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.

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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.

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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.

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

Post-race
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).

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With Angela (Photo: CC)

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Happy finishers (Photo: CC)

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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.

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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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Race Recap: Livermore Half 2018

I ran the Livermore Half Marathon last year as a pacer and loved the race and course. So, when pacing sign-ups were posted, I marked my calendar. Unfortunately, the race organizers decided to get rid of 5 pace groups from last year, including mine (2:20). So, despite the fact that there are 2 pacers per group (this is one of the larger races the TVRC paces), sign-ups filled up immediately and I was squeezed out. Whomp whomp. However, the good news was that not running Livermore meant I could go to Tahoe with my former Berkeley colleagues for a ski weekend. Hooray!

After a very snow-less winter, it decided to storm the weekend Tahoe/Livermore. Because of my work schedule, I couldn’t leave until after 5pm on Friday, which put me in the worst possible driving conditions. I ended up having to cancel last-minute, which I was super bummed about.

It was Saturday, March 3rd, and I was doing my usual weekend things – chores, etc. At around noon, I got a message from NT asking me if I wanted a free bib for Livermore. Someone he knew wanted to run the 408K in San Jose instead. Who turns down a free bib? Not me! I know that bib transfers were technically not allowed by the race director, so I’m not posting my actual finish time because I don’t want to get my bib-giver in trouble.

Since I had less than 24 hours notice, this wasn’t really a race for me as much as it was a long run/workout. I had already planned on doing a fast-finish long run, so my plan was to start off with NT and his fellow 2:10 pacer. I’d run with them through mile 10, then pick it up for the last 3.

This race starts early, at 7:00 a.m. It can be warm in Livermore, so I think they want to make sure everyone stays as cool as possible. Just like last year, parking was a breeze. I beat the bathroom line and stowed my things in the TVRC pacing tent. The weather was chilly but clear — great for running.

Before the race started, NT mentioned that their strategy was to bank time in the first miles before the hills at about the halfway point. So, I was mentally prepared to let them go a little bit ahead. ms44exrCQe64dtfcmUllHQ

Because I wasn’t really racing, I’m not going to cover the race in detail. You can read more about the course in my recap from last year. As I ran, I noticed how many sections of the course I missed last year while I was focusing on pacing.

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Another perk of not racing – I took pictures! I actually managed to take this photo while running

In general, it is a beautiful course with a few hills but nothing too major. I ended up running faster than 10:00/mile for the first 10 miles because the 2:10 group just took off. I kept them within reach for a while, but realized that they were going way faster than my plan so I let them go. My splits for the first 10 miles:
9:48
9:26
9:47
9:28
9:38
9:51
9:46
9:38
10:09 (big hill)
9:07 (big downhill)

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Both feet off the ground!

Then, it was time for the fast finish, and hopefully catch up to the 2:10 pacers. I finally did at mile 11.7. My last 3.2 miles were: 9:22, 9:00, 8:47, 7:53 (for 0.2 miles). I finished in 2:05:xx. I was pretty pleased with how I did as far as a long run/workout goes. I was especially happy to see sub-8:00/mile pace for the last sprint. I don’t think I’ve done that since the Healdsburg Half 2016. bf8r7kc0qnsbv8qvod8la.jpg

Anyway, it was a great day and I left with tons of endorphins. I got to see friends, run on a beautiful course, get some nice swag, and NT even bought me a cup of coffee. 🙂 Similar to last year, I finished too early in the day to want to drink wine at the post-race wine festival, but one of these years, I will! I highly recommend the Livermore Half.

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Great swag

 

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Pacing Recap: Brazen Victory Half 2018

Hello! February went by in a blur, and here we are, almost 4 weeks since I last blogged. I’m doing well for the most part. Still adjusting to the “new” job — I went to a work meeting/conference in Dallas during the 2nd week of February, came home for 36 hours, then T and I went LA to see Mike and Katie (of RaceRaves fame!) for President’s Day weekend. I logged my lowest weekly mileage ever during half marathon training — 2.3 miles, on a treadmill, in between work meetings. But, you know, what’s done is done. Or rather, what’s not done isn’t done. 😉

Hiking with Mike and Katie at Temescal Canyon

I came back from that 2.3 mile week and got back on the training horse, doing my usual ~10 miles during the week. That Saturday (the 24th), I headed to Richmond to pace the 2:20 group at Brazen’s Victory Half Marathon. This is one of the newer Brazen races and I had yet to run it. It starts up near Richmond Marina, then runs south along the shoreline to the Albany bulb (just north of Golden Gate Fields), then back again to Richmond. Admittedly, it’s not the most exciting course — I’ve run these paths many times during marathon training and it’s often a “let’s put on headphones and put one foot in front of the other” kind of slog. However, it is extremely flat, and on a clear day (like last Saturday), there are beautiful views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

I got to the race at 7am, when I was supposed to meet my fellow Trivalley Running Group pacers, but no one was there yet. It was unusually cold (real feel 32 degrees F!), so I went back to my car to stay warm. Eventually, it was time to face the weather and I met up with the pacing team at 7:30 for a group photo.

Pre-race Group Photo (PC: NT)

After some more shenanigans (I was unusually disoriented that morning — * foreshadowing *), I did a short warmup and lined up in the start corral at 7:50.

So the two things I regret about pre-race preparation (or lack thereof): not looking at the course map and not knowing where the aid stations were. Not a huge deal, but I feel like, as a pacer, I should be able to give runners some basic information. There was also a huge gap between the 2nd and 3rd aid station (and subsequently, the 4th and 5th aid stations), for which I felt it would have been good to be mentally prepared.

At 8:00 a.m., the airhorn sounded and we were off. I was really lucky during this race to have people running with me almost the whole time. There are some races where I’m pacing no one — not even someone who might be following me, like 10 seconds behind. Sometimes there are people around but not all of them want to engage in conversation. So, it’s a total crapshoot.

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At the start of the race (quarter mile in). Photo: PC

For the first couple of miles, I was running with A. My legs already felt heavy and it was only mile 2. Oh well. I lost A at an aid station, but picked up M, who was using the race as a training run for the L.A. Marathon. We chatted on and off until the halfway point, where she decided she needed a stretch break. I noticed that we were running just a tad faster than 10:40/mile (according to my Garmin), but my time elapsed was on track at each mile marker. So, I went with the mile markers instead of my Garmin, which is what I tend to do when I’m pacing.

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Around Mile 1. Photo: Brazen

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Somewhere near the turnaround.

After I completed the lap at the Albany loop, which is the only section that’s not on pavement, I ended up talking to W. We ran together pretty much for the rest of the race. W told me that if he stuck with me, he’d have a 4+ minute PR. Challenge accepted! At about 9.5 miles, I pulled off course to make use of park restrooms (yay flushing toilets). I sprinted for a few minutes to catch up with W. I was happy that I made up my time lost (about 3 minutes) and maybe that’s what led me to zone out a bit. I somehow missed a turn and ran through a set of red cones.

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Finishing the loop at the Albany Bulb and about to catch up to W. Photo: Brazen.

Thinking back, I must’ve seen the aid station in the distance and subconsciously decided to run towards it on the shortest path possible. As I approached the aid station, a runner came from an adjoining trail came up and yelled towards me, “Hey, you cut the course!” I was completely stunned and confused. One of the aid station volunteers confirmed that I had come from the wrong direction. What made it worse was that I had about 5 runners following me. The aid station captain was just about to call Sam, one of the race organizers, to ask him what we should do when W pointed out that we didn’t run too far off course — we could just go back to where we missed the turn and get back on course. Thank goodness for W’s clear thinking! It was probably a 100 yards, so not that bad of a mistake. I was pretty annoyed at myself nonetheless.

I ran hard back to the missed turn and tried to make up for lost time, apologizing profusely to those who followed me. In the craziness of it all, I stopped my Garmin out of habit, so now I had no idea how much time I lost during that whole debacle. I decided to estimate chip time based on time of day — assuming that we started right at 8:00 a.m., and that I crossed the start line about 30 seconds after. I still felt like I was running (time) blind, something a pacer shouldn’t be doing. Even though I picked up the pace, I was relieved to see that W was still with me. I managed to pick up a couple more runners in the last mile, too, who seemed happy to be finishing with the 2:20 pacer.

This is the first time I’ve crossed the finish line as a pacer with no idea what my finish time was. So, I was super relieved to see that I finished in 2:19:37, 23 seconds off my target. Even better, I helped W achieve a 4+ minute PR. Victory indeed! But still, there were some valuable lessons learned — I need to be more on top of things before and during races. And never, ever stop my watch!

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**

About the race:

  • Organizers: Brazen Racing
  • Cost: (n/a, I was a pacer)
  • Course: Out and back course: starts at the Richmond Marina, runs south along the shoreline to Albany, and back again. Completely exposed, so can be warm if the sun is out. Total elevation gain/loss: 125 feet according to my Garmin. I was surprised to see that because it seemed completely flat. Asphalt/cement for a most of the course, with a small gravel/dirt loop at the turnaround in Albany.
  • Parking: Plentiful and free.
  • Aid stations: 6 with water and Ultima electrolyte drink. There was probably food, but I didn’t look for any. There was a large gap (about 4 miles) between Aid 2 & 3, and Aid 4 & 5. On a warmer day, that would have been brutal.
  • Bathrooms: Many porta potties at the start and some park bathrooms en route.
  • Swag: Nice looking war ship — Richmond was where ships were built during WWII (and home of “Rosie the Riveter”). If people ran the Bay Breeze, they got a special connector piece that connects both medals for the B2V challenge. Lots of food afterwards, as usual. Free race photos taken by volunteers.
  • Misc.: This race has decent PR potential, depending on the weather. Though it was cold at the start, I eventually warmed up. The scenery is a mixed bag — there are a few nice views of SF and the Golden Gate Bridge, but also quite a few lackluster areas. As always, Brazen puts on a good race. This would be a good race to try to PR (weather permitting), or for those looking for a easy, fun run that’s not super crowded.
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Race Recap: 2018 Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon

I’m taking the microblogging format to race recaps, y’all! Let’s keep this brief and to the point. The day before the race, I carb-loaded like a champ, with pancakes, leftover spaghetti, and chicken rice porridge (congee/jook). I woke up around 5:00am on race morning, with the goal of getting to the Great Highway parking lot by 6:30am because I remembered that I waited until closer to 7:00 last year and it was almost full.

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All of the post-race drinks ready for consumption. The La Colombe triple latte was AMAZING — flavored with cane sugar and comes with lactase (so it’s lactard-friendly!) #NotAnAd

My strategy was to race by feel, with my Garmin displaying time of day rather than lap pace. I was glad that I didn’t have a time goal because it was going to be warm for February in SF — likely in the 70’s and partly sunny by the time I finished. Pre-race logistics went well, and soon I had managed to spot SP, KH, and Angela just by hanging out by the porta potties. 😉 We chatted for a little bit before getting into the start corral. No pre-race selfies — because I’m a #badblogger.

At about 8:10, we were off! It took me about 2 minutes to actually cross the start line. KPSFHM one of the largest half marathons in California, I think. I noticed that, even before I started running, I was already sweating. Yikes. Anyway, instead of giving you a mile-by-mile recount, here are the snapshots I remember from the race:

  • Mile 0.5-1.5: This race tends to be crowded at the start, so I tucked in behind 3 women running abreast. They were running at a good pace for me, so I kinda let them do the dodging, weaving, and getting people out of the way. I think this might be a good strategy in the future!
  • Mile 3: first Gu of the race (I ate one about 15 minutes before the race started). Salted Caramel, yum.
  • Mile 4.5: mental chatter/whining started – a bit early for negativity, I thought! I pushed those thoughts aside and forced myself to smile and be patient. As we’re always telling my 11 year old nephew, “We’ll get there when we get there.”
  • Mile 5.5: my absolute favorite part of the course! The elevation drops significantly as runners go toward the ocean. I saw a 9 (?) year old girl running with her dad, just chugging along, like it was NBD. I wanted to give her a high-five and tell her how cool she was, but I didn’t want to be patronizing.
  • Mile 6.5: I see and cheer for the first place male coming in to finish the race (the last 6 miles are out and back). As I turn left onto the Great Highway, I take a deep breath and finish the rest of my 2nd Gu.
  • Miles 7-9: I search for Angela and SP, who I expect to see coming back (on the out and back), but I only see SP. I also saw Devon Yanko and yelled out a garbled, “Go, Devon!” (my throat was pretty dry)
  • Mile almost-10: I made it to the turnaround! Woot!
  • Miles 10-13: death march, as usual. I focus on a few runners ahead of me with good form. I promise to try to stay with them. In particular, I stick with 2 guys with blue camo tees, and a woman in a red singlet. The woman and I run side by side for the last mile before we make the final turn into Golden Gate Park.
  • Last bit: That hill into GGP always kills me. As I climb up, I exchange a few cheerful words with an older gentleman, who kindly reminds me to focus on my form and use my arms. This seems like a good idea until I remember how weak my upper body is. Finally, I follow the gentle right turn of the road and see the finish line. I have no gas for a final sprint.
  • After I finish: The red singlet lady sprinted past me at the last minute, then thanked me — she had been using me to pace her at the end. I told her I had been following her too, on the Great Highway, so it was a two-way street. Good feelings all around.

Here are my splits (Garmin):Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 2.58.37 PM

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Post-race selfie with SP

A few notable things (at least to me, anyway):

  • I think my splits were pretty even if you take into account elevation changes and weather. I think there was probably a slight tailwind on the “out” portion — miles 7-9, and a headwind on the back portion — miles 11-3… though I could’ve also been getting tired.
  • I finished 4 minutes faster than last year, despite the warmer weather and coming off a smaller fitness base (2016 vs. 2017 as a whole). I think running by feel might be my new thing, y’all.
  • This ranks 3rd out of 4 Kaiser SF Halfs in terms of finishing time, but I’m pretty happy with how I ran the race. I felt like I gave it my all.
  • I might have discovered a solution to my pre-race caffeine issues. It’s complicated and a bit TMI, but I’ve had bathroom problems if I have coffee before a race. Even tea can upset my stomach. But if I don’t have any caffeine, it leaves me feeling deflated and tired. So, I decided to experiment with one shot of espresso with a lot of almond milk (basically a latte). My theory was that the milk would balance out the espresso and hopefully not upset my stomach too much. And it seems to have worked (knock on wood!).
  • This was a productive race in terms of giving me a point of reference for Oakland next month and for practicing pre-race and race day logistics.
  • Post-race recovery has been kind of brutal. I was a little sore, but very, very tired on Monday. I’m still feeling a bit run down (pun intended) 4 days out from the race. I guess this is what being an older runner means??

After the race, Angela kindly hosted bRUNch at their temporary digs. There was great food and even better company. I neglected to take any photos because: #badblogger. But here’s a fun one from bt:

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Cheers! (Sweaty lens “filter” LOL)

Official race results:
2:01:19 (9:15/mile)
1862/4971 overall, 634/2404 F, 93/330 (F 40-44)

Logistics can be found on my previous race reports (here and here). They have essentially stayed the same except that the t-shirt and medal have both improved in design and quality.

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The little blue whale moves!

p.s. Did you run Kaiser? If so, post your review on RaceRaves by 2/18 for a chance to win a free entry into next year’s race and other cool prizes!

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So you’re running a race next week?

The first month of 2018 is almost behind us. That means the Kaiser SF Half is next week! I feel like once I decided that Kaiser was no longer going to be my goal race, I stopped seriously training for it. Despite my best intentions, no midweek workouts got done. Whomp whomp. I did manage to have two pretty decent long runs – last Sunday and today. Before we get to that, though, here are the stats from the last two weeks:

Week of 1/15:

  • number of runs: 4
  • total miles: 19 (sad)
  • long run: 9.8 trail miles (with 2000′ elevation gain!)
  • non-running activities: none 😦

Week of 1/22:

  • number of runs: 5
  • total miles: 24.2
  • long run: 12 miles
  • non-running activities: 2.9 miles of faster pace walking (Friday)

So last week’s long run on trails was good in many ways — I got to spend a couple of hours with DD in the redwood forest, and it was an incredible workout. However, I could tell during the run that my muscles were already crying out for bloody murder. In fact, when we got back to the parking lot after 7.7 miles (that took us almost 2 freaking hours!), DD practically had to drag me out for another 2.3 to make it 10 miles for the day — something I had told her I wanted to do at the start of the run. We trudged along at 12 min/mile pace. I was glad we got more miles, but man were my legs beat! I haven’t been that sore/limped like that since after CIM 2016. It took me almost 4 days to get back to normal. My first run back on Tuesday was a slog, and Wednesday’s run was only slightly better.

Fortunately, by this morning’s long run, things had improved dramatically. I ran 12 flat miles along the Bay Trail, finishing with some faster-ish miles. I figured that if I want to run sub-10 minute miles next week at Kaiser, it might be good for me to practice physically and mentally. A little bit of self-induced “suffering” never hurts in terms of building grit. The last two miles (9:21, 9:07) felt TOUGH. Plus, it took me 2h3m to run 12 miles… which makes goal setting a little dubious next week. On the other hand, this was my longest run since December 3rd, and my biggest week since then as well. So hopefully after a little bit of rest this week, I should be feeling good?

IMG_3514

Sunny, clear skies and 60 degrees in January. California living is good.

OK, so on to race day strategies. Honestly, I don’t have any concrete plans since Kaiser isn’t a goal race. And because I haven’t truly raced a half marathon in over a year, I think it might be fun to run Garmin-blind. I’ll switch my watch to time of day and just focus on staying present and running to my potential. I’ve run Kaiser 3 times previously, and my finishing times have been 1:58:51 (2014), 2:00:23 (2015), 2:05:13 (2017). I don’t think I’m in shape to finish under 2 hours or even beat 2:00:23, but I’d like to finish under last year’s time. Whatever happens, the good news is that there’s already bRUNch plans in place with good food, champagne, and fun friends. Cheers!

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Posted in Trail running, Training

2017: Year in Books

After reading/listening to 36 books in 2016, I set my goals at 30 books for 2017. Sadly, I only read 18 books. I blame this on the fact that I spent most of the year listening to political podcasts instead of reading. The good news for you is that this should make the list easier to read! I’ll list them in order of most to least favorite:

5-stars:

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
I tend to enjoy novels where each chapter jumps around — either from different characters’ perspectives or through time. YHIAMTSOAF was one of those books. The story focuses on the day of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, which broke out into riots. Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different character, and I appreciated that the author makes an effort to make each voice human – from the protesters to the cops to the WTO delegate from Sri Lanka. The two main characters are Victor, an earnest 19-year old, who accidentally joins the protest, and his step-father Bishop, who happens to be the chief of police. There are so many layers of the story… I can’t really explain how great this book was. I haven’t been moved by a book like this in quite some time; I think the last one that affected me so much was A Little Life.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Best novel I’ve read in a while. Adichie manages to pull off the trifecta: compelling characters, engaging plot, and depth (including commentary on race, immigration, poverty, sexism).

4-stars:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing starts off as a story about 2 half sisters in Ghana in the 1700s who grew up not knowing about each other, and continues as an epic geneology of their descendants to present day. One sister is sent to America on a slave boat, while the other stays in Ghana, the wife of a British slaver. Through each chapter, a different voice is presented, describing an experience from that place and time. I felt like I learned a lot about the slave trade, Jim Crow, desegregation, and Ghanaian culture and history — all from the first-hand lens of these well-developed characters. Highly recommended.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Fantastic as far as memoirs go. I laughed, I cried, I learned a lot about South Africa and how it was to grow up colored (mixed race) in the post apartheid era.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
This is one of T’s favorite books. I also really enjoyed it, even though it took me about 2 months to finish it because it’s really long. I wish I had written a fresh review right after I finished it, but thinking back about it, I thought it was a really lovely story about the lives that people led, whether people decided to open themselves up to others or stay closed off… of course there’s a lot of allegory (Eden, brothers – one good and one bad, the evil woman/Eve, etc.) I did eventually get invested in the characters but I didn’t love them the way T does. After I finished it, I could see how East of Eden is viewed as Steinbeck’s best and one of the best American novels ever written.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
I requested Dreams from My Father from the library after watching Southside with You – the movie based on Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date. I realized that I only knew the vague outlines of Barack Obama’s life, and I wanted to find out more. The book documents Obama’s early life in Hawaii, Indonesia, back in Hawaii, Southern California, NYC, Chicago, ending with his trip to Kenya just before going to Harvard Law School. I found it really well written and an insightful look at what it was like to grow up biracial in so many different places. It’s also the story of a young man living in the shadow of a father that he never knew. Reading this memoir in the light of the fact that Obama went on to become the 44th President of the United States is extremely awe-inspiring. And of course, there’s the contrast between 44 and 45 that I won’t need to elaborate on here.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Short and sweet fantastical story. Gaiman successfully treads the line between wholesome childhood memory and monstrous horror (but nothing too scary, I promise).

3-stars:

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
3.5 stars. I picked up this book at a book swap because I remember liking the film adaptation. It took me a while to get into it – the author switches rapidly between different characters and timepoints, so it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on. The prose is poetic and the characters well-developed, but I found myself having to re-read entire paragraphs. There were definitely some things I had to look up (Gilf Keber, sapper, Almasy) – otherwise I would’ve been completely lost. It’s lovely in its own way, but it wasn’t my favorite.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
A solid 3 stars. I wanted to love this book- I feel like the “woman scientist memoir” genre is severely lacking. My expectations were tempered by my friend MK’s lukewarm recommendation as she gifted me her copy. Jahren’s writing is quite good, but I had two major issues with the book: one, I could not relate to her personally at all. I feel like her story may give the impression to the public that all scientists are anti-social workaholic weirdos — which many are, but not all. Two, I’m not a plant person and I never will be. Her plant analogies and metaphors failed to stir any feelings within me. I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first. Like MK mentioned, I wish that Jahren fleshed out some of the discrimination or unfair treatment she experienced as a female scientist rather than making quick references here and there. I recall only one incident where she discussed in detail how she was treated differently as a (pregnant) woman.

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
I really wanted to like this book based on principle, but I found it to be too scattered. I wish the author had focused more on specific topics. Some chapters were full of paragraphs where she jumped from one anecdote or statistic to another. It was hard to keep track of all of the points that were being made.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
(Fiction) I enjoyed the writing and the first half of the book. The second half of the book got a bit melodramatic and out of control; I started wondering what was the point. The ending is disappointing. So I’d say it started off with 4 stars and ended at 2.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
*audiobook review*
This is an intense and bizarre novel about a woman who, after having a series of dreams, decides to become a vegetarian overnight – and then proceeds to engage in some very strange behavior. It’s written in 3 sections: one from her husband’s perspective (with interspersed sections from the perspective of the main character), one from her brother-in-law, and one from her sister. The story is engaging and it’s interesting that the reader never truly gets a clear explanation from the main character. I wouldn’t mind reading the book again (instead of listening) because I feel like I missed some crucial details and also some of the imagery.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
This was a collection of short stories about Vietnamese refugees and immigrants. Even though I’m not a refugee, I expected to connect with some of the stories because I’m an immigrant and an Asian American. However, I never really felt anything while reading these stories, and I can’t recall a single character or plot line. I still would like to read Nguyen’s The Sympathizer.

Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran
2.5 stars. I went into this book with high expectations because Moran’s “How to be a Woman” was one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. I think if I had more time with Moranifesto, and read each essay over a longer period of time, I would’ve enjoyed it more. Alas, I borrowed it from the library, so I had a limited window of time to finish it. I forced myself to read several essays in a sitting. The essays are so short that, even though they are entertaining, don’t linger with you for long. There were many British references that went straight over my head. And while I generally agree with the author’s political stance, I found the arguments a bit irritating (not sure why).

2-stars:

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris, David Javerbaum, Antony Hare (Illustrator)
2.5 stars. Interesting concept to break up your typical play-by-play celebrity memoir. I got the e-book version from the library and the app wouldn’t let me jump from chapter to chapter (the links didn’t work). So I missed out on the “Choose Your Own Adventure” aspect. I like NPH, but he’s only a bit older than me and this book felt a bit self-indulgent. I had zero interest in the chapters about magic and, though his love for his children is clear, it was also a bit much. (I should note that some celebrities – e.g., Amy Poehler – manage to write lovingly *and* movingly about their children.) The nice thing about the format is that each chapter was at the most 5 pages, so I could move one quickly from one to the next.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
2.5 stars. I received this book as a birthday present. It’s my first novel by Alice Hoffman, and I was looking forward to it because I had heard great things about her other books. ‘Rules’ fell flat for me…maybe because it’s about the kind of whimsical/superstitious magic that’s never appealed to me. Or maybe because I didn’t fully related to or liked the characters. Even when horrible things happened to the main characters, I didn’t feel invested because I always felt like they’d be ok. For example, when they’re supposedly bankrupt/destitute, they still manage to find a cute house in the Village and somehow survive by selling little trinkets/charms?? Also, the prose caused me to roll my eyes a lot…like every other paragraph just about. There was a lot of telling, not showing.

In the Woods by Tana French
Meh. It’s an interesting enough premise: a detective is assigned to solve a murder of a 12-year old girl in the very same woods where his two childhood friends disappeared 20 years ago. Unfortunately, I felt like it was about 150 pages too long, and after a while, I just didn’t care who did it or what happened. I also started hating the main character. Yes, he’s flawed like so many in this genre, but in a very unlikable and annoying way (IMO).

It’s Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak Into Happily Never After by Andi Dorfman
I don’t know if I’m more embarrassed about wanting to read this book enough to request it from the library, or about finishing it in 2 days. As I expected, it’s not very well written, full of cliches that appeal to the 20-something “basic” female demographic to which this book is targeted. However, as a fan of the Bachelor/ette franchise, it’s quite satisfying in its tell-all format. Any satisfaction was followed immediately by remorse though, much like indulging in too much junk food.

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Posted in Book review, Books
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9/2/18: Race to the End of the Summer 5K
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