Tuesday, October 30, 2012

CIM Week 9 of 14: 38 Miles Is Not The Worst I Could Be Doing

Self, meet marginally acceptable marathon mileage. Marginally acceptable marathon mileage, meet self.

Notice that I didn't say exemplary marathon mileage. Or even "pretty good" mileage. In fact, as I recall, last year my podiatrist (who treats Olympic runners & has a lifetime marathon PR of 2:44) opined that anyone attempting to train for a marathon on less than 40 miles a week on average is asking for trouble, and 50 is "probably okay." Sigh.

On Sunday I'd planned to run 20 miles, which was kind of a big deal as my most recent run that started with a '2' was CIM '11. A had gotten her 20 miler in the day before but agreed to meet me about halfway through my run for a few miles, which I really appreciated.

Now, I did not feel as great on this run as I have on my other long runs. I felt slow and tired & my feet & lower legs felt crampy & sore, but it was more of a "Meh, I've had better runs" kind of feeling than a "GAAAAAHH, this SUUUUUUCKS" one. The only down side was that I got a later start than I'd wanted due to lack of planning (did you know you can use gummy bears in place of gels in a pinch? True story), so instead of being halfway done with my 20 when I met A in Golden Gate Park, I was only up to 7.5. Don & I had plans to spend the day wine tasting in Sonoma & wanted to leave by 11, so I only really had until 10 to run, & in the end I only got up to 17 before I had to call it a morning & head home.

Here are some pictures from Sonoma, since there are not many running-related pictures in this post:

But back to running stuff.

A couple of observations on this & previous long runs:

1) Last year when I did my (only) 20 miler, I was terrified. It had been years since I had run that far and even though theoretically I knew I should have no problem getting through it, I was worried about how much it would hurt and how I would feel after & also about potentially blowing up around mile 17 or something. This time, I was so focused on my time limit that I didn't give much thought to how far I was running or how I felt. Instead of "OMG 20 miles soooOOOoo far," my mindset was more, "Let's get this bitch DONE."

2) I would say that after all of my long runs training for CIM '11 (all four of them), I felt pretty broken for the rest of the day & definitely needed the day after completely off. While I have been taking the Monday after these long runs off (except for karate), the way I've been feeling in the minutes and hours afterward has been night and day with how I felt last year. Seriously -- I've felt 95% normal. A little pain in my left calf this time (I think I strained it a little), but otherwise, I came home, jumped in the shower, got dressed, & had a great day in Sonoma feeling as if I'd barely run at all. Sure, it wasn't quite 20, but 17 is still a pretty darn respectable long run. I even considered throwing in 4-5 miles on Monday, but decided keeping with the recovery days was probably smart.

3) I feel like I'm running & racing really well right now, which is blowing my mind considering how little mileage I've been doing. Going into Healdsburg, I felt like my long runs had been going well, but marathon speed & tempo work is not the same as 10K/half speed & tempo work, so I wasn't sure how prepared I was to run fast. If I hadn't had such a good race there, I would've felt nervous about the possibility of having the strength to go the distance but not the speed. But what can you complain about when your long runs are butter and you're running PRs in the half? Obviously I'm going to do my best to get that mileage up in these last few weeks before taper, but still. I'm feeling SOOOO much more confident right now than I was this time last year.

Grand Total: 38 miles

* 35 easy
* 3 speed / intervals

Monday: Work, work, work.

Tuesday: Work, work, work / drive to Fairfield

Wednesday: 2 warm up + 8 x 400m w/ ~200m jog recoveries + 2 cool down. On the (utterly terrifying) hotel treadmill!! This was my first treadmill run since 2006. True story. Plus, it gave me an excuse to get some new (totally neutral!!) shoes. ;)

Saucony Kinvara 3s. I'll have a review for you once
I get some decent miles on them, but so far so good!

Thursday: 7 easy. This run was lovely! Felt great & kept up a nice pace without much effort.

Friday: 7 easy. This run was harder. I kind of wanted to cut it short, but since I wasn't having any actual pain, I pushed through. A bit slower than Thursday, & with more effort.

Saturday: 7 easy Tailgating / football game. I guess technically I could've gotten up early to do this one, but I'd had a long week & am not 100% sure I could've gone without the extra sleep. Also I kind of went back & forth all day about taking a rest day before my long run, which is probably total weak sauce but whatever. By the time we got home from football it was late & we hadn't eaten, & since I knew I'd be getting up SUPER early (for me, for a weekend) for my long run in the morning, there wasn't really time anyway.

Sunday: 17 long.

We'll be in Paso Robles for some more wine tasting this coming weekend, so I'm doing my best to get as many miles in as I can in the next four days. Yes, I need to get the mileage up, but I also need to drink fabulous wine, eat rich food, & wander around autumn vineyards in boots & scarves.

Last fall at Turley Cellars

The vineyards at Wild Horse

Speaking of Miss A, she's talked me into running Clarksburg again on 11/11, but the 20 miler this time, & as a supported training run instead of a race. I really enjoyed the event last year in spite of everything, and also any time you pay money for something you know you're that much more committed to doing it. So I'm looking forward to that.

Friday, October 26, 2012

In Which I Have Wacky Adventures in Fairfield

Alright, maybe "wacky" is a bit of an overstatement. And...maybe also adventures.

Whatever, bizarre & out-of-the-ordinary stuff happened.

But first let's back up.

I kind of did a bad thing & basically took last week post-Healdsburg completely off. Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday were scheduled rest days. Thursday I did my easy five miles, which was miserable & sucked. On Friday, I said, "Meh, not feeling it today. I'll just run a little farther on Saturday & Sunday." But it turned out that I was too busy on Saturday & Sunday having the most perfectly seasonal fall days, and the thought of putting on running clothes & getting all sweaty filled me with a deep, dreadful sadness. No; my weekend was filled instead with football, sweaters, boots, cardigans, pretty scarves, cocktails, fancy coffee, symphony, & Italian food. It was beautiful.

Still, a five mile week in the middle (literally, exact middle) of marathon training is a little ooky, so by Sunday night I was making promises to myself to be super-diligent between now & taper about getting the miles in (particularly knowing that I already have some weekends when I most likely won't be able to run). Starting with a few easy miles on Monday.

Aaaaaand here's how great of a start I got off to:

Monday morning, engrossed in prep for work trip to Fairfield: "Er....maybe I can get away for a few miles at lunch."

Monday lunch time, still hopelessly engrossed in prep work: "Maybe I can get out of here earlier & get a run in before karate."

Monday evening, still working (also not at karate): "Since I'm working late tomorrow night, maybe I can get my track workout done in the morning & just go to work a little late."

6:30 am Tuesday morning, after working into the wee hours: "I am soooo not leaving this bed."

It was at that point that I knew I was looking at my 5th day of big fat zero miles. I knew I'd be working until seven & then had to get on the road, which would put me in Fairfield at 9, best case, with just enough time to get checked in, grab something to eat, & get to bed.

I couldn't face a sixth day with no running, so I defiantly threw some running clothes into my duffel, stuffed my Newtons in a plastic bag...

...and promptly left them sitting on the bed. I'll spare you the litany of curses I spewed upon arriving at my hotel & realizing this, but know that it was epic.

So I made a plan. My work stuff finished at four, and after that I cruised up the freeway to the Vacaville Fleet Feet.

Originally the plan was simple. I've recently retired a pair of Adrenalines & my newest pair are getting on in miles, so I figured I'd just grab another pair. The Lovely Miss Elizabeth, however, had other ideas.

Initially I told her that I was in from out of town & had forgotten my shoes so decided to just pick some up, & that my sort of default shoe was the Adrenaline. She asked me if I knew for a fact that I needed the stability, so I recounted my history vis-à-vis shin splints -> the podiatrist -> orthotics -> Adrenalines & how I've been gradually trying to strengthen my feet & lower legs & move into more neutral shoes.

Since that's been a year & a half ago now, she suggested that maybe doing the whole fitting process again wasn't the worst idea anyone ever had. Figuring it couldn't hurt, I shrugged & did some barefoot sitting & standing for her & awaited her assessment.

"You know, you look pretty neutral to me."


Then she measured with the Fancy Tools (= basically height of arch while weight bearing vs. height of arch while non-weight bearing), just to be sure.

"Yep," she nodded. "Textbook neutral."


"I mean we'll put you in shoes & have you run in them a bit & see there's something there, but you actually have a little supination happening, if anything."

This was completely not shocking in any way, which I told her.

I spent the next twenty minutes trying out a few different shoes, none of which I had ever had on my feet before. The first pair Elizabeth & her sidekick watched me run in was the Saucony Kinvara 3. The Kinvara is one of those shoes that I've always heard people rave about but figured I couldn't wear, which was the main reason I ended up buying this shoe. When I jogged back, they were both nodding.

"100% neutral."


"Yep. Textbook."

"Really. Like, neutral, neutral?"

"As in, you do not need a stability shoe because a) there is nothing to correct, and b) you're a forefoot striker, so even if you did overpronate, the stability post never touches the ground anyway and thus does nothing."


"Waste of money. You're Switzerland, girl."

On the one hand, this was *awesome* news, as I have been working towards it for a year and you really can't beat being told by someone who is completely and totally incentivized to sell you pricey stability shoes & inserts telling you that, no, a plain, well-made neutral shoe is all you really need.

"However, it is CUH-RAAAZY the amount you supinate."

Well; I guess you can't win them all.

I really liked the feel of the Kinvaras. They felt snug and responsive, solid yet flexible, and gave me a good feel for the ground. Because of the forefoot strike, though, she suggested something with more cushioning. I was not sure about that idea but figured it couldn't hurt to try a couple of others.

The Mizuno Wave Rider 15's were also incredibly comfortable and nice & solid. They were definitely more shoe, and I could tell I would have no problem running 20+ miles in them, but were still reasonably light. (Update: They're not reasonably light. It's actually a 9 oz shoe so forget that.) The only things I wasn't crazy about was their stiffness & how far off the ground I felt as compared to the Kinvara.

The Brooks Ghost 5 was just not right for me. In addition to also feeling far off the ground, they felt all squishy inside, like sticking your feet into a bowl of oatmeal, except the oatmeal has hard little chunks in it in places that press against your feet in creepy ways.

So in the end, I walked out with these bad boys:

Kinvaras, with ugly hotel bedspread

With ugly hotel lamp

In addition to having a great feel for the ground and looking as if a radioactive zebra died to make them, they are very flexible & have a 4mm heel drop instead of 10-12ish, which I have really come to prefer most of the time.

BOOM. Officially the lightest shoe I own that's not a racing flat.

Also, I think for the first time ever in a running store, someone asked me, "Need any socks?" and in fact yes. Yes, Elizabeth, I DO need socks. I keep losing them to the dryer gnomes & the situation is becoming dire. Two pairs, please.

"You know, you get a $5 coupon if you buy three."

"Then BRING ME THREE, Liz, my good woman. You have pink ones? BRING THE PINK ONES!"

These socks are called Features.

I've run in them twice now & they're extremely comfortable, plus have an extra thick heel part in the back. They are also extremely high tech as the left and right are different and you must always take care to wear them on the correct foot. Otherwise you'll get locusts or something.

So that was wacky adventure #1.

With Phase 1 one of Operation No Sixth Zero Day complete, I headed back to Fairfield and my hotel's exercise room. (Note: This actually does qualify as an adventure because it's been at least six years since I've been on a treadmill.)

On Tuesday I was supposed to do some kind of track something involving sets of three hundreds. I was not crazy about the idea of trying to do speed work on a treadmill, but when I thought through the rest of the week, there really wasn't another good day for it, so I resolved to trying to do what I could on the hotel treadmill, and if speed work was really a no-go, I could always just run some easy miles and at least avoid another big fat goose egg day.

Now, a couple of observations about this treadmill.

  • It just *had* to be among the rickety-est treadmills in existence. I got it up to a nine minute mile or so for some easy warming up (maybe? Its math seemed shall we say 'impressionistic,' so I'm not totally sure), but there was a little too much creaking & squeaking for my comfort level.
  • Its default display was time. You could set it to occasionally show you one other thing (distance in miles, calories burned, or position on a track, which basically looked like a rectangle made out of six toothpicks), but there was no way to change the default.
  • It only counted distance in miles, so trying to run 300s with 100m recovery jogs seemed like more trouble than it was worth to figure out.
  • It displayed speed using completely arbitrary decimals that did not seem to correspond in any way to pace or speed except that bigger numbers generally seemed to mean faster. (Again, you'd think because it shows you elapsed time you could figure out what pace you were running, but I tried this and something was clearly very wrong. I was not running speedy warm-up miles by any means, but there is just no effing way in Hades I was running a 10:00+ mile.)
  • I experimented with how fast I could get it going. At "8.0" it made a high-pitched whining noise that made me a little uncomfortable. Not knowing exactly what would happen, I ratcheted up to "9.0" and for a moment literally thought the thing was going to fly into pieces beneath my feet.

So no. You really could not have paid me enough to run sub-sixes on that thing.

I decided to go with the easy multiple & run some number of quarter miles at "9.0" (really, as fast as I trusted the thing to go) with some reasonable amount of jog recovery in between. I have no objective way of knowing how fast it was, but I did I think maybe eight hard 400s and by the end of that I could definitely feel that I had done some work. All in all I think I ended up running around 7 miles -- 2 warm up, 8 x .25ish with .1-.2ish jog recoveries, & 2 cool down.

The Kinvaras held up beautifully:

Post treadmill speed workout, with ugly hotel carpet. Because really; who doesn't like radioactive zebras?

So yeah. Here's to gittin' 'er done any way you have to. And also to wacky adventures.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Shorts Roundup, Part 2 (or, The One Where I Eat Some Crow)

Back in June, I won a See Jane Run gift certificate at this race & decided to spend it on a pricey pair of running shorts that I would never shell out my own money for, just to see whether more expensive = more comfortable / generally better. These were the shorts I was wearing two weekends ago on my magical chafe-free sixteen miler. Just to see if it was a fluke or not, I wore them again for last Sunday's eighteen miler.

And, lo & behold, I returned with nary a skin cell out of place.

I did mention how this never, ever happens, right? Do you have *any idea* how nice it is to get in the shower after a long run & not have to grit your teeth through five minutes of excruciating stinging while you wait for the water to rinse the sweat off of your skin & out of several open wounds? Because over the last few years, I've basically just gotten used to that. (It's also part of why I dread/avoid long runs.)

Apparently it's possible for me to not have to go through that every freaking Sunday.

Friends, I give you the uber-magical, chafe-defying Oiselle Roga Short.

At the risk of sounding like Oiselle is compensating me for this post in some way (sadly no), let me also tell you how thrilled I am with the zipper pocket on the right hip/butt cheek. While it's not an enormous pocket, the material is stretchy enough to fit at least four gels & maybe even five if you really work at it. I mean I'm not claiming you won't look like you have a giant butt tumor, but fitting all the gels in that pocket on my 18-miler meant I could devote my precious spibelt space to my phone, keys, Nuun tabs, & debit / Clipper cards.

Now, I am not ready to concede that every $40+ item of running clothes is automatically superior to cheaper duds. But I will admit that there are clearly cases where you're truly paying for real value & better function and not just for a fancy "me too" brand. I'll admit that I may have found my marathon shorts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Race Report: Run Wine Country Healdsburg Half Marathon

    Garmin: 13.16 miles / 1:38:54 / 7:30 pace
    Official: 13.1 miles / 1:38:52 / 7:33 pace

    Overall: 66/1156
    Women: 13/889
    (LOTS of speedy women not in my age group out today!)
    A/G: 2/121

I have enough interesting stuff to say about this race that I'm just going to say it all up front. Scroll down for logistical details (cuz you know I've got you covered like that). ;)

The Race:

You know those inspirational team sports movies that start out with the team sucking and with all manner of dysfunction, & then after some amount of wacky shenanigans & heartfelt bonding experiences & a rousing speech or two from the coach, they rally together & win the big game against all odds? This race was kind of like that, with all my different muscles & joints & things as the players & my brain as the coach. As of Saturday night, any number of my critical running parts still weren't talking to each other, and I was feeling pretty nervous about how things were going to go. I was scheduled to do a few shake out miles on Saturday morning, but what with the state things I didn't dare. I just packed up the car, did some easy stretching, & left.

I got to the expo around 4 & grabbed my stuff, which was a breeze. After that I killed some time at the 3rd Street Fleet Feet & talked shoes with Mark, then walked over to meet Cathryn & her family at LoCoco's for pasta. It was so great to finally meet her! They are all lovely & we had a wonderful meal & a little wine (um, hello, Run Wine Country), then headed back to our respective hotels for an early bed time. (Er....mine did not end up being so early. :P )

Given the tenuous nature of my lower extremities, I'd brought two pairs of shoes--my Newtons, which I prefer for racing, & my Brooks Adrenalines, which I wear for long runs & when my legs & feet are feeling weak & I don't trust them to get it done with less shoe than that. I figured I'd warm up in the Newtons & see how I felt, & if I still wasn't feeling comfortable I'd race in the Adrenalines. The next morning before I started jogging, I mentally gathered the troops & gave them a little pep talk.

"Alright, guys," I told them, "we've been working hard for the last few weeks. I know you can do this. I know you can run a strong race. I'm not asking for a PR, just a solid effort that doesn't leave me writhing in pain afterward." And then they all gave each other the awkward, painfully earnest look that dysfunctional teams give each other at that point in the narrative arc, put all all their hands in the middle, & yelled, "Goooooooo TEAM ANGELA!!!"

I would not say that warming up is a bellwether because I have had sucky warm-ups that preceded PRs & AG places. But I've never had a really good-feeling warm-up & then a disastrous race, so I took it as a good sign that I felt "in phase" as I jogged around the start area, with everything working together & cooperating the way it's supposed to.

Since I'm right in the middle of marathon training & wasn't really thinking of this one as an "A" race, I was never intending to go 110% all-out the way I did at Windsor Green in May, but I still wanted to push hard & race--say, maybe 90% effort. I've been running enough halfs lately that my body has started to learn what the right effort level is at different points in the race, so for the most part I wanted to just go by that & see what happened. If nothing else, it would give me an idea of roughly what kind of shape I was in & an updated benchmark I could use for the rest of my marathon training. The nice thing about this was that I really didn't feel any pressure to run a certain time or finish in a certain place--I just wanted to run a strong race & finish feeling good.

I'd left my phone in my car so didn't have a great way of finding Cathryn & Jen, but I'd seen Cathryn's bright orange top & figured I might spot it if I milled around long enough. A few minutes before the gun I headed towards the start & spotted both of them, & I was glad I got at least a little time to say hi & chat some before we were off.

The rest of this race report has a theme and it is called THINGS THAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM RACING HALF MARATHONS:

  • I have definitely learned that my effort-o-meter takes a couple of miles to calibrate, and this can result in seeing paces on my watch in the first half mile that are realistically 30 seconds too fast & going "I feel GREAT!" Then a couple of miles later I no longer feel so great.
      Mile 1 - 7:46
      Mile 2 - 7:34

  • I have learned to let go--really let go--of the idea that averaging a given pace means I should be sticking close to that pace at every single moment or even every single mile. I have learned to embrace a pace in the early miles that is 15-20 seconds slower than I want to average, even though at that point it feels two minutes too slow, and that I will thank myself later for showing restraint.
      Mile 3 - 7:46
      Mile 4 - 7:46

    Mile 4-5ish, maybe? You can tell two things from this picture: 1) I clearly still land on the absolute outside edge of my left foot, and 2) running is SRSBZNS.
  • I have learned that (when I am in race shape), it takes me 6-8 miles to feel good. I think part of this is psychological, because before then there is still so much race left and I'm dealing with the mental burden of trying to monitor my body & manage my pace / race strategy, which takes a lot of energy & focus on top of what I'm already expending just to run. By mile 5, I was cautiously optimistic & pretty sure I was going to have at worst a solid low 1:40's race. Then right on schedule, I hit mile 7, took stock, and concluded that, yes, I'd made the shift from feeling pretty good to feeling FABULOUS.
      Mile 5 - 7:42
      Mile 6 - 7:36
      Mile 7 - 7:38

  • I've learned to trust my Garmin & my rational brain for the first part of the race, and to trust my body and my primal, intuitive "runner brain" for the second part. At what point in the race I trust the body/runner brain to take over & finish the job has gradually been shifting earlier & earlier as I get more comfortable & experienced at the distance. It used to be that I kept things tightly in check until around mile 10, and at that point whatever I had left was what I had left. In Healdsburg, the runner brain started badgering me around mile 7. "I got this," she kept whispering. "Please let me do it? I can do it. I got it." "Are you sure?" I probed. "There's a lot of race left still." "Trust me. I got it." So at that point I let go of all strategy & pacing & just let that part of my brain & body take the reins & run the rest of the race completely by feel.

    Which was scary. Very occasionally (seriously, like once a mile), I'd glance down at my watch & nearly choke at the numbers I was seeing. "Are you sure we can do this??" I'd demand. "Yep," replied runner brain, unphased. "Like, really, really sure?" "Yep." I had to admit that I still felt great, just cruising right along, not even pushing.

      Mile 8 - 7:18
      Mile 9 - 7:18

  • I've learned that if you want to run races with hills, any kinds of hills, and not trash your legs and/or blow up at mile ten and/or watch your pace drop by 30 seconds per mile every time you head upwards, you can't ignore strength work for hamstrings & glutes. Just running is not enough. I don't even think it matters what you do, as long as you do something and with some kind of consistency.

    I wouldn't say this was a hilly course the way that SFM or Nike Women's are hilly, but it was pretty much short, not-insignificant rollers the whole way. They did not let up. I was fine with it for the first 3/4 or so of the race, but in those last few miles, that was the one spot of discomfort I suffered. Every time I went up a hill I could feel myself ascending them slower and slower, gradually shredding my hamstrings & glutes. Around 10.5ish I started to feel my previously strained right hamstring muttering a little, but it hung in there. Let me tell you, if there is an MVP in this race, it's those hill running muscles. They are not in anything like peak condition but BOY did they show up & hang in there. As tough as it was on them, they were troopers the whole way.

      Mile 10 - 7:32

  • I've learned that half marathons are made & broken in the last 5K. At that point there is no hiding or lying or bargaining; if your training has been half-assed or your fitness had declined some, that's where the bear will be waiting. In Santa Rosa, my first 10 miles were in 1:17:13 & my last 5K was in 27:39. In Healdsburg, those numbers were 1:15:58 and 22:54. So you can see where the difference in my fitness showed up.
      Mile 11 - 7:21
      Mile 12 - 7:24
      Mile 13 - 7:08
      .16 - 1:01 (6:11 pace)

    Also, please witness the absurdity that is me crossing the finish line:


    This is my new favorite race picture of all time. EVER.

    And now a somewhat more normal(ish?)-looking picture from maybe half a second later:

    If it looks like I am frantically trying to stop in that picture, it's because I am. It turns out that sprinting all-out to the finish presents certain logistical difficulties when you suddenly realize that you're not just going downhill but really downhill and the finish chute is rather on the short size. Now I know what it's like to try to land a 747 on a runway meant for a prop plane. Sorry, volunteer girl...It's not like you didn't see me coming.

    This half was superlative in a few ways:

      1) It was the fastest one I've ever run.

      2) Mentally, it went by faster than any other. At just about every mile marker after five, I was like, "Really? Already?"

      3) It was the easiest / most physically pleasant I've ever run. Really. I didn't push on this one at all until maybe the last half mile, and even then I wasn't all-out sprinting until I could see the finish. At mile eight I just turned the runner brain loose & let myself run as fast as felt comfortable & cruised all the way to the end. This is the only half I can remember (other than Santa Rosa, because I jogged the last few miles easy) where at mile 11 I wasn't thinking "Dear Jesus, just freaking kill me now & get it over with." I wanted to be done, but mostly because I knew I was going to have a good time & I was excited to see what it would be.

    Afterward I found Cathryn, who set a five-minute PR and also met her sub-2:00 goal, so WOO-HOO!!! We both agreed that it had been a great course (if a little roley-poley), great weather, & just a great race all around.

    Me & Cathryn & her little dude. :)

    I didn't get to see Jen again because of some drama with my car (irrelevant & moot), but Cathryn said she'd also had a great race & run just barely over 2:00, also a PR. She is soooo close to sub-2:00!! It's seriously going to happen for her any day now.

    I was so excited about the overall quality of my race & the fact that it was over a 1:00 PR that I almost forgot to check to see if I'd gotten an A/G award. So that was a nice little cherry on top. Huzzah for races small enough that 1:3x is good enough to place & let me feel like an elite for a day. :)

    Oh, except for this:

    Really, Healdsburg??? At Windsor Green I was 3rd & got a bottle of real, honest-to-gods Chardonnay. Last I checked, you were part of the "Run WINE Country" series, not the "Run FANCY GRAPE JUICE Country" series. Just sayin'.

    Now, in case you are getting the idea that this race was a cake walk and I didn't pay for it, let me leave you with a few images:

    So you can imagine how pleasant the second half of this race was from the ankles down. Also, I have some serious, SERIOUS pain in my left Achilles tendon. I didn't feel it while I was running, but after about an hour I couldn't put weight on my left leg anymore. It's a little better now, but I'm still limping.


    run wine country healdsburg half marathonLocation: Healdsburg, CA

    Date: Mid-October (Oct 14, 2012 this year).

    It's important to note that there are two half marathons in Healdsburg in October that get referred to as the "Healdsburg Half Marathon." This one is put on by the group Run Wine Country & generally happens in mid-October. The other one, whose official title is Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon, is put on by Destination Races & usually happens on the Saturday before Halloween & has kind of a costume theme. I have heard lots of great things about the other one & went back & forth between which one to run, but in the end I went with the Run Wine Country one because it's significantly cheaper. (Also, if I end up doing something fun & Halloween-ey on Friday the 26th, I didn't want to regret having signed up for an out-of-town race the next day.)


    * Before 6/1: Half/$65, Full/$75
    * Before 8/1: Half/$75, Full/$90
    * Before 10/1: Half/$85, Full/$100
    * After 10/1: Half/$95, Full/$120

    Plus they do the discounted price if you register in a group of 4. (Maybe ~15% off or something like that. A group of us did it for Windsor Green.)

    Deadlines/sellout factor: I don't know if it ended up selling out or not, but the week before the race there were only 30 spots. (The web site did a good job of updating how full the race was & how many spots were left during the months & weeks leading up to the race.)

    Field Size: 201 in the marathon, 1156 in the half

    The Expo:

    The expo was at Kendall Jackson Wine Center just north of Santa Rosa. The winery was under construction so the expo was outdoors from 1 - 5pm, which was really nice given the fantastic weather.

    When I arrived at 4, there were maybe 100 people or so. I found the bib table pretty quickly & only had to wait behind maybe 3 people to get my bib, then walked right up to the T-shirt table. So yay for super speedy packet pickup! There were a few other tents set up (sunglasses, running clothes, race logo merch, HonesTea, bottles/foam rollers/headbands/etc.). I wandered around for a little while to see if there was anything else I couldn't live without, but the selection wasn't enormous so I was out of there by maybe 4:30ish.

    The Course:

    The half marathon course is a loop that more or less follows mainly Dry Creek Road & W. Dry Creek Road, with the marathon making two loops. In generally, I'd say it was a really nice course -- all on paved roads (in most places they had one lane blocked off for us), weaving through pretty fall foliage. Like I said before, there were no terribly long or steep hills, but the short rollers were non-stop. It was only even kind of an issue for me because I hadn't been able to find an elevation profile anywhere & other than what Jen gleaned from Google street view & shared with Cathryn & me, I really had no idea what to expect, & by mile 10 they were mentally starting to wear on me a bit. Totally manageable, though.

    I would call the course "partially shaded" as far as that goes, but it ended up being a moot point. Between the 7:00 am start & the early-morning mist / fog, the weather & temperature was just about perfect. (I especially appreciated this given that Healdsburg was supposed to reach the upper seventies that afternoon.)

    I carried my own bottle this time so I didn't pay too much attention to the aid stations. From the web site:

    Half Marathon Aid Stations:

    Mile 3.1 water
    Mile 5.8 water - Gatorade
    Mile 8.7 water - Gatorade - Accel Gel
    Mile 10.35 water - Gatorade - Accel Gel - cola - pretzels
    Mile 12.1 water - Gatorade - Accel Gel - cola


    Packet pickup was quick & efficient, and HUZZAH for no plastic bag full of coupons & samples that are just going to get thrown out.

    Parking was pretty easy since the race was so small. After a harrowing experience at Kaiser Permanente one year (I literally heaved my bag into the sweat check truck as it was pulling away), I am always nervous about parking so I arrived about an hour early to be sure I could snag a spot in the public lot I'd scoped out maybe 100 yards from the start.

    Port-a-potties were plentiful, & the lines didn't get very long until maybe 6:50ish, and even then I think I waited maybe five minutes. (At 6:15-6:30ish, you could walk right up.)

    One of the most glorious race day sights!

    Setting up the finish line.


    Logo tech shirt & finisher medal, plus a sweet logo wine glass:

    The shirt looks kind of dark purple in this picture, especially next to the lighter purple, but it's actually black.

    I've already mentioned the wine (or non-wine?!?) for the age group awards, plus I think there were some boxes of free samples (not wine) sitting out for people to take if they wanted. I guess this takes the place of the usual plastic goodie bag. (I approve.) Plus a wine tasting after & hot food, though, as usual, I did not partake.


    To be honest, I'm having a hard time coming up with any. Great course. Great expo. Really well organized. Great volunteers. (When I was locked out of my car with no phone or wallet, one of the volunteers gave me a long sleeve shirt so I didn't freeze to death & let me use her phone to call AAA. I tried to pay her for it since I obviously wasn't going to give it back, but she wouldn't let me. So yeah. AWESOME volunteers.) Nice course. Sweet awards. Very reasonably priced. What more can you ask for?

    (Though I would prefer some real wine for my trouble, plzthnx.)

    Overall Assessment:

    See above. I had a GREAT time at both this race & Windsor Green, & I'm really sorry that I was out of town for Water to Wine (the 2nd race in the 3-race series), not only because of the sweet bonus bottle of wine you get for running all three, but just because the other two were so well done. I would definitely consider running any of these races again.

  • Friday, October 12, 2012

    In Which I Engage In Talk Therapy With Myself

    Up until this evening I was feeling pretty good about this race. I've been doing long runs regularly & they've been awesome. Getting to the track on a respectable basis. Finding myself magically running at marathon (?) pace & going, "eh, no big whoop." So while I haven't really been doing targeted half marathon work, I am *definitely* in much better shape than I was in Santa Rosa, and the magic thing about structured training for anything is that rising tides lift all boats. So really, according to all that is rational & objective in the world, I should have a pretty good race Sunday, even if it's not my absolute best race ever.

    On Thursday I was supposed to do an easy 7 miler, which I figured I'd squeeze in between getting home from work around 5ish & meeting a friend for dinner at 8:30. Unfortunately I was reminded once I got to work of the fact that I was supposed to be in a meeting from 4-8pm. Eh, whatever, I figured; Friday was a scheduled rest day so I'd just do it then.

    So when I got home today I threw on running clothes & headed out for 6-7 easy miles. Out of nowhere, pretty much everything from my hips down decided to throw some kind of hissy fit. Lower calf-Achilles area. Upper outside calf on the right side. Anterior shin on the right side. Top of left foot. Medial-tibial area on both sides (the worst it's been in months). Cramps in both feet. Right quad. Right butt cheek. All of which was completely new, by the way.

    Really, guys?? I wanted to whine. Seriously??

    So I had that mincing, awkward, out-of-phase feeling the whole time. I could not settle into a nice, efficient rhythm & found myself running about 0:30 slower per mile than usual at an "easy" effort. I was in so much pain that I abandoned all thoughts of 6-7ish about a mile & a half in, toughed it out to two, & turned around.

    On the way back I coaxed myself up to roughly half marathon pace, just to see how it felt. On the plus side, it was easier than I expected it to be; it just wasn't pleasant. Which kind of pissed me off, because I know my cardiovascular fitness is reasonably good right now, and it did not feel that way because of all the biomechanical busted-ness.

    On those rare occasions when running does not go well & I find myself getting emotional about it, I've found that it sometimes helps to imagine that I'm another running friend who is having these problems & sharing it with me & think about what I would tell her.

    Because I know what I'd tell her. I'd tell her one sucky race week workout is nothing to be overly concerned about, and how that's happened to me tons of times when I've gone on to have great races. I'd tell her to trust her training, to think back on all the miles she's run in the last few weeks and how great a lot of them had felt. I'd remind her it's been a long work week with two late nights & an out-of-town trip, and her poor feet & calves & Achilles tendons have spent a lot of time cooped up in rather non-running-muscle-friendly shoes as of late (which is probably at least somewhat related to the return of the calf/Achilles tightness).

    Trust me, I'd implore her, you'll be fine. I'm trying to.

    So as long as we're talking about a race, how about some goal-setting? :D

    "A" Goal: Sub-1:40. Before tonight I was feeling actually reasonably good about this (or at least enthusiastic about attempting it). I'm feeling less good about it now, but not ruling it out. 4-1 odds, say. In part I think it will depend on the course, which I know precious little about.

    "B+" Goal: Beat my Oakland time (1:43:15). I think that unless half my body is still busted, this is a pretty reasonable expectation.

    "B" Goal: All sub-8:00 miles. So I hope there are no big hills. :/

    "C" Goal: Beat my Santa Rosa time (1:44:52). This is pretty much guaranteed to happen unless 1) I am in so much pain I can't actually run 13 miles, 2) something goes seriously wrong physically & I end up limping to the finish, 3) the basic laws of physiology as we understand them cease to function, & it turns out that running your 2nd most structured / high mileage six week period all year actually makes you slower than you were after your least structured / lowest mileage six week period all year.

    But seriously, at this point, I'm just hoping for a solid 13 mile run. This has been a pretty discouraging night.

    If nothing else, I'll get to hang out with these girls, which is a bright spot. I'm pretty excited about that.

    See you on the flip side of this bitch.

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    CIM Week 6 of 14: In Which I Survive Event-ageddon

    So in case you don't live here, this is what was happening in San Francisco this past weekend:

    Local media christened this perfect storm of cultural/sports/badass plane events "Event-ageddon" & warned that over a million additional people were expected to be in the city on Saturday & Sunday (particularly Sunday). Marathon training schedules yield to no wo/man(s), though except when they totally do, and I had 18 miles to run on Sunday.

    I kind of waffled a lot about where/when I would do this run. Theoretically I could've gotten up super-early & beaten the crowds, but as worn out as I felt on Saturday evening after the Stanford game, I figured I probably really needed the extra sleep if I was going to have a good run. I couldn't think of anywhere to go that didn't involve a) driving, b) fighting massive crowds, or c) being ass-bored for three hours, so when I found I was out of gels & would need to swing by the Sports Basement early-on anyway, I figured I might as well at least make things interesting & see how much of this craziness I could get myself to.

    In the end, I got to the Giants game (well, AT&T Park as it was starting) on the Embarcadero, a bit of the air show further down the Embarcadero (though I'd been hearing them all over the city all week), America's Cup at the Marina, & a bit of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in Golden Gate Park.

    Not my fastest long run ever (you can definitely tell where the crowds were mile-by-mile), but it was pretty entertaining, & I feel like any day you can call a long run entertaining is a good day.

    Also, I can't tell you how amazing it felt to finish this run & still feel strong & comfortable & like I would have had no problem running farther. For whatever reason, the jump from 16 miles to 18 always feels to me like the line between moderately-long-but-reasonable runs and *serious* long runs that demand respect & preparation. This is probably related in no small part to the fact that I only did one 18 miler training for CIM '11 last year & it was BY FAR the hardest, most unpleasant run I have ever done in terms of how I felt after, even worse than the subsequent 20 miler & the marathon itself. I was able to hold a good pace, but the last few miles were incredibly tough & I felt utterly inhuman for hours afterward. This time the last few miles were among my fastest, and I wasn't even sore.

    AND--as if I needed another cherry on top of this running sundae of awesomeness--I wore the same shorts as for the previous Sunday's 16-miler, and once again came away 100% chafe-free. The identity of these magical shorts will be revealed in another post once I have time to write it. Because really. They've earned that.

    Week 6 Overall:

    Grand Total: 36 miles

    * 27.75 easy
    * 5.25 speed/intervals
    * 3 tempo

    Monday: Karate + strength work

    Tuesday: 1.75 warm up + 4 x (5:00 @ 5K pace + 3:00 jog recovery) + 1.25 cool down Pack my track bag, get to work, check my calendar, & remember that we had tickets to Peter Gabriel in San Jose that night. Oops. But on the other hand, yay! Peter Gabriel! He super rocked it. Also, there was some VERY entertaining dancing by a few middle aged hippies.

    Wednesday: Skip karate & run 4 easy miles instead. I wanted to get at least some kind of exercise for the day & figured this was fine since I didn't run Tuesday.

    Thursday: 1.75 warm up + 5 x (5:00 @ 5K pace + 3:00 jog recovery). So I kinda sorta remembered this workout wrong & accidentally did 5 repeats instead of 4. Another oops. I knew I was only supposed to run 7 miles max, which was what tipped me off, so I just cut out the cool down. Meh. No one likes cool downs anyway.

    My bar for this workout is generally how close I can consistently get to .75 miles with each 5:00 interval, and I was pretty close to that every time, which I took as a good sign.

    Friday: 2 warm up + 2 @ 8:15 + 1 @ 7:30 + 2 cool down. In general I can't recommend running track workouts & tempo runs back to back, but this one seemed pretty tame as tempo runs go so I figured I'd give it a try. This run got me thinking about something I'll probably write a full post on at some point, but that clearly didn't happen this week, so let me just say that I felt like ass warming up & was almost ready to just put in some easy miles & call it good, but decided I'd at least try to run a faster mile or two before giving up.

    Lo & behold, although I felt like I was running 8:15's, every time I glanced at my watch I was in the 8:00 range. So technically I ran those two miles a little too fast, but they felt really good & fairly easy, so I was still happy with it. The 7:30 mile clicked off in 7:21, but since I was running slightly downhill I figured that was probably about right. Glad I gave this one a try & pretty happy with how it went.

    Saturday: 4 easy. Un-shockingly, my legs felt rather on the trashed side Saturday morning, & given that my farthest run of 2012 thus far was scheduled for the next day, I decided it was smarter to just skip this one. Which worked out well, because after an emotional roller coaster of an afternoon football game at Stanford, I was pretty much wrecked for the rest of the day & spend most of it browsing Pinterest half-awake on the couch with a giant headache.

    Sunday: 18 long.

    Sure, it would've been nice to actually hit 40, but I think I really was better off skipping the 4 on Saturday. & now I have this awesome 18 miler to show for it. :)

    Sunday, October 7, 2012

    Active.com Is Not The Boss of Me

    Most of the time I just delete the newsletters without reading, but the phrase "Top Ten Marathon Tips" in the subject line caught my attention. Not because I am in any way top-marathon-tips-deprived, but because I was just curious about what ranked in the top ten for them. First up:

    After I read this I slunk into a corner & hid in shame. Because guess what my training looked like for that week:

    Shut up, Active.com. Don't judge me. I was hurt.

    Tip #7:

    Don't do anything NEW on RACE DAY?? Holy moley, what *haven't* I done new on race day??

    New shoes? Check. New breakfast? Check. New clothes? Check. New sports drink / gu flavors? Check AND double check! I mean, you can hardly even call it a race until you're trying a bunch of new stuff! Everyone likes a little extra excitement!

    But seriously, Active.com. I don't have time to be making spreadsheets of everything I'll be needing / using on race morning & tracking which I have tried & how closely the conditions mirrored race day & how it all went & whether I need to make some modifications & try again. I don't have time to plan my race morning breakfast two months in advance or to carefully structure my long runs so that I'm eating the the same thing, waiting the same amount of time, running at the same time of day, etc. Also, the odds that I even own what I'll be wearing in a given race long enough ahead of time that I can wear it in long runs are slim to none. And while I'd like to tell you I'm at least running with the same sports drink & gels I'll race with, that is also kind of a laugh since that would involve enough forethought & advanced planning to go actually purchase said drinks / gels.

    I am lucky when I a) do long runs, period, b) have something basically clean to wear that is vaguely appropriate, & c) eat something resembling food beforehand. All those new race day shoes/clothes/breakfasts/sports drinks/fuel/etc., and you know how many people freaking died or were even seriously injured as a result?

    ZERO. So STOP freaking people out and STOP judging me. You know what my Top Marathon Tip is regarding trying new things on race day? DON'T BE A FREAKING MORON. Eat some carbs. Avoid spicy things. Drink something liquid. Don't wear Ug boots or bowling shoes. If there's something about running clothes that you're picky about, I bet you've already solved that problem. IT WILL ALL BE FINE.

    Which brings us to Tip #10, which I just find really amusing:

    I like how we are instructed to "remove all negative thoughts, & replace them with positive ones" "at the starting line & when you're in the middle of the race," but once you get near the end, oh-HO! All bets are OFF, bitches. You settle right in & get nice & comfortable with those negative thoughts if you want to. Because what better place to start telling yourself how much the world sucks & running sucks & YOU suck & ESPECIALLY everyone ahead of you sucks than at mile 20 of a marathon?

    Have a great week, everyone. :)

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    CIM Week 5 of 14: Hamstring Blues & Long Run Highs

    So last Wednesday I pulled a hamstring stretching at karate, which totally sucked for about three days during which even walking was a little bit unpleasant. Part of my development as a runner has been learning which things you can kinda-sorta run through if you keep things short & easy & foam roll like it's your job, and which things are only going to get worse without complete and total rest. Over time, I have definitely learned that running through a hamstring pull that makes you walk funny is just a non-starter. No good can come of it.

    By Saturday it was feeling almost normal, though, so I decided to give the easy five on my schedule a try. I got through the whole thing with nary a twinge, so declared myself good to go for my Sunday long run.

    Officially the workout was 14-15 at 8:43 pace, and I kind of went back & forth about whether I wanted to do 14, 15, or somewhere in between. It was a warm day so I decided to wait until early evening. Admittedly I ended up waiting a little longer than ideally I meant to, but the upside was that it was early dusk when I finally got out there and the temperature could not have been more perfect for a run.

    I decided to park my car by Kezar Stadium & run loops of the eastern half of the park (one loop = ~3.7 miles). This is one of my favorite ways to do long runs because I can throw BodyGlide / Nuun / gels / dry clothes in my car & grab them if I need them and also because it means that rather than running basically downhill for 3.5 miles & then basically uphill for 3.5 miles, I can get more of a gentle rollers-type of workout. I also wanted to try running part of the way in my relatively newish Brooks Launch(es? Pluralizing that feels weird), & looping by my car would give me the option of switching into the Adrenalines if when my feet got tired.

    If you've never had a late-evening run through Golden Gate Park, you should really make a point of it sometime.

    This was just one of those runs that felt fabulous right from the start. I settled into a nice, easy, super comfortable pace & just cruised. My first mile was in 8:51, which made me happy because 1) my first couple miles always tend to be the slowest, and 2) it felt really, really easy. I don't know if this happens to other people, but on some runs I just feel "out of phase" - like my limbs are an awkward mess, my muscles & joints bumping awkwardly into each other, I can't manage anything even remotely like good form to save my life, & the whole process just feels horribly inefficient & like I'm expending three times the amount of effort I should be. On other days, I feel like I'm hitting my body's "resonant frequency" - my strides feel smooth and quiet and natural and everything is in perfect rhythm, with all the different parts of my body working together effortlessly. This was one of those from the first miles.

    Technically I'm supposed to be running my easy & long runs at around an 8:43 pace, but realistically I pretty much always run them by effort & try to aim for a pace that's comfortable, without pushing or dawdling too much. Depending on the day, this can mean 8:10 or it can mean 9:20. I figured a first mile of 8:51 was a good indicator & I would probably be able to hit 8:43ish just about perfectly.

    I wasn't trying to speed up, but mile after mile, my splits kept dropping. I tried to slow down a little, but I didn't feel like I was working all that hard, & slowing down too much started to disrupt that wonderful, smooth, effortless feeling. Eventually my pace settled right around 8:20-25ish, which was more or less where I stayed for the rest of the run. Around maybe 10-11 miles I could feel my hamstring starting to talk to me a little, but I wouldn't even call it pain, just the sensation of working maybe just a little harder than it really wanted to.

    Okay, so maybe it wasn't so gradual...

    After 4 laps I was at 14.75 and still felt great so I figured there was no harm in just jogging another quarter mile & making it a nice round 15. I felt strong & comfortable, the entire way, and like last weekend's 16 miler, this one was over before I knew it. Also in the category of "Things That Never, Ever Happen," we can file the fact that I had no shorts chafing or sports bra chafing whatsoever. (This may in fact be the first time in recorded history that I have run farther than 10 miles without one of those things happening.) No pain, no injuries, no soreness.


    So, hamstring issues aside, here's how Week 5 shaped up:

    Grand Total: 25.4 miles, all easy.

      Monday: Abbreviated karate class, thanks to the most epic clusterf*** on the Bay Bridge that I have ever seen. It took us over two hours to get from the Trader Joe's in SoMa to the dojo in Berkeley, which is just under 10 miles. We seriously could have walked there faster, if they would have let us on the bridge.

      Tuesday: 5.2 easy. Not great, & still some Achilles/calf pain (seriously, what is UP with that???)

      Wednesday: Karate + strength work + hamstring fail

      Thursday: Rest.

      Friday: Rest.

      Saturday: 5.2 easy. Surprisingly good!

      Sunday: 15 long.

    Not a terribly impressive week, but that fantastic long run made up for a lot.

    Barring any stupid injuries, I'm hoping to get back up to 40ish this week, which should not be too difficult since I have an 18 miler on Sunday. (I'm starting to remember the realization I had during CIM training last year, that when you're doing legitimate long runs on a weekly basis, getting in high-ish mileage becomes a LOT easier. Stupid injuries nonwithstanding, I mean.)