Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Not giving up too much internet privacy, I hope?

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

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

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

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

Hello there big boy!

Never gets old.

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

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

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

MARIN! #achievementunlocked

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

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

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

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


Some Numbers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. That's one kick-butt long run. And the views! Post-card material!
    There are two loops in NOLA that tempt me when I get that "I want an adventure!" long run feeling: One circles uptown and downtown, but the other extends to include midcity and the lakefront (it's actually basically the RNR NOLA marathon course without any extras or out-and-backs added). Sometimes I'll do the first loop, which is 12 miles, but the second, which is 20, is fountainless, and almost killed me once, so - never again!

    1. I don't think I'll ever be one of those people who runs multiple destination marathons a year just for fun, but I have to admit that in some cities they're a great way to see the highlights!

  2. It was as much an adventure as a long run. Great work on a tough route!

    1. Thanks! Probably only need to do that one once a marathon cycle....

  3. We had the same kind of face-reshaping wind here along the beach in SoCal two weeks ago – the sand hitting me from the side felt like the spears of a million Lilliputians. And I remember one particularly gusty run along the Marina there in SF where my iPod earbuds wouldn't stay in, and I had to lean so far into the headwind to make progress that when the bluster momentarily subsided, I nearly fell forward on my face. Ah, the memories! Nice job focusing on the bright side and toughing out 20 – worse ways to spend a rainy Sunday!

    1. Eek! At least there was no sand here!

  4. I loved running Eugene- glad to see that is your next big race. It is a great course, but the atmosphere is off the charts. I would love to run it again someday. We are going to SF in a few weeks. I can't wait! Haven't been there since before our daughter was born. I am going to attempt the RnR half although it does make me nervous.

    1. I'm super excited about Eugene! I know I won't PR but still looking forward to it. There are just a couple of big hills in the RnR course (I think?) but it's not too bad. You'll enjoy it!

  5. Girl, that run was EPIC. Good job. :) Love the pics BTW. I am going to have get up to SF to run one of these days. Every time I think about it I make an excuse about the drive (live in San Jose).

  6. Awesome job on that big run!! I also love the novelty of hopping towns, cities, counties or States on a run. Good luck at ORF!

  7. That sounds epic!! Haha, I can't run two miles in any direction without crossing the border into another town - thanks, Cambridge. As a young, dumb tourist, I actually did walk across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County once, fueled by a couple of In-n-Out Burgers, and went exploring...

  8. Okay, I'm way behind on reading blogs. I have to say I need to do what you did more often. I often run south to Lake Merced on long runs and I think we can both agree that is far less mentally stimulating than running north to the bridge. It must have been nice to run on a stormy day and have the roads all to yourself!