Race Report: Couples Relay

The Couples Relay is a fun, small relay (duh) where one woman runs two miles and then hands off to her male partner, who runs two miles. I’ve been in charge of it for the last three years and this year Steve and I finally actually ran it. I’m pretty sure he was only convinced to run it after talking shit about trying to beat Pete and Ilyce, but then Ilyce got the flu and we still ended up running it.

It rained a lot this weekend and, since we’re in the middle of a drought, no one was totally prepared for it. If you don’t live in Northern California, then let me give you an idea of what it was like from Thursday to yesterday night. It was like this:

You’re going to get soaking wet. Why not run a race?

I was really stressed about this for some reason. Even though the race is about 100-150 people usually and was even fewer this year because of the rain, I was still totally anxious. Two miles just sounded infinitely worse than both one mile (which would be done by the time it started to hurt) and a 5K (which would be slower and not as painful). The women went first, so I started with a few high school girls and a bunch of fast women.

For a mile, it was no problem. I tucked in right behind the four high school kids and it didn’t feel easy but it didn’t feel hard either. Every time I started to fall back or it started to suck they’d slow down or I’d bridge back up or it’d pass. We ran straight through puddles and my Garmin said we hit the first mile in 5:58, so I was pretty much ready to call it then. There was no way I was going to do better than that.

Then, on the second lap — each lap was one mile-ish, another woman caught up to me and passed me and I all of a sudden remembered there were other people in the race behind me too. She went by me and passed a couple of the high school girls, who were slowing down. I followed, but slipped farther behind her. And, then, for two or three minutes, it sucked. A lot. The woman who went by me and the front high school girl were battling it out and pulling away. I was dying. It hurt so bad. Actually, I have no recollection of the pain; it’s interesting how those things are wiped from our memory. I remember that it did hurt, but not the hurt itself. I was in the middle of the longest two mile in history. And, then a (fast) 50-year-old woman caught me.

I told myself Steve was going to give me hella shit if I got beat by this many people before I handed off to him, so I forced myself to go with her. We were almost done by then, trying to pump my arms and plow through the increasingly heavier rain. The GPS said we hit the second mile in 6:07. And, then there were still seven more seconds before I reached the hand-off. WTF, race director, get it together.

Steve held our position and we finished in fourth, behind two high school teams and one adult team. And, then, everyone got awards, because we always have awesome prizes for the Couples Relay and then we spent another two hours picking everything up after the race. And, this is what our house looks like because all the wet clothes and shoes are drying everywhere and the rains have taken over:


But, still, totally worth it to run two almost six minute miles. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to do that. And, since I am the race director for the Couples Relay, I give the entire race an A+ for effort.

Turkey Day 5K — The One in Which Steve Runs

Because I skipped the PA cross-country race last weekend, I wanted to do a 5K or something this week to get the legs moving before CIM. It’s my theory that if you run a fast race a week or so before a marathon, then marathon pace feels much easier.

Fortunately, Thanksgiving is the most popular day in the country for races. So, I picked a turkey trot near my parents’ house in Lincoln Park in Chicago. The only downside was that it was cold even for Chicago, like 18 degrees by the lake. When I took my gloves off to pin my race number on, I had to do it quickly before my hands froze, but it got harder the longer it took because I couldn’t feel my fingers. It was like trying to dismantle a bomb.

Somehow, I managed to convince Steve to run the 5K too, even though he hasn’t run in seven years. I figured it was my last chance to beat him ever if he starts running again soon. And, I didn’t want to be out in the cold on my own.

So cold after the race. Still, so cold.
So cold after the race. Still, so cold.

We warmed up for about 15′ and took off the top layer of sweatshirts, but that was pretty much the extent of getting ready.

Steve dropped me in the first mile, but I figured my only chance was that he would blow up. Also, I was running the fastest I really should/could right now. I hit the first mile around 6:10, but it felt great and easy. The second mile was a 6:25 or so, but it still felt pretty good until the very end when we turned and the wind made my eyes start to water. The last mile I felt shitty, but I suppose that’s to be expected. If you didn’t feel shitty in a 5K, then you probably aren’t trying hard enough. I was fighting to not slow down too much, but I’m pretty sure I still slowed down. Instead of passing people, people started to pass me and I started to wonder where the end was going to be. Where? Where?

I ended up crossing the line in 19:44, about 50″ behind Steve and about 20-25″ slower than I had hoped to do. It was never going to be my fastest 5K, but I thought it’d be a little faster. Still, it was about as good as I could have hoped for and it got the job done — ready for CIM next weekend.

Then, about 10′ later I probably could have done the exact same thing again, but I couldn’t have gone any faster. Steve, though, was sure he could have run faster, but was also crippled from running at all and has pretty much struggled to walk down stairs since Thursday. I guess that’s what being in marathon shape is. I hope.

A Conversation About Gender Roles and Cycling

Lately, Steve and I have been riding with him on the mountain bike and me on my road bike. This evens out the playing field some, since riding a mountain bike on the road is slower, which is probably good for the health of our relationship. But it also makes us look pretty recreational, since he’s sort of dicking around on the mountain bike instead of all being decked out in his fancy gear like usual.

This past weekend, we were riding and a guy with a backpack and a bell sprinted to pass us, after we passed him at a light, and then slowed down right ahead of us. Steve and I basically had this conversation then:

Steve: That was weird.
Me: That doesn’t happen to you? Happens to me all the time.
Steve: No. I usually get respect.
Me: Yeah, well, middle-aged weekend warriors always feel the need to sprint past me. The problem is it’s just enough work to beat them that it’s sort of hard. On the other hand, though, cars don’t harass me as much since I look little and female.
Steve: It’s a trade-off.

Friday Fun Facts

A random assortment of things that didn’t merit a whole post:

1. This week is a rest/recovery week. I do not do things in rest/recovery weeks. So, this morning, I fully intended to NOT bike commute to my ART appointment. But, after rolling down to the freeway bus stop, I missed the bus by 10″ and then had to bike the 7 miles in jeans, flip-flops and a fleece jacket. I’m pretty sure this was less restful than if I had just biked in bike clothes from the beginning.

2. Part of the reason this is a rest/recovery week is because I’m racing the Tiburon Half Marathon on Sunday. Lots of my high school kids are volunteering and they keep asking me if I’m going to win. No. No, I’m not. I would like to do the race in 1:26 (I mean hell, I’d like to do it in 1:20), but I’m not even 100% sure I’m in sub-1:30 shape. We’ll see.

3. Part of the reason I had an ART appointment is because I am MESSED UP. My body sort of gave out on me over the whole shitty two weeks and it’s just starting to come back around. I also had a deep tissue massage last week for this reason. I’m generally pretty stoic about pain that I know is coming/controlled — ie. evidently, if I know it’s only temporary, like ART, and isn’t a signal that I’m causing permanent damage, then I’m pretty ok with things hurting; the problem is that in races I’m doing it to myself and I start worrying about the pain being a sign I’m going to lose part of my small intestine or whatever. That being said, these two appointments have been far, far more painful than usual. Because I am so messed up.

4. Ideally, part of the reason I’m so messed up and needed the rest/recovery is because I’ve been training. Since October ended yesterday I looked at all my training for the month — I’ve been doing a shit job looking at it on a regular basis — and it turns out that I actually have been training just about right.

I did 42:55 in October (counting the actual training, NOT all the other time — a 4 hour ride is a 4 hour ride, not a 4:45 ride because you had to stop and refill water bottles three times and chat with friends), which is pretty much a standard base amount of training for me when I am training. And, more impressively, since this happened without me really paying a ton of attention, I upped my run volume by about 50% to 144 miles — pretty much the most I ever run and the most I’ve run since February — while at the same time dropping my swim volume to 25% of what it was last month. I basically couldn’t have planned to do that more right if I actually stuck to my training plan.

5. I also got word this morning that I got into Escape from Alcatraz for June. This is all part of my master plan: race Escape on June 1, the Dipsea on June 8, and then IM CDA on June 29. Things are starting to come together. And, even though I already said this on the Twitter, this was our conversation this morning:

Me: Hey, I got into Escape from Alcatraz!
Steve: See, and you think you get rejected from everything.
Me: It’s a lottery. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count.

Training Week: Aug. 26-Sept. 1

This was the first week I actually mostly almost completely followed the schedule I wrote out at the beginning of the week. Mostly. I don’t have a coach right now, primarily because Coach Mario is way busy, having a book published and flying all over the country giving talks and stuff, which is super awesome for him, but lame for me. I haven’t really decided if I want to go through the trouble of getting to know a new coach yet. But, mostly, I’m also having to wing my training some — will my foot hurt, will work have to get done, will I need to go to high school cross-country practice — and it’s easier to keep track of your own constantly changing obligations than trying to get someone else to keep track of them.

But, all that means that I also have been doing my classic bullshit: over-scheduling my training, getting exhausted, bailing on a bunch of stuff, feeling terrible about myself, deciding I’ll feel less terrible if I train a whole bunch, over-train. It’s a cycle. That’s why actually following my schedule this week (more or less) was a big deal.


Driving, flying, driving, flying.


Ran 5 miles easy with the high school kids.

Swam 800y easy. It was, you know, easing back into things.


Ran 4 miles easy with the high school kids. 10-15′ of core which included trying to do a plank for as long as possible. I lasted 3:30 or so. One of the kids did like 6′.

Biked the 14 miles back from where I was working to the high school, then home. Easy-ish.


Masters in the morning: 2,800y, which included a whole bunch of 25s stroke, IMs, and then repeats of 50-100-50 with decreasing breathing during the 100y. I never quite understand why not breathing is a thing in swimming.

Ran a bit over 6 miles with the high school kids with 9 x hill repeats at varying levels of effort and speed.


TRX in the morning

3:10 ride in the afternoon. I did my most favorite Marin ride. It’s actually not the best ride or anything; there’s other cool, long rides. But, it’s the three-hour ride that always makes me feel good about three-hour rides. The last bit sucked, though, with all the cars, all the angry angry cars.


Hot, shitty 7 miles on the side of the hot, shitty road at Steve’s bike race. That included two miles at 6:54, 6:59. And then pouring ice on myself and eating an off-brand It’s-It; I think it was called a This Is It.


Swam 3,000y on my own. Made up a workout again of about 1,000y warm-up and drills. Then, 3 x [200 at tempo pace (on the 3:00 for me), 100 easy IM, 50 hard]. 300 pull. 5 x 100 at like steady threshold with little rest. Usually I do those at 1:23-1:25 on the 1:30, but sometimes when I’m in shape I can do them at 1:20 on the 1:25, but then the math gets really confusing and complicated, so it’s just easier to be slower. Cool down.

Rode 25 miles on the TT bike with Steve. I think. I didn’t have a computer on my bike or a watch, so when I did a few 1′ and 2′ hard efforts I just went off Steve telling me when to stop. He said he held about 240W on my wheel during the efforts, so that’s a plus. I think things are moving in the right-ish direction.

What Bike Racing Is Like…

Mostly, bike racing is really pretty much like this article. But, for the spectators and at the not exactly US Pro Challenge level, it also is a lot of standing on the side of roads in the middle of nowhere. Specifically, here:

Sort of by Challenge, CA?
Sort of by Challenge, CA?

Steve went around in a big circle for 4.5 hours and he went in those circles faster than everyone but two people. This meant that I sat in the “feed zone” for 4.5 hours and handed him water bottles. By “feed zone,” the race organizers meant a patch of dirt on the side of a road where they can put a few crates of water bottles that were discarded at the last weekend’s race and then refilled. This is called “Neutral Water.” It was handed out to cyclists by a weathered 50-year-old man and a soon-to-be-weathered 15-year-old girl, both of whom chain-smoked the entire time.

The Feed Zone.

I handed Steve his bottles. And, then I went for a run down the side of the road in between two of the laps — since it was taking them over an hour to do each 33-mile loops, what with the heat and the hills. I, however, didn’t quite think about the heat and the hills until I started running. At first, 20′ out easy was fine, then what was supposed to be 17′ tempo back turned into only 14′ + walk/shuffle. Which is basically almost the same thing.

The plan was to do marathon pace (7:00-7:10) on the way back. The first mile in 6:54 felt hard/ok. Then, I hit the kind of long rolling hills on an exposed hot road that don’t seem like a thing in a car, but are crippling when running. So, I made one of those deals that you make when a workout is going from good painful to if I pass out I hope someone will find me painful. I promised myself if I hit the second mile under 7:00, then I could stop. I hit 6:59 and started walking.

After I grabbed some water, I jogged the other direction for 10′ just to cooldown. But, then I turned around and realized I had just run downhill for 10′ in the sun.

The run back turned into a jog turned into a shuffle turned into a walk. The street sign I was aiming for up ahead kept moving farther away and, well, also it kept sort of moving. Sweat was dripping off my hair. The only reason I kept heading forward was because I was very worried I might not make it back to the feed zone before Steve did. I just barely made it and then poured some ice down my sports bra. By then, all the other wives and girlfriends and dads had left and it was just me and the chain smokers waiting.

They were 100% convinced I was insane. Though it’s also possible they didn’t even realize I had been sitting right next to them the whole time, because at one point the girl said, “Oh my god, that’s crazy, is there a running race going on too.”

Visiting Kauai: Hiking, Biking, and Vacation-ing

OK, we’re back. Our flight landed at 6:30 a.m. this morning next to what’s left of the crashed plane that’s still on the SFO runway. Yes, it turns out a red-eye flight going from West to East does mean I slept for three hours in a plane seat — I didn’t quite do that math well before we took off.

The Super Big Vacation Week of Weddings started last Friday with a six-hour drive to Tahoe that was mostly us sitting in a non-moving car outside Vacaville for a few hours. Then, I got crazy sunburned, which led to dehydration right before Wedding #1 — a dangerous condition going into festivities. We got home from Tahoe at 4:30 p.m. Sunday and left at 11 a.m. Monday morning for Hawaii for Wedding #2.

I really just wanted to swim, finish my 1,000-page book, and see a waterfall. Kauai, though, is too active for that. Well, except the waterfall.

We hiked for five hours to a crazy hidden waterfall, which is pretty much five hours more than I’ve ever hiked, since the only thing I can tell that separates hiking from walking is how much supplies you bring with you. It was pretty. It was also evident that I am not so good at “hiking” when people barefoot and wearing only bikinis passed us. (I wore actual shorts and tanktop over my swimsuit on the trail.)

Yes, we swam in the waterfall pool.
Yes, we swam in the waterfall pool.
Rainbows, and rainforest, and stuff.
Rainbows, and rainforest, and stuff.

It was also hot and muddy. You’d think that if something was hot and sunny, it wouldn’t also be wet and muddy. Hah. You’ve never been to Kauai. The night before our hike we were at Pre-Wedding Dinner #3 or something and every adult there was planning on hiking this trail or had hiked it or regularly hiked it the multiple times a year they summered on the island. This led me to think it couldn’t be that challenging, since there were some, um, elderly individuals in the crowd. Clearly, it would be easy. Hah. You’ve never been to Kauai.

Almost back to the beach we started at.
Almost back to the beach we started at.

For some reason, this made me decide I needed a bigger adventure. Perhaps it was the rush I felt having succeeded at walking — I mean hiking. On 4th of July I got it into my head to rent a mountain bike and bike across the Powerline Trail, which runs from the middle of the island-ish (you can’t really get to the actual middle without a machete and/or a Jeep Wrangler or donkey) back to where we were staying. Rachel had suggested running it, but I’m trying to rest my foot since it’s been hurting again ANNOYINGLY.

A Google search will tell you that people are mixed on whether it is a super awesome hike/bike trail OR it is completely impassable and terrible. These are very different opinions, but again I figured it had to be somewhat do-able, probably the people who couldn’t do it just weren’t in shape enough.

Hah. You’ve never been to Kauai.

It was impassable.

This was quite a bit cleaner, after I'd gone through a stream a few tiems.
This was quite a bit cleaner, after I’d gone through a stream a few times.

A guy at the start of the trail told me he’d just come from the other way and I shouldn’t do it. I didn’t believe him. I started out. It was a few inches deep in slippery mud the whole way — the kind where you can’t get traction. The mud built up on the wheels, so the wheels were covered in a couple inches, and it built up in giant clumps where the wheels spun through the frame, making them stop spinning, so that you were just kind of dragging the bike along. Most of the trail was also rutted with giant holes and puddles. The ride went like this: slip, slide, bike really hard to make it about 50m, skid out, stop and pull giant clumps of mud out of the derailleur and cranks and wheel until it’ll spin again, push the bike out of whatever puddle/mudpit I had gotten mired in, pull the mud that has now built up during pushing it, get out, ride about 50m sliding all over the place.

About six or seven minutes in, I was trying to ride through a narrow patch of slippery mud, but it had eroded and the only patch of actual trail was giving way into this big puddle. I couldn’t maintain traction and slid down the slope, falling into this thick, deep puddle of mud and water that smelled like wild boar shit. I tried to put my foot down to push myself up, but it just sunk. There was no bottom to the boar shit puddle.

And, for some reason, I went on. I thought, well, that guy made it the whole way. After 30′, I stopped to check how far I’d gotten on my phone’s GPS. I figured if I had made it a couple miles, then I’d be able to do the whole 13-mile trail; it would just take awhile. I had made it just less than a mile in half-an-hour.

I turned around and took another half-an-hour to get back to the start.

By Friday, I had 65 mosquito bites and one crazy bite that spread in a giant rash across my side. I stopped sleeping because of the bites. I also spent over three hours trying to drive across the island in the heat. This was not very pleasant when everything itches and my spastic fit in my car as I sat in traffic might have freaked out some people. There was some discussion about whether or not there are ticks with Lyme disease in Kauai, since it looked sort of like a tick bite. It is still unclear. But, since I haven’t had exhaustion, joint aches, or a fever (more than would be expected given the situation), I don’t think I have Lyme disease?

After all that, it was time for the vacation part of vacation. We went to the wedding. We went to the beach. We walked to these kind of crazy tidal pools near our condo.

That's Steve way over there.
That’s Steve way over there.

We did another “hike,” since I’m basically a professional now. On that hike, we visited a swamp and a canyon.

It turns out it's hard to define a swamp. But, you know it when you see it.
It turns out it’s hard to define a swamp. But, you know it when you see it.
My anti-mosquito outfit.
My anti-mosquito outfit.
Ooh. Aah.
Ooh. Aah.

We went to some more beaches. I’m on page 720 in my book. I did no working out — but also not as much eating as I had intended, so I don’t know if that counts as going full-on in my break. Now, it’s back to work tomorrow (I mean, really, sort of today). And, then, back to being a serious athlete. Maybe.

OH, and I almost forget — so there’s no good transition, I can see why transitions are hard for Whoopi on The View — my favorite thing I learned from Hawaii. If you don’t know how to swim, don’t use the rescue device, just don’t go in the water:

Pearls of wisdom at Polihale.
Pearls of wisdom at Polihale.