Thursday, October 27, 2011

Walking While Traveling

Edited to add photos 10/27/11.

Walking in Palm Springs.
Palm trees make me smile.
I'm currently in Palm Springs, CA for work. I was supposed to arrive on Sunday with the plan to spend the afternoon walking and and maybe hiking up the mountain a little. As it turned out, our plane had mechanical problems and we were not able to fly out until Monday morning. I had meetings scheduled for all day Monday, missed a couple of them and showed up in time to catch the last few.

Tuesday I also had meetings all day. I ended up with a short break at one point and was able to walk outside for about 50 min. Nearly an hour in the California sunshine in October was fantastic! Ohio can be pretty gray and dreary this time of year. The sunshine has done a lot for my mood.

Today I had a few hours free as my last meeting ended early. I walked down to the art museum, which was nice, but left before seeing everything just to be in the sun. One thing I noticed is, the temperatures change dramatically once the sun goes behind the mountain! I was a little toasty walking around in my blue jeans, but once the sun went behind a peak the temps dropped dramatically!

Andrew Wyeth painting at Palm
Springs Art Museum. I got
in trouble for taking this
If you lived here year-round, it would be necessary to plan training walks around the sun. Since I just did the Columbus Half Marathon this month, at least I didn't have to try to fit in training walks while here.

I'm heading to the Palm Springs airport at 5 a.m. and will end up spending about 3 hrs in the Dallas airport. I'm hoping that I'll be able to do a little walking there -- just as I did on our way out here.

OK, this posting is a little rambling and starting to get off topic, plus I forgot to bring my iPod cable down to the hotel lobby with me, so I'm not able to post photos. I'm heading off to bed and with luck, I'll be able to add some walking information and photos tomorrow.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hints for the Columbus Half Marathon

The race shirts are available in
women's sizes -- and they fit!

After completing this year's Columbus Half Marathon, here are some tips for next year's event.
  1. If you are planning to enter as a "competitive" walker, read the registration information carefully. For this year's race, walkers needed to go to a separate registration table to get a second bib to wear on the back. The bib said "Competitive Walker." At the same table we were given a big orange sticker to put on the front to indicate we were walkers. Things may change next year, so be sure to read carefully.
  2. Reserve a parking space online. My friend Deb does this every year and it makes race morning much easier!
  3. The last few years this race has provided shirts in women's sizes. I tend to wear a small and the small fits. Based on my experience, I think the sizing is accurate.
  4. The best time to go to the expo is during the Buckeye game. Yeah, most of the locals will be watching the game.
  5. This race gets bigger every year -- arrive early! I heard stories about people not being able to park, the port-a-john lines at the start were very long and we also heard some people had trouble getting to the right corral because of the crowds.
  6. The weather for this race can be very cold or very hot. And even if it is chilly in the morning it will warm up as the sun comes out. Bring a shirt or sweatshirt to toss once it warms up.
  7. And don't forget the people in the corrals ahead of you will also be tossing shirts. Watch your step for at least the first mile.
  8. At the end of this year's race, it was difficult to find the tent in Celebration Village where we were to turn in our "Competitive Walker" bibs to be counted. You may have to really search.
  9. This year's after-race food was pretty skim and all junk. With any luck, it will be different in future years. There was food for sale at the after-race party. Either bring money to buy something more substantial, or have something in your car to eat after the race.
  10. Be sure to follow the Columbus Marathon on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes the staff announces special events or opportunities to win prizes or entry fees. They often ask for opinions on issues.
  11. Don't forget to register early for the least expensive registration fees.
This is a well organized and fun event! If you are ready for some of the issues associated with a large event, it will help you have a successful race.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Columbus Marathon Review

Sunday's Columbus Marathon Half was fantastic!

The temps were in the low 50s when we arrived at the starting line. Because I am always way too cold, I was wearing a throw-away sweat shirt and a trash bag over my long-sleeved technical shirt. Deb did convince me to wear shorts.

As soon as we got there, we noticed the lines for the Port-a-johns were horrible! I was really worried we wouldn't get through before the start of the race. We must have picked the right line because we both got through relatively quickly. (Whew!)

While waiting for the start of the race, the sound system was great! In Corral F -- right before the last corral -- we could hear the Danger Brothers playing, we heard the National Anthem and we heard the start! (Well, a cannon was shot off, so I would hope we would hear it regardless.) The coolest part was the fireworks going off!

As participants approached the actual starting line, a live feed of all of us crossing the starting line was broadcast on a big screen across from the band stage. I raised my arms and waved, but I didn't see me in the crowd. Very cool!

The first mile of any race is rough. Too many walkers and runners who do not know how slow they are and too many runners go too far back. Add to this that lots of people in the front corrals tossed clothes, and we had to watch our step. Still, we hit mile marker one in 13:48.

Early on I tossed my sweatshirt.

As we went up Broad St., we passed the walking pacers who obviously lined up in the wrong spot. None of us walkers in the back could find pacers (other than 2:45) before the race.

In Bexley, the 3:00 pacer passed us and was at a slightly faster pace to make up for being behind early on. (He got stuck in a back corral and had trouble picking up his pace.) We could not maintain his acceleration pace at this point, we let him pass but we kept him in sight for the entire rest of the race. At this point Deb and I met a really nice woman named Debbie, who also wanted to finish in under 3 hours and couldn't keep up with the pacer either. She ended up staying with me till the end.

Somewhere before mile 8, Deb started to slow and said to go ahead. We had an agreement before the race, and it was OK with her that I went on ahead. I turned around periodically and did see her for a while.

In Olde Town there were tons of people on the porch of one house partying and cheering. It was neat that all of those neighbors got together to cheer us on!

Somewhere around Olde Town, we heard sirens and a firetruck and two squads were given the right of way and we were moved onto the sidewalk for a short stretch. We saw paramedics working on a man, but I just couldn't look. I never did hear what happened or how he did.

The rest of the race was very fun and uneventful. We saw great water stops, heard great music and there were plenty of great signs held by cheering crowds. One of my favorites held by a little boy said "Worst Parade Ever." (So cute!) There seemed to be much more crowd support this year than in previous years. We saw a couple different groups of people more than once, which was fun.

We turned onto High Street and the wind picked up. Lucky for us, it was at our back and almost helped us move faster. It did feel quite a bit colder than earlier in the race. Most of High Street is a slight uphill. Despite this, we kept up the pace and kept the 3-hour pacer in our sights!

At mile 12, I decided to see if I could go faster. I pushed hard and when I made that left-hand turn to the finish line, pushed even harder. Debbie tried to keep up with me and ended up jogging a few steps to pick up her pace. We did mile 13 in only 12:25! Really excited at that point, I crossed the finish line with a watch time of 2:57:19! More than 2 minutes under my goal of 3 hours!

With me after the race are Deb (middle) and Pat.
We got our medals and silver blankets (really needed), grabbed water and I ran into other Buckeye Striders who finished in about the same amount of time I did, but were just enough ahead of me in the corral that I never caught them.

The food line was efficient. We were each handed a bag with food in it. However, the food in the bag was not very exciting. I had a bag of cheese curls, a chocolate cookie, an orange, granola bar and some energy chews. We did get chocolate milk which is one of my favorite recovery foods! Though I appreciate that we got food at all, I didn't eat any of it -- I just drank the milk.

There was a security guard working hard to keep family and friends from blocking the exit out of the food area. The exit was huge, so I cannot believe that there were so many people standing there that we still could not get out. It was so much better than last year and the guard was doing his best.

It took quite a while to find where we were supposed to turn in our Competitive Walker bibs. When we finally found it, the process was easy. I can't wait to see how it is going to work. The results haven't been posted yet.

The after-race party in Celebration Village was very crowded. A band was playing and it could have been fun, but we were cold and it was difficult to get around, so we left fairly early.

Overall, the Columbus Marathon Half was a great event! Though there were a couple hiccups with pacers and after-race food, there is a lot to like about this race.

What I especially like is that the race director listens to the participants. He heard people complain about the food distribution last year with early finishers taking too much, and he tried something new. He heard that it was hard to get out of the food area, and he tried something new. He heard that the participants in the last corrals couldn't hear the music and he tried something new. Walkers asked for awards and he tried something new.

Even if everything that is tried doesn't work, you have to admire a race director who listens and is willing to make efforts to make a race better.

And I think that is why this race gets better every year.

NOTE: Because I took pictures with my iPod, many of the low-light photos did not turn out. And, because I had a speed goal, I didn't stop to take photos mid-race like I usually do.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Day Before a Big Race

In honor of my walking the Columbus Marathon Half tomorrow, this blog post will feature hints for what to do the day before a big race.
  1. Get plenty of rest. If you are like me, you will not sleep well the night before the race. Because of that, I went to bed early last night and I feel pretty good!
  2. Try not to be on your feet too much. After picking up your bib at the expo, find a place to sit down.
  3. Don't eat anything unusual today. It is so tempting when you are traveling to try foods you've never had before. Save that for after the race.
  4. Check the most up-to-date weather for tomorrow. By today, the forecast should be fairly accurate.
  5. Plan what you will wear and make sure it is ready. Is your favorite shirt clean? Do you have your socks selected? Will you take a "throwaway" shirt? If it is raining, will you take a garbage bag? (Remember, don't wear anything new and untested.)
  6. Put your race number on your shirt or racing belt. If you have a timing chip, put it on your shoe.
  7. Plan what you will eat in the morning. I eat a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread before every race. I will make the sandwich tonight.
  8. Do you carry gels or an MP3 player? Pack your Spibelt with your necessities.
  9. Finally, go to bed at a reasonable time.
Races in my home town feel different from races that require travel. I like being in a hotel right across the street from the start line. I also like having planned what I'm going to wear a couple of days in advance.

At the same time, I sleep better in my own bed and I like being able to change my mind regarding clothes if necessary. (I took the totally wrong clothes to the Big Sur Marathon and I froze!)

Regardless, there is always a lot of excitement before a big race and the morning will go much smoother if you plan early.

Good luck to everyone doing a fall race!

(If I left anything out, please let me know!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Taper Week

I'm not sure if this is an egret, heron or crane,
but I saw it today.
I was scheduled to walk just 30 min. at an easy pace today. Because it was beautiful this evening I went to Griggs Reservoir to walk along the river. I love days like this!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Race Pace

My plan for Saturday's 8-mile training walk was to try to maintain a 14-min mile for the first 5 miles, then increase my speed to race pace for the last 3 miles. I also used the walk to try out a new heart rate monitor.

The first 2 miles were over 14 min. each -- darn! We were able to pick up the pace for the next 3 miles moving between 13:40 and 13:50. So the first few miles evened out.

We tried to pick up the pace to go as much below the 13:45 pace as possible. That 6th mile we only managed 13:50, but we also slowed down for Deb to use the water fountain. (I'm OK with that. I want her to drink water.) Unfortunately, after that mile I hit the wrong button stopping the chronograph. Argh! According to Nancy's GPS we went from a 13:30 pace to a 12:26 pace per mile -- I'm just not sure what the specific pace was for each mile. I need to be able to average faster than 13:45 per mile, so if I go slower for the first 2 miles, obviously I will need to go faster for the last few miles.

I'm VERY excited! After I warmed up, moving faster than 13:30 was not that bad. Now I just have to figure out how to warm up quicker.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Testing a HR Monitor

Today I was testing a heart rate monitor by Sportline. The watch part is very cute and I was excited to give it a good workout with either long distance or speed intervals. (This is the one I planned to test Sunday.)

The buttons on watches all work differently. It's one of the reasons I'm hesitant to switch between sport watches.

So today, I inadvertently stopped the chrono after my 5-minute warm up. I have no idea how long I walked for my first interval before I noticed the time didn't change. Somehow I did the same thing right before my last interval.

When I'm used to the buttons, I'll do a full review. For right now, I like it. The watch is cute, the chest strap is comfortable and a good design, the stop watch will do up to 50 laps...

That's probably enough teaser for now.

My Workout
Despite the user error, I had a good workout. I ended up doing 8 intervals of 3 minutes fast alternating with 2 minutes of rest. When I finished the first interval, I marked my finish spot with a stick so I could compare how I did on other laps, and was pretty close just about every time.

My stride did not feel smooth today and it was an effort to move fast. In fact, though I was not breathing overly hard, I just could not get my legs to move any faster. I knew I was not working my hardest because my heart rate did not even get above 144. (During a recent race I paced myself  using 150 bpm.)

Regardless, it was a good workout. I'm planning to keep up the speed workouts even after the Columbus half in less than 2 weeks.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

I Didn't Want to Walk Today

The changing leaves are a sure sign of fall.
It was so hard to get out of bed this morning to walk. The weather was rotten Friday and Saturday with lots of rain and clouds, and I expected it to be just as bad today. As I laid in bed, I was thinking about where I could walk where I would be least likely to quit halfway through. (Sharon Woods with the 3.8-mile loop.)

When I finally got out of bed, I was pleasantly surprised to see the sun! It was a little chilly, but there was sun.

One of my goals today was to walk faster than I have on my last few long days and try to maintain close to my intended race pace. I also hoped to pay more attention to my heart rate so I'll use my heart rate monitor better on race day. Halfway to the park I realized I left the chest strap to the HR monitor at home. Darn!

Without the monitor, I decided to just try to walk at a pace close to a 14-min. mile. I always start a little slow and it takes at least a mile for me to warm up. My first mile was 14:44 and I sped up to 14:09 for mile 2 and 14:01 for mile 3. I stayed near that pace until the last two miles which were 13:49 and 13:43. Though I was breathing a little bit hard, I could have easily maintained a conversation. It felt good.

In order to break the 3-hour mark, I'm going to have to walk all 13 miles faster than 13:45. If I can get warmed up sufficiently, I think I'll be able to do it. However, there are only two weeks left and I won't have another long-distance pace day to practice.I'll just have to be confident my training has paid off.