Friday, August 30, 2013

The Giant Race - 8/4/13

I didn't take any pictures of this race so I've included a few throw back pictures from the previous year (2012). Once again we represented in full Giants colors....even though they're not having quite the year they did in 2012.

Race stats:
Overall female: unknown
Age group: 34 of 429
Chip time: 1:48:40
GPS time: 1:48:40 (.13 miles long)

San Francisco 2nd Half Marathon - 6/16/13

Spreckels Lake, Golden Gate Park
2nd half marathon start

Race Stats:
Overall female: 133 of 1,678
Age group: 51 of 633
Chip time: 1:48:41
GPS time: 1:48:47 (.15 miles long)

Oakland Half Marathon - 3/24/13

Annelyse and I ran this one together.  Always lots of fun entertainment along this course. The first two were taken at The Crucible in West Oakland. More photos to come.

Race stats:
Overall female: 685 of 1985
Age group: 125 of 309
Chip time: 2:09:28
GPS time: didn't run with my watch

Walnut Creek Turkey Trot 10K - 11/22/12

Race stats:
Overall female:  50 of 867
Age Group:  9 of 103
Chip Time:  48:26.31
GPS Time:  48:25.40

Pictures only from here on out

I find I no longer have time to write lengthy race reports. However, I do enjoy having a place to keep track of all my races, so I don't want to abandon my blog altogether. I've decided from here on out I'll be posting pictures and race stats only. If I'm feeling ambitious or something notable happened maybe I'll post a short recap. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Big Sur Half Marathon - 11/18/12

The Big Sur half marathon was one of our favorite races last year, so it was a given we'd run it again. We made a weekend of it this time. The race was on Sunday and we came up Friday night. This allowed us time to try a couple of restaurants, drive along the coast, and go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (something I hadn't done for years). It was a rainy weekend and there was a good chance it would be raining during the race. However, just like last year, the weather cleared up just in time for the race and the sun was shining.

Neither of us had any time goals for this race. I was swamped with school work and hadn't been putting in the training needed to set a PR. Annelyse had just set a huge PR so there was no pressure to do so for this race. It was just going to be a beautiful run along the coast for both of us. I even decided to bring my phone so that I could stop and take pictures along the course. 

It was the same course as last year. Running through Cannery Row was one of my favorite parts again. Just the day before we were there going to the Aquarium. It was packed with cars and pedestrians. Running down it during the race was a completely different experience. The street was closed off so there were no cars. Aside from a few spectators, it was just us runners. It was quiet and peaceful. 

The scenery while running along the coast was once again amazing. I'm always so thankful of where I live and the incredible places I get to run. It helped to make the race less painful than it could have been. With school taking up so much of my time, my training isn't what it used to be. I didn't have the base I usually do so the last few miles were tough. It didn't help that my bursitis in my hip was acting up. I actually almost stopped before hitting mile 1. It would have been my first DNF (did not finish). I suspect I'll have one eventually, but it wasn't this race. I pushed on. The hip loosened up considerably, but was definitely aching towards the end. 

I finished the race with a respectable time for one I didn't train for. Annelyse came in shortly after I did and we walked the mile home. On the walk home we talked about how lucky we are that each of us loves to travel to run races. It's such a fun excuse to get away for the weekend. I'm sure we'll be back next year. 

Race stats:
Overall female:  406 of 4398
Age Group:  79 of 724
Chip Time:  1:54:14
GPS Time:  1:53:42

The Giant Race Half Marathon - 9/16/12

We ran the Giant Race last year, but that was before we were Giants fans. We moved across the street from AT&T park right before the start of the baseball season. We didn't know if the constant crowds from the games would annoy us or if we could ever become baseball fans. To me, baseball was always boring. Too much dead time. However, since we were right across the street from the park we decided that we should give it a chance. Buying tickets off of stubhub couldn't be easier. All the season ticket holders start dropping the prices of their seats as game time gets closer so they can unload them. Being able to wait until five minutes before game time definitely had its advantages. Not only did we not have to commit to games way in advance, but we got some amazing seats for really cheap.

After going to a few games and becoming familiar with the players, we were hooked. Watching them through the season and then getting to go to two playoff games, including a World Series game, has made us Giants fans for life. Being a fan made getting ready for this years Giant race even more fun. The previous year a number of runners had dressed in Giants gear and we knew we had to do the same this year. We bought Romo socks along with Giant visors and wristbands to complement our black shorts and tanks. We were head to toe orange and black. 

Preparing for the race wasn't all fun and games though. Annelyse was trying to PR and break her ever elusive 2:10 goal so there was some serious training going on. We decided that I would pace her during the race. We had never run together before, let alone run a race together. Before the race, I took her on a 14 miler. It was our first run together and the longest run she'd done to date. We needed the practice. We weren't even sure if we'd be able to handle running together. In my opinion, she needed to do a training run longer than the race and I needed to learn how to pace someone. The run went great and we didn't end up killing each other, though I still had some work to do on learning how to pace. Luckily, I had some time before the race to figure that out.

The morning of the race was filled with nervous excitement. The race started across the street from our apartment so getting there couldn't have been easier. There were a ton of people dressed in orange and black. It was fun to be a part of it this year. The race got underway and was pretty congested for the first couple of miles. Thankfully, it didn't slow us down that much. As the miles ticked by we were actually building up a little time buffer in case we needed to drop the pace in the last few miles. Annelyse was looking good and it wasn't until the turnaround point at Fort Point (about 7 miles in) that I started to signs of fatigue. She refueled though and was good for another couple of miles. So much so that I had to continually slow her down. I finally told her that she had to run behind me so that I could set the pace. This worked much better. As it was, we were easily on target to beat a 2:10, but I knew we had a lot of race left. 

This was a flat course with the exception of the hills taking you up and over Fort Mason. The course of the race is essentially what we run every weekend so we were very familiar with them. They aren't killer hills, but when you're running at a pace faster than you ever have, they can get you. It wasn't until we came of those hills that I started to worry. Our pace dropped considerably while Annelyse was recovering. However, after a quick water break she was back on track much sooner than I expected. 

As we came within a few miles of the finish, I knew exactly how Annelyse must have been feeling. I've been there many times before. You feel like there's no way you're going to keep up the pace until the finish. However, it's very motivating knowing that if you can just hold it a little while longer you're going to PR. It's what keeps you putting one step in front of the other. And that's exactly what she did.

Our last three miles were actually some of the fastest we'd run. She didn't know that until after though. At one point I told her we could drop the pace if she was worried she wasn't going to have enough steam to get to the finish. I didn't want her to burn out and miss her PR in the last mile or two. She ignored me. After that I didn't say anything and let her set the pace. The faster she could finish the happier she would be. We cruised into the finish with a time of 2:06:12. Accomplishing your time goal by even seconds is extremely gratifying, but doing it by minutes is incredible. We were both thrilled. I really enjoyed being able to pace her to a PR, but ultimately it wouldn't have happened if she hadn't put in so much training beforehand. 

Finishing in AT&T park was a different experience this year. We'd been to so many games in the park over the previous few months that it was really neat to be on the field instead of in the stands. We relaxed in the sun in left field and took it all in before heading home. We're looking forward to next years race and for the start of the 2013 baseball season. Go Giants!

Race stats:
Age Group: 112 of 363
GPS Time: 2:06:19

San Francisco Marathon - 7/29/12

I knew once school started the chances of having the time to train for a marathon was questionable. However, I knew I wanted to do one this year. Since the San Francisco Marathon was right around the corner, I decided that would be it. I've always wanted to do the full marathon, but it's tough course. Since I wasn't setting myself a time goal, it was the perfect time to do it. Plus, the start/finish is located right by our place.

Leading up to the race, I did a good job of getting all the miles in, but didn't do much in the way of speed work. It was kind of nice going into the race not trying to accomplish any goal. I say this, but there's always somewhat of goal. Given the course, I was going to be happy with a sub-4:00 marathon.

The race started very early. Annelyse was running the first half, so we both got up before 4a. We walked to the start and there were these pretty blue lanterns hanging over the corrals. They gave the race a really nice feel. They had a few entertainers along The Embarcadero to give us all something to look at while we waited for our wave starts. For the first time, I wasn't nervous about running the distance. After running four previous ones and putting in lots of training, I knew that I could cover the distance which was a great feeling.

The San Francisco marathon is a beautiful course, but I felt bad for the runners from out of state. Crissy field and the Golden Gate bridge were completely socked in by fog. You could barely make out the bridge. Of all the races I've run in San Francisco, this was the first time I ran on the bed of the Golden Gate bridge so that was a neat experience. 

Miles 13-18 were the toughest for me. The first half of the race was very hilly and took it out of me. The first half ended in Golden Gate Park and I was tempted to go cross their finish line. I knew if I could just make it out of the park and get through the next few miles of uphill, it was all flat from there. When I finally did, I found I got a bit of a second wind with the change of course. The last 8 miles weren't necessarily easy, but I felt much better than expected. 

I made it to mile 25 and passed right by our place.  Throughout the last couple of miles I felt my left calf starting to crap. And sure enough, just after mile 25, it knotted up so bad that it stopped me in my tracks. I could barely even move to the side of the course. I'd never experienced a cramp like that and was pretty sure I wasn't going to be able to continue. A nice couple on the side who were watching the race gave me a banana. After eating half of it and rubbing out my calf a bit, it started to loosen up. Luckily I didn't have far to go and I was hopeful that if I took it slow I could make it.

We had left my car near the first half finish at Golden Gate Park the night before with the intent that Annelyse could drive home and make it to my finish. We knew the timing would be close, but sure enough she made it and I was thrilled to see her on the side right before the end of the course. Just after I finished I heard someone call my name. I turned and it was my mom and my aunt Val who had come into SF to surprise me. They'd both run the SF Marathon when they were younger, so it was pretty special that they were able to see me finish. 

My GPS time was 4:00:57 for 26.55 miles. Unofficially, I met my time goal of running a sub-4:00 had the course only been 26.2 miles. My gun time, however, was just over 4:00. Not bad considering a cramp that stopped me for a couple of minutes and bathroom break. After the race we all went to Paragon for a big breakfast. While it wasn't my best time, I didn't care. That wasn't my goal. It just felt great to have had finished a marathon and that everyone was there to celebrate with me. 

Race Stats:
Overall female: 397 of 2146
Age Group: 70 of 303
Chip Time: 4:04:01
GPS Time: 4:00:57

Thursday, June 14, 2012

San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon - 6/3/12

A trip to San Diego had been on our list for quite some time. Annelyse had never been and it'd been ages since I'd last visited. When we discovered this race fell on her actual birthday we decided it was the perfect opportunity to go. I knew how much fun I'd had on my birthday last year when we did the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll and I thought it would be great if she got to experience the same thing on her birthday this year.

We arrived on Friday night and were staying in the Gaslamp Quarter amidst all the restaurant and bars. On Saturday morning we went to the expo at the convention center to pick up our bibs. A lot of races these days let you personalize your bibs when you register. Annelyse was surprised when she picked hers up and it said "It's my birthday". So was I. Apparently I completely forgot I'd done that when registering both of us. I commended myself for doing so. After all, what fun is it if it's your birthday and no one knows. Now everyone would know. 

The race started at the ungodly time of 6:15. I don't believe I've ever run a race that started so early. It forced us to go to be VERY early and get up at 4:00 to start our pre-race routine. The good thing about it though was that it made Annelyse's birthday seem extra long and allowed us more time to enjoy the day. As race time neared we walked the 1.5 miles up 6th Ave to the start alongside Balboa Park and made it to our assigned corrals after checking our bags with some time to spare.

As with all Rock 'n' Roll races it was a staggered start based on expected pace. I was in corral five. Corral one was filled with a few elite runners such as Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, and Kim Smith who were all using the half marathon as a tune-up for the Olympics. For once I actually wished the race was an out and back because it would have been great to see them running. 

We first made our way north on 6th Ave then east on University Ave before turning on Park Blvd down into Balboa Park again. We ran passed the San Diego Zoo on our right and while we didn't get to see any animals Annelyse and I made it to the zoo the next day and saw plenty. That zoo is huge and quite hilly in areas. Perhaps not the ideal activity the day after a half marathon but we couldn't resist. Who doesn't love a good zoo?!

We continued through the park and ran down the El Prado promenade which is lined with buildings that are of Spanish Colonial style architecture. Some of these buildings we passed housed such museums as the Museum of Art and the San Diego Natural History Museum. Immediately after we ran by the Spreckels Organ Pavilion which features one of the largest outdoor organs. This being a Rock 'n' Roll race we were treated to our own concert as we ran by. I can easily say this was the most unique musical act of all the races I've run.

After we broke off from the marathon runners at mile four we ran around the San Diego Air & Space Museum as we turned onto northbound 163 Cabrillo Fwy. Here we encountered the first significant downhill and it turned out to be my fastest mile of the course. The next four miles along the freeway were also my least favorite of the course. Running on a freeway is bizarre. Not only was there not a whole lot of scenery, but it banked to the right which puts a lot of uneven pressure on your downhill side and my calves were definitely feeling it. 

After about a mile of elevation gain as we finished up mile six there was a very long downhill section that lasted at least a mile. At this point the lead male marathon runners who were at mile 10 joined us and ran alongside us on the other side of the freeway. And by running alongside I really mean that they flew by us. There were about 7-8 of them in a pack and they were flying down this downhill section with no other marathoners near them. They're energy was infectious and all of us half marathoners picked up our pace a notch or two. 

At one point on the freeway we ran around an offramp and got back on the freeway on the other side. In the middle was a Taiko drum group playing in unison. After the organ this was my favorite musical entertainment on the course as my pace easily fell in line with the beat. From mile seven on the up and downs stopped and the course was basically flat. Near mile eight we exited the freeway and headed north on Friars Rd before turning onto W Morena Blvd. Just before mile 11 we turned around and headed the opposite way. At the turnaround spot there was a karaoke station set up where runners (or spectators) could sing along before continuing on. 

The last mile we ran on Sea World Dr and headed to the finish. I stopped my watch at 13.1 miles which ended up being about two tenths of a mile short of the finish line with a time of 1:40:04. My official chip time was 1:41:07. I was shocked that I'd run the race in that time as I was still building up my base again. I credited most of this to the course being a net downhill. I ended up finishing in the top 1.2% of my age group and overall for females. It felt good to know I was getting some of my speed back.

After I grabbed some chocolate milk, my sweats, some free t-shirts, and a birthday flower for Annelyse I headed to find a spot along the course to watch her finish. When I found a spot I got to see a bunch of security folks chasing down bandits with no bibs and plucking them from the course which was most entertaining. I almost missed Annelyse as she ran by, but saw her at the last minute so was able to cheer her in. I hadn't expected her to finish so fast considering she'd gone from zero to 13 miles in only a month after battling a pulled muscle. I was so glad she was able to run the race on her birthday especially considering she had to miss Nashville a month earlier!

After the race we grabbed a taxi and had a delicious eggs benedict breakfast before taking a much deserved nap. The rest of the day included oysters, red velvet cake balls, and a celebratory drink (or two). The only thing that could have made the weekend better was if the sun had been shining. Maybe next year we can escape the June gloom. 

Race Stats:
Overall female: 135 of 11,221
Age Group: 25 of 2,157
Chip Time: 1:41:07 (pace 7:43 - course .2 miles long)
GPS Time: 1:40:04 (pace 7:38)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Nashville Country Music Half Marathon - 4/28/12

It's good to be back! While I intended to drop my mileage and take some time off racing during the beginning part of the year it was never supposed to be this long. I can thank neck problems for the long racing hiatus I've been on since mid-December. Thankfully I was able to keep running through most of it, but I did have to keep my mileage fairly low. On a whim in November, Annelyse, my sister, and I decided that we wanted to run the Nashville Country Music Marathon and registered on the spot. We soon learned that a lot can happen in the five months leading up to a race. I'd signed up for the marathon, but after the long battle with my neck I found myself extremely thankful I was even able to run the half marathon. Unfortunately, my sister and Annelyse were not so lucky and both had injuries that made them unable to run.

After a short, but fun trip to Arkansas to visit Annelyse's parents we headed to Tennessee on Friday. There my sister, Sully, nephew Colton, and Sully's sister, Beth, had all arrived as well. After hearing we were running Nashville, Beth, having become quite the runner herself, decided to join us. We met at a local brewery for pizza and beer and all retired early in preparation for an early start time in the morning.

I woke up at 5:30a thrilled I was getting to race. I was really only able to start upping my mileage in the last four weeks leading up to the race so I wouldn't necessarily say I was well trained for it, but I didn't care, I was just glad to be able to run it. Annelyse and I met Beth in the lobby and all walked to the start of the race at Centennial Park less than a mile away. After a few pre-race pictures we each went to our appropriate corrals. As I entered my 1:45 corral I did feel a bit like a fraud knowing I wasn't in that kind of shape yet. 

One of the things I love about the Rock 'n' Roll races is that they do a great job of implementing a wave start with each corral starting a minute behind each other. With over 30,000 runners it does a surprisingly good job of spreading out the group. Annelyse was standing right past the start to see us off. Even early on it was clear that it was going to be hot. I was thankful the race started at 7a, because by the time I was three miles in the sun was really beating down on us. 

In our first two miles we ran down West End Avenue past the old Union train station, a massive cathedral, and the Center of Visual Arts. We soon found ourselves in the heart of Nashville's nightlife district on Broadway. Country bars galore! And these country bars weren't just going off on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday afternoon we came back to explore and get our two step on and practically every single place had live music. While I'm not a huge country music fan myself, we had a great time dancing and trying to sing the songs. My sister, on the other hand, knew every single word and could have been mistaken for a true Nashvillian. 

Just after we hit mile three we ran through the Music Row Roundabout. Music Row houses hundreds of music related businesses, including recording studios, and is the heart of the country entertainment industry. This being a Rock 'n' Roll marathon there were of course many bands on the course. My favorite band was near this roundabout. They were a bunch of teenager girls (band name: Hangin' with Stogie) singing country rock and were pretty fantastic for being so young.

The day before I had decided to run with my phone so I could take pictures of the course. It's not everyday that I get to run in Nashville, and I figured I wasn't going to set any PRs so no reason not to enjoy myself. This had the advantage of letting me also send text updates to Annelyse letting her know what mile I was on so she could make her way to different points on the course to see me. Even though she didn't get to run, she definitely put in a number of miles just getting from point to point around the course to cheer us on. She had made it to mile 3 just in time to see me pass.

Most of the remainder of the course, except for the last three miles or so, was through residential areas. The course entertainment continued with not only race organized bands, but also numerous homeowners and spectators along the course. Many were playing their own music, either live or by stereo, and a number of people were handing out water, fruit, and even beer. It seemed to be a party for the residents of the area. People gathered on their lawns with friends, eating and drinking as they watched us all go by. 

As the morning wore on the sun started blazing down on us. There was decent shade coverage in some parts, but not everywhere. It was hot and I was not used to running in the heat. Luckily the humidity wasn't as bad as it could have been. Being that I didn't want to dehydrate, I did something I normally don't and took water from all but the first water station. The rolling hills didn't make it any easier. I wouldn't say that any of the hills were killers, but the up and downs were constant. For the most part though I didn't mind it since it made the course a bit more interesting. 

The last couple of miles we found ourselves in more of the downtown area. We broke off from those running the full marathon at mile 11.5 and I remember thinking that maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I couldn't run it. The heat alone would have been torture. There was one last push up a long hill that took a number of runners down. I saw at least four on the side of the road getting medical attention. Luckily none of them looked too serious, just dehydration and exhaustion, but still scary. 

Just before mile 13 we crossed a bridge over the river and headed toward LP Field where the Titans play. It was a fast downhill that let all the runners finish strong. As with almost the entire course the streets were lined with spectators, and about a tenth of mile from the finish, Annelyse had a prime spot to see me come in. After I finished I joined her to cheer in Beth who had a strong race herself and ran by with a huge smile on her face. Kim, Sully, and Colton also had made it just in time to see Beth finish as well. After we all stood around listening to one of the bands that was playing at the end while drinking our free beer. And while it was sad that not everyone was able to run the race, it didn't take away from the fun we all had exploring Nashville together for a long weekend. I'm so lucky for the amazing family I have. 

As for my time, I did better than I thought. I wasn't even close to a PR time, or even a typical time, but considering the lack of training and the picture taking along the course, I was pretty happy with it. I finished in the top 4% of my age group with an official time of 1:50:50. I can say for certain that I've got the racing bug back. I can't wait to be able to really start training with my running group again and get my speed back! Next up: San Diego!

Race stats:
Overall female: 418 of 14189
Age Group: 95 of 2511
Chip Time: 1:50:50 (pace 8:28)
GPS Time: 1:49:32 (pace 8:21)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Walnut Creek Half Marathon - 12/10/11

I'm going to make this entry short and sweet since it's been over a month since I ran it. I found out that Walnut Creek was having it's inaugural half marathon over a year ago, and I knew I would run it. The timing of it ended up not being ideal. Annelyse and I were leaving for Tahoe on a week long trip with my entire family the next day, and that afternoon we were going to be doing santacon. I knew with all the drinking and eating I had coming up, getting in this race before it began would make me feel much better about it.

We must have woken up at 4:30a on Saturday morning to make sure we made it to Walnut Creek with enough time to find parking, pick up our bibs, and walk the mile to the start of the race. As soon as we exited the car, we were freezing. The temperature was in the mid-30s, and neither Annelyse and I were dressed that appropriately. Living in San Francisco, I often forget that it can get really cold early in the mornings in the East Bay. Since we were early, we had to wait around for 20 minutes for the race to start. When we finally had to give our sweats up, I said my goodbye to Annelyse and made my way to the start.

The race course itself was pretty boring. We started off running through downtown and then immediately turned onto Ygnacio Valley Rd. We ran out all the way past Cowell Street before turning around and retracing our steps back to the finish. This was not an easy course. In fact, some of the hills were some of the toughest I've seen, with the worst one being about a mile long. You couldn't tell where it ended because you kept curving around turns, and around each turn there was yet more uphill ahead. I'd say total there were four significant hills throughout the course, but that one was by far the worst. I handled it surprisingly well, and while that mile was my slowest split by far, it was still just under a 9 minute mile.

As I was heading out on Ygnacio Valley Blvd, they had a lot of cheer groups on the side. You had your usual group from Sports Basement (they have a location in WC apparently), and then there was another that I couldn't tell who it was until I heard someone call out my name. Low and behold, my good friend Maura was standing there cheering me on with the rest of the Lululemon group. It's always fun to see someone you know that you weren't expecting to during a race.

At some point on the way back I realized that my pace was quite good. In part, because what goes up must come down, and there were some good downhills to make up some time. I knew I was a bit off from a PR, but that I could still break a 1:40. My official time ended up being 1:39:04. My watch clocked the course to be a bit long, probably from weaving in and out of people at the start, and I did the calculation, and while not officially, it was actually my second fastest half marathon time. I was pleased.

The post race treats were great. Chocolate milk, fruit, and coffee, amongst other things. Coffee...nothing sounded better at that moment since it was still extremely cold out. When Annelyse finished we grabbed some more coffee at a local coffee shop, and then headed back to the city to get dressed in our santa suits to spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the city drinking beer and getting in the Christmas spirit.

Race stats:
Overall female: 16 of 703
Age Group: 8 of 247
Chip Time: 1:39:03 (pace 7:34)
GPS Time: 1:39:03 (pace 7:31 - course .10 miles long)

To explain my lack of upcoming posts, I've decided that I'm going to take a break from racing this winter and let my body recover from a year that was full of them. I'm still running, but I'm decreasing my mileage and then slowly going to start to bring it back up to marathon training level again. I'll likely start racing again in late March.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Walnut Creek Turkey Trot 10K - 11/24/11

I was thrilled when after asking my parents if they wanted to run a Thanksgiving turkey trot with me, they responded by saying they were both going to come out of retirement for it. This is not to say they don't run anymore, both still run numerous times a week, but it's been awhile since either have participated in a race. My dad's last one was nearly five years ago at the 2007 Kaiser Half Marathon (which was my first), and my mom's last race was 20 years ago. I think both got the itch to run a race again after watching my sister and I run the Primo's Half Marathon in Danville back in October.

Thanksgiving morning came and the big question was, "What should I wear?". The weather wasn't looking great. It was cold and raining. Not the downpour type of rain, but heavy sprinkling that could've easily turned uglier at any moment. After the Big Sur half marathon where I overdressed, and ended up being way to warm after just one mile, I decided that from now on, as long as it's 45 degrees or over, I'm wearing shorts and a singlet. I really don't like the feeling of being constricted by layers when I run. Talking to my mom, it was obvious she was a lot like me in that sense, so I gave her a lightweight waterproof vest to wear over her t-shirt. My dad on the other hand, not only was wearing a thick, long-sleeve shirt, but also decided that we should wear garbage bags while waiting for the race to start to keep us warm. I thought that was a fantastic idea, especially since it was wet outside. Now that everyone was appropriately dressed, all three of us turkeys were off to trot.

We arrived in Walnut Creek with plenty of time to ensure we got a parking spot close to the start at Civic Park. We all sat in the car awhile to stay warm, and when it was finally time to make our way to the start, my dad and I put on our garbage bags before exiting the car. There were a lot of people taking part in this race, not only because it was a fundraiser for the Walnut Creek school district, but also because it was such a family oriented race given the holiday. Strollers were even allowed, something I've rarely seen with any race. Some families were dressed in Thanksgiving costumes, some with pilgrim capes, turkey hats, and one girl was even dressed as a can of cranberries.

A couple minutes prior to the start I ditched my garbage bag and made a meeting plan with my parents since we were all going to run the 10k at our own pace. To accommodate the 4,000 participants of the 10k, 5k, and kids run, all of which started at the same time (with the exception of the kids run), the start line had pace time groupings so that everyone would line up according to pace. As I stood shivering waiting for the start, it was obvious people weren't paying attention to the pace times, and just lining up wherever. This made for a very ugly start of the race. Trying to navigate through children running every which way, strollers, and walkers definitely made everyone get off to a slow start. I couldn't be all that upset about it though given that this was a family event, and ultimately I was just running it to fully enjoy the heaping mound of mashed potatoes I would be indulging in later.

By the time the race started the sprinkling had all but died off, and sure enough within a mile, I had completely warmed up. Running through Walnut Creek was fun since for the most part I'd driven most of these roads. We ran out passed the Whole Foods where our first turnaround point was. By this point, I'd gotten far enough out where I had some running room, unlike my parents who were still caught in the thick of things when I passed them going the opposite direction. We then turned on Newell and North Main Street to run around Broadway Plaza, a place I've spent countless hours shopping at throughout my life.

After passing through the heart of downtown Walnut Creek, we turned on Lincoln Ave and headed into a residential area before turning onto the Iron Horse Trail. Iron Horse Trail runs through many counties and is a favorite spot of mine to run when visiting my parents in Danville. Although, I'd never run it through Walnut Creek so was excited to get the chance to do so. Just before going on the bridge that went up and over Ygnacio Valley Blvd, the turnoff back into Civic Park was on our left and those doing the 5k diverted to the finish. Those of us doing the 10k continued on the trail where we made a quick loop through the grounds of Walnut Creek Intermediate School before getting back on the trail and heading to the final turnaround spot near mile 5.

On the way back, a good portion of the trail was dirt, and since it'd been raining, was a bit muddy and slippery. I stayed to the right and ran on the leaves to give my old shoes some traction. I was getting pretty pooped since I was running at a pretty fast pace, and at one point, I heard my dad yell out my name as he passed me on the opposite side of the trail heading to the turnaround point. Soon after, I went up and over the bridge before peeling off the trail to head into the finish at Civic Park. The last .2 miles were pretty much an all out sprint to the finish while trying to weave in and out of the walkers who were just finishing the 5k.

I grabbed some water and then ran back and forth to the car to grab my jacket so I wouldn't miss my dad and mom finishing. Only a few minutes after lining up near the finishing chute with the rest of the spectators, I saw my dad coming in. He was easy to spot with his 49ers hat on. When we met up, we then both got to cheer on my mom who came in not much later. Immediately after the race we took some pictures with a the giant, blow up turkey to commemorate the day, and then all decided we needed coffee despite wanting to stay around to see if any of us placed. After trying unsuccessfully to find coffee, we came back for the awards ceremony, but it still wasn't being held, and since we all decided coffee and the football game were top priorities, we all took off and headed back to Danville while excitedly talking about all the details of our race.

Later that day when the results were posted, we all got our official times and were able to see how we stacked up to the rest of the runners. My dad had just missed placing in his age group by coming in fourth, my mom however, came in an impressive first in her age group, beating the second place finisher by nearly 20 minutes. I'd come in second in my age group with a PR time.

I've run a lot of races, but this has got to be up there as one of my most memorable. Not because of the race itself, but because I did it with my parents. Watching them both cross the finish line of a 10k while in their mid-60's is incredible. I'm so thankful that staying fit is an important part of their lives, and I know seeing this throughout my life has greatly shaped who I've become. I can only hope that when I'm their age, I'll still be out running every week like they are. What an amazing thing to be thankful for on Thanksgiving day, and this was really the perfect start to what was going to be a fantastic weekend all around.

Something tells me this might be the start to more family races down the line.

Race stats:
Overall female: 18 of 755
Age Group: 2 of 131
Chip Time: 44:15 (7:08 pace)
GPS Time: 44:35 (7:10 pace)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Big Sur Half Marathon - 11/20/11

It's been awhile since I've been really excited for a half marathon, and I definitely was for this race. I wanted to run it last year, but it sold out, so the day registration opened this year, I made sure to secure a spot even though I was still recovering from ankle surgery at the time. As the race weekend approached, my excitement only grew. My speed was slowly starting to come back, my body was feeling injury free, and I was looking forward to spending some time in Monterey with Annelyse who was also registered for the half marathon. Not to mention, the race organizers posting a picture a day from each mile for the thirteen days leading up to the race only confirmed how amazing the course was going to be.

Since Annelyse and I didn't have a whole lot going on on Saturday, we left for Monterey in the early afternoon so we could have a little time to walk around and enjoy the afternoon once we got down there. After checking in and picking up our bibs, walking down around the wharf, and taking some pre-race pictures, we discovered Peter B's BrewPub. We stopped in for something to eat and a drink, and watched a bit of the college football games before turning in early for the night.

My only concern for the race was that the weather forecast called for rain. All through the night I could hear the rain falling, and was thinking the chances of a dry race were slim. When the alarm went off at 5:30a, the rain had stopped. As we walked down to the start, I kept looking toward the sky and was pretty convinced that the weather would hold since the clouds looked pretty sparse. The race had a timed coral start, and I was in the first coral. I knew I wasn't back in PR shape, but I really wanted to give this race a good effort. Getting out in the first coral would not only ensure that I got ahead of the pack, but it would force me to keep pace with faster runners. After a live singing of the National Anthem (which I always love), coral A was off.

The first mile was nice and flat as we ran along El Estrero Lake in Dennis the Menace Park where a band was playing for us. Not only was there music during the first mile, but one of the residents had put out two life sized cardboard cutouts of Justin Bieber. During mile two, we ran through the Custom House Tunnel. As we approached, spectators were lining the bridge looking down at us and cheering us on. As soon as we entered the tunnel, you could hear a bagpiper that was playing on the other side. We hadn't even reached mile three, and I was already entertained; something that would continue throughout the entire course.

One unique thing about this race were the mile markers. They were created by a muralist, and each was sponsored by a business, or individual. Most had humorous drawings and pictures on them. Some of my favorites were at mile marker two, six, and thirteen. The first of which pictured a very overweight man drinking a 40 ounce beer and eating a giant pizza, while wearing a Big Sur Half Marathon "In Training" shirt. The one at mile six was sponsored by a local running store, and had a picture of an octopus getting fitted for running shoes. And the one at mile 13, was of two parents saying very energetically "You're almost there! We're so proud of you sweetie!"

At mile three we ran right down the middle of Cannery Row, passing the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It definitely brought back memories of going on field trips there while I was in grammar school. Next we found our way onto Oceanview Blvd where we had some uphill as we headed toward Pacific Grove. I barely noticed the uphill though since I was busy gawking at the very expensive looking houses to my left, and ocean on my right. There were a lot of Marines out manning the course road closures, and while most were very solemn, there was one female marine who was really getting into it. She was yelling for everyone at the top of her lungs cheering us on, and it was incredibly motivating. I really appreciated her enthusiasm.

We then ran through a portion of downtown Pacific Grove, and passed Lovers Point Park as we got back onto Oceanview Blvd. We headed out along the Pacific Ocean toward the turnaround at Asilomar State Beach. It was at mile six that the lead runners started to pass in the opposite direction. This race draws a number of elite runners, and I'm always amazed when I see them run. The lead women runners weren't far behind and they were all in an outright sprint. There were 20 elite male runners, and 20 elite female runners, and they were all incredible to watch.

We hit the turnaround just before mile eight, and we were now running back toward Monterey Bay. On my way back along the coast, Annelyse and I passed. We both agree how much fun it is to get to see each other on the course, and then compare stories afterward. Just as with on the way out, the next few miles were filled with incredible ocean views. At mile 11 we passed Lovers Point once more, and then immediately turned onto the Recreation Trail. This was a nice downhill section enabling me to save some energy for the end. There was a band playing here with a belly dancer entertaining us as we ran by.

Once again we ran down historic Cannery Row before getting back onto the Recreation Trail to head into the finish at Custom House Plaza. The harbor was on the left, filled with boats and even a few sea lions. The finish was up ahead, and I sprinted down the finishing chute which was lined with spectators. We were all given clay finishers medals which was a nice change from your typical metal ones. We were then given a brown bag filled with a variety of fruit, juice, and a fantastic cookie. I devoured a banana, and soon after the cookie. I later devoured a good portion of Annelyse's cookie as well.

I went and got a coffee, changed my shirt into a dry one, and then went to the meeting point where Annelyse and I decided to meet after the race. Our meeting place was a cutout of a giant runner that we found the night before. The result computers were right there, so I checked out how I did while I waited. While I knew I wasn't going to set a PR, I did want to finish with a time in the low 1:40's, and that I did, so I was happy. Just as I felt a few rain drops starting to fall, Annelyse was crossing the finish. Timing worked out perfectly, and we were able to enjoy the course with some early morning sunshine before the weather took a turn for the worse.

Annelyse and I went to Peet's so she could grab some coffee as well, and we sat down and rehashed the race. There was no doubt that we both thought this was an incredible course. The weather was perfect, the rugged coastline amazing, and the houses magnificent. I did have to admit, one of my favorite parts was getting to run right down Cannery Row. Twice. The on course entertainment was abundant, and featured everything from belly dancers, to keyboardists, to numerous bands. The race shirt was one of the best I've received, and they had free soup and free beer at the finish. And for the first time ever, I chose coffee over beer. And it was definitely the right decision.

The organization of the race was amazing, and everything seemed to go flawlessly. The spectator support was great, and the race organization even put out a race program that talked about the elite runners, the course in detail, the mile markers, and featured inspiring stories from some of the runners. There's no doubt that we'll be back to run this next year. What a beautiful place to run. My only regret is that I didn't get more on course pictures.

Race stats:
Overall female: 66 of 4,006
Age Group: 17 of 707
Chip Time: 1:41:32 (7:45 pace)
GPS time: 1:40:49 (7:41 pace)