2017 Race to the End of Summer half marathon (San Jose, CA) – race report

2017 Race to the End of Summer half marathon (San Jose, CA) – race report

Apparently when my teammates were excitedly posting in our facebook group about a Groupon for the Race to the End of Summer, I somehow managed to sign up for the half at a steal of a price — something like $30, if memory serves — without bothering to look at a calendar. I didn’t realize I registered for a half marathon exactly one week after my pacing gig at Santa Rosa. You’ll be fine, I told myself. You’re just pacing. You can fun-run a half a week after a marathon. Don’t worry about it. In the interim, I learned that more teammates, plus friends Jen and Angela, would be racing that morning, so any anxiety or mental frustration I had with myself for being an idiot who signed up for a race without first consulting her calendar washed away. If I felt great, I’d run hard. If I were tired, I wouldn’t. Simply showing up to see a bunch of friends was worth the Groupon cost. I mean, granted, most people would seek other avenues to simply “hang out with friends” that don’t involve early morning soirees, but whatever.

In the 7 days between pacing at SRM and running the RTTEOS, I felt pretty well, just tired. I didn’t particularly feel egregiously sore or void of energy, but I noticed that I needed to sleep a little more each night than usual, and I kept my running mileage that week to a minimum, basically not doing much beyond the standard commute mileage with my kids. My coach urged me to treat RTTEOS as an easy-paced long run, though I was initially itching to run it as a workout; insert hysterical laughter at myself and a hearty number of facepalms here. Eventually, our strategy became take it easy for the first 9 (nothing faster than 7:50), and if and only if you feel well, drop down to nothing faster than 7:10. Ok. Compromise. I could do that.

…and then the inferno came. For Friday-Sunday of RTTEOS race week, if not also Thursday-Sunday, it felt like San Jose (and a lot of the Bay Area) was broiling. Friends and family often quip but it’s a dry heat! And look, after living the first thirty years of my life in the Midwest, I get where you’re coming from; I totally do. I know what it’s like to live and run in northeast Ohio or Chicago when it’s 90+ outside and 90%+ humidity, and it blows. Bay Area humidity doesn’t hold a candle to Midwest humidity. However, when it’s 110 degrees out, it still feels like it’s 110 degrees, even if we’re sitting at ~30% humidity — which would be outlandish for here, at midday — and not at the Midwestern 90+% standard. I find that steamy weather like that just drains the life out of everything and makes running, in particular, feel like a total slogfest, even if I’m taking things really easy.   

Come race day, I ventured down to southeast San Jose to the Sportsplex that’d serve as the staging area for the race start and finish. The half began at 7, while the 5k and 10k began later, around 8 or 8:30, if I recall. Wolfpack teammate Ashley was also doing the half, and other teammates Janet, Ida, and Jason were doing the 5k or 10k; Jen and Angela were also coming down from the peninsula/SF to race the 10k. Most of the race runs along the Coyote Creek Trail, which cuts into Hellyer Park, on the southeast side of the city — a place where I probably haven’t run since I was training for Oakland ‘14, right after we first moved here. The CCT is pretty similar to the GRT — very flat, fairly narrow in places, and periodically shaded and then exposed, though probably more of the former and less of the latter. The first mile and change of the HM course wound us through an office park before dumping us onto the path, where we’d head north to near-Hellyer for about 4 miles before retracing our steps, heading south until about mile 9, and then returning north. It’d be a fairly simple and straightforward course, and the out-and-back setup would be perfect to see friends and share side-fives.

Ashley and I ran a couple mile warm-up, and things already felt pretty warm for not-quite-7am. By the time the race began, it was already nearly 80, and we had the luxury of having a warm wind that offered no relief from the morning sunshine and out-of-place humidity. It was great to share in the pre-race song and dance with Ashley, and while we waited for things to get moving, I saw some of my other SJ running buddies, like Becky and Bertrand, as well as Sarbajeet, who had just raced SRM a week prior and had come down to pace the 1:45 HM group. This race had a sizable local draw, and I was surprised to see so many people I knew. Before too long, the gun blared, and we were off!

that’s my teammate Ashley next to me and Sarbajeet behind me

Right off the line, I settled comfortably as third woman. I kept trying to run by feel and not clockwatch, but I was also trying to be cognizant of my coach’s wishes, so I admittedly saw my Garmin much more during this race than I typically do. Nothing faster than 7:50 for the first 9, I kept telling myself. It took a long time to get there — and I knew it’d mean some pretty sweet and ugly positive splits, since I had started faster than I should have — but it was fine. Much like at SRM, I felt bad for anyone who had targeted any of the events at RTTEOS because race day conditions weren’t really conducive to super fast times, even though the courses definitely were. Once we hit the turn-around at the northernmost point, around mile 4, I had a blast side-5ing just about every runner and walker I saw. Hat-tip to the morning’s pacers from the East Bay; their enthusiasm and genuine encouragement was pretty awesome. I felt like I was surrounded by a bunch of midwesterners during this race because so many runners I encountered during the OABs were just incredibly friendly and nice. It was fantastic!

the photographer was a real jester. He cracked me up and had me *this close* to being convinced that I knew him because of his goofy antics

By about mile 6 or so, one of the aid stations was giving out wet washcloths, and at the risk of looking like a weirdo who had just walked out of a Bed Bath and Beyond with a looted (and sopping wet) napkin, I enthusiastically took their offerings and somehow managed to only soak the right side of my body. I couldn’t get the cloth to wrap around my neck, since it was too small, so I settled with tucking it into my bra strap for a few miles before tossing it. It took me a solid 6 miles to finally get down around 7:50s — what I should have done right off the line — and honestly, I was glad to be there. Nothing hurt; nothing was uncomfortable; I just felt tired. It was like I had to keep telling my legs to have some semblance of power and lift. I have read before that post-marathon, you often feel better, in muscular or skeletal terms, way before you’re actually in the clear on a cellular level. I’m not a scientist, but that seems to make sense. Even if you’re not racing a marathon, just covering the distance — and thus, being in repetitive motion — for a few-plus hours can surely wreak some havoc on your body. I couldn’t help but laugh both to and at myself during RTTEOS for thinking that I’d somehow magically be up for doing a hard HM workout a week after pacing. Sometimes, many times, I am a moron.

note the strategically-placed washcloth

At any rate, basically from mile 1 to mile 8 or 9, I stayed in the third woman position, and I leapfrogged with one or two males; otherwise, there were entire swaths of the southernmost outs on the course where I couldn’t see anyone in front of me, making me sometimes wonder if I had missed a turnaround somewhere. By the southernmost turn around 8.5, I saw that the 2nd woman had moved up to first — maybe a couple minutes ahead of me — and that the now 2nd woman had dropped back to being maybe a minute or so ahead of me. Seeing lots of friends again on this portion of the OAB was a fun treat, and some folks had mentioned that the 2nd woman was within reach, though I couldn’t see her anywhere ahead of me, thanks to the twisting course.

If I had the chance, I’d ask the world to dance

By mile 9, I had to decide whether I’d heed my coach’s words and pick things up to about a 7:10 for the last 4 or just fun-run it in. I felt fairly mentally checked out and kinda bored — with the heat making things unpleasant and less fun that it ought to be — but I felt well enough to at least try to pick it up for a handful of miles on to home. Hey, you can finish the race faster if you pick it up a bit, right? In doing so, I passed the 2nd woman around mile 10, and I ached for her because she looked like she was hurting a lot. I didn’t have much of anything left in my please let us just take a nap legs, but I managed to finish as the second woman overall on what seemed like a very short course. I ended up with 1:38 for 13.1 (probably closer to 12.9) a week out from pacing a marathon, and for having basically no expectations or goals for this race, I was pleased. Not my best, not my worst, but a finish is a finish. I am always so happy that I can do this stuff, and even if I bitch about the details that impede a perfect performance, I am always grateful.

thrilled I can do this stuff but happy as hell that’s behind me

Truth be told, the real reason I even decided to stick with the race and actually show up that morning came after I crossed the line. I knew I’d see so many friends at this small race, and seeing everyone come through the finish line — Ashley and then Becky, for the half, and then Janet, Angela, and Jen, on the 10k — made it worth it. We all shared eyerolls and curse words over the weather and basically screwed around for an hour and change before parting ways. For my finish, I earned a $50 gift card to Sports Basement, which was nice and unexpected.

finally meeting Jen and Angela, at long last! (PC: Jen)


women of Wolfpack: Ida, Janet, and Ashley (PC: Ashley)


valiant attempts, ha! that’s Ida, Janet, Jason, Ashley, me, Jen, and Angela. In my dreams, I am an extra in Bring it On: World Domiation. In reality, well… (PC: Ashley)

There was a time in my life where I registered for every race under the sun and raced them all, every last one of them, as hard as I possibly could. That perspective eventually shifted and became something that more resembled Oh, I get to run 6 miles today, might as well sign up for this 10k and do it as a training run. Over time, that perspective eventually changed, too, when I realized I was paying a whole bunch of money to do training runs that I could do for free. These days, especially with two kids and a husband in the mix, I rarely sign-up for a race — and thus, take extra time away from my family on a weekend morning —  that I don’t intend to actually run hard and go for my best on that day. RTTEOS was an exception, though, given its cheap costs from the Groupon, it being a short drive from home, and the most excellent camaraderie before and after the race. The company made it 1000% worth it. Seeing folks from social media was also a treat (Hi, Laura!). I am working on recruiting the super-friendly first place woman, Tiffany, to Wolfpack, so if you’re reading this… please! Both Lisa and I will welcome you with open arms! And of course, shoutout to my husband, per yoosh, for handling the daughters at home that morning and for letting me go play with my friends for a little bit. I’m grateful.

having a tender moment with Ashley, apparently (PC: Ashley)

Overall, I think I’d recommend RTTEOS. It was an excellently-organized local race, and its smallish size made everything easy to navigate. It’s a bit of a bummer when races don’t allow for race day bib pickup, but logistically, it’s probably a pain in the ass for them, so I get it. They had some of the usual vendor stuff afterward, and for half finishers, we earned medals and got (black) wicking tees and truckers. Folks who AGed across any of the races also earned additional medals. If you’re interested in doing this race in the future, I’d recommend either registering early or holding out hope for a Groupon to appear again. Friends who ran the 5k and 10k reported that their Garmins seemed to closely align with the respective distances, though I haven’t met anyone who ran the half who posted anything close to 13.1; for everyone, it seemed really short. Take it for what it is, though; as far as I know, the course isn’t certified, so you kinda get what you get (and you don’t throw a fit, as they say in preschool). The trail is fast and flat and conducive to PRs and speedy times; running in SJ in late August or early September is always a gamble with the heat, though, so be prepared to adjust expectations accordingly. There are few road races in SJ — which is weird because we’ve got over a million people living here, and there are tons of runners — so I think that if you’re local, you should get this one on your calendar. Plus, it benefits TNT/LLS, and you know how I feel about that organization.  

I walked away from my supported training run with an unexpected voucher for my efforts and a whole lotta warm feelings in my heart upon seeing some friends, so I’d call that a win any day: broiling weather be damned.

2017 Santa Clara Kids Triathlon race report – guest post from my 6 year-old

2017 Santa Clara Kids Triathlon race report – guest post from my 6 year-old

Since January, my eldest (“A”) has been riding her bike to and from school while I run alongside her, pushing my littlest (“G”) in the single BOB stroller. When A was much younger, we purchased a balance bike for her, but she never used it. My sister had purchased her a scooter for our first Christmas here, when she was about 2.5, and she loved it and used it all the time. Somewhere in that same timeframe, we also bought her a bike, probably 12” or 14” — thinking that if she didn’t like the balance bike, she might like a regular bike — but nope. For whatever reason, we never had training wheels for her; if memory serves, her bike never came with them. Given A’s total lack of interest in using a balance bike, she had even less interest in trying to learn to ride her bike, so it sat gathering dust in our garage for years.

Thanks to a neighbor friend her age who learned to ride his bike pretty young (after he figured out how to get around quite quickly on a balance bike), at the end of last year, A got pretty fired up to learn how to ride a bike, and in just a couple days of trial and error on the princess bike — that by then, was quite too small for her — she figured it out and loved it. She adored being in motion on her bike and wanted to ride it everywhere, all the time. Naturally, the next conversations became when can I ride my bike to school? Secretly, I had hoped that by the end of kinder, not only would she know how to ride her bike, but that she’d also want to ride her bike to school — and selfishly, alleviate me of all the BS and headaches that come with the traffic mess that is school dropoff and pickup (and with her little sister in tow). I figured, and experience has since taught me, that it’s much easier and faster to run/ride to/from school on foot than it is by car. Once I was certain that A would be physically capable of riding her bike about 1.5 miles each way — and slightly uphill, on the “out” portion of our commute — we began riding and running to school 4 days a week.

Sometime during the course of one of our many run-ride commutes, A mentioned to me that she wanted to do a swim-bike race because not only had she become enamored with riding, she has been swimming since she was 8 months old and loves it pretty equally. I told her about this thing called triathlon, and what it all entailed, and how there are kiddo triathlons out there that she could do if she wanted. A has done many kid dashes and kid races, mostly here in the Bay Area, and I knew that she’d be physically capable of handling a distance for kids her age in any kid tris around. She was ecstatic about the opportunity, so I signed her up for the Santa Clara Kids Triathlon.

On a sunny and warm race day in August, A was one of over 800 children, aged 6 and under all the way through teenagers, who participated in triathlon. Kids in the 6 and under division got to swim 25 meters (or yards? idk), which was 1 length of the pool; run out to T1, which was located pretty close to the pool; bike an out-and-back 1 mile; run back into T2 (which was the same as T1); and then run 400 meters, or a quarter of a mile. Her age group, the youngest, could have a parent in the water or could also use buoys or flotation devices, and on the ride, the littlest ones could use training wheels or balance bikes, too. On the run, they could run, walk, run-walk, walk-run, whatever they wanted (also with a parent alongside, if they wanted). Her AG didn’t start until 11am, when it was already pretty sunny and warm out, but it was a beautiful morning.

Rather than tell you more details about my daughter’s race, I’ll switch things up a bit and put on my interviewer hat. I’m so stinkin’ proud of her, as if that wasn’t totally clear 🙂 Turning it over to my six year-old…


How did you prepare for your first tri?

I got my swimsuit; then I picked out some biking clothes, with my biking shorts and a little shirt; and then I got my bike and helmet; and then … (thinking) … I ran in the same clothes, and I did not like the running, but we talked about it, so it was good. (foreshadowing!)

How did you feel going into your first tri? Was it different from how you felt before your running races that you’ve done before?

I felt kinda nervous, but I was mostly excited. I’m not sure (if I felt differently); it was probably the same. 

What did you wear for the race? Why did you choose that?

I thought the biking clothes would be good for running, and I thought the swimsuit would be good to wear. (I chose those clothings) because the shorts have a pad on the back so anytime I fall, I have a pad on the back.

ready to swim! sweet ankle chip, right?!

You shared a lane with another little girl for the swim portion of your tri. Did you like sharing a lane with someone?

Yes! Because it’s nice to share with people! Because sharing is caring! And because it’s nice!

waiting patiently to begin; she’s in this lane, on the left hand side

Which type of stroke did you swim? How was the swim for you? Did you have a strategy going into the swim?

Breaststroke. It felt great! The lane was short. I could swim the whole lane. I just did a medium speed. I got a little pushoff off the wall and started to breaststroke. It gives me a little boost to the end! I practiced in the big pool (at swim class), which is bigger than the other lanes.


After your swim, you had to get out of the pool quickly and into T1, where you had to take off your goggles and swim cap, put on your shirt with bib number attached, shorts, socks, shoes, helmet, and sunglasses and quickly get on your bike to go begin your ride. Was it hard to get dressed really fast? Did you get dressed faster than you do each morning before school, or did you take your time?

Yea (it was hard to get dressed really fast), because when I got dressed, I was really sticky, and it was hard to put clothes on! I didn’t get a chance to dry off, like I usually do. I got dressed kinda faster (getting dressed for the tri), but getting dressed for school is kinda a little faster because I wasn’t wet. My hair was tangled.

How was the bike part of your race? What was your favorite part? What was your biking strategy?

It felt great! (My favorite part) was pedaling! It was not so long; it was very short. It was only 1 mile. I can do 7 miles! I mean, 3 miles! I tried to go faster when everyone was cheering for me so I could try to get my legs more stronger.

A’s cheer section. There’s Meg and her fam, Connie and her kiddo, and Janet wearing her baby. They were so sweet and made signs and cowbelled.


the source of many accidents for her — not keeping her eyes forward! 0_o (but to be fair, she wanted to see the signs and say hi to everyone). PC: Connie


on the back portion of the bike

After the bike, you had to ride really fast into T2, dismount, and start running, the last part of your triathlon. Was it hard to get off your bike really fast? Did you think you were going to fall?

Mmhmm. Because I didn’t have a kickstand. And because they raised my seat, it was hard to bend over. I just had to be careful that I didn’t fall off. No, I didn’t think I was going to fall.  (Yup, Mom fail; we’ve had a kickstand in the garage since Santa brought her bike, but we have yet to put it on her bike. In the days before the race, Sports Basement offered participants a complimentary bike and helmet check, and they suggested we raise her seat since she had grown since she began riding.)

T2; you can see the parents running with their children ahead of us

How did your body feel after you finished swimming and biking? Were you tired at all? Did you think that you wouldn’t be able to complete the run?

My body felt kinda exhausted, so I went out to eat. (after clarification) Oh, it felt kinda good! But then I felt kinda nervous to run because I don’t run that much. Yes, but you know what I did? I didn’t give up! Now I know that triathlons are fun! (can you tell how much I try to emphasize not giving up when things are challenging?!)

PC: the race (thanks for the free pics!)

You said that you liked the run part the least from the three sports you did in your triathlon. What didn’t you like about the run? What made it difficult or less enjoyable compared to swimming or biking?

The run? Because my legs got so exhausting! I tried to speedwalk, but I always walk so slow! It was just because I don’t run that much, so my body, or my legs, get kinda weak of running, so I start to fall, but I just don’t give up! (and again with the tenacity talk. My legs get really exhausting sometimes when I run, too. I feel ya.)

about halfway through the run

Sometimes running can feel really horrible, and I sometimes doubt that I’ll be able to finish a run or a race. Did that happen to you? What did you do to make yourself keep going?

No, that didn’t happen to me. My brain told me, “Alice, keep going! Keep going so you can get a medal!” And I went and got a medal for finishing all of the sports.

PC: the race


PC: the race

How did you feel when you saw that the finish line was near?

I felt kinda happy that I made it! And then I smiled! And then I was so tired that I needed water, and the friends gave me posters, and they also gave me some apple drink, a sweet drink.  (Janet and her baby, Meg and her family, and Connie and her baby, in addition to our family, so graciously came out to support A. Connie brought a big ol’ bottle of Martinelli’s for A, and she was floored because we rarely drink juice at home!).

finishing kick! (PC: Connie)

What was the first thing you thought when you crossed the finish line?

I thought … (thinking) … I didn’t think anything. Well, I think I thought “I’m going to finish! One more step, and then I get to walk! Finally!”  (said every runner, everywhere)


this gang made her feel so special. I tear up just thinking about it.

Did you hear or see Meg and her family, Connie and her family, and Janet and her family cheering for you?

I saw Meg and Connie. It felt great (to see them/hear them)!

someone said something hilarious, apparently


How did you celebrate finishing your first triathlon?

I celebrated by getting a cup of water so I could cool off from the hot, hot sun. I was lucky that I got to go in the pool. Everyone else had to stay in the sun. Mom got to run with me. I celebrated by making a little happy face, which is nice!

judging by Meg’s face, someone said something inappropriate


Did anything surprise you about triathlon? Was it as fun as you thought it’d be, or harder, or easier?

Um… kinda easier? I mean, a little bit hard? But a little bit… I mean, half half? I mean, harder is the less because running was the only hard part, and biking was the fun part. Oh, swimming too — that was fun.

Do you want to do another triathlon?

Next year? Mmhmm, yea, next year. I just want to do biking and swimming because they’ll have that one next year. I hope it’ll be three laps around for the bike ride because I can do that.  (She’s really interested in the idea of an aquabike race, but I have yet to find one in the Bay Area that’s suitable for kids. Most aquabike races I’ve found have significantly longer distances that don’t seem well suited for the younger racers. Suggestions!?)

family pic <3

Do you have any piece of advice for other boys or girls your age who want to do a triathlon? Would you recommend it?

You’d have to sign up for it and then practice running, biking, and swimming. If you don’t like any of those, then you shouldn’t do a triathlon. If they’re scared, they can see how fun it is! Try it, you’ll like it!  It was fun and a little bit nervous but most excited! I’d tell people you should do it if you want to. (Sagacious insight, daughter).

Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

It was really fun! I didn’t give up on anything, even the running, because I didn’t like running. It was great.


One last thing (from a parent perspective) about this race: plan on arriving at least 90+ minutes ahead of your designated heat. I only gave us an hour — which was suggested — and we cut it very close. I hadn’t accounted for how long it’d take to park the car, get the family out and situated, and walk over to the park (and find where we were supposed to be); get her bib and ankle chip (and my parent bracelet that’d allow me to be on the run with her); set up her transition area; slather her up with sunscreen; and get to the pool to figure out where we were supposed to go. Man, triathlon is complicated! The race only offered same day race packet pickup, too, which I’ve never experienced before (though then again, I’ve also never done a tri, so…). When you register your child for the tri, you’ll also have to purchase USAT membership for him or her, too, but the cost was just an additional $10 or so for the annual membership. It doesn’t matter if you already have USAT membership; if your child doesn’t, you’ll have to fork over the additional monies. It’s an insurance thing, apparently. For the $30 or so triathlon registration cost, kids got a t-shirt, medal, and the typical race bag with some samples and coupons. I have since found another kids’ tri in the Bay Area that offered similar distances for 6 year-olds but cost nearly $150; that seems excessive, particularly for a kids’ race. 

Overall, aside from that whole running thing, my daughter seemed to really enjoy her first triathlon. She talked about it all the time the following week (and continues to do so), and it was the talk of her class on Monday, too. 😉  I want her to do activities that she enjoys, so if she never wants to do this again — or if she wants to try her hand at aquabike — we’ll obviously be supportive. I just want her to grow up knowing that “exercising” — playing, really, or just regular physical movement — is a part of a happy and healthy lifestyle. How that will continue to manifest, be it in tris, aquabikes, running races, dancing, soccer, karate, gymnastics, swim lessons, or who knows, we’ll learn along the way. It’s part of the fun. It’s supposed to be fun.