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2010 Racing: August through December

So, that blogging thing? Clearly I need to focus on having time for it. But I didn’t want to end the year without wrapping up the rest of the races I did in 2010 after the SF Half and did not write about.

After the San Francisco Half Marathon, I did a 10k and three more half marathons. Quick summaries of each:

The Big Gay 10k (8/14/2010) – This fun 10k was put on as a fundraiser for Greater Than One, which raised money for the SF Aids Foundation. I feel like my 10k efforts pale in comparison to those who raise thousands of dollars and do the Seismic Challenge bike ride, but hey, I do what I can do.

The costumes for this event were STUNNING. Also, the nearly-nude contingent was about a million times more attractive than Bay to Breakers.

The race was up at Crissy Field, and incorporated a bit of the Fort Mason hill. I finished in 55:07 (chip time), AG 8/53. No PR, just a healthy reminder of the fact that running short distances fast is a challenge!

Humboldt Redwoods Half Marathon (10/17/2010) – This was my goal race for the second half of 2010, and I was incredibly happy with how I ran it. In fact, I’d say this was my best-run race of the year. The course was an out-and-back along the Avenue of the Giants up in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and the entire thing was flat, treelined bliss. The weather was gorgeous (low 50s?), and it wasn’t even crowded.

I didn’t go out too fast, I didn’t psych myself out, I pushed as hard as I could up the two hills, and I earned myself a 2:00:46, AG 29/63. This was 2-3 minutes faster than my training plan predicted, and I was really happy with my time and effort. Honestly, I don’t even have much to say about it…it was just so great. My training and planning and fueling just CLICKED and I had a phenomenal race.

US Half Marathon (11/7/2010) – This race was a bad idea. The race was on Groupon, so I figured I’d do it as a supported training run. Bad plan. On the day of the race, it was pouring rain. Not misty San Francisco rain, but torrential downpour that you never see in SF. It was really COLD too! (The only time I’ve ever been cold while running in SF.) The course (Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, Ft. Mason) was incredibly hilly, muddy, and we had to run through 6+ inches of standing water at least a dozen times. Part of the course was on a walking path at the north end of Golden Gate Bridge, which was so slippery (and next to a cliff!) that everyone had to stop and walk it.

The idea of doing it was a supported training run wasn’t good either. The water stations along the way were a mess. Many were out of cups, those with cups didn’t have them filled, and one of the aid stations had folks scooping water out of an open (bagged/clean) trash can, which was just…eeeeew. But despite bad organization, many many many thanks to the poor volunteers who braved the awful weather. (Oh, and bag check was non-existent.)

Cool medal, water bottle, and shirt, though. I guess that was worth the $30.

Big Sur Half Marathon (11/14/2010) – I was really looking forward to this race and was hoping to best the PR I set in October, but it was not to be. I managed to make a few bad choices which impacted me throughout the race.

I had friends fly in from Chicago to do this one with me, one of whom offered to pace me towards a sub-2. It was a nice idea, but I should have never let myself go out so faster than 9:09. I knew by mile 3 that I would have major trouble later on, so we parted ways. At that point I also discovered my iPod was dead. Bad news.

Around mile 5 I had an asthma attack/panic attack, and spent the next two miles walk-running in order to be able to breathe. Even after mile 7, I spent the rest of the race battling more breathing problems. Making it to the end was a real challenge.

I was disappointed that I had such a bad experience on a course I really love, and I really wish I’d gotten out of my head and been able to enjoy the scenery more. I finished in 2:04:34, AG 159/607. Despite the tough race, this was still my second fastest half yet (despite the walking!?!), and a course PR of 6.5 minutes. I had a great time with my friends, and I’m glad we got to do this beautiful race together.

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Race Report – Eugene Marathon 2010

I successfully finished my first marathon. I feel like I’ve learned so much by training for and running Eugene. It’s been so useful to learn what works for me and what doesn’t and what to do differently next time. The race itself was incredibly gorgeous, well-staffed, and had great crowd support. I honestly can’t think of a better race to have picked for my first marathon.

Apologies for the long post! I did my best to get this all written down so I can learn from the experience for the next one…

The race start time was 7 AM. We got there in plenty of time. My hosts (BR+AQ) lived just 3 miles from the starting line, and none of the roads between their place and Hayward Field were closed. So no fussing with shuttles and stuff. I got up at 5 AM, made my toast and peanut butter and coffee, drank a ton of water, and we headed out at 6.

We got to the start around 6:15. After a few quick strolls around, J and I joined the bathroom queue, where we remained for the next 35 minutes. By the time I made it through the line and got in my corral, it was impossible to even see the 4:30:00 pacer. There wasn’t even any space to squeeze in to the 10:30/mi corral. Ooof.

My original plan had been to stick with the 4:30:00 pacer for the first half of the race, then reassess how I felt. My training plan claims I could do a 4:25:00 race, so I thought this would be a good plan. But not being able to find the pacer threw this plan out the window right away.

For the first few miles I was right behind a military-looking guy who was hitting *exactly* 10:05 miles (my goal pace). So I followed him for a few miles, then finally joked to him he was going exactly my pace. We stuck together until maybe mile 8.5 or so, where the hill started. Our pace started to slowly speed up over those miles (between maybe 9:30 and 10:05), but it was good to have someone to talk with and I didn’t notice. By the time we hit the hill, I could see he was going a bit too fast for me. I lost sight of him and I dialed it back a bit.

The hill really wasn’t that bad. I’m not sure what the net elevation change was, but this one single hill between 8.5 and 9 miles was the only noticeable hill in the entire course. I’m a big wuss when it comes to hills, and this one didn’t bother me one bit. No leg pain.

Around mile 9 was the first spot I had planned to see boyfriend J, and there he was! He was along the median just past the starting line, so I got a big smile and I waved at him. (Photos will get their own post)

J and I had an argument the previous day about how I would tell him where I was. The race had a Facebook app installed that would automatically post your splits, which he wanted me to use, but I didn’t really want my embarrassing numbers posted for all of my friends to see. So I told him I’d text him every few miles so he could plan accordingly. This turned out to be very useful, since the runner tracking on Eugene Marathon’s website broke entirely. I hated being that annoying person on my phone – I’m sure other runners were rolling their eyes at me – but it helped J find me.

Around mile 11 the full and half marathon courses split. I was pretty excited for this 🙂 But instead of a bit inflatable arch or signage, they just had volunteers yelling “marathon – right!” Half marathon – left!!”. Hah. Oh well. The marathon folks took off up a highway on ramp, and the half marathoners looped back over a bridge. I felt really really good and EXCITED at that point. The crown thinned out notably, and I was looking forward to the river part of the course.

As soon as the half and full split, I began walking the water stops. They were much less chaotic than in the previous miles, and it was good to deal with Gu/water and not spill. Aside from one or two of the water stops near the beginning, I took water or Gatorade at each stop. I had my Amphipod with me and by the end of the race that was gone too. I was a bit worried about too little water -> big Christina headache, but my fueling turned out to be just right.

I fueled roughly every 4 miles. I took Gu or Cliff Shots mostly, with a bag of Chomps in the middle. I got off the pattern around mile 14-16, since I’d taken a banana slice from a station, which filled me up.

The full marathon break part took us through Springfield (city next to Eugene) for a few miles. This was the least scenic part of the course, but I didn’t mind it. It was sort of worn down and industrial looking, but really not that bad. We went past a bus stop that had big signs saying “closed Sunday for marathon” and there was an older gentleman sitting on the bench just grinning and watching the runners. He made me smile!

We turned left and went into a residential part of Springfield, before looping back to a 4-lane road towards the river. Somewhere around here I spotted a moped with a sidecar, and felt it was so notable that I had to text J about it.

Near 13 miles I realized I had big blisters forming, so at my next meeting point with J (around mile 16) I changed socks and re-greased my toes and feet. At this point I actually SAW how bad one of the blisters was (near a regular hotspot on my right foot) and I got kind of grossed out and worried about it for much of the rest of the race.

At mile 16 I was still feeling really strong, and we looped back to the other side of the river where the exceptionally gorgeous views began. Sround mile 19 I started to feel myself get tired. I wasn’t getting into my tunes at all during the race, but here I just couldn’t even stand to have music playing. I tried making conversation with a person or two, but they didn’t seem interested in talking. Around here the temperature increased past my happy-place 60 degrees, so I started feeling that too.

About a mile later I heard two girls chatting, and said “Hi, I really really need some talking. Can I join you for a bit?” And they laughed and said yes. Only one of the girls was racing (Jen) and her friend (I didn’t catch her name) jumped in for 10 miles to keep Jen company and get in her own training run that day. GREAT IDEA. I need to keep this in mind for my next marathon. I’m so used to long runs with other people, and having someone to talk to really distracts me from increasing tiredness. So to throw in someone new and fresh and full of talking and energy around mile 16? Perfect.

I stuck with them for the next 30 minutes, and I think if I hadn’t done that, I think I would have become a big mess much earlier. At some point the comment was made that Jen’s amazingly consistent at 10 min/mi, and I was getting a bit too exhausted, so I dropped off around mile 22ish to use the bathroom, telling them good luck. I knew they were going just a bit too fast for me at that point, so it was smart to slow down.

This is where things started to feel dire. I didn’t hit the wall, per se. I think my good fuel/water intake helped prevent that. But new aches began. Mainly, my lower back began hurting badly, which is not something I’ve experienced during a run before, so I started to worry. I began having hip flexor issues too, which is also not normal for me.

Anyway, the back pain started getting really bad and I just focused on getting through the next 4 miles so I could stop moving. I wasn’t planning to see J again until mile 25.5. But it turned out that my hosts/friends BR+AQ surprised me and came to cheer near a park around mile 23 or 24! I was beyond happy to see them. I asked them to jog with me for a little bit, so they joined me, flip flops and all, for about a quarter mile. (I have such awesome friends. I’m really lucky.) I needed something to keep my mind off my back so I immediately said “START TALKING” and ended up getting to hear a story about getting in trouble with security at Tokyo Disney. It was just what I needed. J had told me beforehand there was no chance he’d run with me, so I’m really lucky that BR+AQ jumped in.

Before she took off, AQ had the stunningly insightful observation that I must be doing well, since “my feet were still pointed in the right direction.”

This pushed me on through to past the soccer fields where I saw J at mile 25.5. I was so thrilled that I was almost done, and I think I gave him a kiss, groaned, dropped off my Amphipod, and kept right on going.

The finish line was on Hayward Field. Having never run in any organized fashion in school, it was surreal to head onto a track when there were people in the stands cheering and stuff. It just felt so strange to run with an audience. I’m used to having an audience for performing, but running is just such a personal or small group thing for me it just was so odd to have people in the stands watching.

There were two timing sensor things right before the finish, and multiple strangely-placed photographers. My poor distance-addled brain was confused by all of this, and I wasn’t quite clear what to do. I think I forgot to raise my arms until a little too late, and my finish line photos are just atrocious! I also forgot to look up and see myself on the jumbotron screen.

I finished in 4:39:11. My only goal was to finish, so I’m satisfied with my time. My training plan & pace calculator had predicted I could do roughly 10-15 minutes faster, but that’s OK. I finished. I am proud and happy.

After crossing the finish line, my prevailing emotion was happy numbness. I grabbed some food and stretched. My group had trouble reconnecting afterward, and an unexpected side benefit of it was that I kept walking (slowly, in circles) while trying to find them. After we reconnected, it turns out they’d thoughtfully brought a big bottle of Goose Island beer for me.

The rest of the day was a blur…I sat on the floor for an hour or two, eating lunch and drinking a beer float. Mentally I felt like someone hit record without putting in the tape, if that makes any sense? I was watching things happen, but not really registering.

Once I got up off the floor, we drove to a hot springs about an hour and a half away from Eugene and soaked for an hour or two. It felt incredible. My muscles didn’t hurt while they were floating! The hot springs were incredible (as was Eugene in general) so there will be a whole post about awesome Eugene things in the near future.

While at the hot springs AQ told me that watching me run Eugene had inspired her to train for a century (a 100-mi bike ride.) That was perhaps the best thing anyone’s ever said to me throughout all of my training. It was just really touching that little old me – someone who’s not ridiculously in shape, simply running my first marathon with an unimpressive time – could inspire her to try to do something similar. She’s not particularly athletically inclined, but the idea of competing against yourself to achieve something big really resonated with her.

Anyway, I’m just overjoyed I did it. I think my biggest takeaway lessons from the race are:

  • Work on controlling my speed. I went out too fast and it ended up slowing me down too much at the end. My goal should be consistency and negative splits.
  • On the same note, it might be time to get a Garmin.
  • During my next training cycle, I want to get in a 22 miler or two. I had planned to do this, but an out-of-town wedding caused it to become a horrible weeknight 20-miler instead. By pushing myself past 20 I think I’ll get a better sense of what I can and can’t do and how to make those last 6.2 miles a bit less awful.
  • Bribe a friend to run with me towards the end of the race.
  • Try out a handheld water bottle and/or a different fuel belt.

Here are my splits. Sorry for breaking it down in a strange way, it’s what helped me reflect on my race:

Mile 1 0:10:05
Mile 2 0:20:10
(At that point my mile info tracking stopped being accurate. The rest of the splits are official-only.)
Mile 6.21 (10k) 1:02:12

Avg Pace for first 10K: 10:00/mi

MIle 13.1 (HM) 2:10:44
This is less than a minute off my half marathon PR. Had I noticed this at the time, maybe I would have slowed down.
Avg pace for second segment (6.89 mi): 9:56 min/mi

Mile 19.26 (31k) 3:18:03
Avg Pace for third segment (6.16 mi): 10:55 min/mi
Makes sense – this is where I stopped briefly to deal with blisters.

Mile 26.2 (last 11k) 4:39:11
Avg Pace for last segment (6.94 mi) 11:41 min/mi
(Clearly that’s where my problem was – the last 6 miles or so.)

Average pace across the whole race: 10:39 min/mi

Anyway, not to get caught up in what I could have done better! I’m completely thrilled with my race and training experience, and I don’t think I can even capture that fully in words.

Up next: a half marathon or two, with vague intentions of another marathon late this year…



Race Report: Tall Mom Race for the Cure Virtual 5k

I’m going to start by saying – very tentatively – that the doctor said I do not have a stress fracture. WOOHOO!!

There’s still some tenderness on the top of my right foot, which is worrisome. But it’s not the sharp pain I had a few days ago, so the doctor gave me the OK to run again.

So I signed up for Tall Mom’s Virtual Race for the Cure.

Photo 53

My “race” was nothing spectacular: I headed over to Kezar track, with plans to run a 5k just to test out my foot. Any pain – I would have to stop.

I love running at Kezar on Friday nights because it’s so quiet. On most weekdays it’s full of gigantic training groups who take up 2/3 of the track running the wrong way, but on Friday night it’s always sparely populated and quiet. There were maybe a dozen people there total – just enough to make it feel safe.

On the train ride over I’d decided to not even push my pace at all, just to start at marathon planned race pace of 10:05 per mile and make this into an exercise of not starting out too fast / how to hold a slower pace. After a half mile this went out the window. I’d been doing about 9:30 min/mi for the first half mile, but after that my pace just steadily increased until the very end.

There was a bit of tenderness on the top of my right foot near the first metatarsal during the first mile, but after that it went away. PHEW. I’d worn an older model of shoes – Asics Gel Foundation 8 – along with my old inserts, in an effort to change the padding/pressure on the top of my foot. (My current Asics Kayano 16s have a weird angled lace bed.) The old Gel Foundation 8s turned out to be a bad idea. I’d had trouble with these shoes wearing themselves out very soon, after 250-300 miles. I had thought this wouldn’t matter for a short 5k, but my knees began screaming at me around mile 1, definitely feeling the older shoes.

Anyway, I powered on through, pace increasing throughout, and finished with a time of 0:27:16 (0:08:47 min/mi). Not bad! This is an unofficial PR for me, seeing as the only timed/accurately measured 5k I’ve done in the last year and a half was a 0:28:33 last spring. I don’t trust the accuracy of my Nike+ chip enough to call this a real PR, but I’ll add this to my list of times. I was happy to maintain a pace like that, given that my intervals pace for this round of marathon training has been 08:35 min/mi. Considering that most of the time I’d been maintaining paces in that range the distances were a mile or less, I’m pretty thrilled I was able to sustain something like that for over 3 miles. Fun! I need to do more short races.

Go Tall Mom on the Run!! Thanks for hosting this, and good luck with your amazing fundraising! And good luck to everyone on their Virtual Race for the Cure this weekend!



Race Report: Emerald Across the Bay 12k, 2010

On March 21 I ran the Emerald Across the Bay 12k. I wasn’t really planning to do this race, but it ended up on my schedule and it seemed like a good idea at the time. The plan was to get in some extra miles that week to make up for my decreased mileage in New York, and what better idea to make myself do it than by committing to a race?

The race is a point-to-point, starting out in Marin at East Fort Baker, running up to, over, and down from Golden Gate Bridge, across Crissy Field, finishing at Aquatic Park. We caught shuttles at Aquatic Park which took us to the starting point up in Marin.

View from Aquatic Park at 6:45 AM:

2010-03-21 07.06.57

I got in line to wait for the shuttle, and THIS GUY came by, started dancing, and giving high fives:

2010-03-21 07.10.47

The shuttle came and took everyone over to East Fort Baker. We got there plenty early – I had about an hour and a half to kill before my wave crossed the starting line.

2010-03-21 07.37.52

These folks looked like they were at an Of Montreal concert:

2010-03-21 07.39.28

About 20 minutes before my wave started, I checked my phone and my sweats, so no more pictures for me until the very end. At 8:45 I headed up to the starting line, and the second wave took off!

I didn’t have much of a pacing plan going in, aside from treating it roughly like a tempo run (9:35-9:50 min/mi). I didn’t want to push too much since I’d gotten a lot of mileage earlier in the week, but that’s about all I had planned.

It was the standard crowded mess at the beginning. I ended up passing a fair amount of people in the first two miles, which I attribute entirely to letting people pick their own starting wave *with no time guidelines* for each wave. Pacewise I’m usually in the middle of the pack, but I kept passing people whose bibs were for the first wave. And there were walkers in the second wave! Not cool. If you’re going to walk, pick the third/last wave.

The first mile or so was downhill, and not too long after the first mile marker, the ascent from the ocean level up to Golden Gate Bridge began. I’m not sure what the gain actually was, but it was a fairly intimidating hill. I ran (slowly) and passed a bunch of people walking it. My Nike+ didn’t start at the beginning, so I was only able to self-time from approximately 0.75 miles onward. This was disappointing, and I never really felt like I got a good sense of my pace or time for the rest of the race.

Once we got to the road level of the bridge it got considerably easier, with not much actual bridge slope to notice on the way across. They didn’t shut down any lanes of traffic for us, so everyone ran on the ocean side pedestrian walkway. If I’d been doing this race with a more serious mindset I would have gotten annoyed with this, since people kept running four-across and blocking anyone who wanted to pass. Around here I chatted for a bit with a guy and his maybe 9-year-old son that was running the race with him. Cute.

Running the downhill from the south side of the bridge was really really fun. I’d run up this hill dozens of times while training for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, but I’d never gotten to do the super awesome downhill, just the grueling uphill portion. The race folks had stationed a photographer here (good call!!) to get shots with the bridge in the background:

I barreled on downhill – probably too fast – and got to Crissy Field. This is the “back” of one of my favorite out-and-back long runs, and the course continued eastward.

This is the only race I’ve done in the last year and a half in which I did not bring my own water pack. It was nice not to be constantly be adjusting it. Since it was a 12k and the weather was semi-cold and gray, relying only on the two water stations worked out ok.

The route map wasn’t so great so I wasn’t quite sure where the race was supposed to end. I was a bit disappointed to see we had to run back up the hill by Fort Mason, but at least we ran up the easy side of the hill, which isn’t bad at all. BUT. We got to the top, and I saw a big inflatable arch. I was far enough away that I couldn’t read it, but hey…arch! So I stepped it up and got moving, until I got close enough to read that the arch said “one more half mile!”. CRUEL. Not ok. There were no garish mile markers for the entire course, until this tricky and misleading one. Anyway, i didn’t enjoy the speedy downhill that I normally love because I was to busy being pissed at the sign.

The finish line was not too far from the downhill, just a half block or so at the start of Aquatic Park. I picked it up and passed a handful people and finished, but I didn’t have a good sense of my time at all so it didn’t feel that great to cross the line and see the gun time, which was at least 20+ minutes off from my actual time.

I stuck around for a bit at the expo. There were beer tents:

2010-03-21 10.25.05
But I feel like you’ve got to run at least a half marathon to deserve a beer at 10 AM.

I wasn’t able to check my time until later that afternoon, but I ended up finishing the 12k in 1:11:36 (9:35 per mile.) Not bad. I hadn’t set out to race this, just to run it as a tempo run, but I did end up PRing. (Can you tell I don’t do many shorter races?) My tempo pace for this batch of marathon training is 9:35-9:50 per mile, so I managed to hit that right on the nose for this run. I think I could have done better if I’d been training specifically for this race, and if I hadn’t run 10 miles the day before, but it’s a new PR so I’m not going to be too critical! 1:11:36 is much faster than the other two 12k races I’ve run, and I’m happy with that.

This was the first race I’ve run without someone to cheer me on, and that was a nice experience. As much as I love my running partners and wonderful running sherpa boyfriend, it was a good chance to get out and run with no pressure and just enjoy!