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July 2017 training recap

July 2017 training recap

And like that, there went July.

July was full of a lot of action: being in Ohio for the first almost two weeks, visiting family, and then returning to SJ, getting ready to race at SF, and then finally racing the thing. Like I said in my June recap, it was awesome to be able to see my family for nearly three weeks in June-July and to be able to train in some of the more beautiful parts of Akron, hills and humidity and all.

girl pile on my mom


post-LR in downtown Akron, my last LR in Ohio. I ran into a bunch of runners in their final leg of an inaugural 100 miler that morning. Props to those folks for a) not only running a hundo but b) running one in Ohio in the humid summer. Cannot fathom it.

While I was in Ohio, I jumped in a local 4th of July 5 mile race in North Canton and basically got slaughtered by young XC whippersnappers — I was the token 30 something in the top ten women — which was actually a lot of fun, even on the heels of a 20 mile workout about 48 hours prior. It made for a pretty good boost of confidence, a hefty 5 mi PR (easy to do since I had only raced this distance once before), and a great way to start the day.

July also marked the one-year anniversary of my cousin’s death, and while I have struggled to find a way to write about it and still have some degree of order and cohesion to my very scattered and likely conflicting and contradictory thoughts, I finally gave up and just verbally vomited it all out in this post here. Thank you to everyone who has read it and publicly or privately reached out to me since then; I am so quickly learning that the depth and reach of addiction overshadows anything I had ever conceptualized about the disease before. Its span is huge and without discrimination. Since I wrote that post, my sis informed me that carfentanil has returned to Akron but masked as OxyContin pills, so now folks who abuse OxyContin run the risk of ODing on a large animal sedative disguised as an opioid. What a fucking tragedy.

By the end of the month, I had the joy of racing the San Francisco Marathon for the third time and doing all the fun race weekend activities entailed with TSFM. In just 24 hours’ time, I saw tons of friends, both at the expo and on race day, and even got to run with some buddies mid-race, which was a treat. While I am, admittedly, slightly annoyed that I didn’t race faster, I am nonetheless thoroughly happy with my experience and how strong I felt from start to finish. This may be the only time in my life that I run mirror-perfect splits in a marathon, from the front half to the back half, so I’m reveling in the fact that I did that on such a hard course (and in some unforgiving weather for the first 11 miles). The marathon is a great teacher, and I’ve walked away from my 29th marathon still learning something new about how to approach this beast. For that, I am grateful (and can’t wait to race it again).

PC: Dynamo


what a fun weekend.

And finally, just six days later, I got to chase my own racing experience with going up to spectate at Ironman Santa Rosa in, you guessed it, Santa Rosa. My predominant Sunday morning LR partners, Saurabh and Chaitanya, were both racing there, in their 4th go at the IM distance, and I was absolutely thrilled that I could make the 2.5 hour/100 mile drive north and be able to catch them, plus a friend from Boston in town to race, Ann, about 6 times on the three-loop marathon run course. I have zero interest in ever doing a tri, much less an IM, but as a long distance runner, I know how awesome it is to see a friendly face on the course, particularly if things go south. Standing around cheering, cowbelling, and spectating was super inspiring. Just like with running, I saw so many different people, and so many different body shapes and sizes and speeds, but the common denominator amongst everyone was their passion. That shit’s palpable, man. I had a blast cheering for my friends and basically laughing at the president of BASE salt, whose company was handing out salt very near where I was standing, for about 4 ½ hours. (Seriously, his dance moves to what had to have been the best Pandora station ever for an aid station were so impressive. He was full throttle for just about the entire time I was there. Homeboy was dripping in sweat comparable to the triathletes). Hefty PRs for Saurabh and Chai, too, in addition to many of their teammates, which just sweetened the already very awesome day even more.

so proud! with Chaitanya and Saurabh post-IM.

So here we are, 203+ miles later and August-bound. Wild. I’ll be taking a little bit of downtime before starting CIM training, and I may jump into some XC PA action this fall, too. We’ll see. I’ve been feeling well post-TSFM, albeit probably a little more tired than usual, but my complaints are minimal. I’m planning to pace the 3:33 group at Santa Rosa at the end of the month, so I imagine that I’ll be focusing most of my August running on being able to lock in that pace in my sleep. We only have a little bit of time left before my eldest starts school — back to the bike-stroller commutes! — and then, I imagine things will really start to fly around here. That’s how things seem to roll, anyway.

Reading: I finished Homesick for Another World when I was in Ohio, and it might have been my one and only fiction book this year. It was great — I love short stories — and weird as hell in parts. Some of the characters were oddly endearing. I’d recommend it. I started Ariel Levy’s memoir but had to return it (boo; waiting for it to come back to me), and I had to re-start The Gene after also having to return it before I was finished with it. The same thing goes with David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding. I’m not really keen on this Sedaris book, but what keeps me going is that so much of it takes place right where we used to live in Chicago, in Uptown. It’s interesting to read what has changed and what has remained the same. Make Your Bed, something that G literally took off a library shelf and gave to me to bring home, was about what I expected, though still pretty inspiring and interesting. Ronda Rousey’s bio, My Fight/Your Fight, was also weird as hell in parts but fairly inspiring, too.

Listening: to not much, in the way of podcasts. Still not feeling it much. I enjoyed Tina Muir’s talk with Magda Boulet, but I think it’s because I just really like Magda. She’s cool as hell and super humble. We met at my first race postpartum after G, and she ran alongside A, as well as her son, so we’re all basically best friends now.

throwback to the Let’s Go 510k in October ’15; also known as the 10k I ran about 8-10 weeks postpartum and about 24-48 hours post-runaway IUD retrieval surgery and bonus emergency appendectomy. Magda was seriously cool as hell though! Owen, too.

Watching: again, not much. Aside from maybe a few more episodes of Master of None, honestly I can’t recall the last time I went out of my way to sit down and watch tv. I think I spent most of whatever free time I could string together in July reading, writing, or sleeping. In advance of a marathon, that sounds about right, anyway.

2017 North Canton YMCA July 4th 5 Miler (N Canton, OH) – Race Report

2017 North Canton YMCA July 4th 5 Miler (N Canton, OH) – Race Report

A confluence of events conveniently coalesced (whoa, consonance) while I was visiting family in northeast Ohio: a nearby town was hosting a race on the 4th of July; the distance (5 miles or 2 miles) coincided pretty seamlessly with where I was in my SF marathon training; it was inexpensive; and finally, I had childcare locked down — all critical elements for being able to race. Before the North Canton YMCA July 4th race, I hadn’t yet completed a race on the 4th of July, so I was excited to race in an atmosphere that I imagined would be similar in vibe to a turkey trot. As a huge bonus, my sister and her husband’s cousin (her unofficial BIL) were going to run the 2 mile race that set off before the 5 miler, and one of my nephews, and my sister’s BIL’s son, were also going to run the kids’ race. It was going to be a fun morning.

Coincidentally, the North Canton YMCA July 4th Race (so succinct) celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, and it’s the second of at least three races I’ve run/will run this year celebrating the ruby milestone. It was evident from the get-go that the Y, and the city of North Canton, had been doing this stuff a long time because everything was clockwork on race morning. The town’s central area was decorated to mark the Independence Day festivities, the Y effortlessly ushered tons of runners and walkers through its doors to get packets on race morning and/or use their (very nice) bathrooms, and the central square brimmed with local companies, vendors, eateries, massage therapists (praise the lord) and even an animal adoption area (PUPPIES!) for participants pre- or post-race. I have no problem supporting new races and giving them a chance, but it’s always so nice to go through the motions at an established race that clearly has figured out what works and what doesn’t.

I can only recall racing a 5 miler (not an 8k) one other time before, and coincidentally, it was also here in the Akron area, and shortly after giving birth to A way back in 2011. Based on workouts and where I was in marathon training, I figured that I could probably shoot for around a 6:4x pace at the YMCA race — about what I’d run my tempos and not too far off the MMD 10k in May. I purposely went into this race with very untapered legs (and thus, an untapered mind, if that makes any sense) because I wanted it to mimic the final grind of 26.2. Plus, with the whole “racing in July in the humid midwest” factor, I figured that if all else failed, I could at least make a decent workout of it and have another stimulus before toeing the line at SFM. I knew nothing about the course — I realized at the race that I managed to not even look at a map beforehand — so I was flying blindly for a change.

After an easy but humid 2 mile warm-up, I connected with my sister and nephew, and my sister’s BIL and his family, to cheer the kids on in the kids’ dash. I so love watching the unbridled enthusiasm and energy of kids’ races. Shortly after, my sister and her BIL began their 2 miler, and it was equally fun to cheer for them as they began their footrace.   


my sis and her BIL (fun fact: they used to work together when they were teenagers, and we had a running joke that I’d marry him. No idea).


seesters! pre-race


kiddos’ firecracker race. how cool that it was free!? my nephew is in the orange. (PC: sister)

Not long later, the 5 mile runners and I lined up and waited for our signal. I immediately noticed the rather, uh, dearth of non-teenaged runners, so I figured it’d make for a good ~35 minutes of chasing folks a fraction of my age. Why not, right? I also noticed that there were virtually no women near the front of the pack, which was a little disconcerting. Call all these observations great reminders in the importance of just run your own race, and don’t overthink things.

After a slight downhill right off the bat, on a commercial street, we immediately made our way into some residential neighborhoods and basically stayed there for the near-entirety of the race. Even at 8:30 in the morning, many of the various neighborhoods’ residents were already out in their devilstrips, grilling, drinking, and cheering on the runners. (Eds. note: over time, I’ve learned that “devilstrip” is either an Akron word or one that only my family uses. Either way, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, here. I honestly don’t know of any other word to describe it). Most of the streets were fairly flat, though there were periodic blips or undulations — I wouldn’t exactly call them hills — that necessitated a quick change in gears for a few seconds. The most dramatic hill, what the RD referred to in pre-race emails as “THE HILL,” was after mile 4 and only lasted about .10-.15 miles and was by far the most dramatic. All the other hills were gentler and more often than not, longer.

see me? racing with HS XC runners casually carrying a flag; one guy in that mix was also wearing a firefighter’s hat throughout the race. God bless teenagers. (PC: YMCA fb page)

This race was a blast. I loved the positive energy that the community members threw out all morning long, and hell, even with the warmish temps, pure sun in many sections of the course, and slight wind and humidity (natch, it’s July), it was fun. I went out of my way to run through sprinklers 3 times mid-race (midwest summer racing at its finest), and I tried to not dissociate when things began to feel hard or tiring. As usual, I rarely looked at my watch and only caught my splits maybe half the time, but I focused on running evenly and strategically, reigning in people slowly but surely and not pacing like a tool. I passed four women between miles 2-3 and eventually got passed by 2 sometime after mile 4 — who looked really young — making the short race a fun little cat-and-mouse game for a while.

Once we cleared “THE HILL” and made our way back to the downtown area, we had an ever-so-slight downhill into the finish, back on the commercial street where we began, a short jog away from the start line. I tried desperately to outkick a guy close to me and to close the gap more on the women in front of me but failed at both (though apparently, the results reveal that the guy and I finished with the same exact time). In the process of my final kick attempt, I heard my family on the sidelines screaming for me (I LOVE YOU, SISTER!) and focused on turnover until the finish line was behind me. The result: 33:31, a near-8 minute PR for the distance, 9th woman, 1st AG, and 52/583 overall. (For funsies, here are the top 10 women’s ages: 19, 41, 19, 49, 20, 18, 28, 12 [!], 33, 19. Apparently I was the token 30-something).


not far from the finish line (PC: sister)


trying to catch the dude in front of me and coming up short (PC: sister)


failing but determined, anyway! (PC: sister)

I’m really happy with how this race went, especially considering my purposely less-than-fresh approach. Even though this pace was slower than what I did at MMD for 10k, given that it was about 48 hours post-20 mile workout, and again, in the thick of 26.2 training, I was thrilled. It is often tempting for me to begin to lose focus when racing gets uncomfortable, but I’ve been trying to actively stay with it — to stay present in each and every mile and not get far ahead of myself, wondering how I’ll be feeling in the next 800m or the next mile or whatever, particularly if I’m not feeling fantastic in any given second. I’m slowly learning that I can still find flow and not dissociate when it seems like my natural course of action. I guess you can say that instead of riding the train, I’m trying to conduct the thing for a change. It’s a work in progress.

Post-race, I got a massage (lovely), ran another 3 miles as a cool-down, picked up my useful mug that I earned for winning my age group, and got back as soon as I could to see the tail-end of my family’s hood’s 4th festivities for the kids.  


I missed the parade by about 20 minutes, but the pics sure are cute! Two of my nephews in the foreground (PC: sister)


she slept in for the race, but my dad woke her up for the parade. G slept through both the parade and the race. (PC: sister)


runner by early morning, cyclist by late morning (PC: sister)

This North Canton YMCA July 4th race was a gem and one that I’d definitely repeat. If you care about the detail, it wasn’t USATF certified, but even still, I registered 4.95 for the distance — a pretty reasonable margin of error, IMHO. The volunteers and community support was great, the premiums were nice if that stuff is important to you (a tech T and medals, tons of post-race food, and mugs for AG and OA winners), and the price was right. Plus, the field was super fast, which just made for an even more fun race experience. I’m appreciative that I found this race, that it worked out with my schedule, and that I got one final race stimulus before SF. It left me feeling encouraged that I can still grind when it’s absolutely critical, which was kinda the point in doing it in the first place. Mission accomplished.

Hard to believe the next bib that’ll adorn my Wolfpack singlet will be for TSFM!