Building Back Up

After CIM and the “2016: Year of PR Attempts”, I decided to approach 2017 with a more organic, laissez faire approach to running. My general goals were to keep running 3-4 times a week and to be able to pull off an easy 2 hour long run on a semi-regular basis, with the occasional half marathon here and there (for funsies). I told myself that I would wait for my next running goal to come to me and not the other way around. The result has been that, on average, I’ve been running 3 times a week, totaling about 15 miles/week. I’m just a tad over 500 miles for the year, which is way below average for me. But I’m OK with that – I’m in a generally happy place when it comes to running. It doesn’t stress me out too much and I feel pretty good when I’m doing it.

Honestly, if I had to choose one race distance to focus on for the rest of my life, it would be the half marathon. I like how it’s the right combination of endurance and speed, that you can train for it *and* have a life, and that even if you push yourself pretty hard, you’re not completely ruined for days after. However, one thing that’s both a pro and a con of a half marathon is that, with decent fitness, it’s almost always doable. So, the challenge is a little lacking compared to a full marathon.

Now that I’ve been sitting at (slow for me) half marathon shape for 8 months, I think I’m ready to try to tackle the next big thing. I’ve been eyeing a spring marathon; specifically, the Napa Valley Marathon (NVM). Why? It’s in early March, giving me enough time to build more base between now and then. Also, I’ve fared well on wine country courses previously, so that’s a draw. It’s relatively local – a short 2 hour drive away with familiar climate. I’ve heard great things about organization. The one thing that’s iffy is the weather. Since it’s early March in the Bay Area, it can be cold and rainy or hot and sunny.

Why a marathon? Well, as I alluded to above, it’s a bigger challenge than a half. I thought about doing a longer trail race, but as much as I love trails, it just requires *so much more* time for weekend long runs. Road marathons are logistically easier to train for. Anyway, I have this love/hate relationship with marathons. I feel like I’m still trying to figure out the distance. Every time I have a bad experience (which is 3.5 out of 6 times now), I swear it off… but eventually, I always come back to it. NVM, if I decide to do it, will be road marathon #7. Will I get closer to solving the mysterious ways of the marathon? Or will I be foiled again?

If I go for it, one thing I want to try this time around is coaching. I wonder if handing the reins over to someone else might help me reach my potential. I’m probably going to sign up for runcoach, since Angela, SP, and Cathryn have all raved about it. Plus, it’s pretty affordable.

Before I commit to NVM, I want to make sure I really want it. Marathon training is no joke. It can take over your life, and since I’ve been feeling stretched so thin, I want to be 100% in before I register. I’m giving myself the next few weeks to re-introduce structure into my running, aiming for 4 runs/week, working my way up to 25 miles a week. Last night, I signed up for the Race to the End of the Summer 10K, mostly as a social race with Angela, Erin, and bt. But the funny thing is that just in thinking about running a 10K, I started getting excited about doing intervals again. So maybe I am ready to start training after all??

It all starts with tomorrow – I’m aiming for a simple 4 x 400 m interval workout at the track. Let’s tackle this one run at a time.

Posted in Goals, random

Pacing Recap: Summer Breeze Half Marathon

Last year, I ran the Summer Breeze Half Marathon as a PR attempt – which, I’m happy to say, was successful. The course is super close to where I live and I often run there. So, when my pacing group was looking for volunteers, I was eager to sign up. Unfortunately, my usual 2:20 spot got taken right away, so I settled for the 2:30 pacer. At first, I wondered if I could comfortably run 11:27/mile, which is a good 20-30 seconds slower than my easiest runs. However, I’m not in the best endurance shape — anything longer than 10 miles feels like eternity these days, so I thought 2:30 would be fine. And, as it turns out, it was a blessing in disguise. *foreshadowing*

I got there super early to park, grab my bib, meet the rest of the TriValley Running Club pace team, and use the restroom.

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The TVRC pace team

As we lined up in the starting corral, I had a fleeting thought that I should go use the bathroom again, but I decided that I would be OK. (foreshadowing #2) I met a couple of  fellow TVRC runners and before we knew it, the race had started.

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With D at the start

My plan was to start slow and run even pace. The course is out-and-back along the shoreline, alternating between paved bike trail and gravel. I knew that it was likely that there would be a stiff headwind on the way back, but luckily it was quite overcast and cool. There’s absolutely no cover along the course, so when the sun is out or if it’s super windy, running in this area is brutal.

I met various people along the way, chatting and making small talk. I was clicking off my splits pretty evenly. One thing I like about this race is that the out-and-back section allows you to cheer for other runners. I did a lot of “pace sign high-fiving” with the other pacers.

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All smiles at the halfway point

Before I knew it, we were at the turn around. However, I noticed that it seemed further down than last year – when the course came up a bit short on my GPS. I looked down and saw the distance at 6.7x miles. Uh-oh. We were about 0.2 miles over the distance?! This put me in a pacer quandry. Should I stick with the pace or should I aim for the time? I decided to hold off until the next mile markers to make a decision. Maybe my GPS was wrong. I got to the mile 7 marker as my Garmin read 7.2 miles. Crap. Same thing happened at the mile 8 marker – I was still 0.2 miles ahead and more than 2 minutes behind target pace.

With 5 miles left to go, I made the executive decision to go for the 2:30 finish time, regardless of pace. It was also at this point that I realized I needed to make an emergency pit stop. So, I ran ahead to the next set of porta potties and tried to go as fast as possible. This was another first in my pacing history – never have I been so far behind the target time *and* had to make a pit stop. By this time, I was near the mile 9 marker. I had 4 miles to make up the time, so I started running 45-60 seconds faster than 11:27/mile pace.

I felt bad that I was losing my 2:30 runners, but at the same time, I ran into others who decided to stick with me. I tried to explain to those who I was passing that I wasn’t running 11:27 pace, but just going for 2:30 because the course was long. Only one person seemed pissed off at me, everyone else was like, “OK!” I played leap frog with one runner who was doing run walk intervals. She told me if she finished ahead of me, this would be a PR for her. Another runner I ran with told me she was disappointed at her lack of fitness; she had recently started a new job with a long commute, which meant she couldn’t train like she used to. Normally a 2:10 runner, she was discouraged to be running “this slow.” I told her she was doing great and encouraged her to finish strong.

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With the woman I ran with for the last few miles of the race

With less than a mile left, I had made up the 2:00 and was back on goal finish time. I slowed down and encourage the woman I was running with to go ahead.

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Feeling more relaxed with one mile to go

Eventually, I caught up to a college-aged guy whom I noticed was struggling and taking walk breaks. I told him we had half a mile left and to run with me. He gamely agreed. It turned out that he had been peer pressured into signing up for this race, and the longest he had ever run was 5K during a sprint triathlon! I congratulated him for making it this far and told him how impressed I was. He eventually took off ahead of me with a tenth of a mile to go.

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Time to finish this thing…

I crossed the finish line right on time. My official race time was 2:29:58, but my Garmin read 2:30:00 for 13.3 miles. It was not my best outing as a pacer, but I think I made the best of tough situation and still managed to encourage other runners at the end. Better yet, the woman who was run-walking PR’d by over a minute — and now we’re friends on Strava. So overall, I’d count it as a success. Many thanks to Brazen and TVRC for the opportunity to pace!

(For race logistics, see my post from last year.)

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The race shirt wasn’t my fave, but the medal was cool. The blue part behind the egret is actually glass.

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Posted in Pace Group, Uncategorized

Gear Review: Jaybird X3 In-Ear Wireless Headphones

Full disclosure: I was sent a complimentary set of headphones in exchange for an honest review on my blog.

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The Jaybird X3 headphones in black. I got a pair in silver/gray.

I almost always listen to podcasts when I run, so headphones are key. I’ve tried various styles in the past, but surprisingly, I’ve found iPhone earbuds to be perfectly adequate. I actually like that they’re not completely snug so I can still hear the traffic/noise around me. However, when I’m running on a treadmill, the wire always gets in the way. I have – on many occasions – accidentally knocked my iPhone to the ground because I got my arm tripped up in the headphone wires while getting my water bottle or wiping my face with a towel.

So, a couple of years ago, when I was doing a lot more treadmilling (while rehabbing), I decided to invest in wireless headphones. I looked around and decided to the get the Jaybird Freedom – they had decent reviews and I think I had a discount code at the time too. (It was the older model, which looked like these.) While they were fine, I didn’t *love* them. I’ll get into a comparison later in the review, but essentially, they were a bit annoying to use, so I used them only for treadmill runs.

Fast forward to last month, when I received a new pair of Jaybird X3s. According to the manufacturer, the X3s have the following features:

  • small and versatile
  • universal secure fit
  • sweat-proof
  • long battery life (up to 8 hours per charge)
  • personalized sounds (via app)
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Wear these headphones and you’ll look like this 😉

First impressions
The X3s come nicely packaged with a LOT of options. Inside the box were the headphones, 6 pairs of ear tips (ear bud covers), 3 pairs of silicone ear fins, a shirt clip, cord clips (to shorten the cord length), a charging cable, and a small pouch. I admit that I felt a little overwhelmed by all of the options! I did have to spend a bit of time figuring out which ear tips and fins fit me best. You can even wear the headphones in two different configurations – under or over your ear. To be honest, I’m still figuring out how best to wear these headphones.

The Basics
The best thing I found so far with the X3s compared to the old Freedom headphones is that it’s much easier to sync with my phone. The old Freedom headphones were a pain – I had to turn on the headphones and then go to my iPhone Bluetooth settings to make sure they were connected. It usually took about 30 seconds of back and forth – I never knew if the headphones were on because it would just beep whenever I held down one of the buttons. Then I’d have to wait for my phone to find the headphones. With the X3s, I just have to press the power button on the headphones and it automatically syncs to my phone. It also tells me that the headphones are on and how much battery power is left. There are 3 buttons on the controller and they’re pretty easy to use – two are for volume and the center one is for on/off/pause. There’s an app to control the sound – so if you want to control the mixing, you can play around with it. It’s pretty neat, but I feel like I’m not that much of a sound snob to customize it all of the time.

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How I usually wear them

I love the little pouch that comes with the headphones. I put the headphones, charging clip, and a set of ear fins in the pouch and I’m ready to go.

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On the run
Take the following with a huge grain of salt, because as I said above, I’m still trying to figure out the best combination of tips and fins and how I’d like to wear them. I can tell you that I forgot the fins once and they definitely fell out of my ear during a run. The fins aren’t the most comfortable for me – my ear folds are on the small side, maybe? I’m still trying to figure out if I like the headphones over or under my ears. I tried over the ear once but ultimately gave up because I don’t think I had them set up correctly. I think it helps to have the diagram in front of you (from the quick start guide) and a mirror. I also prefer the silicone ear tips to the comply (sound cancelling) while running. For some reason, when I wear the comply tips, I get a lot of echo in my head every time I take a step. This had happened to me before with snug-fitting earbuds too.

On my commute
One of the biggest surprises has been that the Jaybird X3s are perfect for my commute. I take the BART train to work every day, and with my iPhone earbuds, I often have to turn the volume all the way up. Sometimes I have to give up on listening to particular podcasts because I still can’t hear very clearly. Not only is this annoying, but I’m also concerned about hearing loss (oh, the pleasures of getting older!). The noise-cancelling comply tips that come with the X3s are just what I was looking for. I find that I can regularly have the volume level on the lower end and have it be much clearer sounding. It’s awesome! Even the giant “noise cancelling” headphones I got for Christmas didn’t compare the sound quality from the X3s.

In conclusion
Pros: great sound quality, easy to sync, small/lightweight, unobtrusive (especially compared to the old Freedom headphones), and comes with a lot of accessories for customized fit. Appears to hold charge for long periods of time — I’ve only had to recharge the headphones a few times and they charge very quickly. I like that they’re sweat-proof, but I didn’t get to test that out. It would be nice to not worry about them in the rain!

Cons: a bit too many options and things to figure out (best fit, best ear tips to use, etc.). The charging clip and cord clips were not intuitive, but once I figured it out, it was fine. If I want to use these for both running and my commute, I would probably switch ear tips depending on which activity I’m doing, so that’s a bit annoying. But generally, all minor complaints.

I’m really glad to add the Jaybird X3s to my list of gadgets. Let me know if you have any questions!

 

 

 

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Posted in Gear

How to plan a non-wedding party

Full disclosure: this is a non-running post. If you don’t care about party planning, feel free to skip this. I just wanted to document my process in the hopes of helping anyone else out there in the same boat and looking for advice.

OK, so where do we start? Last year, the Gypsy Runner and I eloped. We headed down to the County Clerk’s Office in Oakland, called in a friend last-minute as a witness, and got married. We told no one of the official date. Being that neither of us are religious, this was perfect for us. Also, I’ve attended (and been in) enough weddings to know that I wasn’t eager to do the whole traditional ceremony plus reception thing. Not to mention that, while the GR loves going to other people’s weddings, the idea of being the center of attention himself was probably the worst thing he could imagine.

However, I have always wanted to have a party/celebration where all of my favorite people get together, eat, drink, and are merry. Oh, and have a fun dance party, too. My parents, as a wedding gift, generously gave us money to host a celebration. We decided to have it a year after we got married and call it an anniversary party – one, to get away from the idea of a wedding; and two, to have it in the summer time, which was more convenient for our out-of-town guests to join us.

Once we decided on a general time frame, it was time to start planning. While there are tons of resources out there for wedding planning, there are less/almost zero for what I had in mind: a non-wedding party. Yes, there are websites like Offbeat Bride, which offer more non-traditional suggestions, but they are still very much geared towards wedding-weddings. So, I’ve written this post for anyone out there looking for tips or even just to read about someone else’s experience planning a non-wedding party.

Before you start planning…
The biggest thing in event planning is the budget, which dictates how many guests you can invite, how much you can spend on the venue, food, drink, decorations, etc. Fortunately for us, my parents’ gift paid for most of the party. I foolishly thought that a non-wedding would cost a lot less than a wedding. I mean, it was substantially cheaper, but it was still the most I’ve ever spent (or will ever spend) on a party.

The next thing is to write out a guest list. I listed names on a spreadsheet, and I also tried to guess who would attend. We invited a lot of out of town guests who either came solo or couldn’t make it. We also had our party during peak vacation time, so several people bowed out for that reason. Having a solid headcount was super helpful in deciding on a venue and on the food and alcohol budget.

Finally, prioritize what you want out of the party. We considered a Chinese banquet style sit down dinner, but ultimately decided that an evening cocktail party would be more casual and fun. Our top priorities were good food and drinks, a logistically easy venue, and for me – dancing. Just as important, we decided what was not important to us — things like favors, flowers, a professional photo booth, etc.

The Venue
This was pretty challenging, since I was looking for a non-wedding event space and there are very few resources out there. Somewhere along the way (probably Googling, “non-traditional wedding venues”), I came upon Peerspace, which is like airbnb for event space rentals. (For what it’s worth, Yelp also led me to a couple of venue options.) Even though I didn’t really know what I was looking for, I was ultimately drawn to industrial spaces with a modern appeal. The GR and I also talked about hiring a food truck, so being able to park the truck at the venue was essential.

Other keys (some of which I had in mind at the start, others which became important during the planning process):

  • central location
  • parking or public transit nearby
  • enough space for guests and tables/chairs
  • clean/updated restrooms
  • bonus: audio/sound system (no need to hire a DJ)

As for cost, I will say that many of the more popular spaces (i.e., easy to find on the internet) that jumped out at me were very pricey, especially for Saturday evening rentals. When looking at the rental rates, you have to also consider things like:

  • does the fee include set up and/or clean up time?
  • in what state do you have to leave the venue (in terms of cleanliness)?
  • are you limited to specific vendors?
  • are you limited in terms of alcohol? (we had to buy wine from our venue, since they’re a wine importer)
  • are there additional costs? for example, some places require an on-site manager or security during the event, an additional clean-up fee, and/or additional fees for bringing in outside food or drink
  • does the venue have tables, chairs, and/or glassware that you can have access to?

Ultimately, the place we chose was slightly pricier per hour, but they also gave us about 3.5 hours of free set-up time (2 hours on the day before the event). They also received our party rentals for us on the day before. Another reason I went with this particular venue was that I hardly had to decorate. There was lovely bar area already set up, and the interior had nice paintings, lamps, and plants. I just had to add a few personal touches and it was all set.

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The bar area. The only things we added were the banner, bar menu, and drinks.

Food
Like I mentioned above, we had considered a Chinese banquet (such a great value, IMO), but we preferred the idea of being able to walk around and mingle, as opposed to a sit down dinner. We gravitated toward food trucks because they’re slightly cheaper than catering and everything is made to order. They come with their own utensils and napkins – one less thing to think about. And yeah, they can be unique – though also becoming passé/less trendy. We tried 4 different trucks before deciding on KoJa Kitchen, which worked out great for us. Everyone loved the food and the servings were satisfying. I heard that they were fast too – people waited about a minute for their food after ordering.

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Our guests at the truck

If you’re thinking about going the food truck route:

  • popular food trucks (like Chairman Bao) were already booked 6 months in advance, so if you have a place in mind, jump on it immediately
  • contact the food trucks in advance and they might offer a free tasting. We got to try food from 2 trucks for free this way.
  • food trucks are more affordable than most catering options, but they aren’t cheap. Expect to pay ~$20-30/person.
  • think about where the truck will park and if you’ll need a system to make sure only your guests get served (i.e., tickets, tokens, passwords, etc.)

Other food: we didn’t know if everyone was going to like the food truck, and we were also worried about wait time, so we had plenty of appetizers from Ann’s Catering just in case. We ended up ordering way too much food, but I guess better too much than not enough? We also ordered too many cupcakes from our favorite shop. A lot of people told me they were too stuffed from the food truck to enjoy them, unfortunately.

Drinks
We had planned on an open bar where people could just help themselves, but when our venue’s event planner suggested a bar service (Polly Martini), I decided to look into it. While I couldn’t afford what was suggested (2 bartenders and a busser), we ultimately decided on 1 bartender plus consultation services. This included pre-party planning (to decide on cocktails), a shopping list, and bar setup and service for 5 hours. It was a splurge, but I decided at some point during planning that anything or anyone who could make decisions for me was worth a bit of extra cost. Also, the idea that someone would be manning the bar helped to decrease my stress level. I wouldn’t need to worry about chilling and restocking the beer or opening the wine. Plus, the signature cocktails ended up being a big hit! I also hired a busser – actually, she’s an undergrad who works at UC Berkeley, to help me with the event. That was super helpful too.

Photography
I initially wanted to hire a friend of a friend to take pictures, but the GR didn’t want to do that for various reasons. Fortunately, we have a very talented friend, CC, who happens to do portrait photography on the side and agreed to take pictures at the party.  I just got the pictures back and they’re great! Some nice posed shots and a lot of funny candids too.

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Photo credit: Casey Chattler Photography

Decorations
This was the one thing that caused me a lot of anxiety. I had no idea what to do for centerpieces on the two tables I was renting, or any of the other decorations. Luckily, the venue didn’t need much, and with the advice from some helpful friends and a little perusing on Pinterest, I came up with a few simple ideas. For flowers, I ended up going to Whole Foods the day of the wedding and getting a couple of pretty bouquets. My friend CC made us a cute banner, and I hole punched table confetti (it was pretty ridiculous how much they charge for round pieces of paper).

The one thing that ended up being more work than I anticipated were the printed photos. I wanted to hang up pictures of me and the GR, our families, and friends who would be at the party. But this required sorting through my whole photo collection (16,000+ pictures!) and deciding which ones would make the cut. My one consolation was knowing that I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, and this party forced me to sit down and get it done.

Dancing & Entertainment
We purposely left the structure quite loose, though I definitely wanted to make a speech about halfway through the party to thank everyone for coming.

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Making a quick speech

After my speech, our friend JS ended up giving a surprise roast/speech, which was hilarious and well-received. Our other friend ME had made some games (cornhole and giant Connect 4) for another wedding, which he set up for us. I also set up a little DIY photobooth with Instax cameras, which was fun. People were supposed to take a photo for our guestbook and one for themselves – the closest thing we had to party favors.  20170722_203218Instead of hiring a DJ, I set up a  playlist on Spotify. Our friend IV is a Spotify expert and he introduced me to the crossfade playback option to get rid of those pesky silences between songs. He also helped me sort songs by beats per minute so that they would flow better.

Hair & Makeup
This wasn’t directly related to party planning, but it was definitely a thing I was worried about. A lot of hair and makeup people will charge you extra if you want to do a trial before a special event. I didn’t feel like doing that, so I tried to do some DIY shortcuts. For hair, I learned how to curl it myself, which was fine. But in the end, I took a risk on a stylist from a local salon on the day of the party, who curled my hair for only $35 and in about half an hour. So worth it! For makeup – my original plan was to go to Sephora and get a makeover before a friend’s wedding (they’ll give you a “free” makeover as long as you spend $50 on products). If I liked the makeover, I’d try to book the same person for the party. Unfortunately, the makeover turned out too heavy for my taste. So I spent the next few weeks learning how to do my own makeup more naturally – but also with a bit of dramatic pop. I have to say that I’ve learned A LOT about applying false eyelashes, using concealer to look less tired, and how to shape my eyebrows – thanks to some friends and also YouTube tutorials. 😉

Reflections
All in all, I think it was a fun and successful party. The biggest downside was that I didn’t get to talk to everyone for as long as I wanted (or some, hardly at all), but that’s bound to happen.

If you have any questions at all about planning, please let me know in the comments and I’ll try my best to help!

 

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Checking in

Oh, hey there. Long time, no blog. I’m still alive and running, but I’ve had zero bandwidth to actually engage in the blogosphere – whether that meant writing or reading (and commenting). So I’m sorry to my blogger friends for being MIA – I still care about your lives, it’s just that any downtime I have these days, I’m spending zoning out, reading books, or watching Netflix with the Gypsy Runner. 

I feel like a broken record, but this year has been challenging on many levels. I’ve only recently realized that I probably have some form of accumulated decision fatigue. (Talk about #firstworldproblems!) With all of the events that I’ve had to organize in my personal and professional life, my brain is plain worn out. Thankfully, I have trusted friends and colleagues to whom I can turn to answer basic questions. And many times, all I need to do is to take one step back and get some perspective. Will that one choice or decision *really* matter at the end of day? 

Y’all know this already, but choice is a double-edged sword. Example: recently, I was shopping for 5 oz. plastic cups on Amazon. You wouldn’t believe how many people feel so strongly about plastic cups that cost pennies per cup that they’d devote a whole paragraph or two to a review. Because I couldn’t see these cups in person, I felt like I had to depend on reviews, but also recognize that reviews can only tell me so much. In the end, I decided I was spending too much time thinking about cups and chose ones that were economical and had decent (but not the best) reviews. And you know what? They showed up last week and they’re FINE. Because they’re just plastic cups. It’s great to have options, but sometimes, it’s better when there are only one or two choices.

So, to understand my last few months, you need to take that one small example and multiply it by about 50. Because that’s (at minimum) the number of decisions I’ve had to make about two major events. One, at work, where in addition to my normal contributions, I had to plan 20 meals for 30-50 people over the course of a week, and set up a impromptu dining area for each meal. The second, a big party that the GR and I are throwing in less than 2 weeks – it’s essentially a belated wedding celebration without the ceremony (or most of the wedding-y things). I thought it would be easier to throw a non-wedding, but it turns out that any event that involves out of town guests, venue rental, food catering, booze, and decorations actually require quite a bit of planning. And for someone who has no idea how to design a centerpiece, my head was spinning for sure. I may have a Ph.D. in Biology, but I’m clueless when it comes to Pinterest DIY. 

Anyway, long story short: this is why I haven’t been blogging much lately. Since I last wrote, the GR and I went to Mexico (maybe I’ll write a separate post about that), I attended a weeklong Python (coding) bootcamp/crash course, and we went away to Klamath, CA for the 4th of July weekend with some friends. I’ve been running about 3 times a week, probably averaging about 12-15 miles/week. This past weekend, I ran 9 miles at Lake Chabot with DD. Man, was I out of shape! True, I’m still getting over a headcold, but still. It was sad. Fortunately, DD wasn’t in a rush and we had a nice time catching up. 

Mexico did not suck

For the first time in ages, I don’t have a race on my calendar, and that’s fine with me. It’s what feels right to me right now. I’m putting off any race registrations until after the party, when I’ll hopefully have more time and energy to train for something that I feel passionate about. The only thing that’s on my radar is that I might pace the Summer Breeze Half Marathon on August 5th.

Hope you’re all having a great summer so far! 

Posted in Uncategorized

Race Recap: Lake Chabot Trail Challenge 2017

If 2016 was a year of super consistent running, then 2017 has so far been the polar opposite. As I’ve complained all year, I’ve yet to find my groove, whether that’s been due to burnout, lack of motivation, and/or life/work events. After a grueling race at the Cinderella Half, I had a week off before I dove into a full week of 12-14 hour work days (not including commute). This left me very little time at home, let alone run. So, for the first time in a long while, I ran zero miles for a week.

The day after the crazy week at work ended (and one week before the Lake Chabot Trail Challenge, or LCTC), I slept in and went on a trail run, thinking my legs would be all rejuvenated. Hm, maybe my legs were fine, but I was definitely still very, very tired. I cut my run short, though I did make myself ascend one of the steep hills just to make the run feel worthwhile.

I continued to have short, crappy, sluggish runs the week before LCTC. So, when race day rolled around, I didn’t have high expectations. Because of some construction going on at Lake Chabot, the course was different than in years past. This was in some ways a relief, as I wouldn’t have a point of comparison to past years that I’ve run this race (2012, 2015). Also, coming off a tough race at Cinderella, I really just wanted to finish feeling strong (i.e., not like death). My plan was to start easy, and try to run as consistently as possible during the race. I didn’t have a specific time goal, but I thought it would be nice to finish in less than 3 hours. Since I wasn’t racing with friends, I decided to bring music with me to keep my spirits up. I don’t normally race with music, especially on trails, but I made an exception this time.

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Strava GPS trace (full activity details here)

Pre-race activities all went smoothly. It’s such a small race that logistics are really easy. At 10 minutes to race start (5K runners started 30 minutes after the half marathon), there were announcements and directions. Then the kids of the Lake Chabot Track Club, which this race benefits, came out and did a little sprint warm-up in front of us. Right around 8:00 a.m., the race director did a count down and then we were off!

As planned, I stayed in the back of the pack for the initial miles. The first (and last) 1.5 miles of the course are paved, and people have a tendency to go off too fast. I took it as a warm-up and didn’t think twice as people passed me. I had to make a quick pit-stop as I forgot to go for a pre-race pee (TMI). Fortunately, there are pit toilets all along the first part of the trail. I was in and out in less than a minute.

The rest of the race went according to plan – except for one hiccup (*foreshadowing*). On the hilly portions, I thought about a trail running podcast where one of the hosts said that runners have a tendency to run up hills too fast/hard and down hills too slow. So I made sure I wasn’t charging up hills and ran more aggressively down them. I ended up passing ~10-15 people this way, and only one runner passed me back up.

The other thing I made sure to do was take in a lot of sugar. I knew I wasn’t well-trained, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to make sure my glycogen stores were topped off at all times. I ended up eating 2 gels and 4 clif bloks, and drinking 3 cups of Gatorade. I guess that’s not a ton, but it seemed like a lot at the time!

OK, so the one bummer of the race happened in the last part of trail – less than a half mile before the pavement. I was cruising downhill, excited to be almost done, when I tripped on a rock (or myself, who knows) and flew forward. I might have been able to ease my fall a bit had my left calf muscle not seize up at the same moment. I scraped up my left hand and right knee, but I appeared OK otherwise. After a few gentle steps of walking, I started jogging again.

Finally, I got to the paved portion and I felt I had enough left to finish strong. I passed one more runner, then crossed the finish line in 2:35:46 – much faster than I expected! (Note: I expected to finish around 3 hours because the race website had listed the elevation gain/loss at 2200′, but my GPS and others have it closer to 1700-1800′ gain/loss. I’m not sure why there’s such a huge difference, but I’m not complaining!) I went to the medical tent and got my knee and hand cleaned up – which I think was instrumental in how fast they’ve been healing.

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My gnarly knee

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Elevation profile in gray, pace in blue, GAP pace (adjusted for elevation) in purple.

Post-race thoughts:
I was really happy with how I executed this race, given my general level of fitness (or lack thereof). It was mostly a mentally-driven performance in many ways. Of course, I wish that I hadn’t fallen, but I supposed that’s par for the course given how clumsy I am. I didn’t do as well as I thought in the standings, but that all depends on who else shows up on race day. The LCTC was the second race in the East Bay Triple Crown, and it usually draws some good local runners. The other thing that struck me was how much easier it was to run on fire roads and non-technical terrain (Captain Obvious here). Compared to Cinderella, LCTC had significantly less rooty and rocky trails with tricky footing, making it a much faster course. Anyway, all in all, LCTC was a pretty good race for me!

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Victory!

Official results:
2:35:46 (11:53/mile)
6/10 AG, 38/57 F, 114/144 overall

Race logistics can be found in previous reports (2012, 2015). Or, feel free to ask questions below in the comments.

 

Posted in Race Recap, Trail running

Race Recap: Cinderella Trail Half Marathon

Back in 2012, the Cinderella 10K was my second ever trail race. It was in some ways the perfect introduction to trail racing – a brutal but scenic course, with technical terrain to constantly remind me to pick up my feet. In fact, I fell halfway through the race, and ended up spraining my thumb (I was holding a handheld water bottle and fell with my hand still clasping the bottle, but my thumb decided to go the other way.)

Fast forward 5 years and many more trail runs and races, I decided to sign up for the Cinderella Half Marathon. My main motivation was to run with DD, who had signed up for the 30K as a training run for next month’s Big Basin trail marathon. My other motivation was to force myself to keep doing some long runs, and hope that my growling laziness wouldn’t take over. I also love portions of this course – in particular, Sequoia-Bayview in Joaquin Miller Park and the French Trail in Redwood Regional. If you’re ever in Oakland, I highly recommend that you hike or run these trails; they’re fantastic.

I woke up race morning with a sore throat. Correction: I tossed and turned all night with a sore throat. I debated for about 2 seconds whether I should bail, and decided to table the decision until I got to the race. I could always downgrade to the 5 mile race (they’ve changed the course since 2012, switching the 10K to 5 mile, which makes all of the distances – half marathon, 30K, marathon, and 50K – easier to handle logistically). It was really cold that morning – probably in the mid-40’s? I decided to bring my hydration pack so that I could start out with a long sleeve and stuff it in the pack if I got hot (which I did).

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Start line selfie! (Photo credit: AS)

DD’s friend JO was also running the 30K, and our friend AS ended up getting a free bib from an internet friend for the half marathon. The 4 of us started together, but within the first quarter mile, JO shot off like the speedster that she is. We didn’t see her for the rest of the race. AS, DD, and I had a nice time chatting, running along at a relaxed pace and hiking the steep parts. Because of the technical terrain (mostly loose rocks and big rutted holes), we had to hike many of the downhill sections as well.

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Elevation gain: 2,370′ over 13.22 miles

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Gorgeous redwoods

It was a tough course and without looking at pace, I would say that I ran consistently throughout the race and felt fairly good. Approaching the 3 hour mark though, I was ready to be done. DD ran ahead, and soon AS was also a few runners ahead of me. I think we were all getting impatient. There was a tricky section of single track where I moved over for a passing runner and fell into a ditch and rolled my right ankle. Argh. Luckily, I was able to run through it. A few minutes later, I came to a complete stop as another runner had taken a bad fall and was blocking the path, with about 6 other runners stopped making sure she was OK.

Fortunately, there were no hiccups after that. I knew from the 2012 race that the finish feels like it comes out of nowhere, so I kept pressing on even though I was tired. I saw that AS was slowing down too, so I optimistically yelled out, “I think we’re almost there!” And sure enough, we turned a corner, went over the tiniest of hills, and ran into the glade where the finish corral awaited us.

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Finish line “sprint” (PC: Coastal Trail Runs)

I finished in just under 3:18, my slowest half marathon to-date. But it was a technical uphill and downhill course, and I knew I wasn’t in the best shape. I was happy to finish strong despite the impending head cold. I celebrated my race with an ice cold Coke from the cooler.

It’s fun to think about how many trail miles I’ve run in the past 5 years. I’ve certainly learned a lot and experienced some beautiful vistas. I look forward to exploring many more trails in the future!

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Cheers to another finish!

Official results:
time: 3:17:57 (14:53/mile)
5/9 AG; 98/133 overall

**

Race details:
Organizer: Coastal Trail Runs
Distances: 5 mile (60 runners), half marathon (133), 30K (28), marathon (25), 50K (16)
Cost: I think I paid $40 or 45? As usual, registering early is cost effective. Skip the shirt to save another $5.
Parking: free parking along Joaquin Miller Road, though DD says her car has been broken into many times there (I have yet to experience that). There was also parking inside the park. I don’t know if there was a fee.
Bathrooms: 2 porta potties set up at the road, and 2 more set up near the flushing toilets.
Aid stations: They’re pretty far apart, so I would definitely bring my own water and back-up fuel. For the half, they were at mile 2.8, 8.2, and 11.3.
Terrain: Everything from relatively level, easily runnable trail, to slippery, rocky single track. I did get a rock in my shoe at some point, so maybe gaiters would have been good.
Tips: This is a challenging course — the ascents are steep and lung busting, and the descents are treacherous. I was glad to be running “just” the half marathon. I wouldn’t want to run two loops of this course like the full marathon and 50K runners did! Register to run pretty and tough trails, not for a fast time.

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