Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Las Vegas Weekend & Pre-Race Prep...

Where to begin, where to begin...  . .. .. where oh where... hey, how about this past Saturday? Good idea, Jim! (I'm talking to myself, aren't I.)

My good buddy, Craig, came along for the drive to Vegas - his cousin and wife were running the RnR Half Marathon race as well so we figured it would be a nice get together while up there. We hit the road at 6:45 Saturday morning and made great time - just one pit stop in Baker and we were crossing into Nevada by 9:45 AM. Plus, I had co-workers and friends that were running the race and I wanted to beat them to the Expo and have a cocktail in hand long before they arrived! The joke was on me because they flew in to McCarran Airport in Vegas instead. Curse their frequent flyer mileage!

10:45 AM and here I am inside of the Sands Expo Center connected to the Venetian...

"Hey look, it's almost 'Life sized'... "
I'm glad we arrived early as the crowds were huge and it appeared to be getting packed really fast - the totals for the full and half marathon race numbered over 44,000 registrants. We didn't get to do much looking around the Expo booths, but I'm not really big on that unless they're giving away handfuls of free energy gel - yes, I know... it's all about Me, Me, Me! Actually, I don't do so well with indoor crowds, so off we went and I found out later that my co-workers and friends that I was supposed to meet at the Expo ended up stuck at the airport for a while. Bummer! But I was starved and since I was still in Me-Me-Me mode, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then it was off to meet some fellow running Bloggers at Harrah's Carnaval Court. 

My favorite all-time runner and blogger, Janae (Hungry Runner Girl) and her equally awesome running husband, Billy. HRG is an incredible runner and a great inspiration - plus, she can out pace anyone on a dessert menu - she's a professional folks! Finally... people who understand that three meals a day should be followed by dessert! HRG organized the blogger get-together and it was fun meeting a lot of amazing bloggers with some serious talent. You know, I'm just glad Billy and a few of the other blogger's husbands were there because if I don't get a chance to talk exclusively about gear tech, cars, fishing, and beer, I become very sad. But as you can see in the pic, I'm a happy camper! Well, we were in the Ghirardelli ice cream shop, so there you go...

After the meet, I caught up with my buddy at the Venetian again... time for a little gambling and free beer. This is pre-race fueling, by the way. As cold as it was, it was also a nice day to be out and a good opportunity to grab a couple of quick pics of the view outdoors.

From the front entrance of the Venetian looking out toward the Mirage (f/3.5 @ ISO 1400)
I know, nothing original here, but look! It's starting to plume! (f/4 @ ISO 1600)

After some excessive pre-race fueling *cough* it was time to get some Chipotle! Hey, c'mon, I needed some serious carbs and I refused to walk away from the shortest Chipotle line I had ever seen in months. No picture, but I had the chicken burrito bowl and I instantly felt the surge of good carbs in my body... well, not really, but it was tasty. 

I was determined to get in a quick shake-out run on the treadmill after getting back to the hotel. After mulling it over for an hour or two, I abandoned the thought and convinced myself I was better off having dessert at Mr. Lucky's 24/7 Cafe at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino...

I sure do love this place - they have great coffee and they're open for 15 hours out of the day... . .. ... juuuust kidding! Being able to order dessert 24/7 is an awesome attraction. Rumor has it there may have been an apple pie a la mode and potato skins appetizer somewhere on that bill.

Well, no turning back now! Thankfully the race was scheduled for the following evening, so I had plenty of recovery time... . ..yessirreeee...  yep. You know what's funny? I wasn't too worried about the race - I was looking forward to enjoying myself and taking in the sights along the Strip. I think this was a really good approach for me and I knew I would be in my element as I prefer to run in the early evening (not exactly when it's dark out, but as opposed to an early morning run) - so tomorrow would be another day and it was time to hit the sack. 

Next up: Race Recap for the Zappos RnR Las Vegas 1/2 Marathon

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reflective-wear & "I Need Some Serious Chocolate Cake"

Just putting in a short nighttime run before I'm fully enveloped in tapering mode. (I found that I really dislike tapering. I thought I'd find some kind of reprieve in it, but it's like slow torture!)

Sorry for the blurry pic, but it was hastily shot as I wanted to get on the road - it was windy and cold and I felt like I was...  darn it! I forgot to put on my running gloves with the reflective piping and Under Armour logo - sheesh. It's very eye-catching and hard not to notice since your hands are moving back and forth. (I don't know what I was looking at, by the way... probably some car coming up the road so I could test something out...) Now, lately, I've started running with my Nathan reflective vest and have noticed drivers really do take note of me and make an effort to steer clear when they can (thank you!) - I got it on sale from REI about a month ago. It has a longer backside to it and has a lot of reflective material for some serious high visibility coverage! I'm a street runner so I need all the help I can get.

Speaking of seriousness, here's a quality meal that I'm quite positive I can eat every day for the rest of my life...

 . .. ..unless you offered me pizza, like from Grimaldi's... or something similar. I hate it when I sidetrack like that. Anyway, my wife is the consummate chef and tolerates my healthy eating from time to time - one of my favorites: salmon and seasoned asparagus (she's very awesome and I can prove it in the pic that follows)...

Yes, you know it! Talk about a treat! Okay, there's a longer story to this and it involves some broken egg shells that made the immediate use of several eggs a priority for the day. So there you have it. But awesome, nonetheless! That's some serious chocolate cake.

Three and a half days 'til the RnR Las Vegas 1/2 Marathon! Here's the Course Map - I'm excited that I'm going to be running a nighttime race and right there on the Strip of all places, and yet here I am wondering/worrying about my race time! You know, we always want to improve and always be progressively moving forward - but if I can just get it in my head that keeping to my training pace and finishing the race strong is still a very good thing! Besides, I almost forgot I'm running a local 1/2 marathon just a week after Las Vegas - the Holiday Half ...hmmm, don't know what I was thinkin'. Well, I doubt I'll be saving any energy for the following week's race, but hey, it's all about the running, right? And the scenery... don't forget the scenery (insert two thumbs up here).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Some New Running Digs... Asics (again)

I just picked them up today - a pair of Asics GT 2170. Notice the Nathan sensor holder for my Nike+ gizmo/iPod Nano? The first thing I did was slap that holder onto those laces!

I keep making the Snail's Pace employees put me through the paces on the pressure pad and treadmill, although this time they were on to me. I should have spaced my visits a little farther apart! I don't know what it is with me, but I just have to keep reaffirming my running gait/pronation-type so I can get it in my head that I'm running in the appropriate shoes.

What was different today (I'm usually pestering the Road Runner Sports folks) was that the Snail's Pace pro said I have a slightly more pronounced overpronation on my right foot strike, as opposed to my left - which appeared to be close to neutral, and also evidenced by the wear on my running shoes (I always bring them with me as evidence when I claim I'm both a supinator and an overpronator! ...well, that's not really how it is, but it's a great conversation starter). So this was the first time I've heard this - I'm used to hearing, "you're a moderate overpronator and you need this shoe because it's built to fix that and oh, by the way, that'll be $150 gabillion dollars." Instead, it was more like, "you're overdoing it with the (Asics) Kayanos - you just need slight to moderate support given all the other factors." A cheaper shoe, in other words, would do the trick.

My choices came down to the Asics GT 2160 or 2170, and the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11 or 12... the latter models being the 2012 model lineup. Okay, they're not that cheap, but better than paying the ransom for a more technical shoe than I needed. The noticeable difference between the Asics 2160 and the 2170 was how light the 2170 felt over the 2160 (different EVA material) - and the heel strike felt very comfortable, similar to the Brooks Adrenaline 11 and 12. In the end, I'm still an Asics fan so of course... well, you know how it turns out. It's Holiday Savings Month at Snail's Pace so that meant a $20 discount off my next pair of running shoes at Snail's Pace! Two words: Ya & hoo. I'm going to pick up the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 when I return - they felt great, too, but I need to ease into new things - plus, I don't want them to recognize me when I ask them to put me through the paces again!

Less than six days to the Zappos Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas 1/2 Marathon! Probably not a good time to be substituting new shoes into the running lineup, but I'll bring these along as my backup pair. Always have to have a backup!

NYC Pictures & Random Things...

My apologies for the conspicuous absence of pics from my last post (I mean, who wants to see pics of worn out running shoes?!), but to make up for it you get to see some pictures I took during my New York trip earlier this month! ...wait, come back! You'll enjoy it.

First of all, this was a short trip for work and so it was just my co-worker (Al) and I...  Al's a good guy and he was tolerant of my sightseeing excursions - hey, I've never been to NYC before! I'll tell you, New York was a fun place to visit. The food, the people, the sights, sounds, and everything that makes NYC different from Los Angeles made for a great trip! Timing-wise we were off by a weekend because we arrived just two days after the ING NYC Marathon - a complete bummer as I would have liked to have taken a gander at the biggest marathon event in the World!

Now take note the only thing running related in this post has already been written in the above paragraph! And now for your viewing pleasure... by the way, please don't blame the camera... it's the photographer. I know, what are you going to do - all I had with me was a government-issued Panasonic Lumix camera. I try to be a light traveler, but this time, I sure wish I would've had access to my Nikon DSLR equipment. (Insert disgusted look on face here)

Hey, you can see the Manhattan Bridge! On our way to find Grimaldi's Pizzeria.
I know, it doesn't look like much, but they're using a coal brick oven for crying out loud! (The pizza was absolutely fantastic ...yes, we ate there TWICE.)
The NYC Apple Store - a glass box enclosure above ground; a huge store below street level with half of NY's population inside shopping... yikes, talk about a huge crowd. Claustrophobia would not do well down there.

The south entrance of Central Park - "The Pond" - the weather was terrific.

Some awesome Fall colors throughout Central Park. I would imagine October would be the BEST time to be there...

Not even a third of the way into the park... it's a HUGE park. Very huge.

I probably could have just called this the "Central Park Post"  ...hard to believe there's a city out there.

I have another picture of this posted previously - I just liked the quote so I thought I'd post it again. Hey, this IS a running blog!

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Resevoir - sure could've used a wide angle lens here...

One of the old pedestrian bridges that crosses the 86th Street Transverse

Yes, you know what's next...

That's a tall building... Rockefeller Center

The obligatory outdoor ice rink pic - it's a neat area and Times Square isn't too far away. 

North end of Times Square - Theater District

Times Square ...eleventy gabillion people were outside

Lots of lights... a whole lot. Reminds me of Vegas.

One World Trade Center construction (9/11 Memorial site) - everything about this memorial site is huge in scale - it's really something to be seen in person. 

South Pool Memorial - former site of South Tower

View from the South Pool border...

Reflection off of the future WTC Historical Museum

They were just minding their business when I came along... once this pic was snapped, a long line of visitors started lining up for their picture opportunity as well - sorry about that! 

Well that's it folks! A small sampling because I like to take a ton of pictures, but I'm going to spare you! I sure hope to return soon to this wonderful city. Maybe as a lucky lottery draw for the next NYC Marathon???

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Back-to-back Running Days & Some Worn Out Shoes!

I trust everyone's Thanksgiving was plentiful, joyful, and close to what could only be described as an annual food coma. So much food, so little time. Well not really... this is a four day weekend for me so you'd better believe I'm hanging in there for seconds and thirds. I know, I'm horrible...

But hey! I had two runs on back-to-back days starting with Thanksgiving (I usually try not to do more than two days in a row in a single week) and I'll tell you - that Thanksgiving day run was really.. .. ...blah. I'm going to put that one in the top three worst-feeling runs of this year, and I'm not even including the Mammoth Lakes running sessions in any of those because let's face it, it's high altitude running! I think my body and mind was fixated on experiencing a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, ham, asparagus, green beans, salad, pumpkin pie overload. And yes, I had two servings of each. Yikes. ("Oh... so that's why he ran again on Friday.")

On the following day, however, it was a complete turnaround - it was a fantastic run complete with great weather. I did notice something about my prior run: same warm-up/stretch routine, however, I grabbed my older Asics Kayano-17 with almost 300 miles on them. (I had not run in them for nearly two months - gee, I wonder why?) Just a quarter mile into my run I could feel that something was off... "hey, why are both of my legs and knees starting to hurt?" Well heck, a better question is, why didn't I just turn around and grab any of my newer pair of shoes?! Laziness combined with a lapse in good judgement. I finished up a 10k run and instead of feeling great, I felt miserable. I reflected on a fellow blogger TheRunningFatGuy and a recent post of his about running shoes - why did I choose to put mileage on shoes that I knew were likely beyond their useful life? All righty then...  lesson learned. No, for real this time... honest.

My second follow-up at a quality 10k the next day was a winner! My trusty Asics Gel 3020 have a little over 250 miles on them and the difference was easy to feel. (I have a couple pair of those and the newer Gel 3030, and even though the 3030 is about an ounce lighter, I like the 3020 a bit better - don't know what the deal is with that.) I'm reminded of RFG's post and I can't help but think I, too, am experiencing a lesser mileage life out of the Asics Kayanos. Hmmm...  time to re-examine my footwear perhaps.

You know, a year ago today, when I really started pouring on the mileage, I never would have imagined I'd be talking like this about running - let alone writing about how I'm wearing out running shoes! What a turnaround, but that's a good thing.

Anyone getting some high mileage out of their choice of athletic shoes?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pre-run Warm Up... & Gear Check (sort of)

You know what I dislike about late Fall? Cold weather and short days! Although I noticed that I tend to spend a lot more time doing my pre-run stretching nowadays - it's too darn cold outside to be doing any kind of stretching for any length of time, so I always do it indoors... and boy is it comfortable indoors! Here's five of the seven stretches that I always try to incorporate before running: 5 Injury-Prevention Stretches for Runners (Mike Clarke @ Active.com)

I'm way too impatient as you probably already know, but a solid ten to fifteen minutes of stretching can do a world of good for a workout - plus, I like to throw in jump roping to get the blood flowing as a pre-run warm up. I like the Lifeline Jump Rope (LifelineUSA.com) and have included jumping rope as an in-between circuit exercise for the past year. It's cheap, fast, and definitely gets you warmed up in a hurry when it's cold outside! See how happy I am?

I normally do three to four sets of 1-minute routines, averaging about 80 to 90 jumps per minute. If you've ever considered the addition of jumping rope into your workout regimen, try to avoid jumping on concrete or hard surfaces - you'll want to take it easy on the joints and the abuse adds up rather quickly. I usually pull out a rubber mat for this and they're relatively cheap at places like Costco and Sam's Club.

Also, other than the jump rope itself, here's another Gear Check item that I was introduced to by a fellow runner and sports PT that I frequently like to pester with eleventy gabillion questions whenever I get the opportunity:

I like these inserts and have tried plenty of different brands, but these seem to work very well for me. I have a couple hundred miles on my current set and have enjoyed a noticeable improvement in my right heel (pain-wise). I have low arches so the Blue Superfeet is the recommended insert. They're not cheap and run about $40 dollars... whenever I get a $10 cash back award from Sport Chalet or see a 20% sale at Dick's Sporting Goods, I'm all over that Superfeet display - I may have a couple spare pairs sitting in shoe boxes just waiting to be used!

Well today was 10.75 miles for me and it felt great! Great weather, not too warm (a benefit of late Fall you say?!), but I must say my legs felt like I was hauling weights into the first two miles. After that second mile, however, everything seemed to pick up just fine. This is my last long run before the Las Vegas 1/2... although I'm quite positive a 9 miler is in my near future on Sunday. I know, I know! Tapering is important!

Say, anyone else here use shoe inserts? What works for you? 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Someone stole my lead weights!

Four days of rest and some reasonable nutrition... hey, I never said anything about "stellar" nutrition in my game plan - proof of my food oddities and why no one likes to eat lunch with me:

Boring! My typical lunch of wheat bread with Columbus roasted herb turkey slices, Swiss cheese, Trader Joe's edamame hummus and broccoli sprouts, fat free yogurt, string cheese, and slices of a Cameo apple. Insane, isn't it? I swear, it has a yummy-ness factor of 8. Okay, maybe 7 and a variety factor of 8. (shrug)

So today I did a training run of 8.75 miles and it felt fantastic! That struggling feeling of having lead weights on my legs is gone for now. I don't know what the deal was, but after reading other running blogs and perusing a few running boards, the obvious had escaped me and I failed to realize that every runner can have their off days. A lot of them. There's just too many variables involved - and even though I want running to always be the energizing, open air bedazzling, and general outdoor escapism that it is - it can't always be a cup of Starbucks Thanksgiving Blend.  ... . ... eh, well, y'know I really do love that Thanksgiving Blend coffee... but anyway, I'm just saying that I need to mentally push aside the bad runs and always focus on the good ones. It doesn't help that I'm trying to recover as quickly as possible (bad knee, long story) - I have races coming up and I really want to do my best, if not improve my times. Which brings me to another topic...

I'm running the Zappos Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas 1/2 Marathon in about two weeks - it's a night time race right on the Las Vegas Strip - "What?" you say... "On the Strip?!" - yes, awesome, isn't it? If I didn't get the killer deal on the rooms where I'm staying at, there's no way I could justify the mounting expenses. But you know what? It will be a unique experience. I mean, how often will I get the opportunity to run under the lights of Las Vegas? (not including criminal conduct and the like - kidding! Honest.) Besides, peer pressure from all my co-workers who are also running the race is just too much to bear! No way I can stand to listen to them when they return about how much fun it was! Curse their convincing attitudes.

Where the heck was I going with this?! Ah yes... so clearly, it's not possible to continually run a faster race with each and every outing - I'm going to concentrate on having a good time (I know, I've said that before) - there will be bands playing, the neon lights, the crowds... well, you know how much I love scenery on a run so I hope I take advantage of it and soak it all in. That doesn't mean I'm going to be a slouch and let everyone run past me! I just want to remain injury free and get my money's worth... scenic-wise that is! It's all about the sights. Okay, and the bling... a Rock 'n' Roll finisher medal would be nice. And the post party... yeah, that too. (Insert thumbs-up/smiley face here)

It's going to be chilly running the Strip at night - so my game plan involves my usual early morning/late evening running wear: a long sleeved tech-shirt, running gloves (Under Armour or Nike fleece) and a micro fleece headband (for the ears). I never have a problem with cold legs so I'm sticking with the running shorts... besides, I hate running in workout pants - yikes, how does anyone do that?! I'm afraid to touch anything metal after a run in fear of creating some kind of death-like static shock. Oh yes, just remembered... and I'm ditching the earphones. Gasp! Yeah, I know, but I want to hear all the bands along the route and besides - even though there'll be plenty of light on the course from the casinos, I just need to hear more around me when I'm running in the darkness, know what I mean?

What's your cold weather gear like? I saw this runner powering up a hill early this evening (it was chilly out, about 51 degrees) and she had on a tank top and running shorts. I'm a wimp, I can't stand cold hands and arms... what is it? Mind over matter?