Sunday, April 28, 2013

I Pass Myself Off As A Mother

A few weeks back, Cathryn pinged me about a reading / book signing at Sports Basement Presidio by The Mother Runners Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea, who you might know for their books Run Like A Mother & Train Like A Mother. It sounded awesome (read: wine, cheese, discounts, freebies, & socializing with other lady runners), but I wasn't sure at first whether non-mothers were invited. Cathryn assured me that mothering something (pets, boyfriends, plants, etc.) totally qualified, so I signed up (though I am the paranoid type & didn't want to be called out as a fraud, so I totally brought pictures of my nephew & prepared a back story just in case anyone questioned my legitimacy).

I had an awesome time! First, because I got to hang out with Cathryn in a non-race setting. We both looked so cute and non-sweaty that we took a few seconds to recognize each other. (That was pretty funny.) Second, I got to meet Aleks, which was awesome because meeting local run-bloggers is one of my favorite things in life. (If you need some tips for your first triathlon, Aleks has a few for you here!).

Me, Cathryn, & Aleks. Thanks to Cathryn for the photo!

Third, we got to hear Dimity & Sarah read from their books. I haven't read them, but from what I learned at this event, you probably don't necessarily need to be a mother to get something out of them. Part of the idea behind the Mother-Runner books is figuring out how to fit running / training / racing around all the other things you do in your busy life without losing your friends / job / relationship / sanity, so you could potentially read the titles as "Run / Train Like An Insanely Busy Person" & 90% of it would be just as applicable.

Dimity & Sarah reading

Fourth, everyone who attended got a sweet goody bag.

Everyone loves free stuff!!

There were also a bunch of raffles for running gear & gift certificates. Hellz yeah, Sports Basement! You are awesome. I will totally be at whatever book signing you host next.

Also, hey, I've been running lately! I'm a bit behind with blogging right now but here is how the week before last played out:

Grand Total: 48.3 miles

    * 24 easy
    * 4.3 tempo
    * 20 long

Lots of lunch time meetings / working from home last week, so it was pretty much a yoga / Pilates / strength work fail. Hey, at least I got the miles in.

Monday 4/15: Karate. My first class as a shodan, which was freaking WEIRD AS HELL.

Tuesday 4/16: 6 easy. This day was supposed to be a track workout, but my legs were still too busted from the testing, so I just did some easy miles around Golden Gate Park.

Wednesday 4/17: 4 easy + karate. I was still kind of tired, so this ended up being a slow one. But hey, miles.

Thursday 4/18: 6 easy. "Hey, it's such a nice warm day! I've heard the Pure line works great sockless. Maybe I'll give that a try!" #fail #blistercity #trustissues

Friday 4/19: 2 warm up; 2 x (2 @ LT pace / 3:00 jog); 2 cool down. Seriously -- I just don't understand why tempo runs always end up feeling easier than my so-called "easy" runs (which are inevitably the hardest of the bunch).

Saturday 4/20: 4 easy. Kept it short & easy the day before my longest run of the year so far. Yet another unbelievably gorgeous day in the city.

Sunday 4/21: Off to Calistoga! 6.45 easy; 13.1 race; .45 easy. You can read about this one here.

Originally my marathon plan had me peaking in the low sixties, but with the testing & a few days out of town that resulted in missing two long runs, it's been revised downward a bit. That means that at 48.3, that week (4/15-4/21) was my highest yet. I was fully prepared to be wiped out going into this previous week (4/22-4/28) & have tired heavy legs, but was surprised to find that I actually felt great outside of a few minor aches & pains that have mostly resolved themselves. If all goes according to plan, this coming week will be my peak mileage.

Eventually I'll get around to recapping this last week....I hope.....:P

Congratulations to all you Big Sur / Eugene / Nike Women's DC finishers out there (and any others I don't know about)! Hopefully I will get some time this weekend to read all about your amazing exploits. :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Race" Report: Napa Valley Silverado Half Marathon

I suppose this is technically a race report, since it does in fact give an account of a race that I happened to run in. When I looked back over my April mileage, though, I knew that really racing--ie, tapering, running at 95-100%, & recovering--would cost me miles that I very much needed five weeks before Ojai, even if I did run extra before or after to make it a decent long run.

So I sighed & let the race dreams go. Instead I ran actual mileage through the end of the week, & plotted to arrive in Calistoga super-early & jog 6.9 easy miles beforehand. For the actual race, my goal was to run at somewhere between long run & marathon goal pace, with maybe a few marathon pace miles thrown in at the end if I could manage it, but not so hard that I would need more than a day to recover.

The nice thing about this time of year was that it was light by six-ish, so when I arrived at Calistoga High School around 6:30 it was bright & cool & perfect for running. Alas, between parking, figuring out where to go, checking in, finding the bathrooms, sunscreening / bodygliding myself, etc., it was 6:50 by the time I finally got started. I just figured I'd get in as many easy miles as I could before the 8:00 start, & if I had to do a little cool down after the race to get to twenty, that was fine.

The sidewalks of Calistoga were lovely for running--flat, wide, & with little traffic & few lights. My legs felt tired but loose and free of aches & pains, and they warmed up a little as I went. My first mile was 9:46, which isn't unusual for my first mile on any given run, & by the second mile my pace had dropped to 9:09. A few miles in, my "easy" pace usually drops to 8:30 or 8:40 & stays more or less in that range unless I push it, but on Sunday that didn't really happen; my splits stayed pretty much between 8:50-9:10 for those pre-race miles. I felt good & really only cared about getting the distance in, though, so I didn't dwell on my pace too much.

Beautiful day in Calistoga!

By the time I made my way over to the start, my watch showed 6.45 miles. As much as I'd wanted the finish line to actually be the end of my run today, I figured I could probably manage half a mile post-race. I imagined I would probably be running ~8:45ish miles during the race, but if my body was feeling happier with 9:00-9:15s, I didn't want to get sucked into running faster than that by the people around me, so I lined up pretty much at the back of the pack & figured I could just work my way up as I felt like it.

Which was, um, a big mistake. A lot of people were walking, or forming great walls of bodies curb-to-curb at a 12:00 pace that it was impossible to get through or around (which is completely fine, don't get me wrong; this was entirely my fault for not lining up in the right spot). I half-jogged, half-speed walked a good portion of that first mile in an effort to get into a spot where I actually had room to move at a comfortable pace; in the second or third mile I settled in with people running in the 8:30-9:00 range, which felt about right.

How much am I *loving* the outfit of the woman behind me?? HERE'S TO YOU MADAME. (There were also cow-print compression tights at this race, FYI.)
I glanced at my watch now & then out of curiosity but pretty much ignored the splits and just ran by effort, trying to do my usual don't-push-but-don't-dawdle long run thing. Most of the time this was fine, but there were a few short, steep rollers from time to time that felt significantly harder than I thought they should. As the miles went by the sun climbed higher and higher into the sky, and by mile five or so we had full, direct sun, no breeze to speak of, and only very occasional shade (which made the same rollers on the return trip OMG soooooo much fun.) (JK, they pretty much sucked.)

There weren't really reliable mile markers on the course, just the occasional number taped onto the surface of the road (I recall 2, 7, & 10 in particular, but that's all), & since I'd started the race with 6.45 already on my watch, most of the time I didn't really know or care where I was on the course except in a very general sense (apparently running interferes with my ability to do mental math with decimals). Physically I felt strong at the turnaround (so ~13 for me)--I was holding a steady pace, still managing good form (as far as I could tell), & still blessedly free of aches & pains. Between the heat and the constant rollers, though, I can't say I was particularly excited about running 7 more miles & really just would've preferred to be done.

(Hey, welcome to marathon training! said part of my brain snarkily in response to that thought. Because no one *ever* felt that way at mile 22. But seriously; suck it up.)

I thought that I would maybe take stock at around mile 9-10ish (so 17ish for me), & if I felt like I could pull it off comfortably, try to run the rest of the race around marathon goal pace (vaguely between 7:50 & 8:10). When I got to that point, though, the idea seemed laughable. There was just no way I could run faster than I already was without going into race effort-mode, which would require recovery days I did not intend to take. Not today, not with this heat & all these rollers & at the end of my highest mileage week in a good while. But then I randomly glanced down at my watch & realized I was running...7:5x. With only a little bit of extra effort.

Well okay then, I thought, & decided I could at least attempt to maintain something right around 8:00/mile. I wasn't willing to go balls to the wall for it (after all, I have other runs to do this week), but I have never attempted to run marathon pace at the end of a long run and the end of a long week & I figured it might be good for me to get that feeling into my body & convince myself that it could be done.

For a while it was doable, but tough. I didn't let myself run hard enough to breath hard--just a little bit of easy pushing. Once I was close enough to the finish that I recognized where I was, it got a lot easier, I guess because my brain knew exactly how far I had left to go & wasn't worried about conserving energy. At this point I had targets a-plenty & pulled myself hand-over-fist through the finish by picking them off one at a time. I think that helped make up for the fact that I didn't get to "race" race this one & threw a tiny little bone to my competitive side.

There was a mix up with my bib & I had to get a new number assigned right before the race so I'm not currently listed in the official results, but based on my gun time & how long it took for me to cross the starting mat, my guess is that I came in right around 1:49:30 or so (but who's counting). Afterward I grabbed my swag, jogged another .45 to make it an even 20, & called it a morning. (Also, while I was gathering my stuff up to leave, I got to meet Janet, which is the first time I've had someone I don't know recognize me from this blog, so that was neat, especially since she's running Ojai next month. Hi Janet! :) )

PRO: 16 miles into my day & I still managed to smile at a photographer. CON: As I have mentioned before, gels in the zipper pocket of the Oiselles will totally make you look like you have a horrifying butt tumor.
Funny; I was so preoccupied with post-race stuff that for a while it didn't occur to me that I felt...well...kind of human, which is not a state I usually associate with runs that start with a 2. When I thought back about it, I realized I'd never gotten that dead-legs feeling I nearly always have towards the ends of marathons & long runs, & nothing was threatening to cramp up if I so much as looked at it funny. Even my right hip felt good. For the most part it's fine these days, but 18+ milers still usually leave it a bit sore & complain-ey. Not this time; not a peep. A day later, I'm not even sore.

It was also kind of cool to realize that I'd actually managed to speed up after many many miles of faster-than-easy-pace running--not because my legs felt fresh (they never felt fresh, not even when I first started), but because they'd found a way to push harder and give more when they were already tired. Which I think is the whole point of marathon training. What you can do on springy, peppy legs is sort of irrelevant once you get to mile 22 because no one has peppy legs at mile 22. What matters is what you can make them do once they're exhausted.

Finally, in spite of the fact that I probably wouldn't have paid for it if I'd thought through my April schedule a little more smartly, I'm actually glad this run worked out the way it did. It gave me a chance to do a long run actually in marathon mode--wearing marathon gear, doing marathon fueling, & just generally being in a race environment with more than 13 miles on my legs. Even though I was only running at goal pace for the last few miles, having a kind of "dress rehearsal" gave me extra confidence in a way that the long runs I do casually around the city never have.

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

Location: Calistoga, CA

Date: Late April (April 21, 2013 this year)

Price: When I signed up for it in early March the half was $80, & went up to $90 on April 1, but I don't know whether it was cheaper than that before (the website doesn't say). Yes, this is pricier than I'm usually willing to pay for a half, but back when I signed up for it, I really, REALLY wanted to race in April, & this was the only free weekend I had, so I paid a premium for that. The 5K was $40 & didn't change on April 1. $20 for under 17s.

Deadlines/sellout factor: I'm pretty sure there were were still spots available in both distances on race morning

Field Size: Pretty small -- 609 in the half & 107 in the 5K.

The Expo: No expo. Also, they mail the in-state bibs. Let me say that again - THEY MAIL THE IN-STATE BIBS!! I could totally {heart} Enviro-Sports based on that fact alone. I ended up getting a hotel room just because I wanted to get there early to do my extra miles & didn't want to have to leave San Francisco at 4:30 am, but knowing I could have, that I didn't have to get a hotel room & miss a perfectly good evening at home in order to get to an expo by 4 or 5pm gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

The Course:

The course starts on the Calistoga High School track & is out-and-back mostly along Silverado Trail (which I think is also part of the Napa Valley Marathon Course?). Like I mentioned, it's not what I would call "hilly" but definitely has a few rollers here & there that take a bit of extra effort (and probably more today because of the warm weather). I think the road was mostly closed to traffic for the race, but a couple of (very careful & slow moving) cars did make their way through (guessing those were people who lived or worked right off the road & had to get through). There was shade in places, but also a lot of fully exposed stretches. The road is also noticeably canted, which I've heard from friends who have run NVM. It mildly annoyed me in a few spots (honestly, the first time I've ever even noticed road canting in a race), but not to the extent that I'd say it interfered with my running in any way. (But I know this can be an issue for people who have had IT band issues.)

Why does it always feel so much harder than it looks on the elevation profile??

According to the website, aid stations with water & Gatorade were at 1.9, 3.8, 5.7, 7.3, 9.2 and 11.1 (so 3 total), which sounds about right. (One of them was tended by a local Girls on the Run chapter, which was just about the most adorable thing you ever saw.) To be honest, as warm out as it was today, I would've loved an extra one spread in there somewhere & was glad I carried my own bottle, but race volunteers don't exactly grow on trees so what can you do. For what it's worth, my watch read 6.45 at the start & 19.55 at the finish (which I will choose to interpret as meaning my tangent-running is in reasonably good shape, because that's what it makes me happy to believe).

Finish line on the Calistoga High School track


Like I said before, the race starts & finishes on the Calistoga High School track & is staged in the school quad area overlooking the baseball diamond. Pretty much everything is right in that little area, which is nice. I have only two small quibbles with the staging. 1) There weren't many port-a-potties, & the lines were still kind of long just a few minutes before the half, which delayed the start a few minutes. So it might be worth investing in a few more of those. 2) If possible, it would be great to have water & Gatorade at the finish chute. As it was, you had to walk maybe 50 yards or so from the finish line on the track, and I'm sure we can all agree that that's kind of the last thing you want to do after racing a half.

The blue canopies are where the water & Gatorade was. Check-in & race shirts were up on the patio area under the turquoise gable. The track is out to the left, with the start / finish behind & slightly left of where I was standing.

Gear check was on the grassy area by the quad -- basically a self-serve setup where you put your stuff in a plastic garbage back, write your number on it in Sharpie, & hand it to the volunteers. If you got there early (like I did), you could actually park in one of the small number of spaces in the school lot, or on the street right by it. Otherwise, there was copious overflow parking ~2 blocks from the school.


Classy, right?
A logo cotton tee & a nice medal. Back in my days of road racing naïveté I would have totally moaned & groaned about paying $80 for a race & getting a cotton shirt, but these days frankly I have race tees of all manner of fabrics coming out my ears so I just can't get too worked up over that one way or another.

I kind of like the simplistic, old-school styling of the medal. I feel like medals these days are quickly approaching some kind of singularity in terms of their size & ridiculousness, & I really do wish more races would just do a handsome, stamped metal coin of reasonable size like this one. Just a nice little memento. (I mean Jesus Christ, it's a race medal, not a freaking Christmas tree ornament. Lest we forget, we are finishing races, not descending into Hades to rescue blind orphans with our hands tied behind our backs.)

And naturally, as befits any self-respecting wine country race, age group winners (3 deep in five year increments) walked away with bottles from local wineries. Which I can always get behind.

Overall Assessment:

Personally, I enjoyed this race & thought it was well-done for the most part. Sure, there are a few logistical things I might change (more potties, water/Gatorade at the finish, consistent & visible mile markers), but it was well-organized & the course was kind of a nice level of challenging and I think it would be a fun one to race for real.

What would probably hold me back is the cost. I know some people would say that for a cotton tee, a non-fancy medal, & no rock bands, $80 is kind of steep, but I don't actually care about any of that--I just have a hard time justifying more than $60ish to run 13.1 miles, period. (They do have an elite program with complimentary registration, but for open women the qualifying time is 1:25, so I'm a looooooong way from being able to take advantage of that.) Still, I had a great time & I'm glad the scheduling with my 20 miler worked out the way it did. :)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Some Thoughts About My Stuff (Not A Serious Post)

...because I'm sure you've had enough of those lately to last you two lifetimes.

No; this is one of those posts that grows out of the random thoughts that bump & swirl around in my head while I'm out running (which I did today! Again!) & spin into something semi-coherent while I'm killing time in a hotel room in Santa Rosa.

At least there's a Big Bang Theory marathon on.

It's been a few months since I've posted a bird's eye view of my shoes, so I figured I was due. Wouldn't want you to forget this is a running blog or anything.
1) My Newtons have managed to get noisier. Don't get me wrong; I love these shoes. I always have loved these shoes. But there is something wrong with them. Frankly, they have never been particularly quiet. In most of my others, I'm like a ninja; people never hear me coming until I leap past them out of nowhere and they shriek and jump out of the way (this has happened). Not the Newtons; these bad boys go *smack*smack*smack* all the way home.

I blame it on the External Actuator LugsTM (which, for the record, I still think are freakish and bizarre and am not convinced actually do anything other than make the 4mm heel drop happen). They're just hard to run quietly in. That didn't really bother me, but lately something in them somewhere has gone kind of squeaky, as if there's a little whoopee cushion in each sole.

Which, there might be, kind of. If you recall...

"When your midfoot/forefoot LANDS on the ground, the technology's four external actuator lugs are pressed into hollow chambers inside the shoe's midsole via an elastic membrane (ACTION). This movement absorbs shock. As you LEVER inside the shoe, the lugs release their stored energy and propel you forward through a burst of energetic return (REACTION) from the Action/Reaction TechnologyTM."

(Can we just agree for a moment that running shoes have gotten OUT. OF. CONTROL?)

So yeah. I kind of wonder if my hollow-Action-ReactionTM-membrane-chambers hooziewhatsits have developed a leak & that's why I get the little whistley-farting sound every time I toe off. I try not to run in these shoes around other people. It gets awkward.

2) My Roga shorts don't fit as well when I'm rocking more bootie than usual. Again, don't get me wrong; I love these shorts. They are they only ones I trust not to rip the skin off my thighs after 26 miles. But I tend to vacillate now & then between svelter & curvier versions of myself, and right now I have a little more bootie going on (while my mileage this month has been unremarkable, my cheese consumption has been AWE-INSPIRING) and the Rogas are just not made to accommodate a curvy rear end. They bunch up at the top and pull around the seams. (One of legs actually keeps popping inside out.) Thankfully, this is a temporary situation; while the vacillation is normal, I will be glad once I've gotten a few more solid weeks of marathon-worthy mileage in & my favorite shorts are no longer trying to contort themselves off of my body.

3) Sea salt scrubs & running don't really mix. I love scrubs. I am the queen of exfoliation. Recently I picked up a delicious lemony-smelling one from my local hippy-dippy grocery made with sea salt. The first lesson I learned? Don't use the salt scrub after a run. I'm pretty much always missing skin somewhere, and it turns out the phrase "to rub salt in one's wound" is only partly figurative. I'll be going back to the sugar scrubs after this, I think. Ow.

In seven hours or so I'm getting up to drive to Napa, where the plan is to jog ~7 easy miles & then run the half at a pace somewhere between long run pace & marathon pace (& maybe a few miles towards the end at marathon pace, if I'm feeling good). This will be the first time I'm going into a race intending to run much slower than race pace from the beginning, so it'll be interesting to see how hard or easy it is to keep my race day adrenaline under control. Especially since I'd been pretty excited about actually racing this one (sigh). Ultimately I know I'll be happier that I used this week for mileage & a solid long run instead, though.

Goodnight, all!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I Am A Shodan. And...Tired.

Soooo I haven't posted anything about my running in over a week, but there've been some good reasons for that.

#1) I am officially a shodan (1st degree black belt). I know, that probably comes across as a little deadpan anti-climactic, but as anyone who has ever worked at something voluntarily for 11 years knows, getting the final, official, rubber stamp recognition sometimes does feel a little anti-climactic. I mean yes, the testing itself was demanding and exhausting and I am incredibly proud of myself for still being upright at the end of it, but that's just really nothing compared to the thousands upon thousands of hours and gallons upon gallons of blood, sweat, and tears that got me to that point to begin with. If you've ever heard people talk about how running a great marathon is just a victory lap for the training, it's a little like that. Except on steroids. And with people hitting you a lot.

Whoah! Who's that absurdly young-looking yellow belt there??
MIT Isshin-ryu Karate-do, Boston MA, Summer 2002

Pittak's Isshin-ryu Karate
Cuyahoga OH, April 2003

Spectating at Don's shodan testing, December 2006
On the other hand, there are ways in which the whole thing snuck up on me. I haven't done the whole wedding planning thing yet, but based on conversations I've had about it with people who have, I think there were some similarities.

First, as with some girls & their hypothetical dim-and-misty-someday weddings, I think karate students often daydream about their shodan testing from the earliest days of their practice. They think about how they will tell people, who they will invite, how they will answer certain questions, what they want their weapons to be like, which kata they will select for different parts of the testing, the compliments and critiques the panel will give, what it will be like to get the belt, how their practice and role will change after that, etc. etc. etc., literally YEARS before they are anywhere remotely close to a shodan test. Before it's anything but this abstract, fuzzy, out-there-somewhere thing.

Obligatory post-testing group photo from Don's shodan testing. There was some quality hair all-around at that testing from what I remember. Well done, Berkeley Isshin-ryu.

Second, when the testing is actually scheduled and it's time to start working out the details of all that, you feel like you have all the time in the world. AGES and AGES to make sure everything is perfect and awesome and exactly the way you always imagined it.

Sai practice, June 2011
Third, you become acutely aware that you're actually planning two things--a serious formal ceremony (where the real meaning of the event lies) as well as a social celebration, and sometimes managing both of those pieces at once (and constantly reminding yourself of which part is more important) gets kind of stressful.

Fourth, at some point you suddenly realize that you are alarmingly short on time and some of your best laid plans, the things you've been daydreaming about for years--years!--just are not going to come together the way you envisioned, because life happens. Also, you just don't feel ready and start fantasizing about all the different things you would trade for an extra two weeks.

And fifth, when the day finally comes and it finally happens, when you're sitting on the dojo floor exhausted and bruised and dripping with sweat, when the words are said and the belt put into your hands, you realize that all along nothing else but this has mattered, don't know why you ever cared about anything else in the first place, and if you are a shodan at the end of it then the day has been perfect.

#2) I am tired. So, so much more tired than I thought I would be, both physically and mentally. I had an idea that I would do my regularly scheduled run on Friday (~7.5ish with some tempo intervals), exchange the Saturday miles for the testing, and some amount of running on Sunday but probably not the scheduled 20-21.

Boy, was I mistaken. My "easy" Thursday run left me exhausted and kind of gimpy, so when I came home from work Friday already worn out, I decided a better call was resting up. The night after the testing I slept for 11 hours and woke up exhausted and bruised and gimpy and WAY more sore than I have ever been from karate before. (Which makes sense, I guess; to quote one of my panel members, "I think if I had had to go through this, they would've been taking me out on a stretcher.") I briefly entertained the idea of putting on running clothes, leaving the Garmin at home, and just jogging easily until I didn't feel like it anymore, but as soon as I put my feet on the ground and stood up, I knew there was no way and that I owed my body a day of complete rest to heal.

Also, my back hurts, and the tiny dime-sized sore spot at the base of my spine that's been there for a couple of months now has become a squishy little bulge, so....yeah. That's probably not good.

Now that it's over and I can look back over the last few weeks with a clear mind, I have this suspicion that I've been running on adrenaline 75% of the time or so, and now that my neurons are no longer bathed in it every minute of every day....I kind of just want to sit here on the couch, drink wine, & watch The Daily Show. I tried to read a few blogs, but even that just took more mental energy than I could muster. I could read my book, but only for a few pages at a time, and then I needed to just put it down and be a vegetable for a little while.

I couldn't even run Monday. Not a step. I went to karate (because who skips their first class as a freshly minted shodan???) but kept it pretty low-key & went to bed at 11 (rather early for me). On Tuesday I packed up my gear and went to the track for a speed workout; after a lap or two of warming up I was all like "hahahaha, AS IF." So instead I jogged an easy six miles around the park. Which, you know. Something. I got four in before karate on Wednesday but finished feeling glad I didn't have time to go much further.

Basically, I had assumed in terms of the fallout that the black belt test would be like racing a 10K. Instead it's fallen somewhere between racing a really hard half and racing a marathon. Maybe a 20 mile race. Or a trail half. The upshot is, I. Am. BEAT.

All this has me re-thinking my weekend plans to drive to Napa & race a half marathon. My training since Oakland has been not great for various reasons, and the only way I'd even *remotely* be ready to race is if the name of the game this week is recover recover recover. Frankly, with as many runs as I've missed in the last month, and with Ojai five and a half weeks away, I can't afford that. I need to get the miles in, including another long run, which means I will not be on fresh, peppy legs come Sunday.

Now, I am not a total killjoy, so I'm still planning to drive to Napa, get my bib, and run the course, but as part of a long run, not at HM race pace. Maybe I'll get up early & do 6-7 before the start, or maybe I'll park a few miles from the staging area. Realistically, all this should've occurred to me back when I was thinking of signing up for this race, but it didn't, & here we are. Eh, no biggie; there will be other half marathons.

I hope everyone is doing well. I will post some pictures from the testing when I get them. There is also a pretty sweet video of Don elbowing me in the jaw & nearly knocking me out cold, and I KNOW you don't want to miss that. :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Say Something

I've noticed a theme recently with many of my pursuits of choice, and that theme seems to be "Things that should be fun and awesome, but kind of aren't lately." I don't really want to get into the details of all of that (at least not now), but that's where my head was as I began excitedly tracking my friends in Boston Monday morning. *Finally*, I was thinking, something that can just be fun and uncomplicated.

So much for that.

I never know what to say in situations like this. Scratch that; I never know what to say in any emotionally charged moment. It is something I genuinely suck at in life. Because I'm pretty sure anything I possibly say or do will be wrong, or trite, or maudlin, or come across as fake-sounding, and because saying something because you feel obligated to rather than because you feel impelled to still seems kind of un-genuine to me. I'm a firm believer that, contrary to popular belief, the world does not always need more voices.

I have had a few friends go through personal tragedies in this past year, though, & some advice one of them shared with me is that in a tragedy, saying nothing is not a neutral response. Saying something, no matter how badly you screw it up, is always better. So here's something.

I am going to skip all the platitudes that have already been repeated so many times you probably have them memorized; obviously I am thinking them because who isn't, but you don't need to read them in yet *another* blog post (although statistically speaking I'm sure I'm repeating someone).

Every time I hear of one more bombing, one more shooting, one more human-initiated tragedy, it's like a punch to the gut out of nowhere. It makes me feel like throwing up because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I mean yes, there are some things I can do very indirectly and long-term and at great remove, but there is nothing I personally can do ahead of time to stop any specific incident. There are people in the world whose job it is to do the best they can at that, but they are not infallible.

It's the helplessness that gets me. A flash of that sick, punched-in-the-gut feeling, a rush of adrenaline and panic if I happened to know anyone thereabouts, and then having confirmed their safety, numbness. Because I have a finite well of emotional energy, and at a certain point the emotional part of me learned the hard way the consequences of depleting it. You never know how much you're going to need.

The other feeling I get in response to tragedies of human violence is anger. The icy, focused, rational type of anger. Because, in addition to stealing lives and physical, mental, and emotional health in myriad different ways, people who perpetrate those acts steal something else as well--the fundamental sense of safety and well-being that people should be able to have when they go somewhere like a sporting event or a movie theater or their school. While deaths and injuries and psychological trauma will of course affect those who lived through it in ways unimaginable to most of us, that lost sense of security and safety and predictability of the world is incredibly damaging in the long-term and shakes everyone who hears about it. If it could happen there, why not here? If it happened then, why not tomorrow or next week? Why not my school? My movie theater? The high-profile sporting event I attended?

Third, I have a request. I would encourage people not to refer to acts of violence like what happened as Boston as "senseless" and "meaningless." Humans voluntarily perpetrating violence is not a matter of rolling dice or spinning a wheel. Humans have free will and choice and motivation. It wasn't an accident. Someone or some group chose to do this for a reason. They had a purpose, even if that purpose was only to hurt people or cause chaos. When we refer to violence and crime and "senseless" and "meaningless," we surrender what control we do have over these situations and abdicate our responsibility to do what we can to prevent them. And we do have some control. Not a huge amount, necessarily, and most likely a confluence of many small, indirect measures brought together. But we need to face these situations by saying, "This was an event, and an event has a cause, and causes can be discovered and studied and understood." We prevent terrible events by finding & understanding their causes. Which means admitting the causes exist, that they have a logic behind them that we can learn to understand, not pretending they don't exist by labeling tragic events as "senseless" and "illogical."

Finally, for those of you who are tempted to give up on humanity altogether when something like this happens (which is kind of an understandable impulse), I want to share with you a few things I learned yesterday evening from Don, who works at Twitter. I saw a quote today from an executive there that echoes more or less what he said to me last night, which was that Monday afternoon really exemplified the service at its best and worst.

On the one hand, you had people tweeting racial accusations and epithets, conspiracy theories, and any number of fake / made up stories, on top of the usual onslaught of premature conclusions and proto-news that will probably always be one of the cons of being able to share information so quickly now.

On the other hand, the positive response was overwhelming. Their system was inundated with tweets from people willing to house and assist lost and stranded runners, restaurants offering to feed them for free, and information from government offices and other organizations about how to locate friends, families, & loved ones. Sometimes it is greatly, greatly reassuring to see what human beings are still willing to do for strangers in times of tragedy and need.

I am staying quiet on the issue of responding until we know more about who is responsible and what their motivations were for this horrific crime. It's easy to make assumptions about why someone would do this, but at this point we don't know. In the mean time, take a quiet moment today to think about those who were injured or killed, and their families & loved ones. They are the ones who deserve our attention and thoughts right now, not the perpetrators.

Monday, April 8, 2013

I'm Sorry, I Can't Read Your Blog This Week

As you can see, I am kind of busy.

Busy doing the kinds of things one traditionally does the week of her/his black belt test. Like fighting Jesus. And snakes. And punching people in the nuts.

If you point out that I could've used the time I spent on this post reading your blog, I will totally punch you in the nuts.

You *and* your snake.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lessons from Long Runs

Lesson #1. Although I have no problem handing over my credit card for hundreds of dollars per year of race fees without a second thought, for some reason I am a total cheapskate when it comes to buying gels. "$1.25 each?!?"

"What am I, *made* of money over here??
Whatever, glycogen is overrated."

As a result, I tend to buy only the exact amount that I need for my next long run, as if there's going to be some kind of mad gel fire sale or something if I hold out long enough. You can imagine how this backfires when I'm all set to head out the door & realize I have no gels. (Or, like, only one gross one I got randomly as a free sample.) Let me tell you, more than one long run route has been plotted such that it takes me by the Sports Basement or Sports Authority.

In a moment of clarity, I stopped on the way home Thursday & purchased like $30 worth (which, for some reason, felt kind of indecent, like buying porn or something. I kind of didn't want to look the dude at the register in the eye).

Move along, nothing to see here...

Also, apparently if you live in the neighborhood you get a 10% discount at Sports Basement. How have I never known this?????

My gels of choice these days are either Clif Shots or PowerBar gels, because the consistency in both is a little thinner & a little less paste-like than some of the others. Accel gels aren't too bad either. In particular, I can heartily recommend the PowerBar green apple one.

Lesson #2. Long runs are soooo much better with company. Even running with a friend for part of the way makes such a huge difference in how easy it is mentally to tackle big miles.

No, this wasn't a long run, but it illustrates the point nicely. :)

Thanks for all your advice re: getting my long run in before going out of town for a no-miles weekend. Ultimately I decided that the smartest thing to do was just get the long run done, however I had to. I ended up running 5 miles to & into Golden Gate Park & meeting A at her usual entry point. When I left the house, I felt just terrible--tired legs, whiney calf, & working WAY too hard for a pace considerably slower than my usual "easy" pace. Not the feeling you're excited to have when you're staring down the barrel of an 18 miler at the end of a work day.

But I soldiered on into the park, & the two of us made one big seven-mile loop together. There is nothing like a running buddy to distract you from how crappy you feel, & before I knew it we were all the way back around (even made it all the way up the MLK hill without stopping!) & I was feeling much, MUCH better.

Lesson #3. No matter how bad you feel when you start, there (usually) comes a point in a long run when you "break through" from feeling tired & crappy to feeling warmed up & strangely comfortable. When I left A & started back towards home, I was glad to find that I actually still felt pretty good--no worrisome aches & pains, no joints threatening to implode, etc. (Consistent strength work, anyone? I'm going with yes.) When my watch hit 14 miles, my reaction was, "Only four miles left? That's actually not all that far..." Before I knew it I was flying through the Panhandle at a sub-8 pace without feeling like I was expending much effort at all. (Downhill, okay, but still.) I reached home still going strong & feeling as if I could've gone a few more miles if I'd had to without any problem. This is the way I prefer to finish a long run.


Lesson #4. Screw complex carbs. You can *totally* marathon train on pancakes & donuts. And recover with BBQ ribs.

That's just how we roll around here.

Have a great weekend everyone!!! :D

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Prove You Can't

Tuesday's scheduled run was as follows:


Question: How much did I not want to do this run today?

Answer: Like, soooo much. So, so much. If you don't do them often, you may not think that intervals measured in very small numbers of K's are that big of a deal. Don't let them fool you, though; 1 and 2Ks are the pirhanas of speed work.

who, meee? harmless little ol' meeeee????


I jogged my two warm up miles with tight, painful Achilles tendons & all-around dead-feeling legs. By 1.5, I had pretty much already decided to abort my original assignment & just get in as many easy miles as I could manage up to 11.

There is no way I can run a 7:25 right now, I though to myself. No freaking way. I didn't know why, but I knew it was true. And hey, getting in some easy miles was better than no miles at all.

But then, as I approached the end of my warm up, one of my unofficial 2013 resolutions came back to me: Prove you can't do it.

To be honest, my body is a little bit of a pessimist. It worries a lot. It wrings its hands & swears up and down that it just can't, not today, not that, not that many sets, not at that pace, not in this weather. It CAN'T. *Trust* it.

So sometimes I have to go along a little. Even when I'm pretty sure it's full of shit. "Alright then," I will tell it. "If you can't, that's fine. So show me how you can't."

This has been one of my tricks this year for eliminating days when I feel like crap & as a result decide to skip, cut short, or water down my run in the name of "listening to my body" (GOD, I can't even tell you how much I hate that phrase, but that's another blog post). If I really, truly, honestly can't do whatever it is that's on the schedule without causing myself injury/significant pain or working at an effort level totally disproportionate to the purpose of the workout (ie, marathon pace feels like 5K race effort), it is totally fine to ratchet down a bit in terms of pace/ distance/number of intervals/etc. to something that is doable but still challenging. BUT, I have to prove I can't do it -- I have to actually suit up & go out there & give the scheduled run an honest effort, and only when I have proven that I can't that day (or shouldn't), for whatever reason, is it acceptable to back off.

Fine, I remember sighing to myself. I'll try.

My first interval was mostly heading west through the Panhandle. If you're familiar with that route, you know it's slightly uphill--not enough to make you hate your life, but enough to be detectable and require a little more effort than usual, and it goes on for close to a mile. Most of the time I can still muscle up that stretch at whatever my prescribed pace is, knowing I'm probably working just a touch harder than intended. That day, though, there was also a massive headwind, and even seeing paces mostly in the high sevens, I still felt like I was running more at 10K effort than half marathon effort. My first 2K ticked off in 9:37, which is a 7:42 pace, and I cannot tell you how sad I was that I had to do that four more times.

You have to do the intervals, I just kept telling myself. You have to try. If the pace is shit, then you do it by effort & don't worry about pace. But you can't just quit.


Again, people who don't routinely do 1 or 2K intervals as speed work may not fully appreciate the experience. I mean, it's less than half a 5K, which is like barely a real distance! (Kidding. I love 5Ks.) But when you're running them as speed intervals, they are WAY longer than you think they should be. I'd be like, "Well this has been going on for a while, I'm getting kind of tired...This one must be nearly over by now. JESUS CHRIST OVER HALF A MILE LEFT?!?!?" Really. 2Ks just seem kind of ridiculously long. Like *way* longer than 1.24 miles.

But I kept plugging away at them. The second one got a little easier, once I was no longer going uphill (9:23 / 7:31 pace), and easier still once I was no longer running into the wind (9:19 / 7:28 pace for #3, though that one still had a big hill in it, and 9:17 / 7:26 pace for #4). By the time I hit #5 I was headed downhill with a tail-wind (9:01 / 7:14 pace). But saying they gradually got easier is not by any means to say that they ever felt easy. My effort level probably was higher than it should've been the whole time, but not higher enough that I could legitimately say I couldn't do it.

Which is the whole point. Because any time I'm like, "Ugh, I am *really* not up for this today," all I have to tell myself is "No problem! Just go prove it." And 95% of the time I end up proving that while it may suck a whole lot, I actual can do it. Without killing myself, even.

So. If you're looking for strategies to help get you up & out the door when you just aren't feeling it, give that one a try. Agree with yourself that if you really really aren't up for whatever it is today, then doing something easier or taking a rest day is A-okay -- but you have to prove it first.

Monday, April 1, 2013

In Which I Crowd Source My Training

Sooooo my black belt test is in less than two weeks.

Good times!! :D

PS, I am not even joking about the crowd sourcing part. But first, a little context:

Week of 3/25 Grand Total: 38 miles

    * 24 easy
    * 14 long

Monday 3/25:

  • Lunch time - Yoga.
  • Evening - Karate.

Tuesday 3/26: 4 easy Rest. For some reason my stomach was really upset this evening, so running just was not going to happen.

Wednesday 3/27: Karate. (Lunch meeting at work, so no Pilates.)

Thursday 3/28:

  • Lunch time - Strength work.
  • Evening - 8 easy. My post-race-week runs usually universally suck, but this run felt pretty good - 8:49 pace.

Friday 3/29: 8 easy. Same route (basically), but felt a little harder, which didn't surprise me since I'm not used to running > 6 miles on back-to-back days. So kind of surprised to see an 8:42 average pace when all was said & done.

Saturday 3/30: Karate + 8 easy. Same route yet again, and this time I *really* felt worn out (which I'd expected). And yet....8:36 pace?? Running is weird.

Sunday 3/31: 14 long. As I've mentioned before, running from my house down through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach & back is a near-perfect 14 mile loop. I'd planned on making it 16 by adding in a one-mile out-and-back stretch on the way home, but about 5 miles in I started having some yellow flag-type pain in my right foot that never went away, so instead I just made it 14. It feels okay now, but the last time I had disconcerting foot pain like this, I ended up exiled to not pool running for a month so I was not inclined to push it too much.

Also more karate. Cuz....yeah.

So here is where I need your expertise. (If you don't have expertise, no worries; you can totally just make stuff up. That's what I do.)

I got a 14 mile long run in this weekend, which is good, but not great. Next weekend I'm supposed to do an 18-19 mile long run, but we'll be in Paso Robles which means I will be running precisely no miles on Saturday or Sunday. Here is my current plan (by which I mean "plan") for next week:

Monday: 4 miles between work & karate. That's kind of the best I can do on karate days.

Tuesday: Big ass 11 mile track workout.

Wednesday: Finish getting my taxes done between work & karate. I *could* get up at like 5:45 & run maybe 4 miles, but that's absolute best case.

Thursday: Run 8 miles? Run 10 miles? Get up at 5:45 & run 4 miles, then run 10 miles after work?

Friday: Run 8 miles? Run 10 miles? Get up at 5:45 & run 4 miles, then run 10 miles after work? GET UP AT 5:30 AND RUN 6 MILES, THEN RUN 12 AFTER WORK??????

Seriously. Help me out here. I've been out of town too much lately & I really have to do *something* to make up at least the spirit of endurance-building. What's my best bet in terms of making up the long run? Do back-to-back shortish-long runs accomplish the same thing? Am I better off getting up early & pulling a double day?

I leave my fate in your hands.