Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Baltimore Women's Classic 5K: June 26, 2016

So, bar review has been fun. Said no one ever. This is most of my life:
All day, every day. Four-six hours of study and reading, followed by a 3.5-4 hour class every night, and this past Saturday even included a 6 hour practice test. On the one hand, I definitely feel very prepared - on the other, I just want to sleep. And go outside. 

On top of that, Lilly and K have been in San Diego for three weeks, but they're home now! 

To break it up, I recruited a little group of friends to run the Baltimore Women's Classic 5K this past Sunday. This is one of the oldest and largest all-women's events on the east coast, and it's the third year I've done it. The course is great, it starts just a few blocks from where I live, and the swag is great.

Charm City Run hosts packet pickup and late registration in each o their stores throughout the week, but they also have bib pickup on the morning of the race. CCR is really great with pre-race emails, and send out almost daily reminders of your bib number, their hours for that day, plus all you need to know for race day, from parking, photos, to a map of the entire neighborhood. 

I got the race start around 7:30, and didn't have to wait in line at all, just got my bib, t shirt, and bag, and then met up with my friends. The t shirts this year were full on technical t shirts from New Balance; in the past they were technical cotton, which wasn't bad. As usual, they  matched the logo and the medal (yes, it's just a 5K but there's a medal!).

The start/finish area is around Rash Field, a big sand volleyball court on the harbour in downtown Baltimore. There's a big stage, and a number of fitness instructors were leading dance warm ups and pumping out some loud music to get everyone ready. A few minutes for the 8am start, my friends and I walked over to bag check, dropped our bags, and then hopped up to the start line. They had pacers with goal paces marking where you should stand to start, but no waves, and the back as for walkers and strollers. I fell in with the 9-10:00 pace group, but the start was so crowded, I don't think we got up to a 9:00 pace until about a third of a mile in. 

The course winds through Federal Hill, an older section of Baltimore, with a variety of rowhomes, bars, and cobblestone streets. Around the first half mile mark, there is a fairly big hill that kills most dreams of a fast first mile. Once you get to the top, though, it's an easy, if twisty, run, with two water stops, a mild uphill after mile 2, and then a loop onto the waterfront promenade for the last 1/3 of a mile. 
I really love when race photos only capture me flat footed, never mid-stride. Apparently gazelle isn't my look.
I was hoping to break 27:00 on this race, which would at least tie my college PR, back when a 5K was the longest race I thought I would ever run. After the SD marathon, my right knee had been pretty tender and as a result, I didn't run at all for three weeks. I was hoping that would be enough to heal whatever was wrong, so I could attack my Superfrog training with a vengeance. 
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. A little after mile 1, I could feel my MCL starting to hurt a little bit, and by mile 2, my knee was throbbing with every impact. I didn't slow down to walk, but tried to adjust my stride to lessen the impact. My first two miles were at about 8:45 and 8:55, but mile three killed me. I managed to finish in 28:32, placing 232/2882 overall. 

The finish line area is great - after passing over the finish line, there was ice cold bottles of water, a cold towel, as well as roses and medals. There was a spot to get a free finisher's photo, and then cool tents with vendors, and tables piled high with bananas, chewy bars, pretzels, chips, and watermelon slices. There was also the chance to refill your bottle with water or gatorade. The morning was getting HOT fast, though, and, in typical Bmore style, more than comfortably muggy. Once all of my friends were done, we high tailed it out of there for some coffee, brunch and a shower.

This is one of my favorite events in Baltimore, and I'll be sad to not be here next year. It is a great race for a fast time with some challenges, if you're competitive, but also super supportive if this is your very first race! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Disneyland Trip June 2016

Obviously, the very best thing to do after running a marathon is spend a day at Disneyland!! This wasn't the plan when I first registered for the race, but I really didn't want to miss the Disneyland 60 Celebration, so we tacked on a day at the end of my long weekend in the middle of bar prep.

Planning

Planning for a day trip to Disneyland isn't quite the same as planning a vacation at Walt Disney World. For WDW, there's hotels and flights to consider, meals, usually a race or two, on top of the parks. The options are endless: meal plan or no? On property or off property? What Fastpasses should we book? What color mAgicBand should I get? What adorable new t shirt should I order?

With Disneyland, the entire experience is usually much more chill. There is less booking ahead, fewer parks, fewer restaurants to pick from, and no pre-booking fastpasses. In preparation, all I did was pick the day we were going, make breakfast reservations about a month out, and then make a short list of the must-dos: Indiana Jones ride, eat everything, Tangled stage show. Done.

Hotel

In order to maximize the time we would have in the park, and also to give Lilly a chance to take a nap, we decided to get a hotel room near the park. The on property hotels were pretty much sold out, so at the last minute I booked a night at the Hotel Menage, which was recently bought by Starwood. We drove up Sunday night and checked in around 6:30. There is self-parking, which is easy enough, plus a really nice pool area. The room was big, and included a king size bed and a sitting area with a couch that I think folded out. I requested a crib in my reservation, and asked about it again at check in, and one was brought to our room within about ten minutes of getting there.

My best friend came down for dinner, and we sat down at the restaurant in the lobby, but since Lilly was being cranky, after ordering we just had the food sent up to our room. There's also a tiki bar out at the pool, but it was closing by the time we went down for dinner. Our room overlooked the pool, so it was a little protected from the noise of the I-5 freeway and Harbor Rd, and we could see the Disneyland fireworks from our window at 9:30! I wasn't planning on seeing any fireworks because I didn't want to stay late with Lilly and I thought she would't like the noise, so this was a nice bonus.

The next day, it was about a twelve minute walk down Harbor to enter the parks plaza on the side opposite Downtown Disney. It might be faster if it wasn't the morning after a marathon. When we left in the late morning to pack up and checkout (we ended up getting a 1pm checkout), the walk did seem farther than when we were fresh, but again, if we hadn't just finished 26.2 miles, I would say this hotel is a great, cheap option if you aren't looking for the immersive Disney experience.

Breakfast

For breakfast, I made the first available reservation at the Surf's Up! breakfast at PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel. We were definitely late because we walked to the Disneyland Hotel instead first, but they didn't seem to get busy until a little bit later, around 8:30 or so.
It was a buffet breakfast, and even though I did eat a good amount, I still didn't try everything. There was an omelette bar, breakfast pizza, breakfast nachos, french toast, mickey waffles, fruit, and a ton more.

Disneyland

We had bought out tickets early, so just had to fight though the security lines and then entrance lines to get into the park, around 9am.

Number one item on my list: the Indiana Jones ride. I have been to Disneyland I think four times before, but have NEVER gone on this ride, because it was broken EVERY SINGLE TIME. While K and Lilly grabbed Star Tours fast passes, I got in the single rider line, and literally skipped through the exit towards the front of the line. Man, when you're waiting in line and snaking your way through all the twists and turns, it doesn't seem like a long wait, but it's a long line!
And the ride was totally worth the wait! So much fun! Definitely top of my list for favorite Disney ride!

Next up, we wandered around for a while as K traded pins, and got some Dole Whip for second breakfast. We also took some time to check out the Baby Care Center, which is at the end of Main Street. It's very nice, with a large play area, a curtained off breastfeeding area, kitchen, and large area to change diapers and help little ones use a tiny toilet.

Since the plan was to eat as much as possible, we wandered over to the French Quarter for some beignets and a mint julep. The line for the Pirates line was HUGE! Good thing I don't really are about that. We did hop up to the railway station to look at the train cars, and learned that the Lilly Belle was at the Main Street Station. After skipping our Star Tours fast passes, we headed towards the entrance to head back and take a nap.

BUT FIRST, we had to stop to check out the Lilly Belle! The conductor who was hanging out said it was being sent for preservation the next weekend, so this was the last time it would be out all year. Even if we didn't get to ride it in, at least it was nice to see it.

After a nap and packing out of our room, we headed back to Disneyland for the afternoon Tangled show at the theater in Fantasyland. While waiting in line, I got a Matterhorn Macaroon from Jolly Holiday Bakery. At this point I think I realized I had mostly been eating sugar all day, but it was time for some Rapunzel!

The stage show was hilarious! We hung around after because sometimes the characters come out after for photos, and they did! Flynn Rider isn't out everyday at Disney World, so I haven't seen him there, but he was all over the place in California! Woot!

California Adventure

By 4:30, I was starting to melt, I was hungry, and I just wanted to go to California Adventure, because K HAS NEVER BEEN THERE. This alone was half the reason we were visiting, and besides, he wanted a turkey leg. I originally wanted to sit down at the Cove Bar for some lobster nachos and a few glasses of wine, but there was line (maybe ten minutes) and K hates lines. We ended up just walking around Paradise Pier, getting a turkey leg and corn on the cob, and then heading back out. So much for experiencing CA. Next trip....

At the very end we slowly made our way over to the Disneyland Hotel for drinks at Tiki Sam's. We didn't get to sit inside, because, stroller, but did get some ahi tuna and fun drinks out on the poch. I'm sure I'll be seeing this dumb cup around a lot (K got the shrunken zombie head, which came in a shrunken zombie head).
We made the poor choice of taking the monorail back towards the park instead of walking. It would have been faster to walk. Unless you're in line right when the park opens and plan on sprinting to Star Tours, don't use the monorail as a primary source of transportation. Plus you have to fold up the stroller. Lilly was an absolute doll all day though, and took a few good naps in her stroller while we walked around. She really loves looking at people and listening to the music everywhere, so I think she had a pretty good time! I think her favorite part of the day was breakfast, though. All those characters! Stitch is still her favorite though, for sure:
I'm really glad I had the chance to see Disneyland in all its diamond anniversary glory. Even if I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day, I'm pretty sure it was the best day ever! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Race Recap: Rock n Roll San Diego Marathon - June 5, 2016

Marathon number 3, in the books! This was probably one of the hardest races I’ve done so far, for a number of reasons, and I’m so proud to say I finished!

Training

Between law school and a baby, there wasn’t a lot of time for training. The bigges portion of my training was a few long runs (two Disney half marathons, plus one that was about 15 miles on my own) with shorter, faster runs during the week. I tried to run four days a week, even if one was just a quick two or three miles, and I think I succeeded most weeks. I also made sure to include a good amount of core, as well as strength and short HIIT workouts once or twice a week, especially on days that I was really busy.

Was it the most ideal training that I imagined I could do? No, not at all, but I think I kept a pretty good balance between getting enough rest, prioritizing school, and fitting in workouts without taking too much time away from my family. Would I change anything about it? I wish I had more time for long runs, because that’s what killed me at the end of the race, and that I went to bed a little bit earlier on those nights I drank too much caffeine before my 6:30 class. All lessons learned (again).

Expo

K, Lilly, and I flew into San Diego early Friday morning, and after loading up our bags and dropping my MIL off at her office, we headed downtown for the expo. I thought it would be less hectic in the middle of a Friday, rather than wait until Saturday. With 30,000 runners expected, I knew the convention center would turn into a madhouse.

Bib pickup was very smooth, and we breezed through the line with our bibs, got t shirts, and tried on the sample marathon finishers jackets that would be at the finish line. The line in the Brooks store was HUUGE, so we skipped that and headed straight for the expo floor.

Since this is the flagship RnR race, one would expect it to the most organized run they have, and it probably is. The expo usually has a TON of vendors, but with all the space they have available, I still think they make the aisles too small. Even with how little crowded it was, it still felt cramped, and people were running into each other. I can’t even imagine Saturday. We wandered around, K showing off Lilly to everyone who would look at her, and picked up tons of free samples of stuff. Some other highlights included the Nuun booth, where I did get a few tubes with a free water bottle, and we also arrived just in time to see Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan do an interview after they picked up their bibs for the half.

I also loved the Suja booth right inside the main entrance. Suja juice is the name sponsor for the race, and I do love their juices and smoothies. I did think that their booth was a little bit too women-focused, which I didn’t mind, but K felt a little left out of the fun. They had a little hair braiding studio, and I got a gorgeous, tight French braid crown that lasted through the entire weekend. I also got a few full bottles of juice to try out. They had a pretty cute little wall that I’m sure was featured in many an Insta photo.

After wrapping up, we headed out to try to beat the traffic, and rest up after a long flight. On Saturday, I woke up early with Lilly and got in a few hours of studying before meeting friends for brunch and an afternoon at Balboa Park. The weather was, as expected, absolutely beautiful, so I was a little surprised to get a heat advisory email from the race director. They were strongly encouraging everyone to take it easy due to expected high temperatures (predicted high of 85 I think) and were adding a few more cooling stations to the course. Since the weather has been 90+ in Baltimore for the past two weeks, I wasn’t too worried, but did make sure I was hydrating enough the day before.

Race Day

Race Day came bright and early. The first corral went off at 6:15, and we were both in corral 20. Our plan was to drive and park at Qualcomm stadium, about 20 minutes from home, then take the trolley in. I ate a cupcake for breakfast, since that seemed like better than eating nothing, and we were at the trolley station by about 5:30. There was only a special train running that morning, from Qualcomm to 5th Ave, the nearest station to the start line, and about a mile from the back of the corrals in Balboa Park. I checked my bag, with shoes, my phone, and a few odds and ends, then hopped into Corral 20 as it was slowly moving forward.

Since this race is so big, I don’t think they have ever been able to get quite enough volunteers for it, so they’ve had to strategically place them for maximum efficiency, or just in places that absolutely must have people, like bag check. In the corral area, there were no volunteers checking bib numbers or enforcing corrals, so it effectively was just a free for all, with people assigned to corral 25 jumping corral 5, and even people running into the corral just as it was released at the start line, pushing everyone else back. Corrals were released about 2 minutes apart, so I started just over 40 minutes after the first corral, around 7am.

What I wore

I’ve never worn shorts for a marathon, but since it’s been so hot in Baltimore lately, I’ve been wearing shorts outside for runs a lot more often, and now that I’m not fat and pregnant, I have less of an issue with severe chub rub. I ended up deciding to wear my SOAS run shorts and matching razor tank in their new Aquarius design, as well as a blue SOAS sports bra with a really nice cleavage pocket. I stuck a gel and my ipod in the shorts pocket, and managed to keep my id, credit card, a $5 bill, a tiny tube of body glide, and two more gels in the bra pocket. After a full marathon, I can honestly say that these are still the most comfortable shorts I have ever worn: they were never in the way, kept me nice and dry, didn’t chafe anywhere, and, the sign of the perfect race outfit, I pretty forgot I was wearing anything. As usual, five stars for SOAS gear!

Course

The course winds through a lot of neighborhoods throughout San Diego, from Balboa Park, Normal Heights, North Park, Mission Valley, and finishes in downtown. I planned on the first six miles or so being fairly easy, no major hills, and no major sites. There were plenty of spectators out, even at 7am, and kept the less scenic areas motivating. I really enjoy looking at the cute little houses or shops as I run by. Also, at Mile 5, Run Blue to Remember had their remembrance mile up. 
The course split just after Mile 8, and that's the point of no return. Going into Mile 8, I was feeling great, averaging maybe a 10:00 pace, and even did two 9:30 miles in the first half, to keep myself amused. Even going into the 13 mile marker, the weather was gorgeous (overcast but humid), and nothing was bothering me. By mile 14.5, though, I hit my first WALL. All of a sudden my legs felt like lead, my back started cramping, which I know is my first sign of dehydration, and I started to worry about doing another 12 miles. At the next water station, I grabbed a salt packet and two cups of water, and perked up a little bit, but never really picked up more speed. 
The next 6 miles were a yoyo between feeling fine and chugging along, and wanting to just be done. Around Mile 16, the course hit Mission ay Park, which is a lovely stretch along the bay. The breeze off the bay was chilly when I stopped to walk, and we were running along a narrower sidewalk, past beaches, playgrounds, and piers. I think this was my favorite part of the course, even though I felt pretty crappy going through. If I didn't have that motivation, I can't imagine how slow I would've been.

My goal was to hit Mile 20 before 4:00, and I did, crossing Mile 20 at 3:57. And it was all downhill from there, but not literally. Around Mile 21.5, the course looped down onto 163, a freeway that cuts through the suburbs, but does have a slight incline up then down. Just as I was coming onto the freeway, trying to find the innter strength to finish the last 5 miles in an hour, the sun came out, the asphalt heated up, and I wanted to be done. No more. I slowed to a crawl, my feet hurt, my calves and back were cramping, and my music was so annoying. I tried to run 200 steps (about a quarter mile for me) every time someone on the other side of the freeway honked, but that didn't last long after my legs started cramping up. I was looking for the next water station, but apparently the next station, around mile 23, was REPLACED with a cooling bus. I should have stopped, but I thought there would be water ahead, so I chugged past the icy cool bus....and didn't find water until mile 24.5. Talk about miserable. On top of that, my sunblock had all worn off, and I ended up with a nasty sunburn. 
Also, I missed the Mile 25 marker, resulting in what I thought was the slowest, most miserable, longest mile of my life before I realized I was heading downhill into the city. My watch died shortly after Mile 24, so the last two miles were just the worst. 
By the time I hit the exit ramp, though, and started cruising into the last half mile, I knew it was just a right and then a left turn into the finish line, and managed to trot at a pretty good pace, focusing on form more than speed. Once I caught sight of the finish line, there was no stopping me, and I was elated! I ended up finishing in !!5:50!!, which I think is just as bad as my first marathon, and I still can't beleive that last 10K took me almost two hours. Ugh. 

Music/entertainment

Because the race starts very early, RnR usually reminds runners to not be too obnoxious as they run through residential areas at 7am on a Sunday. Since I’m usually zoned out with earbuds in, I feel like I’m not bothering anyone and try to practice good racer etiquette. However, in SD, you could be the most obnoxious runner in the world, and it still would pale next to some of these residents. There were people in their driveways with loudspeakers, spectators with bullhorns and bells and drums, front yard bloody mary bars, and on couple even set up a makeshift misting station. It’s really amazing how much the locals support this race, and it makes it all the better!

There are bands every couple of miles along the course, and they can be pretty hit or miss. I’d still recommend bringing headphones because they just aren’t close enough to keep one entertained. The packs of cheerleaders at random points is kind of weird and funny, though, I guess this year’s trend is the tulle tutu skirt, originally of runDisney fame, because pretty much every squad was wearing some sort of handmade tutu in neon colors, plus way too much makeup for a 13 year old, especially on a Sunday morning. Sorry, just a little mom judgement.

Course support

I believe there was something like 17 water stations spread out across the courses, and they were dictated more by ease of access over strategic placing for a runner. Some were about a mile apart, while later, in the last six miles, there was one stretch on 163 from miles 21-24, with no water. Two stations had Glukos “gels” and chews, but the volunteers handing them out were slacking a bit, and I ran back and grabbed some off a table when I realized I was at the appropriate water station. There was also Gatorade at every other water stop.

In addition, because of the predicted heat, I think they did try to add more heat mitigation stations. At two points, miles 17 and 22 I think, there were large buses with the AC blasting, so you could stop and cool down if you needed. Also at 17 was a misting station. Somewhere later, maybe 19, there were wet sponges, but it looked like they had been sitting out all morning and the water was lukewarm by the time I got there. 

Finish line celebration

As I cruised into the last mile, which felt like it was a breezy downhill despite a few last turns, I was exhausted, hot, and felt like I could conquer anything. Then I got to the finish line. As I passed over the last timing mat and got my medal, I knew I still had a ways to go. There was no more ice left at the water station, and the gataorades had gone quickly, so the fluids weren’t that refreshing, plus I could barely keep a grip on the two bottles I grabbed because I was so weaty and exhausted. I did grab a powerade bar and shoved it in my bra, threw a pack of airplane peanuts in my shorts, and grabbed the coldest, most delicious chocolate milk ever. More, please...except they were being stingy. I stopped at the medical tent to wrap ice around my legs and dunk my arms in their ice bucket, and then hobbled another three blocks towards the finish line celebration and checked bags, where my delightful flip flops were waiting. I finally made it about anther ten minutes later, threw everything I could into my cinch bag, and then realized the line for the finisher’s jackets was wrapping around the entire celebration. On top of that, by the time I made it down there, Suja was closing up their tent, so no finish line yoga or juice for me, and even the beer tent said they weren’t serving any more (btw, I finished a good 90 minutes before the course cutoff). I just stood in the sun some more, for a jacket, and then sat down in a little patch of shade to wait for K, who finished about 40 minutes behind me.

Some notes to RnR: keep the party going until everyone makes it! I know it’s a long day, but if it took me 7+ hours to finish a marathon in 85 heat, I would probably want a cold beer, or juice. If you have a headline sponsor packing up an hour before the final finisher, it’s just a bad look.

The After

On the way, we stopped for some carne asada fries and aloe after sun lotion. My shoulders were already turning a deep pink, and the tan lines were impressive. I did a little stretching, drank a lot of water, pulled on my recovery socks, and then packed up and drove to Disneyland!! 

Overall, I'm so very glad that I did the full. Even though it was slow, it wasn't the worst race ever, and I really enjoyed the course. I run races to push myself beyond my comfort zone, and this race did exactly that.