Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Race week cutback, blah dee blah dee blah...

The big story of week 12 was Folsom Blues Breakout Half, my last tune-up race before CIM, which also meant a much-needed mileage cut-back.

When I was scheduling things way back in March this race & my sister's wedding weekend seemed AGES apart (a whole week!!), but reality was very different. I kind of hit the ground running once we got back & felt like I never really got a chance to catch my breath, & several late nights and early morning work calls meant I didn't get as much as sleep as I probably needed.

By Wednesday I was actively starting to feel sick which was not not NOT how I had planned for this race weekend to go! I don't know what I would have done if this was supposed to be another 50+ week.

* * *

Grand Total: 35.5 miles

    * 14.3 easy
    * 8 speed
    * 13.1 race(ish)

Monday 10/17: Rest/fly home from Tejas.

Tuesday 10/18: 2 warm-up, 3 x 800m / 300m jog, 30:00 @ MP, 3 x 800m / 300m jog, 2 cool down = 10 speed/12 total.

    Going into this run, I was NOT feeling particularly excited about it considering a) Sunday's sketchy tempo run and how difficult those not-even-8:00 miles felt, b) it's the second longest track session on my schedule, and c) I was planning to race a half hard just five days later.

    I felt a little better after the warm-up, but I still wanted to save my legs for FBB so tried hard to keep the 800m's in check & within just a few seconds of the assigned 7:00 pace. The 30:00 at marathon felt surprisingly easy (which I did not expect after Sunday), and I actually finished the workout feeling as as if I'd run maybe 4-6 miles easy & not at all like I had just finished 12 on the track. Maybe consistent training, like, works or whatever?

Wednesday 10/19: Karate. Also, start feeling sick.

Thursday 10/20: 8 easy.

    As I think I've written about every Thursday easy run for the past 11 weeks, I started out feeling sort of tired & crappy, but by the end actually felt pretty good. The cherry on top was plugging all the data into my running economy spreadsheet & seeing that this was actually the most efficient run heart rate-wise I've done since I started tracking the data. (More evidence that consistent training is not complete bullshit? You be the judge!) Didn't see that coming after Sunday!

Friday 10/21: Rest.

    My favorite part of race week! Also highly necessary considering how crappy I was feeling. Basically I came home from work a little early, ate a bowl of cereal, and went to bed.

Saturday 10/22: 2 easy.

    Got up at 7:30am to do my shakeout run & watch Stanford lose an ugly game (boo), headed back to SF, threw my stuff in the car, & got on the road to Folsom.

Sunday 10/23: .3 warm up + 13.1 race = 13.4 total

    Race report coming soon!

* * *

CIM 2016 Week 1 of 18 - It's On

CIM 2016 Week 2 of 18 - Escape From NY (Barely)

CIM 2016 Week 3 of 18 - A Discount Code to Share (+ back on Strava!)

CIM 2016 Week 4 of 18 - 18/day, 47.5/week, 205.5/month.

CIM 2016 Week 5 of 18 - That cutback feeling

CIM 2016 Week 6 of 18 - french toast, trail shoes, & a little race fatigue

CIM 2016 Week 7 of 18 - Big week & feelin' fine!

CIM 2016 Week 8 of 18 - Knee Troubles :(

CIM 2016 Week 9 of 18 - Improvement on the knee front!

CIM 2016 Week 10 of 18 - Train kept a-rollin' (+ free shoes!)

CIM 2016 Week 11 of 18 - Texas Half Marathon #1 (+ my sister's wedding!)

Friday, October 21, 2016

'Race' Report: Honored Hero Half Marathon

Le Setup

Training on the road is always a challenge. It's no big deal to whip out a couple of 5-6 milers when I'm not really training earnestly for something, but right now I am deep in the thicket of goal marathon training, which can often mean trying to squeeze multiple double-digit runs into a trip if I'm going to stick to my plan.

It can be extra challenging because if I'm traveling, almost by definition there is something going on that has to take priority over running, whether it's work or family events or what have you. Obviously there is a financial limit to how many weekends I am willing to pay for "races" where I'm not actually planning to race, but I don't have a lot of great options for long runs when visiting my family and I've really been trying to give it my all this cycle.

Since my long run this week was only 15 miles, I decided to look for a nearby half marathon on the weekend I was in town for my sister's wedding. And, I was in luck! We usually stay in Hurst (in between Ft. Worth and Dallas but slightly closer to Fort Worth), and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had a small charity event scheduled for Sunday morning in Trinity Park, just 20 minutes from our hotel. There was a 10K, a half-marathon, and a 20-miler, so after double checking that it wouldn't interfere with any of the wedding events later that day, I signed up.

As I mentioned in last week's training log, my original plan was just to run 1.9 miles before the race, then run the half comfortably to get my 15 miles done for the day. Later, though, I realized that Friday's tempo run was actually a pretty big one, 14 miles with 10 at goal marathon pace, which I was not too keen to do on a treadmill. After some vacillating, I decided I'd rather do 15 easy miles on the treadmill and 14 with 10 at goal pace on an actual race course where I might be a little more motivated.

None of this worked out exactly as planned. Firstly, I just didn't end up having the time on Friday for 15 consecutive miles. I ended up fitting in 10, and even that was at a slightly faster pace than I should really be doing my "easy" runs. Knowing I had the harder workout early Sunday morning, I'd planned on just doing an easy 3-4 on Saturday, but instead I had the leftover 5 as well. So, 7.7 on Saturday it was. (Also later than I'd intended and faster than was probably smart. Oops.)

Le Race Morning

Anyhoo, I got up at 6:30am Sunday morning (so 4:30am Pacific Time), threw my stuff in a bag, grabbed a breakfast sandwich at the nearest Starbucks, & headed into Fort Worth. I got there a little later than I wanted, considering I knew nothing about the staging area or parking and still had to get my bib and run my extra 1.9 miles, and by the time I parked, got my bib, realized I had the wrong bib, and got that sorted out, I only had time for one mile before the race.

And let me tell you, that one mile did not inspire confidence.

First, it was not hot as Texas goes (maybe 75F at 8am), but it was about 80% humidity. The word that comes to mind in terms of the weather is 'swampy.' After just a few minutes of easy jogging I was practically dripping.

On top of this, my legs just felt heavy & didn't want to turn over. I ran that warm-up mile in maybe 10:14 and when I thought about the prospect of ratcheting down to 8:00-8:15 I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Warming up on the front of the course

On the other hand, my rallying cry these last few weeks has been "BRING THE ADVERSITY!" because, let's face it, if you can't figure out how to pick it up when you feel like crap, you might as well pack it in now because ain't no one gonna feel fresh and spunky at mile 22. So I just decided I'd put in the effort, work hard, and do the best I could, and if I couldn't get those low 8's happening today for 10 miles in a row, it wouldn't be for lack of trying.

"Maybe once the race starts you'll perk up," I kept telling myself. "Maybe you'll feel better once you're out on the course with everyone."

Le Race

Lolololol. No. No I did not. In fact I spent most of those first three easy miles reflecting on how badly I wanted to be just about anywhere but out here doing this. Basically I lacked focus and my head was elsewhere, and I think that always makes things harder.

And then, of course, there was the gravel. I have definitely, definitely lost my shit before in races due to #surprisegravel, so I tried really hard to have a good attitude about it this time: "ADVERSITY! BRING THE ADVERSITY!" "Maybe it's only for a few miles..." etc. It wasn't the entire course, but it was a lot of it, and since there was literally nothing I could do I kind of just sighed inwardly & tried to make the best of it. (If I were to run this course again, I would definitely wear trail shoes because there were also some chewed up places on the concrete.)

    Mile 1 - 9:19
    Mile 2 - 9:16
    Mile 3 - 9:07

I'd already decided that when I hit mile four I wouldn't try to instantaneously jump to 8:00 miles but instead just gradually speed up and see how easy or hard it felt. Thankfully, for the first couple of miles, it didn't feel all that hard. Then again, my GPS had been acting kind of funny all morning, so I'd started doing manual laps rather than letting it auto-lap. Which means either the GPS went REALLY crazy or mile 4 was super short.

    Mile 4 - 7:24
    Mile 5 - 8:01

(FWIW GPS thinks "mile" 4 was actually .92, ie 8:06 pace, which makes more sense. I'm not great at pacing but generally I'm not THAT bad.)

Once I sped up to low 8's, I started passing a lot of people, but as I headed into that last mile before the turnaround the trail curved around and I found myself running into what must have been at least a 20mph headwind. Like, I nearly lost my hat and couldn't keep my eyes open and felt like I was barely moving forward. Suddenly I went from feeling mostly okay running low 8's to barely holding on to mid-8's. I tried telling myself, "Hey, that means you'll have an awesome tail wind once you turn around!" But it sure didn't feel like it, and I didn't feel any better. Suddenly my legs just felt completely fried and I had no idea how I was going to keep this up.

    Mile 6 - 8:15
    Mile 7 - 8:29
    Mile 8 - 7:59
    Mile 9 - 8:18

After mile 8 I thought, "Woohoo, maybe I can still do this!," but then somewhere in mile 9 there was a very short but very, very steep uphill (there were a handful of these up and down along the course), and it was like somehow that just broke me. I powered up the hill as soon as I crested the top my legs turned to Jello. Cardiovascularly I didn't feel like I was working that hard (and my HR monitor agrees) but my legs felt D-O-N-E, which was depressing.

The rest of the trip back was more or less a slow implosion. It wasn't that hot but the humidity was so bad that I felt overheated. There was intermittent heavy wind ("Cooling wind!" I tried to tell myself. "A nice cooling wind!") and more and more I felt like I just couldn't move the thick heavy air in and out of my lungs effectively. In the last few miles I actually started to feel really light-headed and have trouble running in a straight line. I felt really hot but also like I was shivering, and once or twice nearly had a heart attack because for just a second I could swear I could see ostriches chasing me out of the corner of my eye.

(There were no ostriches. Which is good, because the only thing in a race worse than #surprisegravel is probably #surpriseostriches. Also HOLY TAN LINES BATMAN.)

    Mile 10 - 8:29
    Mile 11 - 8:26
    Mile 12 - 8:32

This is the first time in a while I can actively remember worrying about whether I would physically be able to finish a race. I remember feeling really relieved when I got within a couple of miles of the finish, because I knew that if I did pass out or something, someone would probably find me before something really terrible happened. In that last mile I felt completely, utterly awful in a way I only remember feeling at the end of my worst marathons. At one point I remember repeating to myself, "Just don't throw up, just don't throw up, just don't throw up." (I in fact did NOT throw up, so #smallvictories.)

And then, as I got closer and closer to the finish line, I realized that it was at the top of a VERY steep, not-all-that-short hill, like steep enough that I wasn't sure I could run it.

"oh fucking hell," I may have muttered to myself, weaving around the turn like a drunk giraffe. (But I did not walk it!)

    Mile 13 - 9:02
    Mile .3 - 2:36 (8:40 pace)

The last tenth was actually .3 by my watch. I stumbled through the finish with barely enough hand-eye coordination intact to take my medal and a water bottle and then sort of half-slid, half-rolled my way down the very steep hill back to the staging area where I became quite vexed at the lack of seating areas or shade of any kind. On the plus side, they DID have plenty of ice-cold water bottles, and I am not kidding that I guzzled two and poured two more over every part of my body. God, I felt awful.

So, if you do all the math (going by my watch), I ran those last 10.12 miles at ~8:20 average pace. Not the pace I'd planned on, but not actually as far off as I'd thought at the time. According to all the pace calculators my marathon pace is "supposed" to be something like 7:50 or 7:55 and I do like the way 8:00 pace looks on my watch, but seeing as 26.2 is not my forte, I'll still be over the moon if I can run CIM at even ~8:10 pace.

Le Analysis

I don't really know why I felt just SO awful and low 8's felt SO hard, but if I had to guess, some top candidates might be:

  • I've run over 100 miles in the last 2 weeks.
  • Crazy (ie normal for Texas) humidity
  • Crazy wind in some stretches
  • Gravel (NEMESIS die in a fire)
  • General travel exhaustion/stress (not eating & sleeping normally, more time on my feet, etc.)
  • My expectations are just too high

Honestly, though, it's all speculation and who ever knows why you feel great one day & terrible the next. I could wring my hands about it and drive myself crazy trying to figure it out, but I feel like it's probably a lot more productive to just get on with the rest of training. It was what it was (a super tough workout!), and all I can do at CIM is run the best race I can on that day, whatever the circumstances turn out to be.

(Also: Two days later, I ran nearly 4 miles at 7:58ish pace between sets of 800m's with no trouble at all. So that was moderately reassuring.)

Three states down, 47 to go!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: Trinity Park, Ft. Worth, TX

Date: Mid-October (Oct 16, 2016 this year).

Price: From the website:

Deadlines/sellout factor: This was a small, local charity race run by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, so selling out is probably not an issue. There was also race day registration.

Field Size: I'll update this part once they post results, but I don't think it could have been more than 50 people in each distance.

The Expo: I don't think there was an expo really, but there was packet pickup available 10:30am-6pm on both Friday and Saturday at Luke's Locker, a local running store in Ft. Worth. Since that wasn't an option for me I was super happy there was race day pickup.


The race was staged in Trinity Park roughly at the corner of W. 7th and Strayton Dr, basically at the Fort Worth Police & Firefighters Memorial (a nice brick building that provides a little shade). It was super easy to get to and there was plenty of parking along Strayton. (I think I had to walk less than a quarter mile from where I parked.)


Staging area down the hill. (You can see a crowd of people gathering at the start/finish for the 20 miler up on the ridge in the background.)

Bib & T-shirt pick up areas were set up in the shaded area of the memorial, and several port-a-potties were just a short distance a way. There were only five or six, but they seemed sufficient for the number of people present. The only downside was that the start/finish was up on a nearby ridge, so you had to climb up or down a very steep hill to go between the two. (This was fine before the race, but getting back down on post-race legs was, um, an adventure.)

Memorial where bib/shirt pickup was staged

The Course:

The course started and finished on hard-packed dirt up on kind of a ridge. The dirt part was very brief and also very easy to run on. Most of the course followed a kind of bike/jogging trail through Trinity Park, which was roughly half pavement and half gravel. You can tell that it's almost completely flat, but because it alternated between up on a ridge and down below the ridge, there were a handful of very brief but quite steep ups and downs along the course getting between the two. I don't know whether this is always the case or not but it was VERY windy on this particular day when I was up on the ridge.

It wasn't crazy hot and sunny, but it is worth noting that the course is mostly exposed, so if it happens to be hot and sunny, things could get pretty uncomfortable pretty quickly (Texas). On the other hand, I thought there were plenty of aid stations, all stocked with water and Gatorade and even gels at some, also with plenty of enthusiastic volunteers (which was nice as I became less and less mentally functional).

(Also, I can't not say it; that last .1/.3/whatever where you had to run back up the big hill to the start/finish was a BITCH.)


Logo T-shirt & finisher medal, plus post-race snacks. (As I've mentioned before I have a basement full of race shirts I don't need, and since I definitely did not need anything extra to take home in my luggage, I skipped the shirt.) I left the medal at my mom's house, but you can see it in the picture above. Also plenty of ice cold water and fruit at the finish.

If you decide to run:

  • There is gravel and some chewed up pavement so personally I'd wear trail shoes (but that's also because my "normal" running shoes tend to be on the thinner, less cushioned side, so if yours have a nice thick skin maybe you'll be fine).
  • The handful of short steep ups and downs are not a big deal but nice to know about in advance.
  • Be prepared for strong winds on the portions that are up on the ridge.
  • Parking was fine, but I would still try to arrive more than half an hour beforehand because otherwise you might be walking like half a mile.
  • It's Texas in October so weather-wise, WHO KNOWS??? Though, maybe if I still lived there, the humidity would have bothered me less.

Overall Assessment:

This was a well-organized event as far as my experience went with lots of enthusiastic volunteers in the staging area as well as out on the course. Personally, I don't think *I* would run it again because of the gravel on the course, but that's my personal issue. I was just grateful that this event was happening near me at all so that I didn't have to do this terrible horrible no-good workout on a hotel treadmill, so THANKS LLS!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

CIM WEEK 11 of 18: Texas Half Marathon #1 (+ my sister's wedding!)

Cool western fonts are the best.

This big news this week, of course, was OMG MY LITTLE SISTER GETTING MARRIED!!!! Of course there were a ton of professional pictures taken, but I managed to snap a few decent ones with my phone.

Mom putting on the finishing touches


Littler sister/MOH giving the toast

First dance w/ Dad


We flew in on Thursday & I pretty much went immediately from the airport to the bachelorette party & didn't get back to the hotel until nearly 3:00am. The rest of the weekend was similarly jam-packed with various wedding-related events and responsibilities. It was so much fun and super exciting and of course ridiculous amounts of weeping and sniffling occurred Sunday afternoon and evening before and during the actual wedding. We flew home Monday afternoon, completely exhausted, and I've barely been a functional person since.

Of course, all this meant that any running (or sleeping) kind of had to be shoe-horned in around the festivities however time allowed. I know I was making jokes last week about the luxury of cutting back from 57 miles to "merely" 50ish, but it turns out that, oh right, 50 is still a fairly high number for me under the best of circumstances! So, I'm sort of amazed I actually managed to do it. (Because obviously the top priority was still wedding stuff and there was no way I was going to worry about miles at the expense of being a good sister/bridesmaid.)

And, though I was exhausted come Monday morning, I have to say that I feel a lot better than I expected, especially given how that half marathon on Sunday went down (race report here).

* * *

Grand Total: 50 miles

    * 34.7 easy
    * 5.3 speed
    * 10 race pace(ish)

Monday 10/10: Karate. Guys, my strength work game lately has gotten so weak. SO WEAK!!

Tuesday 10/11: 2 warm-up, 6 x 200m / 200m jog, 20:00 @ MP + 0:30, 6 x 200m / 200m jog, 2 cool down = 5.3 speed/9.3 total.

    On the one hand, this was kind of a "recovery" speed workout after Sunday's fast finish 20, which I needed--I was tired and my legs were definitely feeling sluggish. But add to that the fact that the workout was a 200m sandwich (the last workout I did before my knee gave out) and the track was closed for a field hockey game--meaning I had to do the 200m's on the concrete Upper Track of Doom--I was not not NOT feeling excited about this workout. In fact I was kind of terrified.

    In any case I got through the whole thing with only a little discomfort (running the curves DEFINITELY irritates the right knee a bit) with nearly all the 200m's between :41 & :44 (5:30-6:11). The concrete track isn't marked so I had to do them by a combination of GPS & landmarks, so there's probably not much point in comparing them to when I've run 200m's on the track. But, the last time I ran them up on the concrete like this, I was running them in :44-:49 (6:11-6:36), AND I hadn't just run a fast(ish) finish 20 miler.

    So that's something to feel good about, I guess?

Wednesday 10/12: Rest.

    I thought about trying to get a few easy miles out of the way after work but my legs were giving me some serious yellow flags so I didn't bother. I was glad we'd cancelled karate for the night because I barely managed to get myself packed. #woefulwednesdays

Thursday 10/13: 8 easy.

    Since I didn't do anything on Wednesday, I got up early to squeeze this one in before our flight to Texas. In the grand tradition of Thursday runs, I started this one with next to zero enthusiasm but it got a bit easier as it went on. It was hotter than I'd hoped it would be that early, but I finished feeling kinda-sorta 60-40 okay. (No knee troubles, which, let's be honest, is the main thing these days.)

    For the bachelorette party, we started at Painting With a Twist (where you bring your own booze & drink while you paint), & then had a pole dancing class.


It turns out pole dancing is shockingly fun!

The woman who looks like she knows what she's doing was the teacher.

Friday 10/14: 15 long 10 easy.

    Originally my plan had been to use the half marathon on Sunday for my 15 mile cut-back "long" run. (It's hilarious to me at this point in marathon training that 15 miles ever qualifies as "long." I feel like at this point I don't even have to be *conscious* to jog 15 easy miles.)

    But, that was before I realized that Friday's scheduled tempo run was 14 miles with 10 at goal marathon pace. Since all my Texas running besides the race would have to be done on a treadmill, I decided I'd rather zone out on a treadmill for 2+ hours than run 10 race pace miles on one, so I swapped the days, intending to do 15 easy on Friday and the 14 with 10 at race pace on Sunday. But it turned out I didn't really have the time for that on Friday, so I just did what I could & pushed the rest to Saturday.

The carrot: Delicious post-dinner cocktails at Proper in Fort Worth.

Saturday 10/15: 7.7 easy.

    I'd been hoping to do just a quick 3-4 easy shakeout on Saturday, but running out of time the day before meant those leftover miles got pushed over. Part of me wondered if maybe I should have just let them go & spent the extra 40-50 minutes off my feet before my big workout Sunday, but what's done is done.

Rehearsal dinner Saturday evening

Sunday 10/16: 1 warm up + 13.1 race + .9 treadmill = 10 tempo-ish/15 total + WEDDING!!!!

    I'll write more about this [***update race report here***] but let's just say those race pace miles did not exactly go as planned, but under the circumstances I wasn't terribly surprised. Essentially I ended up filing this day and really the entire week under "Eh, you worked hard and got the miles in, and it was what it was." So, I'm more or less at peace with it.

Next Sunday is my last tune-up race before CIM--Folsom Blues Breakout Half in Folsom. I'd like a nice fast race, obviously, but mainly I'm just hoping it goes better than Oakland Half did before Eugene!

* * *

CIM 2016 Week 1 of 18 - It's On

CIM 2016 Week 2 of 18 - Escape From NY (Barely)

CIM 2016 Week 3 of 18 - A Discount Code to Share (+ back on Strava!)

CIM 2016 Week 4 of 18 - 18/day, 47.5/week, 205.5/month.

CIM 2016 Week 5 of 18 - That cutback feeling

CIM 2016 Week 6 of 18 - french toast, trail shoes, & a little race fatigue

CIM 2016 Week 7 of 18 - Big week & feelin' fine!

CIM 2016 Week 8 of 18 - Knee Troubles :(

CIM 2016 Week 9 of 18 - Improvement on the knee front!

CIM 2016 Week 10 of 18 - Train kept a-rollin' (+ free shoes!)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Race Preview: Folsom Blues Breakout Half Marathon

My big goal race for the end of this year is Cal International Marathon in Sacramento. I like to race a half marathon 4-5 weeks out from a goal marathon just as a tune-up and a way to get a realistic sense of where my fitness is, and in terms of non-trail races that I could easily drive to, Folsom Blues Breakout was the one that fit the bill best in terms of timing. (Some others I considered were Grape Stomp, Cloverdale Harvest, Two Cities, and Run with the Jets.)

At first, my thought process was that I should find the fastest, most time-favorable course possible so that I could get a reasonably accurate idea of my fitness. In retrospect, though, it makes more sense to run your tune-up races on courses as similar to your goal race as possible, and (although I didn't realize it when I signed up), it's looking like FBB will probably end up being a good choice on that count.

Also, funnily enough, FBB starts mere steps from the CIM starting line on Folsom-Auburn Road and very briefly follows the same course. From what I've been able to suss out from the internet, it begins with a very short uphill (I'm pretty sure I know the one from CIM) followed by a screaming fast downhill that lasts about 2 miles. For the most part people seem to describe the rest as gentle but noticeable rollers (hello, CIM!) and one sort of annoying uphill at the tail end. Which all makes me think that whatever time I manage to whip out, it should be a pretty fair indicator of what I can expect to do at CIM.

Speaking of what I can expect, let us turn to the wisdom of Ye Olde Race Tyme Predyctionne Calculatorse.

I had a really fantastic 10K race in early September, running just 17 seconds off my all-time PR. Based on that, the interwebz predict.....

Runner's World:



Marathon Guide:

Chicago Endurance:

(Did you have any idea there were so many online race time predictors? I thought this was great fun.)

So, it seems like maybe I'm not *completely* crazy to think that if I have a good day, I could run a sub-1:40 (especially given that I'll be 6-7 weeks further along in training than at the 10K). I feel like it will probably come down to 1) smart race tactics/not doing anything stupid & 2) getting enough sleep & rest next week so that I'm not running on completely exhausted legs. (There is a time for that, but I don't really want it to be this particular race.)

Historically I have not put a lot of stock in race prediction calculators when it comes to predicting my marathon times, as sub-1:40 half marathons have for me tended to correlate with marathons anywhere from 3:35 (PR) to 3:55. On the other hand, if I don't get injured again & am able to complete my entire training plan, I will have run way, WAY more miles than in any previous marathon cycle. So perhaps there is hope. :)

Your experience with race time calculators? What say you? To be trusted?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Come Meet & Run with Meb!!

The folks at Generation UCAN recently reached out about an opportunity for Bay Area runners to come meet and run with 4x Olympian Meb Keflezighi this coming Sunday!


    "4x Olympian and marathon champion Meb Keflezighi is coming to A Runner's Mind in Burlingame!

    We'll kickoff the morning with a fun run with Meb and let you share the road with a legend in U.S. distance running, followed by a special Q&A featuring the stories behind some of his most iconic moments as you recover like Meb with UCAN smoothies.

    Join us for all that plus a special raffle featuring prizes from A Runner's Mind, UCAN, and autographed items from Meb!

    WHEN ::
    Sunday, October 16
    Run with Meb: 9 AM (5K/10K options)
    Q&A: 10 AM

    WHERE ::
    A Runner's Mind Burlingame
    1111 Howard Ave
    Burlingame, CA 94010


I'll miss it due to being out of town for my sister's wedding, but the rest of your Bay Area running folk should most definitely check it out!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

'Race' Report: Healdsburg Half Marathon

Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon was the race where I ran my current half marathon PR in 2012 (as I recall, all three of us in fact PR'd at that race!), so although it is kind of a wind-ey and hilly race, it holds a special place in my heart. Ever since Cat, Jen, and I first met there in 2012, we've been talking about doing a "reunion race" there, but this is the first year that timing (and the injury gods) has allowed it to happen. Cat was running it as her 'A' race, Jen was doing it as part of a long run (also training for CIM), and our friend Jess also flew up from Oklahoma to join us!

Jen, me & Cat. Ah, how young and fresh-faced we were! #tbtfouryearsago

Sadly, our friend Kate was not able to make it, but she was there in spirit. Also in 2D cutout.

The three of them were way more on the ball than me and booked a nearby AirBnB while I was still hemming and hawing about my plans, so I was extremely grateful that by the time I got my life worked out they were still willing to let me bring my sleeping bag and tag along. (Since I needed to run 7 miles before the 7:30 start, that probably would have meant getting up at 3am for the drive to Healdsburg. Not appealing!)

Healdsburg WINE COUNTRY Half Marathon ;)

Since my tune-up half marathon (Folsom Breakout Blues) is in two weeks and I want to be (marginally) fresh & ready to run all-out, I wasn't planning on "racing" Healdsburg. But, I did have a fast finish 20 miler to do, which is hard to get all that enthusiastic about alone and unsupported on my same old-same old route.

Like tempo runs, I feel like the point of a fast finish run (I guess some people call them progression runs?) is to run continuously and really make a sincere effort to keep up the prescribed pace and effort level in as close to actual race day conditions as possible, and having to deal with traffic lights and water stops and whatever else makes that a bit of a challenge. The fact that you're actually trying to run certain paces--and that those paces get pretty fast towards the end--also makes a race atmosphere a little more appealing. I definitely find it mentally much easier to push myself and suffer more when I'm on a race course with other runners, spectators, volunteers, etc. I also think it's good practice for me to go through the night before/morning of routine, especially for something that is pretty long and not all at "easy" pace.

I've run several fast-finish long runs and many a 20 miler, but this was my first time combining the two, and I was nervous about doing it at the end of my biggest week so far and just two days after my longest tempo/run. (The tempo run itself felt good and I finished strong, but MAN, it left me feeling zonked Friday night and Saturday morning.) My loose plan was:

  • Miles 1-8 (6.9 pre-race + first 1.1 of the race) - Super easy; just stay comfortable & get warmed up.
  • Miles 9-11 - 9:30ish pace
  • Miles 12-14 - 9:00ish pace
  • Miles 15-17 - 8:30ish pace
  • Miles 18-20 - 8:00ish pace (~goal marathon pace) or faster

On the other hand, I remembered that this course was VERY hilly, & was also prepared to make some adjustments on the fly in terms of pacing for that.

I didn't start out feeling optimistic. My legs still felt tired from Friday and I didn't sleep particularly well. When I started my easy pre-race miles at about 6:15am, it was still dark, my legs didn't want to move *at all*, and I felt like I might fall back to sleep at any moment. My whole brain & body were drifting around in a general "I-don't-really-want-to-do-this-right-now" kind of haze. I felt a little better as I got out onto the course the sun came up and other people arrived, but I never felt great and the thought of a) running 13 more miles and b) finishing at 8:00 pace or faster was kind of deflating.

Pre-race miles 1-7 - ~10:20 average pace

These facial expressions pretty much sum up how excited I was feeling about this run.

I took the first mile of the race pretty easy still as planned, and was happy to see that when I hit mile 2 & started to pick it up a bit, it wasn't that hard and actually had to rein myself in a little. Then around mile 3, I started having trouble breathing.

At first I didn't think it was asthma, because asthma usually feels like not being able to get enough air into my lungs, whereas this felt like there wasn't enough oxygen in the air, almost like being at altitude. Still, any time when I start to have breathing problems in a race (which is almost never) I instantly go into crisis management mode & start thinking a lot less about my time goals and a lot more about how I'm going to manage to not die of hypoxia.

    Mile 8 (out of 20)/1 (race) - 9:50
    Mile 9/2 - 9:15
    Mile 10/3 - 9:21
    Mile 11/4 - 9:19
    Mile 12/5 - 8:54
    Mile 13/6 - 9:00
    Mile 14/7 - 9:00

The breathing issues were manageable, though, so I carried on with my plan. 9:30ish miles--check. 9:00ish miles--check. But after mile 7, I felt like that was kind of it--whether it was the fact that I wasn't getting enough air or just plain old cumulative fatigue, I couldn't consistently get my legs moving faster than 9:00 to save my life. (Random thought I actually had while gasping for air: "Wow, I hope it doesn't actually come to that...") I also started some having some pain in my right knee around this time, which didn't help my general state of mind. The pavement quality was definitely at its worst in miles 7/8/9ish (confirmed by my racing buddies afterward). Sorry, knee!

I probably could have fallen apart around this point if I wanted, but I've been getting a lot of practice in recently being positive and upbeat in my running even when things get shitty, so it was still pretty much impulse to reach for the "What's happening is happening, accept it & do what you can with it" card. I also think this is where all these long interval & tempo sessions I've been doing really showed their value; even though I was working pretty hard and my breathing was uncomfortable, something in my brain went, "Less than an hour left, no big deal. Less than 5K and then less than 5K again." By then I knew I was having a full-blown asthma attack; I knew I probably couldn't hit the paces I'd intended at that point, but I still decided to try to run as hard as I could in the last six miles without actively putting myself in a dangerous situation medically.

    Mile 15/8 - 9:05
    Mile 16/9 - 9:20
    Mile 17/10 - 9:01

Another kind of weird reversal during this run was how in most long runs, I feel totally fine cardiovascular-wise start to finish, but start feeling heaviness and fatigue in my legs around mile 14-16. But on this run, for all that I could barely breathe, my legs felt strong the whole time. When my pace started to suffer, it was definitely not my legs that were giving out, which is encouraging. (For that, I credit the fact that I've done way, WAY more and longer long runs than I have ever done in a marathon cycle before. Which...honestly, is sort of embarrassing. XP)

Fortunately around maybe mile 9ish (I don't actually remember), my breathing started to open up a little, and mentally having only 4-5 miles left felt HUGELY better than having 6. It was getting hotter and there was less shade in the last miles and people around me were starting to fade, or walk up hills, or just walk in general. All of these things together put a bit more pep in my step, and I actively started thinking about the last miles as a tempo workout: Push for just 400 seconds, 300 seconds, 200 seconds, 100 seconds, start over. Really trying to power up those last hills was also weirdly motivating, though that may have had more to do with being able to pass people, which is always motivating to me, no matter how slowly those people happen to be moving.

    Mile 18/11 - 8:38
    Mile 19/12 - 8:23
    Mile 20/13 - 7:05

That last mile, though. WHAT.

I may not have "finished fast" over those last six miles the way I'd planned, but I did prove to myself that I can in fact run one VERY FAST (for me) mile after just running 19 others (in the sun! On big hills!). Which, realistically, probably means I need to do a better job mentally in the miles right prefer that around "No really; I know there's more in the tank so woman up already."

I definitely went straight to my car for my asthma medicine, but otherwise, I could not believe how good I felt after this run. Did NOT feel like I'd run 20 miles. 10, maybe. Or 13.1, even, but surely not 20. In fact for the rest of the day I kept running over it in my head, going back through the Garmin data thinking, "But did I? Did I screw up the pre-race miles? Cut the course somehow?" But no. It's all right there (well; 19.95 of it) in black & white.

(I suspect the asthma was allergy-related in some way. It tends to get triggered by things like dust, mold, mildew, pollen/grasses, and animals, any of which could have done it. I noticed when I pulled my sleeping bag out that it smelled a little musty, and there was a lot of dust kicking up on the course, and we've also been feeding our neighbors' cats recently. So who knows.)

The four of us all finished the race within a few minutes of each other, grabbed our souvenir wine or pint glass & complementary plate of Mexican food (rice & beans never tasted so good), & proceeded to take silly pictures & jam with 2D Kate.

After that it was back to the AirBnB for showers & then off for a pizza lunch (or fish tacos, or tripe, or whatever).

And honestly, I felt great until I had to sit in my car for 2.5 hours. Suddenly the lack of sleep & early alarm & OH YEAH 20 FREAKING HILLY MILES IN THE SUN finally caught up with me & by dinner time I was barely a person.

BUT, still a person who ran 57 miles in the previous week, including three pretty tough double-digit workouts.

We are traveling to Texas this week for my sister's wedding and it feels so luxurious to say that I "only" have to fit in 50-52 miles, including a 15-mile "long" run that does not in my head sound even remotely long.

I also have to do a ~14 mile (!) tempo run with 10 miles at marathon pace. For that I signed up for, yes, you guessed it, another half marathon about 20 minutes from our hotel, because I'm not sure that with all the wedding craziness going on I'd be motivated to get that done otherwise, at least not well.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

run wine country healdsburg half marathonLocation: Healdsburg, CA

Date: Mid-October (Oct 9, 2016 this year).

It's important to note that there are two half marathons in Healdsburg in October that get referred to as the "Healdsburg Half Marathon." This one is put on by the group Run Wine Country/Events With Sole & generally happens in mid-October. The other one, whose official title is Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon, is put on by Destination Races (the same group that does NVM) & usually happens on the Saturday before Halloween & has kind of a costume theme. I have heard lots of great things about the other one but never run it because it is a) more expensive & b) happens on a day I generally want to be staying up late doing spooky things in SF.


    Half Marathon:

    * Before 5/1: $85
    * Before 7/1: $90
    * Before 9/1: $100
    * Before 10/1: $110
    * After 10/1: $120
    * At Expo: $125


    *Before 10/1: $40
    *After 10/1: $50

It makes me a little sad that this race (which was not super cheap to begin with) has gone up $10-$15 for the half marathon, but if you register super early it's not awful. But man, I don't know about $40 for a 5K.

Deadlines/sellout factor: The half did not sell out in 2012 but apparently this year it did. Not sure when, though.

Field Size: 700 finishers in the half, 206 in the 5K

The Expo:

In the past the expo has been at the Kendall Jackson wine center with a smallish version of what you usually see at race expos (sunglasses, running clothes, reps from other races, local business, etc.) but this year it was in the start/finish area at Healdsburg City Hall & really just bib/shirt pickup & a table from Healdsburg Running Company. Since there wasn't much to see or do there, turnover with parking was pretty fast & I was able to park right away just across the street, & got my bib & shirt in about five minutes, maybe less.


The start and finish were across the street from the Healdsburg City Hall. In the City Hall parking lot was morning-of bib pickup, water & Gatorade, post-race food, & the wine/beer tasting area.


The Course:

The half marathon course is a USATF certified loop that more or less follows mainly Dry Creek Road & W. Dry Creek Road. The start and finish were slightly different this year than in 2012 due to some road construction, but it wasn't problematic at all. The last .75 mile or so before the finish actually ran along a very nice little path instead of on the road, which would have been too narrow for the start but was fine with people spread out at the finish.

I believe I've mentioned that this is not an easy course, & in fact is probably the most challenging half marathon course I've ever run (seriously, how is that still my current PR????), but it's really gorgeous, weaving through pretty fall foliage with some lovely views of vineyards & wineries if you have the bandwidth to appreciate it. It's all on paved roads with at least one lane blocked off, though be aware that the pavement is a bit chewed up certain places, and because a lot of it is in one lane, those who are bugged by canted roads might have trouble. No super SUPER bad hills, but many not-significant ones up and down; be prepared for short-to-medium rollers non-stop.

I would call the course "partially shaded" as far as that goes. In 2012 it was a moot point since the race started a half hour earlier & we had cooler weather as well as mist & fog the whole time. This year it was still cool for wine country but full sun (60's maybe?), so during the exposed stretches on the blacktop it definitely felt warmer than it was. I was glad I had my hat but wished I'd gone with white instead of black!

It is worth noting that there are fewer aid stations on this course (only four) than most half marathons I've run, which I just think has to do with where on the road it's practical to place them. I don't think they're sparse enough to be a problem, especially if you're aware of it going in (I was totally fine grabbing one cup each of water & Gatorade at each stop), but those who want more should probably plan to carry a bottle. Aid stations were roughly at miles 3.1, 6.2, 8.9, and 10.5


Logo tech shirt & finisher medal, plus your choice of a logo wine glass or pint glass:

All bibs also came with a ticket for post-race food and a ticket for beer or wine tasting. (Don't worry about your ID; your age is printed right on the bib. Which is weird.) Age group winners also get a free bottle of wine. (Or, if you get really unlucky, a bottle of alcohol-free grape juice. D: )

If you decide to run:

  • Register early & save yourself up to $40.
  • If you're planning on getting accommodations in the area, do yourself a solid and a) book early, b) consider an AirBnB instead of a hotel, particularly if you're with a group, & c) look in nearby towns like Geyserville, Santa Rosa, or Rohnert Park instead of Healdsburg proper, which can be rapishly expensive because wine tourism.
  • Ironically, although my time from 2012 is STILL my current PR and Cat, Jen and I all managed to PR there that year, I can't say it is a PR friendly course. I still love it and find the hills to be a fun challenge and think it's a great, well-organized even, but I would not recommend putting all your PR eggs into this particular basket. (I still wonder what might have happened had I run a flat half that weekend instead!)
  • Plan for the sparse aid stations
  • Weather-wise, plan for anything from cold, wet fog to bright warm sun. Fall in wine country -- you never know!

Overall Assessment:

I wasn't sure how my memories of this race would hold up, but I really enjoyed it. It's quite well organized and my favorite size of fun local race. I kind of wished I was *actually* racing vs. just doing a long run, because powering up & down those hills is really just a blast, even if I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do it at sub-1:40 again.