#latepost – Big Sur International Marathon

Image Courtesy of Big Sur International Marathon

Image Courtesy of Big Sur International Marathon

Two weeks ago I had the chance to run my fourth full marathon at the Big Sur International Marathon in Monterey County, California. This is one of the preeminent marathons in the country for good reason. This was my first year running Big Sur, but it definitely won’t be my last. I can sum up the Big Sur International Marathon is three words “BEST RACE EVER.” Period.

A couple girlfriends and I used the race as an excuse for a girls’ weekend in Monterey. We headed down to Monterey on Friday afternoon and with a little traffic we arrived at our hotel around 6:30pm. We went to dinner at Tarpy’s Roadhouse in Monterey (great food BTW – don’t let the name fool you; this place is classy). After some good food, lots of laughs and maybe a beer flight, we headed back to our hotel and turned in for the night.

The next morning was Saturday, the day we went to the expo to pick up our race packets. The expo was held at the Monterey Convention Center. There were perhaps 70-80 vendors at the expo. Of course there was a bevy of race organizations, various running supply stores (I scored a brand new GU flavor – Big Apple), Lorna Jane, Running Skirts, Endurance Sports, Newton’s and others you’d expect to see. Asics was the major sponsor this year, so in addition to having them produce the race premiums, they had a HUGE pop up store with all sorts of Asics branded BSIM clothes and such. We spent about 90 minutes at the expo walking around checking out the vendors. The actual packet pick-up was super smooth and quick.

After some relaxation back in our hotel room we drove over to Cannery Row and checked out lots of little shops. We also spent a little time just watching the ocean. The day was gorgeous. Sunny, not too hot and breezy. Dinner was had at the Sardine Factory (another one with an unassuming name = this place is FANCY).

Back at the hotel we all hurried to get ready for our 8:15pm(!) bedtime. One thing you need to know about BSIM if you want to run any of the longer distance races (full or the 21 miler) you have to board a shuttle in Monterey at an ungodly hour. In fact, I had to be ON the shuttle at 4:15am (my BRF’s who were running the 21 miler did not fare much better and had to board their shuttle at 4:30am).. We woke up at 2:45am and sent the next hour getting ready. An hour later and we were walking in the pitch black early morning to the shuttle staging area. I had to wait in line to board a shuttle for about 10-15 minutes. Once on the shuttle it was a long nearly one hour ride to the full marathon staging area about 30 miles south of where we started, and started the long more than one hour wait until the race start at 6:45am.

Me and the BRFs at 3am.

Me and the BRFs at 3am.

The staging area was CROWDED beyond belief. And it was COLD. Thankfully I had been warned about the long, cold wait and had a space blanket, a sweatshirt and hat that I planned to toss once the race started. I tried to avail myself of the advertised free coffee at the start line, but unfortunately the coffee was gone by the time I managed to eek my way to the front of the line. I had to settle for hot water and dry bagels.

As 6:45am drew closer we were advised to begin loading up into the shoot. There were 3 start waves that assigned based on projected finish time (sub 3:45, 3:45-4:45 and 4:45+). Waves were on the honor system, but I figured I was planned to finish somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00 and decided to line up with wave 2. I had just come off the Oakland Running Festival full marathon (5 weeks earlier), Livermore Half Marathon (4 weeks earlier) and Ragnar SoCal (2 weeks earlier) so I was not expecting, nor attempting to PR this race, but felt relatively good about my chances of finishing under 4:45.

Standing in the chute was pretty epic. Me and 4,000 of my closest friends piled onto Highway 1 in the middle of the redwoods. The Star Spangled Banner was sung, everyone got ready and we were off. As I ran down past the start line I spied Bart Yasso on the sideline and ran up to him giving him a high 5! EPIC!

The first 5 miles of the full marathon are essentially downhill. There are short and pretty easy hills here and there, but an overall elevation loss of about 300 feet. For the most part you run through a redwood forest. The coast line is barely visible except for little peeks here and there. I ran the first 5 miles without music at all because I was just enjoying the sounds of the birds, other runners chatting and the quiet pitter patter of tiny (and not so tiny) runner feet on the asphalt. It was glorious. The weather was perfectly cool, but not cold and there was nothing more than a gentle breeze.

I planned to try to hold myself to about a 10:00-10:15 pace over these first five miles, and ended up with splits of 10:01, 10:01, 10:00, 10:05 and 10:07. I was feeling great!

Somewhere on the coast

Somewhere on the coast

The next five miles are where you hit the coast. I knew the biggest hill was coming up at mile 10 so I wanted to conserve energy and aimed for a 10:15-10:30 pace. Suddenly, somewhere in mile 6 my stomach felt kinda icky. I stopped at the 5.7 mile aid station, used the porta potty and walked a moment. I felt a little better, but I knew my stomach was not right.

As I was finishing up mile 10 and heading towards Little Sur Bridge I knew I had to make another pit stop. My pace suffered both stops, but I felt much better and was able to carry on.

Over the course of these five miles of rolling hills 12:06, 10:34, 10:35, 10:47 and 14:54.

What’s that sound in the distance, just past the 10 mile marker??? Taiko drummers! They apparently made their BSIM debut in 2015 and they were awesome. Can we talk music for a moment??? BSIM had more than 20 musical acts on the course – the most I’ve ever seen. Everything from the taiko drummers to a classical pianist (more on that later) to rock ‘n’ roll. The music gave me a boost when I was feeling less than stellar.

After the taiko drummers we ran over Little Sur Bridge and saw hell on earth.

A HUGE HILL. Quite possibly the biggest and LONGEST hill I have ever run or will ever run. This hill spanned  2 miles with a total elevation gain of roughly 500 feet. I decided to do intervals on this hill as I knew for certain that, despite all my hill training, if I tried to take this mountain in one shot, I’d burn out my legs and my spirit. I went for a 3:1 interval which worked out really great. On the run part I passed TONS of people and on the walk part not many people passed me as so many other runners walked the hill too.

At the summit of the hill (the end of mile 12) we reached Hurricane Point. It ain’t called Hurricane Point for nothing. The headwinds started around mile 5 and were nothing to sneeze at, but mile 12 leading up to and including Hurricane Point was downright nasty. WINDY. I stopped at the top of the hill to take a few pictures of the view including the next highlight of the race: Bixby Bridge!

Running the Bixby Bridge was so cool!

Running the Bixby Bridge was so cool!

Selfie with the classical pianist Michael Martinez

Selfie with the classical pianist Michael Martinez

Bixby Bridge! Yes! Total highlight of the course. If you don’t already know Bixby Bridge is one of the most iconic features of the Big Sur International Marathon. It is routinely featured on the race premiums and promotional materials. Once you cross the bridge you come upon Michael Martinez, an expert pianist, playing a Grand Piano. I had to take a couple of shots , but also saw others taking selfies sitting next to him (not to self: take a selfie sitting next to Michael Martinez next time).

After the massive hill behind me, I knew that the hardest elevation work was done. I settled into a decent pace, keeping a run/walk method on the longer hills (ended up walking perhaps a minute of each mile over the next 8 miles or so.

In past marathons I have had a hard time getting past mile 19 without throwing in the towel mentally. I have stopped really trying to finish strong and resorted to full on run/walk intervals at miles 18, 16 and 19 of past marathons. When I got to mile 21 of BSIM without being spent yet, I knew I had a PR on my hands. More about what that meant later…

My splits from miles 11-21 were as follows: 12:26, 11:12 (the HILL!), 11:02, 9:51, 10:23, 10:07, 10:41, 10:22, 11:01, 10:36, 10:09.

It finally hit me at the mile 21 marker – stomach problems coming on again. Another unfortunate pit stop and I was again on my way. I played yo-yo with a couple of people on the course, easing up for a while as they charged on ahead, then catching up to them when I felt a burst of energy. I walked through every aid station and ate bananas, oranges and strawberries (thank you berries from heaven at mile 23.5) and pushed through, running and walking only very sparingly on hills.

Feeling strong around mile 23

Feeling strong around mile 23

Somewhere around mile 23 the 4:45 pace crew caught up to me. The pacer, very motivating to some I am sure, kept talking and almost yelling. I did not want to hear that when I was ready to be done, so what did I do? I hit the gas! I started charging up hills I would have walked on a normal day. Within a few minutes the pace crew was in my rear view and I could not hear the pacer any longer (I am sure this type of pacing strategy works for some, but just not me).

I cruised the last mile or so and my Garmin read 25.6 miles. I had less than a mile left, but I knew my Garmin was slightly ahead (as it turned out it was 0.18 miles ahead). We started the climb up the final incline and there was a whole row of who I assume were BSIM officials dressed in blue (or were they green?) jackets. A couple of them gave me high fives and one older gentleman with especially good taste told me I was the best dressed runner he saw all day.

Hitting the pedal to the metal when the finish arch was n sight

Hitting the pedal to the metal when the finish arch was n sight

Finally, I saw the finish line. I knew I had about 0.15 miles left to go and I was so close to finishing sub 4:45. I really floored it and broke out into what felt like a sprint (though in hindsight it was not exceptionally fast, it just felt like it was after having run more than 26 miles!).I crossed the finish line in 4:44:47.

My splits over those final 5 miles were: 14:21, 10:06, 10:04, 9:50, 10:14 (and 3:18 for the final 0.38 on my Garmin).

A happy finish

A happy finish

Overall I was happy with my performance. While time-wise I did not break any records, I did set a new PR that day – a personal record for feeling awesome after a full marathon and for keeping a positive “can do” attitude throughout the race. I don’t feel I hit any walls (though I did experience fatigue it was not debilitating) and I felt good the entire time. No cramping, no self-doubt and no thoughts of “why the heck did I do this?” Definitely a PR for me.

Following the race my legs were tired and I stumbled to the shuttle that took me back to downtown Monterey. A short 20 minute ride and I found myself carefully walking back to our hotel. After a quick shower and packing up our things my friends and I went back down to Cannery Row for lunch at the Fish Hopper Restaurant (OMG! If you like Bloody Mary’s you need to try the Loaded Bloody Mary (with three shrimp) or the Ultimate Seafood Bloody Mary (a crab slider, oyster and bacon wrapped prawn accompaniment). So GOOD!) After a relaxing lunch, we headed home. Thankfully my friends took turns driving home so I was able to stretch out my tired legs in the back seat for the 2 hour ride.

Well deserved Bloody Mary's with the BRFs.

Well deserved Bloody Mary’s with the BRFs.

That night I slept like a baby.

Because I had such a great time I’d have to say that BSIM is my hands-down all time favorite race. Period. Not my favorite full or my favorite long-distance race. My favorite race ever. The course was beautiful, the swag and medal were top-notch, on course support was on point, basically everything and anything you could ever want from a race….BSIM provided.

Though I know round two of BSIM is not in the cards for me next year, I will definitely run it again. Next time, maybe a time PR, but if not, at least I know I will have a fabulous time!

The happy VICTOR!

The happy VICTOR!

Friday

I love Friday. It’s the end of the work week. It’s the start of the weekend. AND it’s generally a rest day or a day when I do a short easy run. This Friday, today, is a rest day.

Thank goodness for rest days because the weather here in the Bay Area has been unseasonably warm. I ran a little over 4 miles yesterday in what Weather.com said was 79 degrees, but the temperature gauge on my car said 87 degrees. In any event it was slow. It was hot. It was annoying. I run hot to begin with, but when I am running in direct sun at 4pm it’s crazy hot. 11203043_403709879807962_4489218837307364588_n

The best thing about that run yesterday was making my way up to the local library and picking up a copy of Run Less, Run Faster. The idea of three runs per week making you faster is intriguing. I have been endlessly saying I need to cross-train and work on strength training as well, but running 5 (sometimes 6) days per week leaves very little time for these things. I am hoping that I can incorporate the methods outlined in this book after I run Surfer’s Path Marathon in 2 weeks, then start to swimming and biking as cross-training (maybe a triathlon in my future?). I am sure too report back with what I learn from the book and I am REALLY hoping I can be disciplined enough to actually run just 3 days per week.

BUT, enough about running and swimming and biking. Thankfully it’s Friday today. So I can rest.

How about you? Do you like to rest on Fridays?

Ragnar-relay-header

Race Recaps: RAGNAR Napa Valley 2014

I started 2014 out with many running related goals and a handful of bucket list items (things I wanted to do eventually, but if I didn’t get to them for a few years, no big deal). What was on the 2014 must-do list? Run a full marathon (check – ran the Oakland Running Festival Marathon in March 2014), log 1200+ miles for the year (check – with over 1300 miles at this point in the year I’m way over my goal) and run a sub 2:00:00 half marathon (check – ran a 1:56:37 at the Marina Bay Half Marathon in June 2014)….with all that behind me why not tackle a bucket list item? a RAGNAR RELAY RACE! Thankfully I have a running buddy (LeeAnn!) who put me in touch with her team earlier this year and I checked this race off of my bucket list. Unfortunately (maybe) I loved it so much I feel like I have to do it again (I’m planning to run SoCal in April 2015) and now I’ve added every other Ragnar to my bucket list. Oy vey!

What’s a Ragnar you ask? 12 people in 2 vans running a relay race over the course of 1 weekend. It’s like high school track and field on massive amounts of coffee and little to no sleep.

The play-by-play:

The Napa Valley Ragnar race was held the weekend of September 19-20, 2014. Whilst some of my teammates opted to sleep over on Thursday night at the team captain’s house I elected to meet my team at the start line in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park at 4:45am on Friday morning (I’ve got two kids and a husband – leaving them for two full days/nights was guilt wracking enough already without having to take another night away). When I arrived in the park it was pitch black still, but totally alive with the excitement of the race we were about to run. 205 miles from the park through San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge and up to Calistoga in Napa County’s beautiful wine country.

Once I met with my teammates in Van 1 (the team of 12 is broken into 2 vans – van 1 holds runners 1-6 and van 2 holds runners 7-12; I was runner 6) we were off to meet our first runner at exchange 1. Since I was runner 6 I had quite a while until I was set to run. My first leg started in Corte Madera and ended in Kentfield. It was classified as a 4.3 mile run of “moderate” difficulty.

Ragnar Napa leg 6

 

For the most part I agree about the difficulty. It was gentle rolling hills with a half mile climb right after the first mile marker. Since I didn’t start running until about 10am or so the sun came out and when it was overhead it started to get warm fast. Thankfully I was able to keep my pace pretty quick during that run (about an 8:30/mile average) and I was done before it became too warm.

The really cool thing about being runner 6 is that at exchanges 6, 18 and 30 there was a really big crowd and a lot of support from other teams (these exchanges were BIG exchanges since most teams had both vans present at these exchanges as well as exchanges 12 and 24).

Coming in to Exchange 6

Coming in to Exchange 6 – Image courtesy of Bryan

When I finished with my leg Van 1 went out for breakfast and then we pretty much immediately headed to exchange 12. My plan was to try and get a little sleep since I only slept about 4 hours the night before. That plan quickly changed because it was WAY too hot in our van and there was no shade to rest under at the exchange. So most of us headed over to a local shopping area and spent time in the various air conditioned stores for a few hours. Once runner 1 picked up the slap bracelet from runner 12 we were off again.

The van 1 ladies  minus LeeAnn

The van 1 ladies minus LeeAnn – Image courtesy of Briana

My next run was to begin around 11pm so I put on all of my night time running gear including my headlamp and my NoxGear Tracer 360 vest (BTW, LOVE this thing! Best ever piece of running equipment I’ve bought excluding shoes). Leg 18 was 5.7 miles entirely in Santa Rosa and was described as “very hard.” Aside from some technical snafus (my headlamp started to crap out on my about 2 miles into my run) I honestly think this was my easiest run. Likely because I love running at night and since I didn’t start running until after 11:30pm it was cool out (sun/heat is my biggest running nemesis). I ran as hard and fast as I could manage in the pitch black conditions and made it to the next exchange with an average pace of around 9:00/mile. The run was not really “hard” – but I am wondering if they called it a hard leg because of running at night??? (though I’d guess there were some teams that ran that leg during daytime hours).

Ragnar Napa leg 18

After I finished my run I was beat and ready to sleep. Exchange 18 was at a school and since it was a “major exchange” there was a designated sleeping area in a field. I grabbed my sleeping bag and headed to attempt to sleep for a few hours, After tossing and turning for well over an hour I finally fell asleep sometime after 3am. 90 minutes later the other gals who slept in the field with me (LeeAnn, Audrey and Helen) woke me up and we went back to the van to get ready for our third and final legs,, I’m telling you….that 90 minutes of sleep was horrible. I’m not even certain I did sleep so much as close my eyes.

My third and final leg was 3.9 miles entirely in Napa. It was described as “moderate” and I’d agree with that description. It was rolling hills through rural land, including some smaller vineyards/farms. I started around 10am and at the time it was overcast (though warm and humid). By the time I hit mile 2 it was sunny and HOT! I was miserable. For the first time in my Ragnar experience I walked. I ended up walking about 2 minutes total during the leg which, all things considered, was not bad. I ended up finishing the leg with an average pace of 8:40/mile even with the walking. What this tells me is that I was really pushing when I was running and that’s probably why I had to stop and walk a bit during the leg.

Ragnar Napa leg 30

After I finished my leg our van was done. We went to eat in Calistoga and checked into our hotel . I was able to take a real shower for the first time in 48 hours and wash off all the sweat, salt and general funk that had been built up over the past two days of running. That shower felt AMAZING!

Next came the best part of the Ragnar experience. The finish line and post-race festivities. Ragnar set up a beer garden and gave everyone 2 beer tickets (1 more than the 1 we were supposed to get because there was a snafu with shipping the finisher’s medals in time for us to get them at the finish). I am a beer drinker. This was good. Very good. What was even better? Hanging out in the shade with a beer in my hand chatting with my new found friends (my vanmates LeeAnn, Audrey, Helen, Nancy, Briana and Sean).

Van 2 showed up and I got to spend a little time with my other teammates (Melanie, Cherie, Kate, Faith, TJ and Linda – the rest of the team except for Bryan – runner 12 – who was finishing up his last leg). We all laughed and drank and shared stories waiting for our final teammate to join us. When we knew Bryan was coming in any minute we all headed to the finish line and started looking for him. When he came into our line of sight the 11 of us runners (Linda and Sean were our designated drivers!) ran out about 100 yards or so and ran with Bryan across the finish line. It was pretty epic!

Plastic Tans Never Fade crossing the finish line!

Plastic Tans Never Fade crossing the finish line! Image courtesy of Bryan

After some team photos we headed back to the beer garden and with many, many beer tickets in hand (donations from other teams that either did not want theirs or had an abundance of tickets donated to them by such teams) we began our celebration in earnest. Though van 2 headed back to the hotel at dusk (remember they had not showered yet) the rest of us stayed and drank, danced and laughed until around 8pm. We met up with the rest of the team at a restaurant for what turned out to be about a 3 hour dinner!

Finally, beat as hell we turned in at our hotel. I swear I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

When I got back home the next morning (I opted to return early to the Bay Area with van 2 so I could be home for my kids on Sunday) I went back to sleep for 2.5 hours. I woke up, ate, watched a little football and took another 2-3 hour nap. I was supposed to do all sorts of things on Sunday, including cook dinner, but I was so exhausted we ordered pizza!

So, what did I think of my first foray into the crazy world of Ragnar relay? As if my opening paragraph didn’t say it loudly enough I loved it! Best time ever (maybe not ever, but best time running ever)!

My favorite things about Ragnar:

The whole team (minus our wonderful drivers)

The whole team (minus our wonderful drivers) Image courtesy of Bryan

1. The people! I met so many awesome people who love running just as much as I do! Like I said, I’m planning to run SoCal next year and many of my teammates will be running it with me. I am so happy that I have made friendships with these people who are all wonderful and added to the team and overall experience. It wouldn’t have been the same without each and every single one of them.

2. The after-party! See above, I probably drank enough beer to drown all the sorrows of everyone in every bar in Napa County combined – buy hey! It was good. And free. I like free.

3. The course. It was seriously awesome. I loved being able to run in places that I would never have run if it weren’t for Ragnar.

Things I would change:

1. Figure out the whole sleeping thing. I think next time I would bring a small pillow and a thin pad for underneath my sleeping bag. Friday night’s sleep was horrible. I was laying on top of rocks. It was bad.

2. Better communication between vans. We did use a text message system, but it seemed like there were a few times when the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. For example, after my night run, at exchange 18, the next runner wasn’t there to get the slap bracelet. I stood around in the dark, exhausted and ready to go to bed. I had no idea that the next runner assumed we were meeting at a different spot. Had I known this I wouldn’t have stood around. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, just a communication glitch. I think it would have been smart to actually talk these things through before major exchanges.

3. Better in-between leg time management. There was one exchange where one of our runners in van 1 had to wait 15-20 minutes for the van to show up and for our next runner to run. There was some traffic which exacerbated the problem, but I think better time management would have helped A LOT!

There is so much I could say about the Ragnar experience including what I’ve learned to do and not to do – look for further posts in the future!

 

I’m back!!!!

Yes, I know….it’s been almost a year since I last blogged. Life has just really gotten in the way. Is anyone out there even reading this thing besides LeeAnn??? LOL

Anyhow, a LOT has happened over the past 10+ months. I have run MANY races including my first full and several half marathons:

11/10/2013 – Mermaid Series Sirena 10 miles in San Francisco, CA

11/24/2013 – Inaugural Berkeley Half Marathon in Berkeley, CA

11/28/2013 – Brazen Racing Nitro Turkey 5k in Richmond, CA

12/28/2013 – Brazen Racing New Year’s Eve 10k in Castro Valley, CA

1/12/2014 – Hot Chocolate 15k in San Francisco, CA

3/23/2014 – Oakland Running Festival FULL Marathon in Oakland, CA

4/26/2014 – Sasquatch Scramble Half Marathon in Oakland, CA

5/10/2014 – Mermaid Series Sirena 18 miler in Fremont, CA

5/18/2014 – Bay to Breakers (12k) in San Francisco, CA

6/22/2014 – Marina Bay Half Marathon in Richmond, CA

6/28/2014 – San Jose Giants Race (5 miler) in San Jose, CA

7/27/2014 – Second Half of the San Francisco Marathon in San Francisco, CA

8/16/2014 – The Town’s Half Marathon in Oakland, CA

9/7/2014 – San Francisco Giant Race Half Marathon in San Francisco, CA

9/19-9/20/2014 – Ragnar Napa Valley Relay from San Francisco, CA to Calistoga, CA

I am going to most definitely dedicate an entire post to my Ragnar experience and I will try to do some short summaries of my experience with the others as time permits….but anyhow, you all can see from the list above that (in addition to my real life activities like work and family) I have had a busy racing schedule. There’s really no signs of slowing down too much either as I am in the final weeks of training for my second full-marathon and have two more fulls scheduled for next spring. I figure I may take a little time off racing once I run BIG SUR next April, but until then it’s pretty much go, go, go, which is just fine with me….the more I run, the more I can eat!

So, for now, I will simply say that I am hoping to be more active on this blog and hopefully it will keep me honest in my training and my nutrition or at the very least be some entertainment for the masses at large.

The Inaugural Tiburon Half Marathon

It’s been nearly a week since I ran half #3. This time it was the first running of the Tiburon Half Marathon and 5k. For those of you who are not familiar with the Bay Area, Tiburon is a fancy little town in Marin County with some spectacular views of the Bay, Mount Tamalpais and more than its fair share of million dollar homes dotting the various hillsides. thm5

Last spring I remember seeing the website for the event and contemplating registering for it, but at $120 the registration fee had me saying “what the hell????” I mean, come on! $120 for a half marathon that is not in a Disney Resort? Then a couple months later a Groupon came out for the event which made it about $60. I couldn’t pass it up so I registered.

The morning of the race I woke up around 5am, but thankfully it was the Sunday after we set the clocks back an hour for standard time (the ONLY good thing about the time change IMO). I followed my usual race morning routine and headed out the door around 5:45am. There are only two roads in/out of Tiburon and the race director had warned about traffic, so even with a race start time of 7:30am, I figured better to be safe than sorry.

When I arrived in Tiburon I found a street parking spot (i.e. FREE) about 3 blocks from the starting line. I met up with a couple ladies from a Facebook running group I belong to and we scoped out the start line. I can say 2 things about this part of the race: 1) There was no grand “start line” arch or signage or much of anything. We had to sort of guess where the start line was, and thankfully we guessed right. 2) There was a noticeable absence of volunteers at the starting area telling us where to go or what to do. This would not have been such a pain in the butt except for #1 above.

A meeting of the WRC

A meeting of the WRC

Anyhow, the race was capped at 750 participants in total so at least the start line wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded, but even with temps in the high 50s/low 60s that morning we warmed up waiting in the start chute because of the people all around.

I had mentally prepared myself for the layout of the course by reviewing the description sent out by the race director about a week in advance. The description said that the first 4 miles would be flat, the next 6 miles would be mostly “rolling hills” and the final 3.1 miles would once again be flat.

Finally the race started and off we went. I noticed such a huge difference between how I felt mentally and physically between this, my third half, and my second half about 6 weeks ago. I started out with an average pace around 9:00/mile for the first 2 or 3 miles and I felt great. I knew that “rolling hills” were coming and wanted to make up for time I was definitely going to lose once the hills started.

Once we made it to about mile 3.5 the hills started coming. And these were not the gentle rolling hills I was anticipating…no these were beast hills. Hills that made you want to lay down and take a nap. It felt like once you got to the crest of one hill, you were able to only coast down for a minute before you started climbing the next hill. I tried to avoid eye contact with each subsequent hill and focus on my feet, but I couldn’t help feeling somewhat defeated when I would reach the top of a hill nearly winded each and every time. It was HARD and my pace fell to somewhere between 9:30-10:00 during the 6 miles of hell. At least I know I can run those types of hills (lots of people started walking them after a while), but damn!thm4

Finally, we started to run past the familiar places like the water front and bikes trail from the first few miles and the grade was relatively flat. Around mile 10 or 11 I stopped at a water station and decided to walk a little bit. I knew from my Garmin that I was on target to make a PR and figured I could use a little rest so I’d be able to finish strong. That’s the thing. I ordinarily follow the mantra “start slow, finish strong,” but here I started a little faster than I should have because I did not realize how horrible the hills would be. If the hills had been the reasonable rolling hills I imagined based on the course description and map, I am sure I would not have been so wiped and in need of the respite walking provided. So I walked for about 2 or 3 minutes. Then I saw a photographer and I thought to myself “hell if I am going to let him take a picture of my ass walking” so I started running again and even managed to give the thumbs up ala Fonzie  as he snapped my shot.

I managed to cross the finish line in 2:07:06, a PR by 91 seconds for me (my previous PR was 2:08:37). The fact that I was able to pull off a PR on such a tough course really blows me away. At one point in the race I was sure I’d get a sub 2:05, but when I started to get tired and felt that slipping further and further away I figured I wasn’t going to kill myself and there would always be another chance for a sub 2:05. Better luck (and course) next time.

Overall I did enjoy the race, but hey! I’ve never met a race I didn’t like. I would say there are definitely some kinks Tiburon needs to work through.

For one, they had no mail race packet pick-up option. That wouldn’t be so horrible if they had a race day pick up option, but they didn’t. I think EVERY race should have a mail or race day packet pick up option. Not only is it more convenient, but it is greener too. I had to drive about 60 miles round trip to pick up my bib on Saturday morning and another 60 miles round trip for the race (there really was NO public transportation option for me coming from Oakland and I had to pay $10 in bridge tolls for the 2 days!).

Second, see my comments on the start line area above. It seemed like there were very few volunteers around directing traffic before or after the race.

Third, which may be out of Tiburon’s control, the after race spread was wack. The best thing there was Peet’s coffee and who wants to drink hot coffee after you’ve just run 13 miles in the sun and are on the verge of dehydration? There was a booth for this product called Jog Tog and it was just strange. Is it a belt? Is it a sweatshirt tied around your waist? It is a backwards apron? Just weird.

Jog Tog - ummm, okay. That's a winning product. NOT!

Jog Tog – ummm, okay. That’s a winning product. NOT!

The shirt and medal would pretty awesome though except for the fact that they were both for the half AND 5k. If I am running 10 miles more than someone else it would be nice for it to be somehow quite apparent based on the swag (especially considering that some people paid $120 to run the half!). thm3

I’ll probably run the race again next year just to see if I can fight through the hills and best my time on this race. Now that I know what to expect I am sure it would be a different experience.

And the BEST part about the day????thm6

My little sister gave birth to my beautiful niece Asha!

-Mimi

stark

Night time and Winter Running Necessities

It is getting dark earlier and earlier and the sun is rising later and later. I LOVE running in the dark, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I wish it would get light earlier or stay light later. Something about running in the dark feels a little scary. Perhaps it because I’m a woman or the areas I typically run in when it is dark have little to no side walk. In any event, since I am relatively new to running (only about a year now), I don’t have much in the way of winter or night time running gear.

I went out earlier this week (about 7:15pm) for a quick 4 mile run. It was pitch black. I do have a headlamp (LOVE IT!), but that’s about the extent of my dark running gear. I put on some running tights with reflective strips and a bright green long-sleeve running shirt. Even though it’s not reflective I figured it is bright enough that I would hopefully be seen. For the first mile I was running through “the Village”and was mostly on the sidewalk, guided by the light of street lamps. After that, the last 3 miles were on roads without sidewalks and with sparsely scattered (and sparsely functioning) streetlamps. I aimed my headlamp mainly at oncoming traffic (running on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic). This made me feel comfortable knowing that the oncoming cars would see me, but the problem was I could NOT see the road. Thankfully I did not trip, but at about 3.5 miles in I stepped on a huge pile of what I will assume was dog excrement and I spent the better half of the next 0.25 miles sort of slipping with the assistance of said crap on my shoe. No BUENO.

After that experience, as much as I loved running in the cool, calm, pitch black night, I am purposefully trying to avoid running when it is so dark until I invest in some real running gear that will keep me visible at night and allow me to use my headlamp for guidance to avoid dog crap 2.0. starkAnd, while I’m at it, since “winter is coming” I’ve got a few things I’d like for the rains that follow here in Northern California.

So, what’s on my list?

This

Amphipod Xinglet LED Vest - Yes please!

Amphipod Xinglet LED Vest – Yes please!

and these

Hatch DNR100 DayNight Reflective Gloves

Hatch DNR100 DayNight Reflective Gloves

and this

Brooks Nightlife Jacket III

Brooks Nightlife Jacket III

and this

Lululemon Pace Setter in "Pretty Pink" - probably not appropriate for running in the rain!

Lululemon Pace Setter in “Pretty Pink” – probably not appropriate for running in the rain!

Honey, if you’re reading this…maybe an early Christmas gift or two is in order? I mean, it’s for my safety. These are necessities, not superfluous things.

(Okay maybe one teensy, tiny, superfluous thing, but hey! I’m a lady for Pete’s sake!).

What other things should I put on my dark/night time/winter running list?

-Mimi

iloak

Sunday run – 11 miles of hills

I apologize in advance if this post is too Oakland/Bay Area specific. This post was inspired by the awesome run I had today on my mini tour of Oakland. oakland_poster-407x528

I had 10 miles planned for today. I just had no idea where I was going to run. Generally I drive down to the Berkeley Marina or to one of the many local trails to do my long runs (anything over 8 miles), but today I didn’t feel like hopping in the car. So instead, I laced up, headed out the front door and started running. It was still dark and I got to use my handy dandy headlamp. I am so in love with that thing. It was so cool to run through my neighborhood when everything was so quiet and still.

My first thought was to run my normal 5 mile route twice. The route takes me down Mountain Boulevard through Montclair Village, back down Moraga Avenue towards Lake Temescal, around the Lake and back home.

As I made my way through Montclair Village it was sort of eerie seeing all the parking spaces empty and store fronts dark. On my regular runs in this area the streets are bustling and I spend a lot of time dodging cars and pedestrians. But not today. Today the Village was all mine.

As I approached Lake Temescal (about half-way through my normal route) I realized the park was still closed as it was only about 6:30am when I got there (and they do not open the gates until after 7am) . Drat! So, what did I do? I decided “what the hell, let’s get crazy today.” I ran up Broadway Terrace, then down, down, down the other side. Broadway Terrace is a HUGE hill that goes on for maybe 2 miles. The vast majority of those 2 miles are downhill from the Lake so I enjoyed a little speed coming down to Broadway.

Once I got to Broadway I wasn’t even half done, so I turned on to Broadway and headed into downtown Oakland. When I ran past Kaiser Permanente (my hospital) I stopped to use the bathroom and there was not a single soul in sight. I kept going to Piedmont Avenue and turned back up towards MacArthur. I continued running along Piedmont Avenue (another street that is usually REALLY busy, but at this time on a Sunday morning was absolutely still) past all the little shops, fabulous restaurants (Bay Wold, Commis, etc…) and past my FAVORITE – Fenton’s Ice Cream and then made a right at Pleasant Valley.

When I got to Moraga I made a left and stared down a foe I thought I could never conquer a massive son-of-a-bitch hill. Now this is the part where I cannot understate how proud I am of myself: I ran the entire way up Moraga Avenue. Screw it! I conquered this SOB. This hill is 2.2 miles long. NO BREAKS FROM THE INCLINE AT ALL. Over the course of 2.2 hellish miles you gain 500 feet in altitude. I know that may not sound like much, but believe me….if you are running that and living it for 2.2 miles you would feel like a freaking beast when you are done too. When I made it to the top of that hill (did I say without walking at all????) I threw up my hands and did some celebratory fist pumps.

From there I coasted back into the Village and did a couple more laps. 11 miles later and I was back in front of my house. Definitely not my fastest 11 miles (it took 1:47 to complete it – a 9:44/mile pace), but with all that hill work, I’ll take it.

After that run I felt on top of the world. It was sort of a test to see how I would be able to handle the hills that I am thinking about running if I decide to enter a certain race next March and I think I passed. I feel so lucky to live in such an awesome city for running. Hills, nature, cosmopolitan attitude and just an all around great time.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

-Mimi