It’s race week – the 408k Race to the Row

The kinda weird 8k distance–4.97 miles–is probably my second preferred distance to race after the marathon. I don’t know what it is about it, but I find it somewhat refreshing. An 8k isn’t really the soul-crushing effort of a 5k, nor is it as necessarily calculated as a 10k or half marathon… hard to say. For lack of a better description, I just find the distance “nice.” That description is useless… suffice it to say that I just dig the distance.

Really, I think the thing that endears me to the 8k is my positive associations with the race distance. Chicago’s Shamrock Shuffle 8k, organized by the same folks (Bank of America) who run the Chicago Marathon, is allegedly the world’s largest 8k, with something like over 30,000 runners, and in Chicago, the Shuffle marks the unofficial beginning of the Chicago marathon and “running” season… though plenty people will remind you that, ahem, people run in Chicago year-round.  :)  When I lived in Chicago, I ran the Shuffle a handful of times, and that’s where my current 8k PR is. The course cuts through sections of the marathon course, which is super fun, and for many people, it’s just a huge party, kinda like Bay to Breakers is here. If you want to run fast–and plenty of people do–you can. Most are just in it for the party, though.  Each time I shuffled, I’d inevitably see tons of people I knew–either out running the race as well or lining the course–and it just always made for a really fun morning. The weather could be wonderful (sunshine and rainbows and 40s+) or terrible (ankle-deep snow, slush, freezing rain), but whatever. That comes with the territory; it’s Chicago weather.

post-shuffle. A looks so tiny!
post-shuffle in 2013. A looks so tiny!

 

Of course, once we moved to SJ in late 2013, running the Shuffle each spring in Chi was no longer in the cards. Instead, last January, I serendipitously got hooked up with Represent Running, a group here who organizes a series of races run in and throughout the Bay Area. Each race has its area code affixed to the race name somehow, and for me, for SJ’s area code, “our” race is the 408k, the Race to the Row (describing the course, which begins at the SAP Center [where the Sharks hockey team plays] and ends at Santana Row [kinda an upscale shopping area exactly 4.97 miles away].  Kinda funny how the universe works, right? My somewhat annual springtime 8k tradition in Chicago got replaced by a new somewhat annual springtime (wintertime?) 8k in San Jose that had only been around for a handful of years. Last year’s race was especially cool because on the course, probably in the final mile, a World War II vet was sitting outside his house greeting the runners, and tons of runners ran over to greet him and salute him. Really cool. The veteran, Mr. Joe Bell,  just recently passed away, and this year, the 408k has added an additional event, the Memorial Mile, to honor all local military. Really, really cool.

 

 

Last year’s 408k was my first time sporting orange for Wolfpack, and it was awesome; there was Wolfpack orange everywhere, both in the race and lining the streets, volunteering. The 408k is a huge event for us, in terms of our opportunity to promote the club and enlist other people, and people really seemed to dig the support last year.

 

orange for days! [PC: Lisa/Wolfpack]
just a handful of the orange for days! [PC: Lisa/Wolfpack]

 

I’m really stoked for the 8k on Sunday because not only is racing fun (duh) and running while pregnant a blast (hello, no expectations), but my kiddo is running a kids’ race as well–something she hasn’t done since a little PBS-themed race back in Chicago a few years ago. I’m really excited and can guarantee that I’ll be counting down the minutes til she toes the line at 10am :) truth be told, I might be more excited for her race than I am for mine!

Promoting the 408k for the past few months has been a blast, and I’m so looking forward to running slogging the streets of SJ for 4.97 miles! It will be aweeeeeeeeeeesome.

Bottling runs

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed writing. More often than not, writing helps me process things and helps me move beyond minutiae, forcing me to think big picture, to identify problematic or encouraging trends, and in general, to just give me a sense of perspective that can otherwise be drowned out by incessantly thinking in the here-and-now, micro-level shit that I am wont to do.

In these regards, whether officially or not, I think writing has helped me tremendously as a runner. Since 2007, I’ve kept some iteration of a training log–either something handwritten or, more recently, something (or somethingS) digital–and as is to be expected, seeing recaps of my runs laid out before me gives me a sense of perspective that I’d otherwise lose. If I have a week of bad runs, but three weeks of great runs, without my little written artifacts, I’m probably going to remember the shittier stuff more than the good: crappy but true. Fortunately, my written records rectify (hello, consonance!) this.

With my pregnancy, as I’ve written before, I’m basically running without expectations, and it’s as liberating as you’d expect it to be. I no longer have hard-and-fast weekly mileage or speed goals, though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have some very, very, very soft goals that I somewhat try to hit each week. Even with this current state of expectations-free running, though, or rather, perhaps because of it, I’m finding that the runs that I get to post, the ones that surprise me for some reason or another, just floor me beyond belief, and all I want to do is bottle them for future revisiting.

about to do the final ascent up Monument Peak in early Feb. with (r-l) CJ, Yohann, and Saurabh [PC: Yohann]
about to do the final ascent up Monument Peak in early Feb. with (l-r) CJ and Yohann [PC: Saurabh]

 

I guess *this* was the final ascent. :) [PC: Yohann]
I guess *this* was the final ascent. :) [PC: Yohann]

 

MP #2 [PC: Yohann]
MP #2 [PC: Yohann]

 

Making an active attempt to bottle my runs–basically, to force myself to remember how great I felt or how strong I felt or what my leg turnover felt like or whatever, during whatever week or stage of pregnancy I’m in–I think will help me in the long term, especially as I’m rebuilding strength and speed postpartum. Bottling runs is like my way of having this ongoing mental (or written) conversation with myself wherein I remind myself how good/strong/fast/whatever I felt right now so that I have a reference point for the future.

I think this notion of bottling runs is a compelling connection between all runners, regardless if you’ve been doing this stuff for a long time, if you’re just starting out, or if you’re revisiting running after a prolonged absence. For those of us who have been here before, sometimes we continue to run because we always carry with us the flood of positive memories from earlier runs, from runs where our paces and strides felt effortless, where our attacking ascents and descents on beautiful and crazy-ass trails felt like second nature, or where we finished an incredibly intense workout feeling like a million bucks and fully expecting Olympic t&f coaches to be banging down our doors to enlist us on next year’s team (what, you don’t envision yourself running in the Olympics?? your pants are ablaze!). For newer runners–and we’ve all been there–I think many of us want to have those types of experiences I just described; we want to feel as effortless or fast or strong or whatever as possible because we know in our heart of hearts that if our friends (or family members, or whoever inspired us to get out there and try this running stuff in the first place), that if these people can do it, then we sure as hell can, too. We just have to convince ourselves of it and work our ass off to get there.

I’d argue that this somewhat revisionist history that we, or at least I, seem to have with running more often than not works in our favor. It gets us out there day after day, it brings us back after time away, and like journaling our daily runs and workouts, it gives us a sense of perspective that teaches us that lots of things are possible, should we choose to believe it and think more long-term than immediate gratification in our running.

 

another early morning ascent with CJ and Saurabh, this time a touch faster! #smallvictories [PC: Saurabh]
these three pics (above and below this one) are from another early morning MP ascent with CJ and Saurabh this past weekend, this time a touch faster and feeling a touch stronger! #smallvictories [PC: Saurabh]

 

 

Realistically, I know that pregnancy will eventually (and dramatically) alter my running more than it already has, and so far, I feel pretty at peace with that. If anything, it’s making bottling the good stuff that much more important to me these days. :)

Ruminating on my love of the run