Sunday, December 25, 2011

DSE Christmas Blind Date Relay

There's no big surprise in that I don't mind running the hills of San Francisco.

That stands for all hills except a few, one of them being Strawberry Hill in the middle of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. It's a massive uphill that corkscrews to the top and then winds back down, all totaling a really terrible mile. Add a mile around Stow Lake, and you have a good place to do torturous hill and mile repeats.

And, apparently, the DSE run club's Christmas Blind Date Relay run.

Renee was also staying in San Francisco for Christmas this year, and we decided to make a "Friendsmas" out of the day, starting with the Blind Date Relay. You basically show up and get paired with a complete stranger. They try to pair males to females, but with more females showing up for this fun run, there were a couple same-sex teams. No attention is paid to age or speed or anything else that would normally matter. It seems like a pretty fair playing field, and it's cool to know you have a teammate on such a short and miserable run. ;)

I knew I was in luck when I drew the name of a man who went by "Tower" out of a hat. He was a tall, young man with a stride that went on for a mile in itself. Claiming he wasn't very fast coming out of racing CIM, I could tell he was sandbagging. I couldn't wait to see how fast he really was.

Each team member runs a 2-mile loop -- one mile up and down Strawberry Hill, and then one mile around Stow Lake -- before handing off to their teammate who does the same loop. The pseudo starting gun went off for the women, and after a quick jaunt up Stow Lake Dr., I found myself as the first female. I held that lead until the top of Strawberry Hill (that hill is a bitch), and then a couple ladies caught me on the way back down.

Mile 1: 7:45

I finished my lap around Stow Lake and tried to catch up to the ladies in front of me, but I was coughing up a lung. I guess I had a bit of a cold the last week or so, and the cold air this morning partnered with panting up a hill made everything come up. It was quite liberating and disgusting at the same time.

Mile 2: 7:05

I gave Tower a high-5 as he took off for his leg of the race. He yelled some congratulatory words as I approached him, then shot off like a bat out of hell. In a flash, his mile-long legs were gone.

On the uphill to Stow Lake, Tower passed the first man ahead of him, and on the way down from Strawberry Hill he caught up to the other. Holding a sub-6:30 average pace, Tower came charging in as the first man to cross the finish line.

Which meant, as a team, we finished first?!

Overall team time: 28:17 (7:04 average pace)

I have a number of "I Participated" DSE ribbons, and even a 4th place ribbon from a race earlier this year. But never before have I received a blue ribbon -- this will probably be my first and last one!

I participated -- and won!

Me & the dude solely responsible for winning our relay.

Renee and her teammate, Mort!

Overall, this fun run was everything it was described to be. I love the DSE run club because of the diversity of the crowd that shows up to every event. There are some competitive folks, some middle-of-the-pack folks, and some people who are really out just to say hi to their friends. But they are all there to have fun, and everyone is equally as pleasant.

And I can't imagine spending part of this holiday around people much cooler than that.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Jingle Bell Hell Virtual Run

My HTC friend XLMIC decided to bring back her Jingle Bell Hell race, a run she & some friends founded a while ago that basically was a route of purely torturous running. She invited some of her friends to run alongside her on Saturday morning or run alongside her virtually if they couldn't make it.

With a weekend packed with social events I needed to get ready for, I opted to run her virtual race near my place.

The goal: Run something that resembles your own personal hell and laugh while doing it.

Where I ran: Presidio Trails.

The parts I get: Trails are pretty. Trails are better on your body. There are no cars that can (or at least should) hit you on the trails. But I really have a hard time with them. Flat, packed dirt is one thing. Mud and hills are another. I don't like them and this was an uncomfortable run for me.

The parts I don't get: MUDDY HILLS ARE NOT FUN.

A few views from my run... (Okay, I really was just taking breaks to catch my breath.)
Looks nice, huh? In theory, yes. But this was hard. There were steps. There was mud. There were people out smiling and saying good morning. (How can runners be so friendly when they are running on muddy hills?!)

Attached are my splits. You can see exactly where...
...I HIT THE MASSIVE HELLISH HILL, and laughed as I walked up part of it.
The route kind of looks like a stupid smile, laughing right back at me, does it not?! Maybe I'm seeing things.
Not fun.

Part of me was thinking that I want to try running trails at least once a week in 2012 to give my body a break from the pavement and to change things up/slow myself down. But after running this on Saturday... I'm not so sure.

Happy Jingle Bell Hell! Thanks for organizing this virtual race, XL!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Race Recap: California International Marathon

To be 100% honest, I don't remember much about the actual running of CIM, but I do know that I had a really, really fun weekend with a lot of great memories and key takeaways -- and running my fastest marathon yet was only a small blip on the weekend's spectrum. Without further ado: CIM weekend.

Pre-race fun times

On Saturday morning, the beautiful Courtney picked me up from my house and we headed straight to the CIM expo in Sacramento. There, we met up with Katie and Naomi. We had fun dinking around at vendor booths, met up with fellow San Francisco Marathon Ambassador Laura, bought cowbells for future races (can you believe I still don't have one?), picked up our race bibs/t-shirts, and parted ways. After the expo, Court & I pre-carb-loaded on sandwiches from a tasty bread shop in Sacramento, and then we headed straight to the grocery store for the real carb-loading that was about to happen.

Courtney, Katie, me, and Naomi, all excited to unite outside of SF for once.

Courtney, Laura, and me at the SFM booth

Courtney's parents are probably the coolest parents on the planet, and I think it would be nice if they'd adopt me. That isn't going to happen anytime soon, but the next best thing did happen: They let us take over their house for the evening to host a runner/spectator pizza party and sleepover, complete with nail painting. (Thank you so so so so SO much for your hospitality, Courtney's mom & dad!)

We were leaving SF for ONE DAY. How much stuff do two girls need?

Carbs courtesy of Court's parents.


Cute little Layla & me

Painting my nails during a break from Sticking myself.

Best way to calm pre-marathon nerves: Friends.
Layla, me, Courtney, Michelle, Don, Angela, Sesa

5:00am Sunday morning rolled around, and I found myself excitedly eating what I could stomach of my breakfast, all while annoying the half-awake runners who were groggily stumbling around the house. I had high hopes for this race, and my energy was equally as high.

It's much too early for real smiles.

Our good friend (and volunteer for CIM) Layla dropped us off at the race site, we made our way to the Wall-o-Port-o-Potties, the sweat bag drop, and finally the famous starting line. I don't remember much except giving my friends good luck hugs, jumping around during the National Anthem, then toeing the marathon start line for the 5th time in a year and a half.

Photo courtesy of Katie's husband

The race

I had a distinct pacing strategy for this race, thanks to my good friend XLMIC. As a result, I was ONLY thinking about pace during this race. I was one of the un-fun runners who didn't high-five the kids out there or chuckle at any witty signs (but I did thank the volunteers for handing me water). I noticed the never-ending hills and a few people running in costumes around me; but for the most part I missed the sites and most of the spectators. I was focused on hitting my paces, getting water when I needed it, and pushing my limits. I was so focused that I missed fueling by a half mile more than 3 times, I only saw my friends in 1 of the 3 places they said they'd be cheering at, and I just tried to pick people off to keep myself going forward.

XL's pacing strategy for my race was this:
Miles 1 & 2: 8:30
Miles 3 & 4: 8:20
Miles 5-20: 8:10
Miles 21 & 22: 8:05
Miles 23 & 24: 8:00
Miles 25-26.2: 7:55

This would ensure a negative split (something I have never done), an overall pace of 8:10 (also something I have never done), and a finishing time of 3:33:55 (something I never thought I'd even dream of attempting).

Miles 1-4, The warm-up:

1: 8:24
2: 8:28
3: 8:23
4: 8:28

The race starts with some pretty significant downhills, so it was verrrry tricky trying to control a warm-up pace. I kept checking my watch every quarter of a mile or so, but I was also running with Angela for the first few miles and she helped me keep myself honest. I wanted to bust out and bank time on the downhills while I had the energy and terrain, but this is clearly a plan that has repeatedly failed me in the past. This was the time to try new a new strategy here: I had nothing to lose. Hopefully treating the first miles as a warm-up would make a marathon seem "easier" at the end.

Miles 5-8, It's go time:
5: 8:12
6: 8:12
7: 8:11
8: 8:11

I don't remember much except looking for my spectator friends after my true "go-time" clicked over at mile 5. I saw my friends at 7.5, and they were adorable with their signs, whistles, cameras, and excitement! It was such a boost seeing them out there, and it made me feel good to know people who cared about me were there to cheer me on.

The best spectators at CIM: Karin, Beth, and Jana

Miles 9-22, I'm rollin':
9: 8:10
10: 8:07
11: 8:08
12: 8:04
13: 8:06
14: 8:11
15: 8:20
16: 8:10
17: 8:04
18: 8:11
19: 8:07
20: 8:07
21: 8:07
22: 8:07

I have no recollection of anything race-related during these miles. I noted that the weather was perfect, I felt like I was hardly sweating, the miles were FLYING by, my lips kept getting chapped for some strange reason, and the wind was non-existent (good thing, since it has been so windy lately!). That, and I was excited that I was actually doing it -- I was getting close to my goal paces while controlling my breathing, and I felt optimistic about being able to PR. I tried to sip water every mile and just hold on.

Miles 23 - 26.2, Mental miles:
23: 8:21
24: 8:20
25: 8:22
26: 8:13
.27: 2:02/7:23 pace

My good friend/unofficial running coach/marathon "bible"/wonderful resource RoadBunner sent me a good-luck message from Hawai'i that I got early Sunday morning before the marathon. She told me that I was a strong runner and that I needed for fight for it at the end of the race. The last 3 to 5 miles of the marathon have traditionally been the darkest for me. I battle a lot of mind games where I always end up convincing myself that taking walk breaks is the only way I'll get to the finish. Not this time. Hearing RoadBunner say "fight for it" kept playing in my head. My goal paces started slipping away, and instead of giving in, I kept repeating my new mantra.

I know marathons are not easy. I know that great things don't happen by accident. I set my sites on people in front of me, tried to catch them, and fought for it. I had a bit of a fade in these miles, but I'm proud of how well I held it together. Fight for it.

Apparently Jana took this picture of me. I never saw her.

Fight for it.

I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin: 3:35:44.97. I put my hands down on my knees because I was so tired and yet so happy to be done. I had nothing left in me. I looked up when I heard my name being screamed for the entire world to hear -- it was Layla!

There she was, a foot in front of me, hollering my name, grinning the brightest smile on her face, holding her arms extended with my 5th marathon medal and the biggest hug. I was so out of it when she jumped in front of me, but I do know this is THE coolest way to end a race ever!!


Layla got me a space blanket (with which I covered my mouth and gagged under a few times because I didn't want to have the slightest chance of puking on her), she quickly grabbed me water, and she helped me walk over to the people cutting off our timing chips. I felt like I was truly, wholehearted taken care of at this race, and it's all thanks to Layla. No one has ever given me personal support at the end of a race -- they always just herd us off down the line like cattle. Layla took the time to hug me, congratulate me, make sure I was okay and stable and getting my senses back, boost my spirits, and chat with me for a good 15 minutes even though I was a smelly, sweaty, incomprehensible wreck. She's truly one of the greatest friends anyone could ask for ... and, not to mention, a pro athlete catcher (she just did this same job at the Kona Ironman championships! :)

I was in the best of hands at this race thanks to her, no doubt about it.

Layla & me in front of the Capitol.

Katie and me after running our hearts out.

All of us reuniting on the Capitol's lawn.

After the race, my friends who were there and I all met up, rehashed our tales, helped each other see clearly and reaffirm that we all kick ass, and headed off to breakfast. The whole morning I couldn't help but look around me and realize that I have some of the best friends in the entire world... both in front of me, and via the text messages/emails/Facebook messages/tweets I received all morning from people tracking my progress. The support of the running community boggles my mind... I am not worthy.

Refueling at Tower Cafe

Post-race thoughts

With that, I did not make my A+ goal (3:33:xx). However, I did make my A goal (3:39 or faster). Never ever ever in my short-legged life did I think I'd run close to an 8-minute mile... let alone 26.2+ of them in a row without a break. But I did it. And I'm eager to do it again -- only I'm going to get that 3:33 next time. I think, after five tries, I might have caught the marathon bug. (Or maybe I'm still just on a runner's high.)

I set nearly a 9-minute PR. I negative split a marathon for the first time. I ran my shortest marathon to date. I never stopped to walk -- not even through the water stops. I realized I have the best support around me. I realized I can do this.

2011 has been a year that has flown by, but not without its major discoveries. I've learned that it's okay to put goals out there; it's okay to dream big, run long, and push to the point of discomfort. I've learned it's okay to fail, it's okay to admit shortcomings, and it's okay to try and try and try again.

I came into 2011 wanting to run a marathon in 4 hours, and wanting to do so after building up into a fall/winter race. I ended up accidentally getting it early on in the year, and that instilled in me a level of confidence I never knew I had. I dreamed of 4 hours, and I got 3:35.

Naturally, I couldn't do any of this without the greatest support in the world -- the people who push me, believe in me, run with me, listen to me, talk with me, and advise me. I couldn't (and probably wouldn't) do this without the greatest friends anyone could ever imagine having: The Running Community -- Bay Area and beyond. Thank you all for believing in me.

Race stats

Garmin time: 26.27 miles, 3:35:44 -- 8:12 pace (7.3 mph)

Official time: 26.2 miles, 3:35:45 -- a 8:29 PR!
Average pace: 8:12 (7.3 mph)
Overall place: 1,406 out of 5,755
Gender place: 321 out of 2,484
Age/Gender place: 60 out of 350
Air temp: 43F

1: 8:24
2: 8:28
3: 8:23
4: 8:28
5: 8:12
6: 8:12
7: 8:11
8: 8:11
9: 8:10
10: 8:07
11: 8:08
12: 8:04
13: 8:06 (first half: 1:48)
14: 8:11
15: 8:20
16: 8:10
17: 8:04
18: 8:11
19: 8:07
20: 8:07
21: 8:07
22: 8:07
23: 8:21
24: 8:20
25: 8:22
26: 8:13
.27: 2:02/7:23 pace (second half: 1:47)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Race Recap: Run Wild for a Child 10k (2011)

When thinking about Thanksgiving races this year, I knew of two good options in San Francisco proper: The Turkey Trail Trot 5-Miler and the Run Wild for a Child. Last year I ran both. This year, with the constant reminder of how I should be saving my pennies for the out-of-state races I have in the coming months, I decided to register for just one.

On Thanksgiving morning, RoadBunner and I went on our own unofficial 10k turkey trot. We met bright and early, threw on our rain gear, and headed out into the mist for a fun and friendly jaunt. We even stopped by the Turkey Trail Trot 5-Miler to steal a pic with the mascot and cheer for our friend @Renee who was running the race.

A Turkey Trot of our own
I just love hanging out with RoadBunner and I'm so glad we got to run together on Thanksgiving morning -- it's something I hope to make a tradition! :)

For my official Turkey trot, I put my money toward the San Francisco Fire Fighter's Toy Drive and ran the Run Wild for a Child 10k again. I ran it last year, PR'd, and haven't run a 10k since. They suck too much.

With CIM on the horizon (holy crap, that's next weekend), I knew in my heart of hearts that all-out racing a 10k would not be a smart choice this weekend. Many a friend also confirmed. But with some solid improvements in my running lately, I figured I might have a new PR in me without needing to push it too hard.

While running my 2-mile warm-up to the race, I debated about using this 10k to hit some goal MP miles. I ran into Naomi and RoadBunner's Boyfriend before the race, and even declared to them that that was going to be my strategy.

Naomi & me at the start. I'm not normally this pale.

It wasn't as cold this year as it was last year,
where we were all wearing sweatshirts and hats.

Once the starting gun went off and I crossed the timing mat, I decided that I wanted the PR. My PR pace from last year's race was 7:44 -- so I thought I'd try to hold 7:45s and pick it up at the end for a teeny tiny PR.

Mile 1: 7:10. Oops.

Mile 2: 7:12. Oops again.

By mile 3, where I saw RoadBunner, Naomi, a coworker & her husband running -- as well as Courtney out cheering -- I knew I wasn't holding back enough. I was caught up in the atmosphere and enjoying myself while screaming for my friends. Mile 3: 7:07.

The last half of the race is a series of hills in Golden Gate Park: Mile 4: 7:28, Mile 5: 7:26, Mile 6: 7:25.

The race ends on a nice little downhill: .2 at 6:59 pace (one of the very rare times I've seen a sub-7 pace on my Garmin!).

Done and done.

The best part about this race is that I never really felt tired. I got a bit of a side stitch around Mile 4, but I think it's because I decided to charge up a hill while drinking a swig of water. I never got close to redlining, I never had the urge to puke (or even gag, unlike last year when that was all I wanted to do), and at the end I didn't feel spent at all. Naturally, my thoughts start veering toward the "Could I have pulled a sub-45 minute 10k if I pushed a little harder?" but I'll need to save that debate and effort for another day.

For now, I've got a 3:29 PR under my belt, I ran perfect tangents for the first time ever, I somehow managed a 5k PR during today's 10k, and I'm happy how the day played out.

Happy Friendsgiving. <3
Next up: CIM!

6.2-mile splits: 7:10, 7:12, 7:07, 7:28, 7:26, 7:25, 6:59 pace

Official Time: 6.2 miles, 45:13 -- a 3:29 PR! (8.2 mph)
Average Pace: 7:17 min/mile
Overall place 77 out of 673
Gender Place: 10 out of 358
Age/Gender Place: 4 out of 40
Air Temp: 52F

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dream Big: CIM Goals

My fellow Nuunie-HTC Runner No. 2 buddy, Dorothy, has been infecting the Internet with a phrase she's been inspiring this fall: Dream Big.

The super-speedy, brand-spankin'-new-marathon-PRing (3:13!), totally adorable Dorothy & me during our nighttime leg of Hood to Coast.

As I've been tapering from my pseudo-training plan for CIM, I have been thinking about this phrase quite a bit while I'm out running. I know Dorothy didn't plan for this to become an assignment for people -- but I just need to fess up here.

As we all may (or may not) know, I was dealing with some burnout right after PRing at the San Francisco Marathon. Even though I qualified for guaranteed CIM entry with my SFM time, I debated about signing up for the race. I wanted the burnout to go away before I committed to another marathon, and yet the burnout wasn't going anywhere. From the beginning of August to mid-October, I sort of half-assed ran, went on long slow Sunday Rundays with friends, I spectated a lot of races, took a lot of days off (and by that I mean a LOT of days off), had my first DNS, tried running based on heart rate zones instead of pace, pretty much stopped blogging, and even changed my diet. I was willing to do anything to make myself feel better.

However, my heart rate was still exploding through the roof when I ran up hills, I was taking numerous breaks on even 5-mile casual runs, I felt tired and exhausted and frustrated most of the time, and I had little drive to even want to try marathoning again.

At the very last second possible, I signed up for CIM with my guaranteed entry before it closed. Then I got my butt back into gear since I had exactly 7 weeks until race day. There was no time to waste.

Something clicked, and it happened almost right away. Maybe it was because I had another race to look forward to. Maybe it was because I had 2+ months of rest that I denied actually needing. I'm very much looking forward to CIM because I think I have a good chance of doing well (by my own standards).

And this is where Dream Big plays in for me.

I've always sort of (ok, no really) underestimated my running goals. I want to give myself plenty of cushion for if/when I fail. I want to make things seem bigger and better when I hit my lowered goals.

Not this time. I want to put everything out there.

My first of two 20 milers for this shortened training cycle left me in disbelief. I came up with excuses ("But I broke it up into 3 little runs," "But I ran a race as part of it," "But I ran with friends and we stopped to talk," "blah blah blah"). The truth is, it happened.

My second 20 miler was even better and left me physically shaking my head. I came up with more excuses ("But I took 4 water/fuel breaks," "But I ran in the rain and that made me go fast," "But I tucked my watch away so I had no idea what my pace was," "blah blah blah"). The truth is, it also happened.

Thank you, Garmin Connect.

My 16-miler last weekend was even better. Another Nuunie-HTC buddy, XLMIC, made for me a pacing strategy to try. And it worked. Very well. There were no excuses.

Thank you, Daily Mile ... & XLMIC for the goal!

Things are getting better and better. I have high hopes.

For CIM, I am dreaming big. During my run today I truly absorbed my goals for this race, and I'm not going to hide behind them or underestimate myself this time.

If I fail at it, who cares? No one is going to hate me. It's not going to make me a bad person. It's not going to mean I'm a crappy runner. It just means I tried, I didn't make it, I'll train better, and I'll try again at my spring marathon. (Light-bulb moment!)

People put their Dream Big goals out there all the time and I respect them for not hiding behind lowered expectations. I admire that they are going for something beyond their comfort zone. I don't want to hide behind myself by setting goals I know I can hit anymore. I have absolutely nothing to lose and hopefully many more chances to try.

And with that... My Dream Big Goals for CIM.
  • A+ goal: Finish in 3:33:xx. XLMIC has created a pacing strategy for me that would have me finishing a few seconds under 3:34 if I have a perfect day. I will pretty much piss my pants if this happens, but hey... crazy things have happened for me in races before. Why not shoot for that perfect day?
  • A goal: Finish in 3:39. This would mark shaving an hour off my marathon time from when I first started. I will pretty much piss my pants if this happens, too, to be honest... and I truly believe I have a good chance at doing it at CIM. But maybe I can push beyond that, which is why I have an A+ goal. :)
  • B goal: Finish with a PR (sub-3:44). Did I ever think a PR would be so far down my goal list? No. But this time... it has to be. I've got more in me.
  • C goal: Finish strong, but knowing I'm going to do my absolute hardest to get my A+ goal next spring. That might actually include a real training cycle next time. ;)

There we have it folks. If I fail, I fail. If I get this, well, I'm probably going to shy off and not boast about it.

Or maybe I will.

Dream Big
. 11 more days!

Thanks for the inspiration, Dorothy.

Friendly reminder: You can use the discount code "ALYSSAFF10" until this Saturday (11-26) to save $10 on your SF 1st half, 2nd half, and full marathon registration for the 2012 races. After that the code expires -- and race fees go up! -- so now is your best time to save.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SFM Discount Code

I'm already going to do my first shameless San Francisco Marathon plug, and I am totally not sorry!
Since you're all training for your Turkey Trots next week, why not keep the training up, push yourself a little further ... and sign up for the San Francisco Marathon on July 29, 2012!? Sure, it's a hard & hilly marathon -- but it's also extremely scenic, professionally organized, and completely awesome. Have you SEEN those massive medals they give you for running? It's worth the hurt for that alone!

I've got a $10 off code just for you to use on your registration. It's good for the 1st Half, 2nd Half, and Full Marathon! COME ON! You've got options and no reason for excuses.

Just enter "ALYSSAFF10" in the discount code field at check out, and you'll quickly see 10 big ones taken off your total. (You know you can use those $10 around the holidays. Yes, you can.)

Act fast though; this code expires the day after Turkey Day, 11/26/11.

Right after you register, why not go vote on the shirt you'd like to wear for running one of the races next year? That's right -- you can help design the SFM 2012 shirt!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy, Happy Friday!

Today I received some exciting news!

For those of you who don't know, I moved to San Francisco in August of 2010, just days after the San Francisco Marathon. One of the first things I did as a new resident was sign up for the 2011 race when registration opened.

As I began training for SFM, I was introduced to another local running blogger, Aron. Aron was an Ambassador for SFM, and she invited me to join her for a run with the San Francisco Marathon training group during their first week of training.

The meeting that started it all...

Aron introduced me to a ton of other awesome and rad Bay Area running bloggers by generously planning group runs.

Iron Horse Trail run day!
Back row: Alisyn, Naomi, Page, Kristen, Caitlin, Kerry, Layla, Beth, Courtney
Front row: Tara, Audrey, Jana, Katie, Megan, Aron

Training for the San Francisco Marathon forced me to get out and explore my new city by foot. Doing so, I became very close with a few other local runners who were also training for the race. I am lucky to call these runners some of my closest friends now.

Katie & Aron

Megan, Katie, Kristin, & Aron

Punky & Layla

RoadBunner, Page, Susan, Aron, Kristin, Jessica, & Tara

And then of course, I overtrained my tush off for SFM, the ultra-hilly marathon that currently holds my PR.

I feel like the San Francisco Marathon allowed me to grow as a runner, develop as a person, expand my perceptions of The City, and reach out and make new friends. I want to give back to the San Francisco Marathon in exchange for all it has given me...

And this coming year, I will get to do exactly that. I was chosen, alongside Aron, Courtney, Susan, and 28 other fabulous runners from around the country, to be an Ambassador for next year's race.

I'm so excited for this opportunity, and I can only hope to help this race change someone's life in the way it has changed mine.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Somewhere between Nike Women's Marathon and today I added another year onto my age and life has once again figured out a way to get in the way of me writing here... but I certainly have been reading inspiring blogs and hanging out with supportive running friends.

I guess, in a moment of panic a couple weeks ago, I signed up for another marathon. It's, oh, in 5 weeks. I'm coming off major, major post-SFM burnout... burnout so bad I altered my diet and took running wayyyy easy for months to get my health back and elevated heart rate down. I'm again running on a regular basis, I'm feeling stronger every day, and having the California International Marathon as my next goal has given me something to work toward again.

With just 7 weeks to train for this marathon, long runs are of the utmost importance. While I do my share of shorter runs during the week (4 and 5 miles are my favorite after-work distance, especially while it's getting darker earlier), I've been throwing in more 8- and 10-mile runs to make sure I have a solid base going into CIM.

For my weekend long runs, I am simply repeating the last few weeks of my SFM training plan: 18, 20, 15, 20, 16, 13, race. I don't care how fast or slow I do these long runs -- it's just important that I get them done if I want a shot at finishing the marathon.

The truth: I don't have high expectations for CIM. I think I am capable of surprising myself, definitely, simply because the course is less technical and much less hilly than every other marathon I've done. CIM is a notoriously famous PR-course, and while I hope to use that to my advantage, it's not my goal. I simply want to run a marathon that has awesome & steady crowd support and hills that don't kill your legs in the first half. Finishing strong is also a goal, but I'm saving any serious PR efforts for a spring race. If it happens it happens, but I am wary of burning out again and I've been exercising caution.

20 miler

Today was my first 20-miler since SFM (and also Week 2 into my 7-week training plan, ha!). I had some nerves going into today's long run because, ahem, 20 miles still is a daunting distance, even when you've got 4 marathon medals in your display case.

Doing 20 miles without much of a build-up into it makes it seem even longer. My plan for today was to break it up mentally as much as possible.

The DSE Great Halloween Highway 4-Mile Run

This morning I rolled out of bed, snarfed half a bagel, and headed out the door to the DSE Great Halloween Highway Run, a 4-mile race that required about 3 miles of warm up to get there.

3 miles to the start: 8:32, 7:54, 7:50

Since I arrived at the race late, I was the last person to start. They don't chip time, so the clock was already about 3 minutes against me. I knew I probably shouldn't "race" this race since it was at the beginning of a long run, but I really wanted to run with my friends. I booked it until I met up with Cate, her husband Mike, their adorable baby, and Courtney right around mile 1.

By mile 2, Cate and Mike took off, Courtney held back, and I decided to see what I had.

Garmin time: 4 miles in 30:17 (7:34/mile pace): 7:16, 8:08, 7:40, 7:13

I participated!

Cate & Mike at their daughter's first race -- and she slept through it!

After the race, I ran to Stow Lake to meet up with a fellow running blogger/tweeter, Kristine, for 8 more miles. She was doing her first 20 miler (ever!) and asked if I would keep her company for some miles. Of course I agreed -- I like doing my long runs with people and figured she's the same way if she was asking me to join her. Plus, meeting other local running bloggers is not anything I've regretted doing in the past!

3 miles to Stow Lake: 8:17, 8:19, 8:20

While I was waiting for Kristine at Stow Lake, I got a message from Layla saying she and Karin had spotted me running in Golden Gate Park. I invited them up to the lake to join us. Soon after they arrived, Courtney came charging up the hill much to my surprise... and we had an awesome impromptu group meet-up to knock out a bunch of miles together.

I'm so ready for this Indian Summer to go away. Come back, cool foggy weather!
With Kristine, Layla, Courtney, & Karin

Impromptu Sunday Runday

Getting to chat with Kristine was awesome -- what a cool girl! I am so glad I finally got to meet her in person. And seeing Layla, Karin, and Courtney was seriously icing on the cake. I loved this part of my long run the most.

8 miles with friends: 8:57, 8:59, 10:06, 8:43, 9:00, 9:00, 9:05, 9:13

After that random little meet-up, I headed home. Going back to my place is flat/downhill from Stow Lake, so I decided to crank it and tire my legs out like a true masochist.

2 miles home: 7:50, 7:18

Total: 20 miles in 2:47:49 (8:23/mile pace)

Even though today's run did have a number of pauses, water stops, bathroom breaks, and a little bit of standing around for pictures and chatting, 20 miles is 20 miles. I may not have run it completely nonstop, but I didn't know if I'd be able to finish otherwise. After today, I'm feeling pretty good about my last-minute decision to sign up for CIM.

I know I'll finish. And maybe I'll even do alright.

Have a great & safe Halloween!