Thursday, June 30, 2011

Three Things Thursday - Race Wishlist

This is my top three marathon list for the US... International list coming soon...

1. For some inexplicable reason, I want to run the Chevron Houston Marathon. Of course it is sold out, and the only way in is through the "Hero" or charity option. I would totally donate to the ALS Association of Greater Houston. My Father-in-Law died of Lou Gehrig's the first year I was married. With the $350 minimum donation plus race entry fee (and of course travel), I don't think this one will work. I *am* considering asking my family to help with the donation part though.

2. There are so many awesome races in California. I am absolutely dying to run the San Francisco Marathon... The race itself is a bit pricey. Airfare is actually doable. However... the logistics of how I would get around and finding somewhere to stay? Sigh.

3. NYC NYC NYC NYC NYC... I'm still upset I didn't get in through the lottery. I know charity entry is an option... however, without having a credit card, I actually can't go that route either. Maybe next year. Sob.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 6 - LED to SVO to JFK to LGA to DEN

Tuesday, June 28

Tossed and turned. Dozed off and woke up around 1:00. Finally fell asleep and was rudely awakened by my alarm at 2:40 am. Got dressed and headed downstairs to turn in my keys. The taxi arrived at 3:05 am for the airport. 
The only time I saw it "dark" - this is just after 3:00 am
It took a lot less time and cost MUCH less than my previous trip (1000 rubles vs. 2375 rubles). The ticket counter where I needed to get my boarding pass wasn’t going to open until about 4:30. I connected to WiFi and surfed the net to kill time.

Around 4:15 headed over to the counter. Another problem. I get to the counter, hand over my passport. With no bags to check the whole process should only take a  minute or two. For whatever reason (that was never said to me), it took almost 20 minutes to get my boarding pass. Three employees had to handle my ticketing. Really don’t know what the problem was but I was starting to worry that I was going to be stuck in Russia.  Thankfully I also got my boarding pass for my flight out of Moscow so that was one less thing to worry about.

Sunrise outside the St. Petersburg airport - around 4:45 am
Our 6:15 departure was right on time, and the flight was only an hour long. I spent that time reading “The Girl Who Played With Fire.” 

A cupholder in the tray table. I LOVE IT!!
They even feed you on an hour long flight. The US is CHEAP.
I wasn’t too worried about getting off the flight immediately. We landed on time and I had over two hours until my flight left. Didn’t have any trouble navigating the airport this time, made it through passport control and security with no problems. Might get out of the country after all!

Bought a Pepsi Light (still leaving me with just over 1000 rubles I’ll need to change over in the US) and headed to my gate. I spent the time waiting looking up the already published race pictures. There was no way to search by bib number, so I virtually searched through THOUSANDS of pictures. At least I found myself in a few of them.

I had drained quite a bit of battery, so I charged for a few minutes until we boarded. The flight was scheduled to leave just after 10:00, and we left pretty close to the scheduled departure time.

I was already feeling exhausted. Working on only a few hours of sleep, I read until the first meal service.

Then I listened to my iPod and managed to doze off for a few hours. I was surprised at the short nap, since I normally struggle with sleeping on a plane. My seat was towards the back in the middle row, but I had no one sitting by me so I could comfortably spread out.

I tried on and off to read for a bit but my eyes were too tired to focus. I listened to my iPod again for a bit, while trying to doze off again. Unsuccessful. Decided to finish watching “The Sum of All Fears.” We got another meal about 2 hours before we got off the plane:

Our plane actually landed about 20 minutes early at JFK airport. Which was SUPER good news for me since my flight back to Denver departed out of La Guardia. Since the plane wasn’t full it didn’t take long to get off the plane. In fact, it only took 15 minutes from the time I got off the plane until I was sitting in a taxi. That INCLUDES going through passport control and customs. Have I mentioned lately that I’m an expert traveler?

The taxi ride took FOREVER. There was sooo much traffic. But I had a few hours so I wasn’t worried. It only cost about $33, which was less than I expected to pay, so that was nice. And I was super relieved when I didn’t have any trouble checking in for my last flight. I even managed to find an outlet and was able to charge my laptop and phone while I waited. I bought a salad for the 4 hour flight to Denver, which happened to board AND depart on time.

I ended up in a middle seat in the third to last row. I sat next a very chatty guy. He even ended up buying me a few beers on the flight. I had hoped to finish my book, but time certainly went by faster with the conversation. By the time he decided he was going to nap there was only about an hour left of flight time, which I spent reading.

Thanks to not having a checked bag, I was able to get out of the airport super fast. I exchanged my remaining 1000 Rubles and L picked me up just after 6:00. We went to dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, YUM! After getting home I watched some tv, showered, and managed to fall asleep around 10:00… which I think means I was up for over 30 hours. Longest day EVER!

Overall I think this was a super successful trip. I went alone and didn't get kidnapped or attacked or robbed or lost. I didn't spend much money, I ran a pretty good marathon. I got by knowing NO Russian at all but the phrase meaning "thank you." I didn't miss any flights, none of my flights were cancelled, and the one flight that was overbooked I got re-booked and bumped up to first class. I'm pretty sure there isn't anything I can't do :D

Day 5 - Russian Museum & Sightseeing

Monday, June 27

Another rough night. I woke up around 3 in the morning, and it was FINALLY dark outside. Tossed and turned, never was in a deep sleep. Finally decided to get up around 7:00. Ate a Luna bar, then finished “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Decided to get ready (slowly), then headed downstairs around 8:30. Had breakfast (a Luna Bar is NOT breakfast), then talked to the front desk about arranging my taxi in the morning. I also had to check out of my room NOW, even though I will still be in my room until just before three in the morning (yes, that is when I have to have my taxi to go to the airport).

Headed out for the morning. Only thing on the agenda for the day was to check out the Russian Museum. I wandered around for a bit since the museum didn’t open until 10:00. I keep window shopping for souvenirs but everything is either tacky or SUPER expensive. Just for some perspective… a “cheap” lunch (300 rubles or so) is over 10 US dollars. That’s ridiculous. There were a few meals where I didn’t understand what I was getting and ended up paying over $700… same thing happens with souvenirs. 2000 rubles?? That’s like $100 for a trinket! No thanks.

PS, It's not any cheaper in Russia

I ended up wandering around until about 10:15, then headed in to the museum. Most of the museum was paintings, but there was some neat stuff to look at and I ended up being inside for about an hour and a half. 

Gates to the Russian Museum
Russian Museum

Pretty impressive lobby!

All the ceilings were fancy!

Wood Carving

By the time I was done I was STARVING. I spent the next hour trying to find somewhere “cheap” to eat. Read previous paragraph. Most places would end up costing about 600 rubles for what I wanted. Finally around 1:00 I was famished and decided to just eat at Sbarro. Got a decent amount of food for 283 rubles. I plan to go back tonight to do the salad/buffet bar. Cheapest thing in town I think!

After that I again half-heartedly tried to find some souvenirs. I really want to find a non-tacky t-shirt or something, but that just doesn’t seem to exist. Everyone will just have to be satisfied with what they get. I walked around the “mall” that I found, but everything seemed pricey and my feet/legs were so tired. By about 3:00 I was DONE and decided to head back to my room to sit down and rest.

I wanted to get this for my Dad, but they would NOT negotiate.
Yep, that's a monkey in clothes
Random woman on stilts next to an Avatar guy 

Caught up on Facebook, email, and some blogging. Before I knew it, it was already after 6:00. I still wasn’t especially hungry for dinner, but I knew that I needed to get something soon if I had any hopes of getting to bed early. 

Further proof about how sketchy the hotel I was staying in was...
FruitFly - this is for you! Public toilets, but you have to pay to use them!
Last shot of me and my "neighborhood" in St. Petersburg
I headed down my usual route, and decided to do a bit more wandering around. I picked up a few last minute souvenirs, then finally went to Sbarro for dinner around 7:30. This time I dind’t get any pizza, but got some pasta and veggies from their buffet. Another nice inexpensive dinner.

Did my final walk through the streets of St. Petersburg and headed up to my room. Did my final packing but was still having a hard time unwinding. Maybe this is what “jet lag” is? I’ve never struggled so much with traveling and getting on a decent sleep schedule. I did a bit more reading but it was still after ten before I finally tried to go to bed.

Day 4 - White Nights Marathon (Race Recap)

Sunday, June 26
Marathon #4
St. Petersburg, Russia
Weather - Low 60's, overcast, rain

Why the White Nights Marathon in St. Petersburg, Russia? Well, to be honest, it was a "spur of the moment" decision to sign up for this one. That, and I've always wanted to go to Russia. I almost didn't go on this trip at all when I realized I would be going 100% alone. Then I figured... what's the worst that can happen? And as you know, the rest is history...

Like yesterday, I woke up just fine without an alarm. Got out of bed just before 7:00 and took my time getting ready. I was hungry so I had my bagel and peanut butter early. Taped both of my ankles and got dressed.

Red & Blue - USA!!

Debut of the running dress!
Love my Razzy Roo band!
Last minute updates on Facebook and I was out the door at 8:20, which would give me plenty of time before the race started. I had found the start area by accident my first day here so there was no stress about where to go. I arrived and it was still pretty empty. With over an hour until the start I had time to kill. Wandered around a bit hoping to find some Powerade or water, but no such luck. Used the port-o-potty which was decently clean and had no line. As expected no toilet paper but I had come prepared.

Still lots of time to kill. Checked out the “locker” room because I thought I might have my compression shorts on backwards because they kept riding up. Nope, they just do that apparently. With about a half hour to go I finally did bag drop. Not too optimistic about getting it back, not too organized. My hotel key was WAY too big to carry on me though and I had worn my hoodie so I had to do it.

Starting Area - Winter Palace
Starting Area - Alexander Column
Starting Area - Winter Palace Square
Somehow I managed to run into just about EVERY American right then. I saw a woman that had USA on her back, she was from New York. Then a couple behind her heard me talking. Jeff and Susan from… INDIANA!! Then another couple came over, students from Texas A&M who were studying in Russia for the summer. So nice to finally talk to people!! Time flew by after that. Jeff and Susan had done the Incan Trail marathon in Peru that I’m dying to run (with the same group I had looked into) and I learned that it is in fact harder than Great Wall (Jeff had done both). Hmmm. They both said it was awesome and to add 3ish hours to your marathon time.

There was also a speed skating marathon
Starting Area
Jeff & Susan & Me
Before I knew it, the race was starting. Balloons freed at the start line and off we went. Jeff had commented about a 4:30ish finish so I figured I’d try to run with him and see what happened. He and Susan took off pretty fast. I had set my Garmin for km and in the first km I did sub 6. Faster than I think I wanted to be running. I was feeling good and since I don’t seem to remember how to race, I just went with it. I was feeling pretty good, and was grateful that it was not raining but that It was overcast. I hoped the weather would hold and it wouldn’t get too hot.

I took a lot of pictures the first few km, and stayed behind Jeff and Susan for a few miles. I lost them in the crowd and the next time I saw Jeff, he was alone (Susan had said she was slower and was only running the 10K anyway). The split from the 10k and marathon was pretty well marked. Shortly after the split I took my first GU, about 45 minutes into the race. I was pacing really well (a bit fast, but feeling good still). The crowd was obviously very thinned out and I didn’t encounter any crowding problems.

Jeff & Susan

Senate Square

The beginning of the course was in an area of St. Petersburg that I hadn’t been to yet, so everything was new to look at. Still feeling good and I think it was about an hour in that I started thinking “if I can keep this up, I can PR!” And I was still feeling good. The aid stations were well stocked, but only with water. They had no sports drink of any kind and I personally thought that being placed every 5k was WAY too far apart. On the entire course I’d only have EIGHT stops. Madness.

At the second aid station I also took a piece of banana. There was a short out and back and I saw Jeff at the turnaround. He was already walking and not looking so great. I was STILL feeling good and pacing well. Mentally? I was starting to feel… blah. I hate doing the math in my head of how far I’ve gone and how far I still have left. I hate it. So discouraging!

Some people should wear more than underwear when they race. Just sayin'.

One of my best race pics!
The course was closed to traffic, although we had to cross quite a few streets that WEREN’T closed, but the volunteers did a great job of making sure that we crossed safely. Take another GU at 90 minutes and am still feeling good, pacing pretty good – although again, still concerned that I’m going too fast. 15k and I’m still feeling good. Take a walk break and I think to myself, wow, I don’t even have to use the bathroom yet. Excellent.

20k. Aid station looks like there is something besides water??? I take a cup and slam it… hot tea. That’s unexpected. But good. I’m watching my Garmin for my half marathon split… 2:06ish??? WTH? I haven’t run a half marathon that fast since… NYC? I’ve been DYING to run a sub 2:10 half for months. Now two thoughts are running through my head. One, I am DEFINITELY going to fast, and two, I can totally PR even if I slow dramatically. A few km later is when I start to doubt my strategy. Shortly after that, it starts to drizzle rain. Not a downpour so the added moisture and cooler temps feels pretty good. About 23k and I want to take my first unplanned walk break. I am able to talk myself out of it, it is too soon. Love running in Europe where no one wears deodorant. Everything smells like funk, then I have to wonder… maybe it’s me? I am SATURATED with sweat.

25k. I take a piece of bread that is doused in salt. It is ridiculous. It is the saltiest thing I have ever had. Ever. So gross. I drink almost an entire bottle of water just trying to get it down. Bleh. Keep going. Getting tired. Pace starts to slow. I think I’m about 20 seconds slower per km. That is ok, I can still PR. Legs still feeling ok, but my ankle is aching a bit and I’m just getting a bit tired. Force myself to run to the next aid station at 30k. More people are walking now, and I want to SO bad. About 32k it all goes to crap. I take my first walk break and it’s one of MANY I will have at the end of the course.

Every time I walk I feel better while I’m walking and the second I start to run again I just ache. My pace is now about a minute slower per km. I want to force myself to keep going. Even a slower jog is faster than walking and I can still get a PR if I will just keep moving. It is just not my day though. I am taking a walk break every km for about 30 seconds. Even when I am not walking, my pace is SLOW.

Pretty much everyone in front of me is also walking. 35k. Is it over YET??? I swear the second half of this course is going on FOREVER. Trying to translate in my head… 7k is only about 4.5 miles. I can do that. Slowly. And with difficulty. I feel like I am barely moving and my legs feel like lead. Why am I doing this? Struggling.

I hit the four hour mark and have a little less than 4k to go. On a normal day I could do that in under 24 minutes. This point of the race? I am thinking if I can PR, it is going to be JUST barely. I force myself to move. I have been walking so much that I have been drinking a lot more and I’m starting to cramp up. I look at my watch and I’m not moving ANYWHERE close to fast enough to get this done. I still would like to go sub 4:30 so I keep going… but MAN I am just so tired. My legs suck!! 40k. Please let there be another aid station. Please. Sure enough, there was one, and I walk yet again. I don’t even care at this point. I know I will finish, just a bit disappointed from how well the first half went.

I get passed by a blind runner with no lead. Sigh. Just a few km to go, and I can’t even manage to run that without walking. With about 1.5 km to go my side is aching and for the first time my thighs start to tighten. I CAN DO THIS!! I finally see familiar area and I know I’m close to the end. I of course have NOTHING left at the end, but at least jog through the chute. Finish just over 4:32 (4 minutes off a PR, but still a time I am mostly happy with). Excited to get a medal, but am concerned that I can barely move with my thighs being so tight. For the first time ever after running a marathon, I wasn't "happy" to be done. I enjoyed the first... 30k of the race, but didn't enjoy the end. Which was disappointing. I struggle to get the chip off my shoe and then wander around wondering who I am supposed to give it too. Finally see a volunteer wandering aimlessly and she takes it. Hopefully she is who I was supposed to give it to.

Official Time - 4:32:19
Garmin Time - 4:32:04
Garmin Distance - 26.34 miles
Garmin Pace - 10:19
1km - 9:25 pace
2km - 9:24 pace
3km - 9:23 pace
4km - 9:31 pace
5km - 9:37 pace
6km - 9:59 pace (aid station)
7km - 9:36 pace
8km - 9:35 pace
9km - 9:29 pace
10km - 9:37 pace
11km - 10:11 pace (aid station)
12km - 9:25 pace
13km - 9:27 pace
14km - 9:25 pace
15km - 9:44 pace
16km  10:18 pace (aid station)
17km - 9:22 pace
18km - 9:24 pace
19km - 9:30 pace
20km - 10:31 pace (aid station)
21km - 9:49 pace
Half marathon split - just over 2:06 (!!)
22km - 9:36 pace
23km - 9:50 pace
24km - 10:20 pace
25km - 10:16 pace
26km - 11:23 pace (aid station)
27km - 10:06 pace
28km - 10:09 pace
29km - 10:29 pace
30km - 10:43 pace
31km - 12:07 pace (aid station)
32km - 10:45 pace
33km - 10:29 pace
34km - 11:28 pace
35km - 11:17 pace
36km - 12:33 pace (aid station)
37km - 10:53 pace
38km - 11:34 pace
39km - 11:47 pace
40km - 11:26 pace
41km - 11:45 pace (aid station)
42km - 11:46 pace
42.195km - 10:23 pace

**About the Running Dress** - I must be crazy that I wore a running dress (made by running skirts) for the first time to a race. Not just any race, but a MARATHON. I had enough confidence in it that I didn't even bring a back up outfit if I were to change my mind. I will say this... I LOVED IT. I didn't have to wear another sports bra underneath, and the support was great. I normally find myself CONSTANTLY adjusting my shirt because my race belt makes it bunch up. Did NOT have that issue with the dress. Of course it still has the pockets, so that is a bonus, and I will say that it is CUTE, FLATTERING, and a very comfortable fit.

Head to the tent to pick up my bag and am relieved that it is there and nothing is missing. By now it is raining pretty good, but I don’t want to put on my only sweatshirt because I think I’ll have to wear it later with the cooler temps. It’s only a 15-20 minutes walk to the hotel, and I stop along the way at a street vendor to get a soda, and she has… POWERADE!! Yay! She also tried to buy my medal for 10 rubles. Is she insane?? No way.

So here I am, drenched, covered in salt, walking through a downpour and it feels good. Only my legs are super tight and I’m struggling. I get to the hotel and decide to take a shower before heading out for my lunch/dinner. I want to sit down and NOT get back up. Shower is awesome. I sit down for a minute, then decide if I don’t get up and go now, I might never leave.

I had picked Carl’s Jr. for dinner. Don’t judge me. It was also about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. I had accumulated quite a bit of change over the last few days and the cashier was nice enough to help me use it. Got a cheeseburger and fries and it was DELICIOUS.

After eating, it was about 4:45 and since I was close, I thought I’d head over to the awards ceremony which I thought started at 5:00. After waiting 40 minutes I had to use the bathroom. I was happy to see that there was a communal roll of toilet paper at the entrance AND hand soap. Take that, China.

Which way to the bathroom...
Waited until about 6:15, then got annoyed at the uncomfortable seating and decided to head back to my room.

Griffon Statue on Bank Bridge behind my hotel
By then it had stopped raining. I got on the internet and did some reading, but finally decided I needed a nap. Rested on and off for a few hours, finally getting up again around 10:00 pm.

I don’t know if the problem with my sleeping here is that it never really gets dark. Anyway, I had trouble getting back to sleep. I was a little hungry but my legs were feeling SORE and I didn’t want to walk anywhere to get food. Instead I read a bit more and didn’t head off to bed for real until about 1:00.

Week in Review (July 9 - July 15)

Tuesday  (11,560 steps) - Peloton before going to work in the office. Cross training at lunch.  Wednesday  (17,583 steps) - Headed up to Lou...