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.

  • Monday, April 18, 2016

    Stuff that is happening recently...

    Apologies for lack of frequent or in-depth blogging. I literally started this blog post two weeks ago and this is all I've had time to do with it. Enjoy!!


    • Work is kicking my ass. I've been traveling all over California this month (literally two days in my actual office) & with all that has come some trade-offs. Getting to the gym is hard. So is getting enough sleep. More and more things are getting filed under "Ain't nobody got time for that;" see, for example, "eating food not prepared by someone else" and "traveling to brick & mortar places of business." One day I accidentally filed under that heading "Put gas in car" and learned that apparently I can get down to zero bars on the gas gauge & still drive over a mile. Good times! :D

    • I have felt like serious, serious crap lately. Like, I'd be tempted to chock it up to peak marathon training but I can't remember ever training for *anything* and feeling this bad. (Sleeping 10+ hours on the weekend & still feeling like you could knock me over with a feather, feeling low blood sugar even when I know that's not possible, etc.) People have suggested everything from "Could you be low iron?" to "Do your thyroid methods need adjusting?" to "Any chance you're in the family way?" The last one I can 100% refute (phew!), but I am going in for a blood draw this week just to check on the other stuff. Also I've been eating a lot of burgers lately, y'know, just in case.

    • My foot hurts. In the last few weeks my vague-and-largely-undefined heel pain has sort of resolved into something more focused & kind of plantar fasciitis-ey. In any case it's been making my life pretty annoying lately & more than once I've skipped or cut a run short because the pain was that bad. I think I may be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, thankfully, but it's involved a LOT of ice & KT tape & wearing basically nothing besides Hoka Cliftons when I'm not running. I have an appt with the foot doc on the calendar, but around here that means close to a month of waiting, so we'll see what kind of shape my foot is in after Eugene.

    ~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 14 OF 17~*~*~

    Ugh. This week came in 17.5 miles short thanks to foot drama. :P I felt bad about it for a while but eventually figured it was basically like I'd been sick that week, and while week 14 of 17 is maybe not the best week to be sick logistically, it's pretty much out of your control so all you can really do is accept it & move on.

    Grand Total: 27.5 total miles

      * 19.5 easy
      * 8 speed/tempo
      * 1:00:00 strength work

    Monday 4/4: Get on plane/work til 7:30/2 warm up, 2 x (2 @ 7:40), 1.5 cool down on hotel treadmill = 7.5 miles.

    Oh, this was the worst, worst, WORST workout in quite sometime. Not because I didn't have time to do it until 8:30pm. Not because the conference was at a luxury hotel & spa where the treadmill section of the fitness center looked out onto a gorgeous patio where people were relaxing with various wine & cocktails. But because for whatever reason that day, running a 7:40 mile felt like running a 6:30 mile. ie, I could do it once, maybe even twice, but at every point I felt like I was just one false step away from flying off the back of the treadmill & dying. Also every part of me just felt tired, so I wasn't running well form-wise, & I could feel various muscles & joints aching afterward as a result.

    Tuesday 4/5: Work/fly home/collapse. I knew I wouldn't be able to run at all so it was a planned rest day.

    Wednesday 4/6: a.m. strength work / p.m. 3 easy, 4 @ marathon effort, 3 easy = 10. Another day that I felt just completely awful. I was supposed to do another crazy 10-12 mile track workout but instead I came home after work and crashed. I woke up around 7 feeling better so I decided to try to get *some* running in, & since it was too late to go to the track I decided to just try to get in some double digits with a few miles at marathon effort. Weirdly, this was the first run in forever where I felt kind of-sort of normal.

    Thursday 4/7: 7.5 easy. My victory was short lived. I woke up Thursday barely able to put any weight on my foot. In addition to the heel pain, I now had some really bad pain in my left big toe, almost as if it were broken. (Thanks to martial arts, I know what that feels like.) I tried to run a little on it when I got home but it just wasn't happening, so I decided to let it go & try again Friday morning for my (supposed) 20 miler.

    Friday 4/8: 20 long 10 easy. We were spending the weekend wine tasting in Paso Robles, so I needed to get my 3rd & final 20 miler in early Friday morning. This run was super, SUPER annoying because I finally felt good from a general energy/alertness standpoint, but just a few miles in the pain in my left foot was so bad I was legitimately worried about doing something serious to it. I was on a ten mile loop & went back & forth about a billion times re: being hard core & pushing through the second lap vs. not being stupid & racking up another DNS, & ultimately I settled on what I hope was the smart course by leaving off at 10. (How frustrating is it when you actually feel *good* on a long run but have to quit for other reasons? All the frustrating.)

    Saturday 4/9 & Sunday 4/10: Rest/drink wine/sleep a lot. Originally I'd kinda-sorta thought about doing the 7.5 easy when we got home on Sunday, but it was late, I was exhausted, and my foot still hurt, so I decided better to give it another couple of days.

    ~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 15 OF 17~*~*~

    This last week was tough because apparently when I was first thinking about this whole May 1 marathon thing, I completely forgot that my biggest conference of the year takes place mid-April, and that it's generally so all-consuming there is very little extra time for anything else. I've been going for three years now, but this is the first time it's actually kind of interfered with running/training. In 2014 I was just starting to run again after stress fracture #1 (though I did fit in a reasonable amount of stationary bike at the hotel), and last year I was about 6 weeks post-NVM & hadn't really started training in earnest for my next race. This was supposed to be my last big week before Eugene (insofar as I've really had *any* big weeks...), so in terms of time management (not to mention foot drama) I kind of just crossed my fingers & hoped for the best. (On the plus side, it did happen to be in Oakland & San Francisco this year, so at least I got to sleep in my own bed & run outside.)

    Grand Total: 43.5 total miles

      * 15.35 easy
      * 6.3 speed
      * 4.8 tempo
      * 16 long

    Monday 4/11: Conference/karate. Definitely no time to get to the gym this week.

    Tuesday 4/12: 2 warm up, 10 x (1K @ 10K pace / 1:00 jog), 1.7 cool down = 11 total. Due to conference stuff I couldn't get to the track until much later than usual, but Don was out with co-workers Tuesday evening so I didn't feel bad about it.

    Given how my foot had been feeling, I was not at all confident I would be able to finish this workout. On paper it's definitely one of the toughest ones I've had on my schedule & I've had easier ones I've practically dragged myself through. Basically, the plan was to do as much as I could without seriously injuring myself or falling drastically off the pace.

    You guys. This may be the hardest track workout I've done in my (adult) life. The first two intervals were easy but after that they got quite hard quite quickly and I had a lot of trouble believing I would be able to get through them all. But I did! My foot was definitely getting a little bitchy towards the end and hitting the right pace towards the end was non-trivial, but I did not die, barf, or pass out, so #winning?

    (Also, I think this workout is just more evidence that a lot of my trouble with faster paces/harder workouts/races these days has to do with having gotten de-sensitized to the discomfort of harder running. I really wonder if the same objective level of difficulty would have felt as hard, say, 3-4 years ago.)

    Wednesday 4/13: Rest. No karate due to evening conference activities.

    Thursday 4/14: 8 easy. Originally I'd planned to swap this workout with Friday's tempo run in case my foot issues flared up & nixed running on back-to-back days, but sadly I arrived home to find that I'd neglected to plug in my watch after Tuesday's track session. So, an easy 4 out, 4 back it was. I can't say it felt great, but it was a big improvement over most of my runs lately. I can tell I'm still not using my left foot very well and that's causing acheyness in all sorts of other places.

    Friday 4/15: 2 warm up, 40:00 @ marathon effort, 1.65 cool down = 8.5 miles. This was the first run in a long, long while where I actually felt good during & after. Still some lingering pain in my heel and big toe, but not debilitating. I was hoping to be able to run 8:30s pretty comfortably & ended up averaging ~8:15 (AND it was hot!), so hey! Evidence that training, like, works and stuff (once it gets done feeling super shitty).

    Saturday 4/16 Hit up the 1st Annual Sports Basement Basement Sale, whut whut! Obviously I don't *need* more running shoes, but they were advertising 60-95% off on lightly used & returned merchandise, & I will never pass on stocking up if there's a crazy deal to be had.

    I walked out with a barely touched pair of Saucony Peregrines for $25, exciting because I still hadn't gotten around to purchasing a pair of actual trail shoes, plus as a pair of Kinvara 7s for $35. Based on early reviews that described the 7s as fairly similar to the K6s in the uppers, I'd decided there was no way I was paying anything even remotely close to full price just to try them out. But for $35 basically new, why not! (I also decided to go up a half size. Lately I've really been craving more room in the toe box so maybe that will help also.)

    Sunday 4/17: 16 long. With all my foot drama, especially my aborted 20 miler last week, this run felt like a bit of a moment of truth. If it was too painful and I had to cut it short, well, I'd just have to play Eugene by ear. If it went okay, though, then maybe after a good, solid taper, I'd be ready to roll (or at least get to the finish).

    And, thankfully, it did go okay. I definitely still have some not-insignificant pain on the inside of my left foot and I'm definitely still not using it super well all the time which sometimes leads to other aches and pains , but it was never so bad that I found myself needing to adjust my gait or consider tapping out early.

    It was mid-to-high 70s in SF and full sun, so I knew from the outset that this would not be a fast nor super pleasant run. Multiple sections of it were also significantly uphill and into the wind. But still, I found myself running a faster-than-usual pace for most miles without trying, and that's pretty encouraging after a month of feeling like poo.

    Last long run up to Land's End trail until fall!

    Did I mention how it never gets old? It never gets old.

    One of many hell-of steep hills.

    I suppose I'm officially tapering now -- 36 miles this next week including a 12 mile "long" run, and then it's race week and we're off to Oregon and to be honest I may be so busy eating & drinking that week I may or may not get any running done at all. #lettaperhappen

    Tuesday, April 5, 2016

    gym / run / laundry (oh and also work and sleep but that is maybe all).

    If you had the great misfortune of ever seeing an episode of The Jersey Shore, please accept my deepest condolences. But also, you may have had the great fortune of encountering the gem of wisdom below, imparted to us by one of the great sages of our time.

    Right up there with "Early to bed, early to rise" and "An apple a day," amirite?

    This last week passed in a total haze, and at one point (maybe when I started writing up this post?) I was trying to think back to what the heck I did all week and literally all I could come up with was this kind of fuzzy montage of running and lifting and karate and OMG sooooo much laundry and oh yeah also there is the day job and the hours spent driving around the Bay Area as a result. Screw you, living expenses.

    Oh and sleeping. Or lying in bed exhausted and cursing my brain for refusing to turn off. Or slumping on the couch thinking how I really should get ready for bed except I'm too tired to get off the couch.

    But in any case, I was trying to mentally sum up my week and I kept coming up with "gym, run, laundry," so I guess what I'm saying is that although I can't really get down with the T what with my love of not having skin cancer & all, my life these days is otherwise a lot like living on the Jersey Shore, except with more running and going to like an actual job or whatever. It's weird because this is quite far from the highest training load I've ever had in my life but I can't actually remember a time I was marathon training and felt this exhausted and crappy all the time.

    ~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 13 OF 17~*~*~

    You guys, I counted up these numbers and I have to say I was pretty pissed at how wee the total seemed, because given how I feel that "total miles" number should be *at least*, like, 75.

      * 39.5 total miles
      * 17.5 easy
      * 2 speed
      * 20 long
      * 3:00:00 strength work

    Monday 3/28: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate

    Tuesday 3/29: 2 warm up, 2 x (3 x 300m @ 6:25 / jog 100m) / jog 300m, 1.5 cool down = 5.2 total. This was my first non-easy run since the Oakland Half, and I did not, not, not feel ready to start doing speed work again, so I was thankful that this workout was short. Given the fact that it was just some short, fast intervals and not that many of them, I'm guessing the purpose had more to do with leg turnover/ neurological stuff than VO2 max. I hit them all between 6:08 and 6:34 (& my last one was actually the fastest), but man, I'm glad it was only six because I felt CRAPTASTIC.

    Wednesday 3/30: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate.

    Thursday 3/31: 7.5 easy. And by "easy," I mean craptastic. Like two miles in I was like, "This run is bullshit."

    Friday 4/1: a.m. strength work / PT / p.m. 20 long. Long story short, I kind of had to do this run on Friday instead of Sunday, because next weekend we're out of town wine tasting and sorry but there is no way a 20 mile long run is happening in Paso Robles, so I need to do it Friday before we leave. And doing a 20 miler this past Sunday and then ANOTHER 20 the following Friday seems like an epically bad idea, so I just shifted them both to Fridays (which means working on the weekends but whatever).

    I probably don't need to say it, but this run, like all others this week, was complete and total balls. #its20miles #whatdidyouexpect #seriouslywhat

    Saturday 4/2: Rest. I think I slept for like 10 hours which is not a thing I do.

    Sunday 4/3: 7.5 easy, after sleeping for close to 12 hours. And again, by easy, I mean utter balls.

    • Does your running every feel epically shit-tastic for weeks on end?
    • Do you ever find yourself thinking mid-run, "Seriously, this run is like seeing a person I don't like at three social engagements in a row and I just can't with it anymore?" or "This run can go straight to hell?"
    • How did you stop wanting to kick running in the balls, all day every day?

    Asking for a friend.

    Monday, March 28, 2016

    EUGENE WEEKS 11 & 12: Good times on the track + lots of recovery.

    First, I want to say that I really do appreciate all the comments in response to last week's Dies Irae of a race report reminding me that no, I am probably not actually getting slower by the week, but yes, the road from Blerch-ville back to #beastmode is a long one and I'm only a few months in. So thanks for that! I think I'm over it enough to put it out of my mind and focus on Eugene, which is good because I looked at a calendar recently and HI IT'S BARELY A MONTH AWAY and how the heck did that happen?

    One thing I love about training for endurance races is that you literally cannot do it like this.
    (EDIT: My friend E just pointed out that no, actually, you absolutely, 100% can. IF you want to pass out and/or vomit on yourself and/or possibly die.)

    I think I mentioned that prior to the Passion of the Oakland Half, I did run a speed workout that actually made me feel kind of halfway good about things, which is significant because I think that might have been the first time that's happened this year. On paper, it looked like kind of a beast: 2 x 1600m @ 10K pace/1:30 jog, 30:00 marathon effort, then another 2 x 1600m @ 10K pace/1:30 jog. (Fun fact: These types of workouts actually show up in my schedule labeled, "Big Workout!!" which I find kind of hilarious.)

    Up until then all my speed workouts had been in the 6.5-8.5 range, which makes sense as only recently did I reach the point in the post-injury comeback ramp where I started adding faster running back in at all. With a warm-up & cool down, this one totaled 11.5 miles, which felt like a BIG jump up in terms of mileage in one speed workout. And that's even without considering the fact that I'd just run 20 miles two days before and was definitely not 100% recovered. But, my rule is to try to do all workouts before looking for excuses to cut them short.

    And, it wasn't that bad! I mean, it was hard. But the first two mile repeats in 7:15-7:20? Completely doable (which is a relief as mile repeats at 10K pace have been miserable for me lately). I ran the 30 minutes at ~8:30ish, which felt like about the right level of effort. The last two hard miles were significantly harder than the first two and I did have to run pretty much all-out on the last one to make the pace, but I did it.

    (The cool down, though...oy. I felt completely braindead and my legs were like lead. It didn't help that it was hot & all my sweat was aggravating some really bad chafing I had leftover from Sunday's 20 in the rain. I actually had to take my shirt off because some spots on my torso hurt so bad, and a spot on my thigh ended up so raw that it was bleeding by the end of the workout. So, that sucked.)

    Anyway, that was the highlight of week 11 (other than, y'know, crashing & burning at Oakland).

    ~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 11 OF 17~*~*~

    Some Numbers:

      * 34 miles (12.9 easy, 8 speed/tempo, 13.1 race)
      * 20:00 stretch & roll (ugh, I am really failing at this)

    Monday 3/14: Rest

    Tuesday 3/15: 2 warm up, 2 x (1600m @ 7:18 / 1:30 jog), 30:00 @ marathon effort, 2 x (1600m @ 7:18 / 1:30 jog), 1.5 cool down = 11.5 total.

    Wednesday 3/16: Rest

    Thursday 3/17: 8 easy. Oh. My. GOD, this was the hardest easy run I can ever, EVER remember not just giving up on completely after a mile or two. I was so, so tired and my legs and feet felt like they'd been hit by a train. I assume that was the 20 mile long run + 11.5 mile speed workout two days later. (This was when I first started getting worried about Oakland.)

    Friday 3/18: Rest.

    Saturday 3/19: 2 mile shakeout Rest. Legs felt like absolute garbage. Just BARTing to the expo & back was exhausting. Definitely not reassuring. (I dunno, maybe an easy two miles would have helped, but I doubt it.)

    Sunday 3/20: 1.4 easy + 13.1 race.

    This last week has been all about recovery, and MAN, have I needed it. I was traveling for work Monday through Thursday, which actually worked out well because the trip coinciding with post-race rest days meant I didn't have to worry about figuring out where to run and shoe-horning it into my work schedule. On the other hand, even these short, easy recovery runs have felt REALLY tough, which I'm taking as more evidence that yes, I really did leave it all out there at Oakland (under the circumstances). No strength work but I'm planning to start up again this coming week with Phase 2 of "The New Rules of Lifting for Women."

    ~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 12 OF 17~*~*~

    Some Numbers:

      * 22 miles, all easy
      * I did not stretch & roll this week, not even once. The reason is because my muscles have actually felt really good and loose, even post-race, and it's usually stiffness/tightness/etc. that reminds me "Right, I need to stretch and roll." But I'm pretty sure the reason I've been feeling good in that department is the fact that for a while there I was being pretty consistent about it, so I really, really do need to get back to it before disaster strikes.

    Monday 3/21: Rest/travel/work

    Tuesday 3/22: Rest/work

    Wednesday 3/23: Rest/work

    Thursday 3/24: 7 easy/fly home. We had a late start on Thursday, so I got up at the regular time & ran 7 miles on the treadmill. As terrible as Oakland felt, this first easy run wasn't too bad (though I did take several quick breaks since treadmill running sucks).

    Friday 3/25: 7.5 easy. The recovery continues. This run was significantly tougher than Thursday's--legs felt heavy and sluggish, and I was so generally tired and wiped out overall that I felt like you probaby could have knocked me over with a feather.

    Saturday 3/26: Rest.

    Sunday 3/27: 7.5 easy. The first half of this run felt a lot like Friday, ie, awful. My legs still felt heavy and sluggish, my lungs felt like they were working extra hard to take in enough air in spite of my shambling gait, and it was VERY windy so I ran the first 3.75 miles into a 15-20mph headwind. But the second half felt better (sure the tail wind helped with that) and I was surprised at my average pace for the whole run.

    Next week: Back to speed work, NROLFW Phase 2, and another 20 miler!

    Friday, March 25, 2016

    Race Report: Oakland Half Marathon 2016

    2016 was my third year running this race. At my first Oakland Half in 2012 I ran a four-minute PR, and at my second in 2013, in warm temps and feeling awful, I somehow pulled out my third sub-1:40. Which is all to say, this race has always smiled on me in its way, so I hoped that this year it would at least be gentle with my out-of-shape, undertrained ass.

    LEFT: Such a fun race with this lady in 2012 (who, I should also mention, just ran the freaking Antarctica Marathon a few days ago because she is HARD CORE like that). RIGHT: 2013 post race with Cat & Jen (who know *LOVES* this picture). In retrospect, not the best day for knee socks.

    God, was I wrong.

    So very, very wrong.

    I should say, I think there is a fine line between being realistic & honest with yourself vs. making doom-filled self-fulfilling prophecies, between having giant, hindsight-is-20/20 realizations vs. making excuses after the fact. I hope I'm more on the former side than the latter in both cases, but it's hard to be 100% sure about these things.

    First, I should say that I have never--NEVER!--been a pre-race head case, but ever since I started racing again in December, I have been ALLLL of the pre-race head case. Like, the entire week before the race I am obsessing about how much the race is going to hurt and how unpleasant it's going to be and how unprepared I feel. Like feeling sick at my stomach the night before because I'm so anxious and afraid. Like being too wired to sleep the night before and too nauseous to eat the morning of. Like feeling a new wave of panic each time I notice I'm a minute closer to race time. This has never been like me but it has been VERY me these last three races. Other things that have never been like me but are like me lately include dreading fast/hard workouts because they are so mentally difficult and so depressing in terms of the paces, so, I dunno, maybe that's related.

    Second, I should say that I was kind of nervous when I saw that my Oakland Half race week workout schedule looked like 1) a 20 mile run on Sunday (the farthest I've run since July), 2) a tough 11.5 mile speed workout two days later (the longest speed workout I've done since July by 3 miles), and 3) the highest weekly mileage (45ish?) I've run since July.

    The 20 miler and the tough speed workout were actually some of the better, more confidence-boosting workouts I've had lately, but then two days later (ie, three days before Oakland) when it was time to run an easy 8 miler, I felt like an absolute train wreck. Trust me, I had 70+ minutes to think about it and I actually don't think it's an exaggeration to say that that was *the* toughest, most impossible feeling run I can remember except for maybe the end of Mountains 2 Beach three years ago. I actually almost quit at 2 miles because I was legitimately worried about being able to make it all the way back home. (Why, then, did I keep running anyway? BECAUSE IT SAID 8 ON THE SCHEDULE, DAMMIT! I'm not saying that was the *right* call; I'm just saying that was the reason.)

    So yeah. I slogged through that run at 10:00+ pace and then laid on the floor in my living room and didn't move for maybe 10 minutes.

    "No biggie," I reasoned. "I have 2.5 days to recover. PLENTY OF TIME!" But I continued feeling like garbage the next day, and Saturday also, so much so that I skipped the scheduled 2-mile shakeout run because I literally kind of thought that I might have 14 miles left in me for the weekend but definitely, definitely not 16. (Again, I'm not saying it was actually true; I'm just saying it's how I felt about things at the time.)

    Actually, I had a few hours Saturday night of feeling pretty optimistic after re-reading my Oakland Half 2013 race report, where apparently I felt like poop and/or a train wreck the entire week & had basically all but committed to phoning it in & then somehow magically ran a sub-1:40. Which reminded me of that post of Phoebe Wright's where she was like "Feeling crappy and tired doesn't matter! Only the training matters!" And I was like, "YEAH PHOEBE, YOU TELL 'EM!"

    Plus I was sitting on the confidence from that beast of a track workout I'd just done (did I mention it was 11.5 miles, including a bunch of 10K pace mile repeats, and I CRUSHED it? I crushed it), and in comparison to that, seriously, how hard could it be to run, say, ~8:00 miles for 13 miles or so.

    (Spoiler: It could be real, REAL hard. Real hard.)

    By bed time I was back to feeling nauseous and jittery and scared out of my mind. (At one point I might have actually thought to myself, "Hey, you never know. Maybe I'll get lucky and just die in my sleep.") By the next morning, I was so sick at my stomach I could barely eat, and from that point on I pretty much just devoted my energy to collecting reasons for why this was 100% for sure going to be the worst race of my life:

      1) My legs & body in general are trashed from the previous week.
      2) I didn't sleep enough.
      3) Oh goody, the only viable BART train to the race is late --> +10 to general anxiety.
      4) SWEET now I don't have time for a sufficient warm-up.
      5) Stripped down to my race clothes, I am not cold --> it is already too warm for a good race.
      6) Now that I am finally warming up everything feels terrible.
      7) It is 9:07, three minutes till the gun, time to head to the corral, and HOLY JESUS ON JET SKIS THEY JUST STARTED THE RACE AND I AM IN THE 2:30 PACE GROUP!!

    Things pretty much went on like that. I spent the first two miles or so playing frogger to try to get out of the 11:00-12:00/mile zone and wanting to punch people who kept stopping dead in their tracks to take selfies. (Which, yeah, I know isn't fair; if you're going to stop every few minutes for pictures, the 2.5-3 hour pace group is where you should be & it's partly my own fault that I was in the wrong place. I was just angry & frustrated.) Then in mile 2 we hit this tiny little bottleneck where hundreds of people were trying to squeeze through a space maybe four people wide. (I'm not kidding that I think I had to actually walk for 1.5-2 minutes. We found out later this was due to a combination of construction & weather & the race organizers thought they'd worked it out.) Finally around mile three I was able to more or less hit the pace I was shooting for, which, although it didn't feel easy, exactly, didn't feel completely like death.

    This must be pretty early on still because I don't look nearly pathetic enough.

    I know that a mental problem I have in the half sometimes is expecting the pace to feel easier for longer than it should, so I'd decided ahead of time that at no point would I think thoughts like "This feels too hard for x miles left, I better slow down" and instead I would just focus on trying to run one more 8:00 mile, and one more, and one more, and just do that for as long as I could.

    Which kind of both did and did not work out. On the one hand, I think it was only mile 4 or 5 before I was having a complete panic attack inside because 8:00 pace felt so much harder than I thought it should and the thought of voluntarily continuing to put myself through it for 8-9 more miles was utterly horrifying. Mentally I completely fell apart at the thought of the distance that was left and honestly wanted to quit right then & there. On the other hand, the part of me that was still rational was able to convince the panicked, irrational part to keep going because "Don't worry, you only have to do this for as long as you can, and then you don't have to anymore," and that was cool with me. (Yes, the logic there leaves something to be desired, but you don't race a half marathon with the mental/emotional capacity you want; you race a half marathon with the mental/emotional capacity you have.)

    I think it was around the halfway point that I honestly began losing the pace. But what was unique about this particular losing of the pace was that it didn't feel like I was running too hard and needed to slow down. ie, it wasn't a cardiovascular type of hard. Instead it felt more like I'd run too far. My legs felt dead and numb and just detached from my body in general in a way I much more associate with the last few miles of a marathon than with the halfway point of a 13.1 where I've been too ambitious. For the entire second half of the race, at every point, I felt like I was giving 100% effort and instead of screaming in pain my legs were just like, "Eh. Nope. Sorry, Chief. Outta gas."

    True fact, I chew on my tongue when I'm suffering.

    And, inevitably, this resulted in #FEELINGS. So, so many moments when I felt so low that all I wanted to do was stop and sit down and have a good, long, self-pitying sob. So many moments of debating what would be worse, the shame of giving up and quitting or how awful it would feel to finish but see what I was sure would be a personal worst on the race clock.

    In addition to self-pity, there was also a lot of bitterness. I now started making a new list in my head, entitled "People Who Need Punching in the Neck" which included the following:

    • People stopping dead in their tracks to take selfies
    • People holding wacky and/or whimsical signs ("Smile! You paid to do this!" "If marathons were easy they'd be called your mom!" FUCK YOU ALL FOREVER)
    • People yelling "You look great!!" WE BOTH KNOW YOU'RE LYING & IT DOESN'T HELP.
    • The dude running next to me with the sports beans who is matching my pace exactly no matter how many times I try to speed up or slow down to lose him (sports beans and I = MORTAL ENEMIES.)
    • The dude at mile 4 telling the woman he's running with, "Don't worry! We're almost halfway there!"
    • People yelling "You got this!!" Like, how would you even know that? Based on what? I get that you're trying to be encouraging, but unless you know the person and what they're likely to be experiencing right now and have a very good personal reason to believe they truly do GOT THIS!!, maybe just go with "GO [name on bib]!!" because when someone really, really, really don't "GOT THIS," having someone yell that at you is more demoralizing than I can even explain.
    • The woman at mile nine matching my pace while apparently having some kind of very noisy stroke and/or cardiac event (who am I kidding, though? She just sounded how I felt.)
    • The volunteer yelling "WATER!" from whom I took a cup and then proceeded to pour Gatorade all over myself (real talk, tho, volunteers get a pass, because volunteers. Seriously, I love you all, even if you did trick me into a Gatorade shower.)
    • Everyone at mile 10 yelling "You're almost there!!" WRONG NO VERY BAD 100% PILES OF NO.

    In case it's not clear, I'm pretty sure I finished this race on pure spite because honestly, I did not have much else going on in the pycho-emotional realm. By the last 5K I was trying not to collapse in a heap of sobs and barely keeping up sub-10 minute miles, which is only something that should ever happen to me if I have a broken leg. By the last mile, I was pretty much dead inside, which I think you'll agree is pretty obvious based on the shots below.

    Working super hard to hold it all in in that last one.

      Official: 1:54:53/13.1 miles/8:46 pace
      Garmin: 1:54:55/13.35 miles/8:36 pace

    Not to sound like an ungrateful oblivious ass, because I know there are plenty of people who would be thrilled with this time, but everything is relative and I have never in my life run so hard for such an abysmal result. (I have run one slower half, my first ever in 2008 which I basically didn't train for.) Thankfully I had friends there after the race to listen to me bitch & moan and remind me that yeah, I was pretty much running on trashed legs, and getting into a negativity spiral never helps anyone. By the end of brunch, I was almost laughing about it.


    Chillin' in the VIP tent post-race with Three Medal Jen, which was pretty nice when it briefly started pouring. (Photo credit = Jen)

    Baked eggs & polenta at Bellanico's with Jen, bt, & Clare.

    (I know I said I was getting the French toast, but then Jen ordered these amazing donuts for the table & my sweet tooth was satisfied.) (Photo credit = bt)

    On the other hand, I have to figure out how to mentally deal with the fact that I ran a kinda-sorta okay 5K basically detrained in December, and every race I've run since then as I've started training again has been progressively worse and worse. I have to look back at the physical stuff and the mental stuff and somehow untangle how much of each contributed to those results and balance all that with the fact that neither of these last two sucky races were my goal race and going into a race with fresh, tapered legs does indeed make a huge difference. (Later in the week I'd emailed Coach A about something related & we back-and-forthed a bit about how the race went, and honestly I was quite relieved to hear she agreed it was probably mostly those hard workouts the week before & if this had been a goal race it would have played out much differently. Phew.)

    On the other other hand, ugh. UUUUGGGGHHH. Someone I'm not paying money to please remind me there's a chance in Hades that I am not actually getting slower by the week.

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

    Location: Oakland, CA

    Date: Late March (March 20, 2016 this year)

    Price: The Oakland Running Festival includes several different events. From the website:

    (For what it's worth, a slight increase in most cases from the last time I ran it.)

    Deadlines/sellout factor: This year, there were still spaces in the half and full as of the expo on Saturday. I believe the 5K and relay sold out beforehand. No race day registration.

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

    • Marathon - 682 (significantly down from 2013)
    • Half Marathon - 2564 (significantly down from 2013)
    • 5K - 2761 (WAY up from 2013)

    The Expo:

    As in past years that I ran, the expo was at the Marriott City Center right off 12th Street BART in Oakland, which is super convenient, & comprised pretty much what you'd expect -- a few running clothes / gear purveyors, a few health / fitness booths, sign-up booths for other local races, & a few community groups. Roadrunner Sports was there selling lightly used returns for $50/pair, which I thought was pretty sweet. (Alas, nothing I wanted in my size.)

    To get your race bib & shirt, you must print out your e-registration card from the link ORF sent you, then bring it to the expo. I don't know if it was the time of day or what (2:30-3:00ish?), but when I got there the place was fairly empty & I was in & out in about ten minutes.

    The Course:

    I don't think the courses have changed much in recent years. One big hill in the marathon (~475 ft upwards from miles 6-9 & back down from about 11-15) & basically flat the rest of the way. The half course is reasonably flat, with just a few spots with short rolling hills or just-noticeable grade (the worst of it being--where else??--the last .1 miles or so to the finish line).

    Aid stations are in general I think more frequent than most half marathons I've run (every mile & a half or so?), which I appreciate. Both courses wind through all different parts of Oakland. There is lots of great crowd support from residents & local community groups, which is fun (though I felt like there was less this year?). There are a lot of turns and it can get a bit warm towards the end if the sun comes out, but like I said earlier, I PR'd at this race in 2012 and ran my second fastest half in 2013 on a hot day, so in general I think it is still a reasonably fast course.


    The Snow Park staging area is super-convenient to the 19th Street BART (although marathoners should note that trains don't run early enough on Sunday to get you to the race by the 7:30 start).

    As long as you're not running too late, it's pretty easy to park for free on the street within a few blocks of the start, or there are a few closer lots and garages that were doing event parking for ~$10 or so. If you're arriving after the earlier races are started, just be sure that you know where the street closures are so that you don't count on trying to get somewhere you can't actually get. (Check the site for updated parking options & road closures.)

    Gear check is basically right by the start & BYO bag which I think is great. It can get crowded immediately before the start of each race, but also moves pretty quickly.


    A nice long-sleeved tech shirt & hefty medal. Instead of a giant bag full of samples & coupons you won't use and fliers for races you won't run, you can log into your "virtual goody bag" online & see if there are any fliers or coupons you're interested in, which I appreciated because it didn't mean a bunch of unnecessary trash & recycling.

    (The shirt looks navy blue in this picture but it's actually more of a turquoise.)

    Overall Assessment:

    Sunday was not my day this year, but I still like this race in general. It's well run for having so many different events to manage, and although it's maybe not *THE* fastest PR course in the Bay Area, I think it's still a pretty solid option for this time of year at a still-reasonable price. It's likely I'll be back.

    Thursday, March 17, 2016

    Oakland Half Marathon predictions & goals....

    Honestly, my only real goal at ORF this weekend is to do my best and run as fast as I can and make peace with the fact that, barring some kind of miracle, it will be far from my best 13.1 ever.

    But, I do like to have ballpark expectations so that I know how hard to push myself, so this is me sort of thinking out loud about that.

    Using my December 5K & February 10K times, I used a few different online race prediction calculators & came up with numbers ranging from 1:41:30 to 1:43:00, which, frankly, seems WAY fast to me. But, that might just be because I've always been faster at the 5K/10K distances than longer ones. (Exhibit A: My 2012 5K PR of 20:44 predicted marathon & half marathon times of ~3:18 & ~1:35 respectively, and though I ran PRs at nearly every distance that year, I never came close to either of those.) But it does make me feel like maybe sub-1:45 (~8:00 pace) is not an unreasonable goal.

    In general, the wild cards at this race tend to be 1) GPS reliability and 2) the weather. Everyone knows hat although the course is certified, we all tend to clock anywhere from 13.25 to 13.6, just because of all the buildings & that one tunnel in mile 3 (I think), and because the race starts at 9:10 in late March, there's always the possibility of a warmish race.

    In a way, the GPS issue doesn't *really* matter. You run your effort level, whatever you've got that day, and it is what it is. Mentally, you just have to know that you're probably not going as fast as your watch thinks you are. So I will probably only use my watch to get a general idea of what pace I think I can hold in the first few miles, shooting for say 7:55ish, and if my body gives me a big giant NOPE, well, that's whatever it is. Such is life. (But, I am going to try to run hard and if nothing else try to spend some quality time suffering & generally working on my mental toughness.) My other thought re: GPS is that I will probably turn the auto lap off (since I already know it will be unreliable) & just try to hit lap as I pass the mile markers. (I've tried this a couple of times in the past--sometimes it works out, & sometimes I just don't have the bandwidth because I'm too busy, well, suffering.)

    Weather-wise, things look pretty decent so far: Partly cloudy-to-overcast, not above 60F until 11am (when I should be done), and little or no wind. There's a 56% chance of rain currently, but give me rain over sun any race day. (Besides, it's not like I haven't had plenty of practice.) Still, you never know 'round these parts so mentally I'm trying to prepare myself for anything. (Warm weather, even a little warm, always seems to be my undoing.)

    Lastly, there is the fueling question. It's been a while since I did this with any level of planning, so here's what I've got:

      Pre-race: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g CHO
      Mile 2.6: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
      Mile 4: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g CHO
      Mile 4.3: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
      Mile 5.3: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
      Mile 6.7: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO

      ***1 hour mark = 56g CHO***

      Mile 8: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g CHO
      Mile 8.6: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
      Mile 9.9: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
      Mile 10.2: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO
      Mile 12: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g CHO
      Mile 12.2: cup gatorade -> ~5g CHO

      ***Total = 112g --> ~64g CHO/hour***

    (Those water stops looks sort of oddly spaced to me, but that's more or less what's on the map so I'm going with it.)

    The background here is that I used to have no carbs during a half, then later about 6 oz of sports drink (so ~20g CHO) over the course of the race, and then I learned some freaking science & found out that 30g per hour is the lowest amount of CHO that makes any difference whatsoever in a race & really more seems to be better up to the point that it makes you sick at your stomach (a point that varies for different people). In the past I've done fine with 60g/hour, so that's what I've tried to race at the last few times I've bothered to actually make a plan. Matt Fitzgerald has a good explanation of all this in his book The New Rules of Marathon & Half-Marathon Nutrition.

    Oh, and one more goal is to ABSOLUTELY refuel at Bellanico's afterward with this:

    Country French toast with whipped mascarpone, strawberries,
    huckleberries, & maple syrup. THIS IS HAPPENING, PEOPLE.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016

    EUGENE WEEK 10 OF 17: In which I run to Marin County & back.

    On Sunday I had 20 miles to run, which I was not exactly excited about it since El NiƱo has finally delivered & it was pouring rain & kind of windy & not really meant to stop until late evening.

    The storms lately have been no joke. Apparently the wind blew down this tree on my usual route through the park sometime Saturday or Sunday morning.

    I've run a bunch of 20 milers in my life and it's kind of funny how the route varies depending on what, psychologically, I think will get me through it. Some days I do not want to have to think even a little bit--just zone out and put one foot in front of the other until my watch ticks off mile 20. On those days it's laps of the east side of GG Park, all the way--plenty of nice even sidewalk, gently rolling hills, relatively few traffic lights, & plenty of water fountains & public restrooms should they be necessary.

    But on other days, just the thought of pounding out that same loop mindlessly for 3+ hours actively makes me want to vomit. STIMULATION! ADVENTURE! insists my brain. Sunday was that kind of day, so I decided that, eh, screw the weather, let's run to Marin County and back.

    Not giving up too much internet privacy, I hope?

    I've run across the Golden Gate Bridge a few times but never 10 miles out, starting at home, & 10 miles back, so there was a little bit of novelty to it. As usual the rain was mildly annoying for the first mile or so but then I just got used to it & after that it wasn't really a big deal.

    It should be noted that this route is *at least* kind of an intermediate way of running 20 miles, maybe even advanced intermediate. There are some long, not-insignificant hills heading up to the bridge, and a few poorly paved or unpaved sections (which, in the rain, had become slushy and/or muddy in places). The Bridge itself can be more of a challenge that people think--it really is a big hill, and though it's not *crazy* steep or anything, people are often surprised at the grade going up and down as they cross. On top of that if it's at all windy in general, it can be CRAZY windy up on the span.

    On the other hand, you are rewarded with some really fantastic views along the Coastal Trail, which in my opinion are gorgeous on any day but particularly breathtaking on a rainy, overcast one.

    Playing peek-a-boo with the Bridge on Lincoln Blvd

    Hello there big boy!

    Never gets old.

    Plus there's just the novelty of being able to say you ran to another county & back.

    I definitely had a chance to break out some of my trail running chops on the way up (not that I have a ton of those, but still), and even then the whole thing actually took longer than it should because it seemed like every time I'd round another curve or summit another hill I encountered yet another gorgeous view that demanded to be photographed. Seriously, I was reaching almost corny levels of "OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE I LIVE HERE! LOOK HOW GREAT RUNNING IS!"

    The wind on the bridge was no joke. My long run pace is usually 9:30-10:00/mile but the tail wind crossing from San Francisco to Marin was blowing me along at ~8:45ish, even uphill! (There were a few times when I thought it could have legit blown me off the bridge if it hadn't been for the guardrail.)

    MARIN! #achievementunlocked

    Of course, that meant crossing back the other way was equally tough. I'm not great at estimating wind speed but nearly the whole way across, I felt like I was doing one of those drills where you run with an elastic cord attached to a belt around your waist, and there were times when the wind was so crazy I could barely even move forward. (According to the internet, this would indicate maybe a 35-40mph head wind?) It didn't bother me, though; instead it kind of just made me feel like a bad ass. "Yeah; I run to other counties in 40mph headwind. NBD."

    This crazy euphoric I CAN'T BELIEVE I LIVE HERE bad ass feeling lasted until about mile 12 (just a short ways off the bridge) when almost out of nowhere I suddenly felt exhausted, which is really weird. Usually on a long run, I make it at least 14-15 miles before it actively starts to feel hard. (Also, right around this same moment, my phone went from ~15% battery to completely dead in a single photo attempt, which sort of seemed like a perfect metaphor for my physical state.) I wasn't feeling emotionally low or discouraged, just kind of concerned about how things had gotten so physically hard so suddenly, considering I still had over a third of my run left to go. There were a few moderate uphills left plus some significant downhills (which I'm sure you'll agree are not exactly easy when you're tired), so I just kept hoping I'd get through those without hitting a wall.

    Thankfully, it never really got any worse--just hit "gaaaaahh this sucks" around mile 12 & kind of stayed right at that level through the end. And the very end was maybe, dare I say it, easier than usual? Often in the last 2-4 miles part of me will be thinking "Ugggghhh I CANNOT," but this time it was just kind of, "Meh, this kind of sucks, let's just get it over with."

    Also, I was in quite a lot of pain immediately after, probably worse, actually, than most marathons I've run. (Not injury pain or anything; just that general waist-down intense ache that kind of makes you wish you had a morphine drip.) I kind of wondered if all of this was due in part to it being a tougher route than I usually do my long runs on, or the crazy wind, or the fact that it came at the end of my highest mileage week since July, or some combination of all of it. But in any case I got it done, and it was not completely awful.

    ~*~*~EUGENE MARATHON WEEK 10 OF 17~*~*~

    Some Numbers:

      * 44.3 miles (13 easy, 6.4 tempo, 4.9 speed, 20 long)
      * 2:00:00 strength work
      * 30:00 stretch & roll

    Monday: a.m. strength work/p.m. karate

    Tuesday: 2 warm up, 10 x (600m @ 2:38 (7:05 pace) / 200m jog), 1.5 cool down = 8.4 total. This pretty much fit the mental model I have for a normal, average track workout: The first few take effort and you feel like maybe you should be running them faster, and then they gradually get harder, and by the end you're just *barely* hitting the splits at ~90% effort. So not easy, but satisfying and not terrible. The target was 2:38 per 600m & I hit them all between 2:34 & 2:39 without feeling like I wanted to die, so I think this one goes down as a win.

    Wednesday: a.m. strength work/p.m. karate.

    Thursday: 6 easy. Schedule called for 8, but I was trying to get the big workouts in in their entirety while also keeping my weekly miles under 45 (still ramping up to match the official plan) so I cut it a little short.

    Friday: 2 warm up, 3 x (2mi @ LT pace / 2:00 jog), 1.5 cool down = 10 total. KICKED. MY. ASS.

    Saturday: Rest. But be very productive! Don is out of town skiing this week with friends, so I took the opportunity to clean basically the entire house, grocery shop, pick up & return some packages, deal with some mail, pay some bills, do my taxes, & take care of a few other annoying household/administrative chores I'd been putting off. Finished off the night by actually cooking a meal (GASP!) & reading a book on the couch with a glass of wine. So, it was a good day.

    Sunday: 20 long. Basically did nothing else, but I don't feel bad about that.

    NEXT WEEK = OAKLAND RUNNING FESTIVAL!!! It's probably going to suck (not ORF itself, just my *personal* race), but at least I'll get to hang out with Jen, Cat, & bt!