Pleasanton Ridge, Hamstring Issues, & a Practice Race

We came upon a flock of sheep. It was amazing!

I’ve been trying to avoid turning this blog to a training log. Even though it’s useful for me, I know it can get boring for others. But I find that when I’m deep into a training cycle, and also busy with work, it’s hard for me to be creative and write about something *other* than training. So, too bad for you – here’s what’s been happening the last 2 weeks:

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Week of April 11: My new Garmin has too many buttons and apparently, I don’t know how to use them. I accidentally skipped the warm-up by pressing the lap button during a 20 x 200 m workout. Oops! Most of my splits were slower than my target pace, but I was just happy to graduate up to 20 intervals. It was a lot!

Two days later, I managed to use my Garmin correctly to execute a 25-minute tempo run. Average pace during the tempo segment was ~8:30/mile, which I was happy with.

Saturday was an easy 6-mile run; I kept it below my aerobic threshold and felt pretty good. On Sunday, I joined Layla, Kristen, and two of Layla’s friends for a trail run at Pleasanton Ridge. I knew it would not be an easy run, especially since I’m out of trail shape and also because my one previous outing at Pleasanton Ridge was a tough one. On the plus side, it was gorgeous and green, and the company was great! We ended up covering over 12 miles and 2200+ feet of elevation gain. Woof!

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Week of April 18: After Sunday’s trail run, my legs were toast. My left hamstring, which had been whining off and on throughout 5K training, was pretty angry. I decided to keep my runs easy until my hamstring felt better. This resulted in 3 easy runs on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I had signed up for the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders 4th Sunday 10K as a practice race, so I figured that I’d save my race pace workout for Sunday.

Today (Sunday) was race day! I wasn’t as mentally prepared for this race as I usually am. It’s been almost 3 years since I ran a road 10K, so the idea of stringing together 6.2 fast miles was a bit daunting. I felt like I could PR (52:51), but I also knew that the course would present challenges. For one thing, the course isn’t closed and very narrow at parts, so there’s always some pedestrian dodging. Second, the 10K requires 2 laps around Lake Merritt, which is mentally tough. Most runners do the 5K so it gets pretty lonely during the 2nd lap. Finally, there are tiny hills that feel like mountains when you’re trying to run your fastest. But I figured that regardless of the outcome, I’d get a practice race in before the Danville 10K. Plus, the Gypsy Runner and I are heading to Maui soon, and a hard race effort would also lessen the guilt I’ll feel for taking 5 days off from training.

I did a short warm-up (0.8 miles) before the race. There were a lot of runners – including a group of vision-impaired participants, as well as a large contingent from She Runs, a women’s running group. I lined up near the front and took off too fast, close to 7:30/mile pace. This is the danger of a mixed 5K/10K/15K start with a slight downhill. Eventually, I settled down and tried to keep pace with some of the more relaxed-looking runners around me. I noticed that I kept losing focus and my pace subsequently slipped. I finished the first lap in 26 minutes flat. I figured if I could keep up an 8:30 pace for the second lap, I could PR, but just barely.

As I predicted, the second lap was challenging. I tried to stay with a steady older guy who was maintaining ~8:25/mile pace. To keep myself engaged, I started using pedestrians to leap frog. I would run up to them at a steady pace, then sprint past. These pick-ups helped to break up the monotony and made the miles go by faster. By the last mile, I was really struggling. I looked down at my watch and saw 9:xx/mile. I knew I was slowing down, but I didn’t think I was going that slowly. Then, the course dropped down to the narrow path by the Lake, where I had to dodge a lot of people. I had to come to a complete stop at one point, which was frustrating. Oh, and did I mention the headwind?

I was coming up to the final stretch and saw that I had 2 minutes left to PR. It was going to be close. I pushed hard, but I cursed out loud as I approached the finish line with 52:5x showing on the race clock. My official time was 52:56, 5 seconds off my PR. D’OH!

My Garmin data: 52:56 for 6.3 miles (8:24/mile).
Splits: 8:08, 8:20, 8:27, 8:26, 8:28, 8:45, 7:57 (for 0.3 miles)

It was a bummer to come so close to beating my PR and miss it by 5 seconds. I don’t know what happened during that 5th mile (8:45 split) – most likely, it was a combination of fatigue and pedestrian traffic. I didn’t feel like I let my foot off the gas, but apparently that’s what happened. Regardless, it was a good practice race for Danville. Now I know I’m in good enough shape to PR, so it will be a matter of improving my pacing strategy (not going out too fast, for one), and working on long intervals. I’m going to skip the short, fast stuff in favor of tempos and 2-mile repeats. Also, I had to remind myself that today’s goal wasn’t to PR, but to use it as a practice race and help me determine what I need to work on in the next 5 weeks. So, as far as that goes, I accomplished my goal.

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Posted in Race Recap, Training

Never Go to Bed Hangry

Training-wise, this past week was pretty lackluster. I had a serious bout of (allergy induced?) sinus pain on Monday and Tuesday, which meant no workout on Tuesday. In its place, I did some easy laps at a nearby park, walk/jogging to sweat out the bad stuff.

By Thursday, I was feeling a bit better, so I attempted a long interval workout: 2 miles at 10K effort, 4 minute recovery, then another mile at 10K effort. I’m working my way up to 2 x 2 mile repeats at race pace, but I wanted to take it easier since I hadn’t been feeling well. I think race effort was the right call, because despite running at an effort level harder than last week’s tempo, I ended up running the same pace (8:30/mile). That was disappointing, but clearly, my body wasn’t feeling 100% and still getting over whatever had affected me earlier in the week.

Saturday morning, I woke up feeling extremely unmotivated. It was raining out, and I was very lethargic and also HUNGRY. My #1 mistake? Eating only two tiny taco truck tacos for dinner on Friday night. I read recently that the number one training mistake to avoid, in terms of nutrition, is to never go bed hungry. After this weekend, I agree! Although I ate breakfast, I was still starving, which didn’t help motivate me to get out the door. I eventually got to the treadmill and did the workout I meant to do on Tuesday: 8 x 400 m with 90 second recovery intervals. For entertainment, I watched a junky reality TV show on my phone while the lady next to me on the Stairmaster decided to belt out random “OH”s and “Uh-Huh!”s, and the random swear word, as she sung along with whatever was on her playlist. It was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had on the treadmill. She was singing so loudly that I’m pretty sure the whole gym could hear her. On one hand, I was like, “You go, girl!” On the other, I found her behavior rude and annoying. But the time passed quickly enough.

I think I was hungry all day Saturday, even though I ended up eating 2 lunches. It’s Monday and I’m still hungry, though I think that has to do with not eating enough yesterday either. Grr. Anyway! On the bright side, Sunday’s long run was pretty nice. I ran for 2 hours along the shoreline, where I was fortunate to avoid the rain, though there was a decent headwind on the back end of the run. The wildflowers are blooming now and it’s so pretty.


Just a small clump of wildflowers at the shoreline.

The only downside of the run came afterward, when I drove by my favorite donut shop and it was already closed. Whomp whomp. I had been looking forward to a special post-run treat for the whole second half of my run, so I was pretty disappointed. The shop’s hours are technically 4:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and it was only 11:30, but they close early  when they run out of donuts. I’ll have to consider this the next time I get a late start on my long run…

Finally, I have to make a confession: I ate fast food not just once, but twice, this week. The first time was Tuesday, when I had stayed home from work due to the sinus pain. McDonald’s chicken McNuggets with sweet ‘n’ sour sauce are my kryptonite, and I’ve managed to avoid eating them for years… until Tuesday. I broke down and decided that I wanted to treat myself, so I asked the Gypsy Runner to pick up a chicken McNugget value meal. Was it worth it? Totally. The second instance was on Sunday, post-donut debacle, when I found myself starving and needing calories. In desperation, I drove to Wendy’s and got a spicy chicken sandwich meal, which was definitely not good and not worth it.

Luckily, today is the start of new week and hopefully a diet and training do-over. Wish me luck!

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Posted in Training

Getting Up to Tempo

Sorry for the title, but I can’t resist a pun…

Last week was my first week of training toward the Danville 10K. My plan is essentially the same structurally as what I did for the Bank of the West Oakland 5K, just more of everything. However, for the first week of training, I didn’t want to jump into the deep end right away.

For example: for 5K training, I did fartlek intervals of 10 x (1 min on/1 min off). For the 10K, I’d like to get up to 20 repeats, but that seems like a big jump from 10. So, for the first week of training, I compromised and did 15 intervals. And wow – the difference between 10 and 15 repeats is huge! Ten intervals seem to go by so much faster. I think that getting up to 20 repeats will really help me with both speed and mental stamina.

My other workout of the week was a tempo run. For those who don’t know, a tempo run is supposed to be done at your lactic threshold, so they’re sometimes called anaerobic threshold runs. Because they challenge your system aerobically without overtaxing it, tempo runs are the bread and butter of every training plan, from the 5K up to full marathon. They can range from the classic 20 minute tempo, up to 75 minutes (with warm-up and cool-down, of course). Alternatively, you can do tempo intervals – usually something like 2 x 15-20 minutes with 4-5 minute jog recovery in between.

It seems like just about every running coach/website/blog recommends doing tempo runs, but if you look around, there’s a lot of varying information out there on how fast to do your tempo runs. Outside of getting tested at a exercise physiology lab or buying a device that measures your lactic acid levels, there doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule regarding tempo pace. Not to mention, your threshold may vary based on daily fluctuations in hydration, nutrition, rest, etc. And your lactic threshold will definitely change as you get fitter. A lot of articles I’ve read say that tempo pace for most people is somewhere between your 10K and half marathon pace. Some get more specific and say 10-15 seconds per mile slower than 10K pace. But if you haven’t run a 10K in a while, like me, then the best you can do is take your most recent race time, plug it into the McMillan Running calculator, get a predicted 10K pace and go from there. Another article by Jenny Hadfield describes running tempo by feel. Essentially, she recommends using the talk test to measure effort. While running below threshold, she says that it should be relatively easy to recite The Pledge of Allegiance. However, as you approach threshold, your breath gets more labored until you can only spit out one word at a time. That’s the tempo pace for the day, and the best part this approach is that it will adjust to your fitness accordingly. Plus, it’s free and easy. By the way, if you’re gasping for air, you’ve gone too far into anaerobic, and it’s time to rein it back in. (I also found this article by Mario Fraioli to be pretty helpful in terms of tweaking tempo workouts, depending on your race distance and weeks before race day.)

So, armed with this knowledge, I embarked on a 20-minute tempo run last Thursday morning. I warmed up with an easy mile, then started on my tempo, quietly reciting The Pledge under my breath as I increased my pace. I settled into a one-word-at-a-time pace, which turned out to be around 8:30/mile. According to McMillan, 8:30/mile is on the slow end of my tempo range, but I was happy with that pace for my first outing. Plus I was really consistent – 8:30 for the first mile, and 8:29 for the second. My only “complaint” is that I only ran for 17 minutes instead of 20 as planned. I mistook the Garmin auto-lap beep as the “end of interval” alert, so I pressed lap until I got to the cool down window. My old Garmin never did auto-laps during intervals, so I had no idea that this was going to happen. At first, I was really mad at my Garmin for “malfunctioning”, but then I realized it was my own fault. Ha! Oh, technology…

Finally, the other run worth noting from last week was a trail adventure with DD, Layla, and Kristen at Lake Chabot. DD ran her first marathon at Oakland 2 weeks ago, so she and I were both itching to get back on trails. Kristen was on daughter duty, so she did a couple of out and backs on the paved portion, while DD, Layla, and I did one lap around Lake Chabot. It was perfect weather and I had great company. Plus everything was green and the Lake appears to be back to normal levels again. I wore a new pair of Altra Lone Peak 2.5’s, and they were perfect right out of the box. Awesome shoes! Then we went to have brunch at Cannery Cafe, which IMO is the best brunch spot in the Hayward/Castro Valley Area in terms of food, wait, parking, etc.

Today (Monday), I came home early from work because I’m not feeling well. Hopefully, it’s just a one-off thing, but I noticed my resting heart rate was higher than normal this morning. I will probably take it easy tomorrow – either rest or scrap the workout and just run easy. Hope you all have a great week!



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Posted in Trail running, Training

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Before moving on to the next thing, I wanted to make note of my recent 5K training cycle – as much for myself as for anyone who might be interested. I didn’t follow a formal plan, and actually, I’m not sure when I actually started training. I guess it was about mid-January? So, let’s say it was a 10-week training plan.

I didn’t have specific workouts or miles on the schedule, but I did focus on a few key elements every week:

  • 1 short interval session: either fartleks (10 x 1 min on/1 min off) or 400 m intervals
  • 1 longer interval session: mile repeats or tempo progression
  • 1 long run between 9-12 miles
  • 1 easy run
  • total mileage: ~20-25 miles/week

I thought that this worked out pretty well for me in terms of variety. I also repeated the same workout every other week so I could gauge my progression (or lack thereof). I don’t know what I would change running-wise; maybe I’d do more sets of short intervals (I maxed out at 6 x 400 m) or do more tempo runs. An overall increase in total weekly mileage probably wouldn’t have hurt either.

In terms of non-running training, I definitely did not do a good job of stretching, strengthening, or core work. (What else is new??) I didn’t clean up my diet until 3 weeks before the race, which was better than nothing, but it probably would’ve made a bigger impact if I did it earlier (though I might have gone crazy). I couldn’t help the levels of work-related stress early on in the cycle, but that’s something that could’ve been better as well.

The other reason I wanted to reflect on 5K training is because I’m about to start training for my next goal race: the Danville 10K on 5/28. Now that I’ve gotten a sweet taste of PR’ing, I want more! For Danville, I’m looking at doing much of the same as above, just longer. I plan on doing more tempo runs and race pace 2-mile repeats. It’s scary but also exciting! I’d like to incorporate some hill work as well — it would be nice to get back to the trails and incorporate strength training into my runs, as opposed to having a separate strength session. As for diet, I will try to focus on moderation. I won’t go cold turkey on the alcohol and desserts, but I’ll try to limit just one or the other and only 4 days a week. I also would like to eat more veggies and less processed things, and drink more water. We’ll see how it pans out, but I’m excited! This will be the first time that I’ve actually trained for a 10K. My PR of 52:51 is 2.5 years old and it’s time to crush it!


At the Brazen Summer Breeze 10K (August 2013), where I PR’d *and* placed 3rd in my age group.

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Race Recap: 2016 Oakland Half Marathon

Since I ran two races this year at the Oakland Running Festival as part of the “We Run The Town Challenge“, I decided to break this recap into 2 parts. This is part 2 recounting the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon. Part 1 (Bank of the West 5K) can be found here.

So, I ran a 5K and PR’d by 33 seconds – WOOHOO! No time to celebrate though; I had about an hour to refuel and get myself ready to run a half marathon. I wondered to myself what I had been thinking when I signed up for this 2 race challenge. I think my reasoning was that I had done almost all of the events at the Oakland Running Festival except for the 5K, but signing up for “just” the 5K – when I’d been offered free registration as a Branch (aka race ambassador) – seemed like a waste. So I decided to do the We Run The Town Challenge. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. Fast forward to March 20th, race morning: it was too late, I was committed to another 13.1 miles, so I better make the most of it.

The hour between races was a whirlwind of activity: after saying goodbye to Team Gypsy Runner, Cathryn and I met up with bt. I inhaled a Clif Bar. Cat went to get coffee, bt went to take care of pre-race business, and I went to drop off my bag, where I soon ran into Angela. Then Angela went off to do a warm-up, and I joined bt and her friend C in the corral. We lined up near the 2:10 pacer, listened to the national anthem, and right at 9:10, the race started!


bt and I at the start (photo credit: Cathryn)

To make this recap less long-winded, I’ll just list one observation per mile, along with my splits.

half course

Garmin GPS trace of the Oakland Half. Just like the 5K, it wasn’t very accurate downtown, but seemed to improve later on in the race.

Mile 1: 10:10
Ugh, how are my quads are hurting already?! Oh yeah, because I just ran an all-out 5K. I got stuck in the bottleneck around Frank Ogawa Plaza, which cost me about 30 seconds.

Mile 2: 9:51
2 miles down, 11.1 to go? This is going to be a long morning. Half marathons are no joke. Oh well, too late to do anything about it now. I started to think of the race as good pacing practice.

Mile 3: 10:13
Oh, look at those men cheering for us outside of their church in their Sunday Best. This is why I love this race! Caught up to bt, chatted for a bit, and ran ahead.

Mile 4: 9:51
Into the 11th St. tunnel and back out. My fellow runners seem less enthusiastic than in years past.

Mile 5: 10:04
First little climb of the race. Ran into my friend PL, who was struggling. Wished him luck and pressed on. Passed a grocery store in Chinatown, where two Asian ladies took a break from their work to cheer us on. It was really adorable.

Mile 6: 9:47
Got a little boost from the Raider Nation aid station at the underpass. It started getting warm, so I dumped some water on my neck and back.

Mile 7: 9:54
I don’t know if they changed the route or what, but it seemed like there were longer stretches of nothing (bleak warehouses, no spectators) this year. This mile was saved by the Crucible’s Arch of Fire and the final relay exchange.


Raised arm photo: #FAIL. One of these days, I’m going to get it right!

Mile 8: 9:58
The two saving graces of Mandela Parkway: one, the Crucible’s fire-breathing horse and “Great Balls of Fire” blasting through speakers, all while running under a sprinkler set-up. Two, the fantastic volunteers and refreshments at the Brown Sugar Kitchen aid station.

Mile 9: 10:06
This stretch of the race is always tough. I focused on getting to Grand Ave./Lake Merritt. A little girl cheered us on from the Nationwide aid station, yelling, “Give it your all!” It was so cute and earnest, I almost died.

Mile 10: 9:50
I was looking forward to the Lululemon cheering section at Harrison and 27th St., but they weren’t there this year. Bummer. They usually have some funny signs that always make me smile.

Mile 11: 9:48
First mile at Lake Merritt! I started to pass a lot of people, but still wasn’t ready to push it.

Mile 12: 9:25
I decided to pick up the pace, which hurt a lot. I focused on passing people and staying with runners who looked strong. lake

Mile 13: 9:40
I kept pushing but it was a struggle. And why are these runners stopping to take photos on the bridge, blocking everyone’s way? They suck. I hate them.

Last 0.42 mile: 9:28/mile pace
My second time up the tiny hill at 19th St. of the day. This time, it felt 10x worse and I had no booster engines. But I kept chugging along, aiming to run strong past the finish mats.

post race

After crossing the finish line, I grabbed ALL THE FOOD. My favorite part of this photo is the expression of the dude behind me.

Garmin stats: 2:12:38 (13.42 miles at 9:53/mile)
Official race stats: 2:12:44 (13.1 miles at 10:07/mile)
Half Marathon Standings: 93/277 (AG); 567/1618 (F); 1331/2942 (overall)
We Run This Town Standings: 21/107 (F); 64/189 (overall)

After the race, I ran into a Dan (Hi Dan!), a reader who said that my race recaps were very informative. Then, I hobbled over to get my drop bag and ran into Angela. We made our way to the VIP tent, which wasn’t super glamorous, but was stocked with drinks and food. Plus, there were tables and chairs, and a tent that shielded us from a 5-minute sudden deluge of rain.


Livin’ the VIP lyfe


3 medals! #ALLTHEBLING

Eventually, we made our way to brunch at Bellanico, where I binged on all things delicious and caught up with how everyone’s race went. It was a great morning!



Post-race thoughts:
I’m very satisfied with how I ran the Half Marathon, even though it was my second slowest half ever. If I hadn’t run a 5K before the half, I’m certain I could’ve run a personal course record (sub-2:04), but I don’t regret giving the 5K my all.  I ran by feel and maintained an even pace for the first 11 miles, and then managed to run a tiny bit faster in the last 2.5 miles, which was my goal. I kept a positive attitude throughout the race – thanking volunteers, high-fiving small kids, smiling at the silly signs – and I think that helped me tremendously. I don’t have any regrets in regards to race execution. I fueled and hydrated well, and was only limited by my leg fatigue (thanks to the 5K). So all in all, I think it was a win!

That said, I think this might be the last time I run the Oakland Half for a while. It’s my 3rd time running the half marathon and 5th time on the course, so I think it’s time to change it up. I still think it’s a great race, but there are so many out there that I also want to try. Thanks to the organizers for giving me a chance to be a Branch and for the free entry! #hellaloveOakland

About the race:

  • Organizers: Corrigan Sports Events
  • Cost: We Run The Town is the most expensive (individual) event at ORF. It starts at $105 for early bird pricing, and goes up to $165 at the Expo. This year it sold out.
  • Course: Both the 5K and the Half are very flat, but there are a lot of turns.
  • Parking/Transportation: Paid garages and street parking.
  • Aid stations: plenty of aid stations spread out about every 1.5-2 miles. Most had water and Gatorade, and a couple of them had Gu. There are also unofficial water stations set up by local businesses and groups.
  • Bathrooms: Plenty at the start in several different areas around Snow Park, and clusters of them spread out on the course.
  • Swag: A medal for each race, and a third for completing the challenge. You also get a tech t-shirt for each race. There are 2 beer/drink tickets attached to the bib and a lot of food in the finisher’s chute (though once you leave, you can’t get back in). They had a virtual “iGift bag”.
  • Misc.: Super well-organized and a really fun event. The route is not super scenic, but the crowds/spectators more than make up for it.
  • Tip for anyone wanting to do this event: Pick one of the races as your goal race and focus on that. Run the other one for fun or with a non-performance goal in mind.
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Race Recap: 2016 Bank of the West 5K

Since I ran two races this year at the Oakland Running Festival as part of the “We Run The Town Challenge“, I decided to break this recap into 2 parts. This is part 1 recounting the Bank of the West 5K.

As I’ve recently discussed (on numerous occasions), the Bank of the West 5K was my goal race. When I awoke race morning, I found myself quite nervous. Even though I’d done the training, committed to nutrition and recovery, and mentally prepared myself, a part of me worried that I wouldn’t perform well on race day. I kept walking that thin line between confidence in myself and in my training versus being prepared to work hard and push through the pain. My main goal was to try my best no matter what, and even though I didn’t formally declare any outcome based goals, I secretly hoped that my hard work would result in a new PR (sub-25:25).

Things went smoothly pre-race: I woke up at 5:30 a.m., ate breakfast, drank coffee and water, and got dressed. By 6:30, the Gypsy Runner (my #1 supporter) and I were en route to Oakland. Parking was a breeze; we found a spot about half a mile away. We jogged a little towards Snow Park and when we got there, I did a short warm up (jog followed by a few strides).

We found Cathryn and took a pre-race photo. The only snag pre-race was that the GR’s sister and dad, who were also running the 5K, had gotten lost en route. Thankfully, they arrived in time for the start, but we didn’t get to meet up before Cat and I decided to go into the corral.


Ready to run!

We lined up near the 8:00/mile sign, surprised to see how few people were ahead of us — maybe only 100 or so, out of the 3000+ runners. I saw a bunch of small children in the front of the crowd and hoped that they were either faster than me or would stay out of my way. With less than a minute before the start, Cat and I wished each other luck and she plugged in her earphones while I tried to remember to breathe. Then the countdown began and we were off!

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 8.10.20 PM

My Garmin trace of the course, which shows how wonky the GPS is in Downtown Oakland. For one thing, the start and stop should be in the same location. And I swear I didn’t run inside a building while I was on 11th Street!

You can see from the map that: (1) there are a lot of turns in the first mile, and (2) my GPS was wildly inaccurate. Therefore, the splits that I have are also imprecise, so my Garmin data should be taken with a grain of salt.

Mile 1: 8:05
I purposely didn’t want to look at my watch for the first half mile because I knew it probably wouldn’t be accurate and I also didn’t want to be negatively affected by the numbers. I tried to stay relaxed but was keenly aware of all of the turns. The small children that I had noticed before the race were swerving in front of me like bats out of hell, as I had feared, but fortunately, I managed to avoid them. As we entered Frank Ogawa Plaza, we made a bunch of tight turns and funneled through a small alley under construction. It wasn’t too bad where we were, as the field was already spreading out, but apparently the middle and back of the pack runners got stuck at complete stand still. (The organizers later apologized for the congestion.) I kept wondering if I was running too slow (it seemed like it) but I also didn’t want to go out too fast. I eventually gave in and peeked at my watch, which read 8:12 or 8:15. I was annoyed, but also knew that I was gaining speed and didn’t sweat it. I was relieved when my watch beeped right around the 1st mile marker, indicating that I wasn’t running extra distance and/or that my GPS was roughly accurate?

Mile 2: 8:10
We turned left on MLK Jr. Way and hit a nice long stretch of straightaway before having to make a hairpin U-turn. To my surprise, I was still hanging with Cathryn, who was about 5-8 seconds ahead. We gave each other a quick wave at the U-turn. Since Cathryn had finished sub-25 at parkrun in January, I decided I would try to hang with her as long as I could. We made a right turn on 11st Street, which I knew we would be running on for many, many blocks. Even though I was glad to be done with turns for a while, I was also worried about how much distance remained. Knowing Downtown Oakland as I do, I tried not to look at the street names and instead looked forward to turning left at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). There was a bit of a headwind. Nothing crazy, but definitely noticeable. Similar to the first mile, I kept wondering if I was running too hard or not hard enough. When my watch beeped 8:10 for the second mile, I was mildly disappointed, but I felt like it was the right amount of effort for that point in the race.

Mile 3: 7:51
Concentrating on the next turn at OMCA really helped me to keep calm and focused. As I made the turn, I felt like I was on the home stretch. I took a peek at my watch and saw a faster pace (sub-8:00) and also a heart rate of 170, which was nowhere near my maximum heart rate. I decided to pick up the pace, especially on the slight downhill where Oak St. becomes Lakeside Dr. As I made the final turn up 19th St. and the dreaded (tiny) hill, I decided to make the hill my b*^%# and give it everything I had. I managed to pass Cathryn (I so desperately wanted to say something encouraging, but had no extra energy) and saw the GR cheering from the corner of my eye (again, wanted to say hi, but no extra energy).

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 8.06.37 PM

“I think I can, I think I can…”

I saw the clock ticking towards 25-minutes as I approached the finish mat. I think that the race clock read 25:00 as I crossed, but I was fairly sure that we started a few seconds after the gun. So, not only did I PR, but I finished under 25 minutes?! I ran through the mat, stopped my Garmin after a few seconds, and turned around to congratulate Cathryn. We weren’t sure of our official times, but we had given it our all and hoped for sub-25 for both of us. (Final 0.12 mile: 7:08/mile pace.)

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 8.02.45 PM

Happy runners!

I had signed up for race tracking, so I got emails confirming our official race times – Cathryn finished in 24:58 and I finished in 24:52! Hooray! I eventually found the GR and we reunited with his sister and dad.


Team Gypsy Runner

I was so elated and happy that my training paid off, that I was able to execute my race strategy, and that I stayed mentally strong throughout. This was a big race for me for so many different reasons. First of all, to PR by 33-seconds was a great feeling. Second, despite evidence to the contrary, I still think of myself as a 10:00/mile runner. I remember when I ran a single mile at 8:00 and I thought that was SO fast. To go from that mindset to running 3.1 miles at 8:00/mile is pretty cool. Finally, this was also the first time I’ve run a sub-8 minute mile in *any* race, so that was sweet. This will definitely be a race I remember for years to come!

Next up: the Oakland Half Marathon recap!



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Race week! Oakland Running Festival Preview 2016

Less than 3 days to go until race day! This will be my 5th consecutive year participating in the Oakland Running Festival (ORF), but my 1st time doing two events in one day – the 5K and the Half Marathon! I’ve never done two races in one day before, so I’m not sure what to expect.


The race that started it all: 2012 Oakland Half Marathon

Here’s a rough outline of my strategy for Sunday:

Bank of the West 5K (7:30 am)
This is my goal race, so I’m going to put it all out there without reserving anything for the half marathon. I’ve never trained for a 5K before, so these past few months have been interesting. I’m fairly certain that I’m in better 5K shape than when I PR’ed last year at the LMJS Couples Relay. However, a PR might depend on how effectively I can run the tangents and not dying on the last hill. (Not dying is always a worthy goal, IMO.) So, while I would love to run a personal best, my “process-oriented” goal is to run hard and execute my race strategy.

Speaking of race strategy, here’s what I had in mind:

  • Mile 1: run strong but relaxed. I should not feel like death at the 1/2 mile mark. With lots of turns in this mile, I should take advantage of my fresh mental capacity to focus on running tangents.
  • Mile 2: increase effort, and don’t freak out about feeling tired. Focus on someone who has a quick, smooth stride and latch onto them.
  • Mile 3: increase effort yet again, and mark runners ahead as targets to pass. Try to catch them without killing myself. Really turn up the effort after turning on Oak St. Just half mile to go.
  • Last 0.1: Legs and lungs will be screaming at this point. Try to “kick” but know it’s unlikely going to translate into any kind of speed on the hill. Concentrate on running across the finish mat – don’t start braking just before (this is a common problem I have).

My strategy at the Crissy Field parkrun in late January was very similar, and it worked out well for me. My only critique of that race is that I might have started off too conservatively. On Sunday, I’ll do a longer warm-up and add some strides. Hopefully that will help with correct pacing right from the start.

Alternatively, perhaps I should go with Coach Gypsy Runner’s plan: “Don’t overthink it. Just go out and run. If you feel good, run harder. If you don’t, then just try as hard as you can.” #GypsyRunnerWisdom

Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon (9:10 am)
It’s been really hard for me to *not* set goals for the half marathon, partially out of pride. I’ve run the half marathon twice, in 2012 and 2013, and I know I’m fit enough to run a personal course record (faster than 2:04:26). However, I have no clue how my body will feel after running an all-out 5K. I have an hour to recover between races, which is good, but who knows if that will be enough?

Without a time goal, I’m toying with the strategy of racing by heart rate, at least for the first couple of miles. In both 2012 and 2013, I went out way too fast and started imploding by mile 10. This year, I’m hoping that the third time’s the charm, and that I’ve learned my lessons from the previous races. Hopefully I’m a smarter runner now in general??

Anyway, my murky plan for the half marathon is to:

  • Start conservatively, whether that means running by feel or by heart rate.
  • Gradually increase effort every couple of miles or so, if I’m feeling good.
  • Not allow myself to really push until after Mandela Parkway (at the earliest).
  • Run strong around Lake Merritt.
  • Scrap all of the above if I’m not feeling well. Enjoy the race and take walk breaks the aid stations.

Three out of the four times I’ve run at the ORF, I’ve felt like death by the time I hit Lake Merritt. So out of all of the above “goals”, the most important thing to me is to finish strong. If that means taking it easy for 10 miles and then turning up the engines for the last 3.1, so be it.

Anyone else running ORF on Sunday? Hope to see you there! And best of luck to everyone racing this weekend!

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On the docket…

4/24/16 - LMJS 10K?
5/28/16 - Danville 10K


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