Pacing Recap: Livermore Half Marathon

On March 26th, I paced my 4th half marathon with the Trivalley Running Club at the Livermore Half Marathon. Once again, I was the 2:20 pacer, though this time, because of the size of the race (2600+ finishers), I also had a co-pacer for the first time ever. It was nice to have two pacers because it relieved the pressure, allowing for small hiccups along the way.

Thanks to Michael, the TVRC pacing group coordinator who picked up my bib for me, I did not have to drive out to Livermore to attend the expo on Saturday. Race time was early on Sunday morning – 7am – which was brutal because Daylight Savings Time was just the week before. However, because it can get very warm in Livermore by 9am, the early start was pretty well-tolerated by all of the half marathon runners.

I pulled into the large parking lot in Downtown Livermore just before 6am and made my way (in the dark) to the TVRC tent in the staging area. I’d have to say that the logistics of this race were very well done – more on that below. I got my bib, chatted with some of the other pacers, and then we took a group photo. TVRC pacing

I heard the porta potty line was really long – thankfully, I had stopped at a gas station right off the freeway so I didn’t have to go. My co-pacer Kevin didn’t want to risk missing the start, so he decided to wait for a porta potty on the course.  We lined up at 6:45am, and I was pleasantly surprised to run into not just one, but two familiar faces! Kristen was running the half with her sister and her sister’s friend, and J (whom I “met” at Tiburon and friended later on Strava) came up to say hi.

The race started shortly after 7:00am. The course ran through parts of downtown Livermore before heading south toward Sycamore Grove Park, then back up to downtown. Here’s my Strava data:

I recorded a total elevation gain of 284 feet. There was some significant, steady climbing between miles 7-9, but nothing too terrible (if you’re used to trail running).

Having a co-pacer meant that I had someone who was definitely going to run with me.  Happy to have a running buddy, I proceeded to chat Kevin’s ear off. However, I think it also dissuaded any of the people running with us to identify themselves, which was a bummer. There isn’t too much to report from the race, except that I felt fine the whole time. We ran a bit fast throughout the race (10:30/mile pace vs. 10:40) because we had been told that the course ran long – as much as 0.2 miles too long. Plus with the uphill section, I thought it would be reasonable to bank about 30-40 seconds. The mile markers were consistently coming at about a tenth of a mile after our Garmins beeped, so I was going by my pace band instead of my Garmin.

Everything was going along smoothly, except that by mile 5, Kevin was desperate to use the bathroom. He had decided to drink 2 glasses of water in the morning. (He was practicing race day hydration for the Oakland Marathon the following week.) The lines at each aid station were super long though! So, he kept pressing on until the aid station at mile 8, where he decided to take his chances and get in line. I wished him luck and hoped that he would be able to catch me before the finish line.

I soldiered along, alone, for the next 4.5 miles. The course was quite beautiful in parts, running through parks and vineyards. At about 12.5 miles, a runner came up beside me and told me that she had been running with me the whole time. She said that she had never been able to stay with a pace group before and that she wasn’t about to lose me. I told her that she was doing great and encouraged her to keep going. With every tenth of a mile down, I would tell her, “OK, only 5 minutes to go.” or “Only 3 minutes left. You’ve got this!” We ended up crossing the finish line just under 2:19. A little too fast, but I had been only 30 seconds fast at the mile 13 marker… so I think there was a mile marker issue. The runner thanked me and I congratulated her. Then, Kevin crossed the finish line, only 30 seconds after me. He said he had been running 8:xx pace for the last 5 miles trying to catch me. So much for a nice easy, pre-marathon taper run for him!


Last turn before the finish

All in all, it was a really nice day. It was a race that was well-organized and the weather was perfect (if a bit chilly for the post-race party). I would definitely recommend the Livermore Half Marathon for anyone who wants the California wine country running experience without Napa prices.

About the race:

  • Race website
  • Field size: 2600+ finishers in the half marathon. There was also a 5K that started after the half marathon.
  • Cost: If you signed up right after the race, it was only $50 for the 2018 half marathon. It’s currently up to $65… I’m not sure where it topped out at. You can also sign up for all 3 races in the Golden Half Series to save money (Livermore, Oakland, and Golden Gate Half).
  • Course: Starts off on city streets and narrows in parts to bike paths. A few rope bridges too! Total elevation gain/loss: 284 feet (Strava).
  • Parking: Free parking at the large surface lot behind the downtown shopping district. The parking garage is also available, but I heard that it got full pretty early.
  • Aid stations: Spaced about 2 miles apart with water and electrolyte (not sure what brand). They were handing out Honey Stinger gels at the aid station around mile 8.
  • Bathrooms: Porta potties at the start/finish, and ~3 at each aid station with really long lines. I’m sure the long lines at the start caused many people to hold off and wait for a bathroom on the course, which then caused the long lines at each aid station.
  • Swag: Nice short sleeve tech tee (though they gave me the wrong size, unfortunately), wine stopper medal, and a wine glass. They handed out the wine glasses at the finish, so you could fill it with water from large dispensers (instead of handing out water bottles). I thought this was awesome and environmentally friendly!IMG_0394
  • Post-race food/drink: They handed out bananas, bars, chocolate milk, and wine glasses (for water). There was also wine and beer at the post-race festival. I didn’t go because the lines to get in were kinda long and I had to go home to get ready for another commitment. But it seemed like it would be fun if you ran the race with a group of friends.
  • What I liked about this race: Logistics were easy, the course was pretty, and the swag was nice. Having the staging area in Downtown Livermore was a bonus because some of the businesses were open and it was easy for runners to pop in to get coffee, burritos, etc.
  • What I didn’t like: I’d say the only hiccup was the bathroom situation.
  • PR-ability: I think it’s possible to PR at Livermore if the weather is cool and if you’re used to running hills. There is some congestion in parts, but not enough to hinder you by more than 30 seconds.
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Posted in Pace Group, Race Recap

Race Recap: Badger Cove Half Marathon (Wildcat Edition)

Sometimes, I’m eager to write a race recap, and other times, I drag my feet (or fingers, as it were). I haven’t been that motivated to write about Badger Cove for a number of reasons. For one thing, due to the park being closed from heavy rains, the race got moved from Del Valle in Livermore to Wildcat Canyon in El Sobrante. This means that all of the information from the race won’t be that useful to anyone wanting to run Badger Cove in the future. Second, it was a fairly uneventful race. I arrived, met up with DD, we ran, we went home. Third, it wasn’t a great outing for me, but that was to be expected. I felt sluggish almost the entire race. It was my second to slowest trail half marathon ever, even though the course had almost 1000 feet less elevation gain than my slowest half (Summit Rock).

Despite all of those things, however, it wasn’t a bad day. The hills were gorgeous – lush and green. Once we got to the top of the first hill, we had sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay. I spent over 2 hours of quality time chatting with DD, catching up on each others’ lives. I didn’t trip, fall, or sprain my ankle, which was a victory in itself given the rough conditions in parts of the trail. And I finished a tough trail half marathon. Even if I’m not as fit as I have been in the past, I’m still grateful to be able to spend almost 3 hours on the trails and not be completely demolished afterwards.

Instead of writing more, I’ll finish this post with a slide show from all of the photos I took during the race. The last two are courtesy of Brazen (yay free race photos!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Official results:
time: 2:59:02 (13:39/mile)
13/19 AG, 60/98 F; 139/194 overall

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Checking in

Hi there! I only just realized the other day that I haven’t posted anything in almost a month. Oops. Well, I’m still alive, in case any of you were wondering, and I’m still struggling to find any kind of running rhythm. Just when I manage to hit a 20 mile week, I end up with an unintentionally too-short trail run or ski-related issues. And in less than 12 hours, I’ll be running a tough trail half marathon. I am not prepared.

So the last few weeks have been inconsistent, running-wise. But they have been fun at least. I managed to do one decent, longish trail run (8.3 miles) three weeks ago at Redwood Regional Park. Two weeks ago, I joined a bunch of great ladies for a sad event: a farewell trail run to Cathryn and Layla at Mt. Tam. We managed to get 16 women together (amazing), but we also ran into some terrible weather. For the first time in my Bay Area running life, I wore too few clothes. I figured that I’d warm up with the big climbs, but the rain and wind had other ideas. Plus, we got lost and kept stopping constantly. During those breaks, I got chilled. So, when the opportunity arose to take a shortcut back to the car and head to brunch (or continue wandering around, trying to find the right trailhead), I jumped at it. That meant my 10 miler ended up being less than 6. Oh well. I definitely don’t regret the brunch and extra quality time spent with Cathryn and Layla.


Layla has mad selfie skills

Last weekend, I went skiing with my colleagues. Coming out of several years of bad drought, it was amazing to see so much snow in the Sierras once again. I haven’t skied in more than 3 years, and I was definitely a bit rusty. Just as I was hitting my groove, I took a small fall and hit my head against the slope. Fortunately, I seem to be OK despite not wearing a helmet (PSA: wear a helmet! Ski patrol Jeff told me that an airlift costs $38K.) I had planned on running Sunday, but decided to take an extra rest day just in case I had a mild concussion- better safe than sorry.

IMG_0256 2

I rented a helmet after my little incident.

So now it’s the night before the Badger Cove – my second race of the year. I had been looking forward to exploring some new trails at Del Valle Park in Livermore. Unfortunately, due to the rains, Del Valle had been closed to the public until recently, and the rangers didn’t have enough time to prepare the park for hundreds of runners. So, we got an email from Brazen earlier this week announcing that the race was moving to Wildcat Canyon. This was one of my favorite courses, and I had planned on running it in May (when Brazen usually holds the race). So, it’s kind of a bummer because it messes up my plan to run the Brazen Ultra Series – unless I want to run Wildcat twice, which I highly doubt. The good news is that the weather should be quite good, and at least the race is still on. Plus, I’ll get to see DD and hopefully we’ll run a decent chunk of the race together. My goal is to enjoy the day and not be too sore to pace the Livermore Half the next weekend. If all goes well, maybe I’ll beat my previous time of 2:46.


Wildcat Canyon in 2015. I expect that the hills will be greener tomorrow.

Anyway, time for bed. Hopefully it won’t be another month until you hear from me again. 🙂

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Running, Lately

Back to our regularly scheduled programming: yes, I have been running lately. Not as much or as regularly as I’d like to, but better than what I did in January. It’s been frustrating though – it seems that as soon as I get into some semblance of a running routine, something pops up – whether it’s work, a small niggle, or an impending cold. But that’s life, right? The real problem is when I don’t have a massive goal hanging over my head, I tend to err on the side of caution and go into self-care mode.

After a satisfying race at Kaiser, a weird, intense pain on the outside of my left foot (below my ankle) popped up during my walk to work. I don’t ever recall having pain like this, though I did experience something similar when I landed weird while jumping off the bouldering wall a few years ago. Despite the pain, I managed my best week of 2017 yet with 4 runs totaling almost 20 miles. This included two treadmill runs (kill me now) and a quad- and lung-busting climb up Mission Peak with Cathryn and D. (You can read Cat’s recap here.) We finally got a break in the rain and it was great to spend a couple of hours sweating and chatting away with these two ladies.


Quite steep near the summit!


We made it!

I woke up Monday with painfully sore quads, which continued for the next couple of days. Clearly, I haven’t run hills in quite some time! Despite the soreness, I ran on Tuesday and enjoying the first outdoor weekday run in weeks, thanks to clear skies. Unfortunately, I woke up Wednesday feeling oddly fatigued. I didn’t have any other symptoms besides feeling run down, but I decided to skip the planned (and new to me) circuit training class and come home early from work. Was I being smart, or just lazy? No way of knowing for sure. I do know that I woke up Thursday feeling similarly tired, in spite of sleeping 10 hours. So, another rest day it was!

By Saturday, I was feeling better so I went for a short run around the neighborhood. I ran at what should’ve felt like a very easy pace, but in truth, it was a struggle. I definitely think I’m fighting something, but I still don’t have any obvious symptoms so I’m at a loss. (And for those who might be wondering, I’m not pregnant!)

With Badger Cove 4 weeks away, I was determined to do a 9 mile trail run this morning, regardless of how long it took me. We’ve gotten a ton of rain lately, so many of my favorite trails at Lake Chabot are actually closed or under water. I planned a route that was mostly on pavement, but had to take a detour once I realized the unpaved portions were too muddy to run. I mean, I could’ve pressed on, but it would’ve been a long slog that wouldn’t have been very fun. All things considered, I think I made the best of circumstances. Hopefully the trails will dry out soon… so many parks and trails are closed because of flooding, it’s been crazy.


Saddest two words to any trail runner: “Trail Closed”.

Although I haven’t logged a lot of miles recently, I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to do a lot more cross training than I have in a while. I’m averaging one session a week, and this past week was the first time I skipped a session. I’m hopefully on my way to becoming a more well-rounded athlete!

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Every blogger follows his/her own rules when it comes to how much to divulge about their personal lives online. I’ve tried my best to keep my professional life under the covers mostly because: (1) this is a running blog, and I’m not a professional runner (in case you haven’t noticed); and (2) even though it’s quite easy to find my full name through race results and whatnot, my name is still fairly common so it’s hard to stalk me. However, by revealing more about where I work and what I do, it would be pretty easy to find me. And that freaks me out a little.

Another thing I’ve shied away from is discussing politics on this blog, mostly because I don’t feel like I have too much original content to contribute. All I’d end up doing is posting GIFS, links to SNL skits, and retweets.

This is how I’ve felt for as long as I’ve been blogging (a total of ~10 years over 3 blogs), and ordinarily, I’d keep on keeping on. But these aren’t ordinary times. So, if you normally come here for running content, please excuse the brief detour into my work life — and also a slightly political sidenote.

Most of you know that I’m a scientist. I have a B.S. in zoology (with a focus on cell and molecular biology) and a Ph.D. in biology. After getting my doctorate, I went on to do postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley. I spent 11.5 years of my life researching the development of embryos, using what we biologists call “model organisms” – animals that can be easily raised in the lab. I was fascinated by the basic question of embryology: how does one fertilized cell become a multicellular organism? I eventually focused on a more specific question, which is how do embryos get their shape? How do we go from a ball of cells to a baby with a head, a gut, hands, and feet? From a biomedical standpoint, this kind of research can reveal potential mechanisms behind normal developmental events and also in abnormal growth and development, such as cancer.

After my postdoc, I took a short detour to work in legal consulting (accident reconstruction), but then came back to UC Berkeley to work as a staff scientist. The point of all of this is to tell you that I’m an #actuallivingscientist. This hashtag grew out of discussions from the March for Science movement discussing how we, as scientists, can do better in terms of science communication. One of the barriers to overcome is to make science more accessible to lay people. Another is to make ourselves more visible. Hence, the #actuallivingscientist hashtag. I posted this tweet a couple of weeks ago:


I was uneasy about mixing business with pleasure, but I realized that it’s time to step up and speak out about science. There’s data from a 2009 study that reports 83% of Americans can’t name a single living scientist! Sadly, I doubt scientific knowledge has improved much since then. Maybe it’s naive of me, but I hope that even if one person reads this post and feels like they now know a scientist, that would perhaps help the cause of science communication, even just a little.

The main reason I’ve decided to be more outspoken and visible as a scientist? Well, even though I don’t believe science should be political, it unfortunately has become that way. Issues like climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but they are. By coming forward and explaining our passions as scientists, I hope we can bridge the divide between researchers and the public. The goal is to work toward solutions based on hard facts and real data, not anecdotal feelings or lobbyist-funded policy.

The March for Science folks have been working hard to come up with core goals for a more unified march. These include:

  • Science that serves the common good
  • Cutting edge science education
  • Open and honest science communication and inclusive public outreach
  • Evidence-based policy and regulations in the public interest
  • Funding for scientific research and its applications

I really hope you will consider joining the march on April 22nd. The main march will be in Washington DC, but here’s where you can find a list of cities hosting marches. You don’t have to be a scientist to march! If you stand for the core principles stated above, then come march with us.

OK, this is the end of my rant. Thanks for reading!

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Kaiser Recap 2017

On Sunday, I ran the San Francisco Kaiser Half Marathon. It feels weird to be writing this recap because I hadn’t planned on doing it until 4 days before the race, and that’s because I didn’t officially register. The story is: I inherited a bib from a registered runner, who decided to go to Tahoe instead. I don’t think the race officially allows bib transfers, but we did it anyway. I’m not advocating this kind of thing (I’m usually an adamant rule follower)- so please don’t judge me!

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned, I haven’t been running very much since CIM. My weekly total has ranged from 3-16 miles per week for the last 2 months. However, I’ve been meaning to jump start my training, with the goal of running the Badger Cove Half Marathon in March. So what better way than to jump into a half marathon with only a few days notice? Some people Run Less, Run Faster, so I joked that I had been using the “Barely Run, Gain 5 lbs” half marathon training plan.

Given my total lack of preparation and general uncertainty about how much fitness I had from CIM training, my race strategy was to start conservatively and ramp up my effort as the race progressed. I didn’t have a time goal, though if hard pressed, I would’ve said 2:10 for best case scenario and 2:20 if I really fell apart. I was even envisioning some walk-run intervals if need be. The one thing I had going for me was experience – I’ve run Kaiser twice previously. So, I knew what to expect on the course – when to hold back and when to push.

One of the main motivating factors for running Kaiser was to be able to have post-race brunch with Cathryn and her family – plus it was Cat’s birthday the next day! So, regardless of what happened, I knew I’d eat some good food with a few of my favorite people after the race.

Pre-race logistics didn’t go as well as I had hoped but eventually things got sorted. I found Team Ramsden and wished them well for the 5K. I ran into Sesa and her friend E, both of whom were running the half, and chatted with them for a bit before we went our separate ways.

Since this was my third time running Kaiser, I won’t go into much detail. Here were my main impressions:

  • The first mile is always a crowded mess due to self-seeding, but luckily, things spread out by the time I left Golden Gate Park (GGP).
  • I LOVE the first 7 miles of this course! It’s basically a lap around GGP including the panhandle. This time, since I wasn’t all-out racing, I took my time and enjoyed the scenery.


    Utter gorgeousness. (I’m surprised that this turned out so well – I took it while I was running!)

  • The weather this year was the most ideal out of the 3 years I’ve run it. It was 50 degrees and overcast for most of the race, with a very slight headwind on the Great Highway.
  • The volunteers were amazing! Many were friendly and enthusiastically cheering on the runners.
  • The last 6 miles are brutal. The out and back on the Great Highway is mind-numbing, and the last little hill before the finish line can be demoralizing.
  • My half marathon pacing skills have improved tremendously. Yes, I could’ve paced better (it’s good to negative split, but I was maybe a tad too conservative at the start). However, given my lack of training and how unsure I was about my fitness, I think I did pretty well!

Excited to see Team Ramsden at ~ Mile 8 (photo credit: Cat)

OK, so what happened? I followed my game plan and started off going by heart rate. I wouldn’t let myself get above 150 for the first 7 miles. Then, if I felt good, I’d push a little more with each mile. I did just that and finished in 2:05:xx. It’s almost 9 minutes slower than when I ran Summer Breeze last August, but it far exceeded my expectations. I was also pleased with my race execution. I know it’s obvious, but it’s so much more satisfying to pass people at the end instead of the other way around (e.g., what happened at CIM).


Gotta love negative splits (thanks Strava for the bar graph)

As promised, there was a fun post-race brunch at the Beach Chalet with Team Ramsden. Cat got a surprise PR following her own “Wine and Cake” fueling plan (trademark pending). You can read her recap here. It was a great morning all around!


We’ve earned our French toast!

p.s. Did you run Kaiser? If so, post your review on RaceRaves by 2/19 for a chance to win a free entry into next year’s race!

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A quick update

Hi there! I’m still alive, even though it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything at all, and even longer since I’ve written about running. I can’t believe it’s almost February – time is flying by, and yet seems to be standing still (has it only been 10 days since Trump was sworn in??).

After CIM, I decided to take a break from running. I took a whole week off and then returned to short 3-4 mile runs a few times a week. I expected to return to 20-25 mpw by the end of December, but then life continued to get in the way. First, I went to Taiwan for almost two weeks. In the past couple of years, I’ve managed to fit in a 5-6 mile run every other day. However, this past trip, I encountered multiple problems, including a closed pedestrian crosswalk and a packed schedule. I prioritized family time over running (and will *always* do so). Even though I wasn’t running, I was still logging many miles walking around Taipei.


Sunrise run in Taipei

I returned the the States on January 9th. It took me longer than usual to get over my jet lag, but I got a few short runs in the following week. I also signed up for a week of free yoga from Core Power Yoga in Berkeley. So for a week, I only ran twice and went to yoga 3 times! I was soooo sore. My plan is to go to CPY once a week; their Yoga Sculpt class is really intense and builds in strengthening with a bit of stretching and mobility. Perfect for runners.

I managed to get up to ~15 mpw post-Taiwan – not great, but better than nothing?! Then, this past week of work demolished any kind of routine I had established. Our annual conference at work, which my boss and I organize, ran from Wednesday to Friday, so I was working 12-15 hour days. This meant zero running. I’ve spent the last couple of days recovering and sleeping instead of running.


A scene from our work conference – which was held in the historic Berkeley City Club

Currently, the Gypsy Runner are spending a couple of days in Cambria resting and relaxing. Yet again, I’ve been too lazy to run.

My desire to run (in general) hasn’t been overwhelming, though my waistline is suggesting that I should embrace the suck and start waking up early again. 😉 Oh, the other thing that’s sucked recently is the weather. It’s been unusually cold and rainy this January, which made it that much harder to get out of bed at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. The one glimmer of hope came a couple of weeks ago, when I really had the urge to run trails. I ended up spending 90 minutes at Lake Chabot, and it was fantastic. The next weekend, the lovely Cathryn came over to Lake Chabot and I took her on a 6 mile route with new-to-her trails.


The upside of all of the rain: green hills!

Thankfully, February is looking much less busy personally and professionally. I hope to get my trail base back, as I’m targeting Badger Cove for my first real race of the year. Hope your 2017 is off to a great start!

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