Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ankle Injury Report - 11/20/10

UPDATE: I had surgery on 1/6/11 to repair blown out ligaments and started slowly running again on 2/18. I look forward to posting on my first official race back!

I normally only post about the races I've run, but being that I won't be running for the foreseeable future, I wanted everyone to know why.

I made it a year and half since my last major injury. It was my right foot then. This time, it was my right ankle. It was a 50/50 challenge about midway through the second half of my soccer game. I was steamrolled by another player at which point my ankle must have rolled over. I knew without a doubt that this wasn't a get up and and walk it off injury. I made it to the side of the field and took off my gear, which I now know to be a mistake, and immediately my ankle had already swelled up significantly. My old team was there getting ready to play after, and a number of them rushed over and taped me up, gave me ice and ibuprofen, and even piggybacked me over to my team.

After the game, the general consensus was that I should go to the hospital given the pain I was in and the fact that it swelled up so quickly. I wasn't going to argue, I knew that this was the worst ankle injury I've had so far, and it could't hurt to rule out a break, and get some pain meds. Two of my teammates, Nora and Zoe, hung out with me at the hospital, even getting burritos delivered which was a great distraction. By the time the burritos came, the pain medicine was in full effect and my ankle was numb for the most part. The doctor, the nurse, the xray technician, and the guy who wheeled me up to xrays all felt the need to say "Whoa, that's swollen." Yes, thank you for confirming the obvious, that is why I'm here. Xrays showed there was no break, and I was released with the instructions to go see a specialist. By this time my dad had driven up, I needed him as I knew I was in no condition to take care of myself for the next few days. I couldn't even walk. We left the hospital as sheets of rain came pouring down, and thunder and lightening filled the sky. Appropriate weather for what I knew my mood was going to be for the next month or two.

By the time I packed my things and got back to Danville, my ankle was bigger than it's ever been, and the pharmacy was closed, so I'd have to wait until the next day for my pain meds. It's interesting what you think of when you first get injured. Naturally, the first thing I thought of as I lay on the field was that I was done with running for awhile, and then I thought why couldn't it have been my left ankle so I could drive. But it was when I was in bed that I really started to realize what this meant and the tears began to fall. I couldn't walk, I couldn't drive, I couldn't run, and I had no idea for how long. Crutches are helping me getting around, though I'm terrible with them and I've come close to falling numerous times, especially when trying to navigate around my parents dogs. Driving is going to be a problem. Luckily I don't drive very much these days, but I'm going to have to rely on my friends in SF for rides when I need them, and I hate more than anything having to feel dependent on other people. I've no idea how I'm going to get to work, and I'll probably have to work from home until I can at least walk with a boot or something.

The real issue though was of course the running. The day before I did a 16 mile run which kicked off marathon training for a marathon in Arizona I was going to run in mid January. I was excited because I had a fun training schedule all planned out that included numerous trail races. I was going to miss the Turkey trail race I'd signed up for on Thanksgiving, and the North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon on December 5th. Luckily those were the only two races I'd registered for. It was depressing to think of how far I've come with running in the past year and half and that I'd have to start all over again. I was down to an 8 min mile on all my training runs, and some of my half marathon times were getting pretty impressive. I remember coming back from my foot injury after 8 weeks and not being able to even run 4 miles at a 9:45 pace without stopping to take a break. It was going to be a long road back. But more than anything, running helps me to work things out in my head, it makes me happy, and it makes me feel really good about something. Not having that, even temporarily, scares me.

I woke up this morning (which is the day after) and as I look at my toes that are now swollen as well, I'm trying to have a positive attitude, but I'm having a hard time finding it. I've come up with three things. This is only temporary. The time off of running will let all my minor aches and pains heal. Once I can start walking without crutches again, hopefully a week or so, I'll talk with a personal trainer about what I can do to start working on my core strength which will hopefully put me in a good position to start running again.

This kind of thing makes me question whether I want to continue with soccer. I put myself at risk for this kind of thing every time I step onto the picth. My sports med doctor suggested I use a wobble board to strengthen my ankles since I've had problems with them in the past. For the past four months, four times a day I've used a wobble board religiously. Unfortunately, no amount of time on the wobble board was going to stop this from happening. The impact was just too strong. But like running, maybe to a lesser degree though, I really enjoy playing soccer. I enjoy the team aspect of it, and the social aspect, and I venture to guess that I'll be back once I'm healed.

I'm thankful for all my friends who were there to help me out, especially those from my old team who helped me immediately after the injury, and to those on my new team who stayed at the hospital with me. And I'm thankful for all those who checked up on me and sent me good wishes. Having those kind of old and new friends in your life that do those things for you, really make you feel good. And I'm thankful for my parents who will be waiting on me hand and foot for the next few weeks!

And now for a collection of pics on the progression of my swelling:

at the hospital

later that night. meet my cankle.

the next morning. attractive, huh?

27 hours after injury

3 days after injury

7 days later. Swelling going down, bruising/discoloration getting worse.

2 weeks post surgery.

Monday, November 8, 2010

US Half Marathon - 11/7/10

For the sixth Sunday in a row I was awake before the sun had risen to run a half marathon. This weekend it was the US Half Marathon right here in San Francisco. Thankfully, due to the time change I got an extra hour of sleep so I was feeling pretty good when it was time to wake up. Packet pick up was on Saturday at Sports Basement so I didn't have to get there too early since I already had my bib, but it was a 7am start. The start was near aquatic park and originally I had planned to take the scooter, but with the rain, I had no choice but to drive. Driving down Van Ness, I had a near heart attack when a car that was parked on the side decided to pull out right in front of me. It was still dark outside and coupled with the pouring rain, visibility was an issue, but to make matters worse, this jackass had no lights on on his car. He pulled out right in front of me, oblivious to my existence, and if it wasn't for the fact that the lane next to me was empty enabling me to swerve around him, there's no doubt I would have plowed into him. Nothing like a near accident to get your juices flowing before a race.

When you're driving to a race and your windshield wipers are on at full speed, you know it's going to be ugly out there. I sat in the parking garage not wanting to leave my warm car because I knew as soon as I stepped outside I was going to be soaked. Eventually I had no choice and made the move towards the starting line. I was following these three young guys, one of which was saying how he recently did a Susan G. Komen walk and was bragging about how many chicks were there. Um, dufus, you do realize that's a walk for a cure for breast cancer, don't you?! Of course there are going to be a lot of women there! I got annoyed with them so veered off in another direction as they continued to talk about how it was a good place to meet women.

I soon found myself in the huge line for the porta potties. I stood there for about five minutes when I realized I really didn't have to go. Why was I in this line? Maybe it was just habit, so I left knowing I'd be better off trying to find a place under some covering to get out of the rain instead. Unfortunately, all those places were taken already. I ditched my sweat bag and proceeded to the start. I was determined to start in the front of the pack this time and this meant getting up there early. I stood there for 15 minutes in the rain. By the time the race started there was not a dry spot on my body. I was shivering and cold, and ready to get running. As the race started we ran up a hill to put us onto Bay Street, and we passed the porto potties and all the people who were still in line for them. Luckily the street was wide enough that the people were able to move over to the side so we didn't collide with them, but ultimately, I don't think it was the best location for them. Starting out in the front is definitely the way to go. While there were still slower people at the front, you didn't have nearly as many to weave around, so I was able to come out with a 7:50 first mile and was pretty much free from the larger pack.

Initially, I wanted to wear my Nike Free Runs, but they are such a thin shoe I figured that wouldn't work with all the rain. I soon found out it didn't matter what I was wearing on my feet, they were soaked before the race even started. In fact, I wished I would've wore my Free Runs since they are a much lighter shoe then my Asics Gel Nimbus and wouldn't have been so heavy when water logged. This course was similar to a few others I'd run so I was very familiar with it. We headed down the Marina Green to Crissy Field passed the Sports Basement where they have their usual crew of employees out cheering everyone on. Mile four brought us into the Presidio which meant hills. Most of them I've run before, they aren't that long, but they are challenging.

After looping around the Presidio we found ourselves on the Golden Gate bridge. We weren't running the bed of the bridge, it was open to vehicles as usual, we were running on the walkways. The bridge itself isn't flat and you battle a constant uphill on it as well. When we reached the other side we circled down and under the bridge on a muddy dirt trail and came up on the other side. As I was running down the one side I realized that things weren't quite right. The faster I ran, the more I got a side stitch and I couldn't pinpoint why. I never have a problem with picking up my speed, but today I apparently was. It wasn't severe, but enough to make me back off a little and not feel quite as comfortable in my pace. As we came up the hill on the other side, I used the opportunity of a slow pace to eat my GU. It was the first thing I'd eaten that morning, and I started wondering if that was what my problem was. I'm usually very good about eating a little something before races, and that's the only thing I did differently. Regardless, at this point I was just over half way and started the run back on the other side of the bridge. I always like this part because you get to watch all the runners on the other side. And you'd be amazed at all the drivers who honk and yell words of encouragement out of the their windows.

We passed the nine mile marker shortly after we came off the bridge and I knew the course was basically all downhill from there. We ran down to Marine Drive and followed that to the point, and then headed back through Crissy Field. The rain was still coming down just as hard as it had been the entire time, but now it was coming down at such an angle that it was pelting me in the eye. I really wished I would've had a hat to keep it out of my eyes, but ultimately it was just more of an irritant than anything. I'd turned into a prune already back at mile five (pic taken after race), my clothes were plastered to my body, and running through six inch deep puddles ensured that my socks were nice and squishy. I can only imagine how awesome I must look in the race pictures and can't wait to see them.

It was around mile 10 that I started getting really tired. More tired then I usually do, and the next three miles reflected that in my pace. Mile 13 saw my pace drop all the way down to 9:26 which is not good considering it was all flat at that point. To somewhat of my defense, this is when the wind was at it's worst and we were running right into it which was torture. As if the rain wasn't enough. I was actually surprised how many spectators were out despite the rain. At one point during mile 13, there was a lady with her two small daughters out cheering everyone on. Our bibs had our names on them so people often cheered for you by name, which I love. I turned to her and said thank you, and she just started cheering more. The three of them were like my own private cheering squad.

After running back along the Marina Green, we ran up through the park at Fort Mason and this is when you could start to hear the announcer at aquatic park. There was also a female runner who had already finished that was walking towards us and telling us we were almost there. I always think it's nice when finishers cheer on people who are still running. I started wondering what her finishing time was and realized I wasn't paying much attention to what mine was going to be. I was so wet and miserable, and not really feeling like I was having a very good race that I just wanted it to end. And soon after it did. My GPS watch clocked me at 1:53:24 for 13.1 miles, but my official time was 1:54:20 due to the course being about a tenth of a mile longer. I thought my time was decent given the conditions and the hills on the course. I finished 45th out 506 people in the 30-39 age division, which is the top 9%. Total there were just under 3,000 participants with runners from all over the country and Canada.

It's disappointing the weather was so bad because this would've been a great race. The course is beautiful, but with the rain, looking out to the bridge or the water was just gray. I felt bad for all the people that flew in for it considering it was beautiful and clear the day before and day after it. You really did get a lot of bang for your buck for the race too. I found out about a groupon for it on dailymile that enabled me to register for $40 instead of the usual $80. Despite the discount, even for $80 it was still a well priced race compared to some of them I run. We each got a blue, long sleeved tech shirt that is quite cute, and when we crossed the finish line, instead of getting a bottled water, we were given water in a stainless steel water bottle with the US Half Marathon logo on it. They had a ton of free food including plates with rice, veggies, and chicken, or you could go the breakfast route and have oatmeal with all sorts of toppings including a touch of yogurt. I chose the oatmeal which I thought was delicious especially since it was warm. They also had self serve frozen yogurt, and all the usual hand outs from muscle milk, honest ade, and Gordon Beirsch was even there filling up your water bottle with beer as well.

All of our sweat bags were thrown in a pile under a gazebo which looked like a nightmare, but luckily for me as I walked up, I saw mine lying right in front of me. I couldn't wait to strip off my wet shirt and put on my dry jacket. I had pre-paid for a massage at the expo because I knew my adductors would need it given how they felt after the previous weekend. When I went to the tent they offered to give me a refund if I just wanted to bail, but I knew the massage would do me good, even though I really feel massages should be free at the end of a race (which usually they are). As I stood there waiting for my turn, this nice spectator saw me shivering and put his blanket around me. I wanted to give him a huge kiss I was so grateful for his kindness. When it was my turn the massage therapist told me he recognized me and that he thought he worked on me before. I told him he hadn't, since this is only the third massage I've received post race, and he said that he has definitely seen me around at races before then. I'm not sure if he was confusing me someone else, but I guess I have done my fair share of races. After 20 minutes of massage heaven where I was covered under warm towels, it was time to go. A hot shower never sounded so good.

I set out to run six half marathons in six weeks and this was the last in the series. I'm not sure why I wanted to do it, probably just to see if I could. I told myself that when I'm training for a marathon I would be putting in equally as many miles if not more, so what's the difference. Truth is, there is a difference. Marathon training runs are not races and I run them at a nice and easy pace. For each of these races, I ran really hard, and with the exception of the San Jose Rock and Roll doozer, I'm happy with all my times. I've learned a lot about my body and recovery during these six weeks through the help of my sports med doctor who I will continue to see on a regular basis. I also know that while I'll still keep running, it's time for me to take a couple weeks off from racing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Half Marathon - 10/31/10

This was the first race that I seriously considering skipping in favor of sleeping in when my alarm went off at 5a. Not only was I exhausted, but I'd consumed more then my usual self imposed two beer limit before race day the night before. I didn't have much more then two, so I wasn't necessarily hungover, but I was definitely dehydrated and not looking forward to having to get to San Jose for the 7a start. As I pondered what to do all snug under my warm down comforter, I weighed my options. Option 1: Sleep in, forget the race, and be mad at myself later for not just getting up and doing it. Option 2: Suck it up, run the race, come home satisfied and take a nap. It didn't take all that long for me to decide option number two was the way to go, after all, I was already awake.

I was out the door in record time and it felt odd that my morning was just beginning when clearly there were a number of people whose night had yet to end. As I headed toward the freeway I passed a lot people still in costumes, looking a little worse for the wear, stumbling home. In a way I was jealous that they were all headed for their beds, but I knew I'd be back in mine as soon as I finished. On the way down, I tried to combat my dehydration by drinking as much water as I could. Immediately when I arrived in San Jose I had to go the bathroom. Luckily, the previous day when I'd picked up my packet at the Hilton San Jose, I scoped out a bathroom so knew exactly where to head. Much better then standing outside in a huge line for a porto potty.

I ventured over to the start and still had a good 20 minutes before race time, but I wasn't ready to give up my jacket and sweatpants because it was freezing out. So I found a corner to hideout in in hopes of blocking out the elements and I sat there watching everyone. Runners are funny people. Everyone has their pre-race rituals. A lot of people do silly stretches which I'm not sure are actually even useful, and then there's the runners that feel the need to run up and down the streets. I assume they do it to warm up, but personally, I've never understood this. The way I look at is I've got 13.1 miles to warm up. No need to warm up before the race just to cool down again when you're standing in the corral waiting for gun. Me, I like to expend as little energy as possible and do absolutely nothing until the race starts.

With ten minutes to race time I had to relinquish my sweats to the volunteers at the UPS van. Now I was really cold, so I folded my arms into my shirt which made me look like a double arm amputee. Ultra-marathoner, Dean Karnazes, said a few words of encouragement before we all took off. I was ready to go knowing I'd warm up quickly. We departed at the same time as the full marathoners. It was a bit crowded for the first mile, but I blame myself for not starting closer to the front. I promised myself when I made the decision to run while still in bed two hours earlier, that I wouldn't push myself. Having run a PR the weekend before, I was feeling pretty satisfied and didn't feel the need to try and set another one. Plus, I was too tired.

The race started only a few blocks away from the start of the San Jose Rock and Roll I ran a few weeks back, but this was a completely different course. I could only hope it wouldn't be a repeat of that horrible race. I soon found out it it wasn't going to be. At least I didn't think so. I experienced something I rarely ever feel when I'm running. I felt like I was running really slow, but in all actuality I was settling in to a fairly quick 8:20 pace. Despite the fact that I was running that pace, it still felt like it took forever to reach mile 4. For much of those first miles we wound our way around residential neighborhoods which was entertaining because a lot of the houses were decorated for Halloween. Some families who clearly weren't affiliated with the race were outside drinking their coffee with their kids and dogs watching all of us run by.

Not long after mile 4, we passed Willow Street Frank Bramhall Park where I saw a lady with two dogs the size of labradors, but with full, thick coats of longish hair. They looked like they were wearing sweaters which immediately disgusted me. I'm not a huge fan of dogs wearing clothes unless it's a Halloween costume. However, as I got closer I realized they were wearing plain white t-shirts that were written all over with messages of support for a runner. I thought that was a great idea. Forget holding a sign yourself, have your dog wear it! And yet another exception to the dogs shouldn't wear clothes peeve of mine.

It was right around this time where there was a young kid, maybe 14 or so, who was running around our pack. He'd pass us, then slow down, and we'd pass him, and this went on for awhile, which isn't that odd for a young runner, or older runner for that matter. What was odd was that every time he passed, I could hear him talking to himself. But I couldn't really understand it, he was just muttering phrases, and he sounded incoherent. There was a part of me that was actually kind of concerned for him. Shortly after mile five I passed him right as we turned onto a trail. As I passed him, he was talking gibberish again, but I did mange to hear him say Los Gatos Creek Trail which was the trail we were on. I'm still not sure what he was saying the rest of the time, but that was the last I saw of him and I can only assume he was just reading aloud signs that he saw or street names we were on, but it was very strange. Regardless, I'm always impressed with these young kids I see running long distance races.

We ran along the Los Gatos Creek Trail for the next seven miles. This was by far the best part of the course. Without sounding like an old lady, it was really lovely. It was a paved path, but it runs alongside a creek that is lined with eucalyptus trees and lots of other trees I couldn't identify. It reminded me a little of last weekends trail in Livermore, especially in the sense that we passed a few small parks on the way, and went under a number of overpasses, but this trail was much more dense with greenery and seemed further away from traffic. Having seven straight miles of trail was fantastic. Sometimes it's fun getting to run down the middle of the street during races, but I love that feeling of being out in nature, not hearing cars driving by or the busy sounds of the city. Maybe it's because living in the city, I don't get the opportunity to run on trails as much as I would like.

I was running well. For the first nine miles I kept a very steady pace of 8:20, my splits only fluctuating a few seconds on either side. I knew I was going to slow for a PR, but I was happy with how I was feeling so I just decided to do what I could. The thing is, I always want to do good, and unless I feel like shit, I'm going to run as fast as I can because it's so much more satisfying at the end. Just as we hit mile 10, the trail took us through Vasona Lake Park, that given the name, not surprisingly, had a good size lake in the middle of it. There was a decent number of spectators here cheering us on which was much needed at the time. I was starting to get a bit tired, but knew I still had a good three miles left.

For much of the race I was running with males. I'd venture to guess most of them were doing the full marathon. This was a bit hard for me because I like to focus on a female ahead of me with the intent of passing her. It keeps me going at a good pace and gives me a short term goal. There was a good stretch of the trail where I couldn't find any women to focus on. That all seemed to change when we hit the park. Not only could I pick out female runners ahead of me, but there were a few that were passing me as well. After placing in last weekends race, and having looked at the previous years race results, I thought I stood a very slight chance at doing it again. I was wrong, but I didn't know that then, so every time someone passed me I'd try to guess her age to see if she was in my age group. Regardless, it usually made me step up my pace a bit, even passing one or two of them again, while some I never regained the lead from.

When I hit mile 10 is usually when I can get a good feel of what my finishing time will be. I looked at my watch and calculated that I could possibly finish under 1:50, but it would mean I'd have to make up some time, which I didn't think I had in me. I tried though, but when my next split was 8:36, I knew that wasn't going to happen. At mile 12.5 we exited the trail and entered into Los Gatos High School where we ran along 2/3rds of their track. This is where the marathoners split off and continued back to the start, and where we went to the finish. At the split, I was shocked to find that two of the women who had passed me, that I wasn't able to catch, went the route of the marathon. I was a bit in awe. They were on track to run a 3:40 marathon, which is a BQ time, something that seems so unattainable to me right now. They'll never know it, but they really motivated me. Seeing them has really made me want to work on my marathon times because I know I have a lot of room for improvement there. For that matter, I even have a lot of room for improvement on my half marathon time if I ever want to get to a sub 8 minute pace.

Immediately after the split we ran into the ballpark and ran along the circumference towards the orange and black balloon finish line. By my watch the course was about a tenth of a mile long, though I'm sure this was a result of my weaving in and out of traffic. At 13.1, I stopped my watch with a time of 1:50:30. There were two of us coming in at nearly the same time, and the announcer called out both of our names and cities. I love it when they do this, it makes me feel special. My official time was 1:51:14. Luckily for me, there was only a very short line at the massage tent, so I quickly got a 10 minute massage to loosen up my legs. By the time I was done, there were so many more finishers that the wait was over 30 minutes. The massage was much needed given that I started getting some piriformis and hamstring pain the previous week. I'm fairly certain it's due to some new strengthening exercises I started doing, but I figure I'll let my sports med doctor work it out. After all, she's worked wonders on all my other running aches and pains.

This was a point to point course so I jumped on the school bus after getting my sweats for a ride back to the start. When we got deposited at the finish area for the marathoners which was only a block from the start, I checked to see what place I'd finished in. It turns out I came in 7th out of 77 runners in my 30-34 division. Even if I had run a PR, I still wasn't close to the 3rd place finisher who came in at 1:42. I really enjoyed this race, not only was the course great, which I owe a lot to that trail, but having been held on Halloween made it a little more interesting. A number of the volunteers manning the aid stations were dressed up in costumes, one of the police officers directing traffic got into the spirit and wore a witches hat and accessories, and there were even a number of runners dressed up as well. One guy was running in a a nacho libre type mask. How he ran with one of those on is beyond me.

I left feeling great. I ran the race in a much faster time then what I was expecting when I was trying to decide if I wanted to get out of bed four hours earlier. I had passed the 1,000 mile mark for total miles run in 2010, and as I knew I would be, I was pleased I was able to motivate and get to San Jose. Not only that, but I left with some new motivation to push myself a little harder to become a faster runner.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grape Stomp Livermore Half Marathon - 10/24/10

The Giants win the pennant. Yes, I watched the last few innings of the game, but do I consider myself a baseball fan? No. For the most part it bores me death. I have been a bit of a fair weathered fan though and even enjoyed watching a bit of the post-season. Ultimately, I guess I just have a problem with a sport where I'm not even sure if the players sweat. I imagine the pitcher does, and probably the catcher too, but I don't think the rest of them do. This is what I lay in bed thinking of on Saturday night while trying to fall asleep. This didn't come easy as San Francisco thought the best way to celebrate was to get drunk and walk up and down the streets screaming at the top of their lungs until the wee hours of the morning, while drivers felt the need to encourage them by laying on their horns. Don't these people know that some of us have a race in the morning and need to get up well before the sun rises?

Despite the commotion, I was able to get a decent amount of sleep and was relatively alert when my alarm went off at 5:30. As I got in my car and drove off I heard a loud "ka-thunk". Crap, did my car just break on me? I looked in my rearview mirror and apparently a giant pumpkin got wedged under my car, and as I drove over it I smooshed it to smithereens. Great, the morning has just begun and already I'm a pumpkin killer. After stopping for some gas when realizing my tank was on empty, I picked up Kirsten for the drive down to Livermore. Kirsten had registered for this race before I had. It was on my radar, but when I found out I'd actually have company if I did it, it was an easy decision to commit to it. Races are always more fun with friends.

We got to Livermore with plenty of time to spare in order to pick up our bibs and t-shirts. I was thrilled to be receiving another colored race shirt. Not surprisingly given the name of the race, the shirt was purple. It's not that I do the races for the shirts, but it's definitely a plus when you don't have to buy your own running shirts, and my collection was definitely lacking a purple race shirt. This was a very no frills race, quite the contrast compared to the Nike Women's I'd run the weekend before. Along with the half marathon, there was a 10K and a 5K as well. A total of 232 people were running the half, 141 of which were female, and close to another 600 were running either the 10K or 5K. As we lined up for the start at 8a, for the first time in any race I've ever ran, there was no national anthem, just a countdown before we were sent on our way.

Kirsten and I separated after crossing the start and I spent the next five minutes or so working my way up to the front. They had us running on a very narrow path in the beginning that ran along the parking lot and there wasn't a whole lot of room to pass other runners. Thankfully, it cleared up fairly quickly and didn't end up having whole lot of affect on my pace. This was a true out and back course. Starting at Robertson Park, we were to run 6.5 miles out and then retrace our steps back to the start. Out of all the races I've done, I don't think I've ever run a true out and back. My preference is always the loop courses, but for the most part if I'm running in a race I'm fairly happy doing whatever, as long as it's not a multiple loop course where you keep repeating the same loop.

We spent the first three miles running along the Arroyo Mocho Trail where we passed through Parkway Park, Macho Park and then finally Oak Knoll Pioneer Park. This was definitely my favorite stretch of the race. Having grown up just a few towns over from Livermore, the area definitely had a familiar feeling. Not that I'd been there and run this route, but the trail itself just screamed East Bay to me. It's paved and runs alongside a creek and is lined with huge trees. The runners weren't the only ones out, there were lots of residents out walking their dogs and kids, and some cyclists as well. Two of the runners were actually running with their dogs in the half marathon. One was a giant German Shepard, and the other was a mid-sized mutt. This once again just reminded me how great it's going to be to have a dog to run with when the time comes.

We then ran alongside Stanley Blvd for what seemed like an eternity because it was so boring, but it was really only about two miles. Stanley Blvd is a main street with lots of traffic coming and going, with a good size path running alongside it for pedestrians. The weather was fairly ugly out with some very ominous clouds hovering overhead, but it wasn't raining yet and it wasn't that cold. It was however windy, and this stretch in particular was where you really felt the wind. The wind is one of my least favorite elements and running in it is even worse. It can really slow you down and make you have to work a lot harder. The good thing was that the wind was hitting us sideways, so we wouldn't be running directly into it in either direction, but there were times where it still felt quite strong.

I found myself running in a pack with three other women on Stanley Blvd. I was feeling good at this point and keeping a steady pace. This was a good group for me to be running in so I stuck with it, knowing that at some point I'd like to make a move to break free. There was no rush for that at this point though since there was still a lot of race left. I had no idea how I would do in this race. It's a prime course for setting a PR since it's so flat, but having a strong performance last week could have a negative impact on this race. My plan was to stay on PR track but if by mile 8 I felt the gas in my tank depleting I'd back off. I find it's right around mile 8 that I know if I'll be able to maintain my pace or close to it for the last 5 miles or not. There's no point making yourself miserable if you know it's not going to happen, and sometimes the best approach when you're feeling tired is to drop your pace by 30-40 seconds and maintain that for the rest of the run. If you don't, you might find yourself having to drop your pace considerably more for the last few miles and therefore ruin any chance you have at a decent time.

Running alongside part of Stanley Blvd there's a large body of water that's connected to Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area where people were out in boats. Just before mile 6 we turned into Shadow Cliffs which was basically a park with picnic tables, a swimming beach and numerous trails. As we made the turn you could see water slides located on the other side of the park as well. This was where the turnaround point was, and the only really place you encountered any sort of hills. They weren't major but they were enough to drop my pace a bit. My first six miles were all around 8:00 minute miles, with miles two and three actually being at a 7:50 pace. Mile seven dropped to an 8:35 pace due to the hills which I was fine with considering the padding I gave myself early on.

As we exited the park to head back down Stanley Blvd the way we came, we started running alongside the runners going the other way. As I was going towards the park, this enabled me to get an idea of how many women were ahead of me. There wasn't many, and I'd broken free of the pack that I ran with at the turnaround, with only one running on my heels. I knew because I could hear her, her bib number kept flapping in the wind so I always had an idea where she was. I was pretty convinced that I could keep up a decent pace for the rest of the race and it was worth it going for a PR. Not long after being on Stanley Blvd again, Kirsten and I passed each other, and with only enough time for a high five we each went on our way.

The next two to three miles were the toughest. They seemed to go on forever, mostly because we were on the long, boring stretch back to the trail, but also because you're still looking at five to six miles to go. I'd managed to pass a few girls during this time and I had started to thinking that I could possibly place in this race. I had looked at the race results from the previous year and I knew there might be a slight possibility if I ran a really fast race, but that was pressure I didn't want to put on myself. I just wanted a PR. When we finally got back to the trail it was right around mile 10. I always feel better at mile 10. Maybe it's because I've finally hit the double digits.

I managed to pick up my pace a bit in the tenth mile only to have it drop again in the eleventh. By this time the rain had started, not hard, but enough that we were all quite wet. I actually welcomed it. I don't mind running in the rain as long as it's not a downpour. Somewhere around mile 11 I had to slow down to take a sip of water since after all this time, I've still not perfected the art of drinking water while running at full speed. I'm not sure what my problem is, but if I don't slow down I end up either getting it up my nose if I'm drinking out of a dixie cup from an aid stop, or swallowing too much air if drinking from my water bottle which just has the side affect of giving me side stitches until I burp it out (something I'm not good at either). This is when the flapping bib girl passed me. I was pretty convinced I could pass her again so I just stayed a few seconds behind her.

When we hit mile 12 there was a lady calling out numbers. There were three of us running near each other, the flapper, a male runner, and myself bringing up the rear. As the two passed her, the lady yelled out 28 and then 9. I thought about it for awhile trying to figure out what they meant, when it dawned on me she was talking about what position we were in. The male runner was in 28th place, and the female runner was in 9th, which meant I was in 10th. I didn't realize I was in 10th, I thought for sure there were more females then that ahead of me, and that just made me run faster.

When we came back into Robertson Park, I gave it all I had (which wasn't much) and took off for the finish. As much as I would like to say I did finally catch the flapper, I did not. She kept up a good pace and ended up finishing 4 seconds ahead of me. I'd finished with an official time of 1:45:27, but my GPS watch clocked the course at 12.76. I asked two other runners what they had, and their watches agreed with mine. That's a third of a mile off which is substantial. I have to say, I'm slightly annoyed by this. I'd just PR'd, but in good conscious I can't say that my PR is 1:45:27 when the course was so much shorter, but at the same time, I'm not giving up my PR because they measured the course wrong. So I've decided the fair thing to do is to adjust my time for the last .34 miles at the pace I was running my last mile at. That gives me a 1:48:17 which is still a PR by a minute and a half. And I'm sure the PR had nothing to do with the fact that I was wearing my lucky PR outfit.

After I finished, I immediately got my sweats to stay warm and was hanging out at the finish line when they started to give out awards. I thought there was a chance I might place so I was listening when sure enough, when they hit the 30-39 age division placers, they announced my name for the 3rd place finisher. I got to go up and get my award while everyone was standing there clapping for me. As I walked off, everyone congratulated me, and I have to be honest, it was a great feeling. My award was a commemorative wine tumbler engraved with the race logo and below that it says age group winner. OK, it's not much, but it's my prize and I don't think I'll be using any other glass in my house for the next few months. I'm going to revel in my 3rd place division finish since I'm under no illusion that this will become something that happens frequently, if ever again. This was a smaller race, and while I do think 3rd out of 52 female runners in my age group is a strong finish, I do know that ultimately my times aren't fast enough to put me in the top three for anything but a small hometown race. Regardless, I'll take it.

Not long later Kirsten finished and after getting some warm hot cocoa refueling drink and some munchies, we decided to take off since the weather was so poor. Overall this was kind of a ho hum race, but I blame a lot of it on the weather. The course wasn't spectacular, it was actually kind of bland in some places (though the trail was nice), and the weather was so miserable they didn't have the wine tasting or music after that they apparently usually do, not that I can blame them. On the other hand, this race was also fantastic. Not only did I finally get a new PR, but the divisional award was just icing on the cake, and it was pretty great having a friend along for the fun.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nike Women's Half Marathon - 10/17/10

I've put my name in the lottery for this race for three years in a row and have never been selected. This year was no different. I didn't stand much of chance when so many spaces are reserved for Team and Training, and the majority of the other spaces in the so-called "random" draw seemed to favor people who registered in groups. I was disappointed the first two times, but this time I was just mad. I live in San Francisco, I'm an actual runner, and I deserve to run this just as much as anyone else, and to get denied three years in a row really pissed me off.

I did the only thing I could at that point. I made it my mission to find an entry. Somehow, I would get into this race. I searched on craigslist everyday for at least a month and half (not kidding). This was back in August/September before people realized that they weren't trained properly, or had since become unavailable, or hadn't been injured yet, so listings were scarce. Those that I did find were people who were actually trying to make a profit out of it, selling their bibs for $250 or more. I wasn't going to pay that for a bib, that just seemed ridiculous, especially when I wouldn't even get to run it in my own name. I even went down to the local running store, See Jane Run, when I heard they were raffling off an entry. I waited around for 45 minutes hoping my name would get picked, but it wasn't, not surprisingly.

Then one happy day, I saw a posting on Craigslist for an entry into either the full or half marathon with the runner getting to register in their own name, all for the regular price of registration. I was skeptical because I didn't know how this would work being that the draw was already done and people had already picked their spots. I contacted the lady and found out that she had actually won an entry and was given an entry code. All I had to do was take this code and plug it in and they would let me register for whichever race I chose. After three years, I'd finally made it into the Nike Women's half marathon.

The expo was in Union Square. As I approached it, I could see a giant hot pink banner hanging from Macy's advertising the race with the NWM logo. The expo didn't really have any outside vendors selling goods, everyone at the expo was a major sponsor. There was Safeway, Gatorade, Pom, Luna, a few others, and of course Nike's lineup of LunarGlide shoes and sports bras were all on display. And as typical with large races, they had a number of industry speakers lined up. For once, I didn't hang out. I just grabbed my packet and headed out. It was a zoo in there and I didn't want to deal with the crowds just to try a few samples of things I've sampled countless times before.

On race morning I ended up having to take a cab to get to the start at Union Square. I wanted to take the J Church or BART, but neither were running that early. After being dropped off, I immediately checked my bag at sweat check, and then had a slightly frustrating experience trying to get to the corrals due to the massive amounts of people. And that's when I started noticing all the men. Why are there so many male runners here?! Go get your own race, this is one is ours. Last year a man won the marathon which I think is ridiculous, it's called the Nike Women's Marathon. When I finally made it to the corrals, I was jockeying for position with women of all shapes and sizes. Some looked like runners, some didn't. I couldn't reach my pace group, it was too crowded and I couldn't get through, but I figured I was close enough. We were like packed sardines, which did have the benefit of keeping us all warm due to the amount of body heat that was being generated.

After some words of encouragement from Joan Benoit Samuelson, the gold medal winner of the inaugural women's marathon in the 1984 Olympics in LA, and the singing of the national anthem, 20,000 of us took to the streets of San Francisco. This is the tenth largest race in the country, and I would venture to guess every state and many countries were represented. At the start of the race, as with the start of most large races, I found myself getting very annoyed. The start is divided into pace groups for a reason, and when runners don't start where they're supposed to, it requires everyone else to weave in an out of them. For the first two miles I was running with people who clearly should have been much further back. Some were barely even running, and some were even walking. It's hard enough to get into a groove those first few miles, but when you spend them trying to shimmy in and out of all the slow runners who shouldn't be near the front in the first place, it just makes it that much harder. I'm starting to despise these people. Have some courtesy and start where you're supposed to.

Despite having a bit of an issue fighting with all the other runners at the start to acquire a satellite for my Garmin watch, I did get it set in time and felt great knowing I had it with me this race. I could finally pace myself again. The going was a bit slow until the runners started to break up after we'd been running along the Embarcadero for a bit. At mile 1.5, there was gospel choir all decked out in their long robes singing beautifully to get the runners off on a good foot. A mile later, as we approached Fisherman's Wharf, there were street acrobats doing flips and trampoline tricks. Not far after them, they're was a coat donation area, where the runners could shed their layers of clothing which would then be donated to the homeless men and women of San Francisco. I had nothing to shed, but it reminded me that I really need to go through my closet that's currently bursting at the seams.

By mile 3, I'd made up some of the time I lost in the herd that first mile or two. I was feeling good. I told myself that I was going to take it easy this run if I wanted to try for a PR next weekend, so I promised myself that when I started to feel like I might be getting fatigued, I'd pull back. Shortly after the 5K point, we encountered our first hills. They were one right after each other. They were fairly short, but they were steep. The last of which took you up and over Fort Mason to drop into the Marina. I run this one on my marathon training runs so I knew it was coming. It's always tough, but when you get to the top of the park, you get beautiful views of the Golden Gate and the city. For the next two miles we cruised along the Marina Green and Crissy Field. On this stretch there was a large cheer station with tons of spectators, giant speakers blasting the latest hip hop, and even a station with break dancers performing.

It was nearing mile 6 that it dawned on me just how good I was feeling. Even with the slow start and hills, I was on track to PR and I was showing no signs of needing to slow down at all. I knew though that I wouldn't be PR'ing. This was not the course for it, and the worse was about to come. Soon after, we headed onto Lincoln Blvd from Crissy Field through the Presidio. I've done part of this before during the Presidio 10. It wasn't easy. It was just shy of a mile of uphill where at its steepest, it's a 5% grade. I handled it much better this time then I did back in April though. My split time still went from 8:15 to 10:24, but it would've dropped much more if I'd had to walk any of it, which thankfully I didn't. It was around this point that I GU'd up, listening to the advice I received during my RunSafe analysis that I'm waiting to long to refuel during races. As with all things that go up, they must come down, and we had a nice long downhill section into Seacliff which enabled me to recover and make up some ground.

We then wound our way along El Camino Del Mar to 32nd which was another very tough uphill section that lasted about a mile. In the middle, which must have been shortly after mile 8, we hit a Kaiser aid station where the volunteers were dressed in all orange handing out the most juicy orange slices I've tasted in a long time. I gobbled one up and then grabbed a second. Yum! When we hit the top we ran along Clement, passed the VA hospital and ran into Outer Richmond. From there we took Point Lobos Ave along the coast and passed the Sutro Baths which was another very steep downhill. This was the third place they had giant speakers set up and this time Journey was playing. I sang. Well, sort of. It was more like yelling out words in between gasps of breath. The important thing to take away here was that I was feeling so good I was attempting to sing at mile 9.5, albeit poorly.

We came down the Great Highway passed the Cliff House as a huge steamer ship was passing by. Near mile 10, the Blue Devils drum line was there to greet us as we entered Golden Gate Park. Safeway being a huge sponsor in this event had signs on the ground that said "You own the road". Those were followed by volunteers holding other signs that read things like "because you gave up going out on weekends", or "because you gave up sleeping in". They were extremely motivational and really enforced the reason why you were doing this. We ran up John F. Kennedy Dr passed the bison paddock. It is a slight, steady incline for over a mile and I did everything I could to maintain a reasonable pace. When we hit mile 12, we separated from the full marathoners and turned and ran along the Polo Fields. I was surprised to see that the Polo Fields were no more. Instead of the big grass field, it was now just groomed dirt. Hopefully their finally putting in turf fields. This was also the chocolate mile where Ghirardelli was handing out chocolates to the runners. I passed.

As we exited the Polo Fields we ran down Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. which was a slight downhill until turning right on the Great Highway towards the finish. That was my fastest split. I ran a 7:33 mile. I figured I might as well take advantage of the downhill and make up some time I lost on the hills. When I turned onto the Great Highway, I could see the finish up ahead. I gutted it out and ran as fast as I could toward the finish line, finishing in 1:52:32. I had finished 65th out of 2,007 runners in my age group. That put me in the top 4%. However, I have no doubt that a LARGE number of entrants were first time half marathoners, and that there was probably a whole lot of walkers too. Regardless, I was very happy.

Now the fun really started. I was immediately given an aluminum foil blanket to wrap around me to keep warm and right after that there were handsome firemen dressed in tuxes with piles of little blue Tiffany boxes, handing one out to each of the finishers. My Tiffany necklace, which I actually like and will probably wear, is a simple, silver rectangle with the race slogan, "I run to be", printed on it. Next we were given recyclable shopping bags from Safeway and were funneled down the finishers chute, where we were given bottles of water, Gatorade, Chocolate milk, and Dole pineapple juice. And there was food too. Bananas, bagels, cereal cups, pop chips, and I'm sure many other things I'm forgetting at the moment. My bag was quite heavy filled with all of the goodies, so I decided it was time to go and locate the school bus that had my gear bag stashed in it, it was getting cold.

Being one of the early finishers had its advantages. Nothing was crowded yet. I got my picture taken in front of the Nike finisher's wall, was able to get my t-shirt before the line grew, and had free range of the Nike boutique that had all the NWM apparel before the crowds came. The finisher's shirt was cute. It's a magenta color, but being the dumbbell that I sometimes am, I grabbed an XL which is entirely too big for me and likely won't be worn. Maybe someone will answer my pleas on craigslist for a size swap (update: swap in progress).

I had been disappointed that at the expo they didn't have any clothes for me to buy, but I now realize they were actually very smart by having them at the end of the race instead. After the race everyone is feeling fantastic about their accomplishment and they'll more easily buy something to commemorate it. Me, eh, put something cute in front of me and I'll likely buy it. So I did. A hoodie. I felt a little like an impostor buying it because it said Nike Women's Marathon on it and I didn't actually run the full marathon, but they didn't have one that said half, and I thought it was cute and it looked really warm, and it was raining out, so I bought it anyway. I don't regret it.

After my shopping excursion I wandered around for awhile looking at all the tents they had up. There was a gatorade lounge, a lean cuisine lounge that was giving out chicken meals, a stretching area, and about 3-4 food vendors that were selling cheap, hot food like egg sandwiches, breakfast burritos, lumpias, and more. I had had my favorite post race snack of a banana and chocolate milk already so decided not to get anything, although the breakfast burrito was very tempting. It started to really rain and get crowded, so I decided to pop in on Emily and Rob who live around the corner. I caught the Haribo gummy bear on my way over and he gave me two packs of my favorite gummie bears ever. It was great getting to hang out in a warm house with home brew to enjoy while I got to catch up with them and play with their dog and new bird. After about two hours it was time to catch the shuttle home. Unfortunately, that required me standing in line for about 30 minutes in the rain having to pee. Thankfully the bus had a bathroom.

I'm going to preface this paragraph by saying that I think Team in Training is a great cause and they do a fantastic job of motivating and helping people who might not otherwise think they can run, to do great things. With that said, they sometimes annoy the hell out of me. They show up with their puff painted jerseys, adorned with lots of chotchkies and ribbons, all decked out in the latest running gear. They wander around pre-race, holding hands in a giant train, cutting everyone off and pushing anyone out of the way that isn't one of their own. From what I saw, they tended to be the biggest offenders of not starting in the right corrals, and then on the course, they have their fans who won't cheer for anyone not wearing a purple jersey. By the end of the race I was so sick of hearing "Go TEAM!" that I wanted to puke if I heard it one more time. Again, great cause, and I know it works wonders for some people, but it's just not my thing.

The bottom line is I loved this race and I'm thrilled I finally got to run it. The course was lined with spectators cheering you on (ok, maybe not the TNT folks) making you feel like a celebrity. Nike provided some great acts and motivation on the course to distract you, including the group of volunteers that were all wearing pink full body leotards handing out dry towels. The freebies and post race celebration was great. My opinion of Safeway has even improved. And it didn't hurt that I ran my second fastest half marathon to date. This was hard for me to believe given that it was a challenging course. Had it been flat, I would have definitely PR'd. Running is a funny thing. You never know when you're going to have one of those days where you just feel great. And this was definitely one of those days.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Primo's Run for Education Half Marathon - 10/10/10

I had to get back on the horse so to speak after my last race. I figured what better place to do it then at the Primo's run in my hometown of Danville. Even though it's been around for 27 years, I've never actually run it myself. Being the daughter of two runners, I knew about all the races in Danville when I was younger, sometimes even participating in a 5k. Growing up, one of my chores was to fold the laundry. I remember folding my parents race shirts, some of which were from the primos run. Primo's is an Italian joint in downtown Danville that I've been to countless times as child, often for pizza after soccer games with my team. Back in the day this race used to be called the Primo's to Primo's, but then the second Primo's in San Ramon shut down, so now they just make everyone run to a school in San Ramon.

I spent the night in Danville at my folks house so I wouldn't have to drive down in the morning. Plus, it gave me a good reason to hang out with them, and to offload some of the 8 packs of Tim Tams I still had from Sydney. I had a late soccer game, followed by a few beers, and then got stuck in major traffic, so didn't end up making it there until 8:30p. My dad, who knows me so well, had recorded the Men's USA vs. Poland soccer game, and saved it so we could watch it. We barely made it to half time before I decided it was bedtime. The race started earlier than most, at 7:15a, so I needed to be up by 5:50a and I was fairly exhausted so I figured why fight it.

This was a point to point course, which I'm typically not a fan of because it means having to take a shuttle to get back to your car. My parents were leaving for Utah to visit my sister for a week, but luckily my dad still had time to help me drop my car off at the finish and then drive me to the start so I wouldn't have to deal with the shuttles after the race. Much to my dismay, as soon as I picked up my bib at the start, I realized I'd forgotten my watch in my car. That makes two races in a row I've been without the use of my watch. I really needed it for this race if I was going to try for a good time and possibly even a PR, but at that point it was too late. I'd have to run without it. Sniff. Sniff.

As I stood around waiting for the race to start at Primo's, I thought it odd that even though this is where I grew up, I knew not one runner out there. Not one. A few minutes before the start, about 15 students sang the National Anthem, which was a nice change from the usual recorded version that smaller races do. And then at 7:15 on the dot, off we went through the streets of Danville. I have to admit, I was excited about running a race in familiar territory. It's something I haven't done in my adult running career, and I pretty much had the course memorized and have run the majority of it.

For the most part we avoided downtown Danville. We passed the old Danville library, where I spent a lot of time researching for papers when I was in grammar school, before the days of the interwebs. From there we headed back into the residential area surrounding Old Orchard. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about this race. Before the San Jose Rock and Roll the previous weekend, the last road half marathon I ran where I was properly trained was in May. Part of me was worried that maybe that race wasn't a fluke, and I'd lost my half marathon mojo. Thankfully, I wasn't more then a mile or two in when I knew that wasn't the case. It was reassuring to know that I just really wasn't ready to race so soon after getting back into the country. I was feeling good and I knew it wouldn't be a repeat of the weekend prior.

By the time we headed down Old Orchard Rd, the race field had long since spread out and we had huge open roads to run down the middle of. There was a group of young elementary students cheering everyone on. They meant well, but they kept yelling out "You're almost there!". Um, do they know we're only on mile 2?! That's just cruel, we're not even a quarter into this race. Soon after we passed the mean children (ok, I'm being harsh, it was nice they were showing us support), we crossed over Sycamore Valley Road and headed into Greenbrook, which is the area where my parents house is. The same house I grew up in.

Not having a watch was killing me. I knew I was running fast, but I had no idea what my pace was. We hit the 4 mile marker and I could hear everyones watches beeping on the split which made me jealous. That's when I met Ron. I asked what our pace was, and he said we were averaging an 8:15 min/mile. I was apparently doing a decent job pacing myself, even though that was about 10-15 seconds faster than what I wanted to be running at that point. I liked Ron. He was a talker, and a racer. We started rattling off all the races we'd done recently and the ones we had coming up, finding we had a lot of overlap. He definitely rivaled me for the number of races he was running . He lives in San Ramon, and he said this race is a bit of a family event for them, and his wife and kids all participate somehow, either by running or volunteering each year. The race goes to benefit the San Ramon Valley Education Foundation and the money is disbursed to all the schools in the area. Last year, it raised over $175,000, and this year they were hoping it would raise over $200,000. Chevron, who is headquartered in San Ramon, is the biggest sponsor of the race, this year donating $35,000 to help put on the event which included nearly 7,000 registrants, though only 600 were running the half marathon.

I stuck with Ron for about two miles and he kept me updated on our pace. Despite having been hospitalized for gallbladder surgery just six months prior, I couldn't keep up with him. We separated as we ran through Osage Park at mile 6. This was one of the main parks were I played soccer as a little kid, and sure enough, two decades later, the park was already full of youth soccer teams getting ready for their games. I didn't want to leave Ron, we were going at a great pace, but I was just feeling I wasn't going to be able to sustain it, and that I should probably back off and save some energy for the end. As we exited the park, there was an aid station, so I decided it was time to try my new GU flavor, Chocolate Mint. I typically don't like chocolate flavored things, but apparently you add a little mint to it, and it's the best thing ever. I've already purchased a six pack of them. I was getting bored with my strawberry-banana flavor anyway.

We ran up El Capitan and turned onto Greenbrook again. This was the point in the race I was closest to my parents house. We were just three blocks away. I know my parents would've been there at that point to cheer me on if they hadn't already left for the airport. Unfortunately it was bad timing, and I would've loved for them to have been there. Maybe next year, and perhaps I'll even talk my dad into running it with me.

It was almost mile eight when we hit the Iron Horse Trail which runs along the former tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad. This trail spans two counties and nearly nine communities, and his hugely popular amongst runners, cyclists, and walkers. Whenever I visit my folks, this is where I run. And down the familiar trail I ran, but this time as a runner in a race. I was starting to peter out around mile nine and I'm pretty positive this is where my pace really dropped, though I had no way to know how far I was letting it drop, and I couldn't monitor it to make sure it wasn't dropping to low. The problem is, later on in races, you ALWAYS feel like you're running faster than you really are.

When we hit Norris Canyon Road, we turned off the trail and headed down towards 680. It was then that we joined up with the 5k'ers. They looked like a solid cloud moving as one in their white t-shirts. I couldn't believe how many people there were. As we got closer, I could tell that it was students and their parents walking to represent their schools, all wearing the white race shirt, some with their school names written on it. Thankfully, they kept a side path open for only the half marathoners, as weaving through them would have proven impossible because the road was so dense with people. With the exception of the occasional preteens that would sometimes dart out in front of the runners, for the most part everyone stayed to their sections helping to avoid slowdowns and collisions.

I knew exactly where we were, and I knew were the finish was. I had maybe a mile and half left. Running alongside all of the people actually gave me additional motivation to push on. I was pretty tired at this point, but sucked it up and made it to Bollinger Canyon where we turned right before the Chevron headquarters. We made one last turn onto Alcosta and the finish sign was up ahead. I strained to see what the race clock said. For all I knew, I could've been running in for a PR, or I could have been way off it. Although I suspected I'd be somewhere in the middle, which I was. I finished in 1:53:49. Not a PR, but I was happy with it, especially since pacing was a bit of an issue without the watch, and the fact I had a late afternoon soccer game the day before.

I picked up my race shirt and got stuck with an X-Large which is HUGE, because everyone had picked up their shirts well before the race, and all the smaller sizes were taken. Not that it mattered much. The shirt was long-sleeve cotton which meant I probably wouldn't have worn it anyway. Usually I would've been disappointed, but cotton is understandable when they're trying to keep overhead low so that more proceeds go to the schools. I couldn't complain. I did have one hope left for a cool t-shirt though. The first 50 runners of each sex were awarded a tech shirt. I stood around waiting for the list to be published with the other runners. Some were over two hours, and I knew they wouldn't be close, but I figured I was right on the bubble. This field of runners was one of the strongest I've seen in a lot of races, and there were a lot of very fast females. The list was posted and I saw my name. Number 52. So close, but no t-shirt for me. I saw all of the runners that I'd spent a good portion of the race running with carrying shirts, and I joked that I shouldn't have stopped to tie my shoelaces back at mile nine. As it turns out, once the results were officially posted, I was actually number 54, which made me feel slightly better.

After I literally inhaled the banana, apple, cliff bar, and luna bar that came in my goodie bag, I hit the road feeling much better than I did the previous Sunday. I did think I'd be able to sustain a faster pace for longer than I did though, but I should've known running 6 miles at an 8 min/mile is far from being able to sustain it for over twice as long. I probably have one more good shot for a PR this year, and that's at the Livermore Grape Stomp which I know is a very flat and fast course. I'm beginning to wonder how I ran a 1:49 and if I'll ever be able to do it again. Granted, that was set while I was marathon training so I was putting in a lot more weekly miles. Perhaps I'll start working in a mid-week semi long run again. I should also probably look to find a running club to join. I need to run with people faster than me, and I need to do speed work, preferably with a coach.

Next up, the Nike Women's half marathon.