Recap: Across the Bay 12k 2018

Two days before the Across the Bay 12k, I saw that the race was something like 90% sold out. I got sucked into the marketing ploy. Weather was supposed to be nice, and it felt like everyone was telling me that it was so much fun to run a race across the Golden Gate Bridge. Despite being born and raised in the Bay Area, I’ve never raced across the Golden Gate, and it took me until the age of 29 – so, last year – to simply run across it. I didn’t think I could survive the FOMO, so I signed up close to last minute.

The morning of, I grabbed Meg (isn’t that how a lot of these stories start? or Meg picks me up, yaddayadda) and we headed into the city. We wanted to make it in time to 1. get reasonable parking, 2. to get to the shuttles that would take us from Ghirardelli Square to the start in Sausalito, 3. say hi to Represent Running and Wolfpack people we know, and 4. allow for me to pee 20349845 times, because pregnant.

Right before we jumped on the shuttle with our teammate Sheridan and her friend Kaila, I grabbed a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks, which I slathered with sriracha and munched on the bus ride across the Bay. *This isn’t a pregnancy thing. I forgot to eat breakfast, and my hanger was bad.

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Arete Oakland, represent!

I refused to warm up with a jog, since I was letting my food settle. I was also very cranky the morning of for reasons I no longer remember. I do remember being pissed about the porta potty situation though. For some reason, people weren’t really understanding that the fastest way to get through portapotties is to create multiple lines. But noooooooo, both portapotty sections each had one lonnnnngggg inefficient line. Rather than try to fix the problem because I was cranky and didn’t want to talk to strangers, I decided to simply chase a coyote (i.e. pee by a tree) for the millionth time off to the side of the trail while teammates Meg and Sheridan kept vigil. Apparently some man headed towards my direction so they made some weird noises and yelled about Bigfoot or something generally unintelligible around the time I finished, making the walk to the start a little more interesting.

Since Across the Bay is a PAUSATF race, there were a bunch of club teams, including Wolfpack and Impala at the start. Meg and I got right up there in the front, and were soon off running the thing.

The first mile wound down for a good chunk, before bottoming out right by the water. Towards the end of the first mile, the elevation begins to pick up into a 1.5-ish mile climb up to the midpoint of the Golden Gate Bridge, the highest elevation point of the race. On a normal, not-pregnant day, it would have been a fun challenge. However, on a 19-weeks-pregnant (half-way to full term!) kind of day, it felt extremely uncomfortable.

The best way to describe running with a baby inside of you, in my opinion, is to think of your lower abdomen as a gyroscope with a mind of its own. This gyroscope spins in whatever direction it wants, when it wants, and you can feel the inertia working against you at times. My sweet baby especially during uphill climbs and any kind of shift up or down in speed or direction, deliberately works against me, and likes to move in a direction that hits my bladder and towards my pelvic floor and lower back with increasing pressure. If I try to speed up when she’s (oh yea, it’s a girl!) working against me, my body stiffens up in response to the discomfort, and it feels impossible to not slow down. Sos you knows, these days, running by effort usually means that my heart rate is anywhere from 150 to 180 for a tempo, which is high, even if I generally don’t feel fatigued.

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“It’s Half Baked!” as in, half-way to full-term.

During this uphill climb, I slowed progressively from 6:45 pace to 8:40 or so. Coming downhill on the latter half of the bridge wasn’t much better since that shift in elevation also gave way to some resistance from the baby, though gravity helped me deepen my breathing and open my stride as the course once again flattened out. I saw and cheered for a number of  Wolfpack and Arete runners as they zoomed in the other direction after the turnaround at Fort Point.

For the next 3.5 miles, I just tried to stay relaxed and not anger the beast in my womb. When the baby was not having it, she would squirm around uncomfortably and knock against all of my insides. My heart rate was a little high at about 175, but the effort felt like a 6 out of 10. My breathing was fine and I kept my shoulders and arms relaxed, Since I wasn’t really racing, I looked around at all the sights and continued cheering for people that ran past me, or that I passed. The day really was so beautiful – the sun was shining and the sky was so blue, it was hard not to be super grateful to be out there. My earlier cantankerous mood was gone by the second half of the race.

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Relax, Smile, Repeat.

There was a little quarter of a mile climb right around mile 7 that pitched us down just as quickly towards the finish by Aquatic Park. My splits were 7:03/8:07/7:22/6:49/7:01/7:05/7:01/6:59 for a total time of 53:46 for the 7.5 miles. This is about a 7:10 per mile pace, which is fine for where I am. Sometimes I wish I could run faster paces (meaning more “normal”, non-pregnant paces) on all terrains and courses, but now obviously isn’t the time to push.

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It’s not the breakfast sandwich bloat, just pregnant.

Meg had run a great effort and finished about 2 minutes ahead of me, and was waiting by the finish with SC teammate Margaret and Wolfpack friends Erin and Sam for other athletes to come through. We walked back to Ghirardelli Square to get our gear and stuff, take some pictures, and Meg went to jog her cool-down. By then, Sheridan had joined up with me, and we decided to forgo the traditional cool-down in favor of cold treats from Ghirardelli and a platonic but leisurely stroll around the park.

BTW: As you can tell from my pictures, I wrote “It’s Half-Baked!” on my stomach, because I was officially halfway through the pregnancy (full term is roughly 38+ weeks). Most teenage race volunteers at the water stations didn’t understand what my message meant, since I overheard a lot of murmurs about me being possibly being high/stoned. It wasn’t until the last water station at near mile 7 that one of the volunteers yelled in triumph to her comrades, “Oh! I get it, she’s pregnant!” That was definitely additional cause for my smiling.

The Deltas: There’s gotta be signage or volunteers that can direct people towards better porta potty usage. I’d also love if instead of finishers medals and shirts, more races including this one could have free race photos instead. I purchased a photo package, because the pictures turned out great – especially because Karl the Fog was nowhere to be seen. However, at $19 per single photo download, the pricing feels a little steep, and I can imagine that it can put off people that run multiple races every year and want great race photos.

The Pros: The weather held up and the day was so beautiful. The course is fun! I loved how much the course varied in elevation. I do like point-to-point races so that you’re running somewhere, which is a great trick to motivate yourself when you’re starting to mentally check out a bit from the effort and fatigue of racing. The medal is a bottle opener, which I found out from Erin (I’m clearly opening tons of beer bottles recently). You’re finishing in Aquatic Park where there’s GHIRARDELLI to buy and guzzle treats from.

Overall verdict: I want to come back next year and really race it!

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Meg, Margaret, and me with our bottle openers!

 

 

 

Alameda Hospital Run Recap

Oh man, because I delay on recaps, everything I write here seems to be at least 1 month late! Well, for some old news, here’s how a local 10k I didn’t know I signed up for up went: I took the W.

At the end of April, the Alameda Hospital Foundation hosted a 5k, 10k, and children’s 3/4 mile running event in the Bay Farm area of Alameda to raise funds for the hospital system on the island.

When I signed up for the race months ago, I thought I was signing up my son for the 3/4  mile race, his second since the Holiday Run last November. About a month prior to the event he was game for going on rides on his tricycle and running/walking around in 10 to 15 second intervals to train for his race with the “big kids”. The week leading up, however, he lost all of his enthusiasm. I’m not quite sure what happened there, but I chalked it up to legendary toddler moods and whims.

A couple of days before the race, however, I realized that I didn’t actually sign my son up. I had signed myself up. See, RunSignUp had all of our old Boston information saved by default, and it was kind of a pain of the ass to change if you were in the middle of registration as I was. I believe in my haste to change the information, it defaulted to select me as the athlete, and erased my son’s information from the registration process. I didn’t bother to check the confirmation until months later, and just a couple of days before the race. It wasn’t the worst thing as D no longer wanted to run with the big kids.

When I arrived the morning of, I felt pretty terrible. Not because of nerves. Mostly because my stomach was doing its hey-hormones-let’s-stir-some-sh*t-up dance. I grabbed my bib and beelined for the restroom like 3 times. I washed out my mouth as best I could with other runners in the bathroom, and hustled back to my car to find some gum to mask my vomit-breath. I didn’t find gum, but I did find lipstick. So I put on some lipstick for a morale booster and headed back out to see my teammates gathering to cheer and warm up for the 5k near the start.

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Lipstick masks vomit just fine, right?
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Pre-start photo between dry-heaving

Because the 10k starts before the 5k, I had time for 1 very quick snap, courtesy of my father-in-law. I dry-heaved a bit, but my mother-in-law came to the rescue with some gum. Feeling minty-fresh, I went to the start where a small crowd had gathered and some nervous local high school track and xc studs stood right behind the line. I sidled up right beside them and mentally set my sights on not letting a single one of them pass me. I thought, I may be a tired and pukey mess, but I’ve got pride dammit. I really just needed a goal for a race I was basically jumping into.

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Running with the dudes and ahead of the kids

The stretch of Alameda we were on is just about always very windy no matter what direction you go, since the pathway is right by the water and in a part of the island where it juts right out towards the Bay. From the moment the race started, I told myself to stay relaxed and to run tall as possible, and to keep the breathing and heart rate down. Given that Boston was barely 2 weeks prior, the gusts of wind – though not nearly as strong – brought back a little bit of apprehension. I tried not to think about the wind, and focused on breathing instead. After Boston, my heart rate hadn’t been spiking oddly as much as long as I could keep my breathing controlled.

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Can’t beat a day like this!

I stayed ahead of the group of teens and tailed two men the entire race. I had been vaguely worried that their bodies would feel fresher than mine. I didn’t think I could catch the leaders, and ultimately didn’t. However, at the 3.1 mile turnaround I felt strong despite running right into the wind again. At less than two miles to go, I saw the 5k runners on the path, and caught as many high fives from my teammates as possible as I headed towards the finish, while also speeding up a bit to finish strong. Paces were 6:37/6:35/6:27/6:38/6:32/6:12/5:31 for a time of 39:35. Then, with the 10k out of the way, I went back to the home stretch to see my 5k teammates kick in their finishes, and cheer with D for the children pounding the pavement in their race.

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Hustling to the finish

It was a good impromptu effort, and I was pretty happy to head home with the win – especially considering the timing after Boston, and being about 1/3 of the way through the pregnancy. The better summary of the race was: Puke, Rally, Win. What a way to usher in the second trimester!

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Overdue Boston Marathon 2018

“Don’t do anything stupid,” my husband told me some 3495809 times leading up to our Boston trip.

My mom jumped on the caution bandwagon immediately after we broke the news of the pregnancy to her in early March. She told me about a million times the week before Boston to “be careful” when running. She also reminded me every day, including while driving us to the airport on Saturday morning, that I shouldn’t push myself to finish the marathon and that I might do well to not run it at all. Despite all the warnings and the forecast for Marathon Monday  –  heavy rain and forceful gusts of wind promised – I never entertained not running Boston.

I turned 30 on the day before, known now as One Boston Day in remembrance of the victims and heroes of the 2013 marathon bombings. In the morning, Meg and I walked from our families’ shared airbnb in Somerville to Flour on Mass Ave to meet Shiloh from Arete Sacramento and my friend Grace for a 3.0 shakeout run. We cruised around and through MIT’s campus, and ended at Flour again. To my delight, they surprised me with a candle on a sticky bun (actually, Meg blew the surprise, but it was still mostly a surprise). After breakfast I headed to the expo to grab my bib, say hello to fellow marathoner friends Danh and Lucas, and then to the Mandarin Oriental for an annual birthday massage.

That night, I struggled to hold down my pasta & pizza dinner, and lost that battle repeatedly. By 8pm, the rain had blown in, with strong gusts shrieking against the windows of our airbnb. This woke the children up a couple of times in the middle of the night, which woke me a couple of times. I was up for good by 5 and out the door not much later with Meg, feeling groggy and heavy. Since I never sleep well before marathons, this was pretty much the usual.

The bus ride was the bus ride, but much damper than other years I’ve run Boston, namely 2015. I noticed some snow still on the ground as we approached Hopkinton (there were some snow flurries the day before) and outside the big Athlete’s Village tents set up in Hopkinton High School. I carefully traversed the muddy slush that was the field to claim a spot of ground inside the tent, shielded from the wind and rain. As I slowly ate my second breakfast, I watched the sides of the tents being whipped up by the wind, and tried not to think about how cold I already felt.

9:50am couldn’t have come quickly enough, since I just wanted to run to get out of the cold. I swapped my running shoes and discarded the pair that I had used to wade through slush and mud, and walk/jogged from Athlete’s Village to my wave to warm up. Despite changing into dry shoes, those were soon soaked from freezing puddles, and I could not feel my toes by the time I got into my wave. I didn’t take off my two sweatshirts and sweatpants until the very last couple of minutes before the start, so as to stay as warm as possible. I elected, just while in the tent, to put a long sleeve underneath the Arete singlet for some warmth but not a jacket, because I didn’t feel confident I’d like the drag from a jacket in that wind.

I was soaked through by the second mile, but at least I was no longer cold. Even though I was completely wet, the shirt and singlet were at least warmed by my body heat, but also kept me from overheating – something that happens more now that I’m expecting. The feeling came back to my feet. I squeezed rainwater at fairly regular intervals from my sleeves that I had wrapped around my hands. This kept the feeling in my fingers.

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Smile for the spectators!

Thanks to the baby starting to crowd the bladder, I stopped to pee every couple of miles, but maintained a pretty even pace mostly in the low 7s the first half of the marathon. There were a few miles that dipped sub-7 in the first 10k, and I started pulling back a bit immediately after I saw the split, knowing that my husband would be watching and I really didn’t want him to worry. I told myself to coast, and focused on smiling for the next 3-ish hours. As always, I enjoyed the Wellesley Scream Tunnel – sound not at all damped by the nasty weather – , and Oiselle’s cowbell corner, where I saw some friendly and familiar faces.

I slowed in the second half of the marathon not because the hills hurt or felt hard, but to maintain my heart rate at sub-170bpm, which normally feels high, but at that point of the pregnancy had become my barometer for whether or not I took it easy enough. My legs and feet felt fine, if red from the pounding wind and rain, and I continued to smile and wave at the spectators who were so game for showing up for the runners.

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One mile to go!

As I passed the Citgo sign, I started to pick the pace up again a bit, buoyed by the crowds and the memories of passing that sign in other years. That last mile always feels short because there’s so much energy to take in from the crowd.  I continued to accelerate, up that last little bit of uphill on Hereford to the left on Boylston, and crossed the finish in 3:14:08.

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Turn, baby, turn – Left onto Boylston!

I went straight through the chute to get to the gear check tents, and that’s when the cold and wet of my clothes caught up with me. After ten minutes of not moving, I began to fear for how the cold might affect the baby. I nervously explained to other teeth-chattering runners that I was pregnant and needed to grab my things and get to medical, and the [mostly] men immediately parted for me, while gallantly screaming at each other to “move for the pregnant lady”. Ah, chivalry. A volunteer handed my things over and then a medical volunteer wheeled me in a wheelchair to the medical tent near the family meeting area.

It was a good thing I got to the tent when I did, since my body temp was definitely hovering around hypothermia territory. The medical staff stripped off my wet things, and helped me put my dry things on, burrito-ed me with warm cloth and mylar blankets, and gave me a steaming hot broth to bring my temperature up. My temp was back to normal and I was reunited with my soggy husband and dry, sleeping son, and Meg and her family within an hour.

Despite the nasty weather and what has been less-than awesome first few months of pregnancy with major fatigue and nausea issues, I had really wanted to “BQ like a man” at Boston 2018 with the men’s standard of at least a 3:05 or faster, and come back in 2019 with a red bib a second year in a row. I wrestled with a lot of mixed emotions about my body not being just mine anymore leading up to Marathon Monday and after, and even now. After years of running, I know my stubborn self and the Boston course well enough now that if it was just about where my fitness was at, that 3:05 could have happened. However, the weather made me more cautious than I would have been had it not been a gnarly storm of a day, and that’s a very, very good thing after 1.5 months of begrudging hindsight and more not-fun pregnancy symptoms.

TLDR version: It was wet and cold, but Baby #2 got its own BQ and medal, which was really the whole point of seeing this run through anyway. (Well, that, and I still kind of want to join the Boston Marathon Quarter Century Club.) I’ll be back in Athlete’s Village and with a breast pump next year.

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Overdue She.Is.Beautiful 10K Recap

If you follow me on IG, then you already know my husband and I are expecting baby #2. If not, then, SURPRISE. Now you know.

My first pregnancy wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. I didn’t know I was pregnant for a while. I thought my symptoms were from a nasty flu that made repeated rounds through my family and my husband’s family the months leading up to our wedding. Those symptoms never abated after the first trimester, as many promised me, and I continued to struggle with vomiting until the day I delivered. I did run throughout the pregnancy, including the day I delivered. But after the Boston Marathon at about 6 weeks (and unknowingly pregnant), I didn’t race. I only ran one other event later that year, a very slow turkey trot in Boston about a month from delivery and dealing with painful Braxton-Hicks contractions the whole hilly 5k distance.

This time around, I knew everything was off from week 3 of the pregnancy, and felt far worse. By She.Is.Beautiful Santa Cruz weekend, I had been fighting the good fight against nausea, dry heaving, and hot/cold sweats for nearly a month. But like during the first pregnancy, I didn’t even think about not running. It made me feel semi-normal. It’s part of my daily routine, and how I process my day. In order to keep running, I knew I had to make some adjustments.

I normally never pay attention to heart rate during my runs, regardless of type: easy/recovery run, speed workout, or hill and trail. However, during the early weeks, I started noticing that my pulse would sudden spike at random times. I began paying attention to my heart rate during training during the last couple of months, trying to find the sweet spots in long runs for what felt like reasonable steady states. While I adjusted to all of this, I also noticed my stride changing constantly, which also made all of my steps feel very weird and wobbly. More days during the week on the treadmill helped take some of the pressure off of my hips and knees, especially on the days I felt like a baby deer.

Race weekend for She.Is.Beautiful, Santa Cruz, took place on a fairly gusty St. Patrick’s Day. I jogged from my hotel to the start, and had a great reunion with friends and teammates I don’t see as often as I would like , and some teammates from other chapters that I never or have never seen. With how woozy I was already feeling, I felt really comforted by looking around at all these spectacularly strong women and feeling like I had an army of badasses who have my back. In general, it was just damn cool to be at a sporting event celebrating our girl power.

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Part of our huge team showing!

At the start, some asked me what I was going to try for, and I replied, “Whatever feels good.” As I wasn’t showing and not telling too many people that I was expecting, I simply explained that I was coming off of a cold. Since I was holding back the desire to throw up, I elected to not bother with strides. I was also trying really hard to focus on anything but the hot/cold sweats that kept bothering me.

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Kinda chasing the Strava/rabbit group

I started out faster than I ended, with a small group of runners that started off chasing the Strava Track Club leaders. I ran with teammates Becky and Erin for the first couple of miles, and then backed off after the 2 mile mark a bit to be a little more conservative with my efforts. Erin pulled ahead, and then so did Wolfpacker Jenn with a woman dressed as Wonder Woman. I gave them words of encouragement and then set myself to try to find some pocket of ease, because I simply didn’t feel good. The cold/hot sweats came in waves when big gusts of wind weren’t, so I  didn’t feel like I could physically catch a break. The end result was that I felt more and more nauseated as the race progressed.

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Thinking to myself that if I smiled enough, everything would be okay

Miles 4 and 5 were basically about smiling for others and bracing myself against strong wind gusts coming off of the water. The last mile or so was spent mostly dodging people – 5k finishers – while yelling, “Excuse us, 10k finishers coming through!” and “Thank you!” as I passed. These last three miles, I stayed roughly 10 meters behind Jenn and Wonder Woman, thinking that if I couldn’t kick to catch them, I could at least help clear the way for them. In the end, my splits were 6:02, 6:09, 6:08, 6:18, 6:17, 6:27, 5:46, which led to a 5th place 38:03 finish and roughly 2 minute PR since Fall of 2015.

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This is confirmed by Legally Blonde.

There were three really bright spots during the race: The first was seeing all of the women and girls running on the other side of West Cliff after the turnaround point. Everyone looked so happy and there was this really awesome culture of cheering each other on. The second were all of the signs dotting the entire course with amazing messages like, “I love the girly things like ambition, making the calls, and crushing goals”. I couldn’t help but smile reading those signs. The third was the fact that D saw me finish. He spotted me before my husband did and shrieked at anyone who would listen, “Momma! That’s my momma!”. He’s seen me in a handful of events now, and with this particular race, he thinks that only women run really freaking fast – “More faster than daddies and boys”. I won’t correct him for the time being.

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Overall, I loved the She.Is.Beautiful experience. It was a truly feel-good sort of event. The race effort was a decent one, despite running into headwinds for about half of the race (which I don’t really mind) , and feeling so very, very blah for most of it (that’s just out of my control). It was great workout prep for Boston. I was very glad to have shown up, seen my friends do amazing things, and picked up a PR when I don’t expect too many of those running ones the rest of this year!

Road to Boston & Kaiser Half Marathon Recap

Alright, 2018 Training and Racing, let’s go.

This training cycle that started in December wasn’t to optimize for a half PR; it was a tuneup for Boston in April. I figured that two months out would be a great time to test my fitness at the half marathon distance, and get a sense of where I need some work in my marathon training. In December, I upped my typical 30-40 miles per week to 40-45 miles per week, and started speed workouts in earnest this past month to get a sense of what “should” (my head being stubborn) or, more optimistically, “could” be my new paces.

I had a few great workouts. I’ve decided that I really like 400m repeats, whether it’s on the treadmill or track, because it’s a distance that’s just short enough to take big risks on. For my kind of a headcase runner, and my husband and I joke that all runners are some kind of headcase, seeing my paces on the 400m repeats is more helpful as a confidence booster in a training cycle than the paces for the longer sustained intervals. I was telling my friend and teammate Katie just last week that if I feel intimidated by mile repeats at 6:35 pace, I’ll fixate on the 5:25 pace number that I hit in 400m repeats to get me through the workout. It doesn’t always work for every one, but I like having a scarier number that I’ve hit, regardless of interval, so that I can relax and not be intimidated about what could otherwise be a scary number.

Going into Sunday’s Kaiser Half Marathon, I was not yet sure about what I wanted my overall time to be. In January, my Oakland chapter had a dinner that was focused on personal, professional, and running goals, and I revealed that I’d really like to run a 1:24-1:26 half marathon this year. I felt more than confident that the goal was reasonable for this year. The fitness felt there, and I had data to back up the fact that I could do it –  I ran a 1:27 in the first half of SRM, and also a 1:27 pacing Mary and Becky through the halfway point at CIM.

However, the week leading up to this Sunday’s race was just shit. My son and husband caught nasty colds exactly the Sunday before and spent the week racked with fevers and coughing. My husband alternated between horrible vomit-inducing coughing fits, and the loudest snoring I’ve ever heard from him. My son couldn’t sleep very well with his coughing fits and fevers, and on one particular night, suffered from night terrors every hour in the first half of the night. As I coaxed soup and udon noodles into my son and then my husband during dinner the night before, I wavered on whether or not I should even race in the morning. In the end, my husband told me that I should just run and that he’d survive the first half of the day without me. I made him swear to call my mom in case of any emergency.

While I laid out my stuff for the next morning, I came to the conclusion that I would be happy if I could hit 1:27 again for an official half marathon race. I was tired to the point that I knew that a 1:24 would be a miracle. Even though I felt pretty confident in my training, my body just did not have enough rest the week leading up to feel fresh and ready to tackle the course.

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Laying out the stuff the night before

The next morning, I fully woke at about 4, after a night of Dean tossing and turning on me. I had slept about 3 or so hours total because Dean likes sleeping with his head and shoulders elevated on my stomach when he’s congested and coughing like he had been. Unfortunately that means he slips off sometimes and whimpers awake in the middle of the night, and I have to help adjust him and assure him that I’m still there.

I ate breakfast, hydrated lots, and headed over to Meg’s around 6, since she so graciously offered to drive us both. By 6:30, Meg had parked in a lot alongside the Great Highway and we were shuttled to the start, where we were very relieved to see/use the portapotties and scoped out the gear check area. We started warming up around 7:30, which was perfect for Meg, who headed to the start right after her last set of strides. The 5k starts 10 minutes before the half, and so after one warm and sweaty hug, she was off!

As for me, I didn’t want to go out too fast – an old fear from high school racing – and wanted a literal sign to remind me not to bolt out of the start too fast. So when I stepped into the starting area a few minutes later, I put myself a row or two of people ahead of the 7:00/mile sign.

After the start bell rang, I got out in front anyway, because I another old fear from high school xc and track is getting tripped (and spiked, in track), and the crowd was big enough for the 13.1 distance that I felt decently afraid of all the long limbs I could run into. Since I’m not tall, I also worry more than I probably should about people even seeing me coming up behind or alongside them. The first mile went a little fast at 6:24.

My first few miles stayed below 6:40.  In the first mile, a teammate from Sacramento in the race spotted me and yelled, “Arete!” Erin and I introduced ourselves to each other, and she asked what I was aiming for. We were looking at similar paces, and so she suggested running together. I was all for it, and so we spent the first 2-3 miles getting to know each other and settling into our paces.

We lost touch right around mile 5, however, when I started pulling ahead. In hindsight, I was getting carried away with the rolling up and mostly downhill part of the course, and was too out of it (tired!!!!) to really check in with where my body and head were at. I don’t really remember noticing anything of how I was feeling. Mile 6 got away from me because of the downhill and I saw that I ran it in 6:13, and way too fast. It was therefore unsurprising, then, that as we headed out of Golden Gate Park and onto the Great Highway portion of the course, I felt like I hit a wall. At mile freaking 7.

The night before CIM, my friends Erin and Meredith and I all joked about when and where we thought “the wall” was when we first started marathoning years ago. I believe it was Meredith that talked about thinking she hit a wall at mile 4 of her training runs in those early days. But on this Sunday, I really found a wall at mile 7. I was so tired. I remember thinking that the day didn’t make sense and that the time didn’t make sense. Actually, I couldn’t remember what day it was or what time of day it was for a bit.

Thankfully, as I felt my head come apart all foggy-like, I saw Meg on the right side of the course, jumping up and down and yelling in her pink shorts. I veered right to grab a high five from her because I really wanted her energy. I must have looked pretty dead on my feet because she yelled, “I broke 20 today, so you can do this!” for inspiration. It definitely perked me up. As I headed back towards the left side of the path, I spotted my friend Danh and screamed his name for his attention and stuck my hand in front of him for a passing high five. It’s like our thing.

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2016. See? Totally our thing

I saw Paul, who I met at SRM, for the third time on the course (he and a group of November Project people had been on the Panhandle part of the course) and then it got really lonely in my head. That stretch of the Great Highway is kind of boring without huge changes in scenery, and felt endless. I’ve run along it many times when I used to live in SF, and I always loved that stretch of quiet away from people and the Muni. However, during the race, I really wanted to meander over to the sidewalk and sleep. I kept telling myself to make it to another aid station for water and nuun, or to another mile marker, but the feeling of wanting to sleep kept getting worse. Around mile 10, I saw Sarah, who I also met at SRM (she won it), a few minutes ahead of me on the return stretch of the Highway. I cheered for her and plodded to and around the turnaround point, feeling as though I was slogging through molasses.

Miles 10-12 were pretty god-awful as I felt myself slowing down. Because of the turn around and speeding up for some water, I rallied a little bit to keep the pace sub 6:40 for mile 10, but I felt so beyond over the race.  I calculated that I could run 7:00/mile and still get my 1:27. Then mile 11 happened and I felt like I really didn’t want to fight for sub 6:40s. I saw Paul again and grabbed a high five from him, because I just wanted all the energy transfer or whatever the hell I was thinking, which was probably mostly definitely “MMEEEEHHHHHHHH”. By mile 12, I was like, “Yea, I could just run the 8:00 mile and I’d have my 1:27.”

I didn’t actually slow down that much per mile, but the final hill a quarter of a mile from the finish going from the Great Highway back into Golden Gate felt like such a mean trick. Meg was about 0.1 from the finish, yelling her head off, but I had no kick. I was kind of locked into what I felt was my living-on-a-prayer pace through the finish, squeaking in a sub 1:26 with an official time of 1:25:53.

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Why am I not there yet? PC: Meg

Of course, about a minute after finishing, the elation of completing a hard thing hit, and I waited for Erin to come through for sweaty hugs and congratulations. Meg found us near some kids dressed as Clif Bars. I wish I had pictures, but alas, I clearly must not have wanted them badly enough to take pictures then, so there no silly pictures to post here. Meg and I told Erin to hit us up any time she would be in the Bay Area again before we parted ways.

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Hi, we like PRs for breakfast!

Meg and I moseyed on back to the car, with me complaining about how sore my butt felt, and Meg jangling her medals from her 5k. She placed 3rd for her age group, and had a sweet medal to prove it. She not only broke 20 minutes, but destroyed her old PR by 20 or so seconds, which is HUGE in a 5k. The race was a great one to cap off a full 50-mile training week, and glimpse into what I think will be a fast, fun, and strong year for her. I’m so happy and so proud.

As for me, I’m decently happy with my time. It’s technically a PR for the books. On a normal week of rest, I’d probably be beating myself up over not going faster. Since it wasn’t a normal week of rest (and it was still a 50 mile week for me) and because this wasn’t the bigger goal race that I’m prepping for, I’m pretty content. I honestly can’t complain with what my body was willing to give me.

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Those last 5 miles I was a tired hot mess

All in all, it was a great opportunity to re-familiarize myself with the half distance as a race distance, and to find myself in a different pace place than the last time I ran one. My next one will be the Mountains to Beach, and I’ll probably be gunning for a “real” PR then.

Next up, She Is Beautiful 10k in Santa Cruz on St. Paddy’s Day!

End of 2017, and Reflection

It’s January 2nd and after a road-trip down to SoCal for some time with my sister and future BiL and a short retreat in Indio, I finally have a moment to really reflect on the year.

Breaking 3 in Santa Rosa could have been the highlight of my running year, but my real highlight was the CIM marathon relay, because it really wasn’t about me and my goals. Of course, I wanted my relay team to do well, but I was really excited to see my friends and teammates’ training come to fruition in the full marathon. I am beyond delighted that I was there to witness so many people accomplish amazing things. The high of that weekend was pretty hard to come down from.

Two weeks later, the Oakland chapter represented at the Christmas Relays at SF’s Lake Merced for a last hurrah to celebrate an incredible first 6 months. It was fun and spirited and everything that I could have hoped for with my teammates and friends. That day my team ran negative splits every leg (Bob to Meg to Katie to me), and I ran negative mile splits on a rolling inclines sort of 4.46 mile course (and while trying to sober up from the previous night’s holiday festivities): 6:36/6:21/6:19/6:12/6:07. It was another great effort to cap off a year of quite a few efforts.

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There’s that elevation chart for the 4.46 miles around Lake Merced.

Here are the numbers for 2017:

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  • 2 marathon attempts
    • 1 DNF (my first)
    • 1 sub-3, a nearly 14 minute PR: 2:58
  • 1st 18-mile race: 2:02
  • 1st time running Wharf to Wharf: 38:21
  • 3 5ks, each one a PR in the distance: 18:27
  • Two relays
    • CIM Marathon Relay Challenge 7.3 mi leg: time not sure because I kept going
    • X-Mas Relays 4.46 mi leg: 28:22img_2099.jpg

2017 was a much more intentional run year than I’ve been in a long while. Prior to this year, I ran a couple of races a year: one would always be a turkey trot, and the other for the past 5-ish years has been a marathon. I’m a big run-streaker and I think in this last decade I’ve taken off maayyyybeeee two weeks from running, combined? This guaranteed a base of anywhere between 20 to 30 miles and training rarely included speedwork or anything super intentional beyond lacing up my shoes and heading out. This all goes to say that in hindsight, my two races a year were hardly true races, or very indicative of my running potential.

I started the year with Boston Marathon training with the intent of breaking 3 hours there, feeling I was in the best shape of my life, not to mention postpartum life. I ran my speed workouts 1-2x a week with Meg, took my easy runs easier, and looked for climbing adventures with new running friends like Erin. Unfortunately, when I developed the stomach flu the day we touched down in Boston, all hope went out the window.

The heartbreak of a DNF was possibly the best thing that happened to me. While in bed post-DNF with a 104 fever, I dragged out my computer to sign up for the Santa Rosa Marathon. It was the first of many spur-of-the moment race sign-ups that I did. I soon chose the Sirena-18 mile race in May, which did some to help me regain some confidence.

By the time Santa Rosa rolled around, I had joined Arete and also racked up 2 5ks PRs and a nice tempo at Wharf to Wharf under my belt as well. The summer races I treated less like races, and more as “fun” and “tempo” efforts. Part of it was to remember that these shorter races were just tune-ups. The other part was trying not to remember how much I hated pre-competition nerves. The same nerves that brought on anxiety-ridden nightmares and insomnia in high school.

Looking back on this year of running, I feel that I had much more true “races”, despite telling myself that most of these efforts were “for fun” and “good workouts”. The bare-naked truth is that prior to this year, my races in high school cross country were the last time I did truly intentional workouts beyond increasing mileage, and the last time I took big risks in my running. I was so burned out from racing and the anxiety that it brought, that I shied away from team-stuff and racing for a long time, thinking that I could be ok if I never really tried to be great. Being “good” or “better than the average runner” would be fine. Well, not even close.

After meeting so many amazing people this year and taking a chance on investing in them and myself, and with the numbers in from all the spontaneous race efforts, I feel pretty confident in racing in 2018. I’m ready to take more risks (maybe even blow up spectacularly from going out too fast) and be a lot more honest about testing myself. Already, I feel more at peace with knowing that if I fail at some of these tests, it’s all a healthy part of my growth.  The best part now, is that I have an awesome team for inspiration and support!

Here’s the racing schedule so far for 2018:

2/4 Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon – registered

3/17 She is Beautiful 10k – registered

4/16 Boston Marathon – registered

7/22 Wharf to Wharf  – not yet registered

12/2 California Internation Marathon – registered

Hope to see you at some of these races!

Catching Up with Mostly CIM Stuff!

Howdy, it’s been a while! Let’s see, for the last couple of months I’ve been taking it pretty easy with 30-40 mile weeks, with lots more focus on my family life, and my high school student-athletes, and generally trying to support my fellow runner friends with their training for various races. On my radar were the CIM marathon relay and Christmas Relays in SF’s Lake Merced, both in December.

At the beginning of November (first weekend of November, I believe), I ran the Alameda Holiday Kick-off 5k in 18:27. While I could call it a PR, because based on the official results it would be, the course measured a little short by my watch – I got 3.05 and my teammates had 3.04/3.06, so…close enough? True proper distance or no, I’ve dropped my 5k race PR from 19:40 in June to 18:59 in July to now 18:27, so that was pretty nice. It felt less like a rust-buster sort of a run, and instead a good little mind and body boost to get some of the FOMO I had been feeling from not having anything to officially train for. It was also my son’s first race – 3/4 of a mile! There’s a recap I need to post for a different day!

This last Sunday, I had the California International Marathon (CIM) Marathon Relay Challenge with Arete teammates from all over NorCal, and that’s what I’ll be spending most of my recap on. There were a number of friends and teammates looking to post some pretty fast times at the full marathon. Our club team, Arete, also had a number of relay teams participating a field of 56 women’s teams. Meg, Steph (the SF-Peninsula Chapter leader), and Leslie of Santa Cruz ran legs 2 through 4, respectively. Our team, “Arete-Oakland”, would ultimately place #2 overall!

The day before the race, I drove my friend Erin up to Sacramento to hit the expo around noon. I needed to drop off a box of cowbells (Arete cowbell swag) and do some last minute confirmations for my relay team. A quick snap at the expo with Arete co-founder and coach Mary, and Erin and I left to try to get into our hotel and grab a bite to eat. Since our room wasn’t ready, we headed over to a Costco about 5 blocks away and went to town on some pizza and smoothies. Erin doesn’t eat cheese, and I eat pretty much everything, so I got some extra gooey, fatty deliciousness. We walked around Costco to let the food settle a bit to kill time until we could get into our hotel room.

Once in the room, Erin got to work figuring out last minute logistics for race morning with some friends, while I coordinated more cowbell/bib pick-up stuff for my teammates. Dinner was Japanese at Mikuni – because Japanese food before Santa Rosa worked out so amazingly well – with Erin’s old friend, Meredith. She is amazing and lives in nearby-to-me Berkeley, and now I have another run-friend, yay!

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After dinner and back at the hotel, we were joined by Meg, who took a while to find our room. Like, literally, found the hotel, but couldn’t figure out the elevators to our room. She’s got a PhD, so I feel like I have a little more wiggle room to tease her about room numbers like that. Anyway, since she was leg 2 of the relay, she decided against driving up to Sac-town in the wee hours of the morning to figure out a bib situation. Like Santa Rosa Marathon Eve, I braided Erin and Meg’s hair, and we dove for our beds and books and were lights out before 9:30.

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We all woke a little after 3 to start the morning. While my leg was 7.3 miles, I figured I would stay in longer – at least till 13.1. The week leading up to CIM I started my Boston Marathon training on a whim to try a 20-week build-up, so my scheduled long-run was going to have to be 11-13 miles anyway. At the expo, Mary had said lightly that if I felt good, I should stay in longer with her. Full disclosure, a little over a week before, I had caught a stomach bug while on a family vacation in Puerto Vallarta that had left me weird with food for over a week. It wasn’t the water, the city’s water is fine and filtered – it was something my son caught and efficiently pumped out of his little body, while I was left struggling with vomit for what felt like forever (throwback to all of my Boston 2017 feelings). This meant that I figured that 7.3 miles was fine. Any longer, and I’d just literally take everything in stride with whatever my gut felt cool with. The following is TMI, but whatever, you’re here cuz you are curious about the endurance running thing or an endurance/endorphin junkie yourself, so you get it. Poops are important. I didn’t poop the morning of, but I wasn’t sure I needed to (I never did need to, which was weird in of itself), so I let it go.

At about 4:30 the next morning, Erin and I headed out so that I could drive us to the shuttle transport to the start line. I didn’t realize that that bus ride would be about 50 minutes long. I vaguely thought that it would be “nice to pee” getting on the bus. About 20 minutes into the bus ride, I realized that I SHOULD HAVE FORCED OUT ALL LIQUIDS BEFORE GETTING ON THE BUS. I started whining to Erin, who of course, was probably mentally getting ready for her full marathon slog, and really didn’t need to hear about my bladder control problems. She asked me to activate my kegel muscles, and I told her that ALL muscles – kegel and not – were basically doing all they could to hold my pee in. I was basically giving our shared bus seat a lap dance with my holding-in-pee dance. Also, if you’re postpartum, just practice the kegel stuff. It generally helps with all the pee leaking post-baby.

About 10 minutes from our destination I lost it. Like, literally lost it, into the bag that held my extra cowbells that I was checking in with my sweats to gear check. THANK GOD FOR THAT EXTRA BAG. Now, let me just point out that NONE of the bus passengers seemed to realize I was peeing like a fucking ninja into a bag on a moving bus, because they were chatting about cowbelling BECAUSE they were prompted by the sound of the cowbells that I was shaking out of the bag. MORE COWBELL ftw. ERIN, I’m so sorry you had to sit next to my sorry urinetown ass.

Anyway, off the bus, two more non-bag pees, one lost and then found relay ankle monitor + glove fiasco, warmup, and good-luck-hug to Erin later, I was off with the Arete ladies I saw near the corrals, and I joined teammate Becky, who would be running with Mary for the full 26.2 in her debut marathon. I decided pretty much in that moment that I would 200% hold on as long as I could be useful with them in their race, even after my relay hand off. Mary went off for one last bathroom stop, and Becky and I lost her. I suggested pressing forth towards the front, because that’s where Mary would ultimately want to be.

Because Becky is nearly a foot taller than me, and I’m really loud for a small person (like Monica, from Friends), I told Becky to scout while I yelled for Mary before and after the start horn went off. Sure enough, about a quarter of a mile in, I saw Mary, and screeched like a banshee for her attention while also urging Becky to shift right towards her. Woohoo!

Once together, the three of us settled into our pace. Mary asked for 6:40-6:43s consistently, so that’s what I aimed for. As the pacer, I just did the work in calling out our paces, mile splits, and noting when we were working too hard or not hard enough. I’ve only paced workouts for teammates and my student-athletes, so this was a first. I loved every freaking moment of it. Never have I enjoyed the time calculations of a race so much, and it was because I didn’t have to do it for myself. Other runners around us paused to chat a bit, and I think get a sense of pacing. I did most of the talking to strangers so that Mary and Becky could focus on what they needed to. At some point some guy ran right behind Becky and clipped her from behind, taking her down. The guy was not super apologetic about it, but at least stayed long enough to see her get up and back on her feet, though with both knees torn and heel of her palm smarting. Mary and I reassured her that she was fine and that we’d be fine, and we continued along.

Now, it’s important to note that CIM is net-downhill, which many love because it’s a course that results in fast-times and BQs for many. I have only run four marathon courses in my 7-marathon running history, and lemme tell you how much I hate net-downhill races. They are a mind-fuck (pardon my French), because they can lull a person not only into a false sense of security that it’ll be easy to run, AND I’ve always found downhill running SO MUCH HARDER on my quads and hamstrings and butt. Boston, with all of it’s famed climbs for example, is net-downhill, and it’s the downhills that shred my legs, not the uphill climbs.

So the first leg felt fast, because it was, and that first mile basically pitches you downhill and fast. It was hard not to work too hard going up on the rolling uphills before rolling right back down for the next block only to start another brief climb. All the effort going up would inevitably turn into a too-fast pace going down, and holding back was quite the mental challenge. Uphill stretches we’d hit 6:40-6:50, which would turn into 6:20-25s if I wasn’t careful.

At a little over 6 miles, I told Mary and Becky that I would be leaving them briefly to hand off to Meg at the first relay exchange. I planned to speed up around mile 7, so that I could get the darn ankle monitor off of my ankle to strap onto Meg, and hop back in to pace and not have to play catch up. (I consider catching up so much harder). So that’s what I did. at 7, I picked up the pace to a sub 6-min mile, and started screaming Meg’s name as I approached the handoff at 7.3. Unfortunately, the announcer’s voice blocked my voice (and Meg’s), so I ran past her a bit, and had to backtrack a bit to make the handoff happen.

After the handoff, I jumped back in about 20 seconds behind Meg. However, I was ahead of Mary and Becky by about 20 seconds, so I slowed for them to catch me. I paced them right through some more neighborhoods, and started warning them that I’d drop out around halfway. Mary said she wanted to stay really relaxed until 15, so I decided to stay until 14, basically continuing my pace-calling and reining in the downhill paces when necessary, and asking the ladies to keep it easy. Had I been more physically prepared to take the gu I packed into my shorts, I would have stayed in. As it was, I didn’t trust that gu wouldn’t result in gastric distress after the stomach flu (and remember, I hadn’t pooped!), and I wasn’t in the training to go much beyond the my original plan of 13.1 miles.

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At mile 14, I said a reluctant goodbye, promising to hop back in around mile 20 for the last handoff, and headed back towards the 13.5 handoff to find teammates and shuttle transportation. I saw Saige and Erin, and a bunch of other Arete teammates right on pace on the marathon course. I didn’t find Meg, and it took me a while to find the shuttles. Unfortunately, I thought the shuttles could take me to the 3rd to 4th leg handoff, which wasn’t true. I lost my shit around the shuttles because of this late-in-the-game discovery and then went even more bonkers when I discovered that the shuttle would not head off towards the finish until 9. OUR RACE STARTED AT 7, I WOULD NOT GET TO MARY AND BECKY IN TIME TO SUPPORT THEM IN THE LAST STRETCH. So, of course, I started messaging like crazy to Meg and Melissa (Arete co-founder, and She is Beautiful founder/race-director) that I’d not get to the last handoff to help Becky and Mary, despite figuring that they wouldn’t see my messages. Melissa, Mary’s husband Andy, and Lily and Brooke Santa Cruz (Arete teammates) had been zipping around to cheer at multiple stops throughout the course. They would hit 5 or 6 cheer locations, total. INHUMAN.

The bus was freezing, but then I figured that whenever we arrived at the finish, I would run the opposite direction on the race route from the finish to catch whoever I could. After de-bussing, I ran to about mile 25, and caught Becky and Mary. Becky was ahead of Mary by nearly a block, and so when Mary motioned for me to jump in, that’s just what I did. We finished that last mile together – though I really didn’t mean to go through the finish chute. I forgot that the last two turns are solidly fenced in, so I veered off towards the right for Mary to have the cameras for her marathon PR moment. (Mary and Becky ran impressive 2:57 and 2:56 times, respectively, cuz they’re SO FUCKING BALLER.) After which, she of course went on to cheer and bear hug so many of our teammates and so many other women. Erin, came through with a PR, and saved her friend Robin at the finish from collapsing into nothingness/pavement, because that’s Erin. All heart.

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Honestly, I loved Sunday because of the team-ness of the day. It was a wonderful way to end the year with so many Arete teammates from all over California, and with witnessing so many instances of women supporting women to and across the finish. Leslie, our relay team anchor, helped a struggling runner in her leg of the race, and still closed us out for a 2nd overall female relay finish! So many women PRed, including Saige, who cut 15 minutes off her marathon PR. Running for a relay TEAM success AND helping teammates in their races was the icing on the cake for why it was absolutely the right thing to do to join a club team this year.

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I’m literally running right into the end of the year so much fuller and happier and feeling more fulfilled and empowered because of the kind of way that I’ve seen our ladies lift each other up. I am basically a cheeseball about all of it, and it’s a high that’s lasting far longer than any kind of post-race glow I’ve experienced all year.

Next up, Christmas Relays at Lake Merced in SF next weekend. It should be excellent to close out 2017 with a bang.