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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why not today for a PR? PCRF Half Marathon: March 30th, 2014

Why not today for a PR (personal record)?  Perhaps that should be the question we ask ourselves just prior to starting any race.  Why not today?  Seems that I can always come up with an endless list of excuses why "today is just not the day for a PR," but in reality, any day can be THE day.

The night before the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF) Half Marathon in Irvine was a rough one.  I cared for two sick and sniffly kiddos at home while battling my own sore throat and lack of sleep.  I contemplated completely skipping the event to instead just lounge with my family in sweats all day.  But many members of my beloved Moms Run This Town chapter were participating and thus I felt committed.  Luckily the race began just a few miles from my house so the alarm wasn't set for a ridiculously early time.

As a pediatric RN, this race benefits a cause that I surround myself with on both a professional and personal level, and this year, with over 7,000 participants, the foundation impressively raised over $316,000 in research funds for a cure.  The event included a cycling race on Saturday followed by the Half Marathon, a 10k, a 5k, and a kids' race on Sunday.

My MRTT group met up just before the race started, and we mingled and snapped a few obligatory pictures.  A reporter approached me from Japanese Running Style Magazine and asked a few questions regarding my attire (INKnBURN Dragonfly shorts, INKnBURN Current 4Arms, and my Hokas).  They took a few pics.  Anyone subscribe to that magazine?  Another highlight pre-race for me was finally meeting the peppy Monica, of Run, Eat, Repeat.  Turns out we live just a few miles from each other.

My Moms Run This Town girls are truly priceless friends.

I'm famous in Japan.  Maybe?  Ha.

Monica from Run, Eat, Repeat!

This was a small race so there were no corrals; a former pediatric cancer patient sang the National Anthem and we started off on the well-manicured and friendly streets of Irvine.  From mile one, I knew I took off too fast.  It was a cool, sunny morning and I just could not bring my pace back to reality.  Mile one was clocked at 6:54, followed by three more miles at 7:00 pace.  Mile five was a 6:56 pace and I started to worry that I would blow up soon.  

I continued to follow about ten yards behind the distinct foot strike of a woman I recognized from another local race.  Since the upcoming Boston Marathon has banned all hydration packs, I had decided to use the PCRF Half as a perfect training platform to practice without my beloved Nathan Intensity vest.  I slowed to a walk at every aide station to ensure adequate hydration as the sun began to rise higher.  I downed a Salted Caramel GU at mile five.  "Why not today for a PR?" I thought.  I felt strong.  I felt lithe.  Perhaps I could keep this pace going, even though I thought I'd never be able to match my current PR of 1:35:48.  That PR was achieved in May of 2013, when I felt I was at my peak.  Despite the obstacles of sick kiddos, being up a few lbs in weight and sleep deprivation, maybe I could do this?

The following miles were consistently fast, pegged around a 7:00 pace.  At mile eight we began to climb.  The dreaded negative thoughts began to creep in my head, as they always do with approaching hills.  But then I began to think again, "Why not today for a PR?".  These were the hills I run every single day, though usually with my single or double stroller full of kid weight.  "Suck it up Kat," I thought, "You can have no excuses today, this day you get to run these hills without a stroller for once!!".

So my pace increased a bit through these hilly miles as we wound around the University Community Park, and back into the neighborhood of Woodbridge.  We finished the last few miles on the San Diego Creek Trail, my home away from home, where I've spent countless hours training; and still, I followed about ten yards behind that familiar stride, her long black ponytail swishing back and forth with every speedy step.  

I knew in the last mile that I had energy left to burn, so I thought about when it would be best to make a move.  The first place woman had passed us in the first quarter of the race, and it was just me and this mystery woman left for places.  When I could see the balloon arch at the finish, I estimated when a quarter mile was left and I began to kick, right past this woman and across the finish line in second place overall female, achieving a new PR of 1:34:48.  I turned to shake her hand, and we immediately began a conversation that lead to the inevitable friendship, sealed by the commonalities of motherhood and the love of the run.

Finish with all you've got.  Always.

Happy to receive some fun swag with this PR!

INKnBURN Dragonfly shorts carried me swiftly to a new PR.

Interestingly, this PR was EXACTLY a minute faster than my previous record.  Strange.  In addition to finishing 2nd female, I also finished 13th overall in the race, and 1st in my age group.  With these places I was rewarded with two pint glasses, two gift cards to Road I.D., numerous certificates to local restaurants and a PCRF hat.  I was so grateful, I was completely elated.  My overall average pace was 7:08 according to my Garmin (I actually ran 13.26 miles).

And so, the lesson I learned at the PCRF Half Marathon is one that everyone can utilize.  Why not today for a PR?  Make no excuses, just get out there and run your best race.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cosmic 5k and Hot Chocolate 15k: March 23-24, 2014

So yes, this post is way overdue.  I have been neglecting my blogging duties lately and am frantically attempting to catch up tonight between shifts at the hospital, parenting duties, and continuing to train for the upcoming Boston Marathon.  But I have been healthy and feeling good and in the last two weeks have been fortunate enough to run several unique and fun races.

Friday, March 22nd I traveled down to my sister Lynsey's house in San Diego to run the Cosmic 5k with her and my friends Natalia and Yvette.  Natalia and Yvette are sisters too so it was a sisterly outing.  We had no intentions of actually "racing" this 5k, and if you are aiming to PR or attempting your very first 5k, I do not recommend these gimmicky races as the venue to do so.  First of all, most of these are not even officially timed, as was the case with the Cosmic 5k.  No timing chips, no clocks along the course, hell, I am not even sure if it was truly 3.1 miles.  Didn't matter at all to us, as we threw together our finest neon outfits and had a blast winding around the San Diego Chargers' Qualcomm Stadium parking lot through flashing strobe lights, ending in a high-energy electronic music spectacle.  The beats were pounding and I may or may not have twisted my ankle while simultaneously making a fool out of myself with my "well over the age of 30" style dance moves.  I have zero shame.

Yvette, Natalia, me and Lynsey (my sister) positively glowing.

My electrified flying cat leggings were the perfect touch.

I crashed on my dear sister's couch that night and woke up far too early the next morning to meet up with some of my best running friends, Smitha and Diana at the San Diego Padres' PETCO Park for the Hot Chocolate 15k.  This stadium is in the heart of downtown San Diego so there was ample parking structures and logistically, it was simple to get into and out of the venue.  I was very impressed with the organization of this event; since it is a traveling race with appearances in 14 cities across the U.S., every detail was meticulously carried out, making for a seamless and entertaining 9.3 miles.  This race offered a 5k and 10k option too, and even though I registered just two days before the actual event, it was only $65, and included the best race clothing item I've ever received as part of the registration fee, a half-zip hoodie with thumb holes and a zippered back pocket.  I have already added this hoodie to my weekly rotation, when usually my race shirts just get crammed into the back of a drawer. 

Although this is also somewhat of a "gimmicky" race, it felt more professional than others I have done, as it included details that catered to us more serious runners, such as corralls to keep differing paces from competing for starting positions, and a wave start to separate the varying distances. 

The course was tough.  The gun went off at 7:30 and immediately started up a steep hill, the first of countless climbs we completed, before we crested at Balboa Park just prior to descending the last few miles of the race.  I was worried that my rolled ankle would bother me, but thanks to several years of soccer, I could scarcely feel it in my Hokas.  

Race proof. Love my INKnBURN Dragonfly singlet. 

I pushed myself, and finished in 1:07:20 (pace average of 7:09 according to my Garmin), which put me at 13th overall female and 4th in my age group.  At the finish line I heard the announcer yelling to me, "Oh hey, nice Hokas there!" and I laughed.  Hoka lovers just can't help but to express their admiration for fellow Hoka enthusiasts.  Ha.  I turned to watch Diana finish (she was just a minute behind me) and heard the announcer exclaim that Dr. Andy Baldwin (from the television show The Bachelor) had just crossed the line.  I dragged Diana over to get a pic with him, as he is such an inspirational triathlete in the Southern California community.  Again, I have zero shame.  

We met Dr. Andy Baldwin from the Bachelor...and I must add that I finished before him!

After finishing, we walked over to claim our finishers' swag from an energetic volunteer, and again I was impressed with the detail that went into this race.  We were each given an oversized plastic mug with a cup of hot chocolate in the center compartment surrounded by melted deliciously decadent chocolate sauce in a side compartment with fondue accoutrements such as graham crackers, pretzels, marshmallows and a banana.  Have I enticed your sweet tooth yet?  This is a race I will absolutely be doing again next year without a doubt, and you must look to see if it will be appearing in a city near you too.  I must agree that it was indeed as advertised, "America's sweetest run", as well as was inexpensive, well-organized, had unique race swag and overall, was highly entertaining.

Diana and I modeling our yummy chocolate "medals" just seconds before devouring.