Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Weighting Game

The kids got Wii Fit from Grandma not that long ago. And by "the kids" I mean me, because I'm the one who uses it most. The damn thing is just so cute the way it talks to me about my morbid obesity! Besides that, the kids are all in shape and healthy.

I tend to think the Wii technology is crazy witchcraft voodoo anyway, so I will admit that the experience is often a little bit creepy for me. The little animated Wii Fit board waves at me and talks to me about my fitness goals, for example. And it asks me when I ate dinner. Which is fine and awfully polite and all, but I can't answer back because I don't speak Wii.

Anyway, in addition to doing some virtual ski jumping, snowboarding, and soccer drills, I've taken to using the Wii Fit thing to track my weight as the training for Seattle ramps up. In theory I could also use it to work on some yoga poses, but those virtual yoga teachers are creepy. Seriously.

With the Wii Fit tracking my BMI and weight, I feel this weird accountability. It's like the thing actually cares or makes judgment about my weight. And damn it, I want to make that machine happy! It sets little goals for me, and I love to see the line track toward those goals.

But I know I am disappointing the Wii because I can't seem to really lose weight. It's starting to piss me off.

I'm training 35-40 miles a week, I have a pretty decent diet (except for the beer, of course) and it's not like I'm just sitting around all the time when I'm not running. What the hell?!

My weight as I sit here being taunted by the Wii Fit Balance Board is 180. I'm 5'11", so this is right on the edge of "Overweight" by the Wii's standards (and the BMI chart at Dr. Hilarious's office, too). Overweight? Damn. What does that make all the people I see on the streets? If I'm officially overweight, what category do they use to describe the people that even overweight people think are obese?

My weight goal for the Seattle Marathon is 170-175. I have plenty of time still, but things are going to have to start moving in the right direction here pretty soon.

I really want to see what the Wii says when I reach a goal. It better throw a little virtual party for me with all my Mii friends in attendance...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Another 13.1. With Complaints!

Yesterday I laced up the racing shoes and drove to the Red Hook Brewery to stand in line in the rain with a couple thousand of my closest friends. And that was just the first hour and a half of the day...

This is the third year for me at the Super Jock and Jill Half Marathon, and as both of you will remember, I really like the race. It ends at a brewery, for one thing, and it is a flat, fast course that winds through a lot of my training routes. Support on the course is excellent, and it's generally a good time followed by a couple of beers. I never have managed to get RPD or Cap'n Ron out there with me (this year Cap'n had some excuse about a motorcycle trip, which I have yet to see photographic evidence of, and RPD was apparently in Canada enjoying natural wonder. Silly.)

Complaint Box
Let me get my gripes out the way first. I know all of my readers at Super Jock and Jill will take my commentary to heart and make some changes for next year.

Prepaid Torture
When I purchase tickets in advance for a show or a movie, I expect there to be some benefit for the effort. The organizers get the benefit of having my money in advance (complete with a "no-refund" policy), what do I get? A guaranteed shirt size? Since Brooks ends up selling the remaindered technical shirts at the their outlet store a week after the race, I don't think this is really an issue. I arrived 10 minutes before the packet pick up table was supposed to open to find a line snaking from the Red Hook loading dock out onto the street and almost to the winery next door. As every poor pre-paid schlub walked up, he or she asked the same hopeful question: "Is this line for day of race registration?"

Nope. This is for those of us who already paid.

At this point we had an hour to get our packets, use the Honey Buckets, stretch, and whatever. (Of course the Honey Bucket lines were horrid also, but this is just the fact of pre-race. Every race. Everybody Poops, after all.)

The line did move mercifully fast (30 minutes for me) but come on. It's pouring rain out here!

Oh, and by the way, the day of race "line" wrapped around the building, under cover. What lesson am I being taught by this?

So next year, here is what I would like to see:
  1. A more significant pre-paid discount. $5 is hardly a motivator on its own.
  2. The ability to register in person at the venue (why Red Hook hasn't picked up on this money-maker is beyond me...)
  3. The ability to pick up my packet before the race. Every other race on earth does this. Sure there has to be a cut-off date, but I would happily drive to Greenlake to get my packet the day or week before the race to avoid standing in long lines on race day.
Start Line Antics
This race is getting big. Far too big for the starting line configuration they have relied on for the last 1o years. There is plenty of room for everyone. Sure. But there is no starting mat, so only the very front line gets an accurate race time. We need starting mats!

The race directors say the city won't let them close the road long enough to put the mats down. Well, tough. Make up a new starting line configuration. Start at the winery. Start in the brewery. Something. Without a mat, runners crowd to the front of the queue and no one gets a good start. The course opens up so quickly after the start that I would opt to hang back and start at a good pace rather than fight to be first off the line. I feel like an idiot lining up with the 5 minute milers, but you have to in order to get out at a good clip.

Oh, they also start the four-mile race at the same time as the half marathon. Which doesn't help.

Also, I know the sponsor wants to get their money's worth out of this thing, but when we are standing at the start, I don't really want to listen to you pimp your running store. Why doesn't anyone play music at the start anymore? A nice upbeat mix leading to the starting gun?

Or how about a course description for the new runners? Which reminds me...

The Course
I happen to work in one of those places where the "veterans" of the group like to rely on the "That's the way we've always done things" defense for stupid and outdated policies and procedures. I have a suspicion that a version of that is taking root at this race.

The course is fine. It's a little funky in the middle where it winds in and out of the UW Bothell campus, but it is otherwise a nice run.

This year, however, the first 4 miles were through a road construction zone, which I happened to know because that road is also the way to my dear old mom's house, so I've heard her complain about it endlessly and I've even run it a few times.

A road construction zone means: pot holes, steel plates, uneven asphalt, loose gravel, very large yellow tractors and tractor-like machines, huge orange warning signs, etc.

One: this segment of the course is avoidable (and fairly easily avoidable).
Two: the directors said nothing about it at the starting line. It wasn't mentioned in the course description on the website, and there were no warnings about it at all. Anywhere.

Sorry SJJ folks, it's time to change the course. I have some suggestions for you if you like. Give me a call. For one thing, you have an industrial/commercial park the size of Rhode Island right across the highway.

Ok. Enough complaining. Despite my gripes, it's still a good race. Honest. Just FIX IT.

The Race Report
Thanks for enduring the rants. I've had my coffee now, and am feeling much better. Honest.

I haven't been training specifically for a half marathon, but I have been on my marathon training plan for a few weeks. So I came into this race feeling pretty good about surviving things. That said, I had no goal time and no sense of how I would hold up at race pace.

Mile 1. 7:13. A full 20 seconds of this mile was spent fighting to the damn starting line. See above. Once I was running, I was right around a 7:00 pace and it felt reasonable, so I decided to stick between 7:00 and 7:30 for the race. 3 minutes into the race, I knew I was going to be too warm. The rain and the standing in line psyched me out and I put on a long sleeve shirt. Damn.

Mile 2. 7:11. This is just boring old running. But I did pass the Vespa store where The Colleague picked up her new ride last week. Hi Vespa!

Mile 3. 7:07. I picked up a mouth breather on my heels in this mile and couldn't really shake him. I think he was trying to draft me or something. I zigged and zagged a little to piss him off, but he didn't seem to notice. He sounded something like a Hippo surfacing for air. I have no doubt that he died somewhere along the route.

Mile 4. 7:06. I made it through the construction zone. Barely. Twice I stepped wrong and almost rolled my ankle on the uneven pavement. Awesome. This mile also has the retirement home folks running the water station. I love it. Shaky hands handing out water and Gatorade to runners with shaky hands. Luckily the downpour we ran through was washing it all away into the river.

Mile 5. 7:03. Mile 5 picks up the Samammish River Trail and heads through Bothell out to the UW campus. This is cruise control running for me because I run this segment three or four times a week. I did see one runner go down with a twisted knee from one of the tree roots that buckled the surface. It wasn't the Hippo Mouth Breather, though. I wonder what happened to him? Well no concern, because I picked up Weavy McWeavesAlot just after Bothell Landing. The trail is about 10 feet wide, and this dude was using the whole damn thing.

Mile 6. 7:08. Still running fast here, but anticipating the big hill in mile 7. The old brain starts to do its psych job on me. That's about all I remember from this mile: "There's a hill coming and it wants to make you hurt."

Mile 7. 7:35. Yep. That's a hill. Shit. I managed to kick through it pretty well, but spiked my heart rate and really gassed myself. My training runs on the same hill went much better. The sharp corners and slippery surfaces through here slowed me down some, too. Mostly, the mistake I made here was not taking advantage of the downhill segment after the climb to make the speed back up. I instead stayed slow to get my heart rate down more quickly.

Mile 8. 7:11. Through downtown Bothell and back to the UW campus. Nice long downhill stretch to make up some time. Bonus: very upset pickup driver in Bothell who was not happy with having to wait for the racers to pass the intersection. The poor little volunteer at the corner was just being backed up by a cop, who was pissed at the driver, when I ran by. Good for a chuckle. (I should add here that the City of Bothell did nothing in advance to warn people that the roads would be closed for the race. When I drove through on the way to the race there were just lonely orange cones out, not a sign to be seen.)

Mile 9. 7:29. Back to the campus craziness. Mile 9 is where I first saw Former College Friend, who said he wasn't running the race, pushing his friggin' jogging stroller along the course. With two kids in it. And he wasn't far behind me. What the hell, man? Last year he ran 10 miles TO the race and then ran a 1:38 AT the race. This year he shows up pushing his offspring around? No wonder he's going to Boston next year and I'm not. Damn.

Mile 10. 7:14. Back to the trail for the push to the finish. I start doing the math in my head at this point and realize that I am close to my PR, but not close enough. I don't have a sub-7:00 mile in me, so I am just going to stick to my pace and ride it out. I don't love this part of the course, but it's flat and I know it pretty well, so I just put my head down and drag my ass along.

Mile 11. 7:07. Hmmmm. A water stop helped me out here. And the headwind we were fighting let up a bit. Still, like the last miles of any race, I started to hit the wall and really, really wanted to be able to stop running.

Mile 12. 7:26. Your feet are getting verrrry heavy.

Mile 13. 7:20. I caught up with a runner I had been near for most of the race here. Turned out to be OTHER former college friend (who also ran Seattle last year). Fancy meeting you here. Can't talk now. And also, can't let you beat me. So, see ya.

Mile 13.1. For all the other features of this course, the finish is totally cool. A single loop around the little amphitheater at Red Hook to a nice finishing chute. Done. 1:35:15.

What? 1:35:15? Damn it! One minute shy of my PR.

And what sucks is I know where that minute came from. 20 seconds of it are at the start. And the other 40 are in those last 3 miles. Should have pushed. Oh well. A good race, no injuries, and hardly any hypothermia.

I chatted with Former College Friends at the finish for a bit and headed out. The brewery wasn't open yet anyway. Which brings me to my last complaint. WTF, RedHook? You can't open an hour early one day out of the year? Captive audience. Captive audience that wants beer. At least put a beer garden out there somewhere. How hard is that opportunity to recognize?