Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Race Report: Berkeley Half Marathon

Berkeley Half was my first post-injury double digit race AND the farthest I've run since M2BM in May by nearly 2.5 miles, so I'll just get the suspense out of the way & say that yes, I finished pain-free & feeling good, which in all honesty was the only thing I really really really wanted out of it. Back in the summer I'd hoped to be back in racing shape & ready to rumble by now, but honestly, I'm just feeling grateful to be healthy and able to run this far again less than six months after my injury.

I knew going in that I wasn't in any shape to run a particularly fast race, but I'd still been toying with the idea of going all-out anyway, just to see what I could do at this distance. By Saturday night, though, I'd come to my senses & finally acknowledged a not-that-short list of reasons why that was an epically bad idea:

  • I haven't been training for it--not even close, distance-wise or effort-wise.
  • My most recent "long run" was only 10 miles, just a week before, and only the third time since May that I'd run more than six.
  • I'd done exactly two (very short) tempo runs.
  • I hadn't tapered, relative to my (very low) recent mileage.
  • I hadn't prepared nutrition-wise.
  • I hadn't prepared sleep-wise.
  • I was utterly exhausted after being out at the Stanford game most of Saturday.

Even if I were to run all-out, there was just no way I was going to get a good performance indicative of anything, on top of which, I'd also end up losing a bunch of mileage to recovery time.

On the other hand, for all that it probably would've been the smartest thing training-wise, just using it as an easy long run felt super lame. If I'm getting up at 5:30 in the morning & going to the trouble of driving somewhere & figuring out the logistics, I at least want to pretend like I'm kinda-sorta doing something semi-challenging and have just a tiny bit of fun.

(Before you ask: No, easy long runs are not fun. Yes, I hate them. No, the irony is not lost on me.)

So. I decided to compromise & do it at goal marathon pace / effort & see how that felt, and I think I succeeded more than I failed.

For reference:

(For reference)

The Big Downhill Section

Mile 1 - 7:51
Mile 2 - 7:30
Mile 3 - 7:44

It wasn't SUPER downhill, just significantly more than the rest of the course, which was basically flat. These miles felt really easy, like long run pace easy, and I actually spent a lot of it intentionally slowing down. That 7:30? Did NOT feel like a 7:30. (I'm sure the grade does explain a lot of this.)

The Freeway

Mile 4 - 7:44
Mile 5 - 8:00
Mile 6 - 7:43

Fun to run with this speedy lady for a bit, however briefly!
This was my least favorite part of the course. It was the first and longest of three out-and-back stretches and ran basically right along the I-80 frontage road, which meant breathing car fumes for ~3 miles. After a while I started feeling really nauseous & was afraid I was actually going to have to stop to throw up. Seriously, the exhaust smell SUCKED. This was also where the sun came out and I went from being comfortable temperature-wise to uncomfortably warm. On the other hand, early in this section I got to see Cate & chat with her for a few minutes before she dashed off at a pace that I was not going to try to match today.

The Marina / Cesar Chavez Park

Mile 7 - 8:16
Mile 8 - 7:53
Mile 9 - 7:55

This part of the course had some nice views. Unfortunately, it also had the worst footing. (I did feel fortunate that I at least knew this ahead of time after running Let's Go 510 last month, which followed a lot of the same route.)

Let's Go 510! 10K Course Map
There were some gravel and dirt stretches in the park as well as some muddy spots, and the blacktop road going into the Marina was pretty beat up & broken. At this point, I also think the monotony of the out-and-back by the freeway and the lameness of not racing a race had taken its toll on me mentally--I still felt fine physically but was just bored to tears, and the thought of two more out-and-back stretches along the frontage road was utterly demoralizing.

(I've been trying to remember if there was any reason why Mile 7 was my slowest of the whole race, and I can't think of any. It was slightly downhill, and I was feeling fine, so I kind of wonder if there's maybe more Garmin error there than usual. It's possible that Mile 6 was actually closer to 8:00ish & just ticked off early due to satellite shenanigans or something; I do remember somewhere along that stretch that the 'pace' field on my watch was fluctuating wildly between 6:30 & 9:30, so I wouldn't be surprised.)

The Marina / Cesar Chavez Park

Mile 10 - 7:53
Mile 11 - 8:04
Mile 12 - 8:06
Mile 13 - 8:07 (giant hill, see elevation profile above)
.1 - ???

(I never know what to do about the .1 split. My watch said 1:21, but that would be a 13:30 pace (wrong); if I use the .27 from my watch, that's a 5:00 pace (also wrong). All I know for sure is that coming down that last big hill towards the finish chute, I was running ~6:15-6:30ish, because a) giant downhill & b) Jesus Christ, let this effing race effing END already.)

Making the turn onto the frontage road and going into the second out-and-back, two things happened. One, my lack of endurance / long runs finally caught up with me. (Coincidence that it happened right when I got to 10.5, my longest run prior to the race? Perhaps, but also perhaps not.) I didn't feel terrible, but I did go from "Meh, this race is whatever, and eventually it will end," to "Wow, I would really really really not object if the finish line were to magically appear two miles early." And two, I found myself swept up in a wave of okay maybe slightly irrational rage at out-and-backs and hairpin turns and freeway frontage roads and really just felt like there should be *someone* I could punch in the neck for it.

(If you are reading this, Berkeley Half Marathon course designer, I'm sorry. It's not personal. I know creating courses for long races through urban areas is really, really hard, and I'm sure there are reasons why it had to be this way. That said...it's tough to think of an alternative I wouldn't have preferred. Besides maybe just running laps up & down the frontage road.)

It was also quite warm at this point, and I was thirsty & still kind of nauseous from the gel / sports drink situation (more on that later), so it's worth mentioning that I was not in the most understanding & generous state of mind.

The footing on the last mile wasn't so great either. Again the pavement was treacherously cracked & pot-holed in placed, and there were also several large mud puddles that runners were doing whatever they could (sideswiping other runners, dodging on & off the course, leaping through the air) to avoid. I knew I was slowing down at this point, but not as much as the people around me, apparently, because I found myself still weaving in & out of knots of runners as I slogged my way up the final hill & careened down the other side towards the chute. I'd only been looking at average splits so didn't have more than a vague idea of what kind of time I was in for, so I was pleased and honestly a little surprised to see that even at what felt like marathon effort, I was still almost a full minute under 1:45.

(Still, though--very, very happy to be done.)

Garmin: 13.27 miles / 1:44:12 / 7:53 pace
Official: 13.1 miles / 1:44:09 / 7:58 pace

Overall: 750 / 4664
Women: 188 / 2516
A/G: 41 / 538

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*POST RACE~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Since I think just about everyone I knew was running in one of the three races, I was hoping I'd get a chance to meet up with some friends and say hi, but between the enormity of the finish area and the apparently overloaded cell network, I mostly just spent the first 20 minutes or so milling aimlessly around and desperately looking for a place to sit down. (I'd prematurely discounted the beer garden area since I hadn't put my ID in my bag; later I learned they were totally accepting the age group printed on your D-tag as legit ID. Ah well.)

Just when I had given up locating anyone & was heading towards the shuttles I finally ran into Cathryn, who was supposed to run the 10K but (tragically!) sprained her ankle Friday. She was still a great sport & came out to cheer & see her husband run, so it was good to see her & get to meet some other runner friends of hers.

Then on my second trip towards the shuttles I heard familiar voices calling my name & turned to see Courtney, Cate & her husband Mike, & Reneigh, none of whom I'd seen in ages.

We chatted & compared race notes for a while, & then I headed back towards the shuttles with Reneigh & her friend Meg. Due to some confusion about what was going on with the buses (see below), we ended up walking a good mile back to Berkeley proper, which maybe sounds like it should've sucked, but the weather was nice, I actually felt pretty good physically at that point, and it was lovely to catch up with Reneigh & chat with her & Meg for a little while. We met Cate, Mike, & Courtney at Picante, dropped Reneigh & Meg off for lunch, & thankfully Courtney's sister (who lives in Berkeley & was coming to pick her up) was kind enough to save me the three-mile walk (which *really* would have sucked) back to my car. THANK YOU LADIES!!!!

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

Location: Berkeley, CA

Date: Mid/late November (November 24, 2013 this year)


Before Sept 1:

    * Half Marathon -- $75
    * 10 Mile -- $60
    * 10 Kilometer -- $50

Before Oct 15:

    * Half Marathon -- $85
    * 10 Mile -- $60
    * 10 Kilometer -- $50

After Nov 18: ??? The website just says "increase" for all three distances.

They also do complimentary entries for elites & discounted entries for sub-seeds. (I was sub-seeded & I think I got maybe half off.) There is also a 15% discount for registering in teams of 15 or more.

Deadlines/sellout factor: There were still a few spots left in all distances, I think, as of race morning, and they were taking race day registration. 2013 was the first year for this race, so we'll see what happens in the future.

Field Size: ~4,800 finishers in the half, and I think they said there were ~7,000 participants between the three races. So not that tiny, especially for a new race.


There are several garages near the start, though when I arrived at 7am, they all seemed to be full. On the other hand, free / unlimited Sunday parking appeared fairly plentiful. (I literally parked on the street right in front of the closest garage & walked a whopping two blocks to the start.)


  • Start - Well-organized, with everything laid out in a way that made things easy to find & navigate through, and a full city block of port-a-potties. I also loved that sweat check was a bunch of school buses labeled with ranges of race numbers. When you were ready, you just tossed your bag through the appropriate window to a volunteer inside & picked it up with your bib at the end. (Also, Harley Club volunteers? You are awesome. I heart you all.)
  • Finish - The finish area in the Golden Gate Fields parking lot was HUGE, & included most of the things you'd expect from a mid-size road race (bottles of water, massages, sponsor tents, free samples aplenty, beer garden, etc.). Alas, the GG lot lacks the number one thing I want when I finish a race: a shaded, out-of-the way spot where I can sit and recover within a few minutes' walk of the finish. There just wasn't any place for that except the beer garden, which I assumed I couldn't enter since I didn't have my ID. (If I'd known my D-tag was good enough, I would have gone straight there, just to sit.) Even just some chairs or benches would have been awesome.

Aid Stations: There were five on the half course, including one on the first out-and-back which we hit twice, so no problem with the frequency. One of the early ones had Gu Chomps, and one of the later ones had gels, which was interesting because I've only ever seen non-liquid carbs at aid stations in full marathons.

On the other hand, the aid stations only offered water and a sugar-free, zero calorie electrolyte drink. That's right; no pourable carbs anywhere on the course. At first I wrote more about the situation and why I think it's such problem, but after 4 paragraphs I sort of went, "Eh, screw it, this deserves its own post." But yeah; half marathon + no pourable carbs = big problem.

The Course:


I don't want to rant about the course too much because, as I mentioned above, I know designing a course for a double-digit race through a major urban area is a real challenge, and it's just impossible to meet all the requirements that have to be in place while also catering to every runner's particular likes and dislikes. I don't know what all the factors were that went into designing this course, but I'm sure there were many, and that the organizers did the best they could.

Having said that, I probably will not run this race again unless there are some major changes. Which is not to say it is an objectively bad course; just that there were a lot of things about it that made it hard for me to run my best race & enjoy the experience.

First, the fact that it was point-to-point. I have two guesses as to the reason for this: 1) Point-to-point means it can be net downhill, which is a draw for some runners, and/or 2) there isn't a great staging area in Berkeley proper for a finish area large enough to accommodate all the participants & supporters. (I suspect a loop course starting & ending at GG Fields wouldn't have made it all that far into Berkeley proper & thus kind of miss the point of the name.) But shuttle buses back to the start from the finish were an issue, which is why Reneigh & Meg & I ended up walking a mile back to town. When we went to see about catching on, we couldn't see either end of the line. I don't know whether waiting would have been faster than what we ended up doing, but we couldn't find anyone to ask, so figured we might as well just start walking. To me point-to-point makes more sense with a full marathon, but even then, my preference is still parking at the finish before the race & getting shuttled from there to the start. When a race is done, the last thing I want to do is wait around for transportation I don't have any control over & can't get any information about.

Second, the out-and-backs & hairpin turns. They are just the bane of my road racing existence. Obviously they're sometimes a necessary evil & I certainly won't nix a race just because it has one, but three is just a bit much. I also suspect that the hairpins add a good chunk of extra distance because it's so hard to run perfect tangents.

Third, the frontage road stretches. In theory, the course was "created to show off Berkeley’s favorite spots;" if that's the case, though, I can't help wondering why five and a half miles of it (by my count) were along the I-80 frontage road. I don't need to be constantly entertained with breathtaking views in a race, but those stretches just felt like a slog, and the exhaust from the freeway was nauseating.

Fourth, I'm just personally not a fan of running on tricky surfaces like gravel, mud, trail/road shoulders, & chewed up concrete & find it hard to run my best races when there's a significant amount of any of that. There were a lot of places on the course where I found myself needing to pay a lot of attention to where I was putting my feet than to the rest of my running and the runners around me, and that's never much fun. For people who, say, have a lot of trail experience or enjoy a variety of terrain, they might like this course better than I did. Having now run two races through the Berkeley Marina & Cesar Chavez Park, though, I probably won't do it again. It's just not my bag.

After the race, several Berkeley natives mentioned how disappointed they were with the course, given that it was marketed as "created to show off Berkeley’s favorite spots;" like most everyone else I talked to, they enjoyed the first three miles through downtown and would have preferred to have spent more time there than slogging up & down the frontage road. To quote Jen, it's kind of surprising that Berkeley's "favorite spots" wouldn't include beloved areas like Telegraph Ave, Gourmet Ghetto, Solano, and 4th St. I'm guessing there may have been logistical / legal / financial reasons why so little of the course was actually in Berkeley proper, but it's still a bit disappointing.

Swag: Beautiful forest-green long sleeves with small, tasteful race logo on the front & big, cool one on the back, plus a rather large, but still equally tasteful medal:

You may notice some shared DNA with the SF Marathon 2nd Half medal
(not surprising, since both races are run by the same folks)

Er...excuse the weird purple spot on the shirt, if you can.
I took these pictures kind of hastily in my badly-lit bedroom, &
my camera didn't deal with the color balance all that well.

Overall Assessment:

  • By & large well-organized and well-run, especially for a first-time event
  • Great volunteers & spectators
  • Nice swag
  • The course will not be for everyone and didn't really show off Berkeley all that much

I'm still glad I ran it, though, and since I'd made the decision not to RACE-race, the issues with the course were mostly just a minor annoyance, and it was kind of nice to get in a longer run somewhere other than Golden Gate Park for once.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Operation: #partyatthefinishline

And I think you do.
(I mean I think I can run 13.1 miles without seriously injuring myself.)
Once upon a time, the inaugural Berkeley Half was my fall "A" race. When I signed up in July, it was far enough away that I figured I'd be more than fully recovered, and would've had weeks and weeks of race-free training time to get my cardiovascular system into respectable racing shape.

But then Life Happened, which it will tend to do, and suddenly it was mid-November & I still had yet to run more than 8.7 miles at a time or do anything even remotely resembling a tempo run. (Update: I did a tempo run last Friday! Not a long one, but pretty much at goal HM pace, which is probably my LT pace right now to be honest, and it did not kill me.) I had hoped to be back in sub-1:40 shape by now, but there's not much evidence to suggest that that's the case.

On the other hand, I have had some great runs, the last little bit of nagging pain in my hip seems to be melting away, and even ran 10.5 miles a few days ago at pretty close to marathon goal pace.

So what am I hoping for on Sunday?

As with Let's Go 510, my goals are modest. The first thing I did was check out what McMillan & Runners World predicted for a half marathon given my recent 10K time:



I don't really believe either of these things will happen. I think they'd be reasonable times to shoot for if I'd been doing double digit runs every couple of weeks recently & had my endurance where it should be, but since this will be my first time even getting close to 13.1 miles since May, I'm predicting that I'll need to treat it as more of a long run with some tempo miles thrown in than an actual race.

I have a few goals, but as with Let's Go, they aren't really goals so much as hopes / predictions. Which is to say, I'm not super-committed to any of it, and if I start feeling those yellow flag feelings while I'm running, I'll have no problem letting them go.

"D" Goal: #partyatthefinishline, ie, finish without hurting / tweaking anything. After my ten miler last Sunday, I think this is a pretty safe one. (And seriously, I will not be sad if this is the only thing I achieve; hence, the partying.)

"C" Goal: Sub 1:45. I think this is very realistic. I ran sub-1:45 at Santa Rosa in 2012 when I spent the last 5K stopping every few minutes to stretch & chat with volunteers, and I was in pretty piss-poor shape at the time.

"C+" Goal: Every mile sub-8:00. (This translates to ~1:44:35.)

"B" Goal: Sub 1:43. I think this is the best I can realistically hope for. IMHO, the smart money is on 1:42:xx with an over/under of say a minute, but we'll see.

"A" Goal: Sub 1:40. I really, really don't think I'm in shape for this, but stranger things have happened. I'm not willing to take any crazy risks for it, but if I find myself running in the 7:30's and feeling comfortable, I don't see any reason not to go for it.

The point of Let's Go (in addition to just having fun & getting to race) was to get some sort of baseline for my fitness. The point of Berkeley, I think, is to test my endurance by seeing how well that 10K time translates into a half. By the time I run Kaiser in February there's really no excuse for my not being back down in the high 1:30's, and how I do at Berkeley will give me an idea of how much farther I have to go.

For anyone racing this weekend, I wish you all your very own super sweet #partyatthefinishline!

Monday, November 18, 2013

You Guys, I Ran Some Double Digits. \o/

On Sunday I ran my first double digits since tearing my hip flexor at M2BM in May.

#mojo #back
(I swear I only do shots like this when
it's a big deal. Y'know. To me.)

Not only is this a post-injury distance record, but it also brings my total mileage for the week to 30 miles exactly, a post-injury mileage record by 8 miles. And it felt great.

Before this run, I'd just been writing about one of the great contradictions in running, which is that sometimes your "easy" pace gradually getting slower during a training cycle is a good thing because it's a result of actually running enough to keep your legs chronically tired, which is what builds endurance. In September & October, I did most of my "easy" runs at a pretty consistent ~8:10 pace (ie, ballpark marathon pace). Not because I was trying to run them that fast--I was just trying to stick to an easy, casual pace where I could maintain good form, and that's just the pace where that seemed to happen most of the time. Trying to maintain an 8:40 pace (which is what I'm theoretically *supposed* to be doing those easy runs at) felt like a shuffle, plus it was completely uncomfortable and made good form just about impossible.

But, as my leg got better and I started running more, the same nice, comfortable level of effort gradually slowed to 8:25-8:40ish, depending on the day. Since I was no longer running on fresh legs basically all the time, the pace that before had felt like an uncomfortable shuffle now felt just right.

Then today happened. Honestly, I felt pretty crappy and running ten miles was just about the last thing on the entire planet earth that I wanted to do. The only way I got myself out the door was by reminding myself that the only goal was to get the mileage in & gain the peace of mind of completing at least *one* double digit run before Berkeley Half next Sunday, so I could do it as slowly as I wanted as long as I finished.

I have a pretty bad habit of doing my long runs too fast because I hate them & just always want them done as quickly as possible, so this time I was pretty strict about focusing on my breathing & making sure I was never panting--breathe in for six steps, breathe out for six steps, wash/rinse/repeat. Every time I felt myself started to work a bit too hard, I made sure to dial it back & slow my breathing, particularly on the up-hills. ("Look, buddy, you get this much oxygen & that's it, so don't waste it.")

Which seemed to work. I felt better & more comfortable than I have been on my shorter runs, & if you'd asked me, I'd probably have guessed I was running around an 8:30 pace. But mile after mile I kept seeing low eight / sub-eight splits on my watch. It wasn't even like Let's Go 510 where my legs were just out of control & I couldn't slow them down; I really was running at what felt like a comfortable, casual pace.

I have no explanation for this, especially at the end of my highest mileage week in six months. But it does boost my confidence about Berkeley. Although I could definitely tell that this was farther than my legs had gone in a while, I still felt good the whole way, finished strong, & felt like I definitely could have gone 3 more miles at the same pace.

To be honest, I've been getting a bit nervous about NVM & starting what I think of as "real" marathon training, now that it's less than 4 months away; after this run, though, I feel like I let out a giant sigh of relief. For the first time since I registered for it, I'm actually feeling excited about running a marathon in 3.5 months, instead of just anxious & freaked out. I finally have some faith that all the pieces might fall into place.

* * *

Grand Total: 30 miles

    * 14.94 easy
    * 1.6 speed
    * 3 tempo
    * 10.46 long


a.m. 4 miles easy / p.m. karate + light strength. Normally Monday is my rest-from-running day, but since I was in Paso all weekend & didn't run at all, I was itchy to get at least a few miles in before class.


3.6 track. 1.5 warm up, 4 x (400m @ 5K pace / 1:30 jog). This was supposed to be *six* 400m's plus a 1.5 mile cool down, but when you suddenly realize something hella super lame has just happened to you, it turns out you suddenly become a lot less concerned about finishing your track workout. Also, if you ever want to feel *terrible*, I highly recommend running some hard 400m's & then standing around in 50° weather in your sweaty running clothes for an hour without a proper cool down or stretch. By the time we got home my legs felt like lead.


Karate + light strength.


6 easy. This run started off feeling terrible (harder day at karate than usual), but by the end I felt surprisingly good & like I could have gone a few more miles & still felt great. It's been a while since I've felt like that, so yay. :)


a.m. strength / 6.34 tempo -- 1.5 warm up, 2x(1.5 @ HM pace / 3:00 jog), 1.5 cool down. OMG, the first day in WEEKS that I haven't been too sick, sleep-deprived, or out of town to get in a proper strength workout. (I'd kind of forgotten how much it sucks, frankly, but it was nice to get it done.)

When I got home my body still felt achey & tired & part of me was kinda-sorta trying to come up with any rational reason I could use to skip or postpone this run, or at the very least swap it with Saturday's. In those situations I find the best negotiation tactic is just to put on running clothes, go outside, & tell whatever part of me is being wimpy, "Look, it's okay if you can't do the whole thing, but you have to try." I figured I'd run 1.5 easy & at that point see whether I felt like trying to run 3 miles at a 7:30 pace seemed like a great idea or not. In the end I decided to try, and it worked out okay.

Because my house is kind of in a basin, my first three miles in any run are by & large uphill, so the first 1.5 tempo interval was hard, and I probably ran it harder than I should have effort-wise, since I clocked only a couple seconds slower than goal pace. But after that I was nice & warmed up, & the second interval (mostly downhill) was considerably faster (of course) but also just felt way easier, to the point where I kept glancing at my watch & having to slow myself down intentionally. Even though I know I'm not back to being able to *actually* run a half at that pace, at that point I felt like I could have gone a lot farther without feeling uncomfortable, so progress.


Rest / eat steak.

Our steakhouse tour of San Francisco continues. So far we'd hit Bourbon Steak, Boboquivari's, and House of Prime Rib; Saturday night's destination was Harris Steak on Van Ness, which OMG. If you're a steak eater in the Bay Area, GET AT IT.

I was technically supposed to run 5 miles on Saturday, but I wanted to do at least 10 on Sunday & didn't want to go over 30 for the week, so I decided to rest instead & just tack an extra .46 onto Sunday's run to make it a nice round 30.


10.46 long(ish).

Next week: I run a half marathon.

That is all. :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Learn From My Mistakes. PLEASE.

"The difference between school & real life is that in school, you get the lesson first and then the test, and in real life, you get the test first, and then the lesson." ~Someone I can't remember right now

Oy. I'm not ashamed to admit that in the last few days, it's been incredibly challenging to bring my own weather to the picnic. Not because of my running--now that I'm done being sick & out of town & absurdly overbooked & all that, the running has been going reasonably well. But running is tangentially related to the suckiness I'm about to describe, and it's kind of all I can think about right now, so there you go.

I've been doing my track workouts at Kezar Stadium more or less once a week for the last four years or so. When I first started going I'd bring only my keys, inhaler, water bottle, & flats out to the track, tuck them inconspicuously behind a bench, & leave everything else locked in my car. After a while that seemed silly since the benches are right out in the open in broad daylight, & the only other people around were other runners. So I started just leaving them out on the bench. (Because really, who's going to steal any of that stuff?)

Then I started sometimes wanting other stuff, like different clothing options depending on the weather, sunscreen for reapplying on hot days, extra Nuun tablets, etc. So I started carrying it all around in a bag, & whenever I head to the track or a race, I just grab the whole thing because I know everything I could possibly need will be in it. After a while having a different bag for every athletic pursuit (running, karate, gym, pool, CrossFit, whatever) got annoying so I started keeping everything together in one bag, & I would take that bag to the track, & leave it on the bench.

Then I started taking my phone down to the track, because hey, something might happen, or I might want to snap a picture, or whatever. Part of me kind of thought this might not have been the greatest idea, but I was always sure to tuck it deep in my bag, & hey, it's been *years* & no one has ever bothered my stuff.

Until this past Tuesday night. Thankfully I've been in the habit of putting most of the extra stuff I take to races into another, smaller bag which I can throw into the big one but don't routinely keep there, & I haven't been keeping much else in the bigger bag besides some of my karate stuff. But I did have my phone in it, along with my only set of car keys, house keys, & work keys.

You can probably guess where all this is going.

According to my Garmin, I started my first interval at 5:02pm, which would have been right after I changed from my regular shoes into flats. After four ninety-second 400m's & four ninety-second recovery jogs (so a grand total of ~12 minutes), I jogged back to the benches to change back into my other shoes, and my bag was gone.

What ensued at that point was a half hour of hysterical panic in which I jogged every inch of the track & stadium asking people if they'd seen my bag or anyone near it, searching trash cans in case it had been dumped, & verifying that whoever had taken it hadn't fished my keys out & used the electronic fob to locate/pillage/steal my car (which was parked right by the stadium gate, & had my purse & wallet in the trunk). After that I gave up & jogged to the police station (thankfully there is one right at the stadium), made a police report, tried to call Don, & promptly fell apart right there in the precinct.

(Pro tip: If you're ever going to lose the only set of keys you have while your car is parked somewhere that becomes illegal in four hours, try not to do it two days after your significant other's car has spontaneously broken down.)

Ultimately, I called AAA, who was able to tow it to their storage lot & then to the dealership in the morning where I could get two (count 'em, TWO) new sets of keys made, which only cost me $100 for the overnight storage & $500 for the keys. (*Vomit*. Pro tip #2: Keep track of your car keys. No luxury anything for me until 2014.)

I've also never gotten the theft protection or extra insurance on my phone & also never done the (FREE) Android thing where you can set up your phone to be GPS tracked and/or remote locked and/or wiped, so the best we could do was disconnect & blacklist it (no one can use it, even with a new SIM card). I am still 1.5 years from an upgrade, but because I've been a customer for so long AT&T said that they could give me an upgrade now. (I don't understand why, but certainly appreciate it.) So on the bright side, a new phone similar to what I had will only cost me $200 instead of ~$500. Which is something.

That's really everything I *have* to replace right now.

When all this was happening, it was interesting to note the thoughts running through my head. Obviously there were things like "I can't believe this is happening" and "How stupid can I be" and "There are so many ways this could've been prevented." At the same time, though, were a bunch of other thoughts, like "No one is hurt or dead" and "Almost everything is replaceable" and "My car is still here & intact" and "At least I was smart enough not to put my effing *wallet* in the bag too." As awful as it was when it was happening, I still found myself extremely cognizant of how much worse a terrible night can be. To be honest I often find myself rolling my eyes when people talk about having gratitude in the face of bad situations, but completely unexpectedly, I found that I did. I literally sat there on the curb while my brain scrolled through a giant list of everything that I did still have & how much worse it could have been & all the things that hadn't happened tonight.

I wasn't trying to feel grateful & thankful for all that; I just did. This, I think, is the payoff of consciously practicing bringing your own weather to the picnic. It doesn't mean I didn't still feel horrible & kind of hated myself for making such an expensive, easily preventable mistake, but I think it did keep me from wallowing in self-pity & -disgust for days on end & feeling like it was the complete and total end of the world. Today, my brain is doing this bizarre thing where it keeps ambushing me with positive (????) things about having my bag stolen. I'll just be doing whatever, & out of nowhere it's like, "You know you only bought that bag eleven years ago because it was cheap & you were poor. You always thought it was kind of tacky-looking." (Which, okay, there is some truth to that, although after 11 years with an inanimate object--it's spanned 99% of my karate career--you do start to develop a weird attachment.)

God, they were hideous. Still, I'll kind of miss them...

Or, "As much as you liked those Mizunos, they were really old, and you know they were ugly as sin." (Which...true.)

Or, "Now you don't have to deal with all those random, outdated keys that had collected on your key chain! Cross THAT off the ol' to-do list!"

Or, "Sure, those were $100 sunglasses, but they never really fit right, & you were only keeping them because you felt bad about the price."

Or, "You always hated that crappy phone case. Somebody else's problem now!"

Once we'd dealt with the immediate aftermath of the situation, Don & I kind of melted into the couch & didn't move for a while, except to drink more, & started listing all the super important things we know we reeeeaaallly ought to take care of but have put off for long enough that we've convinced ourselves that it's not that big a deal.

"We should put together an earthquake kit."

"We should write our wills."

"We should get LastPass set up." (Okay, fine, that was just me....Seriously, I've had the tab open in my browser window for months. I finally got CrashPlan set up a few months ago, so at least I've got that going for me.)

"We should make copies of all our important documents & stash them somewhere."

"We should, like, *find* all our important documents." (Fine, that was just me too.)

Suddenly I find myself a lot more highly motivated to do all that stuff.

Dealing with getting the car re-keyed today was an even bigger headache than I thought it would be, & over the course of the day I had some pretty low moments. In the spirit of bringing your own weather, I thought I'd share this quote from Caitlin Moran's "My Posthumous Advice for My Daughter," which was mostly what got me through it:

"Life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, ‘NO! NO!’ Even when Jesus was on the cross, I bet He was thinking, ‘When I rise in three days, the disciples aren’t going to believe this when I tell them about it.’"

It made me laugh every time I thought I was about to completely fall apart again.

Hope your week's going better than mine. :P

Monday, November 11, 2013

Seriously...This is all I've got right now. :-/

(They have these at Starbucks now, right?)
Thank you for all the great sock recommendations!! I'm excited to have lots of new options to try out. Hopefully I'll find one or or two that my finicky little feet will get along with.

This week was one of high highs, low lows (okay, moderately low lows), & at long last, a little bit of moderation. Over the last few weeks, it's become *eminently* clear that I made the right decision in not signing up for CIM & killing myself to try to be ready for a marathon by Dec. 8.

Actually, let's be real; calling it 'the right decision' is kind of the understatement of the century. Between issues I knew about ahead of time (lots of travel, work, & social commitments) & other, less foreseen obstacles (illness & pseudo-injury angst), my highest mileage week lately has amounted to 22 miles, with my longest run topping out at a whopping 8.7. And that's not lazing around or procrastinating; that's just all the time & confidence in my right leg (up until very recently) that I've been able to scrape together.

As I mentioned last week, we flew back from Hawaii on Halloween, & instead of a relaxing weekend of unpacking, some running, & preparing for the upcoming week, I was laid low with food poisoning for the better part of four days. This was bad enough because I literally could do nothing but lay on the couch & drink tea & try not to die. I felt a little better starting Monday, but still had some wicked food aversion happening; this translated into 3 days in a row of netting maybe 600 calories & forcing myself to choke down whatever food I could stand. The fallout was a) going into the work/training week sleep-deprived & generally feeling crappy, & b) having done nothing to prepare for the week in terms of food.

Hopefully this won't get too overly privileged-white-girl-talking-about-her-food-issues-on-the-internet (because OMG ENOUGH), but by way of explanation, let me just quickly state that while in general I'm not usually a type A, I am bit obsessive & neurotic about my food in the sense that I like to have it planned out & prepared ahead of time as much as humanly possible, & when I can't or don't it's a *huge* source of stress & anxiety for me. End food talk.

So yeah. I felt terrible, wasn't sleeping, & was scrambling for meals most of the time. (Did I mention I was also moving into a new office at work, and also in the middle of finishing a big project with a Wednesday deadline? So there's that too.) But if there's one thing I know, it's that if I feel horrible AND then I don't get my running in, I feel even worse. So while a lot of things got sacrificed this week due to time & sleep deprivation, I decided to prioritize the running as much as possible. Even so, I didn't quite reach my goal of topping 22 miles. Sigh.

*However*, the week did still involve a pretty Bay Shore Trail run, a killer football game, & a lovely weekend of wine tasting / buying in Paso Robles / San Luis Obispo, so if nothing else, you'll be treated to more pretty / entertaining pictures than usual as you scroll through. :)

* * *

Grand Total: 21.5 miles

    * 17.5 easy
    * 4 speed


4 miles easy. My stomach was still unhappy enough by the time I got home from work that I didn't think two hours of karate was the greatest idea ever, but feeling better enough that I thought *maybe* I could handle half an hour or so of running, as long as I just ran around the block over and over and over again & didn't get too cocky. Weirdly, after three laps it was feeling a lot better, so I ventured out a bit farther, making loops here & there through my neighborhood, & amazingly got to 4 without feeling like complete & utter crap. #winning


6.5 track. 1.5 warm up, 4 x (1200m @ 5K pace / 3:00 jog), 1 mile cool down. My first successful track workout since like basically the last ice age, so YAY! The most notable things about this workout were 1) no sharp pains or tweaks, and 2) calves that felt like hamburger meat by the time I got home. Fun times! :P


Just a bit of easy strength work. Both Don & I were running on *maybe* 3 hours of sleep each, so we decided to ditch karate & get to bed a little earlier than normal, especially since we knew we'd probably be up late at the Stanford-Oregon game on Thursday. I'd kind of been toying with getting in a short run on Wednesday since I knew I wouldn't be running all weekend, but a little experimentation that morning & later that evening confirmed that my calves were still too destroyed to handle more than a few strides at a time.


5 easy. This day was go, go, go -- All-day meeting at work, run desperately out the door at 4:00 for as many easy miles on beautiful Bay Shore Trail as I had time for, dash back to the office, grab a 3-minute shower, gun it for the Caltrain station, then run-walk from the Palo Alto Station to our tailgating area just in time to scarf down a burger & some bean dip & make it to the game for kick-off.

I am so lucky to work *right* by this trail, *and* have access to a shower at my office. I try to remind myself of that any time I start feeling even remotely down about something.

I could tell during the run that although my track workout hadn't felt utterly horrific at the time, it was still way harder on my body than the easy runs I've been doing. My calves were feeling better but definitely still sore, & my adductors & hamstrings (some of the main muscles I've been working on strengthening in PT) were working harder than usual to maintain good form at my "easy" pace. But I got it done & made it to the game.

And ***holy bejeesus***, what a game it was! I think I nearly had a stroke. Vegas odds were 10-10.5 points in favor of #3 Oregon, which makes sense given that they'd won 18 of their last 19 games. And although that one loss was indeed to Stanford last year on Oregon's home turf, I was not feeling all that confident that our chances against them this year were as good.

Did I start to get just a *little* excited when, after 3.5 quarters, Stanford was shutting the Ducks out 26-0? Okay; maybe just a bit. But to beat Oregon you have to be near perfect, & there was still plenty of time for us to make a mistake & for them to exploit it. Sure enough, in the last 10 minutes of the game, the Ducks managed two touchdowns & two field goals, but Stanford took the ball back & ran out the last few minutes to seal it 26-20.


Rushing the field.

Don & I freak out a little bit.

I freak out some more.

#nerdnation represents at the post-game presser.

So yeah. Up to #4 we go. That was a pretty epic night, & did a lot for my energy levels going into the weekend.


6 easy. I'd hoped to get home from work early enough to get in 9-10 miles with a few at HM pace before we were leaving for Paso Robles around 7pm. Alas I didn't get home until 4:30, & once I was packed it had become one of those "I need to be back in x minutes, so I can run away from the house for x minutes divided by two, then head back" sort of deals. I had more energy than on Thurday's run, but my legs were clearly still recovering from Tuesday & my pace reflected it.

Saturday / Sunday:

Twice a year we usually head down to Paso Robles (about halfway between the Bay Area & LA) to pick up a bunch of a wine, & also taste more wine, & also usually buy a bunch more wine. (Sensing a theme, here?) We've already been down several times this year, though, & since Don's co-worker had connections at a winery in San Luis Obispo, we decided to drive the extra half hour south on our first day & check out some spots down there where neither of us had ever been.

This is San Luis Obispo wine country, across from Baileyana. It....kind of looks like wine country. Which is to say, farmland.

Baileyana is absolutely worth a stop! Try their non-Chard whites, & also the Rhone blends.

You'll know it because it looks like a one-room school house (since it was.)

Kynsi was our other top pick. Tasty pinots & red blends.

Our time in SLO was limited, so we didn't get to that many places. I would love to go back sometime & hit a bunch more!

On Sunday we did most of our picking up back in Paso, which included spending some time down in the guts at Denner.

Denner barrel room.

You know you're drinking ten-year-old port when the residue in the glass is brick-red. :)

Paso was (as usual) spectacularly gorgeous.

Of course, now that we're back home, we get to deal with this:

The carboys are not from Paso. Nor is the stack with the green box, nor the one with the visible bottles. But pretty much everything else. Do this a few times a year & suddenly you can see why you end up needing three wine fridges.

I fully understand that there are worse problems one can have in life.

You guys, I am totally running thirty miles this week or giving up on running forever. BRING IT.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Track Reboot, & I Need Socks.

Soooo here I am again....

Sometimes I'm vaguely curious just how many hours of my life I've spent literally running in circles here.

Back in September, I was celebrating finally being able to get out on the track & run actual 1200m's at actual (by which I mean theoretical) 5K pace. Then things kind of stalled & I spent the month of October wringing my hands about my sore hip & tired posterior muscles & didn't do any speed work at all, A/G won a 10K, & went on vacation.

Which brings us to now. My hip feels good, I am officially marathon training, and reboots seem to be all the rage these days, so Track Tuesday felt like a good time to get back out there & see what I could do. (Not that I really wanted to, mind you. Food poisoning aftermath is still making it tough to eat much, and I didn't sleep well Monday night, so when I left work I felt like complete & utter crap & wanted nothing more than to come home & crash. The only way I got through it was by never sitting down.)

Coach Tom does looooove him some 1200m's; Tuesday's assignment was 2 warm up, 4 x (1200m @ 5K pace / 3:00 jog), 1.5 cool down.

(I only warmed up for 1.5 & cooled down for 1. Sue me.)

Usually I can lock into this pace pretty easily & run near-perfect 5:00 splits over & over again, but given my out-of-practice-ness and my recent lack of food & sleep, I'm just happy to have been able to get through them without anything hurting. Wonder of wonders, I actually felt better after the workout, but let me still say for the record, holy HELL was it a bitch & a half. That part where you're doing speed work consistently enough that it doesn't suck major ass every time? Yeah; I'm more excited about that part. Ugh.

For the first time in a long, looooong time, I earned a blaze-of-starry-glory runner for a track day.

Which I think clearly trumps the ghostly-runner-of-ambivalence I've been mostly getting lately.

Nothing says "Meh; you tried" like the
Ghostly Runner of Ambivalence.

Just to round out the set, I feel like I should also show you the Hammock of Shame:


I even got kind of bold & ran my first two intervals in my Universes. In retrospect, this probably explains a lot of why my calves were hamburger meat the next day. BUT, otherwise, I am feeling fantastic.

* * *

I am in the market for new running socks. My absolute favorites ever ever ever from Under Armour are going on 4 years old & getting dingey & threadbare, & UA apparently doesn't make them anymore. I've tried the newer versions & felt very meh about them. Since then I've tried three different brands (Feetures, SmartWool, & SofSole), all of which have been kinda-sorta 60/40 okay but also sporadically given me blisters, something that never happens with my Under Armour favorites.

So tell me about your running socks. What do you love? What holds up for years at a time & keeps you humming along blister-free? What's the best bang for your running sock buck?

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Time Has Come.

Over the last few weeks, I've virtually cheered on at least a dozen internet & real-life friends as they slogged through marathon cycles & peak weeks, endured taper madness, and toed (or will soon toe) the line at Smuttynose, Wineglass, Chicago, Nike Womens, Marine Corps, NYC, Two Cities, Grand Rapids, & Santa Barbara. (Did I miss anyone?)

And to be honest, every time I liked a Facebook status or favorited a Tweet or commented on a blog post about some gnarly 18-20-22 miler a compatriot had just destroyed / survived, I felt a weird mix of gratitude ("Better you than me, dude!") and envy ("I remember when I used to run 18 miles...").

Flying back from Hawaii on Halloween, it hit me that my season of long run hiatus / envy is drawing to a close.

This past Sunday was November 3rd. On Sunday March 2nd 2014, I'm (apparently? I guess?) running Napa Valley Marathon, which gives me just about exactly four months / 17 weeks to prepare. And with the shape I'm in now, I'm going to need every day of it if I want to have a strong, happy race and not just finish. I am sick & tired of just finishing.

For all that Mountains 2 Beach was somewhat more downhill (700 ft vs 300), coming off of a full month of rest, simultaneously preparing for a black belt test, barely able to run at all in the month prior to the race, "running" running the last five miles with a torn hip flexor, & ultimately falling just 90 seconds (3:36:29) short of a BQ has made me feel pretty confident that if I can train consistently & stay healthy between now and then and not have to run through a freaking monsoon, there is just no reason why I shouldn't run under 3:35.

(Seriously. 90 seconds. I try not to think about it that often. But let's be honest. I think about it.)

Friends, the time for marathon training has arrived. I kicked it off Friday evening with a sweet six-miler that left me feeling fresh, strong, and totally pain-free.

(I also had plans to get in another six-miler on Saturday & try for my first post-injury double-digits on Sunday, but instead I came down with a wicked case of food poisoning Friday day night & could do nothing all weekend except lie on the couch & sip weak tea & try to keep myself from dying of starvation / dehydration. But that is neither here nor there.)

It's time to work back up to and through double digits (um, hello Berkeley Half in 3 weeks).

It's time to get back out on the track, consistently, no matter how long it takes me to park when I get home after.

It's time to attempt real, actual tempo / race pace runs, as opposed to the la-la-too-fast-for-maintenance-too-slow-for-threshold-work pace I've been keeping as of late.

it's time to stop being afraid of my leg and run more than 22 damn miles in a one-week period.

Seriously. I have seventeen weeks to get back to the top of my game, & this is week one. BRING IT, Napa Valley Marathon.

I freaking dare you.

**(p.s. not actually freaking daring you. let's be reasonable here.)