Wednesday, December 31, 2008

santa monica-venice christmas 10k

okay, so it's been a few weeks since i actually did this run, but better late than never, right? i love this race. i've done it every year since 2001 ... though usually in a post-flu fog. i've never "run to my potential" at this race. it's fairly flat with just a couple of rises at the end, but like i said, i've always been a little behind the eight-ball when running it. but, i still love it. it's local. i see lots of friends. it's christmas-y (as much as you can expect in l.a.) and it's pretty.

so this year registration time rolled around and lo and behold it was scheduled for 6 days after the city of angels half marathon i was scheduled to run. i told liz i still wanted to run the 10k. i've never run two races that close to one another, but city of angels wasn't going to be my best (but you know how that turned out!) and i was willing to just jog the 10k if need be. in fact, come race day, i was instructed to "shuffle".

my friend rebekah and her friend lori had signed up as well. rebekah and i decided to meet up at 6:15am and bike to the start as a little warm up. i love doing that for local races ... makes it feel like i live in a small town and it seems to help with my pre-race anxiety. there was a slight misting of rain, but it wasn't all that cold.

we all stood at the start line together and agreed that a) none of us were "racing" and that b) we'd start out together, but didn't have to stay together.

since i was planning to shuffle, i started out nice and easy and didn't get all agro about the slow folks and the very narrow road we start on. i just plodded along chatting with rebekah. i felt great. when we hit mile 1 i was surprised to see the lap time. i felt like i was barely moving, but the number staring back at me didn't say the same.

here we are rounding the corner somewhere between miles 1 and 2.

i picked it up a little and still felt great. i wasn't making a hard effort, i was just enjoying myself, chatting with my friend. somewhere just past mile 2 i noticed that rebekah and i were no longer together. i just went with how i was feeling, periodically checking in on my breathing and making sure i wasn't pushing. i had promised liz i wouldn't and i took that seriously.

around mile 3.5 i noticed my "effort" a little more, but it still wasn't one i would call hard or even close to it. at mile 4.5 there was a slight rise in the road. i noticed my breathing for the first time during the entire race. i made sure to just stay steady. i had nothing to prove, no goal to catch and for the first time in a race i felt like it was just flowing, dare i say ... easily.

i reached the venice boardwalk and cruised along knowing i had less than a mile to go. at mile 5.5 i even smiled for the camera and waved ... something i never do. i decided that photo was going to be my proof to liz and j. that i hadn't pushed too hard (despite what was looking like a very respectable finishing time).

of course the photo folks didn't publish that photo, just this one ... but still that's not what i usually look like with just a little over a 1/2 mile to go in a 10k.

i rounded the last corner and hit the finish line. i had finished just :39 off of my 10k PR time. crazeeee! by this time it was definitely raining so i did a brief cool down, went and changed out of my wet clothes and met up with rebekah and lori. we had each done better than we had expected!

at our post-race pedicures i ran through the laps on my watch. i had gone faster with each mile! that's not something i have ever done. i was consistent, strong and didn't struggle. man, if i could bottle that recipe.

i've always known that the stress and pressure i feel when going into a race is one of my biggest obstacles. well, it's a two-sided coin ... that stress and caring is what gets me up on days when i don't feel like training, but it's also a funny little animal that can turn on me come race day and not allow me to just be in the moment. i've been working on it and i have to say there have been a few glimmers of it getting better ... but doing a race that i didn't "care" about and having it go so well is huge proof to me.

i need to continue to care enough to be nervous, but to trust that i am no longer the 165 pound, pack-a-day cigarette smoker that i used to be. funny that i've been on the podium at duathlon worlds, i've finished ironman lake placid, won my age group at smaller races ... yet that's the image i still sometimes carry with me. it's an old tape and as danielle would say, it's time for me to drop my bag of shit.

thank you to a great 2008 and here's to an even better 2009, filled with new experiences ... both on and off the race course.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

cat and dogs

a few weeks ago j. gave me a great gift. not necessarily something all gals would wish for, but me? ... i've wanted this particular present for years. tickets to the eukanuba dog show. that's right, be jealous. i posted an excited announcement in my facebook status bar and let me tell you ... people were excited for me!

i can't tell you how many loser saturday nights i've spent in front of my television watching the "trail to the eukaneuba cup" and then finally the big daddy, "the eukanuba cup". i've learned more about dog breeds, handling and showing protocol than any self-respecting cat owner needs know.

so two weeks ago the day finally arrived. j. and i set out early in the morning for long beach. i was panting and drooling on the car window as we approached the convention center and saw the street lined with eukanuba cup banners!!

once inside it was dog show heaven! having never been to a show in person i wasn't exactly sure how it all unfolded, but i didn't care. i dove headlong into the first activity we stumbled upon "dancing with the dogs" (and you know my love for the other "dancing with the fill-in-the-blank" show.)
what i wasn't prepared for was the faaaabulous people watching that was to be had. here i am having my first dog-owner at dog show experience (sister sparkly heart velour track suit over there nearly took me out trying to capture the cha-hooah-hoooah that was "dancing" on stage). the amount of dog festooned sweatshirts, wood jewely and santa hats was worth its weight in gold!

we made our way out of the dance hall and into the preliminary show hall. there was no telling where to go. it was a 10-ring circus. if you stopped to watch the old english sheep dogs, you missed the newfies.

spend a little time watching the breeders prep their dogs, and miss the mop dogs prancing about. tough decisions were made. priorities were set (with a not so friendly nudge from the breeder-owner-showers who really didn't want us looking at their dogs while they got their game faces on anyway, thankyouverymuch!)

on our way out of the show rings area we witness quite the controversy. apparently the ring where the newfies were being shown was for breeder or owners only. NO handlers were allowed to show the newfies. well, let me tell you ... the newfie that came in 3rd was apparently being shown by a professional handler ... something that the man in the gorton's fisherman outfit made abundantly clear. after much finger pointing and general discomfort for all of us lookie-loos, 3rd place newfie was ousted and 4th place newfie declared the winner (well, 3rd place winner).

stressed out by the controversy, we made our way to the agility area where we settled for the next little while. now that's fun!
j. and i agreed that molly's muppet dog breed (bearded collies) were a lot of fun to watch because, if for nothing else, check out what their fur does when they jump!

exhausted from the pressure of performing we decided to make our way to the upper concourse to "meet the breed". holy dog show, batman! the booths went on forevvvver and each breed area tried to outdo the previous one with their "theme". the newfies were there again, on a big makeshift ship (which finally put the gorton's fellow in context!) and the cavalier king charles ... they had a sort of british tea room thing going on. this is about the sweetest 6 month old cavalier i've ever held. i have a soft spot for the little fellers because, well ... they look like j. to me. in a good way, of course.

as we noodled around, i am pretty sure i saw dr. fitzgerald from animal planet's "emergency vets" ... the tall one with the outdated mustache who works with all the exotics. love him! there were more breeds than i ever thought imaginable. j.'s turkey timer popped and he stepped outside for a little non-dog time, but i pressed on...

there were golden retrievers, every kind of terrier ... too many to mention and few i've never heard of, but the highlight was pearl. she's a lovable, gigantic great pyrenees who i swear, loved me as much as i loved her. yes, she actually hugged me.

finally we moved on to the "big show". we went to watch the best in breed, the preliminary to "best in show" which was a black tie event happening later that night. after the up close and personal experience of the "meet the breed", it was a bit of a disappointment, but fun nonetheless. j.and i had our money on this little fella to win the terrier group and he didn't disappoint.

we had plans that evening (a party called 'fat fest', but that's a whole 'nother oprah) so we couldn't stay for the "best in show", but for our first dog show, i'd say we covered a lot of ground and had a lot of fun.

next up ... a cat show? ... or is that just too humiliating to consider!?!?

Sunday, December 21, 2008



six. blocks. from. my. house.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

cuidad de angels

city of angels half marathon race report:

the past two years i have signed up for the city of angels half marathon. it was started in 2006 and i had visions of being a "legend" runner; never missing a year. my poor grandchildren would be dragged out there 30 years from now to see grandma hobble her way across the finish line ... but both years i've gotten sick right before it. this year i thought "forget it i won't sign up and that way i'll avoid the flu this year".

then i reconsidered, i told myself it was time to get the heck over my hypochondriacalsuperstitiousmumbojumbo. i asked my coach what she thought about running it, since there wasn't all that much time to prepare. she said "You can do it for fun - but I am guessing it would be slower than you are capable of and that might not be fun for you?" i think the question mark was her being nice ... she knows me ... not being my "best" is hard for me, but i decided to give it a whirl.

don't get me wrong, i trained ... just not the same as if i had been trying for a PR. i got to do a couple of my longer runs in novemeber ... one in NY when i went to cheer my brother on in the marathon and another with molly in tempe when we went to cheer for our friend chris at IMAZ.

dec. 7th rolled around and ... NO FLU! j. was the boyfriend-sherpa extraordinare as usual, waking up at some ungodly hour to get me to the start line (it's a point to point race) at the l.a. zoo by 6:30am and then heading downtown to see me finish.

i expected the morning to be a complete cluster ... all 6,200 runners were to pick up their bibs that morning! i sailed through my line. met my friend steven. waited in the requisite port-o-potty lines (why i bother, i'm not sure since i never actually "do" anything) and warmed up by running through part of griffith park's 'holiday of lights' ... it was cool since it was still kind of dark out.

my plan was to go out SUPER slow and then up my pace by about 15 seconds every 3 miles, the last 4.1 holding my fastest pace. i stood at the start line and giggled at myself. i am constitutionally incapable of not getting nervous before a race! it's better with a single sport race than a multisport ... but i still quake.

i set off. i felt really good. i kept checking in with my breathing to make sure i wasn't going too hard. no problem, i feel good. i got to mile one and i was almost a minute faster than the pace i had planned. SHIT! i held back a little more on the next mile (which had a decent hill involed) i was only 10 seconds slower than the first mile. HUH? third mile ... a 6:51! NOT POSSIBLE! i don't want to put myself down or anything ... but i'm no sub-7:00 miler without feelin' some serious hurt, and i was feeling great. it was then that there was a collective gasp around me and everyone yelled out "that mile was short!" no kidding, it was.

at this point my plan for gauging myself off of the first mile of each set of 3 wasn't lookin' so hot. it forced me to work even harder to go solely off of how i felt and to get comfy with the idea that if that turned out to be slower than what my goal was, that was okay. i decided to look at it as a learning experience, a chance to try to get more in touch with my internal pace clock ... something i felt i have lost.

i made myself look around more. i ran through a beautiful trail section, i giggled when i turned a sharp, steep corner and nearly took out a cheerleader who was screaming with her squad along the side of the road. i appreciated seeing my friends amy and angel who were volunteering at mile 7, along hyperion bridge AND being caught at that point by amy's 14 year old daughter, emily. okay, that's a lie ... i wasn't all that pleased that she caught me, but i was happy to see her and she soon fell behind to go use the loo.

i ran through silver lake and thought about my friend jason who lives there, ran past a coffee house where i once met my friend birgitta for lunch. then it was along sunset blvd. where there was the drum section of a marching band. i LOVE drums. if there had been steele drums and some bagpipes along the way, this would have been my new favorite race. it was cool to run a race through all these streets that i know so well.

at about mile 9 i was feeling it. i could tell i was slowing down, but i wasn't sure by how much. the mile markers had continued to be all out of whack. by mile 10 i could see downtown off in the distance...

i also saw that that last mile split on my watch was a 10:24. BULLLSHIT! i laughed at myself ... at mile 5 and 6 i was singing james browns' 'i feel good' and now i'm cursing the fact that i didn't come down with the flu and i'm figuring out just how i am going to tell my coach that i won't be competing in the 2009 season because, it's just not for me!

at that point we dropped down into echo park. i was going along feeling sorry for myself that i wasn't going to make my goal ... when suddenly the thought occurs to me, what if i pick it up? i remembered one of the workouts liz had given me, it had 4x6 min. HARD effort at the end of a long run. those 4 sets hurt, but they had also felt better than all of the miles i had run before them. what if the same happened today? i picked it up. i couldn't tell if i was actually going any faster, but ya know what ... it certainly didn't hurt any more than it had at a slower pace.

htfu, cat. just try. i stuck with it. i kept going. sure my low back was tight. it's aaaalways tight. it's tight at 10 min. miles and it's tight at 7 min. miles. just go! so i went. i caught a nice down hill. i was passing people. i hit mile 12 and it said 6:12. YEAH, RIGHT! i hadn't run a 6:12, but i let myself feel like i had and used it to push me forward. i can do anything for 1 mile! i went through the cool tunnel my friend chris told me aout. i knew the finish was close.

i came around the bend and saw the finish line. it was a lot closer than i had thought. i saw the clock above the finish ... what!?!? I WAS AHEAD OF MY GOAL!

i hit the line 45 seconds faster than my goal time. WOO HOO! i saw j. and he was beaming like he usually does when i race. i snarled when he wanted me to stop in order to take a picture ... but that's just because the effort had started to set in. i walked around. found emily, the 14 year old, who came in a mere 1 min. 15 secs. behind me and basked in the feeling of not being disappointed by my effort and knowing that i had worked for my finish and that more than the physical output, i had worked my way through the mental gymnastics that i go through on race day.

i don't think i've won that battle with myself just yet, but i sure did have a good day with it and just like most things in my life ... the lessons tend to come slowly, but they do seem to build off of themselves and as i result i continue to grow and evolve in to the woman and athlete i aspire to be. what more can i ask for?


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

warning: swim rant ahead!

this morning i got up at the crack o’ "i don’t want to be up this early" and headed over to the pool. our usual Y pool is still closed, so i am over at the college, which actually has a much nicer outdoor pool … but i have to pay every time i go and heck, i’m already paying for a gym membership … but this is a rant about my swim performance … not the price of admission.

for some ungodly reason, this year the glorious multi-lane LCM “fitness” pool is closed to the public (open to college employees) on monday and wednesday mornings. so the rest of us need to squeeze into the 25 yard “splash” pool … which is kept at umpteen degrees and is about waist deep. it’s still a beautiful pool. the water is clear and doesn’t reek of chlorine and swimming outside … well, that’s just the bomb no matter what. that being said … the past two times i have swum in the splash pool, my times have been s-l-o-w and my effort has been h-a-r-d! not a combo this already struggling swimmer is happy with.

i know a guy whose real science smart. one day i was telling him how much faster i felt in the deep end of the “fitness” pool at the college than i do at my Y. he explained something about deep water, the return of energy, blah, blah, blah is what i think he said … but basically he confirmed that i probably did feel faster (a relative term) in deeper water. ergo … it makes sense that i am dog-slow in the shallow, shallow water, no?

whether it’s science or lack of talent, them’s the facts. i was slow. and i was breathless. i’m not sure there was a discernible difference between my “easy” 25 and my “fast” 25. they all felt the same, like swimming in molasses.

it was frustrating, though not goggle ripping frustrating. you know THOSE swims … right? the ones where you rip off your goggles in frustration. ready to pull yourself out of the pool and storm off into the locker room muttering under your breath about 25’s on the :XX and how you prefer duathlon anyway, dagnabbit!

no, it wasn’t that bad. it was just slow. i don’t know if i am maturing as a woman and an athlete or if i’m just getting tired, but i decided to just not fight it. embrace my inner snail and swim my swim. the clock would continue to go round and round and eventually those laps would add up to 2400 and i would be done, i knew that.

i have those moments where i release myself from the struggle. they’re nice, though i always have that niggling question if that was the way to go or if I shoulda HTFU’d? but ya know, for me, sometimes loosening the grip on my expectation is HTFUing … it’s being strong enough to trust in the process.