Back in college, long runs almost always took me on a journey over the bay bridge and into San Francisco. So, it seemed fitting that we travel for the momentous run. Now 16 miles isn't any official race distance, it's not all that close to marathon distance, but it was subtantially enough past that 13 mile half mark that it felt different going into it. We were really going to travel.
This time, all over Oakland.
A few weeks ago, the Oakland Marathon people were having a 9 mile practice run on the race course, and I was thrilled to be going. That is, until I came down with my 3 week flu/cold that seemed it would never go away. So, with a heavy heart, I stayed in bed while the practice run went on without me. Still, I knew it would be invaluable to experience the "Oakland Hills" (one of the main purposes of that run). There was no elevation chart for the run, and I still didn't know exactly what I had gotten myself into.
Which is why, last Saturday at around 7:30, we found ourselves driving up to Oakland and parking near the Rockridge BART, off of College Ave, less than a mile up the street from where I used to live in my CAL days.
I was excited that Ed would be joining me, as running through almost entirely new areas solo, while exciting in college, was less appealing as I've gotten older. I also had a sneaking suspician I would appreciate the mental boost of a running buddy on those later miles.
So, up we went. And I say up because, after maybe a quarter mile, that's the direction we were heading. Up. Less than a mile in, my legs were burning and, to add insult to injury, we were running straight into a very brisk headwind (strong enough to blow Ed's hat off his head and back down the hill - he got to do a little extra mileage :) ). While this was so not in my plan, we ended up walking for a little, as I fearfully thought about the 15 more miles I'd be doing today.
Luckily, we soon reached the first "flattish" section, Lake Temescal, which I had no idea existed in the Oakland Hills.
We got to run on a bike path through this park for a bit and I enjoyed the slight rest my legs were getting.
But soon the rest was over, and we were now winding through the homes of the Oakland Hills, beautiful mansions, brick masterpieces, stylish English Tudor pieces, all big and all beautiful. And, all with uphill tilts. There were a few rolling downhills, if I'm honest, but they were followed by more up. Miles two, three, and four passed with my legs growing increasingly tired, and a few more walking breaks. Finally, we reached the Mormon Temple that I had often seen off in the hills driving up to Berkeley,
and with it, our view.
And with it? Our downhill. Our quad pounding, quickly declining downhill.
With one more glance goodbye to SF and the golden gate (which you can't see in the pictures but which did delight us in a beautiful view), started heading down, down, down into Oakland.
This next part of the run was a little demoralizing (after the downhill of course), as my stomach started to ache, and we still had so far to go. We also were running though what might be described as the less scenic parts of Oakland. A little more run-down, a few more people loitering on street corners, just an area that made me glad I wasn't alone.
At mile 8, we stumbled upon a Walgreens in a much more upbeat area - literally. A nearby store was blasting Latino music and that seemed to give this area a much happier, friendly character. I decided to take the opportunity (since we were at exactly 8 mile, halfway), to use the facilities, and appreciated the physical and mental break.
As we headed back out, for part two of our run, we made our first mistake - we missed a turn (ironically, at this light here, which I took a picture of while we waited to cross), and we went another good mile before realizing our mistake.
Luckily, it was an easy fix, that didn't require any backtracking, and when we got back on course, we were closer than I had though to Lake Meritt, what signified to me as the beginning of the final stretch (in reality, mile 11).
The lake gave me a huge mental boost (as it will hopefully do in the race - it's part of it's final miles as well), but soon I was struggling again. My stomach was still hurting and I had stopped eating back at mile 8 because of said stomach. I choked down a cliff shot (hadn't had one in maybe 4 years - just as chocolately as I remember!) since I knew I really needed calories, and then tried to drink a lot more water.
Now, this whole time, I had been carrying a bottle full of gatorade, in addition to the camelback of water. However, I realized shortly into the run that the gatorade seemed to aggrevate my stomach ache, so I was sticking with the water.
And, apparently I was sticking with it too much, as before we hit mile 12, I ran dry. Mentally, definitely not what I needed. Ed was shocked that I had been drinking that much water, and blamed my stomach ache on that. I felt like I was drinking to much to try to make my stomach feel better.
In any event, I wasn't feeling great, water or no water. Luckily, we came upon a drinking fountain not a mile later and I eagerly poured out the offensive gatorade (much to my husband's dismay - he apparently thought I was going to give it to him instead of pouring it on the ground) and filled my bottle with sweet water.
The rest of the way around the lake was slightly better, and soon we were back on city streets, heading back to the car.
Back up that is.
So, funny thing. When I designed my run, I originally planned for us to finish downtown and take BART back, but eventually decided it made more sense to run. At the time, I forgot about the fact that there are some major hills between downtown Oakland and Rockridge.
That was how I found myself, at miles 14 and 15, heading uphill once again. I'll admit, I did some more walking here, but mentally I was much better, knowing at least there wasn't that much more to go.
Soon, we hit Broadway, and a smile lit my face. "Ed" I eagerly cried, "I know where we are!!!" We were back in familiar territory, running up a hill I often drove down in college, on my way to Fentons, the best ice cream place in town, visited by my parents when they went to Berkeley, and visited by me during my time there.
After one more uphill, we were turning onto college, the street I lived on for a year in college, running down the street I often ran down during long runs my Junior year.
While I was in pain, I was smiling. I knew where we are, I had run these roads before, I was going to make it.
Because of our mistake earlier, we had to overshoot our car a little to get that full mileage, but finally, after over 3 hours, my watch beeped, and mile number 16 flashed on the screen.
Elated, I stopped the watch, and immediately began walking. Once back to the car, I laid down on the cement in front of it, relishing in the end of this very hard but very great run. I'm amazed that with all the lows and all the hills, I still managed an 11:48 pace.
After the run, I drank down a gatorade recovery drink (which I think made a huge difference in soreness!), and thanked Ed for being such a great running partner. He was so amazing motivating me, especially on those hills.
This weekend, I'm down to 12 miles, but then I'm up to 18, and Ed will be there again.
Less than 50 days until the race!