The Green Girl Runs For a Pumpkin

This morning, I ran in The Pumpkin 5k run/walk at Legg Lake at Whittier Narrows Park.

I'm really familiar with this park because when I first started doing the Cool Running Couch-to-5k Running Plan, I ran around this park multiple times each week with my friend from college. Unfortunately, knee problems prevented her from completing the program with me.

When I picked up my bib at the registration table, they handed me a plastic pumpkin as my goodie bag. I took the pumpkin back to my car and pinned my number on. It was a chilly morning so I threw on my running jacket for warmth until it got closer to the race starting time.

I stretched and walked around to warm up my muscles. 93.1 Jack FM had a booth set up and was playing upbeat music.

This was a small race - there were 72 runners and walkers participating in the 5k. We assembled around the Start Line sign. I headed to the back of the pack out of habit. The director came over with a megaphone and instructed us all to turn around - we were facing the wrong way. I looked in front of me and there was only one person. I couldn't believe I was going to start a race second in line!

A gun went off and we started running. Within seconds, almost everyone had sprinted past me. I wanted to really push myself today so I was running outside of my comfort zone from the start.

When I hit the first mile marker, I was at 10:47:25. I felt good but I was breathing really hard. I started getting tired about halfway through the second mile. I pushed myself as hard as I could and made it to mile two in 11:07:44. I kept telling myself I only had another mile to go but I was rapidly becoming more and more tired. It took me 13:22:59 to get to the third mile. I did the 0.1 miles in 02:05:00. My official time was 35:12. No PR for me today.

At the finish line, they had bananas and oranges. Oranges are my absolute favorite post-run food. I always crave something sweet when I'm done with a run.

After I ate a few orange wedges, I got in line to get my finisher's pumpkin.

There were two boys in the back of a pick-up truck handing the pumpkins out. I politely asked for a pumpkin and the one boy marked my bib with a red permanent marker while the other boy tried to reach into the big box for my pumpkin. The cardboard side folded in and he fell in. He pulled himself out and commented to no one in particular that he had fallen in. I continued to wait patiently. The boy stood there casually and looked around. I realized he had forgotten all about my pumpkin so I asked him again. He shook his head in disbelief and gave me a pumpkin.

After the 1k Kids Fun Run with Batman was over, they began giving out prizes for the best costumes. A bride and groom won for best (and only) couples costume. They had pretty cool prizes, too. They gave away running accessories from Nathan Sports.

The top finishers in each age division got ceramic Halloween candy holders and mugs. They were really cute.


Surf City USA Half Marathon

I just registered for the Surf City USA Half Marathon on February 1, 2009.

I'm already impressed with this race because they offered a size XXL in the women's technical long-sleeved shirts. The longboard medals are also pretty cool looking.

This half marathon is part of the "California Dreamin' Racing Series." The Long Beach Marathon/Half Marathon also qualifies for this series. The third race is the San Francisco Marathon/Half Marathon.

If you complete all three of the marathons/half marathons, you receive a California Dreamin' Racing Series medal in the shape of California and a California Dreamin' Racing Series Finisher's Jacket.

The Surf City Marathon starts at 06:50 but the Half Marathon is a "wave start." Your starting time depends on your projected finish time and begins at 07:45.

I completed the Long Beach Half Marathon in 03:05:50. I put 02:45:00 as my predicted time so I'll be in the last wave.



The Green Girl first heard about ChiRunning years before she started running.

A friend recommended the ChiRunning book so I purchased a copy. I had absolutely no interest in running but something about ChiRunning piqued my interest. I found the reading material to be dry and it was difficult for me to get through the book. I lost interest and stuck it on my bookshelf to collect dust.

Years later, as I was struggling through the Cool Running Couch-To-5k program, I decided to give that book another try. On a flight to Hawaii, I read the ChiRunning book from beginning to end. This time around, I was absolutely fascinated by the book and the technique.

The author, Danny Dreyer, bases the ChiRunning technique on five principles:
  1. Cotton and Steel Gather to your center
  2. Gradual Progress The step-by-step approach
  3. The Pyramid The small is supported by the large
  4. Balance in Motion Equal balance and complementary balance
  5. Nonidentification Getting yourself out of your way
1. Cotton and Steel is based on T'ai Chi - the principle that all movement in your body originates in your center. To achieve this state and in order for your center to work efficiently, the rest of your body needs to relax.

To do this, Dreyer suggests the following exercise:
  • Stand up straight with your best posture and one foot slightly behind the other, hip width apart.
  • Relax your shoulders and let your arms hang limp at your sides.
  • Now pretend your spine is a vertical axle by rotating it first in one direction and then the other. As your rotate your spine back and forth, your arms will move because your spine is moving; let them flail against your body in a gentle way. Focus on keeping your spine straight while rotating back and forth. stay with the image of your spine being an axle. Try to see how relaxed you can make your shoulders, arms, and wrists.
  • This is an example of your core doing the work while your arms are just along of the ride
He suggests doing this visualization anytime during the day so you can focus on your centerline and relax the rest of your body. This is how he wants you to feel when you are running.

2. Gradual Progress is pretty much what it sounds like - it focuses on the importance of taking your time and not rushing or pushing yourself too much.

3. The Pyramid emphasizes the importance of picking up your feet and using your psoas muscles and hip flexors instead of your calves. Dreyer says when you run it should be the same motion as when you march in place - raise your knees and put your feet completely flat back on the ground.

To do this, Dreyer suggests the following exercise:
  • Find some sand to run on.
  • Level a path in the sand.
  • Walk across the sand as if you are walking on thin ice by picking up your feet with each step and trying to leave perfectly flat, crisp footprints. make sure you really relax your ankles when you do this.
  • When you've perfected this, run across the sand at a very slow speed, taking small steps and picking up your feet as you go.
  • Look back at your tracks. If there a little crater at front of each footprint? If so, you are pushing off with your toes instead of picking up your feet.
The goal of this exercise is to get to the point where your running footprints are as "crisp" as your walking on thin ice prints. Dreyer suggests you imagine you are running across a pile of hot coals.

4. Balance in Motion is about making sure you are doing the right things such as drinking enough fluid, eating right, etc.

5. Nonidentification is really about being open to change.

Dreyer uses Tiger Woods as an example. Dreyer said that in 1997, Woods was winning all these matches but when he watched a video of himself, he realized his swing really needed some reworking. When he discussed this with his coach, his coach told him he could do it but not to expect to win any golf tournaments for awhile. His coach said his swing would get worse before it would get any better. According to Dreyer, Woods was willing to take that risk because he knew it was the only way he could realize long-term improvement. Woods spent 19 months working on his swing and everyone wondered what happened to him. Then one day in May 1999, Woods felt that something happen in his swing and it was exactly what he'd been looking for.

The ChiRunning book made sense to me but I'm a visual person so I got a copy of the ChiRunning DVD. That helped a little bit but I still struggled to incorporate the technique into my running.

In May of this year, I signed up for a two hour private ChiRunning workshop with a ChiRunning Certified Instructor, Steve Mackel. This was when ChiRunning finally clicked for me.

Steve spent the first 45 minutes getting me into the correct posture. He showed me what a difference the direction your body points in the way you moves forward. Then, he went over my feet. He said to make sure they are not too far apart - he used a 3 finger rule. He also told me not to grip the ground with my toes. I learned have a tendancy to do that. Next, he had me "lengthen" my body. I had a hard time with that because I kept wanting to throw my shoulders back. Steve had me imagine there was an imaginary string at the top of my head that was pulling me up but then I had to make sure I wasn't raising my chin up too high.

I had a really hard time learning to straighten my pelvic area. Steve told me to imagine i was a bowl and to stop spilling. I wasn't able to do that. Then, he said for women mentioning it's like a kegel exercise helps. Since I had no idea what a kegel was, that still didn't help me. Finally, he told me to imagine I was peeing but then I had to hold my pee. I finally managed to do it using that visual. Steve had me lean forward and re-adjust my pelvic area again and make sure I could swing my arms in front of my legs and see my shoelaces. In this position, I felt like I was crooked but he assured me all my joints were in line when I was in this stance.

I also had a hard time with the arms. I'm such a tense person that I tend to go from one extreme to another because I don't know how to relax. Steve said to imagine there are bolts holding my arms in a 90° angle and my hands should be balled up gently like I have a potato chip in the palm of my hand. I never managed to get my hands right.

As we ran together, he would make me count out loud with him in time to the metronome. He also told me to imagine there was a string pulling my heart - he kept emphasizing the importance of leading with the heart. I struggled a lot at first - I would lean and then stomp. Finally, I managed to stop stomping but I would lean, start falling, take a few light steps with the form and then lose it. Steve kept telling me to make my strides shorter - I had a tendancy to want to lengthen my stride right away.

When I finally felt like I was in the ChiRunning groove in "gear 1", he had me change to "gear 2" and then "gear 3". Gear 3 felt so effortless - i was amazed. I felt a little self-conscious because he wanted me to count out loud with him and I was worried I was going to get too out of breath, but it wasn't bad at all. I wasn't exerting as much energy as I normally would at that speed.

Hill work was next. For hills, instead of keeping my arms at the 90°, Steve had me do upper cuts with my arms at about a 45°. I also had to increase my lean against the incline. I was so focused on this that i didn't even realize we had reached the top of the first hill. For really steep hills, he showed me the technique where you run with your feet at an angle - alternating every four counts. Depending on the incline, he said you can vary the angle of your feet. If you think of it like a clock, you could do it at 1 and 11; if it's a less steep incline and all the way to 9 and 3 if it's really steep.

For our last run, he incorporated some uphill and downhill work along with some stairs. For the stairs, he had me use the alternating angles like we did on the steep hill. At the end, I felt so light. I was running really fast but feeling really relaxed.

I am so glad I took the ChiRunning lesson. While I still struggle to maintain my posture on long runs, I can honestly say ChiRunning has made a big difference in my running. When I am feeling tired in a race, I increase my lean and I'm able to gain some speed without exerting a lot more effort. The uppercuts also make a big difference when I'm battling hills.

I really liked Steve's coaching style so I joined his group, the Sole Runners, this past season to train for the Long Beach Half Marathon.


The Green Girl's New Reflective Vest

I stopped by Kmart today with my boyfriend. We were rummaging through the clearance section when I came across this Bally Total Fitness B Fit Gear Reflective Vest. It was marked down from $9.99 to $6.00.

I've been looking for new jacket for early morning/night runs because my current running jacket isn't reflective enough. I do have a set of reflective armbands with flashing lights that make me look like a Christmas tree but I've been considering getting one of those bright yellow jackets that make you look like a giant highlighter.

This vest will be perfect. It was inexpensive and I like how I can just throw it on top of whatever I'm wearing.


R.I.P. My Beloved iRiver iFP-390T

Good bye, beloved iRiver iFP-390T. I'm going to miss you.

I still remember the day I got you. I was so excited. I splurged and went with your generous 256 mb instead of the 128 model.

So what if I couldn't put more than 55 songs on you? That was enough to keep me entertained. I'm a simple girl.

When I decided to try to start running, 55 songs was more than enough to hold my Cool Running Couch-To-5k running mix. Remember the first time you ran out of songs and I was still running? I was so excited. As my mileage increased, it became natural for me to just put you on repeat so we could start all over again from the beginning.

We flew together to Asia three summers in a row. You were there for me on the airplane, on those long stretches on the train and even a few boat rides.

And you were there for me as I trained for my very first marathon.

I guess it's fitting that you were there to help me every step of the way for the Long Beach Half Marathon this weekend.

I'm going to miss you, iRiver iFP-390T!


The Green Girl's Half Marathon Training Schedule

Wk Date Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 11.10- 11.16 Kickbox 30 min tempo Kickbox 3 mi Rest 5 mi Boot camp
2 11.17- 11.23 Kickbox 4 x 400 Intervals Kickbox 3 mi Rest 6

2.5 mi Easy
3 11.24- 11.30 Kickbox 35 min tempo Kickbox 3 mi Rest 7 mi Boot camp
4 12.01- 12.07 Kickbox 5 x 400 Intervals Kickbox 4 mi race pace

7 mi Boot camp
5 12.08- 12.14 Kickbox 35 min tempo Kickbox 3 mi race pace

8 mi Boot camp
6 12.15- 12.21 Kickbox 6 x 400 Intervals Kickbox 4 mi race pace

2 miles Easy
Rest 10K race
7 12.22- 12.28 Kickbox 40 min tempo Kickbox 4 mi race pace Rest 9

3 mi Easy
8 12.29- 01.04 Kickbox 6 x 400 Intervals Kickbox 3 mi race pace

10 mi Boot camp
9 01.05- 01.11 Kickbox 45 min tempo Kickbox 4 mi race pace

11 mi Rest
10 01.12- 01.18 Kickbox 7 x 400 Intervals Kickbox 3 mi race pace

12 mi Boot camp
11 01.19- 01.25 Kickbox 45 min tempo Kickbox 3 mi race pace Rest 5

Boot camp
12 01.26- 02.01 Rest 4 mi Kickbox 2 mi Rest 20 minutes Surf City USA Half Marathon

Tempo Run: Start off with 15-20 minutes of easy running and then 15 to 20 minutes of comfortably hard running. Finish with 5-10 minutes of cooling down.

Intervals: After warming-up, run 400 meters (one lap around most tracks) hard, then recover by jogging or walking 400 meters. Repeat this with the 400 meter recovery in between each run.


The Green Girl's Review of the Timex Ironman 50-lap T5H411 Watch

I purchased the Timex Ironman 50-lap T5H411 specifically for my very first marathon training. I already had an Ironman 30-Lap Flix but that watch did not offer a multiple interval timer option.

I needed the multiple interval timer option so I could do run/walk intervals. Most watches will beep after x amount of time with an option to stop or repeat at the end of the countdown. I wanted a watch that would beep after my run segment to indicate it was time to walk and then beep again when it was time to run again.

For my marathon training, I wanted the following features in my new watch:
  • A good easy-to-read display so I could quickly glance at the numbers while running
  • Buttons that are easy to press without looking at the watch
  • A fabric band because I sweat a lot (even when I'm not exercising) and I get rashes or
  • If the band is not fabric then I need the ability to replace the band with a fabric one
  • Chronograph with lap/split memory recall
  • Dual/multiple interval timers
After doing a lot of research, I identified two Timex models that met the above criteria: I decided against the Women's Timex Triathlon Sleek 50-lap 5G291 because I dislike the color purple and I didn't like the style. I'm more of a tomboy. When I began my search, I assumed Timex's 'Two-Mode Timer' meant it had the dual timer option I was looking for. This was a source of confusion for me because my existing watch had a 'Two-Mode Timer' but I could not figure out how to make it do two different countdowns. I even called Timex technical support for clarification but they were not able to shed any light on the situation. I finally realized "Two-Mode" referred to the fact that you could toggle the timer between 'Stop' and 'Repeat' mode. What I needed was a "Dual-Interval Timer" or "9 interval timer." I have no idea why Timex offers 2 timers or 9 but nothing in between. You can tell if a Timex watch has multiple interval timers by pressing the "MODE" button in the lower left three times. The first time you press it, it will go into "Chronograph" mode and the second time you press it, it will go into regular 'Timer' mode. If you get an 'INTTMR' when you hit the 'MODE' button three times, then your watch has either 2 or 9 interval timers. When I first started hitting the longer distance runs, I wanted to do interval training that consisted of 10 minute runs followed by 1 minute walks. To do this, I set the first interval to 10 minutes and I set it to "Repeat" at the end. Then, I set the second interval to 1 minute and also set it to repeat. As my training progressed and the mileage increased, I shortened my run intervals from 10 to 7 and for the actual race, I did a 5:1 run/walk ratio. I am very pleased with this watch. It's durable and easy to use.

The band is made for a larger wrist so it took some adjusting to get it to fit just right but in time, the velcro became accustomed so my size. It never chafed or irritated my skin. The velcro is also high quality so it doesn't lose it's grip over time.

I didn't like the style at first but I must admit it grew on me. The buttons seemed awkward at first because I was so used to my old watch but I got used to them quickly and they are easy to press even when my hands are sweaty and sticky.

If I could improve one thing it would be lack of Flix. Flix is Timex's technology that allows you to 'flick' on the Indiglo to illuminate the watch's dial. My other watch has Flix and it's really handy when I'm out running at night - I just "flick" my wrist and I can see the time.


The Green Girl's Race Preparation List

My coaches, Steve Mackel and Gary Smith put together this 'Coach Steve & Gary's Race Day CheckList'.

The most important thing to remember is not to try anything new right before a race. This includes eating new foods; wearing new clothing, socks or shoes; taking new medications or vitamins; applying new creams or lotions; or doing anything else you've never done before. I believe this rule would be a lot easier to follow if the race expo was after the race. At the expo, they offer samples of all sorts of "super" bars, drinks, foods and other snacks.

No matter how many times seasoned marathoners warn other runners not to wear clothing or shoes they bought at the expo the day before, we all get tempted to sport new purchases on the big day. Do not, under any circumstances, make this mistake.

I highly recommend attaching the timing chip to your shoes and pinning the bib on your race shirt the night before. As easy as it may seem, this can sometimes be a little more complicated than expected.

I also make sure I have everything I need in one place before I go to bed. I don't want to be looking for things in the morning.

The Green Girl's Race Checklist:

Timing Chip
Spare Socks
Race Shirt
Race Pants/Shorts
Lip Balm
Hand Sanitizer
Road ID
Hydration Belt
Mobile Phone
Digital Camera
MP3 Player
Warm-up Clothes
Bus Pass

The Green Girl's "Night Before" Checklist:

Attach timing chip to shoes
Put socks near shoes
Pin bib to race shirt
Put out all clothing
Freeze hydration bottles
Prepare hydration belt

I like to take public transportation to races. This way I don't have to deal with traffic and I don't have to worry about parking my car.
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