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2017: the annual report

2017: the annual report

At the start of 2017, I was about 16 months postpartum and fresh off November marathon and half marathon PRs, records that had taken a good three years (and getting pregnant again) before finally falling. For the first time in a long time, I decided to forego a spring marathon in the interest of doing short stuff. In essence, for the better part of the last decade, I had convinced myself that I was/am more of a marathoner than anything, that the discomfort from running 26.2 as fast as I could was more bearable than doing the same for 13.1, 6.2, or god forbid 3.1.

The stories we tell ourselves, or hey, let’s call a spade a spade and qualify it for what it is — the limitations we impose on ourselves — seem to have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. For years, I had all but purposely shied away from racing, much less training for, short distances because I was convinced that those distances just weren’t in my wheelhouse because anytime I did them, it just wasn’t enjoyable. Racing any of the PA races with my team was never an option simply because I never felt I was fast enough to do anything productive, lest I forget that I was always training for a marathon and always told myself that I “wasn’t in half, 5k, 10k, or (insert any other non-marathon-distance) shape.”

At any rate, I don’t know why I had decided that a spring 2017 marathon would be an unwise route for me to take — if memory serves, the only time in recent history when I haven’t done a spring marathon was in the throes of pregnancy — but in doing so, it left me with a gap to fill. I felt I was far enough along postpartum to begin pressing things a bit more earnestly, so going after the shorter and arguably harder non-marathon distances seemed to make a lot of sense at the time. Something unbelievable happened, too: I actually enjoyed non-marathon races. It wasn’t until after halfway through the year that I’d get back into the marathon, and it was in that opposing world where I spent most of my time training for the second part of the year.

When I talk about 2017, I can rattle off lots of statistics:

  • 2,501 miles run (not a distance PR, but just shy of the 2,56x from 2014);
  • several PRs (5k twice, 10k twice, 5 mile, marathon, XC races);
  • winning a couple races (SIB baby mama 10k, Hearts and Soles 10k, East Bay 510k);
  • running new-to-me distances/races (XC);
  • and having several non-racing or non-mileage-focused experiences that were still very meaningful (pacing SRM; spectating at BSIM, IM Santa Rosa, and my eldest’s first tri; participating in a Hoka Women Who Fly weekend; the tons and tons of stroller runs; and bike-stroller run-ride commutes with my kids).

I’ll be the first to admit that all that stuff matters to me, but when I think about my 2017, the connective thread between all of it is the community in which this sport enables me to immerse myself. It’s the community that made taking the plunge to do different stuff — stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise be so keen to do — more feasible, a welcome change of both literal and metaphorical pace. There was a time in my life when I’d sign up for a race; show up and do the thing; and then go home, both when I lived in Chicago and since moving to the Bay Area.

My 2017 was basically the polar opposite.

It’s the community in this sport — and the so many people with whom I got to spend time, train, and race alongside — that just makes me cheshire like a damn fool when I think about my running in 2017. Sure, notching personal bests (and working my ass off to get myself to a place where I can do that) is important and enjoyable, but the people, man. The people are where it’s at in this sport. 

Rather than belabor every lowlight and highlight of the 2500 miles from 2017, I think the more appropriate way to adequately express what I’m talking about — why this community thing meant so much to me in 2017 — is to show you.

A lot of my 2017 running, usually about 25-30 miles a week, looked like this, with A on her bike and G in the stroller. Run- and ride-commuting to school 4x a week was one of A’s best ideas in kindergarten.
big group training runs were the bread and butter of many weekend morning runs for me in the first part of the year. (shamelessly screenshot from Strava)

 

having Chicago training partner John in town for a day, even if it meant running 10+ miles in the pouring rain, was definitely memorable. We trained together for Boston back in the day through a pretty rough Chicago winter, so it was like old times.

 

the first PA race in 2017, my first 5k in forever, the first race of the year, and destroying a five-year-old PR by chasing after my teammates (Sam here) was a fantastic way to start the year, even if it meant running a bizarre course. (PC: CT)

 

she.is.beautiful is one event I look forward to each year, and for the third consecutive year, I ran pushing one of my girls in the ‘baby mama’ division. I love this pic because you can see me mid-holler for my teammate, Julie, who’s about to go on to cinch 2nd in the 5k. (PC: Dave)

 

SIB is a guaranteed positive-vibes meet-up with lots of friends who inspire me daily: here, with Paula and her youngest son, as well as Meg and her daughter. (PC: Dave)

 

inspiration abounds at SIB, and the feel-good vibes from this race last for weeks for me. Incredibly, these pictures don’t even feature all of the Wolfpack racers from that morning. I love pregnant Janet in these pictures. (PC: Lisa/Wolfpack)

 

It had been many years since I had last raced an open 10k, and I was so happy to see a familiar Wolfpack face, Greg, at the Heart and Soles race (on yet another bizarre race course).

 

From within the first half mile, maybe quarter mile, at the Stow Lake Stampede 5k, you can see that I’m already trying to work alongside my teammates Sam and Claire. It’s pack running at its finest. (PC: Wolfpack Running Club)

 

going down to Big Sur is always a treat, and it was a lot of fun to be with Meredith as we watched Austin (visiting from PDX) finish his marathon and to see Robin (not pictured) and her team finish their relay.

 

I didn’t spend much time on trails in 2017, but when I was there, it was even better than I remembered. The views are always worth the work, and as with most things in life, the work is always more enjoyable when shared amongst friends.

 

And speaking of friends, sharing Monument Peak with Connie, Meg, and Char was so sweet. (Miss you, Char! Move back!) It was very cool to share with them such a special (and beautiful) place. This was from our first foray up.

 

Getting comfortable with the discomfort of the shorter stuff took several trials, but chasing friends and teammates (yet again) made it work: this time at the Marin Memorial 10k, and yet again, chasing Sam was to my benefit. (PC: Tamalpa RC)

 

an upside to running an inaugural half where I grew up, when I was visiting family in Ohio: my sister showed up with G and her youngest kiddo to cheer late in the race, and I ran into a friend from high school mid-race, seeing him for the first time since we graduated 10+ years ago, hence the mid-scream face here. It was a disastrous race for me, but not all running memories are about the times we post. (PC: Ben)

 

sharing a local race with my sister when I was in OH was awesome; she ran the 2 mile race with her BIL, while I ran the 5 and raced against a bunch of high schoolers, having a blast in the process. I can think of two times (ever) in my life wherein we’ve run together/at the same event. MOAR plz

 

one of my fav weekends each year is SF Marathon weekend, in part because I love the race and because I honestly just love doing the ambassador gig. It’s always so much fun to connect with runners who travel from all over the world to come race in SF, and race weekend is one of the only times I see many of my SMA buddies.

 

running into so many other local runners at TSFM makes the race so memorable each year, whether they’re also racing it or pacing it, as Sunny was here. (PC: Sunny)

 

after running with Chai and Saurabh so much during the first part of the year, during their IM Santa Rosa/my SF training, it was very cool to be able to spectate for their marathon at IM SR (and to see Saurabh cross the finish line). perhaps unsurprisingly, Strava told me they were my two biggest training partners in 2017.

 

I never ran XC in high school, but I’ve heard from so many people how fun it is. I finally got to experience that in 2017, and in doing so, I learned that XC (here, in Santa Cruz) is an entirely different beast. XC racing is hard AF! …but man is it enjoyable. the camaraderie is fantastic. the scenery? yea, also tolerable.

 

it was nice to finally be able to pace a race (for the first time in ’17 and maybe for the first time since giving birth in ’15? maybe?) and to return to the Santa Rosa Marathon to do so. being able to support others in their goals is deeply gratifying, and cheering on friends (Anil, Connie, and Meg here) in their big unicorn pursuits was just the coolest.

 

the SRM was a great day for my friends, and I was so happy to have such unfettered, front-row access to witness it all. I still find it hilarious that somehow the best, the only, nice group pic we got post-race –wherein we were celebrating Connie’s first sub-3 and 2nd F OA, Meg’s solid race, and everyone else’s experiences — is in front of the honey buckets. (PC: Connie’s husband)

 

I was/am so proud of her. Doing a tri was initially her idea, but the running was hard (and not enjoyable) for her. She dug deep and post-finish was greeted with her own little cheering section. She inspires me more than she’ll ever know or understand.

 

The one and only time I’ve ever bought a race reg off Groupon — and idiotically, it was for a half marathon very shortly after pacing at SRM and on a “the Bay Area is broiling” type of summer day. It made for a lackluster race, but the post-race shenanigans with so many teammates and friends (and finally getting to meet Angela and Jen) made the otherwise ‘eh’ experience completely positive.

 

This pic from the Golden Gate Park XC open reminds me that every starting line — whether it’s at the beginning of a race or at the beginning of a regular ol’ training run — is full of promise and opportunity. You’re never alone. (PC: Craig)

 

Taking a momentary break from PA races to periodically do a local race — here, Represent Running’s East Bay 510k — was a good way to connect with other (non-PA) runners and to promote our team. Lisa was lead bike for both the 5k and 10k, Andy ran and won the 5k, and Ida and I ran the 10k (and I got to break tape for the first time ever, which was unexpected and admittedly pretty cool!). I unfortunately hadn’t been able to do a single Represent Running race all year, so I was so glad to make the trek up to Emeryville to support a race organization that I appreciate.

 

Finally getting to do a RR race (the East Bay 510k) also meant that I could finally see many of my RR social media ambassador buddies whom I otherwise rarely see, like Christina and Brian. Between these guys and my WRC teammates, it made for a really fun race morning.

 

I hit the jackpot when Janet moved back to SJ and to (basically) my neighborhood. Early morning training runs became immensely more enjoyable (and much more documented!). (PC: Janet)

 

Winning a spot on Hoka’s Women Who Fly weekend was kinda otherworldly — I thought it was a scam! — and the entire trip remains somewhat of an enigma to me. The QT that I got to share with these other WWF recipients, in the backdrop of beautiful Santa Barbara, was indescribable.

 

Even when racing blew — and it did sometimes (here, at the Clarksburg HM) — in 2017 I made it a point to remember that there was always reason to smile and be grateful. Even if shit just sucks, simply being able to do this stuff is a gift. (PC: Impala Racing IG)

 

The last XC race of the season — Champs at Golden Gate Park, though on a different course than the GGP Open — was the beginning of the end of my ’17 racing exploits. Even during the height of all the nonsense surrounding my liver at the end of the year, when I was seriously questioning just about everything, I wanted to show up for my team and be there for them. (PC: WRC)

 

I started working under Lisa for CIM, and she challenged my running in ways that I couldn’t have done on my own. Celebrating with her and Oscar (whom she also coached) post-CIM, where we both posted PRs and ran strong races, was yet another reminder to me of how lucky I am to have found such a such a fantastic sport filled with such gracious and genuinely lovely people.

I’m not completely sure what I’m chasing after in 2018, at least not yet. I’m inclined to focus my year in much the same way as I did in 2017, by doing the shorter stuff in the first half and the marathon (SF, CIM) in the second half, but we’ll see.

What I do know is that I’ll be in good company again this year, and that in and of itself is pretty damn exciting.

Consider this your standing invitation to join in the fun anytime. 

(And if you’re looking for the complete 2017 racing index, here it is: Reach for a Star 5k; she.is.beautiful baby mama 10k, pushing G; Heart & Soles 10k; Stow Lake Stampede 5k; Marin Memorial 10k; Matchstick HM; North Canton YMCA 5 miler; The SF Marathon; Santa Cruz XC Challenge; pacing 3:33 at the Santa Rosa Marathon; Race to the End of Summer HM; Golden Gate Park XC Open; East Bay 510k (10k); Clarksburg HM; XC Champs; CIM).

August and September 2017 training recap

August and September 2017 training recap

I was doing pretty well with writing monthly training recaps this year, but when it became evident halfway through September that I had yet to write about August, I just said eff it and decided to compile both training months into one entry.

Coming off racing TSFM in late July, I spent most of my August recovering from that race, enjoying the last few weeks of summer before Big Sis started school, and rather excitedly laid the foundation for a schedule that would help keep me on track with all the “little things” — the ancillary work, the core, weightlifting, yoga, rolling, all that stuff that I should practically always be doing more of, but don’t for whatever legitimate or bullshit reason I create. Running rarely ever eludes me, but the little things almost always do. I thought I had finally figured out a way to make use of little pockets in my day to sneak in 10 minutes of ancillary work here and there … and then school started in late August, and it has felt like 100 mph, all the time, basically every day, ever since. Excuses? Probably. Justified? I think so. 

I definitely can’t complain though about how running and training has fared in the past two months. August was a lighter volume month and ended at about 196, with most of those miles post-TSFM being super easy and in a manner that resembled a “reverse taper” so as to not lose fitness from TSFM but also not run the risk of injury by doing two 26.2s in such close proximity. Together with my co-pacer Simon, we successfully brought home our 3:33 pace group at Santa Rosa under target, and I luckily had the opportunity to share the SRM weekend fun with Connie and Meg, who were both racing SRM and who both ran magnificently. A couple weeks after pacing at SRM, I made my cross-country debut with Wolfpack down in Santa Cruz, and holy hell, XC is tough. It is gratifying and challenging in a thousand different ways; suffice it to say that figuring out how to run fast and hard and not faceplant or eat shit is a ton of (grueling, dirty, and exhausting) fun.

pacing buddies at SRM

 

no time like your first time in XC (PC: Melissa)

Once September rolled around, and we got thicker into the school year (with the daily run-ride-push commutes returning!), my monthly mileage volume picked back up and ended around 209. Parents at school have begun telling me all the places they see me throughout the northeast side running with G, A, or both together, and one funny soul even told me she was convinced I run 30 miles a day. (insert “hysterical laughter cry emoji” here) I’m certain that if I’m not already That Mom, I will be soon. For what it’s worth, though, I still stand by my original assertion that run-ride-push commuting to/from school is far superior (and faster) than driving, and we have yet to be late, so I’ve gotta think we’re doing something right. 

seen on my run (ride)

 

Super proud of her first tri finish in August, too! She hated the run, but she loved the other 2. 2/3 ain’t too shabby.

A new school year has brought with it new routines, a new teacher, and new expectations, but unfortunately, it was a bit short-lived. Not even a month into my daughter’s academic year, her teacher abruptly resigned, leaving all of us wondering a) what the hell went wrong? and b) what the hell’s going to happen now? About a week after that, my husband had a scheduled surgery done that landed him a few nights in the hospital and since coming back home, a fair amount of adjustment, pain, and discomfort; unfortunately, it’s one of those “you’ll probably feel worse before you feel better” type of things. And of course, in addition to trying to provide extra care to my husband (who’s also on activity restriction and a completely altered diet), trying to navigate the uncertainty about what’s going on at school, and holding down the usual household and parenting responsibilities, this season is bananas bonkers busy with commitments I have to my daughter’s school and to her Daisy Girl Scout troop.

What better time to start marathon training for CIM?!

If running does anything for me, I can safely say that it almost always gives me a sense of clarity and an opportunity each day to figure things out. While on paper it looks ludicrous to admit that I began training in earnest for a December marathon during an intensely busy part of my year, rationally, I can argue that it actually makes a lot of sense. If nothing else, marathon training (and people who run marathons, I’d argue) thrives on structure. At this time of the school-year, when I feel like I have a thousand commitments I’m trying to manage (and manage well, ideally), training makes a lot of sense for me because it’s an avenue for me to force myself to do something for my health daily, and I think there’s immense value in that. When I feel like shit is hitting the fan and flying all over the place, my daily run(s) gives me a concerted block of time to think through things and figure out what I can do to thoughtfully approach and manage the chaos. I know I’m not alone in this sentiment, either. There’s obviously little I can do about what’s going on at school right now, or more broadly speaking, in the world, but I have absolutely spent a good many runs thinking of questions I needed to ask, and phone calls/in-person meetings I needed to make, before I could say I felt even the slightest bit comfortable with how things were transpiring. Getting that coveted “runner’s high” is awesome, of course, but what I value more — especially right now — is the clarity and sense of calm that running gives me. 

Back off, mountain lions! We have headlamps and big smiles when we run in the dark! (PC: Janet)

September brought with it a healthy amount of racing — a runner-up finish at Race to the End of Summer half as part of a workout; a 6k cross-country meet at the Golden Gate Park open with Wolfpack; and an opportunity to break the tape in the East Bay 510k as part of another workout– and a more formalized approach to my running for the first time in ages. Lisa is coaching me through my CIM training, and while at any other time in my life I’d be hesitant to turn any of my running over to anyone else, I’m welcoming it now. October will be light on racing and heavy on training, and I’m excited to see what we will do together.

screwing around after RTTEOS

 

in the thick of the GGP Open

 

post-East Bay 510 (Lisa was lead bike)

Reading: good stuff over the past couple months, including Endurance Diet (probably Matt Fitzgerald’s cajillionith book, but full of some interesting insight about nutrition, though I’d argue that he undervalues the benefits of a plant-based diet); Option B (a great complement to Grit, and one wherein I basically cried for hours every day I read it … but worth the read); Al Franken’s Giant of the Senate (preaching to the choir, but again, worth the read), and The Rules Do Not Apply (strange, sad, and interesting). I’m very slowly making my way through The Gene and This Fight is Our Fight.

Listening to: nothing new, though my husband is trying to turn me on to LeVar Burton’s podcast… first requiring that I enjoy fiction again. We’ll see.

Watching: lots of high-brow entertainment, including finishing Master of None and Bring it On: World Domination. My family has recently discovered the treasure trove that is the “Bad Lip Reading” channel on YouTube, so our children now eagerly request and sing-along to the classics “Seagulls/Stop it Now!”, Neal Cicierega’s “Bustin,” “Bushes of Love,” “Not the Future,” “Everybody Poops,” “Russian Unicorn,” and many more. It is hilarious, and honestly, so many of those BLR songs are so well produced that dare I say, they’re actually pretty enjoyable to hear?!

Anticipating: autumn and my fav season, winter! But first, apples: lots and lots of apples.