Training Week 13: Jan. 26 – Feb. 1

Oh, right, what I did last last week. Sorry, I know so many of you care about my training. What I’ve done this week is try to not be sick and not have a mental breakdown. What I did last week was try to get my training block started again. Last week, I came back from my first real rest week in a long time, which somehow led to a semi-sprained ankle, a night of throwing up, and strange bouts of vertigo. Oh, and now a cold. Lesson here: don’t rest.

(No, actually, this week has been nothing but rest. But, last week I tried to train.)

Monday

Rode 13 miles. With the messed-up ankle, I didn’t want to run my hard intervals, so I did hard cycling hill repeats instead. This made sense to me. I did 5 x Baldwin Hill, which was about 5 minutes long and was full of people lunging backwards uphill with ankle weights. Seriously, it was a mad circus. I was going to do the first one moderately easy and then build for five repeats from there, but it turns out it was too steep for any kind of easy. So the first one was slightly easier, then three more of varying levels of harder and one “easy-ish”. Then, I did the last one all-out-ish. I’m pretty sure, if I was on Strava, that I would have taken the QOM, so I’m totally counting that in my mind, since it’s all made up anyway.

Swam 1,100 yards easy. It turns out really hard hill repeats are, well, hard. I was pretty tired.

Tuesday

Rode 12 miles easy to school.

Light strength work in the evening. Some TRX, some core, some screw-it-it’s-too-crowded.

Wednesday

Rode 32 miles up the Malibu hills. I did not pick an amazing route. Some of it was nice, but some of it involved a busy road with a tunnel. On one of the completely not busy roads, though, where there almost no cars, I actually almost got totally taken out by someone driving fast and cutting into the turn, and into me. It was one of those times where you can see how close the car is as the front passes you and you brace yourself for the back to just take you down.

Swam 2,800 yards with The Kids in the evening. 500s and stuff.

Thursday

Ran 5 1/2 miles with 4 x 2 minutes at 5K pace, just to remember how to run fast again. And, to run for the first time in 10 days. Stupid ankle. This also made me surprisingly sore and tired. Ugh.

Friday

Off.

Saturday

Rode about 30 miles with The Kids in the morning, again the Malibu hills. Not my ideal pre-race prep, but whatever.

Sunday

The Race That Sucked.

TOTAL: 11:00

Race Report: Surf City Half-Marathon

Short version: Really, this is a race report of the weekend. Summary: it sucked. And that suckiness culminated in throwing up all along the Pacific Coast Highway as I eventually finished the second slowest 13 miles I have ever completed, ever, in my life.

Long version: I’m tired. Sometimes, it seems like I say this a lot. I am often tired. There is often a lot going on. But, I’ve been worn out lately from life and school and things happening. And, I haven’t felt well. I got really sick about a month ago and again about a week ago. And, since then, I just haven’t felt good with any real consistency. (This is foreshadowing, fyi.)

Mostly, though, I felt fine this weekend. I got up at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday to ride with The Kids. The two-hour ride took almost three, which is fine, but I had promised Steve and Justin I’d meet them so Steve could use my bike for a ride. That meant that I sort of had to rush because I was already late, and my ride was sort of harder and longer than I wanted for racing a half-marathon the next day. By the time I got back, I was sort of tired and hungry. But, it was fine.

Then, I hung out while they rode, which is when I had a nasty run-in with two middle-aged white guys in Malibu. You can read the whole string of the interaction on my twitters, because I had nowhere else to put it and nothing else to do about it. In summary, though, I just wanted to get some work done in Starbucks and then I was going to chill out, read a book. But, these two guys next to me were espousing on the Middle East, women, religion, Ireland, their own brilliance. For a long, long time. And, it was gross stuff. Eventually, it got really gross. There was some stuff about women dressing the way they do because they want the attention, and Bill Cosby just using a little pill to have sex with women because he was just insecure (it’s not his fault), and women want to be sexualized. It pretty much can be summed up with this quote:

Yes, typos. Sorry.
Yes, typos. Sorry.

And, they started blatantly looking the women in line up and down. And, there I was sitting in tights and a t-shirt, about which they clearly had opinions, and I felt gross. I felt like I was being made to feel gross and like I didn’t belong and like the public space wasn’t mine too. And, I didn’t intend to say anything to them. I sat there for an hour without saying anything, but it ebbed and flowed and it was harder and harder to do work. So, all of a sudden I was telling them to take their bullshit opinions outside, because they were making it impossible for other people, who also had a right to the space, to sit in peace.

Shockingly, that didn’t go well.

The older man started yelling at me about why did I think Viagra sales were so high. And, when I said, “Oh my god, can you just not inflict this on people here,” he got really hung up on what God was I referring to. He was pretty proud of this, because I didn’t really know how to respond to that crazy, so he was pretty sure this meant he was brilliant and right about everything. The slightly-younger man just kept yelling (yes, actually yelling), “FREE SPEECH! FREE SPEECH!” over and over, as if his actual rights were in actual danger of ever being infringed upon.

And, it was all so white rich male privilege, so convinced that they had the right to do whatever they wanted, so sure that they were speaking truth to power, when, from there on out, they were mostly just harassing me—and I, clearly, had so much power in this situation.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 1.24.20 PM

It was what it was. There’s a reason I, generally, don’t fight with stupid people, don’t pick arguments online, etc. You can’t win and even winning is losing. And, I don’t care that much about idiots. But, I just wanted them to feel as gross and bad as I felt, even for just a second. I wanted them to know they were assholes.

It didn’t work. They didn’t know anything at the end that they weren’t sure of at the start. I never got to say any of the things I wanted to say, to explain why they were wrong. They just felt vindicated and I still felt awful, worn out, and vaguely angry.

So, naturally, then, I had to drive two hours down to pick up my race packet for the half-marathon on Sunday. It was supposed to take an hour, but (#LA) it took two. That meant we got there 15 minutes after packet pick-up ended. This is not usually a big problem at races; the bibs were still sitting on the table and volunteers were starting to pack up. But, they just kept insisting I was too late. I got directed to an official, and then another official, and another tent. They said I’d just have to pick up my stuff in the morning, before the race.

“Wait, that was an option?? If that was an option, I wouldn’t have driven two hours down here today.”

“Well, it’s usually just for VIPs, or you have to pay $25.”

“I’d have paid $25 to not drive down here.”

“Sorry,” sad-face-not-sorry. “You’ll just have to do it tomorrow.”

And, I lost it. I mean that genuinely. I lost my damn mind. I flipped out. I think I started slamming my head against the table.

The only good thing about this was when you completely lose it, things get taken care of. The race director came running from across the expo tent—she did not want people to see a crazy girl going crazy at her race—and found my bib, which was just sitting on a table 10 feet away. And, everything was fine.

Everything was fine Sunday morning. I barely kept down my oatmeal and was swallowing back throwing up in the car, but that happens sometimes before races. I was weirdly stressed about how this was going to go, but that’s ok too. I had some Gatorade, warmed up, found a spot in the corral (even if it was pretty far back from the start), and everything was going to be fine.

And, it was for a little while.

I ran a 6:20 and some 6:30s. I dropped to a 6:50 going up a small hill, but pushed it to get back down to 6:40s. It was ok, but it was never good. By the time Steve joined me right before the 6-mile mark, I was fighting to hold on to the pace. Shortly after that, I ran another couple 6:50s, a 7:00. I don’t know why.

Here are some observations in retrospect:

– I was thirsty from the beginning, sucking down water at the first aid station.
– I forgot to stick a gel in my pocket. Somehow, I forgot this. And, with not managing to keep much down before the race, I was sort of hungry, but it’s only 1 and 1/2 hours. I wasn’t too worried. I’d improvise at the aid stations.
– With that, I was also getting slightly light-headed.
– Running up into the back of the marathoners is awful. It was all weaving and running into people, and it messes with your head.
– My hamstrings were not happy.

To me, in the race though, not in retrospect, it felt like I just couldn’t hold the pace. I was trying to. I was trying to go with people and I just couldn’t. What the hell is wrong with me? I’ve been feeling pretty fit lately, nailing workouts, and I had been so sure I was going to PR. I even thought I might be able to run a 1:26. I thought, for sure, I’d run sub-1:30. No problem. Maybe I forgot that running the fastest you’ve ever run isn’t a guarantee, no matter what. But, I was sure I’d dig deep and find something. And, then, here I was fighting to even hold on to sub-1:30 effort. And, I knew it. I knew it wasn’t there.

Then, around mile 9, I veered to the side of the road and threw up. I didn’t feel nauseous before that. I just felt like my body was rejecting the whole experience. I pretty much only threw up the water and sports drink I’d just swallowed at the previous aid station. It wasn’t anything crazy and Steve was with me, so we started running again after I swore a little bit. Obviously, I wasn’t excited about running again. But, sometimes, there’s value in still finishing and maybe I’d rally. We ran another mile about 7:30 pace and then I threw up again. So, then, we started walking.

Do I look like I'm about to throw up? Because this is pretty much right before that fun started.
Do I look like I’m about to throw up? Because this is pretty much right before that fun started.

I threw up once more during the walking, but there really wasn’t much to throw up. Eventually, Steve went to get the car and I decided to finish only because my stuff was at gear check at the finish line. I jogged/shuffled the last two miles, with a nasty high heart rate for 9:50 pace. And, I eventually finished the 13.1 miles in 1 hour and 58 minutes, I believe.

I was trying to think if I’d ever even run 13 miles that slowly, even in training or long runs or in a marathon. I think the second half of my Ironman marathon was slower. But that’s it. Even when I’ve blown up before and sucked, it was like a 1:30-something sucked.

And, no, I don’t know exactly what was wrong. I have some ideas, but I don’t know. Mostly, though, I just haven’t felt good. (I still don’t feel great.) I’m hoping that goes away before the marathon and that I don’t get in my head about having a really bad race. I’m hoping I’m not just a mental mess and that everything gets better. Because, man, it wears on you, everything.

Big Kahuna: Ready or Not, Here I Come

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These are the prizes you win at Big Kahuna. I have one of those bronze hula girls.

The first time I ever did this race in 2009 it was to be my first half-Ironman, but the swim got cancelled and it ended up being my first 56-mile bike + half-marathon race instead. It was still long and sucked. (My actual first full half-Ironman was the following summer at Barb’s Race, which I did with an injury and which prompted me to decide the half distance was not for me.)

I did Big Kahuna again in 2011 as my last race right before Steve broke his leg and before my surprise temporary hiatus from triathlon. It went better that time, but the half distance is still not my favorite thing.

This is the only picture of me still in existence from either of the times doing the race:

Looking serious
Looking serious

So why did I agree to do it again this year? Especially after Ironman and being a bum for the last six weeks and feeling terrible? Why do we do any of these things? It sounded like fun at the time. We want to see what we can do. Why not.

Of course, usually when I think something sounds like fun and I want to see what I can do, I’ve run farther than seven miles and ridden my bike more than a handful of times. But, that’s ok. Hopefully, muscle memory kicks in. If this was an Olympic distance, I’d feel confident that my muscles would remember what to do. But, it’s a half. And I don’t know that my muscles ever learned what to do in halves in the first place, so there’s not much to remember.

Tiburon Half-Marathon: Why Does a Race Go Badly?

I look sort of like I'm running fast. But I'm not.
I look sort of like I’m running fast. But I’m not.

How do you know a race is going to go badly? When do you know? What is the difference between the good days and the bad ones? Yesterday, I could barely choke down my oatmeal and wanted to throw up all morning, but that’s pretty much how I feel before nearly every race. I started to doze off driving down to Tiburon, but that’s happened before some of my best races. I felt slow-ish during my warm-up, but not out of the ordinary. And, yet, it was a miserable day, a total battle for 10.5 of the 13 miles. Why?

My original goal for the Tiburon Half was to aim for 1:26. When I realized on Friday that the course might be kind of hilly, I revised that to 1:28/29. If I had really known how hilly the course was I might have gone in with the expectation of a 1:30/1:31. That’s definitely one part of a shitty race: misguided expectations and no knowledge of what you’re getting into. I ran a 1:35:15.

I intended to run 6:30s on the flats, try to hold it as best as possible through the hills, make up speed on the downhills, and then hang on for the last three miles to the finish. Running 6:30s means running some 6:18s and some 6:41s and not worrying about it. So, my 6:16 first mile didn’t concern me, especially because it felt so good. The 6:31 second mile that felt terrible did concern me. The way the race sorted out meant Devon Yanko was about 15-20″ ahead of me (at first, then she was much much farther ahead) with some men and I was all by myself. I was running completely alone, into the wind on a bike path, and feeling bad for myself. That’s definitely another part of a tough day: a race that just feels like a hard, miserable tempo run on your own.

By mile three I knew it was not my day. I ran a 6:38 or something, but it was too hard, so hard. Too hard for mile three. My legs were heavy and slow. I was nauseous and throwing up in the back of my throat. It was a battle. I wanted to drop out. Mentally cashing it in was probably the biggest part of what made it a bad race. Maybe it was only not my day after I decided it was not my day. There are some options when a day is not your day: you can either throw in the towel or tough it out. I had no interest in toughing it out. My goals for this race were to run a fast half-marathon and get a good practice race in before CIM. My goal was not to tough it out through a shitty 13 miles.

The problem with dropping out, though, was that my high school kids were basically manning every aid station. What was I going to tell them? I just was having a shitty race and didn’t want to do it anymore? And, I was the second woman. There are times when you’re in the front and it’s ok to drop out to save your effort for another day. This was not one of those times and it would just make me sort of a douche. I decided I would just run until I threw up; that had to come soon. And, then, once I threw up, I’d have a reason to drop out.

I kept running, but not well. I knew Andrew was behind me and would catch me, so I told myself when he did I’d stay with him. He caught me around mile four. I stayed with him for a half-mile. And, then there were hills — hills I thought didn’t started until mile six and were small. I was wrong. They were long and stupid steep and constantly up or down for five or six miles. Even the parts that seemed flat were really up; they were just less up. On the ups, I would get very dropped. My legs were dead; they had no strength. On the downs, my feet were hurting so much I would lean back and brake, taking them not too fast. This was partially because of the Zoots I was wearing (I dunno why they hurt me on the downhills), but mostly it was just because my toe and my heel and my feet have been killing me. Injuries that ache and make you second-guess everything are a key part of a bad day.

I got passed a lot. Sometimes, I made an effort to stay with the person. Sometimes, I didn’t. Around mile eight, another girl passed me and we were along the water briefly and I felt ok (terrible, but ok), so I went with her. I was fighting for it, battling, but hanging on, and I looked down at my watch. We were running 7:03s. My goal marathon pace. And it was killing me. Eventually, she dropped me at that pace.

Yes, apparently. my foot falls in during my pull-through. No, no idea why.
Yes, apparently. my foot falls in like that during my pull-through. No, no idea why.

From mile three until just past mile 10 I wanted to quit. Constantly, every step, I wanted to drop out. No part of me was enjoying the running and it was hard, very hard, and slow and I didn’t know why. I never decided not to quit, I just never had a good opportunity to. I never threw up. At one point, I realized if I quit, I’d probably have to walk back, so. Every mile ticked by infinitely slowly, but I went on. The constant droning whine in my ears of “This is terrible, quit, this is terrible, just quit” was part of what made it rough.

Eventually, I finished. And, it was slow and I was the fifth woman. And, the last 2.5 miles on the bike path, I really felt like I was pushing hard, I was trying, I was running my fastest. I looked at my watch: 7:35s. WHAT THE HELL???

I was pretty disheartened afterwards. Yes, on the upside, I finished, though I don’t know how and I had to force it for 10.5 miles. Still, that’s something. On the downside, what just happened? I intend/hope to run a faster pace than a 1:35:15 half-marathon for my full marathon at CIM.

In retrospect, part of the slowness was the course. Devon, the first woman, who’s very fast, ran a 1:26, so my expectation of running a 1:26 was probably totally off-base. Partly, yes, I had a bad day, which maybe isn’t as mysterious as it seems given how beaten up and tired and overbooked I’ve been. But, the last part, that was definitely all in my head. My best run maybe would have been a 1:29/30. A bad day and I still probably could have pulled off a 1:32/33. The 1:35 was (in part) what happens when you dig yourself a little hole and have to climb back out before you can keep running.

I’m still wallowing in my hole a little.

Then, Tupac and I did this:

tupac sleeping

Inside Trail China Camp Half-Marathon: Race Report

Last night, I had a Bachelorette Party in the city, where we went to the most San Francisco hipster of San Francisco bars, unmarked door and no windows or lights (besides candles) and all. This is the picture from their website:

If you call one of your secret bars, that can only be gotten to behind a secret bookshelf/hidden door, The Library, well, then that's a little pretentious, no?
If you call one of your secret bars, that can only be gotten to behind a secret bookshelf/hidden door, The Library, well, then that’s a little pretentious, no?

Unfortunately, the drinks were quite good and I found $20 on the ground, so that’s almost (but not quite) two extra hand-crafted time-intensive cocktails. It’s not that I’ve never raced after going out the night before — I DID do collegiate triathlon after all and it taught us nothing if not that — and around 10 p.m. last night I stopped drinking things called The Candy Cane and Cucumber Gimlets and started drinking water. So, I really didn’t think this trail half-marathon would be any more of a challenge than it was already going to be. But, still, when I got up my head hurt and I definitely felt dehydrated.

Pounded some oatmeal and Gatorade (and a lot of water) and it seems like it worked out more or less.

My goal for the trail half-marathon was to practice running fast on trails for the Dipsea, namely to work on my descending. I had roughly in mind that I wanted to do it in 1:45 because that was the course record and also is an 8:00 pace, which seemed reasonable for 13 miles with 1,850 ft of elevation gain. I was more or less on pace for about 30 minutes, but then, well, it turns out 1,850 ft of elevation is a lot. Ended up running a 1:50.

This is the elevation chart:

Yeah.
Yeah.

For about 30′ I went out hard at the back of a group of guys and pounded down the flat-ish trail and then walked/jogged/huffed straight up this steep climb (which, coincidentally, I crashed my mountain bike on once) and then tried to keep up on the downhills. But, running downhill really fast is hard. Incredibly hard. I find it’s easy to run comfortably or relatively fast downhill, because gravity is doing the work and you can kind of tune out and get in a lull of ‘hey, this is a quick pace’ – especially if you’re behind someone going that pace. But, to really push it downhill you have to constantly keep pushing the effort, keep consciously telling yourself to go faster, so it hurts aerobically and it hurts your legs with the pounding. And, when you’re pushing it that hard and just flying downhill, you’re also constantly on the verge of falling. It’s hard.

So, I got passed by a couple of guys and a girl at this point and, suddenly, I was all alone. And, then I threw a one-person pity party.

From mile 4.5 to the halfway point, where you loop back by the finish and go through an aid station, I ran slowly and thought about how out of shape I am and how unbelievably harder and more painful it is to run fast on trails. And, how I couldn’t keep up this pace, so I was just going to blow up on the second half even worse than I already was. I was thirsty (even though I’d drunk my 10oz water bottle) and hot and light-headed. The girl who passed me was long gone and I saw no one ahead of me, but on some switchbacks I could see people a bit behind me. Well, I figured, they’ll definitely catch me, because I suck and am slow. I decided when I got to the halfway point and aid station, I’d just drop out. I haven’t even been running that far lately anyway.

But, when I got to the halfway point, I had a gel and they refilled my water bottle (quickly, too!) and I started to feel better. I did the next few miles on the flat-ish rolling trail at a faster speed — not as fast as I’d gone out originally, but getting there. When we hit the long climb, I just kept chugging along and I could see the girl behind me but she hadn’t gained any time. Then, I caught a guy in front of me who was walking. For the first time, it occurred to me: MAYBE IT SUCKS FOR EVERYONE.

So, I kept going, hoping she wouldn’t catch me — but still figuring she would because I am slow and terrible. I imagined the girl ahead of me was probably long done and eating food. I pushed — meaning I probably ran like a 7:15 mile — the downhill (which was back down the nasty steep thing we’d gone up) and the last 1.5 miles to the finish. I crossed the line in second and felt pretty wrecked.

It was only after they posted results that I found out I was actually closer to the first place girl than third place had been to me. I was only 50″ or so out of first and just over a minute ahead of the girl behind me. But, I never knew. I just assumed I was doing terrible and slow and awful at the same time everyone else was also thinking the same things. If I hadn’t slowed down and had a whole fit about how much I suck, but had just kept running, I probably could have won (or at least been more neck-and-neck).

And, that is why you don’t throw pity parties until after the race.

What to Race This Weekend? Marin Memorial 10K v. Inside Trail’s Half-Marathon

Monday is the Marin Memorial Day 10K. I have raced this local 10K every year we’ve lived here (except last year when we were in Breckenridge) and if you really feel the need to get your ass kicked it’s the race to go to. I have nearly every year run a 40:xx and nearly every year I have been about 48th woman. The women’s course record is 33:26. So. Yeah.

This year I couldn’t decide if I should race it. On the reasons not to:

  • I’m not in shape.
  • I ran a 21:13 5K, so that doesn’t bode well.
  • It won’t be fun to go out there and be the 100th woman and get it handed to me by not just the usual Olympic hopefuls but also everyone else I normally can run with.
  • It won’t be fun to run slower than ever. For no new purpose or goal or experience.
  • There is absolutely nothing appealing about this.

But, still, I almost signed up, because it’s my local race, I’ve always done it, it’s usually a good time, and I’m currently ‘racing myself into shape.’ And, I needed to do something this weekend to keep myself motivated — but I didn’t want to have to drive anywhere.

So, instead, I have signed up for Inside Trail Racing’s Half-Marathon in China Camp tomorrow morning. I got the last open spot in the half-marathon. It has like 1,000 feet of elevation gain and loss twice, so it’ll be good practice for the Dipsea. My goals are 1. run fast and 2. try not to get as dehydrated as I felt running on Monday with Courtenay.

Race Report: Kaiser San Francisco Half-Marathon

Short summary: I ran a 1:27:52. This is, by far, my fastest half-marathon and well within my goals for the race. I am understandably very happy with the time. But, since sub-1:27 was so real at one point I could feel it in my bones, the result also comes with that vague sense of dissatisfaction and ungratefulness inherent in blowing up during the last miles of a race.

(Since a lot of people seem to be coming here looking for the Kaiser Half Marathon results, here they are.)

Long summary: I didn’t run with my Garmin GPS. Don’t you remember running races where dozens of watches didn’t start beeping near every mile marker? I decided since I had no specific pace to go off — and, really, sticking to some exact number isn’t my personality anyway — I would just go by feel and other people. Nothing too fast, nothing too slow, see how I felt, push it hard.

I have no photos of the race, since Steve was at team camp (a difficult concept to explain to people) and I haven’t seen any pictures other people have taken yet, so here is a photo of Floyd helping me get ready the night before:

Floyd loves to help pack.
Floyd loves to help pack.

I warmed up with Ilyce, but then lost her when I went for a second last-minute bathroom stop before the start. I also lost my ability to get close to the actual start. I ended up pretty far back from the line and it was surprisingly crowded even once we started “running” – in some ways more so than the races with 10 times as many people, perhaps because the road and organization is so much smaller. I was trying to get around people running 8:00 and 9:00 miles, which is fine but not my pace, and they were getting so mad at me that I just ditched the road, jumped over the curb, and ran through the grass for half a mile or so.

The first couple miles I ran in the 6:20s and thought ‘shit, I promised myself nothing faster than 6:30; I promised myself no blowing up.’ But, the first couple miles are downhill and then you turn and come back up and I was running low-6:40s. So, instead of stressing about the exact times as we ran up and down and around, I just ran.

For six or seven miles I sort of zoned out. When you’re wearing just a regular watch, you do this weird running math over and over that creates a lull in your mind. At least for me. Each mile marker I would look at my watch, figure that at the next mile marker a 6:40 mile would bring me to 19:24 or whatever and then I’d repeat 19:24, 19:24, 19:24 over and over in my head so I wouldn’t forget. Not that I actually ran any 6:40 miles. I ran 6:17s and 6:45s and 6:33s, but it was a marker and a mantra. I don’t really look around at other people or scenery, either. I think I mostly stared at the ground and repeated 19:24 or 25:33 or 32:57 or whatever and willed myself to go harder. Here and there, I’d surge (something I NEVER do) to force myself to pick it up and pass such-and-such person or stick to such-and-such group. And, the thing that was interesting was every time I pushed it to catch up to someone I’d then find myself passing them.

I’m making it sound easy and it wasn’t. It hurt and sometimes I’d think my limbs were going to fall off but that would pass and sometimes I’d think I was running faster and going slower but that too would pass. I was really thirsty by the time we hit the first aid station two miles in, which was concerning, and the sips of water were making my stomach all gurgling. But, what are you going to do? Stop?

Right before mile 7, I caught up with a guy who had passed me earlier and he turned around and said, “Well, aren’t you tenacious.” Um, yeah.

At mile 7, you hit the Great Highway and run in a straight line for just under three miles and then turn-around. It is terrible. Everyone knows it is terrible. I have run this race twice. Once, in 2006, which was actually the first time I ever ran 13 miles at all. And, once in 2010, when I sort of fell apart on this section. (I actually have only run one other open half-marathon besides those two, which was really 11.8 miles because people are dumb.) So, I knew it was coming and I was so worried.

There weren’t really any women around me by that point and we had more or less sorted ourselves out, so I ran with my odd group of guys. There were a couple tri-dorks with visors and compression socks and lots of watches and heartrate monitors. There was a guy, who I swear to god looked like a Kenyan except that he was running my speed. There was a like 50-year-old Asian man and a few bros in t-shirts. I deliberately stared at the ground, so I wouldn’t stare at how far we had to go, and just focused on trying to run “faster” and we somehow kept up the same pace.

I felt great at this point. Which means I felt awful and in a lot of pain, but I knew I was running great. We hit mile 10 in 1:05:30. That’s amazing! Breaking 1:27 is totally possible! How awesome would it be to run a 1:26:xx – that is a serious time. I thought all I have to do is run like a 21:00 5K. I can definitely do that, just keep running like I’m running. In actuality, all I had to do was run 6:50s for those last 3.1 miles, slower than I’d run any of my miles to that point. But I couldn’t do it.

Because I didn’t want to regret anything and I didn’t want to just miss sub-1:27, I picked it up. I pushed it. Our group broke up. I thought: I can do this, I can do this, less than three to go. Then, we hit the 12 mile marker and I had run a 6:55 (or something, math got a little fuzzy). Then, it got slower. And, slower.

And, I wouldn’t have known I was running slower except in that last mile suddenly lots of people were passing me. I still thought I was running fast. It just turned out “fast” was like a 7:30 mile. Some of the guys from our group caught back up to me and I pumped my arms as hard as I could and tucked in on their heels. Four girls passed me in the last half mile and I tried to surge with every one of them. But, my legs just wouldn’t go anymore. I knew I was still doing good, but then I finally could see the clock and oh my god 1:28 was creeping up. No, no, no. I went as hard as I could and could feel the dry-heaving starting before I’d even hit the finish, but I got in under 1:28.

Then I walked back to my car. This is the sign that was right in front of where I parked. I like it. They’re not saying you shouldn’t swim or wade. They’re just letting you know people have drowned.

Ocean Beach in San Francisco.
Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

First Race of the Year: Kaiser Half-Marathon

Tomorrow, I’m running the Kaiser Half Marathon. The last time I ran it, I think in 2010, I had a small complete meltdown in the second half. From mile 7-13 you run three miles straight out along the Great Highway — staring at the mile markers off in the distance with the wind and sand blowing from the ocean — and then turn around and run three miles straight back. It’s terrible.

I was going to post the worst photo of me from that race, but I have like six chins in that picture and am biting my lip, because I’m so focused on running without picking up my feet (a new technique), so here is just one of the not super flattering pictures:

Me shuffling my way to a 1:34. Ugh.
Me shuffling my way to a 1:34. Ugh.

Tomorrow, is going to go better. I am ignoring my hurt ankle/arch/calf/foot/whatever. Running doesn’t seem to make the injury worse, so I have decided I will be fine. And after that works, I’m going to decide to be super rich and famous too.

Barring the whole injury thing, what I’m not totally sure about is how fast to run. (As fast as I can, haha, you’re brilliant, you.) I tend to lean towards the go as hard as you can until you blow up thing. But, that doesn’t really work for races longer than, I dunno, a 5K. For a half-marathon you sort of have to pick a speed to start at. And, I don’t know what that should be.

In the past, I would have aimed to break 1:30 (like 6:52 pace). But, I’ve been running faster than I ever have in training. AND, if I almost never ran fast in training, then isn’t 10 x not that much like a LOT? So, I’d like to think I can break 1:30 by a couple minutes. But, I could be wrong or I could be vastly underestimating myself.

There are two reason I don’t usually like to start out at a conservative pace and then pick it up if I feel good. Because: 1. I have maybe twice in the history of all my races “felt good.” It’s hard in the mix of things to recognize that yes, you hurt, but you could hurt more. 2. It’s a perfectly fine strategy for a race where you have a specific goal or target, because you don’t want to blow up. But, if you just want to see how fast you can go, then how will you know that was your fastest if you hold anything back? What if you could have gone harder?

I’m not saying this like ever works out for me the way I hope it will. But, still, if I have to pick, I’d rather start out too fast than too slow. So, tomorrow, I will try not to blow myself up, but I might. And, I will try to run as fast as I can.