Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Fat Triathlete(?)

About a week or two before the Disney Marathon, I was at an uncle's house during one of our (many, many) Christmas season family parties. My cousin Carlos sits by me and the following conversation ensues:

Carlos: So, you're ready for the marathon?

Me: I hope so. Otherwise this will be a very expensive fiasco. I'm very nervous.

Carlos: You got this! You sure trained for it. You'll rise to the challenge.

Me: We'll see.

Carlos: In fact, I got another one for you.

Me: Really?

Carlos: Yup. How's this: For our 40th birthday, we do the Ironman in Hawaii! Three years to train. What do you think?

Me: I think there is no chance in hell. How about we aim for Ironman 70.3 San Juan? It's right in our backyard and it's half the distance of an Ironman.

Carlos: Why not?! You worked your way up to a marathon. Why not an Ironman?

Me: It has nothing to do with thinking you can, genius. Though the jury is still out on the marathon. The Ironman in Kona is like, the World Championship. To race it you have to qualify for it. There is also a lottery but to qualify for that you got to do like a thousand Ironmans in other places first (actually you have to do 12, but it might as well be a million for us) so again, I don't think we got a chance.

And with that he got up and left, checking on his phone that everything I just told him was true. I had too much in my head at that moment to give the idea much though, but Carlos did nurture a little seed that was planted a while back.

Not long after starting my running journey I learned about two former contestants of The Biggest Loser who had actually done the Ironman in Kona. Matt Hoover, who sadly fell short of the 17 hour time limit by a couple of minutes and thus, didn't officially finish; and Tara Costa, one of my favorite contestants, who did manage to complete it. Their story compelled me enough to actually look up information on this crazy sport of triathlon and the Ironman. (hence, my knowledge on the subject during the above conversation.)

I was immediately struck by it. It is a very technical sport that requires a lot of planning and strategy which is what I love so much about running longer distances. Also, I thought this was a great way to become a better runner overall. After all, both cycling and swimming are cardio execises without the high impact of running so what better way to increase my training volume? All that motivation however, went the way of the Dodo bird when I started visiting local bike shops and seeing just how much these incredible pieces of modern technology cost. Very expensive plus you got to buy some extra gear (pedals, shoes, clothing etc...). So, for my own good I left it at that.

Then, I ran the marathon and I felt that the sky was the limit. Coming back from Florida, Carlos' words were starting to ring strong in my ears. Not long after that, as the wife and I were getting ready for bed one night, I was lazily flipping channels when I stopped at a rerun of NBC's coverage of the 2013 Ironman in Kona. I don't know if you all have watched this at some point but it's gripping stuff. They not only show you the pros trying to win but the everyday age groupers trying to finish, competing for different causes and enduring hardship just like all of us. It makes you want to try it yourself. Now, I'm not crazy enough to aim for an Ironman but it was enough for me to go ahead and aim to at least get a taste for the sport by doing a sprint triathlon (750 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run). One little problem though: I still don't have a bike. I have figured out a solution but I'll leave that explanation for my next post. 

So, I have oficially started triathlon training and I have to say, even though my mileage has dropped quite a bit as I add both swimming and cycling to my regular weekly schedule and get used to it all, it has been a funny ride so far. If you think me wearing a tutu was funny, you'll want to read my upcoming posts about tri training.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

5K for Values 2014 Race Recap

I gotta ask: How can you possibly screw up a free race? It's free! Right? Well, you screw it up by not reading instructions. That's how!

Long story short: I was not able to pick up my race pack and bib. Circumstances out of my control and all so not really my fault. What was my fault was not reading the email reminder all the way through. Especially the part that said there would be no bib pick up the day of the race.

So there I was on race day, ready to run, no bib. I looked for one of the organizers to talk to and told him what happened. He was very understanding but he just could not help me. They didn't bring the bibs. However, I could still run the race. He said this race was for the people and anyone who wanted to run, could run. I just would not be timed and would not get a medal.
The Police Band (not the radio frequency) I understand they are actual police officers but why play armed?

I'll be honest. This didn't feel right. Even though he was clear (and later said it over the loudspeakers) that anyone could run the race I was feeling a bit like a bandit. Besides, if you run a race and have no bling to show for it, did it really happen? (Yes, it does but it still stings a bit) I almost didn't run it but after some soul-searching I decided to go ahead. It felt weird to line up without a bib but hey, when life throws you lemons, run a 5K.
The always popular warm-up

The route of this 5K is extremely popular. The 5K for Diabetes, The Runner's Love 5K and 10K, The Divas Half-Marathon and even the Ironman 70.3 among others, all follow this very route and the freaking steep hill that's in it. I have now run it many times but it's not getting any easier, even on this day where I was not aiming for a PR or anything other than finishing. My mileage has been way down and the miles I have run have been very slow in an attempt at base training (training in very low heart rate zones) so even considering a PR would have been stupid.
Ahead of me.
Behind me

Anyway, the gun went off and I started running. Too fast as usual. I was still fretting about the bib issue so out of guilt I didn't stop in any of the hydration spots and because I started too fast my energy slowly went away. The result? A positive split. I don't know if that's what you call it but since the exact opposite is a negative split then, what I did was a positive split. And pretty beautiful one at that.
Avg Pace

Even with all of that. I managed to run a sub-40 race so it wasn't all bad. At the finish they were lining up for the medals. I think, they would have given me one if I asked but again, it didn't feel right so I got off the line and headed home. I did ask a fellow runner to let me take a picture of his. It's the same as last year's.

Along with that sub-40 I also managed to keep my heart rate lower than what I have been seeing in 5K's so the base training seems to be working. All in all, not a bad day. Just a weird one I guess.

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's Philadelphia!!

A little while back I was writing about short and long term goals. Among those goals was running a sub-3 hour Half Marathon this fall, and I also mentioned that I was trying to pick a race to go try get that PR. There were plenty of choices of course and many of those choices were certainly tempting for different reasons. However, life throws curve balls sometimes and when they come at you, you take a swing at them if you can.

Among my short list were races I genuinely wanted to run because they were on my list (Space Coast Half Marathon), races that were close to people I met during the Marathon or online (Pensacola, Avengers Half, some potential Loopfests) and some charity runs (St. Judes). In the end, fate kind of chose for me.

I think it was about a month ago, I talked about a run I did with my friend Al Vincent and how we went to the LRS and got him some running shoes. 

Al, is a very busy guy with many responsabilities and travels A LOT so it's hard for him to maintain the discipline to run regularly. I told him that one of the best ways to keep yourself accountable was to sign up for a big race early so you have something to work towards to. Well, on April 1st, registration for the Philadelphia Marathon/Half was opened and I emailed him with the challenge that if he signed up for it, I would join him. Well, he did. 

A promise is a promise right? So I signed up as well. Come November, we'll be running up those "Rocky Steps" and celebrating with a cheeseteak sandwich in the City of Brotherly Love. I worked in Philly for a year back in 2000 so it's a return to my old stomping grounds. Plus, November 21st is my Birthday!!  Will I manage to go sub-3? That remains to be seen but I will sure work my butt off to get it done.

Monday, March 31, 2014

And now for some upcoming attractions.

OK, I've been taking it relatively easy lately. It's time to get my butt in gear and get some serious miles in. What better way to do that than signing up for a couple of races right? Nothing like an upcoming race to get the fires burning and the legs moving. Plus, I got a little not-so-secret-anymore surprise coming up. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. First, the race schedule. Here's what I have come up with for the following months.

April 6 - 5K for Values: Ran it last year. It's organized by the Government Ethics Office (there's an oxymoron), I love ruinning this race. Why? Because it's free! You can't argue with free. I'll line up for some free. Hence, what better way to add races to a rather slow year so far?

April 27 - Altamesa 5K: I've had my eye on this one for a while now but hadn't been able to get to it. This race has a reputation for being very well organized. It's also for charity so another reason to go run it. I have also heard this is a relatively fast course so... new 5K PR? We will see...

May 25 - Abraham Rosa International 10K: This is a very famous race in Puerto Rico. Even before I started running, I talked about doing it one day. I guess the time has come. It is a very tough course with lots of hills. Hey, I'm nothing if not ambitous right?

And for the surprise(ish). On June 29, I'm gonna tri something new...

Yup, The Fat Runner is gonna be doing some cycling and swimming along with his running to attempt his first triathlon. I must be going insane. I'm gonna go into a bit more detail in an upcoming post about the whats and whys of this but for now, know this: If you want to keep something like this secret - and that's what I was trying to do. I wanted to shock everyone with the race recap - always remember to turn off auto-share when uploading your workouts to Dailymile or Garmin Connect. I didn't. When some people started to see swimming and biking along with the running on Facebook and Twitter, they(obviously) figured it out. What a genius. And, in case you don't find that funny, I assure you, you will laugh when I talk about training and competing in the tri. Funny stuff.

So that's it. This schedule should keep me plenty busy until mid summer, at which point I switch gears and focus on this year's main goal: A sub-3 hour Half-Marathon. What do you guys think?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

This Should Have Been a Race Recap

That's right. If everything would have panned out exactly as planned, this post would be recounting my experiences running the Puerto Rico Half-Marathon; a race I should mention, I have now been trying to race for two years now. But I didn't run it. Why? Because of this guy.

Yeah, that's right. It was his fault. His name is SeƱor Sapo (Mr. Frog) and he is part of a group called Atencion Atencion (Attention Attention) which, if I were to describe their TV show is the local equivalent of Sesame Street. A lot of singing, dancing and learning fun for the children. Yes, it can get a bit annoying for parents when the kids get hooked on some of this stuff (and once the songs get in your head... forget about it.) but there is no denying that kids not only enjoy the songs and colors but it teaches them a lot. All three of my daughters are huge fans and the youngest one especially, considering her situation, has learned a lot of good things from it. 

So, when the chance to take them to their 15th anniversary concert presented itself, there was no Marathon in the World that was gonna make me choose it over this.

Needless to say, they had the time of their lives singing and jumping around, which in turn means we enjoyed it immensly as well watching them enjoy it so much. The show itself was also a pretty big succes. Atencion Atencion posted these pics  on their Facebook page:

So yeah, I think its safe to say they are pretty popular around these parts. As far as the Half goes, last year I was forced to choose between signing up for it or signing up for the Disney Marathon (we all know how THAT panned out) and this year, this happened. But, go ahead. Ask me how sorry I am for missing it.

My good friend and running buddy Frankie, got to run it though and ended up doing pretty well with a time around 2:25-ish if I'm not mistaken so there you go. 

There are many other races to run so no worries. Next I'll post about what races I will run in the near future. In the meantime, please excuse me while I go jump with Mr. Frog and my girls.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Two Years Running

 In March of 2012, I took my first steps as a runner. They were painful, they were extremely slow, and I was hoping with each and every one of them, that they would help me, for the first time in my life, to stick to some form of exercise and activity for an extended period of time. This month I celebrate two years of what has been a pretty interesting and incredible journey and I'm surprised to say that I have not only kept at it, but I'm looking forward to keep doing it and then some. When I think about the future now, I see it very much tied to a healthier lifestyle both for me and my family. Things have certainly changed around here.

As if on cue just so I could celebrate, this month I recieved this:

A pretty cool "runnaversary" gift if I do say so myself. I thought real hard about getting this plaque. After all they are not cheap but how many times in our lives do we run a first marathon? I thought it was important to commemorate the occasion so I gave in and got it. I also bought digital copies of all my pics a while back but I hadn't shared them. Here are some of my favorites.

Right before my corral went off. The photographer caught me putting my headphones on.

My favorite marathon pic. Not surprisingly, it was taken while running up Main Street U.S.A. heading towards the Castle.

WDW Race Track. I don't know what I was going for here. Apparently moonwalking?

Halfway done at Animal Kingdom.(Check the sensor behind me) Do I look excited?

I'm proudest of these next pics simply because this is late in the race(I think that is the twenty-something mile sensor behind me) and as you can see I'm still running and also, playing air guitar. I don't remember what song it was though.

This was a few seconds before the pic above in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Crossing the finish line. You can see MIckey's feet at the top. I had just high-fived him and was screaming "YEAAAHHHH!!!!"

Not my favorite picture but there I was. Marathon done! On the verge of tears too.

Serendipity is an incredible thing. Nice way to celebrate two years of running. Here's to running for many years to come! Do you celebrate your running anniversary? How?

Monday, March 10, 2014

WB10K Health and Fitness Expo

Allow me to vent here for a moment.

The World's Best 10K is probably the biggest race in Puerto Rico in terms of exposure and most definitely in terms of how many people run it every year. It is also arguably the best known race on the island. Last year I raved about how organized the whole process was from packet pick-up to race transportation to the post-finish line procedures. The one chink in the armor was the fact that I didn't get a medal at the end along with hundreds of other people. It ended up being (according to race officials on their Facebook page) a misplacement of the boxes where the medals were being kept. It took an extra day and a trip to the race office but I got the medal. With a mishap like that, you would hope they would try to fix the issue for the following year. You would also hope that you have "gone through the glitch" for this race and not go through another situation again.

Well, I turned out to be right in the former and wrong on the latter.

Surely, I got my medal after crossing the finish line. They even put a new system in place where you had to turn in the bottom of your bib (usually used for bag checks) to get your medal. However, I had to endure another bad glitch. This time during packet pick-up. The Expo took place in the exact same place and I visited at the exact same time as last year. Except that there was a huge line outside. It was divided into people who didn't know their bib number and those who did. Instead of just letting people inside like last year, they created a bottleneck. The line was divided (allegedly) to speed things up but the people who didn't know their bib number were being let in a lot faster than those who came ready which caused a lot of grumpy faces and comments from those on the "ready" line.

It took a long time to get in and once inside you find out why this was taking such a long time: The they had different rooms divided by bib numbers. Each room with several tables full of bibs in ascending order just like last year. Except that this year they were way, way understaffed. Some people were in charge of 4 or 5 of those tables and therefore taking care of 4 or 5 lines. After a pretty long wait it was my turn to pick up my bib and...

There was no bib.

They had "misplaced" the box with all of the 1500 bibs on it. Including mine. It took an hour of just standing there just to get a straight answer and in the end they sent us to the back of the line  (again) to get another number assigned so we could (again) wait in line to get the new bib. By this time I had been there for two hours. The net result of the bib reassignment was: a) They promised people who registered early their name would be printed on their bib so no name for me. b) I got reassigned from corral 3 to the very last corral.

Now, I could care less about the name on my bib. It could say "Jenny McPretty" on it for all the good it would do me, but being sent to the back was a hard blow and I would pay for that in spades during the race. Read the recap to learn why. Sadly, this not the end of this ordeal.

After finally settling the bib issue, I had to get the rest of the race packet. This meant another long line to get the shirt, and another very, very long line to get the rest of the stuff. The order in which they did this was awful. They included a bag that was pretty nice to put all your stuff in but they gave it at the end. By the time you got it you had your hands full of stuff. I couldn't even open mine to put all the stuff in. This "divide and conquer" strategy where you go to different stations to get everything is done to alleviate traffic but here it just didn't work. In fact it just made it worse. By the time I finished getting everything, I had no time to stick around and check out the Expo so I left.

Apparently, the WB10K has problem handling boxes, whether they have medals or bibs on them. I don't like to rant about these things usually. Organizing a race is hard to do and for the most part the staff are doing it for free but I think the organizers clearly underestimated the amount of people who showed up on Friday like I did and the event was clearly understaffed. Hopefully those who went on Saturday had an easier time than me. So that's two for two regarding the WB10K. Again, nothing against this particular race. In fact, issues aside, I maintain my position that it is in fact, well organized for the most part. That's why I gave them such high marks when I wrote about it last year. However, how likely is it for one person to have major issues two years running? I suspect it was more than just me. Just ask anyone with a 1500 bib assigned. This is stuff they have to work on. Especially if they claim to be the World's Best 10K.

And by the way, the shirt does not fit and the neither does the cap.