Wow, it felt really good to type out “Week 7 of 12” in the title. This past week, I had a crazy anxiety dream about CIM. (I know reading about other people’s dreams can be boring, but just bear with me.) I dreamt that the Gypsy Runner and I were running CIM, but instead of being in Folsom/Sacramento, we were in Castro Valley – about 3 miles from where we live. We were jogging along at a leisurely pace when I looked down at my watch and saw that we were way behind schedule. I tried to do some math in my head, but like in real/awake life, I couldn’t figure out how much faster I’d have to run or if I could even make up the time in the remaining miles. Then, at mile 22/23, we had to get on a shuttle to connect us to the rest of the course. We sat on this shuttle for a while, not moving, while the race clock kept ticking, and I wondered if I could subtract the waiting time from my race time. I also started thinking about what other marathons I could race after CIM, since it was clearly not working out in my favor. Before I finished the race, I woke up confused and a little panicky. I don’t usually have such realistic anxiety dreams related to running, so it stayed with me for about half the day. Funny how the mind works!
Anyway, here’s how this week’s training went:
Tuesday: 90-105 min. There was rain in the forecast, so I was prepared to get a bit wet during this run. As it turns out, it only rained a little bit, so that it was actually more wet inside my running jacket (with all of my sweat) than outside. A decent run, helped along by podcasts. 8.6 miles @ 10:34/mile
Wednesday: 60 minutes easy. I got a late start and had to shorten this run to 53 minutes. 4.8 miles @ 11:05/mile
Thursday: Tempo intervals – 3 x (2 mile, 4:00 recovery). Again, there was rain in the forecast, and this time, it was supposed to be heavy, so I was mentally prepared to do this workout on the treadmill if necessary. Fortunately, the rain didn’t start until later that day. Unfortunately, I had to make 2 bathroom stops during the early part of this run, which kinda disrupted the flow. My goal was to run these splits faster than last week’s 4 mile tempo run, when I averaged 8:41/mile. My 2-mile splits this week were: 8:30, 8:36, and 8:36 (average: 8:34). Mission accomplished, though I was DEAD after this workout. 9 miles @ 9:24/mile
Saturday: 20 mile long run. Again, I switched my long run to Saturday so that I could run with others. This time, it was so I could pace at the OktobeRun Half and add on ~7 miles afterwards. The full pacing report is below, but the short version is that this 20-miler went a lot better than 2 weeks ago! 20.1 miles @ 10:32/mile
Sunday: 60 minutes easy. Full on, heavy rain meant one thing: treadmill run. 5.6 miles @ 10:35/mile
Total mileage: 48.1 miles – highest mileage this cycle/year!
How I’m feeling: Physically, I’m feeling tired (still) but no troubling aches and pains – knock on wood. Mentally, I’m hanging in there. I’m not feeling as close to burning out as I was a few weeks ago, but I’m looking forward to tapering in a couple of weeks.
Looking ahead to next week: Another speedy week, full of fartleks, Yasso 800s, and a fast finish long run. Plus, more pacing at the Vibha Dream Mile Half. Good luck to those racing the New York City Marathon and Two Cities Marathon!
Pacing Recap: OktobeRun Half Marathon
I’m tagging this on to end of my weekly training recap in the hopes of keeping it short and sweet. (Editors note: it’s not short, and probably not that sweet either.) Mostly, I wanted to jot down some notes about race logistics and my personal experience in case it might be useful for others.
A few months ago, I considered signing up for the OktobeRun Half as part of marathon training, but then I noticed that the TriValley Running Club (TVRC) were the designated pacers. So, I held off on registering in the hopes joining the pace group. After a successful stint pacing the 2:20 group at the Tiburon Half, TVRC invited me to pace the 2:20 group at both the OktobeRun and the Dream Mile, which I happily accepted!
OktobeRun is a charity race where all of the proceeds benefit the Redwood City Education Foundation. The course is an almost completely flat, starting in downtown Redwood City and runs along the Bay Trail next to Bair Island (and Highway 101) towards Redwood Shores and then back again. It didn’t sound amazingly scenic, but it was a route I’d never run before (or so I thought) and at least it was for charity. Plus, I had really enjoyed pacing at Tiburon and I hoped for another positive experience.
I think because I was “only pacing”, I took a too-relaxed approach to race morning. As a result, I got there a bit late (about 25 minutes before the race started) and had to use my pacer sign as an excuse to jump to the front of the bathroom line. I didn’t give myself any time for a warm-up. Fortunately, race logistics were easy: I was able to park close by, bib pick up was very quick, and the field was small, so lining up in the starting corral was simple.
The race started promptly at 7:30am, as scheduled. I must’ve gotten too excited about crossing the start mat because I accidentally pushed my start/stop button twice. At the first turn, I looked down and saw that my Garmin was paused. Grrr! #pacerfail Luckily, I had a couple of nice runners around me who told me their total elapsed time, so I was able to figure out how much time I missed (about 30 seconds). This ended up being essential because my GPS data and the mile markers on the course weren’t matching up. According to my Garmin, I was running at the right pace (10:40/mile), but I was significantly behind my 2:20 pace band at each mile marker. (More about this later.)
The course was flat, as advertised, but it was also really tediously boring in parts. There was a lot of ugly scenery, especially the portion that ran alongside of Highway 101 – which it turns out, I’ve run before with bt and Angela. On the plus side, it stayed overcast during the whole race. Most of the course is exposed, so full sun would have been the pits. Despite the clouds, I noticed early on that it was really humid. I was glad that I decided to cut the sleeves off of my TVRC shirt for better ventilation.
I ran most of the race with 3-4 others. One runner, C, was running his second half marathon and hoped to come in a little faster than 2:20. Two other runners – I didn’t catch their names, so I’ll call them Joe and Jane, were running their first half marathons. We picked up another runner around mile 8/9 who seemed happy to have our company. I found that in addition to my role as the 2:20 pacer, I served as a cheerleader, on-course entertainment, and occasional coach – to remind runners to relax their shoulders and to smile to reduce their perception of effort.
The middle portion was the prettiest, as we ran along the trail in Redwood Shores. I gathered up quite a collection of small gravel in my shoes during this section, but I wasn’t going to stop to dump them out, so no use focusing on them. Instead, I cheered on the faster runners already heading back.
I was feeling pretty good about the race until the mile 8 marker, when I noticed that I was ~30-40 seconds behind pace. How could this be happening, when my Garmin was consistently reporting mile splits between 10:36-10:42? I started to panic, doing some math in my head. I figured that if I ran 8:35/mile the rest of the way, I should be able to make up the gap. I explained to my group the discrepancy between my Garmin and the mile markers, and that I would be picking up the pace for the remainder of the race. However, because my GPS appeared to be off (or the mile markers were), there was no way to know for sure whether I could rely on the pace showing on my Garmin. I decided to pace off of the mile markers and my 2:20 pace band instead of using my Garmin.
I personally hate it when pacers all of a sudden speed up to make up time, and here I was doing it to these poor folks. Luckily, most of them were able to stick with me for a good chunk of the rest of the race. At mile 9, we started an impromptu sing along of the theme from Rocky. That was really fun and probably one of the highlights of the race for me.
As I picked up the pace, I lost C somewhere between miles 9-10 (I think). I tried to keep the tone positive to motivate my group, since I was asking them to work hard late in the race. It was especially tough during the stretch along the 101, but we made it through eventually. With a little more than a mile left, Joe decided he had enough gas to race to the finish and pulled ahead. Jane lamented that, “he always does this.” (i.e., running ahead at the end of a race). That’s when I found out that they had never run longer than 12K – even in training! I told her she was doing amazing and that she was almost there. We had dropped our 4th runner somewhere in the last mile, but I don’t think she finished far behind. As we crested the overpass about half a mile from the finish, Jane came down with a side stitch and told me that she would catch up. I hoped that would be true and ran ahead. A minute later, she caught up and I cheered her on with a countdown – 5 minutes left, 2 minutes left, etc. When we hit the 13-mile marker, she sprinted ahead to the finish line. I finished about 10 seconds later, with an official chip time of 2:19:51 (10:40/mile).
I grabbed some water, coffee cake (!!), and half a banana, then high-fived Jane and Joe for finishing their first half marathons. They thanked me in return for pacing them for much of the race. I chatted briefly with Michael from TVRC and then went on my way to run another 7 miles. To be honest, I seriously considered calling it a day after the race, since the first few miles of the race course were kinda sucky/not pretty, and my only alternative was to run laps around downtown Redwood City. I thought about splitting up the mileage between Saturday and Sunday, but I knew that the overall training effect wouldn’t be the same – I needed to run 20 miles from both a physiological and psychological standpoint. So, I started off just doing a short loop within downtown, then decided to do an out and back on the race course. I made a detour on to the Bair Island trail instead of running along 101 again, which was much better scenery-wise. For the last mile, the sun finally came out and it became really hot. I looked down at my Garmin and was happily surprised to see a 10:00/mile pace (if my Garmin is to be trusted). Considering how badly my 20-miler had gone two weeks ago, this run was a dream.
Things I learned about pacing at OktobeRun:
- For pacing a specific time, the Garmin can be your best friend or worst enemy. Use it with caution and don’t trust it implicitly. Many others finished with 13.2+ miles, despite the certified course and narrow path (i.e., very easy to run tangents).
- If given mile markers (especially on an USATF-certified course), trust the mile markers more than your GPS device. I wished I had picked up on this earlier in the race so we weren’t sprinting at the end.
- Coming up with random, fun things to say can cheer up and motivate the runners around you, more than you’d guess.
With another pacing gig coming up Sunday, I hope to implement these lessons learned!
About the Race:
- Organizers: Redwood City Education Foundation (race website)
- Field size: 359 finishers in the half marathon
- Cost: $65-90 for the half marathon, depending on when you register. There was also a 5K that started 15 minutes later.
- Course: USATF certified course. Starts and ends in downtown Redwood City. The course crosses Hwy 101 and runs along the Bay Trail. Mix of paved roads, sidewalk, and fine gravel. Almost completely flat, except for one overpass and one pedestrian bridge. Very exposed, which could be really hot in sunny conditions.
- Parking: The organizers encouraged parking at the county garage (free), about 2 blocks away, but that was full by 7:00 a.m. I parked on Middlefield Road at a smart meter, which allowed me to pay in advance. (Meters start running at 10:00 a.m., but since I had to run an addition 7 miles after the race, I thought it was better safe than sorry. It was only 25 cents/hour.)
- Aid stations: 4 aid stations about 1.5-2 miles apart on the way out, which you hit again on the way back. Water and Gatorade only; no gels or fruit.
- Bathrooms: About 10 porta potties at the start – there was a really, really long line, suggesting that perhaps there could’ve been more? There were toilets along the course, preceded by “toilets ahead” signs which I thought was a thoughtful touch.
- Swag: A generic medal, a t-shirt (which I never got), and a virtual goodie bag. The virtual goodie bag was geared more towards Redwood City residents and didn’t have any deals that interested me. No race photographers, but TVRC member Peter was on the course taking pictures of the pacers. Since this is a charity race, I don’t think many people expected that much swag.
- Post-race food/drink: Cups of water and Gatorade at the finish, along with coffee cake, bagels, and fruit. There were about 4-5 tents set up as a modest post-race expo.
- Misc.: What I liked about this race: it’s a small, community event that benefits local schools. There were a lot of thoughtful touches, like signs for bathrooms and water ahead, and even signs for Gatorade and water at each aid station. For a small event, they took runners’ interests seriously by obtaining USATF certification and having properly-placed mile markers. Race logistics were super easy. What I didn’t like: the course was really boring and ugly in parts. Running along the 101 and through some of the industrial parks was a bummer. I was glad it was overcast at least.
- If you are looking to PR at this race: Be aware that even though the course is flat, there are a number of potential pitfalls, such as mixed surfaces (hello, gravel), mind-numbing scenery, no shade, and GPS inaccuracy (may have been due to cloud cover?). However, it’s very well supported and USATF certified, so if you’re looking for a time qualifier, this might be a perfect course for you.