it has been a bit.

I often have these visions of how I want my blog to look, and I have all these posts planned out in my mind, things that I often chat about with other running friends, yet ultimately, when I have an opportunity to write, I do something else instead … and so begins nearly every blog post I write, with some sort of half-assed non-apology to my few readers for my relative absence.

An absence of my virtual scribbles doesn’t indicate that things are awry or that I’m not running; in fact, as is the case now, it’s really quite the opposite. It’s simply a matter of how I’m choosing to spend the very little children-free time I have available.

I’m here; I’m just … not. Or something.

I’ll do a quick catch-up, a la bullet points, in the interest of brevity:

  • I had about a twelve-week-ish turnaround between Pony Express on 5/1 and the SF Marathon on 7/31. I took a good two weeks post-PEM for super easy or no running, not so much out of physical stress as much as I did for the mental side. Being in the land of the Mouse for some of that time surely made the decision to not run much pretty effortless, too. I used to be able to effortlessly jump from marathon cycle to cycle, finishing one race and then hopping right into the next cycle for the next race. Maybe it’s part of the aging process (getting wiser?!) or, as is probably more realistic, the current wonderful state of life with two young kids, but I find that I need at least a little downtime to recharge my proverbial batteries before getting back into the marathon grind. Physically, I always feel ready; my mind is the one that’s all jump back, johnny! that convinces me to take more downtime. It’s less about waving the white flag in “weakness” and more about acknowledging that if I want to continue to do this stuff for the long-term, I’ve got to respect the mental side of marathon training as much as I do the physical.

    also good for mentally recharging? running monument peak.
    also good for mentally recharging? running monument peak.
  • My family and I have been spending most of the summer in the midwest to visit our families. During our travels, I registered for both a 5k and an 8k. By my standards, the 5k was pretty shitty – let’s talk about how unacclimated I am to a) racing 5ks and b) racing in humidity, ha – and I ultimately DNSed the 8k (something I’ve only ever done twice before) because I felt exhausted and didn’t think that the stress of trying to race an 8k would do me any favors 27 days pre-marathon. I thought I’d try to sneak in a few more 5ks, but I never found any that would be convenient and minimally disruptive to my family, so I just forewent it. I was initially going to write a RR about the 5k, but honestly, it’s been about a month now, and I don’t even remember very much of it anymore except that after a 3 mile warmup, I was soaked from head-to-toe in sweat; I had GI nonsense during my WU that (fortunately) abated during the race; and naturally, I had a slow burn-and-fade during the race. I think I posted a low 21 – slow for me – but I left pissed more at myself for the novice pacing than for the time. Practice, practice, practice…

    drones are cool. (PC: tim speer photography)
    drones are cool. (PC: tim speer photography)
  • Concurrent with the awesome family time I’ve been able to have, I’ve purposely let running take something of a backseat. I so appreciate being with family, and of course, their willingness to hang with the kids when/so I can run, but realistically, I’d much rather just be with my family (whom I never get to see, due to that whole California-being-on-the-edge-of-the-western-world-thing) than running by myself for a few hours. I’ve run when I can and when it has been both convenient and minimally disruptive, and while it was initially challenging to shake the guilt-ridden ohmygodhowamIgoingtorunTSFMifIdon’tcompleteaLReveryweekendorpostXnumberofmileseachweek sentiments, I’m better with it now. It wasn’t that long ago that I’d feel completely derailed by not being able to check-off all my runs week after week. Now – and especially given our travel and my sacrosanct family time – it’s ok. Expected, even. I’ll be fine.

    buuuuuuuut this 20 miler in Akron was arguably one of the best runs I've had while traveling. when in doubts, woods it out.
    buuuuuuuut this 20 miler in Akron was arguably one of the best runs I’ve had while traveling. when in doubt, woods it out. as much as I love roads — and I really do — going off the beaten path for a while is really just so good for the soul. I’m convinced of it.
  • I’m running the SF Marathon, one of my favs, in just a few weeks now, on July 31. It’ll be my third time running the marathon, and another year being an ambassador for the race, and I’m looking forward to it. It’s always a good experience and a fun weekend. On paper, my training has been fine – I can say that both mentally and physically, I’m going into it feeling better than I did going into PEM, but not nearly as good as I felt going into Modesto – and I think I am most liberated by my relative lack of expectations and goals. TSFM is a tough race any day of the week, even if you’re especially trained for it, but it’s also a beautiful course and a lot of fun. I love the climbing (about 1,500′ by my Garmin in ’14, if I’m remembering correctly); the diversity of the course doesn’t get old; and hell, going from sultry midwest temps back to the coolness of SF in July will be a welcome treat. If I had to guess, right now I think I’ll be looking forward to the race as a wonderful and scenic long-long-run opportunity. I should hold a contest to guess my finish time because really, I got nothing. We’ll just see how it all comes together. I don’t think it’ll be my fastest SF, but I also don’t think it’ll be my slowest, either.
  • Speaking of things coming together … stuff is still being finalized, but if it all works out and I’m still needed (wanted?), I might be pacing at a popular California marathon in August. …wink.
  • This is pretty fun; someone is actually paying me to write about running (for a change!). It’s funny how the internet works sometimes. I should really make some explicit messages on my blog that state that I’m not interested in posting advertisements or promoting products in whom I don’t believe (looking at you, compression anything), or putting people’s pre-written and glowing product reviews on my blog, or writing for free (!) for some website about bodybuilding (true story) – all things that have come my way since I started casually writing here a while ago. Nowadays, in that aforementioned sparse child-free spare time that I have, I’ve been doing some freelance writing (and ghostwriting) about running. You might come across my byline sometime … or you might read my stuff that’s attributed to someone else. It’s kinda neat. Even though I’ve written and published stuff before, seeing my name in a byline – or knowing that stuff I wrote has been published on running outlets – doesn’t get old.

Maybe I’ll pull something else together here before TSFM on 7/31, but if not, you’ll probably have my SF recap to look forward to next in a few weeks. On pins and needles I surely leave you. Here’s another gratuitous woods pic, this one from the land of Lincoln from earlier this summer.

make some Illinoise
make some Illinoise

Loaves + Fishes Feed the Need 5k race report

I don’t race nearly as often as I used to, and these days, when I do race, it’s almost always the long stuff – typically marathons. In fact, if I am registering for a race, about 99% of the time, I will sign-up for the longest distance offered for that day because I figure it’s more bang for my buck (since the longer distances are usually only a few dollars more) and because more often than not, I’m training for some marathon somewhere and I figure that the longer distance race offering jibes better with my training.

Well, as I wrote not long ago, I’m kinda sucking it up a bit and going after some short stuff as part of my marathon training at least for the summer, if not also for the rest of the year. It has been nearly a year since I last ran a 5k – and even then, that was at 9 months/36 weeks pregnant and thus, doesn’t really count – so suffice it to say that it has been years since I last truly raced a 5k. Without looking at Athlinks, I don’t even know when my last 5k race attempt was. Anyway, I registered for SJ’s inaugural Loaves and Fishes Feed the Need 5k so I could get an assessment of how my speed is faring, 8 or so weeks out from SF, and because, like I said, it has been a while since I’ve raced this distance, and if I’m going to do a 3-4 mile tempo run anyway as part of marathon training, why not also stick a bib on and see how the speed plays out in a race environment.

L+F’s inaugural race benefited the same-named non-profit organization that helps Bay Area residents overcome food security issues, so I felt like this was a cause I could gladly get behind. SJ (really, the entire Bay Area) is an extremely expensive place to live – for perspective, a “starter home” here (typically, a townhouse-style condo that’s not much beyond 1,300 sq. foot) will set you back $600k, and the median price for single-family homes here now tops $1 mil. – and as you can imagine, it’s pretty hard for a sizable portion of this population to make rent each month and still get food. Enter L+F and my willingness to support this organization.

In the days leading up to the race, I took things fairly easy and decided not to run long on Saturday so that I could go into the race on pretty fresh legs. Because this was an inaugural race, and a small one at that (about 200 runners between the 10k and 5k, with about 160 of them in the latter), I correctly assumed that there wouldn’t be chip timing and that the race distance would be a dubious 5k. Even still, I was excited to try to run fast and be finished in about 20 minutes, as opposed to the usual 3 hours and 20 minutes-ish.

A 5k warmup on the Guadalupe River Trail, where the race was held, allowed me to run most of the course (by following the directional arrows on the ground), and I soon realized that for a 5k race, there’d be a fair amount of sharp turns and back-and-forth on the GRT. I planned to start right on the line and hopefully have people to chase, who’d be closely following the arrows, and just see what happened. My strategy was fairly non-existent; this was like being tested on something that you know you’ve learned at some point but haven’t really needed to employ in a while… muscle memory at its finest.

L+F 2016 race
at the starting line of the race [PC: L+F]
There weren’t many other women on the starting line, just a couple dudes and a young boy, and soon enough, we were off. A quick glance at my watch showed a sub-6, so I quickly reeled that in and tried to run comfortably hard, reminding myself that I had 3.1 fast miles to run and that taking a balls-out approach early wouldn’t be in my best interest. I haven’t been a very good 5k racer in the past – my strategy usually amounts to “go out and slowly die” – so I tried my best to employ all the strategies that Pete mentioned to me recently and pace myself accordingly. I soon caught up to the young boy who had sprinted out at a sub-6 pace, and the only people before me were two guys, about a 30-60 seconds ahead, and a woman whom I tucked in behind. It was hard not to try to pass her early – ego, much? – but I stayed right behind her, pressing the pace, and when she joyfully said something like this is great! A 6:45 pace!, I just smiled and remarked yea, good job!, or something along those lines. I hope I didn’t sound too curt; I appreciated her enthusiasm but for once in my life, wasn’t really interested in making conversation mid-race. I passed her around mile 1, with more cheerful support from her, and for the rest of the race, I concentrated on chasing the two guys in front of me. Mile 1: 6:31

5k races start and end so quickly that it’s hard to capture the rest of the race. Again, I was glad that I ran most of the course during my warm-up because there was so much back-and-forth, hairpin-turn action on the GRT and the little side routes off the main path. A happy group of teenage volunteers was handing out water at around 1.5, right at one of the sharp turns that would deliver us back to where we began, but I didn’t grab anything. By now, the leader was out of my sight (or pretty far away), while the second guy/second place was still about 30 seconds or so ahead, still within sight. I was feeling pretty good and strong and was feeling satisfied with my pacing – the usual ohmygod I’m going to die here come some 20-minute-mile feelings that arise with my shitty 5k pacing hadn’t yet surfaced – and thanks to some hairpin turns and the teeniest of undulations (I don’t dare call them hills) on the side routes of the GRT, as well as still probably going out a little too fast, mile 2 came and went fairly uneventfully. Mile 2: 6:40

During the last bit of the race, the second-place guy and then I both ran with another guy for a few minutes, but I couldn’t tell where he had come from. I initially thought that he was one of the fast 10k guys, whose race had started 20 minutes before ours, but since I hadn’t seen him at any other point on the course, I didn’t think that was possible. At any rate, he threw some encouraging c’mon, you got this! Go get ’em! remarks my way, and I left him feeling fairly energized to finish the race strong. My forever-old 5k PR is a 20:31, and I thought that it’d be possible to maaaaybe notch a PR and maaaaaybe maaaaybe break 20 for the first time. I wasn’t really clock-watching during the race, but when I noticed how far off my watch was from the 3 mile marker, I knew that the course would probably be even shorter than I had anticipated. Plus, right after one of our final hairpin turns in our final ~.2 mile, I came thiiiiiiiis close to accidentally clipping the course (making it even shorter!) because I thought I saw arrows on the ground. Mid-run delusion, much? Fortunately, I corrected myself quickly and proceeded on the correct path, made one more hairpin turn, and finished through the old-school finish chute, where a volunteer was waiting to tear my timing tab off the bottom of my bib. Final .93: 6:10 (6:36 pace) = 19:21 for 2.93. 1st F, 1st AG, 3rd OA

After the race, I chatted with the other two guys who had finished 1-2, and I learned the the second place guy belongs to the same South Bay-based pacing group as me and will be pacing the 1:40 group at TSFM, which was pretty cool. We chatted for a while, I tried to recruit him to Wolfpack, he told me about his sub-3 training plans this year, so it made for a nice little morning while we waited to collect our awards, which included gift cards to Athletic Performance, a local running specialty store. I was pleased with how the race went, even though I’m fairly certain it was short – a 19:21 time for a 5k would result in significantly faster splits than I posted – because I got some good feedback with what my speed looks like right now. I think if I extrapolate the time, it’d get me pretty close to my existing 5k PR time, which, hey, I’m alright with that. It wasn’t the hard-and-fast goal for the day, but that’s as good feedback as any, and especially when I’m at about 10 months postpartum.

L+F 2016 - 2
the results board (told you it was old school! kinda love it). [PC: F+L]
The thing that I haven’t been able to shake about this race is my cadence. I use a Garmin FR 220, which has an accelerometer built in, and typically on my day-to-day GA runs, including my runs with the single stroller, I routinely post around 178-183, usually about 181 on average. During the marathons that I’ve run since having this watch, I post the same, usually about 181. What’s weird to me is that on my tempo runs, when I’m running almost two minutes faster than my day-to-day pace, my cadence drops significantly, often down to the 140-150 range. In this race, it went 183-122-120 for the 2.93 miles, which leaves me wondering how, if my feet are moving faster than usual, they’re making fewer steps per minute. Have you experienced this as well? I mean, how is it that I can hit 180+ steps per minute, running 8:xx minute miles, pushing a stroller, yet also run mid-6-minute miles with nearly forty fewer steps per minute? That seems really odd to me.

Anyway – tangent – I enjoyed the race. 5Ks aren’t marathons, but they sure are fun and a nice way to spice things up. I should have run a cooldown but didn’t, in favor of talking to my new-found friend, and there really is something to be said for going out and running hard and being done in about twenty minutes’ time. I can totally understand how and why people do 5ks each weekend. I have a handful more of these short races coming up as my family and I go see our family in the midwest this summer, so now I’ll have the added benefit of racing in heat and humidity for a change. Dare I say I’m looking forward to it? I might be.

marathoning bay area wife and mom ruminating on her love of the run