Dirty Dozen 6 Hour Race 2018

Editors note: I wrote most of this recap over 2 weeks ago and have been dragging my feet about finishing it. I’m throwing my perfectionist tendencies aside and just posting as it is, for the most part. Enjoy!

Confession: despite having quite a bit of downtime recently to blog about Dirty Dozen, I’ve had zero desire to do so. I started a recap the week after the race, but it was so boring that I almost fell asleep rereading it. (Slight exaggeration, but it really wasn’t very good.) I think I needed the last two weeks to really digest what happened on race day and how I felt about my performance and about endurance racing in general. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s rewind to Friday, the day before the race.

Friday (1 day before the race)

(You can read about the race details and my preview/thoughts here.)

I debated whether to take Friday off from work, since I wanted to feel fresh for Saturday. However, since I usually work from home on Fridays, I decided against using a day of PTO for no reason. It ended up being a bit more stressful and busy than I expected, but still, not too bad. I ate a huge lunch of dim sum and treated myself to a boba green tea, which would later come to haunt me. (But yay for carb loading!)

I wasn’t even hungry for dinner, but I picked up Hawaiian chicken BBQ, which has worked really well for me as a pre-long run meal. I ate what I could and then picked up KP from the airport. I was so excited that she came up for this race! We chatted for a while before deciding it was time to go to bed, around 9:30pm. We had an early wakeup call, with plans to leave the house by 5:00 a.m.!

I’m not sure if it was pre-race anxiety, the extra dose of sugar and caffeine at lunch, the excitement of having a friend visit, and/or the early wakeup call, but I was NOT sleepy. I tried my best to relax into my pre-bed routine – I’m usually a CHAMP at falling asleep in minutes, but I continued to toss and turn for hours. Altogether, I probably slept just over 3 hours, and that’s on top of not sleeping well Thursday night either. Boo hoo. I really hoped that racing conventional wisdom would be right – that it doesn’t matter how well you sleep the night before the race, but the few nights before that.

Saturday – pre-race

Everything pre-race went relatively smoothly. There was a small hiccup when the Safeway that I thought would be open at 5:00 a.m. didn’t actually open until 6:00. Luckily, there was a 7-Eleven down the road, where I picked up ice for the cooler. We got to Point Pinole shortly after the gates opened at 6:00 a.m., parked, and got a good spot in “Tent Alley.” By way of explanation, Tent Alley is the area on either side of orange cones for the 50 yards or so after the finish arch/loop marker. It’s where runners set up their personal aid stations and extra gear. Some groups go all out and set up big tents or canopies and have fully stocked aid stations, whereas KP and I set down a blanket, a chair, a cooler, and our gear. We were lucky to get a spot right by the orange cones. I didn’t want to spend any extra energy or time wandering off course to get fuel or to grab ice.


Our “camp” (the striped blanket)


It’s flat Cat and flat Jess cheering us on!

Despite being very tired, race day adrenaline rushed through my system. The morning was cool (maybe in the mid-50s?), but the skies were clear, meaning we wouldn’t be graced with summer fog. The forecast called for highs to be in the mid-70s and there would be a mix of shade and sun on the course. Conditions definitely could have been worse! We found DD and AS in the starting corral and took a quick selfie while we were all still feeling fresh and energetic.IMG_4430

Loop 1 (36:01 for 3.37 miles; 10:41/mile)

In the days before the race, I struggled with race strategy. Should I go slow and steady, or start a tiny bit faster to bank time before the sun came out? It’s impossible to know which one would’ve been most effective, but I ended up doing the latter. KP, DD, AS, and I fell into an easy rhythm and I figured that as long as we kept the pace conversational, things would be fine. Yes, I was running faster than my goal pace (11:30/mile), but I felt good. I made sure my breathing was easy and my heart rate low. On that first loop, I was relieved to see how nice the loop was. I’ve run at Point Pinole before, but I had forgotten the changing vistas and landscape. It’s a good thing too, because I was planning on running this “big loop” (3.37 miles) a total of 8 times before switching to the small loop. At the end of the first loop, I treated myself to a salted caramel Gu.


Action shot (PC: AS)

Loop 2 (36:37; 10:49/mile)

I was still running with our little foursome, occasionally slowing down on purpose whenever I felt us drifting towards 10:00-10:30/mile. It felt like it was getting warmer, but I still felt pretty good. I grabbed a slice of watermelon at the aid station (2 miles in), and I looked forward the cold Gatorade in my personal cooler at the end of the loop.


Funny signs like this along the course kept runners’ spirits up

Loop 3 (37:52; 11:14/mile)

I was still feeling pretty good, but I started thinking about my end-of-lap treat a little earlier than usual. Nothing really eventful happened here, except noting that I seemed to feeling pretty tired for being only 10 miles in. At least I was ~5 minutes ahead of 50K pace. I grabbed another Gu at the end of this lap.Sam_run til you barf

Loop 4 (38:18; 11:22/mile)

I started breathing harder during this lap, which is something that has happened to me before. The heavy breathing coincides with a high heart rate, and I just can’t seem to bring it back down, no matter how many walk breaks I take. I think it’s definitely a psychosomatic thing. I was mildly successful at trying to prevent total disaster by controlling my breathing. I stopped talking and let DD and AS drive the conversation. 2 miles into the 4th loop, KP took a bathroom break and I never saw her again until the end of the race. I continued to follow DD and AS through to the end of loop 4, where DD went off to her camp to restock, and I stopped at our camp to drink some Coke. I tried to chug the Coke and catch up to AS but I eventually lost her as well. I ended up running solo for the rest of the race.


AS is still running happy, while I’m clearly struggling (PC: Brazen Racing)

Loop 5 (39:42; 11:47/mile)

beginning loop 5

Running with a Coke isn’t easy! (PC: Brazen Racing)

I think I took my first real walk break during Loop 5. To be fair, there were 2 small hills on the big loop where just about everyone walked, but I started taking walk breaks outside of these two hills. I started feeling extremely nauseous as well. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep, the Coke I just chugged, or the rising temps, but I didn’t feel well. I spent this loop and the next processing and rethinking my strategy. I decided to throw out my outcome-based goals, because I was sure I wasn’t going to run a 50K that day. Instead, I went back to my process-based goals and decided that as long as I kept running to some extent, I would be satisfied. Ecstatic? No. But satisfied.

Loop 6 (45:30; 13:30/mile)

I decided on run-walk intervals of run for 2 minutes, walk for 30 seconds. It was hard to keep track of the intervals, but that also kept my mind occupied. Eating some salty foods at the aid stations and slowing down eventually got me over my nausea. All of the sweets that I had been eating/drinking was really turning my stomach.


Time is running out! (This was the the race mascot, I think her name was Clocky or something like that.)

Loop 7 (48:23; 14:21/mile)

More of the same. Run/walk intervals, just slower.

late in the race maybe

Not sure when this was taken… (PC: Brazen Racing)

Loop 8 (53:47; 15:58/mile)

I had more than an hour to finish this loop. I actually debated whether to wait for the small loop (0.42 miles) to open up, since it seemed easier. However, that meant waiting around for 8 minutes at the start of the small loop – which, despite my slow pace, meant losing about half a mile of distance. So I soldiered on, even calling the Gypsy Runner to chat for 5 minutes. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have done that, but at the time, I didn’t care. My main goal at that point was to finish the 8th loop and hopefully have enough time to run a few of the smaller loops. I took my time and started taking longer and longer walk breaks. I was pretty happy to finish this loop, and I celebrated with an extra long break at camp. (Also a mistake, in retrospect.)


The one section of single-track downhill.

Small loops 1-3 (paces: 18:30/mile, 13:15/mile, 12:32/mile)

It turned out that these small loops were way easier than the big loops. I wasn’t the only one who found that most of this loop was runnable, minus the last very short uphill portion. If I hadn’t dilly-dallied, I could’ve easily run at least 1 more small loop. Oh well!

Official results:
28.22 miles in 5:54:40
2/23 AG (F 40-44), 18/152 F


I finally saw the rest of my crew at the end of the 3rd loop. We all made the ultra distance, with KP and DD coming in at 27+ miles, and AS running her first 50K! I was a little disappointed with my performance, but overall I was glad to be done. I was also proud of the fact that I kept going, even though I could’ve thrown in the towel at any point. Sure, there were mistakes I made, such as going out too fast, drinking/eating too much sugar to the point of nausea, and taking too long of breaks at aid stations, but I’m putting these things in “lessons learned.”


Friends make experiences more special. PC: DD


So glad that KP was able to come up to visit!

Will there be a next time? This is my second ultramarathon, and I’m now 0/2 on positive experiences. I’m planning on taking a long break from marathons and ultras. My next 26.2 will be London in April 2019. Until then, I’m looking to focus on running for fun and  fitness. I’ve been enjoying the last couple of relaxing weekends, sleeping in instead of getting up early for long runs. I’m sure at some point, the motivation will be back, but until then, I’m happy to be taking a break from marathon training.


A giant medal (that doubles as a coaster) for a giant feat. 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized

Race Preview: Dirty Dozen 6 Hour Race

Date: Saturday, July 7, 2018 (which I just realized happens to be our 2nd wedding anniversary… happy anniversary, Gypsy Runner!)

Location: Point Pinole, Richmond CA

Format: 3.37-mile loops. You only need to complete one loop to be a finisher. There will be 6 hour and 12 hour runners (solo and relay teams), as well as a morning 5K/10K, and an afternoon 5K/10K. In the last hour of the 6 and 12 hour events, there will be a 0.6 mile small loop that opens up so runners can accrue as much distance as possible, because only finished loops count toward your total.

Why I signed up: I’ve been curious about this race for many years now. Even though the loops sound a bit repetitive, there’s also the comfort in knowing that the race will be well-supported (2 aid stations per loop) and you can even set up your own mini aid station at the finish area. When my friend DD said she was signing up, I decided this would be the year for me as well. Then, AS and KP signed up too, and now it’s going to be a good ol’ running party! The sad news is that DD came down with an ITB injury so she will be walking instead of running.

How this training cycle has gone: In terms of total mileage, I haven’t gotten above 35 or 40 miles a week, mostly because I didn’t increase my weekday mileage at all. So, that makes me a bit nervous. On the upside, I’ve gotten a lot of quality long runs in and my body feels good. Compared to previous marathon/ultra training cycles, I’ve spent more time on my feet for the long runs and I’ve been more consistent week to week, which is a confidence booster. I don’t have any niggles or pains going into Saturday (*knocks on wood*).

Race goals:

  • Outcome-based goals: My A-goal is to complete my second 50K, with a B-goal of completing something between a marathon and a 50K (still counts as an ultra!). My C-goal is to complete a marathon, which I am thinking should be very doable in 6 hours.
  • Process-based goals: I want to run consistently from start to finish, no matter what the pace. It’s really the mental aspect that I want to concentrate on. As long as I don’t quit or take stupidly long breaks for no reason, I’ll be happy.

Race Strategy:
My big three processes that I’ll be focused on are pace, keeping cool, and staying on top of my fueling. Based on my A-goal of completing a 50K, my aim is to average 11:32/mile. I think this will be a really reasonable pace for the first 3-4 hours, but I know I will slow down due to fatigue and heat. So, if I’m feeling good, I might bank a little bit of time in the first 2-3 hours, but not go out like Seabiscuit. 🙂 Here’s the pace chart I came up with:

loop total mileage elapsed time time of day (approx)
1 3.37 0:38:52 7:38:52
2 6.74 1:17:44 8:17:44
3 10.11 1:56:36 8:56:36
4 13.48 2:35:28 9:35:28
5 16.85 3:14:20 10:14:20
6 20.22 3:53:12 10:53:12
7 23.59 4:32:04 11:32:04
8 26.96 5:10:56 12:10:56
small loop 1 27.56 5:17:52 12:17:52
2 28.16 5:24:48 12:24:48
3 28.76 5:31:44 12:31:44
4 29.36 5:38:40 12:38:40
5 29.96 5:45:36 12:45:36
6 30.56 5:52:32 12:52:32
7 31.16 5:59:28 12:59:28

As for keeping cool, it’s supposed to get up to 80 degrees on Saturday. However, I’m hoping for one of those classic Bay Area summer days where it’s overcast for a few hours in the morning and the sun doesn’t come out until noon (fingers crossed!). From what I remember, the loop is about 50% exposed and 50% shaded. I bought a cooling buff that is made of a special material that feels cool to your skin when it’s wet. I tried it last week on my long run and it felt OK. I also used it to wipe sweat from my face, so that was a nice additional feature. On race day, I’ll wrap ice in the buff to keep me cool. Speaking of ice – I’ll have a cooler full of ice and so I can pick up a few pieces with every loop. My emergency plan is to ditch my tank top if need be and just run in a sports bra and shorts.

In terms of fueling, I will do an amped up version of what I’ve been doing for all of my long runs. In addition to taking a gel or eating a waffle every hour, I will drink a mini-bottle of Gatorade or Coke (probably alternate with every other loop). I specifically got Gatorade because, as much as I love Brazen, I hate that they use Ultima electrolyte drink. It has zero calories and tastes terrible. I will probably take advantage of the aid stations as well – for things like fruit, chips, peanut M&Ms, etc.

So, that’s what I’ve been thinking for the race. If you’ve ever done an event like this, I’d love to hear any suggestions, advice, or tips you’d like to share!

Happy 4th of July, all!


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Posted in Race Preview

Pacing Recap: Dream Mile Marathon 2018

The good/bad of writing a recap almost a month after the race: there’s only so much you remember (bad) but the parts you do hopefully make for a more succinct, compelling story (good). However, funny details are forgotten (bad) and so are some of the darker moments during the experience (good, generally).

On June 3rd, I was the 5:15 pacer at the Dream Mile Marathon in San Jose. I signed up thinking it would be a great way to get a very long, supported training run on the books. Plus, after pacing more than a handful of half marathons, I was curious about pacing a full 26.2. It would be a new, interesting challenge. Even though the pace seemed doable (12:01/mile), I knew that anything could happen during a full marathon. To convince myself I was up to the task, I tested myself with a 20-miler a few weeks before the race. I averaged 11:05/mile, even with 30s walk breaks every mile. That made me feel a bit more confident about pacing the 5:15 group.

What I hadn’t practiced for was the heat. (Insert foreboding soundtrack here.)

The course starts and ends near the Silver Creek Sportsplex in San Jose. It is mostly flat and runs along the Coyote Creek Trail (paved). The full marathon had two out and back sections: 3 miles south and back, then 9 miles north and back, with a one mile connector between the start/finish area and the trail.

As race day approached, there was much talk about the weather. The forecast called for scorching temps. I was glad I signed up for 5:15 instead of one of the faster groups and also that the race started at 7am.

Race Day
There were a couple of bad signs before the race began. For one thing, 3 of the full marathon pacers were no shows. I don’t know what happened, maybe they were injured, but that wasn’t great. The good news was that at least all of the half marathon pacers showed up. This isn’t a huge race, so it’s not that big of a deal, but it does make our group look bad. As a result of the missing pacers, the pace group leader was trying to convince me to switch to 4:45. I said no way – given the heat and the fact that my slowest marathon was around 4:45, there’s no way I could responsibly sign up for that.


Trivalley Running Club pacers

The second bad sign was that it was already hot at 6am. I had not been warming up or anything, but I was already sweating from just standing around. I tried to stay hopeful, but I knew it would be tough day ahead.

The race started promptly at 7:00 a.m. My strategy was to run even effort/pace and to walk through aid stations. (In retrospect, I think I should’ve banked some time when it was still relatively cool, for the first ~3 hours.) This is a tiny race, with only 67 entrants in the full marathon and 49 finishers. Many more people signed up for the other distances (half marathon, 10K, 5K). I made a few friends here and there during the race, but there was only one woman, C, with whom I leapfrogged from miles 8-16. Otherwise, I was running completely alone. However, since it’s an out and back course, you get to see other runners relatively frequently for the first half of the race.

I ran the Dream Mile half marathon a couple of years ago as a pacer and one of the things I really liked about this event was the friendliness of the participants and the volunteers. Most people shouted encouragements and cheerful greetings in passing. So, even though I was often alone and running without music/podcasts, I had enough interactions to break up the monotony, at least for the first 4 hours.

I’d say the first part of the race went as planned. I was even a little bit ahead of pace at the 20-21 mile mark by about a minute. Then things began to unravel. Actually, it probably started even before that. For the first 9 miles, there was intermittent shade that kept me relatively cool. Then, we crossed a bridge and went through a beautiful marsh area, which lead to a pretty but completely exposed grassy valley. It felt like I was running into an oven. IMG_4251

Despite the heat, I was feeling pretty good. I focused on getting to the turnaround point at mile 15.5, where there was an aid station. It was there that I ran into the 4:55 pacer, who was having a rough day. He was overheating and had started walking. Poor guy. So, compared to him, I was having a solid day so far. I was still eating a gel every hour, and treated myself to a Honey Stinger Waffle at the 2.5 hour mark.

My first feeling that things were going south was around mile 18-19. I had thought there was only 2.5 miles between aid stations when in fact it was longer than that (3.5? 4?). I had clung on to the idea of seeing that aid station and then getting some ice to cool off. But at every turn, when I kept thinking that the aid station would be right there, it wasn’t. Finally, I got to the aid station (I think it was mile 20.5?) I decided to take a longer than usual break. I had banked about a minute of time, and I had held off on peeing since the start of the race. It’s a weird thing when you’re both dehydrated and need to pee at the same time. When I had finished my business, I asked the aid station volunteers for some ice. I just wanted to hold it in my hand and put it on my neck, because I could feel my core body temperature getting too hot. One of the volunteers looked at me and asked me if I needed a salt tablet; I realized later on that I was covered in salt. I was also starting to feel nauseated at the idea of even drinking water or Gatorade.

I lost a couple of minutes at that aid station, but I reasoned it was time well spent. Plus, there wasn’t anyone running with me. I thought I could still stay on pace. However, after that block of ice melted, I started to overheat again. I grabbed ice at every aid station, but it only temporarily cooled me down. I made myself drink water and take my last Gu, even though I felt sick. I wouldn’t say that I was in danger of heat stroke, but in addition to the nausea, I was feeling quite dizzy and almost sleepy. I started to take A LOT of walk breaks. I felt bad that I was letting my pace team down, but on the other hand, I knew if I pushed myself, I could be putting myself in danger. Plus, there weren’t even any runners within range!

The last 3 miles were interminable. I went from being only a couple minutes behind the goal pace to 5, 10 minutes late and counting. There was a volunteer on a bike who was acting as first aid/sweeper. He gave me some of his Nuun and made sure I was OK. It was such a surreal moment of trying to finish this race and fulfilling my pacing duties, yet there were no people in sight, either in front of me or behind me. I just kept trying to make forward progress. Once I got off the trail and back on the street, I took it one block at a time. Eventually, I got to the last 0.2 miles and swore to myself that I would jog it in, which I did. I ended up finishing in 5:27:54, almost 13 minutes after my goal time. IMG_2503

I was extremely dehydrated and hot. Even after drinking a ton of liquids and eating some food, I had lost at least 5.5 pounds during the race. It took me hours to cool my core body temp down and I’ve never drank so much liquid after a race. It took me quite a while before I peed (sorry if TMI). This might sound strange, but I was grateful for these physical signs of the stress my body was under, because I was afraid I just wimped out mentally when the going got tough. Maybe I did a little, but I wasn’t in a good state physically either.

Am I disappointed that I didn’t meet my goal time? Yes. This was the first time I’ve botched a pacing gig, and I felt bad for letting my group down. However, I had to do what was best for me in these circumstances. I know you non-Californians are probably laughing at me, but it was 82 degrees when I finished, with a real feel of 91 F. That’s really hot for California. And I suppose if I had done any kind of real heat training before the race, it would’ve helped, but that weekend was one of the first really warm weekends of the year.

The good news was that I managed to recover pretty quickly after the race (all the iced drinks FTW). My legs felt fine the day after – they weren’t more sore or tired than they are after any long run.

Will I ever pace another full marathon? No, I don’t think so… not even in better circumstances. First, I’m starting to feel like the number of full marathons in my future is very limited (as in, less than a handful). I don’t really enjoy the distance or training for them. Second, pacing is another whole level of responsibility. I don’t think I want to sign up for that.

In summary, what I’ve learned from this experience is:

  • marathon pacing is hard
  • running in the heat sucks, especially with very little heat training
  • in these conditions, it was probably advisable to bank some time when it was still relatively cool
  • in hot temps, going slower is important, but so is keeping your core body temp down and replenishing electrolytesJyqAoguRQniLZxE68xwX4w

I’m not going to write down all of the race logistics, since I already did that for the Dream Mile Half, but feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

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Posted in Pace Group, Race Recap

Taper Time! (Dirty Dozen Weeks 4-9)

Hey there! Yes, I’m still alive… I just haven’t been blogging. 🙂 Somehow, 6 weeks have passed since my last update. The good news is that I’ve been building my long runs pretty consistently. The meh/bad news is that my weekday mileage never increased past 9 miles, and I had a couple of weeks of very low mileage due to travel. Here are some running highlights from the last 6 weeks:

  • A solid 20 miler (the last 6 with bt) on the Bay Trail between Emeryville/Berkeley/Richmond. We followed the run with bagels at my favorite bagel shop in Berkeley. (Yes, I plan my long runs around post-run refueling. Doesn’t everyone? LOL)
  • The Gypsy Runner and I went on a long hike in the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park during a weekend getaway to Aptos. I made the executive decision that the hike would be a substitute for that week’s long run, given the hilliness of the hike. These are the perks of self-coaching. 😉


    The gorgeous and serene redwoods of Nisene Marks SP

  • An 18 mile run at Lake Chabot with 1,100 feet elevation gain. My knees were sore after this run – they’ve been bugging me since descending Mt. Diablo in April. :/ Besides the sore knees and getting stung by two yellow jackets (OUCH), this was a solid run.


    I got stung by a yellow jacket soon after this photo

  • 26.2 miles at the Vibha Dream Mile Marathon. I volunteered to pace so I could do a 5+ hour supported long run, and unfortunately it turned out to be a very hot day. The “real feel” by the end was 90+ degrees F and on top of that, it was an uncharacteristically humid day for the Bay Area. I’ll write a separate recap of this race, hopefully soon.


    With the TVRC half and full marathon pacers at the Dream Mile race, while it was still reasonably cool at 6:30am.

  • Yesterday, I ran 21.6 miles on the Iron Horse Trail, accompanied by SP and AS. I was a little anxious about this run, because I spent last week traveling (total mileage: 11.4 miles), and this past week, I did my usual short weekday 3-milers, totaling 9 miles. I know it’s  risky to load all of your mileage on the weekends, but this is what my schedule allows for nowadays. Since this was going to be my last long-long run before the Dirty Dozen, the goal was to log 4 – 4.5 hours on my feet, regardless of distance. I also wanted to simulate walking through aid stations, which are 1.5 miles apart. So we did run-walk intervals of 20 minutes of running to 1 minute of walking, which allowed me to practiced fueling too. By the end, I was happy to be done (obvs), but I could have kept going, which feels like a good sign. Afterwards, AS and I went to Gotta Eatta Pita — it’s like Chipotle, but with Mediterranean food, and it’s AWESOME. They also have the best soda — the brand is Stubborn, and it’s made with real sugar and less of it. I try not to drink soda, but after a long, hot run, there’s nothing more refreshing to me than an ice cold fountain drink.


    Overly excited about my giant bowl of food

So, that’s what’s been going on with me. More later on my thoughts and strategy for the Dirty Dozen 6 hour race. Hope everyone is having a great summer so far, and Happy Father’s Day!


A rare photo of running friends in regular clothes, so obviously I had to share.

Posted in Training

Dirty Dozen Week 3


A very serene morning at Lake Chabot

I survived the first week at my new job! I’m glad I had a flexible mindset going in, because training certainly didn’t happen as planned. I got my regular Tuesday morning run in (yay!), but an 8:45 am meeting in South San Francisco on Wednesday meant I had to be on the road at 7:00 am. I’m not yet at the point where I’m willing to wake up at 5:00 am to run. Luckily, bt saw my last post – that I was going to be in her neck of the woods Wednesday afternoon – and offered to get together for dinner and a run. I felt very sluggish during our 3 mile jaunt, but being able to catch up with a friend AND get a run in was significantly better than sitting in rush hour traffic (obvs). She even cooked dinner for me! It was such a treat.


Post run selfie 🙂

I canceled my Thursday run because I had yet another early morning. I actually got home at a decent hour, so I could’ve run after work, but I decided to write some work emails instead. I figured I could run during lunch on Friday… which didn’t happen, for no good reason. I was lazy, plain and simple. My logic was that I had had a busy week and why not take a full rest day before my long run on Saturday.

Which brings us to Saturday! I decided to run two laps around Lake Chabot, for a total of 17 miles and 1,768 feet elevation gain. It took me just over 3.5 hours (12:51/mile), which was my goal. Yes, there was quite a bit of walking in the second lap, but I jogged steadily until the very end, so I was happy about that. I was pretty wrecked for the rest of the day.

On Sunday, I did a short recovery jog of 3.2 miles, which brought the weekly total to 26 miles. Not as many miles as I would’ve liked to have logged, but it is what it is. This week’s schedule should be a lot better in terms of fitting in runs – except for Wednesday, when we have to make a day trip to the central valley.

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Posted in Training

Gearing Up for Another Change

My new job officially started today, but there’s a 4 week transition period, where I’m still doing my old job (tech support, working from home) on Mondays and Fridays. So, tomorrow is my actual “first day” on the job. I’m really excited about the new role. I’ll be going to a different location every day (and sometimes multiple locations in one day). For example, my schedule this week has me going to:

  • Tuesday: UCSF Mission Bay/CZI Biohub
  • Wednesday: A biotech in South San Francisco and Stanford
  • Thursday: UC Davis

The starting time each day varies as well. Tomorrow, I don’t have my first meeting until 10am, but Wednesday’s first meeting is 8:45am. Yes, traffic will suck, but at least I don’t have to always be in the same commute traffic day in and day out. Plus I have a new car!

One major challenge will be finding time to train. Or rather, being more flexible in my training schedule. Over the last 6 months, I’ve stuck to a regular schedule of running Tu/W/Th mornings, mostly because I prefer to run in the mornings. However, with this new gig, I’ll have to be more creative. I was thinking of always keeping a change of running clothes with me in case I get out of a meeting early, but not early enough to beat rush hour. So I could go on my run after work and then drive home in lighter traffic. My gym has a couple of branches around the Bay Area and I was thinking about upgrading to the “VIP” level so I could at least access a locker room and jump on a treadmill if I need to. And even though I HATE running on Fridays (I don’t know why), I may very well start running on Fridays because that’s the day I’ll be working from home and will have the most flexibility.

Anyway, I know many of you have hectic work schedules. What kinds of tips or advice do you have for fitting in training runs during the work week?


A quick word about Dirty Dozen training: so far, so good! I guess I’ll call 2 weeks ago (week of April 16th) “Week 1” of training. I ran just under 26 miles (25.9), with a long run at Lake Chabot of 13.2 miles and 1,640 feet of climbing.


The beautiful and tranquil Logger’s Loop at Lake Chabot

Week 2 was another step in the right direction; I logged 30 miles for the week, my first week in the 30-somethings in ages. For my long run, I decided to take a break from trails/climbing and focused on continuous running for 3 hours. I ended up running 16.6 miles at the very flat San Leandro Marina.

Uncharacteristically, I’m kinda making things up as I go. I keep thinking that maybe I should write out a plan, but knowing that I’m heading into a period of uncertainty with a new job, I don’t want to set myself up for failure. I’m taking it one week at a time for now, and am putting more thought into my long run more than anything else.


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Posted in Trail running, Training

Back to Trails

After the Oakland Half, I started thinking about what my next goal would be. DD and I have talked on and off for a while about doing the Brazen Dirty Dozen 6 hour race. This is a 6 (or 12) hour event consisting of 3.3 mile loops at Point Pinole Park in Richmond, CA. It’s not particularly hilly – I think the total elevation gain/loss per loop is only about 150 feet – but it is unpaved, so it’s technically still a trail race. Dirty Dozen was the first race at which the Gypsy Runner and I volunteered, and I remember thinking at the time, “Who would ever want to do this?” But then, shortly after that, I got into long distance running and I started to understand. And eventually, I saw my friends run it and thought, “Hm, that doesn’t look so bad…” Because it’s a Brazen race, it’s extremely well organized and has a great atmosphere. It really is like a 6 hour running party, as weird as that sounds!

I’ve held off on registering for the Dirty Dozen because I haven’t felt a desire to run long on trails for a while. Compared to long runs on roads, it can take me 1.5-2 times longer to complete a long run on trails. Plus, they usually leave me super exhausted. On the upside, the scenery tends to be prettier. What really put me over the edge this year was DD signing up for the race. We both had volunteer credits and we both had wanted to run the 6 hour race, so…why not? Having a friend signed up for this race hopefully means that I’ll have a training partner for a few long runs. We might have even convinced AS to sign up as well! 🙂

My goal for the Dirty Dozen is to run at least the marathon distance and, if all goes well, complete my second ever 50K. My process goal is to run consistently the whole time, meaning I need to start slow and be patient.

I’ve decided against following a specific training plan because I’m starting a new-new job in 2 weeks. I know what you’re thinking – didn’t you just start a new job? Yes, I did. But then another position opened up within my company, I applied, and I got it! That’s the good news. The bad news (for my running, anyway) is that my schedule will vary quite a lot from day to day and week to week, which makes following a training schedule extremely difficult. For now, I plan on running 3 days during the week, with one of them being a longer run (12-15 miles total on weekdays), and two runs on the weekends. On which days the runs happen will be determined on a weekly basis. My long runs will be more focused on time spent on my feet as opposed to distance, since that varies so much with elevation gain/loss. I think if I can get at least three 4.5-5 hour long runs in, I’ll be happy.

So, with that race on the calendar, I decided it would be a good idea to start training. I joined DD and friends for a run/hike up Mt. Diablo this past Sunday. Considering I had only run 12 miles in the span of 2 weeks (thanks to a work trip), I knew Mt. Diablo was going to be a challenge — and it was! It’s up there with one of the toughest trail runs I’ve done: 14 miles and 4300′ gain/loss. Two days later and my legs are still very sore. Fortunately, my left knee feels better — it wasn’t happy with all of that downhill running! At least it was pretty though?



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Posted in Trail running

Out With the Old, In With the New


My new car! The 2018 Honda Civic EX Sedan in Cosmic Blue. I looooove it.

This weekend was a big one – I bought a new car and sold my old one! Angela saw my tweet about getting a good price on my new car ($1200 under invoice) and asked me to share my secrets, so here I am. I hope this is useful to anyone out there hoping to buy a car soon.

Step 1: Research. This was honestly the most time-consuming part. After I had an idea of my budget, and narrowed it down to the compact vehicle category, I started reading online reviews. I did not want to test drive more than 4 vehicles, but you may be more patient than I am. YouTube was useful for video reviews – I particularly liked the Kelley Blue Book videos. I also read through various written guides to get an idea of what kind of features I wanted (or didn’t care about), as well as safety features. When you narrow it down to a handful of models, you can usually find side-by-side comparisons online.

Step 2: Test drive. Do not even think about buying at this point. You are merely checking out the vehicle in person. It can be useful to make an appointment so that you’re not waiting for them to bring the vehicle to you. Some sales people are very chill – we had one guy let us drive the car without him, while you can expect most to want to ride with you and blather on about features. I liked the ones who told us very little except to give us directions on how to get back to the dealer.

Step 3: Evaluate and decide on a model. This can be tough when you’re dealing with so many different options and price points, including dealer rebates, etc. I ultimately went with the Honda Civic EX even though it was a few thousand dollars more than my second choice, mostly because my second choice didn’t have any other pros besides, “cheaper than Honda Civic”.

Step 4: Research price: MSRP, “True Market Value”, invoice, and rebates/specials. You can easily google all of these things without paying a dime. (I think that you used to have to pay for such a report. Not any more!) A few definitions:

  • MSRP: Manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or the sticker price. Never pay this – you can always negotiate lower than sticker price.
  • True Market Value“: this is data compiled by Edmunds.com on vehicles sold nationwide. They will give you the market average, what’s considered a “good” price, and what’s considered a “great” price. I can’t help but think these numbers are inflated, because 2 of 3 quotes I received came in lower than the “great” price. But I think these are good starting points.
  • Invoice: a.k.a., “dealer cost” which is misleading, because the true dealer cost is usually lower than invoice price. This is because there are hidden incentives with every vehicle between the factory and the dealer, so you will never know the true cost. Before I bought my car, the only rule of thumb I knew was to try to get $500 under invoice.
  • Rebates/specials: every dealer will advertise on their site if they’re having cash back deals or special financing rates. Traditionally, the deals get better as you go later into the year, but every car manufacturer differs in their release schedule. Toyota, for instance, already had 2018 cars on their lot in September 2017, whereas Honda didn’t have 2018 models on the lot until the very end of 2017/beginning of 2018.

Step 5: Research dealerships. There are so many car dealerships in my area that I basically started with the 3 closest to my house and went from there. You might also want to look at Yelp or Google reviews to read about other people’s experiences. I didn’t spend too much time doing that.

Step 6: Send an email/message to dealerships. The dealerships I messaged all had “Contact Us” forms on their websites. I left off my phone number (or created a fake one) because I didn’t want anyone to call me. This is what I wrote, which I modified from this very helpful post:

I would like to get a quote on the following vehicle:

1. Trim: 2018 Honda Civic EX Sedan, CVT, 1.5L 4 cylinder engine
2. Colors: Exterior – Cosmic Blue or Modern Steel
3. Accessories: None

I am aware of MSRP and invoice prices and would appreciate a competitive bid.

Please respond via email to this request.

Thank you.

Step 7: Wait for a response, then start negotiating. I received 3 quotes within 30 minutes of my initial email. One salesperson said he couldn’t give me a quote over email, until I told him I already had 2 from other dealerships. Then, he sent me a very competitive quote. I withheld information for as long as possible. For instance, I didn’t mention how I would pay (cash vs. financing) or if I was going to trade-in my current vehicle. All I was negotiating was the price of the new car itself. Everything I read online recommended doing that first, then adding the other stuff later. One thing you want to clarify is what’s included in the quotes — destination fee, etc.

I got a good vibe from G in Fremont — he was responsive and not overly pushy. Plus, he immediately kicked off the process with $1,000 under invoice! Just as I was going to say yes to him, another sales person came in with a slightly better deal ($30 less). So, I went back to G with the better quote, saying that I appreciated his responsiveness and that I’d like to give him my business, so could he go lower? He came back with $1230 under invoice, so I told him he had a deal. This was all within 2.5 hours of my initial email. I didn’t expect this to go so quickly! I didn’t immediately tell the other 2 dealerships that I had agreed to a deal with G, because I wanted something in my pocket in case this deal fell through.

Step 8: Buy the car. I made an appointment for Saturday morning. I told G that I didn’t want to haggle or be upsold when I picked up the car, and he pretty much stuck to that. He did show me two quotes (probably because his manager made him)- one with the basic features and price we agreed on, and the second with all weather mats and tinted windows. Hard pass. So, fortunately, everything with GM went smoothly. From a friend who had bought her car using this same method, I knew to expect to be at the dealership for 2-3 hours, despite ironing out the deal in advance. What took so long? We did a short test drive, signed the quote, decided not to trade-in my old car (another story for another time), then I got sent into the financing office to work on payment.

Step 9: Buying the car, part 2. UGH, the financing guy was soooo lame. I don’t think it matters whether you’re paying cash, financing, or leasing, they will try to sell you an extended warranty and maintenance package no matter what. As the financing guy started his spiel, I let him go through the first column (of 5!!!), then I interrupted him and said firmly that I would not be interested in any of these plans. He looked taken aback and said he had to go over the maintenance package, at the very least. OK, fine. I let him say his thing (with ridiculously overinflated estimates for oil changes, etc.), and then I said – again, firmly – no, thanks. The part that bugged me was when he went on to say, “I don’t think you understand what a great deal this is. Do you understand about maintenance?” I about blew my lid. WTF. Yes, I understand car maintenance. I’ve been driving for 25 years and I have a Ph.D., thankyouverymuch. I wish I had said this, but I didn’t. Anyway, there were more irritating parts to this story, but the end result is the same: JUST SAY NO (unless you want to, which by all means, say yes).

After waiting for another 40 minutes for the car to get detailed (tip: bring a book), I was done!! G showed me how to pair my phone up with the car’s Bluetooth, and then I was freeeee. It was all much easier and much much less awkward than I anticipated, minus the short episode with financing. If you have to buy a new or used car from a dealer, I can’t recommend this method enough. I had a terrible experience when I bought my last vehicle, and this way was much more empowering. I had all of the information and power at my fingertips, thanks to the internet! I have wondered if I could have gotten a much better deal (maybe, given how readily two salespeople went so low to begin with?) but I’m generally very satisfied with how this all went. Let me know if you have questions and I’ll try to answer them!

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Race Recap: Oakland Half Marathon 2018

Last week, I ran the Oakland Half Marathon. I realized that I should recap this race before I forget too many of the details. Plus, I leave today for an 8-day work trip, and I definitely won’t have time blog.

To review: my goals going into the race were:

  • C-goal: Beat my previous course record (CR) — 2:04:26.
  • B-goal: Beat my time from Kaiser 2018: 2:01:19.
  • A-goal: Finish under 2 hours OR averaging 9:09/mile or faster (in case I didn’t run tangents and ran substantially longer than 13.1 miles).

Spoiler: I hit my A-goal.

I originally registered for Oakland as a back up race, in case I didn’t meet my goal at Kaiser. My friend PC, a race ambassador, had a discount code and then there was a Black Friday sale. Y’all know that I’m a sucker for a good deal! I think I ended up paying like $65(?). It had been 2 years since I last ran the Oakland Half, and since that time, they had changed the start/finish location, so I was really curious how that would affect my experience.

Race Morning
In previous years, the race always started at 9:10, which is already late by half marathon standards. This year, they pushed back the start time to 9:30am, so that most half marathon runners are finishing in the heat of the midday sun. Thankfully, it was much cooler than past years (maybe 50F at the start?), but still very warm in the sun. The upside is that I had a much more leisurely race morning than usual. I met up with friends at their apartment just half a mile from Lake Merritt at 8:00 a.m. We hung out inside for as long as possible to take advantage of their warm, comfortable living room and a real bathroom.


Ready to run! (Photo: CC)

At around 8:45 am, we started walking down to the Lake, taking the longer but less steep route. We got to the start area shortly after 9:00, I went and used the bathroom one last time, said good bye and good luck to my friends, and headed out for a short, 5-minute warm-up. At 9:15, I got into the corral, lining up near the 2 hour pace group. Shortly after, there was an announcement that the race was going to be delayed to 9:40. UGH. It was already very cramped in the corral, so there was no place to move or stretch out. Eventually, as more people came into the corral, I got separated from the 2 hour pacers, who ended up quite a ways in front of me. I know that this (i.e., standing around for 25 minutes in a cramped situation) isn’t even that big of a deal compared to big city races, but I guess that’s why I’m more of a small race kind of girl. Finally, the National Anthem was sung, followed by a countdown, and at 9:46, the race FINALLY started.


Before it got really crowded

The Race
Thinking back on the race itself, I had a very different experience than in the past. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve run the Oakland Half so many times (3 times, plus most of the course for the full marathon once), but I was sort of “in the zone” the whole time. I have random snapshots and memories of Downtown, Chinatown, West Oakland, etc., but it was more observational/detached, like, “OK, I’m here now.” Almost Zen-like? It was also weird because the race started about 2 miles away from where it used to, so there were parts of the course where I would realize that I felt more tired than usual, but reminded myself that I was also 2 miles further along, which would make me happy/relieved.

The other reason I felt a little discombobulated was due to the mile markers. After 2 miles, I switched my Garmin to time lapsed, and I was counting on the mile markers to help me calculate pacing, just as I had done at Kaiser. I like how doing simple math in my head distracts me and gives me a pace goal for the next mile. Anyway, markers for miles 1-3 all appeared right on schedule. I never saw the mile 4 marker…or mile 5…or mile 6. I had to guess at my pace a little, hoping that my Garmin was mostly correct. At mile 7, the marker finally reappeared but earlier than I expected by about a quarter mile. I knew I was running ahead of 2 hour pace, but I didn’t think I was in PR range (1:56)! Same for miles 8 and 9. It wasn’t until mile 10 that things seemed to go back to normal. Looking at the official data, there was something definitely off about the placement of the timing mat at 5.5 miles. Supposedly, I was averaging 8:27/mile — which I can assure you, I definitely was not! Before the race, I was worried about running a lot longer than 13.1; during the race, I began to wonder if the course would end up being too short.  Fortunately, I clocked 13.15 miles on my Garmin at the finish, thanks to my mindful running of tangents and having to take less turns than previous years. The marathon runners didn’t get so lucky; just about everyone I know who ran the full has data showing 26.6 miles or longer.

I don’t really want to get into a mile by mile recap, just to say I pushed myself pretty hard the whole race, just as I had planned. I went out a little too quick in the beginning and I’m so glad I never blew up — though I slowed down a lot by mile 13. I was doing a lot of bargaining and self-talk in those last 2 miles. I knew I was really, really close to finishing in 2 hours, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to come in at 13.2 or 13.4 miles, which I’ve done in the past. I very nearly let off the gas, especially around those tiny hills around Lake Merritt, but countered with the regret and anger that I’d have if I went over 2 hours by just a few seconds.

As I ascended the last small hill and took a right on Grand Ave., I knew it was a straight shot and slightly downhill from there. There was another woman struggling, and I turned to her and said, “Let’s do this!” and we ran as hard as we could toward the finish line. I registered CC and her friend L cheering from the side and waved. However, I didn’t dare spend an extra ounce of energy looking at my watch. I sprinted as hard as I could past the finish and then stopped my watch, which read 1:59:53. I did it! Thank goodness.


Splits according to Strava. I don’t like the bars representing speed – I preferred when it was time/pace instead.

It took me a while to catch my breath, but I finally did and walked toward ME, who finished his first half marathon in 1:55 with minimal training. Soon after, A finished, and then AR. We took photos and drank our free beer, which was disappointingly odd tasting (very sour, but not in a good/intended way). One of the things I love about the Oakland Running Festival is that I always run into people I know post-race. I got to catch up with Angela, who ran the full as a training run for Boston (you can find her recap here).


With Angela (Photo: CC)


Happy finishers (Photo: CC)


Our cheering squad 🙂


I was in disbelief all day Sunday and even now, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around accomplishing my “A” goal based on my current not-great-fitness level and also weighing about 5-8 lbs. more than my “fighting weight”. I can only explain it by citing experience and mental strength. It took me many tries to break 2 hours for the half marathon, but this is now my 4th sub-2 half and probably the least I’ve ever trained for one. The other thing that helped me mentally was moving the start/finish to the northeast corner of Lake Merritt. In previous races, I’ve always floundered in the last 5K around the Lake. This new course finishes only 1 mile into the path around Lake Merritt and has a nice straightaway to the finish line, versus the old course which was a cramp-inducing hill up 19th Street. Anyway, I did it! Yay! Stay tuned for what’s next in my running adventures…

Official results:
1:59:47 (9:08/mile); 13.15 miles (Garmin)
25/182 AG, 270/1532 F, 872/2971 overall


Race logistics were similar to years past except for the start/finish. I parked in the neighborhoods east of Lake Merritt and walked down to the race. There was plenty of street parking there, but there is a very steep hill – don’t kill your quads before the race! There were shuttles for people who rode BART. I don’t know how well those worked, I think I overheard people grumbling about them.

Race organization was excellent minus the delayed start, mile markers, and too long distance for the full marathon runners (or should I say, ultramarathon runners?).

ePKe%z3dSMmNbTW2iOw47QSwag consisted of a nice, if boring, shirt – a soft poly-blend technical long sleeve tee – and a medal that doubles as a bottle opener. There were free race pictures too, but so far I’ve only seen 3 of mine, even though I signed over all of my privacy rights to the photo company on Facebook. Supposedly, photos could be downloaded a week post-race without doing the FB thing, but I just checked (8 days out) and I still don’t see them. Oh well.


I finally got a decent fire arch photo, even if I’m doing something weird with my arms. 😉

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Race Preview: Oakland Half 2018

I’ve been referring to the Oakland Half as a goal race, but have I been training like it? Hardly. I finally snuck in a couple of race pace/tempo workouts in the last few weeks, and got some decent long runs in too, but I haven’t done nearly as much running as I intended. However, I’m trying to focus on the positive, such as:

  • Temps should be pleasant (partly cloudy, high of 60F) despite a late start (9:30 a.m.)
  • It’s a similar course as previous years, but the start/finish moved last year to Eastshore Park. That means no more last 5K slog around Lake Merritt, culminating in the last steep-ish hill on 19th St. (which will now be in the second mile of the race).
  • I convinced two friends, AR and ME, to run Oakland as their first half marathons. I’m looking forward to celebrating with them post-race at the Lagunitas beer tent!
  • The late start means a relatively normal pre-race evening. I don’t have to make sure to have an earlybird dinner, nor do I have to be in bed by 9:00 p.m.

Now let’s talk goals. As I readjusted my goals and expectations to meet the amount of training I’ve done, I realized that my C goal – setting a course record – would actually be very doable, as long as I don’t bonk and/or suffer a serious injury. My course record at Oakland was set in 2013, when I aimed to run sub-2 but fell painfully short, finishing in 2:04:26. I’d say there’s a 95% chance that I will set a course record tomorrow. (I hope I didn’t just jinx myself!)

My B goal for this race is to do better than Kaiser, which I ran over a month ago, finishing in 2:01:19. That was a tougher course and in relatively humid conditions. However, I have a tendency to go out too fast at Oakland and run anywhere from 13.3-13.4 miles (according to my Garmin). So, I’ll be happy if I finish with a faster average pace, even if I don’t beat the finish time.

Finally, my A goal is to run a sub-2 hour half. This was my original goal when I signed up for this race, but as the weeks went by, I saw my chances get slimmer. Again, with the very good possibility that I won’t run the tangents and end up running extra distance, I’ll be super happy if I can run 9:09/mile or faster. Basically, sub-2 pace but not sub-2 finish time.

My race plan is to start behind the 2:00 pacer, go out easy for the first mile (9:30-ish). Then, I will pick up the pace and try to catch up to and hang with the 2 hour group for as long as possible. Of course, if the pacer sucks and is running too fast/slow, I won’t run with them. However, I think it’s mentally easier to run with the pack than it is to go it alone, especially when you’re pushing your limits for such an extended period of time.

At the end of the day, finishing a half marathon is a big accomplishment. Regardless of whether I meet my time goals, I’ll be satisfied if I try my best for the duration of the race and to remember to smile and thank all of the volunteers and spectators along the way. I will run happy because I get to run. Cheers!

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On the docket…

4/28/19: London Marathon