Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Race Report: SF Track & Field Club Pride Meet

Photo credit: SF Track & Field Club

TL;DR - I was having a GREAT race until pretty much right at mile 2 when something in my calf felt like it just popped and I nearly fell over due to the ice pick-like stab of pain that went screaming through my gastrocnemius. It was an instant race ender, which is super disappointing, but there's also some pretty amazing silver lining.


I'd been excited about this race for a couple of months now. I've wanted to dip my toe back into the world of track racing for a while now, but the timing has never worked out -- I've either always been injured, recovering, traveling, or aiming for some other big race that conflicted with the Bay Area track meets I knew about. This was finally the year!

But, I was also kind of nervous, because a) my last 5K was 1.5 years ago, b) even when I ran track I didn't run the 5K, and c) that was TWENTY YEARS AGO!

I'd stayed in generally okay aerobic shape post-CIM, then spent about 5-6 weeks doing some 5K-specific training to try to layer on a little speed. This race wasn't high stakes, obviously, but I've run 5Ks when I'm in decent shape so rarely that I really wanted to take advantage of running on a track (as flat and fast as it gets, really) and see what I could do.

My training had been going pretty well, actually. That is, up until this last Tuesday, my last speed workout before the race. It was only a few miles, 2 warm up, 3 x 1200m @ LT pace (~7:13), 2 cool down. Because it was so short, it didn't feel worth it to drive to the track, so instead I just jogged the 1.25 miles to my gym, ran another easy .75 miles on the treadmill, did the intervals, then reversed the process.

On the jog there, I noticed a faint tightness in my right calf, the sort of little niggle that happens from time to time, but I didn't really think anything of it. Then during the intervals it got a little worse but not bad enough that I had to alter my stride, so I finished them. By the time I was finishing my jog home, I was a little concerned because whatever it was felt like it was getting worse, so I skipped my Wednesday easy three miles.

It felt fine on Thursday, so I went ahead and did my three miles, but then felt the same dull ache poking its little head up again. On Friday I had a two mile shakeout run, but whatever it was, I wanted to give it a chance to settle down, so I skipped the shakeout & crossed my fingers that whatever it was would behave itself for at least one more day.

Getting to the venue Saturday morning was easy. SF State is maybe 15 minutes from my house, parking was easy, it was a short walk to the stadium, and getting checked in was easy. Because I am paranoid I always arrive at races stupidly early, and at 7:30am (the 5K was at 9:00am) I was only the 2nd athlete to arrive, I think. Everyone was super friendly and helpful, and the logistics couldn't have been easier.

I spent the next half hour chilling in the stands, then checked into the event with the Clerk of the Course and got my hip number at around 8:00. (You're supposed to do it at least 45 minutes before your event.) Something about racing on a track made me feel like this was a bit more *serious* than most 5Ks I've run, so I felt like instead of jogging a mile, doing a minute or so of dynamic stretches & calling it good, I should actually, like, warm up for real. So I jogged three easy miles, went through all my pre-speed work drills, and even did the strides I'm supposed to do before speed work but never do because I hate strides. Through all this I could feel a faint tightness in my calf that wasn't quite normal, but it wasn't that bad and I had no trouble jogging at all. So far, so good

Also, man, right around that third easy mile, the nerves just throttled me. I was excited and feeling good, but I was also sort of terrified. (I don't know of what, really.) I was jogging easy 9:30 miles but my heart rate was in the 170s, & since I didn't seem to be able to do anything about it, I just tried to convince myself that pre-race adrenaline was a good thing.

A few minutes before the start, I ended up chatting briefly with another of the women in the 5K, part of a team that drove from Sacramento! She was running the 5K in the morning and then the 1600m at 1:30pm which I found super impressive. (I mean. I know how track meets work. But I've certainly never attempted to race anything longer than a mile twice in the same day because that sounds HORRIBLE.)

There were only about a dozen of us running total, so the Clerk decided we would just all race together in one heat. There was some nervous laughter and joking as he gave last minute instructions (waterfall start, yield the inside lanes to passers, and someone would be giving us our laps each time we past the finish). One dude asked, "Wait, how many laps, now?" and we all laughed.

It was funny how many track-related memories that haven't occurred to me in years kept surfacing--hip numbers, step to the line, one step back, back to the line & wait for the gun--and how quickly I fell back into the rhythm. My heart was pounding as I waited for the gun and I just kept telling myself, Don't go out too fast, don't go out too fast, don't go out too fast!

Trying to remember the last time I wore a hip number.

Though, of course I did, because I always do. But I also got it back under control pretty quickly--I think I took the first 200m at 6:00 pace, but by the time I completed the first lap I'd settled right around 6:50. (I'd decided that my strategy would be to run the first mile around 6:50, and if that felt like not death, try to speed up from there.)

The woman I'd been chatting with was definitely much faster than me--she never lapped me but definitely had a very comfortable lead from the very beginning & continued to stretch it out. There were three very fast men who led the group from the very beginning by quite a wide margin, all the way to a couple of older men and women who took the entire race at a steady jog; the rest of us were kind of spread out in between.

I hit my first mile in 6:52, which felt like work but not death, and I knew I should definitely speed up. From there I tried to ratchet down to around 6:40, which felt just barely sustainable, but again, not like death. In the past mile 2 has been my weakness in 5Ks ("OMG this is SO HARD and there is SO MUCH LEFT"), so one of my goals was not to be a coward as I closed in on the last mile.

And I really felt like I accomplished that! Yes, the pace felt hard, but still like sustaining it was mostly a matter of will and keeping my foot on the accelerator, not physical ability. I was still feeling pretty good when mile 2 ticked off in 6:41, and for the first time, I let myself think, "Hey, maybe that 2012 PR [20:44, ~6:40 pace] isn't as immutably set in stone as it's always felt! MAYBE I COULD ACTUALLY PR TODAY!" No, mile 2 had not felt easy, but I felt kind of like I did at the end of CIM this past December--"Can we keep this pace up?" "Yes!" "Then time to go faster!" Yes, it would suck, but I really felt like physically and mentally I had at least a sub-6:40 left.

And it was literally in the seconds after my 2nd mile ticked off as I was having all these thoughts that something in my right calf seized up and/or imploded and suddenly I was nearly stumbling off the track. No big deal, run it off, I thought, but just a few steps later it was 100% clear that I was done running for the day. I stepped off the track and could not put any weight on the ball of my right foot without excruciating pain.

Of course everyone was like, "Are you okay??" "You got this, keep going!" etc., and I just sort of laughed and shook my head, because there was so clearly no question of running even another step. Even walking (well, limping, actually) back to the bleachers was kind of a slog.

I hung out to watch the rest of the race (there wasn't much of it left by the time I got back to the bleachers); the group of fast dudes finished around 17 minutes and the woman I'd been chatting with before the race won in 19 & change, and everybody cheered super hard for the last few folks to come in in the ~25 range.

I was probably at my worst between the end of the race & getting home & showering, and mostly I would characterize it as disappointment, sure, but mostly just being pissed off because I felt like I was having such a great race and I'd been looking forward to this for weeks and in my head worst case scenario was "Well, maybe I won't be as fast as I'd like, but if nothing else, I'll a nice three mile workout and finish my first track 5K!" Ha ha, nope. I was also kind of pissed off at myself because maybe I should have stopped running at the first twinge of discomfort on Tuesday and started rolling out my calf, or at least not have run those three miles on Thursday, and maybe then things would have been different.

But of course at this is point that's all just useless speculation.

Still, I'm generally a pretty positive person, and so while I was still disappointed and felt a bit robbed by the calf drama, part of me could not stop silently shouting to the heavens, "BUT DID YOU SEE THOSE FIRST TWO SPLITS, THO??????"

I mentioned in my earlier post that I've only ever run one 5K when I was in anything even remotely like good shape, when I ran 20:44 five years ago. But that race feels so remote now and with all the weirdness about the course and forgetting to stop my watch that part of me had kind of started to feel like it wasn't real, like it didn't really happen, and sometimes I'd get the jerk brain going, "Silly girl. Like you could ever run that time. Are you crazy? We all know you're a 21:30 5K-er and that's just how it'll always be." And then, "Plus you were five years younger then, so good luck ever even *approaching* that time again (if you even ran it legitimately then, which of course, you didn't)."

Now, I'm not saying I definitely would have PR'd on Saturday, because a third of a race left to go is A LOT and you never know what will happen. But, personally, I'm satisfied that if I'd been able to finish, I most likely would have come very very close. It wasn't impossible.

So, the way I see it, this just means I need to get my calf healed up and then find another 5K to run in the near future.


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

Pride Meet is hosted each year by the San Francisco Track and Field Club, which has as its mission to dignify and promote gay and lesbian athletes and to be inclusive of all ages, all genders, all races, and all abilities. The meet is USATF sanctioned.

Location: Cox Stadium, SF State University (though it has been hosted at various Bay Area venues in the past, I believe)

Date: June or July (Saturday, June 17 this year)

Price: I think registration for the meet was $50, but that covers as many events as you want to do. I only signed up for the 5K because I couldn't imagine I'd be good for much else after that.

Deadline / Sellout Factor: You can register online up until I think the day before the meet, but there's on-site registration as well.

Parking: Sadly parking on the SF State campus is enforced 24/7 so you have to pay, BUT there is a giant parking garage pretty much right by the stadium that's $7 for all day.

Staging: All you really need to be able to find is the check-in tent where you get your bib, which was right at the entrance to the track and impossible to miss. It was super easy & the volunteers were all really friendly and helpful. You're also supposed to check in with the Clerk of the Course ~45 minutes before your even to get seeded & get your hip number, which was another small tent right at the finish line, so that was easy as well.

The Course

I mean. It's a track. We started at the waterfall line near the 200m start, with the finish in the usual track finish spot. So you really can't ask for anything flatter or faster.


  • Again, track meet, so the only schwag is if you happen to place. The medals were pretty cool looking, though. More reasons to take another swing at it next year!

Photo credit: SF Track & Field Club

Other than the crappy calf strain/pull/whatever, I had a great experience and TOTALLY plan on giving this race another try next year!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Some 5Ks I Have Run (and taking bets for Saturday!)

Since I'm about to run my first 5K in over a year and a half, I thought it might be good to do some sort of planning in terms of vaguely what pace I should be running and what kind of time would be reasonable to expect. (I mean, the time will be whatever it is but I would like to have some sense of whether, say, a 1:30 first lap is something to panic about.)

Unlike with the full and half marathon, my 5K history is kind of nebulous in my mind, and I've never had big, multi-year goals around that distance. (Not for any particular reason -- I don't feel like it's any less of a "legitimate" distance than longer ones, and I think it's kind of a shame that the 5K gets so ignored and dismissed by recreational road racers obsessed with going longer and longer and longer just for the sake of bigger numbers on the bumper sticker, or something.)

So, just for funsies, I decided to look back over my past 5Ks and see if I can spot any patterns & maybe come up with some sort of reasonable expectations.

Which I have to admit, was pretty amusing. It was actually kind of fun to read back over some of my old race reports and relive details I no doubt would have completely forgotten otherwise (for better or worse!). What I learned was:

    1) I almost never run 5Ks (as in, seven in my entire adult life),

    2) A weirdly large percentage of them were run when I was just starting to run again after an injury (go figure), and

    3) An equally weirdly large percentage had some kind of wonkiness about the course length or timing (probably related at least in part to how a lot of local 5Ks are tiny community events where people understandably aren't being as anal about the course & timing as they would be at a bigger/pricier/higher stakes event).

So, ultimately, not that helpful in terms of goal setting, but at least moderately entertaining! Read on, and at the end we'll take bets on Saturday's performance.

~ * ~ * ~ Angela's 5Ks Over the Years ~ * ~ * ~

1) Bay Vista 5K, May 2010 (San Mateo, CA). I think this is the first "official" 5K I ran as an adult. I didn't really train for it. I had no idea what I was doing and had only my old high school stopwatch as far as pacing myself. It was a sunny day and I just kind of showed up in tights (who knows why, don't ask). I went out way too fast but pushed it super super hard (for me, at that point) all the way to the end, won my age group, threw up a little, and spent at least a couple of minutes seeing stars and unable to walk straight. As far as I know this was a legit 3.1 miles, though I did not have a GPS watch then. My watch time matched the official time, though.

    Official Time: 22:00
    Watch Time: 22:00
    Official Course: 3.1 miles

Angela's analysis in hindsight: I was not in very good shape when I ran this race and had really no idea what I was doing, but I would say it was definitely a solid, all-out, honest effort at the time. I have no reason to think the course was particularly long or short so this is probably a pretty legit result.

2) Kaiser Permanente 5K, January 2011 (San Francisco, CA). This was kind of a random race and to be honest I can't even remember why I wanted to run it, or how particularly hard I ran it. Ah, well.

LOL at old timey heart rate monitor
    Official Time: 22:19
    Watch Time: 22:19
    Official Course: 3.2 miles
    Garmin Course: 3.21 miles

Angela's analysis in hindsight: The race directors had announced going into this course that it was in fact 3.2 miles, not 3.1 (no idea why), so it's not really legit in that respect. Pace-wise, that equates to about 21:37 for 5K for those keeping score at home. (I'm pretty sure they've changed the course since then.) Not that it matters much as I didn't really train for this race in any meaningful way. Also there was one MASSIVE hill in the middle.

3) Menlo-Atherton Big Bear Run 5K, May 2012 (Atherton, CA). This is probably the only 5K I've ever run when I've been in really good shape. I had been training quite hard for Windsor Green Half Marathon and this was just two weeks before that race, my first sub-1:40. According to my race report, I ran it respectably hard, but not fall-over-and-die-after hard.

    Official Time: 20:44
    Watch Time: ??? Dunno, forgot to stop my watch
    Official Course: 3.1
    Garmin Course: 3.25, but I also did not remember to stop it right at the finish so who knows.

Angela's analysis in hindsight: Officially, this is my PR, but if I am honest, there have always been a lot of little things about it that bothered me. First, at least according to my Garmin, the course was more than a little long, and I have always suspected that they started us at the wrong "starting line." Second, when I crossed the finish, the race clock said 20:56, but my official time was revised to 20:44 and I have no idea why. Third, I forgot to stop my watch so I don't even have a Garmin result to fall back on. I mean; it's definitely my PR and WAY faster than any other 5K I've ever run any way you slice it, but I've never felt all that confident in the exact time. My mile splits were 6:47, 6:40, 6:37, and that's all I really know for sure.

4) PrideRun 5K, June 2012 (San Francisco, CA). This is not a super fast course but it's still one of my favorite San Francisco races because it's just such a fun event. I guess I was in pretty good shape for this race as well given that it was not that long after Big Bear Run. Still, this was maybe a 90-95% effort, not a MACH-10-with-hair-on-fire effort, and it's a tougher course due to about a mile of it being significantly uphill on rocks & dirt.

    Official Time: 21:36
    Watch Time: 21:37
    Official Course: 3.1
    Garmin Course: 3.11

Angela's analysis in hindsight: Like I said, I think I was in pretty good shape for this race, but it was not a super fast course, I didn't run it that hard, and as I recall I actually almost didn't run it because I was feeling sick. Everyone I've ever run it with has clocked right around 3.1, so I feel pretty good about saying that this was a legit result and going all-out on a friendlier course I might have been capable of a bit better.

5) Get Lucky 5K, March 2014 (Rohnert Park, CA). This was my first post-stress fracture #1 race and I was pretty darn de-trained, so I wasn't expecting a great time. I would say it was a 60/40 not bad effort considering, but I was definitely out of practice pushing hard and still a little bit timid about my barely-healed leg. I'd call it maybe a 90% effort.

    Official Time: 22:06
    Watch Time: ??? Dunno, forgot to stop my watch for like 12 minutes.
    Official Course: 3.1 miles
    Garmin Course: ??? See above

Angela's analysis in hindsight: Who the heck even knows, I was just happy to be running.

6) Spring Forward 5K, April 2014 (Mountain View, CA). This was my second race post-stress fracture #1, and I only did it because 1) I wanted to see how much faster I'd gotten since Get Lucky the month before, and 2) it was my last chance to race before heading to Italy for a month. The course was a bit long, and I finished feeling like I'd run hard but prooooobably could have run harder if I'd really been willing to push myself.

    Official Time: 22:15
    Watch Time: 21:29 @ 3.1, 22:15 @ finish
    Official Course: 3.1
    Garmin Course: 3.21

Angela's analysis in hindsight: Most people in this race clocked 3.2-ish. I hit lap at 3.1 just to see, which showed 21:29. As this was a small community race, I don't put a ton of faith in the course, and I also couldn't have possibly been all that much fitter than Get Lucky the month before, so, once again who knows.

7) UCSF Holiday Classic 5K, December 2015 (San Francisco, CA). My first race post-stress fracture #2, again, pretty much completely de-trained, but I figured what the heck, let's jump into a local 5K three miles from home and see what happens. I really can't call this anything less than an all-out, balls-to-the-wall, 110% effort. Definitely seeing spots and barely not puking at the end, and regardless of the time it's always good to know you can still push yourself to that point, even if you haven't been training and are barely not injured.

    Official Time: 22:37
    Watch Time: ??? Forgot to stop my watch (BECAUSE THAT IS APPARENTLY A THING I DO IN 5Ks), BUT it said 22:15 when I finally remembered.
    Official Course: 3.1 miles
    Garmin Course: 2.85 miles, though my phone & everyone else I checked with got 3.1. That particular watch had been on its last legs so I kind of just assumed it was a GPS/Garmin death throes issue.

Angela's analysis in hindsight: The course was USATF certified so it's unlikely that it was short. I forgot to stop my watch until maybe 20-30ish seconds after finishing, & it read 22:15 at that point, so I was kind of mystified to see that my official time was so much slower. All I can come up with is the fact that there was a finish mat but all times were gun times (though I started almost right at the line) and the start was a few minutes delayed due to some issue with the timing equipment. So, again, not very clean data for a number of reasons, but in my head I've always called this race 21:45-22ish.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

So, there you go. Any bets? I have my own thoughts about what I should likely shoot for pace-wise on Saturday, but I'm curious to hear any predictions from the masses. (The one caveat I will remind you all of is that I have never run a track 5K, so I may suck at that aspect of it.)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Aloha, again

I spent most of last week in Honolulu for work, and as typically happens when I'm traveling and all sorts of crazy stuff is going on, things got a bit wacky what with all the shifting around of various workouts (mostly due to time). For all that work travel is not nearly as glamorous as some people seem to think, I have to say there are worse places a person could get sent for four days with a great team of co-workers to hang out with.

The view from dinner

Pool did not suck

Barefoot nighttime beach walk back to the hotel after dinner with the team

The story of the last two few weeks seems to be that bodies are weird, running is weird, and who can ever say why different workouts sometimes feel effortless (well, okay, maybe not effortless, exactly) & other days like you're going to die 10% of the way in. Apparently 3 x 2 @ HM pace is the Death Workout, but just a few days later 6 x 1 @ LT pace (so ~0:15-20/mile faster) is NBD? One day I can barely finish 4 miles and cranking it to marathon pace for even one mile is impossible, and the next day 10 miles with 6 of them slightly faster than marathon pace feels pedestrian? What the what?

I'm sure it's all related to rest/recovery/sleep and how those things fluctuate with my travel schedule, but man, it's been making for some drama-filled training.

* * *


Grand Total: 38 miles + 1 hour strength

    * 26 easy
    * 6 speed
    * 6 tempo/threshold

With three weeks left until PrideMeet, keeping the fast mileage up but starting to cut back on the easy stuff a bit. I don't think any of these miles happened on the actual days on which they were assigned, but hey, they got done!

Monday 5/30: Rest

    We roasted a whole pig on Sunday so Memorial Day was a massive sleep in/cleanup day.

Tuesday 5/31: a.m. strength work / p.m. 2 warm up, 6 x 1 mile @ LT pace / 1:30 recovery, 2 cool down Get bogged down from dawn til dusk with work. Hmph.

    Strength work this week = deadlifts (80 lbs), lat pulls (60 lbs), dumbbell presses (30 lbs), clamshells, bridge marches, & a hundred-some-odd crunches. I am freaking determined to keep myself from getting injured, and once a week is more than none per week.

Wednesday 5/31: a.m. fly to Hawai'i / p.m. 2 warm up, 6 x 1 mile @ LT pace / 1:30 recovery, 2 cool down

    I really wanted to go do this run somewhere cool & scenic, but Waikiki is crowded and urban and I didn't really know the area well and LT pace is also pretty darn fast to be dodging pedestrians & throwing on the breaks/screwing up the intervals with stop lights. Between that & the heat of mid-day (when I finished work), I just opted to do it on the hotel treadmill in the A/C, which, yes, seems kind of lame, but it was worth it to not worry about the route & just focus on getting the workout done.

    Given how god-awful my last two threshold workouts have been (3 x 2 miles @ HM pace in both cases), I was utterly dreading 6 mile repeats 0:15-0:20/mile FASTER than HM pace, so I was a bit surprised to find that these were actually pretty easy. (Maybe easy isn't the right word, exactly, but completely doable without any sense of I-am-literally-about-to-fall-off-the-treadmill-and/or-die about them. In other news, I am not sure I have ever done six mile repeats in a workout before, so that's sort of neat?)

Thursday 6/1: 8 easy

    RIGHT, that thing that happens once you start actually training again, where you run a hard workout, and no matter how great it went, the next day's "easy" run feels like you've been hit by a cross town bus. But you can only be so cranky when you can stop every couple of miles to appreciate the scenery.

    Also try explaining to your co-workers why instead of joining them on the beach, you're opting to run 8 miles in 85F heat & 80% humidity. On the plus side, there were some less crowded, nice dirt trails in the southern part of Waikiki, which I appreciated.

Friday 6/2: 2 warm up, 6 @ marathon pace, 2 cool down 6 easy.

    Sadly time was super tight Friday so this was all I had time for (yes, once again while my colleagues were chilling on the beach before our dinner meeting.)

Saturday 6/3: 2 warm up, 6 @ marathon pace, 2 cool down 4 easy

    I tried moving the threshold run to Saturday morning before my flight, but even by 7:30am the heat and humidity were just utterly intolerable. Less than a mile into the warm-up & running 10:30-11:00 miles, I was dripping & felt just completely miserable. I tried running one marathon pace mile and all I got from my body was a big fat NOPE!

    I think it's maybe once or twice a year that I actually go out, truly attempt a workout, and end up having to can it because I just cannot physically do it for whatever reason, but this was one. The target pace was 8:06 and 8:12 felt like 5K-10K race effort. So I finished one more easy (it was not easy) mile & decided to try again tomorrow once I was back home & had some rest.

Sunday 6/4: 8 easy 2 warm up, 6 @ marathon pace, 2 cool down = 10 total

    Done and dusted! Six threshold miles, 7:59 average pace with no trouble whatsoever. (I didn't mean to run them quite that fast, especially with the hills & headwind, but my GPS was apparently lying to me a bit.) Glad I was able to fit this one in Sunday since I didn't have a long run this week.

Just two weeks left to go, and I am trying hard not to think about what running 5Ks feels like....