Sunday, May 22, 2016

How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation.

I know technically we still have like another month to go, but for some reason I feel like the Eugene Marathon sort of ushered in summer, maybe because afterward I had a bit of that WEEEEE EXAMS ARE DONE TIME TO CHILL!!! vibe.

And, I have been taking full advantage of it. I took a week off from running (though I did go to karate & do some climbing) and have been getting to all kinds of procrastinated tasks in the afternoons when I'd normally be running. Behold, my car is smog tested & legally registered, my luscious locks no longer make me look like a sheep dog when not tied back, and I once again have professional office lady shoes that are not literally falling apart.

#lusciouslocks ca.2001

We've also had a few weekends recently where we didn't have to get up early or be anywhere specific, and as a result our floors are shiny, our toilets are spotless, and our friends have been well fed on 10 year old cab & 90-day dry-aged sous vide ribeyes.


Basically, perfection.

(Related: Dinner parties are good for floor mopping and toilet cleaning.)

Running-wise, I'm now up to a brisk 4 miles per day, more or less, and feeling pretty darn good. My next big training cycle will be CIM in December (and Folsom Breakout Blues Half in mid-October) which I'll probably start training for in earnest sometime in August. So what's going on between now & then?

  • Danville 10K on 5/28. I kind of forgot that I signed up for this! I think trying to actually race it less than a month after a marathon is probably incredibly stupid, but it sounds like maybe I will try to pace my lovely friend Cat to a PR???? I have little experience as a pacer but maybe she will let me hang on for the ride.
  • Ireland 6/1-6/14. This all happened kind of suddenly & I don't know all the details, but I have been told there will be amazing food and lots of beer & whiskey and really what more does one need to know. #sláinte
  • Jungle Run Half on 7/16. Again, not actually racing, but I have a deferral from last year so what the hell. (Also it's in Los Gatos in July meaning temps will probably be in the 90s so major race goals include not passing out/dying.)
  • Another round of base-building, y'all. Honestly, I doubt I'll even follow a real schedule; my only goal is to log a metric butt load of really slow, easy miles.

Apologies if you've read the aerobic base training schpiel before, but ever since I spent fall 2014 & spring 2015 doing almost nothing but running lots of easy miles and collecting data on it, I'm a believer. I mean, I understood the principle in theory, but it's a whole other thing (for me, at least) to use my own body as a guinea pig & watch the hard evidence pile up.

Basically, when it comes to distance running (or any endurance sport), your body works like a combustion engine, and the two things that determine how fast you'll be are 1) power and 2) efficiency.

(Okay fine, there's also a third thing, but it doesn't really fit into the engine metaphor, so I'm leaving it out for now.)

Power is about how quickly the engine can process fuel. A car with a big 5 liter engine will be more powerful than a similar-sized car with a small 2 liter engine, because when you hit the accelerator, it can combust over twice as much fuel in the same amount of time. In endurance sports, the "size of your engine" is your VO2max. If you have a big engine, your body is able to burn a high volume (that's the V) of oxygen (that's the O2) very quickly. (The "max" just refers to whatever that fastest rate your body is capable of at all-out effort, which is how it's measured.) The most effective way to increase the size of your engine/VO2 max is through speed work.

Efficiency is about how much forward motion you get out of each bit of fuel. A sedan that gets 30 miles to the gallon is obviously more fuel efficient than an SUV that gets 15. In endurance running, this is called running economy--how much of the oxygen that you burn gets converted into forward motion. If you can go very far on a little oxygen, you are obviously more "fuel efficient" than someone who can't go very far on that same amount of oxygen, or who needs to burn more oxygen to go the same distance. The most effective way to increase your fuel efficiency/running economy is through lots and lots of easy running (aerobic base training).

Now obviously the fastest people are both very efficient AND have big engines. And when you're actively training for something, you need a healthy mix of easy miles as well as faster running. But, a very very (very) common problem among semi-serious recreational runners is focusing too much on speed work & growing that giant-ass engine and ignoring its efficiency. Which, as I understand the science, is a great way to not make much progress in the long term.

So yeah. In fall 2014/spring 2015 I decided to bite the bullet & do almost nothing but base train. It had been a very long time since I'd devoted any real attention to it, and because I was sure it would be the most boring six months imaginable I decided to collect some data and see if I could actually detect changes in my running economy.

You can read about my methodology here, but these were my results from September 2014 (when I was already in what I considered pretty decent marathon shape) through February 2015:

(r2=.39 for all you stats nerds out there, i.e., damn significant.)

The vertical units are "miles per heartbeat," ie, higher = more efficient/better running economy. Weeks and weeks of nothing but slow, easy running may not sound sexy, but it effing works.

Sadly, in February 2015 I left my HRM charger in a hotel room in San Diego and they never found it. BUT! In January of this year I ponied up for a Forerunner 235, which has a heart rate monitor built in. The upside is that that means I get heart rate data automatically every time I run with my watch with zero effort. The downside is that apparently sometime after March 13 my watch deleted all its data and that was the last day I'd synced with Garmin Connect.

ANYHOO, I was curious to see just how poorly my current running economy compared to that little experiment in 2014/2015, so I added the data to the same graph:


When we do graphs in math we ask kids to make "summary statements," ie, what conclusions can you draw by looking at the graph. My summary statements for the right-hand (Jan-Mar 2016) graph are:

  • Probably this is not enough points to draw meaningful conclusions from. (We have formulas for this in statistics & I did not do them, but r2=.02, ie probably not very significant.) That said...
  • I maybe wasn't starting from *quite* as bad a place efficiency wise this January as I was in Aug/Sept 2014.
  • Kinda-sorta marathon training these past months might have improved my running economy by a tiny amount.
  • I'm *maybe* kind of in the neighborhood of where I was in say October 2014.

So. Now that I've got a working HRM again, I'm planning to kind of run the same experiment this summer--collecting data & seeing what happens.

(Gotta stave off the boredom somehow, eh?)


Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Race Discount + Travel Discount

So this tab has been open in my browser for like 2 months & only just now did I notice that the expiration date is June 1. Maybe there's still time for a few of you to take advantage!

First, save $15 on Rock N Roll Seattle (June 18) with promo code ALASKA.

Second, there are a bunch of races where if you need to fly there and you fly Alaska, you can get 10% off your flight. I haven't looked into any of the details, but that's what it says. I fly Alaska reasonably often (we did first/business class to both Alaska & Italy on award miles) & they've never screwed me over.

(Is this post sponsored, you ask? I ONLY WISH. Alaska, call me.)

The races & associated valid airports are:

    Jun 3-5 Suja Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Marathon and 1/2 Marathon (San Diego)

    Jun 4 Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon (Baltimore, Washington-Dulles, Washington-Reagan)

    Jun 18 Alaska Airlines Rock ’n’ Roll Seattle Marathon and 1/2 Marathon (Seattle)

    Jul 16-17 Group Health Seattle to Portland (Seattle, Portland)

    Jul 17 Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon (Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Rosa)

    Aug 13 Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon (Portland)

    Aug 26 Hood to Coast Relay (Portland)

    Sep 4 Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon (Kelowna)

    Oct 1-2 Rock ’n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon (San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco)

    Oct 22-23 Oasis Rock ’n’ Roll Vancouver Half Marathon (Vancouver, B.C.)

    Oct 29 Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon (Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Rosa)

    Oct 30 Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon (Los Angeles, Burbank, Orange County)

    Nov 10-13 Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon and 1/2 Marathon (Las Vegas)


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Books: 2016 Quarter 1

As you probably already know, I've been reading a classic a month for the last two years. It started as a one-year project in 2014, but I've enjoyed it enough to keep going with it & will probably continue until it starts to feel like a chore.

(Apologies that we're now halfway through Quarter 2 and I'm only just finishing this post. You probably shouldn't be surprised by now. Again, that post marathon = sudden additional free time thing.)

These were my first three classics of 2016:

January: Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut (1973, 302 pages). 3 stars. I dunno, I guess this book was pretty revolutionary for its time and Kurt Vonnegut clearly put a lot of himself into it, and it's mildly entertaining for the tone & drawings. But I did not come out of it feeling particularly wiser or more enlightened. Also, there is a kind of irony to reading a book written in 1973 about how everything in the country and planet has gone completely to shit and there's no hope for anything or anyone anymore and chuckling to yourself about how quaint the whole thing seems compared to the capitalist hellscape we're currently living in. Then weeping quietly.

February: The Color Purple, by Alice Walker (1982, 295 pages). 5 stars. Yeah; this is another of those books I'd give six stars if I could. Or maybe 10. It's up there with To Kill a Mockingbird, in any case. True story: I actually got to the end and flipped right back to the beginning. The story is told by the main character, Celie, a Black woman living in 1930s rural Georgia, as she navigates family, marriage, motherhood, business, race, class, friendships with men and women alike, and above all, the subject of God. There are some tragic parts (because how could there not be), but it's also *hilarious* at times, which keeps everything in balance. Definitely one of the deepest, most thought-provoking books I've ever read and also one of the most beautifully written, both in terms of structure and voice. Can't recommend it highly enough!

March: Middlemarch, by George Eliot (1872, 904 pages). 4 stars. Really I'd planned to read To the Light House this month, but I read Middlemarch by accident, so oh well. Anyway, based on the jacket copy, this books sounded like all my least favorite literary elements rolled into one (old-timey English setting, workaday lives of plain old average people, lots of parlor scenes & talk of "making a good match" and local politics and hand-wringing about things that are *just not done*). But it kept showing up over and over again on lists of "Greatest Books Ever Written in the English Language," so I decided to give it a shot. And, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it! Yes, there were a bunch of parlor scenes & a good chunk of the story is devoted to a kind of matrimonial musical chairs (in a way it reads like a Victorian soap opera), but alo multi-dimensional characters with well fleshed-out personalities and relationships, strong female characters (I mean, for the 1830s), and some really entertaining Victorian snark. That said, at 900+ pages, it's not exactly a quick read, nor is it an action-packed three-ring circus, so if that's what you're looking for, I'd look elsewhere.


Here were my favorite reads for January through March:

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. (2015, 440 pages) 5 stars. I don't usually pick up historical fiction, so I was a little wary of this one, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Well; "pleasantly" maybe isn't quite the word. I mean, it is the story of two sisters, plucky, recalcitrant, 20ish Isabelle and 30ish domestic wife and mother Vienne, in World War II France, so in a lot of ways it's a pretty sobering book. The characters were really well-written and fleshed-out and 3D feeling; I was invested in their stories and dreams and desires and fears from early-on, so instead of feeling like I was reading a story about women in World War II Nazzi-occupied France, I felt like I was reading the story of real people that could have actually existed. In the end, this ended up being less a story about war and more about what people will and will not do during war, and how it can and can't change us as humans.

Symptoms of Being Human, by Jeff Garvin. (2016, 352 pages) 5 stars. This is one of those books you read and go "DAMMIT, every teenager in in America should have to read this!" 16-year-old Riley Cavenaugh is the gender fluid, not-out child of a Catholic Orange County congressman & has recently transferred to public school for the first time ever; the usual gauntlet of teasing and harassment ensues, except for two unlikely friends. Also, Riley starts an anonymous blog as therapy which promptly takes on a life of its own. The rest of the book is about how all those elements interact and play out. All the feels ensue. For sure there are people who will read it and complain about the author pushing an agenda, but the thing is, the characters in this book reflect real, actual people and the real, actual crap they have to deal with for no other reason except that they're trying to be themselves just like everyone else gets to. And we need literature (ESPECIALLY YA literature) that reflects the diverse realities of all people, not just that of the privileged majority.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness. (2015, 343 pages) 5 stars. Originally, I just wanted to read this book because I found the premise utterly brilliant: At a certain small-town high school, bizarre supernatural events periodically engulf a small, close-knit group of hip, trendy kids with names like Satchel and Finn and Dylan. They fight zombies, or fall in love with vampires, or save the world from angry gods. All this gets pretty annoying for the Mikes and Melindas and Jareds of the town who are just trying to live their ordinary, non-supernatural lives and deal with mundane, teenage concerns like getting into college and mooning over crushes and dealing with moderately messed up families. But, there is much more to love beyond the clever premise. The ordinary kids (and their parents) feel three-dimensional and real, and their ordinary problems are beautifully written. There are some emotional moments, but also enough tongue-in-cheek and/or hilarious ones to keep it fairly light and from veering into melodrama.

The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon. (2013, 452 pages) 4 stars. In not-too-distant-future dystopian UK, people with some type of pyschich/supernatural mental ability (collectively known as clairvoyants) are feared/looked down on/hated, and many make their living in underground criminal organizations. In the wrong place at the wrong time one night, Irish clairvoyant Paige learns the truth: The corrupt government has for the past 200-some-odd years had an alliance with a mysterious yet human-looking alien race called the Rephaim, who also have powerful psychic clairvoyant abilities and train the human clairvoyants they collect as soldiers to fight against their enemy, the Ammites. Incredibly well-written, emotionally powerful & realistic-feeling without becoming melodramatic. That said, I spent most of the book thinking to myself, "Oh god, please just don't [spoiler]. If you can just avoid that temptation, this book will have been truly amazing start to finish." But no, which broke my heart. Still, it was well-written enough that I will probably read the next in the series to see what happens and if [spoiler] is somehow justified.

The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff (2008, 384 pages). 4 stars. I picked up this book because I loved Fates and Furies & the hive mind seemed to agree that Monsters was Groff's best otherwise. On the brink of finishing her PhD in archaeology at Stanford, Willie Upton finds herself in the midst of a scandal with her advisor. Certain she's about to be kicked out of Stanford & blacklisted in her field, she returns to her childhood home of Templeton, [unspecified New England state]. Events conspire such that Willie ends up using her summer trying to hunt down her biological father, about whom her mother has never told Willie much, and soon the search has her digging through generations of the town's own scandalous history and mythology. A sick friend, her mother's love life, hometown admirers, and a giant sea monster that turns up dead in the town's vast Lake Glimmerglass all figure prominently. Mellower than Fates and Furies, but beautifully written with lots of gorgeous detail, the characters are believable and interesting, and there's enough comic relief to get you through the more sober historical pieces.

The Weight of Feathers, by Anna-Marie McLemore (2015, 320 pages). 4 stars. A really beautifully written YA along the lines of The Night Circus. Maybe Night Circus meets Romeo & Juliet. Though I suppose Night Circus had some R/J elements as well. Basically, two older teens from two different feuding troupes of traveling performers (the Latino Palomas, who perform as mermaids, & the French Corbeaus, who perform as acrobatic/tightrope-walking birds) collide, & have to deal with a) their warring family members & b) the prejudices they've grown up with. Writing convincing, realistic teenagers (particularly teenagers in love) whose dialogue doesn't make me roll my eyes and/or cringe is incredibly difficult and fraught so I'm super impressed any time someone manages it.

Orphan X, by Gregg Hurwitz (2016, 356 pages). 4 stars. I don't read a ton in this genre but enough people with ARCs were raving about it that I decided to give it a shot. As a child, orphan Evan Smoak ("Orphan X") was recruited into a black ops program designed to turn orphans into highly trained assassins. After an upsetting encounter with a fellow orphan, though, Evan decides to leave the program and disappear, using his unique skill set to bring justice to the lives of the downtrodden. Now someone is hunting him down, using those he tries to protect to get at him. Clever, well-written, with interesting characters and not too many genre tropes. Also, enough humor to cut the overall darkness of the story. This was a fun read and I totally recommend it to anyone who enjoys action/thriller/intrigue.

Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson. (2016, 304 pages) 4 stars. This was a really cute, funny, touching book about famous, reclusive, misanthrope/one-hit wonder author M.M. Banning and her extremely odd but lovable ten-year-old son Frank. When finances force Banning to commit to actually finishing and delivering a manuscript for the first time in decades, twenty-four year old nanny/personal assistant (Alice) comes to manage the household. Hijinks and feels ensue. Will not change your life probably, but funny, entertaining & well-written. Fans of Where'd You Go, Bernadette will enjoy.

* * *

Currently Reading:
The Heart Goes Last
, by Margaret Atwood

Currently Listening To:
, by M.R. Carey

Up Next:

And who knows, whatever else tickles my fancy. (Taking future suggestions as always!)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

eugene training by the numbers

One of the nice things about the first week post-marathon is that you suddenly find yourself with some free time, which was nice because I was able to write & post my race report (Part 1: My Race; Part 2: Logistical Details) before a geological age had passed.

As I was writing about my race, I kept thinking about how it felt like I didn't do a whole lot of running this training cycle (particularly since I was still spending a lot of time on the elliptical in those first few weeks), but then again my memory can be unreliable (hence the blogging) so out of curiosity I decided to go back and look at my training logs & reflect on what actually happened.


  • WEEK 1: 14, all easy
  • WEEK 2: 20, all easy
  • WEEK 3: 18, all easy
  • WEEK 4: 23.8, all easy
  • WEEK 5: 10.8 easy, 3.3 tempo, 10 long = 24.1
  • WEEK 6: 16.5 easy, 4.3 speed, 6.2 race = 26
  • WEEK 7: 16 easy, 14 long = 30
  • WEEK 8: 14 easy, 4 tempo, 16 long = 34
  • WEEK 9: 13.66 easy, 3 tempo, 5 speed, 18 long = 39.66
  • WEEK 10: 13 easy, 6.4 tempo, 4.9 speed, 20 long = 44.3
  • WEEK 11: 12.9 easy, 8 speed/tempo, 13.1 race = 34
  • WEEK 12: 22 (all easy)
  • WEEK 13: 17.5 easy, 2 speed, 20 long = 39.5
  • WEEK 14: 19.5 easy, 8 speed/tempo = 27.5
  • WEEK 15: 15.35 easy, 6.3 speed, 4.8 tempo, 16 long = 43.5
  • WEEK 16: 25 easy, 9.7 speed/tempo = 34.7
  • WEEK 17: 26.2 race

    Weekly average: ~29.7 D:
    Biggest week: 44.3 miles (week 10)
    Longest run: 20 miles (x2)
    Longest workout: 11.5 miles (2 warm up, 2 x (1600m @ 10K pace/1:30 jog), 30:00 @ marathon effort, 2 x (1600m @ 10K pace/1:30 jog), 1.5 cool down)

Lolololol. In some sort of weird, warped way, seeing all that made me feel even BETTER about my time, because except for all the speed workouts & the two 20s, this is kind of indistinguishable from, like, not training. (Then again, any amount of running kinda looks like training compared to being injured/not running/the elliptical queen for a few months.)

Indeed, looking back over past marathon training cycles, this is the least volume I've EVER run training for a marathon, in every possible way you could measure it. I am never going to be an 80 mile-per-week runner, but I do like to be consistently in the 40s with 2-3 peak weeks in the 50s. (Which, of course, requires staying healthy and also having some kind of aerobic base to build on.) So there is definitely a part of me going, oh, you're not fast again yet? Yeah; *nobody* can be fast on 30 miles a week. Fact.

So. That is...whatever is.

I also realized that I never posted training logs for my last two weeks, which to be honest seems kind of moot once the race report is posted, but I know the OCD part of me will not be at peace until it is done.

So here we go, my last two Eugene training logs (such as they are).

(Spoiler, it's only really one!)


Grand Total: 34.7 total miles

    * 25 easy
    * 9.7 speed/tempo

Monday 4/18: Karate

Tuesday 4/19: 1.75 warm up, 6 x 200m hard/200m jog, 2 miles @ marathon effort, 6 x 200m hard/200m jog, 1.75 cool down = 8.5 total. Last track workout before Eugene! There is a kids' track group that practices on Tuesdays around the same time I tend to be at the track, and after 8 years of this business the coaches and I recognize each other and nod but don't really talk. As I was leaving the track that day one of them said to me as I passed, "Man, I been watching you. You're consistent. Gettin' it done every day." I wanted to say, "You are generous, sir, but I will still take it."

Wednesday 4/20: Karate

Thursday 4/21: 2 warm-up, 10:00 @ marathon effort, 10:00 @ marathon effort + 0:30/mile, 10:00 marathon effort, 1.5 cool down = 8.2 total. The end of the week got shuffled because Don's birthday party was Friday night & I knew I'd been spending my usual running time prepping for it. Still, last workout!

Friday 4/22: Rest/throw a killer birthday party!

Saturday 4/23: 6 easy (Thursday's workout)

Sunday 4/10: 12 easy. Last double digits!


Let's be real, week 17 was taper/cation & the only running involved was the race. Which I think I worked out well, given how fresh & energetic I felt on race day. (Not working that week also meant I got a lot of sleep, and I'm sure that didn't hurt either).

Instead of running, there was a lot of this:

Even marathon non-withstanding, it was still a good week. :)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Race Report: Eugene Marathon (Part 2: Logistics)

(This is the part where I give you all the logistical/nuts & bolts information you might want to know about this race if you're thinking about maybe running it. You can check out this post to read all about my race experience & how it went! :) )

Before we dig into the logistics, here are a couple of my other favorite race pics:

I feel like good race shots from the end of a marathon are pretty rare so I should hoard & flaunt them whenever I get the chance. #yourewelcome

Location: Eugene, OR

Date: Late April/early May (May 1, 2016 this year)

Price: *Extremely* reasonable if you get in early:


  • $85 until 10/1/2015; 11:59 p.m.
  • $95 until 1/2/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $105 until 3/15/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $115 until 4/22/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $140 at Health & Fitness Expo


  • $65 until 10/1/2015; 11:59 p.m.
  • $75 until 1/2/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $85 until 3/15/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $95 until 4/22/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $120 at Health & Fitness Expo


  • $20 until 1/2/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $25 until 3/15/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $30 until 4/22/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $40 at Health & Fitness Expo


  • $10 until 1/2/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $15 until 3/15/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $20 until 4/22/2016; 11:59 p.m.
  • $20 at Health & Fitness Expo

Deadlines/sellout factor: I don't know why but I had this idea that this was one of those really popular races that sells out super fast, but at least by expo day there were still spots in the half and the full. (Don't know about the 5K.)

Field Size: Again, not sure about the caps, but the results page lists the following numbers of finishers:

  • Marathon - 1666 finishers
  • Half Marathon - 2560 finishers
  • 5K - 472 finishers

This was basically my perfect size race--big enough not to feel tiny, but small enough to make race day logistics pretty easy (including being able to actually run in the first miles).

The Expo:

The expo took place in a soccer field attached to Hayward Field proper. To be honest I think they could have been clearer about this. All the info I got just said that the expo would take place "in the shadow of historic Hayward Field" which is pretty ambiguous. My strategy was to set the GPS for Hayward Field & then follow everyone else. After some hunting around, I finally found the little soccer field. So in the future it would be nice if they were like, "in the soccer field on the west side of Hayward Field (enter on 15th st)." Apparently I was not alone in this because as I was walking back with my bag to meet Don (about 15 minutes before the expo was closing), frantic people kept coming up to me & going, "OMG WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR BIB??"

You get them in the soccer field west of the track, enter on 15th st.

The expo was open from 9am - 6pm, plus a shorter window Friday afternoon. (No race day pickup unless you pay extra for it. I actually approve of them at least having this option for people who are local but not THAT local.) Again, I'm not sure why, but I kind of had in my mind that Eugene was a really popular, destination-type race. False. As my friend T who arrived ahead of me texted, "This is definitely a small town race. The expo is tiny. If you need anything don't plan to get it here."

She was not wrong. It was small, & practically deserted by the time I arrived. Now, I don't really care about this because I've never really been one to wander around the expo for hours, and all I really cared about was getting my bib & shirt. I rarely buy race schwag but this was kind of a destination race for me, so I actually might have paid real money for something extra cool if they'd had anything, but it was just kind of more basic T-shirts and a few tanks in a limited number of designs, and I wasn't particularly inspired. Hop Valley had a beer garden, but being really not a fan of hoppy beers, I skipped it. There was literally nothing else I needed to do there & I was in & out in maybe 10 minutes.

The Course:

As marathons go, I really liked this course. It was a mix of city streets and park bike/foot trails, including part of Pre's Trail (though I could not tell you which part; it wasn't obvious and I didn't go out of my way to look for it ahead of time). The half and full start at the same time and stay together for the first ten miles, a huge sort of dog-leg to the south. After the split, there's some tooling around town, then another huge dog-leg to the west along the Willamette River.

Most of the time I couldn't see the river, but there were some nice views when you crossed the various bridges. There was a bit of congestion at the beginning but things thinned out fairly soon and I never felt too crowded.

By and large it is a pretty flat course, with just maybe a handful of shorter, steeper parts (but really in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty darn flat). There are some long open exposed stretches, but also a goodly amount of shade (which I greatly appreciated given our weather).

The water stops were well-organized and staffed by enthusiastic volunteers, & seemed to appear pretty close to every two miles, which, again, I really appreciated. There were also plenty of spectators and "spirit groups" along the way, and everyone seemed really excited to be out there.

My friend T said that she found the ground on the half course to be kind of annoyingly chewed up, but I didn't notice this or just must have been on a different part of the road because it was fine for me. She also mentioned that there was no mile 11 marker for the half-ers, which kind of freaked everyone out.


Like I said in my previous post, the start was an easy half mile or less from where we stayed, and the race was small enough that honestly if I hadn't had a bag to check I probably could have left the hotel at 6:45 and been totally fine. Corrals were super well organized and you could easily slide into whichever one you needed to be in (vs. hurdling the barriers). There were a billion port-a-potties and I think at ~6:30 I waited behind one girl.

My only complaint is the bag check. It was cold so I was putting off getting rid of my sweatshirt, but around 6:40 I decided to go see about dropping things off and HO-LY SHITE SNACKS there was a line like 100m long. Like that type of line where you start walking towards the end and you're like, "This must be the end. Really? It can't be too much father. SERIOUSLY? Maybe it just loops all the way around and eats itself." I waited for about 10 minutes or so before they announced to people to just drop their bags where they were & the volunteers would collect & stow them, because we needed to get over to the start. I don't know if this was a staffing issue or what but it was the only part of race morning that didn't go 100% smoothly for me (though it was completely fine in the end).


Tech T, plastic water bottle (which they handed out at the end instead of disposable water bottles = A+ for environmentalism), & a rather hefty medal.

And of course, there are the post-race pancakes.

(Also beers too, I think, but again, Hop Valley = not for me.)

If you decide to run:

Let's be clear, there is nothing to see or do in Eugene unless you are a track nerd & you just want to, like, go stare at Hayward Field for a few minutes. Literally, there is the University of Oregon & the infrastructure needed in a college town (pizza, beer, coffee, etc.) but that is about it. You do not need to plan extra days to "see the sights."

(Sidenote: If you're traveling a reasonable distance & thinking of making a trip out of it, spend those extra days in either Portland (north) or the Rogue Valley (south). Two days in Eugene itself is more than sufficient.)

This is literally all there is to see in Eugene, the end.

In terms of race travel, though, here are my top tips:

  • Book early if you want the cheap price, but you probably don't have to worry about it selling out right away.
  • That said, if you're even *thinking* about registering & not local, book a hotel room nearby ASAP. There are at least three within half a mile of the start, but apparently they booked up really fast. I booked us at the Days Inn for $110/night in like October and did not regret it. (The hotel even opened up breakfast at 5am & extended race day check-out until 1pm for everyone.) Immediately adjacent to the Days Inn are a Best Western & the University Inn. There are some other hotels father away, which is also fine as they run shuttles to & from a bunch of them and also Autzen Stadium, where there is ample parking. (Parking near Hayward Field itself is all street parking, plus a lot of surrounding roads are blocked off for the race, so try that at your peril.) I am just super lazy & like being able to walk to things, so I'd do the Days Inn or Best Western again in a heart beat.
  • For pre-race carb loading, try La Perla for pizza & other Italian or Beppe & Gianni for somewhat fancier Italian. They're owned by the same family & both were excellent.
  • You would think post-race brunch/lunch would be a shit show in such a small town, but we found some really tasty gastropubs just a few blocks from the race & they were nearly all deserted. (I think we ended up eating at First National Tap House on Broadway, which was great.)
  • Try Falling Sky for tasty, interesting beer. Ninkasi is great too but gets a lot of distribution so there's less of a reason to make a special trip just because you're in Eugene.
  • Hit up Wandering Goat or Perk for tasty independent coffee.
  • If tasty high-end pastries strike your fancy, head to Noisette Pastry Kitchen.
  • If you feel like a ~20 minute drive to what feels like the middle of nowhere, there's some delicious wine out at Silven Ridge. Some of it is free, they've got a gorgeous view, & three-time Olympic runner & Eugene Running Club coach Cathie Twomey Bellamy is sometimes pouring. #onlyineugene

Overall Assessment:

I had a great time at this race and I would absolutely 100% run it again if I felt like spending the travel $$. (On the other hand, Oregon is kind of ridiculously gorgeous & full of delicious wine, so it's not like one needs to work too hard to find excuses to visit.)

It was well-organized & had around 5,000 runners, but still had the feel of a friendly, small town race. There's nothing to complain about on the course, and I can totally see how on a cool day it could be a great PR course. If Eugene is on your list & you have the opportunity, do it!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Race Report: Eugene Marathon (Part 1: My Race)

(This post is about my actual race & how it went. If you're interested in all the nuts & bolts/logistical information, head over to this post!)

When I signed up for Eugene last October, I had every intention of being in PR shape. Sure, I was getting over a stress fracture at the time, but up until then but I'd also had a really strong training cycle targeting the Santa Rosa Marathon in August. So I figured I'd start running again soon, build up to normal mileage by the end of 2015, then BOOM! Hardcore Eugene training January through April.

Of course, the universe loves when you make plans like this. Probably because it likes reminding you what a puny, small, insignificant little human you are and how puny and small and insignificant are all your little dreams, relatively speaking.

So, yeah. Instead I spent most of the rest of 2015 not running, so my Eugene training cycle ended up 1) kind of abbreviated 2) lower mileage than ideal and 3) built on an aerobic base like a wee baby bunny. Add to that the problems I've been having with my left foot and how work basically did nothing but kick my ass for March & April, & it should be obvious to anyone with half a clue that I had zero realistic chance of a PR or even a reasonably fast-for-me race. Yes, I was fit enough to run the whole thing & maaaaaaaybe not PW, but that was about it.

A few years back, knowing this, I probably would have said, "Eh, screw it." My philosophy about marathons then was that they are so hard physically and mentally and require so much prep and recovery time relative to shorter distances that it's only worth it if there's a chance of a PR. I think that was healthy in the sense that it probably kept me from registering for and/or trying to run more marathons that I should. But since then I've relaxed that theory a little; yes, marathons are still super hard & time/energy intensive enough that I don't want to run them too often, but I also think there are a few other good reasons (for me, at least) besides trying to PR.

~[Metaphor Time]~

I don't really have a sense of how nerdy my throngs of blog readers are, but if your personal brand of nerdiness extends much in the Star Trek direction, you're probably familiar with the Kobayashi Maru. For those that aren't or who need a refresher, the Kobayashi Maru was a simulated training exercise given to Starfleet cadets in the command track wherein they had to decide what decisions to make after receiving a distress call from the eponymous civilian freighter.

Ostensibly the goal of the exercise is to rescue the vessel. To save the civilians, the cadet needs to enter the Neutral Zone & violate the treaty, whereas honoring the treaty means leaving the disabled freighter and its occupants at the mercy of the Klingons. Entering the Neutral Zone to save the civilians also results in Klingons attacking and boarding the ship which the cadet is commanding. As we learn in The Wrath of Khan, James T. Kirk was the only cadet in Starfleet history to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru, by reprogramming the simulation so that it was possible to win.

The Kobayashi Maru comes up over and over again in Star Trek movies and books as a metaphor and/or thematic element. In the recent film Into Darkness, young dickish Kirk's reprogrammed test results in a disciplinary hearing. Kirk argues that the test itself is a cheat since it's unwinnable, so cheating is the only solution. Young Spock (a Starfleet instructor at the time) counters that the point of the test is not to win, but to face fear and accept the possibility of death, as Kirk's father did [in the opening scene of the movie]. Basically the whole film is about Kirk's transformation from a cocky, immature, dickish yet brilliant cadet into a competent (slightly less cocky) commander, and the theme of how one deals with a no-win situation as a test of character is woven throughout.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I knew that I would really only be running to finish and maybe not PW, but also that I still really wanted to do it. Why was that? Why did I still want to put myself through it all, knowing that it was 100% "unwinnable"? (Especially when I could instead be sleeping in & having tasty brunch & winez & also not caffeine fasting all week.)

At some point it hit me that Eugene '16 was maybe kind of my Kobayashi Maru. Yes, it was "unwinnable" in the sense of a PR or even a particularly fast-for-me race. (On top of my poor fitness, the forecast called for warm weather and full sun.) But I've had some real struggles lately with the psychological/emotional parts of racing, particularly once I realize it's "unwinnable," so I was kind of thinking of this race as a test of character or mettle or courage or whatever you want to call it, a chance for me to face fear and doubt and pain, knowing it was a no-win situation, and still give it my absolute best effort (AND have a good attitude about it).

~[Le Plan]~

  • No expectations. Basically, accept that it's "unwinnable" and don't harbor any secret fantasies of miracles occurring, or even avoiding a personal worst. I wanted to run by effort--relatively comfortable but not lazy for the first 18-20 miles, then push as hard as I could manage for the last 10K. Be satisfied with an honest race and a strong finish.
  • Own the experience. This was my personal take on the "trust it will pass" point from the TrainingPeaks article I mentioned in my last post. I think feeling out of control and like the race was something happening to me was a big part of why I felt so panicked and negative at the Oakland Half. This time I decided to keep reminding myself that I chose this no-win situation and I could just as easily un-choose it any time I wanted without losing anything.
  • Talk to myself. I cannot tell you how many times in the past I have rolled my eyes at things like race mantras and "power words" because they seemed like such utter woo-woo bullshit. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so I decided ahead of time that whenever I started to feel tired or negative I would start mentally chanting to myself "calm" or "strong" or "smooth" or some other horrible distance running cliche. It can't make things worse, right? Let's go with that!
  • Accept what the day brings. I knew it would be a warm, sunny race, and although it was not supposed to be windy and the course is pretty flat, I didn't want to be surprised by anything. So I tried to visualize a hot, sunny, windy race with unexpected hills here and there where also I felt slow and crappy from the beginning. "This will all probably happen," I kept telling myself, "and you'll own it anyway, and be grateful for the experience to even run this freaking race."
  • Fake it til you make it (or don't). I was a psych minor so I'm well aware of how actions, even non-genuine ones, can influence our emotions. So I decided that no matter how awful I felt, I would smile at and say think you to every volunteer and high five the hell out of every motherf**er who offered.
  • Run with music.I've never raced with headphones before and sometimes have been very vehemently against it. But again, desperate times/desperate measures/etc. I really, truly felt like this would help me tune out some of the stuff that tends to distract me and/or send me into a downward spiral (others trying to talk to me, people who sound like they're about to die, spectators yelling YOU'RE ALMOST THERE!!! anywhere other than at mile 26, anyone soulless enough to carry sports beans, etc.). Since it was a no-win situation to matter what, it seemed like as good a day as any to try it once and see what happened.
  • Leave it all out there. The time would be whatever it would be, but I wanted to leave Oregon with no regrets & knowing I'd left everything I had to give out on the course.

In terms of more traditional racing strategy, I just decided to go out by feel, comfortably but faster than la-la pace, settle into it, and not look at my watch for the first few miles. I did want to race and leave it all out there, but I also knew it would be a warm day and didn't want to end up crawling to the finish line.


We left Jacksonville Saturday morning, broke up the 2 hour 40 minute drive to Eugene with a few wine tasting stops in the Umpqua Valley, and arrived at Hayward Field for the expo around 5:30.

It's just a track, you guys.

Afterward, we checked into the Days Inn half a mile away and grabbed a tasty pizza dinner with my friend T (who was running the half) at La Perla (highly recommend!). After dinner I laid out all my race gear, cursed at my dead-and-refusing-to-charge watch for a while (it worked eventually), then spent some time fighting with Spotify and the bluetooth headphones I never use. (WOO LEAVING THINGS TO THE LAST MINUTE!)

I think by the time I actually got to sleep it was close to midnight, but somehow I still woke up at 4:45 awake and alert and ready to go.

My body is ready to not DNF.

Hayward Field & the start were an easy half mile walk from the hotel (probably less, actually). Although the highs would be in the 80s, it was probably 45-50 when I arrived around 6:30--just chilly enough to wish I'd brought pants but not miserable.

I headed over to sweat check around 6:40 & was aghast to see a line a good 100m long. After 10 minutes I was nearing the front, & that was about when they announced for everyone to just drop their bags where they were & head to the start. I did a little jogging around in front of Hayward, pleased that my foot seemed to be feeling okay, then jogged to the start and slipped into the back of Corral B. (Honestly I have no memory of what projected finish time I told them but I didn't want to feel rushed so the back of my assigned corral seemed like a good choice.)

(but not too hard tho)

Someone sang the National Anthem, the gun went off, and we started shuffling towards the start. I popped my earbuds in, hit play, & did my best to relax into Jack's Mannequin & The Resolution as I jogged across the start line.

It was crazy how good I felt at that point--not anxious or nervous or really anything but relaxed and excited and pretty much ready for whatever happened. The first few miles were fairly crowded, but ultimately I think that worked in my favor because it kept my optimism in check and helped me settle into a pace that felt comfortable but not lazy.

I didn't look at my watch but I think somewhere around mile 3 or so I realized I was kind of gradually reeling in the 3:45 pacer, which was surprising as I'd been thinking 3:50ish was probably a best case scenario. It was hard not to get excited at that point and start thinking things like "Imagine if I beat my best case prediction!" and "Imagine if I ran a sub-3:47 / my second fastest marathon ever!" It was really all I could do to squash those thoughts as soon as they popped up and remind myself that down that path lay only expectations and the temptation to do something stupid way, WAY too early. Still, sticking with the 3:45 pace group felt pretty comfortable, and it was nice to have something to focus on visually and just sort of zone out and follow. For the most part that seemed to translate into paces between 8:20 & 8:50, which wasn't so fast that it felt unreasonable.

And I ended up staying pretty much right there for a good long while. I tended to slow a bit through the aid stations while the pacer didn't, and every time I kind of thought, "Eh, whatever, it was cool while it lasted." Sooner or later, though, I'd find myself drifting back toward the group. It was a comfortable place to be so I decided to just hang out there for as long as it felt good.

Which ended up being until maybe mile 15ish. I still felt really good, but the sun was coming out as promised, and sticking with the pace group was starting to take a little more effort than I was comfortable with. If it had been a 20 or even a 22 mile race I think I could have stuck it out, but I knew the sun was only going to make things tougher and I didn't want to risk an ugly finish (accept what the day brings). So I just tried to keep my effort level in about the same place and not worry too much about the 3:45 sign.

And I have to say I was pretty proud of myself at that moment for 1) not getting too invested in 3:45, even after so many miles with the group (no expectations), 2) staying positive when I decided to let them go (own the experience), and 3) still sticking with a race-level effort rather than easing up & phoning it in (leave it all out there). Even at mile 17ish, I still felt so happy and positive. I ran by a group of teenagers cheering with bells and tambourines an drums and I swear I actually clapped and "woo'd" and high fived the shit out of every one of them. I'm not exaggerating when I say that at that point I was having such a great time that I kind of didn't want it to end. P!nk was blasting in my headphones and I was soaking in every second of it.


As I recall, it was around mile 18 that things started to feel hard, and my splits reflect that. Not hit-the-wall hard, but it was hot and there was less shade and for whatever reason my IT bands were starting to talk to me. I was doing gels every 3 miles from about 5.5 on, so I started thinking "two more gels, then gun it for the finish" (talk to myself). I knew my pace was slowing considerably, but paradoxically I still felt strong and steady (accept what the day brings). I was looking at my splits, but only really out of a kind of dissociated interest, not because I was concerned with what the actual numbers were (no expectations).

I did at that point start using the 3:50 pace group as motivation to keep hustling--they hadn't passed me yet, and I thought I might have banked enough sub-9:00s in the cool earlier part of the race that maybe I could slide in under my best case prediction of 3:50. But I was careful not to let myself get too attached to that thought & be prepared to see them trot past me & into the distance at any moment.

As I approached mile 20, I remembered back in my first marathon reaching mile 20 and thinking "SERIOUSLY 50 MORE MINUTES OF RUNNING EFF THIS SHITE FOREVER." Somehow remembering that I'd had that thought kind of prepared me for it this time around, so when I started thinking about how I had close to an hour of running left ahead of me I was ready to counter it with thoughts like "just don't stop" and "one more mile" (talk to myself). Yes, those were some long, tough miles and I gave it 50/50 odds whether my IT bands would melt or spontaneously combust before I finished, but I stayed positive the whole time, passed way more people than passed me, and kept giving it everything I had. It was hard, incredibly effing hard, but only in that baseline, SN:AFU way that the end of any marathon where you're actually giving 100% is super effing hard (and to be honest I think I mostly got through it by fantasizing about the epic ice bath I was going to take as soon as we got back to the hotel).

But oh man. What a thrill to head back into town at around 25.5 miles. Crowds lined the streets and the cheering was so loud and earnest that for all the pain I was in, I couldn't help smiling. When I spotted Hayward Field I ripped my headphones off and sprinted around the curve of the track for all I was worth.

This picture pretty much sums up my entire race.

For a moment I was very slightly disappointed to see 3:54:xx on the clock. I knew for certain that the 3:50 group had never passed me and I was pretty sure it had only taken me about a minute or so to cross the start mat after the gun, but as soon as that thought surfaced I immediately smothered it. It had been such a fantastic race in so many ways and hell if I was going to let something so stupid and arbitrary spoil it.

I grabbed my medal and chocolate milk and got my picture taken and pretty much spotted Don as soon as I was out of the track area. I remember kind of getting choked up for a minute about what a great race I had had, regardless of the time, and apparently was still grinning like an idiot as I left the chute.

I'm pretty sure his first thought when he saw me was "Oh thank god she's not an emotional wreck."

I'm also pretty sure the first thing I said was "Oh my god that was so hard." And it was--I really do believe that I left it all out there and gave it everything I had under the circumstances.

BLISS. Also pain.

Obligatory post-race Krusteaz pancakes.


I mentioned to Don about how I'd lost the 3:45 pacer but never saw the 3:50 group, and he told me that the 3:45 group had apparently come in at 3:48 but he hadn't seen the 3:50 group either, so I wondered if maybe that pacer had been slow as well and had been just behind me. Funnily, I found out later that there was no 3:50 pace group--just increments of 15 minutes, so joke's on me. Still, thanks for lighting a fire under me in those last miles, phantom pace group!

Part of me kind of wanted to hang out & soak in the post-race experience, but to be honest, once you'd got your free pancakes there wasn't really much else to do. So we headed back to the hotel, I showered and changed & bandaged up my chafed bloody places as best as I could, & then we met T for post-race beers & a delicious lunch.


So, yeah. I'm not really sure what else to say except that I feel like I acquitted myself well against my personal Kobayashi Maru to the extent that one ever really can & beat the crap out of some psychological demons that have been terrorizing me lately. AND, I really honestly don't feel that shitty about my time. I'd always said 3:50 best case, and while you can never really know for sure what might have been, I kind of think that if the day had been cooler I might have actually managed something in the 3:48-3:49 range. Which tells me that while I am still a long way from the shape I've been in in the past, I'm maybe not *quite* in a giant black hole of un-fitness.

    Official: 26.2 miles / 3:53:03 / ~8:54 pace

    Overall: 657/1667
    Women: 214/814
    A/G: 48/157

Saturday, April 30, 2016

One More Sleep

(OH MY LORDY it has taken me two weeks to write this post. I have had zero time. So here I am, the night before Eugene, deciding maybe it's best to post *something* some non-zero time before the race rather than nothing.)

We’ve been chilling in Southern Oregon for the past few days, drinking all the wine & beer & sampling all the cheese and chocolate, & it has been lovely. If you’re ever in this neck of the woods, I can definitely recommend some good spots.

And, oh yeah, there is also the matter of this little footrace I am running in the morning.

Physically, I’m not really worried about this race. My left foot is still kind of a mess, but I’ve tried to stay off of it all week, so ultimately, in terms of whether I can finish or not, that will be what it will be. And of course all the itinerant challenges & discomforts of running a marathon (SN:AFU) also will be what they will be.

Mentally, I’ve been a bit worried just because the two races I’ve run this year were just so, so hard from a psychological/emotional perspective. In both cases I got super negative relatively early-on and just fell apart, which isn’t a problem I’ve had in the past. While that sucked a lot, at least I only had to handle it for 45 & 110 minutes respectively; getting stuck in that place for 3.5+ hours, well, I’m not sure I can handle that.

Recently, I ran across this article from TrainingPeaks about strategies for dealing with the pain of endurance racing, and when I thought about those two awful races, the three recommendations really resonated with me. Behold:

  • Trust it will pass. “Oftentimes, it’s the emotional experience of the pain that convinces you to give up. As humans, we have an innate desire to always try to gain some ground beneath us and feel like we are in control. Trying to gain control is your way of managing your feelings of discomfort, fear, and anxiety. On race day, the quickest way to eliminate those uncomfortable emotions and gain control is to stop moving. In your mind, you need to establish an end that lets you know that you are still in control and this pain won’t last forever.”

    In both my 2016 races thus far, I think feeling out of control of the situation led to mild panic, which then led to all kinds of negative feelings & suckage. So for this race I’m keeping in my back pocket a gentle reminder to myself that I absolutely don’t have to maintain a certain pace or effort level or even keep going at all, that this is supposed to be a cool, awesome experience and it’s completely up to me what I do with it. (I know it seems counterintuitive, but this sort of thinking actually makes me less likely to walk/quit/etc. because I don’t feel trapped.)

  • Talk to yourself. “When you focus on the pain you’re in, it makes you want to stop. When you are at the peak of suffering and it’s taking everything you have to keep moving, sometimes the most effective strategy is to engage in rhythmic cognitive behavior. This pain coping strategy has you repeating something over and over. Doing this occupies your mind constantly with information other than focusing on the pain you are feeling in your body.”

    I do a lot of counting down by strides or seconds when I run, even on easy runs (particularly if I’m tired or almost done), but there is a big difference time-wise between “the hard part of a 10K” vs “the hard part of a marathon,” so I’m thinking I probably need to specifically plan the things I’m going to start telling myself if & when those negative thoughts come creeping in. Something along the lines of, “No expectations/Just finish/One more mile.”

  • Accept What The Day Brings. “Your brain is like a magnet for your expectations. It will pick up on things in your environment that fit the storyline you have already created. It will also cling to and fixate on anything that doesn’t fit into the storyline as well. An example would be thinking, ‘It wasn’t supposed to be this hot/windy/hard/hilly, etc.’ These expectations will influence your perception of pain. The most important thing you can do is be open for whatever race day brings, know that you can handle it, and don’t fight against what is happening. The sooner you accept that the clouds have already rained, i.e. this is happening no matter how badly you want it not to be, the sooner you will recover and make the best of it.”

    Man, I failed so much at this not only at my two races this year but also Santa Rosa Marathon 2014. With all three races, in my head I’d already envisioned how the entire thing would go—it would be cool and flat and I would surprise myself with how good and fast I felt. So when it was hot or slightly hilly or I felt sluggish or slower than I thought I should be, I actually felt betrayed by the world, which was the beginning of melting down psychologically. So, I am trying to embrace the idea that this race doesn’t owe me anything—not a pancake flat course nor pleasant weather nor a “fast” (or even “fast under the circumstances”) time.

    Get ready for it.

    So yeah. I think I'm kind of boiling it down to this:

    I’m not necessarily recommending “having no expectations, ever” as an all-encompassing approach to finding happiness in every corner of your life. But in this particular situation, I’m trying to embrace it. My left foot is still kind of a mess and I don’t know how that’s going to shake out. I also know for a fact I’m in far from the best shape of my life right now, but in spite of that, I finished both my races so far this year disappointed and unsatisfied in part because I expected to do better. (Like, I wasn’t expecting fast races but I also wasn’t expecting personal worsts.) So I am doing my best to really, truly let all expectations go so that as long as I finish, I won’t leave Oregon disappointed.