09 April 2014

My Fall Marathon Will Be...

I have an important and very exciting update on my fall race schedule. I'll be running...


Yep, New York. And I couldn't be happier.

I thought my NYC Marathon dreams were over for this year, but yesterday I received an email from the charity Every Mother Counts that I'd been accepted into their charity team. I asked them about it way back in November before I signed up for the lottery, and at that time the number of spots wasn't secured yet and I wasn't thinking I'd be able to join them. I have never fundraised for a race before, but when I received the email I didn't want to turn it down. With the number of races I run, I'm excited to give back to charity and to help out Every Mother Counts while training for this race.


What is Every Mother Counts (EMC)? It is a charity that supports maternal health around the world, specifically related to stopping preventable deaths related to childbirth. The stat is that 800 women die from childbirth everyday, and 90% of those deaths could be prevented. Many women live far away from the health services they need, and EMC aims to improve this.

Why am I running for EMC? I started reviewing the list of charities for NYC (or really, charities I knew had teams in the past because the list wasn't out yet) before I entered the lottery back in November. I liked the idea of entering the race on a charity team but didn't know where to start or how on earth I would fundraise. I'd heard a lot about EMC from friends on Oiselle team (Oiselle is a partner who makes EMC gear and donates money from the gear to charity) and decided to see what else I could learn about the charity and the race team.

I can't say I have a specific relatable situation for this particular cause, but in all honesty that would be true for any charity I could choose. I wanted to choose a smaller charity, a charity that I felt could make a difference, and also one who had a team that would be helpful in supporting fundraising efforts for newbies like me. As someone who is interested in healthcare, and who has worked in the women's health field in the past, I love that EMC supports getting women the care they need before, during, and after childbirth. I won't go more into the issues that interested me on the blog, but feel free to read more here.

Without further ado, here begins my very first race fundraising attempt. My CrowdRise page widget is below, and I'd absolutely love it if you would support my fundraising goals for Every Mother Counts!

08 April 2014

Ragnar SoCal with Team afterNUUN run

I really do love relays. Sometimes I think I want to do less of them, but then I run on a team and can't wait for the next one. I love the team experience and getting to know everyone even better. This particular team for Ragnar SoCal was comprised of SF Marathon ambassadors and captained by Chris.

Chris is a Nuun hydration ambassador as well, and the race entry we had was sponsored by Nuun. The SF Marathon sponsored our vans, and a number of other sponsors sent us awesome gear and swag. When we arrived at the hotel on Thursday afternoon, we started by sorting the goodies from our sponsors. We had t-shirts from Gametiime, a race directory website with a user interface I really like. Nuun sent water bottles, Picky Bars, cowbells, tattoos, and of course Nuun tablets. In addition to paying for the vans, the SF Marathon gave us tech shirts, cowbells, tattoos, and magnets that we used to decorate and to tag other vans. Skechers sent us each a pair of Go Run shoes, Zensah provided compression leg sleeves, and Fitsok gave us running socks. We were pretty well stocked up.

 Swag sorting. It's like Christmas!

After going through the goods, we decided a short run and carb loading was in order. We ran as a group from the hotel to Downtown Disney and had dinner at Naples Pizzeria. Yum! And running to Disney? Awesome. I love Disney. There might have been some skipping to the music by me.

Running with Wes, Alisyn, and Erin. Thanks to Keith for the photos.

Best place to end the run.

We bought the family size for 3 people. We did pretty well...and it was awesome pizza.

Dinner. Erin, me, Alisyn, Matt, Bruce, Terri, Wes, Keith, and Chris.

The next day our team start time wasn't until 12:45 pm, so we had lots of time to kill. I was in van 2, meaning we had even more time. We decorated the vans in the morning, then hung out at the hotel a bit before heading to exchange 6. We actually checked our van in, then left to eat in the area and came back to exchange 6. It worked out well because we didn't have to worry about how long we'd need to check in and to do the safety briefings.

Van 2: Alisyn, Meg, me, Bruce, Miriam, and Matt. Many SFM magnets in hand.

We were excited to finally see van 1 again at exchange 6. The worst part of the relay is not getting to hang out with the other van. 

Hanging with some ladies from van 1. Kristina, Miriam, me, Erin, Meg, and Alisyn.

Saying a quick hello to Jocelyn before she continued on her ultra journey with Team Sparkle!

Finally, van 2 was off and running around 6:15 pm. Matt kicked us off with a speedy 10 miles, and next it would be my turn as runner 8. I had the shortest run distances, which worked out really well in my post-injury situation, although I have to say there was more climbing than I expected. Apparently SoCal has some hills too.

Dressed, ready, and waiting.

Let me goooo already!

Although the photo above has daylight, don't let it fool you. It was dusk when I started running and quickly very dark outside. For most of van 2, the first two legs were in the dark. Leg 8 had a fun couple of miles on a bike trail, and it was super dark and kind of eery. But I loved it. It was weird to start so late in the day because the course is much lonelier until you catch up to other teams - I saw only one runner during leg 8. And I kept her behind me.

Before I knew it van 2 was on the last runner and headed to the next major exchange. My memory of that exchange is that it was very dark, they had coffee, and it must have been on a beach because there was sand. Alisyn came running in, Keith headed out, and we were on our way. I begged for a quick food stop, had a burger from Carls Jr, and then went to exchange 18 for rest. I think I slept more/better in this relay than I ever have before, although I have no idea why. 

Exchange 18 was on a beach and was super lovely in the early morning hours. The weather was great, cool but sunny, perfect for running. And I felt more ready to run again than I ever have in a relay. Perhaps it was the salt water taffy they handed out there?

Serene.

Again, the legs in van 2 flew by in the darkness. My overnight leg wasn't anything exciting to speak of, although we were finally catching up to slower teams and had tons of people to pass. That became fun. Alisyn had sunrise around the time she started running, so it was finally time to ditch the reflective gear and to run in daylight! 

Keith ready to head out.

Van 2 rest time photo.

Next up? Denny's for breakfast! Eggs and pancakes tasted so good. I wasn't even running that many miles but I sure ate like I was. Relaying makes me hungry. The next exchange we headed to was 30, and it was again on the coast. What a view! I thoroughly enjoyed our time hanging out at that exchange. 

Such a terrible view, eh?

 Sleeping area on the coast.

 Chris speeding in for the last van 1 exchange. 

And Matt on his way out.

I have to say again that the weather was awesome. Not too hot, not too cold. The last leg got pretty hot in the sun for sure, but nothing like I thought it might be in SoCal. My final run was super short at 2.8 miles and had a bit of dirt path with an ocean view. I got to pass quite a few more people; we were really into (or even through) the thick of the crowds by then.

Meg wrapping up her last leg.

Bruce's last handoff to Alisyn.

After that handoff, we had a heck of a time getting to the finish line because of traffic. We realized our van wasn't going to make it by the time Alisyn finished her 6ish miles, so a few of us jumped out of the van and ran the last half mile or so to the finish area. It's too bad we weren't all there to cross the finish (Matt and Meg stayed with the van) but there wasn't much we could do at that point. 

We crossed the finish line with a time of 26 hours, 40 minutes, 56 seconds. That was good for 8th place out of 510 in the mixed open division, and 24th overall out of 710. I'll take it!

Team afterNUUN run at the finish!

 Cheers and free beers!

Bling. Not a bottle opener this year.

Race details. 
This was my third Ragnar Relay event, and it was easily the weirdest from a planning and organization perspective. Aside from the major course changes they had to make last minute (not their fault, not an issue here), there were a few things I felt could have gone better. 

First and foremost, organization at the exchanges. Usually there is a little in/out loop where one runner runs in, hands to the next runner, and that runner runs out the other side. This relay had those in/out areas but no one was using them and volunteers weren't directing us to. It was a weird free-for-all with people standing in the way and no one going through the turnarounds. This of course isn't the end of the world, but it became a little chaotic to find people at times.

Second, there were no indoor sleeping areas. All of the sleeping areas at major exchanges were outside, say on the beach, and they also didn't have indoor restrooms. Fine, I can rough it, but I always did enjoy washing my hands for real with indoor restrooms at other Ragnar events. Sleeping on the beach like at exchange 18 sounded like a mess of sand, plus it rained/misted a bit and we would have been wet. 

Third, there didn't seem to be places to buy food like at other Ragnars I've done. Usually there is someone selling food, some hot food and some snacks, and I didn't see that here. That said, I think they did a fantastic job of giving out things like Clif bars, candy, coffee, water, fruit, etc. so it wasn't an issue (just an observation.)

Last, traffic to the finish was awful. I'm not sure how any van 2s arrived in time to see their team finish. I think Ragnar caused the traffic itself; everyone had to get into the parking garage to park before going to the finish and the back up to the streets of San Diego was huge.

Don't get me wrong, the race was still great, just different from others. I also have to mention the great way it differed - we each received one free beer at the end. This is a Ragnar first for me! I thoroughly enjoyed my Sierra Nevada at the finish. I also loved the bright blue color of the Ragnar shirts this year. 

More swag!

The end! On to the next adventure.

01 April 2014

Next Up - Ragnar SoCal

This weekend I'm heading to Southern California for Ragnar SoCal and I couldn't be more excited! I'm on a team with fellow SF Marathon Ambassadors, and we are lucky enough to be sponsored by the SF Marathon, Nuun, and a few other great companies.


Our team name is afterNUUN run, and we start at 12:45 pm on Friday. I'm in van 2, runner 8 so it'll be nightfall by the time I run my first leg. The team was nice enough to give me the shortest leg to help out in the injury-recovery department; I'm grateful for that because I could stay on the team. I can't wait to hang out with new runners and to visit with everyone I already know. It'll be a great weekend!

And now, thanks to all of the companies who have helped us out in this Ragnar journey.

Nuun - Thanks for providing the team entry, Nuun to keep us hydrated, and of course some fun Nuun swag.

The SF Marathon - Thanks for taking care of our vans and sending us some awesome team shirts. Register for any of the SF Marathon events and save $10 with code: DSC10RAGNAR2014

Skechers - Looking forward to trying out my new Skechers Go Run 3s!

Gametiime - This is a great new website for finding races in your area, and they'll be featuring our team on their blog later this week.

Zensah - I've never tried compression from Zensah before - can't wait to check out the calf sleeves for recovery this weekend.

Fitsok - Who doesn't love to try new socks?

Ragnar here we come!

28 March 2014

Oakland Cheering & Back to Fall Planning

If you follow me on any social media, you probably already know I didn't get into the NYC Marathon. I'm a little bummed, but now I get the excitement of starting over and finding a new race to look forward to! I love researching races, so this isn't a bad thing at all.

The current contenders:
1. Santa Barbara Marathon on November 8 - Looks great, has scenery, and I love wine country areas. I'm concerned about the shuttle situation from past race reviews and the logistics sound difficult. (Ignore the fact I was willing to forgo all of my preferred logistics for NYC, that was a different beast.)

2. Two Cities in Fresno on November 2 - Logistics and cost are just right, but reviews and blog recaps suggest the half marathons cause difficulty and dodging for marathoners. As hard as it feels to move forward at the end of a marathon, I don't like the idea of having to dodge people coming at me too.

3. Columbus Marathon on October 19 - Logistics for the race are good and I'd love to see friends/family at a race, but it's a much longer and more expensive trip. Flights look bad right now too, which doesn't help. (Again, ignore what I was willing to do for NYC...)

4. Oregon Coast 50K on October 19 - I love trails and a 50K was my initial goal for the year. Perhaps I just forget the whole road marathon deal and go straight back to trails? Not sure how my body will feel about that yet, but on the bright side it's a much easier flight and has no time zone change.

We shall see. For now I'm enjoying my research and how many options there are.

Race planning aside, I want to give a big shout out to my friend Mike who completed his FIRST half marathon at Oakland last weekend! Kevin ran too, and I stayed on the sidelines with my cowbell and lots of energy. Cheering was a blast and I enjoyed cheering on quite a few run friends - plus running from one spot to another helped me get my own workout in.

Mike and Kevin wore their matching Blerch shirts for the race as I hoped. Because they both happened to own one, and why not? Gotta love the Blerch shirts.

 Mike and Kevin pre-race.

 21st Amendment Beer at the finish, 2 per person. Kev shared with me, he's nice like that.

And both done! Congrats again to Mike.

We also had a nice shakeout hike the day before Oakland, starting on part of the Dipsea Trail, then hiking the Sun Trail, and finishing off with Muir Woods. Marin county is one of my favorite places because it's always so gorgeous.

 Sun Trail.

 More Sun Trail, with a view.

Inside the big tree at Muir Woods.

Tell me, do you know anything about the races I mentioned? Good, bad, or otherwise? Let me know!

25 March 2014

Will it be the NYC Marathon?

Tomorrow is the day of truth: the NYC Marathon lottery drawing.

I've been holding out on any fall race registrations until I find out if I get into NYC. It's a bucket list race and I really, really hope to get in, but of course I know the chances are slim. I can't take the suspense anymore!

I have a few back up races in mind for fall, but I'm not exactly sure what I'll choose. The Columbus Marathon is high on my list because it's close to my family and friends, although I'm considering the Nike Women's Half lottery with Bay Area friends and those will probably be the same day. Now if only NWM would actually announce their race day, that'd be helpful. And CIM isn't off the table yet either, although I keep saying I don't want to do a marathon so late in the year for 2014.

Because I'm talking about fall marathon, you have probably figured out my injury is continuing to improve. Slowly but surely, the pain seems to decrease. I still get some pinch-y tendon pain when I lift my leg up into a chair step position, but really how often do we need to do that? A few other exercises give me some minor tightness and discomfort, but my PT is ok with me continuing to build distance as long as I'm good about my prescribed exercises and stretches (which take the discomfort away). Believe me, I'm ultra compliant because I want this to be over. I'm still slightly concerned that if I do too much I'll revert back to the original pain, so I'm adding distance very slowly and keeping my fingers crossed.

Anyone else out there hoping to get into NYC? What fall races are you running? Always open to ideas!

20 March 2014

Yuengling Shamrock 8K Race Recap

Last weekend, I headed across the country to meet up with Oiselle teammates at the Yuengling Shamrock race events. I'd been slated to run the half, but I dropped back to the 8K after being injured and not having time to train. A few other ladies ran the 8K and the majority ran the half marathon. Although my travel was long and involved some hiccups, I was super impressed with the race itself which made it worth the effort.

I arrived in Virginia Beach about 6 hours later than expected due to a flight issue, but luckily I was still in time for the expo. It lasted until 9 pm Friday night, big bonus if you need to go on the weekday after work. The 8K was Saturday morning, meaning I had to pick up on Friday (no race day packet pick-up.) The expo was quick and easy, I grabbed my bib and shirt then walked around a little bit before heading off to dinner. One thing to note: if you stay along the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, the expo is 1.5 to 2 miles away from there. I made it my 2 mile shakeout run and then walked back because I didn't rent a car.

Saturday morning dawned chilly but the weather only got better from there. The 8K start was an easy 10 minute walk from my hotel, where I lined up in Corral 3 and hid behind people to block the wind while I waited. The race kicked off at 7:45 am with Corral 1 and then each corral started with 1 minute or so in between. It took a couple of minutes to break out of the start crowd, but after that I had no other crowding issues.

The course followed the road on the other side of the hotels from the beach, then turned and ran down the boardwalk. I LOVE oceanside running so I was thrilled. We went back to the street for a short time, then turned around to go the other direction on the boardwalk to the finish line. This was a really flat, fun 8K course. That said, the time between turning back onto the boardwalk to arriving at the finish line feels insanely long - you can see the finish arch for at least half a mile before you get there.

The Boardwalk, which is really concrete. Finish tent in the distance.

As far as my personal race, I'm happy that I am able to run again and enjoyed the race atmosphere. I took it easier than I would usually want to in races but harder than what my recent runs have been. It was wonderful to push a little harder and to cross a finish line! The goal for the 8K was to run around a 9:30 minute/mile pace, and I'm happy to report I did just that. My finish time was 47:17, an average pace of 9:31 minute/mile. We even received nice bottle-opener medals for the 8K; these are seriously nicer than many half medals I've received.

Obligatory oceanfront finish photo.

With fellow 8K runner, Colleen, at the finish. (Photo from Ashley)

The 8K finish line is the same as the half and full marathon, and it had the same awesome beer tent benefits too. I'd be lying if I said the race being sponsored by Yuengling had nothing to do with my desire to run it, and the Yuengling tent did not disappoint. Four beers per person, multiple kinds of Yuengling, and no lines to get beer. Amazing. I only made it to 2 beers that morning but one can only drink so much before 10 am (7 am home time...)

Yuengling Bock and medal close-up.

Beer tent band - loved them.

Long sleeve cotton shirts for the 8K.

After the race and beer tent fun, I headed back to the hotel for a shower and a nap. As this was a Oiselle meet up race, we head a team dinner at Bravo that evening. What a fun group of ladies! I always love meeting more of the team and having such a great run community. 

So many of us!

I went to sleep on Saturday very excited for the Sunday events. I LOVE race spectating and cheering for runners. Our cheer group met up at 6:45 am and jogged out to the start line. After cheering there, we grabbed coffee at a nearby Starbucks and secured a cheer spot about 1 mile from the finish. It was actually quite cold on Sunday and the wind got progressively worse as the day went on. After a bit we jogged to another spot just to warm up.

Spot number one. (Photo from Kristin)

And number two. (Photo from Asher)

Once most of the half marathon runners went by, we went inside for a coffee and get warm break at Java Surf. Highly recommended. At that point most ladies needed to get warm and shower from running, so the group said a sad good-bye and split up.

I decided to hang out and cheer for the marathon for a couple more hours, first with a few Ragnar Ambassadors I met somewhere in mile 25. When I got cold, I jogged another mile or so out and went nuts on my cowbell for everyone that ran by - it was so much fun. People seemed really happy to have the support on the long and spectator-deserted part of the road. I stayed out until a little after 2 pm, at which time the runners were dwindling; by that time I was really glad to go inside out of the wind.

Overall, I had a fabulous weekend thanks to Oiselle team and to the race organizers. I'd love to go back to run a longer distance here someday.

Check out the Oiselle Blog for Kristin's race weekend recap too.

12 March 2014

Product Review: Bia GPS Watch

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for or asked to write this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

The Bia watches have started to ship, and I was lucky to get mine in the first batch of 500. I backed super early in the campaign on June 11, 2012; that date might be helpful to people who wonder where they are on the shipment list. It's been a long wait, although I expected this when backing a Kickstarter (crowd-sourced start up funding) product. I have friends who have worked at hardware start ups and seen significant delays in shipping dates - delays even twice as long as what we saw with Bia. It's par for the course with backing a not-yet-existing product and I'm thrilled to see them shipping. A big congrats to Cheryl and the team!

Packaging.

As a runner, I'll be reviewing only the run functionality here. The watch can also be used for swimming and biking and is most closely compared to a tri watch like the Garmin 310XT. DC Rainmaker wrote a great, super detailed review of Bia that's worth reading too.

Overview
Bia is a two-piece GPS unit: a watch that runs on a normal watch type battery, and the rechargeable Go Stick that houses the brains of the GPS. Having the second piece house the GPS allows the watch to be smaller like a non-GPS sport watch. The watch itself is rectangular and slanted; the angle lets it miss the wrist bone and also makes it a bit easier to read when running. I wear my watch on the left hand and it is ideal for me, but I'm not sure how it would fit if you wanted to wear the watch on your right hand.

I chose the turquoise watch color and absolutely love it. It's black on the front, turquoise on the sides and back, and has a turquoise band. Bands are interchangeable, so in the future I can add some more fun color to it. I find the fit of the watch face and band to be very comfortable, and I like how I can micro adjust the velcro to my wrist size. The neoprene material of the band feels good against the skin and doesn't stick like rubber can.

Watch, Go Stick, and carry bag.

How Bia fits the wrist.

 Side View.

Side view of Go Stick, back view of watch.

The Go Stick piece is lightweight and has a clip to attach it to your outfit (I like wearing it on the band of my shorts near the left hip.) You can also put it in your pocket such as on a bike jersey or running shorts. The Go Stick was my main point of concern with this unit - I wasn't sure how I'd feel about wearing a second piece. Would it bounce? Would it be heavy? Would it drive me crazy? I'm happy to report the answer to all of those questions is no. I don't even remember it's there after I clip it on. I'm surprised, but very happy, that this is the case.

Go Stick, showing size as compared to a credit card.

Go Stick clipped to my shorts.

Using Bia
To start a workout, you hit the one large button and select the workout type on the touch screen: Run, Bike, Swim. Triathlon, Duathlon, and Stopwatch are also selections on the second screen. I've only tried Run and Stopwatch so far.

 Workout Selection Screen.

After choosing Run, you then have the option to set run/walk intervals or indoor. It's unlikely I would use Run/Walk or indoor, but I know those are important to some people and wanted to call out the option.

Type of Run Selection Screen.

You shake the Go Stick to wake it up, then touch the run type choice to trigger the watch to look for the Go Stick. Every time I've done this it has connected to GPS almost instantly - no more than a couple of seconds. I'm very impressed with this part and love not waiting on satellites. Press the big button to start your workout and be on your way.

When moving, the watch shows time, distance, and current pace. I prefer average pace which it doesn't have yet, and I've read that average pace is something that will come with software updates. I like that they have shipped the hardware but can still make tons of improvements and tweaks based on user feedback via firmware updates. Another change that will come with a future update is 'slap to lap,' meaning you can just hit the watch face to record a lap time. I'm looking forward to that one for track workouts!

Total time, distance, current pace (0.00/mile because I'm standing still.) Bottom left shows time of day.

I've found the GPS to be accurate as well. My first Bia run was on the track and it was matching the expected lap distances. I noticed one little hiccup during my warm-up where my line veered off the track and then came back, but that even happens with my other GPS units at times and it didn't happen again. None of my other runs with Bia had any blips at all.

Track warm-up mapping from the my.bia-sport.com site.

When your workout is complete, you hit the button to stop and the screen asks you if you are done. You have the option to save or delete the workout right then, which I love. Am I the only one that accidentally starts my watch sometimes...?

Another really cool feature, which thank goodness I haven't used yet, is the SOS safety alert. Pressing the button for 3 seconds will send a text to someone of your choosing to let them know you need help AND tell them your location. It's a great peace of mind feature. The people to text are set up in your my.bia-sport.com settings page.

Syncing Capabilities
Now for my very favorite part of the Bia system: syncing. Bia uploads your workout AUTOMATICALLY to their tracking site after you hit save on the watch face. If you use Strava, you can give Bia permission to auto-upload to Strava too. They'll be adding additional auto-upload integrations like Strava in the future, so stay tuned if you track via a different tool. A highlight for me was finishing my run with Bia, stretching in the gym, and having Kudos on Strava before I even got back to my laptop.

When Bia uploads to Strava automatically, it names your run 'Bia: Wednesday Run' or similar depending on the day. You can edit the title manually in Strava if you like. As mentioned above, Bia also uploads to their tracking site, my.bia-sport.com. This is the site you use to set up the watch and to adjust account settings (such as uploading to another tracking site). I'll be interested to see how they build out the site, but I'm addicted to Strava for now and don't plan to stop using it. I like how the activity on the Bia site shows it has been uploaded to another site (the little Strava icon shows up.)

Week view on my.bia-sport.com

Single run view on my.bia-sport.com

If needed, you have the option to download the tcx file from my.bia-sport.com as well. I didn't have Strava set up for my first run, so I downloaded it and did the manual upload. Easy.

To recap, for those of you who don't want so much detail.

Highlights
- The watch fits great and I like how I can micro adjust the soft neoprene band with velcro.
- Auto upload to both the Bia tracking site and Strava is magical. No need to connect it to a computer for data upload, ever.
- The touchscreen display is easy to use and has the right amount of sensitivity.
- GPS connects faster than I ever thought possible for a watch.
- SOS safety alert function sends a text to people you choose in the settings; it is activated by holding the button down for 3 seconds.

Lowlights
- It's still an early version of a brand new product, so some of the software updates are still to come. I'm looking forward to 'slap to lap' and average pace.
- Bia is a two-piece device, so you have to carry and wear two pieces. I don't mind it like I anticipated I would, but see the paragraphs above for more detail.

The End. Have questions? Add them to the comments!