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.

Goal-Setting

Last week, the OG-Santa Cruz chapter of my running club had its season-end celebration, and it was amazing. I don’t see enough of these women regularly to not fan-girl over what warm and wonderful (and fast!) human beings they are.

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Arete 2017 Season End Celebration in Santa Cruz

“Season” and “season-end” feel like arbitrary terms, since while summer is over, this Fall Racing Season is still relatively nascent. This means that my friends are still going after fast times and personal victories against personal demons. This weekend, in particular, was a big race weekend for many in the BAA Half Marathon, Chicago Marathon, and San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Many of my teammates are going after the California International Marathon as their goal race, and are tuning up for optimal performances at the beginning of December.

While I’m stoked for my friends, and am deliberately taking a break from racing, I can’t help but feel some racing FOMO (what? when have I ever really wanted to race??! who am I?). There seems to be no getting away from the fact that I feel like I’m off schedule, since I am locked into my hs xc coaching duties, and won’t be ramping up for Boston until end of December or early January.

This year has been a trial year. I’ve run every day year ’round for years, and before this year, rarely raced. Meeting Meg was possibly the best thing for my running (and for me). She got me out of my comfort zone, got me to remember what it means to run when you’re not a one-person wolf-pack, intro-ed me to amazing human beings, and got me racing. In the months leading up to SRM, I raced an 18-miler (PR because I never did one), 2 5k races (PRed at the first before I PRed at the second), and one 6-mile race (never raced before, so PRed) leading up to a big marathon PR at Santa Rosa.

I ran some of these races with a totally different strategy: Just go. As someone who firmly believed that negative splitting was the only race strategy that works, this new strategy seemed bonkers, but worked. I ran the second half of the Santa Rosa Marathon about 4 minutes slower than the first half (1:27 versus 1:31) in an effort to have as many miles in the bank as possible before the heat got to me, on a day that hit about 100 degrees around the time I finished. I have had no complaints with the end result … except to sort out the race blues and runner brain neuroses that linger even now.

In my “off-season”, I’ve been trying to figure out what my next steps and paces are. It’s disorienting to not have anything feel right as a goal. It almost feels to me like trying to figure out if I’m ready to date. Did I settle for that last race time? What does settling mean? Am I ready for commitment? Do I just miss the commitment of a new goal time? How high or low should my bar be? 

After this summer of PRs in every attempted distance (why the hell am I bluesy about this? oh, because I’m f***ing crazy), I’ve been wondering if I really knew what “race pace” was for me/my body. My body has changed so much in the last 3 years with pregnancy and its aftermath that I haven’t actively tried to figure out what “race pace” is in a long time. Because I ran alone 99.99% of the year prior to this year for the last decade-plus, “race pace” was whatever times I consistently saw in my daily run efforts. I also “raced” – as in, hard effort – most of my daily runs, so, wtf did I know, I’m Jon Snow. So many things are different now about my “normal” even beyond shoving a 30-lb demanding toddler in about half of my weekly runs.

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These last few months have been particularly helpful, with teammates to at times see me better than I could see and believe in my self.

As of now, I’m seriously considering getting coached. The last few months of sustaining discomfort in the meeting new people thing and racing shorter races thing have been supremely helpful. However, the fall of that 3-hour time barrier has opened up to an exciting and also deeply terrifying Other Side, and one that I’m terrified of exploring without guidance. There are some mental barriers that I don’t think I’m brave enough to break on my own, not to mention for a hobby. This, of course, also makes me wonder, how far do I take my hobby? In the coming months, that’s a question I’ll have to face, and hopefully have an answer for by the time the next cycle rolls around.

In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of people to cheer for!

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Oh, haaaaiiii, runners!

Getting Over Heartbreak and Dream Redemption

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Mile 13 at Boston 2016

Backstory: On April 18, 2016 I ran a 3:12:48 to secure my 3rd consecutive Boston Marathon medal and 6th marathon finish, with a nearly 9 minute PR. Though I had been training to break a 3 year-old PR of 3:21, I didn’t dare hope for too much. After all, I was a sleep-deprived working-mom who was constantly battling colds (even pneumonia at one point) throughout the long and late New England winter. But with the PR, I dared to set a new goal: break 3 hours. Since I generally run 1 marathon a year, and I wanted to keep my consecutive Boston Marathon streak going, I saw Boston as my one chance a year to re-qualify for Boston, and my one race to PR in. This plan was bound to blow up sooner or later, and it certainly did this April.

The Heartbreak: The day after we touched down in Boston, I came down with an awful stomach bug that did not fully disappear by race day morning. I had stopped throwing up for long enough to decide that I would attempt the full 26.2 miles. I was tracking for another 3:12 effort in the first half and felt fine…until I didn’t. Leaving Wellesley I couldn’t hydrate enough, my stomach started hardening up, and the awful tell-tale thirst & swish-swish of the fluids stuck in my stomach drove me to aid stations at miles 15 and 16 to rest, drink, throw up, and finally call it quits. After 16.5 miles, I trudged feverishly and bitterly to the shuttle with other broken comrades, knowing that I was going home with nothing but a big, fat DNF. My first.

The Redemption Race: The Santa Rosa Marathon was always meant to be The True Redemption Race after Boston 2017. I had run the T9 East Bay Sirena 18 miler a few weeks after Boston to make use of that training cycle and fitness, and to give myself a confidence boost. While it was flat and fast race, I came into this race weekend thinking that my 6:48/mile pace from the Sirena 18 was a fluke because taper-crazy me started refusing to believe that I could handle the mental and physical test of those last 8.2 miles at a similar pace. I found myself unable to fully visualize any race from the last 3 months, and unable to visualize myself running this marathon. This was my remaining shot this year to get my butt back to Boston for the 2018 marathon, but I refused to think of this race as another BQ attempt. Because I couldn’t visualize running, I tried to focus solely on the idea of that 3 hour barrier. That 2:59 number was the only number that needed to matter. I told myself that it didn’t even matter exactly  how I would achieve it during the race, I just needed to see 2:59.

On Saturday afternoon, my friend Erin picked up my neighbor/Arete teammate/training bud Meg and me, and we headed straight to the marathon expo. We grabbed our race bags and Erin got her 3:33 pacer materials and instructions, chatted a bit with friends, and left the oppressive heat as soon as possible to hydrate, eat, and rest. On our way out, we ran into my old friend Gene, who ran XC for a rival high school, and he joined us for a delicious dinner at Haku Sushi.

After dinner, the ladies and I settled in at our hotel for the night with some hair braiding – an old pre-race tradition of mine from my high school XC days – and reading. I reviewed a few favorite sections of How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald for inspiration, but felt oddly divorced from my emotions. I also worried that I still could not visualize anything. Not my pace, not a concrete plan. Just nothing.

At 3:15am the next morning, Meg, Erin, and I churned through breakfast and other pre-race routines. I still felt emotionally flat. It wasn’t until right around 45 minutes from the start that I started feeling a shadow of my usual race-day nerves, and then nausea rolled in and out in waves, periodically making me feel like I was going to be sick again, taking me back to April.

Fearing that I’d give up on myself before I even started running, I scribbled on my arm with a marker borrowed from a race volunteer: “YOU WANT THIS” went on my hand. “Sky above me, Earth beneath me, Fire within me” went on the inside of my forearm. “2:59” went on the inside of my wrist, next to my Garmin. This was new. Scribbling mantras/goals on myself was not part of my usual routine, but neither was quitting, and I still felt shame for quitting back in April, even if it was for a perfectly smart and healthy reason. I needed to put all the positivity out there where I could see it when I needed it, and so on my skin it all went.

When we were allowed into our corral, I said good lucks to Meg and Erin, and positioned myself right at the starting line right next to Gene. Though scheduled to start at 6:00, the race didn’t start until 6:37am, and by then I was itching to be done. The temperature was set to reach 100 degrees, and I wanted to avoid running in the heat as much as possible.

I went out too fast – around 6:00, even dipping sub-6 pace a few times – the first half mile. There were bike leads for the top three men and top three women in the race, and I found myself being pulled by the 1st Female bike escort for about 3 minutes before I could properly reign myself in and slow down. “Slowing down” meant that I followed Brett, the cyclist for Female #3 from mid-1st mile on. That first mile was a little too fast at 6:22, and I figured I needed to sit at 6:40-6:50 to make the pace sustainable. Given the forecast for the day, however, I started thinking by miles 2 and 3 that banking some time on faster miles in the first half of the race while it was cooler would be helpful for when the wall of pain and exhaustion came down in the later miles. I forgot that I had issues visualizing this race, and focused on being flexible and smart in the moment, going by feel.

I dutifully grabbed water at the aid stations to sip and throw over my head to try to stay cool, knowing that I heat up quickly. I took a gel every 6 miles. I stayed in a 6:30-6:50 range per mile, surging when I felt like it, but generally tried to run relaxed.

I headed into mile 10, the DeLoach Winery, with a group of three guys – Paul, Lucas, and Sam. We chatted about our goals to all run sub-3 marathons, and joked around. Among other things, Paul said something like, “This is just an 20 mile long run, with a 10k race.” Oh, the things we endurance athletes tell ourselves as motivation but make us sound out of our minds. As we headed into the Barrel Room together, Lucas told us all to “look pretty” for the photographer. The men turned their caps around to better show off their lovely faces, and we all threw our hands up for the flashes as we rolled on through.

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LOOK PRETTY!

The guys started to pull ahead as we headed into miles of rolling inclines. I ran the first half in 1:27:33, faster than I’ve ever run a half (I’ve only done 3, and it’s been YEARS), and felt decent about banking solid mileage and a few minutes of a time buffer for when I might blow up/hit a wall. I was also a little tired from chatting while running at 6:35-6:39 pace. So I slowed a bit to keep just a touch slower than my goal marathon pace to sit at 6:57/6:59 for the next couple of miles, chatting much more easily at this pace with Brett, my bike escort, and yelling “Car” to warn runners behind me when cars came onto the road.

I picked up the pace a little 15 through 18, with my jaw set with a little more fatigue than before. I kept looking down at my watch to ensure that I was in the right range for my splits – 6:46/6:43/6:48/6:48 – just fine. Then the slight downhill at mile 20 leading into a slow climb on the Santa Rosa Creek Trail back towards downtown sucked my legs of energy. The narrowness of the path meant that I was running alongside the half-marathoners. Brett was amazing at clearing the left side for me and other full marathon runners. I basically held my right arm up with a thumbs up for what felt like was a quarter of the remaining mileage on that trail, while saying “thank you” and  “good job” and other brief messages of encouragement to the runners that stepped aside for me, and to some of the marathon men that started to pass me. All part of staying positive.

At mile 23, Brett gave me a heads up that he was switching up on me; I was going to catch the 2nd female runner. At that point, I had felt that Brett had been such a huge part of my race experience that I was really sad about the hand off. I even hoped for a moment that the runner would rally. As I passed her, I asked her to stay with me, and told her she was doing great. She shook her head at me, and told me her quads were shot. I gave her a thumbs up and moved on with bike escort #2 and told Brett to take good care of her.

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Sufferfest 2017, SRM Edition

Miles 23-26 were my slowest during the race, and each one was slower than the next as I climbed towards the finish. (This is a pretty flat course, btw, I was just hurting bad in this stretch.) Despite not wanting to slow down too much, I just couldn’t hold onto the sub-7:00 pace during these miles. I was too hot, too thirsty. I felt like I was dragging ass -7:04/7:07/7:13/7:19. Thankfully I had, in fact, banked enough time in the first half, so that it looked like I might still make it to my goal time.

During those slower miles, I wavered and flirted with the idea of earning a finish time in the 3:00-3:05 range at the start of every new mile segment. And every time I humored settling, I would be filled with disgust, and told myself that if I failed my goal, I would have to go through another training cycle. Since I basically hadn’t taken a true break between my Boston Marathon and Santa Rosa training cycles, I was desperate for the mental and physical break from training that I would earn in meeting my goal. I didn’t work this hard for the last 8 months for nothing (I had wanted to run a sub-3 at Boston, a much hillier/harder course), and I certainly didn’t spend a night away from my son (who told me he was upset that I didn’t come home when I called home the night before) to fall short of a big goal. In those awful last miles, I knew that I didn’t have it in me to face my own self if I couldn’t do what I set out to do.

The final 0.2 was mercifully off the creek trail. Just the sight and feel of a real street gave me relief that the sufferfest would soon be over. I saw my husband and son with a poster (my husband doesn’t do posters, so this was a HUGE deal) near the 26 mile marker, yelled my son’s name, and hurled myself towards the last turns and through the finish. I knew from the glance on the clock as I headed down that not only did I meet my goal but even a little better: 2:58 and change. All the months of shame and self doubt following April melted away. I also came in 2nd female overall, a happy surprise.

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My O-shitididit Face. The timer is for the Half-Marathon

Brett rode in soon after, with the 3rd female in tow, and gave me a huge hug in congratulations. Had I had the fluids for it, I would have cried tears of joy. Instead, I dry sobbed happily for a few moments and congratulated as many people as I could, including Sarah, the female champion.

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1 and 2, left to right

I grabbed some lemonade, water, watermelon slices, and hobbled to Gear Check to grab the bag that held all of Erin, Meg, and my things. I saw Lucas and Paul again, and we all congratulated each other. My husband and son met me at Gear Check, and we headed over to the last corner before the finish chute to cheer for Erin and Meg. While waiting for them to come through, my husband told me that my timing chip malfunctioned, and that I was not tracking from mile 8 onwards.

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Posters are love.

We put a pin in the timing chip discussion, though, since we spotted Erin and Meg approach the finish, and we all (my son included) cheered like maniacs for them. Erin and Meg looked strong and both wore huge, photogenic smiles as they headed into the  last straightaway. My husband and son headed off to find them, while I went to the timing tent to ensure that my time was fixed.

Sarah went with me to the timing tent, because she was listed as the 3rd female finisher in the full marathon, while I was indeed not listed at all. Handwritten times and bib numbers from race officials at the finish confirmed that Sarah and I were the rightful 1 and 2 female finishers, respectively. Becky, the woman running the timing tent, took my timing chip and discovered that it was encoded incorrectly, and proceeded to upload and fix the data. My panic at having no record of my finish went away. It was also in this tent that I verified my official PR time: 2:58:46!

I rejoined the ladies, my family, and Gene by the HoneyBuckets (WHY DO WE CALL PORTA POTTIES “HONEYBUCKETS”? THEY SMELL AWFUL.), where we shared and celebrated our achievements: Erin and her pacing partner Simon brought in their pace group just ahead of their 3:33 planned pace with a 3:32, and Meg earned a rock-solid BQ in her first marathon postpartum. Gene, who I had lost track of at the start because I went out like an idiot rocket, had run a 3:13 in his first marathon since a foot fracture in the spring.

 

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My friends are badasses.

It’s now 5 days post-marathon, and it’s still sinking in that I achieved what I did. I told myself frequently these last few months that if I couldn’t break the 3-hour barrier on my own, then I would get myself a coach. Since I did achieve my goal, this would normally mean that I’d have set another Big Scary Hard Goal at another race by now. This time, however, the Big Scary Hard Thing is to let myself fully believe that I really earned this new marathon PR, and enjoy the fruits of my long labor. I dared to dream, and now I dare to be present to enjoy its fulfillment. I really, truly earned it.

 

 

 

 

Welcome!

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I’m Connie, and this coffee from Verve in Santa Cruz is as glorious as it looks!

I’m Connie, and I’m a mom, educator, hobby-runner, and proud Bay Area native. Growing up in Silicon Valley meant that I have always had arguably too much screen-time, and was absolutely a contributor to the lovely bubble of emo xanga posts in the early 2000s.

As an adult, I’ve thought about starting a blog off and on for a long time. I’ve even half-assed a couple attempts in the past that never quite made it to publishing stage, and an abandoned tumblr here or there. My blogging dilemma was that while I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things, I was never quite sure of what kind of content I really wanted to put out there to an audience.

Would I write about running? other hobbies? my struggles with work-life balance? my relationships? the fact that I can’t seem to successfully potty-train my almost 3-year old? It’s hard to curate/carve a space when my social media identity is a whole hodgepodge of things.

With every major change in my life – getting married, having a child, a couple of cross-country moves, job changes – I have felt that increased niggling to put my thoughts out there, beyond the caption contest that can be my Instagram feed. Now, I’ve finally built to confidence to put my musings out there on the great world wide web. As such, I welcome you to look around, read around, and share as you will!