Monday, March 26, 2012

Running the Oakland Marathon: How I Re-Became a Marathoner

[This race has been, for me, almost 5 years in the making. Unsurprisingly, I'm a little wordy about it. So prepare yourselves for a detailed race report :) ]

On March 25th, I became a marathoner. Again. Throughout the training, and even the days leading up to the race, I felt this odd dichotomy of both being an experienced marathoner and a novice, all at once. In all honesty, with a very crazy and intense (and stressful) work week leading up to race day weekend, I didn't really have time to think about the race, beyond a lingering feeling that bordered on dread, in that my right foot and toe had been hurting for weeks, and I was scared I was about to repeat my Dick Collins mistake and run on an injury. I didn't run a step the week before the race, hoping that that would be enough to get me to the starting line recovered and ready to run. 

So, Friday afternoon, after a particularly exhausting science lesson, where I was filmed teaching (for a research project I'm working on), and after I sent home report cards, it suddenly sunk in that I was running a marathon on Sunday. As in, the day after next. And suddenly I was a bit scared. 

After a bit of begging, Ed took me to the expo, where I picked up my bib, some necessities (gu and body glide). I got to take in Oakland in the rain, as it was coming down the whole time we were up there, and tried to visualize myself running in that weather. I also picked out a practical yet pretty pair of accessories. 

I'd been wanting to try the arm warmer fad for a while, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity, since the weather was promising to be a bit indecisive, with rain, sun and clouds all predicted. [Spoiler: I love them! I took them on and off about 3 times during the race, which let me keep my temperature perfect in the changing weather. While the sun was out, I was so thankful to be able to take off the sleeves, but when the wind picked up and the clouds covered the sun, I was equally thrilled to put them back on. Great investment!]

The night before, like always, I laid out my outfit, which consisted of a lot more than usual, with the weather uncertainty. 

In the event of rain, I planned to wear my rain jacket, with my regular running gear below. No rain? Just the running gear and a lighter jacket (that I could ditch with Ed at mile 11).

 We woke up around 5, and I was feeling suprisingly unrushed and not incredibly nervous. I even hit the snooze! Once I got moving, though, that 45 minutes flew by, and before I knew it, we were heading out the door into the dark but dry air. 

The drive seemed longer that morning than it had the day before, and dawn had still barely begun to break when we arrived in Oakland at 6:40. My nerves had also began to wake up, as the enormity of what I was about to do started to sink in. Ed dropped me off in a parking lot about 3 blocks from the race start and then headed up into the Berkeley hills to do his own run while I headed to the starting line. 

(a beautiful pre-dawn photo Ed took at the start of his run)

(the beautiful mural where Ed dropped me off)

It was a little weird walking by myself to the starting area, through the still very dark Oakland streets, but as I got closer, more and more runners started filling the sidewalks and, by the time I got to the start, dawn had broken and runners filled my views. I saw a potentially familiar face as I walked across the street, and almost went up to him, but second guessed myself. Ends up it was an old running friend, Norbert, who was also running the marathon!

First things first, I stopped by the bathrooms. Shocking for a race, there was no line (any of the times I used it!), which was awesome. Great job race planners :). I still had plenty of time to kill, so I wandered around, figuring out the layout, and chatted with a nice guy from San Diego who was up here running his first marathon. Around 7, a bunch of armed forces guys and gals were being sworn into duty, which was pretty cool to watch, and at 7:10, they had us begin lining up. 

Us back of the packers sort of have an instant camaraderie, and I began chatting with a few women as soon as I had situated myself between the 11:00 and 12:00 pacing signs. My plan was to try to hit 5 hours, and there was conveniently a pacing group for that, so I figured I was all set. We all made amused comments about the fact that anyone beyond the 11min/mile pace was literally behind a fence, since obviously we weren't really part of the race. A woman named Kathy and I shared stories - she was here to redeem herself after she overdid it in the heat at Napa's marathon a few weeks ago and scored a DNF. She was planning to run a bit slower, shooting for a 5:30 race, so I didn't see her again after we started.

In what felt like no time, they were singing the national anthem and then counting down. When the announcer got to zero, the gun sounded and thousands of confetti pieces shot into the air, raining down on those front runners as the race began. 


We, of course, started with that expected walk to the start, as the runners took a few minutes to get through the starting line. People around me were jogging in place, but I decided to just walk until we crossed the timing mat. After a minute and 20 seconds, though, we had started the race!

The course itself winds its way through practically every neighborhood in Oakland, starting downtown and heading up to northwest Oakland, near Berkeley, then up even more into the Oakland hills, Then, you head south, down the hills and into the flatlands, passing through many different ethnic districts until you circle back around to lake Merritt and, finally, the finish line. 
I discovered about, oh, 1 minute after the start, that I would not be running with the 5 hour pacing group. If you don't know, a 5 hour marathon equates to roughly an 11:26 mile/minute pace. The group was running solid 10 minute miles to start, which was way to fast for my tastes. I let them jump ahead of me, confident in my garmin and my own abilities to pace myself, and chatted with a few other women who were also surprised by the fast pace of the group. I mostly talked with another very nice woman who was also doing her first marathon, from San Ramon. She was concerned about our pace (mile 1 clocked in at 10:48) and I encouraged her to slow down, since, after all, we had a very long way to go. I was a little concerned by how tight and sore my bad leg was to start the race. Still, I hadn't run all week, so tightness was to be expected, and I just hoped it would eventually go away. 

Miles 2 through 5 wound through Oakland heading northwest towards Berkeley, and is where we really started getting our first taste of both the hills (this was all mild uphill) and the great crowd support. Though it was still early, families were out in front of their homes, cheering, with cups of coffee in their hands. I made it a goal early in the race to say "hi" and "thank you" to every person in the crowd who cheered and every race volunteer and police officer helping on the course. Not only is it the nice thing to do, but you will automatically get some kind of encouragement back. And, since I didn't have any music, it was a great distraction. 

Once we got to mile 5, we hit a very familiar street, college avenue. We ran down the street that was a huge part of my college experience, passing my favorite pizza place, burger place, running store, 

and almost reaching my grocery store, before we turned around. I've done a lot of runs up and down this street, and having it as part of the race made it extra special. 

This was also a place where we did an out and back, and got to see some of the other runners. It was also the last time I saw the 5 hour pacing group (the ended up finishing just 2 minutes before me, so I guess they really slowed down in later sections). 

As we ran back by Rockridge Bart, I was thrilled to see an aid station with chocolate gu-s, my flavor of choice. I had been complaining to Ed the day before that races never have good flavored gu-s, which was why I needed to bring all of my own. I very thankfully took one, and let the volunteers know my appreciation. One complimented me on both my smile and my good manners, which so reminded me of my old running days, when I often got compliments on my smile. It reminded me that I was starting to look a little like my old self, and that smiling will often get you support, a tactic I used on many, many other spectators the rest of the way :). 

I was so thankful I had come up here for training because next was the part I was most nervously anticipating - the hills. 

I felt for anyone who hadn't looked at the elevation profile or done any hill training because they are, well, relentless. I made a plan as I headed up the first one that I would take a few more walking breaks than I had done in training, since I wanted to have enough left for a good end to the race, but that the breaks would be short. Up the first hill, I walked to the count of 10, but ran the rest, feeling strong. 

After the first hill, you get a bit of a "break" on a relatively flat pathway through the park. Since I didn't have music, I decided I would choose songs to "play" in my head, and started all with some "Hairspray." That carried me into the neighborhood part of the hills, which was, if possible, even more green and lush than it had been a few weeks before, due to the recent rains. I "switched" to listening to "Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring" as we turned onto a side street "Fernwood" and ran under a canopy of overhanging tree branches while the sound of a nearby rushing creek set the perfect background sounds and sights. 

After we left this quiet neighborhood, we entered the Montclair district, with full streets full of cheers. There was also a short downhill, which I powered down, fueled by the crowd. I knew we'd have a bit more downhill until the last, and from my memory, toughest, hill arrived.

However, I had something special to keep me going up that last, steep hill. Ed. I walked about 2/3rds of the way up for 10 seconds (again), knowing I'd want to be running when I saw him. As I reached the turn onto Lincoln, two volunteers were cheering in the runners, telling us that the top of the hill was literally just beyond that turn.

(heading up the final hill of the hill section)

My smile from that comment shone even brighter as I saw Ed standing at the exact top of that hill, holding a sign saying, "Run, Adelyn, Run" that I had sentimentally held onto from my very first marathon. He had my own little aid station set up, and refilled my water bottle with more powerade while I grabbed some more gus. And then, with a kiss, I was off.

In the race, just like in training, the Mormon temple was a wonderful sight, as it marked the start of the downhill.

Plus, it's also where you get the best view of the course, a surprising treat after all the rain predictions.

Coming down the hill, I started chatting with another runner, a triathlete who had relocated to Marin from Georgia 3 years ago. She was interesting, but seemed to really dislike the Bay Area, saying she was so happy to be moving back because she "wanted to raise her children southern gentlemen, not hippie punks." She was a bit negative in general, complaining that her garmin was tracking 0.3 miles ahead (mine was 0.15 ahead to start, which grew to 0.4 by the end of the race). I tried to explain that that always happens since they measure the shortest distance of the course, but she blew that off, insisting that they had mismarked the course. In any event, I was happy that she was doing a walk/run strategy, so I wasn't running with her the whole time - her negative energy was pulling me down a little. 

By mile 12 we were in the flat area of Oakland, a stretch a bit more run down that I hadn't felt totally comfortable running solo during one of the training runs. However, running through it with its inhabitants out there cheering really helped me, and I'm sure others, see it in a different light. At one point, I heard cheering and looked up to see a little girl poking her head out of a barred window shouting, "Go, runners, go!" The next 5 miles went by relatively quickly. Mile 13ish was where the next switch was for the relay runners, so there were lots of people there, which was a nice boost. However, soon I started looking forward to mile 17, as that was where I would see Ed again. 

As we passed through China town, there were kids out holding up a dragon and playing some instruments. The different personalities of the neighborhoods really shined in some areas. 

While I was a little bugged by that woman's frustration with the "longer" course, I did find myself wishing my Garmin was more lined up with the mile markers. By here, there was more than a 0.2 mile difference, and the time between when my watch said a mile marker, and when I actually reached it kept feeling longer. 

But, in terms of hydration and nutrition, I went with my watch. Moreso than any race I've done before, I was very good about eating and taking electrolytes on a schedule. Every three miles I took a gel and every four miles I took an S-cap. Of course, I felt like I looked suspicious when I took the S-caps, and wondered if any of the cops who were watching the course wondered what exactly was in these white pills I was taking. I also did great drinking. I started with a bottle about half water, half powerade, and got it filled with water (usually about halfway) maybe 3 or 4 times. I also had Ed fill it with powerade the two middle times, and probably drank maybe 4 bottles total (around 80 ounces, plus the cups of water I snagged from aid stations). 

Ed gave me great advice in the car before the race, after prefacing that he didn't really think he could give me advice, since I was such an "expert". "Remember," he said, "being successful in a long race starts top down. First, worry that you have a clear head, then, make sure you're breathing right. Next, take care of your stomach. Then, your intestines, and finally, your legs. Even if everything is hurting, and it will, if your head is clear you'll be fine. But, if you don't take care of your head, you won't have a good race, no matter how good your legs are." I really took this advice to heart, making sure I took the electrolytes, water, and food to keep a clear head, and focused on deep, slow breathing. 

Finally, just past mile 17, I saw the most welcome sight ever - Ed.

Once again, he was the picture of efficiency, refueling me and I grabbed what I needed. I decided to try out an espresso gu since my stomach was doing okay and I was hoping for an extra little shot of energy. Before I could blink, I was off again, for what would be the toughest part of the course.

It was here, when I had been running for over 3 hours, and I still had 9 miles left, that the enormity of the distance began to sink in. After all, that meant well over 1 1/2 more hours of running, and I was still feeling pretty tired. But, I just kept smiling and running, and trying to keep my pace around 11:20.  At mile 18, I began running with a very nice man, who was holding a good pace. He complimented me on my smile as well, and then asked if I was part of "the team," short for team-in-training. "No," I replied. I was about to ask why, when I looked down and realized that the purple shirt I was wearing was similar to the TnT color. That was why all the TnT crews had been so supportive! Oh well, I'd take all the encouragement I could get.

My newfound running buddy noted that we were running into a headwind (on top of the sun already coming out to make it a bit warmer) and then asked if he could draft off of me. I told him sure, vaguely wondering if it would make it harder, but I didn't care.

Soon, we approached the Arch of Fire. Which is, well, an arch covered in fire - both metal and real, made by the Crucible

My new running friend asked if it would be bad form to walk through the arch. "Very" I replied, and so he pushed through. Soon after, though, we bid farewell as he slowed to a walk while I kept pushing. 

Around mile 20, I started to get pretty tired. It wasn't like I'd hit "the wall," after all, I'd been eating great. I was just tired. It was hard to must the "thank you" for people, but saying it forced me to act, and therefore be, more energized. Around mile 20, though, I began to notice that everyone was walking around me. Granted, we had joined up with the slower half marathoners, but still, barely anyone was running. This made things a bit more challenging, as I had to weave around runners, and made it a bit harder, since when you see people walking, it makes it a bit more tempting to start walking too. But, I had a goal to meet.

There was a great aid station around 20 with volunteers lining both sides of the course, cheering and holding out bananas, gus, and drinks. It was such a high! Of course, I remembered the race report that mentioned this from the previous year, and all the people who were throwing up said banana a mile later, and abstained, merely shouting a thanks as I passed. 

By mile 21, I was starting to just wave a thumbs up at the spectators - saying anything was just too hard - and I was looking forward to, more than anything mile 23 when I'd see Ed. Despite the fact that I was super tired, something about reaching mile 22 was emotional for me. I think it started to sink in that I was going to finish. I got a little teary as I rounded one of the bends in the course, realizing that I was really doing this. I was really running a marathon. 

The crowds in this section were unbelievably helpful and brought a smile to my face every time I felt like I just couldn't do any more. 

The best was when I hit mile 23 and Lake Merritt, and a woman shouted, "Holy sh**! You look great for a full!!" I'm not usually one for profanity, but that made me feel awesome. 

Equally awesome was the sight of Ed just up the path around Lake Merritt, ready to meet me. 

He also told me I looked great and then, surprisingly, asked if he could run with me for a bit. We began running together, and he told me a little bit about his run and started telling me all sorts of encouraging things. While it was wonderful at first, the thing was, I was really hurting by this point and, with as much love as I could, told Ed that, while he is amazing and I soo appreciated seeing him, I didn't really want him to run with me any more. This was an ending I had to do on my own. 

Dropping off my now unnecessary arm sleeves (literally dropping as they fell on the ground when I tried to pass them off), I was on my own once more, only 3 miles from the finish, and very tired but determined.

This last stretch around the lake was very mentally tough. You can see where you'll be finishing from mile 23, and knowing you still have over 3 miles left can be sort of disheartening. A very small uphill around mile 24 left me cursing, and the distance between my Garmin's measurements and the real mile markers seemed further than ever. I was also feeling even more frustrated by all the walkers here, since the path was so much narrower, and I was really having to dodge them and expend extra energy to get around. I started reverting to the general "On your left"s so that I could just run in a straight line. Just before mile 25, when I said that, I got the response, "Just as long as you don't mind me blowing past you at the finish line!" "All the more power to you if you can," I replied with a half-hearted smile. Seriously, I was very much running my own race, and couldn't have cared less about when anyone else crossed that finish line. 

Finally, when I closed in on mile 25, I really began to feel like I could make 5 hours, but that it would be close. By my watch, I was less than a minute ahead of pace, and I'd been slow the last few miles. I'd really have to push to make it. We went away from the lake a bit, and headed up a small uphill near the construction. I saw and overheard a man, running the full, pulled to the side, asking his friend, "I'm almost done, aren't I?" After his friend affirmed, I heard the sound of vomiting and was very very thankful that my stomach had really held up. I couldn't imagine being that close and not being able to continue. 

Finally, there was a little downhill and I knew I was close so I kept pushing. My watch beeped for mile 26 and I looked down to see a 10:30 pace and tried to pick it up even more, for that last 0.4 of a mile (very much cursing the mile differentiation here). I was so looking forward to that finish, to seeing Ed, to reaching my goal. 

As I rounded that last bend, I tried to put some speed in my legs, and took in the positive comments and encouragements from already finished racers and other spectators. In a bit of cruelty, the very last 0.2 was uphill, but I could see the finish line now, I wouldn't let that stop me. I kept trying to go faster as a huge smile spread across my face and tears dotted my eyes. My eyes searched the sides of the barriers for that familiar face, and soon I saw and heard Ed as he, along with everyone else, cheered me in. 

Stopping my watch, I looked down to see 4:59:04 and smiled a huge, grateful, proud smile as I slowed to a walk. I had finished. 

I walked through the finisher's chute in a daze, bypassing the food, but taking a water, as well as my medal and space blanket, and found Ed's eager arms at the other end. It was the perfect moment. From there, we went and sat on the grass (well, I laid down while Ed sat) and I regaled him with the tale of my run, while I intermittently commented on how sore I was, but how great, too. 

After resting, we made our game plan. I went and got a mimosa (or 2. They did give us two drink tickets after all!), and decided that the mimosa trumps beer for best post race beverage ever, and we walked to the 19th street BART to get back to the car. Walking down the stars was, admittedly, painful, but I was gleeful in the trip down memory lane. I hadn't ridden on BART since college. 

While I hadn't remembered that marathons make you so darn sore, I was so so happy I didn't really care. I didn't even really care that we had to walk another half mile from BART to find the car, which was quite a bit farther than Ed had remembered. Much.

We went to my friend Sarah's for a post-race celebration and then it was time to head home. To reflect and rest and celebrate.

The next day, I am sore (oh so much more sore than I remembered) but so very happy and already planning out my next race. It feels unbelievable to have run this distance again, after so many years, and to feel like I can return to the old, running me, to reclaim those running dreams I gave up so long ago. It feels great to be a runner and marathoner once more.

Thanks so much to all of you who knew me way back when I was Addy the ultrarunner and stuck by me through Addy the injured, when this blog was practically dead. While at the time, I was upset and scared to learn that my chronic pain was caused by a benign tumor, I've learned that it's a bit of a gift. Now that I know running can't make my pain worse, I can run worry free. And that? Has made all the difference.

Now, I just need to decide where to make my re-debut as a 50k runner :).

But for now? I'll enjoy this very special and very meaningful triumph.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Finally, after 5 years, I re-became a marathoner today! Despite all the predictions and worrying, it ended up being a perfect running day. Full race report to follow, but I made my goal by 1 minute, coming in at 4:59:00. It was amazing. Painful, but amazing. Ed was awesome support, meeting me at 3 places on the course, dropping me off, and heading over to the finish line to cheer me in (I'm the one in blue and purple). Warning, Ed's a little loud in the video :)

What a great husband!

(waiting to ride BART back to the car)

I'll fill you in on all the details soon. Thanks for the support!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wet, Wet, Wet Weather

This is the weather report for race day.

Yeah, I have never run a long race in the race. All the marathons I've done have gotten into the 90s and I've been much more concerned with overheating.

This puts my race outfit into a whole different light. I was planning on my new shorts that I've done all my runs in. I love these shorts.
Nike Two-in-One Tempo Track Women's Running Shorts
With it raining and feeling like 45 degrees, I'm not sure what to wear. I *hate* running in the capris that I have, because they always ride down (is that the right phrase? Basically they don't stay where they're supposed to stay.

I'm wondering whether to pick up a pair of compression calf things at the expo.

I figure they'd keep my legs warmer and would be more likely to stay in place.

I'm also thinking I'll bring my gloves and wear a jacket, probably this great north face one my mother in law got me (you can vent the sides to allow circulation while still being protected from the rain).

Question - do I want to wear a short sleeved shirt, a long sleeved shirt, or both under it?

This totally reminds me of the week before Dick Collins, when it was supposed to rain and I was freaking out, emailing the ultra list a plea for help (I was totally known as the "rain girl" on the course. Every time I met someone knew, they would say, "Oh, so you're the girl who emailed about running in the rain!"). At least I'm not really stressed about it, persay, just trying to figure out how not to be too cold.

Any advice from any of you seasoned running in the rain runners (apparently, according to my blog stats, people are reading this blog, despite my super lack of comments. So, if you're reading this and you run, please help!!!)- what should I be wearing? Short or long sleeves? Will compression sleeves plus shorts keep me warm enough? What other precautions should I take for a rainy marathon?

Thanks for helping :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Looking Back as I Look Forward

My marathon, the first one since June 2007, is approaching rapidly. A week from tomorrow. Eight days. Or, 7 days, 17 hours, 5 minutes and 24 seconds to be more precise (thanks to the countdown on the website). When I stop to think about that, my stomach does a series of flip flops from a mix of anticipation and fear.

Even though I've been back to running for a while now, this race is really a litmus test for me. This race will prove, one way or another, if I can continue to harbor my fantasy of returning to my old running ways. Running double digit mileage in Nisene Marks or around Mount Tam these last few months in the bay area. Can I enjoy everything bay area trails have to offer? And, the new question that's peaking up, can I run a 50k up here before we move?

I'll find out one way or another. That's not to say that if I have a bad race (though *knock on wood* everything will go great), that it's totally decisive. But, if it goes well, it will be very reassuring.

I thought a fun way to reflect back would be to post some pictures of important long races from my past life. This is the girl I'm hoping to become again (well, an older, wiser version that is :) ).

June 2006 - My first marathon (5:32 - I'm hoping to beat this time on my next go around!)

Breaking 5 hours at the OC marathon, January 2007

My first trail marathon - Diablo. April 2007. Took me over 9 hours!!! This was the first run I didn't know I could finish until about 8 miles to go. 

First circumnavigation of Mt. Tam, April, 2007.  This run was around 24 miles. To be in that kind of shape again...

The day I became an ultramarathoner! Tahoe Rim Trail 50k - July 2007. I believe I beat my Diablo marathon time here, but only just. 

My first documented run with Ed (about 3 weeks after we started dating) on a camping trip to Big Basin. September 2007

Finishing my first (and only) 50 miler at Dick Collins. I was beyond elated to have come in under 12 hours and felt on top of the world. October 2007

My first big run back after years off. Diablo Trail Marathon, April, 2010. Also the only race Ed and I have run together (not the most compatible of racing partners, we learned :P)

Our first run as a married couple, the day after we got married. June 2010.

After a shorter break from running, this race was my "I'm back race". San Francisco Half Marathon, with my work Friend, Dana. July 2011

Keeping the running going! I ran San Jose Half Marathon with friends Amy, Bill, and Jenny. October 2011.

So, all that's left is to add one more racing adventure to this list. One at a time that is - I already have big plans for the rest of this spring! 

Wish me luck!!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Trail Running in Arizona

(Even though I'm putting this post on my regular blog as part of my series on my visit to Arizona, it's too much of a run report not to share on here as well :) )

We awoke to another gorgeous 70 degree day in Arizona, and headed out to check out the more natural side of Phoenix - specifically, the McDowell preserve, a large piece of Sonoran Desert full of trails, saguaros, and lots of desert scenery. We first learned about this preserve in a recent Sunset magazine, and we're excited to check it out. 

This drive, in comparison to yesterday's depressing ride, was beautiful. Still deserty, but a little less stark in appearance. 

As we got closer to our destination, this beautiful range began towering over the horizon.

As we got out of the car, it was already a little warm, but we brought water, so we felt confident. Ed checked out the map and made sure we knew where we'd be going - a 4ish mile loop that was specifically named in Sunset. 

For some reason, seeing it in Sunset made me think that it would be easy. 

That, was a mistake. 

Still, we didn't know that as we set out, in awe of the saguaro cacti that towered over the scenery. 

I felt great at first. Things were mostly flat, and the mental high from my 18 miler a few days earlier was in the forefront. 

However, soon we started climbing. We went up, and up, and up. Add to this was the fact that the trail was pretty technical - rocky and uneven. And, of course, the temperature was climbing as well. In the beginning we had passed all these hikers, and I felt so embarrassed as some of them started making up ground on us as I had to stop and walk. I wanted to tell all these people that I was sure were thinking I was just some out of shape girl who under-estimated the trails that I had just run very far a few days ago (though the underestimating the trails part was very accurate). It did motivate me to put in spurts of running despite my low spirits and energy. 

Ed was great. He made sure I was drinking water and even taking salt. His attitude and seriousness to my complaints would have fit well at mile 20 of a marathon, but I appreciated it at mile 1 of my very much going south run. 

Still, the view was lovely.

(side note: On this trip I tried to begin what I'm hoping will be a successful reconditioning of my mind. Every time I saw something like this I told myself "this is beautiful. this is beautiful. this is beautiful." I haven't always been exactly fond on desert scenery, but I'm trying to learn.)

As much as I hated to admit it, this desert was seriously hurting me. All the illusions I had built up about myself as a trail runner were crashing around me. As we reached a fork in the trail, and were supposed to head up some more, I called uncle and told Ed we needed to turn around. 

So, with my pride a bit banged up, we headed back down. The downhill was much better than going up, and soon I started feeling like a runner again, not just an out of shape hiker pretending to run. 

It ended up being a good thing to cut it short. We still hit 3.8 miles and it gave us more time with our realtor, but it gave me a bit more respect for the trails here. Trail running won't quite be the same, but it will certainly be a challenge worth pursuing. 

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Barefoot Giveaway!

As I've mentioned before, I am slowly but surely getting into the minimalist scene. I now almost exclusively wear minimalist shoes for teaching and hope to do more minimalist running once the marathon is past (which is coming up!). Anyways, I would love to win a pair of these awesome road shoes, and you might want to enter, too!

Give it a try here and good luck :)

Sunday, March 04, 2012

20 Miles and Tired Feet

(No camera on this run, so all images are courtesy of google image searches for the place in question)

Now, as it's Sunday evening, and *less* than three weeks until my Marathon (technically three weeks from this morning), I can officially say that I am in taper. 

Of course, I didn't earn that taper until I completed one more run. 

One last long, unexpectedly hilly, warm 20 mile run. 

This time, I wasn't the one designing my run - the folks putting on the Oakland Marathon put this training run on for all of us - marathoners, 1/2 marathoners and 5kers, each with a different course. Ours was the perfect distance, 20 miles, and was on my calendar from the beginning. 

The run started at 8, but I followed my usual pattern and awoke at 5am, so that I would have an hour to get ready, and plenty of time to find parking, find the meeting spot, find a bathroom, etc. I left a bit after 6 and was in Oakland by 7 - an easy drive. 

I spent about 15 minutes driving up and down streets looking for parking. I found a lot at first, but all the spots were expensive and 2 hour max. So, I kept going and finally found some free street parking, unlimited on the weekend. Score! 

I sat in the car for a little while, reading Peter Pan and getting myself excited. Then, I walked 4 or so blocks back down the street to the McDonalds to use the facilities (though there ended up being a porti-potty at the start, I didn't know that at the time). Thankful to have bathroom access, I was now ready to join the crowd. I grabbed my camelback (a very good choice, as I missed more or less all the water stops that were supposedly on the course), and a bottle full of powerade. I gulped down 3 shot blocks (which are now a banned substance during runs, on account of them sitting very heavily in my stomach, but are fine for a pre-run snack) and headed to Snow Park, our meeting place. 

It was a pretty big crowd at 7:45 (500 runners were expected), and soon our guest speaker was giving a quick speech to pump us up. At almost exactly 8am, the guy in charge began calling out pacing groups for the marathon. I jumped in with the 11:30 group, and we were off!

The first  or so miles wind around the streets near Lake Merritt, past the Fox Theater 
and the Paramount Theater, then climbing up on Broadway, Telegraph, and Piedmont, until finally reaching College Avenue and to the Rockridge district. The race course was much better planned than my 16 miler route from Lake Merritt to Rockridge, which featured a huge hill. This was much more gradual. 

Up to this point, I was running with no headphones. I was hoping to strike up a conversation with some of the other runners, but found that I people weren't too chatty. It didn't help that the "11:30" group was running way too fast - 10:30 miles, so I slowed down and ended up sort of by myself. Surprisingly, I was really okay with that. It felt good to run my pace. 

However, at mile 5, I was where Ed and I had started our 16 and knew what was coming next - hills. So, I popped on my ipod, and ran to some sweet, relaxing jazz tunes as I powered upwards. I think I had really built these hills up in my mind, because I found that they actually weren't all that bad! Before I knew it, I was at Lake Temescal, 

laketemescal lake temescal oakland laketfph summer picnic
where there were actual bathrooms (yay!) and some flattish trail. My music switched from jazz to Jackson 5, and I had found lipsyncing the music as I bounced along (i.e. why I wasn't so bummed to be running by my lonesome). 

After the park, you wind through what is arguably one of the most beautiful parts of the race - the Oakland hills. The spring air smelled sweet with the blooms, and many blooming trees overhung the streets, making a canopy of whites and pinks that was heavenly with the light streaming through the petals. Some beautiful piano music made the scene perfect. 

From here, it was more shopping district running and then more climbing until we finally reached the "turning point" - the Mormon Temple that signifies a gorgeous view and a steep downhill into the flats of the main city of Oakland. 

At this point, I felt on top of the world, figuratively and literally. I had finished "all" the climbing for the day (not exactly true, but pretty close), I was over halfway done (barely - I was at 10.1 I think) and I had no doubts that the rest of this run would go great. 

(remember this view? It was even more clear today). 

The uphill was easier, but the downhill was just as jarring. I usually like downhill, but this one is steep enough that I was happy to be back on flat. 

While I was feeling a lot better through this section than last time, the rest of this run isn't all that scenic. You're running through lots of different neighborhoods, but most are a bit run down and not super inspiring. 

The hardest chunk was miles 14, 15, 16 on International Boulevard. 

We were on this from 41st to 5th street. I also lost sight of all the other runners on this, so I was feeling pretty isolated and alone. Glad I had music. 

The rest of the run was a bit loopy - literally, as you wound back and forth through a warehouse area of Oakland. I was hurting pretty badly, but so were others - I finally caught up with and passed at least 3 other runners. 

I finally reached Oak street, which was my last major turn. With a little over a mile left, I knew without a doubt I would finish, which boosted my spirits. I could still sprint to make it through lights so I did have some speed left, but I was very much ready to be done. I had run out of water at mile 19 which was fine, but didn't help things. I had done great with eating and salt, sticking with my newly tried and true method of gu every 3 miles and salt every 40 minutes. I think taking the salt more frequently is single handedly responsible for and end to the severe headaches I used to always get after long runs. I did perfectly, except for not taking my mile 18 gu - I figured I had enough steam to finish without it. 

As the miles ticked slowly past on my GPS, I finally reached Lake Meritt. 
Realizing that my mileage would be a touch short, I decided to just keep going around the lake until I got closer to 20. But, at the last minute, I saw that a cross walk heading back to Snow Park was flashing green, and figured I'd take the opportunity. As I reached the crosswalk, my miles turned from 19 to 20 and beeped at me to let me know that I was finally done. 

It took me 3 hours, 45 minutes and 47 seconds. An 11:18 pace. Much better than the 16 with Ed and awesome considering the hills. 

I gingerly walked the remaining way to the stop where I exchanged congrats with other runners in various states of pain and poured myself a full bottle of water. Then, taking off my shoes and socks and laying down on the cool, shady grass, I looked up into the sky at the mammoth skyscraper in front of and above me. I stayed there for 10 minutes or so, reflecting on my run and the accomplishment of running this long distance that has eluded me for so long. However, I wasn't nearly as euphoric as I thought I'd be. I think I was just tired. 

Finally, I decided to pull myself up and head home. Carefully lacing up my shoes, I headed to my car. As I walked away few runners said goodbye, and we said we'd see each other in 3 weeks.

So, I officially know the neighborhoods of Oakland. At least 20 miles worth. And, I'll be making that 26.2 miles of Oakland on March 25. 

Thankfully, I have 3 lovely weeks of tapering before I have add on those extra 6.2 Oakland miles.