Oakland Half Marathon 2013

Alternately titled, "How to go from half-marathon personal best to half-marathon personal worst in 7 weeks."

My neighborhood running festival took place the weekend before last, with a half, full, 5k, and relay.

I naturally defaulted to the half.

Or what I like to call, a half-plus.  Oakland's evolving course has been frustratingly long no matter what changes they make to the course and no matter how tight I run those tangents every year, and this year the course was even longer than the last two.

13.41 miles by my watch (and by the elevation map?), and I'm telling you, I was so desperate for this course not to be long this year that I even cut into turn-corners where I could, which explains why I got 13.4 while others like Cathryn got as much as 13.6 (!?).

The long course doesn't matter because I was not going to PR today, but it is still frustrating because it partially led to my demise (more below).

I did not, in the end, call him

credit Beth for the photos!

The course length matters much less when you are not gunning for a time goal.  Still, the long course was my downfall...

you see, I have clocked over 13.35 miles each year I run the Oakland half.  The course changed again this year, but I still expected it would be a long course, so my MISSION # 1 was to try to run the tightest tangents possible.  The tightest.  It seems like good practice. Like something I should learn how to do.

When I headed into the first mile at 9:15 a.m. (which was cursedly warm really seems like these U.S. coasts are experiencing complete opposite weather) I felt nice, and decided that the many turns in the first mile WOULD NOT GET ME.

The first mile turns....
So I did my best to skirt through the crowds of people and get an inner-tight turn.  What I was doing, without realizing it, was speeding up to get away from little crowds of people, so that I could get that tight turn.

This resulted in a first mile at 6:05.

Typically, I can recover from this.  I've gone out at a 6:10-ish pace before (See: Run with the Jets 2011, See Jane Run 2012) and managed a 6:30-ish pace overall.

But, I could not recover from it this day.  I am not in that kind of shape.  Two weeks of tapering for a marathon + 3 weeks of recovering from a marathon = very little speed work, and I'm simply not in great shape right now.

By mile three, I could tell it was going to be a rough day.  Not only was I feeling concerningly wiped already, but I hit the mile 4 marker at 4.2 on my watch, which was defeating.  I mean for fucks sake.  I tried SO hard to run the tightest tangents! This course is frustrating.

From miles 6-12, I tried my hardest to hang on, and every time I felt like I was running the effort of a 6:30 mile, I looked down and saw 6:55, 7:02, 6:58.

6:05, 6:25, 6:37, 6:18, 6:45, 6:43, 6:55, 6:59, 7:20 (stretch stop), 6:58, 7:10 (stretch stop), 7:01, 7:03, 2:45/6:41 pace

I felt all sorts of not good.  The usual leg-lock felt about as bad as it had last October, during the San Jose half, and so I stopped to stretch twice (miles 9 and 11).   The heel of my left foot was feeling really bruised (I have no idea what this is about? Came out of nowhere while I was walking the day before the race, and by the end of the half-marathon I could barely walk).  And generally not in my best running shape.

When I crossed the finish line, I felt like I was going to throw up all over the Raiders girls who were cheering.  I've never felt worse at the end of a race.  I've never finished a race of any distance feeling like I was going to throw up.  Wait--not true--I threw up three times after racing the 400m in high school.  Sprinting for a full 60 seconds will make everything you ate that day come right up.

All in all I finished 5 minutes behind my half marathon time from just 7 weeks prior, and over 1:30--something that hasn't happened in almost 2 years??

The over 1:30 sort of stunned me.  I took it for granted that I could run a half-marathon under 90 minutes, even if I haven't been training hard, even if my body doesn't feel great....I mean, I've run numerous sub-1:30 half's with the bum-lock problem I have and while it hinders my ability to run as hard as I want, I can still sustain a sub 1:30 pace with the thing.   (credit to Hollie for combining buttcrease with leg-lock to create "butt-lock," but since I'm sick of typing "butt" we will hereforth henceforth therefore call it "bum-lock."  Or not.)

It's like anything you take for granted.  You get so used to something being the way it is, that you get lazy and forget that you had to work to get it that way.  I seem to have forgotten that I used to actually run hard at the track and run long hard tempos on the treadmill.  Lately I've gently sprinkled in a few fast miles into a normal run, as if that will do anything.  That's no way to build up my lactic acid threshold! Or whatever a smart runner would say!

I want to say, "but at least I still had fun!"  I had a little but of fun, but I discovered something that I had not predicted.  Which is that running a race three years in a row makes the race much less exciting the third year.

Let's look at the monotony...

2011, back when running in baggy clothes was cool


2013, too sunny!  Freakishly similar stride to the year before

And more deja vu:


2013.  Even my breathing-hard-double-chin is the same :)

This is the first time I've run a race three years in a row.  

There may have been some boredom having run this race 3x....and the sun certainly didn't help.  It was high and hot at 10:00 a.m. on a warm California day.

The race also seemed to lack the energy from the normal Oakland crazies.  They are the best spectators! But I didn't see any. Instead it was a bunch of pyrotechnics.  For real, there were multiple parts of the race where fire was spouting from stuff.  Very steam punk.

The good news is that I didn't cave into my strong desire to quit and walk home since I was feeling awful....and the other good news is that my best day and my worst day are only five minutes apart (1:26:21 v. 1:31:08).  I'll take it, son.

I will definitely participate in the Oakland Running Festival again, although maybe next year I will do the full marathon "for fun."  It is a very tough course, and probably 26.8 miles, so not a goal race.

Comparing how I felt this year to last year, I remember how strong I felt and how easy it was to keep the pace low even for the last 3 miles.  I remember knowing exactly WHY it was so easy: I had been running 1-hour tempos on the treadmill, once a week.  That stuff WORKS.

So I know that if I want another half marathon PR this year (I do! I do!) besides the obvious (fixing my bum-lock problem) I need to re-introduce the tempo run, and probably on the treadmill.  I just don't have the focus to do that outside.  And the treadmill works.

Thanks as always for reading!