Saturday, December 31, 2011

La Vida Es Un Carnaval - HAPPY 2012

(English follows Spanish text)

Todo aquel que piense que la vida es desigual, tiene que saber que no es así, que la vida es una hermosura, hay que vivirla. Todo aquel que piense que está solo y que está mal, tiene que saber que no es así, que en la vida no hay nadie solo, siempre hay alguien.
-Ay, no hay que llorar, que La Vida Es Un Carnaval, -Y es mas bello vivir cantando. -Oh, oh, oh, Ay, no hay que llorar, -que la vida es un carnaval -y las penas se van cantando.

Everyone out there who thinks that life is unfair needs to know that's not the case, because life is beautiful, you just have to live it. Everyone out there who thinks they are alone and is feeling bad, needs to know that's not the case, because in life no one is alone, there is always someone. Ay, no need to cry, because Life Is A Carnival, it's more beautiful to live singing. Oh, Ay, no need to cry, because life is a carnival, and your pains can be alleviated through song….

… and running…

2011 is over. Started pretty much with breast surgery in January to remove pre-cancer cells… when can I run again Doc? I asked. “Use common sense, though I know runners have none…” he replied.

Year ended as the best running year I’ve ever had. Stats are pretty neat, with all the races I could run: Across the country from Washington State to Florida, and across the globe from home at 48° parallel north to daughter’s home at 48° parallel south in New Zealand. PRs in most of the distances… I’ll let the numbers talk to you.., and remember: Life Is A Carnival... and your pains can be alleviated through song….  and running…

Have a great 2012.

2011 Stats

52 races
4:44:04 – 10:51 min/mile
3:16:05 – 10:32 min/mile
15 Miles (24K)

Half Marathons
2:07: 21 – 9:43 min/mile
10 Miles (16K)

1:31:12 – 9:47 min/mile

56:22 – 9:05 min/mile
8K (5 Miles)
48:50 – 9:50 min/mile
3.8 Miles

26:19 – 8:29 min/mile

Relay 187 miles

Blisters (one tried but didn’t succeed)
Partial black toenails (Coeur D’Alene Marathon and Tacoma Narrows Half)


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Triple Crown

An invite to Miami Beach for a seminar triggered the Florida racing calendar check. Two possibilities: Mangrove Marathon in Cape Coral, and Inaugural Latin Music Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Miami Beach.

Because Florida’s heat, I was hesitant to register in either one of them. I have faced most of the weather elements, having run in snow, hail, 60mph winds, 20F… but I have never run this distance at high 70’s. Though I know I needed to run slower, I was concerned and fearful of dehydration, hyponatremia, and all those things related to a hot day race. Specially, because when you are a Seattle inhabitant, you never experience situations like those, and not knowing how to deal with them really worried me.

Mangrove Marathon was tempting. I could check Florida in my 50 states quest as complete. But logistically, it wasn’t too appealing. Race location was 2.5 hours of where I was staying while Rock & Roll Half was at 2 miles. Also, as I am training for Houston (January 15th) I want to put all my efforts on Texas. It seemed a no brainer.

In order to triumph over my “heat” fears, I clicked the register button the last day of online registration with the note to self: Go and Learn It. As a “heart rate strategy” runner I should not be too concerned as the effort should dictate my run and pace.

During my Miami visit, I took the opportunity to visit close friends from childhood, high school and college. I had a fantastic time. On Saturday my good friend Chucho and his wife China took me to the expo at the beach (first shock) to pick up my packet. It was a nice afternoon at high 70’s with a nice ocean breeze; nice for a stroll by the beach but not sure for running a 13.1. After the expo, they invited me to my carboloading dinner and dropped me at my hotel. I prepared all my racing gear, bib, chip, and after a shower, went to bed with the normal non-sleep hours before a worrisome race.

Race start was scheduled at 7 am, so I left my hotel at 5:45 and jogged the 2 miles to get there. When I arrived I was drenched. It was 77 F/25C. If this was at dawn, I could not imagine how it would be when the sun came out.

I had half a bagel and a banana, talked to some locals, joined the Half Fanatics for the photo, went to the bathroom (nice ones in the lifeguards’ headquarters) and at 6:45 am went to my corral, #3. Worth to mention that I didn’t recognize a single face (imagine that). After the national anthem and the announcement that Shalane Flanagan was among the elite running the course, Celia Cruz’s song “La Vida es un Carnaval” hit the speakers, to prepare for the start of the race. This song is a salsa song that my son and I always dance together. I definitely was in a Latin Music Race and felt moved. Back to my roots.

3 minutes after the first wave we were set to go. The race started in South Beach, 11th & Ocean Drive. We turned left to go over to Washington St. I was absorbing everything I could absorb from the pretty urban development that Miami Beach has become. I was trying to drop my heart rate to 150 but was stuck at 162. I could be in trouble if I didn’t get it down, but it was really hard to achieve. At mile 2 I am still in 160, and I knew what was coming would not be pretty. In my climate, I normally run the first 3 miles at ~80% between 148 - 152. Here I am at 88% in a hot race just at the beginning with a slower pace. We turned on pretty Alton Road, to direct ourselves to I-195 to go towards Miami City. This is the first time ever that I ran on a freeway. Though the extreme right lane was closed and reserved to runners, I was very cautious and wondering what would happen if a distracted driver, driving at 70 mph, swirled the steering wheel.

This portion of the freeway (causeway), over Biscayne Bay, was nevertheless beautiful. Miami City skyline to the left, and the gorgeous bay to the right. Miles 4 to 6 were good, I got a sort of impulse and ran those miles really good. We took exit 2B and entered in 2nd Av. Though it was not an attractive area, it had a lot of volunteers and people cheering for us. Volunteers had hoses connected to fire hydrants so we could just take a quick shower and refresh ourselves. At mile 7 I started to feel spent. Heat had got me, and I needed to slow down more.

The run took us through the Arts District of Miami City, and I continued absorbing the architecture, the landscaping and everything so different from my home town. Just before mile 10 we climbed the A1A, another freeway (causeway) that would take us back to Miami Beach. Here we ran with the nice view of cruise ships, Watson, Star Palm and Hibiscus Islands.  After leaving the viaduct over the water, we entered back in Alton Road, for the final mile. I felt that sense of satisfaction. I was about 10 minutes slower of my regular range, but that was not as bad as I thought. When we got to Ocean Drive with 1st street, I knew it was now one kilometer to go, and indeed the 20K sign was there. Finish line was located at the beach by Ocean Drive and 6th, so 6 more blocks, and I would have a hot half in my pocket. At 5th my heart was pumping, and though I had my max heart rate of 183 I was not able to get the speed that I normally get at the end of my Halfs in cool weather. My pace was 10:20, which was pretty good considering the new experience. I saw the crowd; we left the street, to start running on the beach, sand beneath my feet. I crossed the line at 2:23 getting 14th place out of 87. Got my rock and roll medal, and as my third Rock and Roll of 2011 (Arizona, Seattle, Miami) I got the Triple Crown.

Monday, December 19, 2011

November, And The Account Of The 11th Month

The month of November proved to be busy after baby Halloween arrived to the world. Family came from overseas to visit; weekends were baby oriented; a new birthday moved me to a new running bracket; and a turkey was on the table for our traditional Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, I kept running. The highlights of the training were the 2-hour runs at 4 am at mid 30’sF with my nephew Federico, plus the races were it was understood, he would participate, because, “when will you have the opportunity to run with your aunt again?”

November 06th
The day the clock falls back. Anything is Possible including running back in time...

A race to run negative times. Race started at 1:50 am and I finished at 1:16 am, before the race even started... It was fun to see the clock in the finish line with negative times. The female winner ran in -41:00. I ran in -33:03. It was cold (38ºF/3ºC) but FUN! Venue: UW Campus.

I won the division and placed 16 out of 75 female!

November 12th
Mom arrived on the 11th and on the 12th I told her “I have to run a Half Marathon, I’ll be back at mid morning”. Veterans Half Marathon was organized by First Call Running Group just a few miles from my home, starting at Bothell Landing. The course, one of my favorite training routes: gorgeous Sammamish River Trail. The scenery, the most stunning fall landscape

Met my good running buddy Marie, and went to conquer another half distance. The run was nice, and though it was not the race where you have all the crowd, and city movement around, it was a race that let me perform much better than if a Lizzie’s solo run.

Got 4th place in the division out of 14 runners. This was my last race in the current bracket.

November 17th
My birthday…. NEW RUNNING BRACKET…!!!

November 20th
This weekend was the turn for a short run. There were no prospects for a long run and  Turkey trots’ short races were the only ones available over Western Washington. Federico, who’d arrived on the 14th, ran his first 5K ever, on a cold but sunny day, launching his American racing career over Seattle runners’ paradise, Green Lake, at Green Lake Gobble. It couldn’t happen in a prettier place, where 3.1 miles are run around a dazzling calm lake reflecting, as a mirror, the deciduous trees, with their naked branches.

In regards to my performance, I was curious if a PR could be in my pocket as this is one of the fastest courses in W. WA. Though it wasn’t, I ran pretty good, and clocked 26:55: for an 8:40 pace. 

Got 8th place in the division out of 82 runners.

November 26th
Seattle 5K, part of the Seattle Marathon Races. I have never run this race before. For the last 5 years, I go to Seattle on Friday after Thanksgiving, to pick up my Marathon or Half Marathon packet, and dedicate Saturday to rest around my husband, turkey leftovers, and a couch in front of the fireplace. But, Federico was here, so, why not to entertain with another downtown visit, run a 5K, and get a little speed work before my Half Marathon on Sunday?

The race is relatively small, with a couple of thousand runners (I assume the rest were laying around family, turkey leftovers, and fireplace ). This is not a fast course as it is in downtown Seattle, which is hilly, but fun nonetheless. I clocked 29:07 for a 9:22  place. Got 4th place out of 39 runners.

Federico had had two races in two weekends in a row, and probably was wondering, if it was time to leave the country before I drag him into my weekend’s race folly.

November 27th
My race, Seattle:  My first marathon in 2007 and the race that brought me back to long distance running. My first half marathon in 2009; and, after two exact years, I was logging my 35th half marathon. I felt proud for this, because it has been a lot what has been learned and achieved in 35 races in the span of 24 months. It has been a committed and enthusiastic challenge that led me to fall in love with this distance.  This day, I ran with a unique passion, my 50th race of the year, my 35th half in lifetime, and my 20th half in 2011, . The rounded stats made it more special.

Once, a great Venezuelan entertainer, Renny Ottolina, said that to love a place, you need to know the place (emphasizing the meaning of “knowing”). I love Seattle’s course because I know it by heart. I know every single inch of it, and with all its hills and possible rain, snow, or hail, it’s simply mine. It’s the race I call home. It’s the course that taught me what a marathon teaches to a runner, it’s the race that taught me that no matter how hard things are, if you set your mind and your heart to it, you’ll succeed. And because I ran it with that one of a kind passion, it was a fantastic race, having a course PR of 8 minutes, finishing strong, and placing 23rd out of 127.

With nothing but gratitude, I closed the month. November, And The Account Of The 11th Month.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Halloween Baby

I went to run my Halloween Half on October 29, while daughter-in-law was in labor. The chances were high that I’d change category from mom to grandma that day.

The race, put together by Bob and Kristina Salazar, was another of their many combo races that attract around one hundred people to enjoy any distance of their preference, from marathon, to a mile, including a duathlon, or a triathlon, depending on the location of the race. This one was done for first time in Lacey, making it new to all of us. The run would have no goal in particular as it was nothing but a training run of ~16 miles (I have already run 2.5 miles before the start). There were some funny costumes. I approached a cow and after knowing her pace, I picked the goal to chase the cow.

The gun went off, and we directed ourselves along a beautiful course flanked by gorgeous, super tall evergreens. I ran at a comfortable pace as a training run, with my regular strategy of running a mile at a time, and by effort.  The cow passed me from the beginning and I lost sight of her. There were three marathoners close but ahead, and I tried not to lose them. One of them had a very nice running form, and that was goodness for me as I tend to emulate. Just feet away of the half mark I saw the cow turning around, probably one minute ahead of me. I knew that I had high chances to pass her in the next 6.5 miles. At mile 10 I passed the marathoners (nothing to be proud of, they had to double the distance), and at mile 11.5 the heels of the cow were ready to be stepped on. I passed her and I pushed my pace to get my fastest mile. I crossed the finish line at 2:14:17 and completed my Half Marathon # 33.

I went to the car to check the phone, to only find out the text message:  “no news”. After eating the as-usual-great-food provided by the organizers I drove to the hospital, where the labor process continued to be slow. Because it was going to be a long night, and I live one hour away, my son told me to stay at his place. It was great to be able to help with some chores, and take care of Wally (the puppy).

The night passed between, getting up, checking the phone, and falling asleep. The baby was definitely in her comfy place and didn’t have much intentions of getting out. At 6 am my son told me my daughter-in-law had started pushing. At 8 I left to the hospital, and got to the lobby of the birth center at 8:18. Texted my son, and 5 minutes later, I heard “twinkle, twinkle, little star” melody on the hospital speakers. I immediately thought: “This must mean something”… And I got the text message: SHE IS BORN!!!.

Peyton Elizabeth Moreno, Oct 30, 2011, 8:23 am, 8lbs 11oz, 20 inches. Welcome to the world.

One day short of Halloween, but with my medal in hand, she is now my Halloween Baby.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Life’s Short. Run Long.

My friend Shannon and I had both scheduled a 20 miler for the long run. We met on a wet, wet, very wet, morning, at one of the best running spots in Western Washington: East Sammamish River Trail by Redmond. The temperature was warm, in the high 50’s and the drizzle was constant but lovely. I told Shannon that we should split up if she needed to pick up the pace. She is way faster than me and her marathon is around the corner. I was not going to hold her up. Training is training and we gotta do what we gotta do. I was concerned because I was physically and mentally tired. I was coming from a 17 miler last week, with a lot of hills in it, and I worked this week about 12 hour each day. Add to that recipe a daunting 20-mile run, and I could drag my feet any minute.

We had so much enthusiasm that the first 8 miles were pretty much unnoticeable. Runners and bikers were all with smiles on their faces, and jolly “good morning” came out of my mouth every minute. I dare to say that the smiles and sense of happiness were due to various factors: All of us on that trail love what we were doing. People would not jump out of their bed on a 100% rainy day to do something they don’t like. The weather was perfect for running, with all and the drizzle. We were in a place with gorgeous scenery: poplars on the right, and a calm river, a slew, on the left, with plenty of ducks and geese guarded by trees with the colors of fall: red, orange, yellow. The reflection of the trees on the peaceful waters was striking.  The mist around the evergreens on the mountains made the place simply magic.

Before my watch beeped on mile 10, I asked Shannon if she wouldn’t mind to go farther, maybe 0.5 miles, for me to show her something. She was OK, and asked what. I told her she would have to see it by herself. For sure, it was going to be worthy, something with a lot of meaning, especially for us runners; something to make us pause, and have a reflection. I have shared this before, and wanted to share it with her. The watch beeped, and the bench was right there, a bench with a bolted pair of bronze running shoes: a memorial for runner Liz Duncan, who, 3 days before her 27th birthday, was killed by a car, while running.  As Shannon said, a fellow runner gone too soon.  And then you pause, think, and ask: what are the things that really matter?

We turned around and continued with our journey, now into regressive mode. Boy, don’t you love that? My legs started to feel tired at mile 13. At 14 Shannon says: only 6 more. At 16 I said Dieciseis, and Shannon started repeating the word. Then the mileage countdown became a Spanish class. Diecisiete, Dieciocho, Diecinueve, VEINTE (20). We were done. My first 20 miler of my marathon season was complete. 12 weeks to go. 

A lovely run, with fantastic company, terrific surroundings, and delicious weather. Life's Short. Run Long.

Dedicated to Liz Duncan.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Ninth Mile: Kyle’s Mile

It was springtime when Tony Seabolt started sharing about a new race in the Pacific Northwest: Race For A Soldier.  The cause was worth the effort of coordinating something that was definitely bigger than us.

Kyle Marshall Farr came back home “safe” from Iraq, but no so safe. He had PTSD, which sadly claimed his life. His mom, Leslie Mayne, an admirable woman, decided that Kyle’s death would not be in vain. Her mission was to get the necessary reform to help our military men and women suffering PTSD. She was determined to make Race For A Soldier, an instrument to bring awareness to our communities, military, and government that PTSD is a heartbreaking reality costing the lives of our men and women that have served for our freedom.

The excitement of the race was in crescendo with the passing months.  Race For A Soldier shared the progress not only of race events but also of available therapies where race funds will go.

When finally October 16 arrived, all wheels and pulleys were in synch for a perfect race. Hundreds of volunteers have worked to mark this day as the beginning of something truly important. The venue for the race was the gorgeous town of Gig Harbor, and the course one of the prettiest courses I have run.

I put a running team together with the goal of representing our military. Running Force was assembled and each of us would symbolize our forces wearing their colors on race day: Shannon (Army), Susan (Navy), Angie (Air Force), and myself (Marine Corps).  

The opening ceremony was remarkable and after an emotive national anthem we were set to go. The first mile mark was The Mayne Mile, representing Kyle’s mom. As a mother, I can't imagine how she has gone through all this process, but she has, and has gone strong.  The cheerful company along the way was fantastic. The beautiful rolling hills, whether they were steep or not, plus the multitude of volunteers with yellow shirts and American flags flanking the runners, made this one of the greatest races I’ve run. 

Then I got to mile 9. A mile marker that was simply stunning: Kyle’s picture on his football uniform, #9, Kyle’s mile. I had to stop, touch the picture, kneel, and pay a small tribute. If I had run the first nine miles embedded in this race purpose, the four miles left were more emotional now.

Tony was there when I crossed the finish line, we hugged and I felt in that moment Leslie's and race organizers’ success. Tony introduced me to Leslie, and between tears, in a very sincere moment, I only had to say: God Bless You. She hugged me tight and told me, I saw you at mile 9. I could speak no more. She was living proof that there is hope in the face of despair.

May this race be just the beginning of something big to help our military in need. This is beyond Gig Harbor, and beyond Washington State. I see the potential and need for this race going across the country, from north to south and from sea to shining sea.

May all the miles run for our men and women serving in the military symbolize what Race For A Soldier symbolizes: The Ninth Mile: Kyle's Mile.

The Ninth Mile. Kyle's Mile
The Mayne Mile
Team RUNNING FORCE: Sharon (Army), Susan (Navy), Angie (Air Force), Lizzie (Marine Corps)
With Leslie after the race
With Miguel, Race Planner Chief and Coordinator
How wonderful to run a race that means and represents something way bigger than our own little worlds. Leslie, God Bless You. Miguel & Tony, and all volunteers, thank you for such an amazing work. This objective has to cross our country, from north to south, and from sea, to shining sea. Love you all.

Beautiful medal. It represents what/who we are running for!!!

I ran a very good race and felt strong running the hills. Did 4 miles prior to the race as my marathon plan had me scheduled a 17-miler. I clocked 10min/mile. Steady.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Worm" And Fuzzy

Regressive Countdown - Week Fifteen -
10/03/11 - 10/09/11 -
Week Total: 25.5 miles -

Houston Marathon training has officially started. Because I am swamped with work I will not be able to join my running group in Green Lake, so I will be training alone with my own plan, which will be based on Furman (what’s new). I will do my best to hit Furman’s paces for key workout #3, and I will add some mileage with easy runs. I will be closely monitoring how off my PMP (Planned Marathon Pace) is and will adjust accordingly. Trial and error, right?

Week started with a couple of very short and easy runs as I come from three weeks of resting; then, my favorite workout: Intervals.  Plan called for 4 x 800 at 5K –30 pace, which is 8:15. I averaged that for the first three 800. The last 800, however, started at 7:50; 300 left to go I did 7:25, 200 to go 7:00, 100 to go 6:30. How did it feel? As if my heart was going to burst out of my chest.  And that’s exactly why I love speed workouts, because I know I give it all… !!!

Scheduled long run was a 15-miler, and I was planning on doing it the way I love to do it, with a race. Also, the only way that I had been able to hit Furman’s pace is in races.

The race was in Elma, about 100 miles from home and I doubted about going. It seemed painful to drive 200 miles “just” to run 15 miles. I wanted to sleep in as I had worked a lot of hours during the week; I was so tired that I went to bed at 6:30 Friday night and fell asleep right away. The good thing is that I slept 12 hours!!! As the race would start at 11 am I would have plenty of time to get there. The decision was made, when at 7am I asked to myself: What is better? To drive almost 4 hours total to run a nice race, and have my social gathering with runners? Or, to run close to home at a sloppy pace and have available more than 3 hours playing stupid computer? Better for me was to hit the road.

The road to Elma, once I turned west in Olympia toward the beaches, was beautiful. I had never driven that highway which was all flanked by thousand of evergreens. It made the drive an outstanding one. The race would start and finish in Vance Creek Park which is a small beautiful park surrounding a pretty man-made lake or pond (Bowers Lake, and Lake Inez). I registered, and met, of course, known people (Kristin) and talked with others about our favorite subject.

The same people that organize the Rochester races, Bob and Kristina Salazar, put this race together. I love them because they are very small races with events for all: Marathon, Half Marathon, 10 mile, 10K, 5K, 1mile, Olympic Triathlon, Sprint Triathlon, and Duathlon. Yes, all this at the same time, and at the end, all of us gather to have nice food and talk about how did it go, what’s next, and what have you.

I planned to run 2 miles prior to the race, but talking with people here and there I consumed some of my time and only ran 1.4 miles (the perimeter of the lake was 0.6 miles, and from my car to the lake 0.1, so I ran two loops). I planned to run another loop after the race.

The course was out-and-back, flat, and I went calm and without hurry. Plan was to run average a 10:30 min/mile pace as my long run. Temperature was warm, in low 60’s, but in the way out we had a nice 5mph breeze that acted as a personal fan. Of course, I knew what it meant; I would be hot in my way back.

Because I have never ran this course before I had the “wondering” factor, and the wonder began from the start when I saw for first time in my life these big fuzzy “worms” along the route. It was a Sun City, Yakima Half Marathon déjà-vu; exactly a year ago. Is this a case where worms go once a year, the second week of October, to cheer the runners on? Are the Eastern Washington naked slugs because is a desert, and Western Washington fuzzy because the rain?

These “worms” were beautiful: black, orange, black, all dressed up for Halloween. They were fuzzy, which makes them right away no-worms, but caterpillars, but as the first impression to me was a worm one, worm they were! I continued my race just looking for more worms. I saw tons of them. I was so curious, that I knew as soon as I got home I would go to Wikipedia to learn about them.

Race was good, the volunteers fantastic, nice to see the marathoners (saw Kristin a couple of times, their course was out-and-back twice), but nicer knowing that I didn’t have to run the whole distance. I had good negative splits, though I confessed I got several times lost in my “worms” thoughts. At the turn around my weather prediction was correct. My personal fan was gone and I was hot. About mile 8.5 I poured water on my head and face; talked a little with the volunteer and her nice little boy who had his private camper in the trunk of mom’s car. Continued my race, and pushed the pace speeding up about 20 sec per mile. I passed a marathoner who told me “You make it look so easy”, I turned my head and told him: “That’s because you are running 26 and me “only half”… I ended well at 10:24 pace; ran another loop around the lake to complete my 15-miler; got my trophy; ate a black forest ham/cheese sandwich; enjoyed the post race party, and happily thanked for making the decision to drive that far.

As hubby was fishing in American Lake, located in my way to home, I stopped, he picked me up at the boat launch and we went for a gorgeous boat ride with majestic Rainier in the background: Great ending to a race that was "Worm" And Fuzzy. 

The "worm", actually a beautiful caterpillar: Isabella Tiger Moth

Kristin at mile 25.5
Hubby and his friend coming to pick me up at the launch
Majestic Rainier from American Lake

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Gift Of Running

I went for a weekend of fun being this my last week of “resting” before Houston training. A fun weekend equals to back to back 10K races, Saturday and Sunday; nothing to shoot for other than a tempo run, and to meet friends and new people. On Saturday I would run Project Athena 10K race in Redmond, and on Sunday I would run Pace Race 10K in Kirkland. 

I confess that I was planning on going to “another” race... then I read the stories on Project Athena's web site. This organization helps survivors live their adventurous dreams, with entry fees, airfare, coaching, and specialized equipment, in an attempt to help them reach their goals.

I had no idea what this race would entail. The opening ceremony was all about the survivors. They told a short story of each survivor running the race. At this point when I heard the stories, I thought I still got it easy with my breast cancer, because what others have endured had no comparison. Cynthia, the main featured survivor suffered the tragic loss of her two teenaged children, Chrissy and Carlos, 1.5 years apart, in 2005 and 2007. Project Athena had inspired her when she needed it the most, and she would be running her first 10K. While I was listening to this, I thought about giving my run to Cynthia and accompany her throughout the course. I asked her coach if I could run with her by her side and she said “of course”.

We started the race, and there we were Cynthia, Melissa (Cynthia’s coach), Amy, a young girl that has had too much at her young age, and me. We ran, jogged, walked, pushed, to the next post, to the next “blue garbage can”, to the guy with the red shirt (oh wait, that’s a moving target), to where the photographer is, to the overpass, to the bridge, and little by little we advanced a quarter of mile, half a mile, a mile, two, three, four, five, six. And Cynthia got to the finish line, and she wasn’t last which was one of her goals. It was a moment that I would never forget. I thought I was giving and I was the one receiving the gift from such strong woman.

As I told the foundation creators: "I went today to what I thought was another race, but I became so inspired by your foundation and by the amazing stories that were shared in the podium, that have nothing but gratitude for what you are doing. Stories like Cynthia's are extremely tragic, but it's beautiful to see what you've done for her and others. From the bottom of my heart, thanks." 

And this foundation was in certain way the answer to my need to give back what others have done for me. I offered my support to help other survivors in Western Washington to achieve their running goals and to run the race of their dreams.

With Cynthia.
From left to right: Melissa, Cynthia, Me, Amy
On Sunday, being in a happy bubble for the beauty of my Saturday’s experience, I went to run Pace Race in Kirkland. I saw my co-worker Brian and we chatted for a while, mainly on the surprisingly low number of runners.

I went simply for a run and a hilly workout (Kirkland is very hilly). Temperature was 50F, perfect. As soon as the gun went off I settled my heart rate for a hilly 10K which is higher effort than a regular 10K. Surprisingly, I felt good throughout all the race and never ran panting or hyperventilating. The race was fantastic, I ran the first three miles which are mostly uphill very good and had a fantastic downhill at mile 4. This mile, three years ago, cost me the quads which are obviously way stronger now. I finished in 58:18 and got second in my age group.

Mile 1 – 9:46  – HR 167
Mile 2 – 10:10 – HR 170
Mile 3 – 10:04 – HR 174
Mile 4 – 8:44 – HR 177
Mile 5 – 9:02 – HR 180 (98% of max heart rate)
Mile 6 – 9:04 – HR 183 (all effort)
Mile 6.2 – 1:25 – HR 188 (!!! This is 103%)

This was a successful weekend with great results, especially Saturday, when I thought I would be giving, and I was the one that received the gift. All these living experiences are nothing but a consequence of The Gift Of Running.

2nd in my age group
With Brian

Chocolate And Wind

I decided to take 2 to 3 weeks off after the Moro Marathon and before starting my Houston Marathon training (race on Jan 15, 2012). I still would run my scheduled races during the weekends, but the week would be free of running. And for the lazy gal I am, this was awesome.

A bunch of Sole Sisters, and other runners teamed up to run You Go Girl in Tacoma mid September. Ginger, one of our über fast girls, put the team together, and because she likes chocolate, we would be in brown: Chocolate Covered Runners was the team’s name. Our Sole Sister’s Captain Jessica would turn 40 that day, and that would be a great reason to run with her and celebrate afterwards (i.e. beer). Tony Seabolt, the guy in the PNW who does whatever for his running girls, would be adding also one more year to his life. Double beer!

We met for a team photo, and then we took off to run at our own pace. 

This race was one week after my New Zealand marathon so I took it as an easy long run. The temperature was in mid 50s but it felt muggy to me. At the end of mile 3 I was not feeling well. I was heavily sweating. Fortunately by my mile 4 it started to drizzle and it felt nice and cool after that. I went as I normally go now by effort and though I didn’t have negative splits, the hills at the end were not as bad as they could’ve been if I’ve run by pace instead. 

With Jess in her awesome 40th B'day
Mile 1 – 10:02 – HR 160
Mile 2 – 10:04 – HR 163
Mile 3 – 11:03 – HR 164 (this is when I felt the air muggy and I wasn’t feeling good)
Mile 4 – 10:39 – HR 168 (a mist shows up and I am feeling better now)
Mile 5 – 9:14 – HR 165 (a downhill… Lower effort, but faster)\
Mile 6 – 9:43 – HR 168 (Increased the effort, but ran much better that mile 4)
Mile 7 – 10:11 – HR 168
Mile 8 – 10:21 – HR 169
Mile 9 – 10:15 – HR 170
Mile 10 – 10:28 – HR 166 (lowered my effort, for some reason that I don’t remember. Tired maybe?
Mile 11 – 10:29 – HR 169
Mile 12 – 10:18 – HR 176 (a lot of effort and I sped up a little but not much)
Mile 13 – 9:45 – HR 183 (all effort)

I finished in 2:13:32 for 10:12 min/mile. Not bad considering I ran a marathon the week before, and arrived three days before from New Zealand after a 24-hour flight with lay-overs included!!!
Tony and Jess celebrating b'days
Food, beers, and friendship with Tony, Kristen and Marie
Following a week of nothingness I went to run Bellingham Bay Half. I love this course and the race. I was more rested now, so it would feel OK… until I checked the weather for race day. It came with a red bar on top: Severe weather alert / wind advisory. Winds of 30 mph with gusts of 45 to 60 mph (up to 100 km/h).... snapping tree branches, and causing local power outage. Sad to say, the weatherman was right on the money. The winds were so fast that there were points where runners could barely walk. I finished the race with literally nothing left. And I literally puked after crossing the finish line at 2:27:29. I was so dizzy that the medical personnel wanted to take me to the medical tent. They brought me water, and helped me to get the chip off. After 5 minutes I told them I was OK, and simply moved on!!!!

Some of the comments the following day around the running world were:
·        Uli Steidl (marathon winner) battled tough winds…
·        Not all runners were able to get through the race or Sunday's wind without hiccups like Steidl did. Kirkland's Brian Patenaude, who crossed the finish line shoes in hand, struggled against gusty conditions most of the race. "I totally fell off my routine," Patenaude said. "I was vomiting and dizzy. I totally wasn't prepared for the wind. I feel dumb for not looking into it, and I had to take my shoes off at mile 23. I was trying to PR, but I didn't."
·        The wind was horrible...
·        I had the best day yesterday (minus the wind)
·        Fantastic race yesterday (despite the wind.)
·        Great race, great shirt, and great medal... Can you spell W-I-N-D???
·        Thank you for a nice course! Next time, maybe you could turn the wind machine down just a smidge?
·        Where were the mile markers? On the ground !!!
·        The wind almost knocked us over at the waterfront.

You got the idea... and  you will also get the idea if compare Bellingham splits with You Go Girl splits.

Mile 1 – 10:32 – HR 149
Mile 2 – 10:32 – HR 158
Mile 3 – 10:46 – HR 161 (we had here tailwinds of 50mph. Do you think will help? Not really, you think you are going to be run over)
Mile 4 – 10:50 – HR 170 (Now is a hill with headwinds)
Mile 5 – 10:49 – HR 168
Mile 6 – 10:37 – HR 170
Mile 7 – 10:37 – HR 173
Mile 8 – 11:05 – HR 171 – I started dying at this point.
Mile 9 – 12:20 – HR 169 – This is a battle now. At 92% and I am above 12min/mile which I kept for horrible next three miles). Regularly, when running above 12min/mile in recovery runs I am at 70%, below 140bpm)
Mile 10 – 12:15 – HR 168
Mile 11 – 12:19 – HR 166
Mile 12 – 11:36 – HR 173 (Saw the angelical face of niece Angie. This really cheered me on, and helped me to speed up. Thanks Angie)
Mile 13 – 10:45 – HR 175 (My max effort is 183 but with a pace above 10. I had nothing left not even for a sprint. Last week same effort was a 9:45 pace, and for my PR past August, my last mile with this effort was 8:19).

Close to puking...3301 be careful, and how come the wind didn't delete that smile???
Angie and Captain Che America who went to the race to cheer me on... And how much it helped!!!

These were my Half Marathons # 29 and # 30. Every race is different, and the beauty of this difference is that they continue teaching me how the elements can change the outcome for similar levels of effort.

This is how I learn to run better, with Chocolate And Wind.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Daughter To Thank

My daughter went to live to New Zealand in February this year as a result of a thrown dart. As she well said: Mom is her lovely, supportive self, [who] just wants me to leave already so she can come visit.  And truly, my visit plans started right away, with flight ticket fares research, places to visit and New Zealand running calendar in hand… because my visit needed to include, ahem, a race.

Daughter and I waited for her to be settled to determine which city in NZ would be the “base camp”. By June, she had gotten a job (to start in August) in Dunedin with the Rugby World Cup. Between those months she would work for the same company in the capital, Wellington.

Checking Ale’s and Rugby World Cup schedules, and NZ running calendar, we decided that I would visit her in Dunedin. Dunedin was hosting several world cup games, it had the Moro Marathon scheduled on 9/11 and it's relatively close to glaciers, beaches and beautiful towns with gorgeous lakes. My trip dates: 8/26 to 9/14.

The countdown for the trip was exciting. First, I was going to be with my beautiful daughter. Second, I have never been in the South Hemisphere, let alone, so far South, at the bottom of the world..

After 24 hours of flights and layovers, and crossing the international date line, I arrived to NZ on August 28. We rented a car, El Cheapo, and hit the road. We had scheduled for the first week to drive around 1,000 miles (1,600Km). The details of the trip will be a different post and the story will be told with pictures; easier that way. The marathon was a bonus of our vacation. Our plans of going “places” were not going to be altered because I needed to taper, rest, or whatever. That marathon happened to be scheduled 3 days before leaving NZ, and I wanted to do it only for the experience of running in another country, in another continent, and almost in another planet. I was not going to expect a PR, fame or glory.

Two days after my arrival we went to Franz Josef Glacier and did a full day strenuous hike, which is one of the best things I’ve done in my life. My knees felt it and though I was not too concerned I kinda (just kinda) whined everyday. Ale, my knees hurt. Ale, my knees hurt. She just had to roll her eyes and be patient with Dear Mom.

The whole vacation was more than fantastic. We went to ski towns, to various lakes, to the Tasman Sea (cold!!!) and did short hikes. Back in Dunedin we walked it ALL. We visited the Otago Museum; the Museum of Art; all Victorian and Edwardian architecture buildings; the Farmers Market; a cozy quasi-private concert with Matt Langley, a local Musician with a spectacular voice and enormous talent. We went to the movies, to the England-Argentina game hosted by Dunedin, and to the bars to watch the games hosted by other NZ cities.

On Friday 9/9 we went to pick up my packet at the Otago Polytechnic: a long line for half-marathoners, and a very short, almost non-existent line for marathoners. As I received my packet I was told that the local press wanted to interview me. I was puzzled. The journalist was not available and they scheduled the interview on Sat. The press interest was about the significance of Americans running a race on 9/11. I was certainly touched as I did not expect that. The interview was very spontaneous, and we talked for long about the infamous day and what meant to me from that day till present. Then we talked about running.

On Sunday we needed to go to where packet pick up was to take a shuttle to go to the start, available only for runners. Ale and I woke up around 5 am, and walked about a mile. As the England-Argentina game was the night before, we found drunken people still walking around with their country flags tied around their necks. Porta potties vandalized by, of course, those drunkards, made the dark walk interesting and funny.

The marathon course is point to point, starting on Harington Point (Albatross Colony) and ending in Port Chalmers, sort of an italic U course. I asked one of the organizers about the windy conditions (the week before we were at Harington Point and the winds were in the 80 mph range).  He told me that going SW is not bad, there is some elevation that protects from NE winds, "but the problem would be when we turn West and then North not only because the cross and headwinds, but because we are tired". I dismissed the comment, as I was planning to run by effort and I was definitely going to be stronger at that turn. I just thought!!!!

There were 3 shuttles that would leave every 5 minutes between 6:15 to 6:30 am. I got into the second shuttle. Ale hugged me tight and wished me the best, though whatever I do, is good for her. She always tells me she is very proud of what I do and have accomplished. 

The drive was about half hour and I talked with a guy (go figure) the whole ride. His take was that at his age he only cares about finishing. Though he is a 3:30 kind of marathoner he doesn’t put pressure on time anymore. I agreed with him, but sub-consciously (or consciously?) I have already set a PR in my head - 4:35 - just because I think I could do it. Bad deal. The shuttle took us to the Albatross Colony for a nice bathroom stop of about 15 minutes. As the shuttles were staggered, there were no problems with the bathroom lines. Then, the shuttle took us about 2 Km down to the start line where there were about 4 porta-potties and the van for gear check. Temperature was 50F, feeling 45 with the wind chill factor. I had chance to pee AGAIN, of course, and though I had thrown away clothes, these were not necessary. The van was simply aligned with the start line, so we could keep ourselves warm till the very last minute, and before putting the gear bag in the van.

We began our 26.2 journey running on the right side of the road, facing traffic (in NZ the driving is on the left, steering wheel on the right). 

I set my heart in low rate, and settled at the back of the pack. This was a small marathon with 200 registrants, and a 5-hour limit, so I’d assume from the beginning I’d be in that back position. There was only one guy behind me (Camel Pack Guy) and 7 runners clustered about 30 seconds ahead of me. I called them “The Seven”. The leader of team seven was a gal or guy All-in-Black (he or she was further away and I couldn’t identified gender). Second in that pack was Red Guy, and then, third was “The 5” all together.

At Km 2 I was hot already, tossed the arm warmers and took the gloves off. Camel Pack guy, the guy behind me, passed me and I became the last of the Mohicans. The weird sensation I had was every time I heard a car behind me I thought it was coming close to me, not realizing that those cars were driving on the left. I felt throughout all the race I was running on the wrong side of the road. However I felt safe as the official race car was behind me. My pace was 10 min/mile. I knew that I’d catch up with The Seven.

I had water at the 5K mark (water provided every 5K) and kept going without losing sight of the group. I kept them within close distance for the first 10K when I was planning to increase the heart rate.  At the 10K mark I was ready to pick up the pace. I passed 6 of The Seven, with the exception of the All-in-Black. That runner just took off. Soon after, Red Guy asked me where from America I was (I had an American flag), and after telling “Washington State” he said goodbye and with a sort of springs on his feet, he left running smoking fast. There was a small turn around the harbor and I saw how both, All-in-Black and Red Guy, simply disappeared.

From the other five, there was a gal, Blue Gal, that started to separate from the rest of the group. She was on my toes, and passed me. She had a whole crew cheering her on. Her husband, boyfriend, fiancée, or whatever was following her on a bike, and giving her dried fruits or something. Her crew was driving ahead, stopping and cheering. I knew how close she was when I saw this entire thing happening. She passed me in some spots, and I passed her in others, me keeping the lead most of the times. When we got to a hill, I believe before Portobello, I knew that she was mine. I passed her easily as she slowed down.

At Km 20 I discerned the stadium where my daughter works and the game was the night before. I felt the satisfaction of getting closer. At the half distance I was in 2:20 and I felt that I would be able to have negative splits. I was feeling really good, until...  we turned west. The NE wind that hasn’t been anywhere but behind hills, hit the harbor to provide nothing but crosswinds of 40mph. It was very hard to run. For my surprise, Blue Gal passed me as if the wind was not with her. She galloped and she chewed me completely. She flew away, and I never saw her again. I wondered how she could battle the wind with such strength: hats off to Blue Gal. At the 25K water station I was feeling dizzy. I combated the wind with all I had and was not feeling good now. And to add, four of the five were right behind me. How did this happen, I have no idea. After water, we hit the road and I tried to stick with them, but I was struggling with the wind. I was not able to follow their pace. Now, The Seven minus one were ahead of me. About the 30K mark we joined the Half Marathon walkers. We headed North towards Port Chalmers having now headwinds. Surprise: I caught up with Red Guy. What in the heck is he doing here? Shockingly, I also came across All-in-Black, who had left the whole bunch in the dust 25K ago. Yes, I know the story. You fly and die later. By the way, All-in-Black was a girl.

I started to feel really dehydrated, and overheated. I had more clothes that I wanted to have, but decided not to remove a layer. Red Guy offered me water and stuck with me. At 35K I was simply dying. The wind was consuming me and I had nothing left. The volunteers at the water station were surprised seeing me pouring cups and cups of water over my head. One guy offered me to pour a whole pitcher, and I said: please baptize me!. He did and I felt so refreshed.

Red Guy was very nice and talkative. He said: We are not going to win, so I think we can go easy. But easy had become very hard for me. I tried to picture only 7K left, that is nothing, 4.3 miles. And there was a hill, and wind, and traffic, and I wanted to get done. Finally, I saw the crowd and my beautiful daughter before the finish line. I crossed it without my famous final sprint. I was dead finishing at 5:02. I hugged my daughter, and told her: this was hard!!! Red Guy crossed the finish lines some seconds behind me, and I had the opportunity of thanking him for helping me finish the last 12K. (8 miles). His name, Paul Cobby.

9/11 - For all of YOU
Dead Me
We took the race shuttle back to Dunedin, and from the University drop-off we walked one mile back home. After taking a shower, daughter and I took a 2 ½ hour nap. Boy, it felt good. Then, rugby games to watch, homeland USA team to cheer on, beers to drink, roasted pork to devour,  and for all this, and the most fantastic vacation, A Daughter To Thank. 

Moro Marathon didn't give medals, but my sweet daughter did this for me!!!