Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hell Yeah Mellow March

So like I mentioned before, in the days immediately following NVM, I had all these grand plans about getting back to srsbzns training sooner rather than later, because what is a non-race pace marathon besides a glorified long run?

Of course I quickly accepted that, DERP, clearly according to my body, a marathon is still a marathon, even if you don't attempt to actively blow the doors off the thing.

So my March weekly mileage has looked like this:

  • Week 1: 0 miles
  • Week 2: 23 miles
  • Week 3: 15 miles
  • Week 4: 16 miles

In some cases I would have run more had I not been traveling for work or out of town for the weekend, but since my body has been *quite* clearly communicating sentiments along the lines of "Six miles is plenty at once, plzthnx" and "Maybe not so much with the two days in a row for now," that's actually kind of been good timing.

Other things I have been doing shall we say less-than-much of include 1) eating like any kind of remotely serious athlete and 2) strength work. I did have a session with AT this month (where we worked on deadlifts, HELL YEAH DEADLIFTS) but other than that I've been to the gym maybe 4-5 times. Probably 4. (Though I would be remiss if I didn't mention that on one of those visits, I straight-up DEADLIFTED MY BODY WEIGHT for the first time since probably high school. And since I definitely weigh more now than then, deadlift PR FTW.)

It was pretty much like this.

But otherwise I have been mostly embracing Matt Fitzgerald's very reasonable-sounding philosophy that no one can eat like a serious athlete 100% of the time (not even serious athletes) & that, much like having a relaxed recovery period after a training cycle, letting yourself have a bit of time where you eat more or less whatever you want, whenever you want (and knowing you'll let yourself do that for a while after a goal race) can help give you the resolve you need to eat well when you're in the middle of training for something you seriously care about.

Seriously all the Trader Joe's snack dips.

I'd originally planned to start some easy hill workouts in the last week or two of March, but with "easy" runs still not quite feeling easy enough yet for my taste, I decided to push it off until April, which seemed to make a lot of sense given that we'll be in Colorado skiing (or hiking, or maybe swimming?? Only the weather will tell) this weekend.

But after that, it is ON.

Hill sprints, get your game face on, because I am coming for you on April 7.

(Er....assuming I don't break myself skiing. :-/ )

Monday, March 30, 2015

One More Race Code....

Maybe this will be the last one for a while?? I keep thinking that, and then another one pops up in my inbox.

Anyway, if you're looking for a chill, reasonably priced yet solid 5K or 10K in the Bay Area, you can get $5 off the Spring Forward 5K or 10K on Saturday, April 18 with promo code ACTIVE5.

I ran the 5K last year and bt ran the 10K. Both races start & finish on the Microsoft Mountain View Campus & run along the nearby Bay Trail; though both courses ran a bit long, we both thought they were reasonably flat and fast & had a good time. Plus, it's for charity!

If you want to know more, you can read my race report here.

**Offer expires April 12**

Sunday, March 29, 2015


(I am stealing this meme from bt, by the way, because I cannot resist a good book meme.)

bt's post about the "unread books" meme that went around in 2008 jogged a vague memory for me. That was not too long after I joined facebook & several of my bookish-type friends had posted it, and while I was well and truly over all the quizzes that purported to tell me Which Backstreet Boy's Left Nut I am, I was kind of into this.

The idea is that someone had made this list of the top 106 books listed in Library Thing as "unread," and then you go through & annotate the list as follows:

  • Bold any books you've finished.
  • Italicize any you've started but not finished.
  • Underline any you read as a school assignment (optional - I did not because what difference does it make).

bt made an updated list for 2015, and going through the list to mark up my progress was way more satisfying than it had any right to be:

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (262 times). Loved this book! But, it is long and not exactly a page turner, so I'm not totally surprised it tops the list.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (254 times). Just read this last year & enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (227 times). On my list for this year.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (222 times). Just read last year; didn't love.
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (193 times). Just read last year. Glad I read it, but in the tasty vegetable salad way, not the ice cream sundae way. Funny but a tough read in places.
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (190 times). Uggghhh I just cannot muster enthusiasm for this book.
  • The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien (183 times). Read in college. Meh. I think you have to be a die-hard Tolkein fan to love this book and I'm not, really.
  • Ulysses by James Joyce (181 times). On my list!
  • War and Peace by Léon Tolstoï (178 times). People keep telling me how worth it is but man, I just can't get up the enthusiasm.
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fedor Mikhaïlovitch Dostoïevski (173 times). On my list.
  • The Odyssey by Homer (168 times). Middle school.
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (162 times). 11th grade.
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (159 times). I actually read this in Spanish when I took AP Spanish. I doubt I could now.
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (157 times). This book does not call to me.
  • The Iliad by Homer (157 times). 9th grade. Loved way more than I should have, I think.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (154 times). Happening this year!
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (147 times). Meh.
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel (146 times). 2010, I think? Weird.
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (146 times). Just read this past year. Not that bad, actually.
  • Love in The Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (145 times). I am not yet ready for more of the strange, strange jelly that is GGM.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville (143 times). Another one that just does not call to me.
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (136 times). College.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (135 times). This year!
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (133 times). 2005. One of my favorite books ever.
  • Emma by Jane Austen (133 times). #parlorbook
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (129 times). #parlorbook
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (129 times). 2006. Fantastic!
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (126 times). I know I read parts of this in high school but I don't remember whether we read it all or not.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (126 times). Spring of my senior year, so not shocking I don't remember much about it. I should probably read it again sometime.
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (125 times). #parlorbook
  • Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (125 times). I've read this pretty reliably once ever five years or so starting in the 8th grade (when it made *NO* sense to me whatsoever). In fact I'm probably about due for it.
  • The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (125 times). On this year's list!
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (121 times). Just finished a few weeks ago. Didn't love every bit of it (a tough read in places), but really good.
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (121 times). On the list to be read at some yet-to-be-determined point in the misty future.
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (121 times). High school. I read all those creepy dystopian books.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot (120 times). On the list.
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (120 times). #parlorbook
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (120 times). AP US History.
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (120 times). 2006ish? LOVED.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (119 times). 11th grade.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (118 times). I actually only read this for the first time a few years ago.
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (118 times). Ugggh I can't get into VW.
  • The Inferno by Dante Alighieri (117 times). I went through a very academic snooty literary phase in high school & fancied this was how I would spend my summer. Hahahaha no.
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (117 times). This has been recommended to me so many times but the description/blurb/thing always bores me.
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (117 times). Not calling to me.
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (116 times). I know the basic gyst but I'd be kind of curious to actually read it. There are some, um, interesting connections to Lululemon, though. (Quotable quotes: "I was so shocked by being handed this bag today at your Portland, Ore., store that I literally WALKED BACK to return this horrific bag." True story.)
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (115 times). This is probably not happening, ever.
  • Lolita (115 times). Vaguely curious because it's so iconic.
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan (115 times). Trailers for the movie made me depressed so I doubt I'll be reading this any time soon.
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (114 times). Maybe? Someday?
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (114 times). High school, but I barely remember it so should probably read it again.
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (113 times). I got this book as a gift & probably would not have picked it up otherwise. It was a tough read & didn't really call to me.
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (112 times). This year!
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (112 times). Maybe some day.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (112 times). 9th grade. A literary highlight at that point in my life. And probably still, actually.
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (111 times). I do want to read this because it's been recommended by so many people with good taste.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (111 times). I'm trying to work up the fortitude to put this one on my "to read" list.
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (110 times). I guess I should read the book having watched the movie, but it just doesn't seem urgent.
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (109 times). Anansi was my least favorite character in American Gods (LOVED) so I am somewhat unfairly biased against this book, I suppose.
  • The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (109 times). Just read this past year, AMAZEBALLS.
  • The Once and Future King by T. H. White (109 times). On my list.
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (107 times). 2008 maybe? Fantastic!
  • The Aeneid by Virgil (107 times). Not really a priority.
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (106 times). This one I have never heard of.
  • Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson (105 times). Two words: Dog torture.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (105 times). The marketing blurb for this book made me want to shoot myself in the face so that was a big fat nope.
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (105 times). Someday!
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (105 times). 2010, when I was way too old to appreciate it.
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen (105 times). #parlorbook
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (105 times). Not bad but not obsessed either.
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (105 times). Uggggh VW.
  • The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare (104 times). To quote bt: "Who does this? The COMPLETE WORKS? Pick some works!"
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (104 times). 11th grade. Should probably reread.
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (103 times). See "Atlas Shrugged" above.
  • The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (102 times). I guess I should probably read this at same point as it's just not all that long.
  • Dubliners by James Joyce (102 times). Not too familiar.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (101 times). Meh.
  • Beowulf by Beowulf Poet (101 times). 12th grade
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (101 times). Ohhhhh so good.
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac (99 times). Meh, doesn't call to me much (though I luvs me Kerouac cocktail).
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (99 times). Never been much interested in Stevenson.
  • The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (98 times). Same with Defoe.
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (98 times). No strong compulsion to read this one.
  • Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (98 times). In 2010 in Alaska. AMAZING!
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (98 times). This year!
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (97 times). #parlorbook
  • Possession by A. S. Byatt (97 times). Not familiar.
  • Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (96 times). This year!
  • Ivanhoe by Walter Scott (95 times). I read this when I was like 12 so I should probably reread it.
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (95 times). Another one I feel like I SHOULD read but just not that interested in, frankly?
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams (95 times) A couple of years ago. Did not really speak to me.
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (95 times). This whole trilogy is amazing, READ IT!
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (93 times). In college, in one sitting.
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence (93 times). I'll admit I'm vaguely curious.
  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (93 times)> Meh.
  • The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien (92 times). I tried. I tried so hard.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy (92 times). Another one I keep skipping over because it sounds so damned depressing.
  • Underworld by Don DeLillo (92 times). Not familiar.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (92 times). Not interested. At all.
  • Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (91 times). A tough one, but hilarious in parts.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (90 times). Maybe someday?
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (90 times). I want to read this one someday.
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond (89 times). I feel like having read "Guns, Germs, & Steel" & attended college, I could probably predict a solid 85% of this book.
  • The Idiot by Fedor Mikhaïlovitch Dostoïevski (89 times). Not familiar.
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (89 times). On my list.


Friday, March 27, 2015

One More Discount Code

And, they just keep coming.

Get $10 off the Santa Rosa Marathon on Sunday, Aug. 23 with promo code SANTAROSA10. I ran the half in 2012 & am headed back this year to take care of some unfinished business with the full, so I can tell you that this is a great race with a great course and (apparently?) the 5th fastest marathon in the US & one of the top 10 Boston Qualifiers.

As I've said in my race reports, SRM is a bargain if you sign up early and even at this point it's only $135 (so $125 with the discount), and it's even more reasonable when you learn that that includes a zip-up jacket & a bottle of wine in addition to one of the biggest finisher medals I've ever seen.

It's not too late to start training! :)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The One With The Race Discounts

BAH. First, blog friends with WordPress, it pretty much hates me right now (again). All my comments disappear into the ether with no explanation. Trying again results in the extremely unhelpful "Oops! Looks like you've already said that!" error message. So, it's not that you've become dull to me -- technology and I are just not getting along well currently. (Not even joking. The IT people at my company of thousands all know me by sight and voice. It's such a problem.)

Second, some discount/promo codes for you Bay Area folks!

$5 off the Merco Credit Union Half Marathon at UC Merced ($70 for another month) with coupon code MCUHM55. (Coupon expires Mon 04/06). The race is June 7, 2015 at 6:30 a.m., & perks include medals, breakfast, tech t-shirts, and a flat, all-pavement loop course. Net proceeds pledged to college scholarships for Merced County high school graduates. There's also a 5K.

Also, if you're into a more laid-back, fully-supported but not timed 5K/10K experience, you can get $5 off any number of Bay Area City Beer Runs with promo code SWEAT, which gets you the 5K at $25 or the 10K at $35. There is free beer at the end, free coasters or koozies usually, plus a free raffle entry for bar tabs, growlers, t-shirts, race entries, socks, personal training sessions, coffee, pint glasses, etc. Run several of them & I hear they even start giving you medals.

Upcoming City Beer Runs where this code is good include:

  • 4/26 - Marin Brewco (Larkspur)
  • 5/9 - Speakeasy (San Francisco)
  • 5/23 - Lake Chalet (Oakland)
  • 6/13 - Thirsty Bear (San Francisco)
  • 6/27 - Pyramid Alehouse (Walnut Creek)
  • 8/15 - Rogue Public House (San Francisco)
  • 8/22 - Strike Brewhouse (San Jose)

It might work for the other races as well, who knows??

Remember that 10-Miler I ran in January? The next race in the Northern California 10-Miler Series is coming up in Sunnyvale on Sunday, June 28. (I'll either be running this race or PrideRun the day before - not sure yet.) There's also a 5K. Use the code FC to save $5 off either race!

Finally, if you want to run Bay to Breakers, I've been told that you can use my email address in the promo code field for $5. (It's not an email address I usually give out on the internet so shoot me an email using the little icon on the side bar if you're interested and I'll give it to you.) The promo is good through April 30. (Full disclosure: There is some kind of VIP package raffle that people using your email gets you entered into, but honestly I have no interest in it & probably wouldn't even use it if I did win. I just thought some people might like a little discount.)


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Long Time Ago, In A Town (not that) Far Away...

...I ran this half marathon.

The year was 2008. I was 27, had just finished my third year of teaching, and in the last six months or so, finally acknowledged that I desperately wanted to get back into running.

Since starting grad school in 2004, I had given it up almost completely because of time, getting in *maybe* 3-5 miles once or twice a week (and sometimes less). After I graduated and started teaching, I joined a local running group on the Peninsula where I lived, and for a little while managed to run maybe 3 miles once or twice during the week and 5-6 on Saturdays.

The exact trail in Redwood Shores/Foster City I used to run with them.

"Do you run a lot of races?" I remember some of them asking me.

"Oh, no, I'm not THAT kind of runner," I remember saying.

A woman in the group had recently qualified for the Boston Marathon, which was big news as no one else in the group ever had. I remember some of them describing to me what it's like to train for and run a full marathon and being absolutely horrified and quietly wondering to myself what was wrong with these people.

"I just like to run a few easy miles now and then to keep in shape," I assured them, silently adding in my head, like a normal person.

"I really like having a race to train for," said someone. "It keeps me motivated and gives me some accountability. You should do a race sometime!"

"Oh, I really don't think that sounds like the kind of thing I would be into," I said, a little worried that someone might try to press-gang me into this appalling business. "At all."

They shrugged. "Suit yourself."

I used to do long runs like that, 10 and 15 miles, but never with a watch. And never for any real reason other than maintaining some kind of basic cardiovascular fitness. And certainly not because I was trying to participate in some kind of miserable race.

The Dish at Stanford, where those sorts of things used to happen.

Eventually, though, I had to admit that I didn't have the bandwidth for being a first-year teacher and karate and polo and running, and since running was the most pedestrian, the most unpleasant, and the least social, that's what drew the short straw. Sure, every now and then I'd go jog a few miles in the canyon behind my apartment, but that was about it.

Toward the end of 2007, I started to miss it.

I was still doing karate but polo had gotten more and more difficult to get out to, and with a few years of teaching now under my belt, work was no longer sucking up quite so much of my nights and weekends. So, I decided I would try to start running again, consistently.

And wow, did it suck. Also, I realized how terrible I was about consistency. (I still didn't have THAT much free time, and when I did, MAN, chilling on the coach felt WAY more appealing than lacing up my running shoes.)

Somewhere deep in my brain, a vague memory echoed. "I really like having a race to train for. It keeps me motivated and gives me some accountability."

"You should do a race sometime."

The idea was at once thrilling and terrifying. I had not the first clue how one found these races, how often or where they happened, or how they worked. Did you just show up and be like, "Hi, I'd like to run in this race," and give them your money?

Thankfully, there was the internet, and Google, and the Dolphin South End Runners and their $5 5K on Sawyer Camp Trail ten minutes from my house. I signed up on the internet and hoped that day in January circled on the calendar would keep me motivated to run consistently through the fall. (And by consistently, I mean three to four miles every other day or so. Which...kind of happened.)

Oh, friends, I went into that race so under-prepared. I knew nothing about distance training or pacing or tapering or any of that. The last race I'd run had probably been an 800m or 1600m on the track, and since I didn't have anything else to go on, I warmed up the same way I used to for those races, lined up at the back (having no sense at all of how I would compare to the rest of the field but preparing myself for the worst), and gave that little race everything I had.

Oh my lord this result is still on their website.

Having never been a distance runner, the time meant nothing to me, but I was pretty psyched, actually, to come in 6th out of the entire field of women. The fact that there were awards for the top 5 re-awakened my competitive streak vis-à-vis running, and suddenly I found myself thinking, "I bet I could shave 9 seconds off of that. I bet I could beat at least a couple of those girls if I tried again."

But then life happened and work happened and I fell back into my habit of running, y'know, 3-4 miles once every week or two.

With summer (and therefor more time to train) on the horizon, I went back to the internet again in search of another 5K to kick my butt into gear. Which led to perusing local 10Ks as well, which led me to the website for The Jungle Run in Los Gatos.

They had a 10K and a half marathon, and I kid you not that I had my finger on the trigger for the 10K when I noticed that if you ran the half marathon, they gave you a medal. Now, at this point I am not much of a medal horse (because OMG how many does a person really need just for not getting lost or forgetting to breathe?) but at that point I had not gotten a medal for running since I'd been killing myself on the track some 8-10 years ago.

I hadn't run over 6 miles since college and in all truth getting back to that point seemed only slightly less impossible than my band getting a record deal (did I mention I had a little band back in those days? I did. For about eight months), but dammit did I want that medal. (And, the race was like $40, which I figured was fair for the medal plus a T-shirt.)

Oh, friends. Did I up my running game? Technically, yes. Thanks to good ol' Hal Higdon, I was probably running AT LEAST twice a week by late spring, sometimes three times, and I'd gotten up to running 4-6 miles at a time during the week. The bad news was that I didn't have much time on the weekends for long runs, and when it occurred to me that the race was in three weeks and I had yet to run even 10 miles, I kind of panicked and just went out one day and did it. (I'm pretty sure that almost killed me.)

Anyway, the day came, and I drove to Los Gatos, had a cup of Gatorade 15 minutes before the gun like Bob Glover had said, lined up at the start, and took off with the pack when the gun sounded.

Now, like I said, I had no idea what I was doing. I hadn't trained with any kind of GPS tool and had zero sense of my pace or likely finishing time or any of that. I just figured, "Hey, we're all running this, so I guess I'll just stay with you guys?"

As I recall, within two miles I hated everything about my life and was pretty sure this was the worst mistake I had ever made. But I finished, and even though it was a hot day & the last few miles were pretty rough, I still managed to sprint the finish on the Los Gatos High School track.

2:16:02, baby!

I pretty much couldn't walk the next day, which is what you get for not training for a distance you haven't run in like 6 years.

Maybe it's a little silly but ever since then, I've kind of wanted a re-match with that race (now that I, like, train or whatever). In 4 years I took 38 minutes off my half marathon time, but I still have a fond place in my heart for that first half because that experience (and getting 6th in that DSE 5K) was what got me interested in running more road races and pushing myself to see just how fast I could go.

My first time A/G placing AND going under 1:40 in a half marathon.
Windsor Green Half, May 2012, 1:39:52

Before I try to PR in the marathon at Santa Rosa, I'm taking another shot at the Jungle Run in July, just to relive my past a bit & see what happens. I was kind of assuming the price would have gone up like every other half marathon around here, but when I went to sign up, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the fee was still only like $50. Way to go, Jungle Run!

It's Los Gatos in July so even though it starts at 7am, it can still get warm, so I don't know if it will end up being a GREAT race, but unless I break my leg or something I should at least be able to better my course record a touch.

Besides, there's always that medal...

Local peeps, if you want to join me, you can register with my referral link if you want. (It discounts me like $5 for every person who uses it.) Or not. I did not actually know this was a thing until they sent it to me.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

So This Is Marathon Recovery.

I was thinking about it the other day & it turns out that, although Napa was the fourth marathon I've completed, this is actually my first experience with trying to balance recovery with starting up a new training cycle(ish). After my first marathon, I was so overwhelmed and burned out by the training (not to mention still a little sick) that I decided I wouldn't put any pressure on myself to run until I really, truly missed it, which ended up being about a month. I came out of my second marathon with tendinitis in my right foot & an order not to run for 3-4 weeks (though I totally cheated & did a few short, easy runs after a couple of weeks). As for my third, well, it's kind of hard to run on crutches.

Given how easy Napa felt and the fact that I wasn't really sore, my initial thoughts had been along the lines of "Sweet! I'll take it easy this week & be back to running 10 miles by next Sunday. NBD." My crushed-feeling toes, however, had other plans, and I ended up not running at all that first week, and to be honest, there was a part of me thinking quietly, "Eh, that's probably for the best, actually." But another part of me was like, "OK, week two post-race, I'll warm-up with some easy weekday six milers, then back to ten miles by Sunday!"

Hahahaha. On Monday I thought I might run a quick four miles before karate since I hadn't run at all in the previous week, but by 1.5 my body had other ideas. "Far enough, plzthnx," said my feet, Achilles tendons, and right quad (the bitchy one). So I turned around & jogged back home. I was not targeting any particular pace, just trying to keep it super easy and comfortable, but I wore my watch out of curiosity and noted that all of this happened at a stately 11:00 pace. "Tomorrow, though!" I resolved. "Six miles!"

Except no. Two miles in I was feeling the fatigue I normally associate with maybe 18, so I turned around and definitely took a few walk breaks on the way home.

I took the next day off except for karate, which was quite enough thank you.

At this point, I felt I had collected enough information to make some decisions, one of which was to stop making plans for the time being about how far I was going to run on which days, and toss out the idea that just because I would be running lower mileage for a time that I needed to get at least a few miles in every day. It was also around this time that I was emailing with the RunCoach people, who were really encouraging me not fall into the trap of trying to get my mileage back up ASAP, since pushing my recovering body too hard too soon could actually end up delaying my recovery in the long term. Instead, my new approach has been to continue taking all my usual rest days (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday) and on my running days to just run until I felt that first hint of fatigue, then turn around, and not to stress if that means it takes me a little longer than I'd originally thought it would to get back to my previous mileage.

In practice, that's meant a gradual progression from three miles, to four, to five, to six on long run Sunday, then back down to four, back to six, etc. It's been a good reminder for me how quickly perceptions of what counts as a "short" or "long" run can change. In the weeks before Napa, easy weekday 10 milers had gotten to feel positively pedestrian, whereas my most recent six (on a warm day, to be fair) felt so long that at every mile marker I could not believe I wasn't done yet (not because of difficulty; just my perception of time).

In theory I was planning to start doing a few hill repeats next week, but I think I'm actually okay with putting that off until April. We're heading to Colorado to ski with friends for that first weekend, so the week of the 6th may end up being a good week to give that stuff a try and see how it feels (assuming I'm not too busted from skiing).

Friday, March 20, 2015

More Details About RunCoach

Thanks for all the great thoughts & comments on my recent post about coaching!

Something that all the different comments got me thinking about was how coaching/having a coach covers a lot of different ground, and serves different purposes. For example, one-on-one, super customized coaching makes a lot of sense for someone who has picked all the low-hanging fruit improvement-wise and really need someone paying closer attention to small details in order to get better. Others mentioned having a coach in the sense of joining a coached recreational group, where, even though the workouts are not necessarily personalized, they get extra accountability & motivation & also face-to-face contact with someone on a regular basis where they can ask questions about how/why/etc. I can also absolutely get behind the idea of paying money for coaching because, screw it, you have the x dollars to spend and it makes you happy, which is really no different from spending your hard-earned disposable income on anything else you happen to want and can responsibly afford. When it comes down to it, I think the key is knowing what it is you need/want/are hoping to get out of interaction with a coach & then doing your research to find the type of thing that's right for you.

A couple of people asked about RunCoach specifically, so I figured I'd give some more details for those who are interested (or just curious).

RunCoach was started by Tom McGlynn, a none-too-shabby distance runner in his own rite (3 OTQs, a bunch of years on the Nike Farm Team at Stanford) who has also coached his share of elite/OTQ athletes (including the amazing Brooke Wells) as well as us ordinary folk. Working with other runners, coaches, & technical-minded people, he created an algorithm based on proven, existing training models where people could input certain information (PRs, average mileage, longest run in last year/ever, etc. etc.) & get a solid, research-&-results-backed training plan way more customized for them than the mostly cookie-cutter plans available in most books & websites. As runners have used the program over the last seven years and uploaded workout & race results, they've continued to tweak the algorithm according to what has proven most effective.

(Um, also, apparently my new massage therapist is on their board? And was a Stanford Track & Field All-American, and still treats their T&F/XC teams? I seriously just learned this reading their staff page. Ridiculous/awesome.)

When you sign up, you create a profile that asks you for some basic information about your running history. (What are your PRs and how old are there? What is your average mileage? Most mileage you've ever run in a week? Longest run ever? Etc. etc.) This is also the point where you enter upcoming races. (There is an option to choose one to check as a goal race.)

After that, you enter your scheduling preference. At first I was like, "Isn't that your job to tell me, Coach???" But let's be honest. Any cookie cutter schedule, I have to tweak anyway to fit my life, and it's becoming popular now for cookie cutter schedules to have multiple levels to choose from based on how many days per week you want to run. So you tell the site how many days you want to run per week, which day you want your long run on, whether you want speed work or not, etc.

With all this information, the site generates a training plan that targets your goal race.

For the details of a specific workout, you can mouse over that day or click on it.

(Notice that you get target paces based on your profile info.)

After you complete a workout, you fill in the info:

(There is a mobile app now for people who are into that but phone screens are just too tiny for me so I pretty much do everything on my laptop. #old)

The idea (hopefully) is that over time, you get faster and enter faster race results. Then, based on those race times, the system updates your workout schedule appropriately.

It also accounts days/weeks when you can't or don't do your assigned workout. For example, if my long run progression goes 15-17-19-21 one month and I'm sick the day of the 17 miler & then get crunched for time the next week & only manage 15 miles again, the RunCoach program adjusts so that I'm not suddenly trying to jump up to 21 a week later. (This is something that I never knew how to handle with cookie-cutter plans & usually just ended up making something up.) I've noticed that it doesn't adjust much or at all for things like missing or cutting short a maintenance day here & there, but for things like long runs or running curtailed mileage for a couple of weeks in a row, it does recalculate so that your mileage continues to build in a way that makes sense.

On top of that, you also get access to forums, which are monitored & responded to by the coaches.

All of this is part of their basic "Bronze" plan, which is $20/month (and less if you pay for six or twelve months at a time).

I wanted a little more big-picture advice (how to plan my year, advice on which races to target, etc.), so I signed up for the "Silver" plan ($40/month), which gives you a more-or-less quarterly individual consultation with the coaches regarding your goals, what's going well/not, answers to your particular questions, etc. In part I wanted this because RunCoach lets me set up my schedule any way I want (number of days to run per week, speed or not, tempo or not, etc.), but I wanted advice about the best way for ME to set mine up and when based on my goals. (For example, right now I have it set to not give me any speed workouts, but once I'm ~4 months out from Santa Rosa, the plan is to start adding some of that back in, so I'll change my settings & have it recalculate.)

(I think they also have a "Gold" plan that's like a super-personalized one-on-one type of coaching, but as I recall it is significantly out of my price range right now.)

Now, I will be honest. I don't always follow it absolutely 100% to a T. Sometimes I do short, easy runs on rest days because I just feel like getting some fresh air & moving around a bit. Sometimes I do a little more or a little less because that's how I feel that day. I think my easy workouts right now are supposed to be in the 8:40-8:50 range according to RunCoach but I am much happier doing them in the 9:30-10:30 range and really feel like that's been working for me. (But who knows, I may change my mind as I get in to Santa Rosa training.) But in theory the algorithm is set up with the intention that you'll do 90% of what's assigned, so I don't worry about it too much.

So there you go! I hope that answers any questions people had, & let me know if you have others. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

2015: The Classics

I know, I know, this post is a bit late. So late, in fact, that 1/12 1/6 1/4 of this year's classics have in fact already been read (though none were particularly long).

After far too much synopsis-reading, page number consulting, nail-biting, spreadsheeting, and consulting of tea leaves, bird entrails, etc., BEHOLD! I give to you SF Road Warrior's Classic Novels of 2015:

JANUARY: A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. "An American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole's hero is one Ignatius J. Reilly, 'a huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter.' His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans' lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures." This is one of those books that shows up over & over again on "must-read" lists of American literature & I saw it on sale, so I figured what the heck. Review here.

FEBRUARY (Black History Month): The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. "Set in the author's girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, TBE tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, who prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, Pecola's life does change--in painful, devastating ways. What its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child's yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment." I was extra curious to read this book because I recently saw an interview with Toni Morrison about it where she mentioned that she looks back on this book now & sometimes thinks, "Oh dear. There are a lot of things I'd handle differently now." Review here.

MARCH (Women's History Month): A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. "A poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness." It sounded depressing, but considering I made it through Oscar Wao, I felt like it couldn't possibly be worse. Review here.

APRIL: (Women in Science Fiction Month)The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin. "The story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can choose--and change--their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters." Sounds interesting. And bizarre.

MAY: The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy. "The year is 1969. In the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India, fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family. Their lonely, lovely mother, Ammu, (who loves by night the man her children love by day), fled an abusive marriage to live with their blind grandmother, Mammachi (who plays Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), and their enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt). When Chacko's English ex-wife brings their daughter for a Christmas visit, the twins learn that things can change in a day, that lives can twist into new, ugly shapes, even cease forever, beside their river." I started this book in college but now don't remember a single thing about it.

JUNE (Russian Heritage Month): Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. "The poverty-stricken Raskolnikov, a talented student, devises a theory about extraordinary men being above the law, since in their brilliance they think “new thoughts” and so contribute to society. He then sets out to prove his theory by murdering a vile, cynical old pawnbroker and her sister. The act brings Raskolnikov into contact with his own buried conscience and with two characters — the deeply religious Sonia, who has endured great suffering, and Porfiry, the intelligent and discerning official who is charged with investigating the murder—-both of whom compel Raskolnikov to feel the split in his nature. Dostoevsky provides readers with a suspenseful, penetrating psychological analysis that goes beyond the crime—-which in the course of the novel demands drastic punishment-—to reveal something about the human condition: The more we intellectualize, the more imprisoned we become."

JULY: A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. "In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys – best friends – are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary and terrifying."

AUGUST: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. "Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed." Fine, I'll read a parlor book. Only one per year, though!

SEPTEMBER (Banned Books Week):The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. "The brutally grim story of a Slavic family who emigrates to America, The Jungle tells of their rapid and inexorable descent into numbing poverty, moral degradation, and social and economic despair. Vulnerable and isolated, the family of Jurgis Rudkus struggles—unsuccessfully—to survive in an urban jungle. A shocking revelation of intolerable labor practices and unsanitary working conditions in the Chicago stockyards that aroused public sentiment and resulted in such federal legislation as the Pure Food and Drug Act." I can't really say I'm looking forward to this, but it sounds like one of those historical-significance-type books.

OCTOBER: The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. "Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, 'a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.' Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment." Sounds kind of spooky, right?

***OCTOBER BONUS READ*** The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde. "Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack's ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack's country home on the same weekend the "rivals" to fight for Ernest s undivided attention and the "Ernests" to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!" It's so short I figured I should just tack it on to Dorian.

NOVEMBER: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. "In what may be Dickens's best novel, humble, orphaned Pip is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman — and one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of "great expectations." In this gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, the compelling characters include Magwitch, the fearful and fearsome convict; Estella, whose beauty is excelled only by her haughtiness; and the embittered Miss Havisham, an eccentric jilted bride." Pretty sure I saw a bad film version of this in high school, but all I remember about it is Miss Havisham & how creepy she was.

DECEMBER: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey. "Tells the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the story through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them all imprisoned." I remember watching the movie & enjoying it, but I don't remember much about the story, so hey! Reading books!

Other Books I'm Planning to Read this Year...

(^ That's where you've give me your recommendations. ;) )

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Coaching & The Next Chapter

During this time I've been fake-training for NVM, I've had in the back of my mind this giant question about what I was going to do after that and before Santa Rosa at the end of August. It's kind of a weird amount of time; I don't want to start seriously marathon training before June (come on, now; three months is just PLENTY of that business as long as I have a good base), but it isn't really enough time to both recover from Napa and squeeze in any serious training for anything else. And then I'd be like, "Eh, I'll figure out when I get there."

And hey! Now I'm here, and it's times to figure some things out.

It's times like these when I really appreciate having some kind of coaching situation lined up. I say "coaching situation" and not "having a coach" because to me, truly being coached by someone means that s/he is writing individualized workouts for you, personally, adjusting them regularly based on frequent one-on-one feedback, and the two of you are in fairly regular contact about how things are going.

Obviously, that is an awesome setup but unfortunately it tends to not come particularly cheap. Like most of us, I only have so many running dollars to spend per month and I have to allot them based on where I've found that I get the most bang for my buck. For me, I think I get quite a lot out of my gym membership, massages for my busted-ass right leg, and occasional one-on-one sessions with a running-centric strength coach, which doesn't leave a whole lot left for paying a running coach if I'm going to, like, run any races.

So, instead, I have RunCoach, which is a sort of semi-customized plan based on my history & scheduling preferences. I get my workouts from the website & then enter information afterward (or whenever I get around to it) about how it went, which is monitored by a couple of coaches who do a kind of quarterly one-on-one consultation with me about how things are going and what I should focus on next, and also let me bug them with occasional freaked out emails in between.

It's pretty cool, actually.

I think this costs me like $40 a month instead of like $400.

I will now briefly defend the idea of plain-old-ordinary-average recreational runners getting coaches if they so choose.

Sure, some people will roll their eyes at the very idea, like, "Seriously? This is not the Olympics on the line, here. Follow your training plan and don't do anything stupid. Who needs to pay someone to tell you that?"

I disagree, though. For some reason some people see working with a professional in a sports-related hobby as really different than doing so in a non-sports related hobby and as somehow wasteful and narcissistic unless you're really good with a lot at stake.

If you think about it, though, having a coach isn't really all that different from taking lessons at something. A person might be like, "You know, I've always wanted to learn ballroom dancing." Getting a teacher is actually a really effective way to achieve that goal! Or, someone who is a pretty okay self-taught pianist might be like, "You know, I'm not bad, but I wonder what I could learn from getting some lessons." Completely reasonable!

So, to me, if you are a recreational runner and want to see how much you can improve or even a brand-new beginning runner who doesn't feel like just bumbling through on your own via books & the internet, spending a little money for some guidance from a pro makes a lot of sense and can potentially get rid of some of the stress of trying to figure out on your own what all the right things (or at least better things) for you to do are.

Second, I actually think that getting a coach makes MORE sense for recreational runners with day jobs and other commitments and overall limited time who are paying for our hobby out of our own pocket, because we don't have 18 hours a day to spend doing our own research and consulting a bunch of experts that our big-name sponsor is paying for, which kind of leaves us with trial and error + the internet, which may be free, but may or may not be particularly efficient (or effective).

On the other hand, it can be pretty efficient to have an expert whose job it is to say, "Based on this/that/the other thing, I think you should do x, y, and z." Sure, I still enjoy reading books and articles and what have you about physiology and training philosophies and all that, but at the end of the day, it is also nice to know there are pros with decades of experience and quantifiable results to whom I am paying actual money that I can ask, "What do you think about [race/training strategy/etc.]?" And they will say, "We think [thing] because of [reasons]." And I can be like, "DONE" & get on with my life.

Will different experts sometimes disagree? Obviously. But this is why you do your research ahead of time and decide who you're going to trust, and if you feel like you CAN'T just pick one person to trust and are going to second guess them all the time & be like "BUT I READ THIS THING ON THE INTERWEBZ," you probably shouldn't get into a situation where you're paying anyone for advice that you're only going to maybe sometimes kinda-sorta take, and that's fine.

(Of course, some people have no desire whatsoever for a coach or don't feel like it's worth the money for them, and there's nothing wrong with that either. Diff'rent strokes, yo.)

I say all that to say: My personality and relationship to running is such that I really would not want to be in the position of figuring out the next six months totally on my own, and it is worth my $40/month not to be. So, I've been emailing with Coaches Tom & Ashley post-NVM to try to figure some stuff out regarding what's next.

Things I Know:

  • Santa Rosa Marathon (8/23) is my goal race, the goal being to run a 3:30 or thereabouts. This doesn't seem unreasonable, given that my current PR of 3:36:27 was set on a hot day with a torn muscle in my leg where I walked limped most of the last four miles.
  • I'm signed up for American River Parkway Half on 5/2 and Bay to Breakers on 5/17.
  • I don't want to start doing "earnest" marathon training with speed work & threshold intervals & what have you until maybe 12 weeks out from SRM because I know from experience that I just burnout or get hurt, and if I'm in pretty decent shape base-wise, that's about all the time I need to peak & get in really good race-specific shape.

Things I Don't Know:

  • Should I race ARP all-out or just run it at goal marathon pace?
  • Should I run another non-goal marathon in late May (say, first half easy & first half at goal pace)?
  • Should I race PrideRun 5K on 6/27?
  • Should I run Jungle Run Half on 7/12, and if I do, should I race all-out or do it more as part of a supported long run?

The Answers, via A & T:

  • The way Napa went is indeed shocking and exciting & we feel like you might have some potential for significant improvement if we can keep your aerobic base up & injuries at bay.
  • Don't try to race ARP all-out, because no matter how good you feel or what anyone tells you, you will not fully recover from running a marathon at any pace in less than 8 weeks and maybe up to 12.
  • For the same reason, if the goal is to target SRM for a really great PR race, squeezing another marathon in, even an "easy" one, is not the way to go. (If the goal were just to finish three marathons in a year and feel good, on the other hand, it might be fine.)
  • Go for the 5K and maybe even another 10K in there somewhere if something catches my eye - They will serve as good fitness gauges & won't require significant recovery time.
  • Go for the half - Six weeks out from the marathon is great timing for a tune-up/longer fitness gauge.


Behold, The Plan:

  • Spend the next eight weeks running mostly easy miles & gradually building mileage back up as I recover, adding in some short hill sprints to get my body ready for speed work.
  • Shoot to run 8:00 miles at ARP & see how that feels, knowing I may be only just fully recovered from Napa.
  • Start "prep" speed work in May.
  • Take it easy at Bay to Breakers.
  • Start legit Santa Rosa training in June.
  • Race the heck out of PrideRun as per usual.
  • Race the heck out of Jungle Run in July.
  • Frikkin' kill it at Santa Rosa in August.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Admit it, sloth is kind of awesome.

Life has been fairly calm since NVM. This past week I slept a lot, wrote a couple of race reports, caught up on some work, and spent a lot of time drinking wine in soft pants.

It turns out sloth recovery is pretty awesome.

I'd figured I'd do a little running on Wednesday or Thursday, just two or three miles or so to shake out my legs, which actually would have been fine since I was never really sore from the race (?!?!); however, as of Tuesday a couple of my toes started to feel like they'd been slammed in a car door and/or broken, so running was not really in the cards for a few days.

Which, honestly, was fine. I did go to karate both days, but besides that, it's been kind of nice to spend the evenings sitting around slothing it up recovering & catching up on some reading.

(Speaking of which, I have some reviews in the works for you. And also a "Classics of 2015" post that is just taking an absurdly long time to finish.)

Various dentists have been bugging me to get my wisdom teeth out for the last ten years or so and at my check-up in January I was informed that I had my very first cavities ever (THREE. Wtf?) & needed some fillings. The first weekend post-marathon when I'm slothing it up recovering anyway seemed like the most logical time to deal with all that, so this weekend has been pretty chill as well.

Apparently, I took a bunch of horrific selfies when I got home from the dentist Friday morning while I was still "under the influence." I remember nothing until about 10pm that night.

I recovered incredibly quickly, though, which was good since Saturday was our "W" dinner party.

Welsh Rarebit on wheat & white bread. If you are not acquainted with the magic that is Welsh rarebit, just imagine what it might be like if you mixed melted cheddar cheese, heavy cream, Porter, & a bunch of spices together. Basically the most amazing cheese sauce in the history of ever.


(Beef) Wellington

(Beef) Wellington w/ wilted spinach salad with watermelon radishes, whipped potatoes, & Washington cab

Winter fruits with whiskey-infused whipped cream, whiskey syrup, and walnut liqueur.
(This may have been the best idea I ever had, btw.)

Could there possibly be a more fitting meal with which to end my week of sloth recovery? I think perhaps no.

I've started some preliminary planning for the next phase of my attack on 3:30, so more on that soon. Before that, though, I suppose I should formally close the book on this training cycle with one last weekly recap:

~*~*~NVM WEEK 16 OF 16~*~*~

Grand Total: 41.9 miles

    * 17.5 easy
    * 26.4 race

No strength work besides some push-ups & crunches in karate. I've promised myself I'll get back to it with some amount of consistency now that my week of sloth recovery is over.

Monday: Karate

Tuesday: 6 easy

    Technically this was supposed to include a couple of GMP miles, but I still wasn't feeling 100% & decided it was more likely that I would regret doing the fast miles than regret not doing them.

Wednesday: Karate

    I had to teach this night but took it pretty easy. There are not many things worse on race week than inflicting some dumb and completely avoidable injury on yourself (which I have done).

Thursday: 6 easy

    Forgot to charge my watch so just ran my usual six-mile loop at a super easy pace, which maybe is not the worst thing ever three days out from a race.

Friday: Rest

    Actually would have really liked to have gotten a short run in, but I restrained myself & stuck to the plan.

Saturday: 2 easy

    A quick shake-out jaunt around the neighborhood before we headed to Napa.

Sunday: 1.5 warm-up / 26.4 race

    Race report here. :)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Napa Valley Marathon - Race Info & Logistics

(This is the part where I give you all the logistical/nuts & bolts information you might want to know about this race if you're thinking about maybe running it. You can check out this post to read all about my race experience & how it went! :) )

Location: Calistoga, CA to Napa, CA

Date: First Sunday in March (March 1, 2015 this year)

Prices: I don't think they have last year's fee schedule up anymore, but this is the one for 2016, and I think it actually does match what I paid when I signed up for 2014:

Field Size: Registration cap of 3,000 (2,900 normal spots & 100 charity spots benefiting Napa schools)

Deadlines/sellout factor: As you can probably imagine, this is absolutely a sell-out race every year. Both years I've paid attention it's taken a few months so you don't necessarily have to decide ten months out, but by December or January, I think, the field is usually full.


Friday & Saturday 8:00am-5:00pm at Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa. Bibs available for pickup until 8:00pm Saturday.

Meh. Like I said above, it was an expo. I am not that big on expos. Basically I want my crap & to get out of there. Everything was reasonably well-organized and I had no trouble finding anything and didn't wait more than a few minutes to pick up my bib or schwag. There was a bit of wine tasting out in the courtyard of which I did not partake.

(I normally at least snap a few pics, but we were starving & I just wanted to get out of there. Sorry. :-/)


The start was staged pretty much at the intersection of Silverado Trail, 29 (Lincoln), and Brannan. It is just kind of a rural road, so I can see why they don't want too many people trying to drive right up to it.

Basically there was the starting line, the obligatory giant row of port-a-potties, a row of buses labeled with bib numbers for sweat check, and a row of labeled crates for dropping any special bottles.

The afore-mentioned bottles

Oh, and guys, there were showers at the finish. SHOWERS!! I had no idea. Since the finish was at a high school, I had hoped, and so I had brought shower things & a towel, but NVM!! You gotta promote that shit!! (Okay, there was no hot water by the time I got in there, but still. It meant we could go wine tasting after, which we ABSOLUTELY did.

The Course:

I've heard a lot of bitching and moaning about this course in the past & even contributed to some of it myself from the one time I raced on part of it. But I have to say, having run it in good weather & in temps that are almost as good as it gets in Napa, it's actually pretty decent and reminded me of CIM in some ways.

Yes, it's a little windy, so you have to pay attention to your tangents & to when you're allowed to run in both lanes and when you're only allowed in the south bound one. There is a bit of canting here & there, but I didn't find it hard to negotiate at all. I tend to be pretty sensitive uneven/slanted surfaces and I barely noticed it. As far as I remember, the pavement was in pretty good shape - very few issues with potholes or chewed up bits.

The course is net down hill, but not ridiculously so. (Less than CIM, and WAAAAY less than, for example, Mountains 2 Beach.) There are a few uphill sections here & there, but none were all that steep or went on for very long. (If memory serves, the worst ones were near the beginning.) I remember the end being pretty darn level. I also think I remember there being more shade in the early miles & less towards the end, which was too bad, but thankfully it wasn't all THAT hot.

The aid stations were more or less every two to two and a half miles, which worked out perfectly for me, particularly since I could grab my little bottles & carry them for a while.


The website strongly encouraged people to park at the finish (Vintage High School in Napa) since the start is crowded & parking is limited. (Like I said, tiny rural road without much access.) Buses run from Napa to Calistoga starting at 5:15am, & apparently they let you sit on the bus until ~6:40ish. Since I am lazy & didn't want to catch a 5:15 bus, I made Don come with me & got a hotel room super close to the start. I got up at 5:45, left the hotel at 6:30, & was at the start by 6:40. Then he got to sleep in & meet me in Napa at the finish (which is way closer to home than Calistoga anyway). No buses back to Calistoga after, apparently, but the site included instructions on how to get there via public transit if you need to.


This was a great race, and I had a great experience. But I have one grievance, and that is that every year I've seen pictures of schwag for this race, everything has all been very tasteful, muted, wine-country-ish colors (see the NVM logo above). But this year, the race was honoring the 1976 US marathon team (no, they're not being sexist; women weren't allowed in the marathon until the 80s), and so everything was red, white, & blue. (Mostly red and blue.)

I mean, look. I support honoring our country's elite athletes. But this just seemed a bit random, and was it not possible to honor them in a way that doesn't make everything look like little league baseball gear?

Anybody want this bag?

I feel so certain I will never wear this shirt.


I get what you're going for, here, NVM (I think?), but let's be real. If the goal is for people to wear your schwag & advertise for your race, I'm not sure this was the way to go.

Overall Assessment:

I have had conversations with people who feel strongly that NVM is not a PR race, but having run it now, I have to say I disagree, with one caveat. I think the course is a good one, not too wind-ey, net downhill but not stupidly so, with only a few short rolling up-hills, and the ability to drop your own bottles is in my book a HUUUUUUGE plus. And, it's not really that expensive as long as you don't wait too long to sign up. We had nice weather & temps Sunday, BUT, like I said, there have been plenty of years in the past where it's been rainy or stupid hot or just kind of muggy & unpleasant. (This is in contrast to, say, a CIM, where, yes, there's a CHANCE something miserable might occur, but the weather & temps are *reasonably* reliable from year to year.) So I think that if you sign up for it as a goal race, just know that you'll need to watch the forecast & potentially change your expectations if the weather is not great.

Seriously, though--I was pleasantly surprised by nearly everything about this race, start to finish, and I will definitely keep it in mind for the future.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Race Report: Napa Valley Marathon

(This is the race report about how my race went & my thoughts about it - If you're interested in all the logistical information, you might want to check out this post. :) )

Soooo....I ran this marathon on Sunday, and it was weirdly...fine/good/NBD? In a good way?

(A bit of background in case you're new 'round these parts --

So this wasn't an all-out PR attempt or anything--just a chance to complete 26 miles at a comfortable pace and give me a chance to see a) what all this base training has done for me and b) what kind of shape my right hip (which is much improved, but still touch-and-go-at-times) is in when it comes to that distance.

Our plan had been to drive to Napa, hit the expo, do some wine tasting, have dinner at Morimoto, then drive to Calistoga & crash. Which still basically is what happened except that a) we needed more sleep Saturday morning than we'd anticipated so got up late, b) someone was blocking our driveway so we had to deal with that, and c) traffic from SF to Napa was utterly horrendous. So we rolled in around 3pm ready to gnaw our own arms off & FINALLY made it to the expo (which was pretty much par for the course in terms of small, boutique-y, wine country races).

(Sidenote: There wasn't really time at this point to do much proper wine tasting, so I give you: Most Bang for Your Buck in Downtown Napa:

  • The Vintner's Collective. A bit pricey at 3 tastes for $15, but they have a massive selection, staff who know the wine really well, and everything we had was delicious.
  • Smith-Anderson Wine Group. We went here because they were right across the street from VC. Not quite as good, but they had some tasty things, and it was less crowded & slightly cheaper.
  • Oxbow Market. Kind of the Ferry Building of Napa. I particularly recommend a visit to Napa Valley Distillery, which I promise has the largest collection of bitters you will ever encounter in your life.)

Napa Valley Distillery's bitters collection at Oxbow Market.

Morimoto was indescribably amazing; borderline uncomfortably full and VERY happy our dinner reservation had not been any later than 6:30, we drove to Calistoga, I did my usual pre-race OCD bib-man ritual, & tried to sleep (which....didn't work out so well. Sigh.)

My memory was that the hotel was about a mile from the start, but Google Maps said .7, and when I jogged over Sunday morning, my Garmin clocked less than .5. So, if you run this race & decide to stay in Calistoga instead of Napa, you could do worse than the Sunburst Hotel. (Be warned, though...while this was a cheaper option, nothing in Calistoga is ever cheap.)

I dropped my bottles into the labeled crates (surprisingly few people seemed to be using them -- maybe 50 or so out of a field of 3,000?), jogged a super easy mile or so to get warmed up, finally shed my jacket, checked my bag, & tucked into a warm pocket of people behind the starting mat.

As expected, the beginning of the race was cold, but maybe because I'd been mentally preparing myself to feel utterly miserably cold, it wasn't horrifically bad. (Mostly, I really, really wished I had gloves.)

I intentionally didn't set any time/pace goals for this race because I wanted it to really, truly feel like there was no pressure, the only caveat being that I didn't really want to be out there on my feet for much over four hours. In the end I didn't go so far as to cover my watch, but I didn't pay much attention to it except to glance at mile splits (mostly out of curiosity; the beauty of not having a time goal is not feeling like you have to do anything in response to splits).

Lately my long runs have mostly been in the 9:30-10:30 range lately, so mentally I'd sort of roughly estimated 10:00 miles for the first hour, 9:30 for the second, 9:00 for the third, & 8:15ish for the fourth, hoping I'd be able to speed up & clock some GMP miles at the end. (Fast finish long runs & all that.)

(I'll be honest, though - originally I'd typed "8:00/mile" for hour four, then changed it to 8:15, remembering how running 10 miles at 8:00 pace at Foster City had been tough, and that was *without* an 18-20 mile long run first.)

Nothing much of note happened in the first handful of miles. Mostly, I spent the first couple feeling uncomfortably cold & desperately wishing I'd worn throw-away gloves, & kept reminding myself that as much as I envied everyone around me in tights and knee socks, the tables would likely turn before too long given the forecast. It was also slightly demoralizing that my watch ticked off mile 1 about .05 miles before the marker, an interval that would only get longer and longer with each one. Sigh.

In mile 3 I happened upon a phantom aid station which totally threw me off for a minute because I didn't process that the first official station wasn't until 4.2. There was no special drinks table & the volunteers handing out water & Gatorade looked at me like I had seven heads when I asked about it. I spent maybe 45 seconds trying to make sense of what was going on, then gave up, took a cup of water, & moved on. It threw me off for a minute or two (mostly because I was afraid I had misunderstood how the bottle situation worked) but I got over it. Gel-wise, I just decided for simplicity's sake to do one every three miles regardless of my pace.

    Mile 1: 9:41
    Mile 2: 9:31
    Mile 3: 9:58 (phantom aid station confusion)

Official aid station #1 appeared around 4.2, exactly where it was supposed to be. The special drinks were on a little table at the far end of the aid station, and since there were only maybe 15 bottles on it at that point, it was super easy to spot mine & grab it. (Clearly the majority of people using the special drinks option were running a lot faster than me, which makes sense.)

The next few miles passed uneventfully. I ran at a completely relaxed and comfortable pace on the flats and downhills, tried not to push too hard on the occasional short uphill parts, and mentally broke things up into three-mile chunks with my tangy little dollop of motivational sugar at the end of each one.

I also really liked the way the six-ounce Gatorade bottles worked out. They were small enough that they were light and easy to carry, but contained enough liquid that I could make it last a good, long while (sometimes up to two miles). I also liked being able to sip whenever I felt like it, vs. grabbing two cup from a volunteer & frantically trying to guzzle both without choking or pouring it all over myself instead of into my mouth. It also eliminated the aid station panic I get sometimes if I don't carry my own bottle (OH GOD OH GOD HOW LONG TO THE NEXT ONE). I found it to be a VERY civilized way of getting fluids & am already plotting to see if I can convince other races to let me do this in the future.

    Mile 4: 9:08
    Mile 5: 9:11
    Mile 6: 9:14
    Mile 7: 9:00
    Mile 8: 9:00
    Mile 9: 9:02

By hour 2 I was already thankful that I hadn't worn extra layers. The temperature was cool with a light breeze, but no longer cold, and the sun was climbing higher.

Somewhere in there was when I had my first hint of "Oof, this is starting to feel like more than zero effort." I had a brief moment of panic as I flashed back to my recent 20 miler where my legs started feeling mushy at mile 11, but in retrospect, I think this was probably just a matter of paying excruciatingly close attention to every teeny tiny sensation anywhere in my body (like you do in a marathon or other goal race) and blowing that first inkling of "Hey look, there's kind of work involved now!" a bit out of proportion. I let myself stay relaxed and comfortable, though, and it really didn't get any harder than that.

    Mile 10: 9:22
    Mile 11: 8:57
    Mile 12: 9:16
    Mile 13: 9:10
    Mile 14: 9:11
    Mile 15: 8:54

I got a little mental boost when I passed mile marker 16 because I could now count down from 10. It was also the first point at which I let myself consider that I felt really good and pretty strong still, and maybe I could let myself run a little faster and not regret it at mile 23. Don't get me wrong, there was definitely effort involved, but I didn't have even the faintest inkling of fatigue or dead legs or any of that. Still, I didn't want to push too soon, so I made a deal with myself that I had to keep it in the super-easy-relaxed zone until mile 20, and after that I could do whatever I wanted.

    Mile 16: 9:11
    Mile 17: 8:55
    Mile 18: 8:28
    Mile 19: 8:40
    Mile 20: 8:48

STORY TIME: Back in grad school when I played polo, our team had a string of maybe 30 ponies, which ranged from utterly lethargic (the Volvos) to high-end, well-trained ones on loan from or donated by local pros (the Lamborghinis). Only a few of us were allowed to ride the Lamborghinis because as soon as you got on, you could feel this creature who loves nothing more in life than chasing polo balls practically vibrating underneath you, ready to spring the second you shifted your weight. With these horses, it was not so much a matter of urging them to run as it was a matter of holding them in check, and the second you turned them loose, you'd better hold on.

This was how I felt approaching mile 20. I had three hours and two minutes of comfortable, restrained jaunting behind me, and while that had been pleasant enough (like, more pleasant than any long run ever), I was done with that business. The closer I'd gotten to the 20 mile mark, the more jittery and desperate I felt to just cut loose and tear it up on these last 10K between me & the finish.

Part of me wanted to go back to my original, secret goal of attempting to crank them out at sub-8:00 pace, but I had no idea if that was realistic, and I didn't want to try it & then end up crawling the last two. So instead I just sped up to a pace that was comfortably hard and fun but that I still felt pretty sure I could hold for six more miles. I didn't look at my watch until it ticked off mile 21, and when I saw 7:59 for the split, I knew I had a realistic chance.

It was quite warm & sunny at this point & as I passed scores of runners in black tights and jackets and long sleeve shirts, I felt incredibly grateful for my clothing choices. It never felt miserably hot, but I still appreciated the man standing out front of his house with a garden hose spraying down anyone who asked (and I totally did).

Those last miles were just a blast. I mean yes, they were hard because I was pushing myself, but only because I felt good & really wanted to shoot for doing it at a sub-8:00 pace. The closer I got to the finish, the harder I let myself run, passing people like they were standing still at this point. When I came around the corner towards the finish, I saw that I was running at 5:xx pace according to my watch. (Garmin says I hit 3:39 at some point in there but that really just strikes me as utterly absurd. I mean come on now.)

    Mile 21: 7:59
    Mile 22: 8:08
    Mile 23: 8:01
    Mile 24: 7:53
    Mile 25: 7:54
    Mile 26: 7:44
    Mile .2: 1:16 (6:17 pace)


1) Leap into the air as I crossed the mat:

2) Pose for these:

3) Cry.

Seriously. Generally I am not a cryer, but so much of me was like, Holy shit, what the f#@$ just happened?!?!? Regardless of my pace or how well my race is going goal-wise, I've always been one of those people at mile 21 who's like, "If someone could just kill me now, plzthnx." Every single time, at mile 18-20, I've found myself thinking, "What kind of sick joke is it that I still have nearly AN HOUR to go???" There was even once where I remember thinking, "If I ever find the effing bastard who decided 25 miles wasn't good enough I will goddamn effing murder them in their sleep."

And I think part of me has just internalized those feelings & secretly thought maybe they were inevitable, that maybe it was just part of my genetics, to be someone who can run reasonably fast and strong for 13-15-18 miles and then dissolve into an emotional and/or physical puddle of Jello.

But that didn't happen. Like, not even close. I felt great the whole way. Not passably okay, not just hanging in there until it was over. I felt better than I ever have at mile 20 (even on slower long runs) and enjoyed the heck out of the last 10K. I could have run it faster. I could have gone farther. I haven't even been sore.

And I get it if you're like, "Uh, DUH, Angela, you barely even tried for the first 20 miles." Which yes, I get, but at a 9:08 average pace, those 20 miles were still considerably faster than any long run I've done in the last six months, and way, way easier. But then, on top of that, basically running the same six-mile GMP workout--faster, actually!--that I've been doing almost weekly for months and has still not become reliably easy when I do it not after a 20 mile long run?? It was still so, so far beyond anything I had expected I would be able to do.

Which is why, on the one hand, it felt like a huge, amazing, landmark type deal. I am not genetically programmed to suck at all marathons all the time! And why, on the other hand, the running of the race itself felt like no big deal. I just kind of did it, waited for the abject misery, which never came, and then before I realized it, it was over, and I still actually felt pretty human.

    Official: 3:52:35/26.2 miles/8:53 pace
    Garmin: 3:52:38/26.39 miles/8:49 pace

I think it can be trouble to try to pinpoint exactly what causes specific races to go really well or badly, because there are just *so* many variables, both from training cycle to training cycle and from day to day. But, I also think it can be useful to do some kind of reflecting about it, so if I had to guess at why I finally had this one awesome-feeling (if not particularly fast) marathon, here's what I've got:

1) SERIOUS BASE TRAINING. I was just reading something recently by Greg McMillan talking about how his younger athletes are often surprised at how well they can run just on half-decent base training, and that's kind of how I felt about this. I was hoping I might be able to negative split, but up until a few weeks ago I was 100% just planning to do this race at maybe slightly-faster-than-long-run pace & finish in the 4:15 range because that's all I realistically thought I had the training for. I solemnly swear to never, ever let my aerobic base training lapse ever again.

2) Longer runs, more rest days. I made this decision on my own because I've just found that a six mile easy run and a ten mile easy run beat me up physically about the same amount, but having more rest days lets me recover faster. So I've been doing about the same mileage as usual but with more rest days. But, I think there was an unintended bonus, which was doing 9-10 mile runs significantly more often than I have in the past, and I think that I've gotten more benefit endurance-wise from running weeks that look like rest/10/rest/8/10/rest/18 than from ones that look like rest/6/4/6/8/4/18.

3) Train low/race high. This, I learned from all the Racing Weight books. Matt Fitzgerald talks about training your body to use more fat & less carbs for fuel on long runs (limited carb storage being the relevant factor when it comes to bonking/hitting the wall) by doing at least some long runs with no fuel or limited fuel. Honestly I've never found that fueling on training runs has been all that critical for me, so one of my "fake training" experiments was basically never taking any types of carbs whatsoever (with one exception, one time) on any runs, even very long ones. And then on race day, I effing mainlined that shit. I learned last summer that I can tolerate 50-60g per hour pretty well, which is exactly what I did for this race, which did not make me sick and very well may have made a big difference in how strong I felt, particularly at the end.

4) Good weather. Not that I can take credit for it, but still. I don't think I would have had the race I did had it been super hot/windy/muggy/pouring rain/etc.

PHEW! That is quite enough for one blog post, wouldn't you say? I'll post something about all the logistics in a day or two. (**Update** - You can find the logistical/nuts & bolts post about NVM here!)