Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Moral Dilemma of Racing

After a frustrating day of dealing with race/event management companies I started to rethink my fall plans and what events I would be doing. I guess in the past I've been really spoiled by some great race management companies and having had some experience in the non-profit world of event management I find it to be really frustrating when a company neglects to plan properly or just doesn't accept responsibility for their errors.

It started yesterday with the See Jane Run bib pick-up. It's a 5k that I'm doing on Sunday but they also have a 1/2 Marathon distance as well. I can not make the Expo on Saturday as I have way too many activities, including my daughter's Birthday Party and Time Trials for her swim team. They have options to pick up your bib everyday this week at one of their stores. They won't give me my shirt or bag, but I figured it would make my morning much easier if I could at least have my bib/timing chip ahead of time and not stand in a gigantic line race day morning (last year the line was ridiculous!). Originally they hadn't posted times for pick-up at their Danville store, so I assumed I could go when the store opened at 10am. Luckily the night before they posted on Facebook that it started at 11am. I made a few changes to my morning plans and figured 11am would still give me enough time to get back home to pick up Kylie at noon.

When I arrived to the store in Blackhawk Plaza, I was a few minutes early and didn't see anything set up so I went and walked around the Plaza a little bit before coming back at 11am. Much to my surprise, I found that the bibs were not at the store, that they were still in transit. I was a little frustrated but they told us they should be to the store before 11:30am. I figured as long as that was true that would give me exactly enough time to get to Kylie's school. If you aren't familiar with the area, BlackHawk while in Danville, is pretty far off of the freeway and it's about a 30 minute drive for me. As the See Jane Run Facebook page was posting about their packet pick-ups I replied to them that there were several of us waiting in Danville for bibs that were not at the store. Which prompted them to respond "on their way!", and I believe prompted the owner to get involved as well. At 11:30am with no sign of any bibs one of the store employee's delivered the news that they would be there in 15 minutes. I had heard someone else say they were in Oakland. I couldn't wait 15 more minutes because I would never get to my daughter's school in time, but I also knew that there was no way they would be in Danville from Oakland in 15 minutes, it's just not possible. Turns out someone posted that she waited 1 hour and 40 minutes and the bibs had finally arrived but were in no sort of order and the line was moving really slowly.

I get that things happen that are out of your control, but the entire time the store employee's kept blaming the timing management company. When I left I explained that they hired the timing company, this was their event and they needed to accept responsibility and come up with solutions rather than passing the blame. My largest complaint was that someone continually was giving false information about what time they would show up. If when I had arrived they had been honest and said we're looking at 12:30pm before they get here, I would have been irritated but at least I wouldn't have stood around for 30 minutes only to leave without my bib. There are lots of options out there and how you treat people is going to be the determining factor if that person signs up for any more events with you. It also happens to sometimes end up in a blog...

I should have ended my race planning right there. Sadly, the Princess Promenade Ride that I was planning on doing has a price increase today so I needed to decided if I was going to register or not. This ride is hosted by Noble Pursuit, Inc. About a month ago when I was going to register their website said "sign up for our newsletter for an instant discount code for registration and training plans". Awesome, I need both of those things! I submitted my email address and sadly there was no instant coupon code. I waited and thought maybe it's not really instant. Yesterday, I decided to email them to see what was going on. The response I received back from the CEO was that they had three websites go live all at once and were still working out the "marketing programs". This was her polite way of telling me that there was no discount code. Okay, whatever, I'm pretty sure that's false advertising or something but I was still going to do the event. I went to to register and as I'm filling out the form it shows that the event shirt is $20. This surprised me because I'm pretty sure when I visited the site previously, the race fee included an event shirt, but that if I wanted a jersey for the event that would be an extra cost. I went back through the website, and sure enough no mention of a shirt. That seemed odd to me, because I really remember reading it differently. I emailed back the CEO and asked her. Her response was that last year the shirt was $8 with registration but that due to increased costs overall, they are now offering it at the retail price of $20, and "hope the economy turns around". Basically, I was looking at $60 to ride, $20 for the shirt and $12 for the festival afterwards and $5 to park. This was starting to sound like a rip off to me. Perhaps if I were riding one of the longer distances I could justify all that, but I was only registering for the 26 mile ride. I won't be doing this ride, I seem to be having some issues with the event company appearing to be making a lot of money off of every possible angle.

This brought up a discussion among friends about supporting races that are for charities versus supporting for profit race management companies. I guess this is something I need to pay more attention to as I expand my racing activities. I don't have a problem supporting a for profit race company if the price is reasonable and they do a great job. There are a lot of phenomenal race companies out there that I have had the pleasure of racing with and volunteering for. I think as long as I can see the quality of what I am getting versus the cost of the entrance fee I'm okay with that. In the situation with the Princess Promenade I couldn't see what my fee was getting me since I was paying for everything else as an add-on. Kind of like flying with the airlines.

At any rate this summer I will hopefully be doing a bike ride for a worthy non-profit program in Los Gatos. They are still ironing out details, so I'll be sure to share once they have their routes all figured out.

In addition to that I wanted to take the chance to mention some of my favorite race event companies. I need to remember to add some races from these folks to fill out the rest of my season!

Mermaid Series
Brazen Racing
WolfPack Events
Finish Line Productions
On Your Mark Events 

Enjoy your race season!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Daffodil Super Sprint Du

A little birdie chirped in my ear that this might be a nice short distance duathlon for me to get my feet wet. Sure, why not? I'll have two weeks after my half marathon to throw in some brick workouts to make sure I can actually run off of the bike. Oh and maybe get some more time on the new bike as well.

A couple of months ago I bought a Felt road bike. I fell in love with it immediately. It was a 2009 that had been sitting in inventory so I got a great price on it and it was cute! After all, it's all about the cuteness factor! I promised myself if I ever bought a road bike that I would get clipless pedals and would learn how to ride with them and not be afraid of falling over. With half training most of the bonding with my new bike came on the trainer. I had only 4 actual road rides under my belt before today. So my two goals for the race today were to a. finish and b. not crash on the bike.

This was an inaugural event with a very small field, 160 racers total for both distances. I did the Super Sprint which was a 1 mile run, 7 mile bike and 2 mile run. I arrived bright and early (literally I was the first participant there) to find that transition wasn't even set up yet. Better to be early than late, right? Once Mary Sue arrived we headed over to transition to set up our bikes. Having never done an event before I wasn't sure what would be an ideal spot for me. We decided on the last rack very close to the "bike out".

My purdy bike! 

A very nice woman came up with a TT bike and FMRC kit and told us we would be better off to turn our bikes around. She had lots of great info for us and was very helpful, she also dropped several times that she was an Ironman finisher. I suppose if I had completed an Ironman I would look for ways to casually drop that into a conversation as well. It was going to be another hot day. I've been wondering lately who I am, doing all these races in hot weather!

After we felt confident in our transition set-up we headed to the start line. The Sprint went off first at 8am with 2 waves and we went off at 20 minutes later. It honestly was the smallest start I have ever seen. After the first group went off I took the time to do my PT stretches and I even did a short warm-up run on the advice of my "coach".

With no messing around and no recorded versions of the star bangle banner we were off! I had set my watch to run with intervals, but honestly, once I got out there I didn't need it for the first run. I was in transition before I even knew what had happened. My Garmin 610 isn't exactly a multi-sport watch but I can use it for biking and running. It's just a little extra work. As I hit the transition 1 mat I ended my run and switched over to cycling. I took off my shoes and visor and put on my helmet and cycling cleats. I have to admit, it felt kind of bad ass to be running through transition with my bike! Lucky for us the bike mount area was down on the street and it was flat. It took me some extra time to get that first foot clipped in but not as bad as some of my training rides. Wheeee, I was off on the bike! There was a very sweet 9 year old racing with us. I had passed her on the run and she passed me as I was trying to clip in (lucky girl was riding in tennis shoes!) I passed her on the bike before we got out of the park and I thought, "at least I passed someone!" (Okay, I know she's 9 but lets be honest, I've had plenty of 9 year old's beat me in races!) As I got comfortable on the bike I took in some Cytomax and remembered the honey stingers in my back pocket. Right, take in some nutrition. I popped a couple of those bad boys and proceeded on. The first 3 miles on the bike seemed to take forever! Probably because I was just trying to get comfortable and to lower my heart rate a little. This course was awesome, and I heard several people comment on what a great course it was. For me, being such a newbie cyclist this course really gave me the opportunity to just bond with my bike. A mostly closed course and even the parts that had traffic on it were super minimal. It really gave me the opportunity to just get some nice uninterrupted riding in. I even managed to pass 3 other people (yes, adults!). Coming back into the park on the bike never felt so good. I successfully dismounted and made my way through transition. I was secretly really worried about heading out on the run with my bike helmet, thankfully that was not an issue. I grabbed a cup of water as I headed out of transition on the run. The only difficult part about this course is that the first part of each run is on a rocky dirt path. It's really difficult to try and navigate through without rolling your ankle all while trying to pass other runners. I felt a huge sense of relief once I was back on pavement. It was hot, hot, hot. I managed to pass a few people on the way out, although I had no idea if they were Sprint or Super Sprint participants. As we approached the aid station and turn around I grabbed a cup of water to drink and dump down the back of my shirt. Did I mention it was hot? While I took a moment to think about how I felt physically, I realized that my legs felt awesome, it was really my lungs that were killing me. The past couple of days had been hard on  me allergy wise, and all the dirt and brush was not helping me much. But if felt like such a victory for my legs to be feeling so awesome. On the way back in I had my eyes set on one more person to pass. Just on the  pace I was running I was getting ready to pass her, but she sensed me coming up on her and she picked up her speed. I maintained my speed because I felt it was a mistake to race her at this point, I'd get her closer to the finish line. As we rounded up the dirt mound to make the final sprint to the finish line I picked up my pace and and so did she. We were stride for stride and I really thought we would finish that way. My competitive side kicked in and I overtook her. I actually heard her grunt in frustration and defeat as I pulled away from her. I crossed the finish line at a 6:10 pace, in fact I had to go back and get my water because I ran through so fast I couldn't stop in time. Then there was the moment of "holy hell, I'm going to puke!" Thankfully, I did not.

I am thankful to the woman that raced me at the end, I've never had anyone fight me that hard at the finish and while it hurt it was kind of fun.(By the way, she was 22.)

Trying to maintain an even pace before sprinting to the finish

This when I kicked it into high gear and passed her. I'm surprised they even got a photo, because I think we took the photographer by surprise with our sprint.


I'm not going to lie, I felt like a badass after completing my first multi-sport event. So much fun to put yourself out there and try something new. I'm hopeful to get one more duathlon in this year as I prep for my first triathlon in 2013.

Race Stats:
Run 1: 9:35
T1: 1:26
Bike: 32:41
T2: 1:35
Run 2: 19:11

Overall Finish: 1:04:30

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Race week again?

How is it that I'm racing every two weeks? Apparently I didn't think I would need any rest after the half. Or more likely I was afraid that if I didn't have anything to train for I would I would lose all of that momentum.

Regardless, I'm racing my very first ever duathlon this weekend. I'm kind of petrified. Having never done a multi-sport event before I just have no idea what to expect so I'm just winging it, Winging it is far from my comfort zone, so lets hope it works out for me. In all honesty I'm just hoping to not crash on my bike and not look like a fool trying to clip in at the start of the bike. I'm sure it will all be a great learning experience, right?

Now on to my favorite subject... FOOD. Several of my friends had been raving about the The Feed Zone cookbook. I love to cook and try new recipes and must admit I've been slacking off in that category lately with all of my training. I've also been feeling sluggish which could be a result of seasonal allergies, but I decided to make some changes. The book arrived just in time for race week. I quickly found several recipes I really wanted to try and made the goal to eat really clean all week prior to the half. I started out with the Apple Salad on Grilled Bread:

I ate this for lunch for about 3 days, it was delicious! The next step was to involve the family in the process and see if I could make it work for all of us. I chose a simple pizza.

I used pizza dough from Trader Joe's and this turned out really good. I think next time I may try adding prosciutto. It was a hit with my husband and even Sydney ate it.

What I love about it is the recipes are so easy and not a daunting list of ingredients. The other great part is that you can cook ahead of time things like rice, pasta or chicken and keep them in the fridge all week to assemble a lot of these meals. Tonight I'm making a lamb and chickpea stew in the crock-pot! I love my crock-pot but the vast majority of recipes for the crock-pot are not all that healthy. You know, the ones that require a can of cream of mushroom soup! I was pleased to see that there several recipes that can be done in the crock-pot which makes my life even easier since we have swim team practice from 4:45-5:30pm.

I highly recommend the book to anyone who is an athlete or even if you are just looking for some easy, healthy recipes.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Diva Half Marathon

It is the best feeling in the world to look over at the column on the right and see PR's in all 3 distances for the year! I've been working hard and it's so awesome to see the results of all that hard work.

You know how things work for me, I see a brochure for some race and I think that looks like fun! That's how I happened upon the Diva Series. I had a flyer for it in some race bag and held onto it. I knew I wanted to do a Half this year but wasn't sure when or where. I went back and forth about a lot of events. I knew the best thing for me was to do an event in the Spring once I was done coaching and through the bulk of my volunteer responsibilities at the school. A Diva race sounded fun, all women, a cute medal and champagne at the end! We all know I run for champagne. I managed to convince a few other friends to sign up and before I knew it we had over 20 friends signed up for the race. It was fun along the way to see people training for it. Several of us were following the same training plan so it's always fun to commiserate over your long run or how much your taper run sucked.

I had a lot packed into the week prior to the race and by the time Friday rolled around I was feeling the pressure of not being able to get everything in. For the first time ever, I experienced pre-race crying! I was in tears 3 times on Friday, not what I'm used to but maybe that was better than a nervous stomach for 2 days prior to the race. Once I made it over to Burlingame on Saturday I was feeling better. I could now focus on what I needed to focus on and seeing friends lightened the mood.

Andrea flew in from New Orleans to run with us, so Mary Sue, (I've done more races with Mary Sue than anyone else!) Andrea and myself headed to the Expo.

Packet pick-up was very easy and the Expo was set up nicely. After the Expo for the Oakland Running Festival which was so junky, this was a relief, and no I wasn't offended by all the pink. After we left the Expo we headed out for some shopping and lunch in Burlingame. It was such a nice afternoon that I almost forgot we were racing the next day. Later that evening Molly, Andrea and I headed out for dinner. It's no surprise that we all ordered salmon for dinner! As we walked out one of the waiters said "nice shirt!" Of course he was commenting on my  shirt!

Fast forward to race morning and I managed to get my usual chocolate cheerios and  non-fat milk down before I headed out. There was not a cloud in the sky and I new it was going to make for a very hot day, yet I was hopeful that there might be a breeze from the bay. There were a ridiculous amount of us running and I managed to see almost everyone before the race start. Several of us lined up at the 10-11 minute mile marker. I knew I would be running in the 11's but lets be honest, in a race full of Diva's I was pretty sure no one was paying attention to those signs. We were lined up for what seemed like forever when I really just wanted to go, go, go! The race started late which was disappointing since it was already warm out but soon enough we were on our Divalicious way.

I had a goal of a 10 minute PR which I knew was 100% achievable, but I had a super sweet goal of a 20 minute PR that would make me really, really happy. When Molly mentioned that Mary was aiming for a similar goal I settled on a 15 minute PR as my goal. I knew what overall pace I needed to run at to achieve this goal and engrained it into my brain. Of course there is so much excitement as you start out and I used a lot of energy at the start dodging around people but I felt good, it's possible that around mile 4 I was having too much fun with it and realized I needed to dial back a little. I carried my own water and gel but grabbed water at aid stations along the way. It was hot and there was no breeze after all, so I really focused on staying hydrated. My game plan had been to not stop for a port-a-potty. I had stopped twice in Las Vegas and apparently didn't really need to. So while I was determined to finish without having to stop it did cross my mind that with the amount of fluids I was taking in I might have to. I tried not to think about it, because you know, once you think about it you can't stop thinking about it!

I believe it was around mile 6 where I felt the heat, I was sweating a lot, but I was following my race plan; nutrition, hydration and walk intervals to a tee. It was around this point that I grabbed Gatorade because I didn't see water and as I passed I realized that there wasn't any water. The Gatorade didn't sit with me well and I tossed it. I still had water in my bottles and was hopeful that by the time I came around the backside of the aid station there would be water again. When I hit the turn-around it for sure felt like a milestone. My average pace was looking good, so good that I knew there was room if I hit a wall later to still achieve my goals. At about mile 7 I started to experience significant Achilles Tendon pain. I had experienced some mild pain during training but nothing significant so this was a little bit of a surprise since the rest of legs seemed to be holding up rather well. I tried to ignore it, if I ignore it, it will go away, right? As I came through the back side of that aid station at mile 8, they were still out of water. "Are you kidding me I said?" I saw some firefighters and almost felt like telling them to keep their eyes peeled for for folks who might be experiencing dehydration due to lack of water. The course was way too hot to go through two aid stations without water. I bit my tongue and pressed on and was thankful for the one bottle of water left on my belt and just hopped it was enough to get me to the next aid station. I continued to try and change my foot strike or gait to lesson the pain in my Achilles Tendon, eventually something worked or ignoring it worked because the pain ceased. Crisis averted. As I reached the next aid station I took some time to fill both water bottles and took a cup to go. I took a few sips from the cup and threw the rest of it down the back of my shirt, ah, that felt really nice.

I had the screen on my watch set to intervals, so that's what I watched for most of the distance, occasionally I would check pace or mileage to be sure I was still on track. It seemed like mile 11 came really fast which was awesome, until it took forever for mile 12 to come! I think their signs were not placed very accurately since it appeared I had been running the course short (which seemed impossible with all of the negotiating I had been doing) and then when mile 12 finally did show up all of a sudden I was running the course long! It was difficult for me to estimate how much further I actually had to go and when to pick up the pace. The spectators was starting to grow thick so I knew we were getting close. I took an extra walk break to try and pull myself together, by this point I felt like I had a blister on the ball of my right foot and my left calf was pretty tight. I regained my composure and told myself I had nailed a PR already and the rest was up to me. As I approached the pink boa and tiara station I tried not to make eye contact, I would not be slowing down to grab anything as it would only be a distraction from getting to the finish line. I breathed a sigh of relief as I rounded the corner into the finish chute and the finish line was now visible. There was a woman in front of me who I decided needed to be passed. As I approached the finish line there was no one in front of me except for the two photographers waiting to catch my expression as I completed 13.2 miles. I did my best to smile and be proud of of finishing my second half marathon distance.

I looked at my watch to see that I had earned a 19:10 PR. I did it! I knew for sure 10 minutes was achievable and I was pretty sure that I could get a 15 minute PR if everything went my way, but a 19 minute PR meant that all of my hard work and preparation and my race plan had paid off. I was rewarded with a red rose and huge medal by a shirtless supposed "firefighter" but I have my doubts that they were real firefighters. In my post race "what do I do now" self, I wandered over for a photo before Molly found me and shepherded me over to the others who had already finished.

Overall it was  fantastic day for me, but I must admit it was a lot of hard work out there. I remember mile 10-12 being so hard in Vegas, the distinct feeling that an epidural would be fabulous because everything from the waste down hurt like hell. While I had some serious aches and pains it was definitely a different type of pain from my first half. More of an earned pain than a I just need to finish pain, if that makes any sense.

Super stoked to cross the finish line

TriSports in a sea of pink
Just a few of the amazing ladies that I ran with. Thanks Mary for the photo!
Overall time was 2:31:00.

Thank you TriSports for supporting me in yet another PR for the year!