Books 2016: Q3 & Q4

One of things I like about Goodreads is that it helps me track the books that I’ve read or listened to. Every year, they have a book challenge. For the past two years, I’ve pledged to read 30 books. In 2015, I didn’t quite make my goal and ended the year with 23 books. In my defense, I did have a weekly New Yorker magazine to read. I’m happy to report that for 2016, I easily met my goal (and then some) by finishing 36 books (33 read, 3 audio). For 2017, I’m increasing my goal to 35 books. (Pretty wimpy considering the average Goodreads challenger pledges 46 books for the year. But what can I say, I try to set attainable goals.)

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Instead of doing the detailed book updates I did for Quarters 1 and 2, here’s a quick run-down of the books I read in the latter half of 2016 (in chronological order of when I read them). Recommended books are in bold.

  • Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner (3 stars)
    I got this book at a yard sale while I was in Maryland. It was a perfect vacation/airplane book. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it (it’s about women who are part of a mothers’ group), but by the end, I found the characters really well developed and some of the conversations relatable and realistic.
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (4 stars)
    I got this book at the same yard sale as Little Earthquakes. I thought the story was entertaining and full of imagination and whimsy. This was my first Neil Gaiman book, but I have a feeling it won’t be my last.
  • The Girls by Emma Cline (2 stars)
    So much hype associated with this book! It was an OK plot but the prose was too melodramatic for my taste.
  • The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood (3 stars)
    Starts off with an interesting enough premise, but I didn’t like the characters and was never fully invested in the “horror” of Positron/Consilience. Not Atwood’s best but a quick read.
  • Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones #3) by Helen Fielding (2 stars)
    I was looking for something to read and this was available on loan from the library. Mad has the same formula as the original Bridget Jones, but falls a bit flat. Maybe it’s because the blog/diary format no longer feels fresh, or perhaps because I can’t relate to a 50-something single mom who can’t seem to get herself together despite all of the resources she has access to.
  • Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron (3.5 stars)
    I admit that I put this book on my list mostly because it had the word “running” in the title and it was well-reviewed, which is super rare (in my experience). When Goodreads told me that the eBook was on sale for $1.99, I jumped on it.

    It was a good thing that I didn’t really know what this book was about (a Tutsi runner’s coming of age story during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994), because I’m not sure I would’ve been so eager to read it. I thought both the plot and prose were OK – not bad, but not great either. I spent the last quarter of the book trying not to cry, so keep the tissues handy, and avoid reading on public transportation like I did. The best thing about this book was learning about the history of Rwanda and the basis for the genocide without it feeling like a history lecture. The author seems to have done a great amount of research and was sensitive to presenting the story from a Rwandan perspective; at no time did I feel like, “Oh, a white American woman wrote this.”

    I would give it 4 stars, but it’s hard for me to say that “I really like” stories about genocide. But this is definitely a book that will stay with me for a long time, and I highly recommend it.

  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (4 stars)
    A lot of suppressed giggles on BART with this one. I enjoyed it more than Mindy Kaling’s first book.
  • Purity by Jonathan Franzen (2 stars)
    I managed to finish this book even though I didn’t enjoy 90% of it. I hated all of the characters and why were all of the mothers so unstable/smothering/horrible? The writing was fine but lacked emotion or grace. The one redeeming thing was that I liked the ending.
  • You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein (5 stars)
    In the genre of comedian memoirs/essays, this one was a gem. Not as many “LOL” moments, but I found myself nodding, grimacing, and chuckling in sympathy to many of Jessi Klein’s essays. The topics range from the somewhat superficial and trivial (e.g., porn, lingerie, why women are obsessed with Anthropologie) to deeper issues (e.g., ignoring red flags in destructive relationships, following a passion even if it seems scary). What’s more, there were so many parallels between me and the author (and so many of my women friends), I instantly related to her stories. She doesn’t hold back and I admire her raw honesty.
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman (2.5 stars)
    What I liked about the book: a new-to-me setting (SW Australia) and an engaging moral dilemma/conflict. What I didn’t enjoy: it was super melodramatic and drawn out, and featured ultimately unsympathetic main characters. It was pretty obvious to me how to solve the moral dilemma, but the main characters were very stubborn and emo for about a third of the book. I found this to be very frustrating. I can see why they made this book into a movie, which I think would be more enjoyable in a 2 hour format as opposed to an overly long novel.
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, translation by Richard Peavar and Larissa Volokhonsky (4 stars)
    I read this book for book club, but it had been on my radar for a while, based on the recommendation from friends. Things I loved: the talking cat, the absurd/magical realism and how well it’s pulled off, and generally all of the parts with Margarita, the Master, and Woland & crew. What I didn’t love: the Pontius Pilate sub-plot/parallel story and reading a lot of footnotes. I think I would enjoy this more upon a second reading; I’m sure I would catch things that I missed the first time.
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (3.5 stars)
    This was on our family’s shared Kindle account – I was looking for a light read after The Master and Margarita, and this was the perfect palate cleanser. This book is like junk food that tastes good *and* is moderately good for you. While I was reading it, I felt like it was such a guilty pleasure, but I also found it well-written and well-paced. There could’ve been a whole lot of eye-rolling, yet this book stays slightly above the fray. I found the conflict and characters compelling as well. I’m definitely interested in reading more from this author in the future.
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari – audiobook (3 stars)
    I love Aziz Ansari, so I had very high expectations. Unfortunately, Modern Romance was kinda dry and dull – it’s basically a synopsis of research that Ansari did (with the help of academics) on the world of online dating. I’m glad I listened to the audiobook version, because Ansari occasionally does one of his goofy voices or goes off on a tangent and those are priceless. It probably didn’t help that I listened to a good chunk of this book during one of my worst training runs for CIM (where I bonked hard).
  • 1984 by George Orwell (4 stars)
    This was our book club pick for November. I can see why it’s been so influential. Reading it as Trump was elected President was surreal and brought the authoritarian aspects of the book to a terrifying possible reality. Even though the overall feeling of the book is depressing, I still walked away hopeful that the government would never be able to quench human nature and its desire to be free.
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (3 stars)
    Full disclosure: I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway.
    Several friends raved about My Brilliant Friend, so I went in with very high expectations. I thought it was very readable, but I found it kind of boring at parts. Perhaps it reads better in Italian as well. Overall, what I liked most about MBF was the coming-of-age story about two young women in 1950s Naples – definitely a time and place I’m not familiar with, and I enjoyed learning about the cultural norms of the period.

 

 

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2016: Year in Running

More than a week late, but better late than never, amiright? I’ve enjoyed writing these posts over the last 4 years as a way to reflect on the past year’s running and to help me focus on goals for the coming year. (Here are the recaps from 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.)

Best race experience:
So many diverse ones to choose from! I loved pacing with TVRC this year, as well as setting new PRs, but I think my favorite overall race experience was the Healdsburg Half. It was my 40th birthday race, I ran my 3rd sub-2 half marathon, I finished really strong (especially as part of a 16 mile FFLR), I ate great food before and after the race, and last but not least, I had loads of fun with good friends. img_5964

Best run:
I’m going to cheat and say that the Woodside Ramble 10K was the best run, even though it was technically a race as well. Cat and I didn’t really approach it as a race, so I think it counts! I really enjoyed running through the redwoods and chatting. Plus the 10K distance was perfect – long enough to satisfy my need to run on dirt, but not so long as to exhaust me.

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Best new piece of gear:
Garmin Forerunner 235. It finds GPS much faster than my previous Garmin, plus it’s got a heart rate monitor. I like that it syncs wirelessly with my phone so I don’t have to manually enter data, nor do I have to hook it up to my laptop to sync. The bells and whistles (phone notifications) are fun and useful too.

Best piece of running advice received:
The things that have stuck with me the most this year have been a few quotes from podcasts I’ve listened to – words of wisdom about embracing the moment while racing, even when it “hurts” (in quotes, because it’s all relative, plus we’re choosing to do it).  Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It? was also chock-full of great advice.howbad

Most inspirational runner(s):
This is a two-way tie among two friends: Jess and Angela. Jess had a terrific year of racing, storming her way around the country as she conquered her first 50-miler at Run Rabbit Run (CO), did a “recovery” half marathon a few weeks later – her 3rd best time- at Healdsburg (CA), ran a relay in Kentucky, negative split at the Philadelphia Marathon (PA), and ended the year by coming in first female at a 50K (I think it was in Kansas??). Angela worked her ass off all year (really, over the last 4 years) to perfectly execute the marathon that we all knew she was capable of at CIM. Oh, and she BQ’d by like 8 minutes. NBD. 😉

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?
The time on the clock is just one of many ways to measure a successful race.

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Happy finishers! (Pacing at Tiburon Half)

**

And now for the numbers:

Miles: 1,303 (Garmin Connect) — just shy of 1310 miles from 2013

Races: 14, in reverse chronological order

PRs:

  • 5K: Oakland Bank of the West 5K – 24:52 (33 second PR)
  • 10K: Danville 10K – 52:24 (27 second PR)
  • Half Marathon: Summer Breeze – 1:56:58 (1 min 51 sec PR)

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    Summer Breeze Half

Age Group Awards: 1 (2nd female at Crissy Field parkrun in January)

Reflections:
Though it wasn’t my intention at the start of the year, my big goal for 2016 ended up being to PR at the 4 major distances: 5K, 10K, half, and full marathon. I was able to get 3 out of 4 – not bad! I felt like I definitely could’ve run a personal best at CIM, but it just wasn’t my day for whatever reason. I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I might be, mostly because I had just PR’d at Santa Rosa last year, and I know that so many things have to come together for things to go well at the marathon distance. I’m still interested in getting faster, but I think I’ll take a break from the “training” mentality for a while. I didn’t expect to like speedwork as much as I thought I would, so there might be more 5K and 10K races in my future! I’m also looking forward to spending more time on trails in 2017.

Happy 2017, y’all!

 

 

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Race Recap: Woodside Ramble 10K

Two weeks after running CIM, I decided to run a 10K at Huddart Park with Cathryn. Why? Well, I decided that a bit of trail running with one of my favorite runners/friends was just what I needed after almost a full year of intense training. Even though it was a race, we decided to take it easy, stopping for photos when we felt like it, and moving along at a conversational pace.

Cathryn has already written an excellent recap, so I’ve decided to do a, list of “10 thoughts I had during the Woodside Ramble 10K.”

  1. This is an amazing, gorgeous course through the redwoods. 95% of this course is what I think of as ideal single track trail running. I can see why it was sold out.
  2. That said, it’s also a tough course. Over 1000′ elevation gain over 3 miles, but mostly runnable. Cat and I switched to run/walk intervals to tackle the climb.
  3. Because of the elevation gain, and since I was still recovering from CIM, I was very glad to be doing the 10K and not the half marathon, which I ran in 2013. The 10K was the perfect amount of time to be out there, enjoying nature at its finest.
  4. Trail runners are so nice. We stopped for photos and one of our fellow runners actually stopped and offered to take a photo of the two of us.

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    Thanks to Let’s Wander Photography for the free race photos!

  5. The last couple of miles of the 10K had a perfect downhill grade – the kind that makes you feel like you’re flying effortlessly through the forest.
  6. Winter can be COLD, even in California. It was in the high 30s at the start of the race.
  7. If you run this race, plan to get there early. Both times I’ve run this race, there was a 30-minute line to enter the park.
  8. Beware of the post-race massage. I was charged $$ for what I thought was a free massage. Though, my legs did feel pretty good the days after the race – not sure if that was due to rest or the massage or both.
  9. I had *such* a great time with Cathryn – it was just what I needed! Getting to eat brunch with Margot and seeing Paulette and Kevin briefly was the cherry on top.

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    Enjoying post-race brunch at Alices

  10. I’m excited about running more trails in 2017!

 

 

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CIM 2016: Training Recap & Looking Ahead

OK, last post about CIM and then I’m moving on. I wanted to write a quick run-down of my training – basic numbers, what was good, and what was bad. Then, I’ll write a quick blurb about what’s ahead.

First, the numbers:
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Total mileage: 476.5 miles
Average weekly mileage (12 weeks): 39.7
Workouts skipped/missed: 2 skipped + 1 significantly altered (95.7% completion rate)

As I’ve mentioned before, I followed a plan from You (Only Faster) that called for running 4-5 days a week. I generally enjoyed the structure of the plans. Tuesday usually alternated between a long-ish time-based run and fartleks. Thursdays were the workout days. And then there were the long runs, which were scheduled for Sundays but I often had to switch them to Saturdays.

What I did well this training cycle:

  • Very high completion rate and did a decent job sticking to prescribed paces/workouts
  • Consistent mileage from week to week
  • Didn’t get injured/mostly healthy
  • Maintained motivation throughout, despite feeling burned out at times
  • A lot of road-specific training
  • Worked on mental toughness during long runs where I struggled

What could have been better:

  • No cross-training or strength training
  • No rolling, massage, or stretching (my calves were sooooo tight)
  • Nutrition went to crap about halfway through
  • Sleep – could have gone to bed earlier or been more flexible about moving my runs to the afternoon to get more sleep
  • Didn’t run any hills for a majority of my training all year

What to do next time (if and when):

  • Train for the course
  • Eat better
  • Sleep better
  • Quality over quantity when it comes to mileage
  • Go in more motivated/less burned out
  • Strength train and cross train during base building

While I was disappointed with my performance at CIM, I honestly don’t feel any of the regret/anger that I felt after Marine Corps in 2013. Sure, I think about what I could’ve done differently, but then I look at my training spreadsheet and think, “Man, that’s a *solid* training cycle.” (As a reference, I averaged about 35 miles/week while training for MCM in 2013, with significantly less race pace and tempo workouts.)  When I try to look for signs or indicators of a bad race day, I can only see two things: (1) that the Berkeley Half shouldn’t have felt as hard as it did, and (2) that my last long run also shouldn’t have felt as hard as it did (headwind or no). Maybe that cold I got 4 weeks out had residual effects? Who knows.

So, what’s next? Well, one thing I definitely thought about during CIM was how I should’ve done more strength work. In general, I kinda abandoned everything – cross training, strength training, rolling, stretching- for running. In a weird way, I’m glad that I didn’t do so well at CIM because it showed me that I had become a one-dimensional athlete, and that’s not who I want to be. My main goal (and why I run) is to be healthy for as long as possible. To do that, I need to be a well-rounded person, fitness-wise. That’s why I’m going to start doing non-running activities again (yoga, spinning, etc.) and head back to the trails. I’m thinking of taking on the Brazen Ultra Half Series in 2017 as my goal (it already started in November, but goes until Sept. 2017). To complete the series, you have to run at least 5 of the 14 toughest half marathons the Brazen puts on. It culminates with the toughest of them all – Rocky Ridge, boasting almost 4000′ elevation gain!

Yesterday, I started my journey back on the trails with Cathryn at Inside Trail’s Woodside Ramble 10K. We’ve both been looking for more joy in our running, so we decided to take it easy and run together (and walk whenever we felt like it). It was such a pleasure to run along the beautiful single track with a good friend, and 10K was the perfect distance to be out there. I’m looking forward to running more trail soon!

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You can tell we weren’t in “race mode” because neither of us would normally stop in the middle of a race for a photo op. Thanks to our fellow friendly runner who offered to take a photo of us!

 

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CIM 2016: Race Logistics

Here are all of the little details that might be useful to those interested in running CIM. If you’re interested in my race recap, you can find it here.

Organizers: Sacramento Running Association (race website)

Cost: The day after the marathon, they do a “re-run” special of $89 for the first 500 registrants. This year, it sold out so quickly that they added a second tier of $99 registration for the next 500 registrants. The price ramps up to $150 by mid summer.

Field size: 6147 marathon finishers in 2016 plus 740 marathon relay teams (approximately 10,000 runners total).

Sell-out factor: Varies year to year. Sometimes the race sells out by September, but other times, you can still register in late November. I don’t know if or when the race sold out this year.

Course: Point-to-point course from Folsom to Sacramento. Wide roads with few turns makes it relatively easy to run tangents. There are rolling hills for the first 22 miles, with a net descent of ~350 feet.

Race day transportation: If you stay near the finish line, there are 4 different locations to jump on the 5:00 a.m. shuttle to Folsom. The ride took us about 40 minutes. If you stay near Folsom, there are also shuttles to drop you off at the start and there’s a VIP tent for people staying in specific Folsom hotels. If you’re super lucky and have someone nice enough to drop you off in the morning, there are several drop off locations about a mile from the start where they run shuttles back and forth (I think). I’ve run CIM twice, and regardless of where you’re staying, allow plenty of time to get to the start due to traffic congestion or shuttles getting lost. It’s not worth the extra 15-30 minutes of sleep to run the risk of getting to the start late!

Hotels/accomodations: There are a list of official race hotels on the website. KH and I ended up at The Inn Off Capitol Park, which was $124/night pre-tax, not including the $10 parking fee. It was very conveniently located to the Expo, shuttle pickup, and finish line. Our room, which had a queen sized bed and a pull-out couch, was clean and quiet. (I had requested a top floor corner room for that very reason.) There was a 4:00 a.m. free breakfast that we didn’t partake in. The best part was that they allowed marathon runners a special late checkout for free. The normal check-out time was 11:00 a.m. and at first, they said they’d let us check out at noon. Later on, they told us they were extending late checkout to 2:00 p.m.! That was super helpful, especially since I finished significantly later than expected. We didn’t get back to our hotel room until almost noon. Cathryn and her family stayed at the youth hostel, which they spoke of highly.

Start line area: When we arrived at the start, a volunteer got on the bus and gave us a lay of the land: drop bag trucks straight ahead, start corral to the left, and bathrooms to the right. Since I got to the start line so late in 2012, I was amazed at how crowded it was. The notorious line of porta potties (CIM boasts that it has the best porta potty to runner ratio) was long, but so were the numbers of people waiting at each set of ~5. We dropped off our drop bags just in time to beat the rush (around 20 minutes before the race). In the start corral, there are pace group signs in the median as well as pacers holding signs. Runners can line up on either side of the road to relieve congestion.

Aid stations: The first 2-3 are spaced farther apart (every 2-3 miles), then as the race goes on, the frequency of aid stations increases. All had Nuun (ick) or water (also tasted gross and chemically). 4 of the aid stations were handing out Gu, and I definitely remember a couple had fresh fruit (bananas and orange slices). Every aid station had a medical tent.

Spectators: Just as I had remembered from 2012, the spectators at CIM are *awesome*. Yes, there are patches of people who are just looking out for their runner, but many were there to cheer on all of us. Our bibs also had our names on them, so a few times, spectators or volunteers cheered me on by name, which was really nice. I was especially touched by the community support. There was one neighborhood block where people had firepits and chairs set up at the end of their driveways, as if they were tailgating, and clapping and cheering for us. For tips on spectating at CIM, I recommend you read Cathryn’s spectating recap.

On-course entertainment: The three relay exchanges were very loud and had lots of spectators and music. There were a few bands and DJs out on the course too.

Swag: Gender-specific, attractive long sleeve shirt and medal with matching logos of the the Sacramento skyline (which I could not point out except for the Capitol). img_6224

Post-race food/drink: In the finisher’s chute, they gave us heat sheets, banana, Kind bars, and Pop chips. There was hot food also but I didn’t partake (I saw they had oatmeal), and also a beer area sponsored by Erdinger.

Bag drop: We were given clear plastic bags at the expo to use as our drop bags. The drop off situation at the start was OK – there were only 2 trucks, but they were unlabeled, so it wasn’t until you got close to dropping off your bag to the volunteers that they’d say, “[bib number] 4000 and up – other truck!”. Then you’d have to cut over to the other line and get a volunteer’s attention to grab your bag. After the race, all of the bags were organized by number on a large lawn secured behind a chain-linked fence. After waiting in one area, hoping to get the one kid’s attention, I hobbled around to where my bag was and found a few volunteers helping people there. I got my bag immediately.

Pros: This is a super well-organized marathon, clearly prioritizing the runner experience first and foremost. The course can be fast (you still need to train for hills), especially when the weather cooperates. I really like the size of the field (not too big, not too small) and as I said above, the spectators can’t be beat – though I’ve yet to run Boston and NYCM.

Cons: The point-to-point course increases chances of logistical difficulties with shuttles. The other risk you take with CIM is the weather. 2012 was the Year of the Monsoon and 2013 had below freezing temps. I also take issue with the “Fastest course in the west” claim. I think it definitely could be fast, but it does present its own challenges.

Take-home message: CIM was my first marathon and after running it again this year, it’s clear that it will always be one of my favorites. Well-organized and well-supported. I have a feeling that I’ll be back someday.

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Race Recap: 2016 California International Marathon

30-second version: Race day conditions were perfect and I felt good at the start. I took it out a bit more aggressively than in previous marathons, but I kept my effort easy. The first 10K flew by and I felt great. The second 10K took a bit more effort, but I was hanging in there. By the halfway point, it was obvious that I was starting to bonk. I tried my best to beat it, but I continued to slow down and my breathing grew more labored. I was fine with shuffling along, but then calf cramps took over around mile 22 and plagued me for the last 4 miles. I kept moving forward and tried to keep my spirits up, crossing the finish line in 4:37:17. I ran a 24-minute positive split and almost 5 minutes slower than my first CIM, but I was so happy to be done. This race experience reiterated to me how important it is to have process-based goals and that sharing the event with others can turn a personally disappointing performance into a positive experience overall.

(If you don’t care about my experience at all and are researching CIM logistics, I’ve posted the elevation profile below, as well as an entire post on logistics here.)

Now for the (much) longer version…

Before the race
Everything went super smoothly leading up to the race. KH and I drove to Sacramento, picked up our bibs, checked into our hotel (The Inn off Capitol Park, which I highly recommend), and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.

expo

I forced KH to take this cheesy photo at the expo 🙂

For dinner, we met up with Angela, Angela’s partner DH, and Cathryn and her family at Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. The food and company were great, though in retrospect, I should’ve ordered something more carb-heavy than roasted chicken. I was in bed by 9:45pm.

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At Hook & Ladder, where we enjoyed a very relaxing pre-race meal served by uber hipsters.

After a sleepless night, I woke up groggily to our 4:00 a.m. alarms. We got dressed, ate breakfast, downed some espresso (KH wisely brought her Aeropress, though I had some Starbucks Via instant coffee as backup), and headed to the shuttle. There was a huge line to get on the bus, but it moved quickly. It took us about 15 minutes to get on the bus. We arrived in Folsom around 6:00, which gave us plenty of time before the 7:00 start to use the bathroom, make any last minute decisions (I decided to eat my Honey Stinger waffle and change my socks), and drop off our drop bags, do a short warmup, etc. I was in the start corral at 6:45, standing a few rows behind the 4:08 pacer.

start

My view at the start, before it started filling up. Runners could line up on either side of the road.

The National Anthem was sung and some welcoming remarks were made by the mayor of Folsom and the race organizers. Then the race began. I crossed the start mat about 3 minutes after gun time.

The Race
It might be easiest to tell this story if I post my mile splits, along with the course elevation profile.

elevation-profile

Elevation profile + pace overlay, according to Strava

splits_1

Pace, elevation gain/loss for the first 13 miles (Garmin Connect)

splits2

Miles 14-26.3. I don’t trust the elevation gain/loss totals… there were definitely some little hills in those mile listed as zero gain!

The first 10K went by quickly and effortless (seemingly). I was so happy that it was finally race day and my legs felt great. I noticed my heart rate was elevated, but sometimes it’s wonky, so I didn’t give it a second thought. I was following all of my process-oriented goals – staying in the moment, thanking volunteers, etc. I had forgotten how many small rolling hills there were, but I was taking them as they came. I crossed the 10K mat at 59:13 (9:32/mile pace).

From mile 6.2-13.1, the fatigue started to set in. Plus there was a pebble in my shoe that was bugging me, so I ended up stopping by the side of the course at the end of the 8th mile to get it out. I recall cursing yet another hill in the 9th mile, wondering when the rollers were going to stop. That was red flag number 1. I tried not to think too much about how early it was in the race for me to be cursing hills and just accept the fact that there was nothing I could do about it except keep moving forward. And yet, every time I went up another hill, I thought, “I really should’ve done more hill work.” Followed immediately with, “Well, too late now. Suck it up.” I started to focus on getting to mile 12 where I could take another Gu and look for Cathryn, who promised to be spectating between mile 12-13.  I crossed the half marathon mat at 2:06:46 (9:41/mile).

I didn’t end up seeing Cat (with her son A and their three giant penguin helium balloons) until after the halfway point, but when I did, I was really elated to see her smiling face. I threw my sweaty buff at her, which, upon catching it, she exclaimed, “That is DISGUSTING!” Oops, sorry Cat!

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Running toward Cat with a sweaty buff in hand… (photo credit: Cat)

After that welcome distraction, it became clear to me that I was starting to bonk. I decided to take my 4th gel early – at the mile 14 marker as opposed to waiting until 16. It couldn’t hurt right? And it didn’t, but I don’t know if it helped either. All I could focus on was getting to mile 20, which in my vague recollection was when the hills would finally end.

My pace was getting slower and slower. Every time I got despondent about my pace, I would come back with, “It is what it is. Keep moving.” I decided to take gels at 3-mile intervals instead of 4. I don’t remember much between miles 14-19.

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All smiles for the camera while slowly dying on the inside (mile 17-18?)

I recall the 4:23 group catching up to me. I tried my best to stay with them, but gave up after a few minutes. I eventually caught up to NT from the Trivalley Running Club, whom I had met at the Dream Mile Half Marathon in October. As much as I felt I was suffering, NT was dealing with an actual injury and running with hamstring issues. Over the next 3 miles we pushed and encouraged each other – though I’m pretty sure he helped me a lot more than vice versa. I crossed the 20-mile mat at 3:19:52 (10:00/mile) and saw Cat again.

mile20

Plugging along with NT’s support at mile 20 (photo credit: Cat)

Despite how I was feeling, and knowing that my chances to PR were out the window, there was a small part of me that thought – maybe I could at least still pull off a course record (4:32). NT literally pushed me up and over the final bridge (and last hill) into Sacramento at mile 22 – he placed his hand on my back and pushed me up the incline. I was pretty resistant to his attempts to motivate me and helpful reminders to use my arms and clean up my running form. Eventually, the twinges in my calf became full-blown cramps, and I urged him to continue while I took walk breaks.

prof_mile22

I remember NT saying, “Smile for the camera!”. Shortly after the last hill (mile 22).

For the last 4 miles, I wrestled with debilitating calf cramps. I would shuffle along for about a block, then succumb to cramping in both legs. Some were so bad that I almost tripped and fell. I began doing walk/jog intervals and tried to limit my walk breaks to no more than 20 steps. At some point,  a lady came up to me and put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I’ve been following you this whole time and I’m not going to let you walk. Come with me.” I desperately tried to stay with her for a few steps before my cramps took over and I told her to go on.

prof_mile-24

More smiles for the camera (mile 24?)

Despite how terribly everything was going, I never fell into that negative head space that has plagued me previously (see: MCM 2013). I wasn’t whining or thinking, “Why? Why me? Why now?” Even though I was fairly quiet and probably appeared outwardly sad/down, I never thought about giving up or even just walking it in. I got a text message saying that KH had crossed the finish line in under 4 hours and I let out a quiet, “Yay!” I was really happy that she had gotten her sub-4 goal – at least one of us had a good race! I continued along with my walk/jog intervals. Miraculously, with about half a mile to go, the jog intervals got longer and longer, and I hoped to be able to get down the entirety of the final chute (50m) without walking. The cramps stayed at bay until the second finish mat – then I was officially done with marathon (or longer) #8!

finishchute_sesa

“Don’t cramp, don’t cramp, don’t cramp” (photo credit: SP)

prof_finish

I cannot get a good finishing pic for the life of me. I had just raised my arms or was in the middle of raising them in this photo. 🙂

Official time: 4:37:17 (10:35/mile)
309/507 AG; 1600/2838 F; 4104/6174 overall

Garmin time: 4:37:20 (10:32 for 26.33 miles)

After the Race
My cramping caused the volunteer at the finish line to ask if I needed help. I thanked her and said no, I’d be fine since I’m not running anymore. I got my medal, heat sheet, water, and food, and met up with KH at the finish. It took a while to get my drop bag and then I ran into NT and MA, also from TVRC, so of course we had to take a photo.

finish_kh

Post-race selfie with KH in front of the Capitol Building

tvrc

With the TVRC crew. A tough day for all of us, but we still have a lot to smile about.

KH and I eventually met up with the rest of the crew for post-race lunch at The Pilothouse on the Delta King riverboat in Old Town Sacramento. I had fond memories of the place since eating there after spectating FL in 2013 with bt and KP. I was really happy for Angela, who ran a huge PR and beat her BQ time by 9 minutes! SP also fought to the finish and got just under her goal time of 3:55. Cathryn’s husband finished strong despite leg pain and some of the gnarliest blisters I’ve ever seen. Congrats all around!

pilothouse

Not a great photo of any of us, but at least it documents the occasion.

Post-post race
Now that I’ve had a few days to digest what happened on Sunday at CIM, this is how I’m feeling:

First of all, I’m grateful – for the fitness to be able to run a marathon; that I was still upright (though cramping) at the finish; that I was able to share this experience with wonderful people; for the fantastic conditions, volunteers, and spectators; for the privilege of being able to train and race and afford for all of the race-related things; for being in a better place mentally than I was 3 years ago (at MCM) when race day didn’t go my way.

As for the race performance itself: yes, I’m disappointed that I didn’t run better on Sunday. I still believe that I was (am) capable of running a 4:10 marathon, just not on a course with any hills. 😉 If there’s anything I’m regretting, it’s forgetting the simple rules of marathon running, the first of which is: Train for the course you’re racing.  I had totally forgotten/underestimated the rollers and I paid dearly. I know that the causes of muscle cramping are controversial, but I personally believe that cramps are due to muscle fatigue – particularly due to the neuromuscular junctions that are required to transmit neurotransmitters over and over again for your muscles to fire. When your body isn’t used to that level of activity, it starts freaking out, in the form of cramping. What’s weird to me is that I’ve run a few hilly routes during training (Healdsburg, Tiburon, and Berkeley), but I guess because they were “only” half marathons, and all of my other runs were on flat routes, it wasn’t quite enough stimulation to get me past mile 22?

Another thing that’s frustrating (and confusing) to me is that bonking feeling that came so early at CIM. I don’t know if that was due to pushing the pace too early, not eating enough carbs for dinner and breakfast, or an unusually high heart rate even before the race started – for which I blamed race day adrenaline. At Santa Rosa, I went out very easy…maybe I should’ve lined up behind the 4:23 pacers instead of 4:08? But, I wanted to challenge myself though, so… no risk, no gain? Go big or go home?

Like I alluded to above, even though this was not the race I had hoped for, I also don’t feel terribly depressed about it. It is what it is, marathons are tricky, and I learned a bunch of stuff about racing and about myself along the way, some of which I’ve already mentioned, such as:

  • Train for the race course
  • When things aren’t going your way, adapt, don’t dwell
  • The marathon is a long race. Better to start too slow than to bonk at mile 14.
  • Eat more simple carbs for pre-race dinner and breakfast.
  • That I’m stronger mentally and emotionally now than I was 3 years ago. Progress!

I feel like it’s time to take a break from training, especially the longer stuff. I don’t find as much joy in it as I used to. I don’t know what my goals are yet for 2017 – and for the first time in ages, I don’t even have a race on the calendar. I’m looking forward to resting, eating, and spending quality time with friends and family.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Look for a separate post about race logistics – here! (Spoiler: CIM is a super well-organized race and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.)

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Posted in Race Recap

CIM Week 11.5 of 12: Race Preview

Let’s face it: it’s super awkward to post workouts from the last week of marathon training after the race, so I thought I’d lump the beginning of Week 12 with a little race preview, to get my pre-CIM rambling on. Ready? Let’s go!

First: the nitty gritty.

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: “Mini-fartleks” – 8 x (25 s on/1 min off). 25 seconds is in that hybrid territory between strides and fartleks. My body wasn’t sure what was going on, but it sure was happy to only run 3 miles. 3.1 miles @ 10:27/mile

Wednesday: Cruise intervals- 4 x 1000 m w/ 200 m jog. The goal pace here was 8:09-8:25/mile. My splits were: 8:27, 8:10, 8:04, 8:10/mile. I can’t believe that last week, I ran 2000 m repeats faster than all but one of these 1000 m repeats, but that wasn’t the goal today. No need to run myself into the ground 4 days before a marathon. 4 miles @ 9:13/mile

Thursday: 40 minutes + strides. I had some noticeable front/top of knee pain, but I figured it would go away as I warmed-up. Unfortunately, it didn’t. 12 hours later, with my knee still hurting, I think it was a mistake to continue with my run. Sigh. 3.7 miles @ 10:31/mile

The remainder of the week: Friday is a rest day. On Saturday, I have a 30-minute shakeout run, which I might shorten or cut depending on how my knee feels. Then, Sunday morning is the big day!

**

2016 California International Marathon: Race Preview

Before I begin, some personal history: 2012 was the year I “became” a runner and CIM 2012 was my first marathon. So, basically, I was a running newbie and had zero expectations…which was good, because the weather that year was awful. I always refer to it as the Year of the Monsoon, though my race photos belie that fact. (Especially the post-race photos when the sun came out!).

For my first stab at 26.2, I ran a fairly consistent pace, didn’t really bonk, and didn’t have any serious chafing. Except for the weather, I had a charmed race, finishing in 4:32:39. Unbeknownst to me, it would take me almost 3 years and 4 more marathons before I would have a faster finishing time.

Mile 17. Thumbs up for the VIP poncho!

Mile 17. Thumbs up for the dollar store poncho!

Fast forward to 2016. Sunday will be my 6th road marathon and my 8th race of 26.2 miles or longer. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in the last 4 years, running-wise. I’d like to think that I’ve learned a lot and have become a better runner for it. This year, I’ve focused on two main themes: getting faster and not giving up (building mental strength). The first has come with regular speedwork, something that was new to me and, to my surprise, something that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve also targeted increasing race distances as the year progressed, starting with a 5K in March, to a 10K in May, to a half marathon in August. At some point, I had to transition from speed to endurance, but it’s been fun to keep doing some of the shorter interval workouts in the midst of marathon training. I’m now hitting paces during regular workouts that I didn’t think were possible even 10 months ago. So, that’s been a big confidence builder in a lot of ways.

Building mental strength was an equally important piece of the puzzle, especially for the half marathon and the marathon. It’s interesting to me, as someone who works hard and has achieved some major accomplishments through general persistence, that I tend to give up so easily when the going gets tough physically. When I think about the races where I’ve really struggled, I’m embarrassed at how quickly I went into making excuses and self-defeated mode. One thing I can easily point to is that my internal motivation wasn’t quite strong enough to fight through the challenges in the past. This was especially true when I was focused on a time goal, and it was clear that the time goal was *not* going to be met. (More on this later!) I also realized with this current training cycle that sometimes struggle and sacrifice is a good thing. When I’m having a tough time on Sunday, I will definitely be able to draw strength (and a bit of anger) from all of the 5:30am alarms this year. I didn’t wake up early twice a week for most of this year just to wimp out at my goal race! I am super determined to override any bad attitude (and knee pain) that gets in my way.

One thing I’m really good at is talking myself out of suffering. I might get to a point in any race and decide, “Meh. This isn’t worth it. Let’s take it down a notch and roll on home.” This is why I’ve found fast finish long runs to be so useful – I can simulate some of that end-of-race fatigue and practice pushing myself in spite of it. Also, when I’ve had some *really* crappy long runs this year, I actually see it as an opportunity to try out all of the tools that might help me overcome the perceived adversity. I ask myself, “What if this was happening in a race? What would I do? How would I deal with this?”

I had a realization earlier this year that I was doing visualization all wrong. Sports psychologists recommend that athletes practice visualization techniques before their competitions for best results. I was doing this too, but only imagining the rush of happy endorphins as I ran around effortlessly, crossing the finish line much faster than I had anticipated. I never imagined the death-slog with a side of bonk, with 8 miles still to go. It wasn’t until I read Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It that, along with the positive visualization, I should also anticipate the suffering – which has a very high probability of occurring at some point in a marathon.

OK, so enough about that. Let’s get to the real business of this race preview – what’s going to happen Sunday? And what’s my plan?

First of all, some race logistics: CIM is a point-to-point race, going from Folsom to Sacramento. I’m staying in downtown Sacramento with KH and taking the 5:00 a.m. shuttle to Folsom. (EEK.) Actually, as long as we get there on-time and without drama, I don’t really mind the early hour. Last time, I stayed in Folsom and took it too easy, and almost didn’t make it to the start line in time.

The weather forecast looks great for now (fingers crossed!!). Lows in the low 40s, then warming up to a partly cloudy 60 degrees F, with light winds and 4% chance of rain.

There’s a 4:08 pacer and a 4:23 pacer. Odd. I’m planning on lining up behind the 4:08 pacer and letting the group go for the first few miles.

As I hinted earlier, I haven’t had the best luck with outcome-based goals (i.e., I’m going to run X:XX on Sunday). I feel like I’ve done my best at races with process-based goals. Once again, Angela wrote a very thoughtful, well-stated post on this very topic, and I recommend that you read it! I’d be lying if I said that I don’t have a time goal floating around in the back of my head. Don’t we all? But I’m not going to let that time goal define my success on Sunday… mostly because I only have so much control over that. Therefore, the process-based goals I’m focusing on for Sunday are things that I know are mostly in my control, and hopefully executing them properly will lead to the best outcome. These include:

  • Sleep, hydrate, and eat well the week before the race.
  • Reduce unnecessary stress.
  • Make a list and don’t leave things last minute so I’m not stressed out and running around like crazy on Saturday morning (i.e., taking care of chores, charging Garmin, and buying supplies in advance).
  • Stay calm before the race (don’t burn up energy unnecessarily).
  • Do a very relaxed 5-minute warm-up before the race.
  • Start behind the 4:08 pacer.
  • Stay relaxed for the first few miles. Don’t expend too much effort weaving around or passing people.
  • Take a Gu every 4 miles.
  • Take water at the first few aid stations, since they’re space further apart, but then stop only every other aid station when there’s one every mile.
  • Thank volunteers.
  • Thank spectators.
  • Smile every mile! (credit: Danielle)
  • Head-to-toe form check every 1-2 miles.
  • Be persistent and don’t give up!
  • Enjoy! Be thankful. Stay in the moment. Etc. 🙂

As for pacing, this is where I get into murky territory. It seems impossible to have truly process-oriented goals with such a objective measure (e.g., splits). The other complicating factor is that, having been a pacer at 3 half marathons, and doing a lot of race pace workouts, I actually have trained myself to respond pretty well to, “I need to run X pace for this many miles.” So, I’m still thinking about my pacing strategy, but for now, my “plan” is to start relaxed and try my best to negative split based on effort. When I did this at Santa Rosa, I ran too conservatively in the first half, resulting in a 11 minute negative split between the first and second halves. So my goal for Sunday is to be a little more aggressive earlier, but still save some energy for the last 10K.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on long enough. If you’ve made it this far – congrats and good job. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see y’all on the other side of 26.2.

Crossing the finish line!

Crossing the finish line at my first marathon

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Posted in CIM, random, Training
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