Saturday, April 26, 2014

RACE REPORT: Y2Y Half Marathon 2014

When I signed up for the Y2Y Half marathon, my longest run YTD had been 8.2 miles, back in February.  I was interested in running this first-annual race, though, and I figured it could spur me on to getting back into long runs, if only by force.  It was a race with an interesting concept - run from the Middle Tyger YMCA in Duncan, to the YMCA in Spartanburg.  You don't see many point-to-point courses.

Monday, Apr 14:
On the day I got back from Rio, I did a treadmill run on the new treadmills in our gym.  They've been renovating, and now, instead of 1 treadmill with issues, they'll have 3 brand-new ones, plus 2 ellipticals.  I did 4.5 in 37:33 at a 3 degree incline, 8:21 ave / 7:43 effort.  My abductors and hamstrings were sore.  I was originally going to do a bike session after my recovery nap from the long flight with poor sleep, but they had removed the bike.  My legs ended up being ok during the run,t hough.

Wednesday, Apr 16:
55 min Strength session.

Thursday, Apr 17:
The past few days, my body has been craving carbs and junky food.  I discovered too late that the new fitness room was again closed, for further renovations, so I was stuck running on the roads at night.  I did Zombies, Run!, too, since I was outside anyways.  I eeked out 6.4 in 57:40, 8:57 ave.  I don't like night-time road running, though.  Too treacherous with cars and curbs, too bangy on the knees, but I was desperate to get in some cardio.

Saturday, Apr 19:
This would be my one chance to get in a longer run to prepare for the race.  I threw down 12.2 in 1:42:01, 8:22 ave, on the spongy part of the Swamp Rabbit trail.  It was good to know that I could pull this out, despite a low-mileage first few months of the year.  Did it with no need for food or water during the run.  There was misty rain during the run.  I was tempted to throw in some exercises during the run to prepare for the Spartan obstacle course races, but I decided not to stress my body too much, and to first get the HM over with.

Sunday, I decided not to run, to let my body recover from the shock of running long again, and to minimize risk.

Monday - gym was still under construction, so I slept instead.  I took this week as an opportunity to catch up on much-needed sleep!

Tuesday, Apr 22:
My last run before the race.  I made it outside while it was still light out.  6.0 in 51:07, 8:32 ave, at the park, doing Zombies, Run!  It was so relaxing to be outside after being in the office all day, and there were lots of people out there, too.  It was beautiful.

I had 3 full rest days before the race.  I had more carbs than usual the night before, too.  Sleep has been odd for me the past couple of weeks, but I had some catch-up, so it was ok.  I had a hot shower in the morning, followed by a whole grain tortilla wrap with almond butter, cinnamon, and chocolate... haha.  I drove out to the YMCA in Duncan.  I had considered driving to the Spartanburg YMCA and taking the shuttle to Duncan, so that I'd have my stuff at the finish line, but I preferred to not have to worry about missing the bus.  I took plenty of bathroom stops before the race and did some dynamic stretching.  I didn't do any warm-up run, since I needed to save my legs for the mileage.  It was in the low 50s, which is comfortable sports bra weather.

I met a guy walking down to the race start, and he asked what I planned on running.  A number of people seem to remember me from the iRecycle Half Marathon.  With my lack of long runs, I figured 1:38-1:40.  We walked out to the race start, and soon enough, we were off!  I ended up shooting out the gates like a 5-year-old in a mile run.  It was just so exciting to race the roads again... the last time had been at iRecycle in November or something.  I was probably going out at my 10K-ish race pace.  I could've minimized the damage by slowing down, but I wanted to front-run and just let it go, enjoying the thrill of racing again, even if it would mean a blow-up later on.

(Photo credit: Pace Magazine)

One girl caught up and passed me a few miles in.  The morning of the race, someone had said that this race would have "rolling hills".  That can mean anything.  To someone like me who grew up at sea-level and flat land, a few feet of vertical is a hill.  The hills in this area are all similar, though, and it was "rolling hills", similar to how other courses have "rolling hills", although they were a wee bit more frequent in this race, I feel.  Somehow, though, the 3 people, including the girl, started coming back to me, gradually, and I was able to pass them back, with a few miles left.  At the 9 mile mark, I made my pass and was thrilled to be back in first.  Despite a too-fast start, I had quite a bit of zip even at the end... maybe the hills actually helped, by slowing me to a walking pace and essentially giving me recovery and breaking it up into two shorter races.  Anyway, I just kept chugging, and it was an exciting finish, with a police motorcycle escorting me to the finish, haha.

 (Photo credit: Pace Magazine)

Having watched the 3-hr recap of Boston on Monday, it was kind of fun to get to live a mini-version of it, with our own "run to Spartanburg" and the win.  This was a first-annual race, but it was incredibly executed, with tons of police, copious cones all along the 13.1-mile route, and a great crowd at the finish line, where the YMCA was hosting activities for kids. I didn't miss not having a gear check option, either, because there were oranges, bananas, bagels, and BBQ pork sandwiches at the finish.  While waiting for the awards ceremony, I played around with a soccer ball with some little kids and laid down under a tent.  It was relaxing, and the weather was great.

My official time was 1:40:06... very close to what I had projected.  Not bad, considering the hills!  The Finishers medals were very nice, and it's my first rectangular medal, believe it or not.

Splits> 7:07 (shot out of the gates!), 7:18, 7:14 (on track for an unattainable HM PR so far), 7:50, 8:06, 7:51, 9:05 (the mile-marker was placed too late, based on the next split), 6:33, 7:27, 6:50, 7:17 (where did this come from?), 7:30, 8:54, 0:58 for 0.1.

13.1 in 1:40:06, 7:38 pace.

So... next... getting ready for obstacle course races of half-marathon distance! 

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Comfort & Food

I got to the hotel after midnight... flight delays.  Rather than venturing out to find dinner, I had an apple and almonds.  I had an early start the next morning, as I wanted to catch the sunrise.  To my delight, the beach was only a small block away from the hotel.  Even though I woke up at 5:30am, it was already surprisingly bright by the time I got outside.  The sun hadn't peeked out from behind the mountains, yet, though, so I was alright.  I started running down Copacabana beach.  The first half is pretty cambered, which aggravated my left leg after a while and drove me up in the softer but flatter stuff up-shore, which has its own footing challenges.  I wore the Saucony Hattoris.  I got them in order to practice barefoot-style running, although I probably haven't totaled up a single mile in them yet.  I found a new use for them, though... walking shoes, when I don't want something as stifling as running shoes, but I don't want to go around in flipflops.  I decided to try them at the beach, too, since they were light and seemed able to dry quickly, in case they got wet.  This was about 5K so far...

My first goal was to get to the fort by Leme, but they were closed (I suppose it is early), so I went onwards to my second goal, getting to Sugarloaf mountain.  This was another 5K or so.  I have wanted to do hiking in Rio, but the national forest requires a cab ride, and the trail system isn't really designed for hiking without a guide, for whatever reason.  Therefore, I googled options and found out about trails around/to Sugarloaf.  I found some tips on where to find the hard-to-find trails and ventured forth into the road-less-traveled.  It was pretty epic and worth the feeling of adventure and the views. 

(on this beach, on the left side, take the paved path, to head towards Sugarloaf Mountain, which you can see in the background)

(when you get here, go uphill, towards the left of the picture, then aim towards the right)

The paths aren't well-marked, so it's hard to tell when you've gone as far as the trail is meant to go.  I went as far as I think I could go, though.  There was lots of scrambling involved.  The rock slopes were steep at times, so I got a good arm workout, doing crab crawls down hills and pull-up style moves up hills.  It was good training for the Spartan race, so I feel like I was making up for not exercising the past 3 days.  There was only a tiny bit of trail at the beginning that was runnable.  The rest was a hike at best, and somewhat-wall-climbing (not vertical, though - no, that'd be impossible) at most.

(this was as far as I dared to venture.  You can see how steep it was)

Once I got back down to the paved path, it was a relief.  The dirt paths had been a bit of a maze at times.  I came across some monkeys!  I had hoped to see monkeys during my trip to Iguazu Falls, so this fulfilled a wish!  My other wish - to see penguins in either Antarctica or the southern tip of Argentina.

(This was adorable - there were 2 babies clinging to the mommy's back.  There were about 4 other full-grown monkeys, too)

After covering about 8 miles of road, not including the hiking/scrambling adventure, with nothing but 1 small bottle of water and no food, I was eager to try to make it back to the hotel in time for breakfast.  I therefore shuffled over to the nearest metro station and rode close to my hotel, quickly washed myself, and went down for a buffet where I downed water, fruit, and eggs.  Then, on to the next adventure - exploring the city!  I had only done a driving tour through parts of the city during the last visit, so I wanted to take the metro in, and do certain neighborhoods on foot.

(on my last trip to Rio, I had forgotten to bring Paddington Bear.  He was excited to join this time.  The Escadaria Selaron was one of my favorite sites last trip - it's a long staircase up an alley, with tiles from all over the world)

(the Arcos de Lapa, which is an aqueduct that used to bring in water)

(even the planeride into Rio was spectacular.  If you use the Santos Dumont airport, instead of the GIG international airport, you land at a small airport that's right on the edge of the water, close to Sugarloaf Mountain, and you're only feet above the water as the plane comes in for the landing... it was cool to watch from far away on Sugarloaf last trip, and it was cool to see it up closer, on Flamengo Beach, on this trip)

(I also stumbled upon what seemed to be a Masters Club team.  Even though these were recreational people, it was amazing to watch them execute all of their moves with incredible precision... as good as watching a real pro game, up-close, as far as I'm concerned!)

My plan was to take the San Theresa streetcar into the San Theresa neighborhood, but unfortunately, they were closed... it might've been for maintenance, but I'm not sure.  Oh well.  I went back to the beach, to enjoy a coconut, an ear of corn, and the sunset.

After watching the sun set, I walked along Ipanema Beach, with my feet in the cold water.  It was a good way to heal my feet, which were a bit tired from walking around in 0-drop Saucony Hattoris all day. 

Before the sunset, I had seen a bunch of Stand-up Paddleboard stations, so I had determined that I would do this the next morning, despite the coldness of the water.

(in the past, I thought Stand-up Paddleboarding looked kind of boring, strange, and not that great of a workout, but it was actually very, very fun!  I fell into the water a number of times... gotta stay balanced)

(gotta love the Go-Pro, too!)

 After this, I took a shower, wandered around a crafts/hippie market for an hour, and enjoyed a traditional meal of Feijoada, which are black beans with meat and trimmings... I was mostly interested in the black beans and collards.

Then, a quick power-walk to the lagoon, where some of the Olympics events will be held.  

(Christ the Redeemer)

 Then, back to the hotel and off to the airport!  It was a very memorable and fun trip, a nice way to relax after 2 challenging weeks at work.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sao Paulo, Brazil: Comfort & Food

Off to Brazil on Saturday.

When I arrived, I got in a run.  I hadn't had much to eat during the day (tons of water at the airport when my luggage was overweight, and I didn't want to waste 5 bottles... I chugged 3 and had to ditch 2 / yogurt / mega-salad with walnuts / whole egg / apple / big avocado sandwich), but the gym would close at 10, so I did the run first.  Thankfully (for once, I appreciate it), they eat dinner super-late in Brazil.

At the gym, the bike seemed more promising than the treadmills that looked like they were from the 80s.  However, the bike's resistance was electromagnetically generated, so it didn't have good flow.  I switched to the old treadmills, which turned out to be quite usable, despite its appearances and super-limited functionality.  I did 6K in 30:42, 8:14 pace.

Enjoyed my first night in Rio with a 0.5% alcohol beer:

I don't ever go to bars, so maybe this is common, but upon entry, they give you a card, and every time you want to order something, they swipe your card, and you pay at the end.  It was pretty spiffy!

The next day, I went to Santos, which is about 1:40 outside of Sao Paulo, on a traffic-free day (I've heard that on holidays, it can take 11-12 hours to make the same trip, as everyone gets out of the city to go to the beach.  I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out to be a very nice trip.

We went to the zoo.  I like animals.  I feel bad about the caged ones, though.  Animals are made to be free.  Some of these guys were fairly free to go anywhere in the park (and probably beyond, too, if they wanted to).

Next, we walked on the beach.  It didn't have nearly as many hills jutting out of the skyline and water as Rio, but it was still nice.

Finally, we had a very nice seafood lunch at a place that overlooked the beach.
We were all pooped after the big meal and the walking around in the hot sun.  We spent only 4 hours in Santos, but it was a perfect amount. 
Once back at the hotel, I was eager to have a nap.  When I woke up 2 hours later, I was still satisfied from lunch, so I went to the gym.  I managed 8K, with the middle 6K done with nose-breathing, to try to strengthen my lungs.  It felt warmer in the gym today.  The run took 42:08, 8:28 pace.  The pace felt a lot easier today, so I may be adapting to the heat (or elevation?).  I didn't realize how high Sao Paulo was, until we took the trip down the mountains to Santos.  I looked it up afterwards, and found that it's about 0.5 mi in the air.  Seems reasonable.  At 1.5 and 1.0 miles, I feel out of breath even walking around.  I'm fine here, though.  I did some arms (to stay Spartan-strong) and a tad bit of jump-roping (because I felt like jumping or doing burpees) afterwards.
After a shower, I went across the street to a mall with a nice food court.  I don't get to eat Middle Eastern food often, so I was very excited about one place that I found, and it didn't disappoint.  I was up for something light and fresh and flavorful, and this hit the spot.  I did crave additional carbs and calories afterwards, though, so I had a couple of cookies back at the hotel.  It was a nice weekend, though... back to the grindstone tomorrow... and I feel like I'm going to get ground up good.

Tuesday, Apr 8:
Did 8K at 8pm in 40:14 (8:06ave), although it was split up 4K/4K with a bathroom break in between.  It was the warmest day at the gym yet, with lots of bodies in the room for some reason.  Finished with some arm weights.  Had a really nice, albeit light, dinner at a place with the best beer selection I've ever seen... lots of different high-quality styles.  I went with a lambic.  I had a spicy chicken salad with it.  Very good.  I was still hungry afterwards, so I had a chocolate torte at the Arabian fast food place.
No workouts on Wednesday through Friday.  Legs just weren't feeling it by the time we got back to the hotel after work, and I'd be hungry and eager for dinner, too.
Breakfast at the hotel was a visual treat every day.  They have water cascading down a sloped glass roof.  I was on the 2nd floor (which is the 3rd, in reality), and when I heard the sound and looked down on the first morning, I thought they might've been emptying washing machines or a pool or something.  I didn't expect this!
 On Friday, it was time to head out to my next destination... a much-needed mini-vacation in Rio!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Comfort & Food

One of my sorta-traditions at airports is to get froyo.  This brand was very nice.  I went for the Mint flavor.

Upon arriving in Argentina in the morning, I hit the gym, while waiting for an upper-floor room to free up.  I only had a couple of bites of fruit available for breakfast, so I wasn't too peppy for the run, on top of the little wiggle room while trying to sleep during the 10 hour flight. 

I managed a more-challenging-than-normal 6K, although all treadmill runs are less bearable these days.  7K in 34:40, 8:25/mi, 3 degrees of incline.  This gym had nice equipment, with a variety of machines, with TVs, and a variety of weights and accessories, too.  I wasn't starving afterwards, but I was excited when I got down to the buffet for brunch.

The food in Argentina at the hotels and even the cafeteria at work is so colorful, with an incredible variety of fruits and veggies.  I load up when I'm here.
The hotel room ended up being awesome and well worth the wait.  We were right on the British Tower.
Had a literal boatload of sushi:
Something I enjoy each day is napping during the hour-long bus ride to and from work.  When work is so tiring (meaning work before work, 1 bus ride, 9 hours at work, 1 hr bus ride, and more work after work), it's a comfort I look forward to, and it does a lot to supplement what would otherwise be 6 hors of sleep.  Makes a huge difference.

On Tuesday night, got in a recumbent bike session while reading a running magazine.  20K covered in 50 minutes.  Drank 3/4 a liter of H2O.  This was an hour after a big meal of salmon and sautéed veg from a takeout place, so I was in no condition to run, even though I was due to run.  I enjoyed a non-vegan but all-natural tiramisu afterwards.  If I'm going to splurge on a rare (nearly unprecedented) treat like that, post-workout is the time to do it.  It's not often that you encounter all-natural deserts, so I went for it.

Wednesday was a national holiday, so when I tried to go to the gym at night, they were already closed for the day.  I did a strength session in my hotel room, instead.

Thursday, I went out for a white carby dinner.  It was for the experience.

Friday, I got in a run at last.  9K in 47:23, 8:28 ave, 3 degrees.  Even though this workout was also 1 hr post-salmon, it was a smaller portion this time, and I walked a bit after I ate, so I felt much better and able to run.  I guess the pace isn't bad, given the incline.  It felt like an easy pace.  I think not running for 5 days had something to do with that.   

I feel like I had a super-high dose of Argentina culture last trip, so I didn't go out at all this trip.  Just getting stuff done.