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March training recap

March training recap

I lived the first 30 years of my life in the midwest (Akron area and Chicago, for those of you playing along at home), places with clearly defined seasons, and I distinctly remember growing up with the saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb (or vice versa). The premise here of course is that March may begin with terrible weather, but by the end, it’ll be all lovely and stereotypical spring-like (or again, vice versa). Naturally, what follows is April showers bring May flowers. I’m not entirely sure if either weather assumption necessarily applies to the Bay Area, but it seems like the March metaphor at least works (perhaps a bit tenuously) for my running this month, since it started off harsh but ended quite kindly. And as for rain in April, well, I guess we’ll see.

All told, March included 207 miles, a DNS in an 8k and 10 miler, a PR in a 5k, a stroller PR and division win in a (probably short) 10k stroller race, and a PR in a road 10k and a woman’s division win. While the beginning of the month was pretty rough, thanks to a nasty flu + colitis flare + seemingly a bazillion other ailments all running concurrently through my body — and taking another week-plus to get to feeling 100% again — fortunately the month turned around, and I began to (eventually) feel normal. Electing to miss those first two races was disappointing, but I knew then (like I knew now) that it was in my best interest to just shut it down for a few days — even if it was race week — so that I could get on the fast path to health sooner rather than later. If given the option of being sick for 5 days or 25, it’s a no brainer.

at the Reach for a Star 5k, holding on to Sam’s awesomeness (PC: CT)
girl party at SIB with Meg, K, and G
hollering for my teammate, Julie, as she begins her “back” part of her 5k (PC: Dave/fitfam6)
with Paula and A, and Meg and K, and G, post-race. Lots of good vibes in this group (PC: Dave/fitfam6)
sea of orange at SIB in Santa Cruz (PC: Lisa/Wolfpack)
post- Hearts and Sole 10k with my teammate, Greg

As was the case in January and February, I posted most of my workweek miles with one or both of my kids (and a lot of my miles come from commutes). On average, I’d say that more than 50% of my total volume each week comes from running with the kids, either just with the baby in the stroller or with the baby in the stroller plus A on her bike. I was sometimes lucky enough to be able to swing a midweek run with new Bay Area transplant Char, whom I met in Chicago through a mutual friend, Corey, when Corey and I were still living there. Small world: soon after Corey moved to Chicago, we met up for a run (after chatting on twitter and realizing we had both run Eugene that spring). Her friend Char was in town, too, visiting family, so we three ran together one time, back in … hmm, probably September 2013, at Waterfall Glen (I think). If memory serves, I think the one and only time I ran with these three women was the day that I told them that C would be boarding an airplane later that night for an interview out here and that it was likely that we’d be moving. Crazy. My point: the running world seems enormous, but I guess just like anything else, it’s fairly small. You may not know everyone, but chances are high that you probably share a mutual friend. (Thank you, Strava and social media!)

very sunny and very windy on the last day of March (I think). not pictured: G, strolling under my arm. I love that you can see a sneaky smile from A 🙂

Toward the end of the month, I also had the opportunity to run Mission Peak starting from Ohlone College. When I’ve run MP in the past, it has always been by way of Monument Peak (and Mt. Allison and Mt. “EMS”), coming up from Milpitas or SJ, so it was a neat experience to run it from a different direction and start in Fremont. Fortunately, the trail wasn’t soul-suckingly muddy, and everything was just majestically and lusciously green. This was actually the first time I’ve been on trails since late October/early November because a) ARP has been closed for a while, presumably thanks to landslides and such and b) when I’ve run MP post-heavy rain before, it was pretty impassable … like take two steps forward and slide ten steps backward (while also potentially getting your shoes sucked off your feet) because it’s so damn muddy and the footing is for shit impassable … and I didn’t want to deal with it. The rain has let up a ton here, so I was optimistic that Mission Peak would be in pretty good shape. A huge group turned out — some to hike, some to run — and it was a blast. I would have never thought that I’d enjoy trail running as much as I do, so I look forward to spending many long runs on the trails near home over the coming months. For what it’s worth, I’m convinced that part of the reason I finally broke 3:20/1:33 last fall was because I spent nearly all my non-workout LRs on trails. I absolutely love running roads, but it’s hard to not have a good time when you’re literally frolicking like children through nature.  

perfecting my mid-run photography skills. still obviously needing work.
before we ascended Mission Peak, we swung over to Mt. Allison, home of these gems.
total creeper selfie pic. this was just part of the group who went to MP; add another 10 people who hiked that morning. it was awesome. this is from the top of Mission, with my back facing east (I think). L-R Dhananjay, Saurabh (the only person who apparently saw me do this, ha), Satish, Ajit, Chantanu, Amy, and JJ, with her back to us. Look in the background (around 1 o’clock), and you can see the stuff from Mt. Allison.

Racing nearly every weekend in March meant that my long runs usually topped off around 13-15 miles and were often broken up into several runs (warm-up, race, cool-down). I’m not planning to unofficially-officially begin SF training until about 16 or so weeks out, so it has admittedly been nice to not have monster miles on tap each weekend lately. Plus, racing is a ton of fun! It’s grueling and all — that’s the point; that’s what makes it beautiful — but it’s also just so cool, in a somewhat terrifying sort of way, to put yourself out there for a minute (or many minutes, whatev) and let yourself be vulnerable for a change.

Running is really awesome for a ton of obvious reasons, but I think like a lot of activities, once you get into a rhythm of some sort, it can be tough to shake things up and try something new. Call this comfort, call it getting complacent, but I figure that if one of the reasons we run is to show us that we’re stronger than we give ourselves credit for, or that we enjoy the trials and tribulations that come with training and racing, or whatever, it’s hard, if not impossible, to get that sort of ongoing feedback if we stay comfortably perched in a way of training/racing that precludes us from getting uncomfortable (or gritty). Somewhat related to this point, as a social media ambassador for the SF Marathon (TSFM2017Erin or TSFM2017Erin5k for savings, you’re welcome!), I recently wrote a guest post for the SF Marathon’s blog urging people to get outside their comfort zones this year at TSFM, and it’s something that I’ve been telling myself, too. For so long, especially postpartum, I have been (somewhat understandably) reluctant to register for races because I tell myself I’m not in “race shape” or whatever, that if I haven’t specifically trained for an (insert race distance here) that I really shouldn’t even show up and try to do the best that I can on that given day. The thinking usually goes oh I’m in “marathon shape” but there’s no way I could run a decent-for-me (insert short race distance here). I don’t want to embarrass myself, my team, (and so on). 

Allow me to call bullshit … on myself.

I’m glad I’m finally getting out of that mindset. Here’s the thing: realistically, if your ability to pay your mortgage isn’t on the line, you don’t need to take yourself so seriously. You’ll fare better than fine. It’s just a race; you’ve got nothing to lose. (And hell, set those expectations super low, and you might just come out of it surprising yourself!).  The bottom line here is that if we’re all about using running as an avenue for self-improvement (in any respect of the word), it’s hard impossible to allow ourselves to improve if we stay put right where we are. Why not set big-but-reasonable goals and work your ass off to realize them? If you fail, you’ll at least have the luxury of failing with pride and satisfaction, if not also a bit of gratitude, knowing that you at least gave yourself the opportunity to try. I think the moment we become less afraid of failing or faltering, liberating feelings begin to manifest, and suddenly, those ingrained ideas of I can only do (this distance) because ______ or I can only run at (this pace) because ____ reveal themselves for what they really are: just BS nonsense we use to sabotage ourselves. The sky’s the limit, kids. Provided you show up every day, do your very best, and on race day, as long as you do the same, you’ve got nothing to worry about. These are the things I tell myself, in a loving and supportive way, natch.  

Otherwise, I have been running, and it is well and good, and I continue to be so grateful to be able to do this wonderful stuff. The gratitude permeates everything.

Reading: Just finished The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (eh) and A Path Appears (awesome). I’m in the throes of Amy Schumer’s book (eh) but still have a pile of nonfiction stuff on my kitchen table. My heart is in nonfiction, and there’s so much good and recent stuff out there that I want to try to figure out how I can read it all in the 25th or 26th hour of each day. Tips welcome.

Listening to/watching: Moana. No shame in my game. My eldest and I watched it every night for about a week, and the kids and I almost always listen to it on our runs/rides. (Otherwise, I don’t watch much. If we’re lucky, C and I can get in a date with John Oliver or Bill Maher).

Doing: A huge purge in our house. I will literally go stand in our garage sometimes now because it looks so much better than it did just a couple weeks ago. (Again, no shame). It wouldn’t pass Marie Kondo’s muster, but it passes mine! 

Anticipating: Family and friend visits over the coming weeks, birthdays, the summer!

Eating: Everything in sight that’s veg-friendly and isn’t nailed down (training, I see you).

Appreciating: The longer days (like everyone else) and (as weird as this sounds) this little bird who must be perching in a tree right outside our home. The thing begins squawking really early each morning, and admittedly, it’s kinda annoying as hell, but it’s also really sweet. Being able to sleep with windows open in winter (spring?) and starting my morning every day by way of a bird tweeting at me (the literal, old-school tweeting, that is) is just kinda… cute. Add a few cups of tea and my local newspaper to the mix each morning, beginning around 5:30, and Tweety rounds out a nice little team here. (Again: no shame. Pretty sure I’m 33 going on 93).  

2017 Reach for a Star 5k (Brisbane, CA) – Race Report

2017 Reach for a Star 5k (Brisbane, CA) – Race Report

Beginning my 2017 racing calendar with a 5k wasn’t what I had envisioned, but as we all know, life seems to make decisions on our behalf at times. A horrible bout with flu/sinusitis/colitis made me have to reluctantly bow out of the first PA race, a 10 miler, as well as my favorite SJ race, the 408k, and I felt like my body had taken a good week+ to gain back any semblance of strength that those stupid poorly-timed illnesses had taken from me. I generally have very few expectations going into a 5k in general, but going into the Reach for a Star 5k up in Brisbane, the second PA race of the year (and the first one I’ve done), I had even fewer.

I don’t think that 5ks warrant the waxing philosophic that marathons do (at least at this point, anyway), but I’ll at least mention here a little bit about my 5k history. In a phrase, there isn’t much of one. I’ve done many 5ks over the years, but they’ve always been as part of marathon training and never as an end goal in and of itself. Similarly, they’ve always been a bit sporadically placed in my season, and more often than not, they’re lighter on the official side (lacking in USATF certification) and heavier on the super fun side (and typically, not that competitive). One “type” of race isn’t inherently better than the other, but I do think there’s value in racing against significantly faster fields (even though it’s intimidating as hell) just so you can give yourself the opportunity to see what mental/speed/endurance deposits you can draw from your bank — something that’s harder to do in less-competitive races. My 5k PR, 20:31, was from a 2012 Chicago race, and any subsequent attempts at 5ks I’ve posted have generally followed the predictable formula of go out stupidly hard + try to hang on = oops, too bad, death march it in and never do this again. Gladly give me many opportunities to run a fast-for-me marathon over a fast-for-me 5k, for the discomfort and pain in the former is far more pleasurable than that in the latter.

The RFAS Brisbane course is quite flat and a little bizarre. It has the USATF certification, but had I known that the course consisted basically of running through office parking lots, including some OABs in said parking lots, with a few little bursts on a not-wide trail (adjacent to parking lots), I would have been dubious. I had heard that it was fast and a great team race — no doubt evidenced by the throngs of other teams there Sunday morning (in addition to general community members who were there to help support the race’s charitable connection to a local school district) — so if nothing else, I figured that the race could hopefully give me some decent “official” feedback and give me a fun morning with my team.

People like to propagate this idea that running is for solitary introverts, but all you have to do is go to a race (RFAS was a perfect example of this) and see that it’s really quite the opposite. Sure, we all get into our own heads when we run — I think it’s a pretty necessary thing to do — but by and large, much of the gratitude I have for this sport extends less to the opportunities I have to get into my own head and more to the connections this sport has afforded me to make with other people, folks with whom I would share very little otherwise. Outweighing all our relative differences — in our running capabilities or otherwise — is our shared sense of purpose that you get when you’re on a team. I so deeply admire and respect my teammates, many whom can easily run me under the table any day of the week, but despite my initial hesitations of oh man I really hope I’m not slow as hell this morning I hope I don’t let these guys down, I knew that my team would help buoy whatever I could produce. There’s something to be said for running for your own purposes, no doubt, but I think there’s something more profound in running as part of a team and trying to perform in a way that shows that the total doesn’t really equal the sum of its parts. Deep, I know.

team. office building. (PC: Lisa/Wolfpack Running Club)

At any rate, thanks to a pretty race weather-perfect morning, a flat course, a fairly indescribable team atmosphere, and a field that was super deep with talent, my first PA race — and a 5k at that — went way better than I could have imagined. That aforementioned going out too hard and slowly dying formula miraculously didn’t manifest like usual, and honestly, I felt like I was playing a giant game of tag, focusing on chasing my teammates and friends in front of me — Claire and Sam were the closest to me, with Impala friend Robin within close reach. I felt like if I slowed down at all, I’d be trampled, a la Lion King, by everyone coming up behind me. The super-twisty course wound through some office parking lots, picked up a fairly narrow trail (more narrow than the Chicago LFT or about as narrow as the GRT here in SJ, for those of you playing along at home), did an OAB in some more parking lots, and ultimately finished where we began in (you guessed it) more parking lots. It was about as low-key a race as I’ve ever done, with very little fanfare, and honestly, it was refreshing. If you want a fast, no-frills 5k, this is for you; if you want something with more entertainment value (and probably a bigger price tag), I’d pass.

one of the few times we weren’t in a parking lot. Why does it look like I’m crashing a kids’ race here!? (PC: CT)

This was among the most evenly-paced 5ks I’ve run, definitely the one wherein I’ve felt the strongest from start to finish, and hey, I will never complain about breaking a 5 year-old 5k PR by nearly 40 seconds and going sub-20 “officially” for the first time (19:55). I had the added luxury of finishing within paces of my teammates Claire and Sam, clutching the same PR time as Robin (finishing a couple steps behind her), and yet again, getting smoked by Verity at the end, just as she did me at the ‘14 Oakland Marathon (replete with lots of sweaty hugs at the end, both in Oakland and at RFAS). It was a good day. The racing endorphins were kickin, and my soul was happy from being surrounded by good people. Again: it was a good day.

home stretchin’ it behind Sam (PC: CT)


teamwork makes the dream work. note the office building. (PC: CT)

For expecting nothing, I sure got a lot out of this race experience. I’m excited to see how the rest of this spring will go before I get thick into SF training, and I left the race feeling totally energized (if not also tired — eff off, DST!) and stoked for the next.