Friday, December 14, 2007

Ho Ho Ho! A Christmas Meme

Growing up in a Buddhist family, Christmas was something we celebrated just to go along with everyone else. My parents put up a tree and decorations and wrapped gifts for us when we were little, but by the time we were teenagers, we were often just given cash to buy our own gifts (less work, less fuss, wrapping optional). And as we got older, the tree and decorations came out less and less.

Then I married Dave, who used to have "BAH HUMBUG" strung across his office doorway at Xmas. I decided I'd better take charge before it became just another day!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bag? Neither, most of our gifts are shipped/given directly unwrapped (but usually in a box or envelope) or sent via email.
2. Real tree or artificial? N/A
3. When do you put up your tree? N/A
4. When do you take down your tree? N/A
5. Do you like eggnog? Nope. Eggs, milk and me don't mix.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Not sure, but I remember having a blast playing with a Hot Wheels set one Xmas. Or was it my brother's?
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Not that I know of.
8. Hardest person to buy for? No one. Everyone we know loves gift cards.
9. Easiest person to buy for? Moi :-)
10. Worst Christmas gift you've ever received? I once got a coconut bra and grass skirt at a Secret Santa gift exchange. At the time, it seemed pretty useless.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail. It's tradition.
12. Favorite Christmas movie? Die Hard. Yes, it qualifies. Yippy-ki-yay!
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Whenever the right gift comes to mind but usually when I have a deadline to meet.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Recycling is good.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Sees Candy if I'm lucky to get any.
16. White or colored lights? N/A
17. Favorite Christmas song? Snoopy's Theme. It's not really a Xmas song but it reminds me of the Peanuts show I used to watch as a kid around Xmas.
18. Traveling for Christmas or stay home? Usually we travel and often to get out of having to go elsewhere.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Umm ...
20. Angel or Star on top of tree? N/A
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? People getting stressed over it.
23. What I love most about Christmas? Dave takes some time off from work.

And to keep things mellow, I'm not tagging anyone else but feel free to do one if you want. That's what I did :-)

PS - The poll below will stay open until I figure out how to close it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Coaching Poll

Just out of curiosity ...

If you had a MAJOR goal you wanted to achieve but felt you needed outside help with it, how much would you be willing to pay for a coach?

$0 would include asking for help from any person who is willing to give advice for free (friend, club coach, etc), or buying a book or generic training program and doing it yourself. $1-$100 would probably include most coaches who work with an organized training group, class or team as well as perhaps some basic 1-on-1 coaching services. Feel free to elaborate in the comments, if desired.

Poll Results (as of 1/8/08):

Thanks everyone for voting!

Monday, December 10, 2007

IMAZ Decision

Well, folks, it's been an agonizing couple weeks. Since the announcement of the new November Ironman Arizona race, I've gone back and forth trying to decide whether to sign up. There were as many reasons why I wanted to do it as there were why I shouldn't so I finally decided to consult the holy rolly decision maker of my household, the ever loved 8-ball.

But with 5 marathons already on my 2008 schedule and the long-time 50 states marathon goal as my priority, I needed a sound plan and a coach to help me get there. One local tri club coach basically said forget it (he felt no more than one marathon could be done the same year as training for an ironman). Two good online coaches, however, were more open to the idea. One recommended an excellent custom program for $395/month (yikes!). The other was still talking it over with his staff when it happened ...

The race sold out this morning. C'est la vie.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Crazy Cycling

No, it's not my next bike but I just had to share.

And what's even more odd is that this black and white photo was at Running Funky amidst all that bright colored stuff below.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Run Fun

OK, obviously, I'm having some after-effects from running the Las Vegas Marathon. Namely, the desire to have more fun by wearing fun things while racing.

But perhaps also to go faster too. I mean, Sweet Baboo destroyed his previous marathon PR by 50 minutes(!!!) running a 3:56 at Vegas while dressed as Elvis. INCREDIBLE.

And being only about 5'3", Dave has always told me to wear bright colors during a race so he could spot me easier. But now it seems that many are doing the same so seeing a person wearing yellow, red or orange is not as unusual as it used to be.

This calls for drastic measures, Running Funky measures, which, BTW, also does custom orders. More fun!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Splish Splash

Bree mentioned a company called Splish that makes cool swimsuits. I thought this one might be good for me since I've improved this year but still have got a long way to go.

Here's the idea behind it: Turtles are really quite speedy. I mean, if you look at the sloth, which moves at 4 inches an hour, I'd say the turtle is basically a rocket ...

I like the idea of being a rocket, if only to a few :-)

Some of the suits are pretty funny like this one. Can you imagine some guy wearing this? If I didn't drown from swallowing so much water laughing, I'd probably have to get out of the pool before I peed in it.

There was no description or explanation provided. Maybe it's something like: Wear this to discourage your competition from drafting behind you or even getting into the pool with you. By default, you'll be a winner.

And you can also design your own custom swimsuit too. How fun!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Las Vegas Marathon 2007

What happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas.

Not if you're a marathon runner, thanks to race organizers publishing race results on the internet for all to see!

But does a finishing time really say whether a race went well or not? I mean, I met my goal to run a sub-4 race time and ran a negative split. I could say I ran a nice easy first half, felt good enough to run a faster second half, and had fun the entire way.

But, I'd be lying. This was far from being an easy race for me. Still, I must say that I did have fun, as a whole. And it actually started the day before.

First off, I've never seen so many Elvises (or is it Elvi?) in my entire life. At the expo, they seemed to be everywhere ... tall ones, short ones, skinny ones, fat ones, young ones, old ones, male and female ones, Asian ones, Hispanic ones, you name it. There were also some women wearing wedding outfits (but from their shoes, I don't think they were really getting married) and several others who were dressed up. I sort of wished I had some outfit to be more part of the Vegas atmosphere.

Then later I met up with fellow blogger Rural Girl and her wonderful husband, who, like Dave, prefers to be the picture taker rather than in the photos (grrrr). All this year, I'd followed her journey to Ironman Wisconsin and had been looking forward to meeting her in person. We had a nice pre-race dinner and talked and laughed about so many things that I'm sure the waiters/waitresses were giving us the "eye" since many other runners were coming in for their pre-race meals too. All I can say is: We Were There First :-)

So, now onto the running part ...

The course, as you can see below (if you can't, click to see a bigger map), starts off along the the Strip for about 6 miles and then makes a big loop off into no man's land until mile 23.5 when we run along the back side of lower part of the Strip and end up where we started. And knowing that this was my last race for the year and my goal was to have fun, I did something I've never done before during a marathon ...

No, I didn't go out and get myself an Elvis outfit. I brought along a camera, just like I did during my Foto Fartlek run!

But, let me apologize in advance for the quality of some of my shots. I took some while running and all while not paying any attention to the lighting conditions. It's an old digital camera with limited zoom so I just pointed and clicked. OTOH, if I dropped it or somehow lost it, I would not be too heartbroken.

So here we are at the start, which was in front of the Mandalay Bay Resort. The main race start time was 6:07am, about a half hour before sunrise, but the area was well lit with neon and flashing signs as well as a very high and bright light that looks like a big white blob in my photo. What I really wanted to capture were the firecrackers going off to the right but they didn't come out well, unfortunately. And, too bad you can't hear Elvis singing 'Viva Las Vegas' as we crossed the start line. Take my word for it, the race start was pretty exciting!

The first couple miles, we were running past huge, gorgeous hotels/resorts that were lit up with dazzling lights and signs. Then on the left around mile 3 was what I was on the lookout for, the fabulous Blue Man Group. And though I'd just recently seen them in Orlando, I would have loved to have stayed for their entire 45 minute set. But, alas, there was a marathon to be run and so I continued on past them, managing to get only a blurry photo and an audio snippet.

As the sun rose, the Strip took on a different look, one that I thought was not as impressive as in the dark but it was inevitable. There were still cool things to see, however, like this striking building in the distance, The Las Vegas Stratosphere Tower, big statues, signs of who was playing where, etc. And, of course, around me running were several Elvises and other dressed-up folks who were adding to the fun.

But soon after turning off the Strip, the course scenery became a lot less interesting and I began noticing a tight feeling in my left calf. Then within a mile, the balls of my feet, particularly the left one, began to hurt and I could feel my hip flexors starting to ache. WTF???

I slowed down and tried to figure out why I seemed to be having a meltdown so soon. Was I not drinking enough? Was I hitting the wall already? Did I go out too fast? Did I race too much/hard recently? Is it because I didn't run much the past couple months?

Well, I'd been running about an 8:50 pace so far, which shouldn't have been too fast, but I knew I'd somewhat strained my left calf (soleus) during the last mile of the Thanksgiving 10-miler while trying to hold off one woman from passing me (it bothered me after the race during some of my training runs earlier this week). The balls of my feet have been tender ever since the long barefoot swim-bike transition at Miami Man. The hip flexor thing was most likely due to not much running recently and pushing too hard at that 10-miler again.

I decided that the best thing for me was to run conservatively until ~mile 20. The course had a gentle upward grade until ~mile 18 and then had a gentle downward grade until the last couple miles where it rose a bit and then flattened out again. If I could make it to 20 with plenty of energy and no all-out calf cramp or a much more severe muscle pull, I could pick up my pace the last 6.2 miles and then my buddy adrenaline would be on my side to get me through the race.

So that was my plan and with any luck, I might still meet my sub-4 goal.

But around mile 12, I stopped at a porta-potty that a guy just beat me to (hey, what ever happed to ladies first ;-). Since he took longer than I thought he would, I took the time to stretch out my left calf and snap a photo of the scenery we were now looking at. Pretty boring but I liked seeing the mountains in the distance since I don't see any in FL.

The stretching and break from running really seemed to make a big difference, though, and so when I passed the halfway point in over 2 hours (my watch said 2:02:06 but the official split was 2:05:25 -- don't think it was adjusted to account for the time it took for me to cross the start mat), I told myself that I'd stop and stretch every few miles and forgo my sub-4 hour race goal.

Yeah, right. Once I got going, I never stopped again. At mile 14, I saw some very inspiring pint-sized musicians and started focusing more on the people along the course (runners, spectators, bands, cheerleading squads, etc). By mile 15-16, I'd sort of gotten used to the aches and pains, and noted they really weren't getting worse so I inched my pace back below 9 minutes.

At mile 20, my race began. I really picked things up on the downhill sections (easy on the calf but not so much on my feet) and saw some 8:24, 8:31 and 8:32 miles click off on my watch. Uphill and flat sections were in the 8:45-8:50 range and one of the good things about big races is there was no shortage of runners in front of me to try to catch. And names were printed on the bib so spectators could cheer for me by name (how I love that!). We could also see the tall buildings along the Strip that we were running back towards, which I found quite motivating. Sorry, no pictures the last few miles -- I was all business!

Around mile 25, I began hearing the faint sounds of the group I wanted to hear second-most along the course, the Las Vegas Taiko Drummers at mile 26. Not only did it mean I was near the end but I've loved Taiko drumming since I was a kid (I'm of Japanese descent). They kept me running strong to the finish and I managed to slide in just under 4 hours -- 3:58:44 (gun time was 4:02:04). Viva Las Vegas!

The only real complaint I have about this race is the finisher photos (every race has some boring sections so that was no biggie to me). Namely, they only had showgirls to pose with, no show guys, not a single Elvis! And it seemed that only the guys were going up to get their photos taken with the showgirls (go figure). NO FAIR!!!

PS - No more long race reports for the rest of the year :-)

Added: PSS - I never saw Rural Girl during the race, unfortunately, though she was also shooting for a sub-4. But looking for her helped pass the last few miles and I'm happy to say that she did run her third (second standalone, one was part of an Ironman) marathon well. I'll let her tell you all about it.

Las Vegas Marathon - The Skinny

Nice COLD weather and a pretty flat race course but I had some unwelcome issues crop up early in the race that threatened my sub-4 race goal.

Finish time 3:58:44 (9:06.5 avg pace)
Half split 2:05:25 (?)
F45-49 27/193
F 265/1586

The Full Monty by tomorrow!