Monday, May 31, 2010

The Destination Race

I love to travel. Destination races combine my love of traveling with my love of running. Most of my half marathons have been destination races including my next race, Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Half Marathon.

Destination races are fun because you get to explore a new city or a new section of a familiar city. Now that I have running friends who live all over the country, it’s nice to reunite to run races in different cities. Plus each race is different. Some may take you through historical locations, while others have ocean views. There’s often new terrain you can brag about conquering. I like how race organizers want its participants to have a unique experience.

Traveling for a race does take some planning. After you register, you have to book a hotel and figure out how you’re going to get there – via plane, train or automobile. Then there are meals and getting to and from the race.

For Rock ‘n Roll San Diego, I’m meeting up with a bunch of my running buddies. We ran together for years when I lived in California so when they all registered for the race, I knew I wanted in. After I signed up for the race, I figured if I was going to travel 2,500 miles, I needed to make the most of it. So I asked a friend (who doesn’t run) to come with me. We’re flying in on Friday and staying until Tuesday. So in addition to running the half marathon, we’ll spend a few days in San Diego and Los Angeles shopping and sightseeing.

Do you participate in destination races? What do you like about them?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Local Race Experience

Participating in a marathon in or near your hometown can be a very rewarding experience for lots of reasons.

First, you save money on travel. You don’t have to worry about airplane tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars. While I love a good road trip, with the economy being what it is, it’s easier on my wallet to race close to home (I do have an out of state destination race coming up but it might be the only one I run this year).

Local races are great because you can run the trail during your training runs. Being familiar with the course could help you run a good race. There won’t be any surprises. I chose not to do that for the Glass City Marathon because I like variety and surprises. The course covered areas I run on a regular basis but had plenty of streets I’d never ventured down. It was nice to explore new areas of my community and it kept things interesting.

Local races mean your friends and family don’t have to travel to cheer you on. They just have to get up early in the morning, but we’re worth it right?

Running in your hometown means sleeping in your own bed the night before the race (I really like this perk). I think I sleep better in my own bed than in hotel rooms. Familiar surroundings are comforting and relaxing. For GCM, I was well rested race day because I slept in my own bed.

Local races come with local bragging rights. The average person may not have heard of a “little” race like the Boston Marathon, but if you mentioned you ran (fill in the blank) race, they’ll know what you’re talking about because of the local news coverage or the traffic delays due to race road closures.

Since the race is in your backyard, you have an opportunity to help put on a quality event. Organizers are always looking for volunteers to assist with race preparations, work the expo or help out along the course. I volunteered at the expo for the Two Cities Marathon when I lived in Fresno a few years ago. It was nice to talk to the runners as they picked up their race packets. It was interesting to learn how far people traveled to be in the race. I developed an appreciation for all the hard work and organization it takes to put a race together. It also made me appreciate how hard volunteers work. Now I’m always gracious when I pick up my race packet or walk through a water stop. Good volunteers are essential and should be celebrated.

If you want to do more, you could join the race organizing body. From marketing and sponsorships to course logistics and website development, there’s so much to be done. The skills you use every day at work could benefit the race organizers. You never know until you ask.

What do you like about local races?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So Many Shoes, So Little Time

Good running shoes are an essential element of a runner’s gear. There are folks who prefer to run barefoot but I’m not one of them (no offense). When I got serious about running a few years ago and realized my cute sneakers weren’t running shoes, I knew I had to do something about it. From reading running magazines and websites, I learned running shoes come in three major categories:

Neutral: for runners who don’t pronate and have high or normal arches

Stability: for runners who overpronate and have low to normal arches

Motion Control: for runners who overpronate and have low arches

Then I went to my local running store to find out which shoes would be good for me. I took my shoes off and walked while one of the sales clerks watched and was told I needed a stability shoe. After I found out the type of shoes I needed, I started searching and trying on every stability shoe I could find. I settled on Brooks Adrenaline GTS.

Recently I walked into a Road Runner Sports store looking to check out some tights, shorts and skirts I had seen online. Shopping for running shoes was not on my agenda. A sales associate asked me if I wanted to have a Shoe Dog analysis done. I said, “Why not?” This involved walking across a pad connected to a computer, standing on the same pad and running barefoot on a treadmill to capture video of my stride. The analysis confirmed I need stability shoes. I have medium arches. I am right foot dominant, placing more force and weight on my right side. I was told my Brooks were a good shoe for me, which is good because I like them (I’m on my third pair). He also suggested a few others I could try. So when I’m in the market to buy new shoes, I’ll check those out.

In the past I purchased sneakers based on looks. What would match my outfit? What were most of the kids wearing at school? I didn’t buy them based on what I planned to do in them. Now I know better. If you’re looking for shoes, whether high tech or eyeballing it, your local running store is a good place to discover the proper shoe for you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Races Come in All Sizes – Pick One

I have to admit, I only have four half marathons under my belt. The biggest race I’ve done so far was the San Francisco Marathon (1st half) and the smallest was the Glass City Marathon. I’ve learned there are perks to both.

Large races come with bragging rights. Now I can say, “I ran SF, I ran across the Golden Gate Bridge.” That’s major. There were great views of the Bay, great course support with plenty of water, sports drinks and energy gels, and a nice expo packed with vendors. Although there were more than 20,000 runners, the start was well organized and the finishers’ village had tons of goodies.

Small races are quality experiences as well. The smaller field means you’ll cross the start sooner. Often they come with cool swag like mugs and hoodies in addition to the standard technical tee and medal. Plus smaller races have shorter lines for the post race massage and you have more of a personal race experience.

I recently met a woman who is planning to run her first marathon in the fall. She chose the Chicago Marathon. “10.10.10,” she proudly proclaimed. She wanted her first full to be a big one and with 45,000 people registered to run, she’ll get her wish.

Having run both big and small, I ultimately think it doesn’t matter as long as the race is well run. I want nice swag – a technical tee and medal, good course support with water, sports drinks and gels, and crowds to cheer me on.

What do you look for when picking a race?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Compact Remedy to a Salty Problem

You ever notice how some people have white stuff on their faces after a tough workout or a long run. Most likely they, like me, are salty sweaters. All that white stuff is running badge of honor called dried salt. Sometimes I have so much on my face, I feel like I could be used as a salt lick.

That’s why I was so excited when I saw Neutrogena’s new Deep Clean Sport On-The-Go Cleansing Wipes on the company’s website. A few days after discovering them, I purchased a box at my local grocery store.

I had two requirements before the wipes could get my seal of approval. First it had to clean my face without drying it out. Second it couldn’t cause breakouts.

I figured the Glass City Marathon would be a good time to put them to the test. After I finished the half marathon, I slipped the individually wrapped wipe out of my pocket and cleaned my face. The wipe had a pleasant scent. Even though I didn’t have a mirror, I would tell it was removing the salt and dirt on my face. The tell tale signs of my run were gone when I was done. When I got home an hour and a half later and looked in the mirror, my face looked dewy and refreshed – no dry spots, no salt. I showered and completed my daily skincare routine and haven’t experienced any breakouts.

Now you’re probably thinking – why don’t I just carry a towel like so many other runners? I gave that a try but didn’t like having to keep up with while I was running. The wipe easily fits into the arm wallet I use for my cell phone so my hands are free. I also tried paper towels but they were rough and left lint on my face. I’ve used the Neutrogena wipes several more times since Glass City and I’m still pleased with how they work. If you’re a salty sweater like me, you might want to give them a try.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mind vs. Body

By: Black Girls RUN!
Special to RunDivaRun

My mom says that I have a delusional image of myself as a type of super hero with supernatural strength and ability. It’s true…Even in elementary school, I was queen of the playground - jumping off the highest monkey bars and tackling the biggest boys in class. My super hero delusion carried over to the soccer field and basketball court as I challenged anyone who dared to step to me. So, it was pretty difficult for me when I was preparing for my first half marathon, ING Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon, and I couldn’t see an opponent standing on the opposite side of the field. If I’m a super hero, I need a bad guy or opponent to defeat, right?

With no opponent in sight, it slowly felt as though I developed my own internal competition. It was my body versus my mind. It was as if they were battling it out to see who was bigger, stronger and all around more badass. When my body felt good during my long runs, my mind was telling me to stop or that I was too bored to make it through the next seven miles. Conversely, when I was mentally prepared I would develop some sort of nagging body ache or pain. Despite my best efforts, this competition lasted up until race day. I finally sat down and took some time to meditate before the race. Through this meditation, I was able to unite my mind and body on the same team. Once that happened, it became me against the course. My body ran smoothly and injury free and my mind kept it motivated and going.

How do you manage mental and physical preparation for a race? Does your preparation start when you are training or on race day?

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Morning After the Storm

By CTRun
Special to RunDivaRun

Have you ever done something that you know deep down that you shouldn't, but you do it in spite of better judgment because you want something really bad? Well, that's the Country Music Marathon in Nashville for me. From the start, my gut told me to skip this one. But for whatever reason I had for not doing this marathon, miraculously there was a solution to that problem so I pressed on. First I had to learn how to train in 20 degree weather. My body adapted and now I run very well in cold weather, in fact I prefer 20 degrees to the race day’s 65 degrees. Then I didn't have training partners for my long run. Well, my local running buddies stepped in and got me through many of those long runs. Next, I didn't have any one to travel with. For me marathons are an experience to be shared. I love the excitement of the expo, the clinics, the booths, the pasta dinner and the walk to the start. Who wants to do that alone? Then I met my neighbor and she had already registered for Nashville. Furthermore, she agreed to drive. That problem was resolved. So I kicked my training into gear. I was so excited.

Oddly, a couple of weeks ago I started having problems with my feet. Nothing major just discomfort in my forefoot and which lead to abrasions on the bottom of my forefeet (blisters) and pain in my right calf (which I ruptured last Spring). So, I decided to switch shoes. My new shoes were great for my feet, but suddenly the slight tightness I had been feeling in my glutes and hamstrings turned into pain. I couldn't sit for more than 5 minutes and my legs ached all the time. But I was going to run this marathon, no matter what. After all I'd put in hundreds of training miles in the bitter cold and I made a commitment to a new friend that I'd do it. But I had a bad feeling when we left the Friday before the race. First there was the weather report. A major storm was blowing in. Secondly, the four hour drive to Nashville was excruciating. My butt just HURT! Thirdly, when I went to get my number at registration, it wasn't there because they'd given it to someone else (luckily it was given to the friend of one of my running partners). Then neighbor wanted to have dinner with some of her old friends, which was great, but I had to sit on the inside of a cramped booth for two hours. My legs were killing me.

Fast forward to Saturday morning. Which shoes should I wear? The Asics Kayanos, which give me blisters and calf problems, or the Saucony Progrid Guides, which enhance my glute and hamstring pain? I figured the lesser of the two evils was the blisters, so I went with the Kayanos. As I walked to the start, I knew I'd made the wrong choice. My legs felt great, but it was as if I could feel the asphalt beneath my feet. By mile 8, my feet felt like someone was cutting into them. It occurred to me for a second that I should just do the half marathon, but how I would I explain to everyone that I did not do the marathon because I had blisters? So I kept pushing on, thinking of everything except my bloody feet. I changed up my stride, so I would land on my heel. By mile 14, I started having jabbing pain both calves. The pain was sharp and sudden that it immobilized me. I pulled off, massaged out the knots and tried to press on, but I couldn't run very fast. I stopped at the medical tent at 15. They iced my calves, cleaned and lanced my feet and gave me clean dry socks and salt but advised me to pull out. I made it to the medical tent at 17.2 where I finally quit.

I was stuck in the medical tent for 2 and half hours because they diverted all the shuttles to pick up runners because the storm was blowing in. I was laying on a cot, but got up and away from all medal when the lighting started. When the bus finally came it was full of people who had been swept. They dropped us all off at the half marathon/diverted marathon finish. They told us all to run the last mile to get our medal. When I finally crossed the finish line, I limped pass the people handing out medals. A volunteer chased me down, but I told her I didn't deserved a medal because I hadn't run a marathon that day. I think she thought I was crazy. She was so kind. Here she was a race volunteer holding medal objects in the middle of a thunderstorm, so I let her put the medal around my neck.

It turns only a tiny percent of marathoners actually completed the full marathon yesterday. Most were diverted to an early finish.

Nashville - Nashville - Nashville. I will be back next year to redeem myself.

Well, my calf still hurts and my feet are a mess. My husband is mad at me but my kids think I'm a hero for having survived the "storm." My hubby wants me to run for fitness, just a couple of miles a week. I can't do that, I set out on this quest for Boston and I'm not going to stop until I make it. I have three other marathons planned this year, the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon, The San Francisco Marathon and the Nike Women’s Marathon. Hopefully, one of those will be the "one." :-)