See Jane Run Alameda Half Marathon 2013

Looks like I'm devoting a post to a race that took place....7 weeks ago?  I've forgotten the formula of how to write a race recap.  I think I can do some reflecting and analyzing in order to learn from race failures and, you know, hopefully improve as a runner.  So there's value in posting about that angle.

See Jane Run Half Marathon, June 8, 2013
5th place woman/1534

The months leading up to this race were no joke.  I didn't just spontaneously show up one Saturday for this one; I focused on fitting in approximately one really hard treadmill speed session once a week for at least a couple months.

At some point I was flying through 10 half-mile repeats at 2:57 splits, and at another point I was running 9.5 miles in one hour for a crazy tempo minus a few short breaks off the belt to chug water and stretch.  But regardless of how much "easier" it is to run on the treadmill versus outside, there was no question that I was working hard.  It was pretty fun.  I felt myself getting faster (at treadmill running).  My leg-lock stayed the same, and I could never get past about 4 miles of tempo-ing without needing to stop and stretch it out, but I did get comfortable at the 6:20-6:30 pace, which is where I was hoping to stay for a half marathon.

There are some obvious possible reasons why, despite this hard work, I ran a 6:50 pace (by my watch; a 6:55 pace by the race results) instead of a 6:2x pace.

1) It was hot.
2) I had recently had the flu.
3) leg-lock

Hot enough to fry an ipod I SUCK AT CAPTIONS SO HARD RIGHT NOW

As for number 1.  Heat surely makes a difference, but....a 5 minute difference from my goal time? I don't think that should have been the case.  Maybe a 1-3 minute difference.  Maybe I'm a bigger heat wimp than most.  I heard the girl who finished after me dart for the shade right after the race that I was sitting in, and after asking her man support (boyfriend, husband, brother, who knows) what her time was, she replied "huh, about a minute faster than last year."  So I was thinking shit, this is PR weather for some people!? Then I should have been able to PR too.

The heat did melt me.  I tolerated it for the first two miles, and then the 3rd mile I ran my slowest ever half marathon 3rd mile.  I slipped to a 6:4x mile, which usually doesn't happen for me until I start to struggle around mile 8.  That was a mental shock, too, and so I slipped deeper into the heat funk, and all my remaining miles were somewhere around 6:40-7:05 (I think -- it's been, you know, SEVEN WEEKS.  And I don't hoard my Garmin data.)

der dee der.  That is the sound it looks like I'm making in every race picture ever.

I started out somewhere like 2nd or 3rd place woman (the first place woman was some sort of heat defying freak of nature who barely sweat at all with a 1:25:xx) and during that 3rd mile where the heat started to hit, one strong woman who I have seen at other races started walking.  And I thought, "I know exactly how you feel.  Like stopping right now."

you look like you're not running hard enough.  Oh hi Sushi House. 
Hey by the way, for all of you that are not perfectly located in the spoiled-weather belt of the California/Washington/Oregon coast, when I say it was hot, I mean mid-to-high 70s.  The exposed course made it feel a heckuva lot toastier than that, but just generally to be clear it wasn't what YOU REAL HEROES consider hot.  It was just TOO HOT for me to figure out how to race.  I've never done any speedwork in temps higher than probably 65 outside, 70 in the fart gym.  This is surely garnering me no sympathy with all you twitterers filling up my feed with your 95 degree tempo workout.

(Speaking of, follow me on twitter if you love people who post about once/week

2) The flu excuse.  Eh.  I sure felt heavy and slow this day, but sometimes thats just how I feel.

The reason I hesitate to give the flu excuse too much credit is because I felt just as sucktastic in March at the Oakland half, where I ran a 1:31.  It seems like something else is going on that isn't related to the flu, or the leg-lock (although it was pretty hot at the Oakland half too, keeping the heat in the running.)  Something else is sapping my energy.

3) The leg-lock excuse.  no comment for now.  Same old same old.  I stopped at mile 7 and 9 to stretch out the leg-lock.  A bicycling race support guy was like "don't stop! keep it up!" And I was like "you don't know me. ok fine."

That arm should NOT be glistening with sweat at the 1.5 mile mark.
So my alternate reason for falling 5 minutes short of my goal could be that:

1) I overdid it with the training.  Too much speed work, and then on race day I was burnt out.  Perhaps, but why did I feel pretty good week after week on speed work days? Occasionally I felt terrible and I would take the day easy.  Maybe the race just landed on one of those days that I happen to not feel good for no identifiable reason?

2) low iron? I haven't been very good about supplementing here despite regularly high miles.

3) Diet? I don't see or feel any weight gain, but I have do we say...eating a lot of junk food.  Not enough of that good old quinoa and kale.  It's summer, there's a reason to eat ice cream and pie for dinner practically 34 times a week.  Maybe my engine is running low on some other good stuff that it needs.

4) Who cares.  A huge part of me doesn't care at all why I fell short of my 1:25 goal at this race, and just wants to give it another stab later this year.


Having run SJR in Alameda 3 times now, each year has absolutely been a different experience.

The first year was frustrating and I hated it (search the archives).  I got lost, the volunteers were severely unhelpful, the mass merge with the 5kers was a disaster.

The second year was great.  The volunteers were spot on, the weather was fab, I was grooving in first place until mile 13 (ugh.)

Blame Runners Rambles for taking all of these pictures.
This year was the year of marketing.  SJR pumped up their game, really spread the word (hence, I found my way on board as an ambassador for the race), pumped up the expo, pumped up the sponsors (See's Candy hell to the yes), and had a great crowd turnout. The volunteers were pro.

The event went smoothly.  I recommend the race, and even though the course is not exactly.... interesting the third time around, I may still run it again next year.

Still, I would highlight a few problems that need to be addressed, since the good news is that SJR has thus far done a good job addressing the problems that arise.

First, there was this incredibly thin, almost invisible fishing-wire type string at around waist-height separating the 5k and half-marathon lanes for the last mile of the race. It scared the shit out of me.  I kept imagining running into it and slicing myself in half, or at least tripping.  How about some thick yellow CAUTION tape or something?

Second, a summer race may need to start earlier.  A portion of the heat issue could have been avoided if the race started at 7:00 a.m. (when it was 68-ish degrees) instead of at 8:00 a.m. (when it was creeping into the 70s.)

Third, the finish line area is still a shit-show.  Has been every year.  Free champagne sounds lovely and all, but I have never bothered to try it given how long the line is with the finishing 5kers who have been milling about for a while.  I blame everything on the 5kers, sorry.  In a perfect world, I would hold that race on a different day or have them finish somewhere else, but neither are realistic options I'm sure.

Last, the SJR slogans.  the.....slogans....

SJR has so many fantastic messages that I support hardcore.  They are a loud proponent of the idea that running is for all women of any shape, size, color, background.  The running store owner's goal is to share her passion for running with EVERYONE.  She does not want anyone excluded.  The more the merrier.  Yay!

Somehow, by devoting the cause to the running of women in particular, SJR has fallen into some marketing schemes and stereotypes that are problematic and that make myself and others cringe.

Namely, "I ran for chocolate" or "I run for chocolate and champagne."

The medal this year (photo from another ambassador's blog)

At first glance, it's not so harmful to stereotype women as lovers of these two items.  I wouldn't be appalled if an all-men's obstacle course race had a slogan of "running for the beer and wings at the finish line" or something equally stupid.  No more harmful than the countless sitcoms that present the husband as a bumbling dunce and the wife as the ole ball and chain.

But, please read Angela's post here for a very insightful analyzation as to why this kind of logo raises concern for many women.  It may be all in good fun, but it is blatantly contrary to the message that "running is for women of all shapes and all sizes" when in the very same breath you state that running is also about burning the naughty calories you ate.  In other words, "running is for all shapes and sizes but don't forget to not get fat!"  This reinforces the message that running is an act of guilt to counterbalance calories in, kind of like saying..."I stick my finger down my throat so I can eat chocolate."  Ew.

I don't want to blow this out of proportion because I have no doubt that the slogan is in good fun--the intent is for a "wink wink, we are women and love chocolate" bonding thing.  And no joke, I was stoked when I found out See's Candy was a sponsor, my head dancing with visions of 20 pounds of chocolate for winning.  But just as when I was 5 years old, my love for running is independent of my enjoyment of chocolate.  I love filling my senses.  Filling my taste buds with excitement for the fat and sugar hit of a dessert.  Filling my legs with satisfaction when I spin them around the neighborhood.

I ran SJR because it is a well done, conveniently local all women's race.  I did not run it for chocolate.