Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Day Mizuno Responded To My Brazen Advances

Has there ever been a time in your life when you've pursued someone shamelessly?  I know I have.  I have...almost no shame.  It never hurts to ask, right?

I remember one time in college when I had a crush on some dude who was studying abroad.  He came back to visit between his two semesters abroad.  The last night he was there, I professed my love, telling him he "Would be hard pressed to find anyone better for him than me."  

My crush stared back at me blankly and said "Uh.  You know I'm going back to Argentina for another semester".


Clearly he didn't agree with my statement that I was his soulmate.  I got sad but it ended up ok.
It doesn't always work out, does it?  But just does.

The Mizuno Story

I've been a huge fan of Mizuno running shoes for many years.  To say I've spent thousands of dollars on their shoes throughout the years is no exaggeration.  I like the firm ride, the wide toe box, and the fact that I haven't gotten injured wearing them ever.  I own three different models, the Ronin (racer), the Elixir (lightweight trainer), and the Inspire (stability).

I also love the company.  While I have zero insight on how they operate, I know they've got nice people in charge.  On a whim back in 2010, I emailed the President of Mizuno Running, just to tell him that I loved the shoes and wanted to know a little more about the company.  The dude emailed me back a very thoughtful email and answered all of my questions in detail.   He clearly spent time on it.  Not bad for a busy executive interacting with a stranger.  

A few weeks back, I decided I'd brazenly email Mizuno again to tell them I had a blog and wanted to get more involved with their brand.  They flirted with me once, why not again, right?  After I emailed them, I got a note saying that they'd forwarded my note the marketing department.   I figured I'd get lost in the shuffle and never hear from them again.

But imagine my surprise when one fine morning, I got these tweets:

Mizuno wanted to talk with me!  No unrequited love!!   They said they'd love to get me more involved with them, which pretty much made me the happiest person ever.  And now I have some awesome new shoes and clothes to try out!  Here's what they sent me:

The Inspire 8 (review here).

The Wave Musha (stability racers! review here).

And some new clothes:

I haven't tried either of the shoes (I got them tonight), so I can't review them yet, but I am especially excited to try the new model of the Inspire as it is supposed to be a great update.  As for the clothes, I know I'm going to like the shirt and shorts because they have simple styling that aligns with the way I dress normally.  The sizing is also good for me, because their stuff runs small and also appears to work for someone petite with boobs and hips (uh yeah that's me).

Bottom line, I'm really excited to work with Mizuno in whatever capacity I can.  Frankly, I thought I'd have to be an elite to ever have anyone from a running company talk with me.  I guess you just have to love the product and have a blog with a lot of MS Paint and Picnik edits!  What a dream come true.

So I never hurts to ask.  Even if that dude from college didn't love me back, my favorite shoe company did.  And let's be honest.  I care way more about the shoes.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hill (hot) Chocolate 15k Race Recap

Today, I ran the Hot Chocolate 15k in San Diego with this girl, this girl, this girl, this girl, this girl, this girl and this dude.

I was nervous for several reasons:
1) I haven't raced since January.
2) I've increased my mileage a lot and ran a dang 20 miler Thursday.  (it's starting to get where running isn't fun, but that's another post).
3) I knew this was a very hilly course.  And while I pride myself at being decent at hills, I knew it would be a challenge.
3) I suck at logistics and the odds of me getting lost and ending up in Tijuana were at least 20%.

I woke up at the god awful time of 4:30 AM and drove down to San Diego to meet up with OUAL and Sweaty Emily who had my race packet.  They ran 11 miles before the race.  I am currently talking to a psychiatrist to find out if we need to get them committed.  Luckily I met up with them without a hitch and there were only about 2 minutes when I wondered if I'd driven to the wrong city.  I met up with the other girls in the corral where we snapped a few quick pics.
Emily, Nicole, ChaCha and Me
source - skinnyrunner
I figured that if I could keep the pace a bit over 7 minute miles, it would be ok, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit I had dreams of running sub-7 pace.

It was time to go, and we ominously started on a straight uphill.  My first mile split was a 7:05, and this was already demoralizing.  Usually I don't feel like I am already struggling at mile 1. The next two splits clicked off, and I ran through the 5k a bit under 22 minutes.  However, I was already feeling defeated.  This sounds ridiculous, but by mile 4, after I ran a 7:28 split, I was almost about to quit.  The constant uphill hurt and I looked down at my Garmin and was seeing 8:30 paces.  I was also getting passed by a number of girls.  

I told myself that maybe I could drop back and run with some of the girls I knew who were also running.  I also started getting irrationally angry and dramatic, as I often do in races.:

Luckily at the point when I was starting to lose all hope and faith in my running ability, a long downhill portion of the course appeared, and things seemed manageable again.  I passed a number of volunteers who cheered for my bunny ears (sorry if I didn't respond if you're reading this!!).  I passed the 10k and PR'd at something like 44:20, so that was cool.  

Around mile 8, there was a switchback where I saw SkinnyRunner.  We yelled loud and cheered each other on and even managed to high five!  It was hilarious because I was wearing the bunny ears and she was full-on in a tootsie roll costume.  I am sure the people around us on the course were like "Figures...the two crazy people in the race know each other."  After seeing her I knew I could kick it in, and even though I continued to get passed by people, my last mile was decent enough.  Here are the (very uneven) splits:

Official Time and Place:  1:06:15 (7:06 pace), 18th woman

And here is the elevation chart, with just a little bit of embellishment:

After I finished, I met up with the rest of the girls.  I was honestly confused at my time, because I haven't run this distance in 11 years and had no idea whether it was good or bad, or even what total pace I'd run.  We got our chocolate and fondue at the end, which honestly isn't exactly my cup of tea (after eating GU's and energy bars, the last thing I want is more sugar), but other people seem to like it.

I also thought Ram Racing put on a pretty seamless race and has figured out the problems that plagued them in DC.  My guess is that they put the race on such a hilly course for total logistical reasons and decided a hard course was worth it to have a lot of parking less trafficked roads.   So props to that Race Director dude I met a few weeks back.

Thoughts on my performance?  It was decent.  I think I'm slowly becoming a better runner.  I'd like to become a little more mentally strong and confident so that I'm not considering quitting a race at mile 4.5, but maybe that will come with time.

Overall, I had a fun time, it was good to get out there and race, and it was especially cool to have so many friends racing with me.

As I've mentioned before in previous posts, being able to get out there on a beautiful day and give a course what I've got makes me feel very thankful and lucky.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Six Habits of Highly Effective Runners"

One could argue that it's ironic that I'm writing a post about getting faster when, for me, chopping off seconds off my race times is a slow, excruciating process.  In the past 15 years, I've probably chopped off 2 minutes from my 5k time.

I've never won a race (with over 50 people in it).   I'm about the speed that would barely put me on a high school varsity squad.

BUT I have run with a crap load of people.  A lot of really dedicated runners. Including Sarah OUAL lately.   If you read her blog (WHICH IF YOU DONT OMG YOU ARE CRAZY SHE IS HILARIOUS), you may have noticed she massively PRd this weekend in the 5k.   She's been running for a while, but I think she is much more talented than her old PRs suggest, and seeing her progress so quickly on the track is awesome to watch.

As much as she refers to me as "coach" (which is awesome, by the way, don't stop, Sarah), I am pretty much her workout buddy.    We run most of our repeats together and it definitely motivates me to get out there every Tuesday.  Running with her has reminded me of what it takes to get faster.   And I swear it's more than mindless 800 repeats.

Habits of Successful Runners

Consistency:  Duh, right?  But basically one of something isn't all that helpful.  People see progress when they are consistent in their hard work.  It's less about what you do one day, and more about what you do each week.

Knowing What Works For You:  For both Sarah and me, I think speedwork is highly beneficial and having a running partner helps us push ourselves.  I have a hard time pushing through steady pace runs and tend to run them around 9 minute mile pace, which doesn't do a lot to drop my times.  And high mileage just makes me feel tired and pressed for time.

For some people, I think long runs WILL make you faster  (see the times that SkinnyRunner runs just doing that!).   Bottom line, I think it helps to experiment with different techniques until you start seeing results.  If the type of workout you're doing doesn't feel right for you, or is overly stressful, don't do it.  If you hate it, don't do it.  If it's fun, or gives you butterflies, get on it.

Knowing Your Goals:  PRing in every race for everyone isn't always the #1 priority.  If your goal is more relaxed, just try incorporating some pickups in a run once a week.  If you've got a set goal, look at how you can achieve it.   Speedwork doesn't have to be OMG STRESSFUL DIE . It can be more relaxed as well, depending on what you want out of it.


Competitiveness (even with your friends): What I really enjoy about running with Sarah is that she is competitive (in a fun way).  I think sometimes people get caught up in the idea that it's not nice to be competitive, but sometimes this can be a great tool in getting faster.  Granted, not every workout is a race, and your workout partners will be annoyed if you are always trying to race them.  However, at the end of the day, if two people are racing towards the finish line, even the person who loses probably ran faster than they would have otherwise.

Expectations: Every time I meet Sarah at the track, I ask her what pace she wants to do the intervals in.  Without fail, she quotes a pace about 30 seconds per mile slower than she ends up doing them. For me, I have to quote the pace I plan to go, because otherwise I'll just run slower.  So it's about what works for you, mentally.  Managing your own expectations can be a huge ally.

Focus: Speedwork (and running) are times when you can let it all go.  You can either forget your frustrations in life, or pound them out on the track.  Running a race is great, because in that moment, the only thing that matters is the race and how you're running it.

What have I forgotten?  What do you think the best ways to get faster are?  

Friday, March 16, 2012

A beef with the races!

When I was in high school, I did a couple road races.   They were cheap, probably around $25 dollars, came with an ugly t shirt, and I assumed most of the money was going to a charity and the sponsors were local businesses.  In any case, I don't think anyone thought of road racing as a high dollar business, just like soccer rec leagues and minor league baseball aren't big money.

But then things changed.

Races became big money. The era of For-Profit running companies and Rock and Roll races in every city began.  And it became normal to pay $100 for a half marathon.  And the weirdest part?  People are still willing to pay it.   They fight for the opportunity to pay it.  (This post and This post address the rapidly growing race fees.)

But it's not the constantly growing race fees that really irk me.  It's the ridiculous restrictions on race entries that make the security restrictions of running a (Insert Corporate Race name here) race about on par with getting a tour of the White House or flying to Dhaka.

Let's take a look at the rules from Competitor's website (skull and crossbones possibly edited in):

"Entry fees are non-refundable and non-transferable.  No exceptions".

Considering your events sell out and people get injured, wouldn't the neighborly thing to do to allow deferment or transferring the bid (even for a fee!) so that another runner can have the opportunity?  I can't imagine it would be a hard system to implement.   

But the kicker of this rules section is "If you attempt to sell your race number, you may be banned from future Competitor events for three years."

You're attempting to ban people for three years?  I can see banning people for banditing, but for putting their bib for sale?  Kind of punitive for a hobby jogger event, don'tyathink?

I don't even want to get into the insane "airline style" fees tacked on for parking, runner tracking, bib pickup, etc. detailed in Dorothy's post.   It's a weird model, and in my opinion, this attitude has no place in the running industry.

But ok.  I've accepted that these for-profit groups are doing what they can to charge as much as they can and not be flexible at all in their entry policies.   I guess if you're running a business and you can make a pile of cash, why not do it, right?

But here's where I get really confused.  Traditionally, road races pulled from the community to get help at water stations, the finish line, etc.   At these expensive, for-profit mega races, the race course are still manned mostly by volunteers!!!  Not only are these groups changing the culture of racing, they are profiting off the traditional "small town" culture of road running that encouraged volunteering.

If they are going to act like a concert venue, or a ball park, may as well hire some high school kids to pass out water rather than pretending like you need the goodness of the volunteers of the running community to get by, right?


So what's a runner to do?

It seems like there are still some races out there that aren't just trying to maximize their profits with little concern for runner finances and unexpected life events.

This article in running times interviewed the race director of the Marine Corp's marathon.  He explains that he breaks even at an $80 in 2011 ($88 this year) entry fee while offering deferment to next year or bib transfer for an administrative fee for anyone who needs to.

"If I was a participant, how would I want to be treated".

He sounds like a good guy.  No wonder everyone wants to run Marine Corps!

So I've complained a lot, but what's the solution?

I wish these larger racing companies would consider the impact they are having on the sport of road racing.  I would argue that some of it is positive.  They have made road racing more accessible to more people.  They've increased participation.  And that part is great.
But with these companies have come increased racing fees, races that fill up early (so you have to sign up early), and an increased lack of flexibility.

I think it's about time these races either lower their fees or change some of their bib-transfer / deferment rules.  I get that some events, like New York, or Boston probably can't do this, but for most races, it should be no problem.  Competitor, I'm looking at you.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Long Run Success Theories. (Fast=Run x More?)

This weekend, I ran 18 miles.  I'd love to say that it was rainbows and ponies and glitter, but it was awful.  Not even two podcasts of This American Life, or Lemon-Lime Nuun could save me.  I've been subscribing to the fast-finish run method, and I ran the last few miles at marathon pace.  In my cool-down mile, I stumbled around my neighborhood, dreaming of Epsom Salts and hash browns, cursing myself for signing up for two marathons this year.  Yup, it sucked.   I took pictures to reflect my feelings before and after.  (They are not all..)

The thing is, if this is what I need to do to be prepared on race day, I'm willing to do it.  Or even more if need be. 

But there are a million different recommendations on long runs. The long run is the cornerstone of marathon training, there's no doubt about that.  And everyone has their own opinion on what the right way to do them is.  Overtraining, undertraining, too fast, too slow, too long, too short?   It's hard to tell what's the right thing to do!  Here's some various conflicting pieces of wisdom I've heard and the justifications behind them.

Frankly, I think you all have lost your minds, including you, Mr. McMillan.  (kidding, I love your calculator).

How to have the best long run ever (conflicted version)

Fuel a lot before and during Long Runs: If you don't give your body energy, how will it perform like you want it to?  Running without fuel causes too much stress on your body and running with it will train you to be able to stomach eating on race day.

Don't Fuel on Long Runs:  If you deny your body carbohydrates, your body will become better at burning fat and not burning through all carbohydrate stores.  This will help you perform even better when your body has access to fuel (race day).

Pace is unimportant.  Just get the miles in:  A long run is mostly so that you can train your body to run more efficienctly, and strengthen yourself both mentally and physically.  Trying to push the pace over three hours will just stress your body and expose it to injury.

Run Fast.  How will you run fast on race day if you don't in training? It's important to get miles under your legs at marathon pace or faster in a long run.  Running a long run at marathon pace shouldn't be a problem and will train you to run fast.  At least do some fast finish runs.

Don't run more than 20 miles during training: Running more than 20 miles in training exposes you to the risk of injury and breaking your body down too far.  18-20 milers should be enough.

Run 24+ miles in training:  I don't personally know anyone who does this.  But my friend Gisele says that some of the elites do it.  Like 30 mile training runs.  Run like an elite, become more elite?

I get that some of the recommendations are more for beginner marathoners and some for advanced, but I still think there's some overlap in schools of training thought.

So here's where you offer your opinion, por favor.  What sort of long run do you find is most important to your training?  Which do you think helps you improve your times?

Who knew something so pure could be so complicated!

(Also, I changed my blogger url to "".  The blogspot one is supposed to redirect but it's not.  Hopefully I'm still showing up in your reader if you follow?)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Eugene Update: Overtraining sucks and makes you slow.

Today, I went to the track for "track Tuesday" sans Sarah OUAL (but with our friend Rebecca!  Please feel free to come if you live in the OC area).

On the schedule was 4x1600m at goal 5k pace, with pretty short rest.  It didn't go so well.  I think my splits say it all:

6:31 (good), 6:32 (good), 6:43 (WTF), and 6:49 (And I was sprinting this one in). 

You know when you're 17 seconds off pace your last 1600m repeat, something is wrong.  Also, I was unable to complete the workout on Friday of 10 miles at marathon goal pace.

Why am I sucking so bad?


I can't give you the 100% sure answer, but unless my body physiology has changed in the past 7 days, I think I'm overtraining.  In retrospect, it kind of makes sense.  I've been extremely ambitious in my training lately.  Here's how I managed to kill my legs in the past four weeks:

1) Picked the hardest training plan I could find:  I picked a plan for "advanced competitive runners", that looks to peak out around 70 miles per week.  As much as I'd like to think that I'm an advanced competitive runner, I'm pretty sure an actual advanced competitive runner would strongly disagree with my ability assessment. 

2) Started at week 8 of a 20 week training program:  Hah!  Base building is for fools.  I'll just start at the hard part!  Weeks 1-8 are boorrinnggg!

3) 10% rule?  Also for fools.  I've been running around 30 miles per week for the last year.  So clearly a jump to 45-50 miles per week is no problem at all, right?

4) Traveled every other week, and piled workouts during the week on back-to-back days.  Rest days?  Also for fools!

5) Picked a plan that targets a goal pace 15 miles faster than your current PR. I don't think 3:20 is 100% out of reach, given this is my first serious attempt at training for a marathon, but it's a stretch goal.   The only time McMillan actually predicts me running under a 3:20 is when I type in a 5 mile or 5k race pace.

6) Tried to lose the lingering holiday weight:  I'm embarrassed to admit this one, but a few weeks back, I weighed myself and saw a number I haven't seen in a couple years.  I freaked out, and decided carrots were my best friend.  Don't worry, I'm not going all ED on y'all, but sometimes I cave to the same pressure of thinking that if I looked more like an elite, I'd run more like one.  While this could be true, I'm not sure a huge bump in mileage is the best time to try to drop 5 pounds.

So what's next?  How am I going to get my groove back?

I think the first step is to take my easy days either as cross training days or rest days.  I miss my bike anyways.  This fall, I was able to run decently running about 30 miles a week, and I bet I can still run a decent marathon averaging under 40 MPW.   If this doesn't help, I might need to take a few days off or back off the hard days on the training plan.    Also, I'll try to eat healthy but with enough calories.  I'm hoping if I do these things, my legs will come back on board.   Hard to say, bodies are weird.

Have you ever felt overtrained?  Am I just being a wimp?  How is the best way to build mileage/intensity?

Please share your advice!  I'd love to hear it. 

(* Edit Btw, I wrote an alternative post last night when I was feeling particularly sad and frustrated.  It's more personal than my usual writing, unedited, and I'm not making it a real post bc it's a bit of a downer but if you're interested: Semi-Unpublished Post )

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Internet Must (not) Haves

Today, I was shopping for a birthday present for my sister in law on Amazon.  While searching, I found possibly the most awesomely creepy book in existence:  


Trying to be a Cat Lady but you were kind of borderline in your commitment?  Fear not, once you start constructing mini finger puppets out of your cat's hair, you can feel safe in your commitment to true Cat Lady-dom.

After laughing about this book for about 2 hours and sharing it on my facebook, I decided to look for other weird stuff online.  Fortunately it's Justin Bieber's 18th birthday so that provided plenty of material.


Not only does Justin appear to have a case of looking perpetually 12 years old (see also, Leonardo DiCaprio), he appears to be wearing a coat made out of the Cookie Monster's fur.  Also, I'd like to comment on the number of social media links in the post below.  Facebook, Google+, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, Digg, Reddit....jeez!   On the plus side, all these social media links are very good for people with multiple personalities or that have trouble being too productive.

After scouring the celebrity sites, I decided to do some shopping.


Have you ever felt like your pizza cutter didn't reflect your sci-fi interest enough?  Do you feel like you've never found a cutter that allows you to truly express yourself?

For those of you who want to take your pizza cutting to the next level, I present to you the Star Trek Enterprise Pizza Cutter:

Frankly, I'm not sure why all pizza cutters don't look like the Enterprise.  That round blade is just perfect for it.  What really perplexes me is the $30 dollar price tag.  Clearly this bad boy is worth far more than that.

Anyone up for a pizza party?    You bring the pizza, I'll bring the appliances.


(PS:  Sorry for another non-running post.  I'm running a lot still.  I am supposed to run 10 miles at goal marathon pace tomorrow.  It will probably be painful at the time but rewarding afterwards.  Happy Friday!)