Short Term Memory

After my 3rd MAF test last week, I was really hoping to start seeing some improvements during my weekday runs.  I was also looking forward to maximizing my last week of funemployment.  As a result, I ran 3 days in a row – something I don’t usually do – and came up with less than stellar results.  For example:

Tuesday: 5.3 miles at 11:19/mile (vs. previous week, when I ran 5.4 miles at 11:07/mile)
Wednesday: 5.18 miles at 11:35/mile
Thursday (Lake Chabot): 4.94 miles at 12:09/mile (vs. previous week, 5.07 miles at 11:50)

This is not the trend I was hoping for.  I’m not sure if I’m truly plateauing or if I’m fatigued or what, but it definitely doesn’t look like I’m progressing.  After seeing significant improvement, especially in the first month of MAF training, I became pretty “addicted” to consistently seeing faster times each week.  I know it’s normal for the rate of progress to slow down, but I guess I felt like (and still feel like) I have quite a bit of ways to go before I plateau.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking about how, just a few months ago, I was run-walking and *hoping* to finish the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon before the cut-off.  I’ve come a long way since then, but I’m already taking my fitness for granted.  I got caught up in my ego and lost sight of the important things — that I’m back to running 1-2 hours at a time with no pain.  I wrapped up September with 93 miles of running, my highest total monthly mileage for the last 5 months.  I always say that I’m in this sport for the long run (pun intended), but instead I find myself focusing on the immediate payoffs.  When will I get faster? When can I PR? When will I get back to 10:00/mile easy runs again?

My point is that I was getting so caught up in my lack of progress that it was actually sucking the joy and fun out of my runs.  I had gotten very dependent on seeing weekly improvements that I forgot the important stuff.  And for what? Running is my hobby, not a career.  Yes, I’m dedicated to becoming a better runner, but at what cost?  And I don’t even have a race coming up! What’s the rush?  The answer goes back to my ego, my pride.  It’s time to focus on the long-term goals – running healthy for as long as I possibly can, at whatever pace that may be.


One bright spot in my running week happened on Saturday, when I met up with friends at the Chabot Staging Area to check out Ramage Peak Trail, part of the EBMUD propertyCathryn, Jess, Angela, and I planned to run, while Layla and Kristen (with baby E in carrier) hiked.  I had never been on this trail before and there isn’t much information about it.  I found a very informative post from Sarah Lavender Smith’s blog — and I have to agree with her, in that I hesitate to write about this trail because I’d like to keep it secret.  It’s so beautiful and isolated, yet easy to get to.  We didn’t see any other people out there, but we did see a snake and one very large cow!  Without further ado, here are the photos:

The hills of the East Bay

Cat checking out the hills of the East Bay

Blogger taking photos of bloggers taking photos (so meta!)

Taking photos of bloggers taking photos (so meta!)

The views weren't too shabby.

The views weren’t too shabby.

Never had a trail run stopped by a cow before...we were about to turn around anyway.

Never had a trail run stopped by a cow before! We were about to turn around anyway.

Did I mention that the trails were gorgeous?

Did I mention that the trails were gorgeous?

Action shot! (photo credit: Angela)

Action shot! (photo credit: Angela)

Running shots, continued. (photo credit: Angela)

Running shots, continued. (photo credit: Angela)

Another good one from Angela.  There were some steep hills, as you can see!

Another good one from Angela. There were some steep hills, as you can see!

Cathryn made me cupcakes for my birthday.  Here I am blowing out the imaginary candles. :)  (Photo credit: Angela)

Cathryn made me cupcakes for my birthday. Here I am blowing out the imaginary candles. 🙂 (Photo credit: Angela)

Brunch at Doug's.  We worked up quite an appetite!

Brunch at Doug’s. We worked up quite an appetite!

We did an out-and-back on the Ramage Peak Trail for a total of about 6 miles at a very leisurely ~13-14 minute/mile pace — mostly due to the ~1300′ elevation gain on the way out, where we did a lot of hiking.  We also stopped a lot to take photos and chit chat.  Altogether, a very relaxing and fun morning!

Update: Cathryn also posted a recap of the run with more photos and info!


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in random, Trail running
8 comments on “Short Term Memory
  1. Cathryn says:

    So good to see you this weekend.

    It’s hard to find that balance between working for faster paces and getting obsessed with it, isn’t it. I’m still trying to work out another way of ‘measuring’ my running apart from pace. How else can we gauge our progress or the quality of our training…I still haven’t found it.

    Good luck fitting in training and the new job!!

    • Jen says:

      I’m sure that between the 2 of us we can think of at least *one* other metric to quantify our running. Maybe even something as ridiculously cheesy as “number of smiles” or something. haha

  2. Jan says:

    You are right–running so long w/out pain is a HUGE DEAL! I have completely changed my viewpoint on running since recovering from what seemed like the longest injury ever (but was really only a couple of months). I think runners are all a little obsessive about things, or we wouldn’t stick with it. It sounds like you are aware that you were focusing too hard on pace and are working on being realistic. Good job! p.s. STUNNING trail pics!!

  3. Grace says:

    Happy birthday! Sounds like a great way to celebrate. Yes, the ego/ focus on short-term payoff is something I struggle with too… sometimes you just need a fantastic run somewhere beautiful with great friends to remind you why you *really* run!

  4. Mike says:

    I wish I had more experience with MAF so I could share some exquisite pearls of heart-rate wisdom… but unfortunately I don’t. Not yet, at least. I do know it can be quite subject to day-to-day fluctuation, so I say hang in there for now. If you’re going to be running (and running healthy) anyway, might as well be your own guinea pig while you’re at it!

    I nearly smacked into a cow during a Brazen race, though off the top of my head I can’t recall which one. Did I mention I love Brazen races?

    I only happened on the Ramage Peak Trail once and strictly by accident, but was glad I did. Definitely felt all alone out there… the earth could have swallowed me up and Katie would still be digging through the chaparral looking for me. Unless there were cupcakes, then she’d happily cut that search short.

    • Jen says:

      What’s crazy about Ramage Peak is that out of the 20-odd lifelong Castro Valley residents I’ve talked to, only 1 or 2 knew about it. It really is the hidden gem of the East Bay.

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