When official race pictures come out, sometimes I spend a little time spying on the woman who won, or the front few elites.  It's fun to see photographs of that woman killing it, and then I can say "oh, I was running right there too! 8 minutes afterwards...."

Since I was the 7th woman at this last race and I think most if not all of the 6 woman ahead of me were Bay Area local, I thought I'd take a look-see.  And I wanted to confirm whether those intimidating women I had seen at the race start were indeed the ones who won.  Because you see, I don't think I mentioned this in the race recap, but I never saw a single woman after mile 6.5, at which point I passed the two women who had been in my eyesight since the first mile.

Well what I found was just crazy.  Blew my mind a little.  The top four women were all posing together in photos afterwards....and all had the same name emblazoned across their chests or fact...they all belonged to the same San Francisco running club.  The Impalas.

A power hug of people I admire but do not know

Ahem.  How do I become an Impala.

I am so enticed by the idea of joining a club like this, and having an inspiring coach whip me into shape so I can drop minutes from my race times.

Unfortunately, they practice in San Francisco at Keyser stadium (at least this is what I think I found when I researched this club a few months ago), which is terribly impossibly inconvenient for me -- I would have to walk 2 miles to BART, ride BART for 20+ minutes, then grab a bus or walk a few miles to the stadium.  I don't know where to find that extra 2-hour roundtrip time.  So a non-option really.

I know of some local running clubs and coaches, thanks to people like Merilee, but there's still an inconvenience factor since I am so accustomed to running out my front door instead of driving to a track in Berkeley to get my run on.

But, I'm putting my feelers out there.  Considering the idea of maybe, one day, training for a marathon with a team or under a coach.  It might be oh-so-wrong for me, and make me resent running, with flashbacks to high-school where my stomach would flip with anxiety all day long when I knew I had a hard track workout after school.

As if there weren't enough pictures of me running already floating around, here are some more, and they have a big ugly stamp across them so you know I am cheap but have screen shot skills.  This happened last year at Oakland; they took a quatrillion of pictures of me.  Ready, set, scroll scroll scroll outta this mess of pictures.

PROOF that I wuz here

2686 PROOF

Bullet PROOF

Raise the PROOF

PROOF.  disappear.

copyright.  Just keeping you in check.

PROOF of life

proof that I was about to pass a girl.  This proof is true.

Proof that I make little munchkin kids stare

Proof that I secretly ran this race all by myself

Proof that I should not have brought my ipod
Proof that I can outrun the stealthily parked car

Proof that who cares you're running, I have to cross the street

Proof that I might have a gobble-gobble neck in about 20 years

Proof that Oakland is beautiful. 

Proof that running 12.8 miles will suddenly give you Madonna arms

Proof that this terrible gag is finally, graciously, over

One brief thing on the last topic and then we're outta there--

I am bad at expressing myself.  I'm better in writing than orally, but still I often don't convey the point that I think I am conveying.  Or maybe some of y'all just read too fast and miss the point.  I would like to try and summarize what I was meaning to express, and what I did not mean to express.

1) I meant to express that I am frustrated that throughout my life as a runner, many people do not believe that I get joy out of it, and only believe it is for vanity and weight loss.  Not even heart health or disease prevention, just for appearance.  This belief persists because a lot of people do hate running.

2) I did not mean to express that I am cool for not needing to lose weight (which, in the distorted world of Hollywood, I would need to do) or that I think I am better for loving running than someone else who is struggling with running in order to lose weight.  Just as I am annoyed of the assumptions people make about me as a runner, you should be annoyed if you thought I was judging you as a running.  I don't care why you run.  I hope you like running, and I bet you do now, even if at one point you only did it because your doctor told you to, or because you wanted to look more Hollywood.

Remember here, I posted about "not meaning to be mean".  If what I write irks you, talk to me.  In the comments is fine, email is better, we can meet at the cafe down the block too.   This blog is merely my little running bubble world, you can show me your bubble if I have something wrong.

It's Not the Calories, Stupid

This post has been a long time coming.

I think we're on the same page, most of us.  Probably if you read this blog, you like running, or roses, or fake blonde girls, or the Gentleman.  You probably don't like deprivation, and self-torture, especially in the form of running even though you don't like to, for the sole purpose of burning calories.

For those of you who do like that, or are trapped by a voice in your head that makes you run for that purpose, I'm sorry, I hope you conquer that, and this post means no disrespect.

Well my friends, there is a lie out there in the world that many people I meet on a daily basis seem to believe is the truth. 

These people believe, without a doubt, with full conviction, that the only possible reason that anyone runs distances longer than one block, is to burn calories.  To keep their lady-like figure.  Let's take a journey through time.

Scenario 1:
New years day.  The year is irrelevant.  I happen to go out for a run that day, somewhere around 10:00 a.m., because I run 4-6 days a week, every week, and this happened to be one of those days.  Odds are in that favor.  I'm in my hometown of Napa.

Dude drives by that I know from growing up in Napa, and shouts out his window, "Is your New Years resolution to lose weight?!?" and drives away.

No you f-cking idiot, look at me.  I'm skinny.  And sometimes I eat while I run.  Sometimes I wake up at 5:00 a.m. so I can eat sugar, just so I can run.  I HAVE TO EAT THREE BLOODY DINNERS because I'm so hungry all the time due to that fact that I run. 

If my New Years resolution was to lose weight, I would go pay $49983459 to Tracy Anderson and eat macrobiotic kale chips for lunch, tea for breakfast, and dry fish for dinner.  I would not go on a two hour run.  I will eat EVERYTHING after a two hour run.

Scenario 2:
Happy hour, with some older dudes who have sad wives who have given birth and are so obsessed with losing weight that these men only can comprehend that women torture themselves through exercise and diet because they all share this obsession with losing baby weight and looking like they did when they were 22.

I order a stout.  And then a second.  And then maybe switch it up with an Allagash White.  While eating nuts and pickles and whatever else there is. 

Knowing I run, dude asks, "So, like, are you going to run 20 miles tomorrow since you drank two beers?"

Good god no.  I don't run to burn off my food.  I'm drinking these two beers because they taste good, and if I'm lucky they will help me run tomorrow.  Carbs, you know?

"Really?  You don't run to be skinny? Um...what?"

I said HELL NO.  It's my hobby, my passion, my favorite thing to be doing of all things, it feels amazing, haven't you ever broken a sweat or been on a hike and you feel strong and free and -- eh, I'm not wasting my time.  You don't get it, do you?

"No.  My wife runs at 6:00 a.m. and she hates it."

Well that's pathetic, but also, I hope she doesn't hate it.  Or at least I hope she grows to love it.

Scenario 3:
Hi, I'm a blog!

I started running when I was 22 to lose the freshman 15.  Check out my journey where I use running as a mathematical measure to compare to my cups of oatmeal because it's calories-in, calories-out guys and RUNNING HALPS ME WITH THE CALORIES-OUT PART.

Listen, I know that right there, scenario 3, isn't fair because people out there do need to lose weight, and running probably works in some cases.  It just seems so cruel to me to use running in that way. 

I hope for everyone who runs to lose weight, it becomes about more than that.  And they see the true therapy and religion and cleansing of running, the mind clearing wonder of it all, the strength when you look in the mirror.  Not the loss of flab.

Those three scenarios are true, fact.  It is also true that running will always be mired with disordered persons.  In my underweight college days, running was my religion and security blanket.  I didn't intend to be a poster-girl for the strange women who would sometimes approach me and ask what my secret was to being so thin (answer: go to college, falter into adulthood, and find your stabilizing element in a regimented schedule of running mixed with "too healthy" eating. Oh and have the metabolism of an 18 year old.)  Underweight runners, even elites, should not be poster girls for the rest of society.

Who here has gained weight while training for a marathon? Due to all the tapering and carb-loading and extra dinners and snacks and hunger? Raise your hands? yes.  aha.  See? Runners come in all varieties, but I like those who run for all there is to gain in running, not those who run for all there is to lose. 

[This post is my first ever picture-less post.  I thought you could use a break from the last post.]

Oakland Half Marathon 2012

Well, I lied about not having any other pictures of me racing on Sunday due to the Gentleman not spectating.  Turns out the bay-area runners and bloggers are super supportive and thoughtful, and they documented all of us purple-sock girls very well.  Thank you Beth and Aron!

Garmin: 13.32 miles, 1:27:09, 6:32 pace
Official: 13.4 miles (I swear, I'm going by the official race elevation map) 1:27:38
Women: 7th of 2,077
Age Group: 5th of 381
Overall: 48th of 3,452

I can talk the talk about how I "really" ran 13.1 miles in 1:25:49, but that sure doesn't escape the fact that some badass young girls turned out this year, who can run 13.4 miles in 1:18! Last year, I was first in my age group of 25-29.  This year, I was 5th! 5 of the top 7 women were in that age group.  I came in seventh of women, behind a 1:18; 1:19; 1:23; 1:24; 1:24; 1:25.  Holy fast batman. 


Looking way too tired for 8:45 a.m.

Get ready to see a LOT of these socks

I allow myself one "duck face" per year

put that away

Stuffing my shorts with Chomps that I will not end up eating

I woke up at 8:15 a.m.  The race started at 9:15 a.m. and the start was a 12 minute walk from my front door, which is why I like to call this "my favorite most perfect race in the whole wide world."  I can't believe I have to wait another year for it...

I ate two GU's, half a package of Chomps, and sipped some gatorade.  I stuffed the remaining pack of Chomp's in my pocket, but never ate them.

I stuffed my pockets with other stuff I never ended up using: two pieces of gum, and my ipod.  I never whipped out the music.  I did use the key in my pocket to get back home.  That's all.

I walked out the door at 8:50 with the Gentleman who was walking to BART to go to work in San Francisco.  I got near the starting line with about 4 minutes until go time, and finagled my way up to about the 10th "row" of runners.  As I was walking towards the start, I some a pack of 3 or 4 "serious" looking girls.  They looked like college athletes, in their young twenties.  If you peek at the stats above, it's pretty clear word got out that this was a great course and all the fast 25 and 26 year olds came out to shatter my chances of placing first in my age group.

The rain was hibernating, happily, and I felt warm enough so I decided to run in a tank and just wear a throwaway old running shirt to the start to keep warm.  The whole race the temps were great -- I remember some strong winds that felt lovely and refreshing, never chilly.

I didn't warm up besides my 1.2 mile walk.  I stood at the start without a plan.  It didn't once cross my mind to think "how fast should I got out? What pace should I aim for? What time do I want?"  I only planned to run fast for as long as my hip would allow, and if I was feeling good enough, go for a PR.

Oakland had a new course this year, and I guess I liked it the same? It's just a great course.  Some very very gentle ups and downs, lots of sights, lots of characters cheering you on, and as I mentioned yesterday, lots of really truly madly wonderful cops.

Thanks Angela for finding me this!

I started with a "mild" pace.  As always, starting near the front, people were zipping out like madmen, so I felt like I was restraining myself with this pace.  I think this could, on my very best day, be my half marathon pace, so I'm happy enough with it.

Mile 1: 6:20
Mile 2: 6:22

I don't know if it was the shoes or the socks, but I was having some discomfort in my calves.  I shook it out and forgot about it by mile four, but it is always a bit of a concern when something feels bad so early on.

Now, I want you to look long and hard at this picture above.  That is me on the left.  This picture shows three dudes that I spent the ENTIRE race with.   Guy in the front right was awesome.  He was giving a bunch of other men support (wait hey...maybe that's not awesome) and I said something snippy to him at one point because he grabbed the water that I was reaching for.  Then I felt rude.  I ended up passing him with 1/2 mile to go, which surprised me because he was running strong throughout.

The guy in all black in the middle.  I can't even describe.  He is the absolute number one person you do not want to be stuck with as a pace-buddy in a race.  The whole race as he and I approached others, they would spin their neck around like "WHAT is that noise?"  It was his insane train whistle exhale.  The loudest schwoosh I have ever heard.  I was just hoping no one thought it was me.

Anyway.  Mile 4 we went under a tunnel for oh, maybe 25 seconds?  I was feeling totally fine.  Not much else to say.

Mile 3: 6:37
Mile 4: 6:21
Mile 5: 6:30

I had just a few small sips of water and gatorade.  Food never once sounded appealing, nor did my Ipod.  Why would it, with entertainment like this:

I got some high fives here

Mile 6: 6:25
Mile 7: 6:38
Mile 8: 6:39

And with the supportive cheers of people like Beth, who took this flood of photos.

This guy was also great support.  We paced each other for about a mile after this, and then I ate his dust as we went up a little hill towards Lake Merritt.  Oh, and hot Oakland police car!

Dorkily smiling at the cheerleaders

My fave pic because no other runners are in it

Check out that bouncing bag of useless Chomps in my pocket

Admit it, the socks are rad

Unfortunately, this is what happens when you wait more than 24 hours to write your race recap.  I just don't remember anything significant to say.  I just ran, and at a somewhat consistent pace.  I really felt great the whole time.  I was maybe running a little too conservative, because I am out of practice for 1/2 marathons (at least four months now), and was worried I would lose steam.

Mile 9: 6:39
Mile 10: 6:31
Mile 11: 6:47

Mile 11 was my slowest.  I think this was the beginning of the lake, with a couple short hills that I slowed down for.  Oh, here's some commentary that I remember: this race has a sh-t ton of turns.  If you don't like turns, or they slow you down, you may not adore this race as much as I do.  Lots and lots and lots of turns.

Thankfully, they are extremely well marked.  No fear of getting lost out here.

Another thought: I had expected it would be sad and I would have less motivation without the Gentleman there to smile at me every few miles.  Turns out, sorry honey, that my own mental stubbornness is all the motivation I need. 

Oh and one more thought: I never stopped to stretch out my hip, as planned.  So peculiar...I have had to do this on EVERY run I have taken for the last 3 months.  All of them.  I didn't have any hip tightness today.  Maybe running fast is the key to fixing your hip?

Finally, the home stretch.  Not exactly a "kick" but more of the same steady fast pace.  At least that is favorable to a slow death at the end.

Mile 12: 6:36
Mile 13: 6:39
0.32: 2:01 (6:25 pace)
Aron caught a flood of photos of me approaching the last quarter mile of the race.

If you ever wondered what it was like to watch me run, this flip-book of photos is as close as you will get.

Mile 13! My watch was well past 13.1 at this point

picture.  I'm so sick of captions right now....

After the race, I walked one mile home in a daze, not drinking any water.  I just talked to some guy named Raymond who has a 2:45 marathon PR and a 1:22 half-marathon PR, which seemed weird to me.  Your full isn't usually your half x2, you know?

I seriously regret that I headed straight home, but there were no freebies to entice me to stay except some crappy generic chewy granola bars.  The regret, is because I missed this awesome time:

But luckily I did get to see some of these girls before the race (at the expo) and after (at a bar with Sesa and Megan from the Runners Kitchen).  Details to come.

Overall, this race day was too good to be true.  It was so smooth and easy in every way.  I guess, unfortunately, that makes for a boring recap.  I still feel great today, no hip problems to tell of.  I will know for sure after a run tomorrow morning.  Happy running y'all.

I Love the Oakland Police

I really do, I love them.  They came out by the dozens for today's half and full marathon, closing off streets and cheering.  It doesn't hurt at all that they are very attractive.  They rock.

The only pic I could find, from this guy's great recap of the full marathon in 2010

You know who else rocked today? Me.  I felt fucking fantastic.  Everything that XLMIC did for me, and told me to do on my own, must have worked.  My hip felt fine -- in fact, this is probably the first half marathon ever where one of my hips didn't at least get fatigued by the end of the race.

Sadly, this was my first race without the Gentleman's support (he went to work), so this pre-race picture is all I have today

I tossed this shirt at the start and ran in a black tank.  So I was not a complete purple weirdo.

I know a lot of people don't like this "unofficial Garmin time" talk or excuses, but I want to talk about my Garmin time instead of my official time, because I think it reflects how I felt today, how strong I ran today, and how I have improved.  The Oakland half-marathon is notoriously a long course (at least I have pegged it to be -- last year it was 13.36 by my watch, this year it was 13.32 if not more because of multiple tunnels/overpasses where my watch went off).  I'll happily accept my official time, even though it won't reflect the PR kind of day that I had.

By my Garmin:  13.1 miles in 1:25:49.  Only one mile was over a 6:40 pace!
By my Garmin:  13.32 miles in 1:27:09.  I don't know my official time yet, but because of the tunnels/overpasses, I'm sure it is many seconds slower.

The 1:25:49 reflects how I felt.  Each mile felt strong, and the second half of the race felt better than my typical half marathon.  I definitely had a better day today than I did at this race, which I guess is technically my PR, where I ran a short course of 13.0 miles in 1:26:35. 

I will also say that, sadly, I didn't "leave it all" out there on the road today.  The entire run was so very comfortable.  My breathing felt easy, my body felt fantastic--except for a little calf pain (I think my purple compression socks confused my calves), the weather was incredible--just perfect perfect at 50 degrees and overcast without a single drop of water.  I'm embarrassed to say that I caved into the comfort of it all and just enjoyed it, instead of pushing myself to that point of feeling like death.  I kept it steady and fast but not all-out.

Consider this post my quick reflection after getting home from the race.  Later I will post a more detailed post on the race itself, mile by mile, so consider yourself warned if you can't stand those kind of posts.

Pre-Race Chatter

I didn't mean to cause any alarm over my hip with that last know how as a race approaches, you have a heightened awareness of your body, and every single little subtle pain turns into a Code Red emergency?  Well for me, this nagging hip issue, which I have had since November of 2011, began to frustrate me more than normal because I knew I had to race on it.  Stressful.

But, I ran 26.2 on it, and nothing bad happened except that miles of the race were rough.  I ran 20 miles at a 6:55 average pace last week on it, and just had to stretch a lot.  I ran for a full hour at 6:27 average pace just 4 weeks ago, and I don't even remember hating my hip during that run.  Flipping through my handwritten miles on my desk calendar, I've averaged between 70 and 90 miles per week since February without trouble and without making anything feel worse.  My mileage for the past two weeks, for example, has looked like this:

March 12--March 24
Monday: 17
Tuesday: 0
Wednesday: 12.5
Thursday: 20
Friday: 0
Saturday: 18
Monday: 16.5
Tuesday: 0
Wednesday: 18
Thursday: 11
Friday: 0
Saturday: 0

None of the runs described above made my my bod feel worse.  Just the same, same, same.  My angry post came after Thursday's 11 miles, which included two miles easy, one mile at 6:20-6:30 pace, repeat 3 times.  Somewhere around mile 10 I got pissed with my body.  I wasn't feeling good, and those miles were feeling hard.  Some runs are like that...I'm over it now. 

Tomorrow at the Oakland half, I will survive despite this nuisance, and perhaps even run well.  I will not further injure myself, because running has not proven to make it worse.

Last minute race logistics:

The Weather

I guess I was in denial about the weather because I didn't even check it until last night, and realized it was going to rain.  One weatherman says 100% chance of rain, another says 60% chance.  Maybe the chafing that comes with rainy races will help keep my mind off my hip?  I would love to hear any advice as to what to wear or how to otherwise handle a rainy race.  I did it once for San Francisco's U.S. Half in 2010 and it was true misery the whole time. 

Fake smile.  Miserable! This was my first half-marathon ever, btw.

Tights were a terrible idea.  I chafed in the most indescribable areas.

headphones, or no headphones?

I had one experience where I deeply regretted not bringing music, because the course was lonely, monotonous, and an out-and-back.  I got so bored I slowed my pace to a point that was well below my capabilities.

This trail was never ending.  Western Pacific Half

I had another experience where I was running so hard that I was in that state where everything annoyed the hell out of me (you know this feeling -- where you are running so hard that you can't help but grunt and glare at every person in your way) and so I wanted to punch the music.  I turned the volume way down since I didn't want to deal with taking it off and shoving it in my pocket.

This was the race where I hated them.  Look how awkwardly long the wire is!

I'm leaning towards no headphones.

Food or no food?  

I have eaten during a couple half-marathons, but mostly as a "trial" for eating during a full marathon.  I don't have time to "bonk" or get hungry during 90 minutes of running, so I could take it or leave it.  I did buy a Gu and a pack of Chomp's at the expo today just in case.

I'm leaning towards no food.

I also bought a honey stinger waffle (vanilla) to try, and ate it for funsies on my rainy walk home from the expo.

They were not cheap, unfortunately

It was the best G.D. piece of sports fuel I have ever tasted.  I thought it would be some sticky flat piece of honey.  It is just a waffle cookie!  A sweet, crumbly waffle cookie.  Lance Armstrong knows his stuff, these are great.  I'll have to try eating one while running sometime and report back.  Have you tried one while active?

Me v. Hip

Shit is just not going my way this week.

I'm so indescribably frustrated with my "hip".  It's really not even my hip, did I ever tell you that?  I'm going to get real medical for a second, and describe it like this: It feels like the bone where my butt hits my thigh is out of place.  If I raise my left leg straight up like a Rockette, or like a person who is trying to propel forward while running, it hurts like balls.  The faster I run, the more it hurts.

And even worse, the more I try to fix it, the more it hurts.

I've been standing and stretching like a champ this week, doctors orders.  I've been foam rolling like a pro.  And now I'm riled up, because it is becoming clear to me that this is not a tendon issue, or a muscle issue, or a flexor issue.  This is deeper.  Stress fracture or mis-alignment -- and I've ruled out stress fracture, because it doesn't hurt at all to put weight on my leg.  It just hurts to make my leg stride forward.

Stopping to walk while running is new to me, and it has been happening all the bloody time.  It feels like time is standing still when I have to stop.  I look around, in a fog, confused why I'm not running and running like I have been lucky enough to do for 15 years.  I want all that time, when I'm stopped and stunned, back in my pocket.

Other shitty things this week?  You know how I was all "boo-hoo, long hours because of this large case that is set for trial", and then I was all "yay, that case settled."  Well today, after a year with my firm, I was nonchalantly told in a circuitous way, that I am going to be paid less. I guess because we are less busy.  It's complicated.  But that's certainly not what you expect as your annual encouragement.

What else can I lament about from this rude week...hmm...oh yeah, two new cavities (thank you kindly for the 3+ years in braces, orthodontist.  All that impossible flossing is catching up to me now).  And hear this, I loved reading "the Hunger Games" and am as excited for the movie as anyone else, but after hearing everyone else's HG fever I'm starting to resent the movie.  I cannot be a part of the herd! You can't make me!

Let me try and lighten the mood for a moment..with some brown font....(I tried yellow or orange and it just hurt my eyeballs).

Things that are good this week:

  • XLMIC has kindly offered, and I accepted her offer, to come over and scare my hip into behaving.  It is so lovely for someone to be invested in making this hip heal, since I don't feel much promise from my "stretch and stand" RX doctor. 
  • I get to run a great half-marathon this weekend in the city that I currently call home.  I'm still excited, despite the inescapable fact that it will be painful with a capital P. and AINFUL. 

Oakland Half last year.  For a butt-load of memories and pictures, go here

  • I went to a work event on Tuesday afternoon/evening and got to put on a pretty "first-day of Spring" dress.

photos of mirrors probably didn't exist before the internet.  I must show the world ME!

Here's the Sunday Plan.

  1. Run until my hip/butt falls off
  2. Avoid a Personal Worst
  3. Take stretch breaks.
  4. Wear a pair of compression socks I've never worn before for fun so I will match some other cool runners.
  5. Wear the strangest pair of shoes because they seem to cooperate when I run faster.
These are so wrong for me.  I think they are for stability, which isn't my foot type

Number Three is a whole new ballgame for me.  I have never, never stopped during a race, neither marathon nor half-marathon (except the one time I had to go to the bathroom).   Maybe this will help me gain surges of energy in addition to getting a good stretch.  I'm thinking about four 20-second breaks or so.  I'll lose a minute or two, but hopefully stretching out the hip will make it so I can finish without hopping.

I'm sorry all around, sometimes it's not fun to read about injuries or about bummer weeks but writing it out makes me feel better already.