfie. Duh.
My leg was also unsupported - which I think is the only part that made me really nervous. They said there was a water stop out on the course (turned out to be 3!), so I didn't take along anything to drink, just Shot Blox to get me through the long run. The course itself ran me down through downtown San Clemente, a super adorable beach city with some really cute looking areas (note to self: go back during daylight and check it out). I also then ran through some neighborhoods, ended up with at least a partial contact high, and down some residential roads that had literally zero lighting - all I could see through were the swinging blinky taillights in front of me and headlamps when I turned around occasionally. 

So that part kind of sucked, but I trucked on. I walked a lot during this leg, and wasn't happy with how I forged on, but made the most of it. The other super crappy part of this leg was the last two miles or so, coming into San Onofre State Beach. The road we were running on was a side road, and while we were on the shoulder, the shoulder was all of one foot wide at some points. Kind of terrifying, even though I knew cars could see me. It was also along here that I saw a ghost bike on display, and though I'm by no means tied to the cycling community, I stopped there for a minute as it really touched me. I've seen a few of them, but have never stopped to think about it - and here, it just made sense. My heart hurt for whoever that poor soul was. 
Not awesome. But done and done.
And then... it was finally over. All 11.9 unsupported miles - which, might I add, that at the last water stop (mile 9 or so), there were a ton of vans pulled over right at the water stop! Like it was no big deal! Apparently if you stopped on this leg, it was supposed to be an automatic disqualification, but that clearly was not an issue in the end. Womp.

Got my pint glass, miles done. And then the cluster of an exchange. The next exchange was just three miles down the road -- apparently the same road. So the maps gave you the same directions, to the same exit off the 5 freeway, but didn't tell you that the 3 miles were down the same parking lot road. While I was texting Ragnar central control, we were high-tailing it down the 5, trying to find where the eff we were supposed to be going. We were supposed to have received a mass text from Ragnar - which never happened. Luckily, this was the exchange where we picked up our runner, drove through Camp Pendleton, and then dropped the next runner, so the few extra minutes came off our "drive time." Whew!

After all that chaos, it was finally sleep time. I was exhausted - mostly adrenaline, mostly sheer exhaustion from the longest run I'd been on since Phoenix. Oops? Somewhere around 2:30 am, I passed out for good. Aaaaah, sleep.

What was your experience at Exchange 13/14? A total cluster like ours?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ragnar So Cal: Part 1

Ragnar So Cal
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

It's a little unreal to think that exactly one week ago, we were already four hours into our Ragnar So Cal adventure. We had an ungodly 5:15 am (which really turned into 5:30 am) start time, and a 3 am alarm clock to go with that. One week has gone by way too fast -- it may or may not help that I just unpacked the rest of my stuff last night (have no fear, laundry went in on Monday night). But I digress.

Last Wednesday/Thursday were a blur. Wednesday night, HP flew into LAX, so I got to pick her up and then I went back to work for a meeting with student government. On Thursday, inbetween her needing to get some work done, we grocery shopped, cut tulle, made our tutus, I ran some last errands to make sure things were set for the weekend, made another tutu, went to Girls on the Run practice, got dinner supplies, picked up Trista, picked up the vans, picked up Bryana, and then headed home.

Ragnarians assemble! HP, Trista, and me.
I was so excited to meet all my teammates - for the most part, women who I've only communicated with via Facebook, sometimes text, but didn't actually know who they were. Here's our rundown:

So needless to say, the anticipation of bringing everyone together (and fitting all 12 of us in my apartment) was both nerve-wracking and so freaking exciting! I couldn't wait to see how everyone came together, and all willing, we'd click and Van 1 would be a happy unit and Van 2 would be a happy unit and we'd all be in a happy place for the weekend. Let's be real, it can really try your patience with people (whether you know them or not) by being stuffed into a van with them for 36+ hours, amiright?

Thursday night was a huge shuffle of last tutu making, dinner for those of us that hadn't eaten, chatting, gabbing, and of course... van decorating! The fun stuff has begun - Adventures in Runderland is upon us and we are ready to rollllll...

And then... cue bed. We all pretty much passed out shortly thereafter, after getting the vans beautified and food supplies loaded, we all crashed hard for a few (re: four?) hours' sleep.Van 1 was departing at 3:30 am to get to the start line by 4:15 am for our scheduled 5:15 am start. We got there at 4:15, and thankfully got there as early as we did, as the start was a sort of cluster. SO many teams were starting that early, so Ragnar seemed a little behind in getting everything sorted, organized, and ready for team pick up.

I was runner #1 - nerves and excitement abound, as I got to kick off this whole thing! And in the dark, no less. Per our pace calculator, all three of my runs were scheduled during nighttime hours, so I'd never run without a vest. Lame. (Foreshadowing: I got one run without one). Also luckily, I knew everything about where my first leg was, as it was on the beach path of the last 5-6 miles of Surf City. Win.

And just like that... 5:15 passed us. They didn't start the 5 am teams until 5:15, so luckily we were ready to go, team photo and all, for the 5:30 am start.

Team Adventures in Runderland.
And then we were off! San Diego or bust...

Did your team start on time? Do you think it affected you?