Race Recap: Alameda Half Marathon 2017

I’ve been putting off writing this recap because it wasn’t a goal race for me, so it’s not like I had any goals or expectations. Then why did I sign up? Because a friend (KH) texted me, saying,  “I just missed my goal today at the Jackson Hole Half, so I’m flying to the Bay Area to try again in 2 weeks. Hopefully running at sea level will be more forgiving. Run it with me?” (Or something like that.)

Sure, it was $60 (after a discount code), but I know how races are more fun when you have a buddy. And after she guaranteed that I’d get some quality hang out time with her after the race, I decided to sign up. I admit that I’ve also been curious about the course since the inaugural race a few years back. It runs through the northwest part of the island that’s less traveled. My final reason for registering was getting a quality long run in, in a new-to-me location.

On Saturday, the day before the race, KH and I met up for lunch and then headed to the “expo”. We parked and walked towards the tents, and as we approached, we saw that it was a ghost town. There were about 15 tents set up, with tables under half of them. The only tent where there were any human beings was the bib and t-shirt pickup. We expected at least 1-2 running stores selling Gu and Body Glide, and maybe some local race organizations selling discounted registrations… but, no. Considering that we were the only people in line, bib pickup took a few minutes longer than usual. Then, I got yelled at for admiring the dark gray of the men’s race t-shirt. (“Those are the MENS shirts!”) So, if you can’t tell, I wasn’t too impressed with the expo/bib pick up experience. KH and I both hoped that this wasn’t a bad sign of things to come, in terms of race day organization.

Sunday, I got up bright and early for the 7am start. Parking was relatively straightforward. I got to the porta potty line just at the right time to beat the rush (about 6:20am). Then, I did a short warm-up and found KH. We made our way to the start where there was a group warm-up at 6:50am.


Pre-race selfie, with the warm-up crew behind us

I lined up across from the 2:10 pacer and wished KH good luck. Then there was a countdown and an air horn. We were off!

Since this wasn’t a goal race, and since I wasn’t pacing, I created an artificial goal for myself to make it a progressive run. I’d start at 10:00/mile pace for the first mile, and drop down 5 seconds/mile with each passing mile, to end ~9:00/mile pace. The 13th mile, I’d run as fast as I could, and then I’d sprint the last 0.1 mile. I was pretty comfortable with the idea of running slower than 9:30, but the second half paces were just scary enough for me to know this was a good goal. Given that I had just run a 10K at 9:04/mile average pace, running 9:00/mile after 11 miles should be a decent challenge.


I can tell that this is early in the race based on the sweat patch on my shirt (FREE race photos, courtesy of USAP events)

I started off just a tad fast, but not too bad — my first mile clocked in at 9:54. The confusing thing was that the 2:10 pacer (9:55/mile) took off like a rocket. I figured I’d catch him in the next couple of miles… but NOPE. It took me more than 10 miles to pass him, when I was running ~9:15-9:20/mile! He ended up finishing around 2:07, but that was on a long course. I was so tempted to give him an earful when I passed him, but I saw that his fellow pacers provided plenty of constructive criticism. Now that I’m a pacer, I get pretty frustrated and angry when other pacers don’t do their jobs correctly. It’s one thing if you’re injured, it’s another when you can’t seem to slow down… Maybe his Garmin was off, but that’s why we always wear bracelets showing time elapsed against mile splits.


I think this was somewhere around mile 11?

Anyway! I’m ranting about that because there was very little drama otherwise. Some of the course was very industrial and ugly, some was scenic, and some was just meh. I think the problem with the half marathons in Alameda is that it’s too logistically difficult/expensive to have a course that goes through the nice parts of Alameda. At least this course was a loop, as opposed to See Jane Run which is an out-and-back on the shoreline (BORING). Oh, the other cool thing that happened is that I got to see some coworkers on the course who were running as a relay team.


A truly bad race photo, just for LOLZ

The nice part of targeting progressive negative splits is that it kept me engaged. The miles flew by and I spent a ridiculous amount of mental energy trying to keep track of what my target pace should be. The good news is that I met my goal. I present to you, the most beautiful splits in the world (IMHO):


No, Strava, this wasn’t my 3rd fastest half marathon, but thanks for keeping track

OK, so it’s not perfect, but I came awfully close. And I’m proud of that last mile plus the last 0.26 mile sprint. I had one woman pass me in the 13th mile, but otherwise I never got passed after mile 3.


Trying out the arms raised thing

Right before I made the last turn to the finish chute, I saw KH cheering. She joined me for a short bit before letting me finish on my own. As it turns out, she ran almost the same time as she did in Jackson Hole. She seemed happy with her performance though. The course was also long by my Garmin — 13.26 miles. So if it had been 13.1, she would’ve easily beat her goal.

There was a surprisingly decent post-race food spread: burritos, blueberries, granola, and bananas. We sat on the grass and KH granted me the post-race quality hang out time I had requested.


I also made KH take a post-race selfie. We look pretty good for having just run 13.26 miles!

All in all, I’d say it was a good morning. I’m glad I ran the Alameda Half, but I don’t know if I’d run this race again. On one hand, it’s logistically easy (relatively), affordable (relatively), and flat (absolutely – my Garmin had about 70 feet of gain for the whole course). On the other, it’s boring in parts, lonely towards the end, and more than 0.15 too long. We were blessed by good weather – overcast and cool, though a bit humid. I think the 7am start helped a lot. I’d recommend this race for first timers and also as a supported training run for those in the middle of marathon training.

Garmin results: 2:04:59 for 13.26 miles (9:26/mile)
Official results: 2:04:56 (9:32/mile)
19/54 age group; 68/192 women; 203/410 overall


About the race:

  • Website: Alameda Running Festival
  • Cost: Registration for the half marathon started at $50 and went up to $75. My friend had an ambassador’s discount code that saved me 15%. There’s also a 10K and a 5K. Proceeds benefit Alameda Meals on Wheels and the Alameda Education Foundation.
  • Course: A loop course that runs around the northwest end of the island of Alameda. Very flat (approximately 70 feet of elevation gain), but came up long on my Garmin. Mostly paved, but there were some areas of sketchy footing.
  • Parking: Lots of free parking near the start/finish.
  • Aid stations: Water and Nuun every 2 miles or so, but there was a bigger gap between 9 and 12. One of the stations was giving out a brand of gel that I had never heard of, so I skipped it. I was carrying my own water because I had heard there was a contaminated tap water issue in Alameda the week before the race.
  • Bathrooms: Porta potties at the start/finish area, and 1 porta potty at every aid station. There are also public bathrooms at Crown Beach (miles ~6-8).
  • Swag: Very soft cotton t-shirt, huge medal, and a reusable bag with some free goodies inside.

    The t-shirt is actually light blue.


    One of my cats loves laying on things, especially race bags.

  • Post race food and drinks: Bottle of water and a pretty nice food spread with burritos (chicken and vegetarian), salsa, blueberries, granola, and bananas. There was also free beer from local breweries (Drakes, Faction) that I didn’t drink, because it was 9am.
  • Other notes: I think this is a race that’s still working out its kinks, but it’s got great potential. Some things I’d recommend to the organizers would be to streamline the event — for example, there was a 5K on Saturday and a 10K and Half on Sunday, with multiple bib pickups and expos. Since there aren’t that many runners, it seems like having all 3 races in one day might work. Also, I’m really confused about why the course was long — especially since there were large sections on narrow paths. It seems like it should be easy to run tangents, but from what I could gather from Strava, a lot of people came up with longer than 13.2 miles. It’s not a huge problem, but if it was closer to 13.1, then it would be easier to sell this as a PR goal race – fast and flat. I was very impressed by the post-race food and all of the volunteers on the course were friendly. Oh, and free photos! Gotta love that.
Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Race Recap

Race Recap: Race to the End of Summer 10K

A while back, Angela posted that she signed up for the Race to the End of Summer 10K (henceforth called RTTEOS). Because relatively flat and PR-friendly 10Ks are so rare in the Bay Area, I considered it as a goal race. However, as my summer rolled on, it became obvious that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to start training.

In August, the RTTEOS half marathon reappeared, this time as a possible pacing gig with the Trivalley Running Club (TVRC). Unfortunately, signups filled quickly and I missed out.

Then, a couple of weeks later, Peter from TVRC posted a Groupon special — I think it was for up to 50% off of registration? That deal, coupled with a brunch offer (and packet pickup!) from bt, solidified the deal for me.

Race Strategy/Goals
After registering for the 10K, I started taking baby steps toward speed work. A 4 x 400 m workout one week, a 2-mile tempo the next. I still had an inkling of speed, despite the lack of any paces faster than 10:00/mile in the past 9 months (with the exception of the Kaiser Half Marathon in February). Based on my short tempo run, I thought maybe it would be reasonable to run ~9:00/mile pace? I had no idea. I just wanted to run faster than my personal worst (1:01:59, 9:58/mile). I think this was the right way forward, given that the race day forecast was smack dab in the middle of one of the hottest heat waves the Bay Area had seen in almost 2 decades.

Race Day – pre-race
RTTEOS is a really small race in San Jose, so the logistics were very easy. There was plenty of free parking up the hill from the start/finish area. I met up with bt to get my bib and we chatted briefly before I did a 1-mile warm-up. And boy, was it warm by Bay Area standards! We were fortunate that the sky was overcast, but that seemed to cause mugginess, which is very unusual for the Bay Area. I was covered in sweat by the end of my warm-up. I’d say it was mid- to high-70s at the start of the race, which I know is *nothing* compared with most of the country, but it’s a big deal here. (Later in the day, it would reach over 100 degrees for the second day in a row. My house was an unbearable 95 degrees. Sadly, we don’t have air conditioning because we so rarely need it.)

We lined up – Angela close to the front, I was about 30 people behind, and bt and her friend E were a few rows behind me. There was a countdown and then we were off.

The Race
I’ve run parts of this course before — it’s a route used by a lot of different race organizers. Last fall, I paced the 2:20 half marathon group at the Dream Mile in the same area. It was a very different experience to be racing as opposed to pacing. I switched my Garmin display to show time of day so I could run by feel, which was a bit of a mistake as I hadn’t been training for “race pace” so I had no idea how fast I was running or if I could keep it up for 6.2 miles. Plus, the 5K and 10K started at the same time with same colored bibs, so I didn’t know who around me was running the 5K. I had a feeling that I took off too fast, especially on such a hot day. I was happy to see an aid station at the end of the first mile (Mile 1: 8:39/mile).

I knew it was a bad sign that I was already tapping into mantras and mental strategies at mile 2. I told myself that, sure, I was breathing hard and sweating copiously, but I’ve certainly felt a lot worse. At least my legs were still moving forward and I was mentally fresh. Many of the runners around me turned out to be 5K runners, so I ended up running by myself after the 5K turnaround. I hoped that I would find other runners soon, or else this was going to suck. I was excited to see that they were handing out cold washcloths at the 2nd aid station. (Mile 2: 8:51/mile)


Already in full concentration mode at mile 2.

Shortly after the aid station, I found two rabbits ahead. I saw a woman with a purple top about 30-60 seconds ahead of me, so I made it my mission to catch her by the end of the race. I kept chipping away and closing the gap — this was good motivation. Also, I started seeing faster runners on the back section. I cheered for Angela as she passed the other way, telling her she was 3rd woman. She muttered something about “dying”. Uh-oh. (Mile 3: 8:50/mile)

I was so happy to see the turnaround, where a small group of volunteers were cheering and “Like a Prayer” by Madonna was blaring from speakers. I had almost caught the woman in the purple top, but there were a few women close behind me as well. I looked out for and saw bt, to whom I gave a side-five (which accidentally stopped her Garmin! oops). I could feel fatigue starting to settle in, so I began to re-prioritize my goals. I decided that I wanted to stay with or pass the purple top lady, and I definitely didn’t want any women to pass me. I managed to pass purple lady, but then she passed me back before the 4th mile marker. I said, “Good job” as she passed, and she smiled and said, “Thanks” in return. I never caught her again. (Mile 4: 9:21/mile)


I definitely started running faster when I saw the photographer.


I paused for longer than I should’ve through the aid station at mile 4, taking my time to gulp down the entire cup of very dilute electrolyte drink. I told myself only 2 more miles to go, and only 1 more to get to the next aid station. I saw the purple lady get further and further out of reach, and then another runner (a dude) passed me. I said, “Good job” as he ran by, but I’m not sure he heard me. At this point, I started to dissociate. I stopped caring as much about my speed and just kept moving forward. I caught my form falling apart (I started flailing a little bit), so I made sure to check in every once in a while to regroup. Finally, I saw the course turning off the trail and back on to the main road. (Mile 5: 9:42/mile)

OK, last mile! I really did want to speed up, but my body seemed to refuse to cooperate. And I was OK with that. Peter from TVRC, who was running the half marathon, ended up passing me with 3/4 mile to go. Peter is in his 60s (I think!) and a bad-ass ultrarunner. So, being passed by PC was no big deal to me, I just tried to hang on to him as long as I could. This last mile seemed interminable, running alongside indistinguishable office buildings. Finally, the last turn was in sight! (Mile 6: 9:30/mile)

I managed to pick up the pace with that magical “end of race” thing even though I felt like death. I heard Erin and Angela cheering for me and ran straight through the finish line, almost past the volunteers giving out medals and bottle water. (Last 0.17: 8:46/mile)


This might actually be one of my best finish photos to date.

I met up with running friends for post-race photos and recaps, checked the results, and remembered to stretch (which I almost forgot to do, again!). I finally met Erin in person! Then I headed to bt’s for brunch for delicious food and great conversation.

selfie with Peter

So happy to be done! #sweatyselfie (PC: Peter)


Trying not to sweat on Erin and Angela 🙂


Happy 10K finishers!


Cheers to post-race brunch!

Thoughts about the race
Considering how little (basically, close to zero) speed training I’ve done in the past 10 months, and how low my overall running mileage has been this year, I’d say I’m pretty pleased with my race. I mean, those negative splits are pretty ugly, but I managed to reign them in a little bit and there was ever-so-slight uphill on the way back. Plus! I didn’t let any women pass me. There are definitely things to work on – like not starting off so fast – but for such a low stakes race, I feel good about it. Also, let’s be honest — I did it all for the post-run brunch. 😉

Garmin results: 56:13 for 6.17 miles (9:07/mile)
Official results: 56:13 for 6.2 miles (9:04/mile)
5/32 age group; 14/90 women; 26/152 overall

About the race:

  • Website: JEMS Race to the End of Summer
  • Cost: I had a Groupon so I think it only cost me $25 for the 10K. Some proceeds benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation.
  • Course: Out-and-back course. Starts and ends near the Silver Creek Sportsplex in San Jose. The first and last mile are around the nearby office parks, with the middle 4 miles on the paved Coyote Creek Trail. Total elevation gain was ~70′ (mostly on the way back).
  • Parking: A lot of free parking at the Nextel lot above the start/finish area (accessible from Hellyer Road).
  • Aid stations: Water and electrolyte stops at miles ~1, 2, 4, 5.
  • Bathrooms: A small line of porta potties at the start/finish area.
  • Swag: Black short sleeve tech tee (very light), black race bag, a custom medal and assorted samples. The half marathoners got a trucker cap.IMG_2267
  • Post race food and drinks: I got a bottle of water and I saw someone with noosa yogurt and kind bars, but honestly I didn’t go looking for food because I wasn’t hungry and I knew that I’d be eating real food at bt’s.
  • Other notes: This would be a great PR course given better temps — and better training, but that’s on me. 😉 I thought the volunteers were great and race organization was smooth. No frills, but nicely executed. I wish they had race day pickup, but I understand it’s more annoying logistically. I was fortunate that bt picked up my bib for me, as I’m not sure I would’ve signed up for the race at all if I had to make two trips to south San Jose for a 10K race.
Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Race Recap

Low Risk, Low Reward

So, I’m going to start by talking about travel, but end with running. Feel free to stop/start reading wherever your interests lie (lay?).

Back in June, the Gypsy Runner and I went to Mexico. There was an amazing Travelzoo deal for 4 nights at an all-inclusive resort north of Puerto Vallarta, including roundtrip direct airfare from Oakland and airport transfers. I booked this in March, knowing that I’d need some serious R&R after a major work event in late May. I had my reservations, however, since I had never stayed at an all-inclusive resort before and never really had the inclination. To me, they’re similar to cruises — easy travel but not all that interesting. Sure, self-guided travel is more time consuming and has its risks, but it’s usually worth it. However, since I knew that I’d be super tired and stressed due to aforementioned work event, not to mention lacking any time to plan, I decided that an all-inclusive resort didn’t sound so terrible. And when the GR found out that all-inclusive meant all you can eat and drink, he was super stoked.

June rolled around and we were off to Mexico at last. I’ll start with the positive: the resort was stunning, set up in the hills above La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, a small town 45 minutes north of downtown Puerto Vallarta. The pools were great – filled with salt water, not chlorine – it wasn’t very crowded, and the chairs were plentiful and comfy. The service was quite good as well. The negative: the food was terrible, the drinks were watered down, and did I mention that the food was terrible? Being up in the hills meant that we were a 10-minute shuttle ride from downtown/the beach, so we never really got to experience the cultural aspects of being in a foreign country. Both the GR and I kept making comparisons to our trip to Maui last year, which we both really enjoyed. This trip to Mexico was just meh.

By the end of the trip, I had come to the conclusion that this was a low risk, low reward vacation. By signing up for an all-inclusive resort, I had essentially handed over decision making to someone else, which is simultaneously what I wanted but didn’t want. I’m glad we went – it was a relaxing 4 days away – but I doubt I will ever sign up for such a trip again.

(I should note that I don’t mean to sound like a brat. I acknowledge that we’re extremely fortunate to be able to go on a vacation like this. I’m just saying that given the choice of vacations, I’d rather not go to an all-inclusive resort in the future.)

And this brings me to running. All year, I’ve been doing low risk, low reward training. Week by week, month by month, I’ve been doing whatever “felt right” to me at the time. As a result, I became really bored and unmotivated. The truth of the matter is that I’m a classic Type A person who likes to check boxes. In the past two weeks, having simple goals such as run X number of miles a week, 4 times a week, has been very motivating and fulfilling. I’ve even done a couple of short workouts, which has been hard but fun. I’ve also found that I’m a lot more intentional about my runs. For instance, these last two long runs, I’ve purposely started out very, very slowly. After 2-3 miles of warming up, I’ve inserted a 15-second pickup at the start of every mile to freshen up my form. I’ve also been much better about cooling down and stretching post-run, which I used to rush through or skip altogether. Not only is it beneficial for me to have a post-run routine physically, but it makes the mental transition smoother too.

Now, for some numbers:  I ran 20.2 miles last week, including one workout (4 x 400m; intervals at 7:30/mile pace) and one long run of 10.8 miles @ 11:16/mile. This past week, I completed 21.8 miles. I did a tempo run, which was TOUGH but doable, and helped me mentally prepare for next week’s Race to the End of the Summer 10K. I also did a long run today: 11 miles @ 10:55/mile. Despite the warmer temps today, I felt a lot stronger than I did last week. Hooray!

So the 10K is next Sunday. I know it’s going to hurt as 10Ks often do. In thinking about my race strategy, I’d like to run without GPS information (probably change the display to show time only) and try to run by feel. I want to start a bit conservatively and try to catch and pass people after the halfway point. This is generally a pretty good strategy for me — or, at least, I’m most satisfied with my race effort when I run this way.

As for whether I’ve decided on Napa Valley Marathon — I’m strongly leaning towards it, but I’m holding off an official decision for now. The price doesn’t go up until October 1st, so I’ve got some time.


Hot but happy miles at the San Leandro Marina/Bay Trail

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in random, Training, Travel

Building Back Up

After CIM and the “2016: Year of PR Attempts”, I decided to approach 2017 with a more organic, laissez faire approach to running. My general goals were to keep running 3-4 times a week and to be able to pull off an easy 2 hour long run on a semi-regular basis, with the occasional half marathon here and there (for funsies). I told myself that I would wait for my next running goal to come to me and not the other way around. The result has been that, on average, I’ve been running 3 times a week, totaling about 15 miles/week. I’m just a tad over 500 miles for the year, which is way below average for me. But I’m OK with that – I’m in a generally happy place when it comes to running. It doesn’t stress me out too much and I feel pretty good when I’m doing it.

Honestly, if I had to choose one race distance to focus on for the rest of my life, it would be the half marathon. I like how it’s the right combination of endurance and speed, that you can train for it *and* have a life, and that even if you push yourself pretty hard, you’re not completely ruined for days after. However, one thing that’s both a pro and a con of a half marathon is that, with decent fitness, it’s almost always doable. So, the challenge is a little lacking compared to a full marathon.

Now that I’ve been sitting at (slow for me) half marathon shape for 8 months, I think I’m ready to try to tackle the next big thing. I’ve been eyeing a spring marathon; specifically, the Napa Valley Marathon (NVM). Why? It’s in early March, giving me enough time to build more base between now and then. Also, I’ve fared well on wine country courses previously, so that’s a draw. It’s relatively local – a short 2 hour drive away with familiar climate. I’ve heard great things about organization. The one thing that’s iffy is the weather. Since it’s early March in the Bay Area, it can be cold and rainy or hot and sunny.

Why a marathon? Well, as I alluded to above, it’s a bigger challenge than a half. I thought about doing a longer trail race, but as much as I love trails, it just requires *so much more* time for weekend long runs. Road marathons are logistically easier to train for. Anyway, I have this love/hate relationship with marathons. I feel like I’m still trying to figure out the distance. Every time I have a bad experience (which is 3.5 out of 6 times now), I swear it off… but eventually, I always come back to it. NVM, if I decide to do it, will be road marathon #7. Will I get closer to solving the mysterious ways of the marathon? Or will I be foiled again?

If I go for it, one thing I want to try this time around is coaching. I wonder if handing the reins over to someone else might help me reach my potential. I’m probably going to sign up for runcoach, since Angela, SP, and Cathryn have all raved about it. Plus, it’s pretty affordable.

Before I commit to NVM, I want to make sure I really want it. Marathon training is no joke. It can take over your life, and since I’ve been feeling stretched so thin, I want to be 100% in before I register. I’m giving myself the next few weeks to re-introduce structure into my running, aiming for 4 runs/week, working my way up to 25 miles a week. Last night, I signed up for the Race to the End of the Summer 10K, mostly as a social race with Angela, Erin, and bt. But the funny thing is that just in thinking about running a 10K, I started getting excited about doing intervals again. So maybe I am ready to start training after all??

It all starts with tomorrow – I’m aiming for a simple 4 x 400 m interval workout at the track. Let’s tackle this one run at a time.

Posted in Goals, random

Pacing Recap: Summer Breeze Half Marathon

Last year, I ran the Summer Breeze Half Marathon as a PR attempt – which, I’m happy to say, was successful. The course is super close to where I live and I often run there. So, when my pacing group was looking for volunteers, I was eager to sign up. Unfortunately, my usual 2:20 spot got taken right away, so I settled for the 2:30 pacer. At first, I wondered if I could comfortably run 11:27/mile, which is a good 20-30 seconds slower than my easiest runs. However, I’m not in the best endurance shape — anything longer than 10 miles feels like eternity these days, so I thought 2:30 would be fine. And, as it turns out, it was a blessing in disguise. *foreshadowing*

I got there super early to park, grab my bib, meet the rest of the TriValley Running Club pace team, and use the restroom.


The TVRC pace team

As we lined up in the starting corral, I had a fleeting thought that I should go use the bathroom again, but I decided that I would be OK. (foreshadowing #2) I met a couple of  fellow TVRC runners and before we knew it, the race had started.


With D at the start

My plan was to start slow and run even pace. The course is out-and-back along the shoreline, alternating between paved bike trail and gravel. I knew that it was likely that there would be a stiff headwind on the way back, but luckily it was quite overcast and cool. There’s absolutely no cover along the course, so when the sun is out or if it’s super windy, running in this area is brutal.

I met various people along the way, chatting and making small talk. I was clicking off my splits pretty evenly. One thing I like about this race is that the out-and-back section allows you to cheer for other runners. I did a lot of “pace sign high-fiving” with the other pacers.


All smiles at the halfway point

Before I knew it, we were at the turn around. However, I noticed that it seemed further down than last year – when the course came up a bit short on my GPS. I looked down and saw the distance at 6.7x miles. Uh-oh. We were about 0.2 miles over the distance?! This put me in a pacer quandry. Should I stick with the pace or should I aim for the time? I decided to hold off until the next mile markers to make a decision. Maybe my GPS was wrong. I got to the mile 7 marker as my Garmin read 7.2 miles. Crap. Same thing happened at the mile 8 marker – I was still 0.2 miles ahead and more than 2 minutes behind target pace.

With 5 miles left to go, I made the executive decision to go for the 2:30 finish time, regardless of pace. It was also at this point that I realized I needed to make an emergency pit stop. So, I ran ahead to the next set of porta potties and tried to go as fast as possible. This was another first in my pacing history – never have I been so far behind the target time *and* had to make a pit stop. By this time, I was near the mile 9 marker. I had 4 miles to make up the time, so I started running 45-60 seconds faster than 11:27/mile pace.

I felt bad that I was losing my 2:30 runners, but at the same time, I ran into others who decided to stick with me. I tried to explain to those who I was passing that I wasn’t running 11:27 pace, but just going for 2:30 because the course was long. Only one person seemed pissed off at me, everyone else was like, “OK!” I played leap frog with one runner who was doing run walk intervals. She told me if she finished ahead of me, this would be a PR for her. Another runner I ran with told me she was disappointed at her lack of fitness; she had recently started a new job with a long commute, which meant she couldn’t train like she used to. Normally a 2:10 runner, she was discouraged to be running “this slow.” I told her she was doing great and encouraged her to finish strong.


With the woman I ran with for the last few miles of the race

With less than a mile left, I had made up the 2:00 and was back on goal finish time. I slowed down and encourage the woman I was running with to go ahead.


Feeling more relaxed with one mile to go

Eventually, I caught up to a college-aged guy whom I noticed was struggling and taking walk breaks. I told him we had half a mile left and to run with me. He gamely agreed. It turned out that he had been peer pressured into signing up for this race, and the longest he had ever run was 5K during a sprint triathlon! I congratulated him for making it this far and told him how impressed I was. He eventually took off ahead of me with a tenth of a mile to go.


Time to finish this thing…

I crossed the finish line right on time. My official race time was 2:29:58, but my Garmin read 2:30:00 for 13.3 miles. It was not my best outing as a pacer, but I think I made the best of tough situation and still managed to encourage other runners at the end. Better yet, the woman who was run-walking PR’d by over a minute — and now we’re friends on Strava. So overall, I’d count it as a success. Many thanks to Brazen and TVRC for the opportunity to pace!

(For race logistics, see my post from last year.)


The race shirt wasn’t my fave, but the medal was cool. The blue part behind the egret is actually glass.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Pace Group, Uncategorized

Gear Review: Jaybird X3 In-Ear Wireless Headphones

Full disclosure: I was sent a complimentary set of headphones in exchange for an honest review on my blog.

jaybird x3

The Jaybird X3 headphones in black. I got a pair in silver/gray.

I almost always listen to podcasts when I run, so headphones are key. I’ve tried various styles in the past, but surprisingly, I’ve found iPhone earbuds to be perfectly adequate. I actually like that they’re not completely snug so I can still hear the traffic/noise around me. However, when I’m running on a treadmill, the wire always gets in the way. I have – on many occasions – accidentally knocked my iPhone to the ground because I got my arm tripped up in the headphone wires while getting my water bottle or wiping my face with a towel.

So, a couple of years ago, when I was doing a lot more treadmilling (while rehabbing), I decided to invest in wireless headphones. I looked around and decided to the get the Jaybird Freedom – they had decent reviews and I think I had a discount code at the time too. (It was the older model, which looked like these.) While they were fine, I didn’t *love* them. I’ll get into a comparison later in the review, but essentially, they were a bit annoying to use, so I used them only for treadmill runs.

Fast forward to last month, when I received a new pair of Jaybird X3s. According to the manufacturer, the X3s have the following features:

  • small and versatile
  • universal secure fit
  • sweat-proof
  • long battery life (up to 8 hours per charge)
  • personalized sounds (via app)
jaybird_woman running

Wear these headphones and you’ll look like this 😉

First impressions
The X3s come nicely packaged with a LOT of options. Inside the box were the headphones, 6 pairs of ear tips (ear bud covers), 3 pairs of silicone ear fins, a shirt clip, cord clips (to shorten the cord length), a charging cable, and a small pouch. I admit that I felt a little overwhelmed by all of the options! I did have to spend a bit of time figuring out which ear tips and fins fit me best. You can even wear the headphones in two different configurations – under or over your ear. To be honest, I’m still figuring out how best to wear these headphones.

The Basics
The best thing I found so far with the X3s compared to the old Freedom headphones is that it’s much easier to sync with my phone. The old Freedom headphones were a pain – I had to turn on the headphones and then go to my iPhone Bluetooth settings to make sure they were connected. It usually took about 30 seconds of back and forth – I never knew if the headphones were on because it would just beep whenever I held down one of the buttons. Then I’d have to wait for my phone to find the headphones. With the X3s, I just have to press the power button on the headphones and it automatically syncs to my phone. It also tells me that the headphones are on and how much battery power is left. There are 3 buttons on the controller and they’re pretty easy to use – two are for volume and the center one is for on/off/pause. There’s an app to control the sound – so if you want to control the mixing, you can play around with it. It’s pretty neat, but I feel like I’m not that much of a sound snob to customize it all of the time.


How I usually wear them

I love the little pouch that comes with the headphones. I put the headphones, charging clip, and a set of ear fins in the pouch and I’m ready to go.


On the run
Take the following with a huge grain of salt, because as I said above, I’m still trying to figure out the best combination of tips and fins and how I’d like to wear them. I can tell you that I forgot the fins once and they definitely fell out of my ear during a run. The fins aren’t the most comfortable for me – my ear folds are on the small side, maybe? I’m still trying to figure out if I like the headphones over or under my ears. I tried over the ear once but ultimately gave up because I don’t think I had them set up correctly. I think it helps to have the diagram in front of you (from the quick start guide) and a mirror. I also prefer the silicone ear tips to the comply (sound cancelling) while running. For some reason, when I wear the comply tips, I get a lot of echo in my head every time I take a step. This had happened to me before with snug-fitting earbuds too.

On my commute
One of the biggest surprises has been that the Jaybird X3s are perfect for my commute. I take the BART train to work every day, and with my iPhone earbuds, I often have to turn the volume all the way up. Sometimes I have to give up on listening to particular podcasts because I still can’t hear very clearly. Not only is this annoying, but I’m also concerned about hearing loss (oh, the pleasures of getting older!). The noise-cancelling comply tips that come with the X3s are just what I was looking for. I find that I can regularly have the volume level on the lower end and have it be much clearer sounding. It’s awesome! Even the giant “noise cancelling” headphones I got for Christmas didn’t compare the sound quality from the X3s.

In conclusion
Pros: great sound quality, easy to sync, small/lightweight, unobtrusive (especially compared to the old Freedom headphones), and comes with a lot of accessories for customized fit. Appears to hold charge for long periods of time — I’ve only had to recharge the headphones a few times and they charge very quickly. I like that they’re sweat-proof, but I didn’t get to test that out. It would be nice to not worry about them in the rain!

Cons: a bit too many options and things to figure out (best fit, best ear tips to use, etc.). The charging clip and cord clips were not intuitive, but once I figured it out, it was fine. If I want to use these for both running and my commute, I would probably switch ear tips depending on which activity I’m doing, so that’s a bit annoying. But generally, all minor complaints.

I’m really glad to add the Jaybird X3s to my list of gadgets. Let me know if you have any questions!




Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Gear

How to plan a non-wedding party

Full disclosure: this is a non-running post. If you don’t care about party planning, feel free to skip this. I just wanted to document my process in the hopes of helping anyone else out there in the same boat and looking for advice.

OK, so where do we start? Last year, the Gypsy Runner and I eloped. We headed down to the County Clerk’s Office in Oakland, called in a friend last-minute as a witness, and got married. We told no one of the official date. Being that neither of us are religious, this was perfect for us. Also, I’ve attended (and been in) enough weddings to know that I wasn’t eager to do the whole traditional ceremony plus reception thing. Not to mention that, while the GR loves going to other people’s weddings, the idea of being the center of attention himself was probably the worst thing he could imagine.

However, I have always wanted to have a party/celebration where all of my favorite people get together, eat, drink, and are merry. Oh, and have a fun dance party, too. My parents, as a wedding gift, generously gave us money to host a celebration. We decided to have it a year after we got married and call it an anniversary party – one, to get away from the idea of a wedding; and two, to have it in the summer time, which was more convenient for our out-of-town guests to join us.

Once we decided on a general time frame, it was time to start planning. While there are tons of resources out there for wedding planning, there are less/almost zero for what I had in mind: a non-wedding party. Yes, there are websites like Offbeat Bride, which offer more non-traditional suggestions, but they are still very much geared towards wedding-weddings. So, I’ve written this post for anyone out there looking for tips or even just to read about someone else’s experience planning a non-wedding party.

Before you start planning…
The biggest thing in event planning is the budget, which dictates how many guests you can invite, how much you can spend on the venue, food, drink, decorations, etc. Fortunately for us, my parents’ gift paid for most of the party. I foolishly thought that a non-wedding would cost a lot less than a wedding. I mean, it was substantially cheaper, but it was still the most I’ve ever spent (or will ever spend) on a party.

The next thing is to write out a guest list. I listed names on a spreadsheet, and I also tried to guess who would attend. We invited a lot of out of town guests who either came solo or couldn’t make it. We also had our party during peak vacation time, so several people bowed out for that reason. Having a solid headcount was super helpful in deciding on a venue and on the food and alcohol budget.

Finally, prioritize what you want out of the party. We considered a Chinese banquet style sit down dinner, but ultimately decided that an evening cocktail party would be more casual and fun. Our top priorities were good food and drinks, a logistically easy venue, and for me – dancing. Just as important, we decided what was not important to us — things like favors, flowers, a professional photo booth, etc.

The Venue
This was pretty challenging, since I was looking for a non-wedding event space and there are very few resources out there. Somewhere along the way (probably Googling, “non-traditional wedding venues”), I came upon Peerspace, which is like airbnb for event space rentals. (For what it’s worth, Yelp also led me to a couple of venue options.) Even though I didn’t really know what I was looking for, I was ultimately drawn to industrial spaces with a modern appeal. The GR and I also talked about hiring a food truck, so being able to park the truck at the venue was essential.

Other keys (some of which I had in mind at the start, others which became important during the planning process):

  • central location
  • parking or public transit nearby
  • enough space for guests and tables/chairs
  • clean/updated restrooms
  • bonus: audio/sound system (no need to hire a DJ)

As for cost, I will say that many of the more popular spaces (i.e., easy to find on the internet) that jumped out at me were very pricey, especially for Saturday evening rentals. When looking at the rental rates, you have to also consider things like:

  • does the fee include set up and/or clean up time?
  • in what state do you have to leave the venue (in terms of cleanliness)?
  • are you limited to specific vendors?
  • are you limited in terms of alcohol? (we had to buy wine from our venue, since they’re a wine importer)
  • are there additional costs? for example, some places require an on-site manager or security during the event, an additional clean-up fee, and/or additional fees for bringing in outside food or drink
  • does the venue have tables, chairs, and/or glassware that you can have access to?

Ultimately, the place we chose was slightly pricier per hour, but they also gave us about 3.5 hours of free set-up time (2 hours on the day before the event). They also received our party rentals for us on the day before. Another reason I went with this particular venue was that I hardly had to decorate. There was lovely bar area already set up, and the interior had nice paintings, lamps, and plants. I just had to add a few personal touches and it was all set.


The bar area. The only things we added were the banner, bar menu, and drinks.

Like I mentioned above, we had considered a Chinese banquet (such a great value, IMO), but we preferred the idea of being able to walk around and mingle, as opposed to a sit down dinner. We gravitated toward food trucks because they’re slightly cheaper than catering and everything is made to order. They come with their own utensils and napkins – one less thing to think about. And yeah, they can be unique – though also becoming passé/less trendy. We tried 4 different trucks before deciding on KoJa Kitchen, which worked out great for us. Everyone loved the food and the servings were satisfying. I heard that they were fast too – people waited about a minute for their food after ordering.


Our guests at the truck

If you’re thinking about going the food truck route:

  • popular food trucks (like Chairman Bao) were already booked 6 months in advance, so if you have a place in mind, jump on it immediately
  • contact the food trucks in advance and they might offer a free tasting. We got to try food from 2 trucks for free this way.
  • food trucks are more affordable than most catering options, but they aren’t cheap. Expect to pay ~$20-30/person.
  • think about where the truck will park and if you’ll need a system to make sure only your guests get served (i.e., tickets, tokens, passwords, etc.)

Other food: we didn’t know if everyone was going to like the food truck, and we were also worried about wait time, so we had plenty of appetizers from Ann’s Catering just in case. We ended up ordering way too much food, but I guess better too much than not enough? We also ordered too many cupcakes from our favorite shop. A lot of people told me they were too stuffed from the food truck to enjoy them, unfortunately.

We had planned on an open bar where people could just help themselves, but when our venue’s event planner suggested a bar service (Polly Martini), I decided to look into it. While I couldn’t afford what was suggested (2 bartenders and a busser), we ultimately decided on 1 bartender plus consultation services. This included pre-party planning (to decide on cocktails), a shopping list, and bar setup and service for 5 hours. It was a splurge, but I decided at some point during planning that anything or anyone who could make decisions for me was worth a bit of extra cost. Also, the idea that someone would be manning the bar helped to decrease my stress level. I wouldn’t need to worry about chilling and restocking the beer or opening the wine. Plus, the signature cocktails ended up being a big hit! I also hired a busser – actually, she’s an undergrad who works at UC Berkeley, to help me with the event. That was super helpful too.

I initially wanted to hire a friend of a friend to take pictures, but the GR didn’t want to do that for various reasons. Fortunately, we have a very talented friend, CC, who happens to do portrait photography on the side and agreed to take pictures at the party.  I just got the pictures back and they’re great! Some nice posed shots and a lot of funny candids too.


Photo credit: Casey Chattler Photography

This was the one thing that caused me a lot of anxiety. I had no idea what to do for centerpieces on the two tables I was renting, or any of the other decorations. Luckily, the venue didn’t need much, and with the advice from some helpful friends and a little perusing on Pinterest, I came up with a few simple ideas. For flowers, I ended up going to Whole Foods the day of the wedding and getting a couple of pretty bouquets. My friend CC made us a cute banner, and I hole punched table confetti (it was pretty ridiculous how much they charge for round pieces of paper).

The one thing that ended up being more work than I anticipated were the printed photos. I wanted to hang up pictures of me and the GR, our families, and friends who would be at the party. But this required sorting through my whole photo collection (16,000+ pictures!) and deciding which ones would make the cut. My one consolation was knowing that I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, and this party forced me to sit down and get it done.

Dancing & Entertainment
We purposely left the structure quite loose, though I definitely wanted to make a speech about halfway through the party to thank everyone for coming.


Making a quick speech

After my speech, our friend JS ended up giving a surprise roast/speech, which was hilarious and well-received. Our other friend ME had made some games (cornhole and giant Connect 4) for another wedding, which he set up for us. I also set up a little DIY photobooth with Instax cameras, which was fun. People were supposed to take a photo for our guestbook and one for themselves – the closest thing we had to party favors.  20170722_203218Instead of hiring a DJ, I set up a  playlist on Spotify. Our friend IV is a Spotify expert and he introduced me to the crossfade playback option to get rid of those pesky silences between songs. He also helped me sort songs by beats per minute so that they would flow better.

Hair & Makeup
This wasn’t directly related to party planning, but it was definitely a thing I was worried about. A lot of hair and makeup people will charge you extra if you want to do a trial before a special event. I didn’t feel like doing that, so I tried to do some DIY shortcuts. For hair, I learned how to curl it myself, which was fine. But in the end, I took a risk on a stylist from a local salon on the day of the party, who curled my hair for only $35 and in about half an hour. So worth it! For makeup – my original plan was to go to Sephora and get a makeover before a friend’s wedding (they’ll give you a “free” makeover as long as you spend $50 on products). If I liked the makeover, I’d try to book the same person for the party. Unfortunately, the makeover turned out too heavy for my taste. So I spent the next few weeks learning how to do my own makeup more naturally – but also with a bit of dramatic pop. I have to say that I’ve learned A LOT about applying false eyelashes, using concealer to look less tired, and how to shape my eyebrows – thanks to some friends and also YouTube tutorials. 😉

All in all, I think it was a fun and successful party. The biggest downside was that I didn’t get to talk to everyone for as long as I wanted (or some, hardly at all), but that’s bound to happen.

If you have any questions at all about planning, please let me know in the comments and I’ll try my best to help!


Tagged with:
Posted in random
Howdy! Welcome to my blog!

follow us in feedly
Follow on Bloglovin

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 345 other followers

On the docket…

12/9/17 – Great America Run & Ride (save 15% with code GARUNTANG15)

2/5/18 – Kaiser SF Half Marathon
3/25/18 – Oakland Half Marathon